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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    AverageSparrow's Avatar

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    Aug 2013
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Chapter 10: Metaphorgotten

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    Out of Baroness Hangtree’s generosity, the party has been granted a clubhouse for their own personal use. Aelron, Seeker, Olaf, Keegan, and Miaoyu have elected to live there, while Flynn decided to continue to live with the Baroness.

    Once Aelron finishes his plans for the ritual, he calls for a meeting at the clubhouse and lays out how the ritual will work.

    “The magic inherent in each of the items we have gathered should be enough to neutralize the disease, the poison and the curse,” he begins matter-of-factly. “Unfortunately, it appears that the fey lord who cursed the Baroness IS in fact going to be reborn if she dies, meaning that his consciousness is inside her body somewhere, and it is HE that continually reasserts all three effects. I've tried to locate him with all kinds of scanning and sensory magic, but can't, so we'll have to do this the hard way: Our consciousnesses will enter the Baroness' body as well. The fey lord will recognize us as a threat and begin attacking us, trying to force us out, the same way he's doing with the Baroness. We follow those attacks back to the source, find the fey lord, neutralize him, and once he has been taken out of the picture, trigger the curative portion of the ritual, which wipes all of the negative effects out of the Baroness for the last time.”

    “Go back to the part where he attacks us?” Miaoyu asks uncertainly.

    Aelron nods absently. “The fey lord's consciousness—spirit, soul, essence, call it what you will—resides somewhere in the structure of the disease-curse-poison construct that is slowly permeating the Baroness' body. The beginning of the ritual will announce our presence in a way he can't possibly miss. He'll try to force us out, we'll follow him back to wherever he's hiding, and finish him off.”

    “Right,” Miaoyu says, “But... attacking? How? Is he going to try and stab us?”

    Aelron shrugs. “It'll be mental combat. His mind against yours. Human minds tend to cling to their own physical forms, so some of the easiest ways to attack them ARE in fact to attack their forms. You'll probably perceive his attacks against you much the same as you would perceive attacks against your body in normal space; if you get struck with a mental weapon, it will cause pain similar to what you would experience being struck in your corporeal form with that same weapon.”

    Olaf raises a hand. Aelron blinks at him. “If we 'die' during the ritual, if he manages to fight us out... what happens to us?”

    Aelron shrugs. “Depends on how he manages to force you out. If it's with sheer mental trauma, blunt-force attacks, there is a possibility that trauma will carry over much as if you had experienced his attacks physically. That is to say, there's a chance you'll wind up brain-dead. It's a relatively small chance, especially since there are five of us and only one of him, and we'll be in Hangtree's body, which should recognize us as a friend and offer us aid where it can.”

    “I don't want to go insane!” Miaoyu cries.

    “Would anyone notice?” Flynn murmurs. Miaoyu pointedly ignores him.

    Aelron sighs. “Chances of such damage are slim. Look at it this way—the only thing being attacked will be your mind. Even if he does manage to force you out by brutally attacking you, your body will be fine. You'll just need to remember that it wasn't your body he hurt, only your consciousness, only your mind. Cling tightly to life, and you will keep it, should it come to that. You only die if you choose to let go.”

    “Think about this, too, Miaoyu,” Olaf offers. “We've risked our lives for far less worthy causes. This is actually a LESSER risk than, say, the fight with the Bramblehaunt, since it probably can't kill us, whereas the Bramblehaunt almost killed us twice.”

    Seeker raises a hand next. “What happens if we fail?”

    Aelron locks eyes with him levelly. “Two possible outcomes. First, a zero-sum: the ritual magic will neutralize the curse, but if we fail to remove the fey lord, he'll re-assert it and the Baroness will experience no change in her condition.” Aelron takes a deep breath to continue, but grimaces for a moment and looks away, exhaling softly.

    “The second outcome?” Flynn presses.

    “If we do enough damage to the Baroness,” Aelron says without looking up, “she'll die. If she dies, the fey lord has free reign. At that point...” he draws a slender finger across his own neck. “We lose.”

    “Right,” says Olaf, “So we don't fail.” Flynn nods once.

    Aelron turns back to Seeker. “You will not be able to use your divine powers once the ritual begins. I'll be engaging them with the ritual, and if they should become disengaged, the ritual will go haywire, and THAT will kill the Baroness in short order.”

    Seeker bares his teeth in a decidedly predatory smile. “I anticipated that. I would ask that I be allowed to consecrate the ritual site to Larlon before we begin, but aside from that I have no qualms. Once we are within the dream, I get to join you all in dealing out justice to our opponents.”

    Olaf raises an eyebrow at him. “But... you're a pacifist!”

    Seeker just keeps on smiling. “I've looked over Aelron's ritual. The only things we'll be fighting are psychic projections of a fey lord who has turned himself into a terrible disease. If you turn yourself into the one thing my deity demands me to destroy on sight, and then try to assault my mind in the course of my duties...” he lets the sentence hang. None of the others around the table have ever seen Seeker look like a wolf-man ready to go on the hunt. It's a very strange expression on his face, especially as he's still wearing Purifier's robes.

    Miaoyu looks absolutely unenthused. Olaf leans toward her. “Look at it this way,” he says. “We could steal her memories.”

    “I’m not stealing her memories!” She turns to Flynn. “He’s trying to steal her memories!”

    “You’re a tattle-tale,” Olaf grumbles. When he sees Flynn glaring at him he says, “You need to be more enthusiastic.”

    “I'm more than enthusiastic enough already, thank you,” Flynn replies loftily.

    Olaf stands suddenly and leaves the clubhouse. A few moments later, he comes crashing back through the door wielding a shovel, charging Flynn and screaming, “EXCITEMENT!”. Flynn jumps out of his chair and draws his eldritch bow in an attempt to shoot the shovel out of Olaf's hands, but Olaf holds onto it and takes a swing. The bladed spade whistles down and thunks into the heavy oaken table, shattering Flynn's plate and scattering his lunch across half the table.

    “Olaf!” Aelron calls out.

    “What?” Olaf replies, wrenching his shovel out of the table.

    Before Aelron can phrase a suitably weighty “WTF?!”, Flynn reclaims his seat, grabs Olaf’s un-chopped plate, reclaims his food and reorganizes it on his new plate, and continues eating. Just another day at the clubhouse.

    At Miaoyu’s suggestion, some of the party creates wills, should they die during the endeavor. The general jist of them is, ‘If I die, the party gets my stuff. If the party dies, Keegan gets my stuff.’

    After Aelron and Seeker explain the procedure to Hangtree, the cave where the party exterminated some Dhar raiders (see Chapter 2: Well-Hung Trees for more details) is chosen for the site of the ritual. “If the ritual should go awry and the fey lord escapes, his only quarrel will be with myself and the five of you,” Hangtree points out. “If I have guards waiting, or he's in the middle of one of my towns when he awakens, he will remember it, and my people will suffer. I won't have that.” Fey beings are VERY good at holding grudges.

    Once the party arrives at the cave, the final preparations begin. Seeker consecrates the ‘operating’ table to Larlon.

    Olaf takes Keegan back outside the cave to wait with the horses. “Keep these here for us. No matter who comes out of that cave, if it's us or some faerie being... if it asks for a horse, give it one.”

    Keegan gulps and nods. “Yes, sir.”

    Once he's done reassuring Keegan, Olaf returns to the cave and strides over to the ritual table. He grasps his belt buckle firmly, looking like he's ready to remove it. “So,” he asks abruptly, “Is this a naked dancing ritual, or a holding hands ritual?”

    Aelron just stares at him for a moment, then sighs. “Neither.”

    Looking a bit confused, Olaf rebuckles his belt. “Oddest mage I ever met...” he mutters.

    Hangtree looks back and forth between Aelron, who appears to be nursing a headache; Olaf, who is hiking up his pants; Miaoyu, who is munching nervously on what looks suspiciously like a bag of cookies; and Seeker, who was meditating until Olaf's odd query.

    “He has some superstitions about magic,” Seeker explains, waving offhandedly toward Olaf.

    Hangtree snorts quietly, shakes her head and reaches for a hip flask.

    Olaf glowers at Seeker, then shakes it off and begins doing warm-ups; stretching, flexing, going through a few practice strokes with his weapon. When both Seeker and Aelron stop to stare at him, he pauses, thinks about it, then imagines himself doing warm-ups instead. Aelron rolls his eyes and lights a circle of ritual candles with a snap of his fingers.

    Miaoyu crunches into a particularly loud cookie a moment later, and one of Seeker's ears twitches around toward her. “Where did you GET those, anyway?” he asks.

    “I bought them,” Miaoyu says. Then she reaches into a pocket and pulls out a receipt, brandishing it at the party. “Look! I have a receipt.”

    “She probably stole the receipt,” Aelron mutters to Flynn. Miaoyu pouts.

    Baroness Hangtree is done messing around. She empties her hip flask and downs it all in one powerful slug. She DID just ride a couple of days' journey through considerable pain, and alcohol makes a decent short-term painkiller... or maybe she just doesn't want to remember entrusting her life and the fate of her barony to these dangerous loons.

    Finally, the time comes for the ritual to begin. Hangtree lies down on the operating table and sets aside her walking stick/spear (which Flynn quickly places out of immediate reach, in case the fey lord does possess her). Aelron murmurs a few words, closes the ritual circle around them all, his hands begin glowing... and suddenly the world goes white.

    The party is still standing roughly in a circle, but everyone looks a bit different. When one's consciousness is forced to represent itself in a dreamscape, it usually idealizes its form, and no one in the party is any exception. Flynn looks like a lowlife, quite similar to the thugs that attacked Seeker: burly, ill-dressed and scraggly, with bruising around his neck that suggests he was recently hung. Olaf is eight feet tall and muscle-bound, hair whipping around his ears in heroic fashion despite a lack of anything like wind. Seeker no longer wears his stole and looks more aggressive, wilder, but he still glows with a divine inner light. Aelron suddenly appears as a male elf—not a wolfman, but as male elves presumably looked before they were cursed: slender, lithe, pale-skinned, pointy-eared. Miaoyu’s appearance constantly flickers between a well-off adventurer and a grubby runaway. Dangerous loons, indeed.

    They find themselves standing at the edge of a bog that stretches on for about two hundred feet before it reaches a small lake, which itself spans another hundred or so feet before reaching a solid tree line. Seeker smells rot in the air, and it's not all bog-rot; some of it is definitely the reek of putrefying flesh. Miaoyu and Flynn both notice strangely colored logs that dot the landscape, then realize that the ‘logs’ are actually snakes.

    Moments later, Flynn spots someone in the far trees, a figure in camouflage clothing pointing a crossbow at them.

    “That’s a crossbow,” Flynn remarks blandly, and a bolt whines into their midst to makes its home in Aelron’s innards, dropping him to -3 hit points.

    Aelron glances down at the bolt protruding from his belly, says “Oh,” and collapses in a heap.

    Olaf steps in front of Aelron protectively, readying to try and catch the next bolt on his shield. Seeker rushes to heal Aelron, yanking out the crossbow bolt (which simply melts into mist in his hand—very creepy) and applying a healing spell. Aelron's eyes snap open and, without getting up and risking another shot from that crossbow, he casts a spell called Friendly Wind, which creates a strong breeze to blow against the crossbow and make their opponent's shot more difficult, as well as giving Olaf's hair something to flutter heroically in. Flynn and Miaoyu both begin to return fire. Miaoyu gets in a couple of solid hits, and is rewarded for it with a bolt to the shoulder. Seeker rushes to heal her as well.

    Olaf discovers, much to his own chagrin, that he can't cover the entire party by standing in front of them with his shield braced. He decides to adopt a more aggressive solution and takes off into the bog, trying to hop over anything that might be hostile. He’s tripped by a snake and attacked about thirty feet in, but once it has bitten him, the snake goes quiescent. Olaf decides to use a bit of parkour and leaps about the bog, avoiding the ground as much as he can. Eventually, he has to stop for a moment—and lands right on top of a snake. A snake wraps around his thigh and squeezes.

    “Oh, excellent!” Olaf growls at it as he forces it from his leg. “The library express!” He extends the snake's length along the dimly demarked path between stretches of bog and tall grass, stands atop it like a skateboard, and digs his spurs into the snake. “Wait, spurs? I don't wear spurs! WHOAAAA!” The snake takes off at a rolling, lurching slither, attempting to veer off into the grass every ten feet or so. Olaf manages to keep the unfortunate reptile on the path and moving forward for an impressive sixty feet before it finally wriggles away and retreats in shame. He finds himself ankle-deep in filthy water that is clearly infested with snakes and he shouts for Aelron: “Oy! I need a water table lowered over here!”

    After Seeker hits Flynn with a Battlefield Precognition, he and Aelron hurry to catch up with Olaf, and after a moment, Miaoyu follows, pausing every now and again to take a shot at the figure in the trees. Flynn, needing to spend significantly more time reloading his heavy crossbow, remains behind. Still, they both get decent shots, with Miaoyu getting a full-damage critical. The bolt hits the figure right between the eyes, and it falls to the ground—before immediately springing up and continuing to attack. Miaoyu lets loose a string of obscenities.

    Just as Aelron and Seeker are about to catch up with Olaf, Seeker steps on a snake and it prepares to attack. As the reptile rears, Aelron's mind receives a small ping from the magic of the ritual that is supporting this projected dreamscape. The ritual has pinpointed the strand of corruption into which the party has been injected, and knows exactly which piece of the infection is represented by that snake. With help from the Baroness' immune system, the Alicorn and Seeker's power, the spell can eradicate that small piece of the corruption and prevent it from harming Seeker. It informs Aelron of all this in the fraction of a second before the snake strikes, and asks without words for permission to act. Aelron grants it.

    The snake, a constrictor with massive fangs that appear to be dripping some sort of toxin (“Oh, that's just not fair!” the Werebear proclaims), begins to glow as it starts its strike. Larlon's power shines through it, all around it, and then into it, and it disintegrates into mist. The spell shows Aelron a small image from his own eyes: a single tendril of green corruption on the Baroness's shoulder withering, curling, and falling away from her body. He smiles grimly and pushes his attention back to the conflict.

    Now at the edge of the water, Aelron has a better look at the figure who’s been shooting at them. It seems to be wearing some sort of suit made out of a plant—or perhaps it's a plant-person. Difficult to say. “What on earth could that be?” Aelron murmurs, wracking his brains for a possibility.

    “A hunter reborn?” Olaf suggests, and Aelron can't really dispute the answer.

    The mages set about finding a solution to the snake-filled water. Since they don’t have ten minutes for a ritual to lower the water, they decide skating would be a better answer. Seeker gives Olaf the ability to water walk by making him hydrophobic (intending the physics definition of the word and not the psychological…though you never know with Olaf) and Aelron enchants his clothing to freeze any water it encounters, creating shields that should help deter snake attacks.

    Olaf begins his journey across the water, snakes pestering him all the while. Aelron manages to save him from being grappled and bitten by willing two from existence, but he ultimately still takes some damage before reaching the other shore.

    By this time, Miaoyu has caught up with the others, with Flynn right behind her, both having decided to ignore the hunter for the moment. Seeing that Olaf is in trouble, she takes Seeker’s healing beads and shadow walks to him. She’s bitten by a snake upon arrival, but she quaffs a potion and uses a healing bead on Olaf, who immediately jumps at the hunter—and vanishes. Before she can process this, Miaoyu is hit by the hunter and dropped to -3.

    Flynn, Seeker, and Aelron begin their own journey across the pond, moving as quickly but carefully as they can, especially since Seeker can be dropped by a single hit. Both the group and Miaoyu know they’ll never get to her in time, so with a quick prayer to Gilgadar, she crawls out of the pond and vanishes as well.

    Eventually, the remaining three reach the other shore, Aelron at 0 hit points, and join Miaoyu and Olaf in a brief moment of oblivion.

    Aelron receives another communication from the spell powering their journey: it has identified the Fey Lord's location, but there is a problem. Unable to stop the party's advance directly, it has opted to attack the Baroness instead; the tendrils of the illness are probing into her mind, and will cause irrevocable damage if left unchecked. The spell has no weapons with which to stop this intrusion, and wants to put the party in the way to defend her. Aelron agrees, and the group's consciousness is redirected to the Baroness's mind.

    Baroness Hangtree's mindscape is represented by a starkly lit room with a floorplan shaped like the mutant spawn of a kite shield and a heart: slanting, slightly curving walls at odd angles to one another in a roughly diamond-ish shape. The room is made of a pearly material with the texture and brittleness of thin sheets of marble; its outer walls are an ominous dark red. A single unbroken wall divides the room into eastern and western halves and has the appearance of frosted glass; permeable by light, but one can see only shadows and suggestions of movement on the other side. Another set of similar walls fails to completely divide the room into northern and southern halves, merely limiting access from northern to southern spaces. If examined from above, the room looks something like a quartered shield, if the lines separating upper and lower quarters were incompletely drawn.

    Spoiler
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    There are three entrances to the room: one in the northern wall of the northwestern quarter, one in the floor of the northwestern quarter, and one in the eastern wall of the northeastern quarter. Flynn stumbles in through the eastern wall while the rest of the party clambers through the northwestern door. Upon entering the room, each player receives a rejuvenating boost from Hangtree's slumbering consciousness, which recognizes them as allies: everyone regains 1d6 hit points. Miaoyu rolls a 1 and swears vengeance upon the hawker who sold her the potions. Seeker heals Miaoyu and she drinks another potion (rolling 1 again), and then the party sets about taking a closer look at the room.

    Each quarter of the room contains a pedestal with a beautifully wrought relic resting upon it, protected by a frosted-glass casing. Flynn, on the eastern side of the room, can see a finely carved statue of horses with golden manes and tails, as well as a silver chalice three-quarters-full of something thick and deep red. The rest of the party can see a crossed pair of miniature wooden tournament lances, one banded in silver and one in gold; and a gem-studded crown upon a purple pillow.

    Flynn informs the group that the shield-room is not a reflection of Hangtree’s personal coat of arms. At least one of the quarters of her coat of arms is a blank black field, and none of these is blank. Aelron recognizes the crossed lances as symbols of Turmlar, god of honor, and the crown as being specifically Drouganti. Flynn identifies the horse as representing Brigii, goddess of horses and loyalty. The chalice clearly represents the Baroness herself; she is the Knight of the Bloody Chalice. Seeker notes that the entire room smells exactly like Hangtree.

    Suddenly, Aelron receives another prompt from the spell: the Fey lord has readied his attack. The ritual presents him another brief glimpse through his own eyes as three tendrils of corruption begin to burrow into the Baroness' mind: one at each temple and one from the base of her skull. From behind the partitions covering each door, the tromping of many, many boots can suddenly be heard.

    “Look alive, people, we've got company!” Aelron calls out. “Defend the relics!”

    Flynn takes a stand before the relic of Brigii, barring the way out of the only door on his side. Miaoyu shadow walks to join him and takes up position in the doorway leading from northeastern to southeastern chambers, preparing to snipe. Olaf charges to the northern doorway.

    “Aelron!” he calls as he draws his daggers. “Horn! Cover the grate!”

    Aelron nods, unslings his Combusti-Bull drinking horn, and lobs it underhand to Olaf. When he reaches the grate in the northwestern floor, he uses Sealing Ward on it to make it tougher to break through, hoping to buy Olaf enough time to finish off whatever comes out of his door.

    The door Flynn is guarding breaks first. A tide of goblins, the cannon fodder (and literal fodder; they're bred to be edible) of Fey armies, crashes through the barrier in a rush. Flynn is waiting for them. “You are not welcome here,” he says, poking the first one through the barrier right between the eyes with his forefinger. “Back to your hole.” The goblin goes cross-eyed trying to find the end of Flynn's finger to bite—but then an eldritch heavy crossbow bolt explodes through his sinuses, lodges at the back of his skull, and shoves him back out the opening and into his fellows. The second goblin through gets a similar treatment from an eldritch light crossbow, and the third from an eldritch longbow. (The goblins are level 0, which means warriors get up to their own level in free attacks against them. As long as he hits with each shot, and doesn’t move, Flynn can kill three in a round. He can't do it with the heavy crossbow, as reloading that actually takes time, but swapping between eldritch weapons is a free action, and normal bows have a negligible reload.) The rest of the goblins attempt to swarm past Flynn, and he's forced to take a step back, but that opens up a shot for Miaoyu, who takes out a fourth goblin with her light crossbow.

    Olaf's door breaks next, but he's waiting for them: as the first goblins squeeze through, he raises both Horns of the Conflagration high and calls out, “To the Baroness's health!” Then he takes a deep draught from each, smiles at the goblins before him, and belches out what should be a 60-foot cone of flame. (“Goblin barbeque, everyone!” Dawnflame calls. “Orderly line now, there's enough for everyone!”) Unfortunately, the goblins are packed so densely (six of them to a five-foot-square while they're still in the entryways) that the Horns can't function at full effectiveness. The front rank of goblins roasts to a mouth-watering crisp, but those behind them are protected by a wall of seared flesh. Olaf DOES manage to seal up the entryway again with a wall of goblin corpses, but that won't last.

    Aelron gets another ping from the spell. With help from Larlon's power and the consecration of the Iron Lord, the Baroness's body can throw barriers in the way of the Fey Lord's attacks. He has only to designate where to place those barriers, and the spell will prompt Hangtree appropriately.

    Flynn finds himself surrounded by goblins and puts his back to the Relic of Brigii. He's taking occasional hits, but he doesn't seem to care; he's firing with wild abandon at any goblin that looks like it might want to smash the covering over the relic, and appears to draw strength from every goblin he slays. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Miaoyu; when she comes forward to defend the relic, a small group of goblins detaches to swarm her.

    Aelron smiles wickedly and reaches for his belt as his magically-braced doorway becomes a spiderweb of cracks; a moment later he holds out a pair of spell-grenades, ready to drop one into the first hole that opens up large enough to fit it. “Olaf!” he calls. Olaf drops the drinking horns and reaches a hand back almost without looking, catches the tossed spell grenade, and steps back a bit, keeping himself between the Relic of Turmlar and his wave of goblins.

    It takes a moment of frantic shoving and hacking, but eventually the charred mass of goblin-flesh topples forward and the still-living goblins of Olaf's batch surge over it; Olaf is waiting. “CATCH!” he orders thunderously, and the first goblin obeys instinctively. (That's the trouble with creatures bred to be obedient; enemies can take advantage of that obedience too.) The goblin and its four companions in the front rank glance down in confusion at the solid-not-solid spell construct in its hands just before the spell detonates in a spectacular electrical discharge. With daggers flashing, Olaf steps forward and gleefully dispatches one, two, three more, and grins maniacally at those that attempt to surround him. Seeker, confident in his allies’ abilities, and lacking the resources or talent to do much else, conserves his energy for the time being, keeping an eye on the situation as a whole and watching for anyone in need of healing.

    Miaoyu fires her crossbow one last time before being overrun by goblins. They reduce her to -9 hit points, one away from death, and she is forced to shadow-walk to safety, abandoning Flynn and leaving the Chalice Relic exposed. The goblins swarm toward it as Seeker rushes to heal Miaoyu. Flynn fights on, gunning down any goblin foolish enough to strike at the covering protecting Brigii's Relic, but the covering is starting to weaken.

    Aelron's reinforced floor grating crumbles. Aelron drops his spell grenade into the writhing mass of goblins below. The front row panics, seeing what is coming, but cannot back away. Aelron takes a quick step back as the spell detonates, freezing the front rank solid. He prompts the ritual: here, now. Another barrier, this one a dome of the same material that makes up the relic casings, forms over the hole where the grating used to be. Aelron gets a glimpse through his own eyes of one of the tendrils of corruption at Hangtree's temples recoiling and flailing, and then--

    Goblins break the shield around the Chalice Relic. Miaoyu thanks Seeker for his healing and Shadow Walks back across the divide. Unfortunately for Miaoyu, Shadow Walk consumes 1d6 reserve hit points every time it is used; she has 4 remaining and rolls a 5, so she loses a real hit point too as a small portion of her is left behind by an imperfect jaunt. Her crossbow thrums again, though, and one of the goblins around the Chalice Relic falls. The rest turn toward her and growl. She offers a meek wave of her hand before they swarm her again, dropping her again into negative hit points. She feigns death (and maxes the Deception roll to do so; even Miaoyu almost thinks she's dead, until she remembers Aelron's advice to NOT LET GO) and palms a potion. She rolls yet another 1 on the potion healing, bringing her to zero hit points: not an active combatant, but not bleeding out either. (At this point AverageSparrow was detailing vivid revenge-porn about what Miaoyu might do to the poor potionmaker if she ever found him again.)

    Flynn has thinned the swarm around the Relic of Brigii to a paltry few goblins by this point, and easily dispatches the few remaining attempting to attack the relic, keeping himself between the relic and the rest. He is battered but still standing, and whatever inner reserve he was drawing on to rejuvenate himself appears to be exhausted.

    Olaf is likewise laying about himself in a frenzy, dispatching goblins left and right; none manage to break past him for Aelron or Seeker, and only very few manage to make even a single attack agaisnt the Relic of Turmlar.

    Unfortunately for Aelron, the goblins below the grating choose that moment to shatter the secondary covering he created for it, and they come pouring out of the opening, spreading out to surround Aelron and move toward the Relic of Turmlar as they go. Aelron steps back to stay clear of the mass of goblins, and Seeker, no longer occupied treating Miaoyu, charges back into the fray.

    “Shall we?” Aelron asks, tendrils of fire already licking around his fingers.

    “With pleasure,” Seeker growls.

    The two of them unleash a firestorm upon the goblins crawling from the grating, one Burning Hands spell apiece. Both of them nearly maximize damage just on the dice rolls, and much of that wave of goblins falls writhing in flames.

    It is, unfortunately, Seeker's last spell.

    Olaf is forced to fall back to defend the Relic of Turmlar from goblins approaching from two directions. The goblins approaching from the grating swarm over Seeker and force him down, beating him into negative hit points. Flynn takes another pair of hits from goblin weapons and grunts in pain, but refuses to yield an inch of ground around the Relic of Brigii. Aelron, cornered by the last survivor of the wave he and Seeker just incinerated, takes a hit and falls to one hit point. Miaoyu palms another healing potion, still successfully deceiving the goblins in her room into thinking she's dead, and nearly cries out loud as it heals yet another single hit point. Seeker himself falls to the wave of goblins, forcing him into negative HP.

    Seeker looks about him, sees his allies falling slowly, fighting a losing battle against attrition, himself bleeding and out of magic, and desperately starts to pray. “O Larlon, do not fail me in my hour of need!” Apparently desperation is a good tone to use, as Seeker gets a nearly maximum roll on his religious skill. Suddenly, the ritual's magic touches HIS mind: Larlon appears to be reaching through Aelron's ritual magic to grant Seeker the ability to provoke Hangtree's intervention.

    Aelron swings his staff desperately at the goblin before him, connects solidly, and sends it tumbling back through the grating. Flynn strikes down the last of the goblins still anywhere near the Relic of Brigii and moves to the doorway between northeastern and southeastern to begin taking down those that threaten the Chalice Relic. Olaf finishes off the last of the goblins around the Relic of Turmlar, dashes into the southwestern relic room, and hurls himself against the wall between western and eastern quarters. A section of the wall comes down in a shower of shards and Olaf tumbles through into the midst of the last few standing goblins--

    And suddenly, the world fades again, this time into blackness. The party realizes, a bit too late, that this was not a mission to destroy all the goblins; it was a timed defense, with the goal of keeping as many relics alive as possible for ten rounds (one minute). In that time, the party amassed a stunning kill count of ninety-two goblins. Aelron has a brief vision of the tendrils that had been attacking the Baroness' mind shriveling and falling to dust, and then his vision reorients. He can see the profile of the Baroness's body; the influence of the spell, its healing and curative powers, is a blue aura that appears to have scrubbed much of the Baroness' body clean. Only a small patch of red remains directly over the baroness' heart: the Fey Lord's last bastion. Their last remaining target.

    While floating through darkness, waiting for the spell to present their next challenge, the party starts chatting.

    “If that last room represented bits of herself and her fear of being destroyed by the fey,” Olaf speculated, “then that bog was probably how she saw the disease. You know, it slowed her down, always bit at her ankles.”

    Seeker gapes at him. “How did you get that?” It’s easy to forget, amidst all of Olaf's enthusiasm, joie de vivre, and seemingly brutish cultural roots, that he is sometimes quite perceptive.

    Olaf shrugs. (Probably. Floating through blank, dark oblivion makes reading body language difficult.) “Flynn probably got it too, but he didn’t want to blather his lady’s secrets all over the place.”

    “Thanks for doing that, by the way,” Flynn tells Olaf, his voice desert-dry. Miaoyu punctuates this by munching on psychic manifestations of her cookies.

    Before Olaf can respond, the party finds themselves floating in a small well of some thick liquid. In the dimness it appears red. They lever themselves one by one out onto a small ledge surrounding the well and attempt to take stock.

    “Okay,” Flynn says as soon as he has his feet under him. “Sound off: who’s alive?”

    One by one, everyone responds in the positive, except for Olaf. Olaf simply licks the liquid off one of his fingers and says, “Is this blood?”

    The party decides not to investigate that question terribly much; when you go into the mind of someone who styles themselves “the Knight of the Bloody Chalice,” it’s reasonable to assume they’re a bit scary. Everyone goes about healing up (which mostly means chugging healing potions, as Aelron has one spell left and Seeker has none) and taking in their surroundings. They seem to be standing on a small platform of obsidian or basalt that encircles a small pool of blood. A single walkway of the same dark substance leads away from the pool, terminating in a stone archway draped with a deerhide and lit from behind. Around the stone path is... empty blankness, void, gaping absence. To all appearances, the blood well and the walkway around it are simply floating in the midst of a vast field of... nothing.

    “So, if we’re given the opportunity, should we try to negotiate with the fey lord?” Olaf asks.

    The party begins joking nervously about transplanting the fey lord into someone else, ideally someone they don’t much care for: Christoff, Horvath, or that damned potion maker. Ultimately, however, they agree that they’re there to kill the fey lord. They form up and move down the hall in single file: Olaf, Flynn, Aelron, Miaoyu, and finally Seeker.

    Only a few steps later, Olaf reaches the deerhide-draped arch. A stag skull sits atop the arch, shrouded in shadow, worms crawling about its eyes and dropping from its jaw to wriggle eerily on the floor. Olaf pauses for just a moment before he enters the door and projects a thought toward it: Ready or not, you fey bastard, here we come. He reaches out, slides the curtain aside, and steps through the archway.

    Before he can cross the threshold, a haunting voice rings clearly in his mind. How much of your past will you forsake?

    Olaf's answer forms over a long moment in which his body seems suspended in time, still on its course but unmoving until he gives answer. After careful consideration, he replies, I do not forsake it any more than the sword forsakes the anvil and blacksmith that forge it. They part ways, perhaps never to see one another again, but the sword does not forget who and what made it what it is.

    Flynn is next through the door. What did you do that’s so horrible that you’re still running? a voice hisses in his ear.

    I was born. he grinds back at it. I lived, at any cost. I did terrible things. I should have died. I would have, until the Lady. She picked me up. She made me Good. My life is worth something in her hands. And now hers is in mine and I will preserve it. Bite my shiny metal ass, Fairy Princess. Sincerely, Flynn

    Aelron, at the center of the line, grasps the deerhide curtain and has just enough time to realize that he doesn't see any of his other party members on the other side before time slows and an unfamiliar voice rings through his consciousness. [i]Are you so consumed with hatred for your own race that you worship overgrown lizards?[i]

    He shakes his head sadly at the voice—or would, if his head was responding. I revere beauty in whatever form it takes; hatred is no part of what I must do. If I must take life to save what is good and beautiful, I shall do so, but I take no joy in the act.

    Miaoyu is next. How could you abandon your little brother? the voice asks her plaintively.

    Miaoyu flinches, but does not respond. After a long moment, time resumes for her and she steps through the curtain.

    Seeker is last. The voice calls him by his real name and whispers his wife’s name as well. Was she ever truly happy with you?

    After a moment’s pause, knowing he’d never told those names to Hangtree, Seeker bares his teeth in challenge. Yes, demon of doubt.

    (At this point, Tam called each player away from the table in marching order: Olaf, Flynn, Aelron, Miaoyu, Seeker. Each player was presented with a choice. As soon as their character chose, they were returned to the table and the next player called away. The wait was killer, let me tell you. And the Werebear took for freakin' ever!)

    Olaf steps through the curtain and finds himself alone. No party members come through at his back. When he glances over his shoulder, he sees, not the stone arch hung with deerhide, but a portal; it is as if he is looking through Baroness Hangtree's eyes at his own body. He has an instinctive understanding that he can step back through that portal at any time and return to his body. Turning back around, he finds himself in a small room carved from granite. Upon a small pedestal before him is a green egg, vaguely draconic-looking. He leans down to examine it. The egg is glowing with an inner light, and a silhouette, barely visible through the shell, shows a humanoid form with pointed ears and slender limbs recumbent within the shell.

    “Huh,” Olaf says, mostly to himself. “Well this must be our friend the fey lord, then. Guess I'm supposed to whack him.” He reaches for a dagger, then pauses. “Unless... is he an innocent? An infant? Am I supposed to carry him out?” Olaf ponders for a moment. “No, he was a full-grown Fey Lord who chose to regenerate himself in this manner. He bears all the guilt of his actions in the life he lived before becoming this, and even Seeker wants him dead for what he's done to the Baroness. Time to die, faerie.” And he brings his dagger crashing down hilt-first upon the fragile shell, shattering it.

    Flynn steps through the curtain and finds himself alone. Olaf is not here, and Aelron doesn't appear to be coming. Flynn becomes a bit paranoid when he sees the egg. If it's the fey lord, obviously it has to die... but what if this thing is tied to the Lady's life somehow? What if I kill her by harming the egg? Can't take that chance... but can't leave it here. Maybe if I take it with me, I can take the curse upon myself, spare her the pain.... Flynn picks up the egg and steps backward, vanishing.

    Aelron steps through the curtain and finds himself alone. This is... not what I expected. With a wan smile, he reaches for his staff. I trust my ritual to guide my hand where it is needed. Hatred will be no part of what I do. In a single blow, he shatters the egg's thin shell.

    Miaoyu steps through the curtain and finds herself alone. Well, that's just wonderful, isn't it? She glances down at the egg glowing on its pedestal. This looks interesting! She picks it up and retreats.

    Seeker steps through the curtain and finds himself alone. Where is everyone?. Then he looks down, sees the egg, and looks curiously at what grows inside it. He pauses for a moment, seeing the small creature in front of him. Then, remembering that this is the manifestation of the disease, and insulted by the question he (assumes) it asked him, he looks down at his hands, thinking I’ve got nothing left but these. He offers the egg a soft growl before tearing it apart with his claws.

    (What Tam didn't tell us until after the session ended was that we had been casting votes with our choices: leaving the egg alone and walking out was a vote to leave the Fey lord and his infection inside Hangtree. Destroying the egg was a vote to complete the ritual and save her. Taking the egg would have cured Hangtree, but may have infected one of us. Destroying the egg won with Seeker, the party pacifist, casting the tie-breaking vote by crushing the egg, reaching into its broken shell, and tearing its resident apart with his bare paws.)

    Slowly, everyone returns to consciousness around the consecrated table. Flynn checks to see if he still has the egg, but it is gone. They find Baroness Hangtree unconscious but healthy looking; the corrupted green tracery that formerly patterned her entire left side is gone. Seeker casts Diagnose on her and finds her perfectly healthy.

    “So,” Olaf asks, “did anyone else hear a question when they went through that stone arch?”

    “No,” Miaoyu says at the same time everyone else says, “Yes.”

    “Oh,” Miaoyu stammers. “That’s weird.”

    Seeker gives her a cool look. “Say what you want, we know the truth.”

    “I deny everything,” she says stubbornly.

    The rest of the party compares notes on what they heard and saw, with the exception of Miaoyu, who begins anxiously eating her cookies again. “I heard it call me by my real name,” Seeker says. “And use my wife’s real name. It asked if she was ever really happy with me.”

    “What is your real name, if you don’t mind me asking?” says Aelron, not daring to touch the answer to the question itself.

    “Guarion. It means 'werewolf’s son'. It’s a fairly common name.” It is, in fact, the Elven equivalent of naming your child 'Bastard'.

    Olaf calls Keegan in.

    “How do I know you’re not tricking me?” Keegan asks, wary. Olaf ponders this question for some time, until Flynn sighs.

    “Ignore him,” Flynn says. “We’re fine.”

    Apparently satisfied, Keegan enters the cave and the party makes themselves comfortable while they rest and wait for the Baroness to wake. The night passes uneventfully as the Baroness slumbers away and the party posts watches as usual. She begins to stir in the early morning hours, and Seeker wakes everyone early to witness her return to consciousness.

    She sits up after a moment and finds herself surrounded by those same dangerous loonies who put her to sleep what feels like a few minutes ago.

    “How do you feel?” Seeker asks.

    “Good,” Hangtree says, carefully standing and testing her left side. “I feel... healthy. For the first time in years, I...” She looks around, caught up in the feeling for a moment, then catches the eyes of each member of the party in turn, lingering for a moment on Flynn. “Thank you,” she says huskily.

    “One more thing,” Seeker says, holding up a paw. “He took ten years away from you. Now you’ll get them back.” He casts Longevity and de-ages Hangtree thirteen years (“She's earned a little interest.”), bringing her to her late 20s.

    Hangtree looks down in surprise at her younger body and gives Seeker a smile. “Thank you,” she says again. She reaches for her spear and says, “If you’ll excuse me, I’d like to ride my horse.” Flynn begins to follow, but she waves him off. The party watches her ride off into the sunrise.

    “There goes one happy baroness,” Olaf remarks, more for something to say than because anyone might have missed it.

    She returns sometime that afternoon, looking happy and glowing with health. Flynn is still somewhat reeling from the idea that she’s now almost his age.

    “What are you going to do now?” Olaf asks Hangtree as she dismounts. “Bring the righteous fury of the Crown down on rebels?”

    She gives him a wicked grin. “The thought had crossed my mind.”

    “Well, if you need any help pillaging—uh, I mean dispensing royal justice, let me know.”

    The Baroness lifts an eyebrow at him; Aelron rolls his eyes and Flynn buries his head in his hands.

    The party saddles up and heads back to Hangtree. Once they arrive, all but Flynn head for their clubhouse. Flynn returns to the baronial manor to discuss his arrangements with Hangtree. By the time Flynn joins the rest of the party, Aelron is serving drinks and a small celebration is underway. Keegan appears to be attempting to practice his handwriting while getting completely sauced. Once Flynn has settled in (read: gotten a drink in hand), Seeker gathers everyone’s attention.

    “Now that the Baroness is cured, I thought we should talk about what we want to do next. I have a divination spell called Seek that I can use occasionally to provide me with clues to help me find my wife, and it has just revealed a new clue: The course of true love never did run smooth. Larlon, Farkas – Who would lie with a wolf?

    Speculation springs up immediately, and it’s more-or-less agreed that they likely need to find a priest of Farkas to find Seeker's wife. Seeker also reminds the group of the dragonscale amulet that Miaoyu located while they were still in New Drougant City.

    “It’s almost winter,” Flynn points out, “and we want to go after a priest of a god of cold?”

    “How about we wait until spring?” Miaoyu suggests.

    “No,” Olaf interjects. “This is perfect! Imagine how heroic it’ll be!”

    “I believe,” Seeker says, “that it would be wise to do some intelligence gathering. And we can start with looking for the amulet.”

    Miaoyu begins drinking a bit more eagerly and Aelron follows her lead. Olaf mistakes this for party drinking and joins in as well.

    “By the way,” Flynn says. “I need to talk to you about Hangtree’s... material expression of gratitude for your services rendered. It’s… me.” He says it reluctantly, as though he is vaguely embarrassed to have to say it. “I’m to travel with you and give each of you a favor of your choice.”

    Flynn is lying by body language and omission. Earlier that day, when he escorted the baroness to her manor, he made a specific request of her.

    “So Lady, about my future.” She raises an eyebrow but says nothing, simply waiting. He smiles. “As always, my life is yours; if you asked it of me, I would challenge the gods. I wouldn’t get far, and I’d die horribly I’m sure, but I’d do it.” He smiles sadly. “So if you have any plans for me, I’d hear them first…” She shakes her head. “...But if the choice is still mine, I’ve a thought.” She waves her hand in a small circle, a gesture designed to convey Well, come on, out with it already! “These oddballs did you a great service; I would be the repayment in kind. I will go with them, and do one great favor for each. Then I will return and enter knighthood, or whatever will serve best at your right hand. Sound about right, Lady?” At that she laughs and nods, and waves him off.

    “Come back safe.”

    “Nothing's ever simple.”

    Once Flynn has completed his announcement, Olaf attempts to order Flynn to loosen up a little, have a drink, enjoy himself! We won a great victory today! It's time to party!

    He is rebuffed with a firm, “NO.”

    The party discusses other, more immediate plans as well. Aelron wishes to return to New Drougant City; the scholar who provided information on the Iron Lord will pay good coin for a dagger still consecrated TO the Iron Lord, and even if the man was an unmitigated prick, coin is coin. Miaoyu raises concerns about returning to a city from which they stole an indentured servant, but Keegan makes it clear he has NO desire to speak to his former master or cause trouble, and he'd much rather just stick with the party. Everyone ultimately agrees to travel to NDC and then head north to the amulet’s location.

    They later find that the baroness has provided them each with a war horse in addition to their riding horses. Ridiculous naming ensues; Flynn and Miaoyu name their riding horses Minion and Expendable respectively. Their warhorses get more respectable names: Redemption for Flynn and Rizhao (“Sunshine”) for Miaoyu. Aelron's steeds are Dawnrunner (warhorse) and Flametongue (for his ill-tempered riding horse). Olaf's horses are Groni (for his riding horse) and Slepnir (for his warhorse).

    The party decides to take some downtime for the rest of the month, so Aelron can work on his spells and the others can attend to their own affairs.

    We’re taking a break for Thanksgiving and will begin our new adventure afterwards. For those of you wondering, the relics in the shield arena represented an aspect of the baroness’s personality. If one had been destroyed, it would have had some ugly effects. Fortunately we kept them all intact, and a poor innocent Fey lord met his end. Again.
    Last edited by AverageSparrow; 2013-12-07 at 04:49 PM.

  2. - Top - End - #32
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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    May 2009
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    Earth
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    I'm...rather glad this all worked as well as it did. It got ...hairy... there for a while.

    Also BOY HOWDY are we slow on the uptake with some things.
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  3. - Top - End - #33
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    AverageSparrow's Avatar

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

    Chapter 11: The Origin of the Doom Pigeon

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    The party finishes out the rest of the month in Hangtree, hemorrhaging money at a rate that would make a Kardashian blush, restocking on magical consumables and 'decorating' the clubhouse. Seeker continues to run his clinic, although only in the most formal sense; he’s long since eradicated all sickness and disease in the town, and his duties mostly consist of caring for minor injuries. He also crafts magical healing items for his companions. Seeker learned magic from an Elven Weaver, so much of his spellwork takes the form of braids, knots, and woven cloth. The items he creates are short lengths of knotted rope which, when unraveled, will heal 2d6 hit points. Miaoyu notes how much better they are than a certain potion maker’s goods and loads up on as many as she can carry.

    Aelron spends most of the rest of the month pursuing his definition of ‘fun’: creating and researching spells. First on the list is the 'Ominous Music Cue' cantrip. While it doesn’t have any practical applications at cantrip level, it is quite impressive: every time the subject of the spell performs an action or rapidly shifts his attention, the cantrip recreates the sounds of a small string-and-brass orchestra playing a brief “intense moment” musical cue. Aelron also manages to work up a spell to grant echolocation, but as a first level spell, it renders its recipient blind. Not as useful as one might hope.

    Olaf decides to clean up a bit. According to Olaf, in Dharric culture, a boy grows a beard until he passes a test of manliness by besting a worthy opponent. How boys are expected to grow beards that look even halfway decent BEFORE they come men is beyond the scope of this narration; this is Dhar culture, people, just try not to think about it too hard. Having racked up three kills to his name that Olaf figures could count as “worthy” – the unicorn, the redcap, and the fey lord – Olaf briefly repurposes his newest dagger as a shaving instrument. He also braids his hair a bit—one braid for each kill—and invests his free money in semi-precious gems for easy transportation and fashion.

    Aelron can't quite wrap his head around it. “You mean to tell me he just shaved, braided his hair and bought a bunch of jewelery?” he asks Flynn. “And he called me effeminate?”

    Worried that an explosion from Wallace’s alchemy shop will harm the clubhouse – which is, of course, immediately adjacent to the alchemy shop; why ELSE would there be a free building so conveniently standing empty? – Olaf decides to build a retaining wall between the two structures. Unfortunately, Olaf has no idea how to build a wall. He ends up gathering up a large collection of bricks, dipping each one in mortar, and stacking them up. The end result is definitely a wall. It may not be the most traditional representation of a wall, what with the leaning and wide base that tapers in towards the top, but it looks fairly solid, all things considered. Aelron takes to practicing the dramatic music cantrip on Olaf during the construction project, which turns the already-entertaining sight of a Dhar building a wall into the sight of a Dhar building a wall with what sounds like the Jaws theme in the background.

    Flynn soon finds himself slogging through mountains of paperwork as the Baroness shoves her usual duties onto him so she can enjoy her newfound mobility and youth. She’s often seen riding majestically through the plains and valleys of the barony, giving orders to her soldiers and guards.

    Getting a bit restless from staying in one place so long, Miaoyu takes to mostly harmless pranks. There are a few singes here and there, but no major injuries and all buildings remain standing. A good time is had by all, as soon as the burns stop smarting. She does take a break in her antics to purchase a chain shirt to hopefully almost die a little less.

    Somewhere in the midst of all of this, Olaf suggests that Keegan is old enough to become a man.

    “All we have to do is tar and feather him,” he says amiably. No one is quite certain how Olaf got from “shaving” to “tarring and feathering”, and they're not wasting time finding out. Seeker launches into a frantic speech about all the medical dangers of tarring and feathering and Flynn and Aelron point out that in addition to all the ways it could kill you, it’s very illegal to dump hot tar on someone, especially a child. Miaoyu pulls Keegan further away from Olaf.

    “I think you need to stay away from Keegan for a really long time,” she snaps.

    “I guess his mom and dad are having a disagreement,” Seeker snickers, having recovered from his brief bout of horror. Neither Olaf nor Miaoyu blink at the labels given to them.

    On the first of the eight month, and official start of winter, the party prepares to leave for New Drougant City and prays to Brigii for safe travel. Everyone except for Flynn, that is, who refuses on the grounds of not caving into peer pressure. Outside of Hangtree, they almost immediately find bear tracks and, at Olaf’s eager suggestion, decide to go hunt it.

    Olaf tracks it to its cave and turns to the party. “Usually when hunting a bear, you have hunting dogs distract it while you shoot it. Since we don’t have any dogs, I’ll take be the distraction.”

    Flynn catches Seeker’s eye and Seeker huffs. “Stop looking at me, Flynn.”

    “Dogs, not wolves,” Olaf corrects offhandedly. “Wolves are too smart.”

    “You and I know very different wolves,” Flynn says with a shrug.

    Olaf takes up position at the mouth of the cave while the rest of the party slips back a safe distance. Olaf shouts loudly and repeatedly into the cave, earning some disgruntled chuffing in response. The rest of the party joins in with some half-hearted, snarky comments until finally Olaf sees movement in the cave. A bear squeezes through the entrance of the cave and rears up – it’s a full eleven feet tall when on its hind legs, and it's apparently not yet full-grown.

    Olaf takes a look at the sheer mass of the bear and its giant, deadly claws and decides some dodging is in order. He manages to get in a couple of hits on the bear while trying desperately to stay out of the way of its claws, but his daggers are too small to do any significant damage. The rest of the party begins peppering the bear with ranged attacks. Miaoyu shoots off its ear, Flynn puts a few holes in its hide, and Aelron, naturally, sets it on fire. The bear lets out a horrible roar, bloody froth at its mouth, and collapses on top of Olaf.

    With some help from a slightly grudging Flynn (“Why don't we just leave him under there?”), Olaf wriggles free of the bear's massive weight. He pats out a couple of flames and cheerfully sets about skinning the bear. Flynn ducks into the bear’s den to see if there’s anything worth salvaging from less-fortunate adventurers.

    There’s a short flurry of concern when the party realizes the bear was female. “What if we just orphaned adorable bear cubs?” Miaoyu asks, looking panicked. “We can't leave adorable bear cubs to die in the wilderness!”

    Fortunately, Flynn reports no signs of offspring, or any valuables. Olaf makes offerings to Kurush and Farkas, the gods of might and hunting respectively, and the bear skull in turn earns their blessings: a +2 to saves vs cold when held.

    As the party makes their way back to the road, Olaf points out that now that they’ve made advances as a group, they should pick a group name. (“I don’t think we should go around calling ourselves the Dangerous Loonies.”) A few tentative ideas are passed around, some more serious than others, until Seeker suggests The Breakers.

    “It’s perfect because it suits everyone,” he says. He points to himself and each member of the party in turn as he says, “I break fevers, Olaf breaks faces, and Miaoyu breaks fate, Flynn breaks grammar, and Aelron breaks the laws of thermodynamics.” Of course our characters know about those. Shut up.

    Everyone agrees that this is all true, but they decide to hold out on a group name a while longer. As they continue on their travels, they pass the grove of Aelron's favorite dryad and find it barren and dusted with snow. No dryad comes out to cast Charm on any of them, and Aelron informs the party that many dryads are dormant during the winter. This prompts Olaf to check up on Scuzzbucket and find that he is dormant as well, and does not respond to anything. Aelron uses a translation spell and scans the clay tablet Olaf got from the lizardfolk and tells him that imislimes should be kept away from temperature extremes; a cold imislime will go dormant as it freezes and may become vulnerable to shattering, whereas a hot imislime will become soupy in consistency and may lose coherence entirely.

    The party eventually comes to a fishing town in the midst of a rather late harvest festival. The townspeople happily allow the party to mingle in festivities. Soon, everyone is making ‘life of the party’ checks. Aelron decides to liven things up by creating fireworks, which Flynn shoots at with his eldritch bow. Olaf becomes the focus of the party for a while leading Dhar drinking songs and traditional dances, but Aelron steals it away again when he busts out the booze he had left over from their previous stay in New Drougant City and begins mixing drinks. Seeker enchants the musical instruments to play themselves. Miaoyu contributes by not robbing people and enjoying a cup of mulled wine. (Sparrow actually spent this entire scene silently convincing herself not to roll ‘death of the party’ checks using Miaoyu’s assassin skill. It was a difficult struggle.)

    The next morning, the party wakes up while the rest of the villagers are still recovering from their hangovers, and heads out. Miaoyu, although not vocalizing her discomfort, does spend quite a bit of time glaring hatefully at the snow and ice that has begun to cover the landscape.

    “What was the weather like where you come from?” Flynn asks when he notices.

    “Warmer,” she grumbles.

    “If you don’t mind me asking,” Olaf says, “how many winters have you spent here?”

    Miaoyu shakes her head in response, but when the others turn away, she mutters to Olaf, “Going on six.”

    Before long, the party comes to area where they defeated the Combusti-Bull. To their surprise, the area is untouched by the snow and grass is continuing to grow. Aelron plucks up a strand of grass and turns it into a totem. It provides a +2 resistance to fire. Given that he’s a fire genasi, this isn’t entirely helpful for him, but because each person is only allowed so many magical items at a time no one else can take it. Aelron decides to hold onto it for the time being and now he’s extra fire resistant.

    Further along the road, the party finds a stretch of sand where eleven whales have beached themselves and begun rotting. The party investigates the corpses for a while and Olaf begins telling a Dharric folktale about whales. Aelron scoffs at it.

    “Come here, Aelron, there’s something I want to show you,” Olaf says. Aelron narrows his eyes.

    “What is it?”

    “I think there’s a magic item under the whale. Come here and I’ll show it to you?”

    “How about you show it to me now?”

    Giving up on his ruse, Olaf grabs a chunk of rotting blubber and throws it at Aelron. Aelron lets out a cry of dismay, but does not retaliate. There is a gleam in his eyes, however, that suggests that is only the beginning of a prank war.

    That night the party finds an abandoned camp. After a quick inspection, they deem it safe and settle in for the night. During Flynn’s watch, he hears a strange, keening sound in the distance. The animal life around him – the hoots of owls, the scurrying of mice – falls absolutely silent. Flynn fails a fortitude save and is overcome with a bout of nausea, but after a moment it passes. Once he’s regained his bearings, Flynn sets about making sure that everything is in order, with no one missing and nothing stolen. A couple of horses have startled, but are calming quickly. Flynn shakes Aelron awake and describes what he experienced.

    Aelron shrugs. “Could have been a pixie,” he says. “Maybe a demon, although they tend to be more malicious.” After a moment of deliberation, they agree to remain vigilant, but that there is no immediate threat.

    The next night, the party finds another town and decides to stay at the inn there. In the morning, the party crowds around a table, eating some porridge, when a burly woman approaches them.

    “I heard you were all traveling to New Drougant City,” she says. “Would you mind if I came with?”

    Having learned from the Lamppost Inn to never trust anyone ever again, the entire party immediately rolls insight checks (which are functionally similar to sense motive). She comes up clean all around – but Olaf has no need for insights. He begins to glower at the woman, but being positioned behind everyone else, the rest of the party does not immediately notice. When someone in the party mentions they’re riding horses, the woman holds up her hands.

    “Never mind then, thanks.”

    “What, did you piss off Brigii or something?” Miaoyu asks.

    “No, I just don’t have a horse,” she says.

    “We have extras,” Flynn says. “We can loan you – ”

    At this point Olaf menacingly puts his dagger in front of him, balanced on the hilt, blade pointing straight up. He growls at the woman.

    “I’ve decided to reconsider,” she says and begins to back away.

    “Sorry,” Miaoyu sighs, “it’s just that we’ve had our horses stolen a lot.”

    “Perfectly understandable. I’ll just be on my way.”

    Once she is out the door, Flynn rounds on Olaf.

    “What the hell were you thinking?”

    “Statistically speaking, she was a horse thief!”

    Statistically?” Aelron echoes, unable to believe his ears.

    “Yeah. The Maptappers, the bandits, the innkeepers.”

    “That does not constitute a statistic! That's three people!”

    Flynn begins listing off all the people who haven’t attempted to steal the party’s horses. It's actually a fairly long list, and it's just off the top of his head: Hangtree, all of the citizens of Hangtree's barony, all the villagers in the town whose harvest festival they livened up recently, the Daoine Sidhe... Hell, even Miaoyu hasn't stolen them. The bickering goes on for some time, until Seeker places his hand on Flynn’s shoulder.

    “How about we let this go?”

    “How about you don’t touch me?” Flynn snaps, and Seeker withdraws his hand.

    Shortly later, the party finishes breakfast and mounts up. They pass the woman on the road and Olaf makes an insight check to see if she’s cold and miserable. All he manages to observe is that she has adopted a stoic façade. Flynn points to his riding horse and says, “This is Minion. You can ride him.”

    The woman shakes her head. “I think I’ll walk, thanks.”

    The party pushes onward, reaching New Drougant City before nightfall. Seeker immediately heads to the temples and Olaf goes to the Hero’s Guild to see if there are any interesting listings. Miaoyu and Flynn head out to find a casino, leaving Keegan and Aelron to find a stable for their herd of horses and an inn with a few free rooms. Aelron, deciding to avoid not just the last inn they stayed in but the entire district in which that inn resides, selects a relatively upscale establishment in the merchants' quarter, pays for rooms and stables, and leaves Keegan to get the horses settled in while he goes to join Seeker.

    As Flynn and Miaoyu join the line to get into the casino, they observe the bouncers asking each person to cut their finger and cast Femta’s orison, Stanch, which will stop the bleeding. If a person is out of Femta’s favor, they will be unable to cast the orison and are denied access. Although there are many ways to lose her favor, one such way is to be a follower of Gilgadar, and the casino is very motivated to keep such people out of their establishment. After a moment of panic, Miaoyu grabs one of her healing pills and tucks into the corner of her mouth. When asked to perform the orison, she swallows the pill. The bleeding stops and she’s waved in. Somewhere in the godly realm, Femta screams in frustration.

    Flynn and Miaoyu part immediately upon entering. Flynn finds a nice, quiet game of cards. Miaoyu goes to the roulette tables and immediately proceeds to make a big win. The casino employees get suspicious. Miaoyu makes another big win, but feigns surprise and earns quite a few congratulations. She starts buying drinks for others, and notices the steely looks the employees are giving her. Having a sudden vision of them following her back to the inn, taking her earnings, and bashing her knees in, Miaoyu decides to call it quits. She’s grown very fond of her knees, after all. She spends the rest of the evening socializing and drinking, buying Flynn’s table some drinks, and patiently waiting for Flynn to finish.

    Meanwhile, Olaf is perusing the notices in the Hero’s Guild, looking for work the party can distract itself with until winter is over. He comes across three jobs with at least some potential: working as an outrider for the crown, capturing a live griffin, and clearing out some mines. He takes tabs for each of the jobs, nods to the other ruffians hanging about in the Guild's lobby, and sets back out into the city to try and figure out where Aelron has rooms reserved. It’s not that hard; all he has to do is ask random passersby, “Hello, did you see a young boy and a man with red hair and a convoy of horses go by here?”

    Seeker, by this time, has long since made his way to the Larlonite wing of the city's sprawling temple complex. He makes a report directly to the Larlonites' ranking priest, the same man with whom he discussed his and Aelron's initial plans for the ritual to cure Hangtree.

    Something has been bugging Seeker for a while: he has an oath to do no harm, and yet he participated in—aided and abetted, even—the murder of a unicorn. He details both the events themselves and his concerns to the high priest, who offers a few words of reassurance and justification: “Honestly, unicorns? They're kind of *****. Don't worry about it too much.”

    We may be paraphrasing slightly.

    At this point, Aelron catches up with Seeker. Together they walk the High Priest through the details of the ritual they performed to cure the Baroness. Aelron hands over copies of his final notes on the ritual's preparation and casting. On the off chance that the temple's initiates ever run into something like this curse again, they'll at least have an idea of how to deal with it. Aelron and Seeker also demonstrate the ranged healing spell they devised and painstakingly debugged, noting that, for combat clerics or in areas of extreme peril, the ability to heal at a distance can be a godsend. The High Priest thanks them both profusely, and gives them permission to take one item from the Larlonite reliquary. Aelron smiles ruefully at Seeker. “This one's all you, my friend. I don't think they have the sort of things I really go in for.”

    After a bit of haggling with the DM, Seeker selects a braided cord, to be worn around the wrist. Once per day, it will allow him to cast Cure without expending a spell slot. (Cure being the standard touch range 2d6 HP heal spell). As any mage will tell you, more spells per day is better.
    Everyone returns to the inn at roughly the same time. The party enjoys a hearty meal and then Olaf heads straight up to bed. Aelron blinks and chases after him, determined to check for fever or other illness, but Olaf has locked him out of his room. Eventually the rest of the party drifts away to their own rooms and settles in for the night.

    Over breakfast the next morning, Aelron interrogates Olaf over his odd behavior. “No brawling? No mad schemes? Are you sure you're feeling all right?”

    “I was just tired,” Olaf insists. “We did a lot of riding.” He rolls his eyes, bats away Aelron's fussing, and pulls out the slips he took from the Hero's Guild job board. “I found some work before I turned in, though.” He summarizes neatly for the party. The outrider job is quickly shot down; the risks are too high and the rewards too low, and the Army is hundreds of miles or more away in the wrong direction. The griffin job is given some consideration, but with so many complications and the need for the griffin to be returned alive and in relatively good health, it doesn’t look immediately possible. The job of clearing out dwarven mines is more promising, as is the promised share in the mine once that task is completed.

    Meanwhile, in the godly realm, Femta is eagerly awaiting Miaoyu’s first bite of breakfast. Since incident at the casino, Miaoyu has fallen even further from her favor and Femta has cursed her to find all food bland and uninteresting. As far as Miaoyu is concerned, however, Drouganti food is already bland and uninteresting, and this breakfast seems no different than the other ones. The Drouganti really need to learn to use spices properly.

    Aelron excuses himself to visit with one of the scholars who may be interested in the consecrated dagger. As soon as he’s gone, Miaoyu and Olaf exchange conspiratory looks.

    “Shall we engage in secret Gilgadar business?” Olaf asks.

    “What?” says Flynn, eyes narrowing.

    “We’re going to feed pigeons,” Miaoyu says, face serious.

    “Secret Gilgadar pigeons,” Olaf agrees.

    Flynn sighs, decides to drop the issue, and once he finishes his breakfast, he returns to the casino for a bit of friendly gambling.

    Aelron finds the dean's room easily enough and knocks on the door. The scholar greets him—rather tersely—a moment later. “Yes?”

    “My name is Aelron. We spoke before some weeks back. You gave me information about the Iron Lord. I have something you might be interested in.”

    The scholar raises an eyebrow, then steps back to let Aelron inside. “Ah, yes, I recall. Did you visit one of the sites I mentioned?”

    Aelron grins and, with a flourish, brings forth the consecrated dagger. The dean leads him to a nearby table under a window for better light and closely examines the dagger's ancient blade. Aelron describes the party's trip to the Rusted Stele, the finding of the dagger, and its use in the ritual. The scholar asks how much Aelron wants for the dagger. Aelron contemplates this briefly; the blade has little value as a holy artifact since its deity is dead, and even less value as a weapon, but it is certainly a piece of history and, for maybe the next century or so, still technically sanctified. After a while, he and the scholar agree upon a hefty sum of money and shake hands. Aelron takes the proffered coin purse with a smile and departs.

    Also seeking a bit of money, Miaoyu and Olaf discuss the possibility of contacting a thieves' guild in the city. The more elite thieves will be harder to contact, but more capable. The lower class, more thuggish thieves would be easy to find, but have all the finesse of a blunt hammer. Regardless, they only have one day to do anything and ultimately decide to abandon their quest for something more immediately profitable: petty theft.

    Since Miaoyu never did get the sleep potions she wanted last time she was in New Drougant City, they decide to scope out a potion maker’s shop. They find a middle class one and Olaf goes in after removing any distinguishing items.

    “Do you have any sleeping potions?” Olaf asks the old shopkeeper. “My old man has trouble sleeping these days.”

    “Does he drink?” the man says.

    “Well, sure. He’s a Dhar, isn’t he?”

    “Well, I have a stronger tonic that shouldn’t be mixed with alcohol, and a milder one that can be taken with alcohol.”

    Olaf contemplates it for a moment while surveying the shop for anything worth stealing. While it has a variety of alchemical components and unlabeled potions, it doesn’t seem to have anything of particular value.

    “I’ll take a couple of both,” he decides. “I’m sure I can get Dad to stop drinking, and if he doesn’t, well, I’ll get my inheritance early.”

    The two share a good natured chuckle and Olaf hands over the coins for the potions. He attempts to watch where the man puts the money… but gets distracted by his most amazing jowls. They’re mesmerizing, almost majestic. Are they even real? Olaf fights the urge to touch one, and by the time he snaps out of his trance, the money has been safely stored away in some unknown location. He thanks the shopkeeper and leaves, meeting with Miaoyu in an alley.

    “I don’t think this guy is worth it,” Olaf says. He and Miaoyu ponder what to do for a while and Olaf finally says, “Want to feed some pigeons?”

    Moments later, they’ve found a bench and some stale bread and have begun earning the affections of the local birds. On a whim, Miaoyu decides to cast Sunder Fate on the nearest one. It suddenly stops eating and makes strange clucking sounds. She reaches out to pet it, and it bites her finger viciously before angrily flying off. Surely, it has sworn bloody revenge upon her for this deed.

    “I wonder what would happen if I cast Plague of Thieves on one? Or Odyssey?” Miaoyu muses.

    Olaf’s eyes gleam wickedly. “What do you think the chances are of the king using homing pigeons? What do you think would happen if you cast Odyssey on them?”

    Miaoyu’s face lights up. Most conspirators against the crown spend months of careful planning in dark rooms, plots filled with assassinations, betrayal, and loss. Olaf and Miaoyu settle for making pigeons get lost, on a whim, in a public park. Their wickedness truly knows no bounds.

    They rush back to the inn, where Flynn has returned with a few more coins from his gambling efforts.

    “Flynn,” Olaf cries when he sees him. “Does the king use homing pigeons?”

    Flynn’s eyes narrow. “No,” he says. They’re not sure if he’s telling them that the king doesn’t use homing pigeons, or if he’s outright refusing to have anything to do with their schemes, but either way they’re pretty sure he’s telling the truth.

    Soon, the party is packed up and headed out of New Drougant and to the city of Isti.

    Sorry for the delay in chapters; we were all enjoying the holidays. A quick note: there is a slight retcon to be made in the previous chapters. The Fey lord, previously described as being part of the Seelie court, is in fact Unseelie. It doesn't have any major impact on the way things turned out, but it's something to note. Previous chapters will be edited to account for this change.
    Last edited by AverageSparrow; 2014-01-24 at 09:08 AM.

  4. - Top - End - #34
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Chapter 12: Burninating the Trogdorlytes

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    The party decides that it may be wiser to wait to investigate the disappearance of Seeker’s wife. A Farkasian priest may be involved, and their spells are stronger during the winter. Seeker, despite his eagerness to find his wife, agrees that, “The trail can’t get any colder.”

    As such, the party agrees to look into the jobs Olaf found and head towards Orshariton, the dwarfhold that put out the notice for the invaded mine. The journey takes a couple of days, with snowfall increasing enough that one morning a snowball fight ensues. It starts with a few innocent snowballs, but before long it devolves into a vicious battle with Olaf, Miaoyu, and Keegan on one side, and Flynn on the other. Flynn, being a master of missile weapons, defeats everyone soundly. Aelron stays out of it by virtue of standing IN the campfire.

    “Before we get to the dwarfhold, there’s something we should consider,” Seeker says, slanting a glance at Miaoyu and Olaf. “You both worship Gilgadar.”

    Miaoyu shrugs. “So I won’t go around shouting, ‘I worship Gilgadar!’ I think it’ll be fine.”

    Olaf, however, frowns. “Why? What’s the problem with that?”

    “It’s like this,” Miaoyu says. “Gilgadar and Femta got divorced, and the dwarves are like their kids caught up in the middle of it, and they sided with their mom.”

    Olaf nods like he understand, but then asks, “So why doesn’t Gilgadar just take back everything by force?”

    Miaoyu says, “Because he’s not a direct attack kind of guy,” at the same time that Flynn says, “Because there’s only about two of you against a religious majority.” Both are valid points.

    Before long, the group comes to an abandoned watchtower and decides to poke around for a bit. Flynn investigates the outside while Miaoyu goes inside and discovers a trap door. She calls the others in and the door is opened. Flynn uses a stick to poke around in the cellar from a safe distance, but there are no signs of life and the floor is solid dirt. Olaf jumps in with a torch, being as there are no stairs, and investigates. The cellar is empty, aside from a few cobwebs and a skeleton, still holding a broken spear shaft. Olaf relays what he sees and Seeker comes down to perform funeral rites. Olaf returns to the first floor, courtesy of the rope the party sent down, and finds Flynn lying down and making himself comfortable while he waits.

    Miaoyu’s curiosity overwhelms her and she drops down into the cellar to investigate. Immediately intrigued by the fact that the upper half of the spear has remained intact, she reaches to grab it. Olaf, watching from the trap door, cries out, “Don’t take that! She needs it to fight her way through Hell! If you take it now, she’ll be weaponless.”

    “I don’t think it works like that,” Miaoyu grumbles, but manages to pull herself away for the moment. Aelron, finding himself intrigued by the possible enchantment on the spearpoint, casts Identify; in addition to the standard enchantments to prevent the spearpoint from becoming dull, it also has an enchantment that drains the strength of those struck by it. Once this is relayed to the party, Miaoyu wavers again. “Is anyone going to stop me?” she asks.

    “I will,” Olaf grumbles.

    Miaoyu shrugs and pulls herself through the trapdoor. “Fine, but someday you’re going to wish I had a strength-draining dagger to backstab an enemy with and I hope you’ll remember this moment.”

    Seeker finishes his funeral rites, Flynn is poked awake, and the party sets on its way.

    The next day, the party finally arrives at Oshariton, a dwarfhold with a stone wall encircling cottages and a great hall built into the mountainside. The party approaches the gate and Olaf shouts out, “Hey! Anybody there!”

    From atop the gate, a dwarf pokes his head out. “What do you want?”

    “Are your mines still infested?” Flynn calls.

    The dwarf's face lights up. “Oh, you're here about Darrow’s Delving? Come in!”

    The gates open, and Keegan goes off the stable the horses. The party is led to the hall entrance where Aelron, agreed to be the party’s most charismatic (least objectionable?) member, takes the lead. Once he explains the party’s interest in clearing the mines, they’re lead through a series of long halls. As these dwarves are hill dwarves, they stand about five to five and a half feet tall, and the party can fit into the tunnel with ease, although Seeker’s head brushes the ceilings. The dwarf-hold is a beautiful place, in a very geometric sort of way. The interior of the hilll is mostly marble, and the halls have been carved directly into it. The walls are covered in geometric patterns and designs that occasionally give way to bas-relief carvings of dwarves or goats. The walls themselves slope slightly outward, providing just enough slant that goats can climb the wall carvings. Oh, boy, are there goats. As the party travels through the halls, they see goats everywhere, of all sizes. Some are the size of a teacup, and will fit in the palm of your hand; others come up to the waist. Some are adorned in armor, some are singing, and some simply observe.

    “How much do those cost?” Miaoyu asks when she passes a particularly cute one.

    “Interested in buying one, eh?” their guide asks knowingly. “Well, it depends on what kind you want. There’s the kind for eating, the attack goats, the alert goats, the singing goats….” He continues on for some time about the various breeds and their uses. He's still not done listing distinct breeds when the party arrives at Mayor Onol’s chamber. The mayor dismisses the guide and sets about telling the party about what happened at Darrow’s Delving.

    “The colony of Darrow’s Delving was a limestone mine, established some time ago. About two or three weeks back, the miners there were extending the main shaft deeper into the hill when they broke into a natural cavern. From within that cavern, something awful swept through the hill, killing everything it met. No one inside the mines escaped; the survivors that reported what happened were outside at the time, and fled when they heard screams and saw shadowy figures slaughtering their brethren. The creatures—we think they were troglodytes—did not pursue anyone out of the cave.”

    Aelron nods. Troglodytes are a subterranean variant of beastfolk common to the Underdark and are sometimes described as monkeyfolk. They are primitive, tribal beings; tool users, if only barely, ruled by the strongest of the tribe more often than not. This is certainly about how you'd expect troglodytes to respond if you breached their home cavern with a mining operation.

    Once the party has satisfied themselves with information, they set about discussing the reward, eventually settling on receiving a lot of money each year in addition to four goats per year, with one in advance as a sign of good faith. Flynn discusses setting up a trade route between Orshariton and Hangtree, to the benefit of both. With these rewards, the party will effectively no longer need to pay upkeep on their lifestyles, with the exception of Flynn, who already earns a wage from Hangtree; instead, he can use his share directly. Mayor Onol agrees to let the party keep anything that cannot be claimed by the survivors.

    The dwarves provide rooms and a dinner for the party, where Miaoyu once again fails to realize that Femta has cursed her. She balks at the praise the rest of the party showers upon the chef’s skills.

    “How can there be food better than this?” Olaf asks her, bewildered.

    “If I wasn’t desperately avoiding her,” Miaoyu says, “I’d have you try my mother’s cooking.”

    “Avoiding her?” Seeker asks. Miaoyu doesn't talk about her past much.

    “There are thirty-six ways to say ‘I’m ashamed of you’ in Qennish.” Miaoyu sighs. “I’m pretty sure she can say all of them to me, even the ones that don’t make sense.”

    “I’m sorry,” Seeker says, and Miaoyu just shrugs before nibbling at her tasteless steak.

    Come morning, the party sets out for Darrow’s Delving; it takes a couple of days and one evening Aelron hears explosions in the direction of the Wolf Woods. Although he cannot be certain, he suspects the origin is the dragon of the woods, Shadow of the Moon.

    The party arrives at Darrow’s Delving come morning. Keegan and the horses are left a safe distance away from the entrance. Peering into the mines, they see only blackness; not a surprising revelation considering the troglodytes’ home, but an inconvenient one for our surface-dwelling heroes. Aelron blesses each party member with Vision of Color and Olaf eagerly volunteers to be set a-glowing.

    The party checks the map that Mayor Onol provided for them. Darrow's Delving enters the hill at an odd angle, takes a ninety-degree turn left, and then bores straight into the earth. The main shaft is perfectly square and fairly wide, with a mine cart track running down it to facilitate the removal of valuable minerals. The first two branches off the main path lead to storage rooms and living quarters; the next two branches to more storage; and the last two branches to small, cramped tunnels where dwarves excavated limestone. The party plans to go through each room one at a time, clearing each before moving on. Once the plan is settled, Miaoyu takes the lead to scout out the area.

    The first thing Miaoyu hears is quite a bit of noise coming from the first branched room on the right, as well as echoes from further down the hall. She moves to get a better look in the first room, but Olaf is too close behind her, glowing bright as a torch. The troglodytes flinch at the light and shout out, bashing their weapons against the ground and baring their teeth.

    Turns out all of the storage rooms and living quarters are full of troglodytes, and they're angry! With zero desire to be overrun by angry neanderthal-ape-things, the party retreats to the entry hall. Flynn and Olaf form a line, standing ready to defend the rest of the party. Miaoyu and Aelron are just behind them, with Seeker in the back. Seeker casts a Circle of Protection to boost everyone’s AC, and Aelron readies grenades.

    The hallway quickly fills with troglodytes. Most are unarmored, wearing little more than loincloths and wielding clubs or crude bats. A few are clad in what looks to be uncured hides and actually have metal weapons. One, near the back, appears to be leaning on a staff, but it's awfully tough to tell in the darkness.

    The bigger, better armed troglodytes hang back, growling and snarling and driving their weaker comrades forward. Olaf, seeing this, grins and takes out his Combusti-Bull horns. “Cheers!” he calls to the advancing troglodytes before taking a deep swig from each horn. Flynn doesn't bother with greetings; eldritch arrows hurtle down the narrow corridor to embed themselves in the first two troglodytes of the advance. The first creature in line falls, arrow lodged in his skull, and trips up the one beside him; he's still getting back to his feet when Flynn's second arrow whizzes over his head and goes skittering down the tunnel wall ineffectively. Moments later the horde is upon the party, pouring in from every branching path in view.

    Olaf finally exhales as the hallway before him clogs with troglodyte bodies. A blast of fire devastates the troglodytes' ranks. Only one remains unharmed: the one that Flynn missed in his first strike, which ran directly up to Flynn, managed to avoid the blast. It has just enough time to wonder at its good fortune before Miaoyu puts a bolt into its eye, dropping it. One grenade and a little dagger-and-arrow work later, the lower ranking troglodytes are dead at the part's feet, and the bigger ones are advancing.

    Just before the biggest of the troglodytes can come to grips with Olaf, a troglodyte in luminous robes steps out from behind a corner and casts Magic Missle at Flynn.

    Miaoyu attempts to use Dirty Trick on the enemy caster for combat advantage, and summons up her convenient shoujo sparkles. Unfortunately, cuteness does not translate well across species, and she only earns a glare for her efforts.

    The troglodyte soldiers reach Olaf, who has readied for them. His daggers weave and whirl, tracing bloody arcs through their ranks as they fail miserably to hit him. Miaoyu leans around Olaf for another shot at the nearest soldier while Flynn returns fire against the shaman.

    The trog shaman attempts another Magic Missle, but Aelron has been wisely keeping an eye on him and disrupts the spell, to the shaman’s fury.

    It doesn't take long before the troglodyte leader realizes this is more than he bargained for. Two trog soldiers rush up to delay the party while the rest, including what appears to be their general, rush away down the mine's main shaft. Once the soldiers are dispatched, Olaf charges down the hall after the shaman and the trog general.

    “What are you doing?” Aelron shouts. “You’re going to get yourself ambushed and killed!”

    “I’m fateless!” Olaf calls back. “I’m invulnerable!” Next to Aelron, Miaoyu sighs and the party gives chase.

    Olaf runs to the next set of rooms and finds himself flanked by two trog soldiers. He dispatches one while a flurry of magical bolts from Aelron's staff burns through the other, and charges off again down the hall.

    The troglodyte general, hiding down one of the tapped-out mine shafts, sees Olaf go running by and leaps out to ambush him. “Told you!” Aelron calls. Unfortunatley for the trog, Olaf's armor turns the blow completely. Olaf whirls to face him, grinning, and the general again attempts to flee. He can't get far enough. Olaf buries a dagger in his spine and Miaoyu, having nearly caught up after reloading her crossbow, puts a bolt in his forehead when he spins to make a stand. Olaf immediately sets about checking the trog general for valuables.

    “So I can’t loot dead people, but you can?” Miaoyu pouts.

    Olaf shrugs. “He was an enemy.”

    With the battle having died down for the moment, Aelron and Flynn set about searching the rooms the party passed for anything of note, including lingering trogs. Nothing is found except one room full of lumber and another with a pile of uncut gemstones. There are, however, a few bloodstains, but no bodies in sight. Aelron recalls that, although it is not common, some troglodytes do practice cannibalism (the Underdark is a vicious place), and Olaf takes the general’s axe and starts chopping the heads off of all the troglodytes, dumping them outside when he’s finished. Keegan raises an eyebrow, but Olaf just smiles and says, “Don’t worry! We won!”

    While Olaf is on ghoul prevention duty, Seeker approaches Miaoyu for a conversation. “Let’s talk about religion,” he says. Miaoyu immediately turns on her heel and begins to walk away. “Wait, wait,” he says, rushing after her. “I’m sorry. How about philosophy?”

    Grudgingly, Miaoyu stops and frowns. “How about the philosophy of sandwiches? They’re delicious.”

    “So I hear,” Seeker says, deciding to take what he can get. “I can’t eat them. I have to swallow them in chunks. Humans have it easy.”

    “We are pretty nimble,” Miaoyu agrees.

    “Yes. Elves are very nimble, too.”

    In the dim light, Seeker sees Miaoyu smirk. “Yes, they are.”

    Seeker’s eyes narrow in curiosity. “So how did you learn Elvish? Not many humans do.”

    Miaoyu puts an innocent look on her face. “Really? That’s a shame. It’s a beautiful language.”

    “Stop flirting, you two,” Flynn says as the rest of the group approaches. Seeker and Miaoyu make unimpressed noises at him. With the party regrouped, Aelron refreshes the glow spell on Olaf and they continue down the last stretch of hallway. They can soon see the opening the dwarves made into the natural cavern and Olaf steps through the opening.

    He sees a room filled with various troglodytes, two shaved cave bears, and an enormous idol with three ruby eyes, clutching a flaming bowl that casts no light. Does the idol sound familiar? It should.

    Spoiler
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    Olaf steps back into the hallway, and the troglodytes let out taunts and jeers. Curious, Aelron steps around him and gets a glimpse of the idol. “It doesn’t look like a god,” he says. “Although it may be a troglodyte aspect of one. Could be a demon, or a rakshasa.”

    Flynn steps towards the opening and takes shots at some troglodytes, but two beams of red knock his arrows off course. One of the troglodytes lashes one of the bears and it comes running at the party. The party opens fire on it as Olaf struggles to fend it off. It takes a solid swipe at Olaf, and in desperation Olaf stabs the bear’s face until it dies, twitching. Olaf pushes the bear away. The party descends into a quick discussion and decides to attempt to reason with the troglodytes. Olaf heals up and Aelron hits him with Translate. Olaf steps into the cavern again.

    “We’ve already killed your chief!” he cries. “You can run now. Take your god and leave!”

    Laughter erupts amongst the troglodytes. “You not kill chief!” one calls.

    “Then let him duel me under the gaze of your god!”

    The shaman hisses, “You’re barely worthy to die here! Why should we battle you?”

    Olaf draws himself up and says, “We slew half your clan already! Now you hide from a group of five. Are you going to hide under your god’s skirts? Does your god approve of cowardice?”

    A new voice rings out, twisted and evil. “You do not speak for gods!”

    Red rays of light shoot out from the idol's eyes and converge on Olaf. As the rays coalesce, they explode, forcing the party to make a reflex save. The damage is fire, and, with a made save, Aelron laughs at the blast, but Seeker is hit badly and collapses. Olaf and Flynn find themselves singed, but still standing. In the back of the group, Miaoyu avoids the explosion altogether. Flynn and Aelron set about healing Seeker and the group quickly retreats a safer distance away.

    It’s quickly agreed that attempting to immediately fight the remaining troglodytes would be too risky; Seeker and Aelron are running low on spells, and Flynn and Olaf are hurt. The party discusses the possibility of attempting to collapse the cavern, but Aelron warns them that it could destabilize the entire complex. Eventually, it’s decided it would be best to simply rest and return the next day. Aelron begins a ritual to seal off the corridor to the cavern and Olaf gets lumber from one of the rooms to make supports.

    The party retreats to the stables outside and fortifies the area as best as they can. Olaf builds ramparts and Miaoyu lays a few simple tripwires.

    “I want to go on record that staying this close to the mine for the night is a stupid idea,” Flynn says.

    Noted.

    One uneventful night later, the party returns well-rested and mostly healed. Aelron unseals the corridor, Seeker casts Pierce Illusion on Miaoyu and she sneaks up to the cavern. She finds it entirely empty, with only the afterimage of an illusion where the idol used to be. She waves the rest of the party over and they set about exploring the cavern. There are two passages out of the cavern, one winding quickly to a dead end in what looks to be a troglodyte chieftain's lair and another that winds through a short series of warrens and stone caverns before descending into what the party can only assume is the Underdark.

    Aelron decides he doesn't like open passages to the Underdark. He gathers string, a few pieces of timber from one of the dwarven mine's storerooms, and his trusty ritual magic kit, and sets about shaping five stone walls across the passage, sealing it off. He runs a single string through all the walls, enchanting the thread so that, should it ever be broken, it will trigger an alarm and warn anyone in the cavern above that the passage to the Underdark has been breached. He also rigs one of the five stone walls to collapse down the sharply sloped passageway should the one in front of it be breached. Finally satisfied, he returns to the rest of the party.

    Meanwhile, Olaf has collected his bags and started filling them with the uncut gems and begun hauling them back to the horses.

    “What are you doing?” Flynn asks, the tone of his voice suggesting he already knows the answer.

    “The mayor said that we could take anything claimed by survivors. There are no survivors to claim this.”

    “That’s not what she meant,” Flynn insists. “If you take them, you’ll sabotage the entire contract and those are worth less than what we’re being paid.”

    Despite this and various other protests, Olaf cheerfully ignores every one of them and brings the gems back to Oshariton. Olaf triumphantly dumps his sack full of gems before the mayor.

    “Are there any survivors that can claim these?” he asks with a smug grin.

    Mayor Onol stutters. “That’s really not what I meant at all,” she manages before directing her guards to take the gems away. Before anyone in the party can react, the gems have been safely tucked away in the depths of the dwarfhold and Mayor Onol is smoothly moving onto business as if nothing happened at all.

    The party recounts the events at the mine and Mayor Onol is pleased to have had the troglodytes driven out and is intrigued by the possibilities an entrance to the Underdark represents. In addition to the contract offered, she allows each party member to pick an item from the armory. This offer is especially generous as dwarven-made armors are superb enough that their penalties to skill checks is reduced. Miaoyu and Olaf trade their armors out for dwarven equivalents and Flynn upgrades to partial plate. Seeker and Aelron both decide to take some light armors, although Seeker’s takes some time as it must be crafted by hand. Aelron buys a handful of cut gemstones. Miaoyu selects a miniature personal defense goat and names it Lajiao (Paprika). Olaf buys it some leather armor. It turns out personal defense goats are quite intelligent and Lajiao responds when spoken to. It’s a rather terrifying animal, if one can get past the cuteness: it has horns as big as its head and, despite its size, is as strong as the average human. (A sketch of what it more-or-less looks like can be found here.)

    Once Flynn’s and Seeker’s armors are made, the party continues on their way, heading to Isti before continuing on to find a griffin for a few nobles.

    Now that we’ve all returned from the holiday, sessions will resume. We also have a special guest star for the next few sessions: Fayd’s fiancée and Sparrow’s old roommate.
    Last edited by AverageSparrow; 2014-02-06 at 06:52 PM.

  5. - Top - End - #35
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Spoiler: Chapter 13: The Honey Badger Incident
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    The party arrives in Isti five frigid but blessedly uneventful days later. The city is split by a river running north to south through its center, and the party briefly debates on which side of the river to seek lodging: east of the river, Isti is populated by the city's more permanent residents, while west of the river are inns, barracks and parade grounds that serve the city's vast and ever-changing mercenary and adventurer population. The royal standard flaps and snaps in the biting breeze above the towers surrounding the southern portion of the city; it seems that the King of Drougant and his army have taken up residence in Isti for the winter. Flynn (whose player was absent for this session) leaves the party to meet up with his contacts in the royal court and hob-nob with local nobility. Seeker is hesitant to find an inn on the west side of town, as he expects to be swarmed by mercenaries looking for healing.

    Miaoyu is skeptical. “It's the middle of winter, and they're all camped in a friendly city. Only maniacs like us are actually out on the road. By this point wounded mercs should be pretty thin on the ground; either they made it back to the city before the snow stopped and found healers from among those already in the city, or they didn't, and they're probably frozen somewhere. I doubt you're going to have THAT much trouble.”

    Seeker raises an eyebrow at her. “I'm not worried about battle wounds,” he clarifies. “It's the... uh... infections you frequently find among camp followers that concern me here. I'd rather not spend all day counseling mercenaries to be more careful about whose bed they share.”

    “So charge them,” Olaf interjects gamely. “Larlon is about learning lessons, right? Mercenaries have to risk their lives to make money; they’ll learn a lot faster if their philandering costs them cold, hard cash than if it doesn’t. And if they can’t pay, make them go to lecture where they have to share their embarrassing stories.”

    Seeker concedes that Olaf might have a point and agrees to stay on the south side. “As long as we can find someplace clean to stay.”

    That turns out to be easier than expected; Isti was a clean and prosperous place the first time the party saw it, and with the King in residence it's only gotten further prettied up. The party holes up at an inn called the Skinned Hare. Aelron is quietly thankful that there isn't an actual skinned hare, or even a depiction of one, hanging outside the inn to mark it. After getting the horses to the stable and their heaviest belongings settled in their rooms, the party goes out for some shopping. Aelron takes Olaf to help him pick out some sapphires for an armor enchantment, Miaoyu goes shopping for new daggers, and Seeker looks for some wool to weave into his own enchantment recipes. Apparently he needs white wool from the first shearing of a young sheep.

    While Miaoyu is picking out shiny new daggers, she notices another Qennish woman wandering through the marketplace. Not thinking much of it, Miaoyu carries on until the other woman approaches.

    “Miaoyu?” the woman asks.

    Miaoyu frowns, studies the newcomer for a moment, and decides, “I’m ignoring you.” With that she returns to browsing a display of throwing knives.

    Unfortunately for Miaoyu, this woman is not so easily deterred. After a moment's bafflement, the stranger begins peppering Miaoyu with questions, telling her that her brother has sent her a message from Qen. Alarmed, Miaoyu flees, hurrying down the street, right past the jeweler's shop from which Aelron and Olaf have just emerged.

    “What do you make of that?” Olaf asks as the pair watches the two Qennish women dodging through the crowd.

    “I have no idea,” Aelron replies, “But it can't be good. Shall we go introduce ourselves?”

    “Oh, indeed.”

    Whoever the strange woman is, she notices the moment she picks up a tail. She makes no effort to lose Olaf and Aelron, simply concentrating on staying with Miaoyu. Unfortunately, a moment's distraction is all Miaoyu needs. She vanishes into the crowd and is off down a side alley before anyone can pursue.

    The strange woman stops in the middle of the road, looks around briefly, and sighs. “Lost her again,” Olaf and Aelron hear her mutter tersely as she turns to face them.

    Olaf walks up to the woman. “Why are you chasing Miaoyu, who I’ve never met and do not know?”

    The woman brightens. “You know Miaoyu? I’m Nüwa. I was hired by her brother to bring her back to Qen.”

    “Brother?” Aelron echoes.

    “You didn't know she had a brother?” Nüwa asks.

    Aelron shrugs. “Miaoyu isn't exactly talkative about her past. We've gathered that she has a mother who has thirty-some ways to say 'I'm disappointed in you' and motivation to use them all, but other than that...”

    Nüwa smiles. “Indeed. Well, she does have a brother, and he's hired me to bring her home. I need to find her and get her back to Qen.”

    Aelron shakes his head, choosing his words with care. “I don’t mean to rain on your parade here, my lady, but I don't think she wants to go back to Qen. And to be perfectly frank, if we want to accomplish our current objectives, my friends and I need her help. She has... useful talents.”

    Nüwa's knowing smile becomes ever so slightly more cynical. “Her family paid me an awful lot of money to bring her home. Perhaps, for the right amount, you could persuade me to simply return a report, instead?”

    Aelron begins negotiating a bribe, but Olaf pulls him aside. “Why are we negotiating with this woman?” he asks in Elvish. “We can just walk away from her, or kill her. Miaoyu’s family.”

    “If we simply walk away from her, the problem doesn't go away,” Aelron explains patiently. “She'll keep coming after Miaoyu until she gets what she wants, and ignoring her doesn't incline her to think well of us.”

    “So you're for killing her, then?” Olaf asks eagerly, reaching for his daggers.

    “Of course not!” Aelron says hurriedly, grabbing Olaf's arm. “Look, if we kill everyone who wants to talk to Miaoyu about something or other, we're going to have to go back and put down pretty much everyone who's ever gambled with her, including that casino she raided back in New Drougant. I like Miaoyu, but I'm not going to fight entire crime syndicates, thieves' guilds, gambling houses, or Qennish families for her.”

    “Qennish families?” Olaf asks, thrown off by the non-sequitir.

    “Yes, Qennish families,” Aelron snorts. “This woman was sent by Miaoyu's family back in Qen. If we just drop her, it WILL get back to them, and then we'll have a pissed-off Qennish clan after us. And I am just NOT going to deal with that. I want to resolve this properly, here and now.”

    “Fine,” Olaf says, “You handle it, then. I've got shopping to do.”

    Aelron turns back to Nüwa with an apologetic smile. “I'm very sorry for the interruption.”

    “So glad you're done being rude,” Nüwa replies. “Where were we?”

    Aelron finalizes the bribe: he pays Nüwa an utterly ridiculous amount of money, in return for which she will NOT attempt to take Miaoyu back to Qen. It is also agreed that Nüwa will be allowed to travel with the party and, at the very least, make a full report for Miaoyu’s brother.

    You may have guessed by now that Nüwa is not an NPC. She's a guest PC played by Fayd's fiancee, who will be making appearances here and there throughout the campaign as her schedule permits.

    Unfortunately, neither Aelron nor Nüwa has any idea where to find Miaoyu. Thankfully, Aelron remembers the hunting technique that worked so well for Olaf: he leads Nüwa to the Skinned Hare to sit on Miaoyu's possessions, for which Miaoyu will undoubtedly return eventually. At the inn, Nüwa meets Seeker and sits down to discuss theology with him while making herself lunch. Noting the distinct smell of the spices she's cooking with – and boy does she have spices of every variety imaginable – Aelron gets an idea: Miaoyu has been complaining of Drouganti food for their entire time together. Perhaps a bit of added temptation can hasten Miaoyu's return. Aelron grabs a few of Miaoyu's hairs off her saddlebag to provide an anchor, then casts a modified version of a spell called Friendly Winds. In its original incarnation, Friendly Winds either extends friendly range increments on ranged attacks or hampers enemies; Aelron anchors the far end of the wind to Miaoyu and the close end to himself and just has it circulate, then goes to stand near Nüwa while she cooks.

    Miaoyu, having fled across the river, is attempting to find a card game that will let her play, but everywhere she goes, she gets nothing but stares and cold shoulders; no one here wants anything to do with an outsider. She wanders around Isti, snow falling, looking in windows and watching warm, happy families enjoying meals. Sad Qennish music begins playing in the background. No, really: the DM has a soundtrack for Matchstick Miaoyu.

    Eventually she finds an innkeeper who isn’t aggressively unfriendly and settles in for another bland, two-copper Drouganti meal. Just as she's raising the first forkful to her lips, she catches the scent of something delicious. Something spiced. Something... Qennish. Gathering up her little goat, she begins following the scent. It leads her on a winding path down streets to the dock, and directly up to the same ferry that carried her across the river an hour ago, as though the wind is carrying the scent on a path she can walk easily. She is absolutely certain it's a trap by the time it leads her to the doorway of the Skinned Hare. She sets down Lajiao and instructs him, “Go inside and bring me some food.”

    Slipping indoors, Lajiao prances over to where Nüwa is putting the finishing touches on something honest-to-god saffron in it.

    “What a cute goat!” Nüwa exclaims, and reaches out to pet it. Lajiao butts her hand away with a glare, then gathers up a stray shawl and hurries back outside to Miaoyu. Realizing she should have been more specific when she asked for ‘food’ – how is that dwarven keep even still STANDING with that many goats running around in it, anyway? – Miaoyu pats Lajiao on the head appreciatively and heads inside herself.

    Fortunately for Nüwa, Aelron and Seeker warn her that that is Miaoyu's goat. She casts Detect immediately after Lajiao leaves, and it’s just enough to beat Miaoyu’s stealth check. Sure enough, she turns around and finds Miaoyu standing innocently behind her, clutching a bowl of geng. Aelron hurried casts Seal Portal on the door Miaoyu went through.

    “I have a message for you from your brother,” Nüwa says to Miaoyu.

    “I don’t have a brother,” Miaoyu snaps.

    “Yeah, well I’m telling you anyway.”

    “I don’t have a brother! If I did, why would he take so long to try and find me? I’ve been here six years—”

    “Look, it can’t be helpe that your brother was too stupid to hire me when you first left.”

    “My brother is not stupid! And he was twelve!” Miaoyu snaps, then sulks upon realizing her mistake.

    Nüwa grins triumphantly. “Would it better if I said it in Qennish? You do still speak Qennish, don’t you?”

    “Don’t patronize me!” Miaoyu fumes. “Do you think I speak this backwards language because I want to? Of course I speak Qennish!”

    “Well,” Nüwa says, “This is what your brother told me to tell you.”

    Spoiler
    Show
    你觉得了什么 ? 你告别了我和妈妈孤身!我们需要了你可是你告别了!我不知道你觉得做现在可是你得回来此刻!

    What the hell were you thinking? You just left me and mom! We needed you but you just left! I don't know what you think you're doing but you need to come home now!

    “I’m not going back to Qen,” Miaoyu says, unflinching.

    Nüwa waves a hand dismissively. “Your friend Aelron already paid me off to let you stay here. But I am going to bring back a full report to your brother. Now I just need the party to promise to make you stay with them.”

    “What if I don’t want to? What are you going to do? Tie me up?”

    “If I have to,” Nüwa replies. Miaoyu takes a menacing step forward, reaching for one of her daggers and Nüwa does the same, but Seeker hurriedly rushes between the two.

    “Why don’t we all just calm down for a second?”

    Suddenly, the sealed door is kicked down and Olaf enters, the faint smell of burnt leather in the air. Aelron’s jaw drops. “How did you do that?” he asks. “You can’t just kick—I sealed that door, and then you—the only person I know who can open those is Miaoyu and even that takes time!”

    While Aelron interrogates Olaf about his magic-defeating boots, Miaoyu takes a bite of the geng. Slow horror washes over her when she realizes that it’s just as tasteless as Drouganti food. Dots finally connect and Miaoyu realizes she’s offended Femta a little more than usual.

    “I have to go do… things,” she says and rushes out the door, Nüwa close at her heels. Miaoyu finds the local orphanage and places a bag filled with nearly all of her money in the donation box and ties it with a bow and a tag reading ‘Happy Midwinter!’ When she returns to the inn, she finds the geng filled with flavor and she scarfs it down in record time. Nüwa eagerly offers to cook more for Miaoyu and makes bao, and she accepts while carefully watching Nüwa prepare the food to make sure no suspect ingredients slip in.

    Nüwa gets to know the party a bit better and agrees to help them find the location of a griffin for their next job; she has a number of spells that allows her find or otherwise track creatures and items. In fact, she’s been tracking Miaoyu for a year and a half; she hadn’t caught up to her earlier due to Miaoyu’s tendency to move around and her frequent interaction with various interfering magics.

    At midnight, Seeker, Aelron, and Olaf begin distributing Midwinter gifts to the party. Olaf gets a nice bottle of liquor for Aelron, a warm, tailored hood for Seeker, a hollow crossbow stock for Miaoyu, and for Keegan he has resized his old partial plate to give the boy his first real suit of armor. He also purchases nice dice for Flynn, but as he isn’t with the party at the moment, Flynn’ll have to wait to get them. Aelron enchants Keegan’s staff to throw arcane bolts, gives Olaf some explosives, and presents Miaoyu with a glass globe that shows the stars as they are seen from Qen. At this point, he runs out of money and promises to get Seeker and Flynn proper gifts later. Seeker gives Keegan a toy horse that lights up with faerie fire, and for everyone else he gives them memory bands, which supposedly help them recall pleasant memories when they sleep.

    The next day, Nüwa begins an eight hour ritual to locate a griffin. She has a unique method of spellcasting called qigong, wherein she performs a ritual dance while dressed in traditional Qennish attire. They party watches the ritual, Olaf enjoying the cultural experience—at least until it starts getting repetitive—Aelron and Seeker studying a different form of magic, and Miaoyu making various disparaging remarks in Qennish.

    Once she finishes the spell, she pulls out a map and indicates a mountainous region to the north. “There are griffins in this area,” Nüwa remarks.

    “Can your spell find people as well?” Seeker asks.

    “Of course. I found Miaoyu, didn’t I?” she says. “Anyone you’re looking for in particular?”

    Seeker explains the situation with his wife and Nüwa, a big fan good love stories, gives him a discount. After a brief rest, she starts her scrying ritual again.

    Miaoyu and Olaf, getting bored of watching Nüwa dance for hours on end, decide to do a bit of charity work. Olaf masquerades as a beggar and any cold enough to ignore him gets their purse cut by Miaoyu. Sometime during all of this, they notice the royal procession and, after a moment of debate, Olaf decides to test the king’s character. He approaches the procession as close as he can—quite a few spears are lifted in his direction—and he shouts out, “I have raised a sword in the king’s name, and it’s a cold night out.” A few coins are thrown his way before the procession moves on and Olaf shouts his thanks. Satisfied with their work, Olaf and Miaoyu find the most pathetic-looking beggar that they can and give him their earnings.

    At around 9pm, Nüwa finally finishes her scrying spell and gets a vision of a room, filled with nobles. Among their number is an elf woman matching the image Seeker conjured up for Nüwa’s benefit. The people are all standing around the table, looking at maps and Nüwa glimpses four banners hanging in the room: a griffin atop a mountain, a pine tree, a string of pearls, and a tower. Before she can glean more details, though, or make sense of what is being discussed, an anti-scrying spell shatters the vision and leaves Nüwa reeling for a moment.

    After she stops cursing out whatever mage was responsible for breaking her spell, Nüwa gathers the group around her and they discuss what she saw. It doesn’t take long to determine the obvious: Seeker’s wife is working with the rebels. The banners in the room seem to represent Pinehollow, Griffon Peak, Pearlrun, and Losttower, all baronies in rebellion. However, Nüwa was able to indicate the general region of the conference, which is, coincidentally, in the same area as the griffins.

    Olaf pulls Aelron aside and asks him to use one of his divine spells, Regenerate, to regrow Olaf's missing finger. Because they’ve found Seeker’s wife, Olaf's blood oath has been fulfilled, and his hastily-removed digit can be regrown.

    Seeker’s face betrays the relief and confusion he is feeling. He now knows for certain his wife is alive and to all appearances does not seem to be in any danger. If that’s the case, however, why hasn’t she sought him out?

    Such grim musings are swept away, however, when the party decides that drinking is in order. Aelron breaks into his bottle of Illian whiskey and Nüwa and Olaf seem to get into some sort of drinking competition. Only Miaoyu, who is still untrusting of Nüwa, and Seeker, who is too distraught, refrain from drinks.

    Soon, Nüwa and Olaf are delightfully drunk and debating the importance of spices in cooking. Somewhere amongst various drunken proclamations, Olaf once again declares that, being sundered from Fate, he is invulnerable.

    “That’s not what that means,” Aelron insists, “just because you’re not tied to Fate doesn’t mean bad things can’t happen.”

    “Sure it does! It means I’m not fated to die. Therefore I can live forever.”

    “If that were true,” Miaoyu says, “then we’d only ever need me in a battle.”

    “And Miaoyu’s nearly died several times,” Aelron adds.

    “Exactly. Nearly. Obviously you can be hurt, but you can’t die.”

    “Look,” Miaoyu says, staring levelly at Olaf across the table, “You’re sundered from Fate now. That means Fate can’t affect you. But it does mean that your life is ruled by luck now. If you disrespect it, it’ll screw you over.”

    Olaf gives Miaoyu a skeptical look. “So if you can’t live forever, then what’s the point of sundering your fate?”

    Miaoyu shrugs. “Freedom of choice. Your life isn’t written in stone.”

    “Of course,” Seeker cuts in, “some people believe that Fate doesn’t determine what happens, just what sort of choices you need to make.”

    “That’s bullsh*t too,” Miaoyu says. “Being forced to make a choice?”

    “So you can take a third option?” Olaf asks, and Miaoyu nods. Olaf contemplates all of this and finally shrugs and says, “Whatever, I still think I’m invulnerable. I don’t see why I can’t go charging off down the hallway after a troglodyte general.”

    “Okay, well look at it this way,” Miaoyu says. “If you go charging off, you leave your squishy friends unprotected and they might die.”

    Olaf’s face turns serious and he nods. “You’re right. Makes sense.” With that, he turns back to his drink.

    Aelron and Miaoyu breathe a sigh of relief. “We’ll see how much of this he remembers in the morning,” Aelron says with sigh, smiling in spite of himself.

    Come morning, Aelron leaves to tell Flynn of the party’s plans and to get official papers. Seeing as the party will be passing through royal territory crawling with soldiers and that soldiers are often little better than bandits, Aelron makes arrangements to have the group recognized as scouts for the royal army.

    Soon, the party is headed north, guided by Nüwa’s Find the Path spell. Unfortunately, snowfall is brutal and soon Aelron is making igloos every night, one for the horses and another for the party.

    One day, while traveling, the party notices a strange wind, kicking up snow in a thick flurry. As it approaches, the party realizes that it’s taken the shape of a worm and Aelron identifies it as a snow elemental. Olaf jumps off his horse and immediately wades into battle, and Keegan begins gathering up the extra horses to clear the road should the party need to flee. Miaoyu fires her crossbow and misses. With a twist, she leaps into the air and jumps from her riding horse to her less-flighty warhorse—all while reloading. She takes another shot, but crossbow bolts, it seems, are only minimally effective on creatures made of snow.

    Olaf engages the snow elemental in melee, but soon finds that he and his horse are being forced to make fortitude saves against cold damage. Seeker quickly drops a circle of protection around Olaf to boost his AC, and Aelron casts Elemental Negation on Olaf to protect him from the cold, and Olaf himself takes the Combusti-Bull horns and breathes fire on the monster. He manages to quite literally melt the monster's face off, but it remains standing, and contorts its body to encompass as much of the party as it can; the creature is so cold that starting your turn next to it forces saves against damage. Nüwa rushes over to Aelron and they perform simultaneous castings of Burning Hands. Fire washes over the creature's midsection with a ferocious sizzle, melting most of the creature's body on contact. Its ends disintegrate, and suddenly Olaf is pile-driving his daggers into a snowdrift. A few high-fives later, Aelron sifts through the remains. He fiddles around with some magical components and enchanting spells and before long he’s created a scarf that provides cold resistance and has a single use to unleash a burst of cold damage.

    That evening, cozied up in their igloo, Aelron and Seeker began chatting in fluent Elvish.

    “So how did you come to learn Elvish?” Seeker asks, switching to Common.

    “My mother was an elf,” he says. “My father was a wolfman, a priest of Farkas.”

    “A priest of Farkas?” echoes Seeker, his ears twitching in curiosity; his own father is a priest as well.

    “Not the same one. At least, I don’t think so. My mother... got pregnant in the usual way. She escaped my father and fled to the City of Brass, because where better to hide from a priest of the god of Winter than on the elemental plane of Fire? I was born there. Being exposed to the elemental plane during the pregnancy... apparently turned me into a half-elf. At any rate, the plane's native magics overwrote the wolfman curse somehow, and... here I am. I lived with my mother for a few years, but eventually she figured I'd be safer living anonymously among humans in the mortal world. She taught me a spell to hide my ears—they're actually pointed if I let them grow out—and found me a foster family in a farming community hundreds of miles from anywhere important. I lived there, safe and sound, right up until the part you already know about, with the accidental barn-burning and the adoption by a Tower mage.”

    After a few moments of silence, Miaoyu asks, “So, you’re half-baked?” At Aelron’s unimpressed glare she holds up her hands defensively. “It’s a joke, Aelron. Lighten up!”

    “Yeah, Aelron,” chides Olaf. “Don’t be so hot-headed.” He and Miaoyu share an indiscreet high-five to celebrate their bad puns. Flynn would be ashamed.

    In the morning, the party resumes their travels and finally cross into rebel territory. Miaoyu hides the royal papers in her bra, the safest place she can think of, and, aside from a small border tax demanded by the Pinehollow patrols, the party suffers no trouble.

    Before long, however, the umpteenth blizzard kicks up and the party is forced to hide in yet another igloo. Just after everyone’s settled in, the party hears a faint, female voice crying out for help. Cautiously, the party looks outside and Olaf shouts out, “Where are you?” Miaoyu and Nüwa can make out some of what she’s saying; she is, apparently, lost and hurt.

    After a bit of discussion, the party ties all their rope together—easily 200ft worth—and Olaf and Nüwa volunteer to head out in the direction of the voice. Miaoyu memorizes Olaf’s bronze dagger should she need to use Locate Object to find them again. The party establishes a few signals should things go wrong, and the pair head out.

    Before long, they find a young woman in the snow, her legs bent under her at odd angles, as if they’ve been broken.

    “What happened to you?” Nüwa asks.

    “I-I slipped and fell. Please help me!” the girl responds tearfully.

    Despite Nüwa’s disbelieving remarks and his gut telling him that the girl is not what she appears to be, Olaf sheathes his dagger and picks her up, wrapping his cold-resistant scarf around her. He and Nüwa begin to return to the igloo, Nüwa positioned behind Olaf so she can quite literally watch his back.

    Just as the igloo begins to appear in the distance, Nüwa watches the girl suddenly vanish, as if her very essence had been blown away, scarf and all. The party quickly ducks back into the igloo and Aelron surmises that the woman must have been a Lady of the Snowstorm. These women are supernatural creatures who sometimes lure travelers to their deaths or curse those who do not help them. Some, however, will bless those who aid them despite the personal risk. This Lady was clearly in the latter group: Olaf now has the ability to bring one blizzard to its end at will.

    In the morning, the party finds the snow at chest height, but continues to push on, however slowly. As the party approaches the river, they notice a sort of gathering on the other side. They can’t make out much, but it does appear to be some sort of hunting party. Seeker immediately becomes nervous; while it could easily be just a normal group of hunters, it could also be the Wild Hunt, which is definitely something our intrepid heroes don’t want to be caught up in. Seeker suggests using an illusion to hide the party, but Olaf shoots it down:

    “If we act like prey, then we’ll become prey. Let’s just ride casual.”

    That evening the Nüwa is feeling particularly chatty and decides to share her life story: she grew up in the circus with her mother, but never really knew who her father was. In her search for him—and a better source of income—she wound up meeting her paternal uncle and joined his private investigation business.

    A couple of nights later, while Aelron and Seeker are on watch, the camp finds itself surrounded by what appear, at first glance, to be wolves. They're definitely canine creatures, but on closer inspection, they are lower-slung than most wolves, lacking a high shoulder, their eyes glow, their fangs drip ectoplasm. These are planar hounds, potentially remnants of the Wild Hunt.

    Aelron and Seeker retreat inside the igloo and wake the party. Olaf and Miaoyu rush out in their pajamas to attack, while Aelron offers magical support from inside the igloo and Seeker casts his trademark Circle of Protection.

    “My uncle called this the honey badger style!” Olaf shouts, planting himself in the door and brandishing his daggers, “Because the honey badger DOES NOT CARE!” He attacks any wolf that comes into reach... and misses. Every time. Fortunately, he plays distracting meatshield well enough for Miaoyu, Aelron, and Nüwa to bat the hounds around with nigh-impunity. Eventually the hounds decide they’ve had enough and retreat altogether, whimpering in pain.

    Once the battle is well and truly over, Aelron finds that a planar hound's skull can easily be enchanted to point in the direction of the nearest portal; not something immediately useful, but definitely valuable.

    The next day, the party covers the last bit of distance to the nearest village. En route, they find the body of a trader with a cart full of otter pelts. The party performs a burial for the trader (not an easy task, considering the frozen ground) and promptly liberates the pelts. As adventurers do.

    Finally, the party arrives on the outskirts of Splitshade, a small village nestled in the shadow of a towering, mysteriously cloven rock formation.
    Last edited by AverageSparrow; 2014-01-24 at 09:21 AM.

  6. - Top - End - #36
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Spoiler: Chapter 14: The Tide of Brain Damage
    Show

    The party eagerly makes its way across the frozen-solid river and into Splitshade, eager for a hot meal and glad to be sheltering in something other than a hastily-shaped igloo. The town of Splitshade rests on an isthmus of land where two rivers flow together; docks extend into the ice on either side, giving Keegan fits as he attempts to guide the party's horses past the pilings without snagging or tangling any ropes. To the northeast, a large rock formation looms over the town, neatly cloven as if a wrathful god melted it buttery, sunk an axe into it, and then flash-froze it again and yanked the axe. The formation blocks access to the town from the only landward facing it has, effectively sealing the community between itself and the rivers. It looks to be a very defensible location.

    The party finds and agrees upon the Happy Otter Inn, though the name must be something of a joke; inside, the décor is rather dour, walls of dark wood barely lit by gas lamps, with pelts dotting the walls and half-covering the frost-glazed windows. A stout woman of Dharric extraction stands stoically behind the bar, polishing mugs with a rag and a scowl that looks like it could SCARE away any lingering contaminants. Just as the party is shaking off their coatings of snow—Miaoyu and Nüwa daintily and precisely hanging their coats next to the door, glaring daggers at each other; Olaf vigorously stomping his boots clean, Seeker shaking like a wet dog to clear his fur, and Aelron flash-drying himself—and warming up, they realize that Flynn is casually lounging by the only source of true light in the room—the hearthfire.

    “What took you guys so long?” he drawls, waving laconically. “I’ve been waiting for you for days.” As it turns out, Flynn did the smart thing: he hired a transport sled and went right up the frozen river. “I thought you guys would have had the sense to ask the scouts for the fastest route,” he says, shaking his head as they all sputter incredulity.

    Olaf gapes, slams a fist down on the couch nearest him. “Why would you think we’d have our $#!% together? You're the brains of this operation.”

    Aelron: “Hey!”

    Olaf waves him off dismissively. “You're the book smarts and the artillery.” He points again to Flynn. “YOU should know that I'm the plucky hero, she's the daring rogue—” this pointing to Miaoyu, “—he's the moral compass—” waving to Seeker, “And you're the street smarts and savvy.” Finally, almost as an afterthought, Olaf points at Nüwa. “Besides, we were following her!”

    “Yeah, see how useful she is?” Miaoyu grouches, tugging off her shoes and releasing a clutter of icy shards. “Let’s just leave her here. I can find the keep through Locate Object on one of the banners.”

    Olaf nudges her, asks under his breath: “Did you just admit you’re a priest of Gilgadar in front of a private investigator hired by your mother?”

    Miaoyu sighs and looks directly at Nüwa, done pretending. “By the way, I worship Gilgdar, and I’m a thief.” Nüwa’s jaw drops in shock. “And I cheated on a test.”

    Nüwa staggers back, clutching her heart, face pale. “You’re going to kill your mother with this!”

    Miaoyu shrugs. “That’s up to you.”

    “Do you even have to tell her everything?” Olaf asks Nüwa. “She hired you for good news about her daughter. Wouldn’t some lies make her happier than the truth?”

    Nüwa shakes her head. “I was hired to find Miaoyu and bring her home. Failing that, I need to come back with a full report. There’s nothing about the client's happiness in any of that.”

    And with that, Flynn is caught up on Nüwa's presence, reason for being with the party, and relationship with her target.

    The party retires in ones and twos to their individual rooms. Olaf requests Aelron's help drawing and warming a bath. Aelron agrees, provided he gets to use it as well. Ere long, three enchanted tubs are steaming away in various rooms, sinking heat into muscles long resigned to frost.

    The next day, Aelron investigates the rock formation and casts Draconic Introduction. He gets a response now that they're within the dragon's domain: the Lord of Sundered Rock, the Joiner of the Rivers, Splitter of the Stone, Baron Splitshade. That last title gives him some pause; it sounds Drouganti. Is this dragon hold rank as part of the aristocracy? He decides to seek an audience with the dragon and sets up his art supplies; it is customary, when dealing with a dragon, to offer some sort of treasure and to request their aid on some sort of quest. (It’s also customary to have an escape route if things go badly, but that’s not spoken of in polite company.)

    Seeker casts Seek in an attempt to get another clue to finding his wife. He receives the response: The rivers have divided, and even if they meet again, are they the same rivers? Taking this to mean he may meet her again in Splitshade, Seeker decides to search for his wife in the village.

    Nüwa goes off to report to Miaoyu’s brother. She tells him that she’s found Miaoyu but there have been ‘complications’ and will report back later.

    Olaf decides to teach Keegan basic survival training and takes him out to the edge of town. He starts showing Keegan how to cut down a tree safely, but Miaoyu decides at that moment to work on Keegan’s awareness training and bombards the two with snowballs. It's a wonderfully happy, sweet scene that almost makes the three of them seem normal.

    Flynn, meanwhile, decides to chat with some locals and see what he can learn. He gleans a bit regarding the war, but only that morale is good. He does learn, however, that there is a wizard in the Baron's council and asks around trying to learn more about her. After some time, the townspeople reluctantly admit that the Baron is actually the local dragon.

    Seeker, getting no results in town, decides to investigate the possibility of a dragon and stumbles across Aelron in his search. The two of them begin searching together, soon joined by Flynn who is of the same mind. They decide to try scaling the rock formation in search of an entrance. After a difficult and unpleasant journey, however, they can find no cave entrances or any other opening that might lead to a dragon's lair, and decide to head back to the inn.

    The next day, the party decides to continue following Nüwa's Find the Path spell and ride their horses along the frozen river. The travel is smooth enough, the going much quicker than cutting along snowed-in woodland paths. They've already made better distance at midday than they were making in entire days on the roads when suddenly something slams the ice from below, sending fissures spiraling out over the surface. The party hurriedly makes for the shore as further slamming shatters the ice in the middle of the river—right beneath where Olaf was riding when the attack began—and long, hairy, well-muscled arms begin shoving ice floes out of the way as they drag their owners quickly and easily from the already-refreezing river.

    Before the party has reached the shore, five ice trolls have clambered from the river's freezing maw, clubs in hand, growling and trumpeting their hunger. Their skin is a frigid blue, the ridges of bone on their foreheads and at each joint (elbow, knee, knuckle, shoulder, and ankle) glitter like icy daggers, and their breath coalesces in frozen clouds as they advance.

    Keegan, Miaoyu, and Flynn fall back, pulling the horses with them. Nüwa stands her ground long enough to hurl a dagger at one, but the whirling blade glances off a bone ridge with no apparent effect other than to enrage its target; Nüwa darts after the retreating horses, clambering up onto the shoreline. Olaf, never one for caution, rushes the troll nearest his end of the line, while Aelron, still mounted on his warhorse, begins gathering energy for a spell. Seeker grabs Aelron's riding horse and attempts to retreat to a safe distance, but predators give chase by nature; two of the trolls follow and attack Seeker, reducing him to -7 hit points. Another troll charges after Flynn, but Flynn is waiting for that; a loud BANG from his eldritch weapon and suddenly the troll is down on one leg, all momentum lost as it tries to keep its face out of the snow and dirt of the riverbank.

    Seeker and Aelron lock eyes just as Aelron is about to finish casting. Aelron looks a question at Seeker. Do you need my aid? A grim shake of Seeker's muzzle is all the answer Aelron needs. Burn them.

    Aelron releases the energy he spent the entire first round of combat gathering, augments it with a bit of his own energy, and hurls all of it into an already-prepared explosive spell. A small, glassy projectile with a heart of purest flame flies from his fingertips, landing ten feet from Seeker. Seeker smiles grimly up at the two trolls towering over him and waves goodbye. The trolls have just enough time to wonder what that means before Aelron's grenade erupts in a burst of searing pain and scarlet fire. The grenade strikes on of the trolls full-on and it staggers, burned and howling, out of the cloud of smoke the grenade leaves behind, only to fall to a hail of arcane bolts from Aelron's enchanted staff. The other troll, just barely out of range, stumbles away from all the firey death, and right into a well-placed shot from Miaoyu's crossbow, right through the eye and into the brain.

    Olaf, meanwhile, is still engaged with two trolls. He provokes one troll into swinging at him, then ducks in hopes that it will overreach and hit the other troll, inciting a brawl between the two. The plan works better than even Olaf could have expected; the troll swings too wildly, and when it fails to connect with anything it unbalances itself, slips on the ice, and cracks its head on a frozen root protruding from the shoreline. Stunned, it dies easily to a flurry of Olaf's daggers.

    The two surviving troll decides it prefers hungry life to grisly death, and retreats back under the ice.

    After Seeker heals himself and is back on his feet, the party continues on and comes to one of the four villages surrounding the large keep that is their destination. They acquire lodgings in a small inn near the edge of town, and Flynn goes scouting around for a bit of information.

    When he returns, he tells the rest that rebellious baronies are holding a war council in the keep, and that the Wizard of Sundered Rock is present representing her barony. As the party talks they come to surmise that Seeker's wife is likely the the wizard. Unfortunately, with the war conference on-going, getting Seeker in will be somewhere between insanely difficult and impossible. Seeker simply approaching and asking to speak to an elf would be suspect; wolfmen have gained a reputation for stalking elves and such an approach would be more likely to have him viewed as a threat rather than a husband looking for answers.

    After much debate (with Miaoyu frequently suggesting ways to get Nüwa thrown in prison or otherwise killed), Olaf offers to run a message himself and promises to deliver it personally, if possible. Seeker writes up a letter and seals it with Brigii's Seal so only the intended recipient can read it. Olaf rides to the Keep and is greeted by the gatekeeper, a guard named Gibbon.

    "What can I do for you?" the guardsman asks.

    "I've been asked to deliver a message to the Wizard of Sundered Rock," Olaf responds, and when the guard holds out his hand for the letter, Olaf shakes his head. "I swore that I would deliver it personally, if it is possible."

    After a moment of consideration, the guard opens a small door inset into the heavy gate with a shrug. "Who am I to stand in the way of an oath?"

    Olaf hands over his weapons belt as a sign of good faith and Gibbon leads Olaf through a maze of corridors. Olaf tries to memorize the layout and to count heads so he can sell the information to the king's army, but it's too complicated and he soon loses track. After a while, he's led to a door and Gibbon knocks on it.

    The door is opened by an elf. Olaf feels his stomach doing flips and jumps and spins like Nüwa ritually casting: this elf doesn't match the images he's seen of Seeker's wife. This elf has mousy hair and dark eyes, where Seeker's wife has blond hair and blue eyes. He remembers how to breathe when the elf tells Gibbon that her Lady is still at the war council and will be for some time. Gibbon offers again to deliver the letter for Olaf, but Olaf stands his ground.

    “I can wait,” he says. “I don't care how long. I swore an oath.”

    Gibbon, being a sucker for honor, agrees to let Olaf wait and leads him to what is little more than a cell with a bench. Olaf sits on the bench and waits with a vague smile fixed on his face. Without so much as fidgeting. For hours. Either a small piece of him died on the inside while he did this, or he lied to us when he told us about it.

    Back at the inn, Flynn starts up a game of friendly gambling – to which Miaoyu is not invited. After a bit of sulking, she invites Nüwa to drink with her.

    “Are you friends or enemies?” Flynn asks incredulously, and Miaoyu simply shrugs before downing her first shot.

    Seeker, desperate to find a bit of patience when so close to his goal, contents himself with listening to an elderly townsperson tell stories. The man, among other things, claims to have skinned beavers with his teeth in his youth. Nüwa and Miaoyu, overhearing, exclaim that he should join the party, but they're both soundly ignored.

    Four hours later, Gibbon finally returns for Olaf. “Hey Dhar! War conference is over.” He leads Olaf through the maze of corridors once again – although Olaf suspects he is being taken down a different path than before – and once again arrives before the wizard's room.

    Olaf is ushered in by the elf maid and is greeted by another elf, one that fits the images Olaf has seen of Seeker's wife. He holds out the letter to her.

    “I have a message for the Wizard of Sundered Rock, and I can deliver a return message, if desired,” he says. She takes the letter, and Olaf takes a couple of discreet steps back.

    The wizard opens the letter and pauses for a moment to read it:

    Spoiler
    Show
    Firi, I am in the village at the fork in the river. I would very much like to speak with you.
    -Guarion

    The wizard closes her eyes, inhales a deep, shaky breath. When she looks up at Olaf, her eyes smolder with suppressed emotion. She crumples the letter like so much trash—and is that smoke curling at the paper's edges?—as she gives Olaf a formal, warmthless smile that does not reach her eyes. “No response,” she says, and Gibbon leads Olaf out of the room and back to the gate. Olaf takes a moment to inquire about potential employment and Gibbon, impressed with Olaf's discipline throughout the whole affair, tells him that recruits can sign up at The Archer and the Axeman. Olaf thanks Gibbon for his help and returns to the party's inn.

    Seeker approaches Olaf immediately upon his return and the party crowds into Seeker's room to hear what happened.

    “She didn't just crumble the letter,” Olaf says. “She looked furious.”

    Seeker contains his anxiety and says, “Then I'll keep a vigil and wait for her.”

    Nüwa, ever the fan of love stories, finds herself a seat in Seeker's room, eager to see what will happen next. Olaf and Aelron also volunteer to keep Seeker company. Flynn and Miaoyu return to their rooms, but sleep lightly should things go badly.

    The night passes, but there are no signs or messages or long-lost wives. Come morning, Seeker dismisses those who kept him company and lies down for some sleep.

    While the rest of the party eats breakfast, Olaf rushes about suspiciously, as if getting ready to leave, yet remaining unarmed and unarmored. When he begins looking over his will and saddling his horse, the party realizes he is getting ready to leave.

    “I can't just let things go like this,” Olaf says when the party asks. “I'm going to talk to her and make her listen.”

    Before anyone strong enough to actually hold him back can be found, Olaf is off, plunging through six feet of freshly-fallen snow. Aelron, with a frustrated sigh, saddles his own horse.

    “What are you doing, now?” Miaoyu asks, incredulous.

    “Well, I can't very well let him freeze to death out there,” Aelron says crossly, gesturing after Olaf, his sweeping arm encompassing the stable door where they can all see the beginnings of yet another blizzard closing in.

    “If you don't mind me asking,” Flynn asks quietly. “Why??”

    “Don't you dare tell him I said this,” Aelron mutters back, flames flickering a menacing warning around his fingertips, “but I kind of like the crazy bastard. Plus, he's right. If I let this end here, it'll bug me forever.”

    As Aelron leaves, Miaoyu passes him three healing braids – just in case.

    While Aelron and Olaf are rushing off to the keep, Nüwa decides to redouble her efforts at convincing Miaoyu to come home.

    “What's keeping you here anyway?” she asks, frustrated.

    Miaoyu steps a bit closer and says, “Do you know what kind of job I was going to have, before I left?” When Nüwa shakes her head, bewildered, Miaoyu smiles bitterly. “I was going to work for the government. Before they hire you, the last step is to take a test. A psych test. The kind that establishes what sort of temperament you have. How you respond to stress, how well you'll obey orders and whether, for example, you might go gallivanting off into the sunset, abandoning country and family to adventure on your own for six years.”

    Nüwa can't even muster the muscular control to gasp. She simply stands, choking on air, gaping at the madwoman before her.

    “Remember that I said I cheated on a test?” Her bitter smile takes on a sharp edge as Nüwa's eyes widen in horror. “Yeah. That one.” Miaoyu shrugs. “They were going to find out sooner or later, and when they did, they'd probably take all my earnings retroactively and that would screw over my family even more than leaving.”

    “Oh.” Nüwa sits down, hard, on the nearest object. Thankfully it is a chair. After a couple of halting starts, she manages: “I've got to say, you kind of screwed yourself over there. I guess it wouldn't do to bring you back to Qen, then. I was supposed to find you, not get you arrested and disappeared more.”

    Soon, the two of them are drinking again.

    Olaf arrives at the keep's gate and Gibbon immediately opens up for him. “Are you crazy, riding in this weather?” he demands. Snow is falling in earnest now, looking to bury the keep before sunset (assuming anyone can actually figure out when sunset IS through all this bleeding SNOW), and the wind keens and moans as it whistles over the battlements above. Olaf leaps from his horse, sweeps a bow to Gibbon.

    “I'm sorry, but I need to talk to the Wizard of Sundered Rock again,” he says, contrite.

    Gibbon shakes his head. “She doesn't want any more messages from your friend.”

    “It's not from him,” Olaf insists. “It's from me.” When Gibbon looks uncertain, Olaf sighs and shakes his head. “Kurush forgive me, but—I cannot believe I'm saying this—love is on the line!

    (At this point our DM rolled Gibbon's reaction check and when it came back positive he muttered, “I can't believe I'm doing this.” We're still not sure if he was speaking for himself or for Gibbon.)

    Gibbon ushers Olaf into the Keep. “The war conference is having another meeting. I don't know how long its going to be and I can't guarantee she'll want to meet with you. So how about you sit down and I'll give you some paper to write on, just in case?”

    Olaf agrees and is brought to the same cell he sat in the day before and begins writing his letter:

    Spoiler
    Show
    I plead, in Brigii's name, give him closure. I can not and do not beg for you to take him back; I know not what you have had or lost. I know only that a friend has spent a decade looking tirelessly. Please, tell him in person if it is over. An effort such as he made deserves finality, not merely more silence.

    My name matters not.

    The rivers divided, even if they meet again, may not be the same rivers. They do not need to be, but they should meet.

    Not long later, Gibbon catches sight of another traveler approaching the keep. “What's wrong with you people?” he cries as he opens the gates for Aelron. “You're going to kill your horse!”

    “I can protect Flametongue here from limited exposure,” Aelron says, patting the horse, which he warded against cold about halfway up the hill. “I am sorry to press demands, but I came up here following my friend. Dhar, thick-skulled, idealistic, thinks he's invincible. Has he come through this way? I need to make sure he's all right.”

    Gibbon groans, but—without asking for any further description—leads him to Olaf and leaves the two of them sitting alone. Awkward silence hangs for some time, Aelron working on spell-forms to augment his armor and Olaf scribbling and scratching to perfect his letter, until Olaf asks Aelron to look over his letter for any spelling mistakes.

    Nine hours later, Seeker wakes up and comes downstairs to find the common room missing two of his companions.

    “Where are Olaf and Aelron?” he asks.

    Nüwa, happily drunk, begins explaining the situation in a combination of Qennish and birdcalls; she happens to be fluent in Sky, the language of birds.

    “Olaf and Aelron went to talk to your wife and are probably going to get killed,” Miaoyu translates.

    Seeker lets out a cry of concern, and opens the inn's door to follow after them – only to be greeted by a literal wall of snow: it's snowed three more feet so far—and it's still coming down out there—and the entire first floor the inn has been swallowed up. Seeker promptly closes the door, sits down, and begins waiting anxiously for Olaf and Aelron to return.

    Back at the keep, Gibbon finally returns for Olaf and Aelron. “She won't see you,” he says, “but she will accept the letter.”

    Olaf snorts. “I've walked into more certain deaths for far lesser causes,” he tells Gibbon as he hands over his letter, along with a handful of coins for Gibbon's trouble.

    A short while later, Gibbon returns. “She accepted your letter, but offered no immediate response. Now, I'll show you to the bunkhouse so you two can wait out the storm.”

    That night, Olaf sleeps like a rock, having stayed awake for well over 24 hours. Come morning, Gibbon presents Olaf with an oilskin envelope, unsealed.

    “She's decided to provide a response. Apparently she's not in a good mood: her maid says she was up all night working on that.”

    Olaf thanks Gibbon again and pointedly does not open the envelope. He and Aelron don the snowshoes given to them by Gibbon and make arrangements to get their horses later, after the snow has melted.

    Upon their return, they find the two-story inn almost completely buried. They have to dig for half an hour just to uncover a window enough to slide through it. The party gathers up and Olaf presents Seeker with the envelope. Seeker quietly returns to his room to read the letter. (Nüwa is forcibly pulled away by Olaf; she does love a good romance story).

    Seeker opens the envelope and finds a piece of silk with a cottage embroidered into it. As he touches it, the cloth tears in two, splitting the cottage in half. The threads shift; one side reads, “I'm sorry”, the other, “Leave me be”. The cloth disintegrates into a mass of brightly colored threads.

    Seeker casts a spell to send a brief message to his wife: As you wish.

    Seeker returns downstairs to find that the rest of the party has set about distracting themselves.

    “Let's play a game,” Miaoyu suggests to Nüwa. “We line up a bunch of shots but one of them is filled with poison – and you drink all of them!”

    Nüwa gives Miaoyu a skeptical look. “That doesn't sound like fun.”

    “It'll be fun for me,” Miaoyu insists.

    Eventually, Flynn, Olaf, Miaoyu, and Nüwa begin playing a game of darts: each time someone misses the bullseye, they have to take a drink. Olaf and Nüwa find themselves drinking frequently, while Miaoyu only has to take a drink every now and again. Flynn doesn't have to drink a drop. Aelron reluctantly mixes drinks for the group, and together they wait out the snowstorm.

    The End!

    Or is it?

    It's not. We've still got plenty more hijinks. That was Nüwa's last session for the time being; her player will probably return sooner or later. Also worth noting: Olaf gained the favor the Bright Queen, the fey goddess of love, and can now reroll reaction checks once per session. Unfortunately, since he didn't storm the keep, he gained the disfavor of Kurush, god of might, and now has to make raw strength checks at a disadvantage until he pleases Kurush again.

  7. - Top - End - #37
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    HalflingRangerGuy

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

    Woo! Two new updates!
    This is really really awesome - players, DM, campaign world, everything. I can only hope that someday I get into a group as good as this :)
    Keep up the good work!

  8. - Top - End - #38
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Spoiler: Chapter 15: The Knights of the Bloody Pastry
    Show

    The first session of the new year was mostly spent tweaking and rebalancing the home-brewed system Tam has implemented. We added a bunch of new traits (“Bedeviled”, “I Read It In a Book”, and “Deliberate Actor” among others) and modified some existing traits. We switched to party XP, so now everyone is at level 3. Players can now only master skills starting at level 3, and only one skill can be mastered per level, meaning some people’s skills got a bit weaker (Aelron, for instance, lost mastery in Ruby Magic and Lore). The only notable effect on the plot is that Miaoyu, having lost mastery in Initiate of Gilgadar, couldn't have cast Sunder Fate on Olaf or that one pigeon. But apparently Olaf's fate was sundered, so... what happened? We’ll find out... eventually. Probably.

    There were plenty more changes, but most of those were mechanical enough that their details won't enter into any of these recountings, and thus we'll forgo any further mention of them. On to what you're actually here for.

    Following the escapades attempting to communicate with Seeker's wife, the party ends up snowed into their cozy little inn for the next eighteen days. Most of these days are spent drinking (pretty much everyone), playing board games (Keegan, Flynn, Miaoyu and Nüwa), studying language (Keegan and Olaf), meditating (Seeker), researching spells (Aelron), and casually attempting to murder Nüwa (Miaoyu. Duh.). Aelron spends enough time poring over his armor to enchant it further, and Olaf decides to regain Kurush’s favor by fasting for three days, stripping mostly naked, picking up a really heavy rock and attempting to carry it up a hill (while, mind you, rolling at disadvantage—rolling twice and take the lower result—on all brute-strength checks). He fails heroically. The party finds him, passed out facedown in the snow, three-quarters of the way up his target hill. The boulder apparently slipped from his grasp and rolled all the way down. Kurush, mollified, removes the disadvantage from Olaf as the party carries him back to the inn, where his frostbitten fingers are lopped off and regrown with Aelron’s divine spell, Regenerate. (His frostbite could have been cured by one of Seeker’s spells, but the DM deemed casual dismemberment ‘funnier’, and ruled it canon.)

    Nüwa leaves when the weather clears, off to make her formal report. “Wait!” Miaoyu calls after her. “I made you a poison cake. Don't you want some?” Nüwa rudely refuses Miaoyu’s farewell gift, and as Nüwa turns away, Miaoyu snatches a packet of saffron from her spice rack. She’ll likely be miles away before she realizes one of her more expensive spices is gone.

    That night, the party pours some drinks and sits down to plan.

    “I have one last thing to ask of you all,” Seeker says. “I want to find my wife’s amulet.”

    “Seeker, as your friend,” Olaf prefaces delicately, “I advise against retrieving the amulet. It’s toxic. You need time to heal.”

    Oh, if only Olaf knew how right he was.

    This sparks up a bit of a debate amongst the party, although it’s ultimately agreed that if Seeker wants to get the amulet, they’ll support him.

    “You’re the best of us,” Olaf tells Seeker, “and I don’t want to see you change.”

    “And I trust you to stop me if I start acting strangely,” Seeker says. Then, an afterthought, “Oh, I’ve decided to go back to my real name. Guarion.”

    Aelron raises a flame-red eyebrow. Miaoyu spills a bit of her drink. Olaf just stares.

    “Why?” Flynn asks.

    “I’m not seeking anything,” Seeker says reasonably.

    “So? I’m not ‘flynning’ anything. You’re Seeker to us.”

    “Besides which,” Aelron puts in, “Having us call you something OTHER than Seeker will simply be a constant stream of reminders of why you changed your name. I suggest you stick with Seeker, and find something new to seek. Find a worthy goal and pursue it, and it will help you keep your mind off your loss.”

    Seeker agrees, however reluctantly, and proposes something interesting: “What if we were to find a way to reverse the wolfman curse? Turn wolfmen back into elves.”

    There is a long moment of silence as the rest of the party stares at Seeker, dumbfounded.

    Flynn breaks the silence: “Seeker, what exactly is inspiring you to suggest something that crazy?”

    “They're called 'feelings', Flynn,” Olaf interjects harshly. “Jeez, have a little compassion.”

    “Oooh,” says Miaoyu, “Harsh burn.”

    Flynn laughs. “It's fine, I deserved that one. I've been hammering Olaf with dumb Dhar jokes since we joined back up in Splitshade.”

    Aelron, aside to Miaoyu: “Flynn can hammer me any time he wants. He's kinda cute.” Aelron smiles conspiratorially at Miaoyu's blank stare, then turns back to the group.

    “It's not TOTALLY unreasonable, Flynn. My mother has been working on this for... well, basically my whole life. If we can contact her, she'll be thrilled to have help.”

    “Well, where's your mother, then?” Olaf asks, all business.

    Aelron blanches a bit. “Uh... the City of Brass.”

    The City of Brass is the home of the djinn: a great city of towering brass and gold buildings in the midst of a vast plain of fire, on the edge of a lake of lava, located on the elemental plane of fire.

    “Nothing's ever simple,” Flynn mutters to his tankard.

    “How do we get there, again?” Olaf asks.

    Aelron sighs. “Volcanoes. Volcanoes serve as sites at which you can open portals to the City of Brass. Find me a volcano, I can get us there.”

    Miaoyu produces Nüwa's map (“What?”) and unrolls it on the table. The easiest volcanoes to reach from their present position are probably on the Peri Isles, though there MIGHT be something near their position in a continent-spanning mountain range that's just not marked on the map.

    “One other thing,” Aelron warns. “Volcanoes, especially active ones, are sometimes inhabited by dragons. If we find an occupied volcano, we'll have to get the dragon's permission to use the portal. However, if we can GET permission, we might also get assistance, which would make the whole task much easier. The problem is that dragons tend to take their temperament from the region they inhabit; dragons of glacial mountain ranges are icy and aloof, river dragons are bubbly and chatty...”

    “And this dragon is likely to have a volcanic temper, aye,” Olaf finishes. He shakes his head. “What about visiting the Underdark? Dark elves have been able to return their males to elven bodies, haven’t they?”

    Aelron shakes his head violently. Miaoyu throws her drink away in horror. Seeker bares his claws.

    “Good thought, Olaf,” Aelron says, fighting panic out of his voice, “but I really don't think dealing with the dark elves is a good idea. They're not known for their hospitality, first of all, and their methods of curse-reversal are... brutal in the extreme. Think animated elf-shaped flesh-golems and transferred consciousnesses. All the stuff you learn about in Defense Against the Dark Arts classes. If a volcano is a bad idea, a visit to the dark elves is worse.”

    “There are other things to consider,” Flynn points out. “Farkas would probably be a bit peeved to lose the lion's share of his followers if we broke the curse. And,” he glances sidelong at Miaoyu, “Just breaking it at all would likely involve sundering a chain of fate or two, and Femta, being the creator and binder of fate itself, would probably be similarly unamused. On top of which, the reason for the curse is still unknown; we have no idea whether the wolfmen became violent as a result of the curse, or were cursed because of their violence, or were cursed for some other, equally important reason. Plus the true question: can mere mortals reverse a curse of deific proportions?”

    Aelron and Seeker are confident that, with the right tools, they COULD reverse the curse, but without more information the point is moot. The party agrees to make a decision regarding what plans to pursue AFTER retrieving Seeker's amulet and a griffin, then retires for the night.

    Come morning, Miaoyu Locates the amulet again, to make sure it hasn’t moved. After consulting the map, the party realizes that, from where they are, they can go through some nearby hills where griffins might live and wrangle one while going to or from the amulet’s location. While Seeker has the components to sedate a full-grown griffin, transporting one is a different story. The party decides that getting a cart should be sufficient, but as it will slow them down quite a bit, they decide that they should buy it in a town close to the griffin – if there’s a town in the area nearby at all.

    Miaoyu, deciding the show off her shiny new trait, I Read it in a Book, which lowers her DC for untrained skill rolls, speaks up. “I read this book once, where a dragon flew out of a volcano and fought the local baron. The whole thing was right in this area, if I remember the maps right, and if there was a baron, then there must be a town for him to rule over, right?”

    “A volcano?” echoes Flynn. “Why didn’t you mention that last night, when we were talking about sailing to another country in search of one?”

    Miaoyu shrugs. “I was drunk.”

    The party sets out on the road, planning for a roughly 15 day trip to reach the amulet, possibly longer given potential complications and/or griffin wrangling.

    One evening, the party settles into camp and Olaf takes out Scuzzbucket and encourages it to jump through a hoop. It succeeds, in that it sort of pours itself through the hoop. Its linguistic skills have increased to that of a three year old. Its shapeshifting skills have also improved; when Miaoyu sends Lajiao out to play-fight with Scuzzbucket (yes, there was a Pokemon battle in the camp that night), Scuzz takes on a goat form that only droops a little bit.

    “I just feel like we have a special connection,” Olaf says proudly. “Like he’s a...” Olaf glances at Aelron. “What do you mage-types call them?”

    Aelron gives Olaf a skeptical look. “Familiars?”

    Olaf nods and smiles. “Yeah, that's it! He's my familiar!”

    Aelron rolls his eyes, but Seeker, intrigued by the possibility, watches Olaf play with Scuzz for a little while.

    “There’s definitely some sort of bond between them,” he says after a time. “Olaf, did you do something with Scuzzbucket? Something that might bond you with him?”

    Olaf things for a moment. “Oh! I’ve been using him to brush my teeth.”

    This isn’t quite as ridiculous as it might sound. Most toothpaste in this world does contain slime or ooze. However, it isn't usually semisentient imislime. Olaf has managed to ingest some of Scuzzbucket, who might think that Olaf is just another part of itself.

    “You’re telling me that Olaf has a profound bond with a slime?” Flynn asks, chortling. “Makes sense to me.”

    “HEY!”

    As the party travels, they notice the weather improving ever-so-slightly and realize spring will be upon them in a few short days. They decide to make an appropriate sacrifice to Brigii, which would involve baking an apple pie. Unfortunately, the party is in severe shortage of apples.

    Fortunately, they happen across a village composed of temporary housing and Olaf and Aelron decide to stop in. Seeker elects to stay behind; elves are sometimes nomads and he doesn’t want to risk startling them by barging into their village.

    He needn't have worried; the village is human. Aelron knocks on the door to the largest house and, after polite greetings and requests for trade, is invited in by what appears to be one of the village elders. They exchange pleasantries, and Aelron pays for a small bushel of apples, some flour and sugar. The villagers provide friendly warnings of dangers on the nearby roads, including warnings of a type of fey called Fingerlings, inch-tall creatures that drop down onto travelers and cling to them until they arrive at the traveler’s home. They then murder the traveler and eat their food. Fortunately, they can be easily washed off by a bit of water and speak in high-pitched voices easily heard by, say, wolfmen. Aelron and Olaf thank the man for the apples and information and return to the party.

    The next night, the party gets to pie baking, with Aelron conjuring up a set of wards over the fire to contain and stir hot air (think convection oven) and Olaf using a bit of the cinnamon that Nüwa gave him. The pie smells absolutely delicious, but as Olaf sets it on a plate and grabs a knife to slice it, Miaoyu and Flynn whip around to face the trees.

    “Someone's coming,” Flynn warns. “Sounds like lots of someone.”

    Miaoyu hurries stealthily off into the trees to get a better look. She returns out of breath and wide-eyed. “Boarfolk,” she says. “I counted at least eleven. I'm getting my stuff, it's time to go! They looked dangerous.”

    “Hold on!” Olaf says. “We can't leave the pie behind! This is a sacrifice to Brigii! We have to defend our ritual and complete it! This is our pie!”

    Miaoyu's face flickers between horrified, frustrated, resigned and cross, then settles on blank as eleven boarfolk stomp into their campsite. Snouts, tusks, rippling muscles, beady little pig eyes, and hefty-looking clubs abound. Their chief looks the party up and down.

    “Give pie,” he says, directing his words to Olaf, who appears (in his estimation) to be the strongest, and therefore, leader. “We not kill.”

    “Why don’t we share the pie?” Aelron suggests. “We can cut you a few slices and sit down for a friendly meal, and you can share in our sacrifice for Brigii.”

    The leader thinks for a moment and after a moment of struggling with Common makes some gestures to indicate that he and his men get a double-share of the pie: two slices for every one that the party gets.

    “No,” Aelron says, scoffing. “We made this pie, we get an equal share. Besides, there are more of you anyway. You're already gonna get more than half the thing even at equal shares. Now, will you sit with us, or no?”

    The leader smiles. “You right. There more of us, anyway. Get 'em!”

    And thus, the Great Pastry War begins.

    Seeker uses his new trait, Leader, to great affect by warning the group to “Be careful of charges!” granting the party a bonus to AC against Charge attacks. Flynn also makes use of his new trait, Deliberate Actor (also affectionately termed Properly Paranoid), which grants him advantages on readied actions: he and Olaf ready actions to attack the first of the pie-thieves to charge the group. Miaoyu takes a shot at the leader and Aelron, sighing resignedly, slings an incendiary into the thickest concentration of boarfolk.

    “We could have had a friendly dinner,” he mutters sadly.

    Two of the boarfolk charge Olaf. One dies with an eldritch arrow in his throat after barely a step; the other meets Olaf's countercharge about a pace from the fire and goes down with a bronze knife in his eye.

    Two of the raiders split off from the main group and circle around to where Keegan is tending the horses. Keegan is apparently rather jaded to armed battle breaking out in the camp, as he is still trying to keep Minion, Flynn's riding horse, from chewing on his own tack.

    Flynn pivots and readies an action to shoot any boarfolk rude enough to target the horses or Keegan. Olaf, also taking note of this new development, shouts out, “Keegan! Unleash the warhorses!”

    Keegan, evidently prepared for this circumstance, pulls a single knot, scuttles out of the way, and gives one of the warhorses a fierce slap on the rump and a shout of “Hai!” The ropes holding the warhorses to their post come neatly undone, and all four warhorses rush to intercept the Boarfolk. Unfortunately, one of the raiders takes a heavy swing right at Slepnir, Olaf’s horse, and kills it in a single blow. Flynn fires at him, but misses, his arrow grounded to avoid hitting any of the warhorses. The puff of dirt and sod draws the attention of the other circling raider, who heads toward Flynn.

    The other raiders swarm the campsite from the front. One goes after Aelron, but his club meets an arcane ward about a foot from Aelron's armor that stops it cold. Another takes a good swing at Miaoyu, but he doesn’t live to regret it: she leaves a crossbow bolt rattling around in his piggy cranium and shadow walks to behind just behind the raider attacking the horses. The rest swing en masse at Olaf, who parries and dodges frantically. He takes a couple glancing blows from clubs, but laughs in the faces of the boarfolk surrounding him. “I've had worse wounds from a rosebush!” he shouts as he ducks under another swing.

    Aelron smiles at the boarfolk attacking him. “You like the wards? I just put those in.” Then he steps up beside Olaf, trying to help even the odds against the Dhar, and begins mustering energy for a spell.

    Miaoyu frowns at the raider behind whom she has just appeared. “You killed our warhorse! That's just not nice!” She plants her crossbow between his shoulder blades and pulls the trigger, and he drops instantly. Flynn smiles at the raider who is raising her club to smash him as the warhorses, spurned by the disrespect to Brigii and the loss of their friend, charge her from behind and stamp her into the dirt.

    Olaf spends another frantic round parrying and dodging as the boarfolk leader wades into the melee. With Aelron beside him, Olaf isn't quite alone, but Aelron's not exactly a top-notch warrior; he's busy with some stupid spell, so he's not coming to Olaf's defense, and then...

    “OI!” Olaf bellows.

    Aelron unleashes a tide of flame: Burning Hands, triple-empowered. It washes over Olaf, eliciting the aforementioned bellow, and then barbeques four of the raiders, including their leader. Aelron follows up with Ashen Cleanse, his specially devised spell specifically designed to heal elemental damage. It neatly patches up all the damage his flame did to Olaf, leaving the Dhar unharmed.

    Seeing most of his men dead around him and Olaf apparently unharmed by the flames, the raider chief calls out, “Run away! The pie defense is too strong!”

    Unfortunately, in his attempt to flee, he runs right past Miaoyu – possibly not seeing her standing in the shadows – and she robs him of his last hit point. (“You're not using that, are you?”)

    Olaf, not willing to let the insult to his horse or his pie go unpunished, chases down one of the other fleeing raiders and cuts him down before throwing himself after the last escapee.

    The raider notices she’s being followed and she falls to the ground, squealing in terror and clearly surrendering. Olaf hesitates for a moment, then gestures for her to stand. As soon as she's up he rabbit-punches her into unconsciousness and begins dragging her back to camp.

    The rest of the party, having already heaped the raiders’ corpses into a pile, look up as Olaf approaches. He’s too late for the pie; it’s meant to be eaten hot and only a few cool scraps are left for him.

    “What are you doing with... her?” Aelron asks as he swallows his last bit of pie, studying Olaf's captive.

    “I’m taking her as a thrall,” Olaf says simply. He rummages around in his pack for rope to bind her. For those of you who don’t remember, thralls are a part of Dhar culture wherein the victor takes the defeated as something of an indentured servant. There’s a certain expectation for the master to treat his or her thralls with some degree of humanity and honor, and the thrall is to accept their position with humility until they are released from service.

    Aelron struggles for a moment and eventually says, “I hate to admit it, but boarfolk do have a roughly equivalent concept in their culture.”

    The party discusses the matter for a bit – with the exception of Flynn, who stays dead quiet. He’s aware that he has no grounds to object to a concept that exists in both cultures, but he’s not happy about it.

    Seeker suggests keeping the girl with them until they can, at the very least, take her somewhere that’s not in the middle of a potentially dangerous forest. The rest of the party agrees and Olaf patiently waits for her to wake up. When she begins to stir, Seeker casts a Translate spell to speed the process.

    “By my right as victor in battle,” Olaf says once the boarfolk girl is alert enough to understand him, “I take you as my thrall.”

    The girl looks displeased about this, but grunts her agreement and introduces herself as Hhon-Harn. Seeker checks her over for scratches and Miaoyu passes her some rations. Olaf takes her club away as a safety measure; although it would be a violation of protocol for a thrall to attack her master, the group agrees that for the first few weeks, it’s a reasonable precaution.

    Hhon-Harn isn’t as upset as one might think. While it’s clear she’s resentful of the party, it’s generally understood that when one goes out raiding, people might not come back. She’s not happy, but she’s not broken by the loss of her comrades either.

    At this point there was a (mostly out of character) discussion of naming the group Knights of the Blood Pastry, or something similar. Olaf’s player argued particularly hard for their banner to be a pie because no one will mess with a party that has so few %*#$s to give that they have a pie for their symbol. It was, tragically, shot down.

    Come morning, the group sets out again. Aelron begins teaching Hhon-Harn Common, but given that she has a Wisdom of 4, it’s a slow process. Fortunately, Aelron is a patient teacher. For the sake of keeping up with the party, Miaoyu gives Hhon-Harn her riding horse; she’s recently taken a trait that boosts her speed and can keep up with the party on foot when her war horse needs a rest. It’s probably good that Hhon-Harn can’t speak Common at the moment: she might take offense to being given a horse named Expendable.

    Eventually, the party pulls out Nüwa's map again, and notices a patch of forest not far ahead marked by a large spiderweb. Seeker, who has been interested in collecting spider-silk under moonlight so he can craft elven chainmail, perks up. The possibility of such armor is definitely of interest to the non-fighters of the party and eager planning begins immediately. The main concern is the possibility of attercops, spiderlike humanoids who often cohabitate with spiders and will likely take offense to a bunch of obnoxious adventurers stomping into their home, stealing their silk, and maybe even killing their prize spiders. As Olaf put it, “It would be like breaking into someone’s barn at night, shearing their sheep, then walking off, talking about how it’s such great quality, and when the owners try to stop you, you take potshots at them.”

    Unfortunately, attercops are not particularly given to bartering and are reclusive. The best the party could hope for is cool tolerance, if they provide a gift to resident attercops first.

    But do you think any of those complications would stop our noble adventurers? Of course not! There’s promise of cool stuff!

    The only thing that might stop them would be, say, finding the indicated area literally covered from top to bottom in spiderwebs. And that’s exactly what they find: the entire stand of trees is almost invisible for the webbing. Everyone very quickly they agrees that it’s best to collect the silk under a full moon, and that’s a while off—may as well come back for it later. They adjust their path to go around the densely-webbed forest.

    While on watch that night, Olaf is overcome with a sense of something watching him. He discreetly nudges Miaoyu and Flynn awake, as they are both have the highest training in awareness. All they can determine, however, is that there’s definitely something watching them. They just don’t know what.

    Olaf devises a quick plan: he’ll ‘wake’ Flynn for the next watch, then he and Miaoyu will pretend to be asleep while actually waiting to spring a trap should the mysterious observer attack.

    For better or worse, nothing happens, and come dawn, the party continues on.

    As the group rides through the forest, they distinctly become aware of something... scuttling. A few glances around and they see a giant spider tending to its web. It seems to be minding its own business, but the party decides to be cautious. Olaf hands Hhon-Harn a dagger for self-defense should the worst happen, and then he takes point to knock down any webs that might bar their path. Miaoyu, having arachnophobia-induced hyper-awareness for all things spider-related, helps him. Eventually, the spider and its web pass out of sight.

    “You handled that spider pretty well,” Olaf says to Miaoyu. She gives him an empty look.

    “What spider?” she asks, and carries on, memories of giant, horrible mandibles carefully repressed.

    The day passes uneventfully after that. The night, however, is a different story.

    After the party has set up camp and night settles in, the feeling of being watched returns and, although no one can see them, the party becomes aware that, just outside the reach of the firelight, a mass of spiders surrounds the camp.

    Aelron has thankfully studied a bit of arachnid behavior and informs the party that they’re likely waiting for any signs of weakness, or for someone to wander off alone. The fact that they’re staying out of the light suggests they fear it to some degree, but there is so much variation in the species that it is difficult to say with certainty.

    Olaf suggests that Aelron make the fire flare up so they can get a better look at their visitors, but decides to help his eyes adjust first. He gazes into the flames for a long moment and Miaoyu, figuring that the sight of spiders will be seared into her memory (until she represses it), decides to give it a try as well. At Olaf’s signal, Aelron flares up the fire.

    The spiders flinch back from the light, and everyone makes an Awareness check, with those who didn’t take time to adjust their vision suffering a disadvantage. Miaoyu, appropriately, rolls a 2 on a 2d6, and shrieks at the sheer mass of spiders she sees before covering her eyes. She’s not sure what she expected.

    As it is, none of the party members rolled particularly well, so all they they managed to get in terms of a count on the spiders was “many lots”. The light, however, did seem effective, and Aelron, Olaf, and Hhon-Harn carefully leave to chop down some lumber and line their camp with firepits. Back at camp, Seeker clutches his alicorn protectively, just in case anyone should need an antidote for poison soon. Miaoyu has her crossbow in a death grip and Lajiao is in her customary spot in Miaoyu’s coat, trembling, with only her horns visible. When the other half of the party returns, Olaf checks in on Scuzzbucket, and the little slime looks up at him with a goat head. “Baa,” it tells him, then suddenly it manifests mandibles from its goat mouth and chitters at Olaf.

    Once the additional campfires are built, the party agrees to do double watch shifts and, aside from the horrible knowledge of arachnid monstrosities just out of sight, the night is peaceful.

    Come dawn, the area is clear of any sign of spiders and the party packs quickly. They assume something is watching them, but they have no real way of knowing. Eventually, they pass in what must be safe territory.

    In fact, the rest of the journey passes in relative peace, although both Keegan and Miaoyu seem more than a little on-edge and jumpy. “You just have to repress it,” Miaoyu tells Keegan. “Then you’ll never have to remember it... except in your dreams.”

    Sympathetic, Olaf passes Miaoyu a bottle of strong alcohol and she takes a hearty swig before passing it to Keegan. Seeker begins to protest, but too late: Keegan has already downed a mouthful. On the bright side, the two of them don’t flinch at every sound now.

    Near the middle of the day, at Olaf’s request, Seeker once again casts Translate on Olaf so he can speak with Hhon-Harn. Unfortunately for Olaf, the spell lasts three hours, and spring is boarfolk mating season. And the party is right in an area densely populated by boarfolk. Olaf spends his afternoon hearing the wild, lascivious yells of boarfolk rutting, hearing about hot, hot tusk-jobs. Seeker seems a little more amused by this than he should be. As a small mercy, the party does not need to worry about Hhon-Harn trying to find herself a mate: she’s too young to be in heat.

    Finally, the party arrives where Miaoyu Located the amulet: a strange, ancient stone structure. The architecture is too blocky and square and above-ground to be dwarven, but too old to belong to any Drouganti who might actually live in the region. It's also enormous, a large dome at least five stories in height and about a hundred and fifty wide. “What IS that thing?” Olaf asks, looking over at Aelron.

    Aelron opens his mouth, tilts his head to the side, stares at the structure for a moment, then finally says, “I have no idea.”

    That can't be a good sign.
    Last edited by AverageSparrow; 2014-02-02 at 08:08 PM.

  9. - Top - End - #39
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    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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

    Having that translate spell cast on Olaf was probably more emotionally scarring to him than the spiders.

    And the spiders were TERRIFYING. This was about the most nervous I've seen my fellow players at the table since the Redcap. Flynn's player, of course, is the exception, because as far as I can tell, he's absolutely unflappable.
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    Planetar

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

    I dunno, I think the most charged was when you were delivering messages to the Keep. But then again I had a bit of a vested interest there so maybe I'm not ENTIRELY unbiased.
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    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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

    I wasn't too nervous delivering the messages. There is fear of physical harm, yes, when you bother a wizard. But, in a public setting when she had to be diplomatic, it might have been...uncouth...to incinerate me over it.

    The spiders though. We couldn't get a good count of them against us, had been pursued during the day, had been hyping up how xenophobic the attercops were, and Tam put us all on the battlemap. All we knew were "Lots and All around."
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Fair point.
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    I like Olaf's version of an Atonement!

    I'm really beginning to get a sense of how the gods behave in this world. It's an interesting concept, very pagan and mythic in feel.
    Prince Fraternal of Pudding, Snuzzlepal, Feezy Squeez Lover, MP, Member of The Most Noble And Ancient Order Of St. George, King of Gae Parabolae.

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

    Spoiler: Chapter 16: The Red Hand of Doom
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    Miaoyu, Olaf and Seeker share nervous glances. “Are you sure you don't know what this building is, Aelron?” Olaf asks for them all.

    Aelron shrugs. “Know why it was built or what for? No, I have no idea. Whatever it is, it's ancient. By the style of the architecture it's at least several hundred years old, possibly as many as a thousand. It wasn't built by any Drouganti, I'll tell you that. Nor a dwarf; they have their own styles, none of which are in evidence here. All I can tell you is really tall, ancient stone dome.”

    With that information in mind the party decides—surprise, surprise—to head right in. Hhon-Harn and Keegan are left behind with the horses, as usual, and the party begins up the hill toward the structure. As they walk, Miaoyu and Flynn realize that the structure has seen foot traffic as recently as a week ago, and Seeker notices the scent of blood: lots of it, and fairly fresh.

    Worried that this could mean slavers or cultists, Olaf gestures Keegan and Hhon-Harn back into the forest for some cover. Hhon-Harn gives him what he's pretty sure is the boarfolk equivalent of a single-digit salute, but the two comply and are soon out of sight. Once they are safely ensconced in the woods, the party makes its way up to the entrance of the structure and peers inside.

    The structure's purpose comes a little clearer on first inspection: it appears to be an arena. The dome is merely the cap on a hundred-foot-deep cylindrical hole in the ground. The floor at the bottom of the pit appears to be sand. An oculus in the dome lets in a shaft of sunlight, providing the massive room's only direct illumination. A single ramp runs from the door, which appears to be the southernmost point on the structure, around the western half of the arena, terminating at the northernmost part of the arena floor, one hundred feet down and roughly a hundred fifty feet across to the pit's other edge, in a small stone ledge. Two darkened archways yawn wide at the western and eastern points of the compass down at the bottom of the pit; no sunlight seems to reach them. At the center of the sands, bathed in direct sunlight, shines a small pool of thick, red liquid. The coppery tang of fresh blood is horribly strong on the air.

    Aelron studies the pool, searching for spells, and sure enough, there's a preservative: the blood is being kept fresh by the will of a god. Although the party can’t be sure at the moment, likely candidates would be Ashur, god of slaughter, or Kurush, god of might and sunlight.

    Never let it be said that our adventurers are not intrepid. The party descends slowly and cautiously into the structure, following the ramp down to the floor. Seeker and Aelron immediately head for the blood pool, determined to study it; Olaf accompanies them, ready to protect against any threats. Miaoyu finds a nice patch of shadows to hide in near the base of the ramp. Flynn takes a stand a few meters up the ramp, watching the archways warily.

    Just as Aelron and Seeker kneel near the pool and Olaf takes up a guard posture, a low, female voice rings out, seemingly without source. Even in a chamber so large as the arena, it does not echo. Is it coming from all the walls at once? “Welcome, welcome! Let the testing begin! The strong will survive. The weak... well, who cares?”

    Two large figures, still cloaked in shadows, betray their presence in the archways with motion.

    Flynn, who was waiting for exactly this, raises an arm and lets loose an eldritch bolt. Olaf spots the same enemy and sprints across the sand to meet it as far from the mages as possible. His daggers and Flynn's arrow sink home to an angry squawk and a burst of feathers. A gryphon, a regal creature with the head, wings and talons of an eagle and the body, rear paws and tail of a lion, steps from the shadow in each archway, loosing fierce battlecries. Even in the midst of this mysterious ‘test’, everyone has a moment to think Score!

    “How convenient!” Olaf cries merrily as his gryphon attempts to rake him with its talons.

    The rest of the party springs into action. Olaf stays engaged with the first gryphon while Aelron, currently much better-armored than Seeker and the only person in position to keep the second gryphon away from the squishy wolfman, turns to face the second. Miaoyu fires at one of the gryphons, but, in her excitement, forgets to actually load a bolt. She blushes and hurriedly loads one up, hoping no one saw that. Flynn takes careful aim at the gryphon Olaf is not engaged with, readying a shot at its wing in case it attempts to lift off.

    And it does indeed. As Aelron nears it, the creature spreads its wings, crouches back onto its hind legs and prepares to leap into the air. Flynn's arrow catches the base of its right wing on the downstroke. It cries out, falters, and crashes back to the sand, then moves toward Aelron. At the same time, both Aelron and Olaf have the same idea: try to mount the gryphon. Unfortunately, neither do well: Olaf is at too bad of an angle to hoist himself up, and while Aelron thinks to use his staff to polevault over the creature's head and onto its back, watching that beak snap at him makes him reconsider at the last moment.

    Aelron’s gryphon isn’t about to let that insult slide: the idea of someone trying to ride it made it angry and it viciously attacks him. Flynn manages to distract the gryphon with an arrow, but even so, Aelron gets a nasty claw to the side and takes 11 damage. Better armored he may be, but Aelron only has 15 hit points. Seeker rushes forward to heal him and stop the worst of the bleeding.

    Miaoyu picks up some loose stones and starts throwing them at the gryphons, putting them at a combat disadvantage. Olaf takes his gryphon’s momentary distraction and stabs until it stops twitching, then sprints to engage Aelron's target. “Capture that one!” he shouts.

    Unfortunately, the gryphon seems to have recovered from Flynn’s earlier hit and has become wary of the Dhar that just killed its partner. It takes wing, and lifts twenty feet into the air. It begins circling the area at an uneven height, a lack of updraft and its injuries keeping it from rising too fast. Eventually, it attempts to dive-attack Seeker, but the wolfman was waiting for it and dodges out of the way. The gryphon's claws rake only sand, it loses precious speed, and for just a moment it has to flap hard to try and regain lost altitude.

    Olaf gets an idea so terrible it just HAS to work. “FLYNN!” he calls, pointing at the sand behind the gryphon. “BOOST ME!” Flynn blinks once in incredulity before leaping from the ramp ledge and sprinting forward. He weaves his fingers together into a stirrup for Olaf's boot. Olaf, running from opposite direction, steps into the proffered hands and hurls himself upward with all his might, while Flynn heaves with everything he has. Aelron, seeing what Olaf plans, summons some of his own inner strength to create a Friendly Wind that will help keep Olaf on the gryphon's back. Miaoyu contributes with a hail of sand and stones sailing over the gryphon's head.

    It works. Perfectly. Olaf's leap, Flynn's modified shotput hurl and Aelron's gentle breeze are just enough to leave Olaf clinging desperately to the gryphon’s back. When it shies from Miaoyu's barrage, Olaf has a short moment to establish a grip at the base of its wings, and suddenly he can almost steer! He tries to direct it into a wall, aiming to bash its head against the fitted stone of the arena's construction and concuss it enough to bring it out of the sky. He only succeeds in giving the gryphon ideas, though, and as it gains more height, it attempts to scrape Olaf off of its back by ramming its side into walls. Down below, the rest of the party alternates between worrying about Olaf’s well-being, laughing, and shouting encouragement.

    Finally, the gryphon has some success and manages to dislodge Olaf. The only thing that keeps him from plummeting forty feet is Aelron’s Friendly Wind; it delays his fall long enough for him to grab onto the gryphon’s tail. Slowly, he struggles onto the gryphon’s back again, even as its leonine rear claws rip gouges in the flesh of his arms.

    Seeker casts Mending on the gryphon, a minor healing spell that, if the will save is failed, can cause drowsiness. And failed it is. The creature plummets a couple of feet before it remembers to keep flapping its wings. Olaf might have screamed a little.

    “This isn't getting us anywhere,” Flynn calls. “Olaf can't bring it down like this.”

    Aelron moves to Flynn's side, pulls out a coil of rope, and grins. “No, but he can steer.”

    Flynn tosses the rope to Miaoyu. “Lasso!” he instructs her. Then, to Olaf: “Force it downward and hang on! We're gonna try and rope him!”

    Olaf grunts, still wrestling himself back into steering position. “Oh, sure, force it down, no-engh!-problem!” The gryphon runs him up against another wall, and he has to cling for dear life.

    Flynn and Aelron rush up the ramp. The rope isn't long enough to lasso the gryphon from the floor, but it's circling toward the ramp as it attempts to buck Olaf, so they should be able to reach it if they can get set in time. Miaoyu clambers directly up the wall to deliver the lasso once Flynn selects his firing point. Aelron and Miaoyu grab the rope and brace. Flynn holds the lasso, readying to throw once the gryphon is in range. Seeker, the only one left on the floor, edges closer to where the gryphon will be, and as the gryphon races past, Mends it again.

    For just a moment, the gryphon's flight goes ballistic. Flynn hurls out the lasso, grabs at the end of the rope and hangs on for dear life. Then all the people anchoring the rope have to make strength checks.

    Between the three of them, they—barely—have the strength.

    The gryphon reaches the end of its leash and jerks to a violent stop. Olaf slumps forward against the creature's neck and clings, shouting obscenities. The gryphon, stunned and gasping for breath, plummets toward the sand. It has thirty feet of rope, but the people holding it are suspending it forty feet off the floor. It swings like a pendulum, choking and gasping. Miaoyu urges the party down the ramp, letting the gryphon come to rest before it strangles or snaps its neck. After a few moments of struggle against the lasso, it falls limp, unconscious. Olaf disentangles himself from the gryphon, unties the lasso and takes a deep breath.

    “That was fun!” he says, out of breath, injured, and energetic as ever.

    Seeker settles down next to the unconscious gryphon and prepares to perform his ritual: he’ll be able to keep the gryphon in stasis for at least a month. Unfortunately, his ritual will take about an hour to complete, and there’s a chance that the gryphon will wake up in that time.

    As the party begins to tie up and restrain the gryphon, Miaoyu suddenly begins laughing. Flynn and Aelron glance at her inquisitively. She doubles over, barely able to stand, and points vaguely at Olaf. “We bought sleeping potions.”

    “Oh yeah!” Olaf chirps, and out come the sleeping potions. Given the size of the gryphon, every last drop is used. Feeling certain in the fact that the gryphon will be subdued long enough for Seeker to work on his ritual without interruption, the party takes a few moments to relax.

    “Did you record all that?” Miaoyu asks Aelron when she's done laughing.

    He gives her a grin. “Of course!”

    While they wait for Seeker’s ritual to finish, the entertain themselves with magical memory playbacks of the gryphon desperately attempting to shake Olaf off.

    After a little while, they look for something else to do. Miaoyu, Aelron, and Olaf investigate the pool of blood. “It could be a holy site to Ashur, given the blood,” Aelron says, “but I think it’s more likely to be Kurush, given the sunlight, and the fact that it's in an arena.”

    The three of them glance at each other, each thinking the same thing: could this be where the amulet is hidden? Miaoyu takes a moment to cast Locate object on the amulet and soon hears the voice of Gilgadar in her head.

    “Yeah,” Gilgadar hedges slowly, “See, I can’t really give you an exact location on this one. It’s shielded, see, but it’s definitely around here somewhere.”

    Olaf hurries off and gathers up a bit of blood from the dead gryphon and pours it into the pool of blood. “I offer this sacrifice to you, Kurush. Please grant me a boon.”

    The pool ripples—more than it should have—but nothing seems to happen.

    Olaf reaches into the pool of blood and feels around. Unexpectedly, he finds the pool rather shallow. He roots around in the pool for a while, but can't find Seeker's amulet. He pulls his arm out and Aelron casts Prestidigitation to clean the blood off, but it doesn't work. Olaf's hand has been stained red. It looks to be covered in a thin layer of fresh blood. Miaoyu and Aelron exchange a glance, then look weakly back at Olaf. At that moment, Seeker finishes his ritual, and the matter of Olaf's bloody hand must be set aside to haul the gryphon up the ramp and outside.

    They set up camp on the northwestern side of the dome, horses neatly corralled in an adjacent grove. Miaoyu takes first watch while the others settle in and start cooking dinner. Eventually, she notices someone approaching, a feminine figure with one hand on a staff and the other trailing along the wall of the dome. Miaoyu calls out to the other party members and they gather around.

    “Good evening, ma’am,” Olaf says when the figure draws closer. “Anything we can do for you today?”

    It’s only when she pulls back the hood of her robe to reply that everyone gets a better look at her. She looks to be in her forties, and the staff in her free hand is topped with a yellow and orange stone that flickers oddly in the light of the campfire. Her hair is dark and does not seem to acknowledge the light of the campfire in any way. In the center of her forehead is a single, unblinking dark eye. Miaoyu and Aelron both recognize her as a cyclopean augur, a priest of Kurush who can see what will be.

    “I do believe you’re the ones I’ve been looking for,” she says, with the same voice that ‘welcomed’ the party to their test.

    “Looking for?” Olaf grumbles. “Sounds like a prophecy to me.”

    “Do not worry, king, I speak not of prophecy, only destiny,” she tells Olaf. “Will your ships be ready?”

    “Really?” he says and turns a cold glare upon Miaoyu. “I have a question for you,” he tells her.

    “No refunds,” she says hurriedly.

    “What? No. I want you issue a summons to Gilgadar. If he refuses to meet me, then all oaths I’ve sworn to him are void.”

    Miaoyu gives him a cool look. “No offense, but I don’t think he’s going to care that much.”

    The party turns their attention back to the woman and they catch her shooting a similar cold glare. As soon as she notices the return of the rest of the party's attention, the woman pointedly ignores Miaoyu's presence. The few times she does glance at Miaoyu, she gets a haughty look on her face that plainly says: ‘you’re not supposed to be here’. Considering that the augur can see Fate and Miaoyu is essentially a blind spot in Fate’s field of vision, it’s not a surprising reaction.

    The augur tosses Seeker something and he snatches it out of the air—the amulet he’s been looking for. “Here is your trinket, dog.”

    “Why do you have this?” he asks.

    “I needed a way to bring you here,” she tells him matter of factly.

    “Then what do you want with me?” he presses, a bit of growl in his voice.

    “Not you, singular, the wolfman. You, plural, all of you. Especially that one.” She raises a finger to point at Olaf.

    “What am I to you?” Olaf asks.

    She blinks at him. “You are the King. You are the one who will lead my people unto their promised land.”

    “And what of my companions?” Olaf hisses. “Are they as nothing to you, mere roadbumps in your precious destiny?”

    The woman scoffs, waves offhandedly at Miaoyu. “That one I have less than no use for. The hanged man shall be your advisor, your guide through Drougant.” Flynn stiffens. “The dog will keep you on your feet despite yourself.” Seeker's hackles rise.

    “And what of Aelron?” Olaf asks, indignant.

    Aelron smiles sadly. “Don't be silly, Olaf, my role is what it has always been. I am your auxiliary brain, and your artillery.”

    The augur smiles thinly. “So wonderful when someone knows his place.” Aelron's knuckles whiten where they grip his staff, but his smile does not waver.

    The augur looks directly back at Aelron. “I advise you all to give up your current quest. The wolfmen are better off the way they are, and there are more temporal concerns at hand. The people of the dawn will come here across a river and you, king, will provide a fleet of ships to bring them to their promised land.”

    The phrase “people of the dawn” refers to the Huroc, a group of people considered heretics by Seeker's church. They believe that Laeros, the god of civilization, is a lie, a false front; that the leader of the Laerosian pantheon is, has always been, and ought to be acknowledged as, Kurush, the god of might and sunlight. This causes understandable friction between Laerosian priests, who value rule of law and civilization, and Kuru****es, who view strength as the only measure of worth.

    “And how many will burn as the sun passes by?” Seeker asks. The augur simply looks up at the stars, the blood of the last god of the sun. Translated into regular common, that question is, 'how many will the Huroc kill as they migrate through these lands?' The answer would appear to be, 'everyone'.

    From her robes, the augur pulls out a sunstone in the shape of an egg and hands it to Olaf. “It should hatch presently,” she says, and then turns around and goes back the way she came, hand still trailing along the wall.

    As soon as she’s gone, the party gathers together to discuss the prophecy (or destiny, or whatever, we’re not debating semantics here). Olaf is surly at having been roped back into a preordained life. Miaoyu is distressed. Seeker is outraged at being pressganged into abandoning his own quest to help violent heretics. Flynn seems mildly irked, and Aelron is quiet, simply staring into the campfire, which can't be a good thing.

    After a long and ultimately fruitless discussion, the party decides to put their concerns about the prophecy aside for the moment: they have a live gryphon they need to worry about transporting, and they’re exhausted from fighting it and its friend. They carry about camp as usual.

    That night, Miaoyu has a dream of a nice, fireside chat with Gilgadar.

    “So here’s the thing,” he says, casual as always and with no pleasantries to be bothered with, “when you sunder someone’s fate sometimes it takes a while for everything to be cut off. But that’s not the point. The point is: she wasn’t happy to see you. See, you’re not supposed to be there, your brother’s supposed to be there. And then you were supposed to murder him and then that would cause a whole bunch of other stuff to happen—thing is if you just keep going on with the group, you’ll just end up taking your brother’s place and then you’ll be killed—probably by Nüwa, or maybe your brother, or maybe your mother—and then what point is there in you not being your brother? So what I need you to do is step it up a little. He’s already missed one destiny point – a chance meeting on the road – so good job, but keep working at it, okay?” Suddenly, Gilgadar flinches, looking at the fire and apparently hearing something. “Oh, crap, she’s here. Okay, I’ll talk to you later, bye!”

    The dream ends, and Miaoyu wakes up to the sounds of the rest of the camp stirring. Olaf is talking to Hhon-Harn in her native tongue, having requested a Translate spell from Seeker, asking her about her religious views. She worships the Beast Lords—Kurush, Farkas, and Ashur—and believes that civilization is weak, but couldn’t be called a Huroc; her beliefs aren’t extreme enough. Still, it gives Olaf a bit of insight into the ideals of someone who worships Kurush. Before the spell ends, he asks Hhon-Harn to direct him to the nearest boarfolk village and instructs her to ask for a cart. If the villagers deny them a cart, he instructs her to point out whoever needs to have their head bashed in to make a point.

    For the first time, Hhon-Harn smiles. “I like you,” she tells Olaf.

    She, Seeker, and Olaf travel together to the nearest town... which is entirely empty. It seems the boarfolk are too busy mating to mind their things, and Olaf makes off with a cart without seeing a living soul. It would have been the perfect crime, had Seeker not felt obliged to lay down a few coins in payment. Still, Hhon-Harn is pleased by her master’s skill at raiding and gives him a friendly slap on the back.

    Back at camp, the gryphon is secured to the cart and two very reluctant horses are harnessed to it. Once camp has been packed, the party starts heading toward one of the southernmost points in Drougant, to the house of Marshtide.

    The travel isn’t terribly eventful; there was a very exciting spotting of some centaurs (who the party avoids), and a sighting of Angry Hills (mercenaries employed by the rebels, also avoided), and Olaf casually mentions he’s going to become a priest of Laeros.

    He seems to be forming some sort of plan involving turning the prophecy on its head, but the specifics haven’t been fleshed out. Unfortunately, there are a number of reasons this is going to be a monumental task for him. Laeros does not hand out priesthood easily. One must be a member of the nobility, and while Olaf is the son of a king in Dhar lands, his title isn’t recognized in Drougant. Furthermore, he’s barely literate, and Laerosian priests are expected to be well-read and intimately familiar with religious texts. He also does not yet have the love of the people and on top of all that, he’s a Dhar, and while Dhar are probably not explicitly denied priesthood, being associated with a culture that has been raiding the country in question is probably not going to be a bonus.

    Olaf, of course, comes to the natural conclusion: he’s going to ask the Marshtides to adopt him as payment for the gryphon.

    One day, while traveling, the party notices a group of riders setting up a camp in a fairly secure location. While the others don’t think much of the camp, Miaoyu notices something the others don’t: there’s a wolfman among them.

    While wolfmen aren’t terribly uncommon to see with other travelers—look at their own party—Miaoyu does have a flashback to a group they ran into once that had a wolfman with them. A certain group that she and Olaf robbed and had the all their horses stolen in retaliation. A group Olaf might have sworn revenge on.

    “Oh look,” she says, “a very boring group of people who we should not bother at all and we should just keep going, okay?”

    Olaf narrows his eyes at her and stops to study the group’s campsite. Fortunately, he rolls only moderately well on his awareness check. “Yeah, they look like regular people. Why are you making a big deal out of it?”

    “I’m not! You are!” Miaoyu huffs at Olaf and sulks a little.

    “Well,” Flynn says, “I want to get a closer look at them, see if they’re rebels.”

    “Oh! Scuzzbucket, turn into a patch of grass and go up to the camp.”

    Soon enough, there is a strangely mobile bunch of grass crawling towards the encampment. Internally screaming, Miaoyu skulks off to do her own recon.

    While waiting for information from their scouts, the party busies themselves with pretending to change a cart wheel. Olaf concentrates on interpreting the feedback he gets from Scuzzbucket, which our DM describes as ‘having a seizure at a disco club’. Slimes only see the world in two, sometimes three, ‘colors’: food, not food, and self, and getting more information than that takes a bit of adjustment.

    Meanwhile, Scuzzbucket and Miaoyu arrive at separate locations to spy on the camp. And, yep, that’s Horvath tending to one of the horses, and Cat sharpening her blades, and over there is Pup, looking constipated with his sulking.

    Right about that time, Olaf manages to decipher what Scuzz is showing him and suddenly drops the side of the cart he’d been holding up, almost crushing Seeker in the process. He takes in a deep breath.

    “It’s time for a friendly chat,” he decides, and begins ambling towards the Maptapper camp.

    The rest of the party, not sure what’s going on, decides to follow after him, worried of impending doom. Miaoyu, already knowing what’s coming, braces herself for a potential fight.

    Eventually, Olaf and the rest of the party come into sight of the Maptappers and an archer and Pup break off to meet with them.

    “Just move on,” the archer advises them. “This isn’t an open camp.”

    Olaf ignores him. “Hey Pup, ever get any with Cat?” Pup growls at him, a low, threatening roll in the back of his throat, and Olaf continues blithely. “I’m here to speak with Horvath.”

    Horvath emerges from within the camp with a smirk on his face. “Oh, it’s you!” he says. “It’s been a while. You know, the weirdest thing happened when we last saw you: all of our pay went missing.”

    “Really?” says Olaf. “You know, someone stole our horses. You ever find out who took your pay?”

    “No, no. You ever find out who took your horses?”

    “Not at all. So... given that neither of us can figure out who robbed the other... we good?”

    Horvath’s smirk becomes more of a genuine smile and he says, “Yeah, we’re fine. Well, I’d offer you camp, but we’re on contract and we can’t have outsiders with us right now. Safe journeys.”

    “Hey,” Flynn calls out to them as the party begins to depart. “We saw the Angry Hills to the north about two nights ago. Watch out for them.”

    Horvath seems to be genuinely pleased to get the intel and thanks Flynn.

    The party regathers at the cart and they continue on for a little while longer before settling in for the night. Olaf stays up the entire time, looking for the slightest sign that someone might attempt to take their horses. The night passes without event. The next day, Olaf sleeps in the cart, and Keegan drives.

    On their travels, the party passes into the new year, 877. Those who don’t know their birth dates—specifically anyone who’s not Miaoyu, Aelron, and Olaf—celebrate surviving another year. Something vaguely resembling a cake is made in Aelron’s arcane convection oven and the party rings in the new year in the closest thing you can get to 'style' in the middle of a beastfolk-ridden forest.

    Before long, the party nears Isti once again. They make two stops outside the confines of the city, first with a royalist field commander, and second with the Youngbloods, nobles that Flynn has ties to by way of Callie, his contact. To each, the party sells some information regarding the rebels. To the field commander, they sell general troop movements and to Callie they sell the general political situation. After obtaining a modest sum of money, the party continues on to Isti.

    Olaf spends some time trying to find offers from other interested parties for the gryphon. While he still intends to sell the gryphon to the Marshtides, having proof that others would pay more may let his request to be adopted seem more reasonable. Unfortunately, he can’t find much on the legal side of things, and the underbelly of Isti has too many unsavory offers; just because he tried to ram the gryphon into a wall a few times doesn’t mean he wants it to live in a gladiator ring.

    Miaoyu decides to put her forgery skills to good use and ‘acquires’ a few quotes from some nobles that the Marshtides are unlikely to have heard of. She passes them onto Olaf just in case he needs them.

    En route to the Marshtide manor the party encounters a wrecked boat in the river. While no one is in immediate danger, the party spends the afternoon helping out. When they saddle up to leave, Aelron stays behind to continue helping. He catches up the next day.

    Finally, the party enters the swampy area of Drougant, where the Marshtides live. On their way into the manor, they notice a jawless skull: a symbol of Ashur. It appears a clan of Ashurites has taken up residence, which is definitely an area of concern given that Ashur is the god of predatory undead, slaughter, and violent death. The party makes note of it before finally reaching the manor.

    Flynn and Seeker go off to find an inn in the small village surrounding the manor and Aelron and Olaf knock on the manor door; Miaoyu waits at the cart with Hhon-Harn, leery of conveniently arriving gryphon thieves.

    As Aelron and Olaf approach the manor, they notice something odd: no one has hailed them. Usually, guards will ask the business of any who approach the gates of a manor, but none seem present. When they knock on the door of the manor, it’s answered by a little girl.

    “Hello,” Aelron says to her. “We’re looking to speak to the lord of the house.”

    She nods and gestures for them to follow, eventually coming to a well-dressed man.

    “Yes? What can I do for you?” the man asks.

    “Well,” Olaf says, “we saw your request for a gryphon and, uh, we got one for you.”

    Lord Marshtide raises a single brow. “Really? Well do show it to me, then.”

    They lead him back to the cart and Lord Marshtide looks suitably impressed. “It really does appear to be in exquisite condition. Very well, come with me. I’ll show you where its pen is.”

    Soon, Hhon-Harn and Olaf are carrying the gryphon into the pen and Aelron asks for more information about its living conditions. The lord shows him around and displays adequate knowledge on the care required for an animal like this; it’s clear either he did the research personally, or had someone do it for him.

    “If you don’t mind me asking,” Olaf huffs as he finally hauls the gryphon’s hind legs into the cage, “why did you want a gryphon?”

    “Oh, my daughter asked for one,” Lord Marshtide says with disinterest, as if this was as normal as asking for a puppy.

    “She’s not going to try to ride it, is she?” Miaoyu asks, eying its wicked-looking claws.

    “Oh heavens, no. It’s just for show. Now then, onto payment. I’ll return in a moment—”

    “About payment,” Olaf cuts in. “I have a request for you. I want to become a priest of Laeros, but I need a title. Back home, I’m the son of a king, but that doesn’t mean anything here. If I could, I’d like to be adopted. I wouldn’t require any inheritance, just a title.”

    Lord Marshtide gives it a moment’s thought and finally nods. “I do have a few titles I could dust off for you, and it’s the least I could do to reward someone who brought me a gryphon in such pristine condition.”

    Olaf eventually picks out the title of Sir Faraway (pronounced fara-way, not far-away; it’s an important distinction), and commences a brief knighting ceremony.

    “So, Lord Marshtide—”

    “Malcolm, please, my vassals always call me Malcolm.”

    “Right. Malcolm, we noticed that some Ashurites had set up a territory not far away. Do you want us to clear it out?”

    “Oh, goodness, I hadn’t heard that such cretins were fouling up my home. Yes, do please get rid of them. Thank you.”

    And so this chapter ends, filled with intentions for a bit of religious cleansing. Yay?

  15. - Top - End - #45
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Is this still happening?
    Prince Fraternal of Pudding, Snuzzlepal, Feezy Squeez Lover, MP, Member of The Most Noble And Ancient Order Of St. George, King of Gae Parabolae.

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    "Everyone's cute if you just look at them the right way"~Rebekah Patton Durham, Princess of Pudding.

    "If they have stats, we can kill them... I'd like to point out that we also have stats..." ~ PhoenixGuard09.

    Warhammer 40K: Where the faction that is a cross between the Inquisition and Space Nazis are the good guys.

  16. - Top - End - #46
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    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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

    We're still playing, and Dawnflame was having me recollect some details from past sessions a few days ago. I'll check in and see how the wordsmithing progresses
    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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  17. - Top - End - #47
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    It is still happening. A new chapter should be up in just a little bit, actually, and hopefully the next few will be not far behind.

  18. - Top - End - #48
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Spoiler: “Chapter 17: On Ashurite Cults, Sun Dragon Eggs, and Finger Painting”
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    Olaf, having received instruction to clear out the Ashurites, suggests that the party get right down to business. Aelron begs off briefly, wanting to ascertain for himself that the gryphon's habitat will be entirely safe and satisfactory for both the gryphon and its keepers. He ducks out briefly, promising to catch up as soon as he can.

    The rest lay out their attack plans for the Ashurite cult's compound. “I will ask them to recant,” Seeker asserts, “and if they don’t, then we kill them. Ashur is a god of disease; I am bound to put an end to his influence.”

    “I'll take point,” Miaoyu volunteers. “We could do with a bit of recon.”

    Flynn chuckles. “Sounds like a fantastic idea. I'll shadow you and be ready to provide cover if they spook.”

    Miaoyu glares at him. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, Flynn.”

    With the closest thing they ever have to a plan in place, the group heads back up the road to where they saw the Ashurite cult's totems. Seeker leaves his robes behind; although they are enchanted to never stain, if blood that Seeker has shed himself touches them, it will leave a mark. Olaf, Seeker, Hhon-Harn and Keegan hang back with the horses, none of which want to advance into this particular section of swamp. Miaoyu cautiously picks her way forward, Flynn a few paces behind her and keeping to high ground wherever he can.

    Eventually a small palisade-walled structure comes into view tucked between a few short hillocks, mostly hidden from outside view by trees. Flynn climbs one of the trees for a better angle as Miaoyu advances. The logs making up the palisade are sharpened to blackened spikes at the top, and some of them have had once-living bits mounted on them: preserved heads, mostly-rotted skulls, and hands, among other things. The smell is nearly enough to knock Miaoyu off her feet in a swamp; it's doing wonders for the resale value.

    The palisade is a rough square with a single entry gate on the near side, currently shut and probably barred. There are two archers visible in the towers, which suggests that the cultists, while brazen, are not stupid, and are watching for intruders. Miaoyu guesses that the wall encloses enough space to hold ten to sixteen people, depending on how good they are at wedging in bunk space.

    Satisfied with her work, she begins retreating the way she came and, after collecting Flynn, joins the main group and tells them what she saw.

    Olaf looks to Flynn. “I was thinking we storm the gate.”

    Flynn raises an eyebrow at him. “As opposed to what, tunneling?”

    Olaf sighs. “I dunno, ladders? There are only sixteen of 'em in there, if we can hold the gate, we should be able to take them down a few at a time. About how wide was the gate, Miaoyu?”

    She shrugs. “Call it ten feet? Fifteen at the outside.”

    Olaf gestures at himself and Hhon-Harn, speaking mostly to Flynn. “So, the two of us hold the gate with you and Seeker and Miaoyu behind us, and Aelron whenever he deigns to grace us with his presence. Sounds solid to me.”

    “Actually,” Miaoyu says thoughtfully, “That camp was a pretty dark space. I think I can get in behind them and wreak a little havoc in their backfield, keep them from bringing their full strength to bear on the gate.”

    “Sounds great, if it's not too risky,” Seeker says. “I won't be able to heal you if you get in trouble.”

    Miaoyu pulls a healing potion out of a seemingly ordinary fold in the fabric of her coat. “I'll be fine,” she says, waving it briefly before disappearing it into her garments again. No one is quite sure what pocket it's in, or if it's even IN a pocket.

    Olaf instructs Hhon-Harn (who by now has learned the basics of Common) to stay at his side during the battle (for mechanical reasons; fighters gain a bonus to AC when standing next to each other). He takes a couple of practice swings with his new sword and shield—adopted as the weapons of his new liege lord—attempting to ascertain his reach and optimum swinging power. As the group approaches the front gates of the complex, Olaf sets Scuzzbucket on Miaoyu's shoulder so she can signal the group via the familiar bond when she’s in position.

    Miaoyu slinks to the far side of the base easily enough and takes up residence between the two rear watch towers, now occupied by archers as well. Kneeling behind the wall of the tower, she racks a bolt in her crossbow and taps Scuzzbucket twice.

    Outside the compound, Olaf nods to Hhon-Harn, who sets her shoulders, marches forward, and with a bellowing grunt, attempts to batter down the gate. She doesn’t have much success; the gate is closed with a crossbar and refuses to budge. She has, however, gotten the Ashurites’ attention.

    “Who goes there?” a wheezing, croaky voice calls from within the complex.

    “I am a Purifier of Larlon!” Seeker calls back. “Recant now and be spared!”

    The voice from inside croaks a wicked laugh. “A Purifier, eh? Let him in, boys!”

    The bar on the gate draws back and the gate itself flings wide in one smooth motion. Say this for the Ashurites, they've got some style. Four men in what appears to be leather armor stand in the open gate with terrible, blood-stained grins plastered across their faces and weapons in their hands. The archers in the forward towers are nocking arrows and drawing. At the courtyard's center, a large lizard of some sort hisses impatiently as it catches the scent of fresh prey. Flanking the lizard are a pair of men who appear to be priests of Ashur—one young and robust with a large, wickedly spiked blood-caked mace, the other aged and desiccated-looking with what appears to be a ritual dagger clutched in his nigh-skeletal hands—cackle with delight.

    “I've got your recantment right here,” the younger priest calls, hefting his mace like a bat.

    Not waiting for any further invitation to battle, Olaf cries out “For Laeros!” and charges in with Hhon-Harn, swinging his sword into the head of the nearest Ashurite. Flynn takes a stand behind Olaf, levels his finger at one of the cultists and puts an eldritch bolt between its ribs.

    From her hiding spot in the brush, Miaoyu joins in the battle and takes a shot at one of the enemy archers in the rear towers. She misses. Her shot goes SO far wide, in fact, that none of the cultists have any idea she’s there. She takes a moment to wallow in shame and misery. (To put this into full context, Miaoyu rolled 2d20 to hit her target from stealth and would take the better of the two rolls. She rolled natural ones on both of them.)

    Ashur's priests, meanwhile, have started some sort of chant; their lizard scrambles forward and lunges at Olaf, opening wide to reveal a maw of sharp, shredding teeth and yet ANOTHER disgusting scent to add to this lovely swamp potpourri. Olaf manages to get his shield up in time, if only barely, and the lizard bites down on its rim, hissing in fury, its forked tongue lashing around the shield's rim. The four Ashurites as the gate crowd in on Olaf and Hhon-Harn, and the priests, finished with their chant, move forward to join them.

    Seeker feels a spell, the result of the priests' chant, settling over all the cultists. He has a very, VERY bad feeling about this.

    Seeing ALL the cultists converging on them, Olaf and Hhon-Harn take a step back and Olaf drinks from his bull horns, unleashing a 30-foot cone of fire. The front-line cultists immediately fall, blackened and sizzling, and Olaf shouts triumphantly. The elder priest, however, simply laughs scornfully, unfazed by the wash of fire. The younger priest and the lizard escape the fire entirely, having moved to one side to get around the crowd at the gate.

    Once she has subdued her shame, Miaoyu takes another shot and lands a hit this time. The tower archers whirl around, abandoning their shots on Olaf and Flynn to find this new threat. Seeing only darkness, one of the rear archers (the one WITHOUT arrows in their shoulders) shrugs and returns to his attacks on Flynn. The other, spooked, drops prone and abandons his companions below. The other archer quickly comes to regret his choice of ignoring his companion’s distress—he finds an arrow in his back as well. He decides his buddy has a good idea, and drops to the floor of the tower as well.

    Olaf's triumph is short-lived: one of the burnt corpses clambers back to its feet, wheezes, and swipes suddenly clawed hands at Hhon-Harn.

    “Of course we had to attack right after dinner,” Olaf grumbles. Ashur is an undoubtedly evil god; he espouses cannibalism, extends his protection and blessings to predatory undead, and encourages wanton slaughter. Why does he espouse cannibalism, you ask? Why, because if you die with the flesh of a fellow sentient in your stomach, there's a chance you'll become a ghoul after you die! Ordinarily the transformation isn't quite so immediate or guaranteed, but considering that's an altar to Ashur over there and those priests just threw some unknown spell on all the cultists... it's actually totally believable.

    Rule 1: Nothing is ever simple.

    The older priest steps closer to the party and those in his presence are forced to make a fort save versus poison. Seeker and Hhon-Harn fail it. Hhon-Harn is reduced to -3 hit points and retreats. Hhon-Harn, as a boarfolk, is in no immediate danger of bleeding out: she has the trait Too Dumb to Die, so she auto-stabilizes when reduced to negative hit points (though she still dies at negative ten). Fortunately, Flynn steps forward to take Hhon-Harn’s place next to Olaf and they both begin working on cutting down the priests and their ghouls. The two of them start off with solid hits on the elder priest, who dies in the middle of a wheezing laugh and crumples atop the already-twitching corpses of his comrades.

    Miaoyu gets tired of this sniping business and shadowwalks to one of the rear towers, where the archer she hit last round is cowering. He has enough time to let out a terrified shriek before Miaoyu puts a bolt through his eye socket.

    His friend in the other rear tower catches a glimpse of her and starts shouting, alerting all the cultists and particularly the other remaining archer—the one in the other front tower—to her presence. The two front archers leap from their towers and sprint toward Miaoyu's rear tower, attempting to catch her and end her rampage. Unfortunately for them, Miaoyu isn't out of temporary hit points yet; she shadowwalks over to the newly abandoned front tower at the far end of the compound and puts a bolt between the shoulder blades of the archer who was, a mere moment ago, charging straight at her. She manages a quick snap shot at the last remaining archer, but only tags his upper arm. He drops his weapons and continues running, squeezing through a gap in the rear wall, and Miaoyu decides not to give chase. Only one archer remains, but he had been looking rather pale last she saw of him, so Miaoyu decides to let well enough alone and turns her attention to the battle at the gate.

    Meanwhile, Seeker casts Suggestion on the lizard, points at the corpse of the elder priest and says, “Doesn’t that look tasty?” One failed will save later, the lizard has clambered on top of his body and quite literally ripped his face off. Olaf and Flynn finish off the last of the ghouls that have risen up and begin to focus on the younger of the two. Right about then, Aelron comes jogging up the complex (or, more accurately, his player arrived just in time to help wrap up the battle) and squeezes past Olaf for a better vantage point. He takes a look at the lizard and calls out: “Oh, lovely. An Ashur Lizard. Their mouths are festering pits of disease. Don't get bit.”

    By that time, the lizard has finished snacking on the former priest and Seeker's Suggestion has worn off. The creature decides that Flynn would make an excellent dessert, especially since he isn't wielding a shield.

    Fortunately, the party is on top of things: Aelron casts burning hands at the same time that Miaoyu takes a shot from the tower. Seeker, of all people, finishes off the lizard with a magic missile. At the same moment, Olaf decapitates the last remaining priest, and the complex seems to be cleared of threats.

    Miaoyu takes advantage of her perch and scans the complex for signs of anything the party might have missed and notices something odd around the central area where the shrine to Ashur is located. After a moment, she realizes that it’s a concealed pit trap and alerts the rest of the party.

    Olaf tosses a corpse onto the trap cover and the ground crumbles inward, revealing a pit of spikes and waist-deep mud populated by ghouls that rush forward to eat the body. Aelron hands Miaoyu a couple of incendiaries. “Those should handle the ghouls,” he says, shuddering, “WITHOUT requiring us to go wading in the spike pit.” Miaoyu has Olaf drag over a couple more cultist bodies, pops the grenades in their mouths, triggers them, and hucks the bodies into the pits. The ghouls rush to the corpses to feed, and the spellforms explode. End of ghouls, end of rotting cultist corpses. Efficiency.

    Miaoyu then heads out to find Hhon-Harn. The boarfolk girl hasn’t gone far, only to the road, where she’s calmed down and Keegan has given her some bandages. Miaoyu informs them both of the party’s victory, passes Hhon-Harn a healing pill, and heads back to the complex.

    Olaf takes inventory of the items the Ashurites had on them and offers a chain shirt to Hhon-Harn. Flynn, meanwhile, looks around the complex until he find an unconscious archer, the one that Miaoyu shot. He’s quickly bound up and his wounds are tended to and while the party waits for him to wake, Seeker desanctifies the altar and the rest of the party sets the towers on fire. Olaf takes Young and Robust’s head, just in case there was a pre-existing bounty on him.

    Eventually, the archer wakes up and, taking in the apparent death of his comrades and his obvious capture, looks a little less than pleased.

    “Will you recant?” Seeker asks patiently.

    “Well, it seems like a good idea right now, doesn’t it?” the archer snaps back.

    Seeker asks him to take the Oath of Turmlar to ensure he isn’t lying and to solemnly swear to renounce his worship of Ashur and to seek redemption. The archer does so without hesitation, even as he glowers at the party. It’s important to note here that the Oath isn’t infallible. While he is definitely being honest in renouncing Ashur and seeking redemption, word choice can be important—like all spells, it is unintelligent and does not understand nuances. His definition of redemption may be different than Seeker’s, and renouncing Ashur doesn’t guarantee he will worship a more socially acceptable god. Additionally, there is nothing to stop him from going back on his word later, although doing so would earn him the disfavor of Turmlar, and might get a Turmlarite sicced on him.

    The party returns to Malcolm with their prisoner and a lovely decapitated head. “Just... bury the head in the rose garden, would you? As for the prisoner... I’ll leave his fate up to you.”

    With that, the party voted for the prisoner’s fate. Miaoyu chose to abstain, Seeker voted to spare him, and Aelron and Flynn chose to execute him as justice for those he’d killed.

    “If I had known it would come to this,” Olaf tells the prisoner, “I would have killed you before you woke up.”

    He gets an eyeroll in response; when Seeker offers to perform his last rites, he gets a glower that seems to say ‘no’ in the most impolite way a glower can.

    Not long later, his head is buried in the rosebushes. The other head is fed to Scuzzbucket, who actually takes on the head’s appearance while eating it. It’s horrifying.

    That evening, the party discusses its next course of action. Everyone is universally interested in the Huroc presence in Drougant, though each for their own reasons, and it’s agreed that the party needs more information. Since the Huroc will apparently be entering Drougant from the east, the party makes plans to head in that direction, stopping at Orshariton, then Hangtree, and then onto Brand for various supplies and spell components before moving on to reconnaissance.

    The party sets out the next morning for Orshariton, and the conversation mostly consists of Olaf asking Flynn questions about Drouganti politics. It ranges from mind-numbingly boring, to deeply amusing, but by the time the party arrives at Orshariton, Olaf has a decent grasp of how Drougant functions as a political entity (not very well, but better than some).

    The party is welcomed into the Dwarven hold of Orshariton, offered beds to sleep in and food to eat. Miaoyu is looking forward to enjoying dwarven food this time around—until she realizes that all the meat is goat and temporarily becomes vegetarian. (“Don’t eat that!” she tells Lajiao when she tries to eat roast goat. “I won’t have you be a cannibal. Here, have this table cloth.”)

    Before they set out, they go about choosing their quarterly goat and decide that it’s Olaf’s turn to pick one out. He eagerly asks about heraldic goats and is presented with a goat with a beautiful baritone voice. Unfortunately, as impressive as it is, the party finds they cannot justify having one, and settle for a watch goat instead. This one is normal sized, not tiny like Lajiao, and has normal sized horns. It also doesn’t seem to blink—at least, not when anyone’s looking.

    At Hangtree, the party decides to stay for just a couple of nights: they don’t want to wait too long to start investigating the Huroc threat. Olaf grabs some cheap paints from Wallace the alchemist and sits down to paint his shield with his new coat of arms: the symbol for the Knight of Faraway (a curved green arrow on a white field), the symbol for Hollowchest (a red heart on a white field with a black hole in the heart), a steaming pie on an argent field, and a black field.

    Aelron finds him sitting on the clubhouse floor with cheap paints all around him and sighs. “That paint won’t last, you know,” he says.

    “Wallace said these were water resistant!” Olaf protests, gesturing at the paints around him.

    Aelron nods. “They are. I've worked with those. There are two problems. The paint is oil-soluble, which means any time it contacts your skin or an opponent's, it'll smear. And the water-resistant trait means that when it's not properly oiled and cared for, it dries out horribly and chips and looks awful. What you want for a wooden shield like that is some nice stains; those just color the wood and can't be gotten out with much short of bleach.”

    Crestfallen, Olaf looks down at his shield. “I don't think Wallace has any of those.”

    Aelron smiles. “I've got some. Let me get them and show you how to work with 'em.”

    In a matter of minutes, Aelron has retrieved his wood resins and stains, laid out a new, more intricate pattern for each of Olaf's insignia, and begun staining the detailed imagery while Olaf works on the background colors. He throws in a bit of magic as well, both protecting against weather damage and animating the images so that occasionally the hollow-chest heart beats, the wafting steam above the pie shimmers tantalizingly, and the Faraway arrow flashes brighter.

    On their first full day in town, Flynn is approached by Baroness Hangtree. “The garden out back,” she says. “A localized cluster of plants is dying.”

    “Oh. Right,” Flynn says. “Olaf buried some antimagic out there. I’ll get him to take care of it.”

    Soon, Olaf is digging up his stacked jars and pulling out the tiniest one with tongs. Then he tries to tie the jar to the tongs before Miaoyu, who has been enjoying his efforts, throws up her hands and says, “Oh, I’ll take it!”

    “But your magic!” Olaf protests, but Miaoyu’s already snatched up the jar without a care. After a bit of deliberation on where to take it, Olaf and Miaoyu go on a day’s journey to Dead Man’s Cove, where the party slaughtered a good many Dhar raiders so many months ago.

    Seeker, meanwhile, has retrieved the Sunstone egg that the party received from the Kurushian augur and cast Identify on it. He learns that its function is ‘to hatch’, its name is Promise of Dawn, and that it is not cursed. He casts Phoraduk’s Orison, which tells the user if its target is dead, alive, or undead. It comes back as ‘alive’. He then begins casting Detect over and over again, each time with a different query. He learns that it is, in fact, a dragon egg. Since he knows that there are two categories of dragon, water and earth, he casts detect for eggs of water and dragon eggs. Both come back negative, to his puzzlement. Detect Kurushian Relic comes back positive and then, on a whim, he casts Detect Sun Dragon Egg. It comes back positive. He casts Detect Destiny and it, along with everything else in Seeker’s line of vision, comes back positive. Olaf and Miaoyu would presumably be negative, but they’re still out of town with the anti-magic trinket. Seeker throws around a few more Detects, but nothing comes back positive. (He does cast Detect McGuffin, but, alas, he gets only a spell failure. We all know the truth, though.)

    Olaf and Miaoyu return the next day from the Cove, and Olaf draws a treasure map to the antimagic stone, stashing it in his pack. “It’ll be a great joke if someone kills me and decides to follow it,” he reasons.

    As the two pass Seeker’s clinic, Miaoyu and Olaf overhear Seeker and Aelron talking about the egg. Olaf nudges Miaoyu. “Can I ask you something? I might not be too happy with you and your god right now, but I take it you still want to stop this prophecy?” At Miaoyu’s nod, he continues. “So do I. So can I ask you to not do anything with this egg? I think I can turn this prophecy on its head.”

    Miaoyu gives him one of her smiles that don’t reveal a thing. “I’ll think about it,” she says.


    Sorry for the long delay between updates! A combination of real life and procrastination has been slowing down your dear writers, but we'll do our best to get everything caught up soon!
    Last edited by AverageSparrow; 2014-03-13 at 09:04 PM.

  19. - Top - End - #49
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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

    Now that everything's back up, just want to say we're still running and major things (MAJOR) are developing.

    Stay tuned.
    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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  20. - Top - End - #50
    Pixie in the Playground
     
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    Post Chapter 18: Camp Trollstank

    Spoiler: Chapter 18: Camp Trollstank
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    Tam instituted a few minor changes to the system’s rules at the start of this session. Reloading times for crossbows have increased: it now takes a half action to reload a light crossbow (previously a free action) and a full action to reload a heavy crossbow (previously a half action), but to balance this out, both get a significant boost in damage. Additionally, when ranged combatants are attacked by someone wielding a melee weapon, the attacker now gets an advantage. Miaoyu, liking her shoot-and-run tactics, switches out her crossbow for a regular bow (although she swaps out its string for the unicorn hair bowstring she was using with the crossbow), and Flynn lends her his rapier, as he has little use for it.

    As the party prepares to move onto Brand, Miaoyu gathers them up at the clubhouse table. “We should talk about what we want to do with this egg. We shouldn’t just do nothing.”

    “I assume you have a suggestion?” Olaf asks.

    “We could use the anti-magic shard. Either smash the egg open with the shard or bury them together.”

    Olaf nods thoughtfully. “Well, let’s go back to the cove—”

    “Actually,” Miaoyu says, reaching into her pocket. “I have it here.” She holds the shard out to Olaf. He glares at her and snatches it out of her palm.

    “You brought it back with you? Well then what did we leave at the cave?”

    “An empty jar.”

    “And here I trusted you,” he snaps.

    Miaoyu shrugs and turns back to the rest of the group. “Alternatively, we could put it on another plane. Maybe give it to the Mother of Dragons?” She glances at Aelron.

    Aelron ponders it for a moment. “Just getting to her—whatever plane she's on—would be difficult. Even if we could manage it, I don’t know if she would take this. It already belongs to a different god.”

    They brainstorm for a while, trying to think of some other satisfactory resolution, but get nowhere.

    “I guess I should be upfront about this,” Miaoyu says. “If we don’t do anything now, that’s fine, but when that thing hatches, I’m sundering its fate. And this isn’t up for debate. It might kill me, but I’m doing it.”

    “You’re willing to die for this?” Flynn asks. “Why?”

    Miaoyu rolls her eyes. “It’s almost like I worship the god of defying fate.”

    Flynn raises an eyebrow. “Yeah, but this seems a little extreme, even for you.”

    Miaoyu just shrugs.

    Aelron muses quietly: “You know, I have to wonder what would happen if you tried to sunder the fate of something quite that tightly wrapped in prophecy.”

    “Does it matter?” Miaoyu asks.

    “Well, it could. Imagine for a moment wrapping this egg,” he holds up the sunstone egg, a glittering gem nearly the size of his own head, “in layer after layer after layer of silk. Wrap it tightly so there's no slack in the fabric and it can't escape. Tie it with several sheets and suspend it in the air. Now, cut all the fabric at once. What happens?”

    “It... falls?” Olaf guesses.

    “Silk everywhere,” Flynn supplies. “Snarled and wound and probably knotted.”

    Aelron nods. “The egg will be dropped immediately out of fate's web, but what happens to that web which was bound so tightly about it? All that potential energy has to go somewhere. I'm guessing there would be quite a bit of backlash, though I have no idea what form it would take.”

    “I’m doing it,” Miaoyu repeats.

    “Warn us first, please,” Aelron says quietly.

    The party soon drifts off after that, finishing their packing. Aelron takes possession of the egg, and Olaf wraps his red arm in bandages, binding the anti-magic metal to his arm. The next morning sees them back on the road, headed to Brand.

    That first evening, while on watch, Seeker notices a strange scent on the air: something searing and acidic. He sniffs carefully, trying to sort it out. It takes a moment, but finally he discerns two scents: one the sickly sweet of rotting flesh, the other the pungent bite of sulfuric vapor. He peers around, wracking his brains; this isn't like anything HE's ever smelled before. He moves back to the center of camp and nudges Olaf awake.

    Olaf lunges upright with a mumbled “Who 'zer?” and a feeble swing of a dagger.

    Seeker puts a finger to his lips. “Smell that?” he asks.

    Olaf looks up at Seeker, tests the wind with his nose, and stands. “That is awful. What IS that?”

    As if in answer, two hulking creatures lumber into the dim firelight. They're each between seven and eight feet tall, and appear to be large, bloated corpses. It looks—and smells—like someone killed a frost troll, and then animated its corpse, and then had that corpse run around decaying and putrefying in the noonday sun. Pustules, gaping holes in flesh... it's not pretty. And it reeks clear to the dome of the sky.

    Seeker lets out a howl that startles the rest of the party awake. Everyone scrambles for their weapons and springs into battle. Aelron and Hhon-Harn peel off to fight one monster, while Olaf, Miaoyu, and Flynn focus on the other. Seeker, as always, stands in the center and lays down a Circle of Protection. Keegan scrambles away from the combat zone and hides near the horses.

    “They’re some kind of undead,” Aelron calls over his shoulder as he whirls his staff to keep it between himself and the... shambling thing. “Not ghouls. Rot trolls, I think. Servants of Ashur.”

    It turns out that killing a god’s followers and desecrating his altar makes a god cranky. Who knew?

    Miaoyu opens the fight with a crit on one of the trolls and the others pepper the trolls with damage. One of the trolls sucks in a huge breath and lets it out as a noxious gas. Everyone has to roll a fortitude save—only Flynn and Aelron succeed, and how does the damn mage with a +0 toughness keep making these rolls, anyway?—and those who fail lose a half action until they either make the save or move out of the gas.

    Aelron and Seeker both immediately cast Friendly Wind. Aelron keeps his blowing in his troll’s face to keep it from using its breath weapon again and Seeker simply clears out a patch of untainted air for the rest of the group to stand in.

    Unfortunately, around this time the party realizes that the trolls are regenerating. None too surprising: trolls traditionally can only be damaged by fire or acid. Aelron takes this as his cue to break out Burning Hands, but the other part of the group has to settle on just holding out until he’s no longer preoccupied; Olaf's Combusti-Bull horns have been rendered useless by the anti-magic shard he carries, and Seeker doesn't have any fire spells prepared.

    Aelron follows up his Burning Hands spell by punching the troll before him. The troll glances down, confused, only to find Aelron smiling beatifically as he withdraws his hand from the pus-oozing wound he forced it into, leaving behind a spell-grenade half-embedded in the creature's flesh. Aelron himself has fire resistance and so suffers no harm when the spell detonates savagely, but Hhon-Harn wasn't prepared. She gets more than a little singed, but bears through it stoically. She takes a brave swing at the troll and lands a crit—only to roll a natural one on damage. It was a valiant effort, though.

    It’s around this time that a troll lands a crit on Olaf for 20 damage. This is also the moment that Miaoyu and Seeker both become dedicated healers; because Olaf is holding the antimagic shard, their healing is reduced by 10 points or 50%—whichever is more, so it requires both of them just to keep him barely in the positives.

    Keegan starts panicking; between the suddenness of the attack, the noxious fumes, the gouts of flame strobe-lighting the night, and Olaf's grunts of pain, he can't take it anymore. He grabs his horse, Booky, and takes off.

    The battle continues on for a while longer. Aelron grimly barbeques his troll while Flynn and Olaf chip away at theirs, Seeker and Miaoyu play medics, and Friendly Winds gust around and change direction every so often. Eventually, Aelron’s troll collapses into an ashen heap and ceases trying to regenerate.

    The other troll goes down... but doesn’t quite die. Its pieces keep skittering back together, and it’s at this point that we learn that all of the trolls' hit points need to be depleted by fire damage in order to kill them. Aelron grabs a torch and begins beating the mostly-subdued troll pieces into embers while Olaf, still venting excess wrath, continues hacking them apart whenever they try to reassemble into something dangerous. Olaf eventually has the idea of stabbing the still-wriggling pieces with the anti-magic shard, which does in fact kill some of them. Between the two of them, the troll remains are in for a rough night.

    Trusting that the situation is under control, Flynn and Miaoyu leave to find Keegan. He hasn’t gone far, but he’s flushed with embarrassment for running.

    “It’s okay to be afraid,” Flynn tells Keegan. “Fear is just your body's way of telling you that it thinks something is a horrible idea.”

    “Running isn’t bad,” Miaoyu adds. “Sometimes it’s the best you can do.”

    It’s around this time that it’s agreed that Hhon-Harn should get a share of experience so she can continue being useful to the group. To commemorate this, Olaf collects himself, pats her on the shoulder, and says “Good job, friend.”

    Once Keegan, Flynn, and Miaoyu return, camp is moved. It’s during this move that Olaf realizes that an old totem that Aelron gave him broke. The small chunk of enchanted marble gave Olaf an extra two hit points, which had been recorded on his character sheet; its effect should have been lost when he took up the anti-magic shard. He forgot about it, though, and thus, when the error was discovered, it was deemed that the amulet shattered under a hit from the troll, its magic intervening just enough to save Olaf's life as it crumbled.

    Unfortunately, even after the party has moved camp, the smell of the trolls does not diminish. Instead, the party gets to enjoy the lingering, sickly-sweet reek of putrefying flesh. No amount of scrubbing, Prestidigitating or clothes-changing can remove or even mask it. The stink is thoroughly embedded in the party's collective hides, and refuses to come out.

    Seeker takes a moment to cast Diagnose on each party member, and finds that Flynn and Olaf have been infected with a disease that will necrotize their flesh. Seeker heals Flynn immediately, but Olaf refuses to let him attempt it.

    Seeker's disease removal tool, for those who may not remember, is a divine spell granted to him by Larlon. In order to use it, Seeker has to sacrifice 3d6 reserve hit points. After the battle, which drained him, and after curing Flynn, Seeker is nearly in danger of dying from another casting. Olaf, still under the effects of the anti-magic, will be resistant to even friendly spells cast upon him; risking Seeker's life when they aren't even sure the spell will work, with Olaf in no immediate danger (Olaf's definition of danger, anway), strikes Olaf as a terrible idea.

    “If you try to heal me,” Olaf asserts vehemently, “I will stab you. I’m dead serious! I don’t want you to waste your magic until I know it can affect me. If any of my arms DO necrotize and fall off in the night, Aelron can regrow them for me.”

    Aelron, also drained from the fight, looks up with a vaguely bemused expression, but says nothing. Reluctantly, Seeker backs off and agrees to wait until morning. Olaf passes his anti-magic to Hhon-Harn for safe keeping.

    Flynn has seemed a little more sullen than usual since the battle finished, and he insists on taking the rest of night’s watch himself. The smell from the trolls seems to have stirred up bad memories; he knows he won’t get any sleep.

    In the morning, Olaf finds himself once again receptive to magic, and Seeker heals him before Olaf takes the anti-magic back.

    Soon, the party is out on the road once again. Travel is rather uneventful until two days later when they see, in the distance, a towering column of black smoke. Fearing that a town has been attacked by raiders, the party hurries towards it. Sure enough, the source of the smoke turns out to be the still-burning husk of a small village. The ground is littered with corpses and splattered with blood, but other than hoofprints there are no immediate signs of the aggressors. The party splits up; Aelron puts out as many fires as possible, Olaf looks for more information about the raiders, Flynn and Seeker look for survivors, and Miaoyu makes a general sweep of the area. Before long, the party regroups, and Olaf breaks down what he thinks happened:

    “My clan usually leaves townspeople alive when we go raiding,” he explains, “but if this clan was more violent or if the villagers fought back, it could explain why they killed everyone off. It looks like the raiders lost a couple of people, and once they finished pillaging, they took off, headed south. If we start going now, we might be able to catch up with them.”

    “Do you want me to scout ahead?” Miaoyu asks, but Olaf shakes his head.

    “If we wait for that, we might lose them. Let’s head out now.”

    So head out our heroes do. A couple of hours' hard riding later, they come to a tall bluff overlooking the sea. A tiny footpath snakes down the face of the bluff to a beautiful, secluded sandy beach. And wouldn’t you know it, dragged up into that sand sits a big longship with a swarm of Dhar (a pillage of Dhar? Remind me to ask Olaf about that...) gathered around it, moving goods from a pile on the beach into the ship with the quick and easy efficiency of long experience.

    Olaf decides now is the time for decisive action. Before anyone can object, he is rolling Athletics checks to, in three quick leaps from rock outcropping to rock outcropping, descend the cliff in a single round and stand before the other Dhar on the beach. It’s only when the raiders turn and draw their swords with easy confidence that he realizes he's made a big mistake.

    See, Tam has two types of counters for enemies: smooth, round red tokens, which he usually uses to denote level 0 enemies, and jagged, angular red tokens usually used on special opponents, people level 1 and over. In this group of Dhar, there were two jagged tokens and the rest were smooth, so Olaf’s player assumed all the round tokens were level 0 and that he would have free actions against them. Had that been true, he would easily have been able to cut a swathe through them while the rest of the party supported him from above.

    He was wrong.

    These raiders are, in fact, all at least level one. All twenty-plus of them. And they swing smoothly into action, six of them shoving their weight against the longship to begin inching it out into the surf while the rest crowd around Olaf. One of them manages to introduce Olaf to his lovely, well-crafted sword in the first round. Olaf decides he might have misjudged his enemy and scrambles up the cliff to put some distance between himself and his enemies. By that time, the raiders have noticed the rest of the party at the top of the cliff. One, standing on the foredeck of the ship, casts a spell at the rest of the party. The air around them turns chill; moisture in the air condenses into shards of ice that whirl, jagged-edged, all around them; and the ground underfoot grows slick with ice. (“Hey!” says Aelron's player. “That's MY spell!”) It is indeed Winterfall, which means that this caster can natively hit second-level spells.

    Oh dear.

    The party scrambles away to a slightly warmer patch of air and start showering the raiders with arrows, spells, and the occasional insult. Seeker works to intercept the raider mage’s spells, but that only mitigates some of the attacks raining down on the party. Hhon-Harn takes a couple heavy hits from various ranged weapons and decides she’d rather go for a nice jog in a not-here direction. The raiders have taken to hurrying into the ship, abandoning their horses and cargo. Aelron charges Flynn’s arrow with an explosive, but Flynn overshoots and it goes off harmlessly to the side of the ship. Seeing that the raiders will be leaving soon, Flynn grabs an arrow from Miaoyu’s quiver and marks it, showing it to Miaoyu before he shoots it into the mast of the ship—just in case they want to find it later.

    By this time most of the Dhar, having no immediate targets on the beach, have scrambled back aboard their ship. The last one left—a muscled young woman with blond pigtails protruding from under her skullcap and a wicked grin plastered across her face to match the wickedly sharp hand axes she carries—leaps onto the ship's retreating prow and, holding on one-handed, swings round to hurl one of the axes at Olaf, clipping him on the shoulder. She laughs and waves her remaining handaxe at him.

    “You can keep that one!” she calls.

    “I’ll return it to you someday,” Olaf shouts, waving a bronze dagger back at her.

    She laughs again, but doesn't get to say much else; an eldritch bolt strikes her in the chest, sending her tumbling backward onto the longship's deck. Whether she survived the hit is not for the party to know; the ship pulls away rather swiftly, and even with the height advantage of those on the bluff, no one can see her rise before they are well out of range.

    The party sets about looking through the raided goods, but doesn’t find much worth salvaging. They gather up the horses—a total of twenty-four in addition to their own small herd—and return to the village. They dig a mass grave and Seeker performs a funeral rite, and they press on.

    That evening, Olaf sees a number of soldiers approaching, looking to be on routine patrol. He stands and greets their commanding officer.

    “Be careful,” the officer warns. “There’s word of a group of raiders around here. We’ve been sent to check it out.” The officer’s eyes flick suspiciously towards their obnoxious herd of horses, and Olaf hurries to put his worries at ease.

    “We ran into them, actually. They raided a village west of here. Killed them all. Two hundred villagers. We followed them to their boat to deliver them justice, but they got away. We took their horses. I hate to sound crass but... is there any way we could collect a reward?”

    The officer hums thoughtfully for a moment. “Tell you what: I’ll write out something for you. Bring those horses to the guard captain in Brandt, and if our investigation bears out your story, she’ll compensate you. Can’t make any promises, though; those horses are evidence.”

    It’s more than what Olaf was hoping for, so he agrees and the captain pulls out a sheaf of paper to write something down in the dim firelight. He passes it to Olaf. “Anything else?” he asks.

    Olaf considers waking Miaoyu to see if she can get anything from the arrow Flynn fired, but decides against it. Worshiping Gilgadar is perfectly legal, and her divine magic could probably be reasonably passed off as arcane besides, but he decides he’d rather not take any chances.

    “No,” he says. “I just hope you catch those bastards.”

    The party continues on to Brandt for the next few days... and the rotting smell just won’t fade. The party tries a few magic tricks, bathing in streams, rolling around in dirt, but nothing works. At one point, Olaf strips down and scrubs himself with Scuzzbucket, even letting it eat his hair. Surprisingly, it’s a success. His skin is left rather raw and pink, but he doesn’t smell like death anymore. When he unwraps his arm, though, he finds something of a surprise: a hole has formed where the hid the antimagic, and the flesh surrounding it has turned ashen.

    After a bit of a shock, Olaf takes it in stride. “Just one more day,” he reminds himself, and scrubs his arm with Scuzzbucket before rewrapping it with the antimagic back in place.

    The next day, the party arrives in Brandt. Olaf immediately sets about looking for someone to take their excess horses and gets well-acquainted with bureaucracy. The others find themselves a nice bathhouse in one more attempt to rid themselves of that horrible, rotting smell.

    Seeker does a bit of shopping in the rich district—for doggie shampoo. He finds a nice boutique and a salesman who’s happy to help him find shampoo that’s guaranteed to make his fur silky and get that horrible troll-stench out of his fur. Seeker politely declines the salesman’s ‘alternative’ services and proceeds to destinkify before going on to his other errands.

    Miaoyu and Flynn both head to the poor district, but end up parting ways before long. Flynn seeks out a poker game to get a bit of pocket change and local rumors.

    Miaoyu heads over to a local tavern called The Bottomless Mug, where she’s promptly greeted by the bartender. “Have you heard about our Bottomless Mug policy?” When Miaoyu shakes her head, he pushes a mug into her hands. “On the house,” he says.

    She lifts the mug to take a sip—and finds it literally bottomless. The bartender bursts out laughing. “Gets them every time.” Miaoyu chuckles and gives the bartender a high five, and he passes her a real mug of ale this time. “So what brings you here?” he asks after she’s had a few sips.

    “I’m looking for my ex. Have you seen an angry, purple elf? Goes by the name of Tsarae?”

    The bartender’s face drops. “Oh. Her.” He jerks his thumb at the hallway behind him, leading to the inn’s rooms. “Second door on the left. Knock, then duck.”

    Miaoyu gets up from her place at the bar and follows the bartender’s instructions, stepping carefully to the side after rapping on the door. The door opens and a dagger flies out, sinking into the wall beyond and then quivering there. A small elf with dark purple skin and a long, pale braid pokes her head out after a moment and catches sight of Miaoyu. “Oh,” she sighs, and gestures her inside. Miaoyu grabs the knife and follows.

    This particular elf is a cave elf, a subrace of elves that live in the wilds of the Underdark (though they shouldn’t be confused with dark elves). They tend to be small in stature and have blue or purple skin tones; cave wolfmen are big, and more closely resemble bears than wolves. They’re semi-nomadic and are one of two subraces that have a cooperative relationship with their wolfmen, the other being low elves. Although they’re rare to see on the surface, they don’t face quite the same stigma a drow would: they have a significantly less sinister reputation, even if they’re a little less friendly than their surface-dwelling cousins—not to say that surface elves are the most outgoing lot.

    “The wolves were a bust,” Tsarae says with a heavy sigh as she collapses onto her bed.

    “Oh,” says Miaoyu stiffly. “Sorry.” Tsarae shrugs and the two endure a few seconds of awkward silence.

    “So... want to stop a prophecy?”

    “Depends. I....” Suddenly, Tsarae steps close and inhales deeply.

    “Did—Did you just smell me?” Miaoyu stammers, then collects herself. “Oh. Yeah, we were attacked by some rot trolls.”

    Tsarae pulls back, shaking her head. “Soap isn’t going to cover it up. C’mon, let’s go dunk you in the bay.”

    Miaoyu considers it for a moment. “Okay.”

    “And I’m putting fish heads down your shirt, too,” Tsarae adds as they leave.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the party is conducting their own affairs. Aelron has headed up to the richer portions of the city to acquire a set of scented soaps and some nice cologne; he finds a lovely scent, stored in a hefty crystal bottle that could probably double as an improvised weapon. Practical and aromatic! After washing up—and feeling human for the first time in nearly a WEEK, thank you very much—he finds a jeweler and purchases a large, well-cut ruby with which to upgrade his staff. That in hand, he heads back to the inn to start enchanting.

    Seeker, once he’s finished with a luxurious bath, also does more shopping. He goes to an elven silk weaver for some spell components: he plans to cast a divination spell on the amulet he recovered from the augur. Of course, he’s a wolfman going into a shop run by elves; it could end badly. Taking a deep breath, he ducks into the weaver’s shop, and rolls a reaction check. Fortunately, he does pretty well and the woman attending the shop maintains a polite demeanor, despite a slightly stiffer spine. Seeker gets the silk he needs and scurries quickly back to the inn.

    Olaf, having defeated the evil forces of bureaucracy and acquired a bit of money for his efforts, sets about trying to find a talented blacksmith in Brandt. He meets a dwarven blacksmith named Lod and he shows her the shard of anti-magic metal. “You do specialty work, right?” he asks, and she looks over the chunk of metal, weighing it in her hands thoughtfully before nodding.

    “Should be possible,” she answers in a thick accent. “I will contact you when it’s complete.” Olaf leaves her a hefty sum for “half now”, promising to pay yet another hefty sum later, when the shard has been integrated into a weapon, and is promptly shooed away. He leaves Lod to her work without asking a time estimate; he can see, with crystal clarity, the words ‘you cannot rush perfection' lurking behind her eyes.

    Flynn, meanwhile, has been having a successful day of gambling. Not only has he been pulling in some decent cash, he’s been drawing out some interesting rumors from his gambling partners. People have been talking quite a bit about an ‘unending horde’ coming from the east and refugees fleeing ahead of it. Whenever Flynn tries to get to the source of the rumors, though, he’s told that they heard it from ‘a cousin of a friend of my sister’ or something similar.

    At the bay, Miaoyu is learning several new things. 1) The bay is cold; 2) It’s also kind of disgusting; 3) Tsarae wasn’t joking about putting fish heads down her shirt.

    “Did you have fun?” Miaoyu asks as she shakes out the fish heads and wrings out her shirt.

    “You smell different now,” Tsarae announces. “Not better, but different. Like nature.”

    “No,” Miaoyu disagrees, “Different is better. Anything's better than 'eau de death'.” Miaoyu spends a few moments trying and failing to get water out of her sopping clothes, then gives up. “So. Want to punch some Hurocs?”

    “It’s not like I’ve got anything else going on,” Tsarae reasons.

    “Great. I should introduce you to the others.” Tsarae makes an unethusiastic sound, but Miaoyu continues. “We’ve got two humans, a half-elf who’s on fire but not really, and a wolfman. Don’t worry, he’s nice,” Miaoyu adds at Tsarae’s ever-falling expression, “he likes to be scratched behind the ears.”

    “They all like to be scratched behind the ears.”

    “Really? Well, don’t worry. You might like Flynn. He’s an archer and... he gambles?”

    Tsarae huffs. “I guess it could be worse.”

    “That’s what I said!” Miaoyu agrees. “Come on, I’ll introduce you.”

    And that’s how they find Olaf drinking at the tavern. He squints at Tsarae as she and Miaoyu sit down.

    “You’re purple,” he observes.

    “You’re not drunk enough,” Tsarae replies. “You can still discern color.”

    Olaf narrows his eyes at Tsarae. “You wouldn’t happen to be one of those good-for-nothing, lousy, lying, spells-don’t-work Gilgadarites, would you?”

    Tsarae gives Olaf a cool smile. “No.”

    Olaf stares at her suspiciously and thinks hard. Well… she’s purple. Purple isn’t a Gilgadarite color, is it? Actually, he’s fairly sure Miaoyu said something about purple being completely un-Gilgadarian. Yeah.

    Satisfied that this new, purple woman is being completely honest, Olaf turns back to his ale. Tsarae reaches over the bar, ignoring the bartender’s protests, and starts mixing up a drink, topping it off with something from a vial she pulls from her pocket. She slides it over to Olaf.

    Olaf picks up the mug, but doesn’t drink from it, a suspicious look crossing his face.

    “Don’t worry,” Tsarae says when he glances at her. “It probably won’t kill you.”

    After a moment of contemplation, Olaf decides not to accept drinks from random purple people and puts the drink down, returning to his ale. After a moment’s thought, he pours some on Scuzzbucket; the poor little guy deserves to get smashed, too.

    Tsarae shrugs and grabs the mug back, downing it in a single draw. She waves off Miaoyu’s concerned glance. “Cave elves are immune to poison.”

    At that time, Seeker returns from his shopping trip and freezes when he sees another elf seated at the bar. Miaoyu waves him in. “You can unfreeze.”

    Seeker reluctantly steps forward, extending a paw. “I’m Seeker. Purifier of Larlon.”

    Tsarae gives him a once over. “A mage?” she says, a bit of scorn in her voice.

    Seeker tilts his head. “What else would I be?”

    Tsarae scoffs and turns away, but Seeker is nearly elated. “That might be the best conversation I’ve had with an elf in... a long time,” he mutters as he takes a seat next to Olaf.

    By this time, Olaf has reached a new height in drunkness, and most of the other patrons, bartender included, have begun to move away from the dangerous loonies. Olaf begins sobbing over the deaths of the villagers; Miaoyu and Seeker try to reassure him, but he seems inconsolable with all the wonderful stubbornness of drunken oblivion.

    Eventually, Flynn returns from his gambling and Aelron comes downstairs for a bite to eat, but they agree to postpone any decision-making until the next day; Olaf is far too drunk for any proper discussion. Tsarae is thoroughly unimpressed by Aelron, but finds Flynn almost acceptable. Seeker returns to his room to cast his divination spell.

    The next day, the party reconvenes (after taking any necessary hangover cures). Other patrons are still avoiding them. Seeker draws himself up to begin speaking, but the party notices something off about his stance.

    “I cast the spell last night,” he says. “I got results and I....” He holds up a scrap of paper for a moment, then passes it to Aelron. “I got glimpses of three moments, the most recent first.” Aelron reads it, then passes it onto the next person until the whole party has had a chance to read it (sans Tsarae, who reads over Miaoyu’s shoulder). It goes as follows:

    Spoiler
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    1) Seeress – ‘Ah, the wolf has arrived. I should test them.’
    2) Seeress – ‘Just what I need. Kurush will be pleased.’
    3) Alfirin – ‘I hate him!’

    The party extends their sympathies but Seeker pushes on. “We need to deal with the Huroc first,” he reasons. He glances at Tsarae. “I guess we should bring you up to speed. Aelron, if you’ll show her—” He stops when Olaf catches his eye and shakes his head slowly. “Um. Nevermind?”

    Miaoyu rolls her eyes. “We have a sun dragon egg that’s supposed to hatch. It’s part of the prophecy.” Olaf shoots her a glare.

    “Then why don’t we smash it?” Tsarae asks.

    “That’s what I said!” Miaoyu exclaims. When Tsarae stands—presumably to acquire the egg and proceed to the smashing—Miaoyu adds, “But I was sort of outvoted.” Aelron has gone tense, one hand stealing toward his staff, but no one seems to have noticed, barring possibly Tsarae.

    Tsarae slides back in her chair. “Oh, so you’re still ‘discussing’ things. I told you, sometimes things need to get done.”

    Olaf stands, his chair clattering to the floor. “You know what? I’m sick of this. I’m going to fulfill the prophecy. I don’t even care anymore. What do I have to lose?”

    “Them?” Tsarae says, gesturing to the rest of the party.

    Olaf falters for a moment and Seeker takes advantage of his hesitation. “We need you. You’re clever and strong.”

    Miaoyu seems to shake herself out of a daze. “You’ve saved us a lot of times.”

    Olaf scoffs. “There’s not a single thing there that a two-bit mercenary couldn’t do. What use am I?”

    Tsarae digs around in her pockets for a moment and tosses a coin out onto the table. “Well, there’s a bit. Does anyone have another? We can hire a mercenary and be done with it.”

    Seeker gives the coin a skeptical look. “I don’t think we can hire a mercenary for that much,” he says.

    Tsarae shrugs. “He must be worth more than two bits, then.”

    “Oh, let’s just be done with this pep-talk party already,” Flynn cuts in. “I’m glad you’re finally taking the time to reflect and actually think through your actions and character and all that—really, I am—but when you’re done wallowing and remember what you’re really like and driven to do, let me know and we can move on. In the meantime, let me just say this: If you don’t like who you’ve been, be better.”

    Then Flynn stands and leaves the tavern, and the rest of the party falls quiet for a bit. Olaf slides back into his chair.

    A moment passes and Seeker stands, coming around to Olaf’s side of the table. “I’ve been thinking,” he says. “What if we don’t try to mess with the Huroc? What if we get evidence that they’re here? We can unite Drougant!”

    Something lights up in Olaf’s eyes and he leaps to his feet. “Let’s be heroes!” he agrees, and he and Seeker begin talking excitedly until Flynn returns some time later.

    “You still moping?” he asks Olaf as he unrolls a map. Olaf shakes his head; he's ready for action. “Oh, good,” Flynn says coolly. “I have information.”

    The map shows the eastern portions of nominally-Drouganti land. There's a relatively narrow band of arable terrain that runs east-to-west between a set of mountains to the north and the Peri Sea to the south. Two rivers run from the mountains to the sea, one originating well to the west of its eventual destination, the other running almost directly north-to-south. There aren't many towns marked out on this map; most of Drougant's actual civilization is built up to the west. The easternmost river, the north-to-south one, marks the nominal edge of Drouganti territory; beyond is a vast land claimed by both the nation of Aurebesk and the Kingdom of Drougant, but policed and patrolled by neither.

    Flynn runs his finger along the northern mountains, pausing on Demonsbreath Pass. “The north is calm, no word of Huroc there. All I've heard is that the Fey in the area are quiet. If that seeress can be believed, the Huroc are coming from here.” He points at the eastern no-man's-land beyond the river. “Let’s look along here and see if we can find anything to bring back.”

    Tsarae leans over to look at the map. “I’ll look along here,” she says, indicating the northern section of the area Flynn pointed out.

    “Makes sense,” Seeker says. “You two can find each other, right?” Miaoyu nods and Tsarae straightens.

    “We can meet back here on the first of the third month. I’ll head out now,” she says and turns to leave.

    “Take care of yourself,” Miaoyu calls after her.

    Arrangements are made quickly: Olaf and Flynn commission a ship to sail the party to the east a ways and also provide passage back. Olaf also arranges for Hhon-Harn, Keegan, and their horses to stay in Brandt for a month and return to Hangtree if the party takes longer than that to return. He also pays shipping and handling to Lod, should it take her longer than a month to forge his anti-magic dagger.

    Before long, the party has gathered onto the ship and set sail to try and find the Huroc.

    Another chapter from the backlog! We promise to try to get the others up ASAP! We've got fun things in store for you all.

  21. - Top - End - #51
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ReaderAt2046's Avatar

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

    I have a theory on what happens if you sunder the egg's fate: a massive backlash of raw destiny, turning probability on its ear for miles and days. All arrows miss their target for pi minutes, every unmarried person in a certain village proposes to their sweetheart and gets accepted, an interplanar accident causes frozen turkeys to fall on and destroy every vampire on the continent, that sort of thing.

    Mechanically, this could have affects like turning every attack roll in a certain battle into a natural 20 for a round, having all damage rolls be maximized (or minimized), etc.
    Prince Fraternal of Pudding, Snuzzlepal, Feezy Squeez Lover, MP, Member of The Most Noble And Ancient Order Of St. George, King of Gae Parabolae.

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    "Everyone's cute if you just look at them the right way"~Rebekah Patton Durham, Princess of Pudding.

    "If they have stats, we can kill them... I'd like to point out that we also have stats..." ~ PhoenixGuard09.

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  22. - Top - End - #52
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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

    That sounds like an awesome climactic scenario! Maybe we'll yet see if we can bring it about. Aelron is extremely uncertain about any such thing, of course, as sundering a normal dragon's fate will probably not do favors to the environment it protects, but (since this dragon doesn't seem to be connected to an environment) I don't think it'd hurt much in this case. And were that to happen, it would make for a very, VERY interesting battle.

  23. - Top - End - #53
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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

    The counterpoint being that if the environment that this dragon protects is the sun itself... well... I'll just leave that hanging.
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  24. - Top - End - #54
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    Default Chapter 19: Marked

    Spoiler: Chapter 19: Marked
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    The party acquires transport up the coast aboard a somewhat-less-than-perfectly-lawful transport vessel, as those tend to have the fastest transport times. Captain Ian asks the party to stay in their cabins for the duration of the trip, especially during the night.

    Seeker furrows his brow and opens his mouth to inquire as to why, but Flynn holds up a hand.

    “Don’t ask,” Flynn advises. Then, to Captain Ian, he recommends: “Don’t tell.”

    Aelron feels vaguely offended, but doesn't know why.

    With that matter settled, the voyage passes quickly and quietly. A few days later, the ship reaches the mouth of the easternmost river, the border over which the Huroc are supposed to have crossed (be crossing? Cross at some point soon? Who can tell with these augurs...), and most of the party is set ashore on the riverbank. As Flynn, Miaoyu, Seeker and Aelron are climbing into the launch, Olaf begs off.

    “I’m going to head along the coast with Captain Ian a bit further,” Olaf says. “There are a number of Dhar settlements along here. I’m going to see if they’ve heard anything.” When Seeker begins to sputter worried sentence fragments, Olaf hastens to reassure him: “I should be fine; Dhar take guest rights very seriously.” Olaf's player was out of town for a business meeting this week, and thus Olaf himself was otherwise engaged.

    Once ashore, the remainder of the party tries to determine which direction to head. Miaoyu attempts to use Locate Object to find Huroc holy symbols or war banners, Gilgadar is unable to assist. (“Reply hazy, try again later.”) After a few minutes spent thinking in circles trying to guess where the Huroc might be, the party finally decides to move up the river until they get results. If the Huroc HAVE reached the river, their path should be very clear and easy to find. If they have not, that should be reasonably easy to determine as well, and will indicate that a more easterly search is needed.

    During Seeker’s watch the first evening, he hears a low, rumbling sound, originating back towards the river—almost as if something was making waves. That, though, doesn’t make much sense: waves, at least anything like ocean waves, don't naturally occur in rivers. Seeker wakes Aelron, but he can’t hear what Seeker describes and can’t tell him more than what Seeker has already surmised.

    Come morning, the party continues north and vaguely east until they reach a very small town. Built well away from the river around a spire of rock, the town is quiet, slow-paced, and watched over only by the decaying remnants of a stone keep that gravity will, one of these days, seduce off the top of the rock spire. The party decides to take a look around and Flynn gets to chatting with one of the older townspeople.

    “Anything interesting happen around these parts?” he asks.

    The old man shrugs. “We’ll, it’s been pretty peaceful since the Aurbeski last came and destroyed our town and reduced everything to a pile of hot ashes. I haven’t seen anyone burn to death all year, so it must be a pretty good year.”

    All of Flynn’s other inquiries give him the same general jist of quietness, with varying degrees of bitter wariness.

    Eventually Flynn rejoins the party, the rest of whom were simply loitering nearby, as nothing resembling a public tavern could be found. “Is anyone other than me thinking we’ve been fed a load of hogwash about this prophecy?” he asks sourly.

    “For what it’s worth,” Miaoyu says, “Gilgadar told me there was a prophecy.”

    Flynn nods thoughtfully, and Seeker mutters to her, “Thank you for being honest.” Miaoyu gives him an awkward nod.

    The party decides to go to the keep for a better view of the area. Up close, it's easy to see that the 'mortar' used in the construction of this building wasn't worthy of the name; gaps in the stonework allow clear view inside in obviously unintended ways, and it looks like sneezing inside the building might knock one or two stones out of the wall. Aelron raps on the door and after a moment a hatch slides back and the mayor, an elderly man, peers out at them.

    “Hello,” Aelron says. “We’re passing through on the way to investigating a possible Huroc invasion. Have you—”

    “Haven’t heard nothin’,” the mayor says.

    “In that case,” Aelron says before the mayor can slide the hatch closed again, “can we go to the top of the tower and get a better look at the surrounding area?”

    The man grunts his approval and opens the door for the party, leading them up to the tower. “Now if you don’t mind,” he says, “I’m going back to my dinner.”

    Seeker casts a spell on the party to enhance the range of their eyesight; Aelron's Vision of Color enhances detail, and Miaoyu and Flynn begin surveying the area. Aelron, whose Spot mod is less than stellar (certainly lower than Miaoyu and Flynn's specialization of Awareness) whips up a quick elementalist ritual to 'grow' the stones of the tower into one another and reinforce its structure.

    Eventually, Flynn and Miaoyu make out two pillars of smoke in the distance. Because the smoke is white rather than black, they surmise that it’s campfire rather than fires from pillaging, but it appears as if the Huroc have two camps—large ones, too—assuming these fires are from the Huroc at all.

    Seeker and Flynn go about trying to spread word of a possible Huroc invasion. Seeker takes the theatrical route, standing in the town square, shouting about everyone’s inevitable doom. Flynn tries the more subtle approach, simply spreading rumors as he sees fit. Regardless, though, neither of them seem to impress the locals.

    The party stays the night in town, finding spare rooms individually in the homes of townsfolk, and resumes their journey in the morning, heading directly east toward the pillars of smoke. Well, toward where the pillars WERE anyway. The journey is quiet without Olaf along, conversation reduced to terse scouting reports from Flynn and Miaoyu, quiet musings and occasional snippets of song from Aelron, and occasional sermons from Seeker.

    As they walk, Flynn notices a strange pattern in a strand of trees. All around them, there is fairly dense tree cover; it's not quite a true forest, but little enough light penetrates the tree canopy that when a pure column of it falls in any one place it seems... odd. In the center of the pool of light is an empty circle of toadstools and short, apparently well-trimmed grass.

    Miaoyu snaps her fingers as she sees it, grimacing as she tries to pin down her own memory. “Oh, I don’t quite remember what that is, but it’s definitely a fey thing,” she grumbles.

    “It’s a pixie dancing ring,” Aelron supplies with a smile. “Moderately powerful arcane site with, as you say, definite fey leanings. Direct exposure to its magics without proper preparation—such as by stepping into the circle unwarded—can have any number of strange effects. I recommend we avoid it.”

    And avoid it the party does, carefully stepping around it and leaving it behind.

    The campsite is quiet that night, though occasionally the chatter of what sounds like tiny voices can be heard off in the shadows.

    About an hour into the next day's march, Seeker's healer sense tingles: someone has placed a disease marker, a divine beacon that any confirmed Larlonite can sense. It's nearby, roughly one mile to the north of their path. No one argues with a change of course, and Seeker leads the way unerringly to a small farm.

    The farm is a fairly simple affair: two small tilled fields, two small log cabins meant for human habitaion, and what looks to be a barn. There is the suggestion of a pasture on the far side of the barn and houses, fading into the treeline a few tens of meters away. Something's off, though. The fields look as though they haven't been worked in weeks; weeds grow rampant around their edges and even among the crops; there are no animals to be seen or heard, either in the pasture or the barn; there is no smoke from the chimney of either building, and there are no audible voices or signs of recent humanoid movement. The place looks deserted.

    To Flynn and Miaoyu, that just screams “trap”.

    Miaoyu slips off from the rest of the group, finding a nice clump of hedge from which she can watch unobtrusively and provide covering fire if necessary. Flynn, with Aelron and Seeker kept firmly and definitely behind him, goes up to the door of the nearest hut and knocks, stepping quickly aside in case the door is trapped. For a long moment, nothing happens. Flynn knocks again, harder this time, and faintly, he and Seeker can make out a raspy almost-voice on the other side of the door.

    “We’re coming in,” Flynn calls out. Keeping up against the side of the building, he pushes the door open. Seeker, standing well back from the building, peers inside.

    The structure has all the common features of a home: a fireplace, a dining table, and a bed. There's a quivering lump under the covers, occasionally emitting low, pathetic-sounding moans and wheezes. Seeker steps inside and moves to the bed, Flynn following, Aelron taking up position at the door. Seeker keeps up a steady stream of murmured comforting words (“We're here to help, everything will be all right,” etc.) as he places his hand on the lump of blankets and casts Phoarduk’s orison. Whatever is under there, it’s alive, which means this is less and less likely to be a trap with each passing second. Seeker pulls back the covers and finds a human male in his late teens. He casts Diagonsis and finds that, in addition to dehydration, malnourishment, and a variety of more mild conditions, the boy is plagued. He casts Restoration and clears the plague from the boy's system. He signals the all clear to Flynn, then settles in to tend to his patient. Flynn and Miaoyu move toward the second building while Aelron remains behind to keep an eye on Seeker..

    The door to the second cabin is locked, but it's not exactly Fort Knox. Flynn kicks the door until the bolt snaps out of its housing, and cautiously swings the door inward. The place is empty. It looks like this might have been a building simply used for storage of tools and supplies, but if so there aren't any stockpiled here now.

    Flynn moves on to the final structure, a small barn. The sickly reek of rotting flesh over stale hay fills the stagnant air of the barn, rising from the maggot-ridden corpses of a couple of cows and a goat. Behind the barn, Miaoyu finds seven graves, all marked with simple, whitewashed stones. These graves all look extremely recent.

    The party regroups and Seeker does a quick Diagnosis on himself and his friends, just in case... and it's a good thing he did, because they're all plagued now. He decides to hold off on curing the plague until they're away from the farmstead, as it seems to be airborne and he doesn't want everyone to just catch it again. Miaoyu does a quick search of the first cabin for any valuables that the boy may want when he recovers; she finds a small purse behind a loose brick in the fireplace, but little else aside from that. When she's done and Flynn has carried the patient out of the hut, Miaoyu puts each building to the torch and Aelron uses ritual magic to ensure that the fires rage hot enough to extinguish any remnant of the plague, but don't spread to the nearby trees and trigger a conflagration.

    Once they've put a reasonable distance between themselves and the farm, the party turns to Seeker. He casts Restoration on himself, Miaoyu, and Aelron—but as the spell to cleanse Aelron ends, he collapses, unconscious. Higher level divine spells draw from reserve hit points, and once those are gone, they draw from actual hit points. Despite being the thicker-skinned of the casters in the party, Seeker doesn't have many hit points, and each of those castings took 3d6 from him. And he rolled high every time. He's in the negatives, and out for the count.

    Aelron, the party's backup healer, does a quick inspection. “He seems fine. Normal pulse, normal breathing, all that. No actual damage I can see. Possible minor head trauma from collapsing like that, but he's got a thick skull. He just needs to rest and get his strength back. It's happened before to divine casters and I'm sure it will happen again.”

    “Well,” Flynn says resignedly, “I’ll just be over there.” He points at a cluster of trees a few tens of meters away and makes a solitary camp there. He carves a plague marker into one of the trees and settles in for the night.

    “I’ll keep scouting,” Miaoyu says. “I’ll go out about a day and a half toward those smoke columns and then head back here.” She starts off, but then thinks better of something and turns back to Aelron. “I'm not taking Lajiao out into the unknown with me. Look after her?” Aelron nods absently, still trying to get Seeker's unconscious 8-foot bulk rolled onto his bedroll, and Miaoyu sets Lajiao down and points her toward Aelron. “Stay with him, okay? I'll be back in a couple of days.”

    Baaaaa,” Lajiao affirms warily, and with that, Miaoyu is off.

    She makes relatively good time with the remainder of her afternoon, and finds a relatively good spot for a campsite, a cleft in a rock face with a decent view of the smoke columns. From this height she can see that the columns are rising from a pair of glowing camps: one an amorphous blob of firelight, the other a more patterned, precisely arranged set of glows slightly further away. She ALSO sees a column of black smoke rising from between the two camps before the sun sets. Fighting between the camps? Fire that got out of hand? Impossible to say at this distance. The night passes fairly uneventfully; Miaoyu hears what she thinks may be wolves, but they don’t come near her ‘camp’.

    The next day, Seeker has recovered enough to perform basic tasks, but he and Aelron agree he needs at least one more day of rest before he can tend to Flynn. They spend their day tending to the young plague victim, helping him keep up a slow and steady intake of food and water.

    Miaoyu, meanwhile, has approached enough to actually see the Huroc (or what she hopes is the Huroc, anyway... or maybe she doesn't, because that is an AWFUL lot of people out there). They appear to be moving in two distinct groups: one, the leading group, a vast, amorphous, disorganized mob of humanity, and the other, trailing them at a slightly more sedate pace, a regimented force marching in three columns. At the limit of her time and not confident enough to take a closer look, Miaoyu simply marks their location and direction of movement onto her map before turning around and heading back towards her companions.

    That night is much more eventful than the last. Seeker hears a high-pitched giggling followed by a rhyme that basically comes down to, “You’re a walking disease magnet! Why don’t you infect someone else?” One failed will save later, Aelron wakes to Seeker shouting himself hoarse, hurling insults in Pack and Drouganti and every other language he knows at some unknown fey critter in the darkness at the edge of camp. Aelron sighs, gets up, talks Seeker down slowly, and takes over the watch.

    At that same moment many miles away, Miaoyu wakes to find some sort of animal with glowing, yellow eyes towering over her. In a flash, she draws a dagger and stabs it just below the eye. It lets out a yowl and hurries off, deciding that this particular prey is too much effort. Miaoyu wipes her blade off and goes back to—oh, who are we kidding? She isn't going to sleep until she sees the rest of her party.

    The next day, Miaoyu rejoins the group, and Seeker professes to feeling a bit better.

    “I think I can heal Flynn now,” he says. “Then we can get going. If we hurry we can make the rendezvous with the ship and Olaf.”

    “Forget the ship,” Aelron insists. “We need to make sure we end this plague here and now WITHOUT getting you killed. Wait one more night. Then you can take care of Flynn and we’ll know you can handle the journey.” Aelron is adamant because his player knows—as does everyone at the table—that Seeker is still in range of dying outright if he rolls high on his 3d6 to cast Restoration. Explaining to Olaf why they had to leave Seeker's corpse in the middle of a forest a hundred miles from anywhere sounds like ZERO fun to Aelron.

    And so the party waits another night, and Flynn is asked to make a fortitutde save. Fortunately, he succeeds, which the party later learns means that he avoids Toughness drain. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean he’s not suffering ill effects. He spends the night shivering and vomiting, with no chance to rest. Still he’s had it much worse—like that time he was hung. This is no big deal, right?

    The next day, Seeker has regained enough reserve hit points to be safe in Aelron's estimation and rushes to cast Restoration on Flynn, who thanks him meekly. Aelron burns out the area in which Flynn sat and stewed, and everyone is back in camp, cleansed of plague. Unfortunately Seeker is unconscious again, however, and the party must rest for yet another day, seriously putting their chances of reaching the ship in jeopardy.

    To make matters worse, the rescued plague victim's condition is not improving. Even if the party had a full-blown hospital ready to hand, they'd have a hard time saving him; as it is, he probably won't survive a journey to anyplace with medical facilities more advanced than “walk it off, you big wuss”. To put in game terms, he failed enough Fort saves to reduce his Toughness to a two, which means his Toughness modifier is negative. His base HP at this point is -2, which means he technically CAN'T reach a stable point. While it would be theoretically possible to heal the toughness damage, it would require a ritual the caliber of which was used to cure Baroness Hangtree, and they just don't have the proper magical foci with them for such an endeavor.

    “What about a makeshift ritual?” Miaoyu suggests. “Can you use what we have here just to stabilize him until we can reach Brand?”

    The party rifles through their things, but components are in the lacking. Aelron scratches his head. “The only thing I can think of is transferring vitality from one of us to him. But....” He trails off and shakes his head. “That's not really solving the problem.”

    “And that faerie circle?” Miaoyu asks. “Do they ever do anything good?”

    Aelron shrugs. “Sometimes faeries take people away to their realms. They might be able to do something for him. I say might.”

    “It may be our only choice,” Seeker muses.

    “I hate to say it,” Flynn interjects, “but I don’t think we’re talking about saving him anymore. Hurting one of us, or giving him to faeries? I think the best we can do is just make him comfortable.”

    The camp is quiet for a moment. “Let’s head out,” Seeker says.

    Seeker carries the boy in his arms until they reach the small village with its newly-strengthened keep. Seeker searches around for anyone who would be willing to put him up for his final days. Eventually, a local Femtan offers to take him in. Seeker hands her the purse Miaoyu found in the fireplace.

    “Take this. It’s not much, but we found it in his home. We had hoped to give it to him to help him start over. It seems fitting for you to have it.”

    The Femtan thanks Seeker and Flynn describes the gravestones that Miaoyu found in the farmstead so the boy can be buried per family tradition.

    With that taken care of, Miaoyu and Seeker, as the fastest of the party (a full ten feet per round faster than Flynn and Aelron), rush to the rendezvous point in hopes of making it in time to keep Captain Ian and Olaf from leaving without them.

  25. - Top - End - #55
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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

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    I have to say, that was HARD for a dedicated healer to accept.
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  26. - Top - End - #56
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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

    I was getting the most hilarious text messages in my hotel room about how the session was going. Especially from different opinions and viewpoints about what was going right and wrong.
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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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  27. - Top - End - #57
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    AverageSparrow's Avatar

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    Default Chapter 20: The Doom of Hollowchest

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    Here we must rewind a bit to detail Olaf's adventures during the rest of the party's debacle during Marked.

    Captain Ian sails Olaf a bit further east, dropping him at a small Dhar settlement along the coast, well away from the river, to do a bit of coastal recon. Dhar ships patrol (read: raid) all up and down this coastline, so if the Huroc are moving near the shore, the Dhar should know, and Olaf hopes to capitalize on their knowledge.

    The hold he arrives at is a small cluster of buildings centered on a sturdily-built longhouse, hiding in a small inlet. Captain Ian's cutter drops Olaf on the dock, the bosun promising to see Olaf in a few days before returning to berating his swabbies as they pull back toward the ship. The dock is relatively quiet, but the sandy beach at the center of the inlet is crowded with Dharric longships beached for unloading or minor repairs.

    Olaf is met at the end of the dock by a couple of burly men. “What's your business here?” one asks brusquely.

    Olaf smiles. “I seek information about the nearby coast, and a conversation with your chieftain. In return I bring information of my own, and coin to pay for my boarding until that ship returns.”

    The enforcers just shrug. “Chief's in the longhouse. Keep those weapons sheathed and you won't have to talk to us again.”

    Olaf nods and the two wander away, one down the dock and the other back toward the beached ships, leaving Olaf a clear path to the longhouse.

    Inside, it's a madhouse; crates of supplies from the offloading operation on the beach are scattered haphazardly on every surface, men and women are rushing everywhere, seemingly without any sort of coordination, a small group in the corner is drinking and laughing boisterously and occasionally breaking into song, and apparently a few seagulls got in somehow, as they're perched on the rafters above squawking down at everyone below, occasionally diving toward any unattended item to see if it's food. One buzzes Olaf as he steps up to the only seemingly ordered spot in the room, where a well-dressed man with a massive axe strapped to his back stands surrounded by a small crowd of people who quietly await his attention. He joins the queue, and eventually the man looks to him.

    “Ah. You must be our visitor. Welcome to our humble longhouse.”

    “Many thanks, sir,” Olaf replies. “I am Olaf Hollow-Chest, and I'm looking for a bit of information.”

    The man's expression brightens a bit at the sound of Olaf's accent. “Information, eh?” he asks. “Well, I'll be happy to sit down with you and see what you need, but at present we are somewhat...” he glances around, fishing for the word. “...busy.”

    Olaf nods sagely. “I'll be here for a couple of days. At your convenience.”

    The man laughs. “Over dinner tonight? We just need long enough to get this place cleared out and squared away and I'll be happy to talk.” Olaf nods and smiles gratefully. “Well then, I'll have someone find you a room to stay in and we'll call you for dinner.”

    A few hours later, Olaf returns to the longhouse, and it's a completely different place. The boxes and supplies have been removed; the three long tables are full of people and, more importantly, stacked high with food and drink. A few men in one corner of the room are playing instruments; men and women with iron collars or cuffs stand as unobtrusively as possible along all the walls, holding pitchers, ladles and trays. The chieftain sits at the head of the longest table, his axe propped handle-up against the armrest of his enormous wooden chair, a smile plastered across his face and a great plate of some sort of roast fowl resting before him. He gestures Olaf closer, to an open spot a few spaces down the table.

    As Olaf finds his seat, the Chieftain gestures to the man at his left hand, who stands, places his hands together, and says: “Let us pray.”

    “O Ocean Witch, great mistress of wind and wave, we thank you for delivering home to us our brothers and sisters this day, and for the bounty with which they return. In your name we pray and in your service we sail. Amen.”

    The room holds dead silent for a moment.

    “And now,” the priest says, looking up and down the tables with a glint in his eyes, “Who wants to know?”

    Priests of the Ocean Witch can cast an augury that will foretell the tenor of the target's next sea voyage; it is this service the priest is offering.

    Olaf, of course, stands. “I would know,” he says.

    The priest nods to him, grinning. “And with what will you pay?”

    Olaf pulls a conch shell from his tunic. “I know the name of a great merrow in the service of our Lady the Ocean Witch. I will call him and introduce you if you will foretell for me.”

    There is a moment of breath-holding silence before the priest booms a laugh. “I accept!” he cries. “Let us go meet your merrow!”

    Olaf and the priest step out of the longhouse while everyone else tucks into their food with a will. Olaf leads the way toward the surf, where a few isolated repair crews are still at work on the nearest longboat. Once they've reached the water, Olaf shows the priest how to form the symbols that make up his merrow friend's name, then dips his head under a wave long enough to blow it himself on the conch.

    With a great thunderclap of sound and a wave that nearly washes Olaf off his feet, the 8-foot-tall merrow that Olaf met along the coast of Drougant appears, seaweed-draped, with a toothy smile on his face. “Little Dhar friend!” he cries. “Wrestled any more bulls lately?”

    Olaf stands proud in the surf and returns a laugh of greeting, waving his Horns of the Conflagration to show the priest what he's talking about. “No bulls, sadly. I did wrestle a gryphon, though!”

    “A gryphon? Truly?” the merrow asks. “Most impressive! They are powerful beasts.” The merrow looks around at his surroundings, at the Dhar camp just off the shore, and the extremely nervous longboat repair crews edging back toward it. “Why have you summoned me hence?”

    Olaf introduces the priest of the Ocean Witch, as promised, and the priest and the merrow proceed to have a booming-loud conversation about how hilarious it is for the Witch watching mortals drown and die at her whim, in horrible and fantastic ways. Pretty much everyone in earshot is horrified, but hey, that's religion for you.

    Eventually the merrow departs and Olaf and the priest return to the dinner; Olaf's augury is given as: “Your trip will end safely, but not in the place you expect.”

    That's not ominous at all.

    Since the chieftain is mostly done eating by then, Olaf asks a few questions regarding the state of the coastline, and whether any raider ships have spotted anything that might be a large group of people moving cross-country, then eats himself while the chieftain answers. The chieftain's answers are long and verbose, but the upshot is that the Dhar haven't seen anything but the occasional group of travelers from Aurbesk, who may or may not be fleeing from a large horde of Huroc, but probably aren't. It's a bit discouraging, except for the fact that the rest of the party is, very nearly at that moment, spotting the columns of smoke that mark the Huroc camps.

    Olaf whiles away a couple of days assisting the Dhar with ship repair and chatting with the Ocean Witch's priest before Captain Ian's ship returns to pick him up. It's a trip of a mere couple days back to the river-mouth rendevous point where the rest of the party is waiting.

    Or, would be waiting, if not for that whole plague fiasco.

    The river mouth is deserted, even after a thorough search. Captain Ian is set to sail away, the terms of his contract fulfilled, until Olaf nearly doubles his fee to convince him to stay until sundown.

    Thankfully, it is just a few hours before sunset that Seeker and Miaoyu arrive. Seeker shoots up a magical flare (“Handy trick, that; remind me to thank Aelron.”) and the cutter comes to retrieve them.

    Olaf is waiting in the boat when it nudges up to the shore and his friends step aboard. He looks between the two of them, confused. “Wait, what's going on? Where are Flynn and Aelron?”

    Miaoyu waves to the trees. “They're a few hours behind us. We... had some trouble on our trip, and decided it'd be best to get someone here as soon as possible. They'll be along.”

    Seeker growls and grimaces at the phrasing 'had some trouble', but nods as Miaoyu takes her seat.

    With proof that the party is, in fact, on its way, Captain Ian agrees to wait until the next morning. Late in the evening Aelron and Flynn arrive and are similarly escorted to the ship, very glad to be done hiking.

    With the group reunited, Flynn sits everyone down to consider options. “All right,” he says, “We came out here for proof that the Huroc are coming. We know approximately where they are now, but we didn't get anything like proof. We need to get close enough to find something we can use, which means getting far enough north fast enough to intercept them.” He gestures Captain Ian closer and leans over the map. “The fastest way for that is if you'd be willing to give us a lift up this river we're at the mouth of, here.”

    Captain Ian glances down and around, wary. “I appreciate the offer, but I’m transporting rather delicate goods with a deadline for delivery. I don’t want what I'm transporting to spoil.”

    “What are you transporting?” Seeker asks.

    Captain Ian sighs. Flynn facepalms.

    “Fresh fruit, if you must know,” Ian returns finally.

    “If it's simply getting back before the cargo spoils that concerns you, I can extend its lifespan greatly with just a couple of spells,” Aelron offers diplomatically. “Turn your hold into an icebox, and the cargo will keep nicely.”

    “Refrigeration?” Miaoyu asks. “That was invented in Qen, you know.”

    “Yes, we know,” Flynn says with a sigh. “Refrigeration, central air, library classification—it’s all in Qen. I hear it’s filled with myths and tall tales, as well.”

    “Of course. We invented those, too.” The joke seems to fly right over Miaoyu's head—or maybe she’s telling one right back. It’s hard to say.

    Flynn rolls his eyes and turns back to the crude map the party has been navigating by, trying to determine their best route to intercept the Huroc. “I’ve got to say, I wish Nüwa was here,” he comments, remembering her spells that could generate highly detailed maps of an area. Miaoyu makes a disgusted noise and he sighs again. “Yes, we all know about your hatecrush,” he says dismissively. Miaoyu sulks.

    Flynn turns to Captain Ian. “Well, how about it? We'll scrape together what payment we can and upgrade your hold for cold storage if you can lift us up the river a ways.”

    “Look,” Captain Ian says to the party. “I appreciate the offers, I really do, and if this were any other river, I’d take you up on it—but this river is controlled by the Bene.”

    The Bene (pronounced 'Beh-nay') are a family of nobles out of Aurbesk. They own the biggest and most trusted chain of banks and trading companies in Aurbesk, operate out of the city which takes its name from them, and are currently bankrolling Drougant’s Gilroy family—the same Gilroys who command Haddon's Eagles, the mercenary company that makes up the majority of Drouant's royal armed forces. The Bene are a big deal—the big deal, you might say—and a name known far and wide. For a bit of context, Miaoyu knew the name Bene before she left Qen; they’re one of the very few foreigners allowed trade freely in Qennish ports. No one wants to piss off the Bene, and the party quickly ceases their attempts to negotiate with Ian, although Aelron still applies a cooling spell to the cargo hold, mostly in thanks for his waiting to pick up the whole party.

    Soon, our heroes are bidding Captain Ian and his crew fair sailing and trudging right back up the river. Travel is uneventful for several days, passing the ruins of what must have once been a village and interminable miles of wide, sluggish river. Unfortunately, what goes up must come down. One evening, as the party settles in for camp, we roll for camp comfort and camp security (camp comfort determines how well rested we are at the beginning of the next day, and whether mages can prepare spells, while camp security determines who gets a surprise round on whom during any night encounters)... and we toss out one of our lowest security rolls in party history, matched up with an incredibly high comfort roll.

    What this means, of course, is that the party is so busy shouting puns and insults across the camp at one another that they don't even notice their surroundings.

    We got incredibly lucky.

    Instead of getting coup-de-grace'd by bandits in the night, we wake the next morning in oblivious good cheer, all our belongings still neatly in their places. It's not until Olaf begins breaking down the camp after breakfast, while Seeker and Aelron run through their spell preparation routines, that Olaf notices a neat web of bootprints encircling the camp. There were people—multiple people, it would seem—circling all around the camp in the middle of the night, and none of the people on watch noticed a damned thing. Further searching reveals that the tracks lead back to the river, where Olaf finds an impression in the mud that he recognizes as the mark a rowboat makes when it gets dragged ashore and then pushed back into the water again. Judging from the bootprints—heavy, well-shaped and crisp—the people were probably military scouts, most likely Aurbeski. Fortunately, they were well-disciplined.

    The party fights off shame and forges north. Fog starts coming in from the river around evening, so the party goes to high ground to make their camp. It’s about that time that the party notices something odd: there are no sounds of animal life. No singing from birds, scuffling from rodents, not even the chirping of crickets.

    “How can there be no crickets?” Flynn asks, but no one has any answers, and the fog has come in too thick to move camp.

    The next morning, the fog is still thick around the camp, but everyone can see that something is different. The fog has obscured view of pretty much everything except the tops of trees, but there's something else—several somethings else—protruding from the fog in the direction of the river. They look like columns of some sort of stone, and they certainly weren't there last night.

    “I say we turn around and go the opposite direction,” Miaoyu says. (“How did you become an adventurer with that attitude?” our DM asked. “Oh, right. You’re a runaway.”)

    Of course, between Aelron's curiosity and Seeker's worry that someone over there might be hurt, the party ends up heading right toward the rock spires, determined to figure out what exactly is going on. The fog is so thick, though, that they can only see about ten feet in front of them

    “Maybe we should tie ourselves together,” Seeker suggests, “so we don’t get lost.”

    “I don’t think that would be a good idea,” says Flynn. “If we get into a fight, we’ll be trapped”

    “Yeah, I might need to bail,” Miaoyu agrees. The entire party stops to stare at her. “I mean... tactically relocate.”

    Seeker shakes his head. “You’re the most cowardly brave person I know.”

    “I think you mean 'sensible',” Flynn corrects. Seeker shrugs.

    Finally, the party reaches the river and can get a good look at the rock spires. Aelron identifies the rock as feldspar, which is notable for having semi-translucent variations known as sunstone.

    Remember what the sun dragon egg is made of?

    Olaf heaves a weary sigh. “I want to declare, in no small terms, oh f*ck.”

    The party persists in their curiosity, though, and Olaf agrees to get a sample of the feldspar for Aelron to examine. The party ties together their ropes, creating a makeshift harness for Olaf; he unwraps the bandages around his arm and removes a few of his daggers. He dives into the cool river, swims to the spire, and levers off a few pieces without incident. Soon enough, he’s handing the bits of feldspar to Aelron.

    “Why don’t you try making one into a totem?” Olaf suggests. “It might reveal something about their nature.”

    Aelron closes his eyes and imbues elemental energy into the stone. The nature of the stone itself shapes the enchantment... and the chunk of feldspar lights up in his hand, creating a five foot radius of light, roughly that of a candle.

    “I’m going to go back for another look,” Olaf says. “Could you...?”

    Aelron taps him and Olaf’s sight becomes vastly improved thanks to Vision of Color. Aelron tucks the glowing shard of feldspar under one of the shoulder straps of Olaf's harness to provide him extra light in the fog.

    Olaf swims back out to the nearest spire, takes in a deep breath, and dives. Feeling along the rock to its base, he finds the point at which the spire protrudes from the riverbed. From what he can see and feel, it looks as if this spire, and by extension probably all the others, is a single, toothpick-shaped shard of feldspar that was simply embedded in the riverbed and left there; he was wondering whether the entire river bed might be feldspar and this simply a projection, but that does not appear to be the case. Olaf swims back once again and reports his findings. “I was thinking of climbing to the top, maybe get a better view or at least get a better idea of what it is.”

    "I’ll go with you," Miaoyu says. She nods at the climbing gear Olaf is pulling from his pack. "I know how to use that, and an extra pair of eyes might help."

    Just as Olaf and Miaoyu are getting ready to wade into the water, Seeker hears something the rest of his companions obviously don’t: a low, uncomfortable noise that’s more a rumbling he can feel than a noise he can hear.

    "We need to get away from the water," Seeker shouts.

    "I said that back in the camp!" Miaoyu grumbles as she and Olaf fall back to the rest of the party.

    Things begin to emerge from the water. On the triangle of Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?, they are somewhere between Animal and Mineral. Roughly four feet tall with bodies and limbs of feldspar, the creatures have three legs and roughly ovoid bodies. The limbs all attach near the top of the creature's body, holding the body off the ground between them. Each limb ends in a grasping claw, and at the center of the body is a mouth that glows the color of—you guessed it—sunstone.

    “Well isn't that just wonderful,” Aelron mutters, reaching for an Incendiary.

    “Nothing is ever simple,” Flynn sighs as he wills his eldritch weapon into existence.

    "O, sweet Laeros," Olaf cries, hurriedly picking up his daggers, "they’re coming for samples now!"

    Two of the elementals attack Olaf, and one manages to grab his thigh and twist painfully, tearing deep into the flesh; until he’s healed, Olaf will bleed one hit point per round.

    Two more attack Flynn and Seeker, the latter getting a nasty chunk taken out of him. Miaoyu dodges her attacker and bounces an arrow off its forehead, but it turns out that rocks are generally unfazed by projectiles.

    Seeker has picked up a new trait that will serve him well in this fight: Empathetic Healer. Any time he heals someone else, he also receives a point of healing for die of healing the spell uses. He throws a heal to Olaf to stop Olaf's bleeding, receives a point of healing himself, which stops his bleeding, then drops a Circle of Protection.

    Flynn and Olaf pair up to fight together. Eventually, the elementals begin to swarm Olaf, and he signals Flynn to step back.

    "Alright, Aelron!" he shouts. "You know what to do! Light me on fire!"

    And Aelron obliges him by throwing an incendiary. It detonates underneath one of the elementals, roasting that one and two of its companions. Next, he uses Burning Hands, and glowing cracks begin spiderwebbing across those three elementals. Flynn manifests a glaive and swings at one of them; its limbs, already unstable, shatter, and it falls to the ground, inert.

    Miaoyu, meanwhile, hasn’t been faring well. She's mostly been running around behind Olaf and Flynn's line, trying unsuccessfully to avoid attacks from the elementals flanking Olaf while remaining in the Circle of Protection, and occasionally taking potshots at elementals. She’s managed to acquire the bleeding status twice, and has learned that it stacks. She calls out to Seeker as she runs by and he preps a healing spell for her—but he can't hit her touch AC as she sprints past. He's holding out his own paw, though, and Miaoyu offers up her hand for a healing high-five. She tries to return the favor by shooting an elemental off Seeker's back, but her low attack rolls mean that she nearly hits Seeker instead.

    “Sorry,” she mumbles. “Must be the blood loss.”

    One of the elementals comes after Aelron to avenge its comrades, and he’s badly wounded. It doesn't take much to badly wound Aelron; he's only got 15 HP. For comparison, Olaf tops out over 40, and even Seeker almost has 25. Fortunately for Aelron, Seeker hurries to heal him and Olaf protects him from any further attacks. Once he’s back on his feet, Aelron drops one of the elementals closing in on Seeker, and Flynn brings down yet another. The last remaining elemental decides to flee, but Miaoyu rushes after it and shoots it with an arrow, and it crumbles into the softly lapping shallows.

    The party takes a moment to catch their breath. Aelron collects bits of stone from the elemental with the intent of enchanting his staff further to make it light up on command. Seeker finds fluid within the elementals that he suspects can be used as a coagulant, which he can use in the future to stop ongoing damage. Now that they’ve had a chance to stop and listen, both Miaoyu and Flynn can hear the rumbling that Seeker heard earlier, but neither can place what it is.

    The party, utterly fed up with feldspar, continues north. The fog begins to thin and eventually clear away entirely. Once the fog is entirely gone, however, the rock spires vanish with it. Strange, to be sure, but no one really wants to question it too hard. Feldspar sucks.

    It’s then that the party decides to try to cross the river. Unfortunately, only Flynn and Olaf have put ranks into Athletics, the skill that encompasses things like running long distances and swimming. Seeker doggie paddles across with only a little bit of difficulty. Miaoyu recalls a lovely story to help motivate her as she crosses: it was about these two lovers who swam out to each other and met in the middle of a river. Of course, she remembers too late they both ended up drowning and once she does she starts slipping under the surface of the water. Fortunately, Flynn happens to be swimming by and he stabilizes her, holding her up until she's calmed enough to keep swimming, and she makes it to the other side.

    Aelron, on the other hand, refuses to deal with something as undignified as nearly drowning and whips up a spell to let him walk across the water.

    Once everyone has crossed, the party makes camp and builds a roaring fire to help dry out their things. During Miaoyu’s watch, she manages to spy the two Huroc camps in the distance, and figures it'll be about a day's march to reach them.

    And the next day, they do indeed get within a few miles of the camps. At the top of a hill a few miles distant, Flynn calls a halt, sets down his pack, and gestures Aelron, Seeker and Miaoyu forward.

    “I've been thinking,” he says. “There are obviously two camps out there, but why would the Huroc split their forces like that?” His sweeping arm encompasses the two still-marching forces kicking up colossal dust clouds in the near distance.

    Aelron frowns. “One camp civilians and one camp militants?” he suggests.

    Flynn shakes his head. “I thought of that myself, but then, wouldn't the militants be in the lead? Plus, these are Huroc; if what we've heard is true, they won't HAVE many non-combatants, if any at all.”

    “So what's going on, then?” Seeker asks.

    Flynn glowers out at the two marching forces. “I don't know, but I have a guess.” He sighs and turns to Miaoyu. “You're the eagle eye. Tell me what you see.” He gestures to Aelron and Seeker, who nod. Aelron places Vision of Color on Miaoyu, and Seeker works up a minor diamond magic spell to enhance her distance vision.

    Mioayu blinks, squints, and focuses first on the leading force, then on the trailing. After a moment, she snorts. “You're gonna love this, Flynn. They're not both Huroc forces.” She points to the lead force, the barely-congealed mob of humanoidity. “Huroc.” Then she points to the following force, three columns of obvious soldiery marching in good order across the dusty plains.

    “Aurbeski.”

    Flynn chuckles sadly. “Nothing's ever simple.”

    Olaf steps up to the group, having finally settled his pack. “What'd I miss?”

    Aelron smiles grimly, pointing. “Looks like that force back there is three Aurbeski battalions 'escorting' the Huroc out of their territory.”

    “This just gets better and better,” Olaf grumbles. “Shall we investigate, or just dive right in?”

    “I’ll do some recon in the Huroc camp,” Miaoyu says. “I’ll see if I can get any information about plans or direction. I’ll look at the make-up of their groups, too; if they’re diverse enough we can slip in and pretend we’re one of them.”

    “We can go to the Aurbeski camp,” Seeker says, indicating himself and Flynn. “I should be welcome there and we can get some information.”

    “I'll stay here,” Aelron says with a quiet sigh. “I don't think we want to take the egg into either of those camps until we know more, and with two giant armies to scare off the wildlife in the region, I should be safe enough here on my own.”

    Nightfall comes and the party begins to split up for their respective tasks. As Miaoyu is preparing to leave, Olaf approaches her. “I’m coming, too. Is that okay?”

    Miaoyu sighs. “That’s fine. I’ll try to keep you in my sight and if I think we need to leave, I’ll tap you on the shoulder. And I know this’ll be hard for you—but try not to talk. It’ll probably give you away.”

    Olaf gives her an amused look. “I had a thought, actually. What if we could get the two armies to fight each other? The Huroc won’t stand a chance against a disciplined army, and even if they win, they’ll be crippled.”

    Miaoyu shrugs. “Sure, but I don’t know how to make that happen.”

    Olaf winks. “I’ve got an idea.”

    And so, the two groups set out. Flynn and Seeker approach the Aurbeski camp with little trouble. Once their intentions are declared, they’re shunted to a Captain's tent; the Captain hears out their story, mostly believing Flynn's bluffs and misdirection regarding Seeker's REAL reasons for wanting to explore the camp, and they’re cleared to go to the Larlonite tents.

    Larlonites of the Order of Saint Mila are battlefield medics and trauma healers. Their order attached its members to the Aurbeski military, and they make it their business to see that as many soldiers survive to see their families again as possible. Seeker introduces himself and, after some awkward cultural fumbling—Seeker goes to shake hands and they go to kiss cheeks (which in and of itself is personally amusing; his native culture, elven/wolfmen, actually do the cheek kissing/scenting thing, but he’s been around the Drouganti long enough that he’s adapted)—he’s welcomed warmly. Through a bit of idle chatter, Seeker and Flynn learn that the Huroc have been ravaging the Aurbeski countryside for years, ever since they came from “the root of all evil”, the Illian Kingdoms. All three Aurbeski armies were put together to drive them out, but only after they devastated more territory than any loyal Aurbeski cares to admit.

    “But on the path that you’re driving them, they’re headed straight for Drougant,” Seeker says, concern in his voice.

    “Oh?” replies the head healer, a wry smile on her lips. “Well that’s quite unfortunate, isn’t it? But by that point it won’t be our problem, so I’m afraid we can’t help.”

    One could say that Aurbesk and Drougant don’t have the friendliest relationship.

    Meanwhile, about eight miles away, Miaoyu and Olaf are having their own adventures in cross-cultural relations. While Miaoyu slips into the shadows, Olaf marches straight up to the camp until he’s halted by a pair of sentries.

    “What do you want?” one asks.

    “I wish to join my brothers in spiting civilization and living as Kurush wants us to!” he says. The guards glance at each other.

    “Bah, let him through,” the second guard says. “If he’s a spy, so what? He dies.” And with that, Olaf's in. You talk about strong security arrangements....

    Miaoyu takes a moment to find a nice patch of shadows in the camp and shadow-walks past the perimeter. Now that the two are both inside, they get a better feel for the camp. Firstly, the Hurocs are mainly of Illian and Dhar descent—and they are seething. It’s clear just from the atmosphere that the Huroc don’t like being pushed around, and they’re definitely not afraid of the Aurbeski.

    Unfortunately, both Miaoyu and Olaf have a bit of trouble understanding the Hurocs' dialect: it’s some sort of hybrid Illian-Aurbeski-Dhar abomination, but even with knowledge of some of those languages it’s difficult for them to understand. It’s somewhat like translating English and German; they’re related and maybe you could figure out bits and pieces without studying the other language, but for the most part, you’re lost.

    Just about everyone in the camp is armed; men and women alike wear armor and carry weapons of some variety. There doesn't seem to be a standardized set of weapons and armor, though; everyone appears to maintain and choose their own gear, and the sheer array of weapons is dizzying. Even the children are armed, and every single one walks with the arrogant confidence of a schoolyard bully. And they’re tall. Goodness, are the Huroc tall. Miaoyu, standing at a meager 5’2”, finds the best way to blend in with the Huroc is by keeping her hood up and letting them think she’s a child. Olaf, though, isn’t having such a reasonable reaction to his shortness. He’s instead filled with fury and decides that something needs to be done about it—he marches straight to the center of camp, Miaoyu following along all the while. In the center of camp, Olaf sees a large, important-looking (if battered) tent and barges in. Miaoyu finds a hole in the tent's fabric and watches from outside.

    Inside the tent: off to one side is what looks to be a very non-portable bed with two scantily clad women lounging on top of it. At the back of the tent is a desk with various maps and papers scattered about it with two men leaning over it, and four more men scattered about. Olaf stomps to the center of the tent and drives his glaive into the floor. He immediately has everyone's attention. One particularly imposing man raises an eyebrow at Olaf and Olaf recognizes his air of authority.

    “You are the leader of this camp?” he asks.

    “Yes,” the man says. “I’m Alderik. You’re new. What are you doing here?”

    Olaf approaches boldly, ignoring the others in the tent entirely. “I have received a vision from an augur of Kurush,” he says, and begins to unwrap the bandages from his arm.

    “Oh, no,” Miaoyu murmurs from outside the tent. “No, Olaf, no, no, no...”

    “I am meant to bring you to a fleet of ships and lead you to your promised land. But I need more time to secure my fleet—and I need you to buy it by destroying the Aurbeski army!” At this he raises his red right arm and Alderik’s eyes, which had previously been only mildly interested, light up with excitement.

    “I recognize the mark of Kurush,” Alderik intones solemnly. Then he breaks into a wide grin, unsheathes his massive sword, and holds it high above his head, almost tearing another hold in the tent's roof. “We attack at dawn!” he crows. The Hurocs in the tent cheer and Alderik turns to Olaf. “Will you join us in battle, brother?”

    Olaf rushes to bury his panic at the question and says the only thing he can: “Of course!”

    And with that, we called it a night.
    Last edited by AverageSparrow; 2014-04-23 at 08:17 PM.

  28. - Top - End - #58
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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

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    That was a fun cliffhanger to wait a week on, let me tell you!
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  29. - Top - End - #59
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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

    I spent the entire week after this one getting "what the heck were you thinking?!"
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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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  30. - Top - End - #60
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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

    To yourself?
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