Before the Storm (tbn) 4e

8. King of the Graystone lands

After resting, the party went to meet the Ghaele of Winter.  The apartments of the Eladrin Court were opulent and cold, filled with a misty chill like a palace made of ice.  The walls and floor were silver, covered in lines like frost.  Courtiers there were dressed in fine white furs or sheer silken garments, and all seemed bored being stuck in the Labyrinth with no prospects until they could take over Winter once more.

The Ghaele met with the mortal adventurers, though Oonagh was still quieted by the experience of the Moon of Madness, and Raziel was likewise overcome (elves, it seemed, felt more strongly the evil of that fell place).  Xtapa, however, was a born diplomat and charmed the Ghaele with a display of atheletic muscularity.  She, overcome by his bravado, told the party that all the Feywild had been searched with no sign of the Bralani of Autumn winds.  The Prince of Winter himself had gone back to his palace, leaving the Ghaele to figure things out.  Despite the Prince's outright hatred of mortals (evidenced by harsh winters), the Ghaele was willing to hire the party to find the missing Eladrin, rewarding them with a powerful (+3) staff of Winter!  Provided, of course, that no mention of the exchange was given to the Prince.  The party accepted, though there was no hint given of where the Eladrin could be.

Instead, they decided to go after the Wizard Belkerion, who they discovered from a Harpy in the Market, was famed for tricking many beings into Fey Bargains.  He lived on the edge of the Blackthorn Forest, and the Harpy warned, was a wiley one and not to be trusted.

The Harpy likewise noted that Lanu reminded her of the Seven Sisters: a group of powerful female sorcerers who had angered a guild of wizards in the city of Hygelak, the Arcane Bretheren.  The wizards had cursed them, sinking their tower into the earth and transforming the sisters; their leader, a powerful sorceress with great powers of the night, escaped to be reborn into another form.  If Lanu was this seventh sister, and they brought her back to the sunken tower, the curse would be lifted.  The only people who know where it would be, however, was the Arcane Bretheren, who lived in the city of Hygelak; getting into their library, the party could be able to research the location of the sunken tower.  Kali and Xtapa decided it would be best to save this adventure for when they'd completed afew others first, as the wizards could be dangerous.

Leaving the market, the party made their way through the woods and out, to the North. The journey was hot, dark and dry, but they escaped the wilds of the woods without incident. The lands beyond were wild, but at least they were solidly in the mortal world!

The Greystone Lands were rolling grey hills covered in sharp gray tufts of grass, and massive menhir pillars all over the place; like walking in a cemetary, or a forest of stone, they recounted the tales of orc raiders and roaming bands of giants known to frequent the lands.

Xtapa led them to his Keep, the one he'd won from the Deck of Many Things; as if he'd magically been guided to it.  The keep was a squat thing, set upon a low rise.  It was still sturdily build though one wall and the portcullis gate had been smashed through in a battle.  Entering the fort, the party found large piles of human skulls on the ground outside the castle proper.  The skulls had been licked clean by some great beast with poisonous saliva, then stacked in a pile while the rest of the bodies were gnawed and chewed.

Searching the fort, they started with the dungeon and found that most of the occupants were merely skeletal remains, bones cleaned but left in their cells.  One cell still had a corpse, and its ghost told of how it had been left to die as a great beast slew everyone in the place; the ghost attacked, Kali and Xtapa sent it to the Underworld.  The other cell of note was likewise empty, but some occupant had drawn a teleportation circle of some kind (arcane, possibly a warlock did it) and escaped.

They searched the rest of the fort, finding the master bedroom filed with blankets and cloths, and stinking horribly.  The adventurer's noticed then a flash out one window, like a rainbow or a prismatic ball, and saw a town in the valley beyond the Fort, set aflame.  

In short, the town had been destroyed by Hobgoblins and their fire-breathing dragon; they had some kind of magic, and other towns had been destroyed before (like the one Lanu was found in).  Only a small clan of dwarven smiths had survived, hiding in their cellar, coming out when the party was searching for survivors.  Xtapa, they knew, was their Thane, rightful heir of the Keep, and they were happy when he could speak dwarven.  They told him that the Keep was haunted by all the ghosts of the soldiers who'd died there fighting off another dragon, one who had come from the forest, killed the old Thane, and now controlled a ghostly army. They also knew of the Wizard of the Owlbear, who lived not far from them; when asked about Lanu, they mentioned another child, one who had lived with them some time ago: a youngling named Labrys, who had spiral-shaped pupils and stone-colored hair.

Knowing they would need better weapons and armor to fight these creatures, both the ghost army of one dragon, and the hobgoblin army of the other, Xtapa and Kali, and the rest of the party, opted to seek out the end of their first quest before taking on the dragon.  

They headed off to the home of the Wizard Belkerion, to challenge him to get the Rose.  ...and so our adventure continues!

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