Ruins of Adventure

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…

The Third Party: Session 1 (GMs notes)
In which another boat docks in Phlan and some newcomers turn right around and leave again.

11 Eleint

The port is re-opened and The Lady Gray, a large three-masted schooner makes port in Phlan, unloading another large crew of adventurers.

Dimitri, Grimnir, Traith, Moses, and Faust stand around in the town square, looking lost, and examine the posted notices. They latch on to:

  1. notice about missing council agents in Valhigen Graveyard
  2. notice about a “special mission of particular sensitivity”

They ask around about the people missing in the Graveyard, latch on to news that Lyra had brought back a report about the graveyard 3 days prior, and start looking for Lyra.

Their search for Lyra leads them to the temple of Tyr, where they meet Brother Groans and learn that they need to speak to Sister Theymr.

Unable to enter the ladies dormitories, they find and ask Sisters Erol and Abyr, then recruit Martha to go into the temple and ask after her.

Finally they meet Sister Theymr who informs them that Lyra can teleport, and that she left for Melvaunt with a large party.

They decide to go ask the Council Clerk about Lyra, find out that she is the under-clerk’s daughter, fill out lots of paperwork, and decide to pursue the “special mission” for Councilman Mondaviak.

They meet Karistos Mondaviak at the Bitter Blade, again recruiting Martha as a messenger so as to appear “discreet”. They agree to travel to Hillsfar to find his estranged elder son, Ruldolfo, in exchange for a grant of lands, vineyards, and a keep from his family’s former holdings near Phlan. They also meet his daughter, Karistina, and his twelfth wife, Hannabella (who is the same age as his daughter).

Mondaviak’s younger son, Markos, offers the party the same boons as his father, plus an extra 500 gold crowns to NOT bring back his elder brother, so that he might inherit his father’s council seat. Markos also gives them a note of introduction for Herr Professor Swipe to take them on as students at the Training Hall, and palms 5 platinum into Dimitri’s pocket as a down-payment.

The party runs after the recently-resurrected Nat Wyler, and hitch a ride to Phlan on Valkur’s Wake.

12 Eleint

The party sails to Hillsfar, learning a good bit about the magic-hating, xenophobic town from Nat. Nat also offers them a cut if they agree to “recruit” people to become adventurers in Phlan.

They arrive in Hillsfar about nightfall. Two professors of “medicine” from Gothmagog University leap aboard the ship as soon as they dock, screaming for Nat to cast off and leave immediately. They explain that “The Plague” (which they go on to describe in sufficient detail to be the Bubonic Plague) has appeared in Hillsfar.

The party also learn from Professors Drummon and Aiderns that Rudolfo was a student of theirs and kept lodgings at the Drowned Rat, a public house near the docks. They ignore the professors warnings and head for the pub.

They see a fight between two roving gangs of torch-wielding “children” (actually mixed dwarves, halflings, goblins, and a few actual children, since everyone under 4’ is a legal minor in Hillsfar).

The innkeep informs them that Rudolfo is not only behind in his rent, but has not been seen in close to two months. He lets them ransack Rudolfo’s room (all they find is an old textbook about some democratic governance bullshit…and lots of fleas), then tells them that Rudolfo used to hang out with a river-gypsy girl named Sezarina over near the barges.

They head for the river and get jumped by 5 men in an alley (who jumped who is a matter of debate). They get quite beaten up (especially by some poisonous snakes that one of the muggers summoned), but win. They kill three, take one prisoner for the inquisitor to interrogate, and let one get away. The loot is rather disappointing. They retreat to Valkur’s Wake to heal up.

Donovan's Diary: Entry 4
9 Eleint, Year of the Maidens

Dry for the first time in days! Thanks be to Talos and Umberlee for staying their wrath!

We sleep tonight in Iniarv’s Tower, guests of the Watchers of Helm. Selune is waning gibbous, three degrees from the eye of the beholder. The night is cool and clear.

We have discovered the source of the headaches, we believe. A disease, a parasite, a malady, spread from mind-to-mind contact with the Maiden Lyra. Her powers as a Scion are so great that contact with her has granted the rest of us powers as well. We have no control over such gifts, however, lacking her inherent talent and years of training, and regardless of the gifts it bestows, the pain is unbearable, especially when trying to rest.

I have tried to control my new powers, but they are beyond my understanding, requiring neither word, nor gesture, nor components to call forth. They happen on their own, without my calling, and manifest as strange hallucinations. Synchronization of senses if you will. I can see sounds and feel light. Voices appear as colors and the sun itches and burns my skin like a flame.

The powers become stronger day by day, as does the pain. The others claim that I awoke last night, beset by madness and delusions, intent on doing them harm, but I am determined to withstand this affliction and learn to control the gifts that have been granted to me. For surely these gifts granted by a magical Maiden must be the next fulfillment of Alaundo’s prophecy!

The Maidens have lent me all their books of spells and lore to peruse and study. Without prompting. This, plus my synesthized visions, must surely mean that I was meant to complete the synchrotization of their magical arts into a new fabric of arcane lore.

I found this line in the book gifted to the Lady Frantiska by her mentor, the Simbul of Aglarond, which has perplexed me:

“Because it has been discovered that Toril does not revolve about the sun and does not rotate on an axis; because the “stars” have been found to be lights only a few miles away; because almost every pronouncement from this hall of learning issued since its corner-stone was so solemnly laid has been a mistake, a joke, an error or a hoax — the older and more susceptible of the professors who once played whilst here in the shadow of the refracting telescope have gone away to die of chagrin while the younger of us take a short trip to what we have so often jokingly referred to as “the constellation Orion”. Back in thirty days."

What can this mean? The world rotates? Revolves around the sun? The passage was buried amidst spells for calling lights and tracing trajectories of missiles. Has the arcane science by a process of maniacal exclusion of telltale data, of telltale phenomena, foisted an algebraic Mother Goose upon the world in the name of astronomy?

This night, alone, I turned back to the beginning and read this vigorous and astonishing book straight through, and then re-read it for the pleasure it gave me in the way of its writing and in the substance of what it told. The Magistrum, Doré, should have illustrated it, I thought. Here indeed was a “brush dipped in earthquake and eclipse”; though the wildest mundane earthquakes are but earthquakes in teapots compared to what goes on in the visions conjured up before us by the Simbul. For she deals in nightmare, not on the planetary, but on the constellation scale, and the imagination of one who staggers along after her is frequently left gasping and flaccid.

To think such a book was given freely to her student.

Regarding my topic of last night. This book also includes some keys to the art of teleporation. magicconstruct.jpgThis diagram, for instance. And these words.

Charge your physical body with energy.

Then close your eyes and see your visual body standing in front of you.

Then construct a Portholes like you learnt in the section on Portal1 in front of your visual body.

Then visualize that your energy is blending with your visual body.

Next focus your mind on traveling a distance of one kilometre from where you are.

Then see your visual body walking into the Portal.

Next see the Portal opening one kilometre away from where you started and see your visual body walking out of the Portal

Then walk back into the Portal and back out to your starting point.
Remember Practice this exercise by expanding the distance but always make sure you can do this one before moving on.

1 I had to look this up for, even reading it through thrice, the science of the Simbul is hard to comprehend:
“A Portal is a wormhole of energy made within the light matrix of the physical plain. We can make Portal from the chakra energy, prana energy, and kundalini energy found at the base of the spine and merkaba energy found in the light matrix of the physical body and auric field. Portals can be used in Time travel, Interstellar travel, Dimensional travel and Blank Slate Technology.”

With the aid of a clairvoyant or scrying pool, a mage can choose a target, be it people or objects, and cast a teleportation spell to bring them to the mage. The stronger the mage, the larger the objects can be, and they can be brought over larger distances. Still, this technique requires at least one very strong mage or wizard. Notable examples of this include Seles and Prazac’s wizards rescuing the Surface Explorers from the Tower of Magi disaster and Rentar-Ihrno’s fortress, respectively.

Those notes that Lyra has from her mother include the following useful incantation, but not a complete spell of teleporation.

“Interanimam etcorpusobligare, ut transferrent regnumper aliumanimum. Etmitte tehincrealitastempusconteram.”

NiNoKuni-Vacate.JPGCross-referencing the many tomes now available, I found this interesting gesture highlighted in the Book of Finnot. Again, for wand or hand, this gesture inscribes spells of quick exit, not gateways between worlds, but between points in the same world. As Finnot so wisely wrote:

“Fleeing in the face of danger is sometimes the wisest—and the bravest—course of action. This spell allows you to do just that, no matter how many walls stand between you and freedom. Note that the sheer speed and intensity of the translocation process makes it unsuitable for long-distance travel. It will, however, reliably extricate you from any cave, maze, dungeon, or gingerbread house that you happen to blunder into.”

The black lines, here, describe the bending and folding of space. This must be a singular fluid gesture. The red line, again, describes the breaking of that space, punching a hole from one point to the next.

Donovan's Diary: Entry 3
8 Eleint, Year of the Maidens

Drizzling. Dark. Moon not visible.

We were awakened in the middle of the night yestereve by undead. Three of the creatures—a wight, a skeleton, and a zombie. The girls, even the knight, Frantiska, seemed greatly disturbed by the encounter, despite how easily we dispatched them. Perhaps it was the somewhat prophetic nature of a proclamation made by the zombie after I had decapitated it, "We are for you. We will be back…” More credence to my previous thoughts that our meeting was not the result of random happenstance.

The barbarian, Hrud, is apparently also a Scion, with the gift to speak directly to the minds of others. Also apparently Teldicia can do the same, and Lyra. In fact, it seems like everyone in the party can communicate mind-to-mind except me. We had quite the engaging discussion about the nature and extent of mental privacy this morning, but, until such time as I find a way to violate such privacy, such discussions are not particularly useful to my research.

Dimensional translocation, however, is a thing most interesting. Lyra has done this on numerous occasions now, transporting not only herself, but others, as well as goods. Plus there is the matter of the gate we found in the slums—a doorway to, we think, the Nine Hells. We buried it under a collapsed building, but I am sure it was not destroyed by such meager efforts. There is also an interesting spell in the Book of Finnot, describing how to open a temporary gate through which one can summon a near limitless number of lesser fiends. I am wan to use such a spell, even under duress, but I wonder if the concept could be employed in conjunction with other planes—a legion of elementals under my control perhaps?

I hope, at some point, to question Lyra and her mother at depth concerning how they coordinate their efforts to tunnel through space. For now, here are some preliminary insights into the nature of teleportation.

This diagram—hasty I know—describes the most basic workings of teleportation magicks and planar gateways.

Here we have a basic incantation of teleportation, as inscribed in the ancient texts of Mulhorand, invoking the holy might of the gods, praising their power over the world, and invoking Mystra to fold space in her hand so that one might pass between the points.
Phonetic: “Wamaa qadarullaaha haqqa qadrihii wal ardhu jamii’an qabdhatuhuu yaumal qiyaamati wassamaau mathwiyyaatun biyamiinihii.”

NiNoKuni-Gateway.JPGThis rune, or diagram, taken from the Book of Finnot, describes the most basic gestures—to be made by hand or wand—for spells which open planar gateways.

As it says in the Book of Finnot:
“The black line inscribes the door of the worlds, the red cleaves the border between the planes in twain. This second gesture must be made with force and assertion of purpose. By such spells is the way to travel between this world and the many other worlds of existence made clear. Casting a gateway requires you to focus your thoughts upon the world to which you wish to travel. It is also imperative to imagine that you have already left the world from which you cast the spell.”

Donovan's Diary: Entry 2
7 Eleint, The Year of the Maidens

Night. Wet, dark, and unpleasant. I write this before retiring, again, with a headache. Today was most unpleasant, and nearly cost the life of another friend, but had great rewards of wealth, or potential wealth as well. Let it be noted though, that my head is splitting, and it is dark, and I am wet and hard-pressed to keep my book dry in this rain, so I will be brief.

The Year of the Maidens it is. And I find myself beset by maidens—if it is not too presumptuous to call them that—of a most mystical nature. Every manner of magic imaginable is drawn up in the young maids that now surround me—perhaps excepting the ancient art of Runes. Power of the mind. Powers to infuse the body with raw magical energy. Powers to call and command genie-kind. And a student of THE FUCKING SIMBUL!

Oh fuck, I wrote that. May it please Mystra, do not let your servants, who know always when their names are spoken, know when their names are written as well.

If my route to fame as a master of sorceries is to be, it makes sense that in this, the Year of the Maidens, that, by virtue of great Alaundo the Prophet, who recorded the words of Auguthra the Mad, that these maidens, each possessed of unique arcane gifts would come to me. As if I, personally, were being visited by the grace of our lady Mystra and the prophecies of her servants. Could it be, that these ARE the maidens the mad prophet spoke of?! That their collective presence, by Tymora’s fortuitousness, was fortold, and that I was meant, nay DESTINED, to collect the lore of their gifts and assemble them into a cohesive thaumaturgical whole?

1326516-bigthumbnail.jpgGreen-eyed lady, lovely lady
Strolling slowly towards the sun
Green-eyed lady, ocean lady
Soothing every raging wave that comes

Green-eyed lady, passion’s lady
Dressed in love, she lives for life to be
Green-eyed lady feels life, I never see
Setting suns and lonely lovers free

Green-eyed lady, wind-swept lady
Rules the night, the waves, the sand
Green-eyed lady, ocean lady
Child of nature, friend of man

Apologies. I am suddenly struck with the words of a song or three.
Pardon my meager sketches of my companions. I am no artist.

Where are our lives?
If there is no dream, where is our home?
We don’t know how there will be a way
Out of the storm we will find home

Elven_Maiden_by_Asakura_Misakichi.jpgAnd her soul walks beside her
An army stands behind her
Lyra, Lyra

And her face full of grace
Two worlds collide around her
The truth lies deep inside her
Lyra, Lyra

And the stars look down upon her
As darkness settles on her
Lyra, Lyra

Who’s to know what’s in the future
But we hope, we will be with her
We have all our love to give her
Oh, Lyra, Lyra

GAH this headache, I can barely see to write, and my hair is dripping on the page, and I am underneath a wagon, and someone is screaming, and I want to go to sleep, and I’m tempted to just cast a spell on myself. To bed with me, if I can.

Donovan's Diary: Entry 1
6 Eleint, The Year of the Maidens

I have just completed my eleventh voyage about Valkur’s Wake. Two years sailing from town to town, schlepping the Council’s promises of wealth, and fame, and glory for the would-be adventurers of the world. The work It has certainly paid the bills—kept up my apartment, kept me fed, let me travel—but it is not exactly the ideal work for someone of my intellectual prowess.

Perhaps I should jump forward a bit. Today I quit my job as Council Herald and joined a band of those would be adventurers. For the years of my voyage I have been thinking about how to make my name as a great mage. Those jokers at the Training Hall always made fun of my research interests. I even ran into Taleah today and she had the gall to point out that final paper I never turned in. Anyways, I signed on with a strange group of adventurers who came over on Valkur’s Wake—young people, I think they see me as some kind of father figure.

I learned what I can do. I had always dabbled with the idea of founding my own Path, but had thought of that as a thing to do later in life, the work of archmages. But, in the Slums we found an old book, clearly penned by a student in the arts, and not a particularly practiced one. This Book of Finnot is clearly the work of an amateur, with horrible penmanship no less, but shows clear progress in his attempt to create a new Path, and at least three unique, practicable, and efficable spells.

We took on an assignment from Professor Aumry of Umber. I recall taking a few of his classes at the Training Hall, and that he touched on the theories underlying the workings of Paths and how one might branch a Path, or fuse two Paths together, or fork a Path. Many students have spoke of him working unique magic that has not been documented in the standard Corpus. Perhaps, if we complete this mission for him successfully, he might consider taking a proper apprentice.

So, A Path, A Path. But where to start. I am very well versed in all manner of arcane theory, and much more practiced than other novitiates of my level, yet the creation of an entire new Path, a new branch, a new unique thought on the nature and workings of the universe, this is not something I know how to begin.

It was sunny today. That may mean something later, but the weather was quite pleasant as we entered the Slums. If I recall anything from my extensive prior studies, it is that the smallest detail may matter, though, suffering from this splitting headache, I do not know how long I can stare at this page before I must pass out and sleep.

Ah yes, the headaches. The entire group has been afflicted with them all afternoon. Horrible, splitting headaches, the source of which seems localized to our group.

The group, that also matters. We have added and subtracted many today. There is a girl, Lyra, quite fetching, who is able to translate herself and others through space and time by thought. A Scion I believe they call them. Not a practitioner of the ars magicum, yet possessed of an innate talent with similar effects on the physical mechanics of the universe. Monstrous really, that someone could do such a thing without a century of practice, yet useful. I’m sure there is much to be learned from traveling with her and studying her. Her mother, a beautiful woman of The People, is a mage of some power and has apparently taught her daughter very broadly on the theories underpinning our art. I need to take some time to question the two of them together on concepts of the translocation and transubstantiation of bodies in space.

minotaur-head-cross-section.jpgAnd the minotaur. He is dead, but I managed to take his horns. I have heard much concerning the use of such things—some of it is probably just folk medicine, but much of it must be true. I wish I had time to obtain his testicles, as I hear they have many useful properties in spells of physical and sexual enhancement. I have included the sketch at the right for reference.

20120527010545_Oblivion_MinotaurHorn.png And this image of the horn itself.

There is much else to explore, but I am tired, and my head is splitting. I will try to organize my thoughts better in the future, but now I should sleep. I should also expound upon the nature of magical sleep, which was the basis of that thesis I never submitted. An area in which I have made extensive practice.

Perhaps I can find a way to make a third branch of the spells of sleeping, a third path running parallel to the Road of Dreams and the Road of the Soul’s Release. Yes, that may be a good place to start. A Path of the Sleeping Minotaur perhaps? Sleeping Giant? Donovan’s Supreme Path of Somnambulant Menaces?!

Whatever, time to sleep. More tomorrow.

Chapter 3: An Old Lady in Melvaunt: Part 1
In which Frantiska is healed and the party fends off a large kobold raiding party...


Despite the fire in the large hearth and the many people in the common room, the old stone tower, nestled between the coast and the swamp, is cold and damp in the morning, and a thick mist hangs in the air outside. Despite the dampness, the fog outside is somewhat pleasant, laced with the scents of wood smoke and frying meat and potatoes from the outdoor kitchen.

There is a collective sense of irritability within the tower as you wake. The servants, priests, and guardsmen, while up early, all move about slowly, rubbing their heads and growling at anyone who talks too loud. Only Hrud and Sir Justin seem to be spared the communal headache, and the former is one of the last to wake up after a surprisingly late night of drinking and gaming with the white-robed priestess.


Lyra rose. She was disheveled from tossing and turning, her eyes reddened with dark circles from lack of a proper night’s sleep for going on three days. She approached Brother Rant as he was putting away his bedroll, stifling a yawn. Even just standing she was swaying slightly, as though remaining upright required too much effort. “Could you help me help Hrud? I can’t keep going like this.”


Bo rises from his bed roll. (Probably a bit too loudly:) “Now that’s how you welcome people to your outpost!” He steps out in search of the source of the wonderful smells.


Winona is red-eyed and disheveled as she presides over the three Tyrran’s morning services in a corner of the chapel, and the stale-smell of last night’s wine clings to her breath. Somehow, miraculously, she manages to get through the prayers and recitations without stumbling over the words. She does stumble on the stairs on her way down to breakfast, though, nearly causing a catastrophe as she bumps into a page carrying a plate of hashed potatoes up from the kitchens. Luckily, Rye and Rant are there to catch her and steer the hungover priestess to a fairly secluded seat at one end of the big table. The two then make the necessary apologies to the page and the masters of the tower for the state of their Sister Superior, and thank yous to the Helmite priests for the loan of the space. Winona spends most of the rest of the morning with her head on the table, then walks shakily down to the stables and crawls into the back of the wagon to sleep it off.


Donovan wakes early, barely aware of the pain in his back from sleeping on the floor of the great hall due to the searing, blinding pain in his head. He fights down a wave of nausea, then rises, stretches, and gathers up his bags. He squints in the dim light of the windowless interior of the great hall, then blinks a few times, thankful that the sounds of yawns and groans of everyone else waking are not accompanied by any strange visions. Once his bags are in order, he pulls the silver rod from his pack and practically runs up the stairs to the room where Frantiska is sleeping. He slows his pace respectfully as he walks by the competing chanting of the Tyrants and Helmsmen at opposite ends of the chapel, then stops when he realizes he is suddenly, unconsciously scratching at the backs of his hands. Then his faces also begins to itch oddly. He turns away from the priests towards Frantiska’s door and finds that the sensation abates. Thoroughly disturbed, he raises a hand to knock on the door and finds that it begins to itch again. He tries several times to knock, then realizes that the itching seems to happen when his hand enters the field of the light from the many candles being used in the chapel. Intrigued, he walks over to one of the candelabras, the itching on his face and hands growing as he gets nearer. He takes off his cloak and holds it up between him and the light-source, no itch. He then experiments, using the concave palm of the silver hand on the end of the rod to focus the light onto a single patch of his skin, sure enough, the itching grows worse. Excellent, he think sarcastically, first I could see sounds, now I can feel light. What next, hearing stench? I wonder what a rose sounds like… He pulls some bandages from his pack and wraps them around his hands to keep the light off, then dons his cloak again and pulls the hood low over his face. I’d better go cure Frantiska before her hallucinations get worse too…


Early to bed, early to rise, or so said Yamtwit’s gobmother. Yamtwit was up several hours before dawn milking Bobbers and Rast. He wished he had the resources to restock his cheese supply, but trying to make cheese on the road without an aging cave was pointless, so he resigned himself to clarifying more butter. There was a bit of a row with the cook, when he woke up with the cock-crow to find the goblin already at work at his stove with a couple hours of boiling and stirring left. But when Yamtwit showed him the leavings of the froth off the butter (the best part for frying, or so some cooks say), all was forgiven. Yamtwit lent a hand with breakfast any other way he could without taking his eyes off of his ghi, stoking fires, tossing a skillet of butter-hashed potatoes, or setting an extra kettle on for another jar of tea. By the time the cook rang the bell for the pages to begin taking up the platters to the hungry guardsmen in the great hall, he and the goblin were swapping recipes and laughing like old friends. Yamtwit took his pot off the stove, poured the clear liquid off into a skin, and scurried up to breakfast behind the servants.


Hrud wakes with a yawn and a stretch. All-in-all, not a bad night’s sleep for once. Time for breakfast.


As Donovan goes to knock on Frantiska’s door again, he hears her scream. Shoving the door open, he sees her sitting bolt-upright in her bed, wide-eyed and terrified. Then she just…vanishes. The bed-clothes gently drift back down to settle on the bed. A moment later she re-appears in the same location, sitting on top of the covers this time, her hair looking tousled and wind-blown, and her skin covered with minor burns. “HELP!” she screams. The shout is abruptly cut off as she fades from sight again.


Donovan stands looking at the place where Frantiska was only moments ago, then yells. “Lyra! Get up here! We’ve got a problem!”


Lyra takes the stairs two at a time. She puts a hand on the doorway, catching her breath. She looks around the room, her gaze settling on the now empty bed. “What happened? Where is she?”


Frantiska reappears with a pop, this time on the floor next to the bed. She is weeping and several small bitemarks can be seen covering her arms and legs. She does not, for the moment, appear aware of her surroundings.


“Donovan, quick! The rod!” Lyra rushes over to Frantiska. She stops abruptly, grabbing a blanket and throwing it over the elven woman, then keeping a firm hand on her shoulder. “Frantiska, you have to listen to me, this is important. I need you to focus on being here. Concentrate on the feel of the floor beneath you, the blanket against your skin, the pressure from my hand. Pressure, texture — touch is the easiest way to orient yourself to the space around you.”


Donovan runs up beside Lyra and presses the silver rod against Frantiska’s skin. willing it to work, but realizing he does not know exactly how it is supposed to work. He spends several minutes, muttering every common word of activation or prayer he can think of, waving the rod around at random, and silently praying that Frantiska does not disappear again. After what seems like an eternity, the device flares to life with a jolt that nearly knocks it from his grip.


There is a humming sound from the rod, followed by a gasp of surprise from Frantiska as her headache is simply…gone. The sparkles that dance in her vision as she looks at Lyra and Donovan fade and her sense of displacement ceases. The rod grows hotter in Donovan’s hand, almost scalding him, and the humming grows louder. Frantiska feels a brief pain and there is a series of small crackling noises as the bones in her legs mend the rest of the way, When the pain subsides, she feels strong enough to stand. Most amazing, though, is the lifting of the sense of dread and discouragement that she has felt since the encounter at the weir and with the undead the following night, as if all the horror of those incidents were just a passing dream. Donovan is finally forced to drop the rod, which by this point is glowing red-hot and visibly shaking in his hand. As the rod ceases contact with the two of them, it immediately ceases its frantic vibrations and begins to cool down.


It takes several more minutes for Frantiska to regain her composure. “Thanks,” she says, once again avoiding any eye contact with Donovan. Curious about the feeling in her legs, she tries to stand, leaning a little more than necessary on Lyra. «Do you ever get the sense that maybe you should have stayed home?» she asks in Elvish.


Lyra’s breath catches as she remembers the crackle of fire in the fireplace the night she and her mother left Waterdeep, the smell of burning parchment and vellum. This was home now.

«As horribly unpleasant as Phlan is, as much as I hate being here…» Lyra hesitates, searching for the right words. «We saved Brother Rant’s life. We saved Ellen’s life. We probably saved Bo’s life. What we do seems … needed.»


Frantiska gives the young half-elf a look that can roughly be translated as ‘Wait a minute, this slip of a girl, a full century younger than me just one-upped the paladin on virtue and sense of purpose?’ «Thank you Lyrathwen, you are correct. We have done good here and there is more to be done.» She lets go of Lyra’s shoulder and tries to stand on her own, still surprised at the wholeness of her legs. «I guess I will not have to stay behind after all…» She gives Donovan a familiar glare, then walks over and gently shoves the man out of the room. «Thank you both. I’ll meet you downstairs once I have cleaned up a bit…»


Lyra relaxes slightly, pleased that her choice of words successfully appealed to Frantiska’s sense of justice and duty. She’d had to convince her. If someone as brave and noble as Frantiska gave up on Phlan, what hope did it have?

Lyra nods. «I’m glad you are feeling better. I think there’s still some food left if you haven’t eaten yet. It was quite good.»


Donovan gingerly picks up the still-warm rod and allows himself to be shoved out the door. He makes his way down the stairs, grabs an extra sausage from the table where people are finishing their breakfast, and heads out to the wagon. He stashes his things in the back and looks around for the other, “Rant, Bo, Teldicia? You all ready to go?” He then seeks out Sir Justin and extends the group’s thanks for the tower’s hospitality.


Yamtwit is waiting by the wagon, his wolf and donkey both saddled and ready to leave. He ties Bobbers off to the back of the wagon, mounts Rast, and yells “All set White-head!”


Lyra looks over the hall one last time to ensure they have not forgotten anything before heading to the wagon. She climbs inside, and checks that their cargo was undisturbed as she puts away her sleeping bag and blanket.


Frantiska, still not quite believing the miracle that the rod worked on her legs and her spirit, quickly dons her rather battered armor, and what passes for her clothes, and hurries down the stairs. Hearing the commotion outside, she skips breakfast and continues out the first-floor door. “Sorry to keep you,” she says to the group as a whole as she finds her way to the stables and checks Thistledowns tack and harness. She hugs the big filly around the neck, then mounts up. “Lyra,” she asks as she rides over to the wagon, “did you end up finding a bow for me?”


Lyra carefully climbs around the chariot and statuary, and gingerly picks up the elven bow from the silversmith’s shop. “While I was in town, I acquired this, as well as quiver of silver arrows and silver bolts.” She hands the unstrung bow to Frantiska, hoping it meets her approval.


Frantiska takes the bow, then carefully bends it across her knee, strings it, and tests the pull. “This will do nicely, thank you.” She adjusts the torn remnants of her dress to cover as best she can, trying to not look at any of the men around her, then announces, “Alright, I’m ready to leave whenever you are.”


Hrud is back in the driver’s seat of the wagon and hefting the warhammer when Frantiska strides out of the tower and mounts her steed, as if the horrible accident had never occurred. “Sing waras?” he half-mumbles, as the elven woman strings the bow Lyra had purchased, looking for all intents and purposes to continue what has been – for her – an extremely dangerous journey. Something more than a mere recovery occurred while they slept.

Hrud began to wonder if there was such a thing as an enchanted bed that could heal. He’d add it to his list of questions …

Back to the matter at hand, now that she was well – a fact for which Hrud was very grateful – it would probably be in Frantiska’s (everyone’s, really) best interest if he kept his distance. He didn’t know how far the aura of bad luck and misfortune he seemed to radiate extended, but the events of the past couple of days had convinced him that he was not safe to be around.


The road through the swamp is much the same this day as the previous. The air is warm and humid, the sun is bright and hot, though the trees provide some dappled shade, and the flies and mosquitioes are a constant nuisance for your livestock. Numerous birds flit overhead, and you see plenty of snakes, lizards, and small mammals scurrying off the road to avoid the hooves of your larger animals, but nothing threatens you. Around mid-afternoon you find a slightly elevated and relatively dry patch of grass, and stop to allow the horses and oxen to forage before continuing. Before the first of you has exited the wagon, however, Hrud’s sharp eyes spot a lone peddler with a very large pack approaching from the east. The figure clearly has seen you as well, as he raises a staff in greeting.


Donovan climbs down from the wagon, rubbing his eyes from where he has been looking at the sounds of Winona’s snoring for the last several hours, though at least he is starting to become accustomed to the strange sensory input and the persistent headache at this point. He stretches his arms and legs, then digs through the crate of dried fruit for a snack. “Let’s keep this stop short, eh? If we keep moving we should be out of the swamp before nightfall.” He walks around to the front of the wagon, “Anyone know what Hrud’s staring at?”

Sister Rye puts a few finishing stitches into the dress she has been sewing, gives her elder a polite shake to wake her up, then hops down to the ground as well. She quickly makes her way over to Thistledown and holds the dress up for Frantiska to see, being careful to keep the long skirts from dragging on the ground. “Lady Frantiska, I made some new clothes for you…”


Frantiska climbs down from Thistledown, leaving the horse saddled in case they need to leave in a hurry, and looks at the dress being presented to her. “It’s lovely,” she says, “thank you. How much do I owe you for this little one?”


Sister Ryesha shakes her head, “Oh, nothing Lady. Miss Lyra already paid for all the supplies, and if we’re traveling together, it is better that you not be immodest.”


Lyra rubbed her temples. The headaches were getting worse, and her own inability to concentrate made trying to teach Donovan how to learn focus and control difficult.

“The dress is lovely, Sister.”


Frantiska takes the dress, then looks completely startled on seeing the highly detailed embroidery of horses and stars around the hem. “It’s beautiful. May I?” She takes the dress and crouches in the back of the wagon behind the statue of Selune to get dressed.


Yamtwit stands up on Rast’s saddle and strains to look in the direction Hrud is gazing. When he sees nothing he dismounts and climbs up on the wagon bench to stand beside the barbarian. Still seeing nothing he shrugs and asks, “Hrud, Putih rambute kepengin ngerti apa sing ndeleng.”


“A wong isa metu saka sisih wétan. Katon kaya kepengin perdagangan.” Hrud replies. Glancing back at the spoils of the journey thus far, he adds, “Mbok menawi kita ngirim surat iki munggah.”


Yamtwit’s eyes widen on hearing Hrud’s description. “Kepengin perdagangan? Apik. Aku bakal sedhilut.” Yamtwit hops down from the wagon bench. “Hey Whitehead, Hrud says he spotted a customer. I’ll be back in a minute.” He grabs a few things out of Bobber’s saddlebags, hops on Rast, and kicks the wolf into a run to go meet the traveling peddler.


As Yamtwit closes the distance, he can see that the man is older, perhaps in his fifties, frail-bodied, bald, dressed in simple homespun with a wide-brimmed straw hat, carrying an extremely large pack strapped on his back and leaning heavily on a knotty pine walking stick. Numerous pots, pans, and other cooking implements hang from the pack. Seeing a goblin riding full-speed at him on the back of a very large wolf, the man dives off the road with a nimbleness born of sheer terror, and takes refuge in a clump of particularly thorny looking raspberry bushes growing out of the bog.


Donovan watches as Yamtwit rides off. “WAIT!” he yells, too late. He smacks his forehead dramatically, having no way to catch up to the wolf-riding goblin, then turns back to the others. “Anyone want to help me go save the goblin?” He looks up at Hrud, rolls his eyes, points back and forth between the two of them, then pantomimes running in the direction Yamtwit went.


Winona blinks groggily and sits up. She stretches, yawns, then starts crawling out of the wagon. “Oh hey! You’re up?!” she blurts on seeing Frantiska getting dressed in the back, “Nice dress.” She hops down and begins pulling her chainmail on over her head. “So, where are we? Anything interesting going on?”


Lyra sighs and rubs her temples before grabbing her bow and quiver, then hopping down from the back of the wagon. “Mr. Yamtwit was speaking with Hrud, then said something about a customer and rode off.”


Hearing Donovan’s call for help, Winona grabs her heavy flail from the back of the wagon. “Awesome, let’s go!” She starts jogging in the direction the goblin ran off. “Come on Bunny. This should be a good learning experience.”


Uncertain as to why everyone wants to rush the old man, Hrud eases the wagon forward following the charging throng composed of his mismatched travelling companions.


Bo holds on for safety as the cart rumbles along maybe a bit too fast.


Yamtwit slows Rast and looks at the man, now tangled in the bushes. “Hey?! You sell kitchen utensils? I’ve been looking for a new colander!” He hops off the wolf and approaches the old man, “Let me help you out of there and let’s talk business!”


The old peddler struggles against the thorny grasp of the shrubs, then stops and looks warily at Yamtwit when he starts talking. “You want to buy something?!” he asks incredulously. “Why’d you come charging at me on a wolf if you just wanted to buy a fork or somesuch?” He shoves hard with his stick and finally manages to free himself. He makes his way back to the road, but stays well out of reach of Yamtwit and, most especially, Rast. He looks up from the goblin and wolf to see Winona running up with her weapon drawn. “And who’re them people running up behind you?! Bandits! I knew it!” He turns and begins running back the way he came as fast as he can with the heavily load, which is to say, not very fast at all.


“Oh no,” Yamtwit interjects, “they’re not bandits, they’re ADVENTURERS!” He puts his hands on his hips and strikes a dramatic pose. “Though right now they are accompanying me on an important mercantile endeavor. You shouldn’t worry, I’m sure the crazy lady with the flail is only coming to say hello. Albeit, very fast, in armor, and with a weapon drawn.” He nods gravely, “Yeah, I can see how you might get the wrong impression…” As the man starts running away he calls out, “Hey! Old Guy! Wait! I still want to see what you have for sale!”


Lyra walks just ahead of the wagon, bow still unstrung. She really only catches the ‘adventurers’ part of Yamtwit’s declaration, as the peddler turns and flees before Sister Winona’s … enthusiastic … greeting….


Teldicia jogs up to where the others have assembled near Yamtwit, “Doesn’t look like he’s moving very fast. Should we catch him?”


Winona runs up, Sister Rye on her heels, and stops next to Yamtwit. The look of disappointment on her face makes it clear that she was hoping the goblin’s assailants were some sort of fiends from the deepest pits of hell and not just a single, harmless old peddler. “Well, at least I’m wide awake now.”

Donovan gets there a little behind everyone, as usual, wishing that he had had the good sense to stay on the wagon with Hrud and Bo. He leans over, hands on his knees, to catch his breath, then responds. “No Teldicia. If our goblin friend scared him away, it would probably be impolitic to run him down.” He pants a few more times then climbs up on the wagon. “So much for a nice relaxing lunch…” Once he is seated on the back of the wagon, he takes a minute to check the collection of crossbows to make sure they are loaded and at the ready—better safe than dead, he thinks.

The two priestesses climb up on the wagon beside him. “Not much of a rescue, eh Donnie-boy?” Winona remarks. “Let’s get this show on the road, shall we?”

Sister Rye hops down again quickly. “Look! Raspberries!” she cries happily. The young halfling insists on picking the bushes clean before the group moves on.


Lyra can’t bring herself to disagree with Donovan’s logic. So she helps Sister Rye finish picking raspberries, then finds some cheese to go with a handful of raspberries and her heel of sourdough before returning to her spot in the wagon. After she finishes eating, Lyra rubs her eyes, the lack of sleep evident on her face.

She sighs and begins another attempt at instructing Donovan in how to control psionic energy. She couldn’t let what happened to Frantiska happen to someone else if she could help it. But how can she instruct him in a discipline she’s never known? She thought about the process of disentangling her own vision from another’s, and had an idea.

“Can you still see the colors? Try concentrating on each of your senses, one at a time. The separateness of them. The taste of lunch. The feel the wood and the canvas. The smell of the swamp. The intricate craftsmanship of the chariot. Now close your eyes, and listen to the creak of the wagon, the buzzing of the insects, the oxen’s hooves. Focus on just hearing it, then open your eyes.


As they ride along, Donovan listens carefully to Lyra’s instructions, trying to clear his mind and isolate his senses. After a while, when he thinks he’s close to understanding, he carefully unwraps the rags from his hands and holds them out into the dappled late-afternoon sunlight coming through the swamp’s trees. Thank the gods! he thinks, when the light does not cause the same itching and burning sensation as that morning. Still holding his hand in the light, he closes his eyes and thinks about his skin, the light, and what that means. Slowly the itching returns. He thinks about the things around him: the green-gray trees, the green-blue patina on the bronze chariot, the many beautiful girls. The itching subsides into a myriad of distinct sensations, strange softnesses, random pinpricks, a cool, almost wet feeling. He focuses on the softness and finds that it is…green? Yes, he turns his palm around, his fingers groping at nothing, reaching for the softness, trying to suss out the nature of this sensation. He moves his fingers as if rubbing them together, but not touching, pondering a roughness underlying the softness, trying to ignore the other sensations assaulting him. Finally he holds his hand up and begins panning it, turning it this way and that, then finally blurts out, “Lyra!” His hand stops, palm pointed in her direction, as indeed, he finds that he can see her quite clearly despite his eyes being tightly shut…through his hand. There is something disconcerting, almost inappropriate, about the way his hand moves next, making cupping and squeezing gestures as he mentally traces the shadows cast by her curves, literally able to feel the look of her. I could get used to this, he thinks.


Yamtwit looks slightly upset as the peddler runs off, then shrugs, climbs back on Rast, and nudges the wolf forwards. “To Melvaunt!” he cries enthusiastically.

Riding along behind the wagon, Frantiska, feeling much better now that she is properly dressed again, watches Donovan and Lyra with a definite sense of relief at not being able to sense or see anything going on. When Donovan begins psi-groping Lyra, however, she urges Thistledown forward and yells angrily at him. “Mr. Lietch! That is entirely inappropriate behavior in the presence of a young lady!” Even this level of returned normalcy feels wonderful after the events of the last few days.


Lyra’s brow furrowed in concentration, her eyes closed. “Did it work? Sometimes I can sense if there is psionic activity nearby, but it’s not exactly precise.” She exhaled sharply in frustration, pressing the heel of her hands into her eyes.

At the sound of Frantiska’s voice, Lyra’s head jerks up, blinking at her as what she said sunk in. She looked back over at Donovan, sitting with his eyes closed and his hands gesturing strangely in front of him. Her sleep deprived brain doesn’t quite put two and two together, and she looks around at Rant and the Sisters, then back to Frantiska, a confused look on her face.


The old peddler disappears around a bend in the road, and his screaming fades into the distance shortly after that. A little more than an hour later, though, you hear his same screaming again. You do not see him, but the screaming gets louder as you ride along, until it sounds like you are right on top of him. Luckily, Teldicia points and yells from her place on the driver’s before that becomes a reality. A large pit or sinkhole appears to have opened, half covering the road, and the sound of the old man’s screaming appears to be coming from there.


“Yamtwit!” Hrud calls out, pulling the wagon over to the side of the road and searching for the rope he kept from the tower several days prior, “Tetep adoh saka bolongan.”


Lyra stands up and makes her way up the wagon to behind the driver’s bench, her eyes scanning the road ahead.


Hrud ties off one end of the rope to the heavy wagon and tosses the other end into the pit.


Lyra scans the treeline nervously. “Something dug that pit, and given the volume, we can reasonably assume is now aware it caught someone.”


Just as Hrud is lowering the rope, Lyra raises her eyes to see a small horde of kobolds stalking slowly forward through the surrounding swamp. Some wait in the trees, others peak out from behind clumps of reeds or small shrubs, still others wait buried in the mud and pools of the swamp with only their noses and eyes showing. Her face whitens at the realization that you are completely surrounded and outnumbered at least four-to-one. Lyra’s makes eye contact with one of the creatures and lets out a small gasp, which is immediately countered by the kobold screaming "BREE-YARK!”, which in this case means something along the lines of “Oh shit, they’ve seen us, attack!”

The sound of the kobold’s battle cry is accompanied by dozens of splashes and crashes as the little creatures come bursting from cover. As well as a hail of arrows and thrown javelins.


Yamtwit looks up at Hrud, “Kok aku lunga cedhak sing jugangan smelly sedhih?” Hearing the sudden yell from the kobolds, he turns Rast to face the nearest group, snatching a club from his saddle. “Bobbers, kabwèt retela dèyè! Rastm, ’sou chaj bay lòd pare jwenn!” He then begins chanting something and waving the club about, causing the various vines, creepers, mosses, and shrubs of the swamp to begin to twitch and sway in time with the club.


Frantiska, from her high vantage in Thistledown’s saddle, turns in the saddle and let’s loose an already-knocked arrow into the trees by instinct.

Her hand immediately goes to her quiver, and, taking better aim, begins unleashing a steady stream of arrows at the encroaching kobolds.


Lyra snatches up the bow that Frantiska had picked out for her, cursing her lack of foresight and inexperience in stringing it, let alone doing it quickly. She slipped the string on the lower tip, then flips the bow and braces it against her boot, twisting awkwardly and getting her skirt tangled until she can bend the bow enough to slip the string on.


“Asu pasuryan!” Hrud growls, drawing his green broadsword and taking the war hammer into his off-hand. The barbarian rushes the nearest kobold with the full intent of becoming a whirlwind of death. Maybe this time the annoying little creatures would learn, once and for all, not to mess with Hrud of the Eraka.


Donovan snatches up one of the already loaded heavy crossbows, braces his back against the side of the wagon, and fires at a kobold perched in a tree. Even if I miss, maybe I can startle it into falling, he thinks. As the shot goes wide, he throws the bow aside and immediately begins casting a sleep spell, aiming for the same tree.

Sister Rye grabs an arrow aimed at her out of the air, stopping it mere inches from her face. She lets out a frightened squeak, then ducks, rolls, and dives under the chariot, vanishing from sight. Those looking in her direction see a faint puff of white fur as a rabbit scampers into a cranny between the bottom of the chariot and the side of the wagon.

Winona, unused to fighting live targets despite her bravado, stands dumbfounded at the ambush for a moment. When she recovers her wits, she snatches a strange weapon, resembling a pair of chain-linked metal bars, from her belt and jumps out of the back of the wagon. She steps to put herself between the kobolds coming from the left side of the road and the livestock in the back, setting her strange weapon spinning rapidly.


Bo swings his hammer at the head of a kobold poking over the side of the wagon. The hammer brushes the creature’s head, hits the wood, and sends splinters into the creature’s face.


The initial hail of projectiles is devastating, despite the random nature of the kobold’s trajectories. Many arrows, darts, and spears find their mark among you and your animals, though a great many more thud into the ground and the sides of the wagon. A few stray shots from the kobolds even hit their own kind on the other side of the wagon. Your oxen, horses, and mules take the worst of the fire.

Brother Rant and Teldicia snatch up two more of the crossbows which Donovan had the foresight to pre-load and join in the counter fire. Rant manages to shoot one of the little creatures, despite being struck several times himself, but the rest of your shots go astray. Within moments most of the creatures are reloading and a small force rushes the wagon.

Donovan reacts quickly, as usual, completing the words of his spell of sedation. Ten of the creatures to your left nod, then fall—three archers even falling from their perches in nearby trees. Yamtwit’s spell happens a breath later, and the kobolds to your right, save those few who were the first to charge, find themselves thoroughly entangled by the many viney plants growing the in swamp. Two pour souls who had been hiding in the mud find themselves grabbed and held down by water-plants. Too startled to hold their breath, they are not long for this world.

Hrud’s meets the wave of quick-acting kobolds rushing from the right, just ahead of the entangling weeds. He catches one with a quick blow of his hammer, shattering its skull and driving it a good foot strait down into the muddy ground.

Rant drops his crossbow, shoves Amara under the driver’s bench of the wagon, and leaps down to face the oncoming horde, only to take the brunt of the next volley from the remaining archers—three arrows striking home and causing him to stagger and stumble as he lands. Frantiska’s return volley slays three of the archers still mobile to the left.

Hrud spins and impales a second kobold running past him with his sword, but six kobolds still manage to reach the wagon. The first climbing up just barely misses getting its head taken off by Bo’s hammer. It ducks away but two more come up, swinging small axes at Bo, but striking more wood than flesh in the tight confines of the back of the wagon.

Lyra finishes stringing her bow, only to find three kobolds coming in over the front of the wagon. One stabs at her wildly with a spear, though the blows are stopped inches from her skin by some unseen force. The other two, rather than weapons, hold a pair of copperhead snakes which they throw into the wagon, then immediately retreat.


Lyra opens a vertical portal and herds the snakes through with the end of her bow, causing them to splash down outside the wagon.


With the adrenalin flooding his veins, Hrud barely notices the wound taken in kobold’s initial fusillade. Noting that the projectiles seemed to have stopped for the most part, the barbarian turned to locate the vermin which evaded his onslaught. The sight of Rant nearly felled by the vicious volley renders him disturbingly numb … that is, until he sees his pony, bleeding from an arrow sticking out of its flank.

“Sandi jaran …”
“Nyoba kanggo matèni sandi jaran!”

Hrud’s vision goes red and, howling like a wild animal, he stomps after the nearest of the kobolds harrassing the wagon. Punctuating each swing of his weapons with near-incoherent bellow.

“Hrud zal je vermoorden!”
“Kowé mati!”

So caught up in avenging himself upon his attackers, Hrud fails to notice the occasional flares of blue from the glowing hammer, and the fact that the verbal diatribe accompanying his assault is now sprinkled here and there with formal dwarven.

“Clurut najis!”
“Zuigen aan de speen van je teef hond moeder!”


“Jeg vidste, at han talte Dwarfish!”

Bo’s next swing crushes into the body of an overanxious kobold. He spends a moment trying to free his weapon…or debating using the kobold on a stick as a weapon.


Winona turns towards the three kobolds climbing up the back towards Bo. Her whirling flindbars flashing in the afternoon sun filtering through the trees.


Yamtwit hops off of Rast, “Rastfè fasa manjeyo epiyo ale!” He then rushes over to Bobbers, and lays hands on the donkey. “Bobbersou ekonomize m’ap, enkyetepafèsa.” Meanwhile, Rast springs at one of the kobolds near the front of the wagon, intent on biting its doglike head off.

Frantiska sits calmly in her saddle, returning a constant stream of arrows at the kobolds that continue to bombard the party from afar, and speaking in low tones to try to keep Thistledown calm despite the screaming kobolds running around and the occasional nick or graze by a stray arrow or bolt from the little creatures.


Seeing kobolds coming up into the wagon, Donovan draws his small hand-held crossbow and fires a bolt into the face of the nearest one. He then drops it, snatches up the last loaded heavy crossbow and prepares to return fire against the remaining kobolds.


There is sudden laughter from Amara where, lying on her belly under the drivers bench, she peers through the portal that Lyra has opened to watch the look on the faces of the entangled kobold archers as a pair venomous snakes fall onto the heads of two of them. The kobolds to the left of the wagon, struggling to escape the entangling vines and the biting serpents, lose all interest in firing at the party—most throwing down their bows to hack at the vines with knives and axes, while those closest to the snakes begin swatting at the startled and belligerent vipers.

Moments later there is a scream from Teldicia, where she is standing right beside Lyra. The green-haired woman doubles over and grabs her head, covering her face and forehead with both hands splayed, clearly in intense pain. In the same breath, a kind of bubble seems to expand outward from her, pushing its way through Lyra, Donovan, and the others in the wagon and on outward to surround the entire vehicle. The bubble stops just behind Hrud, pressing against his back with an odd, gentle pressure, who seems completely unaware of the thing as he is quite busy disemboweling a snake-thrower at the time.

Faced with Frantiska’s continuing fire and the sight of their allies passing out and falling from trees, the remaining kobolds to the right of the wagon turn and flee. Unfortunately, their backs make easy targets for Frantiska’s barrage, and two more die before they escape into the undergrowth.

The spinning chain of Winona’s flail tangles around the arm of an axe-wielding kobold climbing back up into the wagon to threaten Bo. The creature is pulled backwards to fall out of the wagon, and takes several more glancing blows from the rapidly moving metal bars of the weapon before it hits the ground, unconscious. Its companion, turns away to see where it went just long enough to take the full force of Bo’s hammer to its chest, caving in its tiny ribcage and almost impaling it with the blunt instrument. The last one assaulting the rear of the wagon, already wounded by Bo’s previous swing, scrambles up for one more attempt, only to take Donovan’s dart between the eyes.

Back near the front, Rant stands, pulling an arrow out of his side with one hand and unshipping the shield from his back with the other. An underhanded swing of Hrud’s hammer sends the second snake-thrower hurtling through the air to crash into Rant’s shield with the sound of splintering bones. Rant, shaking off the unexpected jolt, pivots and grabs the heel of the kobold standing at the opening of the wagon and threatening Lyra with a spear, then returns the favor, throwing the startled kobold at Hrud who easily bats the screaming, flailing little thing out of the air with his sword.

Another barrage of arrows and another cry of “Bree Yark!” announces the arrival of a score more kobolds around the bend in the road behind you. The arrows seem to stop, or slow, in midair as they approach the wagon, striking into the strange bubble emanating from Teldicia and then falling harmlessly to the ground. The lead kobold of the new wave, a wretched, dark-furred, little creature clad entirely in wired-together bones, points a finger and sends what looks like a green blob hurtling towards the wagon. As it nears, the blob resolves itself into the form of a serpent, mouth wide, which flies strait into the wagon, biting a startled Lyra in the face, then simply evaporates into green mist.

The bone-clad kobold will not be doing any more of that, however, as Rast, the wolf charges into the oncoming band, and, the snake caster being first in line, tears out the kobold’s throat. The remaining members of the band, faced with an apparent inability to harm you, the death of their leader, and a snarling over-sized wolf in their faces, scatter.


The portal flickers and disappears abruptly as the bow clatters to the floor of the wagon and Lyra slumps against the chariot.


A small, white rabbit crawls out from under the chariot and rubs its soft, furry body against Lyra’s hand. It makes tiny squeaking noises, which, should anyone be able to speak rabbit, are clearly a prayer for Tyr’s blessing.


Hrud will continue to press the attack on any and all (living) Kobolds within sight of the wagon, starting with the nearest and working his way from that one to the next nearest, and so on.


Seeing Hrud pressing the assault, Donovan casts another sleep spell at the fleeing kobold band.

Winona contemplates chasing down the kobolds, but does a quick mental comparison of their own injured to the tens of dead kobolds and decides that justice has been more than done. She stashes her weapon and runs over to tend to Brother Rant’s wounds.


Bo looks around for anyone who may be in need of a field dressing on their wounds.


Yamtwit walks over to the hole and lowers the rope the rest of the way and waves at the old peddler. “You okay mister?”

Rast paces Hrud. Clearly understanding the barbarian’s intent, the wolf swings wide around the kobolds, howling and snapping to keep them running in a pack rather than scattering in every direction.

Frantiska, remains sedately in the saddle, taking careful aim and picking off the entangled kobolds one by one.


The wolf, barbarian, bard, and archer systematically mop up the remaining panicked kobolds. None escape.


Lyra absentmindedly strokes the rabbit as her breathing evens. Her hand stops abruptly when she realizes that it is probably Sister Ryesha. She staggers to her feet, mumbling something about how her mother will be upset with her for ruining her dress, and looks around to regain her bearings, unsure of how long she’d been out.

“Is everyone all right?”


Sister Rye resumes her humanoid form and sets about helping Bo tend to everyone’s wounds. “Looks like a few nicks here and there, but I think everyone’s okay, Lyra. You and the cows got the worst of it.”


The assault broken and their attackers lying dead or dying at their feet, Hrud’s wrath is sated. He slides the hammer back into his belt and starts to make his way back to the others, stopping by the body of the bone-clad leader to bend over and seize one scrawny leg, dragging it the rest of the way to the wagon.


The kobold leader appears to be wearing splint-style armor made entirely of bones—with a breastplate made from a woman’s ribcage and several other bones attached to reinforce it—the whole thing is too small to fit anyone save Ryesha and you doubt the halfling seamstress would be interested. Aside from its unusual armor, the kobold has a crude, iron chopping blade, roughly equivalent to a short machete, a pair of short-handled throwing spears strapped to its back, a crude shortbow and a quiver of a dozen arrows over the other shoulder, and several pieces of jewelry (mostly strings of polished bone beads, with a few ornamental stones thrown in, and piercings made from small animal bones).

The other kobolds each have boiled leather armor, a smattering of similarly crude jewelry, a bow, and a collection of other weapons (small axes, daggers, spears, and spiked clubs mostly). A few of them are carrying coins, but they don’t amount to much.


“Kabeh sing badan ngirim isi bolongan padha digawe.” Hrud mumbles as he goes to check on his horse.


Donovan sets about examining the body that Hrud dragged back, and the others lying nearby with detect magic, on the off chance that there may be something of value.

Sensing magic from the kobold leader’s earrings, Donovan examines them carefully. “Well, they must do something,” he says after a while, “but I don’t know what it is.”

Ryesha bounces over and stares at them. “Ooooh, snakey!” she says after a while.

The Bitter Blades: Session 6
In which they meet the ghost of Ferran Martinez and maybe complete their mission.

“So, what do you think killed the girl?” Hazel asked Tom, looking around warily as Jack and Ada proceeded to collect the spoils from the fallen adventurers. It was, of course, the wrong question to ask.

Jack carefully lifted a necklace from the, recently, undead corpse of Nat, the dwarf, then froze in his tracks, half-bent over, completely unmoving. Hazel tapped him on the shoulder to see what was wrong, and simply knocked the ugly man over, still in the same pose. It was then that she felt something slithering up her leg. Hazel jumped back. Clearly to the surprise of the near-transparent slimy thing that was totally expecting to have paralyzed her as well.

Even with Hazel’s warning, the thing was incredibly difficult to see, and surprisingly hardy. Tom, Ada, and Hazel scrambled up on the pile of rubble, hoping to avoid contact with the thing and Tom waved his hammer around carefully, trying to direct the light in such a way as to make the thing at least partially visible. Hazel struck a few blows against the thing, but it kept slithering away, under and around the rubble, quick as a snake and as elusive as water.

Finally Ada leaped down off the pile of rubble and ran outside the ruined temple to Enzebal’s body. She scraped some of the luminous liquid off of his front with her hands and ran back. She mouthed that the others should stay where they were, then stood very still next to where Jack’s body lay paralyzed on the ground, her gaze fixed on the others to tell them to keep waiting. A minute passed, then she heard something moving near her mailed boots. She reached down quickly and plunged her glowing hands into the thing. She froze immediately, but the paste worked well to identify the otherwise transparent creature.

Hazel and Tom leaped to action and smashed and slashed at the slithering beast, scattering its oozy form to the far corners of the room.

Kade’s zombie continued to stand impassively to one side.

Tom and Hazel searched carefully for more of the slithering oozes. They found none of such, but did find an old, worn journal:

‘The hordes came again last night. Their coordination was frightening. Under the cover of darkness, goblins and kobolds pushed bundles of sticks to with in bow range, these bundles formed a wall that protected the small ones from our archers. Once the wall was erected orc archers took up safe positions there and begin pelting the castle walls with arrows.
’We tried shooting flaming arrows at the wall of sticks to set it afire. Monsters are normally afraid of fire. ’But these monsters showed no fear. ’They simply scooped dirt on the flames to put them out. ’Before all the fires were out they had resumed firing at us. Surely, some unnatural force must have been at work to weld these quarlsome beasts into an organized fighting force.
I do not know if we can combat the monsters onslaught much longer. We lost 12 more men last night. The monsters seem to have an unlimited number of reinforcements. The Last Priest of Tyr, Ferrann Martinez, says he has a way to protect the keep, but he says that it’s so terrible that it may only be used as a last resort. Unless we receive reinforcements shortly, Ferran ‘Martinez is our only hope.’

They waited for nearly half an hour, but Ada and Jack remained paralyzed. They appeared to be breathing though, so the two companions lifted them up on top of the rubble pile and left them as comfortably as they could. Just as they were getting ready to head deeper into the old temple, they heard a quiet, “Hello?” from out in the courtyard.

They stepped out to see a lone, wet, rag-clad halfling carrying a lantern and what looked like the broken handle of an oar. The halfling introduced himself as Tamn, explained that he had washed up on shore, and asked where he was and what was going on. After some explanation, the halfling surprisingly cheerily agreed to help them explore the keep, claiming “it beat running into some undead beasts by his lonesome.”

The three of them pushed their way through the back door of the lighthouse, into a small chapel, old and dusty, with a large altar occupying the back wall. Tom approached the altar cautiously, using the hammer to illuminate the room. As he approached the translucent gray form of a balding old man in the robes of a Tyrran monk appeared before him. With much cursing, Hazel drew her blades and readied to attack, but was stopped by Tom.

Tom held up the cherub amulet and spoke the word “Shestnik”. The old ghost nodded then, in a long, moaning voice he explained that he was the spirit of Ferran Martinez, the abbot of the keep and that he had bound himself there to protect the keep even in death from ‘unblessed creatures imbued by the might of a magical pool’ that overwhelmed Phlan. The spirit asked if their presence meant that the city had been freed. Tamn simply looked confused, but Hazel stepped forward and suggested that “Yes, this old keep is the last to be civilized. We’re here to make sure the harbor is opened…”

Apparently the spirit did not like her answer, for it immediately struck out at Hazel and the others, decrying their “unjust lies”.

Ferran_Martinez.JPGTom, closest to the altar, was the first to feel the soul-chilling touch of the spirit. His eyes widened in fear as the ex-priest clawed at him, and he swung the glowing hammer wildly trying to beat the incorporeal thing away. While his blows were ineffective, he did buy time for the screaming, wild-eyed Hazel to leap in behind the thing. Tamn turned and bolted from the room, unwilling to face a ghost with not but a stick.

With two forceless blows, the spectre slew Tom, each touch causing his flesh to wither and muscles to weaken. The big mason fell unbreathing at the spirit’s feet, looking as if he had aged a century in moments.

Hazel’s swords tore through the creature. The black flames of her broadsword, cool to the touch for the living, licked at the thing and scorched at its incorporeal flesh. Enraged the spectre spun and tore at her chest with one ghostly claw, taking her breath away with the cold and nearly stopping her heart. Her rage drove her onward, though, striking savagely.

With one last cross-wise strike of her two blades, she rent the ghostly form of Ferran Martinez in twain, scattering his spirit and with a final, moaning cry of “Noooooooooooo.” Still enraged, Hazel spun and drove her sword into the old, wooden altar, cleaving it in two as well.

Tamn hesitantly stepped back into the room. “Welcome to Phlan little man. I think we’re done here,” Hazel said.

Tamn helped Hazel gather up the bodies of her slain or paralyzed companions, as well as whatever weapons and treasures they could scavenge from the many fallen within the courtyard, and drag them back to the little boat waiting on the shore of the island.

With the arrival of dawn, their success was clear. The thick, black clouds which had hung like a veil over Thorn Island for nearly a century broke apart and drifted away and the old, white walls of Sokol Keep were visible from the docks for the first time since the founding of New Phlan.

Jack and Ada did not move until several hours after the boat had docked back in New Phlan, but when they did, the four who returned from the island were hailed as heroes and showered with the gifts and praise of the Council. It would have been a wondrous return, had Martha not been waiting at the docks, looking for her father…

The Bitter Blades: Session 4: A New Crop
In which Tom leads a new group of would-be heroes to their deaths.

Tom’s reunion with Martha was a joyous one. The girl had been terrified for those three days that he was gone. When he returned injured and empty-handed, and refused to tell her about what happened on the island, she tried desperately to talk him out of adventuring. She didn’t like being alone, she said. Tom, however, knew how tight their funds were, especially with what he had to pay for her apprenticeship. Fifty silver a week was far more than he could make by doing minor repair jobs. Unless he could find work as a master mason, she would lose her chance at a better life, or he would starve, or likely both. Adventuring, risky as it was, was the only chance he had to provide for his daughter.

Two days after his return, after escorting Martha to the gates, Tom went out into the Slums, deeper than he usually liked. His left arm still hurt, and was stiff, but it worked, and he had no intention of letting the arm slow him down. He explored the market, wandered back alleys, and asked everyone who did not look ready to stab him. Eventually, in the smelliest corner of the smelliest alleyway, tucked between the wall of new city farthest from any gate, and an old hempworks, he found the shop he was looking for. JACK, OF ALL TRADES read the sign in garishly bright letters. Within he was told he would find the scavengers who had so graciously brought him home—an odd thing that, it might seem a little gesture, but leaving him alive and clothed was so alien to most Slums-dwellers, that Tom felt certain that these scavengers could be trusted.

Tom pushed open the door to find a shop piled high with all manner of broken, ramshackle, or ill-gotten goods. Nothing that someone inside the walls would even touch, but much that was useful out here. The blue-glowing hammer from the keep on the island was hanging upside down from the ceiling in place of a candelabra. The proprietor was a broken, twisted little man—if man was even the right word. His face looked like a cross between an orc and a bloated rat, with tangled, greasy, gray hair and one eye white and useless. The odd fellow waved cheerily at Tom as he entered and asked what brought him.

“The boat you found me in, I need it,” Tom said. “I need to get back to the island.”

“Rough business that,” said Jack. “You were half-dead when I found you, why would you go back there?”

“I left my companions there to die. I need to at least bury them. And I need money to feed my family. I’m the only one in town who has come back from that island. I know what’s there, I know the layout. If I can find a few people foolhardy enough to come with me, I think we can finish what I started before.” Tom explained.

“The boat is right where you left it. It was too big for me to carry back here. But it’s mine now.” Jack glared at Tom with his good eye. “There is no way you could afford to buy it back. So how ’bout I rent it to you?”

“Rent it?”

“Yeah. You find your foolhardy warriors and I’ll take you across to the island in my boat. In exchange, I want first dibs and a double-share of any wreckage and salvage from the island. No magic mind you, no one out here will buy it. But I want first pick of any weapons, armor, usable wood, stone, anything else you may find, and help loading it and shipping it back here.”

“Done,” Tom said. He extended his good hand to shake with the ugly creature, then turned to leave. “It may take me a couple of days to round up sufficient people to take the island. I’ll meet you back here when we’re ready to go.”

Tom talked Jack into letting him borrow a sheet of parchment paper and a dram of ink. He wrote out a quick notice—his penmanship was horrible with his damaged shoulder, but the results were legible—offering “free, discrete passage to Thorne Island and recent intelligence on the creatures therein for any group of heroes willing to take up the Council’s call to action. Interested parties should ask for Tom at the Bitter Blade after sundown.” He went into the city and nailed the notice to the Public Training Hall, right next to all the others.

He had not even completed driving the nail when a striking young woman with white hair and a wicked scar on her face tapped him on the shoulder. “Looking for blades?” she asked. She was trailed by young and much-too-eager looking dwarf. Tom was quite surprised at the quick and sudden response. He stammered out a yes, and the three wandered towards the tavern discussing particulars.

As they reached the door of the Bitter Blade, the sound of someone running in armor alerted them. The white-haired girl was the first to spin around, seeing a heavily armored, mousy-haired, young woman chasing after them. Hands went to weapons, but then the girl waved the notice at them. She did not say a word, but pointed at the notice, then back to herself several times until Tom got the picture.

“You want to come with us?”

She nodded vigorously.


She pointed at the notice, then held up another, more official-looking notice that claimed that the Council had raised the bounty on the island to five-thousand gold coins.

“You don’t speak?” the other three asked incredulously.

She nodded and pointed at the flaming sword medallion hanging around her throat.

Tom sighed, and waved for her to come along. With the notice torn down, there was no reason for him to wait for others. He turned away from the tavern and headed for the Slums. The four of them would have to be enough.

“That was quick.” Jack said as Tom came in trailed by the others.

“Can you take us right now?” Tom asked.

“Sure. He’s coming with us.” Jack said, pointing to a portly, broad-shouldered man with a shaved head, dressed in plain brown robes. Tom shrugged his assent. Jack pulled down the glowing hammer and handed it back to Tom, informing him that it was a “loan”. He then closed up the shop and the six of them headed out of town.

It was dusk by the time Tom and the others reached the little fishing boat where it was stashed south of the city. It looked like it had been refitted and taken out a few times since Tom washed up on shore—by Jack doing some salvage no doubt. Tom had, but this point gotten acquainted with his new companions. The fat man was Enz, a wizard with a deep southern accent. The quiet girl was Ada (or Aaaeedaaaaaa as she pronounced it). The white-haired swordwoman woman was Hazel and her dwarven sidekick was named Olaf.

Jack shoved off and Tom and Hazel helped row. Tom filled them in on what happened in his last venture to the island It took close to two hours to cross to the island from this point, and night had firmly set in by the time they landed. Everyone seemed apprehensive about exploring the undead-infested ruins in the dark, but they were committed at that point. Jack tied off the boat to a large rock, and all of them made their way up the hill towards the keep with weapons at the ready and Tom leading the way with the hammer to light the way. Olaf in particular, seemed very uncomfortable.

The light of the hammer announced their presence, and the party came face-to-face with a small army of orcs as soon as they reached the gates. Or rather, a small army of ex-orcs. The shambling corpses moved very slowly, but steadily closed in a half-circle around the group.

Hazel’s sword suddenly flared with hungry, black flames. She smiled rather disturbingly and began to scream and shout, howling none-to-pleasant sounding epithets in a language none of the others understood. Olaf twitched and fired his crossbow at the nearest one, then ran for the nearest out-building.

Enz began laughing uproariously and conjured a ball of flame in the midst of the zombies, setting several on fire. The sphere then began rolling around, the courtyard, rolling over and running into a great many of the undead orcs. Ada walked calmly and quietly out into the courtyard and planted herself, as if completely unconcerned about her own safety. Tom rushed up behind her and threw the glowing hammer, striking the closest zombie full in the chest. The rest of them quickly closed on the girl.

The first orc to near Ada was struck under the chin by the edge of her shield, sending it toppling backwards into another. The next, approaching from the other side, had its chest ripped open by a sharpened, blood-red spike on her elbow. Tom backed off as a dozen of the creatures got closed. Ada stood impassively, shifting to avoid blows or interpose her armor, still seeming unconcerned as she was surrounded, blows raining down on her shield and armor, but not harming her.

With a much louder scream, Hazel suddenly ran forward, leaping over Ada and landing on one zombie, knocking it to the ground and hacking it limb from limb with her two swords. She was back on her feet a second later, spittle flying from her mouth as she screamed in the face of another zombie and headbutted it. As the circle of zombies tightened around the group, Jack, who had been lurking outside the gates, slipped in and attacked one from behind, hacking the thing’s head off with a short-bladed sword. Olaf, at this point, was no where to be seen. The ball of flame continued to roll around the courtyard, setting zombies (and a few small structures) alight.

For several minutes, the fighting was furious, with hammers, swords, spears, and shields lashing out at zombies in every direction. All of the group took painful hits, but spells cast by Ada previously kicked in and immediately began sealing cuts and mending bruises, keeping them on their feet. Between Enz’s ball of flame and Hazel’s relentless, screaming, fury, the undead orcs were eventually put to rest, with no apparent losses among Tom’s new companions. Though, even with Ada’s delayed healing and attempts to interpose herself, Enz had taken several brutal hits and was clearly on his last legs.

Once they had regrouped, Tom lead the others towards the tower/chapel where his last group had fallen. They looked around for Olaf, poking into all of the outbuildings that had not been burned down by Enz’s “bouncing bounding ball of burning breathtaking blazing blasphemous doom” (as he called it), with no luck.

When they reached the doors of the main tower, Enz was suddenly struck from behind and knocked sprawling (and unconscious) by a gigantic frog. A gigantic, rotting, mostly skeletal frog. Hazel, with slightly less screaming and gnashing of teeth, made short work of the frog, but they found that Enzebal was already dead. When they turned him over, they found his front to be covered with a glowing paste, one of his belt pouches completely rotted away, and massive burns on his side, as if he had fallen on acid.

Tom said a prayer for the strange man and splashed some holy water over him in hopes that he would not rise as one of the undead. He then walked into the vestibule of the old temple, hammer first, and looked around at the wreckage and rubble.

It was there that they found Olaf, lying on his back, his face black and blue, the broken and battered remains of Nat Wyler lying beside him. Nat’s hands were locked in a death grip around Olaf’s neck, though the second dwarf did not appear to be moving at all. Apparently Nat’s zombie had gotten the jump on Olaf, but the two had died together, with Olaf’s lead-bladed sword stuck in the zombie dwarf’s side.

Tom could hear clawing, scrabbling noises from under the debris, but saw no immediate threat. He knelt down to disentangle Nat’s fingers from Olaf’s neck. As soon as Tom touched him, Nat’s eyes opened and his arms jerked out unbelievably fast to fasten around Tom’s neck, cutting off his alarmed response mid-shout. Tom was gasping, but alive, by the time Hazel had hacked the undead dwarf’s arms off at the elbow with her enchanted blades.

They found Storm’s body completely drained of all fluids, but inanimate nearby. Tom made a point of grabbing the amulet that had allowed her to command the undead. He and Hazel lifted a fallen beam out of the way to find Kade’s animated corpse, which Tom quickly pacified with the amulet. Tom then stood back and allowed Ada and Jack free reign in looting his (and their) fallen companions.

The Bitter Blades: Session 3: The End
In which only one of the party makes it out alive...

Storm sat breathless as she, Tom, Kade, and Nat sat listening to the carnage outside. Even the wailing haunts and spirits had stopped, their attention also apparently focused on the kobold’s heroic stand against the orcish invaders. Odd, she thought, that she had come to think of herself and her friends as among the keep’s defenders, rather than a band of misfit adventurers here to loot the place. She worried that she might be possessed by one of the haunts somehow, then realized that if she was able to have such worries, it must not be true.

Tom suggested that they should have been out there helping Gore, but Kade, apparently the pragmatist, was quick to point out that the kobold had shut the door on them, and was apparently quite capable of handling the orcs himself, judging by the sounds. Storm was too scared to even comment. After several minutes, the sounds of breaking bones, the screams of dying orcs, and the thunk of arrows into the side of the old barracks stopped. Of course, so had Gore’s triumphant war-cries.

With the sudden silence, Tom shoved Kade aside and tried to open the door, but found it barred. One swing of his hammer against the old hinges, though, and the door collapsed. Outside was a slaughter. Gore lay in the center of a mass of thirty dead orcs and piles of bones from smashed skeletons. Blood was everywhere and Gore had an arrow through his eye. Storm wanted to run to the heroic kobold’s side, but Kade grabbed her skirt and pointed at the pack of a hobgoblins who had just turned in their direction at the sound of the door being smashed open.

Kade grabbed a ceramic flask and an…egg?…from his pouch and tossed them at the hobos. The egg hit first, bursting in a cloud of dust at their feet. Then the flask hit, erupting with a gout of flame, setting one hobos on fire, then igniting the dust with a small explosion. The one hobgoblin died in the fire. The other hobos scattered, beating out flames from their clothing, then began firing at us. Nat smiled and pulled two more similar flasks out and threw them, scattering a few, and killing another with the resulting conflagrations.

Storm, having only a couple of knives left, ducked back into the barracks for cover. Tom threw the glowing blue hammer, caving in the skull of another hobgoblin, but took an arrow in the shoulder and was forced to withdraw into the barracks as well. The haunts began wailing again as the two of them dashed inside.

Nat and Kade charged. Nat took a couple of arrows, before he reached the hobos and managed to run one through with his cutlass. Kade’s avoided the barrage and quickly kneecapped another of the hobos. Five of the hobos were down, and, slightly scorched and faced with such opposition, the other ran away out of the gates and down to a longboat waiting by the shore.

Nat quaffed a healing potion. Storm and Tom caught up. Kade pointed to the old watchtower cum chapel at the center of the keep. Clearly they were done with the outbuildings and should get on with finding how to put the undead to rest.

The entry hall of the chapel was strewn with rubble with a few rays of light filtering down from above. The upper floors of the tower collapsed long ago. The dried husks of two orcs lay near the door, their faces twisted in fright and their bodies seemingly drained of all fluids. Kade whispered “Vampire?” in a way that made Storm turn around suddenly. There was no vampire behind them, but she did get punched in the face by a zombie that was lurking in an alcove right inside the door.

Storm reeled back, the zombie, wearing fairly fresh star-spangled robes, swinging at her wildly with its bare hands. She stumbled over some rubble and fell onto something wet, but Tom intercepted the zombie, shoving it away from her and pounding at it with the glowing hammer. Four more zombies rose out of the shadows, two armed with swords, the others unarmed. Storm reached for the amulet that would let her command the zombies, but found that she could not move. She tried to scream, but her mouth would not open and it came out as only a mumbled “MMMMMMMM!”

Nat and Kade struggled with a trio of zombies. Tom dispatched the zombie that had first attacked Storm, then turned to deal with the fifth. He brushed Storm’s cloak as he went by, causing it to open, showing a strange glyph etched into the hardened leather of her breastplate. The zombie looked down and there was a sudden, brilliant flash of golden light. Storm couldn’t even shout a warning. Everyone was blinded by the flash, and the zombie facing Tom was burned to ashes by the radiance.

Nat, Kade, and Tom flailed about wildly, as did the zombies. They stumbled. They tripped over rubble. They occasionally landed a blow on their targets. Sometimes they hit each other, though they soon learned to coordinate their attacks slightly by yelling. Nat and Kade took several harsh blows.

After a minute, at least, Storm was able to see again. She still could not move, and something was oozing up her body. When her vision fully returned, her legs were covered with a clear slime. She saw Tom swing the big hammer blindly at a zombie that he had backed against a wall somehow. The hammer hit the zombie, taking its head clean off, but his follow-through struck a support.

A rain of rubble fell from above. Tom was clipped in the shoulder by a piece of rubble, but somehow managed to stumble out the door. Kade’s legs were pinned by a falling beam. Nat, and the other two zombies were crushed under a collapsing wall. Storm was somehow missed by all the falling debris, but still could not move or cry out. Kade could though, he shouted for Tom to “Run!”

And Tom did. His right hand clutching the glowing hammer, his left arm hanging limply. Bumping into old buildings and rubble all the way.

Storm could not see what made Kade shout like that, but she did hear his screams afterwards. Horrible screams. Long screams. As if he were being tortured, or burned.

Her own screams remained stifled by her frozen jaw, but she watched in horror as the clear, slimy thing into which she had fallen slowly engulfed her.

Tom, kept running. After a few minutes his sight returned enough for him to navigate to the shore and find Nat’s small boat, He threw the hammer in and shoved off, knowing from the sound of the screaming that all of his companions were dead. He continued to run a few feet out into the water, shoving the boat ahead of him, then pulled himself in with his one good arm. He lay on the bottom of the boat and drifted into unconsciousness.

The little boat was found a few miles south of Phlan two days later by some scavengers from the Slums. They took the hammer, of course, but were nice enough to help Tom return to his hovel and his daughter. With time his shoulder would heal, maybe even enough for him to return to his work as a mason…