Argentum Fons

The Burning Temple
And everything burned in blue

Following their meeting with the City Prophets, our party decided to devise a scheme to obtain the cards held by the shopkeeper at the Little Pixie. But first, some errands…

The Trade

Knowing the Little Pixie was in possession of at least one and possibly more cards, it would first be necessary to scout the shop and determine the exact location of the cards, and the nature of any traps or protections that might endanger a heist. The party made their way to the shop in the early afternoon to trade an item for one of the cards. Astrafel offered the sacrificial knife she had taken from the Shaman during the Winter Solstice ceremony in the Ice Wastes. The shopkeeper, though not as impressed as he might have been, agreed that the knife would be an acceptable trade and offered a single card in return. Astrafel chose The Diplomat, a card whose influence is said to cause others nearby to treat the bearer like a trusted ally. Erroll, watching the shopkeeper closely, observed the locked wooden box in which the cards were kept, and the location of the box squarely behind the counter. After the transaction, the shopkeeper returned the box to its home and smiled politely at his guests.

“Uh, thanks—thanks for the trade. What time do you close?” asked Astrafel.
The shopkeeper replied, “We are open for business until one hour past sundown.”
“Oh, okay, great,” said Astrafel, “Uh, we might be back later. To make another trade. Yeah.”

The Vision

During the transaction, Dru spent some time in meditation on the nature of the spirits of the City. During his meditation, he saw a brilliantly vivid—and terrifying—vision of events to come:

The great Temple of the Prophets burning to the ground. Azloria under siege from a host of bronze-armored warriors, their swords and shields glistening red and yellow in the sun and flames. Thick black smoke hanging heavy in the air. The unbearable screams of the dying.

What terrible development could result in such gruesome consequences?

The Order

Following the reconnaissance mission to the Little Pixie, the party thought it prudent to pay a visit to the High Order of the Brothers of the Sun. The Reverent Key seemed to have some rivalry with them; it was time to figure out why.

Arder and Aldara decided to enter the temple located on the Azloria’s Central Plaza, overshadowed by the huge and imposing Temple of the Prophets in the very middle of the square. As they entered through the front door of the temple, they were immediately enveloped in the light of hundreds of blazing torches lining the walls, with an enormous hearth-fire burning in the center of the room. Along the edges of the great hall, yellow-robed monks were milling about, replacing expended torches and feeding the great fire.

“Ah, greetings, visitors!” came a jovial voice from a nearby monk. “What questions can I answer for you this glorious day?”

“We’re here to find out more about your…organization,” said Arder. “We have heard much about the Brothers of the Sun in our travels, but we wanted to find out about you for ourselves.”

“Oh, of course! I would be happy to tell you about our bright and glorious order. Please, follow me.” He led the pair across the great hall to an enormous stone door, inlaid with the golden double-sun sigil of the order. Through the doorway was a long corridor, bright as day and warm with the heat of a hundred more brilliant torches, interspersed with gleaming polished silver shields bearing the same golden suns. At the end of the corridor the temple opened up to a huge congregation hall, its walls lined with more shields and torches. More monks were puttering here and there, polishing shields, replacing torches, and making evening preparations before supper.

“As you can see, we greatly value the life-giving light bestowed on us by our God the Sun,” said the monk.

Arder’s eyes flickered from within, a salamander’s response to the heat and light within the temple. “What fuels the flames of your desire, monk?” she hissed.

Without pause, the yellow-robed missionary responded, “To see world burning with the Glory of the Sun, and to see all her people wearing the yellow robes of the High Order of the Brothers of the Sun.” He blinked a few moments, looking as if he was trying hard to remember something, then shook his head and smiled vacantly.

Aldara and Arder exchanged a look, recalling Dru’s vision. Remembering the purpose of their visit, Aldara quickly asked a final question: “We heard in our travels that the Brothers of the Sun may have sent some men to Greybark, perhaps in search of some cards? Do you know anything about that?”

The monk looked thoughtful for a moment, then replied “I cannot speak to the validity of your claim, but I can tell you that the Brothers of the Sun do not take kindly to tools of divination. It is our belief that such obvious blasphemy is a distraction from the true glory of our God the Sun. We make it a point to destroy any such artifacts we encounter.”

The Heist

Now well past sundown, the group reconvened in the Plaza to discuss the details of their plan. Erroll alone would sneak into the shop and steal the box holding the cards, with Niskadora and Judo standing watch nearby. Meanwhile, Arder and Astrafel, Aldara and Cecil, and Dru would each create diversions a few blocks away. Like last time, Arder linked herself to the embers in three tobacco pipes, and would flare the embers in the event of any misfortune.

Dru, seeking to create the biggest distraction, shapeshifted into a yeti and smashed the exterior walls of several nearby establishments. Moments later, she shapeshifted back into his Elven form, naked and screaming, as three armed city guards seized upon him from all sides. Shapeshifting again into a fly, he zipped away above the fracas and, transforming now into a grizzly bear, fell upon the hapless guards…

Meanwhile, Aldara and Cecil made their way to the edge of the commerce district to a street lined with a series of taverns. Without warning, Aldara cast a spell to turn Cecil invisible to every pair of eyes, including his own. Cecil, confused and afraid, began to flail madly about, jumping and stomping as if to try to shake himself back into existence. Tavern-goers rushed into the street to find the source of the commotion, only to be bowled off their feet by an invisible arm or leg.

“Aldara! Aaahh! Aldara, I don’t like this! What’s going on? Aldara! Ahh!”

A few blocks away, nearer the central plaza, Astrafel and Arder set up a small busking performance (prohibited, of course, by city ordinances) under the guise of sanctioned prophesy:

Come join the Brothers of the Sun
Come join us, we’re extra fun
If you do not join our group,
The Sun will turn you into glooooop!

Immediately, Astrafel’s utterly competent but uninspiring performance drew the attention of a nearby guard. “Oi. No street performance. ’Sagainst the lawr. Move along.”

“Absolutely, officer. No problem,” said Astrafel, as she picked up her mandolin case. They moved a few yards away, closer to the central plaza, and picked the performance back up where it had left off.

“Oi! I thought I told you to—” At once, the guard’s cape flared up, caught by an errant ember from a nearby streetlamp. Arder’s eyes flickered and sparked. A few more nearby guards, alerted by the short-lived blaze, were drawn to the scuffle. As the first guard rolled on the ground to extinguish his cape, the other guards surrounded Astrafel and Arder. Arder signaled the others with a flare of the pipe tobacco. She and Astrafel attempted to run, but the clumsily narrow streets were choked with onlookers, and the pair were captured by city guards…

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The Deck
Trust everybody, but cut the cards.

In Greybark…

While carousing in The Owl’s Feather Inn, a drunk former adventurer stumbles over to the table where our inebriated intrepid party is seated. Too impaired to join the conversation in any meaningful way, he passes out across the table; just as the bouncer comes to remove the old drunkard from the Inn, Erroll notices and swiftly pockets three tattered slips of card from the man’s threadbare coat pocket.

Shortly after, a pair of thugs from parts unknown make their way through the front door of the inn. After a brief exchange with the bouncer, the thugs beeline for the table. Noticing something is amiss, Momma Gyrda slyly informs the party of the thugs’ presence and apparent intent, as well as of the existence of a back door, emptying into a seldom-used access alley.

While the majority of the party exits the Inn as swiftly and unobtrusively as possible, Cecil and Dru move to the center of the Inn, Dru shapeshifting into a wild boar. Their intimidation tactic was successful and the thugs fled the tavern, terrified of the crazed monster before them, as well as the wild boar. Dru and Cecil rejoined the others in the attic behind the Owl’s Feather, where Gyrda was offering assistance to the party.

“Those cards you picked up, halfling, are of great interest to some folk around town. People are whispering. I’d advise you to be very careful about who you choose to talk to about them. Those two men in the Inn were after those cards. My son Audun is a Man-at-Arms for the Duke’s men down at the barracks on the south end of town. He can help you get out of Greybark.”

Trusting the renowned Mother of Swords, the party followed Gyrda to the barracks and met with Audun, who offered a small wagon and pair of horses to get the adventurers to where they needed to go. Ultimately, it was decided that the group should travel to Azloria, the City of Prophets, to meet up with Aldara’s friend Penelope and try to find more information about the cards waiting in Erroll’s pocket.

En route to Azloria, the team was beset by a Hill Giant when they stopped to make camp. Aldara cast an illusion to distract the Hill Giant with two leaping, magically-sparkling goats. Thankfully, Hill Giants don’t think clearly when they’re hungry, and he bounded off into the night, slavering and grunting, “mmm, goats!”

In Azloria…

There is a tale among the bards / Don’t let an asshole get the cards…

Upon arrival in Azloria, the party began to seek out information. An appointment was made to meet with the Prophets, sanctioned by the city government and serving travelers and pilgrims from across the land. While waiting for the appointment, Penelope revealed to Aldara and the rest of the party that she had heard rumors that The Reverent Key had sent men to Greybark looking for some incredibly powerful artifact. It was decided that the party should split up and seek answers around the city, making use of its unique position as a major travel hub as a source of information.

Arder devised a signaling system whereby each member of the party would smoke a pipe. By linking herself to the burning embers of the pipes, Arder could be alerted should any tragedy befall her partymates.

Dru and Astrafel

In the Laughing Snail Tavern, Isembart the innkeeper let slip that the widely reviled Prince Jordanus has the Prophets in his pocket. “They’ll give you information, sure,” said Isembart, “but it won’t be anything the Prince won’t want you to know…”

Aldara and Erroll

A trip to the Little Pixie, a shop famed for its incredible collection of magical artifacts, revealed more information about the cards Erroll claimed. Not only are the cards part of a Whispering Deck, but they are in fact likely to be cards from the Whispering Deck, the archetypal deck of cards that every fortune teller’s cartomantic props are copied from.

The deck itself is immensely powerful, and it’s said that the cards of the true Whispering Deck will find a way to come together. They exert their influence on their bearers, and if collected and ritualized could bring about immeasurable upheaval.

The shopkeep also happened to have a few members of the deck’s rank, and he would make them available for trade, for a fair price…

Cecil and Niskadora

The Temple of the Reverent Key, the religious cult Penelope mentioned, has a branch temple in the vast streets of Azloria. Cecil and Niskadora paid a visit and spoke with one of the Ordinates of the temple, who suggested that perhaps if Niskadora or her friends had one or more of the cards, that they should be brought to the Temple immediately, and that they should not let slip to anyone else that they may have come to hold the cards. Members of a rival faction, the High Order of the Brothers of the Sun, would be onto them if they found out about the cards.

“In fact,” he said, “that was why we sent two of our Ordinacy to Greybark! Yes, of course! We had heard that the Brothers of the Sun were there and that they were trying to track down these cards! We had to stop them! It’s such a good thing that you’re here in Azloria now…”

The next day…

Deciding it would be prudent to honor their appointment with the City Prophets, the party reconvened the next afternoon and made their way to the massive structure that served as the Prophets’ center of operations. The meeting was brief, but insightful:

“Of course, the existence of a real Whispering Deck is just a fairy tale, a story told by fortune tellers who want to get one over on the common people. Such a thing can not possibly exist. If it did, of course, it would be unimaginably powerful, as I’m sure you can imagine. But it doesn’t. Of course, if there were such a thing, its owners would have to be very careful. But there’s no such thing. Of course."

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The Story So Far
Within me there lay an invincible summer.

Our adventurers, each for reasons all their own, banded together in the town of Greybark on the eve of the Winter Solstice. The townsfolk had reported missing children, and suspicions ran deep that evil occult forces were at work.

After using Arder’s fire abilities to tunnel through the Great Ice Wall to the north, our party found themselves in the Northern Ice Wastes, stalked by Ice Wolves and soaked to the bone from the flooding their tunnel induced. Ahead in a grove of ancient evergreens, the party noticed the glow of a fire—and, carried on the brisk, biting wind, the sounds of a gathering. Erroll sneaked through the grove to a clearing and found the source of the fire and noise. Snippets and fragments of words in a tongue familiar yet unknown drifted to his ears, and he saw the glint of an ornate bejeweled dagger, hot-orange in the firelight. A shaman! Even better—treasure! These creatures were strange, though, and unlike anything he’d ever seen before. Taller than he, a halfling, yet shorter than most elves or men he knew… how curious…

Reporting back to the party, Erroll related what he had seen and heard (leaving out some choice details about the estimated street value of such a finely-crafted northern-made ceremonial dagger) and convinced the team to send in a ranging party.

The forward party, consisting of Erroll, Arder, Astrafel, and Aldara, swiftly developed a cunning plan whereby the Shaman and his congregants were distracted by the return of the Goblin Ice Queen (who was actually just Astrafel, strumming her father’s mandolin and glowing brightly with Aldara’s magical light) while Arder’s fire-manipulating magic maid their ceremonial fire flash and blaze rapidly, melting all the snow in the clearing. In the ensuing confusion and distraction, Erroll placed a single, precisely-thrown dagger in the back of the Shaman, killing him instantly the moment after he handed Astrafel his Ceremonial Athame.

Niskadora, having initially stayed back with Dru and Cecil, began to grow anxious waiting for the advance party. She decided to range ahead to the evergreen grove and check on the progression of events. Meanwhile, Cecil and Dru were attacked by an Ice Wolf, on its way back to its master, bearing a small child frightened but unharmed in its massive jaws. Cecil steeled his resolve and attacked the Ice Wolf, but his lunging swing missed and the Wolf, dropping the child, tore at Cecil’s shoulder. Dru responded by shapeshifting into an enormous white tiger and tearing the Ice Wolf to pieces with tooth and claw. Cecil pursued the frightened boy as he fled southward, back toward Greybark.

Niskadora, Dru, and Cecil eventually decided to regroup with the advance party in the grove. They arrived just in time to see the celebrants, aghast at the murder of their shaman, attack Astrafel with hammers, screwdrivers, and other shop tools pulled from inside their ceremonial robes. Arder took control of the bonfire and sent it spreading out in a straight line across the clearing, cutting half the attackers off from the rest of the group. Between the blowback from Arder’s unnatural fire and sword, arrow, and spear from the party, the creatures were quickly and handily dispatched.

By the dying firelight, Erroll searched the bodies of the fallen, finding nothing of consequence but an old worn map in the pocket of the Shaman’s robes. The party, needing time to recuperate and heal their wounds, and needing more information about the missing children, returned to Greybark.

That evening in Greybark, the group interviewed the boy’s father, Finbar the baker, as well as Mayor Arlon, to determine the nature of the disappearances. By all accounts, the missing children were often poorly-behaved and just as likely to die by misadventure anyway, so it was no sense getting all worked up about it. Mayor Arlon, however, pragmatically decided that it would cause irreparable damage to the city’s reputation if children continued to go missing, no matter how devious or ill-behaved they were.

It became clear that the children were being taken from their beds at night, every so many years, in the nights leading up to the Winter Solstice. Armed with this knowledge and the peculiar map Erroll liberated from the dead Shaman’s body, the group decided to set back out in the morning to find the destination of the missing children.

Ultimately, their search led them north, past a great magical river twinkling with iridescent light, to a great Ice Palace belonging to Lord Kringle. After a confrontation with more Ice Wolves outside the castle walls, and dodging arrows from the Ice Elves along the parapets, the party dashed inside the castle to a huge anteroom lined with torches.

Through a set of double doors ahead of them lay an enormous workshop, staffed by hundreds upon hundreds of the same creatures they had slaughtered in the evergreen grove the night before. Stalking the aisles of tables with razor-tipped shoes and cracking whip was Kanker, the shop’s foreman.

Shapeshifting into an arctic fox, Dru distracted Kanker and lured him out into the anteroom, where Aldara charmed him to view her (and her companions) as trusted friends. Kanker led the group through the workshop to a long table upon a high dais, at which sat Lord Kringle.

While feasting with Kringle, the group learned that he had been overthrown in all but name as ruler of this place by Kringle’s son, Krampus. Destined to toil for an eternity under the cruel leadership of this monstrosity, Kringle was no longer the jolly, happy bringer of joy he used to be. Leveraging Kanker’s overwhelming desire to please his friend Aldara, the group found Krampus in the stable, sleeping near Kringle’s sleigh.

After a vicious battle, Krampus was slain by a mighty and decisive blow from Cecil’s enormous two-handed broadsword. Kringle, though distraught at the loss of his son, was relieved to be out from under his manipulative control and vowed that no more children would be taken from their homes.

The party returned to Greybark, loot in hand, to carouse and regale the patrons of The Owl’s Feather Inn with tales—only slightly exaggerated—of their exploits and victory over the mighty and terrifying Krampus.

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