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 Episode 31 of 13th Age
 The Ritual 

got 100gp in a bag on a mantle when we woke up... from therlissa but snuck in overnight
Nidalru used contact to find halfling woman to get info about what to do with 'bodies', she said she'd find someone and send them to nidalru
Travon Orcslayer approached Nidalru saying he had info re: Aerto... he wanted 5gp but Nidalru paid 2gp
scarlet y'las is the tavern keeper of the squirming mermaid
found aerto at bar negotiating with dog-faced human
Aerto says he pays btween 10-15gp/corpse
he had heard about the abandoned Brewery
Also heard the dreammaster is no more, and it was a 'rag-tag' group of adventurers
soon as Nidalru suggested she might MAKE bodies, he backed away, saying he didn't mind a 'desecrating a grave' charge, but bailed at the suggestion of Murder for Hire
Aerto agrees to meet at midnight next night at docks
Heroes decide to go to deadvaults to get bodies... Odessa the priestess agrees anxiously to offer minion bodies
Silvershield oversees loading of bodies into cart purchased from our cart 'contact'.
Aerto says bodies are of no use to him if they've been through a consecration ritual yet
13gp/piece, and nidalru says 40 for all 4 as a deal, he offers 50gp for the bodies and the cart
bong sneaks under cart and follows until stops at a building where he sees Aerto leave the cart, grab a package at the foot of the door and leave
legion empowers his shade to follow the cart and act as GPS so they can follow it afterwards
Heroes track back to the building and force entry through barn doors
Abyssal dog meets heroes as they enter.
Heroes descend into the basement and discover ritual being performed by diabolist/crusader ritualists
elders performing rituals, initiates try to stop us
heroes unable to delay/stop ritual, doors open to reveal Frenzied Demon and cult leader inviting heroes in to help 'announce' their presence to the city
..... pause for next session!


 Episode 30 of 13th Age
 Chasin Drug Dealers 
The heroes pursue the Dreammaster into the basement but Nidalru can't disarm the traps and they spring; downing legion with 2 bolts. (2.8% chance AND he was last in a line of 6 on a narrow staircase... can't catch a break :( )

The Dreammaster is waiting for the heroes again and has a drake pet with him this time


Bong & Idris kill drake in 2 hits (crits)
just as heroes about to defeat the Dreammaster and get some answers, Paulos (killed in prev battle) drops through a trapdoor and rips the throat out of the Dreammaster "no mentioning the Master's plans!  The One-Eyed Lord will control you all soon enough..."

Their quarry defeated, the heroes collect what they can from the battlefield. Torsar himself has:

2x silver rings
small silver necklace with a silver bear's claw on the end

Legion realizes the necklace is magical!

+1 to saves when they have 10 or fewer hp
Power: When hit w/melee while Staggered you gain 10 temp hp... Recharge 11+

In a nearby storeroom:

6x strands of dreamleaf (~50gp each on the black market or half that if turned over to The Archmage's people)
pouch of 30gp
small book

one section: lists debts & other info from Dreammaster's customers
another section called "Other profits": has 3 dates over the last month that show payments made to Torsar for 'selfies & body deliveries' paid by Paulos and a note that says

“Follow up on a rumor about someone named Aerto in the Docks paying well for destitutes, no questions asked. Might be able to leverage another buyer against Paulos and his boss to increase profits. Unless they’re working together?”

Legion figures out that there's probably some sort of thing that raises the followers of The Lich King with that branding into undeath after their mortal demise.

Suddenly some members of the Silvershields burst into the Dream theatre above, responding to the commotion described by passers-by outside.  Idris debriefs them with what we know.

Puki states that all the Dreamleaf was 'moved out' before the heroes arrived... to cover that we are making off with some.

Silvershield lieutenant inquires about the correlation between Dreamleaf and Zombies.  Idris says we're not sure yet... but some of those procuring dead bodies were working with the Dreammaster... all we know for sure for now.

Idris tells Silvershield lieutenant to keep an eye on the theatre so that when another shipment arrives, they can make arrests and confiscations to shut them down permanently.  Lieutenant says he'll take care of the bodies and deliver them to Odessa at The Dead Vaults immediately.

As the heroes make their way back to the inn, the hustle and bustle of Eldolan seems to wane as the night closes in.  The lamps lighting the streets all of a sudden wink out.  Then the next closest, and the next, moving away from the heroes one at a time!  A robed figure wearing a skeletal face mask and robes strides towards the heroes, and says "Oh, we have grown tired of your incursions and so useless as you are we shall make you an example, well your dead bodies at least!"

He tosses bones into the street that animate and become skeletal warriors.


Nightshade says at one point, "I'm not getting paid enough for this...."

But Puki & Bong killed her; no opportunity to ask "Who" that was...

Looking for clues on the bodies of their would-be-murders:

Nightshade has:

stiletto with a cats eye gem in pommel

Samuel has:

pouch with 10gp
various spell components
20gp silver medallion showing one-eyed skull which he was wearing around his neck

Bong claws the Lich King brand from Samuel's chest against Legion's objection

While the moon is high, Legion tries to detect where the shard is that he's here to find.  Legion gets a picture of magic weaving through everything in this world; the ground, the towers, the walls, the air... it seems to be everywhere.  He can feel magic being used to forbid creatures from the common lands, he can feel it even controlling the weather... it's everywhere.

Then the shard appears... the sense is that it's in the ground... underground... but moving!?  Not being carried by someone... but how could it be moving?  Perhaps after he is better attuned he will gain a better sense...

The next morning, the heroes wake up and find a small drawstring bag with 5gp in it from "your contact": Therilsa Stormhand with a note saying that Aegus has become very involved with other golden knight paladins and has taken great offense from crusader's dark knights' efforts and will be focusing on that and will be unavailable for a time.

 Episode 29 of 13th Age
 2020-01-30 -  
Canvasing the Dream Theater... ( Member Submission! )... 2020-01-30 
You check out the sturdiness of the bars blocking access to the chute the Dreammaster used to escape. Tough. Eventually, they would break, but it would require considerable effort and time, and you weren't sure if he was retreating to a defensible position or escaping the theater altogether. Better to look for other avenues to find him.

Looking throughout the rest of the theater, there are three backstage storerooms, plus a latrine and an obvious trapdoor in a hallway floor that opens to reveal a set of
stairs going down to the cellar. One storeroom is filled with old construction materials from the theater days and other debris. The other two have been converted into living quarters and a simple kitchen/eating area. The living quarters holds food, drink, a pouch with 20 gp, and 3 packets of dreamleaf worth 30 gp each on the black market (according to NIldaru) or half that as a reward if handed over to the Archmage's people (according to Legion)...and two threadbare robes: one is a dark blue robe that has a very faded Lamplighter's Guild symbol on it, while the other is a tattered blue Eldritch Master's robe.

There is also a back exit from the theater, but it's boarded and nailed shut, with a pile of debris stacked against it from the inside.

The total coins on the assembled downed foes is 220 silver pieces.

Wednesday at 8:15? I don't know about you guys, but I am loving 13th Age so far. I haven't done a spectacular job rping the villains, because I am paranoid about missing stuff in a new game, but I am confident that will improve!
 Episode 26 of 13th Age
 2020-01-20 -  
Leaving the Dead Vaults... ( Member Submission! )... 2020-01-20 
It's only a few hours to dawn. You are walking the streets of Eldolan, heading back to the rooms rented for you at the Red Quill Tavern by Therilisa. Many of you are lost in your own thoughts; for some, like Nidalru, thoughts are of where to pawn the rings taken off Grayson (if that's his real name...) and where to spend money on magic here in Eldolan. For others, like Legion, they are of the recent combat in the Dead Vaults and the odd events that took place within. Meanwhile, Idris wondered at what kind of people the Golden Dragon put in his path as he walked alongside the necromancer and Milo, now reverted to his considerably-less-menacing halfling form.

One thing you all had in common though: You felt you were being followed.

Whoever (whatever?) it was, it stayed just beyond your sight, even with the lamps providing illumination in the dark of night. Every now and then you'd stop, listen, scan the shadows...but nothing. You'd swear it was paranoia, but each one of you had that feeling...

You began walking again, whispering amongst yourselves that you should perhaps not head to the Red Quill until you somehow ducked your tail...but ducking this pursuer seemed impossible at this point, and you were already exhausted from the day's battles.

Suddenly, the lamps of the street flashed brightly, lighting up your street as though it were midday. Temporarily blinded by the sudden light, you regained your sight in just enough time to see a dark figure fleeing down an alleyway at great speed. Looking around for the cause of the flare-up, you see a Lamplighter Wizard with his staff raised. He lowers it, and the lamps return to their normal levels of illumination. From his vantage point in the street, he looks down the alleyway where your stalker fled, then turns to you and gives a friendly nod. Returning the gesture, you finish the walk back to the tavern, feeling a bit safer here in your first night in Eldolan.
 Episode 23 of 13th Age
 Investigating the Square 

Therilsa suggested that the Silver Shields are not going to do a good job 'investigating' because whoever did this is likely a magic user and since the mages guilds really run things in Eldolan, they're not going to want to upset any of them
Puki - medical background - begins by healing people that are hurt, and while he's doing it he asks them what they saw and try and piece together more info

one of those you heal (badly trampled by the crowd) and he says he's appreciative of the help; he'd have to wait forever to have Elsa Whiterose look at it for me... runs a mission for the homeless.  especially since he heard there's some emergency meeting at the mission because 2 of the zombies used to go to the mission for help... says she's a servant of The Priestess... she'll be heartbroken that some people she was trying to help ended up... worse!

Bong - Ravenloft Hunter - to see if he can determine the undead's origins

knowing zombies don't travel far, bong inspects the cart; but notices a portly dwarven man watching Bong but clearly fearful of the symbiote horror "You're afraid of me?" Bong changes back to Milo.  Dwarf says he saw two people in wizards robes overturn cart right before the attack.  they had their hoods up but wore wizard robes, but were not small and weak... they were big men.  Says he knows who owned the cart.

Legion - descends into grate from which most of the undead emanated looking for lingering magical essence; were the zombies teleported there, were they there already and animated... etc.

there's a stairway that leads down to a small sewer overflow chamber.  the outer door was unlocked and open.  inside there's only a pair of large sewer grates.  there's a silvershield down there who nods as I come down (bizarre), says "No point in staying down here; grates haven't been damaged and no way anyone could have squeezed between them."  Legion says nothing and allows him to leave.  Legion looks for secret doors... nothing
Asks the highest-ranking silvershield who has keys to unlock the sewer grate and says Martos had them but he didn't show up for work today.  Guard asks if heroes are going to investigate this... seems unusually anxious to wash his hands of the matter

Nidalru uses her womanly wiles to charismatically glean more info from people on the outskirts of the growing crowd being held at bay by the Silver shields

noticed that some people let slip terms that were a little out of place, almost like "Thieves' Cant", stories have been circulating lately, one has a man named Aerto looking for bodies, and paying well for them.

Idris polls the crowd for additional information

there's a tent vendor in the square, a halfling named Rolo the Thin that swears he recognized one of the zombies as a friend who had died earlier of a horse accident; a broken neck.  says he was laid to rest at the Dead Vaults in the temple district.  but if that's true... how could he be a zombie.  Rolo says that's why people pay for sanctification... to avoid The Lich King gaining control over their bodies...

5 Leads:

Martos - guy with the keys for the sewer area in square
Cart Owner - might know how the cart with the pumpkin ammo came to be there
Aerto - guy buying bodies @ docks
Elsa Whiterose - ran the mission that 2 zombies attended before their unfortunate end
Dead Vaults; Rolo's friend should have been consecrated but ended up as zombie; how?

Heroes elect to learn more about thos that upended the cart, and talk to the dwarf that Bong spoke with:

Rumney is bald but has a black beard.  Rought hands that look of stone.  Owns a small shop in the saddle where he makes his works of art.  He was setting up a table in the square, and only noticed the cart accidentally, but now the center of attention, gets the gist he wants to be 'remunerated' for his info

Puki uses Icon relationship to 'relate' to the dwarf and get the info without having to pay for it... they bond over 'tall people being self-important'... but still works into the conversation that he wants to have us buy some carving

Rumney goes on to say, "pair of robed men drove the cart to square, robes looked like wizard student robes... greyish-silver (not sure), purposely stopped mule blocking the way.  then they totally stopped the cart and tipped it over.  Pretty sure they're human but quickly left.  the big zombie came out from underneath the pile of pumpkins!"
says the owner of the mule (and cart) belongs to half-elf Pizarius Rayne owns small stables and general store near Rumney's shop in stable

Puki reflects on what he knows of the icons... that The Dwarf King and the Elf Queen currently have a truce... and more or less support each other.  Elf Queen rules ALL elves, and while Dwarf King doesn't 'mind' wood and high elves, but Dark Elves are still a major pain in dwarves' ass.

Rumney agrees to lead heroes to Pizarius' general store & stables.  As they walk through the city; we hear whispers of what happened in the square race past us; even the messenger sprites carry the info.

Also see mages in golden-light robe and go to the lanterns on the street and with long staff and utter a word of magic and lights come on.

When they arrive; see Pizarius' general store seems locked for the night.  Rumney calls out to get him to unlock the doors but no answer.

Nidalru and Bong sneak in a window in the back of the store and Nidalru notices that it's unlikely anyone's been in the store today; it's clean and orderly; untouched.

The two make their way stealthily up the stairs, but slip and have to negotiate to talk with Pizarius.  Pizarius has dark hair, bright blue eyes and sporting an old scar on his right cheek that makes him look a little dangerous.  Bong comes down and invites the others in; Idris stays outside with Bong to make sure they are not disturbed.
The cart and mule DO belong to him, a man came into his shop and made Pizarius an offer for the mule, cart and pumpkins he couldn't resist; 35gp.  The price was overly high, but ya gotta tkae what you can get these days.  The man was a human called himself Grayson and wore the hands of a labourer, but Pizarius noticed his hands weren't those of a laborer.  Grayson had a brass chain around his neck, but couldn't remember where he'd seen it before.  As he was leaving he said to someone outside that they'd store the cart at the old Brewery; vacant and supposed to be haunted.  Pizarius goes on to say that we can't mention his name in all of this; all he did was sell at a great price; he had no idea it was to be used in something like this.
Deciding to immediately investigate the brewery, the heroes scope out the boarded up, derelict brewery.  Electing to look for where a cart might enter the building, the idea that it might actually be haunted lingered on everyone's minds.

Milo gets a feeling that 'something's wrong' but he can't quite place his finger on it.  A chill runs down his spine.

Nidalru tries to unlock the locked door, and a spectral sprite that looks like a spectre of a goblin skeleton with dead eyes appears and asks in a moaning voice, "What's the word?"  No one knows how to answer so Bong says "Pumpkin". The image shrieks 10 times and disappears in a puff.  realizing now that time is likely of the essence, Nidalru tries the door again and hears a click; indicating she was successful.

Entering the brewery, the heroes are immediately met with the results of their stealth failure.


Dwarf skeletons have been animated
Grayson destroys a bridge and some heroes fall into lower level where ghouls are released

Going through their things, we find spell components, gold, in Grayson's pocket is a note that reads:
Ambrose you did well with the cart, the attack achieved what we desired though the fools that intervened reduced our expected output.  Keep out of sight for now.  When things calm down, come to the Dreammaster's Theatre for the next delivery.

Nidalru checks Grayson's body and finds:

Bone Rod
spell components

While heroes are going through the remains... Legions gets the distinct impression that this place IS actually haunted and it's not safe to linger...






 Episode 22 of 13th Age
 2019-12-19 -  
Shadows over Eldolan... ( Member Submission! )... 2019-12-19 
"Servants of the Lich King..."

Although this was the most obvious conclusion, there was still something unsettling about hearing Therilsa say it out loud. The half-elf seemed to be completely recovered from whatever spell had incapacitated her at the beginning of the combat. She gathered you all in a small circle to get your version of events; after listening intently for several minutes, her beautiful eyes narrowed as she stroked her chin thoughtfully.

"It's hard to understand the plans of the One-Eyed Lord, sometimes...a being that has existed in one form or another since the 1st Age thinks in ways most of us do not. Still, this is likely not the result of the Lich King himself, but those who seek to curry his favour. So, we need to ask ourselves: what is here that wretches hoping to impress the Lich King would want to acquire?"

Hawker's Square was still a shambles, with overturned carts, broken vendor stands, and produce everywhere. Several citizens and one Silver Shield lay dead, with tarps pulled over their corpses. Several Silver Shields were interviewing witnesses, trying to form a picture of what happened. Therilsa Stormhand didn't seem impressed. She stared at them for a moment longer, then returned her attention to you.

"I have been in Eldolan for well over 2 years, now; if I was going to be targeted by some faction for something I did on my own, it would have happened already, I should think. Do we believe it's a coincidence that the attack happened the day you arrived?" Meeting each of your stares, one at a time, she accepted your respective silences as answers. "So...now we ask: what is it about you that might be of interest to the Lich King? Some responses," she continued, with her stare landing on Legion, "are more obvious than others...or perhaps he is interested in these two," she said, indicating Milo and Legion, "for the same reasons the Great Gold Wyrm is?" She let out an exasperated sigh, putting her hands on her hips, and staring at the Silver Shields again.

"Or perhaps it's something else entirely! One thing I know for certain: those fools won't solve anything," she hissed, indicating the Silver Shields with a nod of her head. "They are afraid, undermanned due to other issues, and won't make the effort necessary to root things out; they won't risk exposing one of the magic schools if this was the result of a powerful magician making a statement against another school. No...it's going to have to be you." Therilsa took both Idris and Aegus' hands. "This is nothing less than an attack upon the Great Gold Wyrm. As members of the Golden Order, it is your duty to uncover the forces that would wreak such havoc and bring them to justice, even if it's justice at the end of your blades." Letting go, she turned to the group as a whole. "There is something else going on here, and there may be more lives at stake. It is important to be smart about things; if you falsely accuse anyone in the name of the Great Gold Wyrm, things will go very badly, especially with the forces of the Crusader present in town."

Therilsa then broke away from your huddle, all business. As she took a few steps, you could see her stumble a bit; the spell had obviously done some damage. "I am going to arrange some quarters for you for your stay in Eldolan. In the meantime," she indicated the people being clumsily interviewed by the Silver Shields, "go do a better job than they can do. There must be something to be learned here..."
 Episode 21 of 13th Age
 A Letter from Eldolan 
We start the session describing a relationship we each have with one other member:

Fab - Nidalru - When she was working for the Prince of Shadows she was tasked to assassinate someone Idris knew but was indifferent to.  It was another paladin but of The Crusader, and you were getting an item back, shaping up to be a rival of Idris, a thorn in his side, and one day, he just stopped showing up, and Nidalru said to Idris, "they won't be coming back..." (mysterious)
Joe - Legion - The first person he 'met' in this world was Puki; having revived him.  the family that found Legion brought him to the inn where they themselves were staying.  Not long after, Puki arrived in the inn, and his healing magicks being made known of, someone said: "Maybe you can look at a strange being that was brought in earlier."
Sanj - Aegus - Aegus had a dream from the Great Gold Wyrm, and brought Milo back and has been keeping an eye on him that way.
Jonas - Milo - thinks Nidalru is really good looking... saw her from the rooftops and was immediately enthralled by her
Roberto - Puki - Aegus likes coming to Puki for healing magicks, he also feels like a bit of an outcast, and despite not talking about it, he appreciates the unspoken aspect that both he and Puki are outcasts
Dave - Idris - While stationed at the hidden gold wyrm temple, Aegus arrived with orders to look for Legion and the head priestess of the temple ordered Idris to accompany Aegus in search of Legion

It's been days... since Legion's 'arrival' in the Dragon Empire.

The postmaster of Hildebrand hands Idris a sealed envelope with the names of both Idris and Aegeus.  Opening it, it appears to be a letter from Therilsa Stormhand a female half-elf that maintains some of the Archamage's controls on the weather in the Dragon Empire.  She hails from Eldolan.  She's familiar with those that run the magical wards, etc.  The letter asks Idris and Aegeus to bring the two extradimensional beings to Eldolan; the Great Gold Wyrm has communicated to her in a dream that those two are to be 'a part of' something momentous.  Asking politely to escort them to Eldolan, she would meet us there.

Eldolan is three days travel from Hildebrand
Aegus agrees; if there are in fact weaknesses in the extra-dimensional wards, then, of course, they should follow their superior's orders
They go back to the Freighter Pub, run by Condan, his wife Afe and their 3 kids.  Specializing in dwarven cuisine to up his business, dwarves have made him an unofficial dwarf, and it's a good place to negotiate business between the city and the undercity below
The freighter is almost empty, legion surveys the place, but sees one of Condan's kids and displays a little dexterity with a coin trick and gives the hard-working young lad a little smile
After a brief conversation, the party elects to go to Eldolan, Legion expressing curiosity at what Arcane expertise he might prevail upon in Eldolan 

Legion flips the coin to the kid as he leaves.

Traveling to Eldolan montage:

Roberto - Puki - Difficulty: poor weather (rain & high winds) that makes it difficult to navigate some of the paths
Jonas - Milo - Resolution: we decide to set camp and stay warm and dry
Jonas - Milo - Difficulty: come across difficult terrain; a massive river we have to cross but storm washed out the bridge
Dave - Idris - Resolution: take the strongest swimmer starts, we tie each other with ropes and are able to walk across the shallow river
Dave - Idris - Difficulty: We come across a dead adventurer... presumably having traveled from Gorgon's maw
Fab - Nidalru - Resolution: Inspecting the body, it didn't seem to suffer violent death; quite mysteriously.  Undeterminate that we can't tell what profession the corpse boasted.  out of respect, we do a burial for the corpse
Fab - Nidalru - Difficulty: cold, wet, and hungry... rations are running out!
Joe - Legion - Resolution: With no expertise of his own, had Puki show him how... a generous offer to capitalize on his own expertise
Joe - Legion - Difficulty: after discovering the dead body, Legion was in a foul mood afterward... even quietly cursing while he helped bury the body.  The heroes were set upon by a band of brigands on the road, claiming to be tax collectors, another came up behind him and whispered, "look at the eyes" pointing at Idris, backing away and choosing to flee before we had a chance to do anything
Jonas - Milo - Difficulty: stumble across 'a wild pack of teenagers'! who were drinking and carousing
Roberto - Puki - Resolution: most of us walked by but Milo stopped and started critiquing their sex acts, causing them to get angry at us and flee

Vote: Roberto & Fab win

Arriving at City of Eldolan

20m NE of Horizon (Archmage city)
shaped like saddle
north is port (docks)
south is temple district (east), craftsmen and labor district (west)
schools of magic few hundred feet above sea level, separated by a high wall
the governs (mages council and most of business of  ruling Eldolan)
the saddle (merchant shops & industries) is in the middle
a river goes through city
most nobles are also wizards and most craftsfolk
mage council of 5 wizards make all major decisions & strong connections to archmage
lesser 'government' seldom gets anything done, petty squabbling and jockeying for position

There is also a 'mayor' appointed there, named alanis arvanette; little power compared to mage council

little 'law' is practiced in Eldolan because of limits of Silver Shields
some magical duels are carried out where 1 or both die and is considered 'legal'
Silver Shields will be more common in richer districts during the day, but almost nonexisting in poorer districts at night
the population has to deal with 3 distinct magic schools, each has a different way of doing magic, each regards the others as lesser
different groups exist but they all share schools and other common areas
conflicts go to a 'headmaster' but they're usually biased because they're from one fo the school

eldritch masters (high elves and half elves, big rituals and flashy spells
wizards of mithril (mostly humans but some half-elves and dwarves) they create implements
arcanists of the hidden veil (mixed, gnomes, halflings, drow, few others) they practice stealth and illusion with magic and trickery

mostly humans but mixed races
lots of strange goods come through city (high impact mercantile base)

As per the letter, the heroes know their first contact here in Eldolan should be Therilsa Stormhand

Therilsa says to meet in Hawker's square in The Commons so that's where the heroes go
gates, houses, archways, all protected by obvious, glowing wards
street magical performances, magic sprites (messengers) going through the streets, magical fireworks; it's everywhere
Legion recognizes warded building with strange architecture connected to The Archmage's weather control system
people walking around with wizard robes...

No one particularly looking at you... other than Legion we're not spellcasters, so 'you can't be important'... even Legion only gets a few cursory looks with his hood back

Just as they reach the square, large cart of pumpkins tips back and a woman screams
two figures wrestling looks innocent enough until one tries to bite the other
more figures emerge from a grate in the center but they're not just people... they're undead!
Therilsa surrounded in a magical whirlwind of by dark vapors and protection
People panic and try to flee as the attacks continue


during the fight; the zombies are able to kill 3 innocent civilians despite Bong's efforts

The heroes survey the battlefield as the screams fade and an eerie silence settles over Hawker's Square.
 Episode 5 of 13th Age
 2019-10-26 -  
A Leaf on the Wind... ( Member Submission! )... 2019-10-26 
Everything was coated in oranges and reds now; the sun had almost finished it's descent and the heat was finally starting to break. He mopped beads of sweat from his brow with his now damp sleeve, a sigh of relief that they'd reach their destination before nightfall.

The dry breeze did little to offer relief on the well-worn road; but at least this road was smooth compared to the winding path from their village; days in the wagon with his family was starting to wear on him.

"Are we there yet?" Came a familiar call from the covered wagon behind him.

"When the wheels stop, we'll be there." Grenyl replied with unmasked sarcasm. "And if your little brother asks next he'll be the first one unloading."

"Boys, leave your father be and wrap your things, we'll be there soon."

"Yes, mother..." both boys responded in unison as Alea came to join her husband at the reins. Adjusting herself comfortably on the creaking bench of the wagon, she leaned in close and wrapped her arm around Grenyl's sighing contendedly, admiring the scene as they rounded another hill.

"Beautiful here even during the drought, isn't it?" She mused.

"These fields used to be brimming with crop; trees bursting with fruit and these last few months have hurt..." Grenyl replied, his usual pessimistic inclination showing.

I think I can almost see it, Alea straighted a little and pointed into the distance, the path still winding into the distance with a few hills in between.

"Yep, that's it... Hildebrand. We'll let you and Samea off at the inn first then the boys and I will unload at the mill, ok?"

The rattle of the wheels and the trudging and breathing of the horses mixed with the dry breeze whistling through the trees along the road, when without warning, a startling clap shattered the quiet afternoon and echoed over the landscape.

Wincing at the sudden sound, and trying to keep his grip on the reins of the startled horses, Grenyl exclaimed "What in the name of Omir!" and Alea was sitting up now, looking all around to find the source of such a noise.

"What was that!?" both boys stuck their heads out, wide-eyed and looking around them as well.

"There!" Alea exclaimed, pointing into the distance ahead of them. "What could..." but she was cut off in bewilderment when she realized what she was seeing... in a cloudless sky of blue, a dense, dark cloud formation seemed to whirl and spin just over the next hill... storm-like clouds in place of the road.

Another ear-splitting clap of thunder sounded and Grenyl snapped the reins to quicken the horses' pace...

The peaceful wood echoed with the second clap of thunder, but instead of lightning, an explosion of light; a whirlwind of arcane force seemed to tear at the air itself; flashing and screeching at reality as it tore at the trees and ground around it.

The cacophony then stopped as abrupty as it began; though the echoes surely travelled far into the forest. The underbrush burned away and nearby trees scorched as witness to the violent cyclone that now vanished, leaving the forest around still in shock.

But in the center of this burned and charred scar on the forest floor lay a figure, cloaked and hooded, sprawled akwardly, unmoving amidst the still smoking forest floor.

"There, Pa!" one of the boys pointed into the treeline from the road, his eyes wide and already leaping out of the wagon.

"Boys, you come with me. Girls you stay here at the wagon." The smoke was still rising just past the treeline and the boys rushed with their father to get a better look.

"Hold on", Grenyl said, his arm outstretched to caution his sons. "Let's just see here..."

Walking cautiously into the threes, Grenyl could now make out the scene, a figure, lying in the centre of a circle clear of any vegetation, the ground gray, black, and smoking. The trees bordering the small clearing were singed, smoking and black, but looked on at the unmoving figure below.

"Hello?" One of the boys called out anxiously. With a quick look from his father, the boy snapped shut but moved still closer with his brother through the brush towards the clearing.

Daring to step into the circle formed, Grenyl crept closer to the figure, watching for any sign of movement, but there was none. Reaching out, he touched the shoulder of the figure, his robes charred and burned and pulled his hand back; perhaps thinking to provoke a reaction, but there was none. Certain now the man needed help, Grenyl gently turned the stranger's shoulder to roll him over and caught his breath... this man's skin was grey as ash.

"Whoa!" one of the boys exclaimed.

"Now, now... " Grenyl regained his composure, trying to set an example for his sons. "I don't think he's breathing... this man needs help... ok help me with him, get his legs...". The boys looked at each other and the older did as he was told, helping to hoist the unconscious man up and towards the wagon.

"Get those things, boy." Grenyl called to his youngest.

"...these!? ..." he called back looking at a smoldering walking staff, and little more than a charred bag, its contents blackened and destroyed.

"Yes, boy, now do it!" Grenyl's voice now strained under the weight of this strange being.

"What's wrong with him, Pa?" the older asked as they made their way back to the wagon.

"I don't know boy, but it's not right to leave him, ya hear?"

Making their way back through the grass and shrubbery to the road, Alea jumped down, clearing space on the back of the wagon for this strange figure.

"Are we bringing him to Hildebrand, Pa?" the youngest asked as he caught up to his brother and father.

"That's where we're going, and there are people there who can help him."

Omir knows, we can't...