Bard Fuel

First Day Out
The Reunion of Ruben, Bavid, and Tooth

It had been many years since Bavid had worked at the Grand Hospital Under the Mountain. He had returned to his home, the village surrounding the Temple of Verram.
Tooth had been following his meandering path, arriving in the village just before the commotion. He greeted Bavid in his usual way and asked where the half-handed one was. Bavid hadn’t seen Ruben in almost as long as Tooth, but their conversation was cut short by a sudden and urgent announcement from the Temple. The Door was active!!
Scholars, guards, temple officials, and other townsfolk gathered around the ancient door. The heroes were among the crowd watching when the door opened and Ruben stepped through from the great mageocratic city of Gredonia.
It was a quick reunion. Bavid was preparing to set out for his Pathfinding, and needed to find his assigned partner, Jasper. While he tracked Jasper down, Tooth and Ruben gathered a couple more hands: a fighter named Richard, who was going as long as they promised a detour to the Shattered Keep to kill the hag who dwelt there, and a well-weathered field guide named Kahlan. Altogether, the six left down through the south stairs and headed out into the Forest of Pell. Kahlan showed them the path and went to scout ahead, leaving the rest to follow. Most of the morning passed uneventfully, before the party heard a strange noise to the east. They left their path and explored the sound, and came upon a dying earth elemental, who they healed. It seemed to be trying to protect them from a spectral presence, creeping in on them from deeper in the forest.
After leaving the scene with the elemental, they wondered why their scout had missed it, and the elemental communicated to them that it had seen a humanoid being abducted and pulled into a nearby tower just before the spectre of Ying Ka Shin had blasted it away. They followed the elemental back to the tower as dusk fell, and they noticed that the elemental was crumbling. It did not have long, and it waited outside with Jasper, who attempted further healing.
The party went inside and had to avoid a few pieces of animated furniture on their way to the great tower behind. As they reached the top of the tower, they discovered the spectre performing some sort of ritual on Kahlan. They fought the spectre, and Tooth was pulled into the Shadowfell. Bavid and Richard rescued Kahlan and brought her outside, but the spectre escaped Tooth and Ruben had to help him cross back over in to the material plane. The whole clearing and house and tree line seemed against them, even the sky was black and starless, the darkness was closing in on them from all sides.
Tooth set to work on an exorcism, and Bavid was able to put his clerical training and holy water to excellent use while Ruben kept Jasper safe. Eventually the spectre was exorcised, and the house was cleared. They decided it was a good enough spot to spend the night, and with a fire and good food and stories, they brought some life back into it.

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More Than Meets the Eye

As the crew fought off the onslaught of orcs, one among them showed great power, bringing Aja and Miri to the brink of death! The hag lowered her disguise and took Miri‘s backpack with the Crown in it, only for Seebo to snatch it and run into the troll den, away from the exit!! The rest of the party escaped, with mixed feelings about Seebo’s sacrifice. Old May pounced on him and quickly dispatched him, carrying off him and the crown.
(I picture this one ending with a montage: A shot of the group, helping each other through the mountains, wounded and downtrodden; a shot of Hülgë talking to a tavern full of loggers and miners (mostly Dwarves) who all somberly raise a glass; a shot of Ilior meditating at the edge of town, facing down into the valley; a shot of Aja on the town rooftops, eyeing the woods and the mountains beyond with grim determination; Miri in the woods, the town visible behind her, surrounded by open books but looking off into the trees; a shot of Jhaross in the library at dusk, books piled about, and a small mirror on the table; and finally, in true not-the-end-of-the-trilogy fashion, a shot of a dank cavern, cauldron bubbling, jars of various awful things on shelves, random pieces of animals scattered across a bloody table in a strange pattern, with a cage swinging gently off to one side. Inside the cage is a battered and unconscious Seebo, who first twitches his nose, then slowly opens his eyes……..)

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Into the Bear's Den

Aja, Hülgë, Seebo, Jhaross, Miri, and Ilior pursued Old May Bonechewer into the Azhak mountains, stopping briefly at Jordskogsgruva, Hülgë’s home.
They trekked through the mountains, moving into the Dwarven territory of Nalgenjak, and discovered that Old May had taken shelter in an outpost originally built by a Dwarven hero known as The Bear.
Inside they found natural caves, Dwarven architecture, and more Orcs than they anticipated…..

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Ambush the Ambushers!

The Durang Mar realized that their course through the mountains was running parallel to a goblin raiding party, returning from the Eastern lowlands. They had no hobgoblin leaders, and plenty of loot and wriggling bags. The mercenaries decided to ambush them as they crossed the river by an old Elven citadel, and their plan worked, although the Troll that the goblins were keeping as a pet proved to be a pain. Among the loot bags, they released a gnome from Pebble’s past, Hoffman Nog. He said he had been sent looking for her once house Windsorbottom had heard that they were heading back to Athencral.
They camped in the citadel and Hoffman set right to his butlery duties, putting together tea and a meal, of which everyone except the Boulder partook.

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A Missing Captain

It began with a boast, which led to a bet, and turned into a brawl.
Barabra, Brimbram, Pebble and Boulder of the Durang Mar were drinking at the Stone Table in South Falnore. They were lamenting the loss of their captain, Gillian Nura, presuming that she had succumbed to the Dwarven curse and returned to the birthplace of her bloodline, the fallen kingdom of Athencral. They boasted that they could go in and save her. Aside from the bartender, who was interested, the remainder of the bar condemned their talk, remarking on the sacrilege of reawakening whatever had taken up residence there. The bartender was willing to bet a year’s profits that they’d never return from a trip like that, and just as they loudly accepted, Captain Glorin of the Falnore militia declared that no one would be going anywhere, they had had too much to drink and needed to sleep it off in the stockade. He ordered his guards to arrest the mercenaries, and headed out the door. By the time he had reached the street and turned the corner, the citizens and guards had been taken care of, the Glorin received a headbutt to the jaw, courtesy of the Boulder.

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After the Tsunami

Dram, Tal Varrar, Narishma, and Fahrazin awoke on a beach, the remainder of the passengers around dead. They met a cleric who set about with rites, and a small tribe of mouse-folk. They headed into the forest to find their captain and had a fight with some displacer beasts among hallucinogenic fungus.

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The Confrontation

Accompanied by their elven entourage, Aja, Hülgë, Jhaross, Miri, Seebo, and The Argonaut reached the home of the Three, at the center of the blighted Aelynwood. They confronted the three Hags and proved very quickly to be more than the Three had bargained for. Desperate to escape with what sounded like a baby, the Three began pouring magic into the roots of a tree with the Black Crown of King Daetheryth in its upper reaches. A stray fire bolt from Jhaross knocked over the Hags’ cauldron, dumping who-knows-what into the tree’s roots. The tree burst to life, and the heroes had to fight it while trying to remove the Crown from it. One hag managed to get away with the baby, but the tree was felled, and the Black Crown retrieved.
The Crown cannot be destroyed on this plane, according to the Syldulim. It must be taken to the Feywild, a dangerous journey indeed.

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The Arrival

The party arrived at Mil’Renothro, and were met by Caelki and a group of elven snipers. Aja tried to convince them to take them to the elders, but to no avail. Caelki did go to the village and return with a Syldulim named Lamro, who wanted to meet Jhaross. It was in this conversation that Uthavain’s name was first uttered, revealing Aja to be the sister of Miri and The Argonaut!! After meeting Jhaross and believing him to be the dragonborn spoken of in the whispers of the Fey portals, he returned to the village and gathered a group willing to follow the party back. In a bit of back and forth and a slip of Seebo’s tongue, a hag eye was found hidden in the frog statue they had been carrying with them. Although this upset the elves, they still agreed to follow, and to bring Caelki and her archers with them. Back north to the Aelynwood they headed…..

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Out of the Woods

Aja, Hülgë, Jhaross, Miri, Seebo, and The Argonaut fought two Perytons on their journey south along the foothills of the Azhak Mountains, from the blighted Aelynwood to Mil’Renothro.

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Of Nezumi and Men
The Birth of the Warlord

A hand slaps a note with burned edges on the table, and Yosoku Kenzou looks up to see his cousin’s scowling face. A supply cart leaving the Imperial Panda reserve was attacked, and once the bandits saw that there was nothing valuable, they burned it. The letter was found among the wreckage. Yosoku Ling demands an explanation, seeing Kenzou’s name on it, after the letter was returned to him, the first clan member the messenger saw. Kenzou looks quickly to see how much sensitive information remains, sees little, and only responds that he was simply sharing news with the other provinces. Before Ling can press too much, the tavern door bursts open, letting in the frigid winter air, and the renowned Nezumi warrior, Tsu’No Tashi of Nihomboshiya. He sits at their table noting Kenzou’s good health, and inquiring as to why he had not heard from him. Kenzou introduces his cousin, and Tashi almost immediately demands the letter. After some initial reluctance, Tashi buys him a drink and asks for the letter in exchange. Bound by custom to acquiesce, Ling hands over the letter, takes the drink, and storms out.
Flashback: Tashi and Vlint, his son, are sitting in a tea room, shortly after the Celestial Emperor has taken over their city. Tashi receives a draft letter from the delegate of the emperor. Vlint is distraught and upset, and this only gets worse when Tashi admits that he suspects the Emperor is hoping he will die. Vlint suggests killing the Emperor instead, but Tashi insists that he stay safe and keep training. Two armed guards come and take Tashi away, tossing his weapons and his son to the floor. He bows to his son, but Vlint tries to fight the guards, it becomes a scuffle, Tashi is knocked unconscious and Vlint is left on the floor.
Vlint and Ling have been sparring in a clearing in the forest. They try to master Desert Wind by practicing the moves they have been taught, but first wrapping and lighting their hands on fire. They are competitive in all things, so they fight hard and wait too long to put out their hands. Vlint is winning today because Ling is distracted by the letter and his meeting with Tashi. He asks what Vlint knows about the Emperor’s Delegate, Vlint says not much, except that he is part of the reason his father left. He inquires as to what is vexing Ling, and Ling explains that he had a strange meeting with his cousin and a man named Tashi. Vlint presses him for information, and once he gets the whole story, he runs off.
Vlint returns home to find his father waiting. He is excited and surprised, but something is different. Tashi seems broken, and he doesn’t help around the house. He is not the same. He has spent their family’s money, and has nothing to show for it.
Ling is constantly in Kenzou’s shadow for the next week, trying to figure out what his cousin is up to.
Kenzou and Tashi work together at the panda reserve, they share their information about the delegate’s upcoming visit, where he is staying, etc. Their plan has always been to capture the delegate and ransom him back, but Kenzou is concerned that Tashi may just kill him. Tashi explains that is it not about money and never has been, and reveals that he has already filled the forest with a small resistance, and is ready to act at any time. Kenzou realizes that the plan is not going his way, but he is in too deep to do anything but move forward.
Vlint, for the first time in their history, shows up at Ling’s door, to ask him what he knows about the situation. He believes his father is working for the delegate, and has been trying to drink away his guilt, but is concerned about his name being on the note with Kenzou’s and the delegate’s. Ling immediately spills the whole story from his side, including all of his opinions and assumptions. He convinces Vlint that the only way to stop this and protect BOTH of their families is to kidnap his father, secretly plotting to hold him ransom. They set up an ambush to keep Tashi from meeting with Kenzou. They underestimated Tashi’s skill, and though they fail in their attempt, Vlint successfully executes Desert Wind maneuvers against his father, succeeding where Ling has not and deepening their rivalry.
Standing over his son, Tashi explained that he has tried to keep him out of it, Vlint protests, but his father finally tells him the whole story with the delegate. He now recognizes his son’s skill and brings him on as part of the plot. Ling skulks off into the forest, burning with jealousy. He heads straight to the delegate and explains every plot to him, leaving himself out of it.
Kenzou goes looking for Tashi, finds the clearing with signs of battle, asks what happened and who Vlint is. Tashi introduces his son, who explains Ling’s ideas and schemes. Kenzou’s fears about his personal risk are realized, and he begins to panic. Tashi decides to take time to train his son, first by pitting him against Kenzou, and then taking him on himself, with no time to rest. Tashi uses Setting Sun maneuvers and relentlessly pushes Vlint to defend himself with Desert Wind. Kenzou, Tashi, and Vlint train in multiple styles and end up with headbands with Tashi and Vlint’s family symbol on it.
They return home to find the bodies of the mother and sibling swinging from the ceiling beams, and assassins waiting for them. Tashi finally breaks and unleashes all of his skill on them, while Vlint defends himself and watches his father’s full power.
Kenzou sneaks his way into Ling’s earshot and tries to convince him that the plan can still work, especially now that he is so close to the delegate. But Ling feels betrayed by everyone except the delegate, so he immediately sells his cousin out, pointing to him and proclaiming aloud that he is the man behind the whole plot. Kenzou runs away and is pursued by the delegate’s envoy of guards. He leads them into the forest, hoping that the plan can still work. Even though the delegate is not among them, Kenzou uses the ambush plan to save his own life. The assassins don the imperial guards’ armor and lead Kenzou back, leading to an epic showdown with the remaining guards and the death of the delegate by Tashi’s hand!
In the end, the regime begins to fall apart over the next 15-20 years. Ling goes right back to being a Phoenix Clan nobody, dusting antiques and trying to master Desert Wind. Tashi retires, celebrated as a folk hero and martial arts legend. Vlint travels to the coast and soon has a child named Tsu-No Mari. Kenzou is cast out by the still-in-power empire, stripped of name and ties to the (Imperial) Phoenix Clan. He heads out into the desert, filled with the spirit of vengeance, and eventually rages his way to becoming a warlord, and heads on to the Garden City to take it from the new Emperor, shortly after he is crowned, when the new regime is at its weakest.

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