The Adventures of Rothus, page 35 [D-820]

Mountains of Iregor, the cave:

The entry hall leads into many other hallways or rooms. Lotech starts up a conversation about how easily it would be for her and possible allies to attack us. It’s a bit unnerving, actually.

“Has she been talking like this for the whole time you escorted her up here?!” I ask.

“Yeah,” Evan answers. Erastil, save me from my companions! This Lotech lady actively plots our destruction while we are right here in front of her, but then plays it off as a joke. Can we trust her? I’ll just have to hope that she doesn’t betray us at the same instant that Lily flips out. To betrayals at once would do us in for sure!

With those pleasant thoughts, I begin walking down the main hall. Travis says the fourth doorway on the left has footprints entering it, maybe we should follow them. The doorway immediately leads to a stairway going down. My recent thoughts of things going horribly wrong remind me that a doorway like this would make a perfect place for a trap. I look for loose stones and arrow slits in the walls. The bottom of the door has a thin string pulled across it! There are also long slits in the ceiling running parallel to the stairway ahead. I warn the party not to go ahead of me.

Hmmm... It looks like if I just loosen this end of the tripwire, I can-- suddenly, from the ceiling swing five huge blades, starting out ahead of me and swooping in toward the main hall. I jump out of the way, saving my skin. With the blades loosed from their home, I doubt the trap can be triggered a second time, especially now that the tripwire is hanging limp. I call the all-clear and step right over the dead string, beginning down the stairs.

On the third step I hear a dreadful click. The blades come back down, this time from the doorway swinging toward the stairs, where I am standing! The last thing I recall is flying through the air, the bottom the the stairway rushing up to greet me.


When I wake up, Aeryn is kneeling over me and smiling.

“So, the trap wasn’t disabled?” I ask.

“Come back up the steps, Rothus,” Aeryn orders. I climb up the steps (avoiding the third from the top) and see Travis laying dead with arrows all over his body! Wait, he is still breathing, thank Erastil. Aeryn goes and kneels down by him. She lays one hand on his chest and one on his head. Then, with a solemn prayer to Desna, her patient takes a huge gasp of air, and opens his eyes with a purpose.

I ask Evan what happened while I was out cold. He says that Travis saw me lying unconscious and thought to rescue me. The tripwire had been reset to its original tautness, so he took his sword and sliced it. *Wince* (That’s not a delicate way to “disable” a trap.) The blades swung down in their original direction as they did the very first time, bit Travis was slow on the jumping out of the way bit. The trap launched him across the main hall and into the opposite doorway, where he proceeded to fall down those steps, setting off a dart trap! Evan had to go down and pull him up, while Aeryn helped me.

This place is much more dangerous than I had thought! From this point forward, we need to progress very carefully. I’ll also have to remember that traps can reset here, going off more than once!

Lotech was not impressed by our team and suggests we go back to the mouth of the cave so we can rest up a bit before continuing on. That sounds like a good idea, actually. I see that Travis did actually cut the tripwire and decide to collect the longer of the remaining lengths. Never know when you’ll need three and a half feet of thin wire! Actually, I just thought of a use.... but Evan would not think well of it.

With that, we go up to the entrance and take a rest.

The Adventures of Rothus, page 34 [D-820]

Mountains of Iregor, cave entrance:

We all stare at the cave entrance for several heart-beats. This is a defining moment in the quest, when we choose to wander into the untold billions of pounds of rock, just praying that it does not collapse upon us.

As the sneakiest, I enter the cave alone. No need for the noisy guys to attract attention of anyone down here. The cave is obviously carved, as the stairs are regular and smooth. I descend about 75 feet and can just barely see what appears to be the bottom step. Joachim said that our amulets would allow us to see through about 60 feet of darkness, so I imagine there are about 135 feet of stairs.

I climb back up the steps and report to Evan. Lily suddenly notices something in the distance behind us. She points out Ma’ud leaping through the plains, being chased by a plant?! He is still a long ways off. Should we just wait for him? How long will that take? Lily launches up a yellow flash of light, I think to signal Ma’ud to our location. The fox makes a slight correction in his direction so that he is now coming straight for us.

Everyone, except me, descends the mountain slope to meet Ma`ud half way in the plains. I don’t want to walk all the way down there, only to walk all the way back up! So I stay up on the slope, hiding in the cave entrance. Evan warns me that I’ll be all alone, but I think it’ll be okay. Nothing can see me here in the shadows. Plus, it will give me some time to work on these dice I want to complete.

The plant following Ma’ud is a human with green hair. She tried to feed him. They keep an eye out for the plant/person which immediately drops down into the grass. Evan approaches, confronts it. She asks about a two-tailed fox. Evan calls for Travis to stand down. They interrogate the stranger. Her name is Lotech.

I hear someone come up the hill, so I load and level my crossbow. Evan leads the expected group over the crest so that they come into my view.

“Halt!” I order.

They ignore me. Completely.

Well, they look unharmed, and they are getting along well enough with the plant from the plains, who actually looks to be a woman. As I lower my crossbow, I see she has an amulet identical to ours. Curious... I wonder if it imbues her with greater sight and water breathing?

Evan tells me that her name is Lotech and that she met Ma’ud in the forest. She seems to be friendly enough, even tried to give Ma’ud some of her food. Well, if Evan trusts her, I can give her the benefit of the doubt.

I re-descend into the cave, but this time with the party following behind. It is a damp cave, feels icky. It occurs to me that this cave is possibly of some value to someone and they may have left some traps for wayward intruders like us. I check the bottom the stairs, but find no triggers or dangers.

We continue on.

The Adventures of Rothus, page 33 [D-820]

Prairie at the base of the mountains:

The dragon shakes the earth as it lands. It takes a moment to settle and looks at each of us, one by one. “Rrrrrerrrarrrerrrrrgrrrrer?” it roars.

“RrerrrreerrrgrrrrrdrrrrrarrrrerrrJoachimrerrrrrarorrrrrrrirrrurr,” replies Tyler. I hope that's Draconic, or whatever. The Dragon replies by smelling us. That’s not comforting a all.

Aeryn says, “He smells the blood of royalty.” He can smell blood?! Ewww!

Tyler and Aeryn speak to the silver titan for a while. Lily asks in Common about the blood of royalty.

“Tarenvale...” it says in response to something Aeryn asks. That's highly peculiar. Why does it know about our home?

Lily asks it to speak to us in Common. “Very well,” it says.

Lily asks, “Are you Silver Wing?”

The silver-scaled beast ponders for a long time, does not give a response. She asks again saying that Silver Wing is from legends. He says, “My name is Iregor.”

Evan asks, “Do you know about the Stones of Power?”

Iregor answers, “Many have searched before you. Many will search after you.” Is it really our destiny to find the stones? Maybe the Oracle has lied to us. That would be really bad, since we have to trust her and Joachim for so much.

We converse for a long while. Iregor does not like Dalton, but says that we can trust Roran. Weird, I thought of them as one and the same to trust one is to trust both. We ask him about Dalton and he says that Dalton will die soon, by his own doing. Tyler changes the conversation back into Draconic, cutting half the party out. Eventually Lily says in common, “You say that Dalton threatens the end of the world. Why would you say that?” Wait, Dalton threatens the end of the world?! That's not good at all.

Then Evan thinks aloud, “Why would Joachim send us to the mountains to retrieve a bracelet, yet fail to mention that a DRAGON blocks the way?” Good question. No one has an answer for him.

Lily wants to hurry on to just get the bracelet, but Travis is suddenly in doubt, “What if the dragon is right and everything we knew was a lie? We had that run-in with changelings, what if this is like when we found Tyler's parents in the closet?!” That would mean the Oracle, Dalton, Joachim and others all lied to us, or at least are hiding something.


What if everyone in the camp of the Oracle is a changeling?


My head just exploded.

Evan reminds us that the Oracle says it is our destiny to restore the lost kingdom to it's former glory. That perks up Iregor's ears. “The lost kingdom. It is far from here, across the great river.” It might be close to Tarenvale! Iregor says Tarenvale used to be the Kingdom of Terra. We should explore the area west of Tarenvale, in the region of the Dragon's Teeth, if we want to find more information.

But, Evan brings us back to the matter at hand. “May we search your mountains for the bracelet?”

“Yes, I do not own the bracelet you described. You may search for it as you please,” Iregor responds.

Tyler kneels in front of the dragon, asking it to help us more directly. The problem is that there is no service we can provide to the dragon that he cannot provide to himself. We cannot trade with him, as all we own is worthless. He tells us that the upper levels are his domain and we are to stay out, but we are free to explore the lower levels. Then he lifts off.

I guess that went well. We are free to grab the bracelet and the dragon has already kindly eaten the predators in this area. We watch Iregor circles a few times. On the third pass, he dives towards us! His claws reach out and pick up all six of us! Maybe negotiations didn’t go as well as I had hoped!

As we rise above the valley, everything looks tiny. We soar for an hour and descend as we get close. Iregor does not come to a stop, but drops us in flight. we roll several yards and come to a stop. I stand trying to clear out the dizziness. “Well, we're here,” Evan points out. “Does anyone see an entrance?”

“Like that one over there?” Tyler points to a large cave entrance.

The Adventures of Rothus, page 32 [D-820]

Forest, heading toward the southern mountains:

I wake up early for fourth-watch duty and let Tyler fall asleep. Now that the rain has had chance to dry, and I’ve got some time to myself, I start to carve those dice I was thinking about earlier. Then, when it gets boring, we can gamble! Later I'll craft some special dice so I can gamble with enemies.

Eventually, everyone else awakes and gets ready for travel. After walking a ways, the trees part, marking the edge of the forest. It opens up to show us a huge prairie, with mountains in the distance. We are upon them already! They can't be more than a day away, by now! We are making great time. We’ll just cut through this grass and we’ll be there.

Evan asks if there are supposed to be more animals around, as we see and hear none at all except Ma'ud. Huh, that is odd. Travis confirms that something is strange. Evan calls for the spellcasters to check for dark magic that might be keeping animals away. Travis looks up, with an ominous look on his face. He points to a huge shape of a bird. Very huge. It looks as big as an eagle close-by, but it is circling the distant mountains!

“It's a silver dragon!” Aeryn shouts. Half the team dives to the ground, seeking cover in the short grass. Lily explains it is a good dragon, whatever that means. Travis points out that we look to be the only prey in this valley regardless of whether or not it is a “good” dragon. But both Aeryn and Tyler speak Draconic, so I hope we'll be fine.

While everyone stares at the dragon, I suddenly realize that it is staring right back! “Spread out! It's coming for us!” I warn to the team. I step away from the rest of the team and we all agree to wait for it to arrive. Ma'ud runs past us back into the forest. He is nothing but a cowardly blur. The dragon reaches us and circles overhead. Aeryn says it doesn't look like it is going to eat us, but it is still descending! The moment of truth is coming! Tyler says that dragons eat people who steal daggers and then he looks straight at me. I guess he's referring to the time I won his dagger in a gamble. Well, better safe than sorry, I immediately toss his dagger back to him and look again at the approaching dragon.

Evander Smith-The Storm before the Dragon Part the Last

“What do you know of Kitsune?” asked Lilith.

“I know that they can change their shape and have more magic than they know what to do with,” said Iregor.

“Are there any areas you do not wish us to search in the mountains?” asked Evander.

“Yes, the upper levels,” said Iregor.

“How will we know them?” asked Evander.

“When the bodies begin,” said Iregor.

“How will we get into the mountain?” asked Travis.

“There are many entrances close to the base of the mountain,” said Iregor.

“Can you help us get to the mountain. I mean it’s so far away and you seemed to get from there to here quickly. I was just thinking it would be a great help if you could give us a lift,” said Tyler.

“Tyler, dragons don’t like to ridden like common horses,” whispered Lilith angrily.

Without replying Iregor spread his mighty wings, and with powerful blasts of wind that almost knocks the group over, takes to the sky once again. The group watches him circle before flying off towards the forest. He then circles backs and dives at the group. Aeryn lets out a scream of terror as Iregor picks up the group. Though strong, he manages not to squish anyone, as they stare at the ground so far below, the wind whipping in there faces.

What would have taken hours, takes minutes as Iregor brings them to his mountain home. He swoops low and hovers just off the ground and drops the group. This done, he uses his mighty wings to ascend to his perch far above.

“That was awesome,” said Rothus.

“Yeah, now how about we find a cave entrance,” said Evander.

“See, there’s one,” said Travis pointing to a entrance that is slightly hidden.

Well that wasn’t what I expected, thought Evander getting ready to brave the caves below Iregor’s lair.

Evander Smith-The Storm before the Dragon Part the Eighth

“Are they the biggest mountains?” asked Evander.

“Not by far,” said Iregor.

“Do you own the bracer we seek?” asked Evander.

“No,” replied Iregor.

“Then may we search your mountains for it?” asked Evander.

“What else do you seek?” inquired Iregor.

“Nothing,” said Evander.

“Very well, you may search my mountain,” said Iregor.

“Have others been sent to you?” asked Lilith.

“I have not seen your kind for ten years,” said Iregor.

“Was the last human you saw Dalton?” asked Evander.

“How perceptive of you, he isn’t so different now than he was then,” said Iregor.

“He was younger,” said Lilith.

“Perhaps, perhaps not,” said Iregor.

“He is only human,” said Lilith.

“Is he? Well, you will find out soon enough,” said Iregor.

“Knowing Tarenvale was the Kingdom of Terra. My family has been affiliated with Tarenvale for generations. My grandfather and father after him took on the role of mayor of Tarenvale. They've known the area so long. I’m so confused and don’t know what to do. We mean you no harm, anything we can do to help? We appreciate you letting us search the area. Not killing us is nice too… how can I help you? How can I be of service?” Tyler bows at the end of his rambling.

“You cannot help me,” said Iregor.

Evander Smith-The Storm before the Dragon Part the Seventh

“Wait, if Iregor has possession of the bracer then we can’t take it. We are treasure hunters, not thieves,” said Evander while Rothus and Tyler where having a side conversation.

“Guys, we don’t know everything, it would be best we hear Iregor’s side, maybe Dalton isn’t who we think he is,” said Aeryn trying to be the voice of reason. “You said you smell no evil among us, surely you can see we mean you no harm,” said Aeryn.

“What more do you know of Dalton and my father, Sindarin Elhaim?” asked Lilith.

“Information for Information,” said Tyler.

Good point, thought Evander. “The oracle also told us that we would restore the lost kingdom,” said Evander.

“Ah, the lost kingdom is far from here,” said Iregor.

“Tell us of the old kingdom,” said Lilith.

“The lost kingdom is far from here, cross the great river,” said Iregor.

“Past Tarenvale?” asked Rothus.

“That name is familiar, yet not,” said Iregor.

“Tyler, was Tarenvale known by any other name?” asked Evander.

Tyler thinks for a few moments. “Yes, it used to be called the Kingdom of Terra,” said Tyler.

“Yes, that was the name of the kingdom,” said Iregor.

“Tarenvale is not a kingdom,” said Rothus. “I mean, there aren’t ruins anywhere,” he concluded.

“Yes there are, to the west past Karfal. By the Dragon's Teeth,” said Lilith.

“Are those mountains?” asked Evander.

“Yes,” said Iregor.

Evander Smith-The Storm before the Dragon Part the Sixth

“What do you mean by fallen one?” asked Lilith.

“You know him as Dalton,” said Iregor.

“We have known Dalton all our lives. Most of us lived in Tarenvale and Dalton lived just outside town,” said Lilith. “In fact Dalton saved our lives, and it was Roran who guided us away from Tarenvale,” continued Lilith.

“Trust Roran,” said Iregor.

“I find it hard to believe that Joachim’s men could find the bracer without mentioning it is in the domain of a dragon,” said Evander aloud.

“Tell us where the bracer is and I will give you Dalton,” said Tyler.

“Tell me!” roared Iregor.

“If you eat me you won’t find Dalton,” warned Tyler trying to keep the fear from his voice.

“If I eat you, I get a good snack and I win,” said Iregor.

“If we give him Dalton then we won’t need the bracer,” said Evander. I doubt that there would be a camp left, he thought.

Tyler talks to Iregor in draconic for a bit.

“What do you know of Dalton?” asked Aeryn.

“I know that he has ended the world once,” said Iregor.

“So the Elves aren’t in hiding,” said Evander.

“Some are,” said Iregor.

“Well I know we are trying to change the world for the better,” said Aeryn.

“We will find the bracer on our own,” said Tyler defiantly.

“Thanks for your help,” said Lilith dismissively.

Evander Smith-The Storm before the Dragon Part the Fifth

The dragon’s size became apparent when it began circling the group. The dragon made the Tarenvale inn look like a small hut in comparison. After circling three times the dragon landed in front of the group.

The dragon began to talk in an unfamiliar tongue that sounded like what the Lizard-men had been speaking. Aeryn and Tyler being familiar with the language managed to respond. During one of his replies the dragon says the word Tarenvale.

“Great dragon, though I may be able to understand you, my friends cannot. Would it be possible to continue this conversation in common?” asks Lilith.

“As you wish,” said the dragon sounding annoyed.

“Are you Silver-Wing?” asked Aeryn.

“I have not heard that name in a long time,” said the dragon.

“Who’s Silver-Wing?” asked Travis.

“Silver-Wing protected mountains from Orc attacks,” said Aeryn.

“Those mountains are north of here, and I am not Silver-Wing. This inferior tongue cannot pronounce my name. However, others of your kind call me Iregor,” said the dragon.

“Have you heard of the Elemental Stones?” asked Evander.

“Yes, why do you ask of the stones?” asked Iregor.

“The oracle of the camp we come from has said we are destined to find the stones,” said Evander.

“Ahaha,” laughed Iregor. “That old fool is always sending those foolish enough to listen on that quest,” said Iregor.

“We aren’t the first?” asked Tyler.

“No, and you won’t be the last,” said Iregor.

“An Elf and a Magus looked for the stones before. Do you know them?” asked Lilith.

“Hisss, how do you know the Fallen One!?” demanded Iregor.

Evander Smith-The Storm before the Dragon Part the Fourth

The mountains only appeared to be a few miles away. Yet we were told it was four days to the mountains, thought Evander. We have traveled less than one.

A gentle breeze blew through the plains causing the knee deep grass to sway back and forth. “Hey, guys, shouldn’t there be animals here?” asked Evander. They had been walking for a few minutes and during that time Evander had realized that he had not seen or heard any signs of animal life.

“Yeah there should be,” said Travis.

“Any idea why there aren’t any animals?” asked Evander.

“Predators like lions,” said Aeryn.

“Or magic,” said Rothus.

Lilith and Aeryn began searching the area for malicious magic. “I don’t sense anything,” said Aeryn.

“Me either,” said Lilith.

“Hey guys, look,” said Travis pointing towards the mountains. Evander followed where Travis was pointing. Evander saw what appeared to be a large eagle sitting atop the mountains. The creature spread it’s wings, and leapt from the mountain and began flying towards the group.

“Spread out!” called Rothus.

“Stand your ground!” called Aeryn.

“Run, we can find cover in the forest,” called Lilith.

“It’s too far,” said Travis.

As the shape draws closer, the group merely stares at it in awe. For what is flying at them is the stuff of legend. It soars high on bat like wings, the sun reflects off of its silver scales. What has flown at them is none other than a dragon.

“Don’t worry, silver dragons are good,” said Aeryn.

“Yeah, but that doesn’t make them less hungry,” replied Lilith.

Evander Smith-The Storm before the Dragon Part the Third

“No, she said that the oracle told her that she is going to kill us in the future,” said Tyler a bit defensively.

“What?” exclaimed Evander.

“She said betray, not kill,” said Lilith.

“Guess I missed something while I was sleeping,” said Evander.

“The Oracle said that there is a darkness that lives inside witches. My mom had my dad to help her, but I have no one. I’m going to turn on you guys because my dad isn’t here to help me. I don’t want to hurt you guys but the oracle saw it…” said Lilith breaking down towards the end.

“It’s okay Lily, we will just have Evander tie you up so that you don’t hurt us,” said Rothus.

“So what, I’m supposed to stay tied up the rest of my life?” asked Lilith.

“No, just before you betray us,” said Rothus.

“Well I think we should tie her up now,” said Tyler sulkily.

“With the help of Desna I’m sure we will find some way to save you,” said Aeryn reassuringly.

“Alright, for now just come back to the camp, we don’t want you getting sick,” said Evander. I guess having my own tent has some unforeseen drawbacks, thought Evander. The storm continued for about another hour before slowing to a light rain then stopping. “Okay, since we have taken an extended break let’s make up for lost time,” said Evander.

The group continued their journey south, in search of the magical bracer in the mountains. The forest gave way to sweeping plains, and towering mountains.

“Whoa, looks like we made really good time. Look how close the mountains are,” said Rothus.

“We have to hurry, Dalton will only be in town for two weeks,” said Lilith.

“Wait, Dalton’s in town?” asked Rothus.

“Yeah, didn’t I mention that?” asked Lilith.

“No,” said Rothus.

Evander Smith-The Storm before the Dragon Part the Second

Sometime after the first break it began to rain. The group is now walking through the forest, having to make there own path. “Guys, I think we should make camp, this rain could get really bad,” said Travis.

“Ok, let’s make camp here and wait for the rain to pass,” said Evander. Travis and Evander go about setting up camp. Evander, being the only one who brought a tent, was able to avoid most of the rain. Travis built a small structure to shelter the others. Evander, having the tent to himself he decides to take a nap to pass the time.

When Evander awoke it was still raining heavily; from his tent Evander could barley make out the trees that where ten feet away. Shortly after, Rothus contacts him on the communication stone.

“Hey Evan, Tyler and Lily are missing,” said Rothus.

“What do you mean missing?” asked Evander.

“As in they’re not in the tent. Geez,” said Rothus.

Evander switched the communication stone to talk to everyone. “Hey Lily, Travis, where are you guys?” asked Evander.

“If we knew that we wouldn’t be lost,” said Lilith.

“So you’re together?” asked Evander.

“Yes,” answered Lilith.

“Ok, have you guys tried asking Ma'ud to guide you back to camp?” asked Evander.

“No,” said Lilith.

“What are you guys doing in the rain anyways?” asked Evander.

“I went looking for Tyler,” said Lilith.

“Tyler, why did you wonder off?” asked Evander.

“Because I’m not going to let Lily kill me,” said Tyler.

“What do you mean "Lily kill you", did you say something about her father being the devil again?” asked Evander.

Evander Smith-The Storm before the Dragon Part the First

“C’mon guys, hurry!” called Lilith. She had been pushing to go fast just before first light. Lilith had packed most of the gear the night before. In fact it looked as though she had not slept at all. “I know you guys can move faster than this,” she said quickening her pace. Aeryn had no problems keeping up, being the fastest one among them. Evander and Travis had to push themselves to keep up. Rothus tried, however, he was too tired and decided to walk, Tyler decided to stick with Rothus.

“What’s the hurry Lily?” asked Evander.

“The faster we find the bracelet the faster we get back,” she said.

“Hey guys, I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to split up!” called Tyler from behind.

“Ok, let’s wait for them to catch up,” said Evander slowing his pace.

“No, we have to hurry,” said Lilith almost pleading.

“We are walking into unfamiliar territory, I don’t thinks it’s wise to split up,” said Evander coolly. They waited for a little while for Tyler and Rothus to catch up.

“Alright they’re here, let’s move it,” said Lilith.

“I thought you were supposed to be the leader, why are you letting her set the pace?” said Tyler disdainfully.

“Because no one objected, however since Rothus is having trouble keeping up we can slow the pace,” said Evander.

“No, we have to move fast,” said Lilith.

“Lily, what’s so important that we have to push ourselves?” asked Evander.

“Well we have to get this item,” said Lilith.

“What’s so important about the item?” asked Evander.

“We have to get this bracer to get the other item,” said Lilith.

“Well, the item will still be where it is when we get there. For now let’s just walk there,” said Evander. The group continued on at a more manageable pace.

The Adventures of Rothus, page 31, [D-819]

Makeshift shelter, outside the camp of the Oracle:

Travis tries to figure out why Lily is in such a mopey mood. She says, “The Oracle warned me of a darkness within me, that might cause me to turn on all of you.” She explains that her family is cursed and she will eventually betray us!

“When is this going to happen exactly? Will it happen soon or several decade from now?” I ask, nervously.

“I dunno how long half-elves live,” she answers, sadly.

Something is going to cause her to betray us. Ahhh, yeah. What are we going to do about that? She says her father looked for the stones of power in hopes of finding a way to break the curse but did not get the stones.

Tyler wanders off into the rain pissed that Lily is going to betray us. I call over the stone, “Come back under the shelter, Tyler.”

He responds to me, “Ever since that witch broke my heart I knew she was going to betray us!”

Travis and I talk to Lily, trying to get her to not worry as much about her inevitable betrayal. She says that her father disappeared in a veil of darkness while hunting the Stone of Earth, which means he might still be alive. No one saw his corpse, anyway. We try and cheer her up, but it doesn't work and so she gets up and walks out into the rain, too.

Some minutes pass and neithe Tyler or Lily have returned. I call Tyler on the stone of communication and tell him to come back here and play some music for me. He says that he's lost in the woods with Lily. I guess they met up once they were out of our sight. “Where is the camp?” Tyler asks.

“It's right here!” I answer over the stone.

“Big help,” says Tyler sarcastically. I want to signal to them where the camp is. I don't have any way to start a fire in this storm, nor do I have anything that can make any loud noises. I call Evan on the stone and ask him if he has a light source or musical instruments. He is confused by my question. I explain that Tyler and Lily are lost and can't find the camp. We don't know what to do, so I try and guide Tyler over the stone, “Are you by any trees?”

“Yeah, we’re surrounded by them,” he answers.

“Good, that means you’re still in the forest,” I say.

“We found a birch tree,” Lily says, trying to be helpful. I look around. Our camp is surrounded by birch trees. We don’t know the terrain in good weather, much less in the rain. Evan and I sit there waiting for a great idea to present itself, but are disappointed.

After a bit, Ma'ud walks back into camp. Lily and Tyler follow after, shivering. “We gotta kill one first!” Lily shouts.

“Dear Erastil! She's going to betray us now!” I warn to the party.

“I'm not going to do it now!” she says in her defense, with a scowl t me.

“We can get a head later!” she says to Ma'ud.

“What exactly is going on here?!” Evan demands. “I obviously missed something, people need to explain to me what happened.”

“Lily is going to betray us,” someone says. When Evan gives everyone quizzical look, we explain to him about Lily’s curse and how her father sought the stones as well. Lily also explains that when she said she was going to kill something, it had to do with goblins, not us.During the conversation, Lily uses magic to start a fire. Tyler and her sit close, to the flames, hoping that the warmth will dry them out. We pass the time until the storm is gone.

Once the rain breaks, we break camp and move toward the mountains. “C'mon guys. I want to get back before Dalton leaves the camp of the oracle!” Lily goads.

“Wait, Dalton's in town?! Okay, let's hurry!” we say.

We march on, trying to make up for lot time, until we collapse from exhaustion. We set up a new camp and sleep the night away.

So this doesn't relate directly to Tarenvale

The Adventures of Rothus, page 30 [D-819]

The camp of the Oracle, the next day:

Lily returned to the camp at some point, looking really messed up. She always spends a lot of time on her appearance, but this morning it looks like she spent none! As the sun slowly pulls itself over the horizon, Lily repeats, “Let’s go! Let’s get going!”

Prodded by the words, we prepare our equipment. Since we’ll have to navigate the mountains, it seems fitting to grab climbing kits before we venture off. There are enough available so that we each take one.

It takes a moment to figure out which way is south, but Travis gets us oriented and we start off. Our pace is casual and we keep an ear out for more lizardmen. Who knows if they’ll be looking for revenge. I don’t hear any lizardmen and that's a good sign. Lily runs ahead shouting, “Let’s get on with it!” while Travis and Evan chase after. I can't run nearly as fast! All the jogging makes my pack poke at my ribs on the left. If I walk it doesn’t do it, so I’d rather slow down and not worry about it. Luckily, Tyler slows down to walk with me.

“Why do we have to hurry, Lily?” asks Evan.

“We just have to keep moving,” answers Lily. She tries to keep up her speed, but her body finally rebels. The lead group stop to rest so that Travis and I can catch up. Lily keeps insisting that we hurry, but wont give us an explanation! Her complaints get on my nerves, so I readjust my pack to see if it will stop jabbing into my ribs when I hustle. I think it was my journal that was doing the jabbing, so I moved it higher in the pack and tried again. Okay, now I guess I can keep a higher speed and stay with the rest of the group.

We stop for a rest to catch our breaths. Aeryn refills any empty waterskins with a prayer to Desna. Ya know, I wish I had the power to summon things like that just by saying, “Desna, I’m thirsty. Can you get me something to drink?” or “Erastil, make me a sandwich. Pronto!” Well, whatever, I guess it is enough to have Aeryn around, since she can do it on my behalf.

As we stand up to get moving again, it begins raining lightly. It’s no big deal so we keep going, hoping it will pass. The rain gets heavier and we start to get drenched. Travis says, “Guys, we should wait for the rain to pass. It’ll be easier to just continue after the rain is done.” He begins to build a shelter and some of us go to assist him. Evan, as the leader, gets the tent. Actually, it’s because he is the only one strong enough to think that a tent is really light.

We chat a little bit, but you know how it is when you’ve talked to someone so much that you just don’t know what else can be said? Yeah, there’s just nothing else for idle chatter anymore. Though, it would be nice if we could roll some dice. I don’t have a set of my own, so maybe I can make some!

Erastil, make me some dice! Or at least guide me to some good wood that I can carve.

Lily tries to continue on without us. She quickly grows weary and sits under a fallen tree which doesn’t shelter her from the rain. The storm continues for a long while. I guess we should take some lunch. Travis walks over to where Lily is sitting and waves his arms about. Lily eventually succumbs to the arm waving and sits next to the rest of us. Ma'ud comes over too and shakes himself dry, soaking us all! What’s the point of sitting under the shelter if Ma’ud is just going to bring the rain to us anyway?

The Oracle's security camera?

The following scene is RIPPED from the stories of the greatest
adventuring party ever known to walk the earth!

The Children of Tarenvale, after two years in the camp of the Oracle, they
finally are awarded an audience with the woman.

[Note that content has been edited to conform with Xtranormal's limited capabilities. The free version only allows for two actors and a very limited scene selection, so Lilith has taken on the dialogue of the whole party and the Oracle has a TV instead of a crystal ball (but really, what's the difference?). This is nothing more than an experiment and is to be considered less accurate than the journal entries. But, I now just got an idea to have a video monologue of a journal entry....]

Evander Smith-Destiny Revealed Part the Last

After the group had taken a few steps from the wagon, Lilith emerges with tears streaming down her face, and begins walking to the woods. Evander wants to say something but senses that Lilith just needs to be alone. Now that I think of it, how much do I actually know about Lily? Evander asks himself. Aeryn runs over to Lilith and exchanges a few words before returning to the group.

“She says she wants to be left alone,” says Aeryn.

“Alright, let’s find out about the mission and we can fill Lily in later,” said Evander. At Joachim’s tent, they learn of the mission they are to under take.

“We have found a certain… item we wish you to retrieve,” said Joachim.

“What is this item?” asks Evander.

“It is a bracelet. You can find it in the mountains to the south. We want you to bring it back so that we can make copies. These copies we can then sell, or give to other adventuring parties,” explained Joachim. “Now the mountains are four days walk from here to the south. I suggest you prepare yourselves for the journey tomorrow and get some rest,” Joachim finished.

“Aye,” said Evander standing and nodding respectfully to Joachim. He spent the rest of the day trying to think how to build teamwork and what adventures lay ahead for him. In the morning he awoke to a exited Lilith ready to move out.

“C’mon guys, hurry. I already packed your things. Lets go!” she said over the stone. When Evander emerged from his tent he saw that Lilith had not slept at all last night, she was wearing the same clothes. Evander packed up his tent and checked over the gear that the camp had given him. They provided grappling hooks and climbing gear. Let’s hope this goes better than the test, thought Evander, a bad feeling beginning to creep into his senses.

Evander Smith-Destiny Revealed Part the Fourth

“Let me consult the crystal,” she says. “The stone of fire thou shall find in the deep desert. The stone of earth shall be found deep within the mountains. The stone of water rests deep with in the sees or the oceans. The stone of wind shall be found amongst the clouds themselves,” she says before recovering herself. “Of the light and darkness stones I know not,” she says.

“What of those who attacked our village?” asked Lilith.

“They are obscured by a veil that I cannot pierce,” said the Oracle.

“What about my father then, surely you can tell me about him,” demands Lilith.

“Yes I can child. Your father was an Elf by the name of Sindarin Elhaim. He fought in the Great Wars, and was a hero to the people, however he disappeared ten years ago and no one has seen him since,” said the Oracle.

“What happened to the Elves?” asked Aeryn.

“No one knows. Some say that they died out, others say they went into hiding,” said the Oracle.

“Why would they go into hiding?” asked Travis.

“If we knew that Humans probably would be in hiding as well,” said Evander.

“Why did Ma'ud transform in the forest?” asked Lilith.

“Ma'ud is a Kitsune in the truest sense. No one knows where they get their powers, or how they obtain them,” said Joachim.

“Why did the assassin that killed my parents let me live?” asked Aeryn.

“I will need time to look into that matter for you, for now you had better leave, I sense that Lilith wishes to ask me some questions of a personal nature,” said the Oracle.

“Alright, we should begin planning on how to search for the stones,” says Evander.

“The stones are outside your ability,” said Joachim. “First you need real world experience, come back to my tent and I will tell you of your first mission,” he says leaving the wagon.

Evander Smith-Destiny Revealed Part the Third

Joachim just shakes his head before speaking. “The Oracle will see you now,” he says. Joachim begins walking to the wagon, followed by everyone. Once at the wagon Joachim stops and Evander tries to go up to the door. Joachim stops him. 

“I will go in first, you wait out here,” said Joachim.

“Yeah, it’s rude to enter a ladies room,” said Lilith.

“I was going to knock,” replied Evander.

“Suuure you were,” said Lilith.

While they were bickering Joachim entered the wagon and reemerged a few minutes later. “The Oracle will see you now,” he said simple letting them enter.

Despite the wagons size it was able to comfortably sit the five friends with Joachim standing at the entrance. The room is filled with silence and the scent of incense. Everyone is quiet awaiting the Oracle to speak. She doesn’t say a word, just stares at the cloudy crystal ball with milky eyes.

Finally Evander can’t stand it and introduces himself. “My name is Evander, I believe you asked us here,” he said.

“Ah yes,” replied the Oracle. “I have called you here to tell you of your future. But I know that you have questions for me as well, so let’s get them out of the way first shall we?” the Oracle said.

“Why us? Why are we chosen? Why was Tarenvale attacked?” asked Lilith trying to keep the anger out of her voice.

“Only the gods know why you are chosen. Your home was attacked because others have learned of your destiny and seek to keep you from it. Now, let me see your future,” said the Oracle who began to look into the cloudy crystal ball. “Thou shall return to the lost kingdom. Thou shall return the kingdom to its former glory for one among you yet bears the royal blood in thine veins. No…stones! Six stones of power. Four for the elements, two for the Light and the Dark,” says the Oracle. She stares at the crystal for a few moments before recovering herself. “You must collect the stones of power, they control the elements themselves, however…” she pauses for a few moments. “There is a rumor of a seventh stone, it is known as the Void stone,” she says slowly.

“Where can we find the stones?” asks Evander.

Evander Smith-Destiny Revealed Part the Second

“Yes,” said Aeryn.

“No,” was Roran's short reply.

“Well can you help us work on our teamwork?” asked Evander.

“Not really, I either work alone or with Dalton,” said Roran.

“Do you know of anyone in camp that can help us work on teamwork?” asked Evander.

“Sorry, I don’t know of anyone in camp like that,” said Roran.

“Alright, well thanks for the help,” said Evander. With that he and Aeryn wandered off. Eventually Aeryn had some important business to take care of and left Evander to his own devices. Evander talked to many people in camp, however, none of them knew of anyone who could help him. Maybe this is a test to see if I’m a worthy leader, thought Evander.

Lost in thought he wandered in front of Joachim’s tent. “Ah Evander, Travis. I have news for you and the rest of your team, could you please gather them?” said Joachim as more of a command then a request. Thinking carefully Evander reached into his pocket and took out the communication stone.

“Rothus, Aeryn, Lilith, Joachim has some thing to tell us, come to his tent,” said Evander.

“Ok,” said Rothus.

“Alright,” said Aeryn.

“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” said Lilith.

Rothus is the first to show up having been in camp and heading over as soon as he answered.

Five minutes pass. Ten minutes pass. “Does it usually take girls this long?” asked Evander.

“Yes,” replied Joachim. Aeryn arrived after eleven minutes of waiting. Nineteen point six minutes later Lilith arrives buttoning up her blouse.

“What?” she asks.

Evander Smith-Destiny Revealed Part the First

Two days had passed since the return to the traveling camp and the passing of the test. During those two days Evander worked on, and created a quarterstaff; a reminder of days long gone, and where he came from. That morning started like most others, though Evander had a mission to accomplish. This day he would work on teamwork so that the failure with the Lizard-men would not be repeated. Though they had lived, Evander viewed what should have been a hard won victory as a defeat. So Evander rolled out of bed, cleaned himself and headed off to breakfast. Afterwards Evander began wandering around the camp looking for his friends, now his subordinates. It wasn’t until noon when he found Aeryn with some freshly cooked fish that he found his friends.

“I’ve been thinking, the fight with the Lizard-men didn’t go smoothly. I was thinking that perhaps we should work on some team building for the next time we’re in a fight,” said Evander.

“You boys can go play with your swords but us girls will have nothing to do with it,” said Lilith.

“How about a team name? Every team has to have a name,” said Aeryn.

“Do we have some one we can practice with?” asked Rothus.

“No, but that is a good idea,” replied Evander. “Now I want to start by trying to figure out what everyone’s role in combat will be,” said Evander.

“I won’t go into melee,” replied Travis quickly.

“Ok, what about everyone else,” asked Evander. Silence greeted him with this question. “Ok then I will go see if I can find help with building up teamwork,” said Evander heading off.

“I’ll help,” volunteered Aeryn joining Evander in his search for teachers. Whilst looking they happened upon Roran.

“Hey Roran,” greeted Aeryn.

“Hello Roran,” said Evander.

“We were wondering if you could act as a barbarian for us to fight,” asked Aeryn before Roran could reply.

“Let me get this straight,” said the slightly confused Roran. “You want Me to scream and run at you while the Six of you attack,” concluded Roran.

The Adventures of Rothus, page 29 [D-818]

Inside the wagon of the Oracle:

“Each of you shall return to the Lost Kingdom and restore it to its former glory. The blood of the royal line runs through one of your veins. No! Stones!” spoke the Oracle as she stared with dead eyes into the shining sphere. Suddenly, the crystal went dark and she lifted her eyes to look upon us. She slowly explains that there are a collection of stones that each control some aspect of the world. There is one stone that rules over fire, one rules earth, one rules water and the last of the elemental stones rules the air. There are two other stones, one said to rule over the darkness and a counter that reigns over the light.

It is possible that there is one more stone, said to control the void.

“What is the void?” Lily asks.

“Nothing.” Aeryn answers. The simple truth of it brings everyone to silence.

"They are powerful artifacts. He who controls the stones has ultimate power,” she warns.

Lily suggests that we go to the places where the elements are the strongest to find the stones. The hottest place will have a stone of fire, the ocean will have a stone of water and such. In fact, there is a giant river to the west (which might count as an ocean), and we can breathe under water which means it will be easier than we originally imagined.

Without warning, the crystal ball begins to glow again. “Yes, that makes sense. The four elemental stones are attuned to lands with their elements. I do not know which lands specifically, but you will find fire in the deserts, earth deep in the mountains, water in the seas and air among the clouds. For the light and darkness it does not show,” she transmits to us.

We are to go after the stones, securing them from evil purposes. Yet, we are still much too weak to go trouncing after ultimate power. We must be stronger before we go on this quest. She says there is a smaller, simpler mission that we can complete to hone our skills in battle. Maybe Evan will be able to use this mission as a team-building exercise.

Lily sees that our time with the Oracle is coming to a close. She takes this opportunity to ask about her father. The Oracle says that he was a hero of the people during the time of the Great Wars. His name was Sindarin Elhaim. He has not been seen in nearly ten years. Lily then asks what happened to the other Elves. "No one knows for sure. Some say they are all dead, others say they are in hiding, but no one knows what they are hiding from," answers the Oracle.

Aeryn asks why her parents' murderer left her alive, but gets no real answer. She also asks who the murderer was, but gets no answer. "I will look into it while you are away," promised the Oracle.

Lily asks why Tarenvale was attacked. "Because your destinies were made clear to someone," comes the cryptic answer. The person who ordered the attack cannot be scryed, as he or she is shroud in darkness. From this we know they are very powerful and probably not a good person. Not encouraging.

"I think that our time has come to an end. You had better prepare for tomorrow as you will begin your work for the camp," the Oracle said. With that, Evan, Aeryn, Travis and I go off to Joachim's tent to get a briefing on our first assignment. It will be hard to concentrate on the job at-hand with thoughts of destiny floating in my head. Why can't we search for the stones right now? No one can guess who might reach them while we dawdle here building skills.

Lily stays behind with the Oracle a while longer. When she finally exits the wagon, Aeryn rushes after her. Lily has tears in her eyes as she heads off to the forest. Aeryn follows after, but cannot get Lily to come back to camp.

Failing to collect Lily, Aeryn rejoins the rest of us in Joachim's tent. He then informs us that they have the location of a certain item. It is a bracelet. It's properties are unknown, but it is definitely magical. We are to bring back the bracelet and five percent of the incidental loot we find (read: stuff off of the people we kill). He says that we are to go to the mountain range many days to the south. It will takes us about four days to travel one way. He suggests we head out tomorrow morning if we are to make good time.

With that news, we spend the rest of the evening preparing to leave camp again.

The Adventures of Rothus, page 28 [D-818]

Camp of the Oracle, two days later:

I am no longer expected to train with Florm and Fost. I guess this means I'm an adult. I can do whatever I want, without someone telling me to do some chore. I'm glad to finally have control over my own life! Early on in my training, Florm once said that when I'm truly on my own, like when we return to Tarenvale, I would need to find a way to make a decent living. I told him that I was done with chores. Period. He then suggested an alternate form of income and produced a deck of cards. Over time, he showed me all the secrets he knew for getting fools to give me money, so long as they believed they could win it back. He also taught me a few dice games, but warned that they are much more difficult to guarantee a profit without using custom dice. But custom dice are often easy to discover and the sucker who realizes that he has been tricked punches harder than a sucker who doesn't!

So, now that I am a free man, I will find myself a sucker to pay me a living wage. I quickly find a few affable guys, but they want me to start with some coin. I haven't needed coins since ... ever. Back home, Mother and Father paid for everything I needed. Here in the camp, food is always readily available, and the things I wanted to buy were things Florm said I couldn't have even if I could afford them.

After a while of trying to figure out how to get my hands on some real gold without stealing it and risking punishment, Aeryn shouts out that she has freshly cooked fish. We all gather to feast, except for Tyler who is nowhere to be seen. I guess he really didn't like the news that he is not to be the team leader. He's been avoiding the group since we got back from our final test. In his absence, we devour the fish quickly. Ma'ud actually swallows a fish whole, spitting up the bones soon after!

After the meal, Evan gathers us around and gives us a serious look. "If we are to be a team, we had better work like a team. We should train like a team."

Aeryn suggests, "We need a cool name!"

Dismissing that idea as frivolous, Evan stresses that we must train so that we are not caught off-guard again, like in our fight with the lizardmen. He wants to fill our mornings with training, leaving the afternoon open for us to practice our professions (i.e. gambling!). He leads a discussion about what roles we see for ourselves in combat.

I can swoop in from the sides and take shots from the shadows. Evan can stand in front and take all the enemies blows. Travis can stand behind him and provide covering fire. Aeryn can run around and heal as necessary. Lily can do ... witch stuff. I think that about summarizes it. There does not seem to be much else to talk about. Evan and Aeryn aren't satisfied with such a short discussion and go off to find Roran so they can seek his advice.

When they are out of site, Travis pulls me aside and says, "I noticed you wanted to get into a serious gambling match and I think I can help you get some gold."

I immediately give all my attention to him, "Real gold? And without stealing, right? These folk are way too good about keeping an eye on their belongings."

"Only when they see you coming."

"Whatever. So, what's you're plan?"

"Well, you know how we've got these awesome weapons now? Why don't we sell our less awesome weapons we took with us to the ruins?" he suggested.

"Genius!" With that we headed straight to the quartermaster at the armory and sell our mundane weapons for some coin. He paid Travis a whole five gold coins for his bow and he gave me three gold coins for my hand crossbow! What a deal! Travis thinks we should go find some other weapons and sell them, too. I'd rather take this sum and nurture it so that it grows into a fortune. I take my three gold and wander around a bit looking for a sucker. Just as I completed that thought, Tyler walked out from behind a tent saying, "Hey Rothus."

After several rounds of cards, my thoughts were interrupted by Evan's voice, “Rothus, Aeryn, Lily. Come meet the rest of us at Joachim's tent." I turn around, but he's not behind me. Dang, he hides well! Oh, wait, I have a stone of communication in my pocket. Duh. That must be where his voice came from. I collect my winnings (a dagger) and go to Joachim's tent and find Travis and Evan there. Aeryn shows up, too. Lily is the last to arrive, still buttoning her dress. What was she doing, exactly, when she heard the summons?

“She will see you now,” Joachim explains. The Oracle! She is ready to see us after two whole years?! This is very exciting! She hasn't even approached us, and now she will speak to us. He leads us to a well decorated wagon that we all know well. It is the Oracle's personal home. Joachim enters while we wait outside. Then he comes back out and invites us in. We see a crystal ball that dominates the room, but is currently not doing anything interesting. She is old beyond old, with eyes that are white, as though from gathered cobwebs. Despite this, she looks right at each of us. Lily introduces herself as Mary Ann. The Oracle sees right through her lie! Maybe the Oracle read Lily's mind, or maybe she knows a lot about us already.

She says we have many questions. I ask if we are going back to Tarenvale, but she gives the same non-answer as Joachim always gives. Who knows if we'll ever get back.

Lily asks, “Why us? Why have we been chosen?” referring to comments the Dalton and Roran have made that we are to have great destinies and such. The Oracle gives no clear answer. Instead, she raises her hands to the crystal ball and it begins to glow.

The Adventures of Rothus, page 27 [D-817]

Unidentified ruins, forest outside the camp of the Oracle:

It takes us about half a day to reach the ruins, but they are indeed here!

There is a single large wall with an odd symbol on it. “What does that mean?” I ask as I point to the marking. Everyone turns to look at it for the first time. Aeryn says it is the long dead language of Thassilonian. That must mean these ruins date back before any history I've ever been taught.

It reads, “Enter.” Aeryn thinks that the symbol can be changed, parts can be shifted around. We stare at it for a long while.

"Hey, guys. Is this a large tree?" asks Tyler, a ways behind the party staring up into the sky. We go to where he is standing and look up, too.Holy Erastil! It is a tree! And just like a tree trunk, there isn't a clear entrance. The walls look very much solid, not a doorway in sight.

I look at the symbol and see if there is a way to fiddle with it a bit. I can't make it say anything, as I don't know Thassilonian. I turn to my companion and shrug. Aeryn takes control of the symbol.

I look back to the tree. I examine it more closely, walking the perimeter. There aren't any other symbols, nor are there any doors. I keep getting this idea that these ruins aren't ruins at all, but in fact they are a large tree. Why is it a freakin' tree? That has to be important somehow! I suggest to Aeryn that maybe she should move the symbol around to make it look like a tree. Nothing happens. Then we change the symbol to spell out the word tree in Thassilonian. Nothing happens.

Then Aeryn says, “Tua,” and the wooden walls of the massive tree opens up! She turns to us with a huge smile on her face and signals us to go enter.

The inside is completely dark. I go in without waiting for the team. It's very quiet in here. It is too quiet considering that the others are only a few feet away and I can't hear them at all.

In the darkness I see that I am emitting a blue glow. It's worse than glitter, but there isn't anyone to notice here. As I move my hand, it elongates, as though it is dragging through time. I take a cautious step forward. My face launches forward, stretching my whole body, then my legs get pulled up behind me just as quickly a moment later! What am I being pulled into?

[Travis and I get launched out into a overly large room, stumbling for a moment. As we look around, we see that it is crowded with thousands of pale faced, pointy eared humans. Oh, Erastil! These are Elves! Impossible! We slowly place our weapons on the ground and kneel. The last thing we want is to die so far away from anything we recognize. Then their leader walks right up to us and speaks in a bizarre language.

"Sir, is it possible you speak another language?" I ask in Common.

"Ah, yes. Common. It has been a while since that has passed over my tongue," he replied gracefully. He goes on to tell us that the Elves are not gone, but only in hiding. For the time being, they have an agreement with Joachim and his inner circle. Joachim will keep the secret hiding place of the Elves, and the Elves will craft items like the stones of communication in return. The Elf then pulls out the rune stone we are seeking and speaks into it. Joachim's voice speaks back from it!

The Elf warns us that we will not recall any of this after we return to our companions and he bids us farewell. Travis puts the stone in its case and into his pocket. Then he turns around and disappears before grabbing his bow and arrows. I collect them and follow him into the mysterious portal back to our friends.]

Travis and I stumble into the room with the rest of the party. How did I get here, exactly? They are all tied together. Odd. Also odd is that none of them have a blue glow around them, only me, the sneaky one. That's the fates alright, always messing with me. I guess they all came into the tree behind me, but how did Travis...?

Suddenly, Travis pulls a small box out of his pouch and opens it. Inside is a clear copy of the stone Roran showed to us as an example back in camp. Where did he find it? He doesn't know where he found it, only that it was sitting on the ground, so he put it in his pocket. Anyway, it looks like it is time to go back to camp, victorious.

Ma'ud is excited to lead us back to the camp of the Oracle, and so we run off after him. We use up the rest of the day to get back, but at least we got back before nightfall. Roran meets us. He is happy we succeeded, yet he is compelled to test the stone to be sure. Joachim's voice answers and says we are to meet him in his tent.

When we see him in person a moment later, Joachim congratulates us on our completing the final test. Then he gives us each a rune stone of our own. We can use them to communicate with each other! He also presents us with some other items. Evan gets two amber cestus. Travis gets a beautiful bow. I get an obsidian hand crossbow that can be mounted on my wrist! :-) Tyler gets a jade dagger. Aeryn gets a circlet that strengthens her connection to Desna. Lily gets a golden circlet that hones her witchcraft.

Joachim says we have been with the camp for two years now. He says that we can stay on with them, or we can leave. If we stay, we will be like the teams that periodically leave the camp and later return. Those teams go off to find special items and are rewarded with the right to keep the incidental loot they find. He says that we can be treasure hunters like them! He offers it to us one by one. “Are we ever going back to Tarenvale?” I ask.

"In time, I think you will,” he answers. One by one, we all accept. We are to be assigned missions based on our group skills. We will be sent to collect a specific item, but 90% of the incidental loot that we find is ours to keep! This is all agreeable for us.

He says Tyler did not lead our team well enough. Joachim believes that among us, only Evan is fit to lead this group. Maybe in time, Tyler will be able to lead again. He then talks with Tyler in private.

I decide to rest from a long, weird day.

Evander Smith-The Tree Part the Last

“I’ll stay, I really don’t have anywhere else to go,” says Tyler.

“I will stay,” says Aeryn simply.

“That sounds like fun,” says Rothus.

“I’m in,” says Travis.

“And you Evander?” asks Joachim.

“You have given us food and shelter, as well as training and now these gifts. It is a debt that must be repaid and so I shall aid you,” said Evander. Plus we still haven’t talked with the oracle yet, he thought to himself.

“Good, now for the last order of business. Tyler, though I thought Evander should lead Dalton disagreed and thought that you would make for a leader. While that may be true in the future, it is not so now. Thus I am putting Evander in charge,” said Joachim solemnly.

“Yes sir, I mean, how could I lead them since Lily didn’t want to follow me, but followed Evander instead?” said Travis sulkily.

“Hmph, it doesn’t matter if they follow your orders, it’s that you have the confidence to lead. Dalton barely follows my orders, yet I am still a leader. I did tell him to put Evander in charge, yet he gave the responsibility to you,” said Joachim.

“Sorry sir, please don’t whoop me,” said Travis.

“You have nothing to apologize for. Now, in time you may find the strength to lead, however for now that is Evander’s responsibility, if that is all right with the rest of you,” said Joachim. Everyone except Tyler nodded slightly. “Now Tyler I need to talk to you for a bit, the rest of you are free to leave.” And with that they left Tyler with Joachim. We really need to work on team work, thought Evander to himself as he left the tent. The Lizard-men fight, though they were victorious, was not executed with finesse or teamwork. And so, as the new team leader, Evander began to think about how to lead his friends.

Evander Smith-The Tree Part the Fifth

“I see you made it back,” Roran says.

“Look, we found the rune,” says Tyler, motioning Travis to show the rune, which he does.

“Well, you need about six more of them, but I think you should speak with Joachim first,” says Roran.

Great, it would have been nice to give us that information ahead of time, thought Evander. Taking Roran’s advice, they go to speak with Joachim.

“Word is you found the rune,” says Joachim upon meeting with the group. “You look as though you could use a bath,” he says to the dirty and slightly weary travelers. “Well, with this you completed your training and I have something for you. Wait here a moment,” says Joachim leaving the meeting tent. When he returns he has several copies of the rune that was given to him.

“Now, these are communication runes. They will allow you to communicate with one another,” he says passing them out. “Now I have a special gift for each of you for completing your training. Like the amulets, as you grow in strength so shall they. Evander, these are for you,” he said handing Evander a beautiful case. Evander opens it. Inside on velvet cushion sit a pair of amber cestus. Each in turn get an item of power relating to there abilities.

“Now, you have a choice to make. You can either leave the camp of your own free will or, you can stay and help us,” he says. “Now I’m sure you are aware of people leaving and returning to camp. These people are in teams, much as you are. They are sent on missions to recover artifacts for the camp. Any treasure and money they find they keep except for a small percentage which goes to the camp. This allows us to pay for them to travel, as well as for the items we have given you. So, what shall it be?”

Evander Smith-The Tree Part the Fourth

“Maybe…” says Aeryn who then proceeds to move the word around. The puzzle does indeed say tree. Aeryn says something that Evander doesn’t understand. Though whatever was said seems to have had meaning because a doorway opens up. Next to the rune there are now stairs leading down into darkness in the great tree. It is no ordinary darkness for not even the magic of the amulets can peer into the darkness.

Rothus is the first to venture into the tree and vanishes from view. After a while, and no tortured screaming, the rest get ready to venture forth. Each member ties rope around themselves so as to not get separated, except Evander who just holds the end of the rope. One by one they descend into the darkness. Once Evander enters the darkness, there is a blue glow that appears around him and follows his movements.

“Hey, why is there a blue glow around me and not you guys?” asks Tyler.

“I see a glow around me but no one else,” says Aeryn.

Interesting, we can see our own glow but not anyone else’s, thinks Evander. Just as he thinks that, Travis takes a step and disappears from view.

“What happened?!” asks Tyler in a panicked voice. Aeryn holds out her hands and chants words of divine power.

“I don’t know, but this whole place is magical,” says Aeryn.

“I’ll take the lead in case there are more traps,” offers Evander. Before he can make good on his offer Travis comes stumbling out of nowhere and Rothus is behind him with his bow.

“Rothus why do you have Travis’ bow?” asks Evander.

“I don’t know, I guess I stole it,” he calmly replies.

“What’s that?” asks Tyler pointing to a small box like package on Travis’ person. Travis now noticing the box opens it and peers inside.

“Okay, we have to get back to camp now,” says Tyler. And so the intrepid band of adventurers in training made there way back to camp with the help of Ma'ud. Lizard-men and wild animals did not bother them. All in all it was a nice walk back to the camp. Once back in the camp Roran greets the adventurers in training.

Evander Smith-The Tree Part the Third

“Guys help!” calls Tyler now trapped in the pit. Evander goes over to the edge of the pit. The rope that Travis tied to the tree is fifty feet long and easily reaches Tyler. Tyler holds onto the rope, and everyone begins helping to pull him out of the mud. Travis is really stuck and it takes the group a good two minutes to pull him free. Halfway through, Rothus begins throwing sticks into the pit to try to create a more solid surface.

“Oh no, my boots,” laments Tyler once he is out of the pit, his boots still stuck in the mud.

“I’ll go get them,” offers Aeryn. “I’m the lightest and less likely to fall into the mud,” she says. So Evander lowers her into the pit where she grabs the boots. Once she is holding them Evander helps her free the boots by pulling her up. After a few solid tugs, the boots are pulled free, though they are filled with and covered in mud. One of Aeryn’s abilities is to create water at will. Everyone receives a quick shower to get rid of the worst of the mud. They then continue on to the ruins.

All that’s left is a single massive wall. Or so it appears at first glance. The ruin is actually a massive tree, certainly the largest tree anyone from Tarenvale has ever seen and it could be the largest tree in the world and certainly the region.

“Hey, what’s that?” asks Rothus pointing towards a rune on the tree. Everyone looks at the rune.

“I think it says don’t enter, though I’m a bit uncertain about the don’t part,” says Aeryn. The rune is actually a sliding puzzle, Rothus experiments by moving a few pieces.

“Can we make it say other words?” asks Rothus.

“Maybe, let me try,” says Aeryn who begins to slide the pieces around. Evander, unable to read the language quietly contemplates the puzzle. Rothus watches Aeryn for a while before walking around the tree. There are no visible entrances, just the puzzle. Rothus returns and looks at the puzzle and then has an idea.

“Hey, can you make it say tree?” asks Rothus.

Evander Smith-The Tree Part the Second

“I think we should follow Travis, he knows how to find his way in the woods,” said Tyler defending Travis.

“Yes, but the sun rises in the east and it is still morning,” said Aeryn defending her claim. With her charm and evidence the rest of the group believes her and heads the direction she was pointing. At first the trip was uneventful, however Tyler and Evander manage to fall into a pit. Tyler is too shocked to cry out, and Evander disciplined enough to not cry out. They only fall ten feet and the squishy mud breaks there fall.

“Hey guys, we need some help here,” yells Evander.

“Quit playing hide and seek,” says Travis turning around and not seeing Evander.

“Yeah, that’s my job,” says Rothus.

“We're in a pit,” called back Evander. Rothus, Travis and Aeryn walk back and indeed see Evander and Tyler in a pit.

“Here, catch,” calls Evander tossing up his bag to Rothus. Rothus catches the bag, but it off balances him and he falls into the pit as well. Guess I don’t know my own strength, thinks Evander realizing that he is carrying significantly more gear than everyone else.

“Hold on guys,” says Travis finding a near by tree. He ties his rope around it and lowers it into the pit. Evander tugs on the rope to see if it is secure.

“Seems like it will hold my weight,” says Evander. He grabs the rope and easily climbs up. “Okay, now Rothus pass up the gear,” calls Evander. Rothus passes up the gear to Evander who easily picks it up and sets it to the side. Rothus then handily climbs out of the pit. Tyler is now the only one in the pit and begins his accent. Unfortunately he slips and falls. The mud gives way and he is buried up to his waist in the thick, sticky mud.

Evander Smith-The Tree Part the First

After the mad flight from the Lizard-men the group set up camp in the woods. They took shifts watching for danger. None presented itself that night, and once morning came, the quest continued. Lilith was still not happy with Travis being selected as the leader and sulked the whole day not saying a word, or lifting a finger to help. “We should search the swamp. Why else would our amulets have water breathing?” says Tyler. The others don’t voice disagreement.

I think we should search elsewhere and come back to the swamp if we don’t find the rune. Evander thinks to himself. The amulets let one breath in water and see in the dark. The amulets don’t let one see in the murky swamp water. In order to search the swamp the adventurers would have to feel there way through it and hope they found the rune. For those reasons Evander wanted to search elsewhere. However, he said nothing and eventually Travis, and then Rothus, went into the water and began searching. Evander offered to hold their gear so it wouldn’t get wet and kept a lookout for trouble. The two searched the swamp and found a humanoid leg bone.

“Hey Aeryn what killed this person?” said Rothus brining the leg bone Travis found back to the shore.

“I don’t know,” said Aeryn, the bone lacking any real information to find out. “Hey, are there any ruins in the forest?” she asked.

“Let me think for a moment,” said Tyler. “Yes, there are some ruins in the forest. I think they're northwest of here,” he concluded.

“Ok, let’s try there,” said Aeryn.

“I think northwest is this way,” said Evander not really sure where he was pointing.

“Guys, I’m sure it’s this way,” said Rothus pointing in a different direction.

“Well, I think northwest is that way,” said Tyler pointing in a different direction.

“Well, northwest is this way,” said Travis pointing in a different direction.

“Desna guides me this direction,” said Aeryn pointing in yet another direction.

The Adventures of Rothus, page 26 [D-817]

Forest, outside the camp of the Oracle:

We wake up to the sound of frogs. Lily and Aeryn are extremely tired from their rough sleep and aren't thinking clearly. I guess where they laid their bedrolls wasn't as comfortable as where I laid mine. We have a light breakfast and pack up our simple camp. We don't have much here, so it doesn't take very long at all. Maud doesn't look like he knows where to go, as he is just minding to his own business.

Travis says that we should follow the frogs to the pond so that we can shut them up. The sound must be close, as we can hear it fairly clearly, and so we follow it without difficulty. But, we don't find a pond like the one of our childhood. Here the water is thick with mud and plants. This is a swamp if I ever saw one.

Travis wants to go into it, thinking that maybe the stone is somewhere around here. He wades into the dense liquid and plows through it. Yuck. He says he thinks he found something, so I follow into the marsh. Evan says he's comfortable just watching our backpacks on the shore. I can't blame him. But, I am excited that this mud will make it easier for me to blend into the surroundings if we get attacked again.

When I reach Travis, he waves a human leg bone right in my face! What in the name of Erastil is that doing here?! It's a bad omen, definitely! I suggest we let Aeryn take a look at it, since she knows the most about human bodies. Travis hands it over and we trudge back through the gooey sea. Aeryn looks at the bone, then at us and shrugs. It's human, but that's about all she can tell. 

We aren't really sure where to look next. Ma'ud got us this far, but where do we go from here? I begin searching around the pond. There are lots of stones, but none have the rune on them. We regroup and begin to search together. More eyes don't help the situation at all. Evan and Tyler call out to the rest of us from behind, and so I turn around. They aren't anywhere to be seen! They are better at stealth than me! We walk over to where their voice is coming from and discover a large pit, with Evan and Tyler staring up at us. There is a third person, long dead. Only his or her skeleton remains. Interestingly enough, they are missing precisely the same bone we found in the swamp. Yep, this is a bad omen indeed. I glance around and see that we are alone and my eyes say that we are. 

Tyler begins to tell us a story, "This reminds me of the Crusades of Sir Casey, when he got stuck in a pit. It was many years ago, long before...."

"Rothus, catch my pack!" inturrupts Evan, as he removes his pack from his shoulders and immediately throws it up to me. I reach out for it, and my fingers wrap around some fabric, binding the pack and I together. Unfortunately, instead of me keeping the pack out of the pit, the pack pulls me down into the company of Tyler and Evan. Curse you, Gravity! 

Down here, the mud is really thick. Every time we move it pulls us deeper. I can't move very much in this. Evan and Tyler are struggling even more.

Travis tosses one end of a rope down to us, "I've tied the other end to a tree! Climb up!" Evan quickly climbs out of the pit, then reaches back down for his pack. I hand it up to him, then scramble up behind him. Tyler has more difficulty getting free of the mud. Evan tosses the rope closer to him so he can reach it. The rest of us tug on the rope at the top to try and bring him up out of his muddy cage. 

Sometimes in Tarenvale, when the dirt streets soak up a long rain storm, it becomes impossible to get anywhere without collecting one's own weight in mud. To stop that from happening, the shop owners lay out long wooden boards that sit on top of the mud. If we had some boards like that, Tyler might be able to stay out of the mud once he escapes. We don't have any boards, but we are in a forest. I hunt down largish branches and toss them into the pit around Tyler. They pile up and form a rough floor.

This reminds me of when we were back in Tarenvale and had to rescue Tyler from his room in the Inn. Except, now, instead of getting him down from the second story, we are lifting him up from the pit!

Tyler groans as he finally pulls his legs out of the mud onto the sticks. We pull him up so he can grab the edge, then Evan and Travis pull him up by his arms. Now that Tyler is settled on the top of the pit, he turns to us and says, "My boots are still down there."

We all glance over the edge, and clearly see the tops of two boots, right next to each other. Aeryn immediately ties the rope around herself and orders us to lower her down. We all grab the rope and help her descend. She grabs the boots, but can't get them to budge. After a lot of cursing and a couple oaths, the boots fly up out of the pit, arching toward us, hitting Tyler right on the head! Now he's got a spot of mud, after going through the trouble of getting it all off, too. 

We pull Aeryn back up, which is much easier than pulling anyone else, since she never got stuck in the mud and weighs less than any of us. She uses Desna's infinite water supply to wash off the boots and Tyler. She had to summon an awful lot of water. I wonder if she were to summon too much water, how would that change the forest? I wonder if there are other clerics running around trying to destroy all the water that has been summoned, just to keep everything balanced.

We start brainstorming again, from the beginning. Tyler says there are ruins to the northwest of our location. Maybe the stone is there. Why not? Cool ruins, cool stone? There could be a connection. None of us know where northwest actually is, so we do what all good committees do: we argue. Tyler and Aeryn feel really confident of their own directions, but they disagree with each other. Aeryn says we are all stupid and explains why she is correct. She makes some point about the sun always rising in the east, or whatever. I don't know any different, I'll just follow her lead.