The Deck of Many Things, book 2 p. 5
Wjizzo’s ancient ivory cards, “Ruin” and “Donjon” come from a larger deck. There is a strange power in each card, and the magic of the Deck is surely greater than the sum of the individual powers.
Priest of the Eye, book 2 p. 6
Quoth High-priest Grundelmar in Fallcrest to Fosden: “Years ago, adventurers destroyed a cult of the Elder Elemental Eye but the leader, Vadin Cartwright, escaped. The Sun Lord has spoken in my dreams to warn that Cartwright is still a danger. He dabbles with forces beyond mortal understanding that could be disastrous, and must be sought among the dead in old Gardmore Abbey.”
Quoth Pelor Sun-father: “The Temple is too high above you few.”
Peace with the Fey, book 2 p. 9
Lord Padraig of Winterhaven said: “Thanks for scouting the Abbey. Here’s 600 gp.
“The fey you describe living in these woods might be useful allies against the orcs and the best way to stop the raids. Find their leader and make peace with them, securing their cooperation.”
He had his scrivener draw up a document recognising Velfarren’s claim to the Feygrove, to be given to the Elf-knight if his claim is proven.
Establish a Claim, book 2 p. 13
The High Elf knight, Sir Berrian Velfarren, said: “My father had a hand in the establishment of this grove, and your Lord Padraig will recognise our rightful claim here if the proof of it can be demonstrated.”
‘Icon Relationship’ Benefits pending
Cram, Thwarter of Orcus, Bearer of the Mark of Orcus: A benefit with complications.
Cram, Chosen of the Spirits, restorer of nature to the Tower: A benefit with complications.
*It would be great if we could tie a Cram benefit to The Winterbole Codex *
Wjizzo, Something enigmatic in the Feywild: A clear benefit
Eric Bloodhammer, Conflicted of Bahamut: A clear benefit and a benefit with complications.
Fosden, chosen of Pelor: A benefit with complications.
The Tale of Hrom
Wjizzo sifted through Valdomar’s notes and papers, looking for anything dealing with magical theory, practical magic, or the nature of the Far Realm. He discarded reams of self-pitying cant about the tragic loss of Elaida and his misguided ritual to preserve her against death, which crazed motive they now knew to have led only to Valdomar himself falling into undeath, whilst achieving no more than imposing a travesty upon the mortal remains of his dead love. He discarded also some sentimental scribblings about the two other Paladins whom Valdomar had subsequently locked in ice.
Though separated from them by a century and more, Eric Bloodhammer nevertheless identified with these Paladins of Bahamut as though they were his shield-brother and -sister, and was offended at their treatment. Seeking to stand witness to their memory through the only obituary that remained, however inadequate, he reverently read through every word from Valdomar’s pen.
One of the Paladins, who had come to the Order as one Hrom of Winterbole, had risen to stand as a hero among their ranks and had been one of four knights tasked with a sacred duty in the height of the Siege of Gardmore Abbey. They were to be the four Swordsmen, and bear an arc containing a holy brazier into the midst of the foe, there to unleash its mighty power. But at the appointed time Hrom could not come to his brothers’ side. Vandomar directed the three to defend themselves in the Garrison until Hrom might come, and cast a protection of Abjuratio magic over the portal. When Vandomar, already driven to distraction by the death of Elaida, finally found Hrom’s body slain by spiders he incoherently locked it in ice to stay the venomous corruption within it.
Eric read this out to his companions. “And now I have cut this knight’s body free to show him the respect of a decent burial.” He drew the dead man’s sword from its scabbard, a heavy single-edged falchion, and its balance felt perfect in his hand. “Best way to honour the chap would be to discover the end of his unfulfilled mission. Find an end to his tale, what?”
Cram was unconvinced. “He was killed by spiders, was the end of his tale, a hundred years ago! And you’re not even a Paladin”
Eric glowered, one hand knotting absently in his great beard. “I was an innocent party in the whole business. You have to trust me on that. All I can say is that there was a reason for it. And the consequence was that I am currently classed as a deserter.”
Wjizzo looked up. “Nothing. Not a single mention of the Deck of Many Things in any of this dross! It looks as though only having a single dormant card, he had no idea what it was. But…” He flourished the scroll that had lain upon the shroud over the flesh golem. “If you want to go where your Hrom was supposed to be, I think we’ll need this ritual.”
“It’ll be dead easy!” exclaimed Eric. “Simple as pie. Get in there, jiggle the sword about and get the dish.”
The Haunted Garrison
“Follow me, boys. This way!”
Eric, Wjizzo, Cram and Fosden filed purposefully out of the door and around the back of the tower. Fosden stole a glance about, that he hoped wouldn’t look too furtive. There were only a few orcs in sight and none of them paying them any attention.
The orc Ramposh still waited dejectedly in the wagon. He half rose, scrabbling for his warflail, but subsided when he saw his friend Wjizzo, and visibly brightened when the elf tossed him an exotic-looking heavy bronze paperweight.
“I’m not doing this in full sight of any orcs that might happen round a corner,” Wjizzo said, holding up the scroll. “We need to back the wagon towards the doors on that garrison building over there, and I’ll read the incantation out from under the canopy.” And mostly through the main force of Cram and Eric, with Fosden soothing the backing nags, they rolled it to within a few yards. Wjizzo began enunciating the arcane syllables of the formulised ritual.
“We don’t have to do this, you know,” Cram commented sourly. “This is not why we came. The orcs don’t come anywhere near this miserable-looking building, the ravens even avoid the sky above it. There’s probably a damned good reason to have nothing to do with it.”
Ice-blue light began to glimmer across the great doors of the garrison as Wjizzo recited on, spreading until a fine tracery stood out all across their surfaces. And a couple of minutes later when he reached the end it was abruptly extinguished.
“A Glyph of Warding,” explained Wjizzo. “Could have been nasty.”
Eric Bloodhammer drew the sword of Hrom that he had slung on a baldric at his shoulder and stepped up to the massive wooden portals with twin reliefs of rampant dragons each bearing two swords, one held aloft and the other pointing downward. “Over the door,” he said, pointing his sword at a carved inscription. “It says, ‘Ever vigilant the dragon’.”
Even as he spoke, a black shadow emerged from the stone of the wall beside the left-hand portal, and a blast of cold knifed right through the adventurers, though no blade of grass stirred. They could make out no detail of its blackness but it had the outline of an armoured man in a silently fluttering cloak, with shadow-stuff streaming off it and vanishing into the air.
Ramposh uttered an orcish curse and dove into the back of the wagon, tugging at Wjizzo to follow suit.
“What the fuck is that?” shuddered Cram.
“Silas, I am,” came the breathy reply, “Sir Silas. Or so I was,” it added, almost to itself.
“Looks like there’s a lot of blackguarding going on around here, Eric.” Cram unsheathed his great fullblade.
“Except this one should have died of old age a century ago,” warned Fosden.
“Only the bearer of the lonely sword passes this way unharmed,” it said.
“You mean this?” asked Eric.
“Vandomar must open the seal.”
“He’s stuck in the past,” whispered Wjizzo, shrugging the orc off. “I just used Vandomar’s scroll to open it.”
“Gather round, chaps! Everyone take a hold of this sword so we’re all the bearers of it.” Everyone took hold rather than face whatever the alternative might be.
The wraith-knight continued in the same whispering tone. “Must reach the garrison,
“The garrison, Vandomar? Why there?
“Defensible. Until we are all assembled and can bring it forth to carry the battle unto the Undead.”
“Is he actually talking to us, or just reliving something? Reliving it – you know – as a dead person.”
“Seal us in till Hrom can come?
“There are demons already in here with us!”
“Whoa, what demons?”
“Vile, unspeakable demon of the nether orange waste.”
“Looks like he’s talking to us all right.”
“Yes,” agreed Cram. “But he’s not telling us anything good. He means Barlgura, like that one Vandomar has on ice, and the one that the gnoll cultists had in Thunderspire. They’re fast, they can run straight up walls faster than a man can run, they’re incredibly strong, and they go completely ape when they get seriously wounded. And they’re a wizard’s worst nightmare.”
“Eh?” asked Wjizzo in alarm.
“Well I was once telling the tale in the Blue Moon Alehouse, how we smacked down that one in Thunderspire, and a Tiefling lightning mage told me they hail from the nether orange waste in whatever level of the Abyss it was. And he told me that after he lightning-bolted one of them, it earthed his attacks away for the rest of the battle so they hardly touched it.
“I make that six clear warnings that it’s a bad idea to have anything to do with this pla—”
Eric Bloodhammer did not need to hear any more. He took one last step and pushed open the great portals.
Wjizzo sensed the Shuffling, but before he could give a warning the whispers of the black shade of Sir Silas suddenly rose to an insane shriek and he hurled himself at Eric. He bore no weapon but grasped out before Eric could raise his guard and assailed his senses with a shaking horror.
Next to Wjizzo, the shadow of the Donjon card appeared in the very spot the shade had just left.
Through the doors Eric could see another two wraith-knight figures, and through an archway beyond came a furious demonic howl.
Eric tried to strike the wraith away with his falchion, but the thing was inside his guard and seemingly insubstantial. His blows were all but useless against it, but he felt something of strength through the sword-hilt in his hand and regained somewhat of his composure.
Wjizzo stepped over to claim the zone of the Donjon’s power, but for the moment simply shot a Ray of Frost from Vandomar’s Staff of Winter. The wraith-knight spasmed as it was struck, for all that the Ray continued through it, past Eric, and into the right-hand door.
A great blur of orange rounded a corner within the building by bouncing off a wall with a massive thump and hurtled into the fray, swinging left and right at Eric and Cram.
Cram span right around, following the weight of his mighty blade, and striking the Barlgura and the wraith.
Fosden placed a hand on Eric’s shoulder. “Pelor aid this righteous warrior,” he said, and Eric felt much-needed strength flow back into him, as Fosden half turned, and continued, “And smite the abominable with thy light!” A shaft of light sprang from the gauntlet gripping his spear and lanced into the wraith, breaking it into tatters of darkness that melted away into the air.
The other two wraiths swept up behind the Barlgura and into the attack, the first one shaking Eric yet further with the insane horror of its whispers whilst the other made for Wjizzo. “We must gain the garrison,” it hissed uncertainly, with no effect upon the wizard.
Eric, beset by demon and wraith, struck out at the latter. His falchion passed through it, but the wraith bucked and shreds of shadow-stuff were ripped away in the wake of his blade.
Wjizzo used the power offered by the shadow of the Donjon card beneath his feet, and with an eldritch churning of the air, the Barlgura demon was simply gone. Wjizzo himself was thrown clear of the shadowed spot, reeling across several yards to come up ungently against a corner of ruined wall.
A scant moment later the demon was back in the room, but too disoriented to attack.
Cram span his fullblade on and on, striking perfect shadow-ripping blows through the two remaining wraiths, and ending by burying his edge in the Barlgura ape-demon. The monster gave vent to a massive howl of fury, which must have spoiled Fosden’s aim as his Javelin of Faith shot high of its mark. And unaffected by it, one wraith seized the advantage and forced itself upon the off-balance Cram, incoherent whispers filling him with nightmare dread. Wjizzo having hurtled away, the second wraith fell upon Fosden and inflicted similar horrors upon him.