Estea: The Shadows Lengthen

Idea to Purify the Blight
The council comes up with a plan

Cassivar Ta’Rilyn reports that the Priestesses are in a 3 day vigil with Naki and speak of a purification ritual they can do… but not until after they have helped guide Naki’s Spirit to the Hunting Grounds of Arvandor. They need the morning dew from a particular flower (estalar) that grows in the Spearwoods in a sacred grove and they need it in a particular vial – blessed by Correlon Larethain when he lived amongst the wood elves and the city of Sylvanithus still stood proud.

When describing it, Rerik says he recognizes it as one that grows on the Isle of Tears on Mere Illestra – Bronwyn and Chen recognize the place of the Tilting Tower – rumoured to be haunted. Bronwyn recognizes Illestra as the name of the first Queen of Istarnia – bride to Rhyan Istar – said to have gone mad when her husband did not return from a crusade into the Shadowlands more than 800 years ago. It is said she went mad in his absence and killed herself. Coryn and Glawen recognize Illestra as an elven name, meaning Lady of Mists.

The King’s advisor Calmus Wyndham (a mage) suggests that it is a good omen that one of the Hunting Party of the Light had insight into the solution to their problem. Perhaps they should work again together to retrieve the flower for the ritual.

King Willhelm agrees, but suggests it should be considered voluntary – no one should be expected to go. The company is asked to reprise their role as the Great Hunt to accomplish this… King Willhelm personally beseeches them:

“Dulkas, your heroism has not gone unnoticed. Please continue to serve our realm in this matter Noble Dwarf. Glawen, you have served the wood elves as a Brave Ranger. Pray continue to serve Istarnia in this matter. And Chen, I have heard of your exploits at Pelor’s Wall. A Clever Scout such as you might rise higher than your humble roots would suggest.

Bronwyn. There is more to you than meets the eye. I have spoke with your father and I know something of your troubles back home. If you would do me the service of aiding your new comrades yet again, I will provide you with a writ that confirms your service to the realm and declares royal protection over your person, should there ever be a need. And Coryn – I am ashamed to say I do not know much of your people, but I am grateful for your presence and wisdom here.”

“Your last expedition was not meant to be the trial it was. For that I am sorry.” King Willhelm speaks.

Calmus speaks up: “In case you should run into trouble again, please accept these gifts. Potions imbued with the healing power of Pelor, during last summer’s solstice. Imbibe them to mend any wounds or weariness.”

“You should be able to reach Caeristar by nightfall. I will send a man ahead to prepare a room for you at the Flying Fish. It is the best inn in the Lower City – so you will be close to the Docks. Take this writ with you – it declares that you are in service to the King and that all reasonable expenses will be covered. You may find that not all in the Lower City will honour it – but reputable businesses should.”

“May Pelor’s light shine on you…” he shakes each person’s hand and when he gets to Dulkas and Glawen… “as well as Moradin and Correlon…” he said in a voice loud enough only for them.

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Report upon Returning to Fleethill

The tent city of Fleethill is crowded with new arrivals.

The Brundarians have arrived as well as a Runa Caravan.

Travellers with the Runa include:

Thom Merryweather, an aging and drunken bard. Gregor, an evangelical priest of the Goddess.

and Four Treasure seekers—using myths and legends to track down artifacts: A dark skinned tall woman from Kaschem – a land to the south. A halfling wanderer named Thorn. An elven archer from Nemelas, in the far east. A human warrior from the city state of Altamira.

A council gathers to discuss plan of action since boar and spiders – Cheif Sigurd and Vorash are there for the Brundar but do not speak. Their 3 guards are outside – the tallest being Joten, with his wolf, Fenris.

Aerun’ilthil and Cassivar speak for the elves, Barthek and Gildas for the Dwarves, King Willhelm and his advisor mage, Calmas Wyndham for the Istarnians.

The Party Reports what happened.

Elves plan to cleanse site of Naki’s death.

Dwarves volunteer the service of their Quakers to collapse and seal the caves – to keep such and evil from arising again from that spot.

Calmus speaks up – looking to clarify with Coryn what her thoughts were on the pool and the black ink that oozed up from below the pond.

King Willhelm suggests that something should be done to stem the tide of this corruption. With the rise of Crop Blight in the fields and lungrot in the mines – the last thing Istarnia needs is blight-touched beasts roaming the land and killing the people.

“Yes. Says Calmus. Something should be done. But what?”

Cassivar remembers that the Elves of the Spearwoods had a similar issue with corrupted creatures pouring forth from Athendirth – an ancient site of battle between Correlon Larethain and Tiamat – queen of evil dragons. The Sisters of the Crescent were able to cleanse the site hundreds of years ago, High Mother Selvara should remember the ritual. She was there when it happened.”

Aerunilthar objects, we cannot just barge in an interrupt the rites of passage to Arvandor.”

Cassivar speaks back. “The plight of these people is too grave to ignore, but you are right. I will wait nearby for the right moment to speak, and then will report back to this council.”

King Willhelm and Calmus stand as Cassivar stands to leave. Others do as well, “You have our thanks Lady Cassivar. And to you as well Councilman Barthec, for the service of your Quakers.” He looks around the room and bids the others to enjoy the sights of the festival until he calls them back to council.

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Returning to Fleethill

Returning to Fleethill after the encounter with the Ettercap and spiders:

The autumn forest of Kingswood is awash with colour. The blaze of red and golden leaves of birch and elm is all the more dramatic for their contrast to the deep greens of fir, pine, and spruce. Each leaf catches the light of the setting sun, reminding Dulcas of raw amber and ruby in torchlight, and sending Glawen’s thoughts to his home in the elven forests of the Spear Woods.

The home that Naki Ev’Ethyr – forest scout of the wood elves – will never return to.

It seems strange that it was only last night that everyone was drinking and laughing in the Feast Hall at Fleethill. The custom of the Great Hunt had seemed quaint then – an amusing superstition to believe that the outcome of a hunt could change the course of a year.

That night of revelry seems quite far away as Chen, Glawen, Coryn, Brownwyn, and Dulcas push tired limbs through the dense undergrowth of the Kingswoods. They were on the edge of exhaustion – after spending the greater part of daylight walking through thick forest and fighting strange beasts in the layer of the ettercap – only to have to haul the survivors of the other hunting party back to Fleethill – and the body of the fallen elf, which Glawen had refused to leave behind.

It would not even have been possible without the healing skills of Dulkas, who revived the survivors as much as his flagging reserves allowed. With a whispered prayer to Moradin, he brought a little vigour back to the hunting party – enough to patch the most serious wounds and to allow most to hobble out with support.

Glawen and Coryn were able to cut young trees to make litters from their cloaks to carry the body of Naki and the most seriously injured of the group – a young soldier of Istarnia named Tyrel. Bronwyn did her best to sooth and console the injured with conversation and stories to distract them from their pain while Chen set himself to the task gutting and cleaning the deer.

The least injured of the hunting party was the dwarven advisor, Malikar. He explained the fight with the boar with wide eyes and dramatic gestures as they made their way through the woods.

“Massive! And Fierce! I have never seen such a creature – not even in the dark brooding caverns of the Underdark! At the shoulders it was as tall as any man! As if that was not enough – jagged barbs of black bone or some other cursed material pushed through its thick and bristly hide! And its eyes! Red as the forge! They actually glowed in the night’s gloom! It was not natural!”

Naki was the first to recover from the shock of seeing it,” spoke up another Istarnian soldier, Waryn. “She tossed her torch at it and had two arrows in its shoulders before we even knew what was happening. Naki shouted at us to form a wide half circle around it – so as not to hit each other with our spears or arrows.”

“Things got confusing after that. It charged and she dove aside, but it gouged her leg with its tusks – and you could hear that leg break, just like the sound of a tree branch snapping.”

The last Istarnian, a tall and slender peasant militia man: Martyn of Braefield, took up the story from there. Chen and Bronwyn recognized him as one of the more talkative and friendly patrons of Gared’s Pub.

“Those of us who had spears either hurled them at the beast or tried to push it back – to keep it from charging again. It was like a horrible lurching dance as we shifted about to try to contain it or push it off. Tyrel was trampled and, would you believe it, Malikar actually grabbed the boar by the tail and pull it off him before it could gore Tyrel to death. I think Tyrel managed to get some good cuts into its belly before he passed out.”

“And Naki? She just leaned against a tree with her broken leg and set to emptying her quiver into it. It bellowed a horrible din and set to charge Naki.” He paused there.

“Well, you wouldn’t think he had it in him to look at him, but that Halfling fellow, Thistle? He broke formation and ran spear first between the boar and Naki. That boar just plunged forward, burying that spear into its chest as it went. The shaft broke and the boar put its head down, digging up channels in the moss with its tusks. “

“For a second I thought it was going to fall, but it whipped its head up and hurled poor Thistle aside. Last I saw he bounced off a tree and did not get back up.” Martyn trailed off and blinked at suddenly watery eyes.

The dwarf, Malikar finished the story. “It was horrible. The boar’s charge did not slow for Thistle or the broken spear shaft in its chest. Even though it was carpeted with arrows – still it lumbered forward. Naki had time to put one more arrow into its eye before it crushed her into the tree.” He was quiet for a time, and then addressed Glawen. “She was as brave and fought as hard as any dwarf, sir elf. I am sorry for your loss.”

Warryn cleared his throat and spoke with a strained voice. “Yep. She was brave all right. I don’t know if we would be alive now if not for her.” He shook his head and shuddered. “And after she fell, the last of our torches sputtered and failed.”

“And that’s when the spiders came.”

Not more than 2 hours walk from the cave of the ettercap, the group passed by a pond fed by a small stream. Malikar was about to refill his waterskin when Chen stopped him. The wind had just shifted, bringing with it a smell of death and decay.

Across the pond were the rotten and distended bodies of a number of animals. With cloak wrapped around his nose, Chen saw what looked to be a wolf, and a stag, but they were mutilated, as if torn apart from inside. Blackened and sharp shards of bone stuck out from their bodies. Black froth and foam oozed from open mouths. The stag’s scull was split by an extra set of antlers that emerged from the back of its scull. The wolf was cut open from bards that seemed to emerge from its rib cage and its lips were cut up by the growth of an extra row of fangs.

Coryn pointed towards the water, and everyone could see that a small billowing cloud of ink black was rising to the surface – from somewhere within the murky depth of the pond.

The group backed away from the disturbing scene and continued to make their way towards Fleethill.

On legs that were almost liquid with fatigue, it was a relief to see the forest begin to thin and clear. Two green and brown clad elves step out of the shadows and quickly move to help support the wounded. One shouts out and soon the group is surrounded by Glawen’s companions. They take up your burdens and offer sips of cool and surprisingly invigorating water from their flasks.

Of the elven party, only the diplomats Aerunithar and Cassivar, and the four Sisters of the Crescent accepted their hosts offering of tents for shelter. The rest of the wood elves set up camp at the borders of the Kingswoods – while the griffin, Hrykrul, ranged the mountain aeries for game.

There is a cry from the elves’ remaining scout, Koraith, when he sees Naki’s litter. His tears fall on her face through clenched eyes as he kneels by her side. Three other elves, Tahlas, Amath, and Ferali go to Koraith and help him to bear the litter on their shoulders. The ranger’s captain, Corimvar, sends Ilundul running to carry news of the hunters’ return and the tragedy of Naki’s death.

When you step through the last of the trees you have time to note that there is an extra flag flying at the Great Tent in the centre of the encampment – red with the black silhouette of howling wolf’s head. And then the group is surrounded by people rushing to help or to gain news of what has happened.

King Willhelm himself arrives and sets the crowd to order – offering words of sympathy and sorrow to the elves, sending the injured to a healing tent, and giving the hunting party leave to find rest or their loved ones as they see fit.

There will be time enough for reports and plans of action on the morrow.

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The Great Hunt

The group was selected to represent elemental forces of light in a Great Hunt to divine the nature of the upcoming year. They tracked a boar and the other hunting party to an ettercap layer in the Kingswoods. There they destroyed a number of spiders, drove away the ettercap, acquired some trinkets, and saved the other hunting party – except the elf scout, Naki, who died of her wounds.

I will add details later, but this would be the group’s first adventure, of tracking the boar, then the company of shadow, finding the ettercap’s layer and rescuing the other group.

Any of you that wish to sum up this adventure can if you wish.

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The Company of Light is selected

The delegates from the elf tribes and the dwarf clans arrive to the rolling fields of Fleethill. To the west of the hills is a broad slow moving river. To the west are mountains edged with forests.

Tents have been prepared for each group. Each with the flag of the nation: A gold sun on a white field for Istarnia, a silver anvil and hammer on a black field for the dwarven clans, and a white griffin on a green field for the elf tribes.

Opening Ceremonies – Young King Willhelm Rhyanistar announces the diplomats and offers gifts to each.

There is a feast and sharing of culture – dwarf throat singing, elven flute, human band.

The King claps his hand and the Herald announces desert and The Great Hunt.

“Since time immemorial Light has chased Shadow and Shadow has chased Light. The seasons turn yet again as Harvestide approaches. No-one knows what the Fates hold in store for us – but Pelor willing, the light will overcome.”

The King claps his hands yet again and a desert dish is brought out. A berry crumble – steaming hot and with a dash of spiced rum. “Please eat, enjoy!”

The Herald speaks yet again, “We stand at Lumin’ar (a month meaning light of light), the edge of summer, and approach Um’brum (a month meaning shadow of shadow), on the borders of Autumn. Will that shadows of the coming year swallow us whole, or will light prevail to bring us Pelor’s bounty? Only the deeds of heroic hearts can guide our path.”

Chen and Bronwyn recognize the story as that of the Great Hunt – it is a pagan ritual that remains – representing spiritual forces of light and dark vie for the spirit of the upcoming year.

Around the room, people begin to bite into metal disks in their food.

The group all bit into ancient coins that were gold on one side with a sun stamped into them. The face of a king with the name “Istar” was stamped into the other side. This side of the coin was dyed different colours. Chen’s was black, Glawen’s red, Dulkas’ brown, Bronwyn’s yellow, Coryn’s white, and Rerik’s blue.

The other group had a similar pattern, though their face side had a woman’s image with the name “Illestra” and a moon that was dyed black on the other.

The talks continue while the hunt goes on…

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The Gathering of the Three Races
Prequel

Since the decline of aggression from the Shadowlands, King Willhelm Rhyanistar of Istarnia has negotiated for representatives of the Human, Elven, and Dwarven nations gather to discuss an alliance and shared efforts at protecting their collective borders.

The Races gather in Fleethill, on the plains between Braefield and Caeristar in Istarnia. The gathering is primarily to negotiate an alliance between men, elves, and dwarves against the creatures of the Shadowlands—but it is also to share culture and its culmination will be a celebration of the harvest and equinox.

Bronwyn and Chen are native to Istarnia and will find their way to the encampment for their own reasons.

Coryn and Glawen are coming from the Wood Elf tribes of the Spearwoods at the southwestern portion of the Elder Forest

Dulkas is coming from Thunderpeak Mountains with an entourage of Dwarven diplomats and warriors.

PREQUEL:

1. Chen and Bronwyn defeated Blight Wolves that were attacking halflings on the Road to Braefield. Chen had recently returned to his home town after serving as a scout at Pelor’s Wall. Bronwyn recently discovered her mysterious arcane powers. Both made way to the encampment at Fleethill for their own reasons.

2. Coryn and Glawen traveled from the wood elf tribe of Gladhaven with a group of rangers, priestesses, scouts, and diplomats. On their way to Fleethill they surprised a group that was attacking a unicorn. They drove off one attacker and destroyed a horde of pixies that seemed twisted by shadowy darkness.

3. Dulkas travelled from Barak Durn with 3 dwarven military units, and various diplomats and advisors. On their way to Fleethill he discovered the lost tomb of a dwarven hero and recovered an item that was stolen by a grave robber.

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