Ruins of Adventure

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

13 Eleint

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 Eleint

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

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

Lyra

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

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

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

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

Bo

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

GM

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

Yamtwit

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

GM

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

Hrud

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

Donovan

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

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

Frantiska

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

Lyra

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

Donovan

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

Winona

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

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

Hrud

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

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

Bo

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

GM

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

Yamtwit

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

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

Hrud

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

GM

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

Donovan

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

Winona

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

Yamtwit/Frantiska

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

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

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

Lyra

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

Donovan

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

Hrud

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

Yamtwit

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

Lyra

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

Donovan

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

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

Lyra

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

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

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

Frantiska/Yamtwit

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

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

Hrud

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

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

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

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

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

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

The barbarian raises his hand.

GM

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

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

Donovan

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

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

Yamtwit/Frantiska

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

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

Donovan

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

Bo

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

Lyra

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

Yamtwit

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

GM

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

Lyra

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

Winona/Donovan

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

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

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

Frantiska/Yamtwit

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

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

Hrud

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

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

Winona/Donovan

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

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

GM

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

Donovan/Winona

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

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

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

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

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

Teldicia

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

Donovan/Winona

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

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

“However…” she continues, in a fairly bored-sounding monotone, as if not particularly uninterested in the topic, “Melvaunt, in whose jurisdiction we are now or soon will be, allows for a wide range of punishments, including torture by means of a Catherine Wheel, as Teldicia described, as both a means of execution and post mortem punishment—both only in cases of aggravated murder, that is, murder committed while in the midst of another crime, or perpetrated against a family member of the accused. Firstly, the delinquent is to be placed belly down, on a cartwheel with their hands and feet bound, outstretched out along the spokes, and thus dragged by a horse to the place of execution. The wheel is then hammered onto a pole, which is then fastened upright in its other end in the ground and made to revolve slowly. A large hammer or an iron bar is then applied to the limb over the gap between the beams, breaking the bones. Twice times on each arm, one blow above the elbow, the other below. Then, each leg gets the same treatment, above and below the knees. The final ninth blow is given at the middle of the spine, so that it breaks. Then, the broken body of the accused is unbound and woven onto the wheel between the spokes. The criminal is then to be left dying ‘afloat’ on the wheel, and be left to rot. The broken man can last hours and even days, during which birds are invited peck at the helpless victim. Eventually, shock and dehydration cause death.”

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

Lyra

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

Donovan

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

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

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

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

Lyra

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

GM

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

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

Hrud

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

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

Bo

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

Hrud

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

Bo

“Ja, de er halv hund … og alle cur.”

Lyra

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

GM

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

Lyra

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

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

GM

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

Lyra

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

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

h4. Hrud

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

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

Donovan

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

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

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

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

Hrud

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

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

Donovan

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

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

Hrud

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


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

Frantiska/Yamtwit

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

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

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

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

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

“Is this going somewhere?”

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

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

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

GM

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

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

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

Frantiska/Yamtwit

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

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

GM

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

Frantiska/Yamtwit

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

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

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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:
johndee.gif

419505299_01295519ca_1.jpg

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…

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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.

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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.

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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.
teleport1.jpg

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.
__________.jpg
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.”

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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.

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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.

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

GM

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

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

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

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

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…

Yamtwit

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

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

Frantiska

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

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

Lyra

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

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.

Lyra

“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

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.

GM

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.

Frantiska

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

GM

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/Rye

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

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?”

Rye

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

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

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

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.”

Hrud

“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

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.

GM

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

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

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

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.”

Winona

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.”

Hrud

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

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

Yamtwit

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!”

GM

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.

Yamtwit

“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

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….

GM

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/Donovan/Rye

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

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.

Donovan

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/Frantiska

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

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.

GM

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.

Hrud

“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

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

Hrud

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

Lyra

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

GM

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

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

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

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.

Hrud

“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/Winona/Rye

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

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.

GM

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

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

Hrud

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!”

Bo

“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

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/Frantiska

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.

Donovan

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.

GM

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.

Lyra

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

Rye

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

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.

Donovan/Winona

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

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

Yamtwit/Frantiska

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.

GM

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

Lyra

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?”

Rye

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.”

Hrud

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.

GM

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.

Hrud

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

Donovan

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.

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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…

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