Creslonia

Uncontrolled Beasts
A Journey Back in Time

Having arrived at the base of the tower the companions pause to catch their breath and mull over the riddle they have discovered, Tamull asks the others to tell him what they did in the town of Roshtar while he was away on other business. Ragnarok creases his forehead in concentration thinking back to the morning of five days earlier as everyone had sat around the table at the Five Foxes Inn in Roshtar, eating breakfast…

The innkeeper interrupts the companions’ meal to tell Tamull that a note has arrived for him. He reads it and announces that he must be away for a couple days in the service of the Temple of Ulsonur. He quickly finishes his meal, stands, announces he will return in two days, and departs.

The rest of the companions quietly finish breakfast, their attention soon turned to the windows facing out into the street where they begin to hear an unusual commotion coming from outside. It sounds as if a large, noisy crowd is coming down the street. The noise grows louder and yelling can be heard. A few of the words seem to be shouts about some sort of dispute about the leadership of the kingdom. The mob finally emerges into the view of the windows, they are carrying banners marked with black and white, many of them are wearing white ribbons tied around their heads and waists.
The innkeeper soberly looks out the window and mutters, “Here they come again. Yelling about some new king or something. You know, I don’t see whats so wrong with the one we got. King Crethilus is as good as they come.”
Almost seeming to just notice the companions still seated at the table the innkeeper turns his words to them, “They’ve been at it for months now. Seems like theres more and more of them every day. Shouting on the streetcorners and being a nuisance. If they’re not careful the city guard will will stop them by force, and I wouldn’t blame them if they did. Blasted noisy troublemakers.”

Not having much to say on the topic at hand the companions merely sit and watch as the procession continues down the street, sense of slight unease and gratitude that they do not call this city home rising within them. Suddenly the door bangs open and a woman enters the room hastily, shutting the door behind her, seemingly driven off the narrow street by the mob. She looks around cautiously, clearly out of place. She is of a similar height to Ornith and Sasha, but with striking black hair and a darker complexion. She catches sight of the companions at the table and watches them for a few moments before approaching.

INSERT NADRAYA PICTURE

Sasha warmly greets the newcomer, “Good morning, would you like to join us? I am Sasha.” the other woman still appears unsure of herself, but does manage to pull up a chair.
“I am Nadraya. Pardon for my interruption, but the four of you have a look about you that suggests you may be able to help me.” Ornith’s eyebrows raise at this since clearly this woman is no ordinary townswoman, she is dressed for travel and protection and has the faint scent of wilderness about her. “My master has sent me on a most cryptic mission of dealing with some evil taking root in the forest just east of Roshtar’s outskirts. I understand if you are too busy to help me, but I would appreciate any assistance.”

Shrugging at one another the companions decide that they have no reason not to help the young woman, Tamull will be gone for at least two days after all.

“Your master didn’t give you any other information aside from the fact that there is some evil in the forest?” Lars questions.

“Nothing of use, my master isn’t the most…coherent or helpful of individuals.” Nadraya’s face grows slightly red, as though she is attempting to hide her own frustration with the situation.

“Well, let’s start asking around town then!” Sasha beams with a smile as she heads out into the street. Within moments Sasha is able to gather enough information to point the companions in the direction of the home of a rather old and “batty” woman who is apparently always going on about evil spirits and creatures.

Passing through the city wall and leaving the main part of town the companions are pleased to have clean air about them as they make their way to the outskirts of the city. The house at the end of the lane is small, but pleasant looking. Small wooden sculptures of strange, charming creatures are scattered about in front. As they approach, two cats are wrestling on a wooden porch near the front door. Noticing the companions they immediately bolt away into some bushes.

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Walking up to the door, Lars knocks and immediately hears some shuffling footsteps from within. Standing within the doorway is a stooped older woman, her thinning white hair wafting in the breeze, a not so toothy grin scrawled across her face as she gazes up at Lars.

“Well, hello there fine Sir.” the old woman’s tone is clearly flirtatious, causing the other companions to smile behind Lars’ back. “How can I help you?”

“We were hoping you could give us some information as to some supposed evil present in the forest near here.” Lars keeps his tone friendly, but not so friendly as to make the woman a “special friend.”

“Oh yes, let me get you all some lemonade!” Before anyone can say anything else the old woman darts back into the house, returning shortly with several glasses of lemonade. "There’s always evil around, most people just refuse to see it. Some aren’t so evil though, take the ghost of Marella Crump. She was murdered in that forest to the east and then buried in the graveyard near here. Naturally she haunts both places.” She nods emphatically. “If you want to know who is trouble, its Mr. Borgle. I’m quite convinced he is an aranea in disguise.” the old woman’s voice quickly takes on a prattling tone.

“Thank you so much for the information!” Nadraya jumps in, interrupting the woman, “Could you point us in the direction of the graveyard?”

“Oh yes, why its right over there dearie.” the old woman points eastward to a small path leading to the fenced off area of the graveyard. “Come back any time you like.” the woman makes a special note of smiling at Lars once more as she speaks.

The companions walk until most of the village buildings are behind them and there is a forest in the distance. Approaching the graveyard it seems normal enough. It is surrounded by a low iron fence, the gate of which stands open. The fence is leaning in a few places and the grass beyond is overgrown. Inside they can see several scattered trees and a few mourners moving among the graves. A path leads from the gate up the center of the graveyard. It was apparently once cobblestone, but is largely dirt now, many of the stones having long since gone missing. This graveyard must have served the city for centuries as there are graves stretching far into the distance, most of them quite weathered and forgotten. Nearer the center of the graveyard is an old house, it appears to have been painted recently, but it can’t disguise the sagging wood that gives away its age.

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“Surely that must be where the groundskeeper is? He should be able to tell us where this grave of Marella Crump.” Ornith suggests as she makes her way up to the aged building and knocks at the door.

A young man answers. He is short and thin, but otherwise rather handsome. “Yes?”, he asks, surprised to see such a gathering of individuals at his doorstep.

“We were hoping you could point us in the direction of the grave of Marella Crump?”, Ornith politely asks.

“Marella Crump…hmm. I only just started here not that long ago and so I’m not all that familiar with the locals here.”, the man looks out over the graves, his eyebrows drawn down in thought.

“She would have died a couple hundred years ago we think.” Nadraya offers up hopefully.

“Oh! In that case it should be over there in that far corner.” the man points to a section of even more weathered and aged gravestones near the boundary with the forest. “Just please don’t desecrate anything, the Temple of Auvurn pays me a small stipend to maintain the grounds here. As you can see, I am outmatched by the ravages of time.”

“Of course, of course. We are merely surveying the area and gathering information.”, Lars reassures the man as the companions head off toward the older gravestones.

Reaching the gravestone of Marella Crump, Nadraya immediately notices that the ground around the grave has been disturbed. There are marks in the grass and dirt suggesting that something heavy was dragged across it. Getting out her goggles Sasha soon finds a seam in the back of the gravestone itself, prying at it with her dagger she can feel it give way, but isn’t quite stronger enough herself to move the stone. Having overcome his sudden change in morals Ragnarok decides that the seam means the grave has already been desecrated and so its okay for him to come over and shove the stone apart. With his moral compass whirling Ragnarok is able to push the two pieces of gravestone apart, revealing a hole leading into the ground complete with ladder. Seeing that he couldn’t possibly fit down the hole with his armor he quickly strips out of it and makes his way down the ladder, breaking a rung in the name of Tamull and immediately falling to the ground below with a loud thump. Throwing his armor down to him the others wait for Ornith to secure a rope before joining the fighter down below. Vilkas, Ornith’s snow leopard, and _____ Nadraya’s wolf companion remain above ground with Caravec to keep watch.

The floors and walls appear to be made of stone with dusty and cobweb covered candles set into wall holders. Before them are two doors, listening to one Sasha determines she can hear nothing, Nadraya however listens at the other door and can hear what seems to be fluttering cloth in a breeze. Deeming that the appropriate door to open Ragnarok flings it open, surprised to see that the noise is not at all cloth fluttering in the breeze, but instead are six large demonic heads kept aloft by leathery wings.

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Not wanting to take any chances Lars quickly steps to the front, unleashing a massive fireball into the small room. Everyone, even Lars himself, is stunned to see all six creatures burned to a crisp. Entering the room the companions see that there is a door at the far end. Listening at it, Ornith can hear nothing, moving forward to pick the lock though Sasha immediately pulls her hand back in a hiss of pain. Realizing that she very narrowly avoided being poisoned Sasha glares fiercely at the door as she wipes off the remaining poison with one of Ragnarok’s best shirts.

Entering the room is quite clear there was a fire of some sort here, scorch marks are present all along the floor and walls. With her inspection goggles on though Sasha is able to find a slight indentation in the floor, pressing on it a faint click is heard in the room and a part of the stone wall slides open revealing a secret room. Entering the room cautiously the companions are a bit surprised (or maybe not) to find the room occupied by old, long unused alchemy equipment as well as the tattered remnants of several spellbooks. Lars is able to pull two aged pages from one of the books that may be of some use with some study. Yet another door is present at the far end of the small room and the companions curiously enter it. This room is yet again filled with scorch marks, a burned and charred skeleton tossed to one side of the room. Searching around the bones Ragnarok is able to find a lump of gold…presumably the result of several gold coins melted suddenly. In addition to this Nadraya notices that there is a large circle with arcane markings etched into the floor…a summoner’s circle, according to Lars…

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Feeling rather ominous and wondering just what occurred down here in the first place the companions back track their way to the first room and open up the remaining door. Bones of every size and shape litter the floor in random piles. Bending down to examine them Nadraya identifies the bones as belong to various native animals: deer, rodents, cats, etc. Broken furniture is also every where in the room and after some searching Ragnarok finds a rather smooth and polished piece of wood, unsure of what it is exactly he hands it over to Lars who immediately detects magic from the school of illusion on the item. Waving the wand around him Lars (and everyone else) is taken aback as three copies of himself suddenly appear in the room, miming his every move. Unsure how to make them go away Lars continues to wave his wand around until there are no less than eight copies standing before him. Thinking that perhaps his leaving the room will dissipate them Ornith urges Lars to leave, laughter breaks out from the companions however at the sight of all nine Lars’ attempting to fit through the door at once. They pass through and overlap one another until the real Lars is indistinguishable. A few minutes later though the copies slowly begin to disappear. Apparently the spell is on a time limit.

Turning to the last remaining door to enter the companions slowly swing it open and enter a room filled with the rubble of broken furniture. Soon after entering the room however the companions hear a voice coming from somewhere in the darkness, a voice speaking a harsh and strange language. This is followed by everyone but Lars and Nadraya with a feeling of crushing despair. Then, seeming to emerge from thin air appears a most horrifying beast! Some kind of otherworldly wolf creature, its orange eyes afire with intelligence and hatred!

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The fight that ensues is long and hard, the creature seems to have amazing reflexes and easily dodges many attacks. Not only does it manage to repeatedly step aside from the flaming spheres of both Lars and Nadraya, but the creature has also managed to make Ragnarok think that it is a friend and should not be harmed. Just as the companions are feeling as though they are close to bringing it down however the creature disappears with an echoing howl. While the others stand rather dumbfounded Nadraya moves to where the beast had been standing and detects the residues of magic from the school of conjuration…

Quickly climbing back up to the graveyard itself Nadraya notices that the grass around the grave is flattened as though something and possibly run across it very recently. The animal are all very nervous. Nadraya soon realizes that there are tracks leading away from the grave and toward the surrounding forest. Following the tracks the companions soon see in the distance a large wolf-like shape crashing into the forest, large glowing eyes turning to stare at them balefully. Sprinting after it Ornith and Nadraya reach the edge of the forest in no time, but decide to wait for the other to catch up before entering the shadows of the trees. Cautiously the companions enter the forest together and find the beast curled up at the foot of a tree licking its wounds. Not willing to give the beast any kind of advantage, Sasha attempts to sneak up to the creature and attack it. Unfortunately, she is spotted and the companions immediately open fire, Lars’ magic missiles landing the killing blow as the creature slumps to the ground with a loud whimper.

Believing this to have been the evil her master had sent her after Nadraya quickly thanks the companions for their assistance knowing she couldn’t have accomplished this feat alone. Knowing that she may very well run into these friends again she gracefully slips away into the forest to report back to her master, her large dark wolf padding silently behind her.

Ragnarok cleanly severs the head from the beast, dropping it into a sack as the companions move off back to the city of Roshtar to await the return of Tamull.

A day later Tamull returns to the inn, soon after which the companions leave the city to begin the trek to locate the Tower of the Shattered Sphinx ( The Art of Diplomacy, or Lack Thereof).

As the companions approach the city’s gate they are stopped by a rather attractive female guard who seems to be extremely excited to see Ragnarok.

She motions Ragnarok over, “You’re one of those guys. The Saviors of Salt Marsh, aren’t you? Wow, this is great! Oh hey, come see the other guards so they believe me when I say I met you. The captain is from Saltmarsh, you know? He’s a huge fan of yours. Really wants to meet you. Come on.”
Pausing only briefly to think, Ragnarok shrugs to his companions and follows the young guard into the guardhouse. The woman insists that he needs to leave his weapons at the door, but Ragnarok refuses, instead leaving his shield at the door but not his axe. The female guard expresses concern over getting in trouble for his refusal to leave the axe, but Ragnarok ignores these, motioning for her to continue.

The guard leads him through some narrow stone rooms seemingly built into the city walls. She stops at a door and knocks on it. “Captain Den, its him. The ‘hero’ of Saltmarsh.”

The door opens and a tall, lean man with blonde hair steps out. “I’m Captain Corvus Den.” He nods to the guard, “Go and fetch Foren.”

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After a few moments the guard returns with another guard. This one Ragnarok recognizes from the council chambers of Count Tobin.

The captain speaks, “Is this the one? The one who pushed you in the presence of the count?”

The guard answers. “Yes, sir. That’s him.”

The captain turns back to Ragnarok, displeasure apparent on his face, “My men and I don’t make a lot of money. But one thing we do have is pride in our work. We don’t take well to folks embarrassing us. Especially not in front of the Count! You could have gotten one of my men flogged – or worse.”

Ragnarok puffs out his chest in answer to the statement, “Its not my fault your Count is no-good and respects no one.”

The captain nods his head slightly in agreement, “What you say is true. But my job isn’t to tell the count how to do his. My job is to keep order in this city.”

Before Ragnarok can argue further a door opens and several more guards enter. Captain Den says casually to Ragnarok, “Here’s whats going to happen. You’re going to receive a beating from my men and I. Then you’re going to limp away from this city and not come back for a long time.”

Ragnarok then gives a lengthy, pompous speech about the guards can try but he will beat every one of them.

Captain Den answers, “I’ve seen your type before. Tough guys like you forget one important thing. There’s always someone tougher.”

After which an intense fist-fight ensues, one where it becomes quite quickly clear that Ragnarok will not win. Several punches are thrown and within a few brief moments Ragnarok is lying in a heap on the ground.

Some time later, Ragnarok awakens to find himself lying in the dirt outside the city walls.

As he rejoins his companions, raised eyebrows and questions galore, all Ragnarok will say is:

“Captain Den shall pay heavily for this.”

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The Art of Diplomacy, or Lack Thereof
Don't Tell Tamull

Having returned to Saltmarsh to lick their wounds, recover, and report the companions find themselves with very nearly nothing as far as clues in regards to the odd behavior of the sea monster and who may have sent it after them. Allowing some extended down time for Lars to study and learn a couple of his newly acquired spells the companions soon begin to discuss just where exactly they should head out to. Knowing that the Count of Roshtar wishes to see them and hear their report on what occurred in Saltmarsh in person it is to the southwest that they decide to turn their horses. Gathering their travel packs together the companions trot out of the small town of Saltmarsh, their mounts well-fed and rested as well as themselves. The familiar clattering of Monieus’ wagon approaching behind them, the companions turn and watch in surprise as the wagon pulls up next to them, completely outfitted with sturdy and strong horses, the old nags nowhere to be seen.

“Good morning friends!” Monieus cheerfully waves from the wagon. “I was able to get those nice older horses to a great retirement pasture and purchase these fine strong beasts.” Monieus grinned widely, clearly proud of the purchase he had made.

“Where might you have gotten the money to make such a purchase sir?” Doubt was heavy in Tamull’s voice making it quite clear that he expected the means of purchase to be less than clean.

“I do not appreciate your insinuation, Paladin,” Monieus responds jovially. “I merely salvaged the goods the smugglers had stored in the caves.” And with a shrug Monieus urged the horses on with the companions following in the wagon’s wake. After a week of easy and light-hearted travel the companions soon find themselves outside the city gates of Roshtar.

Locating an inn and getting Monieus situated as well the companions immediately split up to complete a few personal errands. Lars begins to quietly gather information about the location of the Tower of the Shattered Sphinx, finding nothing of use at the local bar he soon heads across the city to the library. Through some quick and efficient searching Lars soon finds a piece of parchment with indistinct writings on the location of the tower. Questioning the librarian as to what exactly the paper says, he’s told to search out the Sage Kurtz who will surely be able to help him. Unfortunately the man won’t be back in the city for a couple days. During Lars’ search the other companions find themselves preparing to search out and speak to the Count, except Ragnarok of course who was still rolling about in the sheets with the local wenches.

With the return of Ragnarok and Lars the companions make their way through the busy streets of Roshtar, a large castle, clearly their target destination, looming at the far end of the city. With Tamull in the lead the castle’s guards find their questions answered and escort the companions to meet with the Chancellor first. The Chancellor seems friendly enough and soon has the companions in a waiting room complete with food and refreshment. The older man informs the companions that they are to attend the Count’s council meeting which will take place in a couple hours before leaving the companions to themselves. Milling about rather aimlessly the companions have no other choice but to wait, thankfully the Chancellor returns right on time, escorting them further into the castle and into a large chamber they can only assume is the council meeting chamber.

Entering the room the companions are greeted with the not so friendly stares of the council members, the much more finely dressed man seated in the middle clearly the Count Tobin of Roshtar. Keeping his hard grey eyes centered on the companions the Count asks for the companions what their business had been in Saltmarsh. For some reason Ragnarok takes control of the situation and immediately begins a rather bland and bare-bones account of what occurred, dancing around the truly important and stunning parts of the tale. With the Count clearly more and more unimpressed with the words coming from Ragnarok’s mouth, Tamull quickly takes over the tale in hopes of appeasing the Count and not only getting the important information about the smuggled weapons out, but also smoothing over the roughness of the conversation. It is too little, too late however. With Ragnarok’s paranoia getting the better of him the fighter immediately comes to the conclusion that the Count is not to be trusted and very likely is into some no good business. Sasha begins to feed off of Ragnarok’s emotions and soon the Count is motioning for the guards to escort the companions out of the chamber and castle before the hostility can rise further. The others are perfectly fine with the guards ushering them from the castle, but Ragnarok pushes his away, making yet more of a scene and further damaging the companions’ reputation with the Count. Finding themselves roughly escorted out into the street, the companions dust themselves off and make their way back to the inn, more than one of them fairly certain they missed out on a potentially very large reward for their work in Saltmarsh…

Arriving back at the inn, Lars quickly tells the others about his strange dream and the piece of parchment he had located in the library. Deciding that few things are more exciting and noble to do than a rescue mission the companions quickly agree to enter this Tower of the Shattered Sphinx. During the downtime of waiting for the Sage Kurtz to return to town, Ragnarok sends out yet another letter to the group of fighters he had found in Tir Asleen.

With the Sage Kurtz finally back in town two short days later, Lars quickly makes his way to the university where the Sage was said to be lecturing. Entering one of the large lecture halls Lars can’t help but smile as he catches the tale end of what is being said:

“And remember, X never, EVER, marks the spot.”

With the students filing out the door past him Lars fights his way to where Sage Kurtz is standing and packing up his supplies. Showing Sage Kurtz the piece of parchment Lars is delighted when the old man immediately and easily reads the inscriptions. The Tower of the Shattered Sphinx was created from the stones of the dismantled statue of a huge sphinx. It is located across the mountains to the southeast within what is now the kingdom of Boerah. Thanking him profusely for his assistance Lars donates a hefty sum of money to the school before returning to the inn and his companions. Telling them what he learned of the location of the Tower the companions decide to leave for it immediately.

Traveling hard and fast the companions soon arrive at the mountain pass to the kingdom of Boerah, within which the Tower of the Shattered Sphinx is located. After a somewhat awkward conversation with Ragnarok during which the guards became extremely suspicious and distrusting of the companions, Tamull took over talking and was able to satisfy the guards’ questions and gain the companions entrance into the kingdom. Taking the north fork in the road the companions soon find themselves feeling as though they must surely be in the right location for the tower and yet no sight can be seen of it…riding to the top of a nearby ridge however, Tamull quickly spots the tower in the distance and waves to the companions that they much now travel to the west.

Turning and progressing down the somewhat overgrown trail, the companions are forced to walk single file, the reaching branches of the dense forest and sharply thorned bushes slapping and scratching against arms and legs alike. The forest air becomes heavy with the smell of green and growing vegetation, the companions can almost feel the water in the air from the humidity.

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Suddenly the trees clear and the companions are rewarded with the sight of a tall stone tower. Feeling lucky that they had so easily arrived at the tower the companions boldly move forward, only to be stopped in their tracks by a towering wall of brambles, their large and numerous thorns spiking outward to stab any who venture too close. Had that wall of brambles been there a moment ago though?…No one is quite certain. Unsure of how to proceed the companions suddenly jump back as a mangy and thin rabbit bursts from the brambles, veering off to the left down a faint trail that surely had not been there a second ago. After both Ornith and Lars’ raven, Caravec search the beginning of the trail, it is clear that no other choice exists but to proceed down the newly discovered trail. Shrugging to one another the companions proceed down the trail, perhaps this will lead them to the tower.

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Moving down the trail single file with Ragnarok in front attempting to hack and slash his way through the encroaching undergrowth with his battle axe, the companions have to eventually stop for a moment as the fighter places his now sap encrusted axe back in its holder. Clearly a battle axe was not meant to clear vegetation.

Continuing down the path for several minutes the companions are soon faced with monstrously large trees growing incredibly close to one another. Tamull finds the trees slightly odd, but Sasha is awed by the presence of such trees and moves forward to touch and investigate them, gasping aloud and nearly throwing herself back from them however as the bark seems to come alive with the swarming bodies of ants! With the swarm quickly moving to cover both Sasha and Ragnarok the companions can do little else aside from attempting to destroy the swarming insects.

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Realizing that their weapons would have little effect on such a foe, Ornith quickly back up away from the swarm as Tamull first pulls Sasha from the swarm while Ragnarok fights free himself, giving Lars ample space to work with his spells! With his friends out of harm’s way Lars ominously waves his arms about, summoning forth a mighty swarm of rats! In delight the companions watch as the swarm of rats seem to be laying waste to the ants, soon however the air become heavy with the pain-filled squeaks of dying rats, the ants chewing at the dead bodies scattered about. Leaping forward with brightly lit torches the others quickly dispatch a few more ants while Lars readies one final spell to throw at the crawling insects. Yelling for his companions to move aside the wizard performs “Burning Hands”, crisping the remaining ants into piles of ash!

Shaken, but not deterred, the companions search around the now quiet trees until they find a path now taking them deeper into the forest. Not having walked too far Ragnarok suddenly stumbles into the blackened waters of a rancid smelling pond.

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Hastily pulling him out of the slimy waters the companions can only place hands and bits of cloth across their noses to somewhat dispel the rank odor of rotting muck and fallen trees. Bubbles issue up from various places within the murky water, unsure of what these bubbles may entail the companions quickly make their way around the pond and to the other side where they find the trail once again. Staring at the bubbles Tamull doesn’t notice the leafy vine snake out from a nearby tree and encircle his neck, quickly attempting to strangle him!

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Lars leaps to the aid of the paladin, immediately casting “Flaming Sphere” at the murderous vine while Ornith studies it intently, quickly figuring out that this is an assassin vine, a plant that is very well adapted to constricting its prey before dragging it down to its roots for fertilizer. Tamull is able to smash his vine to a pulp, but not before yet another vine snaps itself around Ornith’s neck! Ragnarok leaps forward with his axe however, managing to sever the vine cleanly. Rubbing their necks the companions quickly leave the stinking bog and deadly vines behind them.

Feeling somewhat dirty and violated the companions quickly reenter the forest, now thankful this time for the surrounding clean leaves and fresh air. The trail becomes winding now, but the larger trees give way to smaller, thinner birch trees, soon the companions are dumped out into an open field. The field is littered with the bleached bones of various animals and creatures. Ornith can identify some, but not all (deer legs, raccoon skull), but there are numerous bones and fragments that she has never before encountered. Cautiously moving across the field with the constant fear of something falling or diving at them from the sky the companions eventually make it back to the sheltering cover of trees. This time the trail they find seems to be leading them back toward the tower, perhaps they are finally making their way to their goal destination.

Soon after reentering the trees a large black and white spider descends from a tree right next to Sasha, causing the young rogue to jump and assume the worse. The spider however begins weaving a large web, seemingly uncaring that there is a group of armed adventurers right next to it. Shying away from the large spider Sasha urges them to continue down the trail, who knows what a spider may do after all.

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Walking on down the trail Ornith notices some odd looking boulders covered in moss. Unsure of what to expect Sasha is sent forward to inspect the boulders with her goggles. The rogue quickly jumps back from the boulders announcing that the ground near the boulders feels unstable, as though there may be some kind of pit beneath the surface. Directing everyone to move past the boulders carefully to one side the companions are not caught off guard as the boulders suddenly move aside, the earth erupting upward in an explosion of dirt and insects, a large mound of animated vegetation emerging, its tendrils flailing out attempting to attack the companions!

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Wasting no time the companions immediately launch into an attack, arrows and swords laying about the beast. Lars lets loose a massive fireball at the creature, bursting it and parts of the damp forest into flame! The animated vegetation crumples to the ground, but the companions watch in horror as vines snake out and begin pulling materials inward in an attempt to reconstruct itself. Before anyone can react another vine whips out from the mound of leaves and grasses latching onto Ragnarok. The fighter struggles, but can do little as he is dragged further into the maw of the beast. Sensing that time is of the essence and with Ornith only landing half her shots on the enemy and the other half dangerously skimming Lars’ beard, the wizard lets loose with “Magic Missile”! Panic rises in the group as the missiles hit the creature, but do not bring it down. Ragnarok lets out a final yell as he is completely swallowed by the creature! Unable to do anything else Lars summons a bolt of lightening, striking at the creature, but still not bringing it down! In desperation Ornith puts two final arrows into the plant creature, finally bringing it down in a crumpled heap! Thinking the creature defeated this time around Lars quickly drags Ragnarok’s body from the vegetation, calling out in dismay as he notices the leaves and mosses reassembling themselves once again. Ornith fires two more quick arrows, but it isn’t enough. Dropping Ragnarok, Lars whips out his quarterstaff, bludgeoning the creature in a splatter of wet leaves and moss. This time around there is no reforming!

Quickly moving past the boulders the companions are happy to finally see the trees truly opening up onto the weedy and slightly overgrown lawn at the foot of a tower. Cautiously leaving the trees the companions explore the lawn, eventually finding to their dismay that there appear to be no doors or windows.

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Searching the stone walls more closely however, Tamull finds an inscription in a seemingly foreign language. Pulling Lars over to read the inscription, he recites the words out loud the companions can only stand in puzzlement. The entrance to the tower must have something to do with this strange inscription, they just have to figure it out.

“What does man love more than life?
Hate more than death or mortal strife?
What do contented men desire?
The poor have, the rich require,
The miser spends, the spendthrift saves, 
And all men carry to their graves?”

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No Simple Smuggler's Ring
"There be no quarter given here!"

Finding little else aside from the disgusting “poop buckets” in the sailors’ living area, the companions continue through into the main cargo hold. Here there is some light offered up by a couple lanterns and they are able to make out dozens upon dozens of casks along either side of the hull as well as many more bolts of silk. Pausing for a moment the companions are able to make out the excited voices of several men coming from the other side of one of the stacks of casks. Curious as to who this group of men are the companions silently move forward, hoping to retain the advantage of surprise.

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As they approach closer they are able to also make out the sound of water splashing and the growls of some sort of animal. Angered by the apparent torture of an animal Ornith and Sasha immediately raise their bows and fire, each wounding one with Ornith snuffing the life from one with a second well-aimed arrow. In an amazingly short amount of time all four men are slain and the only noise in the hold is the now weakened growling coming from the bilge.

Peering down into the mucky water Ornith is surprised to see a leopard of a sort she has never seen before. The leopard is covered in very dense grey spotted fur, and this particular specimen is extremely emaciated, bleeding heavily, and covered in large biting rats. With the leopard only four feet below them, both Ragnarok and Ornith jump down to save the animal. Ragnarok successfully keeping the rats at bay while Ornith hastily ties a rope around the poor creature. Tamull, Sasha, and Lars all haul the cat up while Ragnarok boosts Ornith out of the hole before following himself. Rushing over the creature’s side, Ornith is saddened to find that the body is already cooling and the heart still. Deeming the leopard dead she gingerly curls the body up and places it to one side.

The companions decide to spread out and search the rest of the cargo hold, and within a few moments a wooden cage is located with a small ball of whimpering grey spotted fur within it. After examining it a little closer Ornith determines that it is the same kind of leopard as the bigger one they had found, only perhaps younger and more scared than anything else. The small leopard refuses to allow Ornith to touch it, instead scurrying to the back of its cage if her hand gets too near. Deciding to try to make friends with it by offering it pieces of jerky Ornith stays behind as the rest of the group moves on to explore the nearby rooms.

Cautiously opening one of the two doors left to them, Tamull is pleasantly surprised to find a very much asleep man sprawled in a hammock, one arm dangling over the side ending in a curved hook. Swinging gently with the rocking of the ship is also a brightly colored parrot in a cage. Deciding to take his chances on waking the man up, Tamull creeps into the room with rope ready to tie up the smuggler. Suddenly the parrot stirs, squawking out noisily,
“Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!”
The man however does not stir in the slightest and Tamull quickly binds his hands before slapping the man across the face to wake him up.

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Finding few things of worth in the man’s cabin, coupled with his determination to not speak unless set free, the companions quickly move on to the final room left to them. A quick search finds only a small amount of gold (meanwhile Ornith opens the cage to the small leopard and watches as it nuzzles the dead body of the other leopard before curling up next to it. She decides to the leave the leopard for now and rejoin her friends).

Turning to leave this last room the companions are stopped dead in their tracks by the sudden muffled thumping coming from the back wall. Curiously Sasha carefully searches the wall for clues to anything, her goggles firmly in place. Finding a catch in the wall, causing a trap door to open, the companions are stunned to see none other than Turgut Pothorst!

“Of all the pox ridden, hardtack eatin’… Looks like thats two I be owing you!”

Taking that sentence as a sign that the old sailor is overjoyed to see them Sasha immediately sets to work picking the locks on his chain while Tamull returns to check on the tied up sailor.

“I confess I did be splicing the main brace. And these picaroons overhauled me and measured me for me chains. But dont hang the jib. I be a free man now, thanks to you.”

Assuming that the man had just explained how he came to be in some secret prison cell the companions all turn to head back up to the main deck when the entire ship suddenly lurches, the timbers groaning loudly in protest of the sudden upheaval.

“Get topside!” Turgut commands as he hurries forward, taking immediate control of the situation. “Show a leg! Smartly now!”

It isn’t until everyone reaches the upper deck and looks out upon the source of the turbulence that the real fear and near hopelessness sets in…

“…. Well blow me down”

Lashing out in the waves surrounding the ship are massive, barbed tentacles, rising from the sea and crashing directly into and onto the ship. Suddenly a massive tentacle smashes down onto the deck and sweeps across it, sending buckets and ropes sailing off into the darkness. The arm pulls back into the water. Moments later it is followed by another further down the deck and then another, both smashing into the deck, causing it to shudder and the ship to groan. Unsure of what to do the companions can only stand and watch the massive beast attack the ship; until Turgut Pothorst’s voice rings out over the sound of splashing water and protesting timber!

“Thar be no quarter given here. You lads, weigh anchor!” Turgut yells out, pointing to Tamull and Ragnarok. Whipping around to Ornith and Sasha he adds, “Lasses, up that rigging and hoist the mainsail.”

“Wizard, I be needing you to give that beastie your best shot. It be time we need!"

And with that Turgut Pothorst himself springs to the helm, wrestling with the creature, waves, and the very ship itself to get it underway and headed to the safety of shore.

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Hanging onto the rigging for dear life Ornith and Sasha just barely get the sails unfurled as tentacle after tentacle coming smashing onto the deck. Both immediately drop to the deck to help Lars distract the creature while Tamull and Ragnarok finish hoisting the anchor. Suddenly the ship lurches forward toward the shore, a surge of hope races through the companions as they realize they just might yet make it out alive! The journey to shore seems agonizingly long however as tentacle upon tentacle sweep across the deck, causing both injury and damage, and everyone watches in horror as a tentacle wraps itself around the captive sailor present on deck and drags him screaming into the roiling sea. A moment later Turgut yells down to hang onto something, everyone grabs a piece of railing or rigging save Ornith who hurls herself down the stairs and into the cargo hold to rescue the small leopard she had left down there.

Wading through two feet of water that is quickly rising Ornith finds the small leopard panicked and frightened. Grabbing it by the scruff Ornith is unsurprised when the young animal lashes out, raking its sharp claws down her arms. Happy that she found the leopard in one piece, the ranger turns to return up the stairs, cursing loudly when she hears the loud squawking of the parrot, still trapped in its cage. Unwilling to let an animal suffer when she could save it Ornith quickly swims across the cargo hold, grabbing onto the parrot’s cage just as a tentacle comes crashing through the side of the ship knocking her unconscious. Lucky for all three, Tamull had made his way to the room at the top of the stairs, flinging the door open just in time to see Ornith hit. Jumping back from the bedraggled ball of fur exploding up the stairs past him, Tamull quickly pulls Ornith from the water, tossing the caged bird up the stairs to Lars.

Chaos reigns on the deck however, and not just from the tentacled beast. Turgut had managed to crash the ship on shore, but the creature still attempts to drag the ship to a watery grave. Chasing the terrified leopard around the deck, Ragnarok manages to send himself sailing out over the railing of the ship, landing with a splash in the shallows near shore. Giving up on the cat, Tamull hauls Ornith overboard with himself, followed closely behind by Lars, the parrot, and Sasha. Just as the ship is about to be pulled back out to sea however, Turgut throws himself from the ravaged deck, the limp form of a small leopard cradled in one arm. With a thunderous crash and an ear piercing scream the companions watch as the smuggler’s ship is torn asunder, its cargo spilled out and floating on the water as the creature’s tentacles disappear into the depths once more.

Turning to the stunned companions, Turgut can only utter:

“Don’t be crackin the bumboo yet. That beastie in this close to shore is not natural. It be havin’ a powerful master driving it. You be makin’ dangerous enemies.”

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Quickly stabilizing Ornith and ensuring the small leopard is alive, only listless and in shock, the companions quickly gather themselves together and decide to head straight for town. Before leaving however, Ragnarok insists on taking a piece of the debris with them to show to the town’s council. Reaching the shallows he is surprised to see the bright glint of something metal within the wreckage of a cask that had contained alcohol. Moving the debris aside the fighter exclaims aloud at the sight of a dozen shortswords lying in the wreckage! Apparently the weapons being smuggled in were hidden in the alcohol casks the whole time! Picking up one of the swords Ragnarok returns to the group and they make their way to the town.

Not five minutes down the road however and the companions turn to see a small boat beached on the shore, the remnants of rope lying in the bottom…most definitely a clue that this is where their hostage sailor had come to shore. Following the obvious tracks from the boat to the road, the companions continue on, assuming that at some point they will run into the sailor, whether on the road or in town. A few feet further down the road yet another boat is spotted beached on shore, this one almost identical to the previous, only with two sets of footprints leading to the road…could this have been the elusive captain? Unable to answer the question, the companions can only continue on their way.

Reaching the edge of town the companions are suddenly assailed by the Pross Brothers. The brothers are obviously unsure of which emotion to feel the most, concern over the limp body of Ornith, or awe at the tale being told. After Ragnarok is rude to them for no reason, the two brothers waste no time rushing off, no doubt the companions will be the talk of the town before the sun even sets. Finally making it to the inn Ornith is immediately placed in her bed and allowed to rest while Tamull and Ragnarok leave to speak to the constable. Its no surprise that the Constable has to be dragged from his home to hear the news, and even further no surprise that he simply lets the two men know that a council will be convened in the morning. Returning to the inn Tamull and Ragnarok attempt to get as much rest as they can.

The next morning all save Lars and Ornith attend the council meeting. laying out to the councilmen the entire story of what occurred, whether the whole thing is believable or not the councilmen seem to take every word for the truth, even Ragnarok’s overdramatization. Deciding that it best to inform the Count Tobin of Roshtar who oversees the town the council votes for sending a letter, but also adds to the companions that it might be best if they went in person to explain the events that took place. Agreeing with this course of action the companions inform the council that they will take but a day to rest before setting out for Count Tobin and Roshtar.

Even the best laid plans are foiled though. As Lars lay in a light sleep a voice came to him in need of aid:

“Daedelus. Daedelus.” Shocked into half wakefulness Lars simply listens to the voice for a few more minutes, questions quickly forming in his mind. “Your battle mage name carries great honor. Did Brodan tell you of your namesake? He named you for Grand Mage Daedelus the Unmatched.”

“Who are you?” Lars whispers in his mind.

“I was Grand Mage Daedelus’ master. I am called Stahlbo, I knew your master, Brodan. I am held captive in the Tower of the Shattered Sphinx. You must come to my aid!"

Unwilling to leave a fellow wizard to the possible dire and torturous fate that could befall him if left unaided Lars promises that he and his companions will find this Tower of the Shattered Sphinx and rescue him. Thanking him the voice slowly fades away, leaving Lars to the bright new morning sun and a new adventure awaiting on the trail!

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View
Fishy Business
"Ai! What's Goin' On Down Ther!"

Having return to the small town of Saltmarsh after their most unsuccessful stake-out of the cavern below the “haunted house,” the companions are hurriedly hustled to an emergency council meeting summoned by the Constable. Forced to wait while the town officials gather themselves, they try to answer Monieus’ deep questions.

“What do you think the smugglers were doing down there?” Monieus asks in his usual rapid verbatim.

“Smuggling I suppose?” Tamull answers, beginning to question the man’s level of intelligence slightly.

“Yes, but smuggling what? Did you see anything?”

Ornith relays to Monieus that they primarily just saw casks and bolts of silk cloth. After finding out the bolts had no markings on them Monieus jumps up excitedly and lets them know that he will “take care of this!”

Within a few more moments the meeting is called to attendance with the members seemingly outraged and concerned that such smuggling has happened right under their very noses! Lars placates them a bit however by explaining that the smugglers had been able to keep their actions secret by playing upon the townfolk’s superstitions with the “haunted house.” Deducing that there must be a larger ship that makes the deliveries with a smaller boat running between ship and shore the council requests the aid of the companions in dealing with the law-breaking ruffians. The companions agree to this, but insist that lookouts be assigned to watch the waters at night. After some grumbling the Constable finally states that the Pross brothers can be of help. With the council members seeming to feel that all was well in hand the meeting is adjourned and everyone returns to their beds…whether they be their own or someone else’s…

The next dawned bright and sunny, with the Pross Brothers coming to see what it was that’s required of them. There is some brief confusion as they talk to Ornith, which is soon cleared up when she realizes there is no actual look-out post of any kind. With the brothers staring at her as though she is the daft one Ornith quickly loses her patience and becomes quick short with the brothers.

“Well, what do you want us to do then?” the brothers look at each other and shrug.

“When its night, when its dark in the sky,” Ornith’s voice is full of condescension “go out on the water in your boat with a torch and signal to us if you see a ship.”

“Alright ma’am, can do, but you don’t have to be such a harpy about it.” Ornith decides it is just simply not worth her time. Feeling as though they at least have some kind of look-out established she walks to the edge of town where she can peacefully sit and watch the ocean below.

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Meanwhile, Sasha descends to the docks where she questions the local fishermen, attempting to ascertain if there have been any sightings of an unknown ship or of strangers in town. Hoping that perhaps if coin is offered she’ll be more profitable with answers the young rogue is chagrined to receive only head shakes and shrugs in answer to her questions and the offer of payment quickly turned down. Disappointed in the lack of news and sightings she turns to the inn where she is able to add the feeling of disgust to the list as she discovers that while she was out questioning and Lars was researching spells with Tamull that Ragnarok is across the street tupping the widowed fishwife…and while the fatherless child is home on top of that!

Several days pass with no torch signal from the Pross Brothers. Then, on the 10th night, peering out over a vastly dark landscape, Ornith sees the blinking of a light in what is clearly a code signal of some kind. Watching it for a few moments longer she turns and runs back to the inn and her companions to tell them the news. After discussing it briefly the companions realize that the witnessed code matches up with some of the notations on one of the parchments they took from the cavern. Deciding to grab a signal lantern and see what they can turn up the companions return to the shoreline and blink out the next signal listed on the parchment. Receiving some kind of signaled response they quickly make their way down into the sea cavern below the “haunted house” to wait and see what comes their way.

The companions don’t have to wait long before they hear the creaking of wood and soft voices floating out over the water.

“Ey! Where’s te light at?!” one of the smugglers yells out over the water. None of the companions answer however, still hedging on the element of surprise.

The sound of the boat being hauled ashore is soon heard, as well as one of the smugglers ordering the others to start unloading the goods while he goes and sees what’s going on. Tamull bursts forth suddenly and demands that they surrender, the smugglers see only one man however and decide differently.

“Oye! An ambush! Get ’im!” the four smugglers immediately descend upon Tamull, easily in reach of Lars’ sleep spell as he craftily sends two to slumber quickly.

Tamull makes quick and easy work of one man, knocking him unconscious while Ornith wounds another with Ragnarok knocking him to the ground.

“Please don’t hurt me! I surrender!”

The companions quickly tie up all the captured men, with Ragnarok jumping at the chance to intimidate them into giving up valuable information. Everyone is subsequently quite impressed when Ragnarok successfully intimidates them, eventually turning the questioning into “good cop/bad cop” as they separate out the most intimidated of the prisoners. Tamull manages to strike a deal with the man in which they will help him when put before the Constable as long as he takes them to the ship and keeps his mouth shut. With the prisoner eventually agreeing to such a deal the companions quickly set off toward the ship.

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A few minutes ride later the companions find themselves alongside the ship with a rope ladder visible at the top of the railing. With little work the prisoner is convinced to call out to the sailors above to throw down the ladder. After much “Uhh”-ing and shabbily put together lies the ladder is thrown over with a loud splash in the water. Wanting to still retain the element of surprise Lars decides to cast the spell “Ghost Sound” and make it seem as though there is arguing coming from the bow of the ship. With the men on deck distracted Ornith and Sasha silently move up the ladder with the grand scheme of silencing the remaining man standing near the railing. With her rapier held aloft and a hand ready to cover the man’s mouth Sasha leaps toward him…only to trip over a coil of rope and send her rapier clattering on the deck. Surprised the man turns and is about to call out, except for the fact that two of Ornith’s arrows have silenced him forever. Quickly signaling for the others to join them the two women quickly hide behind the jolly boat lashed to the middle of the deck. Not wanting to tip off the other man soon to return and using the dark night to his advantage, Tamull stands at the railing in imitation of the previous sailor. Calling out to his companion sailor, but only receiving Tamull’s noncomittal grunts, the other sailor soon approaches to within a few feet of Tamull where both Tamull and Sasha take him down, but not before he utters a muffled yelp.

“Ey! What’s goin’ on down ther!” another sailor’s voice calls down from the crow’s nest above the companion’s heads. Thinking on her feet Ornith calls up to the man, attempting to lower her voice in imitation of a man’s.

“Ai! Nothin’s goin’ on down here!” Realizing that they should get the man to come down so they can silence him as well Ornith continues with her charade. “The Capt’n wansta see ya! Get down here!”

Hearing the man’s grumbling above them as he descends, Tamull and Ragnarok move the closed doors at either end of the main deck, and check the bow of the ship for any other sailors, seeing none Ornith takes a shot at the man descending from the crow’s nest, hitting him just hard enough to send him clinging from the rigging by his fingers and allowing him yell in surprise. An answering yell is heard from the helm, causing everyone but Ornith to charge up onto the stern of the ship. Tamull causes the man to collapse with one blow from his hammer while Ornith muddies up the capturing of the sailor stationed in the crow’s nest and instead sends him toppling to the deck below, wincing as the cracking sounds of bones breaking is heard.

Deciding to explore the ship methodically one door at a time Tamull begins with one of the doors near the stern of the ship, after ensuring there are no sailors or otherwise in the room he motions for Sasha to come in and search as he moves to another door. With Sasha hard at work unlocking several drawers and boxes Tamull stumbles across a cabin with three sleeping occupants in hammocks, their weapons resting below on the wooden floor. Sneaking in and removing all the weapons Tamull is just about to start attempting to tie up and gag the inhabitants when the sight of a large newt entering through a hole in the wall stops him.

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The amphibian quickly ambles up into one of the hammocks and begins making a most insistent clicking noise, soon rousing the inhabitant, a fishman of the likes the companions had previously encountered! It immediately launches itself at Tamull and begins attempting to bite and scratch the paladin, but to little avail. Ragnarok meanwhile pulverizes two of the other creatures while Tamull knocks unconscious the others, leaving Ornith to apologize to the newt for the murder of his friends. During the conversation with the newt however she is able to determine that there are no more fishmen aboard and convince the newt to hide itself away from any danger.

Meanwhile, having happily located 500g in the locked box Sasha then turns to pick the lock on the only locked door on the main deck, freezing however when she hears the soft sounds of conversation from within. Curious, Ornith stealthily listens at the door, a look of both confusion and concern coming across her face as she listened to what was being said behind the closed door:

“Yes m’lady, I am recovering from the trance.”
“What is the status of my cargo?”
“The captain received the signal and is offloading it now. He expects it will take two days.”
“Captain Sigurd continues to disappoint me. Tell him to make haste.”
“The captain insists on caution. He assures me it will be done in two days.”
“I have no patience for this. Tell that man to do what it takes to get my cargo delivered quickly. If he wont, I want you to handle it yourself.”
“Yes m’lady, but its the Captain’s ship and his crew is loyal – I dont know what I can do with only the three… “
“Hear me now. The master has returned and there is a new power rising in the Eight Kindgoms. If you do what is asked of you, you may find yourself on the right side of it.”
“Y-yes m’lady.”
“Do not fail me, Ketah. I am not one who forgives… Report to me as soon as my cargo has been delivered ashore.”

Alarmed at what this conversation could mean, not only for themselves, but for the nation in general, its decided that Sasha give up picking the lock and Tamull and Ragnarok perform the “double kick” move against the door, bursting the door inward in a crash of splinters.

A human figure seated at the desk jumps in startlement at the abrupt entrance of the companions, soon though it is apparent that this figure is no mere man. His body is covered in gleaming scales and what was originally thought to be arms are in fact tentacles! Raising his tentacles into the air above his head the room is suddenly filled with a darkness, visibility that much harder. Ragnarok charges forward in an attempt to engage the new opponent quickly. The companions are baffled to see Ragnarok suddenly change direction and run for the small porthole, claiming that a nice refreshing dip in the pond is what he requires. Trying to stop him, Ornith misses in the darkness and crashes into the wall and all watch in disbelief as Ragnarok dives into the porthole, wedging himself securely in the middle of the small circular opening. With Ragnarok out of the fighting the others attempt to focus all their energies at the creature, hoping to knock him unconscious and not kill him. With the darkness pressing down upon her Ornith takes aim at the creature, but her arrow flies wild, finding a secure target in that of Ragnarok’s nicely framed rear end. Seeing his friends struggling to bring the creature down Lars immediately casts “Burning Loins,” pleased to see some effect as the creature smolders slightly.

Fairly certain that the tentacles of the creature are nothing to worry about, Tamull is quickly proved wrong as a sudden tentacle whip leaves his arm burning from acid. Watching as Ragnarok finally wriggles himself out of the porthole and down into the ocean below the companions redouble their efforts, with Ornith accidentally killing the creature with a well-placed arrow. With the battle now over the companions search the room for anything of significance, disappointed but unsurprised when Ragnarok reports that the small boat and sailor they had come across with are missing. Finding little of interest in the room aside from a smooth, circular, white stone which Lars identifies as quartz, the companions leave the room with more questions than answers.

Perhaps the rest of the ship will hold more information.

View
What Secrets Lie Beneath
Lecherous Backstabber!

With the now fully clothed Ned tagging along the companions decide to move back downstairs to the as of yet unexplored cellar. As Ragnarok turns to lead the group however, Ned casually grabs him by the arm and points to the gaping hole in the floor from Ragnarok and Ornith’s previous misadventure.

“I betcha can’t clear that hole!” the somewhat swarthy looking man leers at Ragnarok.

“I could make that jump, but why bother?” Ragnarok’s voice is lofty and superior, attempting to give off the attitude of not caring.

“Aye, yer chicken is all.” says Ned with a both sympathetic and taunting tone.

“If you have money to wager I’ll do it, otherwise it is just simply not worth my time.” Ragnarok refuses to be taunted into the foolhardy dare, his companions all rather surprised that he would turn down such a taunt.

“See ya’ll downstairs then!” and with that they all watch as Ned gracefully sails over the hole. Humphing to himself Ragnarok turns and walks down the far hallway, the others following close behind.

Reconvening below the companions cautiously open the cellar door. Tamull proceeds through the door first and upon entering the stairwell immediately feels a coldness welling up around him and voices urging them to leave or die. Ned quickly begins babbling that proceeding down into the cellar is clearly a bad idea, but when Ornith tells him to just return to town then he refuses, insisting upon reclaiming his still missing items. Sasha becomes almost uncontrollably terrified and it isn’t until some gentle coaxing from Tamull that she agrees to enter the cellar with everyone else.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs it is quite obvious that at one point the room was a wine cellar. Sasha quickly begins searching through some of the rubbish scattered around and shrieks in terror as a disgusting grub wriggles up from the refuse and attaches itself to her, attempting to burrow itself into her arm. With little else to offer in the way of help Ornith pulls out her knife and attempts to cut out the grub from Sasha’s flesh. Tamull belately remembers that fire actually works quite well against these vermin and uses his torch to scorch the burrowed grub and the others visible on the corpse.

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Having nervously just cut her friend’s arm open, Ornith is still a bit on edge with little patience for Ned’s continued urging that coming down here was a bad idea. Whirling on him she scathingly says:

“Stop your belly-aching! No one is forcing you to come down here with us!”

Turning his face away Ned mutters something about wanting his stuff back as he moves to the rear of the group.

Searching around the room some more Sasha stumbles across a small hidden door which is easily opened. Crawling through the door the companions soon find themselves in room which appears to be the living quarters for roughly ten or so people. Bedding is neatly organized against one wall while a large wooden table is set for eating. There are two other doors in the room, one of them ominously labeled “DANGER.” Looking around the room absently Ornith sneers as she sees Ned ogling her out of the corner of her eye, the sooner they ditch this guy the better!

Entering the more friendly looking door Lars manages to find a large book of erotic poetry with full color illustrations! If he pocketed the volume or not is still up for debate among the other companions. Among the more useful items in the room however is a book on the tides of the area as well one piece of parchment with writing of an unknown language on it as well as another piece of parchment with some kind of code on it. Pocketing the paper the companions decide to take their chances and enter the room labeled “DANGER.”

The strong stench of rotting meat and flesh fills the room causing everyone to involuntarily gag a little. Almost immediately two monstrous insect-like creatures rise up from the darkness, tentacles whipping out toward the companions, instantly paralyzing both Sasha and Ragnarok!

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Quick to respond to the action Lars quickly casts “Summon Swarm: Spider,” hoping that the spiders he summons manage to not attack his paralyzed companions as well. With eyes wide Sasha and Ragnarok watch as the massive swarm of spiders funnel past them, the arachnids hairy legs whisking past them. Tamull also joins in the combat, lunging forward and smashing his warhammer into the side of one of the creatures, dealing damage, but not enough to end the abomination. Ornith moves to pull her bowstring back, but sensing movement behind her turns to see Ned fall to the ground in front of her. Confused as to what in the world the man is doing on the ground Ornith turns her sights on the wounded creature, managing to put an arrow through its head just as the sharp sting of a blade enters her back. Attempting to stand up and make a swing at the backstabber, Ornith merely falls to the ground feeling nauseous and woozy.

“Nothing personal sweetheart.” Ned winks and smiles down at the ranger as he closes the door behind them, leaving the companions to their fate.

The remaining creature continues to whip its tentacles about, paralyzing both Tamull and Lars. As the creatures attempt to feast on the downed Lars, the others climb to their feet with Ragnarok laying the final killing blow upon the creature’s head. Ornith has still not awakened and they realize she is in bad shape. Tamull examines and manages to stabilize Ornith.

“I swear I’ll kill him when next we meet!” Ornith manages to croak out as she regains consciousness. Picking up the dagger, though, it is quite clear that it is not the one that Sasha lent the man…

Searching room Sasha craftily discovers an odd looking rock, pushing it reveals a room cluttered with broken glass and earthenware. With their eyes adjusting to the dim lighting the companions are surprised to see a robed man sitting with his back to them. Lars hoping for the best calls out to the figure, but receives no response. Cautiously approaching the man Lars nearly jumps back in alarm, the man is dead! Little more than a skeleton now, its clear the corpse has been here for some time. Seeing that man appeared to have been reading a book on the Philosopher’s Stone, Lars quickly removes the book and begins leafing through it. Sasha meanwhile finds a smaller book secreted away in a drawer as well as a small stone clutched in the dead man’s hand. Giving the smaller book to Lars the old wizard immediately announces that the book is a spellbook and will require further investigation. As the companions return to the main room once more Lars calmly reaches out and plucks the pointed hat from the dead man’s head, nodding happily to himself as he rests it upon his own head.

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Searching a bit more in the room Sasha quickly locates yet another secret door…this one however appears to have been used rather recently. Ornith’s eyes narrow in hatred as she thinks once more on the backstabber Ned. Moving down the narrow stairs the companions find themselves in a series of natural caverns containing little else but rock. With minimal further exploration however they stumble upon a passageway lit with torches, the floor of the cavern seeming to slope eventually downward toward the sea. Cautiously following the passageway the companions suddenly find themselves in yet another cavern, this one however also contains two swarthy looking humans and four smaller creatures that seem to be an appalling combination of man and fish. It seems as though the welcoming party was waiting for them.

“Now its time to heat things up!” Lars yells out into the stone cavern as flame erupts from his hands, the strange fish-men manage to leap aside, but the sphere continues to follow them. Ornith is suddenly attacked from behind by two more men as the fish-men attempt to capture Tamull and Ragnarok with some kind of claw on the end of a pole contraption.

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Splitting up their points of attack Sasha manages to sever the spine of one of the fish-men while Ornith takes down the two pole wielding fish-men, an arrow in each eye. Things turn messy for the instigators quickly enough though as Tamull smashes the skull of the supposed leader, Lars’ flaming sphere explodes into a fish-man, and Ragnarok becomes blood-sprayed as he severs another man’s arm. In his blood frenzy however Ragnarok swings about wildly and manages to only hit himself as Lars’ magic missiles go sailing past him exploding into the remaining man. Searching the dead bodies the companions are a little disappointed to only find a small amount gold, a bracelet, a key, and a set of dice which Ragnarok immediately confiscates for himself.

The party is tired and wounded and the agree to return to a safe part of the house upstairs and rest for two days.

Once rested, they decide to continue down through the passageways and explore, but find little else aside from some casks containing cloth and other goods. Eventually the passageway opens up to a shore with the sea waves gently lapping at it, the remains of a rope resting on the rocky floor. Failing to find any other hidden doorways or passageways the companions decide to sit and wait for the inevitable return of what they can only assume is a boat used to smuggle the found goods ashore. Within just a few minutes boredom dominates Ragnarok’s brain and he tells the others that he’ll return to the small town and check in on Monieus, Lars immediately jumps up and offers to accompany him.

Quickly reaching the town the two find Monieus happily seated in the local tavern enjoying a bowl of boiled eggs. Excitedly waving to both Ragnarok and Lars the small man immediately pulls several ledgers from his pockets and begins to happily, and rather speedily, elaborate on his trade findings and research of the area. It seems as though there is quite the potential for investing in the town’s glassblowers according to the merchant. Ragnarok decides to fill Monieus in on what all the companions stumbled across in the “haunted house.” Scandalized, Monieus promises to investigate among the local merchants while more treasure is hopefully found.

Returning to the underground caverns both Ragnarok and Lars are saddened to find that nothing has changed. As time slowly passes Lars read from his various books, discovering that the insect-like creatures with tentacles were actually a product of arcane experimentation!

Finally becoming bored with their seemingly failed stake-out the companions return to town. Ornith and Lars immediately search out the constable and inform him of the smuggled goods and shady activity going on right under his nose. Before leaving though Ornith quickly makes out a wanted sign with the likeness of Ned Shakeshaft plastered across it:

WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVEALIVE PREFERRED
REWARD GIVEN

Sooner or later she’d find that man…and then they’d see how much he enjoyed the sting of a blade!

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Creepy, Crawly Things...
A haunted house huh?

Standing in the warmth of the rising sun the companions are pleased to see the city of Tir Asleen spread out before them. Finally they have returned from the bowels of Stonetooth, wiser, richer, and in desperate need of bathing.

Passing through the large gates they decide to head straight to Monieus IV to turn in their “great” cache of Margan weapons and receive their payments. Reaching the Vine Street Counting House, they are quickly waved down the hallway to where Monieus’ cramped and small business room is. The small man immediately leaps to his feet, a smile on his face.

“You’ve returned! I didnt think you’d live. That is, uhh.. what I mean to say is, ah, I’m glad to see you. You found the great cache of Margan arms, I take it?”

The companions briefly cast sideways glances at one another before bringing out the mere two Margan items they had managed to find within Stonetooth. Monieus’ face loses its excitement as he lays eyes on the meager treasure.

“Oh. Oh dear.” He sits down hard in his chair. “Three will barely cover the cost of your fee. Let alone what I paid for that map to Stone Tooth. Oh dear.” He leans forward and rests his head in his hands. “The Monieus trading company will survive somehow. I wont let my great grandad down,”
Monieus reaches out and takes a piece of paper, dipping his pen somberly into an inkwell and then somberly scribbles something down. “Take this slip to the clerk at the front. He will get you your money from my account.”

Not knowing what else they could say to the disheartened man, if anything, the companions quietly take their promised payment and leave Monieus in peace.

Upon returning to the Four Goats Inn it is unanimously decided that a few days are needed in town to take care of some business. Quickly splitting up everyone leaves to deal with their own personal business.

Ornith, Tamull, and Lars all leave for the local taxidermy shop in order to get their dragon head, wings, and tail appropriately taken care while Ragnarok heads off in the opposite direction to find an armorsmith who may be able to craft a shield from the dragon hide he’d been carting around. Returning to the inn Ornith immediately begins to experiment with the mysterious bag containing a ball of seemly random animal fur. Reaching into the bag for the seemingly hundrendth time Ornith is surprised to find that the ball of fur is now that of a rat’s. Not knowing what else to do she decides to drop it on the ground, and almost like magic a rat forms from the once lifeless ball of fur!

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It seems as though the bag will conjure certain animals who are able to perform certain tasks!

Meanwhile, next door, Lars has finally summoned up the courage to wear the mummified hand and chain in order to determine what exactly it does. The wizard decides to try the simple spell “Frost Ray” and see if there are any differences in the spell now that he wears the hand. The spell goes off, creating a terrible racket, but nothing different happens aside from a goblet crashing to the ground. Reaching out to pick the goblet up Lars is surprised to see the goblet float in the air in accordance with the movement of his hand! Testing out this new found ability on a few other random items in his room Lars is tickled pink to discover that the mummified hand works as kind of a permanent “Mage Hand” spell!

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It is during this time that Tamull has decided to return to the paladin stronghold within the city to report on the evil that he and his companions had managed to clear from the ruins of Stonetooth. Entering the mainhall Tamull quickly makes his way to the now familiar door of High Defender Balthus’ chambers. High Defender Balthus is gruffly pleased to hear about the success the group managed and informs Tamull that while this may seem hasty, it has been decided that the young paladin is ready to proceed down one of the three branches of the Order. Both surprised and elated Tamull informs High Defender Balthus that it is his desire to proceed down the path of Ulsonur, if they will have him. High Defender Balthus tells Tamull that he will inform Lord Guardian Polt of his decision, the very same decision that the Lord Guardian made himself so many years ago.

Returning at dawn two days later, Tamull is both anxious and excited for the ceremony, something he feels he has been waiting his whole life to do. Entering the mainhall, Tamull is ushered down several corridors to a door that had once been forbidden to him. Opening the door he finds himself alone in the great chamber save for the large stone stand in the middle of the room. Shutting the door behind him a sudden stillness descends upon the young paladin, a stillness that quickly turns to a heaviness seeming to settle about his shoulders. Knowing that something is at work here, but not quite sure what, Tamull simply stands in silence, waiting. Long minutes pass by and eventually the door opens to admit several paladins, Lord Guardian Polt among them. Turning to face Tamull, Lord Guardian Polt begins the age old ceremony of raising a paladin up to serve one of the three branches of the Order.

“Paladin Tamull. I have been told that you have come before us today because you wish to join the Paladins of Ulsonur. Is this true?
Know you that though the Order of Three is divided, it is also whole and you must be true to all paladins, even those who serve another?
Will you protect the fortresses and cities of mankind against the forces of decay, despair, and destruction?
Will you fight against the forces of evil, though you may face terrors beyond comprehension?
Will you fight against the forces of evil, though it may starve and exhaust you?
Will you fight against the forces of evil, though it may strip you of all you hold dear?
Will you fight against the forces of evil, though it may cost your very life?”

With complete and utter devotion to his Order, Tamull somberly answers yes to all these questions, not only rising in the ranks of his fellows, but also taking on more responsibility for all he does and sets out to do.

“As a paladin of Ulsonur, you would join a long list of warriors, smiths, engineers, and architects, heroes all. From the legendary Ferrin Anvilheart, down through the generations, many great and noble deeds have been done by the Paladins of Ulsonur. Let us now hear the deeds of this young Paladin, so that we may judge his character.” continues Lord Guardian Polt as he then has another paladin present recite all the accomplishments that Tamull and his companions have thus far succeeded in. Each new item is met with the murmurs of approval from all those gathered.

“Having heard of these deeds, what say you, Paladins?”, Lord Guardian Polt calls out the question to those paladins present in the room and is answered with a chorus of approving voices. After a moment, Lord Guardian Polt raises his hand and silence fills the room.

“There is one required approval we have not yet heard.”

It is then that Lord Guardian Polt turns to the chest and lifts the lid, drawing out a large warhammer. He then turns and sets it on the floor resting on its head, with the handle sticking into the air. The room is very quiet. Tamull can feel the very stillness of the room pressing down upon him. Suddenly, the warhammer topples over with the handle facing Tamull, the weight upon his spirit vanishes and cheers erupt in the room. Lord Guardian Polt leans over to pick up the warhammer.

“Paladin Tamull, just as the Great Smith Ulsonur uses his hammer to create and destroy, so to will you use yours to build goodness and smite evil. Take this now and join our ranks.” He offers out the warhammer to Tamull.

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During the few days of Tamull’s absence and everyone else’s seemingly research packed days Ragnarok was randomly approached during one of his outings in the streets of Tir Asleen.

“Culan’s balls, you’re huge! How much can you lift? Nevermind that. Listen, I know a guy who is looking for some as is handy with a chopper. If you’re interested in a fair bit of coin, go down to the Green Apple public room. Then go straight across the street. That’s where the guy is. See, we’re trying to put together a group of sorts. Us as get by on strength of arms need to stick together.” the fast talking man laughs at his own joke and then turns and walks away, leaving Ragnarok just a little bewildered as to what exactly had just taken place. Shaking his head Ragnarok returns to the Four Goats Inn where he is pleasantly surprised to see that Tamull has returned from the paladin ceremony and a celebration of sorts is underway. Being recognized as the heroes who saved Alderton the spirit of the group surges ever higher as they toast a drink to the patrons in the commonroom, drinking well into the night.

The next day Ragnarok informs everyone of what transpired in the street with the random stranger. Curious as to what exactly may be going on across from the Green Apple its decided that Ragnarok should go look into it with everyone else accompanying him just in case.

It seems as though the Green Apple Pub is in a poorer part of the city, and the building across from the pub shows but a single unmarked green door, with no one answering Ragnarok’s loud knock. Deciding to enter anyway Ragnarok proceeds down a rather dusty and cobwebby hall to a room where he sees two men wearing old battered armor and circling each other, dueling with dull swords. Another man stands nearby watching. Noticing Ragnarok he steps over and introduces himself as “Dolza.” The man immediately begins to present himself a bit more boastfully as he presents his fighter’s group to Ragnarok in hopes of gaining Ragnarok as a member. After pushing away a few suspicious feelings Ragnarok admits to his interest in the group and soon finds himself accepting a job to investigate and deal with some supposed “haunted house” in the nearby town of Saltmarsh. With the prospects of furthering the reputation of this so far unnamed fighter’s guild, Ragnarok sets off to inform his companions of their new adventure.

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The group immediately gathers their needed belongings and set off on the dusty road once more. They aren’t more than a few minutes outside Tir Asleen however when a raucous clatter rises up behind up them. Turning they find themselves face to face with a rather run-down caravan being pulled by four sway-backed horses. The man holding onto the reins is none other than Monieus the IV!

“I’m pleased to have caught up to you! I’ve figured out a way to save my great granddad’s company! I sold of all my supply and bought this great wagon! You’re adventurers right? And adventurers find things they need to sell. Well, I know merchants all across the eight kingdoms. My great granddad was the ‘King of Traders.’ Its in my blood, after all! I can get you the best deals! You find it, I sell it, and we all get rich.” Monieus’ fast paced little speech has left the companions slightly stunned. Looking to one another and giving small shrugs Ornith turns to Monieus and informs him that they would gladly welcome him along, as long as he takes care of the horses and provides meals of course. With a slightly larger and louder companionship now they continue to the small town of Saltmarsh.

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High on a hill looking down to the ocean the adventurers first lay eyes upon the small town of Saltmarsh. The town is nothing out of the ordinary really, the most notable thing being the amazing ocean landscape. Moving into the town proper the companions leave Monieus to his own dealings, entrusting him to care for their faithful horses as they move about town attempting to gather information. After several hours of this and only gaining scant information about a crazy hermit alchemist and listening to the town’s constable scoff at such notions as the house being haunted, they decide to head to the edge of town and the house.

Reaching the house it is clear that at one point both the land and the house may have been quite picturesque, but after years of neglect its no wonder there are rumors of it being possessed by evil spirits.

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Making their way cautiously through the yard and closer to the house Sasha notices a small snake nestled in some of the stonework around a well. Being very interested in snakes the rogue immediately moves to touch the scaled beast before Ornith stays her hand insisting that she make sure the snake is of a friendly nature. Ornith identifies the snake as a Western Meadow Viper and urges caution as it is poisonous. Seeing the wisdom in this Sasha stands back as Ornith communicates with the snake, finding out that while the snake does not wish to be touched, or even really spoken to, it will not hinder them enter the house, just as long as they leave him alone. Disappointed some, Sasha forlornly looks back at the snake as they all turn to enter the house.

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It is very clear that the house is in extreme disrepair, there is mildew and mold in almost every room and most clothing articles lie in tatters. The oddest thing however is that in almost every room there are piles of broken furniture and other household items, almost suggesting that either someone or something has ransacked the abandoned house, or some other darker force is afoot.

Meticulously searching each and every room on all floors, including the attic, the adventurers find little else aside from some fungus which Ornith insists on taking a sample of with her, a large piece of quartz found in a fireplace, a few somewhat moldy books on magic, some strange fear inducing illusion, and some large and disturbing centipedes and spiders (something that probably should have been killed instead of let free). Oh, and of course a stranger found bound, gagged, and clothed only in his undergarments.

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Freeing the man they find out that his name is Ned, and after closely questioning him the companions decide he is of no harm to them at this point. Wanting to escort him quickly from the house and be done with him, they eventually cave to his insistence that he explore the house with them in search of his clothes and weapons. Now stuck with yet another odd character as a member of their party the adventurers gather their courage and strength as they make their way to the final unexplored portion of the house…the cellar!

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To Bring Down a Dragon!
Shoot Her!

Having retreated from the terrible beast the companions manage to limp back to one of the abandoned rooms and lock themselves in, craving some much needed rest and the need to develop a plan of attack. After two days of resting and healing both Sasha and Lars are able to fight off the disease they had contracted during a swim in Stonetooth’s fetid pools and the others are able to piece together the semblance of an attack. Ornith and Sasha also eagerly experiment with the last two unknown potions, happily discovering that one turns the imbiber invisible and the other allows for the person to climb the walls as though their hands and feet were sticky, both of which could be quite useful in the future.

Deciding that the best plan is to have Sasha sneak down the ladder, scout for the dragon, and then lure it into the room with the waterfall while the others come up from behind, the companions quickly move into action. Sasha successfully manages to silently move down the ladder, and seeing no dragon in sight, signals to the others to come down as well as she quietly makes her own way across the bridge. Ornith and Ragnarok manage to make it quietly down the ladder as well, but Tamull’s clumsiness and his clanking armor cause Lars to plummet to the ground, landing with a loud thud. Reaching the bottom everyone stands motionless, holding their breaths as they await the imminent burst of acid that never comes. Thinking themselves lucky they all attempt to cram into the small crevice nearby while Sasha begins to make noises in the waterfall cavern. After several minutes pass though and no sign of the dragon Sasha begins to wonder if perhaps the waterfall is drowning out her attempts at noise. Figuring that must be the case, Sasha moves closer to the bridge to throw rocks out onto it, hoping the dragon will at least hear that. No sooner does the second rock hit the bridge though than Ornith cries out in pain as acid burns into her leg, the dragon as seen both her and Ragnarok! Knowing they don’t stand much chance where they currently stand the two sprint their way into the waterfall cavern, listening to the dragon following close behind in the water.

“Where are your friendsss?” the dragon’s voice slithers into the cavern.

“They fled, afraid of your cunning. Only myself and fighter remained to take your treasure from you!” Ornith’s boastful lie echoed out to the dragon.

“My treasure is my own!” the dragon’s angry answer was nearly lost in her mad scramble up onto the rocky ledge as she charged straight for Ragnarok and Ornith.

Peering out from the crevice, Tamull and Lars are able to watch as the dragon charges into the cavern. Taking that as their signal they sprint across the bridge after the dragon, hoping to surround the beast in time.

Using Ragnarok as a shield, Ornith is able to avoid the main brunt of the dragon’s attack as the beast bites, claws, and wing buffets Ragnarok. Ragnarok immediately attempts to counterattack, but only ends up clipping Ornith with his battleaxe, leaving the dragon free to attack again unhindered. Sensing Sasha leaping from the shadows to attack the dragon turns and roars at the rogue as it attacks Ragnarok once again. Taking advantage of the dragon’s split focus, Tamull and Lars are able to land blows on the beast with Sasha sinking her rapier deep into the dragon’s flank, causing her to roar out in pain.

“Deceiver!” the dragon bellows in Ornith’s face before turning and attempting to escape back into the water, hitting Lars with her wing on the way by.

Ornith immediately peers into the water hoping that she’ll be able to track the dragon by blood loss, but the current is too swift and all traces have already been washed away. Not seeing many other options at this point Ragnarok decides to jump across the narrow stream onto the opposite ledge and see if there is anything of use. No sooner do the fighter’s feet touch the other side when he is assaulted with a blast of acid, the dragon had been hiding and waiting! Tamull begins to taunt the dragon as Ragnarok runs for cover and Tamull makes his way to the ledge as well.

“Tell me your name dragon, so that I may tell the children of town who the coward beneath the mountain is!” Tamull’s deep voice reverbrates off the cavern’s walls.

Refusing to answer, the dragon instead attacks Ornith with more acid as the ranger makes the leap across to the ledge, thankfully Lars and Sasha are able to follow unscathed.

“You dare to enter MY home and force me to introductions after drawing MY blood?” the dragon’s angry voice echoes as the companions take ranged shots at her visible head.

“You and your games…” the dragon’s raspy voice mutters out at the companions as she ducks back underwater.

“I will have the name of the enemy I enter into combat with, I am called Tamull.”

“And I am known only as Nightscale.” the voice whispers out into the cavern and then nothing more.

Unsure of where the dragon is anymore the companions decide to hopefully flush it out and so return to the broken bridge where all but Tamull manage to make it cleanly across. Dangling by the rope tied about his waist Tamull is immediately sprayed with acid from the dragon, a most easy target. Spotting the dragon’s head raised above the water’s surface, Ornith points it out to everyone else and arrows fly, causing the dragon to retreat once more. Making their way to the south most shore of the lake, Lars lights up one of Ornith’s arrows as she fires it across the lake. In the glowing light the companions are able to make out an island in the lake, as well as a distant shore on the other side. Seeing another shore area to their right Lars quickly tests the depth of the water and deeming it wade-able, both Tamull and Ragnarok make to cross to it. As soon as Tamull is waist-deep in the water however Ornith sees the dragon swimming straight for the paladin! Nightscale quickly latches onto Tamull, biting him repeatedly in the legs. Taking this as a prime opportunity for attack, Ragnarok surprises everyone and makes a heroic leap onto the dragon, bringing his battleaxe crashing down onto the beast! Rearing her head back in pain, Nightscale attempts to retreat back into the water, but not before the others let loose several arrows and Lars sends a ball of flame hurtling at her, dealing even more damage to the beast! Submerging herself the dragon rapidly swimming to northern end of the lake with Lars’ ball of flame in pursuit. Spotting the dragon hauling herself out onto the opposite shore Ornith pulls a single arrow against her cheek as Ragnarok and Tamull reach the island. Letting her arrow fly Ornith is pleased to watch it sink deeply into Nightscale’s unprotected eye and watches as the dragon gives one final shriek of pain before falling to the ground. Congratulating themselves on an enemy defeated the companions begin searching the island while Tamull swims across to make sure the dragon is in fact dead.

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Ragnarok is surprised when only one glittering gold coin is found upon the island, but follows the others over to the dragon where they split up the beast’s carcass amongst themselves. Sure that there has to be more than just a single coin laying about Ornith picks up the still glowing arrow and begins swimming around the lake, hoping to notice something. Making her way back toward the island the young ranger is rewarded with the sight of something glittering beneath the water’s surface. Calling out to the others everyone else joins her on the island where it is decided that Tamull and Ragnarok will dive down for the treasure. Returning shortly, the two bring with them not only four pouches containing items, but also the information that a vast pile of gold is also under the waves. Unable to fully decipher what the magical items found may actually be able to do, aside from the goggles that now allow Sasha to discover concealed objects, the group decides to split up temporarily. Ornith and Lars decide to return to check on the horses they left behind so long ago while Tamull, Ragnarok, and Sasha continue working on bringing up the gold pieces.

Making the journey back through all the previously explored caverns and the now stinking dead bodies of the barbarians slain, the two are relieved when they finally walk out into the sunlight and breath in the crisp mountain air. Making their way down to the horses, Ornith is upset to find only Lars’ and Sasha’s horses still tied, and those two looking haggard and thin, the grass at their hooves shorn so short that the dirt is showing through the short blades. Leaving Lars with the two horses, Ornith begins tracking the missing two, finding them not far off, but with Ragnarok’s mighty war-horse lacerated with fresh claw marks made from some large animal… Returning to Lars the two adventurers wait with the horses for their companions to join them.

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A day later Ornith and Lars happily watch their companions walking down from the entrance to Stonetooth, gold filled bags in hand. Seeing the state of his treasured war-horse Ragnarok gives Ornith a dirty look, sure that it was her “poor, suffering” bear which had done this handiwork. Packing up all their belongings the adventurers turn their feet once again to the road and begin to make their way back to Tir Asleen, but not before Tamull and Ragnarok race back into Stonetooth to free the mysterious woman they had met.

Entering the study they find the woman still there and overjoyed to see them. Ragnarok looks at Tamull and then utters the words:

“I release you.”

The woman smiles up at Ragnarok and reaches to touch his face before smirking and replying,

“Not everyone is who they appear to be.” and then disappears into the shadows, her eyes glowing briefly before they too vanish. Shivering slightly the two men hurriedly exit Stonetooth once again and make their way south along the road with the others.

The companions hadn’t been on the road long before they smell the scent of cooking meat, following the smell Ornith and Sasha creep up on an older man who they both recognize. The man is resting against a tree with his arm casually laying on a pile of furs. Standing and clearing her throat to give the man time to react Ornith is about to ask the man for his name when the pile of furs shifts…it is the very same wolf that the companions had freed!

“You invade home!” the man gruffly accuses of Ornith and Sasha as he rests his hand on the handle of the Margan axe he wields.

Unsure of what to do both Ornith and Sasha back away cautiously and inform the rest of the group of what they found. Desperately wanting to add the Margan axe to their collection Ragnarok returns and attempts to the barter with the man. Introducing himself as “Old Yarrick”, the barbarian merely laughs at Ragnarok’s attempts to bribe him with money. Eventually Ragnarok gives up and simply leaves the man some gold.

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Returning to the road before them it isn’t until three days later that the companions run into someone else. Hearing rustling in the bushes the companions are surprised when a large dire tiger outfitted with leather armor and a warrior sitting atop the great beast, burst from the surrounding foliage.

“I am Sergeant Foss. My men and I are out patrolling and would simply like to know where you come from and what you have seen in the past couple days.”

Knowing that they have encountered the small force of The Two Hundred Tigers which patrol Creslonia’s borders the companions are both awed and happy to see that they have almost returned to civilization. Informing the Sergeant that they are merely explorers returning from Stonetooth and have seen nothing of note in the past two days the Sergeant inclines his head to them in gratitude for their news.

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“Move out!” the Sergeant calls out to his men and soon the nearby bushes are alive with the rustling of moving bodies. The companions can only watch in awe as the magnificent beast moves off into the trees.

Spending one more day and night on the road the companions are grateful to see the city of Tir Asleen spread out before them, welcoming them to come and rest for awhile.

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A...Dragon?!
What Bumbling Around Underground Gets You...

After retiring to a secluded and “safe” room the adventurers took but a brief two days to restore their vigor and health, or so they thought. Upon awaking on the third day both Lars and Sasha find themselves feeling rather shaky and chilled and almost weak physically. Letting loose haggard coughs the two clamber to their feet and begin organizing their packs in an attempt to ignore their new found illnesses. Tamull however is able to effectively restore Ragnarok to his former self after his romp in the yellow mold. It is decided that they should return to the room with the booby-trapped statues and where they had heard the mysterious anvil and hammer ringing…from a forge that was suppose to have been abandoned for the past hundred years…

Entering the small circular room they notice that the door now before them has what appears to be a glowering face carved into it. Stepping forward, Sasha suddenly hears the sound of an alarm gong from ahead of her. Ragnarok pushes the heavy door open as the rest of the group follows uneasily behind him. Looking around them the companions find themselves in a mighty, ancient Margan hall lined with massive pillars carved into fantastic images, images of giants and dragons straining to support the immense vaulted ceiling high above them. Surprisingly there are several torches guttering in the wall sconces illuminating a mighty throne upon a dais at the far end of the hall. In the dim light the companions can make out smashed tiles from the walls, tiles that had once been beautifully carved, but are now lying sadly on the floor, replaced with graffiti scrawlings. To one side a small fire smolders with several sleeping pallets scattered around it. Moving toward the pallets the companions are suddenly stopped dead in their tracks as a harsh voice calls out from the shadows.

“Go back the way you came! This is the only warning you’ll get!”

“Who goes there?” Tamull’s voice rings out into the hall.

“Turn back the way you came!” The harsh voice continues with this one warning, not giving further information out.

Ornith motions for Sasha to try sneaking around the room to locate the hidden voice, but nothing is to be found and not even Ornith’s keen eyes can pick out anything unusual. Both Tamull and Lars are now attempting to converse with the mysterious voice, but to no avail. Thinking the voice is distracted Ornith moves toward the south door wanting to listen at it, Ragnarok however beats her to it, tromping over to the door and opening it just as Ornith is shot in the back with a crossbow bolt! Walking from the shadows are two humanoid figures, emaciated, grey-skinned, and bald in appearance.

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Ragnarok shows his true fighting skills by immediately laying about him with his mighty battle-axe! Preparing to join in with the attack on the visible two humanoids, Tamull suddenly hears someone moving behind him, jerking in sudden pain and surprise as a crossbow bolt hits him in the back! Unable to see exactly where their new attacker is shooting from Lars casts “flaming sphere” in the general direction the last crossbow bolt was shot from, grinning happily as a now on fire humanoid shape comes running from the shadows. Now able to see her target, Sasha takes aim and fires a crossbow bolt of her own at their still smoldering attacker. Ornith also takes this opportunity to add her own arrow to the attack, hitting the enemy squarely in the chest. Letting out a shriek the strange looking humanoid falls to the ground! An eerie silences falls over the hall now as Ornith searches the dead bodies for anything interesting and Lars searches the rest of the room looking for any of the treasure of the ancient Margan kingdom they had originally been sent to recover. Finding nothing however, the companions all move to the southern door as Lars slowly and carefully opens the door. Seeing nothing but pots and pans scattered around haphazardly Lars enters the room, only to have a large wooden table suddenly shudder and rush toward him! With the rest of the adventurers merely standing in awe at the unusual sight occurring before them, the table crashes into Lars sending him sprawling. Coming to their sense finally Ragnarok and Tamull manage to smash the table into splinters.

“Clearly some foul magic is at work here!” Tamull glares about the room as Ornith does a quick search for anything of value. Not finding anything they quickly exit the room to explore the other doorways, hopefully not all containing a crazed piece of furniture…

Entering the room directly opposite the one with the crazed table the companions find strange etchings that don’t quite match the elegant carvings left by the Margans. After some careful scrutiny Tamull decided that the etchings were not religious in nature, Lars however immediately recognizes them as “Underspeak”, a language that has not been seen in the eight kingdoms for many, many years. Looking about the actual room itself more closely it is obvious that the room was once a shrine of some sort, pews are smashed, carvings disfigured, and bones scattered all around. With little warning, but a sense of evil two incredibly tall skeletons rise up from the debris, weapons at the ready, and from the corner another creature rises…this one a leathery undead warrior with glowing green eyes filled with hate!

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Ragnarok and Tamull launch forward into the fray just as Ornith narrowly dodges the clawed hand of the leader. Tamull points his hammer up into the air and begins calling upon his divination powers in a spectacular show of turning the undead. Moments later with the undead warrior and massive skeletons looking at the companions rather bewildered at what exactly just took place, the fight resumes! Rolling his eyes at Tamull, Ragnarok leaps forward and pulverizes the skeleton before him sending shards of bone flying. Shaking off his embarrassment Tamull turns his hammer upon the remaining skeleton, sending its head rolling from it’s body. With the warrior the only one left standing and still focused primarily on Ornith, Lars decides to cast his “ray of frost” directly into the leathery figure. Seeing that Lars has temporarily distracted the creature Ornith fires an arrow at its face, stumbling at the last moment and sending the arrow whizzing by Lars’ face. Taking matters into his own hands Ragnarok turns and severs the creatures head from it’s body. Giving themselves a hearty pat on the back for destroying yet more unnatural creatures the companions do a thorough search of the room; Lars adds another scroll to his current stash and everyone else gets some more coinage. Becoming bored with the room now, Ragnarok beelines it for the second door to the north in the main throne room.

Walking through the doorway they enter a room that feels strangely cold, a pool of darkwater can be seen in the middle of the room. As the companions stand there they begin to hear a moaning sound that eventually takes on the form of word-like utterances. Slowly a spectral ghost form enters into their view, its translucent body waving in some unseen breeze. The incoherent babbling has an almost mesmerizing effect and both Tamull and Lars are quickly lost within its soundwaves, slack-jawed they can only stare at the ghostly figure while their friends frantically think of something to do.

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Reaching a hand out from under it’s cowl the ghost places it upon Tamull’s arm, sending a bone freezing chill through his body and shaking him from the mesmerized stupor. Not sure what else to do Ornith stabs at the ghost with her sword, watching in dismay as it simply passes through the figure. Seeing this, Ragnarok begins shaking Lars, yelling at him to wake up. Shaking his head groggily the old man immediately sends “magic missiles” shooting out at the ghost, sending it shrieking and flying through the far wall. Shaken, the companions quickly move through the room, exploring into a hallway containing multiple rooms of broken and smashed furniture and supplies. Looking through the debris that litters the floor everyone quickly jumps back as a group of six skeletons rise from the wreckage! Seeing his chance (again), Tamull quickly begins reciting his “turn undead” divine spell once more, this time he is much more successful, and sends all six skeletons scurrying for the corner! Knowing that her weapons are almost useless against skeletons, Ornith picks up several rocks and begins throwing them at the skeletons, doing damage to them ever so slowly. With both Lars and Ornith quickly becoming fed up with chucking rocks at the skeletons, the two are able to convince Ragnarok and Tamull to just start laying waste to the creatures. Ragnarok immediately destroys one, while Ornith continues to throw rocks, and Lars smashes one’s skull in with his quarterstaff. Eventually all skeletons are slain with Lars surprising everyone by being incredibly more efficient than Tamull.

Searching through more and more rooms the companions find little else aside from more debris and previously looted corpses. Beginning to wonder if they will ever find anything worthwhile they finally happen upon what looks to have once been a library. Sadly it reeks of moldy paper, meaning that few of the books are probably salvageable. Surprisingly there is a sad woman sitting in a chair, everyone is immediately put on guard as the woman leaps up from the chair and latches herself onto Ragnarok, sobbing and begging to be freed. Being suspicious Tamull begins concentrating on finding any auras of evil, soon detecting some in the room. Ornith scrutinizes the woman, trying to decide if she is lying or bluffing, after several minutes Ornith is very certain that the woman is in fact telling the truth. Lars finds it very hard to believe that the woman has been held captive by a wizard conducting life longevity spells and that she has not been harmed by any of the various creatures they have personally already run into. Sobbing and clinging tighter to Ragnarok, the woman once again begs to not be left alone and to please be freed. By now Tamull has pinpointed the aura of evil to be coming from the woman herself, but Ornith points out that the woman could just simply be cursed, a possibility the woman immediately states is true. Backing away from the woman at Tamull’s urging, Ragnarok searches around the room looking at the various books and finding them mostly to be concerning the histories of the Margan kingdom.

“Those are all so boring…please free me. You only need say the words ‘You are free!’” the woman is desperate, but Lars makes the executive decision to leave her some provisions and the promise of our return once we have dealt with the wizard. Finding nothing else of interest everyone returns to the throne room in order to explore the last southern doorway.

Walking through the doorway the companions find themselves within a foundry, cold, dry wind blows through the passageways, and three of the strange humanoids encountered earlier are at work on one of the forges.

“Ho there friends, might we engage in friendly conversations?” Ragnarok calls out to them in hopes of not immediately starting a fight. The humanoids approach with weapons drawn however and so Ragnarok quickly attempts to intimidate them, an attempt is all it is though. With all their attention focused on the three humanoids approaching them, the companions are startled when Lars lets out a yell and begins dancing around a bit. Somehow there are venemous centipedes swarming about his legs!

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Getting ahold of himself however Lars quickly yells out that they are but mere illusions, there is a spellcaster in their midst! One of the humanoids disappears almost immediately while Ragnarok dispatches of another and Ornith fires a volley at the assumed spellcaster standing further back. Tamull also moves for this attacker, but must dodge quickly to one side as a “flaming sphere” comes rolling down on him. Looking for more clues as to where the other attacker disappeared to Lars explores the chamber a little more, eventually discovering a cavern complete with rushing water descending down into darkness, and on a far away stone ledge a chain ladder also descending down into the darkness. Returning to the battle everyone is surprised when the spellcaster suddenly disappears into thin air. Tamull quickly casts a detect evil aura while Ornith tries to spot anything attempting to slip away. Sensing some invisible creature near where Tamull senses a faint aura of evil the companions are frustrated to hear footsteps thumping away into the distance as their attacker escapes! Stopping to search the anvil on their way back to the throne room and where they think their attackers ran off to, Ragnarok finds an unfinished sword blade and decides to take it with him, perhaps he can have it completed when they return to Tir Asleen.

Returning to the throne room, Ornith silently approaches the door behind the throne itself, patiently listening for noises on the other side. She is rewarded with the sounds of faint talking coming from the other side, she can’t quite make out the words though. With the companions gathered around her, Ornith silently pushes the door open, showing a small audience chamber, with three humanoid guards standing by a door bearing the same glowering face they had seen earlier. The three guards raise their weapons and the companions immediately enter into the fray with Lars firing a bolt directly into the shoulder of one! Thinking the fight well in hand, everyone is surprised when one of the humanoids cast “color spray”, temporarily blinding and stunning Ragnarok! Suddenly a woman enters the fray wielding a twin-bladed sword, the fighting is intense, but brief, and when the last guard is slain the woman turns and runs into the far room with the companions in hot pursuit. Upon entering the room however the woman is nowhere to be found! Searching around Tamull and Ragnarok only find the mildewed remnants of cloaks and nothing else…until Ornith locates the poorly hidden secret door.

Proceeding through the door the companions find themselves in an empty hallway opening out onto a ledge containing a chain ladder…the very same chain ladder that Lars had found earlier in the foundry cavern. Deciding it best to go down the ladder, the companions find themselves in a dark and rather wet cavern, complete with tracks from some kind of large reptilian creature leading into the water nearby. Further exploration shows them an iffy looking bridge, but when Lars crosses it just fine it is deemed safe…until Tamull collapses it. Luckily Ornith had tied a rope around Tamull and she and Ragnarok are able to safely pull him back up. Throwing the end of the rope across to Lars they are able to secure it tightly to a stalagmite and climb across to the other side. No sooner do Ragnarok’s feet touch the other side than the water beside the companions explodes in a shower of shimmering droplets, the black scaly head of dragon emerging from the water!

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Ornith wants desperately to talk to the beast, but the dragon only seems interested in spewing acid at the adventurers and threatens them with the promise of death!

“If you throw all your weapons and treasure into the water I will let you go, otherwise, I will eat you!” The dragon’s harsh voice ends in a laugh as she thinks about the tasty morsels they will make.

Tamull tries bravely to bribe the dragon, ensuring her that they wouldn’t be here if they had treasure with them and that the real treasure to be had is downstream. The dragon submerges and Tamull is convinced that he tricked the creature. Everyone keeps walking along the water’s edge thinking themselves safe when the dragon erupts from the waters once more, once again spewing acid everywhere. Unfortunately however, Lars receives the brunt of this attack and is immediately knocked unconscious by the assault. Quickly throwing the old wizard over a shoulder Tamull sprints for a tunnel opening up ahead with Ragnarok and Ornith close behind on his heels. As the companions huddle in the small cave they can hear the young dragon laughing and taunting them. With Ragnarok busy stabilizing Lars, Ornith and Tamull quickly come up with a plan to escape past the dragon. With bow and arrow at the ready Ornith sneaks out into the shadows surrounding the tunnel opening, signalling for the other to ready themselves. Her first two arrows sail into the water near the dragon, only slightly distracting it, her third arrow however manages to strike the beast directly in it’s scaled face, sending it into a rage and spewing acid at Ornith. Taking this opportunity as the only one they may have, Ragnarok and Tamull take off running back toward the collapsed bridge with Lars in tow. They are but halfway there when the dragon turns it’s attention from Ornith and swims after them. Ornith sprints after the dragon, hoping that she can somehow help, and is relieved to watch Tamull leap cleanly across the collapsed bridge. Just as he lands though, the dragon rushes up the shore at him, attempting to buffet Tamull with her wings, but unable to make more than a clumsy try in the enclosed space. Ornith reaches Ragnarok in time to hastily tie a rope around Lars, and watches in amazement as the fighter makes a leaping attack at the dragon as he jumps across the gap. The surprise attack drives the dragon back into the water and Ornith is able to throw the rope across to Tamull. Everyone winces slightly as Lars is ungracefully lurched and dragged across the many rocks, crashing into the far side of the gap as he’s pulled across. Ornith hastily clears the collapsed bridge and the adventurers make a final sprint for the chain ladder, frantically scrambling up it as the dragon laughs below them.

“I can smell your fear humans!”

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Down Into the Depths...
The Journey through Stonetooth Continues!

Descending the stairway the companions enter into a cavern with a fast moving stream running across the chamber floor, disappearing under a low stone overhang large enough for them to fit under, but not without getting very wet and extinguishing their torches. Realizing that they were still rather badly bruised and battered from earlier encounters the companions decide to return up the stairs to a room more protected to recover their strength. Hiding out for two days, they finally return to the cavern below to explore further into the ruins of Stonetooth.

Seeing that there are two different passageways leading out of this cavern, Ornith sneaks over to the southern one and pauses to listen for any noises, while Sasha approaches the northern passage. Neither of them hear anything useful, but Ornith does notice some odd hanging shapes high up in the cavern’s ceiling. The shapes do not move initially, but after Ornith fires a lit arrow from Lars the mysterious shapes take wing and swoop down on the group! All four bat/mosquito creatures latch onto several of the companions, but are easily picked off, the most noteworthy killings including Tamull exploding the guts of one all over Lars and Sasha cleanly shooting another through the eye to watch it daintily drop to the ground. Shivering after such a disgusting encounter (who knows where those mouth parts have been!), Sasha decides that instead of exploring either passageway she would prefer to take her chances and explore the stream. Looking dubiously at one another everyone else merely shrugs and lets her proceed.

Sliding a bit uncontrollably down the stream Sasha is wet and can only see by the light of the lit arrow when she splashes into an extremely foul smelling cavern. In the low light she is able to see several dead and decaying bodies of barbarians…the state of these bodies leads her to believe that something is perhaps living down here…sneaking around to get a better look at things Sasha is surprised when three reptile-like humans jump out at her! Not sure that she can take the attackers on her own Sasha calls out for assistance from her friends and before long all four of her companions are splashing and sputtering down the stream to join her.

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While the rest of the group is attempting to collect themselves the lizard creatures begin throwing darts at Sasha, which she manages to narrowly dodge all the while fighting off the nausea caused by the stench of the cavern. All three creatures are tidily dispatched of however between the combined forces of well aimed arrows and the might of Ragnarok and Tamull. Having cleaned up the undesirables everyone lights new torches and begins to inspect the rest of the cavern. The stream that they arrived in continues across the cavern, forming a pool at the far end. On one side of the pool is a wall constructed of what appears to be mud and debris, while to the south of the pool the stream continues. Not wanting to waste time hacking away at the wall it is decided to continue following the stream.

The new cavern that they have found is a low, damp chamber with the thundering of rushing water heard. Most of the cavern is covered with damp, wet moss with the running water disappearing down a large hole in the far corner. Curious as to what may be down the hole Sasha approaches to look down it, not taking into account that the moss is most likely slippery. As Sasha steps onto the mossy stone, she suddenly slips, sliding down uncontrollably into the rapidly rushing water! She feebly attempts to grab onto a rocky outcropping, but sadly cannot keep hold. Thinking quickly on her feet Ornith dashes over and vainly tries to throw Sasha a rope to grab onto, not able to successfully grab the rope Sasha slips further down the stream, closer to the gaping hole, leaving her companions gasping in dismay. Making one more last ditch effort to rescue Sasha from certain death Ornith ties the rope around Ragnarok and the burly fighter quickly makes his way down to Sasha, only to watch her carried over the edge by the current, disappearing into the darkness of the hole. Hoping that the stairs beside the hole will lead them to where Sasha fell the companions hurriedly race down them…finding Sasha spitting and sputtering in a pool. Dripping wet Sasha emerges from the pool looking a bit wore out, laughing quietly to himself Tamull walks up and gives her a friendly pat on the back while saying:
“Looks like I’m not the only clumsy one.”
Sasha just gives Tamull a scathing look before walking away. Ornith and Lars, being more interested in the flora of the cavern are busy collecting various specimens of the lichens and mosses while everyone else further explores the cavern. Two doors are found, both swollen shut from the constant dampness of the room. Tamull decides that he will undoubtedly be able to force the door open, only to be laughed at by Ragnarok as the ancient door defeats him. Tamull is further embarassed as Lars lets loose a loud cackle at his feeble attempt to open the door. In the end Ragnarok is able to shove the door open and the companions enter a low vaulted chamber reeking of rotted foodstuffs. Wanting to fully explore the room even though it more than likely only contains the bitter remains of food, Ornith proceeds further into the room, not quite spotting in the time the viscus ooze that suddenly lashes out at her, splattering her with its acidic touch! Ornith jumps back in alarm as the cloth of her undershirt sizzles and disintegrates!

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Sasha immediately lets loose an arrow at the foul ooze, not wanting to attack with her rapier for fear of acid corrosion. Tamull, seeing the wisdom behind ranged attacks, picks up a barrel of fouled salted meat and launches it at the ooze, the meat burning on contact and filling the room with more stench. Ragnarok fires a well aimed arrow into the ooze and watches as the arrow dissolves along with the now dead ooze. Lars and Sasha proceed to search the rest of the room, but in the end only find more rotted foodstuffs. Leaving this room behind they move to the northern room, which is sadly more barren than the previous room containing only broken crates and barrels. Searching the rooms complete the companions decide to travel down the southern passageway out of the room, passing the stream Sasha is relieved that she was not swept down the remainder of the stream as she watches it disappear down an airless tunnel.

The companions now enter a chamber containing a small stream running across it along with a bridge spanning it. Tamull looks at this bridge dubiously and begins to crawl across the sturdy structure seal style, meanwhile Lars impresses the entire group by moonwalking across the bridge. With only a slightly ajar door left to them to go through, Ornith goes and listens hoping to hear if anything is on the other side. Not hearing anything however the group opens and walks through the door into yet another foul smelling room, this one filled with water however. Cautiously poking his quarterstaff into the water Lars determines that it is wade-able and so they enter the room fully with rope attached to one another. Random debris is floating around with not much else it seems until they manage to dredge up a skeleton with a small leather pouch attached containing a bottle of clear liquid. Deeming that all of noteworthy items the companions give the bottle to Lars and proceed to exit the room, both Lars and Sasha coughing extensively upon exiting, but otherwise feeling okay. Having just the northern passageway left to explore in this particular chamber they head up and proceed to enter a dank and humid chamber with a stream cutting through a section of the room and a strange stalagmite looking structure on the other side of the stream. Looking about their surroundings Ornith notices a small fish twitching weakly at the edge of the stream in the room and walks over to investigate. While leaning over to examine the poor fish the stalagmite form suddenly shudders and stirs! A voice echoing out into the room:
“Well, well, well, dinner has arrived!”

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A single eye glares out from the stalagmite form at the companions and Ornith is abruptly surprised when a tentacle whips out and encircles her attempting to draw her across the stream. Ragnarok immediately runs to Ornith’s side and severs the tentacle before it can drag her across though. Another tentacle reaches across and slams into Ragnarok and the companions begin to feel a sense of dread, being confronted with such a terrible foe. Tamull manages to sever the tentacle wrapped around Ragnarok and the creature roars into the chamber causing fear to shoot up everyone’s spine. In a last ditch effort Lars casts “burning hands” at the creature, but when minimal damage is done its decided to make a hasty retreat throw the doorway to the north. Running through the doorway the companions sigh in relief as they hear the creature begin roaring about eating them all. Taking a moment to look around the companions find themselves in a kind of jail-cell area. Poking around Sasha manages to find a single key in the grime and decides to try it on the last cell which appears to be locked. Smiling gleefully as the door swings open Sasha finds a skeleton complete with rusted platemail and a silk pouch containing not only another key, but also eight platinum coins! Returning with her finds to the others their happiness over the find is quickly dissipated when they realize that in order to leave this area they have to somehow get past the raging creature outside the door…with no other choice at hand Tamull decides to try to talk their way past the creature, hoping against hope that he can succeed and get them safely past. Ragnarok of course immediately offers his skills at intimidation if Tamull’s diplomatic words fail.

Tamull begins by trying to convince that human flesh is the least tasty of all choices the creature has:

“You lie! I have tasted human flesh before and it is sweet and good!”

Tamull insists however: “We’re not good though, look at this old stringy thing with us! The lizardmen up above are by far more superior tasting than us.”

“And if I let you go, you will bring me lizardmen to eat?”

Tamull excited by his progress: “Yes, of course!”

“It is agreed then.” the harsh voice of the creature making everyone uneasy as they slowly creep out from the room and make their way back to the previous cavern. Tamull brings up the rear of the group and nearly soils himself as a tentacle cracks into the stone directly behind his head.

“Do not betray me humans!” the voice echos after the companions and harsh laughter fills the chamber. Not wanting to come to any further harm the companions immediately hightail it for the cavern containing the three lizardmen they had slain and drag them back down to the creature. The bodies are thrown quickly around the corner and they can’t help but wince slightly at the crunching and gnashing noises being made.

Returning to the upper levels the companions continue to explore the other areas of Stonetooth, hoping to run into safer creatures. They immediately find themselves in a chamber covered in strange patches of fungi, some growing as tall as a person!

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Ornith examines some of the fungus and realizes that they are somewhat familiar, only on a much larger scale than she is used to seeing. Requesting a vial from Lars, both Ornith and Lars proceed to capture spores from the fungi while Tamull moves over to examine a rusty door at the other end. The door has a single symbol carved into it, and between Tamull and Lars it is determined to be the symbol of the kingdom of Margan. Assuming that this door will lead them further into the bowels of Stonetooth the group elects to backtrack a bit and explore the remaining few passageways. Proceeding to yet another room they find it lit with a strange and slightly eerie phosphorence with bright crystals and delicate flows of stonework decorating the room. In addition to this there are several painstakingly carved sepulchres placed with in the room, some of which are near marble vaults. Further investigation yields several runes placed upon the sepulchres and vaults which Lars reads aloud as describing the name, ancestors, and deeds of the dead, as well as the warning of curse upon any who defile the dead. Only three of the sepulchres appear to have ever been used and are said to contain the bodies of: Borgol who died of old age, Gharin who died in battle, and Numik who was killed by molten iron in a foundry accident. Deciding to not risk receiving a curse, whether it be real or not, the companions continue on into a couple more unexplored passageways and chamber. Entering a room with the heavy smell of animal lingering within it Ornith spots something attempting to hide in the shadows against a wall, curious she quietly approaches, only to be surprised when lizardmen leap out at her!

Tamull immediately springs forward and obliterates one of the lizardmen’s kneecaps before smashing his hammer into it’s chest. Raganrok moves to slice apart another one while Lars noticing yet another lizardman make a run for it calls out for someone to stop him. Ornith turns and lets loose a single arrow into its fleeing back while Tamull makes a wide arc with his hammer, smashing it into the ground. Having slain the lizardmen quickly and efficiently the group now finds themselves facing a gate, opening it they enter into another chamber.

Upon entering the room the companions find themselves face with a sad sight indeed. Placed within a rough metal cage is a large, abused brown bear. Cuts and scars are scattered over it’s body and patches of fur are missing. The poor beast is rightfully angry, but Ornith is able to use her wildlife skills to eventually somewhat calm the beast. Feeling pity for the poor thing everyone sacrifices some of their rations to the bear. Not wanting to just release it to wander throughout the ruins the group leaves it caged for the time being until they can figure out a way to get it free. Exiting the room and proceeding up the nearby northern passageway the companions are excited to find that it leads outside! Ornith smiles happily at the thought of being able to release the magnificent beast back out into the wild where it belongs! Quickly drawing up a plan where Lars will use his spell “mage hand” to open the cage from a distance and the rest of the group will hide around the corner they are able to successfully release the bear and watch as it happily shambles out into the mountain air.

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With just one more unexplored chamber the companions enter with light hearts. Upon walking into the entrance of this room however they see a profusion of fungus and mold covering everything. Against one wall sits an old skeleton, covered in decidedly unfriendly appearing bright yellow mold, however, strangely, a sword sits within the skeleton’s hand completely untouched by mold or fungus. Against better judgement Ragnarok strides into the room to wrest the sword from the skeleton, in doing so he disturbs the mold and a cloud of spores fill the air around him causing him to hack and cough and fall to one knee.

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“Ragnarok, what are you doing? Get up!” Ornith’s unhelpful words are coupled with a look of mild disgust. Tamull moves to help the fighter, but Ragnarok is able to move his now slightly weaker feeling body out of the room. Remembering that they had found a bottle of clear liquid earlier Ragnarok asks Lars if he may drink of it, to which the wizard forcefully replies:

“No! Absolutely not! You don’t just go around drinking things you have no idea what they are!”

Looking at the sword that Ragnarok managed to remove from the room they notice that it has the mark of the kingdom of Margan. Turning their heads toward the entrance to the room once more Tamull decides that he will enter, but with a cloth over his face and holding his breath during his search. Avoiding the spores Tamull manages to locate and remove a steel helm with silver inlay made of beautiful craftsmanship. Deciding to keep it for his own he places the helm upon his head and all the companions agree that it makes him much more stylish. Deciding that they have explored all they can the companions return to the rusty door with the Margan kingdom symbol. Using the key that Sasha had found on the skeleton in a previous room they are able to unlock the door and proceed up the stairs.

At the top of the stairs they find themselves in a small circular room with three warrior statues before them, behind two of the statues are doors and in the distance the sound of hammer ringing on anvil can be heard…

Listening carefully Ornith and Sasha determine that the anvil noise is coming from the east. Sasha approaches the northeastern door and opens it only to find a wall of stone on the other side…a trap! The statue of the warrior towering nearby suddenly drops the axes in its hands, one drops to the ground and Sasha narrowly dodges the other! Proceeding over to the other door Sasha is not surprised to find the same stone wall on the other side, nor is she surprised when yet another pair of axes come crashing down toward her. Unfortunately her luck has run out though and she not able to dodge both axes. While Sasha sits down to dislodge the axe from her torso Tamull searches briefly about the room, but finds nothing. Feeling that this room surely has some secret to it Ornith also searches and finds the outline of a block within the wall. Pressing on it a secret door opens with stairs leading up…perhaps to the mysterious sound of the hammer and anvil!

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Stone Tooth

The companions set out northward in search of Stone Tooth and the ruins of the fabled Margan Kingdom. Halfway through the seventh day of hard traveling they finally see the rocky, rugged hill called Stone Tooth.

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The hill is steep with an old and bald trail winding through switchbacks up the one side, a thin curl of smoke can be seen creeping upwards…the companions look at one another, each wondering the same thing. Barbarian tribes?

Leaving their horses safely hobbled and tied in the sheltering trees below they cautiously proceed up the hill, Sasha and Ornith hanging back a bit in case the need for hiding and ambush arises. Nearing a plateau of sorts they can now see two men standing guard at the entrance into the hill itself. Tamull, Ragnarok, and Lars continue to walk forward presenting a hopefully friendly demeanor to the strangers while Ornith and Sasha hide in the bushes with bows drawn and trained on the guards. It is soon clear that the guards have seen the companions as they draw their weapons and begin to call down in a completely foreign language. Tamull attempts to communicate and show that they mean no harm while Lars makes motions that they simply intend to gain access to the hill itself. The guards will hear none of it however and haltingly call down:

“You…turn…go. We…cook…eat…you.”

The other guard laughs at this, but quickly sobers as Tamull, Ragnarok, and Lars continue to advance. Ornith and Sasha creep as close as they can while still retaining cover within the bushes. One of the guards departs inside the cave and then returns with three more people. Ragnarok attempts to intimidate the guards, but they simply stare back at him blankly before turning and speaking to each other, repeating the word “Ulf.” Taking a stab in the dark Tamull also says “Ulf.” and points at himself, the guards simply laugh. Sasha takes this opportunity to attempt to shoot an arrow at the guards’ feet, it clatters harmlessly to the side, but the guards now know they mean business. A fight quickly ensues with Ragnarok splitting the one guard’s head wide open. Lars summons a ball of fire and sends it rolling amongst the guards. The other three guards sprint for the inside of the hill shouting something about “Ulf!” All five companions sprint after the guards with Lars sending a roaring ball of flame ahead of them.

Running through the entranceway they enter a room with cracked marble floors and stairs complete with a large wooden doorway at the far end which the guards are trying vainly to close in time. Tamull manages to shove a rock in the doorway just in time as Ragnarok slices the hands off one guard and Ornith kills another. The remaining guard gives up the door and runs for an old rope bridge across a deep chasm.
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Tamull charges across the bridge unthinkingly attempting to catch him, but Ornith fires an arrow squarely into the guard’s back and all watch as he first tangles in the rope bridge and then plummets into the darkness below. Thinking the fight over they are caught off guard as arrows fly at them from the opposite side causing Tamull to nearly follow the unfortunate guard into the darkness below. Lars quickly lights one of Ornith arrows as she sends it careening to the far side. It skitters across the ground, but does its job none-the-less. Behind two pillars are two more guards armed with bows. Seeing Tamull still struggling to regain his balance on the bridge one of the guards runs up and begins attempting to cut through the supports of the bridge. Tamull attempts to rush across the bridge, but loses his balance and falls. He manages to catch himself with one hand and preventing a sure death by plummeting into the dark depths below. Thinking quickly, Sasha throws Tamull the end of a rope while Ornith shoots an arrow into the guard sending him toppling over the edge. With Ragnarok’s assistance they are able to pull Tamull back across the bridge. The last guard manages to shoot two more arrows before Sasha puts one squarely in the middle of his forehead.

Having now slain the barbarians that they had initially followed the companions regroup and through the urging of Lars decide to tie a rope to each other to ensure that all make it safely across the rope bridge…no one wanted any repeats of what had occurred to Tamull!

Successfully crossing the bridge they enter a room with three different passageways, one to the south, one to the north, and one leading from the middle of the room. Moving silently down the southern passageway Ornith hears nothing but the crackling of a fire and upon further exploration sees that the room contains what appears to be a rudimentary chimney…apparently this is the barbarians cooking area. Sasha meanwhile creeps down the middle passageway which in turn opens up into a cavern containing what appears to be items from various raids as well as two more passageways. Leaving this cavern for now the companions head up the northern passageway together. This passageway becomes a sort of hallway which everyone studies for traps as they make their way down it. Finding none, they reach the end of the hallway and see the statue of a warrior figure heavily armed, facing the statue there is a doorway just to the left and another doorway behind. Ornith creeps up to the doorway behind the group and listens carefully, the sounds of yelping and whimpering can be heard…perhaps from dogs or wolves? Ornith pushes for the group to leave this room for now and continue exploring the area ahead. Both Ragnarok and Sasha approach the warrior statue when suddenly the mouth of the statue opens and green gas comes spewing forth! Luckily for the two of them however, the gas is old and they manage to withstand it unscathed. Tamull continues to search the warrior statue, but it appears to be rather mundane. Moving closer to the remaining doorway Ornith listens once more, but can hear nothing and decides to open the door…

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Upon opening the door five barbarians immediately stand, raising their weapons at the companions! Ragnarok attempts to intimidate the barbarians, but they merely laugh at him. One of the barbarians than wields a flail directly at Ragnarok’s head, causing massive surprise damage and staggering the young fighter. Tamull manages to swings at one as it stumbles forward while the oldest of the barbarians sporting throwing axes throws one mightily at Ornith. Sasha and Lars immediately go on the offensive however, stabbing one through the throat with a crossbow bolt and singeing another three with magical flames. Ornith shoots one barbarian directly through the head, but accidentally sends one arrow flying into Tamull’s back in her haste. Having regained himself from the initial attack Ragnarok slices the head off one barbarian and then turns to cleave another from stem to stern, laughing as the guts spill onto the floor! The older barbarian upon seeing this attempts to flee past the companions, Ragnarok attempts to stop the man, but only ends up hitting Sasha, while Tamull does slice into the older man, but it is not enough to stop him from sprinting down the hallway. Deciding that they may as well open up the door that held the canine voices Ragnarok opens the heavy iron door, muscles bulging…

Smoking torches and cured hides adorn the room, there standing before them as though waiting is a giant of a barbarian with two chained wolves snarling at his feet. The barbarian bellows out, “You think you challenge Great Ulf?”

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Ulf immediately releases the wolves from their chains, one jumping at Ragnarok while the other assails Tamull. Not wanting harm to come to the wolves if at all possible Ornith attempts to change their attitudes toward a more friendly one…and sadly fails as the wolf closest to Tamull simply growls at her. Ragnarok attacks the wolf before him and Tamull smashes its back. Ornith once again tries and fails to soothe the uninjured wolf. Ragnarok prepares for another attack and while spinning his axe back around clocks unsuspecting Lars squarely in the face. Ulf leans over to roar directly into Ragnarok’s face, attacking him and dealing massive damage before turning and attacking Tamull! Ignoring the wolf momentarily Ornith fires two arrows into massive Ulf while Tamull heals himself. Sasha shoots one last crossbow bolt into the injured wolf extinguishing its life finally. Seeing this Ornith quickly turns to the last wolf hoping that she can perhaps save this creature before it is too late. She is rewarded with managing to successfully turn the wolf’s attitude to one of if not friendly to at least neutral. The companions now full out attack and focus on Ulf, landing many blows before Lars smites him with magical missiles…but not before Ragnarok is made unconscious and bleeding upon the cold stone floor. Flying into a rage Lars continues to beat upon Ulf’s now still head with his quarterstaff yelling as he flails about until Tamull catches up his arms and forces him to calm down. Ornith attempts to turn the wolf more friendly toward the companions, but the creature takes one look at Ulf’s body and bolts out of the room and down the hallway with tail tucked. Ornith can only hope that poor creature can make it out and survive on its own. Turning to their wounded friend first Ornith attempts to staunch the bleeding, unsuccessful however, Lars does manage to bring Ragnarok to a more stable condition. With little to do aside from watch and wait Tamull explores the room in search of anything that could aid Ragnarok further.

Tamull manages to find a small amount of gold in the room, a red potion, and a shirt of chainmail made of fine silvery chain links. Ornith asks if Lars can perhaps perform a spell of detect magic on the chain shirt…sadly he cannot. Tamull leaves to search the room where the other barbarians were fought and finds not only a large sack of gold, but yet another potion, this one of green liquid. Bringing both to Lars it is decided to try each. Neither has any ill side effects however it is decided that perhaps the red one will have beneficial properties for Ragnarok. Pouring the liquid down Ragnarok’s throat the companions watch as several of the bleeding wounds seal themselves and some color returns to the fighter’s face. Fearing that the barbarian who ran away could be a danger Tamull, Sasha, and Ornith return to the main cavern while Lars remains with Ragnarok to watch over him.

Upon further exploration of the main cavern they find a locked strongbox which Sasha works at unlocking while Ornith and Tamull move aside the crates blocking the remaining passageway. After several attempts Sasha cries out in excitement as the box pops open revealing more gold coins. It is decided to continue exploring down the now open passageway, which ends at a gateway sealed with a rusted over lock. Sasha is unable to pick the lock, but Tamull very handily smashes it off. Not noticing that the door is trapped in any way they open it and cautiously enter the next room.

It is a lofty cavern with a high ceiling, the tall walls are carved with the images of men doing metalworking with several old and dusty skeletons scattered about the room. The sound of rushing water is heard off in the distance along with some strange buzzing sound coming from the dark stairs to one side. There is also a door to the south, and it is this door that the three adventurers approach. Immediately the lock is picked and the door opened…

The chamber is wide and deep and made of masterful stonework. Skulls, both human and animal, hang about from tattered ropes. Four fur-robed women are at the far end and all turn as the three companions enter the room, it is clear that the rather more frazzled looking woman is the one in charge. Sasha attempts to communicate with the women, but it is too little too late!

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The leader of the group of women lets loose a shriek as she throws a vial of liquid at the three companions. Luckily her throw is wild and the vial smashes against one of the walls, a fire ball erupting from it! Tamull lunges forward and manages to effortlessly slay not one, but two of the apprentice women. The leader yet again throws another vial of liquid, this time smashing near Tamull and splattering all three companions with fire. Immediately afterward the woman spellcaster attempts to throw a sleep spell at Tamull, but his overwhelming fortitude manages to fight it off. Having put up with this woman quite enough Ornith draws back an arrow and pierces it straight through one of the woman’s sagging breasts, slaying her! Seeing her leader fall the last remaining woman scrambles wildly at the stone wall, seemingly attempting to locate some sort of hidden lever. Finding and pulling the lever the woman manages to open the door and try to run through it…but not before Ornith fires an arrow through the back of her skull. Its decided to search the spellcaster’s room before proceeding down the new hallway, all that is found however is a measly amount of gold. Ornith does however remove a few of the smaller animal skulls for closer examination later on. Creepy!

Traveling down the new hallway the companions notice that there are many interesting carvings along the walls. Tamull does stop and study them, but decides that they do not hold any religious importance. It is discovered that the hallway leads back out into the main cavern; worried about their friend Ragnarok it is decided to return and see just how he is doing. Taking stock of everyone’s injuries, including Ragnarok’s, the group decides its for the best to simply bed down in the room containing bedrolls and recover from the recent fights. After resting several hours and Tamull casting a healing spell upon Ragnarok it is decided to return to the room outside the spellcaster’s room that contained the stairway. Entering the room not exactly quietly the companions are stunned to see four flying creatures emerging from the stairway, creatures which seem to be a combination of a bat and perhaps a mosquito!

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Disgustingly all four creatures manage to attach themselves to the all of the companions except Ragnarok, plunging their needle sharp proboscis’ into the unfortunate adventurers! Tamull handily massacres the one attached to himself while everyone else attacks the ones on each other, just barely managing to slay all the creatures before harm can be done. A bit shaken from the strange creatures the adventurers continue down the stairway where they encounter a narrow stream of rushing water. Tamull urges for them to explore where the stream goes, but Ornith points out that perhaps they should continue down the stairs and see if the stream meets up with them there instead of risking injury following the stream. Descending down the stairs the companions enter a high ceilinged cavern with a fast moving stream at the far end which disappears under a low hanging ledge.

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