They Came to Sollandheim

The Preparations of Geheimnistag
The Giant and the Ale (Cael'yn's Perspective)

28 Vorgeheim 2522 i.c.

The day was progressing as normal, so much so that Cael’yn was completely unaware that there was going to be a celebration that night, or a holiday the following sunrise. Helga was no doubt seeking grudges left and right, and Skaldor was fashioning armor, or blades, or something for the local guard. Cael’yn had gotten over seeing guards come in to the shop, though she had certainly been jumpy the first few times it happened. Now, she was feeding a fire (not made with wood because it wouldn’t have been hot enough), when she heard a commotion. Skaldor seemed to hear it as well, and they soon investigated to find a giant near their shop. The giant was…quite literally giant, and it startled Cael’yn to see one. She couldn’t help but feel glad that she hadn’t seen one of these in the arena, as she certainly wouldn’t have had a chance.

There were some guards throwing spears and things at the giant, but the creature was unperturbed. The giant picked up a barrel and poked a hole in it before chugging the (thankfully liquid) contents entirely. Skaldor responded in the most effective way, getting the giant’s attention and explaining in small, easily comprehensible words, that the giant was stealing their ale and it didn’t belong to him. Actually, Skaldor sounded a lot like he did when he was explaining something for Cael’yn, a realization that made her narrow her eyes in frustration at the dwarf. She was not as stupid as a giant, she just didn’t understand his puny, inferior language completely.

When the giant realized the source of the conflict, he agreed to pay for the ale. He took something out of the small (relative to his size, of course) pouch on his waist, and dropped the slimy bag in front of Skaldor. “Go count that.” Skaldor said, gesturing to the bag, and Cael’yn knew she would take ages to wash off whatever the gook was that was coating the bag. The inside was worse. There was enough coin to cover the cost of the ale, but there were also some unidentifiable items that were certainly not coins, and enough slimy, sticky, and smelly things to make Cael’yn feel like she could never eat with her hands again. Naturally, Skaldor insisted that she wash her hands, which she would not have even thought to argue. She washed her hands in his shop, thoroughly and with much scrubbing, as the giant finished the remaining four barrels and wandered off drunkenly.

When she re-emerged, a nobleman came out and began to panic. The dwarves learned (and Cael’yn got the point soon after) that the barrels of beer were for a party that the nobles were having that night, and the nobleman didn’t know any other way to get enough beer. He gave the dwarves some money, and asked that they find more beer and bring it to the castle. The first tavern that the group went to was crushed, literally. Realizing that the giant hadn’t actually left, and was going from tavern to tavern to steal the beer, the dwarves decided to skip the second tavern entirely, and go to the third, hoping to beat the giant.

Their plan worked, and they got a little more than two barrels of ale from the basement, and were bringing it out of the building as the giant appeared. Cael’yn and Helga brought their barrels around the back while Skaldor went once more to confront the giant. Helga soon joined the other dwarf, leaving Cael’yn in charge of getting the last barrel out of the tavern before it too was crushed. She guarded them while the dwarves argued with the giant, pretending like she could actually hold her own in case the giant saw her and the alcohol.

Skaldor once again confronted the giant, who claimed that he wanted more beer. The dwarf insisted that the giant needed to go home, and the drunken creature exclaimed that he didn’t know which way was home. Cael’yn chimed in around them that he could follow the destruction back, saying something along the lines go “Go back way you come!” which was enough for the giant. The creature turned slowly, saw the destruction he had caused, and returned that way, leaving the town entirely, at least for a short while. The barrels were brought to the castle, and the group went to The Bouncing Bodice to acquire the last of the ale.

The dwarves decided to get some stronger mead and water it down for the humans, saving them some money. They bought what they needed, and the last of the barrels were brought to the castle soon after. The group split the money, and then went back to their shops to finish their day. No doubt Helga put something in her book about giants crushing buildings or stealing ale as well.

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The Evening before Geheimnistag Part 1
The Celebration

The barrels of ale were delivered, but that didn’t make the brash young fools particularly interested in going to the nobles’ party. The dwarves weren’t the fondest of the human nobles, as they were quite stuck up. Living around dwarven stubbornness all the time, Cael’yn could imagine where they would butt heads. Besides, drunk human might criticize something that Skaldor makes, and then he might go all rune-happy in the place. All in all, it just wasn’t a good mix. Besides, the dwarves no doubt would have just complained that the ale was watered down and of poor quality—an obvious argument since they had watered down the ale in the first place.

With little argument, they went to the main part of town where the peasants and other commoners were celebrating the holiday. There was a large bonfire, one Cael’yn had a difficult time pretending was made using already dead tree limbs, but still wasn’t too fond of going near. Some humans were dancing around a fire, and others were drinking, eating, and generally enjoying the merriment. There were a few carts with…junk, trinkets perhaps, for the following day. The wood elf wasn’t quite sure what they were celebrating exactly. Everyone seemed jovial, and yet the pieces of conversations that she could pick up and understand about the following day implied that it was dangerous and everyone would be staying inside. Why not prepare for whatever affront was coming by boarding windows, or getting weapons for self-defense?

Passing up on the trinkets for the following day, Cael’yn instead pondered between two food carts. The first offered stew in bowls, though she could tell immediately that not everything in the bowl was what she would consider edible, it likely wasn’t the worst in flavor. The next stand looked more popular, and she could understand that the name ‘Chance a Lance” meant something to do with luck, and something to do with battle, or fighting. She walked over to the stand, and tried to enquire about the kabobs, as she had actually thought they looked tasty, which was either a testament to the human chef, or the drugs that may or may not have been thrown in the bonfire.

The human was pretty nice, patient enough to try to explain that it was a competition to eat the kabob before the sand had drifted back to the bottom of the hour glass. The ‘lance,’ he gestured, was actually the kabob itself, and Cael’yn got to see someone else try the challenge, which made it perfectly clear. Though she wasn’t sure if she wanted two kabobs, it was a friendly challenge, and it wasn’t a competition against another, which was refreshing. Cael’yn paid, and out of nowhere—or perhaps just because Helga was beside her the entire time and Cael’yn hadn’t been looking down—the dwarf paid the brass for a kabob as well. They were handed the kabobs at roughly the same time, and the human quickly turned the sand bottle over.

There was only 30 seconds in the challenge, and while Helga practically shoved the entire ‘lance’ into her mouth to consume as much as possible, Cael’yn saw little urgency. Helga had finished her kabob in a matter of seconds, and she cast a triumphant glare towards Cael’yn. Normally, Cael’yn didn’t think of herself as a competitive person, but Helga’s performance threw her off. The next few seconds passed with little progress being made by the elf, but in the last few moments, Cael’yn threw the whole thing down as if she had just been waiting the whole time to really begin. They both earned new kabobs, and while Cael’yn ate hers slowly, Helga gave hers to Skaldor.

They walked for a little while longer, and the dwarves stood on the side, watching the human dance. Cael’yn got bored of watching after a little while, and decided to join in. She may not have been dancing the best, but the children seemed to enjoy her, and she soon had a ring of small human children laughing and giggling around her. Cael’yn felt a small jab on her back, and turned to see a small human child running away. She had seen games like this when she was working in the blacksmith’s shop. The children poked each other, ran away, and then chased after each other. Rather delighted to be included in their game, Cael’yn chased the small boy, barely noticing that she had followed him out of the group of humans and straight into the forest.

They soon came upon a clearing, and Cael’yn attention went to a giant black stone in front of her. She hadn’t seen many before, but she knew it was not a good place to be. Even if she hadn’t gotten the vibe of ‘creepy ritual sacrifice,’ from the stone, the decaying parts of animals on sticks around it, and the feeling of death among the trees would have been more than enough to tell her to run away. The human went towards the stone though, and Cael’yn rushed forward to grab the child before he touched it. “No!” She was sure she had the word right, ‘no’ being one of the first that she had learned from the humans. Were they really so stupid that they had to touch everything? Or did the child not feel the same sense of impending doom as she did? Before she could make a gross over-generalization of humans, the boy turned into a small ball of white light and flitted off to the forest.

‘Damn sprite,’ Cael’yn thought to herself, sure that it was some sort of Fae trick now. She backed away before she ended up too close to the stone, and only then heard the sound of… hooves? It didn’t sound quite like horses, though, a realization that was confirmed when she heard a distinct roar of… some sort of beast. Turning towards the sound, she saw Helga and Skaldor. They had really followed her out here? She would have complained that they were being too clingy, but right now she was actually grateful for their… Curiosity? Clinginess? Concern? Whatever it was, Cael’yn decided that she and the dwarves needed to go, when the source of the hooves reached the clearing, and Cael’yn saw the beast-men.

The elf didn’t know that the stone was a place of ritual sacrifice for the beast-men, that they were uncommon sights, but apparent in folklore. She was not aware that the only way to destroy a stone was not to break it at all, but to find someone pure of heart and spill some amount of blood on the stone. Helga, being a bit of a bookworm when it came to folklore, was quite aware of these things, and the beast-men that worshiped them. The information was only really helpful to the group in the manner that trying to talk their way out, as they had with the giant, was probably not the best course of action. Cael’yn didn’t need it anyway, as the creatures rushed towards her and she managed to parry their attack with her short-sword, and even swipe one of them across the gut.

Her friends jumped into the fray, and she felt a bit more… at ease. Granted, Cael’yn hadn’t often been in fights where her opponents had died, but something about there being more than one focus, more than one target, made her a bit more comfortable. Despite the chaos of the situation, they managed to stay calm, maintaining their ground as they fought against the 4 creatures, three that were obviously minion, and one that seemed in control. The one in control said something about killing, and since he didn’t retreat, Cael’yn took it as a threat and continued the assault. Helga managed to finish off the boss after they landed quite a few blows. Unfortunately, the others were committed to the fight, and didn’t run off as Cael’yn had secretly hoped. She attacked one of the minions with full force, and killed him outright. Immediately following her, Skaldor managed to kill two with a single blow from his great hammer.

The beast-men lay dead on the ground, and the brash young fools were barely injured. Cael’yn began to back away from the stone and dead bodies. Turning to Helga, Cael’yn tried to figure out the best words to convey her thoughts. “We should…go tell about…” She gestured to the stone, referring to the entire encounter. There had been a strange stone that was obviously hurting the forest, some beast-men attacking them, and the group had killed them. Since she had been imprisoned for throwing a punch, Cael’yn was hesitant to go to the human nobles about the event, but still believed that being honest and straight-forward was the best option. Helga agreed, but first ensured that the grudge regarding the beast-creatures was properly recorded in the book.

When the dwarf was satisfied with her grudge keeping, the group made their way to the castle where they had delivered the ale earlier that day. Instead of the sounds of jovial partying, though, the group rounded the corner to see the gate under attack. There was one very large beast, and six other creatures that looked more like what the group had just fought. Well, at least they didn’t need to tell the nobles about the fact that there were beast men about, since clearly they were here too. Along with the two guards, one human and one noble, fighting the beasts, many of the guards up on the wall were throwing rocks, because apparently guards on the wall of a castle wouldn’t think to have arrows in case of an attack. There was also a food vendor, halfling who barely stood above his cart, and a woman who looked better dressed than the peasants had been.

The halfling’s cart was called Taste Purrfections, and he had been in competition with the human kabob vendor after Cael’yn and the dwarves had left the eating area. The halfling, Clove, had won out quite a bit of sales, and was offered a position helping to serve food at the noble’s celebration for 4 silver pieces. They just happened to be making their way up to the home at the same time as the dwarves, unaware of either fray. The noblewoman ran and cowered, which was perhaps better than getting in the way as she was obviously unarmed. “Are you any good in a fight?” Helga posed the question to the halfling before the group was thrown into the fight as well.

“I’ve been known to tussle.” Clove responded, brandishing a clever from the cart.

Cael’yn understood the conversation to be something along the lines of “You fight?” from Helga, and an affirmation from the halfling, which was sufficient enough for her to know that she could pull out her own weapon, and not worry about fighting anyone else. The fight was much more difficult than the last. While the guards helped mostly by dying slowly and taking the attention of some of the beasts, the leader was quite interested in the newcomers who managed to destroy a few of the beasts quickly and efficiently. Perhaps he could smell the blood already on their weapons from the beast creatures they had killed just prior to appearing. He roared in a way that reminded Cael’yn of some of her opponents in the arena, always trying to make themselves appear bigger and better than they were, knowing the power of fear. It did scare some, including Helga—though Cael’yn was sure the stubborn dwarf would never admit it.

Preferring the power of the blade, and confident attacks, Cael’yn stayed close to her allies as they all fought the largest beast. He caused quite a bit more damage than the other creatures had previously, and Cael’yn felt the sting of quite a few wounds, one of which was clearly very deep. It would scar something nasty, though Cael’yn was sure that it wouldn’t be the first scar she had gained because of her experiences with the humans. Clove did manage to sneak around behind the creature and hacked at it, and Helga hit it in the face with her hammer, causing it to be critically wounded. They all played a part, and eventually, the creature fell. The last of the minions were executed by the ogre, but the human guard had already died. The guards on the wall stopped throwing rocks, and though Cael’yn had ignored them for the most part, she did wonder how many of the rocks had hit her and her companions during the fight. Clove was passed out when the fighting ended, though a quick check of his pulse showed that was all that seemed to be wrong. She couldn’t help but muse that he had been hit in the head with a rock, not that any of the guards would admit such.

Before they went inside, she tried to patch herself up a bit, and her friends tried as well, but none of them really seemed to do much to help. Still, since the wound didn’t particularly hurt her, she figured that she would be alright for a while longer. She had put a patch on the wound, though she didn’t think it was doing very much to help, and let out a bit of a sigh. “No hurt.” She said to the others, getting up and sheathing her weapon so that they could enter the building.

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The Evening Before Geheimnistag Part 2
The Dwarves who Waited

As they entered through the portcullis, Cael’yn saw about a dozen humans waiting inside, in case the ogre and human failed, no doubt. The ogre dragged in the body of the human that had died, and Cael’yn saw evidence that these seven beast men were not the entire battle, but merely the end of it. There were guns strewn around the ground, as if they were abandoned. Cael’yn found herself wondering why they had abandoned the black powder weapons.

A man, obviously a leader among the guards, came forward. He had a long beard, perhaps enough to rival the beard of Skaldor. Though the beard meant little to Cael’yn, Helga knew quite a bit more from the way that the man was dressed and looked. The wolf insignia on his upper arm was indicative of Ulric, the god of winter, wolves and war. With his clothing, and stature, it was obvious that although this was a small town, the man was much higher in status than the other guards. He was more like an unofficial priest for the local towns.

The man, Grys, explained that the guards had been unable to use their guns because of an accident with black powder earlier. Their supply was ignited, and thus they could not use their ranged weaponry. Helga immediately pulled out her book and began to write a note about the manufacturer of the black powder for creating a shoddy product. The guard expressed concern about further attacks, and said that they needed to get more black powder to have a chance. Cael’yn thought about mentioning that they could use bow and arrows, but Helga finished her grudge and began to explain about the herd stone they had found.

The guard then explained that the group should pass this information to the Duchess of the castle, Duchess Otilla VonTopenheimer. The man led them inside of the castle, into a chamber with stairs, to a man with a black vest, one who was obviously a butler, at least to most of the brash young fools. Is this man the ‘Duchess’? Cael’yn found herself wondering, unfamiliar with the title herself. They stood awkwardly for a few moments, and Cael’yn tried to think about how to tell the man about the herd stone, about the creatures. She had heard it recounted by the dwarf at least once before, and she had picked up on quite a few of the necessary words. Besides that, her people had quite a few encounters with the beast men before—she knew how difficult they were to fight.

The man said something about getting the Duchess, and Cael’yn realized that she must have made a mistake, thankfully not a moment too soon. The door opened, and a large, ornate ballroom was revealed. The people were dancing, though not in the same manner as Cael’yn had seen from the common people. The door was not open for long, the man, who was apparently not the duchess, said something about getting the woman, and went inside, closing the door behind them. He returned shortly thereafter, and had them follow him to another room.

They waited in another room, during which time the dwarves began to debate entering the duchess into their grudge book for making them wait for such an extended period of time. Refreshments were provided, though, and the entry against the duchess was amended to include the fact that the serving staff had provided good ale. The woman finally arrived, her ball gown barely fitting through the doorway—servants had to squish it so that she could enter. The dwarves complained that had she taken the time to change her clothing it would have justified her absence a bit more, but she would certainly not be removed from the grudgebook, appearing in such a manner.

In any case, Helga moved on and explained everything that needed to be said to the nobles. Of all of the comments to make, the Duchess commented how strange it was that the attackers went straight to the castle. Cael’yn inquired if the woman knew that the beast men did not attack outlying areas, to which the woman responded that they did know—they had watchmen. Though the wood elf didn’t say anything else, she could not wrap her head around the idea that the watchmen were able to communicate their knowledge of a lack of attack so quickly. After all, the beast men that they had fought earlier had been close to the town, nowhere near the castle. Was the woman just oblivious to that part of Helga’s explanation? Or did she not care?

The duchess explained that the adventurers should retreat to the castle for the night, resting and hoping for a peaceful night. The question was posed as to whether that attack was common. Skaldor reminded Helga of some dates, some events in which the beast men had attacked. The dwarven hold in which Helga had been raised was the exception—there had been attacks in the other holds. Most attacks had been near the forest of Lauren. The wood elves had extensive fighting with the beast men in the past, probably the most experience of the other races. The beast men usually attacked caravans, but it was rare for them to be in mountain passes.

To the question posed, the duchess commented that the beast men had not been a problem for several generations. Cael’yn, having little understanding of human lifespans, believed that this was an impressive feat. In her mind, this was a long period of time in which they had peace from the beast men, not a century or so. The duchess excused herself, o doubt to go back to the strange dancing, and the party split for a short while.

Skaldor and Grys spoke about the fact that the guard did not have enough black powder to fend off an attack properly. The dwarf suggested that Grys instead send his men to Asgoraz for black powder, and the human agreed. While he conversed with the human, Cael’yn made her way down to the castle’s ‘doctor’.

The room had a simple wooden table with straps for holding people down, strategically placed candles, a large variety of strange devices hanging on the walls, and tall, thin doctor wearing a bloody apron. Though this might have looked like a horrifying scene to some, to Cael’yn it was significantly less creepy than the person she had seen when she had been injured as a pit fighter. The man tried to close her biggest wound, and though he managed to close it, there was little relief felt by the wood elf. The man was already quite exhausted from helping to fix the guards who had been injured in the battle with the beast men, but Cael’yn thanked the doctor for the help and then departed, the biggest wound at least covered more properly now.

After speaking with Grys, Skaldor worked on repairing armor for the guards, making a bit of money. He learned around this time that he could put a rune on the stone to possibly such the magic out of the stone, rendering it no longer a threat.

Helga, on the other hand, was spending money, eating with the vendor who had passed out during the earlier battle, the halfling named Clove. While Helga was eating, Ilsa Alderman, a servant, approached her with concerns. Count Victor von Kreinhoff, who was in charge of running the estate when the duchess was gone, was also replacing the serving staff. She believed that the beast men’s attacks were meant to provide cover for an assassination of the duchess, but she was afraid to go to the people in the castle because they were likely allied with the Count. Ilsa asked Helga to get evidence of the Count’s guilt.

In response to this information, Helga redirected her attention back to the herd stone, and went on a hunt for a baby to borrow, whose blood she could spill at the herd stone. She found a woman with nine children, and paid her a silver to borrow one of her babies for the night. The team reassembled, plus 5 guards and the infant, with the plan to return to the herd stone. As they walked through the forest, the baby began to cry. Helga tried to quiet the infant, but the female dwarf was busy renaming the infant Willhelm, or Beligar Helgasfind, and was unaware of the spider webs that may or may not have been there the first time they went to the stone.

The spider attacked, and Helga punched it with her hammer. Skaldor helped by chanting an ‘inspiring oath’ that was meant to wear down the enemy—the giant spider. Cael’yn didn’t see the point though, and decided instead to intimidate the spider, leading it to become overwhelmed. The spider had a swarm of smaller spiders as well, which attacked Helga and pinned her down. Cael’yn tried to climb a tree to jump down onto the spider and attack it that way, but the branch broke. Fortunately, the branch hit the spider, and it jumped off of Helga. The fight continued, and soon the swarm attacked everybody in close range, including the dwarves and some of the guards. Cael’yn was not involved in that fray.

In a dramatic turn of events, Skaldor stopped chanting (finally) and body-slammed the majority of the swarm that was left. Cael’yn climbed a tree (this time successfully) and attacked the spider, which had retreated into it. The spider was killed, and the dwarves found five cocoons, some of which held still living humans. One of the humans that had been trapped was a bandit, and the guards, upon recognizing the individual, arrested him. There was a hunter as well, and he carried a bow, among other things, which would find more use with the wood elf than anywhere else. The silver that was found among the dead went to the family of the deceased, which the guards would help to identify when they returned the bodies to town. The dwarves and wood elf were relatively unharmed, at least compared to their states when they began the trek back to the herd stone, though the wood elf did not think to immediately inquire about the health of the human child.

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The Evening Before Geheimnistag Part 3
Somebody’s Poisoned the Waterhole!

Clove, the half-ling, might have felt left out at the castle, while the rest of the adventures had gone to the forest to re-inspect the herd stone. However, he ended up faced with some of the biggest conflict of the night. Ilsa, the duchess’ stewardess, had earlier warned Helga of potential impending doom. She was worried that the Count was going to take control of the duchess’ territories, and this gathering was a front for an assassination attempt. At the time, Helga had been dealing with much more pressing matters though, and had abandoned Ilsa in this time of need to go investigate the possibility of ‘borrowing’ a human baby to shed some blood on the stone. Ilsa, for reasons unknown, had gone to Clove next, petitioning him for aid in her struggles to protect the Duchess—though why she spent so much time away from the duchess to be speaking with these adventures was also a mystery.

Clove was hired by Ilsa to keep an eye on the food in the kitchen, to make sure that there was no poison that could make its way to the Duchess, or allow her to come into any harm. She also told Clove about her concerns regarding the Count’s intentions during this celebration. Clove immediately got to work in the kitchen, trying to make sure that the food provided would meet his standards. An ogre soon arrived, along with Helga, asking for food. Another chef reminded Helga that there was plenty of food for free around the corner, on the buffet-style table, and her needs were quickly satiated. The ogre, however, was not so easily pleased.

Swag—the ogre—was dressed sharply. He wore a monocle, and a jacket to compliment his well-made gut plate. “Meat Pie.” He demanded of the chefs, to which the first tried to respond that there was food around the corner. The ogre cleared his throat and stepped out of the kitchen area, though, showing respect to the man, and the chef quickly turned to Clove.

“When will you have the next meat pie finished?” He asked, his voice perhaps only wavering because of the heat, and not the ten foot ogre in their midst.

“Thirty-Two minutes” Clove, the detail-oriented half-ling immediately replied. After all, not knowing exactly when his next dish would be ready would hardly be fitting of a cuisine connoisseur such as himself.

Pulling out a pocket-watch, the ogre would contemplate the response before he spoke again. “Four-Three minutes.” The ogre replied vaguely, in a way that philosophers could debate was actually incredibly profound, should they be incredibly drunk, and having bets on the most ridiculous thesis they could possibly write and get published before they began to feel hung over.

Forty-one minutes after the ogre left kitchen, he would return for his meat pie, and eat the entire pound of meat to satiate his own hunger. The ogre put out his hand to shake the half-ling’s hand (or entire body) and introduced himself, “Me Swag.” He declared, and then swaggered off to work again with the guard. After the ogre left, Clove noticed a vial on the floor. There was a bit of liquid left on the bottom, but the chef was unable to identify its contents. Clove tasted his food frequently, and though it met his standards, he would find that he was getting tired, and a bit worn-down. Such was not uncommon during a large celebration, working in a hot kitchen, though, and Clove was not one to back down or run away, despite the appearance of the strange vial.

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Irunil was a boatman, the lookout on a larger ship that made its way to the docks of Sollandheim the evening before Geheimnistag. The high elves suspect that magic is concentrating in this area of the empire, in dangerously high levels. Irunil was part of a group that was sent to learn why this heavy concentration was building, and to help mitigate the damage that might have been caused. The reason for their docking in this particular location was that they were already nearby when they saw the beast men attacking the castle. They docked, and Irunil helped to end the assault on the castle by killing a number of these creatures.

Already invited to stay in the barracks for lodging because of the assistance he had provided, Irunil was informed by a guard that a group of adventurers had come with information about a herd stone that was found in the woods. The arch mage from the ship asked Irunil to look into the magic concentration, as he was a better set of eyes than she was, and she didn’t want to interfere unless it was absolutely necessary. Aware of the relationship between the herd stone and the increasing concentration of magic, Irunil went towards the woods, only to be met by one of the guards who was bringing out the cocooned bodies and bandits.

It was probably a startling sight for the high elf, to encounter humans dragging bodies wrapped in abnormally large cocoons, and one man in manacles, from the woods. “Is anything wrong?” He asked. The guards stumbled over his words, accidentally giving the elf a much higher rank than was required, assuming that every elf was of relatively high standing. “Captain? Admiral? Uh… these are townsfolk that we are returning for burial.” The guard explained.

Putting his weapons away, Irunil offered his assistance to the guards, and helped to take the cocooned bodies so that the guard could focus on the prisoner. On the way, Irunil was filled in about the beast men ambushing during the celebrations, how the block powder stores had been ignited, and even how they were reduced to throwing stones because they had no access to cannon or handgun, or stockpile of other armaments. He explained that they killed about 20 or so beast men in their encounter, and thanks to a few adventurers, only lost one of their men.

After the guard finished his recollection, the high elf once again inquired about the herd stone, and where the chaotic artifact might be located. Much to the elf’s dismay, it was revealed that the elf had been very close to the location when he had met with the guard, in the wilderness. Before he finished lugging the bodies, the elf also asked if the human had noticed any signs of this impending attack by the beast men. The guard revealed that he had his cards read the week before, and he had learned that there would be two full moons, and it would be a rather dangerous time in the area. By the time the elf was heading out once more, he had the interestingly dressed ogre in his company as well.

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After fighting the giant spider, Skaldor and Helga once again began to contemplate the best method of ridding the herd stone of its magic. Skaldor’s plan was to create a new rune, one that would use the magic of the herd stone, but do virtually nothing with it. Helga doubted Skaldor’s abilities, at least in jest, and commented upon arriving at the herdstone, “We might need to cut this baby!”

“We?? You!” Cael’yn replied. It had not been the wood elf’s idea to borrow the human baby or bring it out to the woods, and she had no intention of being a part of harming it. As Irunil came upon the clearing, the adventurers had yet to notice him (or the ogre, surprisingly). Skaldor stood in front of the stone, in contemplation about his rune-smithing. Helga was trying to feed the baby, shoving bacon into its mouth. Cael’yn sighed, and Helga tried to hand off the infant to her.

“Feed the baby, elf.” Helga demanded. Cael’yn refused, and they discussed the baby’s potential need for milk. Not interested in breast-feeding in the slightest, Cael’yn suggested water. “You want me to water the baby?” Helga asked Cael’yn skeptically.

After a few moments to translate the words properly, the elf shook her head. “No, give it…to drink!” She exclaimed. Helga had great difficulty settling the child, though she did discover that Belgar hadn’t made a mess in his diaper, which was impressive considering their earlier encounter with the spiders.

Irunil was the first to spot the eyes in the woods, low to the ground. Calling out to Cael’yn, he yelled, “Azure!” mistaking her for a high elf. Cael’yn promptly broke out in a fit of laughter, though it ended when he continued in the elven tongue. “There are monsters in the woods!”

Cael’yn sobered immediately and drew her weapon. “Weapons!” She yelled to Helga.

“Tell the dawi mage to continue!” He yelled after, as the ground began to rumble and quake beneath their feet. Cael’yn complied, telling Skaldor to continue with his rune-smithing, though the dwarf was not happy to hear the wood elf giving him orders. Cael’yn moved close to Skaldor, knowing that he would not be able to defend himself if he continued and these…things continued to attack.

“Why did you say to draw weapons?”

Cael’yn pointed to the ground, where the bubbling of puss sacks in the dirt and flailing arms began to rise out of the ground. “Monsters in the woods.” She repeated in common, frustrated by the lack of understanding among the group. The creatures attacked Cael’yn first, rushing in as if engaging in a group hug; only, they were armed with rusty knives.

The ogre rushed closer, attacking and smashing 4 nurgles in one go. Helga wanted to write these creatures in the grudge book, but had trouble juggling the book and the baby, and was not able to easily find a safe place to put the boy so that she could write more quickly. Irunil noticed that because they were so short, the nurgles would only attack the ankles and legs, and he yelled a warning out in the common tongue to protect their legs. Irunil killed a few with his short bow, and the other party members continued to reduce their numbers. Eventually, the few nurgles who were left ran, and the ogre followed them into the woods.

Irunil and Cael’yn moved beside each other, making sure that the threat from the tree line had in fact been the same creatures that had appeared from the holes in the ground. They learned that the holes had been little tunnels that the creatures dug. During the battle, most of the party had been injured at least a bit, but the only one to catch a disease from the nasty creatures was Helga, whose foot would begin to stink. The stench would grow throughout the evening, making her even less tolerable to the rest of the party.

“So…who are you?” Cael’yn asked when the chaos had subsided. Irunil introduced himself, and Cae’lyn did the same. “I am not Asur.” She commented, and the high elf nodded. Once he had entered the clearing completely, and he saw her appearance (namely, her dark dreadlocks) he had gathered that she was Asarai. Irunil explained briefly that he was sent to investigate the herd stone. He borrowed a piece of cloth from Cael’yn and wrapped it around his hand before touching the stone, finding that it was still warm.

Helga was the first to let out a large sigh of relief when the fight was over. “Well, the good news is we didn’t have to sacrifice baby…” She trailed off, unable to remember the baby’s name for a moment.

“BALGAR!” Cael’yn supplied, annoyed that the dwarf who had felt so attached to the baby couldn’t remember the name she had given him.

“Wait. WHAT?!” Irunil interjected, stepping forward to try to find out more from the dwarf about the potential child sacrifice that was being discussed. He asked how in the world they had gotten the idea that sacrificing the human baby would eliminate the threat of the herd stone.

“Folklore!” Helga and Skaldor replied.

Irunil turned to Cael’yn with a look of astonishment. “They’re dwarves.” She replied to the unspoken question, shaking her head.

“I just want to make it clear that baby sacrificing was at the bottom of the list.” Helga continued, though the fact that it was a list of two options didn’t do much to serve her cause.

Irunil asked the male dwarf how his rune would help the situation, and Skaldor explained that it was a rune apprentices used in training; it was an ineffective sink of magic. Though the prospect of sacrificing babies and using training runes to end dissipate the magic of herd stones probably sounded completely trustworthy, Irunil suggested that they speak to the Azure mage who had assigned him to learning more about the herd stone, to get her approval on the tactic they had chosen.

Still, before they left, Helga asked once more if they should spill a few drops of the baby’s blood, just to be safe. The dwarves seemed to think it was an amicable solution, though Irunil was not a fan of it.

“They don’t want my opinion.” Cael’yn said to Irunil quietly. “Why not?” He asked, puzzled about the strange relationship between the wood elf and the dwarves.

Cael’yn sighed, and asked the dwarves if they wanted her opinion, and then was bewildered when they said yes. “oh…uh… No. It is a stupid idea.” She declared.

The argument over Belgar and the herd stone for a short while longer. Irunil tried to compromise by asking them to return to his arch mage and get her opinion before they did anything else rash, trying to say that he wouldn’t rule out the dwarf’s suggestion completely, but the dwarf was not ready to agree to meet this arch mage, since she might have been in the grudge book. They bickered for a short while, and then Cael’yn suggested that they check the grudge book as they were going towards Irunil’s friend, which was accepted.

The ogre returned to the clearing after the fight, and after a brief discussion he used his weapon to smash the herd stone into many small pieces, which might have helped to dissipate the magic, though the arch mage would be able to tell them more when she was retrieved.

.

The half-ling chef continued his due diligence, until a younger servant pushed open the doors to the kitchen, his panicked voice echoing through the room. “The Duchess has been poisoned!” he yelled. The boy ran off before the thought had time to settle among the chefs. Replacing the boy at the door, a few guards appeared, asking all of the chefs to come with them, to figure out how this could have happened. It was obvious by the weapons in their hands that if any of the chefs were to refuse, then the guards would likely use force, and assume the hesitance was an admission of guilt, of course.

Clove bravely disclosed the information that he had already acquired, hoping that truth would lead to justice, and the true culprit being found, of course. Clove admitted that he had found a vial, and that he was already under the effects of the poison as well, because he had been tasting his food, as any good chef did. Clove was led to another area, where a trial could begin to find out who poisoned the duchess, and exactly how involved Clove was in those events.

As he was rather forthcoming with information, Clove spoke to the judge quickly, explaining the situation, to which the judge exclaimed that the half-ling could have planned this, and injected the poison on purpose. When he produced the mysterious vial of poison that he had found, which in retrospect may have in fact made him look guiltier, the judge wafted a bit of the odor, and studied the leftover liquid before passing it to one of the guards.

“It is grave rot.” The guard commented, looking at the judge.

“Where did you find this?” The judge asked. Clove stated that he found it on the floor, and the judge narrowed his eyes a bit before continuing. “It is an illicit substance. Possession of grave rot comes with a fine. Twenty-five silver, or three days in the stockade.” The consequences had been set a long time before. Clove considered the choices, and with a sigh he agreed to the stockade, complying with the guards and accepting the imprisonment.

Some time had passed, with Clove growing quite weary due to the narcotic running through his system. Fortunately, he had learned that he was not going to die due to the influence of the drug in his system. Unfortunately, he had not been provided with any substance to help lessen the effects of the drug.

“I’m sorry for you being wrongfully accused.” Ilsa said as she appeared in Clove’s view. She had come up from behind the stockade, and she knelt a bit so she was at level with his face. She told him that she would make sure that he wasn’t blamed for the duchess’ death, and then apologized once more, and then raised her hand to his mouth. The cloth that covered his mouth and nose must have had some sort of sedative chemical on it, because in a matter of moments, Clove was unconscious.

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