Welcome to the New Age

Beasts, part two

The Burning Eyes camp proves itself resourceful and enthusiastic in its response to the Herald's attacks.

After luring a patrol out to investigate a campfire and killing them, the Herald's find themselves the targets of burning catapult shot.  Getting away out from under fire the party makes their way into the camp itself.  Desmond has a climbing mishap, but they get under cover before the orcs investigate the scene (the party watches as Eidyr destroys that crew by himself with only three arrows).

Then they hit catapult while moving through the camp — Declan and Eidyr travel stealthily to the catapult and Declan destroys it by detonating the three pitch filled cars — the resulting explosion kills the crew, which includes an Illithid who may or may not have been a captive of the orcs.

The rest of the team is heading towards one of the buildings when they hear the rumble of the dragon's voice from under the mountain… 

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Beasts part one
Along the Black Road

July 17-24, 25NA

The Heralds travel up the road to Caer Nimir and meet with Gwythr ap Llewellyn to plan their trip into the Burning Eye territory.  They are introduced to Eidyr, a Lord Scout-Commander and the most familiar ranger with the area the party is going into.  Eidyr will travel with them into the orc's territory.

Supplied and prepared as best they could be, the Heralds move into mountains.  Eidyr leads them parallel to the stretch of the Black Road that runs throughout the Burning Eye Orc lands.  On the second day of travel they catch sight of Wendigo battling a massive, primal bear along one of the mountain paths.  The dragon is even more impressive looking, more dangerous looking.  More deadly.

Two days before reaching the tribe's lands, they encounter a party of orc's leading the remnants of the Leaping Peaks Herd of Goliaths— enslaved and carrying the corpses of their family to the orc's stewpots.  The four Goliaths are cautious in trusting their rescuers but upon learning the party intends to attack the orcs, ask to come along and end their herd in a fashion worthy of remembering.

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Gateway part 4
Seige Breakers

July 16-17, 25NA

The fight with the command staff for the Summer Fey siege is bitter and fierce and the reinforcements of the Fey Blackguard and his archers doesn't make victory any more assured.

Still, the Heralds pull off a hard won victory that forces the Eladrin priest to escape, taking one of the archers with him.  The siege is broken and the remnants flee the gate.

Porth Mynydd is saved.  Bregon Llyrick comes forth to thank his new lord and his companions for the rescue.  The party is able to rest in the fortress town overnight, being feasted and celebrated before the coming trek up the mountains to Caer Nimir.

The War chest from the invaders is presented to Gareth for his inspection before being taken to cover the cost of repairs at the gate.  There is a hint of strain between some party members over the cash.

The next morning the party is ready to set forth for Caer Nimir and the next stage of the journey.

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Gateway, part three

July 16, 25NA

The battle for Porth Mynydd wages on.  The Heralds confront an assault by elite soldiers, including a Knight on a demonic horse.  Routing the last of that group's archers, they move on to confronting a group of demons.

Meanwhile their own troops take down a savage cyclopean giant and a crew of centaurs, taking only minimal damage.  But the next opposition for them is a black knight and a crew of hardened soldiers.

Now nothing stands between the Heralds and the command tent… Who knows what waits them there…?

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Gateway part two

July 15-16, 25NA

Fey Touched dinosaurs and iron booted redcaps prove not to stand in the way of the Heralds of the New Age.

The next day, scouts report a battle taking place outside of Porth Mynydd- the gate is under siege 

Turning down an opportunity to surrender, Gareth leads his forces into the battle, hoping to take the less well protected command tent. Air, Earth, Fire, and Water are turned towards the forces of the newcomers…

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Gateway, part one
Walking with Dinosaurs

July 5-15, 25NA

Black Mantle is dead, and the threat she represented to the town of Grayson is no more.

But for the Heralds of the New Age, their challenges in the Upside Down were not over.  The proposed exit in the graveyard proved to be possible, as it represented a sort of thin point between the Upside Down and the world they knew.

Working together, Aideen and Gareth moved the others through the thin place, but in doing so, they attracted the attention of the undead that haunt the graveyard. From there, things got complicated as the passage back to Grayson became more difficult and the two would up sealing themselves on the other side with the horde of ravening undead and something else.  Something that knew who Gareth was, taunting him in elvish about a sword that he would not let Gareth claim.

Meanwhile, the rest of their group,fearing for the safety of Aideen and Gareth, alerted Grumbar about the situation, and he left in a burst of magic.

Just as the deadly undead knight was nearly upon them, Grumbar appeared and sent them home.  But he doesn't follow…

The party mourns what seems to be the loss of Grumbar Brighthammer and the next few days involve some time to reflect on what has happened to everyone.

But soon enough, it is time to send the party off on their next journey, to deal with the White Dragon, Wendigo.  King Courdry asks that they escort reinforcements for the Parth Mynydd, the elvish settlement that guards the pass up to Caer Nimir.

Part of their departure includes some rewards for the services the party has given the community and the burgeoning community:  land to build a keep on, and a seat at the council table when their other duties allow.

After several days of travel, the small army finds itself less than a day from their destination when strange giant bipedal reptiles appear, carrying deadly fey to the attack!

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Pursuit, finale
The Death of Black Mantle

The town hall in the upside-down of Grayson is watched by alert (but not too alert) guards and a pair of Zombie Fire Giants.  With a priority on confronting and ending Black Mantle, Illuvere and Simbar volunteer to hold off the zombies and the strange dark humanoids that guard the outside.

Once inside the Heralds are confronted by a small collection of cannon fodder creatures as well as the last of Black Mantle's high powered servants, an armor clad warrior and a Tiefilng wizard.  The fight was brutal, and several times only Aideen's newfound power of healing kept the group up and active.

In the end, Gareth struck down Black Mantle as she tried to flee, awakening a new power in the sword that struck her down.

But in the aftermath of the battle, Illuvere fell.  Simbar admits that they both expected this to be their last mission.  His intention is to return her to the Keep of the Ravens and join her on the far side of the gate…

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Rebirth

I was woken by two things – an annoying tingling numbness in my right hand and arm, and an equally irritating dripping noise.  As I blinked my eyes I realized I was not where I had fallen asleep.  It was very dark, but I could tell I was in a large, cavernous room.  Large brickwork columns supported the ceiling, and I could make out a large trench in the middle of the floor, running side to side and out of range of my vision (the source of the dripping, from what I could tell) and filled to the brim with a slow-moving liquid.  Farther away, I could make out what looked like the bottom of a large set of stairs.  The air held the sharp tang of iron.

I realized that my arm wasn’t tied or bound or anything, it was simply resting upon the wall – door, on further inspection – that I sat leaning against.  As I thought to move it to a more comfortable position, I realized there was another person there.  

Quill sat next to me, entirely too close.  He perked up when I awoke, clearly waiting for me.  

Asking him where I was didn’t reveal any useful information, and the exchange asking why we were there was equally cryptic:

“I was sent to talk to you.”
“By whom?”
“The Keeper of the Door.”
“This door?”
“Yeah, probably.”

We circled through a long, tangled conversation.  He talked, at times, about how he had come to serve Her (the capitalization emphasized and clear from his speech).  He contrasted his search for a being with whom to make a pact with my situation, more of a “recruitment” as he put it.

He remarked that I’d had a hard couple days, intimated that his mistress was interested in our – my – activities.  The reason we were there, then; She was prepared to offer me power.  Power to keep my friends standing, power beyond the “paltry” (Quill’s words… at my sharp look he added a very non-apologetic “though efficacious”) powers I possessed naturally.  

There was, of course, a cost.  I would have to give myself to Her, devote my life to her goals.  My choices would no longer be made based just on my own moral compass, but on Her teachings.

My attention was again brought to the Door (I realized my hand still was still resting on it – curious, I thought, but Quill again distracted me from my thoughts of moving it).  He explained that She guards the Door, the passage where we all must go.  That She abhors those that draw spirits back across the threshold, that try to break the natural course of life and death.

He went on: “The Door is about Fate.  The Dragons and their Queen are going to break a lot of people’s Fates.  Even the “helpful” ones can interfere.  Things that break the course of events must be dealt with…  sometimes the choices aren’t easy, but if you put your Faith in her, it will end the way it is supposed to.” He paused a moment to stress that it wouldn’t necessarily be happy.  

It was terribly tempting.  I knew we were in trouble, and if what Quill said was true, outside forces were running out of ways to intervene on our behalf.  I had a chance, here, to improve our chances in a potentially significant way.  I was, as Quill pointed out, the one with my hand on the Door (which reminded me that my hand was still numb, and I still hadn’t moved it).  I was closest to her, and I was worthy of the power, in a way (he implied), that not all of my friends would be. 

But she would require a lot from me - everything, in fact.  I would lose the power of my forefathers, and I would shatter that lens that I was used to seeing the world through.

It was a scary thought, and I said as much.  Trying to verbalize my feelings, I expressed that my powers were the tools I used to manipulate the world around me, that they were the way I interacted with the world.  Quill’s eyes lit up as he discovered a way to potentially help me see his perspective, and he asked if I still used my beginning crafting tools.  I shook my head, and while I said that it had been scary to lose those, and that I had questioned at that time whether I was worthy of the next thing, I also understood was he was driving at.  Was her offer the next step for me?  Had I achieved all that I was meant to with the current tools I had at hand?

We sat in silence for a long while as I contemplated my feelings, and tried my best to overcome my fear.

“Alright.  I accept.”
“Ah, ah, it’s not that easy.  Now we go to see Her.”

He asked me to strip down, which I did, with some trepidation.  Likewise unclad, he led me to the channel in the floor.  “I’m going to follow you partway, but you need to swim to the bottom.”
I nodded nervously, and asked “Is there anything I should know?”
In response, he simply held up a witchlight, and in revealing the liquid to be blood, confirmed my horrible suspicions.

I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and began to swim.  He held my hand at the beginning, and I was now glad to have him so close.  At some point a little ways into our swim, I felt him squeeze my hand twice, firmly, and then I felt a shove on my back, pushing me further down.

Alone now, I swam.

My muscles burned, my lungs ached, but still I swam.

I was sure I was going to lose consciousness.  My arms were weak, my entire body screamed that I needed air.

And then, through my eyelids, light shone.  And a voice. 

“Open your eyes, and come to me, child.”

I obeyed Her.

A huge masked figure held her hands to me, and I found a little more strength to push forward.  A little voice inside insisted that it would be easier if I could breathe, but I ignored it, continued swimming through my pain.

I felt pieces of me fall away, things that I now saw were unimportant, mere peripheral bits to my true self.  Everything tied to my flesh, rather than my soul, simply washed away.  The trappings of my former power were left behind me as I struggled towards the light.  The thunder under my skin quieted for the first time in my life.  The lightning in my muscles, which had accompanied every step I had ever taken, ceased.  

All of it was stripped away as I swam to Her.  I was Aideen and nothing more.  Empty and alone I approached, and I began to feel flooded with a new strength, a new certainty.

I am Aideen, and that is all that matters.  She accepts me as “just” Aideen.

There was a pang of loss as I thought about the forces I would never touch again, the powers I had shared with my brother, the connection broken to my mysterious ancestors.  That ache was soothed, however, the hole filled with the confidence that this was the Correct decision.

I was ready to be Her Raven.

My hand reached towards Her, closed on Her merest fingertip.  She gathered me up, and I felt power nestle within me, as ready for me as I was for it.

I broke the surface.

Quill (now clothed and clean of blood) held his hand out for me, and I desperately grabbed for it, accepting his help to climb back out into the chamber (I noted abstractly that the Door was now gone, but that fact felt so minor it was swept away in the maelstrom of my emotions).  The air stung as I took in deep, gasping breaths.  I sobbed with both anguish and joy, tears burning tracks of white through the blood on my face.  He placed a hesitant hand on my naked shoulder as I cried myself out and calmed myself down, as I searched within to discover what I had lost and gained.

It felt as if my journey had taken an eternity, and at the same time no time at all.  I was sure that by the time I returned to my friends, that they would have solved all of our problems (although a new, more confident voice within me answered that they couldn't do so without me, and thus they must still be waiting).  

Quill broke into my thoughts.  “So, you're going to be waking up soon.  Things are going to be different.”
“But I’m Aideen.”  I answered automatically, echoing the thoughts I had had when I was swimming.
“They'll be suspicious,” he said quickly, but with understanding.  “You tell Iluvere and Simbar you are The Raven’s Champion, they’ll accept it.” 
I nodded as he continued, “She’s given you more than this power, certain gifts, things you were carrying will be gone, replaced.”

I was about to respond when I felt the world start to rush away, replaced by Gareth’s concerned face, and I found myself once again gasping for air.

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Pursuit, part 3
Forged Anew

AN52, 4 Yluj 

Aideen wakes changed.  She has a new faith and confidence in a higher power: The Raven Queen.  She has sacrificed her old life for a service to this strange and distant goddess.

Her new powers are put to the test as the party must guard Illivere, Simbar, and Desmond while the trio work together to infuse Black Mantle's wedding ring into Gareth's sword.  Shadows of strange distorted people and animals attack the ritual, forcing the Heralds into a tight ring around the participants.

With the successful rite, now all that remains is to use the weapon against Black Mantle…

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Pursuit part 2
Bright Siders on the Upside Down

AN52, 3 Yluj

The fight with the spider creatures goes poorly.  One by one, each member of the Heralds falls before the creatures until only Desmond stands over the bodies of the last two foes.  

Finding his friend's bodies, Desmond brings the body of Declan to the basement of the Homely Sheep.  When he returns to collect the others, he finds the bodies are missing.  In desperation, Desmond begs his mysterious patron for help.  A distant voice tells him only to sleep.

The Heralds all awaken in the basement of the Homely Sheep, still in the strange world of the "upside down" or Shadowfell.

Deciding to explore the tunnels under the town of Grayson, the party finds a series of tunnels with trapped doorways.   One room reveals a map that seems to indicate dangerous areas of the town.

Further exploration also introduces the party to a pair of native elves, Shadar-Kai, named Iluvere and Simbar who offer to ally with the party to destroy Black Mantle.

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