Day 1: Down Stoneshadow Pass, past the House of Pacified Shadows, and into the Shadow Crag Mountains. You reach the town of Sunset by, well, sunset
As you are traveling past the House of Pacified Shadows you meet the Keeper heading the other way on a donkey. He greets you, offering up riddles and gifts for each of you:
“I heard you were headed this way on a quest…
The people know you now. They know the the places you go, how many of you there are, how you dress, and even if you are hiding, they’d probably spot you by the way you walk…I mean, you have fans now…you’re celbrities…don’t be surprised if people harmlessly keep tabs on you, if for no other reason then to give them something to talk about!
I have gifts for you all this fine day, that may come in handy….
Hrothgar, Mighty Warrior…you have been taken in by the land…
What good is a warrior who cannot reach his opponent?
These are the beads of Bolin…when you cut this cord and these beads fall, you will be blessed with the ability to walk on air for 48 seconds, and even if you don’t take to the air, you will be quite a bit faster!
Stern, A holy warrior…I cannot tell you how I appreciate what you have done for Lady Mensheng…I care not how she comes to piety…the heavens are a big place, our gods have always welcomed visitors
You deal death to evil, but what does one who deals death need?
Protection from death!
This is Chu Jung’s Oil..should you come across the evil dead, crush this bottle in your hand, and let it’s oil annoint you, you will be given protections against the kinds of horrid things the evil dead spread for 48 seconds and not a moment longer…just enough time to wade into them and show them what for!
Grey, The Lord of Threnody…The people of Fanlu have been so happy to see you, I hear you have been quite a man about town of late…and master Sohei spoke personally of how you helped to resettle the refugees from Littlemountain. I applaud your good works young master..
Now, What is Power?
This scroll is one of Twen Chang’s Universal Insights . When you are stumped, when you must know a thing, open and read, it will be your best chance…you may know
more than you realize!
Grognak, Wizard from the west…we have learned so much from each other…I wish I could dissuade you from this quest for selfish reasons, I feel we have so much more to learn…I know I have much to share with you still, Are you sure you wish to go along on this dangerous quest..you are tempting fate…
What does one who tempts fate need?
These are Li Na’s Lucky dice. In a moment of trial, cast them and see what you get! They may well save your life.
And Caris, the woman with everything…beauty, faith, and purpose.
I offer you this vestment of gold cloth, it has been in our care for ages, and many fine heroes have worn it.
It will protect you on this quest of yours. It represents the support of my order, and my deepest hope that no harm shall come to you.
See it back to me safely when your quest is done.”
That day passes quietly, and you end up reaching the Town of Sunset, where you all meet that little towns constable, Lin Min. Following is a paraphrasing of some of what she had to say to Caris:
“One cannot live with out a heart, and heart is the homeland.
Heart is Homeland…have you ever heard that saying before lady Caris?
It’s something they say a lot in the forests where you are headed. When things get tough, and people have to really find their courage, they say, “heart is homeland”
My grand mother once told me a story. When she was very young, elves like you and Grey, came to Shen Ling to help drive off a terrible shaman who was terrorizing the countryside. After they drove him away, one of them stayed behind in Shen Ling for a time to make sure he didn’t’ come back. Her name was Layna. She fell in love with the lord of the town. They say she had golden hair, and armor of silver, and she wore the sign of a unicorn just like you. You look like you could be right out of that story Caris…have you ever heard it before?
Well, she came to love Shen Ling very much, and she fell in love with the towns constable. They had children and married, She became famous for her beauty, and for her worship of a unicorn goddess. They began to call her the Golden lady, and they even built a shrine to her goddess in the town, and shrines to her in the surrounding towns.
But years later the shaman returned to Shen Ling to do evil again, and at the head of a much greater force. It was the time of Magori and his war band, and the shaman had become one of Magori’s generals. Grandmother said the locals called this Shaman Grim Eye, because he was missing the eye the Golden Lady had shot out with her bow last time he came around.
Grim Eye led armies of mountain goblins and orcs into the Woodsman Woods and the Forrest of Shen Ling. The proud bears of the Woodsman Woods fought back. The Golden Lady and her valiant lover fought back. The very protector spirit of Shen Ling Forrest awakened and rose up to fight against Grim Eye. They were so close to defeating him but…
There’s a old monastery above Shen Ling, and the monks there made a deal with Grim Eye to save their own skins. They led him to the focus of Shen Lings protector spirit. Grim Eye defiled the spirit of Shen Ling forest, and turned him into a terrible giant made of black shadow, who could freeze a mans life blood, then rip him apart where he stood with shadowy claws. The Night Walker, as they called him, rampaged across the land each night, leaving a path of bodies and grief to be faced each morning.
In the chaos Grim Eye renewed his attacks with vengeance. No one was safe at night, except for Grim Eye and his raiders. Grandmother said they slit the throats of those they captured, hang them up like slaughtered pigs and drained out their blood. Grim Eye and his raiders would cover themselves with the blood of those they murdered. Wearing the blood of a murdered innocent was like a spell that kept the Night Walker at bay, but the good people of Shen Ling had no such spell of their own.
The treacherous monks led Layna and her valiant husband into a trap. Grim Eye Killed them both, and it seemed like he would win in the end, but the Gods sent down a new protector spirit, a beautiful white unicorn, with a golden horn and mane, in honer of the Golden Lady’s Sacrifice. The unicorn destroyed the Night Walker, and Finished Grim Eye too, and ever sense, Shen Ling has been a blessed place, free of the troubles most of us must deal with.”
Day 2: South through the mountains to Hanging Hold
Hanging Hold is a fortified monastery that straddles the road south at its most precarious point. An entirely male order of muscle bound monks calls this isolated place home. They seem intensely focused on physical fitness, approach wrestling as an art and spiritual practice, and love to drink and make merry when they are not training. Chang “Strong Shoulders” is this small orders keeper, and welcomed you all warmly. While this order of monks is not strictly a part of the House of Pacified Shadows, they are allied with it, and defer to the house as the ranking shrine in the area.This is where you all took part in a heroes blessing ritual and the challenge of 3 buckets. The ritual bestows a mystical “Hero’s Blessing” upon you which will last for 7 days. The Hero’s Blessing bestowed a +1 bonus to AC, to hit, and to saves, but which bonuses you got depended upon how well you fared in the rituals memorable Icy conclusion.
After a hardy breakfast, there was another gift besides the blessing. Chang approached Grognak with a small box and presented it to Grognak.
“The keeper favors you on this quest wizard. Apparently he want to see you make it home alive”
And with that, Grognak was presented with a Scarab of Protection, which he will be expected to return when he comes back this way.
Day 3: Still in the mountains but starting to level off and head back down. Reach Ryu’s Watch
The Shadow is the master of Ryu’s watch, and the chief bandit hunter of the House of Pacified Shadows. Ryu’s Watch marks the southern most boundaries of the lands protected by the House of Pacified Shadows. It’s becoming clear to you, the HPS (sorry, I just couldn’t help but use the acronym) is the law in these mountains, it’s like a tiny, theological kingdom of its own…The Keepers chief bandit hunter, The Shadow, is lord of Ryu’s Watch, and greets you politely, being particularly warm towards Grey.
He tells you of a group of bandits camped out to the south on a piece of high ground called Bloodspire. He has orders to watch, but not engage them, but implies if you all were to wander over there and take them out, he’d show you the way, and there’d be nothing wrong with him fighting along side you if while traveling through his lands with friends, he was attacked. Basically, He’s been told not to attack the bandits camped up on Bloodspire because he’s not allowed to lose any men in an unnecessary conflict, but, there’s no reason someone else can’t attack them, and there’s no reason he personally can’t go along. So a plan is hatched to take these bastards out.
That night, gathered around a map of the area in the Shadow’s private planing room, you, well, plan an attack and you prepare for a glorious battle in the morning, with the ample intelligence the Shadow and his monks have gathered.
Day 4: The Battle of Bloodspire, and Celebration at Ryu’s Watch
You guys had the info, you planned well…I don’t know if we’ve ever had that many buff spells up at once! Killer battle, you guys owned it, and removed some pretty awful bandits from the earth, including the vile orc, Hrodki the Raper. Body count was something like, 15 goblins, 13 orcs, 5 ettins, 2 worgs, and among them two evil shaman. I think you guys took less than 10 hp between the 5 of you…just…wow.
The Battle of Bloodspire, as some might come to call it, will have certainly left an impression on the few humanoid raiders who escaped alive. Round distant camp fires they will tell stories..of the giant with silver skin who called out Krom as he cleaved through their ranks…of the warrior in green great armor who felled Hrodki in a single flurry of attacks…of the glaive wielding devil elf who disarmed an entire firing line of goblin archers with his mind, and then threw all those bows at an ettin with but a thought, pushing him off the heights and to his death..of the glowing woman in shining armor who destroyed the goblin shaman in a burst of vengeful light…of the robed stranger who rained terrible hell-fire upon them all. That day they saw the likes of you soar above them raining down might, and wade among them bringing death like awful goods of just wrath.
Even though the bandits camped out atop the Bloodspire had numbers, and were prepared for an eventual attack, they were not prepared for you! There’s little doubt tales will spread. The bandits of the Shadow Crag mountains have been put on notice. Will they slip back into the shadows, or will they unite and seek vengeance?
That night, you crashed at Ryu’s Watch again and celebrated. You guys got a fat bounty for killing Hrodki. The Shadow revealed to Grey that he is training psi-warriors and has been actively seeking people out for several years. He has about 22 now he is training
Day 5: Mostly down hill through the mountains to reach Homestead
You reach homestead, passing a weird bridge on the way. I will try and bullet point this
Homestead cast of Characters:
-Grey started flirting with Bodiki and left an impression.
-Caris meets the Firepine brothers, and the younger of the 3 is really into her. Seems she enjoys the attention…
-Stern and Grey sit at the Big Kid table, and talk to Beard for some time.
-Grog, Hroth, and Caris piled by the fire.
-Barrelround is going around getting people to try his latest ale..some pay him compliments despite the awful taste, some
Singlee (Sing-Lee), a local mystic/wujen/medicine type woman, tries to sneak in but is captured by the guards, who bring her before
Sun to give an explanation. She demands to see Caris, and when he refuses, she lets out a mighty scream, calling the name Caris. The players will be able to easily burst into the audience hall to find her surrounded by guards, spears leveled, ,held by the huge Rex “Barrel round”, as Sun looks on from his chair. She instantly recognizes Caris and gets her message out.
“She is no seer, just a crazy wu jen who has lived in the woods alone for far too long, constantly dreaming up visions! She has been right, not once about her predictions you hear”
“Not once witch!…and all this talk of doom and gloom only spreads panic, none of this is to go beyond this chamber, am I understood”
He sternly bellows at his guards and advisers
“But I knew her name….” Pointing at Caris “How did I know her name if the vision was not true!? I….”The lord is silenced for a moment, locking eyes with Beard.
“Can you Behave Singlee? Guards, leave us, and thank you, let no one enter this room or come near”Sun Speaks after a pondering moment of silence, and a deep breath-
“I know the name Grim Eye. I was not yet born when Magori’s forces came pouring over the mountains…gaki, oni, orcs and ettins and mountain goblins on their worgs… but I know the tales. I know the spirits of the lands fought to save us. It was not Magori we feared, it was his general Grim Eye, who was tasked by that dreaded wu jen to bring us, and the Unicorn Grove to it’s knees.
I know the sun and shadow bears stood fast, and gave their lives so my parents parents, and many others could reach safety. I know Shen Ling held out against them till the end, it never fell, because of the lord and lady of the town. None of Grim Eyes’ champions or demons could stop them, but, then, the monks of Six Lives monastery betrayed them. They made a deal with Grim Eye to save themselves, and lured the heroes into a trap. My father said that when they heard the Golden Lady was killed, they thought all was lost, but then one night a comet fell, and with that
comet came the Unicorn, and since then no evil has been able to trouble Shen Ling, not really”
“It’s true, Grim Eye killed the lord and lady of Shen Ling, and corrupted the protector of those woods, a spirit named Treewalker…corrupted him into an invincible killer…but the gods saw the sacrifice made by Lady Layna, The Golden Lady. They sent another protector spirit to replace Treewalker…they sent the Unicorn, and the Night Walker faded away, unable to exist in the pure
presence of that unicorn spirit…If there is evil in Unicorn grove, It won’t get away with much before it has to deal with the Unicorn”
“But…Grim Eye! He is powerful!”
Greybeard speaks from the shadows, everyone is so intent on the conversation at hand that no one noticed the old warrior standing off to the side, just outside the torchlight in the great hall-
“Grim Eye is dead…been more than 100 years since he first attacked, and he was not young then. Orcs don’t live that long…died when I was just a babe, or I would have put an axe up his ass too…You should be ashamed to entertain the ranting words of a wu jen. I’m going back to bed…grumble grumble grumble…”
Day 6: Leaving Homestead and heading west to Hillhold
On the way saved a merchant from some half-oni thugs, quickly dispatching the bandits with your heroes prowess.
Then came the sound of heavy footfalls from the road behind you. A huge but somehow boyish man comes stomping down the road, and stops before you nearly breathless with exertion. He calls himself Loan Bear. He heard about the doom and gloom Singlee prophesied last night in the great hall, and he heard about you guys heading west. He’s run all this way to ask if he can travel with you. He has a sister that lives at a tiny shrine a few days west, and he wants to check on her.
Day 7: Through the Woodsman Woods, a night in the wild
Day 8: Westward to Tall Shadows
It’s dark when you’re coming through the gates of this small walled town of about 30 buildings, perched on a low rock spire surrounded by mighty fire pines, that tower over other ancient conifer trees. You’re directed to the towns common house, where an elderly couple and a young woman serve you diner. It’s apparent the younger woman recognizes or has some kind of focus on Caris, it’s also apparent she’s trying to convey some hidden message under the eyes of the two watchful elders. After not long, the mayor of town walks in to greet you all in a cheerful and animated manner. Grey stands up, and there is suddenly a very brief, awkward silence between the two of them, before Grey hulks out, his cloak flying back, his armor appearing around him, his glowing glaive phasing into his hand as he drives it at the mayor, who is already wheeling backwards as he warps into his true demonic form!
In a blur the narrow common room erupts in combat. Weapons are reached for and spells readied as the dour old man and woman who keep this place morph into their true demonic forms and move forward to attack. Lone Bear changes into his monstrous were-bear form and leaps into battle as the demon that was the mayor draws back behind a wall of Ice sealing the common room you are all in off from the entry way he is now in. The demons flee as quickly as they attacked, and the back exit out of the common house has been frozen over with Ice as well. Only the serving girl remains, introducing herself as Ijiko (eee-jee-co), the towns constable. This is all very confusing. Grey blows a hole in the side of the building leading out into the night, and you all charge forward.
There is a pitched battle through the town, which appears to be full of spirit blooded thugs and gaki, with a few demons leading them. The lead demon narrowly escapes after Grey teleports himself and Hroth up to the roof where he is lurking. Grognak uses storm of fire and Ice to weaken a gang of spirit bloods who come charging down the street, and Stern goes right into their weakened midst, having a cleave party to great effect.
The hectic battle ends, the infernal enemies dispatched or fled. You race towards the constables house, where the men of the town have been locked up. Someone has already spitefully set it on fire, but you mange to get all the men out of the burning building, all except for one, who was strung up and bled out hours before you arrived. In the aftermath, as you gather up all the towns citizens to the safty of the local shrine, Ijiko tells her tale:
“Men came into town one night, I wasn’t here, I was hurrying back from a hunt. I knew something was wrong, so I crept up on the town. I spied from the wall, the demons, and the spirit blooded men separating the men from the women and children. I saw them put the men in irons, and lead them into the constables house. I heard them tell the others they would be left alone, and their husbands unharmed if they cooperated. I snuck into town that night and spoke with some of the others. I hid in the shrine. I don’t know why I stayed. I knew I couldn’t do anything, but I couldn’t leave my people. I thought maybe I could find out who they were, and warn anyone who came into town. I thought if I tried to leave they would catch me on the road. They did catch me the 3 nights later. I was just trying to spy on them and sneak food to some of the children. There is a lot of rice hidden in the shrine. They seemed to stay away from that place. I would sneak behind the houses and hand food in through the windows at night. I had left my armor and weapons in the shrine. I was trying to be as quite as possible. I was going to leave the next morning for Shen ling…but they caught me! They didn’t know I was a warrior, they just thought I was another hiding girl. They cut my face, and kept me close then. I prayed someone might come, I knew I might be the only one who could warn them!
The spirit blooded thugs, they talked a lot about places in the vine tower hills, and they mentioned a place called Cragtown too. They seemed to follow orders from the wujen. They called him Benji (Ben-ji). The demons, there were 4 or five I think, they always went around as humans, but I could always tell it was them. Sometimes they would just stand in the middle of town at night, just staring at each other. Sometimes it looked like they were arguing, but they were always silent. Then there were the ones that smelled like death. They only came out at night,and they would watch people through the windows like hungry dogs. Benji punished one of them in front of the others, said they would feast soon enough, but not until he said it was ok. They seemed scared of him, but barely under his control. One of them seemed like their leader, he kept saying, “You promised us flesh and bone” They are man eaters, Gaki…I once heard Benji and the leader fighting, they threatened to leave…that’s when Benji let them eat one of us…”
Day 9: The End of Benji
To make a long story short, you get all the towns people to safety, interview people to figure out what happened here, and then clear the town. Looks like an evil wu jen named Benji came to town with some demons, gaki, and a gang of spirit bloods, and took over. He apparently tried to keep this take over hush hush, and also seemed concerned with keeping the towns people alive for some purpose…during the entire ordeal, only 3 died! There’s no sign of this Benji. You find out most of the towns people were taken out of town a few days ago, so you follow the trail. Benji had a hideout outside of town in a cave. Not far from it you discover the towns people, locked up like cattle in a crude stockade out in the wilderness.
You infiltrate Benji’s stronghold. There’s a gang of human bandit/wilderness types he’s bullied into serving as guards for his place. You rapidly take out 3 and the rest surrender, begging for their lives, swearing they were forced into this. Stern spares them, and puts them to work clearing out the caves. You all do clear out the caves, fight some more spirit bloods and a girillion, and you utterly slay Benji…Hroth just annihilates him!
It’s almost dark by the time you get back to town. You got no sleep the night before so you decide to stay the night in Tall Shadows again. It’s pretty clear Benji had pieced together an alliance of various bad guys and had used that to take over Tall Shadows…you can’t help compare the similarities with how Akiba did the same thing in Littlemountain. This is a very wu jen thing to do…to bully some out of the way nozoofoo village most of the world cares little about into serving you. You keep thinking about the legend of the night walker, and that poor man strung up in the basement of the constables house, hung up, bled out, his blood collected…
Day 10: Off the the Shrine of the 4 Heroic Strangers
You leave Ijiko, and the newly reformed bandit behind to guard Tall Shadows, knowing you have to push on to Shen Ling and get answers. Next stop on the map is the Shrine of the Four Heroic Strangers. When you get there, it’s already been attacked. The place is a mostly burnt out wreck. Lone Bear irrationally charged in as soon as he saw the signs of danger, concerned for his older sister Daki. Inside the burnt out shrine are 5 statues, the 4 strangers and Layna, all marred by smoke. Turns out the strangers are Grey’s mother and father, his uncle Rytin, and an attractive elf female, though you may or may not have noticed this, it’s up to you. The 4th statue’s head has been knocked off, this would be the elf female. There is the dead chard body of a bugbear beside it, who was stricken by something when he tried to break the statue. His fellows decided they had had enough, and burned the shrine down, but left his body here to burn with it. Daki was hiding in the well, she was not discovered, but she died from the lack of air when the place went up. Her white robes and face are stained by smoke. Lone Bear found her body at the bottom of a well. He holds her lifeless body in his arms in inconsolable tears. His massive bulk makes her look tiny. Caris comes forward.
What follows is a totally awesome resurrection, a miracle, as Caris brings Daki back to life. Lone bear is amazed and leveled, it’s as if his entire world shattered, and then was impossibly put back together before his eyes. He collapses exhausted in the ruins at last, but never lets go of Daki. Caris too is caught up in this strange embrace, and when Lone Bear finally falls into deep emotionally exhausted sleep, Daki Tells the tale of what happened here:
“I remember that day well…the sun was so bright at noon. A group of travelers stumbled in. They had been attacked in the woods, and begged our healing, so we helped of course. They had little to give in return, but we healed them anyways and sent them on their way. Master abbot said they were messengers of Shen ling’s Lord in disguise, on an important mission to Tall Shadows. They bore the seal of Sun Quan, the Lord of Shen Ling. It was not our place to know what message they bore, only to help see them on their way.
That evening, we ate supper in the shrine as always. It was my turn to collect up all the dishes that night..the statues began to glow, Master Abbot had once told me they would if ever there was trouble out in the woods coming our way. He ordered everyone to run out to the armory, which was outside, a shed next to the kitchen, but he told me to take the Key of Ehlonna and hide it in the well, and to stay there hiding myself, to protect it at all costs. They ran out the doors, and I ran over to the statue of Layna, I could hear screams outside and shouting, I froze, then somehow I got the Key of Ehlonna. The doors burst in, and I dove behind the statue, I could hear them laughing, walking through the pews, breaking things and taunting in some terrible language. Then I heard a loud crack, I knew they were trying to break one of the statues. Then I heard an even louder cracking sound, and a flash of light filled the room. One of them cried out and I could hear them all shifting, running…they left.
I heard more screams, I felt frozen, hiding behind that statue like a child. They began to burn down the shrine. I could smell smoke and see fire dancing up the walls. I could hear Rofoo’s dog screaming, I’ve never heard a dog make those kind of sounds…all I could think was run, do something…I had no magic left…all was used to heal those who had come earlier. I was so afraid, and then I remembered what the master Abbot had told me to do. I looked down and suddenly remembered it was in my hands. Something possessed me. I stood up and ran for the well, not knowing what might be in-between me and it. There was flame and smoke all around. Things had been burning longer than I knew. I just ran through the fire and lept down the well. Somehow I got to the bottom unharmed, but…the air just seemed to vanish. I hid it in the place as planned…I…I was dead wasn’t I.
I failed, everyone I lived with is dead…I couldn’t help them. Why am I alive, why did she bring me back…what purpose do I have.”
That night you set up camp in the compounds last standing building, a brick building that once served as home for the shrines watchman and his family. Daki seems deeply troubled, she has lost her abbot and all her friends at the shrine, grief and survivor guilt grip her, perhaps so much she can hardly take in the fact she was brought back to life. At one point late at night, she consuls in Grey, but he tells her to quite whining. Meanwhile, Caris is in the Throws of a Strange dream:
Caris’s Dream at the Shrine of the Four Heroic Strangers:
At first, you are only aware, certain in fact that you are underground, surrounded by walls of worn sandstone. Gradually, as if waking from groggy sleep, the chamber you are in comes into view. Great fires burn from Iron Bowels of oil, each the size of a witches cauldron. 12 in total sit in simi-circular alcoves cut into the 2 longer walls of the large rectangular chamber. The alcoves are like grooves cut into the sand stone, stained black with smoke. They rise all the way up to the unseen ceiling far above. The concave shape of each one catches the fire light that dances in the iron bowls…so that each alcove looks like a pillar of flickering firelight, a stripe of shifting orange luminescence in the inky darkness of the massive stone chamber. Except for the fires, the room is filled with a heavy darkness, that feels both sacred and corrupt. There is another light now, different, a golden light that cuts through the darkness from the far side of the room, maybe a stones throw away. The light seems to radiate from a beautiful creature, a mare, no a unicorn whose hide is a ghostly blue white sheen, like snow under a full moon, whose main is like liquid sunlight flowing from the top of it’s strong neck, whose horn is like polished gold rising from it’s proud head. The beautiful beast lets out a howl and rears back. The light from it’s very body illuminates six figures that pace around it. There heads lean back with laughter, their arms extended with taunting gestures. You hear their voices faintly, distorted by their own echos. They sound impossibly dry, impossibly cold, painfully, hatefully old. Though you cannot make out of a word, you hear the spirit of there vainful, vengeful taunting.
The panicked but non-the less proud unicorn stands on a raised stone dais that takes up that far quarter of the chamber’s length. Behind it, a 3 story high statue of a warrior, looms, his features revealed as a contrast of light and shadows. His head is broken off and lies on the ground, as big around as a wagon wheel. The cold stone face stares up from the base of the steps that lead up to the dais where the unicorn stands. About a dozen pillar candles, which look more like little towers of warped and melted wax burn on the floor of the broad, flat alter where the Unicorn and the figures stand. You can’t make out the faces of the 6, but you can see the lower parts, pale and, pock marked chins, bluish, chapped lips, stretched thin and dry like those of a corpse. Their taunting and pacing seems to fall into a rhythm, less like a circle of bullies now, and more like a circle of hellish acolytes in ritual. They circle the unicorn, arms extended towards her, like a pacing circle of accusers. Then they stop, and they turn almost all at once, looking out from the candle lit dais into the darkness of the opposite side of the chamber. They look to you Caris! They notice you, and you seem frozen in dream like terror, unable to act. Suddenly, between the blinking of frightened eyes, it’s you standing upon the dais, and they dance around you, taunting, cajoling, pointing bony fingers at you, laughing beneath their dirty, haggard robes. You look out through the bars of a golden cage. You are in the cage, they surround you, laughing at your hopeless imprisonment! You suddenly feel smaller, or is it the six hooded fiends and the room itself that seems to grow, stretching up and away to tower over you, like you are the size of an infant looking up helplessly through golden bars. As you shrink, or the world grows around you, the volume of the dream increases. You hear their laughter, deafening now, it sounds as much like haggard coughing and wheezing as laughter. You awaken in a cold sweat.
Caris awakens right about the same time Grey’s spider senses go off. He sense spirits approaching the brick building. You all get ready as quickly as you can, as child sized spirits encircle the building. Turns out they want a fight, and that’s what you give them. The little assailants seem fearless, and taunt as they attack with magic. Hroth gets to use his new found bond with Fang Quiang, and Gloriously convinces 3 or them not to fuck with you all. A couple manage to sneak into the building and make off with Hrothgard’s Back pack and Grognak’s wand of fireballs. Stern and Grey manage to each finish off one inside when a strange woman appears in the loft above, glaring down at you. She calls out “enough!”, and with that, the little bandit spirits leave. You get the impression, not that she is there boss, but that they have reason to respect her and avoid getting on her bad side. So, she does not come across as part of this group of spirits, but as a separate spirit who has shown up and intervened. You’re not sure how much fight the little spirits had in them, or if there were more lurking out in the woods, but they seem afraid of this woman when they were pretty fearless towards you, well, all except Hroth, which was a pretty amazing thing to watch.
This new spirit seems genuinely upset about the murder of all the people who use to live here, but she’s not about to take shit from you. Grey steps up as the diplomat. She knows he is an elf and even refers to him as such. Here’s the gist of what she has to say:
“It is a shame, what happened here…did you know these people?
I will not mince words, and I will not pretend I am bound to answer any of you…This is my home, not yours…I can just as easily leave you to the antics of those little rapscallions, and even worse if you displease me…
Evil has come to this place…far more than I can deal with. Our protector, the unicorn…she is no where to be found. I have seen orcs in my grove…I have slit orc throats in the ones and twos, and fled from the dozens. I have smelt the foul stench of the cursed dead!…here, visited upon these woods. I have felt the presence long not felt…oni from the underworld, moving unseen beneath the bows of my branches, searching for prey…searching for me! All the while, the Lord of Shen Ling hides behind his walls and does nothing. I love this forest, and I loved the people who lived at this shrine. There deaths are the price that is paid when men do not act in the face of evil, when they hide behind walls!
Grim Eye Died Long ago…but if Oni have come from the underworld, then why not him as well?
Grim Eye Killed Layna…I met her once, fought beside her at the battle of bleeding rivers…When he killed her, he drowned her in the spring beneath the six lives monastery. He murdered her, drowned her like a thug…still, he was only the hand of death…truly it was the Ketsu who killed her…that war would have ended much sooner, and she would still be valiant upon the throne of Shen Ling if not for them.”
At some point she refers to the Night Walker, and when Stern repeats the name, she glares at him as if he has committed some sin.
“Are we not supposed to say his name?”
The mysterious spirit woman vanishes as quickly as she came, and it becomes clear something terrible is coming towards the little cottage in the woods.
The Night Walker, a corporeal being made of living shadow and evil shows up and a titanic battle ensues. The Night Walker is some kind of spirit/undead being, a giant, and physically real, though able to melt into the shadows and move with amazing speed. The creature exhibited intelligence and cunning, and was able to summon powerful shadowy undead to attack for it. He was hard to hit with both blade and spell, able to bring down spells with ease, and notable unleashed a Finger of Death spell, and a brutal cone of cold when you where fighting him.
Together you vanquished the Night Walker, with Caris and Hrothgar at the for, Stern and Grey stalking about the shadowy courtyard keeping distance and providing spell support, Loan Bear raging in the night, never able to quite get to grips with the Night Walker, and Grognak held down in the cottage, unleashing blasts of magical energy and buff spells from the window where he posted up. With the Night Walker’s defeat, came the solemn knowledge that each night he is reborn, and now that he has tasted your fear and might, no where in this forest will be safe at night.
Day 11: Shen Ling
By the end of the day, our heroes traverse a narrow pass through a rocky ridge that bisects the hilly forest. Beyond this pass is Shen Ling. Will it still be there? Will it have already been destroyed, safely hidden, or locked in it’s own struggle for life and death? Before reaching the valley you’re intercepted by a small group of Shen Ling scouts
There’s a bit of a stand off as these 3 guardians figure out how they should react to your arrival. They speak in front of you even as Sheal covers you with her bow from on high. Here is a paraphrase of the conversation:
“Wait..it’s you isn’t it, you’re the saviors of Littlemountain. There the lady of Ehlonna with the golden hair, like the Golden lady, and the big one with the swords, and the pale skinned seldarine in mithril…What on earth are you doing here? Have, have you come to help us?”
“Don’t insult them, of course they have”, Shouts Shanzee showing herself. We have heard tales, of war in the North near Fanlu, of heroes…”
Shanzee is high up on the cliff as she calls out, and then leaps down, landing deftly on the trail from a height that would have killed a normal person twice over. She lands beside Stern and the two circle each other cautiously.
Sheal, up high on the cliff and ahead shouts down to Sharn, not even taking her eyes of off the group as she covers Grey with her bow:
“What if it’s a trap”
“We heard Fan Lu was surrounded by raiders and wu jen. A group of heroes managed to kill their leader, that filth named Slagg. There was a lady among them, who wore the sign of a unicorn, who healed a womans whose sight had been ruined by flames, and another whose hands had been burned…”
Shanzee bows slightly to Stern, then boldy steps towards Caris:
“No demon can heal…I have faith, and I am not afaird of anything…gracious lady, if you are truely of the unicorn goddess, and I believe you are, heal this terrible ach in my nose… so we can celebrate your arrival, gods know we have waited for help!”
Caris heals the monks bruised nose, and then the 3 lead you around the bend and into Shen Ling Valley, Sharn and Shanzee expalinging what they can as Sheal scouts up ahead. The Valley seems deserted, perhaps not totally, but you do get the sense that only a few souls are watching over this area, while many more have gone some place else.
Apparently, the outskirts of Shen Ling came under multiple attacks from raiders not long before Little Mountain was attacked. It’s feared some how Grim Eye has come back from the dead to lead a massive invasion of Shen Ling, to finally conquer this place as he was never able to do. There have been many sightings of might orc chieftains, and the enemies seem to claim they are lead by Grim Eye the Vengeful/Ever Living/Insert creepy or bold title here. The raids went on, getting more and more fierce for weeks, until finally, an invasion came. Thousands of goblins, ettins, orcs and giants have come over the hills to the north, more than have been seen in ages. You are led to the shrine of Layna as they speak:
The Lord of Shen Ling is in the North, fighting a running battle with these forces. The lord is Layna’s son, and apparently, she has a living daughter as well, who is also fighting in the north. To make matters worse, the Night Walker has returned, and each night he roams Shen Ling valley, terrorizing any that cross his path. The night walker seems disinterested in the invaders, so they use this time to launch attacks deep into Shen Ling Valley. You are introduced to the master of the Shrine of Layna, and aged human named
Oki Lo Kin. Oki is thrilled to see you all. For weeks they have preyed to Ehlonna to send them help, and your group and Caris seem like heroes guided to them by prayer and grace. Oki is able to fill you in on what has been happening.
Each night, the Night Walker appears and wreaks havoc on any living thing it comes across. Shen Ling valley is many miles long, and there’s no way to know exactly where the Night Walker will appear each night, or where he will head. Grim Eye’s forces use this time to attack. Shen Lings defenders try and stop them as best as they can, but must continually look out for the Night Walker, and flee at the first sign of him, as few are capable of facing him. So each night is like a running, chaotic string of battles across Shen Ling.
During the Day, Shen Ling’s people pick up the pieces and continue life as best they can, but at night, they retreat into catacombs beneath the valley, or hide out in shrines. The Night Walker seems to avoid these places, but Shen Ling’s defenders must be careful to keep Grim Eye’s raiding parties away from them. During the day, the spirits of Shen Ling valley themselves rise up to protect the people. The raiding parties retreat back into the mountains with whatever they have won, and plan their next attack. So far the defenders of Shen Ling have had great success keeping Grim Eye at bay. If he truly has thousands of raiders, and the Night Walker on his side, it seems a miracle that after weeks, only 160 of Shen Ling’s people are dead or missing at this point.
Shen Ling is protected by powerful spirits, and capable defenders, but they are getting tired, and Grim Eye has yet to launch a decisive attack with the bulk of his force.
Shen Ling was founded by refugees from the lost city of Lu Min. About 140 years ago, Grey’s Uncle Rythin lead a group of Elven families here from a place called Suth Myrlithal. Their home land had been destroyed, and the People of Shen Ling took them in, creating a weird sort of human/elf settlement.
That night, while Caris is deep in prayer, and the others are sleeping, Oki shows Grey a very impressive library, which the priest has been cataloging and indexing as his lifes work. Thousands of books, that Oki claims the founder of Shen Ling brought with him from Lu Min, said to be one 6th of the great library there. He also very briefly meets someone who looks a lot like him, a demon hunter named on Rythil Threnody!
It is decided that Caris should go into the inner shrine to Ehlonna and Lady Layna, and prey really hard for guidance about what to do. That nigh Caris does indeed receive divine guidance. She is given the impression that she must ignore the battle at hand with Grim Eye’s raiders, and first go to the spring of the Unicorn, that it will lead her straight to the darkness behind this turmoil. She literally casts the commune spell, which allows her to ask some yes or no questions….anybody write those down!?
She also receives this cryptic riddle, trapped inside her mind as if she had momrized it, upon waking the next day:
Some will say strike, some will say wait
All Confusion and fear
Stay strong in faith, do not rise to bait
Now your path is made clear
Go to the spring, and in long prayer sit
Even as death waits for night
Moonlight reveals where the puzzel peice fits
As the shadow comes stalking to fight
Do not wait, Take the key, do not wait a breath
Strike out for the spring, to strike the root
Not the phamtom eyeless shade
But those who betrayed long ago who live on in undeath.
Have faith in the key, and you will be delivered from the shadow,to a shadowy place, to deliver her
There in the dpeths you will find her
She is bound by her lovers name
Trapped inside a golden frame
Set in a Chamber of Shadow and Flame
She waits for you
they wait for you too
Day 12, Journey to the Spring of the Unicorn
That morning, the deserted villages of Shen Ling are suddenly filled with hundreds who have come to see Caris and her heroic companions. They cheer and and cast flowers in your path as you set off up the opposite side of the valley. Some of the bolder among them present you with small tokens of silk, feathers and beads as good luck charms. It is like a scene out of some divine legend…A colorful gathering of beleaguered but hopeful people, their lives threatened and turned up side down for weeks, all straining to look their best, cheer their loudest, hold their heads highest, offer most grateful thanks, and get a look at you heroes as you leave the enchanted valley of Shen Ling. You see tired warriors who have weathered another night of sleepless patrols, who have struggled to stay awake an extra hour to catch a glimpse of new hope. Smiles spread across their tired faces as they see you pass. Grandmothers wring their hands together, children throw flowers, sporadic singing erupts above the crowd from time to time, ancient songs to celebrate the coming of heroes, in both common and elven tongue.
Shen Ling is beautiful, a place of tall pines, graceful willows, winding paths and beautifully build homes. Here, garden, village, field and forest seem to effortlessly blend from one to another in a graceful dance between settlement and nature. Only Yun Shan’s people, and the elves seen to ever strike this balance in their settlements, and Shen Ling is home to both races. The crowds do not follow up up out of the valley, but for many miles you can hear them behind you, first as a blend of ringing bells, cheers, flutes, and raucous song, but then, as they are fading from the edge of hearing, it is as if all of them join in one united heroes song that hangs ghostly on the wind at your backs, until at last it fades into the distance.
The path to the Unicorn Spring is well kept, frequently traversed by devout worshipers and site seers. Artfully crated bridges, signs, trail markers and arches dot the path. The path itself is edged with a border of rock and brick, and the field is of fine, smooth grey and white gravel that crunches softly beneath each step. The path is also dotted by large pavilions, about one every 1/2 mile. Within each is a kind of 3 dimensional picture, a magical illusion that hangs in he center of the pavilion and depicts some important scene from the life of the Golden Lady. From outside the wooden pavilions, the images seem like a blur of swirling light that hangs in the air like a nebula, but upon stepping into the pavilion, those who enter find themselves in the midst of the scene, staring around at the frozen figures captured in a brightly holographic still frame, that but for some minor distortions, is like standing back in frozen time. Here are my notes about what each image depicts:
Loss and Hope
Layna and the 4 mysterious stangers are depicted, before 2 thrones, one is empty, the other contains the constable, who is leaning forwards with a worried look, as if listening.
“The Lord constable sits upon his throne of loss…the family of our founders was slain to the last, his land is besieged by Magori’s favorite General, Grim Eye, and now he sits in the seat of the lord, left to contemplate his loss, but then came the first of the Seldarine, lead by the Golden Lady to offer their help.”
The Lord constable of Shen Ling Knells before Layna at after a significant battle, honoring her holiness.
” I bend my knee to you lady, and offer my blade and my heart to your service…lead us out of this darkness, and I will follow unwavering.”
Layna Knelling before the Constable.
“I am a stranger, and you have been so kind. Your bravery is matched only by the love you have in your heart for this beautiful place. I knell to you Sun Quan, and hope only for a place in that heart.”
Layna and Constable Triumphant/Grim Eye Defeted
“We stand together in love against the darkness, an arrow through the eye of our enemy, the other blinded by the light of love.”
Layna and the Constable Sun Quan Wed
“Let us be joined forever by this earthly ring, and by the ring of two peoples joined in brotherhood”
Layna’s people, the Five Families, Welcomed In
“These five families are all that remain of my people…they possess in them a shard of the heart of the Seldarine…keep them, embrace them, hear their council, and they will lift you up, even as you shelter them and help them begin anew”
The Dynasty of Flowers:
Layna and the Constable seated in thrones, joining hands, each with a child upon their laps. On Layna’s side are elven ambassadors, and on the contables’ side are humans.
“The dynasty of flowers…we precious luck few, born in this land, under this light…blessed. Remember to all time, in all matters, live for one another, embrace one another, let nothing turn you against each other.”
Grim Eye returns
“Decades of peace unravel in war, but it is the most just war, the defense of the homeland, and victory is again to be ours.”
An old crumbling monastery is depicted overlooking Shen Ling from some high peak. 11 figures, human monks, stair down towards the valley with looks of hatred, greed, and envy. A massive orc Shaman, a terrible figure in black lacquered armor stands beside them, pointing towards Shen Ling, as if beckoning the hateful men to side with him.
“11 evils rot the heart of the monastery, and betray our noble lord and lady. First they show grim eye to the sacred heart, and he defiles the Treewalker, turning him against us. From us, Victory seemed stolen. Next, they lure our lady and lord to the Spring of the Unicorn, pretending to help, they lure them into Grim Eye’s trap”
The Bled out man and the Broken Lady
This scene is decidedly dark, an apologetically brutal. Beside a beautiful spring, amidst blooming flowers and green trees, lies the body of an armored man, his throat slit…this is Sun Quan. Not far from him, floating face down in the spring is the bruised body of a woman in a blood stained white gown. This is Layna, her body is covered in glue and green bruises and rust colored gashes, her face is hidden, perhaps an act of mercy by the artist who created this illusion, but her hair is depicted as unnaturally golden, infact, glowing! It lights the depths of the spring where she floats dead, hinting at some kind of hope or redemption in this ma cob moment of horror in which Shen Lings two greatest heroes of old lie betrayed and murdered. Amidst the trees are 11 shadowy figures, left intentionally vague, as if to suggest the presence of the betrayer monks who would be known that day forward as the Ketsu. Standing at the edge of the spring, facing away, is the hulking form of who could only be Grim Eye, his hand continually drip blood as he stairs off into the distant mountains, as if even he is aware he has done a terrible thing, and murdered something pure and just.
“Neither would give him the keys to our kingdom, neither would yield, even when threatened with the death of the other. They died brave deaths together. There Lives are temporal, but their love is immortal. They died for us as bravely as they lived for each other.”
Not far from this this Pavillion, the trail takes a steep course up through tall boulders and taller trees. There is another small pavilion up ahead, and this is the strange sight you see:
The strange one eyed figure in the foreground approaches cautiously, speaking in a reverent gibberish and leading you all over to to rock. Suddenly, the massive rock shifts, freeing itself from it’s moorings, and knocking over one or the beams supporting it’s pavilion as it does so. It shifts and rocks it’s way forward and down on to the path as you all stand back. The one eyed spirit seems excited, confused, and upset all at once, bowing incessantly and railing on in its strange gibberish language. Meanwhile, the rock not only moves, but grunts in a way that sound like some language you can’t understand. Out on the path, it slowly rolls forward, bowing, as much as a boulder can bow, before Caris. It is as if this rock has pledged his service to the priestess! Dozens of small spirits rise up from the ground, and emerge from around the trees. They seem corpreal in one moment, and then ghostly, or not even their in the next. They are like figments made real cavorting excitedly around you and the rolling rock.
You are filled with the impression these spirits of Shen Ling’s land have come to help, and as you travel on, they follow silently, often invisible to your site, shyly pursuing your course like children tagging along with adults. Meanwhile, the boulder loudly rolls along behind you, end over end, like some strange force of animated nature that has agreed to help in your quest.
That afternoon you come across a small chapel and camp of sorts that straddles the trail. Several out buildings surround the chapel, little cabins rented out to travelers, and a small barn/workshop. The place is abandoned, and something terrible has happened here. Three priests of Ehlonna have been murdered and hung from poles just off the trail. About their necks hang signs that read in stale crusted blood:
The Gods – Will Protect – You 🙂
It’s obvious from afar they endured great torture before they were killed, and rendered into this gruesome message for the faithful of Shen Ling. Four warriors, 2 of them elven, who no doubt protected these priests in life, are now animated dead who march like guardians around the 3 poles that bear the dead mangled priests. These zombies were raised by magic, and they march in a shambling, never ending circuit around the poles, left there as a grim mockery of their failed duty in life, animated as some cruel joke to show that all resistance is meaningless, and all hope in Ehlonna is misplaced in the face of those invading this land.
The massive rock spins in place, burrowing itself below ground as the little nature spirits jump into the hole behind it. It’s unclear where it’s going or why, but the rest of you bold charge into the abandoned grounds and search. There is a kitchen in the back of the shrine, and evidence that men have been rendered down into meals there as recent as last night! Suddenly there is noise, and several of the little spirits appear, trying to warn that something is coming down the road towards the town. Quickly you all hide amidst the cabins as some large, unseen force can be heard approaching and prowling at the edge of the clearing where this ravaged outpost was built.
A deep voice, originating from some giant bellows out in common, warning you to leave or face death. Not long after a boulder comes saling through the roof of the cabin where Hroth is hiding, and the warrior decides he’s had enough hiding, and boldly strides into the center of the chapel grounds. At he edge of the farthest cabins, where the path leads west away from the chapel, stands a 15ft tall giant with stone grey skin and a sapling sized club
A squad of flail wielding ettins, also grey skinned, are spread around him, lurking behind the cabins like great clumsy bears, themselves each standing about 12 ft tall! They are obviously hostile, and a fight is immanent. This is where we left off!
Starting with our next game we lept right into this battle. Highlights include:
- A basilisk riding stone giant
- Ettins a’plenty
- The appearance of Roan
After defeating the Stone giants and their ettin minions you pushed hard to reach the Spring of the Unicorn near sun down. The place is one of sylvan beauty, peaceful yet tinged with a haunted feeling. It was here the stories say the former Lord of Shen Ling and his Lady, the Golen Lady, met their end, lured here by the traitorous ketsu, the monks of the Six Lives Monastery, and then killed by Grimeye himself. Deciphering the riddle given to Caris in her communion, you all await the fall of night, anticipating another fight, and hoping for answers.
As the moon is rising, and darkness has fully taken hold, Caris has a vision. The light of the moon reveals a slot in one of the standing stones, in the narrow path that passes between them. And standing at the end of that path, the ghost of Sun Quan waits expectantly, seen only by Caris, beckoning her to use the key, and trust it’s power. As she hesitates in the darkness, on the small island, Grey senses the approaching evil, and fastly approaching. There are only a few rounds to prepare before the Nightwalker emerges from the trees, his shadow minions racing forward before him. Then Grimeye follows, by himself, a vision of murder walking up the road.
Caris uses the Key, the key that is only in your possession because a girl named Daki managed to save it from capture when her shrine was brutally destroyed, losing her life to save the relic, restored to life by celestial Caris. The key begins to glow, it is clear a power is building slowly as the fight begins!
Grognak is forced to run for cover as Grimeye sets his sights on him, luckily, Stern and Hroth interpose themselves and begin to slug it out with the devil-orc. Shadows flit about the island like specters of death, one by one burned away as Caris calls down holy fire to banish them, backed up by searing rays of spell fire as Grognak blasts from behind the standing stones. The Nightwalker leaps over a barrier of blades Stern conjures, landing before Roan to bring murder upon her. Grey zips in, his glaive glowing impossibly brite! Caris calls down the shooting star of Ehlonna, blasting the Nightwalker with commit fury. A second later Grey plunges his glaive into the Nightwalker’s black form. The brilliant light rips through the impossibly black form of the corrupted nature spirit, finally shining through from within as the creature’s physical form is eviscerated in the glow of the demon hunter’s weapon!
A moment later, all goes black, as the Magic of the Unicorn Spring takes effect, teleporting you all through time and space to a place deep below the Six Lives Monastery.
Day 13: The Ketsu
Though you didn’t know at the time, in the telportaion you lost time, actually moving forward several hours through time to midafternoon of the next day. When you reappeared, you did so before a gate, no unlike that at the Spring of the Unicorn, but better kept, and some place deep underground. You were not alone in the darkness. A beastly and talkative guardian was there as well, but because you possessed the key, he had no intention of fighting you, as the pact which has bound him to the gate for hundreds of years requires he allow passage to
anyone who possess such a key. The beast is huge, nearly 2 stories tall! He has spent centuries carving the walls of this vast sandstone cavern into vast works of art, collecting books from any who happen to pass by and making friends with the shadows…He is able to tell you a few things about Grimeye and the Ketsu, and able to confirm that you are indeed deep below the Six Lives Monastery, and that the Ketsu are in the Chamber of Flame and Shadow, which is not just a line in the riddle Caris received, but a real place.
Not sure quite what to make of this lonely guardian, you press on, for time is of the essence. You come up in the crypts beneath the monastery, and very close to the Chamber of Flame of Shadow. The Ketsu have defiled the bones of their brothers passed, animating hundreds of sets of bones to serve as their guardians and servants.
In the Chamber if Light and Shadows is really a pit, with broad square pillars of stone, and a huge alter of sorts rising above it. You come in on the upper level, looking out across the square, platform like tops of the pillars over to where the alter stands. You can peer down to the floor below, where hundreds of skeletal workers appear to be digging the pit down deeper, digging around the base of the square columns.
The Ketsu are waiting invisibly in the darkness. Grognak brings down a barrier of protection to serve as a beach head into the room as Stern conjures a bridge of shadowy force that stretches all the way to the alter, where the Golden Cage and it’s Unicorn prisoner await rescue. A pitched spell battle erupts through the dark cathedral like chamber and Caris and Hroth make for the cage. Caris dashes up the alter as spells erupt and echo through the darkness. “Sun Quan” she calls as she grasps the cage. Suddenly it is flung up and back behind her, bouncing off the chest of the headless statue on the alter, and in it’s place, the magnificent unicorn stands, letting out a cry and a flood of light that sends the panicked Ketsu racing for the exit in desperation! One is caught on the unicorns horn as she leaps into the air. the wicked spirit of the corrupted monk bursts into shreds of robe and dust as it is impelled and sent back to hell. Somewhere in the battle a skeletal dragon, another undead servant of the Ketsu barges in the room, and Hroth, Roan, and Grognak stand against it, Grog incinerating the beast which falls flaming to the depths below.
The Ketsu are devastated, only a few escape demise. The Unicorn bows and thanks you all, then quickly calls upon you to come with her, that the Lord of Shen Ling is in Danger, and Grim Eye is launching his full assault on Shen Ling this very day. In a flash of light she teleports you to the outskirts of a small shrine and village called Oldhome. There she leaves you, telling you to find and warn Daidoji Quan, the current Lord of Shen Ling. She must go, she has dozens of places she must teleport to and warn.
A little shocked at what has happened, you make your way to Oldhome, and along the way meet a half elf scout who guides you into Oldhome. The place is abandoned. He leads you up the steps of the pyramid like pagoda and trough a silken screen into a great room of sorts where a strategy table has been improperly set up, with mismatched chairs pulled up around it. It is at this time the scout confirms that he actually is the Lord of Shen Ling, that his retinue has been in pitched skirmishes to the north of here all day, fighting a tenaciously advancing force. He has been separated from his men for hours, he is literally all that is left of his force that he knows of.
A moment latter, four more come running up the steps and into the room, affirming that at least a few others have managed to fall back here. Three you recognize, Sharn, Sheal, and Shanzee, the 3 defenders you met when you first reached Shen Ling. The 4th is a gristled old warrior who seems especially important to the Lord of Shen Ling, who calls him by the nick-name Oldbow. Oldbow brings word that atleast 3 huge warbands are pushing south like they plan to hit hard and attack through the night. One such band will be surrounding Oldhome perhaps within the hour. Many ideas are batted about the room, but finally one is decided upon.
Sheal, Shanzee, and Sharn will ride hard to the south, with the Lord of Shen Ling disguised as another warrior, doing their best to outpace any capture parties and escape to freedom. The rest of you will flee west, with one of you disguised as the Lord to play the role of bait, and hopefully draw out Grimeye into a fight. The Lord of Shen Ling is adamantly against this all, saying he must fight beside his people, and that he cannot flee like a coward, when a chance to kill Grimeye is right in front of him.
Grey writes The Lord of Shen Ling a really cool Hiuku to convince him he needs to flee, and everyone is unanimously in agreement that the Lord needs to get smuggled out to safety regardless of what happens. Daidoji, Lord of Shen Ling leaves the planning room to be alone, making it clear that he is Lord, and it will be his choice, and goes to the Shrine of his father to think on the matter, clearly not liking the idea.
In the meantime Hroth pairs off with Shanzee to….”watch the sunset”, while vigorous planning resumes and horses and disguises are prepared. The Lord of Shen Ling Summons Grey to the Shrine of his Father to have a private talk with the elf. What Daido reveals to Grey is along these lines:
“Thank you for the words of wisdom, I don’t want you to feel like they are lost on me. This is my fathers sword, the sword he carried as a ronin when he first came to serve as Shen Ling’s constable. It does not even bare a makers mark, because it was forged in haste. Such swords are often forged in time of great need, and no smith will put his mark willingly upon a weapon that has been made in such haste, missing the proper patience and expert artistry that a real sword deserves. Such swords are cheap, often of poor quality, but it is the sword my father had, and it would be a fine prize for Grimeye to capture it….Do you know why it has value as a prize, even though it is but a base and simple weapon? It is because it is authentic. It is the real thing, and for years people have come to this shrine to gaze upon it, to gaze upon the real thing, no matter how humble, and that is why it has value beyond it’s function. Listen to me Grey, Grimeye will have his shaman near by, using all their magic to track me down. If we are to lure Grimeye out with bait, we must know he will not be easily fooled, not unless the bait is authentic, like this sword…it must be me Grey, I must be the bait, and I need you and all your companions to believe in this..to believe that this is providence, our one chance… that Ehlonna and the spirits brought you here, brought Caris to free the unicorn, brought us all to to this very moment, to this one chance where I can play this part, and we can destroy Grimeye”
Extending his hand he locks eyes with Grey “Will you fight beside me in this Lord Threnody?”
In haste, even as arrows begin to fall on the roofs of Oldhome and the war drums of encircling raiders sound, the plan is changed. Sharn see’s no reason to waste a good disguise and with his sister and Shanzee, disguised as Daidoji, he races for a trio of prepared horses, the best on hand, and races out of town, even as it’s being surrounded. Meanwhile, the rest of you, with Oldbow and the Lord of Shen Ling slip across the river and flee into the hills to the west as the night falls.
Fairly certain scouting parties are on your heels, out in the darkness looking for you, you prepare a fake camp, then a real camp for Oldbow and Daidoji up on a grassy, flower covered hill with just a few old trees at it’s summit. Daidoji takes up his role as bait, with Oldbow by his side while the rest of you hide in Grognak’s rope trick and wait. If Grimeye comes, you will be the trap that is sprung!
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