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Whisper in the wind

Solera wrapped her arms around Valindra a little tighter. Not because she was afraid she would fly off the flying stag, but because it felt so good to hold her.

She decided tonight was the night she would share her feelings. After they took out these bug bears, she would tell her. She could not go on pretending everything was the same.

There was a couple of time, with her arms wrapped around her, that she almost said it. But she knew she would not hear it over the wind passing by as the flew. Plus, she felt it would lead to a longer talk. If Valindra did not feel the same way, she would need to assure her that it would not impact their friendship. If she did, they would need to talk about how it would impact their relationship.

Solera leans her head against Valindra’s back and whispers, “I love you” into the wind.
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We Are All Heroes
Rara and Diogenes sat across from each other with a small campfire in between. An occasional pop or hiss from the fire would accompany the loud rumbling of the bug bear’s empty stomach. Bound and gagged, they did their best to ignore him. His reflective eyes glowed a deep orange from the crackling flames. Rara dipped her hardtack into the hot water, trying to soften up the horrid meal. Diogenes did the same. She offered him some of her jerky, but he declined. A gust of wind pelted them both with blowing snow, they cinched their traveling cloaks even tighter. “Getting colder,” mumbled Rara. “Yep,” countered Diogenes.

In the distance several soft “whoomps” were just audible, definitely not thunder. The sky in the direction that Valindra and Solera had headed a while ago now had a reddish glow.

“I guess that’s that,” said Rara turning her head from the sky back to Diogenes and then letting her gaze settle on their prisoner. “Yep,” responded Diogenes.
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Clarity in Pain
Solera was engulfed in flames. The pain was so excruciating, she did not even realize that she was releasing a blood-curdling scream.

She could see Ainorei’s burned and crumpled body between the waving tongues of fires and there was nothing she could do for her.

She could not see Valindra and could only hope she escaped the burning hell she herself was in. It was at that moment, at the edge of possible death, that her feelings for Valindra clarified. This was not passing fancy. What she felt was love for the druid elf. Thinking about her love for Valindra did not rid her of the pain, but it gave her the strength to fight through it.

She vowed to herself if, no when, she survived this, she would tell Valindra of her feelings. Although she was thought the feeling was mutual, she was not sure. But Solera did know that either way, she needed to tell her.
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I’ve Got My Eye on You
The fireballs were devastating. Rara kept her back flat against the wall. If another attack came her way, she didn’t know if she would survive. They discovered that the sorcerer was encased in some sort of anti-magic shield but normal weapons could pierce it. She wish there was something she could do. An idea started to form in her little head. She stole a quick glance out the window, trying to estimate the number of paces across the courtyard. Hasted and knowing she could outrun everyone else, her best estimate was that she could cover the distance in one shot. One other thought flitted across her mind, “Does anyone have an invisibility spell? Potion? Scroll?” An assertive round of “No’s,” was her answer.

A split second later, “I have a ring!” It was Blair. She sprinted across the open porch archway, putting her life at risk. “Thank you,” Rara sputtered, “You’ll get this back.”

"By a hairless gnolls balls! What is he doing?!" Rara’s eyes tracked Diogenes as he sprinted across the courtyard, making a bee-line for the Orb.

Valindra makes a run for it, just an instant before Rara. They make it across the yard, around the lifeless body of the summoned purple worm, into the two story house. Valindra pauses in the front room while Rara breaks for the stairs. Although invisible, she stops suddenly on the mid-floor platform. Sucking in her breath, Caliban the Mad is right in front of her. He brushes past her on the way down, just making contact. At the bottom of the stairs, the mad sorcerer cast a wall of fire, attempting to block off anyone else from entering the house. Rara hears screams rising above the crackling flames. Solera and Ainorei, both caught in the raging fire. Valindra makes the difficult decision of attacking Caliban instead of rushing to her love. Heated by anger or rage, she lets the crazed sorcerer have it!

With a thud, Ainorei’s lifeless body collapses to the floor. Consumed by her own rage, Rara swings at Caliban with all she’s got. Death has come for the madman as well. The flames disperse, so do the magics creating the illusion of wealth and opulence, leaving just a plain round tower room.

A celebratory Diogenes holds the orb aloft, to show the gathering crew, but his smile quickly disappears as he seesAinorei’s smoldering body being carried across the yard. Blair rushes over, a heated discussion takes place, a plan is formed, she will attempt to restore life to Ainorei’s breathless body.

They solemnly make their way to the river. Aboard their little “Shrimpkin” Blair prepares for the next day’s ritual. A fretful Rara needs to keep her hands busy. With bits of metal, she constructs a necklace. At the end of it dangles an open eye with an inset diamond. She softly and carefully raises Ainorei’s head and places the charm around her neck. Wiping a tear, Rara mutters quietly, “May the Gods watch upon you. And if they don’t, I pledge to you, I will.”
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Night on the River


It is cold on the river at night. Shrimpkin, the strange magical boat found in the otherworldly caverns beneath Bald Mountain, carries them downstream and away from the Fever Valley, the dark waters hissing and foaming along her spell-stitched strakes. The craft needs no means of propulsion other than the will of its pilot, Valindra, who crouches in her stern, exhausted but vigilant, keeping a watchful eye turned on the shore slipping past just at the edge of her vision.

The elf draws her bearskin cloak more tightly about her slender form to ward off the chill, and reflects on what has happened. The fight against Caliban had been tough, much tougher than they had expected. They have recovered the Orb of Summer and have fulfilled this part of their mission, but the cost has been great. So great. She looks upon poor Ainorei’s corpse lying in the boat’s bottom, safely wrapped in a canvas tarpaulin. At first light, they will put ashore, and attempt a mighty ritual that Blair claims will call the gnome’s spirit back from the realms of the dead. She hopes this will work. Blair has never been wrong about such matters before, but until then, Ainorei is gone.

And the cost could have been even greater.

Valindra looks upon Solera who lies asleep in the bow, head resting on the rune-etched gunwale, her face all but hidden in the shadows of her fur cowl. When Caliban had called forth the inferno that engulfed both Ainorei and Solera, Valindra had been concentrating on controlling the fire elemental that she had summoned from its own plane of existence and bound reluctantly to her service. Ainorei had made no sound, perhaps killed instantly in the conflagration.

But Solera had screamed.

Valindra thinks she may never forget that scream. She can almost still hear it now, the snow elf’s howl of agony as the flames engulfed her. She had wanted to run to her, to plunge into the fiery maelstrom and drag her forth to safety, but to do so would have required her to relinquish control of the elemental, allowing it to run amok and turn on them, perhaps killing even more of her friends. And so she had maintained her focus and control despite Solera’s screams ringing in her ears, despite the kettledrums throbbing in her chest. That had been one of the hardest things she had ever done.

Overhead, the moon suddenly appears through a jagged rent in the clouds, and Solera’s dragon-scale armor gleams in the silvery light. Valindra looks upon her sleeping friend’s delicate visage illuminated thus in the moonlight and feels a sudden aching inside. As long as I am by your side, she thinks, I will defend you with my life. If you ever fall, then be assured that I will fall as well defending you. Ironic, she thinks, that she should feel so protective of one so utterly capable of defending themself, but she feels this way nevertheless. She is not entirely certain if Solera harbors similar feelings for her, but this matters not.

Glad that her friend is resting, Valindra turns her watchful eye back toward the murky shore gliding past in the moonlight. It will be dawn soon and there is much to do.



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The orb
I thought my chance had come at last - run for the orb and create a distraction allowing Valindra, Solera and the others some cover while they dispatched Caliban the Mad. I would finally leave this world in a literal blaze of glory. And who knows, maybe pulling the orb from its perch might disrupt some bit of magic that was giving him power, making it all the easier for my compatriots to take him down. A glorious sacra facere.

Instead, I stood there, alone, holding that cursed, blessed object - the sole reason for the danger we had put ourselves in. I had achieved our objective, but it was as if I had just sauntered to the market and grabbed a melon from the fruit seller's stall.

Meanwhile, the rest were being decimated. Ainorei was dead. By the grace of Blair's gods she was later brought back, only somewhat diminished by the ordeal.

But once again my fate had escaped me.

I will try harder.  

Dice Rolls => Results = Total
d20 => [6] = 6
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Just a little arcane energy between friends
Solera was honored that Valindra asked her to help her train with the sword and was really enjoying it/. Valindra’s skill with the sword was impressive even though she used it so rarely.

Up until recently, Solera had only seen Valindra with her bow, with which her accuracy and speed were unmatched. Her arrows flew so perfectly straight it was as if they were bound to some imaginary line drawn to her target.

As with all of Winter’s Bane, Solera felt a real bond with Valindra. However, something changed that morning as they were practicing.

Advance.
Fade.
Lunge.
Pass back.
Pivot.

Then Valindra stopped. She was watching Solera with an expression she had never her previously seen her make. She could not define the expression, but she knew something had just changed between them. Something was different. That look had sparked something in Solera that had been bubbling beneath the surface. Could she be misreading Valindra’s expression?

Advance.
Pass back.
Lunge.

That last lunge led to them grappling. As they touched, a spark shot through Solera. It as like a burst of arcane energy passed between them.

Something is definitely different and Solera definitely did not misread the Valindra’s expression.
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Epic!
Hope
The camaraderie is unmistakable. For even the most casual observer, the threads weaving the six of us together are both strong and intricate. We eat together, sleep together, pray together, play together, and fight together. We heal one another, we risk life and limb for one another, and we cling to one another for warmth against the cruel, unrelenting winter. There is little we have not shared.

Of late though, a stronger weave has formed between the elves. Whereas before, time was fairly equally shared among the six of us, Valindra and Solera have recently been found paired off with increasing frequency. It seems only natural that two elves would have an affinity for each other in general, but an intimacy beyond lineage has evolved, and both, usually reticent creatures, are often caught smiling, heads bent toward one another. In the pain and chaos characterizing our existence, I cannot help but rejoice in the hope that whatever is burgeoning between them, will flourish and endure as the long winter and violent upheaval persists.
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Ensnarl a Jarl
Deep in the Glacial Rift taunts hollered from our tongues wagging.

The Frost Giant Jarl, unawares, sends another beastly white dragon.

Little did he know, Winters Bane fights like crazed demons.

You see, our crew was covered in magical bear semen.

As a result, ‘twas the softheaded Jarl’s loot we started bagging.

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Morning


It is cold, the winter morning, but Valindra has risen early to practice sword-craft with Solera. Soon the others will rise from their bedrolls to break camp. Jarl Grugnar has fallen, and they have claimed The Orb of the Autumn Winds. A long journey to the Forest of Ardred now awaits.

Valindra breaths deeply of the frigid morning air and takes stock of her surroundings. A few flakes of snow fall gently. The saw tooth mountainsides rise around them into the grey sky. And her opponent, Solera Windrunner, awaits her some twelves paces across the snow covered ground. Should she come at her high or low, Valindra wonders. No matter what the angle of attack, the snow elf always seems to have a response.

Since winning Bodil from the risen dead on the sea ice, Valindra has felt the need to hone her skill with a blade. Such a mighty and elegant weapon demands nothing less than a skilled hand to wield it. Though the longbow has always been her weapon of choice, she has of course received training in the art of the sword. But she knows that she can improve. And who better to tutor her than Solera.

Valindra has never seen one more gifted with the sword than she. More than once in the midst of pitched battle, she has found herself utterly awed by Solera, awed by her grace and savagery as she weaves a singing net of steel about herself and glides deftly among her foes. Most barely register that death has come as the sword-maiden slips inside their defenses, strikes the killing blow, and circles on to the next. While in battle, she embodies both poise and ferocity. At times she seems almost a dancer whose feet barely kiss the ground. But she is a vicious killer as well, cleaving helm and byrnie alike with antaean strength as she hews down those foolish enough to oppose her. And she is awed by her in other ways as well. Yes, Valindra counts herself lucky to have such a skilled teacher.

Over these long months, through all their trials and travails, she has grown ever closer to her teammates. Ainorei, Blair, RaRa, Diogenes, have all become her family. Revanthas. It is the Elvish word for “Friend,” and is the same word as “Clan.” It means other things as well, things which cannot well be translated into human tongues. It is a title reserved for only for the closest of companions and the members of one’s own tribe. For the elves, all people of the world are either Revanthas or Ravathas-neh. Not clan. There is no longer any doubt what these companions have become to her.

But there is something different than Revanthas in her feelings toward Solera. Something more. Something not felt for many seasons.

Valindra watches her now, as she readies herself for the first move in their morning dance. Eyes of blue ice, white hair streaming like fire in the morning breeze, faint smirk playing about her mouth, twin swords at the ready. Her beauty is as still sunsets of bitter evenings when all the world is frore, a wonder and a chill. She is as a sun-stricken mountain uplifted alone, all beautiful with ice, a desolate and lonely radiance late at evening far up beyond the comfortable world, not quite to be companioned by the stars, the doom of the mountaineer, a boon to her friends.*

“Are you just going to stand there all day, Lindy, or are we going to spar?”

Her reverie broken by Solera’s playful taunt Valindra smiles and launches herself at her partner. Swords whistle and steel sings.

Thus their dance begins.


*Lord Dunsany
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Frost Giant Treasure
You recovered the following from the frost giants' lair:

Dragons' lair
72,000 silver pieces
2966 platinum pieces
8 silver boxes filled with ivory, each worth 1400 GP (box) and 1500 (ivory)
An alabaster statue worth 4000 GP
12 1000 GP gems

Jarl Grugnar's Lair

142,970 GP
A drinking horn worth 8,000 GP
Jewelry worth 9,000 GP
Assorted gems worth 34,100 GP

Total GP value: 294,930

Holy shit.
Session: Game Session #26 - Sunday, Dec 15 2019 from 1:00 PM to 6:00 PM
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Gwydion Guile
Blair: It’s an old spell, perhaps as old as Gwydion Himself.

Solera: Have you seen it used?

The two friends are deep into their mugs of ale, maybe their fourth or fifth mugs.

Blair: I remember an elder war priest. His muscles were thin but his mind was sharp. He threw those skinny arms skyward as if about to dance. Then pushed his palms forward - I remember thinking he was forcing a belief through the air into the mind of that bugbear.

Solera: Did it work?

Blair: (Tossing her hands, losing then regaining control of her ale) Ohhhhh yes!

Solera: (leaning in) Well? What happened?

Blair: Looked so sad. Dropped his axe.

Solera: Idiot! Why?

Blair: The spell made the bugbear certain the axe was too heavy for him. Just stared and stared, wishing he was strong enough to pick it up again.

(Both laugh, imagining the bugbear, impotent fingers curled, gazing longingly at his weapon.)

Solera: So...the spell could make them think anything, like: Bugs are crawling all over your skin...rub those bugs off, rub rub rub!!

Blair: Yes!

(They clink mugs and take a long swallow)

Blair: Or maybe...Your mother is calling, you forgot to feed the goats you imbecile! And they run like hell to go find the goats...

(Another clink, another gulp of ale)

Solera: Your fingers have turned into worms!

(They clink, tip their mugs, find them empty and sloppily pour themselves more.)

Blair: We are massive killer moths which fill your heart with dread!

(An overexuberant clink spills ale down both their shirts)

Blair:I have one! Your pants are on fire! Run into the lake and keep running!

Solera: (giggling) Or, your manhood is on fire! Quick run to the pub and douse it in a tankard!

Blair: Good one! I may try that...
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Why Yell when You Can Whisper?
Precious few thing are predictable now: cold, death, and the almost amusing power of Valindra and Solera. There are moments when I nearly feel sorry for the creatures foolhardy enough to challenge us. The ease with which they dispense with formidable foes is a wonderment, and one that lulls me into a sense of confidence and security. I have grown accustomed to moving between their feet or hovering just overhead, lighting up their targets and distracting and weakening where I can. I didn’t fully realize until today just how strongly I depended on the idea that they will ultimately take out anyone standing between us and survival.

When the moment came and Valindra put her bow away and instead drew her long sword, I heard myself utter a prayer for Whisper. Whisper is the truest of friends, seldom missing and lethal to her core, an extension of the elf herself. I felt myself dancing nervously in the air, terrified for us all. I had rarely observed Valindra with a sword, and wondered at her motivation now, when faced with these beasts, who outnumbered us badly in their territory. Only later I conceded that she is just as competent with a sword, but it frightened me nonetheless. The odds of a death blow seem far greater the closer we have to be. I would just as soon battle from afar, watching with confidence as arrows and arcs of fire slice the air.
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Hunting


Valindra crouches behind an up-thrust slab of ice and watches their enemies approach. Solera and Ainorei flank her, the snow elf’s hands flexed and ready for spell-craft, the gnome’s fingertips lambent with flickers of arcane energy. Valindra has nocked two arrows to her bow string but has not yet drawn it. It is a cold and grey on the ice as the dusk descends on them. She wants to savor the moment.

From out of the arctic gloaming they approach, four frost giants spread in a loose line preceded by four winter wolves that sniff the air as they seek their quarry. Valindra can make them out more clearly now, the details of their appearance crystalizing as they draw near. Their shaggy capes of mammoth hide, white beards fluttering like grim pennants in the winter wind, massive cruel axes and cudgels held in colossal fists, the giants advance. She can see their faces now, yellowish eyes set deep in abnormous folds of bluish flesh. The giants are cautious and alert, stalking their prey.

Or so they think.

Valindra smiles at her two companions. This is the third party that the giants have sent to hunt them. The first two will not be returning home. Nor will this one.

She finds it all very amusing. Their first raid on the giants’ glacial lair had killed near two score of their foes. She and her two companions then withdrew from the glacier into the mountains to rest and re-strategize a second assault. They had left no survivors. No witnesses to tell the tale of the attack. The giants must believe a more sizable force had assailed them. Valindra smirks. Imagine their surprise were they to learn that two elves and a tiny gnome have injured them so grievously.

The giants come closer, but cannot see them in their concealment. Soon they will be within range.

Even now, with her focus on the advancing foe, Valindra can feel the Leaf Lord’s presence all around her. She feels it in the fractured and tumbled landscape of ice stretching in all directions. She feels it in the slate gray sky arching above their heads. She feels it in the spectral tendrils of snow that endlessly dance and swirl across the frozen plain. She feels it, and she is grateful. Grateful to be one small part of the Leaf Lord’s dominion and grateful for the friends who stand beside her.

Closing her eyes and drawing deeply upon the Leaf Lord’s supremacy, Valindra whispers words of power to her arrows. Thus redolent with killing energy, the cedar shafts vibrate slightly, alive now, sleek predators eager to slip their tethers and fly at their prey.

The time has come. Solera has begun her evocation. Gesturing and chanting she conjures a lethal blast of cleansing flame from the aether. As Ainorei levitates off the ice, the air around the gnome’s compact body shimmers and coruscates with the latent energy she will soon unleash. Valindra raises Whisper, draws the bowstring to her ear, takes aim, and lets fly.
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Death of a dragon
Magic has always come easily to Solera. Even as a child, many years ago in the distant north, she had mastered the spells and cantrips more quickly than the other pupils of the tribe. The gestures, the incantations, nimble handling of the physical components are like second nature to her. It has always been so.

And so, as she watches the white dragon approach in the sky, she feels no apprehension. As the rest of the party shouts cries of alarm and hastily prepares for battle, Solera merely smiles and turns to face the beast as it rapidly descends upon them. Calmly, she draws a small leather bag from her belt pouch and draws a pinch of sulfur. From a pocket sewn within her cloak she produces a marble-sized rolled sphere of bat guano. She then tosses the sulfur into the air, holds the guano before her in an upturned palm and speaks a magic charm while gesturing over it. Suddenly, the guano ignites and darts off, speeding towards the dragon.

Solera has always been proud of this spell. It was considered the mark of a true wizard to be able to cast it, and its mastery was seen as a real badge of honor. And so it is with deep satisfaction that she watches the fireball explode, engulfing the dragon in flames. The evil thing screams in agony as, wings ablaze, it hurtles like a fiery comet from the sky to crash into the ice plain. The others remain silent for several moments, just staring at the smoke trail in the sky. Then, having put their weapons away, they resume their journey.
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