Lands of Katagma

Thoradins Letters Home: Oldden Part One
The Hunt for Giant Bee Honey

Dear Father and Mother,
I hope this letter reaches you well.

My brother Parsnip and I are well, we’re still travelling with our adventuring party. As always, Carric and I get in the way of each other trying to sell our wares and true to his name Despair has yet to lighten up.

We recently escorted a merchant to a small town named Oldden, a quaint little human settlement just to the east of our home. They seem to mostly produce dairy, although they do have a local craft beer. Not bad for a small town like this but it’s a little bit too heavy on the hops.

Anyway, our client was kind of enough to tell us that Oldden’s general merchant, a boisterous fellow by the name of Linus, had plenty of work for adventurers such as us. Indeed, we talked to Linus and he told us that the town had a nearby giant bee infestation. Rather than just merely clear out the infestation, he instead asked us to bring him back the honey of these bees. Apparently it’s quite the delicacy! So much so that he’s willing to pay our group 60gp to fetch it for him. It would hardly dent our family’s coffers of course, but it’s the most money I’ve seen since I started this adventurers life.

Continued here: Thoradins Letters Home: Oldden Part Two

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Thoradins Letters Home: Oldden Part Two
The hive and the halberd

Our search for these abnormally large insects began with checking the field where it supposedly attacked the local cattle. On inspection, it seemed the locals were right. However, it seemed that the cause of the attack was actually the cattles fault, it seemingly wandered into the woods and in someway spooked the bee.

We then took the forest, hoping to find some sign of their nest. I’ve not seen so many trees so closely packed together, the tree covering so thick it was almost like being back at Firepeak! Lira again proved her impressive skills as a Ranger, despite the density of the trees and the unchanging surroundings not once was she lost. It seems she has a connection with these woods as deep as our peoples connection with the stone.

To our horror, in our search for the hive we first came across a very different beast. A large bear leapt from the brush and assaulted us! It so happened that I was the closest to the enraged creature, and it soon had the best of me. Parse as always had my back, and got me back onto my feet while the rest of our party fended off the bear.

Some time later we came across our first alive giant bee. Despite our closeness to it, the creature did not seem at all hostile to us. We figured that if we followed it for long enough eventually it would lead us back to its hive. It took a long time, but eventually we were brought to a large mound that the bees seemed to be living within. We took sometime to inspect the mound from the outside, but it soon became clear we were going to make little progress without attempting to scout out the inside.

Parse, ever impatient to indecisiveness, quickly took the lead and the brunt of the bees defence of their home. You could see the years of his training with the honour guard in every movement, and the poor critters could hardly land a hit. Before too long we’d killed or subdued the entire nest.

The hive was a curious place, while you could see the bees had built some of it, most of the internal structure and construction appeared to be by one of the humanoid races. A quick search revealed a decorated tomb in memorial to a long forgotten elven hero. I was unaware the fey folk revered any of their dead in such a manner, it was almost cultured! The hero had been left with his famed halberd, a beautiful magical construction that must have been the most finely crafted weapon outside of the dwarven world for many a century. It had however been made part of an evil trap, removing the halberd caused undead warriors to be released from columns to defend the heros resting place.

They gave us a good fight, clearly they’d been skilled warriors in their previous life, but ultimately they were no match for us. Then we were left with the question of what do with the halberd. As part of this tomb, I felt it only right to leave it with them. The ancestors must be honoured, and while the other races do not seem to share our belief on this I was not about to tarnish one of the few exceptions. Most of my friends however felt that our need for the fine weapon was greater. Before the discovery of the undead guards Parse had sided with me, but he felt strongly that the use of the vile arts to protect his place of rest marked him as evil and no longer deserving of the respect we pay to our dead. In the end I had to concede, for I was unable to change the hearts of my compatriots.

The last thing left to do before heading back was to collect the honey, the basis of our quest had been not been entirely forgotten even with the discovery of the tomb! Quickly we loaded up our barrels, and our water skins, with the substance. Only pausing briefly to bury some poor soul that had wandered in before us and had fallen to the giant bees.

Once we’d loaded up, Lira quickly lead us back to Oldden. Linus was as good as his word and payed us in full for our service, even throwing in the cost of our stay at the inn!

That’s all from Parse and I as of this writing. How has life been in the peaks? Has Ferrodin yet mastered the distillery, last I heard he’d managed to prepare a whisky at double strength! I’m sure Fargrim Dankil was fond of that particular batch, but I fear it may not be to everyones taste. If a human got a hold of it he’d join his ancestors before he’d had his first glass.

I heard our sister Diesa was to be wed to one of the Hollowridge clan? Wish her the best from me, and that you did at least pick one of the hairier sons as a suitor for her sake.

May the ancestors watch over you, and the ale stay pleasantly warm
Thoradin & Parse

PS: Enclosed you should find 2 waterskins worth of that fine honey we harvested. Some humans use it for preparing their beer, we thought you may find it interesting to try mixing it with our family ale. Also enclosed is a map of the area around Oldden and the hive if we should need to procure a larger supply of the honey.

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Thoradin's Letters Home: Party Preparations Part One
Monsters in the Mist

Dear Father and Mother,
I hope this letter reaches you well.

Life has been exciting of late for Parse and I. I’ve finally managed to gather the necessary ingredients to cast the summon familiar spell Professor Nisivar taught me. Vetrix has granted me an owl bearing her divinity, that I’ve chosen to name Moltres. He’s an inquisitive fellow, and has already proved his value. The rest of my friends are well, Mallark and Lira seem to have cheered up as we’ve spent more time away from Oldden. They always seem far more at home in the wilderness.

After having acquired the honey for Linus, the jolly general goods merchant of Oldden, he told us he could get us in touch with more people who’d be interested in our work. One of the local human nobles, the Hemlock clan, is having an elaborate birthday party and everyone of import is said to be attending. It seems to be the sort of event we should be supplying to if we want to trade further with Human establishments. Linus had an invite, and here is why my knowledge of human royalty lets me down, apparently his invite was somehow dependent on the present he had bought. A bizarre custom if you ask me. Unfortunately for Linus, and us, it seems that the goods never reached Linus. If we wanted to go to this party, we will have to track them down. The best lead he could give us was that they were meant to be arriving at a nearby fishing village by boat, before getting moved to Oldden by caravan.

We chose to go to Roundwatch village first, hoping to meet his courier’s en route. If it came to the worst we would at least be able to find out if the goods ever arrived at the village. While staying overnight at a shelter maintained by the local warden we encountered a family travelling well past dark. They told us that they’d been forced to flee their home and had come to the warden to get help. As we couldn’t get hold of the warden, we offered to check it out as we were heading there anyway. We were all on edge as while the Mother and Father had been vague about the dangers they’d left behind, the children were insistent that they’d seen monsters. It seemed likely that a rotten fate had befallen the men we were meant to meet.

It was after talking to the family that it dawned on us that Linus was likely smuggling these goods in, for Roundwatch was by no means a trade port. Even calling such a small settlement a village is akin to describing an ember as a flame. I determined that when we resolved whatever had befallen Linus’s friends I would need to talk to my own to determine what actions we should take. I was upset to learn that Linus does not respect the laws of his land and wanted to bring up the option of turning over the goods, if found, to the proper authority instead of returning them to Linus.

After the best part of a day travelling we arrived at Roundwatch’s outskirts. The village was still smoldering from the fires the night before, and there were clear signs of struggling. We also spotted the watchtower the village was named after in the distance. I tasked Moltres with scouting the tower while we investigated the village proper. Whatever had attacked the village had left, and all signs indicated that they’d gone to the tower. Moltres confirmed this was likely as it had spotted shadows walking past windows but hadn’t managed to identify what occupied the tower.

The tower turned out to have several basement levels as well as the expected upper levels. We decided to investigate the lower floors first, assuming that they’d be faster to search. As it turns out this wasn’t an accurate assumption. In our exploration we found a large variety of loot, including a large stash of notes guaranteed by a dwarven noble. I’ve included one with this letter, I was wondering if our archivist would happen to know more about the noble named on them?

Eventually we encountered a number of fish like men performing a rite over a captured human. Seeing that the human was in peril we moved quickly to defeat the fishmen and rescue him. As it happened, the human in question was one of the contacts we’d been told about by Linus.

to be continued

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Amafey's Notes [1] - Arrival at Northwatch

After weeks of travel from Larrillian, briefly stopping in Dormarsh, Beiro and I finally reached the town of Coombesgate. We had been told by the locals of Dormarsh that the Baron was to be holding a feast and would be looking for entertainment, so this seemed like a good opportunity to start making a name for myself in these parts.

Upon arriving at Coombesgate, we found a guard who was helping to find last minute entertainment for the festival. I decided to perform one of my trusty favourite songs and made perhaps the best performance of my life. Clearly impressed, the guard gave me an invite for the feast, to be held that evening.

Beiro and I made our way to the nearest tavern, the Fallow Sow, in order to set up for . On the way, a little girl approached us, selling sweet pastries for the festival, made by her mother. She seemed innocent enough and they were fairly priced, so both Beiro and I had one each. They were pretty tasty, but nothing to write home about. We proceeded to the tavern and I bought us a round, giving me the opportunity to chat with the barkeep. I wanted to try and write a song about the Baron for his feast, so wanted to gather some information, although all the barkeep was able to tell us was that the baron was bald and had a mustache. Well, I suppose that was something to work with. I made some notes while finishing the beer and Beiro bought us the next round.

While working on my notes, I heard someone come into the tavern and a hush fall over the room. Turning around, I saw what I presumed must be a tiefling, stopped in the doorway. I had never seen one before, but having read about them in the library, this guy seemed to fit the bill. He made his way over to the bar and the noise level resumed. He requested some wine from the barkeep and addressed Beiro and myself in elvish, which both surprised and impressed me. We spoke briefly and it seems as though he’s a scholar from a university in Eldwamman and had been invited to the feast by the Baron as well. We bid each other good day and he retreated to a table elsewhere in the tavern.

Having come up with some inspiration for the song, including the lines “We are gathered here for the feast of sow, the time has come for our hunger to go”, I asked the barkeep about the opportunity to practice in the tavern in exchange for keep for the night. He obliged and I made a shaky but adequate performance of the new song. The barkeep just seemed happy it was a different song from the one the local bard always plays, so gave Beiro and I a room for the night.

We made our way to the feast and, after having persuaded the doormen that Beiro was needed to accompany me, we took some time to mingle with the crowd. The food at the feast itself was exquisite, I’ve not had food this good since leaving Kennrylatin, although it was a little richer than what I had at home. I was seated near the baron and had a lot of people asking for stories of Larillian. From my little pocket of the woods, I didn’t really feel like I had any great stories and certainly know little of the political situation at the moment, but they seemed sated by my retellings of old Uster legends and a couple of fey stories I remember reading back in the great library.

At last it was time for my performance. People had started to mingle, so I was to be more background music, but I was determined I could make an impact with a great performance. However, the butterflies in my stomach, weighted a bit more heavily than normal after the feast, stopped me from performing at my best. It wasn’t terrible, people were too drunk to care that I missed a note or two, but I know I didn’t have the kind of impact I was hoping for, nobody’s going to remember me tomorrow.

My set finished and somewhat crestfallen, I decided to seek out Beiro to see what he had gotten up to. I found him conversing with the Baron and the tiefling from earlier, whose name I now got was Melech. It turns out he baron is after a painting depicting Uster and an elf hero from the same time period, apparently residing in a manor house on the outskirts of the fey woods. This kind of adventure sounds right up my street, so I volunteered the both of us to join the party that was to retrieve it.

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Baldwin Rumwald's Notes [1] - First Sow Celebration

After a few days staying at the barrack in Coombesgate I received an invite from the Barron to his feast celebrating the First Sow. I stayed around in Coombesgate awaiting it, mainly spent drinking and gambling in the taverns. When the time came I made my way over to feast, presented my invite and was shown to my seat.

I was sat next to the captain of the guard, Harvey Springman. We conversed about the new Steward and his soldiers up at Norcragden. The food was plentiful and so was the drink so I soon became rather tipsy. Which was probably for the best as the entertainment was somewhat subpar.

After the meal the Barron approached me and asked for my help in retrieving a painting depicting Uster from a manor house on the outskirts of the fey woods. The Barron then introduced me to a tiefling by the name of Melech, some kind of university wizard who would be able to help me with the task.

Somewhat rudely, a ragged looking Elf then comes over and interrupted us, clearly having been eavesdropping on the conversation. Then would you believe, another Elf, one of the entertainers from before appears. One way or another both Elves also end up being recruited by the Barron. I did question their usefulness but to no avail.

So now it seems there will be four of us.

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Amafey's Notes[2] - The Ol' Bandit Surprise

Following the epic quest we have now been tasked with, our newly formed group, comprised of myself, Beiro, Melech and a local guard who went by the name of Baldwin agreed to reconvene in The Fallow Sow the following morning. The idea was that we would spend some time shopping for any new equipment, maybe gather some other information and then set out mid-afternoon. However, I’d forgotten the deal I’d made with the innkeeper, that I was to play the following day as well in order to earn my keep for the night. Having seen I had forgotten this, the innkeeper became concerned that I would skip out on him, so I left my flute as collateral for the night.

In the morning, we met in the bar for breakfast and made our plans. Melech and I were to head to the Coombesgate library, while Beiro and Baldwin were to shop for some new supplies. In the library, it took little time between Melech and myself to locate a couple of books about the Fey Woods. Through combinations of pieces of folk tales, we were able to find reference to an alliance brokered between the fey and the humans, seemingly with reference to the Forest Queen on both sides. I also had a quick look into Baron Ramsgate III‘s family history and past dealings. There didn’t seem to be much in terms of notable dealings, but his family history goes right back to the early barons in the time of Ustia, which would go towards explaining why he’s after this painting.

Melech and I returned to the tavern in the early afternoon and met up with Baldwin and Berio. They’d acquired a couple of tents, an extra waterskin and some new clothes for Beiro (It’s about time!). I had a drink for some Dutch courage, retrieved my flute from behind the bar and started up my evening performance. I played things a little safer, sticking to the stuff I knew, but never has it gone down quite so well! People were enraptured and the tavern kept filling and filling throughout the evening. I switched things up as time went on, telling another fey story I had read while in Kennyrlatin, then shifting back to my ukulele for the rest of the evening. The evening’s performance netted me a fair amount in tips and had me and my teammates well supplied with drink. The barkeep extended his utmost gratitude at the end of the night and said I was more than welcome to come back anytime.

The following morning, we set out bright and early on our way to Westpine. The road was well built and it was an easy walk. Melech and I chatted about magic, with him explaining that he’s specifically studying the “evocation” field of magic. He then asked for the tale of how Beiro and I came to be travelling together, which I delivered with my usual flair. As we proceeded through a copse of trees however, a hooded figure approached us, demanding our coin in exchange for allowing us through. To further persuade us, four of his compatriots appeared from the undergrowth, with arrows trained on our group. I inquired what the toll was, but he said it was however much we had on us, determined to leave our pockets empty.

I mentioned my performance of the previous night, which had the whole town talking and whether instead he would like to hear me play, but he was clearly unwilling to take any chances about the magic of music unwilling to let me play anything. I put down my uke and rapier, took my coin purse and proceeded to the front of the group, out of ideas that would put us at any sort of advantage in this situation. As I stepped forwards though, I noticed a look in his eye, not directed at the coin that he had said he wanted so much, but towards me. In a moment of desperation, I tried something that is not normally in my nature and attempted to seduce him, aware that many humans found elves, or at least someone with elven features, beautiful. All the time I have spent performing has clearly paid off and, despite lacking confidence in what I was doing, he was entranced by the suggestion and I was able to approach him. I made the few steps towards him, uttering other sweet nothings and placed my hand on his should. I then proceeded to seductively run my hand down the side of my leg, until it hit the cool metal in my boot, at which point I pulled out my dagger and stabbed him in the chest.

Having not made my intentions clear to the group, chaos then broke loose. I heard arrows let loose behind me (although with a slight delay as they figured out what was happening) and the leader was able to shove me back, keeping me further at bay with a slice of his longsword, cutting across my chest. As I recoiled, I saw a bolt of energy hit him in the side of the head, presumably a spell from Melech and I took the opportunity from this further loss of concentration to lunge in again, stabbing him in the heart. Clear that he wasn’t getting back up again, I turned, whipping the flute out of my belt and started to support Baldwin, clearly a capable fighter in these conditions. In the brief moments I’d been dealing with the leader though, two of the other archers were down and the others fleeing.

We were not without casualties ourselves, however, Melech was down, with an arrow embedded in his side. Knowing that he had probably just saved my life, I was determined to not let him die and, even with my limited knowledge in this area, was able to stabilise him quickly. After quickly checking over the bodies, we quickly brought him out of the copse into the open fields again, determined to not be surprised again. With a short rest, we were all fit enough to continue and fortunately did not encounter any more trouble through the rest of the day

An uneventful night passed and we set out once again, hoping to arrive at Westpine by nightfall. At around midday, another figure, albeit a much shorted one this time, appeared in the distance. A dwarf was hurrying about at the side of the road, unloading his wagon which had gotten stuck in the ditch. He requested our help, first asserting that we weren’t bandits, to continue to offload the wagon so we would be able to pull it out of its predicament. Delegating the heavier stuff to the stronger members of the party, I helped out where I could until we had cleared the wagon. A combined effort to pull the wagon out was met with failure, even though it was now empty. The dwarf examined the underside and noted the axle was broken and that we’d need to fix it before it was going anywhere. If only we could find some way to keep the wagon lifted up, he might be able to use his blacksmithing skills to fix it…

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Baldwin Rumwald's Notes [2] - Road to Westpine

As the First Sow Celebration drew to a close my new companions and I agreed to meet at the The Fallow Sow on the morn to prepare for the mission. I headed back to the barracks to sleep, somewhat drunk from the celebration I was quickly so.

The next day I met the others at the tavern as agreed. We discussed plans for the day over breakfast. Beiro and I would shop for necessary items for travel while Amafey and Melech would do some research in the local library. I questioned what time that day we would be leaving. However it turned out Amafey had made a deal to perform tonight in return for staying at the tavern for free. Thus we would be staying an extra night in Coombesgate.

Berio and I headed to the local stores purchasing two tents, some tools and additional water skins. Berio also got some sorely needed new clothes. We then headed back to Tavern and spent the rest of morning and early afternoon quietly drinking, Berio isn’t much of a talker. Amafey and Melech arrived back and it seemed it was time for Amafey’s performance.

This time the performance was far from subpar and one the very best I had ever heard! Maybe I was wrong to question Amafey’s usefulness? Soon the tavern was rammed and the drink was flowing, with me and my companions getting free drinks all night!

The next day we set out early on the road to Westpine. With the road being well built we made good time, with Berio and I walking at the front and Amafey and Melech behind. Berio and I walked in silence while the other two chatted. I wasn’t feel that good after days of drinking and wasn’t really in the mood for talking.

Further along the road amid a copse of trees a hooded figure approached demanding all our coin to allow us to pass. Bloody bandits! Instinctively I reached for my sword but stopped as he pointed out his four companions armed with short bows among the trees. It didn’t look like the odds were in our favor.

I attempted to persuaded the bandit leader to let us through but to no avail, he was determined. Amafey then offer to perform for them in exchange for passage, probably an attempt to use some bardic magic, but the bandit refused. She then put down her instrument and rapier, took out her coin purse and approached the bandit leader. An offer of a toll was rejected and Amafey switched tack attempting to seduce the man! She managed to approach without him objecting and suddenly drew a knife stabbing him in the chest.

Then all hell broke loose as the other four bandits opened fire down upon us. I drew my bow shooting back and hitting one of the bandits among the tree. The bandit leader had drawn his sword and slashed at Amafey sending her staggering backwards. Suddenly darts of energy struck some of the bandits, presumably magic cast by Melech. I saw Berio out the corner of my eye throwing a Javelin striking another.

I further volley of arrows was fired from the trees, with Berio and I firing back. Two of the bandits were hit and fell. During the exchange however Melech had also been hit and crumpling to the ground with an arrow in the side.

The other two bandit archers, having seen their companions fall, turned and fled.

I then heard flute music and felt a weird sensation, presumable Amafey had dealt with the bandit leader and was performing some kind of magic. Berio throw a Javelin after one of the fleeing men striking him in the leg, however he did not fall and we let them go.

Amafey rushed over to aid Melech while me and Berio dispatched of the fallen bandits, searching them for anything useful. We found nothing much, other than a bit of coin. So we carried Melech out of the trees into a clearing and rested while we waited for him to come around.

We continued along the road without further trouble stopping to camp when night fell. We headed out again in the morning. The day remained uneventful until around midday when we came across a dwarven blacksmith with his wagon stuck in the ditch. He requested our help in unloading the wagon and Amafey quickly offered up out assistance. Berio and I set about helping with the heavier items.

Once the wagon was empty we attempted to pull it out of the ditch, but alas without success. The dwarf informed us one of the axles was broken and asked we help lift and support the wagon so he could fix it.

I am beginning to wonder at the point if we need to leave him and press on to Westpine before we have to spend another night on the road…

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Amafey's Notes[3] - Into the Woods

Having asceratined that the dwarf (who we had now discovered was called Smordin “Smokey” Ironhammer) would be able to fix the axle if we were able to lift the wagon up, we generous heroes set about working out how we could do this. Beiro and I located a decently sized tree to chop down using Beiro’s handaxes. Baldwin hefted the tree down in a handful of mighty blows and then I was able to fashion it into a useable pivot with a modicum of my woodwork skills.

Melech and Beiro had delved into the woods further in search of some kind of rock to roll underneath and soon returned triumpantly with a large boulder that they were only just about able to roll. With our powers combined, lifting the wagon and propping it up with the rock was now a trivial task and Smokey went about fixing the axle. He seemed happy to chat, so I asked whether he had heard the Brightwood name before, hoping that his travelling profession and longer life might’ve meant he had heard of the name before or bumped into someone with that name more recently. Alas, he had not, but he quickly worked out why I was asking and kindly offered to pass on the message if he ever bumped into my mother.

With the axle fixed in about an hour, we hefted the wagon out of the ditch and were able to send Smokey on his way. In return for our help he gave us some sort of masterwork token. It seems as though he is one of a number of travelling forges, a bunch of highly skilled metalworkers (I would presume majoratively dwarves) that travel the lands with their forges, set up shop temporarily in different towns and sell their wares. He was on his way to Coombesgate and said he would honour us with some masterwork if we were passing back that way. Even if we were not, any of the other travelling forges would be willing to exchange some of their craft for the token. As he departed, he remembered one last thing. He showed us a mysterious metal that he kept on a chain around his neck. It was something called adamantine and, noting that we were heroic adventures, asked that if we ever came across any, to bring it to him. He would be honoured just to put his mark on anything crafted from it.

Only about an hour’s trek from leaving Smokey behind, we crested a small hill and saw the farmland and village of Westpine spread out before us. Rolling farmland converged into a handful of houses with a thickening woodland spread out behind. Just as we were enjoying the view however, we heard a commotion from down the path. A raging bull thundered towards us down the path. “Bessie!” a distraught farmer yelled from far behind. I whipped out my flute and started playing a soothing melody, meant to calm the cow and let it know we meant it no harm. As it drew closer, the rage and panic started to fade from it’s eyes and it drew to a more steady canter, pulling up just in front of us. I petted the now docile cow on the head and it mooed contentedly. The farmer finally caught up with us and breathlessly thanked us for catching the cow. We inquired as to what and where the local tavern might be an he directed us towards the The Moody Cow at the entrance of the village. We thanked him and he led the now calm Bessie away

We arrived at The Moody Cow just after lunch and I offered to buy a round of drinks. Melech and, surprisingly, Beiro reckoned it was too early to start drinking and instead went out for a walk, presumably to check the village outskirts of the woods. Baldwin, however, took me up on my offer and we sat up at the bar drinking our ale. We got talking to the barman and tried to gather some information about the Fey Woods. The innkeeper seemed uneasy about the whole idea of the woods, flicking between warding us off of entering, but declaring that all of the stories were a bunch of rubbish. When I called him out on this he stayed quiet. His heavily pregnant wife warned us of something called the “Roaming Cottage”, a cottage that appears in different places in the woods from which anyone who entered never returned, something else that her husband rubbished. He seemed to be more concerned that any mysterious happenstances, including people going missing, were being caused by some group called the “Crimson Riders”, not that he or anyone had ever seen them. We asked about routes into the woods and he mentioned an overgrown path that led from the north of the village to some old hall (probably the hall that the painting is supposed to be in).

The general consensus seemed to be that most of the villagers don’t go into the deeper woods for one reason or another, although almost entirely down to superstition and hearsay these days rather than down to any particular threat. I requested to perform for my keep again and we all had a very merry evening, with many of the local farmers staying for extra drinks. It wasn’t enough to pay for my allies’ keep, as they were only a small family run business with limited clientelle, but they were still grateful for the increased footfall that my performing had brought in.

We set off early in the morning and, following the path the innkeeper had mentioned, found ourselves quite quickly at the hall. It was in an obvious state of disrepair, with the smell of rotting wood cast out over the local area, but it was still standing proud in it’s little clearing. We gave it a once-over from the outside: a long and fairly thin building, two stories high, a small river flowing in, to what looked to be a fountain of some description. It warranted an inside look and we carefully made our way through the front and only door. Inside, the state of disrepair was all the more obvious as the rich damp smell was thick in the air. The second floor consisted of a stone walkway that ran around the edge of the room, although some of the wooden props had given way causing it to have crumbled in one corner. The room itself narrowed to small gaps with doors on either side and we could see that the fountain at the far end of the room was cracked, spilling it’s flow of water off into the walls.

As we carefully proceeded, I called out in common to check that there were no denizens that we were disturbing. In response, we were greeted by an unending ear-splitting screech. This disturbing sound was emanating from a group of fungi located about halfway along the hall. “They’re Shreiker Fungus” yelled Melech, above the din. “Harmless themselves, but we should be careful, they’re often located near Violent ones”. We paused and instead opted to check the doors on either side of the small openings and found they led up to the higher stone walkway. Once on the walkway, we could see that was some sort of separate room located above the fountain, or at least two doors leading off of the walkway. Neither door yielded to a sharp push or tug, clear that something was blocking it the other side. Wielding Beiro’s axes yet again, we got to work on the doors, the sodden wood peeling away like paper. Even so, on both sides we were met with piles of rubble. We had failed to notice that part of the roof had collapsed in our initial investigation.

Of course, with the roof collapsed, it should be accessible from outside and having spent so much of my childhood climbing up and down trees (even if it was a little scary at times), it made perfect sense to me to scale it from the outside. As we turned to go outside, Melech asked if anyone else could hear giggling. Somewhat bemused, the rest of us slowly shook our heads, but then I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turning to look, I did not see anything. Melech called out, searching for a response in one of his many languages, but did not get a response. I knew I had a language that perhaps would get a response, but decided it was worth keeping this knowledge hidden at the precise moment.

It’s worth mentioning what I’ve read about the Fey before. They are tricksters by nature, not specifically malicious, but enjoy playing pranks on unsuspecting adventurers to keep themselves entertained. Obviously being in the Fey Woods, we were likely to come across some, and I was concerned that we might need to come to some sort of arrangement to take anything away, painting included, from the woods. The fact I knew their language, Slyvan, would likely prove to be a boon, but when dealing with tricksters, it’s worth keeping such advantageous cards close to your chest.

We headed out of the building and we noticed a chest in the rubble, that no-one could remember seeing before. Seeing where this was going, I ignored it, at the very least it was something we could investigate later. Beiro and Baldwin on the other hand seemed to be determined to deal with it now. While they started scrabbling about in the rubble, Melech stepped outside the hall and with a splash was suddenly soaked by an invisible force. It was clear he was starting to get quite grumpy about the whole situation. Beiro and Baldwin also exited shortly afterwards, confirming my suspicions that the chest was a mirage.

Darting around to the back of the hall, I made short work of the outside of the building, hoping up to the roof in a handful of deft hops and steps. I turned around to find Beiro had also followed me up, clearly also confident of his climbing skills. We inspected the hole in the roof and could see inside the small room, although with no clear way back up, we decided to lower a rope in first. I lowered myself down and started exploring. The room seemed to be some kind of small alter room with a door leading off to the side. Contained within the room was a small alter with a rotting cushion on it and a suspiciously empty picture frame on the wall. A small search unearthed a little coffer with a handful of gold and trinkets. Last of all, I checked the door, which seemed to offer a staircase to the floor below, which would lead us to the other side of the shriekers. As I checked this out, I heard a voice, in Sylvan, say “Most people would’ve taken the front door”. Still wanting to keep my language skills hidden, I did not respond, but turned to find the the creature finally trying to address me.

Perched in the rafters, I saw what looked to be a small dragon seemingly the source of the voice. Chances our this is our little fey friend, as dragons don’t tend to speak Slyvan. Hopefully I can get some useful information from them, although I’m not holding my breath.

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Baldwin Rumwald's Notes [3] - Westpine and The Fey Woods

We needed something to prop the wagon up while the dwarf repaired it. Between us we decided a boulder and lever made from a tree would work. Melech and I set off into the woods to find one while Amafey and Beiro set about finding and cutting down a suitable tree. Melech and I quickly located a large boulder and managed to roll it back towards the wagon.

We lifted the wagon and positioned the boulder just behind the front axle. With the boulder being sufficiently large we didn’t need the tree as a lever. The dwarf set about repairing the axle and we chatted to him while he worked. We learned his named was Smordin Ironhammer and that he was on his way to Coombesgate having left Westpine earlier on.

After the axle was repaired we pushed the wagon out of the ditch. Smordin refused our offer to help reload the wagon. To reward us for our help he gave us a golden token which he explained could be exchanged for metalwork from him or a number of other traveling blacksmiths.

We parted ways with Smordin and set off again towards Westpine. We had learned from Smordin that it was about a two hour walk.

As we approached Westpine an angry cow came thundering towards us down with a shouting farmer running after. I jumped aside out of its path, as did some of the others. Amafey however took out her flute and started playing. This seemed to calm the animal and it came to halt before us. The farmer caught up and thanked us for stopping the cow. We asked about a tavern to stay at and he informed us the only tavern was the The Moody Cow just off the square.

We got to the tavern in the early afternoon. Melech and Beiro thought it was too early to drink and set off for a walk around the village and nearby woods. Amafey and I however ordered some drinking and began talking to the tavern keeper and his wife about the Fey Woods. They told us numerous stories about strange events and people entering the wood to never return. The tavern keeper insisted the stories were rubbish but nonetheless cautioned against entering. It all Sounded like a load of superstitious nonsense to me. We also learned of a path leading to a old hall in the woods. Likely a good lead to follow on the morrow.

Amafey performed that evening in return for free board at the tavern, though the rest of us had to pay. That silver from those bandits is coming in handy! The tavern itself had no rooms, so we slept in the main room after it had emptied out.

We woke early, ate breakfast and then set off down the path into the woods. We soon arrived at an old dilapidated hall with its entrance at the path’s end. We scouted around the outside of the building, It was two stories high, with windows on the second level. There was a stream flowing through a grate into what looked like a fountain at the back.

We headed back around the front and made our way into the hall. We could see a stone walkway around the height of the second floor, two doors further in that looked like they might lead up to it and the fountain at the far end. As I moved towards the stairs with the others in tow, piercing screeches erupted. Melech shouted out that this sound was possible Shrieking Fungi and that they were potential dangerous. I could see them just ahead beyond the doors, looking like deformed enormous mushrooms. To avoid going past them we made our way up the stairs onto the walkway. One end of the walkway lead to a set of doors into what was a separate room above the fountain. I likely place for the painting I thought.

We attempted to enter the room via the doors, but soon discovered the doors were blocked by the collapsed roof from above it. It occurred to us that with the roof gone we would be able to climb in from around the back. As we headed out the building a number of harmless but annoying pranks were played on us. First a mirage of a chest Beiro and I fruitlessly tried to uncover. Water was then thrown over Melech, followed by much giggling! I couldn’t for the life of me see who was doing it. Amafey said it was probably the Fey.

We continued around to the back of the hall and saw the hole left by the collapsed roof we had missed earlier. Amafey and Beiro climbed up the outside and then using a rope Amafey was lowered down inside. After a short while I heard a weird voice speak out. Maybe one of the fey?

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Amafey's Notes[4] - Little Friendly Dragon

Confronted with the little Sylvan-talking dragon, I asked: “Do you speak common, little dragon?” It cocked it’s head to one side, not entirely sure if it had understood, but then responded in a language I didn’t recognise. Clear that we were trying to find a language that we both understood, I tried Elvish, to which it shook its head, then finally conceded to Sylvan, just to make some progress in conversation.

Having established our language of communication, I figured my best option was courtesy. This could be his home, but if we apologised for breaking and entering they might decide we’re friendly and divulge some information about the obviously missing items. “Sorry if we’ve intruding..” I started, but the dragon cut across me, “whatcha lookin’ for?”. The jig was up and it was worth it at this point to see whether the dragon was going to help or not. Any information might be useful, even if it was in a roundabout messing with us for amusement kind of way. “There was clearly something on this cushion here,” I said, trying to take the focus off of our true goal “and in this picture frame too. Do you have any idea where they might’ve gone?” “Maybe” the dragon responded, clearly not trying their hardest to be helpful.

Realised the little dragon might have his own little hoard, I offered a trade. He’d obviously been watching for a little while. “I want what was in that little coffer”. Easy come, easy go, I thought, at least we could get a lead on the painting and perhaps something else as well. At this point, a voice piped up in my ear. Melech had cast some sort of spell allowing us to communicate in secret and wanted to check everything was fine. All he and the others could hear was babble in Sylvan. While making my best thinking face towards the dragon, deliberately over the aspects of the deal, I indicated to Melech the current situation and that everything seemed to be fine.

Turning my attention back to the dragon, I agreed to give him the items from the coffer in exchange for information, but, not entirely trusting the usefulness of the information, offered one item now and the rest later. He picked out the Ewer from the assembled items, swooped down to collect and returned to the rafters. “Try over there” it smirked, pointing towards the corner of the room, opposite the door that led downstairs. I did as it said and eventually found a secret door leading to some sort of storeroom. Still not entirely trusting the situation and half-expecting to get locked in a musty closer, I announced what was going on in elven, so that at least Melech and Beiro could understand and come help if necessary.

The room contained a bunch of fabrics and robes and a heap of dusty old incense-burners. I started sifting through the fabrics, looking for anything with a pattern or better yet, a design that could indicate it was the painting canvas. The majority of the fabric seemed to be faded ceremonial robes, but as I unfurled some more towards the back, something heavy fell out with a thunk and started rolling across the floor. Quickly scooping the object up, I found it to be some sort of ornate crown, intricately designed. As I scooped it up, it started shrinking slightly, until it reached a size that would make it perfectly onto my own head. Poking my head out the storeroom door, I motioned to the dragon “Is this what I should be looking for?” I said, waving the crown. “Perhaps” replied the dragon, launching itself off into the air from the rafters and out of sight. I guess I’ll keep the rest of the treasure…

I clambered back up the rope and we regrouped at the base of the back of the hall. I showed the others the crown and passed it to Melech. Having the biggest head, I expected that, if the crown were to change size again, it would have the most obvious effect in his hands and I was proven correct. We all watched as it grew large enough to fit onto Melech’s big ol’ horned head. Clearly magical. We took a break over the next hour, starting lunch, while Melech examined the crown more closely. Suddenly, he triumphantly announced he had a breakthrough. This was the crown of the Forest Queen, a symbol of the agreement referenced in the folk tales we had read back at the library. Once “attuned” to a wearer, it would allow them to speak Sylvan and fey would be generally friendlier to them. As the only human in our group, it seemed best to have Baldwin wear the crown and I would be able to keep my own Sylvan linguistic abilities hidden until appropriate again.

The party was split on what to do next. I was confident in my searching abilities and declared that there was nothing left for us at the hall. Baldwin, on the other hand, was certain that there was more to find and wanted a proper look himself. We all clambered onto the roof and into the back room again. After another brief search of the altar room, which didn’t turn up anything novel, we proceeded down the stairs, Baldwin first, to see where they came out. A proper look indicated that the entrance on the other side was hidden and came out just beside the cracked fountain. Baldwin burst through the door and was immediately lashed out at by a violent shroom and the incessant screeching started up yet again. Baldwin replied in part and hacked the shroom down, with a little help from Melech’s magical fire. There remained a screeching from the other side of the room, so Beiro showed off some of his cooking expertise and made a mushroom skewer using his javelin.

Seeing that the others had the shrooms under control, I decided to get my feet wet, quite literally, and examine the fountain. In the centre there was a little statue of a humanoid creature with wings and sat atop its little head was a tiny stone replica of the crown. It was clearly quite worn down from the years since its inception and did not seem to yield any more secrets. As I was inspecting the statue, the screams were suddenly silenced, leaving only the soft babbling of the water and the drip from the damp. This was shortly disturbed though by a large splash, as Baldwin came wading in to look at the statue too. He took the crown from his head and tried to put it on the statue. Nothing happened.

Back outside the hall, we took another short rest, allowing the gashes the shroom inflicted on Baldwin to stop bleeding. After a brief discussion, as to whether it was worth heading back to town (I was interested in whether any of the village folk of Westpine knew of the crown and to have a comfy bed to sleep on for the night), we started following the river upstream. After about an hour’s walk, I heard an “ooof” sound behind me, as something had careened into Melech’s chest at full pace. A clearly flustered small humanoid figure with wings picked itself and quickly stuttered “Hide!”

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