Ruins of Adventure

A Cold Spring for Crows: Part 1

1st of Ches, 1362 D.R.

GM

Rain. It seems as though it will never stop. The road has become a river of mud, making it almost useless as a path, but the rough rugged hills around you offer you even worse footing. Visibility is very poor, with cold, early spring winds tearing sheets of rain across your field of vision. The sound of the storm is tremendous, making it hard for you to hear your companions unless they shout.

It was the first of Ches. Nearly four months ago you accepted an invitation to visit the Mount Launt holdfast of Clan Griff, the childhood home of Hektor and Korë, in the far western reaches of the Dragonspine Mountains. What was supposed to be a brief visit, to attend some special dwarven ceremony honoring Hektor, had turned into a winter-long stay thanks to early and heavy snows.

The dwarven caves were particularly confining for your larger friends, and their irritability was only amplified by the preponderance of lead in the walls, water, and even food of the dwarf clan. Worse still, the special ceremony you had expected to bear witness to turned out to be a private, family affair behind closed doors, with not even the larger clan allowed to be present. While Hektor and Korë muttered something about the firbolg “coming of age”, they were unusually tight-lipped about the details afterwords.

So it was, with the coming spring, that you were all eager to get back on the road and back to Phlan, where most of you had first met and where there was the ever-present promise of glory and riches.

Of course, it turns out that spring in the mountains was little better than winter. The ground, already saturated with melting snow, was now bombarded by weeks of steady rainfall. While the dwarves of Clan Griff left your packs well filled with provisions, the going has been incredibly slow. Ten days out, you have covered perhaps half the distance to Phlan, or so you estimate.

Just when it seems that you can go no further, and the wetness and fatigue have driven you to distraction (and nearly to blows), and night begins to fall, bringing with it even colder winds off the mountains and no respite from the rain, you see a wan light ahead. Hurrying your steps you draw closer until you can make out a structure through the rain.

The building, the first you’ve seen in nearly a week, is two stories of mud-chinked stone, with a wooden roof and two chimneys leaning precariously out away from the structure. A welcoming light comes from two windows on the western side, the shutters left open in mockery of the cold, wet evening.

HyunA

HyunA, the slim elven bladesinger, is having a difficult time, her normally sure footsteps being fouled by the mud and miserable conditions. “May I make a suggestion?” she says, her voice nearly swallowed by the wind. “I say we quickly make for yon house.” She gathers her cloak closer to her, which does precious little to remedy her frozen, sodden limbs.

Hektor

The homecoming, and sequential ceremony was very special to Hektor. Though he had been accepted into Clan Griff, and, not without some odd moments, got along with his smaller, but no less fearsome, adopted kin, it was the last few days of celebration and sharing stories that truly made him feel like part of the Clan.

A sharp crack of distant thunder, brought the giant-kin back to the present.

He, his sister and fellow companions, were struggling to trod on this miserable day. Because of his size and strength, Hektor wasn’t as burdened as the rest, though his weight drove his huge, booted feet deeper into the muck, causing him to walk abroad of the group, less they fall into the sucking holes left by his prints.

His thumb still ached from the time he tried to hoist his sister onto his broad back, and was rewarded with a bite to his thumb and scolded for thinking her weak and needy.

He wasn’t hurt by the berating. Hek loved his older sister and she him. She was just so nit picky about such things.

Wiping away the small waterfall cascading down in front of his one, good eye, Hektor gave his sis a fond smile before coming to a halt.

Before them, shadowed by the deluge, was a two story building. Light coming through the windows and door frame, suggested it was occupied.

He looked down at his sister, waiting for her summarization.

Korë

Korë pushes her sodden hair back from her eyes and idly flicks at the small yellow stone that is orbiting her head setting it to spinning wildly. She says a silent prayer of thanks, for perhaps the millionth time this week, that the Patient One had seen fit to bestow her with the gift of not sinking into mud…and that she had let that merchant in the Slums Market talk her into paying extra to have her boots waterproofed, if only I had let him talk me into buying that parasol, she thinks. Seeing the light ahead, she stops in her tracks and takes a moment to shift the weight of her large, frame-pack.

“I’m not going to argue with you Hun,” she says sniffling. “Even if its bandits waiting to slit our throats, I’ll take a violent death in a warm house over a slow, cold, wet one.” Just to be safe though, she pulls out a wooden bowl and tips a vial of goblin blood into, chanting a quiet prayer as she plods closer to the house.

Feeling no immediate threat or hostility, Korë allows herself to speed up a bit more, as much as her short legs would allow, eager for a dry place to sleep. “Come on,” she says to the others, raising her voice to be heard over the wind, “Looks perfectly safe to me…”

Fionn

Fionn, like his compatriots, was slogging through the mud in the harsh spring rains. Slogging through the mud was somewhat of a new experience for Fionn as he’d lost both his destrier and this plate mail in the particularly unfortunate altercation with the hobgoblins last fall, they weren’t that big, but there were a lot of them. Unfortunately, none of the horses of this part of the world were particularly suited to his massive frame and weight. So, he was forced, to slog through the mud, his boots sinking deeply in the mud of what seemed to pass for a road. Yep, walking was not something he enjoyed, and the mud just confirmed it. “Give me a horse any day of the week and I’d be set” he thought to himself.

Fionn brought up the rear of the party, just to ensure that if something came upon them from the rear, some of the smaller members of the group would have some additional protection. Whether marching at the rear made any difference for the ground, or for the protection, he wasn’t sure. The nice thing about the leather armor he was wearing as opposed to the plate mail he was used to, was it wouldn’t rust. His least favorite thing about metal armor especially with all this rain, was the rust.

The sword he kept was hard enough to keep sharp and rust free as it was.

A new mount would present itself at an appropriate time. In the interim, there was mud. Fionn wondered if it would ever end. But, hark, what light through yonder window breaks? Somewhat suspicious by nature, he watches while his companions try to assess what might be ahead of them. While somewhat inferior to the minotaur people, they were competent enough as he had come to find out over the last year and more.

Open windows and pouring rain. It smelled like a trap to him. “Go cautiously, my friends.” Fionn looses his sword in its sheath…

Bixby

Bixby has been lost in thought, for quite some time, contemplating ways to create and imbue a “Chromatic Orb” as a thrown weapon and muttering under her breath…
“…Huh, are we slowing down? Maybe there’s somewhere we can stay for the…oooo! Oooo! I’ve got it! …wait,no, that won’t work….”

Yobob

Yobob tugged on the mule’s lead as he tried his best to keep ahead of Fionn. The mule’s saddlebags were loaded with hundreds of lead bullets, and strapped to its back were a pair of strange looking contraptions, also made primarily of lead. Yobob hadn’t intended to be so loaded down for the return trip to Phlan, but he just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to experiment with the resources of Clan Griff.

While the beginning of the journey had been spent mulling over ways to outfit the mule for battle (The armor plating would be easy enough, but where would I mount the turret?), Yobob’s thoughts now turned to ways to stay dry. An umbrella might work, but only if I could figure out a way to get it to hover over my head as I walk.

The house was indeed a welcome sight. As he and his companions began moving toward it, Yobob nudged Bixby and, with a laugh, shouted above the sound of the rain, “Nothing like knocking on someone’s door and asking them to house a party of seven including a minotaur and a firbolg. These poor folks aren’t even going to notice the two of us!”

Hektor

Hek gave Kore a wide grin. He wanted to wink at her, like she playfully did so with him, but having only one serviceable eye, it always remained a blink.

After his sister finished with her casting, a site Hektor would never grow tired of, he helped everyone when needed and stood above the doorway, giving just enough room for Kore to knock, yet, block much of the downpour.

He was always very mindful of his surroundings, lest he step on one of his smaller companions. Save all but the minotaur, Fionn. Hek enjoyed the minotaur’s company and admired his stature.

Picking up on the Paladin’s thoughts, Hektor grinned and nodded his way, saying in his customary, low, gravelly tone…

“Betcha glad you ain’t got that tin can on huh Fionn?”

Like most, if not all of his species, Hek didn’t wear armor. And wasted no opportunity to tease his horned friend about it.

GM

As you approach the door, two signs catch your eye. The first, affixed to a post a few yards in front of the building, declares in Common the “Towne of Deþwillon, Population: Tire”, though you see no other structures, nor even the remains of structures anywhere around. The second, painted on the door in white lettering, next to a wooden cup that has been nailed in place, declares the place to be “Blahom Mandrivnyka” (The Traveler’s Boon). Through the open windows you can see a large room with a few tables, bracketed at either end by two large fireplaces. The place looks empty save for a pair of bored-looking teenage boys, the younger nervously drumming on a table as the second feeds a couple of logs into the fire. Anything they might be saying is completely drowned out by the sounds of the rain.

Korë

Korë pays no attention to the signs, she can’t read silly human letters anyways, as the steps past her brother to knock on the door, pounding had to make sure she is heard over the rain. A chorus sudden plaintive growls from behind them causes her to pivot quickly away from the door, her attention called to the three hungry, sopping bears trailing after the party. “Oh Mo̱ró, Mi̱téra, Bampás, I’m sorry!” she runs back and gives each of the bears a loving scratch behind the ears, her own voice modulating to a series of ursine growls as she explains that they had probably better wait outside, and that she would ask if there were any nearby caves or other shelter they might use.

Hektor

Hektor gave a throaty chuckle as he watched Kore tend to her grumpy trio.

For a reward, his own black bear, Hooch, nipped his backside, causing the big fellow to blurt out a yelp, before catching himself.

Looking back, while discreetly massaging his “love bite” as he had fondly named them, he gave Hooch his best ‘mock’ intimidating grimace.

Hooch, who like Hektor, was missing one eye from an attack by wolves, early in his life, not impressed, only snorted and moved closer to the building, hoping to get out of the rain.

Korë

Once the bears are settled, as much as they are going to be in the dark and the rain, knowing that their two-legged friends would be getting to go inside the nice, warm inn, Korë turns back to the door and knocks again, more loudly in case the two boys are too distracted to have heard the first time.

As she waits for the door to be answered, she looks around at her friends, making sure everyone has kept up through the storm. She notes Blixa and Yobob with their strange contraptions and cantankerous mule, Fionn, looking just as awkward as ever on his own hooves rather than a horse’s, Hun, looking downright miserable, her dear brother, keeping the rain off, but where was the bard? Normally she would expect him to be doing the knocking and the introductions. Ever since they had met in the market at Phlan, Frolik had been the party’s mouthpiece when dealing with locals who might be less open-minded about their unusually large friends. Of course, he was by far the most illness-prone of their party. She hoped his latest cold hadn’t gotten to the point where he’d had fallen into a ditch and drowned without anyone noticing…

She turned back to the others, “Anyone seen Frolik in the last mile or two?”

GM

With the second round of banging on the door you can see the two boys startle through the window. They look in the direction of the door then one disappears from view, though you can clearly hear him yelling, “Dyadya! Hosti!” Less than a minute later, the door swings open and a slight, willowy looking man with a hairlip squints out into the rain and darkness at you. Taking in the massive shadow of Hektor standing by the door, he stumbles back a step and says shakily, “Welcome,” standing aside to let you in.

The lintel of the door is painfully low for Hektor and Fionn, forcing them both to crawl to get through, and the wooden ceiling within is not much better.

The inside is rustic, yet cozy. The bare-earth floor can be seen through well-packed straw, the last of the winter stores likely having been used up a month ago, the walls are well-chinked with mud, and the fires burn merrily in the open hearths. A single wooden staircase rises along the back wall of the single, large room that is the first floor, up to a hole in the ceiling, down which an equally scrawny-looking woman in a dark-coloured dress is descending, pulling on a bonnet as she does.

The man, woman, and boys all stare dumbfounded as your strange party troops into the small inn.

HyunA

“Rhaich!” spits HyunA as she enters.

It was the closest thing the elves of Faerûn had to an expletive, though the bulk of that race considered such utterances unseemly.

“You’ll have to excuse them. They’re not from around her,” says HyunA, enjoying the obvious irony. She shakes her long, dark, locks to shed them of the excess rain, and removes her wet cloak. She moves closer to the fire to dry off. Her mood visibly improves now that she’s out of the miserable weather, and a small smile crosses her face. “We’re largely weatherproof, but there is a limit.” she explains.

Hektor

Waiting until the others made their way inside, Hektor gave a dubious look at the lintels dimensions as Fionn, although large in his own right, was still having a rough time squeezing through.

Before Hektor could think of an excuse to remain outside, Kore coaxed him in. He had to remove his huge backpack and halbred, before he could squeeze through.

Still, the height of the room caused him to remain crouched, until HyunA let loose an elven equivalent of a curse word, which Hektor had heard on other stressful occasions, which made him hit his head on the ceiling and uttering a dwarven curse word of his own.

Being absorbed in his own hardships, Hektor blushed when he finally realized that he and his companions were being scrutinized by the wide-eyed staff.

Uncomfortable and embarrassed, the gentle giant could only muster a nervous, toothy grin.

Yobob

As much as Yobob wanted to get out of the rain, he couldn’t help but glance around for the tire mentioned on the first sign as he tied up his mule. A good steel-belted radial is so hard to come by these days.

Giving up, he joined the party just in time to see Hektor bang his head on the ceiling, a site Yobob never tired of. Fighting the temptation to taunt his larger companions for their inability to safely complete such a simple task as entering a room, he instead turned his attention to the structure surrounding him. Yobob liked to fix things, and if there was a leaky roof, a creaky staircase, or a rusty hinge he wanted to find it. 

Korë

Korë wipes her hands on the, relatively, dry inside of her bear-hide cloak before offering it to the hairlipped innkeep, greeting him in the local tongue. “Blahoslovennya na vashomu budynku, tovarysh. Ya Kori Arkouda klanu Griff, tse moyi braty: Hektor i Finn, vony velyki, ale vony ne mayutʹ na uvazi niyakoyi shkody,” she says gestures to the two largest members of the party, and bowing.

“Thank you for your hospitality,” she continues, switching to the Common tongue. Something in her voice implies that the seven companions would be imposing on that hospitality whether it was actually offered or not. “Our other companions of HyunA,” she gestures to the elf who has already made her way to the fire, “Blixa, and Yobob,” she points a thumb over her shoulder at the gnomes, and “Frolik,” she looks around for the human one more time, then shrugs figuring she can look for him when she goes to take care of the bears.

Think of that, she presses on, “Do you have stables? Or, better yet, is there a cave nearby? We have animals outside, some of which might be startling to livestock…”

GM

The little man seems to regain his composure as the dwarf addresses him. “I’m afraid we don’t have any beds, but you’re all welcome to the fire and you can sleep in the common room of you need a place to rest.”

The woman turns to the boys, «Thumor, Ommis, go upstairs and fetch the big pot.» The two slowly make their way up the stairs, craning their necks to look alternately at the elven woman, the giant, and the minotaur, before disappearing upstairs. She scurried over to one of the hearths, using a log to swing the spit-hook out of the flames before tossing the wood in. “You all look chilled to the bone, we’ll put some soup on…”

“There’s a stable out back, and nothing in there to bother but the milk cow,” the man says, trying very not to look at the minotaur as he mentions the cow. “There’s also the old Number Two mine on the other side of Durham’s Hill, about a quarter mile that-a-way.” He points. “‘Course, there’ve been strange folk poking around the mine lately, so it’s maybe not the best place to spend the night.”

Korë

“A quarter mile that way?” Korë looks out the window to confirm the direction the innkeep had indicated. “That’s not too far. What kind of ‘strange folk’?” Not that I care, she thinks, the bears and I can handle ourselves. But these village types always love an opportunity to gossip, and a little chit-chat might make them more comfortable with us. She smiles unconsciously as she thinks of the tall tales the boys will have to tell their friends when her little party has left.

Frolik

Frolik has had the worst week ever. Period. Of course he caught a cold. No, he caught THE COLD. Surely, nothing short of a deity could cure him of it. It was catastrophic. First, the rain made it impossible to play the lute. It would be soaked in a minute! Then…he lost his voice. It was divine punishment. It was a good thing that he didn’t pay much attention to gods or else he would feel cursed. Without his voice he was nobody. He needed to speak more than breathing (it was basically the same for him) and right now only some coarse whispers was all he could manage. Thankfully they found a place with a roof and what looks like fire! Just to think of the possibility of being warm and dry lifted his spirit. But he was too weak yet to call attention to himself. It would be wiser to wait a little until he felt better and then make a nice introduction. For now his friends are making a great job at being the center of attention. He accepts the food, two servings actually, and some mulled wine.

GM

When the wet, sniffling, hoarse-voiced man starts asking for mulled wine, your hostess looks mortified. “Oh, you poor dear. We haven’t had a proper spice merchant up here in years, and Old Draeb’s vines were like nothing last year. I can’t even offer you wine, let alone properly spiced.” She seems close to tears at her social faux-pas, “but I can warm you a mug of milk with honey, which should fix you right up…”

The innkeep, does, in fact look relieved by Korë’s politely inquisitive manner. “A bunch of brothers,” he replies. “You know, the religious kind, showed up here the day before yesterday. They’ve been nosing around a lot. They don’t talk at all—can’t get ’em to say a word. And Thumor saw ’em squatting in the old mine, which would be a proper place for a beast to sleep, but no right place for a man.”

“Up to no good no doubt!” the lady chimes in.

“No doubt. But then, what do I know of such things,” the innkeep finishes.

Hektor

As everyone was getting comfortable, not an easy task, this room and it’s assortment of beings. The one thing they were like-minded about, is that they were wet, road weary and hungry.

As if on cue, Hektors stomach reminds EVERYONE that a good meal is past due.

At this rate, Hek’s cheeks would stay rosey-red for a fortnight.

“Pardon me.” He offers up to anyone paying attention.

Hek listened to the Inn keep’s tale about the road ahead with ernest. It had been a while since he got to let loose upon vile villains and monsters.

Tired of bumping his head and other appendages, Hektor uses his innate ability, diminution, which in a slight, blur to the eye, he now stands just under 8ft, weight and body are adjusted as well.

Much better. he thought to himself as he stretched his sore limbs and back.

GM

Coming downstairs holding either side of the large pot, the two boys laugh as the much-smaller giant stretches and still manages to bump his head on the ceiling.

Your hostess hangs the large pot over the fire, sends the boys to fetch water, and, roughly an hour later serves up a thick, starchy, sour-tasting green broth, topping each bowl with soured cream and slices of boiled egg.

Frolik

Frolik says to the hostess “Thank you my lady. You remind me of my granny. She would fix me up with warm honeyed milk and some cake. I’ll be delighted to have some.”

After drinking it and getting some food he stretches and flexes his body, warms his hands in the fire and thinks: “_ I can’t sing yet, but I sure feel like playing the lute _”.

He opens the case carefully and retrieves his instrument. It will take a while to tune it and warm it up, so he keeps his ears and eyes open, checking on the boys to see if they are curious about the lute.

Korë

As the lady of the house puts the soup on, Korë, heads for the door, stopping just long enough to whisper to her brother, “Hektor, jeg har tænkt mig at tage vores små søskende ud til hulen og få dem bosatte sig i. Jeg skulle være tilbage i tiden til suppe. Se mine ting?” She then throws her bear-hide cloak about her shoulders and heads out into the rain, leaving her heavy backpack propped against the wall in a corner.

Once outside, she takes her bearings, then goes and playfully hugs each of the bears. With a roll of her shoulders, she stretches her arms wide and begins to grow. As her body grows, her bear-hide garments fuse with her skin and expand as well, until she is covered in fur from snout to paws. Her body triples in size in every dimension, her fingers shrink, to be replaced by opposable claws, the stub of a tail appears. As the transformation completes, a conveniently timed flash of lightning illuminates the form of a fully grown kodiak sow, easily a hundred stone in weight and nearly as tall as her full-grown giant of a brother.

With a low growl she greets her brothers and sister. Then the troupe of bears pound off over the hill, towards the old, abandoned mine that the innkeep told them about.

Fionn

Fionn, after smacking his head and horns on the low door lintel and the ceiling inside, finds a nice corner to try to dry out and extract the mud from his hooves. At least from where he is sitting he isn’t getting any feelings of evil intent from anyone. That determined, clearing the mud continues. When the soup is ready, Fionn carefully takes the offered bowl from the innkeeper’s wife and thanks here politely.

Yobob

The innkeeper’s mention of a mine piqued Yobob’s interest enough to pull him away from his structural analysis. He partook of the offered victuals and enjoyed the music for a bit, but he just wasn’t satisfied with the innkeeper’s story. He’s left out all the important stuff!

Yobob decided to probe a little further about the details that mattered most to him. “Excuse me, sir,” he gestured to the innkeeper. “Can you tell us a little more about the Number Two mine? What kind of ore did it produce? Has it been shut down for long? Was it just a human operation, or were there some dwarves or gnomes involved?” If we’re dealing with a human mine, the best I can hope for is a mine cart with some rusted wheels, but if there were dwarves or gnomes involved, there’s no limit to what kind of equipment might be laying down there just waiting to be recycled. 

GM

The boys don’t seem particularly interested in the bard’s lute, though, once he begins to play, one does start drumming on a table, and is only slightly off-beat.

As the music plays and food is distributed, the innkeep sits down at one of the tables, all too happy to enlighten the gnome about the local mining. “Not much to tell about the old number two. It was the second mine that was opened when we first moved into Deþwillon.” He pronounces the name of the place such that it sounds like ‘Death Villain’. “We mostly mine argentite and galena. Number Two wasn’t a particularly good producer, especially compared to the Number Three, so it got abandoned after only a couple of years and never went particularly deep. Hasn’t been touched in a good thirty years. The Number One mine was here when we moved in, leftover from the dwarves, and goes the deepest. The Two and Three we carved out ourselves…”

He goes on for some time, talking about problems they had with properly shoring up the hillsides and tunnels, slippages and mudslides from the high rainfall, lost time from the mines flooding after the spring thaws, and other complaints. Even with their problems, it sounds like the mines pull out just enough silver and lead for the twenty or so families in Deþwillon (mostly on the far side of the hill, closer to the mines but away from the main trails) to make a living, with most of their ore being sold in Zhentil Keep or Teshwave.

Hektor

Growing up with dwarves was in itself, a trial of one’s wits. Everyday life was a challenge , but rewarding.

Even the dwarven language was, at first, an obstacle. Hektor’s alien mouth and tongue made even his best dwarf speak rough.

Korë had left him instructions in dwarvish, a fact that Hek did not miss. His big sister was much wiser when it came to dealing with the outside world.

Hek managed to keep any suspicious looks well hidden, but remained vigilant.

At first he wasn’t pleased about his sis going out on her own. But those uneasy thoughts soon faded and even brought a smirk to the giants lips.

Woe be on any who intend ill-will on that dwarf. Not to mention her trio of companions.

Hektor welcomed the hot meal as he listened to the story about the mines. Hek did not miss out on the point why he was not invited to inspect the mines either. The close quarters and low, unstable confines of a mine were no place for one of his stature.

Still, he could not help but worry. His free hand unconsciously inside his beard, lightly moving over his sister’s gift.


Outside

Korë

As the bears lope towards the cave, Korë thinks of how this shape feels so much more right than the one she’d been born with.

Since turning to the service of Lord Meriadar she had heard much about how hate was not a natural reaction. Humans could get along with anything. Even goblins, evil as they were, could get along with their cousins—orcs, hobgoblins, even ogres. Dwarves were different. ‘Children must be taught to hate’ was the common adage of the faith, but she knew that, for her people, that was absolutely wrong. The natural tendency of all dwarves, even those as kind-hearted and cosmopolitan as her father, was to hate that which was different. Even dwarves separated at birth from their clans learned at a very young age to hate and kill goblins, giants, and their ilk. Put a dwarven infant in a crib with a baby goblin and one of them would die. It was just the way of things.

Learning to love her brother had been hard. Learning to love her allies not of her clan had been harder. Learning to love even those that were possibly enemies had been an almost impossible task. After her brother, though, her first love had been the bears. Her clanmates had been terrified when Hektor brought the first one home, but she saw them for what they were. Stout, strong, and gruff, they might as well have been dwarves. She loved their thick, warm fur and the feel of their muscles beneath it. When she had learned to become one, she was ecstatic.

The more time she spent in this form, the more she knew that she was not trapped by her heritage. If she did not have to look like a dwarf, she did not have to think like a dwarf…did not have to hate like a dwarf. Not that she disliked her heritage, but her gut told her to lead with a crossbow bolt and never stop to ask questions. Since she had learned to be a bear, she had learned that, just as she could change her exterior, she could look past the exteriors of others. It had taken decades, but she had learned to embrace other races—even the minotaur and the elf that traveled with her—as brothers and sisters just as her father had made her embrace Hektor when he first brought the giant baby home.

Despite the cold, and the damp, and the dark, Korë let out a happy roar to be back in her proper skin. The cry was echoed by her furry siblings. Not long after, she spotted the darker patch of night marking the opening of a hole in the hillside. She veered slightly to head towards it and slowed her pace to approach with some semblance of caution…

GM

As the bears near the old mine, Korë can just make out the flickering light of a small campfire inside. Watching for a moment, she sees a figure stand up and cross in front of the fire, briefly obscuring it, then return to a seated position beside the light. Between the rain and her ursine nearsightedness, she cannot make out any details.

Korë

Korë growls, telling the other bears to spread out behind her and wait while she goes forward to check out the creatures in the cave. She pads forward slowly, trying to avoid making unnecessary noises and using the darkness and rain to cover her approach, her goal being to get close enough to see and smell the creatures (her vision as a bear being comparable to a human’s at close range). 

GM

Korë creeps up to the opening of the old mine and looks in to see a pair of creatures sitting by the fire, clearly humanoid in nature but wearing long voluminous brown robes that mask their features. The two creatures sit in complete silence, making no conversation or other noises. The cave smells strongly of guano and wet feathers, like a poorly ventilated chicken coop.

Korë

Korë briefly considers resuming her dwarven form so that she can use magic to assess the threat posed by these creatures, then decides that all she really cares about is if they will be a threat to her ursine siblings. Taking a deep breath, she slowly plods into the cave, acting as if the creatures and their fire aren’t even there. She stops right inside the opening, shakes vigorously to dry off, then walks towards the back of the cave, keep your distance, but don’t look like you’re trying to keep your distance, she thinks.

GM

The two creatures jump a little when the large bear comes in, they make no noise, but one turns its head fast enough that its cowl slips, revealing a misshapen human-like face with a parrot-like beak in place of its nose and mouth. Its left eye is large and bulging, and a smattering of drab brown feathers wreathes its chin like a beard. It quickly reaches up to pull the cowl back into place, revealing a twisted five-fingered hand with bird-like talons.

When the bear begins to shake off, they turn and cover themselves. The fire crackles and hisses from the shower of droplets, and one ducks to interpose himself between the bear and the fire. When the barrage of rain stops the two creatures eye the bear warily but make no further move, though the smell of fear from them is strong. They seem to relax slightly when the bear starts to walk around them without any show of aggression. They move slowly around to keep the fire between them and the bear…

Korë

Seeing that the poor, twisted creatures are not overtly hostile, Korë makes a slow circuit of the fire, walking all the way around it, but slow enough that they can keep their distance from the bear. As she does, she sniffs the ground and looks at the creatures in a way intended to convey simple animal wariness and curiosity, trying not to let on that she is probably smarter than they are.

As her circuit brings her back to the opening, she lets out a growl, telling the other bears that it is safe to come inside, but that they should head to the back of the cave, leaving the men by the fire alone. She then finishes on the far side of the fire from the door and walks towards the back, stopping just at the edge of the fire’s light, and lays down.

The other bears shuffle in, one at a time, shaking off then walking strait to the back, staying near the left wall, away from the bird-things. They each lay down next to Korë, curling up in a giant ball of fur and close their eyes.

Korë stays for several minutes watching the bears go to sleep and watching the birds to make sure they are not showing any aggression towards the sleeping bears. She then growls, telling Mo̱ró, Mi̱téra, Bampás that she will be back for them at first light, and that they should leave the poor bird-monks alone as long as they did likewise. She rises and heads for the exit.

Once out of the light of the fire, she reverts to her dwarven form and sneaks back to where she can see the bird things, casting know alignment, know faction, and detect magic just to be sure before leaving her siblings sleeping near these things.

GM

The creatures are clearly frightened by the family of bears taking up residence in the old mine with them. They give the animals wide berth and continue to try to keep the fire between them and the bears. They watch curiously as Korë leaves, but still make no threatening moves towards her or the bears. Still in complete silence.

By the time Korë circles back to divine their intent, the creatures have settled back to quietly sitting by the fire, apparently convinced that the sleeping animals are no immediate threat. Her spells do not tell her much. The creatures have a faint aura of transmutation magic lingering over them, but nothing currently active. They appear to be completely neutral in alignment, they are clearly sapient and not without alignment in the way that animals are, but have no strong leanings. Her attempt to read their affiliations reveals nothing. An absence. Either the spell failed, or these creatures have no social ties of any kind.

Korë

Antisocial but mostly harmless, she thinks. The bears will be fine.

Korë shivers a little, wishing that she had not relinquished the warm bulk of her bear form and slips back into the rain and darkness, focusing her infravision to pick out the tell-tale warm spot of the inn’s chimneys through the otherwise uniformly cold background. She hasn’t gone more than a dozen steps when she also regets the loss of her longer bear legs. She pulls out her yellow ioun stone and sets it to spinning around her head. Stupid dwarf-body, she thinks as she plods slowly through the rain, at least my feet will stay dry.

She walks back into the inn a little more than an hour after she’d left and helps herself to a bowl of soup.


Back at the Inn

Korë

Once the bard begins playing and everyone else starts eating, Korë wanders over to the corner and sits down by the minotaur. For the year that they’d known each other, Fionn had been the party’s moral compass, at least for those situations that might call for an application of force. "Fionn, fandt jeg nogle af de “brødre”, at innkeep talte om. De var mærkeligt. De lignede mænd med tilfældige fugl bits limet på – fjer, næb, kløer. Som en slags vanvittige guiden eksperiment. Tror du, det er værd os kigge ind på?"

Hektor

Hektor was grateful and relieved when Korë walked back into the Inn.

He had prepared a meal for her. Taking that and one of his blankets, he sat near Korë and Fionn.

Hek offered the meal and blanket to his sister as he listened to what she had found out. 

Frolik

fter playing some tunes and feeling much better for it, Frolik sees Korë rerturning. He packs his lute thinking that maybe in a day or two he might be singing again, and grabbing some honeyed milk he walks towards Korë, Fionn, and Hektor.

“Anything interesting?” He says clearing his throat and with a coarse voice.

Korë

As everyone starts assembling around her, Korë tucks into her bowl of soup and tries to act as inconspicuous as possible, trying not to alarm the locals with what she found. “Thank you, this is delicious,” she says to the lady of the house, then reverts to dwarvish to commune with her companions. "Da jeg fortalte Fionn, fandt jeg nogle af de “brødre”, der innkeep talt om. De lignede mænd med tilfældig fugl bits limet på – fjer, næb, kløer – og ønskede ikke oprette en enkelt lyd. De syntes harmløs og gider ikke mig eller bjørne, som vi gik ind i hulen, men jeg kan se, hvorfor de lokale ville blive paagaeldende. Da vi er her, måske skulle vi tjekke det ud i morgen, og måske se, om der er en butik, hvor vi kan genpåfyldning til turen tilbage til Phlan."

GM

As the last of the pot of soup empties, the man of the house yawns. “Well folks, I need to get some sleep, you’re welcome to sleep here tonight. Spread out wherever you like. We can settle accounts in the morning.” He walks over and drops a bar across the front door, then shoos the lady and boys up the stairs. They hurry up, taking the large pot and a few other loose items up with them, leaving nothing but the tables, stools, and dying fire behind. As they vanish you hear the thump of trap being closed and a screech as something heavy is dragged across the floor and set on top of it.

Korë

Once the proprietor and his family disappear upstairs and lock themselves in, Korë relaxes and explains again in the common traders tongue, despite its limited ability to convey complex ideas, for any of her party who have yet to master dethek. "As I told Fionn. I found some of “brothers” who hospitality worker talked about. They looked like men with bird bits glued on – feathers, hard mouth parts, claws – and did not create single sound. They seemed not dangerous and did not bother me or bears, as we went in cave. I can see why locals would be afraid. Since we’re here, we should check it out tomorrow. See if there is shop where we can restock for trip back to Phlan."

What a useless language, she thinks, it doesn’t even have articles. She shoves a stool out of the way to make room to spread out her bedroll.


2nd of Ches

Korë

The next morning, Korë wakes up early, when the Inn is still quiet. Shivering against the chill morning air, she crawls over and begins building up the fire in the hearth, adding wood and stirring up the coals until she has a small blaze going.

She unbars the door and steps outside, filling her own small cauldron at the rain barrel, then returns to hang it over the fire. As the water comes to a boil, she tosses a cube of incense into the fire, filling the room with a lovely (if slightly narcotic) scent, and then tosses a number of rune-carved stones into the water. She then sits, staring the ripples in the water from the stones and the steam wafting out of the cauldron, meditating over whether it would be advisable for the party to investigate these bird-monks further.

GM

The runestones slowly float to the surface of the water, one by one, only to submerge again to be replaced by others. The message goes on far longer than any Korë has previously witnessed. Hurriedly, her mind reeling from the psychotropic haze of her incense, Korë translates the surfacing stones:

Vigils. Full moon at apex.
Copse of trees on stony hilltop.
Singing. Shadows flicker before flames.
Matins. No moon upon the sky.
Feathers clutter beneath canopy.
Breathing. Silver bound by murder.
Sext. Clouds gather to plead their case.
Groaning. Wind and branches joins cause.
None. To purify herald rings.
Wailing. Heaven sheds starry tears.
Vespers. Waiting without Waning.
It Comes.

Ommos

Kore’s reverie is broken by the sound of the trap door to the upper floor being opened. The elder of the two boys slips down, closing it as quietly as he can behind him and walks over to where the dwarf woman is sitting by the fire. “Jeg taler Dethek du kender.”

He pulls one of the stools over and sits down. “Du er en klog kvinde?” he asks, looking at the cauldron and the stones. “I heard what you were saying…about the bird men. If you and your friends are going to be investigating I’d like to help. I doubt many of the people around here would be willing to open up to your friends…” he casts a glance at the snoring giant and minotaur, “no offense.”

He sticks out his hand, “I’m Ommos.”

Korë

Korë gives the boy an arm cross, “Du laver en god pointe, velkommen ombord.” She walks over the nudges Hektor with her foot, “Wake up, time to go check on the boys and make sure they didn’t maul any monks in their sleep…”

She turns back to the boy, “Så Ommos er Dethek almindeligt kendt her omkring?”

Ommos

“Nej, ikke som sådan, men at arbejde her jeg har haft lejlighed til at tale med et par af dine folk. Bare rolig, jeg er sikker mine onkler taler ikke din tunge.”

Ommos looks around, “Your friends are sound sleepers, eh?” He walks to the second hearth and starts stoking the fire up, putting a great over it once its going. “Oh, Uncle Tal usually charges four coppers a head for dinner and room to spread out…he’ll probably forget to mention it and then mam will get angry with him again, so make sure to settle up before we leave.”

Korë

Korë does a quick head count as she is drying and re-packing her divinatory tools. “Thanks for the heads up,” she says, neatly piling four stacks of ten copper coins each on one of the tables. Never hurts to tip, she thinks, especially with big appetites in the party.

She kicks the sleeping Hektor and Fionn one more time, then heads out the door. “Come on guys, get the lead out…”

Frolik

Frolik wakes up feeling much better and with renewed strength.
“Well, shall we wake the others and get a head start on our trip? Those bird-men sound like fun.”
He adds a couple of coppers to one table and packs his stuff.
While he is at it, he sings a song to warm up his voice.

“Rise and shine, rise and shine
there are things to be done
so wake up and get ready
and lets just be far gone
but first wash and clean yourselves
because my hellish cold is over
and i can smell you from beyond”

Ommos

Ommos laughs loudly at the song, “That was some nice playing last night. I’m glad that you are feeling better.” He ducks out the door after the dwarf. “So where did you want to look first?”

Korë

“That way,” Korë points in the direction of the cave. “I have some friends I need to check in on before we do much else, and they were, insterestingly, sharing a cave with a couple of your visitors last night…” She sets off at her fastest speed, which is barely a walk for all of her larger companions. She sighs again at the limitations of her dwarven body, at least it’s always easy for the lazy-heads to catch up, she thinks.

GM

Outside, the rain from the past several days continues unabated, a steady, cold drizzle giving a deep green luster to the grasses covering the hill. With the morning light you can now make out a small village, perhaps a score of buildings including two or three large enough to be a store or meeting house, on the far side as you cross over the ridge. The rain obscures your vision, but you can make out the motion of a few people out and about. As you near the abandoned there is an ominous rumble of thunder and you see a pair of humanoid figures, presumably the bird-monks from the night before, skulking away down the hill and into the light woods that border the town.

Hektor

Hektor, as large and strong as he was, was pooped. The last few days journey through the foul weather not only sapped his strength but dampened his usually unshakable spirit. He longed for the sun and chorus of so many types of birds singing different songs, yet somehow still stayed miraculously in harmony. He loved birds almost as much as he loved bears. Truthfully, and already well known, Hek loved all the natural animals of the lands. His dwarven father often joked that the gentle-giant should’ve been a
“flippin ranger” or even “like ’is big sis.”

Suffice to say, Hektor slept like a baby…mammoth. If anyone else did, due to his rusty saw-blade snoring, it was nothing short of a miracle.

He was having the most delightful dream about a symphony of multi-typed birds, that oddly all sounded like a lute, when a gigantic, dwarven boot stomped the lot of them and kicked Hektor in the rump as well.

With a snort that shook the rafters, Hek’s saucer-sized eye popped wide open.

“Huh… whu….my birdies!?” he exclaimed loudly, still in the fog of the evaporating dream.

Blinking the sleep away, his single, huge orb stopped on Köre.

In a mumbled, half-hoarse voice he said…
“Geez sis…maybe try a gentle touch next time.” rubbing an imaginary hurt on his bottom.

He received in turn, the usual “hrrmuph!” and eye-roll.

In the end it was Köre’s incense that finally woke up the grumpy bear… so-to-speak.

Although his belly rumbled in protest, the thought of going to see his “baby-boy”, Hooch, got the big guy rolling.

As he started for the doorway, he looked back and chided Fionn about the mud left from the minotaur’s hooves…

Awake, yet still not alert, Hek totally forgot that his enchantment he cast the previous night had worn off, restoring him to his full 12 foot height. The end result was a lump on his forehead and an irregular half-globed hole above the door.

Red-faced, Hektor made quick apologies and promises of repair to the mistress before squeezing out into the drizzle.

Easily catching up to his sister, Hektor once again offered a ride, having notice several choice dwarvish curses. 

Korë

Korë spares only a moment to glance angrily at her brother, then stops and points into the gloom. “There,” she says quietly, “heading towards the woods.” She turns to the elf trailing them, “Hun, you’ve got the best eyes. Try to keep them in sight. We’ll check on the bears quickly, then go see what our dark-robed skulkers are up to…”

Frolik

Frolik prepares his crossbow just in case. “Maybe they are running from something or someone?” Then he enters into the woods in the opposite direction the bird-people are going.

Ommos

Ommos stops and gives Korë a look that is simultaneously quizzical and terrified. “Did you say bears?!”

He steps away from the cave and turns towards the woods, trying to make out the two figures ducking into the trees. “It doesn’t look like they are moving fast enough to be running from anything Mr…” he stops when he sees Frolik heading in the opposite direction. “Hey!” he calls in a coarse whisper-shout, “Where are you going?” He jogs to catch up with the bard, “Shouldn’t we be following them?”

GM

As if aware that you are talking about them, the three sleepy-looking bears come plodding out of the cave. Hooch, the biggest of the three, stops by Hektor and shakes vigorously to shed water-droplets from his fur, then looks up at the giant grumpily, clearly objecting to the weather, but otherwise hale and hearty.

The two bird-men, meanwhile vanish into the woods at the bottom of the hill, the trees and rain covering their passage.

Korë

Korë rubs the bears heads affectionately, then looks down the hill. “Should we chase them? Or go explore elsewhere?” Then, to Ommos, “Hey, your uncle didn’t say how many of the ‘brothers’ he saw in town, but it sounded like several. Was it just the two of them, or are there likely more skulking around?”

Hektor

Hektor took his big sister’s scowl as if it were affection. He grinned.

He did however give her a flat look at the “best eyeS” comment.
Nevertheless he kept a serious vigil.

The robed “bird-men” looked throughly spooked.

Without looking down, Hek reached out and gave Hooch an affectionate, reassuring squeeze on the great bean’s back of the neck.

Still watching the rapidly departing duo, he spoke with authority.
“Someone should double check the cave..”

Bending to Hooch’s ear, the Hound Master whispered for a moment, the bear’s ears going alert.

With a low acknowledging growl, Hooch set off towards the fleeing people.

Korë

Korë nods approval of her brother’s statement, “Yeah, I’ve lost sight of them anyways…”

She motions the bears over to her and makes a deep growling noise, asking if they can pick up the birds scent, since it was so recent.

As her furry friends start tracking down the bird-men, Korë turns back to the cave and motions for the others to follow, “Let’s check out the mine and see if there is anything of significance. It could be that they were just looking for a dry place to sleep, but maybe they left behind something that would explain what they are doing here.”

GM

The cave, only slightly easier to see in the gloomy daylight, is just tall enough for a man to stand upright and just wide enough for four men to walk abreast, and runs strait back into the hillside for quite a ways, well past the range of Korë’s infravision. The walls are fairly smooth, clearly worked rather than natural, and faint grooves running down the middle of the floor show where a track may have once been.

About five yards into the mine, just enough to be out of range for wind-blown raindrops, you find the still smoldering remains of the bird-men’s fire. Two bundles of fire-blackened leaves, filled with small bones sit nearby, but there are no other obvious signs of their presence.

Hektor

Hek begins to follow Hooch as the great bear tracks the bird-men.

He feels secure with the knowledge that Köre has her two bears and party members nearby.

Hektor’s long stride brings him to the forests edge in short order. Using his advantage of height, he takes a good look in the direction of the two odd fellows before entering the thick. 

GM

The bird-men’s trail takes you down the hill, towards the village, then over a small mill-stream and into the woods bordering the town. The rain and the stream make following the scent-trail more difficult, but you saw where they entered the woods so Hooch is eventually able to pick it back up. Their path sticks close to the edge of the woods, cutting around the north and west of the village.

While the creatures were not running from anything to start with, a giant and a grizzly bear following along the exact same path that they took are not easy things to conceal. Spotting the hulking shapes coming behind them, the two bird-men break the cover of the trees, sprinting towards the sanctuary of an old church in the south-west corner of the village. Somehow, even in a state of panicked flight, the creatures make no sound.

Hektor

Hektor followed Hooch who was tracking the bird-men. Over a few of the smaller trees he could make out the village and the path that his quarry were taking.
Whistling for Hooch to return, he gave the commands necessary for the bear to understand and relay to his sister and the other party members.
Hooch was to go back and find Köre (his symbol to indicate his sister was touching the totem attached to his beard that she had made and given to him)
and bring all of them back to where Hektor’s scent followed.

Once Hooch was away, moving swiftly for a creature of his size, Hektor set out for the church. Once in the open, all pretence of cover was gone and he used his long strides to move quickly to the perimeter of the building. Although the two bird-men had yet to show any aggression, Hek’s, movement was patient and cautious as was taught by his father and Köre. He chose to go to the rear of the church to make certain that the two had not gone out the back door if one was present. 

Korë

Korë makes a circuit of the campsite, pushing aside the ashes of the fire with a stick, examining the bones in the leaves, and looking for any other signs left behind by the bird-creatures. After a few minutes she is confident that there is nothing else of interest and slightly disappointed in their choice of baked rats for their evening meal. She cinches up her pack and heads out of the mine. She stops by the exit, looking around for any signs of where her friends might have gone, then easily spots Hektor’s massive footprints heading down the hill. Guess I’d better catch up.

She runs down the hill as fast as her short legs and the slippery, muddy terrain will allow.

Frolik

Frolik takes a look in the cave, walks a little bit into it and after seeing nothing of interest, heads back outside and follows Korë and Hek.

Ommos

Ommos falls in behind Korë and Frolik, slowing his pace to match the dwarf. As they break the cover of the woods and he spots Hektor near the church, the young man’s eyebrows knit into a glower. “That’s my church,” he growls. “What would the strangers want in there?” He draws a red-bladed sickle from his belt and hurries up beside the giant…

GM

The old church is small, stone building, only slightly larger than the houses that comprise the village of Deþwillon, with a steeply pitched roof to protect against the harsh winter snows. As Hektor nears the building, he sees the two bird-creatures duck into a small postern on the corner closest to the woods. A quick survey reveals no windows on the building, but three possible entrances: the nearby postern door, another small door on the eastern side leading out into a small graveyard, and a set of large double doors facing due north towards the village proper. With his greater height, Hektor can also see what appears to be a large hatch on the south-face of the roof, presently closed. Two old maple trees grow up near the north-eastern corner of the church, close enough that even small children could likely climb onto the roof from them.

Hektor

With his one good eye, Hek spared a quick glance over his shoulder. Köre, Flolik and to his surprise, one of the human younglings from the inn. Although puzzled by the boys presence, he pushed the thought aside for the time being. Still, the protective part of him couldn’t help but keep the boy from harms way should things get…complicated.

Using a warbling whistle, Hek gave Hooch the command to watch the back of the church. The quarry might try to escape unnoticed.

Knowing that his long time companions would understand his use of the great bear, he had no doubt that they would automatically find their part in this hunt. Nevertheless, Hektor waited until they caught up in case they might have information.
He kept a strong vigil on his surroundings and tried to listen to tell-tale noises within the church. 

Korë

Korë tells the two bears to wait in the woods and jogs to catch up with the boy and her brother. Reaching the old church, she pats Hooch on the head, then turns to the others, whispering. “Three doors? Plus the roof? Shall we try all four at once and attempt to surround them?” Hardly waiting for an answer, she begins slipping around towards the trees on the far side, gesturing to Hektor to indicate that she’ll take the roof-hatch.

As she slips along the side of the church, she also looks around for other nearby buildings, in case the strange, furtive bird-men may have allies hidden nearby.

Looking up at the angle of the roof and thinking about her strange augury from earlier in the morning, Korë suddenly stops and creeps back. “Ommos,” she says in a harsh whisper, “does your church have any special celebrations for the Full Moon? There is supposed to be one soon, tonight? Tomorrow maybe? That hatch looks like it’s at just the right angle for a good viewing, if the rain would ever let up…”

Frolik

As Korë takes the roof Frolik goes to the eastern entrance, the one with the graveyard. He has his crossbow ready but since he doesn’t want to appear dangerous, he keeps it behind him. Just in case, he also keeps a spell (grease) in the tip of his tongue.

Watching the church he tries to remember if he knows anything about it or the bird-men.

Hektor

Comforted by the fact his companions were nearby, Hek slowly moves around the building, alert for any movement or sound.

As per his races innate ability, Hektor enacts detect magic, hoping that the spell like ability will give aid in the search. 

Ommos

Ommos nods warily, “Yes…we do celebrate the full moon…why?”

GM

Listening at the doors, Hektor hears…nothing. The same eerie silence that surrounded the bird-men as he was chasing them appears to have been maintained. Aside from the rain pattering on roofs, and leaves, and gravestones, the surrounding area is quiet as well. Hektor does detect a lingering aura of magic over the entire structure, old but strong.

The north side of the church is separated from the rest of the town by a wide, muddy dirt track, but one building flanks the church to the east, just the other side of the two maples. It is a large thatch-roofed building with a weather-worn sign on the front bearing a crude flour-sack logo, possibly what passes for a general store for the small village. As Korë heads for the trees to get up onto the roof, she notices that waxed parchment over one of the windows of the store has been ripped open, letting the rain in and a faint moaning sound out.

Examining the church, Frolik recognizes the tell-tale trappings of the local folk religion: the south-facing roof-hatch in particular, but also small, crescent moon shapes lightly etched into each stone of the walls, and the sharp, metallic smell of blood near the main doors, from monthly offerings poured out on the threshold. The locals in this section of the Dragonspine Mountains are often referred to as ‘Mooneyes’ by southerners, and are known for being unusually chummy with the goblins and kobolds, almost to the point of considering their villages to be part of the goblin tribes. The religion is a primitive form of matriarchal moon worship and sympathetic magic, considered ‘witchcraft’ by the establishment back in Phlan. On the plus side, the churches up here are famous for the distillation of excellent spirits (which sometimes make their way south with the autumn caravans), with a particular flair for creativity in their brewing.

Hektor

The rain splatter dashed any hope of hearing their quarry, though even so, it was a bit too quiet despite the rain. It sent a visible shudder down Hektor’s spine.

While he could not discern the sphere of magic that encompassed the old church, he could at least relay his findings.

Not bothering to attempt being quiet, something the big guy wasn’t very successful at anyway, Hek spoke in dwarvish…

“Jeg hører ikke fra vores stenbrud. Være det kendt denne struktur har en gammel magi over det.”

Hektor remained vigilant, though had he noticed the moon etchings that adorned the church, he would be seeing red.

Korë

“I think something is going down tonight, at moon-rise…can’t say exactly what though, and will culminate around sundown tomorrow, probably involving these bird-men and probably ending with someone being killed…and maybe a meteor shower.” Korë shakes her head, “Sorry, even with all the right tools, divination is not a precise science.”

She turns and heads back towards the trees, planning to get up on the roof, then stops when she notices the busted-out window. “Ligner nogen brød ind her, og jeg kan høre nogle stønnen. Jeg har tænkt mig i at tjekke det ud. Hold mig dækket, hva lillebror?” She breaks away from the church and circles the shop, looking for other signs of forced entry before heading to check the front door.

Frolik

“Just as I like it. Goblins and spirits!” Frolik reaches the eastern door and tries to listen inside.

Ommos

Ommos watches the dwarf, the giant, and the bard, impressed by their professionalism with their careful investigations and covering all the exits and wonders where he can really help. Finally he shrugs, not going down until tonight, huh?, and heads for the front doors, figuring that this is his church and there really is nothing unusual in him just walking in on the morning before a major ceremony. He knocks loudly, so as to not surprise anyone, then shoves one of the two large doors open and peers inside, trying to be as casual about it as possible. “Lady Azrael? Father Dosol?” he calls into the silence, checking to see if either of the leading priests were present. Only then does he realize that he is still clutching his ceremonial sickle tightly in his hand, and quickly fumbles it into his belt strap.

Hektor

Hektor nods and positions himself in an optimal place to go where he was needed.

He gave a series of whistles and clicks that sent Hooch around to the front of the church where he would stand guard over the boy. 

GM

Korë circles the shop, but finds no other busted windows, nor other signs of damage to the building, though the sounds of quiet moaning remain readily audible. She tries the front door, but finds it locked, nothing elaborate, just a single slide bolt at about eye-level to a man, judging by the tension.

Ommos opens the door into the nave of the old church. Having no windows, and the moon-door closed, the room is almost completely black, save for the faint gray, rainy-day light leaking in through the door. The room is completely silent, save for the sounds of rain pattering against the roof and the steady plink of water dripping down from the imperfectly sealed moon-door. Even after letting his eyes adjust to the dimness, Ommos can see very little. He notes the shapes of the tall candelabras lining the walls, the slickness of the damp cobbled floor, and, perhaps, something moving in the darkness of the south end of the building.

Korë

Korë lets out a low, ursine growl and puts her shoulder to the door. The force, applied a couple feet lower than the bolt, easily pops the nails holding the bolt to the door’s frame. She grumbles a low, “Sorry,” in the local dialect, then steps into the shop, scanning the room for possible assailants before proceeding towards the source of the moaning.

Ommos

Though a little spooked by the dark, the quiet, and the vague sensation of motion, Ommos was at least comfortable with the old church. He made a low “pssssst” sound, trying to get the attention of the dwarf or one of her other dark-acclimated allies. When it becomes clear that she is otherwise distracted, he heads over to the nearest candelabra, takes a candle (being careful to take the central one, so as to not upset its symmetry and thus offend the gods), and strikes a light with his flint before proceeding carefully towards the southern apse of the church. Knowing that surprise is not on his side, he hazards another call, “Father Dosol? Are you here?”

GM

Korë enters the shop to find clear signs of a struggle and looting — a broken stool, several wall pegs and shelves emptied, and one shelf knocked sideways, leaning against a second and much of its contents spilled on the floor. Behind the fallen shelf she finds the source of the moaning — a man well past his prime, still dressed in his night robe lying on the ground. There is a large cut and several bruises on his balding head, and his hands and feet are bound. The mans eyes are still heavily lidded, but he appears to be regaining consciousness.

Meanwhile, in the church, the sudden sparking of Ommos’s light startles the other inhabitants. At the far end of the church, two robed shapes, still vague in the dimness of the single candle, rise jerkily, but without so much as a sharp intake of breath, let alone any cry, from kneeling positions and rush for the south-eastern door (the one that would lead out into the graveyard). The lead one lowers his shoulder the plows into the door, knocking it open right into Frolik…

Ommos

Ommos is startled by the sudden movement and the continued strange silence. Seeing Frolik in danger, Ommos quickly incants the words to a spell, “Dayte volyu prominʹ Ondovir!” and points a finger at the lead runner. A thin beam of brilliant yellow-white light leaps from his finger, arcing toward the bird-man who opened the door, briefly shattering the dimness of the church and leaving spots dancing before Ommos’ eyes.

Frolik

Frolik tries to stop the bird-man, but without hurting it.

GM

The door slams hard into Frolik’s cheek, sending him sprawling sideways away from the door. There is a brief wash of light and the runner then suddenly stops, drops to his knees and folds his hands as if in prayer, causing the second runner to tumble headfirst over him, then stands, stumbles over his friend and barrels shoulder-first into the nearest headstone in the small cemetery. There is an unpleasant cracking sound as he makes contact, but again, no sound from the robed man, though a twisted hand emerges from a sleeve to cradle his injured shoulder.

Frolik

“Ouch!”Says Frolik caressing his bruised cheek and picking himself up from the floor. Then he walks towards the bird-men while casually dusting off his clothes and says “Hi, I reckon we had a tough introduction, but could you please stay calm so we can all avoid further injuries?”

Korë

Korë kneels down by the man, saws through his bonds with the pewter knife from her mess kit, then lays a hand on his injured head and bows her head in a silent prayer for healing.

GM

As Korë touches the man’s head, his eyes snap open suddenly. “Thieves!” he shouts. His eyes look right at Korë, but seem unfocused, as if he is looking right through her. “They took my tools! They were sneaky, but I heard them in here. Oh, but there were too many of them. Horrible, ugly men—bashed me across the head! It was terrible…uh…who’re…” His tirade comes to a spluttering stop as his eyes focus and he finally recognizes the person kneeling over him to be a stranger.

Outside, as Frolik walks towards the stunned bird-man, he notices a small scrap of paper floating in nearby puddle, apparently having fallen from the man’s robe when he collided with the headstone, and quickly becoming soaked through.

Frolik

Frolik quickly snatches the paper from the puddle and tries to read it. He uses his handkerchief to absorb some of the muddy water.

“And what about you two?” He says to the bird-men. “Are you sneaky thieves then?”
Frolik bends down to check on the bird-man that crashed headlong into the gravestone. Then in a whisper “Did you find any good spirits?”

GM

The paper scrap reads, in the local tongue, “Плетені вікарій. Духи дистильована. Наступна Повний місяць. Велика Вечірка. наш Блискучий. Віконт теж два.”

«Wicker vicar. Spirits distilled. Next full moon. Great party. Our shiny. Viscount Too Two.»

Hektor

Hearing the commotion and cry of “Ouch!”, Hektor arrives on the scene quickly with his long strides.

He didn’t like the idea that the group was now split, Köre being inside the nearby store, but he had faith in his older sister and he could be at her aid in no time.

Looking down at the sight before him, Hek let some of the tension he was experiencing fade. The two bird-men looked less of a threat and more like they needed saving.

Hektor moved his only good eye over to Frolik who was in possession of a sodden piece of parchment. He looked a tad rattled, but otherwise ok.

Kneeling to one knee which sank into the mud, Hektor gently reaches out to assist the injured man up as he addresses Frolik.

“You been roughin’ these fellows up my friend?” he says with a grin. 

Frolik

“On the contrary my friend! They seem to be able to rough themselves up without any help from me!” Says Frolik to Hektor in a fake wounded tone. “I think they could use a hand…or two. Why don’t we take them inside and out of this rain?” 

Korë

Realizing how terrifying it could be to wake up from a head injury to find your house broken into and a strange bear-skin clad dwarf leaning over you, Korë decides to expedite calming the man down by casting charm person or mammal on him. “Calm down,” she says gently, “it’s me Korë, you remember…everything will be fine…”

GM

As the giant reaches for the man, he jerks away and leaps to his feet, turning to run but getting tangled in his robes and falling in the mud again. The second, still near the door, gathers himself up, revealing one booted foot and one eagle-like talon, and sprints back toward the woods.

Meanwhile, inside the shop, the man blinks confusedly. “A Ko-ree! Blessed Moon am I glad to see you!” He sits up, perhaps a little too quickly, judging by the look of nausea that comes over him, then looks a the door. “Gah, the bastards! That bolt cost me five silver staters. Bad enough that they tore the windows coming in, why’d they have to break my door going out!” He shakes a fist angrily before looking back at the dwarf, “I’ll be fine Ko-ree. You’d best go tell Mayor Granforth that there’re thieves about…”

Ommos

Ommos makes his way through the church, lighting a few more candles as he goes to brighten the place up, then stops by the open door. Guess we’ll have to catch that one, he thinks. He clicks together the heels of his boots of jogging and takes off after the bird-man at a dead sprint, sure that his magic boots will let him overtake the thing by endurance, if not by actual speed.

Frolik

“Hey, what kind of manners are those? Are you just leaving your friend like that???” Says Frolik to the running man as he casts a spell aimed in front of his running path, creating a pool of slippery grease.

Hektor

The defensive motion by the robed man was expected. The bird-like claw on the fleeing fellow was entirely not.

With a shrill whistle that knifes thru the rain and commotion, Hektor gives Hooch the signal to “fetch”.

There were quite a few different signals learned and shared between he and his beloved companion Hooch. The great bear, although now in full pursuit, would not harm the running man…if said prey remained civil.

Calmly, gently but very firmly, Hek places a huge, wet hand on the injured man’s shoulders and back.

“You jus sit back and relax good sir. Aid will arrive’n short order.”

Outwardly stoic, the big guy was inwardly worried sick about his big sister. 

He did find a fond chuckle for his small friend Frolik who had just made Hooch’s job a bit easier. 

GM

The fleeing man hits the grease, but instead of falling, slides across and keeps running, his one talon-like foot digging into the mud for traction. However, even running flat-out, his gate is awkward with the one bird-like foot, and Ommos and the bear overtake him before he can even reach the tree-line.

The remaining man, clearly overmatched with the huge hand resting on his shoulder, pulls his hands back into his sleeves and bows his head as if in meditation, making no sound.

Ommos

As he nears the fleeing bird-footed man, Ommos sees the bear running up behind him. Ommos lets out a panicked yell and dives to the side, forgetting his quarry in his eagerness to get out of the way of a fourty-stone pile of teeth and claws barreling after him at thirty miles an hour.

Hektor

Hooch loves fetch. He also loves Hektor’s friends in a terrifying kind of way.

Smelling the grease far before he sees it, Hooch moves to the side of it right after Ommos did the same and leaps over the freaked out fellow, landing heavily, leaving great gouges of earth in the wake of the great bear’s claws.

Swinging around in front of the running man, Hooch rears up on his back legs, towering over the smaller prey and ROARS!

Hektor smirks, knowing the growl for what it was. Had Hooch meant harm to his prey, this little song would pale by comparison.

However, Hek did not take his eye off the man before him and did not like the man putting his hands out of sight.

Nothing visibly changes on the half-giant, but the tone of his voice leaves no doubt of his words.

“Slowly show me yer hands, palms down…. Now.”

Korë

Korë helps the man to his feet, then goes about setting the shelving upright again. “Do you know what was taken?” she asks. “Perhaps the items stolen might give ‘the mayor’ a clue to what these thieves are about…” She continues to scurry about the shop, putting things back on the shelves and also taking a mental inventory of the sort of items the place carries.

She then heads over to the torn window, looking for the muddy footprints that must be there in such weather if anyone came in, particularly looking for any telltale talon marks that might indicate whether the perpetrators of the robbery were the same bird-men she had seen in the cave.

GM

With the bear suddenly in front of him, the talon-footed man tries to pivot, but skids out, landing in the mud. He remains there, remaining as silent as before, and lying as still as he can, as if trying to ‘play dead’ to avoid attracting the bear’s ire.

His companion, meanwhile, remains sitting beside the gravestones with his hands folded in his sleeves. He makes no motion in response to Hektor’s words. No reaction at all in fact, as if he were deaf as well as mute.

Inside the shop, the owner thanks Korë for helping him up and righting the shelves, then looks around the place, busily putting things in the right places (including re-shelving some things that Korë misplaced). “Rope.” he finally says. “All the rope is gone, and all the parchment, and the candles, even the vigils I stock for the church, and the extra wicking…” He finishes putting the last of the items on their proper shelves and hooks, “Also took my biggest mirror, a couple shovels, bunch of gunny sacks…”

As the man finishes his inventory, Korë notices several muddy footprints trailing all over the dirt floor of the shop, mostly wet boot prints, but also a pair of large, webbed, three-toed markings in the muddy patch where the rain had been coming in the window, almost like giant duck footprints. The wall immediately below the window is also streaked with mud from where something climbed out.

Korë

“Rope and candles? Odd choices of things to steal, unless they were going spelunking,” Korë muses. She looks at the tracks then heads for the door, stopping to hand a gold coin to the shopkeeper, “This should cover getting your door and window fixed. I’ll see what I can do about finding the men who robbed you.” With that she heads back out into the rain.

Seeing Hektor and Frolik standing over the downed, robed man, she heads over to her brother. “What have we here?” she asks, leaning ever-so-slightly down to look under the man’s hood.

“Someone broke into the shop next door, clubbed the proprietor, and made off with a bunch of rope, candles, sacks, paper, mirrors, and other mundane stuff.” She casually nudges the edge of the man’s robe aside to get a good look at his feet. “Someone with duck feet,” she explains to her friends.

Frolik

“Well, this one hasn’t “quacked” yet." Says Frolik to Korë and then to the bird-man “Do you mind if I take a look at your stuff?” and without waiting for an answer he starts picking among his stuff and robes.

Ommos

Ommos flinches and curls into a ball at the bear’s mighty roar. When, after a moment, it becomes clear that the bear is somehow deliberately acting with the intent to frighten, rather than hurt anyone, he crawls over to the prone bird-man. “Hey!” he croaks harshly, unable to overcome the primal fear invoked by the massive bear, “If we stay low and crawl slowly, I don’t think it will attack…” Even though he is confident that the idea that the bear would attack was a bluff, he could not keep the fear from his voice. He tugs hard on the bird-man’s robe and begins inching back towards the church, hoping to get him to where the giant and the dwarf can deal with him. “COME ON!” he urges, “We’ll be safe in the church…”

Hektor

Plopping back down to all fours, Hooch sniffs the air as he begins ‘urging’ the man, and subsequently, Ommos who had suggested the very same idea, towards the church.

Ommos, although uncomfortable and untrained with the subtleties of body language with the great bear, does remember (should terror not interfere) that unless Hooch’s hackles are up, he is in a ‘passive-aggressive’ state of mind.

Hektor, noticing the man’s non-compliance, hesitated to reaffirm his commands as memories of his youthful days training with his adopted, bearded kin, that ‘rashness is oft foolish’. Becoming somewhat uncomfortable in his temporary position of a guard, Hek was very relieved when Köre finally emerged from the nearby shop.

Both her and Flolik’s input, presence and observations were most welcome.

In Dwarvish, he spoke to his sister…
“Denne ene er skadet og har endnu til at tale eller anerkende os.”

Chancing a glimpse up, he noted with pride, Hooch ushering the other man back with poor Ommos doing his best to not run screaming away.

Again to Köre in Dwarvish…
" Hvad vil du gøre med disse to?"

Köre

Seeing Hooch urging the bird-man back in their direction, Köre makes a series of growling and snorting noises. Moments later, two, much smaller, black bears come trotting out of the woods to flank Hooch’s prisoner on either side, snarling menacingly and making sure he cannot flee anywhere but back towards the church.

Seeing that the man with them has two strange, X-shaped, parrot-like feet, she relaxes a bit. She snaps her fingers near where she would expect his ears to be. Getting no reaction, she leans back in close and does so again, right in front of his eyes. When he flinches, she nods. “Han kan ikke høre bror,” she says, then switches back to trade speech to make it easier for Frolik, who she knew was only familiar with dwarven from chants, which had rather different grammar from spoken dwarvish.

“I don’t think these two are thieves from shop. Their feet do not match tracks I saw, and they shared cave with our furry friends last night. Their garments and posture make me think they are priests or pilgrims of some kind. I think they were just scared when they saw you and Hooch coming and ran to where they expected to find sanctuary… But,” she continues, “there are definitely other bird-man-strosities around, and definitely up to no good.”

View
The End: The Third Party vs. The Amazons

2nd of Marpenoth, 1362 D.R.

Grimnir and company stood in the central square of Hillsfar, discussing what to do and where to go. They were startled by a polite, “Ahem,” from behind and turned to see Elissa Bivant-Mondaviak standing there with them. The Lady Bivant demanded, politely, for the return of the gloves that Grimnir had made from her husband’s corpse, but was refused. Grimnir rebutted by repeatedly accusing her of being Tyr, or his present incarnation, a thing which she flatly denied.

Of course, the lady did not take this refusal lightly. There was a snap of fingers, a shimmer in the air, and a half dozen angry Amazons appeared, ready to throw down.

Battle Cry struck first, pronouncing a divine curse on Grimnir, stating:

“Grimnir, Squire of Cryptgarten, you are found guilty in the eyes of Assuran the Doombringer. You have killed your vassals, consorted with devils, betrayed your city, raised an army of the dead, and awakened that which should not be. You have forced innocents to bathe in the disgusting froth of their slain families, and demanded fealty from them thereafter. Know that no one, man or child, fiend or mortal, living or dead shall listen to your words nor obey your voice, nor that of your children’s, children’s, children, until you have yourself bathed in the blood of the evil which you have awakened.”

Grimnir simply nodded along, matter of factly, at her entirely true pronouncement. Then proceeded to pummel Lady Bivant with a barrage of eldritch blasts, quickly followed up with a sword in the back from Morgianna, killing the councilwoman. Grimnir and company were stunned, and checked several times, but the lady was really quite dead.

Melastasya, who was hanging out by the citadel, shrugged and fired a trebuchet at the square, sending her friends and Amazons alike diving for cover, save Don’t Fail, who stepped in front of Ash and transformed herself into living steel, shattering the projectile.

The Amazons did not take the death of their patron well, and retaliated, with many a cry for “Vengeance”, as might be expected. Princess dove at Morgianna, stabbing her repeatedly. Dragon Bait hacked Traithe up severely with Worthy of Vengeance, Hot Flanks unleashed a half-dozen simultaneous fireballs (almost a meteor swarm) from her rod, Finds Them and Kills Them cripled Kevorkian with a harm spell, and Don’t Fail severed Grimnir’s right arm with a ring of disintegration.

Not really ready for such an assault, Grimnir grabbed Kevorkian, Dame, Morgianna, his pet beholder, and Elissa’s corpse and teleported several blocks away, narrowly dodging a dimensional anchor fired at him by Battle Cry. Traithe responded likewise, disapparating in a cloud of disappearing smoke and fleeing into the city’s sewers. Ash simply leaned back to watch the fun.

Experiment 321 rushed in and incapacitated Finds Them and Kills Them with a quick backstab from a poisoned knife, only to find himself being chased off and the Amazon healed by her unicorn companion. Noting Ash’s refusal to help the others, Mel shadow-stepped to the square and started attacking Ash, only to be thwarted again and again by the elf mage’s new mastery of Chronomancy and ability to annul her actions by creating temporal paradoxes.

With the majority of their targets apparently fled, Doesn’t Shake and Princess flew into the air, eventually spotting Grimnir and the others, who they proceeded to aerially bombard with flame strikes and sunbolts. Grimnir woke up the beholder, who turned his anti-magic eye towards the flying Amazons, intercepting their spells. Unfortunately, the curse lingering over Grimnir took hold and the beholder turned his eye-rays on his would-be master, disintegrating Grimnir.

Distraught, Kevorkian reached into his pack and pulled out the enigmatic bauble that the party had found in Yarash’s lair, which he proceeded to toss into the air and destroy with a barrage of eldritch blasts…

2nd of Marpenoth, 1362 D.R.

With Grimnir apparently slain and the rest of their, definitely secondary, quarry suddenly vanished, the Amazons returned to the body of their slain patron. Despite repeated attempts, they were unable to raise Elissa from the dead (as she failed her resurrection survival roll). Don’t Fail messaged the Council of Phlan, to inform them of the deaths of Councilwoman Elissa and the traitor Grimnir.

Free of their obligations of both fealty and vengeance, the girls looked around at the city in which they found themselves. Hillsfar was a mess — the citadel all but destroyed, the walls breached, and all but a tenth of the city’s population dead from disease, war, and the economic collapse that followed. Blaming the woes of the city on Grimnir (which was, at least partly and indirectly, correct), the girls agreed that they should try to set the city aright and begin to undo some of the damage wrought by the monster whom they had been hunting for the last year.

The people of Hillsfar, unwilling to provoke the women who had so easily trounced the party that had saved them from dragons and beholders less than an hour before, quickly, and with feigned enthusiasm, welcomed their new “liberators” and rulers…

2nd of Marpenoth, 1372 D.R.

Grimnir, quite alive and not a pile of dust, and friends (sans beholders, followers, or hangers on) found themselves standing in the courtyard of Kryptgarten Keep. A deathly quiet hung over the place and there were no creatures to be seen. In the center of the courtyard stood a gallows, with a single noose and a smear of blue paint on the foot-board. Curious, Grimnir and company flew into the air to look around.

The area around the keep for as far as anyone could was completely devoid of life. The forest was a blacked field of ash, the riverbed was empty and dry, the city of Phlan was a flattened ruin, even the sea was gone—not but a dry, empty, mile-deep chasm. The region had been reduced to a parched, lifeless, wasteland. Most striking however, was the conspicuous absence of a mountain. Where once the tallest peak of the Dragonspines had stood there was now…nothing.

Duvan’Ku was gone.

Or, more precisely, the thing that slept beneath the mountain had clearly awakened to wreak havoc upon the world. Figuring there was nothing to lose, Kevorkian put the Gjallarhorn to his lips and blew. Ash and Traithe briefly lashed out at their companions, driven to violence by the sound of the horn, but no armies of demons or men came seeking them. Everything really was dead, it seemed.

Then, of course, they saw the horizon moving. Something was coming towards them, fast. Something so huge that it’s head and shoulders dominated the entire eastern horizon from north to south. A giant as large as the highest mountains in the world. Of course they ran. Blinked. Teleported their way to Sorassar’s cave, hoping to use the Pool of Radiance there to raise another mythal to protect them.

But there was no mythal and no pool.

So Grimnir laid an Asgard rune upon the empty pool and transported them to Hell, hoping to take refuge in the castle that they had left there and use the pool there.

But when they arrived, there was no castle and no pool. Only an empty island in the middle of the river Styx, with the flaming flowers of Hell on one side, and an endlass army of Slaad marching, nay seething, towards them from the other. Ash suggested that they use the celestial stairway and lead the Slaad back to do battle with Duvan’ku.

Experiment 321 took up the challenge and lept forward, doffing his mask of insivibility and challenging the slaad to send their greatest champion to face him. After some laughing, fleeing and advancing, and some running in random directions, eventually a mighty white slaad strode through the endless hordes of its brethren, stood before Experiment 321, did a pirouette, reached a clawed hand down its throat, and pulled out a bouquet of roses.

In response, Experiment 321 shoved the roses up his nose, taking considerable damage from the thorns, broke off the tip of his own tail, and fed it to the slaad while break dancing. Honorable duels between beings of pure chaos being what they are, the self-flagellating dance fight went on for some time before the Slaadi got bored and chased Experiment 321 up the celestial staircase, some portion of his infinite brethren following to spill out onto all the other planes of existence, with still more following all the way back to the Moon Steps in the Dragonspines. Of course, the mountain was not there, so the steps led out into empty air (not that the slaad minded).

Ash, wanting a place to stand, so to speak, dug through the bag of baubles taken from the tombs in Deckon Thar (which had somehow ended up on his person through yet another paradox) until he found one that contained both the mountain intact, and an elf.

2nd of Marpenoth, 362 D.R.

Ash, Grimnir, Melastasya, Kevorkian, Dame, Morgianna, Experiment 321, and Traithe stepped down off the celestial staircase into the abandoned city of Deckon Thar. Only Ash found it slightly strange that all of his companions were elves, complete with liripipe hoods, curly shoes, and inappropriately revealing armor and that the city exhibited a distinctive hint of Elvish architecture. Likewise the others did not seem to notice or mind that there was not a slavering horde of Slaad chasing them down the stairs.

The city was in surprisingly good shape, and the mountain was intact, though the hand of Duvan’Ku could be seen peaking out (Ash couldn’t help but notice the unusually slender and graceful fingers on the giant hand). Of course, the party decided that they should immediately try to destroy the hand…

They shot it. Lightninged it. Burned it. Banished it. Poisoned it … Nothing worked.

Then Ash had an idea…he pulled out Yarash’s Spoon and pointed it at the hand. The hand quickly transformed, remaining just as large, but becoming a twisted thing, made entirely of thumbs, and oozing with clear, sticky, oil-like substance. They once again blasted the hand with fire, but this time it burned. And burned. And burned. Two days later, the hand was still on fire. The same remained true after two weeks, two months…

Determined that they must do something to keep Duvan’ku from fully waking up, and blessed with elvish patience and longevity, the party decided that they would settle in Deckon Thar to watch over the hand, protect it from anyone that might try to disturb its sleep, and research a way to destroy it.

Dame, Kevorkian, and Melastasya decided to reform the Guild of Naturalists, and resume Dame’s experiments at creating flying, soul-draining, god-hating, leech-cuttlefish-lamprey hybrids to feed on the thing under the mountain. After a few years of experimentation, their attempts succeeded, and they named their creations “Ab-bo’leth”.

Grimnir and Ash, meanwhile went to Myth Drannor to treat with the Coronal, asking for use of his elf-blade to open the multi-planar sarcophagus which they found in the Tomb of Mog. He agreed, and many of the great lords of Myth Drannor came with them. Ash and the Coronal placed their blades in the slots on the sarcophagus, only to find it full of strangely clumpy and bad smelling particles of clay. Ash dug through and found, burried at the bottom of Mog’s litter-box, an exact duplicate of the supposedly unique Coronal’s Elfblade. He claimed this for himself, with the Coronal’s blessing, and thus became the second king of all elfdom, ruling from the mountain city of Deckon Thar.

Traith explored down the river, finding a city by the sea populated by strange, short-lived, hairy ape-beasts. They were relatively intelligent and possessed the crafts of smithing and magic, but were otherwise mostly harmless and beneath the notice of the elf-lords of Deckon Thar.

The elves budded…

Deckon Thar flourished…

New “pets” wer made…

A thousand years passed…

2nd of Marpenoth, 1361 D.R.

High on the mountain of Duvan’ku, a giant hand burns for eternity. Below the hand is an ancient city, dark and brooding. It is a home to ancient beings of unspeakable power and the tentacled horrors which they created for their unknown ends. What riches await to be claimed in the fabled city of Deckon Thar are anyone’s guess, and New Phlan is rife with the rumors of fortune and glory to be claimed beneath the Mountain of the Ever-Burning Hand.

View
Solo's Quest - Part 1

Solo had never been described as beautiful, nor was she ugly, she was a plain girl and that was how she liked it. To hear men tell stories, women are rare creatures, few and far between, and those that do appear are either breathtakingly beautiful or else horrible old hags. In truth, the preponderance of flesh in the world was female. Men just choose not to see it. Plainness was a gift. To be a plain girl was to be invisible. Men would walk by her without a second glance, their eyes sliding off of her like water from a tin roof. A plain girl could walk freely, anywhere, and only the most desperate or depraved of men would pay her any mind.

Solo’s plainness had served her well throughout her career, as a thief, a mercenary, and a scout for armies. Later when she swore her vows to the church of Shar, Mistress of the Night and Lady of Loss, she was just as ignored, save by her sisters, who knew the usefulness of her talents for vanishing. The near-magical blindspot that men had for a plain woman enabled her to walk into their midst and do what needed to be done, with barely any suspicion on their part.

It thus came as no surprise, that now, years later, sitting in a seedy tavern in the small city of Phlan, fully armed and bearing all the trappings of the necromancer’s craft, no one, or at least no one male, gave her so much as a second glance. Solo almost sighed, almost laughed. All her years of training in stealth, subterfuge, disguises—all of it was basically pointless where men were concerned. All she had to do was sit there and trust in her plainness to hide her.

A serving girl, much less plain than Solo, as evidenced by the number of times she had been fondled while making her rounds, deposited a pint of beer next Solo’s elbow. Solo picked up the glass and took a sip. It was horrible stuff, pale, yellow, and flavorless. She would have much preferred a dark stout or a fine brandy, but good drinks drew attention. Asking for “a beer” was about as much a tool of not being seen as of quenching one’s thirst.

Solo had been in town for two days and had yet to find a job to her liking, so, she sat, alone, at a table, in a cheap bar, perking her ears for anything interesting. She had picked the table as carefully as she chose her innocuous drink. A booth in the shadows meant you had something to hide. A seat at the bar was asking for a conversation. A table, near the middle of the room, with only one chair, and a single, pale, piss-water beer sitting on it, meant you were just there to drink, and were thus no one special.

Then, her ears pricked. She turned to see a group of young would-be-heroes peering at a notice board and talking excitedly. She only looked up for a second, then quickly returned her gaze to her glass, hoping no one had noticed the vague resemblance of her profile to the wanted poster hanging there, and thanking Shar that, once again, the artist, probably a man, had been compelled to add distinguishing features that weren’t there. This one, at least, was quite flattering, with high cheekbones and long eyelashes, and therefore looked nothing like her, really.

As if sensing her brief agitation, the backpack stuffed under her chair shivered and a couple of skeletal fingers poked out through the flap. Solo gave it a subtle kick and whispered soft nothings under her breath, reminding the bagfull of claws that they were supposed to stay hidden. She then downed the remains of her drink in one swallow, grabbed the bag, and headed for the door, tossing a couple coins on the table.

Once out of the tavern, she adjusted the straps of her belt to swing her sword and axe out where they would be visible. Even inside the city walls, New Phlan was not a place to be seen unarmed. Phlan was a rough place, populated mostly by adventurers and would-be adventurers. Someone walking alone without a weapon drew as much attention here as walking down the street with a loaded crossbow would in any of the more civilized cities to the south. So, she put her blades where they could be seen and steered herself towards the center of town.

Solo had avoided the centers of power in New Phlan since she had arrived. With prices on her head from Waterdeep to Cormyr, she usually avoided any place where enforcers of the law were in close proximity. However, tonight, with dusk falling, and the watch on the outer walls being redoubled, she might just let herself have a peek at the famed Council Hall, or, more importantly, at the notices from the Council which promised riches and pardons to anyone who completed one of the many dangerous missions they regularly posted. Besides, she thought, the poor likeness of the wanted poster and the bad beer had given her a little more courage than usual.

Sure enough, the square was mostly empty. She hurried over to the Council Hall and glanced at the wall, quickly passing over the notices for missions that were too vague (find the source of the river’s pollution?), too dangerous (armies of nomads?), or insufficiently lucrative (kobolds?). Finally, her eyes settled on one with an impressively large payout, and right up her alley — investigating an undead-infested graveyard. She patted her bag. “Alright boys,” she said aloud, “looks like you’re going to get some playmates.”

Solo stifled a yawn, listened to her stomach growling, and looked up at the sky. She hadn’t slept well that afternoon, and that piss they had tried to pass for beer had been a poor breakfast. Still, it was a clear, cold night, and the moon, just then cresting the horizon, was black and new, a good omen. She glanced around to make sure there were not too many spectators, then raised her hands in praise of the Night’s Dark Lady. Even if the stories of several stouthearted adventurers disappearing in the graveyard were true, the undead held no fear for her…

But first, she needed some food. With the sun going down, the goblin market in the Slums would be just getting started, and she had heard many good things about the cheese made by the local goblin tribes. She headed for the gates, but found that they had been closed and barred for the night — typical behavior for sun-loving heathen. Numerous guards were posted on the walls, but their lanterns were all focused outwards, more worried about the numerous, obvious threats from without than any from within. She dunked her hands into a pouch of chalk on her belt and started to climb, easily finding purchase on the rough-hewn timbers of the wall. In a moment she was outside.

View
Rumors and Proclamations: Week 56

A Bill, found posted on every board from Cormyr to Thar

“Heroes of the realm and any who would take up arms for the cause of Justice and Law:

Be it known that 50,000 gold pieces will be shared among any who would stand with Elissa Bivant against the dark mage Grimnir,
once called the Squire of Kryptgarden, in addition to any treasure lawfully accumulated in execution of this endeavor.

Grimnir is extremely dangerous and travels with equally dangerous companions, including his ‘high priest’ – the abomination Kevorkian Stone-gaze and a shadow-jumping assassin. Others may be in their company, though the degree to which they are complicit in the atrocities committed by the Squire are unknown.

Seek the Lady Bivant in Mulmaster, or along the southern shores of the Moonsea."

Signed,
Grimnir, Squire of Kryptgarten

View
The Third Party: Session 30 (GMs notes)

1 Marpenoth

The party stepped out of the last auction of BIshop Braccio’s lands, Grimnir sporting his smashing new gloves, to find a frighteningly angry Elissa Bivant waiting for them. As usual, the party dithered for quite some time before Ash threw down a teleport to get them away from the enraged presumed-deity.

They appeared in the central square of Hillsfar, just outside the Citadel. Apparently Ash thought it would be a good idea to check on the progress of the city, now that it lacked an undead army defending it. The undead army was apparently much-missed. The arrived to the smell of smoke and the sound of bombardment. The entire, much reduced, population of the city were up on the walls or running around putting out fires, and it sounded like a pitched battle was happening just outside.

Grimnir levitated up into the air, enshrouded in a cloud of ravens, to see what was up. An army, some fifteen-thousand strong, was camped in siege of Hillsfar, flying the banner of the city’s long-time rival, Zhentil Keep. When Grimnir reported the situation, Ash and Mel admitted that they might have let slip to Manshoon, one of Zhentil Keep’s rulers, that Hillsfar was basically undefended in their conversation with him a few weeks prior. Grimnir, seeming elated to have a morally-unambiguous target, floated up and began raining eldritch death down on the gray-skinned, Zhentish orcs outside.

In response to Grimnir’s magical bombardment, five beholders floated up over the walls and began closing with him (much faster than one might expect such creatures to fly) in a reversed flying-V formation. Grimnir and Ash dropped fly spells on Morgianna and Experiment #321 who swooped up to Grimnir’s aid. Mel, meanwhile, dashed to the highest tower of the citadel with longshot and Traithe headed to the walls to take command the try to disrupt the siege engines.

Morgianna was the first to engage with the beholders, flying up behind the left rear-guard, dodging a trio of eye-beams, and striking it with a blinding smite blinding the creature and completely incapacitating three of the eyes. Mel struck the same target with a pair of arrows from her vantage more than a half-mile away, severely injuring it with the first shot and taking out another eyestalk with the second.

Experiment #321 flew in to strike the right rear-guard, but narrowly avoided getting knocked out of the sky when the central beholder turned to catch her in its anti-magic gaze. As the beholder panned, she swooped out of the way and tossed a dagger at it, striking it right in the pupil of the big central eye.

Zorch then summoned a fellow radiant mephit and the two creatures flew head-first towards the right flank of the beholder lines, head on to the antimagic eyes to avoid the eye rays. When they had closed, they used their superior speed and maneuverability to stay just in front of the creatures and just out of bite range. Finally the two enraged beholders pivoted down, to bring all ten eye-stalks to bear on the mephits. The readied imps unleashed blasts of color spray as the eyes came to bear, but the beholders just blinked them off and unleashed a full barrage at each mephit. Unfortunately for the beholders, the mephits took the worst of the blasts, but they also bounced back off their reflective skin. Both mephits and both beholders were petrified by the rebounding beams, plummeting out of the sky like rocks.

Ash tried, unsuccessfully, to save Zorch using a new spell he had developed to reverse time locally to a single creature, but Zorch’s spirit was beyond recovery. Enraged he lashed out with a blast of chain lightning, scorching the three remaining beholders. The point beholder sped up to close with Grimnir, but was blasted back, again, and again. Finally it gave up and pivoted down, centering its anti-magic gaze on Ash, rendering him blind and impotent.

Grimnir, meanwhile, opened an arcane gate and used his repelling blasts (from unpredictable angles) to play ping-pong with the blinded beholder, bouncing it into its friends to disrupt their formation. Turning it into an uncontrolled, rapidly spinning mass of randomly firing eye-rays. Morgianna continued to dodge the beams and she and Mel concentrated fire to bring the blinded beholder down.

The central beholder, deprived of its main eye, charmed Experiment #321 and sent her after Grimnir. She flew into the cloud of ravens and narrowly missed slitting Grimnir’s throat with her poisoned daggers, giving his beard a very close shave.

Grimnir fell back, allowing his levitation to stop and plummeting towards the ground, only to arrest himself about twenty-feet up and blast the beholder that was pinning down Ash. The beholder was shoved up just enough to get Ash out of the range of its gaze. Ash, who had been waiting patiently for just such a chance, immediately unleashed another chain lightning, one bolt popping the eye-less beholder like a corn kernal, and the remaining arcs frying the last one.

Meanwhile, on the wall, Traithe had managed to destroy three large siege engines of the Zhent army, slowing the assault. In response, the Zhents sent a large, boar-like demon, a Lord of Woe up the walls after him. The demon cleared the walls with its scintillating aura of horror, then tore into Traithe with tooth and claw, wounding him severely. Mel, from her vantage on the citadel tower, pegged the demon with an arrow and called to the flyers to help Traithe.

Everyone ran (or flew) to join the fight on the walls. Traithe blasted the corpulent demon with the icy gaze of the sword of halfrek, then Morgianna lept into the fray, smiting the creature. Ash tagged the beast with Wesley’s Temporal Disjunction causing it to lose all sense of time or purpose and leaving it open to a quick, poisoned backstab from Experiment #321. Finally Grimnir called up his crown of runes and banished the thing, which chose not to return after taking such a rapid, colossal, and humiliating beat-down.

Still in the tower and siting in her magical bow, Mel spotted the next, and last, major threat the Zhent’s had on hand: a massive, gleaming, Chrome dragon, complete with black-robed, slick-haired, goateed wizard riding it. Mel planted to arrows right in the chest of the wizard, knocking him from the saddle to his death, but drawing the attention and ire of the dragon.

The dragon swept towards Mel at full speed, slowing only long enough to strafe the top of the wall with its breath weapon: a blast of pure, magnetic energy. Dozens of Hillsfar’s defenders, including Grimnir, Ash, Traith, and Morgianna, were blasted off of the wall, hurled dozens of feet through the air to crash onto the roofs of nearby buildings.

Ash recovered first, lashing out at the dragon with Murlynd’s Void, pinioning its shoulder-blades beneath the saddle it wore by the powerful vaccuum of spell’s singularity, significantly limiting the range of motion of the dragon’s wings. Unable to do much more than glide now, the dragon zeroed in on Mel and the citadel and dove.

Grimnir hastily scribed a Death rune on an arrow and sent it to Melastasya via one of his ravens. Mel dashed into the Citadel, running and shadow-jaunting from room to room, and sniping out of windows as the ravens dropped death arrows into her hands, dealing numerous grievous wounds to the beast. Morgianna and Experiment #321 flew around the dragon’s backside as it closed on the citadel, harrying it with their swords and daggers.

Finally the dragon spotted Mel and crashed head-first into the castle, sending the entire west wing crashing down on its head. Mel dove out a window, and clung to the wall of one of the crumbling towers. Ash drew Morvian, called up its burning aura, and with the others.

The dragon burst from the rubble, much battered, but still quite alive, and lashed at Mel with tooth, tail, and claw. Traithe rushed in and dropped another tower on the still moving dragon with a shatter spell. Not seeing Mel, the tower he dropped, was, of course, the one she was hanging from. Mel jumped in the window, sprinted through the tower, and leaped out the far side as it tilted and came down on the dragon’s head. Pivoting in mid-air, Mel grabbed the last death arrow from Munin’s waiting talons and planted the arrow in the dragon’s neck, opening its throat with the explosive force of the rune-enchanted projectile.

No longer conscious-enough to resist the pull of the void, the dragon began to implode, its body sucking inexorably into the nothingness created under its saddle by Ash’s spell. As the dragon’s tail and head got sickeningly closer together, Grimnir blasted the saddle into the air with a repelling blast and sent it hurtling over the wall. The void-saddle sucked in the last of the dragon and several bystanders on the wall before crashing into lines of the Zhentish troops, consigning dozens of them to oblivion.

With their siege engines smashed, their demon, dragon, and beholders dead, and the sucking darkness of the saddle in their midst, the Zhent army broke and fled, running for their lives, leaving their camp and arms behind. Any that might have thought of staying behind were quickly routed by the sight of the gates being thrown open and the party casually marching out, Ash with his elven blade and 60-ft. aura of golden flames at their head.

Once the army was routed, Ash and Morgianna set about looking for the body of the black-robed wizard that Mel had downed, while Mel and the lizard set about looting the camp. None of them found anything particularly interesting or valuable, save some possible fodder for Zhent disguises, and Ash pointed out that this had probably been the Zhent’s “B” or even “D” team, poorly equipped and with only a small contingent of significant monstrous threats.

Grimnir, meanwhile called up the crown of runes again and communed with one of the slain beholders, asking where it kept its wealth. When the only answer was “at Zhentil Keep”, Grimnir and the beholder came to an agreement, the simplest: life for service. Grimnir raised the beholder and dubbed it “Yggdrasil” (meaning “Odin’s horse” or “Odin’s gallows”). It is yet to be seen how loyal a vassal the beholder may be.

View
Chapter 3: An Old Lady in Melvaunt: Part 8
Interlude: The Squatters in Onyx: Part 5

Yamtwit/Frantiska

Yamtwit watches the Tyrran exorcism with many a fascinated “Ooh!” and “What?!” and “No, not that way!” and “You forgot the rice!” and “It’s better with butter!” When Winona starts to swing her massive flail to smash the altar, Yamtwit, who is of course leaning in very close to watch, is forced to dive face-first to get out of the way, covering his head with both arms, and luckily avoiding most of the impending bone shrapnel. When the roaring and the shaking stop, he finally stands, brushing himself off, and walks over to the two priestesses. “Next time,” he says, “use butter! It tends to appease the evil spirits’ hunger better than water and keeps them from doing that creeping howling rage thing when they leave…”

Frantiska crawls over to look at the shattered opal. Seeing Hrud’s awkward stance she mutters, “Jangan khawatir Hrud, Anda jelas tidak memukul cukup keras telah rusak sendiri,” before turning back to her examinations. “The tie between a dragon and its wealth goes far beyond mere human greed or dwarven avarice,” she says, turning to Lyra. “If their wealth is stolen, most ancient dragons will haunt their former lairs until they manage to accumulate enough treasure to depart and rest in peace. More so for the heart gems. You guess may be correct, if the kobolds found the heart gem, they could certainly have used it to bind the dragon’s ghost to prevent it from returning to its lair or passing on. Of course, breaking that binding does not mean that the ghost is gone. If its lair, wherever that may be, was looted, then it will likely plague the region for some time. Of course, even if it is loosed now, dragon ghosts never stir from their lairs. They are less belligerent than their living kin, but more obsessive, thinking of nothing but their treasure.”

She lifts a bit of the glowing dust and lets it run through her gloved fingers. «I’m afraid I will miss our lecherous friend. I don’t know why this is glowing or what enchantments it may contain. His insight into the arcane would be quite valuable now.» She brushes the remaining dust off her gloves, careful to keep it all contained in the hollow where the gem once rested.

Winona

Winona takes her glasses off and wipes them with the inside hem of her robe to clear the dust. “I will take your suggestion under advisement Mr. Yamtwit…” she says formally, though her face clearly reflects the laughter she is suppressing. She puts her glasses back on and looks around at the others, well this is perplexing, she thinks, who is in charge now? Donovan had clearly set himself up as the leader of this ragtag group. Someone needs to make a decision. She looks pointedly at everyone in the room, classifying them quickly: idiot barbarian, fiendish hussy, halflings, dwarf. Well, clearly it must be Lady Frantiska, Lady Lyra, or myself…

“Lyra,” she finally says, “we’ve killed at least fourty kobolds here, including their priest, lost one of our own, bypassed their traps, defaced their shrine, emptied their living quarters. Justice for the villagers seems to have been served. What is our next course of action?” Her face showing an weird kind of probing resolve, as if clearly expecting the young lady to have an answer. “Are we done here? Should we gather Mr. Donovan’s body and be away? Or should we search for other possible places where they might be keeping the tribute sent by the villagers?”

Lyra

Lyra briefly looks a bit taken aback that the older priestess would defer to her judgement. “If we can recover any supplies taken from the village, they will be better prepared for this coming winter. We should search for likely storage areas, then recover Mr. Donovan and withdraw back to the village. I haven’t really seen any sign of the supplies they would need to support this kind of population, let alone what they would have claimed from others.”

Lyra looks at the dwarf and halfling. “If you were conscious when you were brought in, do you have any ideas regarding where your belongings may have been taken? If we find that, they may be storing the tributes nearby.”

Skaegedde

Skaegedde stands watching Winona ceremony with barely contained disgust and doesn’t so much as blink as the cloud of bone dust sprays over her. “Ao bevare mig fra disse mennesker og deres overtroisk tyr lort!” she says quietly. When the goblin begins speaking of the benefits of butter over holy water she lets out a deep audible groan and slaps her forehead with one hand. “Er jeg omringet af børn?! At de ville tro løgne det skabte i stedet for sandheden om Skaberen?!” She shoulders, not to roughly, her way over to the crumbled gem and begins scooping the glowing gem-dust into a pocket, shaking her head all the while.

When Lyra asks about her belongings, she shrugs. “Most of my things were in the witchdoctor’s room, and those I recovered. I was conscious when they brought me in, and honestly surprised that they took me captive rather than killing me on the road. I figured they were going to sacrifice me to one of their phony, wanna-be gods, and this place certainly makes that seem likely. We came in through the rear-entrance…not a lot of side passages off that one, until just before the big stomach room, where we headed up. From there it was pretty confusing, I have no idea where they had taken my stuff, since I was deprived of my gear before being led in. From their talking though, I got the impression that all the good stuff was being shipped off to some bigger kobold king on the other side of the swamp.”

Yamtwit/Frantiska

Yamtwit gives another half-hearted shove on the capstan, then turns to the exit. “If they’re shipping off the loot, then it seems like we’re done here…”

“Or,” Frantiska interjects, “if there is another, larger and allied settlement to the west, then it is possible that they may seek retaliation for our invasion today.”

Miero

Miero shakes his head, “Skae’s got the right of it. I was conscious and armed when I came in, then got jumped by a bunch of them and clubbed like a baby seal. When I woke up I was tied to a wall and no longer armed. This kobos in this place are just vassals to some king called Greshlyyr, mooks. They have a chief, but he was just as much a mook. I figure the backstabbing, dog-faced, little mother-fucker probably fled as soon as you killed the first kobo guard.” He smiles, “but I do know where his room was, and I doubt he could have carried all of the loot himself…”

Winona/Ryesha

As Frantiska and Miero talk about larger kobold tribes and retaliation, Ryesha’s eyes go wide and she lets out a worried squeak. Winona, atypically, notices the look on her subordinate’s face and speaks up, “Don’t worry Bunny, we’re in no position to go hunting more kobolds, especially not if we’re talking about a whole kingdom rather than just one tribe. Miss Lyra is right, we should wrap up whatever business there might be here, then get back to the village, and get that Amara girl to her grandmother before her family is worried sick…and see if the authorities in Melvaunt are able to send militia to help defend the villagers if the kobolds come back…”

Hrud

Standing around somewhat uncertainly, Hrud looks at the destroyed opal and has a rare thought. “Aku pengin kanggo ndeleng yen awak saka siji lawas wis mbledhos.” he says, before wondering back to check on the shaman’s body.

Hrud makes the long, arduous crawl back to the witch doctor’s room to find it just as it was, except that the old kobold’s body is no where to be seen.

Confused (which is to say, about the same as any other time), Hrud looks around the room for clues as to what happened to the body.

GM

Judging from the scuff marks on the floor and the ensuing footprints, Hrud’s tracking skills tell him that the old kobold just stood up and walked out of the room. Outside the room he turned left, towards the other lung with the trapped door going down into the weasel-caverns below.

Hrud

Hrud comes out of the chamber and turns down the passage from which he came, “Ing siji lawas wis musna!” Then, concerned about undead dog-faces wondering around, follows the trail.

Yamtwit/Frantiska

Yamtwit stepping out into the hallway, suddenly hears Hrud shouting and slaps his forehead with his palm. “Guys…our barbarian friend would like it to be known that the old kobold’s body is gone…”

“Sounds like the time for speculation and planning is over,” Frantiska says, crawling out the passage and down the slope.

Lyra

Lyra lets out an exasperated sigh. “Gone, and if those candles have burned down, in possession of their benefits.”

Miero/Winona

Miero grins evilly, “Oi! Save one for me, eh?”, and goes running down the corridor towards Hrud’s voice.

Winona sighs, “Lyra, do you have sufficient power to save us from crawling all that way again?”

Skaegedde

Skaegedde hefts the club she acquired and goes running after Miero. As she runs, she thinks a silent prayer to herself, Velsignet Ao, skal du ikke lade dørstoppere komme væk, før jeg kan bash et par hoved, secure in the knowledge that her god (unlike all of the other false gods) does not need to hear words spoken to know the desires of his faithful. As her steadily pumping feet bring her back to the witch-doctor’s chambers, all of her muscles tense and she looks around intently for something to hit.

GM

Miero and Skaegedde reach the intersection by the witchdoctor’s room to see Hrud, silhouetted by the light of his hammer, crawling laboriously through the narrow tunnel away from them, his face low to the ground. The old kobold’s trail leads past the bodies of two other dead kobolds, then ends at the ladder leading up into the spinal column, a few bloody kobold footprints on the lowest rungs indicating that he went up.

Miero

Miero looks a the barbarian, unperturbed by the loincloth, “Yo, pacangan-jaran, sampeyan ora bakal pas, bakal sampeyan? Arep kula kanggo pindhah disegerne-metu, sethitik asu-ngadhepi, telek-kepala?” Without waiting for an answer, he draws his knives and starts climbing the ladder.

As Miero reaches the top of the ladder, he finds the spinal passage empty. Even his heat-sensitive vision reveals no signs of recent passage.

Yamtwit/Frantiska

Yamtwit catches up with Miero and the dwarf-lady, blinking at the sudden light from the barbarian’s hammer. “Hang cara durung Dèkné arep lunga?”

Frantiska nods at Winona’s comment and taps Lyra on the shoulder to get her attention. “The Good Sister is right. I hate to rely to often on your gifts Lyrathwen, but if the candles have gone out, the old kobold may be a significant threat. It would be better if we could get there in something of a hurry…”

Lyra

Looking down the narrow corridor, Lyra nods. “I should still have enough power to get us out quickly if necessary.” Lyra concentrates, the air next to her suddenly the same view as the doorway exiting the witchdoctor’s room.

Miero/Winona

Miero drops back down looking rather upset, “Taek! Ana ora tandha saka asu-pasuryan. Iya ora mbukak arah. Mungkin dheke dipigunakaké Piandel kanggo ndhelikake dalan cilik kang.” He looks sideways into the room over the lungs, surveying the many exploded kobold corpses. “Telek Suci, kowé sing paling apik!”

“Thanks Lyra,” Winona straps her weapons out of the way and crawls out into the hall. She looks back at the door to the witchdoctor’s room, “I can’t see in there to confirm if the candles are still burning. You’ll need to come through and shut your door…”

Skaegedde

Skaegedde walks up beside Hrud, looks around the base of the ladder, and shrugs. “Looks like he went uuu…” she says, then sees Miero skuttling down. “Not up there?” She shrugs again and heads to the right, not caring about the kobold body parts splattered across the walls. “Guess he went down then…” She grabs one of the ropes supporting the boulder-cum-trap-door and swings down, looking for other possible signs of the old kobold’s passage.

Hrud

Hrud follows the others, using the light from his hammer to try and pick up the trail, not sure what the plan is, but interested in seeing what happens at any rate.

GM

Skaegedde swings down into a small room, with strange spongy, honeycombed walls. Arrows litter the floor and fresh blood and kobold viscera have pooled beneath the opening she dropped through. A pile of weasel furs and woolen blankets makes a massive bed off to one side, and a trio of lizard-man skulls hang on the walls as crude trophies. To her right a small, metal door stands open, revealing stairs leading down. Wet footprints, mostly the larger boots of her new companions, lead from the door to the opposite wall, where a curtain has been pushed aside to reveal another small room with sleeping furs and more arrows scattered around a burned-out cookfire.

Miero/Ryesha

Miero slides down the rope, glaces around briefly, then points to the stairs. “Apa sing cara, jaran-wong?”, he asks, looking up at Hrud.

Ryesha slides down beside him, but addresses the dwarf, “The stairs go down to the weasel pits…and a back door. The other way is the main passage to the stomach or out the mouth if you turn right…”

“So either way it would be easy for him to get away if he came this way,” Miero finishes. “Sounds like we need to check out both exits.” He starts walking down the stairs, “I’ll take the back…”

“No wait!” Ryesha calls, just as the trapped staircase turns into a slide and Miero goes careening down it.

GM

Miero slides to the stairs to land with an uncomfortable bump in the shallow pool of oil that has collected there. A small, burned, wooden door is just in front of him, opening into a small chamber, half-filled with water, with side passages running in every direction. He can hear the slapping of small, wet feet scurrying up the passage immediately across from the door.

Lyra

One of the few benefits, Lyra thinks, of being inside a dragon, is that the walls tend to curve. Retaining her concentration until everyone is through the door, she leans back to peer into the back side of the portal to see if the candles are still burning, and that the turtles seem to be ok. Poor turtles.

Once everyone is through, she follows and lets the portal shut behind her.

GM

Lyra looks through and sees that the turtles appear to be alive and well, though their shells are covered with thick coatings of melted wax. One turtle is casually munching on a bit of wax that has run down it’s shell and hardened onto the top of its head. The candles have all gone out.

Skaegedde

“Miero!” Skaegedde exclaims, as her halfling cell-mate disappears down the slide. She walks over to the top of the stairs and calls down, “Are you alright?!” When it becomes clear that he is not severely damaged, she looks at the halfling girl and says “Coming?” before carefully setting one foot on the slippery ramp, then the other. She keeps weight on her back foot and her hands on either wall to try to control her decent.

Yamtwit

Seeing the dwarf and halflings going down the trapped staircase, Yamtwit stops and yells back the way they came, “Looks like he went downstairs! Lyra, you still got a bomb ready?”

Skaegedde

Skaegedde skids to a stop at the bottom, still standing, and just faintly hears Yamtwit shouting above. “Bombs?” she mutters. She offers a hand to help Miero to his feet, then pulls out her morningstar. “Which way?”

Miero

Miero takes the dwarf’s hand and climbs to his feet. “I heard something running up that way,” he points to the up-sloping passage opposite the small door. He pulls out the pair of stilettos and runs, determined to stab at least one kobold to death before leaving this place.

Lyra

Lyra lets out a frustrated sigh. “If we think he is heading for the exit down there, I can get us there faster. That will also let us make sure nothing untoward has happened to the horses while we have been in here.”

GM

Miero and Skaegedde run into the opposing passage, struggling to maintain their balance against a stream of water running past their feet, just in time to see two small figures, silhouetted by sunlight, disappearing out of the open end of the passage to the outside.

Skaegedde

Two? Skaegedde slows slightly, re-thinking their tactics. If there are two, there could be more. If there are more, they could be waiting outside. And we haven’t done anything to disguise our intentions. “Alle ser Ao bevare mig,” she mutters, then hefts her weapon. “Let’s kick their asses…” she says aloud to her halfling companion.

She charges up the passage, slipping on the wet floor halfway up, sprawling face-first.

Miero

Two kobolds, two knives. Miero cocks his arms back and tosses a stiletto at each kobold’s back.

Lyra

Lyra concentrates, opening a portal out onto the hillside near the concealed exit. “If they haven’t made it out, we should be able to cut off their retreat. If they have, we might be able to pick up the trail.”

Winona/Ryesha

Winona breathes a sigh of relief on seeing open sky through the dimensional portal. “Thank you!” she says to Lyra, then crawls through the portal and stands up to look around, pulling out her flail. Ryesha steps through after her, looking for kobolds or other threats.

Frantiska/Yamtwit

Frantiska peers through the door before proceeding, then crawls after Ryesha. Looking down at the kobolds, she takes a knee, pulls her bow out, and knocks an arrow.

Not really trusting the oil-slicked trap-staircase, Yamtwit doubles back just in time to see Lyra open the door. He squints as he peers through but does not look like he’s in any hurry to go through, “…bright out there…” he mutters.

Lyra

“You’ll want to head through before you have to take the long way around, Mr. Yamtwit.” Not waiting for a response, Lyra heads through the portal, stretching and taking a deep breath after the close confines of the kobold tunnels.

Yamtwit

At Lyra’s urging, Yamtwit squints his eyes and leaps through the portal.

GM

Winona and Ryesha step through onto the hillside directly above the concealed exit. The stone has been rolled aside and two kobolds can be seen running out, their small feet splashing in the water that has pooled just outside the door, making just enough noise to cover the faint, telltale hum of the dimension door and the creaking of Winona’s armor as she stands up. Other running, shouting, and splashing noises can be heard coming from the passage behind them, though you cannot see what from this angle.

Looking down at the two kobolds, Frantiska can see that one is clearly the old witchdoctor whom she had seen dead on the floor just over an hour ago, just as pierced, tattooed, and withered as ever. The second kobold looks much younger, unarmed, and wearing what is clearly Donovan’s brightly coloured vest, with the bard’s spectacles perched on its dog-like snout.

Frantiska

Despite the younger kobold’s looting of Donovan’s possessions, Frantiska draws a bead on the older kobold, who is a known threat, and lets fly, chanting the words to a fire arrow spell as she does so.

GM

The elderly kobold takes a knife in the back, then, turning to face his attacker, a flaming arrow in the shoulder. With a howl of rage, it extends his right hand towards Miero and screams, “Seni küçük solucan! Neden senin Zhent ustaları bu söyleme?!” With a sickening cracking sound, and a torrent of blood, the halfling’s chest bursts open and his heart flies into the kobold’s waiting hand. He then points his left hand at Lyra as she exits the dimension door, unleashing a gout of emerald green flames, which are turned aside by the armor of force surrounding her.

Meiro’s second knife passes over the shoulder of the spectacle-wearing kobold, who looks up in completely surprise. His eyes follow the line of green flame and widen when they see Lyra. «Lyra?! I thought you had died?!» he squeaks, the elvish words seeming strange coming from his dog-like lips.

Lyra

Lyra flinches back from the green flames, and pales at the gore below. «I’m fine, for now at least. Is that you, Mr. Donovan? I’m fairly certain you DID die, when the scaffolding collapsed. You appear to have been reincarnated. You should … probably go check on the horses. Quickly.»

Donovan

The kobold clears his throat squeakily, «YES! Thank goodness you recognized me. I thought I was going to get shot!» He spreads his arms wide and shrugs, «Not sure I can check on the horses at the moment, it would be very disappointing for you guys to kill my friend here, after he brought me back from death and all. We both may run along through, there is a very angry-looking halfling man and dwarven lady in yonder cave?» He points towards the passage from which Miero’s heart just came flying. «Did Hrud make it? I see everyone but him?»

«Oh, well, we appear to have dealt with the halfling, but that dwarf lady looks pissed!»

Skaegedde

Seeing Miero’s chest spontaneously burst open and his heart go flying through the air, Skæggede, still lying face-down on the ground, decides that she wants nothing more to do with this old kobold. She looks down the tunnel to see if any of their new friends had followed to back them up. Seeing none, she turns and runs back down the passage. Ao forgive me, but if they are going to leave us to face something like that… She splashes into the central intersection and looks around frantically. They said something about a front door through the mouth, and a ladder leading down here. She picks a passage and random and runs, eventually reaching the bottom of one of the three pits, then high-tales it out through the front door. They’ll be alright, won’t they?

As she runs out through the mouth and then stops to catch her breath, Skæggede looks down at her waist curses under her breath, realizing that her sashling must have come undone when she slipped back in the cave. “Rend! Nå, ingen vej tilbage til det nu!” she growls, then takes off running again.

Hrud

Hrud steps through Lyra’s magic opening through space & time just in time to see the old kobold, very much alive, raining death and destruction back into the warren. This decrepit old dog-face is more of a danger than he realized – truly a worthy foe. Hefting the twin broadswords, he leaps upon the unsuspecting shaman with a roar.

GM

In a flash, Hrud lands on the old kobold, one knee taking the small figure under the chin and bearing him to the ground. There is the sound of cracking bone as Hrud’s full weight, easily five times that of the decrepit kobold, comes down on his chest. The blades follow, one on either side of the neck, scissors-like, the magical green-metal blades biting through dried flesh and brittle bones, cleanly severing the old witchdoctor’s head. Next to Hrud, the withered claw of the old kobold limply clutches Miero’s still-beating heart.

Lyra

Lyra carefully climbs down the hillside. «Mr. Donovan, your … er … friend … just ripped someone’s heart out. You don’t find that concerning?»

Donovan

The kobold stares slack-jawed at Hrud and the corpse for a long moment, then gestures lamely, «My other friends have cut people to ribbons on more than one occasion. Ripping out an assailant’s heart does not seem that different.» He shrugs again, and clutches at his pantaloons, which are large enough to serve as a tent and quickly sliding down, despite being gathered weirdly with a series of belts. «Life is…weirder and more violent than even I would have thought. I guess I have become used to it a bit over the last weeks.» He picks up the older kobold’s head, balancing it on one hand and turning it so he can look into the dead eyes.

«Alas, poor Mide Açar! I knew him, Lyra: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. It seems he hath borne me on his back a thousand times. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft…well just the once really. And now how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Where be your gibes now Mide? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the weasels to a roar? Not one now to mock your own grinning? Quite chop-fallen? Prithee, Lyra, tell me one thing. Dost thou think General Valjevo looked o’ this fashion i’ the earth? And smelt so? Pah! To what base uses we may return, Lyra! Why may not imagination trace the noble dust of Valjevo till he find it stopping a bung-hole?»

He tosses the head aside. Then says, in high, yapping common, “Let’s get the fuck out of here before I die again…”

Hrud

Seeing yet another kobold, Hrud draws back to strike …

Lyra

Lyra rushes between Hrud and the pantaloon-clad kobold. “That is Donovan!” she gestures at the kobold. “Mr. Yamtwit, how do you say ‘Donovan was transformed by magic’ in Eraka?”

Winona/Ryesha

Winona watches the death of the old kobold and the strange actions of the younger one with deep interest. It almost looks as if Lyra and the kobold-in-Don’s-clothing are having a conversation, and not in the kobold tongue. When the kobold breaks into the common speech, and starts talking about dying again, she is even more confused. Can the kobolds spontaneously reanimate? Is that how the witchdoctor was dead and yet escaped this way? Maybe something when we destroyed their altar? She ponders the possibilities, content to let Hrud dispose of the dirty little creature, when Lyra suddenly shouts that the kobold is Donovan. Reincarnation?! Brilliant? I shall have to ask Mr. Donovan about his experiences… Only then does the fact that he’s about to be chopped to pieces register.

“Bunny!” She starts sliding down the embankment, only to see that Ryesha is already there.

“Oh, Mr. Donovan! Your beautiful pantaloons! They don’t fit…they’re ripped…they clash with your fur…” Ryesha looks completely distraught. “You have to let me fix them for you…”

Hrud

“Da fuq?” Hrud’s brow furrowing more deeply than usual. He pulls the blades back from where they were hovering a scant few inches from the young woman.

Yamtwit/Frantiska

Yamtwit jumps down the hill, yelling for Hrud, “Teman Hruď! Lyra crita yen asu-pasuryan Donovan ngagem celonone kang, iku bener Donovan piyambak. Roh suci kepepet ing awak asu-pasuryan.” He runs over and looks at the kobold closely. “You look good this way,” he says to Donovan.

Frantiska puts her bow back on her shoulder, shakes her head slowly, and sits down on the hillside, just happy to be in the open air. «Your soliloquy was a bit overdone…so you must be Master Donovan.» Holy Selune save me, she thinks, why am I happy to see this lecherous old shyster again?! She steadies her mouth to keep it a firm line, but cannot suppress the smile in her eyes.

Lyra

Lyra gathers her skirt in one hand and steps over to the old kobold, wincing at the still-beating heart. “Sisters, what are the proper … ah … rites for such circumstances?”

Winona/Ryesha

Winona looks at the kobold corpse and the halfling’s still-beating heart and shrugs, “Burial customs are not an area I’ve studied much, particularly where primitive kobold dead-dragon-spirit worshipers are involved. If I were to guess, I’d say the proper way within the context of his faith would be to add him to the stack of corpses in that shrine back in the heart…or, you know, burning it so that the body can’t come back as some sort of blood-sucking monstrosity is always good too.”

Ryesha heads into the cave and walks down the passage to where Miero’s body is. She kneels down, rolling him onto his back and checks to see if the fact that his heart is still beating might mean that he is alive. Seeing the dwarf’s sash lying in the water, she picks it up and drapes it over her shoulder, in hopes of returning it.

Donovan

“So…” Donovan looks sheepishly at the others as he tugs up his slouching, over-sized pantaloons, “did anyone grab my gear? It wasn’t with my body…”

Lyra

Lyra hands Donovan his belt pouch first, which will hopefully help with the pants issue. Then she shrugs his backpack off of her shoulder, and hands it to him, as well as his crossbows. “We tried to keep safe what we could, but unfortunately it wasn’t feasible to bring your body with us while clearing out the warrens.”

Donovan

Donovan cinches the belt around his waist, then takes the proffered backpack. Donovan, who was relatively weak even before becoming a kobold, collapses under the weight of the pack full of spellbooks and crossbows as he tries to shrug into the straps, falling flat on his back. “Help…” he squeaks.

Yamtwit/Frantiska

Yamtwit rushes to the kobold’s aid and begins trying to pry him off the ground using his club as a lever. “I think you need to downsize and simplify your life a bit, Mr. Donovan. To match the downsizing of your frame…”

Frantiska, meanwhile, walks over to the deceased and decapitated witchdoctor. “Fire you say?” She rummages through her pack and pours a couple pints of lamp oil over the body, then pours out a vial of quicklime on the kobold’s chest, then refills it with water from the pool. She carefully pours the water over the quicklime and then steps back as the quicklime reacts with the water, rapidly generating sufficient heat to set the oil-soaked body ablaze. “How’s that?” she asks, pulling out her pouch of tobacco and rolling a cigarette for herself. “Let’s get out of here…” she says, lighting in cigarette with the flames from the body, then turning to walk back towards the horses.

Lyra

Lyra looks down the tunnel, in no small part to get further away from the smell of burning fur. “I don’t see the dwarven woman. Do you think she’ll be able to make it back to the village on her own?”

Donovan

Donovan heaves himself to his feet with Yamtwit’s help. “Thanks,” he says, then to Lyra, “What dwarven lady?”

Lyra

“There were two prisoners that we came across after you … " Lyra clears her throat, her eyes starting to tear up. “There was a dwarven woman and a halfling that were being held. I didn’t catch what her name was, she mostly spoke in Dwarven to Hrud.” She gestures in the direction of Miero’s corpse.

Donovan/Frantiska/Ryesha

Donovan sighs, “You know, I really should prepare comprehend languages more often…”

Winona smiles at Frantiska’s corpse-disposal tactics. “Dwarves,” she muses out loud, “seem to need an awful lot of rescuing and to do an awful lot of slipping off unannounced. I had always heard that dwarves were supposed to be possessed of an excess of loyalty and a strong sense of obligation.”

“Yes,” says Donovan. “Based on our admittedly small sample size of two, it would seem that dwarven stereotypes are quite backwards. Or maybe we’ve only met backwards dwarves.”

As Lyra approaches the tunnel, Ryesha appears, dragging Miero’s heartless corpse. “I would have run too if I was standing beside this when it happened…” she mutters quietly.

Frantiska/Yamtwit

Frantiska circumnavigates the dragon-cum-hill, keeping a wary eye out for kobolds or traps. Seeing none, she heads over to the horses, breathing a sigh of relief to see that they have not been eaten, and mounts up.

Yamtwit circles back to the dragon’s mouth and calls out, warily, “Ale nan pare nouyo, sou kèk. Rast!”

The warg comes padding out and growls a reply, “Aleli kitem ‘se konsa, chen-fè fasa yonpat’akm’wèsepatefèli, desa lontanpapa kouri tinena.”

Yamtwit mounts up and rides over to Lyra, “Rast says that a dwarf came running out the mouth not long ago. Headed that way,” he points.

Lyra

Lyra nods and prepares to mount up. “Did we want to try and use the remaining runes to collapse the hill? However, I’m not sure kobolds would actually be discouraged by a bit of extra digging.”

Donovan/Winona/Ryesha

Winona and Donovan both manage to blurt out “Yes!” at the same time to Lyra’s question. Donovan then rapidly interjects, “The kobolds may not be bothered by having to re-dig their warrens, but the time and effort involved, not to mention the symbolic loss of their home should serve as a significant deterrent to them launching further attacks on the villages…”

Winona nods sagely, “Even if we only manage to weaken or destabilize the existing construction, the repairs should keep them busy for several weeks beyond the time it takes them to move back in.”

Ryesha, meanwhile, is busy digging a halfling-sized hole in the soggy earth of the swamp. Seeing her little acolyte laboring away, Winona steps over and picks up Miero’s body, loading it onto her horse. “Let’s take him back to the village and bury him somewhere where we will have ready access to spades and where he is less likely to just float back the the surface and be eaten in a few days…”

Yamtwit

Hrud asks Yamtwit about the oversized weasels still inside.

Yamtwit’s eyes go wide, “Oh ya! Sing kulit banget ana regane.” He and Rast dash into the dragon’s mouth, slinding along the narrow ledge around the first pit, and head for second. “Kita bakal ngasilake kanthi cepet…” He reaches the opening of the pit and stops. «Shit Rast. They’re bigger than us, how’re we going to get them out of there?»

The wolf lets out a low growl, «Ask the horse-lover.»

Yamtwit runs back to the opening of the cave. “Hrud, sampeyan bisa bantuan kula nindakake mau?”

Frantiska

Frantiska listens to the goblin and rolls her eyes. “It appears that the goblin wants to go back and get the giant weasel hides,” she says quietly to the others by the horses. “From the looks of things, I doubt he can be dissuaded. Should we help, just to speed him along?”

Lyra

Lyra nods. “Some of the runes should probably be placed inside the tunnels underneath, as well.”

Donovan/Ryesha

Donovan’s small dog-like head nods vigorously, “Yeah, those pelts are worth a fortune. As for the runes, I think we should put all of the runes in the intersection below. It seems fairly centered in the structure, and the numerous side passages and standing water should make it the weakest part of the hill. If we set off all the runes right there, I think it should cause the hill to collapse in on that point…”

Ryesha turns and looks at him quizzically. “How do you know so much about blowing things up?”

Donovan shrugs, “Logical guess really…”

Hrud

“Nggunakake jaran kanggo narik mau metu.” Hrud shrugs leading his pony over to the entrance. The barbarian starts rummaging for rope and possibly some sturdy branches or saplings to use in crafting a travois.

GM

With Hrud’s hastily constructed travois and a little extra rope to lift the bodies, you quickly haul the four man-sized weasels out of the pit. As you drag the last of them back to the horses, you find Teldicia, who has been following slowly, slumped against a tree, apparently unconcerned about the mud covering her to the waist, clutching her head in her hands and sobbing quietly. Her forearms, shoulders, and the front of her dress appear to be spattered with fresh blood, not unlike the rest of you given the recent decaptitations, exploding chests, and other violence. As you get closer she lets out a piercing scream and rubs at her eyes with her hands, leaving gory handprints across her face, as you can now see that all of the blood covering her is clearly her own, coming from her eyes, nose, and ears.

Donovan/Winona/Ryesha

Donovan, trying to stay out of the way of his larger friends as they collect the weasels, noticed Teldicia’s condition with considerable distress. «Lyra…Frantiska…I think we’re in trouble…» he squeaks, his high-pitched voice still alien to his own ears. He walks towards the green-haired girl and gently lays a small hand on a corner of her shoulder that is not too covered in blood. “Teldicia,” he whispers, “are you okay?”

Winona, carrying the other end of the stretcher opposite Hrud, stops dead in her tracks. Trying to indicate with pointed nods and wide eyes that Hrud, who is walking backwards at this point, should do likewise.

Ryesha, walking just behind her, begins backing away. “Is her head going to explode?!” the halfing girl chirps.

Hrud

Seeing Teldecia, Hrud’s eyes go wide, “Frantiska! Menehi dheweke lambé!”

Lyra

“The scroll of Impregnable Mind might alleviate the problem, but only for a time. If we had a few hours, I might be able to get her to Melvaunt and find a healer.” Lyra exhales sharply in frustration and shakes her head.

Frantiska

Frantiska does not understand Hrud’s words, but his intent is clear enough. Tears run down her face as she looks at Teldicia. “It won’t work…” she whispers. She looks back and forth between the barbarian and the girl and her other companions, trying to fight back the urge to really cry, but unable to stop the tears. Selune, she think impotently, what can I do? I have already exhausted those gifts you’ve given me. Too many people have died already. There must be some way to save this girl. Please? Show me how… Unable to think of anything else, she stumbles forward and kneels beside Teldicia and grips her bloodied hands tightly, praying.

«Selune! Lady of Silver! Queen of the Night Sky!
You who watch faithfully over all maidens.
The forces of darkness spread and one of your own lies afflicted.
Your servant has squandered your gifts and failed in her charge.
I have killed in anger, consorted with lechers, and failed to uphold the light.
Still, hear me, not for my sake, but another’s.
Elah! Star of the North! You who always point true!
You have preserved my life time and again.
You have lead me here for a purpose.
Let that purpose not be to witness yet another death.
Bright Nydra! Purity Incarnate! Unblemished one!
If it pleases you, remove the taint from this girl.
Purge her of her afflictions. Free her spirit.
Let not the filth of this world despoil her mind.
Heal her…PLEASE

Lyra

Lyra’s eyes shiny with unshed tears, whispers to the goblin. “Mr. Yamtwit, do you have any more of the Soma Juice? It’s supposed to suspend the ravages of disease, is it not? That might be worth trying.”

GM

As Frantiska prays the sky grows steadily darker. Your eyes are drawn upwards to where the sun is slowly darkening. Behind you, Frantiska’s whispered elvish prayer continues, droning over Teldicia’s continued pained sobbing. Within minutes all you can see is the black disk of the moon, the sun’s corona visible as a wreath of flames around it, bathing the world in blood-red light. You stare at the strange event for some time, shielding your eyes but unable to look away. Finally the moon begins to move again, revealing a sliver, and then more, of the sun. Only then do you realize that all sounds have stopped. You look back to see Teldicia, bright-eyed and alert, sitting up with her arms tight around Frantiska’s neck.

Yamtwit/Frantiska

Yamtwit tears his eyes away from the eclipse and looks at Lyra, “Yeah, I’ve got a bottle of juice left…” His sentence cuts off in slack-jawed surprise when he spots Teldicia. “Still want it?” he asks hesitantly.

Frantiska, for her part, continues to cry silently for some time, letting the strange faux-elf woman hug her without complains, quite overwhelmed that her prayers had been answered so fully, immediately, and miraculously. Compared to the strains put on her faith by the events of the past few days, such an elaborate sign of her goddesses favor is a little more than she can bear.

Donovan

Donovan, still standing beside Teldicia is torn between relief at seeing her healed and certain impure thoughts related to the overly prolonged hug between her and Frantiska. The sight of their cleavage pressed together not at all marred by the fact that they were both covered from head-to-toe in blood and mud. Fran’s methods of healing really are the best thing ever, he thinks. He stands that way for some time, trying to figure out if there is some way he could console Frantiska without getting punched.

Finally he tears himself away from the spectacle and wanders over to the horse he rode in on. He stares up at the now very, very large creature, wondering how he is supposed to mount it, and also why it smells so delicious…

Yamtwit/Frantiska

Yamtwit finishes helping Hrud and Winona tie the remaining weasel carcasses onto Bobbers’ back, then climbs up on Rast. “Come on,” he calls to the others, turning the wolf and donkey back towards the village, “we need to get these somewhere where we can process the hides before they get too stiff…”

Frantiska finally looks up, wipes the tears from her face, and help Teldicia stand. “Yes,” she says simply. She walks over to Thistledown and begins checking the horse’s harness when she notices Donovan staring at his horse plaintively. Sighing, she walks over and casually lifts the kobold up onto the beast’s back, stoically ignoring his attempts to look down her shirt as she does so. “Teldicia, perhaps you should ride with Mr. Leitch. I doubt he can control his horse in his current state…”

Donovan

Donovan struggles to find comfortable purchase on the saddle that is much too big for him. As Teldicia mounts up behind him and reaches for the reins, he finally just leans back, propping his feet up on the saddle’s pommel and resting his head back against Teldicia’s pillowy bosoms, perfectly happy despite the layer of blood and muck covering her front. He tucks his tail to one side and sighs contentedly, pointedly meeting Frantiska’s disapproving gaze. “Thanks!” he chirps as they start riding back towards the village. Now if only this horse didn’t smell so damned delicious, he thinks.

Winona climbs onto her own horse and pulls Ryesha up behind her. “Okay Lyra, let’s blow this joint and go home!”

Lyra

With the weasels removed, Lyra finishes placing the remaining glyphed boards in the kobold tunnels and returns to her companions down the hill. She mounts up, and then detonates the remaining glyphs.

GM

As the party rides away, there is a muffled bang from deep in the hill, followed by a deep rumbling noise. Within moments the ground begins to shake, as the heavily honeycombed hills implodes, and the massive, petrified dragon settles into the new sinkhole that opens up beneath it.

View
The Third Party: Session 29 (GMs notes)

24 Eleint

Melastasya, Ash, Damascena, and Kevorkian sat at a small table, enjoying the sun, the breeze, and, judging by the many empty bottles in front of them, the wine. The air was filled with the buzz of the auctioneer’s voice, as Bishop Braccio unloaded the deeds to several churches into the willing hands of the wealthy patrons of the Moonsea. The winery where today’s auction was being held was just one of many in the area around Mulmaster owned by the Mondaviak family.

Mog.jpgMel called for another bottle of Mondaviak’s finest and continued her account of her and Ash’s brief excursion to Myth Drannor. Kevorkian, once again invisible to all save Mel and the handful of new lawn ornaments surrounding them, then recounted his misadventures with attempting to purchase a unicorn from a merchant in Melvaunt.

Eventually the discussion turned back to Myth Drannor and the discoveries that Ash had made about his grandfather’s and Mog’s involvement in the city’s downfall. As if on queue, the cat himself, in bipedal form and dressed to the nines, slipped out of the crowd of auction attendees and made his way up the hill towards them. He chatted with them a bit, explaining that he was there as a buyer and had already purchased a few nice temples, but not really adding anything to the conversation at hand. Mel, for her part, dove right into her usual mercantile manner, offering to commission several statues of Mog to be erected in his new temples.

Unwilling to content themselves with the beautiful day, the fine wine, or the pleasant company (ok maybe that one is pushing things a bit too far), Dame suggested that she could really use a new cloak or maybe a tail, either of which clearly needed to be made from something large and dangerous. Kevorkian obliged by casting locate creature for the nearest chromatic dragon. Despite the limited (1000 foot) range of the spell and the inability of the spell to pierce disguises or shapechanging, he did, in fact, locate one. Just down the hill. In the crowd of buyers.

Following the invisible cleric’s direction, Mel and Ash wandered down into the crowd and found a small white dragon perched on the shoulder of a well-dressed, dark-haired, goateed high-roller. The man brushed off Mel’s initial attempts to engage him, then finally introduced himself as Manshoon of Zhentil Keep. Mel and Manshoon made their way out of the crowd, withdrawing up the hill to talk.

The two had a fairly equitable exchange of information. The party learned that the Zhentarim had been actively backing the council in New Phlan and also the temple of Xvim in Old Phlan and still had a substantial investment of resources and capital in the city. Conversely, the information Mel gave him about the current state of Hillsfar, Myth Drannor, and Phlan seemed likely to kickstart new expansion in the region on the part of Zhentil Keep’s forces.

Finally Ash, apparently having lost patience with the talk of business and politics, cast a spell to dispel any shapechanging that might be in place on the man and his tiny dragon. Sure enough, the dragon instantly expanded to full wyrm size, nearly two hundred feet long from nose to tail. Seeing the great dragon, the auction-attendees quickly broke into a panic and fled, emptying the surrounding area.

The man, suddenly pinned beneath the massive dragon’s claw, told him to have fun and suggested that he would get into touch with Mel to talk further, then promptly vanished. Dame and Kevorkian did likewise, the former ducking behind some grape vines and the latter covering himself with a sanctuary.

Mel, of course, jumped right in, stabbing the dragon several times with her sword. In retaliation, the dragon flew eighty-feet strait up with a single beat of its wings, knocking Mel down, then opened its maw to douse her with a stream of boiling-hot water. Mel took the full force of the blast, then promptly hid herself as Kevorkian rushed to her aid.

Zorch began ringing his bells as Ash attempted to transmogrify the dragon with Yarash’s Spoon, once and again, to no avail. Dame called forth an ice storm, which, while it did not significantly harm the dragon, served to push it downwards to within range for Mel’s ability to step through shadows.

The dragon again breathed at Mel, this time unleashing a high-powered blast of sand and grit, which tore through the grape arbors, beating them down and flaying the skin from Melastasya. As it breathed, Dame and Ash noticed a ring of differently-coloured scales circling the base of the dragon’s neck, one of which blurred back to white as the breath discharged.

Kevorkian quickly healed Mel again and she leaped into the air, propelling herself through the dragon’s own shadow until she was clinging to its underside, stabbing it again and again. The dragon lashed at her with its claws and tail, but failed to dislodge her. At a word from Ash, Mel turned on her electricity-absorbing armor and then pressed herself tight against the dragon.

With a massive clap of thunder, Ash unleashed a storm of lightning, seven bolts in rapid succession arced through the dragon, bending and twisting to make their way to Melastasya. The beast roared and twitched as the energy tore through it. Finally the power pouring into Mel’s armor overloaded it, causing a sudden, secondary discharge as the pent-up power exploded back out from the armor, only to arc back by Mel’s strange attraction.

The dragon clawed at Mel and beat its wings to try to escape the electrical fury, but the arcing lightning touched off a gem from Zorch’s bell of blasting that was still on the dragon’s back. With one final burst of flame, the beast roared its last and began falling towards the ground, only to be arrested by a feather fall spell from Ash. A light gust from Dame blew it away from the party, to crash-land on one of the vinyard’s barns, crushing it to rubble.

The party regrouped (and healed Mel yet again), then wandered over to look at the dragon they had defeated. Kevorkian examined the scales around its neck and declared that the dragon’s fundamentum, the organ that grants the beast it’s breath weapon, had somehow been infected with primordial chaos, much like the party had seen when Mel infected things with slaad eggs.

After a few minutes of quiet, the vintner who ran the place came out of one of the , and seeing the dead dragon lying on top of his former-barn and the sand-blasted vines, began weeping. Dame used plant growth to bless his crops and restore them to greater than their former yield, which prompted an anticipated and appropriate level of worship of the beings who could wield such power (mostly Dame and Ash).

After some musing of all the things they could make out of the corpse of so large a dragon (not to mention potentially harvestable body-parts), the party decided to take the whole dragon with them (though whether to Sorrassar or Yarash, they could not decide). Dame cast wind walk, turning the entire party and the entire dragon to clouds and blew them north. The party and their prize settled down in a clearing in the Quivering Woods, not far from Yarash’s island, right next to an old forge.

To be continued…

View
The Third Party: Session 28 (GMs notes)

25 Eliasias

As the rest of the party dealt with the Bishop and the Council, Ash and Melastasya caught a boat back to Hillsfar and made their way to the ruins of Myth Drannor, Ash having expressed a desire to see the results of his manipulations of the Mythal via the Pool. They arrived to find the city in pristine condition, the streets were clean, the buildings whole. In fact, the only thing that seemed different from the city’s founding was the absence of elves, and the presence of swarms of infant orcs crawling around and the dragon, Garnetallisar, perched on the top of the Coronal’s Tower.

Ash followed the confusing jumble of memories (his own, those passed down by his grandfather, and those stored in his kiira) and led the way towards the building that once housed the “Guild of Naturalists” (which was also home to one of the largest libraries in the city). They stepped into the main hall to find it empty, save for the two wood-paneled kiosks which would have greeted visitors so many centuries before, and the great winding double-stairs that lead into the lower halls of the guild.

fremlin.pngMel carefully examined the kiosks, sure that the elves must have had something of value. After poking and prodding and examining with her strange multi-planar vision, she became convinced that the emptiness of the place must be an illusion. Finally, on one kiosk, she found a secret panel which opened to reveal a half-dozen tiny, plump, grey-skinned, winged creatures with masses of sharp teeth. She shooed them out of the building, taking a couple of minor bites as she did. Ash, watching from the side, saw only that Melastasya tore several pieces of wooden planking from the kiosk and threw them out the door, taking a couple of scratches in the process.

Heading down, Ash, at Mel’s prodding, tried to focus on memories of where the naturalists would have kept their most precious valuables. The two quickly descended to the third level down, and, down a hallway, found a door that opened into a vast cavern. Faint light filtered into the room through a long, narrow slit running the entire length of the ceiling, revealing numerous cages of all types and sizes, from small enough for a single mouse to as large as a good-sized house, each whole and pristine and empty.

Ash send Zorch up to investigate the light from the crack in the ceiling. By Zorch’s light, the could make out lettering covering the ceiling. Zorch zoomed back down and, using the concave side of a mithril shield as a reflector, illumined the entire ceiling to allow Ash to read the markings, which ammounted to a knock spell on steroids, clearly meant to allow the entire ceiling to open as a single great door, large enough for a dragon (Garnet?) to pass through.

CatCarriersShawsAngledLargeMesh_EndOpening_Adj.jpgAfter this discovery, Ash wandered the aisles of cages looking around curiously before his grandfather’s memories caused him to pause in front of one, rather small cage, which was immediately adjacent to the largest. The small cage radiated incredible amounts of abjurative and warding magic. The cage was, of course, the one in which The Mog had been imprisoned for so long. Mel picked up the magical cat carrier and stowed it among her belongings, with many reassurances spoken loudly to the empty air that they in no way intended to use it against against Mog.

They looked around some more, walking the length of the great chamber. Mel got close to each cage, peering into the gloom to see if any of them might still contain some valuable creature. As she pressed her face up to the front of one particularly large cage, a long ropy tendril, complete with a fang-filled maw, snaked out from the shadows in the back and bit into her shoulder, grabbing and pinning her against the bars. Within she could see a fleshy mass, with numerous tentacles, eyestalks, and a single, large, vertically slit mouth. Mel shadow-stepped away from the cage and Ash sent Zorch over to shed some light on things, but could see nothing.

Mel described what she had seen to Ash, who said that it sounded like on of the breeders used by the Guild of Naturalists to replicate the creatures they brought in to study. Ash explained that the breeders, which he suspected were created by the Guild from beholder-stock, could almost instantly give birth to near-identical copies of any creature fed to them. Curious, Mel dashed up the stairs and came running back with one of the grey winged things, which she found sitting dejectedly on the steps outside the guildhall from which she’d ejected it (though it still looked like nothing more than a broken bit of board to Ash).

Mel tossed the tiny creature into the back of the cage and watched as the breeder devoured it. Minutes later the great mouth split open and a new gremlin popped out. Ash and Zorch, strangely, saw the board vanish and the gremlin appear in its place, though they could see none of the creature that spawned it. Not long after there were two gremlins, then three, then four. Ash explained that breeders could supposedly produce any number of spawn, so long as fed a continuous supply of organic matter, so Mel immediately bribed the gremlins with food and sent the out to collect tree branches and other things to feed the ravenous breeder so that it could make even more of the tiny creatures.

palimpse.gifAsh and Mel left the gremlins to their work and wandered off, now looking for the library. In the fifth sub-basement they found the massive room, with shelves and stacks from floor to ceiling, looking just as it had when first build, but completely devoid of books. Annoyed at the lack of the knowledge they sought, they wandered through the library for hours, looking in every last nook and cranny until they finally found a single book, resting on the bottom shelf of a back corner of the farthest wing of the library. Ash, of course, opened it immediately. And vanished.

Mel let her enlightened gaze unfocus enough to see Ash slipping into the maw of some massive, monstrous creature, with vast jaws and a single glaring eye, apparently on the ethereal plane. Remembering that Ash had mentioned concocting a potion of etherealness, Mel tore-open Ash’s dropped pack, grabbed the potion, and leaped into the Ethereal after her companion.

She got the drop on the book-monster, hacking at it repeatedly with the silvered edges of the wicked sisters (one held in her single hand and the other gripped in her mouth). The thing snapped its head around, focusing its one, baleful eye on Mel, causing all of her magical items to cease their functioning. It then swatted her with one mighty claw, sending her hurtling through the gray mists of the strange plane to land hundreds of yards away.

Wincing at the blow, Mel hid as best she could and sniped at the beast from range with the bow longshot. Unfortunately the creature was both very fast and very alert, easily spotting Mel and closing the distance rapidly. The creature pinned her with one claw, then proceeded to sever her remaining arm with a snap of its jaws.

Zorch, meanwhile, looked at the strange book, which now showed a depiction of Ash on the page to which it was opened. Wondering if the book were somehow a magical device tied to the creature, he cast remove curse over its pages. Ash was immediately freed from the book, but in the form of a two-dimensional paper doll. Ash attempted to blast the ethereal beast with a barrage of magic missiles, but the magic-warping effects of Myth Drannor’s Mythal resulted in him instead sporting a fine, thick beard of bird-feathers, which puffed out from his paper form much like fluff glued onto a child’s school craft.

Mel shadow-stepped away from the ethereal beast and hid again. Using her feat and mouth, she managed to draw the bow and continue firing, teleporting away whenever it closed the distance again. This time, the thing did not see her when she hid, and one well-placed shot finally brought the colossal monster low.

She cut out the creature’s magic-canceling eye, to add to the party’s collection, and returned to the material plane where she found Zorch and 2D-Ash hacking at the book with flaming swords, to no avail. Witnessing its apparent immunity to fire and blades, Ash finally identified the monstrous writing as a palimpsest (both the creature and a work from which the original text had been scraped), learning that he might be returned to his natural form by liberal application of electricity.

Mel, unarmed and much in need of rest and healing, wandered out into the streets and laid down to sleep on a bed of Blue Moss, which Ash promised could regrow her missing tissues. Ash, meanwhile, quit Myth Drannor, both to escape the Mythal and to put distance between himself and Mel’s lightning-rod-like nature. With the, not unpainful, self-application of a few lightning bolts, he was able to restore himself to his proper form.

26 Eliasias

Ash and Mel reunited the next morning, Mel having miraculously regrown both of her original arms, and headed towards Ash’s family estate, in hopes that the Ellindir library might be intact. They found the estate, like the rest of the city, just as it had been at the elven capital’s height. Ash spoke a word and the gates swung open, with an audible hum of magical wards being disabled. Another word caused the army of skeletal undead standing in the courtyard to snap to attention and step aside, giving them a direct path to the front doors of the house. So they continued, with Ash using the watchwords of his family to disable trap after trap and keep the numerous undead guardians at bay.

Within the house they found nothing, save for the guardians, animated by contingencies from the bodies of those slain by the numerous wards covering the place. Everything was clean and pristine, but all of the furniture, art, and valuables were gone, save for a single table in the dining room, to large to be easily moved out through the door.

They searched room after room, finding nothing and growing ever more frustrated. Finally Ash stopped and opened his mind to his grandfather’s memories, searching for some secret as to where the Ellindir family treasures might have been stashed in the wake of the city’s fall. In his trance-like state, he made his way up and laid his kiira directly in the center of the flat roof. Bright red light swept out from the lore-gem, forming a great disk on which he and Mel stood.

When their eyes adjusted to the crimson brightness, they found themselves standing in an empty void, with nothing in any direction save the red disk. Fire suddenly appeared all around, only to be swept away by a mighty wind. Then a great wave rose up from no where to crash over them. The waters did not touch them, but left them in a dark cave of loose, brown dirt. This crumbled away and they were back within the void, but now arrows rained from the black sky through which turtles appeared to swim. And thus, they knew they were in the Everchanging Chaos of Limbo.

Mel took immediate advantage of the strange space, imagining herself surrounded by riches. The arrows raining from the sky turned into bags of coins, which exploded on impact, literally showering the two companions with riches. Another stray thought from Mel and the coins lying on the ground became bunches of grapes, and buxom serving girls clawed their way through the disk on which they still stood, fighting each other to gather up the grapes and hand feed them to Melastasya, where they turned to writhing maggots in her mouth.

Ash, meanwhile, focused on the Kiira at his feet and his own muddled memories, thinking of where his grandfather might have hidden the family treasures in this strange place. Immediately a great boulder began drifting out of the void, floating erratically like a piece of driftwood, but maintaining a trajectory more or less directly towards Ash’s head.

Ash ducked at the last minute to avoid being struck by the great stone, which landed at his feet and cracked open to reveal a beautiful geode with a single, cylindrical rod of amethyst sticking up from its center. Ash took the rod and immediately a door appeared in front of him, complete with a great lock with a hole exactly the right size for the rod. He inserted the rod and the door opened into a small, stone chamber, much like a mausoleum, but stacked high with books.

Mel quickly stepped into the library with Ash, spitting bugs from her mouth and dodging the frogs that were raining down around them. Ash looked around at the collected lore of his forebears and wished that he might find an index to all of it. Immediately the rod in his hand changed shape, becoming a beautiful amethyst-bladed sword which somehow put all of the collective knowledge of the place at his fingertips, with no need to crack open any of the tomes.

Ash realized that this was his family’s house-blade, a lesser cousin of the elfblades wielded by the rulers of Myth Drannor, and a much greater form of the kiira that elves used to store the memories of their long lives. The sword showed him the end of Myth Drannor and the events that lead to it: His family’s dislike of non-elves and refusal to accept the opening of the capitals borders to humans and their ilk, and the long rivalry with the Coronals that resulted from it. His grandfather’s participation in the creation of the Mythal, and his installation of a back door that would prevent extraplanar creatures from being controlled by their summoners. His grandfather opening Mog’s cage, and the cat calling the Trio Nefarious into the city. So, he realized, his grandfather’s betrayal of Myth Drannor was not only true, but had begun long before the Army of Darkness arrived in his opposition to the opening and the very ideals that the City of Love stood for.

Mel, meanwhile, looked around the place for anything of value that she might easily take with her. She found a small, blue gem lying in a corner of the structure and managed to palm it. As Ash and Mel turned to leave, they saw that the frogs that had rained from the sky as they entered had grown into large bipedal frog-things, Slaadi. The three closest ones, one red, one green, and one blue, growled ominously and approached them.

Mel jumped in front of Ash, landing several punches on the slaad. The red raked at her mid-section with its claws, but stopped just short, gently caressing her stomach instead. The green lunged for her face with its fangs, but ended with a gentle kiss. The blue spread its arms wide to grapple her, but instead wrapped her in a loving embrace and whispered something akin to “mama”. Disturbed, Ash ran for the kiira and picked it up, causing the entire tableau to vanish, leaving Ash, Mel, and the blue slaad standing on the roof of the Ellindir House.

The slaad took a step back from Mel and began groveling at her feet, swaying in time with the faint pulsing of the blue gem in her hand. Mel showed the gem to Ash and he identified it as a “control gem” — literally the brain of a slaad that gave whoever held it control over the slaad from which it was taken. This gave Mel an idea, and she dashed back to the Guild of Naturalists, slaad in tow, and promptly fed the blue creature to the breeder. She left some snacks for the gremlins and instructions to keep the breeder well-fed, then she and Ash left before the place could be overrun with Slaadi.

View
The Amazons: Session 8

It was a lovely wedding, up until the point where my sisters kicked in the door, beat up the guards, and “abducted” me, which was totally sweet. Oh? Right…introductions. I guess I’ll back up a bit.

My name is Imogen Jedea, daughter of Kassur Jedea, the Crown Duke of Threskul. A little over a year ago I ran away from home and joined a group of totally kick-ass adventurers known as the Amazons. A few months ago I got magically transported back home, where I immediately got forced-engaged to this sniveling weasel of a middle-aged count. Luckily I had my scroll of communication, so I could keep in touch with my girls. Needless to say, they came and saved me.

During the winter, the girls had found a magical forge in an enchanted forest protected by a dragon. Cool huh? Long story short, the dragon killed our friend Worthy and I wasn’t even there to help. Some new girls whom I had not met helped kill the dragon, then helped turn Worthy into a totally awesome talking sword.

Since my scheduled wedding was still several months out (for all that my dad is pushy he likes to do things “right” and do it with style, so he was planning a big one), Hot Flanks, who is totally hot by the way, convinced the girls to stick around for several weeks to customize some other gear. We’d been working for a while to track down an evil minor nobleman cum undead warlord cum demon worshiper (or some such) and had gotten our asses kicked a few times, so it made sense to prepare as much as possible. I told them as much in writing if you don’t believe me.

So, they hung out in the woods until late Mirtul, mixing and matching things we had on hand to make some totally sweet magic items, with the occasional trip back and forth to Phlan for supplies (but that’s boring). There were a couple of minor skirmishes with bandits, faeries, undead, and wolves on the road and around the forge while they worked, but nothing too serious. Just enough to be good practice and keep them on their toes without killing anyone.

Then they headed back to Phlan to talk to our patroness, the totally awesome and not-at-all-evil, Councilwoman Elissa Bivant-Mondaviak. It’s amazing how people who don’t work for Lady Elissa get the wrong idea about her sometimes. Probably because they are jealous of a girl being better at politics than them.

With Elissa’s help, the girls chartered a ship to take them down to Messemprar, where the wedding would be happening. Elissa told the girls that she was really concerned about the events of the last few months: the evil squire’s escape, the giant army of undead we saw in the mountains, some colossal giant god-thing waking up and causing earthquakes in the mountains, the government in Hillsfar (which had always been a close ally of Phlan) being overthrown by a coup…things were not going well for Phlan. Elissa understood that the girls had personal business—saving me—and agreed that we should all be present and ready for the coming battle. She even covered the entire cost of the round-trip passage, and included a wedding present of sorts, a big stack of books for us to study on the way back.

The wedding ceremony was scheduled to take place on Shieldmeet (because, hey, leap years are awesome). The ship was fully stocked and they sailed out on the first of Kythorn. The trip to Messemprar took more than two weeks, which the girls spent reading and hanging out, broken up with a small skirmish with some buccaneers from the Pirate Isles, just off the coast of Altumbel. Again, quick, easy, and none of the girls got seriously hurt—though the same could not be said of the pirates after Don’t Fail and Hot Flanks both fireballed their ship. Apparently the book-learning really helped.

The ship docked in Messemprar the day before the wedding. I invited the girls to stand in as my maids of honor (it was a political marriage, I figured I might as well go through with it, so long as I could escape before I had to consummate the damned thing). Unfortunately, my prick of a father refused to even let them into the palace, despite them having a hand-written invitation from yours truly. It’s like the old meany didn’t trust my sisters-in-arms or something…

Luckily the wedding was open to the peasantry (nice thing about big royal functions, you have to let the rabble watch or else you risk an uprising), so the girls were able to sneak in close as the thing started. Like I said, it was a lovely affair. Everything was festooned with flowers. All of my father’s knights showed in in full polished plate (though that made things harder later). I got to wear the most gorgeous gown of my life, white with a silver-mesh veil and my crown, and just enough of a bustle to hide the Handsome Prince (that’s my sword, not a literal prince) underneath. If only my husband-to-be wasn’t such an old, bearded, codger (though he did look pretty good in his armor).

excalibur.jpg

We processed, and danced, and said our vows and our “I dos”. Then the old priest of Tchazzar said the whole, “you may kiss the bride” thing (which was the official precursor to the public bedding—yuck!) the girls kicked in the door. Literally.

Dragon Bait raged out and blew the big doors off their hinges.

Don’t Fail and Hot Flanks burst into the ball room, cowing the less militant spectators with a few well-placed (above their heads so as to not kill everyone) fireballs. , Doesn’t Shake, Finds Them, and Battle Cry charged forward, clearing a path to the dais with a mixture of spells, gunshots (Finds Them apparently packs a really loud toy she calls a “arquebus”), and deliberately extra-creepy illusory monsters.

I did my part, acting just-scared-enough to get my new husband to step in front to protect me, then kicked the armor-laden windbag down the stairs face first, before drawing Handsome Prince and shadow-stepping down to join the other girls. I thought it would be all shock-and-awe and an easy run for the boat from there, but, like I said, my dad had all of his knights standing in for the procession, and fully geared up. So, we fought.

It was tough, mostly because we were trying to NOT kill everyone. It’s amazing how hard that is really. Especially for Dragon Bait apparently. When she goes into fighting mode, she turns into some kind of spike-covered raging demon thing. If she hadn’t had Worthy (our paladin turned awesome sword) in her hands, shouting at her to calm down and pulling her blows a bit, she probably would have killed every last one of my dad’s knights. Instead we just maimed them a bit.

I aimed for a lot of hamstrings and tendons. Handsome Prince helped as usual, turning even tiny cuts into wickedly bleeding messes (it’s awesome how quickly you can convince someone to retreat from a fight when you knick an artery). Battle Cry did her usual grab their arms and break it routine. Don’t Fail froze them in their tracks with her spells. Doesn’t Shake kept them off balance and swinging wildly at her illusions. Hot Flanks blasted them into submission with her mind powers. And Finds Them deafened them with her boom stick.

All told, there were some thirty-odd fully armored, well trained knights. And we totally kicked all of their asses.

Just for giggles I tagged my new husband with a potion of ugliness on the way out, turning him into a toad (temporarily). Adding insult to injury like that was probably not the best move. I’m sure I left my dad with a national crisis and potential war on his hands, but, that was not really my problem. I have no intention of going back there (baring another blast from that wand of cruel banishment).

Once out of the palace, we ran like hell. The general hue and cry ran out before us, both yelling and trumpets calling the castle guards, city watch, and every other man at my father’s disposal to come out and catch us. We bull-rushed our way to the ship, beating guardsmen like baby seals. Our hired crew had been given the word that morning to be ready to sail at a moment’s notice, and so they were.

Then, with a pop, Mahāna, my dad’s court wizard, appeared in our path, along with a solid iron wall. It was a tall wall and he was a tough wizard, but I’m a shadow walker, and I laugh at walls. Literally, walls are funny, especially when you can step right through them. I never liked Mahāna anyways, and we were so close, so I stepped out of the wall right behind him and planted Handsome Prince between his shoulder blades (yeah, that one is really going to piss daddy off).

We hauled ass onto the ship and cast off.

As we pulled away, I pointed out my dad’s fastest naval vessels in the harbor and we nuked their sails with fireballs…not enough to ruin the ships for good, but enough to keep them from following us (again my dad is probably going to kill me, hard, if he ever catches me).

The winds were against us going north so it was a long ride back to Phlan. I caught up on my reading on the way back. It turned out the wedding gift that Elissa had sent along was a Manual of Stealthy Pilfering, sweetness.

On the 19th of Eliasias we got a sending from Elissa informing us that while we were gone the Squire had hijacked some powerful artifact of law that the Council had been using to help keep the precarious peace in Phlan. With this artifact gone, the peasants in the slums, the orcs and Xvimlar on the north side of the river, and the monsters in the ruins had risen up en masse, torn down the walls, and torched New Phlan. She asked us to meet her in Mulmaster, where the Council had fled to, to discuss how we might find and put a stop to the villain for good…

View
The Third Party: Session 27 (GMs notes)

17 Eliasias, 1362 DR

After completing construction of the Mythal in Deckon Thar, the party (mostly Grimnir really) decided it was finally time to deal with the Council in Phlan. They hiked down the mountain from Sorrassar’s cave and Mel flagged down a passing gypsy barge to give them a lift downriver.

21 Eliasias

As they neared the city, they found it in shambles. North of the river, the castle was gone. The ruins had devolved into true ruins, with narry a stone left standing and the formerly ordered markets of goblins and giants nowhere to be seen. South of the river, the new city was burning. The walls had been torn down, the docks abandoned, and mobs of slums-dwellers rioted in the streets.

The poled the boat up to the main docks uncontested and headed into town. They asked several passers by what was going on, but, other than the simple idea that their had been a revolution, most people they encountered seemed clueless. They did learn that a merchant from the slums, one Hasan Abd-al-Bane, had taken command of the council chambers.

Between Traithe’s very large sword, Kevorkian’s petrifying gaze, and Ash’s and Grimnir’s general creepiness, they reached the Council Hall uncontested (give or take the wake of dead, petrified, frightened people behind them). A mass of spiked club and pointy-stick wielding malcontents had formed a human, three people deep, wall surrounding the entire Council Hall. Grimnir turned on his charm, er, crown, and the rabble layed down to make a path for him.

Forcing their way past yet more peasants and protesters filling the hallway, they eventually came to the council chambers, where a swarthy, slick-haired, goatee-sporting man in a fez had set up shop, using the pulled-from-their-hinges doors of the council chamber and some old boxes as a desk.

Hasan greeted the party cordially, explaining that the downtrodden residents of the Slums had finally risen up to assert their rights—with some help from the displaced priests of Xvim. Hasan explained that he and Mace, high-priest of Xvim, had previously had a friend on the council, Markos, who had helped push for democratic reforms—allowing women to hold positions of power and own property, allowing homosexuals to marry, etc.

The Council, Markos included, he said, had fled on a ship two days ago, taking most of the city’s wealth (and wealthy) with them. He said he would have expected them to flee to Hillsfar, but, given the recent plagues and revolution their, that they probably diverted to Mulmaster or Sembia instead.

Grimnir quizzed Hasan about his intent, which boiled down to letting the people run out their frustration and energy with rioting and looting for a few more days, then slowly try to re-establish order and arrange for democratic election of leaders to start forming a new government for Phlan. Grimnir gave his approval, then the party headed across the square to the Temple of Tyr to look for the Bishop.

They found the temple covered in graffiti, obscene phrases in twenty languages scrawled on the walls in paint, chalk, tar, and blood. The gates had been thrown open, but were flanked by a pair of burly orcs in matte-black plate armor. Screams echoed from within.

Marching into the main sanctuary, they found four priests of Tyr and Sister Theymr, the old abbess, tied spread-eagle wagon wheels, with their arms threaded through the spokes. A mixed group of orc soldiers, human dregs, and Xvimlar acolytes stood around taking turns breaking the priests’ limbs with clubs and hammers.

Grimnir enslaved the Xvimlar that appeared to be in charge and asked him to clear the room. Once the rioters were gone, he interrogated Sister Theymr, learning that the Bishop had fled with the council on their ship, most likely heading for the cathedral in Tantras for refuge. Further questioning revealed that the Tyrrans were, perhaps, amenable to his ideas of government, having a strict opposition to the idea of autocratic rule. The core of their philosophy being that laws could only be derived from the people, or their just representatives, and that Tyr was an embodiment of the laws of men, rather than a being with the right or power to pronounce laws himself.

While Grimnir and Ash questioned the prisoners, Traithe and Kevorkian headed downstairs, to look for others. First they headed down to the austere men’s quarters, finding everything looted and mostly empty of people, aside from the cook who had been shoved in his own, still hot oven (long dead) and a trio of orcs in similar black armor to the ones above, who were relaxing in the quarters and explained that they were waiting for their shift to guard the doors. The orcs suggested that if they were looking for some fun, they should go over to the women’s quarters, where the bulk of the force were ‘questioning’ some of the nuns.

They did just that, calling in Ash, Grimnir, and Dame for backup. Broken finery and the sounds of screaming greeted them as they headed down the women’s hall. Kicking in the far door, they saw a great mass of orcs, nearly half a hundred, taking turns gang-raping five nude, bruised, and bloodied Tyrran priestesses.

Ash lit up the room with a lightning bolt and Traithe charged the orcs, only to find that the orcs were surprisingly tough (though not for orcs). Enraged by the interruption of their sport, the orcs rose up and charged en-masse, killing Traithe and incapacitating Kevorkian in their initial onslaught.

Zorch healed Kevorkian, who immediately hid himself with a sanctuary spell and dragged Traithe to safety. Ash then raised a wall of force between the orc horde and the door through which the party had entered the women’s quarters. Dame enlarged, animated, and awakened a few potted plants in the room, setting them to entangling the orcs, while Grimnir opened an arcane gate and began extracting the priestesses through it.

Once everyone was relatively safe, Ash sent Zorch back into the room, where he flew around next to the ceiling, carpet-bombing the orcs with his Bell of Blasting and Bell of Treachery.

Once the army of orc rapists had been dealt with, Kevorkian raised Traithe and Grimnir ported the party and the ten Tyrran prisoners to the last battered ship in the docks, which they quickly commandeered to pursue the Council.

22 Eliasias

Ash used control water to guide the stolen ship.

Dame and Kevorkian healed the rescued priests, then Grimnir continued to question them on their theology and their view of the law, looking for which ones might be turned away from Tyr. They seemed surprisingly unfazed by their Bishop having left them behind to be tortured, raped, and killed, all except one who called himself Brother Rant.

While the questioning was going on, Kevorkian decided that the ship was not traveling fast enough. He called to Mog for a planar ally, conjuring a Rakshasa. In exchange for propelling the ship faster, the Rakshasa first demanded one of the priestesses. Kevorkian refused. Then the cat low-balled, asking for the youngest priestess to simply be tortured (tied to the mast and flayed slowly), even offering to let Kevorkian do it himself. Kevorkian refused and counter-offered, offering to allow himself to be tortured in any way the Rakshasa chose (save severing limbs or removing jewelry) for thirty minutes. They finally settled on 45 minutes of torture for Kevorkian and a bottle of fine cognac.

The sails swelled with the wind of Kevorkian’s screams as the Rakshasa played with his entrails and the ship sped along at a breakneck pace. As they sailed, Grimnir projected horrific dreams into the mind of Markos Mondaviak, using the Rakshasa’s games as inspiration. Despite the two day headstart, they overtook the Council’s vessel just as it was docking in Mulmaster.

The party watched, from a safe distance, as the entire Council, sans-Bishop, including most of the Training Hall professors, the Clerk, and other dignitaries, disembarked. The ship remained outfitted for travel, and, after unloading its passengers, soon put back out to sea and turned south with the Bishop still aboard. Deciding they could come back for Markos (and unwilling to throw down with Markos’s wife just yet), they turned their boat, ran up the jolly roger, and gave chase to the Bishop.

The Bishop had, wisely, laid a forbiddance over the ship to guard against extraplanar attacks, so they simply rammed the ship with their boat and boarded it. Kevorkian petrified three-quarters of the crew on the first glance, and the rest quickly went below to bring the Bishop out as ransom for their safety. Grimnir hexed and then enslaved the Bishop, forced the Bishop and Kevorkian to un-petrify the crew, then they took control of the much nicer ship and turned it back towards Mulmaster.

Under Grimnir’s control, the Bishop went ashore, unloaded all of his worldly goods, and immeadiately began to liquidate all of it. Auctions were arranged to sell off all of his parochial holdings: every temple, every shrine, every monastery, every parish church in the woods, every house, farm, mine, or serfdom that had been acquired by the Moonsea Diocese under Braccio’s reign as bishop.

Highharvestide

The party worked for months, bankrupting the church of Tyr to raise a mercenary army to restore order to Phlan and buying up ships and stores to equip them and rebuild the city. Grimnir never strayed more than a few hundred yards from the enslaved Bishop, manipulating the fat old man like a puppet. At night, he continued to assault Markos Mondaviak with dreams, terrifying the young nobleman to the point of insomnia and exhaustion.

The party used some small portions of the massive funds being generated by the liquidation of the church to fund their own interests. Kevorkian bought a unicorn, named Banana Fluff, from a shady merchant, though the animal quickly teleported away once Kevorkian removed its collar and leash. Grimnir funded scholars to research how to imbue his staff with powers of darkness. Ash researched the nature and location of various elf-blades. Dame went shopping for knives. And Grimnir raised the bounty on the Amazons (delivered alive, blue, naked, and trussed to the steps of Kryptgarten) to fifty thousand gold crowns.

Finally, on the 29th of Eleint, it was announced throughout Mulmaster that Markos Mondaviak had died of fear and weariness. His young widow through a great state funeral for the fallen councilman, presided over by the same Bishop who was so determinedly spending every last cent of his fortune to reclaim the city that Markos held so dear.

On the night of Highharvestide, graverobbers (paid by Grimnir) exhumed the body of Markos Mondaviak and skinned it. Grimnir had the skin made into a lovely pair of gloves…

Markos’ wife, immediately set out to settle the score against the man who would so desecrate her husband’s grave.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.