The Deck of Many Things, book 2 p. 5
Wjizzo’s ancient ivory card named “Ruin” comes from a larger deck. There’s certainly a strange power in the card, and the magic of the Deck is surely greater than the magic of the individual cards.
Scout the Abbey, book 2 p. 8
Lord Padraig of Winterhaven said: “I suspect that the orc raiders preying upon the King’s Road lair in the ruins of Gardmore Abbey. To start with, find out whether they are on that site and if they are, give me as complete a picture of their lair and defences as you can.”
Tower of the Archmage, book 2 p. 5
Valthrun told you there is a tower in the village below the abbey, which he believes to be the location of The Winterbole Codex, a tome bound in white dragon scales, which he would much like to get to read.
Priest of the Eye, book 2 p. 6
Quoth Grundelmar in Fallcrest to Fosden: “Years ago, adventurers destroyed a cult of the Elder Elemental Eye but the leader, Vadin Cartwight, escaped. Well, the Sun Lord has spoken in my dreams to let me know that Cartwright is still a danger. He is dabbling with forces beyond mortal understanding that could be disastrous, and must be sought among the dead in old Gardmore Abbey.”
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, Hero of the Spirits: A benefit with strings attached
_Wjizzo, ___________________ : A clear benefit_
Fosden, Favoured of Pelor: A clear benefit
Eric Bloodhammer, Conflicted of Bahamut: A clear benefit and a benefit with strings attached.
No Lingering near the Gnolls
Wjizzo‘s spell of holding had bought them a few minutes, and no one hesitated in using them for a few minutes’ lead in getting right out of there. Even Fosden did not feel that now was the time to redress the defilement of the chamber dedicated to Pelor, his sworn deity.
They laboured up the long, over-steep stair, and without debate left the hilltop and headed straight down the winding path into the Feygrove. As they regained their breath, it soon became clear that the members of the group who remained were still in good condition, though Wjizzo had spent his most potent magics. But they had intended to investigate a cellar, and had no cause to battle a pack of psychotic yet intelligently organised gnolls.
A short way below the Belltower the path ahead was unfamiliar and therefore perhaps perilous. Wjizzo turned aside through the dense otherwordly undergrowth. Within moments the others were all hopelessly disoriented, but a very little later they were pleasantly surprised that Wjizzo led them unerringly to emerge into the clearing with the ruined shrine and the camp of the Elf-knights.
After Wjizzo introduced the chance-met ‘Eric Bloodhammer’, the still stand-offish Sir Berrian consented for them to make themselves a camp a short distance from his own and the pavilion where his sister still slept.
A Touch of Sun
As soon as they had chosen a spot and downed packs, Fosden declared that though the dawn was some time past, he would now spend a moment in reverence to the Sun Lord, and would be glad to include anyone who wished to join him. Wjizzo, Eric and Cram were all glad to do so. In a spot where the light of the sun lanced through the trees, Fosden made a brief and tactful reference to absent friends, and then incanted his prayer. After a traumatic night without sleep, the rhythm of his words slowly brought a strange weariness upon them. Their awareness of the fey-touched forest slipped away, their full attention focusing upon the sunlight coming through the trees, and the next thing they knew they somehow beheld the sun unobstructed, and then it became the bronze-skinned, mane-haired face of Pelor himself.
Cram had a notion that he might have been drugged, but kept it to himself. If this was how the gods granted boons to their followers they were welcome to them, this son of the Great Rabbit was going to buck the trend. But he didn’t say so.
“All right, Sun!” he said, with a trace of a smirk.
Fosden held his peace, as the light from Pelor’s face bathed that of the barbarian, and with immense and knowing patience, the sun god beamed radiantly, smiling a modicum of appreciation of the humour.
“Fosden, my son,” said the face of Pelor, “it is good that you have answered the call that I sent to the faithful in this land.” The cleric’s heart swole to receive the approval of his deity so directly. “It is good that all of you are here, where forces threaten to rise and challenge the order of the world. But you are fewer than when you first set out, and the Temple is now too high above you. Fosden, leave that task until you may prevail in it, and seek instead that which may give strength to your hand.”
And with that the sense of the world about them returned, the birdsong echoed around them, and the sun was again half-hidden by the canopy of the forest. A breeze stirred the leaves and one sunbeam struck through, touching Fosden upon the brow. He blinked and started and announced to the others that he must go, for a hard ride lay ahead of him even after he hiked the two leagues back to the horses.
“What exactly are we here for?” mused Cram out loud. “I mean, that twat elf sitting on his arse wants something or other, but he can whistle for it as far as I’m concerned.
“Wjizzo, you and Elana were wanting to pursue these cards, though owning that one — called ‘Ruin’ of all things — seems to have got Varris killed by your hand and seen you put down at Fosden’s spear.”
“It hasn’t exactly proved to be a blessing!” growled Eric in agreement.
Anguish at the loss of Varris was written all over Wjizzo’s face. “The cards of the Deck have very diverse natures,” he replied. “If we can acquire others of more positive aspect, perhaps we can improve our fortunes. But apart from reports of these various cards centring around Gardmore Abbey, we do not as yet have any specific knowledge as to how to seek them out….”
“I am here for Bahamut!” asserted Eric. “If your necromancer is ‘amongst the dead’ of the Abbey, I would expect that to mean he’s in the Catacombs that would traditionally have been delved beneath the main Temple. But unless it was some illusionist or something messing with our minds, we have the word of a god that we should not attempt that right now.”
Wjizzo said, “So is our next best move to find out what we can about the orcs for the lord in Winterhaven?”
“Yeah,” said Cram. “I can’t believe your elf mate really knows nothing at all about them.” He sat back against a tree and gestured in the direction of the high elves’ camp in the ruined font-shrine.
A Long Watch
Berrian Velfarren embodied the risk-averse nature of the high elves, for whom conflict can so often be avoided by the simple patience of a race that live forever. He knew full well that the orcs and their sundry allies numbered well over a hundred, and the lives of his party depended upon their giving the orcs no cause to reconsider their reluctance to brave the Feygrove.
“Had we not opted to investigate the stair beneath the ruined barracks,” Wjizzo told him, “our next intention was to survey the orcs’ camp from atop the mount. Do the upper reaches of this grove offer a similar vantage point?”
Berrian and one of his knights led the trio back up the slopes by a route as bewildering as ever, though they said they were passing directly northward. They crossed the path to the Belltower, and Berrian told them that in the other direction the path led down to a former garden at the rear of the keep beside the main gatehouse, the garden now returning to nature and shrouded by the webs of deathjump spiders the size of a man. It seemed to Wjizzo that the knight might have spoken more, but stood on his dignity and held his tongue before the impetuous human adventurers.
“My sister, Analastra, often watches from here,” said Berrian at length, indicating the branches of a great and ancient-seeming tree with a trunk two yards thick and festooned with sturdy creepers.
Wjizzo, Cram and Eric hauled themselves aloft and found places on the tree’s great broad branches that offered a perfect view of the northwestern aspect of Mount Gardmore. Within the Abbey’s mighty outer wall, long-ruined dwellings lined both sides of a roadway that skirted round the lower slopes. At the limit of the adventurers’ view were two more significant structures, a large building of uncompromising military design built into the outer wall, and a tall square-spired tower. The orcs had upward of a dozen separate camps spaced throughout the village, sometimes inside a blackened shell of a building, but many in the open outside the buildings altogether. Though the force consisted mostly of orcs, there were a handful of wargs, ogres, and bandits or mercenaries of various races. None of them put any sort of a watch up on the outer walls.
“They appear to be organised in crude squads of roughly equal strength,” stated Eric. “If we say there’s approaching ten to a camp, that makes something around 150 of them in total.” Cram said he could only see ten camps, and Eric replied that there were more of them out of sight from here, further around the northern end of the hill.
“And you know this because…?”
“How do you think I got up to the plateau where I met all of you? It might be possible to make one’s way through the sleeping camp by day: muffled drums, what? Or you can do it bold as brass.”
“Walk through there just letting them assume you’re a mercenary?” asked Wjizzo.
“Quite so! (Not so far from the truth in my case, as it happens.) Might have to discourage the odd one or two of them from picking an argument, if you know what I mean. But in such numbers they hardly feel threatened by an unfamiliar face. Come on, just follow my lead!” And with that he leapt to the ground and began to stride down the slope. Cram and Wjizzo had some difficulty persuading him not to take such a risk simply to prove a point, until they knew what they wanted to achieve down there.
In the end, the three opted to take watches for the whole day, hoping to learn something about the leadership of the orcish force. The long watch went without incident.
Cram had a sighting of a huge figure, larger than any ogre, which he judged to be a hill giant. On Eric’s shift a pack of half a dozen orcs and a warg came in through the gatehouse, crossed the conspicuously unoccupied low-walled courtyard just inside it and went into the keep-like building for a short space before emerging again to go and return to their campsite at one of the great bonfires the orcs all seemed so keen to keep burning.
“Reporting in,” judged Wjizzo without needing to be told, as Eric related this when they changed shifts.
And by the end of Wjizzo’s shift, when the three of them conferred, none had seen any sign of the gnolls, the minotaur or the red dragon that they knew to be in the vicinity, nor anything else especial significance to Lord Padraig. But all agreed that the orcs seemed to consistently shun both the military building in the wall and the square tower. “I’m sure that will prove to be the wizard’s tower of which Valthrun spoke,” said Wjizzo.
“Where ‘The Winterbole Codex’ is supposed to be,” nodded Cram, who added sourly, “whyever the feck someone would want to write a book about the place instead of actually going there .”
“More importantly, a wizard’s tower is the most probable place to find the rest of the Deck of Many Things,” said Wjizzo. “But as I watched, I remembered that Sir Berrian had spoken of a white apparition, and I saw no sign of that.”
They returned to the elves at the Font of Ioun, and asked Berrian about the white appariition.
“A frozen thing in white robes, it is,” he replied, “in the shape of a man, but lacking the warmth of life. We thought better than to approach it when it came to look into the waters of the Font, but we watched when it left and saw it return to the tall tower in the village, the orcs keeping well out of its path as it went.”
They asked why it would look into the Font, and Berrian replied that Ioun is the goddess of lore, and the Font of Ioun is said to grant knowledge to those who partake of its waters without avarice.
Eric partook. In the space of scant moments he experienced a vision of events in the history of Gardmore Abbey that surely spanned whole centuries, the Abbey standing ever fast in the face of all threats. “It was amazing,” he said, filled with inspiration as he described what he felt he had witnessed.
“And then it was fecked right up.” said Cram.
“But their will to endure,” said Eric. “It was a marvel to behold.”
Wjizzo followed suit, and was also judged by the Font of the Goddess of knowledge to be without avarice. Visions of monks about their tasks showed that the brothers of the Abbey had included master craftsfolk of many diverse callings from beekeeping to mithral-smelting.
Wjizzo said, “So if what Eric said before is true, we can just march through the orc camp, to the door of the wizard’s tower. If any orc challenges us, Eric can ‘persuade’ it to think again, like he did when he passed through before, and failing that I can Charm Person… And we get to the wizard’s tower…”
“And then the three of us get fucked up by whatever that undead thing is, or whatever your magic card does next,” exclaimed Cram. “Whatever might be in that tower, the orcs are having none of it, so it’s nothing to do with what Lord Padraig hired us to find out.”
They opted to return to Winterhaven to bring Padraig the news of what they had learned.