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Here is the next installment of the story. It features the elf group, it's rather short, and it introduces a new PC: Chade, a lizard man cleric/thief.

This was all done in one session from Friday April 10th through Saturday April 11th.

Ragnus - Thorne; Chade - RoninofDreams; All other characters George "Underdog" Cockrell

Session Start: Fri Apr 10 23:21:01 2009

<>Ambiance<> Begin Chapter Nine.

<>Ambiance<> When last we left our elf group, Ragnus had just slain a deer while Elena and Eltiana slept for the night. He was returning with it, when the sky in the distance lit up. Instinctively he knew that Eltiana's vision was coming true just a day before they could reach Greenguard.

<>Ambiance<> He dropped the deer and was racing back towards camp.

<>Ambiance<> Ragnus has just reached the camp as we open the session.

<Ragnus> Eltiana! Elena!

<Eltiana> What is it Ragnus?

* Ragnus races to the camp searching for his sleeping aunt and her pupil companion.

<Ragnus> The sky! Its.. Its being lit up! In the direction of the village!

<Ragnus> Your.. Your!.. we must hurry!

<Eltiana> Uller, we're too late!

* Elena stirs.

<Elena> What is it, what's going on?

<Ragnus> I must prepare the horses, shall we prepare to ride out immediately?!

<Ragnus> I was off in the woods, I got lost a bit, and as I was examining the stars to find my path, there it was! A flash at first.

<Ragnus> I thought, well I didn’t know what to think of it, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, but! IT’S True!

<Eltiana> Damnit! It's too late, I know it is, but yes, you better get the horses ready.

* Ragnus nods and rushes off to get the horses and hurriedly pack supplies in the packs.

<Elena> Oh my Ullr, it... it's happening... what you saw, isn't it?

* Ragnus grabs his bow, kisses the hilt while thinking of his father, his mother, and all those poor villagers, prepares his sword and affixes it to his waist before grabbing the horses by the reigns and leading them back to Elena and Eltiana.

<Eltiana> I think so dear girl.

<Elena> How long... how long will it take us to get there?

<Eltiana> Several hours yet, especially in the dark on this mountain trail.

<Eltiana> There is a full moon tonight, which will help, but it will still be slow going till daylight.

* Ragnus approaches the others saying "The sooner the better, I have packed all I could find in the packs shall we head out?

<Eltiana> Did you water the horses? If not, take time to do so.

<Eltiana> Otherwise, yes, we need to get going now.

<Ragnus> Yes I must do so, my apologies, I let my excitement get the better of me.

<Eltiana> Understandable. You must remember the horses are as tired as we are, maybe more at the rate we've been driving them.

* Ragnus leads the horses to nearby water to allow them time to hydrate themselves.

* Ragnus returns after allowing the horses to drink, and rest. They were quite thirsty it seems, perhaps they know they are to be pushed. The excitement fills the air tonight.

<>Ambiance<> Elena and Eltiana have made ready to go in the meantime.

<Eltiana> OK you two, stay close behind me. I know these paths better than either of you.

* Eltiana leads off down the trail at a fairly slow pace

<Eltiana> I wish I felt we could go faster, but it will avail us naught to fall over the side of the cliff in the darkness.

* Ragnus mounts and follows.

<>Ambiance<> The group rides on for hours, making the best time they can.

<>Ambiance<> About two hours before sunup, Eltiana brings them to a stop.

<Elena> What's up, why are we stopping?

<Eltiana> It'll be light in about two hours.

<Eltiana> Whatever happened in the middle of the night, it'll be over by now anyhow.

<Eltiana> The area up ahead is particularly dangerous in the dark. We might as well get two hours rest and get up with the sun at this point. We'll make better time when we can see where we are going.

* Ragnus nods and dismounts, stretching.

<Ragnus> Eltiana, are YOU ok?

* Ragnus senses a bit of hesitation in his aunt

<Eltiana> I'll tell you what I told Ariana when we started... I have to be ok

<Eltiana> Elena, child, can you stay up and wake us when the sun rises? Ragnus has had no sleep at all, and I fear I'm not as young as you anymore.

<Elena> Yes, of course.

<Eltiana> Then let us get a nap, Ragnus. Oh, and Elena, water the horses for us before you wake us.

* Eltiana lays down for a nap.

* Ragnus lays down for some much needed rest.

<>Ambiance<> The two hours pass. As the sun begins to rise, Elena waters the horses and wakes the others.

<Eltiana> It's hell getting old, Ragnus. Don't let it happen to you.

* Eltiana chuckles then grunts.

<Ragnus> Haha…

<Eltiana> It's just as well we stopped, the horses were exhausted too.

<Elena> How much further, Lady Tia?

<>Ambiance<> Elena looks exhausted. This has clearly been a looooooong week for her.

<Eltiana> We should be able to make it in 4-5 hours now... If only we had ridden harder these last few days...

* Ragnus rises "We cannot kick ourselves for that now. Had we ridden harder, we would have been stranded with lame horses to worry about."

<Elena> The horses could not have taken it, Tia, you know they couldn't have.

* Eltiana bows her head and says "Yes, you are both right, I know."

<Ragnus> And we must be wary, we too cannot take too much abuse, we know not what waits for us when we get there.

<Eltiana> A very good point, of course, Ragnus.

<Eltiana> Well, let us be off. We can eat a bit of jerky as we ride, and worry about eating properly after we know what the situation is.

<Ragnus> Agreed.

<>Ambiance<> The party rides on for close to 4 hours, then Eltiana stops.

<Eltiana> Something is very wrong here. Look up ahead... There should be trees all along the horizon line there... but there aren't any...

<Elena> Oh my... gods and goddesses, Greenguard forest is... gone, isn't it.

<Eltiana> Yes...

<Eltiana> Most of it is anyway, and maybe all of it.

<Eltiana> Its only a couple of miles now from where we would enter where the forest... should be.

<Eltiana> I think we should tie the horses here and proceed on foot. Anything could be waiting for us up ahead.

* Eltiana ties up her horse to a nearby tree.

* Elena does likewise.

* Ragnus dismounts and follows suit, taking Elena's horse with him.

<Eltiana> Follow me. Stay alert, and be prepared for anything...

* Ragnus looks around for signs of battle, or struggle.

<>Ambiance<> There are no signs of a battle here. The only thing out of place are the missing forest up ahead, and a small amount of smoke arising from the area.

<Eltiana> The party moves in towards the forest slowly, cautiously, prepared for anything...

* Ragnus follows Eltiana listening closely for signs of life.. death.. or anything.

<>Ambiance<> Suddenly, arrows rain down on the party from a still wooded hill on the left.

<>Ambiance<> Two arrows strike Ragnus and one Eltiana before they know what's going on. Elena, however, dodges reacts quickly and dodges the fire.

<>Ambiance<> Ragnus takes only 4 points damage, luckily. Eltiana, is only grazed for 2 points. You can't see who is firing the arrows, but you can tell where they are coming from.

* Ragnus looks for cover wincing from the wound and looks to see if anyone else is hit.

<>Ambiance<> Eltiana dives for cover, and begins casting a spell.

<>Ambiance<> Before any more arrows can rain down, Eltiana finishes her Entangle spell. The grasses and vines spring up and twist around up where the arrows came from.

<>Ambiance<> Ragnus successfully dove for cover shortly thereafter.

* Ragnus manages a small cheer to himself as he spots a rustling in the distance "Another trick you'll have to one day show me auntie." as he readies his bow.

<>Ambiance<> Elena on the other hand did something surprising...

<Elena> (Screaming in Sylvan Elf) Wait, do not fire on us! We are friends.

* Eltiana looks at the girl with wonder.

<>Ambiance<> No more arrows come down. Instead, a voice replies.

<Voice> (SE) Who are you.

<Elena> (SE) I am Elena Tal, acolyte of the priesthood of Ullr. With me are Eltiana, priestess of Ullr, and her nephew Ragnus.

<AnotherVoice> (SE) Elena Tal? I remember you. Everyone cease fire.

<AnotherElfonTheHill> (SE) None of us could move if we wanted to at the moment Amon.

* Eltiana Stands up and says "I will end the effects of the spell, but stay where you are. We're coming up to talk to you."

* Eltiana ends the spells affects, then says "Lets go you two."

* Eltiana starts off up the hill.

* Elena follows.

* Ragnus follows suit and follows up the hill.

<Ragnus> You would think at that range they could tell we were Elven.

<Ragnus> Unless.. could it be Elves were responsible?

<Elena> I don't know Ragnus, and I'm not sure they could tell. We were pretty far away.

<Eltiana> I think she's probably right. When someone... destroys your home, it tends to put you in a shoot first and ask questions later mode I expect.

<Eltiana> Anyway, we'll know soon enough.

<>Ambiance<> Meanwhile, on the other side of what used to be the Greenguard Forest, a group of Lizard Men look down upon the desolation.

<>Ambiance<> They have been tracking a party of "elves" up the mountain pass from their swamp for a few days now.

<>Ambiance<> These "elves" had, a few days back, completely destroyed a lizard man village in a way the lizard men had never seen before.

<>Ambiance<> Fire Rained down from the skies, and, in an instant, the city was almost completely destroyed. There were almost no survivors.

<>Ambiance<> Fortunately, there were a few, including Raikenin and his brother, who
were out fishing at the time.

<>Ambiance<> While Raikenin continued to follow the "elves", his brother ran ahead to the next village to get help.

<>Ambiance<> In the next village, a cleric, named Chade rounded up as many people as could be spared and, hurrying as best they could, were able to rendezvous with Raikenin.

<>Ambiance<> The party of "elves" vastly outnumbered them, however, and they realized they could not win a straight up fight, so instead, they merely followed trying to determine the real nature of the threat.

<>Ambiance<> Then, last night, the "elves" destroyed their own forest... or, so it appeared...

<Raikenin> The forest looks like it was completely destroyed, Chade.

<Raikenin> I do not understand what is going on.

<Raikenin> Why would elves destroy an elven forest... unless they are dark elves in disguise, but why here of all places then?

<Raikenin> Can you make any sense of it?

* Chade considers the ashen remnants of the former forest, the tip of his tail twitching in agitation at his thoughts. "It is...difficult to fathom. This seems little like infighting, to destroy the forest itself would be wasteful. Much less by the same hand slaughter our folk and stir our ire. Unless..."

<Raikenin> Unless?

<Chade> "Confusion, perhaps? Chaos that lends to swift rending rather than cool tongues?" Chade looks askance for a moment, then shakes his head. "There's so much, and yet so little...I have no answers, only guesses."

<>Ambiance<> As the pair looked down on the small army from a distance, they saw something happen that they could not believe.

<>Ambiance<> Suddenly, the elven features of the army disappeared. A few of the figures changed into men, or half-orcs perhaps, the rest melted into the shape of... goblins.

<Raikenin> What magic is this, Chade?

<Raikenin> Can it be that these creatures were goblins all along?

* Chade hisses softly, scenting the air to try and catch evidence to match what his straining eyes try to tell him. "Perhaps. Dark magic...foul sorcery...or perhaps their own kind of miracles, granted by whatever perverse gods they worship. Were I to know for certain which, I would freely tell."

<Raikenin> What shall we do now?

<Raikenin> Even if they are truly goblins instead of elves, we could not defeat them. There are too many of them.

<Chade> "Certainly, they are not elves. Which means that survivors here are not much different from our own. We ought be wary, for they will be confused as well, as for this army...we do as we have. Keep them in sight while not being seen. Search for survivors as we do so."

<Raikenin> Very well Chade.

<Raikenin> Shall we scout around the area any, or stay together in a group here?

* Chade strokes his muzzle with his claws. "As you said, we stand little chance with our numbers...we shall break into four parties of scouts. Be cautious, as the elves may attack first and ask questions after. We would do the same, I fear, in their stead."

<Raikenin> Very well Chade. I will do as you command.

<Raikenin> We will still meet back at camp at dusk then?

<Chade> "That seems wise."

<Raikenin> Very well. See you this evening then, Chade.

<Chade> "Step carefully, Raikenin, and be well."

<Raikenin> You as well.

<>Ambiance<> Meanwhile, back with the elves… A conversation is taking place in Standard Elven (for Ragnus’ benefit)

<>Ambiance<> Eltiana, Elena, and Ragnus have gone up the hill, and have sat down to
meet with the other elves.

<>Ambiance<> The story they hear is one of tragedy. The forest burned to the ground in what seemed like an instant by fireballs that rained down from the sky.

<>Ambiance<> Everyone who was in the heart of the forest at the time...

* Elena cries bitter tears, realizing she'd likely never see any of her family and most of her friends again.

* Ragnus tends his minor wounds then goes to Elena's side to be there for her.

<Celeron> Aye, Lady Eltiana. Had we not been out hunting near the edge of the forest, we'd all be dead now. On top of that, when we tried to flee the forest, we had to fight our way past a group of lizard men who were obviously there to try to kill anyone who survived the fireballs.

<Ragnus> And the trespassers, what has become of them?

<Celeron> There's hundreds of them, and only a few of us survivors, we had no choice but to flee up here.

<Celeron> We've been looking for other survivors, since last night, but we haven't found any.

<Celeron> I'm sorry we shot at you, but, I swear, we thought you were lizard men for a moment.

<Eltiana> Why didn’t you use an Entangle spell, Celeron? Even if we had been Lizard Men, would it not have been better to take us alive for questioning?

<Celeron> That is true, Eltiana, however, all of the days spells have been spent healing.

<Eltiana> Ah.

* Ragnus looks at the ragtag group of once proud elves, now turned refugees and feels for them, to know loss is one thing, to experience it on such grand scale.. but the question haunts me... "why? do you have any clues as to WHY this has come to be?"

<Celeron> No.

<Eltiana> I think we're going to have to assume that this is all we have.

<Eltiana> Are you sure they were lizard men?

<Celeron> Yes, why do you ask?

<Eltiana> I had a vision of this happening about a week ago, but they were not
lizard men, they were goblins...

<Celeron> These were definitely NOT goblins...

<Ragnus> Has anything curious happened the days preceding?

<Celeron> Nothing. The first sign we had that anything was wrong was when the fire hit the forest.

<Eltiana> I don't care what you saw, they were NOT Lizard Men, they were goblins.

<Celeron> Impossible, I know what I saw.

<Eltiana> I repeat, I don't care what you SAW, Celeron, they were NOT, REPEAT, NOT Lizard Men, they were goblins.

<Ragnus> Trust me sir, this vision was as real to her as we are standing in front of you. If she says they were not lizard men, I am inclined to believe her.

* Ragnus looks to Eltiana, “What sort of trickery could this be? Magics? is such a thing possible of goblins?”

<Celeron> I really don't care what you say, outsider.

<Celeron> Her, *indicating Eltiana* I will give the benefit of the doubt, however.

<Eltiana> Goblins could not do this, no, they had to have help...

<Eltiana> Celeron, let me ask you something. Did it not seem that those Lizard Men you fought to get out of the forest went down rather easily?

* Celeron thinks about it for a moment and says, "Aye"

<Eltiana> How many men do you have with you?

<Celeron> About thirty. Mostly archers.

<Celeron> There is one priest other than myself. He's out with the other group right now.

* Ragnus looks to Eltiana, “Do you think they will return?”

<Eltiana> Return, they haven't left yet?

<Ragnus> From what direction did these attacks come from? Has anyone tried to investigate yet?

<Celeron> The fire came from up in the higher mountains, the lizard men probably had the forest surrounded.

<Celeron> We haven't had time to worry about that. Anything that could destroy a forest in 5 minutes could kill 30 of us without breaking a sweat.

<Celeron> It's far more important that we try to find any survivors that might need our help at this point.

<Eltiana> I want you to lead me to where you had your battle last night. Celeron, can you do that?

<Celeron> I could, yes, but why?

<Eltiana> Because Celeron, I want to have a look at one of those so called Lizard Men you killed as you were escaping.

<Eltiana> I think we might find some answers there.

<Celeron> Very well. You’re my superior in the order, so I will do as you say. Give me a few minutes to round up most of the folks. I'll need to leave one of them here to tell the other group where we've gone when they come back.

* Celeron goes off to gather the men.

* Ragnus nods.

<Eltiana> You know what I think, Ragnus, Elena?

<Ragnus> What is that Aunt Eltiana?

* Ragnus looks to Elena, obviously hurting, and trying her best to stay together.

<Eltiana> I think someone is trying awfully hard to make us THINK the Lizard Men did this.

<Ragnus> Why would someone wish to put blame on Lizard men?

<Eltiana> I don't know. As bad as it is that nearly everyone I knew is gone... I'm
beginning to think that there is far more going on here than what we've seen so far, and it worries me, Ragnus, in fact, it scares me great deal.

<Eltiana> I'm afraid...

<Elena> Afraid of what Lady Tia?

<Ragnus> Well that is not comforting. but of what?

<Eltiana> Afraid that someone is deliberately trying to start a war here against the lizard men, which probably means...

<Eltiana> That a sorcerer king once again sits on the throne of Avernus for the first time in hundreds of years.

<Ragnus> ...

<Eltiana> Pray to Ullr that I am wrong, but, the war of the Magi may be about to have another round.

<>Ambiance<> End Chapter Nine

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