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The Road to Craghold

General Summary

Founding Rahghul

Novorum 4, 887 Af.

The heroes decided they would wait for Enarzu to come back, and worked to establish the mine as a goblin village. Durdeg still wanted nothing to do with this, and expected it to come to disaster soon enough. The goblins Kasret had set off came back with word of volcanic rock, and could therefore create concrete. Some of the miners were diverted to collect the rock, and Kasret and Sif tried to train some of the goblins in the basic principles of grinding the rocks and baking them in a kiln. They were not sure if they had gotten the point across, but with Gandri there, they would at least have someone who could help them. Gandri wouldn't stay long, but would come check on the goblins every few weeks untilo he was sure they were OK.

Sif looked for, and found, a few goblins that would convert to the worship of Kolero. None of them had any real experience at worship before this, not ever being allowed any comforts when enslaved to the mines before, and were happy to give it a shot. Sif suggested to the others that they set up a triumvirate in the town, with Enarzu, Vizla, and Baluk, the new initiate of Kolero. Kasret considered it, but ultimately decided that they should have Enarzu in charge of all decisions, with Vizla as just a figurehead. Since the goblins were mostly devoted to him, they established that as the system of government.

They also discussed what they would call the settlement. Carta felt that simple was best, and just go with Gobtown. When the trolls were mentioned, they tried to come up with a name that could honor them both. When Sif's suggestion of "Goolls" was shot down, they passed on combining names. Finally, the name of Rahghul was suggested, and with no one having many strong feelings, they agreed on the most complicated spelling they knew and officially founded the village.

To Bonum Prox

Novorum 5-6, 887 Af.

It was close to midday when Enarzu arrived back at the mine. The heroes explained things, and turned control of the mine over. They stressed making sure they kept to the deal with the trolls. With as much as they could do, done, they set out to Bonum Prox, first leg on the journey to the Grey Citadel. They camped that night in the grasslands west of the river, in the hopes of arriving the next day.

They made it to Bonum Prox in the late afternoon, and set up a camp site. Sharlot and Durdeg elected to stay outside the city and not pay the taxes to get in, although Sharlot did give Sif money to pay for a spell scroll, knowing it would help the group in the long run. Sif headed to the Illuminator, and purchased the scrolls she needed, as well as the inks and quills for transcribing into her spell book. She gathered her materials, and headed out to the camp.

Carta went to the temple and met with Faora. They spent some time talking of their respective adventures, and the glory of Adalci. Before leaving, Carta took the opportunity to tithe to the Church, getting even for the last few months. He then wished Faora well, and left the city.

Kasret wandered to a seedy end of town, where merchants of questionable repute plied their wares. A tatoo artist called to him, offering infused tattoos, as deadly as they were beautiful. He started to talk to the man, when an Elf slid up to Kasret. The Elf had mesmerizing eyes, gold with flecks of silver that seemed to swirl around. He shifted his gaze constantly, taking in every movement. He reached out to Kasret, telling the Bugbear that he had seen his future, and that Kasret must have an egg. With a flourish, the Elf hoisted an egg in his slender fingers. He waved the off-white and brown-flecked egg in front of Kasret's eyes, too quick to get a good look. He shielded it with his cloak, and whispered to Kasret that it was a dragon's egg, and it would one day save his life. With money to spare, and an strange desire to spend it, Kasret asked how much. The Elf sized him up, and said for him, it would only be 250 gold pieces. The price was ridiculously low for a dragon's egg, and Kasret decided to take a risk - it was almost worth it to see just what hatched, even if it wasn't a dragon. He handed over the coins, and the Elf handed him the egg. As the Elf spun one and a half pirouettes, he began to skip down the street, laughing gaily. Kasret examined the egg, found it to be a bit on the small side for a dragon, about 6 inches at its longest. It appeared to be pretty tough, but Kasret had no idea what to do with it. He tucked it away, to worry about later.

An annoyed looking tattoo artist cleared his throat loudly, and Kasret turned back to him. He started to ask Kasret what he was looking for in a tattoo. Kasret asked what he would recommend, and the artist's eyes lit up. He smiled, and began to give options. First, he said, we can go with a simple but effective one on your hand. We can do some flames that will go across your hand, some lovely oranges and reds swirling about. I don't know about you, but I find fire very romantic, and this tattoo would look so good. And it is functional! You can release the stored magic to send a gout of flame in a cone in front of your, burning your enemies!

When Kasret did not seem convinced, the man went bigger. Ah, he said while leaning in close, I think you are looking for a bit more, are you not? We can do more! We can do a sleeve up your arm, making the flames begin at your elbow and blaze gloriously to your hand. It will be incredible, and you can unleash a ball of fire on your enemies when you want. Kasret looked more interested, and the artist made one more pitch. Lightning! That's it! We shall trace your veins with lightning, and allow you to channel the bolt against all who stand before you. The colors will be so vibrant that they will appear to glow on your skin. We do this, yes? Kasret was convinced, and sat in the chair. First, the hair was waxed from his arm, to give a clean palette. While this was painful enough on its own, immediately followed up by thousands of pricks of a needle made it excruciating. But he fought through, and in the end was impressed with the work. With his skin an angry red from the abuse, the lightning glowed white in contrast. He winced as he moved his arm, but thought it was worth it and rejoined the others.

The Road to Amica

Novorum 7-15, 887 Af.

The party traveled north along the river, camping along the road rather than stopping in any of the tiny towns along the way. They had looked at the map, and thought they could shave a day off of their travel time by doing so, and they wanted to get to Craghold as soon as possible. They regularly passed caravans of traders bringing goods from Amica down to Bonum Prox and eventually Bandar Philia, and simply moved to the side to allow them to pass by.

Three days into the journey, they encountered a group of people in red robes with hoods raised chanting, singing, and dancing as they walked down the road. They were being led by a Dragonborn in the same robes, although his sleeves were rolled up and his hood thrown back. The chanting appeared to be mostly in response to his cues, as he would say something about "the Jewel", and they would reply with various blessings and aphorisms. As they drew close to the party, the leader stretched his arms around, and loudly asked if they had heard the good news.

Durdeg knew where this was going, and immediately decided he wanted no part of it. He turned his horse away, and when he realized his companions were going to sit through the sales pitch, he opened his bag to start doing some minor work. The others began far too polite, with Carta asking what the news was. With a smile, the Dragonborn man told them that they no longer needed to be a slave to a single facet of the overall truth, and could instead hove complete knowledge by worshiping the Jewel directly.

Kasret knew what worshiping the Jewel entailed, as it was how he got his powers, but it was nothing like what this man was talking about. For him, he had performed the rites to become a blood hunter, and was linked to the power of the Jewel directly. It was incomprehensible to him, and to the person who helped him develop the link. While it clearly had some motivating force, to reduce it to something that could be worshiped like this did not work with his understanding. He dismissed the man as a charlatan that he could safely ignore.

The Dragonborn turned to Sharlot, and took in the lute she carried with her. He asked her if she was focused on her music, or if she was willing to expand her horizons by learning what the Jewel had to offer. He began to talk about the Jewel as the true source of all music, but she cut him off, saying that her music was her focus, not any type of divinity. As the man turned his gaze to Sif and started an appeal, Sif immediately shut him down with a few choice curses. He seemed taken aback, and turned his focus back to Carta.

He began to explain to Carta that the Jewel held all truths together at the same time, rather than the limited truth of any given facet. When he was finished with his pitch, he offered a pamphlet to him, saying that it would explain some of the things about the worship of the Jewel. Carta politely took the pamphlet, and the worshipers went on their way.

The heroes continued their journey, and for the next couple of days saw nothing beyond a few trading caravans. They had passed through a village around midday, and were still hours away from another as the sun was sinking low on the horizon. As they were thinking of finding a place to camp, they heard a distant howling from the west. The howls were canine, but the discordant baying was clearly not natural. When Carta heard it, he was swept back to his fight with the hell hounds that almost killed Akogi.

Attack of the Fiends

Sending the flying helpers to see what was going on, the party prepared for an assault. The birds immediately turned back a few miles out, and Sif brought the owl back to herself. The hounds that Carta identified were there, two of them making the noise that they heard. But this time, they looked to be followers of the real threat. Between the hounds was an enormous horse, with jet black hair on skin tight against the muscular frame. Its tail and mane were both made of fire, and each step struck sparks against the ground and left behind a flaming hoof-print. Mounted on the beast was a tall, muscular humanoid, clad in black plate armor studded with spikes. His face was mostly hidden behind a winged helm, although his fiery eyes shown out from the visor. In his hand, he held a lance that seemed to be made of liquid fire, with no indication of mundane materials from the tip to the handle.

They were closing in quickly, and the group scrambled to be ready. They did not have the time to erect any of their better protection spells, and so instead they cast what they could for personal protection. Both Kasret and Durdeg quickly mirrored themselves, so it looked as though there were four of them in the line. Sharlot performed her inspirational songs to help them out, and Carta and Sif got right with their Deities and called on them for assistance. They were as ready as they could be, when the enemy came into view. The hell hounds had spread out wide, and looked to be attempting to come at the group from either side. Kasret stayed back with the casters to protect them, while Carta held close to them ready for a charge, and Durdeg moved forward to intercept the rider. Sif and Sharlot both prepared a spell to be thrown at the rider when it came into range.

The hounds circled around, and moved in towards the back line. The first one got in close enough for Kasret to engage, and he took deadly aim with his crossbow. With blinding speed, he launched three crossbow bolts at the beast. The first two stuck in its chest, staggering it in time for the final bolt to lodge in its eye. It collapsed to the ground, its momentum causing it to roll a few feet before all movement ceased. The other continued its charge, growing closer by the moment, which caused Sif to move towards her companions for safety.

Durdeg was set and ready for the charge, when the rider showed that they were not truly prepared for what they faced. The flaming hooves of the horse pushed off the ground, and suddenly the hoof-prints were no longer on the land. It ran across the sky, speeding up faster than what it had done before, riding directly over the Hobgoblin. Durdeg cursed as he spun around and ran to get back in the fight. The Night Mare returned to earth next to Kasret and Sharlot, and attacked her with its flaming hooves while the rider stabbed out with his lance.

Sif cast her newest spell, Sif's Find Weakness at the rider, hoping to find something they could exploit. While she did not find a weakness, she was able to determine that the rider was either immune or resistant to fire, poison, acid, and cold effects. She called out the knowledge to her companions, just as the other hell hound caught up to her. It sucked in a breath, and fire formed in its throat. Angling to catch both Sif and Sharlot, it unleashed the flames on them. They both scrambled out of the way, getting singed but not completely engulfed in flames. The rider shouted something in Infernal, and the party felt a wave of fear wash over them. While most were able to push through, Durdeg and Kasret were frozen, and unable to approach any closer. Durdeg could still throw a spell from this distance, and attempted to grease the ground below the Night Mare and hopefully knock it and the rider down.

The flaming hooves provided sure footing, and the rider and mount circled around Kasret to have a clear shot at Sharlot. The lance moved so fast it was a blur, and it was enough to pierce into Sharlots side, sending her to the ground with blood flowing freely. The rider turned to Kasret, and began to square off against the many images. Carta was able to move in and channel the power of Adalci to close her wound. She opened her eyes, and stood up to rejoin the fight.

Sif began to pour her efforts into eliminating the other hell hound, which returned the favor by attempting to bite her. Durdeg saw the fight, and since it wouldn't bring him closer to the source of the terror gripping him, moved over to help. He moved so that the two of them were on opposite sides of the beast, and could help each other by striking it from behind. Meanwhile, the rider and Night Mare struck at Kasret repeatedly, and his mirror images shattered one by one. With the last of the images gone, the rider struck Kasrets chest with his flaming lance, and he collapsed to the ground, motionless. Carta risked being bitten by the hell hound to come to his aid and channeled healing energy again, and Kasret rolled over and painfully regained his feet.

With the hell hound distracted by trying to bite Carta, Durdeg was able to lash out with his powered gauntlets and grabbed the beast by a leg. With his armor fueling his strength, he picked the hound up and began to slam it repeatedly to the ground. When it stopped moving, he smashed it one final time and left it in the dirt. With both hounds down, everyone could focus on the horse and rider, and Durdeg and Kasret were both able to shake off the terror that had engulfed them.

Sharlot called forth her magic and made the now familiar transformation into a giant ape. She beat her chest, then swung at the rider. Her fists connected, and the rider was beaten and bloody. The cuts visible through his now broken visor showed a trickle of blood that turned into flame in the air. As the group prepared for a strike to bring it down, the Night Mare reared back, and disappeared. Everyone held position, not knowing if it was gone for good, or simply repositioning.

Moments later, the horse appeared in the sky well over 100 feet away. The riders wounds appeared to have healed, and it leveled the lance at its enemies. As it began to charge towards the group, Carta moved forward and set himself to dodge any blows, while Durdeg moved forward and sent v10 over head to fling radiant energy at it. As it closed, Sif sent a bolt of divine light at the Night Mare, leaving a trail for further attacks to follow. Sharlot took advantage, and threw a large rock at the mount, impacting its shoulder and breaking bones. The same flaming blood came from the horse, and it was clearly weakened. It still had the energy left to lash out at v10 as passed, and the energy surrounding the gem was dissipated. The gem fell from the sky, and Durdeg snatched it from the air as he turned to follow the Night Mare to wherever it landed. It landed near where Kasret had just finished gulping down a healing potion.

Kasret took a desperation shot, and it struck true. The bolt was buried in the mounts skull, and it crashed to the ground. The rider attempted to get clear, but couldn't keep its feet. Carta was close enough to charge in, sword held high, and bring the blade crashing down. As he did, he channeled the power of Adalci again, this time in righteous fury at the fiend. It was able to get back on its feet, and stabbed Kasret once more, putting him at death's door once again. Durdeg used his thorn whip to ensnare the rider and bring it towards him, while Sharlot swiped at it with her massive fists as it went by. Carta quickly healed Kasret again, and Durdeg pounded his fists into the fiend, thunder rolling as the gauntlets connected. Sif called forth divine light and sent the tracing bolt towards the fiend, but the trail was useless this time. The power of the Deity overcame the power of the fiend, and it fell to the ground. Hellfire began to consume the body, and as they watched it turned to ash in front of them.

Exhausted, the group sat for a moment, trying to catch their breaths. Eventually, Sharlot reverted to her normal form, and took one of the hell hound skulls for use in her upcoming performance. She wasn't sure what she would do with it yet, but no one could argue that the skull wouldn't make an outstanding stage prop. They moved a short distance away to set up camp for the night. The next morning, they set out early, and reached Amica without further incident.

To Craghold by water

Novorum 16-21, 887 Af.

Upon arriving in Amica and stocking up on supplies, the group decided that a relaxing boat ride would be better than continuing to walk. They could easily find barge space, as most trade came down from the mountains rather than up, but they also found a ship with private cabins available. A bit more expensive, but it could take them, their horses, and wagon and would be much more comfortable and protected from the elements. They slept in hammocks in rooms that were passenger cabins when the boat was running north, but were storage for goods coming back to the south.

They were thankful to be protected from the elements a few days in, when a massive storm rolled across the land. For more than a day, a heavy rain drove against them, making the ship list in the wind. Thunder and lightning were nearly constant, and the water around them was struck multiple times an hour. The party never saw the ship itself struck, although they did not know how or why. They did hear the crew muttering about the storm coming early, and they made some comments about Procellas being angry. Others said it wasn't the Deity, just an early storm, and early storms happen. They all touched and said a few words to the lightning bolt inscribed on the center mast, however.

Early in the morning of the 21st, the Captain told them that they would be arriving in a few hours, and they might want to be on deck for the approach. To the east, trees were filling in - tall evergreens with lush needles were starting to block the view that direction, while to the west were vast fields. With harvest time approaching, the fields were full and people could be seen working them. from a distance, they saw the fields rising away from them in a colorful tapestry of greens, yellows, and reds. They all recognized the corn fields, and the wheat, but some of the orchards in the distance were of trees that they hadn't seen before, and what appeared to be vineyards were a riotous mix of colors, from the purple and light green they expected, to yellows, reds, blues, and deep blacks. As they looked over the fields, they eventually noticed the cliff face rising in the distance, and thought they must be close.

They looked directly upriver, and saw the water spilling from the top of the cliff, but couldn't see where it was landing. The river was starting to widen and slow, as they entered the lake, and still they couldn't see where the water came to the ground. The cliff they thought they were near continued to grow, and they realized it was far larger than they had imagined. When they finally got close enough that they could see where the water hit the lake, they realized that the falls were two thousand feet high or more, and that they somehow had to scale that cliff. They were in the lake proper, now, and could see the city sprawling out on the western banks. They were still far enough away that they could not identify most of the buildings, but they could pick out a giant stadium sitting in the shadow of the cliff. Next to it was a massive arch, easily a hundred feet in height, carved into the wall of the cliff. The major road that led into the city appeared to go directly to the arch, as well as splitting off to go to a road leading out of the city to the west. That road also led to another arch on the cliff side - an impressive 50 feet high that looked like nothing in comparison to the first.

The boat finally came in for a landing in the late morning. The heroes unloaded their possessions for the boat, and headed towards town. The district they walked through was inhabited mostly by Dragonborn, and most of those were copper colored. There were a few of various other colors as well, and some Dwarves, Humans, and Daikini in the mix. As they walked towards the center of town, Sif let them know that there was a College of Kolero in town, but it was unusual compared to others they had seen. This was a College of Creation, and catered to bards. The College was on the corner of the road they were on and the main thoroughfare, and it was their first stop. They met the Dean, a retired silver Dragonborn bard who introduced himself as Argenelak Sylan. Sylan welcomed them to the college, and began to ask Sharlot about her personal playing style. When she replied with rock, he said he was not familiar with it, and she clarified that she meant rock trolls. He took in his introduction to rock and trolls as a music style, and said he would love to hear more. Then he asked her about whether she knew of the Song. She did not, but told him of fragments that had come to her in her dreams. He asked her to join him later so they could discuss it all, and let them know that they were all welcome to stay. He could not promise a full night's sleep, as the students and faculty often had jam sessions late into the night. They were, of course, happy to have an audience or other participants.

They thanked the bard, then went to get their bearings for the rest of the town. Durdeg asked a Dwarf that was passing by if he knew of a Hilda in town that would know about metalwork. The Dwarf smiled, and said he was sure that he was talking about Hilda Brightforge. She could be found at Fierte's Forge, the temple to Fierte near the Dungeoneer's underground hall. This also answered the question of what the second entrance to under the cliff was. They also asked how to get up to the top of the cliff, as they needed to reach the Grey Citadel. He told them about a natural cut in the cliff face that had had stairs carved into it. They would have to go a distance to the west, but they could see the top of the stairs above The Dungeon. They thanked the man and let him go on his way. They then turned to the Lakeview Inn, just north of the College and where the College residents got most of their meals. They met the proprietor, and settled in for a meal.

Report Date
10 Apr 2021

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Cover image: by Chance Rose

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