Dark Secrets

Session Five

The heroes bear the burden of Katelina’s fall like a cloak sodden through with rain and debris. With spirits dim and scowls on their faces, they make their way closer to the smoking hamlet, what they presume to be Wildcrest. As they draw closer still, they pause to reconcile a plan of sorts, a desire to scout before charging straight in. Wend’l reaches out his slender hand and calls forth a simple raven, who alights upon his wrist as if it were nothing at all. The Witchblade brings the bird near and appears to speak to it then, with a call to the skies, the raven leaps into the air and flies far above and beyond. Wend’l pauses to consider his companions with only a smirk.

The raven returns and engages Wend’l briefly before flying away for good. The Witchblade reveals the layout ahead: smoking ruins, a nest with blood and death and but one moving creature.

The party moves ahead and came upon a ruined hamlet, not the remains of Wildcrest but a different locale altogether. Strewn amidst smoking and ashen buildings lies the bodies of women, children and farmers. All had died wicked deaths, a veritable slaughter. In the middle are the shrouded forms of four bodies – clad in dark armour, cloaks and the markings of the cultists from Wildcrest or Selestria’s crew. Standing among the carnage, his thick plate spattered with blood and gore, is a single armed man. He bears a shield and flail and his great warhorse is not too far off with a great sword stuffed into the saddle. The armed man offers penance and prayer to the slain cultists and the heroes approach with all caution and senses alert. Michel sneaks to the side, bathed in shadows and approaches from the darkness. Wend’l catches the mutterings of the prayer, and mention of Heironeous. He is quick to alert Iosa to the fact.

Iosa and Fenris approach boldly. The combination of Iosa’s self-assuredness and clarity offers the man some comfort. Fenris has an open countenance, matched by his girth, arms and swagger. Together, they are able to determine the the man is called Xavier Thraxes. He is a kind of armored warrior following the path as laid out by Heironeous. He admits to coming upon this scene too late – yet he offered the souls of these vicious blood-letters to the gods and avenged the fallen. Xavier stiffens at Michel’s approach and does not take well to being watched from shadow. Michel offers peace in the best way he can, through charm and half-truth. After a time, Wend’l begins to gather the fallen innocents in piles in order that he can offer their souls reprieve through the cleansing heat of Witchfire. Iosa aids him in this, offering prayer. They find a young girl in the ruins, sick and pale from fright and disease. Iosa heals her of an apparent blight and presents her to Michel to be carried. At length, the party agrees to bring Xavier along as they seem to be headed in similar directions – destruction of the cult and the hunt of one known as the Butcher, a necromancer of dark and horrible power.

The party follow the cultists track further into the mountains where they find a cavern to rest. Within the cavern, Wend’l reveals a new disguise, that of a young woman with soft skin, delicate features and a lithe physique. Some members of the group are taken by surprise. Iosa offers divinely summoned food and drink and tends to the young girl, allowing Wend’l to keep her with Whisper for the night.

Words over Breakfast

They rise at dawn and make their way out into a cold and snowy morning. They construct a makeshift saddle and palanquin for the girl, strapped to the lean body of Whisper. Wend’l has done away with the young woman disguise in favor of that of a middle-aged black man of nondescript appearance or features. Fenris and Michel appear refreshed and alert, both offering their own versions of swarthy yet charming smiles and laughter to the rising sun.

It is cold outside. When the party passes through the rocky passage, they come upon a small clearing covered in bright red flowers. An odd feeling taints the air. Whisper sits as voices passes on the breeze. There is a narrow path that passes through the middle of the grove and the suggestion of a figure in the distance. Fenris strides boldly ahead, sword and shield aloft. Wend’l draws his bastard sword and Michel brings the words of magic to his lips. Iosa very nearly sighs with apparent disappointment and summons the blessing guard of his divine patron. There is laughter in the air and Wend’l suddenly shouts words in the cryptic Sylvan tongue. A crack of lightning streaks the sky and a mass of red flowers coalesces and merges in the air above them, becoming a great swarm of red and spinning leaf-blades. Fenris wades in, enveloped by the swarm. His body grows suddenly rigid from some nefarious effect. As Whisper barks in rage, her hackles rising to a frightening state of anxiety, Michel moves forth and calls forth a blast of swirling colour. The rays hit the swarm head on but their effect is unknown. Wend’l throws a ball of green Witchfire and engulfs the swarm in flame. Inside, Fenris is surrounded by the fire and his teeth and eyes gleam.

Iosa enters the fray, offering to remove the paralysis from Fenris. He does so, yet is stunned to be the recipient of an attack. The Prophet is frozen in venomous paralysis. Both Fenris and Xavier swing mighty blows into the mass. Whisper moves forth to drag Iosa back from the melee as Wend’l throws another Witchfire blast into the flowers, igniting the remaining ones to ash and dust. As Xavier heals Iosa of his wounds and venom, the Witchblade sets the entire grove afire with his magic. Without risking a backward glance, they race ahead and continue on towards what they presume to be Dew-Acre.

Dew-Acre is not a town at all; it is a fortress in an isolated part of the mountains. It resembles Wildcrest in some ways – ominous and verboten. The heroes are greeted by an armed entourage. They are less than friendly, surprised to see these interlopers advance so far. The warriors mention their brethren, lost to the wilds. The heroes grow restless. The young girl in their care is frightened and they resolve not to leave her here in this place. Michel is charming but these thugs are wary. They think only in terms of hit and miss. Negotiations grow tense, fingers fondle the tops of weapons and horses dig at the earth in readiness for a charge. Then, quite unexpectedly, the saddle straps of the lead warrior dissolve and the man topples clumsily to the ground. With much muttering and cursing, the warriors drag him to his feet. The armed men of Dew-Acre promise Hell and Fire to the saddle bot who has ostensibly failed in his duty.

The heroes are ignored and they enter the Lion’s Den that is Dew-Acre.

DewAcre.jpg

Wend’l Journal Entry

Wend’l Journal Four
Michel Journal Four

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Session Three

The Heroes find little rest in the dark cell-once-office. Voices slither along the walls, driving Wend’l and Whisper mad. The only one who seems at ease is Iosa, who sits quietly communing with the warmth that is his deity. Katelina is visibly distraught and restless and Michel offers her some comfort with his charm and offhand remarks. At length, the party decide to venture further as going back is not an option.

Michel prepares himself at the edge of the spiral staircase. Wend’l communes with the wolf, revealing the stench of blood below and the movement of bipedal creatures. Michel offers a grin and he positively fades away into shadow, making his way down with unearthly stealth and silence. The rest of the party wait and watch. The cavern below is dark, too dark for Michel navigate without illumination. At the bottom, he activates the light within his gauntlets, revealing a large antechamber with great stone columns and arches spreading far above. Whisper slinks her way down with Wend’l, Iosa and Katelina at the rear. They survey the cavern, finding two thin rivulets of fresh blood running down the centre in a kind of duct or runnel. There is movement and sound in the arches far above and the chamber is flanked by two double doors.

Wend’l follows the wall ahead with Whisper in lead. A drop of blood is noticed by Iosa as it hits Michel’s cloak. Katelina begins to whimper and cry. Wend’l illuminates the cavern ahead with a ball of Witchfire. 3 inhuman statues fill the vast chamber. Above, another ball of Witchfire illuminates only the very beginnings of the columns. Suddenly, slithering and skittering reveals a trio of large hairy spiders as they descend upon the party. A melee ensues: Wend’l fires balls of Witchfire at the aberrations; Whisper bites and snarls; Michel tosses a dagger; Iosa makes his way to the doorway while Katelina does hardly anything at all.

Michel executes a flourish with his rapier, spearing one spider through the leg, severing it at the joint. He dances back lithely, taking minimal damage with his fast movements. The spiders produce an acidic ichor through their bites and wounds and they mark the floors with hissing corrosion. Whisper finishes one off as Michel tags another with his “Bell” magic – “Ding marks the Target, Wend’l.” The blind Witchblade follows the sound and runs a spider through with his blade drenched in Witchfire.

They make their way into another clean hallway littered with sconces holding pale greenish light.


Meanwhile, Fenris awakens from his slumber, his breath still stinking of rare lamb and ale. He is in a kind of interrogation chamber, the slab beside him occupied by a pale corpse. Fenris rises, noting he is naked save for minimal breeches. His head swims in nausea and he vomits on the ground. The chamber is equipped with tools of unlawful interrogation, blades and another set of doors. Fenris rises and makes his way to one doorway., Peering through, he notices a large man apparently working away at a weapon on a great whetstone. The hulking man has a wooden prosthetic for a leg and he brandishes a great cleaver of some sort. He turns around as Fenris enters. “No” he declares. “I have taught you better than this.”

The two behemoths enter a ferocious melee, their great forms crashing about the small room. Fenrish dispatches the foe and finds his gear in a chest nearby. He states the Oath of the Balewulf clan as he garbs his armour and weapons piece by piece. His expression is one of grim defiance when he clasps the hilt of his fabulous sword – Maugrim.

“Calling all vermin!” he cries. He bashes his sword against his shield, so engorged with blood and combat is he, and makes his way through the door.


The other four heroes make their way through the hallway and pass two forks in the cavern to emerge at a circular stone chamber of rough-hewn rock. In the middle, there is a curious circular well of some sort with inner and outer cycling of fluids. Michel and Iosa pause at the well for a moment, odd expressions across their face. They turn to Wend’l as the blind Witchblade asks what they saw. “A woman,” they admit. “We see a woman nearby.”

“Of course you see a woman,” Katelina declares and she moves past them. They make their way further, after Wend’l and Michel investigate tributary corridors. Iosa leads them with the confident declaration of his god. They come to an outer corridor.

It is now that they hear the great crashing of Fenris in the distance. Wend’l spurs his wolf to fill the corridors with the great cry of the north as Iosa makes his way down the stone passage to seek out Fenris. Two large warriors come barreling down the passageway, eager to spill blood. The heroes turn to face them.

Iosa fills Fenris with divine healing as the Knight races down to engage the foes. Wend’l and Whisper dance around them with teeth and steel while Michel dazzles the mind of the weak-willed, adding advantage to the wounded and exhausted party members.

More combatants approach from the stone passages behind them and Michel covers the entrance with the convincing image of a cave-in – he eludes their attention as Fenris and Wend’l dispatch the two thugs. At one point, Wend’l shatters the corridor ceiling causing a cave-in to block the approach of more invaders.

Iosa leads them down, only after Fenris knocks the surviving thug to unconsciousness. They pass a barracks and mess-hall, filled with accouterments of warriors, some elves and others Dark Elves, according to the snout of the wolf. Going back is not an option and so, when they reach a final spiraling stairwell going up into a throng of people and voices, they decide to go up.

“Dance like the maiden, love like the mother, think like the crone.” declares Wend’l and he takes the guise of the old woman. With Iosa, they head upstairs.

A gathering of fanatics are clustered against the wall, their chanting unison a haunting rhythm. They hear the voice of one leading the sermon and its desire to cleanse the filth with blinding light. Both Iosa and Wend’l note the chattering of a dark elf amidst the crowd.

Something terrible happens – a single shrill cry of agony pierces the throng and the party must decide how to respond.

Wend’l Journal Entry
Iosa Journal Entry
Fenris Journal Entry
Michel Journal Entry

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Session 2

It is not a particularly restful night. Iosa retires to his room to convey with his deity while Michel rests with only a mild headache. Fenris, with belly filled with meat and drink, fills the hallways with his snoring. Wend’l, on the other hand, scouts around the settlement streets, speaking with random passers-by and listening to rumours on the wind.

Three heroes awaken the next morning – Iosa, Michel and Wend’l, dismayed to note various items missing from their possession. When they descend into the common area, they are also disjointed to note the complete lack of service and attention. The heroes are more than just ignored by patrons, clientele and staff – they are dismissed with rudeness and sly comments. Something has changed. There is palpable energy in the air as all ready themselves for the public execution of the witch, one who has been condemned by the Church. Curiously, Fenris is not in the common area. Michel is unable to garner resources, food or rations from the barkeep. Wend’l expresses his concerns and findings regarding the condemned – she may not actually be a witch at all. She may not even have any powers whatsoever. The heroes resolve to investigate.

The heroes head out. Michel notices 4 burly men, likely armoured, leave the bastion with bundles of cloth. The crowd generally make their way to the great entrance to the temple, the same temple that Iosa investigated the night prior. Wend’l fades away completely and Whisper slinks off into the mass of people. Michel follows the wolf and all three heroes make their way into the temple, where a great congregation have gathered before an empty dais of wood shavings and a stake, clearly their place of execution. An old blind woman staggers into a column of stone and Iosa goes to her aid. It is Wend’l in disguise. Iosa places a handful of berries in the woman’s palm and Michel helps ‘her’ to a seat at the pews.

Silestria is at the front, flanked by heavily armed men and women. She addresses the crowd with an eloquent speech of cleansing the dark blight upon the land. The crowd is held in thrall by her voice, her calming words lulling the room to an unsettling clarity and placidity. Guards begin to drag a young woman into the hall. She is young and slim with dark hair. She has been beaten and wears her wounds and bruises with stoic pride. The old hag bristles at the entrance. Michel moves to the side and Iosa begins his slow approach to the front. The heroes watch as the girl is bound to the stake. As Iosa steps towards her, the fire is lit and smoke begins to lick at the young woman’s feet. Wend’l, the old hag, stands and speaks a single word of Fey power. The column nearby is hit with a loud crack as spindles break open along its surface. It is broken. Michel propels his voice with arcane power, convincing the crowd that the gods decry this gathering. There is another crack and the column begins to waver. The crowd reacts with terror – they rise and begin to file out. With incredible calm, Iosa moves towards the girl. Silestria watches all and her goons gather to engage the heroes. The goons make to attack Iosa but they cannot – the hand of Heironeous brushes their aggression aside and Iosa passes them all unscathed. Another great crack and the column topples, sending chunks of dust and stone into the air. The old woman circles the goons with Whisper near, hackles drawn and fangs unfurled. Michel’s form shimmers and he makes an apparent dash for the door.

Iosa ascends, calling forth a great gout of water from the skies to douse the flames, and heals many of the girl’s wounds with a touch. Other goons move towards the old woman and her hound. Blood is spilled as Whisper chows down on hide and flesh. Another crack and stone floor is reduced to rubble; the affected goon gathers his wits and pursues nonetheless. There is a moment of surprise when this old woman draws a steel sword and encircles its edge with bluish Witch fire. There is a melee. Michel is nearby; he drops two goons into an enchanted slumber while his magick manipulates the mind of a larger goon to questionable effect. Wend’l climbs the dais and reduces the binding ropes to shreds of nothing. ‘She’ guides the wounded girl into Iosa’s arms and the man of Heironeous makes a slow yet nonchalant descent to the ground. Goons ascend and attack the hag. Steel echoes on steel. Whisper dispatches another goon and makes a dash for Wend’l’s side. Blue Witchfire slashes another goon who falls to the ground.

A woman appears at the far side, clad in leather and wielding a fine longbow. She calls to the party – there is a great mass of soldiers entering the main door. Iosa deposits the girl onto Whisper’s back, soothing the great wolf with words of magic and a gentle touch. The party gathers at the side, where an entrance is shrouded in a great tapestry. Michel appears from the vestiges of smoke and enchantment and ushers the group through. He calls confidently about setting the entrance ablaze and, as the party make their way into a dark passage, ignites the tapestry into a blazing wall of flame.

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The party, now 5, are in a cool passageway. The newcomer, who introduces herself as Katelina Verisha, states that these are a series of catacombs and she knows them not at all. The girl on the back of the wolf is ostensibly the archer’s sister. Iosa’s great magic is unable to restore the girl nor is Wend’l (who has since dispensed with his disguise) able to discern any magic whatsoever in the girl. The party advances into a dusty passageway. Wend’l speaks the word of Fey power, as advised by his companions, and causes the passageway to cave in behind them.

They come upon a chamber, semi-circular in shape and adorned with skulls in varied conditions. The air is rank with decay and two tracks lead separate ways into the corridors ahead. The party gather at the alcove and decide to make their way further and to the west. Iosa questions Katelina and Wend’l about this scourge upon magic wielders. It is becoming common practice to hunt and kill practitioners of the arcana. Wend’l is evasive about how he is able to avoid the attention of such folk, mentioning discretion and subterfuge is required at the best of times. Michel takes the time to tend to his clothing, seemingly undaunted by the setting and circumstance. There is an odd reassurance in his voice, his tone. Wend’l burns the cobwebs ahead and they make their way into a chamber with 4 great columns of stone. The party, unbeknownst to them, set off an odd trap that sends blots firing into the air from the floor. Michel and Iosa are able to deftly navigate their way through while Wend’l simply walks along the wall as if it were the most normal of things. The dying girl falls from Whisper’s back and is hit by a bolt. It is at this time that Iosa notices the girl is well and truly dead, her corporeal form held in the clutches of some unseemly and horrible enchantment. Iosa directs Wend’l to stall the girl’s sister as he begins several incantations and displays of divine power. He is unable to save the girl, remove the curse or restore her vitality. Katelina is visibly distraught. They set the girl to the ground and mention a few words. As Iosa consoles Katalina, there is the sound of air and cloth swirling around. The girl’s spirit ascends to an undead state and a terrible Wraith appears in her place. Wend’l steps back into a defensive posture. The other heroes are not yet aware of the danger but there comes the cry of a young woman in distress. They gather and a fierce melee ensues.

Michel tosses darts of magical energy as Iosa watches and waits for the moment when he can best apply his talents. Wend’l and Whisper engage valiantly but are unable to visibly wound the spirit. They swing and miss again and again. Katelina fires arrows into the wraith and Michel sends his last few bolts into the thing. Finally, Iosa calls the target for Wend’l to slice through with blade drenched in blue Witchfire. The blind Witchblade is finally able to end the wraith’s horrible existence.

Exhausted, the heroes make their way further and find an old office of sorts filled with books and ledgers of slave trade practice. It is here, at the entrance to a ruined spiral staircase, that they decide to rest and recover energy and resources.

The air is warm and rank, the surroundings promising of further danger for all …

Wend’l Journal Entry
Iosa Journal Entry
Michel Journal Entry

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Session 1
.. the road to hell is paved with the best of intentions..

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The air is still. It’s cold. Damn cold. Frozen fingers grip damp hilts. Armour is chilled, numbing the skin beneath. The leather straps straining against their buckles. In the distance the low din of blade on blade, the moans of the dying. There is no explaining how one finds themselves here, there is no wrong turn, no misdirection, no one is lost, this is truly, one foot in front of the other. The road least travelled….
Iosa, Fenris, Wend’l, Whiper, and Michel find themselves lost. The fog is heavy, oppressive, and it completely obscures whatever hope of site there may have been.
The air hums with sounds of pitched battle – phantom warriors. It is only by sheer luck they are not hit.
Iosa’s instincts to heal the fallen lay him at the root of the problem. Glowing strength flows from his hands to the wounded at his knees, muscle, sinew flesh knit back together, and the fallen warrior utters words to the priest …"burn the fog… " as the words the leave his mouth, the worms pull the body back to rest, the wound again open… clearly there is no rest for this mortal.
Michel, Fenris, stumble through the fog, and it is only Wend’l who has any inkling as to what is happening. Whisper nips at Wend’l’s heals the barks guiding him, Allowing him to step lightly the squelch of the unknown beneath his boots .
Iosa again reaches out to divine power, and with words of power his god’s strength is unleashed on the fog. In a moment of silence there is a vacuum of noise and then all is revealed!

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There in the clearing mere feet from where the priest stands are the grotesque bodies of undead. Clawing and grabbing at their living enemies. The hatred is palpable.
The warriors Fenris, Michel, and Wend’l step in, and do what comes naturally, bodies honed by years of hard conditioning, and by trials of life. Blades rise and fall. But it is the creature, not standing on leg. Its cloaks torn and ratty, pin pricks of light for eyes thirsting for the death of the group before them.
Michel is able to side step most of the blows, his foot work is fast, and before long he is on the other side of the hollow, beseeching to his comrades to follow. Were it so simple. Iosa is separated from the group, the wraith toe to toe with him. Fenris moves to intercept as does Wend’l but blow after massive blow to Fenris, and he is hard pressed to move. Wend’l draws from some sorceress power, and green light bursts into the chest of his nearby aggressor with cat like reflexes he intercepts’ the wraiths attacks. It is but short work for Fenris, and Wend`l to conclude the battle.
In the distance to worry of the new comrades, bells ring in the distance. Riders on the horizon.
Decisions are made, and it is agreed the party will travel together, the temperature is dropping.
Introductions are made, and for the time being the party agree to travel together, attempting to ascertain what just happened.
Within a short while they make their way to the town of WildCrest. A paradox, with massive stone walls, yet the gate is wide open and while the party can see movement the guards make no attempt to intercept them. In the entrance, is a site to stop even the most hardened individual. A woman hung by her neck. The group know that witches, magic, and the recent events have all played a part in the suspicion of the arcane arts.
There is banter between the guards and the party. They are advised she was hung because of witchcraft that a lesson had to be learned, that this was a good thing. Truly this leaves an uncomfortable taste in the mouths of the heroes!
Warmth, food and a place to set their weary legs is the order for the evening. Settling in on a local inn. Sally`s. This is the first place the group can see firsthand the inhabitants of WildCrest. There is no sign of aggression, there is no sign of anything as the room is packed, there are loud voices the smell of ale and good food. It is not long before the group find a table and warm food, and good drink to ease their troubled minds. Iosa still not content with his surroundings and the troubled scene in front of the temple, Decides to leave the inn and head back to the temple per chance to seek solace in the serenity of a peaceful place.
Iosa retraces his steps and returns to the temple, again inspecting the dead woman. Her body had been brutalized, not just hung. There is something disturbing unnatural about the way she was treated, and the fact that all the locals seem to think this is normal, rather warranted. He moves into the temple. It is a beautiful ancient building, paintings, and murals depict new and ancient gods alike. Notably there are drapes over some of the gods.
Moving forward, he can see a lovely young woman. Standing by the alter, her voice soft, yet, confident she beckons him forward, welcoming him into her fold. Her beauty is such that for a moment, he forgets himself. It is only the continued conversation and his steely resolve that keeps his thoughts and actions pure. Heirenous commend him indeed!
The exchange they have is not unlike a duelling of swords, sizing each other. Words with no meanings yet clear enough to know there is threat here.
With parting words, she offers, that he, and his comrades attend in the morning for another hanging. Witches, magic, it is all a threat.

Wend`l, Fenris, and Michel get down to the business of eating. There is much conversation and it is at this point that the inn keeper offers to bring more when Michel, offers all that the group has been up to. The strange attack at the hollows, and the questions of the hanging woman at the entrance to the town.
It is this loose conversation that peaks the inn keepers interests, and offers to return with people that could offer more help, perhaps more incite. As he leaves the they decide it best that waiting perhaps is not the best course of action. Wend`l and Whisper are the first to leave. Then Fenris, and Michel. Sneaking out of the inn, the group makes it way back to the temple.

Wend’l Journal Entry
Iosa Journal Entry
Fenris Journal Entry
Michel Journal Entry

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Where does darkness linger, how soon we forget the light of our souls...

“How are the drinks? Warms the belly no? Aye, I love a good ale, good story and a fine wench
upon my knee. Seems likes these days ol Gideon won’t get much with this old saggy bag of bones…

Wiping away slop from the edge of the cup….his voice drops to a hoarse whisper…..
….. hear that? they is comin ….always always pay your debts…

..bloody by the blade, bloodier still by the deed… dead eyes..
it was always those eyes… couldn’t look away, could feel the cold.

No one. Not king, not queen, baron or beggar or thief was safe, he was like an illness you couldn’t quite shake, knew he was there, just didn’t know when he would strike.

…Now he was standing in front of me.

Splashes of blood dropped from the blade of his axe…no where to go, no one to help… bowels loosened a little. I wasn’t a coward…. just didn’t want to die…
I’d made a promise….

demon_axe_warrior.jpg

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Welcome to my first attempt!
Please bear with me as I muddle my way though this...

Please come sit by my hearth, feel the warmth of the fire. Don’t be shy! A drink of course! How rude of me, please make yourself comfortable, there are many things indeed I must share!

Allow me to introduce myself… I am Gideon, storyteller extraordinaire! Did I mention I was modest? No, well in case you were wondering, I am very modest… Now drink up, there is much to discuss.

The more important question is, who. are. you?

It’s cold outside yes? I fear it will get colder yet… the seasons are changing, and I guess that is what brings you to my fire… you are always welcome, there are two rules only.

1. Never speak their name.
2. Always remember to pay the gate keyper…

After that, there it does not matter!

Enjoy my friends, let Gideon entertain you……._

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