The Realms / Exotic Items, Creatures, and Wares


Where shall I begin? While the day itself started at the crack of noon, the work for this gathering started weeks earlier, to say nothing of the years of history. I myself found out what a big deal it was to Magus James Swift when he personally asked me to aid him, calling in a favor owed to him from the days of the Bedlam War.

Article written by Eric "Rosetta" Willisson

Source:  View from Valehaven

I do want to mention that while a few names show up repeatedly in my telling, that is only because of the places I was focused throughout the day. Every single person who came to this quest was essential. I saw so many acts of heroism, large and small, from quick thinking to keep a line together, to acts of sacrifice, to running to defend when heedless of danger. There are long stretches where I do not discuss the fighting, but make no mistake, it was nearly constant, and we could not have accomplished what we did had we not been well-defended.

Because of the history, recent and not, we had documentation, newly-crafted items, old artifacts, and magical power gifted to us by everyone from fellow adventurers to the Stonewood Fae, there to support us on our quest. We would need everything that was brought to bear.

Soon after arriving, and confirming to James that I was there as a representative of the Fae answering his summons, we gathered in a cozy tavern outside the town of Wartham. I could already hear those present discussing their own preparations: yes, the graveyard was "locked down" to prevent its dead from being used against us. Yes, the knightly gauntlets were charged. Yes, the Blood Brothers item was active. Soon, James addressed the crowd.

He reminded us why we had come, and the expected tasks ahead of us. We were there to reforge the evil sword Shadow Fang to make it into a force for good. First, we would have to reach Wartham. Second, we would fight the demon called The Smith and take its hammers, the Horadric Malus. Third, we would gather Runestones from our enemies until we could assemble the required Runewords to empower Shadow Fang and activate necessary magical tools. Fourth, we would actually reforge Shadow Fang and kill the fallen archangel within it. Just four things. Along the way, we would find the Black Soul Stone, a prison with which to keep Izual, the archangel, from simply returning to fight us later through the demonic Cycle once we had slain him.

Apprentice Tempest moved around the room, handing out actual trifold pamphlets introducing us to the lands of Stonewood. If mine did not get too dirty, I will be submitting it to the Library of Ivory. It covered key things we needed to know about the types of dangers in Stonewood, whether to do things on impulse without checking first (no), and current members of the nation.

Soon, James and Tempest enchanted the armor of all ten or so fighters who were present, and we set out for Wartham. We had hoped to find multiple survivors of the recent weeks' attacks, but when we arrived we sadly found only one, a man named, if I caught it right, Voloris. Wartham itself had a small graveyard, the anvil we would need, and a border of a few dilapidated buildings and some trees. Outside, the red portal we had been warned of glowed faintly. We also found a box with blanks that would fit the Runeword needed to re-enchant Shadow Fang.

The portal began to disgorge demons. Undead, mostly, with fairly tough armor. As predicted by my divinations, we quickly started to find Runestones carried through the portal. While some assumed they belonged with me because of my own association with Runes, it was Rowan of Stonewood and a newer adventurer, Astaria, who were able to make the most sense of them. cross-referencing them against a book of runic lore and keeping track of which of the 84 Runestones we had collected. Their work proved vital throughout the day.

Early on, a greater undead being came through the portal. Most of us were unable to affect it, and on the rare occasion we did drop it, we had little understanding of how it had happened. It helped set the tone for the day, in that it took us a very long time and some noteworthy costs to figure out how to finally destroy it. Ser Kovaks' use of Fighter's Intuition, Apprentice Thoril's use of a Sleep regional, and Astaria's Magic Missiles all proved vital, as well as several people's keen observations.

After this, there was a lull, and Kovaks brought truly essential supplies from their cart. There were water, grapes, cheese, pepperoni, animal crackers and pretzels. They had reminded us in the meetings leading up to this quest that an army marches on its stomach, and thus came prepared. We relied on these greatly throughout the day, and I cannot imagine how hard it would have been to continue on without these snacks.

As we expected, soon after this, more undead emerged from the portal, and they were clearly accompanied by the Smith. Two hammers, and a loud voice told us all we needed to know. In addition, it was accompanied by what appeared to be Lord Elwin of Stonewood, fighting on its side and very difficult to harm. By this point I had noticed that the majority of our enemies were enchanted beings, and frequently used my Circle of Protection to avoid fights and get kills where I could. The fight went poorly for us, and at one point we nearly all were felled, but Thoril saved the day with a magic item that, for some reason, is activated by shouting "Attention Campers, all in the sound of my voice, rise and fight!".

I believe the Smith was finally defeated when enough different people had attacked it, though I may be confusing that with another fight. Similarly, I am unsure how Lord Elwin was defeated. See what I meant about the greater undead setting the tone for the day? I do know that we attempted to destroy the body afterwards. It dissipated, and we agreed to work on fixing it another day. We were too far in our current mess to take on anything else. A current theory is that it was a simulacrum of him.

With the Horadric Malus in our hands, and the majority of the Runestones collected, only a scant couple of hours in, it seemed that time was on our side. This was about to change.

We had noticed a locked door that would normally have lead to the basement beneath the tavern, with a curious inscription on it, a long series of standard spells separated by three symbols: ~, +, and |. It seemed likely that the spells indicated some kind of password, and over time we put increasing amounts of work into solving it. Tempest, Astaria, and Rowan did much of the painstaking work, but it eventually took several divinations and spending favors granted by the Stonewood Fae to finally solve it. Before I understood how the Fae preferred to be spoken to, it expressed its displeasure first by blinding everyone for several minutes, and then by killing the entire questing party. Thankfully, we had diligent healers and a magical Group Healing pool belonging to James to help us recover, and the door unlocked when I spoke the password.

We sent a scouting party inside, and they reported that there was a terrible miasma, making them feel incredibly ill. There was also, some distance down, an altar with skulls and an item that could only be the Black Soul Stone. The stone was surrounded by a magical field and could not be touched. When James and I went to investigate the stone ourselves, he noticed that there were tiny images of Runestones etched around the metal casing for the stone, likely fitting the twelve circles surrounding the stone. He began to record them, though almost succumbed to the miasma.

We planned to send different people down, each to stay as long as they could to record Runestones. Sir Avendar went first, and was able to get several before he felt his magical protections being burned through. Tempest chose to go next. However, we noticed she was remaining there for a dangerously long time, and when we sent someone to investigate, they found no sign of her, only the notebook she had been writing in. A Guidance did not answer me as to whether she had been absorbed into the stone herself, but it seemed the most likely bet. It also seemed likely that we would need to be able to bring it out to rescue her. Rowan volunteered to continue the work, and had me tie a rope around her waist so I could pull her back if she fainted. I waited for the longest time I thought could be safe, called to her and got only a cough in return, pulled the rope back in, and to my horror found the empty end. She, too, had vanished.

The sun was setting and we had lost two of our people, and still were far from activating the Black Soul Stone, or even solving what was wrong. I composed a ritual of Fae power to Intervene for help, and suddenly found myself holding a pile of twelve Runestones, empowered to deactivate the shield. I ran down, followed closely by Kovaks, and inserted the Runestones as quickly as possible. With the last one, I saw the shield flicker and vanish, and seven demonic spirits in the room became visible as they were sucked inside. To my relief, the bodies of Tempest and Rowan materialized in front of us.

I tried to take the Black Soul Stone, but quickly found it had a compulsion to return it to the spot. It would need a Protect the Soul or similar magic to remove it. We grabbed the two bodies and hurried back into the fresh air.

While arranging for the two of them to be raised, we found Talia, a new adventurer who had been given a Protect the Soul sash. She was able to bring the stone up from its holding place. Unfortunately, when I took it as she handed it to me, its power overcame me and I was compelled to slay everyone around me, while being protected from their weapons myself. Eventually I was stopped when Kovaks grabbed me from behind while others pinned my arms, until the magic left me in a huge explosion. The stone began to drift back to its spot on the altar. Later experiments confirmed it could only be kept inside a Circle of Protection for a short time, and we concluded it would need to be left in place until it was needed. I made sure Talia knew that she was one of the only people who could take it, and that when Izual was brought low after Shadow Fang was reforged, she would need to retrieve it so he could be imprisoned.

It was much later in the day than we had hoped, and we knew it would soon be time to begin the reforging process. Sir Sean called to the god Thane to restore our magics, though like all things divine in Stonewood this came at a cost. Jericho performed an Augury to determine that, contrary to some earlier beliefs, it would be a good idea to close the red portal then, not wait until after fighting Izual. Blackwood headed to the portal with a plan. It wasn't long, however, before someone came running back, saying that the portal had closed, with everyone else still inside. I rushed over to attempt a summoning ritual to pull them back out of the Hell they were now trapped in. At first it seemed like I was successful, as bodies appeared, but at last, when my power reached Sir Mathias, I felt him Resist Magic and the ritual ended. The other members of Blackwood were understandably extremely upset that I had left their lord behind, though I tried to explain that he had resisted me. I would have been upset and confused, too. At the very end of the night, I made one last attempt, supported by the rest of Blackwood other friends of Mathias, to summon him back to us, but once again he outright refused. I believe Squire Pilpus, Sir Nos, and Sir Elizah have worked on learning more since then.

There was nothing else for it but to begin reforging Shadow Fang. James had summoned an "automation crystal" that would work the anvil. After confirming we had the Runeword we needed, thanks to the hard work of Astaria and Rowan, we brought the Runestones, the Horadric Malus, and Shadow Fang to the anvil, and began.

As expected, the fallen archangel Izual emerged swiftly. Thanks to a blessing by Lady Natira, we knew he would be unable to escape Wartham, and with the portal closed he would have no way to reach the demonic realms. However, we expected to have to defend against him and the minions he summoned for over an hour and a half. Thankfully, magic from Sir Sean and others seemed to lessen this greatly.

Still, the battle was hard. Night had fully fallen, and his minions were plentiful. I spent most of the battle using my Circle to help prevent one side of the line from being wrapped, but unable to harm very many of the heavily-armored undead. Behind me, it was clear that the battle against Izual was raging. Thoril used all of his Sleep abilities to prevent Izual from reaching the anvil and interrupting the forging, but there still were many close calls.

I believe that I missed when Shadow Fang was actually finished, but when it was, the tenor of the battle changed from simple survival on our part to seeking victory. Around this time, one of the undead managed to break through my Circle, raise me as undead, and sent me to kill James. However, this was at the exact moment that James had invoked all of his power and was fighting Izual hand-to-hand. I came in to try to kill James from behind, but my dagger bounced off him as easily as if he had been an Archangel himself. Eventually the people around me caught on that I was probably being compelled, not trying to stop James for some inscrutable Fae reason, and so killed me.

The next thing I knew, I was alive and no fighting was occurring. Instead, there was a discussion taking place. I ascertained that there had been a fatal mistake, and Izual now had dominion of the Black Soul Stone himself, and to make matters worse he contained the three Prime Evils that had been trapped inside it. So confident was he of his victory, that he had agreed to let us regroup and discuss his offer to let us walk away.

Things were indeed bleak, but it is never wise when fighting the Realms to give us time to think and pool resources. Thoril revealed that he had a scroll of Wish he had been hoping to use otherwise, but he could sacrifice for this cause. Not wanting to waste time, and knowing the ways wishes have a tendency to backfire, we decided on a simple one quickly: to make it so that the Prime Evils were back in the stone. Obviously, when this wish was made, the truce was over.

Unfortunately, it turned out the stone was still embedded in Izual's chest. Still, this had made him significantly more vulnerable. Avendar used a scroll to reach Vandor and rip the stone out from his chest, at which point everyone descended on Izual, and soon he was dead and his body dissipated. His spirit seemed to float away, possibly to the Black Soul Stone.

In the end, we were battered, bloodied, and weakened, but we had accomplished what we set out to do. Shadow Fang is no longer an angel-slaying sword of evil, but rather a force for good. Its powers are of Peace and War, such that James may better serve his goddess.

The one snag was that the Black Soul Stone itself went missing, with nothing but a small pool of mysterious liquid to mark where it had once been. It seems it may have been acquired by an even bigger threat, one which may have orchestrated some or all of this for its own plans. But, such is the way of dealing with gods and angels, and perhaps we will confront this foe another day...

Posted by Crown Prince Saeganof Blackwood