Eleint 30, 1506, Discontinuity: On this day a strange phenomena called the Discontinuity occurred, one which the majority of Arik was unaware of. The Discontinuity resulted from the disruption of Truth on Grund--a long and complicated story involving the adventurers known as the Miscreants and their attempt to blunt the evil Janus’ bid for godhood. Alternate time lines were jumped, and truth was reformed. It was as if the distant world of Mersia where the Miscreants were from never existed, but some of Mersia’s “Truth” was incorporated into Arik, as if it had always been so. In short, the old world of Mersia was no more, Arik had supplanted it. This meant no change for the Bywater Six yet, but it soon would when they met the Miscreants, for these newcomers would soon live up to their name…
Higharvestide, 1506: The Bywater Six reassembled downstairs at Blaskor's Retreat, for an evening of grand feasting and drinking. Many a chop of venison, herb potatoes, and pitchers of fine Bywater Beer were consumed. As the four compatriots, most drunk from their celebration, opened the door to their room, they beheld a strange sight. An elven military scout, Calvin by name, was waiting in their room, having picked the lock. He wanted to join the band, having heard that they were looking for a replacement for the late Crash. After a test of his abilities on several locked and trapped chests at Elrich's house, he was admitted as the new sixth member of the Bywater Six.
Marpenoth 2, 1506: After perusing wares at the Bywater Trade Fair, the party decided to head into the dungeon of Undermountain in search of the Talisman of Hulgar, reputedly somewhere in its depths in the possession of Soth's dark lieutenant Sir Cyrik. They entered through the Yawning Portal tavern, which had an entry well leading down to the infamous dungeon. The party battled a mirror double of Gunter, got burned by a trapped gold sovereign that ignited on touch, and was teleported to the temple of a an evil sea god, perhaps a Saughgin incarnation of Baldur. They also defeated a dozen trolls, sustaining substantial wounds and decided to retreat from the dungeon. The group planned to wait a few days after their harrowing first foray and then have another stab at Undermountain.
Marpenoth 4, 1506, Failed Rescue: The group was dining at the Blade and Stars, the mercenary tavern run by Elrich’s father, when they were accosted by a stranger. It was Teranon, father of the renowned Retameron, retired member of the old Daring Duo, his wife Halia being the other member. Teranon explained how his son had slain the notorious bandit Skarda and captured a unique mirror of life trapping. After two years of gathering dust, the mirror was uncovered in his son's tower, and a strange baboon-like creature emerged from it, dragging Retameron within. Halia later followed her husband into this indestructible mirror. Teranon implored the party to investigate Retameron's Tower in Verge and rescue them if possible, though he had no substantial reward to offer. After a short debate led by the newcomer Calvin about whether the Bywater Six should be a "mercenary" company--existing primarily for profit--and demand a large fee, the group decided the story was sufficiently intriguing to work without a set fee, hoping a famous retired adventurer like Retameron would reward their actions. They set out for Verge.
Marpenoth 18, 1506: The party entered Retameron’s Tower, which was filled with shards of mirror glass. They began a systematic search, and were soon assaulted by the strange baboon-like Mirror Fiend, who hid among the images in the mirror shards. The creature waged a guerilla war against the party, surprising them at every turn, then leaping back into the reflections. Liet was nearly dissolved by a strange slime creature at this point, but clinged onto life as he fell unconscious and his companions burned off the slime. As the frustration mounted, the Mirror Fiend locked itself in a room with Calvin, but the rogue barely managed to defeat it alone. However, now that the creature was dead, the band could find no mirror anywhere. Having apparently failed, they headed back to Bywater with the bad news.
Marpenoth 28, 1506: On the Greyflood Pike, the party was ambushed by a dozen ogres of the feared ogre mercenary company known as the Shard. Most of the Bywater Six feared this would be their last battle, but it was not to be. Thanks in large measure to Elrich's horseback charges with the lance and Gunter's sword thrusts with Deepchill, the foul creatures were slain. On their bodes were orders from Toril Greymantle, the necromancer Liet attacked back in Uktar of 1505 to steal his library. Disturbed at this quest for vengeance against them, the party continued the march to Bywater.
Uktar 2, 1506: Back in Bywater, the party asked Gondal about the mirror, but this turned up nothing. Dejected, the adventurers contacted Teranon and informed him the mirror was not to be found. They again planned to enter Undermountain in search of the Talisman of Hulgar.
Meanwhile, Gunter received news that the smithy he designed was complete. It was beautifully carved in grey granite in the noted Sloan & Rockerman architectural style and was likewise equipped with quality equipment. The ex-gladiator took a few days off to hire smiths.
Uktar 6, 1506, Undermountain again: Once again entering via the Yawning Portal, the Bywater Six began mapping unexplored areas of Undermountain’s first level. Then, personal differences previously masked by the band's famed camaraderie exploded. Liet insulted Nuada, and Elrich replied (overreacted many would say) by bashing him over the head. The two agreed to fight a duel to settle the disagreement and stormed out of the dungeon. Unbeknownst to his comrades, Calvin, bored by their petty arguments, found a wand of magic missiles concealed in a bone throne. The two immediately marched for a field outside Bywater, followed by a crowd of onlookers. Grand Marshal Anaximander himself presided over the event. Elrich charged his long-time comrade on horseback, striking a grievous wound, but on the return run was paralyzed by Liet's wand. The duel of honor was over. The other party members expressed their impatience with this feud as they headed back for the dungeon. As they resumed exploring, a pair of rust monsters surprised the group, destroying Elrich's shield +1 and, to Gunter's mortification, Deepchill. The sentient sword let out a pitiful wail as it dissolved into rust, and Gunter soon joined the chorus.
The group decided to call it a day at this point, seeing no point in continuing without the sword. This was one of the blackest days in the adventures of the Bywater Six; it had seen negligible exploration, a violent feud between two members, and the destruction of Deepchill. Gunter sunk into depression; it seemed the party would never even be able to defeat the deathknight Sir Cyrik, let alone his master Lord Soth. Likewise, their fellow city dwellers were depressed by the premature winter weather, stifling an already slow Royalist offensive. Bywater’s residents demanded some sort of victory in the interminable Civil War, tired of their loved ones’ prolonged absence.
Uktar 7, 1506: Liet visited Gondal to ask about fixing Deepchill. Gondal replied he personally could not do it, but perhaps it could be fixed at Kala, seat of the legendary dwarven smith Durmingar. At this point, Liet, who had been feeling rather rebellious lately, said something derogatory to Gondal about having a "third nipple." The Archmage exploded, debating whether to slay the impudent dragon whelp outright or to teach him a lesson. Gondal decided to imprison him in the center of Grund for a day, and when he emerged, Gondal places a permanent illusion of a third nipple on him. Liet spent the next several weeks vainly trying to dispel the Archmage's magick.
Uktar 8, 1506, Durmingar: The party gained renewed hope; they planned on taking the remains of Deepchill to the place where Hulgar forged it, the fires of Kala. The group set out on the long journey to Rockhome on board a merchant vessel headed down the Greyflood. The ship was waylaid by Magooan the Pirate, a raider who only preyed on the ships of Duke Duncan and the Anorien provincial government, hoping to establish a democracy ruled by the people in its stead. Though wary of Sir Elrich as an authority figure, Magooan soon warmed to the band, who found he was quite a charming and good-hearted “pirate.” He offered to take them on his enchanted caravel, the Liberator, as far as the frontier with the dwarven lands of Rockhome. Magooan took them down the Greyflood, across the South Sea, and up the River Laine to the frontier of Southold, all in record time. Though he sailed through the rebel province of Andeaver on the last leg, he had no problem getting past the Rebels with his magically swift vessel.
Nightal 5, 1506: The group disembarked and marched to the frontier in the foothills of the Veronian Mountains, stopping at a guard post at the outlying dwarven trading community of Belegost. Here they acquired permission to travel in dwarven lands, as the dwarves were concerned this ancient-dwarf-forged sword should be reborn, though they care nothing for its purpose against Lord Soth or the vagaries of the human Civil War.
Nightal 20, 1506: After a rude awakening by a rogue stone giant, the group entered the volcanic area known as Hellfurnaces. They saw the Bone Forest--rocklike which actually harbored strange living creatures and appeared as great bones stuck into the blasted, hardened lava surface--surrounding the volcano Kala and the smaller Kalia Gurm. The band was injured by the erklan, the strange rock-like creatures which shot up into the air periodically in the bone forest to “plant” new formations. Soon after, Calvin was petrified by the gaze of a dracolisk. At this point the 300 foot-long Mountain Worm appeared; Liet foolishly tried to lightning bolt it, which attracted its attention. The bold dragon master polymorphed into a harpy to fly away in the nick of time. The group followed a path through the bone forest made by the Mountain Worm to Kala's crater. Here a pair of barbed devils deceived them with illusion and attacked. Elsinor was nearly slain by the ferocious attacks of these fiends, but the Bywater Six narrowly triumphed. Gunter and Liet both were instrumental in solving the riddle of the Dorthang, and the battered band finally gained entrance to the Living Forge of Durmingar. They were escorted in, passing Gorm the Guardian, a giant among giants and the greatest warrior of Arik.
In a hall of gold, perched on a golden, jewel-encrusted throne, Durmingar’s eyes lit up at the prospect of reforging the ancient blade of Hulgar, his ancestor. He agreed, noting it was not a difficult task since the essence of the sentient sword remained. Two weeks later, Deepchill was reborn, complete with a treatment of blueshine to prevent rust or dulling. At this point, the rest of the party negotiated with Durmingar for the trading and purchase of magic arms and armor. Needless to say, the Dwarven Smith's prices were exorbitant, but all of his works came complete with his signature and blueshine treatment. Elrich gained a shield +2, Gunter a suit of splint mail +2, and Calvin a longsword +3.
Hammer 5, 1507: Having traversed the bone forest again with some difficulty after a run-in with a pair of two-headed trolls, the Bywater Six finally made it back to Belegost. They had certainly tired of the dwarven realm, though they had clearly seen only its most harrowing parts. Gunter tarried here for a day to look for lore on the Talisman of Hulgar, but instead found a fragment of a book on Lord Soth, which he revealed on the long sea journey home on a Southron trading cog.
“The King of Kings of Oceanus brought down the wrath of the gods upon Arik, and the gods punished people for their pride by casting a fiery mountain down on the land. The destruction and desolation wreaked by the disaster, known as the Rain of Fire or the Cataclysm.
Although their land had been spared the worst of the blow, the people of the ancient nation of Thalemond still suffered greatly. Evil creatures long banished from Arik, returned. Many of the Knights of the Order of the Stars perished fighting the unknown and unspeakable horrors that ravaged the countryside.
In the end, it was the common people of Thalemond who cast the Knighthood in disgrace. For centuries, the Knights of the Order of the Stars had kept the peace and safety of the realm. Now, in the hour of their most desperate need, it seemed that the Knights were powerless. Rumors began to spread that the Knights had foreseen the coming of the Cataclysm and had done nothing to stop it. Some Knights, it was said, actually intended to profit by the disaster and increase their land holdings.
Indeed there was some truth to these tales, but it was not the Order's doing. Lord Soth, the great Knight of the Rose as he was called, who ruled in Dargaard Keep, had in fact been warned by his elven seeress wife of the calamity that was coming.
But Soth had dark secrets to keep. He had wed the elf maiden in secret though he was already married to a barren woman of human royalty. Having fathered a child by the elf-woman, he then murdered his first wife and claimed she had died in childbirth. The child of the elf-woman became his heir and he claimed the elf-woman as his lawful wife. When warned of the impending doom of the world, Lord Soth rode forth with his eight loyal knights behind him. Yet waiting for him on the way to Oceanus was a troop of elven druidesses who stopped him. They knew of his dark deeds and persuaded Soth to turn back in exchange for their silence.
Soth turned back and the Cataclysm came as predicted. The elf woman and his child were consumed in a terrible fire before Soth’s very throne. He returned to Dargaard Keep to find the image of their bodies burned into the stone. No rug would cover it without being consumed. No brush would remove its stain. Thus did Soth sit on his throne, weary of life, until he too died. But even then the gods would not grant him relief from his torment. Bane seized his soul on the way to the Abyss, and trapped it in his rotting body to do his will. His eight knights, blind in their obedience to his will, remain with him still in gaunt, skeletal form. The elven druidesses reside there as well--banshees who sing each night to the fallen Knights of the Rose, telling of his falling and never-ending punishment.
The terrible deeds of this Knight did great injustice to the Knighthood as a whole. Before long, Knights of the Order of the Stars were jeered in public and openly reviled. Darker acts were also committed: Knights were foully murdered, their castles and homes invaded, and their families slain or driven into exile. So it was that the Knights silently disappeared from the knowledge of men for centuries. The Knights who remained found themselves forced to roam the countryside in secret and under false names, lest they be discovered. Still they kept their ideals and their honor, and did what they could to fight the growing evil in the world. A few Knights who found their loss of status intolerable left their homeland and traveled to the northern Taran coast. To this day the Knights are headquartered here, in Tara City, and have regained the trust and respect of old.”
Alturiak 9, 1507: The journey was uneventful except for an encounter with a dragon turtle which breathed on the ship's deck, killing half the crew. Elsinor disembarked early at Arden to train and seek news of Melian, while Elrich attended a chapter of the Knights of the Silver Hand at Bracilot.
Alturiak 18, 1507, Werewolf: Elrich was assigned by the Knighthood to aid a werewolf hunter of the Rockburgh militia, Captain Rapacion, who was investigating some slayings nearby. He and his squire Childras traveled north to this town on Southold’s border, where once he met the sentient gargoyles, but he had no time to seek Hubert and Rudy in Gargoyle Valley. Instead, he, Captain Rapacion, and a small band of militia were snowed in the village, and murders began occurring. Elrich quickly developed two suspects; the captain himself (who was missing during the attacks) and the innkeeper Randall (who was never seen during daytime and was evasive about his past). After three nights of terror, Squire Childras was nearly slain by the creature, and Elrich, suspecting the captain, confronted him in his room. His suspicions proved true; Rapacion was the beast--and not just a regular werewolf, but a fearsome loup-garou. A harrowing battle followed, during which Elrich passed near death, but he triumphed. At this point Randall emerged with the noted werewolf hunter Black Arrow. The innkeeper had summoned Black Arrow, famed werewolf hunter. The great stalker congratulated Elrich on his kill, pitying Rapacion for falling prey to that which he had hunted--“leaves more work for me” was all he said as he left. Sir Elrich and Squire Childras headed back to Bracilot.
Ches 20, 1507, Skarda's Mirror: The adventurers assembled at Blaskor's Retreat, discussing their plans to tackle Undermountain on the morrow, hoping to penetrate even further until they find the deathknight Sir Cyrik’s Banite Temple and recover the Talisman of Hulgar. But as they entered their room, they were surprised to see a mirror on the back of the door, whereupon Calvin and Liet instantly disappeared. Then a dozen warriors and a mage assaulted the group, grappling with them and then looking into the mirror. Thus was the Bywater Six instantly transported to the Mirror World, a small pocket plane which was the base of that infamous raider Skarda--the same mirror the band had failed to locate months before despite their search of the kidnapped Retameron’s tower.
Faced with about eighty guards against them, the party decided to surrender, except Elrich. He stubbornly fought on, and was soon charmed by the mage, who was Skarda himself. The group was led into the dungeons, whereupon Elrich broke the charm, and pummeled Skarda. At this point the bestial jailer Kogrin, who dumped fish-heads on the party in their cell, repeatedly struck the knight until he moved no longer. All were searched and relived of weapons, armor, and useful items, as were their comrades, and all were all shackled to the walls of a cell.
As the guards left, Gunter began straining at his bonds, while Calvin, having succeeded at picking the lock of only one of his shackles, saw a peephole open in the back of the cell. The eavesdropper announced himself as Ashgarth, leader of a meager resistance movement among the slaves of “Hell”--the slaves' apt name for their home. Ashgarth soon obtained their promise to help overthrow Skarda and told of three other adventurers who came in through the mirror. Elrich recovered consciousness at this point, though he had a nasty headache. The party soon freed itself and gleefully slew Kogrin and a guard with naught but their hands and spells. Elsinor dressed himself in the elite guard's platemail and freed the other notable prisoners and Ashgarth. The adventurers Retameron and Halia were two of the prisoners, but the third was a more recent arrival, Lady Araselle of Hador, Knight of Athelstan. This noted paladin of Tyr, who had previously adventured with the band known as the Miscreants, had been sent by her knighthood to Anorien, to seek entrance in the Bywater Six. Despite their strange locale, she was quickly accepted into their band.
The band overwhelmed the guard check-in point and retrieved their items, though Halia's and Liet's spell books were missing. Led by Retameron, who bashed down any doors blocking their way with the strength of a frost giant, the band of nine headed for Skarda’s guard headquarters. After bashing their way through two guard towers, they heard from Zira, a defecting elite guardswoman, that Skarda intended to teleport into King Edmund's lightly defended hunting lodge, Blackhill. There he would open the mirror, and unleash his troops against Southold’s king. Skarda was a native of the rebellious province of Andeaver, and apparently wished to do his part for his homeland. The party knew they must intervene, and decided to incite the slaves of Hell to rebellion. A great debate ensued on how to do this most effectively.
After the group had decided to take out a guard tower as a show of force, Araselle came up with the idea of sending Ashgarth's conspirators to assemble the slaves to watch the attack. The slaves--until then showing little desire to revolt, were getting anxious, as Skarda’s mining program had caused water in this strange mirror world to gradually rise. As the Bywater Six eliminated the first two towers, the slaves poured through the breach. A mass battle ensued, beating Skarda’s minions back. Finally, the band reached Skarda’s tower, and found the mirror portal to the outside world. It was dark, just outside the Royal Hunting Lodge of Blackhill.
The adventurers stormed forward, soon catching up with Skarda’s forces quietly sneaking through the halls. There were simply too many bandits, so they shouted an alarm, as Elrich incited himself to a berserker frenzy. Calvin sneaked around and found the king in the grand study with a handful of retainers, helping defend him as the bandits broke in. As more royal housecarls and slaves from Hell joined the fray, Skarda’s bandits fell back. Elrich led the charge against them, desperate to prevent them from getting back to the mirror and teleporting away again. As soon as he stepped outside he took a lightning bolt from Skarda as the remaining elite guardsman closed in. This attracted the attention of the rest of the party guarding the king. Liet was nearly slain by Skarda's invisible stalker, as the battle raged below. Gunter was even charmed into tackling Elrich, but in the end, Skarda was brought down by the blade of Calvin, who slinked around behind him in the shadows. With the last of Skarda's elite guards dead, the berserk Elrich swung wildly at Gunter, who replied (many would say overreacted) with a mighty blow, slaying the knight who had fought so valiantly against Skarda.
The battle was now over; the King's loyal housecarls moved in to round up the slaves and the remainder of Skarda's forces. The mirror, which was lying on the ground beside Skarda, exploded, scattering everything in the Mirror World over several acres. Among the treasures found--or more properly turned in given the many who greedily snatched at it--were Skarda's spellbook (though Liet's and Halia's were never recovered), a wand of fear, a ring of protection +1, and a dagger +2. No actual coin was found, but the Bywater Six at least had the satisfaction of knowing that they have helped the realm. King Edmund asked the band to wait here for a week as his guests, while his Court traveled to join him at the lodge. The High Forester Haldale was appalled by the breach of security at Blackhill, which was under his care, and thanked the adventurers for their intervention.
Ches 30, 1507, Awards: The Bywater Six--including their new addition Araselle--as well as Retameron and Halia--the Daring Duo--attended a grand banquet with King Edmund's entire Court. High Priest Stephen Menote of Tyr reunited Elrich's soul and body at the King's request. At this banquet, Edmund thanked the adventurers for saving his life; all were dubbed Knights of Southold. The King finally granted each of them a single favor. Elsinor answered selflessly and immediately, asking for money to found an orphanage for the many who had been bereaved by the ongoing Civil War; he received 15,000 nobles. The rest of the party deferred to think on it. The band returned to Bywater by ship, with Elrich and Liet spending the next few weeks training.
Mirtul 14, 1507: A complicated situation developed when Gunter, passing by the Blade and Stars Inn, heard screams from the second story window to catch a murderer on the street beside him. The gladiator threw a net at the strange, robed Videssian running away, but not before his target disappeared. Gunter later found out that this was Agrippa of the adventuring group called the Miscreants, several of whom approach him and ask for his aid, proclaiming Agrippa's innocence in the strongest terms. Present were the Southron rogue Hernando, an elven swashbuckling warrior named Yolan, soon joined by Agrippa, a headstrong Cabalist like Liet. They traveled together to Blaskor's Retreat and Agrippa borrowed Elrich's amulet of proof against detection and location claiming he must prove his innocence before turning himself in to the Watch.
Mirtul 15, 1507, Magister: Agrippa, Hernando and Yolan, residents of Dunthrane and new to Bywater, stayed at Blaskor's Retreat for the night. On the morrow, Gunter, in talking with Gondal, the head of the College of War Wizardry, obtained a mission. Gondal wanted Gunter and his companions to find an errant pupil of his--Lashan--who had entered the abandoned Academy of Abjuration Magicks north off the Greyflood Pike. It was rumored that an evil presence dwelled in the long-dead school, but Gunter was charged only with finding Lashan's fate. The three aforementioned members of the Miscreants accompanied him, as Agrippa would like to stay out of Bywater for a while. Gunter did not mention to Agrippa that Gondal also said he had taken a personal interest in finding the wizard who killed a prostitute at the Blade and Stars the previous night.
Mirtul 17, 1507: The party of four entered the abandoned academy, which was built in the early Videssian style that predated Southold's independence from the Empire. After a run-in with a pesky demonic larva and several fights with minor guardians, the party was confronted by a multi-tentacled grell. After it was slain, the band gleefully discovered three magical ioun stones, in addition to a spell-book. They soon encountered the owner of the building, a powerful undead lich called the Magister. He apparently was insane, as he referred to Gunter and Agrippa as his pupils. A clever scene of delusion and deception followed, until Gunter, panicking, struck the lich. He and Yolan landed several blows before the creature disappeared.
Time then stopped for the four due to a powerful spell; Yolan was imprisoned in the center of Grund, Hernando was repulsed into a bone-chilling subterranean river, and Gunter was frozen in a block of ice and floated in the river. Only Agrippa, who stood by and suggested various tortures for his comrades, was left alone. The lich then retired, admonishing “Lucius” (Agrippa) to study his spell books; Agrippa then freed Hernando and dragged Gunter out. Back in Bywater, Gondal cast a wish to release Yolan.
As he returned to Bywater, Agrippa returned the amulet of proof against detection and location to Elrich. Soon after, he was surprised to see Gondal peering over his shoulder. The Videssian mage surrendered quietly. He was imprisoned while awaiting his trial. Meanwhile, the other Miscreants sampled some of Bywater's culture and nightlife.
Kythorn 20, 1507, Blaskor's Secret: Gunter and Elsinor, while drinking at the Three Old Kegs, meet Greywolf (simply Wolf to the drunk Gunter) and Kliff of the Miscreants. They traveled back to Blaskor's Retreat, where they were joined by Liet. The seldom seen elven owner of the inn, Blaskor, told the adventurers they were in danger, for a murderous creature called “the Bane” was stalking the streets. Their courage swelled by drink, the band vowed to slay this creature, and separated into patrols looking for it. Nothing happened the first two nights of their vigil.
Kythorn 22, 1507: This time the band located the creature, which headed for Bywater’s sewers with the adventurers in hot pursuit. They were led past several creatures, and soon attacked a vampiress guarding a door. After dispatching her, the band was attacked by several charmed merchants, most of whom were webbed by Liet. In the main room was a sarcophagus, and an elf very similar in appearance to Blaskor. A battle ensued, and the party soon finds that this vampire was an accomplished spellcaster as the ground beneath them turned to mud. Using his boot of striding and springing, Greywolf bounded after the vampire-turned-bat and Liet joined the chase by polymorphing into a bird; Gunter, Elsinor, and Kliff (who, in the throes of the berserkergang started attacking the vampire's sarcophagus) began sinking in the mud. The vampire soon changed the mud back to stone, trapping the three stout warriors knee or waist deep in solid rock. Liet found his attack spells cast at the elven wizard/vampire bounced back at him, so stayed in the background for the rest of the chase. Meanwhile, Greywolf hucked his hammer at the vampire, who turned to fight or cast for a moment, then changed to a bat and flies away. This cycle was repeated several times before the fiend was slain. Greywolf cast gust of wind off a scroll at the vampire’s gaseous essence, destroying the creature known as the Bane.
The band then freed their trapped comrades and confronted Blaskor about his resemblance to the vampire. He replied by saying that they were brothers both afflicted with the curse of elven vampirism, sucking the life-blood of hundreds across Arik, until he acquired a helm of alignment changing. The changed Blaskor, really Jonathan Morningmist, settled down here in Bywater, wishing to forget the slaughter of his past. But his evil brother, Jeremiah Morningmist, tracked him here; in hopes of destroying Jonathan's new found security and perhaps having him take the blame for the crimes of the Bane. Jonathan asked the members present not to reveal his identity--promising he did not hurt sentient beings for his feeding--and bid them farewell.
Flamerule 12, 1507: Agrippa was tried for the murder of the innocent woman in the Blade and Stars, and convicted. Pleading he was temporarily unbalanced given his adventuring experiences in the drow undercities and such, the court gave him a lenient sentence; paying 3,000 nobles to the family, casting protective magicks on the city for a year, and submitting to wearing a magical tracking bracelet for a year of parole, during which he would be obliterated if he committed a crime. After this incident, the Bywater Six appeared leery of associating with the Miscreants, particularly Agrippa. They resumed their quest for the Talisman of Hulgar, one step further to confronting Lord Soth.
Flamerule 20, 1507, Back to Undermountain: The Bywater Six again entered Undermountain via the Yawning Portal tavern. They spent several hours exploring north of the entrance, and found nothing. Just as their guard dropped, they were attacked by a band of twelve wereboars. The band quickly dispatched the beasts, but not before several adventurers were bitten. Calvin bravely retrieved the treasure sacks from the midst of a faded magic circle traced into the ground; luckily, nothing happened. Later, the elven scout was mysteriously paralyzed when he touched a statue, but nothing came of this.
Continuing deeper, the band found a carved face opposite a set of steep stairs. Calvin and Elsinor impatiently headed up the stairs while the rest of the band debated their course of action. A log wedged lengthwise across the stairs suddenly lashed out at the two. Simultaneously, a globe of exploding oil fell from the ceiling in the room below, followed soon by a vial of sleep-smoke. As the party scattered, Liet was shot in the back with an arrow of energy, paralyzing him and sending him tumbling down the stairs mortally wounded. Yet Elrich saved the dragon master with a timely death's door. After a tough fight, the roper was slain and the orcs operating the ambush from behind the face were scattered. But their respite was short as several trolls, attracted by the noise, attacked. Liet fireballed the entire room, along with Elrich, Gunter, and Araselle, who all had protections. The remaining trolls were soon dispatched as the party headed up the stairway, which Araselle has considerable difficulty doing in her armor. This steep stair exited into a garbage heap in the alley of the Blushing Mermaid. The Bywater Six, delighted at having found another entrance to Undermountain, prepared for their next sortie into its depths.
Flamerule 24, 1507: Once again, the Bywater Six headed into Undermountain, intent on finding the Temple of Bane and Sir Cyrik, possessor of the Talisman of Hulgar. They found an intriguing room with a pool of water on the cavern floor and--strangely enough--on the ceiling. Soon, a water weird attacked, was slain, and reformed, this time dragging Calvin into the dank depths. Elsinor and Gunter dove in after him, wresting the elven scout from death's claws. The party left this strange room, and soon encountered a stooped, drunken, beggar, who asked the party a riddle. When Elrich and Liet gave the correct answer--courage--he revealed, rather cryptically, the location of the Temple of Bane, by way of landmarks such as the "Duke's Sword" and the "Helmwatch." At this point, the party's mysterious benefactor melted back into the darkness. The Bywater Six were puzzled and wary of a trap, but decided to follow the directions.
Soon they found the Ducal Sword lying on a tomb and decided to retire and resume their explorations on the morrow. The greatsword was identified as the Flame of the Southrons, +2, +4 vs. chaotic evils, 10% magic reflection, absorbs lightning bolts, detects chaotic evil within 20 feet automatically. It belonged to Duke Wroxham, first master of Anorien, slain by the Videssians in the War of Independence 500 years ago. As the potent blade could only be handled by those of Southron blood, the party decided Elsinor should wield it, as his elven blood of the House of Leafsong was commingled with that of the Southron ranger Korwald.
Flamerule 25, 1507: The Six tried to follow the trail set out by their strange benefactor, but soon unwittingly strayed. A catastrophic mistake was made as the band triggered a lightning bolt when touching a statue, which hit every member of the band save Calvin (anticipating trouble) and Elsinor (whose sword protected him). The party progressed still deeper, as Liet was nearly infected by rot grubs from a manticore body. The band found themselves in a room with 12 suits of standing armor and a throne. Elsinor peered into the armor’s visor, saying “they’re empty,” in what Elrich would later mock as famous last words. As the visor opened, the ranger saw two reddish eyes light up, and the Helmed Horror automatons attacked. What followed was one of the most evenly matched combats the Bywater Six had ever fought--every one of the band was critically wounded. Indeed, as they escaped, their state was such that the mighty Bywater Six feared a band of wandering orcs--yet they managed to escape Undermountain unmolested.
Eleasias 10, 1507: Taking a few days to recover at Blaskor’s Retreat, the Bywater Six now believed they know the location of the Temple of Bane in Undermountain. They prepared for an assault against it. All the members purchase potions, scrolls, and such in anticipation.
Eleasias 11, 1507, Assault on the Banite Temple: The band descended once more into the depths of Undermountain, but again had difficulty following the cryptic directions of their mysterious benefactor. They quietly sneaked past the room of the Helmed Horrors (all of whom have been repaired) and beyond. As they investigated a room with a moldering canopied bed, tentacles lashed out at them. Gunter was paralyzed by the venom, and dragged toward the large creature which lived above the bed. The band soon dispatched the beast, and holed up until Gunter awoke. Meanwhile, Calvin sneaked up into a cavity in the ceiling above the bed, where he found a coffer with some money, a wand of frost, and a rod of resurrection, though he didn’t know it at the time. Unfortunately, he was unable to hide his discovery from Elrich's ring of truth, and was forced to surrender all. The party soon ran into the same band of Hlethvagi's orcs they evaded previously, and they told of the way to Undermounatin’s second level.
Eleasias 12, 1507: The party descended the stairs and traversed a maze of passageways before finding the "foyer" of the Banite Temple. They traversed what they believed to be the "Helmwatch" alluded to by the old benefactor--a ring of Helmed Horrors arrayed in a circle. They advanced cautiously toward the sanctum, slaying a skeletal warrior and passing through a pulsing corridor that slowly drained their life energies. As they opened the great bronze doors inset with the pulsing eyes of the Lord of Darkness, the party saw a step pyramid, and at its summit, the deathknight Sir Cyrik and two skeletal warriors. At the foot of the ziggurat were a dozen Banite priests, apparently waiting for the party, who immediately started casting spells.
The party charged in, only to find dozens of gnoll guards and also the human Banite Guard pouring into the vast underground chamber. Apparently, the Banites had word of the impending attack, and had several defensive spells prepared. As a huge melee took place at the foot of the ziggurat, Sir Elrich challenged the deathknight to a duel for the Talisman of Hulgar. He promised to forfeit his soul should he lose. This parlaying attracted the attention of Colstan Rhuul, the charming but sinister High Priest of the recently completed Banite Temple. It was a good thing he stopped the fighting, for the Six, overwhelmed by sheer weight of numbers, had taken a beating. An area was cleared, and Sir Cyrik fought the cleric of Nuada, slaying him with ease. Then Gunter challenged the deathknight, and a fierce battle was joined. Deepchill glowed an icy blue during the duel, coursing with arcane power. The two struck each other until both were at death's door, so equal was their match. At this moment, Sir Cyrik ripped off his tunic, exposing a symbol of pain inscribed on his breastplate--Gunter writhed in agony, but raised the sword of Hulgar one last time and smote the deathknight so mighty a blow, it clove through his armor as the undead being’s bones fell to the ground in a heap.
With that, he ripped the cross-shaped Talisman of Hulgar from Sir Cyrik's body--it glowed blue to his touch. Now however, Colstan refused to let the party leave--at least not before they payed a "toll." Colstan gleefully claimed several magic items from the party members. At this point, Calvin spoke with Molug, Colstan's lieutenant, about something--all the suspicious party heard was "then we have a deal." Liet too spoke with Molug, asking him about joining the Banite ranks. However, the dragon master questioned Molug's loyalty, and the priest paralyzed and slapped the arrant mage. By now, Elrich was bandaged and Elsinor, who played dead after being overwhelmed by the Banite Guards, got up. With that, the Bywater Six left Undermountain, wary of treachery on Colstan's part.
They had achieved their goal in the Underhalls; the Talisman has been recovered, yet it was a hollow victory. The party was very nearly defeated in the Banite Temple and in any case failed to conquer it. When the party emerged at the Yawning Portal, several of their number took the next several months to train. Elsinor headed to Arden, Liet to the College of War Wizards, Elrich to fast at the Temple of the Silver Hand, Gunter, Calvin, and Araselle spent the time in Bywater.
Eleint 12, 1507, Seeking Melian: Elsinor rode to Arden, where he organized an archery contest among the young would-be rangers. The half-elf soon met Baron Thingol, now in command of the Loyalist Army besieging Duke Aimar’s rebel capital of Montinelle, who had heard news of his sister Melian in Balar. The two traveled to Dunthrane to charter a ship, but Elsinor was waylaid by his elven half-brother Delsel. The fighter-mage--disarmed Elsinor and led him to the River Laine, telling all the time of how he must slay him. Delsel was Elsinor’s eldest half-brother, prince of the Galathiene. Yet unlike his other half-brother Soteric, with whom he had made a truce, Delsel would listen to none of Elsinor’s pleas he harbored no ill will and would not return to the Galathiene trying to usurp the elven throne.
Meanwhile, Thingol woke up and tracked the two. Finally, at the river, Delsel attacked his half-brother. Elsinor, gravely wounded, jumped into the Laine. As Thingol approached, he shot Delsel with several well-aimed shots from his phantom bow, but Delsel disappeared into a bank of fog from an enchanted horn. Delsel made off with Elsinor's old magic longsword, which merely heightened the ranger's anger.
Eleint 20, 1507, Videssian Dream: Gunter went to sleep in Blaskor's Retreat after a hard day working in his forge, and woke up in an alley somewhere in Videssos City, bereft of arms and possessing a different body! He attempted to see through this obvious illusion, but though his will was strong, he saw this new body as real. In his toga was a letter, sent from his "Benefactor"--it had no mention of his old name or his time in Southold, but referred to him as Lucius Caecilius. The letter said that great fortunes can be made in the Eternal City, and Lucius should visit the party at Villa Osteropolus to discover what was going on. Confused, Gunter decided he had no alternative but to comply. He was soon introduced to many of Videssos' more seedy personalities, including his old gladiator lanista (trainer) who, not recognizing him, remarked that he should try his luck in the Arena. Gunter--or rather Lucius--inwardly laughing, declined, and in wandering around the party soon met Elemandai, a seductive sorceress who offered him a drug, zzonga. Gunter took it, and remained in a stupor for days.
Once again Gunter/Lucius woke up somewhere else; in a cell beneath the Arena. He was to be inducted into the Order of the Sands, the brotherhood of gladiators. Since he appeared so strong, the head of the gladiators, an exceptional orc named Yalag, sent him into the monster-infested caverns below the Arena alone. Gunter, of course, passed this test many years ago, but now attempted it again. He slew some giant centipedes, a minotaur, and some hobgoblins, and befriended a wererat periodically deluded into thinking he was actually rat-sized. Gunter, alone and near death, offered the magic gladius of the hobgoblin leader to the rat in exchange for information on the way out. Thus Gunter escaped, and for a second time he was inducted into the Order of the Sands. Gunter/Lucius prepared to fight in the Arena once more.
At this point, Gunter was awoken by his Bywater Six comrades from a deep sleep. His comrades saw an old, cloaked man standing over him--looking surprisingly like their “Benefactor” they saw in Undermountain who pointed to way to the Banite Temple, but the figure soon vanished. The adventurers decided this stranger was probing into Gunter’s mind, playing scenarios and seeing his reaction, for what purpose they knew not.
Eleint 29, 1507: Elsinor and Thingol eventually reached the coastline of Balar in their search for the missing druidess Melian, and they disembarked during a vicious storm near a deserted lighthouse. The pair spent the night there, as it was the only shelter nearby. Thingol was possessed during the night, and ran upstairs to light the huge oil lamp. His spirit had apparently been taken over by a long-dead lighthouse keeper, who one night, ten years ago, forgot in his drunkenness to keep the light burning. As a result, a ship sunk with all hands--the fact that it was full of notorious pirates did nothing to soothe his conscience.
This night, as happens every year on this date, that scene was reenacted. The pirates, dozens of them, had risen from their watery grave to tear their killer to pieces once more. Elsinor soon woke up, and the two put up a daring defense of the lighthouse, firing until quivers were empty. The undead scaled the walls as well as climbing the interior stairs. Elsinor, believing Thingol was also ready to jump away to escape, hopped over the railing, nearly breaking his leg. Baron Thingol stood his ground however, hacking away at his attackers with his blazing bastard sword. In the end, Elsinor came back into the lighthouse, slaying many before he too was brought down. Thingol finished the few undead remaining and bound Elsinor's wounds.
Higharvestide, 1507: Now that the two had recovered somewhat, they set out again to investigate the deserted village not far from the lighthouse. There they saw a blackened circle--probably the result of a potent fireball, along with a perfectly preserved black rose. This was none other than the symbol of the master of deathknights Lord Soth. With disturbing thoughts that Melian might have been slain or taken captive by the deathknight, the two boarded a merchant cog and sailed back to Arden. Elsinor continued on to Bywater, Thingol back to his command at Montinelle.
Marpenoth 20, 1507, Black Viper : Elrich, after atoning for the debacle in the Temple of Bane, was asked to prove his worth. Vicar-General Philmore assigned him to assist in a murder case being pursued by Bywater’s Captain of the Watch, Jovis Blackwere. All the victims had their eyes cut out and were brutally slain. Notes were left at each of the murder sites, all signed “Ejrik Spellbender.” Elrich enlisted the aid of the elven scout Calvin in this endeavor, and Cameron Gaunt, the hulking Flaming Fist Sergeant.
Elrich used spells to contact the spirits of the dead, revealing more and more clues about them murderer Ejrik. A spiritualist named Alisia advised them, but was slain the following night. In her dead hand was a note saying that one of the three investigators was the murderer. The band now visited another mystic, Sinara Doom, who confirmed that Ejrik was one of the three standing in front of her, before fleeing to her room and locking the door. What followed was a web of suspicion among the three. Calvin followed Cameron, Elrich followed Calvin, Cameron went to Sinara Doom's. Calvin, fearing Cameron was the murderer, backstabbed him with an envenomed blade, bringing the mighty warrior down. But Elrich, who had been following them both, arrived and bound the mercenary's wounds. All went to the Watch Headquarters, and both Calvin and Cameron spent the night in jail. That night, there was another murder, and Elrich was naturally suspected.
The three set out to examine the murder sites once more, and in one of Ejrik's victim's homes, Calvin found a trapdoor. Within was a small chest, and within that, a beating heart. Elrich examined a note protruding from one of the arteries. It had but one word on it; “Calvin.” As the knight read this, an envenomed blade--Calvin's--plunged into his back. As he whirled around, his former companion lunged to finish off the wounded cleric. But Elrich, instead of defending himself, skewered the heart with his enchanted khopesh. Calvin, about to deliver the deathblow to his old comrade, collapsed unconscious. The elf was incarcerated in the dungeons of the House of the Silver Hand--the Inquisition removed all vestiges of evil within his soul. It appeared Ejrik Spellbender was a drow ancestor of Calvin's who had plagued his line. Thus it was Ejrik, having usurped control of Calvin's body, who had committed the murders. Hopefully, with the destruction of the heart, the ancient drow's spirit had been banished. In any case, the Inquisition let the elven scout go free, judging he was not in control of his actions.
Nightal 9, 1507, Ejrik Spellbender : Liet, desperate for money after extensive spell research and potion-brewing, and leery of turning to that infamous kneecap-breaker, Rourk the Shark of Alcester, decided to capture one of Bywater's most wanted criminals for the hefty bounty. He chose the Black Viper, by all accounts a sophisticated thief, one who stole only from nobility and the rich, and only in the most daring fashion. Notes were left at the scene of every crime, but never had the thief been tracked down. Liet petitioned a minor nobleman, Baron Ellion, to let him set a trap. The Baron would spread news of a great amount of treasure being stored in his cellars, hoping to attract the thief, or so Liet mused. For several nights, the invoker stood guard in Ellion's cellars, with multiple wards cast and spells at the ready, but nothing came of it. After a week, Liet joined his compatriots at their appointed meeting time--he dearly hoped that Ellion's estate would not be robbed now that he was gone.
Grim news arrived of the Civil War as cold weather set in for the fourth time in this long conflict. Lord Edrin led a sally to break the Royalist besieging forces on the Balar coastline, accompanied by Lord Soth and several of his deathknights, making their first appearance in months. This attack coincided with a surprise attack on Wyrm's Gap spearheaded by a group of adventurers known as the Swords of Montinelle, resulting in a lengthy siege to this southernmost city in Anorien. Hordes of goblinoids from the nearby Wyrmsteeth range, under command of a shadowy, dragon-riding warrior known simply as “da boss,” pushed the defenders of Southpass aside. Lesser offensives occurred across the rebel front, including some led by drow mercenary companies. While not technically winter, this came to be known as the Rebel Winter Offensive of 1507.
Uktar 12, 1507: Elsinor watched as the finishing touches were put on his orphanage outside Bywater--Nuada's Discarded Hands--which was complete with shrines to Solonar and Nuada, guards, and a full staff. This was the result of two years worth of collecting money from such varied sources as adventuring income, and donations from Lady Araselle and the King himself.
Yuletide, 1507: The letter Gunter received from Shalfrey, Master Sage of the Tower of the Stars, started to glow. The scroll, copied from the Books of Prophecy themselves, revealed a great storm that would befall Southold and the rest of Arik. Out of this, it predicted that the "Six from Bywater" would come, and lead an army deep into the lands of Balar. There, the Six would take on Lord Soth himself, though the result of this climactic combat was not revealed. The band had a renewed sense of purpose, as Gunter read the words aloud:
The Prophecy of the Six Against Daargard
A time of false hope shall arise in the heartlands of Arik. In the waning months of the one-thousand-five-hundred-and-seventh year after the Cataclysm, all shall appear calm in the land of the Southrons. Then shall the banished from the depths of Grund arise to smite the surface dwellers. Then shall the select of Athelstan disappear. Then shall the rebels, led by the fell general Lord Soth, ride forth once more against the just rule of Dunthrane. Then shall the seeds of an even greater conflict among the powers of Grund and the heavens be sown.
But in these dismal days of despair, a band dedicated to the upholding of Good shall arise in the land of Southold. They shall be called the Six from Bywater, and shall, in righteous indignation, pursue Soth even unto his dark keep. At Daargard they shall battle Bane's Champion.
The Death Knight's nemesis, Hulgar’s enchanted blade of ice shall guide them, borne by a mighty warrior. A half-breed with the lines of Sundabar and Duplicis commingled in his veins is he, fighting a destiny of living death; the price of failure. Should his courage fail, all are doomed to perish.
Magicks of great power shall be borne by the wizard of gold. His visage masks his heritage, thus does the spawn of foul Turbareus hide his shame, even as he follows the path of righteousness. Neither old age nor tooth, nor claw, nor blade of steel shall bring his end; the master of dragons shall find his end as he hath lived, by incantations of death.
The stalker of the woodlands and archer of destruction shall bear the mighty Flame into battle. Yet this bastard of the house of Leafsong cannot trust it to light the coming path of darkness. The half-elf's doom is inextricably linked to his half-brothers'.
The dweller of shadows and master of deception shall bear skills of treachery. Though he thinks his other self banished, let him beware; the dark heart beats still. The battle for possession of the elf's soul has merely begun.
A blade of powerful enchantment shall be borne by the protector of justice. She, of the noble line of Hador, her former curse banished, shall be clad in gleaming armor as she rides forth to smite the enemy. Alas, this paragon of chivalry has more to fear from supposed allies than her foes, the blow shall come from an unexpected quarter.
Leading the armies into battle shall be the noble cleric of silver, whose gleaming gauntlet shall be a beacon of strength on the desolate field of battle. Wielding the sword of the infidels, he shall cut the rebels before him as he gropes for victory. But lo, Death, recently cheated, is hot on his heels.
Thus shall these Six act as One in purpose. A mighty force shall they assemble and lead against the gates of Daargard. The red shall join the silver and the brown in the great march across the land. Many battles shall they fight, and the rebels shall be cut down as wheat before the scythe. The Pass of the Wyrm shall be forced open, and finally battle will be joined with the mad baron. Thus, after saving many a life and drinking of the waters of truth, the city of Eastmarch will be laid low, and the Six of Bywater will embark on their final quest. Deception will play its part, as shall hopes of revenge, but the march of the Six shall be inexorable, though delayed, it will not be halted.
To the mountain heights of misty Daargard shall they march, bereft of all armies, trusting solely to steel and spell. They will be aided by three great and good heroes, who shall open the way for the Six before succumbing to the terrors therein. Old friends and rivals shall they encounter. Some will fall in the many travails to come in the deathknight's keep, but the rest shall press on to the inner sanctum of Bane's Minion. There shall be joined a battle that will be sung of for centuries to come. This titanic test of arms and the unlooked for events that shall follow it shall be immortalized by the Bard Anson, in his renowned epic poem Six Against Daargard. At the last, he too shall become an unwitting player in the tragedy to come and take the place of one who was lost. Nevertheless, all shall hail the glorious deeds of the blessed survivors of the Six from Bywater.”
Hammer 2, 1508, Halaster's Game: As the band considered the prophecy in Blaskor's Retreat and winter raged outside, the mad Archmage and lord of Undermountain Halaster appeared and mass teleported them to a sealed great hall in that great dungeon. Soon after, he teleported a rival adventuring band--the Swords of Montinelle--there as well. This company, known to be in the employ of the Southron Rebels, was led by the dread knight Sir Cain, whose wicked force of will was matched only by his great strength. The remainder were Argus of Tempus, a militant cleric, Lamordia, a half-orc assassin, Byron, a peasant master archer, Hazlik, an unpredictable wild mage, and the brutal Estelle, a red dragon master. They were scoundrels all, but quite powerful--certainly a match for the Bywater Six. A great feast was served, and afterwards, Halaster announced the start of the Great Game.
In this entertainment, the members of the two companies were randomly teleported to a spot in the sealed three-level arena complex. To exit, a team had to find three emeralds, or two parts of the key. Even then, only one individual could win--an entire band could not. Halaster promised the winner a wish as well as their selection of any potion desired. Thus did the participants wander throughout this deadly dungeon--bypassing traps and slaying several monsters. Soon Gunter was in possession of half of the key, and one emerald, Liet had an emerald, and the Swords had an emerald and a key. By luck, the Swords managed to link up several of their members first--four of them slew Araselle and Elsinor on the middle level. But on the lowest level, the labyrinth, Liet, preceded by a wizard eye, managed to slay Byron the archer, just as he was about to be cleaved in twain, and unwittingly, Hazlik the invisible wild mage. Gunter explored the entire top level before finding his band; Liet soon found them as well. Thus after many travels and travails, the remainder of the Bywater Six linked up and lay in wait. The Swords, having clairvoyed the band's position, teleported in and attacked. In the ensuing fight, Liet failed to dodge a lightning bolt and was slain. Calvin, having suffered greatly during the exchange of spells, ran. Elrich cast silence on Estelle, and charged her. Just as things look as if all might not be lost, Gunter fell, though not before inflicting heavy damage to Sir Cain. At this point Calvin, who drank his potion of speed, ran back into the room to backstab Sir Cain. After this failed, he ran out, and came back in again, doing the same thing, this time bringing the Swords’ infamous leader down.
However Estelle cast ice storm on the melee, including herself, slaying Elrich and Calvin. Lamordia, who had previously limited herself to throwing daggers at Gunter, now treacherously slew her wounded comrades Argus and Estelle, and gathered the emeralds and pieces of the key lying on the floor. Halaster granted the scarred half-orc a ring of invisibility and inaudibility as her wish, as well as a potion of super-heroism she promptly gave to her beloved Byron. The Bywater Six were disappointed, but as Halaster’s Great Game caused no permanent harm, they did not care for their loss, vowing to defeat the Swords of Montinelle if ever they encountered them on the field of battle.
Hammer 3, 1508, Gathering Forces: After their encounter in Undermountain, the band was teleported back to Blaskor's Retreat. Blaskor presented Elrich a letter from Duke Duncan as the band set down to a night of feasting. The letter authorized the raising of the Third Bywater Expeditionary Army under Elrich's command. He was created a Baron, for by the Code of Athelstan, only nobility can lead Southold's armies. The Third, which Elrich would have to assemble, was instructed to march across Anorien, raise the rebel siege at Wyrm's Gap, open the nearby Southpass, and then march on to Andeaver's capital, Montinelle, and rendezvous with Baron Thingol's besieging forces. From there they were to march into Balar, take Castle Wraithstone (promised to Elrich as a fief), and march to Lord Soth's Daargard Keep itself. Thus, the Bywater Six believed they could achieve their long-sought after quest; to confront and slay the deathknight.
Elrich immediately left for his house. The rest of the band, after eating a sumptuous meeting, retired to their rooms at Blaskor's. They woke up choking on poison gas. As the party members grabbed for their weapons and armor, several were affected by the poisoned slivers and powder covering their accoutrements. Gunter was first for the door, but even in the dark he avoided the tripwire just outside. However, he stepped on the poisoned shards of glass in the hall, and more importantly, failed to notice the invisible Master Assassin standing behind him. Already weakened by the poisons, the Videssian gladiator was backstabbed by an envenomed blade and instantly slain. Surprisingly, the assassin did not turn visible with the fearsome strike, though a voice was heard as he fled down the stairs, "Thus to all who betray Bane." The voice was drow, and Calvin, who despite his recent conversion to Nuada was versed in such dark subjects, suggested it was Kalathan, the incredibly powerful drow Master Assassin for the Banites.
Gunter's rapidly putrefying body was taken to the Temple of Nuada, where Elrich, feeling pangs of conscience for not being with his comrades, paid for the gladiator's raising. Over the next two months preparations were made for the Third's recruitment.
Greengrass, 1508: By the coming of spring celebrations, the Third Bywater Expeditionary Army consisted of the following; a contingent of the Knights of the Silver Hand calling themselves the Bywater Lancers (led by Araselle), the First Battalion of the Flaming Fist (led by Major Beluarion), and the Third Bywater Militia Battalion (led by Gunter). Soon an amateurish company of Baroness Elizabeth's shortbowmen (led by Elsinor), and a band of mercenaries, Wolf Company (led by Calvin), were added to the order of battle. After a further week of joint training, the Third Bywater Expeditionary Army marched out of Bywater on Baldran's Way, bound for Wyrm's Gap.
Mirtul 12, 1508: Problems soon developed between the knights and the Flaming Fist troops--both were elite units and both demeaned the other's place in the Army. A fight even broke out between the Fist's Cameron Gaunt and the knights' Sir Reynard. The knight prepared to duel the mercenary, but Baron Elrich's intervention created a temporary truce.
Mirtul 20 , 1508: A member of the Third Bywater Militia Battalion was caught stealing and brought to Captain Gunter, who turned the matter over to the command staff. After much debate, the peasant was flogged and released. Meanwhile, a mild fever passed through the camp, evidently introduced by some of Wolf Company's troops. With healing magic and quarantine, infection was kept to manageable levels.
Kythorn 2, 1508, Battle of Newbridge: The Third reached Newbridge, a small but strategically located hamlet half a dozen miles north of Wyrm's Gap. Here they planned to wait for a unit of heavy infantry en route from Urml, Creose's Crusaders by name. As they waited, scouts on Durjack's Knoll spotted an army coming from the north. It was evidently a force of humanoids recruited from southeast Anorien marching south to help break the defenders at Wyrm's Gap. Thus the Third deployed with the river to its back, defending the only bridge for several miles on the rapid Ash River. Sir Balthazaar, the Third's elderly Chief of Staff, advised that the enemy must not be allowed to get across the river and join in the siege of Wyrm's Gap.
The archers defended the low wall around the town, the knights awaited in front of them, with the Fist to west and the river to the east. Further down the line beyond the Fist were the Bywater Militia and finally Wolf Company on the west flank. Baron Elrich's small headquarters detachment was behind the line, and the Baggage train and camp followers anxiously waited on the other side of the river. The enemy host was a vast goblinoid army, with ogres on the west flank, trolls on the right, and some goblin cavalry in the center followed by a large contingent of goblin infantry, spearmen, and archers.
Before the two forces hit each other, Sir Cain, leader of the Swords of Montinelle evil adventuring group, made an unwelcome appearance. Atop his invisible flying warhorse, Cain swooped down and lanced Liet, who dimension doored away at death's door. But Sir Cain followed and slew him, though frustrated in his attempt to carry off the body. The unfortunate dragon master was brought back by Elrich's rod of resurrection and made a small contribution by using his wands to good effect. On the opposing side, two other Swords of Montinelle, Estelle the red dragon master and Argus, cleric of Tempus also fought--only to teleport away once things start looking bad for the goblinoid army.
The start of the actual clash of armies saw premature charges by some hobgoblins as well as the Flaming Fist. This unbalanced the line, and the Bywater Lancers were forced to charge to prevent the Fist from being totally enveloped. As it was, both these elite units suffered heavy casualties. The goblin archers were a particularly potent force, but the Third's shortbowmen under Elsinor also put in an impressive showing. Gradually, the Third's west flank fell apart under the combined attack of the ogres and goblin cavalry--both the Wolf Company and the Bywater Militia--after putting up a spirited defense, routed to the bridge. Indeed, the shortbowmen, Liet's spells, and the command unit itself were forced to beat back the remains of the attackers. In this last ditch defense, Gunter left his routing unit to slay a rampaging enemy ettin. Meanwhile, on the east flank, Varn, the half-orc enemy commander, challenged Araselle to a duel, and nearly slew her when goblins treacherously joined the attack. With such treachery, her obligations to duel were discharged, and Araselle galloped away in time to join the knights. The Bywater Lancers were eliminated as a fighting unit and Araselle knocked unconscious, but not before they inflicted massive casualties on the enemy. The Fist too were badly mauled, but held out. By now, Creose's Crusaders were in sight, marching to the sound of the battle. The few surviving units of both sides maneuvered near each other, but after the tremendous bloodletting, neither would charge the other. Thus the end was determined by long range arrow fire, leading to the rout of some hundred goblins. The Third Bywater Expeditionary Army held the field.
Preliminary body counts indicated nearly 200 Third Army soldiers from a total of some 800 combatants were dead, nearly a quarter of the force. In addition, around 400 soldiers were wounded, 200 seriously. True, the Third was bolstered by the arrival of Creose's Crusaders, but by any estimation they had been badly mauled. The enemy, however, had been decimated: 600 lay dead on the field, with over 300 prisoners. As the crows and other scavengers moved in to feast, they were joined by scavengers of another sort; the camp followers, who stripped the enemy bodies of whatever valuables they had. The Third's dead were gathered together for mass burial. Yet the grim scene was not echoed in the poem of Anson Adams, the Irrudian bard who has decided to chronicle the campaign of the Third; his song told only of glory. The essence of his work was best summed up by the Videssian saying, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori--"It is sweet and fitting to die for the fatherland." In his grandiose Ballad of Newbridge, Adams ignored the common soldiers' rejoinder to that saying, "the Great Lie."
Kythorn 10 , 1508: The Third Bywater Expeditionary Army remained at Newbridge for a week to give time for the wounded to heal and to reorganize the ranks after the battle. Wolf's Company, heavily mauled, broke their contract and rode back to Bywater. A more serious loss was Lady Araselle, who was recalled to Dunthrane to face a (politically motivated) tribunal for her actions as a werewolf in the Garth affair. Nonethekess, her performance was exemplary under the Code of Athelstan, and the band wished the paladin good luck. She was sentenced to a year in a convent in the Cruth to atone for her time as a lycanthrope, though she would choose to remain there long after.
Fortunately, a contingent of reinforcements from Bywater arrived and was incorporated into the army. Also, news arrived that the siege of Wyrm's Gap had been broken. News of the defeat at Newbridge disheartened the goblinoid besieging host, and they were driven back by Count Malcolm's battered forces. There was also an assassination attempt on Baron Elrich by the fearsome drow Banite Kalathan, which narrowly failed. It convinced the self-righteous cleric of the need for greater security--a lesson Gunter paid for with his life when the assassin last struck a month before.
Kythorn 12 , 1508: The Third marched to Wyrm's Gap, encamping outside the city walls, while the Bywater Six had an audience with Count Malcolm. Upon hearing of their intention to attack Southpass, he offered them the use of the Wyrm's Gap Levy, a fresh, but ill-trained mob of peasants. Likewise, they hired several mercenary companies. Gunter hired Velkor and his elite dwarven Bloodaxe Company to join. Elrich enlisted Dalwin's Halberdiers. Elsinor spoke with the charismatic Roger, head of a light cavalry unit, Roger's Rangers, but could not hire them due to lack of funds. Meanwhile, Calvin and Liet negotiated with the good natured court wizard, Lord Arnold. Calvin negotiated the purchase of several potions, which he would pick up after the battle. Liet tried fruitlessly to gain new spells--Arnold had heard of his rogue reputation--such as the third nipple incident--from Gondal and didn't fully trust the invoker.
Kythorn 14 , 1508, Battle of Southpass: The Army, its numbers greatly boosted, set out south. They intended to storm the Rebel garrison at Southpass, a choke point in the famous pass known as Wyrm's Gap (not to be confused with the nearby city). The area presented interesting tactical problems; the Ash River split the battlefield, running right down the middle of the pass, 400 foot high cliffs flanked the 300 yard wide gap, and a crude 4 foot high stone wall blocked the pass entirely. A quick scouting mission by Calvin revealed a small group of hill giants posted on the eastern cliffs and a line of skeletons in the gap, broken only by the river. Garrisoning the wall on the east side were a contingent of Count Capal's Heavy Infantry, orc infantry, and goblin archers. On the west were a troop of ogres and a horde of goblins. Worst of all, the band suspected the Swords of Montinelle to be on the enemy side, as well as "da Boss" and his red dragon mount.
The battle began with the invisible Liet fireballing the bridge linking both sides of the wall. Several gnoll archers were slain, but the bridge did not burn. Then the signal was given, and the Third marched forward. On the east side was arrayed the Flaming Fists, 5th Bywater Militia, and Bloodaxes. On the west were the Bywater Lancers, Dalwin's Halberdiers, Elizabeth's Archers, Creose's Crusaders, and the Headquarter Detachment. The Wyrm's Gap Levy and Camp Followers remained in the rear.
The giants threw boulders to harass the troops on the east side; the range was great, but as the battle progressed, this rain of stone took its toll on the Bloodaxe dwarves. The army's advance was delayed by the skeletons, but soon broke through their thin line. While the Third was held up, the red dragon with "da Boss" on his back flew over the troops, massacring a group of Flaming Fist unlucky enough to be beneath him when he breathed his gouts of fire. The warrior soon hopped off his draconic mount, but fell unceremoniously to the ground despite his blackened lance magically creating a black charger to ride. The enemy leader challenged Gunter to a duel. The Videssian barbarian accepted, but not before drinking his prized potion of storm giant strength. The fight was short, but brutal; Gunter was lain low, though "da Boss" was seriously wounded. As Gunter collapsed, Liet, who had still been hiding in the river, fired a magic missile, slaying the enemy warrior. This infuriated the dragon, who promptly dived down and breathed fiery death on the wizard, slaying him despite his many protections--the mage's second death in as many battles. The dragon, ignoring his wounds, made the body of his rider invisible to keep the Bywater Six from despoiling it. The mortally wounded Gunter was soon brought back by Elrich's healing, but Liet, beyond such aid, was stripped of his possessions by the invisible assassin Lamordia.
Yet Liet had wounded the dragon, and the crossbowmen of Bloodaxe Company miraculously finished off the wyrm with several well-aimed salvoes of quarrels. Meanwhile, the clash of arms continued; the Bloodaxes and ogres both charged and met in a furious melee. On the other side of the river, the Bywater Lancers charged the orcs with great success. Dalwin's Halberdiers marched toward the enemy line and were decimated by goblin arrows, fired by the same unit of goblin archers that caused so much trouble at Newbridge. Then, the rains began, slowly turning the ground into a muddy morass.
The Knights soon broke through the orcs, and wheeled and charged into the rear of Capal's Heavy Infantry, a capable unit that had slain the remainder of the Halberdiers and massacred Creose's Crusaders as well. This was a decisive moment, for the enemy line was breached, albeit by suffering enormous casualties. On the other side, the Militia charged the goblin hordes, but were soon destroyed, as were the ogres and dwarves; racial enemies who pummeled each other incessantly into annihilation. A powerful dwarven fighter named Gileus was all left standing after the fight. All that remained on this side of the river now was the depleted Fist Battalion and many goblin infantry. Throughout the clash of armies, the Swords' master archer Byron, flew around the field, entering into an archery duel with Elsinor.
Soon, Baron Elrich ordered the massive Wyrm's Gap Levy forward, but was dismayed when the goblin archers scattered his command unit, and then proceeded to decimate the Levy. But by now, Elizabeth's Shortbowmen were in position, and routed the goblins off the field with accurate fire, just as they had at Newbridge. Also on the west side, the orcs, severely mauled by the Knights' charge, rallied under Sir Cain. Despite the muddy conditions, the Bywater Lancers were determined to finish what they had begun and charged the orcs. Spells from the remaining Swords felled even more of their number, but the Knights of the Silver Hand didn't falter; they crashed into the orc force, totally annihilating them. The infamous Sir Cain was even dragged down and trampled by their onslaught. Thus was the leader of the Swords of Montinelle crushed into the muddy ground at Southpass.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Ash, Gunter, having quaffed a potion of invulnerability (which, luckily, combined well with his potion of giant strength) charged across the bridge, determined to slay many goblins (he thought they would not be able to hurt him). Yet he wandered in front of the Tempurian cleric Argus, who after a chase, felled him and took away his body. Luckily, Calvin invisibly recovered Deepchill and Gunter's shield, and followed Argus. The cleric rode to where Cain had fallen, where the Bywater Lancers were trying desperately to hold onto the enemy leader's body. Had the Swords had any potent spells left this would have been a much easier task, but Estelle, Argus, and Hazlik had used them all earlier in the battle. As it happened, Calvin got to Cain's body first, and removed his ring of x-ray vision (which he pocketed), his shield +2, and Mortandel, his enchanted battle axe, which he promptly dropped when a charge of evil shocked the thief's system. Unfortunately, the Swords recovered their leader's body, and teleported away, leaving their surrogate army to perish.
The battle was winding down by this point, but before the fighting was through, the Fist--the sole unit on the east side--was overrun by the swarming goblins. These were in turn destroyed by shortbow fire from across the river. The Battle of Southpass was over. Wyrm's Gap was once again open--the Rebels in Anorien had been crushed, but at what cost? Luckily, word arrived the same day of Baron Thingol's victory at Wroxham over the 2nd Andeaver Army; now the way to duchy's capital of Montinelle was open to both Royalist forces.
Kythorn 15, 1508: On the next day, Baron Elrich ordered a great pyre of the dead. Thus were the bodies of the heroes and monsters burned. Strangely enough, another body was discovered on the field after it had been cleared, that of "da Boss"--the invisibility had worn off. On his body the Bywater Six found a veritable treasure trove; Gold dragonscale armor (AC -4), Longsword +2, Gold Dragonslayer, Brooch of steadiness, Ebony Lance, potion of invulnerability, and several large gems. Further, the body of the red dragon was carved up and a suit of red dragonscale armor was commissioned for Gunter. The Bloodaxes, Dalwin's Halberdiers, and the Wyrm's Gap Levy left the Third. Once a contingent of Count Malcolm's forces arrived from Wyrm's Gap to garrison Southpass, the Third Army, with a snaking tail of the wounded, marched back to the city.
Kythorn 19, 1508: In Wyrm's Gap, Roger's Rangers joined up with the Third, undaunted by the disastrous fate of the previous three mercenary companies. Liet, having died gloriously in battle, was raised for a token sum, and called his mentor, the gold dragon Eskahelion, for aid. Elsinor arranged a contract for several thousand arrows. Calvin traded his ill-gotten ring of x-ray vision for a Manual of Quickness in Action. Baron Elrich entrusted his Chief of Staff, Sir Balthezaar, with finding specialist replacements for the Headquarters Detachment. That night, however, Elrich received a letter from the Swords of Montinelle, who proposed a deal. They enclosed Gunter's severed pinky, as proof they had his body, and proposed to exchange the body and its items for several items taken from the looted, fallen Swords. Both sides would meet under flag of truce in a week's time at the Shrine of Nevron, a site holy to Tyr.
Kythorn 26 , 1508, Shrine of Nevron: The four remaining members of the Bywater Six set out across Andeaver. They were harassed by several griffins, but made it to the Drake and Castle Inn relatively unscathed. From here they headed up the mountain path to the Shrine of Nevron. Calvin uncovered an ambush of brigands, and the band dealt with them easily. However, their fighting alerted a dragonne which swooped down but was eventually slain. Finally, the party ran into three ravenous cave bears--Elsinor befriended one, but the rest were slain, though Calvin nearly died at the hands of these ferocious beasts. The third bear obstinately followed Elsinor around, and soon the ranger hit on the idea of training him and keeping him as a pet. The name of this latest addition to the Bywater Six was Beorn.
Outside the Shrine of Nevron, the Swords of Montinelle waited as promised, protected by all the magic protections they could muster, while above Eskahelion the gold dragon wheeled in a circle over the meeting to ensure there was no treachery. The negotiations began in earnest.
Several trades were made between the two groups, and Gunter's body was recovered and later raised. The Swords departed, using the powerful rod of passage they habitually used to teleport, while the Bywater Six examined the Shrine of Nevron. Only those of Southron blood could drink safety of the pool; Elrich and Elsinor did so. Upon drinking Tyr's sacred waters, Elrich's wisdom was divinely increased, as was Elsinor's strength. There was, however, a side effect. Both now believed in the tenets of Tyr, having been converted to the Lawful Good ethos. Elrich accepted this change, while Elsinor felt increasingly depressed with his new, radically different world view, and it would take a year for his old beliefs to fully reassert themselves. A voice from the Shrine decreed that the Six should travel to Montinelle, where there would be one who needed their aid.
Midsummer, 1508, Hill Giant Steading: The Bywater Six arrived outside Montinelle, capital of the rebel Duchy of Andeaver, without any trouble. The city itself was besieged by Baron Thingol's troops, among whom were numbered the First Bywater Expeditionary Army under their own Duke Duncan of Anorien. The city was under siege for many months, and the gains from the great Rebel Winter Offensive had just finally been rolled back. At a meeting with Duke Duncan, Elrich was informed that he would be officially be ennobled at a ceremony at the week's end. Yet, the Bywater Six found that all was not well among the Royalist forces. Baron Thingol had been taken captive by a band of hill giants who infiltrated his tent with the help of the Swords of Montinelle. The remainder of the Baron's compatriots, Thingol & Company, believed he was held in the Hill Giant Chief's Steading in the foothills of the Veronian Mountains. Liet finally managed not to insult a fellow mage, and traded several spells with the company's elven wizard Fingon, Son of Fingolfin. Sir Gaheris, a powerful ax-wielding warrior and Thingol's best friend, agreed to accompany the Six in a daring rescue attempt.
Eleasias 4, 1508: The band arrived in the village of Barton, where they soon stood up to a local bully, Albere, in a barroom altercation. Insulted, he rode off to get his friends as those in the town foretold coming doom. Soon, a frost giant riding a mastodon, and a band of ogres descended into town, intent on avenging this threat to their power. After a fierce battle, in which the Six were surrounded and Gunter laid low a second time this month, the marauders were vanquished. In his first fight with the band, Gaheris proved a steadfast ally, swinging his battle axe "Foereaver" mercilessly.
Eleasias 5, 1508: After several hours' travel the next morning, the adventurers discovered the Hill Giant Steading, a huge log-built mansion, nestled in Giants' Valley in the Veronian foothills. Calvin advised ignoring the front door, and trying a surreptitious entrance through the back. They ended up fighting a pack of dire wolves along with several hill giants and giantesses. Having dealt with the initial threat, the party began searching the steading, and soon stumbled upon ogre guards in a main corridor. Unlike the first encounter, these guards swiftly ring the alarm bell, and giants poured in three main bands from the Great Hall. Liet skillfully erected a wall of force to keep one band at bay, but the other groups threatened to encircle the adventurers. The party was forced to flee down the main corridor, while Elrich held off the greatest of their opponents, a visiting cloud giant. Even though the Baron did nothing but parry to the best of his ability, the giant continued to land blows, slowly pummeling the cleric to death. Meanwhile, Calvin slipped away invisibly and set off to search the Steading for the imprisoned Baron Thingol (and to find loot).
The battle soon became a stalemate, as the mauled Bywater Six took refuge in a room and the giants hid around the corner, boulders at the ready. Soon the giants even breached the walls of the room. In the ensuing melee, Beorn the bear fell guarding the body his master, Elsinor, who was beat unconscious. Likewise the noble horse of Sir Gaheris was slain, and Elrich's steed was severely wounded. All save the absent Calvin were badly mauled. Yet, somehow, the party managed to survive and persevere. Thingol returned of his own accord from the dungeon below. The Baron had taken advantage of the commotion to slay his giant captor single-handed. Their rescue mission accomplished, the party decided to leave, as they were unfit for a proper search of the Steading or a foray into the lower level. On the way out, Thingol grabbed a torch from the Cloud Giant's guest room. It promptly turned into a magical two-handed sword, a giantslayer. Thingol mysteriously gave this to Elsinor, without explaining why to the others.
Eleasias 7, 1508: The party arrived back in Montinelle, and Elrich was ennobled by Duke Duncan. He had yet to swear his oath of fealty to his new lord, since a new Duke of Balar has not yet been named (the old Duke, namely the pretender Lord Edrin, has not yet been defeated). Baron Thingol, enraged at his unchivalric kidnapping and captivity, decided to personally lead the final attack upon Montinelle. This time, the Royalist forces broke through, albeit with heavy casualties. The mercenaries of the Silver Legion broke through and held the key breach, with their General, Cordell, personally slaying the rebel Duke Aimar. At the Baron's request, the Royalists took no prisoners, and lit fires which razed most of Montinelle to the ground. The infamous Sack of Montinelle was one of the bloodiest episodes yet in the relatively civilized Southron Civil War, ranking with the Rebel destruction of Zalest in their initial offensive. The Baron justified such cruelty claiming that his kidnapping by the Swords of Montinelle, a violation of the laws of chivalry, exempted the city from any protection guaranteed by those laws. Though many in Southold thought him overzealous, none could argue with his success. With this victory in the north, the fate of the Rebels was sealed; only Lord Edrin held on in Balar.
Eleint 14, 1508, Castle Wraithstone: The Bywater Six waited for the arrival of the Third Bywater Expeditionary Army from Wyrm's Gap, and soon after set out for Castle Wraithstone. Baron Thingol, yearning for some old fashioned adventuring after commanding his army for so long, accompanied them while his forces formerly laying siege to Montenille regrouped and marched for the final push against Balar. They encamped the Third a day's march from Castle Wraithstone, leaving Sir Balthezaar in command. The Six advanced forward as a scouting party, viewing the three-towered keep, nestled on a cliff's edge. The band gained entrance to the caverns beneath the castle at the bottom of a waterfall, a secret entrance known by Baron Thingol, for his band had entered the cavern complex several years earlier to slay the beasts that lived there.
Higharvestide, 1508: The party slew many new creatures which have taken up residence in the caverns, including a lurker above, a bunch of fiery salamanders, and some owlbears. Gunter unfortunately was sprayed by a giant wolverine and incapacitated for 8 hours. The party sat and waited for him to recover, swapping tales of their adventures. They soon explored the rest of the caves, finding a sacrificial +2 battle axe guarded by several wraiths. Elrich turned them with little difficulty, and afterwards the party found a treasure map. They also saw a knight pinned to the wall by a great spear; a paladin of old, his body protected by an aura of goodness. His spirit spoke, instructing the band to dispatch his slayer, the Lizard King. This the party soon did, slaying the creature's lizardman minions as well. The Bywater Six then climbed up a level and fought several hawkmen, finally arriving at the site marked on the treasure map. Digging, they unearthed a chest filled with gold coins from several centuries ago, along with a minor flamestrike ring. The band continued onward until they saw a shaft leading 150 feet up to sunlight. Baron Thingol announced that this must be the castle's well. Calvin, sipping his potion of invisibility, climbed up, and saw the battlements guarded by many rebel soldiers. As one walked toward the well, the elf tried to backstab the unfortunate, but the soldier survived the blow, sounding the alarm. Soon dozens of arrows flew at Calvin, who jumped back into the well. However, a mage at the top of the well muttered something about casting a fireball down the shaft, and Liet quickly put a wall of force up near the top. The blast was reflected upward, singing the wizard, who motioned for one of his servants to descend. A reluctant jester climbed down the shaft and started hammering at the wall of force. When Liet dropped the wall, the jester drifted down the shaft like a feather. Meanwhile, a booming voice from above proclaimed that King Edmund was dead, as he had not appeared in public for weeks and has missed the annual Higharvestide Address. The speaker was the March Lord, Baron Mortimer of Wraithstone.
Marpenoth 1, 1508: The party retreated to regroup, taking the unarmed jester Rasputin with them as prisoner. He seemed a pleasant fellow, if a bit foolish, and moreover disliked the March Lord's beatings. The party left him, at Elrich's behest, as the rest made their way out a secret side entrance they had discovered earlier. Here they ran into an ambush; a pair of frost giants, two winter wolves, several warriors, and an evil cleric blocked the way, evidently sent to guard the exits from the caverns. The battle was fierce, but the party prevailed; the evil cleric, Cynrik of Baldur, fled. Heavily wounded, the band decided to retreat to the army camp--yet Liet was nowhere to be found, having polymorphed and disappeared at the start of the battle. After evading several patrols, the Six reached their encampment at nightfall, yet the army had gone, with tracks lead southeast. Meanwhile, Liet tried to sleep alone in the caverns, but was stalked by Rasputin. The jester made some spell trades, and avoided giving the mage away to Thrugg, Mortimer's half-ogre champion. Thus the night passed; altogether a bad day for the Bywater Six.
Marpenoth 2, 1508: The main band followed the tracks of the army to the city of Eastmarch. They found the Third Bywater Expeditionary Army had stormed the great city the night before. Despite Baron Elrich's absence, Sir Balthazaar decided to attack, winning the city with only minor casualties. Meanwhile, Liet teleported from the caverns under Wraithstone to the old army encampment, only to find the troops gone.
Marpenoth 3, 1508, Massacre at Eastmarch: The Bywater Six traveled around Castle Wraithstone vainly searching for Liet the entire day, only finding him when they returned to Eastmarch, where the mage had finally arrived. The reunited band prepared for an assault on the castle the next day. That night, while the band made their plans in laborious detail, a stooped old beggar entered and managed to steal Calvin's longsword +2 from his very scabbard as they talked. Calvin was in awe, for there was only one being on Arik that could accomplish such a feat; the Fingersmith. Some say he is an avatar of Mask, but most believe him a mortal about to attain demi-god status. The two swapped stories of deception and sleight of hand, as the great thief returned the sword.
Marpenoth 4, 1508: The next morning, the Fingersmith again accosted Calvin and conversed with him; further, he allowed him to borrow his sword of sharpness for the day. Calvin accepted the powerful boon without telling his fellow travelers. As the Bywater Six set out, they saw the flashes of battle magic behind them in Eastmarch. The March Lord, tired of waiting for their own assault, struck the Third Bywater Expeditionary Army's headquarters, slaying all but Sir Balthazaar within. This is popularly known as the Massacre at Eastmarch, for the March Lord's multiple cloudkill spells slew all they touched, including many knights and Fist mercenaries, as Cynrik of Baldur's death magicks wrought destruction as well. Ironically enough, the "lesser" troops encamped further away--the militia and archers--were relatively unscathed. Nonetheless, these losses compounded with those of the previous campaigning rendered the Third Bywater Expeditionary Army temporarily combat ineffective. Not knowing the perils that occurred behind them, the party continued on and made camp just outside Castle Wraithstone, debating how to attack it.
Marpenoth 5, 1508, Return to Wraithstone: They finally attacked Castle Wraithstone after midnight, teleporting and flying their members over the wall. A great melee ensued. Elrich was cornered by the mad Mortimer and his bodyguard Thrugg, so the knight wisely decided to abandon attacking and parry. Meanwhile, Gunter and Elsinor stormed another tower, facing off against the evil Thonian cleric Cynrik. Liet flew around the field, while Calvin wandered among the carnage lopping off limbs with the Fingersmith's enchanted blade. Soon Cynrik was slain, Liet went down, as did Elrich, but the party prevailed. With the leaders slain, the soldiers fled, including Rasputin. The jester's only action during the battle was to throw a piece of cloth that turned into a slab of fat into the melee between Thrugg and Elrich. As it turned out, it was the knight who lost his balance, suffering a grievous wound from the half-ogre. Thus, the battered Bywater Six held the field and decided to hole up for the night to recover.
Yet later that night, when Gunter was on watch, he was struck by a fell sword blow. Whirling around, he found it was none other than Lord Soth, master of deathknights, who was attacking him. Deepchill screamed and, glowing a bright blue, leaped at the undead warrior. When hit by that single slash, the deathknight glowed red, and then disappeared. Deepchill had served the purpose for which it was forged by Hulgar years ago. Yet when Gunter woke his companions and told of his victory, they doubted his story. Only when Deepchill gleefully corroborated the tale did they believe him. Liet mentioned the prophecy of the Six Against Dargaard, which foretold of a great battle in the deathknight's own keep, not so many miles away in the Marston Peaks. The party resolved to search Wraithstone Castle on the morrow, then decide what to do.
Marpenoth 6, 1508: In searching the castle, the band found several minor magic items, though the jester Rasputin had unfortunately come into Wraithstone during the night and looted the treasures he knew of. The party also rescued an emaciated performer, who Baron Elrich offered to make his court bard. However, the triumphant mood ebbed when a messenger arrived bearing news of the Massacre at Eastmarch.
Marpenoth 9, 1508: A few days later the some welcome joyous news reached the Bywater Six; King Edmund had pushed for a swift assault on Edrin's last citadel of Harbury. The breach was enlarged by the brave 12th Royal Foot, and soon Flaming Fist and Silver Legion mercenaries plunged through and fought the last ditch battle with Lord Edrin's housecarls at his inner tower. Fist leader Eltan himself cornered and subdued the pretender, who was clapped in irons and sent to Dunthrane.
While looting and lawlessness continued for weeks until order was restored, the Civil War was for all intents and purposes over, as celebrations gripped the Third Bywater Expeditionary Army. It was short-lived, as the Bywater Six received a summons for all nobility and Knights of Southold to attend a great tourney to be held in Dunthrane. The Bywater Six departed immediately, the remnants of the Third occupied Castle Wraithstone while other Royalist troops occupied Eastmarch.
Marpenoth 10, 1508, The Eye's Lair: Before returning to Dunthrane, Gondal teleported the Bywater Six back to Bywate, to receive the personal congratulations of Duke Duncan. However, that very night, Gunter joined up with Kliff of the Miscreants--two (at least part) Thonians on a pub crawl. Kliff was attracted by the feminine wiles of a certain Avareene on the city street, who soon struck along with several other fighters, including the Banite cleric Colstan Rhuul. This "snatch band" paralyzed the two, and took them through means unknown down into Undermountain.
When the Miscreants and Bywater Six asked about their disappearance, Gondal was able to divine that they had been taken to the lair of the Eye, and ancient beholder and the chief slaver of Skullport. He counseled simply buying them and their magic items back, as the Eye had at least a dozen beholders and many mercenaries under his employ, at a large slave complex a half miles across the winding caverns outside Skullport. Instead, the two groups decided to join forces and launch a rescue mission to recover their comrades. Elrich had some misgivings, even suspecting the more amoral members of the Miscreants might turn on them, but they went along.
Marpenoth 11, 1508: The force, eleven adventurers strong (as Cameron Gaunt of the Flaming Fist had accompanied them itching for a fight), headed in through the River Gate to Skullport after their two missing comrades. Nonetheless, it felt very much like it could be the end for both groups, so fearsome and organized was their foe. After asking about the Eye's defenses, they were referred to Misker, the Pirate Tyrant, and ancient beholder who hated the Eye, and was willing to give a rough layout of the slave complex and defenses.
The two adventuring parties advanced through the winding maze of caverns outside Skullport, following Misker's directions. They soon reached the vast cavern, hundreds of feet long, where the Eye's lair stood. There was a great steeped pyramid in one area, a loading dock where the underground River Sargauth flowed, a series of guard buildings, and the holding pens. Hernando, Fharo, and Calvin, three exceptional rogues working together for the first time, hid in the shadows and sneaked into the slave holding pens, dispatching the guards with a series of backstabs. They soon found Gunter and Kliff in good health, though without their gear, and freed them. The two Thonians were given minor enchantment blades and armor, and told they would try to get their gear back from the Eye's treasury, in the great pyramid. However, as they conferred, a roaming beholder spotted them trying to sneak out of the prison pen area, and all hell broke loose.
The other adventurers, waiting at the edge of the complex, attacked. Agrippa and Liet laid down fireball after fireball, while Elsinor started firing arrows with darkness spells on them, to make it difficult for the beholders to aim their eye rays. The tactic certainly helped greatly, but the beholders' antimagic rays from their main eye still posed a major problem. They laid low enemy after enemy, and finally, his spells exhausted, Agrippa unleashed the powerful Videssian cabalist power, which could be used but once per lifetime, transforming himself into a four-armed Vrock demon. He threw himself at the beholders, tearing one to pieces with his claws, but was soon turned into stone by the eye rays of another. Kliff too was hit with a Death ray eye beam (to which he was immune while berserk), then was also petrified. Gunter and Elrich also went down, but were bandaged, as the Miscreants and Bywater Six began to falter. Then Misker, the Pirate Tyrant came floating up the Sargauth, attacking the Eye's beholders as he came.
In another surge, the adventurers fought their way step-by-step up the pyramid, to the very summit, where they looked down into the Eye's personal chambers. The fight may well have continued, and they may well have slain the Eye at the cost of several deaths, but the adventurers accepted the Eye's offer to parley. The ancient beholder had no wish to enter combat personally, and noted that he was willing to release Gunter and Kliff's magic items and possessions, and whatever treasure the band could glean from his dead minions, if they would halt their attack. Luckily (in this case) Elrich was not around to push his Nuadan fight to the end philosophy, and Greylin didn't object as the truce achieved their goals. So the adventurers gathered their loot, dragged their two stone comrades, and left.
Back in Bywater, they carefully had Kliff first unstoned, then undeathed, and finally unberserked, saving his life. Agrippa was also returned to normal form, and that night the combined bands celebrated their good fortune. They resolved to adventure together more in future, and then both bands set off on a swift ship, just in time to reach the Victory Tournament in Dunthrane, celebrating the end to the Civil War.
Marpenoth 14, 1508, Victory Tournament: After several weeks travel across a Southold ravaged by years of civil war, the Six arrived in Dunthrane just as the Victory Tournament of 1508 began. Before the events began, there was much magical haggling. Lord High Wizard Bigby had so tired of discussing magical trades given this great assembly of adventurers and nobles that he appointed Timmotain, a powerful mage known for his ridiculous illusions, to barter for him, a policy he has generally kept to ever since. Unfortunately for all adventurers, Bigby chose well, for Timmotain was as good a haggler as the Lord Wizard, if not better. Calvin was the first to visit Timmotain, and was surprised to have entered the fiery wastes of the Abyss upon seeking an audience with the mage. As his flesh melted from the bone, he was likewise surprised to see thousands of pickles heading towards him, coalescing into a single, large pickle. Then the pickle turned into Timmotain, and the fires disappeared. Such illusions would soon become the norm when dealing with Timmotain, as the trading began…
Marpenoth 28, 1508: The day for the duel of honor had come. Thousands packed the tourney field outside Dunthrane to see the long-awaited combat. The King's Champion Count Thingol--promoted from Baron by the King the night before because of his victory at Montinelle--took the field in shining plate armor. On the other side stood the usurper, Lord Edrin, brought here in chains after his capture after the rebel last stand at the isle of Balar, but now free and in blackened plate armor. As magic is outlawed in contests of honor, both combatants were magically searched for such items. Then, the King gave the signal, the trumpets blared, and the horses sprang at each other. Several passes were made, and Lord Edrin was faring the worse, when the Rebel noble drew forth a shimmering black sword and galloped at Thingol. The Phantom Archer, anticipating treachery, had had his mage Fingon prepare for such an eventuality. He ripped the pennant of Southold from his lance, spoke a word, and lo!, before him was a plain longbow and a single arrow. With time for but a single good shot, he took aim and let fly. The arrow sped toward Edrin and to the awe of the assemblage, magically multiplied into five arrows, four of which found their mark. Severely wounded, Edrin continued onward, cursing the Count. Thingol soon felled him with several well placed sword thrusts. He then dismounted, hacked off the Rebel's head, and held it aloft to the cheers of the crowd. The Lord High Wizard was seen over the body, teleporting in and out to retrieve Edrin's fell sword. Then, the crowd burst onto the field, hacking the body to pieces and many grabbing souvenirs such as teeth, hair, etc. The thief of the Miscreants, Hernando was prominent among these souvenir seekers. With Lord Edrin's death, the last pockets of Rebel resistance ceased, as Southold again knew peace. It was a time for celebration.
Marpenoth 31, 1508, The Victory Tournament of 1508 lasted for three days, ending on Saint Uther's Day, honoring the famous Nuadan patriot from Southold's War of Independence. The tournament honored the long-awaited triumph of the Loyalist armies of Southold over the usurper, Lord Edrin. The tournament was the greatest in living memory, with all manner of tests of strength. Famed adventurers from across the country took part; Elrich took first prize in the religious debate contest, winning three incense of meditation, Hernando won the Riding competition, winning a brooch of riding, while Elsinor came in third, winning a potion of invulnerability. In archery Calvin managed a surprise win taking 12 +3 arrows, and the barbaian Kliff won swimming and boxing, taking potions of Fire and Frost Giant Strength. Three days of feasting went on, an amazing party still talked of fondly.
At the final ceremony, King Edmund gave his great Victory Address of 1508. All expected him to hail the armies and people for their victory, which he did. What they did not expect, was his declaration of war on the Cortalish Empire, stating that Southold would attack come spring after a mass levy to swell the army's ranks. It would be a preventative war against an evil foe who had already seized some Southron territory while Dunthrane was distracted with its own Civil War, and the priests of Tyr affirmed there was a legitimate causus belli. Southold would yet know war.
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