Cedarsmoke

Assault on Carvyre Keep
Storms, Keeps, and Storming a Keep

Rain pounded down around the party as they huddled in the dark alleyway. Half an hour ‘til the signal. Earlier, the weather had been a mere drizzle – dull and gray ambiance pattering against the windowpanes at their lunchtime rendezvous with the fat halfling who could get them what they needed. Vincenzo Wrinkletoe’s low mumbling and thick halfling accent tended to lead people to underestimate how shrewd he was.

Indeed, he was shrewd enough that this was by design – many an unfortunate or desperate man had come to Vincenzo in need, and the fat halfling welcomed them with fat, sweaty palms. No need to pay now; a favor between friends, you’ll just owe old Vincenzo one. But he never forgets, and he always gets back more than he offers. It was the same with them.

Lightning arced across the sky; the bright flash momentarily pierced the dimming veil of the thundering rain. Adrie’s eyes narrowed as she caught sight of something out of place. An enormous rat was inching its way up the keep’s wet wall. After a moment, another joined it – then another, and another!

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By Decree of the Duke
An Announcement in Riverthrough

By decree of Duke Carvyre,

the township of Riverthrough exists, until further notice, in a state of martial law. The following laws shall also be enacted:

  1. Firstly, the town shall be placed under quarantine.
    • None shall enter the town, nor shall any folk leave the town.
    • The Westgate, the King’s Gate and the Tradegate shall be closed at all times. Guards shall be appointed to watch them at all times.
    • The South Way, the Silver River and the North docks shall be closed to all traffic, and all boats shall be turned away from the town.
      • Any townsfolk caught attempting to circumvent the gates, the walls, or the river shall be put to death.
  2. Secondly, all silver shall be commandeered for the Good of the town.
    • Guards shall be appointed to search the town to confiscate this Needed metal, and endowed with the Necessary Powers to enter homes, businesses, warehouses, and other buildings in the Name of the Duke and the Good of the Town.
    • Townsfolk shall not need to be inconvenienced to bring their silver to Carvyre Keep. Townsfolk should present their silver at the front of their homes. Patrols shall make rounds daily in search of this needed metal.
  3. Thirdly, all healers shall be summoned to Keep Carvyre.
    • All herbalists, apothecaries, alchemists, clerics, priests, and those elsewise skilled in the art of Healing shall proceed with haste to Keep Carvyre with their wares.
    • Townsfolk in possession of elixirs, potions, scrolls, and elsewise wares of Healing shall submit them, with their silver, to the daily guard patrols.
  4. Fourthly, Broxley Grizzlejaw shall replace William Dakkenson as Captain of the Guard.
    • Sergeants and other previously high-ranking members of Dakkenson’s guard shall report immediately to Keep Carvyre and submit to questioning.
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Silveraxes Axed
Adventurers 3, Monster's Alliance 0

“I remember when Grawl rose. I remember when he bested the bounty hunters and claimed the axe as his. I remember when he led the raid into the dwarven keep and claimed axes for us all. I remember when he slew Yugg and quelled dissent in our tribe.

So, too, do I remember the day that the dragon man marched brazenly into our cave with Grawl’s axe and Grawl’s head. I remember Balthazar and his magic and his promises. I remember Loomsh, One-Eyed of Gruumsh, the twice-risen defying the sacred tradition of honor. His words were poison to our chief, but my spirit was keen with resilience and I would not listen.

What is immortality without honor? To live forever, to rise again and again, as what – a puppet to an Alliance that does not honor custom scribed in generations of blood? I will rather have death. But whether my death comes at the hands of Loomsh, in petty revenge for deserting him, or by Grawl’s silvered axe at the hand of the dragon man in days to come, I will die with my honor."

-Guurak, surviving Orc of the Silveraxe Tribe

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Second Chances

The cave reeked. It wasn’t as bad as, say, a troglodyte lair, but that certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. Ygglgomm couldn’t fathom why it was that Orcs struggled with the concept of cleanliness, but he well understood the strategic necessity of incorporating all sorts of creatures into Balthazar’s alliance – some more monstrous than others. As high warlord to the Monster’s Alliance, it was Ygglgomm’s duty to understand strategy, which was precisely why he was having such difficulty with why, exactly, Balthazar and him had come to visit the cramped, stench-filled cave.

“This is a waste of resources!” Ygglgomm offered unsolicited, shifting his eyes to Balthazar.

“Are you speaking with pride, or are you speaking strategy?” Balthazar returned. The offhanded way he made the remark bristled Ygglgomm to the core.

How dare he speak with such tones to me! “My advice is always sound strategy!” Ygglgomm retorted as he glanced forward and noticed the path narrowing before them. And I suppose he will want to walk before me, too! Ygglgomm urged himself faster and slid through the passage ahead of Balthazar, only to realize his mistake.

“Your strategy is flawless, except in the face of pride,” Balthazar chided. “These Orcs honor custom and strength. It will not look well to have us bickering in such petty ways.” He stepped past Ygglgomm in the shadowy passage. When he emerged on the other side, he had taken the form of an Orc.

Ygglgomm gave a steely stare, but the assessment was sound. He would not go without some manner of petty correction, though. “Too green,” he muttered, “This tribe is muddier in color. They defeated another tribe of that precise hue in recent memory. Taking that form will likely remind them of their foes, and no Orc worth having will take orders from one who looks like a defeated foe!”

“As always, I am glad to have your advice. Your mastery of strategy is well-deserved,” Balthazar acknowledged, shifting the color of his skin to a drabber hue.

“Which is precisely why I must recommend against this course of action,” Ygglgomm answered, not wasting the opportunity to take the offensive.

Balthazar stopped. He turned to meet Ygglgomm’s unrelenting gaze; he did not wither in the slightest. “We resurrected five, and we gave them the honor of pursuing the very foes who slew them,” Balthazar explained patiently, “That is worth much to an Orc.”

Ygglgomm’s gaze intensified; he loved to debate, and he loved to prove himself right, “We resurrected them only to die again at the same hands. They have proven useless. Again. You will prove nothing to this tribe, save that failure will go unpunished – rewarded, even. That they may die again and again.”

“That is precisely what I will prove to them,” Balthazar roared with a sinister glint in his eye, “For the price of resurrecting five Orcs, I will gain an entire tribe who will fight for me without the fear of death.”

Ygglgomm stared, studying the look in Balthazar’s eyes until the plan dawned on him and the same sinister look spread in a smile across his toothy maw. “And we need only pay for five Orcs…to make the entire tribe believe we will offer the same courtesy to them!”

Suddenly, the stink of this place didn’t seem quite so awful compared to the investment they were about to make. And really, their cruel cackling did wonders to brighten up the place.

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The Observatory of Lantern Hill
Or: the hindsight of Tuskgrin, would-be chieftan of Lantern Hill

Deathtrap. That was the only word to describe this place.

His masters in the Monster’s Alliance had taken the better part of a year crafting its plot. For Tuskgrin’s part, it had taken his tribe a month to select a suitable location from the various offerings surrounding Lantern Hill. Fortunately, it came with defenses pre-built. Unfortunately, those defenses weren’t known from the start…

Finding the secrets of the tower, the traps and hidden rooms, had thinned his numbers considerably. After the debacle with the scythe-and-crossbow room at the top of the stairs, he had made the strategic decision to assign the strongest, and therefore most likely to someday usurp him, goblins to locating the traps throughout the dungeon.

Though this did not endear the chief to his clan, it did wonders for diplomatic relations with the kobolds. Admiring the goblins’ tenacity (if not their skill) at trapfinding in the lair, the two tribes grew quickly together. The kobolds eagerly reinforced the dungeon with traps of their own making and shared their lethal tactics with their new found allies.

Tuskgrin’s decision to eliminate the strongest members of his tribe would prove unwise, however, when a group of adventurers stormed the dungeon in Lantern Hill’s charge. His painstakingly prepared traps, his carefully arranged treasure, his perfectly proportioned kobold girlfriend – all lost!

Perhaps he should have listened to that wizard they had captured instead of imagining the gold the Monster’s Alliance would pay for such a prized prisoner. When they caught him sneaking around in the tower (and really, WHO in their right mind sneaks in and then asks, “Hello?”) he had mentioned that he was being pursued and that someone—he wasn’t really listening—would kill everyone in his path to get him.

That much was true, anyway. He had sent the last of his strongest goblins, a dozen at least, to guard the prized wizard prisoner, and they didn’t seem to slow down those adventurers in the least. Then again, neither did the Blackfeather sent by his master.

How had they defeated him so soundly? As Tuskgrin sat, securely bound in the back of a cart bumpily making its way into town, he pondered where it had all gone wrong.

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Journal of Tanule

I’ve decided to start writing down the things that have been happening since I left my village with Sabellia and this new guy Avaris. I decided to head north and try and find my brother but just as I was starting my journey we were stopped in a town called Lantern Hill. Its an interesting town full of miners that haven’t been mining. I guess there has been a bunch of Kobolds setting traps in the mines. So the three of us have decided to try and help out… in my case do what I have to to get to my brother. Well actually to find this guy named Val’Ragas I guess he is a good friend of my brothers. And to top it all off the roads were closed the day after he left to go to Riverthrough. What luck I have….. Well either way this dwarf guard named Tobson Stone has been doing his best to keep Lantern Hill safe. I commend him, he’s a good man for doing all he is for a town less than grateful to him. Another dwarf came to us, he offered us 200 gold to help clear the town of Kobolds and free the roads so he can move his silver to Riverthrough. So we went to the first cave that was caved in to look around and see if we can figure out the Kobolds plans. Well low and behold we get attacked by a bunch of Kobolds. I don’t remember much in the cave I was so excited to finally be using my skills I kinds blacked out. In the end we came out triumphant even though Avaris almost got his self killed. Dumb humans. They’re so weak and I just don’t get their skin, its so soft and pink. Scales are so much better in combat, they don’t slice as easy. Oh and by the way Sabellia has some serious issues. I’ve known her for awhile now and I always knew she was a bit off but after our run in in the cave…... I’m not sure what to think I saw her use shadows to kill and call down thunder from nowhere and shot little bolts of light at Kobolds. I mean it was amazing and she definitely has skills but wow what is it I don’t understand how she does it. I want to ask her but i’m afraid of what ill find out or what she might do if she isn’t willing to tell me. Ill just keep quiet and let her do her thing….

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More adventure in Lantern Hill
From the Record of Tobson Stone

Good news and bad news.

The good news is that those adventurers that came into town are really worth the gold we’re putting up. They cleared out another Kobold lair today in an abandoned mine. From their description, it looks like that’s the Kobold trapping team and the Kobold forward base that they’ve taken care of. I sent a few miners down into the lair after the adventurers had cleared it and they confirmed; it was definitely their trap-forge. Lantern Hill hasn’t had any reports of trapped mines or cave-ins for weeks now!

And then there’s the bad news.

Whole teams of miners have gone missing lately. Empty mines when we investigate – no bodies. It looks like the monsters have stepped up from trapping to kidnapping. Why didn’t I say “the Kobolds” have stepped up? Well, that’s where the bad news goes to worse news.

Those adventurers found Goblins in the Kobold lair. It looks like those sneaks are working together! Again, I have to resort back to a secondhand account – maybe I should offer some gold for a live Kobold or Goblin that I can interrogate? Apparently the Goblins were scouts meeting the Kobolds to lead them back to a base they’ve set up nearby. It’s in the old tower on the edge of town. Hopefully the miners will be there.

I’m worried that even if the Goblins and Kobolds are dealt with, the threat won’t be over. A carriage came into town from Riverthrough. Not a pretty sight. Only one man survived the trip. The horse made it through as well, but only because of a stroke of luck. Two elves came into town about the same time and they’re both adept at handling wounds – particularly for animals.

Maybe I should see if I can set them up with those adventurers?

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Adventure in Lantern Hill
From the Record of Tobson Stone

It’s been a rowdy month for Lantern Hill already, even before these new folks arrived. Just a few days before this latest wagon rolled in, I had my hands full keeping tabs on the Tiefling that was poking around town. And for the last few weeks, mines have been collapsing, miners have gone missing, and attacks have been picking up on the road to Riverthrough.

At first, we suspected the Kobolds. The booby-trapped mines and the collapses were a dead giveaway. But then news started coming in about kidnappings and the slavers responsible matched the description of goblins. Worse, the last caravan (or what was left of it) that made it to Lantern Hill from the west reported that Orcs had ambushed their wagons.

Related? Not likely. Kobolds, Orcs and Goblins don’t see eye to eye. But then again, there is a way they’re related after all: the damn war with Malron. All of the Kingdom’s gold is draining away fighting those pirate bastards and they don’t have any spare men to send me to protect their frontier.

But back to the new arrivals. Even if the Kingdom’s forgotten about us, the Gods are smiling fortune our way. These three are intent on getting west to Riverthrough and they’re blessed with the will and, more importantly, the capability to take care of the problems blocking the way. Master Anvilstrike, the local guild liason from Gald Kulumird, has been more than forthcoming with his intent to hire the new arrivals as adventurers to clear the way for his shipments. If only they knew how little he was paying them in comparison to the fortune they’re saving him!

Of course, gaining the favor of his silversmiths guild can’t really be put into terms of coin.

In the meantime, I’m more than happy to have some help around town. And I’m sure they don’t mind getting a hero’s welcome every time they get back out of those damn Kobold-infested mines.

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Letters from Talon
2 Years Before Lantern Hill

Another Spring, another hunt. No sooner had the last snow of the winter melted back into the fields than Tanule’s brother had disappeared once more into the trackless forest.

Trackless. Of course. That was why Talon had waited so long to leave. He had spent most of the winter teaching his brother the nuanced art of tracking in the snow. Of footprints in mud, however, Tanule knew very little.

Having Talon gone wasn’t entirely as miserable as it once was. The woman from the village – Sabellia, had grown to become a welcome visitor in the dragonborn brothers’ abode.

In fact, Tanule decided, it was about time he returned the favor! After all, it was two years since the last time he ventured into the village, and that awful misunderstanding with torches and pitchforks was long behind him.

Oddly enough, the trip to town did play out remarkably different. Oh, Tanule’s eye still caught the occasional farmers exchanging glances as he passed or the blacksmith’s stubby fingers as he tightened his grip on his hammer, but not so much as a rude remark came his way. Even the militiaman at the door to the provisioner was kind enough to step out of the way and invite Tanule to pass.

The last few years had been good to Tanule. The few speckled and off-colored marks around his face had shed away and his scales had really cleaned up. Along his chest and arms, his scales had toughened from rough hide to thick, armorlike plates. And with all the training alongside his brother, his muscles had thoroughly filled in beneath them!

But the hulking dragonborn seemed not to notice, and as long as he didn’t, the villagers certainly weren’t going to remind him. As a matter of fact, they weren’t going to go out of their way to get near enough to talk to him if they could avoid it.

Sabellia, on the other hand, knew right away what sort of trouble he’d cause. “Tanule!” she shouted, “Shoo! You can’t be in here—you’ll scare off all the customers!” She swatted her broom at him and pointed out the door. Sure enough, a small crowd of villagers were conspicuously avoiding the shop.

“Look,” she pleaded, “I was going to come by later anyway. I got another letter from your brother—”

“—from Talon?” he boomed. The villagers outside took another step back.

“Uh-huh! And a package. But I want you to read it with me again—teach me more of your language.”

“How long?” Tanule asked, “before you are finished and we will read?”

Sabellia shrugged. She twirled the broom lazily around in the air. “Spring cleaning. At least until the sun has set.”

Tanule stood silent a moment until something he had not considered flashed before his eyes. He let out a thunderous laugh! “You look like a witch,” he announced bluntly.

Sabellia huffed and jabbed at him with her broom. Her wide-brimmed wizard’s hat bobbed as she fumed and retorted, “Well your legs are so thick, you look like a tree!”

The dragonborn roared with laughter as he scooted backward out of the shop. The crowd scattered and parted as he chuckled his way down the village’s only street. Tanule called out as he disappeared back into the forest toward his home, “I’ll be back after sundown, then!”

It was hands-down the best day on record for the sale of torches and pitchforks.

Tanule,

I have bested three elves at skill with a bow and won a mighty stag’s head for my mantle. They have gifted me with a suit of mithril armor and you will find enclosed my old armor, passed to you. It has served me well and I trust that, in time, you will make good use of it.

I expect that you will wear it well. I look forward to sparring with you when I return. Soon your skill with that spear will merit you a place at my side on these hunts!

Hunt well,

Talon

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The Fortune Teller
Tanule and Sabellia's fates become intertwined

Tanule read his brother’s words over and over as he stood, stunned. Did his brother plan to be gone so long he must leave instructions and treasures to stave off worry? Did he plan, perhaps, not to return? It was not until the quiet cough of the young woman reminded him that she was still standing expectantly that he crumpled the parchment in the claws of his scaled fist.

“Tanule,” she began, “I know that you worry for your brother. I have watched the two of you from the day you came to this village. I know that behind your fangs, beyond your spears and beneath your scales, you care deeply for him.” The woman looked upon the dragonborn for a moment, as if sizing him up, and then took a step bravely closer. “Let me calm your fears, Tanule, and let us see if the fates will bring your brother back to you.”

Who was this human to talk of such things? Who was she to admit so candidly that she had been watching Tanule and his brother and then accuse him of being fearful? The great dragonborn glowered and hunched down to bring his narrowed eyes to stare into hers.

Tanule,” he said, after a moment of matching her staring gaze, “You say it too much like your human Daniel. It is wrong.” He hesitated and glanced back inside his dwelling. What was polite, in human custom? “Come inside. Please. Tell me of Talon’s fate. I will make you some-”

“Tea, Tanule, if you please,” the woman replied. She was a quick learner, at least of the draconic tongue. “We will need the leaves.” She curtsied before him then stepped daintily past him as he stood bewilderedly and belatedly trying to mimic the gesture.

Awhile later they sat opposite one another at a small, uneven table in the dim light within Tanule’s abode. The woman slowly swirled her nearly empty mug as she stared into the dragonborn’s eyes.

“Tell me of you and your brother,” she asked. Her voice had become a quiet murmur, as though she were speaking in her sleep.

“Many memories of myself in my youth are gone from me,” Tanule answered. “My only tie has been my brother, Talon. He is the brother any dragonborn child could ask for. He leaves, often, for his many hunts, but even so, he has taught me much!

“Our father left us when I was barely older than a hatchling, and Talon has done well to raise me in his stead. We do not bear him ill will; it is often the way of the dragonborn to let their children fend for themselves. We are uncertain for his reasons leaving us, but I know that he was an amazing tactician among our people and I have little doubt it was a crucial, well-formed part of his plans.

“More than a tactician, Talon tells me that our father was a strong and able fighter. He taught my brother all that he knows, and Talon has done well to live up to our father’s example. I hope that one day I too will grow to be called a true dragonborn.

“As far back as I can remember, my brother has taught me to fight, to be strong and to live on our own. Talon has always been a great hunter, but he boasts that his skill with spears was unmatched among our clan. My favorite has been with the longspear and I practice with his every day. I have also taken to learning my brother’s skill with javelins. Talon makes me look like a novice, but one day I will best him with them!”

A boisterous noise thundered from Tanule as he laughed across the table at the woman. She leaned forward and peered into her cup and held it suddenly very still. As the tea leaves finally came to a halt, she studied their pattern carefully. She glanced back up to the dragonborn and gave her head a slow shake.

“Then I will have to settle for being his equal,” Tanule laughed before continuing, “Though his skill and experience with a javelin far surpass my own, my strength and tenacity often make me his equal if I can get him close with a longspear! He tells me that he is not surprised; I was a runt often set upon by other hatchlings in my youth and it has served me well to have grown strong and learned to protect myself.

“I am, after all, Tanule Shasakal of the Razorfang clan, and to carry that name is to carry the burden of fear from others. The Razorfang are known for their ferocity and their skill in battle. Our village was but a small collection of Razorfang dragonborn in the bogs of Malron. We made our lives as hunters and fighters and the men of the nearby lands would often hire our strongest and most cunning to fight for them or guide them through our lands.

“Talon did not trust the paths the men wanted him to guide them through. He did not trust them so close to our village, but others of our clan were more trusting, or perhaps greedy for the men’s gold. My brother and I were spear-fighting in the bog when the men from Malron came.” Tanule slammed his fist on the table suddenly and snarled defensively, “I am proud of my heritage and have done everything to embody the honor and strength of my clan. We are not cowards, but nor are we fools. Talon and I could not match the numbers of these men’s raid, soft and weak though they were, and so we vanished into the bog.

“So it was that we came to live here in your Khalistaran kingdom. Your men do not hunt us, but we too have learned the lesson of smaller numbers. They would be wise to worry for us gathered as many, for my lust for revenge alone is enough for a village. A dozen of us would surely match the fury of a nation, and an army…

“An army fueled by our wrath might change the world again,” Tanule grinned and his razored teeth shone menacingly in the dim light. The woman paused her swirling cup again and gazed into its depths.

She answered with a meek nod and a nervous gulp. “Your brother will return to you safely this trip, Tanule. But it will not be his last hunt. He will venture on many, and from one, he will not return to this place.”

The dragonborn stared at her wordlessly for a long moment. When at last he looked as though he was ready to speak, she began again.

“When the time comes for you to seek him out, I will come with you. I don’t believe for a second that mere coincidence was responsible for me bringing you this letter,” she set her cup down on the table between them and gestured to the arrangement of the leaves. “It is as plain to see as a crystal ball. As of this day, our fates are intertwined.”

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