Lords of the Mourning

Saving the Family Farm

Quickly making their way to the northern edge of the valley, the party reaches the Dalton farm shortly hafter midday. Edging up to the clearing surrounding the house, they are slightly dismayed to see a well armed goblin standing guard at one of the entryways. The party charges forward quickly, bursting into the house and alerting the invading goblins to their presence. They are immediately engaged and fight a close battle within the home’s tight confines.

They discover the Dalton’s bound within the dining room with the patriarch Tad bloodied and knocked unconcious on the ground. Cordus works to revive the injured man as the party finishes off the last of the invaders. Though injured, the man is able to get up and hobble abount. As they untie the family members harsh cries erupt from the forest and the sound of objects hitting the roof are clearly audible. This is followed very quickly by the smell of burning thatch and the party quickly realizes the house has been set on fire.

Gathering the family, the party leaves through a side entryway and are immediately set upon by a group of goblins and kobolds. Erdan gathers together the frightened and injured family members and escorts them towards what looks like a portion of the forest that is clear of enemies while the rest of the party engages the goblins and distracts them from hurting the civilians. Looking south, they see large plumes of black smoke and the beginnings of flames that are racing towards the house.

The party quickly joins up with Erdan and the Dalton family as they quickly make their way west along a dried up creek. Going as quickly as they can while trying to avoid detection, the party makes their way along the creekbed. The goblin cries grow fainter and it looks like they are in the clear, but their encouragement turns to dismay as they run right into the leader of this contingent of goblins: a rather large goblin surrounded by his elite retinue of troops.

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The Daltons

Having dispatched the wraith and the skeletal remains of former goblins, the group rushes towards the crypt exit only to be engaged in the entrance chamber by a group of undead that were also called to unlife by the wraith. The group makes quick work of the crumbling zombies and rushes out of the crypt.

They make their way out of the canyon and find a place to rest their weary bodies. The next morning they encounter two young boys out hunting. They are members of the Dalton family and their ranch isn’t too far away so they group accompanies them to the family farm. There they meet the head of the family, Ned Dalton, who gives them a brief history of the valley. He was previously a ranger of Aundair, but he retired out here after his serving his time in the military. Perched on the northern edge of the valley, the house has a fantastic view of the surrounding countryside. They spend the evening with the family and are re-energized from tall helpings from the family’s gardens.

The next morning they set out for Bromide and reach the town around noon. They meet up with Walhand and relay the story of their crypt adventures to him. He grows concerned and announces he is going to be making a trip to Arcanix to meet with House Denieth leadership. His previous conversation with Mal convinced him that something was amiss with all of these magical item requests. The party agrees that the situation seems severe enough to warrant their return with him to the magical city.

That evening the party rests in Cerik’s tavern. While there they are approached by the young girl that Bastion had met earlier. She is troubled. Her father has not returned for a number of days from his regular monthly lumbering trip…an unusual event. The party discusses what to do, but concerns about the House and their obligations to it prevent them from assisting the girl.

The next morning they pack up their belongings and meet in the town center. While waiting for Walhand one of the two Dalton boys they met previously stumble into the town center. His head caked in blood and looking extraordinarily weary, the boy tells a horrifying tale of a host of goblins and hobgoblins attacking the family farm. The family was able to hold them off, but the boy was sent to find help from Bromide. Despite wanting to leave, the party feels compelled to help the family. Walhand assists by finding them some mounts to make the trip faster, but is concerned about a possible attack on the town. He elects to stay behind and rally the town militia to make preparations for a possible assault. The party makes their way north to the Dalton family farm.

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Concerns

The party returns to a grateful Cyric who names the ale that will created from the herbs on the party’s recommendation. Walhand joins them that evening for a celebratory drink for saving the local tavern from having to close up shop. Talking with Mal, Walhand expresses concerns about the House’s motives behind these relic adventuring requests that was originally expressed by the dark elf.

Another request has come in…this time to obtain a religious artifact located amongst the ruins of a former Goblin tribe that lived within a narrow canyon at the northwest corner of the Obsidian Valley. Walhand tries to press his House superiors for more information on who is the originator of these requests, but his questions go unanswered. Walhand provides the party with the necessary information to lead them to the goblin ruins and tells the party that he is going to make an unannounced trip to Arcanix to try and get more information. In the meantime, they should continue to honor these treasure hunting requests on the assumption that nothing fishy is going on. The party agrees and sets out for the valley’s northwest corner the next morning.

Traveling through grasslands interspersed with pockets of tall pines, the party gradually climbs in elevation as they near the mountains. As they travel, the party begins to notice the grass covered remains of former crude houses. Though long since abandoned, the buildings have a distinct look about them that indicates the nature of their former owners. The mountains come together and the canyon that Walhand previously described draws out before them. On its eastern side stand similar ruins and within them a cave.

Walking within, the party discovers an old crypt with the remains of various small shaped humanoids. A oblong statute of a goblin stands guard at the entrance. A long hall extends out from the first room that is flanked by statutes of goblins symbolizing the Dark Six. These immortal beings each have come to symbolize the six major vices. At the back of the hall stand two more goblin statutes that the party assumes represent former commanders of the goblin tribe. The back wall is painted a dark black with two firey red eyes over the entrance to the next room.

It is here that the PCs encounter their first dangesr with a pair of oozes and some bats that react to their presence by attacking. A few moments later the enemy lies dead and the PCs enter into the final crypt. Resting on an altar in the back of the room is a golden icon about the size of an ostrich egg shaped like a monkey head. Three vertical caskets lie against the back wall.

Zell considers their options and elects to cast a minor cantrip from which materializes a magical hand that can grab the icon. Immediately following an apparition appears behind them…a cruel wraith that has long haunted these crypts. Calling forth skeletal minions, the wraith attacks as the remains of former goblins burst from the crypts and dismembered skeletal hands dig out of the ground and attack the party. A close battle ensues with the wraith freezing the party in place before landing furious attacks with its cold claws. Bastion and Erdan engage the skeletal warriors while the dark elf, human, and minotaur make short work of the wraith and hands.

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Sprinkles the Dragon
Even a young white dragon needs a name...

Wheeling over the heads of our heroes, Sprinkles lands amid the large boulders blanketing the hilltop. A young white dragon that has allied himself with the mercenaries, Sprinkles lashes out with ice and talons in anger at his friend’s recent demise. The heroes make short work of the dragon and soon are able to boast of their first significant kill. A few take a small scale as a reminder of the occassion.

In a small trunk nearby the heroes find a cache of gold and a few weapons that turn out to have magical properities after a close inspection. Gathering what herbs they can, the heroes make their way back to Bromide and leave the mercenaries corpses to fertilize the hillside.

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To Save A Tavern

The heroes have agreed to help Cerik, the owner of a small, local tavern in Bromide, gather some herbs from fields along the southern slopes of the Obsidian Valley. The catch is that Zell, the proprieter of the rival inn where the heroes are currently staying, has hired a band of mercenaries to both gather the herbs and prevent any others from gathering herbs. These seemingly unimportant weeds contain a special spice that has a unique flavor and which sells well at the tavern.

They head south and eventually find the hill’s location. As they begin to climb it large boulders being pushed from the top begin to topple down around them. Running among the boulders are Guard Drakes and flying over head are hawks that engage the heroes as they climb the hill and try to avoid getting flattened by falling rocks. Emerging victorious after a close battle fought while negotiating the hill and the avalanche, our heroes crest the hill to find a small depressed valley littered with enormous boulders that have come to rest here. The mercenaries have taken up covered positions within the maze of rocks and the PCs have to split up among the boulders as they engage the mercenaries. The merc’s leader…a human that has taken a small rock golem for a pet and guardian, eventually dies to Bastion’s blade.

Only a short time is given to restas they hear the rustling of wings and see a large white dragon flying quickly towards them.

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Flight from the Swamp

The party arrives at an old temple previously used by the druids in their sacrificial ceremonies. They encounter a group of Bullywugs just finishing up a cannibalistic meal. The party split up and attacked the frogs from the flanks. During the fight one of the Bullywugs grabs an item from a nearby altar and stabs one of his comrades. The frog dies almost instantly, but not before a dimensional warp opens in his chest from which erupts a 2 masses of tentacles. Erdan recognized them immediately: Fell Taints from the Far Realm. The image of the mural came to mind as the party fought against psionic attacks that penetrated their willpower. A close fight ensued that ended only after a concerted attack by Dane ended in his fists causing the creatures to explode. Mal noticed that the frogs had dropped a sickle that had caused the dimensional warp and quickly grabbed it to prevent any other frogs from using it.

The party had only a short time to rest and finding a beautifully crafted bow before they were forced to run for their lives with hundreds of Bullywugs close on their heels. They managed to escape the swamp, but only after a hurried misdirected romp with Bastion doing what he could to make sure they were heading the right direction.

They went back to Bromide to discover a merchant caravan had set up shop in the town square. Mal had some concerns about whether or not they should give Walhand the sickle. A tense argument ensued among the party members about what to do with the sickle. Eventually Mal chose to visit the local Magewright to hopefully discover just how dangerous this item really was. While there Bastion encounters a small halfelven girl who is visiting the shop with her father, a local woodcutter. He befriends the small girl and has an opportunity to chat with the woodcutter. Meanwhile Mal chats with the magewright who instantly recognizes the sickle as a implement with dangerous properties.

Eventually the party returns to Walhand who finally opens up to the party and explains that even he is kept in the dark about where knowledge of these items comes from. He promises to do what he can to investigate this once they have some time. Shortly following this, Erdan and Cordus return to Cerik’s tavern while Mal, Dane, and Bastion check out the merchant caravan.

While at the caravan, Bastion is introduced to the head merchant who strikes up a conversation with the warforged. The Ardent learns that the merchant also captures elementals from some hills near Bromide when his group heads to the Obsidian Valley. He requests Bastion’s help in capturing these.

Meanwhile at the old tavern, Cerik has a short conversation with Erdan where he pleads with the Ardent to help him gather some of the herbs he had previously mentioned. He explains that his tavern is on its last legs and only these herbs will allow him to regain some of the business stolen by Zell.

The party gathers that evening at Zell’s inn and tavern and agree to help Cerik recover some of his herbs with the hope that this will help the forlorn tavernowner get his head above water.

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Swampy Sojourn

Bastion looked out from the shady canopy of a huge willow. Across his vision he saw a verdant plain gently nestled before the foothills of the towering Blackcap mountains. The sight did not please him. Despite spending years secluded in a place not totally unlike this one, he still was learning how to properly orient himself in new natural surroundings.

“We went too far. We’re going to have to turn around.”, the Warforged sighed as he rose and turned towards the rest of the group.

Cordus rolled his eyes, huffed and turned back towards where they had just been. The Croaking Swamp greeted him. Located in the southern portion of the Obsidian Valley, the swamp had been there as long as the villagers of Bromide had settled there. A good days hike away from the village, it was seldom visited and no one lived near it. Its name may have been an indication for the villagers said that at night you couldn’t go near the place without hearing the continual calls of all manners of frogs. They sludged back into the cool humidity of the boggy environment.

This was their first real assignment and Walhand hadn’t been that specific.

“Villagers around here talk about some ruins located in a swamp to the southeast. You could probably see it on your way here. It’s not that big so I don’t suspect it would take you that long to spend a day out there looking for anything interesting. Take along some camping gear just in case, but be sure and return by tomorrow. Word from HQ is we’ve got another assignment coming down the pipe that’ll be more important that this one.”

So here they were…knee deep in cold, slimy muck trying to find signs of something…anything that would indicate life or former life beyond the gnats and whatever occassionally brushed up against their legs in the water.

A couple hours later they came across an old wooden pathway snaking above the mudline. It clearly hadn’t been used in awhile, but the wood was stout and it was as good a sign as anything. Bastion recommended they follow it and so they did. The path went along for some time and seemed to track deeper into the flooded forest. Eventually large mosspads began to emerge from the muck. Springy and light to the touch, the pads were still able to maintain the weight of everyone…including Cordus. The path crossed these and made its way over the pads. Eventually the wooden path ended, but a clearly recognizable path among the moss pads emerged leading the party deeper into the swamp.

The appearance of small stone huts was the first sign of any sort of civilization the party had yet seen. Emerging into a small clearing and clearly abandonded buildlings, Dane asked a question that was on everyone’s minds, “Why are we here again?”.

The few huts they could peer in revealed dwellings that hadn’t seen habitation in many years with vegetation that had almost completely covered most of them. In the center of the huts was a muddy village circle with a large, clearly foreign, stone planted in the ground. Upon the stone was a mural.

On its far left appeared a group of 3 humans in green robes bowing down in worship to a large pine tree that appeared to have a long right branch pointing to the right. The next pane depicts these same 3 humans in a walking motion with 4 large triangles behind them. The tops of the triangles are black. The next pane shows these same humans lifting a large angular shape onto another with another human nearby kneeling on the ground with arms extended down to ground. A small plant comes out of the ground where his hand touches it. The humans are surrounded by other stone shapes that resemble the buildings surrounding you. The next pane showed one human laying on the ground, another human in a running motion and 4 smaller humanoids holding some sorts of weapons with angular eyes and large mouths in chase behind them. Behind the smaller humanoids one of the stone slabs has red markings appearing above it. The story ended with a final pane showing a human facing out with what appeared to be a sickle lodged in his chest for red smears emerged from it. About him rose six tall stone pillars and finally, the most disconcerting sign: snaky lines sketched out from the human indicated something was happening.

Erdas stared at the portrait, trying to gain an understanding of what the images meant when he heard something behind him. It was almost a shambling noise and it appeared to be coming from behind one of the houses. Looking up, he barely caught a glimpse of some medium sized shape moving between the houses.

Suddenly a creature appeared in the doorway of one of the nearby ruined houses. A large mobile plant with numerous snaking vines emerging from its center faced the party. It had no eyes and no other recognizable sensory organs, but it knew exactly where they were. A large maw that resembled a huge flytrap raised out from the central structure upon which the creature moved…a Bloodthorn Vine.

Dane wasted no time. In a rush he was on the creature, but his fist went wide as he slipped in the mud. Adjusting rapidly to a more defensible posture, the monk was also quick to notice a new visitor. The only real way to describe it would be to say a walking mushroom and it wouldn’t be far from the truth. Ambling towards them was what could only be described as a science experiment gone teribbly wrong…an enormous humanoid shaped fungus with a tall looming head appeared between the houses.

Bastion moved quickly to close the gap between the houses and engage the fungus. He’d heard of these things before…Myconids…but he knew next to nothing about them aside from a brief description that seemed to indicate this one was a Rotpriest…fairly easy to tell since it carried a staff covered in blue glowing spores.

The sound of 2 more Bloodthorn Vines indicated even more visitors. One of them lashed at Bastion with one of its vines and wrapped around his legs, cutting the Warforged with numerous jagged spikes along the vine. In short order Dane too was trapped by another Vine. Bastion shrugged off the pain and concentrated on the Rotpriest. Bringing his weapon down with the weight of the Earth, the Warden slammed into the Myconid’s shoulder. The hit barely made the fungus budge.

With an eyeless stare and a noiseless shriek the Myconid raised his blue staff and with a series of loud poofs a large blue tinged cloud of material swept into the air about the Myconid completely enveloping Erdan, Dane and Bastion. The Warforged staggered as his lungs filled up with the spores and his vision blurred somewhat as his body adversely reacted to the decomposing spray. Blood began to pour from old wounds that had healed years ago.

Noticing his comrade’s pain, Erdan stepped up and lashed out at the Rotpriest. His anger at his friend’s suffering poured into Bastion and gave him the motivation to see through the pain for a little longer.

Meanwhile, both Dane and Cordus were dealing with their own problems. Each had engaged a single Bloodthorn Vine and each was having a terrible time with it. Snaking vines had entangled both multiple times though each was able to tear the vines off each time. Despite this, the vines still did their damage and both were bleeding profusely from many jagged wounds.

Mal continued to fire off volley after volley into the group, but the Rotpriest’s Decomposing Spray’s effect upon Bastion caused the Dark Elf to kick into high gear. Drawing her bow to its upmost limit, the Ranger let forth a volley of arrows into the Myconid and Bloodthorn that could have split a tree. The arrows slammed into the Bloodthorn, killing it outright, and lodged firmly in the Myconid’s shoulder who staggered back in pain at the shock. A green bluish liquid began to pour forth from the wound.

The Ardent Erdan followed quickly behind with an enormous strike with his flail that sent the Myconid’s head flying from his shoulders. Just like that the tides turned and in short order the remaining Bloodthorns lay dead upon the ground.

The group rested after the tough encounter and then searched about the buildings. Within they found a smattering of old tarnished gold, a couple useful healing potions, and one item that particularly stood out. A circular piece of wood that appeared to have once been a necklace though the leather cord has long since disintegrated. On it was an intricate carving of a towering oak.

Behind the stone slab was a small trail leading further into the forest and along it the group followed. The light that penetrated the canopy grew less and less as the party continued down the trail and the very weight of the place seemed to grow heavier with each passing step. Cordus looked over his shoulder a few times and though it seemed like he was being watched, he perceived nothing amid the large willows and the muck.

Continuing on, the path became less and less frequent and finally terminated at a vast pond at the center of which stood a massive mosspad encircled by green foliage which stood in front of six tall stone pillars that rose behind them.

Mal froze. “You hear that?”

The sound became more audible as everyone stopped. It was a scuffling sound coupled with a few odd croaks here and there, but there was also a distinct sound of snapping and cracking…almost as if something were being eaten.

They looked at each other and remembered back to the mural they had seen just a short time ago…

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Journeys

They each made their way individually to Arcanix from different locations, arriving in the city within about a week. Resting on the shores of Lake Galifar, Arcanix had previously been a relatively sleepy little village with most of the townsfolk work going to support the great Arcanix University.

And great it was both for its continent wide recognition as one of the best places to study the Arcane arts in all of Khorvaire and for its location. Floating above the town on three enormous earthmotes that remained undeterred despite the sometimes harsh lake breezes, the university had originally been three separate schools that eventually consolidated into one institution as times got tough and money ran dry during the Last War. Housed within were some of the most knowledgeable persons in all of the continent on all things Arcane.

As follows most wars, a great migration of people from the ravaged lands flocked to the villages and towns still left standing. Arcanix was one of these and over the past ten years it flourished into a bustling city with broad thoroughfares flanked with magical brightlamps and carriages managed by House Orien. Moving about the streets and in between the pedestrians were one of the newer innovations of the era: magical brooms spouting two hands that were crafted using the same technology as had been used to craft the warforge, though on a much simpler level. These beings kept the city extraordinarily clean with refuse and debris being pushed into what was one of the best sewage systems in all of Eberron. Rumors on the streets abounded that at the end of all these pipes and funnels was an enormous chained fire elemental who perpetually consumed the trash left by the city.
They met Davmorn at a massive stone structure located in the heart of the city and proudly waving the flag of House Deneith. A middle aged dwarf spouting a frayed bright orange beard, Davmorn had been appointed primary manager of the House’s new ventures for Aundair and the surrounding area.

Meeting within a small and rather cramped office, the party listened as Davmorn explained how the House had started up a new corporation to break into the adventuring business, mainly to meet a rising need by “interested clients” in various items that were relics of bygone days located in various ruins and old landmarks that dotted the continent.

The house was interested in contacting with various small adventuring parties to perform these requested tasks and Bren had recommended that the five were the perfect group for meeting these muscle and brainpower needs. After a short investigation of each person’s background with the House, Davmorn decided to contact the party and extend a job offer. In return for their services, the party would receive a portion of the money the House made off the venture and they would be able to retain any additional items found. Also, all room and board during their travels would be comped by the House.

After a short consideration, they came to an agreement: this was too good an offer to pass up. Davmorn indicated their first assignment would be with one of the newer businesses the House had set up to the south within the Blackcap Peaks. Walhand Goblinblade, a dragonborn that Davmorn said was of some renown among his people as well as a House member, had just set up the business this past week and the five would be assigned to work under him to obtain relics and artifacts within a mountain valley.

And with that, they were off. An Orien Caravan made up of five carriages and a guard detail provided by House Deneith saw the party out of Arcanix along the main road leading southeast to Marketplace. After a couple hours the caravan left the main road and took a well used path leading due south: to the great fortress of Vanguard Keep…one of the great military complexes and training centers for Aundair. A brief stop off at the village surrounding the fort and they were off again, this time headed west towards the Blackcap peaks.

Their name became readily apparent as the party looked through the carriages windows and towards the great mountains that were drawing ever closer. Atop the massive granite landmarks were not your typical snow capped peaks glistening white. Instead, jet black mountain tops exposed dark obsidian that made up the highest parts of each mountain. The mountain’s names were drawn from this, but they had other special properties: namely that no snow ever collected on their tops, even in the dead of winter.

Passing between the silent gazes of two such peaks, the caravan passed into a long valley that cut deep into the mountains. Named the Obsidian Valley, this place had long been abandoned due to the kobold and goblin tribes that had held complete authority over the mountains for many years. Aundair finally tired of the frequent raids and, using Vanguard Keep as a base, sent armies into the mountains to clear the valley and establish a settlement. Cryis Bromide was the leader of these operations as the Keep’s commanding officer and it was for him and a recognition of the safety he brought that the colony which established itself within the valley was named.
The caravan arrived in the village square in the late afternoon, parking in front of an ornate looking wooden inn bearing the name The Lucky Dragon. A banner beneath the logo identified the establishment as an inn under the management of House Gallanda; a name that in Eberron means comfort. The Mark of Hospitality provided through Gallanda’s Dragonmark gave its members an uncanny ability at providing people with just the right service to make their stay relaxing.

Getting out of the caravan, the party was approached by one of the men who drove the carriages to Bromide with a small locked box. “I was told to give this box to you guys once we arrived. It’s for some guy named Walhand?”

Erdan accepted the box and with that the group strode into the Lucky Dragon. Its interior was as lavish as the ornate exterior. A tavern graced on side of the room with an enormous oaken bar running the length of one wall. Spirits rested on shelves all the way up to the wall.

A gnome with bright purple hair approached them and introduced himself as Zell.

“Welcome to the Lucky Dragon! What can I do for you?” the spunky gnome piped in a high pitched voice.

“I believe we have rooms contracted here for the night with House Daneith?” replied Dane. It took Zell a moment, but he remembered.

Meanwhile Bastion looked about. This was far and away the nicest place he’d ever stayed. “Hrm…seems like a waste on my behalf.”

“You can sleep in the stable if it makes you feel guilty”, quipped the monk as he unloaded his belongings onto the floor.

“House Daneith has a contract with us to provide you with services. As long as you guys don’t scare off my customers you can stay here as long as you like.” Zell explained as he began to list off the various amenities their establishment offered. In particular he mentioned size specific rooms for a variety of clientele…even Minotaurs.

This raised Cordus’ interest. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m looking forward to actually being able to sleep on a bed while we’re out here.”

The group went upstairs where Zell showed each of them to their individual rooms. After a short while Dane walked over to Malanimus’ room and banged on the door.

“Let’s head over to the bar and order a pint.”
Erdan sought out Zell and asked where he could find Walhand. The gnome told him that the dragonborn had just recently moved into a short framed house a couple blocks west of the Lucky Dragon. Zell had seem him around the tavern part of the inn before, though he only came around in the evenings and tended to keep to himself.

The rest of the group eventually made their way over to Dane and Malanimus and after a short while Erdan announced his intention to seek out their manager. Mal drained her pint and decided to join the half elf along with Cordus.

The three left the inn and proceeded down a short dusty street. As promised, they noticed a small building with the words “Adventurer’s Inc.” painted crudely on a wooden panel above the door. On the side of the wall was the logo of House Daneith. Leaning against the building near the open door was a tall broad shouldered dragonborn sucking on a long stemmed pipe. Bastion looked at the building and grumbled. “Hardly subtle…no “Thrill seekers with an eye for glitter!” here or anything.”

Mal looked back up at companion and grinned, “Hard to be subtle when one is so large, tinman.”

The dragonborn noticed them walk up, stared at the three and growled, “And you are?” The half elf stepped forward. “My name is Erdan. We just arrived and I was told I should deliver this chest to you. We are a party for House Daneith.”

“Ah…you guys! The fresh blood…I mean new recruits. Good.”. The dragonborn was obviously the man they sought: Walhand Goblinblade. He nodded towards the door, “Come in and I’ll show you around.”

They walked into a small one room building that had a tiny desk near the front door and a large chair behind it.

“They didn’t happen to give you a chest while you were in Arcanix did they? I left some of my personal belongings there because I thought I’d be going back sooner, but it seems we might be out here awhile so I requested they be transferred here.”

Erdan produced the small box and Walhand’s eyes lit up. Using a key that was attached to a chain he kept around his neck, the dragonborn opened the box and rummaged through the contents. He took out a small portrait painting and hung it up behind the desk. It was a depiction of a green skinned dragonborn decked out in some very impressive looking plate armor and carrying a massive two-handed bastard sword that was glowing red. Scribbled in ink and barely recognizable was a small signature in the bottom right hand corner.

“Gragos Bathor. He was a champion of my people. A renowned fighter that I looked up to as a youth and had the opportunity to meet once. He gave me this autographed portrait.” Walhand paused for a moment and then turned to the three, “I’m assumed you’ve already been filled in on the details of why you are here. We’ll be getting started tomorrow. Meet me at sun rise in the town square and be sure to get some rest. You’re going to need it.”

“We look forward to working with you”, Cordus said with a short nod and then he turned and ducked out of the door. Stretching after feeling so cramped in such a small building, the Minotaur raised his arms above his head. “Well, I think it’s about time we made up for some lost time at the bar.”
Dane was on round five back at the Lucky Dragon’s bar and was chatting with Zell. Malanimus got up to head back to her room with Dane whistling as she walked by. Zell stared at the sleek dark elf “That one sure is a looker.” giving a slight pause to admire the view then he looked back at Dane who was reaching into his pouch to pluck out some coins for the ale.

Zell dismissed the monk with a casual wave of his tiny hand. “Don’t worry about it. It’s on the house. House Daneith members are good customers and the House always pays its bills on time.”

Dane cracked a smile and motioned for the bartender to fill up another mug. “Thank you my friend.” receiving a full mug to replace his previous empty one, he raised it slightly and nodded at the gnome. “To your inn and fine beverages. Cheers!”

Cordus arrived a short time later minus his two comrades. They had decided to check out another tavern looking building located on the other side of the village square.

Zell looked at the Minotaur as he walked up. “Watch it with those horns that you don’t knock anything down.”

Cordus looked down at the gnome, “It’s on the “House” right? Well then…your finest drink!”
Erdan walked into the open door of what he assumed was a tavern, though the only person he saw in the large wooden building was a balding old man sitting bored behind the bar. The selection looked pretty poor with a few dusty bottles containing something resembling a liquid behind him. The man looked up as the half elf walked in. “Well well well…haven’t had a customer at this hour in some time. Not interested in the beverages those flee bitten shorties across the way have?

“It is impressive, but too much for my tastes. I’ve never been much for all the enchantments they use.” Erdan replied while he sat down to order a beer. Pulling out a lyre from a small backpack he carried, Erdan asked the barkeep if he could play for a bit. It had been a long time since he’d played in such a venue.

The barkeep looked at the half elf with a broad smile on his face. “Well…sure! That’s great! The name’s Cerik” The half elf looked back and introduced himself.

Bastion had wandered in during the conversation and Erdan introduced the warforged. Sitting down carefully sat on a rickety barstool, the warforged turned to Cerik “This town seems almost ghostly.” Bastion observed as he looked about the deserted tavern.

“It’s not that bad…I get a few regulars. Locals mostly…folks who’ve lived in this place since Aundair came in and cleaned it up.” Ceirk grinned, “We just take some time to get used to outsiders. That being said, most of my business was taken up when House Gallanda moved in.”

“Are they really the center of attention? Their luxury seems distinctly out of touch” Bastion replied.

“They have the best ale in the valley…my ale!”

Erdan paused from his lyre playing. “You sell to them?”

Cerik’s eyes took on a distant look as he remembered the time when the Lucky Dragon was built and Zell moved in. “There are some herbs that grow only in this valley. Folks around here call them Cryis…named after a local hero around here. It’s a small yellow flower with a blue center. The stuff used to grow all over the hillsides on the southern slopes, but then those damn shorties came in. Since then I haven’t been able to get near the stuff since the House has sent out some outsiders to “guard” the flowers while they harvest them and what’s generally left behind isn’t fit to brew.”, Cerik signed, “But there’s not much I can do. They have the House name and that carries a lot of weight. Well I best be getting back to work. Good day.”

With that Cerik turned to attend to a couple locals who had come in after a long day’s work in the field.
The next morning dawned bright and clear with the sun’s rays reflecting sharply off the black peaks. Walhand sat alone in the village square at a small fountain waiting for the party.

“Good morning sunshines. You ready to work?” Walhand said as the groggy eyed, half hung over heroes walked up. It had been a long night at the bar and morning had come swiftly.

Dane looked at the dragonborn. “What’s the job?” The dragonborn looked back and chuckled.

They arrived a short time later at a small homestead just outside of town. They were greeted by an old, leathery man named Johnson who lead them to the back of his farm where a large barn had been built on a gently sloping hillside. Across the bar the doors were nailed with many wooden planks. Farmer Johnson explained how a few days ago he opened the barn door to a rancid odor. Walking in he noticed a few of his cows dead on the ground with large chunks bitten out of them. He grew concerned after hearing some loud skittering noises, ran out of the barn and boarded it up. He hadn’t been back since.

Walhand looked back at the party walking behind him. “Looks to me like we’ve got a rat infestation. Think you guys can handle it?”

Mal looked at the farmer and then at Walhand. “Must’ve been some rat…”

Walhand turned his attention back to Johnson. “Sure, we’ll do this.” Grasping the planks, the dragonborn ripped them off and threw open the doors. A wave of tan dust rolled out of the barn. Motioning the party forward, he collectively herded them into the barn and shut the door.


Bastion looked about the barn. The dust that had been kicked up when Walhand opened the doors was slowly settling back to the ground, but still made the shafts of morning light that stabbed through cracks in the roof even more pronounced. A few feet from him were the skeletal remains of a cow with another one nearby. Something “else” was clearly in here.

Malanimus was the first to spot them, her eyes naturally adjusting to the dimmer light much quicker than her comrades. With a short flick of the wrist two arrows were striking dead two giant rats that had been hiding in the shadows behind one of the far stalls.

Two other rats, each the size of a dog, flew out of the rightmost stalls and made a beeline for Bastion who only narrowly avoided getting bitten. Erdan reacted quicly and with a stunning strike knocked the life out of one of them. Cordus witnessed the attack and was inspired…gaining greater confidence that these foes would be no match for him and his friends. A loud skittering noise indicated more rats as a few more came from the shadows, landing bites full of razor sharp teeth on Mal’s legs. Dane tried to react with a series of quick and well placed jabs, but the rats were too fast even for the monk’s speed and nimbly dodged.

It was then that they heard a new sound…like the pitter patter of a thousand tiny feet, a mass of tiny glowing eyes came at them from the back of the barn. It was a swarm of tiny rats with glowing red eyes and tiny teeth as sharp as their larger cousins. They swarmed around Cordus and began to viciously attack the openings in his armor. He was able to withstand the attack, but the bites were painful and the pain lingered. Erdan noticed his friend’s trouble and struck out again with his flail and allowed his emotions to seep into the Minotaur. It worked and the Runepriest felt he could tolerate a little more pain than usual.

Meanwhile Mal had nimbly maneuvered away, kicking his aggressor with enough force to both push him away and giving the ranger critical space in which to fire an arrow. The shot flew into the Rat’s right eye and sent it slamming against the barn wall…the arrow exiting the rat’s skull and impaling it against the wall.

The Rat Swarms continued their relentless assault on the poor Minotaur who staggered again and again against the blows. It seemed like nothing could get near the tiny beasts without coming away without at least a few pieces of flesh missing. A few of the rats managed to crawl in between Cordus’ armor and landed a series of bites along the Runepriests chest. He was able to knock them off, but saw streaks of blood begin to drip out of his armor. The attack had hit its mark and he was hurt badly. He looked up in dismay as yet another rat began to slink their way…this one much different from the others. About the fur protruded gruesome bones and its eyes glowed red…a Dire Rat…most likely the one that lead the rest of the pack here. It came at the party and quickly sensrf the Minotaur’s weakness. It snapped its jaws, just barely missing Cordus’ hindquarters.

When Cordus had initially seen the rats he thought this whole job was a joke…I mean they were rats..come on. How hard can it be? No longer, the Runepriest got serious. Calling upon the divine power that was his magical source, the Minotaur cried out in rage as his warhammer began to glow golden in response. The attack slammed into a rat and the powerful attack pulsed out from the strike, bathing Cordus’ friend in a golden light that gave strength to their blows.

Bastion looked over at his stricken friend and noticed the Minotaur’s grave injury. This fight had to end…and it had to end quickly. The Warden considered his options and decided it couldn’t wait. Raising his weapon, the Warforged cried out in a loud metallic voice and swung wide hitting both Rat Swarms and the Dire Rat. As his weapon rotated about him ice crystals began to form on the floor and when he was done the Warforged was completely surrounded by a thin layer of ice on the floor that made movement difficult for the smaller creatures.

Malanimus noticed her opportunity and took it. Raising her deadly bow she fired off two arrows into the swarm, impaling seven of them onto an 2 arrows that sank deep into the floor and partially burying the tiny rats stuck on them. The few remaining rats from the swarm dispersed and were gone. In short order the remaining Giant Rats and the other swarm were stomped into the ground through a combined assault from Bastion, Erdan and Cordus.

That left the Dire Rat. It sensed its peril, but had no room to maneuver. Falling into meditation, Dane reached inside himself and opened up powerful inner doors that drew out great strength, but which had to be controlled least the monk overdo himself to the point of permanent injury.

The Gate of Battle opened and in one terrific kick the Dire Rat was sent airborne. In a whirl the monk’s fist squarely connected with the rapidly rising rat. The force of the blow sent the rat flying in a new direction…this time away from the monk, but this was not its final trajectory. In midflight a single powerful shot from the ranger pierced the Dire Rat and sent it flying along on its final destination…both spiritually and temporally. With that yet another rat lay impaled and dead against the barn wall.

Cordus opened the door and the five walked out. With a nod from Bastion, Walhand looked at the farmer. “Pleasure doing business with you Johnson. Hope they didn’t leave too much of a mess.”

The farmer looked in the barn as he handed Walhand a bag of coins. “At least those blasted rats are dead. Thanks again.”

Walhand distributed out the five’s share as they made their way back to town.

“Now I’m sure that wasn’t the most glamorous of tasks you’ve ever done, but I wanted to make sure you guys could handle the little stuff before I gave you something harder. Plus it’ll only help our business if we can ensure these people that we’re here to help them as well as ourselves.

With that out of the way I’ll let you in on the real work for today…Last night I received a message from Davmorn that one of our guys found some interesting information about the swamp located just southeast of here. Folks around here call it the “Croaking Swamp” and they don’t go near it…say its haunted with all sorts of weird creatures.

It’s a good ways from here…you actually passed it on the way here, but our guys found an ancient scroll in the Arcanix library talking about how this valley used to be home to a druidic grove located on the southern portions of the valley. I have a hunch that there’s something interesting in there stirring up all the native wildlife and I’d like you to go check it out and see what you can find. I need you back here by tomorrow evening though so don’t spend a whole lot of time. Go in, see if you can find anything and get back here by tomorrow.”

Bastion gave the dragonborn a dead panned look. “That sounded like a plan far before we headed out this morning.” Walhand grinned and nodded slightly before he went back to counting the coins within the bag.


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Reflections
The Adventure Begins!

The minotaur staggered slightly as his next footstep plunged into muck that went up to his knees. With a force that made his legs burn in agony, he forced himself out of the soupy mixture and back onto the path weaving between the pools.

“Cordus…hurry up.” A tense metallic voice rang from a warforge that was running quickly along beside him. Three others were in the party: a half-elf, human and dark elf and all were moving as if their very lives depended on it…and it did.

Up ahead they could see a white light. An opening perhaps? No one was sure, but the sound of their pursuers hot on their heels was enough motivation to keep on going regardless of where the path led.

Cordus, a Runepriest by profession, couldn’t help but wonder how he ever got himself into this position and as he ran he couldn’t help but look at his companions and consider what set of circumstances lead this seemingly random group of five together.

Images burst into his head…memories of those first defining moments. The ones that brought them all together on a day that could never be forgotten despite almost 10 years separating them from it…

The Day of Mourning.

The group were members of House Deneith, the House of the Sentinel, or to everyone else…the House of Mercenaries sold to the highest bidder. They each provided support in their own way to various contractual clients through the House, joining towards the latter part of the Last War. Directed to provide support for a combined Breland-Thrane assault against Cyre, they each had made their way to to Cyre’s western border to confront what they discovered was a combined Karnnath-Cyre force that had massed just on the east side of the Cyran border. A few days after the attack began. The House Deneith forces were assigned as a reserve force to plug holes in the line or to provide support to the front lines, but these five would have a different task. A commanding officer requested volunteers to support a Brelish officer, Bren ir’Gadden, at his headquarters located on the very border of the two countries. Five random volunteers who had never met before were joined together for the first time and together made their way to the field HQ.

They were a “unique” group. A half-elf ardent that went by Erdan, a warforged known that had named itself Bastion, a female dark elf, a minotaur runepriest known as Cordun, and a silent human monk who called himself Ire.

Arriving at the tower they could hear the sounds of battle emanating from the Saerun road located not far away. Bren’s task was to oversee the forces in this sector and the Saerun road in particular. The tower offered a vantage point both due to its height and its position on a small hill overlooking the road, but still far enough away to not put the commanding officer in too much harm’s way…or so he thought.

The five mercenaries could see that something was unsettling about the place. For one, no guards stood outside the tower and its interior seemed pretty dark. Certainly not what you would expect from a field HQ in the middle of a battle. Nearing the tower’s entrance, Bastion noticed movement just inside the tower near the ruins of what used to be the front door. In the middle of raising his hand and turning to notify his comrades, three oversized bugs raised out at him…Kruthik Hatchlings! Calling upon the power of nature, Bastion quickly responded to the situation and in a matter of seconds two of the hatchlings lay dead. Moments later four more Hatchlings burst from the ground at the very feet of Erdan and Cordun.

Then Ire stood up.

In a fury that resembled five storms pounding together, the monk went into a frenzy lashing out with his bare hands and feet and knocking the very life out of three of the Hatchlings. In short order most of the Hatchlings lay dead about the feet of the party, but this was not the end. A small squat humanoid that resembled a goblin came to the doorway, but there was something very different about this creature. Four arms protruded from his chest and two mouths, one literally on top of the other, gave his face an angular feature.

Bastion had heard of these before…creatures of the mountains notorious for their ferocity sure, but more impressive because of its two brains that gave it reactions times beyond the normal capacity of its kind.

“Look out! It’s a Dolgrim Warrior!”, he said as the Dolgrim moved towards Ire and raised up his club. It came down upon Ire’s shoulder who winced at the sharp pain that followed. Calling once again upon the power of storms, Ire became a whirlwind dropping one of the last Hatchlings and barely missing the Dolgrim’s head.

Mocking him, the Dolgrim looked at Ire and used one of his free hands to point at the monk and another to make a slicing motion against his throat. Ire stared at him and summoning years of discipline yelled with all his might. “Suck it!”

Bastion landed a quick blow against the Dolgrim followed quickly by Cordus charging into the fray and using the horns of his people to try and impale the creature on his very skull. Unfortunately, the Dolgrim dodged and Cordus had to right himself quickly to get back into a defensive posture while the Dolgrim whirled quickly into a new position..taking advantage of the brief moment to reposition himself in the battle.

It didn’t’ matter. Calling upon the very weight of the Earth, Bastion slammed into the Dolgrim who staggered back at the massive blow. Ire finished the job in typical monk style: an open palm fist to the face that jammed the creature’s nose right into its brain. The dilapidated tower stood before the party. Placing his flail back in its holster, Erdan looked at the rest of the party. “I say we investigate.”

They went into the tower and quickly noticed the havoc that had been caused the Dolgrim and Hatchlings. About the room in which they stood were the bodies of Brelish rangers. A quick inspection identified them as guards that were typically found in the retinue of Brelish nobles. Fearing the worst they proceeded into the next room to find still more bodies and, lying up against the far side of the chamber’s wall, a half elf dressed for war, but clearly bearing the signs of a nobleman. This was clearly Bren Ir’Gadden, the man they were supposed to report to. Cordus knelt down beside the comatose half-elf, checked his vital signs and used the knowledge he gained among his tribe to revive the man.

It took some time for his memory to return, but in short order the full realization of the events came back to him. It seems that he hadn’t been at the field HQ long before his men were assaulted by the bloodthirsty Dolgrim and the Kruthik that had hid as the army arrived took this opportunity to venture out and feast upon the bodies of the dead rangers.

As Bren was being helped up, the ground rumbled and a dull boom could be heard from the east. It startled everyone, but more startling was a slight burning sensation that each party member felt on his chest.

Ire looked up at a hole within the ceiling that showed a steel grey sky.

“I have a bad feeling about this.”

As they reached the door they looked east and saw in horror a massive cloud of mist with orange lightning penetrating from it and each felt an unseasonably warm wind that came from the storm’s direction.

Ire, always the pragmatic one, wasn’t as nearly concerned about the storm as he was about the corpses that he noticed were shambling toward the group. “What in the nine hells?”, he said as 4 clearly undead soldiers, 2 live ones bearing armor that had the Order of the Emerald Claw on it, and one gaunt old woman dressed in green and black robes came towards them from the path leading up to the tower.

One of the men, a Sergeant within the Emerald Claw, looked back at the women, “Well Lady Mallora, it looks like someone tried to do our work for us from the looks of it.

“So it would seem”, replied the woman. “No matter. Finish the job and make sure the corpses are in good condition.”

Bren recognized the icon on the Sergeants chest. “Emerald Claw agents…they are probably from Karnnath.”

As weapons were raised, the sky overhead seemed to catch on fire and ignite in a terrible conflagration. Bastion looked up and frowned, “Clouds aren’t supposed to do that.”

Ire growled back at the distracted warforge. “Focus on the Zombies, tin man. One problem at a time.”

Erdan was the first to respond with a swing from his flail that obliterated one of the zombies leaving nothing left but a torso. Cordus followed this up with a blow of his own that felled another zombie. It was then that Mallora decided she had had enough. Chanting words that transcended temporal boundaries, the necromancer drew forth power from the Shadowfell itself and slammed her staff, an intricate thing made up of numerous small bones, upon the ground. A Death Burst of purplish necrotic energy bloomed out from a spot not far from Cordun and Erdan. Erdan took the hit full on and the zombies about them seemed to gain strength from the spell.

Bren quickly responded with a spell of his own as a magic missle flew from his hand and struck one of the Emerald Claw Sergeants. The fight bore on each sides trading blows with both Cordun and Erdan using what abilities they had to heal their comrades. Mallora saw opportunity and cast another spell that struck Ire who immediately felt weak and unstable and followed that up with yet another Death Burst exploded among the comrades. Both Bastion and Erdan taking the blows.

Erdan staggered and noticed a trickle of blood snaking down his arm. He was hurt and he knew it and he was angry. It was then that his training as an Ardent…training that allows one to transmit their emotions psionically to others…came forth. His anger and his pain became his parties advantage as his raw emotions entered the minds of his enemies and caused mental distractions giving an edge to the party.

This was the beginning of the end. In short order the zombies were truly dead, the Emerald Claw Sergeants lay dead at their, and the party was advancing on the necromancer. Once again it was the monk who landed the killing blow, this one straight into her neck which resounded with a strong crack. The necromancer dropped like a rock.

The battle over, the other eminent threat became omnipresent as a crack of orange lightning struck the nearby tower. Looking towards the road where previously the battle was clearly visible, the party noticed the gray mist had gotten noticeably closer and was completely covering the road. It was generally agreed that a return to the armies base to report these events was necessary.

They arrived back at a camp in complete disarray. It seemed that anyone who had the misfortune of being captured within the fog had perished instantly and the cloud was drawing closer, progressing rapidly to the camp. And then, just like that…it stopped. The Brelish army gaped at the massive storming cloud of Arcane energy that had stopped literally on the border of Cyre.

Bren brought the party to his tent. “I want to thank you for saving me. Please accept these gifts as a token of recognition. I will forever count you all as my friends.” Two servants brought two items to the party: a beautifully embroidered cloak and a magical set of Mithral armor from the noble’s own family.

Later that day, once the comrades were finally able to take a break was when the last surprise on a day full of surprises was identified. The burning sensation following shortly after the rumbling boom that brought the deadly cloud was a sign, but one that the party was unable to identify at the time. Etched across each of their chests was a mark…clearly a Dragonmark, but one that bore no relationship with those among the 12 houses…an aberrant mark.

Though it seemed like it never would, the day did eventually come to an end, but it would be one that would forever be remembered by all those in Khorvaire for it marked both the end of Cyre and the end of a war that had lasted a century and that had touched the lives of every creature on the continent. It would be known ever after as the Day of Mourning and its impact would resound not just on Khorvaire but across all of Eberron.

Years passed and the events of that day forever tugged not just on Cordus’ mind, but on the minds of all the party. They would meet annually at the house of Bren in Sharn to remember those events and the nobleman, true to his word, was forever thankful to them saving his life on that fateful day. Each of them ended up taking on mundane jobs following the war, but that day and the mark it literally left behind couldn’t leave them.

One day a message arrived. Bren had heard of a new venture being taken up by House Deneith…an adventuring gig that was bringing together old war vets to scour the land for various items of “interest” for the House. Bren passed along a name and a place: Davmorn in Arcanix.

Cordus received the message and thought perhaps this could help get his mind off that horrific day. Little would he know that this would be the start down a path that would lead to answers for questions he didn’t even realize he had.

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