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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    AverageSparrow's Avatar

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    Default The Drouganti Chronicles

    Well, I just started my first campaign and after reading some campaign journals, I thought it might be fun to keep track of what happens in it. The campaign is set in the same world as Doomriders and Adanar by Cometlight, with three of the players from those campaigns returning for this one. Chronologically, the campaign takes place after Doomriders, but before Adanar. It's not necessary to read those campaigns to understand this one, however.

    At this time, the campaign has no official title and no actual plot. Both of these things may change, but we'll see. Okay, let's get to it.

    Spoiler: The Party
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    Aelron Firemind: A fire genasi mage and a priest of the Mother of All Dragons. He has bright red hair that, when touched by sunlight, turns gold. Wears robes in the style of the Ruby Tower (military robes that allow for easy movement), divided in the colors of the other 3 Towers: Sapphire, Emerald, and Diamond. On his belt are three translucent spheres; they are not technically glass, and at the heart of each is a glowing spark; two red, one blue. These are arcane grenades, known as Indar’s Incendiaries. His elemental heritage is such that he can pass for human under most circumstances. Played by Dawnflame.

    Flynn: Connish (human) fighter who specializes in archery. Conns tend to fall along the same lines as the Irish in appearance. He works for a Lady in Drougant. He is slightly above average height, on the slim side of average weight. He has red hair, facial hair somewhere between stubble and a goatee. Overall, it wouldn't take much effort to imagine him or make him look like a thug, but he's cleaned up just enough and dressed just a little too nicely. Played by Cade Rentyr.

    Olaf Hollow-Chest: A Dhar Raider (human). Dhar tend to resemble Vikings if you add some height and girth to them. Olaf is rather short and scrawny for a Dhar. He seeks wisdom so he might earn a two-bladed weapon, which are typically only held by Dhar women. He owes a life-debt to Seeker, and is 1/16th elf. Played by The Wearbear.

    Miaoyu: Human rogue from the ultra-lawful Qen. She is a priestess of Gilgadar, the god of thieves and defying fate, though she does not advertise this – it’s not illegal nor inherently evil, but it is frowned upon. She is short and plain-looking, with typical Qennish (Asian) features. Played by AverageSparrow.

    Seeker: A wolfman (gnoll) mage and priest of Larlon, god of healing, wisdom, and longevity. Although wolfmen are generally seen as evil, he wears the robes and stole of a Purifier of Larlon, and this grants him respect and some trust, and a fair few double-takes. He has pure white fur. He has taken vows against harming creatures in addition to his oaths of office (he’s basically a doctor). Seeker has a real name, but it is unknown to the party. Played by Fayd. Drawing of Seeker here.

    Spoiler: Later Party Members
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    Sir Gavin of Tidehollow: An Aurbeski soldier that joins the party in chapter 21. He is a selkie and a (reluctant) priest of the Ocean Witch. Played by TheWerebear.

    Nüwa: A Qennish mage/rogue who grew up with her mother in the circus and went to the Capitol in search of money. There, she fell in with her uncle's private investigator office. Images of her, courtesy of DollDivine, can be found here and here. Appears in chapters 13 & 14. Played by vulpinedramatist.

    Tsarae: A fighter/rogue cave elf, and Miaoyu's girlfriend and fellow Gilgadarite. Introduced in chapter 18; joins the party in chapter 22 until chapter 30.

    Spoiler: World Notes
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    Spoiler: Maps
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    Spoiler: World Map
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    Because the forum automatically resizes images, the labels on the map became illegible. I typed out the most significant ones. If you want to know more about a particular region, check the Geography notes.

    Spoiler: Map of Drougant
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    Spoiler: Old Drougant City
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    The original scanned image was too faint to make out properly, so I redrew most of it in photoshop.

    Spoiler: Geography
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    This is an overview of countries and continents. It's not comprehensive, but it should at least cover the major regions that will be mentioned in the journal. Many of the countries listed here have a real world counterpart, from which culture and phenotypes are based upon. Argonath is correlated with Ireland, Aurbeski with Germany, Hatalom with Hungary, the !chanar peoples are based on the Zulu, Illians are loosely equivalent to the Italians, and Qen is equivalent to China.

    • Argonath: The southwestern continent and homeland of the Connish people, and host of the Tentacled Jungle. Conns have a reputation for being skilled at deception.
    • Aurbesk: A country in southeastern Illias. It was once larger, but due to the events of a previous campaign, a large portion of it sank underwater.
    • Berengia: The easternmost continent, where the countries of Adanar and Udanar lie. Homeland to the Dhar and !chanar. Dhars are infamous for their raiding and pillaging have spread all over their neighboring continent of Illias. The !chanar are still waging the First Faerie War.
    • Drougant: The western neighbor of Aurbesk. It is notorious for its civil wars and short-lived dynasties. The campaign begins here.
    • Hatalom/Lovas Kingdom: The Lovas were once nomads who have since made their home in the northern corner of Illias. They are known to be the best horsemen in the world.
    • Illias: While Illias technically only one country in the eastern corner of the northernmost continent, the entire continent is referred to as Illias. In the past, their empire ruled a third of the world, but has since fallen. Illias is the origin place of the Huroc, a cult of Kurush who believe that civilization is weak.
    • Kadarash: A country that sprung up during slave trade between the Varaz and Illian empires. The Kadarashi are descendants of slaves and have turned away from the gods, who they view as uncaring, and have instead taken to worshiping beast totems.
    • The Peri Isles: An archipelago in the southeastern sea. The Peri are notoriously lazy and infamous for their hallucinogenic flora.
    • Qen: The southeastern continent and longest-standing empire in the world. The Qennish people are notoriously law-abiding and conservative.
    • Varaz: The Varaz were once an empire that stretched over northern Illias. They were eventually brought down by a dracolich, Azurebones.

    Spoiler: Races
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    • Beastfolk are humanoid creatures with animalistic features. Most beastfolk were made by the gods with spare parts left lying around. Although there is a large variety of beastfolk, the prominent ones are boarfolk (similar to orcs) and attercops (spider people, similar to ettercaps or chitines). The exception is wolfmen, who were once male elves. Who cursed them and why is a mystery, and these days they carry a bad reputation of stalking elves.
    • Dwarves are similar to most interpretations of their species, but a little more… insane. They’ve been described as ‘dwarf fortress’ dwarves.
    • Elves are now an all-female race since the males have been cursed to live as wolfmen. Most elves have a strained relationship with their male counterparts since they’re not big fans of being stalked and kidnapped, and these days mostly pair with humans. Only two subraces of elves exist that foster a positive relationship with wolfmen: cave elves and low elves. Both are noted to live in harsh environs: the Underdark and Tentacled Jungle, respectively. Drow elves have taken to genetically engineering their males so that they still resemble elves, although their success has only been partial.
    • Hobgoblins are foot soldiers for the fey and are a mix of elf and dwarf blood. They determine hierarchy by skin color, with yellow-skinned hobgoblins being the lowest ranking and red-skinned hobgoblins being the highest ranking.
    • Humans, of course. There are a great variety of human cultures. See the Countries section for more information.

    Spoiler: Religion
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    Listed here are the most prominent gods and goddesses in the setting. It is by no stretch a complete list.

    Spoiler: Laerosian Pantheon
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    Most sovereign nations follow the Laerosian pantheon, and it’s about as close to an ‘orthodox’ church as you’ll get. They are opposed to the Kingdom of Hell, though more for political reasons than moral ones--Nunatii wishes to displace Laeros.

    • Brigii: Goddess of fire, horses, loyalty and speed. Her priests, the Roan Riders, deliver messages. Married to Turmlar, sister (and one-time lover) to Farkas.
    • Laeros: God of civilization, humanity, nobility and order. The central god of this pantheon. For a nation to be recognized by other powers, it often needs the blessing of Laeros. Married to Rihissa and Sanselie.
    • Larlon: God of healing, life, longevity and wisdom. Husband to the Mother of All Dragons; formerly wed to Igela.
    • Rihissa: Goddess of punishment and revenge. Married to Laeros, sister to Sanselie.
    • Sanselie: Goddess of maps, strategy, tactics and vigilance. Married to Laeros, sister to Rihissa.
    • Turmlar: God of courage, knighthood, obedience and valor. Married to Brigii, brother to Nunatii.
    • Ylsilar: God of betrayal, libraries, madness and poison. Son of Tykanria and Ashur.

    Spoiler: Femtan Pantheon
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    The second-most popular religion is the Femtan religion, followed mostly by dwarves, though not exclusively. Worship of the Femtan pantheon and the Laerosian pantheon overlaps greatly.

    • Femta: Goddess of creation, magical craftsmanship, mining and smithwork. Mother to Olanorn, Phoraduk, and Waerdun. Estranged wife of Gilgadar.
    • Olanorn: God of battle and home defense.
    • Phoraduk: God of death.
    • Waerdun: God of commerce, labor, travel and wealth.

    Spoiler: Elementalism and Druidism
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    • The Lady of Lightning: Goddess of lightning and self-determination. Does not recognize herself as a goddess and does not grant spells to her priests.
    • Lo-Tenger: God of the seas and earthquakes.
    • The Mother of All Dragons: Goddess of dragons, art, and natural beauty. Married to Larlon.
    • Tykanria: Goddess of darkness, secrets, and lies. Patron goddess to elves. Sister to Igela and one of her killers; mother to Ylsilar.

    Spoiler: The Fey Courts
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    • The Bright Queen: The Seelie queen and goddess of love.
    • The Dark Queen: The Unseelie queen and goddess of vanity and illusions.
    • The Ocean Witch: Seelie goddess of the oceans.
    • The Princess of Spiders: Unseelie goddess of spiders.

    Spoiler: The Beast Lords
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    • Ashur: God of slaughter and predatory undead. Revered by cannibals.
    • Farkas: God of wolves, cold, and assassination. Patron god to the wolfmen. Brother (and obsessive stalker) to Brigii.
    • Kurush: God of might and sunlight. Patron god to the Huroc.

    Spoiler: Others
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    • Gilgadar: God of thieves, luck, gambling, and defying fate. Estranged husband to Femta.
    • Nunatii: The King of Hell. Seeks to overthrow Laeros. Brother to Turmlar.

    Spoiler: Deceased Gods
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    • Igela: Goddess of magic. Slain by the Dark Queen and Tykanria, her sister.
    • The Iron Lord: God of iron and vengeance against the fey. Slain by mortals.
    • Seseg: God of the sun and dragonslaying. Murdered by Ashur and Kurush.

    Spoiler: Non-deific Faiths
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    • Church of the Perfected Self: Benign meditative monastic atheism, geared towards transcendence.
    • The Peri Ideals: Benign social atheism. There are three ideals: Health, Hope and Love, which should be balanced against each other.

    Spoiler: Mechanical Notes
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    The system we use is a homebrew made by Tam O'Connor and is constantly being updated and altered, although large overhauls usually don't happen until the party has reached the next level. What's covered here is only what is likely to remain true throughout all incarnations of the system.

    There are only three classes: fighter, rogue, and mage, and they can all be multiclassed. Each class has a set of skills unique to them, and there are four skill levels: non-proficient (no ranks), proficient (one rank), specialized (two ranks), and mastery (three ranks). While anyone can put skill points in any skill, the skill can only be 'mastered' if the skill is a general skill or if it belongs to their class. However, skills can only be mastered from third level and on. For example, a mage can put ranks in stealth, but can never master it. Conversely, both a fighter and a mage could master lore, because it is a general skill. Fighters have a unique relationship with skills. As they progress in ability with their chosen weapon focus, they may also choose a trade that reflects their approach to combat and it will progress alongside their weapon skill, with no additional cost in skill points.

    One of the general skills (that is, a skill that anyone can master) is Initiate of x. This is, effectively, our cleric 'class'. Once a person choses a god, meets the requirements of becoming their priest, and begins putting ranks into Initiate, they gain access to spells unique to their god, and also gain their divine favor. To learn a little more about divine magic and divine favor and disfavor, see Dawnflame's post on the matter.

    Another feature of the system are traits, which are roughly half as powerful as feats. These traits fall under several different groupings including racial, combat paradigm, general, and heritage. Racial traits are what you would assume: things that most people are born with, or at least have absorbed from their culture. Combat paradigms are meant to make things more interesting on the battlefield, heritage traits often tie back to one's specific bloodline or backstory, and general traits are everything else.
    Last edited by AverageSparrow; 2014-08-18 at 07:39 AM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    AverageSparrow's Avatar

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    Default Table of Contents

    Spoiler: Part One
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    Spoiler: Chapter 1: I Exist to PUNish
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    Near the beginning of the spring of year 876, five travelers enter a tiny village in Drougant. The region itself is in constant upheaval as sworn fealty is to an individual, but not to their successors or higher-ups. The village consists of about seven to ten town houses and has no inn. Asking about gets several different answers as to the village’s name: “The Village”, “Here”, “Name?”, and “Rustplow”.

    The villagers immediately approach Seeker despite the fact that he is a seven foot tall wolfman; he wears the robes of a Purifier, a priest of Larlon, god of healing, longevity, and wisdom. Purifiers are renowned for their healing abilities. The villagers ask for his aid in healing minor injuries, tell him where to find the local herbalist, and the like. He is eventually led to a house where one man was kicked by a cow and broke his floating rib, lodging it under his other ribs and dangerously close to puncturing a lung. Olaf, Seeker’s companion and bodyguard, gets bored and starts a small campfire near the house, and begins to warm a pastie, balancing it on his bronze dagger.

    Aelron becomes curious about local lore and sits down with a couple of elderly folks, who tell him the history of the town and how it earned its official name: Rustplow. They were, apparently, originally a farming community, but in a local scuffle a while ago, leadership of the barony and the county changed hands and they were told to raise cattle (a lot of cattle) instead and their plows were left to rust. It's not a thrilling story. He is in the area looking for magical components and the like, and the town is rather close to the Corpse Copse, a rather distressingly-named forest. Eventually, he makes his way into the hut where Seeker is working, and as he has some healing powers himself, he offers to help; his spells allow Seeker to move the rib a little more forcefully than he could have ordinarily, speeding up the procedure.

    Flynn has been sent to find a tin’s worth of the ground bones of an undead creature. He has entered the town with the intention of heading to Corpse Copse to the north, where, shockingly, there have been rumors of the undead. He sets about looking for a healer to aid him in his travels and hunt and when seeing this hubbub developing around a single hut, decides to investigate. Flynn finds Seeker and Aelron and watches, but is kicked out due to his snarky remarks and ribbing. His puns were getting distracting.

    Miaoyu, bored and looking for a bit of work, uses her Locate Object spell – one she receives from Gilgadar, but passes off as a bit of arcane magic – to help a farmer find a bull that ran off by focusing on its collar. In her head Gilgadar quips, “Yes, I found the bull. What do you want me to look for next? Bull****? There’s plenty of that around here too!” She eventually finds it trapped under a collapsed tree, which is far too heavy to lift by herself. The angry bull is also a bit discouraging. She returns to town and stumbles across Olaf. She asks him for his help, which he agrees to at the price of five Luna (silver coins; a bit foolish on my part; one silver is standard pay for a day’s work, but the DM was in the other room when we were doing this and I got cheated). Olaf binds the bull’s legs and lifts the tree, setting it safely aside. He wishes Miaoyu good luck in untying an angry bull. Miaoyu shrugs, leaves the bull bound, and returns to the farmer, tells him where it is and that it’s tied up at the moment but safe, and she breaks even on her venture. Olaf follows her around, for lack of anything better to do, and asks her if she does anything besides find bulls. She quips that it’s her life passion. (Olaf makes a detect sarcasm save - and passes!)

    They return to the house where Seeker, Aelron, and Flynn have gathered; Seeker and Aelron successfully manage to put the rib back into place. Seeker advises the man to be careful with the rib. “Don’t breathe too hard for a couple of weeks.” Seeker is rewarded by the man’s wife with a package of foods: meats, spices, and vegetables, perfect for a stew. Aelron similarly receives a loaf of freshly baked bread.

    The five greet each other and introduce themselves, and Flynn asks if they would be interested in helping him find the undead. Seeker agrees almost immediately, wishing to stem any diseases that undead tend to spread, and Olaf and Miaoyu perk up when they’re told that undead bone powder (and other remains) fetch a nice price. Olaf suggest that they do an “elder brother share”, splitting it equally, and they agree. Olaf scoffs, “I don’t fear the dead; they simply need to be reminded.”

    The group makes camp at the edge of the village, and Olaf offers to make stew, which Seeker remarks is fabulous. Flynn says, “Let’s stew it!”, to the dismay and anger of every one but Miaoyu, who is fascinated by puns outside of her native language. (Miaoyu hates puns as much as anyone else in Qennish, but in any other language she finds them clever.)

    As they make camp, Miaoyu notices that Seeker has no tent, only a bedroll, and comments that he’s going to get fleas, to which he counters that his robes are enchanted to never get soiled and certainly not allow fleas. Aelron prestidigates fleas of off himself and begins to shoot at the fleas with magic for practice. Olaf demands to know if Aelron can fight, to which he responds by calling his staff to him from the opposite side of the camp and releasing a bolt of fire. He then asks Miaoyu and Flynn if they can fight, and seems unimpressed by Miaoyu’s response of, “I have a crossbow. And daggers.”

    Olaf finishes the soup and the group eats. During dinner, Olaf shares how he earned the name Hollow-Chest. Some time ago, he was in a battle that left him stranded and he was hit with a spear to the chest. Somehow, it missed anything critical and he survived. (Seeker tells a slightly different story: the spear hit Olaf’s lung, and he healed it. The finer points, however, are hardly important.)

    After, Olaf wants to spar, but Flynn declines, even after Seeker mentions that Olaf tends to get bored easily. Miaoyu, miffed about his attitude regarding her crossbow, suggests that they play a game: she shoots the crossbow at him, and he tries to dodge. He agrees and grabs his shield for blocking, rather than dodging, starting off at 100 feet away. Miaoyu fires off her crossbow carelessly and goes a little wide, though Olaf manages to catch the bolt with his shield. Olaf taunts, “I bet you can’t hit me before I get to you,” as he approaches, and Miaoyu becomes focused at the challenge. Their game finally catches the attention of Aelron and Seeker, who seem mortified. (“Oh, there’s no way that could end badly.”) Seeker prepares a healing spell, which thankfully for Olaf is unneeded. The townspeople have noticed the game too, and have taken to watching the small entertainment. After a couple more misses, Aelron casts a spell about Olaf to catch any stray bolts, mitigating harm to any bystanders. Finally, Miaoyu manages to hit Olaf squarely, but shallowly, in the chest. Olaf insists that she didn’t play fair, but returns the bolt.

    Wishing to further amuse the townsfolk, Seeker and Aelron begin a non-lethal dual. Aelron begins by casting sparkling rockets that fly about; Seeker’s ward blocks the rockets from the front, but not from the ones that fly around the back, singeing him. Aelron then attempts another spell, but Seeker intervenes and dispels it into a fizzle. Aelron sends a path of frost towards Seeker, which steadily grows into spikes as it approaches him. Seeker is so impressed that he manages to comment on how cool it is, before being struck in the chin. Aelron then casts a fireball, but it bounces off of Seeker’s ward and up into the sky before falling upon them both in a shower of sparks. Aelron wins the battle by casting a gust of wind, which pushes Seeker back several feet. The commoners applaud, and shortly later night falls and the townspeople return to their homes.

    As they settle down for the night, the group hears marching approaching the village. Olaf pulls off his cloak and snuffs the fire with it, fearing they are raiders of some sort. (Considering he is one himself, perhaps it is not completely unfounded). Seeker points out that the army may be passing through with no intention of harming anyone, and Miaoyu says that she was trained as a scout, and offers to investigate. Aelron casts Acute Senses on her to aid her vision in the dark. She crests the hill they are camped under and finds a bush to hide behind while observing. She checks her Imperial Blessing – a ‘blessing’ on every Qennish person to know when they are about to break a law – to see if it is illegal for her to observe these people undetected. ‘No crimes are being committed at this time. You are still wanted for…’ She tunes the long list out. She sees about twenty troops arranged in columns, with an insignia of a yellow four leafed plant or tool on a green background.

    Spoiler
    Show

    Obviously, the insignia that Miaoyu sees lacks a convenient label.


    She is unfamiliar with the insignias associated with the area, and returns to the group, describing it. Flynn, from a nearby county, confirms that it is the symbol of Forscyth, which technically rules the area, but Drougant is in tumult regarding rulership almost perpetually. Flynn and Olaf both hide, while Aelron and Seeker go to alert the village’s authority; Miaoyu follows behind in the shadows. Aelron and Seeker notice that the village leaders seem anxious, but not afraid. Satisfied, they return to camp.

    The commanding officer speaks with the leaders and the conversation remains polite. Houses in the village are searched, and Miaoyu remains in the village, hidden in the shadows with her crossbow should any fights break out. The commanding officer approaches Aelron and Seeker at camp, asking them what they are doing. Aelron tells him they’re only passing through to Corpse Copse, and the officer warns him, “Don’t want to go into there: bad country.” Aelron quips, “I’m a bad man,” which lands him in a bit of trouble and gets a lecture from the officer. The officer notices Flynn’s horse and asks if it’s Aelron’s, to which he replies no, tipping the officer off that he has more companions. (Seeker is far too big to need a horse. Or fit on one.) Flynn returns just then, acting as if he was in the bathroom. He gets the same warning of Corpse Copse as Aelron, and the officer suggests that Seeker visit his men before finally leaving.

    Olaf has wrapped himself in his cloak and spent some time pretending to be a rock, but when it becomes clear that the soldiers will be spending the night in Rustplow, he slinks further into the shadows after grabbing his bedroll. Miaoyu, satisfied that the soldiers won’t be attacking the villagers, returns to camp. Seeker and Aelron, meanwhile head down to see to the soldiers, Aelron specifically because he wants to get on the officer’s good side. The wounds are fairly minor, and Aelron is able to treat most of them, aside from a handful of cases of “cantering groin rot”, which Seeker easily cures with his god’s power. Seeker gathers up the soldiers who were afflicted and gives a lecture on how to avoid such a problem in the future for a good long while.

    The next morning, they wake before dawn to avoid the soldiers, enjoy a breakfast of re-heated stew, and walk most of the day. Although the humans are walking briskly (or on a horse, in the case of Flynn) it’s a merely leisurely stroll for Seeker, who stops to enjoy the flowers and scenery. Flynn’s horse licks at him a few times; his robes are enchanted to smell of an elven flower. This reaction is… rather unusual. His horse doesn’t tend to enjoy the company of dogs, let alone seven-foot tall wolfmen.

    Eventually, the group spots the border crossing between Claque and Forscyth. Miaoyu’s Imperial Blessing pings when they avoid it, and Olaf asks if it’s illegal to impersonate a member of the Purifiers; he wants to hide his Dhar heritage while around the Drouganti and has noticed that Seeker basically has carte blanche to travel. Miaoyu concentrates on doing such a thing, to which her Imperial Blessing responds, ‘Impersonating a member of clergy of an approved faith is illegal. Unapproved faiths include the Kingdoms of Hell, the Beast Lords, or being an Agent of a Fae Court.’ They decide to forgo that strategy and move on into the forest and ignore the checkpoint; it’s a fairly minor violation all things considered.

    They notice that animal life has become scarce and Olaf suggests finding a barrow of undead to kill. Aelron, as a Priest of the Mother of All Dragons, attempts to determine if there is a dragon in the forest but is still too far out to perform a Draconic Introduction, one of the spells his deity grants. However, as the trees are alive and as dragons tend to be proponents of life, they can determine that the dragon itself, if present, is not undead; in fact, if there were no dragon at all, the situation would likely be much worse.

    To aid their search for undead, Miaoyu attempts a Locate Object on eaten bones – for human deers. (DM: “What kind of eaten bones? Human, deer…?” Me: “Yes. A human deer.”) Gilgadar is puzzled but curious about the request and locates one on the opposite side of the mountain range. He asks if she meant to put a comma in there. Miaoyu notes her discovery to her companions, but they seem uninterested and she amends her search to the eaten bones of humans and gets a ping nearby. At the same time, Olaf notices some humanoid tracks leading in the same direction as the bones, and we follow them. Olaf prepares for battle and bangs his sword on his shield while shouting challenges in hopes of attracting undead. Along the way, he notices torn leather on a thorny bush, and notes it’s not hardened, and thus is fairly recent. Seeker detects a bit of sweat on it, but it’s too old and used to determine whether the sweat was from exertion or fear.

    The trail eventually leads to the bone pile in a gully. Olaf finds some torn clothes, a broken spear, and a coin purse with a few Luna. Seeker determines the body belonged to a young man in his late teens or early twenties and died from trauma to the head and collarbone. He draws upon the orison of Phoraduk, god of Death and Dreams, Detect Life, just in case, and determines that he’s definitely dead. Seeker says a few words for the dead man.

    They decide to make camp outside of the woods and prepare for a possible attack by the undead. Olaf begins speaking in broken elvish to throw off any eavesdroppers. Seeker understands his plans, but Flynn and Aelron are mostly lost. Miaoyu understands elvish, but only to the extent that she needed to while coordinating with her previous travelling companion. So for this conversation, a surprising amount: when Olaf mentions killing the undead, she agrees emphatically.

    After Aelron points out that the undead aren’t likely to comprehend them anyway, everyone switches back to the local dialect and they hash out a plan. Olaf finds a sturdy but dead tree and brings it to the campsite. He places it at the front of the camp, facing the treeline, and digs a trench just past it, filling it with Miaoyu’s caltrops, forcing any attackers to either jump over it and injure themselves, or go around it. They leave choke points and protect the sides of the camp with some gathered brush, with the intention of setting them afire when the undead attempt to go through them. Finally, in back, they leave a collection of twigs and leaves to alert the group to any attempts to ambush from behind. Miaoyu mentions that although she isn’t sure how much the undead rely on eyesight, she can cast a spell to call up some mist if need be to give them cover for their escape, should it come to that. Seeker realizes that Locate Object and Obscuring Mists are spells that a priest of Gilgadar would have, but he cannot be certain as they are certainly other possible explanations for her abilities.

    Flynn mounts his horse and takes up position in the rear. Miaoyu stays at one chokepoint, with Aelron at the other; he gives her one of the Incendiaries on his belt to ignite the brush. Olaf stands at the edge of the pit, ready to finish off any undead that might jump the log, and Seeker stands in the middle of everyone to provide quick and easy assistance to any who get injured. Aelron casts Acute Senses on Miaoyu once again so she can see in the dark.

    As the last bit of daylight disappears, the group notices four ghouls attempting to conceal themselves at the edge of the treeline. They’re humanlike in body structure, but slink about on all fours (not unlike Gollum). Their skin is dry and pulled taught along their body, and they wear no clothes. They have, as near as the group can tell, absolutely no extraneous flesh.

    The ghouls, however, do not attack. Instead, they wait and the entire group gets a sense that they are being hunted. The feeling is to get unnerving. Six minutes later, the ghouls begin to make unintelligible chattering sounds and scrape their nails together, making a metallic noise. The party realizes they’re sharpening their nails. Finally, the ghouls charge.

    Aelron casts a spell called Friendly Wind to aid Miaoyu’s crossbow, and Seeker preps a spell. The spell gives his allies additional range on their ranged attacks, and can be controlled later to perform other functions. Miaoyu fires her first shot and hits one ghoul right in the eye. It falls over, twitching. Flynn then attacks, raising his hand in a pointing gesture at one of the charging ghouls, yells “Bang!” and a ghoul falls over, twitching. He summoned an Eldritch Heavy Crossbow, and solidly hits another ghoul as it crosses the stream.

    Seeker drops his widened Circle of Protection just as a ghoul approaches the log and Olaf, too eager to wait, jumps over the log, and onto the ghoul, both his swords impaling the ghoul and pinning it to the ground. If he fiddles with the swords a bit, he can make the ghoul move!

    Miaoyu dashes to a better angle to shoot the last ghoul and the force of her bolt takes its head clean off (critical hit!), and Flynn does his special trick again, this time creating an Eldritch Longbow, and his arrow flies just behind hers, pinning the head to the ground. The group looks about, but cannot see any more ghouls, and Olaf sets about collecting the bodies and depositing them at the campsite. Flynn fires off several more blasts from his…hands? Bow? … into the heads, torsos, and limbs of each ghoul, taking no chances. Everyone but Olaf asks him about his bow and how he can summon it. “I don’t honestly know,” he says. Miaoyu announces that someday, she’ll find a way to do that too (which will likely happen, as I plan to eventually take the feat that makes her capable of it as well). “You act like you’ve never seen an energy weapon before,” Olaf chuckles. (“I haven’t either,” he adds, “but killing is killing.”) Aelron in particular is keen to learn about this technique, and presses for more detail; Flynn’s only answer is that it was “The first of many errands.”

    Miaoyu inspects the ghouls’ hands, finding that not only are the claws metal, but that they extend to the metacarpals, about halfway up the hand. She cuts one hand off of a ghoul with the intention of having it fashioned into a weapon and notices that after the metacarpals, there are no bones in the hand. She shows it to Seeker and Aelron, and they inspect the hand. Seeker detects a bit of magic in the hand, but it is fading. Aelron considers attempting to preserve the magic, but it would require Onyx Tower magic, which is illegal. (‘Warning: The use of necromancy is illegal.’)

    Olaf insists on rites for the ghouls and after a bit of resistance from Flynn and Miaoyu, Seeker complies and performs a quick, simple prayer. Olaf moves the bodies to outside of camp and begins to debone them. He begins to sing, “Your thigh bone is connected to your hip bone, *rip* your hip bone is connected to you back bone *rip*…” in Dhar.

    Seeker is rather off-put by the anatomy of the Ghouls. Olaf doesn’t notice anything wrong, but… these creatures, skeletally speaking are stick figures (no visible joints, the radius and ulna are completely fused, and bones are the wrong lengths) and have only one internal organ: the stomach. These creatures are horrifying on a number of levels.

    Once finished, Olaf asks Miaoyu if she still has the Incendiary so he can set the boneless carcasses on fire. The group points out that would be excessive, and Aelron asks Miaoyu for the Incendiary back. Miaoyu stammers that she doesn’t have it anymore, but after an unamused glare from Aelron, she sheepishly returns it to its owner. Olaf takes another look at the skins and realizes that they are very thick. He decides to keep the ghoul skin to sell to a tanner when he reaches the next town. He also takes one of the hands as a trophy, but no one has a nail for him to hang it on his shield. Wishing to wash after the messy business of deboning, Olaf has Seeker use his robe’s ability to disinfect whatever he touches before cleaning up in the stream. The companions all go to bed, with Olaf taking the first watch, and the night passes uneventfully.
    Chapter 2: The Well-Hung Trees
    Chapter 3: Reply Hazy, Try Again Later
    Chapter 4: Ruminatrix Reloaded
    Chapter 5: I <3 NDC or Thesauri Magnus Extinctum
    Chapter 6: Bush-whacked. Also, Bush-stabbed.
    Chapter 7: The C*ckblock of Destiny
    Chapter 8: CAPital Offense
    Chapter 9: Dangerous Loonies or Three Rules
    Chapter 10: Metaphorgotten



    Part Four
    Chapter 22: The Return of Hollowchest
    Chapter 23: Gob-dammit
    Chapter 24: ArachNOphobia
    Chapter 25: Don’t Taunt the Vampire Necromancer Werewolf
    Chapter 26: Textual Tension
    Chapter 27: My Big Fat Aurbeski Wedding
    Chapter 28: ArachNOphobia: Reprise
    Chapter 29: Bigby’s Aggressive Plot Hook
    Chapter 30: Dead Ends
    Chapter 31: Dunderheads and Dragons
    Last edited by AverageSparrow; 2014-09-01 at 08:42 PM.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    As one of the players, I can say I am excited for seeing where this goes!
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    As a person who has played in this universe, I'm also looking forward to seeing where this nonsense goes. :P
    Avatar generously donated by Feichi... wait.

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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Looking good Sparrow!

    For everyone else, she forgot to mention that Miaoyu got BOTH of the only crits of the session --that 'square hit' she got on Olaf? Yeah, that was a nat 20 to hit and a nat 1 for damage, a cherry tap perfectly timed right when his taunting got the most obnoxious. Flynn was too lazy to participate in any of those shenanigans but he (and I) was impressed.

    That second crit on the last ghoul was just as amusing. My (Flynn's) shot only managed to turn the head she tore off into a projectile of its own --which our aiding wind spell faithfully carried almost all the way back into the forest.

    In Adanar and especially back in Doomriders we developed a pattern of our lady players being crit-happy, especially when vengefully appropriate. Nice to see the trend living on.
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    by Ms. Nobodyby Herpestidae

    Profile avatar of Gav Jagger, swashbuckler in Adanar by Cometlight, by Starwoof.
    Sig avatars of Cade Rentyr courtesy of Ms. Nobody and Herpestidae respectively.
    Thank 'ee each in turn.

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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    And as the player behind Aelron, I can say I'm also excited to see the record unfold! I'm new to this group and to the world, but I've heard much about it and looking forward to getting to help shape it.

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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    I admit it, Olaf deserved that crossbow bolt. It was perfect.
    Quote Originally Posted by Terraneaux View Post
    Adventurers. Murderous hobos with near-deific power who are both merciless and incredibly competent at personal combat.
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Ooh, aah...

    Watching with interest! This journal seems entertaining and terribly well written so far, and if it's anything like Doomriders I'm sure it'll turn out riveting.
    If I had a +1 Pan of Frying I could totally do that!

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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Distinction between Arcane and Divine Magic:
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    In the Drouganti Chronicles, we are using a custom homebrew system that makes spells (as distinct from magic which is yet more broad but not the topic of discussion today) a little more accessible for ordinarily non-magical characters. One of the primary methods comes from the distinction between Arcane and Divine magic. Our system has three classes: Fighter, Mage, and Rogue. You will notice: no cleric. This is, in part, because “cleric” is more a societal role than an active combat role. Mages (and to a lesser extent rogues and fighters who have invested for it) sling around Arcane Spells.

    Anyone who has invested Skill Slots in the priestly skill (Initiate of X; one can only be an initiate of one deity, though) has access the Divine Spells that their tier of investment allows: Non-proficient allows for Orisons, Proficient for Blessings, Specialized for Mysteries, and Mastery for Miracles. Divine Spells can be cast without limit on number of times per day, so long as the deity allows the spell to happen. This means that anyone can cast any Orison, so long as one is not out of favor with that deity that grants it. By way of example, Seeker has attained Mastery in Initiate of Larlon, god of healing, longevity, and wisdom, and as such has the ability to cast all of the spells Larlon grants. They are:
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    Age Without Wisdom
    Miracle of Larlon
    The target instantly ages 5d6 years. They suffer all the physical penalties from aging, but gain none of the mental bonuses.

    Cursed Wound
    Mystery of Larlon
    The target cannot benefit from natural healing. They can still be healed with healing spells.

    Diagnosis
    Blessing of Larlon
    The caster discerns in general terms what ails the target. This could be a disease, poison, hit point loss, a curse or any number of other negative effects. This blessing will not discern a cause, only identify symptoms.

    Disease Marker
    Orison of Larlon
    This orison inscribes a faintly glowing broken white disk on the touched object, and is used to denote the possible presence of infectious diseases. Purifiers of Larlon can sense the placement of this orison, to a distance of ten miles.

    Longevity
    Miracle of Larlon
    The target has their physical age reduced by 5d6 years, to a minimum physical age of their physical prime (around 20 for humans and elves, 15 for beastfolk and 30 for dwarves). They do not lose any benefits from aging, but do lose all penalties.

    Quarantine
    Blessing of Larlon
    This blessing creates a filmy white barrier that settles around the touched structure. The barrier allows for the slow transfer of air, but for anything else to pass through the barrier, it must first be broken. Despite the translucent appearance, the barrier is as tough as seasoned wood, and must be hacked open. The caster is informed when the barrier is damaged or breached and where.

    Restoration
    Mystery of Larlon
    This mystery removes most negative effects. It cannot remove the negative effects of mysteries, miracles or 3rd level spells. This mystery could remove a person's cataracts, but it would not prevent the formation of new cataracts. It could not regrow a person's eyes.

    Speed Recovery
    Blessing of Larlon
    The target's natural healing rate is increased by 2 hit points per recovery interval.


    As you can tell, powerful Divine Magic can be quite awesome (in the classical meaning of the term), but it requires having the deity on board with it, which may not always be easy.
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Thanks for the kind comments, everyone! At the suggestion of one of my fellow players, for each chapter I’ll include a ‘reader’s digest’ version of the session as well as a detailed one – this way you can just take a quick glance if you want.

    Also, consider checking out Fayd's post on Divine vs Arcane magic and my post that lists the divine spells available to our priests.

    Chapter 2: The Well-Hung Trees

    Reader's Digest:
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    • The group heads to Hangtree for their reward and future employment. En route, they have a run-in with a dryad and compose a lovely song.
    • They meet Flynn's ailing Lady, who employs the group to stage some counter-raids, with Olaf as commander.
    • A counter-raid is staged and an overwhelming victory is had. And there is lots and lots of money.


    Full Story:
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    The group wakes up to realize they are being watched by strange owls – strixes, which feed on the flesh and blood of humans. Olaf's first instinct is to find some way of turning them into a profit and after a couple of ideas are tossed around, including trapping them, Aelron tells Olaf that the strixes would likely attack and eat their companion were it to become ensnared. Olaf decides it's not worth the effort, and the group moves on.

    The group gets to talking; Seeker and Aelron discuss the Gemstone Towers and Aelron tells him about the competition between the Towers. Apparently, none of them have a very high opinion of each other. Olaf asks Miaoyu if she left Qen to bullhunt and after once again snarking that yes, she did, she admits that she left Qen to find a different way of life.
    "You're going to hang in Qen, aren't you?"
    "I never broke any laws back in Qen!"

    Aelron tells Seeker a bit about his past: as a child, he burned a barn down with eye lasers, and a villager assumed he was a demon and attempted to burn him at the stake. (Olaf insists that there can't really be a difference between an elemental and a demon anyway, since they're both associated with fire, but Aelron just sighs and continues his story.) He got the rough equivalent of a sunburn as a result of it and the villagers nearly attacked him with cold iron, assuming he was fey, before a passing Tower mage put a stop to it and the villagers shoved the supposed abomination on him.

    Flynn directs the group the Hangtree, where his employer lives, and the group follows him; the journey takes roughly a week. As the group travels, they notice that the patrols in Forscyth are unusually close to the border: a bit worrisome considering the state of the region. Finally, the pass into Deepspring county, a significantly better county - it lacks the smell of cow.

    As the group discusses politics of Drougant, Flynn mentions that about half the region was in passive rebellion: they weren't paying taxes. Olaf suddenly says, to the horror of the party, "I have a great idea!"
    Miaoyu groans. "What, pretending to become tax collectors?"
    "That's an even better idea!"
    "What was your original idea?" Aelron asks.
    "Actually becoming tax collectors."
    The idea of 'tax collection', banditry, and such are tossed around, and Miaoyu's Blessing pings. 'Possession is nine-tenths of the law. The other tenth is royal authority.' Seeker is less than pleased with the discussions.

    After a day of traveling in Deepspring, the group passes an odd grove of pomegranate trees. While it's clearly natural, it seems to have sprung up out of nowhere. Aelron attempts a Draconic Introduction, but he finds no dragon present. The group notices a scantily clad young man with no weapons lounging about the orchard, and Aelron realizes that the man is a dryad. Flynn, however, firmly does not care and continues on his way while the rest of the party stays behind to investigate/watch in aghast horror.

    Despite attempts to stop him, Olaf asks the dryad about the pomegranate and if there are any ready to eat. The dryad responds that they're still only flowers, but Olaf is quite welcome to stay. (Olaf then rolls a will save of 5 against a DC of 20 and is promptly charmed.) The grove becomes more and more appealing to Olaf, and he suggests making a fire to get comfortable. The dryad becomes a bit flustered and insists that he'll be quite comfortable without it, but then Miaoyu suggests that Olaf makes some pomegranate soup. The dryad becomes angry and attempts to shoo the group off, sulking very prettily. Seeker casts Diagnosis on Olaf and confirms he is charmed and attempts a 'cognitive recalibration' (read: hits him upside the head). (Olaf makes a will save of 11 this time, but still can't resist the charm.) Olaf sulks; the dryad wouldn't hit him - they were practically best friends! Finally, Seeker casts Restoration and Olaf is free from the dryad's Charm. Olaf concedes that while the dryad is quite fit, he spends, "Too much time flexing, not enough stabbing." The group moves on and manages to catch up with Flynn.

    Finally, the group arrives in Hangtree. It's a large town, not quite big enough to be a city. There's a palisade of stone and a foundation for a wall, but it doesn't seem to have seen active construction for some time. The guards at the gates have an insignia divided into fourths, each depicting an image. One is all black, another is a back hangman's tree on yellow, another is a yellow crown on pink, and the last is a red chalice on white. Flynn obviously knows the guards, and the group is let in with only a cursory check.

    Once inside the city, Olaf, Miaoyu and Flynn go to find rooms and drinks once Flynn confirms that the apothecary would have retired for the evening. Seeker and Aelron head to the barracks to see if any healing is needed. As they work, Seeker asks Aelron how he came to worship the Mother of All Dragons. He responds, "Natural beauty deserves to be preserved, no matter its place." Not exactly the most... illustrative of descriptions, but Seeker leaves it at that.

    The inn is called The Yellow Trout, and Olaf gets two beds in the common room, while Miaoyu gets a bed in the attic, which should have enough room for her to lie down. Mostly. Flynn has a couple of drinks while Miaoyu and Olaf begin to gamble. Although Miaoyu asks Olaf if he'd like to play a game with her, he's fully aware that she has some sort of magic ability and promptly says no. He carefully counts out his money for gambling and sets the rest of it in a safe place. Miaoyu sets to hustling; she deliberately loses her first few games before casting Cheat (one of the spells granted her by Gilgadar; essentially everything will go as she dictates) and hitting a winning streak. Once she notices other players getting fussy, she loses a couple times and heads off with a fair bit of extra coin. Olaf also finishes the evening with a small profit as well, and Flynn heads home when it gets late. Seeker and Aelron arrive not long after and Aelron gets a bed for himself.

    The next day, the group meets up and heads to Wallace's Alchemy Stores. They are greeted by an aggressively friendly wolfhound named Gromit, who has had some patches of fur singed away. There are alchemic alembics, motor and pestles, and so on, on every surface and ingredients hanging everywhere. Wallace, rather apparently, has a few screws loose. Flynn gives the apothecary some of his undead bones and says that he'd like them ground up the usual way, which prompts the group to balk at notion that this is common. He shrugs it off by saying that his Lady has a condition, and leaves shortly afterwards. Olaf and Miaoyu trade their bones in for healing pills, and Aelron takes money for his set, and Seeker just gets his ground, in the event the powder could come in handy. Seeker is worried about Wallace's health and mental state; however, Wallace insists that nothing to be wrong. Seeker, ever dutiful, offers him cheese to let him use Diagnosis. Wallace accepts and Seeker finds he has both low level lead and mercury poisoning. He uses Restoration to remove the worst of the effects, but it only delays the inevitable.

    The group goes to the Lady's manor, where Flynn answers the door. When asked if he does everything he responds, "I'm an et cetera kind of guy." Flynn attempts to shirk his duties by making one of the other servants deal with the Lady, but they all find excuses not to, so he's forced to lead the group to her. He leads them to the sitting room and although he constantly attempts to run off, Flynn cannot escape the ensuing discussion. (Miaoyu scolds him for not showing more respect and Olaf says, "You are Qennish, aren't you?") Baroness Hangtree and is in her early 40s with red hair and clearly of Connish descent. Most notably, she has rather lividly green scaring from her chin down to her neck, and it disappears under her high collar. The left side of her body seems unresponsive, and the left side of her mouth is slack. Olaf is able to determine the scaring is not from a wild animal, and Aelron and Seeker both suspect that it's from some sort of magic, but what kind exactly is unclear. Aelron further recognizes her as the Knight of the Bloody Chalice, who won years upon years’ worth of tournaments and then suddenly vanished from the tournament scene ten years ago. Miaoyu can't make any assumptions of her condition, but she can tell that the Baroness is not to be trifled with.

    After a bit of discussion, the topic of commissions comes up, and Olaf works out a deal in which he coordinates counter-raids for the Baroness, with Flynn as his second-in-command (much to Flynn's dismay). Olaf manages to convince Seeker to join by pointing out he'd be able to be his moral compass, and Aelron joins as artillery and tactical support. Olaf turns to Miaoyu and says, "We're going to get rich."
    "That's it? You think I'd join for just money?"
    "Yes."
    "Just so we're clear, money won't always work - but I'm in."
    The Baroness gives Olaf twenty men at his disposal, as well as a not inconsiderable sum of money for supplies. Seeker offers to examine or bless the Baroness, but she declines. He also says that he does not require money for his services, but would rather have information. The Baroness agrees. When the group leaves, Flynn lingers behind and asks permission to discuss her condition with Seeker, and she agrees provided that Seeker does not fuss over her.

    The group then heads out and starts making plans. Miaoyu suggests getting dog whistles to communicate with Seeker; if they get separated from him and get hurt, they can call him without alerting enemies, and she can communicate with him while playing as a scout. Seeker agrees, but only after making the group swear on their lives not to abuse the whistles. (Those high-pitched sounds HURT.) The group plays with some group names and two suggestions come up: "The White Company" (from Olaf) and "The Well-Hung Trees" (from Flynn). They decide to just forgo the names and banners and go under Olaf's name for the time being.

    When Aelron asks why Olaf is so willing to fight other Dhar, Olaf explains that he's only loyal to his clan, not his people. If he were to fight against his clan, he'd need a slightly better reason to do so. Olaf also lets the group in on a secret: Dhar boats are covered in pitch to waterproof them. This has the unfortunate side effect of making them highly flammable. Miaoyu identifies six potential bases that the Dhar raiders might be using and the group makes plans to get the Dhar to join them. Apparently, Seeker’s influence has been rubbing off on Olaf; in the meanwhile, Olaf has concocted a plan to capture a number of the Dhar pirates, turn them into privateers, and use them to counter-raid the temporary Dhar kingdoms that have been set up on an adjacent continent. However, such a plan would require money. The party goes back to the Baroness to present the plan and ask for additional funds. Olaf presents this in a moving and eminently logical fashion, clearly tailored for the Baroness’s best interests. Seeker and Aelron stood there, mouths nearly agape (which is quite impressive on Seeker, I might add), as Aelron whispers “I hadn’t realied the Dhar were master political manipulators” and Seeker whispers “I’ve been underestimating him...” However, when Olaf explains the plans, impressive and compelling as they are presented, the Baroness ultimately declines, wanting to make a very clear statement.

    The group travels to the first possible base with their soldiers a half-day behind, beginning in the southeast corner of the barony. Although they look around, they are unable to find any signs of Dhar raiders, and the next day they continue on to the next possible site. En route, they encounter a mounted patrol of ten men and manage to recruit them to their cause. The next possible base is in a cave along the coastline that has a man-made side tunnel. It was used, some time ago as a smuggler base, a non-Dhar pirate base, and a home for other mostly illegal activities.
    Miaoyu heads in alone, after working out whistle signals. She finds two longships in the cave, one half-sunk and the other a bit scarred, but intact. The tables are filled with people, with additional people working on the sunken ship - twenty-three in total. Miaoyu resists the urge to throw the Indar’s Incendiary (essentially a small spell-grenade) Aelron gave her into the middle of them. Instead, she slinks back and reports what she saw. The group waits for the last of the army, alert for anyone who might leave the cave, and prepare an attack. Aelron and Flynn go to the mouth of the cave, which opens out to the ocean, along with the cavalry men, intending to pull in the ship should anyone try to leave on it with grappling hooks and chains. Miaoyu slinks back into the cave through the man-made tunnel and prepares to take out the closest raider, with Olaf, Seeker, and the linemen at the mouth of the opening.

    Miaoyu gets into position and whistles. Seeker hears it and signals to Aelron, who puts an enchantment on one of Flynn's arrows. Flynn fires at the functional ship, and a small fire begins burning on its deck. Upon seeing the fire begin, Miaoyu levels her crossbow at the back of the raider's head and fires, killing him instantly, then hides behind the corner to avoid immediate detection. When a group gathers around the man's body, she steps around again and throws an Incendiary at them, but it lands in the fire and she doesn't manage to kill anyone. Miaoyu begins running to the outside, but one of the raiders catch up to her and she takes an axe to the back, dropping her, but not killing her. Olaf springs past her and shouts, "Nunatii take you!" in Dhar. Nunatii was apparently listening, because he avenges Miaoyu's wounds in one swift stroke, with a critical hit. (Nunatii, the Pitchfiend, is the current King of Hell.)

    The raiders who were tending the sunken ship begin running across the bridge to help put out the other ship, but Aelron and Flynn coordinate once again and the walkway explodes. They then separately target the first and last raiders reeling along the walkway; Flynn's is pinned to the wall, and the other gets a blast of arcane energy to the face. The two remaining raiders jump into the water and quickly board the ship, dumping water on it and keeping their heads low to avoid meeting the same fates as their comrades.

    Despite seeing his friend killed in one hit, the next raider Olaf encounters is quite brave and manages to hit Olaf solidly in the gut. Olaf retreats and Sergeant Galloway pulls Miaoyu out of the cave. Seeker heals his companions and they regroup. Olaf takes a few men with him to the mouth of the cave to swim in and attack from the inside. Seeker had enchanted a set of prayer beads with a Cure spell, and he uses one on Miaoyu and heals up the last of her wounds. She leads Seeker and the men back into the cave and attempts to bounce another Indar’s Incendiary off of the wall and into a group of raiders. It fails horribly. She tries again, however, and the bomb lands in the center of a group of raiders and does some minor damage to them. Galloway and the soldiers move forward.

    Olaf slides one of his healing pills under his tongue before wading into battle. One of the soldiers is immediately speared in the gut, and a raider rushes to aid his friends. Olaf takes a fair share of damage, but remains standing. Barely. He moves around to cover his fallen comrade, draws out his shield, rather than fight with two weapons, and takes his healing pill. He manages to fend off simultaneous attacks. One of the other soldiers has his head cloven in half, but the other manages to continue fighting, despite his injuries and fear. (Seeker’s Side Note: As a healer, this situation was REALLY stressful; meta-knowledge-wise, I knew he was on the ropes, but I had no line of sight and no way to know he was in trouble.)

    Aelron and Flynn, meanwhile, are trying to get a good angle on the raiders repairing the ship but have a hard time from the ledge they are standing on. Aelron tries to brace Flynn so he can get a shot, but isn't quite strong enough to manage it. They decide to switch, and Aelron manages to kill one of the raiders attacking Olaf, who was still wrenching his blade free of the soldier's head.

    Olaf kills the raider attacking his last standing soldier, and the soldier kills the raider attacking Olaf. Olaf tells him that if he survives this battle, he'll make him sergeant. The enemies shuffle about, some from the ship gaining courage and attacking Olaf, while some attacking Olaf decide to make for the ship. Despite this, Flynn and Aelron coordinate again and drop two more near Olaf. Olaf scoffs at the last remaining enemy and kills him as he rushes to the entrance of the cave, his last soldier close behind.

    Galloway attacks the first Dhar he sees and is immediately speared and thrown to the side. The Dhar lets out a mighty cry and taunts the soldiers. They become frightened, and the tunnel is too cramped to surround and flank the Dhar. Miaoyu attempts to shoot the Dhar with her crossbow, but can't quite injure him. Another soldier goes down and the remaining soldiers begin to push out of the tunnel. Seeker drops a Circle of Protection, and when he sees Olaf and how injured he is, he burns some of his energy to heal him from a distance. (Seeker’s Side Note: We’re using the Reserve Hit Point System from Unearthed Arcana, and each class has an ability called Inner Reserves that works off of it; in the case of mages, we can burn them to cast spells or apply metamagic effects.) Olaf and Miaoyu begin to work on the Dhar leader together, but both can't seem to hit him, and Miaoyu manages to jam her crossbow. Getting impatient, she decides to fight dirty and lets the leader think the jam is worse than it is, getting the advantage over him.

    Meanwhile, the raiders on the boat manage to get it to launch, but Aelron keeps suppressive fire on them to slow their progress. Eventually, the ship maneuvers out of the cave, but the cavalry are waiting and they pull it ashore. The raiders surrender immediately.

    Olaf whaps the apparent leader lightly on the face, and he jerks suddenly, as if shot. Olaf feels pretty good about such a strong reaction to his attack, until he realizes the leader was shot, with a bolt between his shoulder blades. Still, the leader won't go down. Not long later, the leader jerks again and he collapses with a bolt to the back of his head. Olaf compliments Miaoyu's shooting, and if she was still bitter over the five luna and his remarks about her crossbow, she forgives him instantly. Olaf turns to the soldier who had been covering him and asks his name. It's Ranolf, and he gets promoted to acting sergeant. Seeker begins healing the injured and bodies from both sides are collected. He also apologizes to the corpse of the soldier he was unable to save; he feels some guilt about not casting Circle of Protection earlier. Ultimately, the raiders suffered twenty losses, while the group lost only two men; Sergeant Galloway survived, although barely.

    Olaf approaches the Dhar raiders, asks for their weapons, and tells them to invoke the Oath of Truth, Orison of Turmlar (God of Honor), ensuring they cannot lie. He commands them to swear never to raid again, and they do so. The three are taken prisoner, and the group sets about looting the cave. Most of the items are marked and can be returned, but they do come away with a fair amount of money each. They then set about making an example of the raiders. Olaf puts some of the raiders heads on pikes, and Flynn finds a chalice in the loot. He places it under the heads so it can collect blood and be a symbol of his Lady. Aelron uses an altered version of the spell Memory Print to inscribe ”Pirates Know Your Fate” in as many languages as he knows (a not inconsiderable number indeed) across the wall cave. Under it, he etches an image of a sinking, burning ship.

    Everyone but the patrol heads out to Hangtree to report. Olaf kept the Dhar leader's head, and he puts it in a jar with some preserving fluids. When you tell a Dhar you want someone’s head, they tend not to take it figuratively. They all head to the manor, where Flynn once again attempts to shirk his duties, but again can't quite manage to. Flynn gives a summary of what happened at the cave, and Olaf presents the leader's head to the Baroness. She seems unimpressed, but accepts the gift and notes any commendations Olaf gives out. The Baroness gives out a notable sum of money to everyone, and when Seeker sees it, he manages to partially justify it to himself - until Miaoyu makes some unhelpful remarks. The Baroness then serves everyone some rum while the finer points of the counter-raid are discussed, and she says that she wants to wait for word of the counter-raid to get out, and the group will effectively have a month of free time. Seeker requests space in Hangtree to set up a clinic to pass the time, and decides to ask the Lady Hangtree with assistance finding what he Seeks. Which will, unfortunately have to wait to next session to say exactly what that is.


    There'll be no session next week since apparently people have lives outside of D&D and will be busy.

    And now, a bonus song. We composed this during a break in play because apparently we’re THAT kind of nerd. Enjoy!
    Spoiler
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    Seeker the white-robed werewolf
    Had a very binding oath
    He wouldn't let poor Olaf
    Join in any raiding games
    Then one sunny afternoon
    A stranger came to say
    'Seeker with your robes so bright
    Won't you smite some undead tonight?'
    Then how poor Olaf loved it
    And he shouted out with glee
    'Seeker the white-robed werewolf
    These foes won't have time to flee!'
    Last edited by AverageSparrow; 2013-09-16 at 06:48 PM.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Pixie in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    For reference's sake, I'm posting a list of all the spells that our priests have (or will have) access to. Some gods are more powerful than others, and the stronger the god, the more spells are offered to their priests. Because the Mother of All Dragons is comparatively weaker than Larlon and Gilgadar, she offers less spells. Check out Fayd's post for more information on divine magic in general.

    Gilgadar's Spells
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    Cheat
    Blessing of Gilgadar
    An otherwise random factor in a game of chance turns up the way the caster desires.

    Locate Object
    Blessing of Gilgadar
    The caster knows the precise location of an indicated item ('In the chest at the foot of the bed in the master bedroom at 37 Hospice Street, Bene, Aurbesk'). If there are multiple items matching the description, the closest one is indicated.

    Obscuring Mists
    Blessing of Gilgadar
    If cast on an item, the item cannot be detected by spells of less than 3rd level. If cast on an area, it is filled with impenetrable mists, such that anyone in the mist can only see to a distance of one foot.

    Odyssey
    Miracle of Gilgadar
    The target can never find their way home, no matter how hard they strive. They are consumed with homesickness, which may lead them into increasingly irrational attempts to get home. This curse cannot be broken by mortal means, except by the caster.

    Plague of Thieves
    Mystery of Gilgadar
    The target is continually harassed by thieves. If they own anything of value, thieves far and wide will flock to take it from them. They can't so much as leave the house without an attempt being made to pickpocket them. This curse doesn't guarantee that the individual thieves will be successful, but sheer numbers are likely to accomplish that. The curse is broken when the target owns nothing (but not if all of their items are being held in trust).

    Repurpose
    Orison of Gilgadar
    A held tool becomes better suited for a task at hand.

    Sunder Fate
    Miracle of Gilgadar
    The target is freed from all curses and negative effects, as well as from all responsibilities. Kings lose their crowns, soldiers are removed from the chain of command, and prophecies must find a new chosen one.

    Unbound
    The caster is immune to immediate consequences from breaking the laws of the land. A person under the effect of this mystery could murder someone in broad daylight and not be pursued by guards. This spell does not offer immunity to personal or emotional consequences. So if the person the caster is murdering is right next to their best friend, the best friend would be able to object.


    Larlon's Spells
    Spoiler
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    Age Without Wisdom
    Miracle of Larlon
    The target instantly ages 5d6 years. They suffer all the physical penalties from aging, but gain none of the mental bonuses.

    Cursed Wound
    Mystery of Larlon
    The target cannot benefit from natural healing. They can still be healed with healing spells.

    Diagnosis
    Blessing of Larlon
    The caster discerns in general terms what ails the target. This could be a disease, poison, hit point loss, a curse or any number of other negative effects. This blessing will not discern a cause, only identify symptoms.

    Disease Marker
    Orison of Larlon
    This orison inscribes a faintly glowing broken white disk on the touched object, and is used to denote the possible presence of infectious diseases. Purifiers of Larlon can sense the placement of this orison, to a distance of ten miles.

    Longevity
    Miracle of Larlon
    The target has their physical age reduced by 5d6 years, to a minimum physical age of their physical prime (around 20 for humans and elves, 15 for beastfolk and 30 for dwarves). They do not lose any benefits from aging, but do lose all penalties.

    Quarantine
    Blessing of Larlon
    This blessing creates a filmy white barrier that settles around the touched structure. The barrier allows for the slow transfer of air, but for anything else to pass through the barrier, it must first be broken. Despite the translucent appearance, the barrier is as tough as seasoned wood, and must be hacked open. The caster is informed when the barrier is damaged or breached and where.

    Restoration
    Mystery of Larlon
    This mystery removes most negative effects. It cannot remove the negative effects of mysteries, miracles or 3rd level spells. This mystery could remove a person's cataracts, but it would not prevent the formation of new cataracts. It could not regrow a person's eyes.

    Speed Recovery
    Blessing of Larlon
    The target's natural healing rate is increased by 2 hit points per recovery interval.


    The Mother of All Dragon's Spells
    Spoiler
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    Draconic Introduction
    Blessing of the Mother of All Dragons
    The caster learns the titles and name of the local dragon (if any). This spell then informs the dragon of the caster's titles and names.

    Life of Unrewarding Drudgery
    Mystery of the Mother of All Dragons
    The target can no longer see color, and can no longer appreciate art and beauty. They usually sink into a deep despair given time, though some may be more resistant to the effects of the curse. The target also loses any color in their appearance.

    Regenerate
    Mystery of the Mother of All Dragons
    A lost limb, eye or other extremity regrows of the course of a week. Generally, relearning how to use a limb takes a week after that.

    Unspoilt Totem
    Blessing of the Mother of All Dragons
    The caster turns a natural item into a minor magical totem. The totem could be a plant sprig, an uncut gem or any number of items, so long as it is emblematic of unspoilt nature. The totem grants the bearer a bonus depending on what manner of item it is. Uses range from the practical (various plants giving bonuses on saves against certain diseases) to decorative (dye sources coloring the hair of those that bear them).

    Vision of Color
    Blessing of the Mother of All Dragons
    The target can see color to a greater degree. Creatures that see in black and white can see in color. Creatures that already see in color can see slightly outside the visual spectrum, as well as having a much better sense of different colors. Someone affected by this spell can see as well as an elf, and see heat.

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    As I get more skills, I hope to make Olaf more social in nature. The idea is to make him a skilled fighter, but also with a strong political bent.

    Trying to persuade the Baroness to give him a pile of money to make himself a pirate king on their first meeting might have been a bit of a stretch though.
    Quote Originally Posted by Terraneaux View Post
    Adventurers. Murderous hobos with near-deific power who are both merciless and incredibly competent at personal combat.
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  13. - Top - End - #13
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    Cade Rentyr's Avatar

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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    I feel obliged to highlight the Vengeful Banshee moment: Miaoyu takes a hit hard enough to drop her into negatives and the very next action is a fatal crit against her attacker; the variation this time around is that, Miaoyu unable to respond directly, it is delivered by proxy.

    I'm starting to believe that this setting just has some inherent patron ghost-in-the-machine of adventurers, and she is quick to anger and not subtle at all.
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    by Ms. Nobodyby Herpestidae

    Profile avatar of Gav Jagger, swashbuckler in Adanar by Cometlight, by Starwoof.
    Sig avatars of Cade Rentyr courtesy of Ms. Nobody and Herpestidae respectively.
    Thank 'ee each in turn.

  14. - Top - End - #14
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    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Kinda worried about invoking Nuunatii and it working. Really hoping Seeker conveniently forgets it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Terraneaux View Post
    Adventurers. Murderous hobos with near-deific power who are both merciless and incredibly competent at personal combat.
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    No new journal this week because Fayd (Seeker) and I (Flynn) are both out of town. Hopefully a short hiatus --as far as I know we'll be right back at it next week. Furthermore, Tam asked us what we'd like to do next, and the party decided on a good old fashioned dungeon crawl. So that's something to look forward to... ...or not, depending on the number of falling rocks or eldritch horrors involved.
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    by Ms. Nobodyby Herpestidae

    Profile avatar of Gav Jagger, swashbuckler in Adanar by Cometlight, by Starwoof.
    Sig avatars of Cade Rentyr courtesy of Ms. Nobody and Herpestidae respectively.
    Thank 'ee each in turn.

  16. - Top - End - #16
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Chapter 3: Reply Hazy, Try Again Later
    Reader's Digest:
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    • Seeker tells everyone that he's been looking for his disappeared wife for the last ten years.
    • We discuss how to break the curse on Baroness Hangtree and find out we're incredibly picky about quests, and possibly abusing the Locate Object spell.
    • We meet up with our dryad acquaintance and after a bit of 'negotiating' he gives us some information about the Fey Lord who cursed the Baroness and where to get more information.
    • Many goats and nighttime encounters later, we reach our destination and shed all traces of iron.

    Full chapter:
    Spoiler
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    While still enjoying rum in the Baroness's office, Seeker decides to share his story with his companions and the Baroness. He casts an Illusory Plane cantrip, effectively creating a movie screen for him to project his memories upon. Below is the story as he intended it. (Seeker’s sidenote: I totally botched the delivery of what I intended in-game)
    Spoiler
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    In my youth, I was like any other wolfman. Bloodthirsty, hungry, lusting after elves… the usual. One day, in spring, I heard singing. I’d just killed my lunch, but I was entranced by the sound. I followed it into a clearing, where I found the most beautiful elf I’ve ever met, sitting in the clearing, singing and gathering flowers. I fell in love with her instantly. And it was real love, not the carnal lust of my Brothers. I stepped out into the clearing to greet her, and she screamed and ran away. I looked down, and saw my claws, still dripping from the blood of my kill... my muzzle stained red... I grew disgusted at myself; at the monster I was.

    I vowed to win her love and to truly deserve it.

    So, I cleaned myself well for the first time in... a very long time and left to find her. Our next meeting was disastrous, to say the least. Over the next few months I attempted to earn her trust enough for a conversation. I tried everything I could think of: Gifts of fruit and flowers, paintings I’d rather forget, so on. To prove my peaceful intentions, I dedicated myself to the cause of life, took my oaths of peace and service, and became a Purifier of Larlon.

    Changing one’s nature is not easily done. I could not have done it without her help. She was… an amazing woman; A priestess of the Mother of All Dragons, an artist, and she had considerable magical talent.

    Eventually, we fell in love, and in time, we were married. We were very happy for a time…

    (Side-note; some marriages in this world are blessed by two of the gods, and it creates an empathic link between the couple. This same spell is sometimes used between a knight and their horse.)

    And then everything changed. Unbeknownst to my wife and I, darkness was brewing in her sister's heart. She plotted against us, and late one night, nearly 10 years ago, she and her accomplices struck. What motivated her, and why she did what she did I do not believe that I will ever know...

    We were attacked and dragged out of our home in the middle of the night. I was beaten severely and left for dead... I do not clearly remember the events of that night and I do not care to recall them in detail. I recall hearing her scream at least once.

    When I regained consciousness, I did not recognize my surroundings and I could no longer sense anything from the empathic link to my wife. I was not feeling that she was dead, but a feeling more like that the link had never been made.

    I have been looking for her… or her grave… ever since.

    Olaf is aghast that Seeker hadn't told him before and immediately suggests searching for his wife - something he acknowledges as more important than dealing with Dhar raiders. Seeker assures him that it isn’t lack of trust, it’s just a tale he doesn’t like to tell often. He points out that he's been looking for his wife for ten years with little success, and any trail he's picked up has gone cold; there's little Olaf could do that he hasn’t.

    The group has a bit of free time for the next five days. Seeker, with Aelron's help, runs a clinic, but it is fortunately slow-going. Seeker rounds up some soldiers and teaches them first aid. Miaoyu gets in on some gambling and cheats her way into a handful of coins and buys some proper armor to avoid another axe to the back. Olaf asks the Baroness to spar with him and is soundly defeated, even with her left side paralyzed and while sitting in a chair. Rather than becoming foolish or angry, Olaf immediately asks her to teach him. She agrees, and drags a reluctant Flynn in to join the training.

    During this time, the group finds out, one way or another, the Baroness's story: Before she was a baroness, she was the Knight of the Bloody Chalice. She used to be one of the best knights in Drougant, and the tournament champion for near on a decade, and was eventually charged by the king to deal with the fey and hobgoblins in one of the forests. In the battle, the foot soldiers on both sides were entirely wiped out, leaving only the future Baroness and a Fey Lord left. She managed to kill the Fey Lord, but not before he stabbed her with a bronze sword and some pieces broke off in the wound. She was eventually found and brought to a nearby city where she was healed as best as could be done and given the title of Baroness.

    Eventually, Seeker's request to examine the Baroness is approved. He casts Diagnosis on her and finds she is suffering from poison, a curse, and disease. Which ones, the spell won’t say. When Olaf points out that most fey and fey-related things are weak to iron, the Baroness picks up an iron letter opener and places it against one of the green veins on her left arm - it immediately snaps, to the shock of everyone. It wasn’t a violent snapping; more that it loses all consistency and just falls apart in shards. She shows them an image of the Fey Lord's insignia:
    Spoiler
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    Description: A stag skull with something coming from the lower half of the jaw, perhaps snakes, worms, or tentacles. It was engraved on a bronze shield, some detail was lost. (Please forgive my sloppy photoshopping.)

    The group discusses a whole variety of different ways to cure the baroness. The theory is that we have to cure all 3 of the ailments simultaneously or some of them may reassert. Most prominently amongst them is the use of a unicorn horn and how to obtain one; it’s a well known cure for pretty much any poison. Aelron and Seeker were somewhat reluctant to kill a unicorn. As fey, they are not inherently good - and often can be quite vicious - but they do protect forests, have some healing properties, and there is some debate amongst the Mother of All Dragons' clergy as to whether or not unicorns are in some way draconic. Morality aside, killing a unicorn would be difficult; in battle, they are essentially berserkers. They are friendly to virgins - which includes both Flynn and Olaf (everyone else is out) - and can also be made docile with a golden bridle, made from either the hair of a blond virgin or gold. Miaoyu locates a golden bridle in a treasury in a nearby city, Brand, but Aelron threatens to report them to the authorities if anyone tries to steal it. Finally, the group simply asks the Baroness if she'd be willing to arrange for a golden bridle to be made. She agrees, saying that it will take about a month.

    Amber is suggested to counteract the disease. Once again, Miaoyu attempts to locate the nearest fist-sized sample and finds one in one of the Peri homelands, on an altar to a dragon. The group is intimidated by the mere suggestion of a dragon and decide to avoid such a possibility for the moment.

    The alicorn takes care of the poison, and Seeker is as good as anything they’d get for disease, so that leaves the curse. A possibility is finding an iron dagger consecrated by the Iron Lord (the deceased demigod of iron and vengeance against the fey) to counteract the curse. Miaoyu tries to locate one and Gilgadar finds one nearby - then immediately insists that Miaoyu forget he said anything. He doesn't have many priests and she has potential! He'd rather not lose her - she can ask again in about a month. (Originally we were going to do a dungeon crawl, but when the DM started prepping for it, he realized it would be MUCH better suited to Halloween gaming.)


    Ultimately, the group decides to talk with the dryad they met on their way to Hangtree and see if he has any information on the Fey Lord before continuing onto the battlefield where she was injured. Olaf suggests cutting through Old Drougant, which has been consumed by a variety of unsavory powers. Aelron balks and casts a slideshow of all the horrible things that could happen to them should they go through Old Drougant: the group being eaten by demons; a black ooze from which no one emerges; a chamber filling with water and no escape possible; so on and so forth.
    "I didn't think number fourteen was so bad," Olaf says. Number fourteen was being a love-slave to a lich. Regardless, they decide to cut around Old Drougant and after a few days arrive at the grove.

    Aelron approaches the grove first and the dryad comes up to him, grinning. "Hi!"
    Aelron instantly fails his will save.

    Seeker rushes up to cast Restoration on him and is also promptly charmed. Knowing that the dryad's charm spells have been used up, Olaf runs after the three as they head into the woods and tries to snap Seeker and Aelron out of their charmed state. Olaf tells Aelron that he's being 'Onyx Towered' and Aelron manages to get back in control, and Seeker comes to his senses when he's reminded of his wife. At this, the dryad is heartbroken - he just can't seduce anyone anymore. He begins to sulk. Aelron points out that if he didn't just charm people right away, maybe they'd be interested in him, but the dryad just huffs and turns away. Finally, Aelron offers to bless the grove for fertility and give the dryad a kiss in exchange for some information about the Fey Lord they're seeking. "With tongue," the dryad demands. "Is there any other kind?" Aelron retorts, and the dryad capitulates.

    Looking at the insignia, the dryad confirms that the Fey Lord is associated with the Horned Lord, the Hunter of the Bright Court, the Summer Court, the Seelie court. The dryad asks if the things coming from the lower jaw are worms; if they are, they could represent returning from death or injury stronger than before, not unlike a hydra. When asked if it has any associations with curses, he explains that there's a death curse that, when the cursed one dies, the lord would be reborn. If they’re roots, it means he’s a colonial expansionist, if it is tentacles, that’s just bad, and so on. When pressed for more information, he directs the group to a daoine sidhe, a fey of the hills, who practices heraldry further north. He should know more about who this Lord was.

    When the dryad asks for a kiss, Aelron offers a different deal: twenty minutes in the forest in exchange for a lock of his hair. The dryad happily agrees, and the group moves off a bit to give them some privacy, except for Flynn, who starts to ride off. They want to make sure it’s only twenty minutes; the fey have a legendarily bad sense of time. Seeker is, however, still within smelling range. ("…Pomegranate juice?") Twenty minutes later, the two came back, both looking quite pleased. Aelron also gets the Dryad's Favor, which gives him some nice bonuses.

    The group moves on and passes into Forscythe where they pass by the border patrol this time. When one of the guards asks what the group is up to, Olaf responds, "We're going to find a sidhe to tell us about a curse, then travel downriver to New Drougant, hire some prostitutes, get a golden bridle, and kill a unicorn."
    "A funnyman, huh?"
    Then Olaf invokes the Oath of Turmlar to prove he isn't lying and repeats everything he said. The guard looks impressed, confused, nods and says, "Well, enjoy your stay in Forscythe," and lets the group continue on.

    One night, while Seeker is on watch, he smells something sweet with a sour pang on the air, accompanied by the sound of buzzing. He immediately wakes everyone and has them all pile into the same tent. Aelron casts Sealing Ward on it, ensuring nothing can enter. Not long later, the tent is swarmed by tiny, flying, humanoid shapes that Aelron identifies as miasma pixies. When the pixies find they can't get through the tent, they eventually depart. The group comes out of the tent finding their horses slightly sick and decide to move camp. The next day, they cross into the Barony of Tappen.

    A few nights later, Olaf notices some ghouls approaching the campsite while on watch. He snuffs the fire, draws his swords, and watches as they enter a crevasse and realizes the party had set up camp on top of a ghoul den. Fortunately, night passes without incident and come morning, he tells the rest of the group what he saw. Miaoyu squeezes into the crevasse, her eyesight improved by a blessing from Aelron. The crevasse is large enough for the group to enter single-file before widening into a cavern. She gathers the group and they enter with Olaf first, then Flynn, Aelron, Miaoyu, and Seeker last (Seeker has a much larger frame than the rest of the party so it is much harder for him to move in the crevasse). When they reach the mouth of the cavern, Aelron illuminates Olaf's buckler and lights up the cavern. Six ghouls flinch at the sudden burst of light and hiss.

    Olaf throws a dagger into one of the ghouls, and Aelron begins handing Indar's Incendiaries to Flynn and he manages to kill one. The ghouls rush forward to swarm Olaf. Miaoyu displays a hitherto unknown power: She vanishes from where she is and reappears in the shadow of one of the ghouls. From there, she shoots one, taking it down. Flynn throws an ice-flavored Incendiary, freezing and killing three more of the ghouls, and then kills the last one with a critical hit from his magically conjured bow. The group skins the ghouls for the bones so they can be sold later, and Aelron asks Miaoyu about her teleportation ability, both out of curiosity and to know how to help her use it. She explains she needs to be standing in shadows and must see the shadows she's teleporting to. She can also create a doppelganger from shadows.

    The next night, Olaf hears something odd: the sound of a voice shouting, albeit unclearly. The group is woken to investigate it, and Olaf shouts, "Are you okay?" This was immediately followed by a frantic response, leading everyone to the source: a pit filled with dead bodies and a crying, living woman. It seems the ghouls were attempting to turn her into a ghoul as well; someone who dies with humanoid flesh in their stomach tends to rise as a ghoul. Meanwhile, Miaoyu becomes aware that they're being stalked by a ghoul and takes a potshot at it, but misses and it runs away. Olaf calms the woman and lowers a rope for her, pulling her up. She startles when she sees Seeker, but he calms her down and looks her over for injuries, but she is largely unharmed, but hungry. She is offered hard-tack, which she accepts (she adamantly refuses to eat jerky. No great surprise there). They make camp where they are, and come morning the woman is brought to a nearby town where she has some family.

    Eventually, the group reaches the last leg of their journey: the Wolf Woods, where they immediately encounter the exact kind of creature you'd expect. Seeker attempts to speak Pack, the language of canines, to tell them "go away, not prey", but it's too late - Olaf has leapt down from his horse and attacks the nearest wolf. Everyone else also attacks the rest of the pack until one has died and the rest run off. Olaf gives pursuit, but they quickly outrun him.

    The group spends a couple of days in the woods, noting that they've managed to arrive just in time for the full moon. Seeker takes to marking territory when setting up camp, and Olaf builds three fires in a perimeter every time.

    One day, they come across the desiccated corpse of a beheaded stag, which looks as if it was killed from above. After considering a few possibilities, Aelron performs a Draconic Introduction and gets the following response: Greetings from Shadow of the Moon, Alpha of the Wolf Wood, Favored of the Horned Lord, and Holder of the Least Sun of Femta.

    Sufficiently intimidated, everyone agrees to try to leave the forest as soon as possible, and Olaf inexplicably makes a hat from the stag's skull. That night, Olaf sees the camp surrounded by a circle of glowing yellow eyes, but when the rest of the group wakes, the wolves slink back. The last day in the Wolf Woods, they are warned away from their route by a wolf who is protecting her den. Seeker, to the protest of all, offers healing for it and its pups, but the wolf refuses, saying that Farkas, the god of assassins, cold, and wolves, would provide. Seeker moves the party around the area.

    Finally, they exit the woods and shed every bit of metal they can, leaving their equipment with Miaoyu, who will stay behind to, ironically, make sure nothing is stolen. The others continue on to speak with the daoine sidhe.

    I'll be gone next week, hence why Miaoyu was left behind. Fayd, Seeker's player, has agreed to cover the journal in my absence.

  17. - Top - End - #17
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    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    I can only explain the stag hat by noting that it was nearly 3 in the morning by the time we found it. I think my logic was something along the lines of paying Homage to the Horned Lord or trying to disguise myself as a fey.

    I'm trying to play Olaf as a young man full of ideas. Not all of which are good, safe, or practical.
    Quote Originally Posted by Terraneaux View Post
    Adventurers. Murderous hobos with near-deific power who are both merciless and incredibly competent at personal combat.
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  18. - Top - End - #18
    Pixie in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    I'm sure the skull hat is actually quite fetching, once you get past the fact that it's a skull.

    You'll have to let me know how the fey react to that.

  19. - Top - End - #19
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Chapter 4: Ruminatrix Reloaded
    For this session, AverageSparrow was absent, and I took up the reins. Special thanks to Dawnflame, who didn't so much edit it as completely rewrite it for quality. And I appreciate that.
    Spoiler: Short Form
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    We meet the Daoine Sidhe’s servant gnome, who is strange and uses so many malaprops he needs a stage manager just to keep track of them all. The Sidhe gives us a little information, but refuses to aid us directly for political reasons. His gnome, however, offers us information if we help with ‘the cellar.’ We had to clean a bunch of imislime out of the Daoine Sidhe's wine cellar, which involved mirrored frying pans, eldritch pillows, ice grenades and a Dharric People's Elbow. The gnome provides at least some information in return for our thrilling heroics, and we bid our farewells and make our way to New Drougant City. Along the way, we help a group of tax collectors and learn of a mysterious figure known as the “Cunctator,” whose tag line is “Taxes have been deferred. Indefinitely.”


    Spoiler: Long Form
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    As cautioned, the party divests itself of all gear containing iron. For some, this involves a lot more sacrifice than others. Seeker and Aelron have to drop their backpacks and that’s basically it. Olaf unbuckles his belt and, while clutching at his pants to keep them from falling, removes three boot daggers, a thigh sheath, the blades under his shirt, his sleeve knife, and his boots. Aelron, watching, shakes his head and hands Olaf a length of string--”Hairy string: binding force of the universe”--with which to secure his dignity. For a moment, the party discusses what it wishes to gain from a conversation WITH the Daoine Sidhe, and what information (if any) they should reveal to him. To guard its weapons and other possessions, the party leaves Miaoyu behind (with her player gone, we couldn't very well bring her IN with us). Aelron gives her an Indar’s Incendiary—ONLY in case of emergency, you understand--and Olaf sets up some campfires to keep the wolves at bay. It's the Wolfwood. Of course there are wolves.

    As the party sets out to approach the hill, Olaf shows his blatant disregard for Aelron's, Seeker's and Flynn's fears of the fey with an offhanded, “Come on, what’s the worst that could happen?”

    “Oh don’t say that.” Seeker replies.

    “Do you WANT another slide show?” Aelron asks.

    It is around noon when the party arrives at the mound. Despite the time of day, the morning's fog and mist have yet to burn off. The hill at whose feet the party finds itself is covered with trees, and appears to have a small clearing at the top; likely an observation post or veranda for the Daoine Sidhe. The mist makes Olaf's sailor's instincts distinctly uncomfortable, but the party proceeds anyway. Aelron's Fire Gensai blood is supremely unconcerned about mist, and Flynn might agree with Olaf's suspicions but won't let that deter him: “First of many bad signs. Bring it on.”

    On the way up, Aelron and Flynn notice what appears to be a front porch; the hill's slope levels out briefly before surging back up and continuing its gentle slope, almost as if someone cut a small divot into the hillside. Sunk into the hill against the back of this divot is a round stone door, about five feet tall, plated in bronze. Wanting to be polite, Flynn knocks on the door. Despite his relatively soft knock, the door lets loose a cacophonous clangor, echoing for some time. Olaf REALLY does not like this, but again Aelron's supreme unconcern and Flynn and Seeker's resolve keep him steady. Five minutes later, the door opens, and out springs the strangest little man—well, not man, really—that most of the party has ever met. The being is short, perhaps a bit over four feet in height. He is of dwarven proportions—nigh as broad as he is tall—but with so little muscle and flesh as to appear emactiated. His eyebrows—large and bushy and green enough to be mistaken for actual bushes when he holds still—are the only visible hair he has. His skin is a warm, pastel brown, and he wears a what is either a short robe, a long tunic, or an outsized pillowcase of slate gray with a crossed bar of sky blue. According to Seeker’s sensitive nose, he smells like old shoe leather. Aelron recognizes him as a gnome; the lowest of the low in the ranks of the Seelie Court. They were dwarves who fought alongside the faeries during the Fey War and were ‘rewarded’ for the sins of the REST of dwarvenkind—the ones who joined the filthy humans— with a myriad host of strange compulsions and weaknesses. He greets the party with a single word: “Yeeeeeees?”

    This is the most mercifully short-winded he will ever be with the party.

    Flynn is the first to speak: “We are seeking an audience with the Fey Lord of the region.”

    The gnome enthusiastically responds, “OH, you mean his splendiforousness, the greatestest speaker of signs and sigils, my luridly lord of langorous lugubriosity...” From there the gnome’s speech is too riddled with impropriety and assaults on the Drouganti tongue to make out more than a few snatches of sensibly-arranged words. He runs on for several minutes in this vein, praising the Daoine Sidhe with homonyms and antonyms until Aelron's player starts bleeding from the ears. Flynn’s player quotes Iron Man 3 (“I’m feeling better, but I tend to end sentences with the wrong cranberry”), and finally the gnome finishes his introduction and asks why the party seeks an audience (though the question takes him another minute or so to communicate adequately).

    In response, Flynn offers the sigil he received from Hangtree. “This was cut from the shield of a Fey Lord who fell in battle in the forests east of here some years ago. We seek more information about the being who bore it.”

    The gnome takes the sigil and ponders for some time. At least thirty seconds out of game. Then he rotates it one hundred and eighty degrees in his hand and an “A-HA!” expression lights up his face briefly. Alas, it fades, and he ponders it for a while longer. Finally, Olaf gets bored: “Can we go inside? The mist is a bit... drafty.”

    “Oh, yes yes yes!” The gnome beckons to the party, and they all start forward. Then the gnome shrieks “HALT!” and everyone stops. “We must deteriminate something first.”

    “We have disavowed ourselves of that already” Flynn replies, anticipating the demand for a removal of any iron.

    “Duveted, you might say,” Aelron drawls. Fortunately, the gnome appears oblivious to sarcasm.

    “I am free of ferrous felonies.” Olaf states proudly. Aelron wonders briefly where a Dhar comes by the word 'ferrous', but decides not to ask.

    “I have lost myselves in your words,” the gnome states, apparently content that his statement meant something. “We shall refrain from altercating the flow of time.” With that warm reassurance, he beckons the party inside. All have to stoop to clear the sill of the Hobbit-hole—uh, I mean doorway (Seeker nearly has to crouch), but the hall itself appears to be of normal human height. In fact, the party, upon conferring, notes that the ceiling appears to be at a different height for each person; each has a comfortable amount of room between the top of their head and the ceiling, despite vast height disparities AND cultural gulfs between architectural norms. Looking back, the door, too, appears to be Individually Sized for Your Comfort!

    At least it's not ribbed.

    The party is led to a cloakroom, where the gnome entreats them to “Divulge your selfs of coats, caps, cloaks, deific superpowers, cheese wheels and the unlike.” Flynn drops his cloak off, but Olaf declines, arguing that without it, he would be mostly naked. Seeker notes that Olaf fingers the cloak's clasp protectively as he makes his polite refusal; it would appear he places more value on the clasp than on the cloak. No one else has anything LEFT to leave behind.

    Ever onward the gnome leads, eventually to a room that is part showcase, part sitting room and part trophy hall. Mounted animal heads, predominantly wolves, adorn every wall; there is a buck to the right of the door with so many points Flynn wonders how the poor thing held its head aloft.

    As the party takes its ease, the gnome offers refreshment, gesturing at a small bar laid with several varieties of delicious-looking snacks, a crystal decanter and four glasses: “The sideboard has been embiggened for your pleasure.”

    Olaf, having been warned several times to accept no food or drink from the Fey, is straight-to-business. He fixes the gnome with a direct stare and says pointedly, “We were hoping your ruminatrixes would bestow upon us pontifications.” Seeker and Aelron glance at one another. Where does a Dhar learn to speak Gnome?

    The gnome makes a few obeisances, bows several times, and says, “I go then and now and will go to fetch his Spendiforousness, the greatestest speaker of signs and sigils, my luridly lord of langorous lugubriosity...”

    At least he's consistent with his mangling.

    After an interminable and indeterminate wait, (one minor divine magic spells tells the time in 15 minute intervals, but returns the equivalent of a 404 error while in the Fey hold—which leads to some speculation between Aelron and Seeker; has time ceased to pass within the hold? Is the hold outside the flow of time? Is the hold EXEMPT from the flow of time? How then is any Fey realm impermanent? Are Fey realms coterminous only at specific locations AND times with the mortal realm?... and on and on) the door opens and the gnome lurches, crawls, and scrapes into the room. He makes a rather splendid bow (bending to flatten his nose to the floor) and declares, loudly enough that we can hear him despite the floor's muffling effect, “My lord Blazon!”

    Through the door after the gnome strides a magnificent figure of a fae; a humanoid with long dark hair, long flowing blue robes and lily-white skin, richly bedecked with silver rings, amulets, bangles, bracelets, and more. He is a commanding presence, obviously a being of great power and not to be trifled with.

    He is, however, only 2 feet tall.

    The party shows respect race dictates (bows for the humans, a raised chin to show the throat for Seeker), and Flynn makes the introductions.

    Blazon greets the party and asks, “What brings you to my home?”

    Seeker’s player’s cell phone chooses this most opportune moment to ring, and Blazon sends the gnome to deal with “that bell.”

    As the gnome scuttles out to deal with a ghastly ringing that seems to permeate the entire fey hold, Flynn opens with “My lord, let me thank you for seeing us on short notice.”

    Blazon smiles blandly. “Of course. The country life can be so boring.”

    Flynn blinks, then continues undeterred. “We would like to know more about the fellow who used this crest.” He offers the crest to Blazon while the party feeds in more helpful information—it was found on a the shield of a fey lord after a battle to the northeast, its bearer fought Baroness Hangtree, etcetera, etcetera. Blazon indicates that Flynn should place the insignia on a side table, which is just below waist height for Flynn. Flynn complies and steps back from the table, confused. As Blazon steps forward, he picks the insignia up, and Aelron's, Seeker's and Flynn's eyes go wide. The table, without appearing to have shrunk at all, is ALSO just below waist height for the two-foot-tall fey lord.

    We're still not sure if this means that size really does matter, or that size really doesn't matter, or that size is more of a guideline than an actual rule, in the realm of the fey. Maybe all three at once!

    Olaf doesn't seem to notice. Or perhaps, care.

    “This insignia is Seelie,” Blazon informs the party, “And of an interest aligned to my own. I would know your cause before I give you any further information.”

    At least he doesn't speak gnome.

    Flynn attempts to obfuscate by making vague statements about how the party seeks to aid a servant of the monarchy.

    “I assume you are speaking of the human monarchy.” Blazon induces tartly, eyebrow raised.

    “Yes,” Aelron rallies to clarify. “Our apologies, my Lord. We meant no disrespect.”

    Realizing that obfuscation will not work, the party agrees to attempt the PC's last recourse: honesty. Flynn, Aelron and Seeker relate the important facts of the narrative: we're attempting to cure Baroness Hangtree, who suffers a fey curse sustained while battling the house associated with the sigil in question.

    Blazon harrumphs, thinks for a short time, and states “Well, I am afraid I cannot bring myself to aid someone who is an enemy of my state. I trust the gnome can see you out.” He turns and glides out the door. We are left alone and disappointed, and ponder our next move.
    After a time, the gnome reenters. “I hate that bell,” he mutters, apparently oblivious to the room's other occupants.

    Olaf, sensing weakness or a way to get further access to the fey hold, asks why he hates the bell. The gnome is obviously reluctant to talk about it, as his master has all but decreed us enemies of state. After some skillful negotiation through a language barrier so thick with malapropisms as to be opaque, Olaf manages to gain the gnome's confidence, and he discloses that the bell is in the wine cellar. It turns out there is an infestation of some sort down there, and the gnome has been tasked with clearing it out. He tells us, in his own, broken, inimitable and—thankfully--unrecorded way, that he has attempted to take a broom in and sweep the creatures out, but when he tries, the creatures either become brooms or grow brooms (either he's not sure or he can't tell the difference) and they sweep HIM out. We offer to take care of the problem for him.

    “If it is what I think it is,” Aelron says warily, “This should be fairly simple.”

    “If you help me with my broomeriffic broomlemma,” the gnome proposes, “I shall renumerate you by providering the informasticon of this crestfallen thingomobober. Have we an accordion?”

    “I bleat we have an acolyte.” Olaf proclaims.

    “We will sweep them away.” Flynn agrees.

    As the gnome leads the party toward the cellar, Olaf comes up with A Plan: he'll show the creatures a mirrored surface! If a mimic sees itself, it won't know what to become, and will either sit docilely or paradox itself out of existence. Foolproof!

    The gnome leads the party down a long passageway into a bustling kitchen with slightly more uplifted fey. Well, maybe “uplifted” is the wrong term; they're less emaciated than the gnome, and look to be better capable of speaking in complete sentences. Olaf asks one for a saucepan.

    “What do you need a pan for?” she asks suspiciously.

    “Magic” Olaf responds.

    The kitchen brownie glances at the gnome, who nods vigorously. She shrugs and produces a shallow bronze saucepan for Olaf, who promptly hands it to Aelron for “magicking”.

    Aelron gives him a quizzical look. “What, do you want a flaming saucepan? Self-heating? That'll scare whatever-they-are.”

    Olaf shakes his head. He knows of a minor divine spell, Vanity; his grandmother used to use it occasionally to turn a small silver platter into an actual mirror when she needed it. Aelron thinks about it for a moment, agrees that a mirror might be useful in this situation (or, at least, probably won't kill anyone), and casts Vanity into the pan. As its inner surface goes reflective, the nearby kitchen fey recoil in horror; Vanity is the orison of The Dark Queen, the queen of the Unseelie fey.

    Oops.

    Fortunately, the gnome decides to cover for the party. “Mortals!” he cough-laughs loudly in a voice that clearly indicates he is terrified and trying not to show it. “Ha-ha-ha-HA-ha-HA! Silly crazy mortals. Best not dwell on it. On we go!”

    The party is chivvied out of the kitchen and down a small hall to the wine cellar's door; it is a broad double-door easily ten feet wide, made of solid oak and inlaid with golden tracery shaped like grapevines. Apparently this is where Blazon keeps all his best vintages. It would seem there's some sort of big event coming up soon that the wine will be needed for, and the gnome has been told to clean out this cellar or suffer the consequences. Most of the party chooses not to think about what those might be.

    “How valuable is this door?” Olaf asks.

    Funny he should ask. As a Dhar, he has a racial ability (and he's used it numerous times) to estimate the market value of any given item.

    The gnome waffles, not wishing to offend Olaf's sensibilities (such as they are, and what there are of them), while simultaneously not wishing to see the finely traceried door bashed down. Olaf seizes upon the gnome's lack of immediate rejection as permission and attempts to kick down the door. Thankfully for the gnome, Flynn guesses Olaf's intention, and manages to unlatch the door just before Olaf's bootless heel comes crashing down upon it.

    “Eat reciprocating justice, mirrorbeasties!” Olaf yells, brandishing the Vanitied saucepan as one might a shield.

    With the door open, we can see pretty much all of the “cellar”, and it turns out “cellar” may be a misnomer. No one is surprised. (The gnome used a misnomer, get it? A misgnomer! Oh, god, now he's got me doing it...) There is a broad, roughly rectangular room carved directly out of the stuff of the hill—dusty stone floors and walls with a few roots poking through here and there. Six large brass-hooped barrels, each nearly as tall as Seeker while sitting on its side, are spaced two per wall. Several small bronze brackets hold torches that have long since guttered out. Despite this, the room is well lit; it appears the entire building has some sort of soft ambient lighting coming from… somewhere. The walls perhaps?

    The... creatures... in the room resemble nothing so much as a piles of glowing ochre slime. As Olaf bursts into the doorway, they sprout heads that look... well, sort of like Olaf himself, if Olaf's face was hurriedly carved from warm honey. Olaf hides his head behind the mirrored pan, and stays in the doorway.

    (We feel we must point out that our DM likes to use miniatures for combat representations. Each player has their own, though Seeker's is the coolest; it is his current OOTS forum avatar, printed on a small page, and arranged as a miniature like one of the ones available from the OOTS reprint drive. To represent the slimes, Tam O'connor was using gummi bears. He started with eight on the map.)

    The party collectively wins initiative. (In this system, initiative is rolled by groups, so the party acts together, and its enemies and allies act as groups.) Aelron's player carefully reads the text of the Vanity orison, then asks the DM, “Hey, the floor's covered in slime, right? That mans it's sort of shiny, maybe a bit reflective?”

    The DM warily agrees, and Aelron, without relinquishing his place on the party's back line, reaches around Flynn to touch the floor of the “cellar”. Then he casts Vanity, turning the floor into a fun-house mirror, or maybe a roller-rink. The rest of the party readies defensive actions and waits, not wishing to brave the slimy floor's difficult terrain.

    At the beginning of their turn, the oozes see their own reflections twice (once in Olaf's saucepan-shield and once in the floor). Each time they see their own reflection, they split in two. Suddenly there are thirty-two of these oozes in the room, and all of them are bearing down on Olaf and Flynn.

    The mirroring appears to have been a less-than-brilliant idea.

    Flynn attempts to blast one of the oncoming slimes with his Eldritch Crossbow (his Eldritch Weapon feat allows him to manifest any weapon type at will; there are some caveats with reloading ranged weapons, but it’s otherwise quite handy); he misses his target, and then the oozes are upon them.

    Two of the slimy buggers sprout oddly flinty-looking arrowheads and stab Flynn with them; they drop him to exactly 0 HP. Seeker heals him back up to 5 HP with a spell, then hands his rosary to Aelron and indicates a particular bead. Aelron uses the indicated bead and casts Circle of Protection, granting everyone +2 AC so long as they don’t move overmuch.

    On the party's turn, Olaf attempts to kick one slime back into another slime to force them to... well, even Olaf admits he wasn't exactly sure what he thought would happen. And all he accomplishes anyway is to get his foot slightly soggy, so nobody wins.

    Flynn grimaces and lets out fierce battlecry of “WORST! IDEA! EVER!”, punctuating each word with a swing of an eldritch... pillow. (“I can manifest ANY weapon with this, right? Even if it's a really crappy weapon not on the gear list and that I know won't hurt my target?”) Lovely downy Eldritch feathers burst among the surging ooze. Little else occurs.

    The oozes attacking Flynn attempt to mimic the Eldritch Pillows, smacking him wetly but dealing no damage. The oozes attacking Olaf attempt to swing at him with clumsy imitations of his mirror-pan, but apparently cannot get past the ACTUAL pan. Oh, and they double again. Now there are 64 of them, and Tam is out of gummi-bears. Aelron's player unveils his secret DM-bribery weapon: a box of Mike-and-Ikes, which is immediately pressed into service as more ooze markers.

    Thankfully for the party, each time the oozes split, they lose mass. It appears that there is a maximum quantity of goo, and every time they divide, they become smaller and weaker. They have gone from the size of a human torso to the size of a human head. The last ooze to attack on the round flings itself at Flynn, strikes his torso, deals no damage, and disintegrates on impact. Tam tosses the gummi bear to Flynn's player, a reward for his kill.

    The oozes are beginning to pile up, making Aelron’s day (and Aelron's player's; his sweet tooth is probably more accurately modeled as a sweet black hole). The DM has, in fact, created a small mountain of Mike-and-Ikes and Gummi Bears on the table in front of Flynn's and Olaf's miniatures. Aelron hurls an Indar's Incendiary (a small explosive spell frame, this one containing a brief burst of elemental ice) into the pile, destroying at least ten oozes. Tam tosses Aelron's player a handful of candy, which almost instantly disappears. Flynn throws two more Eldritch Pillows; he critically hits one square and hits another. Eldritch Feathers fly everywhere as pillows tumble through ooze-piles.

    On its turn, the ooze-horde attempts to multiply again but fails; they appear to have reached the opposite of critical mass, but will not oblige Olaf's original plan by simply willing themselves out of existence. Instead, they attempt to hurl themselves at Flynn and Olaf; half of them splatter on Olaf, soaking his undergarments in a most unpleasant manner (for the rest of the party as much as for Olaf) but not actually harming him. The rest of them pile up just inside the room.

    On the party's turn, Olaf attempts to give the ooze the People’s Elbow. (“You know those giant leaf piles you dove into as a kid during autumn? I want to do that, but with ooze.”) Alas, he rolls a nat 1 and instead sinks to the bottom of the pile. Now he is actually in danger of DROWNING in slime. Aelron casts Burning Hands (metamagicked to deal cold damage, as it would do no one any good to clear out the cellar if the wine barrels burn to ash) and takes out almost all of the remaining slimes. Aelron's player makes a pouty face when the DM does not hand him the rest of the candy. Olaf takes some damage from the burst of cold, but Seeker fixes it nigh immediately.

    Olaf manages to capture one of the last oozes in his cloak, and Flynn's Eldritch Pillows squash the last remaining one into soggy oblivion. Olaf asks if anyone has a jug to put his ooze in, and the gnome immediately reappears with a crockery jug. Olaf seals the ooze inside. It appears that he wants to keep it as a pet. He names it Scuzzbucket. It uses Tam O'Connor's “adorable falsetto” to mimick the last syllable of anything said to it. (“IT!”)

    “The cellar is clean.” Flynn tells the gnome.

    “'lean” mutters Scuzzbucket from his urn.

    “For a given value of the word,” Aelron mutters.

    “Oh broomjus day!” the gnome proclaims, and leaps into the room. Unfortunately, the floor is still coated with an apparently frictionless slime, and the gnome becomes a pinball. After several minutes of fighting to extricate himself from the sickly-sweet mess, the gnome attempts to obtain a second audience with Blazon for the party; he leads them to a washroom first, however, as they are... less than presentable.

    Olaf is the only one who actually bathes; only he and Flynn were slimed, and Flynn has Aelron and Seeker simply Prestidigitation him clean. “What?” Olaf asks a cynically disinclined Flynn, Aelron and Seeker as he shucks his slimed clothing and dives into the bubble-covered bronze tub. “It's not like I'm gonna drink it.”

    The gnome returns, a bit crestfallen. Blazon will not see us again, but he revealed some information to the gnome. Aelron and Seeker wonder idly, after leaving, whether Blazon knew the gnome would share it with us and simply used the gnome to get around his promises from earlier not to share information, or if he genuinely did not know the gnome would betray his trust. It may have become apparent that this party thinks in circles within circles.

    “To quote my lord,” the gnome tells us, his voice dropping into a spot-on imitation of Blazon's much deeper baritone: “What fool told them this was a sign of an individual? It is the sign of a HOUSE! The House of the Hunt Reborn. They make some claims to the secrets of restoring the dead to life. Hogwash, if you ask me. I have no need of your services. Go away, gnome.”

    As he finishes his recitation, the gnome bows deeply, again mashing his nose flat against the floor, as if his master really had been in the room dismissing him.

    The gnome reaffirms that his master cannot—or will not—give us any further information about what is technically an allied house.
    .
    Exasperated, Seeker asks, “Who could we ask that would be able to tell us?”

    “Oh, I could!” the gnome excitedly proclaims.

    Aelron facepalms.

    What we learn: The House of the Hunt Reborn still controls the same forest they held before the Baroness fought her duel. They have approximately one hundred lancers (fey of essentially the same rank as the one she killed). We ask about the symptoms that Hangtree is suffering from, and all the gnome can say is, “That is completely maleficent. Dastardly. I have no idea, but it sounds absolutely demoniacal.” Between the phrase “Hunt Reborn” and some of the other information the party has picked up, however, it is beginning to seem likely that if Baroness Hangtree dies while still under the effects of the curse, the fey who killed her will be “resurrected” in some form.

    The party leaves the fey hold by way of the cloakroom, and Flynn picks up his cloak; it has been ‘blessed’ with gnomish magic, and will better conceal him in woodland areas.

    The party decide to head out of the woods as quickly as possible. When you're in a place called The Wolfwood, and you've come across evidence that a dragon called Shadow-of-the-Moon, Favored of the Horned Lord hunts in the area, “Get the **** out” seems like the best idea. We have to camp in the Wolfwood for several nights before we're clear, and on one of those nights the party is awakened by a dramatically lower-pitch howl. All of the wolves who have been howling all day long abruptly go silent as the deeper, bass howl reverberates around the countryside. Olaf’s guess is that if a bear could howl, this is how it would sound; a distressing mental image, but thankfully the deeper howl is moving further away, and eventually normal wolves resume their calling and everyone goes back to sleep. On the last day in the forest, we find a deer carcass that has been hung up and cleaned. Obviously the work of hunters with bows and knives, but we can’t tell much else.

    The party has a spectacular and spectacularly circular debate what to do next once they clear the Wolfwood and ultimately settles on going to New Drougant. It is the largest city in the region, the approximate capital of the Kingdom, and a decent place to find more information, either independently or via experts, that will aid us in our quest. We might also be able to obtain magical components and other resources that will aid in curing the Baroness. The country immediately south of the Wolf Wood the Isti Valley, and it is gorgeous; a broad river of glacier melt runs languidly and sinuously down the valley floor, winding around small hills and dales, some of which appear to have villages set into them in the dwarven style.

    As the party nears the halfway point of its journey to New Drougant, an odd thing happens. During Seeker’s watch, a voice calls out from the darkness, hailing the camp and asking permission to approach. Seeker welcomes them, and out of the night march thirteen soldiers in the battered, broken remains of armor. All of them are limping; six of them are so heavily wounded as to require either heavy support or outright dragging to move. Normally even a light patrol would consist of twenty soldiers. Someone hurt these men badly.

    Seeker, and Aelron once he's awake, work to heal the worst-injured soldiers first while their commanding officer speaks to Flynn. The acting-Sergeant (he was a Corporal, but he was the highest-ranking 'officer' they had left) said that they were tax collectors. They had gone to several local villages, collected loads of grain to return to New Drougant, and set out, but that they'd been ambushed barely a day out of town by vicious bandits. Apparently this is not exactly new; Drougant as a region is not known for stability and loyalty to the crown, and there is a legend in the Isti Valley that when tax collectors become too oppressive, the “Cunctator” returns to drive them off and return the villagers their rightful property. Apparently the children in the towns they'd collected from had been throwing rocks at the soldiers and saying things like “The Cunctator will get you!”, but the soldiers paid it no mind. The village headsman said that that was just a local legend, and nothing to worry about.

    Aelron recognized the name; Cunctator means Delayer in a planar dialect. Most peasant children do not know words in ANY planar dialect, let alone the dialect of the Plane of Law and Earth. Something is quite strange.

    What is most distressing to Seeker is that some soldiers have injuries wholly inconsistent with the wounds they've taken. An arrow wound in the calf with a shattered shin, for example. Both Aelron and Seeker question the soldier, who can provide no adequate explanation himself. He remembers feeling the arrow enter his calf, he remembers feeling a sharp burst of pain and falling to the ground, and he remembers waking up with his leg broken. Aelron deduces that the arrows were enchanted, and that a properly trained mage could, in theory, produce such an effect relatively easily.

    Once the soldiers' worst injuries are taken care of, the party returns to its watch rotation and goes back to sleep.

    In the morning, one of the soldiers notices an arrow stuck into one of the nearby tree trunks. The arrow's shaft pierces a piece of paper, pinning it to the tree. Seeker somehow didn’t notice during his watch, and his growling grumpiness with himself is enough to scare several of the soldiers. The note reads, “TAXES ARE DELAYED UNTIL WE CHOOSE TO PAY THEM. – CUNCTATOR” and is written on REALLY NICE parchment. Aelron expunges the ink and keeps the parchment for himself.

    We travel with the soldiers to their local capital of Isti. Olaf, looking around on the march, decides that the Isti Valley would make an excellent Dhar kingdom with him as its king, and tries to get information from the soldiers about their patrol routes, strongholds in the region, army strengths, etc. They are... understandably wary of discussing such things with a Dhar.

    The Upper Isti River empties into a wide, deep azure lake just east of the city of Isti itself. The party, travelling on the North side of the river, hikes along the lakeside trails and into town on a crisp, clear day. Aelron picks up a pebble washed clean and smooth by the glacier melt river and magnifies its magical essence to provide some protection from cold damage (Mother of Dragons spell Create Totem). Now he has Fire Resistance AND Cold resistance and he feels somewhat paradoxical.

    The city of Isti is on the west end of the lake into which the Upper Isti River empties. The Lower Isti divides the city into two sections, a northern and a southern, as it drains out of the lake. On the southern side of the river is a large and motley collection of dock-lands, warehouses, and a few wretched hives of scum and villainy; it appears to be where most of the river trade on which the city thrives occurs. On the NORTHERN side of the river is an organized, thoughtfully-laid out maze of streets leading through a forest of buildings of varying height, all surrounded by a 30-foot curtain wall that extends some distance into the river and lake. There are barges plying across the lake mouth, and both the lake and the river within ten miles of Isti's keep are required by the Isti Tourism Board to be described as “teeming with fishing boats, barges and rafts.”

    From our local guides, we learn that Far Isti, the walled northern part of the city we are approaching, is the primary hiring place for mercenary forces in the region. Apparently several unfriendly kingdoms to the north and west like to begin raids on the Kingdom of Drougant here at Isti; it is a relatively rich port with a low population and only a small standing army. The folly of underestimating Isti is readily apparent as patrol leads the party through the city and up to the keep; this place is a fortress, and looks to be a dwarven-made fortress at that. Seeker is mildly uncomfortable as the ceilings close in, but the architecture is sound and includes plenty of lovely choke points and arrow slits.

    The soldiers Aelron and Seeker saved greet the guards watching the gate, and make introductions. The party is escorted into an antechamber, a fairly minor hall of some kind. We are left to make ourselves comfortable, and about an hour in, Olaf orders snacks. What arrives is river fish, cleaned and deboned, with the head and tail removed; the entire thing has been filled with spices and a leek, the fish has been sewn back together with a green onion, and the entire concoction has been slow-roasted. The lot of them steam slightly as the valet enters with a tray. Flynn dubs them “Leeky Boats”. Aelron glares at him. Seeker, with his muzzle, does not quite know how to approach this food without making an utter mess. Realizing his robe cannot be stained, he suddenly cannot care.

    An hour after snacks, the Count of Isti, a man broad-shouldered enough to be part-dwarf, joins us. He thanks us for rescuing his patrol of tax collectors and for notifying him of the Cunctator. Flynn offers, as a vassal of Hangtree, another Crown loyalist, to inform the king about the Cunctator, but the Count assures him that won't be necessary; he seems confident he can deal with it on his own. Olaf requests us a boat to New Drougant, and the Count agrees to grant the party a writ of free passage. Rewards agreed upon, he departs, leaving the party again alone in their side room. While waiting for the Count's writ to be prepared, Olaf finds out that Aelron doesn't drink mead, and assumes that Aelron doesn't know how to party. Aelron, scoffing at such childish assumptions, relates a story about one of the wild parties during days at the Gemstone Towers (“This was during the Solstice holiday, so a lot of students had gone home... but everyone who HADN'T was part of this party. The Ruby Tower initiates were doing flaming shots out of the Sapphire initiates' bellybuttons, one of the Emerald initiates persuaded a broom to catch updrafts, and SOMEHOW the conservatory burned down. We're still not sure exactly how that happened, seeing as the conservatory was made of stone…”). Eventually the valet returns and presents Flynn with a purse stitched with Isti’s mark, containing a not inconsiderable sum of money, a letter of passage to New Drougant, and a small personal note of the Count's thanks.

    As the party headed for the docks, Seeker asked Aelron what might be able to break an Empathic Bond of Brigii or Turmlar (two deities who can help their followers form empathic bonds that will forever link the minds of those followers, typically used for weddings or paladin mounts) as if it had never been made. Aelron, unknowing, provides the worst answer after a moment's consideration: Farkas, the god of wolves (and of wolfmen) grants an ability that can sever such bonds. Seeker digests this new information with some dismay; the bond between him and his wife was, in all likelihood, sundered by one of his own.
    Last edited by Fayd; 2013-10-14 at 10:35 PM.
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Chapter 5: I <3 NDC or Thesauri Magnus Extinctum

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    • The party travels from Isti to New Drougant City, where Miaoyu and Olaf promptly get into a bit of petty theft, and we learn that Seeker has been attempting to solve a riddle that should lead him a step closer to his wife. It turns out that the riddle was likely directing him to Miaoyu.
    • Seeker does his healing thing, Aelron does his research thing, and Olaf and Miaoyu try very hard to do less law-breaking while still earning money. They cease breaking most laws, but also do not earn any more immediate cash.
    • At Seeker’s request, Miaoyu Locates a dragonscale amulet he had given to his wife. She also Locates an alicorn within the city and begins to do a bit of plotting


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    Prior to the actual start of the session, we ran a mini-encounter to see what Miaoyu was up to while everyone was off adventuring. She was attacked by an incorporeal spirit, later identified as a Curious Strangler, that insisted on asking questions while trying to crush her windpipe. The thing... well, appeared isn't the right word... arrived in her camp as she kept watch over the party's iron goods, and began by asking what she was doing in the woods and what her name was. Miaoyu lied by reflex.

    “My name is Hong Xiao. I'm just here to watch some stuff for my friends, we'll be out of the woods by tomorrow at the latest.”

    “Whyyyy don't you STAYYYYYY?” the creature asked, and suddenly Miaoyu found spectral hands wrapping around her throat from behind, attempting to strangle the life out of her.

    The creature proved impossible to spot at first, and just as impossible to harm. Its voice seemed to be coming from in front of her while its hands were definitely wrapping around her neck from behind. After several rounds of dodging out of the hands' grip and attempting to stab both the hands and the voice to no avail, Miaoyu asked frustratedly, “Why won't you just get stabbed?!”

    The creature paused momentarily, becoming slightly more visible as an outline in the air, and responded with, “Why wasn't I buried?”

    Realizing that questioning it would lead to improved corporeality and therefor stab-ability, Miaoyu continued to pepper the spirit with questions (not that it ever provided answers, you understand; it always responded with yet another cryptic query) until she could finally slide a knife between its... um... well, it didn't actually have ribs. It just had lots of ectoplasm. And boy, was Aelron's player sad to watch THAT stuff spilling all over the ground.

    In all, Miaoyu actually took more hit point damage from that fight than she had hit points available. She had to burn something like three healing potions just to stay alive. The minor trachea damage, however, nicely explained her quietness last session.

    While on the ship to New Drougant, Seeker to explains one of his methods of searching for his wife: a spell called Seek. (For all that he's thinking outside the box as a Wolf-man Purifier, he's not terribly imaginative when it comes to naming spells. Seeker’s Sidenote: They’re totally right! ) Seek gives its caster a riddle to solve that will bring him slightly closer to his goal. The most recent riddle granted to Seeker was ‘find jade in the iron throne’.

    A bit of background for those not familiar with it: there was once a minor deity or demigod known as the Iron Lord. He began his existence as a mortal Drouganti tasked with prosecuting the war against the Fey, and eventually ascended to godhood (whether through sheer badassery or by absorbing the powers of the myriad Fey he slaughtered or by some other means, no one is precisely certain anymore). As a former Drouganti, the Iron Lord kept holds and fastnesses all across Drougant, and had supporters throughout it in even the smallest communities. The short riddles he created to help commoners remember how to defeat or avoid Fey creatures are still used, despite the fact that the Iron Lord himself hasn't been seen (and hasn't granted any prayers, so presumably he's been dead) for at least a hundred years. The Iron Lord maintained a tower bastion, called the Iron Tower (yet another non-imaginative namer; you’d think a demigod could do better! Even Ferrous Tower or Iron Citadel, come on people, use those thesauruses!), but that sank into the sea upon his supposed death and ALSO has not been seen since.

    Surmising that the phrase 'iron throne' referred to Drougant as the general seat of the Iron Lord’s power, rather than to the tower lost to the trackless seas a century ago, Seeker made for Drougant, which eventually led him to be sitting with his party on a ship, trying to figure out what ‘jade’ could refer to. Everyone eagerly offers possibilities, from the most literal to the more metaphorical; at one point, Miaoyu and Olaf even begin plotting to travel to Qen and invade the Emperor’s Palace, arguing that if jade cannot be found in Drougant, they must bring some back with them from elsewhere and then “find” it to solve the riddle. Eventually, everyone lists off the word ‘jade’ in every language known to them. Aelron lists several in various human tongues and dialects, none of which is helpful. Seeker gives all the elven variations he knows, but again none prove enlightening. Flynn puts up his hands in a gesture that says, “Well, don't look at me.” Olaf admits that the Dhar tongue has no direct translation for “jade”, but gives the words for some similar gems. Miaoyu finally says it in Qennish: ‘yu’. Things finally click in everyone’s minds as they realize that ‘jade’ refers to a person, not a thing, and specifically to Miaoyu herself; the full meaning of her name is, apparently, ‘Clever Jade’.

    Further clarification for those who may be interested: Seek is a divination spell that provides hints for Seeker’s goal in the form of a riddle; it is purely divination magic, however, and not prophecy. As a priestess of Gilgadar, Miaoyu is not bound by fate; prophecy cannot foretell her actions, predict her presence or take her into account in any way, but she IS subject to divination spells. There was a huge 'discussion' over this after the session ended, and we wish the DM's word to be known.

    The sense of the request to 'find Jade in the Iron Throne' becomes clear when the party remembers that Miaoyu can ask her deity to locate any single item anywhere in the world. Seeker asks if Miaoyu would be willing to locate something for her, and Miaoyu agrees. Seeker, realizing that he will need to fine-tune his request to make sure that what he asks for is truly something only his wife would have, asks to Miaoyu to speak with him later, and everyone goes about their business on the ship. (Seeker’s Side Note; there was also deciding between an item and a slightly more…grim request that was not ultimately asked.)

    Also aboard this particular ship is a band of mercenaries; scouts and map-tappers, they call themselves, led by a Lovas chieftain named Horvath. Seeker notices a young wolfman that Horvath identifies only as Pup; all attempts to speak with Pup, including those made by Horvath himself, result only in a low, threatening growl that Seeker can translate as “F*** off or I bite you.” Seeker decides to talk with Horvath for a while, but learns little of use beyond that the mercs are returning from a mission for a little R&R in New Drougant City and are likely not as benign as they claim to be; eventually Seeker excuses himself.

    Seeker notes Pup’s unease; being near an elf (and there is an elf named Kat in the mercenary band; Horvath needs to work on his hiring processes) is apparently quite... frustrating for Pup (remember the curse that split the elven race into female elves and male wolfmen?) and being forced into cramped shipboard quarters with a physically fit elf is driving Pup to pacing. It's like watching a teenaged boy in a lingerie shop, except that every time Pup tries to make a move he gets a brutal slash from one of Kat's daggers. His muzzle is rather bloody by the time everyone beds down for the night.

    The mercenaries’ captain, Horvath, decides to inspect the group’s horses and Aelron goes to speak with him; giving a Lovas—especially a shady Lovas about whom you know next to nothing—unfettered access to your horses is an excellent way to make them not your horses anymore. Unfortunately for Aelron, the only distracting tactic that readily presents itself (Aelron's not exactly the dissembling type) is getting Horvath talking rather than inspecting, and the easiest thing to get any Lovas to talk about is horses. Horvath goes on at length (one might even say ad nauseum, except Aelron doesn't get seasick much) about horses, horseback riding, horseback tactics, horse breeding, horse training, showmanship and even maintenance. Aelron doesn't necessarily mind learning about horses, but he's also aware enough of his comrades to realize that Miaoyu and Olaf are making use of Horvath's distractedness to plot something.

    Upon Seeker's return to the group from his conversation with Horvath, Olaf notes offhandedly to Miaoyu: “You know, if they're returning from a job, they probably just got paid.”

    Watching Miaoyu's eyes light up is both adorable and terrifying. “Are you thinking what I'm thinking?”

    “I'll cause a traffic jam at dockside. Hit 'em as they're trying to disembark.”

    “It'll be a pleasure.”

    The ship finally arrives in New Drougant and the group takes in its towering walls and the castle on the cliff overlooking the river. All but Miaoyu are suitably impressed; Qen is fortunate enough to not be constantly torn by wars, and in comparison to her homeland's, these walls are rather small. When the ship docks, Olaf leads the horses off the ship first and deliberately makes Flynn’s horse stumble. He calls Horvath over for 'help' with the horse and quickly engages him in a discussion about how such a terrible accident might be avoided in the future, effectively blocking the gangplank and causing something of a pileup on deck. Miaoyu waits for the group of mercenaries to become restless before she begins pushing through them, casually liberating everyone but Horvath, Pup, and Kat of their heavy purses. Once Olaf notices Miaoyu push through to the gangplank, he breaks off the conversation with Horvath, clears the gangplank, and lets the mercenaries off the ship and into the city. Olaf and Miaoyu split their stolen gold while sharing a high five. Miaoyu, of course, decides to pay a proper tithe to the church of Gilgadar. Which is, by happy coincidence, herself. (“Ah, the many perks of worshipping Gilgadar!”)

    At customs, the group are asked if they wish to declare any illegal or regulated items and to peacebind their weapons. A peacebind spell, the orison of Laeros, keeps a weapon bound in its sheath while it remains in a city. Utterly ineffective on weapons like clubs and staves that cannot be sheathed, and exclusive as it is of extremely small knives that might be considered tools or eating implements, it nonetheless helps ensure the safety of urban populations. Although a peacebind can be forcibly broken, an initiate of Laeros can determine down to the minute WHEN it was broken, which means the authorities can usually determine who drew first when a bar brawl goes bad.

    Seeker and Flynn pass through customs without incident and are welcomed into the city. Larlonites with oaths of peace don't tend to have much to declare, and Flynn (hilariously) carries no weapon. To the shock of all (DM included), Miaoyu actually has no contraband, barring her stolen gold. To all appearances, she is the picture of a law-abiding Qen. Tension between Olaf and the customs officer is thick enough to cut with any of Olaf's baker's dozen blades, but the customs officer shies away from confrontation, either not noticing or ignoring Olaf’s urn full of Scuzzbucket. (Miaoyu’s Imperial Blessing reminds her that Olaf is breaking the law: “Oozes are illegal within city limits.” When she ignores it, she is then reminded that by doing nothing she is an accessory. She continues ignoring it. This seems to be a theme.) Aelron surrenders his Indar’s Incendiaries to the officer, sealing them in a case that will detonate if anyone but Aelron himself attempts to break its seal (possibly setting off the case's contents, and whoever sets it off better HOPE he has Improved Evasion), allows the officer a quick look through his kit full of random enchanting materials (“Is that a lock of hair?” “It's from a dryad. A really cute one, at that. I wonder how he's doing these days.”), and the group is finally released to go on their way.

    Flynn finds an inn and stables the horses. (Flynn’s player was absent for this session, so alas he does not get to participate in our hijinks for the time being.) The others begin to walk to the major temple in the city.

    “Better stay on your toes,” Olaf warns as they set out. “Cities can be dangerous.” Aelron and Seeker, by now aware of his and Miaoyu's antics during the disembarkation process, glare at him.

    “Yeah,” Miaoyu adds with a cheerily innocent smile. “Definitely watch out for pickpockets. They could be anywhere!” The two of them burst into a fit of giggles and even Aelron’s player grudgingly admits it’s funny.

    The party takes Bank Street through the city and finds it fittingly (if again unimaginatively) named; it is on a riverbank, at the foot of an embankment and lined with banks. As they pass by one, Miaoyu attempts to Locate an alicorn and gets a result! “That bank there,” Gilgadar tells her, “Used to be Old Drougant Bank and now it's... ok, where'd I put that notecard? Heck with it. Name doesn't matter anyway, you're standing right in front of it. Vault Two in that building.” She files the information away for later use.

    The party eventually arrives at the NDC's main temple complex, which, in addition to the temple itself, contains a small seminary, apartment housing for many of the temple's staff and clergy, and offices for various church officials. Seeker arranges an audience with the city’s Regenerator, the head Purifier of the city. He also warns the resident priests of the disturbing number of ghouls the group has encountered (less disturbing once you factor in their recent proximity to the Corpse Copse) and then turns himself into a walking Red Cross, making his way through the city providing healing to any who he might find in need. (For the duration of this session, he earned himself the nickname “Sesame Street” from the DM.) Aelron, in conversation with various well-connected Temple residents, locates experts on unicorns, the Iron Lord, the House of Reborn Hunt and the Relentless Pursuer (the Unseelie Court's counterpart to the Horned Lord), as well as a vendor in the Foreign Quarter who might have some amber for sale. Olaf stays in the temple itself, leaving small offerings on the tray for every god in the Laerosian pantheon while he waits for the rest of the party. The temple guardsmen watch him like hawks, but thankfully for them (and him), Olaf is merely waiting for his party members. He's far too wary of the gods to make trouble in a major temple.

    Miaoyu wanders out of the shrine area and into the temple dorms. Once she starts to see man-made holes in the walls – ideal for snakes to slither through – she begins knocking on doors until she finds a priest of Ysilar, the god of knowledge, betrayal, poison and—of course—snakes. The priest has a somewhat unnerving demeanor, by which we mean he hisses whenever he pronounces an 's', but he is willing to sell poisons, so Miaoyu is willing to overlook any of his odd proclivities and/or pronunciations. Unfortunately, poison requires a license to carry. Reluctantly, Miaoyu buys one, knowing that attempting to carry it illegally would be more trouble than it's worth, mostly because Aelron would just make her get a license anyway.

    As the priest of Ysilar fills out the paperwork for Miaoyu's license, he asks what sort of use she's going to put the poison to. “Issssss thissssss for the dissssposssal of… vermin?” he asks, leaning rather heavily and unsubtly on the last word.

    Miaoyu winks. “In a manner of speaking.”

    Apparently finding that a satisfactory response, the priest permits her to purchase some rat poison. She asks about non-lethal poisons—knockout drugs and paralytics—as well, saying it is for her wolfman friend who has difficulty sleeping in cities and tosses an turns destructively enough to break bedframes, but the priest cannot assist her there; he directs her to an alchemist's shop. He is about halfway through giving her directions when Miaoyu nearly jumps out of her skin; what appears to be a fur-lined snake is slithering up the priest's arm, nipping him in what is either an affectionate manner or an attempt to kill him. The priest absentmindedly strokes the snake as it circles his neck and shoulders, then extends an arm toward a nearby peg mounted a few feet off the wall; the snake slithers along his proffered limb to coil on the peg and hang, observing. As Ysilar is the patron god of librarians, it isn’t uncommon to find snakes in libraries, offering companionship for the librarians, poison for the disciples of Ysilar, ratcatchers, and serving as unorthodox backup guards for the library. Miaoyu decides it's time to go see those alchemists, yes, those alchemists that she's sure are going to close soon so she'd better be on her way bye haveagooddaybyeleavingnow.

    On his way out of the temple, Aelron spots Olaf loitering in the gallery and asks him to check the Foreign Quarter for amber. “It'll probably be Dhar selling it, and they'll respond way better to your presence than to mine,” Aelron points out. Olaf agrees and, seeing a perturbed Miaoyu returning from her poison-licensing expedition, proclaims that if he and Miaoyu together can't find any amber for sale over there, there must not be any to be found. Aelron rolls his eyes, briefly considers alerting the city authorities, then puts the whole thing out of his mind and begins his day of research by seeking out the scholar recommended to him for information on unicorns.

    The scholar, Aileen, is a cheerful woman with a plump face and bright smile whose apartment is furnished with unicorn pictures, statues, stuffed animals… if it has a unicorn on it, or bears a resemblance to a unicorn in any way, she undoubtedly has one. She more than eagerly shares her knowledge with Aelron, explaining what she knows of finding and tracking unicorns, demonstrating how to properly remove an alicorn to make it a poison removal tool, pointing out how the horn's removal leaves you with a clear shot at the creature's brain (and once you remove the alicorn, killing the creature is basically a mercy), how certain pieces of the unicorn can be harvested for components in later magical rituals once the creature is dead, and what those components are useful for. In thanks for her aid, Aelron sets about crafting a gift for her. First, he asks her for a bowl of water, which she provides easily. He purifies it with the orison of Lo-Tenger (the god of the sea and the earth), making it crystal clear. Then he pulls out a silver coin and, using some borrowed tools, chips and grinds it into silver flakes, which he dumps into the water. Then, using a spell of his own devising, he shapes the water and the silver contained within it into a small (roughly foot-tall) statuette of a rearing unicorn with silver hooves, eyes, horn, mane and tail. There are just enough silver flakes left over to flutter about prettily within the unicorn's body, similar to flakes in a snowglobe. The statue has a texture akin to glass, but Aelron assures her that the enchantment which solidifies the outer surface of the water is quite durable, and that the little flakes will stir like that when the statuette is either shaken or heated. She calls it “Quite possibly the most thoughtful gift anyone has ever given me!”, hugs him in thanks, and tells him that if he ever needs anything more to do with unicorns, she will gladly assist.

    While Aelron discusses prancing ponies and fairy horses, Olaf and Miaoyu browse the richer side of town for sleeping poison, but find little to their satisfaction. They decide, since Aelron has asked them to head there anyway, to head to the poorer districts of New Drougant, specifically the Foreign Quarter, to see if they can covertly acquire controlled substances such as amber and knockout poison, or otherwise acquire work, possibly from the local thieves’ guild. Unfortunately, upon entering the Quarter, Olaf encounters people from his clan, Bronze Elbow, and learns that his family, at least locally, has been wiped out. Although the conversation is only in Dharric, Miaoyu pats him on the shoulder in sympathy when Olaf turns ashen in horror. Olaf decides to focus on the living before seeking vengeance, and refocuses on finding amber to help the Baroness. They find a Dhar Clanchief named Orika who runs a shop in the Foreign Quarter and ask if she has any amber for sale. When Orika asks what this amber might be used for so as to know which of her pieces might best suit his needs, Olaf explains that if he can lift the curse on Baroness Hangtree, he will be rewarded a position of power, allowing him to employ more Dhar, ultimately improving the lives of the Dhar as a whole. Impressed with his ambition if not with his ability to stay on-topic, Orika offers him a large chunk of pure amber at a discount price. Despite the kindness of her discount, however, once Olaf and Miaoyu have scraped together enough to afford it, their purses have largely been emptied.

    Seeker, having done what he can in the temple, proceeds to the Foreign Quarter as well, suspecting that their needs have likely been neglected. He meets up with Miaoyu and Olaf and learns of Olaf’s clan’s fate. Seeker offers his sympathies, but is pleased to learn that they found a most suitable chunk of amber for the ritual. Miaoyu and Olaf discuss employment options to recover the gold they've just spent, entertaining the possibility of working for the local thieves' guild (Miaoyu is reluctant to steal in the city without their blessing; an angry thieves guild is not to be underestimated). Seeker makes them promise not to target the poor, which they do without hesitation. After a bit of work in the Quarter, Seeker returns to the temple to meditate. For the sake of making Aelron and Seeker more comfortable, Olaf and Miaoyu decide to check out the adventurer’s guild first. They find a rather dingy building called the Hero’s Guild, rather optimistically named if still not imaginatively, and head inside. Taxidermied heads are the only form of decoration within, the furniture is stained and sagging and the staff appear to be invisible. A few other ruffians, presumably also adventurers, practice their combat skills on dummies. Miaoyu and Olaf investigate the bulletin boards looking for job postings, but find little in the way of profitable margin. The most promising jobs (and here we use 'promising' in an extremely liberal sense) are a couple of requests for escort and delivery of goods. The requests do not detail WHAT goods are being delivered, and specifically forbid the opening of the containers, but they DO specify that the material to be delivered must be kept within a certain temperature range at all times. Coincidentally, one of the deliveries is to Brandt, not far from Hangtree, which makes it a perfect stop before heading back for the golden bridle.

    While Miaoyu and Olaf are looking for ways to replenish their coin purses, Aelron is depleting his own. The scholar recommended to him for information on the Iron Lord also happens to be a low-ranking noble and a dean of New Drougant's royal college. He does not share his time with just anyone, and insists on payment of a rather large sum of money up front before he gives any information. Aelron grudgingly hands over enough to satisfy the man, and he turns over an hourglass, seats them both at a dining table, and says in the most artificially cheerful voice Aelron has heard in weeks, “How may I assist you today?”

    Aelron describes Baroness Hangtree's condition and the party's attempt to cure it. A rather sharp individual in his own right or he probably wouldn't be a dean, the scholar realizes that what Aelron is really after is some sort of artifact consecrated to the Iron Lord before his disappearance, and those are... difficult to find these days. He shares a list of seven locations with Aelron, each of which is the site of a ruin or temple once dedicated to the Iron Lord. The most promising in Aelron's opinion is a small temple ruin once known as the Iron Stele, which, by happy coincidence, is also the closest to Hangtree's barony. Legend has it that any person who goes to the temple and bespeak a need to fight the Fey will be directed to something that will aid them. Aelron doesn't know if such an enchantment would still function, but is certainly willing to give it a shot. He thanks the dean for his time and takes his leave, heading back to the inn as it is getting rather late.

    Miaoyu and Olaf go to the inn and Olaf finds the sickest, lamest looking urchin he can find and sends him to Seeker with a message to meet with them at the inn. The urchin delivers it and is rewarded with Restoration cast upon him, which heals the worst of his maladies; Seeker isn’t sure whether to be cross with Olaf for taking advantage of the child or grateful that he sent the boy his way. Before going, Seeker speaks with the Regenerator, who calls Seeker ‘a credit to his race’, and overall approves of Seeker’s actions and plans to cure the baroness. Regardless, Seeker meets with the others at the inn, along with Aelron. They discuss the caravan job and Seeker asks Miaoyu to Locate a green dragonscale amulet he had made for his wife. (“What the heck,” Gilgadar says when she asks, “I’m a sap.”) Miaoyu tells Seeker the approximate location of the amulet, in the forested mountains far to the north of New Drougant. It’s in the middle of hillfolk (orc) territory, but that’s a rather broad term. Seeker thanks her and considers his next course of action. Miaoyu also asks Gilgadar for the location of the key to that one bank's Vault Two, and she learns that it is in the Gilderoy mansion. Now she just needs to prove to Aelron that Gilderoy deserves to be stolen from and she'll have herself a caper.


    Special thanks to Dawnflame for helping with the chapter.
    Last edited by AverageSparrow; 2013-10-16 at 04:56 PM.

  21. - Top - End - #21
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    As of now, about half of the group is contributing to the journal in some way. Dawnflame is co-writing with me and Fayd checks the lore. Assume this credit stands for every chapter hereafter, unless otherwise noted.

    Chapter 6: Bush-whacked. Also, Bush-stabbed.

    Reader’s Digest:
    Spoiler
    Show
    -Miaoyu and Olaf acquire a mysterious jar for delivery to Brandt that is not to be opened under any circumstances. So, naturally, everyone tries to figure out what’s in it.
    -Aelron spends his time working on a spell for Seeker to let him heal from range.
    -Flynn arranges an audience with the Gilroy family, but they deny having an alicorn.
    -Olaf sells his inheritance to his clanhold.
    -The entire party, bar Seeker, is soundly thrashed by an angry rosebush. They come back later and teach it a lesson.


    Full Chapter:
    Spoiler
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    Miaoyu asks Flynn what he knows about the Gilroy family. Flynn recalls that they are royalists, a powerful family whose support for the king is a large factor in the military and economic success of his kingdom. Lore Gilroy (that’s not a typo, that’s his first name) heads a far-reaching, highly-profitable mercantile guild and has married off a daughter to a man named Haddon (who took the name Gilroy when he married in). Haddon commands Haddon's Eagles, a mercenary outfit primarily consisting of medium cavalry. He is the king's right hand on the battlefield; while the Eagles are not great at holding conquered territory, they excel at driving militia-based enemies (which is about 90% of what the Independent Counties can field) into disastrous retreats.

    Flynn decides to speak with his contact in the city, Calli, and asks about the general state of affairs in the region and the Gilroy family in particular. Calli tells him that the King is currently in residence (the royal banner can be seen fluttering over the castle's central tower in the half-hearted breeze), though he plans to leave in the next week for another military excursion into the Independent Counties. She has no news to offer about Hangtree or any of the counties in its region. When Flynn asks if the fact that the Gilroy family holds an alicorn is common knowledge, Calli does a double take. (“They have a what?”) Flynn insists his source is reliable (“She's not an official source, but she's not been wrong yet...”) and asks Calli to inquire around, see if any more information can be uncovered. The next day, worried that the rumor of an alicorn might draw other, less honorable parties, Flynn stakes out the First Governor's Bank of Bene, looking for anyone else who might be casing the joint. All he manages to find is a couple of tiffed nobles storming out of the bank to duel on the grass, so he heads back to the inn and makes a tidy sum of money playing at cards with a dwarven deck (“Wow. Another Magma Flush. This must really be my night.”).

    Aelron decides to wrap up his research and meets with Sidhe (pronounced “She”, bloody Irish pronunciations), an expert on Fey houses, who will hopefully have more information on the Hunter Reborn. Sidhe is a royal adjunct rather than a university professor, and (thankfully for Aelron's rapidly thinning purse) doesn't charge for her time. They discuss for a while; Aelron lays out the particulars of Baroness Hangtree's case and what the party has learned so far of the House of the Hunter Reborn, and asks if she knows anything more about them. Unfortunately, Sidhe isn’t able to give him any new information; the House of the Hunter Reborn is more of a military organization than a true Fey house, and has no diplomats of its own. If Fey under the banner of the Hunter Reborn are nearby, it's probably because they want you dead. She can, however, confirm what Aelron learned from the Daoine Sidhe. Aelron thanks her for her time and departs.

    He moves on to speak with an elderly chandler for information on the Relentless Pursuer. Here, again, unfortunately, he already knows about as much as the person he is sent to see. A bit more, in some ways. He confirms that the Relentless Pursuer was once a Qennish man (very tall, with anger management issues and a single-edged sword taller than he was) who had one of his eyes taken by a goblin tribe. He later ascended to immortality, returned to wipe out all the arboreal goblin tribes in that particular forest, and became a patron of bounty hunters and the servitor of Rihissa, goddess of revenge. As the Relentless Pursuer, he is the Hound of the Unseelie Court, counterpart to the Horned Lord (Hound of the Seelie Court). Any artifacts of the Relentless Pursuer would be valuable in a ritual to break a curse wrought by the Horned Lord or his allies (and the House of the Hunter Reborn is definitely under the auspices of the Horned Lord), but sadly the chandler does not know where any artifacts might be found.

    Miaoyu and Olaf decide to check into the job posting they found in the “Heroes'” Guild. The posting slip leads them to a dark alley in the middle of town where a makeshift hut has been constructed in a gap between buildings. Their knocking prompts a shifty-looking man to crack open the door, and ask, “Yeeees?”

    “We're here about the delivery to Brandt,” Olaf informs him, holding up the slip. “You posted this notice at the Heroes' Guild...?”

    At that the man opens the door much wider and smiles. “Oh, yes, excellent! I wasn't expecting a response so soon...” Apparently the “Heroes'” Guild is not famous for low turnaround times; he informs the party that the notice was posted nine days ago. The man brings out a large (chest-sized, and that's only if you have a really big chest) urn that has been sealed and waxed shut.

    Miaoyu and Olaf ask a few clarifying questions about the contents: will carrying them cause them direct harm, will the cargo draw bandits or other violently interested parties, and so on.

    “I just want to know if we’re transporting arms,” Olaf finally states flatly.

    “Oh, no, no,” the man assures him. “Arms would spoil!” The man laughs heartily, and Miaoyu gets a good chuckle. Olaf takes a moment to catch onto the joke, and then just scoffs. Still, their curiosity is not quite sated and there’s a bit of poking, tapping, and careful listening. Finally, their contact tells them that this shipment is made every year and that nothing bad seems to be happening to Brandt as a result, so it must not be all that bad; it’s what soothes his moral concerns, anyway. Olaf suggests that he might need a little something to quell his moral concerns (“I need a little more monetary justification.”) and the man passes Olaf and Miaoyu a few coins. This seals the deal, and they are warned that they’ll need to get the jar past both customs and the captain of whatever ship they’re taking, if they decide to go by boat.

    From there, Miaoyu and Olaf part ways, Miaoyu giving Olaf a benediction to preemptively discourage any mugging attempts. Olaf heads back to the inn while Miaoyu finds a hall in which to gamble. She does pretty well at Dwarven poker (as is only to be expected from someone who has access to a spell called “Cheat” and no compunctions about using it), until she gets dealt a joker. There is no joker in Dwarven card decks, and this joker has all the iconography of Gilgadar himself. She takes it as a sign from Gilgadar that this is where she should call it for the night, pockets the card and heads back to the inn. (Her Imperial Blessing chimes in, “Cheating is not technically illegal. It is, however, dishonorable.”)

    Back in the room, Aelron and Flynn conduct their own inspections of the mysterious cargo. (At this point, Tam puts a folded piece of paper, taped around the edges, on the table and says that by opening it, we’ll open the jar and find out what’s inside.) Seeker stops by to see if he can detect any diseases on it, but when he cannot, he is content and returns to the temple, where he continues to delight the sick and the orphaned. Aelron tries a few minor divinations and determines that the contents are not sealed in with a spell or other magical device, but is still not completely satisfied. He goes to the shack where the jar was acquired and attempts to bluff his way into getting the contact to reveal more information, but isn’t able to inveigle anything out of him. (I don't have the dissembling ability and Aelron lacks the skill ranks for that sort of discussion, sadly.)

    Olaf, meanwhile, heads to the Foreign Quarter to see if he can speak with the local Dhar chieftains, ignoring the street “performers” he sees along the way. Unfortunately for Olaf, the building that the chieftains usually meet in alternates between serving as a poorhouse and serving as the cheiftains' meadhall, and tonight it is a poorhouse, so the chiefs are not in residence. Fortunately for Olaf, there is a merry bar brawl already in full swing, so at least there's SOME entertainment to be had. Olaf sits down for a drink and to watch the fun, then promptly gets picked up by another patron (he's not terribly bulky, is our Olaf, despite his rather beefy mindset) and used as a projectile. Upon being flung into the midst of the confused, violent free-for-all, Olaf proceeds to “win” the brawl, winding up outside the bar, conscious, bruised and battered and missing a tooth, but in possession of the coin purses of the unfortunates who are no longer conscious, and carrying at least four teeth, one of which he's sure must be his missing incisor.

    When Olaf returns to the inn, Aelron looks up from his books and curses eloquently. “What on earth happened to you?” he asks. “You look like you tried to hit on Rihissa!”

    “I won the brawl!” Olaf declares proudly. “Can you put my tooth back in?”

    Aelron blinks at him, shakes his head, and holds out a hand. “Gimme the tooth.” Olaf gives him four. Aelron studies them for a moment, then asks, “Um... which one is yours?”

    Olaf shrugs. “One of those, for sure.”

    Aelron sighs, examines the teeth he's been given, and compares them to Olaf's. Olaf's, once you get past the blood currently drying on them, are actually quite white and well-maintained; three of the teeth Aelron is holding are decidedly smoke-browned. Aelron takes the white one, which looks to be the right tooth, and pops it back into place, sealing it with a bit of Sapphire Tower magic.

    “OW!” Olaf says as the tooth re-anchors, his hands going to his cheeks.

    Aelron scoffs at him. “Don't be such a baby. I thought you Dhar were supposed to be tough.”

    “We ARE tough,” Olaf pouts. “But I wasn't ready for that, and you STABBED my gums, which are already rather sore.”

    Aelron rolls his eyes. “Well, win the brawl better next time and maybe it won't hurt so much.”

    The next day, Flynn is pleased to see that the rumor about the alicorn is spreading quickly. Aelron settles in to continue work on the spell for Seeker, asking not to be disturbed. Olaf goes outside the city walls to visit the Lizardfolk Enclave, (a small collection of burrows and shacks on the south side of the river, just to the east of the walls) to learn how to train Scuzzbucket. The lizardfolk have been domesticating oozes since time out of mind, so Olaf figures that if anyone can help him, they can. The language barrier is a bit of a problem; most of the Lizardfolk speak passable Drouganti, but their ooze trainers don't know the appropriate vocabulary for most of the finer points of what he needs to do. Olaf manages to get around the language barrier by asking the Lizardfolk to demonstrate basic care and feeding for him, and they get him some clay tablets with more detailed instructions that he can hopefully find a scholar to translate later.

    Miaoyu, for lack of anything better to do, goes to the slums. She does run into a cabbage merchant, a storied profession in Qen (“My cabbages!”), but one that is taken for granted in the northern countries. Sympathetic, she gives him a luna out of the kindness of her heart; he does not comprehend. She then comes across someone tossing items out of a second story window – she can hear the telltale sounds of a heart-wrenching, rip-snorting, possession-throwing breakup in progress (“I LOVED YOU! WE WERE GOING TO GET MARRIED!”) wafting out of the window between volleys of material belongings. Then an expensive-looking vase hurtles out over the street and Miaoyu scrambles to catch it before it can shatter on the cobblestones. Managing to save it from THAT horrible fate, she scurries off with it and finds a pawnshop that will buy it for a decent price. (“It’s an heirloom,” she insists. Ah, the advantages of the Qen heritage.) Miaoyu stops by the inn to poke at the jar, but manages to refrain from opening it, before deciding to go out gambling again (“I'm going gambling,” she tells Aelron. “So, cheating?” he asks sarcastically. She looks at him like he's suddenly sprouted a third arm. “Right. Gambling.” Aelron shakes his head.). Flynn, meanwhile, is already gambling away and hears a story about a fisherman being attacked by a spider the size of a small dog somewhere in the docklands.

    The next day, Flynn asks Calli to get an informal audience with Lore Gilroy set up. She agrees, and says it will take some time to arrange. Flynn is fine with that, as Aelron still wants another day or three to finish his research.

    Miaoyu does a bit more gambling, but she's quickly running out of people who won't simply walk away from the table when she sits down. (“It's so hard being an honest Gilgadarite in this day and age. There's just no trust.”)

    Olaf attempts to investigate the rumor of the giant spider that Flynn heard while gambling. He heads over to the docklands and asks a few dockworkers (who of course by now have all heard the story) if they know where the attack might have taken place. They don't know exactly, but they give him a decently narrow range of streets in which to search, and he goes tromping through alleys looking for trouble. He finds no arachnids, but he DOES come across five Drouganti peasants attempting to mug a Dhar boy.

    Now, when you're a Dhar noble whose family has all just been killed in a raid gone bad and whose clan hold has been overrun by foreign mercenary scum, watching five bigoted foreign morons gang up to beat a child is going to make you mad. When you're Olaf, it's going to drive you into a screaming rage.

    Olaf pulls daggers (peacebind doesn't hit blades under about four or five inches in length, and he has at last three of those on his person at any given time) and sprints at the muggers, shouting, “Stop right there, criminal scum!” The five of them wisely decide that this little one isn't worth the trouble and take off at a dead run. Olaf picks one at random, runs him down, and body-checks him into a stone wall. He ends the man's attempts to escape or fight back with a solid thump of his dagger hilt to the back of the man's skull, then pulls him up and shoves him against a wall.

    “What did you learn about mugging Dhar?” he growls, pressing his dagger against the man's abdomen.

    “Not when there's another Dhar around,” the mugger slurs. His eyes are glazed and unfocused, not actually seeming to SEE Olaf; he sounds almost as though he's reciting a catechism.

    Olaf shakes his head sadly. “Wrong answer. Care to try again?” Then he picks the man up bodily, slams him against the floor and the alley wall again, and re-pins him in place.

    By the time Olaf has his hold re-established, the mugger has slipped fully into unconsciousness. Olaf nabs his purse, listens to it jingle and clink when he tosses it lazily into the air, and smiles. “Ah, the sweet proceeds of justice.” (Somewhere, for reasons he does not understand, Aelron winces.)

    Olaf puts his unconscious mugger in a fireman's carry and heads out, returning to the scene of the crime to make certain the Dhar boy is okay; the boy won't say much, but he nods vigorously, demonstrates that he doesn't have a scratch on him (well, at least, none left by the muggers), and scampers off with a brief chirp of thanks. Olaf drags the mugger to the meadhall and asks to speak with a clanchief. (“AHA! I have an in!”)

    One of the local Dhar chiefs comes forward, glances down at the mugger, and looks up at Olaf. “Where'd you find this lout?” he asks.

    “Attempting to mug a Dhar boy in the alleys near the docks. Him and four of his buddies. I ran 'em off, but I could only catch the one.”

    The chieftain waves away Olaf's contrition. “I'm just glad the boy's safe. You did good work. You have our thanks.”

    Olaf smiles. “Might I ask a boon, then?”

    The chieftain nods warily. “Ask.”

    “I seek an audience with the chieftains regarding my inheritance and the fate of the Bronze Elbow clan.”

    The chieftain shrugs. “I cannot guarantee full attendance, but I will be there, and I will tell everyone to be there.”

    Olaf gives a bow. “That will be wonderful.”

    “Come back later this evening, and I'll have everyone here who will listen.”

    Olaf nods. “And in the meantime, what do you want me to do with this one?” He hefts the weight of the now-drooling thug.

    The chieftain considers for a moment. “Dump him in the drink,” he replies. His smile does not reach his eyes. Olaf complies with gusto, although he takes enough care in doing so that the man wakes up spluttering, floating face-up along the surface of the water, rather than waking up facedown with a lungful of river sludge.

    Flynn contemplates bringing Aelron and Miaoyu along to his audience with Lore Gilroy, but ultimately chooses to ask only Aelron; having more petitioners on hand would lend more weight to his questions and any proposals he might make, but if Gilroy were to discover Miaoyu’s allegiance to Gilgadar, he would likely become significantly less likely to help. By the time Calli contacts Flynn about the meeting, Aelron's vision is starting to swirl from staring at spell formulae all day, and he agrees to accompany Flynn.

    Miaoyu, bored and curious about what will happen, follows Flynn and Aelron from the inn. She tries to remain unnoticed, and manages to elude the notice of authority figures and her party members alike until Aelron and Flynn are shown through the gate of the Gilroy estate. She begins looking for a way around when she recalls two things: the line carved into the headstone of an old Qennish friend and fellow rogue who died attempting to rob a Qennish noble (“Who would put poison on the top of their gate?”), and a warning she's received multiple times from Gilgadar himself in the past (“Always check for dogs.”) She definitely hears dogs, and the spikes on that gate look NASTY. Deciding that Drouganti nobles are a little too paranoid for her taste, she heads over to a nearby park to frolic/skulk, instead.

    Unfortunately for Miaoyu, she isn't the only one who's decided to “frolic” in this particular park. She stumbles across a couple hidden among the shrubberies who are... um... going at it, shall we say, with gusto. Her first instinct is to leave them to their fun, but the Church of Gilgadar is always accepting donations, and there's always a chance they left their purses somewhere the Church can find them... As Miaoyu paws cautiously through their hastily discarded garments, the young lady notices her. With a highly unprofessional yelp, Miaoyu casts Obscuring Mists and rushes out of the park, heading back toward the inn. (Cade: “Why did you drop Obscuring Mist?” Sparrow: “I just want them to feel comfortable.” Werebear: “Yeah, dropping a lot of cold and dampness on their exposed skin is going to do wonders in that regard.” Dawnflame: “Aaaaaaaand there goes his boner.”)

    Flynn and Aelron have a less embarrassing encounter. After brief introductions, Flynn explains that he represents Baroness Hangtree, and that he and his companions seek to cure her condition. Aelron provides some more involved detail on their plan, stating that they will need to counter the disease, the poison and the curse that afflict Hangtree at the same time, and pointing out that an alicorn would be practically ideal for neutralizing the poison. Flynn states (technically truthfully) that we heard a rumor that the Gilroy family had an alicorn, and that we would like to borrow it specifically to aid in the ritual to cure Hangtree. Gilroy denies having an alicorn, but does say that he is willing to help Baroness Hangtree and will see what he can do about acquiring one, although he makes no promises.

    Returning to the meadhall that evening, Olaf tells the chieftains what happened to his clan, and suggests that, as he does not have the support needed to return to claim the clanhold in a timely manner or properly avenge his family, someone who DOES have a chance of garnering that support might buy the claim to his title off him. In essence, he offers them his place in his family's line of succession if they are willing to pay him for it up front and ensure that his family gets the vengeance they need. He also requests that he be offered position as a guide and point man in any expedition they launch so he can participate in the vengeance to some degree. They make him only a modest offer, not having enough money to pay more immediately, and he accepts.

    Back at the inn, the innkeeper is looking for the party. “Aye, glad you're back. It appears your horses have been stolen. I've already flogged the stable boy, but if you'd like to have another go at him....”

    The group troops out to the stable to talk to the stable boy and confirm their guess as to who stole the horses. The stable boy is at first reluctant to talk, flinching whenever anyone asks him a question, but eventually Miaoyu and Flynn reassure him that no one is there to beat him and they only want to talk. He answers their questions, and their guess is confirmed.

    “I should have robbed Horvath too,” Miaoyu laments. “He’s a horrible person.”

    Olaf is consumed by rage. “This cycle of vengeance must be ended,” he says.

    “What are you talking about?” Aelron demands. “This isn't a cycle of vengeance, it's a cycle of thievery.”

    “Well, it's a cycle of vengeance as soon as we make it one,” Miaoyu points out, “And I have a Plague of Thieves curse with Horvath's name on it.”

    “So you want to escalate it?” Aelron asks.

    “No,” Olaf growls, “I want to KILL HIM.”

    There is vociferous debate on whether or not to go after the horses: Miaoyu can track their bridles; they're not far out of town, and Olaf and Miaoyu want to see the wretched horse-thief receive his “due punishment”. Aelron and Flynn point out that the thieves in question are, in fact, racing north out of town, the opposite direction from where the party wants to go, and Horvath and Co are 'riding like they stole it', which means the party definitely can't catch them on foot, and probably won't be able to even on horses (“He's a Lovas! Do you really expect to catch him when he's mounted and fleeing across flat, open ground?”). Eventually they decide there’s no real practical way to retrieve their mounts and decide to simply buy new horses. Olaf goes to Rihissa’s temple and prays in lurid, graphic detail for all the most horrible punishments he can think of to befall Horvath.

    The next morning, Aelron is reasonably confident he'll be able to wrap up his research, and says he just needs one more day. Olaf and Miaoyu team up to look for the great spider of Flynn's rumors, but still it eludes them. Instead, they come across a dead-end alley overrun with a giant, bramble-like plant growing out of its far wall. Intrigued but cautious, Miaoyu finds a wooden plank in a pile of nearby construction debris and tosses it into the brambles. It sticks in the brambles and does not fall to the ground; close inspection reveals that it is, in fact, impaled by no less than three spines. Olaf takes a knife and starts attempting to cut off a thorn, but the brambles resist the blade ferociously. Frustrated, Olaf breaks the peacebind on his sword and attempts to hack into the plant. This time he gets results: with the sword he can make notches in the plant-thing. Miaoyu notices the bramble beginning to move almost imperceptibly, and lights a torch, thinking that either she's imagining it and needs better light, or she's not imagining it and she needs to burn this thing PRONTO. Upon brighter examination, the plant is definitely moving (if slowly); she thrusts the torch at and into the bramble, but it won’t catch fire like it should. That's when Olaf looks down and sees the thing that sends him running back for Flynn and Aelron: one of the brambles appears to be growing OUT of the ribcage of a small, humanoid skeleton.

    With Aelron and Flynn in tow, the party returns to the alleyway and everyone turns to look at Aelron. Aelron steps forward, carefully keeping his staff between himself and the brambles, and examines them closely. After a while, he nods.

    “I've never seen this before myself,” he tells the rest, “But I've read some accounts that sound like this. It looks like a Bramblehaunt.”

    “A bramble-what now?” Olaf asks.

    “Bramblehaunt,” Aelron repeats. “Remember that dryad we met on the road outside of Hangtree?” Everyone nods. “Well, if you were to find his particular tree, the one tree to which his life is tied, cut down that tree, drag it into a city and build a mantelpiece or a dresser or something out of its heartwood, this is what would happen. The spirit of the dead dryad haunts the heartwood, and is decidedly unhappy about what's been done to it. It will use the twisted remnants of its charm ability to convince people to simply lie down and die near it, and from their corpses will grow... these.” He gestures at the spined vines before him, poking one gently with his staff. “They're highly resistant to damage from non-magical sources, so they can be tough to get rid of without a mage.”

    Deciding to investigate the actual building the bramble haunt has taken over, the group navigates the streets until they manage to find front of the afflicted building. It's an old, rundown house; the front door is locked and the windows have been covered over with oilskins that have seen better days. Visible through the windows are a large group of the thorn-vines, at least eight of them growing from separate skeletons. Hoping to ask for permission rather than forgiveness, Aelron and Flynn head off to find a guard to alert them to what’s happened (“There's a bramblehaunt in this building here.”) and offer to fix it (“We can get rid of the thing, but it might get noisy, and we don't want to get into any trouble with the authorities.”). The guards seem apathetic at best (“This is the docklands. No one's gonna care what happens to an old building that isn't even being lived in anyway.”).

    Miaoyu and Olaf investigate the building, peeking into one of the windows after slitting the blind. Inside, they can see patches of brambles. Miaoyu restrings her crossbow, breaking the peacebind, and tries to pick the lock on the door, but doesn’t have any luck. Aelron and Flynn return about then, though, and Aelron temporarily enchants Olaf and Miaoyu’s weapons, as he and Flynn both have magical armaments ready to hand (in a manner of speaking).

    Flynn summons an eldritch heavy crossbow, which counts as a magical weapon, and shoots a bramble through the window. Olaf kicks down the door and slashes the nearest bramble, while Miaoyu charges past him and puts a crossbow bolt into the next one she sees. Things turn sour when Olaf and Miaoyu fail will saves and suddenly get the urge to take a nap—right on a bramble-covered bed. The bramble-vines are moving all over the room; the skeletons from which they emerge appear to be dragging themselves along the floor toward the party while the plants lash and writhe, bloodying anyone foolish enough to remain close to them.

    When Olaf sees the bed is, in fact, still covered in sharp thorns, he reconsiders his urge for a nap and attacks the unmoving body of the bramblehaunt deep in the house. Miaoyu isn’t so lucky and curls up on the now-vacated (read: the corpses crawled out of it) bed. Olaf notices her lying down as he turns away and, remembering the charm effect the dryad used by the roadside, tries to frighten her out of her trance with a warning shout:

    “Miaoyu, that bed’s filled with spiders and inquisitive customs officials!” Unfortunately, it’s not enough to rouse Miaoyu out of her trance and she rolls over in annoyance – right into a bramble that impales her abdomen, reducing her to a negative hit point total and DEFINTELY snapping her out of the charm.

    Just outside, Aelron and Flynn aren’t doing much better. The vines that Olaf barreled past in order to attack the Haunt itself are swarming them, and Aelron especially is unsuited to close combat. He's crit in the second round and dealt 14 damage, a whopper of a hit since he only had 8 to begin with and was already down 4 of them. Reduced to -10 hit points, Aelron has exactly one action (and one round of his allies' actions) left before he dies outright. Flynn pulls Aelron out of harm’s way, then takes a stand in front of him to hold off the vicious weeds. Fortunately, Aelron has Seeker’s prayer beads, which have healing spells infused into them; ordinarily he'd use his own spells, but he spent everything he had on enchanting Olaf and Miaoyu's weapons. Aelron heals himself (it takes him two rounds to get out of the negatives, stupid unhelpful d6s), and returns to the fight just in time to heal a desperate Flynn, who has been fighting off two MORE of the plants with nothing but ranged weapons.

    Miaoyu, joining Flynn in his desperation, jumps from the bed onto a nearby staircase despite her wounds. She's bleeding heavily (losing 1 HP a round unless she doesn't move), and the effort costs her, but she's clear of the vines for the moment. Unfortunately, the Haunt itself has her now; she barely manages to swallow her last healing pill before tendrils reaching out from the central growth wrap her ankles and begin to pull her down the stairs.

    Olaf, the last standing target in the house, finds himself swarmed by at least three vines and the Haunt, and he decides to take desperate action. (“What's the difference between heroes and dead adventurers?” Tam quizzes us. “Knowing when to retreat.”)

    “Miaoyu,” he calls, “I’m going to grab you and throw you out the window.”

    Woozy from blood loss, Miaoyu smiles. “That’s the most romantic thing anyone’s ever said to me.” (“This might be the first example of heroic defenestration,” the Werebear notes.)

    Olaf hurls the meat in his rations at the Haunt, but gets a vicious slash across his back from one of the vines while doing it (yet another crit). Fortunately, the Haunt can't distinguish very well between the dead animals Olaf has caught for stewing and Olaf himself; his distraction works, winning him and Miaoyu a bit of breathing space. Unforutnately, wounded as he is, Olaf can no longer cavalierly toss Miaoyu out the window. (“Chivalry is dead. It got stabbed to death by an angry rosebush.”) Miaoyu wriggles free of the Haunt, gracefully falls facefirst off the stairs and lurches through the window, Olaf close behind her.

    With the entire party in retreat, the brambles return to the house. Everyone huddles a safe distance away and Aelron, the only one who no longer has to actively work to keep his innards IN his torso, rushes off to find Seeker.

    While he's gone, a hawker happens upon the rest of the party. In the most convenient turn of events this session, he's selling—you guessed it—healing potions. Olaf buys one and tests it. When it works, Miaoyu throws all of her money at the merchant and buys ten, although she decides to save them for later. Flynn buys the remaining five. Olaf tells the merchant what happened and the merchant decides to stick around for some entertainment. Round Two ought to be good, right?

    Aelron, meanwhile, interrupts a charming moment between Seeker and several children; he darkens the doorway, and when Seeker looks up, he seeks the normally impeccable and unflappable Aelron bruised, battered and covered in blood. Seeker’s eyes go wide. “What happened to you?”

    “We got in a fight with a rose bush and lost,” Aelron replies cryptically. Seeker quickly heals Aelron and rushes back to the others. The group begins to plot how to properly take out the brambles (“Because no way am I letting a zombie thornbush with a crawl speed WIN.”-Werebear) and Aelron wonders if he can get the guards to give him his incendiaries back. Miaoyu offers to help him steal them back, and Aelron glares at her. “The entire point of asking is to avoid angering the guards in the first place!”

    Afraid of setting the entire district on fire, and realizing that the enchants on Miaoyu's and Olaf's weapons have worn off, they decide to have the melee party members hold the brambles down with pitchforks while Flynn and Aelron pick them off at range (“Are we seriously gonna go all 'Grab your torch and pitchforks!' on this?”). Aelron leaves to find pitchforks, heading for the nearest stable he can find.

    “Excuse me,” he asks the man who's busy mucking out one of the stalls, “Do you have a few pitchforks my friends and I can borrow?”

    “I might,” the man responds cautiously, gesturing to a tool rack near the stall door that holds three of them. “What for?”

    Aelron, knowing that his answer is going to sound utterly insane if he doesn't, takes the Oath of Turmlar to prove his honesty and says, “My companions found a Bramblehaunt—a dangerous plant-monster that has already killed quite a few people and will continue to kill them if left unchecked—in a nearby abandoned building. We want to get rid of it, but its vines are quite dangerous, and we need a way to keep them at bay. Pitchforks should be able to hold them off us long enough for our limited supply of magical weapons to take them all down, and then we'll return your pitchforks with our profuse thanks.”

    Impressed, the stablehand not only gives Aelron a couple of pitchforks, but closes up the stable and trots after him to help, as well. “This'll make for one heck of a good story,” he says, smiling.

    Miaoyu offers to spot for Aelron and Flynn while the commoner and Olaf pin down targets. Flynn and Aelron focus their fire first on the Haunt itself, and one of Flynn's eldritch bolts blasts a hole through the back wall of the house, disintegrating the majority of the Haunt. From there, the rest of the fight goes quickly; the vines are slowly falling apart without the Haunt's magic to sustain them, and the last three going down with little trouble. Olaf plucks a thorn from one of the brambles and threads it through one of the stablehand’s buttons, naming him “Bramblebane”.

    Miaoyu takes to exploring the house while Flynn begins shooting all the planks of the rear wall just in case. There are a few chests in the attic, filled with clothes, which are passed off to Seeker so he can distribute them to the poor. Seeker busies himself offering last rites to the Haunt’s victims. Aelron thanks the stablehand and sees him home while Miaoyu finds a loose stone in the fireplace. Upon further investigation, the stone hides a rather large cache of coin. She also does a quick scan of each of the Haunt's victims as Seeker lays them out for the last rites and finds a little more coin on each one, a tidy sum altogether. (She, of course, donates all to the church of Gilgadar, generous and devoted person that she is.)

    Miaoyu and Olaf then get to talking about the Sunder Fate spell she will have access to when she becomes a high priestess and he grows a bit curious about becoming a cleric of Gilgadar.

    “Being cut from fate isn’t all that bad,” Miaoyu reasons. “It worked out for me.”

    “Yes,” Aelron interjects sourly, “look at her. This is what you’ll be like.”

    “You’ll become Qennish,” she lies blithely by way of agreement, “and Qen are the best.”

    “Yeah, and that voice in your head telling you whenever you do something wrong probably builds one hell of an inferiority complex,” Olaf returns with a grin.

    Miaoyu visibly wilts and a tear appears in her eye. “I don’t want to talk about it,” she mutters.

    After all that ordeal, Olaf and Aelron manage to level up! Flynn is 160 experience points away and Miaoyu is, frustratingly, only 70 points away. Seeker, sadly, is still well behind the party. Tam taunts Miaoyu with the little paper representing the jar, promising XP if she opens it, but then snatches it away at the last minute and says she can open it next session.
    Last edited by AverageSparrow; 2013-10-22 at 08:10 AM.

  22. - Top - End - #22
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Poor horses.

    Also sad - Olaf's inheritance was worth less than three horses.

    For an idea of what Olaf wished on them -
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    He wanted Bandits to steal all Horvath's clothing, leaving him naked in the snow. Then wolves would bite his legs off. Then, a Larlonite would heal his legs up, but leave when he learned that Horvath was a terrible horse thief. Then Brigii would laugh at him and bar him from Horses forever.

    Then he would get struck by lighting.

    Olaf was quite upset. When we find Horvath again, there will be a reckoning
    Quote Originally Posted by Terraneaux View Post
    Adventurers. Murderous hobos with near-deific power who are both merciless and incredibly competent at personal combat.
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  23. - Top - End - #23
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    AverageSparrow's Avatar

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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Chapter 7: The Cockblock of Destiny

    Reader’s Digest:
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    • We kidnapped a child. For justice!
    • We fought a red bull. Contrary to what you may have heard, red bulls do not give you wings.
    • We got a golden bridle, then delivered a Mysterious Jar and watched XP literally burn away.
    • We killed a helpless, innocent unicorn. Also for justice!


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    Prior to the session starting, there were some changes to the rules, mostly in terms of skill point distribution. In Tam's system, there are a total of twenty-six skills divided among four categories: General, Warrior, Mage and Rogue. Each individual skill can receive up to three “ranks”, with each rank representing a level of proficiency; no ranks being completely untrained, one rank representing basic proficiency, two ranks for specialization and three ranks denoting mastery. Only Rogues can master Rogue skills, only Mages can master Mage skills, etcetera, but anyone can reach mastery level in General skills, as the name might suggest, and everyone can at least reach specialized in cross-class skills. Originally, everyone got seven skill points to spend (modifiable with the feat “Multitalented” for an additional two and a high Wisdom score) and that was it. When Tam realized that 4 people had taken Multitalented and the fifth was planning to, he adjusted the skill system slightly. Post-revamp, everyone automatically has one point in their class skills, freeing up MANY of those original seven points to go other, more diverse places. He also decreed that fighters who have mastered a weapon style automatically get mastery in a trade skill. Olaf has mastery of Swordsmanship, and chose Trade: Sailor for his complementary free skill, arguing that Olaf equates the rythyms of rowing to the rythyms of combat. Flynn, after much deliberation, chose Trade: Barrister to go with his mastery of missile weapons: he knows the laws of Hangtree's Barony and the Kingdom of Drougant inside and out, having learned how to circumvent them at some point in his still-shrouded past, and now selectively enforces them on Hangtree's behalf.

    As a result of the changes, the entire party was able to specialize to a much greater degree; Aelron, for instance, now boasts mastery in both Spellcraft and Ruby Tower magic (evocation and war magic), which gives him bonuses to hit and damage with spells. He also specialized in Lore (he's even BETTER at looking at random monsters and identifying them on the fly) and became a more devout priest (cultist?) of the Mother of all Dragons, which means he can now use the spells Regenerate and Life of Unending Drudgery.

    Somewhere in the midst of this bedlam, Tam ordered us to switch our seating arrangements. Aelron and Seeker were sitting at opposite ends of the table, talking across it while having a conversation about spells and healing magic, while Miaoyu and Olaf, ALSO at opposite ends of the table, plotted yet more skullduggery and intrigue with the DM. Finally fed up with the cross-conversations, Tam suggested that Aelron and Mioayu switch seats. This put Olaf and Mioayu together at one end of the table, a distressed Flynn in the middle, and Seeker and Aelron at the other end of the table. Someone (I do not recall who) noted that we now had a decent alignment scale going down the end the table: Aelron at Lawful Good, Seeker at Neutral Good, Flynn at Lawful Neutral, Olaf at Chaotic Neutral, and Miaoyu at “Neutral Good” *cough*. (Sparrow’s Note: Miaoyu’s unofficially Chaotic Neutral, but she likes to think she’s better than she is.)

    Tam also had a brief makeup encounter for Seeker so he wouldn’t be quite so drastically behind the rest of us:

    During the day, sometime before a bruised and battered Aelron darkens his doorway, Seeker is in the slums, finding unfortunates who need healing and providing it to them. As he turns onto a new street, he is approached by four sneering men.

    “’Ey!” their leader demands harshly, “Waddaya think you’re doin’ here?” He's a thuggish man: heavily muscled, forehead like a slab of granite, with enough shivs and blades “concealed” on his person to make even Olaf envious. His hair and beard are both long, somewhat unkempt, and scraggly; his teeth appear to have been stained a deep red by whatever substance he's chewing on as he slurs at our favorite wolfman.

    “Healing the sick,” Seeker replies, pointedly glancing at his own stainless Purifier robes.

    “We don’t like that,” leader states. “We don’t like your kind around here.” We're not quite sure if he's referring to wolfmen or Larlonites, though we have to guess Larlonites; he certainly looks like he'd fit right in with a pack of wolfmen.

    Seeker narrows his eyes in a glare, but, undeterred, the men all draw knives. Seeker sighs and says, “Are you REALLY going to take blades to a priest of Larlon? You know that you'll never receive healing from one of the temples again if you do.”

    The leader just scoffs and practically spits the words, “Who’s to say you’re a priest of Larlon?” as he steps toward Seeker, dagger raised in his right hand while his left reaches out to grab and pin one of Seeker's arms.

    The thug's entire approach is based around coming to grips with weaker, smaller opponents who do not have weapons, or who do not know how to use the weapons they have. He moves in too close for their weapons to be effective, pins as many of his target's limbs as he can, and stabs them with the hand that he's currently holding high, out of reach of any interference by the target. Against your average street urchin or peasant, it's actually quite effective. Against what is essentially an upper-priest of Larlon, it is nothing short of a disastrous mistake.

    Seeker wins initiative. The thug's outstretched left hand encounters Seeker's right paw, and Seeker's readied spell goes off: Age Without Wisdom, a Miracle-level Larlonite spell, instantly ages the thug seventeen years. He gains quite a bit of weight, his hair starts graying and receding, his beard grows and grays until its ashen length trails on the ground, and he shrieks and hunches uncomfortably as he stumbles back, retreating from the horror this wolfman has inflicted on him.

    The rest of the thugs are leery and deterred, but not deterred enough. They charge Seeker, attempting to pin his arms and prevent him from casting further. “Change him back!” one of them demands as he attempts to grab Seeker's arm.

    Remarkably calm given the circumstances, Seeker simply replies, “When he learns his lesson,” and allows the speaker to grab his arm. Twenty-one years pass by in a flash and the second thug screams in terror and rage. Terror wins, and the rest of the thugs break off, attempting to put as much distance between themselves and the bizarrely tranquil wolfman as they possibly can. Seeker yells after them, “Find me when you’ve learned your lesson!”

    And that, my friends, is why you should never make a pacifist angry.

    On to the session proper:

    When Miaoyu reached for the Mysterious Jar, intent on opening it to level up, Tam told us that if someone opened the jar, only the person who opened the jar would get XP, but if it was delivered, the XP would be shared. The group reluctantly agreed not to open it, for the good of all. Now that we think about it, it might have been a better idea to hand the jar to Seeker, as it might have helped him catch up. Hindsight is 20/20, we suppose.

    After the ugly fight with the bramblehaunt, the group decides they need some drinks to celebrate. They return to their inn and Aelron hands the bartender a jingling coin purse, asking for the finest drinks in the bar and access to the bar itself to mix them. The bartender opens the coin purse, expecting a pouch full of copper stars, but curious because he doesn't exactly BOAST fine drinks, nor mixers. The purse is, in fact, full of silver coins, Luna, and not copper stars, and is worth more than enough to reserve his entire bar for the evening. Leaving Aelron briefly in charge behind the bar, the bartender makes a quick run to some of his suppliers and returns with a selection of fine wines, brandies, mead, rum, whiskeys, liquors, gin, mixers, chasers and sundry “extras”.

    Aelron begins mixing drinks from his days at the Gemstone Towers and challenges the entire bar to a drinking contest. Miaoyu, Olaf, and a handful of sailors, grinning as they size up the rather frail-looking mage standing behind the bar, accept his challenge; Aelron pours a group of seven shots, then smiles and snaps his fingers. All of the drinks are suddenly merrily aflame; Aelron grabs his, taps the shot glass once on the bar, and downs its contents, flames and all, in a single practiced gulp, then grins wickedly at the sailors. Seeker asks for one that won’t burn the fur off of his muzzle as the sailors realize this might be more than they bargained for. Flynn sits back and keeps a bucket of water handy for any accidents. Miaoyu takes the first couple of drinks well enough, but once Aelron begins mixing stronger ones she, naturally, begins casting Cheat. While ordinarily this spell only functions for games of chance, Gilgadar is happy to accept free booze, and begins taking the effect of the drinks—and the taste—from Miaoyu. Though Miaoyu makes no mention of it to anyone else, Gilgadar is apparently rather impressed by Aelron's drinks. Olaf begins to become a little suspicious when Miaoyu seems almost completely sober after her fifth drink and challenges her to drink five of Aelron’s drinks in a row. She agrees, and Aelron, now somewhat suspicious himself, whips up five fearsome-looking concoctions. One is, like the previous editions, on fire; one features tiny glaciers bobbing away on its surface; one bubbles furiously; one features constant concentric ripples and vibrates on the table when set down; and the last sparks and fizzles, crackling with excess energy. Flynn prepares his bucket of water for whoever loses the bet.

    Miaoyu Cheats her whole way through, of course, and Aelron is able to prove that she’s done so: each of the drinks he mixed was enhanced with a bit of Emerald tower magic to inflict an effect on the imbiber: trails of smoke from the ears, blue lips, steam from the nostrils, a ceaselessly grumbling stomach and flickers of lightning around the eyes, respectively. As Miaoyu displays none of those markers, she did not, in fact, suffer any of the effects of the drinks herself, including their alcohol content.

    Flynn then challenges Olaf to the same series of drinks; Olaf, already quite drunk, accepts manfully and manages all but the lightning shot by himself. Miaoyu, smiling mischeiviously, helps Olaf line the last glass up with his lips and drink it down, completing his array of magical effects. Flynn then dumps the bucket on Olaf, saying that the stakes of the game were pride, and he lost. With this, the party is winding down, so Aelron puts away the drinks and the party heads to bed.

    Olaf wakes in the morning shivering and looks down at his clothes. “Why am I moist?” he asks.

    “It rained,” Flynn says innocently. “You might say it poured.” The rest of the party attempts, with varying degrees of success, to hold their laughter in check.

    The group packs up and Seeker and Aelron for the city gates, thinking to practice Seeker's new ranged healing spell in a somewhat less crowded environment to work out any bugs it might have. Olaf and Miaoyu, however, decide to speak with the stableboy who had been on duty when their horses were stolen. He’s an eleven year old boy, and he flinches a little when the two approach.

    “Hey stableboy,” Olaf says. “What’s your name?”

    “Keegan,” he squeaks, looking like he’d rather run away than talk.

    “What's your last name?” Olaf asks.

    The boy just blinks at him. Apparently, in Drougant, last names are only awarded when either a) you do something important or noteworthy, or b) (as Flynn puts it) someone important decides you need one.

    “Okaaaay,” Olaf forges on gamely, “What do you earn working here?”

    This is met with a burst of laughter from Keegan. The boy's eleven; he's lucky to have an apprenticeship. He sleeps in the barn and gets leftovers from the inn's kitchens as his meals. The concept of “payment” is a foreign thing.

    “How about you come with us,” Olaf suggests. “We can teach you to fight, we’ll never beat you, and you’ll get a cut of the fabulous wealth we find.”

    Aelron, Seeker and Flynn, standing outside the city gate, all cringe for reasons they don't quite understand.

    Miaoyu holds up her bag of silver (everything the party found in the Bramblehaunt's lair) and it jingles merrily; that and Olaf's successful deception check earn an eager agreement from Keegan. The moment they step away from the stables, Miaoyu gets a sweet reminder in her head: “You are currently stealing an indentured servant. Please return the indentured servant and turn yourself in.” If you can't guess what she does with that warning by this point, there's no hope for you.

    Since Keegan does not even technically own the clothing he has on his back, Miaoyu and Olaf take him to an armorer near the city gates for some gear. They pick up extra provisions for him, a couple changes of clothes, a wooden staff for self-defense, and a gambeson. While they're attempting to supply him, Tam is rolling up his stats, and at one point swears inventively and points at the dice on the table. He was rolling 3d6 for each of Keegan's stats (Twitch, Toughness, Wits, Wisdom), and Keegan now has an 18 Toughness (think D&D 3.5's CON score, plus any STR-based efforts to endure or overcome pain or pressure); he’s tougher than Olaf, or will be once he gets through adolescence. Olaf and Miaoyu eventually agree to train him as a fighter/rogue. They also consider themselves his foster parents. They’re definitely kidnappers at this point. Maybe both?

    They hurry to leave the city before the innkeeper notices Keegan's absence. Keegan is excited to learn, once they're out of the city, that he gets to ride a horse too; he's not stuck walking, though he IS riding double with Olaf.

    “…When did we get a kid?” Seeker asks as they mount up and begin to ride away.

    “He was the stableboy,” Aelron sighs, recognizing Keegan.

    “He was an indentured servant and he was being beaten,” Miaoyu protests. “He wanted to come with us.” The matter is dropped for the moment. Instead, Aelron and Seeker convince Keegan to try out the strange idea of ‘cleanliness’.

    “But I'm already clean, sirs!” Keegan protests, when Aelron first asks if he'd like to get cleaned up.

    Seeker raises an eyebrow, no mean feat with canine facial features. “Look at your hands,” he instructs the boy. “Caked in mud and dust.” Keegan wilts a little as he realizes it's true, especially in comparison with Seeker's or Aelron's utterly clean (if somewhat calloused) palms. “Look at your clothes. Worn, ragged, dusty, stained...” Again, especially when compared to Seeker's stainless white Purifier robe.

    “I like dirt, though!” Keegan proclaims meekly.

    “Well, just give being clean a shot,” Aelron suggests. “If you don't like it, there's some nice mud right there by the roadside, you can just go get yourself right dirty again.”

    “Oh, all right,” Keegan agrees, thinking that he'll have to take a vigorous bath the next time they're in town. Suddenly both Aelron and Seeker snap their fingers, and two Prestidigitation spells go off. Seeker's targets the boy's clothing, leeching out the dirt and mud and stains and returning it to uniform coloration, while Aelron's targets the boy himself, removing all traces of dirt under the fingernails, all smears and smudges, and cleaning the grime out of his hair. Poor Keegan shudders in discomfort and nearly jumps off Olaf's horse in surprise as the spells brush him quickly clean.

    “You all right?” Olaf asks, shooting Aelron and Seeker a cross glare.

    “Feels... weird,” Keegan replies.

    “Not terrible, though, right?” Aelron prompts.

    Keegan doesn't answer, but he ALSO doesn't jump immediately into the roadside mud, so... progress?

    At camp that night, Olaf shows Scuzzbucket to Keegan, and teaches him how to take care of the small imi-slime. Noting the boy’s fascination, he warns him not to overfeed it, or it will grow too large. (TheWerebear: “Yes, I know what I did, and how it's going to end.”)

    Keegan is ALSO fascinated by Seeker’s soft-looking fur and asks, “Do you want... to be scratched behind the ears?”

    Seeker gives a long-suffering sigh. “Oh, I suppose.” Keegan eagerly and happily sets to rubbing his head; Seeker enjoys it more than he’s willing to admit, though the occasional thump of his twitching tail is evidence enough for the rest of the party.

    The travel to Hangtree passes mostly uneventfully; Olaf discloses that he plans to create a hole in his chest for the storage knicknacks, to the horror of Seeker. (“What? I took a spear through there before! Obviously I don't need ALL those organs. I'll just pull out the ones I don't need to make space!”) Miaoyu shows Keegan her ability to jump between shadows, and Aelron and Seeker show off their magical abilities. Flynn begins to lose hope that there will ever come a day when he doesn’t wake to the sultry sounds of Aelron and Olaf arguing pointlessly. (“Why do you always kick me in the mornings?!” “Because nothing else wakes you up! Everything short of kicking you just results in you mumbling something about your grandmother and rolling over. Would you prefer I hit you with my staff, or maybe put a literal fire under your ass?” “Of course not! Have you lost your mind?!”)

    After almost a week and a half of following the coastal road toward Brandt, the group spots a giant, violently red, vociferously angry bull that appears to be snorting fire. It stands almost directly on the road just around its next bend. Fortunately for the party, this section of the road is carved into a very steep hillside, and the rapidly-rising slope of the hill blocks the them from the bull's line of sight until they choose to come around that bend. After ordering Keegan to hide with the horses, the party springs into action. Wisely deciding to stay uphill from the bull so as to avoid being thrown off the road and down into the ocean, the party begins climbing the near side of the hill. Aelron casts Elemental Negation on Olaf, granting him the ability to completely ignore two fire-based damage effects, then begins using the orison Snuff to put out some of the smaller flames the bull's presence has set in the nearby brush, clearing Olaf's and Miaoyu's way up the hill.

    Olaf climbs the ridge until he can look down its far side and see the bull itself, then bangs his sword on his shield to draw its attention. The bull looks up, realizes it can't really charge him at the top of that slope, and opts to breathe fire at him, instead. A massive, 30-foot cone of hungry flame blasts from the bull's nose and mouth as it bellows in rage. Aelron's Negation spell summons a cool wind from behind Olaf that diverts the flames around him, and he suffers no damage. Which is good, because that was a lot of d6s worth of fire damage.

    Miaoyu, who had been skulking along the side of the ridge, fires her crossbow at the bull; she hits it, but the bolt deflects off its hide. She shadow-walks up to a safe height before attacking again. Olaf, seeing no point in standing where he is to get barbequed, rushes down the hill to... take the bull by the horns.

    Meanwhile, Seeker has cast a spell called Battle Precognition on Flynn, which can have a variety of effects. The most important in this case is that it will maximize the damage from one successful attack. Flynn steps up and fires twice at the bull in successive rounds; both shots miss. Aelron manages to hit with a single spell in that time, and an explosion of frost damage under the bull's hindquarters greatly confuses and hurts the creature, but doesn't kill it. Then Aelron gets an Idea. A wonderful, horrible, beautiful idea. Seeker puts another spell on Flynn that will give him the ability to roll 2d20 on his next attack roll and take the better result; Aelron enchants Flynn's next arrow with an Empowered Indar's Ice Grenade to deal an extra 3d6+1 cold damage. It takes several rounds of setup time, during which Olaf bravely stands his ground and gets repeatedly gored, but finally Flynn takes his fateful shot and hits the bull in the flank. He triggers Battle Precognition to maximize damage done, then totals it all up. His eldritch arrow, fired from a heavy crossbow, deals 15 damage after all modifiers are included. The explosion of ice deals another 21, for a massive total of 36 damage in a single shot. The bull's hindquarters are encased in ice; Olaf, somewhat amazed, steps back out of range to watch the creature's death throes. (Although our DM let us get away with it this time, he’s since nerfed BP so that only the weapon itself does max damage, not any enchantments or empowerings.)

    Olaf cuts off the bull’s horns to fashion into drinking horns; drinking from one of them will, once per day, give the imbiber a fiery breath weapon about half the size and damage potential of the bull's. Drinking from BOTH will grant the full monty, a whopping 30-foot cone of 3d6 fire damage. Aelron eagerly takes one of the horns, as what elemental mage worth his salt DOESN'T want a breath weapon? The rest of the bull is butchered for steaks, though cooking them proves difficult; Aelron and Olaf have to fashion a makeshift bellows out of Olaf's backpack just to get the fire hot enough to sear it. Olaf sacrifices the offal to Kurush (god of might and the sun). Despite his bruises and aching muscles, Olaf is filled with a rush of power, the endorphin-infused feeling you get after a hard workout where your muscles are screaming at you to STOP MOVING DAMMIT but you feel fantastic, even proud of yourself. The party sits down to a hearty meal of freshly-cooked steak, which turns out to be ridiculously spicy; Flynn raises a toast to the “extinguishing of the Combusti-Bull.”

    A few evenings and many miles down the road later, while Miaoyu is on watch, she hears a lovely baritone voice singing from the coastline. Lamenting her poor luck, Sparrow readies her d20 and says, “I NEVER make will saves! The rest of the party's asleep and I'm going to get enchanted to my death by some sort of siren!” As if through sheer bloody-minded contratriness and a desire to prove her wrong about its nature, her die rolls a natural 20 on the save; Miaoyu listens to the haunting song until it fades from audibility, and continues her watch.

    When Olaf wakes for his watch, she warns him of the strange song. “You were almost lured to your death by an operatic, aquatic sociopath,” he tells her. As a sailor, he is more than a little familiar with merrow (mermen) and their dangers. He goes down to the ocean, followed by Miaoyu, and makes a modest sacrifice—a few odds and ends from his pack, all of which might be of use aboard a ship or under water—to the Ocean Witch, a capricious sea goddess.

    In the morning, before the party sets out, Olaf and Miaoyu return to the beach. Somewhat suspicious, Flynn, Seeker and Aelron follow at a distance, and wind up observing from the top of the bluff upon which the road winds past the beach. Olaf finds that his sacrifice has been accepted and that a twelve foot merrow is waiting for them – a fairly small merrow, really, as merrow really never stop growing and can easily reach “sea giant” proportions. Olaf chats with the merrow a bit and tells him of the fight with the CombustiBull. The merrow nods in understanding and appreciation; he has wrestled with that particular bull before, and though he will miss his wrestling partner, he must admit that Olaf's bravery was impressive. When Olaf asks, the merrow gives Olaf a sounding pattern that serves as his name and will allow Olaf to call him in time of need; Olaf captures the pattern in a conch. It sounds a bit like “unlok” when given any sort of voice out of water. Likewise, Olaf tells the merrow that if he ever needs help, to beach himself on the shores of Hangtree and shout for a man named Olaf; it’ll reach him eventually. (Flynn, upon learning this, was more than a little dismayed, fearing for the citizens of Hangtree who might be lured to their death's by the merrow's bellowing, which will probably sound beautiful despite its content.) With that, the merrow goes on his way, likely to chase after some cute mermaids or lure hapless travelers to their deaths.

    “That’s how you deal with the servants of the Ocean Witch,” Olaf says proudly once he returns to the group. “You bribe them.”

    Later that day, the party comes across a shepherd standing under a tree by the roadside, staring across his flock with unseeing eyes. Olaf approached him (it seems to be a theme, Olaf approaching people he has no knowledge of) to see if he had anything to trade, and wound up hearing his story: the poor shepherd is hopelessly in love with his feminine counterpart from the next valley over, but cannot work up the courage to approach her. He spends his days pining wistfully for his secret love, longing for the day when they might be together at last.

    “Why don’t you just tell her how you feel?” Olaf asks once his woeful tale is done. The shepherd looks at him agape, obviously more terrified of the mere suggestion of talking to this girl than of the approach of six armed and deadly-looking strangers with unknown intent.

    “Oh no, no. I couldn’t possibly—” he cuts himself off as Olaf suddenly picks up a sheep and starts walking away with it. “Wait, what are you doing?! That's my sheep! Bring it back! Where are you going?!”

    “If you want it back,” Olaf shouts back over his shoulder, “you’ll have to talk to your girl.” He marches over to the next valley, the rest of the party trailing behind in amused pursuit, and plops the sheep down in front of the startled shepherdess. It doesn't take her long to recover.

    “Y-yes, good sir? How might I help you today?” She's batting her eyes at him, all but openly flirting, apparently thinking this sheep is Olaf's idea of a gift.

    Olaf, oblivious, simply explains. “The shepherd in the next valley is too afraid to talk to you. Keep this sheep until he gathers his courage.”

    The girl, disappointed that Olaf wasn't bringing the sheep as some sort of backwards dowry gift, brightens again at the mention of the original shepherd, and sighs dreamily.

    Olaf opens his mouth to continue, but the girl is obviously lost in a daydream and clearly isn’t listening anymore, so the group carries on, secure in the knowledge that the pair's romance has been accelerated by at least five years.

    Each night when pitching camp, the party has to roll for two factors: the camp's security and its comfort. Security affects any encounters that stumble upon the party at night, and how much warning the party has OF those encounters; comfort affects how well used spells regenerate or can be prepared, and can have effects on saves during combat in the dead of night. The Werebear has been placed in charge of rolling for security while Flynn rolls comfort.

    The next night, Olaf rolls an abominably high number for security (16, if memory serves), and Flynn manages a respectable 9 for comfort, meaning that the party will be comfortable enough for all spells to return to the casters and secure enough to see just about anything coming. We set up camp in a stand of trees not far from the road, at the top of a small rise, surrounded by clear grass. Olaf, taking advantage of his high roll, declares that he has set a trip wire around the edge of the stand of trees to put off any attempts to sneak into the camp. Flynn and Aelron predict that it'll be more hindrance than help in any attack, but don't have the will to argue long enough with Olaf to convince him to take it down.

    Just as Flynn is falling asleep (he has the middle watch and needs all the sleep he can get), there comes a calamitous crash of metal and leather from the edge of camp, as well as a shout of surprise and alarm. Olaf, not yet bedded down, springs into action, drawing his sword and rushing toward the disturbance. Aelron, Miaoyu and Seeker follow more sedately to find Olaf holding his sword on an unarmed man carrying a large sack full of pots and pans who appears to have tripped over the trip wire and fallen flat on his face into camp. Olaf is convinced the man is a bandit; the man, terrified, shows that he has no weapon and is merely a wandering tinkerer and peddler.

    “Oh, leave off with the sword, Olaf,” Aelron scolds, helping the man to his feet. “He's no threat to us, and you're terrifying him.”

    “But he could be a bandit scout!” Olaf cries in protest.

    “Once!” Flynn's tent growls. “JUST ONCE without an argument!”

    Once Olaf is calmed down, the group asks the peddler to take a look at the Mysterious Jar’s seal. The peddler doesn't think he can duplicate the seal if the party breaks it, but he CAN determine with fair accuracy what went into CREATING the sealing wax. Seeker, now trained in Awareness (Perception), is able to use his keen sense of smell and his keen mind in concert, filtering out the scents associated with the wax to try and smell just what is in the urn. He can't smell it exactly, but he is able to determine whatever's in there is acidic; his best guess is that it is, in fact, a slime, probably procured from the lizardfolk living near New Drougant.

    Olaf purchases a sealable pitcher for Scuzzbucket from the peddler, and then everyone beds down for the night.

    On the last day of the journey, Aelron and Seeker offer to teach Keegan to read and, despite his belief that letters are magic, he accepts. He does incredibly well with his letters in the first week, considering he's never more than glanced at a printed page, and appears to be making great progress. Seeker actually has experience in training acolytes to write, and Aelron is familiar with plenty of different teaching techniques from his time as an apprentice and his years at the Gemstone Towers; between the two of them, they make a formidable team.

    Olaf and Miaoyu also begin Keegan's combat instruction; Olaf knows the Muay Thai fighting style fairly well, and Miaoyu knows quite a bit about crossbows, daggers, and sundry other... tools. Olaf begins Keegan's instruction by telling him explicitly and eloquently that although they will hit each other, if Keegan ever asks him to stop, he will, and that he EXPECTS Keegan to hit back with the best force he can muster; how can one learn to fight if one isn't actually fighting?

    It is at this point that Tam remembers that Seeker and Aelron have been testing Seeker's new ranged healing spell each night, attempting to work out the bugs. Each night, each of them attempts to cast the spell twice, with Olaf volunteering as the target. Over the course of the trip, they encountered the following bugs in the spell:

    First, it caused rampant and accelerated hair growth. Olaf, still only 16, had a full beard, at least briefly. Next, it continually hooked left. This pissed Miaoyu off for the entire evening; she hadn't agreed to being the experimental target and kept getting hit with it anyway. At one point it induced vomiting in poor Olaf, and at another point it entirely lost him his appetite even as he set the evening's stew in bowls out for the rest of the party. Once it turned his skin translucent, making him the ultimate in anatomical models. (Keegan got a kick out of examining the muscular scarring from Olaf's old chest wound, and Olaf got a kick out of being able to watch his biceps while he flexed.) Once it caused Olaf's veins to bulge dangerously near his skin, which Aelron and Seeker had to work feverishly for an hour to reverse. Once it created an odd, ominous aura around Olaf himself, so that anything Olaf looked at, touched or remarked on seemed strangely... important. Realizing the powerful effect of the enchantment, Aelron took a copy for further study. Tam handed Dawnflame a small scrap of paper with the words “Spell Seed: Ominous Musical Cue” written on it. On one of the party's last day's of travel, Olaf got hit with a healing spell and started burping uncontrollably; with each belch he expelled a cloud of purple fumes that trailed away on the wind. By time Aelron and Seeker managed to reverse the effect, Olaf was belching eloquent sentences and blowing purple smoke rings, much to Keegan's delight. Aelron saved that effect for study, too, though no one is quite sure why. On the last day Seeker's spell BLINDED Olaf, but gave him the ability to echolocate, and Aelron's made his hair a shining, iridescent tangle of rainbow hues. Aelron saved both those spell seeds, too, for more obvious reasons.

    The party arrives in Hangtree at last. Seeker sells the last of the ghoul bones gathered ages ago to the apothecary, while Olaf finds an eager buyer for the rest of the CombustiBull's steaks. (“Oooooh! Oh! OH that's hot!”) When combined with their earnings from the Bramblehaunt encounter, these earnings are enough to push the party up to the next level of economic prosperity. In Tam's system, a person can have a wealth of Destitute, Poor, Mediocre, Well-Off, Rich or Decadent. Each level of wealth denotes a certain standard of living: how much spending cash do you have, how well-maintained is your clothing, what do people see when they look at you? Olaf, Aelron and Miaoyu were all at Destitute, meaning they had to spend hard-earned money tracked on their character sheets for even the most minor purchases; Seeker was technically poor, but only by virtue of being able to rely on charity from any town he stopped in; he could write off very minor expenses like basic food and lodging, but not much beyond that. Flynn was, and remains, at Mediocre; he is on Baroness Hangtree's payroll, which means he can write off quite a few minor purchases without actually having to track them against his available funds. He actually sponsors further equipping Keegan without having to blink at his character sheet, and, once we've all upgraded lifestyles, Olaf hands Keegan a handful of spending cash that is easily more money than Keegan has ever seen in one place and tells him to stay out of trouble.

    Baroness Hangtree summons the group to her keep once she learns they're in town. The golden bridle has been prepared, and the Baroness has a new handmaiden named Ida, her blond hair now worn in an adorable pixie cut. The Baroness presents the party with the bridle, and with that, they are ready for a unicorn hunt.

    “I hate to be crass,” Olaf says, “but I have ask. Have we determined that she is indeed…?”

    Ida, nearly six feet tall and towering over Olaf, leans close and smiles viciously. She's a young girl, roughly Olaf's age, which makes it all the more stunning to the rest of the party when she asks him, “Why? Would you like to find out yourself?”

    Olaf becomes a bit flustered, and insists that he simply doesn’t want to risk their chances of getting the unicorn. The Baroness assures him that Ida's pedigree is unassailable, and Seeker diverts the discussion deftly by asking the Baroness if he might examine her; he wishes to ensure there are no more fragments of the cursed blade still in her side. The two of them, along with Ida, leave for a more private room. After the matter is handled, the group returns to the inn and meet with Keegan, who reluctantly shows the group that he had spent all of his money on an impressive amount of shish kebabs: probably more meat than he's ever been allowed to eat, barring the CombustiBull steaks, which were a little spicy for his tastes.

    Aelron, with help from Baroness Hangtree's maps, is able to pinpoint a likely location for a unicorn hunt: the Wolfhead Woods, so named for the bandits that frequent the area. They lie a few days' travel north and east, not far from Brandt and, in fact, between Brandt and the Rusted Stele, the location that Aelron believes will most likely yield an artifact of the Iron Lord for their ritual.

    The next day, the party heads to Brandt, a relatively short journey along yet more coastal roads. During the travels, they come across what looks to be the site of a bandit raid on a caravan camp: a large circle of blood-muddied ground studded with the remnants of weapons, armor and crates, ringed with shallow graves. Seeker says a few prayers for the departed and they move on to find a different campsite.

    The last night before arriving in Brandt, Aelron is on the morning watch, getting ready to wake his travelling companions, when he is approached by a patrol of guardsmen wearing Brandt's insignia in patches on their shoulders. They exchange pleasantries, and Aelron mentions the battle site the party passed during their travels from Hangtree. He gives the commander its location, and the commander promises to investigate; bandits from the Wolfhead Woods have been a problem recently, and this may give some clue as to their intentions, he hopes. Aelron also warns of the merrow, and, upon further consideration, gifts the commander the glaciermelt pebble totem he made back near Isti. When the other players ask why he would do such a thing, Dawnflame simply responds, “If you were to meet a tower mage who asked you to investigate a couple of strange disturbances in the area, wouldn't you want to have something to remember the conversation by?” Everyone then realizes that we are (or in this case, Aelron is) as much that guard patrol's random encounter as they are ours. A very brief but lively existential crisis ensues.

    The city of Brandt is surrounded by stone walls and shanty towns, but the party goes directly inside the city to deliver the Mysterious Jar. The house is marked by the blue vase in the window. Seeing no obvious signs marked “Deliveries in Rear,” the party steps up to and knocks on the front door. A woman greets them at the door and, when shown the Mysterious Jar, invites them inside. She pays them a hefty chunk of money, nearly enough to recover their losses from the “lifestyle upgrade” they paid for back in Hangtree.

    “So,” she says. “Would you be interested in any future work?”

    There is a pause as Olaf glances at Flynn for an indicator of what he should say, and Flynn slowly gives a curt nod; Flynn is concerned as to what this woman might be up to, and would like to know more; doing more work for them might eventually let the party piece together what they're up to. Olaf agrees and tells the woman that quiet inquiries made around Hangtree for Olaf the Dhar will get back to him eventually. She thanks him and sees them out.

    The group immediately gets into a hushed discussion of whether or not they should go right back in and open the jar. Olaf, however, is unnerved by the woman’s willingness to open her door to armed adventurers without any apparent support, and it is agreed upon to leave the matter alone.

    At this point, Tam picks up the little paper representing the jar and a pack of matches, marches out to the front porch, and lights it on fire. We really will never find out what it was we were transporting; at this point even Tam has forgotten what he wrote, though rampant player speculation has decided that he must at least have SOME idea what we were transporting.

    Everyone decides to focus on getting the alicorn as fast as possible. Aelron tells the group that unicorns are, apparently, drawn out when virgins play a musical instrument or sing by their lonesome in the unicorn's natural habitat. Olaf decides he can use his shield as a drum well enough, and the party leaves for Wolfhead Wood.

    When the party finally arrives in the woods, Olaf prepares for his task. He loops the bridle over his neck and places his shield and his dagger in his hands, tapping them together for a beat, and begins dancing across a small clearing. Miaoyu, who has perched in a tree, manages to stifle her laughter. Seeker and Aelron watch closely, imprinting the image of Olaf's tribal dance as firmly in their memory as possible, to be recalled as blackmail material at need. (Both of them have spells that can replay memories as holographic video.)

    Olaf doesn't have to do his routine long, thankfully; before more than a few minutes have passed, a shining silver horn protrudes from the brush ahead of him, followed by a head that looks to belong to a crossbreed between a goat and a horse. The unicorn has a coat of luxuriant, pure-white hair that lengthens into a sort of beard around its chin and each of its knees and hooves; its main and tail shine pearly white and beautiful, and its eyes are limpid pools of the deepest, silvery blue. It is easily the most beautiful, graceful creature Olaf has ever seen. (Aelron would argue for the Dryad, but he's biased.) It moves slowly out of the brush, revealing itself, and its native magic attempts to entrance Olaf. Olaf manages his will save, thankfully (we're not sure who Tam's god of Will Saves is, but that's two we owe them), but pretends to be entranced anyway. He switches from his drumming and dance to a murmured, comforting Dharric lullaby and drops his weapon and shield to cradle the unicorn's head in his hands. It approaches and allows him to pet it, then lays down on the ground and places its head in his lap. Olaf carefully places the bridle over the unicorn’s head, and then reaches for the dagger in his boot.

    By this point the party can see what's going on, and Aelron, Flynn and Miaoyu start cautiously, quietly forward, trying to stay close enough to offer support if Olaf should need it.

    Olaf attempts to keep running at least elbows across the poor unicorn's neck while he retrieves his dagger (as a Muay Thai fighter, it's an excellent thought for a way to keep the creature calm), but his deception roll cannot match his stated goals. The unicorn catches sight of the blade and startles, attempting to flee. Olaf, already grieving for what he is about to do, grabs the bridle and shoves it to its knees; he gets the feeling that, without the bridle, it would have thrown him into a nearby tree. “I’m sorry,” he shouts, and as soon as he thinks he has a solid hold on the bridle, he snatches up the dagger and plunges it into the unicorn’s skull. The unicorn screams, sounding frighteningly like a human in its agony. Aelron and Flynn both start forward at a run to aid Olaf, and both make will saves (that's four we owe) to resist the urge to help the creature. Seeker turns Keegan away from the gruesome sight, to the boy’s dismay.

    With careful maneuvering of his dagger and properly applied force, Olaf pulls out the alicorn, and the animal that was once a unicorn begins to twitch uncontrollably. Olaf tosses the alicorn aside and picks up his dagger, the plunges it down into the alicorn's socket in the skull, striking the brain over and over, crying, “I’m sorry,” as he puts the beast out of its misery.

    Almost a full two minutes later, the unicorn finally dies; Flynn, Aelron, Miaoyu and Seeker stand by as Olaf weeps. “It trusted me and I killed it. I lied to it and I betrayed it and it died because of me.” No one can think of anything even remotely comforting to say. Sometimes it's easy to forget that Olaf is still rather young, but this isn't one of those moments.

    For killing a unicorn in such a vulnerable, trusting state, Olaf has effectively lost his status as a virgin. Aelron quietly collects hair from the unicorn's mane and has Seeker (an accomplished Elven Weaver) braid it into small cords. Miaoyu replaces her crossbow string with unicorn hair for some bonuses; everyone else wears it as an anklet or bracelet for a five foot per round movement speed increase. Olaf refuses to take any at all out of a feeling of guilt.

    With that, everyone but Seeker has reached level two. Next week we’re playing a slightly-late Halloween game. Apparently something went wrong (or right) recently at the Rusted Stele, as Gilgadar has told us that it's our best bet for a place to find an Iron Lord artifact, and that it WON'T kill us anymore just to set foot there! Fingers crossed for eldritch horrors!

  24. - Top - End - #24
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Chapter 8: CAPital Offense

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    While Olaf is mourning the unicorn, the others quietly discuss what should be done with the animal’s body. Finally, it’s agreed that as little of it should go to waste as possible, and Aelron steps over to Olaf.

    “We're done here. Why don't you go back and scout the paths out, make sure no bandits have gotten between us and the edge of the woods? We'll be right behind you.”

    Olaf stands and begins moving toward the edge of the clearing. When he notices that no one else has budged, he stops and crosses his arms. “You're going to butcher it, aren't you?” he asks, waving in the direction of the unicorn's corpse.

    Aelron regards him steadily. “If I answer that, you'll have to know the answer and live with it. Are you sure you want that?”

    Olaf shakes his head. “If we’re going to butcher it,” he says, “I should be the one to do it. The rest of you would just do a hack job.”

    Aelron, stunned, simply steps aside; given Olaf's grief this was the last thing he expected. Olaf is the party's best suited to butchering an animal and preparing its meat for consumption or preservation, but Aelron had hoped to spare Olaf the burden of butchering a friend. Olaf, for his part, has decided that the best way to honor the unicorn's sacrifice is to make sure that none of the unicorn goes to waste.

    Olaf sets about quickly and effectively skinning the unicorn and packaging the meat, although there’s a definite angry edge to his movements. (TheWerebear: “I’ve moved from denial into anger. Soon I’ll get to bargaining, when I try to sell the meat.”)

    The hide is kept to present to the baroness, as is the skull. Figuring the bones might come in handy, Olaf shoves what remains of the body into a bag. The sight is gruesomely macabre. Once everyone gets their stomachs under control, the party heads out for the Rusted Stele.

    As the party clears the Wolfhead Woods and is relatively certain of its safety from bandits, Miaoyu steps up beside Olaf to speak with him.

    “You know,” she says, not quite quietly enough, “I could sunder your fate for you.”

    Seeker's ears prick up, then lie forward.

    Olaf gives her a look somewhere between longing and confusion. “What would that do?” he asks.

    “What indeed?” Seeker asks ominously, stepping forward as well.

    Aelron and Flynn hastily fall back. What this party needs is a dedicated rear-guard action, and they're the men to do it, by the gods.

    Miaoyu puts on her best proselytizing game face and looks sternly down at Olaf. “Fate binds all men, constrains their free will. Fate dictates where you'll go, what you'll do, and when you'll die. When you are fated, you are locked into a path chosen for you by uncaring gods. But, by the grace of Gilgadar—” she smiles wickedly, raises a hand to sweep in an all-encompassing gesture across the horizon, “—I can set you free.”

    Seeker glares at her. “That is deliberately misleading and you know it,” he growls. “If fate bound men so thoroughly as all that there'd be no such thing as free will. And yet, free will exists; men make their own decisions every day, choosing without regard to fate or destiny what their actions will be.”

    Miaoyu glares right back at Seeker. “How can you prove free will? How do you know fate isn't just deceiving us into selecting the actions it requires of us?”

    “Because only a bunch of mortals could be dumb enough to form a travelling band like this one?” Flynn mutters aside to Aelron.

    Aelron nods sadly. “You'd think fate would be able to do better than a motley crew like this if it really wanted to get something done.”

    One of Seeker's ears flicks back toward the two of them, but he seems to ignore their comments. “If you are that determined to believe in fate as an all-controlling force,” he says instead to Miaoyu, “I cannot disprove it to you, and I won't attempt to. It'd be a waste of my breath.” He turns to Olaf. “I can, however, share my views with you.”

    Olaf nods. Miaoyu fumes but holds her tongue for the moment.

    “Fate dictates the flow of the universe. Which nations will rise and which will fall, in which directions the world will grow and in which directions it will wither. But men still have free will. Fate cannot compel them, no matter how hard it tries. Fate brings men to confluences, to cruxes, to choices. Men must decide. Even fated mortals can wreck the plans of gods with a single word, if they choose it carefully. You control yourself, your own decisions. Fate exerts pressure, pushes you toward conflicts and controversies, but it is always your choice how to resolve them.”

    “Like all the choice he had in dealing with the unicorn?” Miaoyu asks sharply. “What choice was there in this?” She taps the sack that Olaf carries, full of the remains of the unicorn's body. Olaf winces.

    Seeker looks across Olaf at her, saddened. “There is always a choice. Perhaps we are fated to cure the Baroness. We have certainly set out to try. But we CHOSE to procure an Alicorn, we CHOSE to ask Hangtree for a golden bridle, and Olaf CHOSE to be the one to attract the unicorn.”

    Olaf looks away from Seeker. “I... need to think about this,” he says quietly.

    Miaoyu smiles. “My offer stands,” she says, before falling back toward the middle of the column.

    “Time heals all wounds, child,” Seeker says softly, before he, too, falls back to give Olaf space.

    Flynn shakes his head. “I've got a bad feeling about this.” Aelron can only nod.

    Travel to the hills surrounding the Rusted Stele takes only a couple of uneventful days. The hills themselves appear to be sandstone bluffs thrust up through a grassy plain by a fault line somewhere nearby; there are huge, beautiful rock formations of all shapes and sizes that the party must wend its way through, surrounded by low scrub and dry grass. Following the directions Aelron received from the scholar in New Drougant, the party wends its way into the hills, but sunset is fast approaching and the Stele is still nowhere in sight. The party makes camp and beds down for the night, planning to resume its search in the morning.

    That night, Flynn hears the sound of metal being sharpened. A bit perturbed, he nudges Aelron and Miaoyu awake. Once she finishes cussing him out in Qennish, Miaoyu observes that the sound is rather brief; most likely whatever’s being sharpened is a short blade, an axe or a knife. (At this point, our DM left the room and came back with a small axe that he apparently just has lying around and started sharpening it with a honing steel AT THE GAME TABLE. This went on for pretty much the entire session. You have NO IDEA how unnerving that sound can get.)

    “There’s a psychotic axe murderer out there,” Miaoyu informs Flynn helpfully, and goes back to sleep.

    Aelron shrugs, listening carefully. “It sounds like she's right. Fortunately for us, the source of the sound doesn't seem to be moving. If it DOES move, especially any closer to us, wake us immediately. If it doesn't move, we'll hopefully be able to find the source tomorrow and take care of it.” He hands Flynn an incendiary (“Just in case, mind you.”) and goes back to sleep as well.

    That morning, while frying up some unicorn sausage, Olaf tells everyone about his dream. “A unicorn tied me to a tree and spent all night sharpening its horn. I don’t even know how it did that….” Seeker pulls out the alicorn, which is a pair of rounded bone growths wound together into a spiral. There is no edge to sharpen. Dreams are weird like that.

    The party gets underway. Flynn insists on riding in the middle of the formation, but everyone is feeling extra peppy today; unicorn meat is essentially caffeinated. This is a fairly new experience for everyone except the raised-on-tea Miaoyu. Olaf and Seeker break formation a couple of times to frolic, but the day passes uneventfully until they reach the Rusted Stele.

    The stele itself is a giant iron rectangular prism stuck lengthwise into the reddish dirt. As the name implies, it has been exposed to the elements for far too long. There is a coating of wind-and-rain pitted rust over the surface, though some of the pits expose entirely unrusted iron. Apparently the deific magic that protects this thing has not entirely worn off, it's simply reduced.

    The word ‘challenge’ is engraved on the side of the stele, and somehow the rust has not managed to eat it away entirely. (In Miaoyu’s head, Gilgadar pipes up. “Oh yeah, that’s the consecrated dagger I told you about. I mean, it’s a bit bigger than most daggers, but you know….”)

    Because this mission is entirely to aid Baroness Hangtree, the party suggests that Flynn appeal for aid. He steps forward.

    “'Oy. We're out to break a really nasty Fey curse. Whatcha got?” he says, and the word ‘challenge’ changes to ‘follow’. Suddenly, footprints appear in the ground and begin leading the party away; each step is filled with an odd, rust-colored slush. Aelron examines the footsteps with spellsight, but finds only Diamond Tower divination magic; wherever this path leads, it should be relatively safe.

    Eventually, the footprints lead the party into a grassy valley. The ground here is much wetter and greener than in the surrounding valleys, there are a few trees growing here and there, and there's a gorgeous meadow at the bottom of the valley centered around a small stone well. The well has no covering, though the rotted remnants of a small wooden roof-and-winch are the first thing Olaf finds as he approaches.

    The party immediately becomes very suspicious of this well and its contents, and Aelron improves Olaf’s sight with a spell and he peers down into its depths to find it—completely normal. Yep, a normal well, stone walls as far down as he can see, about 45 feet in depth.

    Not yet willing to give up on their paranoia, the party lowers a bucket and hauls it back up filled with the most shocking of substances: Water!

    Olaf removes his chunk of amber and takes a long draught from the bucket. Nothing happens. He shrugs and pronounces the water safe—then lets out a gasp of pain and collapses, seemingly dead. Aelron and Miaoyu both sigh at what is obviously Olaf pretending to be dead of poison, but Flynn perks up immediately. Almost skipping, he retrieves a shovel from his horse and sets to work digging a shallow grave. When Aelron kicks Olaf back into motion (“HEY!” “What?! You were DEAD.”), Flynn heaves a sigh of disappointment and tosses his shovel aside.

    Suddenly, Olaf is asked to make a fortitude save, and he fails. It was the most delayed-reaction brain-freeze anyone in the party had ever encountered.

    Seeker casts Diagnose on Olaf, but, aside from his assorted scars, he is perfectly fine. The party has yet to give up on their determined belief that the well will kill them, however. A plan is concocted to lower Olaf into the well to investigate; should he need to be hauled out of the well, he is to turn the rope purple using Gilgadar’s orision, Repurpose. Olaf strips down and, with nothing other than a pair of daggers, he is lowered down slowly.

    The stonework of the well, he finds, is stunning; either master-artisan human craftsmanship or dwarves of considerable skill. The entire wall of the well is unmortared fitted stone, and not uniformly sized cut stone, either; someone just found a lot of rocks and stacked them JUST SO to make this well. Olaf doesn’t stop to study it, however, and soon reaches the waterline. He plunges in and swims to the bottom; thankfully, the water is fairly shallow and he finds himself rifling through the sand. He pulls out the handle of the winch and, figuring it might be important, slides it through his belt. He swims back toward the surface water and is about to signal to be pulled up when he notices something... off about the stonework on one side. He moves closer to investigate and realizes that the wall there isn't a wall at all but a cleverly concealed passageway. Viewed from almost any angle except below, the stones of the passageway present the optical illusion of being perfectly in shape with the wall around them. Olaf returns briefly to the surface, sucks in a deep breath, and dives back into the water to enter the passage. He follows its shallow upward slope to just above the water's surface before the rope pulls him up short. The tunnel widens above him into a carved-stone hallway. Bingo. He swims back and signals for a pull up. Once clothed and no longer shivering, Olaf tells the group what he found. Aelron and Seeker set about using magic to lower the water table in the well to make the passage accessible. Olaf sticks the winch in the ground next to the well, like a tiny but very proud flag, before leading the group back down.

    Before entering the well, the party briefs Keegan. “If anything should come to the camp without warning, your best bet is to remain hidden,” Olaf tells him. “Run if you have to. There's some sort of settlement north of here; we'll look for you there if we don't find you back here.”

    Aelron retrieves his incendiary from Flynn and hands it to Keegan. “This is a magical explosive. When you press this little red button here—no, don't press it now!—it will count down from six and then detonate. This one is lightning flavored; it'll make a lot of noise and a lot of light when it goes off. If someone's after you and you need a distraction, this ought to do the trick.” Keegan nods, reverently accepting the spell grenade. “And this,” Aelron says, holding out a small totem, “will help you hide and spot others attempting to hide in woodlands and grasslands. If we get separated, it will ALSO allow Miaoyu to locate you, so hang onto it!” Miaoyu inspects the small totem briefly to fix it in her mind, and nods.

    “If anything comes at you,” Olaf advises as a last note, “send Flynn’s horse at it.”

    Flynn becomes indignant: “No, send Olaf’s horse!”

    With a sigh, Miaoyu turns to Keegan. “Send the horse you hate the most,” she advises. Keegan sheepishly glances at Aelron’s horse and gives Aelron an apologetic look.

    “It’s nothing personal, it’s just that… well, it bites.”

    Aelron offers a long-suffering sigh and glares at his horse. She nickers at him. Is she laughing?

    With that settled, the group descends the rope to the secret tunnel in the well. Miaoyu takes point to look for traps (having to push everyone aside to do so; she was the last one in the tunnel). Eventually, the tunnel splits off into three paths and the group goes through the unnecessarily difficult process of trying to pick which tunnel to take.

    Olaf turns to Miaoyu. “How does Gilgadar feel about bending the laws of the universe?”

    She manages to keep a perfectly straight face. “I don’t know. He’s usually pretty strict about that.”

    After everyone finishes snickering, Olaf explains his idea: they play a card game and bet low stakes, assigning the players to represent each tunnel. Then, Miaoyu casts cheat and Gilgadar will choose who to let win, presumably the one who wins being the one that represents that tunnel that will lead to the ‘right’ place.

    Miaoyu gapes and blinks, then sits back to consider. “It… could be possible. He might just send us down the most exciting path….”

    Flynn, however, has grown bored and turns down the north-northeast tunnel. Everyone scrambles to catch up with him. Flynn starts shooting arrows into the tunnel wall as they walk to mark their way; if there is fey influence in the area, the ground could shift unexpectedly. He glances back every so often to ensure the holes in the ground haven’t vanished.

    Unfortunately, the tunnel yields nothing of interest before the party must turn around to be able to return to the well—and Keegan—before sunset. Camp is set quickly, but because it was already raining when they emerged from the well, their tents are soggy.

    Back on the surface, Miaoyu and Aelron notice something strange: they haven’t noticed animal life. No birds, squirrels, or anything else one would expect to find in an entire valley in which the well is located, or for that matter throughout the hills surrounding the Iron Stele. Barely even any annoying insect life. Fortunately, some of Gilgadar’s favored creatures are rodents, and Miaoyu took her studies a bit too seriously: she deduces that if there is no animal life to be found, something must be killing them off. But what would bother to kill off EVERYTHING?

    That night the sound of sharpening iron begins again (and by that we mean that the DM has resumed sharpening his hand axe under the table), and the party (read: Olaf) decides to investigate; the sound is only 200 yards away or so; it shouldn’t be hard to find. Thankfully, Flynn is a light sleeper; when Olaf stomps off into the hills, he wakes up and manages to delay Olaf's departure long enough to wake the others. When they set off again, Olaf is in the lead with Flynn and Seeker accompanying him; Miaoyu slips into the shadows. Aelron keeps Keegan at his side, making a modest effort at stealth. Flynn sulks behind the group, grumbling unhappily at the rain. Soon, the 200 yard distance is covered—but the sound is still 200 yards away.

    “Let’s just go back to camp,” Flynn says, pulling up his hood to keep water out of his eyes.

    “Nonsense,” Olaf says. “We’re almost on top of him. We can get him.”

    Bickering ensues, but eventually it’s agreed to go back to camp and get some rest before trying the tunnels again. Come his watch, Olaf, slightly unnerved by the sharpening that has apparently been going on through four watches of the night, begins sharpening everything he can find, starting with his own weapons. By the time his watch is done, all his blades have fresh, finely honed edges, Miaoyu's daggers have been sharpened, the hand axe Keegan carries for chopping wood glitters viciously in the moonlight, and even the frying pan has an edge that could take a man's hand off at the wrist. Olaf wakes everyone by shouting angrily at the source of the mysterious sharpening sound, and since they weren't going to get much more sleep anyway, the party just decides they might as well start their day.

    They debate on whether to bring Keegan with them into the tunnels. Some fear that there may be monsters hiding down there, others fear whatever has been sharpening the axe. In the end, though, Keegan becomes unsettled by talk of his grisly demise and meekly says he’d rather stay on the surface.

    Once again, Aelron and Seeker lower the water level of the well and the party makes their way down. This time, they decide to try Olaf’s idea in hopes of reaching an interesting place more quickly. Miaoyu, Olaf, and Seeker all sit down for a game of cards while Gilgadar carefully chooses the victor. As in, he rolls a die to decide who wins; he’s probably not even paying attention. The wager: Sausages.

    Seeker wins (or Miaoyu/Gilgadar lets him win? It’s not clear, and he doesn’t care, he got a sausage. Some things really are universal) and the group travels down the north-northwest tunnel until they come to a small chamber. A number of small alcoves dot the chamber; it looks to be some sort of dormitory, possibly for acolytes of the Iron Lord. Regardless, the chamber is in poor shape, the furniture in varying states of abject disrepair and disintegration. Flynn manages to recover a handful of scrap items to sell, but beyond that there is nothing worth noting.

    The group decides that looking for a chapel is in order, and Miaoyu casts Locate Object on an altar stone, getting a ping from the east. They choose the northeast tunnel branching off of the chamber… and find themselves at an intersection they had visited the day before. They take another branch, going north-northeast, and find a natural-looking cavern, filled with gorgeous white-and-red marble. Aelron takes a pebble from the cavern and makes it into a magic totem. As it grants two hit points, he passes it along to Olaf, who takes it gratefully.

    Deciding that they’ve spend enough time in the tunnels the group returns to the surface, where they find it raining once again. Keegan is dripping wet and miserable-looking.

    “I tried to build a shelter for the horses,” he says. “But it kept falling over.”

    “Do you want help?” Aelron asks, but Keegan shakes his head.

    “Isn’t there a town where we can go and rest…?”

    Taking pity, the party heads north; there was a small column of smoke up visible in the northern hills a few days ago, and they make for that. Soon, they arrive at the Lamppost Inn, a small two-story structure with one stone wall and three wooden walls, a thick thatched roof, double-doors of stout oak planks banded with iron, detached stables, and a small smithy in the yard. Keegan goes to stable the horses, and a quick glance reveals that the inn is already quite busy; there are over a dozen horses already stabled.

    The party knocks on the door and is greeted by a Dhar man named Christoff, a tall, muscular man with a walrus moustache and biceps the size of Christmas hams. He is, apparently, the one who uses that small smithy. He rents the sole room in the inn out to the party and ushers them to a table near the bar. On the other side of the inn is a group of twenty, clearly adventurers of some kind, comprised mostly of hillfolk (also called boarfolk, the same race as orcs, although 'orc' itself is a culture in this setting). Once the group is seated, Christoff calls out, “Thrall!”

    A woman in an iron collar steps out from the kitchen; behind her, a man, also in an iron collar, can be seen tending to a stew. In Dhar culture, thralls are something similar to indentured servants or slaves. Through war or debt, they become the property of another and must work until they can gain their freedom (which can be never, if their master is capricious about it). Olaf is unperturbed, but the rest of the party experiences varying levels of discomfort, Flynn more so than anyone.

    The thrall takes everyone’s orders and carefully avoids eye contact before disappearing back into the kitchen. Keegan joins the party at the table, and Olaf takes to telling him traditional Dhar bedtime stories: “... took off his entire arm, yeah! And he was the Aurbeski king, so when his men saw it they turned and ran! But you can't run from Dhar; they sailed around the marching army and turned up in front of them at a river crossing.... So the Dhar had them surrounded, and that's how two boats beat 10,000 men.” Flynn and Aelron, muttering in something like disgust, get up and head for the bar.

    When the female thrall arrives again with food, Flynn intercepts her on her way back to the kitchen and quietly asks her, “War or debt?” She simply shakes her head and carries on with her duties, apparently afraid to even look like she's talking about it.

    Another Dhar woman enters from the kitchen, though this one is clearly not a thrall. She approaches gracefully, confidently, and smiles warmly. “Hello, travellers. My name is Fiona and I’m the hostess of this inn. The oaf over there is my husband, Christoff. I hope you find everything to your satisfaction. Is there anything I can get you?”

    “Do you have any chocolate?” Aelron asks eagerly. After a day like that, something warm and sweet to drink sounds fantastic to his mind.

    Fiona denies having any such luxury goods, but gives him an expectant look all the same. Realizing he’s supposed to offer something in return, and stumbling internally over the word 'bribe', Aelron struggles to come up with something that would interest her. These clearly aren't high-class accommodations, so any decorations or art he might provide would probably have little value here. No one seems to need healing or any form of enchantment, so...

    Olaf, realizing that Aelron is in need of help, swoops in. “Have you ever had unicorn meat?” he asks, suddenly a salesman. He offers Fiona a sausage and, after Christoff dutifully fries it for her, she takes a bite. Her eyes widen.

    “I didn’t know it would be so… zesty!”

    A few moments later, Aelron is clutching a steaming mug of hot chocolate, enjoying the scent and letting the steam waft around his eyebrows.

    Olaf goes to the bar and asks Christoff about the sharpening sound they heard in the woods, but Christoff evades the question. Olaf pesters him about it a bit more, but eventually gives up. (Other players also tried to eavesdrop on the conversation and try to figure things out and at this point our DM was sighing pretty heavily at our paranoia.) Once the party finally mutually decides to drop it, Olaf accompanies Christoff out to the smithy to help him pack up some supplies for shipment the next day.

    Meanwhile, Flynn starts shuffling a deck of cards to attract other potential players. Miaoyu promptly sits at his table and he deliberately ignores her. Eventually, she pulls out her own deck of cards and shuffles them aggressively. Strangely, no one approaches either of them for a game.

    Finally, activity begins to wind down and the hillfolk bed down on their side of the room and the party, except for Olaf, goes upstairs to their rented room. There's actually a four-poster bed up there, and it's big enough for at least two. Aelron takes one side; Miaoyu beds down on the floor, Flynn props himself up against a wall, Keegan curls up in his bedroll near Flynn, and Seeker literally curls up at the foot of the bed.

    Olaf stays up until the firepit burns low and then quietly sneaks upstairs. Flynn wakes instantly, wondering what Olaf is up to trying to sneak through the bedroom, but the mages and Keegan don’t even stir. Olaf prods Miaoyu, who is already awake, and asks her to come with him. Thinking there will be some sort of fun mischief, Miaoyu readily agrees and they sneak out quietly. After a moment of aggravated indecision, Flynn follows.

    Olaf and Miaoyu are at the door of the inn when Flynn catches up with them. “Are you really going out in the pouring rain, alone, at night to find a creepy murderer?” he asks quietly, trying to avoid waking the inn's other patrons.

    “We’re just scouting…” Olaf protests.

    “Come back upstairs and go to bed,” Flynn says quietly. “This is reckless and stupid. Going out there just the two of you, especially on a rainy night like this one, is a great way to get yourselves killed.”

    “We won't go far, I promise,” Olaf says. “We'll stay within sight of the lantern!”

    Flynn and Miaoyu both narrow their eyes at this. What does Olaf expect to find within sight of the lantern, exactly? Puddles?

    “Why even bother to go outside, then?” Flynn asks. “You can see all of that from here.”

    “The lantern light is interfering with my night vision,” Olaf points out. “Until I'm past the light I can't see clearly what's on the other side.”

    Flynn fumes, unable to see the point of this, until Miaoyu touches his arm briefly. “I think,” she says softly, “There's a reason he asked me for help.”

    Olaf's lips compress to a fine line, but he doesn't deny it. Flynn looks back and forth between them, and lightning flashes daylight-bright. “Fine,” he growls. “But promise me you'll stay in sight of the inn, you'll keep each other safe, and you won't try to rob the inn or the inn's other guests.”

    “I do so solemnly swear,” says Olaf, Turmlar's Oath binding him. Miaoyu pointedly does not take the Oath, but Flynn is satisfied enough.

    Still certain they're going to their dooms somehow, but satisfied that he can't really stop them without violence, Flynn returns to bed.

    Olaf and Miaoyu step out into the pouring rain. Water is falling by the bucketload, drenching and clinging. Olaf paces a bit in front of the lantern; Miaoyu watches, letting him work up his nerve. Finally, he takes a deep breath. “I want you to sunder my fate,” he says in a rush.

    Miaoyu raises an eyebrow. “Are you sure?”

    Olaf offers a crooked, sad smile. “Not really, but time won’t change that.”

    Miaoyu considers this for a moment, nods, strikes a quick pose, and casts Sunder Fate. Lightning strikes and thunder rumbles. It’s not part of spell, but Miaoyu congratulates herself on her timing all the same.

    Olaf feels disconnected for a moment, but afterwards feels the same as before. “So that’s it, then,” he says wonderingly. “Nothing making my decisions but me.”

    “Yep.” Miaoyu grins at him. “Want me to buy you a drink?”

    “I could really use one.”

    They head for the door to the inn, but Miaoyu stops when she spots something. Was that some sort of movement over by the woodcutting block the innkeepers have set up back there? She slinks along the side of the inn for a better look. Olaf follows close behind her, not sure what she saw. He follows her gaze, but all he notices is a chopping block and a rock. Wait, no. Oh, that’s not a rock. That’s a headless human body slumped across the chopping block.

    “We need to get the healers,” Olaf says, and they both rush back to the room. Olaf clambers over to the bed where Aelron is sleeping.

    Waking up with an anxious, armed Dhar jostling you is not a pleasant experience.

    “What?” Aelron asks sleepily, brain still trying to catch up with full awareness. There's probably a reason he should be worried that Olaf ISN'T arguing with him right now, isn't there?

    “Can you regrow a head?” Olaf asks.

    Fully awake now, Aelron just gapes at him for a moment. “I... but... wha...No. Of course I can't! The head's not a limb or a finger or... Wait, why are you asking?”

    “Someone cut the head off of one of the thralls. Through the iron collar.”

    “Through the collar?” Aelron echoes, but Olaf is already shaking Seeker awake.

    “One of the thralls is dead!” he whispers urgently.

    “Well, then I can’t help him anymore,” Seeker growls. (DM: “You’re grumpy when you wake up!”)

    Soon the entire party is awake and discussing what’s happened, and Miaoyu shoos them all out of the room to avoid waking and panicking Keegan.

    Aelron heads to the firepit and begins to work it back to a full blaze. Olaf and Seeker leave to find the innkeepers—or they try to. The doors, they find, are stuck. Locked and held fast by something.

    Miaoyu and Flynn approach the female thrall, who is still asleep. Miaoyu gently wakes her.

    “Did you hear the other thrall leave?” she asks, but the thrall just anxiously shakes her head no. After a couple more questions, Miaoyu is satisfied that she won’t get any pertinent information from the thrall and tells her to go back asleep.

    By this time, the firepit is at full blaze and the hillfolk begin to stir. “What's the big idea?” one of them asks. “It's the middle of the night! Haven't you got any bloody thing better to do?”

    Aelron, still magically enhancing the fire, takes a moment to glare at the man asking the questions. “As a matter of fact, I don't. One of the thralls has been murdered and all doors to the inn have been sealed shut. We're trapped in here.”

    Suddenly the man is all business. “Right, well, that's a problem. Lads, up and at 'em. Kit out, lively now. We've got trouble. Groups of two, take the doors, check for windows, search this place. Find me any entrances and guard them, then report back.” He kicks his men to wakefulness and begins organizing them.

    Olaf runs upstairs and grabs Keegan. Once Aelron finishes with the fire, he turns to a returning Olaf. “We need Christoff and Fiona in here. We can't get out through the door, but this wall,” he taps a wooden wall near the fire pit, “should adjoin their bedroom if I understand the layout of the building properly. I don't care if you have to bring this wall down to do it; wake them up. If they DON'T wake up, find out what happened to them.”

    Olaf grins. “With pleasure.” He begins slamming the hilt of one of his swords against the wall and shouting. “Oi! Christoff! Wake up! We've got trouble! Can you hear me in there, man?”

    For a moment, nothing happens. Then suddenly there are two distinct, sharp feminine screams of terror, a grunt of effort, a meaty THUMP of wood on flesh, a barked, derisive laugh, and the scrambling of feet on a wooden floor. The sound of axe blows against the rear door follows; someone is trying to break in through the kitchen. Miaoyu pulls Keegan back a safe distance and readies her crossbow. Olaf and Flynn rush to the door and prepare to fight whatever comes through it.

    After many tense moments, an axe finally breaks through the door and a pair of hands rend a hole through the wood. Olaf and Flynn catch a glimpse of Christoff’s face as he shouts, “Keep her safe, dammit! Keep her safe!” He shoves his daughter Nora through the hole, pushes his wife in after her, then turns back, hefting a lumberjack's axe.

    “GET IN HERE!” Olaf bellows at him, but Christoff shakes his head.

    “Won't fit!” he shouts back.

    “Then we break the damn door down!” Olaf cries. “Get back here!”

    “Can't!” Christoff yells, and then he bellows incoherently and charges out of view. One meaty thunk later, Christoff's voice cuts off with a gasping gurgle. Flynn ushers Nora and Fiona over to where Keegan and the other thrall are seated; Olaf grimly sets about barricading the door. From outside, a menacing voice laughs, and suddenly the sound of a rasp on metal returns at full volume. Whatever is out there is the same thing that was sharpening his weapon near the Rusted Stele the other night, and it's angry.

    The group returns to the inn's common room and Olaf hands Keegan a dagger. “Hang on to this. It's a warrior's weapon and we need you to be a warrior tonight. Fight only if you have to. Keep Fiona and Nora and the thrall safe, that's your first priority. This is more than we've asked of you before, but I know you can do this. It's OK to be afraid, but don't let your fear control you. We'll make it out of this yet.”

    Fiona, strong as she is, has been reduced to an incoherent mess at losing her husband. The sound of the weapon sharpening out there is terrifying her, and it takes nearly ten minutes to obtain any useful information from her. Apparently, the Lamppost Inn is a hideout for a group of bandits, and Fiona is their fence. The man who Aelron spoke to earlier turns out to be Tilo, the most fearsome bandit of the king's road. “But don't tell anyone.”

    According to Fiona, someone managed to enter the family's quarters, and was standing over their bed with an axe and a murderous smile when she woke to Olaf's pounding on the walls. She screamed, her husband threw a bedside table at the thing, and then they all ran for the back door of the inn. The door was sealed, but Christoff had just enough time to chop a hole in the door for his wife and daughter before the thing, whatever it was, found him again.

    “Can you describe the man who attacked you?” Aelron asks.

    She shudders. “He was... ugly, but that's not a strong enough word. Hideous. Misshapen. Malignant. Looked like he might have been a dwarf, maybe. Metal boots the size of tree stumps. Enormous axe. Red hat.”

    Together, Aelron and Olaf know exactly what's attacking them: a redcap. Redcaps are a sort of fey—Unseelie, mostly, but not usually tied heavily to either court—that murder travelers who stray too close to the Redcap’s home. Sometimes they attack openly or from ambush on a road. Sometimes they take off their caps for a bit, pretend to be normal dwarves or people, and lure travelers off the roads and into danger before murdering them. They dip their caps into their victim’s blood to gain strength, and it’s said that they are impossible to outrun. (As Tam put it, their move speed is ‘yes’ when chasing potential victims.) They are also immune iron and highly resistant to magic.

    Naturally, this doesn’t do much to boost morale, and Tilo’s bandits begin to get anxious. Flynn and Olaf take to bandying verbal abuse back and forth with the redcap through the doors; it happily taunts them back, threatening to turn them into redcaps and eventually bursting out into a rather colorful song in dwarven. The bluster helps Tilo and his men a little, and knowing exactly where the redcap is from his colorful string of invective is actually rather calming. Plus, once they insult him enough he leaves off sharpening that stupid axe.

    Aelron: “If you spent less time sharpening that axe and more time honing your wit, we might be suitably terrified.”

    Flynn: “I know an old woman with one arm and one leg who’s stepped on bigger bugs than you!”

    Plans of all varieties are thrown about: everything from everyone running at once to an elaborate trick to straight-out fighting. Tilo is unimpressed by nearly all the plans. “Let’s just run for it,” he says. “If you die, I’ll drink to you… as soon as I learn all your names… and if I die, I hope you’ll drink to me.”

    Amidst all this, at Aelron’s request, one of the bandits cuts a hole into the floor of the inn, down to the cellar. They hope to find supplies that might make the fight with the Redcap easier, but there isn't much besides trade goods and booze down there. The bandits pour drinks for everyone to take the edge off the nerves. Miaoyu forbids Keegan from having any. “Sure, sure,” Tilo says as he quaffs his third drink, “let the kid die sober.”

    Finally, a plan comes together. Miaoyu, who has spent the past few minutes removing the iron tips to her bolts and whittling them to a point, gives half to Flynn. Because his eldritch weapon is considered magical, using the arrows or bolts it produces will have no effect on the redcap: he has to use makeshift bolts instead. Most of the bandits are also armed with iron weapons; Aelron gets an inspiration when Tilo, now 1d6+3 sheets to the wind, sets his second empty wine bottle down on the counter. Aelron picks up the bottle, conjures a tiny cantrip of flame to his fingertip, and carves the bottom off the bottle, then cuts jagged edges into it and sharpens them as best he can before moving on to the second bottle. Once Olaf and Tilo realize what he's doing, they line up empty bottles next to him for conversion; at least this way Tilo's men will have a weapon they've all used before that might actually have some effect on the Redcap. Aelron, to his frustration and chagrin, is relegated to a supporting role; his magic is useless on the redcap, and he can only provide magical support. The most he could do is hit the redcap with his staff, and that would require being in melee with it. And that axe has got to be sharp enough to go through Aelron in one hit by now. Will that sharpening EVER stop?

    As Seeker, Flynn, and Olaf shout insults to the redcap from the front door, Tilo, Miaoyu, and Aelron sneak around to the back door and quietly remove the barricade and the hinges on the door. Aelron uses a bit of magic to dampen as much sound as possible, to avoid alerting the redcap. Once the door is unhinged, a chair is used to prop the door up for the time being, and they return to the main group. Aelron and Olaf instruct Keegan to lead Fiona and Nora around the back to the stables, to take horses and to ride off to the north until they reach the road; the party will come and get them once the redcap is finished off. No one talks about the other possibility. Aelron asks Keegan to send any horses he can—especially his particularly feisty horse—around to the front of the inn to cause confusion for the redcap.

    Seeker casts the spell Communal Mind, which allows the five affected people to read general emotions, transmit one-word thoughts, and to keep track of one another’s injuries. Most of his magic is based on internal processes and mental actions, and so this is a specialty of his. Olaf elects not to be included in the spell, as he is most likely to die in the fight, being on the front lines, and his death would cause damage to everyone else caught up in the spell. The ones included in the spell are Flynn, Keegan, Miaoyu, Aelron, and Seeker.

    Olaf, Tilo, and the bandits gather around the front door and Aelron dispels the Hold Portal that has been keeping it closed. They all charge forward and are greeted with the delighted laugh of a short, ugly man in a bright red cap.

    Olaf leads the charge at the redcap; Tilo and his bandits follow and attempt to surround it. It doesn’t take long to see how strong the redcap is: in one round, he kills two bandits and wounds Tilo. The rest of the bandits scatter in fear. Olaf, Tilo, Flynn, and Miaoyu do what they can to hurt the redcap, but landing a hit on him is rather difficult. Thankfully, Olaf manages to avoid being hit by the redcap, thanks in no small part to his shield.

    Seeker, noticing that the redcap is fighting defensively and giving the front line a hard time, digs out another one of his mental spells: Suggestion. This is technically considered Black Magic in the setting (literally as well as figuratively: illusion, charm and necromancy are collectively referred to as “Onyx Tower” spells). No one seems to pay much heed to the Larlonite's casual use of black magic.

    Seeker shouts out to the redcap, “I suggest you fight less cautiously!” Fortunately for Seeker, he penetrated the redcap’s innate spell resistance. Unfortunately, the redcap makes his save, shrugging this off and laughing again. “Naw, this is too much fun! I want to make it last.”

    Not long into the fight, Tilo came to be (as our DM put it) ‘beside himself’. The redcap sliced him in half in one smooth stroke. (To represent this, our DM cut his cardboard marker neatly in half before placing it back on the map.)

    Olaf shouts out to Aelron to toss him his magic drinking horn and pulls out his own horn. “I said I’d drink to him!” Olaf shouts, then drinks deeply of the horns and lets out an impressive breath of fire. The redcap just laughs cruelly, singed but still not seriously wounded by the magic flame and only smoking slightly.

    “Oh, burning hair!” Olaf snarls. “You smell better now!”

    The redcap only laughs.

    Miaoyu uses Dirty Trick, a feat that forces an opponent to make a save of her choice, and should they fail anyone targeting them gets advantage on to-hit (meaning they roll 2d20 and take the better) for 1d4 rounds. The redcap fails his reflex save, and Miaoyu rolls a four. Four rounds of 2d20, take the better, all around.

    Aelron hits Flynn with Battle Precognition, and with the combined force of the to-hit advantage, a critical hit for double damage, and maximized damage from Battle Precognition, the redcap takes a satisfying total of 14 damage.

    Just as this small victory is being celebrated, a surge of emotion comes through the empathic bond: panic, coming from Keegan. Aelron rushes around the stables, Miaoyu close behind him to provide cover, should the redcap take interest in their movements. Rushing to the stables, Aelron and Miaoyu are shocked (no, wait, they aren't, once they think about it) to find that all the horses seem to have disappeared. Through the bond, Aelron asks, Location? Keegan replies, Barn, and Aelron and Miaoyu sprint as fast as they can to the far end of the barn, where Keegan, Nora, and Fiona have gone in hiding. Aelron sets about soothing Keegan’s nerves while Miaoyu uses Locate Object on her horse’s bridle. She gets a ping for it in the stable—right where Keegan left it.

    Meanwhile, Olaf's and the Redcap's weapons lock together and the Redcap begins using his overbearing strength. If Olaf can't break the bind quickly, that axe is going to smash through his guard and then his neck. Luckily, Olaf has the favor of Kurush, the god of sun and strength, from his offering of the Combusti-Bull's offal. He calls upon Kurush’s favor and divine strength surges through his arms and back; the redcap's eyes widen in surprise and then alarm as Olaf forces him back, back and over, shoving the axe out of his way and clearing a path for his bronze dagger. The dagger rises and falls, rises and falls, as Olaf hacks into the creature's neck. The redcap topples backward and Olaf rides him to the ground, intent on hacking his head clean off.

    Feeling the emotions of satisfaction and relief from those in the bond, Miaoyu, Aelron, and their charges come to the front of the inn, where they find Olaf desperately trying to decapitate the redcap. Unfortunatley Olaf's dagger isn't up to the challenge; but when it hits bone, it snaps at the hilt. Offended, Olaf, angrily stuffs the red cap into the redcap’s neck.

    Aelron is wary. Bloodying the cap is how redcaps gain strength in the first place. Dipping it in the redcap's own blood seems sort of like dividing by zero, but still, better safe than sorry. A successful Lore roll reveals everything Aelron remembers about redcap caps: they have rather powerful magical properties when worn—mostly strength-enhancement—so long as they are fresh with blood.

    “Does it need to be human blood?” Miaoyu asks. (From the evil smile the DM gave Sparrow when she asked, the answer is definitely a yes.) “We… fight bandits sometimes,” Miaoyu reasons, attempting to justify keeping the hat. At the disapproving look she gets from Aelron, she sighs. “Could we sell it?” Again, the idea is met with disapproval: whoever would want it would no doubt be evil, and probably immediately kill the party after acquiring the cap.

    “Oh!” Miaoyu snaps her fingers when an idea strikes her. “We could offer to sell it, and if anyone tries to buy it, we know they’re evil, so we’ll just kill them and take their money! It’s justice!”

    Flynn shakes his head. “If anyone found out we had it, they’d think we’re murderers, and it might attract more redcaps.”

    Giving up on her dreams of riches and twisted justice, Miaoyu finally agrees it’s best to destroy the cap. Unfortunately the cap is immune to magical fire, so nothing Aelron conjures can do the trick; Flynn and Aelron return to the fire pit in the inn, pick up a stack of torches and set about burning the thing methodically. It takes a long time and far too much fire, but eventually the cap burns. The redcap’s axe is also inspected and, although much heavier than normal battleaxes, it clearly has powerful enchantments. It’s agreed to sell the thing when possible; none of the party has any expertise in using hewing weapons.

    Fiona becomes insistent on seeing her husband’s body, despite Aelron’s warnings that it is a sight she likely wouldn’t want to see. Olaf leads her around to the side of the inn—where he finds that the thrall’s body is gone, no longer slumped against the chopping block. There is a stain of blood not far away, likely where Christoff fell, but no body can be found. Olaf, upon returning to the entrance of the inn, also notices the cart he helped Christoff load up the night before is now gone.

    The group reconvenes to the front of the inn while Aelron sets about burning the cap and redcap with non-magical fire until they are nothing but ashes. It’s agreed that someone must have been working with the redcap, although who and why are anyone’s guess. Deciding the put aside the tunnels under the well for a short while, the party sets out to find whoever took the horses, cart, and bodies.

    As it turns out, burning the redcap’s body was a very good idea; after the session, our DM revealed that if we hadn’t the redcap would have gotten right back up for round two. You might say we have a nasty penchant for overkill, but sometimes it saves lives. Ours, in this case, and most definitely NOT the redcap's.


    Edited 11/26/13 for an notable error in dialogue/characterization.
    Last edited by AverageSparrow; 2013-11-26 at 06:42 PM.

  25. - Top - End - #25
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    Cade Rentyr's Avatar

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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    A'ight, I'm not going to be that guy who points out every inaccuracy in the journal (especially since it's all in fun and perspective-biased anyway) but I do feel compelled to point out there was no 'reluctance' at the stele. We arrived on the scene and the party was warming up to our usual 5- or 10-minute debate on how to proceed when Flynn walked right up to it and said, "'Oy. We're out to break a really nasty Fey curse. Whatcha got?"

    It's tempting to stereotype and forget about him as the lazy bum who never wants to do anything (which is largely how I play him, admittedly) but he IS capable of motivation. In particular I like to use him to prod us along when we get bogged down in the aforementioned course-of-action debates. As seen next chapter, this has started to come back and bite him, although not too hard yet.
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    by Ms. Nobodyby Herpestidae

    Profile avatar of Gav Jagger, swashbuckler in Adanar by Cometlight, by Starwoof.
    Sig avatars of Cade Rentyr courtesy of Ms. Nobody and Herpestidae respectively.
    Thank 'ee each in turn.

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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Oops, sorry Cade :P

    I couldn't remember exactly what happened, so that's what I wrote, hoping that Dawnflame would catch it if it was wrong. Usually, between the two of us, we get things smoothed out, but I guess we just weren't giving Flynn enough credit that time :)

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    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    And the prodding is needed every once in a while. We're properly paranoid, so, on occasion, we've been known to debate a half hour before taking a very simple action (usually to Tam's facepalming for the entire, extended conversation).
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    Adventurers. Murderous hobos with near-deific power who are both merciless and incredibly competent at personal combat.
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Sorry, Cade. I'm doing my best to present accurate representations of each of our characters, both through dialogue and actions, and sometimes it's easier than others. Also, yeah, I completely forgot the sequence of events at the stele itself (probably because they were over so quickly ), and when Sparrow provided me with something that sounded like exactly what we'd do... I ran with it. Whoops.

    For anyone else who's reading this... sorry for the delay between journal posts. Sparrow and I have fallen a bit behind, but we're catching up quickly. Should be back on posting schedule of one a week by Thanksgiving.

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    Chapter 9: Dangerous Loonies or Three Rules
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    With the battle done and the redcap’s body disposed of, the survivors all huddle in the inn, drying off near the firepit. Fiona and Nora are in a corner, shivering, with Seeker attending to them. Aelron channels a slow, cantrip-level stream of magic into the fire, building it slowly. Olaf pulls an old rag from behind the bar and returns to the fire pit, methodically wiping the Redcap's ichor from his armor and weapons. Keegan stands between the two of them, still adrenaline-fueled, shifting his weight from foot to foot, but doing his best to match their apparent calm. Flynn stands opposite Olaf, staring quietly into the fire. Miaoyu leans against the fire pit, keeping an eye on the door and an ear to the rest of the party.

    “This is just a thought,” Flynn starts, breaking the heavy silence and looking up at Olaf, “and I don’t care what we do. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the redcap happened to attack right when we stayed at the inn. I think the redcap was a distraction; someone wanted to keep us away from that well.”

    “It IS possible to bargain with most fey,” Aelron notes. “Even Redcaps will strike deals.” He gives Flynn a curious glance. “This seems unnecessarily pessimistic, even for you, Flynn.”

    “Three rules I live by,” Flynn explains gruffly. “Rule one: Nothing is simple. Rule two: Plan for the worst, and that way life's only surprises will be the pleasant ones. Rule three: Someone is always out to screw you. This is simply a combination of rules two and three. If the House of the Hunt Reborn really IS out to get my Lady, then they'd be trying to screw US as well by leading us astray. We tipped our hand when we visited the Daoine Sidhe; he knows, and may have informed the House of the Hunt Reborn, of our intentions regarding the Baroness's curse.”

    “Redcaps aren't typically aligned with Seelie or Unseelie Courts,” Aelron points out, frowning.

    “Doesn't mean one of the Courts can't buy their services,” Flynn counters coolly, and Aelron nods grudgingly.

    “So what?” Miaoyu asks. “What does it matter who the Redcap was working with?”

    Flynn sighs. “If the House of the Hunt Reborn knows what we're trying to do, and they're trying to delay us... well, what if they're trying to keep us away from the Baroness? After all, the curse she's under, it's only a matter of time. What if they have assassins on the way? What if they know they only need to keep us away for so much longer before the curse breaks her? If that's the case, we should get back to her as soon as humanly—” he glances at Aelron “—or elementally possible.” Aelron gives a sardonic nod. The fire gutters, flares and stabilizes.

    Olaf growls a Dhar curse. “Are you forgetting? We don't have horses anymore. If you're interested in speed, our best bet is to go after whoever was collaborating with the Redcap, get back our horses, and THEN get back to our mission. At least then we'll have our maximum mobility.”

    “WILL we be able to catch them, though?” Flynn asks. “If the collaborators ARE fey, they could lead us on a wild goose chase for DAYS. Hell, they can bend time itself, if we get close enough to them.” He glances at Aelron. “Right?”

    Aelron shrugs. “In the hill-fort of the Daoine Sidhe, our perception of time didn't seem to mean a blessed thing. I imagine that powerful enough fey could duplicate that outside their holds, though if they have that kind of power... why employ the Redcap?”

    “Look,” Olaf says, resting his hands on the edge of the fire pit, “I find it unlikely in the extreme that whoever took our horses can bend time. They also took a cargo wagon loaded down with ironmongery, so whoever they are, they won't be travelling quickly. We SHOULD be able to catch them if we start moving NOW.”

    Fiona steps up to the fireside. Her face is still tear-stained, her hair matted and ragged, but she seems relatively calm for the moment. “What about us?” she asks, gesturing at herself, her daughter and the remaining thrall. “If you leave, what becomes of us?”

    “The Redcap is dead, miss,” Aelron assures her. “He will trouble you no more.”

    “Are you sure there was only one?” she asks.

    Aelron opens his mouth to reply, hesistates, closes it again. He can guarantee no such thing. And nor can any other member of the party; Miaoyu had searched for other redcap hats, but her spell is not infallible.

    “The Redcap's collaborators have probably gone to the Redcap's lair. Find it, and you'll probably find them. And I'll feel a whole lot safer here.”

    “The Redcap's collaborators are leaving a very clear trail if we leave soon enough to follow it,” Olaf points out. “Easiest way to find the lair would be to follow the horse-and-cart track.”

    “Is this about the horses?” Flynn asks Olaf, impatient.

    “No! This is about Christoff! This is about avenging him and putting him to rest. He was a good man.”

    Fiona clams up again at the mention of Christoff, eyes going dewy, and returns to her seat across the bar.

    “How about we follow the horses for one day; if we don’t find anything, or if we sense we're being led, we head back to the well?” Miaoyu suggests.

    More debate sparks up—but everyone finds themselves exhausted, the adrenaline having long since worn off. Miaoyu finds herself nodding off in the middle of the conversation, and it’s agreed that they sleep on the matter.

    As the party trudges up to their room, Flynn pulls Seeker aside. “Listen,” he says. “Olaf and Miaoyu were up to something last night, before we were attacked by the redcap. Either they were having a tryst or….” He shrugs and continues up the stairs, leaving Seeker to draw his own conclusions.

    Come morning, the party wakes to find Olaf making a hearty breakfast for everyone. Rain is still coming down outside and despite some concern about it washing away the trail, the party agrees to Miaoyu's one-day-chase compromise.

    Aelron casts a sort of magical umbrella to stay dry, a cantrip-grade elemental water spell that turns the air above his head hydrophobic. Miaoyu sees him staying dry and pushes her beloved crossbow into his arms for safekeeping. “I don't want to carry this!” he protests, and Miaoyu hastily takes some of his gear to even the distribution. Ordinarily he wouldn't mind, but mechanically speaking he was already riding the unencumbered weight limit.

    Despite the torrent of rain, following the trail of the cart is fairly easy and by twilight the party spots the cart and its small herd of horses. Whoever's driving the cart has tied most of the horses to the back and is walking them sedately away. He's not paying any attention to the road behind him, so he fails utterly to notice the party walking calmly up behind him, Seeker hunching over to look a bit less distinct.

    As they approach the cart itself, the party splits up to deny the cart driver any way to escape. Olaf and Seeker take one side, Aelron, Miaoyu, and Flynn take the other. Keegan is ordered to stay safely back and to the sides, in case the horses panic.

    The group finally gets a good look at the cart driver as Olaf and Miaoyu draw level with him: it’s Christoff.

    “Nothing's ever simple, and someone's always out to screw you,” Flynn murmurs.

    “You look pretty good for a dead man,” Olaf comments casually, his words and tone a thinly calm veneer over sudden fury.

    “Oh, ****,” Christoff says. We'd say he exclaimed it, but he really didn't. It was more him bemoaning our presence than actually being surprised by it. “How did YOU get here?!” To his credit, Christoff does not attempt to escape and pulls his horses to a stop. Olaf pulls Christoff off of the cart and, with a length of strong rope and a nearly maximum Trade: Sailor check, binds his hands behind his back, his legs at the knees and the ankles, and then ties all the bindings together. Miaoyu grabs Christoff’s hand and casts Rihissa’s orison, Mark of Guilt. The orison places a mark on the target’s hand; anyone touching the mark is mentally informed of the crimes they have been accused of, and which they have been proven guilty. Miaoyu puts the following list of crimes into the Mark: aiding and abetting murder, horse theft, violation of hospitality, and being an *******.

    Olaf, Seeker, Miaoyu, Aelron and Flynn loom threateningly over Christoff's bound form, glowering down at him. “Tell us a story, Christoff,” Flynn prompts.

    “It wasn’t me!” Christoff sputters quickly. “It was Fiona! The entire idea was hers. She made the deal with the redcap. I just went along with it.”

    “How?” Aelron demands.

    “I don’t know. Ask her! Probably one of her strange women’s ways.”

    “It’s true,” Miaoyu deadpans, “We can summon fey at will.” Christoff nods eagerly, apparently oblivious to her sarcasm.

    “You had a deal with the Redcap,” Flynn says. “Fine. Why?”

    “That inn is a bandit trap. Once we get enough bandits in, the Redcap comes in and kills them. We take their supplies and horses and sell them to maintain the inn.”

    Seeker's jaw drops. “You INVITED that thing in?!”

    Christoff gives him a skeptical glance. “Of course. I can't kill twenty bandits by myself.”

    “Why not just report them to the lawful authority?” Flynn asks.

    “WHAT lawful authority?” Christoff spits. “No one cares this close to Old Drougant.”

    “So you jumped to murdering them in your home?” Olaf asks. Christoff just glares at him.

    “And how many people who aren't bandits have been caught in this trap of yours?” Aelron asks, gesturing to himself and his companions. “People like us?”

    Christoff just shrugs. “You seem to have done fine out of it.”

    Olaf growls at him. “You stole our horses, sicced a psychotic fey killer on us all, and have the nerve to lie there and tell me 'Oh, you're fine, what's the problem?' You violated hospitality, you jackass!”

    “And you didn't answer my question,” Aelron hisses.

    Christoff sighs. “I don't know. I have no idea how many others have died. But so what? We've been doing the world a service by getting rid of bandit scum. You seem the heroic type. What exactly is the difference between you meeting them on the road or in the field and our inviting them to our inn and taking care of them there?”

    Aelron glares down at him, then raises a hand and begins ticking off reasons. “Violation of hospitality,” he begins, nodding to Olaf, “Deals with psychotic fey, loss of innocent bystanders, conspiracy to murder and theft of our property. And that's just off the top of my head.”

    Christoff glares back. “Well, you haven't killed me yet, so I don't suspect you're going to. So what ARE you going to do with me?”

    Aelron steps toward Christoff. “You're right, we don't have the authority to simply execute you. A laundry list of crimes that long can't just go unpunished, though.” He catches Miaoyu’s eye. “What do you say we curse him?”

    Miaoyu’s face lights up. “Can we? Should I cast Plague of Thieves or Odyssey?”

    “Odyssey,” Aelron decides. “That ought to see to it he never gets back to Fiona to continue this charade.” Then he raises his own hand, glowing with unearthly green light. “Life of Unrelenting Drudgery ought to do for all the people he's offed 'by accident'—”

    Fear touches Christoff's eyes as Aelron and Miaoyu step forward.

    “Wait,” Seeker says.

    The two stop and turn to face him. “What?” Aelron asks.

    “Think about this for a moment, you two.” Seeker looks around Miaoyu and growls at Christoff. “And you might want to give them a REASON to think about it.”

    “Y-you can take the cart... the iron, the horses, all of it!” Christoff stammers quickly.

    Weregild has a long and storied tradition in Drougant. Olaf estimates that, in terms of the hardship the party has suffered, Christoff is actually overpaying by offering all that. Aelron feels like Christoff is buying his way out of justice, but can't find a way to argue it that doesn't sound self-absorbed and naïve, and so holds his tongue.

    “Do you want a ride back?” Olaf asks Christoff. “We have to see to something at the inn.”

    “Sure,” Christoff grumbles, and Olaf picks him up and plops him in the cart. “Though Fiona's long gone by now, I assure you.”

    “That's fine,” Olaf says cheerfully.

    At camp that evening, Flynn takes first watch and undoes the painful bindings on Christoff, altering them to something a little more humane. He attempts to chat a bit, but Christoff is clearly in no mood for conversation.

    During Miaoyu’s watch, she takes every annoying thing she’s ever learned from Gilgadar and repeats it to Christoff. Anything Gilgadar has ever just randomly told her, she parrots back to him cheerfully.

    “Will you please shut up?” he whimpers. She just smiles and carries on.

    Finally, Seeker takes his watch and takes pity on Christoff, casting a healing cantrip that induces drowsiness. Christoff finally gets some shut eye.

    The next day, the party arrives at the Lamppost Inn, and sure enough neither Fiona or Nora can be found. The surviving thrall cannot be located either. Miaoyu and Olaf look around for any worthwhile loot, and Christoff is cut free. The cart is too cumbersome to take with, so Olaf cheerfully lights it on fire. All the horses are taken, and one is given to Keegan. Soon, they set out for the well.

    “You know,” Olaf says to Flynn as they ride off, “you said that we shouldn’t go after the horses, but look at how well this turned out.”

    “Actually, I said that I don’t care what we do. I just made my preference known. In this case, you were right.”

    Olaf scowls. “You take all the fun out of being right.”

    Flynn smirks.

    Once Aelron and Seeker lower the water table, the party clambers down into the well and follows the northeastern most passage, the one that Flynn chose the first time they entered the tunnels. Eventually, they reach the end of the tunnel, where they find a door of polished hematite with no handle. Inscribed upon it are the words ‘prove your worth’ and next to it is a small spike jutting out with what appears to be some sort of sacrificial dish below it. The intent of the contraption becomes even more obvious with the knowledge that most fey don’t have blood.

    Flynn shrugs and presses his hand against the spike. A drop of blood splashes into the bowl. Seeker immediately takes his hand to heal the wound and counteract the tetanus, because it's a rusty iron spike; of COURSE there's tetanus. When Flynn looks up, he sees the door has opened. From the lack of reaction from the rest of the party, he gathers that they don’t see what he sees. After a moment’s deliberation, Flynn goes through the door and vanishes from sight. Aelron goes next, Seeker also healing him. Olaf uses his knife to cut his hand and avoid tetanus, and Miaoyu follows his lead. Seeker is the last one in. He turns to Miaoyu and attempts to cast Femta’s orison, Stanch, on her. Unsurprisingly, the spell is not granted; Femta is Gilgadar’s enemy (and ex-wife), and being a priestess of Gilgadar places Miaoyu out of her favor. Seeker then turns to Olaf to cast the same spell—and once again, it is not granted. Severing his fate and taking Gilgadar as a patron deity apparently made Femta less than happy with him.

    “Huh,” Olaf says with a shrug. Miaoyu quickly turns away and pretends she didn’t notice anything, missing the cool glare Seeker sends her way.

    The room the party finds themselves in is entirely made of polished hematite. An altar stands in the center of the room that appears to have been slept upon recently, with the dais and altar stone carelessly discarded on the floor. Scattered about the room are a variety of weapons.

    The party sets about examining the room. They quickly discover that one bit of wall is hollow and after a bit of tinkering, they find it opens up a small tunnel that leads to the surface, the perfect size for, say, a redcap. Amidst the scattered weapons, Aelron finds a rusted dagger and, upon taking a closer look at it, realizes that it is a dagger consecrated to the Iron Lord. “Jackpot,” he murmurs, turning the weapon over and over in his hands. The group lets out a small cheer at finding their objective.

    As Aelron is scanning the room for anything else of note, his eyes keep coming back to the altar stone. It takes him a moment to realize that the altar stone is drawing not his eye; it is actually drawing the spell he is using to scan for magical objects in the room. It's almost as if the altar stone is... drinking in the magic. He steps closer, but then realizes exactly what this thing might be capable of. “Don’t touch it,” he warns the party.

    Before he can continue, Flynn steps forward and picks it up. “Why not?” he asks, turning the stone over in his hand.

    Aelron sighs. “Because it eats magic, and I don't know how hungry it is.”

    “Guess I’m not magic,” Flynn replies with a grin.

    “Will save, Flynn,” says the DM.

    Roll. Failed.

    “Try to draw your weapon, Flynn,” Aelron suggests sadly.

    With a look of horror dawning slowly on his face, Flynn hastily puts the stone down and attempts to summon an eldritch bow. Nothing happens. He tries an eldritch sword, and eldritch pillow, an eldritch halberd.... all to no effect. Concerned, Seeker casts Diagnose on him; the DIAGNOSIS spell has trouble finding Flynn as a valid target, but after several attempts it manages to land and informs Seeker that all magic in Flynn's possession (magic items, magical abilities, spellcasting, divine power) has been effectively drained by that brief contact with the stone. It is slowly regenerating and should recover in about a day. “Nothing's ever simple, is it?” Flynn laments.

    Curious, but deciding to exercise proper caution, the party sets about testing the stone. Olaf, as the only party member with no innate magical powers of any kind, discards his magic items and picks up the stone. Miaoyu attempts a Benediction on Olaf, but it seems to have no effect on him; he doesn't seem to exist as a spell target. Not yet satisfied, Seeker attempts Restoration on him, but once again, nothing seems to happen. It takes several repeated castings for the Restoration to break through the stone's effect, but when it does it simply returns “Target found, but under no effects Restoration can cure.” Eventually Aelron and Seeker attempt to heal Olaf and it’s determined that the stone provides 50% reduction to incoming magic, protecting you from damage AND hindering friendly spells, while also negating any other magic items the wearer might don.

    To the dismay of Aelron, whose very essence is magical, Olaf decides to keep the stone for the time being. Aelron is in fact part fire elemental, technically classifiable as a magical creature, and frankly terrified of what might happen if he touches that stone. (When Tam creates a small piece of paper with a description of the stone written on it and offers it to Dawnflame, Dawnflame reaches for it briefly but stops just short of grabbing it. “No, I'm NOT going to touch that. I've seen how that movie ends.” Paranoid? Maybe a bit, but better safe than sorry.)

    Deciding that they’ve gotten what everything they need out of this old concealed fort, the party departs. In the span of a couple uneventful days, they return unmolested to Hangtree.

    Aelron immediately sets about preparing for the ritual. He has to figure out how to channel magical essences from Seeker, the Iron Lord dagger and the Alicorn into a central focus, then apply all three at once to Baroness Hangtree. It is an ambitious and difficult undertaking. After a few die rolls and some quick math, he figures out that he will be researching for the next 8 weeks solid just to finish the spell; he's stuck in town until it's complete. The party decides to skip ahead through most of that time, barring a few vingettes.

    Olaf presents the unicorn hide to Baroness Hangtree, who accepts it (and, once it’s cured, will probably truly appreciate the trophy). He also returns the golden bridle to Ida, who donated her hair to its creation.

    “Did you have to get blood on it?” Ida asks quietly, but loops the bridle over her neck all the same.

    Olaf just sighs and shakes his head.

    Olaf also visits Wallace the crazed alchemist, where he learns that Gromit the Dog changes breeds once every... oh, three or four months, on average. After he finishes wondering how many Gromits there have been, he sells about half the unicorn bones in his now-bloody bag to the alchemist; it's about all Wallace can afford, and fetches a hefty sum.

    After a couple days in town, Seeker sends Keegan to invite Miaoyu and Olaf to dinner. When they arrive, they find the table set for three and Miaoyu immediately surmises what Seeker is planning. She begins to sip her wine nervously.

    “When are Aelron and Flynn getting here?” Olaf asks.

    “They’re not coming,” Seeker says coolly. “It’s just going to be the three of us.”

    Olaf blinks in confusion and Miaoyu becomes even more jittery. Seeker gives them a long look before finally opening his mouth to speak. Miaoyu pulls out her ever-handy deck of cards (for emergency gambling) and begins an anxious game of solitaire.

    “Olaf, Miaoyu,” Seeker begins, “I am quite disappointed in the both of you. What you did was foolish and inconsiderate, and I had believed you were better than that. I have heard what you two were doing in the woods before we were attacked by the redcap—”

    “Yeah,” Olaf interrupts casually, “Miaoyu sundered my fate. What of it?”

    Seeker shakes his head. “Olaf, do you realize what you have done? Have you grasped the full weight and consequence of your actions? I do not think that you do. Did you ever once consider how sundering your fate affected people besides yourself? To say nothing of your living relatives, you have insulted and hurt me. Do you realize that you broke your life-debt to me when you sundered your fate?”

    Olaf attempts to say something, but Seeker holds up his hand. “Please, no interruptions. Let me finish what I have to say. I do not particularly care about the life-debt, not in and of itself anyway. I walk the borderlands; I am not truly welcome in either the forests of my birth or the cities that I serve. People either look at my face and judge me a Savage, or look at my stole and judge me a Savior. You were the first person in quite some time who took the time to know me as a Person. Having a loyal friend meant a great deal to me. Disregarding my advice and sundering that connection between us hurt. Knowing that you never even thought about the possibility of breaking that connection hurt more. You are now free from fate, for what that is worth. More now than ever, you are responsible for your actions and their consequences.”

    Seeker turns to Miaoyu who keeps her eyes focused on her cards. As he speaks to her, she pauses from time to time. Whether she is grudgingly admitting he has a point or internally mocking him—or simply contemplating her cards—is unclear.

    “Miaoyu, I cannot fault you for serving your god and fulfilling his goals. However, I take issue with your methods. You found a young man in a vulnerable state and enticed him with a solution that did not address his problem. It served your ends and your ends alone. Do you not believe in the virtues of freedom and choice? With your arguments and your timing, you imposed your will upon him as surely as if you had decreed it. You made a Law: break your fate, and bade him to follow. Had you realized this? Had you realized the effects that sundering his fate would have? Did you think about who would be affected? Had you made him aware of the possibilities? Did you give him the information he needed to make a truly free choice? Please, both of you, go back to the inn and think about what you have done. You both need to learn to think your actions through—”

    Olaf suddenly slams his hand against the table and both Miaoyu and Seeker jump. “Seeker!” he shouts. “Shut up!” Miaoyu finally looks up from her game to watch Olaf shout at Seeker. “You should be happy for me! I can make my own choices and my own path! Don’t talk to me like a child!” He lets out an angry breath. “You care about the life debt? Fine!” He pulls out a knife and, quicker than anyone can react, chops off his left pinky. Miaoyu jumps so hard she drops some cards and Seeker’s mouth falls open. Olaf throws the severed pinky at Seeker. “I pledge my life to you until we find your wife, living or dead,” Olaf says. Then he storms out, right hand attempting to staunch the bleeding of his severed left digit.

    A moment of silence settles over the room while the two remaining occupants process what just happened. Then Miaoyu hurriedly picks up her cards, turns to Seeker and says, “Thank you for the dinner,” and rushes out after Olaf.

    Once she catches up to him, Miaoyu asks, “So what do you want to do now?”

    Olaf holds up his bleeding hand. “I was thinking of getting this bandaged.”

    Soon they’re standing in front of Aelron’s room at the inn. Aelron answers the door groggily—he's been staring at spell formulae all day and was about to go to bed—and then gapes at the bleeding stump. “We’re in a friendly town,” he stammers, running a phantom-twitching left hand through his flame-red hair. “How did you—” he breaks off, looking up at Olaf and Miaoyu. “No, no, I don’t want to know. With the kinds of trouble you two get into—” He hits the stump with a brief healing spell—NOT Regenerate, which would grow it back, but just a small heal to stop the bleeding—and shuts the door. Miaoyu vaguely hears him mutter, “Brandy.”

    Miaoyu and Olaf shrug and head off into the night to pointedly not think on Seeker’s words, for the time being at least.

    Flynn goes on a patrol through the barony, which has the unintended effect of leaving a gap in group dynamics. Olaf says something that leaves the perfect opening for a pun, but when he realizes that Flynn isn’t there to take advantage, he’s left with a strange discomfort. Suddenly, an eldritch arrow zips through the air and lands at Olaf’s feet. It vanishes immediately, but leaves behind a tiny slip of paper. The rest of the party gathers around to read it for Olaf: Flynn, through some sort of strange pun-sense, somehow knew to write this particular pun at an utterly random moment of the day, and—still more improbably—managed to loft an arrow far enough and accurately enough to land it at Olaf's feet from an unknown number of miles outside of town with the note fluttering from it the whole way. No one in the party is quite sure how to take this, least of all Flynn.

    After Flynn returns, he, Miaoyu, and Olaf take a boat to Brandt to get Olaf’s bronze dagger reforged. Olaf asks about setting the spell draining stone into his dagger, but the bronzesmiths don’t have the necessary knowledge to do so.

    While Flynn is off gambling (and very quickly realizing that he has two choices: winning or keeping his life), Miaoyu asks Olaf about the tablets he got from the lizardfolk on care for his imislime.

    “We could get them translated,” she suggests. “There’s a library here.”

    “What’s a library?” Olaf asks bluntly. Miaoyu sighs.

    “It’s a magic place where people go to read.”

    “You can read?” Olaf asks, mystified.

    “Yes. And so can Flynn. And Aelron, and Seeker. They taught Keegan to read, too.”

    “So… I’m the only one who can’t read?” And with that, Olaf decides to learn. And, to express his new enthusiasm, as soon as he enters the library, he promptly steals a book on lizardfolk language. Miaoyu attempts to stop him—she spent enough time in libraries in her youth to know to respect and fear Ylsilar, god of knowledge—but Olaf manages to evade her. She hides her face in her hands as she follows Olaf out the door, and everyone gets a good laugh. (“Did Miaoyu just facepalm at the thought of someone stealing something?”)

    When the three return to Hangtree, Olaf decides it’s time to speak with Seeker for the first time since dinner and finds him in his clinic. There's a long, awkward pause after Olaf enters, and then Olaf just decides to come right to the point. “I’m sorry for throwing my finger at you.”

    “I wasn’t sure what to do with it,” Seeker confesses, dispensing with pleasantries of any kind. “So I just tried to keep it preserved.”

    Olaf nods. “You hold onto it until the life-debt is fulfilled. Then you bury it and I have Aelron grow me a new one.” Seeker nods and there’s yet another awkward moment hanging in the air. “Will you teach me to read?” Olaf asks, and soon Seeker is teaching him the basics of Elven script. Miaoyu helps what little she can, having a basic understanding of Elven and its written form. She writes out Qennish folklore to provide Olaf with something to practice reading; every story seems to either include or outright end with a lawbreaker being flogged.

    After speaking with a few more smiths about finding a way to control the altar stone’s spell-drinking power, Olaf is forced to admit that he won't be able to contain its effect without either a lot more money or a lot more talent, neither of which he's likely to find any time soon. He places the stone at the center of a collection of nested jars and, with the baroness’ permission, buries it deep in her backyard for safekeeping.

    About a week after the library incident, Olaf notices something disturbing: he’s contracted scalerot. Humans don’t get scalerot; it requires having scales. He seems to have grown some for the express purpose of having them rot painfully away. He rushes to go visit Seeker.

    “You might want to return that book,” is all Seeker has to say on the matter.

    Olaf takes the next ship to Brandt, returns the book, and gives the church of Ylsilar a considerable donation. After that, the scalerot clears right up.

    Unfortunately for poor Olaf, his suffering is not yet done. One day, he comes to visit Seeker, when he finds Seeker and Miaoyu discussing something in low tones. Seeker perks up when he sees Olaf.

    “Hey!” he says, “why don’t you stop by later tonight? I have something to give you for your reading.”

    Olaf nods slowly, suspicious. “You two are planning something,” he accuses.

    Seeker just looks smug. “You might say we’re as thick as thieves.”

    Miaoyu scoffs. “You’re not a thief, Seeker.”

    “Oh really? How many diseases have I stolen?”

    Miaoyu makes an annoyed sound, but Olaf says, “I don’t know, I thought it was pretty clever. I still don’t know what you’re talking about, though.”

    Miaoyu just smiles and rushes off to the baroness’ house to fulfill her end of the plan.

    That evening, Olaf stops by Seeker’s home, and moments later Miaoyu arrives with Ida in tow. (By this time, Olaf’s player is well aware of what’s happening and is making regular insight checks to see if Olaf himself can figure it out. He’s not having much success.) Before he knows it, the four of them are enjoying a dinner, with Miaoyu and Seeker sneaking the occasional conspiratory glance at one another.

    Finally, Seeker gives Miaoyu a nod to indicate, Initiate Phase Two. Miaoyu panics momentarily, trying to find a decent excuse to leave, when suddenly Flynn opens the door. Flynn apparently has a special, magical property: when the party is in Hangtree, he can appear anywhere, at any time, that it is comedically appropriate for him to do so.

    “Wallace’s shop is on fire again,” he says.

    Olaf leaps out of his seat. “I’ll help!”

    “No, no!” Seeker says hurriedly. “Stay here and enjoy your dinner. I can put out the fire with my magic.”

    “And I have to teleport the dog out,” Miaoyu says, an especially blatant lie considering she can’t take other living beings with her when she shadow-walks.

    “Is the shop actually on fire?” Miaoyu asks once they’ve escaped.

    Flynn shrugs. “Just a little.”

    Finally, the true intention of the dinner dawns on Olaf. At this point, our DM said he was drawing the line at awkward flirting and we skipped to the end of the dinner. Olaf walks Ida home and gives her a chaste kiss on the cheek. She gives him a decidedly unchaste kiss in return. They wish each other a good night and Olaf stomps off to punch Seeker.

    Olaf finds Seeker at Wallace’s shop and introduces his fist to Seeker’s face. Not far away, Miaoyu begins snickering, enjoying the show with Flynn.

    “What the hell?” Olaf cries. “Do you remember what I said about making my own choices?”

    Seeker rubs his jaw. “Sometimes opportunities need to be made.”

    “Did it occur to you that I can’t look at her hair without seeing the dead unicorn?”

    Seeker’s face drops and Miaoyu stops chuckling long enough to feel a twinge of guilt. “No,” Seeker admits, “it didn’t. I’m sorry.”

    “Good. Thank you.” Olaf takes a deep breath. “Now where’s Miaoyu?”

    Flynn reaches to push Miaoyu out of hiding, but his hands close only on air—she’s managed to sneak off while everyone else was bickering; attempts to find her are fruitless. (There are certain perks to being the only rogue in the party.)

    Olaf quickly accepts he’ll never be able to catch Miaoyu and storms off to the inn. The only indication he has that Miaoyu is in the area at all is the occasional phantom giggle coming from the shadows, which he pointedly ignores. He's very good a pointed ignoring, is our Olaf.

    He goes up to the inn’s room and grabs several torches and Miaoyu’s bag. He takes them all outside and creates a circle of torches, then stands in the center with her backpack held aloft.

    “Matchmaker, matchmaker, find me a match,” he taunts, holding her bag over a torch.

    Miaoyu’s head suddenly appears, peeking over the roof of a nearby building. “I already found you a match,” she says impishly. “Her name is Ida.”

    Olaf seethes and lowers the bag closer to the flame.

    “W-wait!” Miaoyu stammers. “My stuff’s in there! There’s poison! The fumes will make you sick.”

    “I’m friends with a healer,” Olaf says with a shrug. “Apologize.”

    With great difficulty, Miaoyu finally manages to grumble, “I’m sorry.”

    “Thank you,” Olaf says, and places the bag safely on the ground. Once he’s gone a safe distance away, Miaoyu scrambles to get her bag.

    Meanwhile, the local townspeople shake their heads and wonder how their town came to host a bunch of dangerous loonies.

    “I’m not DMing D&D,” Tam sighs. “I’m DMing a soap opera.”

    Next session we’ll be performing the much-anticipated ritual to (hopefully!) cure the baroness. Also, Seeker leveled up this session! (The reason he was so far behind the rest of us? He was gone for the session that we fought the rosebush from hell, and humans also get a 5% XP bonus. There are plans to change this XP bonus in the future so the gap between party members isn’t so glaring.)

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    DwarfBarbarianGuy

    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Lincoln
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Really, it's Tam's fault for not having more prepared than "finish off the Redcap issues."

    He let us have free time when we're not getting mauled by things, so of course we're going to be Soapy -

    Next Week on Hangtree 90210, we discover that the Baroness is pregnant with the Unicorn's Baby, and that Olaf's evil twin was the one who really kidnapped Seeker's missing wife. Or Olaf might have been hanging out in the Potion shop too long. Poor Gromitt IX, you will be missed until Gromitt X shows up and starts rolling in magnesium.
    Quote Originally Posted by Terraneaux View Post
    Adventurers. Murderous hobos with near-deific power who are both merciless and incredibly competent at personal combat.
    Spoiler
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