Decem Reliquias

The Journey Begins

The Tevinter mage Marius is not content with his palace and numerous elven slaves. He desires more power in order to move up in society. That is the only way in Tevinter. He has learned, through meticulous research, of a mage long ago who may have unlocked exactly what he’s looking for, Johanus Dumat Laskaron. He left Tevinter so he could do his research in secret in the untamed far south of the Imperium. Now Marius intends to follow in his footsteps to recover what has been lost. Leaving Minrathous, he knows that he will need help on his journey if he is to survive in the uncouth barbarian lands now known as Ferelden.

Armon, the daring and dashing, was seeking adventure and fame in his homeland of Nevarra. Upon finding neither, since the dragons had long since been driven to extinction by similar adventure seekers, he has decided to seek it elsewhere. Upon meeting Marius on his journey towards Fereldan in the city of Nevarra, Nevarra, he agrees to be his guide and translator in exchange for the opportunity to travel with him. Anyone can see that Marius is bound to get into trouble, which is exactly how Armon likes it.

The pair continue their journey southwest on the Imperial Highway around the Waking Sea. Marius decides to stop in the Orlesian capital city of Val Royeaux, much to the chagrin of Armon. There he is greeted with welcome by his fellow mages at the Circle of Val Royeaux, and allowed lodging and the use of the grand library of the White Spire. While Marius is embroiled in research at the White Tower, Armon seeks the sites and sounds of the extravagant city. He meets a beautiful red haired bard who tells him tales deep into the night. Finding his purse lighter and his heart heavier, he seeks refuge in an irreputable establishment near the elven alienage called The Hanged Man.

During his research at the White Spire, Marius discovers a more precise location where Johanus lived in Ferelden, and more detail about his activities there. He brought numerous elven slaves and five powerful Magisters with him, who never returned to Tevinter. The First Enchanter of the White Spire, Rhys, notices Marius’ intense research, and assigns the recently Harrowed Corryn to find out what he’s researching. When Corryn reports back to Rhys what he’s discovered, Rhys becomes concerned. Johanus was a powerful blood-mage and any return to the world of his lost blood magic rituals cannot be allowed. Corryn is assigned to follow Marius and recover the book. However, Corryn may have his own ideas on what to do with Johanus’ research. In addition to being a powerful Maleficarum, Johanus was also known to practice the ancient Elven art of Arcane Warfare, which Corryn has been trying recover. Marius reads more about the uncivilized land of Ferelden and decides that he’s going to need more help. Therefore, when Corryn volunteers to help, Marius does not refuse. He leaves the White Spire and returns to the city proper to seek additional help, and his guide Ramon. Or was it Armon?

A large, burly looking fellow greets Marius and Corryn at the entrance to The Hanged Man. The room holds many capable looking possible adventurers. Corryn pays the bouncer a silver piece to get the patrons’ attention. He does so with incredible force, stunning the entire room into immediate silence. He announces that this small fellow is seeking an ancient Tevinter keep in eastern Ferelden near the Brecilian forest and he needs capable adventurers to accompany him. In exchange, he offers a portion of the profits, if any. Armon hears this and is eager to abandon his pompous Tevinter employer, so volunteers. Two well-armed and armored dwarves, and one less armored dwarf with a facial tattoo volunteer, in addition to three skinny, dark-haired, dark-skinned boys. After Tyree, the bouncer, gives the patrons permission to speak again, he also volunteers. Looking at this motley crew, Corynn decides to turn away the three boys and the two well-armored dwarves. The boys look sad and defeated, and return to their table in the corner. The dwarves are mystified as to why the most capable warriors were turned away, and leave the tavern in a huff. The less armored dwarf introduces himself as Broga.

Tyree feels sorry for the boys, whom he’s seen in the tavern for the past five days looking for just this opportunity. He talks to them and finds out they don’t really want to go on an adventure, but just need an escort out of the city to escape their enemy. The leader of the group will not say any more, and the other two are silent. Tyree accepts this and tries to convince the group to allow the boys to travel with them, just to the outskirts of the city. Armon is eager to leave and hastily agrees to whatever will get them out of the city the quickest. He exits The Hanged Man, and the three boys quickly follow. Marius and Corryn are suspicious of the boys, and follow to question them.

Marius confronts the boys in the street, wanting to know why they need an escort and from whom they are running. Have they broken any laws? Do they have powerful enemies? The boys become extremely nervous and refuse to answer. Finally Marius provokes the lead boy, demanding that he answers. This causes one of the silent boys to yell out, “You shouldn’t have done that!” They both fall to the ground and begin to cower in fear. The lead boy’s skins turns gray and he grows nearly three feet. His glaze over and change to glowing red, his face becomes distorted and dog-like, his teeth elongate into fangs and his fingers stretch into grotesque claws.

Armon is the first to act, inflicting heavy wounds, but not felling the creature. Broga and Tyree take it in turns to strike, confusing and frustrating the creature. The battle in the street causes the citizens to run in fear, some trampling each other to get out of the way. Armon calms the crowd with his bravado and ensures that everything will be fine. Corryn identifies the creature as a rage abomination, and informs his party to strike to kill. When the abomination sees that he is hopelessly outmatched, he turns his ire towards his former companions. With one swipe, he decapitates one of the boys that is cowering on the ground. However, he is defeated before he can finish the other boy. Armon holds the remaining boy on the ground at sword point, who is whimpering, crying, and begging to be killed. Armon knocks him out just to shut him up. Corryn decides it’s too risky to keep him alive takes it upon himself to strike.

Some Templars arrive, too late as usual, and reluctantly agree to clean up and file the appropriate reports so that Corryn may continue with his very important First Enchanter given mission. Armon is dismayed to discover he’s still stuck with Marius, but decides to continue anyway. The group leaves the gruesome scene and heads towards the city gates.

A Slight Detour

On the way out of Val Royeaux, the two mages, Marius and Corryn, the dwarf Broga, the Avar Tyree and the Nevarran Armon encounter a large caravan making preparations to leave. Armon is nominated to speak with the leader of the caravan to see if they would like some additional guards. He approaches the most decorated looking soldier with his offer. Upon questioning Armon about his credentials, the soldier decides twenty-five elite Chevaliers are enough to guard the Empress, and they do not need any additional help, especially from unqualified, inexperienced adventurers. The party decides to strike out on their own; Corryn on a horse on the Circle’s silver, the rest, begrudgingly, on foot. They decide to take a shortcut through the Heartlands, thus avoiding the Imperial Highway and the caravan.

The adventurers soon discover that the journey will be much longer than anticipated, and that they are woefully under-supplied. After assessing that their hunting and gathering abilities will not suffice to sustain them without resorting to petty thievery, they decide to stop at the first village they come across to stock up. In a farming village too small to have a name, they enter a general store with a surly looking shop keep that has the rations they need. Unfortunately their wallets are nearly as empty as their stomachs. Derin, the shopkeeper, recognizes the look of concentration on Armon’s face as one who is trying to calculate how to buy something he can’t afford. He also notices their arms and armor and decides to offer them a deal. He claims an apostate has poisoned the river nearby and made his livestock ill. If the adventurers can dispose of him, he will gladly give them the rations they need. Corryn checks the animals and determines they have indeed been poisoned, and that they have are no visible injuries. He also determines the poison is animal based rather than plant based. Derin describes to them the last known location of the apostate, who was seen by an old gnarly tree near the riverbank a few days prior.

After the group leaves the general store, Corryn lets them know that common folk often blame mages for any of their woes and not to jump to any conclusions. After searching the area near the old gnarly tree the shopkeeper described, they discover no problems with the river. Armon is skeptical that the river could have been poisoned, since the water is moving. Corryn, still unsure that an apostate is to blame, bravely tastes the water. The water tastes pure and clean, and the mage suffers no ill effects. Everyone notices that the riverbank is silent, but no one suspects that that might be unusual. Meanwhile, Tyree discovers some human tracks leading away from the river into the forest.

After a few minutes of following the tracks in the pleasant shade of the forest, Tyree leads them to a small stagnant pond. Armon declares that this must be where the animals were poisoned, not the river. However, no one is brave enough to taste the pond’s foul smelling water. Broga and Tyree notice some movement in the trees to the north of their position. Corryn declares it’s probably the apostate, and greets it in a stern but non-threatening manner. A spider the size of four men saunters out of the trees. It does not seem calmed by Corryn’s words of peace.

After a short and sticky battle, the spider proves no match for the combined might of the party. Once defeated, it transforms into a short, disheveled looking, naked man. Taking the corpse as proof of their victory, they decide to follow the spider’s tracks leading deeper into the forest. The spider tracks change to human tracks after a time, and the human tracks lead to a small cave entrance. They proceed single file into the narrow crevice. Only the dwarf Broga is short enough to not have to crouch due to the low ceiling. The crevice unexpectedly leads to a locked, solid wooden door. Broga checks for traps and attempts to pick the lock, but has no success. Everyone shuffles against the sides of the hallway to give Tyree a chance to “pick the lock.”

With the door clean off it’s hinges and flat on the floor, everyone enters the small well furnished room. It appears to have been decorated after the fashions of the Orlesian nobility. A very shiny, gaudy shield hangs on the wall, the floor is covered with several small Orlesian rugs, and various books are strewn about the room. A handful of moderately valuable jewelry, a few books, and five vials of colored liquid are taken from the premises. The rest is left undisturbed.

Although the shop keeper is happy to see the apostate has been disposed of, he is still upset that his animals have not gotten better. Corryn tries to heal one of the cattle through magic, as he is wont to do, but there is no change in it’s disposition. He assures Derin that his animals will be fine in a few weeks (except for that one mule). Derin reluctantly parts with the rations he promised and sends the mage and his friends on their way.

To Cross a River

With full bellies and full saddlebags, it was now time for the adventurers to find a way to cross the river Réveiller. Since swimming the half-mile wide river would ruin their newfound collection of books, this option was ruled out. Traveling west along the river bank yields no bridges. Finally, Réveiller empties into a large lake. On the shores of Lac Corbeauthe lies the small, odd town of Blaye.

Ferrying in Blaye is a lucrative business, as many travelers wish to go to or from Labric, the town across the lake. Corryn sizes up the four ferries at the dock, and decides the one captained by the young, attractive woman seems the most structurally sound. Armon thinks he can get a better deal though; five silver per passenger is terribly expensive. The first ferry captain, an old grumpy man, shuns him for fraternizing with the “enemy”. The second is not leaving for five more days, and the third requests thirty silver per passenger. Jenna, the ferry captain, smirks knowingly when he comes back to put his name on the list, and informs them they will be leaving at nightfall. This seems very odd to everyone not from Blaye. Jenna sends them back to the old man to find out why. She does not have time to educate the foreigners on local customs and legends.

For a silver, the old man tells his tale:

No one has sailed on Lac Corbeauthe during the day for as long as I can remember. It’s been that way since my grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather was a boy. Man eating crows hunt during the day, and will kill anyone who wonders too close to their island. Legend says that a beautiful witch used to live here. Many suitors sought her hand, and many were refused. Finally she chose one, and they were married and lived on a tiny island not far off shore. Unfortunately it did not last long. It’s said that she murdered her husband and cursed the island. Ever since, no one who has visited the island has come back alive. Any who venture too close are food for the bloody crows. The crows sleep at night, so that is when we sail.

Everyone remains thoroughly unconvinced that the island is cursed or that the crows pose a real threat. However the ferry captains are adamant and none of them will leave until dusk. To Tyree, the unidentifiable black specks hovering above the water in the distance are no deterrent. Always seeking to prove himself, he scans the shore for a boat to take him to the cursed island. After considering his options, he decides that stealing a boat would not be polite. No one else is keen to test the local myths, so they hunker down in the local tavern to wait for sundown.

A runner arrives at the tavern and informs Corryn that Captain Jenna is ready to depart. As the passengers file onto the ferry, Broga recognizes two of the other passengers. They are the two well armed dwarves Marius refused back at the Hanged Man in Val Royeaux, only now accompanied by three more dwarves, one of which has the distinct marking of a fellow Duster. They exchange wary glances, but do not engage in either combat or conversation. Much to everyone’s surprise, the trip across the lake goes without incident. Finally, they reach Labric and check in to the Toothless Ogre to settle in for a nice relaxing evening…

Sound Sleep of the Innocent

The door creaks open and four figures, veiled in darkness, creep into the Toothless Ogre. Corryn and Broga, who had been sleeping in the common room, wake due to the intruder’s lack of stealth. The strangers seem to be looking for someone, and, judging by their unsheathed swords and clubs, intend to do them harm. One stays by the door, two begin to snoop around the sleeping patrons, and the fourth starts up the stairs. Upon hearing the creaking on the stairs, Armon, alone in his private room, leaps out of bed and readies his sword, ready to strike should anyone enter. With flying daggers and firebolts, Broga and Corryn take the offensive. The interlopers are caught off guard, but quickly move to defend themselves. Meanwhile, the party of dwarves continues to snore in the corner. The guard at the door, an apostate mage, attempts to cast an unidentified spell, but his concentration is broken by a well timed firebolt. Corryn has the first killing blow of the battle, and fells a man in a blue cloak. The other three are swiftly defeated and bound.

The mage is questioned first. He claims that he and his fellows have come to avenge the murder of a young boy’s parents by bandits on the road. The boy, whom the innkeeper had taken in as his ward, had identified Corryn, Broga and Armon as those bandits. Seeing that this is clearly a case of mistaken identity, Corryn then moves to the subject of the mage’s apparent apostasy. Fearful that he will be turned over to the Templars, the apostate tries to escape and is dealt with mercilessly. The two remaining prisoners praise Corryn for putting down such a vile creature, and claim that they were in the mage’s thrall. The innkeeper is ardent that it’s not worth bothering the incompetent sheriff with this matter. All four prisoners are relieved of their arms and armor. The two survivors are set to the task of disposing of the bodies of the mage and the blue cloaked man. Armon is unsettled by the events, but goes back to sleep like the rest.

Looking to unload the multiple suits of light leather armor procured the evening before, Broga, Armon and Corryn locate the town’s general store. The mage brings the suits of armor to the young, plain shopkeeper girl, who unexpectedly bursts into tears. Through the sobbing, she says that one of the suits of armor belonged to her brother Samuel. She describes the man who had been wearing the blue cloak. Corryn has the unfortunate of task of informing her that her brother didn’t make it through the battle. Amy is very confused why her brother would have been party to an unprovoked attack. Corryn hastily gives her the armor and retreats from the shop. Amy follows him out, pleading that her Samuel’s body needs to be retrieved so he can rest next to their father and find each other in the fade. Armon, the reluctantly chivalrous, agrees to help her.

The three exhausted adventurers meet back up with Tyree, who had decided to pitch his tent outside of town. After being informed of their eventful evening, Tyree easily tracks the two men to a trail leading into the adjacent forest. Not far in they find the two bodies unceremoniously dumped. Armon dutifully agrees to take Samuel back to his sister, while Corryn and Broga decide to stay to burn the body of the apostate. Tyree continues to follow the tracks so as to not let the strangers get too far ahead.

At Labric, Amy is nowhere to be found. Amidst several gawking peasants, Armon drags the body through downtown to the Sherriff’s office. The Sherriff is alarmed at seeing Samuel dead, and insists on being told the whole story. Samuel is left in the care of a deputy, while Armon and the Sherriff head back to the Toothless Ogre. The innkeeper is found mysteriously missing. The Sherriff then decides that it’s time he met these companions of Armon that have caused so much trouble in his town.

Tyree follows the trail deeper into the forest, leaving clear markings for his companions to follow. He comes upon a campsite where the two strangers seem to have met with three others. After breaking camp, they headed towards the main road out of town, where it’s known that bandits have been accosting the traffic. They had made no effort to hide their tracks, so Tyree was easily able to pursue them. At a small clearing amidst some very old ruins, the distinct clink of silver could be heard, along with some boisterous voices. It seems the bandits had not expected to be followed.

The Sherriff and Armon arrive on the sight where Corryn and Broga are burning the body of the apostate. The Sherriff approves, since you never want to risk a mage coming back. Having put the pieces together, he senses that their big friend might be in need of a little help, and agrees to finish the unpleasant process while Armon, Corryn and Broga track down the bandits. Having an easy time following Tyree’s signs, everyone is noisily reunited on the outskirts of the ruins.

A woman in leather armor hears the commotion and leaves the ruins to investigate. She is ambushed by a dwarf and three humans. Three others leave the clearing to join the battle. Two of them are recognized as the miscreants that were let loose from the incident at the Toothless Ogre. The third is a newcomer wielding two very fine looking blades. The two club wielding brigands are easily dispatched and not given a second chance to explain themselves. Armon knocks the woman unconscious and thoroughly binds her. The dual-wielding man sees that his company is hopelessly outmatched, and flees the clearing. Tyree takes off chasing him, but is soon outdistanced. Broga finally notices the innkeeper cowering under the table covered in the ill-gotten bandit silver. With all five sets of tracks accounted for, the silver is collected and the innkeeper and the woman are taken to be delivered into the custody of the Sherriff.

Back on the long road to Ferelden and Lakaron’s keep, the adventurers reflects on their chaotic stay in Labric. Tyree had the right idea. From now on they will endeavor to avoid inns, taverns, and towns altogether in favor of the solitary, peace and quiet of the Thedas countryside.

The Damsel in Distress

Since Corryn was unable to identify what the black potion might be, he gives it to Marius to see what he can make of it. He isn’t able to identify it at first, but after some swirling, he notices there is a slip of paper floating inside the dark liquid. He unstoppers it and carefully retrieves the paper without touching the liquid with some tweezers from his healer’s kit. Written in ancient Tevene, and followed by five bloody thumbprints, are these words:

Let the dead no longer serve your whim.
Bound by your true name, no mortal hand shall reach you.
Death beyond death is no longer your stepping stone through the veil.

The words trigger a memory in something Corryn had read during his studies at the White Spire. Powerful undead mages, called Revenants, that could not be destroyed were trapped in vials such as these long ago. He hurriedly discloses this information to Marius, who carefully puts the paper back inside and reseals the vial with wax. Corryn notices some black spots on the ground where the paper had dripped, and hopes that the prison is still fully intact. Marius pads the vial in his backpack and determines to be very careful with it.

Tyree, miffed at having been outraced, convinces everyone to head back to the ruins the bandits had been using as their base. Broga discovers some valuable horn mugs while Tyree and Dog track the escapee into the forest, then back around south near the camp. The troupe head off together, following Dog sniffing out the trail. After losing it in a small stream, Dog surprisingly picks it back up again a few miles southeast on the banks. The trail leads the adventurers south to the Imperial Highway, where they lose it amongst many other trails. They decide to head east, so as not to lose any more time on the long trek to Ventiver.

There are many travelers heading west on the road, of a surprising variety of races and social status. Marius suspicuously eyes a group of elves, imagining that they must be escaped slaves and is intrigued by their elaborate facial tatoos, but does not approach them. Corryn has no such qualms and cheerily asks if they have seen their quarry. He gets a chilly reception from the elves, and is politely told that yes, they saw the traveler four hours ago, and also, please leave them alone. Others also report having seen the man, but information varies as to how far ahead he is. As night approaches, most of the travelers begin making camps on the sides of the road. Concerned that the fugitive may be attempting to hide in one of the camps, the party splits up. Broga and Tyree scan each side of the road while Marius, Corryn and Armon continue down the middle.

Making his way through the bushes and trees, Broga feels a strange tingling sensation and is suddenly unable to move. A dark figure approaches him, demanding to know what the dwarf is doing in his camp. Not waiting for an answer, the figure moves closer. Broga sees his gaunt, tired face, and ornate staff and recognizes him as a magic user. The mage places his hand calmly on the dwarf’s forehead and shoves him flat on his back, chuckling softly. Corryn notices that Broga is no longer keeping up, so he and Marius double back to investigate.

They approach cautiously, and request the mage’s Chantry given identification. Disgusted with such rigid protocol, he mockingly shakes a sunburst amulet in Corryn’s face, claiming he’s from Montsimmard Circle, about twenty-five miles to the west. Corryn verifies that Broga hasn’t been harmed, and Marius proceeds to explain they are looking for a fugitive. The unidentified mage claims he hasn’t seen anyone by that description, and that they should take more care who’s camp they walk into. They collect the dazed Broga and decide it’s too dark to search anymore, and so head away from the Mage to make camp for the night.

Marius and Broga’s watches pass by uneventfully, but Armon is not so lucky. Oblivious to blantant noises near their camp, the intruder finally has to throw a stone to get his attention. Armon sees the stone roll to his feet, picks it up and throws it back into the forest. Upon being mocked by a voice in the forest about his poor aim, he wakes Tyree to take up watch, and strolls out confidently to greet the visitor. The intruder claims he has come to recover a very dangerous item that one of his friends has, and implores Armon to help him. Armon politely refuses, and sends the stranger on his way. He decides not to share this information with anyone, and completes his watch without further incident.

The night seems surprisingly quiet on Corryn’s watch. After a while, he hears some muffled yelling that sounds like an angry woman, followed by mischievous laughter from several voices. He wakes everyone in the camp, telling them there is a damsel in distress, then heads off towards the voices. He arrives on the scene where four men are surrounding a woman backed up against a tree with a short sword drawn, an old Mabari hound has interposed between them, and a large cart with several crates. The one closest to the woman tells Corryn to move on, he doesn’t want any trouble. Tyree wastes no time in sizing up the situation and plunges in, sword swinging. Three of the men are quickly dispatched, but three others appear from behind the cart and start attempting to open the crates. Tyree moves to stop them, and the old Mabari hound does his best to assist. He notices small, furry, squirmy things in the crates. Seeing what happened to their fellows, the remaining three men flee into the night.

Marius, who had stayed behind the melee assisting from a distance, is suddenly overcome with terrible fear. He cowers as a figure approaches him. Marius recognizes him as the mage whose camp Broga had wondered into. The man searches his pockets and curses loudly at Marius. “Where is it? Why don’t you have it? What have you done with it?” he demands. Armon, Corryn and Broga notice the scuffle and move to help Marius. Seeing he is outnumbered, the man attempts to slow them down with a grease spell, then heads off back towards their camp. Armon stays to defend the still cowering Marius, while Broga and Corryn pursue the mage. Broga punctures him with crossbow bolts and Corryn blasts him with spells. He arrives at Marius’ bed in terrible shape and reaches into his backpack, grabs the black vial and clutches it to his chest. The mage warns them that they have a dangerous artifact and the First Enchanter Illana has sent him to collect it. Corryn warns him to set down the vial, and do nothing else. If it really is that dangerous, they will all take it back to the circle together. The mage, not trusting this strangers word, attempts to cast a spell instead of putting the vial on the ground. Corryn recognizes it as a Heal spell, and decides that since he didn’t follow the instruction, that he must die. He and Broga unleash their attacks, knocking the man unconscious. Tyree, Marius and Armon arrive just in time to see the vial fall to the ground and shatter.

The black liquid from the vial seeps over the ground, covering much more area than it seems would be possible, given its small size. Three skeletons dripping with bright green slime rise up as if from a deep black sea. In the center, a more flesh covered corpse materializes, wearing tarnished silver armor, but wielding no weapon. The skeletons move towards the closest living person with unnatural speed, biting with sharp fangs and scratching with claw-like finger bones. Bolts, spells and sword strokes are traded with the skeletons. The Revenant, being a mage, begins to cast a spell, but something goes wrong. Nothing happens, and the corpse becomes dazed. Marius identifies the attempt as belonging to the blood magic school. Tyree, with a mighty stroke of his sword, lobs off the head of the Revenant. He and his skeleton minions melt back into the inky puddle, leaving the company with a sticky mess, and Marius with no blankets.

Rushing, Rising Rivulets

Duon, the unconscious Mage, is rudely awakened by a wave of black sludge as the defeated Revenant dissolves. Tyree and Broga bind him while Corryn takes the opportunity to verify the authenticity of Duon’s amulet, once he realizes that he didn’t actually do so on their first meeting. During questioning Duon explains that he is on a mission from First Enchanter Illana to recover the ten (well, now nine) black vials that were stolen from Montsimmard Circle, just thirty miles to the west. He’s been hunting them for three years and has so far recovered two. Since the identity of the thieves remains unknown, he didn’t want to approach them openly, in case they were the thieves. He also reveals that he had conversed with Armon in an attempt to convince him to take the vial by stealth from Marius in his sleep. Armon had neglected to share that bit of information, further driving a wedge between the two, and causing Corryn to look at him with suspicion. Putting that aside for the moment, they decide that since the vial was destroyed, Duon is no longer a threat. Corryn unties him and sends him back to his First Enchanter for suitable punishment for failing his mission.

Deciding that they can’t go back to sleep after all that excitement, they head back to Felayne, who is preparing her wagon to leave. Felayne explains thar she is on her way back to her homeland of Ferelden, to Elmridge, a village just east of the Frostback Mountains, where she has a buyer lined up for her puppies. It would be oh so wonderful if her saviours would accompany her, at least until their paths diverge. Everyone agrees that she could use all the help she can get. As Marius finds, attempts to ride in the wagon with her are met with snarls and bared teeth from her old Mabari hound. As dawn breaks, the newly formed caravan of wagon, horses, donkeys and strange guards, starts east towards the large trade city, Verchiel. Tyree hangs back a bit, and once Felayne is far enough away to not notice, approaches the unconscious men Armon had defeated and quietly slits their throats. 

About midday, a slow, steady drizzle begins to fall. During their breaks, Armon tries to teach Felayne how better to use her short sword, since he noticed she seemed unsure of how to even hold it correctly during her confrontation with the would-be thieves. After several unsuccessful attempts to hit him, he gives her a club instead. One swing with it and it goes flying off into the trees. Back to the sword it is. 

The rain continues to fall into the night, picking up from a drizzle to a heavy downpour. Felayne sets up a tarp over her wagon and sleeps with her hound and her puppies, while the others take refuge in their tents. Come morning, it continues to rain. Tyree begins to suspect that the rain is unnatural, but neither Corryn or Marius detects any magic nearby, nor know of any spells that could create rain or control the weather. They trudge drearily through the muddy mire all day, still intent on reaching Verchiel in good time.

The second evening, In an attempt at chivalry, Tyree convinces Felayne to use his tent, thinking that it will be warmer and drier than her wagon. He agrees to sleep outside, resigning himself to get no rest that night. While setting up their soggy camp, they see flashes of lightning and hear the rumble of thunder. The downpour turns into a fierce storm. Felayne’s loyal Mabari lays in front of the entrance to Tyree’s tent and growls threateningly at anyone who approaches. 

Armon takes the first watch. With the wind, rain, thunder and lightning, he finds it difficult to see or hear anything. He glimpses a deer and grabs one if the acquired crossbows to try to bring it down. Missing badly, he decides that crossbows are for cowards anyway, and gives up both bolt and venison for lost. On the next shift, Corryn sees nothing but rain and lightning, then wakes up the dwarf Broga for his turn. An hour in, he hears some whimpering and sees a small white furry ball has wriggled out from under the side of Tyree’s tent. He stuffs the muddy, squirmy puppy back under the side of the tent, after only briefly considering taking it and running.

Tyree, already exhausted from failing to sleep in the rain, takes up the post next. Some movement in the trees catches the corner of his eye. He leaves the camp to investigate. Huddled against the base of a large tree, he finds a small figure shivering and quietly sobbing. He announces himself and tries to calm it with a soothing tone, but to no avail. Slowly approaching, he sees that it is a girl. Once he is close enough to see her face, he realizes it is Felayne. Confused at how no one would have noticed her leave the tent and angry at the imperceptiveness of his companions, he touches her shoulder to let her know it’s only him and lead her back to camp. At this she finally responds, but with screams of fear instead of any recognition. Being much larger than the petite woman, the Avar easily hoists her up over his shoulder despite her struggles. 

The pair make it back to camp, and Felayne’s continued screaming, with the addition of dog barking, wakes up Armon and Corryn despite the din of the storm. Marius and Broga continue to sleep soundly. Seeing a barbarian with a struggling woman over his shoulder entering a tent, Armon fears the worst, hastily grabs his sword, and prepares to defend Felayne’s honor. After a tense confrontation between Nevarran and Avar, Tyree is able to convince him that he is only trying to help her. Felayne falls back into a calm sleep next to her puppies and hound. At dawn, Armon questions Felayne about her ordeal, still somewhat suspicious of Tyree’s actions. She is unable to recall any of it, and seems troubled. She thanks Tyree for his help and generosity, but decides to sleep in her wagon for the remainder of the trip.

Though the bulk of the storm had passed, it still continues to mist. As Armon suspected would happen eventually, one of the wagon wheels gets stuck in the mud. With an impressive display of strength, Tyree single handedly pushes it out of the mud, making what could have been a long delay only a mild inconvenience. The remaining distance to Verchiel proved easy travel, with thw group reaching Verchiel that afternoon, right on schedule. The book a room at the small but comfortable inn, The Paper Dragon, and settle in for a relaxing evening of shopping, dining and rest.

All Is Theft

First order of business in Verchiel, after securing room at The Paper Dragon inn, is to offload the collection of armor and weapons collected from the various ne’er do wells, preferably to someone that is not related to the previous owners. Marius decides that Felayne shouldn’t be left on her own, and volunteers to stay at the inn with her while the rest venture out into the shopping district. Broga easily locates an equipment shop, Veata’s, which happens to be owned and operated by a very handsome dwarf woman. As they enter, she is speaking with, or rather shouting at, a pair of guilty looking city guards. Not wishing to interrupt, Corryn, Broga, Tyree and Armon begin to peruse the wares. They are soon overwhelmed by the vast array of weapons and armors available, some made of materials they’ve never even heard of. Armon is particularly drawn to the Dragonbone, being Neverran, knowing that it is very rare and valuable, and also that he couldn’t possibly afford it. The proprietor eventually notices her customers and abruptly breaks off her tired, assumes her most winning smile, and greets her new customers. Broga successfully sweet-talks her into giving them a very good deal for their loot. Wanting to discuss amongst themselves how best to use their funds, they let her to go back to berating the guards. Tyree, not interested in shopping at the moment, decides to eavesdrop on their conversation. It seems she had recently been robbed, and the city guard have not been able to find any leads or recover the merchandise. Tyree casually strolls back to the group and excitedly informs them of Veata’s problem. Seeing this as an opportunity to get an even better deal, Corryn interrupts Veata to volunteer his services.

Vaeta is surprised yet grateful and sends the useless guards away. Her story is a strange one. Three nights ago her store was robbed. The theives took several suits of light leather armor, short swords and crossbows. They left the high-end merchandise in favor of medium quality items. What troubles her the most though, is the fact that she didn’t hear anything. Since she lives above her store and was sleeping there at the time, she can’t figure out how they could have been so stealthy, in light of the amount of equipment they took. Vaeta promises ten percent of the cost of any goods they recover. She also mentions that two other merchants, a lumberer and a preserved foods dealer, were robbed that same night under similarly mysterious circumstances. Corryn decides that’s the first place they should start, but they want to make some purchases first, just in case they run into the thieves. Broga picks up a nice new suit of armor, while Armon gets a formidable red-steel bastard sword. Then it’s off to the warehouse district, to visit the first crime scene.

The story from the lumberyard owner is similar to Vaeta’s. Enough wood to build several houses was taken in the middle of the night with no witnesses, a seemingly impossible feat. He also reports that three of his employees and their wives have gone missing as well. They get the addresses of the homes to find out if the employees were taken by force or left of free will. Armon recognizes the law-breaking that is likely to happen and excuses himself to check up on Marius and Felayne back at The Paper Dragon.

After knocking and peering through curtained windows produces no evidence, Broga easily picks the lock. Tyree and Corryn enter the empty house. They discover the cabinets have been cleaned out, along with the wardrobes. Of course this means the family is guilty, otherwise they wouldn’t have left town in such a hurry. The searching also produces a scrap of paper with some sort of coat of arms. Broga thinks it looks close to the Orlesian Empress’s coat of arms, but it’s not quite right. The other two houses produce similar results. Still not having any clue where the missing families might have gone, they head back to the warehouse district to question the purveyor of dried foods.

Hobert seems eager to share with them his suspicions that the theft was orchestrated by his personal guard captain, Garret. Hobert has only circumstantial evidence, and was unable to gather any further information from Garret’s wife. Tyree finds this unusual, since the other men seemed to have taken their wives with them. They thank Hobert, get Garret’s address, and head back to the poor section of town to speak with Irene. She is very wary of opening the door for strangers, especially a giant and a mage. She speaks with them through the small slit of the open chained door. Her good-for-nothing husband has walked away and left her all alone. His crazy schemes to elevate them to high society never work out, and she hopes he is gone for good this time. Tyree gives her a silver to thank her for her time. At the site of silver, a sudden change comes over Irene, who seems much more willing to cooperate. She calls for her daughter to give them one last pieces of information. The shy girl comes to the crack and repeats her story, just like her mum tells her to. The night her father disappeared, the same night the merchants were robbed, she saw him meet up with an elf that had a shiny black cloak. It was dark, so she didn’t see much of his face. Corryn begins to suspect a mage must be involved. He resolves to research the symbol, but by this time it has gotten very late, so they decide to retire for the evening.

The morning brings a day of research at the library for Corryn, while Tyree, Armon, and Broga decide to pay a visit to Vaeta to see if she has any missing staff like the other victims. Vaeta works the store on her own, so she doesn’t have any staff to speak of. Getting desperate for leads, Tyree shows her the slip of paper with the coat of arms. Vaeta’s seen it before, but doesn’t know what it means. It appeared on the sign of a supplier of illicit merchandise, which masquerades as a laundry cleaners. The three decide to check out this “merchant”, thinking he must have something to do with the crimes. For several hours they sit at a small fruit stand across the alley from the laundry cleaners, watching young elf women enter with baskets of dirty clothes and leave with clean ones. Eventually they follow a pair of gossiping elves back to an opulent mansion, where they are blocked by a gate and a guard. Feeling lost and hopeless, they make their way back to The Paper Dragon, hoping that Corryn had more luck.

Although Corryn is able to confirm that the coat of arms is in fact not the Orlesian Royal seal, he isn’t able to determine what it is. He does discover that taking a well known coat and making changes to it has been used historically to mock the nobility. Takes this information to the local guard headquarters, hoping that the guards have more evidence in the case and he could fill in the missing piece. The secretary informs him that the detective assigned to the job is out on the field and not expected back until the morning. Corryn leaves a note for the detective, then to rendezvous with the rest of the group. Back at the inn, Felayne is getting anxious to leave Verchiel, since her puppies are getting older every day. They resolve to stay one more day, and let the local authorities handle the case if they aren’t able to solve it in that time.

Bright and early, Corryn gets a knock on his door. A Templar, who introduces himself as Emeric, asks for what information he has in the burglary case. Corryn shows him the slip of paper and explains about the missing staff. Emeric asks Corryn, and his friends if they’d like, to accompany him to another crime scene, as he has need of his special skills. Emeric also brings along five Verchiel guards, so he seems to be expecting trouble. All ten of them leave town headed west on the Imperial Highway. After a few miles, Emeric leads them off the road to the south, following some deep ruts made by wagons that seemed to be very heavy. Just far enough into the trees to be blocked from sight, the tracks abruptly stop. Corryn senses that powerful magic was used here, a blood magic spell that can transport inanimate items across long distances. Tyree and Dog notice the faint smell of blood, and conclude that the horses pulling the wagons were slaughtered to fuel the foul magic. The pair also locates the well concealed tracks of the people who could not be transported by the spell, that lead further south, into the deep forest of the Dales.

Following the tracks leads the group to an unexpected sight. Two drunken guards stand watch over a stockade under construction. Several buildings have already been erected, and between them, women walk with baskets of cloth and food, while children and dogs run between them shouting and playing. Tyree easily escapes their notice, and returns to his companions, the Templar and the city guards waiting back in the trees. Given the news of what awaits them, the Templar confidently walks right towards the location of the drunken guards. Corryn prepares for battle by casting his rock armor. Suddenly the previous noise of children, dogs and gossip ceases.

Once out of the trees, only armed men await them. The Templar declares that the thieves should surrender themselves in the name of the Maker. The men do not heed his warning, and are soon involved in a small melee. Preferring to assess the situation further before engaging in combat, Tyree, Broga, Armon and Corryn sneak around the side of one of the barns. Tyree and Armon begin to scare the men into surrendering with words alone, fearing that they are enthralled by the suspected maleficarum and not wishing to hurt them. The Templar and the Verchiel guards make no such distinction. Four of the men surrender outright, leaving the battlefield to take up positions at two of the buildings closed doors. Just when it seemed it would be over quickly, more men and their dogs arrive from the west. After the Templar cuts one of them clean in half with his great sword, a figure appears out of nowhere, a bald elf with a facial tattoo and a shimmering black cloak.

A swirling vortex of blood centered on the elf leaves the Verchiel guards mortally wounded, and they are easily dispatched by the men they were fighting. Seeing their anathema, the Templar and the Maleficar meet in the middle to do battle. Upon reaching the elf, the Templar uses what makes his kind so feared by mages. A globe of blinding white light flashes around him, causing all of the elf’s protective enchantments to be dispelled. This leaves both of them vulnerable for a time. The elf takes advantage of this to inflict major damage to Emeric, who begins bleeding from his eyes, nose and ears. After taking some gruesome hits from the Templar’s great sword and Corryn, Armon and Broga’s attacks, the elf sucks the life force from two of the men who surrendered, healing himself and causing them to collapse. He also encases himself in a blue shield, making it very difficult for Broga and Armon to hit him. Seeing them struggle, the Templar uses his Maker given ability again, but this time catching Corryn in the radius, who does not appreciate it. The elf realizes he won’t last long if the Templar keeps taking down his defenses, and adjusts his strategy accordingly.

Corryn recognizes what the Maleficar does to Emeric, but is powerless to prevent it. The next great sword swing cuts through Armon’s armor. Hoping that killing the source will break the enchantment, Armon ignores the painful wounds and continues to hack away at the elf, red-steel sword growing ever redder with each slash. Since Tyree has been successful in frightening away several of the men, the elf is quickly running out of volunteers from which to siphon life-giving blood. Getting desperate, the elf tries to cast a difficult spell, but nothing happens. His subsequent attempt is more fruitful, causing everyone near him to become paralyzed. Unfortunately, Armon, still stubbornly clinging to life, breaks the hold before the elf has a chance to flee. He mercilessly puts his red-steel right through the elf’s heart, then holds his breath to see if the Templar will end his life. Emeric walks up to him, raises his great sword, then brings it down with a heavy stroke to remove the head of the dead Maleficar. Armon, grateful for being alive, is still disappointed that he did not get to perform the beheading himself.

You wouldn't like me when I'm angry

Thorough and methodical search of the beheaded elf and his commune reveals a magical staff, and a stylish, shiny black cloak. Tyree also locates a small wooden box filled with silver. Tyree interviews the women in the meeting hall where they were herded, while the rest talk with the men outside where the Templar, Emeric is preparing them for transport. A bold woman, Linda explains to Tyree how he and his friends have taken the hope of building a new life outside of the oppressive Orlesian government’s rule and destroyed it; that the Mage was not using magic to control them, but that the men sacrificed their blood willingly to defend their home. Stealing from the corrupt merchants in Verchiel being such a minor issue. Tyree seems slightly disturbed by Linda’s story, but couldn’t bring himself to fully believe her.

Meanwhile outside, Emeric binds the men’s hands and forms a line of prisoners to take back for prosecution. Corryn convinces him to release three of the men to help him carry the stolen weapons and armor back to Veta for the promised reward. They grudgingly accept, but only after they are assured the women and children would come to no harm.  Emeric insists that they leave right away, and forces the prisoners to march off into the deep woods as the sun sets. Tyree goes to gather the women and children that the Templar neglected and notices that some are missing. Specifically, five women, one of which is Linda,  and several crossbows. Fearing an ambush, he tries to track them down, but is unable to do so.

After it becomes too dark to progress any further, Emeric declares it is time to camp. Armon confronts the Templar about his irrational behavior and rash decisions, insinuating that a proper Templar wouldn’t have succumbed so easily to a blood mage’s power, culminating in being ordered to leave the camp and take all his friends with him. So Armon, Corryn and Broga leave the Templar to fend for himself with his forty captives, and head a little ways back towards the compound to set up their own meager campsite. During the bustle of setting up camp, one of the women catches Broga trying to slip some silver out of the wooden box. He hastily puts it back and goes about his business. Not one of them notices that Tyree has disappeared.

Creeping through the woods, the big Avar watches the Templar silently as he walks circles around his camp, making strange gestures with his hands and mumbling indecipherable words. At each spot where he stops to do this, the air breifly glows with a faint blue shimmer. After Emeric completes his work, he settles down to go to sleep. Tyree finds it very strange that Emeric has posted no guard, and that all the prisoners are sound asleep, not busy whispering and plotting their own escape. He throws a rock into the midst of the sleeping men, which causes no reaction. Dog begins to pace about nervously, growling, then takes off, not in the direction of the Templar and his prisoners, but back towards Corryn and the others. Hearing the sounds of battle, Tyree quickly follows Dog to the smaller camp.

They arrive to a gruesome scene. One of the prisoners, who had been helping them carry the equipment, lies tied to a tree in a pool of his own blood, still gushing from the wound where his arm should have been. Armon lies unconscious on the ground, although does not appear injured. Broga and Corryn stand facing the intruder, a huge Red Lion whose muzzle is wet with fresh blood. A native of the lowlands of the Frostback mountains, it is sorely out of place in the deep forests of the former Dales. Dog lunges for his hated enemy, and the lion returns his tenacity. Broga yells something about trying to preserve it’s hide, yet continues to stab it with his daggers, filling the valuable pelt with holes. The spirited dog is quickly dispatched, but the distraction allows Broga and Corryn the valuable time they need to finish off the beast. Corryn immediately rushes to Dog’s aid, and is able to stabilize the foolish but brave mutt, but is unable to help the prisoner. 
Armon, feeling guilty for having slept through the entire skirmish, offers to bury what’s left of the dead prisoner, while Broga and Corryn herd the women and children away from the scene to make a new camp somewhere drier for the rest of the night.

Tyree leaves to resume his vigil on the Templar’s camp, but finds that only the prisoners remain. He is startled when Emeric appears behind him, demanding to know what he’s doing. When Tyree raises his concerns about Emeric’s treatment of the prisoners and his questionable choices during the battle, Emeric becomes angry, ordering Tyree to leave. When he refuses to do so and foolishly mentions the incident with the blood mage, Emeric loses his temper. His silverite greatsword makes a large gash in Tyree’s side. Tyree respinds in kind, denting Emeric’s shiny Templar armor with a single blow from his two handed maul. He steps back to give Emeric some space, maybe try to reason with him. Too late he sees a faint blue shimmer in the air, and promptly falls asleep.
p. In the distance, Armon, still digging the grave for the half-eaten prisoner, hears a single loud clang, but pays it no mind.

Fool Me Once

Broga’s watch ends at dawn, the remainder of the night having been blissfully uneventful. They soon discover that Tyree is still missing, but are unable to track him. Corryn puts on the former blood mage’s black cloak, trying to discover if that might assist in leading them to Tyree. He concentrates with all his might  on the big Avar, but nothing happens. Leaving Armon to guard the prisoners, women and stolen goods, Broga and Corryn leave in the direction of the Templar’s camp, ostensibly to see if he had seen Tyree, but also half-hoping to witness his humiliation if the prisoners escaped during the night. Along the way, Corryn experiments further with the cloak, hoping to unlock it’s hidden potential. No amount of concentration, squinting, or nose-scrunching produces invisibility, flight, or telepathy. His attempt to levitate Broga coincides with his uncharacteristic declaration that he feels they are going the right way. A few moments later, Dog bursts out of the brush, startling the dwarf. He sits, wagging his tail and panting, acting generally pleased to see them. He gives a quick bark, and bounds back into the forest, veering north, glancing behind him to make sure the two-legged creatures are following.

Dog approaches a figure lying on the ground and begins to lick the smudges of blood and dirt from the tan face. Tyree continues to sleep, despite the slobber, peacefully snoring. Broga is eventually able to wake Tyree, who reluctantly shares the tale of his encounter with the rash and arrogant Templar. Corryn knows of similar enchantments used by mages, known as glyphs, but not one that could produce such an abrupt sleep. Then Tyree notices that his maul is gone. Livid that Emeric had the audacity to disarm him in his sleep, his first instinct is to track down the Templar, who’s camp is already packed and gone, to retrieve it. Remembering his promise to see the women safely back to town, Tyree decides that it’s not worth it. His best course of action being to get out of Verchiel, Orlais, and back to the wilderness where there aren’t so many damn people to deal with.

Armon and the women rejoin the rest of the group and start the long trek back to civilization, easily following the tracks left by forty men and a pair of arrogant silverite greaves. The dwarf makes friendly conversation with some of the women, trying to discern why they were so devoted to the renegade elf, but is unsatisfied with the answers he receives. They say that the elven blood mage inspired them, human Orlesian citizens, to abandon their homes and community, to attempt to build a new life in the wilderness, where they wouldn’t be oppressed by the aristocracy. To a Duster dwarf, that sounded perfectly believable, but he couldn’t fathom why they would have needed or missed a blood mage. A strange tingling sensation causes Broga to pause, and the woman he’s talking to suddenly stops mid-sentence  falling ungracefully to the ground. Corryn diagnoses the woman as affected by magical sleep, noting that Tyree and two of the other women have fallen prey to the same Templar trap. No matter how much Armon pokes him with a stick, Tyree does not wake. Corryn stares at him, using his perceived mental powers to attempt to wake him. Tyree simply smiles and rolls over. Since they had been walking for a while anyway, they decide it’s a good time to stop for lunch.

On their break, Broga shares his concerns with Corryn that the people they had rescued from the clutches of a maleficar don’t seem nearly grateful enough. With some further experimentation, they discern that the cloak seems to have the unusual ability to uplift the spirits of whoever he concentrates on. Tyree and the women eventually wake, with no help from Armon’s persistence. Upon hearing the news of the cloak’s power, Tyree feels a bit vindicated, knowing that the humans were indeed influenced by the elf and weren’t acting entirely of their own free will. Packing up again, they return to Verchiel via an alternate route, so as to avoid any further surprises.

At The Paper Dragon, Marius and Felayne wait somewhat impatiently for the company to return. Finally, late in the afternoon, the bedraggled Armon, Tyree, Broga and Corryn arrive with several scared looking women, a few dirty male prisoners, and a heap of average quality armor and weapons. They waste no time getting to business, hoping to escape the city without any further encounters with Emeric. Upon return of most of her stolen property, Veta bestows the promised reward, exactly to the silver piece. The women are returned to their homes and given the silver Tyree recovered from the compound, to Broga’s dismay. The prisoners are released into the custody of local law enforcement with no sign of the Templar or his prisoners. 

That evening, back at the inn, Corryn and Marius discuss the fate of the cloak and magical staff. The mages quickly decide not to take them to the local mageware shop, where a Tranquil Mage could easily identify the objects, worrying that they might be confiscated. Wishing to do some research in the local library, Corryn suggests that they stay in Verchiel one more day. Felayne grudgingly accepts the delay, but promises to leave on the morrow, with or without her valiant rescuers.

The local library, though inferior  to the White Spire‘s, yields some promising leads on what the cloak might be. Although no references to this exact cloak are mentioned, items with similar properties are termed relics. They are created by tearing a hole in the veil, enticing a spirit through, and binding it to an object. The ritual has been banned by the Circle for at least two-hundred years, due to it’s tendency to produce abominations rather than the desired relic. Destroying the object would force the spirit out, but, without a tear nearby, it would have to possess something else. Corryn struggles with the notion that a spirit should suffer so, but decides not to attempt to destroy the cloak, the risk of possession being too great with no way for the spirit to return safely to the fade. Having concluded his research, Corryn rejoins everyone back at The Paper Dragon for one last warm meal and comfortable night’s sleep. He offers the cloak to Marius for the use of it’s defensive abilities, having sufficient protection of his own and no interest in inspiring people. Marius gladly accepts.

Near dawn, Corryn fulfills his promise to Felayne, and the puppy filled wagon continues it’s long journey down the Imperial Highway, bidding farewell to Verchiel, Orlais, and civilized society. The ghosts of the Dales give them no trouble, and three days later they arrive to the western frontier of the uncouth nation of Ferelden.

Welcome to Ferelden

The early spring air produces a chill and a fog that gives the illusion of utter solitude, the heavy traffic of Orlais long past. The peaks of the Frostbacks loom at their backs to the west, their presence concealing the sun’s light, forcing evening to descend earlier than usual. Tyree and Dog lead the way, knowing their homeland better than the Nevarran, Orlesian, Tevinter, or Duster ever could. A strange smell catches the nose of Marius and Dog, who leave the road to the south to investigate. A little ways into the stubby trees that struggle in the shadows of the mountains, Dog, Marius, and the others who decided to follow, come upon a small clearing. It appears vacant, other than the copious amounts of dried blood covering the ground and rocks.

Tyree puts his tracking skills to use, trying to piece together what happened in the bloody clearing. He discovers signs of a struggle, in which at least two of the combatants were killed. Two trails lead away from the battleground; a group of two, one assisting another who appears to have been badly wounded, heading south and the other a group of four, one of which was either a woman or an elf, heading southwest. Marius also locates several small cloth sacks full of white powder. Tyree warns him not to disturb the remains, explaining that they are at the site of an Avarian air burial. The slain combatants have been given a proper warrior’s rest. Their bodies have been flayed. The flesh, blood, even the bones, ground to a powder, laid in offering to the carrion birds. The  servants of the sky goddess consume them, and carry them to her home. Marius shudders at the thought, glad that his people much more sensibly entomb their dead. No one is interested in following the trails of either parties that left the clearing, so they rejoin Felayne and continue down the road, turning south.

Not too far down the road, the horses begin to act skittish, both canines begin baring their teeth and growling, seemingly at nothing. Soon the humans, and dwarf, notice it too. Their less sensitive noses noses now also detecting the unmistakable smell of death in the air. Tyree and Marius spot vultures and other winged scavengers circling the area just ahead. Felayne and the horses are left behind while the brave men venture forth towards the awful stench. 

The fog slowly reveals the source of the smell as the men approach. Several bodies have been left to decay in the road. As they venture further, the scope of the devastation becomes more apparent. As far as the eye can see through the dense fog, corpses of Avarian men, women, and children litter the ground, enough to have been the entire population of a small village. Not bearing any visible weapons other than a few farming tools, most are facing northward, appearing to have been cut down from behind, fleeing some unknown threat. Gore oozes from the wicked wounds Corryn declares were made by barbed weapons. Off to the side of the road, Tyree locates a small child whose head has been removed and replaced with a goat’s, eyes and mouth sewn shut, strung up like a grotesque marionette. The disgraceful treatment of the slain, and the fact that it is not winter make it clear to everyone that no Avar were responsible for this heinous act. Corryn postulates that this is the work of Darkspawn, wholly evil creatures who exist only to destroy. It does not take long to confirm his suspicion. Five heavily armored, short and stocky Darkspawn stroll into view, not making any attempt at stealth, seemingly oblivious to the five very much alive, and quite angry, armed men awaiting them.

They are engaged immediately, having drawn the ire of both warriors and mages with their actions. Darkspawn being the mortal enemy of every dwarf, even the rogue joins in with reckless abandon. The Darkspawn return the enthusiasm with a ferocity unmatched by any foe thus far encountered. Though clearly outmatched, they show no hint of fear or any self-preservation instincts. Their hideous grins never leave their faces, even as their comrades are cut down beside them or their own innards are spilled. Tyree fights with a fury to match the Darkspawns’ without regard to his own safety, although trying to avoid desecrating his fellow Avars further. Taking advantage of the combat to try out the magical staff he acquired from the blood mage outside of Verchiel, Corryn is dissapointed when neither his cones of flame nor his life draining utility spell seem particularly more effective than usual. The genlocks take advantage of the morbid terrain, scooping portions of the slain villagers on the backswing of their barbed blades, covering Armon and Corryn in festering remains. During the melee, amongst the volley of spells and gore, Broga catches a glimpse of an owl sitting in a tree nearby. Unbothered by the combat, it watches them closely, as if waiting patiently for them to finish.

When the defeated Darkspawn lay amongst their victims, black blood staining the ground, Broga finally gets the chance to point out their observer. That an owl would be out during the day is unusual, as Tyree notes. Due to it’s diminutive size, Corryn rules out the possibility of it being a shapeshifting mage. As if knowing that they are talking about it, the bird looks at Corryn, who later swears that it winked, leaves his perch, and flies off into the setting sun, presumably towards the nearby Avar fortress Redhold. The blood drenched Corryn declares they should follow it. Tyree cringes, but says nothing.


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