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My band of soaks, my den of dissolutes,
My dirty jokes, my always pissed as newts!
My sons of whores spend their lives in my inn -
Homing pigeons homing in, They fly through my doors,
And their money's good as yours!
Welcome, Monsieur, sit yourself down,
And meet the best innkeeper in town.
As for the rest, all of 'em crooks:
Rooking their guests and crooking the books!
Seldom do you see Honest men like me:
A gent of good intent Who's content to be...
Master of the house, doling out the charm,
Ready with a handshake and an open palm!
Tells a saucy tale, makes a little stir,
Customers appreciate a bon-viveur!
Glad to do a friend a favor - Doesn't cost me to be nice!
But nothing gets you nothing, Everything has got a little price!
Master of the house, keeper of the zoo,
Ready to relieve 'em of a sou or two!
Watering the wine, making up the weight,
Pickin' up their knick-knacks when they can't see straight!
Everybody loves a landlord, Everybody's bosom friend;
I do whatever pleases, Jesus! Won't I bleed 'em in the end!
After a few years of silence it's time for Orthos to run a campaign again! (Well technically I'm running two, but the other is a PbP so it's not really suitable to being recorded here... though I might come back and put up summaries as chapters are completed. =D ) With a new batch of suckers... I mean players... and a shiny new Kingmaker game we are all ready to go.
The major change is that my game will not be set in Golarion; rather, I'll be using my homebrew setting Finiens, specifically the eastern continent of Wachara, as the stage. The Stolen Lands are an untamed wedge of territory planted on the western side of the barony of Olorunium, whose feuding lords are in turmoil following a recent war with their easterly neighbor Galadae and the secession of a region on their border that formed the new independent territory of Naltaskar. Seeking to solidify their claim to the barony seat, the lords and Vanguard of House Alvaris have commissioned groups to expand westward, intending to seize the previously-unholdable Stolen Lands from the barbaric, tribal Northlands that surround their western and northwestern borders. As per standard, the players will be the fourth such chartered unit, en route to Olag's Trading Post in the Greenbelt.
The party is still in creation, slightly, but I do have their basic composition confirmed:
- A Spellscar Oracle with the Medvyed Noble Born trait and Legalistic curse. Her powers originated due to an accidental traipse through the sister-realm of FaeReie (Finiens' analogue to the First World), leaving her with supernatural capabilities but some of the fey's innate quirks of behavior.
- A Centaur True-Primitive Barbarian who will likely be the party's frontline warrior. Very Minsc-like, from what I've seen of the player's intents. An exile from his tribe from the plains of Galadae to the east, he wandered for years in the woods before meeting the Oracle; her attempt to lead the lost warrior to civilization ended up with both of them wandering through FaeReie by stumbling upon one of the Ways, but he came out relatively unscathed (save gaining a disdain for fairy magic). The two of them in their jaunt also met...
- A Half-Elf Magus. A prisoner of the fey for some time, he managed to avoid being too badly affected by his time in the warp-world... at least physically; mentally he's been somewhat scarred, and has strange compulsions that he must feed or risk withdrawal not unlike an addiction. These range anywhere from breaking into song or speech to pulling crazy physical displays and stunts, but always result in making himself the center of attention, often without realizing he's doing so until halfway through. Has an eye for prestige and power, and eagerly anticipates naming himself Court Magister.
- A Druid. This character is the most incomplete of the bunch so I don't know much about her, though I suspect she might be an Elf. I shall update as soon as I can speak to the player and get further information... or after the first session, whichever comes first. =)
They seem to be all a heavy Chaotic Neutral bent, no Good in the party (yet, but I doubt the Druid will be) but no Evil either (yet). So in time we might have a little anarchic fun with this batch of nutcases.
Said first session will be this Thursday evening. Obviously the party members are all traveling together and familiar with each other prior to the campaign's beginning, and as per usual in my games are beginning at Level 2 rather than the standard 1 for Kingmaker; the events have been adjusted accordingly.
Wish them luck... they'll need it. >=}
My band of soaks, my den of dissolutes,My dirty jokes, my always pissed as newts!
My sons of whores spend their lives in my inn -
Homing pigeons homing in, They fly through my doors,
And their money's good as yours!
Welcome, Monsieur, sit yourself down,
And meet the best innkeeper in town.
As for the rest, all of 'em crooks:
Rooking their guests and crooking the books!
Seldom do you see Honest men like me:
A gent of good intent Who's content to be...
Master of the house, doling out the charm,
Ready with a handshake and an open palm!
Tells a saucy tale, makes a little stir,
Customers appreciate a bon-viveur!
Glad to do a friend a favor - Doesn't cost me to be nice!
But nothing gets you nothing, Everything has got a little price!
Master of the house, keeper of the zoo,
Ready to relieve 'em of a sou or two!
Watering the wine, making up the weight,
Pickin' up their knick-knacks when they can't see straight!
Everybody loves a landlord, Everybody's bosom friend;
I do whatever pleases, Jesus! Won't I bleed 'em in the end!
After a few years of silence it's time for Orthos to run a campaign again! (Well technically I'm running two, but the other is a PbP so it's not really suitable to being recorded here... though I might come back and put up summaries as chapters are completed. =D ) With a new batch of suckers... I mean players... and a shiny new Kingmaker game we are all ready to go.
The major change is that my game will not be set in Golarion; rather, I'll be using my homebrew setting Finiens, specifically the eastern continent of Wachara, as the stage. The Stolen Lands are an untamed wedge of territory planted on the western side of the barony of Olorunium, whose feuding lords are in turmoil following a recent war with their easterly neighbor Galadae and the secession of a region on their border that formed the new independent territory of Naltaskar. Seeking to solidify their claim to the barony seat, the lords and Vanguard of House Alvaris have commissioned groups to expand...
GL sounds fun.
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Book One: Stolen Land
Oh man, what a way to begin.
Three of the four party members - Elegy Medvyed the Oracle, Errol Genio the Magus, and Jaekah the Centaur Barbarian - arrived at Oleg's after being dispatched from Olorunium by the Alvaris Vanguard with their charter. Oleg was working atop his home as they arrived, and made to ignore the group as they arrived; however Jaekah directly approached the man and Oleg, not expecting to see a Centaur of all things in his post, couldn't feign disinterest for long. Svetlana approached the group shortly after, welcoming them and apologizing for Oleg's disgruntledness, and inquiring about the report of troops being sent from Olorunium to help secure the outpost; when the group revealed they knew nothing of this Oleg growled in frustration and stomped back up to the roof to resume work.
Svetlana explained that the outpost had been having difficulties with local bandits and were hoping their request to Olorunium for someone to provide security would be answered; a courier who had arrived some time earlier had said men were on their way, but they hadn't expected the arrival of the adventurers. The group, intrigued, inquired further regarding the bandits, and Svetlana shared what she knew and told them a little about the situation.
The group didn't wait long past the explanation to begin making plans for how best to deal with the brigands. Their first idea was to try to frighten them away by putting arcane marks of unholy symbols, fearsome runes, or other unpleasant emblems on the supplies Svetlana and Oleg expected would be taken, up to and including things such as lacing the pelts and supplies with poison or marking things with unholy symbols of Typhon; the Levetons exchanged worried looks at most of these and Svetlana even crossed herself when The Storm That Walks and similarly-foul deities were mentioned by name. Thankfully this plan was shortly abandoned for another, when Errol and Jaekeh made note of the unused catapults set atop the post walls and began looking for something to arm them with. After some searching Errol discovered the compost piles in the rear of the trading post and his plan fell completely into place.
Informed by Svetlana that the bandits would be arriving two more days hence, the group set out that evening to hunt game to repay the Levetons for their hospitality as well as provide dinner and resources for the evening. Their first search of the nearby plains yielded only a large snakelike beast which Elegy quickly identified as some kind of insect (a whiptail centipede) and they decided to take their searches elsewhere. A few more hours' search discovered a pair of boars milling at a small watering hole, and the group cut them down with minimal losses then hauled the carcasses back to Oleg's. Jaekeh spent the evening skinning and preparing one and presented the other to Oleg as a gift, and the old merchant's demeanor softened toward the group significantly.
The next day was spent mostly in more sweeping of the nearby land after some basic morning preparations and random shenanigans such as Errol testing the catapults while using Jaekeh as a target and midden-filled pillowcases as ammunition, much to Svetlana and Elegy's distress. Near midday the group traversed southward a short distance, encountering first a wild thylacine with a warren a few hours south of Oleg's that attacked when Jaekeh roamed too close. The group put it down swiftly, mostly thanks to Elegy's spells and Errol's blade slitting its throat.
Further south the group spotted a faerie dragon flitting about a short distance to the west. Jaekeh, speaking both Draconic and Sylvan, caught the creature's attention and managed to convince it they were friendly, and attempted to inquire of the creature as to where the bandits could be found. Initially not understanding, the little dragon eventually seemed to express some comprehension of what the group wanted, but informed them that what they sought was further west rather than south. The dragon, identifying itself eventually as Orrili, agreed to Jaekeh's request to guide them to the location in question in exchange for the gift of the dead thylacine, which it disappeared into invisibility with as soon as it was given. Following this the group returned to Oleg's, made their last night's worth of preparations, and went to bed early.
Rising well before dawn the next day, Errol and Jaekeh loaded the catapult on the trading post's southeast corner parapet, then Errol and Elegy ducked down on the upper level walkway while Jaekeh ducked into the stables to wait for the bandits to arrive. Less than thirty minutes passed before riders from the south came within sight, then dismounted and approached on foot, led by a grungy looking bearded man wearing a hood. Five in all approached the gate, calling out loudly for Oleg and pushing the doors open without waiting for an invitation.
Before Happs could enter, Errol lit the compost pile with spark and activated the catapult, but it jammed before it could fire properly, alerting the five bandits to their presence. He quickly reset and re-fired the weapon, hitting Happs solidly and smearing him and two of his companions in flaming compost; Jaekeh took this as his sign to attack and lunged from the stables, leaping over a cart in his charge but barely missing Happs in his attack while Elegy attacked from the upper platforms with spells. Two of the bandits drew bows and tried to fire at Elegy and Errol but their shots went far wild. The trio pressed the attack, quickly mowing Happs down even after he put out the flames and forcing the other four bandits into retreat. Elegy and Errol could only keep pace to pursue them so far, but the much faster centaur was able to easily keep pace with the fleeing bandits long enough to take out two of them, convincing the remaining two to cease their flight and surrender. The group took them captive and dragged them back to Oleg, intending to keep them until the soldiers from Olorunium arrive and then give them proper trial and execution. Happs and the two dead bandits will be stripped of their belongings and hung on the barristers as a warning to their companions that the trading post is now off-limits for their kind.
Next session: soldiers arrive, as does the fourth member of the party!
Elegy, Errol, and Jaekah turned the two living bandits over to Oleg for keeping; the couple agreed to keep the bandits until the troops from Olorunium arrived and to have them dealt with - and probably executed - at that time. In the meanwhile Oleg gave the party first choice of the bandits' belongings; their coinpurses were divided up between the party, while Elegy claimed some bottles of Alchemist's Fire and the stag-head brooch, and Errol took the masterwork bow. The rest was turned over to Oleg, who plans to add it to his stock (after some necessary cleaning). That settled, the group set out to resume their explorations.
They first headed south, keeping to a straight path for most of the uneventful morning before deciding to veer slightly to the east. Around noon they encountered their first stranger, a hunter named Rekos, heading north toward Oleg's. Other than Errol's initial paranoia and intent to snipe the man from afar, the meeting was amiable and after hearing the group was newly-arrived and intending to address some of the problems of the region, Rekos shared some of his game with them for lunch and provided them with some knowledge regarding the local land, particularly regarding local fey, Tuskgutter, and the bandit leader known as the Stag Lord. He was dismissive and somewhat mocking of the "bigwigs in the barony" trying to tame the Stolen Lands, considering it "about as likely as getting Eris to stop lying about her age". He also warned Elegy not to wear the pin she had taken openly, as a more perceptive hunter might notice it more swiftly and immediately take hostile action against its wearer, presuming them to be bandits under the Stag Lord's banner. The party parted on good terms with the hunter and continued south, veering back westward on Rekos's advisement that they find and follow the river south through the plains in their attempts to look for Tuskgutter's lair.
In the middle of the afternoon, as the group moved out of the plain and into the underbrush of the forest's edge, Jaekah spotted movement off to the west several yards; the group decided to follow at a distance, and tracked a pair of kobolds to a clearing in the brush where four of their companions lay in a heap amidst a rudimentary radish garden. Initially defensive, the kobolds leaped to their feet and drew weapons as the party approached through the brush, but Elegy was able to calm them before battle ensued and assure them that they had no intent to pilfer their garden.
Shortly after their arrival, Errol - gripped by one of his bouts of compulsion - suddenly burst into dance; Elegy and Jaekah were momentarily floored, but the kobolds seemed amused and joined in on the presumed revelry, though the four who had been in the garden quickly collapsed as their full bellies prevented them from exerting themselves too much. Assured of the party's lack of ill intent, the kobolds inquired if the group had stolen something of theirs; when pressed for further information they revealed their "god", "Old Sharptooth", had been stolen and they were seeking it. The party, after some discussion, agreed to help them find the idol, and the kobolds began leading them south to speak with their chief on the issue.
The group traveled for several more hours, using their superior speed to keep up with the kobolds' uncanny endurance, stopping only once as their guides paused to examine a massive track which Elegy and Jaekah discerned as being left by a passing Shambling Mound. The kobolds called the creature Busheater, and warned to steer clear of its path; Errol was confident, despite their warnings of its size and strength, that he could defeat it if they happened to encounter it. Nevertheless the group moved on, traveling south away from the monstrosity's path for two more hours before nightfall.
At sunset the kobolds called a halt and made camp for the night, with one of the party and one of the kobolds each taking a shift of watch. Before resting Elegy perfomed her Prophetic Vision, inquiring as to the likelihood of victory in an engagement against Busheater, but was quickly dissuaded by the overwhelmingly negative response. Several hours later after being roused for her shift, she conspired with her shift companion, named Kreedon, of possible pranks to play on Errol as well as the potential future alliances of the group's establishment once the Stolen Lands were tamed and the kobolds' tribe. Kreedon appeared agreeable to the idea, even presenting her with rocks with trace amounts of silver in them from the kobolds' mines, but stated that the final declaration of such would be in the hands of their chief.
Next session: Kobolds!
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As the kobolds continued leading the trio south through the Kamelands following their first night in the wilds, the trip was for the most part uneventful. The plains gave way to soggy wetlands and bogs as their guides led them to the river lowlands, then back into plains and hills as they traversed east along the shores of the Thorn River. However, their trip through the marsh was not without incident - as the group entered a small wetland clearing, their guides called a halt, and shortly after a trio of boggards leaped from the underbrush and pelted the party with javelins, severely injuring one of the kobolds in the process. Jaekah charged into the fray while the kobolds and Errol provided cover fire with their bows and Elegy tended the wounded; the first rain of arrows decimated one of the javelin-throwers in a single round of fletched pain. The third boggard, a spellcaster, moved in and endured a swift jab from Jaekah to lay his touch of chaos on the centaur; they continued to trade blows while the kobolds and Errol fired from afar at the other javeliner and Elegy moved into position to attack with magic, first relying on her crossbow until she could get in range then attacking with her eldritch bolt.
Irritated by the rival caster, the boggard launched an icicle at the oracle, catching her in the chest; in a rage, Elegy blasted back with an overcharged bolt, reducing the cleric to splatter. The kobolds and Errol beat the last boggard back with their bows, knocking him out of their range just in time for Jaekah to charge and cleave him in half.
Collecting the spoils of war, Elegy found a masterwork stone mace, a light wooden shield, and a silver carving dagger on the priest, along with moldy leather armor and an unholy symbol of Echidna. She collected the first three for her own use, while the rest of the group left the rest of the equipment - mostly javelins and two morningstars from the other two boggards - behind.
The rest of the day's journey brought them to the kobolds' lair, a cavern and abandoned mine in a hillside a short distance north of the Shrike River. They were met at the entrance by a guard, Nakpik, who was watching the entrance while tending to a wretched, ugly blue creature in a wooden cage. Elegy identified the captive as a Mite, an unpleasant type of minor fey, and managed to quiz the creature regarding its presence and learned a few things about the conflict between its kind and the kobolds. After some further debate, she and Errol accompanied some of their guides into the cavern, leaving Jaekah - far too large to fit inside - to stand watch.
The two guides led them through the cramped tunnels, including a large chamber adorned with bloody depictions of a cornugon; when Errol inquired as to what the creature was supposed to represent (having already identified the devil's depiction), the kobolds affirmed it was supposed to be Old Sharptooth.
Finally they were led into a larger chamber, where several more kobolds were gathered, including the chief. Chief Sootscale approached the pair skeptically, but Elegy was able to convince him that using the Mite - who she had ways to control - she could find their stolen idol and return it. As a show of good faith, she gave the silver dagger to the Chief, who after some internal debate agreed to the arrangement.
Elegy and Errol then returned to the entrance, where Elegy very strongly convinced the mite to promise - thrice each time, thus binding the fey to its word - to lead them to where Old Sharptooth was being kept, to not run away or try to escape, and to do them no harm. The creature begrudgingly did so, leading them on a winding path vaguely northward while incessantly whining and complaining in its nasally Sylvan the entire time. Three hours later Errol had had enough and began tormenting the thing by singing (because Elegy wouldn't let him kick it), breaking into a raucous oration of "Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer", with Jaekah and Elegy joining in swiftly after, easily overriding the miserable fey's complaints.
Two hours longer they reached a point where the mite alerted them to the presence of a massive sycamore standing atop a distant hill. Elegy tried to force him to guide them to the idol's specific location, but the mite claimed not to know where it was being kept inside the lair. Judging him to be telling the truth this time, she released him from his binding oaths, earning a vulgar raspberry before it bolted off, just barely too quick for Errol to deliver a much-wanted parting kick.
Their destination in sight, but far enough off that an attack from the lair was unlikely tonight, the group stopped to rest until morning.
Next time: The Old Sycamore.
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En route from their campsite, the group took in the sights of the surrounding countryside. Low scrub and patchy grass adorned the rocky hillside, and skeletal trees decorated the landscape and horizon, most prominently the massive Old Sycamore dead ahead. Buzzards flitted about above, and the land was littered with the occasional yellowed skeleton of a kobold or blue-grey bones of a mite; Elegy collected some of this latter, hoping to look into using the fey remains for some alchemical purpose or perhaps simply selling them.
After arriving at the Old Sycamore, the group searched about for a bit before locating the tunnel, barely large enough for Jaekah to squeeze in and decidedly cramped. They descended and arrived shortly at a fork, at which the centaur turned left, leading the group into a oval chamber filled with refuse. Here a single mite was spotted, and shrieked an alarm seeing the arrival of the adventurers; Jaekah immediately charged but failed to hit his target, and as he passed centipedes lunged out of the compost and attacked. The mite made a feeble attempt to defend her pets, then fled leaving the party to battle the monstrous vermin, taking some wounds - greatly so in Jaekah's case - before managing to crush them.
Pursuing the fleeing mite bug-keeper, Jaekah burst into a large room filled with mites, who barraged him with darts as soon as he came into sight. He and Errol charged immediately, slaying several of the resistance, then Elegy stepped into the room adorning her hair and clothing with the mite bones she'd taken and demanding their surrender. Cowed, the mites prostrated themselves before the oracle, making easy pickings for the two men until Elegy called them off and demanded the service and fealty of the remaining five: Quoggy the centipede keeper, along with Dingetooth, Lipbit, Rumbuk, and Shaggle. In exchange for sparing their lives, Elegy demanded they serve as guides, and first instructed them to lead her to any kobolds they had in the lair. The chastised fey led the group back through the centipede hatchery, where Errol set the middens on fire, roasting the remaining eggs.
The next chamber was a construction room, where two mites were playing with a miniature catapult by launching caltrops into one another's mouths. Stunned by the sight of intruders led by their clanmates, the pair failed to act before Errol, Jaekah, and the mite guides passed through the room; Elegy stopped to make some adjustments to the catapult, correcting its poor aim, then followed, leaving the pair to their game.
In the next chamber they discovered three dead and one badly wounded kobolds being tormented by a large crowd of mites, who fled as soon as the group made its presence known. Rather than pursue, the party turned their attentions to Mikmek, the lone surviving kobold warrior; Elegy mended his wounds and introduced the group and their connection to Chief Sootscale, and Mikmek offered his assistance in recovering the Sharptooth statue in exchange only for a weapon; Elegy provided him with a dagger and the group quickly resumed travel, ordering their mite escorts along.
A chasm separated this chamber from the next; Errol, Elegy, and Mikmek climbed down - noting the mites had rigged some of the handholds to break or slip loose - while Jaekah prepared to simply leap across once the party was through. While down in the pit, the group was attacked by the most enormous centipede they'd ever seen, which immediately snatched up Mikmek and crushed the poor kobold's throat, leaving him barely clinging to life. The party barraged the massive vermin titan with spell, arrow, and javelin, while it retaliated with tail and jaw and the mites simply watched in amused silence. At last the beast was struck down, and Elegy quickly moved to tend Mikmek's dire injuries, bringing the kobold back to full capacity.
Jaekeh leaped the chasm, throwing himself into the mites' war room and headlong into a crowd of no less than twelve of the creatures, plus the spear-wielding chieftain and his mount, an enormous tick as large as a full-grown human. The rest of the party was quick to follow while the mites rallied against the intruders, attempting to beat them back with daggers and thrown darts while heeding the shouts of encouragement from their leader.
Elegy, after climbing onto Jaekah's back for safety and better line of sight, managed to strike the enormous Tickleback with one of her spells; however, a random warping of the magic caused her to trade places with the beast, leaving Tickleback on Jaekah's saddleside and the Chief suddenly riding on Elegy's shoulders. Jaekah quickly bucked it free and into the chasm, while Elegy wriggled out from under the chief after being stabbed by her unwelcome passenger and barraged by more darts.
Infuriated by the attacks, Jaekah charged over more mites and attacked the chief as well, while Errol focused on cutting down the tick as it climbed back up out of the pit, and Mikmek worked on stabbing away at any straggling mites until their morale was broken and the few survivors chose to flee. Elegy reduced the chief to a pile of ash after repeated attacks with her eldritch bolts, and Jaekah and Errol's combined assault wore down Tickleback enough for her to launch another and finish it off.
Secure in their victory, Elegy collected the statue of Old Sharptooth and handed it over to Mikmek, then traveled around the loop of the lair to return to the torture room and collect the bodies of the dead kobolds. After Errol amused himself by magic missileing one of the surviving, bound mites and kicking another down into the chasm, Elegy instructed them to determine who would be their new chieftain - eventually after some short debate eliciting them to chose Quoggy - and demanding arrangements of non-aggression, going so far as to bribe them with the majority of the treasure they'd collected from the chieftain's war table.
With their task here compelete, the party made their way out of the mite lair.
Next time: Return to Sootscale, then back to Oleg's?
|Turin the Mad|
With Mikmek as their guide, the group began the trek back to the Sootscale caverns. Elegy struck up conversation with the kobold along the way, and after some prodding Mikmek revealed the unfortunate downsides to his search for Old Sharptooth - the curse the "god" had placed on his tribe (which earned him a bit of sympathy from the oracle) and the coming of the shaman Tartuk that had precipitated the curse's presence, the growth of Sharptooth's worship, the beginnings of sacrifice, and the war with the mites. The group agreed to return the statue to Chief Sootscale rather than Tartuk, as per their original agreement, in hopes of taking the power of the cult out of the shaman's hands.
Upon arriving at the mines, Mikmek immediately led Errol and Elegy to the common room, leaving Jaekah at the mine entrance to bury the three dead kobolds there. Mikmek presented Old Sharptooth to Chief Sootscale, who took the statue reverently then smashed it to bits in the middle of the adoring crowd. Without further word beyond "Death to the usurper!" he snatched up his club and silver dagger and bolted down a side hallway; Mikmek and the tall-folk were quick to pursue, following Sootscale to a side chamber where a purple-scaled kobold - obviously the shaman Tartuk - and his two assistants were working.
Sootscale charged the surprised mage, clobbering him immediately with his club in his rage. Tartuk turned invisible and attempted to flee, but first tried to instill fear into his opponents to prevent pursuit before escaping; unfortunately for him only Mikmek was affected by the spell, and fled back down the tunnel they'd come, while the other three continued to give chase.
Tartuk eventually went invisible again, but Errol pinned the sorcerer down with a color spray, stopping his retreat and allowing Elegy to find and grab the fleeing kobold. He was taken prisoner and escorted to the "temple" where Sharptooth's rituals had been performed, tied up by Chief Sootscale, and interrogated. After numerous threats and warnings - including Elegy declaring herself quite mad and Errol pressing his blade directly to Tartuk's throat - the maniacal mage spilled his story, revealing he'd once been a halfling who had been slain then revived as a kobold via reincarnate, and had decided to unleash his vengeance on the kobold tribes of the world. Errol declared the story "boring" and both Chief Sootscale and Elegy saw it a poor excuse for his actions, and he was executed on the spot by the Chief driving his new silver dagger straight into the traitor's throat.
Errol and Elegy returned to Tartuk's lab and began searching about. Elegy found several items, including a shield, a pair of boots, some magical crossbow bolts, and a bag that jingled when picked up; Elegy claimed the items as well as fishing several coins out of the pile. Meanwhile, Errol found an old journal while searching through the laboratory equipment, but both he and Elegy were stumped as the contents were written in the Undertongue. After a bit of debating as to how to translate it - leaving both stumped with the ideas of "go back and get the mites to translate" or "get a comprehend languages scroll from Oleg" as their best bets - they inquired of Chief Sootscale if anyone could decipher it. The Chief revealed he spoke the language in question, but that the book's contents were merely a record of Tartuk's past, including his reincarnation and ensuing rampage from kobold tribe to tribe, starting with a group called the Ironwyrm Clan. The news would have likely enraged the chief if it hadn't already been revealed; as it was he simply skipped to the end, dislodging a scroll of fly - which Errol and Elegy spent several moments arguing over before she got him to back down - and discovering Tartuk's plans for suicide once his murderous tendencies grew boring.
Errol then departed, leaving Elegy alone with the kobolds; Chief Sootscale requested that the adventurers make sure Oleg and his customers wouldn't attack the tribe, and revealed that he wished to take advantage of the offerings of peace from Elegy and send kobold traders to the post. She agreed to pass the message, and invited Mikmek along as a representative; recently re-equipped from stripping Tartuk's corpse, the scout readily agreed, and joined the trio as they prepared to march back north.
Next time: NOW back to Oleg's!
After departing from the Sootscale Mines with Mikmek in their party, the group originally planned to follow the river back toward the west then follow it north to the woodsline, then follow that back to Oleg's. However, an encounter with a pair of trolls later that afternoon threw off their plans, prompting the group to bolt off as fast as their legs would carry them - Elegy and Mikmek on the centaur's back and Errol slung over his shoulder. Elegy managed a shot back with her crossbow, catching one of the trolls on the arm and pinning it to a nearby bush with a fire bolt. This, perhaps unfortunately, caused the bush to catch fire, further giving the party distraction to escape.
Jaekah ran for quite some time before at last succumbing to the rigors of the journey, but the escape had put the adventurers off-course, placing them somewhere back out in the hills north of the Old Sycamore. The group resumed exploring, hoping to be able to find Oleg's again simply by heading north until they find something familiar.
Errol and Jaekah discovered an odd crag in the hills of the countryside, which on further examination turned out to be a small cavern leading to a vein of gold in the rock. Elegy and Mikmek took some samples of the valuable stone, and the group decided - with the looming threat of snow above - to camp in the cavern for the night, with Jaekah outside on watch since the centaur once again could not fit inside the cavern.
During the night, shortly before midnight, Jaekah was roused by the sound of something approaching. The centuar was quizzed for some time by his unseen visitor before the arrival, a Worg flanked by two lighter-colored wolves, emerged from within the underbrush. The Worg, who called himself Rannulf, inquired of the group - after Jaekah summoned Errol and Elegy in response to the canine's request - as to their purposes in the land. He initially seemed unhappy with the proposition of more humans in what he deemed his territory, and informed Elegy as the proclaimed Alpha of the group that he would be keeping an eye on her and would not stand for too much human intrusion nor excess competition for game versus his pack. Elegy did her best to agree to the Worg's demands and assure him that the wolves would not lose their territory to human settlers, which seemed to mollify Rannulf for the time being, and he bid the humanoids farewell and vanished into the night.
Come morning the snowstorm at last struck, forcing Jaekah awake and sending the centaur on an unsuccessful search for food and game to make more weather-resistant clothing from. Errol, Elegy, and Mikmek roused a short time later, and through mutual agreement spent the rest of the day as bundled up as possible and bound on what they calculated to be a direct route back toward the general vicinity of Oleg's, alternating between sprints of Jaekah carrying the party and hoofing it as fast as he could and the group walking to give the centaur a rest. Their journey through the accelerating, lightning-escorted snowstorm lasted the majority of the day, but they managed to reach Oleg's once again by early evening after a day of all-out travel.
Jaekah, utterly exhausted, collapsed immediately in the stables while the other three headed indoors for shelter, looking for Oleg and Svetlana. Instead they found a tall armored man who introduced himself as Kesten Garess, captain of the watch, the man in charge of the soldiers sent from Olorunium to secure the outpost while the "charter-folks" took care of the bandit problems and scoured the rest of the terrain. He offered the pair and Mikmek mead while informing them that Svetlana was working on dinner and Oleg was out repairing part of the outpost that had been damaged by a "mad giant elk". He also made the mistake of asking if Errol and Elegy were romantically or otherwise involved, eliciting a shocked stammering and flight from the room from the latter and uproarious laughter from the former.
Elegy took the opportunity to take some mead and water to Jaekah, then divvied up the satchel of look they'd found in Tartuk's stash; after dividing up the coin she found a sack of dust, which she set aside for Errol to examine, and a brass ring; this she took back intending to have Oleg or Svetlana examine, and ran into the hostess as she was bringing out dinner. Upon seeing the ring Svetlana nearly dropped the pot she was carrying, then explained that it was her stolen wedding ring, taken by the "horrible bandit woman" during their first attack on the trading post. Elegy returned the ring to her and took the food into the common room; Errol scooped up a pot and took it to Jaekah, meanwhile sharing the amusing story of Kesten's misunderstanding with the exhausted centaur, who didn't see much entertainment in the claim.
Oleg returned shortly after, and inquired of the group to fill him in on the details of their journey and why Mikmek was present; Elegy and Errol filled him, Svetlana, and Kesten in on the details over dinner.
Next time: Who's who at Oleg's, waiting out the storm, and possibly more exploration.
After parting ways with Oleg, Svetlana, Mikmek, and Kesten, Elegy and Errol worked long into the night on her new pet project - creating magic items for Oleg to sell. The pair, using Elegy's skill and Errol's spells, created two cloaks of catching, one for the Magus as payment for his assistance and one for Oleg to barter off. Exhausted by many hours of work, the pair collapsed into their separate beds in the depth of night and slept until midmorning.
Jaekah, well rested after his exhaustion the day before, woke with the dawn and emerged into the snow-drenched trading post. After struggling against the snow-barred door, the centaur managed to pull the gate open, only to be greeted by the wall of snow that had accumulated on the other side. The noise of the barbarian being buried roused some of Kesten's men and women from their tents, and fearing an intrusion of bandits or worse they rushed out with weapons in hand only to find a snow-covered centaur awaiting them. After some questioning they allowed Jaekah to go his way, and he headed out into the wilderness to hunt breakfast; after some searching he managed to stumble onto a dead racoon stuck in a bear trap, which he opened, retrieved the dead animal, and disarmed the trap before heading back to Oleg's. Upon arrival, he noted the guards had taken up their positions about the camp, and Kesten greeted the returning centaur and introduced himself. Oleg and Svetlana, the latter carrying fresh bread, joined them shortly after while Jaekah skinned and prepared the racoon, and Mikmek arrived shortly after, as Jaekah squeezed into the rooms to wake Errol and Elegy from their prolonged slumber.
Errol and Jaekah went out shortly after to do more hunting, ending up north of the trading post and eventually finding some rabbits, while Elegy discussed business opportunities of selling her creations with Oleg. When the men returned, Elegy made them a proposition for their next destination: to hunt down Tuskgutter, the brutal giant boar who had been the bane of local hunters for so long. Oleg warned them harshly about how vicious and dangerous the boar was reputed to be, but the group was undaunted and set off southwest, toward the region said to be the old beast's domain, at midmorning.
Their trek through the day was for the most part uneventful, save stopping for lunch and Jaekah presenting Elegy with a rabbit's foot while she worked on making him a cap from the racoon's skin and Errol searched in vain for birds to shoot. Upon resuming their journey they passed through the radish patch and pressed deeper into the woods, but until nearly nightfall they managed to find nothing more than trees, wild animals, snow, and a small stream.
Following the water, however, led them to a well-used forest path in the late evening, and the group nearly stumbled into a pair of bandits who were on watch; Jaekah attracted their attention immediately and hurled a javelin in preemptive assault at the same time the thieves drew their bows and fired on the intruder. The barbarian charged, causing the two bandits to retreat into the foliage; Elegy and Errol however hung back a few moments, quickly formulating a plan to have Elegy pose as a frightened escapee while Errol acted as a pursuing bandit, a plan that quickly fell apart as Jaekah's pursuit led him into the middle of the camp, where several bandits all jumped the barbarian in tandem, led by the bandit commander, Kressle. The mighty centaur was cleaved down to nearly dead in the frenzy, then knocked into unconsciousness by Kressle just before she turned to deal with Elegy, who had moved in to try to aid Jaekah; when Elegy demanded the bandits stand down, hesitance on her men and women's part was quickly silenced by Kressle when she invoked the Stag Lord's fury against any who dared desert the battle.
Errol moved in to deal with Kressle himself while Elegy quickly cured Jaekah back into consciousness; once awake, the barbarian pulled himself to his feet and flew into a rage, attacking the nearest bandits around himself and Elegy as far as he could reach. Meanwhile Kressle's assault against Errol was prematurely ended when the Magus sidestepped a high axe blow, causing the bandit leader to overextend then smack herself in the head with the blunt of her weapon as she overcorrected, knocking herself unconscious at his feet; before he could do the deed, Elegy swept over and smashed her head in with her mace, then turned and again demanded deference from the bandits. The three survivors in the immediate vicinity plus the survivor from the initial pair of lookouts, who had been hiding in the nearby bushes waiting for an opportunity, all dropped their weapons in surrender while Errol pursued an escapee.
Errol chased the fleeing bandit into another nearby clearing, where yet four more bandits sprung from the bushes and fired on him with their bows; Jaekah quickly came to his rescue and charged down one of the archers, reducing her to a hair's breadth from death before Elegy got one of the first group to declare a cease-fire that all the bandits would hear and respect. Assured now that combat was at an end, and claiming Kressle's stag pin, axes, and equipment as spoils of war, Elegy elaborated on her plans for the region and made her offer of leniency and possible pardon to bandits who surrendered and aided the group against the Stag Lord. The bandits debated for some time amongst themselves and with the group, but eventually agreed to the arrangement and provided some information on the bandit king to the group, as well as agreeing to let them use their camp in peace for the night.
Next time: Plotting with the bandits, and perhaps more boar-hunting.
After a night of rest in the bandit camp, the group gathered to inquire of their newfound "allies" and obtain more information on the Stag Lord. After some discussion and debate, they were able to discern that the bandit leader was extremely powerful and dangerous, in spite of generally being a raging drunk, and were informed of both the location of his fortress - a ruin to the far south, on the shores of the Tuskwater Lake - and a location of a few river crossings, a shallow ford and a "haunted bridge" further east.
During discussion of what they intended to do with the ensuing attack on the Stag Lord, Errol pulled Elegy aside with a new idea for a plan: to bribe the bandit king with offerings of not only the alcohol in the camp but also an offer of a woman's - specifically Elegy's - "company" for the night. While Elegy initially balked at the crass plan, she was eventually swayed to give it an attempt, on the condition that she first be allowed to craft some magical items that would give her an advantage in such a situation, and that Errol would surrender himself to a willing minion following her every command without question for the week following a successful raid. The magus reluctantly accepted the accord, and the pair returned to the crowd of bandits and Jaekah, and announced their intent to continue southward in pursuit of Tuskgutter.
Several hours of trudging through the forest later, Jaekah spotted the tracks of a hooved quadruped which eventually led to a bone- and rubble-strewn glade terminating in a broken, toppled pine over a washed-out gully that served as a frequently-used den. The group attempted to take cover in the nearby brush before luring out the trench's assumed inhabitant, but Errol's footing stumbled on the underbrush and sent the swordsman stumbling noisily into the open, stirring Tuskgutter the Dire Boar from within its lair.
Jaekah immediately charged the feral beast and pinned it in place, quickly joined by Errol and Elegy attacking from range and Elegy's summoned earth elemental sweeping up behind it to flank. Tuskgutter gored Jaekah painfully once, then decided the centaur was too much trouble and swept around him to attack Errol, before at last being stunned in place by Errol's color spray and blasted through the head by Elegy's eldritch bolt. Errol severed the great beast's head to prove their victory, while Jaekah claimed its foretusks as his trophies; Elegy sent her elemental in to search its lair and other than bones, dead animals, and shattered weapons and equipment all it managed to find was a single sapphire, which she collected as her prize.
The group resumed their trek north, traveling with the burden of their victory - Jaekah both carrying the dire boar's head and dragging its decapitated body - for a few hours before the centaur spotted something lurking in the woods to the east. Elegy continued on without the men, who both went to investigate; after several minutes of inaction, Jaekah threw a rock into the bushes... which proceeded to throw the rock back, then the Shambling Mound hiding within them lurched out in response. The party fled as quickly as they could, leaving behind the boar's headless corpse; the shambler, preferring the unresisting carcass to fleeing prey, took the left-behind prize and returned to its place in the shrubbery.
The party continued fleeing until certain of their escape, then made their way back to the bandit camp by evening, where they found the bandits had cracked open one of the kegs of beer. The group stopped to rest and relax for the night, with plans to return to Oleg's - perhaps with some of the bandits escorted along to prove their new-claimed allegiances - upon the morning.
Next time: Oleg's again. After that, who knows?
Upon waking, Jaekah as per his tradition went out into the woods to hunt for breakfast; Elegy, who had woken about the same time, joined him while Errol slept on after a drunken binge the night before. While out in the woods, the pair spotted movement, and following whatever they had seen led them to a clearing with a tall stone pillar in its center. Carvings in druidic covered much of the stone but could not be deciphered by the party; and pictograms provided the following depictions:
* Humanoid figures dancing beneath the crescent moon symbol of Artemis
* Two clans of warring fey, one under the sun-disc of summer and another under the snowflake of winter, prepared for strife
* More humanoids, armed for war, crowding around a much taller figure brandishing a sword to the skies
* Hulking figures with a single lone eye in the middle of their faces
Unable to discern the meaning of the images, the pair turned back toward the camp, then noticed more movement headed back that way and gave chase.
Meanwhile Errol, waking shortly after their departure, decided to busy himself by picking the pockets - or bodices, in one case - of the sleeping bandits. Tripping on the stones around the campfire finally brought an end to his thieving spree, but the bandits just roused from their drunken slumber didn't manage to notice their missing goods. Errol set after the on-watch brigands to find out where Elegy and Jaekah had gone, but his inquiries were interrupted by a scream from the watchman on the other side of camp.
When Errol arrived, he found the man unconscious and badly burned with a Will-o-Wisp hovering over him. Errol attempted to engage the fear-feeding monstrosity, and Elegy and Jaekah arrived moments later with the barbarian landing a blow on the spectral entity with his entry charge. The furious wisp lashed back, blinking into invisibility after every strike, and attempts by the party to attack back were either unable to make contact or fizzled against its magical immunities while its wounds were mended by the draining of the life of the unconscious, dying bandit. At the last Elegy finally struck it with one of her eldritch bolts; the odd interaction between fey spellwarping and the aberrant entity's nature created a temporary psionic link between the two, which Elegy used to suggest the wisp seek more challenging prey, pointing it toward the south back where they'd encountered the shambling mound when the wisp's own intellect responded with a demand to be shown. Freed of their attacker, the group gathered up the surviving bandits and headed north. Their trek for the rest of the day was for the most part uneventful, and they reached nearly to the radish patch before night fell.
That night, Errol stood watch and was drawn away from the campsite by a sound which he soon discovered to be a lone stalking Tatzlwyrm. Intrigued and entertained by the notion of singlehandedly slaying a dragon - even one as primitive as this - he engaged the beast, whose bellow of challenge woke Elegy moments later and drew her to the site of the battle. She sent in her summoned Fire Elemental and attacked with her magic to help Errol, who had been poisoned by the wyrm's breath, but the former perished with a single bite from the beast before Errol's blade put it down. He severed its head and returned to camp, sleeping off the fiercest edge of the poison through the rest of the night and claiming his trophy, despite Elegy's later demands that she'd done most of the work in the battle.
During the trek back the final leg of the trip to Oleg's the following day Errol and Elegy's feuding reached its peak, and the exchanged shouts, threats, and accusations of madness between the two caused all but two of the bandits, who later were revealed to be named Tory and Dav, to flee for their lives or sanity back into the wilds. With only their two "captives" remaining, the trio resumed their journey and arrived at Oleg's without further incident late in the evening. Weather forecast by Jaekah and Elegy predicted a light snow either late that night or the following morning, followed by several days to a week of calm, clear weather as winter wound to a close, making the following few days perfect for further exploration.
Upon arrival and explaining the state of the captive bandits to Kesten, especially noting Elegy's promise to not have them executed in exchange for their surrender, she and Errol turned over their pilfered or discovered goods and, after some further bickering, placed their orders for the scrolls needed for Errol's plan to engage the Stag Lord. Jaekah requested a greatclub from Oleg, but the merchant explained he didn't have any in stock - not the sort of thing a hunter usually desired, and they were his main clientele - but an old druid named Bokken who lives a short distance east into the plains might be able to help. Jaekah thanked him for the advice and planned to inform Elegy and Errol of this information come morning, especially when Oleg told him Bokken was capable of making potions if the party might be interested in purchasing any.
After settling their accounts, the group all dispersed and went to their rest for the evening. Errol found himself caught up in an all-consuming dream that night - he, drenched in blood, at the front of an enormous charging army of men and beast alike, rushing toward an enemy force silhouetted against the rising sun, though he never saw the face of his enemy. Upon waking, he found himself now in possession of a strange longsword - one that either looked ebon black or blood red depending on the turn of the blade and the angle of the light.
Next time: So many places to go, so many people to see...
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Errol woke from his dream the following morning and rose quickly, just in time to notice the Tatzlwyrm head he'd sold to Oleg the night before had been mounted over the door of the main trading post building. Elegy and Jaekah were up shortly after, and after a short discussion with Tory and Dav the "repentant bandits" Jaekah and Errol departed the trading post for the normal morning routine of hunting. Meanwhile Elegy took note of the wanted posters and inquired of Captain Garess regarding the reward for Falgrim Sneeg, then made arrangements with Mikmek to return to the moon radish patch and pick some up for Svetlana, offering to split her reward with the kobold (and his tribe) as payment for the vegetables.
Errol and Jaekah decided to head west, the only direction they had yet to explore, and reached the edge of the forested region before discovering some rabbits fleeing out from a bush; Jaekah's initial assault on their potential prey missed, and secondary pursuits were interrupted by the sound of a shriek and roar from within the shrubbery. Without waiting to see what exactly was making the noise, Errol charged with blade drawn, being urged on by a subconscious voice in his mind, only to slip on a splotch of grease left in his wake. Both turned to see the rabbits were now giggling at them, before bolting off in three different directions. Errol traced their tracks, noting that only two of the three had left trails at all, and one's was insect-like while the other left prints from clawed feet with three toes. He followed this last back into the foliage; when verbal threats failed to bring out his tormentor, he lit the bush aflame. This failed to produce a rabbit, but did call forth a long smoky tendril or tentacle topped with an eye when Errol rolled through his polyglot trying to find something that would provoke a reaction. It didn't respond further to conversation though, and when Jaekah jabbed it with the blunt end of his spear, the illusion exploded into glitterdust, temporarily blinding the centaur and drenching them both in sparkly dust. Frustrated after determining they were being pranked by either a spellcaster with illusion specialty or a trickster fey or fiend, they moved on, Errol setting the snow-soaked bushes aflame when he could (and Jaekah leaving them be, figuring they wouldn't burn long or spread far in the cool, wet weather) until they stumbled onto a pair of young boar. Errol killed one of the pair and the other fled while the two hunters headed back to Oleg's.
Meanwhile Elegy took Tory and Dav aside again, this time inquiring of them about how to access the Stag Lord's fort and any further information; Tory revealed the password to enter, as well as relaying the warning to always enter the outpost by the main portcullis gate rather than any other method. Errol and Jaekah returned shortly after, and while Jaekah skinned and prepared the morning's kill, Errol returned to his room to have a bit of a heart-to-heart with his sword, which called itself Red Right Hand. The sword, a bloodthirsty battle-hungry devotee of Ares, demanded little more than near-constant exultation of battle, and encouraged Errol at several points to seek out bloodshed wherever he could. Elegy, suspicious, spied on Errol during the conversation, only getting his half of the discussion (since "Red"'s half was telepathic); however, Errol spotted her after completing his discussion and heading back out into the trading post courtyard. She played dumb when confronted, which only fueled Errol's frustration; further confusion between her refusal to acknowledge the sword as sentient and accusing Errol of talking to himself and Jaekah mistaking "Red" as Errol talking to the centaur's red scarf led to the inevitable explosion when the group departed for the day, headed eastward to continue their explorations of the Greenbelt while waiting for Elegy's requests to return from Olorunium.
Errol, prompted by his dream to now consider himself vying for the rulership position in the group's eventual domain instead of Elegy and egged into confrontation by the sword, began to challenge the oracle's plans and commands more directly; Elegy, unused to being so challenged, responded with curt insults and stronger commands, leading to an escalation of hostilities which only further angered Jaekah, who was starting to become quite tired of the other two's constant bickering. An explosive argument not far outside Oleg's nearly broke the party apart, but they managed to keep their shaky companionship and continue on, though Elegy became silent and sulky while the two men continued their debate in more subdued tones.
The strife was interrupted not long after by another chance encounter with Rannulf, the packlord Worg. He approached the party and inquired of their plans, and offered his advice on the conflict between Errol and Elegy for the alpha position; Elegy then took the old wolf aside and, trusting in his wisdom, made a few further inquiries about the region, his pack, and the potential for their aid in the ensuing attack on the Stag Lord as an enemy of them both. Rannulf was at first hesitant, unwilling to risk his pack in a direct assault, but convinced Elegy to expand on their earlier bargain of non-aggression: the wily Worg demanded the lands from the spiders' dens a couple hours to the south all the way to the Old Sycamore be exclusively reserved for his packs' territory, barred from human colonization, and that the spiders be eliminated before he would promise more direct assistance to the party. Elegy agreed, then inquired to the packlord as to one of her fears of the region - werewolves, or what Rannulf called the moontouched, which had been spotted in the area from time to time, as the Stolen Lands are a wild region that calls to the hunt. Rannulf informed her that he tended to excise lycanthropes he discovered in his packs, finding them troublesome and difficult to control, and prone to vying for alpha against him due to their oft-superior strength and resilience. He also informed her that wolfsbane grew in the marshes along the lakeside to the distant south just beyond the rivers, and that anyone infected by the moontouched's venom could neutralize it with the poison from the plant.
Meanwhile Errol and Jaekah continued discussion after the old wolf and their (for the time) leader departed, which eventually drifted into the realm of Errol asking why Jaekah followed Elegy so devotedly; he at first explained how she'd rescued him from the realm of FaeReie but after simply devolved into his respect and admiration for her, which Errol ribbed on him being a bit more involved than that. Despite urgings from his sword to seek a fight with the Worg or the centaur, Errol managed a small epiphany, realizing that he did not need to be the visible leader of the group - and thus a greater target, as well as further removed from the engagements he enjoyed - to have the influence and power he desired, and withdrew his earlier demands to be the ruler of the group's impending kingdom. (As I was mostly dealing with Elegy at the time, I missed a good portion of this; Errol's player can expand on it if he so desires.)
When Elegy and Rannulf parted ways, the old Worg heading southwest back toward his packs, the oracle informed the party of his request to handle the spider dens, and the group thus adjusted their trajectory southward toward this new challenge.
Next session: Spider den, spider den....
The group, after some short debate, decided to continue heading east to Bokken's hut before heading south to deal with the spiders as per Rannulf's request. The journey was for the most part uneventful, and by midmorning they had arrived at a ramshackle, dirt-walled, thatched-roof cottage out in the middle of nowhere. Upon approach they noticed several clusters of non-native or obviously-cultivated plantlife amidst the wild grasses and weeds of the Stolen Lands, signs that the resident of the property had at least attempted some gardening work of his own. Said resident was currently crouched in front of his home, inspecting a reddish flower growing up through the late-winter grasses all on its lonesome. Dressed in an unfamiliar style of robe and lacking pants (though thankfully for the party, approaching him from behind, he did have on a pair of short trousers beneath his gi) and with a wooden sword hanging from his sash-belt, the pudgy, balding, bearded old man was quite an odd sight, all the more when they inquired as to what he was doing and he revealed he was trying to discern whether the flower in front of him was a blood-lily, an herbal remedy renown for its sedative and relaxant properties and often administered brewed in teas, or a bloodroot, an extremely toxic plant. Luckily for him, Elegy was able to discern for him that it was indeed the former, and the amused old man - after momentarily forgetting that these intruders had just aided him and demanding to know who they were and why they were here - introduced himself as Bokken and after some discussion welcomed them into his home. When Jaekah observed he might not be able to fit in the entrance, Bokken eagerly stone shaped the nearest wall to create a gap where the centaur could fit, then closed it behind the party once they were all inside.
Bokken - who, the party later discerned, was from the Senkaku Islands across the ocean to the distant east, beyond Olorunium and even Galadae to the distant coast of the continent - was cooking stew and brewing tea as the party made themselves comfortable in the wide but spartan space within his home. Errol, predictably, went poking about as soon as the old man turned his back, as Jaekah was quick to bring up that Oleg had recommended he ask the druid about acquiring a greatclub; Errol was able to identify several of the potions Bokken had set out on the shelves, but Elegy and Jaekah spotted him before he could pocket any. In his attempts to appear innocent, he moved too near the rear of the hut, where Bokken's animal companion - a horse-sized monitor lizard - rose from its slumber in the shadows and growled at the half-elf, startling him into moving back toward the group.
Bokken eventually managed to find a greatclub in the pile of debris and collected junk in another corner of his hut. The masterwork weapon was covered in carvings, which Elegy was able to discern many matched the carvings on the monolith in the forest - and thus were likely Druidic - while the others were the language of the Lupin wolf-folk of the Olori plainslands, a tribal race of barbarians and shamans that had dwelt within the barony's borders for ages but had never been brought to heel nor acknowledged the authority of the nobility, a fact that Elegy couldn't resist turning up her nose to. Bokken initially demanded 500 gold for the weapon, which he claimed to have acquired from an abandoned Lupin village while passing through the territory of the Nomenn tribe of the plains to the east, but after haggling with the Oracle and Jaekah for several minutes they managed to talk him down to 300, which the centaur paid eagerly for his new weapon. Bokken then informed the party of his desire for fangberries for his potions, and offered them a reduced price - presumably initial haggling price, but with the eccentric old man it was difficult to tell - for a month should they acquire some for his stores. He reopened the wall for Jaekah when the group made their farewells, and was last seen eagerly chattering away to his silent, probably sleeping lizard companion when they departed.
That task complete, the group headed southwest back into the plains to see to Rannulf's errand. It was mid-afternoon by the time they managed to stumble onto something, as Jaekah spotted something peeking out from a misshapen dome in the earth and hurled a javelin at it. The injured spider within immediately charged, and though it managed to badly poison Errol - an illness quickly rectified by Jaekah, but not before the magus's strength had been sorely sapped - it was slain by the party in short order. Jaekah squeezing through in the lead, the group descended into the corridors below, encountering and slaying yet another spider - this time with severely less injury - before at last emerging into a much wider underground cavern.
There, the group found the web-strewn chamber was home to not only two more monstrous spiders but also a Drider - a shapeshifting, innately-sorcerous creature, the result of a monstrous spider who had lived long enough to develop magical talent and advance first through its Aranea life-stage before reaching this final form perhaps as much as five hundred years later. The Drider demanded to know the reason for the incursion, and was able to swiftly deduce from the party's evasive answers that Rannulf had sent them; enmity between the two appeared obvious, and the Drider was very firm in her claim that these lands had been those of her and her spiders to hunt long before the wolves had come, and she only wished to be left alone; she expressed great disdain when the party's agreement to Rannulf's aid with the Stag Lord was mentioned, agreeing with the Worg that the bandits and their "king" were unwanted trouble in the Stolen Lands and offering her magic to the party's assistance in their assault, attempting to beat Rannulf's offer and elicit the party to agree to her claims of territory over his. Elegy convinced the spider-woman not to attack and she held her bestial companions at bay until the party chose to withdraw, Elegy wanting to speak with Rannulf again before choosing a course of action.
The party decided to investigate more of the tunnels before fully departing though, and Errol used a grease spell on Jaekah to help the centaur maneuver through the corridors. In one chamber they stumbled upon a swarm of tiny spiders that immediately attacked the centaur, but Elegy was able to drive them off with the aid of her Air Elemental, then decided a full retreat was in order, as the party was ill-equipped to handle swarms and she couldn't summon another elemental that day.
Outside, Elegy recommended that they keep an eye out and hope they spot Rannulf while heading south to check out the reports the bandits had given them of a "haunted bridge" and to scout out the area around the Stag Lord's keep. They spent the rest of the day heading south, and while they did come across a small group of wolves that might have been part of Rannulf's packs, the unintelligent animals were of little aid in getting them in touch with the wily old Worg without the use of speak with animals, since no one had purchased the potion from Bokken after Errol had identified it. They moved on and traveled until nightfall, then stopped to make camp. Errol, restless and denied space in Elegy's one-person tent, decided to go hunting in the late evening dusk; Jaekah and Elegy followed shortly after, unwilling to let the magus wander off on his own.
What they found not far off was a battle, several wolves surrounding a much hardier creature that was quickly discerned to be not a wolf but a werewolf! The party moved to engage, and the lycanthrope - after killing one of the five attacking wolves - moved to meet their charge, lunging at Jaekah as soon as the centaur was in range, then Errol when the magus moved to aid. Though it landed several blows with its sword, the shapeshifter never managed to sink its venomous fangs into anyone in the party; nevertheless Elegy, who had an immense phobia of lycanthropy, was so shaken as to be all but useless in the battle, her few eldritch bolts flying wide off-course. Thanks to a lucky grab and trip by one of the wolves and Jaekah's rage, though, the hardy and damage-resistant werewolf was eventually put down and crushed beneath a furious flurry of greatclub blows and stomping hooves.
Shaken and unnerved, Elegy stood motionless, muttering repetitively, for several minutes after the battle before collapsing into a shuddering, sobbing wreck. The wolves surrounded the group protectively, a gesture of appreciation often shown toward a wounded Alpha, while Errol and Jaekah made camp for the night.
Next time: Nettles' Crossing.
After resting the night, the group resumed their trek south. The journey was uneventful until mid-afternoon, when Jaekah and Errol noted they were being followed by a small pack of wolves led by Rannulf yet again. The Worg had chosen to pursue them after hearing word of their defeat of the werewolf, and wished to offer his thanks as well as inquire as to the party dealing with the spider den. Elegy revealed their conversation with the Drider, her demands, and the complexities of facing a caster of her power. Rannulf, after some discussion, agreed to a truce meeting to discuss arrangements with her, so long as the meeting would be arranged where he would not have to go below-ground into the spiders' lair. Elegy agreed to take his word to the spiders on their way back to Oleg's.
Heading further south, the group passed an odd-looking lone tree out in the plains; closer examination revealed that it had gained its dark hue by repeated lightning strikes, and when Jaekah and Errol approached it they found a recently-dug up and re-buried plot on the far side. Errol attempted to dig it up but after receiving no aid from the rest of the party and having little luck using Red Right Hand as a makeshift shovel, he opted to commit the location to memory and return later with better equipment, and rejoined the party in heading south. The group camped a few hours later, and Errol spotted a small group of elk not far off; he and Jaekah swiftly attacked and killed a trio of the herbivores with minimal harm, then the centaur skinned and treated the hides overnight and prepared the meat for use or transport while the other two slept.
Midday the next day they arrived at Nettles' Crossing, a ruin of a bridge overgrown with vegetation and rust. The group debated for a short time before Errol rang the bell, summoning Davik Nettles' undead form from within the river. The undead creature approached the party and informed them of his desire to see the Stag Lord slain, or to have him dumped alive into his river for Nettles to kill himself. Elegy agreed to the demand and Nettles returned to the water. Errol expressed some reservations about facing the Stag Lord, seeing how many enemies he'd made but yet had not been removed, but the rest of the party managed to talk him into resuming their original plan.
The group trekked the next two days back to the Drider's lair; Elegy prepared an offering to her and her spider children of some of the elk meat before descending to speak to her. The Drider, who later introduced herself as Akiniyi, was at first indifferent but eventually became more swayed when Elegy offered her a representative position in their eventual kingdom, much as she had offered Rannulf. Akiniyi at first suspected some sort of duplicity that a human would offer such to a "monster" - a claim that irritated Errol, who disliked being referred to as a human in the collective rather than as an elf (which, being not native to this continent, Akiniyi did not know what it was), and prompted a response from Jaekah that "they have one monster, what's a few more?" She agreed to their proposal and the request to meet with Rannulf to discuss the issue of the territory, at the cost of a single demand - that the Stag Lord's fortress be given to her and her children after his defeat. The party, with some reluctance on Errol's part due to the presumed treasures and lore hidden in the former temple, agreed to the demand and exited the warren.
Heading back toward Oleg's, the group encountered another small pack of wolves; like the last they'd met without Rannulf, attempts to communicate with this group did not go over well, and the party decided to detour to Bokken's to purchase a potion of speak with animals. Upon arriving at the druid's hermitage, the old man at first failed to recognize the party until he spotted Jaekah, then invited them in to share his tea and meat-and-radish stew. The group spent the night there, and purchased the potion they'd come for - Elegy and Bokken again began their bartering back and forth, but Errol tired of the dance and offered the old hermit 200 gold for the single potion, mostly just to shut them both up. Jaekah remained outside the entire time, though Bokken did come out to bring him tea and soup.
After a long night of snoring druid, the group departed in the morning bound back for Oleg's. The trip back was calm, other than spotting a large group of troll tracks headed south, and determining that within four days to a week some rough weather - probably not a snowstorm, as winter is about over, but likely a powerful thunderstorm - would be rolling in. They arrived at Oleg's later that evening, and after Errol announced their return to all present Oleg and Kesten introduced them to Jhod Kavken, an elderly priest of Freyr who had been brought to the region by visions of an abandoned temple guarded by an angry bear. He asked the group to look into the issue if they happened to stumble across the area.
Oleg then delivered a box to Elegy containing the scrolls and materials she'd ordered, and the oracle departed for her room to begin work on the potion and magical boat token. They would be done by midday the following day... after which point the group would begin their trek south to at last engage the Stag Lord.
Next time: Special Friday Session! Against the Stag Lord!!!
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Elegy spent the night crafting the item she needed to make Errol's plan work; she spent the morning crafting the one they would need to get where they were going. Errol and Jaekah meanwhile spent the morning chatting with the folks in the fort, primarily Oleg, Mikmek, Jhod, and Kesten; Jaekah convinced Mikmek to join them for the journey south, while Errol swindled 20 gold out of Oleg for his old scimitar by claiming he'd used it to slay the Tatzlwyrm he'd mounted and that its blood had bestowed some unusual property on the weapon. Eventually Elegy emerged and informed the group what she'd been working on - a feather token of a boat, to allow them to brave the rapids and reach the Stag Lord's fortress.
She then recommended that the group divide into two groups. She needed to head back southeast, to meet with Akiniyi and Rannulf and officiate a meeting between them to secure their alliances and meet their demands; the group had however left the bandits' kegs of alcohol back at the Thorn River camp, and their presence was essential to the plan. Errol and Jaekah were dispatched southwest to retrieve the cart, while Elegy - escorted by Mikmek, at Jaekah's demand that she not travel alone - would see to the wolves and spiders.
Errol and Jaekah, taking advantage of the centaur's superior speed and endurance by having the magus ride rather than walk, reached the Thorn Camp exhausted but well at late evening. The kegs were still there, but heavily overgrown with vines which Jaekah easily removed. However, much of the earth around the camp had been scorched black by fire or lightning, and the dead bandit who had been killed by the Will-o-Wisp had been stripped to a skeleton despite it not being near long enough to have rotted naturally. Rather than investigate further, Errol suggested heavily that they move on at least a little further for the night; he had determined that whatever had done this had passed through the camp from the south headed north, so if they continued south they would be less likely to encounter it. They made their way further through the woods for a few more hours, Jaekah pulling the cart behind him like a rickshaw while Errol stood with Red Right Hand drawn watching for attacks. Luckily they encountered neither the Wisp nor another Shambler or any other hostiles, and when they reached the gully where Tuskgutter had made his lair they decided to stop for the night.
Meanwhile Elegy and Mikmek, moving much more slowly, first headed to Bokken's hut before moving south; there the Oracle purchased several healing potions before departing. By the time they reached the spider den it was already well into the evening; along the way they had encountered a small group of wolves, which Elegy had convinced to follow her since she didn't want to waste the short-lived speak with animals potion just yet. The pair and their escort found the spider warren surrounded by yet more wolves and Rannulf, who had come as per their agreement to speak with Akiniyi. Elegy greeted him as the group of wolves with her dispersed into the crowd, then she and Mikmek descended into the tunnels to retrieve the Arachne. Unlike before, Akiniyi was actually waiting on the pathway for them instead of her normal perch on the ceiling, and followed the group out without complaint to speak with Rannulf on the surface.
The discussion between them, officiated by Elegy, went a bit more smoothly than expected. Rannulf was distrustful at first, but seemed mollified when Akiniyi agreed to leave the territory if the Stag Lord's fort was ceded to the spiders; he was even more suspicious when Elegy offered him a place of power and authority and equal consideration of his wolves and her spiders to humans before the law as an enforcement of their pact, but promises of being able to enforce his own justice and submitting to punishment if she grew lax in her decisions finally swayed the wily old wolf and he agreed to the arrangement. The group, flanked by a large number of wolves, departed immediately, traveling for four or five more hours into the night, encountering nothing more than a few wild animals and a single Troll who decided food would be better found elsewhere. They stopped for the night in the plains, then rose at the rise of dawn and continued their march south.
The group met at Nettles' Crossing as per their agreement, though Jaekah and Errol had passed a more convenient ford further west at a fork in the river. There they recommended that the group travel back west about a half mile to get past the rough rapids and rocky waters near Nettles' before dispatching the boat. The vessel was more than large enough to accommodate two humanoids, one Worg, several wolves, a Centaur, an Arachne, and a cart full of alcohol, and Jaekah and Elegy despite being untrained were able to keep the boat upright and on course for the next few hours as it hurtled down the Shrike River into the Tuskwater Lake.
There Rannulf dispatched his wolves in small groups every thirty minutes or so, bound in different directions along the path so they could stand watch and dissuade approaching bandits from getting too near and adding reinforcements to their headquarters. Meanwhile Errol revealed the details of his plan to the group - near nightfall he and Elegy would approach the fort with the wagon, with Mikmek hidden inside the empty barrel that the River Camp bandits already drank, and try to convince the bandits that he was one of theirs, using one of the Stag Lord pins as proof. Once inside he would have the wagon and Elegy delivered to the Stag Lord (by having her impersonate a captive to be given to him as "entertainment", which he was very careful not to mention to Jaekah) and then would use dancing lights to send a signal to Jaekah, Akiniyi, and Rannulf to charge up the open path and attack. Akiniyi offered to make herself and Jaekah invisible for the attack, while Rannulf was fine with just sneaking up using his own natural stealth to blend into the dusk. After about five hours of waiting, just before sunset, Errol made his move. Along the way up Elegy coached him repeatedly in the password Dav and Tory had given her, to make sure he got it absolutely right.
Ayles, the watchtower guard, traded words with the magus and, convinced of his authenticity, allowed him in. After he announced his presence, one of the bandits - a swarthy, slimy, heavily-tattooed fellow in leather known as Dovan from Haven - approached and started to give the wagon and Elegy (mainly Elegy) a heavy look-over; he even stopped to scold the other bandits on being more interested in the booze than the whore, and expressed annoyance and disappointment that she would be going to the Stag Lord first. Before he could do much more he was waved off by an older bandit named Akiros, who gave the wagon a cursory examination - and luckily didn't notice Mikmek's barrel had no liquor in it - then led the decoy group through the base toward the Stag Lord's room.
The Bandit King was roused from his stupor and presented with the offering, which he took eagerly and had Akiros pay Errol somewhat handsomely for, then took the alcohol and Elegy into his chambers. He spotted Elegy clutching the elixir of love and, mistaking it for wine, downed the entire bottle. Immediately stricken with his new captive, he began removing his armor right there on the spot; Elegy took this advantageous moment to slash at him with her dagger. The strike went deep, but Elegy dropped her weapon in her haste, and the Stag Lord's sudden bellow of pain was enough to dispel the fog the elixir had set in his mind.
Meanwhile Errol had asked Akiros where he might find some information on the temple that the ruins used to be; Akiros claimed he was too new to the fort to know much about its history, and recommended he speak to someone named Silent, who was usually found up on the roof. When Errol scaled his way up to the top of the fort, he found a hooded woman leaning against the wall and an enormous man sitting on a pile of hay playing with some toys. He attempted to speak with the woman, and quickly learned why she was called Silent. Their "discussion" was interrupted when another nearby bandit, Jex the Snitch, shouted down at them from a watchtower and chided them for "bein' suspicious" and said he had his eye on them. Before they could do much more, the Stag Lord's roar alerted the entire lair that something was going on; the enormous lummox, Auchs, snatched up his club and leaped off the roof to join the fight, while Errol activated the signal, calling their three monstrous allies into the fray.
Elegy and Mikmek, who sprang out of his hiding place in the cart to attack, held off the Stag Lord for a while, the Oracle managing first to set him ablaze then when dumping a keg of alcohol on him to fuel the fire inadvertently summoning a helpful Fire Elemental, while a lucky strike from Mikmek's sickle lopped off one of the bandit leader's hands, preventing him from making use of his deadly bow. Maimed, immolated, and hung-over, the bandit lord managed to hurl his longsword and deal a pretty grievous wound to Elegy before being utterly overwhelmed, doubly so when Akiros came to investigate the noise, found the Stag Lord under attack, and decided to interpose himself between Elegy and his former leader and fight for the side of the intruders.
Meanwhile the bandits, save a few up on the battlements, had rushed to see what the source of the noise was; as soon as they all had exited the room, Dovan leisurely opened the inner portcullis, releasing "Beaky" the owlbear they had kept there. Once free the monstrous creature charged at the nearest target, badly mauling a bandit known as Fat Norry with its hooked beak. The bandits chose wisely not to face the monster, fleeing up onto the battlements, where they were turned back by the wanted man, Falgrim Sneeg, and accused of being cowards. Meanwhile, Beaky chose not to chase and instead cornered the group fighting the Stag Lord, and tore viciously into Elegy as the nearest possible prey it saw.
Jaekah and Rannulf, with Akiniyi invisible and close behind, found themselves locked out by the lowered portcullis; while the Arachne climbed over, Jaekah goaded the passing Auchs to open the gate to let in the "horsey". Errol descended from the ramps only to run straight into Dovan, who he'd been hoping to duel; before blows could be traded though Akiniyi nailed the foreigner in the chest with an arrow, badly winding him. Ayles, the watchman, approached to attack as Dovan retreated, but when Errol explained that he really really wanted to kill Dovan and wasn't all that interested in Ayles the man decided "better him than me" and allowed the half-elf to pursue unscathed. He and Rannulf gave chase, though not before Errol chided Auchs for attacking Akiniyi, who then wrapped him in webbing and left him stuck to a nearby wall. Dovan, attempting to flee, rounded a corner only to find himself face-to-face with the spider woman; his stunned delay allowed Errol to hit him in the back with a scorching ray and for Rannulf to lunge between a crack in two walls and take a bite out of him.
Mikmek eventually helped Elegy wriggle free of the Owlbear's claws after it nearly killed her with a furious flurry of attacks that grappled her painfully close; once free the Oracle stepped aside to let Akiros and Jaekah, with a little help from Mikmek's magic missile wand and Elegy's Fire Elemental, beat the beast into submission. The crowd of bandits, egged back down by Sneeg, broke again upon sight of the raging centaur bludgeoning the owlbear senseless, and their morale shattered at last the mob attempted to flee the fort, only like Dovan to find their path blocked by Akiniyi. The sorceress waved a hand, creating a pit beneath the crowd of bandits, which only elderly Father Avery and Fat Norry managed to leap away from in time; the other six plummeted the thirty feet to the bottom of the pit, and died on impact. Both survivors immediately dropped their weapons and surrendered.
Dovan, however, decided he was done here and attempted to flee into the wilderness. He made it as far as the gate, dodging past Errol and Akiniyi and leaping over the edge of the pit, before being charged by Rannulf and torn open by the Worg's furious jaws. Auchs managed to break free of his bindings, but at Errol's admonition that the fight was over the brute, disappointed that he'd missed out on the fun, trudged back up the stairs to his toys.
While Elegy put out the fires with a summoned Water Elemental then scavenged the Stag Lord's belongings - including the odd skull helm and a glass ring filled with green filaments and bearing some sort of etched symbol or text, she couldn't tell in the poor lighting - Errol and Akiros went to examine a trapdoor the magus had seen while pursuing Dovan. Akiros informed Errol it led down into the storerooms, where the "mad old man" lived. Though the strange elderly figure didn't answer Akiros's demands for his presence, Errol did spot him clinging to the ceiling just before he began launching acid bolts and sent his dire rat companions to attack. The vermin were swiftly removed by Akiros, and Errol traded bowshot with the old druid for several volleys before Akiros simply walked up and yanked the man off the ceiling. Between the two of their blades, he was swiftly executed.
With four surviving bandits - Fat Norry, Father Avery, Ayles, and Silent Valkeri - plus the turncoat Akiros, the group has rallied a rather crushing victory against the Stag Lord and, perhaps most of all, secured themselves as the rightful claimants of the Stolen Lands. All that stands between them and the official founding of their kingdom is a more thorough exploration of their territory; though they have mapped its eastern half - the plains and hills of the Kamelands - rather thoroughly, they have done little exploration beyond the eastern edges of its western half, the woods and swamps of the Narlmarches.
Next time: Bandit loot, Akiros's tales, and the triumphant return to Oleg's!
The group scattered across the Stag Lord's Fort, packing up what food and equipment was worth taking as well as all the remaining loot, tossing out the two empty beer kegs and using the spare space in the cart as carry space. Jaekah also dragged Beaky's corpse along, using a large piece of hide as a cart, intent on turning the owlbear into a suitable cloak. Elegy spent most of the remaining time cleaning up loose ends, conversing with the group's allies, or getting information from the bandits who had turned or surrendered. The group had Akiniyi bind Sneeg in webbing so that once he woke he wouldn't break free and couldn't escape, allowing him to be transported back to Oleg's with little difficulty.
Errol finally got around to requesting of Silent to tell him a bit about the ruins; she led him back up onto the roof and showed him a set of carvings on the upper walls, which he could only identify half as being associated with Witches' Hexes. He called Elegy up, and she was able to identify the rest as being emblems used in the worship of Hecate, goddess of witchcraft, dark magic, and hags, though at the time she only shared this information with Errol in a riddle. At the mention of foul magic, Valkeri emphatically led the group back to the back wall of the fort, only pausing to search out and have Auchs retrieve Dovan's corpse (which Errol had set on fire at the gate after looting), and tossed the swordsman over the palisade; he landed on the hillside below, and was swiftly attacked by zombies that burst out of the ground, revealing why the party had been recommended to only take the path when approaching the keep.
Using river-poles fashioned by pulling branches off trees on the hillside, the group slowly made their way back up the Shrike River, leaving behind Akiniyi, who had already begun preparing the keep for the arrival of her brood, and Rannulf, who elected to return to his plains by land with his packmates after giving some parting words of "encouragement" to Elegy and Errol; the Oracle had asked him how to repay for his assistance, and beyond their initial agreement the Worg admitted he wasn't really sure what to request, and trusted Elegy to come up with something appropriate on her own. Jaekah, exhausted from the battle, contributed little to the rowing as did Mikmek due to his size and meager strength, but the addition of Akiros, Auchs, Silent Valkeri, Fat Norry, and Father Avery to the rowing team made up for the loss of the centaur's strength and Akiniyi's earlier assistance, and though slower they managed to make it to the smooth waters just downriver from Nettles' Crossing by midnight.
Jaekah dragged the Stag Lord's corpse with Beaky's and the rest of their treasures in the cart being dragged by Auchs instead as they marched the last half-mile, then after arriving Errol rang the bell and woke the ghastly bridgekeeper from his aquatic slumber, causing the ex-bandits to panic and scatter slightly before Elegy could calm them; at least this time, none fled into the wilderness. Nettles was quite disturbingly pleased to see the dead Stag Lord; he impaled the former bandit king through the chest with his ranseur, then pulled the body up and over the weapon, leaving it jabbed in the ground while he carried the corpse into the water and bid the party farewell. The exhausted travelers then attempted to make camp, but the entire group of bandits save Akiros refused to sleep near the river, fearing Nettles would rise again and attack while their guard was down; the group ended up marching a half hour north before finally calling it a night. Elegy and Akiros stayed up talking for a short bit while on first watch, and Errol and Valkeri took second, likewise sharing a similar few moments of "conversation", with the mute girl writing in the dirt with a dagger when the answers weren't simply yes or no. The next morning they found themselves not far from the burned tree Errol had spotted; he ordered Auchs, who had a giant-sized shovel in his "bag o' stuff", to dig it up, and found a small cache of hidden treasure including a masterwork dagger, a silver ring, and a mostly-ruined spellbook with a few useful pages still preserved.
The next three days were mostly uneventful; the group had determined that it would be four days, give or take, before the storm they'd spotted while heading south would strike, and the large size of the group warded off all predators, so that even a stray wolf pack or lone troll or owlbear was not seen the entire time... save the last day, when the group spotted what appeared to be a thunderstorm cloud moving slowly along the ground in the distance. Closer examination - from a safe distance - revealed it to be none other than a Shambling Mound spitting sparks and being orbited by a Will-o-Wisp! The group, bandits and all, fled as fast as their legs could carry them; Jaekah was outpacing the entirety of the group despite the weight of Beaky's corpse and bound-and-noisy Falgrim Sneeg slowing him down. They managed to evade the thing and its much slower movement in time, but the incident left them with no small amount of panic.
By midday on the third day they arrived back at Oleg's, where they found Kesten had put Tory and Dav to work as members of his militia crew; the group was eagerly and enthusiastically welcomed back, and tales - in some cases exaggerated by Errol - were told of the events of the Stag Lord's Keep. Elegy was swift to point out to the guards that the five bandits in their company had surrendered and were to be spared so long as they behaved; she also turned Sneeg over to Kesten, who tossed the spiderweb-bound deserter into a tent to be dealt with later; Jaekah later came in and tied him up with rope, figuring the Driderwebs wouldn't last more than a day longer.
Errol eventually retired to his room and spent the evening scribing the spells from the book found in the hidden cache into his own; Elegy and Svetlana went over the cart full of supplies and appraised the lot, allowing the oracle to discern that while Oleg might be the respected face of the business it was Svetlana who handled all the monetary and mathematical parts of the operation. Jaekah spent most of the day finishing his work on Beaky, turning the majority of the owlbear's pelt into a feathered fur cloak that covered the centaur's entire body and carving up the remains for meat or supplies. He also purchased a chalkboard from Oleg along with several sticks of chalk, and presented them to Silent Valkeri.
Next time: Resuming exploration. We've still got half the Greenbelt untouched.
After a day of recuperating at Oleg's, Elegy prodded her companions into rising and resuming their task of exploring and taming the Greenbelt as per their charter's instructions. The group invited anyone interested in the growing crowd to accompany them, but none of the former bandits - save Auchs, who got a bit overexcited then fell out of his chair, and decided it was a better time to sleep than go exploring - expressed any willingness to leave the comforts of the trading post, even despite Oleg's growing frustration with the crowd and declaration that as soon as winter broke he'd be sending the lot of ex-brigands to go fetch their own lumber and build residences instead of crowding up his waystation and stables.
Intending to map out the forest, the group headed west, traveling for a day into the wilderness before reaching the northern end of the Narlmarches (and bickering between Elegy and Errol the entire way) then making camp for the evening. Errol, intending to blow off steam, departed into the woods to hunt for some dinner and sate Red Right Hand's constant demands for bloodshed. What he found was not prey but rather pranks, as not ten minutes into the woods someone dropped a plant sac filled with honey onto his head. Irritated, Errol demanded the group assist him in hunting down whatever had done this; Jaekah did give some assistance, trying to knock things out of the trees by bucking at the trunks, but this elicited little more than knocking out sticks and leaves, many of which caught in the sticky net of Errol's hair. As the magus delivered threats and insults into the evening air, something answered by dropping a glob of sticky, smelly green goop onto his face, at which point he decided to call it a night. Too irritated to sleep Errol took first watch.
A few hours later he spotted something moving Elegy's tent flap; going to inspect he noticed someone had drawn a mustache and goatee on her with ash from the campfire. Amused, he attempted to spot the infiltrator and noticed under magical sight a shapeless blob moving rapidly through the air, and gave chase. The thing fled into the trees, prompting Errol to climb after it and slash at any movement he spotted with his sword, and even at one point tried to hit the shapeless thing with a scorching ray that went far wide and set a tree aflame instead. By this point Elegy had been roused by his shouting, and quickly woke Jaekah before going to investigate... and finding the magus hanging from a tree branch, yelling insults at an unseen enemy, and demanding that the pair aid him in burning the forest to the ground. The other two eventually convinced him to come back to the camp after Elegy summoned her elemental to put out the flames, and Elegy ended up taking over the remains of his watch shift as Errol just collapsed to sleep when he came back. On the way there Elegy nearly slipped in a patch of grease that hadn't been there before, leading Errol to dub their attacker(s) "The Greaser".
Come morning they packed up and resumed the journey, now heading directly south through the woods. A few hours later Jaekah spotted a trapper's noose sticking out of a bush; after he failed to damage it with his sword, Errol identified it as a rope trick set up to trap and pull anyone unfortunate enough to step into the noose into the interdimensional space hidden in the brush. Shortly after, a boar piglet burst out of some nearby shrubbery and ran hectic circles around the group; Jaekah attempted to catch it only to discover someone had, predictably, greased the piglet before sending it out. Elegy was able to calm the creature with some effort, then left it to rooting about in the bushes... where Errol moments later snuck up and killed it, then offered the corpse to Jaekah, who munched on it for the rest of the day.
Shortly after noon the group reached a crossing of the Thorn River, a pair of logs some hunters had laid side-by-side across the narrow but surprisingly deep stream. Jaekah decided to simply walk across, though this became swim after he discovered just how deep it was when the shore suddenly disappeared beneath his hooves, while Elegy and Errol used the bridge. As they crossed, the two bipeds noted someone in the trees above using ray of frost to write "HI" in the water; nothing answered their replies, however. The group quickly discerned they had become targets for fey pranksters, and Elegy left out an offering of her trail rations to help appease them. The group followed the river eastward for a short time, then set out to the south again.
Later that afternoon, after an otherwise-uneventful day, the group stumbled into a large open clearing in front of an enormous boulder with its inner core carved out in the shape of a stag's head. In the middle of the courtyard was a stagnant, algae-ridden pool of water, nearly fifty feet long. The group didn't have long to look around, though, as their arrival had roused an angry and enormous Dire Bear from its slumber, and the feral beast was quick to charge. It inflicted heavy damage on Elegy's Earth Elemental and nearly killed Jaekah in its rampage, but the group managed to put the beast down, at which point it suddenly transformed into an ancient, decrepit old man, then crumbled to dust.
As the group went inside the abandoned temple to investigate, a local noted their presence. Lilith, a long-time reclusive resident of the Narlmarches and "friend" of the fey pranksters currently plaguing the party, had heard the roar of the Dire Bear near the abandoned temple, and after discerning that it was not simply attacking some wild animal or unlucky trapper who had stumbled into its domain decided to go investigate. By the time she arrived the bear was gone, the intruders were inside and making plenty of noise, and the temple grounds had undergone a sudden renovation, the death of the bear somehow breathing vibrant life into the area and cleansing the pool of its stagnation. Wary, the hunter chose not to approach, instead climbing a tree for a better view; there she found one of her three wyldfae acquaintances, the grig Tyg-Titter-Tut, perched on a branch and watching the scene as well. Tyg explained that the "bigginses" had dealt with the angry bear while Lilith listened in on what she could capture of the discussion within the cavern; though she wasn't able to identify specific words, she was able to tell there were two men and a woman inside, as the group made no attempts to hide or quiet their presence.
Inside the temple the trio found the walls covered in carvings and scripts in Druidic and Sylvan, most of the latter marking the place as a sacred shrine to Freyr and noting the details of a failed attempt by Galadae to colonize the Stolen Lands several centuries prior, mentioning warring between rival fey groups, troll assaults, bands of monstrous humanoids, and the feral nature of the land being untamable. Only the very last portion was written in Common - alongside a drawing of a bear with Freyr's symbol etched on it was a plea to "any who would answer the call to face the wilds". Unable to discern more, the group headed out into the courtyard, where Elegy determined the pool now had healing and holy properties, a fact which Lilith overheard and reacted unfavorably to. Bickering soon again broke out between Elegy and Errol, and coupled with Tyg's running commentary Lilith could not hold her silence forever, and her laughter alerted the group to her presence.
Errol and Jaekah approached the source of the noise, though they couldn't spot the stealthy woman amidst all the trees, and demanded she show and identify herself; Lilith, in turn, displayed a strong streak of stubborn independence and near misandry and refused to obey the commands of strangers, and laughed in the face of Errol's claims that they'd been granted control of the land. Eventually Elegy - delayed by another of the fey tricksters tying her boots together with a loop of leather - tired of the back and forth and strode into the woods alone while the two men argued, and found Lilith having already climbed down from a tree with Tyg nearby. The two women introduced themselves and the little grig, and had a short discussion regarding the group's charter, the region's people and wildlife - particularly Tuskgutter, who Lilith was somewhat surprised to find the group had already slain - and their plans before Errol and Jaekah eventually tired of their arguments and followed Elegy into the foliage.
After some discussion, Lilith by slip of the tongue revealed she was far older than she appeared, and at the group's request - despite a sudden chill of discomfort at the entrance - reluctantly headed into the temple to examine the details of the carvings. Unfortunately for them, these events even predated her arrival to the Stolen Lands, and she recognized none of the details in the carvings, other than being familiar with the dangers of the mundane and monstrous creatures of the land. With Tyg riding in her quiver, she prepared to head off to the north, leaving the group to head south after pointing them toward where she recalled grew a thatch of the Fangberries they had mentioned wanting; however, Tyg - and shortly after, the arrival of her friends Ledipte the sprite and Perlivash the faerie dragon - were quick to urge the reclusive, "boring" hunter to accompany the group, especially when Perlivash demanded to know if the group had been responsible for the death of a unicorn some ways to the south. The group was understandably confused about the accusations, and prompted the fey to give them directions to the site, Lilith reluctantly agreeing to go along.
Next time: More exploring the woods.
Lilith led the party south through the woods with Tyg and Ledi accompanying her ahead of the group, while Perlivash settled himself on Jaekah's head and proceeded to question him and his two companions regarding their presence in "his" woods and, later, general knowledge about their pasts. After a few hours had passed the group was stopped by Lilith, who had spotted a hunting party of Boggards slinking around in the woods. Errol opened fire by blasting the group with a spell, and the Boggards leaped to the offensive, closing the distance and clearing the rubble with ease. Though the group took some hits from the counterattack, the Boggards were taken down one by one with only Errol taking any significant damage. Elegy healed him while he and Lilith searched the bodies; Tyg and Ledi decided to "help", and eventually the group discovered a crude map. Errol and Lilith were able to decipher it despite the poor scale, and note that it marked the location of the Elk Temple, Tuskgutter's lair, and some place marked by a lizard's head. There was also a large X in its center, which Errol theorized might contain treasure. As it was en-route to the location hinted at for the dead unicorn, the group made plans to pass through along the way. A slight scent of sulfur as they neared the area of the Skunk River alerted the group that there was a hot springs at the waterway's head; the men in the party made plans to head that way during their explorations, while Elegy seemed apprehensive to the idea.
After a few more hours of travel, the quartet and their fey entourage stumbled into a small bog with a pair of ruined towers jutting out of the mire; as Jaekah and Errol neared, a pair of slurks slinked out of the larger of the towers, hissing and snapping at intruders in their "territory", stirred by Errol's refusal to quiet at Lilith's insistence after the scout had spotted something ahead in the bog. Jaekah backed away, and moments later a lone Boggard - thin and pale compared to those in the hunting party, and with a badly mangled hand - emerged from the other tower, asking for a truce. After some attempt at back and forth discussion the group was able to discern the Boggard spoke little Common; Errol however spoke a language it could understand, and much to the worry and distrust of the other two served as translator. He learned the Boggard's name was Garuum, and that he was a refugee from his tribe, having been taken captive after trying to claim the position of chief of his tribe, and smashed his hand to slip free when captured and sentenced to death. Errol informed Garuum that they would be happy to respect a truce with him, but as they were the new rightful rulers of the region they would expect some tribute; after some thought, he presented the magus with a piece of blue quartz worth about 20gp, which Errol happily accepted.
The group eventually parted ways with Garuum, but as they began to depart the Boggard asked if they were going toward the dragons at the river; intrigued, Errol inquired for more, but Garuum could only inform him that dragons nested near the river and that, since they were dragons, they might have treasure. Again, since it was - loosely - on their intended route, he made plans to pass through the suggested area and find the beasts, slay them, and take their treasures.
Provided, of course, he could persuade Elegy to go that way, preferably without having to explain why....
The crew continued south, Errol keeping quiet about his learning of dragons to be found there while assuring the group that this was the way they needed to go, advice agreed upon by their erstwhile fey "guides". Lilith once more disappeared into the trees to scout ahead, and Jaekah and Errol continued to bicker as they followed the winding river until they came to a crossing.
There, Lilith spotted movement amidst the ramshackle natural dam that had collected from driftwood, stones, rubble, and the bones of humanoids and beasts alike catching on the islands and lower tides at the crossing point. She and Elegy retreated out of sight into the brush after directing the men to a nearer crossing point where only a ten-foot gap separated the mainland beach from the central island. Jaekah made the leap easily, then pulled Errol up when the Magus's leap fell short. Errol then moved further inland to the island close to the dams to inspect them while the centaur helped Elegy across; Lilith crossed the jump with a leap no less elegant nor acrobatic than Jaekah's.
When Errol turned his back to the dams to face toward his companions, the two massive overgrown Tatzlwyrms hidden within burst free, lunging and tearing at the half-elf and forcing him to retreat; a third emerged from a nest on the opposite side of the river and shot across the southern half of the dam to join its companions in the battle. Several vicious blows, well-placed arrows, and lances of magic later the beasts were slain, one shrunken by magic and heavily skewered, and with Errol the most grievously wounded, and poisoned by the Tatzlwyrm's noxious breath once again.
As their day had been more than long and night was swiftly nearing, Elegy called the group to camp on he other side of the river. While she set up her tent, Errol went to sever the head of one of the wyrms, Jaekah pulled a corpse and its back from the dam, and Lilith searched the nest within the brush on the south side of the river and recovered for eggs from beneath the troll skull that dominated their lair. Elegy claimed the armor from the corpse and Errol tallied up the approximate value of the rest of the equipment and possessions of the dead man for sale when they returned to Oleg's, including the cold iron longsword his skeletal hand had not yet released. The most desired thing amongst his possessions, however, was a far more detailed and geographically accurate map of the Narlmarches Forest, marking several familiar locations - Oleg's, the Temple of the Elk, the rivers they had crossed, Tuskgutter's hunting territory - along with a few they did not recognize - an area of plains north of the forest marked "Danger: traps!", an area well west of there marked "Grave", and an area slightly southeast of the Temple marked "Statue". Elegy expressed an interst in looking into some of these on their return trip, as the furthest south the map managed was to this point in the Skunk River, suggesting the mapmaker had been an explorer much like they who was simply less lucky or skilled.
About an hour before dawn, while Elegy was on watch along with an unwilling-to-rest Lilith - perhaps due to simple paranoia, or perhaps due to her aggressive refusal of Elegy's offer of healing the prior nightfall - both were alerted to a sound from the southeast along the river as a very lost and very disgruntled samurai named Takeshi followed the Skunk River west in a vain attempt to make his way to the country of Shadrach, much further westward and a little south into the far reaches of the Stolen Lands. Both snuck out to confront the stranger, and Lilith, much like she had done with the rest of the group, fired an arrow at his feet to alert him that he was being watched. Takeshi, who had had much trouble with bandits in recent weeks, was immediately on guard and drew his exotic blades, expecting a fight, only to bump into Elegy as they both crept through the underbrush. She managed to eventually convince the warrior that, despite Lilith's arrow and an unseen Ledipte dumping tiny spiders on him as if on cue from the archer, they meant him no harm, and led him to the campsite where Lilith roused the other men with a whistling arrow.
Although distracted for several minutes on end by Jaekah and Errol resuming bickering almost immediately, introductions were eventually exchanged, and a somewhat guarded and reluctant Takeshi agreed to accompany the group for now, at least until he was redirected to civilization or the proper road to Shadrach. As morning dawned and Lilith, who had departed to hunt while the men squabbled, completed breakfast for the group, they made their preparations for the last leg of the journey southward to the resting place of a pure creature slain by an unknown force.
Next time: Dead unicorns and hot springs.
Led on by Perlivash, Ledipte, and Tyg-Titter-Tut, the troupe - now heavy one very lost Samurai - resumed their trek south through the thickening woods, nearing the heart or at least the depths of the ancient forest and finding themselves battling even more difficult terrain as they trudged through thick underbrush, ground littered with roots and holes, and the remains of a forest winter.
It was several hours of travel before the group reached something that captured their attentions. Upon reaching a southwestern section of the forest after following the Skunk River for several miles then crossing at a narrow strait, they found a section of the forest that was near utterly silent, devoid of any sort of animal life noise whatsoever. This put the group immediately on guard, and thus they were unsurprised to find the forest giving way to a murky, stagnant, filth-ridden bog... in the center of which floated the dead, blind, and hornless corpse of the unicorn.
Errol, Elegy, and Lilith examined the body in extreme detail after Elegy's Water Elemental retrieved it from its watery grave; the two casters very swiftly determined it had been slain by a powerful necromancy effect, which Errol identified as finger of death - a spell, much to his amazement and terror, that was beyond anything he with his dual focus on the martial and magical would ever be able to accomplish. He managed to narrow the murderer down to three potential suspects - an extremely powerful druid; a mage from one of the local regions, most likely the two charterdoms to the west, Drelev or Shadrach; or an undead lich whose lair could be anywhere. Lilith only worsened their fears by informing them that when she had been in this part of the forest mere months ago, this swampy mire hadn't been here at all - this had merely been normal forest, and this recent marring was quickly identified as a result of the unicorn's death.
While the group pondered what course of action to take next, the sound of movement and approach from the north caught Lilith and Errol's attention, and both immediately sprung to defensive actions, perhaps presuming the unicorn's killer had returned; their alert stirred the others, even drawing Jaekah and Takeshi away from their impending contest of strength, so none were caught off guard when the approaching force emerged - not a necromancer or blight druid, but rather none other than the infamous Shambling Mound and its Will-o-Wisp companion, their pursuit of the party finally tracking them into territory where fleeing would be a less likely prospect.
The party, rather than attempting escape, stood their ground against the attack. Elegy summoned two more elementals, one earth and one air, to aid as Takeshi and Errol closed the distance; she and Jaekah then moved to push the unicorn's corpse back into the depths of the water, preventing the Shambler from consuming it and perhaps being further empowered by devouring what of the creature's magic remained in its bones and flesh. Lilith, having taken her usual perch in a tree, began unleashing arrows into the thing's bulk. The Shambler stalked forward undaunted, engulfing the much-smaller Earth Elemental despite its valiant attempt to shove it back away from the humanoids, and opening the attack on Errol and Takeshi, the Wisp gleefully taking shots in its wake. For several moments the brutal exchange of attacks left the Shambler appearing barely touched while it battered at the party... until one of Lilith's arrows struck it just right.
The blow managed to strike something vital in the Shambler's form, and the resulting spasm opened up several opportunities to strike at equally vulnerable places on its body; Errol, Takeshi, and Elegy's Earth Elemental all took advantage of the chance, and sunk their blades and fists into the exposed creature, tearing viciously into its body and rendering it immobile, stunned, and heavily damaged, and freely leaking some kind of green-black ichor. The Wisp, enraged, charged Takeshi and continued the violent assault. The group turned all their attentions on the electric sphere, with Jaekah at last reaching the front line and lending his strength to the attack, but the Wisp managed to evade most of their attacks and took only minimal harm from those that managed to strike its ephemeral form. It frequently blinked out of sight and reappeared behind someone else, weathering the attacks prepared for its return and resuming the assault from a more advantageous position.
Jaekah, finally tiring of its trickery, dropped his club and did the unthinkable - the centaur reached out and grabbed hold of the Wisp, holding it still and as tightly as he could, taking its retributive pulses of electricity and demanding the rest of the party swiftly finish it off. The warriors were quick to comply, and Errol, Lilith, and Takeshi all managed several attacks on the creature before Elegy, satisfied the unicorn's corpse was in no further danger, was able to at last join the battle. Unfortunately, the Oracle's unpredictable magic warped once more upon striking the Wisp with her energy bolt, and both it and Jaekah suddenly blinked out of existence. The rest of the party responded with confusion and accusations, but readied themselves for what they assumed would be their companion's eventual return along with his captive; within less than half a minute they did just that, and an arrow to the center of the Wisp's mass from Lilith finished it at last, causing the aberration to dissolve into a fading cloud of sparks.
Elegy swiftly went around and mended the wounds of the three warriors, while Lilith remained hiding up in her tree until the healer was nearly done with her task.
Next time: The remainder of exploring. And, hopefully, the end of Chapter One: Stolen Land.
This week's normal Monday game (Tatya's thread) was cancelled as that game's GM/Elegy's player will be at a concert on Thursday, and as she's normally the host for our MapTool server playing without her is just as difficult from a technological standpoint as it is an RP one. Thus it will be a week from Thursday before this next session.
Regrouping after the battle with the electric Shambler, the group forged north, bound for the location on their map marked as "statue". It didn't take long for the forest around them and the ground beneath their feet to regain its normal sound, sense, and consistency, and within less than half an hour they were well out of the unnatural bog and strange silence surrounding the unicorn's makeshift grave. The journey northward was otherwise uneventful, but took most of the day to traverse; when at last they neared the area, they found a pair of trolls eagerly feasting on an eviscerated elk. Though the battle with the beasts was vicious, with Jaekah nearly being torn to pieces and Errol and Takeshi taking heavy beatings themselves, the aid of Errol's magic and Elegy's summoned fire elementals allowed the group to put them down, with Lilith's sniping arrows getting the killing blow on both beasts. Only a few hundred feet beyond the battlefield lay the glade the map had designated - a 100-foot wide clearing in the center of which stood a stone statue of an elk-headed man the group identified as Freyr himself. The clearing provided a shelter and a sense of peace to the travelers, and Jaekah - weary from his injuries from both battles - simply collapsed at the threshold; unable to move or rouse him, the party made camp.
Errol pulled Elegy aside for a talk not long after, expressing his worry that Takeshi and Lilith might not be truly trustworthy - to which Elegy flippantly replied that he wasn't very much so himself, yet they kept him around - and that he advised against giving them much of a say when the time came to begin ruling these lands. Elegy dismissed his fears for the moment, but once alone inside her tent decided to look into the idea in earnest, his worries triggering a wariness that Elegy would rather not admit he had. Her prophecies showed good fortunes to come, though, so she put her fears aside for the time being and set to mending the remaining wounds of the people at camp. Takeshi spent the evening meditating until his shift on night watch came; Lilith had departed for a nearby stream to bathe in, and upon returning immediately sequestered herself in a tree after being confronted by Errol who was trying to identify exactly what she was. Elegy, who didn't say anything, determined the huntress was either some kind of undead or connected to them, but kept the information to herself.
Come morning, the group set off north again, this time bound for the location marked "grave" on the map; Perlivash, Ledipte, and Tyg left them at the edge of the woods as the group emerged back out onto the plains a few hours after dawn. The journey took almost the whole day, and when they reached the location found nothing but a small mound of stones overgrown by blackberry bushes. Elegy, reluctantly, began excavating when she and Errol caught sight of something glimmering within; fifteen minutes of work between her and Errol unearthed a long-dead skeleton in rotted leather armor with a crushed skull, and the glimmering a magical green-wood ring on one hand, which she identified as a ring of swimming. Errol, aware only that it was magical, quickly snatched the object and pocketed it for later use. The group re-buried the body, then given the hour was late they camped at the gravesite for the night.
The next morning they began heading eastward, passing through the area marked "Danger: Traps!" and intending to head back to Oleg's. Their course took them back into the north tip of the woods, and around midmorning the group began spotting well-hidden bear traps scattered across the forest floor. Lilith attempted to disarm one, but misjudged the workings and got her arm caught in the trap's vicious teeth. Jaekah was easily able to wrench it back open then began disarming traps with the aid of a long branch; before Lilith could argue, Elegy moved up and cast an inflict moderate wounds on the woman, which miraculously mended the wound as well as a normal healing spell would work on anyone else, then withdrew without explanation. Lilith then turned her attention to aiding Jaekah with recovering the traps, then noticed something up ahead - under what appeared to be a fallen tree, she spotted the dead corpse of a trapped, crushed man. Closer examination allowed her to identify him as Breeg Orlivanch, an infamous trapper known for his misanthropy and callousness, with little care what caught in his traps so long as he could make some profit off it. Errol and Jaekah examined the tree, a misfired deadfall trap, and discerned that the ropes holding it in place had been preemptively severed; Lilith confiscated the man's masterwork handaxe, then noted movement in a nearby tree, where everyone except Elegy - distracted by something - caught sight of Perlivash, Ledipte, and Tyg observing the group in nervous silence.
Lilith called out accusingly the fey, focused mainly on Tyg, but it was Perlivash instead who got pushed forward to answer her inquiries; after some evasive muttering the faerie dragon admitted that he had indeed severed the ropes, but that Breeg had been completely deserving of his fate. Lilith cautioned him not to repeat the experience, as fey killing hunters would likely lead to encouragement to exterminate them from travelers. Elegy suggested that Errol and Red set to work on the corpse, and by the time the Magus was done defacing Breeg's body it was hardly recognizable from the troll-mauled elk. After reiterating her cautionary chiding to the fey and getting the agreement of all three to "let me handle the bad bigginses", Lilith led the group further east, out of the forest and across the plains to finally at long last return to the familiar walls of Oleg's Trading Post.
On arrival they could see much had changed. The returning birds had picked clean the bodies of the bandits "hung out to dry" on the post's walls; Oleg would likely be removing the skeletons within a day or so, since their lack of recognizable features (their familiar equipment had already been stripped, so their faces were all that had been left to know them by) made them less cautionary to others who would follow in their footsteps and now merely macabre. The walls were now fully stocked with watchmen, half of which consisted of Akiros, Auchs, Dav, Tory, and the other "recruited" ex-bandits. Falgrim Sneeg's holding pen seemed to be gone and the unpleasant old soldier with it. And standing in the courtyard speaking with Oleg and Kesten was an unfamiliar man dressed like a noble, with long brown hair and fine clothing.
He identified himself as Sir Ivan Brandt, a messenger from the Vanguard Lords of Olorunium who had been sent after receiving word of the group's successes against the Stag Lord and their progress in searching out the Stolen Lands. His purpose in the area was twofold - to present the group with an expanded version of their charter that allowed building and colonization to begin, and to provide his services as an advisor to the group as they began the task of ruling the wild region. After some discussion, the original three signed the new charter along with Takeshi, but Lilith - highly distrustful of the Olori - only reluctantly did so and only then (at Elegy's suggestion) under the false name of "Crazy Cora", an epithet by which she had introduced herself to Ivan, who had remarked that she had fine taste in the theatre. Ivan reclaimed the charter, which Elegy had provided the name Iomrall - "wandering" in Old Olori - for their newly-established colony, and promised that his swiftest courier would bear the paperwork back to House Alvaris first thing in the morning, and with the provided funds and resources the Vanguard had sent along with him, construction and colonization of the first and presumably capital city of Iomrall could begin as soon as the charter-holders chose a suitable location.
End of Chapter One: Stolen Land
There will now be a one- or two-week interlude of "The Last Grippli Village" (GMed by Jaekah's player) and the first phases of Kingdom Building, followed by Chapter Two: Rivers Run Red.
|King Hargulka Fire-Eater|
|2 people marked this as a favorite.|
Chapter Two: Rivers Run Red
Sending a message to man:
I am the sound of the road.
Moving with darkness to my home,
Searching for reasons to grow.
Cynical creatures of coldness -
I am the master of soul!
Burning like fuel to the hellfire -
Power is out of control!
In this wheel of deception, we feel then we die....
I am flying with the wind, it's my time to be King and rise...!
Melting this world of destruction,
I am the devil below:
Torching the ground of the holy,
My heart is black as coal!
I am one with the thunder,
Crushing the tower of stone!
Walking so brave till my breath fades away and I die....
Tell me why!
I am gliding on a wind, It's my time to begin soaring high!
And I'm going home!
Sending my fire to mankind:
I want the story told!
Remember the lord of the lonely:
I was your rock and roll!
Screaming the beast in the monster -
My engine is ready to blow!
This machine of confusion will fade out and die!
On this earth of conception we break down and try again,
Till the end we believe you and I -
Our vision has entered the sky!
I'm the storm from within,
Hear me crying like the wind,
Spread the word across the land:
The crown is in my hands -
Time to be King!!
|Sir Ivan Brandt|
BE IT SO KNOWN
that the bearers of this charter have been charged by the Vanguard of Alvaris, acting upon the greater good and authority vested within them by the office of the Barony of Olorunium, and have been granted the right of colonization within the wilderness region known as the Greenbelt, henceforth to be designated as the territory of IOMRALL.
This granting of territory encompasses all of the region granted by right of exploration in the prior charter of the herein signed, extended south to the merging of the Thorn and Skunk Rivers and Tuskwater Lake, and thirty miles south beyond. The bearers of this charter are authorized to seek establishment of cities, population, cultivation, and colonization of all habitable regions within this range, and the elimination, removal, or control of hostile creatures - be they beast, monster, or man - within the borders herein granted.
Attached is a grant, given freely by the Vanguard, of supply and funds including but not limited to trade goods, monetary coinage, citizenry, and workforce, intended to aid in the foundation of a city within the borders of this colony no less than 21 days hence from the signing of this charter and witness by authorized hand.
So witnessed on this 11th day of Aperilis, under the hand of Sir Ivan Brandt, ward and councilor of His Lordship of Alvaris, operating by authority granted by Baroness Galadre Tristion, current Regent of Olori Barony.
Elegy Medvyed, granted the title of Duchess by authority of Olori Barony
(X), authorized as mark of one Jaekah by hand of Sir Ivan Brandt
|Sir Ivan Brandt|
Ruling Council of Iomrall:
Ruler: Duchess Elegy Medvyed
Councilor: Akiros Ismort
Grand Diplomat: Akiniyi
High Priest: Jhod Kavken
Magister: Errol Genio
Royal Assassin: Mikmek of Sootscale
Spymaster: Lilith Blackheart
Treasurer: Svetlana Leveton
Warden: Rannulf of the White Scar
(As of 14 Aperilis 6761)
The regency of Iomrall has had an interesting first two months. Their capital city, Dún Raige, was founded on the skeletal ruins of the Stag Lord's Fortress after renegotiations with the Arachne sorceress Akiniyi; the party elicited the spider-woman with a request to personally oversee the protection of the Narlmarches and its resident fey, in addition to offering her the position of Diplomat, and granted her the Temple of the Elk as a substitute demesne from whence she could more closely handle the responsibilities included with the request. Lilith especially was emphatic about her desire that the forest not be harmed or squandered, be it by monster, colonist, hunter, or saboteur. Initially skeptical, Akiniyi was nonetheless flattered by the party's trust in her, and all the responsibilities they were willing to give into her hands. While she warned the group that she was not to be crossed and was keeping her eyes well open for betrayal, she accepted the offerings graciously. Over the following week she and her brood were relocated to the temple, save two - her eldest daughters had reached the point of ascension, ready to become something more than mere intelligent spiders, and had cocooned themselves and could not be disturbed until they emerged. The rest of the party offered to safeguard their chrysalises until they awoke while Lilith led Akiniyi to the Temple. In time the newborn Aranaea - later named Glaicyd and Nevarrin - emerged and joined their mother in the Narlmarches.
From there - and with the appointment of Akiros as Councilor, Rannulf the Worg as Warden, Jhod Kavken as High Priest, Mikmek the Kobold as Royal Assassin, and Svetlana Leveton as Treasurer - they set out to begin the process of crafting their kingdom.
Within the first month, colonists began to arrive, and construction was mainly focused within the borders of Dún Raige itself. The Stag Lord's Keep was repaired, renovated, cleaned out, and made livable once again, completing a castle at the city's crown and providing a residence and meeting place for its rulers. Homes were constructed, and a mill placed along the shores of the Tuskwater. Across the river to the east, plains were made ready for farming and colonists began selecting plots to claim as their own. And in the days between, the group began exploring in greater detail the regions surrounding their new home.
Exploration began in the plains a few miles east of their new farmland and arced northwest then southwest around the city, remaining north of the Tuskwater. They passed through the territory of the Sootscale Kobolds, and made arrangements to bring them and their silver mine into the kingdom the following month, including preparations for a celebratory banquet in Chief Sootscale's honor. From there they moved across the area north of Dún Raige and the rivers' junction, then westward into the fringes of the Narlmarches.
It is here that they at last encountered something other than native wildlife, minor monsters, and local hunters and trappers and kobolds. Alerted by the noise of shouting and cursing, the group stumbled onto a group of halflings, ten in total, flailing about with one of their wagon train sunk into the Skunk River, and two of their ponies tied to it fighting without success to free themselves. After a quick assessment of the situation Jaekah leaped into the river to push the wagon free while Elegy summoned a Water Elemental to aid him; Errol and Takeshi merely stood back and observed, while Lilith took to the shadows and kept a close eye on the strange smallfolk, expecting sabotage or attack at any moment. None came though, and the two in the river managed to push the wagon free of the clinging river mud and back toward the shore, where the ponies quickly took to dry land and fled for several yards before at last calming and coming to a stop. Extremely thankful, the halflings - led by their excitable but disoriented leader, one Jubilost Narthropple - explained that they were an exploratory and cartographic unit from Varnhold to the east, and after learning the identity and locality of their rescuers were immensely apologetic and quick to affirm that they meant no threat or insult on their own part or that of their liege, Maegar Varn, a halfling noble of Olorunium and fellow charter-bearer. Eventually, thanks to Jaekah and Lilith, the majority of their goods were recovered in usable quality, and Narthropple and his expedition were escorted back to Dún Raige, where the cartographer shared some of his map information in exchange for that of the party. He pointed out several locations in the region they had not yet discovered: primarily, the existence of some kind of tomb to the far east of the city, the swampland to the Tuskwater's west where a witch was said to dwell, the dangerous cult-laden isle of Candlemere to the southwest, and the existence of the Dryad's Glade in the southern Narlmarches. He also expressed surprise and disbelief at the existence of the bog where the unicorn had been found dead, but the party - in silent unison - deigned not to correct his assumptions that this was a mistake nor to fill him in on the details. Narthropple departed with his troupe a day later, with promises to send word to Lord Varn of well-wishes and perhaps invitation for diplomatic conversation from Iomrall.
Later that day, the party determined that having a witch in their back yard might invite some investigation, and swiftly. They made their preparations for the journey and departed on the morrow, setting off southward along the Tuskwater's western coast, where the plainsland quickly gave way to murky swamp. Plagued by insects and uneven ground, movement was slow going but they managed to reach the swamp's heart during daylight. The group was momentarily called to a halt at the sighting of no less than six trolls, armed and armored and moving as a hunting party; Lilith was, thankfully, able to distract them into running off westward while the party snuck quickly behind them to the southeast.
Upon reaching the swamp's heart they found a tall hillock upon which was set a ramshackle hut surrounded by a rickety wooden fence, with an ill-fitting iron door and rusted silver bell at its entrance and a spindly, jack-o-lantern-headed scarecrow in its yard. With some prodding from the rest of the party Errol rang the bell; receiving no answer he began doing so more violently, and after a full minute of clamor someone from the hut finally answered in a shrill, cracked voice. Conversation between the group and the lone inhabitant went on for quite some time at yelling distance, and was punctuated by repeated inquiries as to who they were and why they were here. After some convincing from the party, the inhabitant - an elderly woman with slightly greenish skin, which the group determined to be due to strong Fey heritage in her bloodline - emerged and commanded the scarecrow, which could apparently pull itself free of the ground and walk on command, to allow them inside. She demanded however that their weapons be left outside, and bound strips of runed cloth around Elegy and Errol's wrists that prevented them from casting.
The woman introduced herself as Elga, though most referred to her as "The Old Beldame" or "The Swamp Witch"; up close they could see her greenish skin, long greyed hair, and slightly pointed ears more clearly, but despite speaking Elven she appeared fully Human save her unusual ancestry. Accompanying her was her soft-spoken companion and apprentice, a frazzled, ragged redheaded young Ael-Vari woman named Cesca; the bird-woman's taloned hands were carefully gloved and wrapped, though her raptoran feet remained uncovered and her red-feathered wings loose at her back. Cesca remained very quiet and withdrawn into a corner of the room tending a boiling cauldron of stew while the Beldame answered the group's questions and made inquiries of her own. She quizzed Elegy heavily on the purposes and intents of Iomrall and answered magical questions from Errol, and occasionally traded barbs with Lilith when the huntress deigned to speak up. After eventually determining the group meant her no harm nor ill-will, she shared some information with them; most notably, she warned them to avoid the Candlemere Tower, which had been intended as their next destination, and informed them - to Errol and Lilith's horror - that it was infested by none other than the Dark Song, horrendous alien entities of living sound and pure madness, and that the tower had been constructed by their mad cultists. She also warned them to beware of trolls, and that the beasts' hunting parties had been out in greater force in the past few weeks, though she knew not why. Errol - in Elven, so only Cesca and the Beldame could understand him - made an offer to both to join him in the kingdom; neither accepted at the moment, though Cesca began rattling off claims that she could "see" him and his kingdom doing things that had not yet occurred, and that they would meet again; the Old Beldame explained, in a language all could understand, that her apprentice had the "curse of foresight" and could see things that were yet to come when she observed someone, rather than seeing them as they were. She claimed that she knew her own time was drawing near, as all Cesca could tell her of her own future for the past two years was that she "would sleep soon". The group parted with the two Witches on good terms, with Cesca repeating her affirmation that she would see Errol and his companions again sometime in the future.
With their plans to investigate Candlemere put off for now, the charter bearers returned to Dún Raige by the following evening. Come morning however their would-be return to the normalcy of colonization was broke when Sir Ivan announced a visitor had come to plead their case before the kingdom's leadership. He escorted in a young girl which Lilith and Elegy quickly identified as an Aranea in her human form - Akiniyi's younger daughter, Nevarrin. The girl claimed she had been sent urgently from her mother to elicit the party's aid in a situation at the temple. When asked, prompted by the warnings from the Old Beldame, she confirmed that trolls were involved. Ready to assist their ally, the group made ready to depart; Jaekah offhandedly mentioned to Errol that they should bring Auchs along for extra muscle, and the Magus readily agreed despite Lilith and Elegy's strong protests to the negative. Elegy went so far as to punch Errol in the back of his head trying to stop him; this however was too late and done in Auchs's sight, driving the gigantic simpleton into a rage only blunted by his inability to shove past or around or through Jaekah. Errol managed to calm him eventually, though, and the group left Ivan and the other present Council members in charge of the castle's maintenance and upkeep in their absence. They also charged him to send word - magically or by messenger - to Rannulf with a request for the Worg to meet them at the Temple as swiftly as possible.
They spent the next two days en route to the forest's heart, and other than a failed attempt by Lilith to prank Errol their trip was uneventful. Akiniyi and Glaicyd, the elder Aranea, were awaiting them when the group reached the temple grounds; the broodmother explained in minor detail that "he has been waiting for you" and that this was potentially more dangerous than a simple troll attack on the temple. As the Arachne led the group up the temple steps - leaving the two Aranea and Auchs to watch the forest - they saw no less than five trolls standing inside the cavern. Three were armored in full plate and carried swords, one was thinner than the rest and wore a shawl or robe of some sort, and the fifth towered above the rest and actually had two heads!
Sitting on a cart-sized wooden throne in the center of the group was a sixth troll, only slightly shorter than the two-headed brute but still taller than the rest. He was clearly also something more than troll - massive green bat wings stretched from his back, and a sharp-tipped tail wound down from his spine. An enormous glass ring rested around one finger on his massive left hand, and a twisted crown of iron sat atop his head. An enormous, horse-sized Trollhound lay at his feet, though it bared its teeth at the party and Akiniyi as they approached. Grinning, the troll king swept a hand in a cordial wave at the party and spoke. "Welcome, Lords of the Greenbelt! I was beginning to think you would never arrive."
|King Hargulka Fire-Eater|
I was most cordial in my greeting of the so-called rulers of Iomrall, the upstart little rabble growing on the shores of the Tuskwater like stubborn struggling lichen. Introductions were shared, and I even offered to send my soldiers into the wood - not all mind, I am no fool, but this insignificant little scattering of humankind and their pets I could handle alone with ease, even more so with naught but the aid of Enlort and Nagrundi and my faithful hound at my side - to have seats crafted for them that we might talk in comfort, but their ruler, the Duchess Elegy Medvyed, deigned instead to simply sit on the floor, while the others chose to stand. Their mage, Errol, was determined to oust us immediately, and I was nearly able to draw him into battle before he seemed to catch fleeting understanding of my intents and withdraw to his mistress's heels like the loyal pup he is. The others, the centaur general Jaekah and the swordsman-Marshall Takeshi, stood at alert with their weapons at the ready, obedient and silent warriors. The Duchess's command of her minions is certainly respectable, if frail, if her command of Errol is of any example.
We did not begin our discussion immediately, but awaited the arrival of a Worg called Rannulf, a pack-lord and another "officer" in their ramshackle little community. Once he was present, I made my offer, the reason for my arrival, extending it to all but the meager humans present: for the Arachne, the Worg, and the Centaur, the chance to join a kingdom that would respect and empower them as they are, as their nature meant them to be, rather than bend them to conform to humanity's expectations. A kingdom ruled by power and conquest, not by the guile and flimsy words of men. A true kingdom in a true wild land, a kingdom of beasts and monsters, the true, rightful heirs of the "Stolen Lands".
Of course, the Duchess - with no respect nor culture whatsoever - was swift to attempt to countermand my offer and my claims. She insulted me directly, claiming me naught but a puppet and a thoughtless brute, a minion of some higher power and a thug whose understanding of rulership was crude and primitive. These humans, so deluded! These "civilized", to think their convoluted madness greater than the strength from which their claims were forged! The wilderness does not bow to your blood save to drink it, does not bend to your honor save to crush it! Fools! Yet the spider and the hound were swayed, and my hand forced. If they would not withdraw of their own volition, I would remove them by my methods. I would crush them bone by bone, stone by stone, piece by piece, drop by drop. I would bleed them, one at a time, too slowly for their worthless superiors in Olorunium to recognize the danger for what it was. By the time recognition would come to them, it would be too late! If it was war before surrender they wished, then war they would have!
We departed, leaving them to stew in their own dread, and the group was quick to begin arrangements to oppose us. The spider-wench was set to increase her guard of the forest, while the dead-spawn, who kept her cowardly self hidden during our discourse, fled north into the woods to seek out her faerie spies and alert them of our eventual dominion. They advised she seek out the Dryad of the south, and request her aid. But first, the lot of them scuttled back to their little city on the shore and began the process of fortification and armament, and the beginnings of a meager military force with which to oppose me.
Months passed, with construction and colonization bolstering the numbers of the kingdom of Iomrall, but to no avail, I assure you. In time though the delay had grown too long and, eager for bloodshed - for are not all creatures? - they departed their safe haven and set into the wilderness to seek the Dryad Tiressia. When they found her glade, they discovered her weeping at the edge of her fountain and approached; hesistant, the miserable creature eventually bared her worries to the interlopers, and told them of the fierce Scythe Tree that stalked the lands south of her grove. She even showed them her consort, the satyr Falchos, and the grievous wounds he had gained from his failed encounter with the demonic plant. Weak fool! The feeble-hearted "heroes" set out to slay the oppressor, eager to win the favor of the fey lady by bringing her back its heart.
Along the way, the fools stumbled into the path of an eager hunter, an armed werewolf! The beast pounced from the bushes, cleaving Errol with its axe, only to be swiftly surrounded and battered, save by Elegy who once more was struck by fear at the sight of a lycanthrope. Do you so fear the beast you might become, oh cowardly liege? And you think yourself fit to be a ruler of men?! HAH! Yet for all its might the wolf could only sustain so much harm, and was quick to flee when the first opportunity arose; the Lords of the Greenbelt could not manage its speed, and it escaped into a nearby river before it could be further struck down. Perhaps it shall be waiting for them at the river's end... for does it not spill into the Tuskwater, very near to their beloved city? HAHAHAHAHAH!!!
When they came across the Blighted Hollow, the Scythe Tree - hungry for prey, and smelling the scent-stain of the Courts on the Duchess as well as the long-thinned blood of the tuatha dé Danann of Errol the half-elven - was nearly upon them before at last its movement was noticed. For all his might, great Jaekah could scarcely pierce its bark with his spears, but Errol's flames served all the greater in his stead. Though it promised to devour them all, it was only able to inflict respectable harm on Errol and Lilith before the combination of blade, spell, and arrow brought it to an end. True to their promise to the Dryad, Lilith tore its still-beating, coal-black heart from its trunk as it burned. THAT is strength! THAT I can respect!
It is only a small shame that I must destroy them all.
With the heart of the Scythe Tree in tow, the rulers of Iomrall began the trek back to Tiressia's grove to pay their part of the agreement to the Dryad. En route to the glade, Jaekah heard the sounds of movement behind the party; as he turned to attack the group found themselves squarely within the sights of a seven-headed hydra! Though the serpentine horror managed to inflict painful wounds on Takeshi, the first to move to engage it, the ronin struck back with equal vigor, taking three of its heads in turn; Elegy finished it off swiftly after, blasting the body to char with a powerful fire spell. Jaekah harvested two of the three severed heads, hoping to make something of their skins and scales, and the group resumed its journey north.
Upon returning to Tiressia, they found the Dryad had begun some sort of primal magic ritual within her pool; anticipating the party's swift return (though how, she didn't explain) she had begun the preparations for "purifying" the Scythe Tree's still-beating heart. After persuading the party that she meant them no ill-will, they relinquished the object, which Tiressia then placed in the rippling water, where it floated out to the pool's center then sank like a stone without warning. In payment for their aid - as "a gift begets a gift" - she inquired what the party wished of her that caused them to seek her out; Elegy and Lilith, with some aid from Jaekah and Errol, explained the nature of the situation with Hargulka. Tiressia revealed that while she was aware of the increased movement of trolls through the forest, her bond to her tree prevented her from exploring and gathering detailed information unless they passed within her range. She would certainly be able to be aware and send warning if a great mass of trolls passed, as there was no way other than long, roundabout journeys to reach Iomrall without passing near her, but smaller groups would be beyond her capability to track.
Feeling this was not an appropriate exchange for the task the group had performed for her, Tiressia offered to supply them with further information on the southern woods. She informed them of the abandoned ruin at the head of the Musque River and its strange new "queen", the draconic beast of the south reaches referred to as The King of the Forest, the tribe of lizardfolk dwelling on the shores of the Candlemere, the "singing tower" of Candlemere, and a twisted region of the southern Narlmarches known as the Mazewood. After some discussion and spending the night within the safety of the glade - unharassed, surprisingly, by the fey - the group decided to set off for the lizardfolk isle, exploring the forest in detail as they went.
At the slowed pace, it took them four days to reach the mouth of the Musque, where the lizard island was located. Lacking many other options, the group swam out to the edge of the isle and approached peacefully, while Lilith hid away along the side of the fence where the Lizardfolk wouldn't spot her. Elegy and Errol convinced the reptilians to let them into their village to speak with their chieftain, a towering lizardfolk titan named Vesket, though their demand of "no swords and no shamanry" forced Errol - mistakenly - to leave Red Right Hand outside in Lilith's care.
Before the party could begin negotiations in earnest, they were interrupted by a shriek that sounded much like that of a terrified young human child. Inquiring of Vesket, the lizardfolk calmly replied that it was the prey they had captured a few days prior, but their Ancestor had demanded they not eat it yet. The party pressed for further information, asking why a human would be the lizardfolk's prey; Vesket simply explained that "meat is meat". Lilith, Red in hand, crept around the north side of the isle then scaled the spiked logs that served as a fence, then snuck her way to the northernmost of the lizardfolk's domed earthen huts and climbed to the top to peer inside... finding a young human girl chained to a stake over a smoldering fire pit, a small shrine strewn with offerings of varying value, and a glowing green lizardfolk skull hovering above - a feeding Will-O-Wisp!
At about the same time, Vesket offered to simply lead the party to see what was going on, as Jaekah had offered to trade him the flesh portions of the hydra heads for their human prey, an offer the chieftain seemed amenable to. However, as soon as Vesket entered the shrine hut, the Wisp - who the lizardfolk believed was the spirit of their Ancestor, Stisshak - demanded that he kill the intruders, and Lilith sprung through the roof, sinking an arrow into the chieftain's arm and tossing Red back to Errol, while Elegy unleashed an explosive eldritch bolt directly into the heart of the angry Ancestor.
And the chamber exploded into violence.
Stisshak swiftly moved to attack Lilith, but when the archer dropped into the shrine to flank Vesket with Errol and Elegy it turned its wrath on Jaekah instead, who was outside the building with Takeshi dealing with Vesket's pet crocodiles and the incoming wave of lizardfolk warriors. Vesket, enraged, focused most of his attacks on Elegy, who he nearly killed before being badly wounded and staggered by Errol and Lilith's constant barrage of attacks and Jaekah smashing through the wall of the hut to reach him.
Elegy, seeking an opening, ducked outside behind Jaekah and, spotting Stisshak hovering overhead, unleashed a second bolt that, after striking home, suddenly turned the illusory lizardfolk skull into very real, solid form as it petrified into solid stone, then dropped from the air and shattered on the ground at her feet. At nearly the same time, Jaekah - lost in the throes of rage - hurled Vesket out of the shrine hut to the ground in front of his tribe, then stomped on the stunned chieftain's neck, killing him instantly.
The rest of the lizardfolk, in terror at the sudden destruction of their god-figure and swift defeat of their leader, dropped their weapons in unconditional surrender.
Elegy's always bothering me with, "Errol, you're too arrogant, you're becoming a liability. Stop trying to start conflicts when I am negotiating."
Well guess what? *I* wasn't the one who started the fight because *I* didn't want to fight my way off an island of angry lizards. *I* was willing to negotiate with Vesket because he seemed pretty reasonable for a giant lizard who could crush our skulls in his scaly claws. But no, Miss Dances-With-Fairies was the instigator this time and the horse killed the chief before we could clear up any misunderstandings. So really, who's the problematic one now? Huh? Not me!
Well, I had my fun at least, and it got Red to shut up.
|Lilith of the Wyld Wood|
Perhaps expectantly, Elegy's immediate act was to attempt to calm the remaining Lizardfolk, hoping to stave off further assaults and get off the island with the captive girl without more bloodshed. However, Errol's exclamation of "I wanted to kill him!" after Jaekah finished off Vesket with a stomp to the throat ruined what attempts she had made as the reptiles, incensed, charged en masse, swarming over Elegy and nearly killing her before Takeshi, Errol, and Jaekah could come to her rescue. The centaur deposited the badly-wounded oracle inside the ruined shrine hut, where she tended the injuries of the little girl and then herself, while Lilith - who had just finished releasing the girl from her bonds - stepped outside to aid the men in the fight. When all the lizardfolk were dead, the group - minus Elegy, who took the girl Tanna back to the isle's gate where she wouldn't have to watch - proceeded to loot and scour the place.
After stripping Vesket of his gear and looting the shrine, Errol and Lilith stepped inside the largest hut to search and found a tunnel heading underground to the north. Lilith found it led to a red-litten, smoke-scented chamber, guarded by poised spears she presumed to be held by the last remaining lizardfolk; she snatched one spear out of the holder's hand and tossed it back before coming up. Her attempts at diplomacy with Vesket's harem did not go well, however, and when the lizardfolk turned violent Errol filled the chamber with fire, setting everything inside ablaze, charring the three reptiles black on the spot, and utterly terrifying Lilith in the process; Jaekah began smashing through the wall trying to reach them in response to the sudden smoke and her scream, but by the time he broke through Elegy had summoned a water elemental to get the fire under control and Errol had dragged Lilith back through the tunnel to safety.
The Magus went on to examine the other huts, looking for more lizardfolk or more treasure; the rest, unfortunately for him, were mostly empty save one that was being used as a kennel for a pair of monitor lizards. The reptiles attacked on sight and poisoned Errol for his trouble, but the group did - mostly through Lilith and Jaekah's aid, Takeshi was making his way slowly toward them but the fight was over by the time he arrived - manage to slay them, and Errol collected their quartz-studded collars as bounty. Assured there were no more living creatures on the isle, the group headed back across the frigid midwinter river to the mainland and made their way back toward Dún Raige.
In payback for his disparaging comments toward her after the fire, Lilith tied Errol up in his own bedroll the following night.
Upon returning to the city two days later, Takeshi was immediately approached by a watchman with a missing person poster for the little girl, Tanna Davison; he stopped somewhat stunned that the group had already found her, but recovered quickly and directed the party to the mill where her parents worked. The pair expressed their gratitude immensely, and word quickly spread of the child's swift recovery at the hands of their leadership, bolstering the kingdom's loyalty.
The group spend the remainder of Iuniory in their capital, tending to the kingdom's business and preparations for the coming winter as the month of Soluni turned. The layout for a vineyard at the river crossing just north of Dún Raige was plotted, with planting to begin as soon as spring arrived. Still, the calm was short-lived, and eager to get back on the road and active again Errol suggested that the group seek out the mysterious 'queen' at the head of the Musque that Tiressia had mentioned. Elegy and Lilith countered that instead it might be good to travel north to Oleg's, to check on the situation there and inform the merchant and his fellow residents and guards of the threat of Hargulka. After some discussion, it was agreed to ask Akiros to make the journey north to check on Oleg's while the group once more headed out into the Narlmarches.
A few days after departing, the group encountered a strange man hiding in the woods, dressed in furs and skins and looking somewhat dazed and odd. Upon inquiry, he insisted that he would not exit his bush and tree-hollow home - "It's cold out there! Come in here, yes, come in here, it'll be warm!" - and eagerly attempted to invite the adventuring rulers into his den. Sensing some suspicious behavior, the group eventually declined, and left Errol to set the man's tree on fire; this was enough to force him to scamper out of his home, at which point the bizarre old hermit suddenly changed into a murderous hobo and plunged his dagger into Errol's back; when Jaekah ran to his rescue the centaur found himself pounced upon by an angry puma as the Mad Hermit scampered gleefully away. A pair of swipes from his new adamantine greataxe and a pair of stomps from his hooves were enough from Jaekah to put the cat down in a mess of gore; Errol's retributive attempt against the old man missed, but Elegy managed to stop him in his tracks with a ray of enfeeblement that sapped not only his strength but his little remaining sense, charming the crazy old vagrant on the spot. He collapsed under the weight of his own equipment, giggling and blubbering and looking at the duchess with longing, glazed eyes.
Questioning the Mad Hermit proved nearly fruitless, as the insane old man simply kept goggling at Elegy and muttering about how he'd like to eat the party's innards, though they did discover that the primary motivation for this was voices of insanity in his mind. When the charm effect wore off, much more quickly than the weakness it had accompanied, he took to trying to gnaw himself free of Jaekah's pinning hoof, again without success. An unfortunate offhand comment by Elegy regarding the man's unusual choice of diet scored harshly on Lilith and the rogue decided to separate herself from the group for a while; Elegy made an effort to apologize, with minimal success, while Errol finally tired of the Hermit's mutterings and slit his throat.
The group continued westward along the river toward their intended destination then stopped for the night as sunset fell. Lilith, taking first watch, was alerted to the sound of movement in the brush and spotted a group of Goblins and Goblin Snakes making their way threateningly toward the party. She opened the fray with a whistling arrow into one of the Goblins that woke the rest of the party, and the Goblins swarmed in response; at nearly the same time, a Barghest that Lilith hadn't managed to notice pounced from the brush and slashed open Elegy's tent to reach the Oracle inside. Its defenses bolstered by its thick hide and blink spell, the creature proved extremely difficult to slay, especially when it laid crushing despair on Jaekah and Errol (and half of the Goblins as well) then, worse, charmed Lilith.
Under the effects of the Barghest's magic, Lilith recognized Jaekah now as one of the more dangerous foes, and speared him with one of her thistle arrows, inflicting a viciously deep wound; Elegy, hoping to break the charm by killing the master, attempted to unleash an eldritch bolt on the Barghest, but it blinked out of the way before she could land a hit. The fiendish creature, grinning madly, scored a vicious slash across Jaekah's chest and throat that brought the General's grievous injuries past the point of treatment, bringing the party it's first loss. Takeshi's sword was quick to avenge, landing a decapitating blow on the Barghest mere seconds later. With it gone and Lilith freed of its magic, they were able to wipe up the few remaining Goblins easily.
The party, even including Errol, spent the following night in mourning for their fallen friend. Come morning, Lilith left her map of the region with Elegy and took off ahead, keeping separate from the party and remaining out of sight but staying watchful over them as they traveled. Several days later, escorting one of Jaekah's hands Errol had severed for the purpose (and burning the remainder of the body left behind, for fear of another Barghest coming along and devouring it), the group arrived at Bokken's to seek the old druid's aid in restoring their friend to life. Bokken, as usual, was suspicious of the party until reminded of their prior aid to him; once so refreshed he welcomed them inside and, after being paid by Lilith, set to work immediately on the ritual of reincarnation. After an hour of drinking the old hermit's tea while watching him perform his magic, he tossed Jaekah's hand into the large pot he was using for the ritual and, after a blinding and choking cloud of smoke, the kingdom's General emerged... now in the body of a juvenile Magma Dragon! Bokken seemed as shocked as the rest of the party, claiming something like this had never happened before, but Elegy was too happy to have her friend alive again and Errol too enthused by the presence of a dragon to question the situation all too much.
Given the time it will take for Jaekah to become accustomed to his new form, dealing with the forest queen may be delayed a few more months.
After giving Jaekah some time to master walking in his new body - which after a few attempts at bipedal travel, he defaulted to walking on all fours - the group made to depart; Lilith was especially in a hurry to escape the stone-walled hut, between Jaekah's new fiery form and the presence of a druid, and when Bokken finally lowered the wall to allow them to leave Lilith tossed him the locket over her shoulder before speeding out. Bokken was so enthusiastic to retrieve it that he shoved past both Elegy and Jaekah to catch it before it hit the ground; a little questioning revealed that the Mad Hermit had been Bokken's long-estranged, insane brother, and the woman in the picture their mother, Bokken's only other relative in the region. In thanks for the return of the object and putting his brother to rest, he returned Lilith's money, saying the locket was all the payment he would need. Despite Elegy's fears, Bokken seemed joyed that the Hermit had been slain, slapping Errol - who had blurted out the information less than diplomatically - enthusiastically on the back as he expressed his thanks.
He then turned his attentions to Red Right Hand, and asked Errol where he'd gotten it and who'd given it to him. Given the Magus's amnesia and the sudden appearance of Red after his dream, Bokken grew more and more gravely worried... an expression shared by the party when he revealed the red-black material Red appeared to be forged from was soleuri, which could only be mined from the mountains that surround Caisleán Solas, the palace of Queen Titania of Summer. Bokken warned that the fey use memories as a kind of currency, meaning that Errol might have "paid" for Red with his; he then jovially claimed that it could be worse, that Errol could have been tied to Winter... which Elegy is.
Despite severe warning and dissuasion from Lilith, who feared a reaction between the conflicting fey natures, Elegy agreed to attempt to speak with Red regarding his nature and purpose. There was thankfully no violent reaction, and the sword, no less arrogant than usual, was nevertheless forthcoming when Elegy began questioning it. Red revealed that he had been created for "a glorious purpose of destruction" - he was to seek out a rival who is "like himself" and destroy "her"; he knows not what form she takes, nor who carries her, but knows as soon as their blades cross he will know her. Until then, he is to give himself generously in battle - he enjoys the spilling of blood on its own merits, and also knows the more he is employed to fight and the more people he kills, the more likely he will be to encounter his rival. Satisfied, Elegy withdrew; Jaekah, curious, placed a claw on the weapon as well, and Red was quick to congratulate him on his return from death as a mighty beast of battle. Jaekah left without response.
The group bid farewell to Bokken and headed to Oleg's for the night; Lilith, worried the guard might be hostile to Jaekah without proper forewarning, went ahead to alert them. However, her wording was extremely bad, and Kesten Garess believed she'd been put under some enchantment or effect by the dragon she asked them not to shoot, and refused to acquiesce to her demands; in fact, as Lilith ran back to the group in near panic to report what had happened, Kesten called up all his guards and ex-bandit conscripts to the walls with crossbows and longbows, readying for an attack. Elegy and Errol went back with Lilith a second time and, after some discussion, managed to diffuse the situation enough to allow them to come inside, under heavy supervision, at least for Jaekah. Oleg, Svetlana, and the others were understandably shocked and surprised by the General's new appearance, but other than spending most of the evening with his hands stuck in the fire pit Jaekah behaved much like they'd been used to, and things eventually calmed.
Errol and Lilith spent quite some time discussing things amongst themselves, mostly about Lilith's nature, a conversation which came to a sudden and complete halt when Elegy approached; after some time of stubborn persistence the Duchess did eventually give up and wander away to speak with Oleg. She asked him to arrange a time where they and Kesten could speak with her, to which the merchant agreed. He then began asking Elegy why someone with a noble title and noble parentage was out running a colony; Elegy was quick to go silent until Oleg seemingly figured out an explanation on his own - that as she was not firstborn, she would be receiving very little inheritance or position in her family. Relieved, Elegy confirmed she was actually the youngest of her family, and allowed Oleg to draw his own conclusions from there.
When Kesten later came down from the wall, she informed him and the Levetons, as well as Father Avery who happened to be listening nearby, of the threats from Hargulka and his trolls. Though Kesten was initially skeptical of an intelligent troll, Elegy - with aid from Jaekah and the occasional comment from Errol or Lilith - did eventually bring them around to recognizing the threat for what it was. She warned that Hargulka's title of "Fire-Eater" might mean that fire was useless against him, and Jaekah advised that come spring the guards should hunt boar to collect stomach acid to use against the trolls instead. Oleg expressed a wariness that the trolls might just attack in the winter, but Errol was quick to dismiss that fear by pointing out that unless they were a specific ice-resistant breed of troll the cold was just as debilitating for them as it was for other humanoids. Mostly secure that they were safe from mass troll attack until spring, the group agreed to Kesten's request to send more troops from Dún Raige as soon as the incoming winter storm broke, and broke for the night.
Before retiring, Elegy approached Jaekah - sleeping in the stables as always - and apologized for her misjudgement in the battle with the Barghest in trying to attack rather than mending his wounds. Jaekah in turn apologized for his poor choices of action and getting himself killed. As they were about to part ways, Elegy pointed out that as a true dragon, Jaekah should have innate magical capabilities; among them should be the power to guise himself as a humanoid and walk among men unrecognized for what he truly was, if he so wished. Jaekah, somewhat stunned and stricken senseless with the implications of this undiscovered power - obvious to everyone except Elegy, he's had a crush on her from day one, with only the incompatible difference of species in the past keeping him from acting any further on it - was left alone to his awkward thoughts for the night.
The group traveled back to Dún Raige over the next few days, and shortly after their arrival the region was struck with a vicious blizzard that kept the party in the city for the entirety of the following month and crippled trade for weeks. By the time it had broke, the month of Wachandar, winter was beginning to fade and the group was restless and eager to travel. A report at the beginning of the month from Ivan informed them that several farmers and ranchers along the north and eastern farming regions surrounding the former Stag Lord's Fortress and Dún Raige at its feet had reported attacks on their livestock; most of the reports claimed the animals had been brutally savaged by wolves, and blame was being heaped upon Rannulf the Worg and his packs, whose territory had been annexed mere months earlier. Eager to prove their Warden's innocence, the group departed at dusk to examine the scenes of attack. In their absence, Ivan was ordered to have a proclamation made to the people of Dún Raige that they were personally investigating the situation and would deal with the assaults with all readiness and speed.
With Lilith and Errol in the lead, the council members headed into the outlying farmlands between Dún Raige and Sootscale Warren. Upon reaching one of the farms, Lilith discovered a large section of the plot scuffed with tracks and marks and smeared with blood and viscera; after some examination she was able to identify the tracks of horses, cattle, and sheep, as well as wolf-like prints far too large to be Rannulf or any of his packs that they had encountered; the enormous paws had to belong to something as big as Jaekah used to be, likely a Dire Wolf, Trollhound, or Winter Wolf at the very least, or Giant Werewolf for worse. As the group investigated, the owners of the farm - crossbow in hand - emerged from their home and demanded their leaders exterminate Rannulf and his wolves to "get rid of the beasts you brought in". Though they weren't able to convince the commoners that the Worg was not behind the attacks, they did assure them that they would deal with the issue as swiftly as possible, which was enough to mollify the farmers to lower their weapon and head back inside.
Somewhat disgruntled, the group followed Lilith's lead as she tracked the beasts' trail out into the winter night.