Greetings, patrons, and welcome to The Mended Yoke, where the ale is chilled, the bar maidens friendly, and the Spicy Cornbread Mash will cater to the most distinguished traveler’s palate. Don’t forget to sample some of their Cat’s Pumpkin Cider if you are in the mood for a slightly honey-sweetened beverage with a hint of a spiced bite. I recommend it with the rhubarb pie.
For those of you who were here yesterday, I bid you welcome again! I hope that you can stay with us for a few more nights as I continue to weave the story of The Heroes of Arandale. So, order a bowl of Autumn’s Crisp Mutton Stew and an ale, wine, or mead, and join me as I tell a tale of heroes from this very city whose actions and renown — or infamy — spread well past this little trading town.
When we last left our heroes, the Rogue Prince Shava had just disabled the druid, Nadir. As he lay on the ground, stunned, the heroes beheld a brilliant, gently glowing pool of water amidst the ancient Circle of Stones far to the north and east of this town in the the Elfwood.
And then, our of nowhere, a small hawk dropped a tiny object in front of Akta, the Warlock. Upon reaching down to touch it, she mysteriously disappeared before her companion’s eyes! Bewildered, the heroes thought the incident strange, but perhaps her method of answering a summons.
As the remaining heroes discovered, the pool was ancient; its gentle bubbling, though strange at first, was a boon from the ancient spirits of the world to those pure of spirit and noble of heart. As the heroes studied it, they thought that perhaps Nadir might benefit from the healing waters of the pool.
They were wrong.
As Nadir was gently dipped into the pool he jerked, thrashed and spat blood as the water sizzled around him. The bark that was entwined with his skin began to flake off. The water wasn’t healing this once pure druid, but punishing him for his corrupt actions against the spirits! Quickly, the heroes gathered him up and pulled him out of the pool. He was nearly dead at the hands of the angry earth. This would not be the last time the Land tried to punish him for his crimes.
There was also the matter of the strange crystal that the druid had in his possession. The amethyst crystal was half the length and width of a halfling’s hand and gently glowed with a strange light. Sheriff Tom, with the help of his companions, managed to gather the strange crystal into a small beltpouch for safekeeping. The crystal was something that would hopefully shed some answers on why Nadir turned.
With the day behind them, with the druid bound and secured, and with night fast approaching, the heroes made camp near the gentle glow of the bubbling pool. While sleep was peaceful for many that night, the heroes had no real rest.
During the middle of the night, the spirits of the Land decided that the druid, while once good, deserved to be punished for his crimes against the spirits. As they took their shifts, Idrin, and then Tom, noticed that the druid seemed to be sliding across the ground towards the pool. During Idrin’s watch, he was able to simply return the druid to his previous resting place. During Tom’s watch, however, was when the difficulties started.
After waking his friends out of a sense of alarm, Tom and the rest of the party tried their hardest to shop the druid’s descent into the pool; while the heroes knew they would be unharmed, they knew the pool had no such effect on the druid. They tugged and fought with the spirits made real as vines and plant growth, but ultimately the druid fell with a great splash into the pool along with Idrin. As Idrin rose to the surface, the druid, already weak and injured, was shoved towards Death’s door.
It was an uneasy sleep that met the heroes after they closed their eyes.
In the morning as they prepared to leave, Tom discovered that in their struggle, the crystal had managed to worm its way out of the pouches he’d placed it in. Perplexed, but not unwise, Tom once again bound the crystal tightly within the remains of the pouches and in several thongs of leather, convinced that this seemingly malevolent crystal would do nothing but cause trouble from he and his companions.
And he was right, too.
The heroes return to the Crone’s hut was uneventful; the elves had vacated their camp with their dead; the strange maze of trees no longer seemed present; the river they’d struggled against had disappeared without a trace. By the time the afternoon had rolled about, the heroes and one scarred and mutilated corpse arrived at the outskirts of Arandale, and the old Crone’s cottage. The heroes and the Crone spoke of Nadir and the little girl whom the Crone had given refuge and care to briefly.
Then, there was the crystal.
The Crone, alarmed, understood the crystal before it was so much as placed on the table. After release, it circled around the table of its own volition until the Crone, at some injury to herself, managed to wrestle the thing into a Medicine Jar — an old device of folk magic filled with salt from the shores of seldom-disturbed beaches. While the jar glowed, the Crone explained the dangers and perils of the gem and its temptations.
“You must take it forth from this place,” the Crone implored, “and ensure its destruction once and for all lest the world become a visage of shadow and flame.” Heroes being heroes, gladly accepted their quest to destroy such a foul artifact.
With the druid’s toll into the spirit world paid, thanks to Idrin, with the little girl visited and comforted, thanks to Shava, and with the gen safe and sound, thanks to Tom, and with the shadows looking the other way as the heroes passed, thanks to Malagar, the heroes said their goodbyes and headed back into Arandale to conduct their business.
Tom, ever the dutiful sheriff-in-training-but-effectively-sheriff, returned to his fellows in the watch to chew the fat and learn about any new goings-on in town. His Fellows-In-Arms clued him in to some unusual behavior of the local hounds and some tremblings of the earth but noted that everything else was otherwise undisturbed.
Shava, an enterprising Man of the Road, proceeded to the market to obtain supplies and various sundries for a potential trip ahead — and he was quite successful in his acquisitions.
Malagar headed for The Tempered Blade, a fine inn and establishment if I do say so myself, and was fortunate enough to find out that the party’s lodgings were paid for, courtesy of the townspeople.
Idrin proceeded to the local blacksmith’s shop with the elven chest in tow. WIth the help of the artisan’s expertise and a set of skeleton keys, the smith revealed a lovely war pick which Idrin, with the party’s consent, took as his own.
Akta was still nowhere to be found, though the group figured that as a powerful warlock she had to have left of her own volition.
After the party regrouped, they wandered back towards the Crone’s hut only to see that there were dogs staring at the house with some strange intent. The heroes managed to shoo them off without any conflict, but there was still something strange, the party felt it.
After a long day of preparation and return to the city, the heroes took respite in The Tempered Blade. After an evening of merriment, food, and drink, the heroes broke for the night to sleep until morning.
Unfortunately for them, there was no bright and early morning, for in the darkest hour of the night the smell of smoke woke the heroes! One by one, they woke to find their rooms filled with smoke. With stinging eyes and breaths choked by smoke, the heroes did what they could to escape the burning inn: they crashed through windows; they broke down doors; they jumped and tumbled, and sometimes simple fell to the safety of the cool ground below them. In all, the heroes managed to save the innkeeper and his wife, the little girl they rescued earlier, and a dwarven merchant before the building crumbled to the ground in a burning pile of rubble. And who, you might ask, started this fire? Who was responsible for this mayhem?
After the heroes gathered their wits, the reality of the situation dawned on them. The town was not what it was just a few hours before. A thick fog rolled into the city from the edge of town where the graveyard lay.
In the fog-choked streets were the bodies of men and women, unconscious or dead. Several other buildings were damaged. And as the heroes discovered, the Crone was missing! As the heroes sought out the source of the mysterious fog and wondered what was afoot,
Eventually the fog started to clear and revealed the now desecrated graveyard, the amethyst-colored crystal’s eerie light, the Crone, subdued and weak, and Nadir, risen from the dead.
Alarmed, the heroes sprang in to action. On realizing the townspeople weren’t dead, but simply possessed, the heroes battled with the commandeered bodies, but didn’t kill them. The Possessed, embued by the power of the crystal, battered the heroes until they suddenly dropped. After this discovery, the possesed, despite their supernatural resilience, were eventually subdued, but not before Nadir, with a horrible look in his eye, began to torment and drain the life force from the Crone. Spurred on, the heroes risked blade and arrow to approach the corrupt druid, Nadir.
With unerring precision, the heroes stabbed, cut, nicked, and impaled their way towards Nadir. Malagar, with precise action, whipped out a garrote wire and began to strangle the risen-again druid. Shava, ever the opportunistic tactician, and despite the druid’s most horrible powers and frightening tactics, drew his blade and with one fell swoop cut into Nadir’s half-rotted flesh,
The druid, injured beyond any hope of restoration, crumbled into a pile of acrid, corrupted ash as the crystal fell to the ground at the base of a crypt. The crone, weakened but safe, climbed down from the crypt with some help and the townspeople began to come to.
The heroes once again saved the town of Arandale from the druid Nadir once again — twice in two days! And the townspeople, after recovering from the shock of the destroyed inn and the damaged graveyard, provided lodging for the heroes. Morning was a few hours off yet and the heroes’ journey was still on.
But that is a tale for another time.
(( Shava and Malagar: I don’t actually recall what you guys did in town. I believe Malagar went to the Inn straight away and if I’m not mistaken, Shava went to the market or mayor’s office. Please correct me if I’m wrong and I’ll fix it. :) It’s what I get for not finishing up until much later. ))