Under the False Moon

Verse 5

After shaking off the night’s ale, The Order of the Second Wind, with a now healthy Keyleth, set out in Halendos looking for the farmer who brought them into town, and when they did he explained that the local fey were becoming restless, and that in particular the pixies have gone from mischievous to dangerous. The group went off into the forest to find the pixies to see what the problem was. As they left, Keyleth spied a cloaked old woman walking past them. As she looked deeply into Keyleth’s eyes, she took the appearance of a beautiful elven woman. “Find the thrice-twined tree. Only the heart of light can quench the heart of darkness.” She then walked off, leaving Keyleth confused.

The pixies were flitting around a large, dying oak and upon seeing The Order of the Second Wind, they rushed to them and began “playing.” They mussed hair, pulled on clothes, and disconnected valves from Rune. Kava, unamused, brandished her mace. The pixies said that they wanted to be played with, and they demanded that Our Heroes play with them. When they refused, the pixies told them they could play with Little Boy, a child Ogre. Little Boy did not know Giant like most Ogres, and the pixies explained that they had found him when he was a baby and raised him. He was dressed in a young page’s clothes (snugly fitting, of course) and had black greasy, but combed, hair.

Little Boy lifted his tree trunk of a club and yelled “YAY! SMASH!” and slammed his club into Rune. Gaius did most of the work, taking advantage of a high berm to stick arrow after arrow into Little Boy. Rune was the one to end the battle, though, forcing Little Boy to surrender after he had battered Kava and Rune handily. The pixies were thrilled with Rune’s performance, and bestowed a mystic shield that surrounded his body, giving him quicker reflexes, stronger will, and an increased feeling of fortitude.

The pixies explained that there had been a temple appearing on certain days ever since the forest returned to its previous lushness. The temple seemed ethereal, being there but not completely being there. The temple only came at midnight and left at first light. The guardian of the forest, Nimiwi, had ventured into it three days ago, and had not returned. She is mystically connected to the tree, and as she dies, so does the tree. Our Heroes looked to notice that the tree had one leaf remaining on its branches.

The Order of the Second Wind trudged toward the hilltop where the pixies said the temple appeared on certain nights. As they approached, the temple phased in and out of their view. When they were about 100 feet from the temple, a large slug, two wolves, and four polecats appeared, ready to guard the temple. The wolves and polecats rushed Our Heroes, and boxed them in, forcing melee combat. Though no one was in immediate danger during the fight, it forced The Order of the Second Wind to focus on attacking at close range, and it was not always pretty. At one point, Keyleth directed her cutting words toward a wolf and hit Kava instead. One polecat stayed in a tree, completely obscured by Our Heroes. After Rune and Kava blindly swung at the creature, Gaius closed his eyes and loosed an arrow straight through the polecat’s heart. After getting four potions from the saddlebag on the large slug, The Order of the Second Wind entered the temple.

The temple was more grown that built, made of intertwining trees and branches, with a leafed roof and a floor made of roots. As our heroes moved down a long hallway, Rune stepped on a false-floor trap, but he was quick enough to take a step back. From the pit hundreds of iridescent beetles poured and swarmed. Our heroes made quick work of the beetles, with Rune being the only one who had any trouble, as the beetles’ dominating beauty charmed him into the pit twice. After the last beetle was squished, Our Heroes found the body of a man wearing clothing that matched the raider who had left the makeshift tavern near Regdar’s house. Gaius could see the spirit of the man swirling around the body, begging to be released. Gaius swiped at it with his sword, but it did not affect the spirit. He moaned for rest by Pegasus. Keyleth, heeding Gaius’s instructions, used her holy symbol to lay the spirit to rest. The dicest dragon ever blessed Keyleth, giving her a divine boon.

Walking deeper into the temple, The Order of the Second Wind came upon a small spring. Its waters invigorated the group, and at the end of the spring they saw the same beautiful woman they saw in town. It was Nimiwi, and she explained that a cult bearing spider markings were trying to invoke a dark ritual, and they had corrupted the temple and the surrounding forestland. At the heart of the temple was a large altar, created by three trees intertwining around each other. The only way to purify it was through a crystal that would be imbued by Nimiwi’s remaining life force. After giving them the crystal, The Order of the Second Wind made their way into the main atrium.

Inside, they observed the dark ritual taking place. Two elven archers and two guard drakes guarded the six cloaked figures as they chanted archaic and dark intonations. One, elaborately dressed in robes depicting spiders eating various aspects of existence, held a large tome and was closest to the tree. He looked at the group and yelled “I am Berrian Stormrage, this ritual must not be stopped! Yield or die!” At that provocation, Our Heroes began battle. At first, the battle seemed to be on Berrian’s side, as a guard drake buried its teeth into Rune and numerous cult members struck at Rune and Kava. Gaius was quick to dispatch the lesser cultists, but had trouble with Berrian’s attacks, which blinded and teleported him in the guard drake’s midst. Keyleth supported from afar, attacking when she was able, and Kava’s Dragon Breath bathed the cultists in poisonous sludge. Her vigor was ill-gotten, though, as an archer struck her down. Rune struck at the guard drakes, and Gaius focused his attacks on his Quarry. Keyleth healed Kava just in time for her to rush Berrian, who was all that remained after a short time. Berrian was a powerful wizard, but his charms were not enough to defeat The Order of the Second Wind alone. He was able to knock Kava unconscious before he was felled.

Gaius’s performance in the temple earned him the Raven Queen’s favor, and he received two boons from her. Kava gained a bag of holding, which she quickly stowed away. The cultists had amassed a large amount of gold, which the group separated and hoarded. As Rune plunged the crystal containing Nimiwi’s life force into the tree, Gaius found a note describing the large tome that Berrian was reading. It was the Tome of Twilight Shadows, and it contained a dark ritual to bring Lolth to Hortia. The tome was only partially translated, and it was protected by many ancient charms and defenses. Gaius stowed the book and gave the note for his companions to read.

As they left the temple dawn’s first light struck the hillside, spiriting away the temple. The pixies were there to greet Our Heroes, thanking them for returning the forest to its former safety. They could feel the corruption leaving the area. All was not well, though, as a single spider crawled up the branches of a giant oak and rode its single leaf down to the ground.

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Verse 4

The Order of the Second Wind enjoyed their day in the tavern. Keyleth had too good a time, actually, and played a drinking game called “Drink for Pegasus” where every time someone said Pegasus she drank. After four or five drinks, she began to sing “Pegasus is the Best” where the chorus contained no less than 5 mentions of the Winged Dice God. While this was going on, Rune was playing Three-card-Marney and beating the swindler handily. Kava was paying close attention to her friend to make sure she wouldn’t need assistance, and Gaius was furiously writing notes about the events thus far. During their debauchery, a half-elf farmer burst into the tavern.

The farmer said that he was in need of adventurers for an urgent problem in his home of Halindos. Apparently the normally docile pixies and animals have been acting aggressive since the forests have returned to their original vitality. The Order of the Second Wind traveled to Halindos and as soon as they entered the city Keyleth fell seriously ill.

The Order of the Second Wind searched for an inn, and after asking a passerby and Rune using his binocular vision, they quickly found the Gray Chrysanthemum. With Keyleth safely indoors, they started to discern her illness. They found that Keyleth had intense abdominal pains. The party left to the market so that Rune could search for herbs to treat her. Kava asked a woman at the market about her friend’s trouble and if she could help. The woman looked at the group strangely and pointed them in the direction of the town physician. Rune, unable to find the physician’s home, started pulling up the root-like houses. Gaius joined in on the action, bouncing from rooftop to rooftop looking for the physician’s office. They eventually found the physician’s home.

The old man listened intently to the description of Keyleth’s pains, and he said “Of course! I encounter that problem constantly. I’m surprised you don’t know what’s going on. Unfortunately, I don’t have the materials I need. I’ll need you to go out and bring me three bolts of Blue Lanolin. You won’t find any in town, though. South of town there are four Orc Shepherds who keep Blue Sheep.

The three party members found the Orcs south of town tending their sheep. As they approached, they saw a wolf rush towards the Blue Sheep, and the Orcs quickly charged the wolf with their weapons and killed the wolf. They approached them from behind. Gaius tried to communicate to them in Giant, but was unable to form the correct words. Kava jumped into the nearby tree, and a Brutish Orc began to yell into the tree. He was ineffective in intimidating the Dragonborn, but he decided that there couldn’t be anything in a tree if the tree were chopped down. He charged the tree and sliced it nearly in half.

Gaius made himself visible and started flinging arrows at the Orc’s leader. The leader charged Gaius and thrust his Glaive into Guy. The attack seemed to heal the leader, and the arrow that was stuck in his body eked itself out. Rune began attacking the brutish Orc but couldn’t penetrate his armor. Two other Orcs shot arrows and threw axes at Gaius and Rune, but were relatively ineffective.

Kava, noticing the trouble, spewed her poison breath onto the battlefield, which invigorated Rune. Gaius dropped the leader of the Orcs, but he regained his consciousness. The Orc brute tried to attack the tree again, but his Greataxe was stuck in the tree. He put too much force into pulling out the axe, and it slipped from his hands and swung straight towards the awakened leader, decapitating him.

Gaius did not fare so well. His arrows missed the Orc bowman, and the Orc rushed him and nearly felled Guy. He forced him to surrender and then asked about their assault. The Orc bowman stopped the fighting and explained that they could have just asked for the lanolin. Gaius, Rune, and Kava apologized and Kava healed the three Orcs who were alive. Rune helped the brute cut down the rest of the tree. They returned to the physician with a bundle of wood for wands and the lanolin. The physician took one of the wands, broke it in half, and spun the lanolin around the stick, creating a slender, cylindrical woolen object.

The Order of the Second Wind brought the item to Keyleth. She looked relieved and rushed into the loo. She returned saying that she would be fine in a week, and she hoped they didn’t have to go through too much trouble to get her feminine product. The rest of the party left the inn and quickly played their own game of “Drink for Pegasus” at the closest tavern. The barkeep wondered what curse the group had been under, since the only word they could say was “Pegasus.”

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Verse 3

The clanking figure was actually a Warforged Warden and Half-Elf Ranger. They introduced themselves as Rune and Gaius, and they spoke with Kava and Keyleth deep into the night. As they slept, Kava was visited by Melora, who moved her to become a Cleric and leave her Paladin ways behind. Keyleth was visited by a beautiful White Dragon covered in Polyhedrons. He proclaimed that he was Pegasus, and that he had chosen Keyleth to be the first of his many disciples. Keyleth awoke and asked Kava for basic training in Clerical powers. When morning broke, they went into Regdar’s hut, only to find him laying awkwardly. Thinking he was hurt, Kava moved closer to heal him, only to see Regdar turn into a swarm of locusts and scatter away.

The Four went back to Webwood to report to the Spider Deity, only to find that she had given birth. The thousands of spiderlings had cannibalized her, and turned their gnashing fangs on Our Heroes.

Very quickly, the battle looked easily won; the spiders were held in a choke point, and they were quickly wearing down the swarm. Gaius moved to the back wall at the beginning of the battle and had been inaptly shooting arrows at the swarms. After the first large cluster was defeated, though, the other two fit through the choke point and began attacking Our Heroes in earnest.

Kava was the first to be brutally damaged by the spiders, but Keyleth was ready with her newly-learned healing abilities. Rune also was quickly put into danger of death by the multiple maws. Keyleth was constantly bitten, but her Mark of the Spider Deity kept her from being affected by their poison. With all of their ranged attacks, though, all four heroes kept shifting backwards.

Driven back to the cavern walls, Kava, Keyleth, and Rune all nearly succumbed to the spiders. Kava remembered she was a Dragonborn, and let out a massive poisonous blast. The resistance that the Spiderlings had against her poison was offset by the vast quantity of it. The Spiderlings eventually got the better of the intrepid three, and the Spiderlings chose to finish off Keyleth, but just missed their mark. Rune, with his soon to be dying breath, said “You guys… have got to be…without a doubt…the worst. clerics. ever. With three of the team down, Gaius deftly ran behind the swarm, (as behind as a swarm can be) and acted quickly to dispatch the last swarm to save his new friends.

The Ghost of the Spider Deity appeared before Gaius. It screamed that the world now belonged to Lolth, and then disappeared. Gaius decided against telling his now-conscious friends, and they burned down the Spider Temple and spent the night in the tavern telling of their previous adventures and playing parlor games.

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Verse 2

After mourning their lost member, the Spider Deity warned Our Heroes that there were other Spider Deities in the neighboring villages who were just as ill, and charged them with healing them. They set out on their newly-acquired spider mounts to the other villages. There was nothing of import until they were on their way from Webwood to Willowveil.

A beaten-up old man flagged them off and told them his caravan was hijacked by raiders who had camped not far from the trail. Our Heroes were lead to the encampment and they charged into the first building. The building was where slaves were being held, but the team had just missed the latest shipment. They surprised the enemy, though, and dug in for a tough fight. The first two guards were extremely tough, and Kava dropped quickly. Regdar was ready, though, and revived Kava twice, draining their potions supplies. The fight was not over, though, and just as Regdar moved to the middle of the building and threw out a fog of insects, Kava fell for a third time.

With no way to heal herself, and her friends dealing with the numerous raiders, Kava was visited by the spirit of Manneo. He dragged Kava’s body into a safe area and created a healing circle. This proved to be the boon that Our Heroes needed, as they rallied around the circle and fought off the last of the raiders.

After taking a short breather, they moved towards the leader’s encampment. When they entered the earthen hovel, Regdar blacked out. Keyleth noticed that the hovel was at least 40 years old, and by the markings on the walls, must have belonged to a Druid at some point. Seeing his home again after 20 years, Regdar went into a blind rage. A rage because of his memories, and blind because the leader of the raiders threw blinding powder into all three of our heroes’ eyes. Fighting off their blindness, they quickly dispatched the leader, with Keyleth dealing the final blow. Picking up the limp body of the leader, Regdar looked at the raider and said, “nice house, I think I’ll take it.” and thrust his spear into the leader’s face.

Another short rest and they rushed into the small barracks. One of the raiders escaped with as many treasures as he could hold, but the party was able to take on the rest of the raiders. Kava deftly jumped over the small bar, but Keyleth had a more difficult time flipping over the table, and fell on her face. The rest of the battle went without consequence, and Our Heroes found gold and more potions for their trouble. The trader’s caravan was nowhere to be seen, though. The group traveled to Willowveil and healed the last spider, and went back to Regdar’s home to rest. Just as they fell asleep, though, a large dark figure clanked his way towards the group…

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Verse 1

Our heroes set out in the must inauspicious of towns under the order of the onerous Head of Guard. His prejudice was legendary, and he matched them with the old town drunkard. They entered the Goblin Cave ready for a fight, but Manneo was the first to notice they weren’t in a glorious dungeon.

“Why is there doodie everywhere?” Indeed the feces was piled and rank, but our heroes fought through it and began slaughtering the goblins. Regdar struck first, turning into a swarm of insects and pouncing on the first goblin in sight. The goblin side-stepped and let out a horrific wail. This steeled the other goblins and their attacks struck home. Their wooden swords and “mud” balls were no match for our heroes, as they made quick work of the room. They thought they had seen the last of feces, until Manneo entered the next room, which was the lavatory.

Kava’s perception eyed a secret tunnel, which is where one goblin set off towards seeing that he was overrun. Manneo chased him down the tunnel, and ended him in the crawl space. In the next room Kava and Keyleth heard two more goblin’s wail, and through rough wooden doors burst in a Broodmother. She was enraged at the slaughter of her goblins and struck a hard blow to Kava, which kept her in place. The broodmother also cast a dark cloud around the heroes to obscure their sight. Regdar, moving back to recover his spear, rushed in to see his new comrades blinded and in pain. Our heroes were able to fell the beast, and continued to explore the cave.

Keyleth and Manneo began to explore the nooks and crannies of the cave in earnest. Kava noticed a weak wall in the Broodmother’s room, and Manneo rushed into the wall, covering himself in wall-feces but finding two potions and a small purse of gold. The party could not recognize Manneo as he emerged from the room. “It’s a Poo-Golem!” screamed Kava. They cleaned up the last few goblins and then looked on in horror as their heads cooled from the heat of battle…

“These are young goblins. We just slaughtered a ton of babies…” Regdar was shaken, but buffeted the horror by reasoning that it would be safer than allowing them to age and become raiders. “Who cares? Let’s get those ears for 2 gold each!” Keyleth was less-affected by the battle. Manneo was cleaned up by Regdar’s Grasping Tide.

Our heroes returned to the Head of Guard, and told him of their exploits. As they bragged, a small goblin ran past their feet with fear in his eyes. The Head of Guard caught it by its ears, mumbled, “mongrel” and slashed it across the forehead. Regdar had to be held back by Manneo and Kava as the Head of Guard threw the limp green body into the river.

“I have another job for you worthless wastes of air. The Shaman of the Spider god has started making movements in the underground crime rings. He may be trying to take over the village. I can’t get any guards into the Spider Temple, so you have to take care of him. He won’t expect you to be members of the guard.”

Our heroes settled in at the tavern for the night to cash-in their reward and so Regdar could drown his rage. Manneo had his way with a cheap floozie, using the weakest of pick-up lines. Kava turned-in early for the night and Keyleth sang a solemn song listing the keys to courtship written by the young women of the herb.

As day broke, Regdar woke the other heroes and they set out towards the Spider Temple. The Spider Shaman was expecting them, and told them that it was actually the Head of Guard that wanted the village, and has slowly been killing the acolytes of the temple to get rid of the temple. Sensing that his words were true, Regdar told his new friends that they should lure the Head of Guard inside the temple, to fight him 4-on-1. The Head of Guard quickly understood what their ploy was, and came ready for battle. The Head of Guard was no chance for Our Heroes, though, as they swarmed around him and made short work of him. The Spider Shaman gave Keyleth a boon from the Spider god, a mark that makes her more resistant to poison.

They descended to the lair of the Spider god, and she told them of her plight. She is ill and with children, and needed a potion from the apothecary to recover. The guard had been killing her acolytes, and she was unable to stave off her illness. On the way back from the apothecary, the newly-appointed Head of Guard threatened them to give poison to the god instead. After some discussion in the group, they decided to not kill the god. As they gave the god the potion, the village guard flooded the chamber. Manneo was first in the fray, taking the brunt of most of the attacks. With a well-placed throwing axe, Manneo was struck unconscious. As he was blacking out, he mumbled that Kava’s deity was illegitimate. Kava refused to heal the Goliath, and Regdar’s fog of insects enveloped the guards and Manneo, leaving nothing but bones. Moved by the loss of the comrade they barely knew, Keyleth started an elegy about Betty of the Black.

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Teaser

It’s been 20 years since the Great Hortian War. The people we used to call elders sit in their hand-dug hovels most of the day rambling about the blasts, the pestilence, and the dragons. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. My name is Porphyry, and I am the seasoned Bard of the Great Hortian War. I was barely able to hold a lute when the war began, but I’ll tell you all I can, and all I’ve heard from the stammering elders…

The lands were once green, with plains and forests, and the skies were once blue, and without the orange glow of the false moon that leers at us day and night. The five great nations of Hortia decided to join in a great alliance that would once and for all cement peace. The only catch was that the government of mortals does not hold weight in the world of dragons. It became a great insult to the dragons that the territories they had carved out were being changed; and they refused to allow the mortals to change the lines they had worked so hard to establish. The dragons began attacking each other, fearing that it was another dragon’s claim to territory that wasn’t theirs. Of course, there is no such thing as a dragon fight without collateral damage, and the nations began to share the paranoia that the dragons felt. There were massive battles, with dragon battling dragon and nation warring against nation, and ties began to grow between the nations and the dragons. Soon, the five great nations each had a dragon to herald over them. This marks the beginning of the Great Hortian War. With the dragons competing to gain as much territory as possible, and the mortals matching their avarice, the seeds of destruction were sewn. No land was safe. Within two years the entire landscape was changed: fields were scorched, forests desolated, cities and villages barren and empty. The population of the world went from sprawling to dwindling. There was no hope for an outcome; the dragons and their mortal subordinates were at a stalemate with each other. It was then that the gods played their hand.

Tiamat, whose body was trapped deep in the crust, instructed a group of his closest Dragonborn followers to construct a large sphere of magic, and tether it to the land. Once the sphere was attached, all those with greed in their hearts were expunged from Hortia, be it man, woman, or child; mortal or dragon. The sphere, which burned red-hot, then turned a dull orange, and became lifeless.

It’s been 20 years since the Great Hortian War. There have been very few people left on this world, but there is still hope. As I speak, the land appears to be rejuvenating itself. The false moon still looms, but its magic has worn away, and greed can once again populate the land. The world sits on a precipitous edge. I sing to you, noble adventurer: you will tip the world either toward its full realization, or its true destruction. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself once more…

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