The Hand of Fate
...and the tangled web


Shrike, feeling out of place in an urban environment, let alone a palace tower, was beginning to sweat behind his mask. As he awkwardly scratched his face behind the sweltering leather, his peripheral vision was momentarily restored, coinciding with a flash of movement out the balcony window. Quickly crossing the room and opening the door, he saw a crumpled ball of paper on the balcony, and a hand clutching the rail. The hand released its grip and dropped out of sight. Looking over the railing to the street below, he saw a wagon train making its way into the city proper, and the swift movement of a snake’s tail disappearing into the throng of festive citizens.

The wagons, drawn by lumbering white beasts somewhere between goat and bison, were empty cages, most likely returning from Malignor’s slave market, ready for more cargo. As Shrike turned back to discuss the hand and snake with Felix, Eldon hastily pocketed the paper, brushing off enquiries with complaints about lax staff neglecting to properly clean the balcony.

Felix realised the hand and snake to be one and the same. Called “Hands of Fate”, these witch’s constructs are intended to surveil and occasionally murder. Shrike sent Arwen to track the homunculus.

Eldon resisted polite enquiry but it was soon apparent that not only was his hand bleeding, but a flower was blooming out of his pocket. Confronted with these observations, he conceded only that our heroes weren’t the only party engaged to save his daughter. Eldon was hedging his bets. Disappointed by the lack of results, and irritated by scrutiny, he ordered Taito to escort the party from the palace.

Across town, in a prison cell, Egil listened carefully as the freshly-extracted elven child fell silent. Biting a hole in his sackcloth hood, he managed to glimpse the scarved noblewoman crouched before the child, speaking softly and sweetly, her hands around the child’s. Whether by comfort or terror, this approach was working, but Egil felt no confidence that their fate would be any better, if not much worse, than those headed into slavery.

Attempting a third time to conjure the spirit of desire, he was assaulted by his infatuated cellmate. No, not in the way you think, dear readers: the half-drunk thief sharing the shaman’s cell only wanted to tug his totem away from him.

Stop it.

A fight broke out, Egil head-butting the thief, and the warden called out assertively for the pair to pipe down. Egil felt this was just as he liked it, and made even more commotion until the warden sent another guard into the cell to break it up.

Egil called the lightning , lashing out over his shoulder toward the bars of the cell, toasting the unsuspecting guard and tethering his lucky spirit, but also catching the attention of the nobles by the warden’s desk. The warden and another guard cautiously entered the cell, spears lowered to keep the shaman at bay, then Egil summoned a spectral python, which promptly trussed him like a ham as the thief retreated with his prize.

To the southwest, Ludwigron walked up to Eshrigel’s door and knocked. “I am Ludwigron, the great wizard” he announced, “and I propose a business arrangement which could prove to be mutually beneficial…”. He disappeared inside to discuss the finer points late into the night, over tea, beneath a large cage containing some kind of plasmic ghoul. A deal was struck to deliver the deadliest part of Eshrigel’s book to Zorlac, and in exchange, the gorgon would incapacitate some of the librarians, allowing the wizard time to peruse the library, procure his lost volume, and possibly purloin further tomes.

Should this arrangement go as planned, Ludwigron also proposed to assist Eshrigel in clearing a path through the fungus to the well in Ironfall. The price for this task is yet to be negotiated…

Upon exiting the palace, Shrike decided to sneak beneath the last wagon in the train, and quickly discovered the hand of fate had the same idea. Ellissendre tried to speak with the beasts of burden, but only riled them up. Baldric tried to climb astride one to calm it with music, but dropped his violin. Felix tried to retrieve the violin from beneath the feet of a beast but nearly broke her hand. Ellisendre tried to help but was knocked out of the way as Shrike swung his sword blindly at the creature on his leg, and Baldric sent a lucky arrow across to knock his violin out of harm’s way.

Shrike called for Arwen, who reluctantly approached the creature until it glared at her, giving him a moment to grab it by the wristneck and stuff it into a sack just as the wagon rolled away, leaving him in plain view on the street. The whole group cut their losses and legged it through the gate into Ironguard proper, ducking into the Hunting Needle pub for dinner, drinks, and rest.

Divided, Subdivided and Complicated
Things devolve in Ironguard


Somewhat nervously, the captain of the guard asked Baldric and Ellissendre if they were here to help Lenore

After a moment of stunned silence, the crowd on the street called for the guards and began aggressively approaching Egil and Ludwigron

…Our heroes were reluctant to reveal the true nature of their business with Eldon, so they stressed to Taito (captain of the guard stationed across the Treewall section of Ironguard‘s barriers) that it would be in his best interest to see them swiftly escorted to him in order to discuss the subject directly. Taito sent a runner ahead to procure masks for the group (including a falconer’s hood for their eagle) to ensure they conformed with the sole tenet of the Festival of Masks.

The motley masks suited the party well, fitting them in bright feathers, plague doctor beaks and naïve grotesqueries. The runner also returned with a key to a cabinet in the nearest tower, wrapped excessively in chains and carved intricately with clasped hands and other strange designs.

Ellissendre recognised the cabinet, but from a memory so distant she couldn’t attach it to a time or place, but she was at least certain that it had no business being in this tower. Stranger still was that its sole content was an ornate mirror, showing a half-reflected version of the room, mingled with an image of the foyer of the Palace Massive. Taito gestured that they follow him through the mirror, and the party scrambled to discern any useful details of the item before they were hurried across the threshold.

Egil decided to power through the crowd to the nearest building, a curiosity shop, in hopes of procuring a disguise to blend in with the masquers. Ludwigron saw the sense in this, and while the shaman shoved the citizens aside, the wizard nimbly ducked and wove his way unseen and through the doorway, just as the guards shouted a challenge to the shaman on the other side of the shop window.

The shopkeeper reached behind the counter and hurriedly approached Ludwigron, who just as hurriedly cast a somewhat messy version of Charm Person. The smiling merchant chided his instant friend for going about unmasked on this day of all days, and a ripple of untidy magic wormed its way across the stone of the city to the nearest arcane object…

Perspective and reality warping around them, those moving through the mirror each experienced the briefest moment of absolute darkness before stepping into the palace foyer. In that darkness, they sensed something wizardly familiar, something clearly wrong, and something watching. The guards passed word around and some of the palace staff went in search of Eldon as the bored bard struck up both pipe and tune. The witch began dancing a distraction and muttering the beginnings of a hex in hopes that Felix could slip away to find Eldon for herself.

Meanwhile, Egil hastily reached for his totem of Telakapa, and in his haste to summon the spirit of desire, Telekapa’s influence escaped his control and overwhelmed him, enamouring him and clouding his judgement of the threat these suddenly attractive guards posed. As they took him into extremely unsexy custody, Ludwigron tried to convince his new friend to help rescue Egil from the guards, but this turned out to be a bridge too far, souring their relationship.

It looked like it was not their lucky day. Egil’s face was covered, and the guards led him away, as Ludwigron slipped out the door and away through the crowd without a backward glance for his troubled partner.

Ellissendre’s hex wove the music into the smoke and her dancing swept it all into a transcendant miasma which was meant to distract the guards from Felix’s escape. Instead, it consumed only the minds of the party, and they were oblivious to the shouts of alarm as the soldiers began shouting, first to each other, then across the courtyard at Felix as she arrived at the doorstep of the Eminent Catherral. As she looked back at her pursuers, she wondered to herself about the decorated well between the two claw-shaped buildings…what was with that thing, anyway?

Egil judged by the sounds around him that he had been thrown into a holding cell, still masked (after a fashion) but unbound. In the adjoining cells, he could hear children weeping. There was a conversation beginning between the guards and some visitors.

Ludwigron made his way to the Library of Zorlac, a private collector whom he knew to be interested in the book he carried, being a rare gift from his most recent work in Morbidia for the abhorsens-in-waiting to the necromancers there. He had helped them seal the region from the realm of the dead, but the ritual had called for such broad strokes that it sealed Morbidia itself off from the eyes of most people…you just can’t find the damn place unless you’re a wizard with luck on your side.

Felix found Eldon in the front row, deep in prayer to Vorn, the grim gaunt god of iron, rust and rain. She patiently waited for him to notice her, and when the guards entered the cathedral, a tiny crack ran through the reverence of the place. When Eldon turned back from the interruption, his eyes met hers long enough for her to gesture that they should see to their business somewhere else.

Egil removed his hood long enough to take in his surroundings. The elven children were bound and hooded in the cells further down the corridor. There was one guard visible at the door, and another at a desk by the keys to the cells. The deskhand was in negotiations with a burly gentleman with a deep voice. He was leathery and hirsute around his black mask, sporting a cane and top hat.

Negotiations were not going well, despite the interjections of a sweet-voiced lady in autumn scarves. The woman gasped, drawing the deskhand’s attention to Egil’s bare face, and after a brief threat, he covered it again. More footfalls and voices joined conversation, and negotiations themselves seemed to shift from the deskhand to the newcomers. As consensus was reached, Egil heard a guard retrieve first the keys, then a single miserable child from their cell.

Ludwigron stood outside the library and considered his options for a long while. One of the fork-tongued librarians approached him, and he finally requested audience with Zorlac himself. Taken through the entrance and into the living room to wait for a moment, he made sure the book of the Living and the Dead was adequately concealed upon his person. Zorlac arrived and Ludwigron revealed that he would be happy to trade the book for Merlin’s Compendium.

Things went rapidly downhill from there, as he inadvertently revealed his recent troubles with the guards by intimating his inability to move freely about the city. Zorlac, with a mild threat about reporting Ludwigron to the authorities, agreed to take the morbidian volume as security, and contracted the wizard to acquire a rare book of psychological ailments from Lady Eshrigel. Ludwigron mumbled something about how much she loved wizards…

Eldon talked the guards down as he scorted Felix back to the palace foyer, where the enchantment was abruptly dropping from our heroes, who were rapidly coming down from their magical, musical elations, and realising what a scene they’d caused. Eldon was less than happy with what this meant for his reputation, far from the discretion he had come to expect from Felix, and Taito warned Eldon that he would not be able to delay stern justice should the party transgress again within the confines of the city.

Felix explained her plan to have Ellissendre work healing magics on Lenore, and they all went upstairs, still under some measure of guard, to assess her condition and consult the witch’s inherited spellbook for a cure. She thought back to her teacher as she turned the pages, and how she had perished brewing a potion of invisibility, trying to make herself as clear as the whisper of the western wind…

Alas, no such cure could be found, and Lenore’s condition was strange enough to consult the spirits. It was a wasting illness, but far from natural. She appeared healthy in the face and hands, but clearly weak and mildly waxen. The rest of her body was waning, losing weight in a way that sugggested magical interference, so Ellissendre asked the spirits two things:

“Has Lenore been cursed by Eshrigel?”


“How can she be cured?”

“By destroying the originator of this malaise, or bringing to bear a magical object of power greater than that used to sicken her”

Lenore had six days to live, and this day is half over.

Over, Under and Through.
The (un)united assault on Ironguard

Our party were at the southwestern perimeter of Ironguard‘s towering walls, at the very edge of the forest of Guadix. The first rays of sunlight were glinting off the pale golden timber of Shrike’s elven arrow, embedded in the stone of the wall’s peak. He gripped the rope, tested his weight, then started up the wall, only to realise that Ludwigron and Egil had disappeared into the sewer system.

Shrike led the way up the rope, and had nearly reached the top, with Felix close behind, Ellisendre further down, when Baldric tangled himself in the remaining rope and sent them all sliding backward, a stray yelp escaping the ranger’s lips. Hearing the approaching footsteps of guards, Baldric hurriedly dentangled himself, dropped to the ground and knocked an arrow in readiness, as Ellisendre began murmuring a preparatory hex. Shrike tried a last-minute acrobatic move to get himself atop the wall, but fell magnificently to the ground instead..

After descending the ladder into the darkness, Ludwigron cast light on his staff and Egil took a moment to study their surroundings. It was clear to the shaman that the sewer had more mobile and reckless inhabitants than the fungi the wizard was raving about. There were scratches and smears on the walls. They explored the area until they found a cluster large enough to engage in telepathic conversation.

A pair of guards peered over the wall, training their crossbows on the group. Ellisendre had been for this moment, and loosed her hex at the guards, whose hands were suddenly burning hot. Instinctively, they dropped their crossbows, one on the walltop, and the other plummeting toward Felix’s head. Felix and Ellisendre hurriedly slid down the rope to join the others, and Baldric asked the guards what it would take to get them to help the group over the wall. “Make it stop!” they cried, and as Felix claimed the fallen crossbow, a third guard appeared, crossbow at the ready.

Ludwigron put his hands to the fungus and opened his mind. The fungus communicated its trust and offered an audience or protection. The wizard, as usual, chose knowledge over safety, asking for a path into the city, and the fungal sprawl asked if he wished to be directed to the tired, the hungry, or the busy. Egil paced back and forth with the decision, discovering a hole in the floor and accidentally dunking himself in filthy water. Luckily, he came up with something: “The tired” he spat, and Ludwigron saw the fungus light the way in indigo waves for them to follow.

Ellisendre was glad to oblige the guards’ request; she took their pain away and gave the new guard a blinding migraine. They ran off for reinforcements, and during the distraction, the witch scrambled up the rope to meet him. Baldric followed, arriving in time to see her applying a healing salve to the guard, who swatted her hand away and started to regain his weapon and footing to save face. Felix arrived as Baldric began pleading their case to the guards, and by the time Shrike had almost reached the top, the guards were hauling him the rest of the way to join the party for a guarded march to Eldon Saviero, who might verify their story.

The shaman and the wizard found the trail’s end at a ladder to the surface, but the telltale puff of a blowpipe told Egil to reflexively raise his shield, all too late. A dart struck him, injecting him with who-knows-what, and the darkness giggled in response. He glimpsed a small figure moving between shadows, and called upon the spirit of desire to draw his assailant into the light. It was a goblin, who Ludwigron hurriedly charmed into revealing his allegiance to “the lady” and calling his friends in the dark to join them in conversation. The fungus seemed to react angrily to these events.

As they marched along the wall, Baldric peered down into the Dirt, to see that Lady Eshrigel was no longer slumming it among the poorest of the city. Her tower hadn’t moved, but was grander and clearly standing apart from the rabble as some proof of recent prosperity.

Egil healed himself and grinned at the goblins, revealing his forked tongue, which sent the creatures into a fearful, defensive posture, hissing “Librarian” at each other. Ludwigron attempted to heal negotiations and build rapport, but murdered his goblin friend, and the fungus released a cloud of spores into the chamber. Egil held his breath and raced for the ladder, but Ludwigron’s sense of self-preservation saw him push past and into the open air above.

Gasping and stinking, the pair burst onto the street amidst a throng of masqueraders observing the Day of Masks. Needless to say, our heroes made plenty of interesting first impressions among both the guards and the citizens.

Whiteflower Glade

Five days after a quarter of the castle collapsed into the sea, our heroes, nigh-insensate and practically starving, wandered through Whiteflower Glade, into the middle of an argument between Egil the Shaman and Ellisendre, the Witch of the Raberian Forest.
Egil, distracted by the mystical stupor clinging to the party, was knocked unconscious by the witch, and awoke an hour or so later to see them regaining their senses by virtue of Ellisendre‘s herbs and Baldric’s song.

They remembered being hired, at Felix’s recommendation, to seek a cutting from the white tree of Havenshine to cure the daughter of a noble in Ironguard, near the gate-town of Ironfall. The fee was large, from a respectable man of old money, wishing to restore the honour of his city to its former glory.

Enroute, they camped in the ruins of an inn during an ominous storm, and were there all subject to variations of the same dream, wherein a king in white ordered them, in voices like their own, to bring him the head of the albino beast of Nekesti, rumoured to be found in Havenshine. All beyond the dream, including the details of the dream itself, fell subject to that cloudiness of mind which sent them wandering in its wake. Priscilla was nowhere to be seen, but Baldric was not surprised by her absence. It wasn’t the first time.
Shrike struggled to pierce the foggy occlusions to his memory and when he stared directly at the vision of this king, he saw that his legs were atrophied, and his crown was a twisted horn, possibly two horns entwined by some deformity. Ludwigron was convinced that their path southward must’ve taken them directly through the rumoured region of Morbidia, which no-one has been allowed to see, and cursed the fact that he wasn’t aware of his surroundings to have harvested their prodigious path for secret knowledge.

Turning to more practical matters, chiefly their lack of food or coin, the party headed east to Ironguard via the elvenwood of Guadix. The semi-nomadic elves of the region were bereft, having recently lost their children to the slavemarket harvest by the soldiers of Ironguard. They were happy to let the group lodge there, and Ellisendre asked for a child’s trinket to help divine their location. The children were not yet at the slave market of Malignor, but still within the confines of Ironguard, and therefore much more available for rescue. Egil pledged his ceremonial dagger in exchange for their last quiver of elven arrows to assist in scaling the city’s southern wall.

We left our heroes contemplating three entrances to the city: Up the rope attached to one of the remaining elven arrows, embedded in the top of the wall, through the one remaining sewer tunnel, past its telepathic fungal inhabitants, or simply through the wall, after blowing it up, accidentally on purpose.

The Crumbling Castle

Our story began in the entrance hall of a crumbling Castle Havenshine, where our heroes had crossed paths with six beastmen. One charged at Priscilla, who deftly cleft it in twain as the rest of the party wondered why the hell they had got themselves into this situation. The consensus was that they were after the head of the albino beast of Nekesti, though Ludwigron mumbled continuously about some book he hoped to find, while Baldric sought a cutting from the White Tree.
That’s when everything started to go wrong.
Shrike had trouble with his first arrow and quickly found himself pinned to the wall by a beastman cur. Ludwigron used the dust and commotion as cover to investigate the portrait which he suspected to obscure a secret passage. He lifted it off the wall only to find more wall.
Priscilla cleft a second cur to bits as Felix tried to dive through the vine-choked window to the garden beyond. The vines had other ideas, and she found herself tangled halfway, a cur grabbing his ankle from behind.
Baldric loosed an arrow, wounding one cur, then drew his rapier to save Shrike. The sword missed both the beastman and the Ranger but jammed in the masonry. Ludwigron tried to cast Charm Person on that beastman, but failed, then panicked and broke the portrait over the beastman’s head. Shrike took the opportunity to duck and slide out from between the beastman’s hooves, only to find himself between that cur and two others charging toward the group. He drew his blade but little else before the cur struck the wizard and spun to face him.
Another arrow from Baldric was sent to save Felix by hitting the beastman’s arm, instead hitting Felix in the leg. Felix struggled against the vines to draw her rapier but the vines released a cloud of dizzying spores.
Priscilla swung her axe at the charging beastmen, killing one, but taking a horn in the forearm in return. The horn tore a ragged hole and blood sprayed out.

“At least you earned a scar worth a good story”
Priscilla: “I wouldn’t even bother talking about this wound”

Another beast fell, then Shrike called his eagle to distract the head wearing the portrait-frame while he lunged for the kill. The cur swatted the eagle away before succumbing to the blade in its stomach.
Ludwigron sent a magic missile resembling a really nice guava at the final beastman, killing him.

It was then, as they extracted Felix from the vines, that they heard a sound from a hitherto unnoticed stair downward. Shrike sent his eagle to investigate, but only panicked cries returned. He lit a torch and led Ludwigron and Felix downstairs while Priscilla and Baldric remained behind to prevent unneccessary violence. If the Barbarian sees anyone else here, they’re likely to die.

Baldric: “Which instruments do your people play?”
Priscilla: “Xylophones of human skulls”

Meanwhile, Shrike found a white-furred, stitched-together abomination wrestling the eagle onto a necromantic workbench. Ludwigron cast Charm Person and asked the thing what it was doing here. The eagle escaped and a woman’s voice issued from the terrible mouth.
“Oh, just trying to put my life back together. After I upset that Death God, I really fell to pieces”
The voice dissolved into growls as she noticed the others on the stairs. Felix had pocketed a pod from the vine which she threw at the beast to buy them time. Then before it began its fully-bestial charge, Shrike called to Priscilla, who sprinted down the stairs and tackled the beast to the ground.
As Felix pocketed a treasure from the table, the others tied the beast up and Baldric blew halfling pipeleaf-smoke in its face to suppress the animal and further question the Necromancer he suspected to be within, based on the lore of the place. She longed to be restored.
Shrike: “Nothing else down here but skeletons and brown beast-bits”
Ludwigron: “Maybe we could transfer her soul into your eagle?”
Felix, whispering to Priscilla: “CHOP CHOP CHOP DONE
In the end, they decided to drag the beast up to the courtyard, in case a soul-transferrence ritual brought the castle down around them. Priscilla smashed a step to disable the ward trapping them down there. The cracks in the masonry chased them upstairs, and they all broke into a run to get safely into the courtyard.

Two walls collapsed, bashing Priscilla‘s hands and burying the beast-thing completely, the rope trailing uselessly from the pile of stone. To Ludwigron’s horror, the library stair which had crumbled, his precious book most likely lost over the cliffside, into the sea below. He stood agape, clutching a torn portrait in a broken frame.


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