The party spends four days in the Mages Archives. They take a generous and well-deserved rest. There are many challenges ahead, but they sense the tide has turned.
At last they depart, heading west towards Washport. They re-seal the Mages Archives before they leave. As far as Eomer is concerned they own the place now, so they may as well start taking care of it.
The great cloud of ash has dissipated and been blown out to sea, but the ground is still black with it. The wind has tossed it about, leaving greay dust in every opening and on every surface. The mountain is still slightly smouldering in the distance, warning the inhabitants of the land against challenging its slopes once more.
Two days later they arrive in Washport. Everyone is on edge. The guards are jumpy. At first they assume that this is due to the mountain exploding. Then they learn that things have changed in the two weeks they were wandering in the East. The Black Army of Mordan swept south some days ago. Here in Washport there are many Halfling farmers from Hillstead. They fled the city as the Grave Walkers decended on them in the night. To their knowledge, everything north of the river is lost.
The Queen has sent her forces out to hold the bridge. Each night Mordan sends grave walkers at them, and the fighting at the bridge continues until shortly before dawn.
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The players just left the Mages Archives, which was on the far south-east tip of the island. Then they returned west to Washport.
Mordan has been in the town of Crossway, building his power. Crossway is on the North side of the island, just at the southern tip of Lower Bolwood. Confused? Great.
Now Mordan has come south and taken the town of Hillstead. He kept going but was stopped by the Alidian army at the bridge, where they are now fighting. (In retrospect, I should have given that bridge a name. The river has a name, although I note that I neglected to put it on the map. The bridge is large, wide, and made of stone. This is a major piece of infrastructure around here, and it makes sense that a thing like that would get its own name.)
The Queen herself is in Fol Thron, just north of Lake Emlin.
But wait! There’s more! See Lake Emlin? That open area just west of the lake is where…
The Dwarves of Dunlock arrived! At first the people saw the army and thought reinforcements had arrived to aid in the battle against Mordan. Then the Dwarves set up some siege engines and began to pummel Fol Thron. The gossip in town is that the Dwarves saw this whole war (er, both wars, against the North and then against Mordan) as their chance to recapture Fol Thron at last. Dwarves have such a gift for holding grudges.
The Dwarves have somehow made landfall south of the city and have struck while the army was engaged at The Bridge. The Alidians, already tired from the war with the Lormanites, are now forced to fight on two fronts.
The walls of Fol Thron have been breached. Nobody here in Washport is sure who controls the capital city now.
The party doesn’t waste time here is town. At daybreak they reclaim their horses and ride with speed to the Dwarven encampment.
They stop at the edge of the camp and Thordek acts as the leader of the party for the purpose of the conversation. They are less likely to get perforated by Dwarven crossbows if everyone thinks the party is under the leadership of a Dwarf.
While not given audience with the General (who is very busy right now) Thordek is given an audience with his second in command. He is taken alone to the commander’s tent while the rest of the party waits at the edge of the Dwarven encompment.
To help smooth the conversation along, Thordek pretends to be excited about this new conquest of the island by his people. In truth, he is sad that there must be more pointless bloodshed over a mountain which nobody can truly posess. He is otherwise honest with the commander about his comings and goings on the island, and reveals that he has met with Queen Alidia herself. This impresses the commander, and he gets what news he can of the state of the island before their arrival. Thordek then reveals that Mordan is free. Thordek does not tell of the secret chamber of Fiore, now (hopefully) to be Mordan’s prison. (The party has already agreed that they will never tell this secret, lest some idiot followers of the Lich try to free him again.)
The Dwarves did not know he was free again. They have struck now simply because they expected that the Queen would be weak after her war in the north. They calculated that with her forces engaged in the north, they should be able to make landfall to the south and take the city by surprise. They very nearly did take the city. The walls were breached, and the Dwarves entered the city, but then reinforcements arrived from the north and pushed them back. Now that they know the city is all that stands between themselves and Mordan, they are not so keen to take it.
Thordek learns that the Dwarves are also fighting in the south, trying to take the city of Telwin Port. The Dwarves just want control of the harbor, and they need some food. One of their own ships had a bulk of their foodstores on it, and it was somehow burned into the sea.
Thordek tries to negotiate to go in and rescue their friend Beck in Telwin Port, but that is asking too much. The city is under siege. Even if the Dwarves let the party in, the defenders of the city would most likely try to kill them on sight. The commander promises that if the city surrenders or Beck is taken prisoner, that he will be spared.
Thordek returns to the rest of the party and gives them the news.