Jordania

The Scrolls of Jordania

Of the many stories that travel the world of Jordania; none are more common than that of the Great War. Tales of the World Smasher tearing through the armies in the west and the birth of the Warforged at the hands of the Dragonborn are told as bedtime stories to the ever receptive ears of young children. To curb the mischievous behaviors of the less than aasimonic, the tales of yore are transformed into lessons centered on the looming threat of Iuz. A threat made only more real by the vision of the seers that the magical gates would bring the end of days and the speculation that this event would mark the return of Iuz. Though such recounts are merely for the sake of posterity, there is little argument that the truth behind their existence has never been more real. More than one group of adventurers has attempted to etch their names into the scrolls of history in their search for answers. Few have returned from their journey alive, and those that have had no success in breaching the threshold of mystery. This is the story of just one more group of adventurers hoping to learn the meaning behind the vision, to discover their worth in the world and to fulfill personal quests for peace of mind. It begins with the militia in Forestwatch and a small band of new recruits setting out on a simple quest. A test to determine their abilities and whether or not they have what it takes to become true warriors.

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The Rite of Passage

Early morning; the group meets at the gates to the keep; prepared to begin their trek to the Caves of Chaos in the Cat’s Paw Forest. Their mission: to find a gold plate and return it to Master at Arms, Dexter. They appear a ragged group of miscreants; young and green, never having seen real battle, they were eager for a chance to prove their prowess. There was Salvath, a human magic user claiming to be of noble blood and the son of a powerful mage; Rauli, a grey elf with a penchant for ‘sleight of hand’ acquisition and an apparent dislike for half-elves. Two human fighters; Deathadder, obnoxious and headstrong with a reputation for racing headfirst into a fight and Sabine, who uses her feminine wiles to obtain an advantage in ‘negotiations’ with men; the lone wolf, Aramil, an elf of few words but a crack shot with his bow; two clerics from the local guild, both human, Allbright and Darlah; and last, but not least, is me, apprentice to the famous bard, Orion, eager to earn my place in Bardic circles next to my mentor as one of the most heroic of our times. We, this small band of eager recruits to the militia of Forestwatch, are about to embark on our journey into the legacy of Jordania.

The task bestowed upon us seemed a simple one; enter the Caves of Chaos, locate proof our presence there and return to the keep to claim our rightful places in the militia. Should we happen upon the outcome of the previous group of recruits that never returned home, our names could be immortalized as heroes, a standing each of us strives to achieve. As we stood outside the gates, awaiting the order to begin our mission, the bartender, Louie, from the local tavern comes huffing over to our group with the iron golem Rustbucket stomping after him. It turns out, some of our group made a bet with Louie, and now we had an additional task of performing our upcoming mission better than Rustbucket. He’s a rusty, heavy, metal construct with no ability to strategize. No more than a brute; slow to react, with little more than a basic ability to think. I am concerned that his presence will slow us down, but it is not my place to question Master at Arms Dexter or his decisions. We will outdo the metal man and prove our worth at the caves. After being inspected and briefed, our group, plus one, headed East.

According to the information obtained by Sabine through her ‘usual methods’, we followed the main path through the forest. We encountered several passersby, including a group of faithful we conversed with shortly. Just moments after moving on our way, Rauli began acting in an agitated manner. It brought more than a smile to this half-elf’s face to learn he believed his money pouch had been pilfered by the religious group only to find it along the side of the path we were on. He had dropped it in his own attempts to be sneaky. I giggled. In fact, I was so amused by the antics, I almost missed the blur that was hiding in the trees off a dusty path. We turned off the main path and headed down the beaten trail, curious over what we were following. As we reached the end of the path, and stepped into a clearing, the trees seemed to shimmer. Thinking we had headed down the path that leads into an Elven City, clearly the wrong way, we turned back and continued toward the caves. The caves themselves were like nothing we have seen before. Three tiers of cave openings placed in a horseshoe valley, with only one way in or out. Because Mother Moon had already begun her journey across the skies, we decided to make camp for the evening outside the entrance to the valley, thinking it was a safe location; unfortunately, that assumption wasn’t so accurate.

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Day 1 --The first cave

During the night, our party was attacked by eight kobolds. Because Rustbucket, hereby to be known as ‘Rusty’, has no need for sleep, it was decided he would take the full watch. I have to admit, he may have had some redeeming qualities to make him an asset to our group. When the Kobolds attacked, he proved himself to be an even bigger asset to our cause. The fight didn’t take long, the nine of us pulverized the little bogarts. It was, officially, the first real battle any of us had been in and it was exhilarating. I think we were all ready for more. After the battle, we moved into the valley and determined that we would begin with the caves closest to the ground on the north side and move around to the south. From there, we planned to move up to the caves at the next elevation on the south side and make our way back around to the north and finally to the last two caves at the next two highest elevations. We will begin our adventure at the first of these caves.

Our group stepped into the cave entrance and started forward. Deathadder and Rauli took the lead. This was beneficial, as only about 5 feet ahead, Rauli stopped us, pointing out that the floor opened into a pit that spanned the T-shaped crossing. Deathadder inched his way around the corner, managing not to lose his balance and fall into the pit, thank Farlanghn. Once he was across, Rusty tossed him the end of a rope and together they made a rope bridge we could hold on to as we crossed as well. One at a time, we began making our way across the pit. I guess we were still pretty exhilarated from our first fight because after only 4 of us made it across, the noise made by our party alerted a group of 6 kobolds that were hiding in a small secret room off the north side of the hall. Both I and Allbright swing at the attackers, but having been caught off guard by their appearance, we both managed to miss. Salvath to the rescue; he makes some goofy hand gestures and all 6 of the kobolds fall asleep. As a group, we decide that it wouldn’t be right to slay the sleeping critters, but we can’t really have them sneaking up on us later in the cave. So, as a compromise, we put them into the pit. We try to be a little more discreet as the rest of the party crosses the pit and follow the tunnel deeper into the cave. We passed by an opening on the north side of the hallway and continue ahead, arriving at a common room occupied by several male and female kobolds guarding some young kobolds. As the battle begins, many of the female kobolds herd the young ones out of the room and disappear. At the risk of boring you, dear listener, the battle raged and when all was said and done, the kobolds that had remained in the room were slain. Deathadder and, surprisingly, Allbright, each took on 5 of the scrappy little beasts. Darlah and Rauli each took down 3 and Rustbucket, Salvath and yours truly handled 2 each and Aramil, 1. Sabine was the shining hero of this fight with 6 kills. After searching the lair, we headed back the way we came and turned down the hall we had previously passed by. At the end of the hall, we turned left and came to a door. The door is locked, but Rauli apparently used to be a locksmith, and he’s able to open it anyway. Inside is a storage room, foodstuffs, wine, oil and some other stuff; nothing of huge interest. We stocked up on a few items but paid very little attention to this room. Turning back toward the right we were greeted by a hail of arrows. Allbright was hit in the shoulder and Rauli in the arm. Thankfully, they weren’t more serious than scratches. True to form, Deathadder rushed forward to attack, knocking the attacker into the wall behind them. Rauli charges in and joins the attack. Rusty takes on a third one. The rest of us can’t get into the area to have any effect on the battle, so we’re forced to simply watch the fight from afar. After 2 of the kobold guards were dead and the 3rd one was in a stupor, Rusty, Ruali and Deathadder began to torture him, and eventually killed him. I was disgusted by this act of cold-heartedness. I can understand, and even condone, the use of force and killing to protect ourselves, or other innocent victims, but this guard was no longer a threat. We could just as easily tied him up; but to torture then kill him in cold blood?!? I am concerned about the direction this could be leading our party. We all know power corrupts and the more battles we win the more powerful we feel.

We approach the door the 3 kobolds appeared to have been guarding. Inside is what appears to be a Kobold chief standing taller than the others we’ve encountered and wearing chain armor. Also in the room are 5 female kobolds. Im guessing the young ones were hiding in here as well, since there would be nowhere else they could have gone, but I couldn’t see them. When the fight begins, the females are at the forefront, protecting their chief. This fight is a little tougher than the ones before, the females seemingly to be far more passionate in their battles. Eventually; however, we manage to turn the outcome to our favor. We find quite a bit of treasure and gold in the room and after collecting the items we think to have value, we return to the cave entrance, by the pit, and head to the other side. Rauli decides to grab a wooden plank we can use to cross the pit. Down below, at the bottom, are 6 kobolds, jumping against the wall of the pit, trying to get out. We decide that Rusty should cross last because we fear his weight may break the wooden plank. All of us make it across safely except Sabine, who slips and falls backward into the hole. She lands on two of the kobolds, which is likely what prevented her from taking any real damage. Rusty immediate jumps into the pit, crushing one more of the kobolds has he lands. As he touches bottom, he also swings at another, killing it as well. One of the 2 remaining kobolds attacks Sabine, but misses. Deathadder steps to the edge of the pit to watch the fight and just snickers at the antics below. Rusty and Sabine each swing true at the last two kobolds and they go down. Rusty boosts Sabine up the side of the pit, then she, Deathadder and Allbright lower a rope to help Rusty out. Once everybody is on this side of the pit, we enter the only room down this hall. Inside is simply a bunch of garbage and kobold waste. Rusty is the only one brave enough to start digging around for any kind of treasure and gets attacked by a rat. He stabs at it with his sword and goes back to digging. Again he is attacked. This happens a few more times before metal-brain gives up. By now, the only one of us not laughing at him is Rauli. That elf is so darned droll.

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Day 1 --The second cave

We leave the cave and follow the valley edge around to the next cave. At first, we almost missed it because it was hidden behind some bushes, but Rusty’s keen eye manages to find it. Okay, so maybe it had nothing to do with anyone’s ‘keen-i-ness’; this hole stank. The stench was overpowering. It reeked of death and decay. None of us made any efforts to hide our disappointment as Rusty stepped into the cave, forcing us to follow. Immediately we are faced with a decision of right or left. We can see bones and rotting corpses strewn all over the ground in both directions. We head toward the right. It goes in that direction for about 20 feet, then curves left. 10 feet up, the hall opens up into a water filled cavern. It’s not a huge cavern and the water appears to only be a foot or two deep, if that. There are some white-lined fish darting through the water. Toward the back of the pool, something shiny reflects in the light. The walls in the cavern were sheen and when I looked up toward the ceiling, it appeared to be, well, almost moving. Salvath pushed his way toward the front of the group, then just stood there, staring toward the shining object in the pool. Much to our amazement, the object begins to levitate up out of the water and move toward us. I could see now that it was a jewel encrusted goblet. Even from here, I could tell this thing was worth a fortune. Suddenly a clear, gelatinous gob falls from the ceiling onto the goblet, another one onto the floor near it. The goblet falls back into the water. Salvath jumps back from the shock, but Deathadder is right there to engage the slimy thing in battle. As the fight begins, another blob falls from the ceiling and lands at my feet. Salvath freezes the pool of water, essentially trapping the blob that had fallen in under the ice. Rusty and Allbright attack one of the oozes and manage to kill it. Rauli attacks the one that landed by me and eventually, it dies as well. Deathadder goes after the one that had been frozen. Because of its incapacity to move, the slime monster is an easy target and Deathadder quickly makes slime juice out of it. He smashes through the ice and grabs hold of the goblet. I can see there are more slimes throbbing along the ceiling, so we quickly back out of cavern opening and out of their attack range. Heading back in the other direction, we quickly ascertain there are no additional threats until we reach the end of the cave on the other side. Standing there, amid the dead, is a great owlbear. I’ve only heard of these creatures in stories, and what I’ve heard is that they are dangerous animals with a thirst for blood. We are slightly surprised at this creature’s presence here and Deathadder makes a wild swing with his sword, completely missing the owlbear. Rauli tumbles into the room in an attempt to get behind the beast. The owlbear swings angrily at the somersaulting elf, knocking him off toward the cave wall. Albright chants some words I don’t understand and suddenly the owlbear turns and tries to flee. Unfortunately there is nowhere for him to go. Salvath shoots missiles out of his hands. When they hit the frightened owlbear, it is apparent they cause him pain. The monster turns to face us. I raise my crossbow to fire, my eyes meeting his. The look of fear in his face is almost enough to make me put my bow down. I wanted to take him into my arms and sooth his nerves, to tell him it would be alright. But I knew that if he hadn’t been under Albright’s spell, he would rip me to shreds and feed on my entrails. With resolve, I raise the bow and pull the trigger, the bolt sinking into the beasts arm. We continue to attack, moving in closer to the owlbear while he screamed in anger, pain and frustration. Darlah steps forward and with a forceful voice commands the beast to lie down. To all our amazement, it does. We continue to beat on him during his attempts to get back up, but Deathadder makes a final blow and the thing falls back down, no longer breathing. I say a silent prayer, still shaken after seeing the vulnerability in its eyes while we attacked. The rest of the group searched the cave, and found a bone tube. Inside was a scroll that our clerics recognized as a protection from undead spell. I really hope we don’t have to use that anytime soon. Before leaving this cave, the group decides to return to the pool of water for a quick check. We notice that the ceiling still appears to be moving, but unusually enough, it seems to be moving as a whole unit. Our realization hits that there is only one slime left in the cavern, but that it takes up the entire width and length of the ceiling. Our party finally makes a rational decision when it decides to turn and leave.

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Day 1 --The third cave

The next cave is opposite the one we initially investigated. As we breach the entrance to this cave, we notice a distinct sour smell emanating from within. From the cave entrance we can see what looks like a bear sleeping in the corner. Deathadder races in, sword drawn, battle cry echoing against the walls. He thrusts his blade deep into the sleeping bear and is rewarded with the death of the dangerous, but highly coveted, bear-skin rug. The rest of us gather around the kill, trying desperately not to deepen the wound to his great pride, but unable to stifle the snickers. They are quickly suffocated by a noise from around the corner and turn to see an ogre poised to attack. He swings, hitting Rauli and knocking him into Rusty. The resulting impact causes the elf to fall into unconsciousness. Death returns the attack but misses, though when Rusty swings, he manages to lay a solid blow. I feel the urge and begin to sing to the party, my words invoking courage and pride to assist in the battle. Aramil is the first to attack after I begin my warble, my song helping his inner warrior. His hit is true. The ogre swings and hits Rusty, causing a great deal of damage to the iron golum. Deathadder swings in a rage and takes the ogre down. While the battle comes to an end, Albright uses his cleric magic to heal Rusty, though I’m still not sure how magic healing can cure mechanic damage, but it still managed to work. I use my meager first aid skills to stabilize Rauli until Albright can come over and heal him using his magic. I will; however, deny this tidbit of information should it be brought up to him. I can only imagine how the elf would react to knowing that it was a female, a half-elf one at that, who kept his wounds from turning him into a vegetable.

Hanging from the center of the room was a huge bag. Now that the elf was back on his feet, he was able to look it over and determine that there were no traps. Inside were 7 smaller bags, each containing various items and money, including a huge wheel of cheese and a keg of brandy.

A search of this cave reveals nothing further so we decide to move on. After finding the second cave hidden behind a bush, we leave no foliage unturned. It comes as no surprise when we find another hidden cave opening.

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Day 1 --The fourth cave

It doesn’t take long to determine that this cave is excessively large. About 20 feet into the cave, we come to a crossroad. We decide to go right. This path leads to a T. First we head left, but soon discover it to be a dead end. We turn back and pass the T-intersection and into a room occupied by 6 goblins. They appear to have been waiting for us, though how they knew we were coming is still unknown. Half way through the fight, one of the goblins in the back starts yelling, an alarm of sorts. It doesn’t take long to make short work of the original 6 goblins, but just as the last one falls at the hands of Sabine, 6 more goblins rush in and attack. We didn’t even get a chance to recoup from the first battle and already we have to move into a second. The adrenaline is flowing fast. After 2 of the goblins are felled, Salvath makes some hand gestures and the last 4 fall quickly asleep, their snores resounding in the small room. Rusty, Rauli, Aramil and Deathadder make quick work of the sleeping goblins executioner style. Albright and Darlah quickly heal the wounded, in case more goblins come in to attack. Once everyone is mended, we move across the room. We follow the path past a turn, but end up having to turn back when we hit the dead end. Back at the intersection, we turn left and into another room. This one is filled with several male and female goblins, again, waiting for us. Behind the group is a taller goblin wearing a crown. We assume this is the goblin king. As we fight this group, trying to make our way to the leader, he runs off and disappears down a hall on the other side of the room. Once the battle is over, we follow in his direction and come to a locked door. Rusty and Deathadder start to kick in the door, but it takes several attempts. During their attempts, we can hear a voice from the other side of the door screaming a warning at us. “You’d better get out of here. Go away. If you come in here, we’ll kick your asses!” Of course, we can’t obey this simple order and Rusty and Deathadder finally manage to break down a portion of the door. There are heavy wooden bands across the door, making it hard to break in. Rauli throws a flash of oil onto the floor and Death lights the fire. As he does, he takes a javelin in the arm. The fire finally weakens the bars enough for Deathadder to get through and we run in to attack. Inside the room is the Goblin King and his queen, 6 males and 6 females. The battle starts when Rauli throws more oil onto floor, burning several of the goblins. Salvath uses his invisible hand spell to splatter the flames and burning wood pieces on more of the attackers. Once the battle is finally over, the party is in pretty bad shape. Our clerics do what they can, healing the wounded, but without their spells now that they’ve used them, we would be in serious trouble after another battle. We decide, instead to use some of the furniture in the room to barricade the door and use this opportunity to sleep, study and pray; whatever is necessary to get our advantage back.

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Day 2 --The fourth cave

Come morning, we move back into the common room just outside the chieftain’s room. To our left is another hallway that turns a corner. We continue forward and just as we reach another intersection, we are sprayed with a barrage of arrows, both from the hall ahead as well as the one off to the side. As per the norm, Deathadder charges forward and immediately slays one of the unseen foes. A heroic move, only to be overshadowed by Rauli’s forward rush. He misses his footing, trips and his blade goes deep into Deathadder. Death falls, his wound near fatal. Albright sees this mishap and runs in to heal Deathadder. Meanwhile, Rusty heads down the corridor to the left. I have this brilliant idea to cast light on a copper coin and toss it down that corridor so we can see what we’re up against. Sabine moves to Rusty’s side while Darlah moves toward into a position to be able to support either group. Now healed, Deathadder kills another goblin. Rauli misses, but thankfully, doesn’t accidentally try to kill Deathadder again. Off to the side, Rusty kills one of the goblins. Sabine kills one and cleaves another to death as well, then one of the goblins trips and ends up fatally stabbing one of his own. Albright then manages to take him down. We notice a goblin running away from us down another hall. Rusty picks up the lighted coin and returns it to me and we follow after the critter and end up in a large room. The room is filled with boxes stacked from floor to ceiling but the goblin is nowhere to be seen. As we step into the room, we start getting bombarded with oil flasks and fire being tossed from the top of a set of boxes. As the room begins to fill with smoke, Aramil, Rusty and Death start trying to shake the stack of boxes. Eventually the culprit falls to the ground along with the toppled crates. Deathadder steps over and kills him, but is himself overcome by the growing smoke. Aramil begins to succumb as well. Rusty and Sabine each grab Death and Aramil and drag them from the room.

Seeing nowhere to go from here, we decide to return to the cave entrance and head down the opposite corridor. On the other side of the cave entrance, is another corridor that angles into a y-intersection. The hall opens into a small room with a couple of goblins in it. This one follows the same path as many of the other battles we’ve had here in the caves, we fight, we kill, we loot, we move on. Our group is really starting to find a routine with these battles and it seems redundant to continue describing them. I only hope we are not becoming overly confident with all these kills; it could end up being our downfall here at the caves. In all our exploration, we have yet to find the elusive plate or the fate of the previous initiates. I’m starting to wonder if the plate even exists. As far as the men and women of the previous group, well, I don’t really wonder about their fate, not really. On the other side of this small room is a set of stairs carved into the stone floor that lead up to a landing, then turn to our left and continue up another set of stairs. At the top is another door. Rauli searched, but didn’t find any traps, so we open the door and enter a room filled with a great many hobgoblins. Again the fight ensues and we are victorious. There is another door on the other side of the room and beyond that a hall. After following the hall for a bit, we come to another intersection. We can continue forward and around the corner, or we can turn left. We move forward and around the corner. Ahead is another crossroads. We can go left, up another set of stairs, move forward or go right. The path to the right is unusually lit and we move in that direction to investigate. As we get to the source of the light, we realize that it is another cave entrance, this one being on the middle elevation of the valley. We now know that many of these caves are intertwined. We return to the first intersection we had come to before the crossroads path and follow the path to the right. It turns a few times, and eventually leads us to another room. Unlike the other rooms we’ve encountered, this one is very clearly a torture chamber.

As we enter the room, the first thing we notice is two huge cauldrons sitting in the center. Standing next to them are two large hobgoblins. Chained to the walls around the room are several prisoners. It’s difficult to tell from our vantage point who they are, but I have an idea. I’m sure I’m not the only one. The fight begins and it doesn’t take much before we’ve slain the two hobgoblins. We are about to move to investigate the prisoners when two more cauldrons further in the room are suddenly overturned, red hot coals spilling onto the floor . Behind them are two more hobgoblins. As we move in to confront them, two iron maidens in the back of the room open up and two more hobgoblins come out and stand next to the others. We now have 4 hobgoblins and are in a disadvantaging position in which to engage them. The ensuing battle is a difficult one, but we still manage to come out ahead. Once we are sure the threat is over, we start to check out the prisoners. Around the room, hanging from the walls are four humans, and orc and a gnoll. Two of the humans, a male and a female, are husband and wife and are both members of the merchants’ guild. They were captured while on their way to Forestwatch. The other two humans are all that is left from the previous initiate group. They claim the others were, apparently, eaten. The orc doesn’t appear to have been affiliated with any specific group, but at the same time, he does not give off an aura of evil. In addition, he speaks Common, so we take a chance and let him down off the wall. The last prisoner is a gnoll. The vibe we get from this guy is complete and utter evil, with a great deal of underlying personal agendas. It’s decided that it would be best if we didn’t release this guy. This angers him and he threatens that when he gets out of here, he would hunt us down and kill us. Deathadder doesn’t take too kindly to this threat and to my chagrin, slays the gnoll as he hangs from the wall. I have that feeling again, that one that questions the direction our choices are leading us. I let it pass because we have important matters to worry about. The people we have rescued are in no condition to make it to Forestwatch on their own and we can’t very well drag them along with us. It’s decided that we will see them safely to Forestwatch. We head to the cave entrance we had happened upon and exit the caves, heading back down the path toward Forestwatch.

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Day 2 --Back to Forestwatch

On our way back, at the same place where we had previously seen something strange darting through the forest, we get the same feeling of being watched and see the same creature darting through the trees. This time, however, a small ball is thrown and hits the ground near our feet and smoke begins to pour up off the ground. As I fall helplessly into slumber, I can see that the only person this smoke is not affecting is Rusty. When I come to a short while later, I’m lying near a campfire. The rest of my party is there as well, all slowly waking up. I can see Rusty standing a bit off to the side, near a small hut, seemingly speaking to an old man in robes. At least, I think he’s an old man. He’s got straggly white hair and he’s short. Really short. The scene registers and I come awake suddenly. Where am I? What happened to us? Who’s the old guy and why is Rusty talking to him like they’re old friends?! Almost as if he’s been reading my mind, the guy looks over and I can literally see his face light up with excitement. “Ohhhhhooo! Finally, you guys are waking up! Now we can get down to business!” “What business?” I ask. “Who are you?” “That is not important” he says. He walks toward the edge of the clearing, near the trees. “Well, how did we get here? You certainly didn’t carry us!” He turns back and shrugs, a crooked smile splayed at the corner of his mouth. He glances quickly at Rusty then turns his attention back to the forest. Rustbucket actually appears to have a slightly apologetic look on his face, but offers no explanation. The old man makes an odd sound and a bunch of monkey looking things come out of the trees and land on Rusty, covering him. From what we can see, it almost looks like they’re licking him. But that would be ridiculous, right? I don’t know when, but suddenly, the old guy is sitting by us at the fire. I didn’t even see him move. I’m barely listening to him because I’m still trying to discern what the monkeys are doing to Rusty. I hear talk of lost memories and how it must be strong magic indeed that doesn’t allow us to remember. He asks us to join hands. As we do, a sort of darkness falls over my vision and I start to feel light-headed. In my mind, I see us, our group, sitting around a fire. We’re all laughing like we’re old friends. I should be more specific, though, it’s us, but it’s not us. The faces are different, but there’s no question this really is our group. The scene changes and now we’re all standing around a table, a parchment is laid out on top and though I can’t really see what it is, something inside me knows they’re battle plans. It’s replaced by another vision, of us marching toward a castle, then it flashes to a battle; Aramil charges in, his battle cry resounding loudly. Another flash and we can see Deathadder impaling a foe with his sword; FLASH and Salvath is shooting fireballs, smiting the enemy as they attack, FLASH, Rauli appears out of nowhere and stabs an enemy in the back, then disappears once again into the shadows. The next flash carries with it a feeling of dread and I see myself wounded, Darlah standing over me, healing me. Several more flashes come, each one more devastating than the last, the obvious direction being of our defeat and death in this battle. The last flash is an image of Rusty running through a hole in the castle wall; except, as in all the other flashes, the people we know to be us, don’t look anything like us. The flashes stop and it takes just a moment to get re-oriented to where we are. An iron figure approaches the circle. This is the same iron figure we saw in that last vision, but we know it’s Rusty. Our incredulousness, our questions, offer no answers. The old man simply says we are not ready, that we will get our answers soon. Though we had just woken not too long ago from our ‘smoke-induced’ stupor, we were suddenly very tired. The old man invited us to use his campfire for the evening. When we wake in the morning, the old man, the campfire and the hut are all gone. There isn’t even any indication it was ever there. Our refugees from the caves, forgotten the night before, are sleeping near us as well. They don’t know anything about what happened that night, they never saw the old man or even the fire. We’re so confused about what happened, none of us even noticed the orc had gone missing. We didn’t realize it until after we got back to town. I don’t think we’re overly concerned, afterall, he had seemed like a decent guy. I just hope we didn’t make a mistake in releasing him.

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