III

Session 3: Here There Be
You Know The Rest

11 March, 103 CY

The adventurers awoke in the secret chamber after several hours of uninterrupted sleep. Aramis immediately fished around in his pack for another sunrod to light the pitch dark room. When he sparked it, the handheld alchemical sliver of the sun ignited in the small room, to reveal Owen already training in the small room. Murmuring something under his breath, he began inspecting everyone’s wounds, concerned about the filth fever. Fortunately, his efforts seemed to have been sufficient and the disease had not persisted in any of them. After the cleric finished examining Owen went back to practicing stances, making repetitive thrusts, slashes, parries, and blocks with sword and shield.

“I’d like to get a better look at that dragon head – an uninterrupted look,” Aramis said to Azal as she checked her gear and began preparing herself.

She nodded and said, “I agree. Let’s head back that way. Hopefully no more rats will come to bother us.” Owen simply nodded and smiled sweetly at the pair. Thinking back to the look on his face during his apparent battle frenzy the day before, it seemed impossible that this ruddy-cheeked young man could have worn such a horrifying visage. He sheathed his blade and opened the door, leading the others back into the tower.

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Session 2: Stirring the Shadows
The End of the First Night

10 March (Continued)

Owen tossed a rock after the dire rat that had fled into the rubble, then sat down near stairs and dozed off. Azal stared blearily at the cracked stone wall of the tower on the west side of the courtyard while Aramis examined and cleaned her bite wounds. She winced before the bandages even touched the torn flesh, but he patiently indulged her. After he finished wrapping her legs he saw to his own, since his healing prayers seemed to have dealt with the bruises the halfling had suffered from falling into the pit. Only after his self-appointed medical tasks were complete did he rest for a few minutes himself.

He was the first to stir, and he set about searching the area for any indication that Talgen and the others had come this way. He found it morbidly interesting that one of his first expectations was the discovery of human remains. He shook his head, idly thinking that he’d listened to one too many of Father Sloane’s sermons when his gaze fell to the bottom of the pit where he thought he saw a small hand. Swallowing, he began climbing down to take a closer look.

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Session 1: Romance Dusk
The Heroes Meet

10 March, 103 CY

The sun arose over the ranch house owned by Rene and Amerie Shepherd that morning to find its occupants already awake and digging in to breakfast. Their son Aramis had arrived the day before, marking the first return to his hometown since his wife had died almost two years before. In that time, he had entered the clergy of the goddess of death, the mysterious Raven Queen, a fact that his family seemed loathe to accept. A young woman called Azal, whom he’d met and befriended in Brindinford, the city where he’d made his new home, had accompanied him on this journey. Though the Shepherds had been hesitant to let a tiefling into their home, their sense of hospitality (and some prodding from Aramis’s more worldly sister-in-law Iva) had shamed them into accepting Azal as a guest.

They had come in response to a request Aramis had received in a letter from Kerowyn Hucrele, the owner of the largest trading company based in Oakhurst, and a personal friend. Her son Talgen and daughter Sharwyn had gone missing near an ancient ruin west of Oakhurst, and no one had heard from them in weeks. She’d asked Aramis to help her find her children. He’d asked Azal to come along since Talgen had been the one to introduce them.

While they were finishing breakfast, Aramis’s brother Orson entered the house and pulled the boys’ father aside. They spoke in low voices for a moment before the older man excused himself from breakfast and followed his son back outside. Mrs. Shepherd looked at the door with a bit of concern, but she turned a smile on those at the table when she saw the watching her. “I’m sure it’s nothing. Don’t you kids worry. Ranch stuff.”

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Prologue: Silence
Setting the Stage

by godfear

20 October, 101 CY

Iva wanted to scream.

Her enormous belly felt ready to burst, and the midwife kept telling her to breathe in that annoyingly patient tone one reserves for children and pregnant women giving birth. She knew, rationally, that it was intended to soothe her, and that being calm was good for the baby. But she was in a lot of pain, and the stupid breathing didn’t do anything at all for that. And that tone…

So. Gods. Damned. Annoying.

She slowly shoved her ire to the back of her mind, closed her eyes and tried the stupid breathing. The pain lessened precisely none at all, but she found she was able to focus her mind better with the cadence of her breath. It reminded her of the training sessions with her father in her youth, and the memory seemed strangely out of place. She hadn’t thought of the man in awhile, but now that she did she wondered what he would think of her right now. He’d probably laugh and tell her she was being ridiculous wondering what he thought about anything while she was giving birth to a shepherd’s son.

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