Tendrils of Darkness

The Story So Far

Beginnings

The party started out in the small village of Keeperstown during the early summer market and festival. During their stay there, two young girls, bloodied and terrified, came running into the market square claiming they had been attacked by an ogre. This was strange, because the younger girl seemed as though she had two large fang marks on her legs, and was suffering from the effects of snake venom.

The adventurers were asked by the town’s chancellor Pierce to investigate. They were directed to a secluded grove with a cave entrance. Unfortunately, the entranced was guarded by a hobgoblin wolfmaster and his pets!

The party ventured into the caves and found a pack of bugbears led by a very large ogre, and one that seemed as though he had been infused with snake-like powers and bearing an insignia of Zehir on his chest. (Zehir is the evil god of darkness, poison, and snakes).

They also found the body of an orc wizard that had a letter on him. This letter was addressed to another wizard, Faldred. It spoke of a gathering darkness over the land, and that it seemed like more evil organizations were gathering in the Grymmoll D’aer, and it obviously concerned him.

In the back of the caves, they found an entrance to a long-abandoned dwarven stronghold that had recently been remade into a throng of Snaketongue cultists. The party quickly cleared out the evil snaketongues, confronting their leader in an arcane library. The leader transformed into a hideous Yuan-Ti anathema, and the party had to dispatch him. They recovered a long black wooden box from the library, and were stunned to find inside it an ancient and powerful artifact; The Hand of Vecna!

They remembered a prophecy that spoke of a time of Darkness, and something about gathering the hand and eye of the dead god for some purpose. They decided to return to Keeperstown and discuss what had happened.

Keeperstown

The next morning, as the party discussed what they were going to do next, Pierce approached them and said there were some people outside looking for them, and wanted to talk to them. At first, the formidable force seemed as though they were there on official business, but something didn’t seem quite right. When the leader of the force demanded they hand over any items they recovered from the cult’s hideout, the soldiers transformed into legion devils, and the leader revealed herself as Lady Velar, a succubus!

Despite the succubus’ evil charms, the adventurers dispatched her allies, and Lady Velar vanished in a pillar of smoke and brimstone, vowing to return.

Later that night, Grog and Daelarok were returning to the pub where they were staying when they heard the strained cries of someone in trouble. They found a halfling potion vendor who had recently been mobbed. He said that the villains entered a nearby warehouse, and said he would reward the heroes if they exacted revenge on his assailants and recovered his purse of gold.

Entering the warehouse, the two adventurers encountered a large gathering of human rabble, and fought them through the warehouse, releasing large wooden crates suspended above the floor onto the poor soul’s heads. They were then greeted by a mysterious drow woman calling herself Captain Xytan. She pronounced that the whole escapade was a test to assess their worthiness. She tossed them an iron medallion that had an engraving of a large tower on one side, and the words “Lying is the only Truth” on the other. She told them to meet her at a bridge on the road west from Keeperstown. As a departing gift, she flung a large mystical onyx gem at them that summoned a Drider! The two heroes valiantly slew the evil monster as Xytan escaped.

The party decided to depart Keeperstown that morning, and travel west past the Underdowns to Faldred’s Tower, to seek some answers to the growing number of questions.

The Road to Faldred

The party encountered a band of halfling raiders posing as ogres, and avenged a gold dragon who fell in vicious combat to a young red dragon in the midst of burning countryside. They finally came to the bridge, and encountered a strange outpost of soldiers who would only speak in opposites. Remembering the writing on the medallion, they were directed to a slender path going north that eventually led to a clearing with many tents. Captain Xytan was there, with an assemblage of other adventurers. Xytan explained that she had arranged a series of games for the party to compete in, and for each even the heroes won, they would receive a very valuable prize.

The adventurers won all the matches, including the grand arena battle as the culmination, and Captain Xytan awarded each with a valuable magical item. She then proposed that the party help her by delving into a series of caverns beneath the rolling hills of the Underdowns, to recover an item that she lost while she traveled to the meeting place.

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Into the Underdowns
Never trust a Drow who wants to take you into a cave

The party agreed to accompany Captain Xytan into a system of caverns in the nearby Underdowns to retrieve a special “reward” that Xytan said she lost while traveling to the rendezvous place. They encountered a number of gigantic spiders that had made their home in a cavern above a quick-moving stream. The spiders had webbed up a part of the cave ceiling where there were many loose rocks, and dropped a pile of heavy rocks onto the party as they fought.

After dispatching the spiders and retrieving some goodies from the previous victims’ corpses, Captain Xytan was abducted by a band of Chitines – spider-like humanoids that inhabit the underloathe drow. The Chitines said they were taking the “filthy drow” back to their “mother” so she could feed her babies…

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City of Spiders
A running battle to save Captain Xytan from a bunch of Chitines

The party quickly chased after the Chitines that had kidnapped Captain Xytan, and pursued them back to a large cavern full of immense cocoon-like structures, suspended from the ceiling of the huge cave by strong weblines, and connected by broad web passageways. The adventurers fought wave after wave of chitines as they invaded their home.

Battling their way deep into the chitine city, the party found the Chitine Queen, a massive Drider-like creature, in a large throne room. On an altar towards the back of this large chamber they saw Captain Xytan, bound and unconscious, and surrounded by wriggling web cocoons. The Queen had plenty of chitine warriors guarding her, as well as an Umber Hulk and Intellect Devourer as pets!

The party fought a long and hard battle against the large force protecting the queen, and during the battle, the cocoons began breaking open and small spiderlings crawled out and started feasting on Captain Xytan! The brave companions had to act quickly to destroy the monsters and tiny spiders to prevent Xytan from meeting a horrible death. They defeated the queen and her army, and were able to stabilize Captain Xytan from certain death.

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Descent into Shadows
Didn't your mother tell you never to touch strange objects permeating portal magic?

WIth Captain Xytan incapacitated, and the party lacking the resources to rid her system of the chitine venom, they had to use their wits and skills to escape the Underdowns. Finding a winding passage to the Northwest littered with the corpses of a few unfortunate goblin adventurers, they traversed the twisting caves and scrabbled up a steep scrabble slope to emerge back onto the surface just as the sun was going down.

On a small dirt path heading Southwest, they approached a camp with several figures surrounding a fire. Hailing the camp, they found two of the rivals from the Iron Tower games, Tarul and Guldra, waiting for the party with their horses. They also were introduced to a half-elf bard named Rooster, and an attractive elven healer named Aurora. Using her abilities and components, Aurora was able to cure Captain Xytan and restore her to consciousness.

THe party cut loose a little bit after drinking Rooster’s strong wine he offered the party, and Panterra found out first-hand just how aggressive bards can be in their passions. Whisperwind and Grant also both vied for the attention of the lovely Aurora, but she seemed particularly attracted to her fellow elf.

Qamodeus updated the Iron Towers on what happened in the caves, and expressed their intentions to continue to Faldred’s tower. Xytan again expressed her gratitude for their assistance, and told them that the large, strange brown gem they found on the Chitine Queen was actually one of her summoning stones, very powerful magical gems that when thrown on the ground can summon powerful creatures. She told the party that this particular gem would summon an earth elemental to fight for them, but only to use it when the time was dire.

Rooster and Aurora both said they were headed to the small forest village of Wolfrend for their annual Moon celebration. The party told the bard they were headed for Stonemeet, and Rooster said that he would also be heading their in another month or so for the dwarves’ large Ring crafting festival, and hopefully would meet them there. Aurora bid a very fond farewell to Whisperwind.

Travelling south to Faldred’s tower, the party was instead greeted with a large crater of earth where the tower stood. Panterra used her knowledge of the arcane to detect strong portal magic that seemed to have ripped the tower and its foundation from the spot. They also saw a large number of bodies, both Snaketongue cultists of Zehir, and legion devils of Asmodeus, littering the crater. In the center of the crater was a large black dias, with a black sundial made of purse opal mounted on top. Although the sun was high in the sky, the strange sundial cast no shadow.

Slumped up against the dias, a wounded and bleeding goblin in robes lay close to death. The party quickly healed the goblin, and he introduced himself as Jimo, Faldred’s apprentice. He told the party he was on his way back from Stonemeet when he discovered the crater and the two armies of Zehir and Asmodeus battling one another. He tried to fend off a few of the monsters, but was injured as a result. He did not know what happened to his master or the tower, but he knows that the sundial has strong magic tied to it, and was afraid to touch it.

Whisperwind reached out and grabbed the sundial, and thick black shadows enveloped the party. When the shadows departed, the landscape the party was had changed. The land before them was bleak and barren. Dark clouds choked the sky, and the sun was only a distant mote barely hanging over the horizon. They had been transported from the natural world and into the Shadowfell (for more information on the Shadowfell of the 4th edition cosmos, check out the section on the Planes, Dungeon Master’s Guide page 160)

Although there was hardly any light in the sky, the black sundial now cast a shadow that pointed southwest, and the heroes realized that the magical device was more of a compass than a sundial. They stuck it in their bag of holding and took it with them.

To the south was a walled compound, and standing in the middle of the road was an attractive, pale-skinned and dark haired woman. She told the party she had been waiting for them, and asked them kindly to turn over the thing she knew they carried. When the heroes reached for their weapons, the mysterious woman summoned mists that brought forth rotting zombie hounds and vicious ghouls.

The ghouls has bites that paralyzed the heroes, and the woman, baring her vampire fangs, used her powers to entrance Whisperwind and turn him against his allies. After a short but brutal battle, the party reduced the vampire to ashes and defeated the ghouls and hounds.

Approaching the compound, they were hailed by guards from the parapets. To prove themselves as not creatures of evil, the heroes had to withstand being bathed in radiant energy, causing them minor injuries but gaining them inside the fortified House of Black Lanterns.

Safe behind the fortified walls, they approached the inn.

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Journey Through Shadows
No one said questing in the Shadowfell would be easy

The party arrived at the House of Black Lanterns tired and weary from their battle with the vampire and her undead minions, and got a room for the night. Grog made the acquaintance of an Orc Shaman of Gruumsh, and was able to get a little religion in. Whisperwind drank a lot of Gloomwrought wine, and learned that Shadowfell hang-overs were even worse than those in the Natural World.

There were three Shadar-Kai (brutal humanoids native to the Shadowfell that thrive on life, worship the Raven Queen, and know that pain and pleasure are the only ways to keep the desolation and despair of the Shadowfell at bay) playing a drinking game involving a sharp dagger, gold coins, and a lot of booze. The bartender showed the party a map of their surrounding, with the tavern at a crossroads. The black sundial pointed them southwest, but the only thing that the map showed in that direction was the massive city of the undead. Moil, the City that Waits.

Leaving the next morning, the party visited the small store there, and then left, travelling Southwest. They saw one of the Shadar-Kai, mounted on a large black steed, heading down the road ahead of them. As they traveled down the wide path, they came across a wrecked wagon, and two large Dark Trolls sifting through the bodies and supplies. Qamodeus valiantly charged into battle, and Whisperwind, Grod, and Panterra all joined in the fray.

After one of the trolls dropped from Panterra’s searing fire spells, the other brought a large black ram’s horn to its lips and blew a long, low call. Shortly afterwards a mass of black shadow, wings, and claws lighted into the middle of path, and a ferocious adolescent Shadow Dragon arrived. Chastising the party for disrupting the work of its servants, the Dragon weakened the party with its dark breath weapon, and formed the darkness around the heroes into a massive Shadow Horror; the stuff of nightmares.

Panterra threw down the murky brown gem that Capatin Xytan gave them, and an Earth Elemental stepped out of the cloud of smoke to engage the dragon. The sounds of battle traveled through the dreary landscape as the two sides waged war, but the heroes triumphantly dispatched the troll and the dragon, and the shadow horror dissipated when its master was slain.

From the supplies of the wrecked wagon, the party scrounged some gold and fine pair of brocade boots of Eagerness, that allow the wearer added movement across the battlefield.

Arriving that evening in the Shadar-Kai settlement of Queen’s Hilt, the party was greeted by the same Shadar-Kai warrior they saw at the House of Black Lanterns that morning. He hailed them as Ronok, head of the guard of the village. When they mentioned the name of the wizard Faldred, he said that they should meet the town’s premiere, the sorcerer Aragrym. He pointed them to the town’s tavern, and told them to wait until they were summoned.

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Into the City of the Dead

The party reunites in the town of Queen’s Hilt in the Shadowfell, reprovision themselves, and prepare to talk to the town’s premiere, the mysterious sorcerer Aragrym. The town’s guard captain Ronok told them he would summon them when Aragrym was ready.

In the depths of dark night, while the town guard dealt with the nightly mobs of zombies battering at the city’s walls, Ronok bangs on the door of the heroes and beckons them to Aragrym’s sanctuary. In the darkened tower’s library, stooped over an aged wooden desk, Aragryms’ face is wrapped in shadows under his wide-brimmed hat. He asks the party of their intentions in the Shadowfell, and what their business with Faldred is.

Once he hears of Faldred’s disapperance (along with with his entire tower, taken intact from the Natural World), he tells them of an ancient prophecy, and leads them to his pool of scrying. Opening a vista into the Astral Sea, he points to a dark black spot among the veil of stars.

“This is the sign that a dark time is ahead, and that darkness will soon envelope all worlds.”

He, along with Faldred, were part of an order of mages and warriors that had the specific task of tracking down and keeping safe the five artifacts of Vecna. They knew of the prophecy and knew that if the God of Secrets could rejoin all five pieces together that he could bring his army of the Unead into the Natural World and launch an invasion there.

The stewards of the artifacts in time lost them, either through death, corruption, or theft, and now the remaining ones keep constant watch. Only Faldred knew the fate of all the artifacts, and this is the reason why he was taken into Moil.

Aragrym knew the price of entering into such a task, and he reveals his true visage to the players as a revenant. Formerly an eladrin, his duty forced him to pay the ultimate price, and now he is cursed with undeath. But with his heart and soul intact, he still strives to prevent the undead God from reigning supreme in the cosmos.

Aragrym tells the heroes of the history of Moil. A city steeped in corruption and evil worship, they too late realized the error of their ways and destroyed their temples to the dark Gods, Vecna primary among them. When the Keeper of Secrets turned his one remaining eye back onto Moil, he saw temples erected to Kord, Bahamut, and Pelor instead of his own. Enraged with jealousy and incensed that the people would attempt to rid themselves of his influence, he sent hordes of undead and dark angels down into Moil, slaughtering the civilization there and sending the entire city into the Shadowfell.

Now in ruins, Moil is the City that Waits. It is here that the evil demilich Acererak dwells within his Tomb of Horrors, and unknown throngs of powerful vampire lords, liches, and other undead also make their lairs. It is here where the black sundial directs the party, and Arargrym was able to pinpoint the location directly on a map, and show it to the players. He also scribbles over Skull Mountain, the primary feature and center of the city “Stay Out!”

He tells the party that they might need some help getting into the crypt where Faldred is being kept, and directs them to the ruined tower of Raven’s Watch to talk to Colonel Yveren. “His help comes at a price”.

Aragrym also gave the party a stone rune, and directed them to give it to Faldred when they found him. It is a key to a teleportation circle Aragrym has in his tower, and Faldred has a similar one in his tower as well. Using the rune to activate the teleportation circle will create a permanent portal between the two places, and would allow the party to quickly travel back, should they need to.

As they depart, Aragrym gives Panterra, a fellow eladrin with arcane talent, the powerful Staff of the Silver Star. Possessing the power of the Feywild, it allows the user to emit radiant power as part of their arcane spells.

Leaving in the morning, the heroes come to Raven’s Watch and find the ghostly visage of Colonel Yveren. Speaking through their minds, Colonel Yveren agrees to assist, but he can only leave the tower inside the body of a willing host. The goliath warden Daelarok volunteers his toughness and stamina, and the ghost possesses his body.

Approaching the gates of Moil, the party interrupts a cult of Vecna worshippers sacrificing innocents, the blood soaking the ground around the skull-shaped altar. The party launches into combat, and the followers show themselves to be vampires. The firey braziers on either side of the gates prove to be homes to floating flaming skulls, that launch balls of fire at the heroes. The cultist leader directs their attacks, and as the party engages him in battle, they realize he is more than he at first appeared. Ripping his skin from his flesh, the cultist leader transofms into a horrific visage of a powerful undead creature; Vecna’s Whisper.

The heroes prevail in battle against the undead cult, and sneak through the streets of Moil using their physical skill and mental prowess to avoid the traps and hordes of undead prowling the city. They follow the directions of the sundial, and assisted with the ghost’s instructions, they arrive at a large mausoleum guarded by skeletons, floating discorporated suits of armor, and two zombies engulfed in flames. Flanking in the shadows and drawing their weapons, the heroes prepare to assault the tomb.

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Faldred's Legacy

The heroes clashed against Jorik, the Skeleton Witch, and found that the evil priest of Vecna had brought their dead allies to bear against the party themselves! The fought against the undead spectres of their fallen comrades and after bearing the brunt of Jorik’s magical onslaught, defeated the powerful undead quasi-lich and sent him back to the death he did not deserve.

In the back of the chamber they found a crystal orb swimming with a glimmering mist, through which they could just pick out the form of a miniature tower. Smashing the orb on the floor, they were brought back across the barriers between worlds to Olora, where they found themselves sitting at the foot of a large wizard’s tower. The front door burst open and the party came face-to-face with the wizard Faldred.

The arcane hobgoblin bade them come inside, and swiftly and heartily thanked them for freeing him from the clutches of Vecna’s followers. The party was treated to a king’s meal as partial reward, and afterwards they retired to Faldred’s massive library, where he filled them in on the lore behind the growing darkness in the sky, and the growing influence of Vecna’s followers.

Faldred at one time belonged to an order of wizards that was tasked with keeping the five parts of Vecna safe, as they had read and interpreted the prophecies regarding a coming time of darkness. They decided that it was best to split, and keep these pieces as distant from one another as possible, but still under the watchful eyes on their order. As the decades passed, the powerful artifacts found ways around the magical protections placed around them and slipped from the bonds of their keepers, to again wander the world at large.

The heroes gave Faldred the teleportation rune given to them by the revenant Aragrym from the Shadowfell town of Raven’s Hilt, and he quickly slipped the rune into one of the depressions surrounding his defunct teleportation circle.

Since Faldred’s tower was ripped from the natural world, the links of his circle were severed, and now only by delivering similar runes to the other members of his order would he be able to restore the links to the teleportation circles of the other members. The heroes agreed that they would help Faldred in this, and also by visiting each of these other wizards, could they find the trails to the remaining pieces of Vecna.

Faldred used his scrying pool to show the heroes the growing black void in the Astral Sea that is the harbinger of the dark times, and the thing that is allowing the powers of darkness to converge upon the forces of good in the world. The wizards warned the party that evil forces would try to stop them at every turn, and they should always be ready for danger.

The following morning, Captain Xytan of the Iron Towers arrived with reinforcements to protect Faldred. A young changeling named Oik Dren came to relieve the Dragonborn Qamodeus, who had been summoned back to his homelands. With the early light of the morning, the party set out for the crossroads village of Grovedale to stock up on provisison before moving on to Stonemeet.

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Owlbears Only

Travelling on the road to Stonemeet, the party was intercepted by an angry pair of owlbears, who immediately attacked the caravan. The two huge creatures focused their attacks on the mage Panterra, who was holding the large egg. She used a mage hand spell to take the egg out of her bag, and the owlbears broke off their attack and stole away into the woods with the ill-gotten egg. But not before severely mauling the caravan driver Zoltan, putting him close to death.

The party asked the young apprentice Aerik where the egg had come from, and he told them Zoltan had purchased it from bandits before reaching Grovedale.

Later in the journey, they came across a band of orcs who had killed one fire giant and bound another to the ground and knocked him unconscious. The goliath Daelarok inquired of the orcs why they were binding the giant, and the orcs became very defensive and argumentative, and reached for their weapons.

After dispatching the orcs, and freeing the fire giant, they found a contract written on parchment on the orc’s leader. It was from a King Ronaragar, and it was offering gold rewards for any surface giant brought to him alive. Not knowing who this Ronaragar was, the party continued on.

With the early morning, they approached the temple of Pelor, only to find that the temple lay under siege. Several encampments of followers of Erathis surrounded the temple, their campfires raising pillars of smoke against the morning sky.

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Temple Siege

The party was greeted warmly by paladins of Erathis, who said they were allowed along the road, but were forbidden from entering the temple. When the party asked who was in charge, they were directed to High Paladin Parthos, camped in a large tent close to the road.

Parthos was a stern but honest man with a look of someone with many troubles. He mentioned that his good friend (forgot his name) was the head of the temple of Pelor, and in the past the two shared a very good rapport. But, with the recent departure of the God Pelor from the shining city of Hestavar, and away from his Queen the Goddess Erathis, the relationship between the churches had become strained and combative.

For his part, Parthos only wants to be able to parlay with his friend, but the guards of the temple have prevented any followers of Erathis from entering. For this reason, Parthos decided to lay siege to the temple until he could receive answers from his friend. Parthos asks the party if they would be willing to enter the temple and speak with the high priest, to try and get him to allow Parthos to speak with him, and they agree.

Upon entering the temple, the party finds that not only are the followers of Pelor in the chapel worshipping, but a contingent of black-robed figures sit silently in pews on one side of the chapel. Further inspection of the mysterious forms revealed them to be normal humans and humanoid races, but bearing no symbols or betraying any sound. WHen they spoke to the high priest after the service, revealing their intention, he swiftly swept them into his personal chambers after securing their vows to keep the truth a secret.

In the high priests’s chambers, there sat a slender female, clad in a robe of black feathers and wearing the symbology of the Raven Queen, whom he introduced to the party as Priestess Hyacinth. While he did not say exactly what her business in the temple of Pelor was, he did request that the party escort Hyacinth and her black-robed charges out of the temple through a hidden passage, so as to escape the notice of the Erathis contingent. He promised to repay them with a powerful magic relic if they did this, and they agreed. The high priest revealed a trapdoor underneath a wooden chest with a ladder descending into the darkness.

While making their way through the caverns, the party encountered a clan of duergar, who had caught and bound a frost giant, and were maneuvering him through the narrow undergound caverns. The duergar immediately attacked the party, and the heroes responded in kind. They freed the frost giant, who also joined in defeating the duergar, and then made his departure. Hyacinth and her charges then followed through the passageways to a cave exit on the far side of the hills from the temple.

As they passed, one of the black-robed figures gave Ishmala a round stone medallion, looking much like a holy symbol, but devoid of any iconography. “For the future”, the figure said as he gave it to the Runepriest.

Upon returning to the temple, the party were given their reward, a very powerful hammer for the runepriest. They returned and reported to Parthos that his friend would see him now. “We have much to discuss” Parthos said as the party picked up their caravan with the recovering Zoltan and apprentice Aerik.

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Helping the Hill Giants

After leaving the contentious scene at the temple of Pelor, the party once again starts up the road toward Stonemeet and the Festival of Rings, guarding the brewmaster Zoltan’s haul of fine meads and ales.

As they are traveling along, the goliath Daelarok spots some familiar-looking tracks, and bring the caravan to a halt. Recently Daelarok had broken away from the main group to search for those who might be behind the recent spate of attacks by underdark races on giant clans of the area. These footprints were definitely drow in nature.

Through a small copse of trees the heroes spy a hill giant and his two female mates, huddled around a campfire. They are scared and easily frightened, and raise their weapons upon seeing the party. Daelarok is able to calm them and convince the giants that they mean no harm. The male giant told the party that they were traveling south to a great council of giants, to discuss these attacks and what they could do to confront and stop them. That was when the party noticed the trees moving in the small clearing around them. They had just enough time to react before being ambushed by drow!

With their cyclops guards, the drow descended upon the giants and heroes with ferocity, and although the heroes fought bravely, one of the female hill giants fell in battle. Gracious of the help the heroes offered, the hill giant male gave them an animal-bone whistle and told them “If you need us, use this. You blow it, we come”, they said, and then departed south.

As soon as they turned from this, they were greeted by an unhappy site. An eladrin druid, flanked by two very unhappy owlbears, and holding a large grety and brown mottled egg in his hands.

“You have much explaining to do” The druid said.

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