Caster's Cradle

Into the Woods

Thud and Stromm set out early towards the Dragon’s tower. They headed north at first, deep into the Hart’s Wood. The air was thick and felt stagnant as if it hadn’t been disturbed by neither man nor beast in too long a while. After a time, the trees began to thin, giving way to bog and swamp.

Thud and Stromm’s first encounter was not with great evil, but a mundane nuisance – swarms of swamp insects. Thud cursed as the tiny creatures crawled under his armor unleashing bite after sting.

Stromm chopped with his great sword to no great effect as the swarm encircled Thud. Invoking holy power, Thud cast a bolt of fire from his palm decimating the tiny horde. Stromm changed tactics and used the flat side of his blade to smash at the insects, their bodies squishing and crunching against steel. In a moment the swarm seemed revitalized, Thud looked as though he would be overwhelmed. Stromm flung his sword aside and went in for the rescue. He grabbed Thud by the armpits and pulled him away from the swarm. The euphoria of such a swift and graceful move filled the fighter’s heart of Stromm with a righteous zeal and Stromm forgot he was holding his dwarven friend and not his sharp and pointy one. Still grasping Thud by the arms, Stromm windmilled, ending the lives of a thousand winged beast upon the scaled armour of his companion.

“Aha! HO HO!” cried Stromm, practically bursting into a maritime song as he made quick work of the remaining foes.

After the battle, Thud channeled his anger into the task of picking gnat carcasses from his braids. The two continued on their journey towards the tower at a slogging pace.

Eventually they reached a clearing. Here they met what was clearly a dire wolf, a strange creature that neither of them had ever seen with their own eyes. The wolf proved no match for the two adventurers, but the battle indicated once more than druidic magic was at work in the Hart’s Wood.

As night fell, Stromm used his sense of navigation born from long years at sea to discern the way. As they travelled East, the woods became thick and tall again. Dusk fell and the the two pushed on. Finally, they came to a river that intersected with a roadway. They were very near to the Dragon’s tower. Stromm and Thud thought better of meeting the Dragon just yet and began to search for a place to make camp. Before they could, they noticed two harpies in the midst of what seemed like an intense debate.

The harpies looked formidable, with the bodies and heads of women, but the wings and talons of vultures they were not a battle to be taken lightly. Equipping ranged weapons, Stromm and Thud shot simultaneous crossbow bolts into the harpies’ chests. While startled, the harpies still managed to entrance Stromm with their song, urging him to drown himself in the raging river rapids. Before he could, Stromm broke the enchantment and made the nearest harpy pay dearly for her decision to violate his mind. The two adventures were worn down, but still strong and eventually cut the evil wretches out of the air. Thinking fast, they threw the bodies into the river and watched as they were quickly carried away by the current.

Exhausted once again, Thud and Stromm posted up for the night hoping nothing else still lurked in dark woods. Their mood was grim, all this just to get to the Dragon. What awaited them in that tower?

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Stag, Doe & Kraown

Some time later, our adventurers quietly arrived back at the Stag & Doe. It was there that they encountered a rare sight, a young barbarian with a great thirst for ale. Not that the thirst was particularly out of the ordinary for a young barbarian, no. The shock was more that a barbarian would have wandered this far south in the first place.

“Ho, brave warriors!” he said approaching Stromm and Thud. The two sat wearily at the table nearest to the tavern door. Cleric and Fighter alike drooping into their chairs.

“Well met,” answered Stromm, intrigued by the appearance of another warrior in the sea of farm hands and basket weavers. He made a brief effort to hide his anxiety but failed when the two others noticed he wasn’t throwing back Alan’s fine brews.

“Never met a dwarf who doesn’t drink.” Stromm prodded, visibly discomforting Thud. Thud did his best to appear stoic as the barbarian drew Stromm’s attention once again.

“I’m Kraown from the north lands. Pleasure to see other folk wearing armor in these parts.” Stromm nodded and offered Kron another tankard, “Have an ale on the house.”Kraown nodded back in kind and happily drained the draught in one swig.

“Has your business in these parts required such armor?” asked Kraown.

“We been out killing things for the past few nights, actually.” Stromm answered. He went on to explain the events of the week including their upcoming plans to find the legendary Dragon in the depths of the Hart’s Wood.

“Maybe he can tell us about these dark magics.” Thud finished, breaking his silence for a brief moment.

“If you’ve got nothing to do,” Stromm interjected, “why don’t you come with us? We could use another able body in case things go bad.”

“Which is likely.” Thud muttered grumpily.

“I shall indeed join you!” Kraown answered, demanding yet another brew from Alan the Innkeeper.

“Another, boy?!” cried Alan, amused.

“Can’t feel a thing!” Kraown replied, welcoming the fresh ale.

Not long after, the band retired to their respective rooms to rest and prepare for the day ahead. Stromm’s curiosity in Thud’s true motivations continued to nag at him, nothing made sense with this fellow. Before turning in, he was overcome by the urge to conduct a bit of reconnaissance on the dwarf. Peeping through the keyhole and feeling a bit foolish, Stromm discovered Thud moving aggressively around his quarters at such an alarming speed that his shape could hardly be discerned. Just at that moment, a bleary-eyed Kron stumbled down the hallway with a crash and Stromm quickly made a run for his own bed.

In the morning, despite some furious knocking on his chamber door, Stromm and Thud proved unable to rouse the sleeping Kraown and without much choice, they decided to set out for the Dragon’s tower sans the barbarian youth. Perhaps Alan’s ale was a might stronger than Kraown had reckoned.

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First Adventure Part II

After defeating the cursed creatures at the farm and returning the body of Jacob’s son to the farmer, our adventurers Stromm and Thud made their way to the Academy of Arkanum to discover the fate of the wizard who they had encountered the night before. Perhaps he could give some insight into the gems they had found inside the beasts.

By the time they reached the Academy, the sun was rising and the castle was beginning to awaken. Thud and Stromm diverged in the hall to seek blessings from their respective gods but Stromm found himself in the midst of a funeral. After some investigation, the adventurers discovered that young Master Higgins, the wizard they had stabilized the night before, had ultimately perished from his wounds.

Thud sought the help of the Mystrian Priestess, head cleric at the Academy. However, the encounter went awry when she reacted aggressively to the sight of the gems. “You are not who say you are!” she cried, “Get out of this place.” Thud and Stromm were forced to flee the Academy as the castle’s guardian golems pursued them. All was not lost though, as the young apprentice who had informed them of the wizard’s death appeared with the suggestion that they find the Dragon, a mage said to live deep in the Hart’s Wood. If anyone would know about such evil arkana, it would be him.

Stromm and Thud thought it best to prepare for the journey ahead at the Stag & Doe and headed back towards town. On the road they were suddenly attacked by a pack of wolves. While one of the wolves fell quickly at the hand of Stromm, the other targeted Thud. With a bite the wolf threw Thud to the ground and began to claw at his pack. It took the purse with the gems in its jaws and broke for the woods. By the grace of the gods, Stromm and Thud were able to halt the beast and recover their things.

Exhausted, they finally arrived at the Stag & Doe. Alan the innkeeper was pleased with their heroism the night before, unaware of the events at the Academy that morning. Their efforts were rewarded and they proceeded to rest and heal their wounds. The journey ahead would no doubt prove perilous, they would need their strength.

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First Adventure

We begin our adventure in the tavern of the Stag & Doe Inn, Hindvale’s most popular venue for travelers and locals alike to lay aside their cloaks and enjoy a fine brew after the travails of the day. The innkeeper, Alan, is a gruff man but tonight he is consoling one of his most loyal patrons, famer Jacob, who is drowning his sorrows in the aftermath of witnessing his boy get attacked by a beast from the Hart’s Wood.

Jacob recounts the tale, “It came out of nowhere, and stole him away! I could hear him screaming as it took off with him!”

Suddenly, two of the town guards burst through the tavern door, carrying the limp body of a wizard from the Academy of Arkanum. The bright green cloth of his robes was torn and blood soaked, the wounds on his arms and chest oozed black as if he’d been wounded days ago and left the wounds to putrefy.

Thud intervened and was able to stabilize the wizard with a spell. After regaining consciousness, the wizard was able to indicate that he too had been attacked in the area around Jacob’s farm. Perhaps even by the same creature that had taken the man’s son.

Without any able-bodied or trained villagers to help, Thud and Strom undertook the mission to investigate and do away with the cursed beast that was roaming around the farm. Farmer Jacob took them to the field where his boy had disappeared and they quickly found what they were looking for.

The giant bat flew at them, swooping, biting and clawing as Thud and Strom tried to evade. Off balance because of the light spell Thud had cast, the beast careened into the ground, offering the party a chance to counterattack. The party was victorious in killing the beast, but there was still no trace of the boy. Strom made the rational decision to check the innards of the creature for any trace that it might have eaten up the poor kid. He cut the belly with his sword, and while there was no human remains, a blue egg-shaped gem tumbled to the ground with a cascade of viscera. Thud deftly snatched it up and as he held it in his hand the gem faded. At that moment, the bat’s flesh melted away leaving behind only the creature’s skeleton.

Thud and Strom searched the area for any other sign of Jacob’s son. Arriving in a clearing, Thud spotted a human body, no doubt what they had hoped they wouldn’t find. However, in the midst of investigating it, another beast charged at them from the wood. This time a Giant Goat, cursed with black eyes and black roiling foam spewing from its mouth, just like the bat.

Thud and Strom made quick work of the goat, gaining confidence in their skills. At the end of the battle, Strom once again slashed at the belly of the thing, and once again revealed a glowing blue gem. As Thud collected it, the flesh of the goat melted away down to its skeletal remains.

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