Iron and Leaves

Book 1, Chapter 8: Welcome to Concord
The heroes arrive in Concord and meet the druids

SUMMARY: This was a short session. Moira meets a cousin in Concord and pretends to be Tiaga. Zelu delivers the message and impresses a dragon rider captain. Zelu sees some old apprentices of his former master, but they don’t see him. The group meet the druids and Asger is surprised to learn that the head druid’s husband is from his northern tribe.

As the group draws closer to Concord, the traffic becomes heavier. Rumors of war (and ruined crops that can’t be harvested) have pushed many to seek sanctuary in the city. At the gate, soldiers are inspecting wagons and talking to travelers before letting them in the gate.

Moira recognizes one of the soldiers — it’s Rilien, her cousin on her mother‘s side. He recognizes her as one of his cousin twins and greets her. Realizing he isn’t sure which one she is, Moira pretends to be Tiaga (Zelu plays along, but Asger is confused). Rilien tells her that she must visit him and his husband at their house in the Spires (the main high elf neighborhood in Concord).

Once the heroes are inside, Zelu splits up from the rest to the District at the center to deliver the message from Mayor Eriqua in Lobe. Moira and Asger follow Gammy Mae to the druid Grove, which is on the edge of the Gardens (the main wood elf neighborhood) near the Tangle (the dark elf neighborhood).

Zelu waits in several lines, and is directed to several different lines before he finally finds Homyar, the administrator supposed to receive the message from Mayor Eriqua. Homyar is talking to a Dragon Rider and there are no signs that they’ll end anytime soon. Zelu decides to interrupt; it’s a risky move and the Dragon Rider is annoyed at first, but as Zelu hands them the message and tells them about defeating a frost giant scout so close to Concord, the annoyance turns to respect an interest. The Dragon Rider introduces himself as Sky Captain Ariston and tells Zelu if they ’re interested in any more missions for the Empire to seek him out.

As Zelu leaves, he spots Dentyn and Yanni, two former apprentices of Katerina, his old master (and unlike Coryn, they are both sorcerers in high standing and part of Katerina’s inner circle). He sees them before they see him and is able to escape their notice… for now.

Moira, Asger, and Gammy Mae head to the Druid Grove. They travel through the Gardens and the wood elves there watch them curiously. They pass through several rings of druid sentinels which start very subtle and by the end are armed guards. At each encounter, Gammy Mae gives passphrases, hand gestures, and other signs. Moira watches closely (she’s been studying with Mae as they traveled and she’s strongly considering becoming a druid herself).

In the center they see a beautiful half-elf woman in green robes standing next to a stunning northman in armor. Both of them radiate strength and authority, though in different ways. It’s also clear they’re in love with each other. Gammy Mae introduces the woman as Dani, the head druid of the grove and introduces the man as Lief, her husband and the head guardian of the grove.

They greet Asger and Moira warmly.

Dani tells Moira that her father, Bion Greenoak, was there half a year ago and that last she knew he had gone to Drakkenhall on a mission directly from the High Druid. She tells Moira that they all admire and like her father and hope he is safe.

Lief and Asger ask each other questions about their families and homes until they figure out how they’re related. It turns out they’re both part of the same clan and that Lief is a second cousin of Asger’s father. Since they’re family, they talk about back home and their exploits since.

After awhile, Moira leaves to visit Calanon, Rilien’s husband. Calanon is a minor sorcerer, but more importantly he’s a minor high elf noble who prides himself on his hospitality and sophistication. He greets “Tiaga” (actually Moira) warmly and insists she must stay with them. When she tells him that she has a slovenly northman, a goblin, and a backwoods druid with her, he’s visibly worried (though he stays polite) and he doesn’t try too hard to convince her not to stay in the Grove with the druids when she says that’s her plan.

Eventually Zelu, Moira, and Asger all gather back together in the Grove, where they’ve been invited to stay.

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Book 1, Chapter 7: A Fight with a Giant
The heroes head south to Concord and fight a frost giant on the way

SUMMARY: On their way south, the heroes run into a frost giant scout. They defeat it and interrogate it. They learn more about the giants’ plans as well as hints of a larger conspiracy. They reach Concord

The heroes head south towards Concord with Gammy Mae. The weather continues to get more and more bitterly cold. After awhile a biting mist rises and they think they see a cloud sink to the ground nearby.

They go to investigate (clouds can sometimes carry people through the Overworld and Frost Giants are known to use them on occasion.

They discover a lone frost giant scout. They attack.

Zelu, Moira, and Gammy Mae hang back. Moira readies her arrows, while Mae and Zelu begin casting.

Asger, on the other hand, charges forward with a scream, working himself up into a frenzy. He leaps off his horse when he’s near the giant in an effort to tackle him and knock him to the ground.

Things don’t go according to plan.

Asger bounces off of the giant and hits the ground, then the giant kicks him in the head, knocking him out cold.

Gammy Mae finishes a druid spell and tangled roots burst out of the ground and entangle the giant (and Asger).

Moira shoots arrow after arrow into the trapped giant and Zelu casts a spell that suppresses the cold enchantment in the giant;s ax and then incinerates the ax’s handle.

It’s slow, but eventually they incapacitate the giant. Once the tangling vines recede, they tie the giant and wake him up to interrogate him.

They’re worried Asger will attack on waking, so Moira takes his cursed Knife and hides it.

Zelu interrogates the giant. They learn that he’s a scout for a larger invading army. They learn that there’s a coalition between the frist giants and other mysterious enemies. The frost giant taunts that the magical wards protecting the Empire (created by the Archmage) have been overcome and that the blizzards are just beginning. He doesn’t know much specific about the giants’ strategies.

Asger wakes up. They debate what to do. Moira doesn’t want to kill him, but the others say there’s no good way to take him with them and they can’t just leave him. Eventually they decide to kill him. Asger does the deed. He also takes the ax head as a trophy (which he wraps carefully — Zelu’s suppression of the cold enchantment is only temporary).

Asger asks what happened to his dagger. Moira lies to him that they don’t know and he believes her.

The group arrives at the gates of Concord.

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Book 1, Chapter 6: Chasing Master Rankins
The heroes chase Master Rankins west and meet an old friend

SUMMARY: The heroes follow Master Rankins, but don’t catch up. Master Rankins was expecting them and warned the villagers along the way about them. They meet up with Gammy Mae, who joins them. At the town of Lobe, they give up on following Master Rankins and agree to take a message to Concord instead.

The heroes set out west, following after Master Rankins. There isn’t a lot of traffic leaving Old Town since he left the night before and his wagon is bigger than any of the halflings’ wagons. The fresh snow makes the tracks very easy to follow.

It’s late in the afternoon before they come to another settlement. Salica is a tiny human village with no more than 50 people. It’s a single extended family spanning several generations. The buildings are all ornately painted and carved wood in the style if the local human clans. The Yugos are a fair-skinned northern race of humans that has been firmly within the Dragon Empire for centuries. Along the northern borders they often clash with Asger’s people, the northmen.

The patriarch, along with a dozen other men (brothers, uncles, sons, and nephews) meet the heroes as they enter the city. They are clearly not friendly and the meeting is tense. Master Rankins came through recently and warned them about the heroes. The heroes are polite and cautious and pass through quickly without incident. They know Rankins is aware they’re following him (or perhaps just playing it safe).

They camp just off the road when it gets dark, since Salica wasn’t willing to let them stay.The next morning they set off again. It’s frigidly cold and even with their new warmer clothes from Old Town, they’re all frozen. The snow on the ground becomes brittle and crunches under their feet.

Mid-morning they come to a crossroads. They can see a band of mounted soldiers coming up on the crossroads from the south. It’s a band of a few dozen Imperial cavalry.

The two groups reach the crossroads about the same time. The leader of the cavalry, Sergeant Alucard, stops them and interrogates them where they’re going. He’s clearly suspicious of the elf, the northman, and the goblin traveling together. Things are touchy at first, but Moira charms him and he warms up.

He tells them his band is heading north. There are rumors of frost giants in the north of the Empire. It’s suspected that the two blizzards are their work and that an invasion is imminent. He bids them to be safe and the band rides north.

Master Rankins tracks continue west, so the heroes continue following them.

They come across another village, Oesel. The buildings look similar to Salica and they’re probably a family from the same larger Yugo clan.

Remembering their reception last time, the heroes decide to scout out the town stealthily before making their presence known. Master Rankins is traveling by wagon, so they’re hoping they’re catching up with him. He might even be in this town.

Moira sneaks to the top of a hill overlooking the town. Zelu follows her. In the town they see that there’s no wagon like Master Rankins, so he isn’t there. They also see warriors from the family seemingly on heightened alert. They decide to sneak around the town and avoid it entirely.

The group skirts around the edge of the town, but they’re spotted by a young lookout. Soon, a dozen men and women with spears, axes, and crossbows come running out towards the party.

The heroes talk to the town, assuring them they’re just passing through and mean no trouble. The villagers look skeptical, but a young woman seems to recognize the group (a goblin, northman, and elf are an unusual group). She runs back to the town and comes back a minute later with Gammy Mae, the half-elf druid they met in [[Book 1, Chapter 1: A Cold Beginning… | chapter 1]] outside of Wellcrest.

She tells them that after the second blizzard, she’s been looking for them. She asks them to come with her to Concord. She needs to get news to the High Druid and there’s a druid grove in Concord where she can do that.

They tell her they’re chasing Master Rankins, but they can travel with her for a ways. Teh villagers are mollified and let them pass through.

They continue following Master Rankins. They’ve entered more populous roads and there are now other tracks, too, but they keep the trail.

Then they stumble across Master Rankins’ wagon. It’s been abandoned. Master Rankins has taken the horses and left the wagon. Carefully, using Witch Sight to snoop for sorcerous traps, they search the wagon. They find some marionette-like figures made of sticks, like the one that attacked Zelu in Old Town. They burn them.

They continue on until they come to another crossroad. The north-south road leads to Concord to the south and eventually to Nomad to the north. It’s a major road and they recognize it.

Because it’s a major road, there’s a medium-sized town at the crossroads: Lobe. It’s a fortified town, surrounded by high wooden walls. It’s a trade and government center for the region, serving the local villages.

They’ve been following Master Rankin’s trail (now two horses instead of a wagon) and it leads into the town.

Inside the town, everything is a bustle of activity. There are a large number of soldiers and they’re clearly readying to ride out. The group asks what is going on and finds themselves directed to Mayor Eriqua. She’s busy signing papers and giving orders at the center of the controlled chaos in town.

She’s straight to the point and brisk, but polite. She hasn’t seen or heard of anyone matching Master Rankins description. Zelu tells her that he’s dangerous and has been causing trouble. He tells her that Rankins is an assassin. She puts the word out.

Then she asks them if they’re willing to be soldiers. The pay is mediocre, but the work is steady. They decline. She then asks if they would carry an urgent report to Concord for her telling them the intelligence they’ve gathered.

They discuss and decide they’ve lost Rankins trail and might as well head south. Concord was their next destination anyway, hoping to find a solution to Asger’s beserk frenzies as well as to get to the bottom of the assassination jobs being coordinated out of Concord.. It’s also where Gammy Mae is heading. They agree to take the message.

The mayor gives them a letter stating they’re on official Imperial business and sends them to the stables to get outfitted with horses. They’re also given some gold as payment with the promise of more when they deliver the message in Concord.

At the stables they see Rankins’ two horses. He sold them and bought a single riding horse in exchange.

The group leaves, along with Gammie Mae.

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Book 1, Chapter 5: Assassins in Old Town
Three assassins attack the heroes and Pim

SUMMARY: Moira thwarts an assassination attempt on Pim and learns that dozens of assassins have been hired out of Concord to kill many targets, including the four heroes. Asger defeats Najir, who was paid by Master Rankins to kill him. Zelu defeats a magical spirit assassin similar to the sword wind in the first blizzard. He learns Master Rankins created and sent it. Master Rankins left town the night before. The group leaves to catch him. Tiaga parts ways and the other three continue alone.

A few days pass. Pim is healing well in the temple under Father Reilly’s care.

Moira visits Pim and interrupts Cassandra trying to kill him. Cassandra is an assassin! Cassandra plunges the temple into darkness, but Moira still defeats her with some impressive (and lucky) shots.

At the edges of town, Zelu is investigating the source of the widespread enchantment over the entire region. He passes by a snowbank and hands made of sticks grab him and pull him into the snow. It’s a stick golem, similar to the Sword Winds that attacked them in [[Book 1, Chapter 1: A Cold Beginning… | chapter 1]]. Being pressed into the snow, he can’t use sorcery, but he frees himself, then blasts the stick golem with fire, destroying it. Examining it with Witch Sight, he’s able to see that it was enchanted. He also recognizes it as one of the stick puppets that Master Rankins had hanging in his wagon.

Meanwhile, in the center of town, Asger is confronted by Najir. Najir has a cursed knife. During the fight, Najir tells him that Master Rankins paid him to kill ASger, but that he would have done it anyway. Asger overcomes him in a wrestling match and uses the blade to kill Najir. He feels something strange and realizes the knife is a soul drinker of some sort. He keeps the knife.

Moira alerts the town of the attempt on Pim’s life and everyone congregates in the temple. Mayor Eila is deeply grateful (Pim is her son). The halflings take custody of Cassandra, but the first part of the interrogation is done in the temple.

The heroes learn that Cassandra and Master Rankins are both assassins and both were hired by the same mysterious patron. A man in Concord put out a call for dozens assassins and each got a different list of names. Cassandra had Pim. Master Rankins had the four of them on his list (that’s the list they found in [[Book 1, Chapter 1: A Cold Beginning… | chapter 1]]).

They ask around and discover that Master Rankins left the night before. They leave (with the gratitude of the entire town) to go hunt Master Rankins down.

However, Tiaga decides she needs to part ways with her sister and the others. She heads east, into the Queen’s Wood. She plans to send dark elves back, like they promised the troll Mother Xiola.Then she’ll fulfill her duties that Tiranna gave her (except that she knows her sister and firends will be long gone by then. The twins bid each other a tearful farewell and hope to be reunited soon.

(Tiaga’s player had to drop from the game after last session. She wasn’t here this week and probably won’t be back again this campaign.)

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Book 1, Chapter 4: Trouble in Old Town
The heroes arrive in Old Town and deal with a bear problem

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Book 1, Chapter 3: Journey to Old Town
Another blizzard dries them into dark elf woods

SUMMARY: Moira and Asger befriend halflings. They find a half-eaten elk and a strange rune carved in a tree. Tiaga and Zelu are half a day behind. There’s a second unnatural blizzard. After the storm, dark elf wardens tell the halfling band to leave as soon as able. A young halfling runs off and is caught by orcs. Moira and Asger kill the orcs. Asger succumbs to berserk rage and attacks Moira. Tiaga, Zelu, and dark elf wardens arrive and distract, then calm Asger.

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Asger and Moira had been traveling for two days with the band of halflings and the old human merchant Master Rankins. Old Town, the halfling village, was still about four days away.

Asger quickly befriended Arzin, the leader of the halfling band. Arzin was a prominent farmer and was the one who suggested the trip to the Temple of the Winter Star to ask for help from the elves. Arzin was enthusiastic in his praise of Asger and Moira. He also liked to talk about his feud with Froni, another halfling farmer, who has been too “short-sighted” to back his plan.

The human merchant Master Rankins also befriended Asger, mainly through the generous distribution of candies. He smiled and laughed a little too often, sometimes at inappropriate times, but he seemed harmlessly and eccentric rather than unpleasant.

Moira also made a halfling friend—the young Pimtran (usually called Pim). Pim was charming and hyperactive. He was fascinated by the Queen’s Wood (and elves in general). When Moira practiced some simple folk magic cantrips she’d learned as an apprentice ranger, Pim coaxed her to teach him. The cantrips weren’t ranger secrets, so Moira agreed.

While practicing calling animals together, they noticed a rotten elk corpse in bushes just off the road. The elk had been half-eaten by humanoid mouths with sharp teeth. Asger came over as well. The two of them were both skilled in tracking and wilderness lore and they searched the area.

They found tracks of five humanoids wearing boots (clearly the ones who had ripped meat off the elk with their teeth). None of the civilized humanoid races had sharp teeth, but goblins and goblin-kin, such as orcs and hobgoblins did.

There was another set of tracks. These ones were huge. It was a single creature, bare-foot, probably between 12 to 15 feet tall. The tracks could belong to one of the smaller giants, such as a hill giant or ogre, or possibly to a troll.

Near the huge tracks some runes were carved into a tree at about nine feet above the ground. None of them recognized the language, but they did recognize the rune of Darkness at the center.

The tracks all lead deeper into the dark elf controlled woods. The group watched the woods more closely after that, but continued on towards Old Town.


Moira and her twin sister Tiaga had always shared a psychic link that let them talk mentally from a distance and to know each other’s location and state. So Moira knew the basics of what had happened when Tiaga and Zelu stayed behind to talk with Tiranna the priestess. She also knew they’d were following behind and would catch up with the halfling band some time either that night or the next morning.

While Moira and Asger had the company of the halflings and Master Rankins and so didn’t spend much time together, Tiaga and Zelu were traveling alone. Both were young and didn’t know each other well, so they talked a little to pass the time. One thing Tiaga asked Zelu about was his use of sorcery. She knew enough to know goblin sorcerers weren’t common (in fact, they were unheard of). Zelu told her he had learned from Katerina, an accomplished sorceress. Moira had only a rudimentary understanding of sorcery, and most of that was focused on high elven sorcery, so she didn’t recognize the name Katerina or that she was a respected and well-known sorceress.

Zelu didn’t elaborate that she hadn’t known he was learning sorcery or that he had stolen one of her spellbooks, nor did he mention that learning sorcery simply from a spellbook (basically a book of staggeringly complex formulas) without the aid of a teacher along with months or years of intense study of dozens of supporting tracts and books should have been impossible. (In truth, Zelu didn’t fully understand yet himself how exceptional his affinity for sorcery actually was.)

Then Tiaga noticed another storm on the northern horizon. She cast Witch Sight, a folk magic cantrip, like she had during the previous storm, and she saw that this storm was also clearly supernatural. Zelu cast Witch Sight on himself as well. Folk magic wasn’t powerful or sophisticated enough to let them tease out the nature of the magic, whether it was sorcery, a god’s intervention, or something else. But they could tell that the amount of power required to create that storm was staggering. Even more worrying is that the The Archmage’s wards should have made such a storm exponentially more difficult, above and beyond the raw power just to raise the storm. And of course, the previous storm had been less than a week before.

They were out in the open, so they needed to find cover quickly. Tiaga warned Moira about the storm through their link.


Moira and Asger weighed their options. The storm was approaching rapidly and would overcome the band in half an hour. This area of the Queen’s Wood was controlled by dark elves. Pim also let Moira know that he had been caught trespassing in these woods before and warned never to return.

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They decide their options are limited and Moira and Asger start moving the band off the road. They use the trees for cover and circle the wagons. Moira casts an Alarm folk magic cantrip around the camp to detect any intruders. She and Asger remember the sword wind spirit that attacked during the last storm. Then they all gather inside the wagons and wait.

The storm hits with a roar. The temperature plummets instantly when the storm hits and freezing wind finds it’s way through every crevice and hole.

One of the wagons tips over within the first minute. Moira and Asger push out into the storm to help. Asger helps wedge the wagon up just enough for Moira and the halflings to pull stragglers out. He’s exhausted and battered by the end, but everyone is safe.

They all gather into the largest wagon to share warmth. Moira keeps a paranoid eye out for another spirit attack and tries to stay awake. Asger falls asleep quickly. Moira fades in and out of consciousness, tryign to stay awake to keep guard.

Then she snaps awake when her alarm spell is triggered.


Tiaga and Zelu rushed to catch up with the group, but the storm caught them while they were still an hour away. There was some limited cover possible from trees and small hills, but the two travelers were unprepared for the cold.

Zelu thought quickly and found a small hill. The hill wasn’t tall enough to shelter them, but that wasn’t what the little goblin had in mind. He moved to the leeward side of the hill and knelt down. He put his hands over the side of the hill and began Invoking a violent spell. He used his hands to Shape the spell to dig into the hill. The spell was made to wrack flesh and Zelu wasn’t sure it would do what he needed, but it was their best chance. The shadows under his hand darkened and spread, like veins into the hill, then with a loud explosion, dirt blasted out from the hill. He had carved out a narrow tunnel just deep and wide enough for both of them to fit inside. Loose dirt still filled half the tunnel, but the two quickly scooped it out and climbed inside. Using branches from trees and their cloaks, the two created a lid for the tunnel to keep out wind and snow and also to make it easier to push off snow later when it was time to climb out.

The whole was cramped, but with the dirt around them and their shared body heat, they were safe from the blizzard.

They slept for a few hours, then Tiaga opened blurry eyes. At first she wasn’t sure what had awakened her, but after a moment she realized she could barely feel Moira. Her sister was still there, but the connection felt muted, like sound through thick cotton.

Outside, the winds had stopped completely. The storm had passed and no animals were yet making a sound.

Tiaga woke up Zelu and the two of them pushed together on their makeshift plug to clear their way out of the tunnel.

Outside, the snow was over three feet thick in most places, though less than a foot had covered their tunnel opening on the partially covered leeward side of the hill.

Zelu shivered and not just from cold. Something felt like it was missing. Tiaga tried to cast Witchsight again, but her cantrip fizzled. That was enough for Zelu to realize that he felt odd because all magic was dampened.in the area, including sorcery. It was still possible to cast spells, but it took more effort and cost more energy. It wasn’t a dampening spell, though. It was like the storm had used up all magic in the land and left it temporarily drained.

The two bundled up and headed towards Moira, Asger, and the halflings. Tiaga could still sense enough to know which direction they were in. Tiaga took the lead. She had to break the trail through the snow since it rose to Zelu’s chest (and over his head in some places where wind had piled it high).


Moira quietly woke up Asger, then gestured him to be quiet. She carefully cracked the shutters on a window in the wagon’s door and poked her head out. She had an arrow drawn and ready to shoot. It was past midnight and the moon was just a crescent, but with the fresh snow everything was still bright

Asger grabbed his hammer (even though it wasn’t his best weapon in the cramped and crowded wagon). A few other halflings, including Pim, began to stir.

Outisde two figures, bundled up against the cold, slowly moving towards the wagons. One had a sword drawn. The other had hands held in front of her in the tell-tale stance of a sorcerer ready for danger. They were examining the tipped wagon that Moira and Asger had been unable to pick back up the night before.

Moira called out for them to stop and identify themselves. The one with the sword pulled back his hood, revealing silver-white hair. He was a dark elf. In the starlit snowy night, it was easy to see why they called themselves the Silver Folk.

“Hail the camp. I am ”/characters/zelphar" class=“wiki-content-link”>Zelphar. My companion is Bemere. We are Wardens of these woods. You have entered territory belonging to the Silver Folk without permission."

When Zelphar said her name, Bemere pulled her hood back as well. The tattoos on her face and forearms. confirmed that she was a dark elf sorcerer.

Bemere made several rapid, small gestures in some sort of sign language towards Zelphar. She was clearly displeased.

Behind Moira, Pim had crawled forward. He gasped softly when he heard Zelphar speak.

“Oh no! Those are the dark elves that told me never to come back. They said they’d punish me if I ever came back!” It’s clear the young halfling is scared.

Moira shushed Pim. She wrapped a cloak around his shoulders and told him to stay there. Moira then opened the door (which took several tries to dislodge the piled snow) and stepped out and spoke to the two dark elf Wardens.

“I am Moira. My companions and I were traveling south outside your territory when the storm overtook us. We had to find shelter for our lives.”

Bemere spoke up for the first time, “You are trespassers here…”

Zelphar interrupted her smoothly (which earned him a scowl), “But as they say, what choice did they have?”

Moira spoke up again, “We had no time or opportunity to ask permission and we only came into the very edge of your territory.”

Bemere said, “Fine. But you must leave immediately.”

“Come now, Bemere,” Zelphar said. Then to Moira he continued, “You can wait for the morning. But then must leave. These woods are not open to outsiders.”

Moira nods.

“Very well,” Zelphar continues, “are you all well? Do you need anything until the morning?”

From her expression, Bemere was clenching her teeth in annoyance hard enough to crack stone.

Moira assured him that they didn’t. Zelphar nodded, Bemere glared, and the two of them turned and left. As they disappeared, Bemere continued her conversation with him via sign language.

Moira sighed. That could have gone a lot worse. Relationships between the three elven people were not good, and the dark elves were notoriously distrustful of non-elves. Zelphar had been surprisingly civil and even Bemere had done little more than scowl (though things would likely have gone very differently if she had been in charge).

Opening the wagon door, Moira found Asger with his hammer and several halflings in the doorway. They’d all been listening. She didn’t, however, see Pim. Instead, she found the cloak she’d wrapped around him bundled against the wall and she saw a small window near the roof of the wagon opened. Pim had slipped out while she was talking to the dark elves.

“I’m going to kill him!” Moira growled in exasperation. She was already heading back out the door. She quickly recast her Alarm cantrip around the camp—it was harder to cast than it should have been, but she still managed.

In the fresh snow it was easy to follow Pim’s tracks. Her conversation with the dark elves hadn’t lasted more than a couple minutes, so he couldn’t be far ahead.

Then she heard Pim yell in surprise. She rushed forward until she came to a steep ravine where he had fallen and slid down. At the bottom of the ravine, he was still lying down, shirt bunched under his armpits from sliding.

He had stopped yelling and instead was frozen in place, looking up at the opposite edge of the ravine. Five orcs were on the opposite side of the ravine. They were strange looking orcs, but still clearly orcs. Their faces seemed longer and their builds seemed more top-heavy.

Three had already slid down the opposite side of the ravine when Moira arrived. The other two saw Moira and stayed at the top.

Moira focused on the one already down in the ravine with Pim. She had seen what they did to the elk before and she didn’t want them to reach him.

All those hours and years avoiding training as a priestess with her sister’s collusion hadn’t been spent in leisure. She’d been learning to be a Ranger instead. Part of that training included archery and she had been a quick pupil.

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She shot an arrow at the orc closest to Pim, who was the smallest and quickest of the five orcs. She had another arrow drawn almost before it hit. The first arrow hit the runt orc in the head and knocked him down. The head wound bled profusely. She couldn’t tell if he was dead, but he wasn’t moving.

Her second arrow hit the next closest orc in the chest. He had tusks jutting out of mouth. The tusked orc staggered and fell to his knees, but didn’t fall all the way. The third orc, with a distinctly green cast to his skin, ran to the tusked orc and tried to pull out the arrow and staunch the bleeding.

Pim was safe for a few moments. His snapped out of his fear paralysis and scrambled over to the runt orc who was breathing but unconscious. Pim picked up the crude club the orc had dropped and turned back to the two orcs still down there with him.

One of the orcs at the top of the ravine, who wore an uncured animal skin wrapped around his head like a turban, backed up and then took a running leap over the ravine. Turbaned orc was a strong jumper and came right at Moira with an iron mace lifted high.

Moira managed to get a third shot of and it buried deep into the shoulder of the arm holding the mace. The arrow shattered his clavicle and emerging out his back. Turbaned orc dropped his mace, though momentum still carried it across the ravine where it landed with a heavy thud nearby.

Turbaned orc slammed bodily into Moira , knocking her off her feet with the orc on top of her. Her bow flew from her fingers.

She shoved at him off of her frantically. He wasn’t trying to attack her, though, and let her push him off. He cradled his arm and shrieked.

Asger arrived in time to see the orc slam into Moira. He had followed shortly behind her.

Seeing the orc lying on the snow by Moira, he lifted his hammer and smashed it down on the orc’s head. His head ruptured like a melon after being shoved almost a foot down into the snow. Only a scrap of his fur turban was still visible above the snow.

The rush of battle filled Asger and he felt his control slipping. A red haze covered his sight. He was unstoppable. He was invincible. He was rage and battle incarnate. And the world was full of enemies to destroy.

Moira started to thank Asger, then saw him raise him hammer again and move towards her. Barely believing what was happening, she rolled out of the way, avoiding his hammer by inches. She scrambled to her feet, grabbing her bow on the way, and ran to put some distance between herself and Asger.

Across the way, the fifth orc, with gray warty skin that looked like rough stone, jumped into the ravine. The greenish orc, still uninjured, helped half-carry the tusked orc with the arrow in his chest while stony-skinned orc grabbed Pim. They ran down the ravine, trying to get away.

Asger saw them and roared. He jumped into the ravine, smashing into the stony-skinned orc carrying Pim. Stony orc stumbled to the ground, dropping Pim. Pim scrambled away. Luckily Asger stayed focused on the stony-skinned orc and ignored Pim (for now).

Asger swung his hammer at stony-skinned orc and missed.

Moira deliberated what to do, then decided to pull out Pim and get his far away from Asger. She pulled him up just as Tiaga and Zelu arrived on the opposite side of the ravine. Moments later, the two dark elf wardens also arrived and helped her pull up Pim. Pim squeaks when he sees them, but there are more pressing concerns.

Asger killed stony-skinned orc with a wet thud. Moira shot a second arrow into tusked orc, killing him. Then Asger finishes off green-skinned orc.

Asger was still beserk. To keep him occupied, Taiga called to the Ariada, the Star of Spring, one of the Three Sisters that she worshiped, to create phantasms of more orcs rising from the snow around Asger. It worked and Asger gleefully smashed them as more and more orcs seemed to rise up.

It was a temporary fix, though, and they knew it. Bemere was the first to suspect that there was an external supernatural influence acting on him. She cast a banishing spell.

Asger felt the battle lust leave him like a wind. He lowered his hammer and immediately apologized to Moira. Then he looked at Bemere and smiled his special smile. Bemere, realizing what he was offering, looked revolted. Zelphar looked amused (and possibly more amenable to the offer).

Moira told Zelphar and Bemere that the orcs are their problem now. Once it was clear that Asger was under control, the dark elf Wardens head off deeper into the forest. Asger, Moira, Tiaga, and Zelu, now reunited, stumbled back to the camp where the halflings and Master Rankins are waiting.

Each of them, especially Asger, is now more wary. Asger’s battle rage had almost killed Moira. They couldn’t risk that happening again.

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Book 1, Chapter 2: Arriving at the Temple
A rough start, new enemies, and new friends

SUMMARY: The priestess arrives in the morning. She is warm with the twins well, but cool to the non-elves, offering to pay them for their services and send them on their way. Asger argues over the pay and offends the priestess, who freezes him for most the day. Moira tries to connect with the groundskeeper. Some visiting high elves get a racist, orthodox sermon from the priestess. Tiaga learns that the visitors are not orthodox; better yet, one is cute. On a drunken walk that night, the others bump into an apprentice of Zelu’s master (who is still looking for him). The next morning a band of halflings ask for help. The priestess refuses, but Asger and Moira go along. Tiaga and Zelu stay and convince the priestess they’re on her side and will go fetch the others. Tiaga is given a sacred relic. They also convince the priestess that the assassination attempts were real and a significant danger.

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Our heroes slept fitfully the first night at the temple. Asger had a claustrophobic dream of dimly sensed ravens pecking and flapping against closed windows. Zelu stayed up late studying his stolen spellbook and felt a pressure as if the temple itself opposed the book. Moira and Tiaga knew the morning encounter with Tiranna the head priestess was unlikely to go well.

But eventually morning came, as it always does.

Moira was up first. She found Gilan, the wood elf also up early and tending the grounds. She offered to help. He demurred, but when she insisted he shrugged and let her help. He didn’t seem to warm to her at all, but Moira was thinking of the long-term and kept helping. After about an hour of labor, GiIan straightened and told Moira to go awaken Tiaga. TIranna had arrived earlier and wanted to meet them for breakfast. Gilan would awaken the boys.

After they were all awake, they gathered in the communal dining toom where they’d eaten the night before. Gilan told them Tiranna would arrive shortly and excused himself to finish preparing breakfast.

While they waited, Tiaga gave the non-elves a brief explanation of the religious paintings on the wall, depicting the Three Sisters. They are star goddesses and central figures in the elven pantheon, especially among high elves. Tiaga and Moira are acolytes of the Three Sisters (though only Tiaga feels devotion).

After a few minutes, TIranna came into the room. The priestess was strikingly beautiful, even for a high elf. She was dressed immaculately in fine clothes and wore stunning (and expensive) high elven silver jewelry.

She glanced briefly at the human and goblin, then ignored them. Instead she reached out both hands and smiled radiantly at the elven twins.

“Moira! Tiaga! My, you’ve grown since last I saw you. I am so happy you arrived safely. I trust your trip was uneventful? The snow didn’t discomfort you?”

The four exchanged a glance. They’d decided earlier to ease into the story of the spirit assassin and the list with their names. For now, Tiaga and Moira stood and greeted Tiranna warmly in return.

When Tiranna praised their “father”, Ira Summerstar, Moira quickly corrected her that Ira was their step-father. Tiranna nodded after only a brief hesitation and continued to praise Ira as an example of piety and high elf virtues. Moira and Tiaga, who both disliked their step-father, tried to hide grimaces and resist interrupting her.

After ignoring them long enough to make her point clear, but not quite long enough to be called out for rudeness, TIranna turned to the two non-elves. She addressed them formally and without the warmth she had showed the twins.

“We thank you for your service guarding our young acolytes on their journey here. Your services are no longer required. See GIlan and he will give you your reward.”

Asger figured money is money and stood up to go find GiIan. Zelu stayed sitting, but did make a passing comment about elves being racist which Tiranna heard but deigned not to acknowledge.

Tiranna turned back to the twins and asked them if the mens’ companionship had been too tedious (she was aware that Zelu was still sitting there). Tiaga implied Asger was a harmless buffoon.

Tiranna continued talking about how wonderful their step-father is and she didn’t miss their expressions showing they didn’t share her admiration. Her smile faded a little. She informed them that after breakfast they should begin their duties.

Meanwhile in the hallway, Gilan dealt out a number of coins to Asger. Asger felt the amount was too small and left his hand out. Gilan grimaced and tried to walk away, but Asger moved to block his path. Gilan grew flustered and increasingly annoyed.

Then Tiranna walked out. Asger blocked her way next and said he deserved more money. Tiranna was furious at his impropriety and called down a miracle to freeze Asger in place. He could move his eyes, but couldn’t talk or move.

Tiranna left him like that all day.

Meanwhile, Tiaga and Moira set to their tasks. Moira did her chores, but when it came to devotional tasks, she left Tiaga to do all the work as was their habit. Both were officially acolytes of the Three Sisters, but Moira had been skipping lessons for years and had no ability to call miracles and little understanding even of basic doctrine. Because they were identical and purposefully kept the same hairstyle but wore distinct colors, Tiaga has been able to impersonate Moira for all classes, duties, and functions, leaving Moira to spend her time with their ranger grandfather with whom she had spent years secretly training as a ranger.

As soon as she was able to slip away, Moira found Gilan and again helped him with his chores. As before, he allowed her to help, but remained aloof.

Zelu checked on Asger, then retreated out of sight in his room to study,

When the sun set, Asger was freed. His muscles were stiff and full of painful cramps from not moving. He wandered out, stretching, and saw that a band of high elves had arrived and that Tiranna, Moira, and Tiaga were about to perform some sort of elven religious ceremony. Asger had no interest in that, so instead he wandered back towards his room. He was famished, so he found the food storage and began rummaging through it. He saw several barrels of wine and decided to roll one into his room, as well as several sacks full of food.

Zelu heard him and poked his head out to watch. When he saw the wine, he shrugged and followed Asger into his room. They cracked the first barrel.

Meanwhile, up in the shrine, Moira and Tiaga had been summoned to help Tiranna. Three visiting high elf dignitaries had arrived and Tiranna was eager to impress them. Moira and Tiaga were dressed in their ritual garb and were standing to either side of Tiranna. They both noticed that one of the elf visitors was very attractive and about their same age. The other two were older.

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Tiranna sang a sacred poem, which Moira and Tiaga accompanied (Moira followed Tiaga’s league, since she had only a rough familiarity with any of the poems, even after years of “stufy”). Afterwards, Tiranna gave a sermon on the meaning of the poem. Her interpretation was ultra-orthodox in tone (the type of views the twins had heard their step-father share frequently, but only with other staunch orthodox high elves). Not only were the views racist against non-elves, they also belittled the wood elves and dark elves. Moira and Tiaga were very uncomfortable, but chose not to make a scene.

The three visitors also looked surprised and uncomfortable, though Tiranna didn’t seem to notice.

After the ceremony, Moira and Tiaga were dismissed back to their rooms. On the way they saw Asger and Zelu already on their way to being drunk. Moira joined them, drawing herself a cup from the barrel. Tiaga wandered back to her room alone.

Moira, Asger, and Zelu decided they needed to get out for a bit. They decided to go for a walk in the hills. THey brought plenty of wine with them and kept drinking.

Tiaga heard the high elf visitors come into a room near hers. She knocked on their door and asked if they would like company. They let her in. One of the older two elves made a disapproving comment about the sermon. Emboldened, Tiaga shared her own opinions as well. The younger elf said he found the growing high elf orthodoxy troubling. He smiled at Tiaga, clearly interested, and introduced himself as Sedril. The three elves were visiting from Morthil, a small elven city in the Queen’s Wood. Sedril proudly told her it was one of the few true elven woods left, with high elves, wood elves, and dark elves all living together.

Outside, the three drunk friends came up to the top of a hill and saw a single lantern coming towards them. The only details they could make out about the traveler is that it was a humanoid figure of human or elven height riding on a donkey or pony. The figure was coming up the trail that would lead straight to the shrine.

They called out to the figure and the figure answered. It was a young woman. Zelu recognized the voice, but it was too late to hide or move away. It was Coryn, the apprentice of his previous master, Katerina. Zelu had always liked Coryn, who was friendly and kind (though not particularly talented), but he definitely wanted to avoid the attention of his old master, especially since he had stolen a spellbook from her before running away

“Zelu? Is that you? Gods, it’s good to see you! How are you? Are you alright? We were all so worried about you!”

She jumped right into catching up. She had left her apprenticeship, having achieved the lowest level of membership in her Sorcery School (effectively guilds) that would allow her to take on simple jobs. She knew she didn’t have any particular talent and was content to make a comfortable living. She was traveling

Zelu deflected many of her questions, ensuring her that he was fine and that he had sent several letters to Katerina. When Coryn said Katerina hadn’t received them, Zelu pretended to be surprised and said he’d send another that very night. (He was trying to keep her from telling Katerina where he was for as long as possible to make sure he could be far away).

It was late and she was tired, so they invited her to the shrine guesthouse. They knew Tiranna would not be amused, but that was an added bonus.

Coryn drank with them as they walked and by the time they got back she was laughing and swaying. They climbed in through Asger’s window, then remembered the donkey. They went back out and brought it into the hallway.

Tiaga heard them return, of course. Embarrassed, she excused herself. Sedril invited her to visit him in Morthil when she had a chance. She agreed, though she knew it likely wouldn’t be soon.

She found the others and did what she could to keep them quieter and get them settled to bed as soon as possible.


The next morning, they were awoken by arguing outside. A band of halflings, along with an old human merchant (Master Rankins), had arrived. The leader of the band (Arzin) was arguing with Tiranna. He was asking her for help, saying that a huge bear had come into their village and dragged off some halflings. Tiranna asked him why any of this was her concern and told them to turn to their own officials.

Asger had had more than enough of Tiranna by this point. He climbed on Coryn’s donkey and rode it out of the guest house.

“We’ll help you!” he called. The halflings backed away from the giant with bed hair and groggy eyes, but as he smiled at them and continued, they were quickly charmed.

TIranna told him this was none of his concern and that he wasn’t welcome there anymore. Asger started laying into her, saying she was a terrible priestess and a racist. She sputtered, but the three visiting high elves had wandered out, too, so she kept her temper.

Then Moira said she was going, too. TIranna ordered her to back down and made it clear that if she left she’d be stripped of her priesthood. Moira ignored her and talked to the halflings instead.

Then one of the older visiting elves told Tiranna she ought to be ashamed of herself.

Tiranna stood there, sputtering, while Asger and Moira gathered their stuff and left with the halflings. The three elves left shortly after (Sedril smiled at Tiaga again). Tiranna stormed into her room.

Tiranna still had the list of their names, which might be their only lead. Tiaga and Moira had a mental link they had shared since birth and Tiaga let her know she and Zelu were going to try to get the note. Tiaga didn’t know yet what she’d do after that. Unlike Moira, being a priestess was her calling. Even if she despised the orthodox elements like her step-father and Tiranna, she loved the goddesses and the miracles that let her help others.

They waited a few hours until Tiranna came out, went into the dining hall and poured herself a glass of brandy. She was staring at the painting on the wall when Tiaga and Zelu came quietly into the room.

Tiranna glared at them, but Tiaga immediately jumped in with sympathetic words and consolations. Tiranna was suspicious at first, then she relaxed and began venting. It was helped along by Zelu making sure her glass was always full of brandy.

After Tiranna had warmed up to her again, Tiaga brought up the blizzard. For the first time, Tiranna listened close enough to realize what she was actually saying. The blizzard should have been impossible. It had broken through the Archmage’s wards and then traveled over the ancient magics of the Oldwall. She said that she would alert the Queen immediately. She also said that if they were part of it, then clearly they were important. She gave the note back to Tiaga and told her it was imperative that she catch up with her sister and “the human barbarian” and keep them still until good high elf warriors and priests could reach them and figure more out.

Then Tiranna told them to wait. She left and came back with a delicate silver wrought orb. Tiaga’s breath caught when she recognized it as Ariada’s Tear, a relic of Ariada, the Star of Spring, one of the Three Sisters. Ariada had gifted it to her Chosen many Ages ago. It was more precious and holy than anything Tiaga had ever held herself.

Tiranna put it reverently into Tiaga’s hands. She told Tiaga that she had been prompted to give it to her and made her swear to keep it safe, to which a wide-eyed Tiaga agreed.

By the time Tiaga and Zelu gathered their belongings and left, they were half a day behind the others. They hurried to catch up. They should have no trouble catching up before the band reached Old Town, since they were traveling with wagons and the two of them were less burdened.

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Book 1, Chapter 1: A Cold Beginning...
A snowy assassin brings four strangers together

SUMMARY: Four strangers are caught in a supernatural blizzard and attacked by a spirit assassin. When driven off, it drops a note with just their four names. They ask a hermit druid to divine what targeted them. She tells them an ancient being in the Dragon Wood wants them. They decide to stick together until they know more. They travel to the temple where the two elven sisters have been assigned.


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The northern lands around the city of Concord have been a largely peaceful region for the last century. The land is protected to the north and east by the Queen’s Wood and Concord to the south. To the west are the monster-filled swamps of the Fangs and the dangerous Dragon Wood lurks beyond, but both are generally quiet beyond their immediate borders.

The weather is also generally favorable, thanks to the projects of the Archmage, which is why no one was expecting a blizzard in early autumn.

Asger (AHS-gƏr), a hulking warrior from barbarian lands outside the Dragon Empire is traveling cross-country when the snows hit. It takes less than a minute before he’s lost in a complete white-out. He’s traveling to the nearby village of Wellcrest for the night and he knows he’s close. He can’t see any landmarks, so he heads out in the general direction and hopes he doesn’t miss it. He isn’t dressed for the unseasonable weather and he’d be hard-pressed to survive the night in the open.

Nearby, Zelu, a small goblin dressed in human-style clothing, is traveling west alone along a country road. The snow hits while he is at a crossroads. He’s also nearly blinded, but he can still see the road. His sharp ears pick up two women screaming, followed by a sound like metal scraping against rock. He begins casting a protective spell on himself and moving towards the screams.

About a hundred yards away on the road that heads off north from the intersection where Zelu stands, two elven twin sisters, Moira and Tiaga, are walking together when the snows cover them. They are huddled over against the wind and snow when a tree trunk hurtles out of the woods to their right. Tiaga dodges, but Moira is hit in her left shoulder and knocked off the road, over an edge, and down six feet into a small stream (a tributary that eventually feeds into the Fangs).

Moira hits an exposed branch on the way down and even with her leather armor, she’s bruised from mid-calf up to her hip. The water is shallow, but she’s completely soaked when she splashed into the water. She begins shivering immediately. She can see ice forming at the edges of the stream and spreading rapidly. She pushes herself to her feet.

Tiaga runs over to the edge and lies down, reaching to pull Moira out.

Moira sees a cyclone of snow form above Tiaga. Then the tip of a sword begins extruding from the cyclone (seemingly coming from nowhere). Moira yells to warn Tiaga just in time for her to roll out of the path of the slashing sword. It scraped loudly against an exposed rock.

The cyclone disappears, leaving no trace of the sword. Moira grabs the exposed branch that gouged her and starts climbing out of the slippery, muddy ravine.

Only a few seconds pass before the cyclone begins to reform in front of Tiaga. The sword begins to extrude again.

Tiaga doges again then casts a quick folk cantrip to give herself witch sight while it’s reforming a third time. With her mystical senses opened, she sees a figure about five feet tall made up of swords, knives, and other blades, tied together with wire to make a grotesque stick-figure. She also glances up at the sky and sees that the blizzard is clearly supernatural. Vague figures cavort and swirl in the clouds above, streaming overhead towards the south.

She can’t look long because the blade spirit begins to swirl again, causing another cyclone to form. It begins extruding it’s blade again.

Nearby but out of sight of the elven twins and the cyclone sword spirit, Asger stumbles out of the snow and onto the crossroads. He’s nearly on top of the small goblin Zelu before he sees him. Zelu is casting a spell. Goblin sorcerers are unheard of, but Asger isn’t a well-educated man and not prone to dwelling on details. The two size each other up briefly, then Zelu beckons Asger to follow him. Asger can hear the sounds of battle and pulls out his huge hammer. He runs off, quickly outpacing Zelu (which is just fine by the little goblin).

Asger bursts into the clearing just as the cyclone reforms yet again. He swings his hammer at the spinning blade, but misses. It passes through the cyclone without effect making it clear to all four that attacks against the cyclone have no effect.

Zelu finishes his armor spell on himself and begins casting it again to cover the other three.

Moira finally climbs out of the ravine and shoots an arrow at the blade. Against the odds she hits blade. Her arrow clanks against the steel and spins off into the woods. She doesn’t do much damage, but she nicks the blade and Tiaga sees the creature “bleeding” rust from the wound with her witch sight.

Zelu finishes his spell and shadows grow up from the ground to cover the other three. Before they have a chance to react, the blade spirit strikes again and hits Tiaga. But as soon as the blade touches her shadow armor, it begins to corrode. The creature screams and shoots up into the sky, where it flies out of sight.

However, it leaves behind a single small scrap of paper that drifts to the ground. Asger picks it up, but he can’t read. Zelu takes it and sees four names written on it.

A quick check makes it clear that it’s their four names. Except for the twins, none of them have met before and have no idea what they have in common.

As the adrenaline of the fight wears off, Moira starts shivering harder. They all need shelter, especially Moira. They decide to stick together for the time being until they can decide what to do next.

Before they leave, Asger smiles at Moira suggestively, making it clear he’d be happy to get to know her more intimately. When she refuses, shocked, he nods at Zelu, who similarly rebuffs him. After a moment’s hesitation, he smiles at Tiaga, who stares at him. He shrugs as if to say it never hurts to ask.

They know that the village of Wellcrest is nearby. It should only take a quarter hour to reach it. Tiaga casts some simple folk healing spells to heal bruises and cuts. She doesn’t need to call on her goddesses, the Three Sisters for more powerful healing yet.

The group sets off. Wellcrest is on the other side of the river. A few minutes down the road and they come to a long covered bridge.

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A young teenage boy is huddled miserably over a spear. He’s keeping guard of the bridge. When they tell him they need shelter, he tells them the village is too small to have an inn, but Goodwife Janey has some spare rooms in her house. He leads them there. They don’t get the boys name before he heads off back to the bridge.

The goodwife isn’t particularly friendly, though they get the impression it’s her temperament, rather than any dislike directed at them specifically. She tells them where their rooms are, making the assumption that Zelu must be one of their servants, since almost all goblins are either wild or servants and he’s wearing decent clothing. Zelu’s used to the assumption and doesn’t bother correcting them.

Asger tries his luck smiling and nodding at Goodwife Janey and once again has no luck.

The four of them head off to sleep.


The next morning it has stopped snowing and the temperature is cool, but well-above freezing. The snow will be mostly melted by midday.

The four get to know each other a little and also talk about what to do next. They decide the first thing they need to do is learn more about the note and who wrote it. The twins are heading towards the Temple of the Winter Star, a small elven temple where they’ve been assigned. The priestess there, Tiranna, would almost certainly be able to help them, but she’s a close friend of their step-father and they know they won’t get along well with her. Plus, she’ll report anything they say back to their step-father.

They ask Goodwife Janey if she knows anyone. She tells them about a reclusive “wise woman” in the woods named Gammy Mae. She warns them she has unusual manners, but if they bring her gifts, she’ll help them. She often offers fortune-telling and augury services. She lives a few hours off the road in the woods and she’s on the way. Visiting her first would add about half a day to their journey to the temple. The four agree to visit her.

Before leaving town, they stock up on the limited supplies Wellcrest has to offer. For Asger, his plans to buy a warm cloak get sabotaged when he spends all his money on several skins of local ale.


The directions to the wise woman are adequate and the four travelers find her hut with little difficulty. Asger is soaked by melting snow from a tree and strips down to his small clothes.

The hut is in the middle of a natural clearing. It’s poorly made, with a crude thatch roof and crooked walls. The chimney is a simple hole in the ceiling and pungent smoke is currently pouring out.

Asger is the first to the door and he knocks. When there’s no immediate answer, he pushes the door open. Smoke spills out the front door around him. Asger immediately feels light-headed, though pleasantly so.

In the center of the one-room hut sits a wizened half-elven woman. Her age is hard to tell, but it’s clear she’s lived a hard life. Her face is gaunt, her skin is leathery, her hair is matted, and her body is stick-thin. She’s throwing handfuls of some sort of grassy herb into the fire. It’s clearly a drug of some sort.

Asger “nods” at the old woman and she smiles back. He shuts the door behind him.

The others watch Asger enter, then shut the door. They wait a moment to see if he’s coming back out, then walk to the front door. The sounds from within stop them from knocking or entering. When the sounds stop a few minutes later, they enter.

Asger is sitting half-dressed next to the fire. He’s swaying and smiling, clearly intoxicated by the smoke. Gammy Mae, the wise woman, has a skinny hand resting on his thigh. She’s finishing pulling her clothes back on.

She looks up at them. She smiles at Moira and Zelu, but her eyes harden when she takes in Tiaga’s priestly clothing.

“You and your goddesses are not welcome in here. The others can stay.”

Taiga decides not to cause a scene and waits outside.

The wise woman speaks to Moira next: “You’re the twins with the runes? I know your ”/characters/bion-greenoak" class=“wiki-content-link”>father. He passed through here a few years ago heading west. A good man."

Moira eagerly asks her more questions, but Gammy Mae knows little else. The two twins are eager to find their father, who left long ago and is believed to be a follower of the High Druid. Their mother (who had become increasingly orthodox after marrying their step-father) didn’t like to talk about their father.

Gammy Mae asks them why they’re there. They show her the paper with their names and tell her about the sword spirit. She asks for payment and they give her food, simple supplies, and ale.

She takes the paper and casts a spell. Moira recognizes it with excitement as a druidic spell. The fire flares and a strong breeze noisily rattles all the trees around the clearing. The walls and thatch roof seem to crawl, as if growing.

After a few moments of muttered chanting, Gammy Mae gasps and opens her eyes. They’re bloodshot.

“There is an ancient being in the ”/wikis/dragon-wood" class=“wiki-page-link”>Dragon Wood. It wants the four of you. I touched it only lightly but had to flee before it noticed me. I couldn’t learn any more. You should stay in the Queen’s Wood or at least stay east of Oldwall. Don’t go any closer to Dragon Wood. It’s dangerous."

The three thank her and leave the hut. They tell Tiaga everything Gammy Mae said. They decide they have no choice but to continue to the temple and ask the priestess Tiranna, even if it meant the story would get back to the twin’s step-father.


The rest of the journey to the Temple of the Winter Star is uneventful.

The temple is at the very edge of the Queen’s Wood. The shrine itself is up on a tall hill with a clear view of the sky. At the bottom of the hill is a long building with living quarters, storage, and a common eating area for residents and visitors.

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When they arrive, the temple is notably quiet. The last time Moira and Tiaga were here, there had been a small, but steady stream of supplicants. Some had been elves, but many had been local humans and halflings. Moira and Tiaga were well aware that the growing orthodox movement in the elven religion (to which both their step-father and Tiranna belonged) was much more exclusive and didn’t welcome non-elven worshipers.

The four are met by Gilan, the wood elf groundskeeper of the temple. He and Tiranna were the only permanent residents until the twins arrived.

Gilan informs them that the priestess is out on duties and isn’t expected back until the morning. He is surprised to see a human and a goblin with the twins, but doesn’t say anything. He offers to show them to their rooms.

Before Gilan takes them to their rooms, Tiaga asks to perform a service. Gilan leads them to the shrine.

There’s a long history of tensions between the three races of elves and the orthodox movement attempted to widen the divide by stressing that each race had it’s proper place and that speaking for the gods belonged exclusively to the high elves. The twins’ father was a wood elf and their mother was a high elf. Their step-father was also a high elf and their family went to pains to present the twins as high elves.

Tiaga begins her service. She wants to send a message to Gilan that she isn’t like Tiranna or her step-father. She quotes sacred poems and gives interpretations that favor an older view.

The service goes fine, but Gilan is noticeably uncomfortable. He is overly formal as he leads them to their rooms. It’s clear that he expects trouble and is worried he’ll be caught in the crossfire.

The four go to sleep in their separate chambers and wait for the morning when Tiranna is expected back.

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