Ruins of Adventure

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.
The Third Party: Session 4 (GMs notes)

20 Eleint
The party awoke after their first night in their new keep to find that Grinkle had erected a small shrine to Grimnir and was kneeling before it, scouring his flesh raw with a pumice stone and reciting prayers of thanksgiving. Yeah, Grimnir got his first worshiper.

Melastasya and Tvoja took a stroll around their new lands and decided that they should immediately start working on making it profitable. The party loaded up the small wagon, hitched up the old worn-out pony, loaded it with a hastily cut-down tree (in which they hid their vast wealth), and headed back to Phlan.

After navigating through the slums, unopposed thanks to Grimnir’s inherent creepiness, they stopped at the gates and pontificated at length about their plans to turn Kryptgarten into a proper freehold, specifically recruiting all of the people that sailed over from Hillsfar to come settle and work there. Professor Aiderns sought out Professor Drummons and the two of them began rounding up the settlers, as well as anyone else in the slums who showed bubo scars or other signs of having survived the plague—so as to encourage considerable herd immunity in the Kryptgarten population.

The others went to the town square where Markos was being officially inducted into the Council. As his first official act, Markos named Grimnir “Squire of Kryptgarten”, the first minor noble of New Phlan, making much ado about the party reclaiming the keep and “securing Phlan’s northern border”. They made plans to meet Markos at the Bitter Blade for dinner to discuss any other work that he might have for them, then went and enrolled at the Public Training Hall.

Tvoja and Melastasya cashed in their letter of introduction from Markos with Professor Lype. Grminir payed Professor Shanal for some private tutoring, giving him 500 gold under the table, as it were.

They then went and found Markos who, over a nice dinner, informed them that he wanted to ‘consolidate his position’ quickly by means of arranging an advantageous marriage—specifically to Elissa Bivant, the ward of Head-Councilman Ulrich Eberhard and heir to a considerable fortune (and heir to a seat on the Council which she cannot occupy by virtue of her gender). He explained that his brother had courted her years ago, when she was just 10, and that Porphyrys Cadorna represented the current competition.

21 Eleint
The party set to work laying plans for some match-making, as well as the future of their keep. Grimnir rented out the entire Bitter Blade for the evening to throw a party, inviting all of the Councilmen and other “people of quality” in the city, under the auspices of celebrating his ennoblement and the Autumn Equinox, which was today.

During the day, Melastasya worked the city, dropping 1000 gold crowns to buy up all of the honey in town, and shipping that, along with a number of livestock (pigs, hens, goats, and sheep) and brewing gear (a still, descensory furnace, tubing, barrels) back to the keep.

Tvoja worked her contacts to learn the financial status of the various councilmembers, learning that Councilmen Eberhard and Folbre were both extremely wealthy, as was the Bishop, but that Councilman Cadorna was basically destitute—his family fortune largely tied up in lands in the older and not yet reclaimed sections of town.

When evening came, the party settled in for a party—Traithe, very convincingly dressed as a girl, dealing cards, Melastasya waiting tables, Grimnir playing the host, and Tvoja watching the proceedings from the shadows and providing insight. In attendance were Councilman Eberhard and Elissa, Councilman Werner von Urslingen and his wife Edeltraud, Bishop Braccio of Tyr, accompanied by the card-shark priestess, Sister Erol, Markos, accompanied by his sister Karistina, Councilman Aldron Folbre, accompanied by his sister Trea, and Councilman Porphyrys Cadorna, who arrived alone.

Melastasya engaged Elissa in conversation, being of an age with her, and was invited to become one of her maids, meanwhile working to understand what the girl wanted and how she might be won.

The evening began with a friendly (though high stakes) game of cards—Markos, Porphyrys Cadorna, Werner von Urslingen, Aldron Folbre, Ulrich Eberhard, and Sister Erol (playing on behalf of the Bishop) playing, and Traithe dealing.

Porphyrys was caught cheating early on, but was sufficiently embarrassed by Melastasya spilling a tray of drinks on him that he was not ejected from the game. Traithe managed the table masterfully, arranging for Folbre and Eberhard to win the first several hands and considerably raising the stakes, such that Porphyrys was forced to wager the deed for part of his family’s lands to stay in the game, causing everyone else to offer up deeds as part of the wager as well. Traithe attempted to rig the last hand in Markos’s favor, but that plan failed when Markos, strangely, asked for a completely new draw. By shear luck, the stone-faced boy won anyways, gaining possession of the following lands:

  • The priory of St. Conrath of the Woods, a Tyrran parochial holding near Melvaunt (from the Bishop). The priory lands include some fairly profitable sheep farms, but the priory itself has had issues attracting new novices and had fallen into disrepair and is mostly unused.
  • An old textile factory on the north-western side of Old Phlan, which was the largest of the remaining Cadorna lands.
  • An large manor-house on the north side of Old Phlan, near the old temple of Tyr, which belonged to the Eberhard family.
  • Three, very profitable, blocks of residential tenements in the city of Mulmaster from Aldron Folbre.

Grimnir and Markos used Porphyrys’s deed as leverage, signing the lands back to him with the condition that he would never pursue Elissa Bivant, and having the Bishop, the city’s chief judge and legal expert, witness the contract—his cooperation gained by Markos bequeathing the priory back to the diocese as a “gift”. Markos kept his winnings from Eberhard and Folbre, of course.

The party continued to shmooze for some time after the game wound down. They learned that Folbre was rather openly gay (and that apparently he and Markos had a thing going on occasion, and that he had had a thing going with Urslingen’s son back in Hillsfar a couple years ago). Grimnir put the moves on him, resulting in the councilman hanging on his arm most of the evening.

From Elissa they learned that her terms for marriage basically boiled down to getting out from under Eberhard’s thumb and gaining full possession of her family’s rightful seat on the Council—a thing that would require a change of the current laws which forbid women from sitting on the council. Markos tentatively agreed, assuming they could find a way to rewrite the inheritance laws so that he would not lose his seat to his older sister.

The party began angling for how to create a voting coalition to get such a thing passed. The Council seemed pretty split, with three young ones and three old, with the Bishop holding a non-voting seat to avoid creating a tie condition (also since Tyr’s priests are supposed to enforce the laws that exist, not change them). Folbre seemed an obvious ally, since they could agree to help legalize same-sex relationships in exchange for his vote to allow women on the council. They had already used their leverage over Porphyrys, and Eberhard had a clear reason to oppose granting any agency to Elissa. Which left Werner von Ursligen as the deciding vote on the matter.

They saw their possible leverage as:

  1. Get him into a fairly obvious extra-martial affair (a thing illegal and punishment by being thrown over the wall, naked and unarmed, in the middle of the night), and blackmail him into a yea vote.
  2. Get his son caught publicly engaging in a same-sex relationship (similarly illegal).
  3. Play to his racism and agree to vote for Phlan to become human only in exchange for his vote on the gender issues.

Traithe, in female form, attempted to seduce Urslingen over cards later with a mixture of flirtatiousness and a display of not-quite-perfect knife work. She got a very innuendo-laden invite to come to his house in the morning for “private training”. She arrived the next morning to find that the innuendo wasn’t, Urslingen really did teach him/her how to properly handle a pole-arm and sheath a sword, providing Traith with a week’s worth of free, intensive training for his next level of Fighter. Urslingen also agreed to come out to Kryptgarten to provide basic training to the settlers so that they could defend themselves from future hobgoblin attacks.

Grimnir spent a week attending Francis Urslingen’s very hands-on fencing lessons at the Training Hall, which involved a fair amount of going out into the slums and butchering mostly harmless goblins, orcs, and mongrelmen (and at least one dwarf). With some carefully planned flirting and spurning of an attractive female student, he let his interest in men be known to Francis and the two grew quite close…at which point he learned that, for all that Francis was interested in him, the monk was very strictly lawful and would not act on that interest. Which prompted Grimnir to talk Francis into petitioning his father to vote in favor of gender-rights when if it came up in the Council (which of course it will).

The party spent the next week completing their training requirements, hauling more settlers out to Kryptgarten, getting them set up farming (bees, sheep, pigs, poultry, grapes) and brewing (mead…lots of mead), and working with Councilman Urslingen to train the most promising so that they could help defend the keep against the hobgoblin reinforcements they expected to be arriving in a couple of weeks.

A total of 120 settlers made it out to Kryptgarten and, aside from some distrust of ‘The Squire’ settled in quite well. The former cultists of the Chaos Messiah joined Grinkle (with some prodding from Tvoja) in setting up a strange pantheist shrine worshiping Chauntea (goddess of agriculture), Mask (god of thievery and political intrigue), and Grimnir (whom Grinkle and the cultists insist is the demon-prince of personal hygiene).

Grimnir, meanwhile, continued his study of the Tract of Teratology, learning that the resultant creature, and it would indeed be a creature, would have vast flaps of translucent skin and spines growing from back, where it displays the severed heads and dried entrails of its victims.

3 Marpenoth

We’ll be picking up from here…

The Third Party: Session 3 (GMs notes)
In which some murderhobos murder some hobo(goblins)...

14 Eleint

Late in the afternoon, Valkur’s Wake neared the port of Phlan. Professors Aidern and Drummons pulled the party aside with the captain and Nat to inform them that the plague had spread to most of the passengers on the ship, which was packed to triple capacity. After some hemming and hawing, the captain agreed to weigh anchor on the shore of Thorn Island, rather than risk spreading the disease to the city.

They unloaded all the passengers on the island and set up a quarantine zone. Captain Stormhammer cast cure disease on the party, so they would be well enough to care for the others (at the expense of them passing up their cut of the passenger fees). The Maid in the Iron Mask (who finally introduced herself as Tvoja Rabota, which means “none of your business” in orcish) passed on the healing, instead taking a small rowboat they found on the island and disappearing for a few hours (returning hale on whole). Traithe, Grimnir, and Melastasya explored the island, finding a source of water and “orc-meat” (they corpses were only 4-5 days old), and making sure there were no active threats. The professors set to work treating everyone.

They stayed on the island for almost four days, tending the sick and cleaning everyone thoroughly of fleas, until they were sure the passengers were not contagious. Grimnir, meanwhile, worked on decoding a book he had found in Hillsfar, which turned out to be a Tract of Teratology. He was not able to interpret the entire thing before leaving the island, but figured that the proper ritual involved scalping the victim, then slowly boiling them alive in a cauldron filled with pure water, six grams of gentian, and six grams of tormentil dye, could be done with up to five other celebrants, and that the end result should be large and crocodilian…

18 Eleint

After a short trip across the bay, the party disembarked in New Phlan. The halfling harbormaster was stunned by the number of “settlers” that the Wake had brought in, and more stunned by the 7500 gold that he had to pay Captain Stormhammer. Tvoja, as the only one who had not passed up a cut in exchange for healing, was handed three bags of 50 gold each.

The party quickly made their way to the Bitter Blade, where they learned that Councilman Mondaviak had passed away the night before. They went up to his rooms to “pay their respects” and managed to pull Markos briefly away from the many yellow-cloud mourners and deliver Rudolfio’s affidavit. An hour later, Markos met them downstairs, and quietly handed over the deed to “Kryptgarten Keep”, including all lands to a distance of 1 mile from the keep, and the attached vinyards. He also passed them a sack with 5 gems and a map leading to the keep (including a handwritten note indicating the location of a “secret entrance”).

They took their leave and made a few stops before preparing to leave town immediately: by Cockburn’s Grocery to check on Martha (who had not been seen for four days), by the Tyr’s Waiting to inquire about Lyrathwen (who also had not been seen for days), and by the Clerk’s office to make sure their deed was on the record and properly notarized. They headed out through Traitor’s Gate, made a quick stop by Jerome’s for supplies, and then booked it out of town.

It was late evening, almost dark, when they reached the keep, eight miles north of Phlan. They spotted two sentries on the walls, outlined by the fading sunlight, and decided to strike out into the woods to the east, towards the indicated “Secret Entrance”.

Some five hundred feet into the woods, they found a small clearing, the trees kept at bay by a wrought iron fence, surrounding an old stone mausoleum, a small shrine to Mystra, and two graves. Melastasya, on seeing the silver bands and hinges binding the door of the mausoleum, immediately broke out her crowbar and began disassembling the door, making quite a lot of racket.

Once the door was opened, they found an open stone sarcophagus, also silver-bound, with a pile of bones and torn armor in one corner. Professor Aiderns immediately made his way over to the bones to investigate, only to get jumped by a clawed, fanged, undead monstrosity that was crouching behind the sarcophagus. A few swift bites put him down, then the thing was hacked apart by Traithe. Grimnir and Melastasya provided some quick medical attention to get the professor back on his feat.

Meanwhile Tvoja discovered a secret passage beneath the shrine without. The party climbed down the shaft she had discovered and traversed the long tunnel until it ended at a brick wall, which was clearly also a door. They heard grunting from the other side, and Aiderns sent his familiar in to investigate—informing everyone that there was a hobgoblin and a gorilla on the other side of the door.

They kicked open the door and neutralized the hobo and the ape in moments with a sudden hail of missile fire. They used some boards to cross the pit that inexplicably divided the room, then moved quietly and with tactical precision from room to room—Melastasya checked the doors, Aiderns’ familiar scouting what was on the other side, and then whatever was inside being subjected to a hail of arrows as the door opened.

They cleared a corridor, feast hall, and kitchens. Killing one more hobgoblin and complaining about the hobos breaking their crockery. A hobgoblin with a broom came up behind them, to the door where the professor was waiting, and quickly indicated that he was “surrendering”. Grimnir had a bit of a chat with the hobo, who introduced himself as “Grinkle” and informed the party that he had no desire to continue working for the hobgoblin lieutenant who was running the keep (since he has a poor fighter and got all the shit cleaning jobs). The party agreed to take Grinkle on as their cook in exchange for information about the other hobos in the keep.

Their first stop, after talking to Grinkle, was to murder the Lieutenant, who they found flexing and admiring himself in a mirror in the master bedroom. A few arrows in the back did for him, then Melastasya decided that she was really beautiful…until Grimnir blew up the mirror. They looted the Lieutenant, recovering a note that Grinkle read for them which indicated that a unit of Hobgoblin reinforcements would be arriving in about a month.

They then moved on to a door that the Lieutenant had said was “off limits” to the rank and file hobos. Beyond they found a room with a strange pit, spanned by illusory bridges. They made their way across safely (aside from Tvoja who discovered the illusion the hard way), and heard two more hobos arguing on the other side of the door. Grimnir busted in with his eyes flashing dramatically and commanded the hobos to bow before him, but they apparently did not speak the Common tongue and charged.

The battle was long, but not particularly bloody, as neither the party nor these hobgoblins could hit the broad side of a castle wall. Eventually Melastasya downed the two hobos with a couple of well placed punches and the party tossed the room, finding a secret door in one wall, behind which was a small empty room with a pair of gauntlets laying on the floor.

Melastasya poked about the tiny room with a spear, discovering something about three feet tall and roughly box shaped, that rang like metal when struck, in the back of the room, somehow not visible to the naked eye. She probed about some more and opened the invisible, but unlocked, chest, revealing a king’s ransom in gold and gems, as well as a ring of shocking grasp, a handful of magical arrows and darts, and the Sword of Halfrek.

After some looting, Grinkle lead them upstairs. Traithe used an illusion to make himself look like the hobo Lieutenant, calling the sentries down from the walls (where they were promptly ganked by the two lady-rogues). Traithe and Grinkle then went into the barracks and called the remaining three waking hobos to come out and downstairs, only to have the rogues botch the quiet execution and wake the rest of the barracks.

Traithe sprung into action, calling upon the spirit of a dwarven ranger which was trapped in the sword they’d found, and slicing through the barracks with a whirlwind attack. Three of the hobos died while trying to pull on their pants, one disappearing into the sword, causing a dead, naked old dwarf to spill out onto the ground. A barrage of spells and missile-fire wiped out the rest before they could mount a counter-offensive.

The party searched around a bit more, making sure that Grinkle was the only hobgoblin alive in the place, and then settled in to discuss what it would take for them to hold their new home.

Donovan's Diary: Entry 6
11 Eleint, Year of the Maidens

Morning, clear, a little damp.

I am sitting on a hillside outside the tiny shepherd village of Gildenglade, still a couple days ride west of Melvaunt. Our band has decided to aid the village in fending off a near-inevitable assault from the Kobold Kingdom. Should we live through the next couple of days, I am sure that tales of our heroics will live on through the ages.

Gildenglade_Map.jpgWarfare, is of course, not my forte, but I have endeavored to take a role of command so as to not frighten the maidens. I am collecting drawings of the village and the surrounding terrain, and taking stock of our magical capabilities.

As might be expected from my recent research, there was some discussion yesterday about the possibility of summoning of extraplanar entities to aid in the battle. Teldicia even provided me with a Tract of Teratology, a thing I was somewhat disturbed to find out she owned. Apparently it was given to her by Rietta, the shapeshifting ogress we met previously. As with must such major summonings, the tract called for the sacrifice of a sentient as part of the spell. While Sister Winona was somewhat helpful in pointing out methods of sacrifice that might be legal under Melvauntian law, the group as a whole objected to the practice, so we were forced to ignore that particular line of strategic thought.

Having thus abandoned immediate thoughts for the use of conjuration, I shall digress into other areas of interest while I sit here. Namely some fascinating stories that I heard from one of the old village crones this morning. Whether true Lore or folklore, I cannot say, but these snippets may be useful in the derivation of material components for future spells.

First, there is the Root of Lightning, as the old woman called it, which I take to be the root of the infamous Ginseng herb. She described her “root of lightning” as having a distinctive forked shape, like the legs and arms of a man, and as causing headaches, breast pain, and insomnia, by which I can surmise that it must, indeed, by the ginseng root. Most excellently, it grows near the hills around the village!

Named panax, from panacea, or cure-all, in the scholars tongue, no medicinal plant is quite so controversial. There are eminent herbalists and physicians who swear that it is no more effective than strong tea, and there are those who swear that it is effective in treating anemia, cachexia, scrofula, catarrah, and malfunctions of the lungs, kidneys, liver, heart, and genitals. Long ago, when the plant was plentiful, peasants would mix the ginseng root with owl brains and turtle fat and smear the mixture over the heads of patients to cure insanity, or blend it with the powdered horns of wapiti dear and sprinkle it over patient’s chests to cure tuberculosis. While such remedies may or may not work, they do lead one to some interesting thoughts regarding the root and the horns taken from our friend Gendry. A more readily available curative for the psychic plague afflicting us perhaps?

Chinese_changbai_mountain_White_ginseng_Root_slice__2_.jpegThe legends regarding those who collect the root are most marvelous. The old lady claimed that it is called the “root of lightning” because: it only grows on a spot where a small stream has been dried up by a lightning bolt. After a life of three hundred years, she claims, the green juice turns white and the plant acquires a soul. It is then able to take human form, but never becomes fully human because the plant does not know the meaning of selfishness. It is totally good, and will happily sacrifice itself to aid the pure of heart.

Clearly we are getting into the realm of folklore here, but there is much to be learned about the art from such old wives’ tales, as is reflected by the many kinds of plant spirits and fey that have been observed and verified by science. I know of no confirmed sightings of a ginseng spirit, but that does not mean that such may not exist, especially given the rarity attributed to them in the story. I shall continue her stories and save further speculation for the end, so as to not confuse my future readings.

The root, in human form, is said to take the shape of a child, plump and brown, with red cheeks and laughing eyes. Long ago, evil men discovered that a ginseng child could be captured by tying it with a red ribbon, and that is why the plant is now so hard to find1 — It has been forced to run away from evil men. The ginseng hunter must display the purity of his intentions, and so carries no weapons. He wears a conical hat made from birch bark2, shoes of tarred pigskin, an oiled apron to protect him from dew, and a badger skin attached to his belt on which to sit3. He carried a small spade made from bone and two small pliable knives with which to dig up and prepare the plant.

The hunt for the roots is something of a religion here. Ginseng hunters who have thoroughly searched an area and found nothing will mark the bark of trees with tiny secret signs to tell others not to waste their time there. Where ginseng has been found, the hunter will erect a small shrine, and other hunters will leave offerings of stones or scraps of cloth. If a hunter finds an immature plant, he will put stakes around it to mark his claim.

A weatherworn, crazed, half-starved ginseng hunter will sometimes have the good fortune to come upon a small plant with four branches that have violet flowers and a fifth branch rising from the center crowned with red berries. The stalk is deep red, and the leaves are deep green above and pale green below. He will drop to his knees, arms spread to show he is unarmed, and kowtow to the plant’s spirit, then cover his eyes and lie still for several minutes so as to not see if the plant decides to run away.4 Opening his eyes, he takes the seeds and carefully replants them so that the root of lightning can grow again. The leaves and flowers are stripped and ceremoniously burned, with many prayers5. He then digs up the root with the bone spade and uses the knives to clean the tiny tendrils, called beards, which are supposed to be crucial to the curative powers. The root is wrapped with birch bark and sprinkled with pepper to keep pests away, then joyfully carried back to civilization.6

1 Other than it only appearing where a stream was dried by lightning…

2 Not unlike those worn by modern wizards as a sign of their station.

3 You’ll note the inherent practicality in the latter three items, in addition to their ceremonial standardization. All are designed to protect against moisture. Actually, given the dew on the ground as I sit writing this, I wouldn’t mind a badger-skin myself.

4 This bit gets to the ridiculous root of the local folk religion, but also gives useful information about how to identify the mature plant.

5 Something like “Oh Great Spirit, do not leave me! I have come with a pure heart and soul, after freeing myself from sins and evil thoughts. Do not leave me!”

6 Again, instructions for the proper collection and packaging of the plant are couched heavily in folk-religious mumbo-jumbo and the idea that the plant is some kind of enforcer of moral thought and behavior.

The old woman, also regaled me with other bits of the local folk religion. It seems the people of the village practice the pantheism typical of the northern Moonsea, worshiping such diverse beings not as Aþ, god of wells, Aglaos, god of torches, Bashiuus, god of wine, Diplodias, god of poor harvests, and other such petty deities unknown in the civilized South, even a god of good shoes (which seem to be sorely lacking in the village). There was also some concern with elemental spirits, for she spoke of also making offerings to such beings as Sylphs, Salamanders, and Undines.

These elemental spirits seem to form the other three corners of the pillar of this simple folk-religion, with the fourth being the “root of lightning” desrcibed above. I will not go into the full extent of the old woman’s stories and irrational fears, but, since they were mentioned, and thus may be found nearby, have decided to include that which I remember about such creatures, as described in The Secret Teachings of All Ages which we studied at the academy.

tumblr_nbjxjlTfyi1scpq9co1_500__1_.jpg “As the gnomes were limited in their function to the elements of the earth, so the undines (a name given to the family of water elementals) function in the invisible, spiritual essence called humid (or liquid) ether. In its vibratory rate this is close to the element water, and so the undines are able to control, to a great degree, the course and function of this fluid in Nature. Beauty seems to be the keynote of the water spirits. Wherever we find them pictured in art or sculpture, they abound in symmetry and grace. Controlling the water element—which has always been a feminine symbol—it is natural that the water spirits should most often be symbolized as female.”

tumblr_nbjxtnNGnV1scpq9co1_500.jpg“Ancient investigators of the Nature spirits were of the opinion that the most common form of salamander was lizard-like in shape, a foot or more in length, and visible as a glowing Urodela, twisting and crawling in the midst of the fire. Another group was described as huge flaming giants in flowing robes, protected with sheets of fiery armor. Certain authorities, among them the Abbé de Villars, held that Zarathustra was the son of Vesta (believed to have been the wife of Noah) and the great salamander Oromasis. Hence, from that time onward, undying fires have been maintained upon the altars in honor of Zarathustra’s flaming father.”

tumblr_nbjycaC5bm1scpq9co1_500.jpg“To the sylphs the ancients gave the labor of modeling the snowflakes and gathering clouds. This latter they accomplished with the cooperation of the undines who supplied the moisture. The winds were their particular vehicle and the ancients referred to them as the spirits of the air. They are the highest of all the elementals, their native element being the highest in vibratory rate. They live hundreds of years, often attaining to a thousand years and never seeming to grow old. The leader of the sylphs is called Paralda, who is said to dwell on the highest mountain of the earth. The female sylphs were called sylphids.”

These three, at least, have been verified by the observations of the learned. If such beings are, in fact, real and present in the area, it may give greater credence to the existence of this “ginseng child”, the verified existence of which would cause quite the sensation in the scientific community. Perhaps once our current predicament is past, I may follow the path of these ginseng hunters and see what mysteries lie within these hills.

The Bitter Blades: Session 7
In which Tamn finds a new gang to hang with, and the Bitter Blades disband (er...die)

To anyone listening to this, let me cut to the chase. My name is Tamn. My friends are dead. I am at the bottom of a well, and I am surrounded by bandits. Hell, scratch that.

My name is Tamn. My friends are dead. I am now a bandit…Yeah, that sounds better. All hail Lord Noriss the Grey and all that…

Now, that that is out of the way, let me back up.

After a few days spent enjoying the fruits of their previous victory, Tamn, Hazel, Martha, and Ada the Simple decided to take a foray into the Slums as a first step to see if Martha could actually hold her own, pull her weight, and all that…

Hazel had posted a notice at the Training Hall, trying to pawn some of the magic items we collected from Sokol Keep. Given how pricey the Training Hall is, we were actually pretty surprised when someone showed up at the Bitter Blade asking about the notice. Turns out the berk wasn’t looking to buy. No, he told us he was impressed by the tally of arcane relics we were willing to part with. Said any cutter who could find so much and then give it up was exactly the kind he was looking for.

The berk’s name was Damien Nuren. Neat fellow—human, maybe 40 years, long black hair, claimed he was a gentleman, alchemist, and doctor of philosophy—the kindof berk who would have owned a good many of my fellows back in Hillsfar. Said he was looking for a very particular book called the Path of Peace and that the last known copy was supposed to have been owned by a sage who lived in Phlan in the old days. So, he wasn’t buying, he was hiring.

The berk gave us a magic cube which he said was good for helping find things and told us we should start looking roundabout the plaza near Kuto’s Well, which is the far side of the slums before the real ruins start these days. Seemed strait-forward enough, and he offered us a thousand gill each. Seemed like I was right about him being the kindof berk who could buy a whole clan worth of my kin.

Martha, bright lass, asked why, if he knew where to look and had his magic box, he didn’t just go fetch the book himself. Bright, but maybe insufficiently mercenary, since there was a THOUSAND GOLD in the deal for her. Anyways, Nuren said flat-out that he was a coward and that monsters and beggars and thieves and old ruins wasn’t his thing, so he was willing to pay well to get what he wanted without sticking his own neck out. Very sensible like.

Martha, again the bright lass, pointed out that all the slums-folk avoided Kuto’s Well out of course. Said that the bandit Noriss the Grey and his gang of toughs tended to lurk about the area, and that people who went to the well looking for a drink more often as not never came back.

We took the job anyways, because, seriously, a thousand gold a head is nothing to sneeze at.

Let me say, again, that Martha was a bright lass, and that she was right, Lord Noriss and his gang were definitely down the well way. Now, I don’t know if that berk Damien was a lying sack of shit or just misinformed, but we didn’t find any book, and that box of his did not work as advertised.

Now, I’ve lived in squalor, been beaten, been kicked, been thrown in the Arena, spent a few nights on the Isle of Lepers, and generally lived under the most wretched and unjust regime in the world, but Hillsfar’s worst was nothing compared to Phlan’s slums. I’d been there a few times over the past couple days, even dropped a pile of coins at the soup kitchen near the market, but the northeast side was basically three solid blocks of wading through shit—literal shit and figurative shit. Most of the beggars were the kind with missing limbs, the streets were wall-to-wall trash heaps cobbled with a carpet of barely concealed bones, the the buildings, if they could even be called that any more, were crumbling wrecks overgrown with plants just as dead as those on Thorn Island.

We tangled with a couple of orcs and a gnoll early on—the cutters said they wanted ‘tribute’ for walking through their turf—but Hazel and Ada’s blades made short work of them. Man, that Ada chick was kindof creepy, with the not talking and the beating things to a bloody pulp with her spikey elbows. I think I’ll miss her.

And rats, my god the rats. Big as ponies. We killed them too, without much trouble, mostly thanks to Martha’s sharp eyes. She saw them coming a mile away.

After that filth, the plaza around the well was actually pretty nice. I guess the threat of real danger was enough to keep most berks, and their trash, away from the place. Now, don’t get me wrong, the square, like the rest of the city, is littered with scattered stonework, blown leaves, and detritus, but none of the rotting food scraps, dead bodies, and excrement you see in the deep slums.

We got to the well plaza and Hazel tapped the shiny side of the cube, like the berk told us. She immediately dropped the thing and let out an uncharacteristic yelp, like she’d been shocked or something. The cube flew from her hand and rolled to a stop right beside the well. All of a sudden a big, black globe grew up around us—cold and dark as a winter night. We could still see, but not much.

Can I get a what the fuck? Like I said, either that Damien berk set us up, or he was an idiot, or whoever sold him the cube set him up.

Dim shapes moved within the cloud, which swirled and roiled with murk. We tried to move away from the well and the shadowy shapes followed us, circled us, flanked us. They weren’t quite substantial, just all darkness and fluff. Like shadows. I wailed at one with my swords and hit nothing but air, but when it swung at me I felt only a brush, but it was like all the strength was just sucked out of me. My arms felt weak and shaky, and cold, so cold.

Hazel rushed over and tore it a new one with her sword Blackflame, which, come to think of it, looks an awful lot like those creatures when it wakes up.

But then there were more of them. Hazel’s swords worked, and Ada’s elbow spikes, but my weapons were no good at all. And the things were fast. Freaky fast.

Hazel whirled and hacked and whirled some more, hitting the things a buch, but they kept landing hits too, and every one made her look weaker and weaker. Even when she flipped the fuck out, like she does, they kept swinging too.

I kept dodging and moving away, looking for an opening to run, but found my back to the well wall.

The shadowy things kept wacking at Hazel and Ada, and they kept fighting back. It was hard to tell how many there were, or who was winning, or whether we had really killed any at all. It was all too dark and they were too flimsy to really see.

Martha, also in the thick of it, had a few spells up her sleeve, and the magic mace, but was the first to fall. There just really wasn’t anything I could do, or so I keep telling myself.

Worse though, than seeing her slump to the ground with those wispy black claws digging at her, was seeing her get back up. Or something like her. It was like one of those black things tore itself out of her chest, but without any actual tearing. Or maybe the one that killed her split in two. Whatever the case, there was one more of the cutters.

That was it for me. We were surrounded, I couldn’t hurt the buggers, and my back was to a wall. I took the wall.

I dove into the well, which, it turns out, didn’t have much water in it. It was a long way down and it hurt.

I heard another scream from above and Hazel’s mad howls and angry curses stopped. Dead. Just like that. I can only assume that they got Ada not long after that, for things got mighty quiet and I didn’t hear any footsteps getting away.

I, on the other hand, had my own problems to deal with.

You see, I was lying at the bottom of a well with some twenty swords pointed my way, one of which was in the hand of Lord Noriss. But at least the shadow things seemed disinclined to come down the well.

Like I said. My friends are dead. I am now a bandit…All hail Lord Noriss the Grey and all that…

Unsigned Note for Brother Shadow

Blessed is he who knows the true value of the meek, infirm, and unclean. May His glory deliver them from the temptation of earthly treasures and work miracles among the devout.

The Third Party: Session 2 (GMs notes)
In which some yahoos turn Hillsfar upside down and thwart an evil cult.

13 Eleint

Around dawn, Grond, a dwarven scholar stopped by the boat to have a chat with Nat and Captain Stormhammer. While chatting with the two dwarves and trying to convert Dimitri to his religion (which somehow involves the idea that every sentient being has a dwarf living in them somewhere), the mugger from the night before slipped her bonds.

She seemed surprisingly affable, for having been beaten up and tied up by the party, despite the featureless iron mask worn over her face. After a chat about the current mission, Traith, Professor Aidern, Grond, and the Main in the Iron Mask headed for the river to visit the gypsies (with Grond playing the role of a collar-wearing slave).

A couple of blocks from the river, they see the “Brophetess” standing on a soap-box spouting some anarchistic, Nietzschean bullshit to a crowd of drooling boys from the university, blocking the way. The Maid in the Iron Mask took the opportunity to lift some purses while Grond got in a preach-off/shouting match with the beautiful but self-mutilating prophetess.

Once the crowd cleared, the party rolled their barrel (filled with weapons and armor) down to the barges and met Melastasya, the younger sister of Rudolfio’s gypsy girlfriend. She informed them that Rudolfio and Sezarina had fallen in with a new cult worshipping the “Chaos Messiah” (Dork Messiah as she called him), lead by the Brophetess. She agreed to take the party to their hideout on Leper Island, but insisted they wait until nightfall so that she would not have to violate the curfew.

The party hungout in Melastasya’s gypsy barge for most of the day. Grond taught the girl to read a few Mulani Heiroglyphics. Aidern examined Grond and discovered that he had contracted the Plague.

At nightfall they rowed out to the island. They passed out some food and a few coppers to the waiting beggars, then made their way up the small hill in the center of the island to an old mission house, where they found a huge party going on. Unable to pick out Rudolfio from the moshing crowd of loincloth wearing, pierced and tattooed cultists, Grond rolled up his sleeves, drew some fake tattoos on himself, shoved his way through the front door, and yelled “Rudolfio!” gleefully. The punk’s head (now sporting a huge mohawk) spun around and the raving, cultist frat-boys grabbed the dwarf and hoisted him upside down into a pair of shackles hanging from the ceiling.

Also in the room were the Brophetess, a poxy-faced hag wielding a strange flail, a pile of harem girls chained to a wall, and the Chaos Messiah himself—a pinhead cenobite with a giant Moorcockian chaos symbol tattooed on his chest.

Hiding outside, Aidern cast a sleep spell into the room, dropping a handful of cultists, and Traith and the Maid in the Iron Mask began peppering the hag with arrows. Grond twisted, turned, swung with his hammer, and then dropped himself, chains, armor, shackles and all, on the heads of the partying cultists.

The Brophetess dropped Traith with a well-placed, thrown ball of poisonous goo, only to take an arrow in the lung from the Maid in the Iron Mask. Another arrow dropped the Hag, while Grond continued to tangle with the cultists and Aidern continued to drop them with sleep spells.

The Chaos Messiah rose from his bed of wenches and waded into the fight, only to be set on fire by Grond, causing his flesh to burn away and slough off, revealing a giant, amoebic bubo of blood, puss, and lymph. The remaining cultists (Rudolfio included) bolted out the door, down the hill, and onto the boat.

Grond traded blows with the giant bubo for several rounds, while the archers outside bombarded it with arrows. Finally the thing engulfed and consumed him, only to be slain by an arrow from the healed Traith a moment later.

Traith and the Maid in the Iron Mask ran down the hill to the boat, while Aidern stayed to examine the remains of the Chaos Messiah. Traith fired at the cultists running away, while the masked lady swam out to the boat and climbed aboard. She knifed a couple of cultists, then noticed Melestasya and Rudolfio fighting side by side against the others in the back of the boat. Aidern finally wandered down and knocked all but one of the rest out.

After a brief hostage negotiation to convince the cultists that it would be a good idea for the remaining cultist and his sleeping friends to accept a free ride to Phlan, Rudolfio ran back up the hill. The party gave chase to see the remaining cultists left behind waking up and freeing the harem girls. Ruldolfio grabbed one harem girl, Sezarina, and hauled her down the hill—the others followed.

Back on Valkurs Wake a few hours later, the party learned the Ruldofio hated his father, was completely surprised that Markos would want to have him killed, and had zero interest in the council seat. He signed an affidavit witnessed by Captain Stormhammer and Traith that he abdicated all of his inheritance to his brother Markos (so long as Markos would keep sending him his stipend to pay for his partying lifestyle). Rudolfio then hightailed it out of there with Sezarina and Melastasya on their gypsy barge.

With fourteen cultists, more or less willingly, aboard Valkur’s Wake and bound for Phlan, Nat and the Captain were ecstatic. Aidern suggested that a slight nudge regarding the plague-rumors might get a great deal more people on board quickly, so he, the Maid in the Iron Mask, and Traith headed for his laboratory at Gothmagog University to snag a couple of plague-ridden corpses to stir up some trouble.

On the way they found a blood-drained corpse and a pack of ravenous children, but they paid them no heed.

They found the research wing of the Medical School already burning and a crowd forming when they arrived. A few whispers, threats, and rumors spread through the crowd quickly had a small stampede of people running for the docks, hoping to get away from the city as quickly as possible.

14 Eleint

As the sun rose, Valkur’s Wake peeled away from the docks, packed to the gills with people hoping to get away from the plague as quickly as possible and not really caring where the boat was headed. Nat and Captain Stormhammer could not have been more pleased.

Chapter 3: An Old Lady in Melvaunt: Part 2
In which the party prepares to defend a village from an army of kobolds...


“Thank you.” Lyra seemed to be looking more at Sister Ryesha when she said it.

After Lyra accepts the earrings from Donovan, she turns to address the dwarf in common. “I apologize. We seem to have put you in even more danger than we found you in.”

Then she rummages around near the food crate until she finds a handkerchief wrapped around a pile of combs, small mirrors, and other trinkets. She gingerly picks up one of the mirrors, and sits back down near the chariot. She methodically wipes the blood off of her face, and examines the arc of small circular marks, the shiny pink of freshly healed skin still evident. The lower arc was on the apple of her cheek just left of her nose, and the upper on her brow, going down to just between her eyes. Since it was healed so quickly, she hoped it was unlikely to leave lasting scars.

Lyra carefully balanced the mirror on her knees, and angled it so she could see the earrings as she put them in.


“Bah, a few kobolds aren’t much of a danger. A dwarf lives every day in danger. It seems many would rather be our enemy than our ally. Except you, this ragtag group of elves, humans, and even a goblin, are as kind and bold a party as one could hope to meet. I’ll remain with you, helping as I can.”


Yamtwit, from this vantage, can see that the man is lying prone at the bottom of the pit, which is perhaps fifteen feet deep, pinned by his own pack, with one leg twisted at an angle that no normal human leg should ever be in, bent almost in half in the wrong direction. The man turns his head to see who is calling down to him, and looks utterly surprised to see the goblin again. “GET ME OUT OF HERE!” he screams.


Yamtwit yells back to the others. “Looks like the old guy has a broken leg. He looks way too big for me to carry out, anyone want to lend a hand?” He turns back to the pit and starts climbing down. “I’ll see what I can do about your leg, geezer. My friends will be along shortly to haul you out.” He reaches the bottom and walks over to check out the man’s leg. He grabs the man’s leg gently, “This will hurt…”, he says, then quickly pops the dislocated knee back into place. “So, where are you from? Maybe we can give you a lift home. And are you still selling your wares?”


The old man responds to Yamtwit’s mid-leg-setting smalltalk with a prolonged, high-pitched scream.


Hearing the commotion (and noting that the goblin not only didn’t stay away from the pit, he entered), Hrud gestures towards Donovan, pantomiming being asleep and pointing at the hole in the ground.


“You’re welcome.” Donovan says to Lyra, then, “Glad to have you aboard, Sir Bo,” to the dwarf. Donovan looks at Hrud quizzically, then shakes his head emphatically, to indicate that he has no desire to sleep in that hole in the ground. Hearing the scream, he walks over to the edge of the pit to look in. “I’m afraid I don’t have any levitation spells or the like prepared Mr. Yamtwit. I think we have sufficient materials to make a stretcher. Then we could haul him out that way, perhaps.” He waves at the others, “Rant, do you think you and Hrud would be able to the man out of there?”

Winona looks around at the kobold corpses. “This may sound unpleasant, but if we toss the bodies in the hole, I think there are enough to mostly fill it up. Or make a ramp to get him out more easily…” She looks down in the pit, “That will also solve the problem of leaving the pit behind, and disposing of the kobolds. We’ll just have to be careful dropping them down there so that we don’t hit the old man or the goblin.”


Frantiska rides around, scanning the area for more assailants, and stopping to collect one of the sleeping kobolds, then finally returns satisfied that no more enemies are incoming. She climbs down off Thistledown and deposits the sleeping kobold near the back of the wagon. «Lyra, these kobolds seemed to organized to be a truely random attack. Are your powers sufficient to discern whether these attackers belonged to a larger tribe or group that might launch further attacks on travelers?»


Lyra shakes her head. «’ve never done anything that invasive, and I’m not inclined to start. Teldicia has experience with reading surface thoughts. Might that yield something if we question it?»


Donovan, overhearing the conversation, walks back to where Lyra and Frantiska are looking at the unconscious kobold. “I have a spell that can determine if they belong to a larger group, but not much else…” Donovan casts know faction, then stares at the kobold and shakes his head, “That simplified matters…” he mumbles sarcastically. “Lady Frantiska, the short answer to your question is yes. The kobold’s allegiances are fairly complicated, but it is definitely part of both an organized military unit and a larger kingdom, and it seems like that kingdom may be involved in some larger conspiracy…”


With no apparent objections to her idea forthcoming, Winona begins unceremoniously shoving kobolds into the pit. Sister Rye bounces over and glares at her reprovingly.

“Don’t look at me like that, Bunny,” Winona quips. “The Laws of Phlan clearly state that in instances of opposition to the law, violent social uprising, terrorism, or banditry that ‘the dead should be sown naked into linen sacks, transported in reusable coffins to cemeteries beyond the city walls, and buried without a coffin in a mass grave.’ Phlan, being the closest civilized city and the diocesan seat of Bishop Braccio clearly has legal jurisdiction over these lands, and these kobolds were clearly engaged in acts of banditry. We are already outside of the city, therefore transport is not necessary, so, as the law says, these criminals shall be ‘buried without a coffin in a mass grave.’” She shoves another kobold in, this time watching to make sure she does not strike Yamtwit or the old man. “In addition to fulfilling the law, in this case, throwing their bodies in serves several other useful purposes. One, filling up the whole quicker, since we clearly need to fill and cover it to get the wagon past. Two, getting rid of the bodies before they start rotting in the swamp water and become a risk of disease. And three, steadily raising the level of the bottom of the pit so that it is easier for our friends to get out.” She stomps off into the mud and returns with two more bodies to throw in. “Brother Rant, Master Dwarf, would you two care to help?”


Hrud unfastens the saddle from his pony, carefully setting aside any attached items – of which there are few – and walks over the hole. Setting the saddle down for a moment, he pulls up the rope and makes a wide loop with it. The barbarian then loops the rope around the saddle horn a couple times before running the loose end underneath the saddle and out through the rear rigging dee – a simple iron loop used for hooking saddle bags – on the left side, then back under the saddle and through the ring located on the right side. The remaining rope goes back under the saddle then out back and up, where the loose end is knotted to the rope a foot or so where the Hrud estimates the man’s head will come to.

Testing the knot and satisfied that it will hold the man’s weight, Hrud lowers the saddle into the hole. “Yen wong ngemu tali minangka nitih munggah, kang ngirim nggoleki.” he calls down to the goblin.


Bo is not familiar with the laws of Phlan, but he appreciates a well-reasoned argument when he hears one. He leaves off his mental plans for an oversize block and tackle so that he may assist dumping the dead (and maybe not-so-dead) kobolds into the hole.


The old man, somewhat recovered from the bout of screaming brought on by Yamtwit resetting his knee, watches in growing horror, suddenly bursts out screaming again on seeing the rain of kobold corpses. “No. No. You didn’t?!” The scream turns to weeping. “It’s bad enough that you attacked me, chased me back this way, and broke my leg so that I could not deliver the tribute from my village. Now you’ve killed them?! They’ll slaughter us all!”


The goblin looks completely startled, but whether from the dwarf and the priests dropping dead kobolds on him or the old man’s screaming is hard to tell. “Hey old coot, we didn’t attack you, that was just a misunderstanding, and you should watch where you are fleeing better. It’s not our fault you fell in this hole…” The remainder of the old man’s statement hits hits him then. “Wait? Tribute?” He points at the pack, “That’s all stuff you were going to give to the kobolds?” His shoulders slump, and, completely flustered, he begins to rant in his native tongue, “Merde! Yon kamloteoute pansei. Koboldsyo nan kwit manje aplike bèlsayo tout somurajteou?! Kobolds fouchèt bèl tankoubaouta fucka poukisa? Lèsaa, lanfèyo ale jis kapabou. Pou Spò komès renmen kobold dégoutant bezwenoupafèsa nou! Lanfè ale! Nou sou tonbe koboldsyo fuck poukisa tou nan?!”

When the saddle plops down next to him he looks up from his explosion to hear Hrud. “Oke. Aku bakal sijine coot lawas ing jaran-jog. Bebas kanggo nyelehake lawas kobold-fucker sanadyan.” He takes a few deep breaths then turns back to the old man. “Meat-head up there says he can haul you out if you sit on the saddle.” He cuts the straps on the man’s pack and grabs him under the armpits, “Here let me help you. Then you can explain your insanity to everyone else up there…”


Hrud hauls the old man up out of the pit and starts to untie the rope from the saddle. Winona’s call down to the goblin suddenly reminds him that Yamtwit is still down there. Quickly tying a smaller loop (sans saddle), lowers the rope back into the hole.


The strange bubble around the wagon finally collapses and Teldicia climbs out, clutching her head, blood trickling from her nose and ears. “Remind me not to do that again…” she mutters. She leans heavily against the side of the wagon, the veins in her forehead standing out and pulsing grotesquely.


Donovan looks at Teldicia in horror. He tears open his pack in a hurry and yanks out the silver rod, only to find it cold and lifeless. Damnit, I already used it today, he thinks. He puts a hand on the faux-elf-girl’s shoulder, “Just hang in there, the headache will pass…I think…”


Winona kicks another body into the whole, then yells “Sorry!” when it barely misses landing on Yamtwit’s head. “We’ll try to be more careful.”


Yamtwit ties the old man’s pack to the rope and then hops on the saddle to ride up, “Matur nuwun, Hrud.” He then runs over to Donovan, “Hey Whitehead, the old guy’s no peddler. Apparently he was delivering ‘tribute’ to the kobolds and is worried that since we stopped him from doing that, and killed a bunch of kobolds, that we might have just doomed his village.” Yamtwit looks genuinely concerned as he makes the report.

Frantiska listens as the goblin then looks at the kobolds lying dead around them. “Do we have any guess how large of a force these kobolds could field? Surely the loss of a force this size should be a notable loss for them. If the kobolds have been threatening and extorting money from the man’s village, we should find some way to help.”

Yamtwit looks even more upset, “Are you proposing we attack the Scything Claws?!”


Would it still be possible to deliver the tribute? I’m not sure we can take on a kingdom of several kobold tribes….


Donovan looks severely troubled. “This seems like a lose-lose situation all around. We’re definitely not in any position to be launching a full-scale assault on the kobold kingdom. We could offer to take the tribute to Greshlyrr for them, but, given what we’ve seen of the kobolds around here, I pretty sure that the kobolds would, at best, construe all of our possessions as tribute as well, or at worst, kill us all anyways.” He sighs and starts helping Winona roll kobold bodies into the pit. “I think our best option is just to take the man back to his village and hope for the best. Unless their home is very close, the few kobolds that got away are not going to be returning with reinforcements any time soon, and they have no reason to suspect that our actions in defending our caravan have anything to do with the tribute the man was carrying. If we drop him off and then make haste to Melvaunt, perhaps we can convince the city to dispatch a garrison to his village to guard against any possible kobold retaliation.” He chucks another body in the hole. “Or perhaps Frantiska and someone else of our party could take the two horses and ride back to inform Sir Justin at the tower of the increased kobold threat.”


Hrud’s brow furrows with the effort of producing an idea, “Apa yen orcs utawa hobgoblins njupuk upeti? Punapa kobolds nyerang wong-wong mau?”


Yamtwit smiles at Hrud’s cunning. “Big guy says we should frame some orcs for stealing the tribute…” he says to the others. Then, to Hrud, “Hrud, kowe duwe gagasan carane kita bisa pucuk iki ing sawetara orcs? Aku wis tau rampung pigura-proyek sadurunge.”


Lyra nods at Donovan’s suggestion, but still looks concerned. “Even if we got word to Melvaunt and the Tower, would they be able to mobilize to defend the village in time?” She wraps her arms around her knees, hugging them to her chest. «I’m not sure I can make it that far in my current condition, and I certainly can’t make it back. I haven’t been able to concentrate long enough to meditate properly for days.» Her Elven was whisper soft.


Donovan has to focus and use his eyes, more than his ears, to pick up on Lyra’s last statement, her words soft fluttering things like pastel-colored moths. He was pleased to find that he could understand them now, rather than just viewing them. «That’s why I suggested we send riders,» he says softly. “As slow as these oxen are, it shouldn’t take Frantiska and Thistledown more than an hour or so to ride back to the tower, then another hour or two to catch up. The priests of Helm seem to favor mounted patrols, so they should be able to offer at least a few men with similar speed. Given how slow a kobold on foot is, especially in this terrain, I would imagine that any retaliatory force would take a couple days at least to muster and deploy. Even as inexpert as we are, we are each more than a match for a half-dozen kobolds a piece, it should not take a particular large force to defend the man’s village—especially if they are experienced soldiers.” Donovan hopes that no one notices that his attempts to sound reassuringly strategic and knowledgeable is entirely guess-work.

Overhearing Yamtwit he perks up a bit, “Frame the orcs? That’s not a bad idea. Maybe we could hack the bodies up a bit more, leave one of the green blades behind?”


Lyra tilts her head to the side, thinking. “That might actually work, except for the part where several of them are in a pit already, and that Xvimlar probably wouldn’t actually leave one of Mace’s swords behind. Mother once brought me to a lecture series on entropy because my tutor had to cancel at the last minute. One of the seminars was on various theological perspectives of preservation and destruction. Of the Xvimlar it was said…” Lyra continues in her best scholarly monotone.

“Obey or die in pain and utter destruction. Enslave or slay the weak, and be sure that they know their suffering is in Xvim’s name and by his will. Cause pain and fearful obedience in others whenever prudent. Be a cruel, heartless tyrant, and Xvim shall be pleased. Slay the priests of other gods whenever you can do so without being identified by others. Capture tyrants and take them to senior clergy members to be delivered unto Xvim. Capture all wizards and bring their magic to the church-or bring them to Xvim’s most senior servants so that they can be transformed into creatures who will do service to Xvim as guardians. Spread fear of Xvim over all the lands. Destroy whatever and whoever bars his will and see that word of his power spreads but that no one survives to describe your deeds in detail except mortals who worship him. Destroy all witnesses to secret acts, but leave alive survivors to tell of Xvim’s power when spreading casual destruction. There is a delight in destruction-feel it, and indulge in it.”

Lyra looks thoughtful for a moment, tapping her chin with a finger. “So … significant leaders and wizards would be captured if possible, priests would likely die screaming, and there would be either no witnesses or a few properly terrorized witnesses depending on circumstances.”


Frantiska shakes her head, looking utterly disgusted with this train of thought, “Orcs may be despicable creatures, but Selune teaches that there are always exceptions, and using deceit to start a war between two questionable parties is not exactly honorable behavior. I would rather face the threat of a head-on assault on the kobolds, knowing that we are the ones facing that risk, than deal with the fall-out and likely death of children and non-combatants that would result from starting some sort of internecine war between the two races in this area. I would also have to object to any ‘hacking up bodies’ to orchestrate such a conflict. It is one thing to kill a group of kobolds that attacked us in an act of self-defense and then bury them properly in a common grave as Winona suggests, it would be quite another to mutilate their bodies and leave them lying out in the open as some kind of false witness.”

Yamtwit translates for Hrud. “Cahaya panggung wadon ngandika yen pigura proyek bakal ala lan matèni anak. Putih sirah ngandika kita ngirim mung ninggalake konco ijo pedhang. Wong wadon enom ngandika kita ngirim mutilate badan, nyiksa imam, lan njupuk di pun cekel kedhaftar Piandel.” He then raises his hands, “I think we should take a vote. Everyone in favor of blaming this mess on someone else raise your hands…”


Hrud starts to speak several times, only to swallow his words before actually gathering the courage to speak up, trusting Yamtwit translate:

“«I ask questions and get in trouble. A few more questions will not make things worse for me.

How many children will the orcs and kobolds kill if they’re already busy killing each other? How many will they kill if they are not?

What about the girl we rescued back in the city? Those animals could have been off dying somewhere else instead of attacking her.

One spirit says ‘do what I say’, another spirit says ‘do not do it’. Who do we listen to? Even if I do not worship one spirit or the other?

One group fires blindly into the city, trying to hurt people. The other kidnaps travelers and tortures horses. Let them waste their lives on each other for a while.»"

The barbarian raises his hand.


Teldicia, looking exhausted and still trying to staunch the bleeding from her nose, quietly raises her hand.

Rant seeing Hrud’s discomfort, translates for the others before Yamtwit can mangle his words. Then, to Hrud, “Aku pracaya Frantiska ngangap kanggo anak saka kobolds lan orcs. Sampeyan salah sing wong diwasa sing kasar lan kasar lan pantes Tyr kang kaadilan. Nanging rama dosa ngirim ora bisa payed dening turunane. Setelan ala mungsuh ala liyane mung bisa beget luwih ala. Ora ana siji blaming sampeyan kanggo pikiraken, kanca Hrud.”


Donovan raises his hand, “If it saves a village, and keeps us alive, who cares if it’s fair to the orcs.”

The three Tyrrans, suddenly interested, walk over. Winona nods along to Lyra and Donovan’s reasoning, but when Yamtwit calls for a show of hands, they all vote nay. “I’m sorry,” Winona says, “you’re suggestion isn’t a bad one one from a practical standpoint, but Frantiska is right, even though adventurers are given the right to meet out immediate justice in the defense of themselves and others, the law is quite clear that similar punishment be set aside for instances of false testimony. Tyr and the Council require an accurate accounting of violence that is meeted out in the service of the city.” She sighs, then adds, “And, so long as they are not actively engaged in violence against peaceful citizens of Phlan, the Xvimlar are still are provided equal protections under the law…though with a healthy dose of suspicion of prior malice.”


Yamtwit’s lips curl in consternation, “That’s four in favor, and four opposed. Dwarf? Lyra-girlie? Looks like you’re the tie-breakers…”

Frantiska shakes her head again, “And if they each vote in a different direction?”


Donovan looks over at the peddler, “In that case, maybe we should ask the person who is most affected by this situation to cast the tie-breaking vote…”


“Settin’ the kobolds and orcs against each other is a fine plan, if ya think it will work. Them’s that remains afterward should be easier to wipe out.” Bo spits in the pit. “I’ve got no love lost on either side.” Bo considers it a victory whenever someone isn’t attacking dwarves or their allies.


No wonder the poor man ran when we said we were adventurers, Lyra thought rubbing her temples. “The several blocks between the Xvimlar temple and the road would be caught between the two sides, not to mention all of those settlements we passed before we entered the swamp proper, and noncombatants on both sides. Both sides will escalate matters to make an example of their opposition and to extend their influence, to the detriment of all those who happen to be nearby. We’ve seen the sort of violence the Xvimlar are capable of.” Lyra shakes her head. “I will not bring that upon these villagers. There has to be a better way.”


Yamtwit looks at Lyra and Bo, suddenly realizing that he miscounted. “So, five against five. I guess that wasn’t so useful. So what do you think we should do?” He says, looking at Lyra since she seems to have a handle on the psychology of their perceived enemies.


The old man, sitting on the lip of the pit, glares at all of you with a mixture of rage and incredulity. “What’re you all yammering on about?! There’s got t’ be at least sixty dead kobolds here. If you want to help, how ‘bout you take your murderous hobo selves and go kick the rest of ’em where they live so they’ll stop bothering my village once and for all?!”


“Starting hostilities between the two puts too many innocent at risk. Let the kobolds take this for what it was — a failed caravan raid. The more pressing concern is getting that tribute where it needs to go, or defending the village.” Lyra glances over at the angry old man. “And it seems the one representative we have is in favor of the latter. Shall we see how much he knows about the kobold strength in this area, and get reinforcements from Iniarv’s Tower?”


Winona grins, “That sounds more like it. Let’s go smash some kobolds!” When Ryesha looks up at her sternly, she sputters a bit, “You know…cause they’re orchestrating raids on merchant caravans and are clearly criminals…”

Rye whispers something under her breath which sounds like, “and you’re supposed to be teaching me…”

Donovan shrugs, “So the question now is do we go to the village and wait for the kobolds? Or do we launch a frontal assault?” It is clear from his face that he doesn’t think either of those is a good idea.


Frantiska looks at the old man, “Where is your village, Sir? Is it far from here?” Then, to her companions, “Thistledown has been straining at the reins all day with trying to keep pace with the oxen. I’ll ride back to the tower and inform Sir Justin of the situation. You take the man to his village and I will either catch up, or meet you there.”

Yamtwit nods vigorously, “Rast could use the exercise too, so we’ll go too. Oh, and you all should finish cleaning up the bodies, which will give us a head start and make catching up easier.” Then, to Hrud, “Mangga supaya mripat ing Bobbers kanggo kula.”


Hrud watches the elf and the goblin riding off together – something the barbarian is pretty sure he’s never seen – then turns to stare at the not-quite-a-horse staring at him. It suddenly occurs to him that he’s never handled a donkey before. Cattle, oxen, horses, goats, sheep, a couple of llamas and, one time, even a camel … but never a donkey …

Gently, so as not to startle the beast, Hrud reaches out and takes one of the reigns hanging off the shaggy neck. Giving a soft tug, he leads the animal over to join his pony at the back of the wagon.


When they have gone, Winona turns back to the pile of dead kobolds. “Alright, decision made. Lets get this cleaned up and get moving.” She and the other priests start disposing of the bodies as quickly as possible, Winona and Rant throwing them in the pit while Rye grabs the shovel from the wagon and starts throwing dirt down on top of them to fill in the gaps.

Donovan helps the old man up onto the driver’s bench of the wagon, then begins helping chuck bodies in the hole (conveniently ignoring those that drowned in the mud or otherwise are sufficiently buried for his tastes).


It takes some twenty minutes for the you to round up the remaining kobold corpses and fill in the pit enough to be able to drive over it, by which point Frantiska and Yamtwit are far out of sight. Also by which point, the old man’s initial fright and anger towards your group seems to have abated from glaring and shouting to quietly seething and moaning about his leg.


With the kobolds disposed of, Donovan climbs up in the back of the wagon and pulls out the stack of spellbooks (his, Frantiska’s, Teldicia’s, Finnot’s, and Lyra’s notes from her mother) that he has been working with for the last few days. He flips through the books furiously as they ride towards the village, copying notes into his own. “Lyra, Teldicia,” he asks, “have you had much exposure to the arts of conjuration?”

Winona perks up at the mention of the subject. “What’s this?”

Donovan continues, “It seems to me, that, if our goal is to defend a village against a horde of kobolds. The tactical application of a few of the less common spells from the Book of Finnot—opening a gate for a number of lemures into the middle of their forces for instance—might provide us with a substantial advantage. I have some significant experience with localized protective circles. I have a theory that, with the combined magical strength of our group, we could ward the entire village with a circle of protection, thus allowing the use of the fiends in the defense of the town, while warding them without and preventing them from harming the villagers…”

Winona’s eyes light up, “Fiends from the Nine Hells are fundamentally lawful entities, despite their destructive nature. So long as you are very precise in the wording of your commands and take proper precautions, they, especially the lemures called by Finnot’s spell, could certainly be used in such a manner.” She begins expounding animatedly and at length on her own reading of Finnot’s Book, the nature lesser fiends, the nature of planar gates, laws regarding the enforcement of extra-planar contracts, the history and tactics of military uses of lemures, and various rituals for defending against extra-planar threats.

Rye looks utterly terrified by the direction of the conversation. She scurries to the front of the wagon to resume her sewing and tries not to listen to her elder sister realistically discussing the summoning and binding of devils.


Teldicia moves over and sits down by Donovan. “Rietta and I played around with ritual summoning once or twice. She was pretty into the stuff, but I could never really get past the sacrifice bit. We tried to go through a whole summoning once, but I ended up getting sick and having to bail pretty quickly when we got to the part where we had to scalp the subject and break all their limbs. I don’t know if Rietta ever got around to finishing it herself.” She hands a rolled scrap of parchment to Donovan, looking a little sheepish as she does so. “Here are her notes on the experiments. I know that it can be done alone, but is better with a group of up to six. Anyone can participate, but it must be lead by one versed in the arts. It always requires a sacrifice, but theoretically can be done cleanly, and is usually good for a couple of days, though you might have to give the entity a little leeway if you want it to stick around longer and not eat you…”


Donovan looks a little worried as he takes the scroll from Teldicia. Donovan looks at Winona, “So…How does Tyr feel about torture? I assume ritual execution for the purpose of casting spells is definitely off the table?”

Winona shrugs, “It really depends on the jurisdiction you’re in and what crime the offender committed. The Law is Tyr and Tyr is the Law, we say. The Code of New Phlan only allows for four possible modes punishment: a day in the stocks, for minor, non-violent offenses; exile by means of being thrown over the wall at night, unarmed, for most violent offenses; death by hanging for treason against the Council of Phlan; and execution, by whatever means are readily available, for violent acts committed by a monstrous native against a registered citizen of New Phlan. Hillsfar to the south has only a single mode of punishment, trial by combat in the arena, regardless of the crime. In addition, all performance of ‘Necromancy’ (which is so vaguely defined that many judges have interpreted it to mean all magic) in Hillsfar is punishable by such.”

“However…” she continues, in a fairly bored-sounding monotone, as if not particularly uninterested in the topic, “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 Teldicia described, 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.”

She raises an eyebrow at Teldicia, “Melvaunt law does not make any specific prohibition on the use of magics of any kind, except when using in the committing of another crime. There is no reason, within the law, that the use of the condemned in the casting of such spells during the rightful execution of their sentence would not be permitted…” Ryesha and Rant both look at Winona with some distaste at the implication of her overly helpful and precise answer.


Lyra gapes, speechless at the conversation going on around her. “Unacceptable! Even if we were able to successfully protect the village from the lemures, Finnot’s work was flawed, and it can be inferred that he fell victim to his own portal at the time of completion. Nor will protective wards around the city assist the rest of the countryside in which the lemures will then be unleashed.”


“Yes, but surely between the four of us,” Donovan says looking at Winona, Lyra, and Teldicia, “we can improve upon Finnot’s flawed workings, and once the battle with the kobolds is over, the kobolds should have done sufficient harm to the lemures that dispatching the creatures should be minimally troublesome…”

Donovan tentatively opens the scroll that Teldicia handed to him and reads it quietly to himself. His eyes widen and he asks, hesitantly, “So…Winona…does Melvaunt have any laws for which the proper punishment would be having your eyes plucked out, then being hung upside down and bisected vertically while still alive?”

Winona’s face goes white and she simply shakes her head.

“Didn’t think so…” Donovan carefully rolls up the scroll and tucks it into his bag. “Let’s nix that idea…” Maybe with some additional research I can come up with something less gruesome, he thinks to himself.


“Mother’s lesson on what happens when a dimensional gateway intersects with a living body using a grapefruit was … unpleasantly enlightening.” Lyra shakes her head. “I barely approve of killing in self defense, and you would ask that of me?”


About a mile further up the road to the east, the ground finally begins to rise and dry out, entering the Moonwatch Hills. The road follows a low cleft, with the grassy hills rising on either side. The land flanking the road looks cultivated, and split-rail fences occasionally demarcate sections. The pastoral scene is less than idyllic though, as small piles of bones or stones have been set up as grave-markers along the road, and many of the fields show signs of having been burned (some recently).

The old man directs Hrud to a small dirt track veering off to the left of the road, north into the hills. “Our village is just over the second rise there,” he says pointing. He waves at a young boy of maybe nine years who crosses the path, driving a small heard of goats between pastures. The boy waves back with his crook, but keeps his other hand close to the crossbow slung across his back.


As they ride along, a thought continues to trouble Hrud. He gently picks up the hammer (so as not to startle the excitable old man), which immediately starts to glow blue, and lays it across his lap. Turning his head to where Bo sits in the wagon, he addresses the Dwarf.

“Hvor lang tid vil det tage en gruppe af Kobolds at grave et hul så stort som den ene tilbage der i vejen?”


Bo gives the barbarian a curious glance, unsure why he decides to speak Dwarvish some times and not others. “De mutts kan sikkert grave det op i en halv time, hvis de lugter noget, der interesserer dem.”


“Så det ville være muligt for dem at grave sådan et hul og ikke ses af de soldater, der patruljerer denne vej.” Hurd says, half to himself, as he turns back around and setting the hammer down.


“Ja, de er halv hund … og alle cur.”


Lyra looks around at the scorched fields and scattered gravestones. “Is this what they do even with paying tribute, or what they’ve done to encourage paying it?”


The old man nods. “A bit of both, Miss,” he says, with still a hint of anger in his voice, perhaps more directed at the kobolds than you now. “Greshlyrr and his people are far from the only raiders out here. We fought the kobos for well over a year, but they outnumbered us fifty to one. We sent word to Melvaunt for help, but it never came. Eventually all our young men were either dead, or too injured to fight back. The Knocker King said he’d let us live and keep our land if we deliver tribute. If we’re late, they come and set fire to our fields or our homes as a reminder.” He waves a hand at a clean skull resting on a pile of rocks. “The graves are mostly travelers, caught by orcs, or goblins, or other beasties less organized than the kobos. The markers are our work, we try to bury travelers that we find along the road—less likely to attract packs of dogs or vermin that way…also reminds other folks on the road to keep a lookout.”


Lyra’s eyes scan the countryside, counting markers. “Undead, packs of dogs, the kobolds … we’ve seen no shortage of examples of the need for caution on the road. Thank you. For seeing that they were taken care of.”

Fifty to one, and we’ll see how large the village is soon enough. But we’ve made it further than many.


Gildenglade_Map.jpgYou crest the hill to get your first glimpse of the village—some twenty-odd buildings, mostly flanking the one trail, with a small bond on your left as you ride in, and a single well at the north end of the town. The collapsed remains of at least one recently burned home are visible, and the grassy hill to the north shows signs of a sizable battle—the ground churned and dried-out mud with great scorched patches and numerous makeshift grave-markers like those seen along the road. The town seems sparsely populated, but busy, with active fields and sheep pastures to the south of the trail, and numerous people going about the tasks of daily life. You see several women, children, and elderly men, but not a single male between the ages of 12 and 45.


Lyra looks around the valley, frowning. Sight lines for archers or casters from any of the surrounding hills, which also serve to obscure any approaching forces. “Having plans to evacuate the village seems prudent. Being able to fight an army here would require holding the hilltops, and we don’t have the fortifications or manpower necessary for that. It simply isn’t defensible against archers or casters. The hills, fences, and ditches will buy us some time as they move into position.”

Lyra chews on her lower lip slightly in thought, her gaze sliding over Teldicia, Donovan, and the trio of clerics. “Given that the terrain benefits archers and casters outside the town firing in … I think I’m in favor of planning to lure them into the village and move everyone to safety elsewhere.”

h4. Hrud

As the wagon pulls to a stop in the village, Hrud hops down and makes his way over to Rant and begins to speak in earnest. After some gesturing, which include him pointing variously to the chariot on the back of the wagon, the old man, the rest of the village, and himself, Rant nods his understanding and turns to relay the message to the rest of the party.

“Hrud doesn’t want to fight an entire kobold army if it can be helped, but wonders if the kobolds will scatter should we kill their leader – perhaps by luring him to the village with the promise of this chariot as his tribute. He thinks that maybe the kobold leader will show up in person to ride it back to their home, and that we could ambush him here – that he might only bring a personal guard for protection. Those villagers unable or unwilling to fight may want to get out of here, depending on how long this will take – sending the message and waiting for their arrival. What do you think?”


Donovan look of concern and consternation returns, “Fifty to one?! We’re talking a force of thousands. We might have to resort to the summoning backup option…obviously the non-human-sacrificing version…”

Donovan sighs, “I’m all for the evacuate and ambush plan, but…” He holds up one finger, “How do we get the message to the kobold leader that he should come get the tribute himself?” He holds up another finger, “And what do we do if the kobold leader shows up with more than token protection? There are rumors that Greshlyrr employers casters and has trolls for body guards. Also, presumably he’ll want his ‘subjects’ to be present when he comes to collect the tribute…and might get suspicious if he sees an empty town.”

Ryesha climbs out of the wagon, “What if we just take the first part of that plan. When the kobolds come, hide all the animals and just give them the chariot, loaded with the other undelivered tribute, and tell them that the villagers had no way of getting the chariot that they found to Greshlyrr, and that the messenger,” she looks at the old man, “fell into one of their traps on the road.”

Donovan nods, “That might work. We’re not exactly using the chariot, and it is taking up a ton of space in the wagon…”


As Rant translates for Hrud, the barbarian’s face becomes clouded with frustration. He speaks with the cleric, who then turns to the others “Hrud asks: You want to give the ‘dog-faces’ a fancy chariot and let them go? He wants to know how this helps the village other than to buy off their oppressors for a short while. I think his fear is that the kobolds might demand more tribute from them after finding such a fine gift. If they can’t already afford to feed trolls with the pots and pans they’re collecting now, they’ll certainly have enough money to do so if they decide to sell the chariot.”

Hrud adds a few more remarks in his own tongue, after which Rant adds, “Maybe if we put it somewhere that would be difficult for them to retrieve and not leave it here in the village? We could attack them when they’re in a precarious position. Nobody forgets a chariot in a place like this, anyway.”


Donovan points at the pond, “What if we roll the chariot out into the middle—or as far out as we can get with it still being visible peaking out—of that pond. If they try to retrieve it, they’ll be up to their knees in mud, presumably, and hauling it out should take a significant amount of time and effort, during which they will be distracted.”

He points to the southern ridge, “We should put ourselves and as many villagers as we can get weapons for on that hill, it has a clean line of sight to the pond, and It looks like there is some tree cover around it that we could hide archers in. Frantiska has some spells that can turn pretty much anyone into a competent archer, and several people at that. If we have a night to prepare, I should be able to load up with enough sleep spells to drop fifty-odd kobolds, albeit not all at once. We’ve also seen that Yamtwit’s entanglements can affect a huge area. If we pin the kobold force down by the pond, so that we control the high ground, use magic to incapacitate as many as possible, and keep up as much fire as we can, we might live through such an encounter…assuming no Trolls or opposing spellcasters that is…”


Hrud’s gaze falls on the graves of what he assumes to be victims of the kobold predations upon the village. “«Does your god let you raise the dead?»” he asks Rant.

Meanwhile, back on the road with the Elf and the Goblin…


As soon as they are away from the group, Frantiska gives Thistledown free rein, allowing the horse to gallop full speed back the way they came, she is quite astonished to find the goblin’s big wolf easily keeping up with, even outpacing, her charger. After allowing the spirited filly to tire a bit, Frantiska and Yamtwit slow their mounts to a fast trot.

“Tell me, goblin,” Frantiska says once they have settled the pace a bit, “how is it that you are with us? I’m afraid I was out for quite a long time. My companions seem to accept your presence, but I’m quite surprised to see one of your kind in our company.”

Though her tone clearly indicates that if it were up to her, he would not be included, Yamtwit does not seem at all offended. “Well lady, I grew up a member of the Scabeater tribe, on the outskirts of Phlan. My tribe lived mostly in the forest outside town where we were mostly farmers—its hard to get by as a scavenger with so much competition. We were never good at it though, and most years we starved, especially with the orcs and ogres taking their cut in exchange for not pulping us. I was a sweet child, always clinging to me mudder’s legs and gnawing on my daddum’s ears. I had six brothers, Corntwit, Beantwit, Peartwit, Peatwit, Mintwit, and the youngest Nutwit, and a sister, Sasha. I liked to play stab the cat, and dangle-dongs, and skull bowling with my mates, and help out in the garden. But, like I said, we never managed to really grow much. In my twelfth winter, we were really short on food, all we had a was a few over-ripe apples and some salted lemming. A big snowstorm blew through, and we were buried in our hovel for three weeks. By the end of the second week, all that was left was nine of the lemmings—but there were ten of us. Mudder and Daddum said that us oldest got to have the lemmings, and then we’d eat Nutwit since he was little and weak. That didn’t seem such a great idea to me, I liked Nutwit, so I gave him my lemming and said that they should eat me instead as I had more meat on me. Then…”

“That’s all very fascinating,” Frantiska interjected, “but I was more wondering about how you came to be with us, specifically, not your whole life story…”

“Right, I’m getting to that.” Yamtwit continued. “Anyways, there I was, about to be eaten by Mudder and Daddum and Corntwit and Beantwit and Peartwit and Peatwit and Mintwit and Nutwit and Sasha. Oh, and me Granmudder. When all of a sudden, this stalk of wheat bursts up through the floor of our house and grows and grows until its a big old stalk of wheat, without a bit o’ scab on it, and I was like ‘Hey! Look at that stalk of wheat!’ So we ate the wheat instead, and then another grew, and another. We kept cutting them down and they kept growing, and it fed us all through the winter. When we finally got out of the snow-bank, we found that close to half the tribe had died, frozen or starved. I went to our shaman, Old Beerdunce, and told him about the wheat that had saved me from getting eaten, and he was like ’That’s some crazy shit! You should go ask a human, they’re into that.’ So I snuck into Phlan and asked Madame Esmerelda, the old gypo-lady, and she told me that wheat was the sign of Chauntea, the goddess of farming, and I was like ‘Woh! There is a god that’s into farming?!’ So I went back and told Old Beerdunce and he said that since I was the one that didn’t get eaten, that must mean that the farm goddess liked me and that I should be her priest. So I went out to our poke-field and tried praying to this Chauntea, and BOOM! Up sprouted a big old bunch of wheat, ready for harvest. So everyone decided that I was the new shaman, and Old Beerdunce became my apprentice, and we all started worshipping Chauntea. We grew so much food that we had plenty to give to the orcs when they came to pulp us, and to give to the ogres when they came wanting some—though they weren’t so much into the veggies so we started raising donkeys and pigs and worgs too—and even some left over, so I started taking it in to the town and selling it, and since everyone in town was hungry too, they would actually give us stuff in exchange for the food (rather than just not beating us), which was quite exciting. Then I learned how to make cheese and butter by refining the milk we took from our donkeys and our worgs, and it turned out that the people in Phlan would give us even more for the cheese than they would for the plants…”

“Is this going somewhere?”

“Right! So I was on my way to Phlan with another load of cheese to sell. At this point I spent most of my time hauling stuff back and forth, as I’d found that the selling stuff was lots of fun, so I let Old Beerdunce be head shaman again and left him to the growing stuff. So I was on my way to Phlan with another load of cheese to sell, and I saw your man fighting a bunch of gnashers. Mind you, Rast hates gnashers, don’t you Rast. And your oxen were running away with your wagon with the little girl in it and no one driving. So we ran and caught your wagon, and brought it back. Then we came back and found you all smashed and beat up. So I used a little of Chauntea’s magic to fix your friends, then gave Mr. Rant some butter to fix you all up. So he rubbed you down with the butter, and you were mostly better, but still asleep. Then Whitehead agreed to buy all of my cheese, at 20% over my usual retail price, and told me how you were on your way to Melvaunt to sell lots of artwork, and I was like ‘Woh! You sell stuff too?!’ So I came along, to make sure Whitehead didn’t get scammed by the people buying his art they way he did when he bought my cheese…”

At the mention of ‘rubbed you down with butter’, Frantiska’s face goes completely white, her mouth becomes a hard line, and she kicks Thistledown back into a full gallop. When Yamtwit catches up, she slows again, and looks down at him briefly, “Thank you…” she says through clenched teeth.

Less than an hour after leaving the wagon, the two ride into the courtyard of Iniarv’s Tower at full speed and quickly describe the events with the old man and the kobolds to Sir Justin and his men.


A page leads Frantiska and Yamtwit to the third floor of the tower where Sir Justin has his offices. Sir Justin waits patiently while Frantiska describes the situation. “I’m afraid that we have our own duties and only a small garrison,” he says, “but I can spare one patrol to aid the village, and I will send a rider to Phlan, though the Council has not previously been willing to spare any of their soldiery for defending outlying settlements.” He waves to a heavily-armored priests who has been waiting just outside the door in the chapel. “Watcher. Please assemble a standard patrol immediately to accompany the Lady Frantiska to the west. You are to stand guard over the village until such time as the kobold threat has passed, or you are relieved by official militias from either Phlan or Melvaunt.”

The priest bows, utters a “Yes Sir!”, and clanks down the stairs to assemble his men.

“We will increase patrols on the eastern road,” Sir Justin continues. “Watcher Benjamin should have the patrol assembled shortly. May Helm’s eye watch over you in this endeavor.”


Frantiska thanks Sir Justin, then hurries down the stairs and outside to make sure that Thistledown is ready for another hard ride.

Yamtwit makes a stop back by the kitchen to chat with the cook some more before they ride out.


Roughly ten minutes after Frantiska and Yamtwit step outside the priest and four soldiers are armed, mounted, and waiting by the gates. Another, less heavily armored rider goes racing out of the gates past them and up the road towards Phlan to the west.


Five more men does not seem like much when faced with such hordes, Frantiska thinks, but they will have to do. She spurs Thistledown out of the gates ahead of the Watcher and his men. “Come on Yamtwit, we’ve got a good ten more miles to cover today, and a village to save…”

Yamtwit climbs on Rast and pats the wolf affectionately, «Sorry Rast, I know this has been a lot of riding, I’ll make sure to fix you a proper supper when we get to the village.»
«You better» the wolf growls.

Donovan's Diary: Entry 5
10 Eleint, Year of the Maidens

Magic is essentially an attempt by the spellcaster to harness the inherent chaos of creation. Eventually, chaos alters the spellcaster — physically, mentally, and spiritually — in a profound manner.

We have just overcome a rather large contingent of kobolds, and are en route to a village that we believe may soon be under duress by more of the creatures, so I am taking the time to write this now.

Last night it was discovered that we could “cure” the headaches, hallucinations, and strange powers that have been manifesting in the group, through use of an enchanted silver rod which we acquired near the site of the planar gate in the Slums. By way of experimentation, I allowed myself to be cured, and then had Lyra make contact with my mind to re-establish the powers. The ability to ameliorate the mental deterioration in this way should make learning to control these abilities less hazardous.

This morning, Lyra and I found Frantiska fading in and out of our reality. Apparently brought on by her headaches, she has manifested the ability to translocate in the same manner as Lyra, though she described a variety of unnatural hellscapes as the endpoints of her dislocation, leading me to believe that she was somehow traversing the planes, rather than just space. We were forced to “heal” her, as I described above, and in so doing she seemed to regain much of her mental composure lost over the few days as well—as if she could somehow not remember, or had mystically overcome, the horrors that she experienced in our journey to date. The ability of the rod to cure not only physical wounds, but also this strange psychic malady, and psychological trauma will be most useful.

As we journeyed today, I had a long talk with Lyra about the nature and workings of her Scion-ic abilities. We still have no idea how her abilities are spreading to the rest of us, but she was able to teach me some control over my new senses, such that I was able to see clearly with my hands, feel her form from a distance, and perceive meaning from the colors and shapes of her spoken words.

Summoning_Circle_Rough_Sketch_by_samuraXIV.jpgIn my studies of Finnot’s text this morning and yestereve, I have come upon numerous notes regarding the summoning of creatures. Which, it seems, is very similar to the art of translocation, particularly as it regards the breaching of planar boundaries. Basically a transverse translocation, the casting of a summoning involves reverse transubstantiation of a being from another realm into our own. Like the creation of gates, this planar transit, usually of limited duration, is accomplished by means of a summoning circle (sometimes referred to as a magical circle, a yantra, a rune circle, a mandala, the circle of the elements, or other names).

Sister Winona, yet another maiden in my company, has also provided quite a surprising wealth of information on the subject. It seems she has made an extensive and in-depth study of diabology—the study of Hell and the creatures therein—and is quite the sage on such matters.

The common Corpus Hermeticum contains many published techniques for casting a circle, and many groups and individuals have their own unique methods. The common feature of these practices is that a boundary is traced around the working area. Most traditions say that one must trace around the circle deosil (sunward) three times. Finnot’s Book, however, suggests a single circle to be inscribed in the widdershins (an opposite course).

summoningcircle.jpgCircles may or may not be physically marked out on the ground, and a variety of elaborate patterns for circle markings can be found in the common grimoires and magical manuals. Most require the inscription to bear names of power (either the true name of a specific being to be summoned, or else the common names of angelic beings or demons of rank who can extend the power to command the obedience of other transplanar entities). Such markings, or a simple unadorned circle, may be drawn in chalk or salt, or indicated by other means such as with a cord.

The four cardinal directions are often prominently marked, such as with four candles. In ceremonial magic traditions the four directions are commonly related to the four arch-solars of Celestia1 , or the four classical elements, or four associated names of the greater gods. Other ceremonial traditions have candles between the quarters, i.e. in the north-east, north-west and so on. Often, an incantation will be recited stating the purpose and nature of the circle, often repeating an assortment of divine and angelic names.

A circle is typically nine feet in diameter, though the size can vary depending on the purpose of the circle, and the preference of the caster. Some magical practitioners use the common ceremonial colour attributions for their “quarter candles”: yellow for Air in the east, red for Fire in the south, blue for Water in the west and green for Earth in the north (though these attributions differ according to geographical location and individual philosophy).

paranormal_activity_3_satanic_occult_triangle_symbol.gifA summoning will require the casting of a proper ritual circle for protection, and construction of a thaumaturgic triangle2 outside of the perimeter of the ritual circle, in the northern quarter. A thaumaturgic triangle is simply an equilateral triangle drawn within a circle, all three sides of the triangle touching the edges of the circle. Inscribed in the enclosed points outside the triangle, inside the circle, but not touching any of the lines of the triangle or circle, will be custom incantations tailored to the type of summoning that will be conducted. There are many other valid types of containment, but this is the most popular in traditional schools.

The barrier is believed to be fragile, so that leaving or passing through the circle would weaken or dispel it. This is referred to as “breaking the circle”. It is generally advised that practitioners do not leave the circle unless absolutely necessary.

In order to leave a circle and keep it intact, a door must be cut in the energy of the circle, normally on the East side. Whatever was used to cast the circle is used to cut the doorway, such as a sword, staff or athame, a doorway is “cut” in the circle, at which point anything may pass through without harming the circle. This opening must be closed afterwards by “reconnecting” the lines of the circle.

The circle is usually closed by the practitioner after they have finished by drawing in the energy with the athame or whatever was used to make the circle including their hand—usually in a widdershins (that is counter-clockwise) fashion, though in Finnot’s Book he uses the inverse deosil for the act of closing. This is called releasing the circle. The term “opening” is often used, representing the idea the circle has been expanded and dissipated rather than closed in on itself.

Here is an example of a fully rendered circle of summoning circle:


1 The four arch-solars are said to be:

  1. Barachiel, who bears messages across the planes.
  2. Sealtiel, who guards the boundaries of the planes.
  3. Zaphkiel, who sees all things in all realms.
  4. Raziel, who shatters the barriers of the Hells.

2 Remember that anything with a “hollow” or open space can be used to house or contain a conjured spirit; therefore you do not ever want to perform a summoning in a home, or within a permanently inscribed thaumaturgic triangle. Allowing the possibility of an entity taking up residence where you live can be a bad idea. It is also strongly recommended against binding spirits into portable items with the intent of keeping them indefinitely. They will rebel and seek your undoing. If one ever comes across one of these items, it is recommended to not touch them and leave the area immediately. Often times these entities or spirits have been tortured, abused, and forced into compliance by strong willed practitioners and they are not going to be friendly…