Icewind Dale

Session 21.5
Candlemas

The angel touches down amidst the bodies of Eira, Nevena, Ardemis, and Søngberg, resuming its guise as the magnificent beauty known as Shannon of Ten Towns. The blizzard it summoned forth will have masked this secret identity from any in Targos who were attempting to look on from behind the walls. Those who looked up, however, will have seen the angel in flight. They will add their tales to the many rumors already circulating in the area about the appearance of angels in the skies and how it foretells of Lathander’s return.

The Targos gate is opened for Shannon and within, she meets with Jared in a longhouse that is lined with furs and silks and glittering gold cups next to singed incense. She informs her dutiful prelate about the bodies outsides in the snow. She orders them brought in to be laid out before her. He sends his faithful pilgrims out at once, the sudden blizzard already fading away. Shannon explains to Jared that she now has “a more suitable elf” and that the “less savory alternative kept in reserve can be released”.

Thus, Marsible the dark elf is also called forth to Shannon—but only after the bodies of the slain heroes are loaded, along with many supplies, onto a ship. The ship, the Coldhorn, was wrought by men and dwarves, but follows an ancient elven plan uncovered from the Moonshae Isles. Shannon explains to Marsible that everything has unfolded “providentially”, and that with their bargain complete, she may go about her dark business in exultation of Shar in Bryn Shander.

After the orcs exact their steep toll in plunder and slaves upon the people of Ten Towns, they recede from whence they came. The chaotic vacuum the orcs leave in their wake provides Marsible all the leeway she needs to conduct her ritual, awakening old and dormant echoes of the Shadow Weave left behind by the Spellplague


Ineffably, Eira, Nevena, and Søngberg rise from their deaths. They find themselves on the angel Salvation’s vessel, the Coldhorn. It is crewed by its most loyal followers and captained by Jared Frosthonor. Salvation, though still in the guise of Shannon, reveals itself to its three captives and proffers their cooperation. It also reveals their course, they make way for Evermeet (pulled as a sled at present over the northern sea ice). Nevena, as rebellious in her second life as in the first, is having none of this plan. Still only barely alive, the three risen companions can put forth no resistance. Nevena is lashed to the bowsprit like a living elven figurehead. Søngberg prays, Eira schemes.

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Session 21
Salvation

Hearing the warning and alarm from Caer-Konig’s shieldmaid about the attack of the orcs, Søngberg advocates altering course in order to aid the people of Ten Towns. Eira and Nevena are unswayed and convince their dwarf companion to avoid this diversion. Ardemis too is more concerned with settling his own score in Targos than battling orcs. If it is only a raid, they will have wasted much time and effort for very little gain. If it is a larger scale attack, what truly can they offer to a desperate situation?

The people of Bryn Shander already know Eira, Nevena, and Søngberg to be mighty heroes who have slain a dread Ice Hag, buried the troll-father Grendel, and silenced the wailing banshees of the Seldarine Tower. They would surely seek all the help they can get against the orcs of the Great Glacier. Hoping to avoid this pressure, Nevena leads the group to the south around Bryn Shander entirely, stepping warily around human and orc scouts alike. Tracks in the snow reveal that both are out on the prowl.

The proximity of scouts means the drums of war cannot be far behind. They all agree to press on through the night without rest, leaving Bryn Shander in the darkness behind them. A few miles outside of Targos, the weather worsens. Nevena and Søngberg agree this change is supernatural. The wind picks up to a storm’s strength, the temperature falls, and an oncoming snow drives down. Though they reach Targos, the blizzard does not abate. Something at the gate is waiting for them, its mind joins with theirs and speaks into their heads with a voice that is calm, genderless, and eternal,

“Turn back. Leave this place.”

Søngberg and Nevena ask questions of the presence. Through the whipping snow in the torch-lit dimness, only a robed figure can be made out. Their questions are turned aside, again they are asked to leave.

“I’ve seen your kind before. Time and time again. Every fleeing man must be caught. Every secret must be unearthed. Such is the conceit of self-proclaimed seekers of truth. But in the end, you lack the stomach for the agony you’ll bring on yourself.”

Insistent, they beg admittance to Targos. Again. Leave. The robed figure reveals that it is armed with a large sword. Turn back. The obstinate Nevena draws the figure’s ire with her refusals; in reply it surrounds them all in a fearsome cage of light. The figure throws off its robe, revealing itself to be a glorious, celestial angel. Its wings are spattered in blood, it wears a shining mantle, terrific and splendid to behold. It is the Angel Salvation. Nevena wears a stray feather from this being in her very hair. It killed her father. This night, it will kill her as well. The angel’s wrath takes the form of holy fire that issues in a beam from its sword. It ensures them all that their …

“… heroism here will be no more than a chapter in a tale of submission”.

One by one, the angel cuts down Nevena and Søngberg. When Ardemis dares to raise his arcane hand against it, unleashing a bolt of lighting, the angel decrees,

“No weapon formed against me shall prosper.”

Eira makes a final stand against the divine foe, her warrior’s instincts made nearly peerless by the Hammer of Tempus in her hands. She and the angel trade blows as Eira’s life is spared several times over by the unassailable boon of the Battlelord. Frustrated and sensing the power of the hammer, Salvation seizes Eira and carries her aloft, high into the polar gyre of the blizzard. Eira crashes several more blows into the being before it yanks the hammer from her grasp, leaving the woman to plummet, defeated 200 feet down to the hard surface of Faerûn.

Eira Ironvale, wielder of Myrnoch, lies broken and lifeless in the snow.

Nevena, the green elf of the north, enemy of Salvation is dead and run through at Eira’s side.

Beside them both lies Songberg Mountainsun of the Mirabar Mountainsuns.
He too is slain by the sword of Salvation.

EXP
Eira 7500
Nevena 7500
Søngberg 7500


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Session 20
An Unsettling Dream

While recovering in fisherman Jhonen’s home from the harrowing journey back to Ten Towns, Søngberg has a particularly vivid and worrying dream. He is greeted with a vision of Eira succumbing to exposure. Navena is lost to a battle between zombie Reghedmen and Orcs warring over the human settlement while he and Eira’s body drift away, on the sea, under the stars, on a small iceberg. They are led on by an angelic figure shining bright in the sky. Søngberg feels Tyr grow nearer as he shepherds Eira’s frozen body into the unknowable horizon.

Søngberg rouses from his unsettling dream to sounds of Nevena and Jhonen talking of her heroic adventure in the eastern mountains against Grendel and the Seldarine Tower’s ghosts. The elf and the fisherman share his pipe, its smoke intermingling with that of his hearthflame’s. Søngberg prays. The humans Eira and Ardemis shudder in their sleep. The wizard’s pixie familiar Argent keeps her eyes trained on the door all night, knowing how uneasy Nevena is with Jared and the devotees of Lathander. Therefore, that night while everyone else sleeps, her back is turned to the presence that silently creeps in by way of the chimney …

The following day, Nevena goes to a watering hole to drink and gather gossip. She discovers that she, a troll-slayer and banisher of banshees is the only matter of gossip to discuss. Jared arrives to Jhonen’s with a posse of his acolytes and watchmen. He seeks the Malefic-sword and information (the map notes) from the Seldarine Tower; they seize the sword from Dheirgryn who is now retired from evil magic and dread monsters of the wild places. Jared then tracks down Nevena to interview her. At this time, Nevena discovers her notes from the map room have gone missing!


Not wishing to impose any further on generous Jhonen, the adventurers reluctantly agree to take up Jared on his arrangement for them to stay in Easthaven’s ‘House of Dignitaries’. The marvelous beauty Shannon visits them all there, hoping to collect her parchments and inks with the notes from the tower. During this meeting, Ardemis’ previous skepticism about Jared’s miscreant motivations recedes when he learns (from the use of his magic) that Shannon’s mind is entirely not human and unlike anything else he’s ever encountered. Shannon agrees to send over fresh, warm winter gear and other odds and ends before departing.

Nevena, Ardemis, Eira, and perhaps even Søngberg now are all highly suspicious of Jared Frosthonor and wish to know more about what is going on under his watch. Ardemis agrees to use his considerable spell power to learn what he can by spying and scrying. After a week in the warm house, now fully recovered from frostbite and exhaustion, Nevena seeks the Shar-witch Marsible Pinewhisk while Eira, Søngberg, and Ardemis return to Bryn Shander. Marsible is not at home, the locals tell of her “taking that child—and heading west. Looked to be going for some time.” Nevena lets herself in and squats in the drow’s home.


Meanwhile in Bryn Shander, most of the 1,000 Heads Trading Coster’s assets have been seized (including much of Eira and Søngberg’s pay). Ardemis continues his campaign of spell-spying in Bryn Shander. Local gossip indicates strange activity of late, people and wagonloads of stuff moving about back and forth to Targos—which is odd for this cold, dark time of year when the snows are at their deepest. Another week passes, bringing more bad news; the upcoming Candlemas festival has been all but cancelled. It will be overseen now by Sessel Morningmantle instead of Jared, with much of the allocated funding and other stores intended for it retracted.

In Bryn Shander, they decide this news is dire enough that they must rejoin with Nevena to discuss next steps. With possibly Marsible, Rynvah, nearly all their material wealth, and of course Jared all rumored to be in Targos, the group agrees they must head west, there to the shore of Maer Dualdon.

On their way, a shield-maid behind a team of sled-dogs from Caer-Konig races past them on her way to Bryn Shander. “Alarm! Alarm! Orcs attack from the north!” She cries before speeding away into the darkness ahead.

EXP
Eira 700
Nevena 700
Søngberg 700

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Session 19
The Long Cold Dark

Having witnessed the expulsion of the demon Malefic by the mightiest of arcane forces, the explorers spend the somber aftermath of that event in deliberation over their next steps. After weighing concerns regarding Nevena’s candle, the need to find respite back in Ten Towns, and the desire to finish exploring the tower, the group resolves to finish what they have started in the tower in hopes of finding the map of which Shannon had spoken.

The first room uncovered is the royal chamber, containing treasures like a large mirror and a pile of gold coins from Dorn’s Deep. Ardemis and Eira each take a few coins as souvenirs, Dheirgryn takes enough to fill a coffer for himself. Next they enter the final room yet unexplored on the third floor, a temple to Aerdrie Fenya, goddess of the wind. A search here leads to a finely preserved horn wrought with exquisite, knot-like ornamental carvings. The foolhardy Nevena, impulsive as ever, bellows into the horn with her companions standing close by. The ensuing explosion of the mishandled magical artifact explodes in the elf’s face, deafening everyone, blowing a hole into the tower wall, and nearly killing Dheirgryn.

Ardemis, having been in another chamber, is the only one uninjured by the blasting horn. He rushes to the commotion and hastily prevents Nevena from bleeding to death, plucking shards of horn from her neck and face. When the dust settles, Dheirgryn storms off in an injured rage to be away from the reckless elf.

Nevena, Eira, Søngberg, and Ardemis move eventually to finish their exploration of the tower’s final floor. There they encounter a second Shield Guardian not unlike the construct that protected the tower’s main gate. A battle with the deadly automaton in the gloom of Ardemis’ spell-light is nearly joined until Nevena notices at the last moment that it bears a sigil on its chest matching that of the amulet she wears—the one recovered from the Mythal Banshee. A dangerous situation is diffused peacefully as it becomes clear Nevena can command the guardian with her mind; she orders it to stand down and follow her.

Much of this final floor of the tower is a ruin of empty dormitories, great halls, a kitchen, and the like. However the door beyond, that was being protected by the guardian, is home to a ‘false turret’ that bears wondrous, ornate carvings and mosaics along the convex walls and floor. The finely laid stonework tracery that forms the walls reveal a pattern that calls attention to certain stars. The group spends hours here combining their knowledge, wits, and gathered lore to unfurl this room’s secrets until at last they realize this chamber is a map to the fabled elven Isle of Evermeet. During their study, Nevena notices that Ardemis, using the same divination magic he already has employed to scout ahead, has already begun taking notes on this chamber with the scrivener materials provided by Shannon of Ten Towns. Nevena demands he hand over his work, seeking to protect this knowledge which is meant only for elvenkind. Faced with exhaustion, injury, severe cold, and a need for reliance and trust to survive this ordeal, he reluctantly agrees to surrender what he has taken down. As a protest for this seizure, however, Ardemis takes this opportunity to visit Dheirgryn below, who also is angry with Nevena.

With Ardemis gone, so too is his mystic light that enables he and Eira to see inside the dark interior of the tower. She and Søngberg improvise a torch and continue exploring the tower while they wait for everyone’s tempers to cool. The first thing they find, in another turret—its roof broken in and collapsed—is a strange and unnatural bridge of ice leading high into the dark mountainscape. Both judge this obstacle far too dangerous and unpredictable, they turn away. The final turret holds what remains of the elven armory. Among the worn chaos of the armory turret they discover fine elven shields, embossed with fabulous devices depicting their ancient hippogriff knights of old and a bright, sturdy hauberk of elven chainmail. Eira doffs these, securing a shield for Dheirgryn as well.

Satisfied that the tower’s secrets are known, its treasures found, and its evil curses purged, the banshee slayers make ready for Ten Towns; there are no plans to rendevous with the Reghedmen since the long dark has set in. On the way out, the wolf carcass and ’Brandish’s’ ever-dripping sword are given a wide berth, left to rot in the cold dark. As they head back down the mountain, Relserevayne’s phantom can be seen at the gate, sternly observing their departure. Nevena easily finds the trail of blood left behind by Brandish’s blade, but they opt not to follow it. She instead is tempted greatly at the trail indicated by her Candle of Auril, but she is wisely talked down from this venture by the others. They need her.

Indeed, Nevena’s wilderness survival knowledge and Ardemis’ magic is all that keeps them alive for the journey back west in the Stygian darkness of Icewind Dale. In the end, it is an ice fisher who discovers them out on Lac Dineshere—half dead from exhaustion, hunger, dehydration, and frostbite. They are brought in to his warm lodging. They are fed, clothed, and warmed, but dizzy and disoriented in their spare waking moments by the rigors of their quest.

EXP
Eira 700
Nevena 700
Søngberg 700

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Session 18
The Severed Hand, Part 3

Feeling they have earned some semblance of control over the frigid and haunted elven tower with their blood and valor, the explorers retreat to the second floor to rest and recover in the confines of the library. Having seen the Mythal active in the throne room, Ardemis renews his studies of the ancient lore while Søngberg prepares for the consecration of more holy water, a necessity for ridding the throne room of its final ‘flameskull’. Eira, Nevena, and Dheirgryn bandage their wounds and try to stay warm.

With bandages set, the wizard finishes his research into the Mythal and its secrets. As a group, they all head up the stairs once again, this time beyond the Temple of Solonor and into the tower’s fourth and final floor. Encountering an antechamber ajoined with several long corridors, they ignore those and instead head straight away to a pair of flanking doors leading into the ‘fingers’ of the so-called ‘Severed Hand’ tower. Equipped with a warding amulet left behind by the Throne Banshee, Nevena is able to bypass warding runes inscribed on these doors by the ancient elves. They explore two of these turret-structures; one once played host to sorcerers and the other to Seldarine priests. They sift through piles of old vestments, ruined iconography, disheveled maps and broken astrolabes. Among the maps, Nevena hopes to eventually compare the star charts and ley lines uncovered in the kobold caves with what is here. Eira finds literature on dryads that interests her and pieces enough for a working spyglass, assuming a skilled artisan can be found to rework them.

More importantly, they also discover precious silver and diamond dust, rare inks and special parchments, bits of meteorite, and the magic elven candles—the latter of which Nevena impulsively tosses out a window at first sight. Nevena separates from the group, heading out of the tower to fetch the candles; once those are returned everything that is needed is on hand. Ardemis can craft his spell and Søngberg his holy water.

======

With the holy water consecrated, the throne room is again approached, this time with caution and resolve in equal measure. The wily, disembodied abomination has rekindled as expected and once more flys out of reach, tasking Nevena and her arrows with dispatching it. She succeeds, but not before sustaining burns from its fiery eyes. As Søngberg swoops in, exercising the skull for good with his divine draft, an apparition appears attended by the sudden, livid, and azure illumination of Nevena’s Candle of Auril.

The baelnorn Relserevayne1 (rel-SAIR-uh-vain) has been disturbed by this trespass; he takes the form of a phantom and has the look of a majestic elven lord in full regalia. Identifying Nevena as the only elf present, he speaks with her in their vaunted tongue. Nevena asserts they mean no harm, having come only to deal with the evil sword that plagues them. Relserevayne has only warnings for them: that a corrupted elf hunts them to this tower, that this room is a place of great power—and his are not the only eyes that watch it for disturbance—and that should they fail in their enterprise with the sword, he will repay them all for their transgressions here in the Seldarine Tower, where only the dead belong. The elven ghost fades from view, leaving the party alone once more in the throne room.

With the Mythal secured, the group sets about their task. Ardemis is left alone in the throne room with Malefic while Eira and Dheirgryn keep watch from the entrance. Nevena and Songberg take up lookout positions on the floor below, their eyes peeled for signs of the ‘corrupted stalker’ they were warned about. Ardemis will need hours of uninterupted work. During this time, his familiar, the long-hidden Argent appears to fetch for her master, the scrivener’s tools Shannon of Ten Towns provided to Søngberg.

Hours pass, how many it is hard to say as the time-telling sun has been lost to winter’s darkness. Nevena’s keen ears are the first to notice a voice calling out. A ragged figure, attended by a large white wolf approaches the tower. It is the forlorn wreckage of Brandish’s fallen body. The wolf with him is not Bishop, but instead some dire creature of Icewind Dale. Brandish holds his shortsword, wet blood—balefully unfrozen—mars the blade. It drips in a long dotted line, drawing his path down the mountain behind him. After a brief, unsettling parley with—at least the ruined form of their old companion—Nevena and Søngberg and Dheirgryn head to the lowest level of the tower to intercept him.

Seeing him up close, their worst fears are confirmed. The revenant spirit of Istryn Ashbinder has returned, puppeting their dead friend before them. His venegeful glare is so malicious, it paralyzes the stout dwarven paladin with immense fear. Sensing wavering prey, the wolf attacks with a blistering frost that spills out of its mouth and onto all three of them. Their only hope is again with the elven magic and so Nevena traps Brandish within a mystic prison just as they had with the Throne Banshee. Together, the three of them cut down the wolf, leaving Istryn-Brandish behind to bellow his insults and threats. Having had enough of his words, Nevena attempts to slay him with arrows, but gives up after firing enough to fell a dozen men or more. The undead Brandish simply pulls the many arrows from his body, snapping the hafts spitefully as he goes.

They need the might of Tyr, as it was Søngberg who smote Istryn in their first melee. Their foe is not bested, but he is trapped, and so they pause to consider their options with Eira. They agree to surround and overpower Brandish in hand-to-hand combat with Søngberg employing his sacred weapon to finish the deed. As he is unafraid of arrows or even Eira’s hammer, Istryn-Brandish makes a single-minded effort to murder his sworn enemy, the dwarf Søngberg Mountainsun.

======

Brandish’s body is shot by more arrows, his unholy will is strong enough even to resist the gorgon bow’s petrifying power. Eira shatters the bones inside his body. And though Søngberg indeed burns this menace with his holy hammer, it is he that falls first in battle. Dheirgryn is quick to pull the dwarf away from the pernicious bite of Brandish’s ever-bleeding sword just a heartbeat before it can finish him. Her foe distracted while he exults over the fallen paladin, Eira quickly topples him as Argent appears bravely from the ether wielding a lit candle. She plunges it into the undead elf and though her efforts are in vain, they serve as a reminder that fire can cleanse undeath—permanently.

Overcome by grief and rage, and with no better plan, Eira stands over the twice-dead Brandish as her weapon makes a sorrowful mess of her former ally, preventing his regeneration in the short term. This frenzy buys enough time for a hasty bier of kindling and oil to be assembled. The bier is lit, leaving only a smoking and blackened crater of agony behind.

======

The hours remaining before Ardemis finishes his work leave space for the adventurers to collect their thoughts before, at last, the wizard emerges. Ardemis explains that for his efforts, combined here with the energy of the Elven Mythal, he has crafted a mystic scroll capable of a power to alter even the work of the gods above; Ardemis has made a Wish scroll. This could be used to undo the curse upon Rynvah, to expel the vengeful Istryn, to banish Malefic’s evil presence, or any other wonder that could be imagined. If they use it now, they must think carefully on how best to employ it. The wizard recommends a vote.

  • Søngberg’s mind is made up, the evil sword must be dealt with—any other use of the scroll would be selfish in his eyes.
  • Eira thinks the revenant Istryn ought to be banished for good.
  • Dheirgryn agrees with Eira, Istryn represents a clear danger that nearly killed them.
  • Nevena, having handled the sword and been seduced by it, sides with the dwarf.
  • Ardemis, who best understands the scroll’s potential, is reluctant to agree dealing with the sword is a wise choice. He trusts the paladin’s council.

And so, scroll in hand, the wizard from Calimport, friend of Hrothgar, Ardemis Antreri prepares to cast his mighty spell. At the last moment, he hands it over to the dwarven paladin, rueful that the sword has tempted him as well. Ever mistrustful of magic, but certain of his task, the dwarven voice of Søngberg Mountainsun, Hand Of Tyr, Slayer of Grendel resounds from within the Seldarine Tower; the gods listen in at the ‘wisdom’ this mere mortal has to work upon their Creation.

“I wish to remove the power from the entity behind the evil of this sword and all intent thereof. May it never return to harm this world or any other.”

In an epic vortex of eldritch power, the demon Malefic is expunged from the sword and Faerûn entire. The imp Rodney, freed of his bondage, dances in the air triumphantly and out of sight. The sword, exercised of its enchantment, is gifted to Dheirgryn.

1 Relserevayne: Not truly a name, translated from Elven into the common tongue of men, this means ‘My daughter Evayne is dead’

EXP
Eira 3500
Nevena 3900
Songberg 3700

Inspiration Awards
Eira +1 for roleplay
Nevena +1 for leyline/star chart/map connection
Songberg +1 for roleplay

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Session 17
The Severed Hand, Part 2

Weary, injured, and more than a little frightened after their struggle with the undead, the explorers of the Seldarine Tower decide to back-track, investigating the final room of the second floor. To their relief, they find only an empty workshop, silent and untrammeled by ghosts or angry bones. Like the rest of the tower, this chamber’s contents are covered with a mingling of frost and dust that magnify its stillness. Nevena uncovers a single remaining (and mercifully intact) healing potion amidst a wreckage of broken glass and dried stains.

They are about to press on before Ardemis stops everyone, advising they employ one of the recently found elven scrolls. The elves used their scrolls, in an age long past, to govern and police the Frozenfar and this same magic can aid the party here and now. The scrolls are able to locate and bind their enemies; using one, Ardemis cautions that indeed another banshee haunts the room directly above them. Armed with this information, Nevena heads back into the workshop, looking for something to plug her pointed, elven ears. Following her lead, Søngberg finds a store of old candles. They warm the wax with misty exhalations, by rubbing their shaking hands, and with simple magics—making it soft and pliant. They each plug their ears with the wax to ward against a banshee’s greatest threat—it’s harrowing wail.

Proceeding upstairs, they enter a chapel dedicated to the Elven Hunter-God, Solonor Thelandira. More signs of battle with the orcs desecrate the chapel, the floor is littered with arrowheads, broken bones, scraps of cracked leather, moldering rugs and fallen chandeliers. Eagle motifs, carved from marble and basalt, dedicated to Great Solonor are perched high and look down with predatory dispassion. Ardemis indicates the banshee could be on the other side of the wall of this chapel. Their exit leads to an antechamber where they discover a barrier of light and smoke veiling the central chamber of this floor.

Attempts to peer through the gate of fog are fruitless, so Nevena resorts again to her mystic sword for guidance. In a desperate plea, she merges her mind with that of the fiend Malefic, seeking answers to questions about what stands between them and this eerie fog. The elf’s companions are not party to this ‘conversation’, however, and are surprised to see her next simply charge into what they learn is a throne room with a wordless and grim purpose. Still honing in on the banshee, occluded at first in the astral plane, Ardemis unleashes the Magic Circle, trapping the spirit in a mystic prison. A half-dozen more skeletal minions of the creature arise—these appear to be former priests and wizards. Two of the skulls seated on the bony shoulders are wreathed in a spectral, blue inferno. The wax-plugged ears prove to be useful as the banshee’s frustrated wail this time does not cut down its audience. With this, the banshee is impotent, forced to watch the fray from inside its magic prison.

As before, Eira’s hammer pulverizes the skeletons into fragments before she is in turn scorched horribly by rays of fire from the burning skulls. Nevena’s magic bow pierces bone and spirit alike and then she too is cut down by a skeleton trapped along with the banshee. With the elf powerless and dying on the floor, Søngberg rushes over both to save her with his miraculous hands—but also to wrest the fiendish sword from her grasp. The evil of the blade, unable to appeal beyond his faith, burns his flesh even through the glove on his hand. Ardemis unleashes lightning to finish off the flaming skulls. All the while, an unseen aura of heroic virtue, a blessing issuing from Søngberg—and conferred to his allies—is often all that stands between victory and total ruin. Ultimately, the banshee, surrounded and trapped, is the last to be sent screaming back into the abyss. Everyone knows another fight like this will spell their doom. They have pushed themselves too hard; they agree to save their strength again.

Søngberg takes the sword away from Nevena, back into the Chapel of Solonor. Wishing to destroy it somehow, instead he passes out, his psyche overwhelmed by the force of the sword’s will. This spurs an argument over the sword, its effect on all of them, and what is to be done about it. At this, Rodney appears to offer advice, to belittle their fears and delight in their discord. Just when it seems like the argument is at an impasse, Ardemis realizes the Elven Mythal in the throne room holds the key. The magic of the ancient elven spell, strong enough to undo Rynvah’s curse is likely potent enough to destroy the sword or perhaps banish its demonic occupant. Ardemis must return to the library to learn more about the Mythal before this can be attempted.

Time spent arguing and resting reveal that the flaming skulls are restoring themselves somehow! Søngberg dashes into the throne room, dousing one with holy water. The other appears long enough to blast everyone with an explosive ball of fire before shattering a second time to Nevena’s arrows. Eira, badly burned, comes closer than she ever has to death here, saved only by the ministrations of Ardemis who has learned healing practices from the Reghed shamans. The wizard then convinces them the library downstairs remains safe and it holds the secrets for their next steps.

Miles away, at the foot of the mountains, the sun is kissing the horizon goodbye. In the dying light, we see the mastodon of the barbarians crumpled into the snow, its wooly fur encased in hoarfrost and rime. The large black eyes of the noble creature are still and hollow. Massive, bloody paw prints guide the eye to a grisly scene. Aoschere and his men have had their throats torn out, their entrails scattered by some massive beast. The scene is still, quiet enough to give notice to the sound of a man’s footfalls, plodding and crunching in the snow. A dotted line of blood, dripping down onto the white powder, follows beside the solitary footprints leading away from the dead Reghedmen.

EXP:
Eira 4250
Nevena 4250
Søngberg 4250

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Session 16
The Severed Hand, Part 1

Aoschere and a small band of his Reghedmen hunters gather their mastodons, leading Nevena, Eira, Søngberg and their companions back to the foot of the mountains. The hunters, fearing for the safety of these adventurers, state they will wait and camp here for no more than two days time; after that, the long dark will have set in for many months. The party has made this next hike once already, and so their ascent to the ancient refuge of the ‘Severed Hand’ is conducted without undue trouble. The trouble this time, in fact, is not brought by Icewind Dale’s hazards, but by a tense standoff between a pixie and an imp! The wizard Ardemis reveals he has with him a secret familiar—his faerie servant, Argent. So there are now two familiars with the group, Argent and Rodney; each is aware of—and loathsome of—the other.

With the proverbial cat out of the bag, Rodney and the sword are explained. Trusting in Søngberg’s principles, Ardemis listens to the tale of the fiend blade from him, and is encouraged to learn that all gathered wish to dispose of it, they simply are unsure how to go about it ‘correctly’. With this, suspicions between elf and dwarf, human and fae and fiend all seem to grow with the deepening darkness and cold as they climb toward the fortress. Upon their arrival, the first thing noticed is that the wreckage of the guardian construct that protected the old elven stronghold is missing. Only soot-smears in the snow remain to tell the tale that something was once here. The soot smears are investigated further, and it seems as though some beast or collection of animals has been through, disturbing the area. No tracks or drags marks are found, however, and Søngberg guesses that maybe something flying carried off the guardian’s remains.

Inside the tower, the first level is familiar territory, everything is as the group remembers. Before moving up the stairs, Ardemis casts a powerful divination spell, allowing him to see further inside the tower with his mind. He is terse, reporting only that there is a library right above them, and that hopefully answers can be found in there. Before reaching the library, the stairs lead to a workshop that was likely used to outfit the elven hippogryph mounts that trod these halls centuries ago. The room is in ruins, there are signs of ancient battle between orc and elf; their arrows litter the frost-covered floor. Søngberg takes the lead in an investigation, during which a pale elven spirit enters the room by walking through a wall. The spectral dignity of the apparition quickly changes to horror, its face twisting into a wretched mockery of faerie grace as it unleashes a caterwaul from beyond the grave. The fell keen burrows into the souls of Dheirgrin and Søngberg, but they withstand the deathly sound.

The banshee, driven mad at the sight of interlopers, flees. In its wake, awoken by the sound of its scream, a dozen skeletons arise! Even the bones of a hippogryph steed assemble. The ensuing melee will prove the steed has some twisted memory of its elven magic as it blasts lightning from its bone-beak. Here, Ardemis proves his mettle though, and unleashes bolts of his own. Søngberg realizes during all of this chaos, that some manner of evil magic—perhaps the banshee—has lit candles in the room which serve to bolster the undead. Eira and Dheirgin and Søngberg and Navena are surrounded by the bones of the ancient dead and are hacked at mercilessly. But they hack back, scattering the brittle bones and rusted weapons again onto the floor, moving quick to also snuff out the candles. They catch their breath and issue prayers for healing, unsure of what other dangers lay ahead.

Not far away, the library Ardemis spoke of is uncovered. A few hours are spent here resting up and shining magic lights in the darkness. They sift through dust, piles of rubble, and frost-cracked tomes. In the end, Ardemis announces a lucky find of some utilitarian spell scrolls, but noting only mundane lore remains here. Whatever secrets the elves kept of their magic was long ago cherry-picked from this chamber. Disappointed, they press on, despite fear and protest from the wizard.

Daring as ever, Nevena throws open another door. Søngberg, seeing in this room more candles—as yet unlit—charges ahead to deal with them. Nevena follows suit. The banshee reappears and has with it a second! More skeletons arise at the sound of yet another wail. This sound, even louder and more terrific than the one before it, is like a thousand dirges. It is the deep, screeching, moaning echo from the black pit between the stars. It penetrates the bones, thrumming them like tuning forks which very nearly kills Nevena and Eira. Ardemis and Dheirgin have a doorway between them and the wail, so they each fare better. Ardemis, thinking quick on his feet, opens a Dimension Door, placing Eira into the room, right next to Nevena. With only the might of the hammer Myrnoch to keep her alive, Eira smites the banshees, together with Søngberg’s holy energy and the spells from Ardemis’ hands. More bones lay at their feet, the battle is won, but at great cost.

EXP:
Eira 4300
Nevena 4300
Søngberg 4300

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Session 15
Grendel

A strenuous hike back into the Spine of the World sees Eira tumble in the dark and nearly break her arm. The party presses on; Navena the elf—or perhaps the wicked sword, Malefic—has faithfully guided the group to the ancient elven fortress known as the ‘Hand of the Seldarine’. Guarding the ruination of the temple is a sentinel of wood and stone and metal, as old as the structure itself, lichen-grown, silent, and still.

A test shot from Navena’s bow confirms the sentinel is indeed a magical construct and it charges the intruders. Black smoke issues from within the guardian. Taking formation from within the swirl of dark smoke, eight elven effigies arise. They assist the guardian in its defense, breathing choking, blinding vapors and rending flesh with their ashen claws. The guardian swings it massive fists, pounding Eira’s bones.

Eira pounds back, her indomitable hammer ringing through the peaks. For brief moments, she feels the eyes of Tempus upon her glory. However the mountainside fills with even more black smoke, the battle with the sentinel descends into a pure and frantic bedlam. A blind Søngberg clobbers Naf by mistake and then drops his hammer. A blind Dheirgrin collides with Eira, knocking her to the ground. A blind Navena runs Dheirgrin through with her flaming sword by mistake, very nearly killing him.

With focused effort, the temple’s guardians are eventually over-matched. No lives are lost and the construct is no more than a pile of wreckage, its servants are scattered to the harsh, cold winds of the Spine of the World. Søngberg inspects the construct, pausing to consider working a shield from its breastplate, but decides that is a task for different circumstances. Wasting no time, Navena plunges headlong into the tower. A massive greeting hall, a pale shadow of its former glory comprises the first level of the tower. In her initial investigation, Navena springs a glyph trap, a mystic ward left by the elves, and is jolted by forks of lightning as she crosses a threshold. This greeting hall and its office hold only bones of the ancient dead, elves and at least one dwarf. Søngberg, with dwarven pragmatism, takes the adamantine armor found still hugging the long dead dwarven bones. Drielle gives a prayer for the departed soul. Exhausted by the climb to the tower, injured by the sentinel, and certain this place is haunted, the group decides to hold up here and rest. A terrifying night, full of dark dreams and biting cold is spent resting in the desolate shelter of the haunted tower.

Morning eventually comes without incident. Navena, still conflicted about where to go and what should be done, agrees with her companions (and also, the guidance of her new sword, it should be added) to seek the wizard Ardemis elsewhere. Navena leads everyone back toward the tracks she found in search of the Reghedmen of the Great Glacier. A Reghedman scout riding a mastodon, a man named Aoschere, finds them first. Aoschere sees Eira, in her Uthgardt trappings, as the touchstone and treats with her. Drielle, with a spell, is able to help translate. Eira draws skillfully upon her knowledge of the Uthgardt and their barbarian kin, her communication with Aoschere goes as smoothly as possible. Søngberg offers up trade goods as well to grease the wheels even further.

Aoschere will not bring these strange travelers before his chieftan-king so armed, thus Søngberg and Dheirgrin stay behind with all the weapons, including the fiend blade, Malefic taken from Istryn Ashbinder. While the others are away, the imp Rodney—thought dead—reappears and hectors Søngberg and Dheirgrin with snowballs and equally icy jibes.

The wizard Ardemis does appear among the barbarians, acting as translator for an audience with the chieftan-king of the Reghedmen, Hrothgar. Ardemis owes his life to Hrothgar who will not release him without first consulting his omenspeaker. In the meantime, Eira and Navena speak with the wizard about their troubles. Ardemis is unsure anything can be done about Brandish, especially with no body available. As for Rynvah, he says only something exceptionally pure would be needed to fuel a spell that could save her and he is shocked to learn Navena has with her an angel’s feather. He is also amazed to learn these travelers have visited the tower of the Severed Hand and lived to tell the tale, particularly because the Reghedmen believe the dragon Ingistor (‘Blizzardfang’) makes its abode there. But it is agreed they will all venture back there in search of the powerful elven magic to be found within.

However Hrothgar’s terms, it is announced, are that Ardemis will not leave the Reghedmen unless these newcomers can slay the creature Grendel which will soon terrorize his people once the long dark takes over the sky. This elicits a collection of gasps and wry laughter from the barbarians. Søngberg easily convinces his companions that monster-slaying is a righteous cause. Naf and Dheirgrin, hardy warriors of Tempus fear only that their courage might fail and agree to come. Drielle too, reminds everyone that she does not fear death, and is ever-ready for Myrkul’s embrace. Hrothgar orders his best man, Gunferth to lead the monster-slayers to a frozen lake where great Grendel hides from the world above.

A crack in the ice leads below, becoming a tunnel, along the bottom of the lake. The hollowed carapace of a Remorhaz is tromped through, until finally the lair is found. Rodney lazily reports, ‘sure, there’s a troll in here, but it’s dead’. Søngberg is first to descend into the lair, verifying Rodney’s claim. There’s a second, much larger troll in here as well, though. It is very much alive and it flattens Søngberg with a thrown boulder. Grendel is shot with arrows, pounded with hammers, and slashed by swords. Its foul blood spills, burning Dheirgrin and corroding his weapons. Naf meets his doom, rent by Grendel’s claws and tossed like a rag-doll. At last, the creature topples and Søngberg dives aside rather than be caught under it, his flesh and armor alike are burned by the corrosive blood. Navena rushes forward and beheads the ‘unkillable’ Troll-father with her flaming blade, Malefic.

Grendel’s only treasure, it seems, is a massive sword—clearly the work of giants. The great weapon is plunged into the ice of the frozen lake. Søngberg urges Navena to melt it free with her fiery sword. This proves to be a disastrous decision, however. Releasing the giant weapon sunders more ice, the cracks spread and grow with a boom. Frigid water begins to rush the chamber. Everyone immediately flees. Navena is first to escape up to the tunnel, but with considerable difficulty as she is carrying Grendel’s massive head. Dheirgin is next and in his panic, cannot make the climb until he is saved by Navena’s helping hand. Eira follows, scampering up the rope that allowed the initial descent. Søngberg—with the broken body of young Naf—is the last man out, jumping easily up to the tunnel, aided by the magic boots found in the elven tower. Drielle, with her lame leg, knows she cannot escape this peril, however. Her last words are a command for her friends to “RUN!” She and the giant sword and the body of Grendel are lost under the water forever.

EXP
Eira 6500 XP
Navena 6500 XP
Søngberg 6500 XP

Reghedmen Renown
Eira 10
Nevena 10
Søngberg 10

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Session 14
The Revenant

The troublemaker at the gates of Bryn Shander is none other than ‘Istryn Ashbinder’, the condemned man Søngberg left behind, on the other side of the mountains, in his strange tree-cage outside of Fireshear so many weeks ago. The man has become an undead horror, his body preserved beyond death so that his blasphemous vengeance can be maintained. He carries in one hand a longsword shrouded in hellfire and in the other, the severed head of Haugaard Glimgrun of Ironmaster. He is attended by an imp who promptly disappears moments later when things become violent.

Instryn calls out that Søngberg’s head will be next. In response, the dwarf charges ahead to meet his foe, to avenge his dead friend. A wave of the flaming sword calls forth a wall of flame which quickly starts to turn the wooden palisade of Byrn Shander to cinders. Navena is burned and tumbles from her perch on the watchtower, only to be stung square in the chest by the imp’s wicked tail. The next spell out of Istryn’s powerful sword is a lightning-bolt-like-tether that continually jolts Søngberg with agonizing energy. Though the dwarf is nearly killed, Søngberg’s radiant hammer pounds Istryn until he is no more. Eira’s mighty blows destroy Rodney, the imp. Meanwhile, Drielle, Dheirgrin (a newcomer and follower of Eira), and Jared—who all were also summoned to this scene—are caught behind the other side of the flaming wall.

The aftermath is chaos as the people of Ten Towns rush to put out the spreading fire, but one thing is sure: Søngberg is certain Istryn’s sword is evil and that none should handle it! Navena watches over the evil blade and keeps her keen eyes to the dark horizon, alert for more trouble Istryn may have brought with him. It seems all that remains of Istryn Ashbinder is his sword, lying in the snow. Søngberg looks to Drielle for guidance, but she pleads ignorance and suggests Jared would be the person to consult. And so Jared is fetched which unnerves Navena as she has come to fear this ‘cleric’ she calls a liar and a killer of elvenkind.

As Jared does arrive on the scene, something takes hold of Navena and she quickly snatches the sword and rushes off into the frigid darkness. Navena seeks the comfort of another elf, Marsible, drow though she may be. Jared, though confused about the conflicting reports he has heard, is simply glad that everyone is safe, the menace is stopped, and that the fire is out. Everyone (but Navena) returns to the Snug Haven Inn to get what little rest they can.

The events of the night prior have done nothing to deter the group from seeking the wizard Ardemis to the east. So the following morning, a woman of extreme beauty, Shannon arrives to the Snug Haven Inn and pleads with Søngberg and Eira to convince their elven friend to venture to the ‘Hand of the Seldarine’ and locate there a starmap which legend tells only an elf can see. Shannon says the Lathanderans cannot succeed in their upcoming solstice ritual without this map. The two agree to pass along her message and they seek their friend in Easthaven. It is perhaps none too surprising to learn Marsible does not fear the sword as much as the others as she is a cleric of the evil goddess Shar. When the drow’s advice is sought, she explains that in her view, the sword is merely a tool.

Deciding ultimately that the weapon is too dangerous to be left alone, Navena resolves to keep the blade, called ‘Malefic’, and to take it away from the Ten Towns on their journey east. The Tempuran warriors Dheirgrin and Naf join Eira, eager to see this woman swing such a hammer. And so Eira, Drielle, Søngberg, Navena, Dheirgrin and Naf depart Easthaven, with just under two weeks left before the sun sets completely for three straight months. Following secret guidance from the sword, Navena is tugged in multiple directions: the party crosses tracks of what is likely Reghedmen, Navena ignores these and presses on for the Elven tower, but is distraught to learn her candle-which-will-not-light has ignited of its own volition, inside her pack. It emits a cold blue flame, and has already burned some of her items ‘into frost’. The candle, an item sacred to Auril, seems to indicate a third direction south along the mountains.

Unsure of what to do, Navena eschews both the Reghedmen and the candle’s indication, and instead uses the sword’s guidance—without telling her friends—to lead them all to the Elven Tower where she hopes to find Ardemis.

EXP
Eira 2,500 XP
Navena 2,500 XP
Søngberg 2,500 XP

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Session 13
Ten Towns

Rynvah’s curiosity draws her toward the broken down cart. Everyone else follows, unsure of what to expect, but ready for anything. Without warning, a dread spirit—a wraith—emerges from the cart flying straight for the young, defenseless girl. Rynvah screams and clutches her dark gem. The wraith passes straight through the girl, just as it had the cart a moment prior. It collides instead with Eira and the two trade blows, the wraith with its dark claws from beyond the grave and Eira with her mighty Battlelord’s hammer. Drielle, thinking quick, rebukes the creature with her symbol of Myrkul. It flees, but not before sending hitherto unseen spectral guardians after the group to complete its grim handiwork. The specters are dispatched with ease, however, thanks to the magic weapons and spells of Navena, Eira, and Drielle. Certain the wraith will return in moments, knowing it will outpace them all if they run, Drielle urges the group to stand their ground and prepare to face the creature or be killed. This warning does nothing to prevent Navena from poking around in the broken wagon. Inside she discovers the human remains that are responsible for the twisted, undead souls. Navena badly damages her armor when hurrying to escape the confines of the wagon with a strongbox full of treasure.

The wraith returns in full force, seizing upon Navena with its life-hungry claws, hoping to add yet another specter to its ranks. Before it can, the radiance of Søngberg’s hammer helps to seal the creature’s fate, erasing it from the living lands of Faerûn. For her trouble, Navena helps herself to the (likely magical) armor worn by the dead man found in the wagon. The earthly remains of his spectral bodyguards surely lie buried under years of snowfall and permafrost. A journal they find tells the tale of this man trying to escape religious upheaval in Ten Towns, of his trying to save his wealth from redistribution. His final entry was a curse to Auril for the blizzard which surely spelled his doom. With the dead merchant’s considerable wealth now in tow, the group sets out ever northward in search of Ten Towns.

Almost a full week of bitter cold later, the frosted palisade of Bryn Shander can be seen on the horizon. Outside the gates, they pass gibbets of executed transgressors, which is a sight perhaps all too common in the warmer lands of the south. This far north, it seems life is just as cheap, if not more so. Close inspection, however, makes Navena certain some of the skeletons within a few of the cages are elven. The people of Bryn Shander welcome the group, always eager to trade goods and tales with new travelers. On their way in, they witness the hanging of a “thief” being put to death for “stealing something in Targos” the innkeeper says.

The exhausted adventurers take several days to recuperate from the weariness of their journey before acquainting themselves with the Ten Towns. Eira and Søngberg visit the shrine to Tempus in Good Mead where the former makes waves with the sight of her hammer. Søngberg, dutiful to a fault, busies himself with labor needed by the Trading Coster. Navena and Eira join a hunting party, one of the last of the season, in search of more ivory and are successful. While those two are away, Søngberg looks into what can be done about Rynvah, visiting both Sessel Morningmantle, the Cleric of Lathander and Marsible Pinewhisk, the drow priestess of Shar. After some deliberating, and with all due respect given, it is decided the orphaned hag-daughter will spend a trial period with the drow priestess.

Marsible, as a supplicant of Shar, is aware of many secret things. She learns of Rnyvah’s true nature and also of the death of Brandish. She explains, for the price of a magic scroll, how Brandish died—eaten by a giant monster—and that for reasons she cannot glean, his soul is not laid to rest and that perhaps some necromancy has placed it in a foreign body. As for Rynvah, Marsible is quite certain the girl will one day soon become a terrible Ice Hag like her mother and that saving her from this fate is entirely beyond her ken. She tells them that the wizard Ardemis, driven into exile out of the Ten Towns, is their best hope. He was last seen heading east, toward the mountains, so two likely places he could be is living among the Reghedmen of the Great Glacier or perhaps in a ruined fortress known as the ‘Severed Hand’.

A few nights later, as the party is making their preparations to depart in search of Ardemis, a watchman bursts into the Snug Haven Inn, “A crazed man with a fiery sword is at the gate! He calls for a ‘Tyrran Midget’ and his friends!?’ There is some sort of demon imp with him!”

EXP
Eira 2,500 XP (+ 400 Bonus XP for the ivory hunt)
Navena 2,500 XP (+ 500 Bonus XP for the ivory hunt)
Søngberg 2,500 XP (+ 350 Bonus XP for discovering the ‘Saving Rynvah Quest’)

Trading Coster Renown
Eira – Rank 1: Apprentice
Navena – Rank 1: Apprentice
Søngberg – Rank 2: Journeyman

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