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Faerin's Twenty ninth letter

To my friends in Raven,

I hope everything is well and that Elanna is growing into her new role as I expect she has.

Unfortunately there is trouble in the Arcarost Valley and I am sorry that I have not been able to update you earlier. As you may know, we have become enemies of Pax, the fallen son of Dianecht. He has now sworn vengeance upon us, and has mobilized his army, the Obligation of Good Will, on a crusade to destroy the Arcarost Valley.

These last few weeks we have been hastily organizing the defense of the Valley against these incoming forces. Though we are outnumbered and scattered across the Valley, we are ever hopeful that we will emerge victorious.

Our first hurdle was convincing the various factions of the Arcarost Valley to work together in a kind of Arcarost Community Defense Council. The plan was to gather everyone in Woodsong to discuss how best to organize ourselves against the incoming threat. We started at Khan Hall and the dwarfs, who required little convincing to join the first Council. We only had to promise to pick them up with our magic so that they could reach Woodsong in time.

Our second stop was Arcarost and its Magelord Ellismur, but here it became clear that our task harder than we had initially expected. We not only found the Magelord but also an emissary of the Obligation of Good Will called Ankarro. Ankarro was there to argue the case of Pax, namely that the Valley has been infested with followers of The Morrigan and that they need to be exterminated. The Obligation simply wished that MageLord Ellismur remain neutral in the coming conflict, as Pax held no grudge against Arcarost itself. However we were able to successfully convince the Magelord to stick to our previous alliance. We had proven ourselves as useful and powerful allies in the past, which would be lost should everyone in the Valley be killed. With our victory, Ankarro quickly departed.

We stayed and used the scrying device located in the Arcarost Tower to view the army of Pax, which was indeed substantial. Easily twenty thousand men in size, it was an impressive but horrifying sight. However we noticed a contingent of about two thousand with caravans leaving separately from the others. Then we gave the meeting location of the Defense Council to Ellismur and left to find the Dragon riders.

As we did not know the location of their base, we sent a magical message to Kelouth. We were picked up and brought to Dragon’s Roost, as their base was called. It was a small village with a strong defensive fort high up in the mountain. As we approached it, we immediately saw a large silver object in the central square, which seemed like a recent addition. We were therefore unsurprised to find Ankarro there waiting for us. We both pitched our case to the Council of Dragonriders, which included Akira, Turnoth and Kelouth. We tried to argue our common enemy in Sevalaxos, but Ankarro was able to sway them with his gift, a collar to neutralize the wild ancient dragon. Thus the Dragon riders vowed to remain neutral in the coming conflict, however Akira disagreed with the decision. We had saved their life from the Mate and Son of Sevalaxos, and they vowed to repay their debt to us by aiding us in the coming conflict. Thus Akira left the Dragon riders and commit themselves to our defense, an act of friendship that we won’t soon forget.

As we were just about to leave with Akira, we received a message from Ruby, the princess of the Mountain Dwarfs. Ankarro had shown up at Mason’s Hall and was trying to convince the Dwarfs there to join the Obligation in their crusade against Arcarost Valley. We teleported over as quick as we could and were received by the Mountain Dwarf King. The King heard out the arguments from both our side and that of the Obligation. It is no secret that there is historical tension between the Hill and Mountain Dwarfs. Ankarro played on this tension by pointing out the recent demonic corruption cases that have occurred among the Hill Dwarfs. Luckily we had built a good report with the King after we saved his daughter from a giant worm. In the end, the King decided to reject Ankarro’s offer. Furthermore as Ankarro was about to leave, he directed his mages to capture the emissary. As a gift, the King allowed us to question Ankarro. With Fierna’s spells, we learned that Ankorra was an innate spellcaster with the ability to hide the magic that he uses. We also caught a glimpse of Pax’ plans. He intended to approach the barbarian tribes, the trolls and Rovaart Temps in Aurion for additional support. Furthermore he had sent a small army to Flagos with gold to bribe the local ruler and allow his forces to pass unhindered. We then told the Mountain Dwarfs to let Ankarro go, lest they also become a target for Pax’ wrath.

Before we left, the Mountain Dwarf King approached me and made me an offer. We had asked about a journey to Am’ Saor as the Mountain Dwarfs still had knowledge of the Deep Gate that can be used to reach it. He would give us access to the Deep Gate if we committed ourselves to finding an ancient Dwarven crown and returning it to him. The crown had been lost somewhere beyond the Gate deep in the Underdark. There was another splintered Dwarven tribe that lived there, which may still have possession of the crown. Apparently there are many factions with the Mountain Dwarfs and the King’s political position is not as strong as it once was. Currently it seems that Ruby will not be able to ascend to the throne when he dies. The King hopes having the crown will improve his standing. Furthermore the King proposed that if we retrieve the crown, I should consider becoming his heir by marrying Ruby. As the heir, he would then be able to commit Mountain Dwarf forces in battle against Pax.

This was an unexpected turn of events for me, to say the least. The offer seems almost too good to be true. This marriage could finally signal an official end to the tensions between the Mountain and Hill Dwarfs. The military support would be substantial and would allow us to turn the tide against Pax.

In many ways it may be my just fate to be pushed into a political marriage, after I pushed a similar role upon Elanna in Raven. This is not the future I had in mind for myself, as I had always imagined to marry out of love after a wild and adventurous romance, if I ever married at all. On the other hand, there are worse fates than marrying a princess and possibly inheriting an entire kingdom.

However none of this matters unless we can journey into the Underdark and get the crown back. And the way things are going now, I fear we may not have the time.

Soon after this conversation we teleported back and spent the night at Kramer’s Crossing in Arcarost Valley. The next day we travelled to the barbarians. Luckily Chief Pineblood was easy to convince the join the Defense Council, especially as it was suggested by Nissa. After Nissa returned their groves to them, the clansmen worship the ground that she walks on. However they remained hesitant towards working together with the other barbarian faction, but eventually agreed to fight a mutual enemy if the other agreed. The other barbarians were harder to convince as they blamed us in part for the civil war that got them exiled from Aurion. However Nissa promised that if they helped, she would train their druids and allow them access to a magical grove. Chief Oakblade agreed to those terms and also joined the Defense Council.

We then left to Aurion to visit our old friend Rovaart Temps. He seemed pleased to see us and confirmed that he had been approached by Ankarro. But Rovaart had not been interested in the proposal of Ankarro, where they would pledge their support to aid him in a rebellion against the current Magelord. Rovaart seemed sick of war and conflict following the last siege of Aurion, and wants to focus on the simpler political game of council elections. We bid our farewell and went to the Magelord and Fierna’s mother, Mercellina.

We were only met by Mercellina at the keep however, as the health of the Magelord is quite weak. We explained the current situation to her and she promised that Ankarro would be arrested on sight. However they could not commit any force to our defense as the situation in Aurion is tenuous at best. With the weakened state of the Magelord, it may be that a successor needs to be chose soon. This is usually done from the strongest mages in Aurion, which would currently be Mercellina, Fierna or Rovaart. If there is any support that you could provide from Raven to aid Mercellina in this period, I am sure it would be much appreciated.

We then completed some addition business in Aurion as we still had supplies to purchase with the coming conflict. Unfortunately the price of sending stones has gone up recently for some strange reason, however we were able to acquire new tuning forks to aid in travels to other planes. Fierna also specifically sought out Erevan, the bounty hunter who had once chased Faera. She recruited him to our cause as we know him to be quite capable in what he does. On a lead, we also visited The Arcanist. Tigress Rasa was aware of the current situation and seemed to want to exploit it to become Magelord. We inquired if she had connections in Flagos, but the price for the information was too high for our tastes. It is more than likely that she will make a play for the Magelord position of Aurion in the near future. I really don’t trust her, but my oath prevents me from taking on a helpless mage. I am confident in Mercellina’s capabilities to navigate the situation, but remain very worried what we will find the next time we return to Aurion.

Our final trip before the big meeting with the Defense Council was to the Tower of Aola, a friendly giant that we have encountered many times before. We spoke of the situation and were able to arrange a visit by one of the giant skyships, who can sell magical weapons to aid us to defend the valley.

We then returned to Woodsong, where a giant tent had been placed to prepare for the meeting. Banners and flags had been placed to represent the various factions. We had a quick check on the activities of Ankarro and saw that he was conversing with Trolls, and seemed to have made a deal with them. Then we started our own meeting. We made a quick summary of our own forces, 1000 Dwarfs, 4000 Barbarians, 500 Woodsongians and 1 Thorin. This brought a sour mood compared to the twenty thousand experienced troops that Pax was bringing.

As we discussed the best defensive strategies, we were surprised by the arrival of a Behir in Woodsong. It was the same Behir who had lived near Arcarost and who had once been our ally to take on an evil dragon. The Behir wanted to help as well, and I wasn’t going to refuse his service (against the protest of Akira the dragon). However we decide it would be best if the Behir already take up a defensive position against incoming trolls near Trollbane Keep, after the Behir ate a villager’s dog.

Another interruption came when a magical gate suddenly opened in Woodsong. Fierna and Sevento tried to stop it from opening but it was already too late. However it were more reinforcements, followers of the Morrigan led by another version of Marianne. This Marianne seemed to be some kind of avatar or representation of the Morrigan. In any case, they wished to join our battle against Pax. However my people were very hesitant towards this alliance given their history with the Morrigan. We were unfortunately in no position to refuse the help.

The second day of talks came with less interruptions and we made some important decisions. We would prepare Arcarost to receive many refugees, mostly the non-combatants of the region, and start stockpiling food in strategic locations. The new Marianne could not only commit troops but had powerful magic to teleport entire armies across large distances, but it was very expensive to use. I was chosen as the commander of the Defense Council, and made the strategic decision to appoint Chief Oakblade as my second-in-command in my absence.

With the initial preparations set into motion, we split up to take care of some business. Fierna travelled to Aurion to set up trade lines for important goods. She also tasked someone to make a teleportation circle in Khan Hall. However she learned that the Magelord was now doing very poorly. Sevento, Nissa and Thorin went to Arcarost to spy on Pax’ army. The army had unfortunately grown and the main force was getting ready to move. The smaller forces with the gold had made fast progress.

Nissa decided to take the opportunity to secure some additional funding for our defense, by attempting to steal from Sevaxalos’ horde. She had performed impressive feats in the past on her own, but Sevalaxos proved too much for her. If I understand correctly, her body was destroyed. However she had left behind some hairs with Thorin, who brought her back with a reincarnation spell. We are very glad that this wasn’t the end of Nissa, but she is now a Tiefling. The world we live in can be truly strange sometimes.

Finally we went to scout the small army that had been sent to Flagos. We teleported to a nearby forest and Cedric took up scout duty. He learned that The Herald was heading the army and that it was tasked to deliver the gold and then wait near Flagos. He quickly found the gold and noticed that one of the crates had a strong necromancy aura. Cedric took it upon himself to sabotage the carriages. We saw an opportunity to strike at a weak spot in Pax’ forces and called over Marianne’s troops.

We attacked at the dead of night and took the army by surprise. We managed to sneak close before they even noticed us and charged in on their cavalry and bowmen. Sevento, Nissa and Fierna wielded powerful magic that took out entire squadrons of men in a single spell. It was terrifying to witness and I am very glad that they are on our side. Angelic beings swept down from the sky to try to stop us, but we brought them down quickly. At this point, the tide of battle was entirely in our favor and the mercenary companies fled. The Herald himself had also escaped by this time, leaving his troops behind. Only the most devoted crusaders remained. However they were still sleep deprived and failed to capitalize on some glaring weaknesses in our defence. They were soon defeated and the battle was won without a single casualty on our side. I suppose this is what happens when you are fighting alongside the literal god of war.

We secured the gold and the mysterious chest with a necromancy aura, and travelled back to Woodsong. We were immediately confronted with the sight of a great skyship above the village as the Giants had arrived with their wares. Excellent timing as we were able to use the gold we secured to purchase magical ballistae for the defense. We also offered a fraction to the troops of The Morrigan who had helped secure our victory. Before long the King’s bounty we had captured, was almost depleted.

All that remained was the necromancy aura. Sevento and Cedric discovered that it came from a twisted branch or wand. But when Sevento tried to use his magic to identify the item, it dissolved into ash. The ash seeped deep into the main square of Woodsong, but at the time we thought little of it. However soon we realized that Sevento now had a necromancy aura. When Thorin tried to cure him, the necromancy aura jumped to him. The aura spread further to myself when I touched Thorin, and then later to Cedric. It seemed like no curse or disease we were familiar with and we secluded ourselves in Sevento’s magical mansion to investigate it.

During this time, Woodsong received a visit from Father Portas, whom I am sure you remember. He is following his oath and remains loyal to the Obligation of Good Will, even though he realizes that it is no longer the same organization he once joined. He came to Woodsong to bring us a message, Pax wished to bring down three plagues upon our valley. He brought six rings as gifts to us so we would survive and bear witness to the horrors on the valley. It was a difficult reunion, as we were now on opposite sides of the conflict. One day, I hope to share another keg of Khan’s Finest with Father Portas when this is all over.

In the meantime, reports had come in of undead sighted near the burial mounds close to the village. Not wishing to waste time, we hasted to the scene and found Naeris, the undead we had fought so long ago for the flame gem. Once more he had returned to retrieve items that were stolen from the Vault of Creation. This time he searched for a branch from the Tree of Death, but saw that he was too late. He explained that this was a powerful item whose ashes would grow into a new Tree of Death. Once this Tree was grown, it would bear fruit, which would bring death upon the land in the form of a magical disease spread through the air. The only way that Naeris knew to get rid of the disease was to use its counterpart, the Tree of Life, but that remained secure in the Vault of Creation. He also explained that two more items had gone missing from the Vault, a shamanic staff and a summer bird egg. These items likely form the foundation of the three plagues that Pax will release upon the valley. With that said, Naeris died again, his task a failure once more.

We returned to Woodsong as fast as we could to indeed find a sapling growing in the central square. We immediately sounded alarm and order the evacuation of the village. For some this was already too much, and several villagers committed to leaving the valley permanently. We tried uprooting the growing tree but the aura remained.

Thus we now plan to travel to the Vault of Creation in Matt Sadom in the hopes to remove the touch of the Tree of Death upon Thorin, Cedric and I; along with removing the growing tree in Woodsong. If Welby or any of the others have any further recollections on what transpired when they entered the Vault, please let us know as soon as possible.

Your loyal friend,

Faerin Khan

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