The Road to Esk

In media res...

The adventurers watched as the girl swam through the shattered remains of the village and paddled toward the churning whirlpool at it core. Gadrain stumbled to the edge of the water, shouting for the girl to turn around. His heavy boots sank into the wet earth, and he felt it shift beneath him, sliding toward the pool. The girl stopped swimming and turned toward the voice. Byl noted how easily she resisted the current. Her lips spread into a wide grin, revealing crooked, rotten teeth. As her fair skin peeled away from the scaly hide beneath, she cackled. “Time to feed…”

After a days of debating within the confines of Deepvale Library, the PCs decided to adopt the radical plan proposed by the lorekeeper, Crucian, the Grey Sage Droog Von Schelling, and Judge Mikeal Chelm. This last, newly arrived in Dell’s Landing, was the King’s spiritual adviser and declared the speaker for the Church of Phaelan. He insisted that the King possessed neither the willpower nor the moral rectitude to wield a re-assembled Kor Magros in the best interests of Erogas. Crucian and Droog supported Chelm’s desire to separate the pieces of the hammer, but for different reasons. Given Droog’s studies of the Seguro, and his discovery that the pieces of Phaelan’s Hammer might be the keys to opening that portal, the two sages felt that uniting the pieces would present too tempting of a target to the forces of Chaos. Better to keep them split and separate than to risk apocalypse.

Since the King’s army was only two days march from Dell’s Landing, the PCs needed to act fast. With advice from Crucian, Droog, and Chelm, they decided to leave the Atelus Ring with Droog, and to carry the Capspike and the Haft to Esk, and Karak Varn, respectively. The Church of Phaelan in Esk had guarded the Capspike for decades. Further, returning it there would empower the High Hammer of Phaelan in Esk with the power to rally the remnants of the Righteous March. If Dragoveld had any hope of avoiding widespread famine and plague in the coming winter, it would need to get its citizens back to their homes and farms. Turning the Haft over to the dwarves of Karak Varn would serve multiple purposes. Not only would it keep the Haft out of the King’s hands, it would also placate the angered dwarven nation, who was bristling at having its Thunderdust technology stolen by the leaders of the Righteous March. The dwarves had already shown their aggression by sending a squad of soldiers to re-capture the cannon “liberated” by the March. In fact, one of those soldiers, a warden named Gardain, served as Theldrammar’s representative in this meeting, and loudly favored the plan to turn over the Haft.

Removing the Atelus Ring from Byl’s finger proved to be the most difficult. The artifact resisted all attempts to disenchant it. With each effort, it dug its teeth deeper into Byl’s flesh until the rogue, driven mad by the pain, snatched up his dagger and sliced off the offending digit. Smidgen tended to the hideous wound, but nothing could be done to salvage the man’s finger. The ring, no longer attached to living flesh, released its hold and grew in size to the diameter of a fist. The Grey Sage slipped a silver chain through it and tucked it inside his tunic. He vowed to flee to Ashenvale, where he could shelter with the elves and further study the ring’s powers. Driven by both duty and a compulsion to guard that for which so much had been sacrificed, the Fang Brother Thoroar, the devoted monk of Ulric, pledged himself as Droog’s bodyguard and made ready to accompany him on his journey north.

After bidding their friend a somber farewell, Byl, Smidgen, and Seamus wrapped the Capspike and Haft, and prepared to leave Dell’s Landing. The dwarf Gardain offered his services as both guide and guardian, and so joined the band as they set out in the dark of night. They traveled west for three days along the Duke’s Road, paralleling the Harp River. They watched as each day, the river’s tide steadily diminished, only to flood back as the sun set before them. This mystery was revealed near the end of their third day of travel, when they reached a fork in the road. A crooked sign pointed left, down a lane leading toward the river. “Greenbrae” was stenciled in peeling paint. The lane went no more than ten feet before it crumbled at the edge of swirling vortex of water. The hamlet of Greenbrae had been swallowed by a great whirplool, which seemed to be drawing the water of the the Harp River and all of the land around it into its core. And bathing in the midst of this chaotic morass was a young human woman, or so she first seemed…

The hideous hag, for whatever had once made her human had long since been corrupted, was not alone. As soon as she spied the PCs, she called forth her “children.” These monstrosities were formed of the flotsam and debris torn from the surrounding woodland, or wove themselves from tainted vines and tendrils. Together with their mistress, they assaulted the adventurers, intent on dragging them into the water. Though they were shaken by the initial assault, the four companions fought valiantly. They destroyed the hag and banished her minions. The danger averted, they surveyed the carnage wrought by Chaos on what had once been a nondescript fishing village. Surely, this was only the beginning…


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