With snow falling in the late summer woods and an Aeristhyde airship having descended from the storm clouds, the Ihniko people were hurriedly packing, preparing to leave their homeland. All were, on some level, terrified by the threat of attack from an Aeristhyde army that hadn’t been seen in this realm for hundreds of years when the Ihniko people nearly suffered a complete and total genocide. Some were already leaving, determined to escape the snow and what it surely meant, death.
Our heroes were called into a meeting with the High Mage and First Council to the King, Falisar, the Queen Sharonaur, the Regent Coranyl, and Tenebron, the Keeper of (the Record of) the Hate. Noddyl, Pilindor of the Ihniko, also joined the meeting. All were trying to determine what exactly was going on and what should be done to help the Ihniko confront whatever threat was approaching. Brandis asked Falisar to divine whether they were entering the Feywild as had been suggested. Falisar obliged and determined that there was no great tear between the realms. Soon after, Noddyl’s scouts reported the snow fall was occurring in a 2-3 mile radius. Then came news that something was descending from the airship, a drake and rider. Andxor, Varis, and BGA went to meet the rider with Noddyl and six of his men. Meanwhile, Brandis decided to employ his experience as a leader of men and harangued (read intimidated) the elven masses with orders which kept their panic at bay. Sylus assisted by magically echoing his commands.
The messenger was a proud, pale skinned eladrin with hair so blonde it was nearly platinum. He wore a fine suit of chain with a white coat of arms that displayed the blue and black insignia of the Aeristhyde. He casually issued the terms of Ihniko surrender. “All Ihniko, the crown, the queen, the high wizard Falizar, and those mercenaries who were hired to penetrate the palace shall give themselves up to the New Aeristhyde Empire.” The messenger was snide enough to thank those who found a way to penetrate the magic sphere protecting the palace as they allowed the Aeristhyde to raid it. It was in this way the party found out the palace was now firmly in the Feywild.
Unkind words were exchanged, and tensions increased until BGA approached the messenger with violent intent, but the messenger directed his drake to take flight. BGA wanted him stopped and said so. Noddyl needed no more encouragement. He ordered his men to “Take down the drake!” The messenger was shocked that the party would act so poorly in their own interest. Without his drake, the rider could not return. This would surely mean their deaths (and his own). Things had been going so well, he thought. BGA quickly grabbed the messenger in a choke hold. In what he thought was a last ditch attempt to save his life, he blurted out, “The Ihniko people are lost, but you mercenaries might be able to save yourselves.” This got no play with the party, and he was knocked out then dragged to the Ihniko settlement where plans to evacuate to the town of Larenyss were in full swing.
With the party together again, they and the Ihniko bigwigs led the Ihniko east. As they fled, they heard intermittent rumbles of thunder. The snow, which had accumulated to nearly a foot began to taper off at two miles and stopped completely at three. While they admired the effect of transitioning from woods that were cold and snowy to woods that were more seasonably warm and snowfree they were confronted by the wintermad dryad who had left them in the cave of a cyclops. She demanded an explanation as to the cause of the disturbance in her woods. Though she was of winter, nothing enraged her more than the cold and snow, as it was a sign of the Aeristhyde who destroyed the forest of her people so long ago. The party explained that the Aeristhyde had returned and described the airship that, as they spoke, hovered menacingly above the abondoned Ihniko settlement. They also introduced her to the unconscious messenger they had in tow. Upon hearing the name of the Aeristhyde and seeing one of their kind, she screamed in agony and rage. She demanded the eladrin, but the party wanted to question him more specifically about the fate of the king before letting him go. The Queen Sharonaur and Falisar had expressed extreme concern that he’d been taken. She agreed to let them take him as long as the party left him at the edge of the wood for her. They agreed happily. The conversation with the dryad had certainly impressed those within earshot. Falisar himself was rather curious about how the heroes relationship with the dryad had developed and asked about this on the remainder of their journey out of the woods.
At the bottom of the depressed old Ihniko wood, the party members woke unconscious messenger and questioned him about the king. He agreed to talk if they would let him speak from 20 paces out. He answered that the king was alive, but they could discern that he was hiding the truth. They pressed him aggressively for information. Rather than give up details, he explained that the group could find favor with the Aersthyde leadership. “Breaching the palace was no small feat. We’ve been trying to do it for 500 years. Surely your exploits and talents would earn you your lives and perhaps a place at the table when this realm is again in the hands of the Empire.” This time the idea took more tangible shape in the minds of the party, enough to give them pause, but still they pressed the messenger to speak further about what happened in the palace. Instead of answering he ran. Varis promptly lifted his bow and let two arrows fly. The second one found a home in the messenger’s thigh, putting him face down in the dirt.
“You bastards, I told you what I know.” He was then forced to reveal the following: 1) no one was found in the palace, and 2) the Aeristhyde looted it and now occupy it, considering it a trophy that took too long to acquire, though in their eyes the timing couldn’t be better. Finally satisfied with the information provided, the party let the messenger go.
“She can have her fun with him now,” remarked Sylus. The messenger didn’t know what he meant by that, but he knew it couldn’t mean anything worse than what would happen to him upon his return to his airship, if he ever made it back.
As the whole group left the depressed Ihniko wood, great rumblings far off in the direction of the abandoned Ihniko settlement created tremors underfoot. Scouts were sent into the trees. They reported an unnatural and terrifying display of lightening crashing down upon the elves former home. The airship could not be seen but all presumed it hovered above the maelstrom. When the thunder and lightening stopped, an eerie quiet consumed the forest. The point had been made most clear, there was now no turning back.
Besides the howling of a few far off wolves, the rest of the journey to Larenyss was gratefully uneventful. There the Ihniko rested a mile outside of town while the party entered Larenyss and asked for a meeting with the Four Pillars of the town: Kelich, the very large blacksmith of the town, Druga, the dwarven armorer, Sognia, Inn and tavernkeeper, and Immeral, the half-elven scholar. The Pillars agreed and the meeting was held at the Golden Bough Inn & Tavern. Derrick the Reeve and Brother Rothsby, advisor to the Four Pillars also attended. Falisar, the Queen Sharonaur, Regent Coranyl, Tenebron, Noddyl, and Noddyl’s sister (at Brandis’ request) accompanied the party. Concerns for the threat brought to the town, for the people of Larenyss and for the fate of the once thought lost Ihniko people were the focus of the meeting. Kelich was unhappy about the sudden elven visitation and Derrick was upset about having to face an army he couldn’t fight. The party, however, was able to appeal to the humanity of the group by having Immeral explain the history of the long conflict that had seemingly jumped out of time to present itself at Larenyss’ doorstep. Sognia was first to support this move, and Derrick was able to see a way to defend the town, for a night. It was finally agreed that the Ihniko could find comfort and shelter in the barracks of the town for a night, but they would have to leave the next day. The Queen assured the Pillars, they wanted nothing more. She noted, “To stay longer would be far too dangerous to the people of Larenyss, entangle them needlessly in the vines that, for now, strangle only our branches.” Derrick’s men would watch the borderlands, and all families of Larenyss would be alerted of the potential threat. The Ihniko leaders were effusive in their thanks and sorry they had no gifts to offer. The irony that this small collective of human farming communities were now playing protector to the once great Ihniko people against a threat from which the Ihniko themselves had protected the all the other races of light so long ago was not lost on any of the Ihniko leaders present. The party decided they would go back from whence they came the next day to see if the Aeristhyde were still where they had left them.
As the meeting adjourned, Noddyl asked the party if he could go with them. Varis warmly welcomed him, saying he had already become one of them. Sylus asked if he could muster some of his men to join him, but Noddyl was doubtful. “Don’t they want to fight the Aeristhyde?”
“Of course, but they have their families to protect. Each man that leaves is like another plate of armor removed from the rusty suit the Ihniko people already wear.” [I don’t we didn’t have a poetic exchange like this, but I just can’t help but embellish at times. : )]
Sylus persisted, and Noddyl assured him he would ask again if any would join them. Noddyl then informed Varis that Evrayn Euskadi requested a meeting with him. “I’m leaving here tonight,” the old seer informed him. “And I’m not going with the other Ihniko. Those that cling to my words will help me in the journey. I will find you when the time is right. Stay focused and remember, ultimately, it is you who bear the burden of freeing Ursa Major from the storm walls and finally ending the arrogant power of the Aeristhyde.”
The party regrouped at the Golden Bough where they were spending the night. If they were able to fall asleep at all, their rest was quickly interrupted by Noddyl and news that snow was falling on the borderlands near the edge of the Bone Forest. The roughly 240 refugee elves were already leaving town. They headed in a northeasterly direction on the one road out of town for a destination unknown to any of the party or the people of Larenyss. Falisar, who had considered going with the party as a protector of the crown, decided instead to aid his people and protect the Queen. He left the crown with Noddyl for safekeeping, improving the chances that the Aeristhyde would leave the Ihniko alone.
The pillars were called together to decide what the people of Larenyss should do. They decide, upon the heroes suggestion, to go north a days travel and stay there. That would be far enough from the elves path for the Aeristhyde to leave them alone if they were serious in their pursuit but no so far north that they would be at serious risk of the attack from gnoll bands. Presumably, the Aeristhyde are after 1) the Ihniko, 2) the crown, 3) the heroes themselves, so the hope is that this move by the townsfolk will result in a successful dodge.
Some from Larenyss decided to head south through the storm wall and enter Roen. They were merchant types who could afford the rituals and necessary residuum to cast them.
The party decided to leave in a southeasterly direction on their own, so as not to present a risk to any traveling the trade route south. Immeral (and his library) and Durga are among these. Before they left, Durga provided the party with the necessary rituals and enough residuum to cast them twice. As the party left town, small flecks of snow began to drift softly down from clouds that had crept in and covered the stars and the moonlight above.