4th Ed D&D In London

A Cold Bite...

The red haired tiefling watched as the remaining townsfolk hurried homewards. One of them was a spy.

An old woman appeared in the light of an upstairs window. She reeled in her washing and beat the frost out of it, each garment sending a light flurry of flakes into the evening, before closing the shutters and fixing the bolt.

Des pulled his cloak about him. Down in the square a young boy darted along with a bundle of twigs in his arms, glancing quickly at the strange priest before turning a corner. Across the street a flowergirl stepped cautiously from the shadows clutching her basket to her chest. With a backwards look, she opened a door and stepped inside. Nearby, low muttering could be heard from within the blacksmiths workshop.

“Tis indeed curious. I normally have a sense for such things (an insight which has served me well in my calling) and yet I can glean nothing of note from this nights to-ings and fro-ings (for I would (if I may) describe them so).”

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Goats Milk And Nutmeg Wiffin...

“And so I leapt through the window into the maidens bedroom, leaving the warden with nothing but a basketfull of parsnips and a look of surprise!” The farmers and the fishmonger roared with laughter as the halfling finished his story. From over the top of his tankard he espied the gloomy figure of Sabbat Fau entering the busy inn. Aran nudged Elwanen, who had been growing restless. Elwanen looked up and nodded across the room to the warlock.

“I’m going to talk to the prisoner.” stated Elwanen, stepping back over the bench and making his way purposefully toward the door. Folk got out of his way.

“Well we merry folk are diverted with ales and tales,” continued the halfling to his audience “but elsewhere fellows duck and dart with anxious glances. Why so grim jolly townsfolk?”

The group hunched closer as the townsfolk exchanged anxious glances. “My goat won’t milk, and the youngun’s crying all day with hunger though we feed him corn and suet aplenty!” confessed the first farmer, lowering his mug.

“Why only this morning I saw two crows perched on my gable, a bad sign if ever there was one!” warned the other farmer, poking the air with his pipe for emphasis.

“No matter how much I scrub, I cant get the smell of trout off my hands!” offered the fishmonger. There was an uncomfortable silence.

At length, there came a voice from the end of the table. “I dreamt of shadow.” whispered Elian the Old from beneath his cowl. “I dreamt of the darkest night that pursued me across the fields where the cows lay down and died as it passed over them.” The farmers and the fishmonger clutched their tankards and pipes with whitening knuckles. Aran raised an eyebrow in curiosity. “It followed me through the town where babies screamed.” The two farmers looked at each other with pallened faces. “And when I fell finally it came upon me…”

”...And?” ushered the awestruck fishmonger.

”...And I woke up. I couldnt get back to sleep, not even after a mug of nutmeg wiffin. Strange how I never dream of flying. Things are not right my friend, and even the crows know it!”

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Something From The Garden...

“And that, gentlemen, is how I came to befriend Fangorn the Talking Tree!” The odd procession made its way up the winding staircase of the wizards tower. Valthrun led the way, speaking ahead of himself in the certainty that all others would be listening.

Behind him a lanky creature made of gnarled oak climbed slowly, doubled at the trunk like an old man yet its powerful limbs of knotted branches taking several steps in a stride. It dragged behind it roots from it’s broad feet, while the spindly twigs that might be taken for hair scraped the close walls of the winding staircase, leaving chalky trails.

Fangorn rumbled and creaked appreciatively as the wizard recounted the tale of ten years past. Behind it, a red haired tiefling who had been listening intently brushed back his mane.

“A walking, talking tree (if I may be so bold), a magical garden that grows in a cave (a wondrous one at that (that is not to say that a magical garden that grows in a cave is not as of itself entirely un-wondrous)), and a ‘Heartstone’ which contains the very essence of life itself to be used for good or for evil (as the bearer of the Heartstone should be inclined (by volition as much as by accident (as much of inclination is unless I am much mistaken))). I must confess I find this all simply intriguing.”

The wizard was pleased. He stopped at a solid looking door that barred the way to the seldom seen ‘middle layer’ of his tower.

“And you will no doubt be intrigued further to learn that, finally, I have learned to harness the power of the Heartstone once again.” Valthron folded his arms, leaving his words a moment to descend upon the ears of those who were below him.

Reaching the landing, the tiefling joined the wizard as they sheltered momentarily under Fangorn’s boughs. Finally appeared the scrawny figure of the warlock, who didnt seem to have been paying attention. Instead he was engrossed in the movements of a spider that crossed his palm and the back of his hand in turn as he turned it this way and that.

“Fangorn my old friend prepare yourself, and you two… just don’t touch anything.” Valthron turned a key in the door and it swung open.

“Behold..”

Before them lay a tangled flora filled grotto of fey-like wonder. Creepers criss-crossed the walls speckled with brightly coloured fruits, spikey leafed shrubbery jostled for space, some with leaves like blades, others with leaves like spades, others still with leaves like maids with spades, and where there were no creepers nor lethal-leaved shrubs grew toadstools of near infinite varieties from the ground, the walls, even down from the ceiling. From somewhere within the melee could be heard, although not seen, a babbling brook, and in mid-air was suspended a faintly glowing transluscent stone.

“Well bless my blackberries,” remarked Fangorn “Haven’t the Rhodadaffodildrums done well!”

The group slowly entered the chamber. The warlock squatted beside a patch of toadstools, setting the spider down upon a spotted cap. The funghi trembled slighlty and a moment later the cap quickly curled upwards, engulfing the tiny creature. With a final gulp, the cap unfurled once more and the spider was nowhere to be seen.

“This is the most beautiful garden I have ever beheld.” murmured the unhealthy looking warlock from behind a long veil of matted hair.

Fangorn stepped with gentle and surprising grace amongst the foliage, pausing to stroke a sapling that had drooped and twisted into the shape of a noose. The wizard studied his visitors reactions one by one.

“Am I to believe (as I believe I am) that this fantastical floral foray is the product of that suspendant stone there, the Heartstone?” inquired the curious tiefling.

“And no small investment of painstaking yet inspired research!” improved the wizard. “It is with no small degree of pride that I invite you all here this morning, and yet, as joyful as I am to see my old friend Fangorn once more, your return troubles me greatly. It troubles me for it confirms my suspiscions that all is not well in the land.”

The tiefling turned to the wizard. “I couldnt help noticing (for my senses are (if I may humbly offer) attuned to such matters) that there is (infact) unrest in the town this very morn, as if (and please do conceed me (if you will) poetic licence) dark clouds had gathered upon the metaphorical horizon. It is (if you will allow) an observation (and (I must profer) no more than that (at least at this point)) which strikes me as…. curiouser still, it being the case that (as is indeed the case) the town (and the lands around) have recently been rid of (what I might suggest be termed as) ‘a menace of goblins’. Is this indeed the ill to which you refer?”

“It is indeed.” replied Valthron, “It can only mean that a dark force has once again awoken. The rift is opening, slowly, but this is how these things happen: signs and portents, shifts in the aether, flux within the ordered states of energies, and then before you know it it’s too late.” warned the wizard ominously.

Valthrun paused, beckoning his guests to gather beside the Rhodadaffodildrums. “I have seen that you are curious and capable adventurers.” he began in a hushed voice, “It is time that Fangorn and I shared with you the tragic tale of the Keep on The Shadowfell…”

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And For Pudding...

Three figures stood around a bulging sack that sat squat on the floor of Winterhaven Keep like a black pudding, complete with black congealing slime trail from where the bag, and it’s contents, had been dragged across the flagstones.

“I have heard that it is customary in human lands to provide evidence on collection of a bounty.” announced the first figure, a tall armoured Eladrin knight. With a gesture he invited the man opposite to investigate the bundle. From around the oaken table stepped Lord Padraig, tentatively.

“I am a man of action,” he assured, “I have seen a thing or two in my time…” He reached into the sack with both hands and, with a grimace, retrieved a grizzly ball of blood-caked hair. Within the hair lurked a face that bore an expression of agony.

“That’s Irontooth that one!” chirped the last and littlest figure, a young halfling, “You can tell from the nashers!”

Lord Paraig discovered that the thing in his hands did indeed bear metalwork within its silently screaming maw.

“You must understand, we abhor violence. At least… the tiefling does.” continued the halfling brightly, “But I can assure you the goblins had no ear for reason!”

Lord Paraig pondered this for a moment.

“Perhaps your friend may console himself that you wouldn’t be getting paid if they had.” spoke the elderly warrior. “You have done this town a great service, brave adventurers. I would shake you by the hands… were I in a position to do so.”

Leaving the keep the two curious fellows blinked in the cold sun, the frost of the night before made slippery work of the steps as they descended.

“Well Aran, my fine and furtive friend, I have it that, in human realms, the next stop after collection of a bounty is traditionally the tavern…”

“Tis the case all over, Elwanen,” replied Aran, “And of that you can be certain!”

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Interlude - Story From Elwanen's Past
Things From the Far Realm

"Attend me, novices. Continuing the cosmological theories we have been studying this year, this month we discuss the realms outside the Orrery of Worlds, those realms sometimes know as the Far Realm."

Huh? Whats that? Have I fallen into a trance from fatigue again? The Eladrin ruefully surveyed the wreckage of his study table, papers strewn on the floor, the candles burnt-out stumps, ink-stained fingers stretching after hours of activity. Very well.. if the demands of the body dictate that this dissertation wait until the morrow, such is Corellons will. Shifting slowly, he assumed a meditation  pose, closed his eyes and…. That sound? A scream?

"Known by many names, the Madness Realm, Xoriat, the World beyond the World, the Bleed, the Far Realm is a place beyond our mortal comprehension – perhaps even beyond the understanding of the Gods themselves."

An accident? No other sounds disturbed the night, no alarms, just a single cry and then, silence. Hurrying out of his study into the hall, he could see nothing amiss… again that scream! Coming from further inside the mansion, perhaps the contemplation chamber? Quickly, he moved down the hall, the last vestiges of the trance falling away. Why have no servants, or others of his family come to help? Surely no-one could not hear that scream?

Walking up to the ornate doors of the chamber, a portion of his mind admired the ornate carvings around the door – carved by a great-great-grandfather, hundreds of years ago..  Frowning, he could see discolouration amongst the carvings, reddish, like… Never mind such obsessions – someone needs help – now is not the time to rebuke a servant for their poor cleaning! Pulling the door open, he could see the scene within…

And was engulfed by madness.

"The 'inhabitants'- and I use this term loosely – are extraordinarily alien to us, and even those creatures who make their way from that plane to ours are nigh-incomprehensible. While few verifyable accounts exist, it is clear from thse accounts of scholars of antiquity that those alien creatures – aboleths and ithillidi – do not share the basics of mutual understanding such as the concept of 'I'."

HecouldhearthesmellofbloodandinnardsHecouldseethescreamsofthosecreaturesthatmightoncehavebeenhisNo
pleaseLordnotthemHecouldtastethevisionofthetwistedmockeriesoflifeJoinUsJoinUsJoinUsHecouldsmellthefeel
ofhisfeetsteppinginsidethedoorMovingBecomingOneButNotOne – NO!

Stumbling back, senses whirling… Corellon… Help me…

"There are a variety of theories as to the nature of these 'Abberations', whether they are simply extensions of other entities from the Far Realm, with no real free will of their own, or creatures created by the horrific waking dreams of those entities. Others theorise are that these creatures are footsoldiers in a metaphysical sense – the greater their sway in our material world, the closer our world comes to theirs….. ending in our world being subsumed by the Far Realm."

Running, pursued by Things his mind quailed at even categorising, through empty rooms and corridors. Have they taken everyone? Whay was he left? Did they need someone to bear witness?

Crashing through a door brings his wild thoughts to a halt. A dead end, the room was full of servants and children. They had been seeking some sort of shelter from the madness without – and he had led that madness to them.

Turning, he saw the hallway fill with the stuff of nightmares. He looked down at the sword in his hand, with no recollection of drawing it. How could this piece of steel guard these people from the horrors outside?

Corellon, have you forsaken me? All of us?

The creatures advance, their almost inaudible keening promising the most horrific of death-in-life. Surely this is the end. For all of us here. At least we can make it quick, reduce their suffering…. perhaps….

<u>No</u>.

Not like this.

I will not die here to these things.

I will not let them feast on these innocents like they have the others, my….

I refuse.

He steps forward.

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A Dwarven Birth
In Which Rangrim is Born

It was almost midnight when there came a frantic knocking at the door of the dining hall of the dwarfish lord, Gandric Stoneborn. Mid-quaff, Lord Stoneborn waved a bejewelled hand in the direction of the door and a servant hurried to open it. In stumbled a sweat-drenched and panting servant, leaning against the door frame and breathing hard as he struggled to speak. "Milord, your wife has just given birth! To a son!"
Lord Gandric gulped down a mouthful of wine, his eyes bulging in gleeful surprise. "Hurrah! Well done, that woman. So, which wife was it?"
"Er, Lady Hrangisha, milord. You know, the one who's been, er, pregnant lately. She's the father of four of your other children."
"Capital, capital! Bring her in here for a drink, there's a sport."
"Er, I rather think Lady Hrangisha was expecting you to come to her, milord. To see the baby."
"Oh. Righto. Everyone, to the infirmary!" With that, Lord Gandric's entire court, including eight former comrades-in-arms, two heralds, a bard and seven serving girls hurried forth out of the dining hall towards the infirmary.

Lady Hrangisha looked up as a cacophany of bellowing and general drunken howling came from the hallway outside her birthing room. She shared a look of tired resignation with the doctor, then nodded towards another attendant. The timid dwarfish girl opened the door and was promptly bowled over by the rampaging, revelling Lord Gandric. "Where's this son of mine? Someone bring me a glass of wine, it's time for his first drink!"
The doctor, a worn-looking old dwarf with a frizzy red beard named Fanbir, rushed forwards and slammed the door behind Lord Gandric before any of his followers could enter the room.
Lady Hrangisha blinked and tried to look away as her husband's next words were preceeded by a fine mist of spittle and wine. "By the gods, but he's a rough-looking little chap, isn't he? Got a face like a boiled fist."
Doctor Fanbir leaned forwards and said "He's healthy as they come though, sire. I've never felt a grip like his from a newborn. Look, my nail's starting to go black."
"So it is, by Moradin. Have you weighed him yet?"
Doctor Finbar respectfully plucked the newborn dwarfling from his mother's arms and raced over to the giant set of brass scales by the wall. One of the scales was weighed down by a large polished stone, the other was empty save for a pillow upon which he placed the baby dwarf. The two scales balanced out briefly, then the baby rose slightly. Lord Gandric exclaimed "Look! He's lighter than the stone! He'll rise above the rocks of his home, there'll be no stopping him when it's his time. He'll leave the mines and the city and be a traveller, that's for sure."
Lady Hrangisha spoke up finally. "Well, I won't have my boy trapsing about up there like some vagabond. It wouldn't do to have a Stoneborn wandering around aimlessly. Wouldn't look right to the other clans."
"By Moradin's great grey knotted beard full of holy gravy and bits of divine grissle, she's right. The lad needs a trade, a profession. Tell me, doctor, were there any mysterious goings on around here at the time of his birth? You know, whaddayacallit, omens, sigils, that sort of thing?"
Doctor Fanbir took a heavy scroll from a pocket in his apron and pushed his spectacles back on his nose as he consulted it. "Says here the boy's born under the sign of the Crook, that being a shephard's herding implement rather than some miscellaneous felon. That generally means he'll have religious leanings."
"Really?" interrupted Lord Gandric, "I'd have thought it'd mean he'd be a shephard."
"Well, no, sire. These things tend to be a little more oblique than that. You know, eldritch. Arcane, even."
"Ahhh," said Gandric, knowingly, "arcane. Indeed. Rather. What's his birth stone then?"
Fanbir looked further down the scroll, his stubby finger drawing across the heavy, yellowed parchment. "Erm, says here, seeing as he's born right on the cusp, he's favoured by two stones. Let me see… gold, very auspcious of course. Although he is a dwarf, and gold is pretty important to all of us, to own the truth. The other is lapis lazuli."
"By Moradin's divine, hairy – "
"Gandric, don't you dare use that kind of language in front of our boy!"
"Sorry, Hrangisha. It's the excitement of the moment, you know. Gold and blue, the very colours of Moradin the Maker himself! We'll call him 'Moradin!'"
"Isn't that a bit, whaddayacallit, blasphemious?" Finbar said uncertainly.
"What, naming a dwarf after the patron god of dwarves? How is that blasphemious?"
Hrangisha piped up. "What about a nice human name, like George, or Donald?"
Lord Gandric rebuked her condescendingly: "Well, George and Donald are fine names for humans," he said the last with the expression one wears when cleaning up after the family dog, "but they lack that classic dwarfish grandeur, don't they? You never hear of 'Donald the Gut-Gargling Demon-Mauler', do you? Or 'The Wyvern Strangler, Alan'"
"Well, I agree with the doctor, I don't think it's right to go naming the boy Moradin. What if he turns out to be a real prick? That's definitely blasphemious."
"Alright, alright," Lord Gandric relented, "What was your old great uncle's name, you know, the one who slew all those elfish chieftans?"
"Oh, you mean great uncle Rangrim."
Fanbir nodded sagely "Rangrim, yes, very portentous!"

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The Flame Harvest
A Tale From Sabbat Fau's Past

It was neither night nor day but another time when death and disease are burned from the earth and become black smoke where otherwise would be seen sun or stars. They castrated the bull calf amidst a field of corn on fire, it kicked and grunted as blood spattered the stubble at the epicenter of the geometrically perfect corn circles.

When the old men finally released their grip on the beasts hind legs it kicked so fiercely that the bamboo trap bent and split. The young bull stumbled to its feet and ran panic stricken into the blackened corn field, disappearing into billowing smoke and the deafening roar of the flames, whereupon the scrawny child prophet raised a dripping knife skyward and lowered his head.

"Shavod, we curse you. We call your seed nameless and utter the words of your enemies. Shavod, look upon this ruined land and turn away, for your seed is this day killed by the fires of man and emptiness awaits you once more. Shavod, fade into the night. Let thirst take you. Let hunger waste you. Let loneliness unface you, and look not upon this world again."

Only the broad concentric circles cut from the blanket of corn kept the fire from them, and, as the wind cast this way and that, black smoke engulfed the huddled figures momentarily. There they waited for 3 days and nights, lying without sleep on the corn stalks until each one was blackened with smoke such that not even a fleeing crow could distinguish the men from the land around.

When finally they arose, the child led the old men staggering back to the river where they washed. There he saw that he had a deep gash on his thumb, having cut himself with the knife while inside the beast. This, the people of the paper village later said, made him and the bull blood brothers, naming him 'Sacred Bull' in their language.

When the Witchhunter General one day rode into the village wearing a demon mask atop his painted wooden armour the farmers and the skywatchers were slaughtered. All except the wretched child prophet, who was now a youth, as the soldiers feared the disease that had frosted his eyes would depart his fallen body in spirit form and possess them. Bound in captivity, the time of the time of the Flame Harvest came and went without notice. The corn came high across the meadows, a glorious golden graveyard that grew over the bones of a forgotten people.

When eventually the soldiers no longer brought food or water, the boy grew so thin he could step between the poles of his bamboo cage. The Eternal City was quiet and still but for the swarming clouds of flies that made dusk of the noonday sun. The youth made his way barefoot through the corpse-littered wooden avenues and out of the city, where, on the Westward Road, he watched the stars appear again one by one in the evening sky.

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Interlude - Story From Aran's Past
In Which Aran Has A Drink Or Three

"Oh my Head!" Aran muttered to himself as he woke up. Given the heavy thumping in his head that he recognised as the start of a monster hangover he took a deep breath before opening his eyes.

His vision blurred but he could make out the fact that the ceiling above him was natural stone, from its shape and the detail that light was coming from one side he guessed he was in a cave, he started feeling a bit dizzy and sick so decided to close his eyes and try to gather his scattered memories before choosing his next move.

Instead of sight he chose to work out his situation from what he could feel, he was lying against a fur blanket and was still fully clothed, a lump pressing against his side meant that he had his weapons still.

Slowly he started to piece together the events from the previous night, he had returned to the village triumphant after retrieving a herd of cows that had escaped following a freak storm that had damaged their holding pen and allowed them to run off into the woods.

After lots of tracking and travelling he had rescued all except one unfortunate cow that had been killed by a pack of wolves but the farmers were relieved, as they had been too scared to venture into the woods themselves.
Given that the villagers did not have plentiful bags of money Aran had agreed to try to help them if exchange for a drink, which turned into many as each farmer seemed to bring him a bottle of something they liked themselves.
So after several glasses of ale, whiskey, cider, moonshine and an assortment of colourful cocktails Aran had wished them good night and stumbled out into the woods with a large flagon of honey mead for company.
That would explain the killer hangover he thought as he lay against the warm fur, but how had he ended up here…

He remembered singing badly as he made his way through the trees towards a stream that he had seen earlier, the stream had several side pools of slow moving water which he had noted contained fish just waiting to be caught.

There had been another fisher there Aran realised as he put two and two together, this must be the fishers home, they had got on quite well even if the other fisher didn't talk much.

That's the problem with living out in the wilds, you loose contact with other people. More memories returned, the fisher had seemed upset at being disturbed but Aran had offered him some of the mead and then the pair had started trout hunting.

The thing about hunting trout without a line and bait is to find one resting in a shallow pool then slowly move your hands under it and then scoop it out, not the easiest thing to do but even drunk Aran's reflexes were lightning
fast.

A short while later the mead had been finished and several large fish had been caught, the fisher preferred to eat them raw which was something that the strange Orientals from the Far East had introduced.

Each to their own he had thought as he had followed the fisher back to his cave and then swiftly cooked. The fisher tried some but then went back to eating it raw, then as the fire died out and the cold had set in, he had laid down in the cave to rest.

Aran smiled with the memory as he sifted through his foggy memory, most of the images were blurred and confusing but he thought he had placed it all together although there was a niggling issue that he was sure would be important.

"ARHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" said the fur he was lying on and Aran came to the sudden realisation that the one thing that might be worse then meeting an angry bear would be to meet one that had a hangover.

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Fallcrest!
A town with lots of secrets

This is a short message to everyone to say – please go take a look at all the work I've just finished doing on Fallcrest in the campaign wiki! It includes a history, NPC's, locations and all sorts.

If anyone wants to use any of this new information in their PC backstory, let me know.

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Oooooh Free Drinks!

In exchange for large amounts of ale Aran recites his version of the adventures to the locals of Winterhaven

Searching Ruins and Hunting Kobolds

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