From the Ashes of Angels

Secret Doors a death
Recollections of the Iron Raven

Deitrich Essenbach noticed what appeared to be a ledge under one of the bridges into town yesterday, so we arranged with a farmer up stream to pilot us down the river to investigate it.

As evening rolled in today we met with the farmer at the river and he navigated down to the ledge. Drelf and I jumped out onto the ledge and began looking for the door he’d found earlier in the day. It was well hidden but once Drelf pointed out one of the catches it became obvious. I popped the catch and it swung in on silent hinges.

Beyond the door was a well used passaged that appeared to be man made and led approximately straight under the city. We crept in and pulled out a hooded lantern. Soon we encountered two doors with light coming from underneath. I heard footsteps coming from the second of them so Dietrich and I got in position and he opened the door to investigate. No sooner had he opened the door than one the ruffians inside yelled out an alarm. Soon after the other door flew open but Drelf was in position to bottle up the inhabitants. The ruffians packed a punch but we worked well together and systematically eliminated them.

We found many crates containing healing herbs and some other odds and ends. We interigated one of the men that had surrendered. He told us of the Temple to Avandra up the way and that one of the bosses was likely there. There is also theoreticaly an office with a journal recording the goods that have been smuggled in.

We pressed on down the passage and found a pair of guard at a double for across the passage. Derive and I rushed the guards in an attempt to take them down quick; however they still sounded an alarm and other guards were quick to investigate. We ended up in a pitched battle that was turning sour because of a couple archers in the next toom. We hit the guards hard and it looked like we’d gained the upper hand, so I rushed the archers only to find a couple more opponents skulking back there… the same time one of the remaining guards got critical positioning on Dietrich and laid him out DEAD. This put us in a dire spot. We all had to dig deep and find that little something else to keep us going.

We rallied, everyone left did their job and then some….and we prevailed. We found what appears to be a stairway up to the backroom of a shop in the city, a couple bedrooms, the office (with shipping journal), and a pair of ornate doors that appear to possibly lead to the Temple of Avandra (though we see no specific religious icons).

We’re electing to push on through the doors. If we head out now to bring Dietrich back to the temple it is likely that they’ll clear out what we might find here or else increase their defenses which are already stiff. We also can’t get the herbs we found and need back out via the boat.

So we push on in the hopes we’ll be able to find their boss and learn a bit more.

Hrafn's Journal -- Stormfell 24
Game Sessions 8/26 & 9/2/2015

Harvestide 48

Two days ago we took the magical soul-catching helm we had previously recovered from the Abbess’ care and left for the Raven Queen’s shrine in the mountains east of the pass.

Last night we spotted flickering lights beyond a nearby hill near the narrow ravine path towards the shrine while we camped at an abandoned farmstead.

This morning we moved to investigate since it wasn’t much out of the way. We found a group of orc bandits in a position to ambush anyone coming up the road. They immediately attacked and we dispatched most of them quickly before one of their number ran off.

As we made our way up the ravine the path eventually ended in a simple doorway flanked by columns carved into the cliff face, overlooked by a couple of carved ravens further up the cliff side. Within we found a chamber covered in mosaic showing all aspects of the Raven Queen’s teachings, though there are subtle signs that those who designed it may have shown favor to her winter aspect.

The Inner chamber was columned and also covered in mosaic, with a small simple shrine at the far end. The whole place felt sacred. Oddly there were spirits present and watching or guarding the place, their very presence disturbing to the mind of any who strayed within a couple of paces.

We approached the shrine and prayed for guidance. I lit sacred incense and we received a visitation by one of her Divine Servants. They took the death helm from us and gifted us with a silver circlet that we were told would aid us in finding safe passage into the Hordelands. They also entertained questions about the prophecy, though they were only able to add a little information.

Monique wore the circlet and followed it’s direction and she literally disappeared as she stepped out the doorway. We followed and found ourselves in a cave overlooking the Hordelands.

While exploring our immediate environment, Drelf tried the circlet and while doing so went back into the cave and disappeared. We await his return…

Stormfall 6 7

As we waited on his return, we can tell from the change in the moon that it took days for us to get here, though it seemed only a few moments to us… Drelf has yet to return, and the relative safety of the cave seems to be giving way to the corruption of the Hordelands.

Stormfall 13 14

We have traveled through the Hordelands for the past week, slowly making our way back towards the pass. The land is barren and exhausting us. The water is fetid, but so far we’ve been able to boil it and not get too ill… Until today. Just being here for too long Hali, Dirge, and Monique have contracted Soul Rot.

We’ve been being trailed by some sort of flying creatures but so far they have not attacked… We’ve spotted a village and regular patrols in the distance along the road to the pass.

We have decided to head through the mountains to cut past the final wall out of the pass. While dangerous, it seemed more likely we’ll be able to make it than a direct attempt on the fifth wall.

Stormfall 16 17

We’re out of the pass finally beyond the corruption of the Hordelands. We made our way out of the mountains, fortunately only with a few injuries. We managed to rush through the guarded walls, though we were witnessed by several of the undead whose master can see through their bodies. I cannot help but believe the master of these creatures may make more of an effort to eliminate us now that we’ve shown repeat interest in what’s beyond the pass.

Stormfall 18

We made it back to the Cathedral. We’ve been able to nurse everyone back to health and get them over the Soul Rot. We’re finally all able to start recuperating… Drelf is still missing.

Stormfall 24

Drelf returned to town. It seems that the circlet will transport it’s wearer from one portal or threshold to another, but while time seems to pass instantly for the wearer, it passes as if the distance were traversed normally.

We need to figure out what we’re going to do next. We need to prepare for the inhospitable lands beyond the pass and have a specific goal to pursue. Perhaps if we can overcome the dragon in the nearby forest it’s horde would prove helpful, though that seems a distraction unless we find nothing better. Another possibility would be to try to track down the missing healing herbs that have been being stolen over the year. They could prove needed to combat the soul rot in the Hordelands.

You be the judge
Recollections of the Iron Raven

It has been a a little while since I last put thoughts to paper. I figure I should try to again, though there is not much to report at the moment.

We recently arrived back at the city from attempting to investigate north of the pass to find that we were the subject of inquiries from one of the local magistrates. It seems the Shadarki we introduced to others before we left for the pass got into some sort of altercation with some of the WarForged…then escaped custody. We were wanted for “questioning” concerning them and where they might have gone. Regardless of what we provided for information it would seem the magistrate was determined to sentence us to some level of punishment. We received one fight in the arena. All things considered, we probably got off as easy as we could hope.

A few days later a pair of guards came to collect us for our fight. We arrived at the arena and learned that there were some bandits, some orcs mercenaries who come up to fight in the arena for money, and the WarForge who had been involved in the altercation with the Shadarki. When we entered the arena we discovered we were faced with the orc mercenaries. Who I guess because they get paid to be there got to start on the high ground in more defensible positions and we the “accused” had to attack. It’s just one more reason to laugh at the “fairness” of the system here, but what do I know. Maybe out of owners like ourselves are expected to get the short end of the stick in such dealing.

We’ll we fought. Hrafn pulled us together quick before the horn sounded to start and blessed us in service to her Majesty. We then brought further her wrath. It wasn’t so much the orks; they just had the unfortunate part of being the ones there to receive it. Several of them died, some just end up unconscious, and a few surrendered before they personally got the brunt of it turned against them. The crowd seemed to enjoy it well enough, hopefully that doesn’t mean we’ll find ourselves here again sooner than not on invented charges for the entertainment of the masses.

Wow, I’m becoming quite the cynic stepping back out into the wide world. I’m hoping there is more good beyond those I travel with and know through her divine grace. But for not at least there is sleep to be had as the twilight approaches.

Hrafn's Journal -- Harvestide 45 - Are you not entertained?
Game Session - 8/19/2015

Harvestide 45

(OOC – I apologize if I have dates off… I’m going from memory and don’t have notes with me)

We had several days of waiting for our scheduled bout at the arena. In those days I studied several rituals.

On the prescribed morning, I left my gear in my cell at the Cathedral other than my arms and armor and departed. We were taken into holding cells beneath the enormous complex.

We were held until early afternoon. We learned from the guards that the days’ matches included a group of warforged implicated in some sort of disturbance, a group of bandits taken off of the roads in the area, and a band of professional mercernary orc-kind, who evidently fight the arena for treasure or glory.

When our time eventually came, we emerged into a truly massive battlefield. It appears that the government must spend much more effort into maintaining this place and putting on these battles for entertainment than they spend on seeing to the wellbeing of the people under their “protection” in the lands lorded over by the city.

The arena was hosting multiple battles simultaneously, and there was a large, cheering crowd.

We found ourselves faced with what was a much more elaborate arrangement than I expected. There were a series of columns and walls surrounding a low rise that was crowned with a massive statue. Arrayed on and around the hill, providing them a tactical advantage, was a large number of half-orcs. There were two archers, two casters, a number with long spears, and a commander.

We were commanded to prepare ourselves inside a small starting area between the walls and the opposing force and to await a signal to begin.

After initially arranging ourselves I called out to re-arrange that I might throw protective blessings over the lot of us. Soon the battle was begun.

Deitrich, Drelf, and Monique rushed forward to engage our foes, while I called our Lady’s protection down on us. Deitrich was quickly beset, drawing the attention of the enemy’s front line onto himself, while Dirge and Hali rained spell, chant and dagger down from the rear of our line.

I tried to bolster Deitrich with a healing word and summoned forth divine witnesses to both enhance our healing and hopefully interfere with our enemies’ movement. Maintaining both prayers became taxing and limited the attention I could dedicate to engaging more enemies, though I did manage to engage some with my axe.

While outnumbered, and with our enemies holding the more advantageous ground, we were able to overcome our foes. We took a number of significant wounds, and Deitrich took a nasty blow that briefly knocked him down, but his mettle could not be overcome and he was able to shake it off before Dirge or I was able to come to his aid.

Some of our number made an effort to knock out our foes, others treated them as lethal foes. In the end about half the mercenaries were dead, several were unconscious but lived, and a few had surrendered.

After our battle we were quickly shown out of the arena and sent on our way, our sentence evidently served.

Later a group of guards arrived at the temple and found Monique and left the valuables of those combatants we had defeated as our reward.

A strange and perverse justice system where one can profit as the result of the sentence for a crime. I am glad my calling is to serve a being beyond the transient physical temptations of temporal wealth and power.

Hopefully this chapter is done, and we will not have to deal with this sadistic blood sport as justice system again.

Hrafn's Journal -- Harvestide 42 - This they call "Justice"
Game Session - 8/12/2015

Harvestide 39 — We Shall Not Pass

As we approached the fifth gate we could see undead forces moving among the battlements. The gate opened and a party started rushing up the pass toward us. As they approached we took up a defensive position near a rock slide. The party sent against us was led by a mounted figure. I recognized the dread creature as one of a ‘family’ whose master can see, hear, and speak through. The thing addressed us, demanding we retreat and claiming our Queen held no power in those lands.

Evidently it was mistaken, as Her will was enacted through us, and we destroyed the creatures. I took its enchanted axe to use against them in the future.

Some time later we reached the final wall in the pass. We found the gate closed and well guarded with dozens of undead. They also appeared to have functional ballista. We didn’t waste time speculating on how they managed to keep such devices in service given the accelerated decay we witnessed further up the pass.

We collected the intelligence we could and chose to return to report our findings. Stories say there may be some tunnels or passages through the mountains that might get us past the wall, but that would require further investigation, and given the geological activity in the area it’s likely they shift frequently if they manage to stay open at all. The other way around would be through the mountains but that would require some more serious gear and likely a skilled guide, if such a thing existed. I must say I’m at a loss as to how we will proceed to reveal more, but perhaps something will come to us in the coming days. We could also see if investigating the Lady’s shrine in the mountains may provide us with a message or sign. But first to return…

Harvestide 42

Over the past several days we made our way back through the pass. We found the boundary of dark energy in the same place as before, just beyond the second gate.

During the journey, Drelf and I managed to recover from the Soul Rot we’d been inflicted with. If this gets further out into the populace the shortage of healing herbs will definitely become more pressing.

Upon return to the temple, we reported our findings, and discovered that we were wanted by one of the local magistrates. It seems the Shadar Kai we had brought to the temple were involved in some sort of altercation in the outer city after we’d left on our journey.

This morning we reported to the inquiring magistrate, who seemed somewhat surprised that we voluntarily came to his court. I can now see why…

After confirming that we had come into the city with the group of Shadar Kai, and asking us about their intentions and activities, and where they may have escaped to (none of which we knew), we were sentenced to fighting a battle in the Arena. Presumably by this logic all the guards who were on duty the day they got into whatever trouble they did should be charged, but I suspect that didn’t happen. I’m not even clear on what the charges against us are…

Given I have very little faith in temporal bureaucrats, I can’t say I’m terribly shocked by the level of tyranny. I somewhat suspect that after the events at the temple that the local authorities are simply looking to draw more attendance to their sadistic games in the Arena. At this point I intend to get it done with then return to our actual important duties.

The most infuriating part is that these people allow the surrounding lands to be corrupted and threatened and have nothing better to do than lord over blood sports. They retain us in the city when we could be out in the field trying to stop this threat before it expands.

Hopefully this will get us off their list of new amusements. If they become too disruptive we may need to do something to ensure they cannot prevent our important work to continue.

Hrafn's Journal -- Harvestide 39 - Into the Living Grave
Game Session - 6/22/2015

Harvestide 36

A quiet day. We travelled a half day west of the pass and back, finding nothing notable of interest.

Harvestide 37 – Entering the pass

We started up into the pass. By noon we came to the remains of a wall fortification facing up the pass. The gates stood open. If required, it seems like the place could be refurbished.

Several hours later we come to another wall, this one with collapsed buildings behind. Monique pointed out that there seemed to be significant dry rot to the construction. The reason for which would become apparent soon enough.

As we passed through the gate, and unnatural and unnerving chill settled over us. We also noticed signs of foot traffic just past this gate.

At this point we decided to weather the night behind the protection of the second wall.

Harvestide 38 – Passing the Crest

By late morning we approached the crest of the pass and the largest set of fortifications. As we approached we can see figures in the complex. Soon they approached and we could see they were undead.

We defeated them, but it seems they carried a foul disease to which myself and Drelf succumb. This Soul Rot drained away at our vitality and a great deal of healing energy placed into us would drain away from this sickness.

We made our way further down the pass and by mid afternoon we approached the fourth wall where we defeated even more undead. We did discover an enchanted robe in the remains of one of the buildings which Drelf is able to use.

We can see a fifth wall at the end of the pass, and figures moving along its top, so we bedded down in the growing chill behind the fourth wall.

With some careful attention, Drelf and I were able to start recovering from the Soul Rot, but are still feeling some of the disease’s effects.

Even more concerning, something about this place seems to be pulling at our core life essence, and I believe if we stay too long, we will eventually be virtually at the brink of death. We will have to proceed with caution and retreat up the pass to recover when it becomes too much.

Whatever happened in the Hordelands, the place reeks of death now and not in a natural way. I don’t know if we’ll find the source of this horrific blight, but certainly we’ll have plenty of information to return with. Soon we’ll move on to the final wall between us and the Hordelands.

Hrafn's Journal -- Harvestide 35 - Signs Upon Signs
Game Session 7/15/2015

Harvestide 33 – Ghost Raven

After morning prayers, we were collected together to recount our tale to the Abbess. We are supposedly the first reported group of servants to the Raven Queen to be tested in this way for centuries, though there was speculation that perhaps others have been tested and simply failed to return… I am not sure if I should be more honored to be tested in such a way, or be concerned for how dire circumstances are that such would be needed. Regardless, trying to escape ones fate is a fruitless endeavor.

During our meeting, we were interrupted by an urgent acolyte. He reported a divine sign in the main cathedral area. We accompanied the Abbess and her guards to find the room packed, and a large, spectral raven circling the main altar.

At the Abbess’ beseeching, the being landed between our group and the main altar, where the Abbess was standing. It regarded each of our group in turn and pronounced a prophecy that those present reconstructed to be the following (though my spelling is uncertain):

“They come:
Those benighted stewards of Eliothos
On the fourth majority of Kalsun’s fall
Leraux’s folly rebirths the gilded ones.
Where once stood false allies evermore shall stand ash.
The forge of the soul stealers grows dim
And the children of hope have all but forgotten the path.
Who then can stand the coming of night?”

While we rested up and prepared to travel out to find the group of shrouded travelers seen in the area, research commenced. Before we left, we learned that Eliothos is an ancient name for the Hordelands which existed at least as far back as the founding of the Empire. Kalsun was a city in Eliothos, somewhere near its center. Leraux was a general in the crusades into the Hordelands and is a name originating from the Imperial core.

Harvestide 34 – Servants from Shadow

With only about a half day’s effort, we were able to locate the group of shadowy travelers. It turns out they are one of numerous groups of Shadar Kai seekers sent from Latherna. Someone or something has stolen souls from our Lady’s divine kingdom. They have been searching for some time but have yet to find any signs and they have no knowledge of the purpose behind this theft.

After describing the disturbing remains of the child we had encountered nearby, and speaking of the prophetic gifts of the Abbess and sacred prominence of the cathedral, the group agreed to return with us. They met with the Abbess. At least they don’t seem to be part of the threats to the area, though dark harbingers in their own way. Perhaps even potential allies.

Harvestide 35

We’ve set out north again along the road toward the pass, diverting a bit to the west of the pass to investigate that area before heading through.
Hrafn's Journal -- Harvestide 33? - From Darkness Returned
Game Session 7/8/2015

From the trials of death, we are delivered.

We pushed ourselves to fight on and prove our worthiness to our Dark Lady.

We were able to complete a ritual to balance the stamina of our party amongst all. Not only a sound strategy, but also in hindsight I think this is a metaphor for the lessons these trials are to impart to us: we must rely on each other to fulfill our duties.

Our fifth trial saw us divided again in a broad hall, with niches on either side. The niches contained icons we needed to reposition in niches on the other side of the hall. The task was complicated by a strong team of skeletons, many of which radiated a dangerous aura of flame. We were able to exploit their flame aura to harm their compatriots.

After defeating the foes, the fifth challenge was done.

We pushed on to what would prove to be our final test. We were able to start together. Each of us had an aura of power about us, which we needed to transfer to sacred statues in two corridors at opposite ends of the chambers we found ourselves in through demonstration of devotion in two positions. We were challenged by a couple of zombies and a small flock of horrible, undead stirges.

I called up the most potent protective blessing I had remaining to lay over the whole group. While it would prove taxing to maintain throughout the encounter, I believe it was likely the best contribution I could provide. It is proving my own personal challenge that I must realize my position in the party requires me to recognize that supporting the others in the group is more vital than striking down foes with my axe. I never realized this would be so difficult for me to deal with, but I must find a way to rise to the challenge and grow into my role.

With heroic effort, Hali and Dirge held the middle with passing assistance from others, until the rest of us were able to return from working on performing our devotionals to assist in holding off the enemies. In the end we prevailed as a team, and decided to exercise some wisdom and call that battle our last. Our foes had been growing stronger, our skills tested more sorely, and our resources were growing thin…

We passed through the portal and found ourselves in another circular chamber, where we were greeted by the cloaked figure in black again. He said the Raven Queen was pleased with our performance, but they believed that we would be sorely pressed if we continued on our current path of investigation. Beyond the enchanted items we received in reward for completing trials, we received a powerful blessing that would help us to hold off the call to pass to the Queen’s realm if we are gravely wounded in battle, though only until the close of the year.

Once we passed back through the portal, we found ourselves flanked by temple guards, standing behind the altar where we originally left the cathedral. We were informed that we had been missing for some six days. We will meet with the Abbess in the morning. For now some of my companions have gone off for a few hours of well-deserved sleep. Myself, I will spend the remainder of the night in prayer. I don’t think I could sleep if I tried.

Hrafn's Journal -- Harvestide 27 - Trials continue
Game Session 7/1/2015

Harvestide 27? — Tested

I scribble down these notes as I can during a brief reprieve in our trials.

We have faced four different trials now since we arrived in this shadow realm.

So far the group has performed well, both in battle and in completing the tests of our skills and knowledge that have been presented to us. It seems any given test will terminate when we have defeated all of the adversaries that appear or when we complete the test of our skills.

In our most recent test, we faced some sort of undead wizard or sorcerer who proved to have challenging magics to overcome, and we ultimately drove him off with holy power long enough to complete the activation of the obelisks that were in the maze we had been placed in. In the previous tests, we defeated all of the creatures attacking us before we completed the tasks of skill.

I believe we are acquitting ourselves well, but now the truer test begins. I am confident we can safely complete the next test. I for one feel hearty of body, and have reserved my most potent prayers yet. Some of my companions are beginning to show signs of fatigue though. I believe I will encourage use of the Comrade Succor ritual now, if we have time to complete it. I think that may provide us greater confidence in perhaps taking on a sixth test as well. I’m not sure if we’ll have time for everyone to recover and to complete the ritual before the next challenge begins, but I believe trying now, when we can complete at least one more round with confidence is a better strategy than relying on it for survival before a sixth round, and not being quite able to complete it.

Even with the ritual bolstering those who have taken more injury to this point, we may choose to retreat after the next trial. I believe we should try to complete two more, if we are able, as if we do not push ourselves, how can our Queen accurately judge our ability? Still, the tests have become more challenging with each one, as the dark figure warned…

May we not fail under Her gaze.

Stop - Rinse - Repeat: Trials Continue
Recollections of The Iron Raven

Upon the strength of ones compatriots…

Three more trials and I will confess that the biggest lesson we learn from these trials may be that our combined efforts can be greater than the sum of our individual contributions. It’s more than just to know ones roll and perform it admirably, but also to recognize where a simple helping hand or extra effort can raise your compatriot to even greater success.

Our earliest trial saw us each moving to engage the enemy while also attempting to solve the riddles put before us. At first glance you might even say we tried to work together; but we were disjointed, with each individual turning to where they could personally do the most.

In the second trial we thought to concentrate on the skill challenges, with individuals better at retrieving the holy symbols passing them to those that were better at placing them where they needed to go. No plan survives contact with the opposition… Concentrating too much on the holy symbols caused us to loose valuable to ground (resources) to the undead hounds we also faced who overwhelmed individuals as we spread out into the room.

For the third room It WAS going to be Drelf and I trying to get the large symbols we were presented with into place at the top of a series of 8 tall pillars, while the others could try to get them up to us, but we were beat to the punch by the skelletons that came out from hiding behind the pillars. The archers alone nearly felled half our party before we could react. The challenge quickly became one of attempting to recover, get our feet under ourselves, and swing the tide in our favor. I quickly switched plans and ran down the nearest archer before they could launch a second volley. I called out to Hrafn, who had teamed with Deitrich to forestall the onrushing melee skeletons, and we quickly double teamed the next archer…together dropping it in mere moments. We then rushed back to Deitrich’s aid. And like this we began to work as more of a team.

Perhaps the Raven Queen saw this, for our next challenge she separated us in pairs. I ended up with Hali, a bright gal (literally) but one I have yet to team well with. We rushed around one side of the maze, while Drelf and Dirge went the other way looking for the remaining two. They found them first and engaged a group of undead, including some sort of mage. Hali and I attempted to press our way into the center of the maze from the other direction but the defenders were too stout for us. Instead I found myself pushed to the limit trying to hold them off. Perhaps some of Deitrich’s sparring rubbed off on me, because I held…only just barely. But it was long enough for Deitrich to come to our aid, rushing to challenge the defenders from behind. This turned the tied and after we dispatched one he bottled up the other so Hali and I could rush the center and join with several of the others in quickly cleaning the Raven Queen’s pillars. This concerted effort by the group allowed us to defeat the challenge without dispatching all our foes.

And so it is that I believe, as I sit hear recovering from the exertions and looking upon my compatriots, it is they that bolster me and push me to greater feats than I could accomplish on my own. I can only hope that I do as much for them as they for me.


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