Estea: The Shadows Lengthen

Brynn's Story

Brynn rushed to her infant brother and hugged him closely, calming him and stopping his cries.

She told her story to Bronwyn.

“I thought it was Gregor who took him. I heard my mother’s cry and I shouted out to the guards as I rushed to her side. My brother had been ripped from her sleeping arms and the window lay open. I looked to see what appeared to be Gregor sprinting across the field.”

“The guards were less than useless and the same goes for the Sheriff. The manor guards felt their place was to protect my mother in case the villain returned and the Sheriff felt it was his place to ensure the Runa or Goblins did not attack the village.”

“Cursing them for cowards, I packed quickly and rode my horse as far as I could, but lost him in the wooded hills.”

“I grew so frustrated that I called out, and that is when I heard your voice answer, saying, ‘I found your brother, it’s alright.’ I swear it was you, but when I rushed to meet you I got caught in a net. Then these barbaric people step out, I get clubbed on the head. The next thing I know I wake up tied to this tree, and my brother is in the arms of some barbarian woman. I hear thunder and shouts and she rushes off. Then you found me.”

“I know I was jealous to hear that you were caught up in a story, like a hero from a book – but this is just too confusing and painful for me. What is happening and what did they want with my brother?”

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Vorash's Tale
The Dark Priest Speaks.

In the meantime, Chen was interrogating the dying priest, who in his arrogance and pride was all too willing to talk.

“It was my master who revealed the path to me. In a vision. In a dream. And what does it matter that you slay me? You will not slay him. He is coming and one way or another your time is soon upon you.”

“What path? Who is your master?” Chen puts painful pressure on the dark priest’s wounds.

“Not that fool Sigurd,” spits out Vorash. “ I serve a greater lord. “He showed me the ways of the portal, deep within the Shadowlands and how I might open it. All it needed was innocent blood to be shed and lightning to feed it. Then we could pour forth to reclaim this land. It belonged to us long before Istarnia was even a nation. But no matter. All you have done is delayed the inevitable.”

Chen presses for more information. “Who is this ‘us’ you speak of? Do you mean the goblins?”

Vorash laughs again, bubbles of blood bursting on his lips. “That pathetic race. They are simply tools to an end.” At that, Vorash clenches his teeth in a bloody grin.

Chen puts more pressure on the dark priest’s wounds. “Who then?”

Vorash spitts blood into Chen’s face as he angrily barks out, “I serve the Brotherhood of Gwydion, fool!”

The name makes no sense to Chen. “You’ll have to do better than that,” he says, leaning brutally on the wounded priest.

But Vorash is already fading. His last words wheeze out of his gasping mouth, “Eshumbra take me…”

With those words the priests chest suddenly collapses, and Chen stands up in surprise as Vorash’s body is consumed by sickly black boils – leaving nothing but a foul slick of darkness on the ground where the priest once lay.

Only his wicked looking mace remains.

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Babies and Shape Changers
Will the real Brynn please stand up?

Just then Coryn called out and Dulkas and Bronwyn rushed to investigate.

They found Coryn in a clearing. In front of her was baby wrapped in furs, set upon a patch of frosted moss. Tied to a tree trunk was what appeared to be Bronwyn’s friend Brynn, cloaked in a long grey cloak. Stepping into the clearing was another figure, looking just like Brynn, cloaked in a long deep blue cloak.

“Don’t let her free,” the second Brynn said. “It’s a trap.”

While she was wearing the right coloured cloak, Bronwyn was unsure. “What is your favourite horses name?” she asked.

The tied up woman’s voice was muffled by a gag, but the one that was free stood silent for a moment before hurling a dagger from under her cloak and fleeing.

Bronwyn rescued Brynn while Dulkas, Coryn, and Glawen gave chase to the fleeing figure.

Hurled hammers, magic missiles, and arrows from Glawen’s new longbow brought the shape shifter down. As she tumbled her features changed. The dead body was grey skinned and had no hair, no nose, no ears, and black iris-less eyes. Its leather armour swirled with colour for a moment before turning grey as well.

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Greer's Story
The Brundar Woman tells her Tale

Bronwyn and Dulkas spoke with Greer while Coryn investigated a baby’s cry that carried through the night air.

Dulkas gestured towards the hammer. “That is of dwarven make.” He said.

Through sobs she spoke. “You can have it. It has brought me nothing but grief.”

When Bronwyn asked about the stolen baby, Greer wiped her tears away and told her tale: “Truly, I did not know what they meant to do with the child.”

“Everything was different before Vorash came into the Sky Wolf camp. Him and his brother were hermetic priests who lived in the wild away from the tribes. Sigurd was chief of the wolf clan – strong, but only one chief of five. Vorash and Yerkyl spoke with him and convinced him it was his destiny to rule more than that. Joten was one of the first of our warriors to join the cause. My man was another. In a few years time, all the tribes were united under his rule – something that has not happened in many ages. Not since Keltar the Bold led the Brundar to drive the frost giants back into the Northern Wastes.”

“But the old heroes did everything in the name of Kord or the Raven Queen. Vorash brought with him a new god: Ashtaroth – who he said was the lord of all gods and the only one worthy of worship. Many followed, but many still offer praise to the old gods.”

“A few months back my mate died when patrolling the Northern Wastes with Joten. I was expecting his child. When my baby died in its first few weeks of life, I thought there was nothing to live for. Then Joten came to me and offered me a place amongst his warriors. We would serve Chief Sigurd in an important mission. Only too late did I discover who we really served. Vorash. The priest made me swear an oath, and since then I have been compelled to obey, despite my best wishes. The hammer was a gift from that snake of a priest and I am just as happy to be free of it.”

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The Fight with the Brundar
Kicking Ass and taking Names.

Chen snuck around as the rest of the group tried to close in on the Brundar while keeping trees or stones between them. As they did, Joten and his wolf Fenris charged from the woods. The 7 foot tall Brundar warrior kept most at a distance with his great sword – but Dulkas managed to duck it and move in close. Arcane blasts from Bronwyn and Coryn staggered the barbarian as Chen and Glawen worked on Vorash.

When Joten took a solid blow from Dulkas, a woman appeared from the woods beyond the stones. She bellowed “Get away from him” and hurled a hammer that sounded like a thunderclap when it connected. Bronwyn remembered her name as Greer, and that she was part of the Brundar camp that she and Glawen had offered ale to in Fleethill. From her memory Greer had stood aloof from the festivities and looked to the north with a sad look on her face.

They worked to calm her down but it was not until Joten fell that she threw herself over his body and let loud wracking sobs of grief overtake her. Glawen intimidated Fenris who fled from the corpse of his master with his tail between his legs. Vorash still had a few tricks up his sleeve and drained life from Glawen and stunned him with a clap of thunder – but in the end, they proved too much for him and Chen incapacitated the evil priest – pinning him to the ground as he coughed out his life-blood.

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The Human Priest
Surprise! It's Vorash!

Once the group was out of the temple, they could see a vortex of roiling clouds just above and behind them. The cloud cover that had previously blotted out the sky had disappeared, drawn into the churned mass of thunderheads, revealing a bright full moon.

Even brighter than the moon was the throbbing red glow of Ky’ruath – the arcane comet that appeared every 100 years over the skies of Estea.

With no time to lose, the heroes scaled the rocky bluff behind the temple – working together to find footholds and paths. When all hope seemed lost, Dulkas uttered a prayer to Moradin and a beam of light from the moon revealed the way.

At the top, they passed through a lightly wooded area and heard harsh chanting from an open area ahead.

A circle of ancient stones stood around a well. Twelve in total, they stood in pairs with touching bases that tapered into the sky, about 12 feet tall. Each stone was covered in swirling glyphs. In the middle was a low stone well that glowed with a soft blue light, and standing on its rim was a shouting figure with a fur cloak rippling in a windstorm that seemed to surround the stones.

The language he was crying out was unknown to anyone in the group, but it set you on edge. With one last cry of “ESHUMBRA,” a bolt of lighting struck the pool – infusing it with a reddened glow.

The group could now see that it was Vorash, the Brundar priest who accompanied Chief Sigurd at Fleethill.

He picked up his mace and waved it menacingly at the group as lightning continued to strike around him.

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In the Catacombs
When in doubt, pull a torch sconce.

As the group descended the spiral staircase – Coryn lit the torches along the wall with a cantrip.

They found a wine cellar that had been desecrated by foul offal, and a secret door that led into catacombs – which Dulkas could tell were of dwarven construction, and older than the temple above it.

In shallow alcoves were shelves of ancient human remains. Winding passages led to dwarven sarcophagus’s which had been emptied of their occupants.

At the end of the central passage was an alcove that had its shelving shattered. The skeletal remains that had rested there lay trampled in the dust.

A quick twist of a torch sconce and a hidden door slid open to reveal a natural cavern. In the middle was a small body of water, with stalagmites all around. The harsh rhythmic sound of metal on stone sounded ahead – and dim torchlight could be seen.

It was a strange scene. Several dwarven skeletons worked with pick-axes on a slab of stone on a platform. As they crept forward, a massive bugbear skullreaver rushed at them, as a hobgoblin warlock ducked behind a pillar of stone, firing hexes at them.

When they were closer to the stone slab, they could see that goblin arms were fused with rock and reaching out. Pick axe blows had knocked off fingers from these macabre limbs. In some areas, an eerie blue light shone through holes in the slab.

The fight was intense, with Glawen nearly taking a fatal blow and Dulkas resorting to using one of his enchanted stones.

In the end they cornered and pinned the hobgoblin warlock with two arrows through his forearms. Bronwyn was able to coerce information out of him and they discovered that a human priest had led them to open a portal from the Shadowlands into Istarnia.

A ritual was being conducted at that very moment to taint the portal to their foul purpose.

When the hobgoblin saw that the group meant to kill him, he uttered arcane words and erupted in flame.

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Finding the Hidden Temple
That's not Gregor!

Without a clear idea of what they were looking for Glawen and Chen tracked in the glow of Coryn’s Light spell.

They found the odd track, but soon were lost in dense forested foothills, with night descending fast.

It was several hours before Glawen spotted movement out of the corner of his eye. A grey cloaked figure was making its way down an slippery incline.

Chen, Glawen, and Dulkas snuck after it while Bronwyn and Coryn moved along the cliffside.

They soon discovered the figure was Gregor. He gestured down the slope, saying “I saw them go down there. They took Lady Karellyn’s child!”

They made their way down the slope together – discovering the remains of an ancient temple – overgrown with vines and trees. The entryway was shaped as an ornate six branched tree.

Glawen and Chen scouted around the sides and found areas where the trees had broken the walls of the temple.

Coryn approached the main entrance and tripped a net trap, full of jangling rusted metal. Almost immediately two arrows arced out from broken portions of the stained glass archways.

Bronwyn stayed behind to help Coryn while Glawen and Chen snuck into the temple. Chen quickly saw that the archers were on a balcony on the second floor. He jumped on a pew and flipped up over the banister to confront the archers.

Gregor opened his long grey cloak to reveal liquid darkness that poured out in the shape of shadow pixies. They were the same creatures that Coryn and Glawen had faced when they saved Shandriel, the Unicorn on their way to Fleethill from the Spearwoods.

With that, the creature that wore Gregor’s shape shifted into Glawen and ran off. With the archers still alive, Bronwyn focused on fighting off the shadow pixies and rescuing Coryn. Eldritch blasts and magic missiles made short work of them – turning them into inky spats of darkness.

Dulkas had followed Glawen into the temple – and was able to trip a blastpatch of alchemical fire when he investigated a broken plate and sickle. Glawen made short work of the robed monk at the front – without really knowing who he was.

Chen finished off the goblin archers with his crossbow. Coryn and Bronwyn entered the temple. They found the robed figure to be the zombified mad monk. He had been stabbed in the gut and had time to write in ancient Istarnian on the wall:

“The prophesies come true. Shadow emerges from Light and Light emerges from Shadow.”

There were two tapestries at the back of the temple hiding spiral staircases, leading up and down. On the tapestries were an image of a silver tree with six sweeping branches – similar to that on the face of the temple.

One of the staircases led down…

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Tracking Goblins
Poor Squell.

The group tracked the long loping strides of one of the fleeing goblins – who had apparently used boot-grease to add to his speed as well.

Bronwyn and Glawen avoided a trap and crouched in wait for the rest of the group to catch up.

They gestured to Dulkas who did not see them, and instead ran into the trap – catching a thick tree limb in the belly and almost knocking him down.

Across a gully was another wooded hill, that seemed suspiciously defendable.

With Dulkas being spotted, they rushed the gully and tried to cross it quickly, but ended up catching many arrows as they did so.

Finally they stormed the hill, which Chen and Bronwyn sneaking around the north side, Glawen around the South with Coryn behind him casting deadly magic missiles, and Dulkas ducking from tree to tree to get into range.

One goblin wielded a brutal longbow which delivered some grievious wounds to the group, but in the end they were no match for the company of light. Chen had snuck up on the band’s leader and brutally decapitated him before he could react.

At the top was a camp with bedrolls and sheep bones scattered around.

Though nobody escaped injury – and several were bloodied by traps and arrows, none of the goblins escaped. Glawen hunted down the last fleeing goblin as the group interrogated Squell, who had surrendered, begging for his life.

He revealed that the goblins had used stealth, enchantment, and distraction to push into Istarnia to accomplish a mission that he claimed to know little about. “It was the human priest,” he said. “He needed the moon, the equinox, to perform the ritual. Tonight! You must hurry!”

He pointed to the eastern forest where the fleeing goblin had been running towards.

With that, Chen neatly decapitated another goblin and they set off towards the woods – after claiming the gold and enchanted grease from the goblin corpses.

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Tracking Kelmar
It's a Trap!

Chen and Glawen circled wide around the firelight while the rest kept their distance.

They could smell roasted mutton and see 4 cloaked figures around the fire. Creeping closer, Chen recognized his friend, Kelmar and stood up, approached, and waved.

Kelmar returned his wave and moments later a volley of arrows streaked from the adjacent wooded hillside!

It was then that Chen noticed the arrow wounds that had killed his friend.

Kelmar, his father, the huntsman, and the deputy were zombies! They grappled with Chen and Dulkas as the rest of the group tried to cross a thorn filled gully to stop the unseen archers.

In time they crossed and cut down all but two of the goblins, who fled.

The remaining goblins were well equipped and a step up from your average goblin. Their black leather armour, well crafted bows and shortswords, and the gold they carried in their purse spoke of a cohesive and unified force. Not only that, they had prepared net and whiptraps, and had enchanted grease to aid them in running fast.

Glawen and Bronwyn scouted ahead, smearing the boot-grease on their boots to catch up with the fleeing goblins.

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