Ruins of Adventure

Chapter 3: An Old Lady in Melvaunt: Part 4
Interlude: The Squatters in Onyx: Part 1


Hearing Hrud’s response, Yamtwit pipes up, “Taek! Hrud, alon mudhun kanggo kita. Kita lagi teka.” He whistles for Rast and quickly informs the others, “Our barbarian friend has decided that if the kobolds are not coming to us, he is going to the kobolds…and he seems disinclined to discuss the matter.” The goblin mounts up and rides after their rash friend.

Frantiska smiles. “Aku di,” she yells after Hrud and Yamtwit. “I think Hrud has the right idea. If we want this over quickly and decisively, let’s just take the fight to them…”


Lyra ducks into the wagon and emerges with an extra quiver of arrows and a stack of boards under one arm. “Do you think we should bring these?”


Seeing Hrud suddenly become visible as he abandons the rest of his unit, Donovan groans and rests his head in his hands. «That…was not the response I was expecting…» he mutters in elvish. “Fine…” he waves to the mounted archers, unable to see the other riders, “We’ll have need of your horses!” Seeing Lyra come out with the boards, he smiles, “Yes! Definitely!” He quickly gathers up his spell-books and a couple extra cases of crossbow bolts…and two extra bows for good measure…and mounts up.

Winona lets out a strangely mirthful and mildly frightening laugh and leaps onto the back of one of the horses as the peasant-archer is just barely clear of the mount. “Come on Bunny!” She spurs the steed down the hill after Hrud, calling “For Justice!”

Go on, the kobolds deserve it, says a voice in Ryesha’s head which is not her own. She sighs and extends a hand up to Winona, swinging into the saddle as she rides past. At least one of us thinks this is a good idea…


Rant grabs the back of Amara’s collar as she starts running for a horse. “No, Donovan and Frantiska were right about one thing, have you be part of a preemptive attack on a kobold army definitely violates the nature of their agreement. You’re staying right here…” There is an audible “awww” from the little girl, but she does not resist.

Teldicia, who’s progressively worsening migraines have left her locked in a darkened house, quietly and irritably resting for most of your time in Gildenglade, rises from where she has been waiting the night out beside the village foot-soldiers. “احساس می کنم مثل سر من در حال رفتن به لعنتی منفجر شود، اما ضربه اقامت در اینجا من حدس می زنم!” she groans, and takes off at a trot after the party, her unnaturally long, bounding strides easily keeping pace with Hrud’s pony.

The trail of muddy dog-like footprints and disturbed grasses is clear and easy to follow. Judging from the spacing of the tracks, the meandering path, and the occasional discarded bone, the kobolds were in no hurry and not concerned with stealth, stopping many times to eat, chat, or relieve themselves.

The trail wanders over hills and through fields, then cuts directly into the swamp. Mounted, you easily cover in one hour what took the lolly-gagging, short-legged kobolds five or more. As the ground grows wetter, Teldicia leaps onto the back of Donovan’s horse, hugging him tightly around the waist to avoid falling off. The kobold trail remains easy to follow, following the tops of several muddy embankments beaten flat and almost hard by the repeated passage of large numbers of the creatures, avoiding the worst of the bogs and allowing you to keep your mounts.


Donovan accepts his new rider with relish, though he finds it hard to concentrate on guiding his mount, a thing he not exactly an expert at, with the distraction of the beautiful, not-quite-elvish woman’s ample breasts pressed against his back…

“Yamtwit,” Donovan says as they ride along the kobold’s trail, “would you please inform Hrud that I laud his initiative, but ask whether he has a plan for what we should do once we find the kobold’s home?” Donovan quietly prays that the answer is not charge in the front door…


Lyra shifts her pile of boards, not quite fidgeting. “Am I correct in assuming collapsing entrances won’t do much against kobolds?”


Yamtwit pipes up, “Hrud, putih-kepala heaps gedhe memuji marang Panjenengan sirah anjog serangan iki ing asu-pasuryan, nanging kamulyan yen sampeyan bisa marang kita rencana.” Then turns back to Lyra, “Rocks can kill kobolds as easily as anything else, but if you don’t hit them with the rocks, they are very good at digging…”


“Nyelinep nang. Mateni pimpinan.” Hrud grunts, as they follow the trail. This is how it should be, he thinks, Hunting, not waiting to die. Though he wouldn’t admit it, Hrud allows himself a moment of relief as the others come after him.


“Hrud suggests that we sneak inside and kill the leader…” Yamtwit says dubiously. “Hrud, apa yen padha ndeleng jaran teka? Pripun kita ngerti kang siji pimpinan? Apa yen asu-pasuryan tresnani pimpinan lan matèni kita kanggo nyababaken pimpinan?”

Frantiska stops Thistledown, “A half dozen horses coming in on what is clearly the equivalent of a road for these creatures seems like a very poor way to gain the element of surprise.”

“That’s what I just said,” Yamtwit quips. “Is it possible that our barbarian friend is not particularly smart?”


Winona looks at them all and rolls her eyes, “We’ve already lost the element of surprise, so let’s just do this thing. In through the front door. Move fast. Kill them all…”

Donovan facepalms and mutters, “Glad I loaded up on sleep spells.”


Hrud slows his pony to a trot, letting the others pull up along side him. “Bisa wae sampeyan nggunakake Piandel kanggo nggawe kita hard kanggo ndeleng?”


“Anyone got another mass invisibility in their back pocket?’ Yamtwit asks, “…didn’t think so.” Yamtwit shakes his head at Hrud, “Aku kita perlu sethitik cah wadon Amara yen kita arep kanggo njupuk kauntungan saka kuwi trik. Winona ngandika kita ngirim mung kick ing lawang ngarep lan matèni sakèhé asu-pasuryan kita waca. Putih-rambute ngandika bisa nggawe akèh turu asu-pasuryan.”

Frantiska tries to follow their conversation. “Saya pikir kita mungkin harus bermain dengan telinga. Tunggu dan lihat apa situasi dan pertahanan mereka ketika kami tiba.” She loosens her sword in its sheath, draws her bow, and rides with an arrow knocked from here out.


“Dog-pasuryan teka ing wayah wengi, ya? Yen kita lumaku saka kene, kita bisa nyekel wong-wong mau turu.”


Yamtwit nods decisively, “Apik tenan. Ayo kita mindhah metu.” He whispers something to Rast and the wolf quickens its pace. “Come on. Let’s get this over with…”


Another mile or so into the swamp, the trail goes cold from age, though the well-beaten path continues. Ahead of you, on a low rise, is a massive stone carving of a dragon, hundreds of feet long, lying on its belly, mouth agape, and wings spread out to either side at odd angles. After a second glance, Frantiska is able to inform you that it is not a carving, but the actual petrified remains of an ancient dragon—probably black she guesses from the horn structure. The path seems to lead strait up and into the creature’s mouth, which is open wide enough for a man to walk upright in. No creatures are visible in the area around the dragon, but Hrud’s keen eyes spot the head of a kobold peaking out through one of the beast’s empty eye-sockets.


Frantiska whispers, “We can’t take the horses in there. Let’s back up a bit and find a safe place to tether them…”


Moving back a bit, out of view of the ‘statue’, Hrud dismounts and says, “Ayo kita teka watara saka konco. Aku bisa menek munggah lan njaluk kobold ing mripat – utawa Frantiska bisa njupuk karo dheweke gandhewo.”


As the others dismount under the cover of the trees, Yamtwit motions towards the eye. “Elf-girlie, the barbarian says you should shoot the kobold in the brain-case in the brain-case, then we should circle around the back and see if there is another entrance. Maybe not in that order.”

Frantiska tried to ignore the goblin’s lack of manners. She knocks an arrow and begins siting it in for a long shot at a small enemy under cover. “If, as I suspect, this was at one point a living dragon, I have very little desire to go in through the ‘back door’…” She takes a breath to steady herself and lets fly at the kobold.

Yamtwit turns to Hrud, “Cahaya panggung nyonyah ngandika dheweke ora pengin ngetik lumantar naga kang bokong.” He draws a club and gets ready to rush the mouth.


The arrow strikes home, taking the kobold crouched in the dragon’s eye in its own eye. Two more kobold heads suddenly pop-up, looking alarmed, then duck back down.


“Yen kita njaluk kepunjulen, mundur menyang desa.” Hrud says, as he snatches his shortbow from where it hangs by his saddle. Nocking an arrow, he rushes toward the dragon, mentally urging the kobolds to stick their heads out again.


Fearing that the kobolds may raise an alarm, Donovan raises a hand, flinging a handful of rose petals towards the dead dragon, and speaks a quick word of power.


The kobolds look out the eye-hole, panicked by the sudden dispatch of their friend, then, just as suddenly, yawn widely and slump to the ground, as does the fourth who was inside preparing to blow his gemshorn. You all hold your breath for a long minute, but no warning or ruckus seems to be forthcoming…


Seeing the kobolds slump down, Hrud shoulders his bow and starts to climb up to the eye socket where they were positioned.


Winona and Ryesha jog in step behind Hrud, giant flail and knives out respectively, scanning the area around the dragon’s maw for signs of other kobolds before heading in. Donovan follows reluctantly behind, a loaded crossbow at the ready (and two more strapped to his pack)…


Hrud easily climbs up to the open eye-socket, an oblong hole almost three feet in diameter and slithers into the dragon’s braincase. Four kobolds lay on the floor (the creature’s hard palate), one with an arrow through its eye, the others sleeping, next to a large gemshorn and a pile of ammunition for the shortbows which rest, untouched against the side of the braincase. The spinal column appears to have been hollowed out, making a long corridor running the length of the petrified corpse. The passage is only a couple of feet high, such that any of your party, except perhaps Ryesha, would have to belly crawl through it.

Winona leads the way into the mouth, which stands open tall enough for her to easily stand up. Most of the teeth have been removed, making the thing look very sad on close inspection, like the mouth of an old man barely able to chew. The throat opens up to a similarly long corridor, this one easily large enough to walk through. A glaringly obvious pit has been carved out where the back of the thing’s jaw meets the ground, punching a hole through the neck and down into the rocky hill on which it rests. The pit runs the width of the throat and looks to be about twenty feet deep, but has a two foot wide ledge on either side to allow passage. The passage is warm and dark, and has a strong acrid smell.

There are signs of a large number of kobolds having tramped all around the area, but the clearing made by the draconic corpse is bathed in bright sunlight this late in the morning, and there are no signs of any of the light-averse creatures out and about.


Yamtwit and Rast hurry up to the others. He calls out to Hrud in a hoarse pesudo-whisper, “Punapa punika ing sirah?” The goblin hops off the wolf and looks at the pit, “Rast is going to have some trouble with the ledge…” he mutters. “Rastli sotekaou panseoufè?” The wolf walks up to the edge of the pit and stares down into it for a while.

Frantiska heads for the mouth a moment after the goblin, motioning for Lyra and Teldicia to follow.


The pit (and ledges) are twenty feet in length. The neck alone is more than a hundred feet long and follows the curve of the hill on which the head rests, causing it to arc upward slightly after the pit, then, judging by the outside, probably descend sharply towards the main body.


Hrud uses his sword to slit the sleeping kobold’s throats. After checking over their belongings, he tosses their bodies out the eye-socket window. The shortbows and bundles of arrows soon follow.

After scouring the nest for anything of note, Hurd lowers the horn out the opening, then follows after to rejoin the others at the mouth. As they stand around discussing the situation, the barbarian unstrings the kobold shortbows. He then takes the horn over to where his pony stands waiting behind some tall brush, ties it to his saddle, before returning.

“Aku ora duwe tali.” he grunts quietly, before starting to make his way down the spiral ledge.


“Ana tindakan liya ing tengkorak?” Yamtwit asks. “Punapa punika nganggo tali keur?”


“Cukup sungu.” Hrud whispers in reply.

“A tali bakal wis luwih gampang kanggo njaluk lan metu … Mungkin.”


Lyra finishes stripping leaves off of a pair of long sticks. “Whoever is in front will want one of these to test for … unpleasant surprises. And based on the acrid smell, we might be in for another unpleasant surprise when we make it to the lower esophagus and gizzard. But surely the elemental energy would dissipate after death? We may want to find and remove the fundamentum and heart to be certain. Mother would be quite interested in them for research purposes.”


Hrud watches the young woman strip the leaves. Unimpressed, he walks back to his pony, grabs the spear strapped to its side and returns. “Iki kelet wis titik luwih apik ing iku.”

Then, feeling that they are loosing daylight, he begins to descend into the maw of the dragon-cave.


“Hrud says his stick is better than yours…” Yamtwit shrugs and turns back to the cave. He presses his back against the left-hand wall of the throat and begins inching over the ledge across the pit, trying not to look down even though it is actually quite wide relative to his size. Rast trots confidently along behind the goblin.

Frantiska looks into the pitchblack throat-tunnel and runs over the ledge opposite Yamtwit to catch up with the Barbarian. “Hrud, dapat Anda lihat dalam gelap?”

Yamtwit, hearing Frantiska’s comment scurries up and waves a hand in front of the human’s face, “Dheweke takon yen sampeyan bisa ndeleng ing peteng.” Hrud notices that the eyes of the elves, goblin, halfling, and the two half-breeds all glow slightly red in the pitch-blackness of the tunnel. “Kowe kudu lampu?”


“Ya?” Hrud replies. Hrud shakes his head, “Ora ana lampu. Ora bisa ndeleng ing peteng.” He pauses, looking down into the pit. “Bisa padha?”


Donovan sucks in his gut and scurried past the pit. “Come on then, let’s get this over with…” He allows his eyes to shift into the infrared spectrum, noting the heat signatures of his friends and left by passing kobolds, then takes a small pebble and tosses it as far as he can down the throat, allowing his eyes to adjust further, mapping the tunnel by the small reverberations of sound from the pebble.

Winona notices her companion’s eyes begin to emit the tell-tale red glow of infravision and sighs. “I guess I’ll stand watch out here, no sense announcing our presence…” She groans suddenly, and clutches her head as the now familiar headache returns briefly, then looks around astonished to find that she can see fine… “On second thought…” It takes her a few moments to overcome the confusion of having sensory information coming from the wrong source, but her conversations with Donovan help a bit.


With your heightened, and unusual senses, you are able to make out much of the tunnel. First, from the faint reverberations, you are able to tell that the esophagus which makes up the tunnel is slightly longer than the exterior neck, opening into the dragon’s stomach/gizzard which seems to have many exits from it. Between your current position and the stomach, you can make out three more open pits, just as deep vertically, but about half the length of the one you just passed. You detect faint light filtering in from above the pits, presumably from holes into the spinal column above, and to there from the eyes and brain-case. This aural mapping is made easier by the faint sounds of high-pitched voices echoing through the corridor, from where you cannot tell.


Yamtwit nods gravely, “Luwih apik ing peteng, tinimbang urip ana ing cahya, ing kasunyatan.”


“Aren’t kobold traps supposed to be hard to find?” Donovan muses. He takes a deep breath and steps out in front of Hrud, crossbow at the ready.


Hrud frets for a moment, trying to figure what to do about the darkness. Apparently, everyone else has some kind of magical sense that … wait a second. Hrud pauses, remembering. He then reaches down and pulls the hammer out of his belt. A blue light begins to glow. The barbarian grins at no one in particular.


As the hammer comes out you hear a sudden shriek from the passage below and the sound of tiny feet scurrying up the spinal corridor above you.


“Terus iki.” Hrud says, shoving the hammer into Yamtwit’s hands, “Tetep cedhak.” Grabbing the spear with both hands, he thrusts at the first sign of movement above them.


As the lights come on, Donovan points to the three-foot deep, foot-wide shafts in the ceiling over each of the pits, making a point of staying well back from the rather obstructed line of fire they would provide. “It sounds like there are at least six kobolds up in the spine.” He thinks for a moment then adds, “It also looks like they’ve invested quite a bit of infrastructure into defending rather obvious looking pit-traps. Either these kobolds are morons, making pits that no one will stumble into and putting murder holes that can only attack the pits…or else the pits are not traps at all. Maybe the pits are actually passages to some lower caverns…”

Ryesha looks where Donovan is pointing. Her lips move for a moment, as if she is carrying out some silent conversation, then nods emphatically. “Lyra, can you make a door so that Yamtwit and I can get up there? We should fit okay, and can probably deal with a handful of kobos…” Her lips keep moving but make no sound for a bit, then. “We’re pretty sure we can take them actually…”

Winona smiles broadly at the sudden sign of bravery and initiative from her protégé. She swings the big flail off her back. “Little ones up and the rest of us down then?”


Lyra’s head is cocked, listening at the faint sounds above. “I think I can do a bit better than that. Open the door into the spinal passage, open fire with bows, and then send in Sister Ryesha and Mr. Yamtwit?”


Yamtwit takes the hammer from Hrud, looking quite out of place holding the huge thing. “Iku amba amba…” When Rye starts suggesting that just the two of them go up into a tight corridor to battle a large pack of kobolds, his eyes get very wide. “Ummm…”

“Don’t worry,” Frantiska says, hearing Lyra’s suggestion and putting arrow to string, “there should not be that many left…”


Even with the time it takes Lyra to establish the doorway, you still look through it to find six kobolds, each holding a burlap sack that squirms in a very disconcerting way, crowded around the shaft of the murder-hole above the pit, looking down expectantly. The blue light from the hammer filters up through the hole quite brightly, illuminating their dog-like faces. When that same light suddenly shines even more brightly on them through the dimensional doorway bisecting the passage, they look up in slack-jawed amazement.


Donovan aims a light crossbow over Hrud’s shoulder and fires through the dimension-door at one of the confused kobolds. After firing, he drops the crossbow by his feat and grabs a second loaded crossbow from his pack to be ready to fire again.

Ryesha draws her long-bladed skinning knife and charges through the psionic doorway, springing at the back of one of the unsuspecting kobolds.

Winona, unable to fit into the narrow spinal-corridor above, takes a few steps down the throat passage and watches, flail at the ready in case any additional enemies should come from that direction.


Frantiska lets fly a stream of arrows through the portal ahead of her two small companions.

Yamtwit stands by the opening to the dimension door, club in hand, waiting to see how his companions’ onslaught goes before committing himself to melee.


The kobolds’ look up in stunned silence as a hail of arrows come pouring through the opening, followed by a thrusting spear, and a gleeful halfling. The first three are taken down quickly by a crossbow bolt, a spear, and a knife in the back, respectively. The others, waiting on the opposite side of the murder-hole, are silenced by arrows protruding from their throats. In the passage below, you see a pair of bags fall from loose hands, down the hole and past you into the twenty-foot deep pit, spilling out a handful of large and agitated centipedes at the bottom. The other four bags, up in the spinal column with Ryesha, remain cinched thankfully closed by their former bearers.


Ryesha carefully shoves the other four bags of creepy-crawlies over the lip of the murder-hole and down into the pit, then steps back through the portal to rejoin her friends. “That was easy, where to now?”


Hrud reclaims his hammer from Yamtwit and reaches into the opening to drag out the kobold corpses. The ones further back he hooks and drags with the hammer.


Yamtwit watches in confusion as Hrud pulls the kobold corpses out through the portal. “Terbaik apa yang anda akan lakukan dengan badan? Mengapa tidak hungkul ninggalake wong?”


Hrud shrugs as he loots the bodies, “Mbok padha duwe apik item. Ana titik ing ngeculke iku pindhah menyang sampah.” Once he’s done (and anything of value taken), the barbarian tips the corpses into the pit.


Hrud rifles through the kobold’s remains, coming up with a couple pieces of crude jewelry (bone spurs shoved through the skin as piercings, cut and hollowed sections of bone as rings, and necklaces made of uncured leather thongs with a variety of random pieces of organic and inorganic detritus strung on them), a handful of dull grey mushrooms of questionable edibility, one pitted iron dagger, a set of knuckle bones with some markings carved into each side, and the tattered scraps of cloth and leather which barely served to hide the kobolds’ modesty.


Slightly disappointed, Hrud pockets the knuckle bones and kicks the rest into the pit with their former owners. Taking up his spear and navigating by the light of his hammer, he begins to make his way around the edge of the pit.


Yamtwit stares at the trash Hrud is taking off the kobolds with obvious derision, “Apa sira nyana, Hruď? Kobolds adalah hama. Mereka tidak bisa komo mengais bener.”


As the third kobold hits the bottom of the pit, the floor of the pit collapses, falling away in four sections and depositing the kobolds, the bags of centipedes, and an assortment of other trash another 20 feet deeper. By the light of the hammer you can see a pair of still-quite-fresh lizardman corpses lying at the bottom of the now fourty-foot deep pit. From the echo of the wet splattering sound of the falling corpses, Winona and Donovan inform the rest of you that it sounds/feels/looks like there is a side passage exiting from the bottom of the pit.


Frantiska looks into the pit, then back down the throat. “So we have a few options: Down there…” she points into the pit, “three more pits with similar exits down this passage,” she points deeper into the dragon, “or on up the throat and into the gizzard and stomach…”

Yamtwit quickly translates for Hrud then pipes up, “I don’t really feel like climbing down there with the pile of corpses.”


Donovan picks up the crossbow, reloads it, and stows it on his pack next to the others. I must get Frantiska to teach me to shoot a bow some day, he thinks, the ability to fire so many shots so fast is remarkable. He tosses bits of kobold trash down the pit and down the throat, to get a better “look” at the layout, then points to the passage. “I concur with Master Yamtwit. Climbing down there with riled centipedes and rotting lizards does not seem particularly pleasant. Likewise, Lyra’s suggestion that the acid glands in the fundamentum might still be functional makes exploring the rest of the beast’s digestive track less than appealing. Judging from the sounds, it seems like each of the four pits has a lower exit…perhaps they had to tunnel into the hill to expand the available living space. I say we find the easiest to traverse pit and start poking around the lower tunnels…and hope that those pits do not have similar surprises to this one.”

Winona nods along with Donovan’s suggestions then clanks up the passage. “If the barbarian is going to walk about with the light out, at least have him come up front with me so we can see them coming better…”


The throat passage slopes slightly upward for a couple yards, then drops rather precipitously, descending at a steep angle. After sixty feet, you come to the next pit. This one is open, twenty-five feet deep, and only six feet long, though the sharp downward slope of the passage would make it quite difficult to avoid if you were not forewarned by Winona and Donovan’s enhanced senses. A quick inspection of the pit reveals small handholds running down both the near and far sides, stopping about 8 feet from the bottom where a passage leading out of the left side. The bottom of the pit is littered with splintered wooden planks. Like the last pit, a one-foot diameter murder-hole opens into the spine above, though there are no signs of kobolds lurking above.


Winona looks down into the pit. “No rotting corpses, easy handholds, exit at the bottom. Looks like everything we asked for. All in favor of trying this one?”

Donovan furrows his brow, “Given what little we know about kobolds, and the false bottom on that last pit, I am suddenly rethinking my criteria for what constitutes a safe pit. It looks too easy, which means its probably a cunning death trap of some kind…”


Hrud spends several minutes in contemplation. Finally, deciding that the kobolds probably cannot jump across the pit, decides to use the handholds and climb down into it. The barbarian leaves the spear behind, easing down into the pit. Upon reaching the last handhold, remembering how the floor of the previous pit fell away, Hrud keeps his hands firmly in the handhold and reaches down with his foot to poke at the floor.

Hanging from the last rung by his fingertips, Hrud tests the floor of the pit, first with one foot, then both. It seems sturdy enough. Guided by the light of his hammer, and keeping to the edge of the pit, Hrud cautiously makes his way around to the opening in the wall.


Donovan stands at the edge of the pit for a minute, watching Hrud for test the floor, before making up his mind to follow. As Hrud nears the exit, he takes Hrud’s spear, whistles to get Hrud’s attention, and, carefully as he can, drops it down for the barbarian. He then stows the crossbow he is carrying on his pack, unwilling to part with the extra weapon, and climbs down quickly—dropping the last 8 feet, as he lacks the barbarian’s height.

Ryesha hesitates, mumbling under her breath and staying as far from the ledge of the pit as the sloped tunnel floor will allow, her demeanor very much like a frightened rabbit.

Winona, not relishing the thought of trying to climb down the wall in her heavy armor, picks up her apprentice, whispers a prayer to Tyr, and steps out into the open air. “Anyone else need a ride down?” she says, falling slightly, then slowing considerably as a sudden updraft catches her robes—lowering her to the floor not exactly gently, but better than if she had jumped the twenty-five feet unassisted.


Winona, despite being buoyed up by the winds, lands with a not insignificant amount of crashing, clanging, and jangling from her armor.


Frantiska and Yamtwit both climb down after the others. “We’ve given them plenty of notice that we’re here,” Frantiska says, eyeing Hrud and Winona with a hint of annoyance, “We should practice extra caution..”


Lyra carefully climbs down, trying to listen for sounds above that might indicate that thrown and/or falling objects from the murderholes above may need to be … displaced slightly.


As Lyra reaches the bottom and turns around, she sees a flash of fur and teeth, as something long and sleek darts its head out of the side passage. The thing moves almost faster than you can see as its sharp-teeth latch onto the back of Hrud’s thigh, sinking in deep and refusing to let go. Once locked on and mostly still, you can see that it is a weasel or similar mustelid, with sleek, dark fur, save that it is nearly seven feet in length!


Hrud very nearly roars out in pain and anger, but manages to stifle his reaction at being chomped on to a loud hiss through tightly gritted teeth. Whipping out his sword, Hrud attempts to teach the creature a lesson.


Seeing the blur of beautiful fur, Frantiska utters a quiet curse under her breath.

Yamtwit blurts out, “Try not to bloody it up too much! The hides on those things are worth thousands!”

Frantiska drops her bow and pulls out her shield and Sir Guy’s Spoon. “Alright then…the bow is no good this tight of a space anyways…”

Yamtwit watches the fighters go at it, rubbing his hands together in anticipation of skinning the marvelous creature.


Donovan, huffing and puffing after the climb down, looks suspiciously into the passage. “Too sneaky…” he says quietly. Then louder, “Don’t weasels hunt in packs?” He pulls out his largest crossbow and trains it on the opening, ready for any more that might show up.

Winona whips the flind-bar off her belt and sets it whirling, taking two rapid strikes at the thing, trying to dislodge its jaws from Hrud’s leg.

Ryesha’s eyes go as wide as saucers. Her nose twitches rapidly. She begins whimpering and jumping for the rungs on the wall, trying to get out. No amount of coaxing from her combat-loving, sentient cloak can convince her to go an inch nearer to the giant rabbit-snatcher…


Hrud’s sword stabs deep into the giant weasel’s mid-section. Judging by the amount of blood and the pained cries from the creature, several vital organs were likely involved. As its jaws open in pain, Frantiska’s thrust of her blunted blade catches it just below the eye, snapping its head back directly into line for Hrud’s hammer to finish it off, caving in the weasel’s skull. Winona’s somewhat slow follow-up with her flail is a light pat by comparison.

With many an angry hiss, three more of the things coming darting out of the side passage.


Hrud uses his momentum to plow into the nearest foe. Momentarily distracted by thoughts of what weasel meat tastes like, a poor first strike brings his mind back to the matter at hand.


Yamtwit cries out in despair as Hrud commences stabbing, then realizes that he forgot to tell Hrud. “Hruď! Palu ora pedang! Kita bisa ngedol bulu!”

He then realizes that he prepared for such eventualities. “Tunggu! Aku duwe keajaiban kanggo mungkasi serangan mereka!” He says a quick prayer to Chauntea in his native tongue, “Lajan pouyopotaka noukese konsa, kalme kòlèyo epiyo plen gen anba vant kiteyo. Nou manjeap sispann belèt fache kitesayo. Manman Benediksyon,” and casts calm animals. He them remembers that the others don’t speak Hrud’s langauge and yells, “Don’t hit them, I got this!”

Frantiska turns to strike at the next weasel coming through, then, hearing Yamtwit’s cry, pulls her swing up short and instead brings her shield to bear and steps forward into the breach, hoping to draw the next attack.


Donovan pulls the trigger more out of shock than strategy as the other weasels come barreling in. The shot goes wide, naturally, clattering against the wall. Seeing so many of the things, he drops the crossbow and fumbles in his belt pouches for the sand to cast a sleep spell if Yamtwit’s play should fail.

Winona, hearing Yamtwit’s yell, steps back to place herself in front of the still-panicking Rye, keeping her weapon spinning in case the weasels advance more.


Lyra draws her green-bladed broadsword and tries to keep between the panicking priestess and adorable giant fuzzy things.


Teldicia leaps down into the pit, kicking out with her feet and literally bouncing off the walls to slow her decent. As she lands, she casts a sharp look at the nearest weasel, blood seeping from her eyes. The weasel which is the target of her glare is hurled bodily backwards, careening off the walls of the side passage, accompanied by many sickening thuds and the sound of crunching bone.

The next weasel lunges at Hrud, only to get jagged slashed across its nose. Then…they just…stop. The two weasels, one injured, just sit down on their haunches by the opening to the passage and stare at Yamtwit expectantly.


Lyra sheathes her sword and also looks expectantly at Yamtwit. “Can … can I pet it?”


The goblin shrugs, “They should remain calm as long as we don’t threaten them further…presumably the kobolds had them at least somewhat domesticated, so they probably won’t take a touch as being hostile…” He looks at the two battered ones and does a little happy dance.


Hrud sheathes his sword, gripping his hammer with both hands. “Bisa aku kenek iku?”


Yamtwit shrugs again, “Yen sampeyan mencet mau, priksa manawa sampeyan matèni wong cepet lan resik. Digunakake bakal cokotan maneh.”

Yamtwit grins broadly, “Hey Bunny-girl, can I borrow your skinning knife?”


Hrud stands there, planning to raise his hammer and deliver (what he hopes is) a killing blow, but is himself struck by a thought. “Apa yen kita dilatih loro mau kanggo tindakake kita?”


“Lagi mbokmenawa terpatri ing anjing-rupa. Mungkin yen kita temokake enom cerpelai kita bisa melatih mau. Aku duwe kaelokan sing bisa bantuan, yen kita bisa ngenteni nganti sesuk kanggo nyoba ajar.”


Hrud’s brow furrows, “Supaya … mateni utawa ora matèni?”

As the group stands around contemplating what to do with/about the giant weasels, Hrud realizes his leg is burning uncomfortably. Looking down at the puncture wounds and the blood streaking his leg, he asks, “Bisa njaluk sandi wentis waras?”


“O taek! Ya, kene …” Yamtwit blurts out. He hurries over and lays a hand on Hrud’s thigh. “Leti manje apre pou tout tanlite kapab. Manjeap resevwa nan sòtl’l’ padonnen, epiap koule tankou dlo san arè kitea. Fwin yonpa Mòdeteki moun sòt janm nansaa geri tanpri. Manman Benediksyon.” he prays. The wound closes completely.


Lyra walks gently over to one of the weasels, tossing it a bit of jerky from her trail rations.


The weasel shows almost no reaction to either Lyra’s proffered food, nor the girl’s attempts to pet it, save for a slight twitch of its nose and following with its eyes.

Teldecia, leaning against the wall and looking either very upset or very sick, makes her way past the weasels and into the passage. “Yamtwit. Will your spell last long enough that we can leave them here to deal with later?”


Hrud spends a moment glancing about the remains of the bridge that fell into the pit, trying to figure out why it might have fallen. Then, seeing Teldicia wander off, follows her into the passage.

Chapter 3: An Old Lady in Melvaunt: Part 3
In which the party takes a few days to build defenses and Bo takes his leave.


Donovan goes to the back of the wagon and begins rummaging through the extra weapons they acquired from the kobolds. “We have bows and ammunition for roughly thirty archers, and can arm another thirty for melee—assuming we don’t break into our own stores of weapons.” He looks around, “And there are enough trees that we should be able to construct a good number of spears fairly quickly, or, you know, pointed sticks. They probably won’t fly perfectly strait, but if we make them nice and long they can help keep kobolds from charging up the hill at us…”

Winona nods, “That sounds doable. I know a few prayers that should fortify the courage of the villagers…keep them from breaking and running, and perhaps do the opposite to the kobolds.” Ryesha makes a frightened squeak and instinctively reverts to her rabbit form.

Rant shakes his head at Hrud’s question, “Ora I. Tyr bisa ngawèhaké kaelokan kuwi marang Suci Uskup, nanging kuwi Para Rasul saka iman sing ngluwihi kabisan samubarang kita grup.”


Lyra helps Donovan collect and sort the weapons, whispering to him in Elven as they work. «If I can actually get some sleep tonight I’ll be of significantly more use. Do you mind if I borrow Finnot’s spellbook? His knowledge of creating stable dimensional pathways may be flawed, but there were some principles of enhancing the incendiary properties of an existing fire source that might be more immediately applicable against a large force.»


Around sunset, Frantiska and Yamtwit, and their very tired mounts, ride into the small village, followed by five heavily armored soldier-priests of Helm from the garrison at Iniarv’s Tower. Frantiska scans the area, and, like the others, is considerably disappointed by the indefensibility of the village and the lack of able-bodied defenders. She guides the small group of reinforcements over to where the others are gathered by the pond. “Good evening Lyra, Mr. Leitch, Sisters,” she says as she dismounts. “What are you thoughts on…this?” she asks, sweeping a hand towards the village and nearby battlefield.

Yamtwit keeps close to Frantiska and the soldiers as they ride in, but stops suddenly when he sees the fields. “Cabbages!” he shouts excitedly. He dismounts Rast and runs towards the fields, “Marvelous!” The villager who was just closing up the gate to her gardens lets out a scream on seeing a short creature running in her direction. “Shit!” Yamtwit says, stopping in his tracks, “I have to learn to stop doing that around humans…” He glumly walks back to the others. “So…lots of kobolds on the way. Do we have a plan?”


“«The old man has been to these dog-faces’ camp. Ask him if there are trolls, like Dawn-of-Man says.»” Hrud says to the newly returned goblin.


Yamtwit turns to the old peddler, “Hey, you’ve delivered tribute to these kobs before, right? Were their trolls there? And, while we’re at it… How big is their home? Where is it at? Do they have mounts? Livestock? Piles of gold…”


Lyra looks up from the two books, balanced one on each knee, and finishes jotting down a note in her own book. “Following through with paying the tribute was rather quickly disregarded. As you can see, the village is nigh indefensible with the resources at hand, so we plan to evacuate the village and place ourselves on the high ground. Mr. Donovan and Mr. Yamtwit have already shown to be quite adept at dealing with large forces, and I think this bit here…” Lyra taps the margin next to a passage in the spellbook with her index finger. “…would let us further combust a flaming arrow sent into the enemy ranks. We’ve bows and ammunition enough for thirty archers, and no time for training volunteers.”

Lyra carefully closes the books and places them safely aside, before rising and coming over to look at the warrior-priests. “And your appraisal of the matter, sirs? You’ve far more experience in dealing with them, I presume.” Her tone and bearing give her more than a little resemblance to her mother, but her hands are shaking as she smooths her skirt.


The apparent leader of the soldiers, as indicated by the very tall blue plume on his helm, nudges his warhorse forward. “Since the fiend Greshlyrr took command of them, the kobolds have been quite the menace,” he says in a deep voice, with the calm demeanor of a soldier giving a report. “Several small villages like this one have been set upon of late. We have not managed an accurate census of their full strength, but, should all the tribes muster, Greshlyrr could easily field a force ten thousand strong. Luckily, they still operate mostly as individual tribes when it comes to matters of raiding the highways or pillaging villages.” He looks up at the battlefield, taking in the graves and the damaged houses. "I would estimate the force that caused the initial damage there as not more than a few hundred, and I doubt they did so without losses. If the band that attacked you on the road is the same tribe, which is not improbable given the proximity, then they would be at a significant disadvantage from having taken such damage earlier in the day, and I would not expect them to attack in force. Of course, the talk of “tribute” is probably the tribes collecting for their king. Were these orcs and not kobolds, I would expect the tribes to go to great lengths to procure the tribute on their own, in order to save face and not look week. With kobolds it is less sure…they have no such sense of pride, and thus are more likely to call to other tribes or even the king for reinforcements. They prefer to attack with overwhelming numbers, as that is their only way of overcoming larger foes, and thus we should expect them to come with assistance."

“They were sorely hurt in their raid on you, so I would not expect retribution for some days, but even in that time, we have little hope of further reinforcements arriving, unless we were to rally other nearby villages and farmsteads.” He points to the northern hill where the previous battle took place, “If we take that time to fortify that hilltop with wooden main-lines with trenches in front, and control the ridge, we could potentially hold a much larger force—particularly with a good-sized group of archers, backed by spears in case of a full-out charge from the attackers.”

As he discusses fortifications, you can’t help but notice that each of the five soldiers has, in addition to his own sword and crossbow, a collection of steel-tipped spears, shovel and pick, wooden stakes, and a bundle of wire mesh strapped to the back of his horse—exactly the tools for forming the kind of defensive lines he is describing.


Donovan nods along with the soldier’s assessment. “So, we can count on having a few days to prepare, and on the kobolds coming in large numbers. If we get the other settlements involved it might be better for everyone. I can’t imagine that the kobolds would content themselves to extorting only one small village…” He looks at the heavily armored soldiers on their mail-clad horses. “If the kobolds are as cowardly as all that, and we really want to leave the village in a better state than we arrived, we should probably try for a large, decisive victory over the kobolds that come. Maybe half-fortify the hilltop, position mostly spears and slings in defensive positions there, do whatever damage we can and give the illusion of only limited resistance. When they come up the hill, that force withdraws, leading them down to where the kobolds will have their back to the pond. We place our main force on this ridge behind us—archers, casters, and our small cavalry. We draw them into this valley, incapacitate or immobilize as many as we can with spells, rain down hell with the archers…” He looks at the horses again, then at the wagon, the oxen, and the chariot, “Then crush them with an unexpected heavy charge perhaps?”

Winona raises an eyebrow, “How many other villages are around here? How many more people can we get?”


Hrud sees Dawn-of-Man looking at the wagon. A few moments after the conversation has progressed, he asks, “«Can we armor the wagon? I can drive it.»”


Frantiska nods along with Donovan’s comments, “Seems like a reasonable plan. I suggest that we all get some rest…with guards posted. Tomorrow we can send out riders to recruit the other settlements, and the rest can work on fortifying the valley.” She turns to Hrud, apparently unaware of any awkwardness of the past few days, and addresses him in her approximation of his language. “Hrud, seperti apa baju besi yang ada dalam pikiran untuk gerobak? Juga, Anda memiliki kuda, Anda ingin bergabung dengan saya dalam mengumpulkan desa? Atau apakah Anda ingin tinggal di sini dan membuat persiapan sendiri?”


Hrud puzzles over the elven woman’s words for a minute, eventually determining that she has asked if he plans to help bring others to the village. “Ora akeh wong nganggo Eraka ing wilayah iki. Aku bakal tetep lan nyiapake.” he replies, eyeing the wagon and team of oxen.

To Rant, he asks, “Bisa wong ing desa iki wis pepe kewan kulit? Aku kudu kayu, banget.”


Yamtwit approaches the old man, trying to look at once menacing and business-like, “Okay gray-beard, I’ve got a few questions, seriously, and if we’re going to save your skins, we need some answers. First, you should tell us everything you know about the kobs and their demands for tribute. Second, my big friend,” he gestures towards Hrud, “wants to know if you have any tanned hides or leather that could be spared, preferably a lot of it. Lastly, if we’re going to be guarding you from ravening hordes of deadly kobolds,” he adds a bit of overly dramatic emphasis, “it would be nice if there was a bit of quid-pro-quo…at least a warm place to sleep and a bite to eat for now. We can settle on more appropriate compensation if we live…”


The old man sighs. “Aye goblin,” he says in a much kinder, but still strained, voice, clearly impressed by the lengths you have already gone to to help him. “I’ll talk to the women-folk and see if we can find a place to put you all up for the night, and we should have some skins your Eraka friend can use.” He leans wearily against the side of the wagon, still favoring his damaged leg. “I’m afraid I don’t really know much about the kobolds. They have us deliver the tribute to a big rock shaped like a dragon half-way into the swamp, a good two days walk. They don’t exactly invite us in…just have us leave the goods in the rock’s ‘mouth’. There’s always some of them guarding the rock, but I’ve never seen more than five or six of them there, and no beasties either…though there are plenty of those in the swamp if you don’t watch yourself. That rock’s quite the piece of work too—spooky realistic looking carving, right down to the wear on the teeth. Scares the bejeezes out of me when I have to put the stuff in its mouth.”


Lyra sits down on the edge of the wagon and opens the books back up. “It should be less of an imposition, since that you’ll get to keep your tribute this way.” She runs her thumb down the margin of one page, then beckons Amara over, whispering something about Susalia and pretty fireworks.

Lyra rubs the bridge of her nose, thinking. “Mr. Donovan? How much do you know about gen? Can they borrow spells from someone on this plane? I doubt Mother would appreciate having her magic borrowed, regardless. But she does know how to bring forth reasonably defensible buildings of magical construction, as well as warding spells.”


Donovan, looking very tired at this point, sits down beside Lyra. “From what I’ve heard of the magic used by genie-binders, I believe that their spells are always fetched from extra-planar entities. More specifically, I think they are drawn most commonly from the various genie lords and nobles of the elemental planes, and not without some negotiation I believe. There are some tales of gen even fetching spells from the gods themselves, though most of those reports do not end well…”

“We could, however, attempt contact with your mother and see if she would be amenable to providing some magical assistance,” Donovan yawns, stretches, and rises, “but that seems an things best left until morning.” He lends the old peddler a shoulder, “Come on old chap, why don’t you show us to a bed…” He pauses and raises an eyebrow, "Say what is your name, Sir?


Lyra exhales sharply, not quite a derisive snort. “Amenable to providing assistance? She’ll call it foolish nonsense and try to convince me to stay out of it. For my own good, of course.”


Frantiska takes her rest in the village stables alongside Thistledown. She rises early in the morning, and again re-saddles the filly for a journey, announcing that she intends to warn the surrounding villages about possible kobold reprisals and the desire to mount a concerted defense. She spends an hour rounding up others who may be interested in the ride—specifically looking for a shepherd boy or other local that might know the surrounding terrain and the location of other settlements. Once any others accompanying her are assembled, she mounts up and turns to leave. “Lyra, Mr. Donovan, I believe we’ll head west first—in order to warn any settlements that are between the swamp and here to evacuate. And also to look for signs of approaching kobolds. We’ll hopefully reach all the western farmsteads today, then either circle north, or return here for the night before heading to the east—where I hope to find villages less severely weakened than this one which might be able to provide additional troops. Do not hesitate to contact me by whatever means are at your disposal,” she looks meaningfully at Lyra, “should the kobolds appear before I have returned.”

With that said she rides off over the hills to the west.


Winona borrows Hrud’s steppe-pony, quite without asking, citing some complicated Erakic laws of communal ownership when Rye gives her ‘that look’, and rides off with Frantiska to gather the villagers, not trusting the elven woman’s tact from their previous encounters.

Donovan stays up late into the night, studying the party’s collective spellbooks in search of something that might give them an advantage in the coming battle, and sleeps in an equally long time the next morning. When he finally wakes, he walks up to the western ridge with his notebook and pens and spends several hours sketching the surrounding terrain—making notes on contours, ditches, clusters of vegetation, placement of the buildings in the village, and other features that might be exploited to some advantage. He then takes these back to the group to begin drawing up plans.

Ryesha, after seeing Winona off, seeks out the village weavers and their stores of cloth and wool [[they’re sheep farmers right?]], and begins manufacturing thick padded vests with which to armor those that will be put to use as archers, as well as weaving nets and reinforced cords which could be used to lay basic traps to slow the kobold’s advance.


Lyra stays up with Donovan discussing tactics until she starts nodding off (and waking abruptly shortly after) and asks Donovan if he thinks a sleep spell might allow her to remain asleep for the evening.

In the morning, she talks to Amara about getting some birds to scout for kobolds around the town, then Lyra goes over the notes she made the previous evening, annotating and rewriting portions about magical armors, and digs through the pile of treasure from the tower looking for any mithral while waiting for Whiskers to return.


It is only a couple of miles between the village and the eastern edge of the swamp. On horseback and guided by the crossbow-toting shepherd boy you saw the day before, you manage to cover a large swath of that strip, striking several miles north and south of the main road. During the days patrols you see no sign of the kobolds themselves, but the extent of their depredations in the area is obvious—empty farmsteads, burned villages, and fields stripped clean. The boy leads you to five other settlements, all smaller, and in worse repair, than the village. The settlers require very little convincing, and, by the end of the day, another hundred people trickle into the village, driving their livestock before them and hauling carts and wagons filled with everything they could carry.


Yamtwit gathers up his supplies, spends some time talking to the shepherds to convince them to round up all the nursing ewes, and begins mass-manufacturing and stockpiling sanctified ghee as a curative. He makes some complaints about sheeps milk being greatly inferior to donkey and wolf milk, but makes do.

Before resting each day, he will also unload the rest of his spell arsenal casting Ripen twice each day to increase the village’s food stores and Favor of the Goddess four times per day. He’ll direct the villagers to start transplanting ivy and creeping vines to cover their homes, which he will then use Favor of the Goddess to grow to supersize to cover all but the doors of the houses.


After the first good night’s sleep she’s had in days, Lyra sits down with her spellbook. Despite the lingering throbbing at her temples, the disparate theories and notes coalesce into something usably meaningful for the first time since she was old enough to sit on her mother’s lap and turn pages. She confers with Donovan and Amara, and asks Amara to call forth animals to scout for Kobolds around the village, and then begin casting protective spells on the villagers, starting with Sir Loin and Mr. Brisket, then the archers. Just before dinner, she asks Amara if she can try to call forth a powerful spell to hide all of the villagers.


As Lyra prepares to start casting magical armor, Rant approaches her, nodding back at Hrud who continues working on his modifications to the wagon. “Hrud asks if you could save an armor spell for him. He was also wondering if you’d be able to use your ‘magic door’ to pull him out of trouble should he get overwhelmed. I … think he means to go after their king, if he can.”


After leading in the line of refugees and resting, Frantiska, Winona, and their guide ride off towards the east the next morning, targeting as many settlements their guide knows of within half a day’s ride, camping in the field if necessary. They both remind Lyra to make contact with them should Amara’s little birds bring word of incoming kobolds.


Lyra smiles. “The line starts in front of Amara, if he wants to cut in front of the archers. If not, I think I can prepare and cast one myself in the morning…. And yes, I should be able to open up an escape route if he becomes surrounded, although I was hoping to once again make use of it to redirect their volleys. I doubt they will bring fewer archers than they ambushed us with.”


Bo doesn’t think a large battle is the best place for a simple locksmith. He has a feeling these well-meaning humans (and elves) may be doomed. Bo inconspicuously gathers his belongings and sneaks off while everyone is attentively working defenses.


With the plans drawn up and fairly clear, Donovan spends the next day talking to the villagers and the refugees—trying to find places for everyone to stay, giving pep talks and telling stories to keep morale up, and organizing them into teams to set up fences and dig trenches according to the Helmites’ instructions, and transplant plants according to Yamtwit’s instructions. With the aid of the Helmites’ expertise and the villagers’ strong backs, they begin laying out fences and dikes along the north-western ridge, where the main kobold force is expected to come from, 10-foot deep moats blocking ingress to the village along the road to the north and south (filling them with the decanter of endless water), and blinds along the south-eastern ridge for archers to hide behind. They transplant viney things to cover the houses as Yamtwit suggests, transplant gorse, thistles, and additional ivy plants into the north-western valley (to be enhanced with entangle during the battle), and begin collecting large, rounded stones on the ridge-lines, both throwing sized, and larger boulders that could be rolled down the hill to break lines. Donovan pitches in with setting up the fortifications as best he can, but is rather muscularly impaired relative even to the village woman and shepherd boys.

Early in the morning, he also pulls Rant and Hrud aside and asks Hrud to demonstrate basic archery skills for villagers, since Frantiska is out on patrol. If time allows later in the day, he will take an inventory of all the weapons that are available in the village (including farm implements that could be converted if necessary).

Throughout the day, Donovan will also intentionally attempt to establish psionic Contact with Hrud, Yamtwit, Winona, Ryesha, and Rant, while testing and practicing his abilities.


To prevent yet another sleepless night and crippling migraines from interfering with defensive preparations, as well as not wanting to waste sleep spells with an offense potentially forthcoming, Lyra will attempt to browbeat Donovan into using the rod on her before she goes to bed at the end of the first full day in the village.


“Oh! Right!” Donovan says, seeing the haggard look of someone suffering from insomnia and migraines on Lyra’s face. He quickly breaks out the rod and touches it to Lyra, feeling the familiar heat and vibration, but finding it much easier to control this time.


When Winona suddenly starts getting headaches on the second day, Frantiska breaks out her scroll of Improved Whispering Wind…

Back in the village, a warm breeze blows over Lyra, pushing back her hair and bringing Frantiska’s voice to her ears. “Winona seems to have the psionic sickness. Is everyone else okay? Would you like us to return?”


Lyra sighs and rubs her temples, looking around to make sure her portion of the conversation will be unobserved. “The most alarming development is that Donovan tried using the rod on me, and my abilities seem to be growing unabated, as are my headaches. At least I am sleeping again. My own ability to intuit the use of psionics nearby is somewhat imprecise; I can’t tell who it’s coming from.”


Frantiska nods, though no one can see, and her reply is carried by the wind. “I’m glad some of your woes have abated. There are a few more villages nearby that we would like to visit. If you believe things are relatively stable, we’ll do that and then return early tomorrow.”


During their three-day ride, Winona, only mildly bothered by the headaches, her new tendency to always land on her feet, and the fact that her skin begins instinctively changing colors to match her surroundings, questions their young guide. “So kiddo, you any good with that bow?”

“The name’s Serhiy.”

“Alright, Sergi, you any good with that bow?”

“I’m pretty good.”

“Thanks for leading us around. You know we’re going to be fighting a whole horde of kobolds, right?”


“You might want to practice while you can…”


The farms and villages east of Gildenglade are in progressively better shape and closer together, and, as such, take considerably more persuasion than those to the west. Between the three of you, though, you are able to get a sizable number to commit to aiding Gildenglade. By the time you ride back, another hundred people, mostly able-bodied men with all the weapons, armor, ammunition, and mounts they can scrounge trickle into the village behind you. All of them have seen their share of conflict, defending their homes from raiding orcs and goblins, and a few even have some experience as soldiers or caravan guards. On top of these troops you have managed to muster, two, while not agreeing to fight with you, did ride off to Melvaunt to plead for assistance on your behalf.


Frantiska and company come riding into the village early on the third day after their initial arrival in Gildenglade. Frantiska doesn’t even bother to bring Thistledown to a full stop before swinging down off the horse and running to find Lyra. «How are you feeling?» she asks in Elvish, then mutters, «nevermind», and, ignoring anyone else that might be around to see, kisses Lyra full on the lips, a brilliant blue glow rising around them.


As the kiss breaks off, Lyra’s headache, and the accompanying powers, fade as if they never were.


Lyra blushes and stammers, not really expecting that was how her first kiss would go.


“So,” Frantiska says, finally stopping to catch her breath, “where are we in terms of preparing for a war?”


Rounding the corner as he’s working on the wagon nearby, Hrud happens to catch the exchange. It takes a moment to realize that he’s staring, his jaw hanging open like a simpleton. Hoping that no one noticed, the barbarian awkwardly works back around the way he come.


Donovan watches, simultaneously jealous and extremely turned on, as Frantiska kisses Lyra, then realizes what the non-conversation and the blue glow probably mean. Shaking his head, he turns and waves at Winona, then walks over to the priestess and the line of volunteers trickling into town behind her. “We might actually survive this…” he says, quietly once he is near the priestess.

“Not to worry Donny,” Winona smirks at Lyra and Fran’s little encounter, “a bunch of these fellows actually know which end of a sword is which, and a few can even cast a spell or two.” She pats the shoulder of the shepherd boy who was serving as their guide, “Sergi here isn’t a bad shot either….Oh,” she adds, her skin suddenly changing to the same pale green as the grassy hillside behind her, “and I have apparently become some kind of chameleon, which, judging by the headaches, is probably your guys’ fault…”

“My fault to be precise,” Donovan admits sheepishly. “I was trying to test the range on my ability to contact other minds.”

“Not to worry Donny,” Winona pats him on the back.

Donovan gestures towards the bulwarks on the hilltop and the moats to the north and south of town. “I think we’re just about done with the fortifications—though we could always use a few more days. We’ll need to get your new friends organized. I was thinking Frantiska and Lyra should take command of the ridge, with as many archers and crossbows as we can put together. Hrud and that wagon he’s putting together seems like a good thing to have at the head of a vanguard of cavalry—though I suspect we should give command of that to the Helmites. I think you’re the right person to lead whatever infantry we have left…or, with your interesting skin condition, might be well placed to lead some sort of ambush group positioned to take the enemy from behind after they come into town….”

“Sounds good…”

Once Winona is set to work organizing the militia, Donovan runs off and is not seen again for some hours


Late in the evening of the third day, a little bird returns to Amara, informing her that a band of kobolds have been spotted about five miles west of town.


As the message arrives, Hrud is circling the wagon, pulling on the various planks, doors, and other bits of wood cobbled together around the driver’s bench and extending up the sides. Making sure the primitive leather blankets are securely fastened to the oxen, he climbs into the wagon and begins to move it into position, making sure to allow just enough space to build up a good head of steam before he crashes into the kobold force.

The barbarian tries to keep a stoic facade – it is likely that good men and women will fall to the filthy dog-faces this day – but he cannot deny the anticipation he feels. Truly, this will be a battle they will tell stories about for generations to come.


Donovan, having reappeared after slinking off to write in his journal, begins issuing orders to the villagers with the booming voice of a professional orator. He directs them to grab their weapons and form up into units—archers and crossbowmen with Frantiska and Lyra, the Helmites and cavalry with Hrud, infantry with Winona, and the casters with him.


As she helps herd archers into position, Lyra is going to Mindlink with her mother.

“I apologize for not getting word to you sooner, Mother. We were in the midst of fortifying the village of Gildenglade against a kobold incursion. I knew you would insist I remain uninvolved, so I have opted not to inform you until no option remained but to be involved. For that I apologize, but for what must be done to defend these people, I have no such regrets.”


On receiving the word, Yamtwit runs around, casting Firebreak on the houses. “Can’t they wait until morning?!” he laments, realizing that aside from the one, he has expended his arsenal of spells for the day. “Do we have any way to slow them down significantly enough for me to catch a few hours of sleep and beg the Great Mother for an extension?”

Yamtwit quickly passes out flasks of clarified butter, whistles for Rast, mounts up, and rides over to join Hrud and the Cavalry.


Your party and the villagers wait…and wait. The evening air is chilly, but the sky is clear, and you can see quite far. After several busy days of preparation, many of the villagers are showing signs of fatigue, or boredom, nodding off at their posts, leaning on bows or spears. Some four hours after the first word from the birds, as a bright gibbous moon climbs towards midnight, scouts on the north-west ridge spot the first kobolds cresting the opposite hill. A small band, only six or seven. They stop at the top of the far ridge, their incomprehensible chattering carried across the valley by the west wind. One lights a torch and another sounds a crude horn before they proceed down into the valley below.


Lyra scans the valley and surrounding hills nervously, on guard against whomever that signal horn was meant for.


Frantiska looks over at Lyra. “Torches?” she whispers. “I thought kobolds could see better in the dark…and preferred to attack with surprise. Perhaps they have something else in mind.”


You wait several more long minutes as the small band of kobolds traverse down into the valley, with still no sign of others. They stop, suddenly, near the bottom, staring up at the hill, as if just noticing the fences and bulwarks lining the ridge. The one drops the torch it is holding and they all turn and begin fleeing back up the hill from whence they came.


Lyra’s eyes go wide as the kobolds turn to go warn their brethren of the village’s defenses. She takes a step away from the others, the air next to her wavering slightly from the wafting smoke of the kobold’s torch. The wash of heat on Lyra’s side of the portal feels almost pleasant against the evening chill, as the flames expand suddenly to engulf the fleeing kobolds. The valley is filled with a brief light and surprised yelps, then left with the smell of charred meat and lingering silence.


Still more hours of waiting pass before one of the nervous villagers near the front line asks, “Where are the rest of them?”


Hrud seeks out Yamtwit to ask “«How many normally attack the village?»”


As the kobolds burst into flame, Yamtwit turns to Hrud, “Aku bakal luwih migunani sawise turu. Tangi kula yen gelut diwiwiti.” He then curls up on the ground next to Rast and is quickly stacking z’s.


Winona orders the villagers under her command to remain at their posts, tired as they are, and wanders over to where the archers and casters are waiting. “Lyra dearie,” she says as she approaches, “did Amara’s little birds say how many kobolds were coming? Birds can’t count can they?” She looks around for their cavalry, then realizes that is a useless proposition, which she imagines is a good thing. “Since the riders are invisible anyways would it make sense to send some of them out to scout and see whether there is a more substantial force lagging behind these ones?”


“Say? It’s a bird.” Lyra shakes her head, then considers the question further. “In theory even a single kobold would trigger the warning, though. We should ask the villagers how the attacks typically proceeded, with the torch and the horn. We might be able to send out scouts and let people rest in shifts if there is usually a significant delay between the scouts and the main force.”


The old man, Finchus, hauls himself to his feet, not without much complaining, and hobbles over. “There ain’t so much of ‘typical’. They attacked us once en masse, killed all our young men, then demanded that we give them tribute. The last five years things have been bad, but not too bad, so long as we pay-up. If we don’t pay on time, they usually come just like that, maybe ten, in the night. They blow a horn to wake us up, then torch a house at random, then leave with everything they can carry…usually our sheep. We only tried to fight back the one time after their first attack. Wasn’t too hard to kill a handful of kobos. But two days later the whole swarm of them showed up again, beat us senseless, and made off with half our girls and more than half our sheep. I figured, given what you did back on the road, and that it’s tribute time, that the army would be coming sooner rather than later. I guess they didn’t put two and two together on their failed raid on the road, so I’d guess we’ve got about two days before their boss gets angry with this lot and sends the horde for us…”


Frantiska shakes her head. “That, Sir, is the kind of thing it would have been useful to know some days ago…”


Donovan sits up all night, staring at the stars and wondering where the enemy might be. When he sees Lyra and Frantiska accosting the old peddler again, he wanders over. “So, either they are not coming, or we’ve got a couple more days.” He gestures at the reinforced, fireproofed houses, moats, defensive lines, magical traps, and thong of armed and organized villagers—some unseen but implied. “We still have pressing business of our and they are only kobolds. I think we’ve done what we need to do here, and the Helmites should be more than capable of commanding the town’s defense. All in favor of getting back on the road?”


Yamtwit, waking up with a yawn, hears the others talking and wanders over. “That was it?” He shrugs, “If it’s going to be a couple more days at least, I’m with Donovan, those statues aren’t going to sell themselves.” He turns and yells over his shoulder to the barbarian, “Hrud, Pak putih-rambute ngandika kita ngirim dhuit jaminan ing kobold perang bab, lan njaluk bali menyang kita asli misi. Sembarang pikirane?”

Frantiska looks around, her brows knit in consternation, “We’ve done a lot to prepare these people to defend themselves, but our efforts are no guarantee of their success should the entire kobold army descend on them. However, Lyra and Donovan did promise Amara’s uncle that they would convey her safely to her grandmother’s home in Melvaunt. However I may question the sincerity of the girl’s story, a promise was made, and keeping the child here is definitely at odds with the spirit of that agreement for safe conduct.” She turns to Lyra, “Lyrathwen, I would suggest that you, Mr. Donovan, and Brother Rant, at least, go on ahead to Melvaunt with the girl, in order to complete the objectives of this outing. I can remain behind with the Helmites to make sure the village remain safe…”


Lyra is clearly unhappy at the thought of abandoning the villagers to their fate. “I … might be able to manage both. Get Amara to Melvaunt and be back in time to help defend the village, I mean. Dream travel there in the evening, and back the next, if it’s just people going. The wagon, livestock and … artwork … complicate matters.”


“We also agreed to fetch components for Professor Aumry’s classes,” Donovan reminds them. “While he did not specify that any of the components were perishable, such is often the case, and the professor was kind enough to pay us up front and provide this wagon for our use. Reneging on our very first contract, with a pre-established financial obligation, seems like a good way to ensure that we never find work in Phlan again…”

The two Tyrran sisters are drawn by Donovan’s raised voice. “We’re not obligated, Donnie,” Winona interjects. “If Frannie wants to stay behind, we can watch over the village with her and catch up on your way back through.”

Ryesha raises an eyebrow, “You’re just don’t want to miss the fight…” she mutters quietly.

“What’s that Bunny? Oh, of course I wouldn’t want to miss the fight. But, Tyr willing,” she says half-heartedly, “it won’t come to that.”


Lyra nods. “We did agree to such. We also did specifically inquire if Professor Aumry’s reagents were perishable, and he said that they all should be properly preserved, but may be fragile. So it may be in his best interest to rout the kobolds before attempting to bring a shipment of fragile goods back through their territory.”


Hrud just stares at the goblin, not believing what he has just heard.

“We nyebabake alangan kanggo desa iki, saiki arep ninggalake iku?”

He looks around at the village, the meager fortifications, the rag-tag group of peasants and farmers huddled around each other uncertainly. Hrud then hears his companions talking. The words are unknown, but to his mind the intent conveyed in the tone of their voices is clear. The barbarian’s heart starts to burn in his chest. He walks over to the wagon and grabs his gear, then makes his way back to his pony.

“Yen asu-pasuryan ora teka kene, aku bakal pindhah menyang asu-pasuryan.”

Riding down from their position, he make his way over to where the kobolds crested the hill and begins to look for a trail that will lead him to their lair.

Noriss's Boys: Session 2

Dear Squire of Kryptgarten,

My name is Tamn, and, apparently I am now part of a massive conspiracy to raze and lay waste to the city of New Phlan, kill all its citizens, rape all its women (because, you know, orcs), and set up some mysterious, giant, flaming guy who scares the fuck out of Lord Noriss as the king of the northern Moonsea. So…yeah…need to find a new line of work soon…

Let me back up.

After collecting the loot from my friends—I use the term loosely here, they were just some guys I met after washing up on shore on Thorn Island, and I really only knew them for a few days, but they did cut me in on their reward for killing the undead on the island—Lord Noriss informed us that we had been hired to kidnap a local heiress. The next day though, as we were sneaking into New Phlan to do the job, we learned that said heiress had agreed to marry her would-be kidnapper and was no longer on the hit list. Fucking politics.

If I’m sounding a little cynical, its only because I find myself in completely ridiculous circumstances.

So, that job fell through, not that I really mind…kidnapping seldom turns out well, and capturing or imprisoning anyone doesn’t really sit well with me. We return to Lord Noriss and are informed that he got a new deal, from the local Thieves’ Guild, the very boringly named “Thieves of Phlan”. We don’t usually get along with the “Thieves’”, as they tend to operate pretty openly and also tend to be less racially inclusive. But, apparently they needed a huge distraction in a hurry, and knew Noriss was the only one who could provide.

So, late in the day, we lieutenants, and a handful of carefully picked orc grunts, snuck out with two goals…rouse some of the pro-Xvimlar orc gangs, make them think the hobgoblins from the old textile mill were out to kill them, then kill a hobgoblin and plant evidence to make it look like the orc gangs did it, to make the belief true.

Our first stop was a hobgoblin watch-post, near the old wizard’s tower, which they used for keeping tabs on the humans poking about the Slums—a bit of early warning in case the counctil tried to send troops to root them out of the old Textile factory where they lived. Hobos are pretty organized it seems, which was a good thing for making out plan work, no one would expect a small pack of hobos to act on their own without orders from the tribe.

We did that old-school, kicked in the door and killed the five of them. Lost a couple of orcs, but that’s how it goes. We left our dead (and a couple of spare Xvim symbols), then grabbed the hobos’ bodies, still armed and armored, and hauled them out with us. Had to make sure the bodies were in the right place, eh?

Our second stop was the small Xvimlar shrine in the Slums, where the orcs tended to do their sacrificing and what passes for planning on their part. One of our orc grunts went in and scouted, informing us that, as expected a pair of gang leaders were there finishing off some beggar-girl. Thing about orcs, they mean it when they threaten to fuck people to death, and don’t mind continuing well after the ‘to death’ part. There were quite a few guards in the atrium, he said—apparently the grunts don’t get to join in the “serious worship”.

We climbed up to the roof and dropped into the sanctuary through a hole right above the altar (for letting out the smoke when the burn sacrifices). We caught them by surprise, dropped on their heads and killed them, quietly, mid-necro-coitus. We snagged their swords, strange green-bladed things that marked them as Xvim-approved gang-leaders, then lowered in the hobgoblin corpses and Yuri artfully arranged them in a scene of carnage and temple desecration.

We then started making a racket, two of our orcs shouting in their language, and the rest of us yelling some choice epithets and insults in Hobgoblin that Isti taught us. Coffex and an orc upended the altar to block the door and slow the arrival of reinforcements, while we pantomimed the killing, clanking blades together and yelling. Isti then blew a hole in the back wall using some toy she had concocted and we booked it out of there, just ahead of the door and altar lurching aside to let the angered orc guards in.

We ran through the twisting alleys for close to a half-hour, set a few small hovels on fire for good measure, then snuck over to the old textile mill, the ruckus of anti-hobgoblin hysteria rising in the slums behind us. We dismissed all but two of our orc entourage, handed them the green Xvim-blades, and Isti used her magic to instill them with a recklessly-insane level of courage. We then bet them five-hundred crowns (he had seen the cash we got off my dead ‘friends’) that they could not kill the hobgoblin sentries by the gates and get away with it. Man are orcs stupid…

Coffex gave the orcs each one of his special ravager potions. The two orcs snuck, quite expertly for orcs, up to the gates, scaled the walls, and were quickly in a pitched and not at all quiet battle with the sentries. Yuri set off an alarm spell, made to sound like the hobgoblin warning gongs, and then we high-tailed it down the nearest well and back to the hideout.

The next morning agents from the Thieves’ Guild delivered a bag with one-hundred pounds of solid gold plates, cups, and similar objects to Lord Noriss. Huzzah!

We took a couple of weeks to relax and enjoy the spoils of that last job, Noriss even sent a couple of the boys up to the market to order two tuns of wine to celebrate. I was starting to get used to this bandit thing.

After a few days of R&R, Lord Noriss again called us into his private chambers. We learned that he had received a letter from the would-be kidnapper inviting him to a meeting organized by the would-be kidnappee. Yeah, that’s right, apparently the newly married couple were holding some kind of open-forum for criminals and violent gangs in the city who want more say in politics. In a week, Noriss said. Nice of him to invite us lieutenants.

We showed up in Podol Plaza, just north of the well where we had out hide-out (between the Textile Mill and the old noble’s district), to find a horde of nasties—ogres, gnolls, kobolds, bugbears, hobgoblins, even a few giants—plus representatives from the Kovel Mansion Thieves’ Guild (not the one that paid us to stage the orc-hobo fight—they were conspicuously missing), representatives from the temple of Xvim, and our benefactor and his didn’t-need-to-be-kidnapped wife.

There was much airing of grievances: Xvimlar accusing hobgoblins, hobgoblins accusing Xvimlar, hobgoblins complaining about some adventurers taking over one of their keeps, the kobold king complaining about tribute shipments from the east being cut-off…all that sort of thing. They all wanted to know why ‘The Boss’ hadn’t ordered an attack on the city in so long. I was curious about this ‘boss’, since it was clear that everyone was talking to and not about the two, surprisingly young, humans who were leading the meeting.

Yuri quietly asked Noriss if he knew anything about ‘the boss’, and the tough half-orc informed us that he had only seen the boss once, at a similar meeting just after the humans took over the docks a couple years ago and started their campaign to ‘civilize’ Phlan. He described ‘the boss’ as some kind of flame-shrouded giant or demon who was trying to build an army to once-and-for-all put the humans in their place.

The boy informed everyone that “Lord Maram”, who I can only assume is this boss, was disappointed by the infighting between the various tribes and gangs in Phlan, and was unlikely to order any significant action until the tribes could show a significant success in working together to put a stop to the encroachment of the human adventurers and settlers.

The girl then informed them that the council had raised some racist Hillsfarran jokers as “Squires of Kryptgarten”, naming them the first nobles of New Phlan and giving them the recently liberated hobgoblin keep north of town. The keep was, she said, poorly garrisoned and isolated, and, because of the nature of the trust the council had placed in these outsider, would make an excellent example.

The boy called out the kobold king, Greshlyrr, and the newly raised hobgoblin Chieftainess-cum-High-Priestess, Grishnak, and informed them that ‘The Boss’ wanted them, as the most organized tribes, to coordinate a full-scale assault on the keep. He then called our Lord Noriss, praising his success in evading the council’s agents, and gave him, and therefor us, command of the joint kobold-hobgoblin operation. He was even nice enough to point out a convenient secret entrance to the keep by means of a nearby crypt.

There was some arguing on the part of the kobold king and hobgoblin priestess, and some guy named Mace, who was apparently the high-priest of Xvim and angry that they were left out, but they eventually all agreed to follow Lord Noriss’s commands…just this once.


My name if Tamn. Until recently I was a slave. Then a hero. Then a bandit. Now lieutenant to an evil warlord, working for some even bigger-and-badder warlord, preparing to lead a legion of kobolds and hobogoblins to assault some gods-forsaken-keep in the wilderness as a precursor to the extermination of all humans north of the Moonsea.

I hope this letter finds you soon, so that you may prepare for our inevitable arrival.

~Tamn Footstooler, The Thrice-Betrayor

Donovan's Diary: Entry 9
14 Eleint, Year of the Maidens

Morning. Raining lightly. Very tired.

Yesterday, the kobolds were supposed to come. We waited up for them all night, but encountered only a small scouting party. While I wait for my companions to decide what to do next, I’ve been pondering the writings and teachings of Philopater Miles, who was court magician of Cormyr, c. 498 DR. Much of Philopater’s work focused on the theory of the “Celestial Science” as he called it, the study of the stars, which, I may say, I got quite a good view of while standing watch last night.

Many who practice the Art adhere to the ancient and somewhat outdated belief that the flow and flux of their potency derives from the so-called Slumbering Dragon or the Third Wyrm, or whatever appellation they wish to give it. This mistaken belief, of course, comes from the translations of old Wyrmish legend discovered in the Dragonfells, the Emberlands, and the former provinces of Synd. Whatever the Wyrms believed, their access to this mythical or fabulous “breath of the dragon” is something that we modern mages cannot hope to match. Ask any student of the Wyrmish Art—their rituals are missing key components, rely on nonsensical grammatical constructs, and are extremely taxing to the corporeal form. They are incomplete.

Whether the world is truly the shell of a slumbering dragon or not, we may dismiss the notion that human and elvish sorcerers have access to this “breath of the dragon.” It clearly is not so. If we did, our magic would necessarily more closely resemble the Art of those ancients. However, we have observed, and it is a growing consensus amongst mages and scholars of renown, that efficaciousness of magic may be tied instead to cycles observed in the Heavens. After all, is this not the very foundation of the venerable practice of Astrology, which is said to predict the alterations of the world?

Allow us to then to investigate the celestial science from its root and we will understand exactly how our own Art is affected and, in many ways, enslaved to the motion of the stars. The wellspring of mannish magic is not to be found below us, but rather above. We can trace the creation of the stars through the mystery cults of Galos the Seer, back to a time when Toril was lit only by the presence of the World-Tree Asca-Irminsul. Before the advent of the stars, perhaps, all magic was descended from the principle of the dragon’s breath (though there is an argument to be made, not in this book but perhaps in a future treatise, that even gigantine and pyskie magic does not make use of this essentially Wyrmish principle).

Indeed, the most ancient tablets recovered from the Jungles of Chult hint at a considerably different system of magical Art in which the presence of the stars was not accounted for. However, at some period removed from the time of the original Sorcerer-King, Chultine magic underwent a massive and important shift. This, I believe (and shall hence argue) represents the time when the fixed and wandering stars were introduced into the Heavens. The sea-change in magic represents a sudden freeing of available magical energy and codification of previously slapdash system into one governed by knowable laws.

The stars were created by Selune at the latter end of the Night Age. They are made of a material almost never found terrestrially. This fabled star-stone is a quintessence, a fifth element capable of influencing the other four due to its purity, its incorruptibility, and its endurance. Even during the War of the Chains when the Aelio themselves wished to remove Selune’s influence from the heavens, they could not muster the power to destroy the very stars. They are immortal and eternal.

From the stars descend the rays of magic that cause the beginnings of all events on Toril. Though they may not be co-eternal with the world, they have become inextricably bound with it. Their movement is the cause of all mannish and elvish sorcery, and stirs up the lesser more earth-bound elements of Toril into patterns that can be predicted (though never with complete accuracy). Thus, the motion of the stars is itself the source of magic. The celestial science governs the Art.

A Tract of Teratology: Preamble
Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague and we are the cure.

There are those, learned and respected scholars all, who will tell you that the first Great War was fought between the lizard folk and the serpent folk who were the gods of the Yuan-ti. They spend much of their time combating their minority colleagues who insist, no, the first Great War was fought between the aarakocra and the thri-kreen. Neither side does much more than emit scoffing laughs (laced with a disturbing sense of directionless embarrassment) when the wild-eyed and unkempt seers speak of even older things.

In the mind’s eye of poets and madmen dance a race of children. These children dwell in the happy spring of our world, cavorting and making as they dance and sing. Since this world is all they know, they name their mother the All-mother, and they name our world All Creation. And they shape the beginnings of our world with all the love, curiosity, enthusiasm, and vicious tyranny of children in the nursery.

And then something from Outside came. To say it invaded is to imply agency and choice. To say it tumbled implies it was pushed or tripped. So lets just say it came.

It was utterly inimical to the games and songs and dances of the Children. Their voices quavered in its presence, their gardens wilted, their games went all sideways. They couldn’t even speak with it, and its utterly alien ways went beyond uncouth, beyond creepy. It was utterly abominable.

And, by its very presence, it warped things. It didn’t so much spawn as twist things already in the nursery world and remake them in its image, to fit its idea of what nursery ought to be. It was, to the minds of the Children, the ultimate theft of their toys.

And this they could not stand. They made war against it. They tried to burn it with fire and freeze it with ice. They sang at it and they threw stones at it. But everything that touched it warped and became part if its corruption of the world.

Even worse, its corruption was infectious. The Children built an army, a massive collection of soldiers, all unified in purpose and of one single mind. At the first touch of it, a wave of instability passed through the entire army. The Children were forced to destroy their soldiers before they became a tool of their enemy.

Their next army was far more clever. Each was not just a unique individual, but misanthropic as well. Each individual specimen was a singular army in itself, armed with every clever weapon the Children could devise, it eschewed the company of all others, and most especially those like itself. Thus, should one fall to corruption, the others would be unmoved.

We call the by-blows of these warriors of the Children beholders. And, in the end, they murdered their creators, whom they considered just as repellent and horrible as the enemy they were created to destroy.

The beholders also won the war against it. They created an army of their own, an army of raw chemical hunger that sought only to dissolve everything, rendering it into fuel to grow itself. We know the remnants of this army as the various slimes, oozes, puddings, and gelatins that still lurk in the dark places.

So it was defeated, but the corruption it left behind was not undone. For, you see, the Children were right about their mother. She was also the mother of it. And it was a daydream, a fantasy of children-that-might-have-been, and its very presence implied into being the nursery-that-could-have-been-if-only…

And you can still find those echoes of its existence in the aboleth, and in the twistings of our own mortal shells that we call the illithid, and in similar horrors that do not belong and are not right. And we rightly recoil in horror and destroy to the utmost these terrible children of the Mother Of Us All. For their continued existence whispers in our heart-of-hearts that Mother loves them more than us.

Return to Phlan
Bring out your dead!

Traithe Nightfall

Having successfully escaped from the city of Hillsfar, after having received Rudolfo’s abdication paperwork, we made our way back across the sea, headed for Phlan. With the ship packed bow to stern with people, it is very difficult to find a moment alone. When the need arises I practice my few spells, particularly the spell I learned that alters my appearance. Nothing dramatic, just subtle differences to enhance my visiulization and control.

As we head towards Phlan, it becomes apparent that some of the folks are indeed diseased with whatever was going around in the city. It is also apparent that I have contracted this infection as well. Seeing as how we don’t want to bring this infection into Phlan, there is a suggestion that we head to the deserted isle in the bay. Nat has been there before and died there and came back. Heading for the island, we make landfall and offload the folks that we gathered. Scouting around the island, there are remains of orcs and other creatures, but the island and the fort here have been picked clean over the years.

With what scrub can be gathered, since folks need to be fed, one of our crew begins boiling the orc to at least provide sustenance. I mean it’s not really cannibalism, they’re not human, right. Later we discover some boats and head out to the windward side of the island away from the pollution flowing into the bay and start catching fish. [Whose name I don’t remember], begins casting some explosive magical forces into the water and bringing up dead fish, which I help gather up. Fish is definitely going to be better than boiled orc.

We spend the next several days on the island, and I continue my daily practice with the disguise spell, augmenting with additional subtle changes from my kit. I subject myself to the healer to rid myself of the disease that has tried to take hold of me. He does an admiral job, even if he has some strange ideas about how to rid ourselves of it including this strange idea about bathing in the sea and this harsh material he calls soap. It’s a little odd and so is he, but what can you do. I time my practice to coincide with these activities. Finally after 5 days, the healer decides we are ready and we gather up all the folks back to the boat and head across the bay to make port and collect our earnings for bringing back new recruits. Pulling up to the dock, the harbor master appears in awe of the volume of folks that have been brought back and healthy to boot. I forgot, I’m not collecting any reward. The price of ensuring that I am not carrying that nasty disease…Sigh.

Arriving back at the Bitter Blade, we discover a wake/funeral/reception in progress as Rudolfo and Marcos’ father has passed away. There is lots of wailing and wringing of hands. Women. Of course I have no room to talk. Mel is a bit young and her sense of comforting is still developing. A bit like a bull in a bedroom. Marcos notes that we have returned and smoothly makes his way over to us. He definitely moves with a cat like grace through the room. Reaching the door to his father’s quarters, he quickly slips out for a quick conversation with us. We agree to meet in an hour down in the common room. Making our way back downstairs we find a nice corner table and order a round of food and drink.

Later, Marcos joins us. “Sorry to hear about your father.” I find myself saying. “I hope it was a quick end for him?”. “It was.” he replies. Interesting to note what he left unsaid that there is a suspicion that perhaps he helped the process along. Things to consider. “We found your brother in Hillsfar. He has no interest in the council seat here in Phlan.” “And you have proof of that?” he inquires. “We do.” and I produce the duly completed and witnessed document. He looks pleased. He hands over the deed paperwork and after a meaningful look from the party, the agreed upon cash payment amount. I review the documentation he has provided. Interestingly on the map he has noted that there is a secret back entrance to the estate, one Cryptkeep by name. There are several acres involved and as such we have effectively moved into the roles of minor nobility here in Phlan. A definite move up from my farmer’s origins, but looking at the documentation, there is still farming and cultivating involved. Perhaps if things go our way, we can get someone else to do it. I’d really rather not go back to doing that kind of work.

Gathering supplies for our trek to Cryptkeep, we head out the Slum Gate and as it is approaching evening make our way through the streets and head for the Whispering Forest headed towards Cryptkeep. As we are careful, we don’t encounter any oppostiion to our movements. Several hours later we reach our destination. We pause to take in the sight of the keep, and it becomes clear that there are currently inhabitants in the keep. Probably some sort of monster group. We make the decision to avoid the keep and head around it to the graveyard and the marker for the secret entrance. Arriving at the graveyard and in the rough vicinity of the secret entrance we discover two like locations for the entrance. One is a large mausoleum, the other a marker to Mystra, god of magic. Mel begins attacking the door as it is banded with silver and apparently she has some acquisiitve instincts. The door is unlocked and with a good shove, it opens. In one corner of the crypt, there is a dead body. Our resident physician moves over to take a look at it and while kneeling down, out from the sarcaphogus contained within the maustoleum, jumps another creature that attempts to run him through. Quickly mobilizing, the folks with bows handy fire into the creature, while I step up and wade into one on one combat with the creature. We handily take it out and ensure that the physician is taken care of and back on his feet. In the interim our anonymous masked friend has discovered that the shrine to Mystra houses the secret entrace to the keep.

After a few moments of fooling with the mechanism, it is determined that it is possible to open the covering from both the inside and outside, and now it is time to see what lies ahead. We descend the ladder some 50ft down with light spells and torches lit. Proceeding some distance down the corridor, with supports set every 10 feet or so, we come to a stone wall. Extinquishing the lights on our side, we see a faint outline of a door in the wall. The physician sends his familiar through the door, under the door? I don’t know exactly since whatever it is seems to be to small for the eye to see. It reports a hairy humanoid creature and an ape with pits in between the door and their location. It is decided that a ranged attack option is preferrable. Setting out our weapons, we prep for door opening and firing at the creatures as soon as they are visible.

The attack goes pretty much as planned other than the gorilla creature is much more difficult to take down and it lets out a couple of loud bellows before succumbing to it’s injuries. Moving across the pit on the planks that are available we reset and look for the door up. Heading up a set of stairs we hear more creatures moving around. We begin a stealth campaign to take out the creatures, that we have identiifed has hobgoblins that have taken over the keep. We acquire a hanger-on in the form of a very undersized hobgoblin that has no desire to die, but rather would see the rest of his troop taken out, as apparently they treat him worse than pond scum. We begin taking the interior of the castle, starting in the dining room. Opening the troop leaders room door, we again employee speed tactics, taking out the leader with a round of arrows and a quick follow up sword stroke. Making a note of his face and body, for future reference, we search the room and discover he has a few better weapons and some notes about a reinforcement troop arrrving in a month’s time. Our new hanger-on, leads us through the interior of the keep and the forbidden doors, which after a nearly fatal bought with a couple of more hobgoblins, we find some lost treasures of the keep. A dandy new sword, a wand and a scroll of spells for me.

This place is going to need some cleanup before it’s truly habitable again. The sword provides some interesting abilties and looking deeply into the blade there is a dwarf’s reflection that appears in the metal of the blade. Our hobgoblin guide, leads us up and we come out near one of the walls where we spot the wall guards that we saw earlier from the outside. The sword, giving me some interesting abilities, allows me to speak hobgoblin. Disguising myself as the troop leader I call out to the guards on the wall that they are to come down and be replaced by two other guards. Apparently this isn’t an uncommon occurence. The ambush that we set, didn’t let them last long. So far so good. The only remaining group was the barracks crew. Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry. Using our hobgoblin lackey, and maintaining my disguise, we call three of them out to take up wall guard duty. Then it all falls apart. The remaining eight that are sleeping are abruptly awoken when our ambush doesn’t take the three we called out immediately. Rushing in, I take the new sword I acquired and it’s capabilites and begin to go through the still waking hobgoblin crew like a hot knife through cream. In a whirlwind of attacks, I take out one and instead of a dead hobgoblin there is a dead dwarf on the floor. No time for comptemplaiting the result, have to keep moving. By the time I am done, most of the creatures are either dead or wounded and we mop up. We have retaken the keep!

After cleaning and residual wounds and dragging the bodies outside, we ensure the walls are secure and try to catch some sleep until the morrow, when we will begin our next steps.

The Third Party: Session 5 (GMs notes)

30 Eleint
Professor Aiderns, managing the affairs of Kryptgarten and its new settlers while the rest of the party are out playing politics, notices signs of fever progressing again among the population of Ex-Hillsfarans. Everyone who came over on the ship from Hillsfar, excluding the cultists of the Chaos Messiah, appear to be infected. Grinkle and those settlers scoured from the slums appear fine. Aiderns immediately asks Professor Drummons to come out to Kryptgarten and the two of them take over most of the lower level of the keep as a laboratory.

Squire Grimnir, learning of the outbreak when he returns in the evening, immediately orders the settlers to begin construction of a large Roman-style bathhouse, and has Grinkle and his cultists begin enforcing strict daily hygiene requirements on the entire population.

4 Marpenoth
Grimnir, Traithe, Melastasya, and Tvoja complete their training regimes, advancing to level 2.

Melastasya, on her daily trip back to Phlan, stops by the Council Hall to read the official [[Rumors and Proclamations: Week 3 | Proclamations]] and posted want-ads in search of work. She becomes greatly interested in one promising “free fish for life”. While reading though, she is accosted by Councilman Porphyrys, who explains that his agents have discovered that the Lostafinga hobgoblins, the same tribe the party fought at Kryptgarten, were based in the ruins of his family’s old textile mill, and that clearing the place of the hobgoblins might be mutually beneficial to them.

As Melastasya was about to start haggling over the price, Grimnir and Tvoja spotted them and stepped in, asking the impoverished councilman for his unquestioning vote on a Bill of Attainder granting Elissa the ability to sit on the council in exchange for their help in clearing the textile mill. Porphyrys quickly agreed and offered to put the bill before the council himself.

Meanwhile, back in Kryptgarten, Aidern and Drummons observed new swelling in the lymph nodes of their patience, and a disturbing smell of…pine. Melastasya suggested that they should just scalp and boil a hobgoblin to cure the people, but no one listened.

5 Marpenoth
Suspecting that this new disease was somehow the result of angering the fey by lumbering the Quivering Forest for building materials, Grimnir wrote to the temple of Gond in Phlan, ordering large, black, cold-iron church bells to drive off the fey influence. Tvoja set their peasants to work constructing a large church to their Triad (Mask-Chauntea-Grimnir).

The party discussed plans for assaulting the hobgoblins in the textile mill with Grinkle, specifically asking for ways that they might be turned or possible political or religious schisms. Grinkle was able to inform them about the basics of the Lostafinga tribe, the layout of the factory, and the fact that there were some 500 hobgoblins, with at least 200 soldiers there. Grimnir decided that a surgical strike to kill or kidnap the hobgoblin high priestess was their best bet for destabilizing the hobgoblin forces.

Tvoja informed them that the wells and catacombs that led under the old textile mill included a safe-house of the Church of Mask and the Thieves’ Guild. She led them down into the wells where they met with Professor Swipe, who agreed to provide some kind of distraction to get the majority of the hobgoblin forces out of the compound in exchange for the party agreeing to locate and deliver an ancient treasure which the Cadornas had supposedly hidden somewhere in the mill.

After dark, the party snuck up the well in the center of the mill. They waited until they heard the sound of trumpets and rushing boots, as three-quarters of the hobgoblin garrison streamed out of the compound to confront some unseen threat.

Aidern’s familiar scouted ahead, locating the make-shift temple, though it was repelled by a magic circle. Traith summoned a cloud of fog to obscure their movements and they rushed the temple. Melastasya threw open the door to see the old crone Grishnak sacrificing an orcish child, before an assembly of two score lesser priestesses. Grimnir borrowed Traith’s scroll of Misty Step and teleported to appear on the altar just as Grishnak finished her sacrifice. He appeared with flaming eyes and mouth, and, in draconic, which the hobgoblins apparently understood, pronounced jihad, claiming that the priestesses should be at the top of the hobgoblin order. Grishnak, not wanting to lose face in front of her underlings, backed Grimnir’s play, crying victory and sending the fourty axe-wielding lady-hobos streaming out into the courtyard, where they began to slaughter any male soldier that refused to bow the knee to Grishnak.

tumblr_nctkfqFXCk1rlitzfo1_500.jpgGrimnir quickly evacuated the temple using a gaseous form scroll and the party started searching for the treasure. In a nearby building, an old stone structure converted to a barracks, Grimnir, still gaseous, found a hidden room with a large chest. The problem being, that, of course, it was behind a wall of the room which had been claimed as the sub-chief’s bedchambers. The massive hobgoblin lay asleep on a large bed, three hobgoblin women draped over him—apparently to exhausted from mating to care about the muster and ensuing religious coup-d’-etat going on outside.

Traith disguised him/her self as a hobgoblin harem girl. Traith slinked into the bed-chamber, hoping to sneak into the secret room, only to find that the door was directly behind the bed. Shrugging, Traith climbed up onto the bed and began to tease the sub-chief, running his/her hands over the hobo’s naked skin. The other hobgoblin women seemed very confused by Traith’s actions and the chief seemed unresponsive (apparently not used to the concept of fore-play). Triath finally resorted to slapping him awake, only to narrowly avoid getting hit in the face by the axe the chief had already in his hand.

Traithe hopped up and sashayed out of the room, again narrowly avoiding a thrown axe. She taunted the chief again, this time provoking him to leap out of bed, snatch an over-sized sword from the wall, and charge at Traith. The rest of the party, laying in wait, leaped on the sub-chief, kicking the door closed once he was in the hallway. Traith paralyzed him using the wand, cyllibrym, and the rest turned the huge hobgoblin into a pin-cushion.

They piled into the room, Grimnir chasing the harem-girls out with his demonic visage, overturned the bed and set at the hidden door with crowbars. The small room beyond was filled with a gigantic chest, nearly six feet in width and a little more than half that in height and depth, as well as a very sudden and unhealthy looking beam of silver-white light. Melastasya and Aidern pulled the rails of the bed and used them to hook the chest, which took all four of them (Grimnir being still gaseous) to scooch out of the small room.

Tvoja sprung the lock on the giant chest, narrowly avoiding a cloud of spinning, whirling, jagged-edged blades of glass. They shrugged and began shoving the whole chest, all nine-hundred pounds of it, cloud of blades and all, out into the hallway. Five minutes later, just as they were about to lever the chest out into the courtyard, the blades dissipated to reveal close to sixty cubic feet of gold—cups, plates, jewelry, pieces of armor, bars of bullion, and more, but no coins or other liquid cash.

Traith called up another cloud of fog and Melastasya rushed to the well. She dived in and swam down, hoping to gauge the depth of the well, only to find that the associated aquifer went deeper than she could safely swim. Swimming back to the water’s surface, she ran a rope from the top of the well to the catacombs’ opening where a dozen members of the thieves’ guild waited. The party began sending a steady stream of bags filled with gold down the rope. There are a few near misses from the hobgoblins still fighting a civil war in the square, but the party manages to get out in once piece.

Professor Swipe, meeting them in the catacombs, is so pleased by their success that he gives the party one-sixth of the liberated treasure ( one hundred pounds of gold).

Melastasya, still awake and in pretty good shape, encourages the party to head into the civilized part of town and find “Delbar” to inquire about killing bugbears in exchange for free fish. This late at night, they are forced to sneak into town using the thieves’ tunnels, only to find the fish market closed and that Delbar lives outside of the walled portion of town. Mel does succeed in waking a fishmonger who lives closer to the market, arranging for a large supply of Halibut (most of it without extra heads, eyes, or other weirdness) to be shipped out to Kryptgarten.

They sneak back out of town and return home with their gold.

6 Marpenoth

Grimnir rises early and heads into town to attend the closed council session. Councilman Porphyrys puts forward the Bill of Attainder, which passes four to one, with only Chief Councilman Eberhard voting against. Markos immediately puts forward the homosexual agenda, and Grimnir rushes off to make sure Elissa is present to exercise her rights to vote. The latter bill comes to a tie vote—with Eberhard, Cadorna, and Bivant voting against—pushing Bishop Braccio to make the tie-braking vote…in favor.

Grimnir returns to Kryptgarten triumphantly to begin planning a wedding.

Back in Cryptgarten, the settlers continue to get worse. The swollen lymph nodes begin to harden, turn white, and mound in the center. Their skin becomes pale, almost translucent, and pulls away from the bones. And the ligaments in their jaws weaken, causing them all to walk about with their mouths open and slack. The smell of pine in the keep becomes overwhelming, like a forest that has just been cut down—even the middens reek of pine.

The Professors rush about trying various remedies and interviewing the patients to try to find some probable cause of this new malady. They find that the blood of the patients has become thick, like tree sap. Melastasya once again suggests that they try scalping and boiling someone, but is ignored.

7 Marpenoth
Grimnir unloads several hundred gold on preparations for the wedding, pushing the sick peasantry to build the church as fast as possible. The peasants begin to look even worse—their skin hanging off their frames and sharp, boney spurs protruding from their lymph nodes.

Desperate to avoid spreading the plague to the honored wedding guests, Grimnir dispatched Melastasya to capture a hobgoblin alive. When she returned, hobo in tow, Grimnir and Melastasya descend into the depths of the keep, late at night, accompanied by candle-bearing ex-Chaos-Cultists. The hobgoblin was summarily scalped and boiled, slowly, accompanied by much screaming.

When the hobgoblin died, its head ripped open and a…thing—a massive, six-clawed crocodile, twice the size of the hobgoblin, with ghostly-pale flesh hanging in loose folds about its body and long, boney spears protruding from its back and the undersides of its limbs—clawed its way into the world. The thing lumbered its way over to Grimnir and Melastasya and prostrated itself before them—speaking into their minds that it was their loyal vassal and desired only that it be given the opportunity to pursue “true happiness”…and have another person boiled for its pleasure once a week.

8 Marpenoth
Everyone awoke to find that the entire population of Kryptgarten had been cured of their malady—the thing which had been trying to birth itself into the world since Grimnir had first started practicing boiling dead orcs having finally found an outlet.

Grimnir commissioned some new mosaics depicting his pet for the bathhouses and sent to Phlan for “plush crocodile monsters” and toy windup versions to be given out to his peasantry to “get them used to the idea” that the horrible beast from beyond was their new mascot. The “thing” was dispatched to patrol the nearby forests, killing any hobgoblins it found—leaving their hands to be sent (sans pinkies) back as a warning, and mounting their skulls on its spines.

16 Marpenoth
Construction of the church at Kryptgarten is completed, the black-iron bells hung, and the wedding of Markos Mondaviak and Elissa Bivant is held in the new building, presided over by Tvoja of the church of Mask. It is a simple ceremony, a marriage of convenience and negotiation, but joyous nonetheless, with a feast of fresh Halibut.

Noriss's Boys: Session 1
A brief foray away from the safety of the wells.

My name is Tamn. Until recently I was a slave. Very briefly I was a wealthy adventurer. Now I am a bandit.

It all started when I fell down a well, the bandit part at least. I landed in the middle of a small army of kobolds, orcs, lizard-men, and…other things, all with weapons pointed at me. I thought I was going to die, albeit, a better death than my friends got. I was just waiting for one of the kobolds to skewer me while I was down, then the biggest half-orc I’d ever seen pushed his way through the throng and offered me a hand.

I let the big bastard, genetically speaking of course, help me to my feet, and he introduced himself as “Noriss the Grey, Bandit Lord of Old Phlan.” He gave me a rather square deal—join his group or die. Obviously the former seemed preferable, so I found myself facing off, unarmed, against an oddly cute-looking lady-kobold. Don’t ask me why I thought she was cute, or how I knew she was a she.

I usually prefer to have at least a stick for a fight. She was a lot stronger than she looked and, damn was she quick, but after a few tosses I got her measure, got her in a choke-hold, and had her under in a couple of minutes.

Noriss was pretty sweet on the whole thing, let me keep my weapons and armor and gear, took all my cash—nearly a thousand crowns worth—naturally. He named me a ‘lieutenant’—apparently most of the gang were scraped up from the rank-and-file of local humanoid tribes or skum from the slums, so “adventurers” that join get special treatment.

After the little ‘test’, Noriss dispatched a couple of lizards to cling up in the top of the well and report on what was going on with the shadows. A couple of the kobos helped their sister back up and she introduced herself as Isti. Lord Noriss told her to show me to a place to bunk out while they waited for things topside to calm down. She then introduced me to the other two lieutenants: Gorilla-Arm Yuri, who did, in fact, have a HUGE arm, and Coffex, a lizard fellow.

I dumped my cash in the treasure room—and boy was it a treasure room—then was lead to a surprisingly dry hole, given that we were at the bottom of a well, where I could sleep.

I was woken up I don’t know how long later, by a grumpy-looking orc. I have NO IDEA what it was saying, probably something about fucking my mother, but I got the idea that I was wanted back at the well. When I arrived, Noriss informed me that the shadows things had yet to bother the well, but that the big black ball they came from was still covering the exit. He also, of course, asked about what kind of loot my companions had been carrying…

After getting the run-down on the sick loot my friends had, Noriss decided we should retrieve the bodies. He was even nice enough to suggest that his gang would give them a proper burial—though Isti pointed out that this was more a matter of self-preservation, given that ghouls were fairly common in this section of the ruins and corpses tended to attract them.

The lieutenants, myself included, were to go up first to secure the area—apparently being a ‘lieutenant’ was less about leadership than it was about getting special assignments that were too dangerous or difficult for the normal gang members. A squad of orcs and lizards would be coming behind us to grab the bodies and haul them down the well.

Coffex gave us each a weird, foul-smelling potion to quaff. I shrugged and drank it, and felt much stronger for it. He then pointed to a brown-and-white striped, woolly caterpillar climbing down the side of the well, saying it was an omen of ‘Great Luck’, foretelling a harsh winter to come. I couldn’t really follow how a harsh winter was ‘Great Luck’ but figured if it made my cold-blooded new companion happy it had to be good for now…

We came up topside cautiously, Yuri and Isti sporting bright bullseye lanterns and me and Coffex armed and ready. It was quiet, and dark, even with the lanterns, and—I could see—even with the sun bright overhead. Again I could see strange shapes moving in the darkness. I scanned the area, looking for where my friends had fallen and spotted the metal cube that that punk Damien had given us, sitting on the ground right by the well-head.

Cursing, I reached down, picked it up, and poked at the silver side. There was a click, and the darkness vanished. We blinked, dazedly, in the light, but were not nearly as surprised as the many shadows that suddenly found themselves standing fully visible in the bright sun, naked as the day they were birthed onto this plane. I rushed at them furiously, but they scattered into the surrounding ruins.

I pocketed the cube and Yuri yelled the all-clear down the well. Within two minutes my friends’ bodies were taken down the well and stripped of their weapons, magic items, and valuables. Noriss had them ‘buried’ (more like dumped) in a deep pit. They were covered with lye and i was allowed to say a few words, then a heavy stone slab was placed over the pit (apparently the bandits’ standard method of disposing of bodies).

We then adjourned to Noriss’s private chambers to divvy up the magical treasures (apparently such rare finds were reserved for the Lieutenants and Noriss himself) and discuss our next mission—the kidnapping of a wealthy heiress in New Phlan.

Donovan's Diary: Entry 8
13 Eleint, Year of the Maidens

The most magical thing happened!

download__1_.jpgIt must be fate!

download__4_.jpgElven paladins! I didn’t believe they existed. Let alone that they would be so beautiful. Let alone that they would come to me bearing magics beyond imagining…

Let alone that their power to cure by laying on of hands is done, instead, by laying on of lips!

It seems that the kiss of miss Frantiska, laden with the power of her elven blood and the goddess Selune, can cure a being of the psionic plague which has afflicted us with even greater efficacy than the rod of health.

pencil_drawing_of_two_girls_2_by_jean_luc1964-d36inol.jpgOr that the magical maiden who came to me would lay lips on another of my magical maidens!

download__3_.jpg What magic might be released were all the magical maidens who have come to engage in such acts?!

images__1_.jpgA force more powerful than blood? Could the strength of their love breach the barriers of the planes?

My mind will be haunted by the image of that kiss for all time.


I must make sure that Frantiska knows that I am afflicted as well…


Don’t I need to be healed?

Donovan's Diary: Entry 7
12 Eleint, Year of the Maidens

Preparations for the battle with the kobolds continue apace.

I mentioned previously that I came into possession of a Tract of Teratology, given to me by the maiden Teldicia. Like much of Finnot’s work, the tract focuses on the summoning (and possibly controlling) of horrible extraplanar entities. While Finnot’s Book refers to fairly simple acts as part of the summoning—sacrificing doves and pigeons or obtaining bits of a devil given freely, the kind of things a magician of my caliber would expect to be dealing in. The Tract of Teratology goes to much more extreme lengths—requiring rare components and the sacrifice of sentients to generate the massive magical energies to call forth the creature.

Winona made some mention of the possible legalities of such sacrifices, depending on jurisdiction, but I would like to enumerate, for the sake of my own distraction the types of sacrifices described in the text.

At a Sharran temple in Cormyr, at certain seasons of the year, the court is set round with pictures, which pourtray in a fearful manner the sufferings of the dead. Some are sawn asunder; some are gored with pitchforks; some are thrown into a cauldron of boiling water; others are burnt. The artists, under the gifted instruction of the priests, succeeded in representing every sight that is terrible to the eye or revolting to the senses. In the recess at Mongha before-mentioned a few of these choice subjects were displayed with an edifying effect. The presumed existence of a place of torment brings a revenue into the coffers of the priest, who is assumed to have the power of appeasing the wrath of the judges.

Dehydration: The victim must be restrained and denied water, which may necessitate a wait of 3 or more days. During this time, the victim may try to escape, or to call for help; steps must be taken. This is by far the least gruesome option, but may be the most heart-wrenching, as one would have to keep tabs on the subject to make sure that the death happened in the proscribed way and would involve prolonged contact—and thus the risk of losing that emotional detachment which is necessary of a great mage.

The Wheel: A victim is lashed to a wheel and beaten with a cudgel or hammer, so that the gaps in the wheel allow the limbs to break. This process takes 1-2 hours, and is very noisy. A large wheel is required. Winona described this method of torture and sacrifice at some length in her discussion of the Melvauntish legal system, which I have recorded here:

“Melvaunt, in whose jurisdiction we are now or soon will be, allows for a wide range of punishments, including torture by means of a Catherine Wheel as both a means of execution and post mortem punishment—both only in cases of aggravated murder, that is, murder committed while in the midst of another crime, or perpetrated against a family member of the accused. Firstly, the delinquent is to be placed belly down, on a cartwheel with their hands and feet bound, outstretched out along the spokes, and thus dragged by a horse to the place of execution. The wheel is then hammered onto a pole, which is then fastened upright in its other end in the ground and made to revolve slowly. A large hammer or an iron bar is then applied to the limb over the gap between the beams, breaking the bones. Twice times on each arm, one blow above the elbow, the other below. Then, each leg gets the same treatment, above and below the knees. The final ninth blow is given at the middle of the spine, so that it breaks. Then, the broken body of the accused is unbound and woven onto the wheel between the spokes. The criminal is then to be left dying ‘afloat’ on the wheel, and be left to rot. The broken man can last hours and even days, during which birds are invited peck at the helpless victim. Eventually, shock and dehydration cause death.”

220px-Martyrdom_of_Joseph_Marchand.jpgCautious Slicing: the body is tied to a wooden frame, and flesh is cut from the body in multiple slices. This execution takes 1-2 hours, and is very noisy. A wooden frame is required.

Slow slicing, also translated as the slow process, the lingering death, and death by a thousand cuts, was a form of torture and execution used in Thay and Impiltur from roughly 900 DR In this form of execution, a knife was used to methodically remove portions of the body over an extended period of time, eventually leading to death. The term “língchí” is derived from a classical description of ascending a mountain slowly. Lingchi was reserved for crimes viewed as especially severe, such as treason, or killing one’s parents. The process involved tying the person to be executed to a wooden frame, usually in a public place. The flesh was then cut from the body in multiple slices in a process that was not specified in detail in Thayan law, and therefore most likely varied. In later times, opium was sometimes administered either as an act of mercy or as a way of preventing fainting. The punishment worked on three levels: as a form of public humiliation, as a slow and lingering death, and as a punishment after death.

While it is difficult to obtain accurate details of how the executions took place, they generally consisted of cuts to the arms, legs, and chest leading to amputation of limbs, followed by decapitation or a stab to the heart. If the crime was less serious or the executioner merciful, the first cut would be to the throat causing death; subsequent cuts served solely to dismember the corpse.

The esteemed historian James Elkins argues that extant pictures of the execution make obvious that the “death by division” involved some degree of dismemberment while the subject was living. Elkins also argues that, contrary to the apocryphal version of “death by a thousand cuts”, the actual process could not have lasted long. The condemned individual is not likely to have remained conscious and aware (if even alive) after one or two severe wounds, so the entire process could not have included more than a “few dozen” wounds. In the Tam dynasty of Thay, one hundred cuts were inflicted, and the Zulkir Szass Tam holds the records at three thousand incisions. As an official punishment, death by slicing may also have involved cutting up the bones, cremation, and scattering of the deceased’s ashes.

images.jpgBoiled Alive: A large cauldron is filled with oil or water and brought to a boil. The victim is slowly lowered into the liquid. This requires at least 1 hour, and is noisy. A cauldron is required, as is some way to lower the victim into it.

Executions of this type were often carried out using a large vessel such as a cauldron or a sealed kettle that was filled with a liquid such as water, oil, tar, or tallow. Depending on the intended cruelty, the victim was either immersed before the liquid was heated or plunged, usually head first, into a boiling liquid. In some cases, the executioner could control the speed of demise by raising or lowering the victim by means of a hook and pulley system.

An alternative method was to use a large shallow receptacle that contained oil, tallow or pitch. The victim, who was then partially immersed in the liquid, was fried to death. Death in these cases was by severe scalding caused by the hot liquids (water or oil). Immersion burns would form on the arms, torso and legs. Prolonged scalding would result in anything up to fourth-degree burns of the skin. The epidermis and the dermis are destroyed, leading to the complete breakdown of subcutaneous fat. Eventually the heat would expose muscle, leading to breaches in major arteries and veins.

574431c10852ddb294f159969674236f.jpgBlood Eagle: The victim’s ribs are cut and broken near the spine, then pulled out so that they resemble wings. The lungs are tugged out through the wounds in the victim’s back. This process takes 30-60 minutes, and is quite noisy. The blood eagle method of execution is sometimes mentioned in northern saga legends. It was performed by cutting the skin of the victim by the spine, breaking the ribs so they resembled blood-stained wings, and pulling the lungs out through the wounds in the victim’s back. Salt was sprinkled in the wounds. Victims of the method of execution, as mentioned in skaldic poetry, are believed to have included King Ælla of Northumbria. The victims had to suffer in silence if they wanted to reach Valhalla. One scream and they were condemned to never feast with the gods.

With a butcher’s aplomb
they spread out your lungs
and made you warm wings
for your shoulders.

220px-Die_Saege.JPGHung and Cut: The victim is hung upside down and sawed in half vertically; this method takes a good 30 minutes, and is noisy. The term “death by sawing” indicates the act of sawing a living person in half, either longitudinally, or transversely, through the central body mass, either sawing the individual in half across or along the body length. Thus, decapitation by means of sawing, or dismemberment by means of sawing are merely tangential sub-themes, though some ambiguous cases might be included.

Different methods of death by sawing have been recorded. In cases related to the Chondathan Emperor Caligula, the sawing is said to be through the middle. In the cases of Calimshan, it is stated that that the sawing was lengthwise, both from the groin and upwards, and from the skull and downwards. In only one case, the person is explicitly described as being hung upside-down and sawn apart vertically through the middle, starting at the groin, with no mention of fastening or support boards around the person, in the manner depicted in illustrations. In other cases where details about the method, beyond the mere sawing act, are explicitly supplied, the condemned person was apparently fastened to either one or two boards prior to sawing.

I recall one particular incident described in a lecture on religion during my time at the academy:

Stabbed: The victim is pierced with several blades, and must be stabbed at least once by each caster prior to succumbing to injury (meaning that if the first stab is fatal, then the other participants are unable to contribute to the death, and the ritual must be started over). This execution only takes a few moments, but can produce a degree of commotion.

Poison: After the victim ingests poison and dies, the ritual is complete, which means that this part of the ritual could conceivably be completed in public, in short order, without attracting much attention at all.

It’s all quite fascinating really. I imagine one might learn quite a bit about the anatomy of the body and the limits of endurance from such procedures, even if there was not the tangible benefit from the act of summoning.

The possibilities of additional components are also quite fascinating, ranging from the mundane, to the extremely expensive, and many require some prior preparation of the body before enacting the execution. Some examples:

  • A sapphire, a ruby, and the victim’s most prized possession.
  • A bar of silver and the victim’s kidneys (removed from the still-living victim before beginning the sacrifice).
  • Three longspoons of white crystalline arsenic and the victim’s esophagus, which may be removed and burned after the execution, though there are some references to removing it prior to the act—I cannot imagine how this would be accomplished.
  • Two scruples of ambergris and the victim’s feet.
  • An ounce of aloe succotrina and the victim’s fingernails.
  • Six grams of gentian and tormentil plus the victim’s scalp.
  • Three drams of root of dittany and the victim’s eyes.
  • Ten grains of musk dissolved in rosewater plus the victim’s spinal column.
  • A handful of sand and a lock of the victim’s hair.