Kythorn 1, 1504, Ike's Rampaging Giant Insects: On this fateful night a group of novice adventurers gathered in Blaskor's Retreat, a pub in Bywater, northernmost city of the kingdom of Southold. They were: Gunter Duplicis, a gladiator of Videssian-Thonian parentage; Liet Shai-Hulud, a dragon master specializing in invocation wizardry; Talis, a mysterious bald druid of Silvanus; Elsinor, a half-elven ranger of Arden; Elrich, a militant priest of Nuada, god of war; and Crash, a halfling bounty hunter of the Slayer's Brotherhood. These young, untested adventurers yearned for glory in the tradition of Bywater's famous adventuring company, the Knights of the Lyre. Several had pasts they wished to forget, and this new-formed alliance offered that opportunity. With these modest beginnings was their brotherhood--as yet nameless--established by chance, over a few pints of fine Sashenstar beer, in a tavern called Blaskor’s Retreat. Within a few short years, the band would take Arik by storm, helping mold the history of Southold.
Kythorn 9, 1504, Videssian Assassination Attempt: As the new band set out to purchase equipment, they heard ill tales about the revolt of Duke Aimar of Andeaver and the pretender, Lord Edrin of Balar, against King Edmund; little did they yet know the effect the long, bloody Southron Civil War would have on them and their fair city. As they wandered the stalls of Baldran’s Market, they came across a collection of giant insects running amok, causing merchants and customers alike to flee in panic. The creatures had escaped the pens of the eccentric collector Ike, who ran screaming behind them that he would pay well if the creatures were recaptured intact. The band managed to subdue or capture most of the giant ants, spiders, and beetles, but had to slay several, faring well in their first test of combat. After collecting their reward from the grateful Ike, the band traveled to the classic sailors’ pub the Three Old Kegs to celebrate, and had a second fortuitous encounter.
Gunter overheard two Videssians speaking guardedly about an assassination attempt against Duke Duncan, Lord of Anorien Province and beloved ruler of Bywater. They pursued the conspirators, but one evaded them in the darkness. The band cornered the other, ultimately slaying him when he would not surrender. They discovered letters suggesting he was a Videssian carnifex assassin, who planned to kill Duke Duncan that very night. The band split up, some going to the house of the Videssian architect Caligistro to get the plans for the Ducal Citadel, others to investigate the assassin's contacts. Thus armed with information, they set out into the ancient Videssian catacombs under the Ducal Citadel, the planned route of assassins’ ingress, to foil the attack. Here, in vaults once sacred to the dead Cult of Cybele, the Magna Mater, the adventurers discovered a ring, after slaying a mummified warrior.
They emerged too late, seeing an entire century of Videssian soldiers infiltrating the Citadel courtyard and preparing to overpower the guards. Elrich ruined their surprise by bellowing a mighty war cry of Nuada, which swiftly brought out Eltan and a contingent of his stout Southron Flaming Fist mercenaries. Apparently, the Videssians were coming to kill the Duke and also had searched the catacombs in vain for the ring, which apparently had mysterious powers. Talis used the ring--without knowing exactly how--to beat back the powerful Videssian wizard, Cornelius Agrippa of the Cabal of Ariach. As Agrippa teleported away in agony and the Videssian soldiers were slaughtered by the Fist, the ring magically disappeared, but Crash took the assassin's +1 scimitar. The newly formed company fled to avoid answering any uncomfortable questions. Flush with victory, the band split up for several months to tie up personal business before embarking on a career as adventurers.
Eleasias 5, 1504, Bounty Hunting: Crash, needing a strong sword arm, enlisted Gunter’s help in pursuing a bounty contract from his organization, the Slayer Brotherhood. They sought Norda, the Thonian barbarian wanted for three murders in the Splurging Sturgeon Inn. Rocko, a smuggler, was nearly killed when he resisted their forceful interrogation, but the pair got the information they needed. However, Rocko told the Watch, and soon they were on the lookout for a halfling with Crash’s description. Crash tracked Norda to a smuggler safe house south of town, but he managed to escape. Gunter and Crash chased the barbarian for two days to the mouth of a goblin's lair in the Trollhills before finally subduing him, and warding off a goblin war party. Meanwhile, news arrived that the rebel armies of the provinces of Balar and Andeaver had marched en masse--the Civil War so far characterized by mere skirmishes appeared poised to heat up.
Eleasias 20, 1504, Gadrial's Castle: Elsinor and Talis traveled to the Forest of Arden to tell their superiors of their plans to form a new adventuring company. Elsinor spoke to the Ranger Lord’s son, the famed Sir Thingol, while Talis had a brief audience with the Grand Druidess of Silvanus, Miriel Silverleaf. When informed of their initial exploits, Thingol speculated the Videssians had tried to kill Duke Duncan to weaken the northernmost province of Anorien, given imminent outbreak of civil war in Southold. On their overland journey back to Bywater, just after passing through Wyrm’s Gap, Talis and Elsinor sought refuge for the night in the lone castle of the elven Baron Amrod. The Baron was away with his troops in Dunthrane at the King’s side, but his wife Lady Gadrial was a gracious hostess.
That night, the castle was attacked by Videssian legionaries and a wizard. The pair of new adventurers put up a valiant defense, including a bluffed appearance of "Elsinor the Wizard," but sadly failed. The castle was overrun, Lady Gadrial killed, and the pair were knocked out. They awoke in a Cabalist stronghold somewhere in the wild Cruth Mountains. However, when the Videssian Adeptus Major tried to magically pry into Talis’ mind, he myseteriously died of shock, allowing the pair to escape. Elsinor--against the protests of Talis--gallantly tarried to rescue an innocent peasant destined for sacrifice. They left the Videssian fortress in shambles, but were not sure about its exact whereabouts, only that it was under a great snow-plumed mountain. The pair traveled for nearly a week, narrowly evading orc and gnoll hunting parties before reaching a Southron village. They pondered the questions the kidnapping and interrogation attempt raised--why were these Videssian cabalists after them, or rather, after Talis--and what was so terrible that lived within his mind?
Eleint 7, 1504, Ghouls of Bridgewater: The Church of Nuada tasked Elrich to travel to the outlying village of Bridgewater to deal with reports of the dead rising and slaying innocent peasants. Accompanied by Liet, the pair traveled to meet the local Nuadan curate, Hannes, and stayed up to keep vigil in the graveyard. After midnight, the dead indeed rose, led by a cackling wizard, as waves of skeletons attacked. Liet was rendered unconscious by their onslaught, and even Elrich went down under their numbers. However, the valiant cleric was revived with a dose of the healing herb athelas from the curate. At last, Elrich slew the undead and Kendera, the mad mage responsible for the defilement. As they toasted their victory in the local pub, they heard ill news from the Civil War; the Royalist city of Conna had fallen to the Rebels, their first victory.
Marpenoth 2, 1504: The party reassembled as a group for the first time in months, discussing their various adventures across Southold. Hearing screaming several blocks away, they rushed out to see the remains of a sortie by the Cult of Bane on the streets of Bywater. All that was left was an area blackened by a fireball, many bodies, and a dozen wounded, who gestured that the Banites had fled through the sewers. A Videssian gladiator named Pulchritus Antonavites and two accomplices tricked Gunter, getting him to follow them down into the sewers, ostensibly to chase the Banites, but soon treacherously attacked him. However, the rest of the band was close behind, and soon slew the Videssian assassins, though by now the tracks of the Banites were cold. Returning to Blaskor’s Retreat, Blaskor the elven barkeep noted rumors the Banites under a certain Colstan Rhuul had established a new temple in a place called “Undermountain,” somewhere beneath the very city. He cautioned the band not to follow, as they were not ready to face such perils yet.
The adventuring band then determined that Blaskor’s Retreat should be their base of operations--only fitting as this was where the idea to form the group had been hatched. They permanently rented the so called Durjak Room, named after the rampage of the once famous adventurer from Wyrm’s Gap. Enraged by a late-night remark about his wife (made 4 rooms away), Durjack snatched up his axe and proceeded on through the walls and rooms in his way. Mayhem was prevented when he came upon the chamber of the offending gossip however, its floor gave way beneath his rage, and he descended to the floor below,
along with everything else in the room. The next floor gave way as well, into the barrom. The site now sports a handsome if rickety staircase ascending up the floors, with the holes in the walls turned into doorways and the previous doors walled up. Blaskor described it as an "attached suite with private stair, personally designed by the famous adventurer Durjack." Given the relative security and several adjoining rooms, it was an ideal suite for the new adventurers.
Marpenoth 3, 1504, Baron Arkyii's Cloak: As the party caroused in Blaskors’s Retreat, a drunk, foppish nobleman, Baron Arkyii, accosted them, clearly in a hurry. He commended the band for their quick thinking the other day in helping the injured from the Banite attack, and presented Liet with his red cloak of protection +2 as a reward before swiftly exiting. The dragon mage was shocked by this display of Southron generosity, but did not complain. Ten minutes later, bounty hunters from the Masters of the Bountiful Hunt--rival organization to Crash’s Slayer's Brotherhood--attacked, thinking Liet to be the Baron. They were slain, and Crash sent a letter to his Brotherhood superior Touland in Alcester. Liet happily kept the cloak, but Elrich denigrated Baron Arkyii for betraying his noble duties with such a base deception. Crash joked that the band was becoming expert at avoiding assassination attempts, from Videssians and Southrons alike. However, their celebrating was dimmed by the first news reaching Bywater of the disaster at the Battle of Twin Pines. The Royalists backing Kind Edmund had been decisively routed by Lord Edrin’s rebels, aided by a surprise charge from nine deathknights led by the infamous Lord Soth.
Nightal 5, 1504, Hall of the Beast Tamers: As winter began to set in, Talis expressed a desire to travel to the abandoned Hall of the Beast-Tamers in nearby Birnham Wood, curious about its ill reputation. The druids guarding the wood allowed passage only when Talis revealed his identity as a follower of Silvanus. Soon, the party reached the 600 year-old underground laboratories of the ancient Beast-Tamers, a sect of Videssians who once trained beasts for the imperial arenas and for patrician pets. Over a day’s exploration they cleaned the dungeon out, recovering some scrolls, a ring of the ram, a wand of paralyzation, and some potions. Highlights included battles with a hellhound, umber hulk, and owlbear. Back in Blaskor’s Retreat, the party reflected on their first solid dungeon experience, but again, they faced ill news from the south; Lord Edrin’s forces had advanced and laid siege to the very Crown City, Dunthrane. Concern was finally growing in Bywater at these far off events.
Hammer 17, 1505, Master Therion: Archmage Gondal the Great, Chancellor of the College of War Wizardry, sent an invitation for a private audience to Liet--previously a student and still affiliated with the school. In his fine, oak-paneled study atop the college’s tallest spire, he explained how he knew Liet’s patron, the great golden dragon Eskahelion, and how the noble wyrm asked Gondal to look after Liet’s development. The Archmage offered Liet a mission; track down the renegade Minoan mage Master Therion who had taken up residence in an abandoned tower on the edge of the Wyrmsteeth Mountains east of Bracilot. The band gleefully accompanied the dragon master, scenting treasure. They defeated several of the wizard’s demonically summoned guardians, and learned he was trying to summon the great demon Yougsogoth. They burst into the room just as Master Therion was completing the summoning, reading from a fell black book.
Despite their best efforts, Therion completed the spell before he died, and soon the great horned demon appeared within a circle of power traced in diamond dust on the floor. The extra-planar being--far beyond their capability to even wound--writhed and tried to escape. Liet swiftly looked at the black book, his hands hissing with pain as he touched it. Yet he found the charm of dismissal, and took a gamble at reading it from the book, though he did not completely understand it. The demon pledged to hunt them down, but soon disappeared in a swirling black vortex, as Gunter’s sharpened drusi carved Therion’s book into small pieces. The mage had apparently bartered all his possessions to possess this great tome of demonic summoning and control, and the band were disappointed with the lack of loot. Liet estimated the demon would be banished to the Abyss for 666 days, and suggested they purchase some wards against demons about that time in case it returned.
Hammer 19, 1505, Puck: While the others wanted a few days in Bywater to relax after their nearly fatal extraplanar encounter, Crash embarked alone on a mission to clear himself of the attack on the merchant Rocko during his last bounty-hunting expedition. One day when he witnessed the murder of a merchant in Baldran’s Market, he set out after the unknown halfling he’d seen commit the act, hoping to capture the assassin, turn him in, and also pin Crash’s own attack against Rocko on the new halfling. After all, it was clear the halfling was a murderer, so why not clear his own name by simply adding to this murderer’s crimes?
He followed and accosted the halfling when alone in the Blushing Mermaid, a particularly shady tavern frequented by thieves of Bywater’s Shadow Guild. He passed himself off as a fellow assassin, applauding the halfling’s handiwork and claiming he’d like to join forces. Soon, the courageous Crash became embroiled in a deep plot. The halfling assassin, Puck, was working for the Blacks, a faction of power-hungry Anorien nobles led by Count Morgan. This faction had ordered several assassinations, carried out by Puck and other members of Crash’s own Slayer’s Brotherhood, though he had no idea. After successfully deceiving everyone involved and learning of the Blacks’ fell plain to take power from the Whites (the nobles still loyal to Duke Duncan, away fighting for the King in the Civil War) Crash killed Puck, turning his body in to the watch and also blaming him for his own previous attack on Rocko. Unfortunately, now his own Slayer's Brotherhood and the Blacks were after him instead of the law, for Puck had told them he was bringing Crash into the plot, and he knew they would guess his treachery. Crash thereafter traveled incognito, careful to avoid meeting his comrades at their well-known haunt of Blaskor’s Retreat.
Hammer 20, 1505: Soon after, the band reassembled and crossed the mighty River Greyflood into Tara, eager to get out of town given Crash’s and Liet’s wanted status. However, Liet sent a letter to the Masters of the Bountiful Hunt telling the truth about Baron Arkyii’s cloak--how he had given it to him and he was not the baron. The assassins reluctantly acknowledged with a terse response they no longer seek Liet. But the band still pondered, where was the elusive nobleman, and why did he choose them for his ruse?
Alturiak 28, 1505, Gargoyles: The party, still ancy about returning to the city, especially given rumors the Blacks noble faction was preparing to seize power, decided to seek adventure in the Anorien countryside. Elrich traveled into the city alone and asked for a mission, receiving a personal audience with Nuadan Grand Marshal Anaximander himself. At this first meeting with the imposing, famed warrior--best patriarch since the Second Cortalish War--Elrich was soon given orders to travel to Rockburgh-on-the-Marsh, at the northernmost border of Anorien and Southold, adjacent to the Videssian client state of Alesia. The patriarch was a bit embarrassed about the mission. He wanted the band to help some sentient gargoyles, who though half-witted, had served Nuada in the past and had a peculiar problem.
They booked passage on a Taran cog up the Greyflood, embarking north of town at Waymouth to avoid attracting attention. On disembarking at the frontier, they were soon waylaid by a well-organized ambush of gnolls, goblins, and a flind--a gnoll-like creature adept at disarming enemies with a strange staff. Elsinor had a brush with death as eight gnolls charged and surround him, but the stout half-elf barely survived to tell of it. The party investigated the theft of the wings--which are removable on these strange specimens--of two friendly gargoyles, Rudy and Hubert. They found the pair laughably stupid, but devout worshippers of Nuada, apparently the result of some strange magical experiment. After some exploration of this small community of gargoyles, the band uncovered a plot by two assassins, Tom and Jerry, and a deceitful dwarf named Stimson, to steal all the wings of Gargoyle Valley. In the investigation, Crash acquired a ring of fire resistance, a potion of flying, and a massive diamond, while Talis almost died.
Alturiak 29, 1505: Rockburgh’s Friar Theodus advised the party to set off for Gargoyle Valley incognito, hoping to secretly recover the wings. They were accosted by Patro, Paula, and Marion, a group of powerful adventurers known as the Selenica Trio, but were cagey about assassins and quickly left. After a harrowing journey, they reached the valley and were caught in the midst of a massive melee, part of a game whereby all the gargoyles would have an airborne fight, until one could fly to the top of a great pole and claim the crown for the settlement. However, now the two factions were conducting a deadly fight, with no prospect of either wingless side winning. Worse still, the adventurers stood little chance of survival, as most lacked magical weapons needed to affect the creatures. In the midst of the fray, in which the adventurers did manage to kill the two enemy assassins, the melee came to a welcome halt. Their friend Huburt had climbed the pole--an unheard of act--and was declared king of the Tor gargoyles. The party remained for nearly two months in Gargoyle Valley, then, in an emotional scene, departed, promising to one day return. “King Huburt” claimed he would be their lifelong allies, for he helped foil the theft of their wings and helped end the fighting among his people.
Mirtul 1, 1505: The band still feared to return to Bywater city, but Elrich, claiming Nuadans scorn fear, reported alone to the House of the Silver Hand. Here he learned the terrible news that the long-standing siege by the Rebel forces against Dunthrane had taken a dramatic turn. In an assault spearheaded by Lord Soth and his deathknights, the Rebels breached the outer wall, swarming in. They were only repulsed when Archmage Bigby himself came down from the White Tower accompanied by Archmage Mekkarri. Nonetheless a large portion of the Crown City’s Dock Quarter burned down. Defeatism was rife in Bywater, and rumors circled that the Black were ready to seize power.
The adventurers, mostly Southron patriots--decided they can no longer continue their petty quest for simple profits, and must do their part. They journeyed to Baroness Elizabeth's castle north of Wyrm’s Gap, one of the few Royalists loyal to Duke Duncan--the Whites--not off at war. In a fight on the road, they were attacked by a ghost, and Elsinor was withered by the touch of the abomination. While the majority of the party rode toward the castle, he was separated and rode back to Bywater to seek reversal of his aged condition. On the way, he passed the entire Flaming Fist Mercenary Company under General Eltan. The Fist had been held in Bywater as a reserve lest the Videssians to the north thought to invade Anorien, but now were being thrown into the fight to help break the Rebel siege of Dunthrane.
Mirtul 2, 1505, Siege of Baroness Elizabeth's Castle: Arriving at the Baroness Elizabeth’s Castle, the party attacked a group of shadows sent by the Blacks about to kill her. They succeeded, only to hear news that they were too late. Count Morgan had slain Duke Duncan’s Regent, claiming he was killed in an accident, and had taken over control of Anorien. Worse still, word from the frontier was the Videssians were moving. A rogue general, Scipio, led his elite Legion against the weakened Anorien, hoping this would provide the popularity in Videssos for him to topple the corrupt and hated Emperor Otho. The party reluctantly put the treacherous Blacks aside and prepared to meet the ancient enemy of the Southrons from the north.
Baroness Elizabeth mobilized the few Whites’ forces left in Anorien, while the adventurers, with a letter to act in her name, traveled spreading the word to unite. They gathered forces: The Tor gargoyles of Gargoyle Peak under King Huburt, the elven knights of Baron Amrod, Baroness Elizabeth's archers and light infantry, and the priests of Nuada in Bywater. Luckily, they discovered Elsinor's unconscious body on the road; he was apparently the victim of some powerful bandit, but luckily, had little of value to steal.
Mirtul 9, 1505: The city was in chaos, with people rushing to leave Bywater given the absence of troops and notables to defend her. Reports indicated the newly installed Blacks Regent Count Morgan was trying to no avail to arrange a peace with Scipio, as many of his own Blacks allies were in flight. As the band prepared to aid the city’s defense, Crash received word from Ravenscar, leader of the Shadow Guild, of details of the Blacks’ movements. The guildmaster may have been a thief, but he didn’t want the Blacks or the Videssians in power. By the same token could not bring himself to risk Shadow Guild assets to “save” the regime which had prosecuted so many of his comrades.
The party followed the Shadow Guild leads, and set up an ambush for one of the powerful Blacks, Sir Tath the Silent, who they discovered was really a demon pulling Count Morgan's strings. They later speculated he may have been summoned by the Videssian Cabalists to orchestrate the rebellion and make the city riper for the Legion to pluck. Tath was slain in a mighty combat, but not before Elsinor too was laid low. Still, the take was large, with a belt of levitation which went to Elsinor, a wand of fireballs which went to Liet, and an evil sword which they gave to Gondal to destroy.
Mirtul 14, 1505: With Sir Tath dead, the party turned from the threat posed by Count Morgan’s Blacks, and prepared defenses for what history would later call the Videssian Incursion of 1505. However, Crash first went out on his own and hired a Slayers Brotherhood associate of his, the one-eyed assassin Sardanac--to kill the pretender Count Morgan. The Nuadans swiftly raised Elsinor from the dead at no expense when they heard what he had helped to do.
Mirtul 23, 1505, The Battle of Bywater: Elrich took command of the delaying action to stop the invading Videssians from reaching Bywater. He chose his ground well, at a choke point between banks of the mighty Greyflood and a series of hills, so the Videssian Legion’s numerical superiority could be employed at once. In the bloody fighting Gunter killed a mighty enemy tribune, and Elsinor led the Southron archers, stopping the enemy cavalry charge under a hail of arrows. These three later were awarded the Canary Cross--Southold’s highest honor for military valor. Baron Amrod died, as did King Hubert the Gargoyle, but Gondal magically reassembled him.
General Scipio and his battered Legion retreated north back into Alesia, as their vanguard had been turned back. Despite the reverse, the general continued on toward Videssos City, gaining additional legions who defected to his cause. Soon Emperor Otho was deposed in a bloodless coup--declared unfit to rule and set in exile on the isle of Vulcania. Back in Bywater, Count Morgan too was deposed, at first injected with slow poison by the assassin Sardanac at Crash’s behest, then assaulted by the few Nuadan priests left as they stormed the Ducal Citadel. In a pathetic scene, with news of the great Southron victory in the field over the Videssians, trembling with the poison, and abandoned by all his Blacks comrades, the pretender was decapitated by Anaximenes, brother to the Grand Marshal. Duke Duncan, away at the siege of Dunthrane, sent Grand Marshal Anaximander back to Bywater to rule as his regent, issuing personal thanks to all who helped defend the city.
After a year of adventuring in near anonymity, failing to win any popular recognition for their actions, the party become overnight heroes. Bards celebrated their rise as that of the common Southron stepping into the breach when the rest fled or were away. Thus was named one of Southold’s most famed adventuring companies; the Bywater Six.
Flamerule 3, 1505, Eskahelion: The Archmage Gondal contacted Liet again, informing him his former tutor, the gold dragon Eskahelion, wished to confer with him. The mage set out alone for the dragon-infested Wyrmsteeth Range, not having seen his ancient tutor since he fled Videssos several years ago. Taking the Grainway Road toward Wyrm's Gap as far as he dare, he then cut cross-country, across Anorien's rolling plains. However, just as the peaks came into view, he encountered a bugbear war party a dozen strong, and gleefully used his new fireball spell to slay them all. Unfortunately, in so doing he sparked the biggest summer brushfires southern Anorien had seen in years. As he entered the mountains, an adult blue dragon called Akanax confronted him, toying with the idea of eating him, but deciding against it when he heard he was Eskahelion's pupil.
Finally reaching his mentor's lair, the two discussed the recent exploits of the Bywater Six. The gold wyrm was impressed by their achievements given their limited, but growing prowess. When Liet mentioned the band wished to do their part to help the Royalists in the Civil War, Eskahelion unveiled a plan, though he kept most of it to himself. He told Liet only to retrieve the ancient sword Deepchill, long lost to man, but which would be of paramount importance to the war effort. Alas, he told them the only one who might know the location of the lost blade was the great Maldraedor, suzerain of Blue Dragons, eldest of his kind, and greatest of all draconic sages. The ancient wyrm--far older than Eskahelion--was apparently more amoral than evil in his old age, and would not slay them if they have a worthy question and suitable payment.
Flamerule 12, 1505: Unaware of Liet's mission, which would soon change the course of the Bywater Six, Elrich traveled south to Castle Bracilot, seat of the Nuadan Knights of the Silver Hand, attempting to gain membership. Gunter accompanied his friend, as he had never seen the famed glimmering white-washed walls of Bracilot. Elrich was judged worthy and granted a an opportunity to joust a new member for the privilege of knighthood. In a tournament, he mounted his steed, and proved his prowess with a lance, felling Sir Feldernak, who soon becomes his good friend. He also met Sir Alamor, an arrogant warrior who he disliked, and the more agreeable Sir Roger Ulwaine. In an elaborate Nuadan ceremony, he was dubbed Sir Elrich, and given a first assignment to preside over the annual reenactment of the Battle of Urml.
Flamerule 30, 1505, Urml: Gunter and Elrich left separately for nearby Urml, where the 100th anniversary celebration and reenactment of the Battle of Urml was set to take place. Here in 1405 a battle between militia and raiding humanoids from the adjacent Wyrmsteeth was going badly for the Southrons, when it is said Nuada himself rode down from the peak known as Nuada's Watch and smote the enemies, leaving behind a holy relic known as Nuada's Hand, in the keeping of the local temple. Each year there was a festival on Higharvestide commemorating and reenacting the battle, accompanied by a great market where some of the most rare magic and mundane weapons were for sale. On the way, Gunter was nearly slain by a band of goblins who surprised him at night. Urml itself was a modest-sized town, but contained the College of Arms, second in reputation only to the Royal Academy for producing skilled military officers. Staying at the Silver Hand Tavern, he found the town swelled with the tents of several thousand visitors; though many Southrons did not attend this years' event given the Civil War, foreigners came in droves.
Gunter competed in several tournament contests, beating the Taran Knight of the Order of the Stars, Sir Francois, and the huge Minoan mercenary, Helyos in boxing. He entered a chariot race as well, but was shot by the treacherous Huler, Nebuseddar. While perusing the wares of the many merchants--both magic and mundane--Gunter purchased some oil of impact to temporarily strengthen his weapons from a dotty Dunthrane alchemist named Quester Thews. Rudox, a runaway, started following him around after Gunter drove away some bullies with a display of gladiatorial weapon prowess. The boy was well-plugged in to local gossip, and soon overheard rumors that there was a plot is afoot to steal the Hand of Nuada. The gladiator investigated…
Midsummer, 1505: Sir Elrich arrived late from Bracilot on the morning of the reenactment, just in time to lead the mock-goblin forces--Southrons dressed in rags with green face paint. However, as the two sides were at the height of their “battle,” waves of real goblinoids descended from the mountains. The militia under Captain Creose and “goblin volunteers” who served under Elrich scrambled for their weapons, joined by the students of the College of Arms. There was no time to plan or discuss unified command arrangements, as both sides swiftly clashed while the many civilians panicked and fled, many taking advantage of the disruption to loot merchants' stalls.
The forces of Urml fought the enemy valiantly in a bloody stalemate, until a silver warrior on a white horse appeared on Nuada's Watch, and rode into their midst, causing all to cease fighting. The goblins fled before the figure's approach. Claiming he was Nuada, the rider demanded “his hand back” from the local cleric. The confused and awed cleric was about to do so when Gunter screamed that the “god” was an imposter, and was immediately fireballed nearly to death with a gesture by the rider. Many cried not to believe the Videssian gladiator, yelling out that his people were the enemies of Southold. But Elrich stood by his comrade, and in an agonizing test of faith, interposed himself between the rider and the priest with the relic, challenging his “god” to answer an obscure piece of Nuadan lore. He breathed a sigh of relief when the rider's visage shimmered, revealing the blackened armor and demonic steed of Lord Soth, master of deathknights. The chilling figure disappeared, calling the Bywater Six worthy foes, but no match for him. He told that Bane has foretold their confrontation, and his blade would await them at Daargard Keep, his castle in the far Marston Peaks on the border with Hule.
As he cured Gunter's wounds, Sir Elrich noted they were certainly becoming great adventurers, as they were accumulating many enemies, including one of the most powerful in the realm. Gunter had a premonition after seeing Soth, as if their destinies were intertwined, and vowed to one day slay the ancient knight, even if it cost his own life.
Eleasias 5, 1505 Royalist Smuggling: Elsinor, along with Baron Thingol (Ranger Lord Dorian's son), Melian (Dorian's daughter), and an elf named Soteric met at the Rangers' Rest tavern in the Forest of Arden. Arden's emissary to Kind Edmund's Court, Briadorn, charged them with conducting 200,000 nobles of gems into Dunthrane to help finance the war effort. This was a covert mission because Arden maintained a semblance of neutrality with the Rebel forces surrounding the forest. The band got along well together, as Thingol had recently been created a Baron and had tired of leading his troops for now, wishing to get back to adventuring. Melian took a liking to Elsinor's down-to-Grund peasant's attitude, so rare for her to see as she was being raised to one day become the senior Druidess of Silvanus. Only the elven ranger Soteric was distant, especially from Elsinor whom he resented for no obvious reason.
The band easily infiltrated the rebel army on the way to the siege of Dunthrane. However, when Elsinor and Soteric were on watch, the elf suddenly attacked his comrade without warning, leading to a fearsome duel. Soteric revealed he was the second son of King Leafsong of the Galathiene, and had traveled to Arden to kill Elsinor, the third son of his mother, result of a liaison with a human ranger. Elsinor never knew, believing himself raised by Rolf and Kersey Finn in Maplewood, the Forest of Arden. It was soon clear the half-elf would die under the attacks, but he convinced Soteric to spare him. Soteric wanted to eliminate the stain of his mother's infidelity with Elsinor's death, but the ranger promised he would not step foot in the Galathiene unless invited, and would keep his lineage secret and not try to profit by it. Soteric reluctantly agreed and apologized, but noted his bother Delsel would not relent so easily, as the Crown Prince was sometimes paranoid that this lost half-human would return and try to usurp the throne. Thingol and Melian awoke none the wiser after the duel, but they noticed the friendship growing between the two rangers.
Wearing captured uniforms of Lord Edrin's army, the band approached the mighty city of Dunthrane, under catapult attack and invested on all sides by thousands of Rebels. The group was pushed into taking part in a great assault on Dunthrane. Lord Soth, who led the attack, slew the famed Mekkarri the Archmage, who was defending the breach in the walls. Melian, who had developed an attachment to Elsinor, saved him from a powerful spell with a ring of spell turning, as the band narrowly managed to get through the breach and to Southron forces just as the Royalists drove the Rebels back outside the walls. King Edmund was grateful for the funds they smuggled in, making Elsinor a Knight of Southold, while Duke Duncan awarded the Bywater Six 3,000 nobles. Elsinor bid an emotional farewell to Melian, pledging they would meet again. The rest of the Bywater Six sent a magic sending spell to Elsinor, arranging to rendezvous just outside the Wyrmsteeth Range in preparation to seek the dragon sage Maldraedor.
Eleasias 10, 1505, Maldraedor: Travelling at night to avoid being spotted, the reassembled Bywater Six evaded hobgoblin patrols, and slipped by the soaring blue dragon Akanax which Liet had recently run into on his trip to his mentor Eskahelion. The band encountered a village deep in the mountains, just where Eskahelion had said it would be; these were the Kalmarak, servants of Maldraedor who no dragon would dare attack. A warrior garbed in black dragonscale armor, Sorath, escorted them into the underhalls of his lord. The great blue dragon greeted the adventurers, testing their intelligence with a series of riddles before proceeding. Satisfied, he told them he knew the answer to their question, “where is the enchanted sword Deepchill?” He laughed, saying
“now I know why the wily Eskahelion sent you hear--he's gotten too involved in these humans' petty politics, and would make pawns--willing ones no doubt--of you. You will find the blade interred in the burial mound of Sundabar, by the Thonian barbarians of Deckon Thaar, in the lands of the White Wolf Clan. Yes, Gunter, I see that name means something to you, a whisper from your past, you will discover more soon enough.”
As payment, the ancient wyrm demanded the Golden Nether Scrolls of Hssthak in Hule be destroyed. Maldraedor had learned that the great mummy Hssthak had awoken from his slumber, and had called some lizard men to release him from his magic entombment. A war party even then approached, sustained by magic to allow them to travel the desert. If released and allowed to use the scrolls, Hssthak would increase their intelligence to that which they possessed before the Cataclysm, to the level of the fabled dragonmen. Before leaving, Maldraedor, who professed an interest in the Bywater Six's success, gave each member a charm to wear round their neck; save Elrich, who refused to accept a token from an evil dragon on principle. With a laugh and a gesture of his talon, Maldraedor teleported the entire band to the Sind Desert in deepest Hule, noting that if they then head north, they can cross the mountains and in several weeks arrive a Deckon Thaar, where Deepchill lies.
Eleasias 11, 1505, Mummy Hssthak: None of the adventurers had visited the desert, and Elrich was soon burning inside his plate armor. However, they negotiated the sands and soon found the tomb entrance of the ancient priest Hssthak. It was replete with traps, most of which Crash skillfully disarmed. In a fearsome fight, the band slew an undead Tyrannosaurs. They also clashed with a party of lizard men and their shaman sent to recover the scrolls. Elrich suffered a heat metal spell applied to his armor, and doused himself in water just in time to avoid death. However, he was gratified to retrieve a mace +2 from the shaman. The party crossed a bottomless pit and killed four elven mummies, who infected several party members with rotting disease. The party rested in the great tomb for their final confrontation with Hssthak.
Eleasias 12, 1505: The greater mummy Hssthak gave the party one of their hardest fights yet. Gunter was charmed but webbed by Liet before he could cut down his comrades. After Hssthak was finally slain, a dragonman was found in the adjacent treasure room. Apparently, the mummy had already captured one of the lizard men scouts and transformed him with the scrolls. The dragonman was a fierce opponent, paralyzing four of the party with a stinking cloud, and nearly slaying them until Gunter saved the day with a well placed stab of his drusus. They found a khopesh sword +1--a strange, curved Huler blade which soon became a trademark of Elrich. They also uncovered bracers of archery claimed by Elsinor, 3 scrolls of obscure Southern Magic (one, Damage Mirror, was successfully transcribed.) a ring of immunity, and some potions of healing. Liet reluctantly destroyed the Golden Nether scrolls. The Bywater Six, with only a week of food in the middle of the Sind Desert, set out north, hoping to reach the mountains, and thence cross to Thonia to find the sword Deepchill.
Eleasias 22, 1505, Deckon Thaar: With the help of some of Shinare's pilgrims, the Bywater Six crossed the deadly Nefud, the harshest part of the Sind Desert. From Tabriz, they crossed the Dinu Pass through the periphery of the orc homeland of Thaar and into Thonia. Amazingly, the band made it through the long pass without encounter. As the party reached the cold Thonian foothills where Deckon Thaar lay, Gunter killed a winter wolf. Balash, chieftain of the tribe, greeted the band, and when he discovered Gunter was among them, embraced him as his son. Balash explained Gunter resulted from a tryst with a patrician after he was captured into slavery in Videssos as a youth. The shocked gladiator told of how he was raised among the servants as an orphan, but that the lady of the house had always looked well after him until she had died, and he had been given the choice to enter the sands of the coliseum, or go to the mines of Magistania.
Balash spoke reverently of Sundabar, who founded the White Wolf Clan so many winters ago, and was the one and only King of the clan. As the band recovered their strength from the long journeys, Gunter trained among his people, shedding his gladiator armor for hide and learning the ways of his people. Balash told his son of a terrible curse, that all of the clan would one day rise as undead because of Sundabar's curse. However, he would not elaborate. Balash initially opposed violating Sundabar's barrow-tomb, but was eventually convinced it was for the good when Gunter mentioned Sundabar's sword was needed in the Civil War, and mentioned that Lord Soth was on the Rebel side. The tribal shaman, Fossard of Baldur, told that Sundabar had failed in trying to slay the deathknight, and Gunter's return to claim the ancestral blade must mean that he would succeed where his ancestor had failed.
Eleint 28, 1505: The Bywater Six entered the Tombs of Deckon Thaar alone, confronting many wights and skeletons. The charms Maldraedor gave the Six helped, preventing a single energy drain each, while Elrich's faith in Nuada preserved him. Finally, the party confronted Sundabar, who first spoke to his descendent Gunter. He told of how his sin has placed a curse on all his heirs, and asked for forgiveness, vengeance on Lord Soth, and eternal rest. Gunter has already sheathed his drusi, but the impetuous Liet interrupted their conversation with a lightning bolt. Their charms exhausted, Liet and Gunter suffered energy drains as the Greater Wight was slain only after a fearsome duel with Gunter, finding peace at last. The band discovered a great hoard of treasure: a longsword +2, berserker, a shield +2, a spear +1 and the Crown of the White Wolf Clan. Most importantly, Gunter prised the sword Deepchill from the wight's grasp, a brilliant frostbrand longsword with dwarven runes along its razor edge. The gladiator nearly dropped it when it spoke:
"Greetings humans, I am Curunir, or Deepchill as men call me. Who would dare wield so powerful a weapon, and whoever dares do this must swear to pursue my purpose, the slaying of the master deathknight, Lord Soth!” Gunter stepped forward unhesitantly, pledging he would complete what his forefather Sundabar had failed to do. The sword glowed with respect "Good human, then I shall be your instrument of vengeance. I was forged by the dwarven smith Hulgar in the flames under Thorbardin to kill the deathknight, Lord Soth when the world was young. My first wielder was the dwarven adventurer Udar, who was slain by trolls outside the deathnight's very Daargard Keep--so close to victory. I lay in the fields of Balar for centuries, until a wandering barbarian found me in the year 1272 by your reckoning. Seeing this barbarian, Sundabar by name, was not yet experienced enough to take on Soth, I returned to his native land, and helped him carve out a kingdom for himself. Thus did Sundabar found the White Wolf Clan. I patiently waited among these people, nurturing them until one powerful enough to wield me against the deathknight would arise. But alas, the tribe was taken unawares by a attack of goblins and trolls from the Thaar, and Sundabar was slain. The foolish barbarians of Deckon Thaar had always secretly feared “the talking sword,” and interred me in this hellhole with Sundabar. Imagine the irony, I was imprisoned by the very people I helped forge from simple nomads into a powerful clan. I have rotted for over three hundred years, never a word spoken; in fact, the words Sundabar said to you were the first he uttered since his internment.
Well, as to Sundabar, he had committed a grave offense, the murder of his elder brother when the two were young. It was for this reason that he had left Thonia in the first place. This dark stain on his soul corrupted him in the end, and soon an evil spirit came to possess Sundabar, thus did he become a wight, as have all the other leaders of Deckon Thaar as they were interred here. For such is the curse Sundabar laid on his descendents, that for his sin, they shall not be granted rest in death. The leaders, well they become wights, the others, lesser forms of undead. So will this cycle continue until one of his progeny shall slay Bane's spawn, Lord Soth, and accomplishing this, offer supplication to Moloch, Lord of Bones. Gunter, pray that this is your destiny, for if it is not, you too shall walk the land in unlife and the Deathknight will live on, spreading Bane's corruption from Daargard Keep across Arik.”
Higharvestide, 1505: The party spent the holiday of Higharvestide at Deckon Thaar, where Balash was crowned King of the White Wolf Clan with Sundabar's crown at the Whitestone, the site where the clan was first forged. But a horde of several thousand kobolds from the Thaar disrupted the ceremony. The Bywater Six themselves held the right flank for the barbarians and were attacked by 200 kobolds, slaying them all. The party later killed a frost giant on a hunting expedition and Gunter took the pelt of a winter wolf to wear as a cape, proof of his valor and Thonian heritage. He, and all around him, had always considered him Videssian by his appearance--the red eyes and prematurely white hair--but from then on, he also displayed the pride of Thonia and the White Wolf Clan.
Marpenoth 20, 1505: Making their way to the port of Novgrad on Tempest Bay, party was attacked by a juvenile white dragon in the Thonian tundra. Elrich was wounded near to death by its fell breath, but barely survived. Gunter discovered that while Deepchill loved egging him on to fight fire creatures and pursue the quest against Lord Soth, he was hesitant to attack cold creatures.
Uktar 10, 1505: The Bywater Six begin the sail home from Thonia on a longship, briefly stopping at Sakkara, port capital of Hule, where they were harassed by a Huler tax collector. After fighting off a pirate ship at the Straits of Sorrow, they arrived back in Southold, at Dunthrane. The rebel siege of the Crown City still raged, although fresh recruits were drilling in the market square, and there were rumors of a relief force marching from Sylmarch; the westernmost duchy had finally decided to commit its forces for the king since the Cortalish threat to further encroach in the east had not materialized.
The Canary Cross--which can only be awarded by the King--was finally awarded to Gunter, Elrich, and Elsinor for their performance at the Battle of Bywater. The band basked in the royal limelight, mixing with the courtiers and enjoying the spectacle. Finally back in civilization, the Bywater Six split up to accomplish personal business in Southold and to train.
Uktar 22, 1505, Toril Greymantle: Liet returned to Bywater and questioned Gondal about acquiring a laboratory. The great mage replied that an evil necromancer has taken up residence not far north of Bol, and “confiscating” it would be easier than purchasing a library from scratch. Liet unhesitantly traveled to the cottage of Toril Greymantle and attacked him. The unprepared necromancer fled to a circle of standing stones behind the cottage, which marked a strange wild magic zone. As Toril lay a fog cloud around the area, Liet stumbled in, shooting fireballs in a vain attempt to hit the necromancer. He was at a disadvantage, however, because Toril's owl familiar glided high above, providing its master with Liet's position. As Liet got too close, Toril dimension doored away, promising to wreak vengeance on this gold-robed intruder. Nonetheless, Liet acquired Toril's lab equipment, small library, and spellbook, putting them both in his newly completed tower in Bywater. The tower was within sight of Gondal's College of War Wizardry, a respectable, and expensive, new part of Bywater's skyline. Yet Toril Greymantle's spellbook exploded when he opened it, leaving the disappointed dragon master near death. Elrich and his newly recruited men-at-arms were amused to see the flash of the detonating spellbook light up the night sky.
On this same day back in Dunthrane, a combined sortie by the forces within the city, and the fresh forces having marched from Sylmarch, decimated the Rebel besiegers, in what becomes known as the Rout of Uktar. It appeared Lord Soth and his deathknights had disappeared. The Royalists were on the offensive, but the Rebels as yet had strong forces, and most predicted a long war.
Feast of the Moon, 1505: Sir Elrich attended the chapter of the Knights of the Silver Hand at Bracilot, and did quite well in the tournament. He discussed the course of the war with his friend Sir Feldernak, wishing he could take command of an army and lead it against the traitors.
Alturiak 1, 1506: The Bywater Six reassembled in Bywater, preparing to meet a delegation of ambassadors from Videssos. With no fears from Videssian assassins, Southron bounty hunters, or the discredited Blacks noble faction, the band relaxed in their old haunt at Blaskor's retreat.
Alturiak 7, 1506, Messiah?: At Baroness Elizabeth's castle--the White noble who aided them in defending Bywater--the Bywater Six met the Videssian ambassadors. Cardinal Theodosius revealed the Bywater Six as “the Six” promised in the prophecy of Donablas, Lord of Time and patron god of the Videssian Empire. Specifically, he claimed Talis was the reincarnation of the God-King who founded Videssos so many millennia ago, an avatar of Donablas. Crash, Elrich, and Elsinor scoffed at the idea. However, the two Videssians Gunter and Liet seemed concerned, for they knew the legend of the God-King and saw several similarities in Talis' demeanor and the strange goings on which surrounded the druid. The group figured that Talis found the first legendary ring in the catacombs under Duke Duncan's palace on their first night adventuring, after which it disappeared--becoming part of his soul according to Cardinal Theodosius. Now, he told them they must find the next two rings for Talis to become whole and wield all the powers of Donablas. The Cardinal explained that he heard tales of Talis and thought he was the messiah, but had to come for himself. His priests had long searched for the return of the Six and the God-King, to rid Videssos of the despotic General Scipio who had overthrown Emperor Otho. Talis was shaken, for his faith to Silvanus had been solid, and he was a good Southron, not Videssian. But the druid had no other explanation. After much debate, the band decided they must recover the next two rings in the prophecy, and travel to Videssos to play out their destiny.
At this point, Theodosius revealed that his retainer, the carnifex Rackhir, went beyond his orders and slew Crash's father many years ago. The halfling bounty hunter--who had nurtured his passion for revenge for years--hurled himself at the Videssian assassin, leading to a chase on the castle ramparts and into the forest beyond. Finally, he caught up with the carnifex, and despite his pleas for mercy, struck him dead. Cardinal Theodosius explained that now the Bywater Six should trust him, for he had given them valuable information and sacrificed a useful asset to prove his good faith. The group set out to find the next ring of the Donablan prophecy, in the same cabalist dungeon deep in the Cruth Mountains--specifically White Plume Mountain--where Talis was imprisoned so many months before. Crash, his life's goal of revenge achieved, was aloof and depressed. Yet he followed listlessly on the quest out of a sense of duty to his friends.
Alturiak 22, 1506, White Plume Mountain: As the party entered White Plume Mountain, they were greeted by the voice of the Cabalist Cornelius Agrippa, whom the party met so long ago during their first night adventuring in Bywater amid the assassination attempt on Duke Duncan. Crash leapt forward, a frenzy in his eyes, and was immediately struck down by the Cabalist's fell death magic.
The party continued into the Cabalist lair, crossing a fiery chasm and slaying a Videssian vampire. They soon joined a climactic battle with Cornelius Agrippa, who also summoned the banished demon Yougsogoth to join the carnage. Cornelius Agrippa wielded a Staff of Power and soon killed, charmed, or rendered unconscious most of the party. In this perilous moment, the ex-Cabalist Liet showed his true nature. Few know of the Shuh-Nagur, the ritual of initiation into a Videssian Cabal. In this bizarre ceremony, the essence of a demon is instilled in the apprentice by the Cabal's demon lord (if the apprentice survives the ordeal; many do not). Thus Liet, a former initiate of the Ninth Cabal of the Nameless One, released this essence of the demon within him, transforming before his embattled comrades into a Vrock demon. It was a painful process that can be done but once or twice in a lifetime, but now was that time. The demon Liet turned the tide, shrugging off the necromancer's death magic and cutting him to shreds with his teeth. He nearly laid into Elrich as well, before quelling the rage and transforming back into his exhausted human form. Talis touched Cornelius Agrippa's Staff of Power, and it became the second sacred Donablan ring they sought. However, the victory was costly; Elsinor and Crash lay dead.
Alturiak 29, 1506: Elsinor's soul was soon reunited with his body by Anaximander in Bywater, for a rather modest fee because of the ranger's well-known philanthropy. Though his comrades tried, Crash's soul was not able to be resurrected. His essence departed Grund, satisfied in the knowledge that he had achieved his personal quest for revenge. Thus passed one of Mask's best servants from the world. The band purchased an ornate plot in Bywater's cemetery, the Park of the Departed, with a granite tombstone dedicated to a great hero of the Battle of Bywater, and founding member of the Bywater Six. Setting aside their sorrow, the five who remained set sail up the Greyflood for Videssos, to meet their destiny.
Tarsakh 15, 1506, Fake: Arriving in Videssos, the party planned to seek the final ring, and then kill Scipio, the general turned emperor whose Legion they had turned back last year. They knew Scipio would feel threatened by the Donablan prophecy of the messiah, seeing it as a threat to rule. As Talis set foot on Videssian soil, his brown druidic robes glowed amber--holy color of Donablas--and the masses fell to their knees, seeing him as the messiah. Even the initial legionnaires sent to arrest them pull back before the mob.
It was then that the party found they had been betrayed. A winged man, glowing in an amber light descended from the skies, telling of the deception of Cardinal Theodosius and the corruption of the Donablan Prophecy. He announced himself as an emissary for the Lord of Time, and told that Cardinal Theodosius has lied about his master's wishes.
Theodosius saw the Videssian Empire crumbling. The Papal Schism, the demonic rumblings in Magistania, the growing separatist movement in Extremadura, and Scipio's seizure of the Emperorship by force all convinced Theodosius that something must be done. So the venerable cleric, with good intentions, broke Donablas' faith; rather than merely tell the future, he tried to shape it. Theodosius prophesied that the Six, led by the Messiah, had returned. He hoped the Southolder adventuring company would fulfil the part he cast for them, depose Scipio, and allow the priests to rule through them. The theatrics such as the glowing robes were mere enchantments cast by Theodosius' invisible wizard. The being told the Bywater Six to flee Videssos, and reassured the people that one day, the true Six, led by the true God-King Messiah would return. The people were in such a state of shock and awe they did not hinder the adventurers' retreat, as they paid a king's ransom for ship at the docks to leave immediately.
Tarsakh 16, 1506: On very next day, Otho, the previous, depraved emperor who had been recently deposed by Scipio, stormed Videssos with his loyal VIIth Legion, blaming the false reports of the Messiah on him. Otho resumed control in the ensuing chaos, backed by the wizard Cabals, who had lost great influence under Scipio's reign. Scipio's unprepared forces made a valiant stand, allowing their leader to escape into hiding, but in the end they were massacred to the last man. Thus as Otho was proclaimed emperor once again, and the blood ran freely in Videssos' streets, the party fled. Incidentally, Cardinal Theodosius was stricken with an incurable disease the very same day--a wasting affliction. Many whispered it was Donablas's punishment for the Cardinal's perversion of prophecy.
Greengrass, 1506: After a brief stop in Bywater, Elrich rode to the Chapter of the Knights of the Silver Hand in Bracilot. His new henchman Darmon took his leave at this point, for in this tournament the youth attained his own knighthood. Elrich heard disturbing news of the war; while Southron Loyalist forces prepared to continue to assault the weakened Rebel forces with the coming of spring, Lord Edrin called for a truce and a great peace negotiation. Talks were held by representatives of the two sides in neutral Minos, but went nowhere. Elrich argued among his fellow knights that Edrin could not be negotiated with, and the war should continue, but to no avail.
Kythorn 3, 1506, Tower of Stars: After a month and a half of recovering from their harrowing and discouraging Videssian enterprise, Gunter, egged on by Deepchill, urged the Bywater Six to resume the quest to defeat Lord Soth. They resolved to search for the Talisman of Hulgar, an ancient magical device said to protect the wearer from the gouts of flame that the Lord of Deathknights hurls at will. The adventurers set out for the Tower of the Stars, in Tara, where the Master Sage Shalfrey lived. If this, the greatest sage among men, did not know the Talisman's location, the group decided to visit the wily wyrm-sage Maldraedor again.
Kythorn 19, 1506: Trekking across Tara, once an enemy to Southold but at peace for over thirty years, the party accidentally discovered the secluded valley of Cwm Cernant. It was the home of Derwyth Half-Elven, druidic sage of nature. They marveled at the diversity of life at that humble estate, and how fierce creatures roamed freely. When they asked Derwyth about the best route to the Tower of the Stars, he replied there were two ways; one through Therno Pass, where a group of Derro have recently moved in (replacing once cleared out by the adventurers Thingol and Company four years before), or they could follow the River Argonne, where Sion the Shade haunted the land. Sion was once servant to Piyarz, the monk who rebelled against Shalfrey four years ago. Piyarz was slain by Thingol, but the shade Sion still haunted the land. The party decided to follow the river.
Kythorn 21, 1506: As expected, Sion attacked under cover of night. In keeping a fire going, the Bywater Six inadvertently boosted the shade's powers. He launched an onslaught of shadow magic fireballs, and was aided by 20 summoned shadows, a shadow hound, and a raven. After a lengthy fight, the band emerged victorious.
Kythorn 22, 1506: The party reached the island where Shalfrey lived, and were ferried across the river by the boatman Hadley. The Tower of the Stars was an incredible edifice, with the defensibility of a fortress, and a geodesic astronomical observatory as well. The party faltered at the bridge to Shalfrey's Tower; Gunter and Elsinor were both thrown into the water by its rocking illusion, but Hadley soon fished them out. Shalfrey greeted the adventurers, comparing them to Thingol and his band. Apparently, the party, and Gunter in particular, were mentioned in the Books of Prophecy, tomes written by the gods, which only Shalfrey could read, one page at a time. However, to disclose the future now might alter it, Gunter was given a sealed, written copy of the prophecy entitled “Six Against Dargaard,” and was instructed to open it "when he felt the time was right." Shalfrey asked the party to clear the Derro from Therno Pass, promising to answer two questions free if they did. Unfortunately, neither Shalfrey nor his sages knew the location of the Talisman of Hulgar.
Kythorn 24, 1506: The Bywater Six took out the derro lair--dark dwarf-like creatures with huge eyes. They fought a perilous battles against several derro workers, commanders, students, and even a true savant. Gunter was charmed to incapacitate Talis, Liet inadvertently lightning bolted the party and was later trapped in a wall of force, while the remainder managed to barely defeat the malicious dwarves. They found a longsword +1, and a shield +1 as well as some Taran denier coins. Upon returning to Shalfrey, the party asked their questions; "What is the symbol of Lord Soth?"--a black rose (a corruption of his former symbol, for he was called the Knight of the Rose before the Cataclysm), and "What is the easiest way to Maldraedor's lair?”--a map was provided with a route that followed several uninhabited valleys deep into the Wyrmsteeth and was mostly hidden from the air. The party set out for Maldraedor's lair once more in pursuit of the Talisman of Hulgar.
Flamerule 20, 1506, Akanax: The party cautiously marched south, back into Southold, and into the Wyrmsteeth, anxious to avoid being spotted by any of its dragon denizens. They arrived at Maldraedor's with little trouble, and after answering another riddle to prove their worthiness, they asked where the Talisman of Hulgar was located. The great wyrm noted with amusement their claiming of the sword Deepchill, and congratulated them on destroying the mummy Hssthak as he demanded last year. He again demanded payment before telling them the Talisman's location. This time they were tasked with slaying the rogue blue dragon Akanax, who had ceased to acknowledge Maldraedor as his suzerain. Sorath the Black, a grim dragon hunter who chafed under Maldraedor's employ, was assigned to accompany them; the party would be allowed to keep half the dragon's treasure.
Flamerule 22, 1506: The party entered Akanax's cavern, slew a dozen gnoll guards, and entered the lair itself. When Sorath refused to lead, Talis charmed him, and the dragon hunter reluctantly went first. Akanax was aware of their approach almost instantly, and conversed with the band, almost convincing them to join with him to kill Maldraedor. However, this ploy failed as Liet characteristically tired of the negotiating and launched a fireball. To his surprise, the adult wyrm appeared unaffected. The same occurred when missile and melee weapons pounded the dragon, for this was actually a phantasmal force. Now the actual dragon hovered into view, breathing a bolt of lightning which sorely wounded Sorath and Elsinor. The Bywater Six's most fierce battle was joined, as Akanax picked up Gunter, flying upward; then dropped him 100 feet to his death. The wyrm, sorely wounded himself, flew to get some curing from a neighboring dragon. Before he left, Akanax blocked both the ceiling and the ground exits with stone.
An hour later the blue wyrm returned, breathing on Elrich and again sealing the door. He taunted Sorath to come out and face him. When he did, the dragon instantly slew the dragon hunter and Akanax scattered his remains across the Wyrmsteeth to prevent resurrection. The dragon then opened the ceiling entrance, quaffed Sorath's potion of invisibility and drifted silently down, lightning bolting Liet to death. Elsinor and Elrich were all that remained, for Talis turned into a bird and flown away (ostensibly to get help, though the cries of his comrades questioned his motives). Elsinor was mortally wounded, and then there was only the Knight of the Silver Hand continuing to battle the dragon alone, spurning surrender. At last, their mutual state was such that whoever landed the next blow would have slain the other, but in the end it was the druid who settled the contest. Talis, who had just flown out, heard the tumult below, and suffered a pang of conscience. The druid flew back and took on human form, slaying the weakened beast with a single blow from behind. Elrich swiftly cured the bleeding Elsinor, but could do nothing for Gunter and Liet, who they bore back to Maldraedor's lair.
Flamerule 24, 1506: The ancient wyrm, who was playing chess at the time via a magical connection with the powerful red dragon Brazzamel, gleefully took his half of Akanax's treasure. The party kept a great deal of money as well as an elixir of life (quaffed to bring back Gunter), a +2 scimitar and 10 +3 arrows. At last Maldraedor deigned to answer the party's question. The Talisman of Hulgar was taken by Sir Cyrik, Lord Soth's chief lieutenant, in 842, from Udar, the great dwarven warrior who had once wielded Deepchill. Sir Cyrik was awarded this trophy by his master, for the Talisman would burn Soth should he touch it. Maldraedor revealed Sir Cyrik had recently occupied an area of that deepest of all dungeons, the largest mass grave known on Arik; Undermountain. He received assistance from the Cult of Bane led by a certain Colstan Rhuul operating in Bywater's sewers. However, Maldraedor also had news of another new powerful presence in that vast dungeon biding its time and watching; who they were, he knew not. He told them the only entrance widely known to Undermountain was in the tavern called the Yawning Portal.
The party split up for two months for personal business, agreeing to meet at Blaskor's Retreat at the festival of Higharvestide. Notices were placed in Bywater telling of an opening in the Bywater Six (due to Crash's untimely demise). An early applicant, a half-elf smuggler named Corsair from Alcester, was deemed too shady. While the band loved Crash as a brother, they decided to wait to recruit a rogue who would not rob them blind this time, as Crash did on occasion.
Midsummer, 1506, Loose Ends: Talis and Elsinor traveled to Arden. On a stone in the Grove at Shady Vale, Talis sacrificed a Southron bandit he captured on the way to Silvanus on this most holy of nights. Elsinor spent most of his time at the Rangers' Rest, chatting with Briadorn and his fellow rangers. He discovered that Thingol was off fighting in the Civil War, or more properly, waiting for peace talks to end. After three months of fruitless negotiations wasting prime campaigning season, King Edmund finally broke off talks and resumed the offensive. However, Lord Edrin and Duke Aimar had reinforced their positions and stiffened their morale, using the great funds they plundered from their occupation of much of Dunador to purchase vast Huler mercenary hosts.
Elsinor was disappointed to hear the alluring Druidess Melian had still not returned from her mission into Balar. Meanwhile, Gunter trained in Bywater at the Flaming Fist headquarters, where he met Cameron Gaunt in combat again, and fought him to a draw. The party gained an Elixir of Life from Dunthrane alchemist Quester Thews, used to raise Liet from the dead.
Eleasias 5, 1506: Elrich attended a Chapter of the Knights of the Silver Hand. Talis, increasingly frustrated with new tales of corruption and terror of Emperor Otho's reign in Videssos, and disappointed he was not in fact the Messiah as Cardinal Theodosius had claimed, decided to abandon adventuring. He cleaned out the Hall of the Beast Tamers in Birnham Wood which the Bywater Six had looted in their early days, and formed a Naturalists Guild there. Ike the amateur entomologist and several others joined him there in an attempt to catalogue and study the plants and animals of Arik. Talis parted in friendship, but announced he would never adventure again.
Eleint 12, 1506: Liet decided to trade in his Staff of Power for a wish spell. At the Dunthrane Arcane Academy, Chancellor Mekkarri agreed to cast the mighty spell, and Liet wished for an even more powerful Staff of the Magi. He soon discovered to his dismay, however, that the Staff of the Magi he received actually came from Mekkarri's closet. Soon Mekkarri and the half the Academy faced Liet, demanding he return Mekkarri's Staff. Mekkarri gave the unfortunate mage a ring of protection +3 out of pity, and reclaimed his staff.
Go to next part, Bywater Six Log Part II