Band of Misfits -- A Return of the Runelords Campaign Journal


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Dear Diary:

This has been the worst day. A catastrophe. A simple and utter catastrophe. Audrahni must be convinced I am an idiot. This is not surprising, since I am also convinced I am an idiot. Why did I even bring up the flowers? And why did the flowers attack me?

Why is everything on land trying to kill me?

I just wish I knew how to talk to it. Him? Her? I wish I understood how to distinguish land dwellers better. I asked Akkumsah, who said something incomprehensible about chest bouyancy sacs and told me to ask Azriel, who said something even more incomprehensible about bees. Anyway, regarding Audrahni, the others seem to call him her. Her her. So he’s probably female. I’ll try to remember that. I really should have asked during our time together, but now it’s too late and it apparently NEVER HAPPENED ANYWAY.

Also, I was almost eaten by spiders.


Dear Diary:

On reflection, I should probably explain that last bit.

Earlier today, 11 Rova 4718, just before a fight broke out between a gang of violent archeologists and a pack of surly road maintenance personnel, the ghost of the founder of this town appeared and frightened everyone away.

Nothing makes sense here.

Afterwards, some of us gathered together in a rotten-fruit-beverage-seller building — me, Audrahni, Akkumsah, Azriel, Dr. Variel, and Szarlej. The social outcast table, basically. This is where I brought up that I picked some flowers for Audrahni but they stabbed me with their little spears so I panicked and ate them, and now I want to swim into a trench and hide for the rest of my life

Anyway, someone — Audrahni? — suggested we might find clues about the ghost in an old haunted mansion up the river, and for some reason the rest of us decided to go. And Audrahni gave us magical gifts to protect us, *swoon*.

Once we got there, we were immediately attacked by giant bloodsucking insects. One latched on to me and I dove under the water with it, thinking that, like any creature with normal instincts, it would detach once we were under, so as not to drown (the sailors certainly used to struggle and try to get away when we brought them under the water back home.) Turns out I was wrong. The insect thing decided it would rather drink my blood than survive. What kind of creature does that? Why?

Anyway, we managed to dispatch the creatures and went in, and were immediately attacked AGAIN by a DIFFERENT kind of mutant insect, this time giant cockroaches. Aren’t cockroaches carrion eaters? Why did they attack us? We didn’t they skitter away like sensible insects?

While fighting them, Szarlej managed to stab him-or-herself in the neck with a longspear, which I didn’t even know was possible. (Szarlej’s fine now.) Anyway, we found a treasure map there, just like I used to come across sometimes whenever I drowned pirates! So maybe we’ll find some shiny things.

In the next room, nothing happened because the world is sane. Hahaha, of course I'm just kidding, we were set upon by spiders. Hundreds and hundreds of tiny spiders that eat tiny insects, swarming us. Who are not tiny insects, and therefore not edible to them. Why? Because nothing on land makes sense, that’s why. At this point I fled the house, took to the river, and started knocking the house's support pylons away because clearly the whole place was trying to kill us. And while I was doing so, I was attacked by YET ANOTHER THING. Reefclaws.

At least i know why they attacked me. Reefclaws are jerks.

Once that was taken care of thanks to a welcome rescue from the others, we reassembled outside and decided to go after the spiders with fire (the ONE useful thing I have found on land, unless you count rotten-fruit-juice, which is much more debatable because of the eventual vomiting.) I abandoned the destroy-the-house plan and we went back in and took care of the spiders, but they nearly devoured me in the process, because THESE SPIDERS RAN TOWARDS FIRE. The spiders. Ran towards the fire. Apparently because, as with the blood sucking things, they wanted to kill us more than they wanted to live.

There were some shiny things in the spider room, which are ours now because dead people don’t own things.

We went home, although we agreed to go back the next day. I’m not sure why. Well, the ghost seems intent on freezing everyone to death now, so I guess that’s a reason.

To be fair, back home is still worse. My parents are back home.


Notes from Akkumsah's journals, translated from Thassilonian

Still in Roderic's Cove. Starting to rue the decision to return here. Each week I spend in this balmy weather with crab cakes and cider will undo another year of conditioning. Yes, crab cakes: I am starting to appreciate seafood. It has come to this.

I remain convinced that Ice, Szarlej and I are somehow joined in this strange affliction of ours, even if our walks of life could not be more different otherwise. It is hard to gain useful insight into Ice's experience, given how most of her waking thought seems to go toward coping with land-borne life. As for Szarlej's experience, I am struggling to see anything there beyond the consequences of alcohol abuse.

Dr. Variel is a treasure trove of Thassilonian lore, even if it appears entirely theoretical in nature, and has little to do with martial arts. Seeing how he handles angry thugs and abandoned houses, I am amazed he was able to complete his studies without dying of a papercut.

Not sure what to make of the Druid. He carries a wall around with him. I wonder what he is hiding. His bird is a magnificent creature, though.

It does not help that Roderic's Cove managed to go empty in a land richly gifted with Thassilonian relics. The marketplace is suspiciously circular, though. It reminds me of my old training grounds. I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be a buried ruin.

Meanwhile, I could be in Windsong Abbey, training with Grand Master Elena. This had better be worth it.

Notes:
— Buy a stabbing weapon. Threshing flails and fists do not agree with the water.
— Buy a weapon against spider swarms. Can't afford alchemicals, but a torch would help for now. Even if it does more harm than good to seeing in the dark.
— This is the LAST crab cake for today, I swear.


Cayden - was this a sign - I was looking into the light today - I heard your voice - then I was awake again, rescued by the others.

I already told you about them - it is a interesting party - imagine even the mermaid joined the adventure today.

let me take a swig

Tomorrow we will go again to the house, hopefully better prepared as before. I need to look over the spells - perhaps Firebelly might helo agains some swarms.

let me finish it --- Good night


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

Audrahni's point of view


Extracted from Azriel's oral journal stone:

Having arrived at Roderick's cove a few month ago, I couldn't imagine to despise this place even more - but I do now! There are so many people! Like dozens of them, sometimes even more! When I'm not actively spying on my father and this kid that's living with him, I can only bear this town being in the tavern. The food is typically crap (why do they have to burn everything?), with the exception of the crab cake. But the cider here is quite ok. So is the company.

The cleric, Szarlej, talks a bit much, but he won't ask me things that are not his business. Also, he mostly pays for the drinks. The monk, Akkumsah, seems to be a proud warrior of the Shoanti - I could swear I saw her around that forgotten monastery in the Wyvern Mountains when I passed through. She doesn't act like she enjoys this town any more than me, so I wonder what keeps her here. The scholar, Dr. Variel, has definitely spend too much time around books. Sometimes I fear he could trip over his own feet when something strange catches his attention. And then there is the mermaid, Ice, and I still have not figured out why she is here. She is very curious about 'land'-things, so I assume she simply needed a change.

It is quite ironic that the only people I am interacting with are themselves a rather strange sight in this town. As if Ashava had guided me to these poor lost souls. Well, probably she has, as all of them were introduced to me by Audrahni, herself a follower of Ashava. At least, Wind is with me. I don't know yet, how it all fits together, but I have the feeling that those people will be the key to uncovering what has happened to Viv. And it has begun...

We were drinking in town (as you do), when some 'civilized' thugs wanted to pick a fight. While Variel almost got himself hurt asking them about some glyphs, Ice tried to calm everything down. I was just getting up to resolve the situation as warranted (I am sure Wind would have enjoyed a little variety in her diet), when the poor lost soul of the city's founder rose from the ground. He seemed very lost and unhappy of what had become of his town (it's just too full of people). It was clearly Ashava's wish that we help him find peace. Audrahni felt the same and suggested to investigate Sir Roderick's old house outside of town.

How a few minutes walking out of this town make everything nice again! Finally fresh air again. We first had to clear off some stings and some bugs as nature took the house back. Wind had a great feast, but Szarlej probably had too much ale and impaled himself with his own lance. Also, we forgot to bring fire - turns out you need fire to get rid of spider swarms. At least nature provides and we were able to kill the spiders with self-made torches.

Poor Ice seems to miss the sea... This can be the only reason why she decided to take a swim in the river next to Sir Roderick's house. Of course the fish didn't like this intrusion. Luckily Wind loves fish! I'm still not a good swimmer. Tried to sneak up from behind, fell into the river, but got out again. The others got rid of the fish, but then it was too late to go on, and we walked back to the town. My suggestion to camp in the beautiful nature were ignored... argh...

Dr. Variel seems to be a bit week on his feet this evening. I wonder why...?


[Had some bugs today. Tasted awful. Fish in the river tasted much better. Wish Azriel's new friends would go hunting with us. Hunting is better with a large flock. Can't wait to fly out of this place though. Hope Azriel is done with his 'town business' soon.]


I hate water! After almost drowning yesterday, I had the magnificent idea to jump off a barge to the shore. Only that the shore was out of reach. Surprising how leather armor takes you down.

Yesterday we went back to Sir Roderick's house. No more bugs, but many poor lost souls on the upper floor. Sir Roderick was there, too. Poor man. We were able to easily deal with some of the ghosts, but that child ghost almost got us. At last it found rest, though...

Today we took said ferry over the Chavali River to reach the 'Stone House' in the hinterlands, as Sir Roderick wanted us to. I'm not sure this is leading anywhere... Except for trouble. We were just arriving on the other side of the river, when a gang of thugs arrived. The ferry lady warned us. I didn't see it, but I heard Ice mumbling something in the water. Suddenly the leader of the thugs got angry. One thing lead to another, and suddenly everyone had their weapon drawn.

I was able to lock most of the thugs in place by summoning vines from the ground. Szarlej took this opportunity and jumped into the river!?! Maybe he just wanted to get away. Wind attacked the leader, but she cowardly fled. At least Wind incapacitated her minions. Akkumsah got rid of some more, and Szarlej - magically back from the river - impaled the last one.

And what did I do? Trying to not drown, because I f***ing can't swim... I'll avoid water from now on... Can't wait for Wind to grow so she can carry me out of these situations.


Dear Diary:

Everything on land continues to be insane and stupid. The only benefit to being here is that things below the water are even worse.

All right, that's a little unfair. My new associates (friends?) seem to have their hearts in the right places, for the most part. Akkumsah is brave and forthright, Dr. Variel is a font of knowledge, Szarlej is fun, and Azriel is bang-on correct about most everything around here being terrible. And Audrahni continues to be a sweetheart. (What am I going to do about Audrahni? S/he is and s/he isn't the Audrahni I knew. Where does that leave me?)

But in general, land creatures all seem to either (1) mindlessly attack anything that strolls by for no particular reason, (2) prefer death to surrender whenever given the choice, and/or (3) refuse to believe that patently obvious things are true.

Today it all started on my way to breakfast when I was attacked by what Dr. Variel eventually identified as "fleshdregs", monsters from the era of ancient Thassilon associated with six of the seven sins. Because that's a thing that happens here, I guess. We wondered if they might have been awakened by the angry archeologists from yesterday; we'll have to look into that at some point.

After they were despatched, and we were in the Inn having our meal, a pair of dwarves asked us to rescue their friends who had been captured by goblins, because apparently they couldn't think of a better plan than to ask a group of random weirdos for help. I guess the half-a-day's work we had already done looking into the town's problems made us look like better candidates than anyone else around? Later events suggest that this may not even be wrong, and to be fair, we did say yes, because why not.

First, though, we went back to the Evil House, in the hopes of finding further clues regarding whatever is going on. To cut a long story short:

- Whoever built that house had a poor understanding of what a "Water Closet" is supposed to be, and it almost killed Akkumsah.

- The upper floor was filled with undead monsters, one of whom almost killed Akkumsah (there's a theme building there), and it also STOLE MY VOICE.

Now, I do not get angry about a lot of things, but I am not putting up with that Little Mermaid B#~!%+~#. I might have left the water for the land to pursue love and occasionally grow legs (which hurt like HELL, I might add), but I did not SELL MY VOICE and I RESENT that some undead THING didn't think I was hewing closely enough to my CLICHE.

Anyway, we killed it (re-killed it?) and I eventually got my voice back, but grr.

Eventually, the ghost of Sir Roderick appeared and told us to find the map which was the key to the vault with the gauntlets, or something like that, so we could save her/his town. We also found a pair of magic slippers -- I'm wearing them now, no idea what they do -- and a sword case for a sword which someone else had already stolen. So it wasn't a completely waste of time, even if the others didn't let me burn down the house.

Dr. Variel remembered that Sir Roderick's maps were in the Cove Hall, so we went to look, and when I told the clerk that Sir Roderick had told us to find one of the maps, the clerk acted like I must be insane. Bear in mind, the ghost of Sir Roderick had appeared in the center of the town just the other day in front of everyone. But somehow I must be mad.

Land people. I swear.

Anyway, we found a secret symbol on one of the maps, near but not identical to the one on the treasure map (turns out St. Hs. means Stone House, Sir Roderick mentioned it, so there, dumbass clerk). It was all in the Churlwood, which is where the dwarves had been kidnapped, so we decided to kill three fish with one trident and head down that way.

So, we took the ferry across. The woman who runs it asked if I was a monster, and seemed rather upset when I said yes, even though I explained I'd left all that behind me. Prejudice, I guess.

Anyway ... remember the violent road maintenance workers from the other day? There were a bunch more of them on the other side, waiting with intent to rob us. I tried to enchant their leader, but it didn't work, so they prepared to attack us. The others wanted to talk to them, but after the events of the day, I was in a BAD MOOD, and I was IN THE WATER, which, well, you want to rob me there? Come at me, yo. So I shot an arrow at them. Talking probably would have been better, I feel bad about that, but what's done is done.

But anyway, mostly thanks to Azriel entangling them with plants and Wind tearing them to shreds, we vanquished all of them except the leader, who retreated invisibly into the woods. (Another bard, by the way, quite good. If we both survive, I might ask to trade some songs.) S/he tried to put us to sleep with magic, though, so is presumably still around. Maybe now's a better time to talk anyway. I can't help but think we're in a somewhat better position.


Master Ko used to say that you learn more from defeat than from victory. Well, the past two days have certainly been very instructive.

I have run from an apparition in sheer panic. I was dashed against a wall by a roomful of water. I have fought an infant, and lost. It nibbled me to sleep.

Who in their right mind keeps a roomful of water locked inside their home, though? And the infant was a powerful revenant; it took the combined efforts of my new friends to undo it. Luckily, they are resourceful people.

Not that they haven't had their share of learning experiences. No less than three of them managed to injure themselves falling through the same flight of rotten stairs, one impaled himself on his spear, two almost drowned trying to swim a dozen feet across the river.

On the upside, we are undeniably making progress. We braved Sir Roderic's haunts long enough to receive two more visitations from him, in which he spoke of a (wooden?) gauntlet that needs to be retrieved from a vault (?) to save the town from its current afflictions. We found its presumed location on one of his magnificent hand-drawn maps in the town hall.

Intriguingly, the location was marked with a Sihedron — not only that, but the seven surrounding runes were displayed out of their canonical order. If Sir Roderic is to be believed, this arrangement will likely prove the key to entering this vault. Should we uncover a lost Thassilonian ruin here, it will well be worth the hardship.


Dear Diary:

One upside of all of this is that at least it seems to be doing me good in some ways. As one example -- presumably as a result of the experience gained from, e.g., firing arrows at bandits, I am now able to shoot magical debilitating rays from my hands.

Is ... is that normal?

I feel like that's not normal.


Dear Diary:

Well, this is turning into quite the day.

On the bright side, I think I've *finally* figured out the gender issue for land-dwellers. The big ones are the women, and the little ones are the men. So all of my newfound companions are women, as is Audrahni. Which I guess means I'm attracted to women. See, I'm learning things about myself, too.

Anyway, the leader of the Road Sweepers fled after we defeated her minions, which was rather a disappointment as I was hoping to swap songs with her. Ah, well. Her henchwomen (full sized! see, I'm getting it) knew very little about anything, but at least were able to point us in the direction of the goblin cave, which turned out to be the same place as the cave marked with a Sihedron, so that was convenient.

On the way there, we encountered a roadhaunt (trailhaunt? I forget the exact name) who beat the ever-living crap out of us until we fled out of its range. Got a magic amulet from it, though, which once again no one else wanted to put on until they knew what it was so I did. Honestly, it's like my companions don't like experimenting randomly with strange magical artifacts to see what they do.

By the time we reached the goblin cave, we were rather sick of fighting, so we offered to exchange Shiny Things for the dwarves they had captured. So the goblins (little ones, so all men in this tribe, I wonder if that gets lonely; or possibly that goblin snake thing was a female) took us down to see their chief. Well, he wasn't interested in giving up the dwarves, and things rather went south to the point that I somehow ended up challenging him to single combat for leadership of the tribe. I led with a Charm spell and he

stabbed my through the heart with his flaming sword but then time jumped and he

laughed as he cut my head off but then time jumped and he

promptly decided I was his best friend.

Something odd happened there. That was ... odd.

Huh.

Anyway, we managed to get their dwarven prisoners unchained with the promise that we would help with their cave excavation problem, which frankly we had no idea how to solve, but while we were working on that we came across the "goblin eating word" circle which we deduced was a teleporter of some kind. Thinking this would be an ideal way to make our escape, we said we would fix it and tried to take the dwarves with us and go, but only I and one of the dwarves ended up going through, trapping me in a small room with a dwarf, a panicked goblin, and a spell on the fritz which kept us from getting to the next teleporter.

Things rather went south again at that point.

While I bashed at the flickering spell in an attempt to break through, my compatriots apparently watched disinterestedly as the goblins prepared the other dwarf for roasting. Once I broke through, I found myself transported to a different part of the same complex, in what I deduced was the "stone house" part of the whole thing. It turned out to be infested with Road Maintaners. I tried to keep quiet, but that didn't work when my companions finally came through the teleporter, and we ended up fighting the Road Warriors (I tried to convince them we knew the bard, but it didn't work) while I raced back through the teleporters and proved to the goblins it hadn't eaten me and made up some ridiculous lie about it needing to be fed dwarves so I took the dwarf from them promising to replace it with a human corpse, since I figured we'd have some of them on hand soon. Sure enough, one of the Roadies didn't make it through the battle, so I took her body back along with the panicked goblin then went through again, because I think we're still looking for Sir Roderick's gloves for some reason.

But anyway, that's where we are now.

Surely the rest of the day will have to be calmer.


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Dear Diary:

The rest of the day was not calmer.

To be fair, after the point where I last left off, we found Sir Roderick's gauntlets relatively quickly. They were in a vault behind a door locked with a Sihedron-based pattern that we shortly deduced had to be the same as the one on Sir Roderick's map. Going into the fog-filled room beyond, we found a place covered with a layer of ash, missing a sword ("Barraket" -- is that the right spelling? -- the same one from the case in Roderick's Wreck), glowing evocation runes on the walls, and a chest containing noqual gauntlets. Putting this together with the hints given us by Roderick's haunt, our current theories are:

1) "Barraket" or whatever it is may be an intelligent weapon. Some of them are known to have deleterious effects on the minds of those who use them.
2) The gauntlets may perhaps suppress these effects.
3) This seems likely to be connected to the Horned Fangs, and whatever is going on with them.
4) The layer of ash in the room may be the remains of some of the group who took the sword. If so, possibly they did not use the proper combination in the lock, or possibly they exhausted the runes when they set them off.

Anyway, with both of the rescued dwarves in tow and the gauntlets in hand, our tasks in this place were done and we needed only to go home. We decided that perhaps we had pushed our luck as far as it could go with the goblin tribe, so we elected to look for a way out in the other direction.

This proved to be ... unwise.

Things went well enough at first -- we discovered what might be an alchemist's laboratory and robbed it. But then we stumbled into every trap in a trap-filled room until most of us were poisoned, slashed, or lit on fire. Not long after that, we were ambushed by more of the Road Robbers. We took them out fairly easily and browbeat one of them into giving us a rough map of the place and telling us about the disposition of their forces, including the dwarf and the old woman who sounded particularly dangerous, more on that later (and our prisoner also warned us about a monster, which we avoided, so that was useful.) We followed her directions and headed up the stairs, and, well, there our real troubles began. Again.

The dwarf we were warned about turned out to be a very tough nut to crack indeed (note to self -- are dwarves male of female? I'm not sure if they count as little or big.) He, she, or it -- they? I'll go with they. They were, most likely, the alchemist whose laboratory we found downstairs, and they started throwing bombs at us while their subordinates stabbed us. It proved to be a long and difficult fight, with most of us worn down and some of us -- Azriel and Akkumsah, I think -- knocked unconscious before it ended.

Bear in mind that this is the SAME DAY that I was attacked by fleshdregs and we went back to Roderick's Wreck and fought against evil undead creatures and were set upon at the ferry by robbers and fought ANOTHER evil undead creature on the road and tricked and charmed our way past the goblins. At the end of this fight, we were pretty near the end of our resources.

While my companions healed themselves, I slid up the stairs and peeked through to see if perhaps our escape route was clear, but in doing so I accidentally attracted the notice of the old woman, leader of the Road People, that we'd been warned about.

Once again, I got the drop on her and led with my very last spell, a Charm, and once again that proved to be our salvation ... eventually.

Very eventually.

I convinced her that I had wandered into the place through some underground tunnels and had been beset by goblins. Since she knew there were goblins on the other side of the ridge, this proved very convincing and she sent the remainder of her forces down with me to take care of the problem. On the way down, I talked loudly about it in an attempt to convey a message to the others to stage an ambush and they ... mostly did? But somehow Dr. Variel didn't get the message and was left isolated, and the Roadsters got suspicious so we ended up fighting them in a bottleneck instead?

Dr. Variel was soon rendered unconscious herself, but we still managed to take out most of the foes. But at that point, the old woman came down the stairs flinging spells around. Eek. My companions fled and I managed to talk her around into believing they were allies of the goblins and I had been trying to help fight them off (it helped that my archery is still appalling and I hadn't done any damage to the surviving Roadies myself. I only picked up this bow because the idea of them intrigued me; they don't have them under water, really.) She took me upstairs with her and had the door barred while we waited for more of her forces to return from their patrols.

This left me in a bit of a bind. To retrieve my comrades, I decided that I would need to go back in through the goblin cave, but I had limited time -- my Charm on the chief would only last so long. I told the witch that I was just a poor lost soul and wanted nothing so much as to go home, and as soon as I was out of her sight I raced across the ridge as fast as I could go. Which wasn't very fast, but better than it might have been since I was aided by a spell Azriel had cast on me some time previous.

I managed to get back to the goblins with a little time to spare, and found them about to start a party, about to feast on the Road Person whose body we'd given to them. They insisted I stay and take part.

Well, it's not the first time I've eaten human, although I'd thought those days were past me now. They taste a bit better cooked, as it turns out.

At any rate, after partying for a while, I managed to convince them to let me bring my friends in on the fun, especially since they'd have some more corpses to add to the feast. I raced through the Thassilonian ruins and found that my friends had decided to ... nap.

In all seriousness, that is the use they made of the time while I was racing around trying to rescue them. They had a nice lie down.

Land dwellers.

Anyway, we gathered up those of our opponents who hadn't survived combat (Which was more of them than I remembered, oddly. I'd felt sure that the dwarf alchemist, for example, had just been unconscious when I was separated from my fellows. Strange.) We joined the singing goblins at their party and looked for a means of scurrying off. We spotted one soon enough when the goblins began a fire-jumping game near the way out. All we had to do was leap the flames and, in the confusion of the game, we could get out.

As it turns out, we are very bad at leaping through flames. Akkumsah managed it handily enough, but the rest of us ranged from being singed (me and Azriel) to catching on fire (Szarlej) to going up like a torch and nearly dying (Dr. Variel). Nonetheless, we managed to make our escape, and headed back for home with the rescued dwarves and Sir Roderick's gauntlets. Based on our deductions, our next step seems likely to be investigating the Horned Fangs.

But that will be a task for tomorrow. Sweet Naderi, it's been a day. I wonder what Audrahni will make of our adventures.

Incidentally, I can now break objects by swearing at them.

I'm really quite sure this isn't normal.


Secured the gauntlets. Considering the overwhelming hostile presence entrenched around either entrance of the vault, it is a small miracle we made it in and out alive, let alone with a minimal amount of bloodshed. I suppose that should count as a victory.

It leaves a bitter aftertaste, though. In many ways, we owe our survival to sheer luck rather than competence. With the goblins, we thrust ourselves recklessly into the midst of the dragon's den, and would have died for it if our strange affliction hadn't rewoven the threads of time to recast the dice, as it were. I cannot shake the feeling that there are several other worlds out there in which we died to pay for our survival in this one. How many more times will the flow of time be willing betray its integrity to save us? Cats running out of spare lives. I do not like it.

While I generally approve of nonviolent solutions, my instincts bristle at leaving the goblin tribe unchallenged. They are slavers and cannibals, and our diminishment of the Roadkeepers might well embolden them. As for the Roadkeepers, I doubt they will disband while the old lady yet lives. To be honest, it was we who brought war upon them — perhaps their predations will even increase out of retribution.

In either case, the powers of Roderic's Cove would be well advised to move against the location in force and take care of these threats. Hells, I might join them if they do.

First things first, though. With the gauntlets, we should be ready to counter Baraket's power. I wonder if she is the talking kind of sword. No doubt she would have interesting stories to tell from the Thassilonian age! Given the calamity she has brought about, though, I would presume she hails from the late, sin-ridden era of Thassilon, and would only be of limited use to my research.

The Thassilonian vault was intriguing, but its wealth of runes seemed concerned entirely with turning visitors to ash. Pity we didn't have the leisure to study it in detail. Perhaps there will be time for this once the current crisis is resolved.

The exposure to Thassilonian relics appears to be doing wonders for my mental focus, though. I was able to manifest both θωρᾱκῐ́ζομαι and ἀνεμόδρομος with ease today, which cost me considerable effort back at the monastery. I am on to something here.

Notes:
— We ran out of healing resources in the midst of enemy territory. Bad idea. We were lucky that the Roadkeepers' alchemist had kept them well stocked with potions. We will have to buy a new wand or two.
— Somebody needs to teach the good Doctor about ambushes. If we had managed to take out those four bandits safely, we would have had an opportunity to strike against the old lady in her own quarters, with surprise on our side, and the Roadkeepers might be history now.


Dear Diary:

So. Audrahni despises me.

She does not even seem particularly interested in being my friend.

I asked about the possibility of dance lessons, and she looked at me like I had spit on her shoes. She acted as if I had suggested we immediately abandon all attempts to help the town. It was particularly galling since I had just spent the past two days risking my life for the town, and was about to embark on a third.

I think I must come to the conclusion that "my" Audrahni is a person who no longer exists. The differences may be greater than I had imagined. I knew that "this" Audrahni never got on that ship, of course, but how far back do the differences go? A decade? Five decades? Back to her birth?

Fate is cruel. The person I loved died, then I found her still alive, and now I am coming to the conclusion that the person I loved is still dead. I do not think I can even tell her replacement what happened to me, as I'd hoped, since that would require having a conversation with her, a thing she has shown no interest in doing.

I never imagined that there was any reason for my strange shift to a new reality, any cause other than the random vicissitudes of whatever bizarre magic is at play here. But I had allowed myself to be seduced by the possibility that I might, nonetheless, have been given another chance. I did not think it was guaranteed, of course, but I never imagined she would loathe me. I thought we might at least be friends, even if love was lost to me.

But perhaps the lesson I should take is altogether different. Perhaps it is that, even if I have lost one great love, in other circumstances, in a different world, she would not have been so. That her death need not be the end of love for me, as her existence need not have been the beginning of it.

Is that what you want me to learn, Naderi? Is that why I survived my suicide attempt? Is that why I am in this strange new world? Perhaps not. Does anything mean anything? But I should take whatever meaning from it I can.

Well. Whatever the truth of it, if she is uninterested, as she has now made clear twice, I shall not be so rude as to press my suit further. As the saying goes, there are plenty of rabbits in the forest, right? I have made many friends among the land dwellers.

Although admittedly, as far as romantic partners go, I'm not sure any of them are quite right for me. So, um, hm.

In other news, we almost died again. Twice.

We are so very bad at this.


The reality dysfunctions are getting worse. Right now, I find myself in what appears to be a storage space in an underground complex, held hostage by the Horned Fangs for what must have been at least half a day. Yet I vividly recall sneaking through the gardens of Peacock Manor to look for Baraket only moments ago, while Szarlej was the one held by the Fangs. I could describe the manor‘s creaky outdoor stairs, dusty smell, and righfully suspicious inhabitants in great detail — I have no doubt the memories are genuine. But in that scenario, how did Szarlej even end up in the hands of the Fangs? I remember sorely missing his presence during the underground fights. The are at least two breaks of continuity here.

I suspect they are some sort of temporal after-quake of yesterday‘s dramatic time jumps. I hope they will calm down eventually. This is magic to make the sanest man go mad.

Meanwhile, the hostage situation could be worse. I am told the Fangs enjoy a favorable reputation in town — hard to believe, seeing them collude with sinspawned abominations as a matter of course — but I will take my chances. Had this happened among the goblins, I would be steeping in marinade now.

On the upside, my friends are growing with the challenge. Dr. Variel has taken to alchemical self-experimentation to make himself more formidable in combat — quite successfully so —, Azriel took on the form of a fantastic clawed beast to fight the Fangs, and Ice wielded her very voice as a tangible weapon.

And yet, none of it is enough. Wherever we go, we end bringing an entire lair of foes down upon us: goblins, Roadkeepers, Horned Fangs... and now, I fear, the Order of Resplendence, unless my friends can pull off a miraculous extraction up in the Manor. But Ice is bound to run out of magic, or luck, sooner or later, and then they‘ll find themselves surrounded by a houseful of enemies.

Maybe I should just sit here and wait for another reality dysfunction to make it all right.


Dear Diary:

I suppose I should recount the actual events of the day following my heartbreak.

Let's see ... upon looking through the materials we had obtained from the Stone House, we discovered that Dolland the Dwarf had been attempting to break into the Sihedron-locked vault in order to supply a group called the Order of Resplendence at Peacock Manor with Thassilonian artifacts. So that was a bunch of new-to-us revelations all at once.

This left us with several possible areas to explore in our quest for our solution to whatever the problem was that was panicking the ghost of Sir Roderick -- the witness to the events of the night a group of Horned Fangs had perished, the strange circular area of town where the fleshdregs had attacked me which we felt might be a Thassilonian ruin, and Peacock Manor. We elected to look around the possible ruin first. As usual, this proved to be a disastrous choice.

It didn't take us long to discover that the "well" on one side of it was actually an old chimney, leading down to we knew not what. Since there was water at the bottom, I went down first to see what I could see.

Which was, of course, a horrible monster. Because of course there was a monster at the bottom of the well. In this town, there's undoubtedly a monster at the bottom of every well. Probably there's a monster in every closet. What is WRONG with this place?

At any rate, it promptly began biting me and lashing me with its multiple tongues, leaving me with a strange mental fog, and doing the same to the others when they came down, and generally beat the tar out of us until Akkumsah finally came down the well and promptly dispatched it.

We swam along the underground stream until we indeed found an underground complex at the end of it. We had barely begun exploring it when we came upon a pair of Horned Fangs sparring with a pair of fleshdregs. Dr. Variel approached to make a friendly proposition about archeology, and they promptly attacked her. Because of course they did. Homicide being the first response of everything we meet these days.

At first the fight went reasonably well, but then more and more Horned Fangs and associated monsters heard the ruckus and started pouring into the room, overwhelming us with numbers. Akkumsah was knocked unconscious, and Azriel decided that discretion was the better part of valor and fled. Dr. Variel, however, took a potion that transformed her into a hulking brute and charged into the middle of the fray alone. I at first thought she intended to revive Akkumsah. Very noble, I though. But she didn't. So I next assumed she planned to grab Akkumsah's unconscious body and make a break for it. Very brave, I thought. But she didn't. She was literally trying to take the entire complex on by herself.

I am starting to question Dr. Variel's sanity.

Well, obviously that did not go well for her, and Azriel and I retreated to the water, Azriel transforming herself into a shark, which I guess is something she can do now? I fired some arrows to keep them away from us, and then accusations began flying back and forth. They accused of us invading their home, I took the position that we were innocent archeological explorers who had approached them in a friendly manner and then been attacked. It eventually became clear that they thought we were part of the group that had attacked them last week, and when I swore we weren't Roadkeepers and in fact hated the Roadkeepers, they got very confused, so we got very confused, and I think if anything convinced them of our honesty it was the fact that I clearly hadn't the faintest idea what they were talking about.

It turns out it was the Order of Resplendence that had attacked them last week, and they agreed that if we would go ... do something? ... about them, it wasn't very clear, they would return our unconscious friends to us, so long as they could keep a hostage. So we agreed to whatever it was we agreed to, and went on our way.

This time, however, we decided that we would gather at least a small amount of intelligence first. So we went to talk to the butcher who had seen the fight last week. She didn't see much, but eventually revealed that there was a small child who might have seen more. So we tracked down the child. Thinking my unusual appearance might be alarming, I hung back while my fellows negotiated. Which they did by first offering a pittance, then growing angered when the pittance was rejected, then threatening the child with bodily harm.

No, I'm not joking. This, apparently, is what happens when I let them employ their interpretation of "diplomacy". Eventually, they had so alienated the child that I had to use a Charm spell, whereupon we discovered that:

1) The Order of Resplendence was angry at the Horned Fangs for using Thassilonian symbols;
2) One of their number slew a Horned Fang with a rapier with an invisible blade, and;
3) Some kind of phantasmagorical spell slaughtered the rest.

Dr. Variel confirmed that the invisible rapier was Baraket and mentioned that it had been the sword of Pride, somewhat to our surprise, given the wrath theme we'd been seeing to that point.

We decided that it would be best to approach Peacock Manor using stealth, so we snuck in during the dead of night. Unfortunately I screwed that up for everyone as I had forgotten to secure my instruments well enough, and we alerted a pair of guards. I managed to Charm them, and then convince them that we had brought the magic gauntlets to go with the rapier, as I thought that would be convincing since we had the magic gauntlets. Exactly the plan we'd hoped *not* to repeat, but here we are.

But I worry that they are about to lead us into the middle of a nest of foes. If they are foes. If they weren't foes before, they probably are now that we've approached them in the dead of night. But if they were foes before, we may have just walked into the lion's den. Is the Order of Resplendence actually a worthy organization that has been subverted by the sword of Pride? Or are they a lunatic cult bent on, I don't know, reviving the Runelords?

WE DON'T KNOW. WE ARE COMPLETELY IGNORANT AND HAVE NO REAL IDEA WHAT IS GOING ON.

But, you know, what else is new?


Quote:
We had barely begun exploring it when we came upon a pair of Horned Fangs sparring with a pair of fleshdregs. Dr. Variel approached to make a friendly proposition about archeology, and they promptly attacked her.

For the record, I opened hostilities by moving in and dispatching one of the fleshdregs in order to «save» the Fangs from these monsters. I only realized my mistake afterwards, at which point the Fangs had made up their minds about us.

Who would have expected these people to be friends with fleshdregs, though? They are essentially offal shaped into killing machines by the very essence of sin, and they have indiscriminately attacked people in the Circle the other day.

I find the fact that they consort with abominations hard to reconcile with their supposed good reputation. At least they are honorable enough to take prisoners. We will see how that goes.

Quote:
while my fellows negotiated. Which they did by first offering a pittance, then growing angered when the pittance was rejected, then threatening the child with bodily harm.

To be fair, 30 gp is not a pittance, it's an artisan's monthly wage. It would have helped to know he was a noble's son and had no need for money, but still... oh, and we were not all aboard with the threatening.

In any case, it probably is a good idea to let the mermaid do the talking...


Quote:
I find the fact that they consort with abominations hard to reconcile with their supposed good reputation.

I don't recall them having a good reputation. Are you thinking of the Order of Resplendence, or did I miss something?

Quote:
To be fair, 30 gp is not a pittance

You offered 5.

Quote:
oh, and we were not all aboard with the threatening.

Fair enough. I will correct the statement. Azriel then threatened the child with bodily harm.


Ice Cracking In The Sunlight wrote:
I don't recall them having a good reputation. Are you thinking of the Order of Resplendence, or did I miss something?

Not sure; I believe Nicolas said something like that upon my wondering whether Szarlej was treated well in captivity.

Quote:
You offered 5.

I started at 5 gp and went up to 30 gp.

For comparison, what's a European artisan's net monthly income? Something like 3000 €? In which case 5 gp corresponds to 500 € (an iPhone 7) and 30 gp to a 3000 € (a high-end MacBook Pro). And we're talking about a child here, not a successful adventurer.

Though admittedly, given that the local magic shop appears to be stocked with at least 75% of all possible magic items below the purchase limit, such comparisons are inherently problematic. ;o)

Quote:
Fair enough. I will correct the statement. Azriel then threatened the child with bodily harm.

#NotAllPartyMembers


You are not going to convince me that a sickle is worth more than the equivalent of an iPhone 7 and a falchion is worth two and a half times the equivalent of a high-end MacBook Pro. Or that you just spent enough on a single, nonmagic longbow to buy a five bedroom house in West Virginia, for that matter.


Dear Diary:

I no longer have any lingering doubts. Dr. Variel is insane.

The charmed guards at Peacock Mansion revealed to us that we had, by sheer luck, entered at a spot directly next to where the sword Baraket had been stored; apparently the massacre of the Horned Fangs had unnerved whoever was in charge of the Order of Resplendence and they elected to put it in a vault. With a quick discussion through a Message spell, we decided that getting the sword was our main objective, so I distracted the guards by asking questions about the vault door, and while their attention was on me my fellows knocked them unconscious.

Unfortunately, though, this ruse somehow thoroughly convinced Dr. Variel that I was for some reason obsessed with the vault door, by dint of not having any doors where I come from (which we didn't, it's true, but ... really?) So it took some argument before she disarmed the trap on it and unlocked it, since she did not seem to understand that my interest in opening the door went beyond its mere doorness. When she then looked in the vault and saw no Thassilonian artifacts immediately in evidence, she then retired in disgust, in spite of all attempts to point out to her the sword case in the room where we had been told a Thassilonian artifact sword was being kept.

With no one else very good at disarming traps, I reasoned that since the door had been trapped it was unlikely that the sword case was likewise trapped, because who would put a trap inside a trap, so I tried to open it and set off the trap.

One of these days this insane place is going to kill me.

I survived that incident, however, and after a bit more fruitless argument with Dr. Variel, I took the sword case outside the mansion to avoid being overheard and started bashing at it with my morningstar. This proving ineffective, the good doctor *finally* picked the lock on the stupid thing to reveal the (quite lovely) artifact sword within. I put on the Gauntlets and picked it up, and no harm came to me.

After discussing the situation a bit further, we decided to take the two unconscious guards away with us for the moment to forestall pursuit, as we are rather distinctive in appearance. I had suggested Dr. Variel, as the sneakiest among us, go to retrieve the guards, and was once again refused because that is apparently beneath the dignity of a professor. So I went thumping back up the stairs to do it myself and fortuitously alerted no more guards.

And then we went to see Audrahni for advice on our next logical step.

That went poorly.

She was appalled that we had abducted the guards, and I fear I rather got in a shouting match with her. I don't honestly recall everything that was said, as I was in a bit of an emotional high pitch at the time. I may perhaps have mentioned some things about our mutual nonexistent past, which if so no doubt made me sound as insane as Dr. Variel.

At any rate, it ended with her agreeing to watch over the guards while we went back to the Inn to meet with the Horned Fangs and retrieve our captured comrade.

We were met in the morning, though, by a woman named Jana who apparently was the former leader of the Horned Fangs before monsters took over the gang. She had spirited away Akkumsah from the rest of the gang, and wanted us to help her get her position back. She said she would give us Akkumsah back if we cleared away the monsters but were careful not to harm the non-monstrous gang members. Upon learning that the monsters were attempting to form an army to bring back the might of Thassilon, we readily agreed, even though, frankly, I liked the monster we had talked to earlier more than I liked this Jana person.

We went back down into the undercity by a different route. At first, my associates were careful to knock humans unconscious, but upon learning that was hard they gave that up soon and ended up killing a couple. Or rather, most gave it up when it proved difficult. Dr. Variel turned murderous as soon as she decided they were not treating the antique Thassilonian furniture with proper respect, and attempted to halt our mission so she could pack it all up to send to a museum.

Azriel was knocked unconscious during one of the battles, but we pulled through and were victorious. I had consumed a potion of invisibility during the fray, so I explored a bit of the area while my friends healed themselves. I called them over to join me upon discovering the portal.

There was a half-broken one-way portal in the complex that we determined had its other end in a section of the Hollow Mountain. This, I suppose, was where they were obtaining the fleshdreg minions for their army.

While we were examining it, we were greeted by the new and monstrous leader of the Horned Fangs and her fleshdreg minions. She enjoined us to join her in her efforts to rebuild the might of Thassilon under the banner of Alaznist, Runelord of Wrath. I confess that I was rather worried that Dr. Variel would take her up on the offer, but to the doctor's credit, as soon as she learned that joining the cause did not involved collaboration on a publishable paper, she was uninterested. And so that battle was enjoined.

It was a difficult battle, against a tough foe armed with the favor of the tentacled goddess Yamasoth. It seemed a near thing at times, and

Azriel was cleft entirely in twain by a single mighty blow of the monster's halberd but then time jumped and

Azriel was knocked unconscious, along with Szarlej, but with all of us pitching in with repeated attacks, after much effort I was finally able to end the battle with a harsh word.

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but so do my utterances.


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Dear Diary:

It has been a rather relaxing few days, actually. This is primarily because we spent it at sea, so the number of hostile entities which randomly attempted to murder us all was reduced considerably. There was still one hostile entity which randomly attempted to murder us all, true, but it was something one of the passengers had brought with them from the land.

I honestly do not understand how life survives outside of the ocean.

To explain the circumstances -- Audrahni suggested that we bring Baraket to the Sihedron Council in Magnimar, an extremely good idea since they are an organization of actual heroes and adventurers formed to deal with exactly this sort of problem. The only counterargument was Dr. Variel's; she wished to use the sword as the key exhibit in her planned museum. She was outvoted.

Audrahni booked us passage on a ship captained by a friend of hers, and we set off with a few additional passengers -- an opera singer, her servant, who was the only male on board (this kind of rarity seems common; is this part of the land a matriarchal society?), and an alchemist with a large box she claimed was filled with "delicate equipment". More on that later.

The first few days went very nicely. Lovely weather, good conversation. The opera singer gave us a private performance (she's very good!), culminating in an epic jump off the mast. I talked with her about finding work as a singer, and she offered to use her connections to help me out, which was kind of her whether or not it comes to anything.

And I took the opportunity to apologize to Audrahni for my role in our argument. She apologized in turn and explained that she was upset by my having eaten human flesh in the goblin cave. I was able to explain that I wasn't particularly happy about it either, but the circumstances had been complicated and extreme, which she admitted she understood. I ended by saying I could, whatever the circumstance, be depended upon to be her friend. She was a bit taken aback by this, since from her perspective she does not know me all that well. But I do not think she was upset by it.

She seems to be very close friends with the captain, and I'm glad of that. Possibly very close, but I did not ask and do not truly care. I'm just glad she has people in her life who make her happy; there is still a shadow on her mood that has something to do with her time in Magnimar, I think.

I have come around to accepting that my life from this point forward is a new life, and anything that happens or does not happen in that regard will be what it is. My faith in Naderi is a comfort to me in this time.

Anyway, things went well until the monster that the alchemist had been hiding in her box escaped, slaughtered all the cows on board, killed a sailor, and tried to devour the rest of us. The more we struck it, the larger it grew. We thought we'd killed it once, but it just came back. Finally Akkumsah did enough grievous damage to it to render it quiescent, and Szarlej breathed fire upon it until it finally moved no more.

Typical land-dweller nonsense, basically.


Dear Diary:

I

am

an

imbecile.

Note to self -- stop wandering into places alone. It now stands at FOUR TIMES that I have been attacked and forced to go toe-to-toe against some enemy all by myself. I must stop assuming that the world is a reasonable and friendly place. It clearly isn't.

Further note to self -- when carrying around a priceless ancient artifact, maybe take some steps to hide or otherwise protect it.


Dear Diary:

So. Backing up a bit.

Things went well enough at first after the cow-and-sailor-devouring-flesh-monstrosity was disposed of. Sailing was smooth, and then Audrahni even finally opened up to me a little (I am *not* making too much of that). It turns out that when she lived in Magnimar she ran afoul of some kind of corrupt group of criminals who sent assassins after her when she tried to expose them. She ended up killing -- well, murdering, honestly, but who am I to judge? -- one of their number. More to the point, she did not then properly inter the body, which is a sin in the eyes of Ashava, her deity. This has caused her something of a religious crisis, and I can tell it weighs on her. I offered to help however I could when we got to Magnimar.

Well before we did so, however, the ship was beset by a storm. The rudder was damaged by the battering, so afterwards I dove down to assess the damage.

And I was immediately attacked. Of course. This time by some enormous fish from the depths of prehistory.

I hope I can admit when I am wrong, and now is the time to do so. The land is not the problem. The water is clearly no safer. This is obvious with a bit of thought, because if the land were this dangerous all the time, everyone on it would be dead. No, something else is going on.

Something, I fear, that has to do with me and my companions. Very likely it is related to my bizarre and growing abilities. I can now LIGHT PEOPLE ON FIRE WITH MY VOICE.

This has gone on too long to ignore. Rare and powerful monsters beset us at every turn. Artifacts and clues drop themselves in front of us. Time itself bends around us. We board a ship and every single other passenger has a hidden agenda. Our powers and skills are growing steadily in proportion to the dangers that surround us.

What is going on? Why is this HAPPENING? It started, I think, the moment we set tail in Roderick's Wreck. Did something mark us then, somehow?

WHAT ARE WE?

Sorry. Sorry. I digress. The fish attacked while I was alone. Of course. It savaged me with its teeth and

swallowed me whole in a single gulp but then time jumped and

I fortunately managed to fascinate it with a simple tune. I swam away and drank a potion of invisibility, intending to leave it to the deeps, when Dr. Variel, crazed and noble soul, leapt into the sea to my rescue.

That went badly. The monster fish swallowed the good doctor whole instead of me. I managed to strike it with a spell that caused it to vomit her forth, and Azriel's roc retrieved her in time for healing magic to save her life, but it was a close thing. Afterwards, the fish departed to look for safer prey.

The rudder was damaged beyond any easy fix, so we made our way to Sandpoint for repairs. At the opera singer's invitation, we went to an open stage. I performed, since I must get used to public performance if I'm going to make a career of it. It went ... not as well as I might have hoped. It was only a great performance, not an extraordinary one. That isn't good enough. I must be better than that. I must. I spent the rest of the night getting drunk.

Things after that get a bit blurry, but the opera singer performed at the end and her voice unexpectedly cracked. The audience jeered her. I think I tried to fight for her honor?

The next day, after the ship departed, I went to check to see if she was all right. That is when she and her servant robbed me.

She cast spell after spell upon me while her servant tried to stab me with a poisoned blade. At last she wore down my defenses with a strange, penetrating look, and forced me to hand over Baraket. I threw it at her neck, but to no avail. The artifact blade in hand, she triggered a spell and vanished as my companions arrived in response to my cries for help.

Since, like an idiot, I had been wearing the priceless artifact blade on my belt, getting it from me was no trouble at all.

We got the story out of her servant, whom she had left behind. Some sordid affair in Cheliax left her cursed to fail whenever she performed upon a stage. A group known as the Order of the Peacock hired her to steal the blade with an offer to break the curse if she did. She may be in Magnimar, but I fear we will be too late to retrieve the artifact. If we can even find her at all.

How did they learn we had the blade so quickly? We barely got our hands on it before boarding the boat. Is the Order of the Peacock related to the Order of Resplendence at Peacock Manor?

I had thought our journey might end when we arrived at Magnimar and handed the blade over to the experts. Now I fear that instead our journey may be just beginning.


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Dear Diary:

This was a bit of a red letter day.

Audrahni held me. Twice.

Also I died.

I am rather emotionally spent right now.


Our sea voyage has come to an end, thank gods. Every step on a ship's deck feels wrong, even in calm weather. The planks may look like proper ground, but the constant motion betrays their nature. They are a mere mask worn by the cold black abyss of the sea to keep us docile while it builds up its hunger. And once the storm hit, the sea did not even try to hide its intentions. We were lucky to make it to Sandpoint for repairs.

Magnimar is unimaginably big and beautiful. I wish we had the leisure to explore it and visit its many ruins and sights. So far, I have only caught a glimpse of it as we rushed through its markets toward Heidmarch Manor, where we are to meet with the Sihedron Council tomorrow, and of the site of Audrahni's unfinished business. At least I am afforded a sample of Magnimar's limitless possibilities through Lady Heidmarch's excellent choice in catering and lodging. Who knew there were so many kinds of fruits I had never tasted before? I'm particularly fond of the big armored fruit with a plant growing from its top (rather than the other way around, as one might expect); I think it was called a «spine apple». It's good to have rich friends.

In any case, we will hand over the case to the Sihedron Council tomorrow and restore some normalcy to our lives.


So my friend was murdered in her sleep, the Sihedron Heroes who were supposed to take the case off our hands are missing (along with the Sihedron proper), and we are being sent into enemy territory in their stead. So much for normalcy.

This is no longer just bad luck. I fear we have become adventurers.

Worst of all, there's another sea journey ahead of us. Gods help us.


Dear Diary:

There is much to unpack about what has happened recently.

Our ship arrived in Magnimar which is ... big. Astonishingly big. And it is only one of many cities of its size, which are not even the largest among cities. I had no idea there were this many land-dwellers! If I ever see my parents again (gods forbid) I will be pleased to tell them that their vague dreams of conquest are not only unlikely but insane.

Seriously, there must be *thousands* of land-dwellers. Possibly even tens of thousands!

Oh, and it turns out that I've been gendering them incorrectly. The big ones are not females. Azriel gave me the unhelpful information that the male ones have "wangs" but then refused to explain what one was. I know longer even know my sexual orientation.

I think I will just refer to all of them as "she" for now, until I get this figured out. It makes things simpler.

We made our way across the city to the Sihedron Council, and discovered that their doorwoman is a moron. What IS it with these people who live among magic and signs and wonders, who have seen for themselves city-destroying waves turned aside by infernal miracles, but when presented with eyewitness accounts of artifacts and events turn all, "Pfft! Pull the other one, why don't you?" Fortunately, once we got past this imbecile, Sheila Heidmarch proved much more willing to listen to obvious truths. She put us up in a nice hotel and told us to make a full report to the council the next morning.

Audrahni was eager to get a start on redressing her past errors, so we immediately went down to the collapsed statue where her victim's body lay. From the circumstances and lack of traffic or repair in the area, it was immediately obvious that there would be undead about, so we were on the alert. Sure enough, as Audrahni began intoning a prayer, the shade of the dead woman made its presence known. I put it off for a minute with a spell, but Audrahni's prayer had not yet been finished when it returned. I joined her for a while until the undead creature forced itself into my lungs.

Where I kept it for a while, frankly. I can hold my breath a long time, and I thought it best to let Audrahni get on with her orisons. Don't get me wrong, having an undead monstrosity in my lungs was unpleasant in the extreme, but I thought it worth the trouble.

I finally expelled it, my friends and I damaged it, and Audrahni finished her invocation of her goddess. We could all feel the plague upon the area lifted.

And then Audrahni held me in her arms.

...

...

Oh my goodness.


Dear Diary:

After the events I wrote of above, we retired to our Inn, which proved to be quite nice. Soon, however, a package was sent to us there, which was an obvious trap, as it was addressed to the "new heroes of Varisia", something no one anywhere ever was likely to call us in seriousness. Alas, despite our knowing it was a trap, we still managed to set it off (this is why no one would call us heroes), and the resulting cloud of gas left us confused and a danger to each other. In a moment of coherence, I managed to paralyze myself with a spell, and remained so until the madness passed. We eventually determined that the opera singer had sent the package. Why?

Later that night, as I was about to sleep in my bath, Audrahni held me. Again.

Then, in the night, an assassin came and slit my throat and I died.

Yes, I was dead.

Death for me was waiting in line. It was colorless, and cold.

From what I can reconstruct of what happened afterwards, my friends dispatched the assassin in short order, and Sheila Heidmarch paid the astonishing expense of raising me from the dead.

Why?

From a secret note found on the assassin's body (revealed by the word "Peacock", a lucky guess), we got a bit more information about the Hollow Mountain and the possible invasion of Varisia. When we discussed this with the Sihedron Council in the morning, we discovered that the actual Sihedron Heroes went off on some quest and have not been heard of since, leaving the next most likely group to investigate the matter ... us.

That is when things became clear to me.

Why everyone keeps attacking us for no reason.

Why we are acquiring strange new powers at a rapid rate.

Why death is no longer a final obstacle. Why our foes assume we are "heroes". Why danger and destiny lurks at every turn.

Against our will, against all odds, in a twist of fate that is truly terrifying given our incompetence, we have become ...

Adventurers.

Gods help us.


Dear Diary:

I am amazing.

I am astonishing. I am a hero. I will become the greatest singer of this, or any other age.

I have bested a famous opera singer in a contest of songs, throwing notes at her that shattered bones. I have defeated monsters, tricked marauders, charmed and bluffed my way past hordes of foes. I have returned form the shores of death itself.

I started feeling this way when I picked up Baraket, the Sword of Pride, unwarded by the gauntlets, and it is obvious that it is having some kind of effect upon my mind. I'm not an idiot, after all.

But that doesn't mean these things aren't *true*.

In any event. Where did I leave off last? Oh, yes.

Armed with valuable gifts generously provided to us by Sheila Heidmarch, we set sail towards the Hollow Mountain, for once arriving without incident. However, as we departed we learned that we were not the first to set off for the Wrathlord's dungeon. We had been preceded, we heard, by a group of "thugs" who slew the sailors who rowed them ashore, and a trio of "fops" hailing from some northern land. Much was afoot, that much was clear.

My farewell to Audrahni was ... awkward. Why do I know what to say to everyone but her? Still?

We lit the beach fire to signal the hermit whom we had been told could direct us further, but on receiving no response we ventured into the island's interior. Not long after, though, we were embroiled in a fierce fight. As we crossed a mossy log spanning a ravine, we were beset by a pair of giant, mutated, mosquito-like creatures. No mere dumb animals these, though -- they assaulted us with poison, with spells, with an aura of lethargy, with proboscises that sucked away our blood and energy. By the end of that battle, we had been cursed, slowed, drained, paralyzed, and injured. We needed to throw all our might and magic against the creatures, and by the end of the fight Dr. Variel had collapsed unconscious and the rest of us were in sorry shape. We retreated back to the beach to treat our injuries, and as it was well after midnight, decided to rest before proceeding further.

The next day, we ventured further on, and ran into the hermit we had been told of -- a grumpy, cantankerous woman with few social graces. I do not know why all the hermits I've met have been so rude. However, we managed to talk her into sharing information with us, and from her we discovered that the group of thugs had gone to a small building and the fops had gone to a temple. Recognizing both the sword Baraket and the opera singer Varilane from the descriptions given of the fops, after some discussion we opted to follow their trail.

The temple was a disquieting place, full of depictions of evil-looking, demonic merfolk. I felt personally attacked, really. Although they did resemble a number of my cousins.

I never much liked those cousins.

Dr. Variel poisoned herself inspecting the runes on an altar and nearly attacked me in her confusion, but I used the same tactic I had previously used upon my self and held her motionless until the fit passed. We passed through a secret door into a room where a monstrous ooze attacked us, but Akkumsah made short work of it with a hitherto unused skill that let her make her weapons particularly deadly against oozes. Another secret door led us down steps into the bowels of the earth, and soon we were within the Hollow Mountain itself.

A trail through the thick dust let us know we were on the right track, and we followed it past a clockwork construct that Dr. Variel got working long enough for it to give us a magic book of some kind and lead us to another. Then we came upon a library that had recently been ransacked -- a treasure trove of knowledge, and I found myself agreeing with Dr. Variel that it should be retrieved and preserved.

Soon after that, we came across our three foes from the order of the Peacock, one armed with Baraket. She nearly unleashed the same doom upon us as had been visited upon the hapless henchwomen of the Horned Fangs a few weeks ago, but the treasure given to Dr. Variel by Sheila Heidmarch saved us all, turning the deadly attack into an ordinary one. We stomped the swordswoman into the dirt and I picked up Baraket, at which point I realized at last my astonishing power and might.

Spells thrown at us by Varilane and the third woman of their group proved of little effect, and within a short time they, too, were unconscious and at our mercy.

We will have questions for them when they awake. Many, many questions.


Victory: We have reclaimed Baraket from the murderous thieves who stole it from us. It would seem they, too, were racing to discover the secrets of Hollow Mountain, albeit to an entirely different end. Unfortunately, my friends have neglected to bring along the warding gauntlets — we can only hope Ice will be able to resist its whispers until we bring it back to Magnimar. So far, she only appears a bit more confident than usual. Not necessarily a bad thing.

The sea voyage to Hollow Mountain transpired with a shocking lack of deadly incidents. The island, on the other hand, greeted us with a new breed of sin-spawned abominations as Ice, the Doctor and I scouted inland, far deadlier than the fleshdregs of Roderic's Cove: Giant stirge-like monstrosities that addled our minds with spells and curses, sapped our vitality and drained our blood — and regenerated what harm we managed to inflict on them. It took all our effort to wear them down through all the afflictions they visited upon us. In retrospect, we should never have ventured into the woods with only half our force. It is common wisdom, really; I am surprised we keep making this mistake.

At least it gave me the opportunity to try out Lady Heidmarch's gift to me: A pair of shoes that allow me to transform into a lightning bolt once per day. While it has some offensive use, the ability to escape a monster's embrace at a word's notice proved even more valuable.

We met our contact in the woods further uphill. He looked too well-shaven to be a hermit, but his intel proved reliable. We decided to investigate the temple ruin first, as the adventuring party who had headed there matched the description of Varilane and Baraket. After fighting our way through the unholy blood-slimes that guarded the temple, we descended into the mountain beneath and stumbled upon Varilane and the Feathered Fops, of whom we made short work. After all these near-death experiences, I must say I enjoyed the feeling of tactical competence, for a change. I hope it shows our growth in prowess, rather that just a stroke of luck.

It certainly helped that I finally managed to manifest ὀλοόξιφος to amplify my power both against the slimes and the Fops. At last! It is every bit as effective as I had hoped, even if it costs me precious moments to invoke it at the onset of a fight. The key, as I had conjectured, was to use a magical weapon as the focus.

I look forward to wielding this power in my own hands; for now, I must make do with a manufactured weapon. Magnimar's market proved surprisingly devoid of magic weapons compatible with monastic tradition, for all its endless expanse. Life would be much simpler if there were a tradition centered on, say, the rapier. They seem to be the height of fashion around here. But any oaf can be dangerous with a rapier in hand, much as a cripple can walk with a crutch. But we Monks have no use for crutches. We aim to run, to leap, to fly. We walk the Master's Path not because it is easy, but because it is hard.

In the end, I settled for something called a chicken saber. Decent enough a tool for violence, even if the name is embarrassing. As a small indulgence, I have resolved to call it a falcon sword instead; it is not as if anyone will know better.

PS: The rations we got from the ship's cook contain more culinary discoveries. I am particularly fond of this so-called «pea nut-butter», even if it does not taste of peas even the least bit.


Dear Diary:

After we defeated the Peacocks, continued exploration of Hollow Mountain seemed to be in order, as we had not yet found the portal to Roderick's Cove. We later realized that we were looking for it in entirely the wrong place, but that's all right, it turned out we needed to keep going on anyway.

Oh, I finally asked outright and it has *finally* been explained to me! The male land-dwellers are the ones built like deep-water merfolk (no buoyancy sacs) and the female ones are the ones built like shallow-water merfolk (buoyancy sacs)! In fact, I have theorized that merfolk buoyancy sacs developed to look like land-dweller mammaries specifically as a lure to attract our natural prey (land-dwellers, not that I do that any more).

Where was I?

Oh, right. we continued our exploration of the library level, and found a few new rooms and a scholarly haunt that ripped us like paper. We were about to depart when Akkumsah suggested we defeat the haunt and give that room a more thorough search. Szarlej blasted it with holy might and it vanished, and we indeed found a concealed door that led down to another level of the complex.

We took the stairs down to a water-logged room and fought a monster to get a gem, but the gem got destroyed anyway. I tried to relax in the water (I'm so DRY) and caught some kind of filthy disease, as did Dr. Variel. I hate this place. Since the good doctor had been blinded by his (his, no buoyancy sacs) illness, we decided to rest for the night so that Azriel and Szarlej could effect cures for us as soon as possible.

In the night, we were visited by a strange dream. The Runelord Sorshen (female, buoyancy sacs) wanted us to ally with her against the Runelord Alaznist! She gave us some tips for finding further information in Hollow Mountain (so our further exploration was merited), and requested a meeting in Korvosa when we were done.

So. That happened.

In the morning, we interrogated our two remaining prisoners (one had vanished, no doubt using the same method Varilane had upon the ship), and got some information, but little of use; Varilane was mostly a low-level thug for the organization, although she (buoyancy sacs) did give us a tip about her superior, a woman with a green streak in her hair. Variliane pled to be let go, but we were none of us inclined to feel merciful (and Dr. Variel was downright bloodthirsty.) I certainly didn't feel merciful. I'd tried to befriend her and she'd betrayed me. We took the prisoners back to the ship, along with a load of books.

Some research indicated that our new explorations were in a part of Hollow Mountain known as The Gauntlet, where one might receive the favor of the Runelord of Wrath (do we even want that?), but more importantly, where we might find an "abyssal runestone" that Sorshen said we could use to convince an ex-Runelord to help us and agh this is all becoming so complicated, we still haven't even found the portal.

Anyway, we entered The Gauntlet, which looks to be a series of combat tests, the first against some constructs made of skin and filled with cockroaches (ew.) We are still -- STILL -- terrible against tiny swarming creatures, no different from the moment we first set foot in Roderick's Wreck. Fortunately, the lightning boots Akkumsah received from Sheila Heidmarch proved a decisive advantage there.

And on we go.


Dear Diary:

P.S. Land-dwelling humanoids LACTATE!!!!!

Weeeeird.


Dear Diary:

Something I forgot to mention last time -- for some reason, Sorshen appeared to me in the form of my friend Wildfire. I don't know why; perhaps because Wildfire is stunning, so the Runelord of Lust thought that an appropriate form to appear in? I should ask if the others saw people they knew personally as well.

In any event, after we defeated the swarms and their skinsuits and did a bit of faffing around, we put a gem we found in a slot we found, and it turned into an eyeball and opened up a doorway. Thassilonians were odd.

Past the eyeball door, we encountered a pair of doors which encouraged us to, depending on the door (I translate roughly): "pound me with your powerful weapon" or "get me all hot with your magical skill". Since our magic is pathetic, we opted for the weapon door, and after bashing it a bit it let us through to a room where we faced what I took to be a test of might -- Sinspawn, followed by spider things, followed by a spider thing queen. It wasn't actually all that difficult a battle, especially with the queen spider distracted by a crocodile Azriel had summoned, although the spider things' regenerative powers were a bit of a pain until I lit them on fire.

Once we had won the battle, an Abyssal Runestone appeared! So that's that bit done. And a portal also opened, which we promptly went through, although Dr. Variel moaned about our lack of caution.

The portal transported us to a site dedicated to insulting Thybidos, who had preceded Alaznist as the Runelord of Wrath. A bit of wandering led us into a grand chamber, where reading a poem aloud started opening the doors. Waiting for us behind the first door was a Worm That Walks!!!! Fortunately for us, it was very bad at being a Worm That Walks, so did not immediately incinerate us, although it was a close thing for Szarlej. It took us a long time to defeat it, because we are TERRIBLE TERRIBLE TERRIBLE AT FIGHTING SWARM THINGS, but eventually I managed to keep it from flying around with a bit of Suggestion and Akkumsah finally magicked up her weapons to the point where she could annihilate the thing, although not before it crawled all around in her clothing (ew.) After we defeated it, we found a gem that was clearly part of the mechanism for opening a further door.

Beyond the next doorway opened by the poem, we fought THE FIENDISH DEATH WÖRM! In point of fact, though, THE FIENDISH DEATH WÖRM didn't prove to be very difficult, it sprayed us with a bit of acid and then dropped dead. I helped! We found another gem.

The third doorway led to a bunch of sarcophagi sealed shut, and Akkumsah heard a voice which led her to dig a third gem out of a corpse (ew.)

The fourth doorway led to a room which was a bit of a puzzle, and while we were puzzling over it Szarlej disturbed a trio of wraiths! They focused their attacks on the poor cleric, and he barely escaped with his life! I used the Horn given to me by Sheila Heidmarch, and through a combination of various attacks we were able to put one of the creatures to its final rest, and we retreated leaving the other two Confused. (Unlike most bards, I can Confuse the undead, for I have come to the enlightened realization that Undead Are Icky.) We are keeping a wary watch behind us, and our plan is to return when Szarlej is not so near to expiring on the spot.


Dear Diary,

After an uneasy night spent within the Hollow Mountain, we returned to face the wraiths having better prepared ourselves. Akkumsah was able to render herself nearly invulnerable to their attacks, and between the Horn of Judgement, Szarlej's channeling of the energy of his god, and Akkusah's physical attacks, we were able to send them to the Great Beyond in short order. A bit of poking around with funereal urns allowed us to recover the fourth gem we needed to open the next doorway.

Before we did so, however, I elected to drink from a fountain of wrath, which made me as ANGRY and POWERFUL as Baraket had filled me with pride. Fortunately, my anger was soon to have a healthy outlet.

I refer, of course, to the monsters we encountered in our further adventures, not any of my colleagues.

I would never think that.

The doorway opened by the gems led us further into the Hollow Mountain. We first encountered a room bedecked with images of the previous Runelords of Wrath and their untimely deaths, according to Dr. Variel. An effigy of one of them, the Runelord Xiren, stepped forth from her image and attacked us, and we were forced to destroy it. Further exploration led us to a trapped shaft that came near to eviscerating Akkumsah. We proceeded onwards once Dr. Variel had disarmed the device.

Our tribulations were far from over, however. Soon thereafter, we were assaulted by amorphous, tentacled entities we could not identify, who over the course of the battle consumed and nearly digested both Szarlej and Dr. Variel! We were in the end able to overcome them, however. Following that, we used divine energy to send away a spectral hydra, and then we came upon a disquieting sight -- the undead remains of the Runelord Thybidos, tortured by automatons for all eternity.

The automatons turned their attention to us when we entered, and threw both Akkumsah and myself into Confusion. Both of us retained our wits enough to flee the room before we risked doing harm to our fellows, however, and our companions dealt with the automatons.

Once that was done with, while I was still Confused, Dr. Variel approached Thybidos and asked how he would like to become a museum exhibit. Thybidos asked only that he be brought Xiren, and granted Dr. Variel a vision of his wish to be presented with the body of the earlier Runelord he had assassinated, so that he could apologize to it.

Dr. Variel, unfortunately, was so incensed at the invasion of his mind that he elected not to share this with us, instead demanding that we slay Thybidos. Eventually our perplexed questions regarding his sudden anger revealed the truth. Presenting Thybidos with the Abyssal Runestone made him do little more than reveal that Alaznist was alive (we had already gathered that, thanks), so we retrieved Xiren's body from elsewhere in the dungeon -- not a difficult task, as it turned out -- and presented it to Thybidos. Who apologized, and promptly crumbled into dust.

Leading my comrades to complain. At length. Azriel at the loss of a possible ally, and Dr. Variel at the loss of a museum exhibit. Exasperated, I was stalking out -- I was still feeling quite wrathful at the time -- when Dr. Variel suggested we search the room. A good idea, as it turned out, as a secret compartment in the throne concealed a great deal of valuable treasure.

We have decided that our next step shall be returning to Magnimar, in preparation for a trip to Korvosa to meet with, apparently, Sorshen herself.

I am, I confess, more nervous about my next meeting with Audrahni than our rendezvous with Sorshen. I have decided that it is finally time to tell Audrahni about my peculiar memories.


Dear Diary:

Oh, forgot to mention -- upon the final death of Thybidos, the portal to Roderick's Cove collapsed.

It is perhaps indicative of how complex things have gotten that our entire reason for going to the Hollow Mountain in the first place ended up relegated to the status of an afterthought.


I had expected Hollow Mountain to be a brimming military base with an army of abominations waiting to pour through the portal into Varisia. I should be thankful it was already all but abandoned when we reached it. Still, I cannot help feeling somewhat... belittled? ...by the fact that Alaznist did not consider us important enough to leave a rear guard behind. Instead, we were left to deal with ghosts, haunts, constructs and automated handlers. We were pitted against a series of adversaries like novices striving to earn their first belt... only to reach Thybidos’ mausoleum, which led us through yet another string of combat trials.

At least the trials were worthy challenges. We had to strain our newfound might to survive them. I continue to find great use in ὀλοόξιφος, even though it is surprisingly difficult to discern which type of bane is called for. The Worm That Walks looked both undead and aberrant, but turned out to be a vermin. Likewise, nobody in our group was able to identify the Qlippoth in time; I would probably have taken them for an aberration. I have often wondered why ὀλοόξιφος and its related disciplines are so obscure nowadays despite their obvious great power — now I know how hard it is to wield, I am starting to understand. It is to martial arts what the firearm is to ranged combat.

The presence of the Qlippoth worries me, though. While one may argue whether humanity deserves to suffer the consequences of their Sins, no-one deserves the mind-twisting extraplanar horrors of the Qlippoths. This had better be the last we see of them.


D

dear Diary

I ca

can't

she's dead

Audrahni is dead

again

she's been dead for 3 years

again

I will find her

I will find her

I WILL FIND HER


Dear Diary:

I am more sober now than I was when I wrote my last entry.

Something is going terribly wrong with the flow of time. Or more terribly wrong, rather. Much has happened. Some of it is difficult to write about. I will attempt to go in chronological order.

Does such a concept even make sense anymore?

Our ship journey back to Magnimar was not without incident. We were all visited by another strange dream: A scepter broken into pieces and scattered to the winds. Monsters in a pillar of the Irespan, the one known as The Gecko for its carvings of lizards.

And then Dr. Variel was attacked by a Hound of Tindalos that materialized from a corner of his room. These are strange, time-travelling dogs that attack those who interfere with the flow of time. We defeated it, but we were troubled. What was happening to the timestream? Several of us have experienced the strange jumps I have spoken of. And we cannot now remember the names of the Heroes of the Sihedron. Dr. Variel's Korvosan insistence that the heroes of a "small town" like Magnimar are unmemorable makes no sense. One of them was a personal friend of mine.

Why can I not remember her name?

Upon returning to shore, we made our report to the Sihedron Council and gave them Baraket and the Abyssal Runestone for safe keeping. When we mentioned our dream of the Gecko, a tiefling among their number was surprised. Apparently rumors have been swarming of an appearance by the ghost of Xanesha, apparently a legendary monstrous scourge of the Underbridge from years past.

The tiefling was, incidentally, a priestess of what I might call the Reformed Church of Nocticula, a heretical sect that believes the demoness is transcending her former ways. Odd.

After that, we went to find Audrahni, and were surprised to find no work had been done upon the statue she had stayed to repair. Asking around, we found no report of her save for dim memories of the incidents she had been involved with a decade past. Finally, we went back to Captain Xorsha to ask where Audrahni might be staying.

And Captain Xorsha angrily told us that Audrahni had been dead for three years.

Just as I remembered. Originally remembered, before I found her again. But I also remember her alive a few weeks ago, as do my four companions. But only we remember this. To everyone else, she is dead and has been dead.

Where is she?

What is happening to time?

I have made two vows:

First, I will find Audrahni.

Second, I will discover whoever is responsible for this, and I will devour their heart.


To continue with events as they occurred:

Much troubled by the news, we went to investigate the Gecko. We had not even entered before we were attacked by Xanesha's ghost. I do not know if her formidable reputation in life was merited, but it certainly was in death. Her assaults left us staggered, enraged, drained, damaged, and in one case dead. Her undead attacks left Akkumsah bereft of life, although quick action from Szarlej with a Breath of Life scroll we had wisely purchased soon brought her back.

Xanesha used her incorporeal state to great effect, retreating to heal and cast defensive spells upon herself whenever we began to do her harm, which was at first seldom thanks to these methods. I attempted to take advantage of my ability to affect the minds of the undead, throwing spell after spell after spell upon her, but she shrugged them off one after another ... until I was at I was able to make her experience Terrible Remorse for her actions in life and death. Her crimes were so great that she was unable to escape the emotion, and we finally defeated her shade. We still must find her corpse, though, to ensure she does not return.

After that, we broke into the Gecko and found a horrifying sight: local drifters chained at the mercy of vampiric derros. As we fought them, one of the derros killed a prisoner merely out of spite, or perhaps as a distraction. Once we had defeated the vampires (although once again, we must locate their coffins), the drifters told us a strange tale.

It is not surprising that they had been captured (by a vampire gargoyle, based on the description) as blood prey. More surprising was their tale of horrific experiments performed by a strange elf and other humanoids, and an attempt to create a "polymoprh plague". One victim of the plague, they told us, was in another room.

Further exploration led us to the realization that we had stumbled into a nest of worshippers of Yamasoth -- which in retrospect was obvious, since "The Polymorph Plague" is one of that god's sobriquets. We found papers detailing an attempt to turn this plague from one that could be transmitted by ingestion or through wounds to one that could travel through the air itself. We learned of a plot to resurrect the sloth Runelord Krune to aid their efforts. We found mention of the eggs of some creature within the Gecko necessary to make more plague.

We also, troublingly, found hints that something was amiss in Riddleport; a ship had left the previous day, with the intent of getting their in time for an auction run by a Riddleport crimelord named Zincher -- a man in possession of scrolls of True Ressurection, which the cultists seemed to wish to get their hands on through means foul or fouler.

We should have enough time to reach Riddleport before the auction ... but first, we must continue to clear the Gecko of cultists and undead. I do not think we should leave them here to reconstitute themselves in the coming days.


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P.S. I forgot to mention the city-sized monster.

I have more upsetting things concerning me at the moment and it slipped my mind.


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No-one deserves this kind of end. An untimely death is never pleasant, but Audrahni was not even granted that. Her life of the past three years was simply undone. No opportunity to fend for herself. She deserved better.

It is personal now. Ice is taking it hard. I cannot blame her. This reality dysfunction must have been the gravest to date, seeing how many people it affected. Although — Ice's original recollection of Audrahni's death appears consistent with Captain Xorsha's account. For all we know, that may well be the «true» timeline of our world, if there is such a thing, and Audrahni's life in Roderic's Cove might have been a fleeting anomaly.

Come to think of it, how certain are we that the Audrahni we had met was even real? Perhaps it was merely her restless spirit, refusing to acknowledge her death three years ago...? It would be the ultimate dramatic irony for a shepherd of lost souls to become lost herself. Then again, she served as the gravedigger in Roderic's Cove, an occupation ill suited to the incorporeal.

It must have happened during our last day in Hollow Mountain. I distinctly remember Ice noting an uncanny resemblance between Runelord Sorshen and her friend from the Sihedron Heroes on the previous day. She used the friend's name back then, and I recognized it. That name is now stricken from our memories, and from Sheila Heidmarch's, and anyone's we have bothered to ask. It is as if the Sihedron Heroes had not just gone missing from Varisia, but from history itself. I wonder whether the wave of energy released by Thybidos upon his deliverance was responsible for the dysfunction. If so, we may even have brought Audrahni's fate upon her ourselves. It would explain why that otherworldly beast who hunts sinners against time itself assaulted us on the ship.

In any case, it feels like the very tapestry of time is crumbling; we can only hope that it will hold together long enough to restore its continuity and bring the Sihedron Heroes and Audrahni back into existence.

In other news, our meeting with Sorshen in Korvosa has been postponed by a vision sent to all of us in a dream, which led us to uncover a sinister plague laboratory in one of the pylons of the Irespan. We met the undead spirit of the local boogeywoman, Xanesha, and she struck me dead with her unholy touch. At least I believe I died — I do not remember experiencing any afterlife. Szarlej must have pulled me back into life before my soul could depart. As far as death experiences go, it was rather anticlimactic. Xanesha tore the life out of me with such ease that I do not even remember dying. It is a small miracle that I was the only casualty, and that we were able to vanquish Xanesha after Ice finally broke her will with a relentless barrage of spells. Even so, it was a more dignified death than Audrahni's.

The laboratory turned out to be infested with vampire spawn, with the vampire itself still at large. We plan to hold out for long enough for Szarlej to prepare divine wards against the vampire's mind controlling powers. Gods help us.


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Dear Diary:

Audrahni is still dead.

...

...

So. The city sized monster. The priestess of Nocticula was granted a vision of us standing with Sorshen at some gate in the unknown future. Beyond it was a monster miles across.

Troubling.

To resume:

Knowing that a vampire gargoyle awaited us deeper in the dungeon, we made camp until Szarlej could prepare spells that would protect us against vampiric mind control abilities, and others to send them to their final death. A fight in which the rest of us had to face, say, Akkumsah or Azriel -- or both -- would be dire indeed. While we waited, we looked through more of the notes the cultists had left behind, and learned of their collusion with a necromancer in Kaer Maga, with a Book of Bones that might bring back the undead Runelord Zutha. The news keeps getting worse and worse.

The delay done, we made our way deeper into the Gecko. After setting a haunt to rest, we passed through some secret doors (behind one of which was a camera obscura illusion of the entire city of Magnimar!), and there, I fear, I made a grave mistake.

We came upon what looked like some poor giant crab trapped within a magic circle. It pled for its release and promised to do us no harm, and taking pity upon it, I set it free, heedless of the warnings of my colleagues, who are sometimes over-cautious. But in this case, they were entirely right; as soon as the crab was freed, it turned out to be a LIAR, a LYING LIAR, and it took on a horrifying form and attempted to lay its eggs in me! We had a tough fight against it, which I admit was entirely my fault. I have promised to be more cautious if a similar situation presents itself in the future.

In retrospect, this was likely the creature whose eggs were required for the Polymorph Plague.

Further exploration led us to the lair of the dreaded vampire gargoyle, who perished almost immediately under our onslaught. It was a bit anticlimactic, to be honest.

We then fought what appeared to be a Dhamphir, but was actually some kind of horrific undead that could take on the aspects of other creatures. It took a bit of doing, but we destroyed it, and in its room found the bones of Xanesha, enchanted to keep her ghost locked to the Gecko. Later we took the bones to the Temple of Pharasma to be exorcised.

First, however, we made our way to the room where we had been warned was a victim of the Polymorph Plague. The benighted soul had been halfway transmuted into an otyugh, and he attacked us in his insatiable hunger, apologizing all the while. I attempted to incapacitate him, but my friends opted for a lethal defense. It may have been wise, since the plague can transmit through injury, and it did not look easily curable.

Finally, we experimented with some controls which lowered a platform down into the depths of the pylon. I went down against the advice of some. In this case, their over-caution was unmerited. I found the bodies of those the vampires had slain, and took them up for burial. Also, some shiny things, which we kept.

After leaving a note for the Sihedron Council and the aforementioned trip to the Temple of Pharasma, we decided to sail for Riddleport without delay. Should the cultists get their hands on the scrolls of True Resurrection and proceed with their plot to bring back the Runelord Krune, we feared the result would be dire.

On the ship, we were once again attacked by the guardians of time -- two Hounds of Tindalos this time, instead of one. (A potentially worrisome progression). Fortunately, we have taken to sleeping in the same room for safety, but it was still an unpleasant fight. We should likely take more precautions against the creatures.

We are now in Riddleport, and making our way to Clegg Zincher. I hope he listens to our warnings; the notes we obtained from the cultists might help.

We have yet to go to Korvosa, and now Kaer Maga may need to be visited as well. Our travels are soon to span most of the country of Varisia. Are we actually heroes? Adventurers, for sure, but heroes seems hard to credit. Nonetheless, our power grows. My songs can inspire those who hear them to greatness now, and my average vocal performance is extraordinary enough to draw the attention of royalty or even extraplanar beings. That is not a boast. It is fact.

Well, at least I might have a stage career when all this is over.


Dear Diary:

Audrahni is still dead.

A temptation has been placed before me; a possible way to bring her back. All I would need to do is steal from a criminal. But a criminal who has been entirely honest and forthright with me, which sits ill with whatever shreds of an ethical philosophy I have. And would it even work? Would I lose her again the next time the timestream slips?

Until we fix whatever lies at the root of the problem, I fear not even True Resurrection is a certainty.

We arrived in Riddleport and made our way to the home of the crimelord Clegg Zincher. Although we were told he was seeing no visitors, with the urgency of our story backed by the notes of the cultists, we were able to gain an audience and warn him of the danger. We offered our services in the defense of his house, and he eventually was swayed by our words and agreed, showing us around to even the secret places of it to coordinate a proper defense.

This, for some reason, made Azriel instantly suspicious, convinced that something must be amiss, since he apparently could not believe that anyone treated with forthright honesty and an offer of help would respond in kind.

Matters were made worse when one of Zincher's lieutenants proved to be someone we'd had an encounter with in the past -- the bard who tried to rob us at the river crossing. It seems so long ago now. It turns out her name is Lullaby Vancaskerkin, and she's quite nice when she's not trying to rob you. But my friends, who had already half-convinced themselves that a mole in Zincher's organization must have been supplying information to the cultists, leapt to the conclusion that she must be the mole. Forgetting, incidentally, that we were the ones that had attacked her. Well, I was the one who had attacked her, in all honesty.

We spent some time preparing for a home invasion, making purchases of magic that would help us guard the house. I chatted with Lullaby and apologized for trying to charm her; she, in turn, expressed her regrets for trying to rob me. We traded bawdy songs; she has a very nice voice. (I taught her the one that goes, "My lover's a mermaid, a mermaid, a mermaid, a very fine mermaid is she; all day she eats fish, she eats fish, she eats fish, and then she comes home and eats etc.")

Lullaby's buoyancy sacs are very buoyant.

She also tipped me off that Zincher's other lieutenant was, perhaps, a bit reluctant to fight since money had been tight lately. I did not inform my comrades (since they would have, I guarantee it, immediately leapt to the conclusion that HE was the mole), but later offered him a bit of money in thanks for his aid in the coming fight. He seemed to appreciate it. I'll give some to him, Lullaby, and all the guards who eventually fought at the house.

Disaster nearly struck when, as we were bedded down in Zincher's house, THREE Hounds of Tindalos appeared from the corners and attacked. It was a rough fight indeed. I had prepared with smoked goggles against their horrific gaze, which is perhaps the only reason I was not torn to shreds. Szarlej, Wind the Roc, Azriel, and Lullaby, who had heard the ruckus and came to see what happened, were all sorely injured by the time we had finished them off. We CANNOT sleep in rooms with corners anymore; another Hound and that might have been a disaster. But between Szarlej's ability to create a circular shelter from webs, and Azriel's newfound ability to transport us nearly anywhere, we should be able to make do.

The following evening, when Zincher was out seeing to his auction, the cultists came for us.

They were ... underwhelming.

From our previous experiences, we had expected vast magics and deadly foes. Instead, we got a few tiny, if unspeakably hideous, extraplanar beings, and a gaggle of relatively unskilled cult members. Finishing them off took a while because of their sheer numbers, it's true, but not a one of us was ever at serious risk, even the hired hands. I was set to guard the floor with the scrolls, and I did not see even a minute of combat. I would have come to help if called for, but there was simply no need, so I was tasked with making sure it wasn't a clever feint while the real villains snuck in. They never did.

Did the cultists not come in full force? Are their masters still out in the city, thinking their participation was unnecessary? Some of the cultists remain alive, so we will interrogate them when we can.

Meanwhile three scrolls of True Resurrection sit in a box behind traps I know how to deactivate, and Audrahni is still dead.

And yet.

I don't think I can bring myself to do it. I don't think SHE would like it, if I did it that way. I will find her. But I don't think this is the way.

Moral growth is hard, if that is what this is. "Don't eat people anymore" was a relatively simple decision. This one is more complicated.


Of course there had to be more qlippoths. First the one in the Gecko, now these cat-like absurdities here in Riddleport. Given how rare qlippoth sightings are, we can only suppose that this cult is somehow in league with them. I do not like it in the least. I would rather fight demons and devils — at least they remain relatable to some degree, however small. Qlippoths are completely alien, their very existence an affront to the civilized mind.

The night-time raids of the Hounds of TIndalos are escalating in frequency and severity. I am suspicious about the claims that they need corners in which to manifest. If we sleep in round chambers from now on, will they not simply appear in a corner of another nearby building and make their way to us? If not even time is an obstacle to them, why would a little bit of space be?

In better news, former waylayer Lullaby Vancaskerkin has proven surprisingly brave in the defense of the Zincher mansion under the onslaught of a veritable host of mad cultitst and qlippoths. I will have to apologize to her for my distrust.


Dear Diary:

Audrahni is still dead.

For once, however, I am starting to have hope that this may not be a permanent condition.

...

...

It turns out I spoke too soon about the ease with which we defeated the cultists. That was only the first wave, meant to distract us or cause us to commit our resources to the wrong battlefield. Soon a second wave emerged which would prove to be a much greater challenge.

While more cultists engaged my friends on the ground floor, another set gained access to the top floor I had been set to guard. And this group came more prepared; they were muffled by a silence spell, which negated many of my best tactics and periodically cut us off from magical communication with the rest of the group. They were accompanied by a larger qlippoth of greater might and horror. And, I would later learn, behind them came a priestess of Yamasoth who was the leader of their group.

The sight of the qlippoth reduced half the guards to vomiting nausea, and then it filled the hallway with a deadly fog of acid, forcing us to retreat back to the antechamber to Zincher's bedroom. Two guards, the house captain, and myself entered that room. I would be the only one to leave it alive.

From what I understand, after having forced us to retreat, the qlippoth transported itself downstairs and assaulted my comrades, soon joined by another of the same breed. It wrought grievous damage against them, unleashing another cloud of acid fog upon the lower floor, and with its savage mouths brought Akkumsah close to death -- although she would come closer still later.

On the upper floor, the guard who wasn't nauseated and I took the front line to protect the helpless guards behind us. He did brave work, decapitating a cultist with a single mighty blow of his guisarme. But then their priestess followed after, and with a single spell dropped the guard into a pit that swallowed him like a hungry maw. I tried to put her out of action with a spell of Terrible Remorse, but she shrugged it off. Demanding to know where the scrolls of true resurrection were, she sealed us in the room with a wall of stone.

Meanwhile, downstairs, the cultists and one qlippoth had been slain but the other damaged Akkumsah so badly that she was forced to flee up the stairs -- only to meet the same qlippoth at the top, transported through magic! As Akkumsah fled back down, Wind and Azriel came up to the top floor and fought a cultist in the acid fog.

In Zincher's rooms, the priestess and I engaged in a deadly one on one battle. She summoned the energies of her vile deity -- which slew the remaining guards in the room -- and threw spell after spell at me, opening spiked pits and eventually silencing me once again. I evaded her magic with a potion of invisibility and another of levitation that let me escape the pits, and managed to tag her with a few notes of deadly sound.

Meanwhile, Akkumsah tried to open a window to use magic to whisk herself away, but the qlippoth caught up with her and felled her, unconscious and within inches of death.

As I floated out of a pit, Azriel used a curious druidic ability to walk through houseplants to enter the room in the form of an earth elemental ... and promptly fell into a pit. But he soon turned into an air elemental and flew out, having suffered only minor harm. The priestess threw some kind of blight at us, but being designed to slay the good, it did us little damage (Azriel and I remain neutrals in the great war of good vs. evil.) Being silenced at this point, I had few options available, so I leapt upon Zincher's bed and activated the trap which filled the rest of the room with poison arrows. They

somehow all managed to miss her entirely but then time jumped and they

struck her flesh, which did not kill her but damaged her enough that she elected to flee with a Word of Recall, never having found the secret room with the scrolls.

Stepping out of the silenced region, I checked in with everyone, and heard back from all except Akkumsah, who last we heard had been fleeing from a qlippoth a floor below. We used a scroll of Dimension Door to travel down and found the monster carrying our unconscious friend away (to implant eggs, perhaps?) I was able to heal Akkumsah back to consciousness, but then the monster's horrific nature overwhelmed me and I could do little but inspire the others.

However, between Lullaby Vancaskerkin and myself providing inspiration, first Azriel, and then after some healing Akkumsah, managed to bring the monster down.

Our group survived, albeit Akkumsah only by the grace of the gods. Half of Zincher's original guards died in the battle.

The place was a terrible mess.

When Zincher came back, he was horrified by the savagery of the assault, but relieved that both his beloved axebeaks and his scrolls remained untouched. In gratitude for our help, he gave us one of the scolls and some magic weapons that had been used in his arena.

That led me to a conversation with the rest of the group. I pled with them to use the scroll to resurrect Audrahni, arguing that if we kept her with us she might be safe from further time slips. They made a convincing argument, however, that while they were willing to use the scroll this way, now was not the time; bringing her back to travel with us when we face such danger would likely only lead to her death again. Looking around the wreckage, it was difficult to argue. We agreed that once we had defeated the ultimate cause of the danger we found ourselves repeatedly facing, we would bring her back.

So Audrahni is still dead.

But there is hope.

We spent the rest of the night getting drunk with Lullaby. Afterwards, we decamped to the wilderness, where we hoped the Hounds of Tindalos could not find us. But strange events continued to follow us, as i will relate soon ...


Dear Diary:

(Audrahni is still dead.)

As we camped on the Storval Plateau, where Azriel had brought us with mighty magics, we experienced two visitations.

The first was from a woman with an hourglass who said she hailed from Sthethos -- a time traveller who had met us before in her past, which is to say our future (time travel is confusing.) Time froze except for her and ourselves when she arrived. She said she would meet us again, if we lived, and warned that we had attracted the attention of time's guardians and predators. She left us with gifts; not physical objects, but an increase of our personal power.

The second was a sending from Sorshen, who told us where to meet her in Korvosa. A meeting with a Runelord -- no small thing!

When we arrived in Korvosa, a festival was underway, celebrating the death of the evil queen who had seized power there a decade or so before. We met Sorshen at the base of what was once a great statue -- of her -- but now only a foot remained. I cannot help but think that the meeting place was chosen as an unsubtle reminder of her might.

I will be frank. I do not trust Sorshen entirely. I am dubious of the plans she mentioned to found a nation of "New Thassilon". (Where will this nation be? What will those who already inhabit the area have to say about it? Why should we believe she will do any better than her first cruel rule?) And she at times seemed disdainful of modern life, at one point bemoaning the lack of mint-soaked napkins for her fingers.

Nonetheless, I do believe that her enemies are also our enemies, and she has proven to be a fount of useful information on that subject. I do not need to trust her entirely to consider her an ally, and a supremely valuable one at that. At least for now. Later, we will see if her ultimate plans are malevolent or benign.

As we took in the sights of the festival, she revealed that she, too had been attacked by the Order of the Phoenix, and that the cult of Yamasoth was likely allied with Alaznist. She said that other than Karzoug (truly dead) and Belimarius (not a threat for some reason -- uninterested?), all the other Runelords might return, and soon. We traded theories that Alaznist might be behind the changes to the timeline, and when we described the scepter from our vision she worried it might be the "Scepter of Ages" -- apparently very bad news if Alaznist has her hands on it. She thought the titanic monster that had been predicted sounded like the Oliphaunt of Jandelay, and that if so, its entry into Golarion would be a disaster of unimaginable scale.

By far the most useful information she has given us thus far, though, has been about the potential return of the gluttonous and undead Runelord Zutha. The Book of Bones, a third of his phylactery, is now in the hands of one Erigantus of the Brotherhood of the Seal in Kaer Maga. But if we go to the Shrine of the Seal and obtain the book before he enacts whatever plans he has for it, we can take the book to Xin's risen island and use a ritual to bring Zutha a mere third of the way back -- a state in which it will be much easier to slay him than if he comes forth in his full glory.

We took part in the festival a bit while we chatted, seeing the sights and watching a play. I noticed that open performances were allowed, so I took the stage and gave my second public performance, one of the filthy songs Lullaby taught me in Riddleport -- which this time, if I may say so, was extraordinary. 39 on a Perform Sing roll! The audience certainly seemed to enjoy it. I may yet have a post-adventuring career. Azriel participated in a game where he was tasked with pinning a crown on a greased pig. While not as great a grappler as he is in tiger form, he did an admirable job. I won 10 quatloos betting on him. (I am not sure what a quatloo is.)

I fear I must put this diary down for the moment, however, because a Time Flayer has just appeared before us, freezing everyone, including Sorshen, in an instant of time except for myself and my comrades. Time's guardians and predators indeed. It looks like another battle lies before us ...


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Dear Diary:

A correction -- it is the Order of the Peacock, not the Order of the Phoenix.

Harry Potter and his friends have not, to my knowledge, been behind any plots against the Runelord of Lust.


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For those who asked, here is the song Ice performed at the Festival. It is a traditional song of chaotic bards:

Come on Virginia, don't be so strong --
Paladin girls don’t last too long;
You can survive with the sinners or die with the throng,
And sinning’s misunderstood.

So slip out of the armor and into a thong,
Because sooner or later, you’ll do something wrong.
But take off your Symbol and then you’ll belong;
It’s only a piece of wood...
And only the young die good!
That's what I said.
Only the young die good,
Only the young die good.

Well, I’ve heard it before and I know what you’ll say:
‘Lawful good girls don’t swing that way’,
But you won’t miss your mantle and righteous array
When you’ve got a cloak and hood.

You got touched by a god and she told you to pray,
Didn’t do you much good when I locked you away.
So just give it up and renounce Sarenrae;
I’d let you out, if you would.
Darling, only the young die good!
I tell you, only the young die good,
Only the young die good!

I know you must be worried ‘bout your levels and your reputation,
And it wouldn’t be right
If you couldn’t Smite.
But Virginia, they didn't give you quite enough information.
Trade those levels in,
And become an Antipaladin!
Oh, whoa, whoa,

They say there's a Heaven in some Outer Plane;
Some say it's better than eternal pain.
But before the Abyss there's so much that you'll gain
If you stop doing what you should.
And trust me, only the young die good!
I tell you, only the young die good,
Only the young die good!

Well, your goddess told you all that I could give you was a desecration.
But did the Everlight
Ever tell you what goes on at night?

Come on Virginia, don't be so strong --
Paladin girls don’t last too long;
You can survive with the sinners or die with the throng,
And sinning’s misunderstood.
You know that only the young die good!
I'm telling you baby.
You know that only the young die good,
Only the young die good.
Only the young...
Only the young die good.

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