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Into the Borderlands, Episode 3

Our campaign journal continues.

14th day of Highsun

Report by Xavier of Rauvin Cross, forwarded to Zhentarim section 21

Begin report

I, Xavier of Rauvin Cross, followed the firbolg and his companions to Everlund as instructed.  Working with the Harpers of Moongleam Tower, the group eliminated the Cult of Zariel cell led by Harlan Mesk.  During the semi-official fete following the return of the kidnapped Everlundians I was able to steal a small notebook that the firbolg had left unattended in his bag under a table at Danivarr’s House.   Many of the pages were torn out, others were covered in blood.  Only one page was legible.  I have included it with this missive.  My source inside Moongleam Tower informs me that the band is now investigating a link between the Cult of Zariel and  the Arcane Brotherhood.  Furthermore, the group has begin researching means of traveling to the City of Brass.  I know not what intelligence has prompted this latest path of inquiry.  I am now returning to Silverymoon to await further instructions.

 

 

Credits:

Lines 1-5 of Spleodrach’s ramblings from William Blake, The Sick Rose

Bloodsplatter watermark image from Sagacious on Deviantart

Into the Borderlands, Episode 2

Our campaign journal of Into the Borderlands continues.  The first episode is here.  The following brief summary combines multiple sessions.

The 28th day of Summertide, The Keep on the Borderlands

Salutations Genrok of Silverwood, Autumnreaver of the Emerald Enclave and protector of the Iron Yew, may Nature’s blessing be upon you.  Necessity demands that I employ a griffon rider to speed this missive to you (I shall submit the appropriate remittance voucher through the bursar’s office when time allows).

A Cult of Zariel, the comely but deadly ruler of Avernus, has taken hold in the Borderlands and risks fouling the region–like a spilled barrel of lantern oil spoils a well.  I am marching hard to Everlund in the company of my companions: Urxikas the tiefling paladin, Torbrek the half-elf monk, and Risrin the drow warlock.  We should arrive in Everlund 8 days after this letter.  We will proceed to Danivarr’s House to secure lodgings–please leave a message there informing me where I can meet you when I arrive.  I now relate was has transpired.

Weeks of scouring the caves had left us scarred and depleted of resources.  In addition to kobolds and goblins, we fought bugears, hobgoblins, an ogre, and a minotaur.  Some of our group relished these fierce combats, but they did not bring us closer to understanding what or who bound these creatures to the Caves of Chaos, or if there was–as I suspected–a traitor in the Keep.  Our investigation was also delayed by Torbrek’s insistence on spending a ten day obtaining a land grant from Castellan Mirthmillen and a writ of custodial martial training to establish a monastery-orphanage.  This is a noble endeavor, and I contributed by clearing land and then seeding an apple orchard, but it did not further our quest to discover the evil at the root of the Caves of Chaos.

A bowl of rice will prepare this young orphan for a day of rigorous martial training.

Our presence in the Keep also created demands as the residents constantly beseeched us for aid (a poor reflection of Mirthmillen’s ability to satisfy his duty of care!).   We investigated the swamp south of the Goblinwater river and discovered that an adolescent black dragon had taken residence in a ruined ship.  Tobrek’s longbow sang that day and Urxikas’s sword arm was strong.  The wyrm Varonyx perished under our onslaught.  We also solved the riddle of the Tomb of Dromond and defeated the necromancer of Lance Rock (n.b., we subsequently had to deal with a corpse flower here–instruct all Emerald Enclave agents to burn the bodies of necromancers).

When we finally were able to return to the Caves of Chaos we proceeded with caution.  I remembered Thref’s wise counsel: “roots can be for tea or for tripping on–care decides.”  Risrin was engaged with investigations in the Keep so we reverted to my strategy of constructing a blind to observe the Caves of Chaos.  A young goblin ranger named Grashook who had forsaken his kin’s ethos aided our quest.   Later that night we saw three cultists entering a heretofore undiscovered cave.  We girded ourselves for battle and entered the cave.

A mouth to one of the Caves of Chaos

This cave was full of cultists and undead.  Silvanus favored us, for my spike growth spell proved more than a match for the shambling hordes.  The cultists fell under the swords of Grashook, Urxikas, and Torbrek.  We penetrated the inner sanctum and confronted a devil emissary named Binlarga and a high priest.  We indulged in a parley with Binlarga (the priest’s tongue had been cut out as some form or ritual self-mortification).  The devil spawn offered us all officer commissions and command postings to devil armies engaged in the Blood War in Avernus.  I watched Urxikas carefully–ready to strike him down if he wavered.  My doubt was misplaced.  Neither Urxikas nor Torbrek were tempted by the devil’s offer.  In a fit of rage and violence it attacked.  Our swords and magic triumphed.  The destruction of Zariel’s emissary caused the evil magic of the Caves of Chaos to disappear.  The unnatural binding of the humanoid tribes broke and they fought each other and fled into the Nether Mountains.

We returned to the Keep and informed Mirthmillen of our victory.  Later we captured his advisor Marovak fleeing into the night.  He confessed to being an agent of the cult and after a brief roadside trial I humanely executed him–thereby releasing his soul to serve in the front lines of Zariel’s legions.  I fear that the cult of Zariel has agents in Everlund.  Castellan Mirthmillen advised that we seek an audience with Krowen Valharrow in Moongleam Tower.  Please arrange letters of introduction for my companions and I so that we may seek out Krowen when we arrive.  The balance of nature in the Borderlands remains on a knife edge.  No matter how deep they penetrate, we must eradicate the roots of this cult.

I remain your faithful servant,

Spleodrach

 

Image credits

“Child Eating Rice with Chopsticks,” by Isabella Lucy Bird [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Cave mouth,” by Thomas Quine [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Into the Borderlands, Episode 1

Last night our D&D group began a new campaign using Goodman Games’s Into the Borderlands, their excellent reprint of the classic module.  One of the players will be contributing posts after each session in the form of missives to the leadership of his faction.

The 2nd day of Summertide, The Keep on the Borderlands

Salutations Genrok of Silverwood, Autumnreaver of the Emerald Enclave and protector of the Iron Yew, may Nature’s blessing be upon you.

I, Spleodrach, Springwarden of the Emerald Enclave, traveled to the Keep on the Borderlands in the foothills of the Nether Mountains north of Everlund as directed and humbly submit this missive that I may add another leaf to the Tree of Knowledge.

The Rauvin Road was treacherous and bereft of succor and I would certainly have perished and returned to nature as wolf meat had I not met three traveling companions.  Urxikas, a tiefling paladin, declared that he was traveling to the Keep to combat the encroaching forces of chaos.  Torbrek, a half-elf monk, shares Urxikas’s purpose and possesses a martial bearing as sharp as the paladin’s.  Risrin is a sickly drow warlock exiled from his homeland.  Between Torbrek and Urxikas, both virtuous and naive (as shown by their hopefulness), and Risrin, tormented inwardly and outwardly cynical, it was I, Spleodrach, the last survivor of a firbolg tribe, who brought balance to the group.

We arrived at the keep and I met my contact Borin Locklinshield in the Stretching Goat tavern.  He confirmed our fears: the forces of evil and chaos are in unnatural balance in the area–driven forward by who knows what foul power.

After renting a room in the keep’s inn we set out to a homestead to the north.  My intention was to discern if the keep’s presence was encouraging farmers to expand at the expense of the neighboring forests–could it be the keep’s presence that had provoked the forces of chaos?  The farm was but a short walk from the keep and I can confirm that the homestead, Dreml’s Farm, is in harmony with nature.  The care with which they work the land honors the highest ideals of  Chauntea.   However, the human womenfolk who run the farm asked us to help locate their daughter who “got lost in the forest.”  “Or rather the forest has found her” I corrected them.   Nevertheless, given the solicitude they show the land my companions and I agreed to look for the girl.   As we searched the woods an owlbear attacked.  Blessing be to Silvanus, we defeated the creature and I planted a yew seedling next to the corpse so that death may bring forth life.  A short while later we discovered the missing girl’s body in an abandoned wizard’s hideout.  The young human’s curiosity got the better of her it seems.  Urixkas committed to return the body to her mothers, but before we could make plans for this we discovered an arcane circle.  My master Thref often counseled me about caution when in a dungeon–“Spleodrach, have you not noticed it is the slowest growing trees that are also the tallest?”–yet his words escaped me and I foolishly entered the circle.  This was in fact a portal to the cursed plane of Avernus and I do not possess enough vellum to describe the horrors we encountered in this chthonic wasteland.  We escaped  at great expense and I fear that I may have incurred the wrath of a powerful fiend as well as a hag.  I have included a map with the location of the entrance and exit portals to be forwarded to the Emerald Enclave Fiendish Threats Section.

This dread encounter solidified my opinion that the force behind the encroaching evil hordes is a malevolent fiendish presence.  After a rest in the keep my companions and I decided to investigate the so-called Caves of Chaos.  Indeed, nature’s balance is twisted here for from the safety of our hunter’s blind (and fortified by goodberries during the three day silent vigil we sat) we observed kobolds, gnolls, goblins, and giant spiders among the caves and trees–sometimes fighting each other, other times apparently ignoring each other.  Surely something powerful must bind or draw them to these caves.

Kobolds

Our careful watch–which it must be said chafed Risrin’s mercurial nature–allowed us to discern the guard schedule of the kobolds and we planned an assault to correspond to the end of a watch.  Our initial  attack culled over a dozen of the kobolds and six of their giant rat minions.  We retired to our hide and fortified ourselves.  Sensing weakness, the goblins launched a raid against their kobold rivals and we dispatched the exhausted goblin raiding party as they returned to their lair.  After a brief war council we decided to immediately attack the kobolds while they were reeling from the goblin raid.   As a result of our attack I can confirm that the kobolds have been eliminated from the Caves of Chaos.  No mercy was shown–does a gardener spare a sprouting weed so that she must pull it when it is fully grown and has killed her tomato vines?  As goats that escape from ships flourish at the expense of  the plants on the Korinn Archipelago so do these evil humanoids flourish within a day’s travel of the keep.  Risrin did not seem troubled but I worry that Urxikas and Torbrek are possessed of a sentimentality that may prevent them from doing what is necessary to restore nature’s balance.

I am writing from the Stretched Goat as we recover from our fight and continue to investigate rumours in the keep.  I have heard rumors of a “wasting curse” afflicting homesteads.  My inclination is to discount these rumors–to a human peasant the natural course of aging can easily be mistaken for a curse, such is the fleeting, painful, and miserable nature of their lives before dying  to serve nature in a different (and likely more useful) guise.  Nevertheless, I will consult with my companions whose knowledge of dark rituals and sorcerous powers may reveal something nefarious.

Please send messages to Borin and he will deliver them to me.  My mission here  would benefit from additional spell components, healing potions, and whatever supplemental funds the Emerald Enclave is in a position to provide.  I will write again when I have news.

 

I remain your faithful servant,

Spleodrach, Springwarden of the Emerald Enclave

 

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