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Episode 2 (June 14, 2016)
"Welcome to a realm of incredible splendor, mystical wonder, and in a few places, ages old evil. Here, the pockets of civilization push back against the unbridled wilds with walls and culture although dark shadows of forgotten ruins and deep caverns sprawl across the wilderness with the promise of adventure, glory, and danger. Here the gods are not impersonal, distant ideas to be contemplated and debated upon. Here, the gods take active roles in the shaping of the world through their devotees, weaving the lives of the people together with the threads of fate and destiny. This is the world in which you live. This is Faerun (?). This is your home. And this is where your story begins."

After Kalarel the Vile's mysterious appearance (and subsequent disappearance), our party was accosted by a man in robes of an elegant purple. The lord, who later introduced himself as Padrig Cousland, dismissed the idea of Kalarel's existence, much less his strange actions in the tavern. In the lands of Winterhaven, Kalarel the Vile is a mere children's story. The tales speak of a paladin who once lived high in the mountains and who one day went mad with power. His madness claimed many, including his children, his wife, and later, himself. His home, known as the Black Keep, is avoided by villagers and travelers alike, as it is thought to be filled with all manner of monsters.

Soon, the lord returned. Though the villagers had corroborated the party's explanation, the lord was still reluctant to let them go. A deal was arranged: if our heroes could clear out the supposedly infested cellar, then they would leave without facing incarceration. The party agreed, and after a night of restful sleep (and Kef's ineffectual flirting), the party continued their investigation. The innkeeper revealed that two weeks prior to their arrival, he was approached by a cloaked man who referred to himself as Kalarel. The man promised the innkeeper gold for each life that was extinguished in the establishment, with one condition: The bodies were to be Kalarel's.

With this rather eerie information in mind, the party ventured onward. Various perils met them in the dungeon, from giant, soulless eyed rats, to traps, and even two massive monsters that appeared to be a mix between rodent and spider. The creature was (fortunately) defeated, but the party had to defend themselves from yet another enemy: strange, seemingly sentient fungi.

After the mushrooms were slain, the party discovered a strange, cavernous room. In the midst of a pool of dark water and surrounded by great black lotus pads was a statue depicting a strange fish-human creature. A voice, seeming to come from nowhere, encouraged our heroes: "Mix the blood, take the power. Mix the blood, take the power."

Fletch and Kef did so. In return, the two gained a boost when swimming and their vision in the darkness for seemingly no risk.

Soon, our heroes came upon the first sign of friendly life. In a room filled to the brim with instruments that may have been for medical use, but may have been for torture, they found a small boy in a green cloak: The son of the lord, Bryce. He claimed an insane man by the name of the Rat King was the one who had imprisoned him there, and, soon enough, the party met him for themselves. He had the ability to transform into a creature that seemed half man, half rat, but despite his powers, he was slain.

The party collected their spoils of victory from the caverns (which included plenty of gold, some healing potions, vials filled with a viscous blue liquid, and a staff able to summon massive hordes of rats), and, after witnessing an odd masked man steal the body of the rat king, reported the good news to the lord Padrig. Ecstatic at his boy's safety, the lord rewarded our heroes with gold galore.

Emily Barr (Barrtender) is a member of RCM's Summer Writing program. Any questions, comments, or feedback can be sent to her email at emilybarr77@gmail.com
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