The Lone Wolf Club

The Fifth Encounter: Saving Toren
The Lone Wolf Club temporarily disbands

We rejoin the Lone Wolf Club at the apex of the Halfling village, around the mostly-repaired beetle hive. Kell and Lone Wolf proceeded to question Root a bit more. He told them that the Halflings' primary industry was harvesting the glowing orbs from the beetles and selling them to Lord Laken's people. Lately, Lord Laken has been bothering the Halflings because he thinks they have magic. Root says he doesn't know why; he doesn't know of anything magic they possess.

Meanwhile, Eric the Blond lowered himself back into the hive to re-investigate the silver chair. He tried to saw it but merely managed to deface it slightly. He did notice an oblong indentation in one of the arms of the chair. He keeps the stranger's map, with the stranger's writing on the back, to himself.

Lone Wolf climbed up into the ship and discovered the source of the strange magic was the stranger himself. He seemed quite distraught, so Lone Wolf sang him a song. The stranger was cheered enough to follow him down off the hive. Kell took the stranger's picnic basket and ate the food (it was delicious), while Anova took the single lady's shoe.

The LWC spent the night in the Halfling town.

DAY THREE 

In the morning, they took the stranger and set out toward the capitol city-all save Eric, who insisted on staying behind to mend the Montgolfier.

On the way to the capitol, the adventurers encountered a pack of wolves. In her eagerness to fight, Anova found herself at the mercy of one particularly vicious old wolf-the animal nearly killed her! Fortunately Rev, Kell, and Gray stepped in to save her. Lone Wolf was primarily occupied with saving his ass.

The wolves defeated, the LWC continued toward the city. Fearing retribution for their earlier slaying of two orcs, they decided it was wise to disguise themselves. Lone Wolf took on the garb of a priest, while the rest of the party became his altar boys.

Nearing the north gate, they saw a carriage heading outward, to the northeast-Lord Laken's domain. Rather than investigate, the LWC decided to continue into town.

Finding their way to the church, Lone Wolf successfully convinced the priest to heal Anova for saving a monastery (or some such). The priest also examined the stranger, but saw nothing that needed healing.

Next stop was the castle. Kell bellowed for Tiller, who appeared and seemed willing enough to go into the castle to fetch Acwellan. Except that once gone, he never reappeared. Kell then spoke to Caff, the stable boy, who was incredibly eager to help. He was happy to reveal that Toren, Lord Laken's daughter-in-law, had just been arrested for losing her baby and trying to replace it with a monster. She has been carted away to Lord Laken's domain. Kell gave Caff an entire gold piece-a fortune to the poor boy-and Caff agreed to watch the cart and the stranger while the LWC went after Toren. At the last moment, Anova and Rev also decided to stay behind.

Now only a fraction of the original party, Lone Wolf, Kell, and Gray raced out into the countryside with Deloris. They caught up with the carriage and slew the orcs. Inside the carriage they did indeed find Toren and her misshapen baby. Unwilling to deceive the girl, Kell told her the truth about her baby. Brokenhearted, Toren feels she has no choice but to swap her baby for a normal baby of the Halflings.

As if the party weren't already splintered enough, Lone Wolf decided to take Deloris and head back to town to meet up with Anova and Rev. Kell and Gray, clearly the most intelligent members of the party, decide to set the carriage on fire and try to hide it. Then, taking the horses, they started toward the Halfling forest with Toren and her baby.

With no clear plan for meeting up again, other than seeing each other "somewhere in between," whether the Lone Wolf Club will succeed in being reunited is yet to be seen. Will the Halflings accept the baby-trade? Will Eric get the damaged Montgolfier off the ground? Who IS the stranger, and from whence does he come?  

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The Fourth Encounter: Halfling Forest
Complications ensue

Last time we left the Lone Wolf Club, they were in the heat of battle, slaying giant insects left and right as they made their way upward into the Halfling town built into the forest canopy. The daring deeds done that day might fill entire volumes… so let's skip to the interesting bits.

The LWC noticed that there were two distinct kinds of Halflings: some regularly proportioned, but simply half the size of a human (true-Halflings), and some that looked "squashed," with large heads and hands (pseudo-Halflings).

A Halfling revealed the source of the trouble to Eric the Blond: something at the very top of the trees had crashed into "the hive" and set the beetles free. The Halfling didn't know where the mosquitoes came from.

Lone Wolf himself took a break from the heat of battle to interrogate a Halfling woman, the purported mother of an apparently normal baby. But not even his astounding magnetism and charisma could charm the baby out of its mother's hands; he left with broom-handle bruises across the back of his legs.

Kell and then the other members of the party saw a pseudo-Halfling bearing a striking resemblance to King Baeden. When approached, the Halfling politely invited the party to go screw themselves.

At the uppermost level of the Halfling tree-town, the LWC discovered the source of all their troubles: a giant, man-made hive buzzing with beetles. A great crack ran down the side of the hive, which Halflings were scrambling to mend.

On the platform lay many wounded Halflings, who had clearly been battling their way past the escaping beetles and even more deadly mosquitoes. One true-Halfling with white hair and a missing arm seemed to be giving orders to the other Halflings; this was discovered to be Root, their leader. When asked whether his people stole human babies, he merely laughed and told the LWC, "We don't steal babies. We simply exchange them. This is the way of things. Sometimes a ‘Halfling' child is born to a human, and sometimes a human is born to a ‘Halfling.' Old wives' tales say we steal the true children, so often a father will come here with his misshapen child. If we have a human baby to give in return, then we make the trade. The mothers cry at first, but soon they come to see the wisdom of the thing. After all, how could a Halfling survive in the world of men – and how could a man survive in the world of Halflings?"

Using his grappling hooks, Eric the Blond climbed up the beetle hive to see what had created the great open crack. On the way up, he glanced inside the hive and saw a glint. Entering in, he found a great silver chair, engraved with floral patterns. He sat in it, but nothing happened. Continuing to the top of the hive, he found an ornate boat, like a small ship, hanging from a badly torn and deflated "bladder." After some discussion, the LWC decided that this "Montgolfier" had flown through a swarm of mosquitoes, run off course, and crashed into the hive during the panic.

Kell joined Eric on top of the hive, stuffing some Halfling garments to patch up the top of the fissure. He was soon distracted by the conversation with Root below, so it was Eric who investigated the little boat. Inside, he found a pale man dressed in fine courtly garments, the like of which he had never seen before. The man wore an ornate collar and badge of a chivalric order, a highly decorated sword, and a small dagger at his calf. He also bore a hand-drawn map. In the boat with him were a picnic basket (with some alcohol) and a single woman's shoe.

Eric approached the strange man, only to find a bloody hole in his neck. His blood had apparently been drained by one of the giant mosquitoes. But as he did so the small white stone given to the LWC by Acwellan got very hot. Taking it out, Eric touched it to the stranger's skin-whereupon he drew in a rattling breath and revived! Unfortunately, though he tried to speak, he could not; the mosquito's proboscis had permanently damaged his vocal chords. He wrote on the back of the map, but none of the LWC recognized the odd writing.

Who is this strange traveler? For that matter, what is the white stone? Has the LWC just lost their one chance to heal the king? Speaking of which, who is this pseudo-Halfling that resembles the monarch? And what of the silver throne?

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

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The Third Encounter: Halfling Forest
The Lone Wolf Club makes like a tree and...

After having slain two orcs, the Lone Wolf Club decided it was in their best interests to leave town as fast as possible. Whether or not the orcs had been sent to attack them, it was certain that Lord Laken would be unhappy with the outcome. So the group backtracked to the castle and then left the way they had come, through the southern city gate. Fortunately a road led around the exterior of the city gates, so traveling northward was a simple matter. Fortunately the forest was close enough to see, so a map was not immediately necessary.

As they approached the forest around noon, the Lone Wolf Club heard the distinctly unpleasant sound of halfling screams. There was a small corral near the only apparent entrance, so Lone Wolf made a brilliant leap of faith and left Deloris and his cart with the other animals. The others advanced into the forest, with Eric the Blond hanging behind in the bushes as usual.

Before they had gotten very far into the forest, a small halfling boy ran out of the underbrush, screaming and waving his arms about. His behavior was pretty self-explanatory when considered in conjunction with the giant mosquito clinging to his head, its probiscus buried deep in the boy's neck. Without stopping to think, Kell rushed in to grapple with the monstrous insect – soon finding himself the victim of the vicious blood-sucker. Anova, Rev, Eric the Blond, and Gray the Bold stepped in to help while Lone Wolf set off in another direction and began to fire arrows into the air, as is his wont.

After a few rounds of intense grappling, Eric the Blond stepped in from behind and managed to stab the blood-engorged mosquito, which promptly exploded and covered the Lone Wolf Club in a shower of halfling blood.

Lone Wolf soon found himself confronted by a large buzzing beetle. He slew it easily, and Eric the Blond—following behind—deigned to dirty his hands with insect ichor for the sake of retrieving a glowing orb from the giant insect carapace.

At this point, a member of the Lone Wolf Club finally had the good sense to look up, discovering an entire city built in the trees. This was the source of the halfling screams. They also discovered a sort of lift by one large tree. A halfling man at the top begged them to come up and save the village from the swarming infestation. Fearing a trap, the majority of the LWC declined to help the desperate man. Kell, on the other hand, stepped right in.

He soon found himself on an open platform constructed between trees, in the midst of a battle with more giant beetles and mosquitos attacking halflings. Undaunted by the task, he began to swing his sword left and right, mowing them down without regard to his personal safety. As he dispached with the giant insects, he also noticed something interesting about the halflings.

Below, the untrusting, suspicious members of the LWC were amply rewarded for their lack of compassion: although they managed to slay a few beetles and obtain more glowing orbs, they were soon surrounded by more insects than their small group could handle. Gray the Bold managed to make it to the lift, while the others were left scrambling up trees. Lone Wolf in particular scraped his hands quite badly, filling them with splinters. It seems doubtful he'll be able to play his strange instrument until he is healed.

Finally, however, all of the LWC got to the lowest platform in the forest city. Eric the Blond, the first to successfuly climb a tree, managed to stay out of sight of the swarm long enough to encounter a halfling villager and begin the climb up to the next level. What will he find when he gets there? Will he regret having passed up the opportunity to chat with the halfling? Only time will tell…

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The Second Encounter: In Rodharc
The Lone Wolf Club goes to town (on some orcs)

After their encounter with the wolves in the courtyard of the castle, the Lone Wolf Club returned to the chained library to confront the king. Kell appeared so menacing after the fight (blood running down his face and rippling biceps) that the king apologized profusely for not giving them more information. He told them that, thirty years ago when they fought the northern hordes, they noticed that some of the men and animals did not die, even when they received mortal blows. So, several years ago, on one of his patrols up north, Acwellan captured some undead wolves – apparently still alive after all this time, prowling the snowlands. The king's servants have been experimenting with them, attempting to divine the secret of their continued animation.

But before the Lone Wolf Club could get too excited about these prospects, the king rose and went to a drawer. He opened it and pulled out the forearm and claw of a wolf—still moving. "I would rather die," said the king, "than live like this." He reiterated that he does not want to live forever; he merely wants to secure his lands.

The Lone Wolf Club began to ask more questions, but the king grew tired and it was necessary for him to retire. However, as they headed for the castle gates, they were stopped by Acwellan. He confided in them that "The north is dangerous, but it holds many secrets. In my last patrol, I heard rumors that some of the royal family may still live. They may hold the secrets of the northern invaders, or perhaps they would be willing allies." He also warned them to be careful in town, as the king has many enemies. He recommended the Lone Wolf Club talk to his servant, Tiller (do bodyguards have servants? hmm…), waiting outside the gates. Finally, before turning away, Acwellan pressed a small white stone into the hand of Eric the Blonde.

Outside the gates, the LWC attempted to speak with Tiller. This bedraggled, sour old man only grunted and pointed to the stables.

Inside, the LWC attempted to hitch Lone Wolf's donkey, which was quite disturbed when she saw that her master, Lone Wolf, was unconscious. Anova attempted to handle Deloris and promptly got kicked in the face. At that point, Caff, a club-footed stable boy came in and calmed the animal. He was very eager to be of service and earned a silver piece from the rather generous Eric the Blonde.

Going back to Tiller, the LWC was pointed in the general direction of the church. On the way to find a cleric, they encountered a young woman with a hood pulled over her head, carrying something. She seemed very afraid and asked to ride on their wagon. The LWC agreed.

At the church, all of the members except for Gray carried Lone Wolf inside to be healed. In the meantime, Gray stayed outside with the girl, making fumbling attempts to woo her – discovering to his chagrin that she carried a baby! Inside, the LWC met Flenac the Cleric, who agreed to heal Lone Wolf for a donation of a mere 50 gold coins. Business has been slow, lately.

Outside, the LWC finally induced the girl to speak. She introduced herself as Toren, wife to Lord Laken's fourth son. She begged the LWC to help her: recently, she gave birth to a baby. But when she finally saw the child, he was misshapen, with a huge head and a small body. Her maids told her the halflings have left one of their children, taking hers! She begged the LWC to take the halfling baby to the halfling village to the north of Rodharc, in the forest. The LWC argued about this for a while – until footsteps were heard in the distance. Toren bolted in fear, crying out that she would meet them in front of the Inn the next morning.

Relieved of the responsibility to make a coherent decision, the LWC headed for the Red Rooster Inn. Outside they encountered two orcs; inside the found Wyrcenda, the half-orc barmaid (and madam), and Lord Laken. After some truly harrowing entertainment from the newly revived Lone Wolf, Laken proceeded to get a little drunk and pay for all their beers and their rooms. He was very interested in what the Lone Wolf Club was doing in town, particularly with regards to the king, and he invited them to come to his keep at… oh, where was that again? Hm, probably should have written it down. He also expressed how much he wanted the kingdom to be prosperous and at peace. He thinks that could best be achieved by marrying the king's daughter, since Laken is newly a widower.

Finally, Laken took his leave and Wyrcenda, in a very good mood, wondered if any of the gentlemen would like some company for the evening? Gray the Bold (as he became known after that night) took her up on her offer. After a rousing good time, Wyrcenda was happy to give her impressions of Lord Laken. "He's been looking for spells everywhere. Anything to do with magic, really. He believes that as a half-elf, magic is his heritage, but somehow it has been lost. He's been asking around about some island off the coast? And also about the Eastern Kingdom. He suspects the king has some sort of magic, but I'll bet he doesn't know half as much as he pretends."

DAY TWO

In the morning, Wyrcenda treated everyone to beer and pancakes with an excessive amount of syrup. Only then did Lone Wolf, who had spent the night with Deloris, his ass, rouse from his wagon to see Lord Laken's orc companions approaching the Inn. They bore weapons and looked very menacing. Eric the Blonde promptly ran out the back door, while Kell the Barbarian stepped out and reduced the orcs to whimpers of fear. Nevertheless, they continued to advance. Nobody was entirely sure what happened, but it seemed that Lone Wolf lost control of his bow and fired an arrow in the air. All hell broke loose, and when it was done two orcs were dead.

Wyrcenda, hearing the commotion, came outside and began to wail. "My cousins! My cousins!" She drop-kicked Rev out the door and sent everyone scurrying, yelling after them that if they "ever came back, I'll gut you and serve your innards in my famous pies!"

Loitering around outside, trying to figure out whether to high-tail it out of town or lay low and scout a bit, the LWC glimpsed some movement around the corner of the Inn. However, they were too shaken by the fight to pursue the phantom.

Will the Lone Wolf Club attempt to disguise their presence in the city while they scout for information and supplies? Or will they tuck their tails between their collective legs and get out of Dodge?

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The First Encounter: Rodharc Castle
The Lone Wolf Club meets the king... and some wolves!

DAY ONE 

The Lone Wolf Club was journeying around the countryside of Ardanach, seeking adventure and entertaining villagers, when they received a summons from the king. Puzzled but always up for a new adventure, they packed up and headed for the capitol city of Rodharc. At the city gates, they were met by an escort and taken directly to the castle.

There, in the castle's priceless chained library, the Lone Wolf Club enjoyed the honor of coming face-to-face with King Baedan of Ardanach. After a few jests about regicide (which the king, familiar with the nature of the Lone Wolf Club, suffered patiently), they got down to business. The king began:

"The rumors you have no doubt heard are true: I am dying. I have no sons, and my only hope of securing the stability of our nation is to marry my eldest daughter to a man I can trust. I would give her to one of my own lords, but greed for my throne has consumed them and I no longer know who I can trust. Someone in my confidence has taken the news of my illness to the Southern Kingdom, which has mobilized quickly. One of my spies now tells me that they plan to attack at the next full moon – thirty days from now."

King Baedan begged the Lone Wolf Club for their assistance. He would give them gold and his blessing to travel the seven kingdoms, searching for a solution to his dilemma… ANY solution.

- Should the king marry his daughter to a trusted lord? Or should he try to secure an alliance by marrying her to a prince of a foreign nation?
- Is there any hope that the king will survive the winter? Can a cure to his sickness be found?
- Can the southern army be stopped, or will Ardanach face a full-scale war in 30 days?

The king is desperate—desperate enough to pin his hopes on a rag-tag band of adventurers.

As the Lone Wolf Club began to discuss a plan of action, a pageboy burst into the library, crying out, "The wolves are loose! The wolves are loose!" Caught off guard, the king began to object—but then he heard the screams of his servants in the courtyard. He sent his bodyguard to protect his daughters, and begged the Lone Wolf Club to bring the bloodthirsty animals under control.

Much to the king's dismay, the Lone Wolf Club's quest almost came to an end right there, in the courtyard of his own castle! After rushing thoughtlessly into the fray, and suffering severe damage, the adventurers were able to slay only one of the three beasts. Fortunately, some… "guards" appeared to bring the massacre under control.

Will the Lone Wolf Club be able to muster the cooperation and forethought required to save the kingdom? Or will they perish in their next encounter—outside the safety of the castle walls?

No matter what, it is clear that they need to spend a little more time questioning the king…

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