Lost Winterspire: Into the Void

Chapter 2: Argeist's Task
Introducing Bal-Darok and Malachite

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The Moon Hills Inn towered in the distance as two strange, inhuman creatures approached. One was a large, chain-mailed half-orc and the other was a tall yet skinny and mysterious cloaked tiefling. Both left the North Road and their past behind them as they traveled towards the Winterspire Mountains that dominated the northern skies.

The first was the Templar soldier of Pelor, Bal-darok al-Brandr (Dylan), wielding a greatsword that hunched over his authoritative shoulders as he swung the great red-oak doors open. The second was a trickster cleric named Malachite (Ami), a green haired tiefling, ex-convict and criminal of Waterdeep. Her eyes quickly dashing in both directions, she gently stepped inside before the heavy steps of the Paladin ahead of her. Despite having never met in their lives, they gave each other a slight nod, as if to confirm their converging destinies.

Meanwhile, the conniving human Rozzo (James) and his new-found gnomish wizard and ally, Steeb (Steve) gorged and drank in cheer at Brutus’ famous bar. Flagons of ales clashed together in triumph as Brutus’ congratulated their victory over the Ogre of the North Road, now open for travel for the first time in weeks. It was 10am, on the 3rd day of the month of The Fading (September) when Bal-darok lean his imposing body over the bar and met Brutus and what would become his reluctant allies as he ordered his modest room, paying 9 days in advance. Oddly, it seemed to him, the 10th coin fell gently though the uncracked floor of the inn and was never seen again.

Behind him approached Malachite (Ami), hiding her devilish features under her black hood. Nodding to Brutus, she shadily enquired with Brutus about any means of income – having only recently ‘left’ prison, Malachite found herself in dire need coin. Brutus quickly directed her to the master of names, Argeist the Contact; the rogue who always had unseelie work for those who seek it. Having passed Brutus’ a piece of her personal narcotic (which the inn-keeper happily ingested), she turned her tail and stepped towards Argeist.

It was during this moment that Bal-darok (Dylan) turned his attention to the long-haired Tirlonde, blonde Paladin of Tyr. Always looking to recruit those to righteousness, Tirlonde offered the half-orc Paladin an opportunity for justice – to work undercover with Argeist and form an indictment of judgement upon his criminal activities. Seeking to bring his swift justice to a forsaken land, Bal-darok agreed, flashing his glowing eyes for such an opportunity.

Gazing at the newcomers, both Rozzo (James) and Steeb (Steve) nodded in agreement: whomever these two are, they bring adventure and opportunity for coin and knowledge alike. Quickly making amends with the druid Brunnhilde, whom was suspicious of the Ogre’s death, they approached Malachite who was engaged in shadowy conversation with Argeist the Contact.

Argeist, fully aware of Malachite’s (Ami) criminal reputation in Waterdeep, offered her a chance to rejoin the unsavoury underworld that filled her past. Her offered her a gig for gold. First, to travel northwest of the crossroads and locate an encampment of savage wildmen. Second, she was to offer them a (fake) Deer Skull of Challenge – a ritualistic symbol of combat they would be honour-bound to oblige. Thirdly, by defeating them in barbarous combat, the wildmen would owe her their freedom. From there, she was to bring them to Argeist, who would sell them as gladiators for Waterdeep’s deadly, underground arenas. Reluctant to renew her criminal activities after the horrors she suffered in prison, Malachite agreed.

As if fate led them directly to her, three adventurers, two of which Argeist was fully familiar with, approached her – all fully willing to join her in her unseelie task and acquire some criminal gold. Bal-darok, Rozzo and Steeb quickly set out for the north road, eager (each for their own reasons) to encounter the wildmen and complete Argeist’s task.

Travelling across the wild forests of the north, they found themselves tripping over angry trunks are tough as iron and thorns are sharp as daggers. It appeared to them the savage forest was weary of their foreign boots that clamped downward onto their ancient roots. For hours they travelled, slicing their way through and occasionally shivered from the piercing howls of wolves and wildmen in the unforeseeable distance. It wasn’t long before Bal-darok, leading the pack, drew his greatsword and ordered they halt – a throng of poisonous snakes and hungry wolves leaped into their view, having been hunting them for hours.

Rising victorious from nature’s beasts and quickly skinning the defeated wolves, Rozzo gently lifted one of the poisonous snakes and, with Malachite’s cantrip of mending, muzzled the snake and tied it under his upper sleeve. Realizing the sun was setting above the Wild Forest’s canopy, they decided to quickly head deeper towards the wildmen’s encampment.
As they approached the blood thirsty encampment from a distance, they witnessed a massive bonfire settled within a muddy ring of combat and multiple humanoid heads impaled on many stakes. Emerging from the nearby hide tents was four blonde and red-haired wild men and women with two raging boars. They roared and cheered at the notion of city folk foolishly coming to their camp, as they typically flee in agony from their unrelenting raids.

Each of the adventurers nodded in agreement, they were to present these tribal warriors with the challenge as planned and bring them back to Argeist in one-piece. Yet, it remained undecided if they would release these men and slay the Contact in his tracks or acquire the bounty as planned. And with that, Malachite held the Deer Skull high with both hands, quickly halting the wild men’s mocking words. They knelt unconditionally, scraming the ‘Wardruna’ has chosen them for combat and readied their arms. This was the fight for their freedom and, at least to them, their opportunity to be slain (or emerge victorious) in bitter combat. An honour that all wild men of the north strive for, above all.

The fight was bitter and caught the adventurers off-guard as the boars suddenly charged, knocking their mighty half-orc to the ground as handaxes were thrown and great clubs smashed into their chests. As fast as he could, Rozzo spout many of his whimsical spells of sleep, dropping three of the tribal warriors into a deep slumber. Steeb evoked acidic chromatic orbs into his enemies, as Malachite tore necrotic wounds into the flesh those she could reach. Bal-Darok, standing to his mighty feet, unleashed his divine greatsword into his foes, all while channelling ethereal shields of his faith. The tribal warriors and their creatures were certainly dispatched, but not without inflicting deeps wounds into their foes.

Agreeing to quickly tie them together with their hempen rope, they awoke the wildmen and confirmed their submission. “We are bound to you” they spat, “for the calling of the Wardruna is here, and the world’s end has finally come”. Confused over their ramblings, Rozzo enquired. “We have all dreamt it” the tribal warriors spoke, “The north will open like the wounds our enemies and the blood of all will be spilled – the Wardruna is our eternal conflict and your end”. Shocked by their prophecy, Bal-darok couldn’t help but notice their runic writings upon the nearby trees that spoke of a similar end. Steeb, quickly flipping through his history books, confirmed only two words: “the end” and “the giants”.

With little time for further words from savage tongues, they party quickly healed their wounds over a long, well-needed rest and made their way back to the Moon Hills Inn. By then, it the next morning had arrived while Argeist waited patiently for their return. Convincing both Argeist and Brunnhile, whom had requested they free any mistreated and captured animals they encounter, to meet them outside of the Inn, they completed their task. They gave the orders to the wild men to follow Argeist into bitter conflict under Waterdeep’s arena and received their monetary reward. Bal-darok, however, exchanged secretive words with Tirlonde – proving to him that Argeist was indeed guilty as charged, plotting to bring him to justice in the coming days.

As for Brunnhilde, eager to hear of news of any rescued animals, instead was met with a call for a bargain. Rozzo and Steeb requested she use her powers for their favour to speak with any animal they acquire in exchange for the freedom of a boar they recently acquired. Reluctant to share her forbidden druidic powers with outsiders and having already gave them a scroll of Animal Speaking to discover these gifts on their own, she rudely declined their proposition. Both Rozzo and Steeb retaliated with bitter complaint, feeling that she was ungrateful – they had both nearly lost their lives and Rozzo even tripped over nature’s brutal roots!

Deeply disappointed in each other and Brunnhilde realizing her newly acquired partners may not seek to help balance nature and civilization in such dire times, she turned her tangled hair and left the Moon Hills Inn. “Perhaps you are right” she spat, “I shall return to the land I have been tasked by my ancestors to protect and leave your greedy civilization!”. And with that, she darted northwards into the moors in the distance and the adventurers retired themselves into the Moon Hills Inn after nearly two days of quest. It was then on the 4th day of The Fading (September) at noon that they each sunk their heads into fine ale and hearty meal. At least, for now…

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Chapter 1: The Ogre on the Northern Road
Introducing Jesus, Rozzo, Farin and Steeb

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The doors slammed behind the stalwart human Paladin as he wearily stepped forward into the Moon Hills Inn. He was Jesus (Brett), a lost warrior of the light seeking answers to his own past and the future of his father. Brushing the wet, Fading (September) snow off his face, he shuffled through a desk covered with a ledger of papers and books bearing many quests and hidden messages for the numerous adventurers that find themselves heading towards the Winterspire Mountains. After reading many complaints and warnings of an Ogre blocking the Northern Road, the Paladin’s thoughts were immediately interrupted with the squealing noise of a didgeridoo. He quickly looked upwards towards the inn-keeper, Brutus, whom was preoccupied in conversation with an eclectic looking bard.

This mustached bard was ‘the Prick’ Rozzo (James), a dark-haired human who frantically swung his rapier about as he ordered a drink for the nearest northern wild woman at Brutus’ bar. To those who asked, he was operating under the pseudonym of “Richard Waggler, Baron of Merrittonia”. Miserably assaulting Rozzo’s didgeridoo in the far corner of the inn was the young gnome named Steeb (Steve), apprentice wizard-librarian extraordinaire! It appeared, to the tired onlooking Paladin that if he was looking for adventure, he came to the right place.

Yet, before he could even finish his thought, a vehement outburst of a nearby dwarf sorcerer, attempting to snuggle himself a short rest upon Brutus’ antiquated bear-rug caught his attention. This sorcerer was none other than the elderly dwarf known as Farin the Woodwalker (Corey). He was bitterly offending a nearby copper-scaled Dragonborn, who quickly brushed him off – only leaving Farin to waltz his way into presence of Tirlonde, a local elven Paladin of Tyr seeking out adventurers to bring righteousness in a chaotic land. To the fellow Paladin Jesus (Brett), this was the just the sort of folk he was looking for. To Farin, who bitterly scorned Tirlonde dearly held faith, it was the sort of folk he tirelessly hoped to avoid.

Meanwhile, Rozzo (James), having fed his flagon of ale to the red-haired wild woman, gave a sneering grin and spouted his best charming words. The result got him (and Steeb, within a gnomish earshot) the introduction to Brunnhilde, arctic Druid seeking balance in a land overrun by marauding knights. Realizing Rozzo’s veneration for her, she proposed both Rozzo and Steeb with a task; find the lost Ogre that feeds off civilized men on the Northern Road and convince it to return north. If they do so, she will gracious reward them with nature’s gifts.

And yet, as if to contradict her very words – Tirlonde, speaking with Jesus, offered him a similar task; to avenge mankind’s children of justice and rightfully slay this savage Ogre. In doing so, the elf Tirlonde would award Jesus’ with holy gifts. Their allegiance was further solidified after collectively conquering an arm wrestle with a local half-orc strong-man who mocked the strength of mankind.

However, Farin (Corey) had a much different objective. He found himself in conversation with Argeist the Contact, a brutish half-orc rogue who sat alone with many papers and parchments scattered across his table. Argeist was the Moon Hills’ local connection to the criminal and malevolent underground. He offered Farin an opportunity to make some quick cold cash; drive the Ogre off the North Road and bring him its two biggest toes – a rare commodity among Waterdeep’s smugglers.

It became clear to these four unlikely adventurers that their paths have crossed, whether through destiny or mere coincidence. Briefly introducing themselves, they paid for their modest rooms and took a long rest into the night, waking on 2nd day of The Fading (September), 1214 at the crack of dawn to head along the Northern Road.

Using their collective knowledge in tracking and with Farin loudly beckoning in the language of Giants, they continued northwards. Having traveled for 6 hours, Farin’s dwarfish nose perked upwards with the scent of what seemed to be boars and canines. The party quickly prepared for an ambush on these creatures, having recently learned that this Ogre uses his pets to track down its prey. As two savage boars covered in white-paint and two mangy wolves burst out of the forest, Jesus let loose an arrow from his long-bow, piercing the side of one of the boars. Within seconds Rozzo quickly unleashed words of slumber, putting the charging wolves into a deep sleep. Farin and Steeb, as if in arcane symmetry, unleashed rays of frost and bolts of fire, blazing the hunting animals into burning and frozen dust.

After a few moments, the adventurers heard exactly what they thought was coming next, a massive marauding Ogre by the name of Grog exposed himself from the edges of the forest. Grog was bitterly hungry and angry at the loss of his friends at the hands of ‘righteous knights’. Steeb, quickly opening his spell book to unleash a spell of Charm Person and managed to convince the Ogre he was one of his pets. Friendly to the gnome, the Ogre stepped forward towards Jesus and Rozzo who gazed upwards at its gigantic girth. As each of them attempted their very best to talk the stubborn Ogre out of devouring them, they eventually slipped in their words and angered the hungry monster.

Raising its massive tree-trunk club, it charged forward. As the adventurers scattered in all directions, Rozzo spat insulting words towards the Ogre, who responded by hurling the nearest boulder at him, bludgeoning him backwards. The wild sorcerer Farin dashed forward heroically, unleashing a jet of flame from his hands. Ducking the sizzling burst, the Ogre smashed Farin into the ground with its great club and set its eyes on the nearby chain-mailed Paladin. Smashing its way towards Jesus, the Paladin picked up his recently dropped great sword and drove it into the Ogre – unleashing a radiant divine smite deep inside of it. All the while, Steeb pelted the Ogre with as many fire bolts he could sling. As the Ogre attempted its final retaliation, it slipped disastrously, falling forward on its perturbing stomach. It was here that the creature met its demise, as Rozzo evoked final words of vicious mockery, causing the once great Ogre’s heart to stop dead in its tracks.

The Ogre was slain. As the adventurers carved the creature’s eyes, fingers and toes off, they headed an hours walk to Ogre’s den. Here, they four humanoid skeletons and and a small treasure hoard. Inside, in addition to some gold, potions of Healing and Frost Giant Strength as well as scrolls of Magic Missile and Protection from Undead were found. Notably, the gnomish Wizard Steeb looted a set of bone-carved pipes that seemed to have a history of their own. Heading back to the Moon Hills Inn, the adventurers patiently awaited their awards after a long rest.

From the deer-horned Brunnhilde, Steeb was granted twig off her Mistletoe and Rozzo was given her scroll of Animal Speaking, an opportunity to engage the wild’s children. Rozzo, fearing her disappointment, coerced her into believing that the Ogre’s life was spared and nature’s balance remained preserved.

From the elf Tirlonde, Jesus was granted a pair of carpenter’s tools and a dagger made of bright, shining silver. Despite working with Tirlonde, Jesus stressed his reluctance to slay the beast, demonstrating his compassion that sets him apart from many vigilant Paladins.

Lastly, Argeist the Contact handsomely paid Farin his sum in gold in exchange for the two toes of a giant and assurance the Northern Road remains welcoming to smugglers and travelers alike. Seeing the shine of gold drop within their ally’s hands, Rozzo, Steeb and Jesus quickly introduced themselves to Argeist, hoping to gain similar favour from a half-orc strangely willing to part with his gold.

What they didn’t know, however, is that taking a piece of Argeist’s pie always comes with ‘strings attached’. It was then, on the 3rd of The Fading (September) at 8am in 1214, that each of their names began to be whispered up and down the roads leading towards Waterdeep’s criminal underworld…

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