Lost Winterspire: Into the Void

Chapter 16: The Steps of Hrothgar Tower

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The fireplace crackled against the cold stone of the frozen tower far atop the mountain peaks. An old, bearded cleric dipped his feather into thick, viscous ink and began to write:

For the annals of the Order of Thunder, Content Not Found: thane-of-hrothgar-tower, the following history will be recorded in regards to the events that occurred between the 16th to the 17th of Leaffall, 1214.

On the first day mentioned, four men from far away lands arrived atop these steps. For the records, their names will be documented as the Baron of Merritonia, Niloc, Feros and Atremus.

They had ventured up the seven thousand steps, past the seven warrior statues of Hrothgar and far up the western mountains that can only gaze upon the true peak of Winterspire. Like so few who have made their way atop these frozen peaks, their determination to reach our Tower was proof that these were men who tempted fate.

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We sought their assistance, for we the Cleric of Thunder were destitute. Our Tower of Hrothgar had been taken from us by the Nothic, fiendish one-eyed imps who would hoard and consume our ancient knowledge for themselves. The doors of the tower has been barred to us, as Yoric, the spirit of the tower, had been turned against the men he used to serve.

However, the men from the Moon Hills managed to break the door’s seal and ventured within the mighty tower, now corrupted by the Nothic. Before them was a trial that would test their might, wits … and their fate.

The first level tested their might as our ancient Helmed Guardians turned against them, smashing their relentless hammers against their thundering shields. Yet, they were victorious, for might was their greatest asset.

The second level tested their wits as they entered the trial of thunder. A room dedicated to our acolytes who must pass the puzzle of lightning. They completed their puzzle, but not without sacrifice. The floating tiles required a shock of lightning to be infused and some of the heroes found themselves electrified to a crisp.

The third level tested both wits and might together as they entered our archives just below the tower’s peak. Here, the tall bookshelves reached the ceiling where hidden books would open their path forward. Yet it was here they were ambushed by two of the three Nothic and their monstrous aberrations. These gibbering mouthers were blights from the underdark, mounds of oozing flesh littered with a thousand cursing mouths with grinning teeth.

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Their fate was tested here, as they hurled their might and magicks against them, burning much of our knowledge in the process. But they snuffed out the gibbering mouthers and had one of the nothics tear its own eye out in utter insanity.

It was within these archives, they found our observatory and with it, our telescope to view the stars. They gazed through it, viewing the land before them.

The Baron gazed to the far east where he witnessed the charred smoke of the coming Black Legion, Tiamat’s army in the living world.

Atremus directed his gaze towards the peak of the Winterspire that reached above the clouds and into the stars. There both he and the Baron saw a shining light and the columns of the oracles.

Niloc gazed to the north, beyond the claw-like mountains of Icewind Pass where he saw a mighty frozen fortress under a shattering siege. This was the fortress of The Frozen Orc.

Having saw the world around them, they decided to climb the final steps to reach the top of Hrothgar Tower. Here, the last remaining Nothic sat, channelling the secrets of the great rune-stone atop the centre of tower’s peak. And it was also here their fate was truly tested, for the Nothic offered them a devilish deal.

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The Nothic explained to them they knew of Tiamat’s return and the coming of the end. But that it was the Nothic that hoped to secure the living world’s knowledge and bury it with them deep within the underdark to survive Tiamat’s apocalypse. It was a convincing ploy to all but the noble Feros, who sought our aid and refused to betray the Content Not Found: thane-of-hrothgar-tower. It is our duty to keep that knowledge secret, for this world is not yet ready for such truths.

Despite Feros’ protest, they chose to forsake our duty. The Baron took one captive Nothic for himself and vanished into thin air. Niloc and Atremus devised their own plan, captured the other Nothic and leapt off the tower’s peak, only to be gently guided down by Atremus’ spell of feather fall. It was there Feros remained, empty-handed but honour bound. And it was then, on the 17th day of Leaffall that Feros earned our trust and became one of us, Content Not Found: thane-of-hrothgar-tower!

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Chapter 15: The Manticore and the Crags
Introducing Atremus

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With the face of a man, body of lion, wings of a dragon and the tail of a scorpion, this Manticore was a sight for sore eyes. Yet, unlike so many of his brothers, he had a keen interest in riddles, tales and most of all, he took great pleasure in torturous games.

This Manticore grinned with his rows of shark-teeth as his claws carved the tale he spoke aloud, recalling the events that occurred upon the 15th day of Leaffall:

“Deep within the orange, cracked, earthy badlands known as the Crags, I had met four members of The Innkeepers who had travelled northwards from Westfurt within the Boglands. They were a foul, outlandish gang of heroes who’ve decided to run fate a muck!”

The Manticore cackled wildly, knowing his truth would be passed down to generations of monstrosities not unlike himself.

“The four approached me, high atop my mighty perch in all my glory! It was Rozzo, Niloc, Steeb and Atremus who bowed before me in awe, begging for my precious wisdom and knowledge beyond their years!”

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“You’re being hunted, they informed me. They spoke of a worg riding hobgoblin who offered them treasure in exchange for my life. As if I didn’t know of the band of hobgoblins who’d been tracking me for days! Hunters for the Warlock Talimar, they were. They knew what I had witnessed around the Misty Rock”.

“While Talimar wanted me dead for what I saw, it was the Innkeepers who desired my witness. They sought to know how Talimar was resurrected, where he had gone and what mischievous acts he had performed”.

“Your life for three riddles,” I insisted. At the time, it was tempting not to devour their faces. “And my knowledge for blood. Hobgoblin blood”.

“Falling to their knees in mercy, they obliged like petty priests before their deity. They answered my three riddles and marched off like pawns”.

“It was there in the Crag’s canyons where hobgoblins sat in ambush and The Innkeepers fought on my behalf. The bolts of heavy crossbows flung across the canyon as the blade of the hobgoblin captain swung as he charged foward upon his mocking worg. I watched, patiently, waiting for my moment to catch them off-guard in defeat".

“The Innkeepers barely defeated their foes. Fallen and bloody, Niloc called my name with thaumaturgy, echoing across the towering mesas of the Crags. I bestowed upon them my mercy and assisted them in devouring what remained of the hobgoblin”.

“We submit to your grace,” the Innkeepers spoke. “Grant us your wisdom and tell us the tale of Talimar”. I reluctantly obliged, for their delicious faces tempted my stomach. But I knew what needed to be done. It was these foul heroes who might, against all odds, prevent Tiamat’s return. A return that would leave me and my kind as slaves to the Dragon Queen. A fate neither of us desired”.

“I told them Talimar‘s resurrection. It was an undead lich who returned Talimar to life within the Misty Rock. He pieced the dead dragonborn’s bones together and with seething necromancy, infused within Talimar the life of a revenant”.

“As undeath breathed within Talimar he rose a Death Knight, avenger of his Queen Tiamat. It was then, the two marched deeper into the Boglands after preparing a grotesque ritual. A ritual so secretive, even I couldn’t recognize its magicks. And Talimar and his lich trekked deeper into the mists of the Bogs beyond my devilish eyes. It is there, deep within the mysteries of the Boglands, where Talimar resides”.

“With the sunlight of the 15th day of Leaffall fading behind them, they retreated back to the Moon Hills Inn. Meeting with the betrayer of the Black Legion, Torinn, they forged a plot. Torinn would spend his remaining days hunting the Warlock Talimar, investigating summoner’s whereabouts”.

“In the meantime,” the Mantigore grinned as he stroked his thick, red mane, “The Innkeepers would return to me. Begging for my flight. A flight that would take them beyond the mighty canyons of the Crags and towards the Steps of Hrothgar”.

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“And it was then, with the sun’s rise of the 16th day of Leaffall that I dropped them off but a few kilometres before the steps. Ah goodie! I had dropped them within the nest of ravenous griffons that was filled with hungry sabre-tooth tigers! An opportunity, I thought, for them to prove their worth and clear the skies in my honour!”

“What a joyous tale!” the Manticore continued, finishing his carvings into the stone tablet upon his perch within the Crags. “It is here my name will go down in history. Icarus, the Defiant! Savour of The Innkeepers!”

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Chapter 14: Into the Boglands

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Her dark, claw-like hands twitch and tremble over the crystal ball, swirling into a blackened cloud. The Rashemi human girl speaks with her piercing red-eyes closed and her dreadlocks dangling aross her jewelled robes.

“I can see them. Dark omens, swamps and bogs”.

She grins, “And three hags. A coven”.

As her guardian Ataba carefully gazed upon her with his dark eyes, she continued…

“They trudge through the Boglands beyond the Dampwalk bridge. Marching to the village of Westfurt in hopes of finding its thane. A thane to answer the Bannercall. They know Tiamat, the Black Queen comes. They know they must act”.

“The villagers, they speak to them. Only women and but a few men remain in the swamp fort of Westfurt. They are enchanted with the Lady in the Red Dress. The beautiful – yet ugly. The Princess of Hags. The man-eater”.

“They’re they are. I see them. Bal-Darok, Jesus, Steeb, Niloc, Festoon, Farin. Some come, some go, some follow behind watchfully. But they venture forth deeper into the bogs. Giant frogs and haunting wisps are no match for their resolve".

“They see it. The Hag’s hut. Fear is in their hearts. They know what lies within. They can feel her charming soul. It beats with hunger. Hunger for souls. They enter …”

“The soulless swarm them – empty vessels of the men whose heart and souls The Coven had devoured. But the heroes make short work of them. Cutting them down and leaving The Coven to remain, hiding beneath the bog".

“Niloc approaches. Curious, he is. He speaks with the three souls within one hag. He bargains with them. They believe him and The Hag lets loose her crackle of lightning, ripping his friends in two. Knowing their strength, knowing their power. Niloc offers himself to save his friends. And they wait. Festoon unleashed his mighty vines and wind as The Coven enters, hungry for their hearts".

“The Coven is betrayed and the heroes hold on, with but a tiny thread. It is their greatest challenge yet, as they unleash all what is left of their strength. The Hags are vanquished and their Soul Gem is shattered. Freeing Westfurt from the Coven’s wrath".

“The heroes return to the swamp village, triumphant in their victory. They meet what is left of the thane. His wife, the lady of Westfurt, answers the Bannercall. She agrees to march to Frosthold in mankind’s defense".

“But their hope is shattered. Torinn, a silver skinned dragonborn and Black Legionnaire from the East. No. Not anymore – a turncoat, doubtful of Tiamat’s strength. He offers a message of despair".

Zashier’s red eyes open as her hands tremble with fear. Ataba solemnly looks in her eyes, gribbing his sharp scimitar strapped to his belt.

“The Black Legion has risen. Tiamat’s army marches! Devouring all in its path, it has laid waste to the eastern horde lands! It marches to Winterspire!” she gasps.

“Torinn’s words are true! The Black Legion will arrive in no less than a month from the 14th day of Leaffall that marks this omen. Thirty days remain before Tiamat’s horde brings its reckoning upon us"!

Ataba closes his eyes, speaking prayers of ancient Rashemi’s deities, praising the sun. Zashier continues her revelation.

“If that army succeeds. If Frosthold and the armies of mankind cannot resist the Black Legion, Tiamat will rise again. The World Eater will devour all that is known”.

And with those words, Zashier collapses into Ataba’s arms.

Across the Moon Hills Inn, Brutus adjusts his eye-patch from the safety of his bar. After exhaling a puff of smoke, Brutus deeply gulps and mumbles to his bar maiden Miri.

“Then ‘The Innkeepers’ have their work cut out for them, don’t they? We must find a way to stop this Black Legion. The fate of my inn … and the world … depends on it…”

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Chapter 13: The Legionnaire and the Legion
The Moon Hills Chronicles, Part III

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“It is done” Brutus proclaimed as he, Bal-Darok (Dylan), Niloc (Colin), Feros (Stuart) and Rozzo (James) arrived beaten and exhausted at the Moon Hills Inn. Miri gazed upon them and it was clear they had survived the onslaught of battle. Brutus had lost an eye, complimenting his acidic burns across his face. Bal-Darok had an accompanying injury: an intimidating scar stretched across his face.

As they collected their thoughts and rested their wounds, Brutus requested that the bar-maiden Miri gather all those mighty adventurers who had stayed within the inn. After many hours of searching, she returned with Malachite (Ami), Jesus (Brett), Festoon (Chris), Farin (Corey), Delorah (Lauren) and Steeb (Steve). Shortly after, four other shadowy adventurers entered the inn as well, mostly unfamiliar to all but Malachite. They solemnly introduced themselves as Remi (Alicia), Penela (Ashley), Embercloak (Matt) and Pigeonhorn (Pat).

With a gathering of all like-minded adventurers (at least in the sense of seeking glory), Brutus confirmed the direness of world’s situation: the end of the world as they know it is upon them all. The Black Dragon Queen known as Tiamat, the World Eater, seeks escape from the Nine Hells to enter the living world. Furthermore, it appears the Black Legion, an army and cult dedicated to her revival, is alive and well.

“As we reached the end of the Moon Hills Labyrinth, we came across a dark ritual. Four elder kobolds were summoning a Black Dragon, child of Tiamat, through a portal from the Nine Hells. A red scaled Dragonborn legionnaire defended this ritual with his life. Through Bal-Darok’s daring bravery that nearly cost him his life and Rozzo’s clever use of his Crown of Madness, the legionnaire was defeated and the ritual was prevented, banishing that Dragon back into Tiamat’s realm”.

Brutus continued in a more serious tone, “But the worst may still be upon us. The legionnaire confirmed that Talimar, the bronze Dragonborn and Warlock of Tiamat, still lives – or rather, has been returned from the dead”. Itching his one remaining mutton chop, Brutus continued “A Death Knight, they called him. Raised as undead – possibly by a Lich – to fulfil the duty he failed to achieve in life. Perhaps he seeks revenge … or perhaps he seeks to see Tiamat’s reign over this world. Whichever it is, I am confident Talimar will be watching us, checking our every move”.

Clearing his throat with a cough of smoke, Rozzo spoke beyond his twirling moustache “I believe Talimar was said to be residing within the Misty Rock?”

Brutus nodded, “We ought to head west to investigate. Whether that takes us to Westfurt, it is no matter. Black Dragons are at home within the marshlands, and it seems likely their presence there will be most strong”. Behind them, Niloc gave a devilish grin at the opportunity to venture into the marshes.

“But before we speak any further, I have a question for Feros. I couldn’t help but notice that you found a particular fragment of glowing chalk?” asked Brutus.

Brutus gestured to Feros to hand him a large fragment of the chalk to identify, offering Feros 50 gold pieces for his cooperation. After reading aloud a scroll of Identify, Brutus spoke: “Ah, yes. I recognize this chalk. Atremus often spoke of its significance. It is the Chalk of Doors”.

“If I recall, rumours claim this magical chalk was chipped from a rock fragment in the Astral Sea. If one carefully sketches a hearth enclosed within a door and rests upon it for a night, it is said to become your dimensional home. Once one has marked their home, they can return to this home from anywhere in the world! Yes! They claim that if you sketch another door upon a solid surface, you can step into that door and return to your home within a second!”

Brutus grinned, “Magnificent really. I could put one beside my bed, roll into it and retrieve a fresh keg from the cellar within a moment!”

“There seems to be enough for everyone, Feros. Why don’t we break it into pieces and share it with all whom we trust?”

(The Chalk of Doors: During a long rest, you can mark one location at a time as your home. You can then spend 10 minutes drawing a door on a surface to instantly step back to your marked location from anywhere in the world.)

“Speaking of whom we trust …” Brutus continued with a triumphant voice, “And judging by our past successes over the Legion of the Black Dragon, I think we ought to band together. No, better yet – we ought to found an Order! A Guild! A Gang? Some sort of association. Its pretty clear that we and all those before me can form an effective force to do good – or at the very least, to do no harm. Through our combined efforts, perhaps we could save this world after all? We could prevent Tiamat’s rise”.

Brutus looked upon the 14 adventurers with deep pride and respect, “Well friends? What do you say? If you’re up to the task, I could offer to all of you a permanent room at the Moon Hills Inn as our mutual headquarters. We could use the Chalk of Doors to mark this inn as our first hearth. It can be our stage, and the world, our audience! Shall we give them a show, lads!?”

Brutus smiled and whispered to himself, “A fitting day to found an Order in my Inn … on my birthday!”

It was then, on the 10th day of Leaffal that the question was posed: should the adventurers form an Order upon the Moon Hills Inn? To band together as guardians – or destroyers of Winterspire? And if so, what should this Order be called? These are questions only these 14 adventurers could decide …

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Chapter 12: The Wyrmling and the Labyrinth
The Moon Hills Chronicles, Part II

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With a leaking keg hunched over his shoulder, Brutus stormed through the front doors of the Moon Hills Inn with four of his new found allies behind him (Rozzo, Steeb, Feros and Bal-Darok). “Dragon!” Brutus shouted, “a bloody Black Dragon!”. Miri, the bar-maiden, rushed to his side feeding him a flagon full of ale in an attempt to heal his wounds. “You’re scarred to all hell, Brutus! It looks like acid burnt half your chops and half your ugly mug!”

Four battle torn adventurers stood before Miri. Rozzo, bearing a snivelling grin, twisted his moustache and promptly lit his pipe. Bal-Darok slammed his massive great sword, dripping with the acidic green blood of a Black Dragon. Feros, gasping for breath, adorned a white mask of Highharvesttide to hide his completely disfigured and stoic face. Beneath all of their shadows smirked Steeb, confidently crossing his arms in triumph. It was clear, they had bested a Black Dragon of the Moon Hills Labyrinth.

Catching his breath between a freshly lit pipe and a third flagon of ale, Brutus spoke to Miri as she served the rest their food, drink and bandage.

He explained how his suspicions of the kobolds within the nearby Labyrinth were confirmed. Just as Brutus had found them worshipping the wyrmling Farralax many years prior, the kobolds now worshipped Tiamat and her legion of the Black Dragons.

Initially, they had been ambushed outside of the cave’s entrance by waves of trickster kobolds. But as Steeb disguised himself and tip-toed within, they turned the surprise back upon the kobolds, cutting their way towards the obsidian doors of the Moon Hills Labyrinth. Within those chambers lay an army of kobolds and a Black Dragon wyrmling.

“Last I remember was Feros and I engaging in a wee’ bit of competition, slaying kobolds left and right! But as we opened the chamber doors, we found the cackling jaws of a Black Dragon. It spewed a breath of acids directly on both Feros and I! I should have known better too,” lamented Brutus, “We heard its shrieks and howls the moment we angered that kobold horde.”

Miri spoke, “So you nearly got yourself killed over a pissing contest with Feros?”

As Brutus chuckled, he continued his story, explaining how Bal-Darok lured the dragon into the chamber, unleashing a slashing fury into the dragon. Behind him, Rozzo and Steeb lured the dragon into a long hallway, pelting it with everything they could muster. Rozzo, fearing for his own life, darted towards Brutus and Feros aid, healing and restoring them to their feet.

“We narrowly escaped. It seems we kicked the hornet nest. But we sure as hell put a sword into the head of that Black Dragon Wyrmling before we left.”

Nearly yawning, Miri retorted. “And? So you nearly got yourselves killed trying to slay a dragon? Good on’ ya for that!”

“Well…” Brutus solemnly spoke after blowing ring of smoke from his mouth, “it confirms that Tiamat’s rise really has arrived. Black dragons haven’t been seen or heard of in this parts for generations – let alone a wyrmling led by an army of kobolds. You see Miri, after tearing this world asunder long before the age of man in her own selfish war, the usurper Tiamat was banished to the Nine Hells. There, the Black Dragon Queen was eternally imprisoned for her crimes by fiends and devils. It appears the rumours are true: Tiamat has found a way to conquer the Nine Hells and assert her influence into the living world. The destruction of our world and its remaking is upon us…”

Miri gulped deeply into her chest. “I’ll pack our things and arrange for a caravan. Brutus, we’ve got to get our asses out of here!”

“No!” Brutus spoke, chin high into the air. “I may be a clumsy, old drunkard well past his prime who smokes far too much…” Everyone nodded in agreement. “But this here Brutus ain’t a coward! This is my Inn! I bloody well-fought for it! And no Tiamat is going to take this fine establishment from me without a good scrapping or two!” he triumphantly shouted.

Rolling her eyes, Miri whispered “Oh by Pelor’s sun, here we go again…”

“Finish your rest, lads!” commanded Brutus. “We’ve got a Labyrinth to clear and some dragon tail to stuff our mighty boots in! We’ve got to stop whatever madness Tiamat has got going on in there!”

Before they could even raise their cheers as they finished their rest, a thundering crash echoed behind them. As they turned their heads, the red oak doors of the Moon Hills Inn was smashed into pieces across the floor.

With the light of the 8th day of Leaffal shining through the doorway, a lurching Ogre painted with black draconic runes lunged into the inn. Thick saliva swung from its frothing mouth and the Ogre lowered its head to expose two kobolds that were tied upon its back. They kobolds gave a coldblooded grin and cocked their crossbows, shouting “We die for Tiamat!”. As all within the inn drew their weapons, four more kobolds streamed behind them, two wielding sparkling, iron bombs in their scaly hands.

The Battle for the Moon Hills Inn had begun…

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Chapter 11: The Cellar and a Secret
Moon Hills Chronicles, Part I

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As the night sank around him in the Moon Hills Inn, Brutus dipped his quill pen into the viscous ink and began to write:

Dear Atremis,

My old friend, Wizard of the Moon Hills Labyrinth and bearer of the Old Curse, it is I, Brutus!

I am unsure if this letter will reach you, but I must confess these recent events across the Moon Hills and beneath the watchful peak of the Winterspire Mountain.

It appears our secret has been exposed. Four adventurers, not unlike ourselves many years past, have shown promise in these lands. If you ever meet them, know the names of Festoon (Chris), Farin (Corey), Bal-Darok (Dylan) and Rozzo (James). They know of burden you carry: that haunting, necrotic skull of Orcus.

I can assure you it wasn’t because of a drunken ramble that you often accuse me of. I could no longer keep the hauntings beneath these hills quiet.

You see, a young lass by the name of Jaira stormed into my inn. She was no regular lady. No – by midnight of our highharvesttide celebrations she erupted with deep, uncontrollable wild magic. A magic not even your arcane books could replicate.

Perhaps attracted to the innate magic imbued into these hills, she crept into the inn’s haunted cellar. Those adventurers chased her below, hoping to rescue her. Beneath, they discovered the bodies I have been hiding. Yes, I have been burying those soulless wanderers that continually arrive at my inn seeking the artifact that you bear…

Yet, I can assure you that those adventurers manage to best those haunted spirits and rescue Jaira. However, her sorcery was wildly unstable. Farin, her sorcerer counterpart, erupted into madness with her, beating and attacking one another to restore their maddened memories.

With the help of Rozzo, we took matters into our own hands and quickly sedated the two. For now, Jaira lies in a slumber within the Moon Hills cellar. Her ally, Farin, was tossed into the wild where he once belonged. What I failed to tell those adventurers is that those spirits below cannot be bested for long. They always return within a day’s slumber and Jaira’s fate may already be sealed below…

Atremis, my old friend. The world is changing and though our adventuring days might be over, I fear we have yet to see the worst of it. Rumours speak of Queen of the Black Dragons. Yes, Tiamat’s return might be upon us. The days of our world as we know it are numbered…

All the while the city of Splendor, Waterdeep, falls into bitter turmoil as the five lords draw swords at one another’s throats.

To the north, Winterspire is shrouded in darkness. The city of Frosthold and the King of the Banners can barely muster an army to defend itself against the hags, harpies, orcs, wildmen, manticores and many savage creatures that swarm into their lands and raid their villages.

Wise Atremis, I place my drunken faith in you. If this reaches you and I am already beneath my grave: seek the peak of Winterspire Mountain. Whatever the legends claim to lay upon that peak, I fear it is our only hope.

Signed on the 5th day of Leaffal, 1214

Your old friend Brutus,
Owner of the Moon Hills Inn

<noticeably,>

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Chapter 10: Queen of the Bees

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“Here ye, here ye! Read all about it!” shouted the young boy, child of Olaf of Hailstead village. “Highharvestide celebrations begin, the Bee Queen has been vanquished, word arrives from Frosthold and the Moon Hills Inn calls for dire aid!”

In the town square, the old parchment is nailed upon a post. It is dated the 3rd day of Leaffall (October). It reads the following:

- Highharvestide celebrations began on the 28th of the Fading (September) and will continue throughout the month of Leaffall. Despite setbacks in the harvest and pumpkin production as a result of the so-called Bee Queen of Hailstead, the opening celebrations in Frosthold went off without a hitch. To all outsiders: be wary of tricks and pestering for treats. Pay no heed to the many demonic costumes and carved pumpkins. It is all in good, Illuskan fun.

- Multiple murders were reported at the Wayward Wanderer Tavern in Frosthold and will subsequently be closed. Religious fanatics of the ‘black dragon’ were implicated and the investigation continues. A dwarven mercenary, foreigner in Frosthold, has been arrested and charged with death. Some survivors have subsequently left town (Niloc, Feros, Steeb and Rozzo).

- The Bee Queen has been slain as per request by the Thane of Hailstead. After being afflicted by curses of petrification, Hailstead has been harassed by swarms of massive bees along its countryside. However, four strange looking adventurers (Niloc, Feros, Steeb and Rozzo) raided her hive and captured the insane woman. Bringing her back to Hailstead, her fate was sealed as Niloc lost a duel in exchange for her life. The Thane of Hailstead in all his glory pulled the Bee Queen to the town’s square and proceeded to behead her amongst the town’s glorious cheers. Harvest in Hailstead can now continue and our chances of surviving this coming winter are assured.

- The Bannercall has finally been answered! The Thane of Hailstead announced his support for the city of Frosthold. Warriors from the surrounding farmsteads have been called and the Illuskan war horns have echoed across the land.

- The southwest town of Westfurt in the boglands have yet to answer the Bannercall. Rumours whisper that a beautiful woman has been enchanted the many men and warriors of the city, luring them into the swamps. As its army withers, the Thane of Westfurt calls for assistance.

- Brutus, owner of the Moon Hills Inn has broken his usual silence and beckons for the assistance of any adventurers willing to offer aid. It is known that his own allies failed to answer his call as the situation in the Inn, whatever it may be, deteriorates. According to one villager in Hailstead: “The whole situation seems sketchy! I say good riddance to Brutus and his fancy inn! It’s only brought trouble and outsiders to this once peaceful land!”

- Trouble in Waterdeep! The untrustworthy foreign trade city to the south has erupted in political turmoil. The five Lords of Waterdeep and their political factions have drawn lines in the sand. Rumours claim that on one side, the City Guard and the Silverstars (Tirlonde’s Order) have accused the Knights of the Shield (Argeist’s contacts) and the Red Sashes of murdering one of their righteous nobles, Belster. Rumours claim either side hope to overthrow Waterdeeps’ shared rule. For now, only the order of the Harpers negotiate for peace and cooperation. One can only hope this turmoil will keep Waterdeep’s nose out of our Illuskan business in the north.

- According to a scout from Frosthold, the west road is open! The Harpies that once harassed any travelers have been slain. The road to the western Sword Coast is open for travel.

- Frosthold’s Bannerhold still reports a harassing Manticore over the Wild Forests. A warning to any who seek to travel towards the east: Beware the skies! The Manticore hunts for man flesh!

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Chapter 9: “Talimar is Dead!”
Introducing Feros

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On the 28th day of the Fading and with the sun beating on her back, the wild human sorcerer ran south along the North road, heaving in panicked exhaustion. It was Jaira, the young blonde servant girl of the dragonborn Talimar. Pushing the heavy oak doors of the Moon Hills open, she shrieked “Farin! Where’s Farin? Talimar is dead!”

“Farin’s long gone, honey” spoke the bar maiden Miri, “That strange dwarf trotted off into the Moon hills days ago, hollering and screaming as he usually does.”

She was settled down with a stiff, cold brew and the promise of the juiciest boar roast the innkeeper Brutus could muster. As the young, exhausted Jaira obliged, Brutus leaned forward, carefully prodding upon Talimar’s demise.

She explained to him how her memories begin at when she took a deep puff of the Serpent Herb alongside Steeb (Steve), Niloc (Colin), Feros (Stuart), Rozzo (James) and the dragonborn Talimar. She claimed that the world darkened and in the distance a black dragon against the light of the moon appeared, soaring towards them. It was Tiamat, the World Eater. The malevolent dragon queen and bringer of destruction and the end of all Faerun.

With a massive crash, she landed upon the earth, tearing the very ground beneath them with thundering earthquakes. Her sheer size and five dragon heads would dwarf Moon Hills Inn as they towered over Jaira and the adventurers. The horned, black scaled head lunged forward, hissing with its fangs exposed and called for their obedience. Talimar responded, kneeling in submission to his queen.

“He welcomed her presence” spoke the young Jaira to a pale-faced Brutus. “Tiamat spoke to him and all of us of a prophecy. The world of man is ending and Tiamat will rise. She seeks to raise a new world under the tyranny of dragons” whispered Jaira.

She explained how Tiamat’s black claws reached out, piercing into the earth around them like cells. The black dragon’s mighty heads swung forward, eyes gazing into each of them. “She demanded we serve her to this end as bringers of a new world.”

Brutus leaned backwards, peering into his drink as if to assure he hasn’t been drugged. Such a prophecy he had heard only once before, as hogwash from the tongues of fanatical Kobolds deep within the Moon Hills Labyrinth that he once crept within.

Jaira spoke further, “And before we knew it, Tiamat was gone and the smoke settled. Talimar stood and nodded to each of the adventurers. The deal was done and we were to go our separate ways. And as Talimar turned his back with his chains still deep within my soul, Steeb handed him a parchment. It read: ‘Look up’. The very moment that slithering Talimar gazed upon the moon, a blazing chromatic orb of fire was lunged into his back. They had betrayed him and sowed the seeds of my freedom!”

Jair gasped, anxious to recall her most joyous moment, “That evil Warlock was leeching the very life from me and used my wild magic for ill-will. He had nearly killed them all too, but they held on by a thread and Talimar’s blackened blade was shattered. His life was ended with a final blow from Niloc and Talimar’s control over me ended. I was finally freed.”

Brutus stroked his thick, muttonchops as he leaned back into the darkness beyond the candlelight between them. He spoke calmly, “Young lass, this is the last you’ll speak of this tale. Tell no-one of your fate. Let us hope that this vision you speak of was but a dream, twisted thoughts by that warlock, Talimar. However, I will give you this: I will send word for the mad dwarf Farin and we will celebrate Highharvesttide and the death of your captor without worry.”

He slammed his flagon onto the bar, knocking a carved pumpkin to the side as he raised a thundering cheer: “Drinks! Drinks for everyone! Let the highharvesttide begin!”. While the inn’s patrons clamoured with joy and Jaira sank into her seat, Brutus turned to himself to fill his ale. Furrowing his thick brows with despair, he mumbled to himself “it may be our last …”

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Chapter 8: Digging Duergars

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Whispering a battle prayer the Hrothgar, deity and champion of the all worthy Illuskans, the blacksmith of the War Maiden’s Hammer, Vaul, knelt before her flaming forge. Her thoughts were filled with praise, as she now had within her possession the famed mythic Hammer of Might, forged deep within the Underdark by the malevolent Duergars. A hammer only uttered in the tales of her childhood, “The Duergar!” the stories echoed, “Underground dwarves none have seen for thousands of years!”. The hammer had been retrieved, upon her request, by Festoon (Chris), Bal-Darok (Dylan), Farin (Corey) and Rozzo (James).

Yet, within her praise lied regret; Vaul was once a great warrior of Frosthold and she longed to see the blazing streaks of blood upon the war torn snow of north. Having cleaved the mightiest of men in two during her King’s recent conquest of Winterspire, she was feared by all.

“Perhaps”, she thought to herself “it is time for Uthgar’s next generation to spill blood in his honour. Perhaps, Festoon (Chris), bearing the spirit of undead Duergar, despite his strange size and words, will carry on our great tradition of battle”. She slammed the Duergar hammer downwards upon the searing blade as she dreamt of their crusade into the darkened tomb.

Images of twisted guardians of the dead, the grey ooze, hurling their acidic brick into their bleeding chests filled her mind. “What I wouldn’t give to test my steel against such rot” she clamoured, continually striking the blade against the anvil. She pictured the hulking Duergar, mythic dwarves she only heard in tales of her youth, charging forward as their arms ripped with growth and their warhammers smashing their strength into Festoon and his allies. “An opportunity to be slain and meet Uthgar in battle” lamented Vaul.

“Death inspires us” she whispered, recalling Rozzo’s return to her smithy. “When he had first arrived, he was but a shell of a man, consumed in his own self-interest and greed. It took the blunt end of an ancient hammer to truly change him” she thought, as her blade bent into perfection with each strike. “When he returned, he spoke with honour and righteousness – a man transformed by the drums of his own demise”.

“The Pelor business is a bit much though,” she uttered aloud. “A strange sun god of agriculture!? A real warrior would praise Uthgar for a chance to gaze upon one’s own blood!”
“Excuse me”. The deep voice shattered her thoughts and she turned to the door gripping the red-hot blade with her scarred hands. “Is my great sword finished?” spoke Bal-Darok, Paladin of Pelor.

“Soon enough” Vaul spoke, standing firming before him, realizing he overheard her fierce words. “Be careful of your words against the Sun Father. His light shines upon all – even those who hide behind the cold shadow of the Winterspire Mountains” decreed Bal-Darok as Rozzo stepped in behind him, nodding in accordance of his new-found faith.

It was then on the 25th day of the Fading that Rozzo and Bal-Darok stood side by side, sun shining behind them for the first time in the history of Winterspire.

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Chapter 7: The Tale of the Gnome and the Yeti

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Scattered tomes of lore and parchments of ancient Illuskan tales laid across her busy desk. The young scholar and aspiring wizard of the stone tower of the Winter’s Library let out a sigh of exhaustion – recording the history of Winterspire was certainly no easy task. As her eyes nearly drifted into a slumber, a small sketch of a Yeti stuffing a wee gnome into its mouth caught her tired eyes.

The sketch laid upon a parchment, titled “Revenge of the Gnome”. It was a strange title, she thought, for a sketch of a massive, motherly yeti. Opening the small sketch, she found a tale – written and dated on the 23rd day of the Fading, 1214. It read:

There once was a wee gnome named Steeb.
Wizard of illusion, arcane and famed dweeb.
He came to me one fine morning ambitious and proud.
Looking for knowledge long lost he prodded and vowed.

Hoping him gone and perhaps dead, I directed him instead:
“Go forth!” I cried “To the Yeti’s Cave!”
“Find the fate of a gnome, not unlike you, wee knave!”
“It is there you find what you seek! It is there you will find yourself!”
Heeding my wise words of wizardry wisdom he set forth.
Bag over his shoulder his little legs went north.

He gathered his friends, Bal-Darok, Niloc and Farin!
Brave folk they were, perhaps too caring.
A holy orc, a tree loving warlock and a psychotic dwarf!
Yet no Yeti could stand in their upon their wharf.

They assailed the mountain, one stone at a time.
A few falls, i’ve heard, but they still could climb.
As the gnome’s Owl let lose their path to the cave.
They conquered the rock with rope, muscle and brain,
For they found a pair of young Yetis, what a pain!

With a shriek and a cry, the mother Yeti came and they were caught!
She was mad, I assure you, at a trespass onto her plot!
Gazing into their eyes and howling to their demise,
She pounded her fists but couldn’t stop their onslaught.
Picking her clean and looting her spleen,

The young gnome Steeb found exactly what he pleased!
A famed Wand of Secrets, a spellbook and some bones,
Of a fellow gnome perhaps he might have known.
And that is how I, famed Wizard of the Winter’s top floor,
Gave upon a quest to Steeb, a gnome of now famed lore.

With a sigh of relief, the young scholar closed the parchment. “Another elaborate rambling of my professor” she thought, and spoke aloud “What good is a tale such as this”. Removing her spectacles, the apprentice rubbed her tired eyes and gave a long yawn. She picked up the parchment and crumbled it with her hand, tossing it into the nearby hearth fire. “Fairy tales have no place in the histories” she whispered as she closed the old door behind her and crept down the towering steps of the Winter’s Library, eager to rest her skeptical head.

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