GothBard's Second Darkness Player Campaign Journals *SPOILERS*

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Can't wait to see this coming write-up. We did this fight twice - once where it went extraordinarily poorly for us, and once where it went extraordinarily poorly for them. We almost didn't make it out the first time. As for them, well, I don't want to give the game away just yet... :)

Well, I can't write it in character, because Leilani rolled on 1 on her Perception roll while Alderan was doing it, but our group had the insanely strange tactic of spreading the damage around to ALL the enemies at once, so we had somewhere around 8 wounded enemies and Leilani's selective channels were healing our enemies.

So Alderan starting doing "Heal checks" on downed opponents and slitting their throats.

It was wonderfully fun playing the confused angel wondering why all the fallen opponents had mysteriously perished... just wait 'til you see her conclusions! :-P

But I'm prioritizing RotRL right now, so that'll be my next post. I just want to try to keep this thread in the Second Darkness section, so I'm trying for a post every week or two.

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Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
(Journal from the remainder of the November 2 game)

Oh, my! I see that I have not posted in several fortnights, and none of my comrades have seen fit to post in my absence! I blame NobodysHome entirely; his obsession with my sister is quite obvious (and quite inappropriate, in my mind), and he should return to transcribing my journal forthwith!
In any case, on with our tale!

As I mentioned previously, as we approached the Glorious Goblin, we were a bit taken aback to see a sign on the front door indicating that it was closed, with a sniper on the roof and at least one sneakabout lurking among the columns. We moved forward into their sight, and there was not even a hint of diplomacy; the sniper on the roof fled to inform those inside, the two outside engaged our hounds, and the sneakabout came out of hiding to try to flank said hounds.
Fortunately, their tactics were woefully inadequate, and we quickly gained entrance into the Goblin proper.

Unfortunately inside was a much more stalwart defense. Five burly thugs prevented us from further progress, while three more fired upon us from the catwalks! Following no tactics that I know of, our party spread out among the thugs, each hound taking on one or two thugs while Vorne, Lian, and Kwava fired at those in the catwalks. My colleagues distributed damage so evenly that I could not heal our group for fear of healing our enemies. Fortunately, I found that the feathers I had been gifting my closest friends had unexpected benefits: As Taleck and Lian took damage, their wounds were transferred to me, so instead of having to rush headlong into battle to heal them, I could heal myself. It was painful, but extraordinarily convenient, and I was ecstatic to be able to heal my dear friends from afar, exactly as Vorne and I had been discussing! Unfortunately, I had not realized how much damage Taleck takes during a fight. He is a mountain of a man, wears little armor, and seems to care nothing of death or dismemberment. His participation in the battle was extremely damaging to me, but I perservered, and for once he did not drop!

Bless his soul, even in the heat of battle Alderan ran in to tend to the wounded enemies! I knew there was a heart of gold beneath that gruff exterior! Unfortunately (as I learned after the battle), not a single wounded man survived! Saul had obviously performed some dark magics to prevent his lackeys from surviving the battle; to what dark purpose I dared not guess. However, their tormented departures granted us some boon: As soon as Alderan determined that several of the men were already dead, I was able to Channel Energy and heal all of my allies far more effectively.

Player Note: Yes. We roleplayed this out. Leilani rolled a natural 1 on her Perception and a natural 3 on her Sense Motive, so she honestly believed that Alderan was trying to "help" the wounded men. It was hard to sound piteous and touched while giggling horrifically...

Once my healings started taking effect, the tides of battle turned, the remaining thugs on the main floor dropped, and Carmen and Aneurin raced towards the stairs in order to reach the remaining men on the catwalks. I followed, healing Aneurin as he paused to open the door. They were quickly dispatched, and, most unfortunately, fell from the catwalks to their deaths. Saul's employees were truly under some form of curse!

The main fight seemingly over for the moment, we left Zokrim and Lian to guard the vault in case Saul knew of some back way to it, and the rest of us proceeded quickly upstairs to Saul's room, I healing people the entire way as our party was still somewhat wounded, especially Aneurin.
To our dismay, Hans and a pair of guards we knew were guarding Saul's room. We entreated them to let us enter, but Hans called US the betrayers, would hear nothing of negotiation, and attacked. His was a hopeless battle, but he fought bravely nonetheless. Would that we could have found a way to reason with him. Unfortunately, I dared not heal him while he fought against us, and his wounds from Taleck and Aneurin were so grievous he did not survive beyond the battle. Curse Saul and his Devil's Pact!
Perhaps the oddest moment of the fight came when Taleck finally realized that all of the healing he was receiving came at a cost to my body. He barked at me to stop it immediately, and threatened to destroy my feather! I did not understand! I patiently explained to him that it was far safer for me to take the damage and heal myself in safety, rather than risk myself in the front lines of combat, but he would not hear of it, and demanded that I sever my link with that feather. Sighing, I obeyed. It was tactically unsound. It went against all of my training. But it was the right thing to do. I would simply have to work harder to ensure poor, dim Taleck's survival in spite of himself.

Gaining entry to Saul's office, Carmen had little trouble deciphering his books. To no one's surprise, they were fraudulent. To everyone's surprise, he was modifying them to make things look better than they were: He was receiving money from an unknown source and using that to try to keep the Goblin afloat, but the Goblin was losing money so fast it wasn't going to last. What mystery was this? What could it mean? The answers lay with the vile villain, Saul Vancaskerkin.

We rejoined Zokrim and Lian at the vault and learned that no one had assailed them as they guarded, so we proceeded downstairs.
What monstrosity! Saul had an arena dedicated to bloodsports below my very feet, and I did not know of this atrocity! The man was blacker than a demon's heart! He would receive no mercy from me!
Racing to the arena's balcony, we found Beyer, Bojask, Old Scratch, and Saul waiting for us in ambush. He apologized to Carmen, and ordered the attack. My righteous fury flowed forth in blasts of positive energy (Player note: A 12 and then a 10 on 2d6 for channeling) while my comrades dropped Beyer and Bojask with great haste. As the battle raged, I raced to Beyer's side and filled him with positive energy: This soul the demon Saul would not have!

I wish I could say I was more effective in dealing with Old Scratch. I wasn't. The group peppered him with arrows, but he danced about most effectively, providing the distraction Saul needed to leap off the balcony and into the arena below. Fortunately, Bojask had left a wild boar loose in the arena, and Saul was momentarily distracted as the boar charged him. Vorne opened a pit at his feet, and he barely managed to avoid falling in. This gave Alderan the time needed to fill the arena with arcane webbing, further preventing Saul's escape. As all the others continued their hail of arrows at Old Scratch and Saul, Carmen, Aneurin, and I raced downstairs to the arena proper. I was significantly slower than the two of them, and heard great commotion ahead. Carmen cried out something unintelligible and Vorne translated that Saul and Old Scratch were dead, but the boar was loose and in the process of gutting Aneurin. Steeling myself for a transformation I had never attempted on the Material Plane, I focused as my mother had taught me, thought of the millenia of ancestors tracing back to Sarenrae herself... and transformed into pure, radiant, positive energy!

There are no words that can describe the wonder, the rapture, or the pure blessed tranquility of that form! All urgency left me. I spoke, and the world spoke with me as I asked Vorne to translate to Aneurin that he should move through me. Vorne, sounding confused and hesitant, dutifully translated. Aneurin, having dispatched the boar with Carmen's help, staggered forward. I moved through him and poured healing energies into him, and his wounds sealed immediately. The power was wondrous! But I was already tiring! The form takes a great deal of my strength, and saps me too quickly; would that I could stay in that form for hours at a time!

With Aneurin and Carmen healed and the boar defeated, I returned to my original shape, and we awaited the dispersal of the web that we might investigate Saul's body further.

*** End of session ***

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Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
(November 14 game journal)

Alas! Am I forever cursed to choose between love and duty, even on this plane? My wonderful suitor is quite vexed with me, and I do not know that I will be able to keep him! Why is it that my duty must always trump my love? Could there not be one situation, ever, that allows my heart and my duty to pursue the same course? But I digress. Let me start at the source of my misgivings...

Having slain Saul and his vile counterpart Old Scratch, we chose to wake and question Beyer, as I felt he could not possibly be part of this plot against us. Sure enough, Beyer had been misled by Saul into believing that we were working for the Overlord, and had only done his level best to remain true to and defend his supposedly-steadfast employer! On hearing that Hans had perished, Beyer wept true tears. Finally moved to mercy, my companions allowed Beyer his gear and employment, and told him that due to his extreme and devoted loyalty to Saul, they would employ him to guard Carmen in the same manner. He readily accepted this task, and I was overjoyed to see at least one of our foes redeemed!

With Beyer taken care of, we set to the somewhat more grisly task of searching Saul for clues: Who had been giving him money to keep the Goblin afloat? How had he acquired a devil so loyal to him that it had sacrificed its own life and soul rather than leave him? How could we get into his vault?
The answer to the final question was the most readily-obtained: Saul carried a keychain on his person, and some of those keys were clearly to the vault. With no pressing business, we tested every single key on his chain. Many keys opened doors in the Glorious Goblin. Several of them were required to open the vault. To none of our surprise, the vault was empty of funds, with the exception of a handful of gold coins Vorne had placed in Saul's care for safekeeping. The man may have been a dishonest scoundrel and a consorter with devils, but at least he was honest with funds!
Finally, there was a large golden key that we could not identify. Alderan took it for safekeeping.

Other discoveries were far more distressing. In the animal pens downstairs we found not only abused and mistreated animals, but Larur's ring! Having claimed nothing from the party before now, I requested ownership of the ring. Fortunately, the rest of the party agreed, and I knew that at least some part of Larur would make it back to his family! I hesitate to imagine what abuses Larur endured before his demise! Another room was an infirmary with several healing potions. Although I insisted I needed no potions to heal myself or my comrades, the group pressed a potion into my hands, and I dutifully stored it in my backpack. How it is supposed to be useful to me while stored in such an awkward conveyance I have no idea, but they would not be satisfied until I had it safely stowed.
The final room of note was the wine cellar; it stank of something sea-like. We searched the room for the source of the stench, but to no avail. We left the door open to air it out a bit.

Exhausted from our combats and subsequent search of the recesses and excesses of the Goblin, we all retired to our own entertainments. I escorted Vorne to our room. It was not long before there was a gentle knock at the door. Though I knew it would do me little good against an intruder, I picked up my scimitar and cracked the door. It was Alderan! Thank Sarenrae! But he looked somewhat chagrined. Before I could so much as invite him in, he spoke earnestly to me.
"Leilani, I feel I have not been completely honest with you, and I despise that in a person, so I have come here to set the record clean. Those men who died below? They did not die of a curse or of some mysterious cause. When I saw that there were too many of them, and your healing was affecting them as well as us, I took it upon myself to slay enough of them that you would not be helping our enemy. It was good tactics, and I do not apologize for killing them. But I misled you about it, and for that I apologize."

A tornado of emotions stormed through me. Fury that I had been misled. Disgust at this vile murderous creature before me. Sadness at the loss of so many lives for such a trivial reason as convenience. Relief that it was nothing more than a murderous elf that had killed the men. And honest pity that Alderan had felt such remorse over the incident that he had come to me to confess.
I needed a few moments to recover, and to decide on the best course of action. The men were dead; there was nothing I could do for them. Alderan did not apologize for their murders, but he did apologize for misleading me about them. Was this the first step then? Could I lead Alderan oh-so-slowly and carefully towards redemption, merely by showing him mercy and kindness here? I decided that this was the only reasonable course of action.
"Thank you for telling me this, Alderan. I am, of course, disappointed in you, and greatly saddened by your actions. But I also greatly appreciate that you have come to me with the truth. And for that, I forgive you, though I hope I need not do it again."

Whatever I said, and whatever Alderan thought of my response, I do not know. He thanked me, bowed curtly, and moved on. I managed not to cry when I turned back into our room. Vorne asked what was the matter, and I told him of Alderan's crimes. Vorne did not take it nearly as hard as I. "Well, they probably would have eventually died anyway. It's the kind of job they were in."

Dinner was a relatively somber affair; I made sure that everyone was healed, we had a quiet meal, and we all retired to our rooms for the evening. The Goblin did not open that night, and we kept a watch.


The next morning, we sold all of our "bounty" that had not been claimed by various party members and the party generously purchased a new wand of Cure Light Wounds for me. They kindly escorted me to Larur's aunt (we must have been quite the sight, milling about in the dwarven quarter next to an unmarked building), and I presented her with Larur's ring. She was saddened, but thanked me, and appreciated that we had slain his killer. I made my rounds to the temple, and we were back to the Goblin by lunchtime.

At that point, the group had a long discussion as to the fate of the Goblin. This seemed odd to me. Weren't we the heroes of destiny, fated to ward off the darkness that was threatening our plane even now? Apparently not! After a great deal of debate, they decided that they would keep the Goblin open, everyone would buy shares in it, and we would share the profits.

But this was unthinkable! We had a duty to the world! We had a leader in Kwava! Why on Golarion would we stay at some tawdry gambling establishment when the man running it was dead and we had no further reason to stay!
Unfortunately, I knew my duty. After lunch, with heavy heart, I went with Vorne to our room. I told him that I had been sent to the Material Plane for a reason; that I was a shining light against the darkness, and that I clearly had a destiny to play here. And Kwava spoke of being the elf who held up the light against the darkness. Somehow, our destinies were intertwined. And yet our ragtag group of bodyguards, wizards, and who-knows-what was content to sit at a gambling establishment and wait for the world to end at their doorstep! I HAD to follow Kwava! It was clearly my destiny! But I loved Vorne, and I wanted him to be with me, and my dearest wish was that he would come with me.

Vorne retorted that he had a duty to learn the secrets of the blot, and he would not leave it unfinished. Furthermore, he did not believe Kwava had any idea what he was doing, and was just as likely to find our enemies wandering in the wilderness as our party was to find them attacking the Goblin. In fact, given our history, it was far MORE likely that our enemies would attack the Goblin than that Kwava would find them.

We were at an impasse; I was determined to leave, and he was determined to stay. I wept. We did not speak again until dinner, when I announced my plan to depart to the group. They made the same arguments -- staying at the Goblin was just as likely to attract whoever was controlling Saul as searching for that person with Kwava. But I knew my duty, and I would not be dissuaded. Perhaps the most touching moment of the evening was Carmen asking me (in her usual unflattering, bristly way) that I stay. I did not believe the woman liked me, and thought she would be happy to be rid of me, but she genuinely wanted me to stay. In spite of my pain, I was touched.

With the decision to keep and run the Goblin reached, Alderan wrote up a contract. Anyone who wanted a share in the goblin had to put in 100 gold pieces and sign the contract. All in the group save me paid their money and signed their names. I reiterated my plan to leave with Kwava.

Vorne and I slept in separate beds that night.


There was nothing for me to do the next day. Kwava had not yet returned from wherever it was he went, and Carmen was planning the grand re-re-opening of the Goblin, this time renamed "The Glorious" and cast as a place where wizards and sages too poor or too unknown to get into the Cipher Mage Academy could come and study, drink, and gamble together. She had large bookshelves constructed around the room, and stocked with whatever books were cheapest in Riddleport at the moment. Among these cheap and tawdry books she scattered real research manuscripts, and showed me and the girls where such nuggets of knowledge lay hidden. She had new costumes made for the girls, calling them, "Sexy librarian" outfits, though they were hardly more revealing than my own silks. She had one made for me as well, and I agreed that as long as I was at the Goblin, I would assist, as it would be untoward of me to expect to stay rent-free in a place I was no longer a part of.

In a move most of the party agreed with, but I found rather distasteful, Saul's body was dumped on the street in front of the Glorious as a sign of new ownership.

That evening, Kwava returned. The party's reception of him was rather cold. On being told of Saul's demise, he pondered long and hard, and then declared that it was clear he should stay in Riddleport, keeping an eye on the Glorious in the hopes of catching the mysterious "benefactor". How my heart leaped with joy. Kwava could not have comprehended why, but I leapt up and hugged him, then spun around and hugged and kissed Vorne! I must say, men are very easy to startle!
Vorne and I slept in the same bed again that night, and I held him tightly, hoping to close the distance between our souls with physical contact of our bodies. It did little good. Even in the morning he was still distant from me, and not the happy-go-lucky soul I had known and fallen in love with.

The next two days were a routine with which I was very familiar: I advertised the re-re-opening of the Glorious, greeted guests as they arrived in the evening, and took care of my duties around the Glorious and the temple during the day. I made of point of visiting the wine cellar every day, counting the bottles and trying to catch our wine-napper in the act.
There were a few incidents worth noting: The day after we threw Saul's body unceremoniously on the street, we received a bouquet of flowers from Clegg Zincher expressing both condolences and thanks for Saul's fate. Carmen took them. How she disposed of them I did not ask. Carmen also knew that I was close to Samaritha, and asked me to approach her to offer her employment at the Glorious, the notion being that if we could get a few wizards from the Cipher Mage Academy to "defect" to our tavern, it would provide us with an air of legitimacy. Samaritha was flattered by the offer, but had worked very hard to be accepted into the Academy, and was unsure she was willing to leave it so soon. She did not want to say, "No," to me outright (she is such a dear, sweet friend), but asked for a few days to think about the offer. I understood her meaning, but I was not presumptuous enough to pass on to Carmen anything other than what Samaritha had told me.

My diligence in observing the wine cellar was rewarded promptly: Three days after Saul's death, the wine cellar yet again reeked of a fishy odor. Recalling my training, I did not try to find the fish or fish-men or man-fish, but stood at the door, ready to flee on any sign of movement, and called for assistance. The party quickly gathered, we determined that two bottles of wine were missing, and Sans Quah was able to easily track two sets of wet footprints back to the Octagon.
The footprints were far harder to track in the sand, so I invoked my halo (Daylight) to assist Sans Quah, and the extra light led us to the spot where Saul had fallen. A small amount of digging was all it took to reveal a trap door. But why had we not seen it before?
We thought back on the fight with Saul and realized that we had been our own undoing: When Saul first jumped down into the sand, Vorne had created a pit in this exact spot, hiding the trap door! Further obfuscating the door, Alderane spread webs throughout the area, and they had not dispersed for tens of minutes after Saul fell.

Clearing the door, we found a keyhole that exactly matched the mysterious golden key. Girding ourselves, Sans Quah unlocked and opened the door. Below was darkness, so I stepped forward to light the way. The secret "passage" was a series of rocks and rope ladders leading down, down, down into the darkness. While most of the party had no trouble with such contraptions, my lack of experience with such things was nearly my downfall: I slipped and plummeted, only to be caught at the last moment by Taleck. I am saddened by his refusal to accept my feather's healing. He is a dear and loyal hound, but he is not very bright, nor are his tactics anything short of suicidal. I fear that some day I will be forced to resurrect him rather than heal him. I pray that when we reach that point, I will be strong enough for him!

Sans Quah took the lead as we explored the tunnel. In the first large chamber there was a large pool. As Sans Quah scouted ahead, three giant fish-things with huge teeth burst forth and attacked us! Fortunately, our hounds and our wizards were sufficient to subdue them, and I was able to heal Sans Quah of his significant wounds. In a sign of bravery only shown by these barbarous men (Taleck and Sans Quah), Sans Quah chose to keep the lead. I was too far back to see exactly what happened next, but apparently the people at the front of the party were beset by large spiny lizards that flashed like lightning. They were on the ceiling and I had to run beneath them to provide healing, but I paid little attention to them, only hearing them referred to as, "Flashy chameleons", though these were twenty times the size of any chameleons I'd seen in Nirvana!

With my halo still glowing, we proceeded deeper into the caves...

*** End of session ***

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Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
(December 21 game journal) (Yes, it was over a month between games.)

We came to a fork in the cave passage, and Sans Quah declared that we should go right. Having no reason to argue with his assuredness, we did. And were ambushed by several smelly fish-men, who are apparently called "troglodytes".
Now, I do not wish to disparage my comrades, especially one so sweet and quiet as Lian, but I am from Nirvana and have never before smelled anything so noxious as those fish men. And I have been among hounds that have been hard-ridden by their sergeant-at-arms for a day's double duties! Yet I kept my head (and my stomach) and monitored the combat, ready to heal anyone at a moment's notice. Lian and Aneurin were not so hardy, and spent the duration of the fight emptying the contents of their stomachs on the cave floor. Would that I could have done something for them, but I am afraid that I do not know that magic.
Thanks to Vorne's clever use of summoned pits and magical missiles, the fight was quick and one-sided. Three of the troglodytes fled down the passage, presumably to call in reinforcements, and I stabilized those that had fallen.

As several of us watched for said reinforcements, Vorne and Alderan woke one of the troglodytes, speaking to it in Draconic. Unfortunately, Alderan informed me that all he could get out of the troglodyte was that theirs was a culture of warriors and honor, and to lose in battle was to die. He was apparently begging Alderan and Vorne for death, but Alderan knew of my distaste for slaying the defeated, so he was torn between honoring my wishes and honoring the troglodytes'. Touched by his honesty, and knowing of other races who viewed defeat as worse than death, I granted Alderan permission to grant them their honor. I was perplexed by their struggles and cries against their honors, but perhaps if they do not struggle, the death is not considered honorable... I cannot conceive of such a barbaric culture, but I have led a very sheltered life.

With the alarm raised against us, we changed tactics and let Lian lead the way, as he was the stealthiest among us. I put Shield of Faith on him to protect him in case of ambush, and gave him reassuring words to try to calm his agitated stomach. Fortunately, our next foes were not more troglodytes, but giant darting bug-things that proved quite difficult for our hounds to corner and pummel. Our group took a great deal of wounding, but I was up to the task of keeping them healed, thanks in large part to the wand they had so kindly purchased me.
Unfortunately, it was while I was tending the wounded that Alderan attempted what I can only assume was a poorly-timed joke. He pretended to speak with one of the fallen bugs, claiming that it spoke "Insectoid", and that it was declaring that honor demanded we kill it. I expressed my extreme displeasure at the distasteful jibe, and Alderan ceased.

In the final room in the passage, our sharper-eared colleagues reported hearing whispering. Foolishly, we raced forward into the ambush, only to find TEN of the troglodytes in a small room! We were fortunate to be able to retreat with our lives, and Alderan used his Web to great effect in preventing their escape. My part in the remaining combat was very minor, as the hounds and wizards moved forward, burning the webbing away to expose troglodytes, then defeating them. Half the troglodytes fled to make a final stand in a second room, but with half their numbers the battle was even shorter.
Once again, Vorne and Alderan questioned the surviving captives. This time we finally found one whose sense of self-preservation was greater than his sense of honor, and he told us of an elf-like mistress who paid them to guard the caves, and who seemed to be Saul's boss as well. In exchange for his life, he offered to take us to her! What a boon!

Unfortunately, the wizards had used up all of their spells, and the rest of the party was concerned that I was using the expensive wand rather than my native magic, so we decided to return to the Glorious and go in search of the troglodyte's mistress the next morning. We took the troglodyte with us, locked him in one of the animal cages, and retired to the Glorious to wash the stench off of ourselves and to rest up for the next day.

*** End of session ***

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Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
(Journal from January 1, 2014 session)

I must say, if I never see another ally vomiting, or have to deal with the repercussions of their illnesses, it will be a palpable relief! I do not consider myself an iron-stomached dwarf or eat-anything orc, so if I am capable of keeping down my lunch in a given situation, shouldn't my barbarian cohorts be able to as well?

Knowing full well that we would be battling a 'Mistress' who had bound a demon to serve Saul, I determined to purchase scrolls that would aid us in our endeavor. As Aneurin had already discovered, it was impossible to obtain a scroll of Spear of Purity in Riddleport. But what about Consecrate? The party was kind enough to escort/protect me as I visited the temple of Calistria, the temple/tavern of Cayden Cailean, and finally Findler's shop. To my utter amazement, Findler's had the scroll! I suppose I should not be surprised that a city entirely devoid of paladins would also be devoid of the tools of demon-slaying, but the fact that someone had sold such a precious scroll to a shop such as Findler's did sadden me.
Before retiring to our room, I made sure that everyone was fully healed using the last of my personal magics. Alderan was still unhappy with me for using the wand before my personal magics, but my argument that my personal magic could also serve to protect our hounds or destroy undead swayed him somewhat. If only we had fought any undead!


I must learn to control my temper. The night before, I was vexed with Alderan for questioning my use of magic, and I wished that we had fought undead to prove my point. Well, we did indeed fight undead, and Taleck suffered the consequences!

In the morning, with all of us refreshed and girded for battle, we decided to question the troglodyte. Again, his smell sickened some members of our party, but I seem strangely resistant to this effect. We learned that his name was Sliv, but little more. Apparently no one had thought to feed or water him for the evening, so there the poor creature was, trapped in a cage, hungry, thirsty, and surrounded by enemies. I personally brought him food and water, but it was far too little too late to change his attitude towards us. Frustrated at our lack of foresight, we headed back into the tunnels.
This time I was far more careful on the series of ladders and managed not to fall. Also, at the party's behest, I only used Light instead of Daylight so as "not to announce our presence from 400 feet away," as one party member (who shall remain nameless) put it.

Before proceeding down the path that we were certain led to "the Mistress", we decided to check down the hall we had not checked the previous day. We were fortunate in that the offshoot was a sole room with a deep pool of water at one end. A skeleton lay slumped next to the pool. Deciding to prove to the party that I was of more use than just, "That angel who heals people," I cast Detect Undead on the skeleton. Much to my surprise and disappointment, the creature was not undead. Maintaining the spell, I scanned the room, hoping I might find something for my efforts. And there it was! At the bottom of the pool lurked an undead creature. I warned the party that there was something undead in the pool, waited for the hounds to line up in a defensive position in front of me, and then channeled energy at the undead fiend.
It clearly did not like the pain. The water rippled and frothed as the creature strove for the surface, so I channeled at it again. And it was a good thing I did! From the depths came a furious wight, intent on sucking the very life force from our poor party members! And it struck true, smacking Taleck with a sickly blow that visibly drained him of some of his vitality! Alas, poor Taleck! But a single blow was not enough to slow Taleck, and he and Sans Quah made short work of the weakened wight.

With the enemy defeated, Sans Quah and Taleck had me cast Light on a rock and then dropped it into the pool. Using the light they could see the glint of gold below, and quickly retrieved a rotting chest full of gold, gems, and, much to Vorne and Alderan's delight, a wand of Levitate that still had some use.
Our backpacks now full of gold that would be put to good use once we returned to the surface, we started down the passage towards our fateful confrontation with the mysterious "Mistress".

After an interminable walk, we came upon yet another cavern with yet another pool. As if on cue, two serpent-like creatures with gaping mouths that sprouted tentacles reared out of the water and attacked. It was a short, one-sided battle, and we quickly dispatched the creatures.
We had an immediate side trek, as Vorne and Alderan noticed the unusual crystals in the room, and their tendency to provide a very dim light, but to swallow up any brighter light anyone attempted to use. They asked me to re-cast my Light spell and I did; whatever the crystals were, they did not seem to affect my ability to light the way, so Vorne and Alderan lost interest and we moved on.

Finally, we reached the "Mistress'" chambers! One ledge had been converted into a "bed" of sorts, and a platinum-covered chest sat at its foot. It took little time to open the chest and retrieve the jewels, gems and coins inside. There was also a bottle of perfume that Alderan chose to keep, and a pair of fine boots. While I would normally question the looting of the room of a woman still living, her actions had proved her evil beyond question, so I did not protest the pilferage.
Not finding the mistress at home, we proceeded down the passage, directly into an ambush!

As we rounded the corner, we were faced with two troglodytes, two vile demons, and the Mistress herself: A lithe, proud, purple-skinned elf with white hair! She was quite striking, but the evil look on her face and her choice of company indicated that this would be a battle to the death!
As the hounds charged forward to engage the demons, I knew that healing would be at a premium, and so converted to my elemental form just as a noxious cloud of green-brown fumes flowed around me. But what could this be? A quick glance revealed the demons had spouted these gases, and oh how glad I was that I was no longer breathing! Lian and Taleck immediately commenced vomiting upon the floor. Alderan was forced to flee the fumes, and Zokrim refused to enter. I could not see Vorne through the thick clouds, but I heard him casting, so I knew he was in sight of the battle at least.
However, that left myself, Sans Quah, Aneurin, and the sickened Taleck to face down the mistress and her minions! And then the mistress started with her deadly darts! Thwip! A dart struck Sans Quah and he fell into unconsciousness! Thwip! Another dart and Aneurin fell! And as our hounds fell one by one, the demons were tearing into them as well, rending their unconscious flesh with great enthusiasm.

The fight seemed lost. While our hounds had dropped the troglodytes, we had lost all of our fighters, and I stood alone in the cloud of gas, channeling energy in a vain attempt to keep my friends alive. Zokrim could not see through the cloud, but he heard how the fight was going and fled. We have not seen him since. Carmen stood in the back helplessly, blinded by the cloud and with no missile weapon to use even if she could see. Poor Lian was still emptying the contents of his stomach on the floor.
And then, yet again, came Vorne! He stepped forward, heedless of the danger, and hurled spells at the demons! I would not abandon him, and kept him healed as he made his stand. I could not have been prouder of my suitor than at that moment, facing certain death at the demon's claws yet refusing to back down and abandon his colleagues. And then, a miracle occurred! Sans Quah awoke!
While the demons might have been a match for Vorne, they were no match for Sans Quah's greatsword as he cut them down! As he fought, Aneurin woke as well, and Taleck recovered his stomach.
As the gas from the cloud cleared, I saw that Alderan had not been idle, either. Grease stains covered the floor where the demons still lay, and Alderan's web filled a good portion of the room beyond the cloud. A demon stirred! Steeling myself, I stepped forward and slit its throat. My sergeant would have been proud, but I must admit, on seeing the gush of the demon's blood I nearly lost my stomach as well. How unclean killing is, even when done for righteous reasons!

The mistress, recognizing the sudden turning tide, bid us farewell with a wave and climbed up a ladder to an opening to the streets above. Sans Quah and I gave chase, followed shortly thereafter by the remaining conscious members of our party.
The mistress fled up the Riddleport arch as if her feet were coated in glue; she had no trouble running at such a steep angle. Sans Quah tried to follow, but his climbing skills are not as great as one might have imagined. Vorne stepped up behind me, touched me, and said, "Do something!"
Strength surged to my wings! I suddenly felt whole again! I gave several mighty flaps and was airborne... for all of ten feet! Despite my comrades' derisive laughter and apparently-unflattering comparisons (Vorne confided to me at a later time that they had declared me as looking like nothing so much as a chicken trying to fly away), I was ecstatic! I flew again, and again launched myself at least ten feet in the air! What joy! What rapture!
But of course, my short flights did nothing to stop the dark elf from escaping, and did not help Sans Quah in his relentless pursuit of her.

As she reached the top of the arch, the mistress looked about and saw an approaching ship. Looking at Sans Quah and the vessel, it was clear the boat would get there first. Sure enough, as it passed underneath the arch, the dark elf allowed herself to drop, feather-like, onto the transport below. Sans Quah had no such magic, and could only look on in frustration as his quarry escaped.

We re-gathered at the bottom of the arch, wondering what to do, when the sky grew bright with fire and a massive meteor struck near Riddleport, perhaps only a few miles offshore! Light filled the sky, but no sound reached us -- yet! Knowing the shockwave would cause tidal waves, I raced to a nearby building as Sans Quah attempted to re-climb the arch. Some followed Sans Quah, while others followed me. Knocking sharply on the front door, I was greeted by a confused-looking woman. Knowing that we had no time for explanations, I cut straight to the core of the matter. "Good evening, M'Lady. We would be very interested in seeing your roof at the moment, and I believe you and your family would be well-disposed if you came with us. May we come in?"
Flabbergasted, the woman let us by and indicated the stairs to the roof. We quickly assisted her and her family to the rooftop as well, and had an excellent view of the tidal wave as it swept in and did its best to drown the city.
Fortunately, Riddleport is not so easily drowned, and the wave did not even reach the edge of our rooftop, much less spill over. Those who had chosen to climb the arch were likewise safe.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the residents of Riddleport who had not been wise enough to seek higher ground, and there was great bloodshed and misery towards the shoreline. I raced out of the house and towards the shore to assist in any way I could...

*** End of Session ***

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Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
(Journal from January 25, 2014 session)

The rest of the evening was a blur of panic, pain, confusion, and hope as I spent all of my remaining magics assisting those who had been injured during the flood, or those who had lost life or limb battling the sea creatures that poured forth with said flood. By Sarenrae, Riddleport must be one of the most accursed cities on the Material Plane short of the Worldwound itself! Run by criminals, with murders of its citizens day and night, with bluffs that block the sun in the morning, some kind of magical ring towering over the entire city, and a bay full of carnivorous creatures who would eat you as soon as look at you. Who would willingly choose to live in such a place?

Exhausted and spent, I vaguely recall staggering back to the Goblin... no, the Glorious... and collapsing into our bed for the night. How thankful I was that my companions had allowed us to keep our suite after my abortive attempt to leave them!

Oh... and Kwava arrived at some point during the rescues, asking what had happened. The other party members told him they would debrief him in the morning.
Myself, I was rather ashamed that I had even considered him my "light against the darkness". When you not only miss the battle against your arch-nemesis entirely, but are not even aware that it happened, it makes you a rather sorry excuse for a prophecized savior, in my mind...

That night, as I lay exhausted, waiting for sleep to overcome me, I pondered my dilemma: I knew that I was on this plane because of a vision from an oracle of Pharasma. But what was I to do here? Who was I to follow?
Slowly, the light dawned on me: I had fallen into this plane atop a mage who had been targeting Vorne. Vorne and I had found The Dress together, and he had secretly purchased it for me, resulting in our courtship. In every battle that turned against us, it was Vorne's indefatigability and bravery that won the day for us! Vorne was my stalwart against the darkness!
And then I considered his attitude: He only seemed to care for three things: Researching the blot, tweaking Alderan, and getting me out of my silks! I swear, if he were able to come up with a way to have me lecture on the cause of the blot at the Cipher Academy while nude, simultaneously proving Alderan's research erroneous, his life would be complete! He cared nothing for destiny, nor prophecies, nor in being a hero of legend.

In short, he was perfect. It was Vorne I had been sent to follow! I rolled over in bed and wrapped my arms and wings around him tightly. He would not come near to escaping me again!

What an eventful day!

I woke, bleary-eyed, but dutifully greeted the sun and Sarenrae. Much to my amazement, the rest of the party arose at a similarly-early hour, eager to explore the rest of the cave to see what the mistress had been doing.

Before we left, I had business with Alderan. After his brave stand against the half-orc monk, I had offered him a feather, and he had refused. He had finally approached me several days before the battle with the dark elf mistress indicating that while he felt he did not merit a feather, his raven Arber did. And my power was finally sufficient to grant this request. I dashed off a quick note to Alderan, enclosed one of my recently-shed feathers, and considered the matter closed.

With the party gathered, we proceeded downwards and nothing impeded our progress. We quickly returned to the mistress' room. Horrors! She had been excavating under the Cyphergate, and not only excavating, but using an adamantine chisel to remove runes from it! Vorne and Alderan were fascinated; they discussed at great length how the "arch" was actually a ring penetrating deep into the earth, and the mistress had apparently been causing the strange magical effects (the blot, the purple mists, the suicidal birds, the magnetism, and so forth) by damaging the gate. She had kept a meticulous journal, but neither of them could read it. Fortunately, both of them recognized the language as Undercommon, and believed they would be able to translate the journal without much difficulty.

After taking careful sketches of the damage to the archway and pocketing the chisel and journal (and Alderan's abortive attempt to use Mending to repair the gate), we returned to the Glorious.

As we breakfasted, word trickled in that the falling star had struck Devil's Elbow, an island perhaps 18 miles off the coast from Riddleport. Sans Quah, curious as always, set off into town to learn all he could about Devil's Elbow.
While he was away, the rest of the party had me sell our gains to Findler (they say he fancies me, and gives me better prices), then we went to the temple of Calistria to tend to Taleck. Needless to say, they had ample experience with "drained men" (I held my tongue at that), but were willing to restore him for an exorbitant price (nearly twice the cost of my wand of healing). The party members more familiar with prices in Riddleport assured me the price was fair, and nearly half our earnings went to restore Taleck to full health.

Returning to the Glorious, Sans Quah told us what he knew of Devil's Elbow. It was an island with a tragic past. Originally home to a siren, a sea captain had met her, fallen in love with her, and founded a town there. The townsfolk, on learning of his love, captured her and burned her at the stake. Humans are such barbaric creatures! Do they have no concept of love? Do none of them worship Shelyn, or even know her?
From then on, the island behaved as if cursed, and well it should! All attempts to settle it failed, and it was now abandoned to its ghosts.

I must say, Carmen is nothing if not resourceful. Realizing that Vorne and Alderan had new information on the blot and the Cyphergate, she suggested that they present their findings at a seminar that evening. They were more than happy to do so, and Carmen sent me on my usual advertising errands, letting everyone know of the Glorious' new purpose as a research facility and tavern, and of the special talk that would occur there that night. Taleck and Lian accompanied me, while Vorne and Alderan worked diligently translating the journal and preparing their talks. The smallness of our little threesome saddened me a bit; of course I missed holding Vorne's arm as we strolled down the street, but the little shadow man Zokrim's bitterness was always a source of some amusement to us. He had not been seen nor heard of since the battle with the mistress, and I was truly concerned for his safety.
Once my advertising was done, without so much as a, "Welcome home," or "By your leave," I was whisked away by the party to the Overlord's palace, there to distract his lesser bureaucrats as the main bulk of the party went in to meet with him. I uncomplainingly performed my duties, and tactfully fended off the advances of several unfortunate-seeming middle bureaucrats, but the party assured me that my efforts had not been in vain, and they had successfully debriefed the Overlord on what they knew of the dark elf, the meteor, and the Cyphergate. Or at least as much as they were willing to tell him about the matter. Apparently, they had been hoping to enter into some sort of agreement with the Overlord in order to obtain a ship with which to travel to Devil's Elbow, and the Overlord had informed them that "his men" were already on their way.

We returned to the Glorious in the late afternoon and found Kwava waiting for us. We informed him of most everything that had transpired. He was particularly concerned with the dark skin of the elf; he and Alderan acted as if she was of another race entirely. They resorted to Elven for much of their conversation, so I missed the finer points. At the end of the conversation, Kwava indicated that he wanted to travel with us to Devil's Elbow to investigate the meteor impact. Unfortunately, we still did not have a boat.
As the afternoon faded into evening, the first trickle of curious researchers and residents hoping to learn more about what threatened their city began to arrive. (I nearly penned "fair city", but Riddleport has nothing whatsoever to do with "fair".) By the time it came time for Vorne and Alderan to present their talk, the Glorious was far more crowded than I had ever seen it. The girls and I were hard-pressed to keep drinks in the hands of all the thirsty, and I know I used at least one Sanctuary spell to protect my derriere from the overly-avid attentions of one would-be researcher. Exactly what he was researching, I daren't suppose. The last I saw him Carmen was approaching him to "have words", and I did not see him again.
Vorne and Alderan presented what they had learned, both in their personal research and from the dark elf's journal. I wish I could assay the quality of their presentation, but I must admit, I was hopelessly lost among the technicalities of it.

After the talks, everyone was aglow. Vorne and Alderan were pleased with the response to their talk. Carmen was overjoyed at the (money-paying) turnout. Sans Quah, Taleck, and Lian were happy that there was no significant trouble. And I was happy that I was finally getting to go to bed.

The next few days proved both very restful and therapeutic to me, and very concerning to the rest of the party. It seemed that every crime lord with any influence at all in Riddleport was putting together a team of either loyal men or mercenaries (or even disposable thugs) in an effort to get to Devil's Elbow first. All of them believed that there were riches to be had in obtaining "star metal" from the meteorite. While Clegg Zincher and the Overlord were already known to have sent off ships, the rest of the parties scrambled to find boats. Alderan even went so far as to try to broker a deal with Boss Croat. Unfortunately, Boss Croat did not have a ship at the moment. However, Alderan was persistent in his bargaining and garnered us a somewhat-unfavorable deal that at least got us on the next boat that came in under Boss Croat's control. As I was of little use in dealing with the crime lords, I spent my days volunteering at the temple, healing the wounded, nurturing the sick, and offering solace to the devastated. I offered my services to Larur's aunt as well, but she had no use for me, and promised that she would send those who could use my healing to the temple.

On the fourth day after the strike, Kwava finally proved to be of some use by telling us that he had managed to arrange a ship for us that would depart on the seventh day. Unfortunately, it was too late! On the fifth day, my confidante and friend Samaritha was taken away from me on assignment with the Cypher Mages to investigate! I received no formal goodbye, no hugs nor tears, nothing but a heartfelt note that she was going to the island, and that she wished me well! Now I was determined to get to that island and see her safe! Sans Quah was also unhappy to see her go, but I am afraid his affections are those of puppy love, and perhaps Samaritha did him a kindness by departing.

As we idled in Riddleport, waiting for Kwava's ship to come in, Alderan entertained himself by interviewing butlers. What Alderan would need in a manservant was beyond me, but he was determined, and both his coin and his reputation were good, so he had no shortage of applicants. By the fifth day of our enforced idleness, he had hired a manservant by the name of Higgins, whose sole qualities seemed to be the ability to carry things without dropping them and to compliment Alderan on any and all of his decisions. I did not particularly care for the man, but neither did I dislike him. It was more the notion of hiring another man to be your sychophant that did not sit well with me. On the other hand, Vorne and Alderan were both quite delighted with Higgins, and had him serve them enough tea that I marveled they did not develop bladder conditions. And am I really that much different, relying on my hounds to protect me in combat rather than fighting myself? Perhaps the only difference is that I rely on my hounds' loyalty, while Alderan pays in solid coin.
Speaking of hounds, and coin, and loyalty, it was at this point that Aneurin chose to take his leave from us. As he told us, he was a sellsword by trade, and it was a dirty, dangerous business. By cashing out his share of the Glorious and counting his previously-earned share, he felt he had more than enough to retire, or at least move on to less-dangerous work. We thanked him for his service, wished him well, and watched our second party member vanish from our lives. (Zokrim never did return.)

On the seventh day after the meteorite hit, our ship arrived on schedule. It arrived too late to set off that evening, so the captain invited us to dine with him as his crew took a brief shore leave for the evening. The captain was quite charming; exactly the kind of charm I've had to deal with for over eight decades now, so it was easy for me to politely decline his advances. Carmen was not so demure, but neither is she courting to my knowledge, so she accepted his advances adroitly and received a seat next to him at the captain's table for dinner as a reward.
Dinner was a cordial enough affair, but we were suddenly interrupted by the sounds of men moving heavy objects on the deck above, well before the crew was scheduled to return. We rushed topside, only to find a group of saboteurs pouring oil on the deck and rigging, and preparing to burn our ship! We engaged in combat, and I was forced to endure the most terrifying, agonizing moments of my long existence.

The men themselves were no threat. We defeated them easily and the few fires they set were easy for me to put out with the simple water cantrip I use for preening. One jumped overboard and tried to swim away. Sans Quah lowered his bow to shoot the helpless man in the water, but before I could cry out he seemed to have a fundamental change of heart, lifted his bow, and chose the let the man live. Carmen was not so kind, and shot the man as he swam away. I do not know what his fate was; I can only hope it was better than that of the rest of our captives.
We then had to decide what to do with the rest of the men. On questioning, they proved to be the worst sort of Riddleport scum: Men who hung around in taverns, waiting for anonymous buyers to pay them to perform criminal acts, no questions asked. This was just such an arrangement; they knew not who had hired them or why. They had been paid good gold to burn our ship, so they had tried. They had no idea that there were still people on board. Honestly, I don't think they would have cared. However, I saw no reason to harm them; we could let them go with a warning, and promise that if they ever returned to such activities, we would slay them. Carmen was not so kind-hearted, and wanted to slay them on the spot. Carmen and I argued for several minutes on the point, with her arguing that she would let them go, but only if tied hand and foot and dropped off the bow. I fought strongly with her, arguing that I would accept nothing short of releasing them with only their hands tied off the stern in the shallow water.

I know not what demons or devils Carmen is in league with, or if she is simply very clever and even more evil. She suddenly gave up her argument and agreed with me: The men would be thrown overboard off the stern of the ship, hands tied but feet loose, and if they managed to make it through the relatively shallow water to shore, she would let them go. We untied their feet, stood them at the stern, and Carmen pushed them overboard.
Whether it was a dire pact or merely the scent of blood from the previous saboteur, I will never know. A swarm of sharks was waiting at the stern of the ship. I watched, helpless, as three men whom I had tried valiantly to protect, and who were being thrown overboard on my "orders", were torn limb from limb by sharks as Carmen laughed. As I stood there, horrified beyond all reason, Alderan suggested that if I channeled energy the men might last longer. I wept.

These people are not my friends.

Realizing that they had gone too far; far, far too far, Carmen and Alderan relented and the other two men were freed and allowed to leave across the gangplank. Carmen warned them that if she ever saw them again they would suffer the same fate or worse. I do not think we need fear them; the looks on their faces said all I needed to know. To them, we were the demons; the joyful tormentors, and they would never willingly approach us again.

After the incident, the captain sent word canceling shore leave, and the crew quickly returned to the ship. We spent a restless, sleepless (for me), tear-filled (for me) evening in the ship's hold, then sailed for Devil's Elbow in the morning.


The trip to Devil's Elbow took only a few silent hours. We anchored some distance from shore, and ship's boats rowed us to the beach. The captain did not want to stay anchored this close to the island, so after some discussion it was agreed that he would set anchor roughly an hour's sail off shore, and if we needed him, Alderan would send his raven familiar Arber to fetch the ship.

Speaking of Arber, it turns out that Alderan does indeed have a conscience, much to the amazement of most in our group. As we landed, he took me aside for some privacy. He explained that he had seen how much the thugs' deaths had pained me, and, although it had been my declaration that had killed them, he felt that his quip was in poor taste and only added to my pain. Thus, he returned Arber's feather to me, feeling he no longer deserved it. I did not argue, though I thought a bit more highly of him for doing so.

As we debarked, we were hailed from a delapidated group of what might have once been buildings. Desperately trying to keep someone alive, I approached those who had hailed us, flanked by Sans Quah, and asked them to send two representatives to meet us. Two bedraggled, exhausted, battle-torn dwarves staggered out to meet us. The first dwarf identified himself as Goldhammer, the leader of the dwarves sent by the Overlord to find the star metal. Of the 13 original dwarves, only four remained. He described a jungle full of "low-crawling, speedy, spiky" creatures that drag you into the undergrowth and kill you. Their bite injects a venom that slowly eats you from the inside, and then your head explodes into tentacles and you become "one of them" and attack the rest of your party. They lost only a few party members to direct combat with the things; most were lost to the venemous bites.
Once the rest of the party was convinced that the dwarves were no threat, they asked that the rest of the survivors come out of hiding. They complied. A short negotiation took place: The dwarves would provide us with a map of everything they knew about the island, detailed descriptions of the creatures that had attacked them, and descriptions of the progress of the disease that transformed their colleagues into abominations. In return, we would send for the ship, ensure the dwarves' safety until they got on board, and have the captain deliver them safely to Riddleport. In gratitude, Goldhammer told us that if we were lucky enough to obtain any star metal, he and his dwarves would be sure to forge it for us at the Gasworks for a significant discount.

We summoned the ship as the dwarves drew their maps. Apparently the Cipher Mages were besieged at the old town of Witchfire, and were sending out either distress flares or doing battle every night. Thinking of my poor Samaritha, fighting alone in the night against unknown creatures of the dark, I knew my destiny. Fortunately, Sans Quah was no less determined to save his "love". The rest of the party did not stand against us, and once the dwarves were safely embarked we set off towards Witchfire, ready for whatever befell us...

*** End of Session ***

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Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
(Journal from February 8, 2014 session)

We proceeded single-file into the woods. I must say that the woods here on the Material Plane are far different from those in my home. It was hot, yet a steady drizzle soaked us to the skin. A refreshing warm rain can be quite pleasant, but when suited up in ill-fitting leather armor, carrying a heavy backpack on your back, a shield on your arm, and a sword at your side, it is downright unpleasant, and makes everything chafe. My companions told me to be glad of the rain, as it was driving off most of the insects, but that helped little, as it seemed that every flying creature with more than four legs was bound and determined to make off with a taste of Celestial blood that day. Kwava continued to sow the seeds of doubt in his competence, complaining that he did not like the woods. I was under the impression that elves were at home in the woods, but considering both his and Alderan's reaction to this place, perhaps I misheard, or the rumors are nothing more than that.
Watching poor Arber flitting about, trying not to fly too high and thus attract airborne predators, nor too low and thus attract ground-based ones, I took pity on him. Whether or not Alderan deserved protection, Arber did. I took Alderan aside and said as much to him. He did not argue, but thanked me and reattached my feather to the besodden bird.

Some distance in, several of us spotted a grey-cloaked figure standing against a tree, watching us. As we attempted to approach, he drew a bow and warned us away. I tried to draw closer, assuring him that I only wanted to ascertain his nature by touching him. He refused for a moment, and it looked like we would be forced to slay him. Fortunately, after examining me for a moment, he decided to let me approach, and I touched his hand and poured positive energy into him. The energy did not harm him, so I was satisfied that he meant us no harm; he had not tried all that hard to hide from us, and could have shot at us at any time, but stayed his hand and allowed us to approach.
The man told us his story: He had been hired by one of the first groups out for the island to provide healing for them. They had had a high-level wizard, or at least someone who could use a wizard's scroll, and had successfully teleported to the island well ahead of any ships. Unfortunately, when they were attacked by "twiny black lion things", neither the wizard's magic nor our stranger's healing had been sufficient, and he had been forced to hide while his party was slaughtered. The most memorable thing about the creatures to him was that they made no noises while killing his party. I hoped that my healing would prove more efficacious than his! A few unfortunate comments by my colleagues about his competence as a healer ensured his surliness for our journey, and my attempts to lighten the mood by enquiring about his religion did nothing to improve his spirits. I did manage to espy a holy symbol hanging around his neck, but I did not recognize the god or goddess it represented. I hate to sound judgemental, but I believe I would recognize any good deity's symbol, so we were being joined by yet another neutral (or worse) party member. How Sarenrae does test me! I will try to withhold judgement until I see what kind of energy he channels, if he indeed channels at all. (In spite of his claims of being a healer, he showed very little in the way of healing to us during our journey, and claimed to have been living in the woods for several days, so he should have been well-rested.)

The stranger joined us, obviously feeling there was safety in numbers, and we proceeded towards Witchfire. A rustling in the undergrowth was all the warning we received as we were assailed by a group of enormous... bugs? Taleck stepped in front of me to defend me, so I dutifully put a Shield of Faith on him, but I might as well not have bothered. Vorne stepped forward and flames erupted from his hands, engulfing the angry centipedes and charring them to a crisp. Taleck picked one up, took a large bite, and declared them well done! I declined the delicacy.
We finally reached Witchfire and the tower therein. Those from this plane marveled at its architecture: The building had no seams, and was seemingly carved or created from a single piece of stone. I am afraid that I am a bit jaded when it comes to fortification architecture, so I accepted that this was a well-constructed, easy-to-defend building. We moved past the tower and in to Witchfire proper. It was clear that this town had been abandoned for a long time; the buildings had their windows boarded up, and those boards were worn and weathered with age.

The corpses in the street were obviously a far more recent development. Two humans and two dwarves lay dead on the ground before us, twisted as if thrown from a great height, and discolored as by some hideous infection. Before I could approach to ascertain whether they were dead or undead, they stood up and attacked! I had time to channel before they arrived, doing them some damage, but our newfound stranger did not. All the more worrisome! Even more worrisome was the method of the zombies' attacks. Rather than striking with bludgeoning fists, huge tongues shot forth from their mouths, obviously somehow related to the infectious tentacles we had heard so much about from the dwarves and the stranger. Fortunately, my colleagues managed to defend themselves long enough for me to transform into my elemental state and prance before the zombies. Even more fortunately, they were as dim as I had hoped, and struck fiercely with their attacks of opportunity, causing me some pain but being utterly destroyed by my form in return. Two of the four zombies fell in this manner, and the other two were quick work for Sans Quah and Taleck.

As we looked at the destruction we had wrought, a wonderful, welcome, warm, reassuring voice called out in terror, "Leilani? Vorne? Alderan? Sans Quah? Carmen? Is that really you? You must come inside immediately! They will have heard the fight and will attack any moment now!"
Samaritha lived! I cannot express my relief and seeing her beautiful, terrified face as she urged us into the tower. I tried to hug her in welcome, but she pushed me aside and forced me into the building. What were we to face?

Once we were safely in the building, Samaritha explained. (Though she still did not give me a hug.) All of the groups on the island were trying to find a "star metal" called "nequill" or some such, that was extremely rare and extremely valuable in constructing weapons and armor. The cipher mages sent one of their own, "Pharik" I think, with Samaritha as his apprentice and at least 10 other apprentice wizards. They set up a fortified encampment in the tower, but were assailed by horrible, tentacled things at night. The creatures were resistant to magic, made no noise when attacking, and those they damaged became infected with a disease, curse, or infestation that caused them to rot inside, die, and become the zombies we saw outside. Several of her charges were dead, and the rest sorely wounded, as they had not come prepared for a prolonged siege. This would not do!
I interrupted Samaritha's tale and asked to be led directly to the sick ward. Samaritha complied, and I promptly channeled energy and healed all of her people entirely. This was both gratifying, as it made me seem quite effective, and terrifying, as I know that I am not that powerful of a healer, so these men and women were indeed in extreme danger just by being here! I could channel for Taleck or Sans Quah four or five times before they would be fully healed! These mages had no business being under siege! We needed to get them to safety!

Unfortunately, the tentacled abominations had other ideas. One of the apprentices at the top of the tower cried out a warning, and perhaps two dozen of the creatures attacked the tower. As I rushed upstairs to help as best as I could, one such creature burst through the wall and faced us. It was a dark blue-black, and indeed looked like a miniature lion, though it had tentacles instead of a mane, and dead white eyes. It made no noise, not even growling or gasping for breath, and faced us down. Vorne studied it intently for a moment and declared, "I will call you 'Vorne Kitties'."
This displeased Alderan no end. Apparently it is a great honor to name a new creature, and Vorne had beaten him to it. Even worse, the entire group, Samaritha included, accepted the name immediately, and "Vorne Kitties" they became.
We tried various tactics against the Vorne kitty: Taleck struck it with an earthbreaker (effective). I invoked my halo to cast full Daylight upon it (ineffective). Vorne struck it with a force missile (effective). The kitty was quickly defeated, but not only were there many, many more, but the entire building started quaking and shuddering! In yet another tactical blunder, some of us chose to race downstairs, hoping to get to the foundation before the building fell, and others raced towards the top, presumably in an attempt to jump to safety as it fell.
In all the confusion I found myself ablaze with daylight in a collapsing room with Vorne, Taleck, and another Vorne Kitty. Taleck and the kitty, ignoring the chaos around them, squared off and did battle. The entire building crashed, fell to the ground, and started rolling towards the cliffs! While Taleck and the kitty continued to focus on nothing but each other, I healed those around me and saw Vorne leap out of the window. In a remarkable display of dexterity for such a typically sedentary man, Vorne ran atop the tower as it rolled! Having trained in some acrobatics during my combat training, I leapt out the window cleanly as well... or so I thought. The edge of the window caught my wing and flung me into the collapsing cliffside below. Was this to be my end, then? Buried in a landslide caused by a collapsing tower assailed by Vorne kitties? I am sure a bard could have made a song of it, but it would have had to be a very good bard, and I doubt it would have been a very good song.

As I tumbled through the dirt, I caught side of Vorne floating over the confusion. He pointed at me and said something. Perhaps it was a spell; I cannot be sure. I hope it was not an insult or a jest. Whatever it was, nothing happened.
Then, Samaritha came! She flew over and cast a spell that raised me out of the landslide! But there were tears in her eyes as she did it. What was happening?
I was levitating, but had no horizontal movement. I flapped my wings mightily and began pushing myself towards the town. Below I could see Vorne levitating as well, and Samaritha towing him to safety. The others were at the top of the cliff, obviously having chosen the correct route at the beginning, but they were engaged in combat with several Vorne kitties, so they were not entirely safe either. But where was Taleck?? And where were all of Samaritha's apprentices?

As the tower crashed into the sea, a roar came from below. "That was FUN!!!! And seawater! Seawater destroys Vorne kitties!"
Yes, my poor, dim, dear Taleck had stayed locked in combat with the Vorne kitty for the entire descent down the cliffs and into the waters, and was even yet ready to fight on, but the sea water had slain the kitty. What useful information! What a dear, dim man! I only hope that I have the ability to raise him from the dead before he finds something that will kill him!
But then the magnitude of Samaritha's tears struck me. I recalled how effective my healing had been on her charges, and how little effect it had on Taleck. Yes, Taleck could survive a tumble down a mountain and off a cliff while locked in mortal combat with a tentacled abomination, but I doubted that Samaritha's apprentices would have fared as well. Sure enough, as we explored the destroyed tower and surroundings and I healed Taleck, we learned that not a single one of her charges had survived. To say that Samaritha was devastated would be an understatement. I have trained to protect and heal my charges for a century, and the loss of a friend tore my heart apart. The notion of losing ALL of one's charges in a single event... unthinkable! Terrible!

Now that we knew of the Vorne kitties' vulnerability to sea water, we moved to the wreckage in the water for the night. Samaritha wept and I tried to console her, speaking of Larur and his death, and the unspeakable pain I knew she must be feeling. I do not know that I was very good at it, but I had to try for her.
In the early evening we were attacked by another reefclaw. Kwava shot a single arrow and killed it. Perhaps he is a sea ranger?
Although the others marveled at the luck and flavor of fresh-grilled reefclaw for dinner, I thought of Samaritha's mages and was sad and quiet for the evening.

*** End of Session ***

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Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
(Journal from February 22, 2014 session)

Ah, for the days when I considered climbing up to a rooftop in Riddleport to be a hard way to pay my devotions to and greet Sarenrae in the morning!

We slowly awoke on the ruined building, sore but safe, with Sans Quah and Taleck still clinging to bits and pieces of their reefclaw from the previous night's feast. As the party awoke, we pondered, "Whither next?"
There were two obvious destinations on the island: Klegg Zincher's camp, where we might find either reinforcements or more souls in need of our aid, or the crater itself, where Vorne and Alderan hoped to find clues as to how the dark elf had called the meteor down upon the island.

As it was, I looked at Kwava, and Alderan, and thought of the dark elf we had fought, and wondered whether they were color-coded in some way. Alderan was a city elf, and his pale skin reflected an aversion to sunlight and healthy exercise. As far as I could tell, Kwava was a sea elf, and his swarthy complexion and lean ropy muscles did indeed match the countenances of the human sailors we had encountered on our journey here. The mystery elf was dark purple with white hair: Obviously a cave elf or darkness elf, born to darkness and underground dwellings. I wondered what other elves I might encounter, and decided to start cataloguing them and their rainbow of colors. Now that I had seen white, tan, and purple, would I perhaps meet green, red, and blue? I looked forward to my adventures with renewed enthusiasm.

I turned my attentions back to the discussion at hand. Obviously my lack of sleep was distracting me. While I yearned to go to Zincher's camp to provide aid if possible, I had learned better than to speak up with this group, so I remained mostly silent and listened to the others' arguments. Eventually, we decided to go to Zincher's camp first, hoping to find and assist any survivors there, and then move on to the crater.
Samaritha was even more of a wreck than I; it was obvious she was deeply impacted by the loss of her charges, and she wanted nothing more than to be off of this accursed island. I could not fault her for this, and I encouraged the group to let her go. It took very little discussion, and Alderan dispatched Arber to fetch the ship. I must admit, as he exceeded the range of my bond with him I felt some trepidation, but Arber is a smart bird, and I reassured myself that all would be well.
Sure enough, perhaps a bit more than an hour later our ship sailed into view and sent a longboat to pick up their new passenger. The captain himself was in the boat, and smiled rakishly as he personally assisted Samaritha on board, admiring her backside as she stepped past him onto the boat. While I was not particularly concerned for her honor, and wondered more at how the captain would look while screaming and on fire, Sans Quah was visibly upset by this development, and first insisted that she should not go at all, and then insisted that we go to the crater first that we might conclude our business on the island as soon as possible, avoiding any chance of Samaritha spending a night on board ship with the roguish captain.
With no strong disagreements, we changed our course and headed for the crater.

On our way, we had the misfortune to encounter our first Vorne kitties "in the wild", without the protection of stone walls or a tumbling tower to save us. Five of them assailed us, and we were unable to organize ourselves quickly enough; I was struck by one of their tentacles, while Alderan received a more serious cut. He claimed that he had cut himself with his own dagger while trying to fend them off, and, knowing his fighting ability, we accepted that explanation... for the moment. Taleck attempted to use a flask of sea water against them (on learning that I could create water at will, the party had forsaken carrying water flasks in favor of sea water flasks), but it was far less effective than his earthbreaker. Fortunately, we were able to vanquish them all with only those few injuries, and I was even fortunate enough to find one alive and stabilize it.
Forgive me a petty tirade, but I find it immensely frustrating that if I stabilize sentient beings, whether humans or half-orcs or wererats, my group chastises me severely and indicates that such victims all deserve to die for having the audacity to attack us. But if I stabilize a dumb animal with which the party is unfamiliar, they praise me inordinately for providing them with that most precious of gifts: Knowledge. Perhaps I should suggest my theory on elves and elf coloring and thus save a few elves' lives that way...

In any case, Vorne and Alderan set to studying the creature. I was fortunate; their tentacles did not carry their deadly spores. It was only their bites that consumed other beings with vile disease. Alderan paled at this news, perhaps because he is the least-armored among us. We learned little that we did not already know about them, but at least our hypotheses were confirmed: They did not breathe, explaining their silence. They were aberrations, not undead, and thus my light and channeled energy would not hurt them. Their tentacles were strong (and painful) but otherwise harmless. Their bite carried spores, and this was how they reproduced. Alderan paled even further. I swear, at some points that elf is the bravest among us (save Vorne), and at others he is tantamount to a coward. I do not believe I will ever understand him!
Done with their research, Vorne and Alderan looked to me for permission to slay the creature. Apparently my opinion is not necessary in the case of men, but invaluable with regards to beasts. I nodded; I saw no reason to allow such an abomination to continue to exist and endanger the Material Plane with its infectious bite. Vorne quickly and quietly slit its throat, giving it a dignified and quiet death. Very different from feeding it while still conscious to sharks, I must say.

With the group fully healed, we proceeded to the crater. Once there, we encountered more Vorne kitties, but this time we were ready for them. Alderan trapped most of them within a magical web, and Kwava laid waste to them with his bow. Ever since his visit to the sea, his shots were far more accurate and he was performing with far more bravery. I determined that we should rest near the sea whenever possible to reinvigorate him. In his full form, he was a formidable foe indeed!
Unfortunately, our exploration of the crater was fruitless. We found a few pounds of star metal, but little else, and even those more concerned with money than I were unimpressed at the haul. We needed more information, and for that we needed to head for Zincher's camp. Sans Quah's head drooped at the notion of leaving Samaritha alone with the captain for even longer, but there was nothing to be done. We needed to solve this mystery.

The trip to Zincher's camp was uneventful, and I, at least, was overjoyed to see a well-built, somewhat-fortified camp indicating a great amount of human activity. The men who greeted us were battle-worn and suspicious, but Carmen asked to speak with Zincher immediately and the men led us to him without complaint. The "compound" looked like nothing so much as a good idea half-done. Palisades were being put up, but only perhaps a third complete. Permanent structures were being constructed, but all the men were still sleeping in tents. A huge fire pit marked the center of camp, and a large pavilion marked Zincher's temporary residence. The men led us inside, then guarded the door.
Zincher himself looked healthy enough, and a huge, silent human stood in the corner of the room, massive hammer on his shoulder. He was very obviously there in case we decided to start any trouble with Zincher.

Zincher described the situation: He had started with 60 men in an initial camp. After the first waves of Vorne kitties hit, they decided to move to a more defensible location, and chose this site for its open views and large raised area from which one could rain arrows down on attackers. Zincher received news of a shipwreck on the other side of the island, and sent 40 of his men to salvage everything possible from it, as it was supposedly a very rich ship. Of the 20 who had stayed in camp, only 10 remained. The rest had been killed by the zombies created by the Vorne kitty spores. The zombies attacked every night, and in greater numbers with each passing day. He was waiting for his 40 men to return to finish his palisade and establish a more permanent camp.
When we asked him the purpose of such a camp, he pointed out that Vorne kitties were unheard of in Riddleport, and spectators would pay top dollar to watch them battle to the death with other creatures. I began to despair of humanity, or at least of Riddleport. Vorne's description of the rest of Varisia sounded far more pleasant. At this point I could hold my tongue no longer, and suggested that it would be far safer to keep the Vorne kitties here on the island where they could not get loose, and bring spectators here. Zincher scoffed at me. Who would willingly pay money to come to this island? I resumed my silence.

He asked us about our mission, and Vorne described the dearth of sky metal and the poor state of the other camps. He told him we were looking for drow (apparently the formal name for the purple elves. I wonder what the formal name of the sea elves is?) and an altar they might have used to attract the meteor, and Zincher became very alarmed and insisted he had not seen any.

I must admit, I have no idea what transpired next. What inspired Carmen to lay into Klegg Zincher, calling him a liar and a scoundrel, and calling his entire story a pack of lies. What deep-seeded guilt and anger caused Zincher to respond by smiting Carmen down with his pickaxe. I know that we were suddenly in combat, and my comrades were far more ready for it than I. Sans Quah and Taleck stepped up to engage Zincher. Vorne opened a pit in the doorway, preventing reinforcements from coming in. Kwava moved to a free corner where he could rain devastation with his bow. Hooray for the sea! Alderan bravely stepped forward and blocked the silent man, saying something to him in Common that I did not understand. (Vorne later stated that Alderan had cried out, "Not the face!", but knowing Alderan and Vorne's relationship, I cannot be sure of that.)
Myself, I knew that Carmen would die if I did not reach her, so I stepped among the combatants and knelt at her side. Zincher still had murder in his eyes, so I knew that if I healed her and she stirred, she was doomed, so instead I feigned inability to heal her, touching her and ensuring her wounds would seal properly and prevent her from bleeding to death, without waking her up or alerting Zincher to her state. My ruse seemed to work; Zincher turned his full fury on Sans Quah, and only his stout barbarian constitution prevented him from suffering the same fate as Carmen.

Things were not going well. I could hear Alderan calling out to the others, but he chose a language they would all understand, so I know not what he said.

Fortunately, between the combined efforts of Kwava, Sans Quah, Vorne, and Taleck, Zincher finally fell into unconsciousness. I immediately channeled for Carmen and Sans Quah, healing them significantly. I knew that I was including the men who had fallen into the pit in my radius, but I hoped that might make them more amenable to surrender now that Zincher was down. The man in the corner fighting Alderan called out something, and all fighting ceased. After a moment's discussion (that no one translated for me, though I was not about to interrupt), the huge man walked to the tent opening and called out something.
As I healed Carmen and Sans Quah and it became clear that we were going to talk, rather than fight, Sarenrae's blessing began to wear off, and I began to pick out words and phrases. Finally, after a minute or two, I could understand the conversation.

The huge man was Akron Erix, an undercover member of the Sable Company, a police force from a city named Korvosa far to the east, but still in the country of Varisia. Klegg Zincher was wanted for murdering and mutilating a Sable Company member there, and was to return to stand trial. Akron had no interest in any of Zincher's loot or men; he only wanted to return with Zincher to Korvosa to see him face justice. We were all more than willing to allow Mr. Erix to take Zincher away, so that part of the negotiation was finished.
Apparently, part of the discussion that had happened while I could not understand it was the discovery that Zincher had been charmed, presumably by one of the drow, and our investigations should include the first camp to see whether we could determine where or how Zincher had been charmed. We searched Zincher's belongings, and found perhaps 30 or 40 pounds of star metal, along with some cash, some items, and a map of the island with an X on it. Mr. Erix had no idea what the 'X' was supposed to indicate.

When Mr. Erix learned of my healing abilities, he asked me to see to two of Zincher's men; they were in the final stages of the Vorne kitty bites, and he was hoping I could do something. They were not victims of the zombies; rather, Zincher had been experimenting on his own men to study the progress of the disease. Monstrous! I accompanied Mr. Erix immediately and found the men bound and gagged on beds in a dark tent. I tried; oh how I tried! I healed them. I channeled energy. I took my elemental form and passed through them. Nothing helped! With no other magics to try, I admitted my failure to Mr. Erix. He personally performed the executions. My respect for the man went up.

Mr. Erix' final request was that we aid him and his men in defending against the zombies that would come that evening. This I could do! Alderan arranged the camp to be as defensible as possible, as I instructed the men to stay near me and not stray; I could protect them from the zombies, but only if they stayed close. Some party members chose to sleep in watches for the night. I stayed at the campfire, ready to defend the men.

The attack came a bit after midnight. I clutched my father's holy symbol at my neck and prepared my most powerful spells. These zombies would not get these men! They couldn't!
Then, the "swarm" arrived.
Ten zombies came staggering up the hill and into camp. I was both relieved and a bit disappointed in the men. 10 zombies? A swarm? I put aside my more powerful magics and awaited their charge.
The entirety of my mistake was in underestimating their speed; they got to the men just before I channeled. But between the men's arrows and my channeling, almost all the zombies fell in our first salvo. I did not have to channel a second time; the men competently dispatched the few sorely-damaged remaining zombies. I quickly checked the men for injuries. We had "defeated" the "swarm" without so much as a broken callus. The men were overjoyed, and far more friendly to me than they had been previously. I wondered... 10 zombies are an annoyance. 40 zombies are a true threat. Just how many zombies had Zincher caused to be created? And how many would assault us the following evening? I kissed my father's holy symbol and put it away. I would be ready for that assault!

*** End of Session ***

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Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
(Journal from 05-Apr-2014 session)

Much to our surprise, as we were checking the men for injuries, Ciaren the strange "healer" came running out of his tent -- he had slept through the entire combat! My mistrust in him grew. How could one sleep through the alarms and general commotion we had raised?
As I studied him, trying to read what he was thinking, he pointed to the horizon to our southeast. "Do you see that glow?"
At first, my eyes distracted by the bonfire, I saw nothing. But as my eyes adjusted to the darkness and with his assistance I could see it: An eerie flickering sickly blue-green glow just over the trees on the horizon.

A debate ensued: Were we still strong enough to venture forth on this island at night? I had used all of my minor spells healing Sans Quah and Carmen earlier in the day, but my more powerful spells and channeling remained. Vorne and Alderan had not used many spells at all. But what about the men? What would they do if another wave of zombies attacked?
Both concerned for the men and curious as to the nature of the light, we decided to split the party: Lian, Taleck, Vorne, Kwava, Ciaren, and I would investigate the light. Sans Quah, Carmen, and Alderan would stay and help guard the men. This put a stout barbarian and a wizard in each group. It was unfortunate that we could not similarly split the healers, but Mr. Erix assured us that so far there had only been one zombie attack each evening, and we decided that if we were venturing forth into the woods at night, it would be better to have both "healers" with the venturing party. (I still wondered about Ciaren's true nature.)

The walk through the woods at night was short, cool, and quiet. Almost peaceful. I began to relax. This was actually quite pleasant. I knew that Lian was on point a bit ahead of us, but his ability to glide through the trees stealthily was impressive; I do not believe that I even once caught sight of him. At the head of our little band was Taleck, earthbreaker on his shoulder, striding forward confidently though it was very likely he could see nothing in the woods, as Vorne's light was far behind him. I smiled a bit. Taleck was so huge-hearted, so self-sacrificing, so determined to be at the fore of every battle. I had known many hounds like him. And I had loved them all.
Oh, dear. No! I had loved them all as friends. That's better.
The mysterious Ciaren walked behind Taleck, then came Vorne with his Light spell, then me, then Kwava taking up the rear. I found it endearing that Vorne had insisted on providing the light for the party; he knew full well that I was capable of providing it, but he chose to do it himself. I found it quite gentlemanly!

My musings were cut short by a hideous otherworldly scream! From out of the darkness charged a wraith, angry and deadly! I had not expected such powerful undead to dwell on this island! The creature screamed something hate-filled and unintelligible. It was only when Vorne translated for me that I realized that Sarenrae's blessing had taken over, and I would not be able to understand or communicate with the creature!
It took only a moment for it to identify itself as Captain Neraken, original founder of the island and victim of unspeakable tragedy. My disgust turned instantly to pity, and I tried to appeal to any humanity left in him, having Vorne translate for me. "Stand down and allow me to put you to rest properly, or be utterly destroyed."

Vorne did not have to translate the scream of rage I received in reply. I am sure the creature spoke at least a few words, and I believe Vorne was a proper gentleman by not translating them for me. As the creature charged forward, Ciaren channeled positive energy to hurt it. Hallelujah! He really IS a healer! I nearly hugged him in utter relief, but I had more important things to do at the moment. I used the full force of my channel against it and it staggered, but did not fall.
Unfortunately, Taleck, bless his dim little heart, charged forward to engage it. The perfectness of his wide eyes when his mighty earthbreaker passed right through the beast would have been hilarious were it not for the danger he had put himself in. The creature touched him and drained him of some of his essence, and I became enraged. This beast would NOT drain my Taleck!

At that moment, so many things happened it is hard to describe them all in any sensible order. Zokrim. Yes, THAT Zokrim, who had abandoned us to die weeks ago, appeared out of the woods, faithful hound Kimro at his side. Thankfully, he shot the wraith rather than us, but his arrows were equally ineffective. Vorne, having shielded himself with spells, stepped forward and challenged the creature, and it obliged by attacking him, but was unable to get through his shielding. Kwava began to shoot the creature with magic arrows that had some effect on it. I channeled a final time but the creature did not fall. Taleck finally showed that he had learned at least a bit of wisdom and fled the beast. Ciaren shrugged at me as if to say, "That's all I have."
I lost patience. Transforming to my elemental form and preparing my most powerful healing spell I strode forward and challenged the creature. It obviously did not understand me, but at least it was not fearful of me, and attacked Vorne once again. This would allow me time to touch it. Vorne dodged adeptly enough, Kwava continued to harass it with arrows, and I reached up and slapped it... least I thought I would. At the last moment the creature realized just how dangerous I was to its existence and dodged aside, my hand missing it by mere inches. Blast it all! I would see it laid to rest!
Fortunately, I did not have to try a second time, as Kwava's arrows finally felled the creature. Charged with an immense amount of positive energy, I spun about, looking for a useful place to discharge it, and there was poor Taleck, confused that HE was hiding behind ME. I touched him and a vast amount of energy surged through him. All his wounds were healed instantly, but he still looked a bit drained. I quickly cast a restorative spell and returned him to his proper self.

As the wraith faded away, I was pleased to see a small amount of positive energy float skywards along with all the negative energy that passed downwards. Perhaps we had laid the captain's spirit to rest after all. That was a comfort to me!

We immediately turned our questioning to Zokrim. Where had he been? What had he been doing? How had he come to this island after abandoning us in our time of need?
His answers were pointless and useless. He claimed to have swum the 18 miles from Riddleport to Devil's Elbow to "get away from it all", and had been attracted by the same glow we had. I could not decide whether Zokrim's ridiculous answers and evasiveness were more infuriating or reassuring, as at least we were all positive that this was the real Zokrim, and not some facsimile sent to deceive us.
Over Taleck's objections, we allowed Zokrim to join our group as we proceeded to the lighthouse.

Once there, we saw that the glow we had been seeing came from a sword embedded in the walkway going around the base of the lighthouse. A skeleton in rotted chainmail still clung to the sword. Vorne analyzed the sword's magic and declared that he believed it to be a simple +1 sword. This would be a valuable addition to our party! It appeared quite a difficult and dangerous climb to reach the sword, so we had some discussion as to who might be most dexterous to risk the narrow walkway and treacherous footing and retrieve the sword. Zokrim proved his (lack of) bravery once again, and refused to go. We tied a rope around Lian instead, and had him attempt the climb. Twice he fell, and twice we caught him before he was dashed to the surf. The third time he skipped nimbly across the walkway, as if his first two attempts were merely ruses to make us all the more impressed when he succeeded so gracefully the third time.
Unfortunately, once there, Lian was unwilling to touch the sword or the skeleton. What madness was this? Why would he have risked life and limb to climb out to the sword, only to be unwilling to touch it? As soon as Zokrim heard that there was magic to be had, he clambered across the chasm rope-free, merely to be near the loot. Yet he was also terrified of the skeleton, and would not touch the sword.

Frustrated and impatient at the cowardice on display, I stripped out of the cumbersome leather armor I had received from Findler, dropped my backpack and shield on the ground under Taleck's watchful eye, tied a rope around my waist, and made the climb myself. Without the burden of arms or armor it was a fairly easy climb, and I reached the skeleton and my two cowardly companions without incident.
As I reached down to grasp the sword, I spoke in Celestial to the skeleton, apologizing for our intrusion but indicating our need for his (or her) magnificent weapon. The skeleton did not reply, and I pulled the sword free easily. On seeing that I was not cursed in any visible way, Zokrim attempted to grab the skeleton's purse. I slapped his hand away and took it myself.

Carefully bundling the skeleton, sword, and purse within the remains of the chainmail shirt, I managed the climb back with some difficulty. I am not brawny like Taleck or Sans Quah, and I could certainly feel the extra weight as I made my way back to safety.
As I dressed in my armor again (would that I could be rid of it for good, foul encumbering stuff that it is), Vorne went through the skeleton's belongings and carefully documented their worth.

The sword was the prize above all others: A +1 cold iron longsword; a truly magnificent weapon for any of our fighting men (or women) to wield. Unfortunately, as Vorne went down the list of who might use it, we found that Carmen, Lian, and Ciaren all preferred lighter weapons, while Sans Quah and Taleck preferred heavier ones. Vorne, Alderan, and I had no use for such a weapon, and Kwava preferred his bow. This left lowly Zokrim as the rightful inheritor of the sword.
We had a great deal of consternation over this result: Was the sword of any use to us at all in Zokrim's hands? Wouldn't he abandon us again at a moment's notice, taking the invaluable sword with him? After a heated discussion, we decided to grant Zokrim use of the sword, but only on condition that he not flee again, under pain of death.
He seemed to understand this reasoning, and accepted it in return for the magnificent sword.

Our next task was to explore the lighthouse. Unfortunately, all we found there were the remains of the wraith's victims. I insisted on removing them all to the ground before the lighthouse, along with the skeleton I'd retrieved from the walkway, and I built a small pyre to them, giving them proper burial rights and burning their bodies as a sign of respect to their souls.

We returned to Zincher's camp, exhausted but victorious, and collapsed into the sleep of the righteous.

I know not whether it is a reward for suffering Carmen, Sans Quah, and Alderan's bloodthirsty ways, or simply my continued increase in power as I stay on this plane, but I find that I am closer to the Celestial Plane than ever before. When I awoke in the morning, somewhat tired but not exhausted from the previous night's exertions, I found that my bond to the Celestial Plane had strengthened significantly. I could summon a thin layer of weather from that plane, protecting me from the vagaries of Material Plane weather, and I even had access to my celestial armor, albeit for only a few minutes at a time. Perhaps the day would come soon that I could discard this horrifically-uncomfortable leather outfit of Findler's and rely on my own armor; far more protective and frankly, far more attractive.

My day was already going well when I heard the wonderful/horrible news: Carmen, Sans Quah, and Alderan, concerned about the camp's viability, had decided that they would stay in camp while the rest of us explored the areas indicated by Zincher's map! I was elated that I would be able to spend a day without having to protect prisoners from Carmen's ministrations, but fearful for Zincher's men. What, exactly, would constitute a capital crime while I was away? Poor hygeine? Looking at Carmen askance? Failing to look at Carmen askance? While I respected Carmen's business acumen and remarkable ability to read people, I was quite concerned with how she would treat men under her.
But people cannot grow if you do not give them the chance. And so, with barely a backwards glance, I set off with the others into the woods in search of Zincher's initial camp, leaving Carmen and Sans Quah to their men.

We found Zincher's old camp easily enough, but it had been picked clean; there was nothing there to find. As we turned to each other to discuss our next step, Taleck spotted sails on the horizon. The ship was headed for the docks, so it was easy enough for us to move in that direction and set ourselves up in a concealed location to determine the nature of the ship. It took those more familiar with local politics no time at all to determine that the ship belonged to none other than Elreth Treeg, also known as "Captain Grudge", a murderer and a scoundrel, well known for holding a grudge and exacting exceeding revenge. We had a bit of a debate as to what to do about him; "murderer and scoundrel" was a term that could be used against at least three-quarters of the population of Riddleport, as far as I could tell, and we had no reason as of yet to assault a ship under free sail to a "free" island. We decided that I should parlay with the captain to ascertain his intent, and to determine what, if anything, we should do about him.

I penned a polite note asking for parlay in one hour's time one mile from his ship, with no more than three men accompanying him, and Kwava shot the arrow towards the ship. Unfortunately, in spite of his obvious affinity for the sea, apparently shooting ships was not in his repertoire, and so Kwava struck the mast well above where a normal seaman might look. It took the crew at least 15 minutes to notice the arrow with the note, but we were not in any rush to engage them. However, once the crewman found the note and presented it to Captain Treeg, he prepared himself forthwith. After perhaps 20 minutes, he, three of his men, and a woman came ashore. I must admit, I was a bit pleased to see the woman. This indicated that Treeg would negotiate as a devil would; within the letter of the agreement but not within the spirit. Fortunately, I had had enough training in dealing with devil's pacts that I felt I could deal with a mere pirate.

As Treeg, his men, and his woman approached, I invoked my halo and my celestial armor; I might not be a full angel, but I could at least look the part. Those of our party members better versed in stealth concealed themselves around the periphery; Vorne and Taleck stayed at my side, both to protect me, and because neither felt they could adequately hide from the pirate's sharp-eyed crewmen.
The negotiations with Captain Treeg went much as I expected; he was charm incarnate (as always), pleaded innocence of any wrongdoing or malfeasant thought (as always), offered me a "ride" on his "ship" (*sigh*), and otherwise did not surprise me at all. We learned that he had taken 3 dwarves and 8 humans from the island. His claim was that he was offering them rides out of the goodness of his heart. Our expectation was that he was finding it profitable to at least strip his "guests" of all of their worldly belongings (at best), or sell them into slavery (at worst). We informed him that the Cipher Mages and Overlord's men were all accounted for, while some one or two dozen of Zincher's men were still unaccounted for. Unfortunately, Vorne tried to volunteer that there were no survivors other than us on the island. I wanted the pirate near at hand and yet unsure of our total numbers, so I provided the more accurate answer that many of Zincher's men were still unaccounted for; I was hoping to keep the pirate in port long enough to tempt him with the ripe plum of our camp. The woman with him was a cleric of Calistria; she might prove problematic if it came to battle. Otherwise, I felt that a frontal assault on the ship would be both unwise due to its defensibility, and indefensible as they had not taken any hostile actions so far.

The captain proved honorable if nothing else and returned to his ship, promising not to come ashore, and to offer "rides" only to those who asked for them. We in return expressed that we would not attack his ship without cause. This caused some consternation among the more violent party members, but although the captain was reputed to be vile and violent, he had acted with honor, provided me with all of the information I requested in detail, and I had high hopes that he would be unable to resist the lure of a campful of strong laborers who were obviously not very good fighters, as evidenced by their record so far against the zombies.
After our meeting, we left with mixed feelings; we had not ended up in full combat with the pirates, but we were not sure that leaving them alone was an acceptable solution.

We returned to camp and warned Mr. Erix of the danger of the pirates. It was already late in the afternoon due to Lian and Vorne's need for extra sleep after our previous night's excursions, so we set ourselves to assisting Mr. Erix and his men in setting up a defensible perimeter for the camp. Klegg Zincher was awake again, and had had to be gagged. None of us complained. Zokrim yet again showed his dual nature; facing foes brandishing iron he is an abject coward. Against hypothetical foes who might be coming to attack us some night he is a scheming genius. He set traps up not only along the paths, but along likely ambush routes in the woods, and other areas where the pirates might set up to assail our camp. The man might be useless in a fight, but in defending the encampment he once again proved his worth.
It was with some astonishment that I woke up in the morning to learn that there had been no attack on the camp at all; neither zombies nor pirates nor ninjas had assailed the camp that night! Had I misjudged the captain? Was he a man of excessive caution, to avoid such a prize for fear of a few Vorne kitties and zombies? Apparently so!

I arose at dawn the next morning having had the first good night's sleep since we arrived on the island. As I started my devotions, I was pleased to see Ciaren starting his devotions at the same time! I started feeling regret for having doubted his original story; he had probably done his best for the men who had hired him, but had run out of resources and done the wise thing and retreated.
Surrounding myself with Celestial atmosphere, I could finally bathe and preen and pray properly again, and I felt worlds better by the time the rest of the party started stirring. Once again, as it had been effective for the last two days, we left Carmen, Sans Quah, and Alderan in camp to protect the men in case the pirates came during the daytime, and the rest of us proceeded westwards towards the other lighthouse, determined to find any survivors among Zincher's men before the pirates did.

Unfortunately, less than an hour after leaving camp, we were beset by a veritable swarm of Vorne kitties. (Vorne insists that I call such a group a "purr" or "conflagration" of Vorne kitties, but seeing as the kitties neither purr nor burn, both seem like misnomers to me.) As the 11 kitties attacked, the group took defensive positions, and I started casting Shield of Faith on party members as quickly as I could, starting with Taleck and moving on from there.

It is difficult to feel helpless in battle. Yes, I shielded Taleck and Kwava and Ciaren. But all three of them still received potentially deadly bites. Zokrim and Kimro acquitted themselves well against the kitties, but Kimro did take a tentacle to the eye that distracted him for a few seconds. Vorne demonstrated that his power was growing as well, dropping a massive fireball among the kitties, but they proved resistant or immune to such effects, and Vorne was obviously frustrated by this result. Taleck... I am afraid that Taleck yet again seemed incapable of wielding his earthbreaker with any effectiveness. If I could figure out a way to suggest a different weapon without hurting his pride, I would do so. So I stood behind the group, completely protected, my protective magics spent as best as I could, waiting for our fellows to need healing. But in spite of the number of kitties, Kwava's arrows were deadly and struck true, Lian, Ciaren, Zokrim, and Kimro wreaked havoc as Vorne slew the wounded, and Taleck *finally* found his swing towards the end of the fight and brought one or two of the creatures low. I am afraid I did nothing but watch the fight, though I did see one or another of my shields glitter once or twice, indicating that I had indeed protected my allies successfully.
As soon as I had assisted the others in finishing off the unconscious Vorne kitties, I checked on our three bitten comrades. Bless Sarenrae! I felt all three were unpolluted!
Ciaren channeled energy to heal the minor wounds of all involved in the skirmish, and we moved on.

Unfortunately, my skill at diagnosing disease obviously needs work. Precisely an hour after the battle with the kitties, Ciaren fell ill. It took two of my restorative spells to return him to fighting trim. While he played the grateful-and-reassured patient, both he and I knew the truth: If I could not keep him alive until dawn when he would be able to pray for assistance from his god or goddess in curing his disease, I would have to slay his zombie. He and I silently accepted this fact, and I respected him all the more for not showing any fear or panic at this realization. His life was now in my hands, until the dawn.

The second lighthouse was nothing more than a ruined pile of rubble. After our experience with the wraith at the other lighthouse, the others encouraged me to scan the rubble for undead. With Lian at my side in case of trouble, I cast Detect Undead and walked along the length of the building.
Unfortunately, that which faced us was nothing like undead! Four giant centipedes and a massive swarm of miniscule ones poured forth. Lian and I fled quickly, and the giant centipedes focused on closer targets, but the swarm had apparently caught scent of me and crawled over me in an angry, disgusting, biting mass.
I know little of what occurred those next few moments. I was covered with disgusting, biting, filthy insects that infested every orifice: My eyes, ears, nose, and mouth were filled with biting bugs. They were in my hair, and in my wings, and under my armor! I tried to cast a spell to protect myself, but I was too distracted to do so. Then... I heard Vorne apologize to me, and I felt burning pain! It was as if I were being burned alive, but neither my clothes nor my feathers were burning. What had he done?

Many of the creatures succumbed to this burning pain, granting me enough focus to heal myself just before Vorne struck me with something again! The pain was overwhelming, but I remained standing. The insects of the swarm mostly fell twitching to the ground, and Lian, bless his heart, Prestidigitated the remaining ones from my hair, my wings, and my clothing.

I am not too proud to say that it took me several minutes to recover. I stripped off my armor, washed myself, and washed myself again for good measure. Even then, I could still feel the lingering imaginary tickle of a thousand thorned legs crawling across my skin and under my clothing. I washed again, Lian Prestidigitated me once more, and I was finally ready to move on.
During my distractions, the rest of the party had searched the rubble and found nothing. Our entire trip had been in vain!
Weak-kneed, I accompanied the party back to camp. Fortunately, the walk seemed to do me good, and by the time we were back in camp I was almost back to myself again. We supped with the men, verified that the pirates were still in port (and hence still a threat), and set up our watches for the evening.

Once again, there were no attacks that night. It seemed that the pirates were content to stay true to their word and wait for refugees to come to them.

*** End of Session ***

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Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
(Journal from 26-Apr-2014 session)

I am truly beginning to despise demons, and to understand why all of my archon and angelic friends kill them on sight. Would that I were capable of doing the same!

At dawn, Ciaren prepared his spells and attempted to cure himself of his affliction. He assured me he had been successful, and I was cheered by our good fortune! Finally, between the two of us, we could protect our comrades from the lingering death of the Vorne kitties' bites! Once our devotions were done and the rest of our group was assembled, we decided to march in force on the spot marked by an X on Zincher's map; presumably the hiding place of the "drow" who had brought forth this calamitous meteor on the world.

Unfortunately, our luck did not last even for the short walk to the X. Ciaren fell ill almost immediately, turning pale and passing out on the path! I cast a restorative spell on him, but it did nothing! Curse my weakness!
We carried him back to camp. As we walked, he regained consciousness and insisted that he would be able to take care of himself, and we should go on without him. I wished I could object more vehemently, but I would do him no good at the camp, and we had no idea what was going on underneath the island at that very moment. Distressed, I agreed with the rest of the party that we should move on. To no one's surprise, Zokrim declared Ciaren's illness a 'bad omen' and he would not accompany us. Coward! Mr. Erix promised to watch over Ciaren for us, as he had some experience treated those ill with Vorne Kitty Fever. Much more surprising was Alderan's decision to stay in camp. He indicated that we were unlikely to need to contact the ship, while Mr. Erix was, and he thought that by studying Ciaren's disease he might be able to come up with some way to counter it. With that logic, we had to agree, and set forth minus Ciaren, Alderan, and Zokrim.
Player Note: And that explains the missing players...

Sans Quah and Taleck had little difficulty leading us towards our destination, especially as we found a crude trail leading to our destination only a few hundred yards away from Zincher's camp. (I really should stop calling it that. It is now Mr. Erix's camp.) The trail led down the slope to the shoreline. The salt water lapping at our legs reassured us; there would almost certainly be no Vorne kitty attacks here!

The path led to a stony wall. On examination, Sans Quah quickly found a hidden secret door in the wall. Before we approached the door, Carmen pointed out a small fissure situated tactically above and to the side of the door, allowing anyone inside a clear view of the entrance. Our more dextrous party members quickly climbed up and looked inside the fissure. Carmen declared that she could see no one but did not have enough light to see clearly. I picked up a nearby stone, cast Light on it, and she tossed it in. There was a cavern inside large enough for humans, but no one was there at the moment.
Returning our attention to the door, I cast Detect Magic and sensed some kind of ward. I asked Vorne to examine it, and he quickly determined that the door was protected by a Glyph of Warding. While he has been distant from (and even downright rude to) me since my abortive decision to follow Kwava, his cleverness (and bravery) know no bounds. Or perhaps not, as he quickly informed us that the best way he knew of to get past the ward was to have someone set it off.

Lian admitted some experience in disarming such wards. Our surprise at this fact was only surpassed by our surprise at hearing him speak at all! We let him move forward, and all stood back at a distance Vorne assured us was safe from the ward. I may have stood back and extra few feet, but I do not think anyone noticed.
Once Lian felt he was done, I used Detect Magic again. Regretfully, he had not been successful. We asked him to try again, and he gamely agreed to give it one more try. Unfortunately, this time he slipped in some manner I do not understand and the glyph went off, injuring him and setting off a loud alarm. I braced myself, and wondered what type of pain I would experience from the glyph.

With secrecy no longer an option, Lian flung open the door and allowed Sans Quah to charge in. Ambush! Sans Quah was beset by attackers I could not see. Others translated that he was sorely wounded by two drow who had been waiting in ambush: One at back of a small cavern and wielding a hand crossbow, and the other guarding the entrance with a rapier. Taleck charged in and was ambushed by a second rapier-wielding drow. While I love my barbarians' bravery, I do wish they would learn to analyze the situation before charging in!
While all of the combatants poured into the room, completely crowding the bottleneck, I felt Lian's injuries transfer to me and was happy that I felt no others; Vorne was safe at the moment. Knowing that Taleck, Sans Quah, Lian, and I were all injured, I channeled energy, healing all of us.

The drow were both in a tactically-superior position and in possession of dark poisons. The drow in the back shot Carmen with a bolt that dropped her on the spot. The two fighters prevented anyone from approaching him. Fortunately, Kwava's arrows were striking him true and Sans Quah and Taleck seemed to be winning their battles, though I had to channel again to keep them hale and healthy. Vorne dropped a fireball among the drow, and so the drow archer's next arrow found Vorne, and I am hesitant to say that I was not nearly as distressed as I should have been when he dropped. Perhaps it was because I was so focused on keeping the hounds upright...
...and then came Lian. From nowhere, in a seemingly impossible place, Lian stabbed at the archer! The archer's eyes grew wide and he cursed in a language I did not recognize. Pinned between Lian and a wall, the archer had no choice but to drop his bow and engage Lian hand-to-hand. Heroics to Lian for the day!
With the archer's deadly bolts disrupted the fight was very brief; Taleck and Sans Quah finished off their foes, Kwava assisted Lian in dropping the third, and we took stock. I rushed about, stabilizing the drow and instructing Taleck to bind them, then tended to Carmen and Vorne. I do not know whether it is my link with Vorne, his Varisian constitution, or some other factor, but I had little difficulty purging the poison from Vorne's body and waking him, while I had no such luck with Carmen. I know that I have spoken ill of her many times, and I do not particularly care for her, but I am sure I did my utmost for her, yet failed. Again. I must improve my ability to diagnose others' afflictions!

While I was busy tending the wounded and fallen, the others apparently heard a voice calling for help. He was not speaking Celestial, so I had mistaken his voice for one of the many cries of combat. The man they brought forth was somewhat the worse for wear, human-looking, and clad in naught but a loincloth. I channeled a third time to heal him and all of our wounded, plus the drow, since we wanted to talk to them.
The drow spoke a low, gutteral language that none of us save Sans Quah could understand. The barbarian is full of surprises! Unfortunately, his method of questioning was to beat one drow unconscious and then speak to the second; hardly a step up from Carmen at all! I still wonder at his lone decision to let one thug flee. Had it been a spark of conscience? Or more likely a passing resemblance of the thug to one of his long-lost friends or tribesmen?
Vorne could not bear the cruelty and walked out. I preferred to stay; at least that way if he moved beyond simple slaps I could protest and perhaps stop him.

Bringing myself back to the present, we learned a great deal. The man was Cael. He was searching for a valuable scimitar that a drow had stolen from him when she had fallen from the sky over Riddleport onto his boat, slain several crewmen, taken his sword, and knocked him overboard. Our paths were in alignment! I invited him to join our group in searching for this drow, no one objected (Carmen was still unconscious), and he agreed. Fortunately, he had only arrived a few minutes before us, and the guards had only had time to strip him of his gear and pile it in a corner before we arrived. He found his gear and re-equipped himself. I was pleased to see he wielded a scimitar; perhaps a quiet worshipper of Sarenrae?
As for the drow, the second one Sans Quah had not beaten half to death seemed downright cordial. He told us that Shendeera of house Misraria is their acknowledged leader, and our known enemy. Depora of house Azrenae was supposed to be the leader, but somehow through drow politics lost the leadership role to Shendeera. In addition to the two noblewomen, we would face Xakihn the druid, who loved the outdoors and lived in the room we had spied through the crevice. They considered him unnatural for loving the outdoors. I considered it a good trait, and perhaps a person with whom we could negotiate. There were 6 more drow like our prisoners, and a tribe of 20-30 goblins the drow kept as slave labor.
Finally, the drow captive smiled. We would also face Chmetugo the shadow demon who worked for Shendeera, and we would not get past him. I straightened my back. I believed I was far better equipped to deal with demons than I had been before, and I would gladly face this Chmetugo!

The final mystery of the entrance was a boarded-up passage with warnings of "Undead Death" within. Our prisoner enlightened us that the ghost of the siren Virashi, imprisoned there by Shendeera. Outrage! Had Shendeera such power, why did she not free Virashi's spirit?
We proceeded to have a heated debate: I felt I should proceed into Virashi's room immediately and put her to rest. I had enough resources to free her spirit, and my duty to Pharasma demanded it. Of all people Sans Quah backed me, feeling that the spirit might be a valuable ally against the drow. I assured Sans Quah that I would certainly try to speak with her first, but attempting to go in with the idea of making an ally was most likely a fool's errand; I would more than likely have to destroy her. This did not dissuade Sans Quah, so both of us felt we should remove the boards from the door and I should confront Virashi.
Vorne disagreed. He accepted my belief that the ghost would be unfriendly, and wondered aloud why we should waste resources on a trapped ghost when we could use those same resources against the drow and the demon, and then return to deal with the ghost at a later date. I could not argue with that logic, and agreed to proceed deeper into the cave. On one side was the druid's room and its window, but he was not present and there was nothing of value there.

We relieved the prisoners of their weapons, armor, and potions, then tied them and left them separated from each other, put Carmen on a floating disc so she would not be unprotected, and proceeded deeper into the caves.

Ambushed again! This time the shadow demon Chmetugo caught Cael unawares and wounded him horribly! My allies' weapons were useless against him, and even Vorne's force missiles bounced off with some regularity. I channeled energy to save Cael's life and activated my halo, filling the room with light, while Sans Quah, Taleck, and Lian engaged. The demon was unaffected by my light, and seemed to mock me with his immunities. Smiling wickedly, I fired a Spear of Purity, hoping to teach him a lesson. Would that I were even remotely competent in combat! My spear ripped through his magical protections as if they weren't there, but missed the demon himself by a good 3 feet. Am I doomed to be forever useless as anything beyond a healer?
The demon was cut short of laughing at me by Sans Quah, Cael, and Taleck's repeated hammerings, that were finally beginning to take a visible toll on him. I converted to my elemental form and started healing Sans Quah, who was sorely wounded. Finally, with speed beyond anything I'd seen, the demon fled.

We assayed the situation. I was sorely depleted; all of my channels had been used, as well as over half of my spells and my elemental form. I warned the party that I would not be able to heal them at the rate they were taking damage. Vorne wanted to proceed anyway; he still had his entire assortment of spells, and believed his fireballs to be a match for anything the drow could throw at us. The other concern was what the drow would do if we did not push on. Would they not attack our camp in the middle of the night, when their darkvision was at its greatest advantage? I did not see how a cave was any better than night, but my arguments fell on deaf ears.
We set up a temporary camp in the druid's room, since we found it the most defensible, and waited for Carmen to awaken. It took about 45 minutes, and she finally stirred.
Vorne still wanted to proceed. What madness was this? The drow knew we were coming, the demon we had barely defeated while using most of my resources was probably back to full health, and there was a tribe of goblins to deal with as well! Vorne and Sans Quah believed they could use bottleneck tactics to minimize our exposure and our damage, and Sans Quah and Lian agreed to hold the breach and sacrifice their lives if things turned sour. With such dedication to proceeding onwards, how could I refuse? I handed my backpack to Taleck to lighten my load so I would be better able to flee, and stepped to my place in line.

Perhaps it was that simple act that swayed the others. Perhaps better sense returned. But they finally realized that perhaps a scouting expedition was in order. Cael admitted that he knew Invisibility, and Sans Quah admitted to having Darkvision. Is that the source of his shame and his mask? Is he a half-orc under there? Is that why he held such hostility towards Boss Croat and Croat's men? I did not pry, but the mystery of exactly who and what Sans Quah is deepened.

We all moved forward together until we found a patch of unnatural Deeper Darkness. At this point Cael rendered Sans Quah invisible and he explored ahead. On the other side of the darkness two drow and Chmetugo awaited in a gargantuan chamber; there was no telling how many more guardians were waiting the moment those three raised the alarm. Finally realizing that a headlong assault with no healing was unwise, Vorne and Sans Quah relented, we gathered our prisoners, and we went back to camp.

Our return to camp held another unfortunate surprise: Ciaren was gone! Mr. Erix had been sure he would be unconscious for the day, but somehow he had gotten out of his sick bed and vanished. We would have searched for him, but we had to prepare for an expected assault on the camp that night!
Vorne and Sans Quah returned to questioning the prisoners: How had they gotten to the island? What were they doing there? When were they leaving?
The answers were honest but useless: Our captive was nothing more than a guard, and was a good guard, being very careful not to know anything he wasn't supposed to. So he'd arrived on a drow ship, he was guarding the nobles, and he was instructed to be ready to leave at any moment. I brought him food and Vorne joyfully translated. "He says, 'Why thank you, feathery tart.' Has he met you before?"

As I have said, my relationship with Vorne seems to be deteriorating rapidly.

That evening as we prepared for the assault, I knelt at sunset and prayed to Sarenrae. I was not powerful enough to deal with such demons. I needed weapons such as those of Iomedae to bypass demons' defenses. I needed spells to erase the darkness. I needed to help my colleagues kill Chmetugo. Of that I was certain.

*** End of Session ***

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Welcome to the boonies, CaroRose!

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I'm still working on reading this page, but checking back on RotRl I kept losing it! Now to continue reading about Leilani! ;-)

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And caught up! Man, your party should really help you out and write some counterbalance to Leilani's tale! We need the Mittean glare up in this thread!

What, you think it doesn't happen EXACTLY as she writes it? Cynic! :-P

EDIT: And honestly, Shiro/Vorne's player has made no bones about the fact he doesn't like to write, Raesh's player is the GM and "doesn't want to intrude", Aneurin/Ciaren/Cael/Whoever's player is too busy rolling up new characters to bother writing, Zokrim's player just won't (heck, we can hardly get him to play), Alderan's player has work like you wouldn't believe, and so we're left with Sans Quah, Carmen, Taleck, and Lian.

I'd love to see their takes on things, and Taleck/Hi's player has even started bringing a laptop to the games to take notes and keeps talking about posting, but I still don't see anything...

I *do* wish Carmen's player would write. I'd love to see her snarky, sadistic take on Leilani and the idiots she's forced to kill. Yeah, she giggled like mad when the sharks ate the prisoners, and was upset when the party let the remaining prisoners go. Nice contrast!

And that's the thing about multiple journals -- I felt the demon nearly kicked our butts, and we got through by the skin of our teeth, burning all our healing resources. Most of the other party members just figure, "We beat him once, we'll beat him again!"


And I think it doesn't help that we game only once per 2-6 weeks. I think we lost even Misroi some time back.

As far as I know, it's just you, me, and Leilani... though I hope Alderan's player is reading up from whatever former Soviet republic he happens to be holed up in at the moment...

I like this journal.

Thanks! I'm glad someone looked at it.

Unfortunately, getting 8 adults with young kids together is quite the trial; we're missing only one write-up since my last one of April 26, and we haven't gamed since late May.

We were *supposed* to game two weeks ago, but a local outbreak of whooping cough infected my (vaccinated) son and he wasn't allowed near young children for two weeks.

Next game is July 19, so two writeups should appear this month! What a concept!

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Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
(Journal from May 10, 2014 game)
(And yes, our sessions have been April 26 - May 10 - July 19 (planned). Not exactly a "rip through the AP" campaign...)

Ah, Sarenrae! Is there no limit to your wisdom? To your compassion? To your kindness?

Our evening did not go well at all. Because the infirmary was already equipped to restrain unwilling "patients", my companions imprisoned our three drow "guests" there for the night. Perhaps I am getting as short-sighted as my barbarian companions (Heaven forfend!), but when the group did not choose to place a guard on the tent I thought nothing of it. Perhaps it was that I was too preoccupied with racking my brain, trying to figure out some way I could be of use to the party in the coming battle in the darkness. Unfortunately, my efforts proved fruitless; I could not think of anything I could do save protect and heal my fellow party members.
Perhaps this was the lesson Sarenrae was trying to teach me? By choosing to loose a Spear of Purity, even at a demon, I was straying from my intended path?

As I lay there awake in our communal tent, waiting for the inevitable attack, a supernatural darkness crept over my faint candle. The attack was at hand! I cried out, alerting my party. As they girded themselves for battle, I tried to light the darkness. It was no use; I had used my strength earlier in the cave, and my Light was as feeble as the candle against the deep darkness.
Sans Quah, the only member of our group who could see in such inky blackness, bravely (and foolhardily) ran out of the tent, hoping to engage the source of the darkness. We heard noises in the distance across camp; whether a distraction or something coming we did not know.

Then, demonic creatures attacked the tent containing Mr. Erix and his men! Mr. Erix wisely fled towards us and the blazing campfire; apparently the darkness was so thick that Sans Quah could not see for any distance, but he could make out shapes around the fire. Sans Quah called to me that Mr. Erix was sorely wounded, and I finally felt useful in channeling for all around me. I heard Mr. Erix' sigh of relief and was gratified that I was doing something; I know my colleagues in the darkened tent were even more frustrated than I at their impotence.
We listened helplessly as Sans Quah engaged the demons. Mr. Erix, blind as he was, fought at his side. The demons were quickly dispatched, but then we heard sounds from the infirmary! Sans Quah wanted to rush headlong therein and engage whatever monstrosity might be there, but we managed to dissuade him. It would have been suicide when even his darkvision did not work in the inky blackness.

Suddenly, as quickly as it had arrived, the darkness receded. We first checked on Mr. Erix and his men. A few had minor wounds, but those were quickly dealt with. Then we checked on the prisoners. The two who we had left unconscious were now dead, viciously torn apart, with bits and pieces strewn about the infirmary as if to tell us, "This is your fault. You're next."
Obviously the work of a demon.
And the third drow, the one who had been so cooperative with us, was nowhere to be found...

The first thing I noticed in the morning was the whispering on the wind. Not "of the wind". "On the wind". I could hear voices in the air. And they made words that I could understand! Sarenrae had blessed me with a new language! But what was it? Why could I now understand the air itself? And if Sarenrae had granted me such a boon, did I have the wisdom to use it correctly?
I slowly scanned myself, body and mind, for other changes she might have blessed me with. There! My Spear of Purity was gone! But in its place was a far more deadly spell for demons: One that would place my very nature on my companions' blades, allowing them to cut through their hardened skins with ease! This was exactly the boon I had been looking for!

But there was more! I now knew how to purge the accursed drow poison from my companions' veins! I knew how to dispel the very nature of the blackness of the shadow demon, granting us temporary respite from our mutual blindness! I had asked for a single gift, and Sarenrae had sent me an arsenal! Blessed be the Dawnflower!

Full of renewed optimism, I waited eagerly for the rest of the group to awaken. My preening was downright sloppy, but I was in a hurry to go forth and do away with the demon once and for all! I thanked Sarenrae for all her gifts, helped some of the men bathe (they insist that the water I create is better on their skin than the well water), and still the party wasn't ready!
Finally, everyone was awake, even Vorne!

As we moved towards the cave entrance, Sans Quah suggested that we search for other possible entrances. We spent some time doing so. Unfortunately, to no avail. As the party prepared yet another headlong assault of the front entrance, I suggested that perhaps we could lower some of our best archers down on ropes to fire into the druid's sentry post and perhaps provide us some respite from constant attacks and ambushes. To my utter amazement, my companions actually agreed to something I had suggested! I was so astonished as to be speechless for a moment!
After some discussion as to who was best-qualified for this mission, we chose Kwava (for his bow abilities) and Cael (for his general stealth). They tied a rope to a boulder at the top of the cliff face and lowered themselves towards the druid's lookout point while the rest of us waited in ambush, just beyond the lookout's visibility. Unfortunately, as seems to happen to all my plans, this one was undone by poor shooting. Cael and Kwava both surprised the druid, and both got off several shots at him. Unfortunately, fewer than half the shots struck true and the druid was able to retreat deeper into the cave, sounding a warning as he ran.
Cael and Kwava signalled to us that time was of the essence and we all rushed forward headlong into the cave.

We took too long. By the time we got into the cave, three drow had set up a defensive position. Yet again, my hounds each chose to attack a separate drow. I still do not understand this tactic. Even worse, the drow with the tiny hand crossbow managed to drop Sans Quah and Cael with his sleeping potion. I do not know the nature of hounds on this plane, nor the nature of the drow's poison, but it seems specially-formulated to overcome the most belligerent. Carmen, Sans Quah, and Cael have all fallen to its effects, while the two times Vorne has been shot he has been blissfully unaffected. I wonder. If I were to be shot while I were not in my elemental form, would I succumb? Unfortunately, now was not a time to find out!
I raced forward and used my newfound magics to purge the poisons from Sans Quah's body, then Cael's. The poison in Cael was particularly stubborn. Was he the most wrathful of all of us? We eventually defeated the three drow, but yet again my hounds' seeming inability to avoid being hit and particular susceptibility to the poison had drained me of many of my resources. How vexing!

Abandoning the defeated drow, we raced forward into the cave, hoping to catch the druid before he raised any greater alarm. Again, we were too late. A wall of inky blackness stood before us. Again, we faced the shadow demon.

It was my time to shine...

...or was it?

Something in the back of my mind told me that this was not my fight to fight. Not yet. Sarenrae had taught me a new language -- the language of the air. Why? What purpose did it serve?
I thought of the history of the island, and the captain's spirit we had rescued, and the poor tormented soul of the siren trapped in the room just behind us...

...I gasped.

And raced back towards the siren's room, the rest of the party trailing behind me.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

And done.

Like I said in your WotR thread, I've been avoiding this, since Bruendor (my PC in DM Bigrin's Second Darkness thread) has been keeping pace with you guys. Yes, we're playing constantly, but online PBP is slooooooow.

Thanks! I know you posted way back in November that you were going to have to stop reading because we were catching up, but I figured our ludicrously-slow progression since then (10 sessions in the last 8 months) would let you get ahead again, especially since we spent some time getting our butts kicked by the shadow demon a couple of times.
(GothBard was hilarious; she said, "You know, I think you're overestimating that shadow demon. I really don't think you should be having THAT much trouble with it."
To which I responded, "I'm running Wrath of the Righteous. I know *exactly* how tough shadow demons are. And our Second Darkness group just isn't built to take them on at the moment..."
She had to laugh and agree with that one.)

Anyway, I figure this session we'll *finally* beat the Shadow Demon (Alderan is making his triumphant return and bothered to learn Darkvision, a mysteriously cooperative gesture for our gang of misfits) and get to find out what's in the rest of the cave.

(I'm making the rash assumption that Virashi's spirit will be at least a neutral, "Thanks a lot, guys! See ya!" instead of hostile, but considering I originally built Leilani as an undead-killing machine for Carrion Crown, I figure if Virashi turns out to be hostile, she'll only have herself to blame for her inevitable destruction...)

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Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
(Journal from July 19, 2014 game)

The cacophonous cries of the swarm of seagulls above us sounds like singing angels to my ears! As the crime-ridden pit of scum and villainy that is Riddleport looms into view, I find myself looking forward to walking its streets and being among its denizens again! I spread my wings once more, feeling the sun on my face and the wind through my feathers. We are victorious! The siren Virashi's spirit is at peace, not by force but by choice, and she will finally be seeing her beloved again in the afterlife, as I have laid his soul to rest as well! The foul shadow demon Chmetugo is slain, his nefarious corpse proof positive that we have destroyed him and not merely driven him back to his plane. The drow are routed, their notes and journals in our possession. Samaritha is with us once again, and I finally have my wonderful friend and confidante back! (And she her awkward suitor! Sans Quah's advances are adorable, if perhaps less-than-welcome on her part.) And every single party member survived!

My sole regret is the sheer cost in lives of this endeavor. Not only did dozens of the various crime lords' men and dwarves perish at the tentacles of the Vorne kitties or the arrows of the drow, but the drow themselves were exterminated with extreme prejudice. A sole guard remains alive, and I am not hopeful for his chances of survival beyond Riddleport. My group's utter ruthlessness reminds me of my own hound archons' treatment of demons: No quarter is brooked; no surrender is allowed. Nothing but wholesale slaughter. But demons do not have souls and are not redeemable, yet all living creatures with souls should be given the chance. Shouldn't they?
But in this case it was not nearly as bad as it has been in the past; none of the drow save one survived the fight, and I was allowed to keep that one alive... for the moment. Though I have no illusions that he will be redeemable; he will either return with Kwava to whence he came, or he will end up a slave in Riddleport. Either fate is better than death, as he might still be redeemed over the course of his immense lifetime!

However, rather than pondering the fate of "my" drow prisoner, I should probably begin from the beginning...

...I raced back to the rune-covered doorway leading to Virashi's room, only to find of all people Alderan rushing and puffing up the passageway! What astonishment! The poor city elf's fragile constitution was doing him no good, and he was somewhat breathless from his stroll down the cliff and along the path into the cave. But he brought excellent news! After all of our trials and travails in the caverns, he had just this moment discerned the secrets of darkvision, and could magically grant it to up to half a dozen party members for an hour each! What luck! I would have hugged him had I not feared crushing him! Apparently that is why elves are so long-lived: Every problem takes them an eternity to puzzle out, but once they have a solution it is masterful!
I wonder whether they are related to tortoises...

Before I could attempt to open the door, Alderan suggested that perhaps the door might be trapped. Clever elf! I Detected Magic on the door and sure enough, there was some kind of magic infusing it. Knowing my areas of weakness, I kindly asked Alderan and Vorne whether they could ascertain the nature of the magic on the door. It was some sort of Silence field, pointing inwards towards the room where Virashi was trapped. What atrocity! Not only had she been brutally murdered and torn from her love, but the cave elves, er, drow, stole from her even the power to weep for her loss! This Would Not Do!
Reassured that the door was not dangerous to us, I asked Sans Quah and Taleck to remove it for me. Alderan expressed his preference that the door remain intact, as it might either be used as a weapon against enemy spellcasters or might be a valuable curio. Why anyone would want a silenced door was beyond me for just a moment... then I thought of the temple of Calistria in town, and realized that the door might indeed be quite valuable intact.

Taleck and Sans Quah set to, but in spite of much bristling of muscles and grunting, the door would not budge. Cael and even Vorne stepped in to help, but the four men combined did nothing to shift the massive door. Alderan sighed, knowing that I would not be dissuaded from "rescuing" Virashi, but the door would not yield to anything short of more traditional barbarian methods. Reluctantly, wincing, he granted them leave to remove the door. While pulling and pushing was not their area of expertise, smashing of things will hammers definitely falls into the barbarians' milieu, and the door was quickly rendered kindling. The enchantment faded with the door. While they were smashing, I prepared myself with a renewed Light spell and Protection from Evil.

I tried to stride in, wings slightly spread, projecting confidence and friendship. Touchingly, Sans Quah would not hear of me going in alone. I assured him that the undead were no threat to me, but a grave threat to him, so he should let me go on alone, but he would not be swayed in his protectiveness. Of course I relented, but as he and Cael vanished into the shadows to follow me, I wondered how I would be able to protect the two of them should Virashi be overcome by madness and grief.
Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. As I strode in, a thick mist coalesced in the room around me into a beautful woman's head on a magnificent bird's body. Had he not been hiding safe in the woods, I think Arbor would have been jealous!
I focused my mind and spoke in the new language provided by Sarenrae... or perhaps by Shelyn? It was a wonderful, wispy, whispery language; the language of a soft breeze through the grass in summer, and I found that speaking it made my tongue tingle. "My name is Leilani..."
She smiled radiantly, and interrupted. It might have been rude under other circumstances, but in her case I could hardly blame her enthusiasm.
"O saviors of my beloved's soul..." She paused and looked about her. "But would you please ask your friends to join us? I would bless all of you for the service you have done me."
I switched back to Celestial (feeling solid and meaty in my mouth after the whispery language of the air) and called back to the party that Virashi was indeed friendly and wished all of us in the room with her. Sans Quah came out of hiding. Other party members were skeptical, but I tried to reassure them that Virashi seemed genuinely friendly and thankful. Eventually, all save Cael and Kwava came forth.

Once we were gathered, she spoke to us in Common.
"O saviors of my beloved's soul! I sense echoes of my Yaris' troubled soul upon you, and I know you have freed him from the bonds of anger that trapped him in this world! And as he is no longer bound by Fury, so I am no longer bound by Grief. Though I must leave, I have lingered, hoping that I might have the chance to give you my thanks and my blessing! Farewell, champions!"
As she started to fade, I spoke to her again in her language. "Mistress Virashi. I would still help you. Tell me where your remains lie that I might rejoin them with your love's, and Consecrate the ground on which they lie."
She smiled at me, patting me on the head with an ethereal wing. It tingled in my hair. "Ah, my sweet fledgeling. I have no use of material remains. You do not need to do anything for me. But I thank you again for your kindness."
And with that, she was gone. But all of us felt the strength of her blessing surging through us. With such a blessing, how could we fail to best the accursed demon Chmetugo?

With the events of the siren working out well for the party, they were more than willing to listen to my suggestions for the assault on the drow stronghold. Alderan placed Darkvision on Kwava, Carmen, Taleck, Vorne, Cael, and himself. I did not mind being blind; I needed no weapon to help my party. I aligned 50 bolts and arrows to myself, along with Taleck's earthbreaker, and put Protection from Evil on Taleck, Sans Quah, and Cael. Finally, Vorne enabled Taleck to fly.

Cautiously, we moved forward to try to find the expected wall of Deeper Darkness. Unfortunately, we never encountered it, and as Taleck stepped forward into the room, poison drow darts plunged into him! Or at least tried to, as the Protection from Arrows Vorne had put on him seemingly eons ago was still in effect! The darts hung in the air for a moment, then dropped. As if that was the signal everyone was waiting for, the battle engaged in full!

The room itself was a vast cavern, perhaps a hundred feet across. A small hole in the ceiling allowed a small amount of light to pour into the room, barely lighting it. The immediate entrance to the room was a beach, and most of the rest of the room was filled with sea water, though rock pillars dotted the pool. To our left up the beach was a raised wooden walkway that led around the pool to the (presumed) caves beyond. A rope ladder should have allowed us access to the platform, but the two drow guards at the top of the platform were just finishing pulling it up.

The initial battle started as a shootout. The two drow guards on the near platform plus two drow guards on the far side of the pool started firing at the party members who could fit on the beach (I was not one of them), while many party members fired back and Vorne dropped a fireball on the near archers. It seemed like a bit of a stalemate.
Then, many things happened at once.

Our nemesis Depora stepped up onto a platform across from us and opened fire with her hand crossbow. Fortunately, my Protection from Evil deflected her arrows from Sans Quah. At the same moment from the shadows behind Cael, Chmego stepped out, ripping into him! I do not whether to be concerned for him or about him that demons seem to find him so tasty. What is it that made Chmego ambush him so consistently? In any case, this time my hounds were both ready and well-equipped. Taleck flew up and smashed him with his earthbreaker twice. With my blessings, not only did the earthbreaker strike true, but I imagined I heard the satisfying sounds of demon bones snapping as Taleck pummeled him ruthlessly. Sans Quah added to his pain, and Kwava's arrows pierced his hide like it was nothing. Alderan added some Magic Missiles, and Vorne finally felled him with Magic Missiles of his own! Thank you Sarenrae! Your blessings were truly wondrous this day! Chmego, bane of our existence, fell without taking another action!
However, a beautiful drow woman we had never seen before stepped from a ledge far, far above us and floated gently down to the water, effortlessly walking upon it as if it were dry land! This must be the Shindeera of whom we had heard! The roiling water revealed a large black fin; something ominous waiting for us should we be so foolish as to risk swimming. She tried to engulf us in Darkness, but it was exactly what I had been waiting for and my halo blazed with light, shredding her darkness and forcing her to squint and scowl down upon us. Things were going exceedingly well!

Then, the druid's first Ice Storm hit. I channeled energy to heal everyone of the damage it caused, but the icy terrain proved difficult for my hounds to navigate, and it took them some time to get to the raised walkway, climb up, and lower the ladder. During all of this time there was a running battle of the archers. True to his form, our wonderful sea elf, surrounded by the sea itself, acquitted himself beautifully and his arrows seemingly could not miss the pesky druid. All of the drow retreated from our advances save Shindeera, whose protective magics prevented our bowfire from significantly harming her. She channeled negative energy to harm the party, but my positive channels were the more powerful. Seeing that I could heal my party faster than she could harm them, she relented and retreated as well.
Cael cast Silence on Taleck to allow him to negate the enemy spellcasters, and then Taleck flew across the water after Shindeera and engaged her. She proved a masterful fighter, using her flail to disarm Taleck and send his earthbreaker plummeting into the pool. I do not know what Taleck said, but the loss of his earthbreaker obviously enraged him and he grabbed her, looking nothing so much like he was going to crush her with his bare hands. She broke loose, but was now yet again on the run.
The fight across the bridge did not go as well. Footing on the icy bridge was difficult, so while Kwava made good progress (probably thanks to his sea legs), Cael and Sans Quah were significantly behind him, while Alderan, Carmen, Vorne, and I waited on the beach for an opportunity to climb the ladder. The druid struck again, dropping an Ice Storm on the bridge just behind Kwava and ahead of Cael and Sans Quah. Kwava and Sans Quah maintained their footing, while Cael plunged into the water and into the waiting jaws of an orca. I must look into his past. I believe he may be under some form of curse.

Vorne dropped a fireball on the opposite side of the room, resulting in many satisfying cries of despair. Inexplicably, while I was channeling to save Cael's life, Sans Quah attempted a heroic leap across the vast chasm the druid's Ice Storm had left in the bridge. He failed, of course, and plunged into the water right in front of the orca just as Alderan Levitated Cael out of harm's way. *SIGH*. It looked very much like I would be using all of my healing abilities yet again.

The rest of the fight was long, but the result was no longer in doubt. Vorne's fireball had knocked Shindeera unconscious and she sunk beneath the waves. Sans Quah spent some time getting chewed on by the orca, but eventually swam to safety. Kwava continued his ruthless barrage of the remaining drow, Depora included, while Vorne opened a pit in their area so they had no safe footing that was out of range of our bowmen. Cael Silenced another area of the drows' refuge, leaving them little quarter. To save Cael and Sans Quah's life, Vorne gave me Strong Wings again. Ah, the utter joy of flying unfettered over the battlefield, healing my friends from afar! How I have missed that! Strong Wings does not let me fly nearly as fast as I flew on my native plane, but at least I am airborne again! Had the situation not been so dire, with no many of my colleagues in such dire need of my healing, I might have sung!

Eventually, the last of the drow fell. I tried to stabilize them, but all were dead save one lone guard. All of my channels and higher-level healing spells were gone, but I did what I could to heal Taleck. He had heroically provided one side of the pincer maneuver that had ended the drow, and had paid dearly with his blood. He was still distraught over his earthbreaker, so, after sparing as much healing as I could, we tied a rope around him, I put Sanctuary on him, and he dove in after it. Fortunately, apparently the orca was far more susceptible to my Sanctuary than our enemies have been as of late; it did not touch him and he recovered his weapon without incident. He explained that it had been his father's.
We recovered what items we could from the drow. When we discovered that one of them had been wearing a pair of Slippers of Spider Climb, we sent Carmen to recover anything from Shindeera's room. Sans Quah and Aldaran devised a clever device with the ropes and nets we found to dredge the pond for Shindeera's body and soon recovered it.

Our eventual haul was significant. After months of traveling with the group, asking for nothing but protection and enough coin to help at the temple, there were many, many items that caught my eye. Mithral chainmail and a mithral shield, both sized and shaped for an elven woman, looked like they would fit me perfectly. Even more exciting, there were healing supplies and two beautiful dresses, again designed for tall, slender women of elven build. Carmen expressed no interest, so I marked them for my procurement. I was sure Alinza at the Silken Thread would be able to make space for my wings in them! She was a miracle worker! And perhaps Goldhammer or Larur's aunt might know an armorsmith who might be willing to adjust the armor for my wings.
Of much more interest to Kwava and the rest of the party were the documents: Shindeera's diary, drow battle plans and movements, and other information about the drow. Kwava wanted to get these documents to his people as soon as possible, and Vorne and Alderan wanted to study the diary thoroughly to learn more about how the drow had created the blot. Alderan had mentioned that they might get several lectures at the Cipher Academy based on the information contained in the books.

Vorne created a Floating Disk and we hauled everything outside, where Alderan called to Arbor and sent him for the ship.

I cannot express the joy that flooded over me as we left Devil's Elbow and boarded the ship to see a smiling but obviously-concerned Samaritha waiting for us. Unable to contain myself, I rushed forward and hugged her fiercely. Seeing his opportunity, Sans Quah rushed forward and hugged her as well.
As we sailed back to Riddleport, I stood on the bow in the sun, breathing in the sea air, enjoying the breeze through my wings, and watching the vast expanse of the ocean as we traveled.

When Riddleport finally loomed into sight, we realized that all was not well...

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Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
Journal from 16-Aug-2014 session, Part 1 of 2: Return to Riddleport

Player Note: More than any other session, this one demonstrates the problem with 'personal point-of-view' journals, so I'm hoping some of the other players chime in. The best roleplaying moments of the game (in my humble opinion) were those between Sans Quah, Taleck, and the Shadde-Quah; especially the Shadde-Quah tribesmen's ruthless ribbing of Taleck and his matriarchal society. ("Nice earthbreaker! Do you sleep with it? Does it rattle when you shake it?") Unfortunately, all of that roleplaying was done in Shoanti, so Leilani got to sit there obliviously, as will be obvious in her journal entry. Similarly, Ca'el chose to "bite the hand that feeds him" by stealing from guests of the Glorious Goblin and Carmen had to deal with the repercussions of that, again all outside of Leilani's awareness. So while I think Leilani's description of the session will be less-than-riveting, there were many, many undertones she completely missed.

From the prow of the ship I could see a crowd gathered at the docks. And not just any crowd. Dozens if not hundreds of people stood on the newly-repaired (and in some places still under construction) docks. I looked back at the others, but they seemed more curious than concerned, so I relaxed a bit. As the ship docked many men pushed forward, offering to buy our star metal from us. I think it was Sans Quah who first noticed that many of those men were representatives of the crime bosses.
Even I understood the political repercussions should we sell to one crime boss but not another, so I was quite relieved when Alderan asked our newly-acquired "muscle" (the men who had followed Zincher before his untimely capture) to clear the way for us. Speaking of Zincher, Mr. Erix bade us farewell, as he was bound to remain on board ship with his "cargo" and return to Korvosa with it... ah... him.

As we set about debarking, a tall dark-haired man with keen eyes focused on us started pushing his way through the crowd. Samaritha stiffened a bit, identifying the man as Elias Tammerhawk, head of the Cypher Mage academy. I immediately distrusted the man. Instinctively, I straightened to my full height and half-spread my wings, protecting Samaritha both physically and emotionally as the man approached us. He looked up, unimpressed. "Samaritha? It is good to see that you are well! And how many others survived?"
Samaritha was downcast but dutiful. "I am the only survivor, sir."
Before I could intervene on her behalf, Vorne spoke up. "She fought brilliantly! The others were killed when the tower they were defending tumbled off the cliffside, but she helped defend us and them against the abominations that were attacking, and saved many of our lives as well."
Tammerhawk looked sternly at Vorne, and then at Samaritha. "Very well. I thank you all for your services. As a token of my gratitude, you may each redeem a chit for one magic item worth up to 2000 gold pieces at the academy vault..."
...At that point one of his heretofore-nearly-invisible followers distributed the chits to us...
" for you Samaritha, let us return to the lodge so you can tell me more of your ordeal."

I stepped between them, looking down at him. "I am sorry, sir, but I am an aasimar, and I have given my word that I will escort her safely home. These docks are not her home, and therefore I insist on accompanying her."
Tammerhawk was not at all taken aback, which I took as a good sign. "Very well, you may come with us, if that is what you feel you need to do."
We walked together to the academy, with me never leaving Samaritha's side, but Tammerhawk's conversation was hardly threatening or worrisome. He asked a bit about the island, and how she was coping. When we reached the lodge, he walked with us to her room, then asked whether she would like to report now or take a bit of time to settle in. When she replied that she'd like some time, he immediately acquiesced. Perhaps I had judged him wrongly. Or perhaps he cared enough about his charges to make sure they were safe. In either case, I relaxed immensely. Samaritha would be all right.

Once it was only the two of us, I asked Samaritha if she needed anything. Someone to talk to. Help unpacking. A wing to cry on. She insisted that all she really wanted was a good hot bath to scrub the last vestiges of the island from her person. Feeling that she was truly safe and home, I hugged her goodbye and headed down to the lobby.
Unfortunately, I immediately faced a dilemma: I had left my hounds when I left the docks and had no protection. Even worse, almost all of my spells were spent from healing everyone that very morning. I looked about a bit worriedly, but quickly remembered that the Cypher Lodge provided escorts to mages who were going out to purchase more expensive spell components or magic items. Samaritha spoke very highly of them, so I approached the concierge and politely inquired as to whether a non-lodge member might hire a pair of guards to escort her home.
The concierge was exceedingly eager to assist me; perhaps he was a friend of Samaritha's and had heard of her ordeals! It took him a moment to make preparations, but he personally insisted on taking my arm and walking me back to the Goblin, a brace of guards at our back. I tried to tip him, but he insisted that it was on the house, bowed down, and courteously kissed my hand. I smiled warmly and fluttered my wings a bit in return, and the men grinned and headed back for the lodge. What charming fellows! If it wouldn't break Taleck's dear huge heart, I might use them more often when traveling to visit Samaritha.

My visit to my room was remarkably brief. No sooner had I taken off my pack, slipped out of my leathers, bathed and preened, and donned my silks but a knock came at the door. Carmen was calling a meeting! What could this be? Vorne and I went downstairs to join the rest.
Carmen's news was momentous and surprising: First, she had inherited a vast sum of money and was personally going to buy everyone else's share of the Glorious Goblin so she could establish herself as a crime lord in Riddleport. Second, she had a cousin who actually seemed nice.

The second surprised me far more.

Her name was Lark, and she had brought the news of the inheritance to Carmen. She was an outdoorswoman and had heard of Carmen's exploits. Figuring that Carmen would be retiring from adventuring, she felt that she would be an excellent addition to the party. Considering the motley crew we had assembled so far, no one objected to having a competent archer in our midst.
The rest of the evening was spent on working out details and socializing. Carmen expressed gratitude to us for having traveled with (and tolerated) her this far, and said that we would always have a place to stay and food to eat whenever we visited Riddleport, myself included. Carmen DOES have a heart! Lian spun tales of our adventures so far, gaining Lark's rapt interest, and an occasional wide-eyed stare or gasp. (I am afraid she shares a bit of Carmen's knack for acting worldly and unsurprised by anything.)

Exhausted from our long day, we spread the spoils of our voyage before us for our standard procedure of claiming what we wanted, letting Vorne record its value, and then selling all the unclaimed goods and splitting the remaining gold. After I selected the beautiful mithral shield and Taleck selected some boots that would allow him to cling to walls, I am afraid some sort of argument broke out about the way the goods were being distributed, and a new system was devised whereby the total value would be calculated, the moneys assigned to each person, and then each person could "buy back" any gear they wanted. I am afraid that under the new system I could afford the dresses but not the armor, so I had to let it go.
Ah, well, my Celestial armor may be quite a bit heavier, but at least I don't have to wear it around all the time. Perhaps it was Sarenrae's way of telling me to have faith in my companions. And I must admit, the notion of constantly wearing extremely valuable armor about Riddleport was not entirely appealing to me.

After the loot was divided to everyone's satisfaction and the "unpurchased" items were set aside to be sold the next day, we retired to our rooms. I have not slept so well since I first landed on this plane! A real feather bed! What a comfort!


Even knowing full well what a cesspit Riddleport was, and being poignantly aware of Larur's absence, the feeling of the sun on my body as I washed and preened on the rooftop at sunrise was truly marvelous! No more fear of Vorne kitties assaulting us at any time of the day or night! No more horrifically sad zombies shuffling forward with barbed tongues! Simply Riddleport, a cesspit of humanity whose dangers were all too real, but at least by now familiar to me.

As I descended, I heard the group again gathered in Carmen's office. This time they were discussing the fate of the star metal. I do say, we seem to spend far more time discussing what to do with our spoils than we ever do obtaining them! As the metal apparently interferes with even divine magics, I wanted nothing to do with it, and was perfectly happy to let the others decide. Instead I busied myself sorting the coins, cleaning my new dresses, lining up weapons and armor, and finally writing in this very journal. It was a very LONG conversation.
Eventually the group agreed: 15 pounds each would go to Sans Quah and Taleck so that they could have better armor. Hallelujah! That would make my job infinitely easier! I was a bit disappointed to learn that after I had left the docks with Samaritha, Mr. Goldhammer himself had come to make good on his bargain and offered to craft any star metal we had at the cost of simple masterwork armor, apparently a fine bargain. With 30 pounds of the stuff distributed, the other metal would be split into two piles: One pile for Carmen to sell off to the other crime lords to establish her place in Riddleport, and one pile in reserve in the vault in case we needed it. Since we were using the vault anyway, we also donated all the potions, wands, and mundane arms and armor we were not using to her. At the very end of the negotiations, Alderan claimed two pounds to be made into amulets for his servants so that he could always identify them, and they would always be protected from mind-controlling magics.

With the negotiations for the star metal finally adjourned, I asked Taleck and Lian if they would kindly accompany me on my errands in the city. I would have asked Vorne to accompany me, but he and Alderan were huddled away working on the drow journals and preparing a presentation for the Cypher Mage academy for the following night.
Hearing that my first stop would be the Cyper Mage academy to redeem my chit, the rest of the group decided to join me.

The trip to the academy was uneventful, and the pleasant concierge who had escorted me home the day before was more than happy to direct us to the vault where we were to redeem our chits. The poor young wizard-in-training working the vault had obviously rarely (if ever) been outside of the walls of the academy. On seeing our robust and motley group he lost his composure, stammering out "Sirs" and "Ma'ams" uncertainly, not knowing what to make of Sans Quah and his mask nor Taleck and his massive earthbreaker. When my turn finally arrived and I asked for an amulet of natural armor, the poor lad turned positively crimson, barely squeaked out a, "Right away, er, miss," and scurried off into the bowels of the vault.
I am ashamed to admit that I found his discomfiture so charming that I just had to play with him a bit. When he finally returned with the amulet, I gave him a wide-eyed, innocent look and asked, "Would you please put it on for me?"
I was fortunate in that he did not suffer an immediate and fatal aneurysm. Saranrae would never have forgiven me! As it was, as I bent my knees slightly so he could reach, his face turned even redder. I had not known that was possible. He oh-so-delicately placed the amulet over my head, reached back and gently cleared my hair out from under the strap, and then saw that he needed to adjust the amulet in front. His hands started shaking so badly I regretted my decision immensely and was trying to think of a kind way to release him. But he was indeed a wizard-in-training, and quickly realized he could adjust the strap near my collarbone, far away from any areas that might cause him embarrassment, and soon my amulet was in place. His relief was palpable. I smiled broadly, bowed, and thanked him. I silently chastised myself for causing him such unease; there is fun, and there is causing others discomfort. I had clearly strayed into the latter.

Fortunately, I was able to redeem myself almost immediately. He gazed in open wonder at my wings. "Would you like to touch one?" I asked.
He nodded, and I extended a wing for him. He ran his fingers along the bone and through the feathers, thoroughly rapt and blessedly unaware of what was attached at the other end of the wing. I let him explore the feathers a bit, and once he had finished his examination he was far more himself. I was relieved that such a simple gesture could restore his composure.

Once we were done and headed back for the exit, we were a bit astonished to see Vorne and Alderan speaking with the concierge, apparently attempting to reserve a lecture hall for the following night and to post several flyers about their lecture. Unfortunately, Alderan was having his usual effect on the concierge, and the man seemed quite hesitant to allow them a speaking venue. I do wonder how city elves get about, huffing and puffing, pale-faced and irritating to all those about them, but I suppose in their own cities they must get along just fine. Fortunately, Vorne's natural charm and grace was enough to win over the concierge without my having to intervene, and soon enough they had reservations for a speaking hall and the concierge had arranged to have their flyers posted in the entryway. Since I would be about for a bit longer, I intercepted them and offered to distribute flyers all about the mage's quarter in town, an offer both of them gratefully accepted.
Ca'el and Sans Quah went on their way, while Vorne and Alderan headed back to the Goblin to continue their research, leaving me, Taleck, and Lian to continue my errands.
While I was at the lodge, I left Taleck and Lian in the lobby and visited Samaritha in her chambers. She was in much better spirits than she had been the day before. What a resilient woman! We visited for a few minutes, I gave her a flyer and recommended that she attend Vorne and Alderan's talk (she promised she would), and then I regretfully informed her that I had to move on to other business. She declined to accompany me, so I took Taleck and Lian with me to the Silken Plume.

As we approached, I got a bit nervous about my appearance. I'd bathed and preened and so forth, but I was still in Findler's old second-hand leather, and Alinza's beautiful sari was still tucked safely at the bottom of my backpack, never leaving my side, but never being worn, either. I straightened up, spread my wings a bit, lit my halo just enough that it glowed in the morning sun, and stepped inside. And I was not disappointed.
"Ah! My eyes! What vision of beauty has entered my store? It is an angel, come to visit me and brighten my days once again," Neelan cried out.
I DO love the man. I WILL see his leg restored!
"I would beg of you a boon," I started.
"Ah, my wondrous angel! What mundane task might I perform that might evoke a smile upon thy perfect lips..." Neelan started.
"Neelan! What are you going on about now..." Alinza stormed out. "Oh! Our angel has returned! I trust you have found your dress satisfactory?"
It was my turn to blush furiously. I dared not admit how rarely I had worn it. "I find your dress truly magnificent, Alinza, and I beam with pride every time I wear it..." was truthful, and it had the desired effect of evoking a smile on both their faces...
"...but now I have a task that I can only entrust you with..."
Alinza turned very serious.
"...We recently came into conflict with some dark elves, some of whom were women, and whose proportions were fairly close to mine, though perhaps a bit smaller in the bosom and hips..."
I brought forth my two prizes: One elven dress in a beautiful forest green, trimmed with embroideries of leaves and branches, and a second dress in stark black, with crimson flame highlights and an undertone of silver spider webs.
Alinza looked at the first dress. "Ah, this one I can make beautiful for you. I will add silver and blue highlights along the neckline, bring it up a bit in front, scoop it down in back... yes, yes! It will be very simple. And it will fit you perfectly! But it will be expensive! Say, 25 gold pieces?"
I pressed 5 platinum pieces into her hand and said, "Make it so!"
She beamed. I knew I would receive a dress worthy of her. She told me it would take 3 days. I couldn't wait. She had me strip off my armor and carefully took my measurements once again. Both she and I were well aware that she had no real need to do this again, but she knew I loved the attention and I think she loved the discomfiture on Taleck and Lian's faces as I stood about in nothing but my silks. Men on this plane are so odd! How do people bathe in their homes without taking their clothes off? And it is not as if they had never seen me in my silks before!

As for the darker dress... "Well, this one is more of a problem, my angel. Black is not an angelic color. And red flames? I think not. I can make it fit you, that is simple! But I cannot make the color suit you, I am no miracle worker!"
Not knowing when I might need a dress of a darker color, I had her alter it nevertheless. She offered to do it free of charge, but I suspect that had more to do with my initial payment than her obvious affection for me. Neelan and Alinza are wonderful people, but they are businesspeople as well, and would not give away such services for free!

With my new dresses in good hands, I proceeded to perhaps the least savory portion of my day. The temple of Calistria loomed large before me. Fortunately, the acolytes in front knew me on sight, and when I asked whether they might have a scroll of Breath of Life available for purchase, it seemed almost as if they had been anticipating my needs. The scroll was delivered to the front quite promptly, I paid the fee, and I wandered off without incident. I was beginning to like them more and more. They might be enamored of the physical pleasures (and pains), but they were certainly efficient in their sales. A thought dawned. I looked back at the acolytes. What types of elves were they? Were they elves at all? Their ears certainly weren't pointed like other elves. They looked positively human. Even if they were elves, they were too robust to be city elves like Alderan. They weren't ruddy enough to be sea elves like Kwava. And they certainly weren't cave elves. Were there pleasure elves, dedicated to pleasing other elves? After a moment's thought, I realized it would be quite a sensible arrangement: Elves dedicated to satisfying the needs of other elves might greatly reduce tension among their peoples. Perhaps that was why elves warred on each other so infrequently. An interesting concept to ponder...

I was still lost in such thoughts as we approached my temple, or rather, Father Padrick's temple of Sarenrae.
The first thing that told me something was different was the smell. There was real, good food being cooked at the temple! Had Mumsy died? I rushed forward, concerned.
The temple had been transformed! Father Padrick was rushing about, seeing to the needy and serving them hearty bowls of wonderful-smelling stew and even fresh bread! Brother Jonas was leading a group in prayer! As I walked in, both of them immediately stopped what they were doing to rush forward and welcome me.
"Leilani! You're back! You have done such wonderful things for our temple! I am so happy you have returned to be able to see it!"

My heart sang.

Father Padrick took me in his arm and led me around to see the changes. Mumsy was still in charge of the kitchen, but, inspired by my ability to purchase rotting meats and vegetables and then restore them, had been working with Father Padrick to do exactly that. Once she had fresh meat and produce to work with, she set about learning to cook. And if nothing else, Mumsy was a fast learner! The food was delicious! (And even Mumsy did not scowl at me when I purified it before dining. Old habits die hard.)
With excellent food came many, many more of the needy of Riddleport, and with my donations and Brother Jonas' careful financial work, the temple was thriving. As soon as Father Padrick mentioned donations, I pressed another few handfuls of gold upon him. He tried to argue, but both he and I knew how much that gold meant to the temple, so he soon accepted it and turned it over to Brother Jonas for the fund. My donations alone were enough to keep the temple going for at least a year, and others had been inspired to help as well, though their donations were far less frequent.
With Father Padrick's help, I cleansed and blessed the fountain (I am afraid such simple blessings are beyond me at the moment, so I had to use one of Father Padrick's scrolls of that purpose). I asked after Micah, and Brother Jonas led me out to meet him.

I am afraid that Micah is little changed. He was excited to see me, as always, and eagerly led me to a corner of the garden to introduce me to his new friends. The mushrooms. Yes, the mushrooms were talking to him. Fortunately, whatever the mushrooms were saying seemed harmless enough, so I petted them and said kind words to them, and Micah was ecstatic. I looked about at his garden, and it was still well-tended in some places, and chaos in others. But he was still doing Sarenrae's work, and none had died by his hand since I intervened, so I decided that I had done well.
I sighed. How would he react when I finally returned to heal his mind? Would he hate me forever for what I had put him through? Would he be a decent man? But that was not my decision. I had turned him away from murder and redeemed his body. His mind and soul were still lost in chaos, and it was still my duty to heal them when my powers grew enough to do so.

Talking to Brother Jonas, I learned that Father Padrick was pain-free; Larur's aunt's medicines were working their wonders in him, and he no longer drank at all. They had plenty of money on hand to purchase more of the medicine whenever necessary, and vowed that the temple was in good hands. I let them know that I would be in Riddleport indefinitely, and would most likely be working at the temple several days a week, healing and blessing and otherwise assisting them as I could. They could not have been happier with this news.

Blissfully happy with a day well-spent, I headed back to the Glorious Goblin. I asked Taleck and Lian whether they had business to attend to in Riddleport, but they assured me their business was keeping me safe. Such loyal hounds indeed! And now that I finally had my scroll of Breath of Life, neither one was at risk any more! I kept the scroll close on my person at all times, just in case...

The evening was extraordinarily pleasant. We each discussed our day's activities. Sans Quah had visited his landlady. Carmen and Lark had caught up on family news. Ca'el declined to share his activities with us. And I already knew that Vorne and Alderan had spent the day researching, while Taleck, Lian, and I had spent the day shopping.

As we retired our separate ways, Sans Quah took me aside. I was concerned. The taciturn barbarian rarely had two words to speak to any of us, and I seemed to be a particular aversion of his for reasons I did not understand. He fidgeted a bit, and then spoke. "Leilani. I visited my landlady today. She lives near the temple of Sarenrae. She says that it is doing good things."

If I could have exploded with joy at that moment, I would have. It was all I could do to avoid jumping into his arms, squealing, and hugging him. Though that might have frightened him off.
I grew serious. "Now, Sans Quah. I would like you to tell your landlady that she is always welcome at the temple. And she can tell Father Padrick that she has my blessing, and he will make sure she is taken care of. But she should not talk to or go near Micah, the gardener. He may not be safe for her."
This concerned Sans Quah a great deal, so I explained Michah's troubled past, trusting Sans Quah not to go on a murderous rampage in my own temple. For a moment he wondered whether Micah could be an infamous criminal known as "The Ripper" or "The Mauler" or some such, but I insisted that Micah had only convinced suicidal people to climb tall buildings and "assisted" them off, so he was no "Ripper" or "Mauler". Sans Quah asked if I could be positively sure that was all he had done. I assured him that I believed Micah had confessed all of his sins to me, and none involved ripping or mauling, and this seemed to satisfy him. He departed in his usual manner. "I will tell my landlady to avoid Micah," and wandered off.

Even going to bed was a far more pleasant experience than it had been in days, if not weeks. Vorne did not shun me, and I went to sleep with my arms around him and a wing draped over him.


Our second day back was a bit more restful. I spent the majority of the day at the temple as others worked on selling the more expensive items and otherwise dealing with the affairs of the party or the Glorious Goblin. At one point in the early afternoon, none other than Sans Quah sheepishly shuffled into my temple, as if fearful that he might be struck down. Next to him was a small woman of middling age, human by the looks of her. I hurried over to greet them.

I am ashamed to admit that in my excitement and sheer joy that Sans Quah was trusting me with something so obviously important and personal to him, I forgot to note the poor woman's name! He did indeed introduce her, and it was my own distraction that caused me such forgetfulness!
Nevertheless, I welcomed her to the temple. She thanked me for all the obvious work I had put in, and I led her and Sans Quah on a short tour of my little home away from home. I made sure both of them had heaping helpings of Mumsy's stew, and introduced the wonderful woman to Father Padrick and Brother Jonas. I did not introduce her to Micah. She was truly charming, and obviously a positive influence on Sans Quah. Feeling the need to reassure him that all was well and she would always be safe at the temple, I reached into my belt pouch and pulled out one of my feathers from the ever-growing bundle I was accumulating. Every week or two it seemed I could link even more people to my feathers, and so when I shed them I gathered them up and guarded them preciously.
This one I gave freely. "You are a friend to Sans Quah, and therefore a friend to me. As a token of our friendship, I offer you this feather. If you are ever in need of assistance or sanctuary, you need only show this feather to Father Padrick, Brother Jonas, or even Micah, and they will assist you. You will never want for food to eat or a bed to lie on."

She seemed a bit taken aback by this offer, but she graciously accepted my feather. Sans Quah seemed pleased with the entire exchange. With that, he left to escort her home, and I returned to my duties at the temple.

That evening we all went to Vorne and Alderan's talk at the Cypher Mage academy. I am sorry to say that our numbers nearly doubled those in attendance; perhaps we had not advertised nearly as well as we might have. Even worse, many of those in attendance were doomsayers, waiting to hear on what day Alderan predicted the "Armageddon Echo". Fortunately, Samaritha was there, and in fine spirits. Not only did she hug me enthusiastically, she even granted Sans Quah a hug! I was proud of her! I sat next to her, hoping she might be able to translate some of the finer points of magic for me. Alderan started.

I am afraid he is not a gifted speaker.

I would be ashamed to admit that I dozed off, laying my head upon Samaritha's shoulder, had she not done the same to me only a few minutes later. Apparently, Alderan's droning voice was a magnificent soporific. The doomsayers quickly filed out, uninterested in a technical presentation, while many of the Cypher Mages stuck it out through sheer force of will and determination. Eventually, thankfully, he finished. Those who had managed to stay awake marveled at his conciseness and brevity. Those of us who hadn't marveled that we were felled so quickly.
It was Vorne's turn to speak. I sat up, determined that my snores would not interrupt his presentation. Vorne rambled. He told stories of far-off lands. He related the blot to events in history, to events in the present, and to magics known and unknown. He then brought up the drow, and Sans Quah, hitherto a statue at the side of the stage, stood up and produced one of the dead drow from a chest, hanging it from a provided hook for all to see. It was gruesome, but it had the desired effect: The audience was rapt. I did not understand even half of what he said, but I dared not interrupt Samaritha's attention to ask her. Vorne was magnificent! He concluded with, "We will be speaking again at the Glorious Goblin in one week, at which time I will show you what is in the other chest!"

The room erupted in a standing ovation. Or at least the dozen or so of us left in the room. Mages, Samaritha included, swarmed forward to ask Vorne and Alderan detailed questions about their findings. We were there for at least an hour, and every other question was answered with, "That's for next week's presentation!"

We all returned to the Glorious Goblin giddy with success. A runner met us there and delivered a letter... to me?!?!?
I opened it quickly. It seemed that Mr. Erix had been successful in getting Mr. Zincher to Korvosa, and we were due a reward of... 2500 gold pieces each!?!?! The sum was astronomical! A large and heavy bag accompanied the note, so I rushed the group inside to Carmen's office, notified them of the windfall, and distributed the moneys forthwith.

All was going quite splendidly... until Carmen revealed her next plan.
"What are you going to do with those drow bodies once your talk is done?"
"Excuse me?"
"What are you going to do with the bodies?"
"Uh, bury them? Burn them? Give them to the academy? We hadn't really thought about it. Why?"

Carmen's plan was indeed as appalling as I have come to expect of her. Not wanting to lose precious space, she planned on converting the downstairs area from a fighting arena to an exclusive members-only bar. Vorne and Alderan's second talk would mark the grand opening of the bar, and would come with a surcharge of 5 gold pieces per person. For the charge, visitors could enjoy fine food and drink and listen to the talk.
For the "grab", that special "something" that made the club "exclusive", she wanted to pickle the drow in alcohol in large glass containers. And include spigots. So people could drink it.

Yes. Carmen planned on serving "drow cocktails" as the special at her new establishment.

I asked her if she would consider never asking me to go downstairs again. Showing at least some mercy below that cruel exterior, she agreed that I could work upstairs, and would never have to come downstairs and see the poor defiled drow bodies nor those who would drink from them.

I held Vorne particularly tightly that night. If I were to fall in my battle against the darkness, would Carmen have me pickled and serve drinks from my coffin?


I have to admit, life in Riddleport is never uninteresting. As I climbed my ladder for my morning rituals, I saw a frantic Sans Quah dragging a still-groggy Taleck out of the Glorious Goblin. A curious Lark followed after them. For a moment I considered following, but if I did not perform at least my meditations I would not regain my spells, and I did not relish the thought of once again feeling Riddleport's brutal weather. Furthermore, both Sans Quah and Taleck were sensible men when it came to preparation; if it was something in which I could be of assistance, they would not have hesitated in asking me to accompany them. And so I let them go on their way. Perhaps Lark might tell me of it. She seemed awfully nice to be related to Carmen.

By the time I had finished my morning prayers, preening, bath, and breakfast, the trio had still not returned. Vorne and Alderan were engrossed in their research, while Ca'el was nowhere to be seen. I was not about to ask Carmen to accompany me, so that left Lian. He was more than willing to travel with me to the Cypher Mage academy, and I had my full selection of spells, so I concluded we would be safe enough traveling as a pair.
Samaritha was already up and about, and I had a pleasant visit with her for perhaps an hour, after which I asked whether the vault could be trusted if I were to buy a fairly expensive item. She informed me that the vault did not sell items, but the local shops were extremely trustworthy, including the Quill & Vial, and were accustomed to such large purchases. I hugged her goodbye, and Lian and I were on our way.
The Quill & Vial was indeed more than up to the task, and had headbands of Charisma in various colors, including white and blue. After some thought and discussion, I finally chose blue, knowing it would better match my sari when I needed to be extremely formal.

The rest of the day was very satisfying work at the temple. While my abilities to heal and cure poison were not needed, my mere presence seemed to cheer both the clergy and the laity, and I did my utmost to make myself useful in whatever ways were necessary. I even attempted to help Mumsy in the kitchen, though her parting words to me were, "Never. Cook. Again."
I took it as sound advice.

When Sans Quah, Taleck, and Lark finally returned, Sans Quah was in obvious pain. Someone had marked his chest with a black emblem of leaf-covered tentacles encircling his heart. I reached out to heal it off of his skin, but he grabbed my hand and prevented it. Apparently he had asked for this "tattoo", and it was in response to a dream. The dream was of stars falling from the sky, destroying the world. As the world was destroyed, the tentacles (a totem of his tribe) covered with leaves (not a totem) encircled and protected him, so as the last of the world ended, he was safe in a ball of tentacles and leaves. He was convinced it was an omen that he must get a tattoo. Or something like that. He also wanted to visit his shaman to get a better explanation. I supported this.
Kwava also visited us. He had been trying to wait patiently to learn the rest of what Vorne and Alderan had to say, but he was also desperate to return to his people to tell them that the drow were rising. Vorne and Alderan would not share their findings with him yet, telling him to wait for the talk. He pled with us to travel to Shin-Rakorash to deliver the talk to the elves, as well as the notes and journals. Sans Quah mentioned that his tribe was on the way to the elves.

This was too much coincidence!

After some deliberation we agreed: Vorne and Alderan would deliver their speech as scheduled, on our ninth day back from Devil's Elbow. On the tenth day, we would set sail for Sans Quah's tribe so his shaman could interpret his dreams.

I slept contentedly. Again we were on the move against the darkness. Again Vorne was the key. I had chosen my suitor well for once!

Perhaps once in my lifetime, duty would not tear me from him...


I would love to describe the next six days in excruciating detail, were they interesting. They were wholly satisfactory to me, as I spent my time at the temple, or helping advertise Vorne and Alderan's talk. No one was murdered. No one attacked us. No creatures arose from the deep to devour helpless innocents.

This was a surprisingly peaceful week for me. How different the Material Plane is from home!

The night before the talk was uncomfortable. I steeled myself, approached Carmen's office, and knocked. She invited me in. I started on my well-prepared speech. "Carmen, we both know that I don't like you, and you don't like me..."
"I don't dislike you. I just disagree with most of your decisions, actions, and morals."
I was thrown off-track for a moment, wondering how to proceed after admitting that I did not like her but learning that she did not dislike me. It did not matter.
"...but I have learned that you are a woman of your word, as am I. We are about to travel on a journey that may take several weeks. I worry greatly about my temple in my absence. You have great influence in this town, and know many people. So I make you an offer. If you will please watch after my temple, make sure Father Padrick does not start drinking again, make sure no undue influence infects the temple again..."
"Leilani," she interrupted, "I promise I will watch over your temple. If anyone messes with it, I will personally see that they pay."
I nearly wept. The woman with whom I had been at odds with for so long was sitting across from me, being so generous for no good reason. It moved me. I continued.
"In return, I will heal your people. No questions asked. I will remove their diseases, cure their poisons, and, with permission, Consecrate your upstairs bar to Cayden Cailean for special events."
Carmen accepted the offer, but both of us knew that something more had happened there. We had found acceptance of each other, as different as we were.

The night of the talk was amazing. Scholars started gathering well before sunset to pay their 5 gold pieces and attend. I was rather surprised that Ca'el volunteered to help me at the door. He very rarely did anything for the Goblin, and instead vanished and went about his own business. I suppose he was interested in the talk as well. But the front door was hardly the place to attend! When Samaritha arrived I made sure she did not pay, but I slipped 5 gold pieces into the kitty for her. (Later, when Carmen confirmed she should have received free admission, I retrieved it.)
Fortunately, Carmen's pickling jars were not back from the glassworks yet, so the abominations were not on display. Once the time of the talk drew nigh, I asked one of Carmen's girls to take over the door for me. While Carmen is ruthless, vicious, vile, merciless, and... never mind. While Carmen is formidable in combat, she is also shrewd in business. I liked her girls very much, and they seemed to like me.

Alderan's talk was far less sleep-inducing this time, though I didn't understand a word of it. Once again, Vorne shone. This time he opened the second chest, revealing the chisel and the runes that had been carved from the arch. I had no idea what was going on, but the hundred-some mages in attendance were rapt.
Another roaring standing ovation and another roaring success!

I wish I knew what we were doing... I know that the drow are calling upon Earthfall to cause meteors to strike Golarion, and they plan on wiping out the entire surface world with meteors. Somehow, visiting the elves will help stop this.

Let us hope we are correct and successful!


In the morning, we packed our supplies and headed forth. My pack felt like a leaden weight. I saw Vorne cast a bit of magic, shrink his pack into a piece of paper, fold it, put it in his pocket, and smile. I very nearly Dispelled Magic right then and there. But I was not that petty... this time.

We boarded a ship bound for Sans Quah's tribe and settled in for the journey to the elves. I wondered what tree elves would look like... would they be green?

*** End of Part 1 ***

Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
Journal from 16-Aug-2014 session, Part 2 of 2: The Shadde-Quah

Our ride on board ship was all pleasant relaxation. Vorne and Alderan huddled together belowdecks, copying scrolls into their spellbooks and scribbling arcane writings. I must admit; I was intrigued. Both Vorne and Alderan seemed to spend all of their time hunched over writing desks, scribbling indecipherable symbols in profusion using magical inks. Perhaps I should learn to do the same, providing myself with scrolls in case of emergency?
I thought not. I rarely ran out of spells, and the scrolls that I purchased tended to be those for spells I did not know. I suspect wizards have a far more limited assortment of castings, and the scrolls are far more vital to them.
In any case, with Vorne otherwise occupied, I was free to move about the ship and socialize with others. I loved the feel of the sea air in my wings, and when I could convince him to look up from his scrolls, Vorne helped me practice my flying. It was wonderful to be able to stretch my wings and fly again, though I was still heavy, awkward, and slow on this plane.
Sans Quah had returned to his taciturn self, and I learned little of his people. They fished. They defended the lands from the Linnorn Kings. They received tribute from Magnimar. This was at least some information. Lark was not accustomed to being trapped aboard such a small vessel and had a short temper. Knowing Carmen, I did not tempt fate with Lark. Taleck was dark and moody, as if visiting another Shoanti tribe would be a trial, rather than a reunion. Ca'el rarely appeared abovedecks except to practice his sword dancing, and Lian was as sociable as he ever is, singing or telling tales but never sitting down for a simple conversation.

In short, I spent most of my time interacting with the crew, as they were far more sociable than my companions.

That evening I tried to join Vorne in a single hammock, but the hammocks were not designed for a person of my height, much less a person with wings. I ended up sleeping on deck. The crew was more than willing to lend me some of their blankets to make a makeshift nest, and more than once I awoke to a sailor moving a blanket to ensure I was properly covered. Dear men, but quite misguided: Ever since I had learned to channel the atmosphere of the Celestial Plane around my person, I had little need for blankets or furs. But I did not disuade them; it made them happy, and it made me happy to know that they cared about my well-being.


I am afraid I am still quite uncertain as to the customs of this plane. I arose just before dawn to perform my usual bathing, preening, and devotions. There were only two crewmen abovedecks, so I thought it would be perfectly safe. Unfortunately, the lookout became quite distracted by my activities and the steersman, a grizzled old human who looked as if he'd spent his whole life on the water, had to correct him; he insisted that the "view" was nice, but it was nothing compared to the mermaid he'd once seen. This caused the lookout to return to his duties. Sailors are odd fellows.

Just before noon the crew informed us that we had reached our destination. I wondered at that. The shoreline was nothing but rock-strewn beaches and sheer cliffs; there was not a settlement in sight. Sans Quah confirmed their assessment and we debarked in the middle of nowhere.
Further confounding me, Sans Quah had the crew unload a small one-man boat for him so he could paddle along parallel to shore while the rest of us walked. He gave Taleck some kind of tribal totem indicating that he was friends of the Shadde-Quah, and he told the rest of us to stay behind Taleck and follow his lead.
It was a very odd arrangement, to say the least.

And thus, we proceeded. Sans Quah paddled in his little boat perhaps 100 feet from shore, while Taleck led the rest of us in a hike along the rocky beaches. The walk was exceedingly unpleasant; imagine constantly stepping on rounded stones that turn your ankles this way and that, surrounded by sand that pours into your ill-fitting boots every time you turn an ankle. My boots were full of sand, my feet were sore, and the bottom 18 inches of my leathers were soaked and sand-coated within the first 15 minutes of our walk. From the looks of the others, I was sure it was blisteringly hot as well.
Nevertheless, if Alderan could withstand it, I could withstand it.

While the beach, the cliffs, the rocks, and the sea seemed utterly desolate to me, Taleck assured us that we were being watched, and we would be confronted forthwith. Sure enough, within an hour we saw three boats similar to Sans Quah's approaching him from the sea, and six walkers approaching us from the shore. We stopped and waited for them to approach. At nearly the same moment, those in the boats called out some sort of challenge to Sans Quah, while those on land called out a challenge to Taleck. Since I could not understand their language (a harsh, guttural speech), I could only follow Taleck's lead. Sans Quah exposed his tattoo to the boatmen and spoke to them, while Taleck spread his arms away from his weapons and spoke to the footmen.
Whatever the conversation was, Taleck and Sans Quah were successful in convincing our "captors" to lead us further into Shadde-Quah territory. In fact, it would seem that Taleck, taciturn as he is in our languages, is quite the cut-up in his native language. The footmen would turn to us and ask a question, and Taleck's response never failed to elicit uproarious laughter among the Shadde-Quah. Would that I could have understood their interchange! Apparently Taleck is quite the wit! And an even greater compliment: His jests were always delivered with the most sternest of faces, as if the Shadde-Quah's very presence offended him. He was obviously truly gifted in comedy, and I wished that Sarenrae had granted me access to his language that I might share in their mirth.

After perhaps half an hour of cheerful banter, Taleck never failing to look more and more furious at their responses (much to their amusement), we topped a rise and finally came upon the Shadde-Quah's main encampment. A large bonfire marked the center of the encampment, while smaller fires dotted the beach around the main fire. The boatmen led Sans-Quah ashore, and we were all led to the main bonfire and presented to an aged man who was quite obviously the clan shaman.
I must admit, I was rather surprised by the cool reception granted to us by the shaman and his people; it was as if Sans-Quah were an outsider, and not a wayward son welcomed home. Even more surprising, Sans Quah finally removed his mask, revealing scaly orange skin and bright blue eyes. But what could he be? A serpent man? A cursed human? I longed to move forward and touch the skin and try to heal it, but it was not the time. More negotiations ensued, including a period during which Sans Quah and the shaman sat on the sand, staring at each other stubbornly. I had known enough hound archons to know two honorable-but-stubborn men at odds when I saw them. I let them throw their hissy fits.
Eventually, the shaman budged first, showing two older humans to Sans-Quah. I later learned that they were his parents. Once Sans-Quah saw his parents, he showed his tattoos to the shaman and they spoke for a while. Apparently, whatever their differences were, they had finally resolved them.

Finally, the shaman turned to us. Much to my relief, he switched to the common tongue. "Tell me, tribesman of the Lyrune-Quah. Who are you, and what have you done?"
Taleck responded curtly. "I am Taleck of the Lyrune-Quah. And I have done nothing."
The shaman turned to the tribe. "And so it is that we have Taleck of the Lyrune-Quah among us, and he must be only 12, for he has achieved nothing in his lifetime!"
The entire tribe roared with laughter.
I stood dumbfounded. Taleck was only 12?!?!?! I had no idea! How large he had grown in so few years! It explained so much: His absolute loyalty, his naive world view, his avoidance of the unsavory aspects of Riddleport! The poor boy, trapped in such an adult body! I had thought him nearly old enough to shave! His people must be the opposite of my own! I was over 100, yet only looked perhaps one and twenty. And he, a mere boy of 12 years, stood the full height and girth of a man and did battle with other men! The poor dear! I must be more protective of him!

The shaman spoke to each of us in turn, asking who we were, and what we had done. Apparently the only accomplishments that mattered to the Shadde-Quah were notable enemies we had defeated. To no one's surprise, Ca'el was very brief, though he did mention slaying drow in the caverns on Devil's Elbow. Lark spoke of hunting both animals and humans. Lian told a brief tale of our adventures. Alderan switched to the Shadde-Quah's native tongue for his answer. The shaman made a sour face. I could not tell whether it was Alderan's oratory abilities or his lack of familiarity with the language that made the shaman look so displeased. Yet the shaman did not slay him, which I took as a good sign.
Finally, it was my turn. I was pleased when he referred to me as "feathered one" rather than "feathery tart". Apparently Vorne's unkind nickname for me had not reached this far northwards. I did my best to explain myself. "I am Leilani, granddaughter of Sarenrae. I am sent to this plane by an oracle of Pharasma to prevent a catastrophe the nature of which I do not know. But the world is endangered by darkness, and I am here to stop that darkness. I have never knowingly hurt another being."
While he seemed very pleased with my answer (A 33 Diplomacy roll as opposed to Alderan's 5), I realized that I was not being entirely truthful. I tried to speak. "Except for demons. I have slain a demon," but the words were lost in the general clamor after my answer.
Next, Vorne spoke of battling the drow, studying their magics, and slaying many of them.

Our interview complete, the shaman pronounced judgement. We were to be guests of the tribe for 3 days, at which point our welcome would be over and they would slay us if we remained on their land. I began to question just why Sans-Quah had left the tribe. Had he willingly departed, or had he been asked to leave?
The ritual complete, Sans-Quah re-donned his mask and cloak and we were granted leave to find places to sleep and food to eat.

We spent the rest of the afternoon with the Shadde-Quah. As is typical in such cultures, the younger folk flocked to us with curiosity and a multitude of questions, while the elders shunned us. They showed us how they fished, how they built boats, and the myriad of creatures that could be found in the coastal pools among the rocks.
As one young man scanned a pool, he plucked an octopus from a pool and hurled it into another young man's face, yelling something in Shoanti. The game was on!
I am afraid I am not very good at games. I tried to participate, yet I was never struck by the octopus, and I was so slow in my awkward boots and leather armor that I was rarely within fifty feet of those playing. At one point I encouraged the octopus, who had remained silent until this point, to hurl insults at the Shoanti as he(?) flew towards them. The octopus did not respond. Perhaps it was one of the dumb octopi I had heard tell of? Eventually the octopus tired of the game, and indicated its displeasure by dispensing ink on one young Shoanti's hand. He made a noise and dropped the octopus back into the sea.

Our evening was spent with Lian telling tales of our adventures so far, many of the young Shoanti listening raptly. We slept well, feeling safe among the Shadde-Quah for the evening.


In the morning I felt that I should try to make myself useful. The other party members were fishing, hunting, telling tales, or otherwise doing things for our hosts. I first approached the shaman. I explained that I knew he was a powerful healer, and did not doubt his ability to keep his clan hale and hearty, but I was a healer as well and was hoping he might condescend to allow me some small activities. He said he had none; his tribe was healthy and it was a time of peace, not a time for healers. I was heartened that his facade softened as he told this to me; he was not trying to be cruel, but he did not have a use for me at the moment.
Next I tried to assist with the food and water. It was easy enough to fill their cisterns, but a rather pointless effort as they were only a few dozen yards from a freshwater stream. I found some spoiled fish and purified them, but was promptly chastised by some of the young women; the spoiled fish were used to attract fresh fish, and were not for eating (or purifying).

With nothing useful I could do, I tried to participate in a game. Seeing a young barbarian near the tide pools, I scooped up a small octopus and approached him. He called out in Common, "Not it!"
Apparently that meant I could not strike him with the octopus. Still wanting to play, I touched him and forced my Celestial armor upon him, then ran, hoping that the armor might slow him enough to allow me to get away. Hearing no pursuit, I turned. The stricken, confused face of the young man nearly drove me to tears. Taleck said something clearly insulting about him standing there in a woman's armor. How I could have slapped Taleck right then! But he was only 12, and did not know better.
I returned to the man, removed the armor, and handed him the wee octopus. As I turned away, he called me back, asking me to look at something on the octopus. I knew what was coming, but I had wronged him, and deserved my comeuppance. Of course, he asked me to look more and more closely at the octopus, and I feigned ignorance as to what he was trying to have me see. I tried casting Sanctuary on myself, knowing full well it would do me little good if the young man meant me no harm.

The squirt of ink in my face was no surprise, but delighted the young man no end. I had done my penance.

I am bad at games.

I spent the rest of the day trying to stay out of the way of other, more useful tribesmen and party members, and sang a bit, worked with some of the women on weaving nets a bit, and otherwise passed the time.


On our final day with the Shadde-Quah, the shaman provided us with six warriors to escort us out of his territory. We set off, mountains in front of us, knowing that the elf woods were just beyond those mountains...

*** End of Session ***

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Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
Journal from 30-Aug-2014 session: Hooves like Clouds (Part 1 of 2)

As we departed the Quah, I felt a gift in return for their hospitality was in order. While I was fairly certain that their shaman did not care for me, I approached him nonetheless.
"Shaman of the Shadde-Quah. You have shown us great hospitality, and trusted us to live among your people these past few days. As is the custom of my people, I would grant you a gift."
...I rummaged around in my belt pouch awkwardly for a moment, cursing myself for not thinking of it beforehand, nor preparing it correctly...
"The wizards of Riddleport consider these very valuable, though I cannot explain what they see in them. Nevertheless, I would grant you one of my feathers as a sign of my respect for you and your people."
The shaman accepted the feather and gazed at it absently. "We are not your wizards. I see no use in this token. But I accept your gesture. And I would warn you. We are Sans Quah's people. We know his nature. If you choose to continue to travel with him, be very careful."
I thanked him for his advice, bowed, and took my leave.
As Sans Quah took his leave, one tribesman spoke to him. The speech must have been offensive, as Sans Quah slapped him. The tribesman slapped him back. Whatever the exchange was about, apparently they considered the matter done and they moved on.
I do not believe I will ever understand barbarians.

What was it of Sans Quah that made him so hated by his tribe? He had not acted as a bastion of faith around me, but he was no Carmen. And yes, he had scales and slitted eyes, but being from the Celestial Plane, I had seen far stranger creatures dedicated to the cause of righteousness, so I was well aware that physical appearances mattered not. What, exactly, had Sans Quah done to earn such hatred and distrust from his people? I decided that I would indeed have to watch him, though I knew not what to watch for. I felt I knew his nature already. Had he fooled me so completely?

As we proceeded up the mountain path with our escort, one of the older Shadde-Quah tried to speak to Taleck. I would love to have known what they discussed, but it seemed that the Shadde-Quah member was trying to offer Taleck some sort of advice, and Taleck was rejecting that advice. The other Shadde-Quah laughed and mocked Taleck, but he bore their derision with impunity. Would that I could speak their language to help Taleck! He is only 12! How was he supposed to understand the social norms of another tribe, much less his own? It's not as if barbarian tribes offer courses in etiquette. Do they?

After several hours of pleasant hiking through low mountains, the Shadde-Quah informed us that we were at the edge of their terrain (how did they know? I saw no markers. Do they have a mystical "border sense"? A sense of smell? What tells them where their border lies?). They turned and walked back up into the hills, while the rest of us proceeded down towards the road that would take us to Crying Leaf.
The party chose to put me next to Lark, behind Vorne and Alderan. I considered this a fortuitous arrangement, as I would be able to learn more about our newest party member, but I quickly learned that I was not very good at thinking of questions or making small talk, and Lark was not one to wax poetic about herself. Thus, we walked in silence, enjoying the view ahead of us.
I am afraid that Sans Quah was behind us and was also enraptured by his view, as we were set upon by bestial creatures in an ambush and he was caught completely unawares! Fortunately, neither Vorne nor Alderan had much to look at ahead of them (sorry, Taleck, Ca'el, and Lian!) so they noticed the attackers and dropped fireballs on either side of the trail. Alderan's fireball felled three of the creatures on the left, while Vorne's felled four on the right. I believe I spotted Alderan scowling and Vorne smirking. One hobgoblin attempted to assail me, but I had summoned my armor and his blow glanced off of it. Alderan felled it with a Magic Missile. He is such a dear protector! I don't know why the others find him so abrasive! He is just... blunt. And egotistical... and classist... and... NICE.

Their numbers decimated, the remaining attackers hardly put up a fight. I did not have to heal anyone at the end of it, so I turned to Alderan and asked loudly, "And what manner of creatures are these, Alderan?"
Alderan identified them as hobgoblins, a tribal people prone to violence and preying on those weaker than themselves, but also very isolationary. We were only set upon because we were a small group on a rarely-used trail going through their territory. I then asked Alderan what the law of the land was with regard to brigands. He stated outright that there was no law in these lands, but the creatures attacked him, so he felt their lives should be forfeit.
This was a perplexing predicament! By Alderan's statement, we were the law of the land at the moment, and could decide on a "just" punishment for these wrongdoers. They had hardly done us any harm, but if we had been an ordinary caravan they might have caused grave injury or even loss of life! But they were not demons, nor irredeemable villains! They were just primitive tribesmen (and presumably women) who knew no better than to attack those around them. But I did not have the time to stay with them and try to redeem them; I was on a quest!

I spoke clearly for all the party to hear. "I know that we cannot take these creatures prisoner, as we do not have the resources and our mission is urgent. So we must decide whether to kill them that they might never prey on another, or whether to merely take their things and leave them lying here unconscious, as a sign to them and their kinfolk that their chosen path is not the right one. I would strongly prefer the latter; they have not harmed us enough to merit death, and do not seem dangerous nor vicious enough to be irredeemable, so I would leave them live, but burn their possessions as penance for their malfeasance. However, if the party would prefer to slay them, I cannot in good conscience stay your hands, as I have no better alternative."

I bowed my head, waiting for the inevitable death sentence on our prisoners. The party stared at me in stunned silence. Had I really just given them leave to slay prisoners, after all the times I had tried to stop them?
Then, it was the party's turn to stun me. Vorne immediately stated that he saw no reason to kill them. Lark, our new, blessed, wonderful Lark who seems to share nothing in common with Carmen other than beauty, a quick wit, and black hair, agreed. Alderan stated that he had already provided his opinion, and would go with the party's decision. One by one, the party took my side. My jaw must have scraped the dirt and picked up rocks and bugs as Sans Quah, Ca'el, Taleck, and Lian all voted to spare our prisoners! I had... won! No, no! I did not "win"! I had somehow, through all of my suffering, all of my self-doubt, and all of my anguish, convinced my party that slaying every prisoner was not always the best solution!
Prancing on air, I helped the group gather the hobgoblins' meager belongings. As I tried to strip them of their loincloths Taleck stopped me, indicating that this was improper on this plane. Ah, the bizarre nature of nudity on the Material Plane! Are we all not born naked? Do we all not bathe naked? Nevertheless, I respected the party's sensitivities and left the hobgoblins their loincloths.

We started a large fire, burned all their belongings (none of us felt that trying to sell their things would be profitable nor proper, as the case may be), and left them to wake up and ponder their fates. Perhaps finding several tribemen dead and the rest defeated and humiliated, they might open the next encounter with a discussion. And communication is the first path to redemption! While I was skeptical that we had accomplished much of anything with the hobgoblins, I was ecstatic with the progress shown by my companions!

A few hours later we joined the main road. It was already late in the day, and we had at least another day's travel ahead of us (perhaps two), so Alderan set up a brilliant little shelter for us to sleep in. (It is a magical dome perhaps 20 feet in radius that is opaque from the outside but transparent from the inside. I am not ashamed to admit that I must have spent a good half hour delighting myself by going into and out of the shelter and marveling at the changing visibility. I am afraid the others' glares finally dissuaded me from this game.)
The night was uneventful, and the next day we continued our march.


My morning devotions were a bit more exciting than usual; I was determined to help Taleck overcome his grim determination to prove his manliness at the tender age of 12, so I crept over as silently as I could to his sleeping form and placed celestial protections upon him. (Endure Elements and Life Link). While I would not by any stretch of the imagination call myself a mistress of stealth, I did manage to put the spells upon him without waking him.

Most of the day was a pleasant hike down a well-traveled road. With mountains on one side, a forest ahead of us, and a blue sky above us, I could almost imagine that I was back on the Celestial Plane. But my boots were ill-fitting and hurt, my backpack was ridiculously heavy, I was clad in drooping heavy leathers instead of clinging diaphanous silks, and, worst of all, I could not fly!
Nevertheless, we proceeded onwards until late afternoon, when many of us spotted a cloud of dust approaching in the distance. Once again, Sans Quah was otherwise occupied.

I really MUST get more loose-fitting armor for my backside.

Fortunately, we had plenty of time to prepare this time. Ca'el took cover in the trees, becoming as invisible as if he had cast a spell. I was impressed at his woodsmanship. I knew far better than to try to hide a white angel among green trees, so I stood at the side of the path, awaiting whoever or whatever it was approaching us. The others, bless their hearts, would not abandon me to my fate and stayed with me by the side of the road. As the cloud drew closer, I summoned my celestial armor for protection. The woven chain was perhaps even tighter-fitting than the leather, and definitely better-tailored, but looked both formidable and formal with its glowing symbols of Sarenrae and complete body coverage. Fortunately, Sans Quah was paying attention to the road rather than me (or Lark. It is a bit presumptuous to assume he was looking at my backside while being so distracted. Hers is quite lovely and well-rounded as well).

As the cloud approached, the cause resolved into a group of horsemen, perhaps twenty strong, leading perhaps another dozen horses behind them. My companions identified them as Velashan Horse Lords, sometimes referred to as the "eigth Quah" for their nomadic travels across Varisia. But they were not Shoanti.
As they drew near, they slowed their horses. I stepped forward to speak for the party as their leader rode forward to speak to us.
"More humans? Traveling in this area? These are strange times indeed, with the sky falling on the cities and humans wandering our lands! What are you doing here?"
I was polite enough not to correct him, though I wondered at his eyesight that he did not notice my wings. Nevertheless, since the party was allowing me to speak to him, I presumed I was allowed to tell him what I deemed fit.
"Greetings, magnificent horseman! We are travelers bound for the elves of Crying Leaf. We have experienced the catastrophes of Riddleport firsthand, and have been asked by an elven ranger to report what we have found to those in Crying Leaf. We have found great evil and we battle against it, as those who brought the darkness to Riddleport seek to bring it to the rest of the world as well. And what of you? Where do you travel?"

The horseman relaxed at my words and told us of him and his people. He was Windbraid. His people, the Velashan Horse Lords, were proud raisers of the best horses of Varisia, and most likely in all the world. They sold their extra horses in Riddleport, but even in good years they did not entirely trust the crime lords to treat their horses with the respect they deserved. In these dark times they hesitated to bring the horses to Riddleport at all, but they had too many to feed over the long summer dry, so they must needs be sell some. He was surprised that we were going to deal with elves; normally the elves did not welcome humans into their midst. Then, he stared at me.

I do not know what he saw in me. I am no horsewoman. I am no rider. Even on the Celestial Plane I was not good with animals. And those animals could speak to me!

Yet he gazed at me, and he spoke with grave determination: "From what you have told us, you are heroes of this land on a quest of great importance. You need mounts. And you do not need ordinary mounts. You need the best mounts in the world. I will tell you what I think. I think that I will sell you those of my horses you would buy, at the same price I would sell them in Riddleport. But I would have you make several promises. You must always treat your horse with respect. It is your mount and your companion, not your animal. You will never abuse nor abandon your horse. And, if ever it comes time that you must part with your horse, you will not sell your horse to just any horse trader. You must find someone worthy of riding a horse of Velashu, and you must sell that horse to that person, the person who will ride it, and not anyone else."

I could not speak. His horses were beautiful! And powerful! And magnificent! And so many things I could not say them all if I had a day and a night to speak of their perfection! And yet they were strong, and violent, and dangerous. I had to be honest.
"I can easily swear to your terms without hesitation, but I am no warrior, nor even a decent rider. I would treat your horse with the respect and care it deserved, but I do not know that I could do it justice. Perhaps you have a gentle mare..."
The words had hardly escaped my mouth when a horsewoman led Her from the herd.

She was a beautiful golden color, like summer wheat on a perfect day, or freshly-tapped dwarven ale at a celebration for Torag in the halls of Heaven. Her mane ran blonde, so light it was nearly as pale as my hair. I could not hear her move. I could not breathe.
"This is Hooves like Clouds. She has the gentlest gait of all the horses in all of Varisia. She will carry you gently, and you will not fall."
I strode forward and stroked her nose. She pushed her head against me. And I was hers. "How much is she?"
"We charge the horsemen of Riddleport 400 gold pieces, and that is what we will charge you... but we have little use for gold on the plains. If you have something that you could trade instead, we would prefer that."
I quickly dug into my pack. I asked whether they could use scrolls, and they admitted they could not. I found a potion of Cure Moderate Wounds, and knew that with my ever-growing power I would almost certainly never need it, but these horsemen, living a harsh life on the plains of Varisia, might find it exceedingly useful. "I will give you this, as a sign of my respect for you and my love of Hooves like Clouds."
I checked the rest of my pack. I had nothing else they might find valuable. Hating myself for taking advantage of a child, I turned to Taleck, knowing he could not refuse anything I asked. "Taleck, may I borrow 10 platinum pieces?"
Taleck did not hesitate for a moment, and Hooves like Clouds was mine! I hugged Taleck, hugged Windbraid, and tried to mount.

This did not go well.

The tribeswoman who had led her out managed to hide her laughter (bless her) and showed me the bags where I could store the gear from my backpack (bless having that horrid thing off my back) and then easily lifted me onto Hooves like Clouds. Do I really weigh so little that any nomad off the trail can lift me so easily? Hooves like Clouds seemed to feel so, as she wandered off to graze with me on her back, much to the amusement of all around.
I didn't care. I loved her. And I would learn to ride.

As I sat on her back taking an impromptu tour of the immediate surroundings (and apparently the best grass), the others took my lead and purchased their own horses. Alderan, knowing his lack of diplomatic arts might be his undoing, simply paid for his horse with a Cure Moderate Wounds potion and 10 platinum pieces, exactly matching my offering. His horse was a deep black gelding with a white blaze on its nose named Light's Pride. Ca'el stepped from the trees, earning Windbraid's respect. He purchased a deep brown gelding. Its fur was so brown as to be nearly black, only discernible as brown in direct sunlight. His name was Breath of the Night. For Sans Quah, they produced an enormous gelding, black with grey dappling, named Stone Breaker. Finally, Lark purchased an ember mare with red highlights named Touched by Fire.
As the others were purchasing their horses, I was plucking the dried grass, trying to Purify it and make it fresh again for Hooves like Clouds, to only marginal success. Windbraid came to me and handed me a small leather pouch full of light brown cubes. While I had no idea what they were, Hooves like Clouds did and butted me insistently. I carefully gave her one. She loved it!

As we bade the Horse Lords farewell, Windbraid came to us and gave each of us a leather wrist strap. He explained that it would tell any other Horse Lord that met us that we had traded fairly. This served two purposes: They would know our mounts were not stolen, and they would trust us to deal fairly with them. What a boon! Once our business was complete, the horsemen turned their group and headed back for the plains. On questioning, Windbraid explained that we had bought enough of his horses that he would not need to waste his time nor risk his horses in Riddleport. He thanked us profusely and rode off.

I wondered why Vorne and Taleck had not purchased horses.
As soon as the Horse Lords were out of sight, Vorne cast a spell and a magical steed appeared for him. The nerve! After we had spent so much hard-earned gold and resources, he could have told us that he had the means to summon his own! I realize that his spells for the day are quite limited, but this was just showing off to make us all look the fools. And he smiled because he knew it.

Now with proper mounts, we started towards the elf woods. Unfortunately, in spite of his strength and youthful enthusiasm, Taleck could not keep up with us. The others suggested he might ride behind me on Hooves like Clouds. I was worried for her, but the rest of the party assured me that I weighed so little she would hardly consider me a load, so Taleck would only weigh her down properly.
I acquiesced and allowed him to mount behind me.

It was rather endearing watching him try to figure out where to put his hands. I smiled reassuringly, clasped them firmly, and put them on my hips.

I mean, what does a 12-year-old know about touching a woman?

*** End of Part I ***
Next planned session: Saturday, September 27, 2014

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Not very long ago as these things are measured, when I was first Cast Out, I helped a bard down on his luck stay alive while in his cups. Over and over he sang a little ditty that sounded like a children's song. He did not know that it had its origin in the ritual chant Shadde Quah share to move wavecutters at speeds others cannot believe, and he made it end with the words "life is but a dream." Life is but a dream. Not knowledge shared by any but the old or wise among People. It stuck in my ear, as they say. It slept in me so that my mind was as a body outstretched on a bed of rock for many nights. Knowing this ending before hearing him put it into words, though wrapped in darkness and unreal visions rather than in power and battle, must be what sustained me when I survived the change during my rights of passage and became what I am. No longer Meh-lan'ek but Sansquah. Torn into pieces by a dream of Vonark Many Arms and cast into the world to crush whatever had destroyed the boy my parents knew and return, victorious, myself once again. Or not. And not.

Now I have been back among People, more powerful but still Sansquah, and their minds remain closed. I don't blame them. I am something they knew and now do not. But I must begin to tell the story, at least to myself, as though I will find myself. If I do not, I may end with my inside resembling my outside and without even my self for company. I have not told my story, even to myself, because I did not want to add weight to the truth of it in the telling. If dream is strong enough to teach me to speak dark languages I have heard in no other place, and also strong enough to aid me in learning the language of angels then, perhaps, it is both too powerful to resist and may bring me before the great door of my purpose. At least, if images are this strong and do not also have keys to open the door of a beautiful life, then I am lost and may as well go into the sea.

But Vonark covered me against the blast, and now he is over my heart, and he comes to those I used to call My People most often in dreams, so I will accept his protection, hoping that part of the dream holds true. As they say, you never know the nature of his grasp until it closes the water over your head or hurls you onto the beach and into the future. Either way, his embrace is irresistible at last. I still have the things I use to draw and carry images from the darkness before dawn. I suppose I will use them.

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Leilani changes everything. If I were to want her in the usual way I would be like The Minnow Who Fell In Love With The Sky, and we all know how that ends. So I haven't even really considered her in that way. Besides, Samaratha is in my heart. I wish it were not true but it is. But Leilani gives us life. Gives us the rising up in waves that change our natures. Without warning I learned to speak as she speaks, aided by dreams, and now I learn even the languages of my enemies as I used to in my youth. It pleases her, which pleases me more than makes sense. The wizards haggle and belittle each other mercilessly, thinking this will raise them up in her sight. Or perhaps that is simply their nature and her presence makes them kinder to each other and to us than they would be otherwise. After all, she calls them hounds as well. I do not think I know what dreams to consult in order to understand them. Waves and rocks, I don't even know what dream I am in since my casting out. Who am I to even suggest that I know something of the way the world works? Talek is a brother removed and finds himself through devotion to her. That I understand well enough, and we both grow more mighty with each battle, as is right. Elves from the dark are real, cruel, and still fall before us in the end despite their demons of shadow and ice. Who from the cliffs could have forseen this as my destiny? Carmen is more than fetching and has never betrayed us, but has known too many betrayals herself and will follow her own path as though her inner world were the only world, I have no doubt. I miss her already and never spoke of affection with her, but the triumph of death in battle will erase the pain I would surely have known at her hand, as they say when jesting under a raised cup. Even that old story seems poor when remembered beside the story I live in now, full of creatures from other worlds. Leilani changes everything. I scribbled my dreams on parchment with colors, and that made me seem to wear a cloak of mystery too fine for one such as me, but now I even write my thoughts down... What would my uncle think? He would frown and slowly break my tools before me to help cure my ignorant pride. At least, that is what People would approve of his doing. Being lost in the bigger world is not such a bad thing when it comes to doing as you like, I suppose. What have I become?

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Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
Journal from 30-Aug-2014 session: Crying Leaf (Part 2 of 2)

The ride to the edge of the forest was nothing short of delightful; the weather was fine, the birds were singing, there was a fresh breeze and the scent of clean plants, and Hooves like Clouds lived up to her name, carrying me and Taleck in an effortlessly smooth gait. Of course, the party placed me in the middle of the group for my protection, so Hooves like Clouds did not have to follow my direction and merely followed her peers. But she seemed content, and therefore I was content.

I did attempt to start a conversation with Alderan as to whether he would be safe among the forest elves. After all, weren't city elves and forest elves mortal enemies? Or it would seem so, from my naive point of view. Alderan assured me that all elves viewed him the same: With jealousy of his superior intellect. I did not remind him that most of the elves we had encountered so far had attempted to kill him, so I let the matter drop and we rode on.

On reaching the edge of the forest, we realized that there was no road leading therein; in fact, the Horse Lords' claim that the elves were not partial to visitors was reinforced by the complete lack of anything resembling a civilized trail. Sans Quah thought he could make out some kind of game trail leading deeper into the woods, but we would have to travel single file, and the horses would be just as slow as the people.
No sooner had Sans Quah spoken than Taleck was off Hooves like Clouds and giving me "proper" distance. His obvious discomfort around me is quite endearing, but he really must get over his aversion to women in the next few years if he is ever to find a suitable mate. I must make a note to speak with him about the nature of men and women before he gets much older. I must ask Vorne how old humans should be before they start their courtships!

A brief rustling in the trees was all the warning we received of the vicious ambush! A group of dragon-like creatures, later identified by Vorne as "forest drakes", descended upon us, intent on making us their supper! I thought immediately of Hooves like Clouds beneath me, totally unprotected from their ravenous intent, and straightened in my saddle and spread my wings to make myself a larger target. Happily and woefully, I was quite successful. One drake set upon me with great vigor. I saw another tear into Alderan and draw much blood, while our hounds attempted to regroup to defend us.
With no one close by my side to defend me, I was momentarily at a loss as to what to do about the drake assailing me. Fortunately a well-considered Magic Missile from Alderan caught it unawares. Alderan was in a bad way, so I returned the favor, using the drake's momentary distraction to summon my armor and channel positive energy, healing him almost completely. The drake renewed its attack on me but was thoroughly frustrated to find that steel had replaced the tender leather it had been tearing through. As I gazed about to ponder my next action, I saw a pair of arrows sprout from my drake's neck. We were receiving unseen assistance!
Our hounds were performing admirably! While slaying their fellow humanoids seemed to cause them some difficulty, slaughtering troublesome forest creatures was obviously quite familiar to them, and the drakes suffered heavily. Hooves like Clouds was similarly a dear, and did not shift an inch as I fought for her life above her. Alderan and Vorne were both taking serious wounds from bites and tails, but a second channel quickly relieved them of their distress. While it would have been more dramatic for the drakes to make a final stand or carry off some hapless damsel, they simply perished in the woods. I did not even need to grant permission to the hounds to slay the fallen; they knew that I did not have qualms about slaying dangerous animals. Were they sentient like dragons, I might have thought for a bit, but they gave no indication of any such wit.

As we regrouped, a group of five elves dressed in forest colorations came out of the woods to greet us. I did not understand their first few words, but soon I regained my ability to understand the common tongue and learned that they were a group of warriors from Crying Leaf. The leader identified himself as Kaerishiel, but would not condone to name his companions. In fact, he provided us with very little information nor hospitality, only occasionally speaking to Alderan and Vorne in Elven. I did learn that we had mentioned that Kwava had sent us, and we were being escorted to Crying Leaf.
And once we arrived, I must admit I was very happy we had an escort. The forest had become darker, with denser and denser trees blocking most of the sunlight, with mosses and vines clinging to the trunks and passing between trees like great green spider webs, when Kaerishiel stopped at one veritable wall of vines and brambles, pulled out a silver whistle, blew three times, and the vines parted to reveal a small village. I do not believe that we would have ever discovered Crying Leaf without such an escort!

The moment we stepped through the veil, we knew that something was wrong. Several buildings had been reduced to burned-out ruins. Residents on crutches or limping along spared glances our way but quickly returned to their business. Knowing full well that I would be of no use in the discussion of the Armageddon Echo, I immediately asked to be shown to the infirmary that I might assist in the healing. Kaerishiel merely scowled at me. "There will be time for that later. For now, you must prepare to meet Eviana, our leader."
He led us to a central building, somewhat larger than most. As we proceeded, I noted that many of the elves gazed at Alderan more than any of the rest of us. At least they were more curious than antagonistic! Thank Heaven for reasonable elves! Just because they had never seen a city elf did not make them want to attack him. They would have to get to know him for that.
Once we arrived at the building, an elven woman offered to stable our horses for us. I was somewhat hesitant to let Hooves like Clouds go, but I remembered that I had sworn only not to give her or sell her to someone unworthy, not to never stable her. Besides, I was honestly quite certain that this elf knew far more about horses than I, and would take far better care of her.
As she led Hooves like Clouds (and our other horses) away, Vorne dismissed his Phantom Steed, causing a bit of a disturbance as the elven woman tried to determine what had happened. Vorned grinned broadly at this prank. I found it somewhat unkind.

In the building itself, the elves offered us wondrous refreshments: Water in cups woven of grass and foliage, with beautiful tiny flowers floating in it, fresh fruits and vegetables, and even some vegetables that were dried or roasted to provide a variation in texture. Many of the fruits had been carved into intricate and wonderful shapes, such as a pear carved to resemble a turtle whose shell opened to reveal a handful of raw lima beans! All of the refreshments had a surprisingly delicate flavor; I am afraid our barbarians' first act on seeing the food was to break into their jerky stores. Lark and Ca'el did not hesitate to partake of the barbarians' generosity, though I declined, feeling that the elves' food, though bland, was so carefully-prepared that it would be insulting to supplement it.
There were tubs for bathing, mats for meditating, and the aforementioned refreshments set at a large dining table. Not wanting to offend Taleck's delicate sensibilities, I first determined that the tubs did indeed have privacy screens, then indulged in a cool bath, even washing my hair before putting it up and putting on the green dress we had retrieved from the drow. I asked Vorne to Prestidigitate it to ensure it was clean and properly-draped, and felt ready to meet the elven leader.

After about an hour, Kaerishiel arrived once again to escort us to Eviana. I overheard several party members refer to her as a queen, but it seemed to me that the "town" was quite small to be the capital of a queendom. I was dressed to meet the leader of the elves, and none of the other party members had bothered to change at all, so I felt I would receive the benefit of the doubt.
Kaerishiel was no more pleasant the second time around. Was he somehow related to Alderan? I know I was not the only party member who wondered this. He led us to Eviana's hall, and she greeted us warmly. She seemed very sad, and very tired, and wore no crown but rather an assortment of lovely jewels in her hair. I decided that if I had a private moment with her I would ask her about them, as they were quite lovely and offset her hair beautifully, and I would emulate her fashion if it were allowed for non-elves to adorn themselves so. The duties and pressures of leadership weighed heavily in her eyes and her shoulders, and my initial inclination was to take her by he arm and force her to lie down and relax. But that was not my place here.

The conversation that followed was conducted in a mixture of Common and Elven, and I must admit, baffled me completely. As far as I can tell, rather than wanting a lecture from Alderan and Vorne, Eviana wished to purchase the drow journals from us and consider the business closed. Alderan and Vorne were unwilling to part with the journals. Others pointed out that the elves were obviously under some form of assault, but Eviana would not share any information with us until she had the journals, and we were unwilling to part with the journals until she provided more information. I personally could not understand why we could not allow her to copy the journals, thereby spreading information about a common foe, but as I have noted, my opinions are not valued in such discussions.

It was a perplexing stalemate. We arrived to help the elves, yet here we were mistrusting them, waiting for them to place trust in us before we would even allow them to see the journals! On the other hand, after the betrayal of Father Padrick at the temple of Sarenrae, Saul's betrayal of us, Zincher's attempted betrayal of us, and so forth, I cannot condemn my companions for being quite skeptical of their would-be allies. Our reticence irritated Kaerishiel no end, and he started speaking against us, insisting that the elves could manage their own problems. It did not help when others pointed out that, from the visible evidence in the town, they had not been doing a very good job of it.
Fortunately, eventually Alderan stormed out.
"We" were still arguing by the time he came back, and he made a bold, simple judgement: Kwava had fought at our sides, and had not taken a share of the treasure. Therefore, the journals should be considered Kwava's share, and we should give them to Eviana as he wished. Everyone promptly agreed to this solution. I was all astonishment! Eviana asked whether we still wanted the reward for the books. I pointed out that money was scarce and we could all use better gear, but Alderan was insistent that as Kwava's share, we could not rightly take gold for the journals. I was so proud of him! Though to be honest with myself, my generosity warred with my practicality in this regard, as we really did need to improve our equipment.

The fate of the journals decided, Eviana set her scribes to copying them for us. It feels improper to address her by such an informal name, but she did not propose a title to us. Mistress Eviana? Madame? Unfortunately, no one else seemed bothered by her lack of a title, so I let the matter drop.
Once the journals were safely away, Eviana asked us to swear that nothing we should learn in this meeting should leave these woods. I pondered a moment, wondering who on this plane I would possibly tell, and decided that I could swear to this. Others were more circumspect, but after a bit more discussion everyone had made an oath to secrecy of some sort or another, though I do not know that any two oaths matched.

Finally, Eviana told us the history of her people. They had not always lived in Crying Leaf, but in a city named Celwynvian miles to the west of us at the southwestern corner of the forest. The cave elves (drow) had arrived years ago, and repeated attacks had reduced the city to ruins and driven the forest elves (elves) from it to seek refuge in Crying Leaf. The elves believed they could contain this menace, and did not seek outside help. Yet every time they mounted a counterattack, the drow were nowhere to be found. Finally, the elves determined that the drow were hiding in a pocket dimension in Celwynvian itself, only coming out to perform raids and achieve key tactical victories. The drow and their demon allies were in control of Celwynvian, but used the pocket dimension to avoid any conflicts they might lose.
More disturbingly, the drow here referred to the pocket dimension as the Armageddon Echo, contradicting our understanding of it as a way to summon meteors.
Eviana, Vorne, and Alderan switched to Elven to discuss this development, and the rest of us waited patiently for the result.

Unfortunately, we received no more clarifications. Once their private conversation was complete, Eviana dismissed us to rest for the night. I could not rest yet. "Lady Eviana! (Yes, THAT sounded better!) I saw wounded in your town, and was wondering whether I might be of use in your infirmary."
Lady Eviana's look of gratitude was genuine and palpable. "I do not know how powerful you are, and know that we have powerful healers ourselves, but I am sure your help would be welcome."
She had one of her men escort me to the infirmary. I did not catch his name. It seems that elves are not open with their names. A curious custom, but I have seen curiouser.

The infirmary was a sea of devastation and woe. A few of the injured needed nothing more than simple healing, which I was more than willing to provide. In fact, even the more powerful healers expressed surprise at the power of my channels. I could cure a few of long-lasting poisons, or restore them from drains or illnesses. But many, many more were suffering effects beyond my abilities: Magic-induced blindness, curses, missing limbs, and other ailments beyond my current powers. I did what I could, and prayed to Sarenrae to bless me yet again with greater power to aid these elves in their struggles.

Finally, my magics spent and myself physically exhausted, I staggered over to Hooves like Clouds to wish her a good night, rubbed her snout and fed her one of the brown cubes, then went to our tent, collapsed, and slept a dreamless sleep.


In the morning once everyone was awake, we were once again summoned to Lady Eviana's presence. Kaerishiel was there as well, sour as ever. As we settled in, I examined him and Alderan for similarities...
Lady Eviana got straight to the point: While they had been in a stalemate with the drow for some time now, the drow were gaining the upper hand. Our arrival was surely a sign that it was time for a counterattack, with us as a tactical strike force to assist in the general assault.
Suddenly, Sans Quah's eyes grew wide. He ripped open his shirt, revealing the tattoo I had managed not to erase. He spoke of a dream, of stars winking out and falling from the sky, and being protected by a tentacled creature, the totem of his tribe. Yet the tentacles in his dreams sprouted leaves in gold and green, exactly matching the badges of Kaerishiel's unit of elite fighters. It was clear to him! The elves must recruit his tribe and have the barbarians assist in the attack!

I felt his interpretation absolutely reasonable, but others expressed much doubt. How were they to recruit the barbarians to come? Once they came, how would they convince them to leave? How many barbarians were there, how many were warriors, and how many were experienced in fighting drow?
Eventually, much to Sans Quah's disappointment, the group decided that they would make the initial assault without his tribe, but would recruit them if the initial foray was a failure. He was discouraged, but allowed that that might work. I had no idea he was so spiritual! Nor do I deny the power of his vision!

I am not certain what his dream means, but with only a handful of Kaerishiel's warriors available, perhaps only a handful of Sans Quah's tribe must come? And perhaps... with him being banished... are WE his tribe? Are WE the barbarians who must join with the elves to save the world?

I do not know, but I can certainly hope that we are making the right decision, and my interpretation of Sans Quah's dream is accurate (enough).

Lady Eviana was grateful we were willing to attempt her ploy, but needed time to prepare her people. While Alderan and Vorne retired to write scrolls (I wonder that they can ever uncurl their fingers with all that scribbling), I returned to our lodge, changed to my sari, put up my hair, and carefully folded my green dress, looking one final time at Alinza's beautiful stitching. Carrying the bundle back to Lady Eviana's office, I requested and was immediately granted an audience.
Standing proudly, spreading my wings slightly, I spoke. "Lady Eviana, when we defeated the drow on Devil's Elbow we took this dress as proper bounty. However, seeing its make and the plight of your people, I cannot in good conscience wear it. It must have been stolen from a woman of Crying Leaf during a raid, and I would not have such a theft on my conscience. I apologize that I had it altered, but I had not known it was stolen. If you would accept it, I would return it to Crying Leaf to find a more rightful owner."
Lady Eviana looked perplexed. "That dress... is not of our style. It was probably used as an infiltration disguise. I do not believe it ever belonged to one of our people. Nevertheless, you earned it when you defeated the drow. I would prefer that you keep it, unless you do not want it. I do not know that any of our women would wear it."
What a kind woman! Knowing full well that I would donate it in a moment if I thought it would help her people, in one simple statement she had reassured me that I should keep it!
I courtesied, apologized for wasting the Lady's time, returned my dress to my backpack, changed into my leathers, and went to the infirmary to spend the day doing what I could to help.

Once again, in the evening I visited Hooves like Clouds, returned to our cabin, and retired. Others were beginning to complain about the monotony of the food, but the elves obviously prepared it with such care and kindness it always tasted like ambrosia to me. Lovingly-prepared gruel nourishes the soul far better than any garishly-adorned pheasant.


The march to Celwynvian took two days. Much to my disappointment, we were not permitted to take our horses, so I bade Hooves like Clouds a fond-but-hopefully-brief farewell. I wondered whether she would even notice I was gone.
The walk through the forest was tedious. While I would have discarded my obviously-useless leathers if I could, both the elves and my party members insisted that they were better than nothing, and at least protected me from the thorns, stinging insects, and other annoyances of traveling through the woods. I had to concur, and kept them on... for the moment.
Towards the end of the second day, we started seeing vine-covered marble statues and other signs of a once-robust civilization now fallen into ruin.

The elves set up a large campsite, with Eviana in a pavilion in the middle. We were invited to dinner with her. At dinner, we met the leaders of the Celwynvian Watch. The overall leader was a female elf named Lashelu, apparently a ranger of some repute who was accustomed to working with non-elves.
She drew forth a map of the city, as up-to-date as her scouts allowed, and informed us of the situation: The streets were sometimes blocked by demons or drow, and were sometimes clear. Any small assault would be met by a greater force of drow, while a greater force would find the city abandoned.
Her battle plan was simple: She and her scouts were fairly certain that the gateway to the pocket dimension was located in the old Academy of Arts near the center of the city, and seizing that building would trap the drow in their own dimension. However, there were choke points along the way that seemed to be constantly monitored, and that would both alert the drow to any invasion and allow a small force to hold off a much larger one. Our strike teams were to disable these choke points and ensure they would be clear for Eviana's much larger force.

Our group's assignment was to clear the roads around the old Library. Lashelu warned us that in addition to drow, we would most likely encounter demons. Also, a green dragon named Razorhorn had been spotted near the city. Lashelu confessed that one of Razorhorn's parents had killed her mother, and she would like nothing better than to see Razorhorn brought down.

Our debriefing complete, we retired to our tents. Once again, I prayed to Sarenrae for the power to protect my colleagues, and to heal the afflicted elves of Crying Leaf.


I awoke the morning of our raid and felt Sarenrae's blessed touch on my soul. I explored my mind and my abilities, and nearly wept.

My channels were no more powerful, but I knew that now they would harm demons as well as undead. I could shield my allies from poison for long enough to allow them to complete a major battle. I could greatly boost the strength of my hounds, adding to their devastation. And I could increase their accuracy as well, making them even more deadly.

There was no longer any doubt in my mind.

Sarenrae, my goddess of mercy and redemption, was girding me for war.

*** End of Session ***
Next planned session: Saturday, September 27, 2014

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The dark elves pray to their gods too, but their heads still crush under an earthbreaker like fruit. Leilani is barely a wisp of a creature. Certainly she is only still alive because Sarenrae favors her. And because we kill anything that tries to reach her. But who can say that we are not also the hand that Sarenrae holds between her and harm? When a dark elf falls under my greatsword, it is my blow that crushes her down, but who else's hand makes me harder to kill every day and more swift and mighty? The dream reshapes me. The gods move and protect us and abandon us to our fate by turns. Where in this is what used to be me? When Kaerishiel calls Alderan out over Eviana, will it become necessary to step in? How do elves do this kind of thing? Perhaps Razorhorn and the drow will make all these questions into so much noise.

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As found, written in Leilani's journal right after:
Journal from 30-Aug-2014 session: Crying Leaf (Part 2 of 2)

Hi Leilani!
I see you writing in this journal nearly every night. As you know I don't keep a journal, I do not typically want to add even MORE writing to my day. All of my efforts typically go into my scrolls, but I just had to pen this in while you slept so you can find it tomorrow.

No, no I'm not so rude as to read your personal journal! Well not much more than I can see here at the top of this page. I'm not like that at all, though if you leave this laying about I'd not be surprised to find that a certain elf reads it.

I just wanted to clear a few things up and not finding the time to speak with you alone of late (things have been very busy, and this travelling leaves little time for such) I thought I'd add a note.

Firstly, you gave me a mean look when I summoned a horse after you had bought yours. That wasn't nice at all. Just because I cannot afford such a fine animal to ride upon and am forced to use a poor magical substitute is no reason to look down on me. I can't help it if I'm poor having spent all of my gold on scrolls and ink and dresses.

Second, we are supposed to be courting... but I see you riding with Taleck and his hands are not in places I'd consider acceptable. I don't feel it appropriate that you do such things with another man. I'm patiently waiting your required many months. Unless you wish to change our arrangements?

And Lastly, thank you very much for being there for all of us. You are a wonderful person and the finest (and now that I read up a bit... much more powerful) healer I know.

Waiting patiently for your attentions,

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Leilani Silverfalls, aasimar Life Oracle
Journal from 27-Sep-2014 session: The Assault on the Library

So much news!

First, I am led to understand that congratulations for Alderan are in order! Apparently in his negotiations with Lady Eviana, she agreed to be his bride! In merely five years' time, if he is still alive, she has consented to allow him a first date! What excitement! Alderan insists that this means they will be wed within the next two decades! I look forard to seeing an elven wedding! I believe that foliage will be involved!

In less pleasant but equally-enlightening news, I have been wrong.

It is very easy to admit such a thing, as my mistakes were honest and not cruel, though some might have felt them as such.
On finding Vorne's note in my journal after our day of battle, my first act was to reassure him that he was indeed welcome to read it at any time. While it might not always be kind, it is always me, and if he is to court me he should know me. And if I am having thoughts that do not bear the light of day, should I be having them?
Once I reassured him on my journal, I apologized to him for my incorrect assumptions about him. He had acted as if his wealth were infinite for so long, I was a bit abashed to learn that he had run out. He smiled a bit sadly, and admitted that perhaps he might have been guilty of encouraging that particular impression of himself.
We then discussed Taleck, and elves.

Vorne does not believe that Taleck is 12, and indicated that Taleck indeed has a normal grown man's desires, though I am afraid he put it a bit more crudely than that. When I pointed out Taleck's awkwardness in touching me, he suggested it might be excitement or fear, rather than inexperience. After some debate, we agreed that I would ask Taleck his true age on the morrow, and in the future Vorne would ride behind me on Hooves Like Clouds, and Taleck would ride Vorne's Phantom Steed. I must admit, this suited me quite well, and Vorne has been warmer to me than he has been in weeks.

We then had a pleasant intellectual discussion as to the nature of elves. Vorne was a bit surprised at my claim that there were at least 5 varieties of elf that I knew of, and he believed there to be only two. I discussed the differences between forest elves, city elves, and sea elves, and he pointed out that these differences were more likely caused by long periods in different trades (for all the elves I had met were well over 100) rather than actual speciation. I could accept this argument, but I felt that both the "pleasure elves" I had seen at the temple of Calistria and the dark elves were indeed different species. Vorne insisted that the "pleasure elves" were not elves at all, but misguided humans convinced to sell their bodies and provide token worship to Calistria to make a living. Having not partaken of such an elf, nor knowing how to distinguish elves from humans save by their ears, I had to concede that yes, it was possible that my "pleasure elves" were indeed humans or half-elves.
Finally, we came to the drow. Vorne believed that they were elves that were somehow tainted or corrupted. But if this were so, then on becoming powerful enough, I might be able to cure them! So why then was Sarenrae granting me power to kill them, rather than redeem them?
We finally realized together that it was more than likely that the drow were already lost; that there was some greater evil tainting the elves, and that my mission was not to save every drow along the way, but to remove the taint so the no more drow would be created.
This answer satisfied me, and we moved on to more trivial conversations, such as a discussion of our successes over the day.

Which provides me a wonderful transition to move back to the morning and describe our trials and travails in securing the library for our allies from Crying Leaf.

In the morning, once everyone was ready, we proceeded on foot through the city towards the library. To our great fortune, we arrived unmolested; it seemed that the drow were not out in force that day. Once we were within striking distance of the library, I called the group around me and cast Delay Poison on them, warning them that this would not provide them complete protection, but would only keep them upright for the duration of the sortie.
Once they felt they were adequately protected, Sans Quah and Lark chose to approach the library in stealth. Unfortunately, their skills were not enough, and Lark was spotted by the lookouts on the roof of the library and fired upon. The bolts were different than we had seen before, and set an unnatural fire upon her. She retreated rapidly, and I moved in and healed her. Sans Quah was in possession of a clever hat that allowed him to disguise himself as a drow, including the uniform he had seen them wearing in the caves.
Unfortunately, the already-suspicious drow were not fooled by his disguise; apparently the combination of the improper uniform and his emergence from the location of a recently-spotted enemy was enough to prompt them to fire upon him.

Alderan had seen enough, and planted a Fireball square on the rooftop. Vorne struck a visible drow with a Magic Missile, and Sans Quah moved in at ground level to attempt to breach the door while the rooftop guards were distracted. As Sans Quah engaged the drow protecting the door and the rest of us moved in, I Blessed the party to increase their chances of striking true.
Between Alderan and Vorne's magicks, Taleck and Sans Quah's ministrations, and Lark's bow, the drow fell quickly. We did not know whether we had disabled all of those on the roof, but the two on the ground were assuredly defeated. To my great relief and dismay, all looked to me for guidance. "I have been shown this past evening that Sarenrae believes we are at war, and therefore, while I cannot say that I like this decision, I cannot prevent you from slaying our downed enemies. I would greatly prefer that we leave them here bound, in the hopes of taking them back to the elves once this combat is complete, but if one of you would slay them, I will not say you 'Nay'."
Alderan did not quite understand me. "Are you saying you'd be OK with it if I killed them?"
"I would prefer that you didn't, but yes..."
I did not complete my sentence, as Alderan slit the throats of the two defeated drow.

At least he had asked.

Sans Quah and Taleck opened the locked door in their inimitable fashion as I summoned my armor to myself. The entry room was apparently infested with huge spiders, but by the time I arrived they had already been dispatched, and I had time to put Shield of Faith on myself as well. At this point I was feeling well-protected, and quite curious as to what we would face next. Sans Quah expressed concern: He had been bitten by a spider, and felt the venom coursing through his veins, but my magics were protecting him at the moment. Would I be able to cure the poison before my protective spell expired?
I assured him that as long as I had enough spells left, I would be happy to neutralize the poison before it affected him. This relieved him a great deal.

While Taleck and Sans Quah finished with the spiders, for reasons beyond my comprehension Alderan decided to explore the next room. (I later learned that he had seen the dretches in the room and believed he would be able to use Burning Hands to great efficacy against them.)
There were a large number of dretches therein, and the moment he entered they started their mischief: Some attempted to summon more of their kind. Several hurled glass spheres down at Alderan, which shattered and caused him much distress in electrical damage, and two belched forth noxious fumes and occluded the room with their foul stench.
Vorne, my wonderful, surprising Vorne, stepped to the fore, and breathed in all of their fumes! I have never seen such a thing, but the room was crystal clear, and the surprised dretches blinked in the light, wondering where their concealment had gone.
I knew that it was my time. I slid into the room, channeling and targeting the dretches. Holy energy burned their bodies and they screamed, but they remained standing. I channeled again (Quickened Channel). The dretches fell like bamboo before a raging panda. The two that survived my onslaught were quickly brought low by Taleck, Lark, and Sans Quah, but not before both Lark, Alderan, and Sans Quah reported to me that they felt they had been affected by the gas.

It would be an interesting end of the hour, to say the least.

Once again, I promised them I would do my utmost to cure their various ailments before my protective spell ended, but at this point their poisonings were exceeding my ability to heal, and I had to keep in mind which poisons would take priority (for example, the spider venom in Sans Quah) and which could wait (for example, the dretch poison in Alderan).

The subsequent series of events is yet another dark mark in our ability to work together as a party, and I hope we may resolve such issues before we are truly challenged.

With Vorne's lungs full of noxious gasses (he had breathed out the first cloud, but breathed in a second), he, Taleck, Sans Quah, and Alderan charged forward looking for opponents. They burst into the library proper and Vorne filled it with the gas.
They were far faster than me or Lark, and thus we were left behind as they encountered the main force of the drow: Four warriors, a cleric, and some kind of sergeant or other leader. Unfortunately, Taleck went left as Sans Quah went right, so they could not support each other and the combat went poorly. Alderan attempted to move in and cast spells to help, but he could not use fireballs for fear of igniting the entire library. Lark quickly moved to assist with her bow, and Vorne followed, but in my summoned armor I was not nearly fast enough to get there to provide assistance in a timely manner.
Even worse, as I approached Taleck came fleeing out of the room, bleeding profusely from many wounds, and hid behind me. What kind of hound has so little faith in his healer's ability that he hides behind her? What kind of support could I possibly provide from in front of him? I healed him quickly, of course, but it delayed my entry into the room even further.

By the time I arrived, things were not going well for my companions. The drow had toppled the bookcases over the entry, trapping Alderan beneath them. He was coughing profusely from the dust, and apparently dazed by some other effect. Taleck had trampled him at some point, as indicated by the large deep-set footprints on the back of the bookcase, and now Vorne was atop him, using the height granted by the bookcase (and Alderan's body) to great advantage in targeting his spells.
I rushed in next to the prone Alderan, scanned the room for enemies, and channeled, excluding the drow I could see. As energy flowed from me into my allies, not only their bodies but their spirits were renewed! Taleck charged back in to re-engage the enemies he had fled. Vorne and Sans Quah had the cleric on her heels. Lark was shooting in either direction, supporting both sides of the assault.
Alderan looked up at me weakly. "Leilani, would you help me from under these bookcases?"
"Alderan, do you remember those prisoners you slew outside? I believe that karma reaches all of us in the end."
"Et tu, Leilani?"

With my healing, the party was no longer in danger, and the fighters prevented the drow from reaching me. Vorne's non-flaming fireballs (no, I do not understand them, either) did their work, and we were soon victorious! At one point the cleric attempted to strike me with some spell, and Vorne encased me (and him) in a protective sphere, shielding us completely! Alderan was not so lucky, but I like to believe the bookcases protected him at least partially. I believe Vorne is finally forgiving me! And the drow fell!

The library was ours!

We retrieved Alderan from under the bookcases, searched our defeated foes and the rest of the building for loot, and prepared to return to the elves.

Alderan, curious about the spheres, analyzed them and somehow activated one. An image of an elven librarian appeared and conversed with Alderan. I am afraid I have no idea what was said, but apparently Alderan can ask questions and the librarian can answer.

I had to keep in mind just how many poisons were afflicting our party. I had no idea how many I would be able to cure, so I expected we would soon be a sleeping, vomiting, weakened party fleeing the city...

*** End of Session ***
Next planned session: Saturday, October 25, 2014

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OMG! Captain Yesterday, I think you got lost! This is the "boonies" of the AP threads section! :-P

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you'd be surprised where i turn up:-p

doing some poking around, you and Useplanb have inspired us, while pestering those guys last weekend on my cursed phone my wife asked me what i was twittling on and i told her about campaign journals, she got super excited (herself being a writer and all) and said "wait, thats a thing!" however she has been working crazy hours this week so in my occasional free time i've been checking them out, trying to figure out if there is a pattern in how they're written and such.

so far my recon has consisted of reading an odd post here or there and cracking a joke or two:)
i really should start from the beginning:)

thanks for linking yours in the AP thread, i always heard people joke that no one read the journals but never put any thought into what or where they were:)

also yours are so big my phone won't load them:)

what book are you on? i'm unfamiliar with second darkness (not to worry i have less then half a percent chance of ever playing in it)

i forgot my daughter is also very good at writing and was excited to hear bout them and is going to write some of her own next session (sunday this week)

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More than you ever asked for from me:

CotCT: Book 6: The original, random GM'ing thoughts Curse of the Crimson Throne thread we started back when my kids were 8 and 10. Life caught up with us and we stopped at the beginning of Book 6. This thread was more of a review/discussion than any kind of coherent journal, but it started me in my journaling ways.

RotRL: "Complete": My "magnum opus" of writing, but I fell massively behind when we moved and never quite caught up. We did a lot of post-AP play, and so I have a few more posts I need to get up there... someday!

SD: Book 3: My first first-person journal inspired by Useplanb's players' brilliant journals. Especially Moxie. I would SO date Moxie! And she'd eat me alive! I'm just happy that we're finally beginning to see other players post in here. But with another month-long delay (no game on the 25th! Boo!) these posts are easy to keep up with, as they're few and far between.

WotR: Book 4: I don't know what it is about Wrath of the Righteous, but I just don't feel I'm writing as well for it as I do for any other campaign. I suspect it's "writing burnout" because I'm now running at least 3 sessions a week, and frequently 4, spanning 3 different APs. Add another weekly game I play in on Sunday and time is not my friend.

And yes, now there's an open request for me to start running Iron Gods on Thursdays for yet another group. I am apparently a popular GM. :-P

Of course, "I have so much gaming and writing to do I don't have time for anything else," is rarely a sentiment that will gain you any sympathy from anyone. Even fellow gamers.


EDIT: Non-journaled APs:
Council of Thieves, Book 1: CotCT ended because the kids wanted to try an "evil" campaign. We chose CoT. It's a pretty crappy AP, only because "save an evil city from itself" is not a very good motivator for any group of PCs. We stopped after Book 1, even though Book 2 looks brilliantly fun.

Shattered Star, partway through Book 1: My first attempt at a "kids' game" disintegrated because the kids were too interested in stealing from and beating on each other to actually proceed with the plot.

Serpent's Skull, partway through Book 1: The kids' current game. All I can say is, "4 months of real time just to get off the first island in Book 1? C'mon, guys!"

Jade Regent, Book 1: A non-journaled AP that lets me run without having to take notes or worry about journaling. So it's more of an, "I'm too tired for WotR, can we run Jade Regent?" kind of thing. Sandpoint? Varisia? Goblins? Talk about zero prep! And after 1 session, all I can say is, "Epic goblin madness! Woo hoo!"

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thats not too much at all, i love to hear what people are up to:) i got more but evidently there isn't much of a maturity difference between 10 and 3 so off a' moderating i go:)

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And since we have our own private thread (essentially), I'm absolutely serious: If you and family ever make it to the San Francisco area, we'd be more than happy to drop everything, show you around, feed you, and run a one-off for you and the family.

We're creepy that way!

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Nice! that does sound fun:)
same goes to you, if you're ever in Madison for some reason:)
we can also be creepy that way!

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okay i'm kinda tired so this may get rambley (which isn't even a real word, until now:)

Wrath is kind of a weird AP, there's a lot of stuff they want to do with it and the other problem is they seem to have lost sight on human nature in a crisis or a rush.

so when i started working in landscaping after 10+ years working in restaurant kitchens as a sous chef and baker, it was in seattle which has a ten and a half month growing season and you can landscape year round so we would work normal 40 hour weeks, no rush.

now landscaping in wisconsin, you have roughly 4 and a half to five months tops to get a years worth of work in, so what do you do? take a deep breath, drink a couple of gallons of water and hope you can make it thru the 10-12 hour work day without having a stroke, not everyone can do it.

so what does it have to do with Wrath?
well when something catastrophic happens like the wardstone failure, human nature is to fix it as quickly as possible, preferably before the season is over, but they want you to hunker down build up your crusade then fix the catastrophe, people don't work that way.

also the encounter design is the very definition of soft and there are way too many NPCs in the first two, but now i'm just piling on:)

and yet i don't consider it a Bad Ap, just not their best (which for me is a toss up between Skull & Shackles and RoW, tho book one of Iron Gods is super sweet!

later i'll post what APs we've tried and which ones we have going and the couple i want to do, but no one else does (Iron Gods is not in this group thankfully, wife and kids super jazzed on it actually:D)

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What we have going on:
Skull & Shackles (Animal Farm) book 2: our ship Wilbur's Revenge the crew is all animals, we started it out as a lark but it is currently our most active campaign, usually our first choice for "Pirate Night" our crew is an Evil Vanara Gunslinger named Xerxes, then there's the cat folk enchanter (my wife) and two Ratfolk (the kids) Pinky (sea singer bard, a girl, my daughter) and The Brain (Vivisectionist alchemist bent on world domination) its a lot of fun:)

Skull & Shackles (not animals) our second most active campaign, tho still not serious in anyway, lots of cursing:)

Jade Regent: our first, we're still working on it, we got thru book 3 then a clerical error during The Flea infestation/massacre has bumped our characters back down to the brine wall basement, needless to say i now make a habit of regular scanning into the computer now, lesson learned:)

Reign of Winter: ran first book with nephews this summer then another time right afterward with wife and some brothers, i do not recommend this, its a good adventure just not fun doing twice in a row:) we've been planning to run it with just us but s#&% keeps coming up whenever i get everything ready:/

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What we have going on:

Rise of the Runelords Book 2: (me as GM) 3 players, all shorties (Halfling Slayer, Gnome Bard/Summoner, and Dwarf Oracle). They've done a pretty good job of staying away from this storyline, and my fiance has only played to about the point we are now so from here on out it's a surprise.

Legacy of Fire Book 3: (Friend as GM) Having 3 GMs in our 'core' group makes for quite the variety! I'm playing an Elven Arcane Archer (Wizard/Fighter), we have a pair of human Rogues (one part fighter the other urban barbarian), a Half-Orc Barbarian/Fighter, and a Human Bard/Oracle.

Way of the Wicked Book 3: (Fiance as GM) This one is quite fun if you haven't picked it up yet. It's not every campaign you get to play a vampiress Antipaladin/Ninja! We're on a bit of a hiatus though due to the 4th player.

We have/had two 'core four' games that we played when others were unavailable, but now we're on Runelords so we're just doing that one. They were a Mage game, but in the Harry Dresden world, and a Mythic Kobolds game to test the mythic rules. I don't think we'll get back into our Rifts game... more likely if the fiance gets the hankering for something 'space-like' he'll pull out his Star Wars books.

Then we have another friend who is very into 'realism' games and has us playing Warhammer characters, which we hate, but we're somehow surviving. It's honestly amazing none of us have died and run out of fate points yet.

Nobody'sHome! I can't read your Wrath of the Righteous campaign log!!!! We want to play that here eventually, and I wanna play in it vs run it spoilers! That, and we've got other games to complete before we're allowed to start any new it could be a while.

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CaroRose! Good to see you! It's been quite a while since our CotCT days!

Sorry you can't read the WotR thread! Looks like it'll be the only active one for a while -- GothBard's start-up is in full-blown "get the alpha release out the door ASAP" mode, so we've canceled the last two Second Darkness sessions, and she and I are discussing an indefinite hiatus at least until her company gets its legs under it. This group is SO big (8-10 players) and has SO many time commitments (4 kids under 4 plus the aforementioned start-up) we may transition to board games and *gasp* fun outings outside the house for a time.

And I have to admit, GothBard's job has hit ALL the games -- last week was the first WotR session in THREE WEEKS, and we're down from 3 reliable sessions a week to 1 "which day can we fit this in?" session, so it's a pretty high-impact change.

On the "bright side", my kids just suffered their first major losses (animal companion, NPC, PC) this week in their Serpent's Skull game, so I'm looking forward to seeing how they rebound in next week's game.

Game on!!!

EDIT: And yes, Captain Yesterday, I *DID* learn that killing a kid's PC's animal companion is NOT wise. One of the NPC "druid types" (trying to avoid any spoilers at all) is going to miraculously have the unlisted spell, "Reincarnate animal". It will mysteriously have the same 24-hour casting time as a ranger going off and finding a new animal companion, but it brings back the old one. Because... kids!

EDIT 2: I also still get grief for killing the druid's animal companion in our short-lived Kingmaker game. Apparently I just don't like animals...

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Well, whaddya know? "Raise Animal Companion" is a 5th-level druid spell (4th-level ranger). Way beyond the means of the NPC in question (and I've already mapped out the session), but I somehow suspect a scroll or three of that spell will drop over the next few adventures...

...go figure!

EDIT: And CaroRose, I know that you keep popping onto my threads, but we see each other maybe once per 6 months now instead of on weekly threads. So it's always a wonderful surprise to see you pop up.

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its a hard lesson to learn, regretfully i'm the one that has to bury the hamsters in the middle of the night when they pass away, so its something i've always avoided:-)
i think it an instinctual method of pulling your punches (i.e. don't want to attack the kids so i'll attack the animal) alas kids become more attached to the animal companion then they do the actual character sometimes. at least you're making it right:-)

i learned two lessons, we had characters made for RoW that didn't make the mythic RoW cut (well make that 3 lessons, never ever ever, and i mean ever! give Quicklings dual initiative and the spray everyone with gore mythic ability, it will never end well:) anyway so we had the characters ready but got delayed due to homework squabbles, so then they decide they want to make all new characters.

the second lesson i learned is don't get annoyed by it and say "okay, you make them then" you'll go a week and the only things they'll have written down on the character sheets is the ability scores, race, class (optional) but especially hair, and eye color and a little sketch:) i get to do the rest:)

however i love them more then anything, so i learned my lesson, and got them all nailed down and ready to go for tonight or tomorrow (wife's working OT this week, might not be awake enough tonight:(

captain yesterday wrote:

its a hard lesson to learn, regretfully i'm the one that has to bury the hamsters in the middle of the night when they pass away, so its something i've always avoided:-)

i think it an instinctual method of pulling your punches (i.e. don't want to attack the kids so i'll attack the animal) alas kids become more attached to the animal companion then they do the actual character sometimes. at least you're making it right:-)

i learned two lessons, we had characters made for RoW that didn't make the mythic RoW cut (well make that 3 lessons, never ever ever, and i mean ever! give Quicklings dual initiative and the spray everyone with gore mythic ability, it will never end well:) anyway so we had the characters ready but got delayed due to homework squabbles, so then they decide they want to make all new characters.

the second lesson i learned is don't get annoyed by it and say "okay, you make them then" you'll go a week and the only things they'll have written down on the character sheets is the ability scores, race, class (optional) but especially hair, and eye color and a little sketch:) i get to do the rest:)

however i love them more then anything, so i learned my lesson, and got them all nailed down and ready to go for tonight or tomorrow (wife's working OT this week, might not be awake enough tonight:(

(1) If Pathfinder is going to be a lifelong hobby, then the ludicrous initial expenditure for Hero Labs is depressingly worth it. We just learned that we were in violation of their license agreement (one group but two houses) and bought a second full Pathfinder license. It was around $160. *BUT* the kids can do their own characters, and do Google image searches for neat pictures. (Or scan their own, as I'm sure your girls would rather do.) Makes character creation with kids a breeze.

(2) I didn't go after the animal to "pull punches". My 10-year-old has brilliant tactical acumen, and sent his stealthed wolf through the underbrush to take out the enemy caster. Unfortunately, said caster was among 4 barbarians and a skeleton. The wolf died a hero. Check the last few entries of the Serpent's Skull obits for details.
(Hero the pygmy goat was my absolute favorite.)

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sorry about the pulling punches thing, didn't mean to get under the skin:-) if you want a fun goat story i posted one in deep 6 fawtl, i might try my hand at linking again:-)

the initial cost expenditure of herolabs is actually quite a lot for us and would require months of planning, i'll look into it tho, there is also the hidden costs, i'm not very experienced with computers and it might take awhile to figure out (depending on how easy it is to use, i maybe uneducated but i learn quickly:-)

goat story

argh! now it let me see if i linked it correctly!

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i don't think the link above is working so let me see if i can paste it here:)

Goat Story!
My parents, having lived in cities their whole lives when they got married decided to move to the country (i.e. Wisconsin) and become cliche organic farmers, so in addition to the multitudes of chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows and a horse we also had two Goats and our farm was at the bottom of a wooded hillside with a nice family on the hilltop.
when i was nine or ten our goat pen had ten foot high wire fence, which they would gradually bend down between the fence posts until they could climb over it (it didn't take much goats are f**@ing crazy good climbers!) anyway we'd get a call from a top the hill so me and my year younger brother would march up the hill with the tether!

now a goat that doesn't want to move will not move, at all so one of us would have to pull on the tether and the other would have to push her in the rump, pull and push, push and pull, all the way down the hill. we'd get the pen as fixed as a 9 and 10 year old can fix a ten foot tall goat pen, then back up the hill for goat number two! which we'd get about half way down the hill, where we'd get passed by the first goat marching back up the hill.

lol i hate goats!

to top it all off my teenage brothers refused to help because "they're your goats!" (in other words for.... reasons?) it should also be noted i never once, never ever asked for a goat:)

yay! it worked!

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Oh, geez! Our friends owned goats.

Goats are NOT good animals.

I will NEVER own a goat.

And I was very happy to have my chupacabra eat that darned goat.

Yep. It's now "official". Second Darkness is on "indefinite hiatus", at least until official game release in March.

So this thread will be very very quiet for a while...

On the bright side, we had yet another week of no WotR, so I'm going to keep trying to catch up on THAT thread...

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Sad to hear about your game. I've been enjoying your journals. I did a bit of the same thing when I did this AP. Funny thing is we both seem to be stopping at around the same point. Mine was due to mine and others in the group having issues with the GM.

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