Last time in “Champions of Erelia,” Ulysses was introduced to the party as an orphaned young lad with a heart full of vengeance. As this chapter of the story opens, we find the party heatedly debating what to do with the boy. Technically, Kiki had first claim to the boy. It was Haradriel, however, who renamed him Taro and began calling him her “squire.” For reasons yet unclear, Flaffem heartily opposed this, even going so far as to fight the boy – rather unsuccessfully, as it turned out Taro was quite capable and even succeeded in breaking Flaffem’s knee-caps. Eventually it was decided that Sir Moren would train the boy as his squire, and that Taro would follow the party only so long as they traveled with Sir Moren. Flaffem was amenable to this.
Abbess Petra had told the party that a strange man lived to the north that may be able to help them on their quest to retrieve the holy relic. This was confirmed by the cows of Redstone Abbey, who told Lindel that they had smelled “weird things” on the wind from the north. Abbess Petra gave the party a letter to give to the old man when they arrived. The elven wizard formerly known as Rudra and Flaffem elected to stay behind and “rest up” while the rest of the party took the hour’s journey to the north to visit this man.
The short journey northward took them to a shambling hut on a hill near a crossroads. The hut bore a menacing-looking “Closed” sign, which was universally ignored. At this time, Lindel used his “Speak With Animals” spell to converse with Beleg, who had begun sniffing the hill oddly. Beleg revealed that the hill smelled weird. Lindel, Flick, and Kiki stayed outside to investigate while Haradriel and Rohn ventured up to the hut.
Haradriel knocked on the door, and after hearing some loud cursing and general shuffling about, was greeted at the door by Atropos, a wizard – the “old man” Abbess Petra had told them about. The wizard was wearing dark robes and his night-cap, and indicated that he didn’t like to be woken up. Haradriel recounted to him the events of the recent battle at Redstone Abbey and delivered Abbess Petra’s letter. The wizard read the letter with some annoyance, and then proceeded to produce a business card, which he gave to Haradriel, and which magically always told the “current location” of the shop.
Meanwhile, outside, Flick had noticed, with her gnomish intuition, that the hill was under an illusion spell. In fact, the “hill” was actually a giant turtle onto which the wizard had somehow mounted his hut, probably with magic. After making alarming eye contact with the turtle, Flick ran into the hut.
Inside, Atropos had finished reading the letter. He explained to the party that he ran a magical shop, and proceeded to produce for the party 500 Atropos Fun Bucks. These he tossed all about, such that the party had to scurry about gathering them up. Atropos went on to explain that the Abbess had wished them to be well provisioned for the coming journey, and so they were free to spend these “bucks” in whatever manner they saw fit. After considerable deliberation, many scrolls and potions of healing were bought, as could be afforded.
Outside, Lindel too had noticed that the hill was in fact a giant turtle. Kiki attempted to speak with the turtle, and together, the two realized that the turtle was in fact, not just an enormous turtle disguised as a hill, but in fact a necromanced giant turtle disguised as a hill. Lindel and Kiki proceeded to scream about this, trying to warn those party members still inside Atropos’s shop.
Before leaving, Rohn inquired if Atropos was in the market for any specific magical items, and Atropos told him that yes, in fact he was searching for a flaming lawful heavy mace, and if the party was ever to come across one, they should bring it back to him.
Eventually, the party returned to Redstone Abbey to pick up their remaining party members before following the orcs. Flaffem revealed he’d had a meaningful, soul-searching discussion with Abbess Petra in which he learned that “there is always a right choice.” Somehow this didn’t exactly sink in.
The party set off for the south, trailing the orcs that had stolen the holy relic of Redstone Abbey. After two days’ traveling, they came across a halfling city that had clearly been ravaged by these orcs. The buildings had been razed, and many dead halflings were lying in the streets. Flick, Lindel, and Rohn set about trying to prepare a proper burial pyre for the deceased halflings, while Flaffem, Kiki, and the elven wizard formerly known as Rudra searched the burnt-out buildings for valuables. Kiki found an old set of manacles, and the elven wizard formerly known as Rudra found a high-quality lock. Haradriel and Beleg searched the city for survivors, aided by Sir Moren. In the remains of a cellar, they uncovered a small family of halflings – a mother and two children, all clearly frightened but unharmed.
The halfling family instantly became a matter of concern for Haradriel and Sir Moren- they could not be brought with the party for fear of the danger ahead, but they may not have been strong enough to make even the short trip to Redstone Abbey without help. Sir Moren solved this dilemma by lifting the halflings on his own horse and, by whispering some instructions to his faithful steed, setting them off in the direction of the Abbey. Sir Moren claimed the horse should catch up with them within three days’ time, and wrote out a note for Abbess Petra.
Once back on the road, Lindel discovered a badger’s burrow and managed to coax the creature out in order to have a word with it, using “Speak With Animals” again. The badger told Lindel that a “whole bunch” of two-legged things had been through about a day before – the orcs! Encouraged that they were still on the right trail, the party resumed their pursuit.
That evening, Sir Moren showed Haradriel some of the constellations that he had learned about from his father as a boy. He told her other some stories about his youth as well. Then, during the night, while Flaffem and Rohn were on watch, massive wolves stalked through the moonlight undetected. . .
Without warning, the huge wolves were upon our heroes. The first pulled Flaffem to the ground with its mighty jowls and bit him ferociously. The second boldly charged into camp and ravaged the sleeping Flick with a vicious bite, incapacitating her. Lindel, waking to this scene, immediately cast an Entangle spell (colloquially as “Rape Grass”), catching the hindquarters of the beast that was savaging Flick, and giving time to Kiki and Taro to distract the wolf from its prey. Rohn took this opportunity to heal the bleeding Flick.
The wolf that had attacked Flaffem on the outskirts of camp was tearing into him, and Flaffem lost consciousness. Before the beast could finish its ghastly work, however, Haradriel fired an arrow at it, which widely missed but which caught its attention. The dire wolf looked up to see Sir Moren rushing at it with his shield, pushing the beast and keeping its interest away from the wounded Flaffem. Soon, Haradriel began singing a song of valor and heroism that inspired Kiki and Taro, the later of whom was now under an Enlarge spell cast by the elven wizard formerly known as Rudra. They beat up the giant, immobile wolf together with renewed vigor.
The unwounded wolf caught Moren in its jaws, dragging him to the ground, but was interrupted by Lindel casting a “Charm Animals” spell upon it. The wolf was unsure of how to react, because her mate was presently in grave danger. Lindel cast his “Speak with Animals” spell and was able to convince the She-Wolf that the party would spare her mate if the wolves would promise to leave without further aggression. The She-Wolf agreed to these terms. Once her mate was subdued, the She-Wolf gave Lindel her heartfelt thanks for so peaceably arranging this. Meanwhile, Moren managed to stop Flaffem’s bleeding with some minor healing magic, and then delivered him to Rohn for further care.
The party fell into an uneasy rest, waiting for their wounds to heal. . .