Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
So much news!
First, I am led to understand that congratulations for Alderan are in order! Apparently in his negotiations with Lady Eviana, she agreed to be his bride! In merely five years' time, if he is still alive, she has consented to allow him a first date! What excitement! Alderan insists that this means they will be wed within the next two decades! I look forard to seeing an elven wedding! I believe that foliage will be involved!
In less pleasant but equally-enlightening news, I have been wrong.
It is very easy to admit such a thing, as my mistakes were honest and not cruel, though some might have felt them as such.
Vorne does not believe that Taleck is 12, and indicated that Taleck indeed has a normal grown man's desires, though I am afraid he put it a bit more crudely than that. When I pointed out Taleck's awkwardness in touching me, he suggested it might be excitement or fear, rather than inexperience. After some debate, we agreed that I would ask Taleck his true age on the morrow, and in the future Vorne would ride behind me on Hooves Like Clouds, and Taleck would ride Vorne's Phantom Steed. I must admit, this suited me quite well, and Vorne has been warmer to me than he has been in weeks.
We then had a pleasant intellectual discussion as to the nature of elves. Vorne was a bit surprised at my claim that there were at least 5 varieties of elf that I knew of, and he believed there to be only two. I discussed the differences between forest elves, city elves, and sea elves, and he pointed out that these differences were more likely caused by long periods in different trades (for all the elves I had met were well over 100) rather than actual speciation. I could accept this argument, but I felt that both the "pleasure elves" I had seen at the temple of Calistria and the dark elves were indeed different species. Vorne insisted that the "pleasure elves" were not elves at all, but misguided humans convinced to sell their bodies and provide token worship to Calistria to make a living. Having not partaken of such an elf, nor knowing how to distinguish elves from humans save by their ears, I had to concede that yes, it was possible that my "pleasure elves" were indeed humans or half-elves.
Which provides me a wonderful transition to move back to the morning and describe our trials and travails in securing the library for our allies from Crying Leaf.
Alderan had seen enough, and planted a Fireball square on the rooftop. Vorne struck a visible drow with a Magic Missile, and Sans Quah moved in at ground level to attempt to breach the door while the rooftop guards were distracted. As Sans Quah engaged the drow protecting the door and the rest of us moved in, I Blessed the party to increase their chances of striking true.
At least he had asked.
Sans Quah and Taleck opened the locked door in their inimitable fashion as I summoned my armor to myself. The entry room was apparently infested with huge spiders, but by the time I arrived they had already been dispatched, and I had time to put Shield of Faith on myself as well. At this point I was feeling well-protected, and quite curious as to what we would face next. Sans Quah expressed concern: He had been bitten by a spider, and felt the venom coursing through his veins, but my magics were protecting him at the moment. Would I be able to cure the poison before my protective spell expired?
While Taleck and Sans Quah finished with the spiders, for reasons beyond my comprehension Alderan decided to explore the next room. (I later learned that he had seen the dretches in the room and believed he would be able to use Burning Hands to great efficacy against them.)
It would be an interesting end of the hour, to say the least.
Once again, I promised them I would do my utmost to cure their various ailments before my protective spell ended, but at this point their poisonings were exceeding my ability to heal, and I had to keep in mind which poisons would take priority (for example, the spider venom in Sans Quah) and which could wait (for example, the dretch poison in Alderan).
The subsequent series of events is yet another dark mark in our ability to work together as a party, and I hope we may resolve such issues before we are truly challenged.
With Vorne's lungs full of noxious gasses (he had breathed out the first cloud, but breathed in a second), he, Taleck, Sans Quah, and Alderan charged forward looking for opponents. They burst into the library proper and Vorne filled it with the gas.
By the time I arrived, things were not going well for my companions. The drow had toppled the bookcases over the entry, trapping Alderan beneath them. He was coughing profusely from the dust, and apparently dazed by some other effect. Taleck had trampled him at some point, as indicated by the large deep-set footprints on the back of the bookcase, and now Vorne was atop him, using the height granted by the bookcase (and Alderan's body) to great advantage in targeting his spells.
With my healing, the party was no longer in danger, and the fighters prevented the drow from reaching me. Vorne's non-flaming fireballs (no, I do not understand them, either) did their work, and we were soon victorious! At one point the cleric attempted to strike me with some spell, and Vorne encased me (and him) in a protective sphere, shielding us completely! Alderan was not so lucky, but I like to believe the bookcases protected him at least partially. I believe Vorne is finally forgiving me! And the drow fell!
The library was ours!
We retrieved Alderan from under the bookcases, searched our defeated foes and the rest of the building for loot, and prepared to return to the elves.
Alderan, curious about the spheres, analyzed them and somehow activated one. An image of an elven librarian appeared and conversed with Alderan. I am afraid I have no idea what was said, but apparently Alderan can ask questions and the librarian can answer.
I had to keep in mind just how many poisons were afflicting our party. I had no idea how many I would be able to cure, so I expected we would soon be a sleeping, vomiting, weakened party fleeing the city...
*** End of Session ***
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
The ride to the edge of the forest was nothing short of delightful; the weather was fine, the birds were singing, there was a fresh breeze and the scent of clean plants, and Hooves like Clouds lived up to her name, carrying me and Taleck in an effortlessly smooth gait. Of course, the party placed me in the middle of the group for my protection, so Hooves like Clouds did not have to follow my direction and merely followed her peers. But she seemed content, and therefore I was content.
I did attempt to start a conversation with Alderan as to whether he would be safe among the forest elves. After all, weren't city elves and forest elves mortal enemies? Or it would seem so, from my naive point of view. Alderan assured me that all elves viewed him the same: With jealousy of his superior intellect. I did not remind him that most of the elves we had encountered so far had attempted to kill him, so I let the matter drop and we rode on.
On reaching the edge of the forest, we realized that there was no road leading therein; in fact, the Horse Lords' claim that the elves were not partial to visitors was reinforced by the complete lack of anything resembling a civilized trail. Sans Quah thought he could make out some kind of game trail leading deeper into the woods, but we would have to travel single file, and the horses would be just as slow as the people.
A brief rustling in the trees was all the warning we received of the vicious ambush! A group of dragon-like creatures, later identified by Vorne as "forest drakes", descended upon us, intent on making us their supper! I thought immediately of Hooves like Clouds beneath me, totally unprotected from their ravenous intent, and straightened in my saddle and spread my wings to make myself a larger target. Happily and woefully, I was quite successful. One drake set upon me with great vigor. I saw another tear into Alderan and draw much blood, while our hounds attempted to regroup to defend us.
As we regrouped, a group of five elves dressed in forest colorations came out of the woods to greet us. I did not understand their first few words, but soon I regained my ability to understand the common tongue and learned that they were a group of warriors from Crying Leaf. The leader identified himself as Kaerishiel, but would not condone to name his companions. In fact, he provided us with very little information nor hospitality, only occasionally speaking to Alderan and Vorne in Elven. I did learn that we had mentioned that Kwava had sent us, and we were being escorted to Crying Leaf.
The moment we stepped through the veil, we knew that something was wrong. Several buildings had been reduced to burned-out ruins. Residents on crutches or limping along spared glances our way but quickly returned to their business. Knowing full well that I would be of no use in the discussion of the Armageddon Echo, I immediately asked to be shown to the infirmary that I might assist in the healing. Kaerishiel merely scowled at me. "There will be time for that later. For now, you must prepare to meet Eviana, our leader."
In the building itself, the elves offered us wondrous refreshments: Water in cups woven of grass and foliage, with beautiful tiny flowers floating in it, fresh fruits and vegetables, and even some vegetables that were dried or roasted to provide a variation in texture. Many of the fruits had been carved into intricate and wonderful shapes, such as a pear carved to resemble a turtle whose shell opened to reveal a handful of raw lima beans! All of the refreshments had a surprisingly delicate flavor; I am afraid our barbarians' first act on seeing the food was to break into their jerky stores. Lark and Ca'el did not hesitate to partake of the barbarians' generosity, though I declined, feeling that the elves' food, though bland, was so carefully-prepared that it would be insulting to supplement it.
After about an hour, Kaerishiel arrived once again to escort us to Eviana. I overheard several party members refer to her as a queen, but it seemed to me that the "town" was quite small to be the capital of a queendom. I was dressed to meet the leader of the elves, and none of the other party members had bothered to change at all, so I felt I would receive the benefit of the doubt.
The conversation that followed was conducted in a mixture of Common and Elven, and I must admit, baffled me completely. As far as I can tell, rather than wanting a lecture from Alderan and Vorne, Eviana wished to purchase the drow journals from us and consider the business closed. Alderan and Vorne were unwilling to part with the journals. Others pointed out that the elves were obviously under some form of assault, but Eviana would not share any information with us until she had the journals, and we were unwilling to part with the journals until she provided more information. I personally could not understand why we could not allow her to copy the journals, thereby spreading information about a common foe, but as I have noted, my opinions are not valued in such discussions.
It was a perplexing stalemate. We arrived to help the elves, yet here we were mistrusting them, waiting for them to place trust in us before we would even allow them to see the journals! On the other hand, after the betrayal of Father Padrick at the temple of Sarenrae, Saul's betrayal of us, Zincher's attempted betrayal of us, and so forth, I cannot condemn my companions for being quite skeptical of their would-be allies. Our reticence irritated Kaerishiel no end, and he started speaking against us, insisting that the elves could manage their own problems. It did not help when others pointed out that, from the visible evidence in the town, they had not been doing a very good job of it.
The fate of the journals decided, Eviana set her scribes to copying them for us. It feels improper to address her by such an informal name, but she did not propose a title to us. Mistress Eviana? Madame? Unfortunately, no one else seemed bothered by her lack of a title, so I let the matter drop.
Finally, Eviana told us the history of her people. They had not always lived in Crying Leaf, but in a city named Celwynvian miles to the west of us at the southwestern corner of the forest. The cave elves (drow) had arrived years ago, and repeated attacks had reduced the city to ruins and driven the forest elves (elves) from it to seek refuge in Crying Leaf. The elves believed they could contain this menace, and did not seek outside help. Yet every time they mounted a counterattack, the drow were nowhere to be found. Finally, the elves determined that the drow were hiding in a pocket dimension in Celwynvian itself, only coming out to perform raids and achieve key tactical victories. The drow and their demon allies were in control of Celwynvian, but used the pocket dimension to avoid any conflicts they might lose.
Unfortunately, we received no more clarifications. Once their private conversation was complete, Eviana dismissed us to rest for the night. I could not rest yet. "Lady Eviana! (Yes, THAT sounded better!) I saw wounded in your town, and was wondering whether I might be of use in your infirmary."
The infirmary was a sea of devastation and woe. A few of the injured needed nothing more than simple healing, which I was more than willing to provide. In fact, even the more powerful healers expressed surprise at the power of my channels. I could cure a few of long-lasting poisons, or restore them from drains or illnesses. But many, many more were suffering effects beyond my abilities: Magic-induced blindness, curses, missing limbs, and other ailments beyond my current powers. I did what I could, and prayed to Sarenrae to bless me yet again with greater power to aid these elves in their struggles.
Finally, my magics spent and myself physically exhausted, I staggered over to Hooves like Clouds to wish her a good night, rubbed her snout and fed her one of the brown cubes, then went to our tent, collapsed, and slept a dreamless sleep.
In the morning once everyone was awake, we were once again summoned to Lady Eviana's presence. Kaerishiel was there as well, sour as ever. As we settled in, I examined him and Alderan for similarities...
I felt his interpretation absolutely reasonable, but others expressed much doubt. How were they to recruit the barbarians to come? Once they came, how would they convince them to leave? How many barbarians were there, how many were warriors, and how many were experienced in fighting drow?
I am not certain what his dream means, but with only a handful of Kaerishiel's warriors available, perhaps only a handful of Sans Quah's tribe must come? And perhaps... with him being banished... are WE his tribe? Are WE the barbarians who must join with the elves to save the world?
I do not know, but I can certainly hope that we are making the right decision, and my interpretation of Sans Quah's dream is accurate (enough).
Lady Eviana was grateful we were willing to attempt her ploy, but needed time to prepare her people. While Alderan and Vorne retired to write scrolls (I wonder that they can ever uncurl their fingers with all that scribbling), I returned to our lodge, changed to my sari, put up my hair, and carefully folded my green dress, looking one final time at Alinza's beautiful stitching. Carrying the bundle back to Lady Eviana's office, I requested and was immediately granted an audience.
Once again, in the evening I visited Hooves like Clouds, returned to our cabin, and retired. Others were beginning to complain about the monotony of the food, but the elves obviously prepared it with such care and kindness it always tasted like ambrosia to me. Lovingly-prepared gruel nourishes the soul far better than any garishly-adorned pheasant.
The march to Celwynvian took two days. Much to my disappointment, we were not permitted to take our horses, so I bade Hooves like Clouds a fond-but-hopefully-brief farewell. I wondered whether she would even notice I was gone.
The elves set up a large campsite, with Eviana in a pavilion in the middle. We were invited to dinner with her. At dinner, we met the leaders of the Celwynvian Watch. The overall leader was a female elf named Lashelu, apparently a ranger of some repute who was accustomed to working with non-elves.
Our group's assignment was to clear the roads around the old Library. Lashelu warned us that in addition to drow, we would most likely encounter demons. Also, a green dragon named Razorhorn had been spotted near the city. Lashelu confessed that one of Razorhorn's parents had killed her mother, and she would like nothing better than to see Razorhorn brought down.
Our debriefing complete, we retired to our tents. Once again, I prayed to Sarenrae for the power to protect my colleagues, and to heal the afflicted elves of Crying Leaf.
I awoke the morning of our raid and felt Sarenrae's blessed touch on my soul. I explored my mind and my abilities, and nearly wept.
My channels were no more powerful, but I knew that now they would harm demons as well as undead. I could shield my allies from poison for long enough to allow them to complete a major battle. I could greatly boost the strength of my hounds, adding to their devastation. And I could increase their accuracy as well, making them even more deadly.
There was no longer any doubt in my mind.
Sarenrae, my goddess of mercy and redemption, was girding me for war.
*** End of Session ***
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
As we departed the Quah, I felt a gift in return for their hospitality was in order. While I was fairly certain that their shaman did not care for me, I approached him nonetheless.
What was it of Sans Quah that made him so hated by his tribe? He had not acted as a bastion of faith around me, but he was no Carmen. And yes, he had scales and slitted eyes, but being from the Celestial Plane, I had seen far stranger creatures dedicated to the cause of righteousness, so I was well aware that physical appearances mattered not. What, exactly, had Sans Quah done to earn such hatred and distrust from his people? I decided that I would indeed have to watch him, though I knew not what to watch for. I felt I knew his nature already. Had he fooled me so completely?
As we proceeded up the mountain path with our escort, one of the older Shadde-Quah tried to speak to Taleck. I would love to have known what they discussed, but it seemed that the Shadde-Quah member was trying to offer Taleck some sort of advice, and Taleck was rejecting that advice. The other Shadde-Quah laughed and mocked Taleck, but he bore their derision with impunity. Would that I could speak their language to help Taleck! He is only 12! How was he supposed to understand the social norms of another tribe, much less his own? It's not as if barbarian tribes offer courses in etiquette. Do they?
After several hours of pleasant hiking through low mountains, the Shadde-Quah informed us that we were at the edge of their terrain (how did they know? I saw no markers. Do they have a mystical "border sense"? A sense of smell? What tells them where their border lies?). They turned and walked back up into the hills, while the rest of us proceeded down towards the road that would take us to Crying Leaf.
Their numbers decimated, the remaining attackers hardly put up a fight. I did not have to heal anyone at the end of it, so I turned to Alderan and asked loudly, "And what manner of creatures are these, Alderan?"
I spoke clearly for all the party to hear. "I know that we cannot take these creatures prisoner, as we do not have the resources and our mission is urgent. So we must decide whether to kill them that they might never prey on another, or whether to merely take their things and leave them lying here unconscious, as a sign to them and their kinfolk that their chosen path is not the right one. I would strongly prefer the latter; they have not harmed us enough to merit death, and do not seem dangerous nor vicious enough to be irredeemable, so I would leave them live, but burn their possessions as penance for their malfeasance. However, if the party would prefer to slay them, I cannot in good conscience stay your hands, as I have no better alternative."
I bowed my head, waiting for the inevitable death sentence on our prisoners. The party stared at me in stunned silence. Had I really just given them leave to slay prisoners, after all the times I had tried to stop them?
We started a large fire, burned all their belongings (none of us felt that trying to sell their things would be profitable nor proper, as the case may be), and left them to wake up and ponder their fates. Perhaps finding several tribemen dead and the rest defeated and humiliated, they might open the next encounter with a discussion. And communication is the first path to redemption! While I was skeptical that we had accomplished much of anything with the hobgoblins, I was ecstatic with the progress shown by my companions!
A few hours later we joined the main road. It was already late in the day, and we had at least another day's travel ahead of us (perhaps two), so Alderan set up a brilliant little shelter for us to sleep in. (It is a magical dome perhaps 20 feet in radius that is opaque from the outside but transparent from the inside. I am not ashamed to admit that I must have spent a good half hour delighting myself by going into and out of the shelter and marveling at the changing visibility. I am afraid the others' glares finally dissuaded me from this game.)
My morning devotions were a bit more exciting than usual; I was determined to help Taleck overcome his grim determination to prove his manliness at the tender age of 12, so I crept over as silently as I could to his sleeping form and placed celestial protections upon him. (Endure Elements and Life Link). While I would not by any stretch of the imagination call myself a mistress of stealth, I did manage to put the spells upon him without waking him.
Most of the day was a pleasant hike down a well-traveled road. With mountains on one side, a forest ahead of us, and a blue sky above us, I could almost imagine that I was back on the Celestial Plane. But my boots were ill-fitting and hurt, my backpack was ridiculously heavy, I was clad in drooping heavy leathers instead of clinging diaphanous silks, and, worst of all, I could not fly!
I really MUST get more loose-fitting armor for my backside.
Fortunately, we had plenty of time to prepare this time. Ca'el took cover in the trees, becoming as invisible as if he had cast a spell. I was impressed at his woodsmanship. I knew far better than to try to hide a white angel among green trees, so I stood at the side of the path, awaiting whoever or whatever it was approaching us. The others, bless their hearts, would not abandon me to my fate and stayed with me by the side of the road. As the cloud drew closer, I summoned my celestial armor for protection. The woven chain was perhaps even tighter-fitting than the leather, and definitely better-tailored, but looked both formidable and formal with its glowing symbols of Sarenrae and complete body coverage. Fortunately, Sans Quah was paying attention to the road rather than me (or Lark. It is a bit presumptuous to assume he was looking at my backside while being so distracted. Hers is quite lovely and well-rounded as well).
As the cloud approached, the cause resolved into a group of horsemen, perhaps twenty strong, leading perhaps another dozen horses behind them. My companions identified them as Velashan Horse Lords, sometimes referred to as the "eigth Quah" for their nomadic travels across Varisia. But they were not Shoanti.
The horseman relaxed at my words and told us of him and his people. He was Windbraid. His people, the Velashan Horse Lords, were proud raisers of the best horses of Varisia, and most likely in all the world. They sold their extra horses in Riddleport, but even in good years they did not entirely trust the crime lords to treat their horses with the respect they deserved. In these dark times they hesitated to bring the horses to Riddleport at all, but they had too many to feed over the long summer dry, so they must needs be sell some. He was surprised that we were going to deal with elves; normally the elves did not welcome humans into their midst. Then, he stared at me.
I do not know what he saw in me. I am no horsewoman. I am no rider. Even on the Celestial Plane I was not good with animals. And those animals could speak to me!
Yet he gazed at me, and he spoke with grave determination: "From what you have told us, you are heroes of this land on a quest of great importance. You need mounts. And you do not need ordinary mounts. You need the best mounts in the world. I will tell you what I think. I think that I will sell you those of my horses you would buy, at the same price I would sell them in Riddleport. But I would have you make several promises. You must always treat your horse with respect. It is your mount and your companion, not your animal. You will never abuse nor abandon your horse. And, if ever it comes time that you must part with your horse, you will not sell your horse to just any horse trader. You must find someone worthy of riding a horse of Velashu, and you must sell that horse to that person, the person who will ride it, and not anyone else."
I could not speak. His horses were beautiful! And powerful! And magnificent! And so many things I could not say them all if I had a day and a night to speak of their perfection! And yet they were strong, and violent, and dangerous. I had to be honest.
She was a beautiful golden color, like summer wheat on a perfect day, or freshly-tapped dwarven ale at a celebration for Torag in the halls of Heaven. Her mane ran blonde, so light it was nearly as pale as my hair. I could not hear her move. I could not breathe.
This did not go well.
The tribeswoman who had led her out managed to hide her laughter (bless her) and showed me the bags where I could store the gear from my backpack (bless having that horrid thing off my back) and then easily lifted me onto Hooves like Clouds. Do I really weigh so little that any nomad off the trail can lift me so easily? Hooves like Clouds seemed to feel so, as she wandered off to graze with me on her back, much to the amusement of all around.
As I sat on her back taking an impromptu tour of the immediate surroundings (and apparently the best grass), the others took my lead and purchased their own horses. Alderan, knowing his lack of diplomatic arts might be his undoing, simply paid for his horse with a Cure Moderate Wounds potion and 10 platinum pieces, exactly matching my offering. His horse was a deep black gelding with a white blaze on its nose named Light's Pride. Ca'el stepped from the trees, earning Windbraid's respect. He purchased a deep brown gelding. Its fur was so brown as to be nearly black, only discernible as brown in direct sunlight. His name was Breath of the Night. For Sans Quah, they produced an enormous gelding, black with grey dappling, named Stone Breaker. Finally, Lark purchased an ember mare with red highlights named Touched by Fire.
As we bade the Horse Lords farewell, Windbraid came to us and gave each of us a leather wrist strap. He explained that it would tell any other Horse Lord that met us that we had traded fairly. This served two purposes: They would know our mounts were not stolen, and they would trust us to deal fairly with them. What a boon! Once our business was complete, the horsemen turned their group and headed back for the plains. On questioning, Windbraid explained that we had bought enough of his horses that he would not need to waste his time nor risk his horses in Riddleport. He thanked us profusely and rode off.
I wondered why Vorne and Taleck had not purchased horses.
Now with proper mounts, we started towards the elf woods. Unfortunately, in spite of his strength and youthful enthusiasm, Taleck could not keep up with us. The others suggested he might ride behind me on Hooves like Clouds. I was worried for her, but the rest of the party assured me that I weighed so little she would hardly consider me a load, so Taleck would only weigh her down properly.
It was rather endearing watching him try to figure out where to put his hands. I smiled reassuringly, clasped them firmly, and put them on my hips.
I mean, what does a 12-year-old know about touching a woman?
*** End of Part I ***
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
Our ride on board ship was all pleasant relaxation. Vorne and Alderan huddled together belowdecks, copying scrolls into their spellbooks and scribbling arcane writings. I must admit; I was intrigued. Both Vorne and Alderan seemed to spend all of their time hunched over writing desks, scribbling indecipherable symbols in profusion using magical inks. Perhaps I should learn to do the same, providing myself with scrolls in case of emergency?
In short, I spent most of my time interacting with the crew, as they were far more sociable than my companions.
That evening I tried to join Vorne in a single hammock, but the hammocks were not designed for a person of my height, much less a person with wings. I ended up sleeping on deck. The crew was more than willing to lend me some of their blankets to make a makeshift nest, and more than once I awoke to a sailor moving a blanket to ensure I was properly covered. Dear men, but quite misguided: Ever since I had learned to channel the atmosphere of the Celestial Plane around my person, I had little need for blankets or furs. But I did not disuade them; it made them happy, and it made me happy to know that they cared about my well-being.
I am afraid I am still quite uncertain as to the customs of this plane. I arose just before dawn to perform my usual bathing, preening, and devotions. There were only two crewmen abovedecks, so I thought it would be perfectly safe. Unfortunately, the lookout became quite distracted by my activities and the steersman, a grizzled old human who looked as if he'd spent his whole life on the water, had to correct him; he insisted that the "view" was nice, but it was nothing compared to the mermaid he'd once seen. This caused the lookout to return to his duties. Sailors are odd fellows.
Just before noon the crew informed us that we had reached our destination. I wondered at that. The shoreline was nothing but rock-strewn beaches and sheer cliffs; there was not a settlement in sight. Sans Quah confirmed their assessment and we debarked in the middle of nowhere.
And thus, we proceeded. Sans Quah paddled in his little boat perhaps 100 feet from shore, while Taleck led the rest of us in a hike along the rocky beaches. The walk was exceedingly unpleasant; imagine constantly stepping on rounded stones that turn your ankles this way and that, surrounded by sand that pours into your ill-fitting boots every time you turn an ankle. My boots were full of sand, my feet were sore, and the bottom 18 inches of my leathers were soaked and sand-coated within the first 15 minutes of our walk. From the looks of the others, I was sure it was blisteringly hot as well.
While the beach, the cliffs, the rocks, and the sea seemed utterly desolate to me, Taleck assured us that we were being watched, and we would be confronted forthwith. Sure enough, within an hour we saw three boats similar to Sans Quah's approaching him from the sea, and six walkers approaching us from the shore. We stopped and waited for them to approach. At nearly the same moment, those in the boats called out some sort of challenge to Sans Quah, while those on land called out a challenge to Taleck. Since I could not understand their language (a harsh, guttural speech), I could only follow Taleck's lead. Sans Quah exposed his tattoo to the boatmen and spoke to them, while Taleck spread his arms away from his weapons and spoke to the footmen.
After perhaps half an hour of cheerful banter, Taleck never failing to look more and more furious at their responses (much to their amusement), we topped a rise and finally came upon the Shadde-Quah's main encampment. A large bonfire marked the center of the encampment, while smaller fires dotted the beach around the main fire. The boatmen led Sans-Quah ashore, and we were all led to the main bonfire and presented to an aged man who was quite obviously the clan shaman.
Finally, the shaman turned to us. Much to my relief, he switched to the common tongue. "Tell me, tribesman of the Lyrune-Quah. Who are you, and what have you done?"
The shaman spoke to each of us in turn, asking who we were, and what we had done. Apparently the only accomplishments that mattered to the Shadde-Quah were notable enemies we had defeated. To no one's surprise, Ca'el was very brief, though he did mention slaying drow in the caverns on Devil's Elbow. Lark spoke of hunting both animals and humans. Lian told a brief tale of our adventures. Alderan switched to the Shadde-Quah's native tongue for his answer. The shaman made a sour face. I could not tell whether it was Alderan's oratory abilities or his lack of familiarity with the language that made the shaman look so displeased. Yet the shaman did not slay him, which I took as a good sign.
Our interview complete, the shaman pronounced judgement. We were to be guests of the tribe for 3 days, at which point our welcome would be over and they would slay us if we remained on their land. I began to question just why Sans-Quah had left the tribe. Had he willingly departed, or had he been asked to leave?
We spent the rest of the afternoon with the Shadde-Quah. As is typical in such cultures, the younger folk flocked to us with curiosity and a multitude of questions, while the elders shunned us. They showed us how they fished, how they built boats, and the myriad of creatures that could be found in the coastal pools among the rocks.
Our evening was spent with Lian telling tales of our adventures so far, many of the young Shoanti listening raptly. We slept well, feeling safe among the Shadde-Quah for the evening.
In the morning I felt that I should try to make myself useful. The other party members were fishing, hunting, telling tales, or otherwise doing things for our hosts. I first approached the shaman. I explained that I knew he was a powerful healer, and did not doubt his ability to keep his clan hale and hearty, but I was a healer as well and was hoping he might condescend to allow me some small activities. He said he had none; his tribe was healthy and it was a time of peace, not a time for healers. I was heartened that his facade softened as he told this to me; he was not trying to be cruel, but he did not have a use for me at the moment.
With nothing useful I could do, I tried to participate in a game. Seeing a young barbarian near the tide pools, I scooped up a small octopus and approached him. He called out in Common, "Not it!"
The squirt of ink in my face was no surprise, but delighted the young man no end. I had done my penance.
I am bad at games.
I spent the rest of the day trying to stay out of the way of other, more useful tribesmen and party members, and sang a bit, worked with some of the women on weaving nets a bit, and otherwise passed the time.
On our final day with the Shadde-Quah, the shaman provided us with six warriors to escort us out of his territory. We set off, mountains in front of us, knowing that the elf woods were just beyond those mountains...
*** End of Session ***
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
Player Note: More than any other session, this one demonstrates the problem with 'personal point-of-view' journals, so I'm hoping some of the other players chime in. The best roleplaying moments of the game (in my humble opinion) were those between Sans Quah, Taleck, and the Shadde-Quah; especially the Shadde-Quah tribesmen's ruthless ribbing of Taleck and his matriarchal society. ("Nice earthbreaker! Do you sleep with it? Does it rattle when you shake it?") Unfortunately, all of that roleplaying was done in Shoanti, so Leilani got to sit there obliviously, as will be obvious in her journal entry. Similarly, Ca'el chose to "bite the hand that feeds him" by stealing from guests of the Glorious Goblin and Carmen had to deal with the repercussions of that, again all outside of Leilani's awareness. So while I think Leilani's description of the session will be less-than-riveting, there were many, many undertones she completely missed.
From the prow of the ship I could see a crowd gathered at the docks. And not just any crowd. Dozens if not hundreds of people stood on the newly-repaired (and in some places still under construction) docks. I looked back at the others, but they seemed more curious than concerned, so I relaxed a bit. As the ship docked many men pushed forward, offering to buy our star metal from us. I think it was Sans Quah who first noticed that many of those men were representatives of the crime bosses.
As we set about debarking, a tall dark-haired man with keen eyes focused on us started pushing his way through the crowd. Samaritha stiffened a bit, identifying the man as Elias Tammerhawk, head of the Cypher Mage academy. I immediately distrusted the man. Instinctively, I straightened to my full height and half-spread my wings, protecting Samaritha both physically and emotionally as the man approached us. He looked up, unimpressed. "Samaritha? It is good to see that you are well! And how many others survived?"
I stepped between them, looking down at him. "I am sorry, sir, but I am an aasimar, and I have given my word that I will escort her safely home. These docks are not her home, and therefore I insist on accompanying her."
Once it was only the two of us, I asked Samaritha if she needed anything. Someone to talk to. Help unpacking. A wing to cry on. She insisted that all she really wanted was a good hot bath to scrub the last vestiges of the island from her person. Feeling that she was truly safe and home, I hugged her goodbye and headed down to the lobby.
My visit to my room was remarkably brief. No sooner had I taken off my pack, slipped out of my leathers, bathed and preened, and donned my silks but a knock came at the door. Carmen was calling a meeting! What could this be? Vorne and I went downstairs to join the rest.
The second surprised me far more.
Her name was Lark, and she had brought the news of the inheritance to Carmen. She was an outdoorswoman and had heard of Carmen's exploits. Figuring that Carmen would be retiring from adventuring, she felt that she would be an excellent addition to the party. Considering the motley crew we had assembled so far, no one objected to having a competent archer in our midst.
Exhausted from our long day, we spread the spoils of our voyage before us for our standard procedure of claiming what we wanted, letting Vorne record its value, and then selling all the unclaimed goods and splitting the remaining gold. After I selected the beautiful mithral shield and Taleck selected some boots that would allow him to cling to walls, I am afraid some sort of argument broke out about the way the goods were being distributed, and a new system was devised whereby the total value would be calculated, the moneys assigned to each person, and then each person could "buy back" any gear they wanted. I am afraid that under the new system I could afford the dresses but not the armor, so I had to let it go.
After the loot was divided to everyone's satisfaction and the "unpurchased" items were set aside to be sold the next day, we retired to our rooms. I have not slept so well since I first landed on this plane! A real feather bed! What a comfort!
Even knowing full well what a cesspit Riddleport was, and being poignantly aware of Larur's absence, the feeling of the sun on my body as I washed and preened on the rooftop at sunrise was truly marvelous! No more fear of Vorne kitties assaulting us at any time of the day or night! No more horrifically sad zombies shuffling forward with barbed tongues! Simply Riddleport, a cesspit of humanity whose dangers were all too real, but at least by now familiar to me.
As I descended, I heard the group again gathered in Carmen's office. This time they were discussing the fate of the star metal. I do say, we seem to spend far more time discussing what to do with our spoils than we ever do obtaining them! As the metal apparently interferes with even divine magics, I wanted nothing to do with it, and was perfectly happy to let the others decide. Instead I busied myself sorting the coins, cleaning my new dresses, lining up weapons and armor, and finally writing in this very journal. It was a very LONG conversation.
With the negotiations for the star metal finally adjourned, I asked Taleck and Lian if they would kindly accompany me on my errands in the city. I would have asked Vorne to accompany me, but he and Alderan were huddled away working on the drow journals and preparing a presentation for the Cypher Mage academy for the following night.
The trip to the academy was uneventful, and the pleasant concierge who had escorted me home the day before was more than happy to direct us to the vault where we were to redeem our chits. The poor young wizard-in-training working the vault had obviously rarely (if ever) been outside of the walls of the academy. On seeing our robust and motley group he lost his composure, stammering out "Sirs" and "Ma'ams" uncertainly, not knowing what to make of Sans Quah and his mask nor Taleck and his massive earthbreaker. When my turn finally arrived and I asked for an amulet of natural armor, the poor lad turned positively crimson, barely squeaked out a, "Right away, er, miss," and scurried off into the bowels of the vault.
Fortunately, I was able to redeem myself almost immediately. He gazed in open wonder at my wings. "Would you like to touch one?" I asked.
Once we were done and headed back for the exit, we were a bit astonished to see Vorne and Alderan speaking with the concierge, apparently attempting to reserve a lecture hall for the following night and to post several flyers about their lecture. Unfortunately, Alderan was having his usual effect on the concierge, and the man seemed quite hesitant to allow them a speaking venue. I do wonder how city elves get about, huffing and puffing, pale-faced and irritating to all those about them, but I suppose in their own cities they must get along just fine. Fortunately, Vorne's natural charm and grace was enough to win over the concierge without my having to intervene, and soon enough they had reservations for a speaking hall and the concierge had arranged to have their flyers posted in the entryway. Since I would be about for a bit longer, I intercepted them and offered to distribute flyers all about the mage's quarter in town, an offer both of them gratefully accepted.
As we approached, I got a bit nervous about my appearance. I'd bathed and preened and so forth, but I was still in Findler's old second-hand leather, and Alinza's beautiful sari was still tucked safely at the bottom of my backpack, never leaving my side, but never being worn, either. I straightened up, spread my wings a bit, lit my halo just enough that it glowed in the morning sun, and stepped inside. And I was not disappointed.
As for the darker dress... "Well, this one is more of a problem, my angel. Black is not an angelic color. And red flames? I think not. I can make it fit you, that is simple! But I cannot make the color suit you, I am no miracle worker!"
With my new dresses in good hands, I proceeded to perhaps the least savory portion of my day. The temple of Calistria loomed large before me. Fortunately, the acolytes in front knew me on sight, and when I asked whether they might have a scroll of Breath of Life available for purchase, it seemed almost as if they had been anticipating my needs. The scroll was delivered to the front quite promptly, I paid the fee, and I wandered off without incident. I was beginning to like them more and more. They might be enamored of the physical pleasures (and pains), but they were certainly efficient in their sales. A thought dawned. I looked back at the acolytes. What types of elves were they? Were they elves at all? Their ears certainly weren't pointed like other elves. They looked positively human. Even if they were elves, they were too robust to be city elves like Alderan. They weren't ruddy enough to be sea elves like Kwava. And they certainly weren't cave elves. Were there pleasure elves, dedicated to pleasing other elves? After a moment's thought, I realized it would be quite a sensible arrangement: Elves dedicated to satisfying the needs of other elves might greatly reduce tension among their peoples. Perhaps that was why elves warred on each other so infrequently. An interesting concept to ponder...
I was still lost in such thoughts as we approached my temple, or rather, Father Padrick's temple of Sarenrae.
My heart sang.
Father Padrick took me in his arm and led me around to see the changes. Mumsy was still in charge of the kitchen, but, inspired by my ability to purchase rotting meats and vegetables and then restore them, had been working with Father Padrick to do exactly that. Once she had fresh meat and produce to work with, she set about learning to cook. And if nothing else, Mumsy was a fast learner! The food was delicious! (And even Mumsy did not scowl at me when I purified it before dining. Old habits die hard.)
I am afraid that Micah is little changed. He was excited to see me, as always, and eagerly led me to a corner of the garden to introduce me to his new friends. The mushrooms. Yes, the mushrooms were talking to him. Fortunately, whatever the mushrooms were saying seemed harmless enough, so I petted them and said kind words to them, and Micah was ecstatic. I looked about at his garden, and it was still well-tended in some places, and chaos in others. But he was still doing Sarenrae's work, and none had died by his hand since I intervened, so I decided that I had done well.
Talking to Brother Jonas, I learned that Father Padrick was pain-free; Larur's aunt's medicines were working their wonders in him, and he no longer drank at all. They had plenty of money on hand to purchase more of the medicine whenever necessary, and vowed that the temple was in good hands. I let them know that I would be in Riddleport indefinitely, and would most likely be working at the temple several days a week, healing and blessing and otherwise assisting them as I could. They could not have been happier with this news.
Blissfully happy with a day well-spent, I headed back to the Glorious Goblin. I asked Taleck and Lian whether they had business to attend to in Riddleport, but they assured me their business was keeping me safe. Such loyal hounds indeed! And now that I finally had my scroll of Breath of Life, neither one was at risk any more! I kept the scroll close on my person at all times, just in case...
The evening was extraordinarily pleasant. We each discussed our day's activities. Sans Quah had visited his landlady. Carmen and Lark had caught up on family news. Ca'el declined to share his activities with us. And I already knew that Vorne and Alderan had spent the day researching, while Taleck, Lian, and I had spent the day shopping.
As we retired our separate ways, Sans Quah took me aside. I was concerned. The taciturn barbarian rarely had two words to speak to any of us, and I seemed to be a particular aversion of his for reasons I did not understand. He fidgeted a bit, and then spoke. "Leilani. I visited my landlady today. She lives near the temple of Sarenrae. She says that it is doing good things."
If I could have exploded with joy at that moment, I would have. It was all I could do to avoid jumping into his arms, squealing, and hugging him. Though that might have frightened him off.
Even going to bed was a far more pleasant experience than it had been in days, if not weeks. Vorne did not shun me, and I went to sleep with my arms around him and a wing draped over him.
Our second day back was a bit more restful. I spent the majority of the day at the temple as others worked on selling the more expensive items and otherwise dealing with the affairs of the party or the Glorious Goblin. At one point in the early afternoon, none other than Sans Quah sheepishly shuffled into my temple, as if fearful that he might be struck down. Next to him was a small woman of middling age, human by the looks of her. I hurried over to greet them.
I am ashamed to admit that in my excitement and sheer joy that Sans Quah was trusting me with something so obviously important and personal to him, I forgot to note the poor woman's name! He did indeed introduce her, and it was my own distraction that caused me such forgetfulness!
She seemed a bit taken aback by this offer, but she graciously accepted my feather. Sans Quah seemed pleased with the entire exchange. With that, he left to escort her home, and I returned to my duties at the temple.
That evening we all went to Vorne and Alderan's talk at the Cypher Mage academy. I am sorry to say that our numbers nearly doubled those in attendance; perhaps we had not advertised nearly as well as we might have. Even worse, many of those in attendance were doomsayers, waiting to hear on what day Alderan predicted the "Armageddon Echo". Fortunately, Samaritha was there, and in fine spirits. Not only did she hug me enthusiastically, she even granted Sans Quah a hug! I was proud of her! I sat next to her, hoping she might be able to translate some of the finer points of magic for me. Alderan started.
I am afraid he is not a gifted speaker.
I would be ashamed to admit that I dozed off, laying my head upon Samaritha's shoulder, had she not done the same to me only a few minutes later. Apparently, Alderan's droning voice was a magnificent soporific. The doomsayers quickly filed out, uninterested in a technical presentation, while many of the Cypher Mages stuck it out through sheer force of will and determination. Eventually, thankfully, he finished. Those who had managed to stay awake marveled at his conciseness and brevity. Those of us who hadn't marveled that we were felled so quickly.
The room erupted in a standing ovation. Or at least the dozen or so of us left in the room. Mages, Samaritha included, swarmed forward to ask Vorne and Alderan detailed questions about their findings. We were there for at least an hour, and every other question was answered with, "That's for next week's presentation!"
We all returned to the Glorious Goblin giddy with success. A runner met us there and delivered a letter... to me?!?!?
All was going quite splendidly... until Carmen revealed her next plan.
Carmen's plan was indeed as appalling as I have come to expect of her. Not wanting to lose precious space, she planned on converting the downstairs area from a fighting arena to an exclusive members-only bar. Vorne and Alderan's second talk would mark the grand opening of the bar, and would come with a surcharge of 5 gold pieces per person. For the charge, visitors could enjoy fine food and drink and listen to the talk.
Yes. Carmen planned on serving "drow cocktails" as the special at her new establishment.
I asked her if she would consider never asking me to go downstairs again. Showing at least some mercy below that cruel exterior, she agreed that I could work upstairs, and would never have to come downstairs and see the poor defiled drow bodies nor those who would drink from them.
I held Vorne particularly tightly that night. If I were to fall in my battle against the darkness, would Carmen have me pickled and serve drinks from my coffin?
I have to admit, life in Riddleport is never uninteresting. As I climbed my ladder for my morning rituals, I saw a frantic Sans Quah dragging a still-groggy Taleck out of the Glorious Goblin. A curious Lark followed after them. For a moment I considered following, but if I did not perform at least my meditations I would not regain my spells, and I did not relish the thought of once again feeling Riddleport's brutal weather. Furthermore, both Sans Quah and Taleck were sensible men when it came to preparation; if it was something in which I could be of assistance, they would not have hesitated in asking me to accompany them. And so I let them go on their way. Perhaps Lark might tell me of it. She seemed awfully nice to be related to Carmen.
By the time I had finished my morning prayers, preening, bath, and breakfast, the trio had still not returned. Vorne and Alderan were engrossed in their research, while Ca'el was nowhere to be seen. I was not about to ask Carmen to accompany me, so that left Lian. He was more than willing to travel with me to the Cypher Mage academy, and I had my full selection of spells, so I concluded we would be safe enough traveling as a pair.
The rest of the day was very satisfying work at the temple. While my abilities to heal and cure poison were not needed, my mere presence seemed to cheer both the clergy and the laity, and I did my utmost to make myself useful in whatever ways were necessary. I even attempted to help Mumsy in the kitchen, though her parting words to me were, "Never. Cook. Again."
When Sans Quah, Taleck, and Lark finally returned, Sans Quah was in obvious pain. Someone had marked his chest with a black emblem of leaf-covered tentacles encircling his heart. I reached out to heal it off of his skin, but he grabbed my hand and prevented it. Apparently he had asked for this "tattoo", and it was in response to a dream. The dream was of stars falling from the sky, destroying the world. As the world was destroyed, the tentacles (a totem of his tribe) covered with leaves (not a totem) encircled and protected him, so as the last of the world ended, he was safe in a ball of tentacles and leaves. He was convinced it was an omen that he must get a tattoo. Or something like that. He also wanted to visit his shaman to get a better explanation. I supported this.
This was too much coincidence!
After some deliberation we agreed: Vorne and Alderan would deliver their speech as scheduled, on our ninth day back from Devil's Elbow. On the tenth day, we would set sail for Sans Quah's tribe so his shaman could interpret his dreams.
I slept contentedly. Again we were on the move against the darkness. Again Vorne was the key. I had chosen my suitor well for once!
Perhaps once in my lifetime, duty would not tear me from him...
I would love to describe the next six days in excruciating detail, were they interesting. They were wholly satisfactory to me, as I spent my time at the temple, or helping advertise Vorne and Alderan's talk. No one was murdered. No one attacked us. No creatures arose from the deep to devour helpless innocents.
This was a surprisingly peaceful week for me. How different the Material Plane is from home!
The night before the talk was uncomfortable. I steeled myself, approached Carmen's office, and knocked. She invited me in. I started on my well-prepared speech. "Carmen, we both know that I don't like you, and you don't like me..."
The night of the talk was amazing. Scholars started gathering well before sunset to pay their 5 gold pieces and attend. I was rather surprised that Ca'el volunteered to help me at the door. He very rarely did anything for the Goblin, and instead vanished and went about his own business. I suppose he was interested in the talk as well. But the front door was hardly the place to attend! When Samaritha arrived I made sure she did not pay, but I slipped 5 gold pieces into the kitty for her. (Later, when Carmen confirmed she should have received free admission, I retrieved it.)
Alderan's talk was far less sleep-inducing this time, though I didn't understand a word of it. Once again, Vorne shone. This time he opened the second chest, revealing the chisel and the runes that had been carved from the arch. I had no idea what was going on, but the hundred-some mages in attendance were rapt.
I wish I knew what we were doing... I know that the drow are calling upon Earthfall to cause meteors to strike Golarion, and they plan on wiping out the entire surface world with meteors. Somehow, visiting the elves will help stop this.
Let us hope we are correct and successful!
In the morning, we packed our supplies and headed forth. My pack felt like a leaden weight. I saw Vorne cast a bit of magic, shrink his pack into a piece of paper, fold it, put it in his pocket, and smile. I very nearly Dispelled Magic right then and there. But I was not that petty... this time.
We boarded a ship bound for Sans Quah's tribe and settled in for the journey to the elves. I wondered what tree elves would look like... would they be green?
*** End of Part 1 ***
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
The cacophonous cries of the swarm of seagulls above us sounds like singing angels to my ears! As the crime-ridden pit of scum and villainy that is Riddleport looms into view, I find myself looking forward to walking its streets and being among its denizens again! I spread my wings once more, feeling the sun on my face and the wind through my feathers. We are victorious! The siren Virashi's spirit is at peace, not by force but by choice, and she will finally be seeing her beloved again in the afterlife, as I have laid his soul to rest as well! The foul shadow demon Chmetugo is slain, his nefarious corpse proof positive that we have destroyed him and not merely driven him back to his plane. The drow are routed, their notes and journals in our possession. Samaritha is with us once again, and I finally have my wonderful friend and confidante back! (And she her awkward suitor! Sans Quah's advances are adorable, if perhaps less-than-welcome on her part.) And every single party member survived!
My sole regret is the sheer cost in lives of this endeavor. Not only did dozens of the various crime lords' men and dwarves perish at the tentacles of the Vorne kitties or the arrows of the drow, but the drow themselves were exterminated with extreme prejudice. A sole guard remains alive, and I am not hopeful for his chances of survival beyond Riddleport. My group's utter ruthlessness reminds me of my own hound archons' treatment of demons: No quarter is brooked; no surrender is allowed. Nothing but wholesale slaughter. But demons do not have souls and are not redeemable, yet all living creatures with souls should be given the chance. Shouldn't they?
However, rather than pondering the fate of "my" drow prisoner, I should probably begin from the beginning...
Before I could attempt to open the door, Alderan suggested that perhaps the door might be trapped. Clever elf! I Detected Magic on the door and sure enough, there was some kind of magic infusing it. Knowing my areas of weakness, I kindly asked Alderan and Vorne whether they could ascertain the nature of the magic on the door. It was some sort of Silence field, pointing inwards towards the room where Virashi was trapped. What atrocity! Not only had she been brutally murdered and torn from her love, but the cave elves, er, drow, stole from her even the power to weep for her loss! This Would Not Do!
Taleck and Sans Quah set to, but in spite of much bristling of muscles and grunting, the door would not budge. Cael and even Vorne stepped in to help, but the four men combined did nothing to shift the massive door. Alderan sighed, knowing that I would not be dissuaded from "rescuing" Virashi, but the door would not yield to anything short of more traditional barbarian methods. Reluctantly, wincing, he granted them leave to remove the door. While pulling and pushing was not their area of expertise, smashing of things will hammers definitely falls into the barbarians' milieu, and the door was quickly rendered kindling. The enchantment faded with the door. While they were smashing, I prepared myself with a renewed Light spell and Protection from Evil.
I tried to stride in, wings slightly spread, projecting confidence and friendship. Touchingly, Sans Quah would not hear of me going in alone. I assured him that the undead were no threat to me, but a grave threat to him, so he should let me go on alone, but he would not be swayed in his protectiveness. Of course I relented, but as he and Cael vanished into the shadows to follow me, I wondered how I would be able to protect the two of them should Virashi be overcome by madness and grief.
Once we were gathered, she spoke to us in Common.
With the events of the siren working out well for the party, they were more than willing to listen to my suggestions for the assault on the drow stronghold. Alderan placed Darkvision on Kwava, Carmen, Taleck, Vorne, Cael, and himself. I did not mind being blind; I needed no weapon to help my party. I aligned 50 bolts and arrows to myself, along with Taleck's earthbreaker, and put Protection from Evil on Taleck, Sans Quah, and Cael. Finally, Vorne enabled Taleck to fly.
Cautiously, we moved forward to try to find the expected wall of Deeper Darkness. Unfortunately, we never encountered it, and as Taleck stepped forward into the room, poison drow darts plunged into him! Or at least tried to, as the Protection from Arrows Vorne had put on him seemingly eons ago was still in effect! The darts hung in the air for a moment, then dropped. As if that was the signal everyone was waiting for, the battle engaged in full!
The room itself was a vast cavern, perhaps a hundred feet across. A small hole in the ceiling allowed a small amount of light to pour into the room, barely lighting it. The immediate entrance to the room was a beach, and most of the rest of the room was filled with sea water, though rock pillars dotted the pool. To our left up the beach was a raised wooden walkway that led around the pool to the (presumed) caves beyond. A rope ladder should have allowed us access to the platform, but the two drow guards at the top of the platform were just finishing pulling it up.
The initial battle started as a shootout. The two drow guards on the near platform plus two drow guards on the far side of the pool started firing at the party members who could fit on the beach (I was not one of them), while many party members fired back and Vorne dropped a fireball on the near archers. It seemed like a bit of a stalemate.
Our nemesis Depora stepped up onto a platform across from us and opened fire with her hand crossbow. Fortunately, my Protection from Evil deflected her arrows from Sans Quah. At the same moment from the shadows behind Cael, Chmego stepped out, ripping into him! I do not whether to be concerned for him or about him that demons seem to find him so tasty. What is it that made Chmego ambush him so consistently? In any case, this time my hounds were both ready and well-equipped. Taleck flew up and smashed him with his earthbreaker twice. With my blessings, not only did the earthbreaker strike true, but I imagined I heard the satisfying sounds of demon bones snapping as Taleck pummeled him ruthlessly. Sans Quah added to his pain, and Kwava's arrows pierced his hide like it was nothing. Alderan added some Magic Missiles, and Vorne finally felled him with Magic Missiles of his own! Thank you Sarenrae! Your blessings were truly wondrous this day! Chmego, bane of our existence, fell without taking another action!
Then, the druid's first Ice Storm hit. I channeled energy to heal everyone of the damage it caused, but the icy terrain proved difficult for my hounds to navigate, and it took them some time to get to the raised walkway, climb up, and lower the ladder. During all of this time there was a running battle of the archers. True to his form, our wonderful sea elf, surrounded by the sea itself, acquitted himself beautifully and his arrows seemingly could not miss the pesky druid. All of the drow retreated from our advances save Shindeera, whose protective magics prevented our bowfire from significantly harming her. She channeled negative energy to harm the party, but my positive channels were the more powerful. Seeing that I could heal my party faster than she could harm them, she relented and retreated as well.
Vorne dropped a fireball on the opposite side of the room, resulting in many satisfying cries of despair. Inexplicably, while I was channeling to save Cael's life, Sans Quah attempted a heroic leap across the vast chasm the druid's Ice Storm had left in the bridge. He failed, of course, and plunged into the water right in front of the orca just as Alderan Levitated Cael out of harm's way. *SIGH*. It looked very much like I would be using all of my healing abilities yet again.
The rest of the fight was long, but the result was no longer in doubt. Vorne's fireball had knocked Shindeera unconscious and she sunk beneath the waves. Sans Quah spent some time getting chewed on by the orca, but eventually swam to safety. Kwava continued his ruthless barrage of the remaining drow, Depora included, while Vorne opened a pit in their area so they had no safe footing that was out of range of our bowmen. Cael Silenced another area of the drows' refuge, leaving them little quarter. To save Cael and Sans Quah's life, Vorne gave me Strong Wings again. Ah, the utter joy of flying unfettered over the battlefield, healing my friends from afar! How I have missed that! Strong Wings does not let me fly nearly as fast as I flew on my native plane, but at least I am airborne again! Had the situation not been so dire, with no many of my colleagues in such dire need of my healing, I might have sung!
Eventually, the last of the drow fell. I tried to stabilize them, but all were dead save one lone guard. All of my channels and higher-level healing spells were gone, but I did what I could to heal Taleck. He had heroically provided one side of the pincer maneuver that had ended the drow, and had paid dearly with his blood. He was still distraught over his earthbreaker, so, after sparing as much healing as I could, we tied a rope around him, I put Sanctuary on him, and he dove in after it. Fortunately, apparently the orca was far more susceptible to my Sanctuary than our enemies have been as of late; it did not touch him and he recovered his weapon without incident. He explained that it had been his father's.
Our eventual haul was significant. After months of traveling with the group, asking for nothing but protection and enough coin to help at the temple, there were many, many items that caught my eye. Mithral chainmail and a mithral shield, both sized and shaped for an elven woman, looked like they would fit me perfectly. Even more exciting, there were healing supplies and two beautiful dresses, again designed for tall, slender women of elven build. Carmen expressed no interest, so I marked them for my procurement. I was sure Alinza at the Silken Thread would be able to make space for my wings in them! She was a miracle worker! And perhaps Goldhammer or Larur's aunt might know an armorsmith who might be willing to adjust the armor for my wings.
Vorne created a Floating Disk and we hauled everything outside, where Alderan called to Arbor and sent him for the ship.
I cannot express the joy that flooded over me as we left Devil's Elbow and boarded the ship to see a smiling but obviously-concerned Samaritha waiting for us. Unable to contain myself, I rushed forward and hugged her fiercely. Seeing his opportunity, Sans Quah rushed forward and hugged her as well.
When Riddleport finally loomed into sight, we realized that all was not well...
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
Ah, Sarenrae! Is there no limit to your wisdom? To your compassion? To your kindness?
Our evening did not go well at all. Because the infirmary was already equipped to restrain unwilling "patients", my companions imprisoned our three drow "guests" there for the night. Perhaps I am getting as short-sighted as my barbarian companions (Heaven forfend!), but when the group did not choose to place a guard on the tent I thought nothing of it. Perhaps it was that I was too preoccupied with racking my brain, trying to figure out some way I could be of use to the party in the coming battle in the darkness. Unfortunately, my efforts proved fruitless; I could not think of anything I could do save protect and heal my fellow party members.
As I lay there awake in our communal tent, waiting for the inevitable attack, a supernatural darkness crept over my faint candle. The attack was at hand! I cried out, alerting my party. As they girded themselves for battle, I tried to light the darkness. It was no use; I had used my strength earlier in the cave, and my Light was as feeble as the candle against the deep darkness.
Then, demonic creatures attacked the tent containing Mr. Erix and his men! Mr. Erix wisely fled towards us and the blazing campfire; apparently the darkness was so thick that Sans Quah could not see for any distance, but he could make out shapes around the fire. Sans Quah called to me that Mr. Erix was sorely wounded, and I finally felt useful in channeling for all around me. I heard Mr. Erix' sigh of relief and was gratified that I was doing something; I know my colleagues in the darkened tent were even more frustrated than I at their impotence.
Suddenly, as quickly as it had arrived, the darkness receded. We first checked on Mr. Erix and his men. A few had minor wounds, but those were quickly dealt with. Then we checked on the prisoners. The two who we had left unconscious were now dead, viciously torn apart, with bits and pieces strewn about the infirmary as if to tell us, "This is your fault. You're next."
But there was more! I now knew how to purge the accursed drow poison from my companions' veins! I knew how to dispel the very nature of the blackness of the shadow demon, granting us temporary respite from our mutual blindness! I had asked for a single gift, and Sarenrae had sent me an arsenal! Blessed be the Dawnflower!
Full of renewed optimism, I waited eagerly for the rest of the group to awaken. My preening was downright sloppy, but I was in a hurry to go forth and do away with the demon once and for all! I thanked Sarenrae for all her gifts, helped some of the men bathe (they insist that the water I create is better on their skin than the well water), and still the party wasn't ready!
As we moved towards the cave entrance, Sans Quah suggested that we search for other possible entrances. We spent some time doing so. Unfortunately, to no avail. As the party prepared yet another headlong assault of the front entrance, I suggested that perhaps we could lower some of our best archers down on ropes to fire into the druid's sentry post and perhaps provide us some respite from constant attacks and ambushes. To my utter amazement, my companions actually agreed to something I had suggested! I was so astonished as to be speechless for a moment!
We took too long. By the time we got into the cave, three drow had set up a defensive position. Yet again, my hounds each chose to attack a separate drow. I still do not understand this tactic. Even worse, the drow with the tiny hand crossbow managed to drop Sans Quah and Cael with his sleeping potion. I do not know the nature of hounds on this plane, nor the nature of the drow's poison, but it seems specially-formulated to overcome the most belligerent. Carmen, Sans Quah, and Cael have all fallen to its effects, while the two times Vorne has been shot he has been blissfully unaffected. I wonder. If I were to be shot while I were not in my elemental form, would I succumb? Unfortunately, now was not a time to find out!
Abandoning the defeated drow, we raced forward into the cave, hoping to catch the druid before he raised any greater alarm. Again, we were too late. A wall of inky blackness stood before us. Again, we faced the shadow demon.
It was my time to shine...
...or was it?
Something in the back of my mind told me that this was not my fight to fight. Not yet. Sarenrae had taught me a new language -- the language of the air. Why? What purpose did it serve?
And raced back towards the siren's room, the rest of the party trailing behind me.
You have proven time and again in your writings to be a kind, gentle, and good soul. No amount of miming or apery can disguise the fundamental goodness within you.
Do not discount yourself so easily! It was only half in jest that I invited you to my plane! I believe you would find it warm and welcoming, as it is to all good souls. And you are certainly one of them.
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
I am truly beginning to despise demons, and to understand why all of my archon and angelic friends kill them on sight. Would that I were capable of doing the same!
At dawn, Ciaren prepared his spells and attempted to cure himself of his affliction. He assured me he had been successful, and I was cheered by our good fortune! Finally, between the two of us, we could protect our comrades from the lingering death of the Vorne kitties' bites! Once our devotions were done and the rest of our group was assembled, we decided to march in force on the spot marked by an X on Zincher's map; presumably the hiding place of the "drow" who had brought forth this calamitous meteor on the world.
Unfortunately, our luck did not last even for the short walk to the X. Ciaren fell ill almost immediately, turning pale and passing out on the path! I cast a restorative spell on him, but it did nothing! Curse my weakness!
Sans Quah and Taleck had little difficulty leading us towards our destination, especially as we found a crude trail leading to our destination only a few hundred yards away from Zincher's camp. (I really should stop calling it that. It is now Mr. Erix's camp.) The trail led down the slope to the shoreline. The salt water lapping at our legs reassured us; there would almost certainly be no Vorne kitty attacks here!
The path led to a stony wall. On examination, Sans Quah quickly found a hidden secret door in the wall. Before we approached the door, Carmen pointed out a small fissure situated tactically above and to the side of the door, allowing anyone inside a clear view of the entrance. Our more dextrous party members quickly climbed up and looked inside the fissure. Carmen declared that she could see no one but did not have enough light to see clearly. I picked up a nearby stone, cast Light on it, and she tossed it in. There was a cavern inside large enough for humans, but no one was there at the moment.
Lian admitted some experience in disarming such wards. Our surprise at this fact was only surpassed by our surprise at hearing him speak at all! We let him move forward, and all stood back at a distance Vorne assured us was safe from the ward. I may have stood back and extra few feet, but I do not think anyone noticed.
With secrecy no longer an option, Lian flung open the door and allowed Sans Quah to charge in. Ambush! Sans Quah was beset by attackers I could not see. Others translated that he was sorely wounded by two drow who had been waiting in ambush: One at back of a small cavern and wielding a hand crossbow, and the other guarding the entrance with a rapier. Taleck charged in and was ambushed by a second rapier-wielding drow. While I love my barbarians' bravery, I do wish they would learn to analyze the situation before charging in!
The drow were both in a tactically-superior position and in possession of dark poisons. The drow in the back shot Carmen with a bolt that dropped her on the spot. The two fighters prevented anyone from approaching him. Fortunately, Kwava's arrows were striking him true and Sans Quah and Taleck seemed to be winning their battles, though I had to channel again to keep them hale and healthy. Vorne dropped a fireball among the drow, and so the drow archer's next arrow found Vorne, and I am hesitant to say that I was not nearly as distressed as I should have been when he dropped. Perhaps it was because I was so focused on keeping the hounds upright...
While I was busy tending the wounded and fallen, the others apparently heard a voice calling for help. He was not speaking Celestial, so I had mistaken his voice for one of the many cries of combat. The man they brought forth was somewhat the worse for wear, human-looking, and clad in naught but a loincloth. I channeled a third time to heal him and all of our wounded, plus the drow, since we wanted to talk to them.
Bringing myself back to the present, we learned a great deal. The man was Cael. He was searching for a valuable scimitar that a drow had stolen from him when she had fallen from the sky over Riddleport onto his boat, slain several crewmen, taken his sword, and knocked him overboard. Our paths were in alignment! I invited him to join our group in searching for this drow, no one objected (Carmen was still unconscious), and he agreed. Fortunately, he had only arrived a few minutes before us, and the guards had only had time to strip him of his gear and pile it in a corner before we arrived. He found his gear and re-equipped himself. I was pleased to see he wielded a scimitar; perhaps a quiet worshipper of Sarenrae?
The final mystery of the entrance was a boarded-up passage with warnings of "Undead Death" within. Our prisoner enlightened us that the ghost of the siren Virashi, imprisoned there by Shendeera. Outrage! Had Shendeera such power, why did she not free Virashi's spirit?
We relieved the prisoners of their weapons, armor, and potions, then tied them and left them separated from each other, put Carmen on a floating disc so she would not be unprotected, and proceeded deeper into the caves.
Ambushed again! This time the shadow demon Chmetugo caught Cael unawares and wounded him horribly! My allies' weapons were useless against him, and even Vorne's force missiles bounced off with some regularity. I channeled energy to save Cael's life and activated my halo, filling the room with light, while Sans Quah, Taleck, and Lian engaged. The demon was unaffected by my light, and seemed to mock me with his immunities. Smiling wickedly, I fired a Spear of Purity, hoping to teach him a lesson. Would that I were even remotely competent in combat! My spear ripped through his magical protections as if they weren't there, but missed the demon himself by a good 3 feet. Am I doomed to be forever useless as anything beyond a healer?
We assayed the situation. I was sorely depleted; all of my channels had been used, as well as over half of my spells and my elemental form. I warned the party that I would not be able to heal them at the rate they were taking damage. Vorne wanted to proceed anyway; he still had his entire assortment of spells, and believed his fireballs to be a match for anything the drow could throw at us. The other concern was what the drow would do if we did not push on. Would they not attack our camp in the middle of the night, when their darkvision was at its greatest advantage? I did not see how a cave was any better than night, but my arguments fell on deaf ears.
Perhaps it was that simple act that swayed the others. Perhaps better sense returned. But they finally realized that perhaps a scouting expedition was in order. Cael admitted that he knew Invisibility, and Sans Quah admitted to having Darkvision. Is that the source of his shame and his mask? Is he a half-orc under there? Is that why he held such hostility towards Boss Croat and Croat's men? I did not pry, but the mystery of exactly who and what Sans Quah is deepened.
We all moved forward together until we found a patch of unnatural Deeper Darkness. At this point Cael rendered Sans Quah invisible and he explored ahead. On the other side of the darkness two drow and Chmetugo awaited in a gargantuan chamber; there was no telling how many more guardians were waiting the moment those three raised the alarm. Finally realizing that a headlong assault with no healing was unwise, Vorne and Sans Quah relented, we gathered our prisoners, and we went back to camp.
Our return to camp held another unfortunate surprise: Ciaren was gone! Mr. Erix had been sure he would be unconscious for the day, but somehow he had gotten out of his sick bed and vanished. We would have searched for him, but we had to prepare for an expected assault on the camp that night!
As I have said, my relationship with Vorne seems to be deteriorating rapidly.
That evening as we prepared for the assault, I knelt at sunset and prayed to Sarenrae. I was not powerful enough to deal with such demons. I needed weapons such as those of Iomedae to bypass demons' defenses. I needed spells to erase the darkness. I needed to help my colleagues kill Chmetugo. Of that I was certain.
*** End of Session ***
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
Much to our surprise, as we were checking the men for injuries, Ciaren the strange "healer" came running out of his tent -- he had slept through the entire combat! My mistrust in him grew. How could one sleep through the alarms and general commotion we had raised?
A debate ensued: Were we still strong enough to venture forth on this island at night? I had used all of my minor spells healing Sans Quah and Carmen earlier in the day, but my more powerful spells and channeling remained. Vorne and Alderan had not used many spells at all. But what about the men? What would they do if another wave of zombies attacked?
The walk through the woods at night was short, cool, and quiet. Almost peaceful. I began to relax. This was actually quite pleasant. I knew that Lian was on point a bit ahead of us, but his ability to glide through the trees stealthily was impressive; I do not believe that I even once caught sight of him. At the head of our little band was Taleck, earthbreaker on his shoulder, striding forward confidently though it was very likely he could see nothing in the woods, as Vorne's light was far behind him. I smiled a bit. Taleck was so huge-hearted, so self-sacrificing, so determined to be at the fore of every battle. I had known many hounds like him. And I had loved them all.
My musings were cut short by a hideous otherworldly scream! From out of the darkness charged a wraith, angry and deadly! I had not expected such powerful undead to dwell on this island! The creature screamed something hate-filled and unintelligible. It was only when Vorne translated for me that I realized that Sarenrae's blessing had taken over, and I would not be able to understand or communicate with the creature!
Vorne did not have to translate the scream of rage I received in reply. I am sure the creature spoke at least a few words, and I believe Vorne was a proper gentleman by not translating them for me. As the creature charged forward, Ciaren channeled positive energy to hurt it. Hallelujah! He really IS a healer! I nearly hugged him in utter relief, but I had more important things to do at the moment. I used the full force of my channel against it and it staggered, but did not fall.
At that moment, so many things happened it is hard to describe them all in any sensible order. Zokrim. Yes, THAT Zokrim, who had abandoned us to die weeks ago, appeared out of the woods, faithful hound Kimro at his side. Thankfully, he shot the wraith rather than us, but his arrows were equally ineffective. Vorne, having shielded himself with spells, stepped forward and challenged the creature, and it obliged by attacking him, but was unable to get through his shielding. Kwava began to shoot the creature with magic arrows that had some effect on it. I channeled a final time but the creature did not fall. Taleck finally showed that he had learned at least a bit of wisdom and fled the beast. Ciaren shrugged at me as if to say, "That's all I have."
As the wraith faded away, I was pleased to see a small amount of positive energy float skywards along with all the negative energy that passed downwards. Perhaps we had laid the captain's spirit to rest after all. That was a comfort to me!
We immediately turned our questioning to Zokrim. Where had he been? What had he been doing? How had he come to this island after abandoning us in our time of need?
Once there, we saw that the glow we had been seeing came from a sword embedded in the walkway going around the base of the lighthouse. A skeleton in rotted chainmail still clung to the sword. Vorne analyzed the sword's magic and declared that he believed it to be a simple +1 sword. This would be a valuable addition to our party! It appeared quite a difficult and dangerous climb to reach the sword, so we had some discussion as to who might be most dexterous to risk the narrow walkway and treacherous footing and retrieve the sword. Zokrim proved his (lack of) bravery once again, and refused to go. We tied a rope around Lian instead, and had him attempt the climb. Twice he fell, and twice we caught him before he was dashed to the surf. The third time he skipped nimbly across the walkway, as if his first two attempts were merely ruses to make us all the more impressed when he succeeded so gracefully the third time.
Frustrated and impatient at the cowardice on display, I stripped out of the cumbersome leather armor I had received from Findler, dropped my backpack and shield on the ground under Taleck's watchful eye, tied a rope around my waist, and made the climb myself. Without the burden of arms or armor it was a fairly easy climb, and I reached the skeleton and my two cowardly companions without incident.
Carefully bundling the skeleton, sword, and purse within the remains of the chainmail shirt, I managed the climb back with some difficulty. I am not brawny like Taleck or Sans Quah, and I could certainly feel the extra weight as I made my way back to safety.
The sword was the prize above all others: A +1 cold iron longsword; a truly magnificent weapon for any of our fighting men (or women) to wield. Unfortunately, as Vorne went down the list of who might use it, we found that Carmen, Lian, and Ciaren all preferred lighter weapons, while Sans Quah and Taleck preferred heavier ones. Vorne, Alderan, and I had no use for such a weapon, and Kwava preferred his bow. This left lowly Zokrim as the rightful inheritor of the sword.
Our next task was to explore the lighthouse. Unfortunately, all we found there were the remains of the wraith's victims. I insisted on removing them all to the ground before the lighthouse, along with the skeleton I'd retrieved from the walkway, and I built a small pyre to them, giving them proper burial rights and burning their bodies as a sign of respect to their souls.
We returned to Zincher's camp, exhausted but victorious, and collapsed into the sleep of the righteous.
My day was already going well when I heard the wonderful/horrible news: Carmen, Sans Quah, and Alderan, concerned about the camp's viability, had decided that they would stay in camp while the rest of us explored the areas indicated by Zincher's map! I was elated that I would be able to spend a day without having to protect prisoners from Carmen's ministrations, but fearful for Zincher's men. What, exactly, would constitute a capital crime while I was away? Poor hygeine? Looking at Carmen askance? Failing to look at Carmen askance? While I respected Carmen's business acumen and remarkable ability to read people, I was quite concerned with how she would treat men under her.
We found Zincher's old camp easily enough, but it had been picked clean; there was nothing there to find. As we turned to each other to discuss our next step, Taleck spotted sails on the horizon. The ship was headed for the docks, so it was easy enough for us to move in that direction and set ourselves up in a concealed location to determine the nature of the ship. It took those more familiar with local politics no time at all to determine that the ship belonged to none other than Elreth Treeg, also known as "Captain Grudge", a murderer and a scoundrel, well known for holding a grudge and exacting exceeding revenge. We had a bit of a debate as to what to do about him; "murderer and scoundrel" was a term that could be used against at least three-quarters of the population of Riddleport, as far as I could tell, and we had no reason as of yet to assault a ship under free sail to a "free" island. We decided that I should parlay with the captain to ascertain his intent, and to determine what, if anything, we should do about him.
I penned a polite note asking for parlay in one hour's time one mile from his ship, with no more than three men accompanying him, and Kwava shot the arrow towards the ship. Unfortunately, in spite of his obvious affinity for the sea, apparently shooting ships was not in his repertoire, and so Kwava struck the mast well above where a normal seaman might look. It took the crew at least 15 minutes to notice the arrow with the note, but we were not in any rush to engage them. However, once the crewman found the note and presented it to Captain Treeg, he prepared himself forthwith. After perhaps 20 minutes, he, three of his men, and a woman came ashore. I must admit, I was a bit pleased to see the woman. This indicated that Treeg would negotiate as a devil would; within the letter of the agreement but not within the spirit. Fortunately, I had had enough training in dealing with devil's pacts that I felt I could deal with a mere pirate.
As Treeg, his men, and his woman approached, I invoked my halo and my celestial armor; I might not be a full angel, but I could at least look the part. Those of our party members better versed in stealth concealed themselves around the periphery; Vorne and Taleck stayed at my side, both to protect me, and because neither felt they could adequately hide from the pirate's sharp-eyed crewmen.
The captain proved honorable if nothing else and returned to his ship, promising not to come ashore, and to offer "rides" only to those who asked for them. We in return expressed that we would not attack his ship without cause. This caused some consternation among the more violent party members, but although the captain was reputed to be vile and violent, he had acted with honor, provided me with all of the information I requested in detail, and I had high hopes that he would be unable to resist the lure of a campful of strong laborers who were obviously not very good fighters, as evidenced by their record so far against the zombies.
We returned to camp and warned Mr. Erix of the danger of the pirates. It was already late in the afternoon due to Lian and Vorne's need for extra sleep after our previous night's excursions, so we set ourselves to assisting Mr. Erix and his men in setting up a defensible perimeter for the camp. Klegg Zincher was awake again, and had had to be gagged. None of us complained. Zokrim yet again showed his dual nature; facing foes brandishing iron he is an abject coward. Against hypothetical foes who might be coming to attack us some night he is a scheming genius. He set traps up not only along the paths, but along likely ambush routes in the woods, and other areas where the pirates might set up to assail our camp. The man might be useless in a fight, but in defending the encampment he once again proved his worth.
Unfortunately, less than an hour after leaving camp, we were beset by a veritable swarm of Vorne kitties. (Vorne insists that I call such a group a "purr" or "conflagration" of Vorne kitties, but seeing as the kitties neither purr nor burn, both seem like misnomers to me.) As the 11 kitties attacked, the group took defensive positions, and I started casting Shield of Faith on party members as quickly as I could, starting with Taleck and moving on from there.
It is difficult to feel helpless in battle. Yes, I shielded Taleck and Kwava and Ciaren. But all three of them still received potentially deadly bites. Zokrim and Kimro acquitted themselves well against the kitties, but Kimro did take a tentacle to the eye that distracted him for a few seconds. Vorne demonstrated that his power was growing as well, dropping a massive fireball among the kitties, but they proved resistant or immune to such effects, and Vorne was obviously frustrated by this result. Taleck... I am afraid that Taleck yet again seemed incapable of wielding his earthbreaker with any effectiveness. If I could figure out a way to suggest a different weapon without hurting his pride, I would do so. So I stood behind the group, completely protected, my protective magics spent as best as I could, waiting for our fellows to need healing. But in spite of the number of kitties, Kwava's arrows were deadly and struck true, Lian, Ciaren, Zokrim, and Kimro wreaked havoc as Vorne slew the wounded, and Taleck *finally* found his swing towards the end of the fight and brought one or two of the creatures low. I am afraid I did nothing but watch the fight, though I did see one or another of my shields glitter once or twice, indicating that I had indeed protected my allies successfully.
Unfortunately, my skill at diagnosing disease obviously needs work. Precisely an hour after the battle with the kitties, Ciaren fell ill. It took two of my restorative spells to return him to fighting trim. While he played the grateful-and-reassured patient, both he and I knew the truth: If I could not keep him alive until dawn when he would be able to pray for assistance from his god or goddess in curing his disease, I would have to slay his zombie. He and I silently accepted this fact, and I respected him all the more for not showing any fear or panic at this realization. His life was now in my hands, until the dawn.
The second lighthouse was nothing more than a ruined pile of rubble. After our experience with the wraith at the other lighthouse, the others encouraged me to scan the rubble for undead. With Lian at my side in case of trouble, I cast Detect Undead and walked along the length of the building.
Many of the creatures succumbed to this burning pain, granting me enough focus to heal myself just before Vorne struck me with something again! The pain was overwhelming, but I remained standing. The insects of the swarm mostly fell twitching to the ground, and Lian, bless his heart, Prestidigitated the remaining ones from my hair, my wings, and my clothing.
I am not too proud to say that it took me several minutes to recover. I stripped off my armor, washed myself, and washed myself again for good measure. Even then, I could still feel the lingering imaginary tickle of a thousand thorned legs crawling across my skin and under my clothing. I washed again, Lian Prestidigitated me once more, and I was finally ready to move on.
Once again, there were no attacks that night. It seemed that the pirates were content to stay true to their word and wait for refugees to come to them.
*** End of Session ***
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
Ah, for the days when I considered climbing up to a rooftop in Riddleport to be a hard way to pay my devotions to and greet Sarenrae in the morning!
We slowly awoke on the ruined building, sore but safe, with Sans Quah and Taleck still clinging to bits and pieces of their reefclaw from the previous night's feast. As the party awoke, we pondered, "Whither next?"
As it was, I looked at Kwava, and Alderan, and thought of the dark elf we had fought, and wondered whether they were color-coded in some way. Alderan was a city elf, and his pale skin reflected an aversion to sunlight and healthy exercise. As far as I could tell, Kwava was a sea elf, and his swarthy complexion and lean ropy muscles did indeed match the countenances of the human sailors we had encountered on our journey here. The mystery elf was dark purple with white hair: Obviously a cave elf or darkness elf, born to darkness and underground dwellings. I wondered what other elves I might encounter, and decided to start cataloguing them and their rainbow of colors. Now that I had seen white, tan, and purple, would I perhaps meet green, red, and blue? I looked forward to my adventures with renewed enthusiasm.
I turned my attentions back to the discussion at hand. Obviously my lack of sleep was distracting me. While I yearned to go to Zincher's camp to provide aid if possible, I had learned better than to speak up with this group, so I remained mostly silent and listened to the others' arguments. Eventually, we decided to go to Zincher's camp first, hoping to find and assist any survivors there, and then move on to the crater.
On our way, we had the misfortune to encounter our first Vorne kitties "in the wild", without the protection of stone walls or a tumbling tower to save us. Five of them assailed us, and we were unable to organize ourselves quickly enough; I was struck by one of their tentacles, while Alderan received a more serious cut. He claimed that he had cut himself with his own dagger while trying to fend them off, and, knowing his fighting ability, we accepted that explanation... for the moment. Taleck attempted to use a flask of sea water against them (on learning that I could create water at will, the party had forsaken carrying water flasks in favor of sea water flasks), but it was far less effective than his earthbreaker. Fortunately, we were able to vanquish them all with only those few injuries, and I was even fortunate enough to find one alive and stabilize it.
In any case, Vorne and Alderan set to studying the creature. I was fortunate; their tentacles did not carry their deadly spores. It was only their bites that consumed other beings with vile disease. Alderan paled at this news, perhaps because he is the least-armored among us. We learned little that we did not already know about them, but at least our hypotheses were confirmed: They did not breathe, explaining their silence. They were aberrations, not undead, and thus my light and channeled energy would not hurt them. Their tentacles were strong (and painful) but otherwise harmless. Their bite carried spores, and this was how they reproduced. Alderan paled even further. I swear, at some points that elf is the bravest among us (save Vorne), and at others he is tantamount to a coward. I do not believe I will ever understand him!
With the group fully healed, we proceeded to the crater. Once there, we encountered more Vorne kitties, but this time we were ready for them. Alderan trapped most of them within a magical web, and Kwava laid waste to them with his bow. Ever since his visit to the sea, his shots were far more accurate and he was performing with far more bravery. I determined that we should rest near the sea whenever possible to reinvigorate him. In his full form, he was a formidable foe indeed!
The trip to Zincher's camp was uneventful, and I, at least, was overjoyed to see a well-built, somewhat-fortified camp indicating a great amount of human activity. The men who greeted us were battle-worn and suspicious, but Carmen asked to speak with Zincher immediately and the men led us to him without complaint. The "compound" looked like nothing so much as a good idea half-done. Palisades were being put up, but only perhaps a third complete. Permanent structures were being constructed, but all the men were still sleeping in tents. A huge fire pit marked the center of camp, and a large pavilion marked Zincher's temporary residence. The men led us inside, then guarded the door.
Zincher described the situation: He had started with 60 men in an initial camp. After the first waves of Vorne kitties hit, they decided to move to a more defensible location, and chose this site for its open views and large raised area from which one could rain arrows down on attackers. Zincher received news of a shipwreck on the other side of the island, and sent 40 of his men to salvage everything possible from it, as it was supposedly a very rich ship. Of the 20 who had stayed in camp, only 10 remained. The rest had been killed by the zombies created by the Vorne kitty spores. The zombies attacked every night, and in greater numbers with each passing day. He was waiting for his 40 men to return to finish his palisade and establish a more permanent camp.
He asked us about our mission, and Vorne described the dearth of sky metal and the poor state of the other camps. He told him we were looking for drow (apparently the formal name for the purple elves. I wonder what the formal name of the sea elves is?) and an altar they might have used to attract the meteor, and Zincher became very alarmed and insisted he had not seen any.
I must admit, I have no idea what transpired next. What inspired Carmen to lay into Klegg Zincher, calling him a liar and a scoundrel, and calling his entire story a pack of lies. What deep-seeded guilt and anger caused Zincher to respond by smiting Carmen down with his pickaxe. I know that we were suddenly in combat, and my comrades were far more ready for it than I. Sans Quah and Taleck stepped up to engage Zincher. Vorne opened a pit in the doorway, preventing reinforcements from coming in. Kwava moved to a free corner where he could rain devastation with his bow. Hooray for the sea! Alderan bravely stepped forward and blocked the silent man, saying something to him in Common that I did not understand. (Vorne later stated that Alderan had cried out, "Not the face!", but knowing Alderan and Vorne's relationship, I cannot be sure of that.)
Things were not going well. I could hear Alderan calling out to the others, but he chose a language they would all understand, so I know not what he said.
Fortunately, between the combined efforts of Kwava, Sans Quah, Vorne, and Taleck, Zincher finally fell into unconsciousness. I immediately channeled for Carmen and Sans Quah, healing them significantly. I knew that I was including the men who had fallen into the pit in my radius, but I hoped that might make them more amenable to surrender now that Zincher was down. The man in the corner fighting Alderan called out something, and all fighting ceased. After a moment's discussion (that no one translated for me, though I was not about to interrupt), the huge man walked to the tent opening and called out something.
The huge man was Akron Erix, an undercover member of the Sable Company, a police force from a city named Korvosa far to the east, but still in the country of Varisia. Klegg Zincher was wanted for murdering and mutilating a Sable Company member there, and was to return to stand trial. Akron had no interest in any of Zincher's loot or men; he only wanted to return with Zincher to Korvosa to see him face justice. We were all more than willing to allow Mr. Erix to take Zincher away, so that part of the negotiation was finished.
When Mr. Erix learned of my healing abilities, he asked me to see to two of Zincher's men; they were in the final stages of the Vorne kitty bites, and he was hoping I could do something. They were not victims of the zombies; rather, Zincher had been experimenting on his own men to study the progress of the disease. Monstrous! I accompanied Mr. Erix immediately and found the men bound and gagged on beds in a dark tent. I tried; oh how I tried! I healed them. I channeled energy. I took my elemental form and passed through them. Nothing helped! With no other magics to try, I admitted my failure to Mr. Erix. He personally performed the executions. My respect for the man went up.
Mr. Erix' final request was that we aid him and his men in defending against the zombies that would come that evening. This I could do! Alderan arranged the camp to be as defensible as possible, as I instructed the men to stay near me and not stray; I could protect them from the zombies, but only if they stayed close. Some party members chose to sleep in watches for the night. I stayed at the campfire, ready to defend the men.
The attack came a bit after midnight. I clutched my father's holy symbol at my neck and prepared my most powerful spells. These zombies would not get these men! They couldn't!
*** End of Session ***
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
We proceeded single-file into the woods. I must say that the woods here on the Material Plane are far different from those in my home. It was hot, yet a steady drizzle soaked us to the skin. A refreshing warm rain can be quite pleasant, but when suited up in ill-fitting leather armor, carrying a heavy backpack on your back, a shield on your arm, and a sword at your side, it is downright unpleasant, and makes everything chafe. My companions told me to be glad of the rain, as it was driving off most of the insects, but that helped little, as it seemed that every flying creature with more than four legs was bound and determined to make off with a taste of Celestial blood that day. Kwava continued to sow the seeds of doubt in his competence, complaining that he did not like the woods. I was under the impression that elves were at home in the woods, but considering both his and Alderan's reaction to this place, perhaps I misheard, or the rumors are nothing more than that.
Some distance in, several of us spotted a grey-cloaked figure standing against a tree, watching us. As we attempted to approach, he drew a bow and warned us away. I tried to draw closer, assuring him that I only wanted to ascertain his nature by touching him. He refused for a moment, and it looked like we would be forced to slay him. Fortunately, after examining me for a moment, he decided to let me approach, and I touched his hand and poured positive energy into him. The energy did not harm him, so I was satisfied that he meant us no harm; he had not tried all that hard to hide from us, and could have shot at us at any time, but stayed his hand and allowed us to approach.
The stranger joined us, obviously feeling there was safety in numbers, and we proceeded towards Witchfire. A rustling in the undergrowth was all the warning we received as we were assailed by a group of enormous... bugs? Taleck stepped in front of me to defend me, so I dutifully put a Shield of Faith on him, but I might as well not have bothered. Vorne stepped forward and flames erupted from his hands, engulfing the angry centipedes and charring them to a crisp. Taleck picked one up, took a large bite, and declared them well done! I declined the delicacy.
The corpses in the street were obviously a far more recent development. Two humans and two dwarves lay dead on the ground before us, twisted as if thrown from a great height, and discolored as by some hideous infection. Before I could approach to ascertain whether they were dead or undead, they stood up and attacked! I had time to channel before they arrived, doing them some damage, but our newfound stranger did not. All the more worrisome! Even more worrisome was the method of the zombies' attacks. Rather than striking with bludgeoning fists, huge tongues shot forth from their mouths, obviously somehow related to the infectious tentacles we had heard so much about from the dwarves and the stranger. Fortunately, my colleagues managed to defend themselves long enough for me to transform into my elemental state and prance before the zombies. Even more fortunately, they were as dim as I had hoped, and struck fiercely with their attacks of opportunity, causing me some pain but being utterly destroyed by my form in return. Two of the four zombies fell in this manner, and the other two were quick work for Sans Quah and Taleck.
As we looked at the destruction we had wrought, a wonderful, welcome, warm, reassuring voice called out in terror, "Leilani? Vorne? Alderan? Sans Quah? Carmen? Is that really you? You must come inside immediately! They will have heard the fight and will attack any moment now!"
Once we were safely in the building, Samaritha explained. (Though she still did not give me a hug.) All of the groups on the island were trying to find a "star metal" called "nequill" or some such, that was extremely rare and extremely valuable in constructing weapons and armor. The cipher mages sent one of their own, "Pharik" I think, with Samaritha as his apprentice and at least 10 other apprentice wizards. They set up a fortified encampment in the tower, but were assailed by horrible, tentacled things at night. The creatures were resistant to magic, made no noise when attacking, and those they damaged became infected with a disease, curse, or infestation that caused them to rot inside, die, and become the zombies we saw outside. Several of her charges were dead, and the rest sorely wounded, as they had not come prepared for a prolonged siege. This would not do!
Unfortunately, the tentacled abominations had other ideas. One of the apprentices at the top of the tower cried out a warning, and perhaps two dozen of the creatures attacked the tower. As I rushed upstairs to help as best as I could, one such creature burst through the wall and faced us. It was a dark blue-black, and indeed looked like a miniature lion, though it had tentacles instead of a mane, and dead white eyes. It made no noise, not even growling or gasping for breath, and faced us down. Vorne studied it intently for a moment and declared, "I will call you 'Vorne Kitties'."
As I tumbled through the dirt, I caught side of Vorne floating over the confusion. He pointed at me and said something. Perhaps it was a spell; I cannot be sure. I hope it was not an insult or a jest. Whatever it was, nothing happened.
As the tower crashed into the sea, a roar came from below. "That was FUN!!!! And seawater! Seawater destroys Vorne kitties!"
Now that we knew of the Vorne kitties' vulnerability to sea water, we moved to the wreckage in the water for the night. Samaritha wept and I tried to console her, speaking of Larur and his death, and the unspeakable pain I knew she must be feeling. I do not know that I was very good at it, but I had to try for her.
*** End of Session ***
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
The rest of the evening was a blur of panic, pain, confusion, and hope as I spent all of my remaining magics assisting those who had been injured during the flood, or those who had lost life or limb battling the sea creatures that poured forth with said flood. By Sarenrae, Riddleport must be one of the most accursed cities on the Material Plane short of the Worldwound itself! Run by criminals, with murders of its citizens day and night, with bluffs that block the sun in the morning, some kind of magical ring towering over the entire city, and a bay full of carnivorous creatures who would eat you as soon as look at you. Who would willingly choose to live in such a place?
Exhausted and spent, I vaguely recall staggering back to the Goblin... no, the Glorious... and collapsing into our bed for the night. How thankful I was that my companions had allowed us to keep our suite after my abortive attempt to leave them!
Oh... and Kwava arrived at some point during the rescues, asking what had happened. The other party members told him they would debrief him in the morning.
That night, as I lay exhausted, waiting for sleep to overcome me, I pondered my dilemma: I knew that I was on this plane because of a vision from an oracle of Pharasma. But what was I to do here? Who was I to follow?
In short, he was perfect. It was Vorne I had been sent to follow! I rolled over in bed and wrapped my arms and wings around him tightly. He would not come near to escaping me again!
I woke, bleary-eyed, but dutifully greeted the sun and Sarenrae. Much to my amazement, the rest of the party arose at a similarly-early hour, eager to explore the rest of the cave to see what the mistress had been doing.
Before we left, I had business with Alderan. After his brave stand against the half-orc monk, I had offered him a feather, and he had refused. He had finally approached me several days before the battle with the dark elf mistress indicating that while he felt he did not merit a feather, his raven Arber did. And my power was finally sufficient to grant this request. I dashed off a quick note to Alderan, enclosed one of my recently-shed feathers, and considered the matter closed.
With the party gathered, we proceeded downwards and nothing impeded our progress. We quickly returned to the mistress' room. Horrors! She had been excavating under the Cyphergate, and not only excavating, but using an adamantine chisel to remove runes from it! Vorne and Alderan were fascinated; they discussed at great length how the "arch" was actually a ring penetrating deep into the earth, and the mistress had apparently been causing the strange magical effects (the blot, the purple mists, the suicidal birds, the magnetism, and so forth) by damaging the gate. She had kept a meticulous journal, but neither of them could read it. Fortunately, both of them recognized the language as Undercommon, and believed they would be able to translate the journal without much difficulty.
After taking careful sketches of the damage to the archway and pocketing the chisel and journal (and Alderan's abortive attempt to use Mending to repair the gate), we returned to the Glorious.
As we breakfasted, word trickled in that the falling star had struck Devil's Elbow, an island perhaps 18 miles off the coast from Riddleport. Sans Quah, curious as always, set off into town to learn all he could about Devil's Elbow.
Returning to the Glorious, Sans Quah told us what he knew of Devil's Elbow. It was an island with a tragic past. Originally home to a siren, a sea captain had met her, fallen in love with her, and founded a town there. The townsfolk, on learning of his love, captured her and burned her at the stake. Humans are such barbaric creatures! Do they have no concept of love? Do none of them worship Shelyn, or even know her?
I must say, Carmen is nothing if not resourceful. Realizing that Vorne and Alderan had new information on the blot and the Cyphergate, she suggested that they present their findings at a seminar that evening. They were more than happy to do so, and Carmen sent me on my usual advertising errands, letting everyone know of the Glorious' new purpose as a research facility and tavern, and of the special talk that would occur there that night. Taleck and Lian accompanied me, while Vorne and Alderan worked diligently translating the journal and preparing their talks. The smallness of our little threesome saddened me a bit; of course I missed holding Vorne's arm as we strolled down the street, but the little shadow man Zokrim's bitterness was always a source of some amusement to us. He had not been seen nor heard of since the battle with the mistress, and I was truly concerned for his safety.
We returned to the Glorious in the late afternoon and found Kwava waiting for us. We informed him of most everything that had transpired. He was particularly concerned with the dark skin of the elf; he and Alderan acted as if she was of another race entirely. They resorted to Elven for much of their conversation, so I missed the finer points. At the end of the conversation, Kwava indicated that he wanted to travel with us to Devil's Elbow to investigate the meteor impact. Unfortunately, we still did not have a boat.
After the talks, everyone was aglow. Vorne and Alderan were pleased with the response to their talk. Carmen was overjoyed at the (money-paying) turnout. Sans Quah, Taleck, and Lian were happy that there was no significant trouble. And I was happy that I was finally getting to go to bed.
On the fourth day after the strike, Kwava finally proved to be of some use by telling us that he had managed to arrange a ship for us that would depart on the seventh day. Unfortunately, it was too late! On the fifth day, my confidante and friend Samaritha was taken away from me on assignment with the Cypher Mages to investigate! I received no formal goodbye, no hugs nor tears, nothing but a heartfelt note that she was going to the island, and that she wished me well! Now I was determined to get to that island and see her safe! Sans Quah was also unhappy to see her go, but I am afraid his affections are those of puppy love, and perhaps Samaritha did him a kindness by departing.
As we idled in Riddleport, waiting for Kwava's ship to come in, Alderan entertained himself by interviewing butlers. What Alderan would need in a manservant was beyond me, but he was determined, and both his coin and his reputation were good, so he had no shortage of applicants. By the fifth day of our enforced idleness, he had hired a manservant by the name of Higgins, whose sole qualities seemed to be the ability to carry things without dropping them and to compliment Alderan on any and all of his decisions. I did not particularly care for the man, but neither did I dislike him. It was more the notion of hiring another man to be your sychophant that did not sit well with me. On the other hand, Vorne and Alderan were both quite delighted with Higgins, and had him serve them enough tea that I marveled they did not develop bladder conditions. And am I really that much different, relying on my hounds to protect me in combat rather than fighting myself? Perhaps the only difference is that I rely on my hounds' loyalty, while Alderan pays in solid coin.
On the seventh day after the meteorite hit, our ship arrived on schedule. It arrived too late to set off that evening, so the captain invited us to dine with him as his crew took a brief shore leave for the evening. The captain was quite charming; exactly the kind of charm I've had to deal with for over eight decades now, so it was easy for me to politely decline his advances. Carmen was not so demure, but neither is she courting to my knowledge, so she accepted his advances adroitly and received a seat next to him at the captain's table for dinner as a reward.
The men themselves were no threat. We defeated them easily and the few fires they set were easy for me to put out with the simple water cantrip I use for preening. One jumped overboard and tried to swim away. Sans Quah lowered his bow to shoot the helpless man in the water, but before I could cry out he seemed to have a fundamental change of heart, lifted his bow, and chose the let the man live. Carmen was not so kind, and shot the man as he swam away. I do not know what his fate was; I can only hope it was better than that of the rest of our captives.
I know not what demons or devils Carmen is in league with, or if she is simply very clever and even more evil. She suddenly gave up her argument and agreed with me: The men would be thrown overboard off the stern of the ship, hands tied but feet loose, and if they managed to make it through the relatively shallow water to shore, she would let them go. We untied their feet, stood them at the stern, and Carmen pushed them overboard.
These people are not my friends.
Realizing that they had gone too far; far, far too far, Carmen and Alderan relented and the other two men were freed and allowed to leave across the gangplank. Carmen warned them that if she ever saw them again they would suffer the same fate or worse. I do not think we need fear them; the looks on their faces said all I needed to know. To them, we were the demons; the joyful tormentors, and they would never willingly approach us again.
After the incident, the captain sent word canceling shore leave, and the crew quickly returned to the ship. We spent a restless, sleepless (for me), tear-filled (for me) evening in the ship's hold, then sailed for Devil's Elbow in the morning.
The trip to Devil's Elbow took only a few silent hours. We anchored some distance from shore, and ship's boats rowed us to the beach. The captain did not want to stay anchored this close to the island, so after some discussion it was agreed that he would set anchor roughly an hour's sail off shore, and if we needed him, Alderan would send his raven familiar Arber to fetch the ship.
Speaking of Arber, it turns out that Alderan does indeed have a conscience, much to the amazement of most in our group. As we landed, he took me aside for some privacy. He explained that he had seen how much the thugs' deaths had pained me, and, although it had been my declaration that had killed them, he felt that his quip was in poor taste and only added to my pain. Thus, he returned Arber's feather to me, feeling he no longer deserved it. I did not argue, though I thought a bit more highly of him for doing so.
As we debarked, we were hailed from a delapidated group of what might have once been buildings. Desperately trying to keep someone alive, I approached those who had hailed us, flanked by Sans Quah, and asked them to send two representatives to meet us. Two bedraggled, exhausted, battle-torn dwarves staggered out to meet us. The first dwarf identified himself as Goldhammer, the leader of the dwarves sent by the Overlord to find the star metal. Of the 13 original dwarves, only four remained. He described a jungle full of "low-crawling, speedy, spiky" creatures that drag you into the undergrowth and kill you. Their bite injects a venom that slowly eats you from the inside, and then your head explodes into tentacles and you become "one of them" and attack the rest of your party. They lost only a few party members to direct combat with the things; most were lost to the venemous bites.
We summoned the ship as the dwarves drew their maps. Apparently the Cipher Mages were besieged at the old town of Witchfire, and were sending out either distress flares or doing battle every night. Thinking of my poor Samaritha, fighting alone in the night against unknown creatures of the dark, I knew my destiny. Fortunately, Sans Quah was no less determined to save his "love". The rest of the party did not stand against us, and once the dwarves were safely embarked we set off towards Witchfire, ready for whatever befell us...
*** End of Session ***
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
I must say, if I never see another ally vomiting, or have to deal with the repercussions of their illnesses, it will be a palpable relief! I do not consider myself an iron-stomached dwarf or eat-anything orc, so if I am capable of keeping down my lunch in a given situation, shouldn't my barbarian cohorts be able to as well?
Knowing full well that we would be battling a 'Mistress' who had bound a demon to serve Saul, I determined to purchase scrolls that would aid us in our endeavor. As Aneurin had already discovered, it was impossible to obtain a scroll of Spear of Purity in Riddleport. But what about Consecrate? The party was kind enough to escort/protect me as I visited the temple of Calistria, the temple/tavern of Cayden Cailean, and finally Findler's shop. To my utter amazement, Findler's had the scroll! I suppose I should not be surprised that a city entirely devoid of paladins would also be devoid of the tools of demon-slaying, but the fact that someone had sold such a precious scroll to a shop such as Findler's did sadden me.
I must learn to control my temper. The night before, I was vexed with Alderan for questioning my use of magic, and I wished that we had fought undead to prove my point. Well, we did indeed fight undead, and Taleck suffered the consequences!
In the morning, with all of us refreshed and girded for battle, we decided to question the troglodyte. Again, his smell sickened some members of our party, but I seem strangely resistant to this effect. We learned that his name was Sliv, but little more. Apparently no one had thought to feed or water him for the evening, so there the poor creature was, trapped in a cage, hungry, thirsty, and surrounded by enemies. I personally brought him food and water, but it was far too little too late to change his attitude towards us. Frustrated at our lack of foresight, we headed back into the tunnels.
Before proceeding down the path that we were certain led to "the Mistress", we decided to check down the hall we had not checked the previous day. We were fortunate in that the offshoot was a sole room with a deep pool of water at one end. A skeleton lay slumped next to the pool. Deciding to prove to the party that I was of more use than just, "That angel who heals people," I cast Detect Undead on the skeleton. Much to my surprise and disappointment, the creature was not undead. Maintaining the spell, I scanned the room, hoping I might find something for my efforts. And there it was! At the bottom of the pool lurked an undead creature. I warned the party that there was something undead in the pool, waited for the hounds to line up in a defensive position in front of me, and then channeled energy at the undead fiend.
With the enemy defeated, Sans Quah and Taleck had me cast Light on a rock and then dropped it into the pool. Using the light they could see the glint of gold below, and quickly retrieved a rotting chest full of gold, gems, and, much to Vorne and Alderan's delight, a wand of Levitate that still had some use.
After an interminable walk, we came upon yet another cavern with yet another pool. As if on cue, two serpent-like creatures with gaping mouths that sprouted tentacles reared out of the water and attacked. It was a short, one-sided battle, and we quickly dispatched the creatures.
Finally, we reached the "Mistress'" chambers! One ledge had been converted into a "bed" of sorts, and a platinum-covered chest sat at its foot. It took little time to open the chest and retrieve the jewels, gems and coins inside. There was also a bottle of perfume that Alderan chose to keep, and a pair of fine boots. While I would normally question the looting of the room of a woman still living, her actions had proved her evil beyond question, so I did not protest the pilferage.
As we rounded the corner, we were faced with two troglodytes, two vile demons, and the Mistress herself: A lithe, proud, purple-skinned elf with white hair! She was quite striking, but the evil look on her face and her choice of company indicated that this would be a battle to the death!
The fight seemed lost. While our hounds had dropped the troglodytes, we had lost all of our fighters, and I stood alone in the cloud of gas, channeling energy in a vain attempt to keep my friends alive. Zokrim could not see through the cloud, but he heard how the fight was going and fled. We have not seen him since. Carmen stood in the back helplessly, blinded by the cloud and with no missile weapon to use even if she could see. Poor Lian was still emptying the contents of his stomach on the floor.
The mistress, recognizing the sudden turning tide, bid us farewell with a wave and climbed up a ladder to an opening to the streets above. Sans Quah and I gave chase, followed shortly thereafter by the remaining conscious members of our party.
As she reached the top of the arch, the mistress looked about and saw an approaching ship. Looking at Sans Quah and the vessel, it was clear the boat would get there first. Sure enough, as it passed underneath the arch, the dark elf allowed herself to drop, feather-like, onto the transport below. Sans Quah had no such magic, and could only look on in frustration as his quarry escaped.
We re-gathered at the bottom of the arch, wondering what to do, when the sky grew bright with fire and a massive meteor struck near Riddleport, perhaps only a few miles offshore! Light filled the sky, but no sound reached us -- yet! Knowing the shockwave would cause tidal waves, I raced to a nearby building as Sans Quah attempted to re-climb the arch. Some followed Sans Quah, while others followed me. Knocking sharply on the front door, I was greeted by a confused-looking woman. Knowing that we had no time for explanations, I cut straight to the core of the matter. "Good evening, M'Lady. We would be very interested in seeing your roof at the moment, and I believe you and your family would be well-disposed if you came with us. May we come in?"
Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the residents of Riddleport who had not been wise enough to seek higher ground, and there was great bloodshed and misery towards the shoreline. I raced out of the house and towards the shore to assist in any way I could...
*** End of Session ***
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
We came to a fork in the cave passage, and Sans Quah declared that we should go right. Having no reason to argue with his assuredness, we did. And were ambushed by several smelly fish-men, who are apparently called "troglodytes".
As several of us watched for said reinforcements, Vorne and Alderan woke one of the troglodytes, speaking to it in Draconic. Unfortunately, Alderan informed me that all he could get out of the troglodyte was that theirs was a culture of warriors and honor, and to lose in battle was to die. He was apparently begging Alderan and Vorne for death, but Alderan knew of my distaste for slaying the defeated, so he was torn between honoring my wishes and honoring the troglodytes'. Touched by his honesty, and knowing of other races who viewed defeat as worse than death, I granted Alderan permission to grant them their honor. I was perplexed by their struggles and cries against their honors, but perhaps if they do not struggle, the death is not considered honorable... I cannot conceive of such a barbaric culture, but I have led a very sheltered life.
With the alarm raised against us, we changed tactics and let Lian lead the way, as he was the stealthiest among us. I put Shield of Faith on him to protect him in case of ambush, and gave him reassuring words to try to calm his agitated stomach. Fortunately, our next foes were not more troglodytes, but giant darting bug-things that proved quite difficult for our hounds to corner and pummel. Our group took a great deal of wounding, but I was up to the task of keeping them healed, thanks in large part to the wand they had so kindly purchased me.
In the final room in the passage, our sharper-eared colleagues reported hearing whispering. Foolishly, we raced forward into the ambush, only to find TEN of the troglodytes in a small room! We were fortunate to be able to retreat with our lives, and Alderan used his Web to great effect in preventing their escape. My part in the remaining combat was very minor, as the hounds and wizards moved forward, burning the webbing away to expose troglodytes, then defeating them. Half the troglodytes fled to make a final stand in a second room, but with half their numbers the battle was even shorter.
Unfortunately, the wizards had used up all of their spells, and the rest of the party was concerned that I was using the expensive wand rather than my native magic, so we decided to return to the Glorious and go in search of the troglodyte's mistress the next morning. We took the troglodyte with us, locked him in one of the animal cages, and retired to the Glorious to wash the stench off of ourselves and to rest up for the next day.
*** End of session ***
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
Alas! Am I forever cursed to choose between love and duty, even on this plane? My wonderful suitor is quite vexed with me, and I do not know that I will be able to keep him! Why is it that my duty must always trump my love? Could there not be one situation, ever, that allows my heart and my duty to pursue the same course? But I digress. Let me start at the source of my misgivings...
Having slain Saul and his vile counterpart Old Scratch, we chose to wake and question Beyer, as I felt he could not possibly be part of this plot against us. Sure enough, Beyer had been misled by Saul into believing that we were working for the Overlord, and had only done his level best to remain true to and defend his supposedly-steadfast employer! On hearing that Hans had perished, Beyer wept true tears. Finally moved to mercy, my companions allowed Beyer his gear and employment, and told him that due to his extreme and devoted loyalty to Saul, they would employ him to guard Carmen in the same manner. He readily accepted this task, and I was overjoyed to see at least one of our foes redeemed!
With Beyer taken care of, we set to the somewhat more grisly task of searching Saul for clues: Who had been giving him money to keep the Goblin afloat? How had he acquired a devil so loyal to him that it had sacrificed its own life and soul rather than leave him? How could we get into his vault?
Other discoveries were far more distressing. In the animal pens downstairs we found not only abused and mistreated animals, but Larur's ring! Having claimed nothing from the party before now, I requested ownership of the ring. Fortunately, the rest of the party agreed, and I knew that at least some part of Larur would make it back to his family! I hesitate to imagine what abuses Larur endured before his demise! Another room was an infirmary with several healing potions. Although I insisted I needed no potions to heal myself or my comrades, the group pressed a potion into my hands, and I dutifully stored it in my backpack. How it is supposed to be useful to me while stored in such an awkward conveyance I have no idea, but they would not be satisfied until I had it safely stowed.
Exhausted from our combats and subsequent search of the recesses and excesses of the Goblin, we all retired to our own entertainments. I escorted Vorne to our room. It was not long before there was a gentle knock at the door. Though I knew it would do me little good against an intruder, I picked up my scimitar and cracked the door. It was Alderan! Thank Sarenrae! But he looked somewhat chagrined. Before I could so much as invite him in, he spoke earnestly to me.
A tornado of emotions stormed through me. Fury that I had been misled. Disgust at this vile murderous creature before me. Sadness at the loss of so many lives for such a trivial reason as convenience. Relief that it was nothing more than a murderous elf that had killed the men. And honest pity that Alderan had felt such remorse over the incident that he had come to me to confess.
Whatever I said, and whatever Alderan thought of my response, I do not know. He thanked me, bowed curtly, and moved on. I managed not to cry when I turned back into our room. Vorne asked what was the matter, and I told him of Alderan's crimes. Vorne did not take it nearly as hard as I. "Well, they probably would have eventually died anyway. It's the kind of job they were in."
Dinner was a relatively somber affair; I made sure that everyone was healed, we had a quiet meal, and we all retired to our rooms for the evening. The Goblin did not open that night, and we kept a watch.
The next morning, we sold all of our "bounty" that had not been claimed by various party members and the party generously purchased a new wand of Cure Light Wounds for me. They kindly escorted me to Larur's aunt (we must have been quite the sight, milling about in the dwarven quarter next to an unmarked building), and I presented her with Larur's ring. She was saddened, but thanked me, and appreciated that we had slain his killer. I made my rounds to the temple, and we were back to the Goblin by lunchtime.
At that point, the group had a long discussion as to the fate of the Goblin. This seemed odd to me. Weren't we the heroes of destiny, fated to ward off the darkness that was threatening our plane even now? Apparently not! After a great deal of debate, they decided that they would keep the Goblin open, everyone would buy shares in it, and we would share the profits.
But this was unthinkable! We had a duty to the world! We had a leader in Kwava! Why on Golarion would we stay at some tawdry gambling establishment when the man running it was dead and we had no further reason to stay!
Vorne retorted that he had a duty to learn the secrets of the blot, and he would not leave it unfinished. Furthermore, he did not believe Kwava had any idea what he was doing, and was just as likely to find our enemies wandering in the wilderness as our party was to find them attacking the Goblin. In fact, given our history, it was far MORE likely that our enemies would attack the Goblin than that Kwava would find them.
We were at an impasse; I was determined to leave, and he was determined to stay. I wept. We did not speak again until dinner, when I announced my plan to depart to the group. They made the same arguments -- staying at the Goblin was just as likely to attract whoever was controlling Saul as searching for that person with Kwava. But I knew my duty, and I would not be dissuaded. Perhaps the most touching moment of the evening was Carmen asking me (in her usual unflattering, bristly way) that I stay. I did not believe the woman liked me, and thought she would be happy to be rid of me, but she genuinely wanted me to stay. In spite of my pain, I was touched.
With the decision to keep and run the Goblin reached, Alderan wrote up a contract. Anyone who wanted a share in the goblin had to put in 100 gold pieces and sign the contract. All in the group save me paid their money and signed their names. I reiterated my plan to leave with Kwava.
Vorne and I slept in separate beds that night.
There was nothing for me to do the next day. Kwava had not yet returned from wherever it was he went, and Carmen was planning the grand re-re-opening of the Goblin, this time renamed "The Glorious" and cast as a place where wizards and sages too poor or too unknown to get into the Cipher Mage Academy could come and study, drink, and gamble together. She had large bookshelves constructed around the room, and stocked with whatever books were cheapest in Riddleport at the moment. Among these cheap and tawdry books she scattered real research manuscripts, and showed me and the girls where such nuggets of knowledge lay hidden. She had new costumes made for the girls, calling them, "Sexy librarian" outfits, though they were hardly more revealing than my own silks. She had one made for me as well, and I agreed that as long as I was at the Goblin, I would assist, as it would be untoward of me to expect to stay rent-free in a place I was no longer a part of.
In a move most of the party agreed with, but I found rather distasteful, Saul's body was dumped on the street in front of the Glorious as a sign of new ownership.
That evening, Kwava returned. The party's reception of him was rather cold. On being told of Saul's demise, he pondered long and hard, and then declared that it was clear he should stay in Riddleport, keeping an eye on the Glorious in the hopes of catching the mysterious "benefactor". How my heart leaped with joy. Kwava could not have comprehended why, but I leapt up and hugged him, then spun around and hugged and kissed Vorne! I must say, men are very easy to startle!
The next two days were a routine with which I was very familiar: I advertised the re-re-opening of the Glorious, greeted guests as they arrived in the evening, and took care of my duties around the Glorious and the temple during the day. I made of point of visiting the wine cellar every day, counting the bottles and trying to catch our wine-napper in the act.
My diligence in observing the wine cellar was rewarded promptly: Three days after Saul's death, the wine cellar yet again reeked of a fishy odor. Recalling my training, I did not try to find the fish or fish-men or man-fish, but stood at the door, ready to flee on any sign of movement, and called for assistance. The party quickly gathered, we determined that two bottles of wine were missing, and Sans Quah was able to easily track two sets of wet footprints back to the Octagon.
Clearing the door, we found a keyhole that exactly matched the mysterious golden key. Girding ourselves, Sans Quah unlocked and opened the door. Below was darkness, so I stepped forward to light the way. The secret "passage" was a series of rocks and rope ladders leading down, down, down into the darkness. While most of the party had no trouble with such contraptions, my lack of experience with such things was nearly my downfall: I slipped and plummeted, only to be caught at the last moment by Taleck. I am saddened by his refusal to accept my feather's healing. He is a dear and loyal hound, but he is not very bright, nor are his tactics anything short of suicidal. I fear that some day I will be forced to resurrect him rather than heal him. I pray that when we reach that point, I will be strong enough for him!
Sans Quah took the lead as we explored the tunnel. In the first large chamber there was a large pool. As Sans Quah scouted ahead, three giant fish-things with huge teeth burst forth and attacked us! Fortunately, our hounds and our wizards were sufficient to subdue them, and I was able to heal Sans Quah of his significant wounds. In a sign of bravery only shown by these barbarous men (Taleck and Sans Quah), Sans Quah chose to keep the lead. I was too far back to see exactly what happened next, but apparently the people at the front of the party were beset by large spiny lizards that flashed like lightning. They were on the ceiling and I had to run beneath them to provide healing, but I paid little attention to them, only hearing them referred to as, "Flashy chameleons", though these were twenty times the size of any chameleons I'd seen in Nirvana!
With my halo still glowing, we proceeded deeper into the caves...
*** End of session ***
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
Oh, my! I see that I have not posted in several fortnights, and none of my comrades have seen fit to post in my absence! I blame NobodysHome entirely; his obsession with my sister is quite obvious (and quite inappropriate, in my mind), and he should return to transcribing my journal forthwith!
Unfortunately inside was a much more stalwart defense. Five burly thugs prevented us from further progress, while three more fired upon us from the catwalks! Following no tactics that I know of, our party spread out among the thugs, each hound taking on one or two thugs while Vorne, Lian, and Kwava fired at those in the catwalks. My colleagues distributed damage so evenly that I could not heal our group for fear of healing our enemies. Fortunately, I found that the feathers I had been gifting my closest friends had unexpected benefits: As Taleck and Lian took damage, their wounds were transferred to me, so instead of having to rush headlong into battle to heal them, I could heal myself. It was painful, but extraordinarily convenient, and I was ecstatic to be able to heal my dear friends from afar, exactly as Vorne and I had been discussing! Unfortunately, I had not realized how much damage Taleck takes during a fight. He is a mountain of a man, wears little armor, and seems to care nothing of death or dismemberment. His participation in the battle was extremely damaging to me, but I perservered, and for once he did not drop!
Bless his soul, even in the heat of battle Alderan ran in to tend to the wounded enemies! I knew there was a heart of gold beneath that gruff exterior! Unfortunately (as I learned after the battle), not a single wounded man survived! Saul had obviously performed some dark magics to prevent his lackeys from surviving the battle; to what dark purpose I dared not guess. However, their tormented departures granted us some boon: As soon as Alderan determined that several of the men were already dead, I was able to Channel Energy and heal all of my allies far more effectively.
Player Note: Yes. We roleplayed this out. Leilani rolled a natural 1 on her Perception and a natural 3 on her Sense Motive, so she honestly believed that Alderan was trying to "help" the wounded men. It was hard to sound piteous and touched while giggling horrifically...
Once my healings started taking effect, the tides of battle turned, the remaining thugs on the main floor dropped, and Carmen and Aneurin raced towards the stairs in order to reach the remaining men on the catwalks. I followed, healing Aneurin as he paused to open the door. They were quickly dispatched, and, most unfortunately, fell from the catwalks to their deaths. Saul's employees were truly under some form of curse!
The main fight seemingly over for the moment, we left Zokrim and Lian to guard the vault in case Saul knew of some back way to it, and the rest of us proceeded quickly upstairs to Saul's room, I healing people the entire way as our party was still somewhat wounded, especially Aneurin.
Gaining entry to Saul's office, Carmen had little trouble deciphering his books. To no one's surprise, they were fraudulent. To everyone's surprise, he was modifying them to make things look better than they were: He was receiving money from an unknown source and using that to try to keep the Goblin afloat, but the Goblin was losing money so fast it wasn't going to last. What mystery was this? What could it mean? The answers lay with the vile villain, Saul Vancaskerkin.
We rejoined Zokrim and Lian at the vault and learned that no one had assailed them as they guarded, so we proceeded downstairs.
I wish I could say I was more effective in dealing with Old Scratch. I wasn't. The group peppered him with arrows, but he danced about most effectively, providing the distraction Saul needed to leap off the balcony and into the arena below. Fortunately, Bojask had left a wild boar loose in the arena, and Saul was momentarily distracted as the boar charged him. Vorne opened a pit at his feet, and he barely managed to avoid falling in. This gave Alderan the time needed to fill the arena with arcane webbing, further preventing Saul's escape. As all the others continued their hail of arrows at Old Scratch and Saul, Carmen, Aneurin, and I raced downstairs to the arena proper. I was significantly slower than the two of them, and heard great commotion ahead. Carmen cried out something unintelligible and Vorne translated that Saul and Old Scratch were dead, but the boar was loose and in the process of gutting Aneurin. Steeling myself for a transformation I had never attempted on the Material Plane, I focused as my mother had taught me, thought of the millenia of ancestors tracing back to Sarenrae herself... and transformed into pure, radiant, positive energy!
There are no words that can describe the wonder, the rapture, or the pure blessed tranquility of that form! All urgency left me. I spoke, and the world spoke with me as I asked Vorne to translate to Aneurin that he should move through me. Vorne, sounding confused and hesitant, dutifully translated. Aneurin, having dispatched the boar with Carmen's help, staggered forward. I moved through him and poured healing energies into him, and his wounds sealed immediately. The power was wondrous! But I was already tiring! The form takes a great deal of my strength, and saps me too quickly; would that I could stay in that form for hours at a time!
With Aneurin and Carmen healed and the boar defeated, I returned to my original shape, and we awaited the dispersal of the web that we might investigate Saul's body further.
*** End of session ***
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
I awoke, stiff and sore, and greeted the sun, spreading my wings to catch its rays as I preened, sang, and prayed. My campmates apparently did not appreciate my singing at such an hour, and had me move a very short distance away and sing very quietly. As the others arose and Kwava graciously provided us with a very simple breakfast, we made plans.
I suspected that Saul was in league with Old Scratch, and would have more imps at his beck and call, as devil worshippers are nothing if not power-hungry. I suggested that I would need scrolls of Align Weapon and Spear of Purity in order to defend us against these abominations. I believe it was Alderan who pointed out that devils were also susceptible to silvered weapons, as were lycanthropes, so we might want to purchase some of those as well.
We handed Aneurin a large bag of gold and a shopping list, and in a mere couple of hours returned with the requested gear, though he informed me that no temple in Riddleport sold scrolls of Spear of Purity; apparently it was too "Good" a spell for such places! The only questions that arose were from the tavernkeeper/cleric of Cayden Cailean, concerned that Aneurin would try to use the scroll himself. With reassurances that Aneurin had no such inclinations, he obtained a scroll of Align Weapon and I was somewhat appeased. Taleck or Sans Quah with a good-aligned earthbreaker would certainly be more than a match for any group of imps!
Before we set off on our cleansing of the Goblin, I asked to speak to the party. I reminded them that many of the guards and staff of the Goblin had worked with us for weeks; some of them had even fought at our sides. Hans and Beyer in particular had saved Alderan's life, and thereby who knows how many more of us, considering his subsequent actions?
We marched into town in force, Kwava with us in case the "evil elf" should show himself. There was no point in attempting to hide our approach; I am afraid that my silver hair, pale skin, height, and wings are all a bit too obvious to conceal in broad daylight. Certainly others stand out as well; I cannot imagine too many people mistaking Taleck for anything other than a Shoanti barbarian. So we strode forward confidently.
To my great fortune, many of my party members have much better eyes than I, and they spotted the sniper on the roof, the sneakabout among the columns, and the thugs at the door long before I did. There was a sign on the door indicating that the Goblin was closed for refurbishment.
We decided we would re-open the Goblin, and moved forward into view of the thugs...
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
This journal entry is very different, scratched with a crude pen, and the paper is dirty and has mudstains and wrinkles on it.
At that point a lone cloaked figure stood up from across the water, called out, "It's an ambush," and then put an arrow into one of the men under the lantern. The man fell in such a way that all of us realized he was a dummy; in fact, all of the "men" at the meeting had not moved, and we quickly realized we had been had! The other shadowy figures rushed forward, apparently in opposition to the first.
Fortunately, it worked! The wererats had difficulty crossing the stream, and engaged Carmen, Sans Quah, and Zokrim without reaching us! Taleck gave up on his bow and charged into combat. Both Sans Quah and Taleck did significant damage to our foes in spite of their resistance to non-silvered weapons. Our mysterious benefactor held his own, though he was being wounded prodigiously. Vorne and Alderan started firing off force missiles to down the creatures.
Once we had captured the wererats, we realized how pathetic they were. One of them carried a note in a strange "thieves' jargon" that Carmen could translate indicating that they had been offered indoctrination into the wererats' gang if they could kill us. In short, they were so pathetic they could not even join a gang without committing an act of murder, and they had failed at that!
The man who ambushed our ambushers turned out to be an elven ranger named Kwava. He was from a land I had never heard of, and his oracles had described a great blackness coming upon the world, and a lone elf standing against it, holding up a shining light against the darkness. And he believed he was that elf! Our prophecies were too similar for it to be coincidence! Here was my next lead! The man I should follow and help! And I would be his light against the darkness! My heart swelled in both anticipation and fear: What would happen if he took me away from Riddleport, and Vorne declined to accompany us? I had known Vorne less than three months, yet he was very dear to me, dearer already than many hounds I had courted for years, and I did not want to leave his side. But my duty, my existence cried out that I must assist Kwava in his quest, wherever it might take me! Even on this Plane, was duty to break my heart yet again?
As we spoke, he led us to his camp. We compared our stories. Kwava believed that Saul was hiding an evil elf that he was seeking. He had a description of the elf that matched Alderan fairly well, but both Kwava and Alderan assured us that he was not the quarry. My heart lightened at the news that his destiny so closely coincided with our goals: We clearly had to confront Saul, and only needed to decide on the means of our approach.
Carmen wanted to try subterfuge; to have her return from the ambush alone, telling Saul that I was sorely wounded in the swamp and in need of assistance, and we would lie in wait for him. None of us liked this plan, as it put Carmen at too great a risk; Saul had no reason to keep Carmen alive once he heard the news, and would either torture my whereabouts out of her or kill her outright and simply comb the swamp for me. Vorne liked the idea of returning to the Goblin as if nothing had happened, convincing Saul that the ambush had not occurred and making Saul doubt his allies.
After a great deal of discussion, we decided that we would go with a frontal assault in the morning, first trying to obtain some scrolls for me to assist in combating devils, and then moving in before Saul woke up.
I sat down on the horribly-uncomfortable mat that Kwava graciously provided to me, wrote in my journal for a while, curled up against Vorne, and tried to sleep. I am a bit jealous of his traveling lifestyle; I believe he was asleep within ten minutes of lying down, while I lay awake and uncomfortable for hours before finally succumbing to rest.
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
This journal entry is very different, scratched with a crude pen, and the paper is dirty and has mudstains and wrinkles on it.
I arose in the morning with grim determination: I would find a paladin in Riddleport! My mother had provided me with no guidance, so I decided to start off at the temple of Cayden Cailean and work my way out from there; surely any paladin passing through Riddleport would need a beverage to dull his or her sense of indignation at the state of this foul city! After the assault of the previous evening, none of us felt safe venturing forth alone, and so the entire group came with me save Aleurin, whose whereabouts I did not know. For the first few minutes, at least, it was pleasant to have Sans Quah, Carmen, and Alderan accompanying us on our travels through the city.
First, we went to Findler's and sold off most of the brigands' loot (some party members kept some of the goods for themselves; Alderan had a particular fascination with the monk's shuriken that I found a bit disquieting). I must say that I get some grim satisfaction by defeating those who would do us wrong, taking their gear as fairly-won penance from them, selling it, and donating part of the proceeds to the temple. Our load lightened and our purses heavier, we moved on to the temple of Cayden Cailean.
You would have thought I had walked in and beheaded the man for the reaction it got! Sans Quah's eyes widened and his nostrils flared. Carmen stormed up and demanded to speak with me in private. Now. I refused, of course, citing the dangers of any of us going off alone or in pairs, and that even further infuriated her. Even Vorne seemed disappointed in me. Arnando admitted that he knew of no paladins currently in Riddleport, so I thanked him and we headed for the temple of Sarenrae. Or at least we tried.
Sans Quah openly revolted, demanding to know who had put me in charge. I calmly explained that no one "put me in charge", and if he had errands to run as well we would be happy to accompany him on them. This did not assuage his resentment in the least. Carmen was still seething and demanded once again to see me in private, and once again I told her that this would be unacceptable without suitable guards around us. In spite of their objections, they did not leave the group, and we proceeded in uneasy silence to the temple. I made my usual donations to the children and Brother Jhonas, checked in on Father Padrick and Mika, and purified Mumsy's food and the fountain. I took Brother Jhonas aside and asked him if he knew of any paladins in Riddleport and alas, he did not know of any, either. I asked for a properly-adorned scimitar to wield, but they had none, so I had to pick one up at Findler's.
I made a quick stop at the temple of Calistria to pick up a scroll of Instant Armor; never again did I want to risk my silks or my Dress by being unprepared for combat!
My errands complete, I asked if anyone else had any errands they wanted to run, but no one did, so we returned to the Goblin. Once again, Vorne provided a distraction so that I could place Alderan's gift in his room. Once Vorne and I were alone, he started his gentle chastisement of me.
Steeling myself for her bristling tongue, I invited her to my office so we could meet in private. While I expected some anger or hostility, the venom that dripped from her took me aback. She called me an idiot, a moron, stuck up, incompetent, and clueless. She said I had no business managing the Goblin. All of these were perfectly acceptable, and flowed off me like water off a duck's back. But then she put in the dagger: She accused me of not caring, and of being unwilling to listen to others wiser than myself!
Vorne and I spent a pleasant afternoon together, while Carmen transformed the Goblin into a "battered angel" motif, putting fake bruises and bandages on the girls and adding bloodstains and tatters to the hangings. It was not to my taste, but I had promised Carmen I would listen, and listen I would. I wore my armor, shield, and sword to greet people at the door, and Carmen wholeheartedly approved.
I will admit I am perhaps the most naive member of our party. Yet even I was very skeptical of this development. Why would they meet in a swamp, rather than in a safe house? Why would they have insufficient guards? After a brief private discussion among the party members, we decided that we would go to the appointed site at the appointed hour, but we would go in force, well-armed, and expecting an ambush. Would Saul really betray us so? I prayed it wasn't true, but the circumstances were so odd I could not help but wonder about his true motivations.
We set forth well after dark, all in armor and carrying weapons. The scimitar felt awkward against my leg; I hoped I would not have to use it, as I had proved grossly incompetent with it in the past. As we walked, Alderan thanked me graciously for the gift. I knew there was nobility beneath his annoying exterior!
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
Shaking, despondent, and covered in my own blood, once I was assured that all of our co-workers were accounted for I allowed Vorne to escort me back to our room. I removed my silks, sobbing at their pathetic state: Cut in a dozen places, bloodstained, and likely never to be wearable again. As I stared at them, gasping for breath, I thought of myself in much the same way. My entire world had been upended in a single night, and I would never be the same! Karma was a lie. The brigands had had no qualms about attacking me; indeed, both the downstairs brigand and the half-orc had gone out of their way to try to strike me down to prevent me from healing my fallen comrades. Alderan was not a "Soulless One", but a noble warrior hampered by an utter lack of social skills. And a dozen men were locked downstairs, two floors below me, doomed to die unless I could conceive of a reason they should live!
As I removed my mother's jewelry piece by piece, carefully washing each precious memento of a more naive time, I asked Vorne to wash me. At first he was hesitant to scrub me. I had to urge him to scrub the blood, the pain, and the utter feel of hopelessness from my skin. As he worked, we talked. We spoke of Taleck and my need to find a way to heal him at a distance, as he spends much of too many fights lying bleeding on the floor. We spoke of Alderan's nobility and my misjudgement of him. And my most pressing concern was, of course, the men downstairs. Someone should interview each and every one of them, determine which were merely dupes and which were truly irredeemable, and mete swift justice on the lot of them. Unfortunately, my skills lie in getting along with people, not in reading them, so I was hopeless for the task. Vorne quizzed me on what would be done on my plane. As we spoke, I came to the realization: We needed a paladin! Vorne was skeptical that we would find a paladin in Riddleport, but suggested we at least approach Saul to buy time for the imprisoned men.
We decided to save my wings for last, so I switched over to scrubbing Vorne and we addressed the three questions of most concern to me:
I realized that I could do my best. I would ask Saul for 24 hours to find a paladin. If I could not find a paladin in that time, Saul could do with the men as he pleased. Vorne thought this was an excellent idea. For a moment, I looked to my silks, then burst into tears again. They could never again be wearable! Vorne took one look at me and cast some sort of spell that mended my silks. Then cleaned them! In two simple spells they were as good as the day mother gifted them to me! Is there no end to my suitor's kindness?!?
While both Vorne and I were certain that the attack had been full-scale, we saw no reason to endanger ourselves, so I dressed in armor and shield, and borrowed Vorne's dagger. I may "not know which end to stab people with", but I am afraid Vorne is better off using it as an eating utensil, and, with armor and shield, I am more effective than him when neither of us has a spell to our name.
Convinced that I had done all I could for the men, and with a course of action for the morrow, I was ready to head back upstairs to finish washing my wings and get some much-needed rest. Carmen, Sans Quah, and Aleurin returned from dropping off some of the girls at their homes in seedier neighborhoods of Riddleport and were appalled at the state of things. I let Saul and Vorne explain the circumstances to them; I was not decent company at that moment.
Finally cleansed as much as was possible, I dressed in my now-mended silks, knelt at our bedside, spread my wings, and prayed to my mother to provide me guidance in finding a paladin to save the souls of the poor men downstairs.
Direct quote from the IM session: "Mother, if you are listening, please hear me! We have men who are doomed to die on the morrow if we do not judge them worthy of redemption, and I am not powerful or wise enough to make this judgement! I have been gifted...<Please don't interrupt, Vorne!>... with one more day of life for these men. I need a paladin or another guide who can judge these men wisely. I will go to the temple tomorrow, to beg guidance from the priest. If you know of any who might aid our cause who can be here on the morrow, please give me a sign in my dreams. Thank you, Mother. I love you. Oh, and you will be happy to know I am courting a human! A real human wizard named Vorne! He is very sweet! I can't wait for you to meet him!"
My prayers complete, Vorne and I retired. I do not think I lay in bed 30 seconds before falling sound asleep. The events and stresses of the day had sapped me completely.
Oh, my! I'm afraid that was quite unladylike of me, wasn't it?
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
Where to begin? Where to end? My thoughts fly about like sparrows frightened witless by an approaching hawk! The bloodstains have been cleansed from my silks. My bones are mended. And in spite of my inadequacies, we are all alive! Yes! That is what is important! Thanks to Alderan and Vorne, we lived to see the morning! Oh, how I misjudged him! I am sure that on the morrow there will be more apologies, and more discussion, and... mother was wrong. Karma does NOT protect you on this plane! I have been cut by sword, shot by arrow, and beaten by bone-crunching fists! Yet Alderan saved me! In spite of my treatment of him! Elves are indeed as noble as is told. He is just... grating. Noble, but horribly, horribly grating.
As I read through my previous entries, hands still shaking from the shock, the pain, and the fear that I almost lost my poor Taleck, I see that I must begin two weeks before last night's altercation. So be it!
My third week as floor manager proved conclusively that I should not be the floor manager of the Glorious Goblin; profits plummeted, and not only did we receive no pay, but Saul was concerned he might have to close the establishment soon if things didn't pick up. I offered him my resignation, but he declined, insisting that I was doing my part, and the fault was entirely his. It was also at that point that Alderan reappeared. I know not where he had been the last few weeks, but I approached him, confronted him about his conflict with Vorne, and demanded that he apologize to Vorne or I would not heal him. His response was so obscene I cannot write it in this journal; I can only note that it involved an impossible act with myself. I redoubled my efforts to attract business to the Goblin, even going so far as to ask my urchins, if they didn't mind, and it wouldn't get them in trouble with their parents or put them at risk, to help.
In the meantime, it turned out that the elf had only emerged to sate his own ego; he scheduled a presentation at the Cipher Mage academy. While I detested the notion of showing any support for him whatsoever, Vorne wanted to see him speak, so I accompanied Vorne to the abhorrent elf's talk. The things one must abide for one's suitor! His presentation was as pompous and long-winded as one might expect from him, but took the very interesting approach of listing all of the things that the blot was NOT. Many of the researchers were apparently impressed by this novel approach, so perhaps the elf is indeed competent in his field. Vorne was so impressed that he scheduled a presentation of his own several days later.
While I could not be Vorne's escort for his presentation, Samaritha kindly agreed to sit with me, and we spent a pleasant time together listening to Vorne and catching up on each other's news. Vorne's presentation was similarly novel; rather than saying anything about the blot itself, he spoke of those researching the blot. He discussed each researcher in turn, his or her theories, and how those in the audience might assist or learn from that particular researcher. According to him, Alderan was the most preeminent researcher of the blot in the city! Who knew? We returned to the Goblin, and Alderan was much friendlier towards Vorne; I no longer feared that the elf would try to assassinate him in his sleep. I should note here something that I learned later: While I was preparing to greet customers at the Goblin that evening, Alderan approached Vorne and formally apologized for his mistreatment of him! Vorne's lecture had changed the elf's opinion of him, but the elf wanted nothing whatsoever to do with me.
That evening proved yet again that the term "oracle" is a gross misnomer for me. As closing time came, we attended our usual duties. Hans set to cleaning the bar (or more accurately, sitting at it sampling the wares), Beyer started carrying trays and decorations back to the storerooms, Alderan and Vorne used their magics to clean the establishment, and Aleurin, Sans Quah, and Carmen escorted some of the girls home. None of us had any inkling of what was to come!
The fight went poorly: Alderan was no match for a well-armed, well-trained thug, and quickly dropped. While I had no desire to heal him, I could not leave him to bleed to death, but the thug who had struck me would not let me flee; he kept me engaged, ignoring Vorne, and prevented me from reaching the fallen elf. Taleck and Lian did not live up to their reputations; they were having trouble with their three thugs. Fortunately or unfortunately, Zokrim's bloodthirstiness won the round for us. One thug was no match for him, especially as he had the help of a pair of guards, and he quickly came to my rescue and attacked my assailant. Vorne took advantage of the attacker's ignorance of him to assist Taleck and Lian with a patch of Grease. Hans and Beyer, finally realizing something was wrong, raced in and dropped the thug who was about to slay Alderan. As I finally reached Alderan and stabilized him (Player note: It was a close call. He was at -7 HP and had CON dumped to 8, so I barely managed to reach him on his very last round of life), Vorne, who knew of my distaste for the elf, called out that Alderan had indeed apologized, and I should heal him.
As we arrived upstairs, we saw three thugs in the anteroom to Saul's office, declaring loudly that, "He isn't here!"
And then, my wizards stepped forward!
With no hope of success nor even hope of survival, Vorne and Alderan stepped forward and engaged the monk, saving the rest of the party from certain death! I stepped in as well, but the monk had a clear hatred of healers, and struck me with his bare hands as I entered. I felt my ribs crack under his assault, and I was forced to flee or die. But Alderan and Vorne stood tall, and fought. I cannot do their bravery justice here. They knew they were doomed. They knew that when they fell the other party members would fall as well. They knew I was sorely injured, nursing my wounds, and would not be able to return for several precious seconds. But they fought on! And Alderan struck the monk not once, but many times! I rushed in again, and the monk again assaulted me within an inch of my life! My bones cracked, my breath went short, but I fought on, not daring to shame myself before the magnificence of Alderan and Vorne's bravery! How well I chose my suitor, and how wonderfully his newfound ally fought at his side! Inevitably, both Alderan and Vorne fell, but not before I was able to return Zokrim to the fray. And while I cannot condone Zokrim's vicious nature, he is an ally worth having in a fight! While Zokrim eliminated the thugs, I managed to get Lian in fighting trim again, and started in on Taleck.
With their combined attacks, Lian and Zokrim dropped the monk. Zokrim turned his hatred of all things that offended him towards the thugs. They did not survive the encounter, and I will not mourn them. Whether the monk or the thugs were alive or dead became immaterial as a third assault announced itself from below! My spells and my channels exhausted, I was reduced to my simple wand, and I spent every possible moment healing my colleagues as they charged downwards to assail the new foe!
As I healed Taleck; Zokrim, Lian, Vorne and Alderan confronted the new threat: Four thugs going through our rooms. This convinced Alderan that their true goal was to steal his research. Considering Vorne's speech, I could not be sure that this was not the case. Fortunately, once Taleck was once again among us, he proved his value again. Zokrim went out the window and into the window they entered to prevent their escape the way they'd come. Taleck went out the window and blocked their exit through the closest window. And Lian and Vorne prevented their leaving back into the Goblin. Alderan, exhausted, wounded, and spent, spent his time sampling the wares of the bar. I could not blame him; he had been dropped into unconsciousness three times in this one battle, had shown bravery beyond any three men I'd known, and was content to let others finish the fight as he sampled the Goblin's alcoholic wares. The final thugs, wounded and surrounded, surrendered.
As others secured the Goblin, I used my wand extensively to bring everyone back up to fighting trim. Only Alderan refused the final healing spell, insisting that I save a charge on the wand specifically for him, for "when he really needed it". What a noble creature this elf is, when he is not offending my sensibilities!
Player Note: I was pretty darned impressed at the final healing toll: 38 heals including 5 channels, 4 spells, and 29 wand charges. Now THAT'S a tough fight for 2nd-level characters!
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
In the morning I dared not leave Vorne's side until he awoke; my prayers could wait until another day! He told me of a nightmare of being all alone in an interdimensional void, with the cold and blackness seeping through his body as he simultaneously choked and froze. He involuntarily shuddered on thinking of it, and I held him close. If he noticed the lack of the staff, he did not mention it. For the rest of the day I watched him like a mother hen watches her chicks, but he showed no signs of recurrence, though he found that he had not regained any spells during his restless night. That evening, there was no point in propriety when his mind, perhaps his very soul was in danger, so as he lay down to sleep I wrapped myself around him again, shielding his body and mind with mine. He did not object. I cast Protection from Evil on him as often as I could, then stayed awake for the rest of the evening watching over him. I know that at some point I dozed off, as I awoke just before dawn, arms and wings still wrapped around him, but he was warm, and hale, and his heart beat strongly within his chest. I softly woke him, learned that the Nightmare had not returned, kissed him back to sleep, and went to greet Sarenrae. I spent much of that day in my room asleep, recovering from my vigils. I know not whither Vorne went during the day, but he was at his post in the Goblin that evening, as cheerful and generous as ever.
Sans Quah spent much of his time that week investigating Saul's history. We learned that Saul's son Orik had had an affair with a woman associated with Clegg's brother; I am afraid I did not quite understand whether the woman was Clegg's brother's daughter, wife, or other relation. In a classic tale of improper love, Zincher's brother ended up dead, Orik on the run, and Zincher himself with an eternal hatred of Saul. (Why hate the father for the son's acts? Such things are truly beyond me. And was there ever a greater argument in favor of proper courtship?) In any case, Saul's previous establishment burned to the ground and he lost his wife and his hand. Many say that Saul was responsible for the death of his wife to cover up his flight. But he did not succeed in fleeing, and was still in Riddleport trying to run a legitimate establishment! It was a tragic tale, but it gave me hope, as it seemed that Saul was working hard on his own redemption, and I hoped that I gave him some inspiration to keep trying, my pathetic attempts at running his establishment notwithstanding.
Our profits for that week were up, and we each received 10 gold! Perhaps I was learning! But alas, no; another week passed, and again our profits fell to next to nothing! Something must be done!
Fortunately, the day before Saul was to report our profits for the next week, he informed us that a shipment of expensive liquors was arriving on the docks that day, and he was concerned for its safety. It had originally been slated to arrive just before the grand re-opening of the Golden Goblin, but rough seas had delayed the shipment by several weeks, and now he hoped the expensive potables might help attract a richer clientele to our humble establishment. We headed for the docks forthwith. As usual, the Accursed Elf was nowhere to be found! Did he care nothing about the future of Saul's establishment? Did he have no sense of duty nor honor?
As we arrived, we saw a group of men already unloading the cargo! Taleck and Lian identified the armor-clad brute in charge as one Broddick Faje, an infamous villain full of cruelty and malice, who was referred to as "Old Korvosa" behind his back because of his association with the town guard in that city. Is there any city on this plane that does not have a corrupt police force?
For once, I must report that our group's tactics resembled that of a true fighting force. Vorne and I stayed in the back, he casting his missiles and I healing, and our hounds took the brunt of the fight to our foe. Unfortunately, Faje was an able fighter, as were his men, and I had to spend much of my healing keeping my hounds upright. Lian finally made his way behind the group, putting himself in grave danger but flanking our foes, and one by one they fell! To my utter horror, when Faje fell Zokrim stepped up and slit his throat! What villainy! I can understand an accidental death in the heat of battle, but to intentionally murder a sentient being with no trial, no judgement, and no chance for redemption? We would have words! Once Faje was down the fight became a rout, with one thug escaping under the docks, and the rest dead or dying.
We brought the liquors back to Saul, and he put them on sale. Unfortunately, it did not help our business, and we had yet another terrible week! Why, oh why, does he keep me on as floor manager? He would be better off with one of the urchins from the temple! Or even Zokrim's half-trained mutt!
During our time off, I took Zokrim aside. I must admit, I was terrified. The shadow man had a tendency for violence that was borderline psychotic, and I was planning on dressing him down most thoroughly. He had no idea as to why I wanted to speak with him, so I took him to my office, we sat down, and I explained that 'civilized' folk did not go around slitting each other's throats. He retorted that Faje had hit him, and therefore deserved to die. And thus began yet another discussion as to how such an attitude would inevitably lead to an endless cycle of death. Did he really want another who defeated him to slit his throat in combat? Zokrim replied that this was the way of things, and certainly he would expect his own throat to be slit! How barbaric! How frustrating! Finally, lacking any other recourse, I threatened that if he could not refrain from slaying our fallen foes, I could not in good conscience heal him during combat for fear of others' lives. This got his attention! To my surprise, he did not get angry, nor violent, but instead fearful! Apparently he greatly respects and appreciates my healing! He agreed that he would not slay downed foes without my permission, but he wanted to be allowed to be the executioner if I did decide that a foe needed to die. I agreed that this was perfectly satisfactory; I am under no illusions that there are men in Riddleport who must be judged and killed, and I am just as happy to have an executioner, though his enthusiasm still concerns me. Taleck is a mighty warrior, yet Taleck does not have this frightening need to kill his foes; once they are downed, he is perfectly happy to let others deal with the aftermath.
A few days later, the most curious event of the blot occurred: All of the birds of Riddleport became bound and determined to dash themselves to death against the Cipher Gate. Thousands, or even tens of thousands of birds flew up, dashed themselves against the stones, and perished. The river and bay were filled with stinking, rotting carcasses for days! And our mages had no explanation!
The mystery of the blot becomes deeper with every passing week, in spite of all attempts to understand it.
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
To my great shame, my first week as floor manager of the Glorious Goblin did not go well. Saul's report at the end of the week was dismal, and he was unable to pay us at all! How my wings drooped! The one bright spot of the week was that it had been two weeks since Vorne had asked to court me, and we were now free to kiss. Knowing he was blissfully unaware of the rigors of Celestial courtship, I waited until early morning when he was barely stirring, then pounced and stole our first kiss! His reaction was most delightful! I must say, of all the joys of living and working on the Material plane, my courtship with Vorne remains my favorite.
My second week as floor manager was far more eventful! First, one day while we were working around the Goblin, some of us heard screams of distress from outside! Rushing out to see what the commotion was about, we saw that the ocean had surged to unnatural heights, and left two huge clawed creatures at the docks. (I have since learned that they are referred to as "reefclaws".) Even worse, several people had been washed out to sea with the wave, and were floundering with the creatures between them and shore!
Unfortunately, although the fight went well, the blood and excitement in the water attracted another carnivorous sea dweller (later identified for me as a "bunyip", apparently frequently referred to as "Yippy" for reasons beyond my understanding). To my horror, Vorne raced all the way to the end of the pier, standing side-by-side with Sans Quah in an open challenge. What was he thinking? The sight of his slight frame next to Sans Quah's mass terrified me; even a half-witted beast would know he was the tastier morsel! I rushed forward and pulled him back away from the edge, only to have him step forward again and renew his assault on the bunyip! Between Vorne's missiles and the others' arrows, the bunyip decided it had had enough and fled. To our great misfortune, the man the bunyip had grabbed did not survive. However, the other victims did, and were most grateful for our aid.
As we walked, I lit into Vorne yet again. How dare he risk his life needlessly, to stand at the edge of the pier and act like a hound? He patiently explained that his missiles were only of limited reach, and in order to strike the bunyip he had to be at the very end of the pier. Would I rather he let the man die?
Two days later, Samaritha was accepted to the Cipher Academy and tendered her resignation! What joy! What sadness! My only female confidante was moving on to a much better position, but I would no longer be able to steal into her room at night to talk about Vorne or Sans Quah or the Accursed Elf or any other topic that popped into my head. I hugged her goodbye, and promised to visit her, and helped her pack her things and depart.
With Samaritha gone, the Accursed Elf in hiding, and the mystery of Larur's death no closer to resolved, those party members interested in the blot started plotting their next move: One of them would fly up to investigate it. A scroll of Fly would be expensive; 150 gold pieces, and they had to decide who to send up. While I was a natural choice for my flying experience, I knew nothing of investigating magic. It was quickly decided that Vorne would be the one to fly up. But how to afford the scroll? Sans Quah and Aneurin had the nerve to suggest I sell The Dress to pay for a paltry scroll! Fortunately, Vorne intervened before I could lose my temper, and said that he still had sufficient funds to pay for such a scroll. Is the man's purse truly bottomless?
I know not whether it was Sarenrae's touch, or memories of Larur, or plain and simple fortune that put me in a restless slumber that night. Across the staff from me, Vorne started writhing and moaning in his sleep. As I watched, wounds started opening on him from within! I recognized the enchantment as a particularly vicious Nightmare. For a brief moment I panicked: I could not in propriety cross the staff, yet he needed me!
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
The next morning I set to my work with grim determination. While everyone else (save Taleck, who seems to enjoy the sunrise as much as I) slept, I retrieved a small shovel, and took out the bloodied feather Larur had been wearing at the time of his demise. I buried the feather in the very spot where he had waited for me so patiently oh so many mornings, placed flowers and colorful stones on the makeshift shrine, and sang to Sarenrae as the tears streamed down my cheeks. How many hours I sat there I do not know; I only know the others arose, saw me at my post, and chose not to disturb me. I did not step away from the shrine until the sun was fully upon me. My farewells to Larur complete, I rose to take care of business that was now mine, as it would insult Larur's memory to shirk the duties I had inherited from him.
Our first order of business was clearly to get in touch with Boss Croat. Taleck and Lian asked around, and learned that one contacted Boss Croat by sending him a message through one of the many urchins who swarmed the streets. I sent a simple message: "Leilani Silverfalls, floor manager of the Glorious Goblin, would like to meet with you to discuss recent incidents."
I spent much of the rest of the day interviewing the other employees. Bojask refused to even meet with me. I do not understand his hostility, but apparently my authority as floor manager does not extend to him, so I could not take him to task for his rudeness. Carmen knows more about the workings of this place than I ever will; why she is not floor manager I will never know, save that apparently it requires some tact, and Carmen has demonstrated herself somewhat lacking in this area. Hans and Beyar both made it clear that when I invited them into my office, they expected a bit more than an "interview", and once they learned that I was not interested in them, they lost interest in me as well. The less said of our 'pseudo-angels', the better; they were poor girls working at the Goblin to collect a paycheck by titillating the male gamblers, and had to withstand said gamblers' attentions without the benefit of a Taleck at their backs. I do not care to ponder where they might be bruised. Finally, I interviewed Samaritha.
The next day after breakfast was our appointment with Boss Croat. Gathering Vorne and my hounds, we set off. The building in which we were to meet was nondescript, but there were two guards at the door, so I identified myself. They beckoned me in, and we met with a half-orc lieutenant of Boss Croat's. I apologized for our assault on Smeed, explained our concerns that Zincher was attempting to frame Boss Croat, and requested that he share any information he learned about Larur's murder with us. He informed us that Smeed was dead, and we were the prime suspects. I assured him that we had nothing to do with that, and he believed me. What a relief to be dealing with a reasonable fellow! Once that was out of the way, he found the rest of the terms of our agreement acceptable, as we were "little fish" and of no concern to Croat, though if we grew into "big fish", he might have issues with us. I do not care much for politics, especially politics of the dishonest, so I made polite conversation until our business was concluded, and we returned to the Goblin, no further along in our investigation of Larur's murder, but no longer concerned that Boss Croat would seek vengeance for our attack on Smeed. It was not an ideal resolution, but it protected my hounds from harm, and was therefore well worth my while.
Perhaps the strangest event of the week was Sans Quah's sudden decision to seek Samaritha's courtship! After speaking barely a dozen words to the lot of us, he apparently approached her and expressed an interest in taking her out on a date! Much to her credit, although Samaritha could not think of what they could possibly have in common, she accepted. While I was sorely tempted to gather up Vorne and dine at the same restaurant, I knew this would be overly-intrusive, as I am not a stealthy or subtle woman, and would most certainly be noticed. Instead, I waited eagerly at my writing desk as Vorne worked on his scrolls, and when I heard Samaritha's light footsteps in the hall, I burst forth and escorted her into her room. She gave me a one-word description of their date: "Awkward". Apparently he was kind enough, but they indeed have nothing in common, and she could not for the life of her see what he saw in her, and knew not what to look for in him. I reassured her that she was beautiful, and charming, and of course any man would be wise to seek her courtship, and this made her smile. We chatted a bit more about her date, I scritched Leniloria (Samaritha's owl -- a darling creature!) about the head and neck, and then I took my leave and returned to my room. Vorne did not seem to have a particular interest in how the date had gone, so he and I retired for the evening.
The next few days passed quickly; I continued my courtship with Vorne, finally convincing him to purchase me a favor: A small piece of Varisian silk from the Silken Thread that perfectly matches my dress. I wear it proudly in my hair every day! I visited the temple of Sarenrae every week and tithed, and I greeted guests at the Glorious Goblin. I must say, I find the children around the temple ever so endearing! I have learned that a single gold piece can be exchanged for 100 copper pieces, and the children oh so love this copper! I cannot resist exchanging a gold piece every time I plan on going to the temple, and handing the copper pieces out to the children who flock to me. They are fond of touching my wings with their filthy little hands, but they never grab, have never plucked a single feather, and are so charming and grateful that I find them all quite lovely! I wish I could do more for them than provide them with paltry copper, but as Vorne says, giving gold to the temple and copper to the children is the best way to assure as many people as possible are fed! I do not find the area around the temple nearly as menacing as I once did. As always, goodness is its own reward!
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
As I write these words, bitter tears stain my cheeks and drip onto the parchment. My friend Larur is no more, cut down in the streets for a few handfuls of shiny metal. My hounds and I have few ideas as to his killers; we know that several of the crime lords of Riddleport may have been involved, but we know not which one or ones, nor how to even start finding out. Our only hope is that the crime lord named Boss Croat, who seems to have been framed for this murder, may be willing to provide us with more information. Almost as painful to me is the fact that Vorne was sorely wounded by the elf, yet did not come to me for aid; had the elf continued his attack, Vorne would be dead and I would be mourning an even more dear friend. Perhaps even a love. No; I dare not say that yet; we have only just started our courtship. But Vorne has been healed and chastised and is sleeping soundly and safely here in my room, and I get ahead of myself yet again. I will continue my tale the night before Larur's murder.
Now that our intrepid group seemed to be up to nine stalwart individuals (yes, this includes the elf, much to my dismay), I realized that my own healing powers might not be enough to keep all of them in fighting trim. Fortunately, I am familiar with wands, scrolls, elixirs, and other magical devices of this plane, so I again approached the temple of Calistria for assistance. While they look at me with some disdain, they are shrewd businesswomen, and agreed to sell me a healing wand for 750 gold pieces. Vorne assured me that this was a fair price for such a wand, so I gathered funds from all of us who had freed the temple, and obtained the wand. Having enough healing for our entire group raised my spirits immensely; nothing could possibly be sadder than watching an ally die for lack of a simple healing spell.
As our second week working for Saul drew to a close, he counted his week's take. Apparently, it was terrible; not only could he not pay us any bonuses, but he could only afford half the amount he had promised us. This was of no great concern to me; I still had quite a stockpile of gold from selling the brigand's gear, even subtracting the cost of the wand, but it caused others in the party no small amount of consternation. Hopefully we can attract a better crowd next week!
Larur continued to hire new staff to replace those we had lost after the incident with the robbers. New girls in angel outfits roamed the floors, Carmen barked orders at new croupiers (I hope that is the correct term; I really do not know what it is that Carmen does, but she seems very good at it), and we even had a young wizardess (wizard? I must ask her what she prefers to be called) named Samaritha ask for a job of "something other than wearing a skimpy outfit and carrying a big tray". Carmen lit into her with her usual lack of enthusiasm for new girls, and Sans Quah gave her the bull's rush into Larur's, but apparently she persevered and received a job as an assistant bartender. I will not excuse my rudeness to her for the first two days, but they were very stressful times. I do wish to emphasize that, much like Vorne, she is kind, and generous, and a wonderful confidante with great insight into relationships on the Material plane. I must confess, she and I have grown very close in a very short time. Are all human wizards so charming? Is it only the elf who is a donkey's posterior? No; the cypher mages are similarly full of themselves. It must be the formal training that twists them so. But I digress yet again. I think it is Vorne's sore wounding and the soft sounds of his snores behind me that distract me so.
While my writings have become scarcer during Vorne's courtship of me, some incidents of note occurred. Sans Quah and Taleck completed their preparation of the cindernsnake, and I must admit, it was quite tasty, though a bit chewy and smoky for my delicate palate. On my 14th day on this plane, my first pinion feather to shed itself naturally did so. It was a paltry feather, from nearly the end of one of my wings, but it was also the first pinion feather I'd lost, and hence held special significance. There was no question as to who would receive it. I approached Taleck. "Taleck, in my time here on this plane, you have been my bastion; my stalwart; my hound-of-hounds; my rock. Nothing has stirred you from your post at my back, and nothing has harmed me save a few insidious stirges. You are a hound among pups. And as such, you must receive the first of my feathers to fall on this plane. Wear it proudly; as I am proud to call you my hound, and am overjoyed that you have chosen to protect me."
That evening also presented our first new phenomenon from the blot: All of the magnetic metal in the city became magnetized. My mother's jewelry was unaffected, but I believe it is of platinum, not steel. Needless to say, the elf became very excited, abandoned his post, and apparently travelled about the city, trying to determine in which way all the metal was drawn. What a fickle creature, to agree to do a job and then abandon his post so quickly to sate his own interests! The more I knew of him, the less I cared for him.
I wish I could say that something else unusual happened that night; something that could have warned me of the tragedy that was to come, but it was a very normal night. We closed the Glorious Goblin, Vorne helped me wash my wings, and he retired to bed and I my nest. Nothing told me that my dear friend Larur was heading out to breathe his last. I did not know, could NOT have known, but I still feel the guilt sharp within me. I am an Oracle. Could I not have predicted my dear friend's demise, and somehow prevented it?
The next two hours were agony, as I waited for the sun to rise and wake my companions. Finally, group assembled, we went in search of Larur. Had his aunt seen him? No! Was he at his home? No! And his home had been clumsily ransacked, as if someone were searching for something. We proceeded to Rat Street Loans, home of one Limus Smeed. When Taleck and Lian confided that word on the streets was that Smeed worked for Zincher, I feared the worst.
SOME party members (I will not name them, for fear of shaming them) opined that perhaps Larur had tired of his employ with Saul, and had made off with the gold and faked his own death. Being far more familiar with the dear, sweet dwarf, I knew these accusations to be untrue, and remained silent, hoping the evidence would convince them otherwise, yet dreading where that evidence would inevitably lead.
Having seen the state of Larur's cloak, I made my decision: I told my hounds that none inside deserved mercy, and they were to send them to early graves, salt the earth over them, and leave their souls wandering the Eternal Frontier in search of guidance from Pharasma. Those who had killed my wonderful Larur deserved no less!
To my great shame, our first suspect was Samaritha; she had arrived at the Glorious Goblin just before Larur's demise, and few knew of his movements save those in his employ. She was nonplussed at her questioning, to say the least, but we learned nothing from her save that she seemed to know nothing. We tried to question the other remaining long-term employees (Bojask, Hans, and Bayar), but got nowhere with them, either. Frustrated and befuddled, we decided to focus our efforts on keeping the Glorious Goblin running.
Unfortunately, my first night as floor manager proved less-than-ideal. As the evening progressed, the blot manifested its bizarre influence once again, and every spell cast, whether arcane or divine, created a purple mist that hovered around the area of the casting for a few moments, and then moved off towards the cloud. Needless to say, Vorne, the elf, and Samaritha were fascinated by this phenomenon, and yet again the elf abandoned his post to explore the extent of the mystery. After some time, all we could determine was that both divine and arcane spells were affected, and the duration of the mist had little to do with the duration of the spell; every spell from instantaneous to minutes-long produced the same purple mist, and the mist dispersed upwards at the same rate every time. As Vorne and the elf discussed the phenomenon at length, I had to go to the floor to check on Carmen, Samaritha, and my other employees.
As for the elf, no words could express my rage for him. Had I the power, I would have dismissed him on the spot. Saul forbade it, citing the elf's worth in investigating the blot, and suggested that perhaps the elf should "make himself scarce in my company" for a while. I must say, I did not miss him in the least!
As I retired upstairs, despondent and seething, I found that my things had been moved. What outrage! A few questions later, I learned that I had earned the floor manager's suite, a far larger room with a large feather bed. This was a bed I could sleep in! Yet I still wanted Vorne's company, especially after the events of the evening, but there was nowhere for him to sleep! Fortunately, I recalled the traditions of our travelling warriors. I asked Vorne whether he had a large, rigid object for me to use. After giving me a most quizzical look, he provided me with his walking staff. It spanned the length of the bed perfectly, and we could sleep in the same bed together in all propriety, the staff separating us.
Frustrated, upset, and finally feeling the loss of the first of my friends ever to die, I slept fitfully and in tears for most of the night...
Uther Eld wrote:
Player Note: My dear Simon, that's what aliases are for!
Oh, my GM has caught me running amok on another's thread! I must flee back to my own before she clips my wings! Farewell, and good travels!
Ah, Moxie! Is it not the nature of men on every plane to demand their say, and then say nothing? I would not accuse Carmen of such a thing; she spends her time lashing her wit at the rowdy patrons of the Goblin, and cannot spare time for journals. As for the others...
Sandpoint sounds wonderful! Any place not beset by villains and vagabonds sounds like an improvement over Riddleport! And roads are overrated. They hurt the feet! And a theater! How I would love to go to a theater!
Oops! Am I in violation of my promise not to post until the 20th? I think not; I agreed not to post anything from my journal, and this is simple sociability, I'm sure!
As for Vorne, I am still vexed with him for not coming to me following his sore wounding, but time softens all such feelings. Ah, but now I know that I am posting ahead! I will not get to write of such things until the 20th. I think I shall visit Sandpoint in the meantime...
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
The next morning I found Larur again, dutifully waiting for me with his ladder, ready to stand by as I greeted the sun and to wait patiently for me to come down from the roof when I was done. Once again, I was overcome with affection for this kind and patient dwarf. Once again, I reached up, plucked a pinion, winced at the pain, stanched the blood with a touch, and approached him.
I handed Larur the feather, and, as he sputtered and stuttered, I embraced him with my arms and my wings, and kissed him on the top of his bristly head. He turned redder than any human, dwarf, or angel I have ever seen, and muttered a barely-audible but heart-moving thanks. I smiled warmly at him and ascended for my prayers. With friends like Vorne, Larur, Taleck, and Lian, this plane is really not so bad after all!
Later in the morning, Saul called us in, and informed us that the Glorious Goblin had done well for its first week, and we had all earned 10 gold pieces! I am really becoming confused as to the value of gold; for the poor or the temples, a handful of gold seems a fortune. Yet for our group, we receive a handful of gold every week for doing what seems like very easy work. Perhaps being on guard all the time like Taleck and Sans Quah is more difficult than greeting the many guests who come to the Goblin. Ah, well. The gold will help the temple, and Vorne has me saving the lion's share for myself to purchase better armor and equipment, in case it is later needed.
The afternoon passed quickly, and soon I found myself at the front door of the Glorious Goblin once again, greeting guests, offering them water, and pointing them to the bar and the gaming tables. The first two or three hours passed unremarkably, and then HE arrived.
HE stepped forward. The most soulless, unfeeling, disturbing, disquieting creature I have ever had the misfortune to meet. He claims to be an elf, though the half-elves I've met are all grace and charm, or silent loyalty like Lian, so any relationship they have with this maladjusted creature is tenuous at best. His loose robes and sense of power identified him as some sort of mage, so my eyes immediately sought Vorne's. Bless his soul, although he was across the room, he somehow sensed my distress and was watching the proceedings intently. Alderan did not bother to greet me or acknowledge my existence in any way. He examined me like a specimen; some bug on a slide he would like to dissect. I boldly stood my ground, confident that Taleck and Lian could protect me long enough for Sans Quah, Vorne, and possibly Zokrim to arrive, though the shadow man had taken to vanishing for hours at a time, I know not where.
"I do not know whether this will settle your argument, gentlemen, for you are all wrong. She is not a full-blooded angel. She is mortal. But she does have angelic blood. We call these creatures 'aasimar'. So she is neither a fake, nor a full angel. She is a mortal aasimar."
There were no other incidents of note that night, but as I started up the stairs, I saw the elf and the strange hound talking to Larur. No! It could not be! Larur could not be thinking of hiring them! I hurried upstairs to my room, but did not sleep, waiting instead to hear Vorne's familiar footsteps so I could find out what was happening. When he arrived, he explained that Larur felt a second wizard would be useful, particularly because the elf was also studying the blot, and he and Vorne might compare notes. And where was the elf staying? In this building!?!!? Intolerable! The hound was just that; another fighter looking for a place to work and stay. I had far fewer reservations about him; his name was Aneurin, and he was just a fighter-for-hire. He would protect me for money, just as Sans Quah and the other employees of the Goblin did. I did not mind extra protection at all. But the elf! What to do about the elf? He would be loose! At night! In my building! And though my door locked, I knew that wizards could open locked doors with a very simple spell!
The solution came to me in a flash: Vorne was a wizard, so he could protect me. He was not interested in courtship with me. And I had the spare bed in my room, as I slept in my nest! I rolled it over in my mind to make sure it met all the requirements that propriety dictated, and I could see no issues. I immediately proposed the idea to Vorne: For as long as the elf was residing in the Glorious Goblin, I would prefer that he sleep in my room, to protect me in case the elf came to steal my wings at night. Vorne agreed with a great deal more enthusiasm than I had expected, and I helped him gather his things from his room and move them into mine.
As we settled in, he dutifully turned his back so I could preen and bathe, and he continued his incessant querying as to my relationships on the Celestial plane, the nature of Celestial courtships, and the fact that I was over 100 years old. He was also interested in the plane itself, and the differences between Heaven, Nirvana, and Elyssium. He asked at length about the rules of the various regions, and whether such rules were enforced in other regions, constantly returning to the question of the rules of courtship. He is a most delightfully engaging fellow when his mind is working on understanding an issue! We spoke at such length that I was settled into my nest, and he the bed, by the time he worked the conversation back around to the topic of greatest interest to him. He started hinting that he was not as opposed to our courtship as I had assumed, and stated that, if we were to begin courting, he would follow my rules out of respect for me, but not out of respect for any other authority. And he would try to follow them, though he could not guarantee he would do as well as might be considered proper. It was as heartfelt from him as it was flattering to me!
I said, "Yes," instantly, of course! And I did not squeak! But I did inform him that courting couples could not spend the night together in the same room, and he almost called off the courtship then and there! He is such a dear! I reassured him that I was kidding. And then we did what I had been aching to do with someone for my entire week on this plane: I had him wash and preen the lower backs of my wings, where I could not reach! Aaaah, it felt so good to get the dirt, grease, and who-knows-what-else of Riddleport finally off my back! It is good to be courted! Especially by a man who does not consider preening another's wings to be beneath his dignity! Once my wings were properly cleaned for the first time on this plane, I returned to my nest, and he his bed, and we slept peacefully, and were not disturbed by the elf.
The next day passed as if in a dream; as we wandered Riddleport to advertise the Goblin and check on the temple, Vorne (with some gentle prodding) took my arm gracefully, and wore my feather proudly. I am afraid he still needs some lessons on the finer points of courtship; he completely neglected to give me a favor of his to wear, and I cannot wear The Dress while wandering Riddleport lest I ruin its lower reaches. For a moment I pondered having Taleck carry me about, but concluded that it would be a bit too undignified for both of us, even in The Dress.
A few minutes later, there was a scream from the kitchen! The hounds, Vorne, the elf, and I raced to see the issue. A pair of enormous red and black snakes had gotten loose, two staff members were unconscious on the ground, and it seemed the snakes planned to turn the tables on their would-be devourers! I know that my nature is delicate, and my diet on the Celestial Plane quite tame, but I must say I do not understand the desire of humans to consume things that would consume them in turn; I would hate to be a chef who had to battle daily for his very existence with every meal! At a later time I learned that the snakes were indeed not on the menu, but rather unwelcome interlopers, but I write my thoughts as best as I recall them from earlier this evening.
Once the snakes were dispatched, Taleck and Sans Quah expressed delight; apparently the intruders were a pair of "cindersnakes", and their smoked and preserved meat is considered quite a delicacy among the Shoanti. I will admit to some curiosity, and once they have prepared the meat I will try it, though I have some concern: If they dry and smoke the meat as they describe, and then I purify it, will it return to its original state of rawness? I suppose I will find out once their preparations are complete.
With Vorne; no, with my suitor sleeping nearby, ready to protect me at a moment's notice, I drifted off to sleep in my nest, and slept peacefully and soundly through the night. It has been over a decade since my last suitor; I find being courted suits me very well indeed.
Gentle Moxie (curtsy, spreading wings a bit for effect),
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
I spent much of that night thinking about Vorne. He was a kind and generous man, had saved my life with his hounds when I first entered the plane, and had bought me an extravagant gift in the dress I so loved. Although it is not something we are supposed to concern ourselves with, it did not hurt that he was easy on the eye. It was clear he was interested in courting me. I thought long and hard about the prospect, and decided that yes, I would indeed allow him to do so. I was unfamiliar with the customs on this plane, but I was sure they were similar to my own, so Vorne would understand them.
In the morning, I dutifully tracked the blot's location, as Vorne had asked me to do. He is apparently starting to take his research more seriously! Once Vorne was awake, I took him aside and went straight to business. I informed him that I had considered the question carefully, and would indeed allow him to court me. He expressed surprise that he did not need to ask permission of my mother or father, and I pointed out that my father was dead and my mother was on another plane, rendering such formalities a bit beyond the realm of simple convenience or protocol. He then queried me as to the nature of Celestial courtship. His hesitation gave me hesitation as well, and I expressed aloud that if he were still interested in pursuing other women, I would withdraw my request. He begged me continue, so I explained how we would first wear tokens of each other's favor, then, after a few weeks, we would be allowed to kiss. His obsession with sex and my relations with the hound archons continued, and he seemed beyond astonishment that I had been courted by well over a dozen. I pointed out that I had been a woman of age for well over eighty years, so it was only natural that I not be a virgin, as courtships that lasted more than a year usually led to such coupling. This seemed to appall him; apparently his vision of angels is of pure, unvarnished, untouched souls. How I must disappoint him!
OUCH! May I advise any gentle readers with feathers -- Do not pluck your own pinions! I stanched the bleeding easily enough with a touch, and though the feather was beautiful and perfect in almost every way, it had a bit of blood on the end. Vorne did not seem to mind a bit, and proudly attached it to his cloak. How dashing it looked! I only wished it had more significance than a mere token of friendship...
Later that morning, Larur came to us with our shares of the gold we had earned in defeating the ruffians: Over 200 gold apiece! I knew what good this could do, and asked Larur to direct me forthwith to an apothecary. It turned out that his aunt ran an apothecary for the dwarves from the mines, and would sell to me on his good word. What luck!
We hurried to the temple. I provided Brother Jhonas with the medicine and instructions as to its use, and donated ten percent of my share to the temple; over 27 gold pieces! Brother Jhonas' eyes widened at the gift, but I feel duty-bound to see this temple restored! I purified the fountains once again, and then went shopping with the cook, Mumsy Garrison, a surly human woman and a poor cook, but together she could spot spoiled food being sold at an extreme discount, and I could purify the food to make it edible again, vastly increasing the temple's ability to feed the poor. I bought new blankets and sheets, and saw to it that everything from the kitchen to the pigeon coops were in good working order. Finally, I visited Mika in the garden. In a sign that Sarenrae was truly pleased with me, I was able to make my halo manifest on him instead of myself. I showed him his haloed visage in a mirror, and told him what wonderful work he was doing on Sarenrae's behalf, and he started in on the garden with renewed vigor. Perhaps his gardening was a bit obsessive, and focused on fine details rather than the garden as a whole, but he was safe, he was doing good deeds, and he was no longer committing murder. A fine improvement!
After spending several hours setting the temple in order, we set off on my favorite task of the day: Having my dress adjusted by Alinza herself! We headed for the Silken Thread, and I must say, I was positively bouncing with anticipation! As we arrived, Neelan and Alinza doted over me once again, and Alinza quickly swept me off into a dressing room, stripped me down, put the dress on me, and made arcane marks and pins all over it. I told her the dress was perfect, but she assured me it would be better, and would be ready tomorrow. Tomorrow?!?!?! I had to give up my precious dress for an evening?!? Alinza assured me it would be all right, so I reluctantly returned to my armor and left my precious, precious dress with her for its adjustments.
The night passed uneventfully, though I did find myself thinking of Vorne more often than is proper for a friend...
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle June 15, 2013 session
I woke the next morning to find Larur in quite a state! He told me that he didn't want to bother me with trivialities, but at my insistence he admitted that a known thug, Beltias Kreun, had been seen gambling at the Glorious Goblin the previous evening, and had made off with several hundred gold pieces! Larur described the gold as "missing". I must admit, I am unfamiliar with the intricacies of gambling, but I was under the impression that it was quite possible for a gambler to walk away with hundreds of gold pieces, but Larur's distress indicated that this was something unusual for him. I sought out Taleck, and he immediately volunteered his and Lian's services. Ah! Is there anything more reassuring than a loyal hound on any plane? I thanked Taleck profusely, and impatiently waited for Vorne and the shadow man Zokrim to wake up; I knew that Saul preferred Carmen and Sans Quah remain at the Glorious Goblin; she to train the new girls, and he to "keep away trouble".
Once Vorne and Zokrim were awake, I explained the situation to them, and they agreed to help. It took my hounds almost no time at all to learn that Beltias had established himself at a disgraced temple of Sarenrae on the east side of town. Blasphemy on top of chicanery! The man was a rogue, to be sure! Taleck and Lian led us to the temple, which was surrounded by poverty and need. Was there ever a better place for such a temple, and was it ever more disgraceful that such a temple had fallen into misuse and disrepair?
On moving into the hallway, a massive combat ensued. I am proud to say that I kept my hounds alive, exactly as per my training. A vicious half-orc dropped Taleck in his tracks, and I healed him. Many party members received grievous wounds from Beltias' men, but I kept them all hale and hearty, and we were victorious, in no small part thanks to the bravery of my hounds, and the castings of Vorne. We searched the men, but none of them were Beltias. After a bit of questioning, they admitted that Beltias was not among them, and would not return until the eve. I asked where the priest of this temple was, and how he had allowed it to fall into such disrepair, and they told me that he was sleeping off a drunk in his chambers!
Enraged, I invoked my halo and stormed into the priest's chambers. I called him out for betraying
Needless to say, the parishioners most in need flocked to me. A young boy explained that his family had not eaten in days. I gave him 10 gold pieces to feed his family and stay out of trouble. Vorne chastised me for my generosity, pointing out that those same 10 gold pieces would have helped the temple much more. Suitably chagrined, I spoke to the next petitioner. He was a poor, insane man named Mika, who believed that he was an angel as well, and had been helping the hopeless of the city achieve a higher state by pushing them off of tall buildings. I spoke to him at length of Sarenrae's plans for him, and convinced him that gardening was a far better vocation than murder if he truly wanted to be blessed in the eyes of Sarenrae. The temple needed a dedicated caretaker, and if I could turn his madness to such care, it would be a great boon for both him and the temple.
The afternoon progressed swiftly as I spoke with each petitioner in turn, spread the word of Sarenrae, and hoped to return the temple of some semblance of functionality, as Vorne and my hounds watched over me. Father Padrick staggered down at one point, but, seeing that I was doing more good than he had in months, staggered back upstairs. The man needed redemption far more than anyone else in the temple! As the day progressed, I purified all the water in the fountains, purified all of the food in the kitchens, and had my hounds and Mika help clean the temple of debris, detritus, and who knows what else.
As evening approached, we set up an ambush for Beltias: All of us sat in the pews among the other parishioners, waiting for him to arrive. Father Padrick made an impassioned presentation; hopefully spurred a bit by my presence, and let us know when Beltias arrived. The fight was short and brutal: Vorne, Taleck, and I took on Beltias, as Zokrim and Lian pursued his two cohorts upstairs. Beltias nearly escaped, but Taleck smashed him down as he leapt out the door. I am afraid he did not survive. I should have stabilized him, but perhaps Sarenrae herself made me forget to do so...
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
Today was the day of the grand opening of the Glorious Goblin, so all of us had a great deal of work to do. Taleck and Sans Quah were put to work using their considerable bulk to move furniture. Carmen trained the new girls (many had quit after the fight). Vorne used his magics to enhance the appearance of the hall. Lian and the shadow man Zokrim? I'm not so sure what they did. I went out into Riddleport again (with my hounds Taleck and Lian, and with Vorne, of course) and made another announcement. Vorne also went out on the town on "business", but I did not accompany him. I was of little use moving furniture, but I helped as I could with what chores needed to be done. While I still cannot fly on this plane, I have no fear of heights, so I helped with hanging decorations from the ceiling, though Saul stopped that as soon as he saw it. Apparently I am not to put myself in any danger. As if climbing ladders is a danger!
Towards the end of the day, Saul asked us to all prepare for the evening. I went upstairs to my room to wash and preen and found a paper-wrapped package on my nest. Curious, I picked up the package and found a note:
Heart pounding, fingers shaking, I carefully and slowly pulled at the strings, impatient, but not daring to risk damaging the package's contents. It couldn't be! How could he? Did he really have that much money?
As I started descending the stairs to take my post at the door, I heard Saul cut off mid-sentence to watch me. I walked with all the grace and poise I could, and saw him holding a sad-looking bit of white cloth that he might have been intending for me to wear, but which he quickly hid behind his back. He beamed, "Leilani, you look truly like an angel, with a dress befitting one!"
The night went well, with no significant incidents, and many, many guests. I did get a chance to briefly thank Vorne for his magnificent gift, but the Glorious Goblin was so busy I didn't get a chance to give him proper thanks, or let him know how much I loved the dress, and by the time I was off-duty it was far past my bedtime and I retired to my nest, exhausted.
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
Will the annoyances of this plane never cease? I arose 15 minutes before the dawn to greet the sun, and the dwarf Larur was awake and quite kindly agreed to bring me a ladder and help me to the roof of the Glorious Goblin to greet the sun. So I climbed to the roof, preened, and waited... and waited... and waited...
It turns out that Riddleport is overshadowed by a ridge that prevents the sun from hitting it until at least an hour after sunrise! How can Riddleport NOT be a den of iniquity when it is hidden from the sun for so much of the day? I performed my preening and my prayers, waited for the sun, and went down to shower off. Larur waited there the entire time! He is a dear fellow! I must find a way to thank him!
By the time I had come downstairs, several of my comrades had arisen. I collected some stale bread, cheese, and old fruits, purified them, and had a light but tasty breakfast. We discussed our plans for the day, and Vorne, Taleck, Lian, and Zokrim agreed to accompany me on my shopping trip, depending on what Saul had in store for us. Carmen explained that she had duties at the Glorious Goblin, and apparently Saul wanted Sans-Quah there as well, to "keep away any trouble".
Finally, Saul emerged and met with us. He had no work for us for the day, as the Glorious Goblin was mid-renovation, and would not be ready until the morrow. With our breakfast and our meetings complete, the five of us set out into Riddleport.
Our first destination was the temple of Calistria: I knew that Saul wanted me to advertise the Glorious Goblin throughout Riddleport, and I know that Calistria guards her domain closely. The last thing I wanted to do on this plane was to stir Calistria's wrath so early in my visit! As we approached the temple, Taleck and Lian pointed out an exquisite leather shop just outside of the temple. "Livorna's Leathers" was filled with exquisitely-worked leathers, but it was clear even from the outside that most of these leathers were worked for priestesses of Calistria, and would be inappropriate for me to wear. In spite of this, we went inside, met the proprietess Livorna Nyliss, and learned that the prices were as outrageous as the wares; I could not afford clothing from this shop, even if I chose to wear it.
Considering the prices at the Livorna's Leathers, Taleck and Lian recommended Findler's Findings, a small shop owned by Alar Findler. Apparently this was a store where every single item had been purchased by another person, then sold back to the store. What a strange concept! If you did not need the item, then why did you purchase it? Vorne valiantly tried to explain to me, but I am afraid I am still a bit confused by the whole notion of money. We went to the store, and it was truly a wonder of human ingenuity. Mountains of goods were stacked throughout the store in perilous piles, looking as if the slightest breeze might topple them. I folded my wings tightly against my back as I entered. Mr. Findler greeted us warmly, and my first request was a pair of sheepskin moccasins. The entire party objected; I could not wear such light footwear in Riddleport! Sighing, I accepted the worn-looking boots they pressed into my hands. They were acceptable for walking, but really quite hideous otherwise. Vorne also had me purchase a sturdy, functional, and completely unflattering set of travel clothes (Explorer's Outfit) and some leather armor for my protection. It took some time, but Mr. Findler managed to find a suit of armor that was backless enough to allow my wings freedom of movement. I asked Vorne whether I had enough money to afford all of these things, and he assured me that I had plenty.
We proceeded through Riddleport into the Cipher district, where there was apparently a wondrous clothing store called the Silken Thread, along with many magic shops that might be of interest to Vorne. The Silken Thread was indeed wondrous! Incredible dresses of dazzling colors graced the windows. As I stepped in, a wonderful, handsome, dark-skinned older man called out, "Ah, Alinza, come see! A beautiful angel has decided to grace us in our store!"
Then came The Dress. Alinza swept out of the back carrying a thing of beauty; all sky blue silks washing from dark to light, with golden embellishments, that draped like a waterfall over my body. It was, quite simply, the most beautiful article of clothing I have ever seen. And it fit me! And it was beautiful on me! And it had space for my wings to come out the back! The entire party marvelled at the magnificence of it. And I asked Vorne whether I had enough, because I *sooooo* needed this dress. And Alinza told us it was 300 gold pieces. THREE HUNDRED! My wings drooped. Even my shoulders sagged. I had never wanted something so much as this dress, but all of us together did not have nearly that much gold. So I thanked Neelan and Alinza, she helped me out of the dress, and I put on my suddenly less-than-adequate celestial silks. She promised that she would hold the dress for me for a day, but I did not think that would be much use; given a day or a thousand days on this plane, three hundred gold seemed an insurmountable quantity. How would I even carry that much?
I am ashamed to say that the rest of the shopping trip passed without my paying too much attention. Vorne visited several magic shops, we ate at an unremarkable dining establishment, and I returned the borrowed boots to the temple of Cayden Cailean. But I am nothing if not dutiful, so when I finally found a somewhat-crowded square, I cast a simple cantrip to enhance my attractiveness (Enhanced Diplomacy), had Taleck lift me high over his head, invoked my halo (Daylight), spread my wings, and called out the opening of a wonderful new establishment, the Glorious Goblin, on the morrow. I do not believe I swayed too many people, but enough announcements would get enough people to fill Saul's establishment, and would give me a chance to redeem at least some small few of them. It is a bit embarrassing that I do not know how to stop my halo once it has been invoked, but ten minutes later it went out, and we proceeded back towards the Glorious Goblin in relative anonymity. We dined at the Goblin, and I retired to my nest fairly early, still dreaming of my beautiful dress.
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
I spent most of the evening conversing with Vorne. He is insatiably curious about the Celestial plane and my nature. I told him about training with the hound archons (my "hounds", which is why I use it as a term of endearment for the fighters who protect me), the nature of my being (I have a soul, and hence cannot live on the Celestial plane forever), my sister, and particularly my romantic life. He seems obsessed with the notion of angels having sex. Where does he think aasimar come from? I gave him the whole history of my mother's romance with my father, how I was conceived, and how I was born and raised on the Celestial plane. He still could not wrap his mind around the fact that angels may couple, even with humans. He is dearly naive! But I have to remind myself how much younger he is than I.
Unfortunately, he is not nearly as talkative about himself or the Material plane; of him I learned that he has parents who love him very much, had aspirations of being a wizard, but was too busy wandering the world to bother doing much about it. About all I learned about where I was was that Riddleport is a poor example of the Material plane, so I should not judge all of the plane by its shortcomings. Faint praise indeed! Fortunately, I was able to explain my language situation to him, and he agreed to translate from Celestial to Common for me during combat, so I feel that I can be effective when the need arises.
The proprietor of the tavern was kind enough to provide me with a pair of boots some other patron had left behind, so I managed to walk back to the Glorious Goblin without further harming my feet, nor my dignity. Once we were in private, I allowed Vorne to explore my wings more thoroughly, and even spread them to their full length for him. I promised him a shed feather once I had preened a few times and one came loose. Finally, he was wondering about a child's hug, where you wrap the little one in your wings to provide him or her with extra reassurance, so I gave him one. It was very silly, but he blushed tremendously. His notion of angels seems quite distorted!
I settled in for the night in my makeshift nest, and looked forward to greeting the morning.
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
Ahem, gentle companions! It has been nearly a week and I see that my writings are the only ones appearing here, save for the rogue NobodysHome! Vorne, I put it upon you to post SOMETHING! You are a dear fellow, and I am sure that others would like to see your version of the events leading up to my fall...
...and I was dropped unceremoniously on top of a human man in robes! As I sat on him, trying to get my bearings, another human man grabbed me by a wing and an arm (a wing! The nerve!!!!) and dragged me off of the first man. They were all yammering in a language I could not understand. I know that Sarenrae knew my mind was weak compared to the archons, and protected me by blocking all languages other than Celestial from my mind during times of extreme stress, but this was downright inconvenient!
I called for my hounds to protect me, but no one seemed able to understand me. A massive man in a mask and a greatsword approached and cut down a woman near me. I began to fear for my life! Finally, a voice called out in my native tongue that help was on the way, and I was to trust the man with the greatsword. What relief! But above me hung a demonic abomination in a cage! As the fight roiled around me, I demanded that someone kill it. When no one complied, I asked for a weapon. The man who spoke Celestial told me that they were a bit too busy to help me at the moment. As I pondered how I was going to reach the devil to kill it, the man who had hold of my wing suddenly pulled me in and held a knife to my throat, muttering something gutteral and threatening! A quick spell of protection (Sanctuary) forced him to release me, and I hurried away from him as several of the Celestial-speaking man's allies finished off the last of the attackers.
As the combat ceased and I knew I was safe and no longer under attack, I tried to fly up to assail the devil. And fell. My wings were not strong enough to carry me aloft on this plane! What frustration! As I pondered how I could reach the devil to slay it, I started to recognize a word here or there as the gathered humans spoke to one another. Finally, after a few minutes I was able to determine that they were speaking the Common tongue common in the Inner Sea region of the Material Plane. Thank Sarenrae! That was one of the few tongues my mother had taught me as necessary to my survival! I introduced myself, and learned a bit about the others in the group:
I ensured that none of the fallen were in danger of dying; fortunately, they had all stabilized nicely without my assistance. Saul thanked us profusely for saving his establishment, and allowed our party members to strip the fallen of their gear. Once they knew the worth of the gear, Saul pressed gold into our hands. Not only did I have no idea what to do with it, nor a place to put it, but I did not feel that falling on a man counted as "helping". Vorne insisted that I had saved his life and earned the gold, and offered to carry it for me. I thanked him, grateful that I had someone I trusted who would carry my coinage. My mother taught me a great deal about the value of gold on this plane, but she neglected to teach me little things like: How much is 20 gold coins worth? Can I buy a meal? A house? A castle? I suppose I will find out.
Saul was ecstatic. Not only had we saved his establishment, but a real life "angel" had fallen into his life. I corrected him that I was only a half-angel; my mother was a full angel, but my father was a human paladin, but he would not be dissuaded. He declared then and there that he would rename his establishment, "The Glorious Goblin", remove the demonic taint and devil worship from it, and devote it to worship of Sarenrae and other good gods. He asked whether we could help him with this conversion. How could I object? Even if I convert only one of every thousand people who comes in, I am still successful, and I am still doing Sarenrae's work.
Saul also offered us lodgings. My room had a bed in it with straw that poked through the sheets and seemed very likely to impale me were I to try to sleep on it. I pulled the sheets and blankets to a corner of the floor, but they were not thick enough to hide the hardness of the wooden planks. I asked Saul whether he could spare any extra blankets, and he himself brought me two more blankets, which were enough to make my nest on the floor adequate. How humans survive for decades on this plane in such uncomfortable beds is beyond me!
Once I had prepared my nest, I went down to join the others. They were heading to a local tavern. Never having been to a tavern before, I readily agreed to accompany them. As we walked towards the tavern, I learned my next hard lesson of the Material Plane: Cobbblestones and bare feet do not mix. I could not fly, for my wings were not strong enough on this plane. Overwhelming pride made me walk the entire distance to the tavern on my bare feet. I will not make that mistake again! Broken pride heals faster than bloody feet!
The tavern was a temple of Cayden Cailean, so I was at least familiar with some of the custom. I would not drink the ale, but I asked for a mug, and the proprietor provided me with a mug rumored to have been used by Cayden himself. I purified it and summoned my own water to drink, but I blessed the barkeep and his establishment for their kindness.
We settled in to talk about ourselves, and learn more about what had brought us together...
Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
What a day!
For tens of thousands of days, my life has been very simple: Wake up, preen, pray to Sarenrae, say goodbye to my mother and fly to Heaven's gate, meet my sergeant, train with the hound archons for the day, fly home, sing with my mother as the sun sets, dine, listen to stories of my father or my sister, and nest with my mother for the evening. Yet every single day my mother reminds me that I have a soul, and cannot live forever on the Celestial plane. My sergeant and my hounds warn me of the Material plane, and the fickle humans who might be greatly good, or might be greatly evil, but who hide their true natures from you.
Life was monotonous, but that did not make it boring. My mother's tales of my father's bravery and kindness sent goose bumps up my spine. For the first few decades of my life, my mother told me of my sister's childhood and how my father was raising her. She grew even more slowly than I did! My mother was very mysterious about her nature: She is a member of a long-lived evil race, yet she has a soul and my father had redeemed her, and now she is incorruptably good, and training to be a paladin no less! I was very sad when father passed away and reports of my sister's childhood stopped. I hope that father passes through Heaven quickly so he can achieve his status as an archon (my mother assures me he will) and rejoin my mother, though I now know I won't be there to meet him, and that saddens me even more. He made my mother flee to the Celestial plane when the Worldwound opened while she was still pregnant with me, and made her vow not to return to the Material plane until the Worldwound closed and the world was safe again. My mother weeps frequently at agreeing to this restriction, but she waits patiently for him, and now that he has died, she knows it is only a matter of time before he rejoins her on the Celestial plane. But it means that all I have ever known of him is the wooden holy symbol he gave my mother to give to me to remember him by, and the tales my mother reported to me from his prayers to her. And now I have left the Celestial plane before he was able to rejoin my mother. Someday, I will meet him! I must!
Life with the archons was similarly joyful. Once the sergeant learned that I was not proficient in combat (as he put it, "She wouldn't know which end of a dagger to use if you stabbed her with it!"), we focused on tactics that allowed me to fly behind the group, protected by them and providing shielding spells and healing to them as they fought. The hounds were wonderfully protective of me, and some were even daring enough to romance me. Ah, the thought of their sleeked-down fur, their rippling muscles, their bright greatswords, their glistening white teeth, their... but I digress. Unfortunately, the romances always ended up the same. Archons are archons, and are always predictable. A hound and I would start a romance, and spend several blissful years together. Then he would inevitably declare that hounds mate for life, and I must declare my unending, undying love for him. In all good conscience, knowing that I would eventually be sent to the Material plane, I could not make such a promise. And he would leave me. And we would be sad for years, but still have to work with each other. And then a new hound would step forward, and the process would repeat. It sounds utterly depressing to write it down, but it was wonderful to feel so loved, so needed, and so protected. Of all the things on the Celestial plane, I will miss my hounds the most. (Yes, my mother tried to introduce me to young male angels, saying that consorting with hound archons was "unseemly", but young male angels seem to be universally boring when compared to my dashing hounds.)
And then the day finally came. My mother approached me, and told me that an oracle of Pharasma had received a horrific vision of a world engulfed in darkness, with death and destruction everywhere. And I was a shining beacon of light in this darkness. No one could guess what the vision meant, but it was known that I was to be in the Material plane at a specific place at a specific time, and no one knew what I was to do there.
To say I was terrified would be an understatement. But I knew my duty, and would not shame my father and my sister (both paladins! What a family!) by showing fear. I dressed in my simple silks, donned nothing but the jewelry my mother had given me over the years, and told my mother I was ready. She led me to the archangel who would cast the spell sending me to the Material plane.
I greeted the archangel, bowed, declared that I was ready, folded my wings, and waited.
At the appointed time, she cast the spell and the world blurred around me...