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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

    Spoiler: Chapter 25: Don’t Taunt the Vampire Necromancer Werewolf
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    The morning after the spider silk collection excursion, the party wakes up to Miaoyu and Tsarae huddled together, talking in low voices.

    “What are you doing?” Seeker asks, scratching an ear. Miaoyu looks up.

    “Trying to get an idea of how much this is worth.” She holds up the huge sapphire she found and conveniently forgot to mention. Seeker gapes at it, tongue lolling; Flynn and Gavin are still waking up, and merely blink at the thing, uncomprehending. Aelron, however, is suddenly wide awake. When you're a Gemstone Tower mage, a sapphire of that size is like a piece of your wildest fantasy come to life. “Now, I’m not one hundred percent sure,” Miaoyu continues, “But this should be worth... let's see...” Miaoyu purses her lips and stares off into the middle distance as she concentrates. “Rounding to the nearest whole number, carry the two...” She grins and glances back briefly at Tsarae—who rolls her eyes at the theatrics—then faces the rest of the party again: “Approximately all of the money. Really, all of it. If we split it up evenly between us, we would all have more than enough to comfortably retire for the rest of our lives. Even you, Seeker.”

    “Gems that big usually have names,” Flynn notes. “It could be very valuable to Gryphon’s Peak if that's one of their named stones.”

    “We’ll take it to a jeweler,” Miaoyu decides, and no one seems to think it's a terrible idea. “Get a proper estimate, find out if it’s important, and hopefully get some money out of all of this. In the meantime—what’s on the agenda?”

    Warding is on the agenda. Seeker charms some stones with a spell that will fill trespassers with a sense of foreboding. Miaoyu and Tsarae move a few boxes into the front room and impatiently open them with crowbars, and Flynn and Gavin scatter bits from several harpy corpses around. The idea is to present the area as if it has already been looted—not entirely untrue—and to discourage more curious wanderers with a nice push out the door from the warding spell.

    Gavin is still wounded from fighting the spider wolves and requests a couple days of rest to heal. The party agrees readily; the spellcasters want to re-prepare, and everyone else just wants to NOT think about spiders for a few days. By the second afternoon, though, Tsarae is getting antsy.

    "We’ve been here for days," she says. "Can’t we get back to killing things?"

    Gavin gives her a cool look. “I need a little more time before we go out again. I need to be at full strength so I can protect everyone.”

    Tsarae rolls her eyes. “I’m touched.”

    Gavin’s nostrils glare. “Yes. You are. Severely.”

    Tsarae studies Gavin for a moment before turning to Miaoyu with a frown. “I liked the other one better.”

    Before long, the Gavin is back to fighting fit. The party's objective for this particular excursion into Old Drougant City is to establish a forward base (or, preferably, a chain of safehouses), find a path through the ruins to the Throne, and get back out alive.

    The first leg of the journey is uneventful, though the party does come across a strange... iron formation resting in the fields about half a mile from the gate. Everyone moves closer to check it out. Brief examination shows that the formation is made up of individual iron bars woven together in a pattern with no discernable function. Eventually, the party gives up trying to figure it out and continues trekking.

    About half an hour later, their road intersects the crumbling ruin of the city's perimeter wall. The wall was built atop a ring of hills that surround the lowlands on which Old Drougant was built, so little can be seen over the walls or through the gate aside from rolling fog. Gavin and Flynn, however, are quick to examine the gatehouse itself and noticed something rather alarming. All that remains of the gate is what appears to be half a portcullis: a bunch of crisscrossing metal bars with spikes on the lower end that slot into small holes in the roadway when the portcullis is lowered. The other half of the portcullis is nowhere to be seen, and appears to have been torn off by something INSIDE the city. The crumpled heap of twisted iron bars found by the roadside appears to have been explained: it looks as though something with an immensely strong grip grabbed the portcullis, ripped half of it away, crumpled it like so much wastepaper, and hurled it away.

    Gavin stares at the crumbling gatehouse, slack-jawed, then rushes to a nearby hill. He squints his eyes, glances from the wall to the crumpled iron heap in the distance, holds up his hands and tries to wrap his mind around how the iron could have landed half an hour's walk away.

    "How?" he asks plaintively, mostly rhetorically.

    "Whatever it was," Flynn says from the ruins, measuring and gauging, "its hand must have been at least a yard in width."

    Aelron takes a moment to think. A hand capable of stretching three feet across, strong enough to rip a portcullis apart and hurl it a half-hour's walk away...

    "It might have been a dragon," Aelron supplies slowly, then stops for a quick spellcast. "But if it was one, he or she is no longer here now. Hmm. Seems a bit more likely it was a troll or a giant, something of that nature.”

    “The Drouganti can’t even build a city right,” Gavin grumbles. “This one’s filled with monsters.”

    The party pauses its travels to explore the remains of the gatehouse. Only one of its two towers remains standing, but from its summit the party has a good view into Old Drougant City proper. There isn't a whole lot to see up there; the land slopes downward into impenetrable mists. In the distance, the party can glimpse the Throne, a basalt island protruding well above fog level in the center of the river, smack-dab in the middle of the city.

    Miaoyu and Flynn also spot two other interesting things: there's a small gap in the fog off to the east where there appears to be a fire glowing, and a small column of smoke winds its way upward before dispersing. A supernatural fire, or some sort of local inhabitants? And off to the north, there's a tower that looks like it should long-since have tumbled to the ground: the building it was built onto appears to have mostly crumbled away, leaving only a small spiral staircase leading up to the underside of a bulky, wide, three- or four-story stone tower. There's no way that a tiny little staircase pillar like that could support the entire tower above it, and yet... the tower is still upright and, barring the damage to the structure below it, surprisingly intact. It almost looks like it's floating, hovering, above the city streets.

    This naturally intrigues Aelron, who convinces Gavin and Flynn that, if it could be secured, it could serve as an excellent forward base, so the party returns to the road and sets course for the floating tower. Concerned that they’ll get lost, Aelron writes up a quick little rhyme on a scrap of parchment. “Memorize this, then hide it somewhere in here,” he tells Miaoyu. She takes a moment to capture it in her mind, then finds a loose brick to hide it behind (and hilariously rolls perfectly on her roll to disguise the hiding spot; as soon as she's walked away from it, not even she can seem to remember where she put it).

    Into the mist they go! And surprisingly, there’s nothing lurking within its depths. The party passes without incident, whistling casually as they crunch through the rubble to find...

    Nope, sorry, couldn't finish that with a straight face. Of course the party gets ambushed by the undead.

    A group zombified corpses, looking relatively fresh as far as corpses go (the flesh hasn't begun to rot away yet, the lower extremities aren't horribly discolored and black, etc), shamble out of the fog and moan hungrily.

    Thanks to one of her feats, Tsarae is never surprised. By anything. Ever. With her paranoia cranked up to eleven because she's literally in a ruined city full of monsters, the appearance of a zombie hit squad is almost a relief from the hyper-tension of wondering when the first attack will appear. While the rest of the party is still grabbing for their weapons, she casually decapitates one of the undead, maybe even sighing with satisfaction while she does it.

    The rest of the party gets their feet under them Gavin is first to take his turn. His player looks to the DM. “Is my significance sense tingling?” he asks. He wants to know if the zombies are level ones, and if he'll have to kill them one at a time.

    Tam smiles grimly. “It is not.” That means they're level zero creatures, and he can, if he rolls well, kill three in a round.

    “Oh, good!” Gavin charges as best he is able across the rubble- and puddle-strewn roadway the zombies have selected as their ambush point and buries his spear in one zombie's chest. The creature looks down in vague surprise as the necromantic light begins to fade from its eyes, and then Gavin swings his spear around, dragging the corpse's fall into the path of the still-lurching zombie next to it. He withdraws his spear with a truly disgusting squelch, then, as the second zombie trips over the first, stabs through them both and pins them to the ground.

    Behind him, Flynn has drawn up short and points at a pair of shamblers that are closing on Gavin's left flank. A pair of well-placed bolts brings them down, collapsing them into twitching heaps on the broken flagstones.

    On the other side of the group, a pair of zombies has stumbled down from the ruin of a building and managed to close with Miaoyu. One of them scratches her arm, and, deeply offended, she shoots it down at point-blank range. Aelron flicks his staff at a the second one, and it falls with a smoking crater in its chest. Tsarae dashes around the two of them to fire forward at the last zombie, which hadn't managed to close with Gavin yet. Her shot connects solidly, and the corpse drops to the stones with a thud.

    Tam swears at his dice, then at Tsarae, bemoaning her tendency to kill his encounters almost single-handedly.

    Seeker quickly checks Miaoyu for infection—she's clean, thankfully—and heals her scratches.

    “Thanks,” Miaoyu says, smiling grimly. “Now we just need to take care of the big one.”

    The entire party, until a moment ago in the process of sheathing or cleaning weapons, is suddenly brandishing them again. "Big one?" Seeker echoes, ears flicking.

    Miaoyu points at a half-fallen building almost dead ahead of them. Two of its walls have entirely collapsed, one inward and one outward, and only half of the ceiling is still in place. Miaoyu points at the shadows under the remnants of ceiling, indicating the darkest recesses of the corner dimness. “It’s right….” She stops, peers closer, glances around nervously. “It was there. It looked like a wolfman, but bigger than any I’ve seen.”

    Aelron glances about hesitantly. “It was probably the necromancer directing these zombies. Mindless undead like that don't set traps on their own.”

    “Yeah, but enormous wolfman?” Gavin asks. “That sounds really ominous.”

    Aelron shrugs. He still looks nervous, but his voice is detached, clinical. It would appear he's hiding from his own panic instinct behind a shield of... book knowledge. “The term 'wolf-man' is a generalization that encompasses a variety of creatures, from male elves suffering a deific lycanthropic curse to magical shapeshifters to supernatural beasts with greater-than-average intelligence. Some forms of were-creature have a half-creature-half-human form, which tends toward oversized. It's not unreasonable for this to be an actual werewolf in half-human form, rather than a wolfman.”

    “Wonderful,” Tsarae mutters. “Werewolves. Did anyone bring any silver?”

    Miaoyu casually flicks a silver coin at Tsarae.

    Tsarae catches it, flips it across her fingers, and then makes it magically vanish. “That's kind of you, but I meant silver weapons.”

    Seeker cautiously approaches the building and sniffs the air. “I can’t get a scent. If there WAS something here, it hid itself well.”

    No one's doubting Miaoyu's word that there was something here, though. Aelron and Seeker are quick to assure Miaoyu that scent can be masked through both magical and mundane means, and Tsarae just laughs. “I'd be more astonished to find there wasn't something larger behind that attack,” she says, and given their surroundings, the party has to agree.

    With no way to track the mysterious wolf-figure, the party continues on, and around noon they reach the floating tower. Miaoyu and Tsarae do a quick stealthy sweep of the area to make sure there isn't anything nasty waiting in the ruins, then give Aelron the all-clear. He steps forward and activates spellsight, peering up at the tower.

    The tower lights up in his vision like a lighthouse beacon; the intact structure above is absolutely covered in spells. Almost all of them appear as what Aelron would recognize as Sapphire tower magic: defensive wards, preservative spells and protective magics, layer after layer, ward upon ward, all running together like melted wax, solidifying into a single uber-ward spell. Whoever owned this tower dumped an utterly fantastic amount of money and resources into making sure it was a very safe place.

    Most magic degrades over time. Spells cast by a single individual and without any ready supply of energy to draw upon will cease activity if their caster dies. Unfortunately for these wards, Old Drougant is a hotbed of wild magic, and its energies are doing the integrity of the old spells no favors. Fortunately for the tower itself, the wild magic doesn't seem to be damaging the spells themselves so much as merging them together; the tower's wards have merged into a single giant spell that provides a multitude of benefits to the tower it protects: first, it has locked the tower at a single point in space, holding it up off the ground despite the fact that the required structural supports have long since crumbled away. It is also temperature- and humidity-contolling the interior, while also providing some more esoteric effects that Aelron can't quite determine.

    Seeker takes a moment to do a ritual to ensure the stairs will hold under the weight of a person, while the others shift around in paranoia, waiting for an ambush. The fog is wrapped thick around the ruins of the building under the tower, and Miaoyu picks up on the distinct sounds of chitinous, many-legged chittering.

    Gavin, lounging against one of the half-collapsed walls, smiles over at her, attempting to reassure her. “You know, sound is a strange thing, especially in a fog like this,” he says, waving at the soup that almost obscures the buildings across the street. “I once heard a crab clacking its claws together and it sounded just like this. And there was only the one!”

    Miaoyu tries hard to believe his story. She wants to believe that Old Drougant City has some phantom crab that makes oddly spidery sounds. It’s just that her will save won’t let her. Gavin lifts a hand and makes a gesture like a claw clacking. Miaoyu’s lip trembles.

    "You’re a monster," Tsarae scolds Gavin, but there’s a shadow of amusement on her face.

    Finally, Seeker finishes stabilizing the stairs (“How did you do that, by the way?” the Werebear asks. “You're an internal mage, aren't you? Aelron would just reinforce them with more stone, but what did you do?” Fayd just smiles. “I gave them a pep talk!”) and Gavin steps forward to be the first to climb them.

    "If it can hold me, it can hold anyone," he reasons.

    Gavin takes the steps two at a time until he reaches the opening leading into the lowest floor of the tower above and the wall of shimmering blue that obscures it.

    "There’s a barrier here," he calls down.

    "Like what?” Aelron shouts back, “A wall of furniture?”

    "No." Gavin pokes the barrier, attempting to determine what it is. It feels real, but not like any substance he's ever encountered. Presence without texture, a solidity of absence.

    "Then what?" Flynn calls back.

    "Blue?” Gavin answers uncertainly.

    Aelron sighs and sets off up the stairs. As soon as he reaches the top he can easily confirm that yep, that’s definitely magic. He spends a couple of minutes studying the barrier, but can’t find any immediately obvious way to dispel it without bringing the tower down: it appears that the wards have settled into a cylindrical shape completely enclosing the tower, and will deny entry to anyone who doesn't have an appropriate passphrase. They're gonna need a different skillset to get through this.

    "Miaoyu,” Aelron calls down, “Can you take a look at this?"

    So up goes a third person (she has to pass Gavin on the way up, and she rolls an Acrobatics check to swing around him, out over open air, gripped like a dancer in his arms unitl she's back on solid ground) and Miaoyu takes her turn in examining the barrier. She pokes it a couple times, then leans close and presses her face against it, trying to see in. She tilts her head, then brings up both hands as if making a telescope with them. That does the trick, apparently: “I can see something!” She gives Aelron a grin. “Books. Lots of them.”

    The hunger and longing in Aelron's eyes is a startling thing.

    Miaoyu asks Gavin to boost her up so she can climb the tower and try to look in from the top. One successful acrobatics check later, she's clinging to the side of the tower, rod of spider climb clutched tightly in one hand, trying desperately to ignore the fact that she's holding a spider's limb in her hand.

    "Just remember," Gavin calls to her. "Crab." He makes the clacking gesture again. Miaoyu scowls and decides to ignore him, focusing instead on the climb. In moments she's at the top of the tower. The roof has long since blown away, but rooftop access isn’t possible: there’s another blue barrier. She's not surprised, so she scales her way back down and confers with Aelron.

    “I can't see a conventional way in; the wards appear to be a solid wall around the interior space. I could try shadow walking in, though."

    Aelron frowns. "Are you sure it’s not warded against that?"

    Miaoyu hesitates: she’s reluctant to give away trade secrets. “It’s extremely unlikely. What I do isn’t something that’s well-documented. I sort of step into the demi-plane of shadows, then back out.”

    Aelron blinks at her. Such a thing could be warded against, certainly, but Aelron's never heard of such short-range dimension hopping before. If it's truly as well-kept a secret as Miaoyu thinks it is, it's probable that whoever owned this tower is unaware of that particular vulnerability. He shrugs to her. “You're probably right. At your leisure, then. Just be careful.”

    Miaoyu goes back to the main entrance of the tower, finds some nice shadows, and dimension-hops inside. The tower interior is five stories tall, and every available wall space on all five floors is lined with bookcases. Rolling ladders provide access to the taller shelves. There are easily thousands of books, scrolls, tablets and other receptacles of the written word here.

    Suddenly, Miaoyu remembers where she's seen a warded tower like this before: the Ysilarite library in Brandt looked almost exactly like this. The party has stumbled across a two-hundred-year old library tower, preserved by warped wards, sealed off from all the rampaging monsters and full of books. Aelron hasn't looked this happy since the last time they stopped by the dryad's grove.

    Meanwhile, the others have been amusing themselves in the rubble of the building's first floor. Gavin and Flynn pick through the rubble, looking for anything of note, and eventually they find something. It looks like a brooch or large necklace, a silver disc with a red center and, faintly etched around the silver rim, markings that appear to be two serpents intertwined: a symbol of Ylsilar, god of knowledge and poison. Gavin makes his way to back up to Aelron, who is still studying the barrier.

    "What do you think the odds are that this is exactly what’s needed to get through that barrier?"

    Aelron considers. He's seen librarians wearing symbols like that before. "Pretty good, I’d say."

    Miaoyu steps out of the library and the party discusses how to proceed with the talisman.

    "My concern," says Aelron, "is that if we touch that thing to the wards, it will deactivate them, and the entire tower will collapse."

    Flynn tilts his head thoughtfully. “If we’re worried about that, then I think it would make most sense that the person who tries it be capable of being out in an instant.”

    Miaoyu is already shaking her head by the time the others turn to her. “I need to see the shadows I’m teleporting to, and at the barrier, I don’t have a clear line of sight to anywhere but directly below me. Even if I had a larger field of vision, this fog is probably too thick to get a good distance away.”

    "I’ll do it," Gavin says with a great sigh. "If anyone can survive tons of stones and books crashing on their head, it would be me."

    No one can really argue that—Gavin has by far the best AC in the party, and despite his low hit point rolls, one of the higher hit point totals as well. The rest of the party retreats a safe distance away (although Seeker does risk standing closer than the rest, just in case Gavin needs immediate medical attention). Gavin touches the brooch to the blue barrier.

    The barrier shimmers, turns an alarming, angry scarlet for a moment, then returns to its original hue. Gavin feels a horrible crawling sensation over his skin. Desperately, he jerks up a sleeve: scales have formed in patches. And they seemed to be rotting.

    Gavin, much like Olaf before him, has acquired the disfavor of Ylsilar and a lovely case of scalerot. Gavin’s case of disfavor has an extra punch to it: -4 on fortitude saves against poisons.

    Gavin comes storming down the stairs to the great surprise of the party. His face is red with anger and he’s sputtering out expletives.

    "I can’t believe that a thief can enter the library without so much as a slap on the wrist but when I attempt to enter honestly, this happens!"

    He rounds on Seeker. “You! You’re of the same church. Maybe you’ll have more pull than someone who only follows in spirit. I want to know what happened.”

    Seeker takes a moment to help Gavin calm down (he only partially succeeds) and settles in for an attempt to commune directly with his god. Seeker has tried this in the past with little success. Gilgadar speaks directly with Miaoyu and his other priests because he has rather few of them, plenty of time on his hands, and few requests for aid to accommodate. Larlon, on the other hand, is a mainstream, socially approved deity worshipped directly by the entire medical establishment and prayed to by anyone who falls ill or gets injured; responding personally to everyone who petitioned him would be overwhelming even for a god.

    And that’s exactly why Seeker is so surprised when a voice that he knows to be Larlon's, a voice that bears the weight of ancient wisdom and worldly knowledge, answers his communing probe with a crystal-clear, “Yes?”

    Seeker sputters in surprise before collecting himself. “I’m sorry to bother you, my lord, but you know the mind of the Younger Scholar better than I. One of my companions attempted to enter an abandoned library legitimately, with a token that we thought would grant access, and earned their disfavor. Is there any insight you can offer me in this situation?” Seeker offers up his own memories of the situation, showing Larlon the finding of the tower, everything Aelron has told him about the wards, and everything the party was able to deduce about the amulet.

    Seeker gets the vague impression that Larlon is stroking his beard while he thinks. “It seems likely that this was an automated instance of disfavor. If I had to guess, I’d say that the token was actually an ID badge or a library card. It might not have actually belonged to a librarian. Whoever it belonged to, they must have had books out at the time Old Drougant City fell. If you go to a Ylsilarite temple, I’m sure something can be done to correct this error.”

    Seeker thanks Larlon for his help and then relays his advice to the party.

    "Are you saying that Gavin was just hit with over two-hundred years’ worth of someone else's library fines?" Miaoyu asks, her voice a mixture of amusement and sympathy. Seeker nods woefully. Gavin fumes.

    "Let’s keep going, then," Gavin finally sighs.

    “Gavin,” Aelron says, “We should fall back. With wolf-spiders around, and Tykanria-only-knows-what else lurking in the shadows, a vulnerability to poison is an unacceptable ri—”

    Gavin cuts him off with a glare. "We came here with a job to do. We are going to finish it, and then we are going back to Brandt to get rid of this infernal itching. Now come on.”

    The party leaves the tower behind and resumes their course to the Throne. After an hour of travel, they come to a bridge that will allow them to cross the river. They're about halfway across when they notice that the stone pillars supporting the bridge are… swaying.

    Flynn fires an eldritch arrow into the bridge. The arrow bounces off of it and sails though the air before dissipating. Curious, he picks up a rock and tries to skip it along the bridge. He succeeds.

    Aelron is staring at the bridge through Spellsight, looking around wonderingly. There's magic all over the bridge, and it's like nothing he's ever seen before. He's rooted to the spot studying it, but not offering anything like advice.

    Gavin tries his own hand at testing the bridge by throwing his returning spear into the stone. It sinks in as if he'd thrown it at a brick of rubber, not a rock. After a moment, it returns. Gavin jiggles it a little to make sure it’s kept its solidity (it has) and says, “I’ll go ahead and check out out.”

    Gavin steps tentatively forward. The paving stones under foot squish a little under his feet, and he’s bouncing like a child on a trampoline as he walks. The end of the bridge spills into a courtyard centered on a fountain of still-flowing water. Gavin heads toward the fountain, as it seems to be strangely drawing his eye.

    As he gets closer, he realizes that the water is… wrong. It oozes more than it flows from the fountain's upper reaches to the lowest basin, and the water in the basin wobbles like gelatin instead of rippling. Gavin reaches into his pack and pulls out an old, chipped mug to scoop up a bit of 'water', careful not to touch it with his hand.

    Keeping the mug in hand, Gavin starts heading back to the party. At some point he misses his footing a bit thanks to the bouncy nature of the ground, and notices his mug wobble.

    With a shout, Gavin throws the mug on the ground (the water and mug separate, each bouncing away wildly) and begins running back to the others, terrified of becoming a noodle-person. As he runs, he bounces higher and higher until he reaches solid ground with an undignified crash.

    "I wouldn’t touch the water, if I were you," he advises. The party carefully crosses the bridge and passes through the courtyard until the bounciness wears off and the ground returns to normal solidity.

    In the late afternoon, they arrive at the business district. It’s in comparatively better shape, with some of the buildings still standing. Because night will likely come upon them sooner than expected, the party selects the hippodrome in the distance as their shelter for the night.

    As they approach the hippodrome, the party hears the distinct scream of a horse. This isn’t like most horse screams, though. It’s not the sound of prey being hunted down, but rather that of a triumphant predator.

    "You know, I’m remembering an old folklore book I read ages ago," Miaoyu says. "Something about nomads making deals for an extraordinarily fast horse. It would seem like a good deal at first, but when they put the horse in the pasture for the night, they’d wake up and find all the other horses dead and eaten by the horse they brought back."

    Everybody shudders and they all glance across to Aelron, who nods. “I remember one of my professors mentioning these things. Don't remember what he called them, but they exist: predatory horses, usually solitary predators. Magical creatures, though reports of what magic they usually employ vary wildly. The one thing the stories have in common is that they're not particularly picky eaters: the unwitting commoner or soldier is as likely a snack as the unwitting wildlife.”

    With that bracing anecdote ringing in their ears, the party enters the hippodrome.

    A hippodrome, for those who aren't ancient history buffs, is a horse-racing arena in the style of ancient Greece: an oval stadium with a sand floor. A pair of pillars in the sand near either end of the oval arena, massive terma, mark the points around which horses or chariots must turn. This particular hippodrome has a wall linking its terma, splitting the arena roughly into two parts. Up in the stands is a long counter, probably where bookkeepers would have sat taking bets and handing out rewards. Several dark doorways lead off the sand and down barely-visible ramps, presumably into stables underneath the arena.

    On the sand itself, not far from one of the doors, is a massive bloodstain. It trails off into the nearest tunnel, as though whatever lost all that blood was subsequently dragged below.

    “I think we found our horse-villain,” Gavin murmurs.

    Everyone agrees that they need to investigate the bloodstain and the ground around it, see if they can find any corroboration of their theory. Most of the party jumps down onto the racetrack: Gavin and Tsarae take the lead, while Miaoyu and the mages hang a few paces behind them. Unforunately the blood stain is on the far side of the arena, so they'll have to go around one of the terma to reach it. Flynn opts to remain in the stands, following the party around the rim of the stadium on its lowest level.

    It is as Gavin and Tsarae round the terma, Tsarae trailing her hand casually along the marble of the pillar, that they cross what would have been the race track's finish line. Aelron and Seeker detect a massive surge of magic, feel more than see it closing about their minds, and hastily throw up mental barriers, blocking outside influences. The spell, whatever it is, rolls over them but cannot inundate them, and washes away, leaving them unscathed.

    The rest of the party, without any warning, is not so lucky.

    Six ghostly horses appear on the starting blocks, and Gavin, Tsarae and Miaoyu hurry to mount theirs: they have a race to win. Flynn, in the stands, is suddenly holding a betting ticket and cheering at the riders below. This particular horse race features three teams of two riders each: Miaoyu and Tsarae are together on the red team, Gavin is with a ghost jockey on green, and the final team, composed of two ghosts on ghostly mounts, is blue. Flynn, naturally, has bet everything on the blue team.

    Aelron and Seeker exchange a horrified glance before the starting bell rings. All the riders are shouting at them to clear the track, but there's nowhere to go before the horses are upon them.

    "Outta the way!" Flynn shouts down. "Get in front of the reds!"

    Seeker and Aelron attempt to dive for the central wall, but Gavin still has to pull his horse up short to keep from trampling them, putting him in a dismal last place while Miaoyu and Tsarae take the lead.

    Tam, at this point, is asking for periodic acrobatics or athletics rolls from each rider to determine progress down the course. Tsarae, of course, rolls brilliantly, and leaps out in front of the pack. Sparrow, after a wonderful start (and history of lucky acrobatics checks), begins rolling horribly, and falls behind quickly. The blue team and the ghost of green team form the majority of the pack, with only one of the blues able to keep up with Tsarae, but all of them well ahead of Miaoyu and Gavin.

    Seeker and Aelron stand and take stock of the situation quickly.

    “Charm?” Seeker asks.

    Aelron nods grimly. “Looks that way. Pretty elaborate one, too.”

    “Dispel?”

    “Yep.”

    Seeker takes off at a dead sprint after Gavin, whose horse is still trying to regain its stride after tripping over Seeker. Just as the horse begins to pick up speed again, Seeker reaches range and fires off a Dispel Magic, aiming for Gavin. Unfortunately, in his haste, he hits the horse, not the rider. Gavin tumbles to the ground, bruised and furious. He staggers to his feet and sets eyes on Seeker, yelling angrily:

    “You killed my horse! How dare you interfere with the race?!”

    Seeker hesitates when he sees the angry gleam in his friend’s eye and hurries to cast Suggestion. “I suggest that you stand down.”

    The spell is a success: Gavin no longer wants to beat Seeker into next week, just give him a good talking to. Seeker begins falling back to Aelron, and Gavin, apparently ignoring Aelron's presence, advances. It only takes a moment for Gavin to move into Aelron's dispel range, and without a horse to block the shot, Aelron hits easily.

    Gavin stops in his tracks and blinks, dazed for a moment, then looks around. “So. A race, huh?”

    Aelron grimaces. “So it would appear.”

    Back in the thick of things, Miaoyu’s now in last place with Gavin's removal from the race, but Tsarae makes up for it: they might lose the team portion of the race, which averages the times of both riders on each team, but Tsarae may very well win the race for herself—if only it wasn’t for one of the blues constantly on her heels.

    The racers are just coming around to finish their first lap as the three uncharmed party members scramble atop the dividing wall. Seeker gestures Gavin forward. “We'll dispel her and the horse, you grab her.” Gavin nods, gauges the height of the incoming horse and rider, holds out an arm for Miaoyu and braces himself atop the wall.

    As Miaoyu comes galloping toward the finish line, Seeker casts Dispel Magic. Her horse vanishes from underneath her and she falls almost smoothly into Gavin's arms. Miaoyu pushes herself out of his grasp and regains her footing, face flushed with anger.

    "What’s your problem? You get your horse vanished, so you start doing it to other people? That’s not very sporting! Just because I was going to start shooting at the other riders—"

    Aelron casts Dispel Magic, smirking.

    Miaoyu blinks. “Oh. Were we…?”

    "Charmed?" Gavin offers. "Looks like."

    "Shall we rinse and repeat with Tsarae?" Seeker asks.

    “Sure, but I'm not catching her,” Gavin says. “She has a tendency to land pointy-bits-first, and I've no desire to be a pincushion.”

    Miaoyu winces. “Just try to hit her with the first dispel, okay?”

    "I’m sure this will hurt her more than it’ll hurt you," Seeker says.

    Miaoyu gives him an exasperated look. “Do you even know how many knives she has? This is definitely going to hurt me more.”

    Tsarae is still leading, with one blue team horse and the remaining green team horse right behind her. Bracing herself for the catch, Miaoyu leans out from the wall to watch Tsarae close on the finish line.

    Aelron and Seeker prepare their dispels and fire as one. Unforunately for them, both their spells appear to bounce off Tsarae's horse. Tsarae remains charmed, and her horse continues to be at least semi-corporeal. Gavin and Miaoyu manage to latch onto Tsarae and drag her to the ground as her horse crosses the finish line, but as soon as Tsarae has her bearings, daggers appear in each hand.

    And then the spell ends. Tsarae blinks in confusion, then tucks her daggers away—though she still looks cross—and the ghostly horses and jockeys vanish.

    Even though Tsarae won the singles race, the blue team won the doubles. Flynn takes his betting card and turns it in at the long counter above. He’s handed a hefty bag of coins, and then the charm is lifted on him too. He takes a peek inside the bag—it’s filled to the brim with freshly minted gold coins, each one stamped with the date it was minted... 200 years ago, before the fall of the city.

    Flynn joins the rest of the party on the racing track. Seeker asks Tsarae, “So how does it feel to win?”

    She frowns. “I don’t think I like these sports.”

    "What are sports like in the Underdark?"

    "For my people? We don’t have them—no time. In other places?” She shudders. “You don’t want to know."

    With that delightful thought, the party presses toward one of the dark tunnels leading below the racing track. Aelron blesses everyone with Vision of Color and they find themselves in a vast stable. There are no cannibal horses in sight, but there is a corpse of an ill-fated attercop. He has bits of flesh ripped from his body as though something was taking bites out of him.

    Night is falling, and the party has no way of setting a trap, and their scents will likely give them away if they remain down here. They head back to the stands, find the old box seats, and camp in one of the boxes, high above the track.

    The night is not destined to be a peaceful one. Miaoyu and Tsarae are on watch when they hear a horrible scream from the northeast.

    "It’s probably nothing," Tsarae says. Another scream joins the first, then another. Miaoyu winces. "Just ignore it," Tsarae pleads. "Let’s just worry about ourselves."

    Miaoyu wavers for a long moment, then, with a pained expression, shakes Gavin awake. “What is it?” he mumbles groggily. Then he hears the screams and sits bolt upright. He grabs his spear and starts helping Miaoyu wake the others, Tsarae protesting all the while.

    "This is a bad idea. Those people are being attacked because they weren’t careful. They screwed up. If we go after them, we’ll get killed too."

    "Probably," Aelron agrees, unfaltering.

    "The screaming has been going for six minutes now. This is a trap, or worse, someone who likes to toy with their prey. Or worse than that: both."

    "It’s likely," Gavin says as he heads down the stairs, Aelron right behind him.

    Tsarae rounds on Miaoyu. "Where did you find this guy? Was there a discount offer on idiot knights?"

    "Well, we didn’t pay for him, so… yes?" Miaoyu fidgets anxiously with her pack, carefully not taking a side in the debate.

    Tsarae lets out a frustrated sigh. Seeker begins following after Gavin and Aelron. “You can stay here if you want to. Alone. With the demon horse.”

    Tsarae reluctantly steps in with the rest of the party, Miaoyu close behind.

    Old Drougant City is covered with dense fog at night and the party has trouble seeing much at all. They follow the direction of the screams as quickly as they can, but as the party reaches the door leading out of the hippodrome complex and into the streets, the horrible shrieking ceases.

    Gavin turns to Miaoyu. “Do you think you can guide us there?”

    Miaoyu hesitates. “Probably. It sounded close, maybe five blocks away. But Gavin, I don’t think this is a good idea. We can barely see through this fog.”

    "I understand how you feel, Gavin," Aelron says gently. "But you and Flynn haven’t even had time to put on your armor. And if we get separated in this fog, we’ll get picked off one by one with no way to find each other. I hate to say it, but with no remaining sign that anyone is still alive out there, risking ourselves is no longer worth it. We can look in the morning."

    Gavin fumes for a long moment, visibly upset and shaking. “Fine,” he says after a long moment. “I’ll leave this alone. I’ll let these lives go unsaved so we might save more in the future.”

    Gavin turns on his heel and storms back to the campsite. Seeker begins to say, “I’m sorry,” but Gavin cuts him off with a snarled, “Don’t.” His foul mood lasts him all night: he doesn’t sleep and instead takes the time to don his armor. Come morning, everyone takes their breakfast rations, and Gavin herds them out to investigate the screams.

    Miaoyu and Tsarae take point, trying to pin down the origin of the screams, while the others fall back.

    "I’m sorry for my harshness last night," Gavin says to Aelron and Seeker. "In truth, the elf’s lack of concern for anyone’s life other than her own bothers me, and has me on edge."

    Flynn, who had been scanning the surroundings for any movement in the area, snaps his gaze on Gavin at that comment. “Try living it,” he snaps. “Try living with the constant need to survive, then talk to me about regrets.” He storms away.

    "As harsh as it is," Seeker adds, "I can understand her pragmatism. She grew up in the Underdark. Notions of nobility are... uncommon—or at least different—there, to say the least." Aelron reluctantly nods his agreement.

    Gavin sighs at the mages and approaches Flynn. “At least—” he begins.

    Flynn cuts him off. “Take your self-righteousness and shove it up your ass.”

    "—your lady loves you," Gavin continues doggedly.

    Flynn scoffs. “No. I am beyond love.”

    "Then take your self-pity and—"

    "Self-pity?" Flynn rounds on Gavin. "No. You want to do this now?" He takes a threatening step towards Gavin. "Let’s go."

    Seeker rushes between the two right then. “Don’t you think this is escalating a bit far?”

    "Stop fighting, you guys," Miaoyu calls from ahead of them. "We’re here."

    'Here' is an enormous of opera house. The facade has four tall windows and an ornate set of double doors. Or, it did. One of the doors has been cracked in half and the windows are smeared with blood on the inside. Everyone takes a deep breath and peers inside.

    To say that the atrium is covered in blood is... actually not much of an exaggeration. There are a few scattered bits of what once were people, the remnants of an expedition's supplies... and lots and lots of blood.

    Flynn falls silent and steps away from the door, taking up position to watch the street. Tsarae steps to his side, then thinks better of it and finds a shadow to skulk in. Gavin moves over next to Flynn to watch as well, and the silence grows tense and brittle.

    Seeker turns to Miaoyu. “Do you want to take a look first, before we start leaving tracks through things and disturbing the scene?”

    She nods, then slips into the atrium. The room is at least three stories tall here, with a crystal chandelier still hanging from the ceiling in fairly good, if blood-spattered, condition. A wide marble-floored atrium, probably once covered with expensive carpets, leads to a sweeping curved double-staircase that encloses a balcony, beyond which are entrances to the opera house itself. She takes a few moments to scan the area before noticing something in the floor.

    "Look at this," she murmurs. "Marble flooring, but it had claws strong enough to make gouges."

    After a moment more of surveying the area, she waves Seeker in, pointing at one of the few remains that is identifiable as a piece of a person: it's the remnant of an arm, torn off the body just above the elbow joint, and missing most of its hand. “Look at this. It was bit clean off, wasn’t it?”

    "I wouldn't say 'clean'," Seeker qualifies, “But yes, it appears to have been twisted off in a manner consistent with a biting attack. There must have been several people camped here. But I can only see pieces belonging to two distinct people. The rest just have been… eaten, maybe, or dragged away.” He glances back at the door. “Though the lack of blood smears on the street makes me think 'eaten' is more likely.”

    "It was big," Miaoyu says. "Look at those scratches on the pillar.” She gestures to one of the pillars in the balustrade of one of the twin staircases. Along the near side of the pillar, the side facing away from the stairs, something has gouged claw marks out of the pillar. Those marks are a good ten feet off the marble floor, though. “It had to have been at least twelve feet tall, maybe fifteen. Lots of muscle to make this mess." She glances at Aelron. "Know anything that matches that description?"

    Aelron scratches his head. “It’s not much to go on. Could have been that big wolfman you saw. The sorts of werewolves that have hybrid forms...” he shudders. “They don't leave much behind.” He shakes his head. “Trolls, a small-end giant... Vampires have supernatural strength... but wouldn't they want to consume this much blood, not just rip people apart?”

    "Might have been a necromancer," suggests Seeker. "Or a cultist. Nunatii accepts blood sacrifices."

    Miaoyu shakes her head at that. “I’m not saying that plays are the most reliable sources of information, but in the ones I’ve seen, Nunatiians prefer strangulation or suffocation. At their most gruesome, they pour hot pitch down people’s throats. A bloody mess isn’t really their thing.”

    Aelron nods. His voice has gone clinical again. “Nunantii tends to like his sacrificial victims awake and aware. In horrible pain, yes, of course, but still lucid enough to recognize where they're going and why. This sort of slaughter doesn't leave its victims in the desired state. A scene like this is more appropriate to Ashur or Farkas.”

    Miaoyu shakes her head. “Regardless, I'm through with my inspection. Let’s start looking around, see if we can find any information in their personal affects.”

    Flynn steps in then, still very quiet, and follows a sweeping staircase up to the balcony, surveying the area. Seeker finds a suit of plate armor. Although it has blood smears on it, it seems as though the armor wasn’t being worn when the attack happened: the adventurers had settled in for the night and were surprised by their attacker. He hauls the suit outside. It can be resized for someone in the party.

    Aelron finds a bird bone with magical runes etched into it. It takes him a moment, but he recognizes it as an artifact used by a rare breed of mages: binders. Binders were once common in the Varaz kingdom, but after they fell, the practice became obscure. Some odd traditions still practice it, however, and Kadarashi are known to pick it up from time to time. In this particular case, the bone can be broken to cast a circle of Protection Against Undead. The fact that it is still intact suggests that their attacker wasn’t undead… or they didn’t have the chance to use it.

    Seeker finds a gold ring with an enchantment on it: it grows warm when law officials are near. He hands it to Miaoyu as she’s scooping up a silver sword amulet. “You might find this useful,” he whispers, and explains its abilities to her.

    "Sounds like they were my kind of people. I feel bad for them. Whatever hit them was beyond cruel."

    After one more sweep of the room, it seems there’s nothing left to recover. The party files out of the opera house, and as Flynn exits, he punches the door, hard.

    "Want a weave on that?" Aelron asks after the opera house is some distance away, gesturing to Flynn's bruised knuckles.

    "Hmm?" says Flynn, the first bit of communication he’s made since they uncovered the gruesome scene. "Oh. No, I’m fine." After that, Flynn seems to be more-or-less back to normal.

    Deciding to continue on toward the Throne, the party marches next into an ordinary-looking courtyard, lined with rampant shrubberies and overspilling flowerbeds, centered on a Hawthorne tree. They’re walking through quietly when Miaoyu suddenly stops, looks around, and narrows her eyes.

    She glances at Aelron and Seeker. "Do you feel that?"

    "What do you mean?" Aelron asks.

    Miaoyu hesitates, choosing her words carefully. “My shadow-walking is... off. It just feels wrong. Like if I use it, something bad will happen.”

    Aelron falls quiet for a moment, focusing on his own magic. After a moment, his eyebrows rise in surprise. “You're right. This area is saturated with wild magic, and all magic used within it will be unstable. Any spell or ability we use here could have... unforseen consequences.”

    "Best be in our way, then," Flynn says. They leave the courtyard swiftly, and once they’re outside of its sphere of influence, Gavin marks a stone for Miaoyu to Locate later, should they need to find the area again.

    Finally, they arrive at the Throne. The Throne itself is an island of volcanic rock. Three enormous slabs of stone, perhaps the remnants of volcanic flues, form a tripod over the island, standing awesome sentinel. Below them, a castle nestles into the rock, carved out of the very island's bones. As it is, there’s no ferry to a centuries-long abandoned island, so Gavin slips on his cloak and turns into a seal, accepting both Vision of Color and a consumable spell item he can use for a speed boost from Aelron.

    The travel to the island is pleasantly free of horrible lake monsters (although there are some creepy-looking fish) and Gavin arrives at the Throne's ferry docks safely. He surveys the area, but finds it rather plain, simply a stone quay with a shaped stone path leading up to a yawning gate that opens into the island's core. Satisfied, he shapeshifts into a seal again and returns to the party.

    "It should do. There’s a dock that I can tie a rope to and maybe ferry you all across in a trip or two, whenever we decide to go.”

    “Not today,” Seeker says. “We need to get you taken care of and see what we can do about this journal, and I need to work on the elven mail.”

    “If we sell the gem, we can get some better equipment, too,” Miaoyu adds.

    “And I can do a bit of enchanting,” Aelron seconds.

    And the party wants to reach level four before taking on whatever’s awaiting them. Details.

    So the party makes a strong, quick push back to their manor and returns in time for nightfall. They go to sleep with plans to return to Scarlet in the morning.
    Last edited by AverageSparrow; 2014-05-28 at 08:51 PM.

  2. - Top - End - #92
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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

    That... was a high tension session.
    Spoiler
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  3. - Top - End - #93
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Cade Rentyr's Avatar

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Fayd View Post
    That... was a high tension session.
    For some of us.
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    by Ms. Nobodyby Herpestidae

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

  4. - Top - End - #94
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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

    It was a high-tension session for ALL of us until Tam asked Cade and Werebear to drop out of character to confirm they weren't actually yelling at each other. Once they laughed it off and confirmed that they as players were fine, it got a lot easier... though the scene in the lobby of the opera house was still rather disgusting.

    @islanddog: Next time we have a session, I'll see if Tam will let me take a photo of his world map. If that works out, we can do a continent-by-continent overview of the world and give a bit of its history and background, and attempt an explanation of the metaphysical and extraplanar aspects of the world. Tam gave one to me once, and mostly it made sense, but it also included quite a bit of abstraction and diagramming, so I'll see what I can do about translating it to something understandable in text format.

  5. - Top - End - #95
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    AverageSparrow's Avatar

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    Default Chapter 26: Textual Tension

    Spoiler: Chapter 26: Textual Tension
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    For this chapter, Fayd was away from the gaming table. We took the opportunity to send him extremely confusing and misleading text messages regarding what the party was doing, which I will include at approximately the points we sent them in [brackets] with the name of the sender listed.

    For instance, we started off with [“Ye gods I hate the plague.” -Cade]. Now, Flynn wasn’t suffering plague at the time, but he definitely wasn’t lying.

    Our noble adventurers return to Scarlet and the Eight-Headed Hydra Inn. Miaoyu promptly challenges Tsarae to a drinking contest. Guess who wins. If you guessed ‘the lady with a trait called Hard Drinker’, you guessed right. Apparently Miaoyu doesn't cheat in drinking contests with other Gilgadarites. By the end of the night, she’s having trouble walking straight. Or walking at all. Tsarae alternates between laughing at her and making sure she doesn’t hit her head on any sharp corners.

    Before they get too deep into their drinks, Aelron asks for Miaoyu’s rod of spider climb. “I’ll fix it up for you,” he says. “Try to make it a little less... spidery.” He takes the horrible mandible of evilness and purchases a nice cloth to wrap it in. As he’s returning to the inn, he finds a lovely patch of creeping ivy climbing a brick building and pulls a patch of it free, wrapping it around the cloth and affixing a simple enchantment to keep the leaves fresh for a time. He returns it to a lightly buzzed Miaoyu, who proclaims that it’s the most beautifully disguised awful spider-thing she’s ever seen.

    Flynn notices a small group of adventurers loudly talking about their plans to go into ODC and become rich. He casually joins their conversation, telling them of all the unspeakable horrors he and his friends faced—not a word of it lies, though he does leave out the high points of the expedition. When he gets to the part about the spider wolves, a strapping young dwarf gives Flynn a skeptical look. “Pigeon crap,” she says.

    Flynn raises a brow. “Really?” he turns in his seat and calls to Miaoyu, who’s somewhere between ‘drunk’ and ‘no, really, really drunk’. “You want to tell them about those spiders? About the people we found in their webs? The poison?”

    Miaoyu trembles, lip quivering and tears springing into her eyes. Tsarae pats her on the back and pushes another drink into her hands, giving Flynn a dirty look (mostly for show, as she knows what he's trying to accomplish). Flynn turns back to his audience, shaking his head sadly. “She ran straight into a group of them. Hasn’t been the same since.”

    The adventurers look mortified. Flynn’s job here is done.

    Meanwhile, Gavin approaches the inkeeper. “Can you have a tub of hot water and a scrubbing wench sent up to my room?” he asks.

    The inkeeper scowls at him. “Scrubbing wench?” she deadpans.

    Gavin blinks. “You don't have scrubbing wenches?”

    The inkeeper smiles without mirth and slides a long-handled, rough-bristled brush across the bar to him. “Have fun,” she says. ["Note, the eight headed hydra does not have scrubbing wenches." -Werebear]

    Gavin takes a bath, trying to scrub off the rotted scales. It’s a valiant effort, but futile. The only thing that’s going to get rid of those scales is Ylsilar’s forgiveness.

    Come morning, the party sets out for Hangtree to recover their horses. They meet a group of soldiers—Scarlet's militia, though even the word 'militia' may be somewhat generous for these men—who are heading to the Wolfhead Woods to kill or capture bandits. Aelron offers them the blessings of the Mother of Dragons and the party warns them of the strange group of militants they encountered in the Wolfhead Woods.

    That night, Miaoyu is on watch when she hears a group of people approaching.

    “Hail,” says a man, just out of the firelight. “My name is Dorn, and these are my companions. We saw your campfire and wondered if we could avail ourselves of your hospitality?”

    Miaoyu hesitates, scanning the group. They stand in the darkness, but she guesses there may be about twelve of them, all armed and armored but none with weapons in hand.

    “Your answer, ma’am?” Dorn prompts.

    After a moment Miaoyu says, “You can wait for me to confer with my party, or you can keep on moving.”

    “We will wait,” Dorn says.

    Miaoyu shakes awake Gavin, then Flynn. “About a dozen people are asking to join with us,” she relays once they’re alert. “What do you think?”

    “Let them join us,” Gavin says, and Flynn nods silently. They both leave the tent and greet Dorn and his fellows, and everyone steps into the light.

    Dorn himself is a dwarf, and his companions are a grab bag. They’re mostly dwarf and human (some of which look to have a bit of dwarf blood) and one elf. They’re a great mix of classes, too, and Gavin and Flynn take a moment to arrange watches, ensuring that at least one person from their party is on watch at all times.

    After everything is sorted out, they alert the rest of their party to the fact that there are new folks in the camp. Aelron doesn't even wake up all the way, merely murmuring that he's fine with it and rolling over. Seeker takes it in stride, getting up to check if any of their new companions need healing, but Tsarae is immediately on edge.

    “What were you thinking?” Tsarae asks Miaoyu as she starts to don her armor.

    “Sorry...,” Miaoyu offers helplessly. Tsarae shakes her head and grabs her sword. Outside, she finds a nice tree to lean against and stays up for the rest of the night.

    Aelron is the last on watch. Tsarae is still awake, for a given value of ‘awake’. She tends to nod off for moments before shaking herself awake. Aelron digs through his bag until he finds the gift that Seeker made for the party for Midwinter. Aelron waits until Tsarae looks lucid and approaches her carefully.

    “I have a item for you—a band that will help you recall pleasant memories as you sleep. It may help—”

    “Pass,” she says. “I appreciate the effort, but pass.”

    “It’s enchanted with an alarm,” Aelron lies. “It’ll wake you up if anyone tries to get within five feet of you.”

    “That’ll happen pretty definitely,” Tsarae says. “Look, I’ll be fine. I get like this when I’m around new people—ask Miaoyu.”

    “I’m just worried about you getting enough sleep,” Aelron says.

    “I’ll be fine. I’ll take... what are they called? Cats? Cat naps.”

    “Okay,” Aelron finally relents and returns to his spot next to the fire.

    There was some curiosity amongst the players regarding whey Tsarae didn’t make any rolls to tell if Aelron was lying regarding the alarm enchantment. Cave elf culture is obscure and diverse, but all of them have one defining factor: the clan is more important than the individual. To sabotage one person is to sabotage the entire clan, and could possibly end in tragedy given how vicious the Underdark is. Tsarae has adopted the party as something of a pseudo-clan. Although she and Aelron are by no means birds of a feather, she trusts him and is invested in his welfare.

    There's also the fact that Aelron just doesn't usually lie.

    Fortunately, no one’s throats are slit come morning. The party takes time to get better acquainted with their companions. As it turns out, Dorn and Company are headed to Hangtree too. They’re interested in seeking the Baroness’s employ as mercenaries, guards, or whatever else she may need. Scarlet was once a barony in its own right, but was rather rudely absorbed into Forscythe county a few years back. Now that Countess Forscythe is dead and Baroness Hangtree has assumed temporary control of the region, it’s quite likely that these Scarlet natives are looking to put a bit of pressure on Hangtree—in the politest, most helpful way possible—to reinstate Scarlet’s independence.

    These adventurers are meant as sort of ‘backup’ characters. If for any reason our characters aren’t viable (death, distracted by shiny objects, or something is happening in Hangtree while the party is away) we can draw from them as necessary. The only notable one at the moment is Bekki, a male dwarf who’s short, and extremely touchy both about being short and his name, which is a perfectly respectable dwarven name, thank you. (“Dibs!” TheWerebear declares, laughing.)

    Fortunately, with so many well-armed and experienced combatants banded together, nothing on the random encounter chart feels like trying its luck against the party, and they arrive in Hangtree without further incident. Goodbyes are said (or glared, in the case of Tsarae) and the two parties split. The Scarlet adventurers head up to the Baroness’s manor and knock politely on the door.

    Flynn answers. “Hey,” he says.

    There’s a bout of confused pointing and head scratching until Flynn deigns to inform them that he's Hangtree’s gopher and explains that the lady will be out for a while—but he has a few quests he can offer them, working them into the patrol schedule and having them clear out minor issues in and around the town.

    Once that’s taken care of, the party gathers up their horses, Keegan, and Lajiao and heads for Brandt; Aelron also grabs Olaf’s Razor, but keeps it in one of his horses’ saddle bags.

    Gavin pulls Keegan aside. “I’m going to try to keep this simple. I’ve been told that Olaf was training you to fight, mostly with a staff. I fight with spears and I can expand on that training, if you so desire.” Keegan nods. “Okay. And for what it's worth... I lost friends to Alderik too. We share that.” Keegan's second nod is much harder and grimmer, out of place on the face of a twelve-year-old.

    It turns out that Keegan has been trying to keep busy in the party's absence: he's been going on patrols with Sergeant Ranolf and the Hangtree city guards, familiarizing himself with travel in a military unit, movement through the countryside, and soldierly duties. For a twelve-year-old, he's doing remarkably well, and seems to be something of a mascot to the guards.

    The first half of the journey to Brandt is uneventful, aside from Gavin dispensing some friendly Ocean Witch priest's advice to a few local fishermen. The second half of the journey is a little more exciting. The party is only about a day and a half out from Brandt, traveling along the coast, when a beautiful, haunting melody washes over them from the waterfront, and everyone is asked to make a will save.

    Gavin shrugs off the enchanting music; he learned to sing from sirens and mermaids, and as beautiful as it is, he’s not as affected as others. Aelron and Tsarae similarly shrug off the call—but Seeker, Flynn, and Miaoyu are immediately taken by the sound, and each attempts to make for the beach.

    At this point, Fayd got a flurry of texts:

    "You caught a likely looking fish. Congratulations." -Werebear
    "Seeker's a real chick magnet tonight!" -Averagesparrow
    "No one expects the Seeker Inquisition!" -Cade
    "...Oops" -Dawnflame

    Fortunately, Seeker and Miaoyu were on foot. Aelron manages to grapple Seeker (a tricky task, given he doesn’t want to tear Seeker’s enchanted stole or robe) and says, “Think of your wife, Seeker! The woman you love!” Seeker ceases struggling as the enchantment relinquishes him. ["I might have caused major property damage." -Dawnflame] ["Oh, and you might need to make some minor repairs to your clothing. It might have gotten damaged when you were grabbed. We are lucky your robe didn't come all the way off. -Werebear]

    Tsarae’s answer to charm spells is more blunt: she grabs Miaoyu, shoves her to the ground, and sits on her.

    Flynn, however, was on a horse—he goes careening towards the shoreline, Gavin giving desperate chase. Gavin manages to grab the reigns of Flynn's horse, drawing it up short. “All this Connish stubbornness is useless if you give up now!” Gavin shouts. It’s enough to put a chip in the spell, and Flynn manages to get ahold of himself.

    Tsarae isn’t so lucky. There’s just enough shadow over Miaoyu that she’s able to teleport a short distance away and take off towards the ocean again. Tsarae sputters out a few curses and lunges after Miaoyu, grabbing her wrist and trying to yank her back. With a bit of a struggle, Miaoyu breaks free again and keeps heading toward the as-yet-unseen mermaid.

    “I didn’t expect them to do this sort of thing outside of a tent,” Aelron says aside to Seeker, grinning as he begins weaving a dispel.

    Gavin, unaware of Aelron’s actions, shouts out to the mermaid, “That’s lovely singing! I wonder if you could win a contest!”

    At the same time, the dispel hits Miaoyu and she stops in her tracks, a bit dazed. The singing stops then, too, and a splash echoes up from the beach as the mermaid retreats back to the ocean: they’re terribly shy.

    With no one in any immediate danger of drowning, the party makes its way safely to Brandt. Seeker immediately secures an inn, then purchases space at an elven weaver's shop (as previously agreed-upon with the DM) and sets to work on the elven spidersilk armor. Tsarae goes off to loiter with intent. For everyone else, it’s off to see the Ylsilarites.

    The library of Brandt is a small cluster of buildings centered around a tall stone tower, all adorned with gargoyles that glare down menacingly at any passersby. The tower is easy to find, thankfully, and the party marches up smartly. Aelron knocks on the door, and after a few moments a young initiate opens it.

    “Yes?”

    Gavin speaks first. “Hello. It seems that through some mistake, I was cursed with the disfavor of Ylsilar. You see I—”

    “Building to the right,” the initiate says, and begins to swing the door closed. Flynn puts a hand on the door to keep it from closing. She frowns at him, but raises an eyebrow. “Yes?” she repeats. He holds out the folio the party found in the Gryphon’s Peak manor.

    “We’d also like to discuss having this document opened and duplicated, and get a look at its contents,” he says. The initiate opens the door wider, now with something resembling a pleasant expression on her face.

    “This way, please,” she says.

    Gavin goes his separate way, then, to the next building over. This building is blocky and squat where the tower grows gracefully from the ground, and the door is plain and unadorned but for a knocker made to resemble a snake head. Another initiate opens the door at his knock. “Who seeks to curry favor with Ylsilar?” she asks.

    “I, Gavin of Tidehollow. was in Old Drougant—”

    The initiate holds up a hand for silence. “I am not the one you must tell,” she says, then gestures him inside and leads him into the complex. He’s shown to a small, windowless room, adorned only with a bench. He takes his seat, and the door swings closed behind him, a lock loudly sliding into place.

    After a few tense minutes, the viewport slides open, then the door unlocks and creaks open. A frail-looking old man studies Gavin for a moment.

    “I understand you have... sinned,” he rasps.

    Gavin draws himself up and finally gets his chance to explain. “My companions and I were investigating a library we found in Old Drougant City. Not realizing that it was consecrated to Ylsilar at the time, I attempted to enter using this token,” he holds out the snake brooch, “and found myself in Ylsilar’s disfavor. Given that this was a misunderstanding, I had hoped we could resolve this quickly and with little hassle.”

    The man plucks the brooch out of Gavin’s hand, eyes narrowing. “We must investigate your claims,” the priest says carefully. “I shall return.” The door swings shut again, though it is not bolted this time. A few long minutes later, the old man returns, a tiny black snake in the palm of his hand. “The records on that amulet corroborate your story. We appreciate your efforts in the city, and the information you bring us. Now, if you please....” The man holds out the snake, and it rises up, tasting the air with its tiny tongue.

    Gavin pauses for a long moment, then stiffly leans forward and kisses the snake on the head. ["Gavin got lucky too... just with the wrong species." -Cade] A strange scratching sensation comes over his body, then vanishes. He straightens and begins checking his body for scales. They have all but disappeared, only slightly-raw patches of flesh marking where they used to be. Gavin sighs in relief. “Thank you. If you ever come across the soul of the person who was in possession of that brooch, please, do me a favor—flay them. Now, regarding that library, I’m sure that my party would be happy to retrieve the books for you. And, one more thing—if you could put a good word in for me with the Turmlarites?”

    The old man looks a bit taken aback at that request, but nods and gestures for one of the initiates to join them. “Please escort this young man to Head Librarian Siobhan. He has a matter he would like to discuss with her.”

    The others, meanwhile, are already speaking with Head Librarian Siobhan. She is a portly woman who wears a beautifully patterned snake draped over her neck. She carefully studies the folio as Flynn explains to her how the party acquired it. “I must admit, your story is quite impressive. We can safely open and transcribe the contents of this journal for you within a few days. Would you like to pay in advance to have a copy as well as the original, or would you like to donate the original to the library?”

    “If we donate the original, will the library be willing to provide the original if we need proof of the copy’s authenticity?” Flynn asks.

    Siobhan nods. “Although additional fees may apply.”

    “Before we go,” Miaoyu says, “you should know that we found an abandoned library in Old Drougant City. It was still being protected by its old ward spells, but they had all sort of run together and were denying us access. The books still appear to be in good shape, though, and there must have been thousands. We could acquire them for you, if you want, or escort one of your librarians there.”

    Siobhan pets her snake as she considers this. “Acquiring those books again would be greatly appreciated and beneficial to all. Seeing as it would be impossible for you to bring them all back in one trip, we will compose a list of valuable and lost books that should be prioritized if they can be located within the library. We will also craft tokens for you all to pass through the barrier without penalty.” (As if on cue, Gavin enters the room at this exact moment and a disgruntled look crosses his face.) “Both items will take a couple of days to complete. We won’t be sending an initiate to accompany you, however. I mean no offense by this but... if one of your number were to perish in Old Drougant City, it would have a less significant impact on our order, and you could easily be replaced by others.”

    Well, no one can say Ylsilarites are liars. Wait, no, that's not true. Ylsilar is the god of betrayal and the son of the goddess of lies. But this particular Ylsilarite definitely isn’t sugar-coating things, and sometimes blunt honesty like that is refreshing.

    With that taken care of, the party sets off to do whatever it is that needs to be done, but no one has a more pressing concern that Gavin.

    “I’m going to ask the Ocean Witch to release me from her service,” he tells his companions. “And maybe finally realize my dream of serving Turmlar instead.”

    Being released from service to a god is a rare thing, but not unheard of. More easy-going or chaotic deities are willing to allow their priests to leave them, provided a special service is performed for them first. Aelron's probably never going to be released from the service of the Mother of Dragons, but luckily for Gavin, the Ocean Witch is exactly the kind of goddess willing to do this for her priests, assuming she doesn’t kill them for asking.

    The party gives him various well-wishes and promises for a lovely funeral if he doesn’t return, and Gavin departs for a nice, isolated patch of beach, just outside the city walls. He wades into the ocean and silently requests an audience with the Ocean Witch.

    What do you want? she sighs in his mind, a distracted tone in her voice.

    “My lady, I humbly request to be released from my service to you.”

    The voice in his head suddenly takes a more interested tone. But I thought we had something going! she cries, fake sobs echoing through the waters.

    “I made these oaths when I was young and stupid,” Gavin says gently.

    Are you calling me stupid? the Ocean Witch demands. Are you saying that I manipulated you into serving me? You make me sound like some sort of predator!

    “You are, my lady,” Gavin says.

    Don’t bring facts into this! Still, you have been faithful and you didn’t really want to make the vow in the first place—a personal failing on your part—so... I’ll let you go. Bring a virgin and sacrifice them on the shores.

    Gavin gapes in horror.

    What? Is that not your thing? No one ever does that anymore. Are virgins really that hard to find these days? She sighs. Okay. Option two is to convert someone into serving me. But I get the feeling you won’t like that either, seeing as how you’re so hung up about not wanting me in the first place. So! Option number three! Smiting my enemies! You’re good at killing things, aren’t you? That’s what I liked about you in the first place. Now, give me a moment.

    The Ocean Witch falls silent, but in the back of his mind, Gavin can hear what sounds distinctly like someone turning the pages of a little black book, punctuated by the occasional mumble from his goddess. Hate... Hate... Hate... Oooh, he's cute, I should look him up. Kill. Screw, then kill. Kill while screwing. ["Who knew the Ocean with was a Tweenie Queen? Like Maeve, except maybe a little more reasonable maybe." -Cade] And on and on in that vein. Finally, she speaks again.

    So how do you feel about spiders? The Ocean Witch is a fey goddess of the Seelie courts. Her Unseelie counterpart? The Princess of Spiders. It looks like she’s feeling a bit competitive at the moment.

    “We’ve actually already dispatched a spider grove, my lady. It had a shrine to the Spider Princess, so I stole the spell scroll on the altar and replaced it with a picture of a spider on a sinking ship. I captioned it, The tides come further inland every year.”

    Deplorable! the Ocean Witch cries. I love it! But I’m going to need a little bit... more. Anyway. Princess of Spiders. She lets out a whistle. I mean, I can’t tell if I want to kill her or sleep with her. I mean—ohmygod so hot. What was I talking about? Right! I have a list of a few shrines and altars to her inland. If you could desecrate or convert or consecrate or all of the above, that’d be great. Oh, and if you could maybe drown one of her cultists in some salt water? I’d consider it a special favor. So... I’m still a little pissed at you, so don’t get in a boat for the next week or year. Not until you get this done for me. But you can keep your spells for now.

    “That is very generous of you, my lady,” Gavin says.

    I’m a giver, she agrees. Unlike you. So yeah, just drown a few spiders and we should be good. By the way, if you’re into mermaids, I can hook you up! Or merrow. Are you a merrow sort of fellow?

    “No thank you. But consider the task done.”

    Good! Otherwise I was going to smite you. Okay, so come back in three days and I should have that location for you. Kisses! Bye!

    Rather abruptly, the godly presence that had filled the waters vanishes. Gavin begins to wade back to the shore and then the city. A few yards away, a young couple is eying him suspiciously. Not too many people just carry one seemingly one-sided conversations with the ocean.

    Gavin heads back to the inn where he finds the party (sans Seeker, who is still off weaving) enjoying some drinks. Or rather, Tsarae is enjoying drinks rather liberally and the rest of the party is watching in awe as she downs them all without seeming to suffer any effect. Even Aelron, in his years at the towers, never saw anyone who could drink like this. Though Miaoyu could drink this well while casting Cheat, Tsarae is just drinking stoically. “The surface has much better alcohol,” she muses as Gavin approaches. “All we ever had was fermented mushrooms. Have you ever had those?” She shakes her head. “Awful stuff.”

    Gavin sits at their table then and all attention turns to him. “Well. Looks like we have a quest.” He fills his friends in on the Ocean Witch’s demand. Miaoyu makes that sound she always does at mention of spiders.

    “Don’t be like that,” Tsarae says. “We’ll fight some spiders, you’ll say, Oh no, I have spider goop in my hair! Wash it out for me! and then you and I will have a romantic moment....” Miaoyu rolls her eyes.

    “It will be fun,” Gavin agrees eagerly. Then he leans over to the passing barmaid. “Give me a glass of whatever you have with the highest alcohol content.” She returns a moment later and Gavin passes the drink to Tsarae. “What do you say, help me out, find a good fight, a round of drinks afterward?”

    Tsarae responds by taking the drink, lifting it in Gavin’s direction, and chugging most of it down. She coughs. “What is this?” she demands, a note of admiration in her voice.

    “Cleaning fluid!” calls the bartender. “Use it on the hinges when they get rusty.” Tsarae nods appreciatively and takes another drink.

    A few moments later, she’s having trouble sitting up, and pondering exactly what colors and time really are. Looks like Tsarae’s finally found a way to get smashed without a few hours’ warm-up first. Miaoyu obligingly helps her with walking, drinking, and really anything more advanced than breathing.

    The next day, Aelron, Gavin, and Miaoyu head to a jeweler and Flynn goes to the bank.

    At the jeweler’s Miaoyu presents the storefront attendant with the sapphire she found at Gryphon’s Peak and explains where she found it.

    “We were curious to know if it has any significance beyond its worth,” Gavin adds.

    The attendant looks at the jewel with eyes as wide and glittery as polished silver dinner plates. “I will inform Lady Danica that you require an appraisal,” he says, though the effort it costs him to tear his eyes from the gem looks like at least 3d6 reserve HP of heroic effort.

    He disappears for a few moments, returning with a woman dressed in silk finery and carrying herself with an air of command. This would be Lady Danica, who owns the jeweler's shop they're standing in. She greets the party, confirms their story, then vanishes into the back to study the jewel. As they wait, the attendant shows them to a small parlor and provides a luncheon. After a few hours, Danica returns.

    “I apologize for the amount of time this required,” she says. “I had to make a couple of trips to the Church of Laeros to confirm that this gem is not, in fact, any sort of heirloom belonging to Gryphon’s Peak or any other family. It isn't, it seems, so it's merely an enormous sapphire. I am, however, quite happy to pay you all full-price for the gem or negotiate any other deal, as you see fit.”

    It takes a bit of time to work out the details, but the party ultimately decides on the following deal: they will give the gem to Danica and she will pay the group 60% of its worth, effectively investing 40% of the gem in the store. In return, they will also get large discounts on any future purchases from the store (an especially good deal, considering that Aelron’s primary spell components are gems) and always the possibility of a future quest, should Danica require their services in any capacity.

    At the bank, Flynn turns in the coins he acquired at the charm-induced race and the coins Aleron and Gavin collected in the harpy’s nest. The bankers are quite pleased to have the racetrack coins back: they’re a historical curiosity now, especially in mint condition. The coins from the harpy nest are simply taken back out of circulation; they're ancient and still smell vaguely of bird droppings. Flynn gets some more modern coins for his troubles as well as the blessing of Waerdun, the god of commerce, which gives him advantage on all Trade checks—including his Trade: Gambling skill.

    From there, the party splits up to work on individual tasks. Because he plans on taking some of the elven chain, Aelron takes Miaoyu's Rod of Spider Climb back, breaks it down, and weaves its enchantment into his old dwarven byrnie for her, doing a bit of extra work to expand on the ivy theme and hide the spider elements. When he's done, the armor has a single sapphire in the center of its chest, ivy-shaped tracery skirling around the ribs, shoulders and arms, and a single emerald in the center of the back, from which the ivy tracery emanates. The spider leg has been broken down into smaller pieces and hidden among the ivy, and is now almost unnoticable.

    Flynn decides to make use of his blessing and goes gambling in the seedier part of town. He earns a few extra coins here and there, but what really matters is that he hears rumors of a sort of ‘scoundrel’s night’ coming up where some of the local lowlife can get together for a good time without the scrutiny of the law.

    Miaoyu and Tsarae (annoyingly hangover-free from her Hard Drinker trait) do a bit of pranking and robbing. Miaoyu follows people ominously as they go down alleys and herds them to Tsarae, who jumps out to frighten them. Sometimes, they try to punch her, which means Tsarae gets to have a brawl while Miaoyu cuts their purse. They make a decent sum and have a few good laughs. Ah, romance.

    Next session, look forward to the shocking return of one of the most devious minds our party has ever encountered!

  6. - Top - End - #96
    Pixie in the Playground
     
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    Default Chapter 27: My Big Fat Aurbeski Wedding

    Spoiler: Chapter 27: My Big Fat Aurbeski Wedding
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    The party continues their visit in Brandt, but unbeknownst to any of them a great and terrible force of chaos has arrived in port. A fleet of Qennish warships is making its way into the harbor and, as the first ship sidles up to the dock and extends its gangplank, unleashing riotous disorder upon the unsuspecting Drouganti—Nüwa has arrived!

    And she’s terribly hung over. “Can’t we go back to the Peri Isles?” she whines. “The high was fun. Coming down is a drag.”

    Next to her, her assistant, an Aurbeski lady named Allison, jots down everything Nüwa says—Nüwa hired her to do that, after all. “The rear admiral threatened to leave us behind if we didn’t board the ship, my lady. I’m afraid that if you wish to return, you must acquire your own vessel and crew.”

    Nüwa sighs dramatically. “Fine. Well, I guess I have to settle for the next best thing—shopping!”

    She happily prances off the docks and in the direction of the ritzy parts of town, decked out in an elaborate dress and headdress. All around her, rumors of extravagant Qennish visitors go flying in every direction.

    Ignorant of fiend that now lurks in their city, Gavin and Miaoyu go out for a bit of shopping of their own. They first stop by Lod’s blacksmithy. Gavin presents her with the full plate armor they found in the opera house. “I was hoping this could be resized for me,” he tells her. Lod looks up at him with narrow eyes, gives him a once over, looks at the armor, then nods.

    “Should be possible,” she says. “Give me seven days.” Gavin pays her half up front and she takes the armor into the back to begin her work.

    With that taken care of, they find a bowyer so Miaoyu can get her hands on a masterwork bow. The bowyer takes her measurements and tests her pull strength, and promises to have it done by the next day.

    Just as they’re leaving the shop, a young couple saunters past. “Can you believe it?” the young lady asks the man she's walking with. “Qennish ships in our port? And their sailors are all over the docks.”

    The young man simply grins. “Good night to be a courtesan.”

    She slaps him.

    Gavin lifts a brow, turning toward Miaoyu. “That’s strange, isn’t—”

    Miaoyu is gone. Gavin scratches the back of his head, checks behind a few objects in the immediate vicinity, but can’t find his companion. At a loss, he returns to the inn and comes across Flynn enjoying a lunch.

    “So apparently there’s an armada of Qennish ships that just arrived in Brandt,” Gavin tells him.

    Flynn swallows his most recent bite. “Huh. I imagine our Qen is about to get very uncomfortable.”

    “Strange,” Gavin says curiously. “You’d think she might enjoy some time with her own people.”

    “Do you enjoy spending time with other Selkies?” Flynn asks mildly.

    Gavin is brought up entirely short by that. “Perspective is terrifying,” he decides eventually. “Well, I’m going to go to the docks in a little bit. Maybe I can convince the Qen to help us with our Huroc problem.”

    Flynn frowns. “If what I've heard is correct—and I've been picking up rumors about this fleet for the better part of the day—these ships are part of the Dragon navy, the group responsible for defending Qennish ports and coastlines from invasion by hostile forces. This is about as far north and west as a Dragon fleet has ever been spotted, and it's rare to see them even here. If you see anything alarming, call one of us.” Then he leans back with an easy smile and a shrug. “And if you see Miaoyu all tied up when you get there, I’ll be in the market, restocking our rations.”

    Gavin updates Seeker and Aelron on what’s happening, and Aelron volunteers to accompany him to the docks.

    The two reach the portion of the docks now overrun by Qennish sailors. In talking with a few of the sailors and listening to ambient conversation, they learn that the vessels in this fleet were sent to escort some important personage on her vacation—an annoying personage who has the entire fleet itching to leave her dockside and forget about her. Unfortunately they have to restock on supplies before they can sail, so they're stuck here until at least the day after tomorrow.

    Gavin and Aelron find it relatively easy to request an audience with the Rear Admiral Bohai, the man in charge of the fleet. A small Qennish launch ferries them out to where his boat rides at anchor in the midst of a small swarm of warships. When they board his ship, the soldiers that greet them ask them to surrender their weapons, which both do without complaint. The soldiers then escort them belowdecks and lead them into the office of the Rear Admiral.

    As offices aboard warships go, this one is both large and extremely well-appointed, lined with bookshelves and paintings, centered on a large square table that is currently covered in maps and charts. A wiry man with dark hair and a dagger beard looks up from behind the table, glancing from the two strangers to his crewmen with mild curiosity.

    “Locals, my lord Admiral,” the marine says by way of explanation. “They wished an audience with you.”

    “Very well,” the man behind the table says, leaning back in his extremely-comfortable-looking chair. “I am Rear Admiral Bohai,” he informs them. “Who might you be?”

    Gavin answers for them both. “I am Gavin of Aurbesk, and this Aelron Firemind, mage of the Gemstone Towers.” Gavin bows at the waist and Aelron inclines his head with a slight smile.

    “Of Aurbesk?” Bohai asks. “Are you a representative of the Bene, then?”

    Gavin barely manages to hide his cringing at the mere mention of the Bene family, let alone the suggestion he may be associated with them. “No, I represent Lord Tidehollow, who has few connections within the Bene family. May I ask, Admiral: have you heard of the Huroc?”

    “Yes, I am acquainted with your barbarian heresies,” Bohai says, completely serious. Aelron rolls his eyes.

    Gavin continues: “You may be interested to know that a large Huroc army has assembled between Drougant and Aurbesk. They were slated by prophecy to acquire boats and take to the seas. Their activities there may ultimately effect Qen.”

    Bohai waves his hand. “Rest assured, we will maintain the neutrality of the sea should they enter the waters, but I am afraid that we dare not interfere with your internal political affairs. It would simply violate too many of both our ideals and yours.”

    Gavin’s frustration has nearly reach its limits at this point and he manages (barely) to politely excuse himself. Once he and Aelron are a safe distance away from the docks, he begins grumbling vaguely about “stick-in-the-mud, reactionary politics”.

    “Oh, I hate the Qennish,” Aelron says. “The indoctrination of the populace, the censoring of historical and religious texts... it's an entire country where everyone is so concerned with being Qennish that they don't have time to worry about being factual. Makes the true study of magic utterly confounding.”

    "Every country has its flaws, Aelron," Gavin says. "Your country used to be part of a slave-trading empire."

    In Brandt's slums, Tsarae is totally not about to anything less-than-legal when Miaoyu appears at her side.

    “Sooooo, a bunch of Qennish people are in town and I was thinking: the best place to avoid a bunch of stuck-up law-lovers is to go to that scoundrel get-together Flynn told us about.”

    Tsarae nods sagely. “You speak wisdom. And I need more booze.”

    “I bet they have booze there!” Miaoyu says eagerly. “Good booze! Illegal booze!”

    Tsarae scowls. “Why would anyone make booze illegal?”

    Miaoyu shrugs. “I don’t know. People are weird. Now let’s go!”

    Soon, Scoundrel’s Night is upon Brand. Gavin, Flynn, Seeker, and Aelron all go together. Aelron took some time to clean up and has donned a half-mask; Gavin is doing his best to remain incognito, with a mask over the upper half of his face, and a guardsman's cloak over his ever-present seal skin cloak. The facade of the building that Flynn leads them to is... run down. The wood looks rotted, the windows are boarded up, and a grimy, apparently homeless man sits on a rickety box next to the door. The four of them pause. Flynn had been led to believe that it would be a formal affair: no weapons or armor permitted and collateral taken at the door to ensure no ‘mishaps’ occur. In return, there would be entertainment of all sorts, and an abundance of food and drink. This doesn't look like that kind of place.

    As they’re pondering, though, an elegant, masked woman approaches the homeless man and hands him a clinking sack of coins. The man stands, his posture suddenly perfect, and bows politely, opening the door with a flourish for the lady. Inside, they catch a glimpse of a lavishly decorated parlor, lit with warm, golden lights, punctuated by servers with trays of various types of tasty beverages on trays and carts moving through the room.

    Reassured, they approach the man and hand him their respective collateral before being shown inside. The interior is even more beautiful than they initially thought: the rotting exterior was apparently a glamour, because no such dinginess exists inside the building.

    Seeker catches sight of entire skewers of meat and can barely contain his excitement. Miaoyu and Tsarae, having arrived earlier, are at the bar. Miaoyu offers a wave to her friends, but Tsarae is entirely too fixated on the assortment of drinks in front of her to notice their arrival.

    Flynn, of course, makes his way for the gambling tables immediately, Gavin close behind with the intent of acting as his bodyguard. Flynn strikes up a game with the masked woman they had seen earlier (who, Flynn is able to deduce, is an Aurbeski baroness), a bandit chieftain, a Dhar smuggler named Vikloft the Clever, and a Qennish man in his fifties—it turns out even law-abiding Qens enjoy a good, illegitimate game of chance now and again. Bohai pointedly does not recognize Gavin—despite his distinctive jawline and feeble disguise.

    Speaking of mischievous Qen, Nüwa finds her way into the den of iniquity as well. She heard some rumors and thought it sounded fun. Allison urged her to dress down while in the more dangerous portion of town, so Nüwa deigned to leave her headdress and other jewels behind and keep her bodyguard close on her heels.

    At the bar, Tsarae is sinking into a comfortable state of drunkenness. “I love the surface,” she tells Miaoyu. “I can drink this without worrying about waking up dead. I mean, we’ve got our drinks too, but wolves? They don’t know how to enjoy it. They just get smashed for the sake of getting smashed, and then there’s a big orgy. That’s wolfmen for you. Too much pack in them, not enough person.” She scowls suddenly at her drink. “What do you think that says about me?” Miaoyu doesn’t get a chance to answer—Tsarae veers off into her own theories and ponderings about herself and eventually just stares deeply at the bartop. Figuring she’s not going to get much beyond a one-sided conversation at this point, Miaoyu pats her arm and leaves to mingle.

    Around the same time, Aelron approaches what appears to be a modest dance floor. He casts about for a dance partner when he hears a woman behind him say, “Aelron?”

    He turns. “Nüwa,” he says, weakly; he can’t help but remember the amount of magic items he bribed her with the last time they met. If she notices his lack of enthusiasm, she doesn’t acknowledge it. Soon, they’re enjoying a dance, with Nüwa leading. Aelron may be a competent dancer, but he doesn’t have anything on Nüwa’s years of practice and skill. Unfortunately, their dance is somewhat impeded by Nüwa’s bodyguard standing a little too close, glaring daggers at Aelron.

    “So where’s everyone else?” Nüwa asks. “Band-aid, the archer guy, Miaoyu, and Lutfisk man?”

    It’s at that moment that Miaoyu suddenly becomes aware of a familiar, ‘shrill and grating’ voice. She hears Nüwa ask about the ‘Lutfisk man’, and remembers her impression that Nüwa and Olaf were deeply in love.

    Miaoyu rushes to the dancing pair and grabs Nüwa by the shoulders. “I’m so sorry—I know you loved Olaf, but—he’s—”

    Suddenly, a strapping Qennish man is crowding Miaoyu away from Nüwa. Miaoyu stutters and glances at Nüwa anxiously. She waves a dismissive hand. “Don’t mind him. That’s my bodyguard, Mr. Crankypants.”

    “Hi Mr. Crankypants,” Miaoyu offers weakly.

    “My name is Meng,” Mr. Crankypants says.

    “Meng! What a lovely name! You know, I knew a guy named Meng in my hometown. He was my best friend... and....” And yes, we did roll to see if this was the same Meng, but for better or worse Miaoyu’s just full of crap. She overcomes her temporary anxiety and pushes past Meng to speak with Nüwa again. By this point Aelron has given up dancing and gone to see if the barkeep knows how to mix drinks in the old Ruby Tower style.

    “Oh my god,” Nüwa gushes. “I missed you!”

    “I missed you too! I missed trying to kill you!”

    Nüwa says something in agreement, but Miaoyu doesn’t get much chance to process it: Meng is hedging her away from Nüwa again. Nüwa puts a reassuring hand on Meng’s shoulder. “No, no, she means in a good way!”

    Meng appears unconvinced, but takes a step back. At that time, Nüwa catches sight of Seeker, munching away on a goat leg and prances over to him, collapsing on the sofa in a casual but elegant heap.

    Seeker nearly chokes on his food, but manages to swallow it down and takes a hearty drink from his wine glass. “Nüwa?”

    “Hi there,” she says, doing her best to turn on her seductive charm. “I haven’t seen you in a while. And I’d like to see more of you....” She leans close, batting her eyelashes at him.

    Seeker sputters. “I’m married!” he protests.

    Nüwa shrugs. “So am I.” She looks over her shoulder at the ever-present and ever-dutiful Allison. “Who am I married to again?”

    “Bianca Benechuss, my lady,” Allison says.

    “Right. Anyway, I don’t see what the big deal is—we’ve all got to experiment and find out what we like sooner or later, right?”

    Seeker is staring at her, jaw dropped open. “You’re married to a Benechuss? As in one of the branches of the Bene family?”

    At that moment, Miaoyu joins them, a platter of drinks in one hand, and Tsarae in the other. They take their seats at the sofa next to Nüwa and Seeker. Tsarae eagerly grabs another drink as soon as Miaoyu sets the platter down.

    Seeker looks to Miaoyu. “She’s married to a Bene.”

    “A Benechuss,” Allison corrects gently.

    “Really?” Miaoyu asks. “When did this happen?”

    Nüwa shrugs. “I’m not really sure. Sometime when I was tracking you down, I think. When I came back, it turned out I had been married off.” She notices Seeker’s puzzled gaze. “It happens sometimes. It’s just a political marriage. But my husband—wife? Allison, who did I marry again?”

    “Bianca Benechuss,” Allison supplies.

    “Right. My wife left me a huge amount of money to keep me busy, so I decided to do some vacationing.”

    For those of you who don’t recall, the Bene family is the elite family of Aurbesk. While they don’t technically rule Aurbesk, their money funds so very much of Aurbesk's functioning government that they might as well rule outright. They also fund Drougant’s Gilroy family, who, in turn, fund what is technically the Drouganti king’s army. Suffice to say, they have their hands in a whole lot of cookie jars. The Benechuss are a branch of the family that aren’t tied to the Benes in any any official capacity. That means that if someone in the Benechuss family screws up, the Benes can deny any attachment to them. If someone who is married or adopted into the Benechuss name does well, they might expect an heir to be married into the Bene line proper as a reward. In the case of Nüwa’s marriage, two things are being accomplished. By having a Benechuss marry a Qennish woman, the Benes have secured an ‘in’ with Qen, which may be advantageous in the future. However, by establishing a same-sex marriage they can be assured there are no heirs, and more pointedly, that the Qennish can’t gain a foothold in Aurbesk. By marrying a commoner, they’ve guaranteed that all the political power in this marriage goes to the Bene family; Nüwa lacks status in Qen and has no political savvy (or ambition) to make any significant or foreseeable headway in either country.

    Seeker is still slack-jawed and reeling from this revelation. Tsarae finishes her drink and as she’s reaching for her next one, she happens to look up. “Whoa,” she says, sidling towards Nüwa. “I’m going to have to take you to a back room.”

    Nüwa flushes lightly and says, “Is this going to be my first extramarital affair?” at the same time that Miaoyu says, rather flatly, “What?”

    Tsarae gives Miaoyu an annoyed look. “What do you mean, ‘what’? You’re welcome to come too.”

    Miaoyu sputters. “You can’t sleep with her! She tried to kidnap me!”

    Tsarae tilts her head thoughtfully. “So if I kidnap you and her, will that take care of everything?”

    Suddenly, Meng is crowding in again, looming over tiny little Tsarae. “What?” she demands, and when he doesn’t relent at her fierce glare, she backs away from Nüwa, mumbling.

    The group starts to dissipate then. Seeker indulges Nüwa with a dance and Miaoyu keeps Tsarae engaged in conversation until Tsarae grows frustrated and simply finds a couch to pass out on.

    Flynn, meanwhile, has been enjoying an appropriately challenging game with his new friends, and making a decent amount of money at it. Finally, he says to Bohai, “You know, I’ve heard a lot about the Qennish tiles game. If you have the pieces on you, I’d love to learn to play—for small stakes, of course.”

    As it turns out, Bohai does have a lovely set of lacquered wood tiles with him. Qennish tiles is a game that is difficult to master, especially for outsiders. There are hundreds of pieces, each representing different provinces, branches of government, noble houses, and so on. The thing about the game that makes it so difficult to learn is that the value of the pieces change to reflect the political climate in Qen. That means even if the theory behind the game is understood, those who aren’t up-to-date on the politics will either be at a loss as to the piece values or easily duped by those who are more savvy. For example, Miaoyu is proficient at the game, but her political knowledge is seven years out of date and would struggle to defeat even a less-skilled opponent. On the other hand, once you understand how the game works, you effectively understand how the Qennish government works.

    Bohai takes his time to teach Flynn and their fellow players how the game works and the current value of each piece. He’s a good teacher, but no one can seem to get one over on him. Whether that’s due to his sheer skill or careful manipulation of the others’ ignorance is unclear, but regardless everyone has a bit of fun and it’s a good end to the evening.

    Soon, the party regroups and begins heading back to the inn, Miaoyu dragging along the passed-out Tsarae and Nüwa promising to meet up with the group the next day.

    The night passes and everyone recovers from the wonderfully strange Scoundrels’ Night. Just before noon, Nüwa arrives at the party’s inn with Meng and Allison in tow.

    "I’ve decided that I’m going to travel with you guys again," Nüwa says seriously. "I missed it. I mean, Qen is nice and the Peri Islands were a blast, but I need a bit of excitement, and you guys seem to find it in droves." She claps her hands together. "So I’m going to get my gear together, finish setting up my apartment, and we can set out as soon as we’re all ready!"

    "Shouldn’t you write to your wife and let her know where you’re going?" Gavin suggests once he’s wrestled his frustration into submission. "You are an ambassador now."

    Nüwa sighs theatrically. “Very well. Allison, tell Brianna that I’m going on a wondrous adventure.”

    "Vacationing in inner Drougant," Allison intones as she jots down notes. "Very good, my lady. And your wife is named Bianca."

    Gavin’s eye twitches. “Anyway, I’m meeting with the Ocean Witch again tonight. We’ll know our destination later.”

    Miaoyu leans close to Nüwa. “You said you have an apartment. Are you going to be busy tonight?”

    "No," says Nüwa. Tsarae, who had been giving Nüwa and Miaoyu positively indecent looks for the duration of the conversation suddenly looks interested.

    "You will be now," Miaoyu says. "We’ll bring the booze."

    "An extramarital affair!" Nüwa squeals in delight.

    Gavin looks on, aghast that anyone could be so dishonorable. “Aelron, I’m beginning to question my loyalty to my country.”

    Can anyone blame Gavin, really? Feudalism, the ideology that Gavin subscribes to so strongly, is dying quickly in Aurbesk and being replaced by capitalist-leaning mercantilism, all thanks to the Bene family. Now he's faced with an outsider who outranks him and—insult upon injury—shows no respect for the sanctity of her marriage vows or the gravity of her political position. Nüwa would point out she never made any such vows, and WHAT political position, but Gavin doesn't have the chutzpah to actually say it to her face.

    Aelron pats Gavin’s shoulder sympathetically. “Do you want a drink?” Gavin nods sadly.

    Aelron spends the rest of his evening listening and nodding sympathtetically to Gavin, while occasionally exchanging eyerolls with the bartender. After a while, though, Gavin gets past the “I love you man, I love you,” stage and into something even wierder.

    "You know, Aelron," Gavin says, with all the seriousness an utterly wasted selkie can muster, "you’re pretty damn... pretty. I don’t say that about most guys, but you’re all right." He wiggles his eyebrows. "If you don’t mind me asking, can I have your, uh, favor?"

    Aelron, who had been saying something to the bar patron on his other side, glances over at the word “favor”, thinking that Gavin is talking about the favor of his deity. For a flustered moment he's about to reach out and place a blessing on Gavin, until he sees the odd spark in Gavin's eyes. Then it's a will save versus bursting out laughing, which fortunately he makes. “I’m flattered,” he tells Gavin gently, “But I don’t think now is the right time. Here, though—” Aelron cuts off a small lock of his own hair, pulls a length of ribbon from somewhere and secures the lock to Gavin's wrist as a bracelet. “Take this as a symbol of my support and affection.”

    This is, approximately, the point where our DM decreed that in this world, everyone is bisexual by default.

    Not long later, Tsarae, Miaoyu, and Nüwa get together for their “appointment”. Miaoyu earns the party some XP for her endurance.

    Meng, however, is not pleased with this arrangement. He glowers when Miaoyu stumbles across him while recovering the various bottles she and Tsarae brought with them.

    "Hey," she says brightly, "do you happen to have any of those little umbrellas people put in drinks?"

    Still glowering, Meng produces a box of said umbrellas and places one in her drink. Angrily.

    "You don’t have to be so glum. Have a drink for yourself too!"

    "I won’t drink while my lady is in the presence of two potential threats," Meng says.

    Miaoyu makes a face. “We’re not dangerous. We checked our weapons at the door.”

    "And you could have smuggled poison in," Meng insists.

    "But we took off our clothes. There’s really only one place left to smuggle anything after that, and that sounds uncomfortable."

    "Twenty percent of assassin deaths are caused by that," Nüwa says as she pulls on her dressing gown, face serious.

    "She already checked there anyway," Tsarae mumbles sleepily into her pillow.

    By this point Meng is seething. He focuses on Miaoyu again. “Let me ask you this: are you, or have you ever been, a ninja?”

    Miaoyu looks thoughtful. “I wanted to be one when I was a kid.”

    "That’s all I need to hear," Meng says and turns toward Nüwa. "My lady, we can have this woman executed under Qennish law."

    Miaoyu sputters, horrified, and Nüwa looks scandalized. “We’re not going to kill her! I was going to take them shopping as a thank you for not robbing me!”

    Meng shakes his head, jaw clamped. You can practically see the steam blasting out of his ears.

    Fortified with booze and reassured by the presence of Aelron's token around his wrist, Gavin meanders down to the beach to commune with the Ocean Witch again.

    Yes, that's right, he's drunk-dialing a deity with the persona of a vengeful teenager. This'll go so well.

    Of course he makes a pass at her: “I wouldn’t mind sinking your ship, if you know what I mean.”

    The Ocean Witch laughs. Aren’t you bold? But no, I’m a little cross with you still for taking off, with your sculpted chest and flowing locks…. Wait, why am letting you go again? Oh, right. Because you’re a bitch. A chorus of fish eagerly agree on his worthlessness.

    "Don’t be like that, baby!" Gavin hiccups. "I love you. We just can’t take our relationship in that direction."

    Whatever. I can do so much better than you anyway. Now, about that little favor you owe me: I’m sending you to a lovely little place called the Webs of Death. It’s just a little jaunt off of Demonsbreath Pass. I want you to go there, kill the cultists, and desecrate their altar with twenty gallons of salt water. Oh, and here’s the catch: I’m taking away your spells. No conjuring salt water for you—you’ve got to carry it.

    "M’lady," Gavin slurs, "I most surely don’t question your infinite wisdom, deep as the sea, but twenty gallons is heavy. Like, really heavy. If I didn’t have to carry so much, I could get this done quicker… teach those spiders a lesson they’ll never forget."

    The Ocean Witch hums thoughtfully. Oh, fine. I’ve always had a soft spot for you. Ten gallons, then. Now go away, and don’t talk to me until the job is done.

    Gavin is left alone again, and he glances around to see if anyone noticed him shouting drunkenly at the ocean. He’s alone this time, it seems, and he stumbles his way back to the city.

    The next day, after he’s sobered up, he fills everyone in on the details of the quest. The lack of enthusiasm is resounding.

    "If I’m going to do this, you’re going to owe me a favor," Flynn says.

    Gavin nods. “Of course.”

    "Me too," Miaoyu says.

    "No," Gavin says immediately.

    "Then good luck at the Webs," Miaoyu says and begins to rise out of her seat.

    Gavin sighs. “Fine. Name your favor now.”

    "No. Look, I’m not going to ask you to do anything dishonorable. I probably won’t even call it in. I just need to know that if I need you, you’ll be there."

    Gavin relents. “Okay. That’s reasonable—as long as it’s not dishonorable.”

    Miaoyu gestures at Tsarae behind her, who had been watching the exchange carefully. “Her too.”

    Gavin nods. “That’s fine.”

    Soon, it’s agreed by the entire party that Gavin will owe them each one favor in return for their help. They’re going to prioritize Gavin’s quest before returning to ODC (gotta level up!), and possibly even see to formalizing his conversion to a Turmlarite.

    Still, they won’t be leaving any time soon: plenty of enchanting needs to be done. Meng and Allison are joining the party as well. Meng to do his job as bodyguard, and Allison to record Nüwa’s every word, and perhaps to provide legal insight or tutoring for Keegan. Of course, this brings the party to a caravan-sized ten.

    Shortly before they leave, the party returns to the Ylsilarite compound to uncover the most secret contents of the journal they discovered!

    It belonged to a concubine. No words of power or dark secrets are contained within, just some gossip. From a historical standpoint, it’s quite fascinating. From an adventurer’s standpoint, it’s about as useful as a clump of dirt.

    Without further need to delay, the party sets course north, for Demonsbreath Pass.

    The first night out, the party finds a nice, secluded area to camp out. During Gavin’s watch, he hears a voice call out: “Who goes there? Who tresspasses on our lands? Identify yourselves!”

    Gavin stands up straight and peers into the darkness. “We are Nüwa Benechuss, and guard; Sir Gavin of Tidehollow; Flynn of Hangtree; Aelron Firemind of the Gemstone Towers; and Seeker, Purifier of Larlon! And Miaoyu. And Tsarae.”

    (TheWerebear had since promised that next time formal introductions are required, he’ll introduce his Gilgadarite companions as ‘the priestesses Miaoyu and Tsarae’. A technically true statement, although one that may lead people to believe they’re orthodox Laerosians rather than a couple of cultists.)

    The people who accosted Gavin begin to sputter and back away. “What are your names?” Gavin demands. “Please, come forward! If these are your lands, I’d love to make your acquaintance.”

    The party wakes up from Gavin’s shouting, but the bandits have fled and aren’t a problem for the rest of the night.

    A couple of days later, though, the party hears the sounds of battle and finds a trade caravan under attack by a group of mounted bandits.

    Gavin begins to charge, but as he does so, Miaoyu, Flynn, and Aelron all attack from range. Nüwa and Tsarae both advance before making their shots, Nüwa with throwing daggers and Tsarae with a bow, and Meng stays close to his lady’s side.

    By the time Gavin reaches his target, the bandits have been alerted to the incoming threat and two close in on him, while another two shoot at Meng and and Nüwa. Those archers aren’t a problem for long, though: Miaoyu and Aelron take two out, and Flynn drops another. Gavin skewers one of the bandits attacking him and Tsarae, riding hard to catch Gavin, dispatches the other with a flourish of her sword.

    The remaining bandits quickly decide that this is way more than they bargained for and turn tail. Given that they're mounted and that most of the ones who escape are already on the other side of the caravan from the party, little can be done to catch them. Seeker rushes to the caravaneers and heals a badly wounded man, and the others come in close behind. The leader of the company approaches Gavin.

    "Thank you. Thank you so—" The man stumbles when Gavin removes his helm and reveals his Aurbeski heritage. Then he takes in the Illian Tower mage, the three Qen, the cave elf, and a Connish man, to say nothing of the wolfman patching up his fellow caravaneers. Not a single one is of clear Drouganti heritage. To his credit, the leader’s pause is only momentary, and he continues with his heartfelt thanks.

    A few days after that, the party comes to a field lying fallow with a big oak right in the middle of it. It’s odd placement for a tree; most are uprooted so as not to interfere with plowing, but it’s clear that this has been here for some time. In fact, it seems to have an aura of timelessness about it. Naturally, the entire party stops to stare at it.

    "It could be touched by the fey," Aelron says. "It’s not a dragon, though; I don’t sense one nearby. Maybe we should investigate. The field’s lying fallow. It might be preventing people from working."

    "Not necessarily," Miaoyu says. "It’s normal for a field to lie fallow for a while. It’s a three field system: one is fallow, one is growing, one is harvested. It’s really quite efficient." She stops when she realizes everyone is staring. "What? I was running out of books to read at the library, so I read a Farmer’s Almanac or two. Or ten."

    "I’d still like to get a better look at it, just in case," Aelron says, so a portion of the party walks up to it. Until the angry pixies start swarming out, glaring at the intruders. They decide to leave it alone then.

    That evening, Seeker notices something strange while on watch: the mist is growing ever-thicker and more impressive, and he can hear a strange rumbling at the edges of his awareness. This has happened twice before, and last time the party got into a nasty tangle with feldspar elementals. Seeker wakes everyone promptly and informs everyone is what’s happening. The thing is, it’s nowhere near the place they were last time. Whether this is a coincidence or something else is unclear, but after a few tense minutes, nothing seems to happen. The party returns to bed for a little more sleep. When they break camp, they proceed carefully, and by dawn the mist is lifted.

    The party reaches Foxflag county the next day and heads for the small town that surrounds the keep that is the county seat. They find rooms at one of the local inns and Gavin asks around for rumors about the Webs of Death. He learns, eventually, that the Webs are an old battle site from the First Faerie War, until it was taken over by spider-cultists who, it’s said, turn corpses into marionettes to kill their victims. Cheerful!

    Next Time: The party gets jerked around!

    In the meantime, please join us in giving Seeker's and Nüwa's players well-wishes: they were married this past Friday.
    Last edited by AverageSparrow; 2014-07-29 at 08:52 PM.

  7. - Top - End - #97
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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

    Way better than the chapter names I thought of. Very nice.

  8. - Top - End - #98
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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

    Guilty as charged.
    Spoiler
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  9. - Top - End - #99
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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

    Rules revamp and update time! Much of what I present here, especially spell descriptions and mechanics, is copy-and-pasted directly from documentation that Tam has provided for our use. All such documentation has been minimally edited for clarity, but remains as close as possible to the spirit in which it was originally presented, and credit belongs to the DM, not to me.

    At the end of the last session, our party leveled up, and Tam rolled out all of the changes to the rules he'd been holding in reserve. Many game mechanics changed, including modifications to the skill system, added traits, removed traits, altered traits, new feats, revamped feats, etc, but since we haven't actually put out a lot of the prior rules, going into more detail on those changes won't actually give you a whole lot of useful information.

    What I CAN give you is an overview of the changes to the Divine Magic system. Compare to Sparrow's post on page one of the thread for what each god originally granted, and you can get a sense of some of the directions the campaign and system are moving.

    First I'd like to touch on Favor and Disfavor. Deities, like the great cosmic voyeurs they are, are always watching, especially if you're near one of their favored mortals (priests) or holy sites. Mortals who act in accordance with the will of a deity will find themselves watched over by that diety, protected from harm and aided in their endeavors. Mortals who act against the will of a specific deity will find that deity opposing them at every turn, hindering their actions and sending its minions and initiates against them. These are Favor and Disfavor.

    The party has encountered both in the course of the campaign: Olaf obtained Kurush's favor (advantage [roll 2d20 and take the better] on Strength checks or Strength-based combat maneuvers) a few times and his disfavor (disadvantage on Strength checks and Strength-based combat maneuvers) once. Miaoyu had the Disfavor of Femta (Food has no taste) for the better part of a year before she ate some Qennish food and realized that it wasn't just horrible Drouganti cooking.

    Favor and Disfavor can be granted directly by a deity, or by an Initiate with the Benediction and Malediction spells. Favor usually fades after 1 month or three sessions, whichever is greater. Disfavor usually fades after 1 year or ten sessions, whichever is greater. Disfavors can be removed by making appropriate sacrifices to the deity.

    Initiates are, by default, in a state of favor with their deity. If an initiate behaves in a way their deity does not like, favor may be withdrawn as a warning. In the case of more petty or vengeful deities, no warning may be given, and they may default straight to disfavor. If an initiate is not in favor, they cannot cast mysteries or miracles. If an initiate is in disfavor, they cannot cast divine spells at all.

    Initiates with an expendable favor can expend it once per session. They retain the passive benefit at all times.
    Spoiler
    Show

    Ashur (Slaughter, Fear, Bestial Cunning, Predatory Undead, Violent Death)
    Favor: Whenever you kill a creature, you heal hit points equal to the damage dealt by the killing blow.
    Disfavor: You are always hungry, and never full. Only the flesh of intelligent beings will satiate you. Reduce natural healing by 2hp unless you have eaten intelligent flesh today.

    Bright Queen (Romance and True Love, Patron of the Gemstone Towers)
    Favor: You can see when people would be well-matched. Expend to reroll a reaction check.
    Disfavor: Everyone's affection for you is diminished. No one will fall in love with you, and friends will keep you at a distance, and view you with suspicion.

    Brigii (Horses, Loyalty, Messages, Speed, Fire)
    Favor: Increase your tactical speed by 10ft, and overland speed by 1mph. Apply this increase to all movement types, and to mounts you ride.
    Disfavor: You are at disadvantage on all checks made during chases.

    Dark Queen (beauty, illusions, lust, reflections, vanity)
    Favor: You do not scar, or scar attractively. +2 on all reaction checks.
    Disfavor: It is impossible for you to get laid. This can be due to either physical impossibility--as from crippling deformity--or from social impossibility--no one will willingly jump into bed with you, and no one can be paid or coerced into it.

    Farkas (assassinations, hunting, stalking, wolves)
    Favor: All cold damage taken is reduced by 5 points or 25%, whichever is more.
    Disfavor: You are at disadvantage on all checks made during chases.

    Femta (creation, dwarves, fertility, food and drink, smithing)
    Favor: You perform domestic or crafting tasks while asleep. The quality of your sleep and work are not in any way diminished. Expend for advantage on any Emerald or Trade: Craft check.
    Disfavor: Food has no taste (no comfort benefit from good food), and you cannot benefit from consumable magical or alchemical items.

    Gilgadar (cheating, defying fate, greed, luck, seeking, thievery)
    Favor: Your odds improve in games of chance. This manifests as a 25% tilt to your side in games of pure chance, and advantage on all checks related to gambling.
    Disfavor: You are caught stealing something, even if you don't try to steal anything.

    Kurush (physical might, sunlight, victory)
    Favor: +1 on all feats of strength. Expend to automatically achieve a roll of 12 on a feat of strength.
    Disfavor: You gain disadvantage on all Twitch and Toughness checks.

    Laeros (civilization, humanity, nobility, order)
    Favor: +2 morale for allies. Expend to automatically achieve a roll of 12 on a Protocol or Streetwise check.
    Disfavor: You cannot gain audiences with any of your social betters.

    Larlon (healing, life, longevity, wisdom)
    Favor: No penalties from aging. Expend to automatically achieve a roll of 12 on a Lore or healing related check.
    Disfavor: Your standard healing rate is reduced by 2 hit points.

    Lo-Tenger (earthquakes, plains, oceans, sailors)
    Favor: +1 hit point per level.
    Disfavor: N/A; Lo-Tenger does not have a disfavor. However, Lo-Tengerem know that they must look out for themselves, and are fierce in pursuing grudges against those that they feel act against Lo-Tenger.

    Mother of All Dragons (art, color, dragons, unspoilt nature, innate magic)
    Favor: You are unhindered by natural terrain. If you have the trait Elven Grace, you are at advantage on all visual Awareness checks.
    Disfavor: You cannot pursue spell research. Reaction checks against dragons are automatically treated as a 2.

    Nunatii (ambition, black magic, fell deeds, fiends, undeath)
    Favor: +4 reaction checks with fiends and other servants of Nunatii.
    Disfavor: You are under the evil eye, and take 2 points of damage per action when below zero hit points, rather than 1.

    Ocean Witch (sea winds, waves)
    Favor: You suffer no ill-effects for drinking salt water.
    Disfavor: A small saltwater rainstorm follows you.

    Olanorn (battle, competition, personal prowess)
    Favor: You can use Intercept as if you were a fighter gaining at least +6 AC from armor. If you already fulfill those conditions, the reserve cost is reduced by 1d6.
    Disfavor: If an adjacent ally takes damage, you take one point of damage.

    Phoraduk (death, dreams, endings, graves, peace)
    Favor: You sleep well, improving your standard healing rate by 2.
    Disfavor: You sleep poorly, reducing your standard healing rate by 2.

    Rihissa (execution, judgment, punishment, revenge)
    Favor: You gain advantage on all Awareness and Insight checks to notice criminal acts.
    Disfavor: Blood you shed is indelible. Out, darn spot, out I say!

    Sanselie (maps, planning, strategy, tactics, vigilance)
    Favor: Gain Deep Pockets as if you were a rogue. If you are a rogue, Deep Pockets can be used on any item less than a stone in weight.
    Disfavor: Regardless of your abilities and equipment, you contribute a -4 to your side's initiative.

    Turmlar (courage, knighthood, obedience, valor)
    Favor: You are shielded from harm by Turmlar's hand, giving you +1 on AC and all saves.
    Disfavor: You count as though you had two fewer levels for the purposes of determining vulnerability to Tiger Style and Magical Might.

    Tykanria (darkness, lies, memory, secrets, silence)
    Favor: Your senses become more acute, allowing you to operate in darkness at up to short range without impediment. Expend to ask Tykanria a question.
    Disfavor: Light sources you light or carry only shed half as much illumination as they otherwise would.

    Waerdun (commerce, labor, travel, wealth)
    Favor: Gain advantage on all Trade checks.
    Disfavor: You buy items at twice their normal price, and sell items for half their normal price.

    Ylsilar (betrayal, libraries, poison)
    Favor: Resist poison 5 points/25%, whichever is more. Expend to make a Trade: any sage check, as if you had mastery in the skill.
    Disfavor: Your scales begin to rot off. If you don't have scales, you grow scales specifically so they can rot off. -4 on all saves verses poisons.


    Every deity grants a suite of spells that their Initiates can use to ask questions, draw the deity's attention to a person or place, and pinpoint targets for smiting. Note that Divine spells are not limited by any number of spells per day, but by either casting time or cost. Orisons and Blessings cost nothing to cast besides time. Mysteries cost 3d6 Reserve Hit Points, and Miracles cost 5d6 Reserve Hit Points.
    Spoiler
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    Augury
    Blessing of all deities
    Range: Personal
    Duration: Instant
    Casting Time: 10 minutes
    Target: Personal
    Effect: The caster consults with their deity on a topic related to the deity's portfolio. Answers can range from the specific to the prophetic. The Mother of All Dragons will provide information about the natural world; Gilgadar will assist his initiates in locating items; Sanselie will provide information and maps to aid her initiates in tactical and strategic thinking; Larlon will answer questions regarding health and wellness, or methods by which to cure afflictions.

    Benediction/Malediction
    Blessing of all deities
    Range: Short
    Duration: Instant
    Target: Creature indicated
    Effect: The target is marked with a deity's favor or disfavor (see above for details). Creatures out of favor with a deity cannot cast that deity's divine spells. Servitors of the deity may be dispatched to punish a creature in disfavor. Creatures in favor with a deity may find the deity acting on their behalf more often. Initiates can sense the favor or disfavor of their deity and associated deities when viewing a creature.

    Dedicate
    Mystery of all deities
    Range: Touch
    Duration: Varies between 1 day and permanent; see below
    Casting Time: 1 hour
    Target: Object touched
    Effect: The touched object and accompanying location become dedicated to the deity that grants the spell. The deity has a greater awareness of the location, and can act more directly there. The duration depends on what is being used as a focus. Generally, the more permanent and powerful an object, the longer the duration of the dedication. Anyone entering the area can sense the dedication, though not necessarily its source.

    Wrath
    Miracle of all deities
    Range: Long
    Duration: Instant
    Target: 50ft radius circle
    Effect: Everything within the area of the spell takes 5d6 damage. There is no save to mitigate the effects of this spell. Creatures in the favor of the deity take only half damage. The deity may elect whether or not to harm objects associated with them.


    Each deity also grants a suite of spells to make their initiates more effective at enforcing their will and protecting their interests in the world. I will list here only those spells to which the party has access. Remember that Divine spells are not limited by any number of spells castable per day, but by either casting time or cost. Orisons and Blessings cost nothing to cast besides time. Mysteries cost 3d6 Reserve Hit Points, and Miracles cost 5d6 Reserve Hit Points.

    Larlon
    Spoiler: Expand
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    Age Without Wisdom
    Miracle of Larlon
    Range: Touch
    Duration: Instant
    Target: Creature touched
    Effect: The target instantly ages 5d6 years. They suffer all the physical penalties from aging, but gain none of the mental bonuses.

    Disease Marker
    Orison of Larlon
    Range: Touch
    Duration: 10 days
    Target: Touched lintel or property marker
    Effect: This orison inscribes a faintly glowing broken white disk on the touched object, and is used to denote the possible presence of infectious diseases. Purifiers of Larlon can sense the placement of this orison, to a distance of ten miles.

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

    Quarantine
    Blessing of Larlon
    Range: Touch
    Duration: 1 day, or until dismissed
    Target: Touched closed structure
    Effect: This blessing creates a filmy white barrier that settles around the touched structure. The barrier allows for the slow transfer of air, but for anything else to exit through the barrier, the barrier must first be broken. Despite the translucent appearance, the barrier is as tough as seasoned wood, and must be hacked open. The caster is informed when the barrier is damaged or breached and where. A Purifier or someone permitted by a Purifier may enter the quarantine without damaging it.

    Restoration
    Mystery of Larlon
    Range: Touch
    Duration: Instant
    Target: Creature touched
    Effect: This mystery removes most negative effects related to bodily and mental health. This mystery could remove a person's cataracts, but it would not prevent the formation of new cataracts. It could not regrow a person's eyes. It can be used to dispel the negative effects of a 1st level spell. At 4th level, it can affect up to 2nd level spells. At 7th, 3rd level spells.

    Speed Recovery
    Blessing of Larlon
    Range: Touch
    Duration: 1 day
    Target: Creature touched
    Effect: The target's natural healing rate is increased by 2 hit points per recovery interval.

    Time Heals All Wounds
    Mystery of Larlon
    Range: Touch
    Duration: Permanent
    Target: Creature touched
    Effect: The target cannot benefit from healing magic. They still heal naturally.


    Gilgadar
    Spoiler: Expand
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    Obscuring Mists
    Blessing of Gilgadar
    Range: Close
    Duration: 10 minutes/level
    Target: Indicated item or four 10ft cubes of mist
    Effect: If cast on an item, the item cannot be detected by spells of less than 3rd level. If cast on an area, it is filled with impenetrable mists, such that anyone in the mist can only see to a distance of one foot.

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

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

    Repurpose
    Orison of Gilgadar
    Range: Touch
    Duration: Until the task is completed, up to 10 minutes.
    Target: Held tool
    Effect: A held tool becomes better suited for a task at hand. The DM determines where the tool falls on the scale below. Advance it one step to the right.
    Wildly Inappropriate [-6] -> Inappropriate [-4] -> Improvised [-2] -> Basic [+0] -> Masterwork [+2].

    Seek
    Blessing of Gilgadar
    Range: Touch
    Duration: 1 year
    Target: Touched creature
    Effect: The target is aided in their search for something, be that a specific person, an abstract concept, or even something as simple as treasure. Only one seek can be active on a person at a time. Once per session, the target can make a reroll when in direct pursuit of what they seek.

    Sunder Fate
    Miracle of Gilgadar
    Range: Close
    Duration: Instant
    Target: Indicated creature
    Effect: The target is freed from all curses and negative effects, as well as from all responsiblities. Kings lose their crowns, soldiers are removed from the chain of command, and prophecies must find a new chosen one.

    Unbound
    Mystery of Gilgadar
    Range: Personal
    Duration: 1 round/level
    Target: Caster
    Effect: The caster is immune to immediate consequences from breaking the laws of the land. A person under the effect of this mystery could murder someone in broad daylight and not be pursued by guards. This spell does not offer immunity to personal or emotional consequences. So if that personal the caster is murdering is right next to their best friend, the best friend would be able to object.


    Mother of All Dragons
    Spoiler: Expand
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    Draconic Introduction
    Orison of the Mother of All Dragons
    Range: Personal
    Duration: Instant
    Target: Caster
    Effect: The caster learns the titles and name of the local dragon (if any). This spell then informs the dragon of the caster's titles and names.

    Life of Unrewarding Drudgery
    Mystery of the Mother of All Dragons
    Range: Touch
    Duration: Permanent
    Target: Touched creature
    Effect: The target can no longer see color, and can no longer appreciate art and beauty. They usually sink into a deep despair given time, though some may be more resistant to the effects of the curse. The target also loses any color in their appearance. Disadvantage on all Awareness, Deception and Rhetoric checks.

    Mana Aurora
    Miracle of the Mother of All Dragons
    Range: Touch
    Duration: 3 sessions
    Target: Creature touched
    Effect: The target can cast a chosen 1st level spell once per day. If caster and target are both 7th level, they can cast a chosen 2nd level spell instead. The appropriate Mage skill is not required. Limit of one per creature.

    Regenerate
    Mystery of the Mother of All Dragons
    Range: Touch
    Duration: Instant
    Target: Creature touched
    Effect: A lost limb, eye or other extremity regrows of the course of a week. Generally, relearning how to use a limb takes a week after that. Alternately, encourage the regrowth of vegetation, over the course of a week.

    True to Art
    Miracle of the Mother of All Dragons
    Range: Touch
    Duration: Permanent
    Target: Creature touched
    Effect: An aspect of the creature becomes permanently enhanced, as they move closer to their artistic ideal. This can have a wide variety of permanent and powerful effects. This miracle can only be used once on any particular creature.

    Unspoilt Totem
    Blessing of the Mother of All Dragons
    Range: Touch
    Duration: As long as that totem is carried and fresh
    Target: Natural totem
    Effect: The caster turns a natural item into a minor magical totem. The totem could be a plant sprig, an uncut gem or any number of items, so long as it is emblematic of unspoilt nature. The totem grants the bearer a bonus depending on what manner of item it is. Uses range from the practical (various plants giving bonuses on saves against certain diseases) to decorative (dye sources coloring the hair of those that bear them). Doesn't count towards magical item cap when used by the initiate.

    Vision of Color
    Blessing of the Mother of All Dragons
    Range: Touch
    Duration: 10 minutes
    Target: Creature touched
    Effect: The target can see color to a greater degree. Creatures that see in black and white can see in color. Creatures that already see in color can see slightly outside the visual spectrum, as well as having a much better sense of different colors. The effective radius of light sources is doubled.


    Sanselie
    Spoiler: Expand
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    Battlefield Awareness
    Mystery of Sanselie
    Range: Personal
    Duration: 10 minutes
    Target: Caster
    Effect: The caster gains an uncanny awareness of their allies and enemies. They can sense the exact position of allies within short range, and the direction and distance to allies farther away on the battlefield. They gain a +2 on all Awareness checks to locate enemies for the duration. Additionally, the caster knows the current and total hit points of allies and enemies.

    Happy Coincidence
    Miracle of Sanselie
    Range: Personal
    Duration: Instant
    Target: Caster
    Effect: The caster just happens to have the perfect item on hand for the situation at hand, be it mundane, or a disposable or permanent magical item. Or rather, Sanselie thinks its the perfect item to have on hand. The caster may need to ponder. After the situation has passed, the item is used up, or returned.

    Hurried Preparations
    Blessing of Sanselie
    Range: Touch
    Duration: Instant
    Target: Creature touched
    Effect: The target can don or doff armor as a half action this round. If used on the caster, they can don or doff their armor as part of the casting.

    Perpetual Ambush
    Mystery of Sanselie
    Range: Touch
    Duration: Permanent
    Target: Creature touched
    Effect: Whenever the target enters combat, they are always surprised. If they are ambushed, they automatically fail Awareness checks to detect the ambush. Even when engaged in a duel, they are caught off guard by their enemies, and grant their opponents a surprise round.

    Perfect Logistics
    Miracle of Sanselie
    Range: Touch
    Duration: 1 month
    Target: Military unit commanded by touched creature
    Effect: For the duration, the unit commanded by the target operates as if it were a small band. That is, they can live off of all but the most hostile land, move at full speed for individuals, and do not suffer the usual casualties from sickness, fatigue, and the like.

    Restful Watch
    Blessing of Sanselie
    Range: Close
    Duration: 1 day
    Target: A camp of up to 20ft radius
    Effect: The inhabitants of the camp are at +2 for Camp Comfort and Camp Security.

    Watch
    Orison of Sanselie
    Range: Personal
    Duration: Instant
    Target: Caster
    Effect: The caster knows the time to the nearest quarter of an hour.
    Last edited by Dawnflame; 2014-06-12 at 01:52 PM.

  10. - Top - End - #100
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    On the topic of notes, I finally stopped being lazy and completely rehashed the subpar 'world notes' on the first post. My intent while re-writing it was for it to serve as a quick reference for readers. Next time we mention, say, Nunatii or the Lovas and you can't quite remember who or what that is, you can glance through the world notes. That said, I was aiming for brevity. It's not meant to be in-depth, just a quick explanation or reminder.

    If you see anything in the journal or the world notes that strikes your interest, feel free to ask for more information. I'll either update the world notes to include that, or we'll make a separate post on the matter as necessary.

  11. - Top - End - #101
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    Default Chapter 28: ArachNOphobia: Reprise

    Spoiler: Chapter 28: ArachNOphobia: Reprise
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    Between Aelron and Seeker's adventures in crafting, Flynn's gambling winnings, Gavin's repartee with the Ocean Witch (now unofficially known as the Wicked Witch of the Wet) and Miaoyu and Nüwa's bedroom athleticism, the party has enough XP to be level four (except Nüwa, who is now a level 3 mage/rogue). This means new feats for Flynn, Gavin and Miaoyu, access to second-level spells for Seeker and Aelron, and more sweet, sweet blessed hit points all around. Also, since this is still the first play-test of this game system, the players have uncovered many places where the initially developed rules needed refinement. Tam logged all those planned changes, and implemented them in one fell swoop as we leveled up. We all just filled out brand-new character sheets, because let's face it, it was easier that way.

    Several character traits that literally the entire party had selected (thinking here of Multi-talented, which let us have training in cross-class skills at level one) were removed, and their benefit simply granted to all characters as a baseline. A few new traits and feats were introduced, brainstormed by players and DM either during the campaign itself or during discussion of the campaign between sessions. Bonuses granted to skill rolls from ranks in a given skill were reduced, making it harder to meet and exceed ridiculous DCs, but most of the broad-category skills were given additional utility (trained characters can make an Acrobatics check to negate damage that would normally only be halved by a reflex save, or make a Swordsmanship check to take a five-foot-step and reposition after an attack). The Initiate skill and its accompanying magic saw yet another balance-related overhaul; placing ranks in Initiate now requires certain character background and actions (varying greatly based on the god in question, of course; Initiate of Turmlar requires being a landed knight, while Initiate of the Mother of Dragons requires spending fifty percent of one's income on projects of which the deity approves). Tam re-made the divine spell list as well; the benedictions and maledictions of priests now have various potent in-game effects, priests can now consecrate areas to call their diety's attention to specific places, and each god's spell list saw at least a minor retouching.

    It took us an inordinately long time, between the character polishing, the selection of new feats and spells, the incessant punning and the very very dirty jokes, but eventually we finished our new character sheets and got down to adventuring.

    The party leaves Foxflag heading north, crossing into Demonsbreath Pass. For the first time, they are truly in the foothills of the mountain range that spans the continent, and the going becomes tougher and rockier with each passing hour.

    It's only a few hours outside of Foxflag that they reach the first fork in the path: one direction is obviously a side path, probably leading to a small hold or farmstead, while the other continues north into the pass. Gavin stops and peers down the small path, then turns to the rest of the group.

    “Does anyone have any idea what's down there?” he asks.

    The rest of the party gives him blank looks. Allison, riding up from behind, glances down the path and shrugs. “From the lack of spiderwebs, I'd say it's unlikely our destination will be down that path.”

    Gavin frowns. “Probably true, but I don't want to leave possible encamped enemies in our backfield. How far is it from here to the Webs of Death?”

    The party looks around at one another, then back at Gavin. Aelron speaks for all of them. “None of us has ever been to the Webs of Death. We could estimate it, but without a map....”

    Miaoyu starts. “Wait a minute! Nüwa, you're a Sanseliean! Make us a map!”

    Nüwa nods agreeably, dismounts, sits down at the fork in the road, closes her eyes, and holds a quill over a sheaf of paper. After a moment, the quill quivers between her fingers, leaps from her hand, and begins moving of its own accord, etching out a map. A few minutes later, the quill jumps off the page, hovers in the air a moment, then begins to descend, clearly no longer enchanted and about to smear ink all over the map. Nüwa's eyes snap open and her hand, held perfectly, icily still for all ten minutes it took to complete the map, darts forward to snatch the quill almost delicately from the air before it can touch the page. With the deftness of long practice, she cleans the quill, caps it, tucks it into her pack, stands up, map in hand. She smiles broadly as she presents it to Gavin. “Sanselie's compliments.”

    The map is downright intricate, with a beautifully traceried scale in one corner and forest density at least suggested by distance between tiny trees. The Webs, in the map's upper left corner, actually aren’t that far off; Gavin and Flynn estimate roughly a day and a half's travel, given the mountainous terrain. There are a few villages marked on the map, each roughly equidistant from the webs, so the party heads to the closest of them to drop off the horses, Allison, and Keegan.

    The village itself is small enough that it doesn't even have an inn. Given that Nüwa's pocket change is enough to buy the village outright, its inhabitants are more than willing to put up Allison and Keegan for a few nights in their own homes and stable the horses in private barns. Gavin decides to talk to the villagers, see if they know anything about the Webs of Death, but he doesn't want to just come right out and admit what the party is up to either, just in case this is a village full of spider-cultsists.

    Gavin tells the villagers, in an appropriately long-suffering voice, of how newly-married city-girl Nüwa wants to have a grand adventure, and they have been hired as her escort. She is to be taken into the forest, shown around, allowed to hunt game, and brought back safely. At first, the villagers offer tips on where to look for which kinds of animal, but eventually Gavin takes a few of the hunters aside and tells them that Nüwa probably won't be satisfied with anything less than a ferocious magical beast. The hunters cringe and sigh. The forest to the north, they tell him, is rife with fey creatures. They avoid it, as they have no desire to tangle with such things, so they can't tell him much aside from that, but the message is clear: the area around the Webs of Death is dangerous for more reasons than simple spider infestation.

    The party leaves the village on foot, trekking through the hilly forest. Aelron, who has picked up the trait Elven Grace to replace Multitalented, and Tsarae, who's had Elven Grace all along, actually move more easily through this dense growth and rocky terrain than through normal, open plains. It's as though the trees part to grant them access, the rocks form perfect staircases beneath them, and even the wind lends its strength to their passage. The rest of the party, by contrast, is slogging through the woodlands as befits a bunch of city-folk: slow and surly, scratched and thwacked by branches at every turn, tripping over loose rocks that held Tsarae's and Aelron's weight perfectly not a moment before, and just generally not having fun. Eventually they send Tsarae and Aelron ahead to scout, because at least that way the two of them won't be waiting impatiently at the top of the next daunting rock wall, having climbed it like it was a freaking horizontal surface, grinning down as they watch the rest of the party struggle in their wake.

    As they venture deeper into the forest, however, Aelron and Tsarae return, subdued and a bit shaken. A strange and ominous feeling starts at the base of everyone's spine, like they're all being watched. Aelron and Seeker have both encountered this phenomenon before: they are approaching a convergence of ley lines, a geographic point which is also a magical nexus, a location fraught with power. Miaoyu and Aelron go on at some length about the legends that surround Demonsbreath Pass: that not far from where they stand is the site of the first battle in the world, a territorial conflict between dwarves and boarfolk. That battle, and the wars fought there since, birthed and nurtured Olanorn, dwarven god of battle. This is also, according to legend, where the First Faerie War began.

    Everyone gets a little quieter and stops complaining so much about nature. A battlefield that birthed a god is not a good place to be attracting attention.

    The party decides to time their arrival at the Webs for mid-morning the next day. They find a place to camp in the unnerving woods, double up the watches and prepare for what they hope will be a quiet night. Gavin asks Miaoyu and Aelron for a bit of deific back-up: they both have new, very helpful divine spells that will hopefully provide Gavin with a much-needed edge. Aelron casts Mana Aurora, which grants its recipient the once-per-day use of a single spell. Gavin will be able to cast Detect Illusion once a day for the next three sessions as a spell-like ability. Miaoyu gives him Seek, which grants the target one reroll per session while in pursuit of a specific task or goal.

    Flynn wonders aloud when the last time was that a priest of the Ocean Witch accepted benedictions from followers of Gilgadar and the Mother of Dragons.

    That night, while Gavin and Tsarae are on watch (and carefully ignoring one another), they see an orange glow moving through the forest to their west, heading south. They wake Nüwa and Miaoyu (and, pointedly, not Meng).

    "We’ll check it out," Miaoyu says, stretching and checking her weapons while Nüwa laces her boots. As Miaoyu straightens, she notices Gavin staring at her. "What?"

    "You’ve turned kind of… shadowy," Gavin says. And she has: her skin, normally a shade of amber, has turned dark and dusky; it’s hard to make out her outline against the night sky. Miaoyu’s gained a new trait, Color Shifting, that gives her advantage on stealth checks.

    Miaoyu doesn't seem to realize what he's talking about and gives Gavin an indulgent smile. “If you’re trying to scold me for my profession…”

    Gavin sighs, annoyed, and grabs his shield, holding it up for Miaoyu to look into. She squints, but can’t make out anything other than vague shadows. “Needs polish,” she says quietly after a while.

    Gavin stares, flips the shield around to face himself. He can clearly see his own reflection. “I’ve been polishing it all night!”

    Miaoyu raises a brow. “Maybe you need a better brand of polish. Nüwa might lend you some cash to buy it with. Or maybe talk to Aelron, I hear he's good at polishing hard things to a sparkly sheen.” Miaoyu smirks and winks at Gavin, vanishing into the night before he can recover his thoroughly-lost composure. Nüwa follows close behind, stifling a snicker. Gavin fumes and Tsarae continues to keep watch, totally not smirking at Gavin’s frustration.

    Nüwa and Miaoyu approach the source of the glow (remember the glow? That thing that Miaoyu and Nüwa were woken up to investigate?) from different angles. What they find is a tall, elf-like creature, clearly some sort of fey being, six feet tall and radiating light. He is escorted by several red-skinned hobgoblins, and at his heels is a stooped, cadaverous servant, probably a kobold or gnome.

    Nüwa, close enough to get a good look as the being passes by, guesses that this would be a gemstone faerie, a Sith, a being with which Aelron would dearly love to become acquainted for a variety of reasons, but her train of thought is cut off when the fey lord turns and looks right at her.

    Nüwa freezes, then carefully slinks back, trying to make herself small and unthreatening. Her efforts are successful: the fey lord turns away dismissively without alerting the rest of his entourage (who, thankfully, don't seem to have noticed), and continues on his way.

    Nüwa and Miaoyu regroup and return to camp to report, and they and Gavin conclude that the being isn't likely a threat to the camp. Nüwa goes back to bed with Meng none the wiser.

    Until breakfast, that is. Miaoyu and Nüwa sit close together, snickering together about how they totally didn’t do any late-night recon.

    "Don’t worry, Meng," Gavin says. "I would never let them go off and do something fun—I mean dangerous. They definitely wouldn’t be sent off to get a look at some glowing fey lord. Nope."

    Either Gavin is an awful liar, or he's enjoying this.

    Meng seethes. He can't do his job if his charge won't even stay asleep in one place properly. Poor guy. Fortunately, he has good emotional control and doesn’t start decapitating people, though he looks ready to take a swing at Miaoyu.

    The Webs of Death are only about two hours' travel away. The party does a last check of all equipment, breaks camp and marches. About an hour and a half out the majority of the party stops; Miaoyu and Tsarae venture ahead quietly to do a little reconnaissance.

    About twenty-five minutes later, Miaoyu pushes aside a branch in her path and nearly faints. Directly ahead of her, a small stream is flowing past in a relatively wide bed. The bed itself is roughly ten feet below her level, and maybe twenty yards wide. About fifty yards upstream, the bed curves into the shade of a rocky arch, possibly the remnant of a hillside that the stream eroded its way under in the distant past. On the far side of the stream bed, a huge rocky hill rises to meet the top of the arch.

    The entire area between arch, streambed and hill is a forest of spider webbing, great crisscrossed cables of the stuff strung between anchor points, supporting latticeworks of fine strands that glint in the late-morning sun. The hill and the stone arch are wrapped in a faint gauze of webs as well. Nothing can move on or near that hill without alerting every arachnid inside it. Miaoyu takes a deep breath, fights down panic, and begins taking notes.

    There are several ominous-looking cocoons suspended in the webs. Most appear roughly human-sized, though one looks large enough to contain a giant and two others are only barely smaller. Miaoyu notes their locations, diagrams the riverbed and hillside, and is putting away her charcoal pencil and notepad when she finally spots a cave entrance hidden amidst the strands of silk. The opening is at least fifteen feet off the floor of the riverbed, a human-sized (if only just) gap in the rock. She draws that in too, then signals Tsarae to withdraw.

    Upon returning to the rest of the party, Miaoyu pulls out her diagram. “Found it,” she says grimly, glaring at Gavin. “It just had to be a stronghold of the Princess of Spiders, didn't it?”

    Gavin sighs. “I already owe you a favor,” he says, “And for whatever it's worth, I wish the Ocean Witch had chosen a different task too, but I'm afraid that may be part of why she did it.”

    Miaoyu snorts. “Oh, I know. Gilgadar is a chatty drunk.” Gavin blinks, nonplussed for a moment. Miaoyu turns to Aelron, pointing at the cocoons. “I think these might be the zombie-marionette things we heard about.”

    Aelron nods thoughtfully. “That seems likely. You could use the cocoon to hold a contingent spell that will release its recipient and animate it only when an opponent is detected, which means the corpse is exposed to less wear and tear before being sent into combat.” He grimaces. “Clever bastards.”

    “Do we want to try getting rid of them before we go in for an attack?” Miaoyu asks.

    "Definitely," Gavin says. He glances at Aelron. "That in your wheelhouse?”

    Aelron smiles, showing far more teeth than is usual. "Probably. If Dispel Magic doesn't work, copious amounts of fire usually does the trick."

    "Let's see if we can get close enough to try something a bit more subtle first," Miaoyu suggests. "The rest of you, just hang back by the edge of the stream bed and rescue us if it looks like we're gonna be turned into lunch."

    The party moves to the edge of the stream bed where Miaoyu first sighted the Webs. Most of the party remains above in the edge of the trees while Aelron and Miaoyu try to approach quietly.

    “Follow me,” Miaoyu whispers to Aelron as the two of them drop into the streambed. “Step where I step and stay behind me.”

    Aelron nods and quietly activates Spellsight. If there's any magic in the webs, hopefully he'll spot it before it can do anything horrible to Miaoyu.

    Their first target, the largest of the cocoons, is right near the outer edge of the webs, within relatively easy reach. If they can just get to within thirty feet of it, Aelron can inspect it for magic and determine if it is, in fact, a spidersilk-wrapped zombie. Then, hopefully, he can dispel it, and they can try for a different target.

    They manage to cross the small tendril of flowing water at the center of the stream bed without issue and advance toward the edge of the webs, but the moment they get close enough for Aelron to actually check out the largest cocoon it all goes to Hell. The cocoon is practically dripping necromantic magic, and Aelron misses a step as he stares at it. The clatter of stones on the streambed draws attention, and suddenly Miaoyu is squeak-choking again.

    Spiders. Lots of spiders. A whole host of them, each roughly human-sized. They lurch into motion from innumerable hiding spots throughout the web, crawling quickly toward Aelron and Miaoyu and the source of the noise. They glare menacingly down at the intruders, chittering and clacking their mandibles menacingly. It's not an outright attack, it's a threat display, a warning: leave if you value your innards.

    Gavin sees Miaoyu panicking and Aelron in vastly over his head and decides that now is not the time for sneaking. He charges. He takes the drop down to the streambed in a single bound, shoulder-rolls to his feet and sprints across the intervening ground to the edge of the webs, where the foremost of the spiders is so shocked to see him that it doesn't even attempt to dodge. He sticks his spear into its abdomen, but it's tougher than it looks: the spider hisses angrily and remains stubbornly alive.

    Seeker rushes forward to stand between Miaoyu and Aelron and the small cluster of spiders nearest them. This might sound foolish, but Seeker actually has higher AC than either Miaoyu or Aelron, and more hit points to boot, and his job is to keep the rest of the party alive. Nüwa and Meng follow a bit more sedately, and Nüwa begins hurling daggers at the spiders nearest the edge of the webs.

    Aelron recovers from his shock and, as Gavin goes sprinting past, begins casting Dispel Magic. He doesn't have the spell prepared, so he's casting it out of his reserve hit points, and he's casting it as a full-round action so he can apply metamagic to it, so it's going to take time to weave the spell properly.

    Miaoyu takes a shot at a nearby spider and gets a solid hit; the spider, an arrow protruding from one of its eyes, rises up on its rear legs and waves its front limbs and mandibles at her threateningly. Before it can lower itself to all eights and charge, an eldritch bolt streaks out of the trees, over Aelron and Miaoyu, burying itself in the joint between the creature's abdomen and thorax. Carried over backward by the immense momentum of the bolt, the spider topples onto its back, twitches and squeaks a few times, then stops moving. Tsarae hurries towards Aelron, Seeker, and Miaoyu, boosting her AC on the way with Turtle Style, cursing Aelron's careless feet and Miaoyu's stupid bravery.

    And then Tam reveals the true horror of this encounter. One of the spiders... excretes a thick stream of webbing in Gavin's direction, and it sticks to his arm. That spider wraps its end of the thread around two of its forelegs and yanks. Gavin rolls a fort save and fails. The spider tugs him forward, into the shade of the massive stone arch and, more importantly, into the forest of webbing. Then a second spider does the same thing, tugging him further away from the party. And then a third spider just hurls a glob of sticky webbing at his feet, rooting him to the ground. As he’s struggling to pull free of the webbing, Gavin catches a glimpse of movement: more spiders are moving further back under the archway, heading in his direction. “Another wave is coming!” he shouts.

    Nüwa and Seeker are both dragged, shrieking and cursing, closer to the webs. Nüwa manages to stay a safe distance away, but Seeker is pulled into the webs themselves, mere feet from the enormous necromantic cocoon.

    Nüwa's daggers fly wildly, missing pretty much everything but webbing; it's hard to throw knives accurately while you're sobbing with terror. Fortunately, Meng stays resolutely close to her, holding his dao ready for any dangers that come within range.

    Aelron finishes his dispel and hurls it at the necromantic cocoon. His magic contacts the webbing and begins unraveling it... but apparently the spider cultists were ready for that move. The entire party looks on in slack-jawed horror as the cocoon bursts like an overripe fruit, and from within pours a wave of thousands of tiny spiders, each containing a small charge of necromantic magic. The miniscule creatures swarm out in all directions, sprinting away from the cocoon, but the magic with which they have been imbued begins killing them quickly. Unfortunately, both Gavin and Seeker are far enough into the webs that the tide of spiders washes toward them. Seeker makes a Relfex save and leaps backward just far enough, but Gavin is anchored to the ground and cannot escape. The little creatures scurry up his legs, leap to his arms and chest, and bite and scratch until they die. All told, having made his fortitude save to reduce damage, he takes 4 points, but it's a rather nasty shock.

    Fortunately, Gavin doesn't really care about nasty shocks. “A tide of spiders cannot stand against the Knight of Tides!” he shouts. And then the Werebear gets a fun idea and turns to the DM.

    “Do corpses count as zero level creatures?” he asks. Tam nods, willing to allow it.

    If Gavin can't do something about the cocoons scattered through this enormous web like mines, he will get dragged through each of them by these annoying spiders (which the party has taken to calling Yankees) until he dies from the sheer frustration (or possibly becomes a spiderling snack). Fortunately for Gavin, he gets three attacks per round against level zero creatures, and the corpses inside each cocoon off which the spiderlings are apparently feeding are zero level.

    Gavin hurls spears at the nearest three cocoons. Each explodes into a wave of spiderlings, but he's far enough from all of them that the spiderlings die before they can reach him.

    Meanwhile, everyone else has retreated to the edge of the webs, out of yanking-range. Seeker is out in front, daring the spiders to try that on him; Miaoyu and Tsarae hold the right flank, keeping a wary eye on the far side of the streambed as they hurl projectiles into the Yankees attacking Gavin; and Meng and Nüwa have the left, staying just to the right of the stream so they have half the streambed to spot anything approaching from their side. Aelron and Flynn stand in the center, free to reckless-attack and hurl damage at anything that moves. Miaoyu, Flynn, and Tsarae all assault a single Yankee with arrows and put it down.

    One of the spiders retreats into the cave, and four others flee into the forest. While they may have suffered morale failure, Aelron and Miaoyu know a little bit of lore regarding spiders that suggests otherwise: the bigger a spider’s web, the smarter the spider. The party begins to fear that they are calling for reinforcements, but even if Gavin weren't mired in a deadly spiderweb trap, they couldn't actually stop that many spiders from fleeing all at once.

    Aelron has had enough of these spiders, their pulling, their immobilizing, and their necromantic shenanigans. He channels for a moment, infusing his spell with as much explosive power as he can manage, and unleashes his first-ever second level spell. A hungry ball of licking flames bursts to life deep within the web and expands to a whopping twenty-foot radius, popping four cocoons like kernels in a roasting pan, and catching four Yankees in its blast. Two of the Yankees, caught flat-footed, scream in spidery agony as they burn. The other two duck behind anchoring strands of webbing and live, though the tiny hairs all over their bodies appear to have been singed off, and they are wreathed with smoke. Miaoyu targets one of those and lands a solid hit, but the creature merely turns and hisses at her. Tsarae fires at it as well, and her arrow pierces entirely through the creature's head (critical hit, almost max damage). The Yankee dies. Tam curses Tsarae's luck against his own encounters, and the party curses her kill-stealing.

    Turns out the spiders WERE going for reinforcements: Gavin and Miaoyu spot at least six bigger spiders approaching. Imagine a spider whose thorax and abdomen are roughly the size of a horse's torso, slung between legs with enough span to hold the creature comfortably above a ten-foot-wide gap. Miaoyu is squeaking again. Three are approaching from the forest to flank the main party while the others are coming out of the cave and over the arch, about to converge on Gavin.

    Gavin takes one look at the developing tactical situation and decides that he needs to be back with the rest of the party about two rounds ago. He hurries to the stream and splashes into it, wrapping his cloak around himself and turning into a seal. The stream is shallow and narrow, but his swim speed is far greater than his land speed, especially in these godforsaken spiderwebs.

    Miaoyu is having a significantly less focused reaction. “Spiders!” she chokes out. She alone of the main group has spotted the incoming threat, but she's not having much success communicating about it.

    "We know, Miaoyu," says Aelron, quite exasperated and unsure what’s suddenly gotten into his companion.

    "Bigger ones," she sobs.

    "How can there be ones bigger than these?" wails Nüwa as she continues to blindly hurl daggers at any of the Yankees who come too close.

    Seeing that she’s not going to get any help from her companions, Miaoyu turns to the only other person who might help her and points in terror at the spiders advancing through the webs. “Gilgadar, do something!”

    Gilgadar yawns loudly. Apparently he was dozing. “What? What's the fuss now?” Then he follows Miaoyu's pointing finger. “Oh. You mortals and your fears of spiders, I swear...”

    Time stands still.

    A trapdoor opens up in the fabric of reality, a strange-looking gap in the air up by the apex of the stone arch, at least twenty feet across. An enormous pair of hands reaches through it, still pulling on gloves as it appears. One the hands are fully gloved, they form into fists and smash down on four of the Yankees still hanging in the webs, pulping them.

    “Ugh,” Gilgadar mutters in Miaoyu's mind, “I hate that squishing sensation.”

    The hands retreat, peeling off the gloves as they go. They vanish momentarily, only to return with a fifty-foot-tall broom, which they immediately begin flailing through the webbing. The broom's head and handle sweep through layer upon layer of meter-thick anchor strands of spiderweb like it was all gossamer, pausing only to swat at the larger spiders still lingering in the area. The larger spiders are tough enough that broom swats aren't going to bring them down, but they're not enjoying the experience, either: they shriek in pain as the broom's beanstalk-sized bristles press them into the stone, cracking carapace and crushing limbs.

    “Let me just get this out of the way...” Gilgadar murmurs, more to himself than to Miaoyu.

    A twenty-foot wide dustpan drops from the opening in the air, crashing to the ground, flattening two of the necro-cocoons with almost-comical pops. The hands then shake the broom, dislodging all the webbing from the handle and bristles, and sweep all the detritus—dead spiders, torn webbing, and several feet of topsoil and solid stone—into the dustpan. One of the hands reaches down and grabs the dustpan's handle, and then both vanish into the hole in reality, which seals behind them.

    “There,” Gilgadar says to Miaoyu. “That's the worst of the web gone. You and your friends should be able to take care of the rest.”

    And that, dear readers, is what happens when you give an arachnophobe access to a spell called Divine Wrath and put her in the presence of way too many spiders: wrecked webs, smeared spiders, and one panting, panicked priestess tilting her head sideways in awe. 5d6 is a lot of damage.

    Reality resumes.

    The entire party stares in shock. Where there was a forest of webbing anchored on a rocky streambed, there is now an open space above a rock-lined crater. Water flowing from whatever source feeds the stream begins to pool in the crater. Miaoyu regains her composure and feels a little extra weight in her pocket. She reaches in and finds four silver coins that weren’t there before; they were ‘minted’ from the traces of silver Gilgadar found in the ground as he swept it up. On one side, Gilgadar’s grinning face; on the other, a squished spider. Miaoyu returns them to her pocket. They probably won’t function as currency, but they’re nice souvenirs.

    No time to discuss that, though. One of the larger spiders has perched at the top of the streambed on the party's right, above Tsarae and Miaoyu; it almost seems to be waiting for something. Flynn makes his Awareness check to see it and pivots that direction, but the bolts he sends its way goes wide. Tsarae doesn’t see it at all, and contents herself with shooting one of the few remaining smaller spiders. Nüwa prepares herself for any enemies that might come closer, and Seeker drops a Circle of Protection, encompassing everyone but Gavin, who is still too far out.

    Two larger spiders are waiting on the party's left side as well, crouched at the top of the ledge between forest and streambed. Their eyes glitter with malice as they watch the party huddle closer together. Aelron spots those and turns toward them, preparing to bring up a wall of fire between the party and those spiders if they begin a charge.

    The three large spiders in the midst of what was the web converge on Gavin. Two of them find range and each one stabs twice. Gavin is in seal-form at the moment and not wearing armor, so three of the shots connect. The stream runs frighteningly scarlet. Gavin, barking in pain, slides nimbly down the stream to the party, shifts out of seal form, and adopts a defensive position next to Seeker and Aelron. Even after completing his shapeshift, he's still bleeding.

    Two of the Yankees that ran into the forest come into view on the left bank. They latch onto Meng and drag him toward them, out of of the Circle of Proteciton and across the stream.

    That seems to be what the big spiders in the trees were waiting for. One can reach Meng without having to leave its perch, though he who manages to get his shield up in time to ward off its blows. The one on the right bank rushes Miaoyu and Tsarae, swinging once at each and clipping Miaoyu. The other left-bank spider springs down and begins skittering toward Nüwa, and two of the three within the web circle around to join it. The last moves toward Seeker.

    Aelron narrows his eyes, trying to gauge the timing, and then casts Wall of Fire as no fewer than three spiders charge in on the party's left flank. Unfortunately, with Meng pulled out of position and Gavin still retreating from the webs, he doesn't have a great place to put it. If he places it in its original planned location, Meng will be cut off from the party and probably roasting to death. In order to deny the charging spiders an open attack lane at Gavin's back and Nüwa's low AC, he's going to have to move the wall a bit, and even then it will still singe Gavin and Meng. “Sorry, boys,” he murmurs.

    With a massive whoosh of displaced air, a ten-foot-tall wall of shimmering magical fire appears just across the stream from Nüwa. The spiders approaching from that direction lurch to a halt, one of them barely in time to avoid colliding with the roaring flames. None of them has the courtesy to collapse in a heap of twitching limbs, but they have to back out of range of the wall before they can continue advancing on the party, so Gavin is spared four more attacks on the round.

    Gavin flinches as the wall bursts into being, blasting a few more hit points off him. Then the spider moving in at him from the webs swings at him and connects solidly, putting a spike-ended limb through his shoulder with a sickening crunch.

    Seeker darts out of the Circle, tags Gavin with a healing spell, and rushes back in. Wolfmen and elves have access to a trait that lets them (to borrow some terminology from D&D 3.5) use a standard action anywhere in the middle of a double-move, and he's making the most of it now. Gavin blinks off the pain, stabs the spider that attacked Seeker unsuccessfully a moment ago, trying to draw its ire, then steps away from the wall of fire until it's no longer searing his skin.

    Flynn fires at the spider that just punctured Gavin. He's picked up a new feat, Ghost Hunter, which, among other benefits, allows him to ignore an enemy's Armor bonus once per session. His eldritch bolt flickers as it approaches its target, and suddenly, without ever penetrating the chitin shell on the spider's upper surface, it is burrowing its way out of the creature's guts, spraying ichor onto the streambed as it ricochets off a rock. The spider collapses, its eight eyes glassy as marbles.

    Aelron knows he needs to buy Gavin more time, so he fires off his last-remaining second-level spell, Winterfall. Shards of ice plummet from the sky, slashing and freezing at the large spiders that are trying to move around the wall of fire to reach Gavin, and coating the ground between Gavin and Gilgadar's crater with a layer of treacherous ice, forcing them to move slowly to keep their footing.

    Meng takes a stab at the large spider hanging above him and bloodies its nose (or... whatever), then steps sideways and a few steps back, out of range of Aelron's wall of flame.

    Nüwa is furious. No one hurts her bodyguard.

    With sudden skill and deadliness, Nüwa begins hurling her daggers at the spider hanging above Meng. Nüwa has picked up a trait called I Am Not Left Handed. When in combat, she can perform skill checks, saves, and attacks at disadvantage (roll 2d20 and take the worse) for as many rounds as she desires. She can then ‘switch hands’ (a la Inigo Montoya and Wesley in Princess Bride) and perform at advantage (roll 2d20 and take the better) for as many rounds as she stayed at disadvantage. Her player’s plan was to save up for a boss of some kind, but saving a friend is a noble cause. Together, the two of them give that spider hell. It ends the round bleeding from a new spear wound, with two daggers protruding from just below its eyes.

    Miaoyu and Tsarae focus on the large spider that has barged into their flank. Miaoyu, face to face with a version of her worst nightmare that outmasses her by a factor of five or six, misses badly, but Tsarae sinks a few inches of cold steel into the spider's abdomen and shouts at it angrily. She has its full attention.

    Shards of ice continue to hammer the ground in front of Aelron and Gavin, and the wall of fire roars merrily. Tam counts out squares of movement for the spiders that are still gunning for Gavin in various directions, but there's no way they can a) get out of Winterfall's area, b) avoid the Wall of Fire and c) be in attack range of anyone in the party. Given that Winterfall did 4d6 of damage in its first round (it won't continue to do that, but the spiders aren't privy to that information), the spiders don't want to hang around in it, and decide they've had enough. They edge back out of the ice slick Winterfall has left, then turn tail and clamber back up toward the trees.

    Aelron dismisses the wall of flame and Meng sees his chance to get to safety; he turns and runs to Nüwa. Nüwa unleashes a fan of enchanted daggers that scythes through the spider up on the ridge, and it jerks and slumps, rolling off the ledge and into the streambed with a dull thud.

    Seeing its allies abandoning the field, the spider engaged with Tsarae and Miaoyu turns and flees as well, vanishing into the trees.

    By this point, it was about 2:30 in the morning, and we called it for the night, with the promise of continuing into the cavern to find the spider cultists next session.

    Up Next: Exactly what you'd expect.
    Last edited by AverageSparrow; 2014-06-13 at 01:33 PM.

  12. - Top - End - #102
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Nothing quite like comedic overkill, eh Sparrow?
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  13. - Top - End - #103
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Hey, it's only overkill if all the targets die. Since some of the giant spiders lived, I would say that my spell was totally appropriate for the situation.

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    RedWizardGuy

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

    Comedic overkill would have been dropping Tsarae's Wrath, then Aelron's Wrath, then Seeker's Wrath, then Gavin's Wrath all in quick succession.

    Another broomjus bashing, a hosing with dragonfire... what would Larlonite wrath look like, anyway?... and then flooded and drowned in seawater that might or might not contain angry sharks. THAT, my friends, would be comedic overkill.

  15. - Top - End - #105
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    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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

    It's a pity, but Gavin doesn't have a Wrath. He only has 2 points in Priest.
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  16. - Top - End - #106
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Same with Tsarae. She prefers to kill steal the old fashioned way.

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    RedWizardGuy

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

    Alas for the comedy that could have been.

    But seriously... Larlonite Wrath. Would Larlon descend from the heavens and literally talk your ear off? "Back in my day we didn't have all this fancy magic!" "OWWWW!"

    Or maybe it's more of a "Get off my lawn, you damn kids!" scenario, with Larlon appearing on his divine porch and unloading a holy twelve-gauge into the area targeted by his initiate.

    Fayd, you're the Larlonite here. Thoughts?
    Last edited by Dawnflame; 2014-06-18 at 04:23 AM.

  18. - Top - End - #108
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    "You've angered Larlon. Your liver fails as all your old battle wounds open up and start bleeding again."
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  19. - Top - End - #109
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Either what The_Werebear said, as every illness you have ever had or every wound ever suffered comes back to the fore, or everything within the area of effect suffers the ravages of time within a moment; creatures grow, wither, die and decay to dust, plants grow, sprout, flower, wilt, and compost.

    Alternatively things just... die. (Though that sounds more like Phoraduk). When life abandons them, what have they left but death?
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    Default Chapter 29: Bigby’s Aggressive Plot Hook

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    The party takes advantage of its temporary reprieve to heal up and get organized. Gavin makes use of his new feat, Unicorn Style, which allows him to heal people with a touch once per day. Being a selkie and a trained singer, he accomplishes his healing by humming or singing notes that resonate with his target. Miaoyu finds this a little creepy, if helpful, but Seeker is fascinated by his abilities.

    As Seeker launches into a detailed inquiry regarding Gavin's abilities and training, Tsarae nudges Miaoyu, gesturing to the crater left behind in Gilgadar's wake. “How did you do that?”

    "I asked,” Miaoyu replies. Then, to clarify: “Politely." Suddenly, Miaoyu can’t help herself: "You know, if you were polite every once in a while, people might do things for you, too."

    Tsarae gives Miaoyu a hurt look and turns away, snarling: “I’m not talking to you.”

    Miaoyu panics. “I was kidding! I’d never ask you to be polite! I like it when you’re mean—it’s charming!” Blatant lies, or a really strange relationship? Hard to say with these two.

    Tsarae just sniffs disdainfully. Nüwa, who finds domestic troubles far more interesting to eavesdrop on than academic discussions of esoteric magical abilities, shakes her head at Tsarae. “You can’t just ignore her,” she says indignantly. “She loves you! Love can never be ignored.”

    Tsarae huffs. “What do you care? I’m still taking to you.”

    "And you can’t tell her what to do," Miaoyu scolds Nüwa. The three of them quickly dissolve into a full-blown shouting match. Eventually even Seeker can't hold his train of thought together over their volume, and he and Gavin approach.

    “What's this?” Gavin murmurs to Aelron, who's been trying mostly successfully to track both conversations.

    Aelron shrugs. “Either they're about to tear one another's clothes off, or they're about to tear one another apart. Difficult to say.”

    Gavin rolls his eyes and steps forward. "Excuse me,” he says loudly, his voice suddenly sharp and commanding. “Everyone, if I could have just a moment.” Nüwa, Tsarae and Miaoyu all turn to stare at him. “Thank you. Now, Nüwa, do you still want to help me?" he gestures back at the spider cave.

    She nods. “Sure. Of course.”

    "Miaoyu?"

    She cringes and glances at the spider corpses and tattered webbing. “Only just.”

    Gavin prompts Tsarae with a glance. She shrugs noncommitally. “It’s something to do.”

    "Good. Then until this is finished, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t kill each other."

    Nüwa and Miaoyu immediately launch into scandalized protestations, and Tsarae gives Gavin a look that very clearly says I hate your ignorant guts. “I’m not going to kill them,” she deadpans.

    Gavin sighs with satisfaction and gestures back toward the cave entrance. “Good. Now you’re angry at me instead of each other. Let’s go.”

    Nüwa and Miaoyu stop in mid-protest and glance at one another, then at Tsarae. After a moment, they nod grudgingly. “You have to admire his tactics,” Nüwa observes sagely. Aelron offers Gavin a stealthy fist bump and an appreciative smirk.

    The party files into the cave and and down a steeply twisting ramp. It would be a spiral staircase, but instead of stairs it just has spider webbing; keeping your footing in here is laborious, to say the least. At the base of the ramp, the passageway widens and abruptly forks off, leaving the party with a choice: left or right? This deep underground, the party has only two sources of illumination: an amulet hanging around Nüwa's neck, and a crystal at the head of Aelron's staff. Both of the passages before them are pitch black; Aelron's light is tiny, and Nüwa is near the back of the party.

    Gavin holds up a hand for a halt. “Aelron,” he calls back, “A little light on the situation?”

    Aelron raps the base of his staff on the ground lightly, and the glowing crystal at its head suddenly increases its output to match Nüwa's amulet. Then he focuses for a moment, gathering energy, and throws a light spell on Gavin's armor. And, just in case, he also blesses everyone with Vision of Color, doubling the effectiveness of all their light sources.

    With the light they have, the party can see that the left tunnel opens into a cavern of indeterminate size while the right tunnel simply disappears into blackness. They decide to investigate the cavern, not wanting to leave possible places in their wake for spiders to mass for an attack; they turn left. The going is rough. The floor is covered in sticky webs that reduce the entire party to half-speed. Or, it would, except that Tsarae and Aelron are displaying typical elven refusal to acknowledge terrain as a factor in combat.

    The cavern the party comes to is rather small, only about fifteen feet long and maybe thirty wide. It's a bit higher-ceilinged than the tunnels branching off it, though. It has two passages leading further into the hillside, the passage back to the surface, and a lot of spider webs on every surface, but no other occupants. One of the passages forward leads straight ahead; the other branches off to the right and then twists almost immediately into shadow.

    “Which way?” Gavin asks from the front of the column.

    “Left,” Flynn says. “Deeper into the cavern on the same path.”

    “Right,” Tsarae argues. “We're looking for a central chamber. These are spiders. The nexus of the web is always at its heart.”

    “We need to find the center eventually,” Flynn agrees, “But I'd rather clear out everything else in here BEFORE we find it.”

    Suddenly, Miaoyu starts choking on thin air, pointing upward. Everyone follows her gaze, and lo: concealed in the deep shadows of the stalactite-ridden and web-covered ceiling are two additional branching tunnels.

    "Looks big enough for a person to get through," Seeker says.

    “That'd be 'they look,' Seeker,” Aelron corrects mechanically. “There's another one to your left.”

    "Oh,” Seeker says. “So there is. Hmm. Think we can climb up there?" He glances at Miaoyu.

    "I am not going up there," she says resolutely. Not even the DM teasing extra XP can persuade her.

    And that's when the whisper of clacking claws begins up in the ceiling. Miaoyu hears it first and quails, pointing repeatedly and insistently up at the tunnels. Flynn takes aim, but can't see anything worth shooting. Gavin is trying to keep his eyes on all four of the room's unexplored entrances at once, as is Tsarae; Meng crowds Nüwa toward a wall, and Aelron and Seeker wrack their brains for an appropriate magical response to this situation.

    Without warning, the light of Aelron’s staff flickers out, followed a split second later by Nüwa's amulet. Only Gavin remains glowing, though thankfully his illumination is far more powerful than either of the ones that just died.

    Aelron and Seeker glance at one another. “The holes,” Seeker says shortly. Aelron nods, and the two of them begin casting.

    Aelron casts Elemental Wall. Back outside, when trying to protect the party's flank, he cast it as a fire spell. This time, he's using the earth magic version. A foot-thick slab of solid stone forms over the hole closest to Aelron, effectively sealing it off.

    Seeker never quite got the hang of this elemental magic thing. I mean, sure, for rituals to lower water tables, he can pass muster, but shaping the stone of a cavern into a wall that will hold itself in place, not affect the cavern's geometry enough to cause a collapse, and be thick enough to stop determined intruders... that's more than he can do on the fly.

    Plus, it's so much easier to just slap a warding spell over the hole. Seeker casts Wall of Force, and an impenetrable barrier shimmers into existence in front of the tunnel closest to him.

    There are simultaneous thuds from both tunnels. Miaoyu spots glittering eyes peering indignantly through Seeker's force barrier.

    Nüwa casts Acute Senses on herself, increasing her visual acuity to be on par with Tsarae's: unreliant on light.

    Miaoyu, Gavin, Tsarae, Meng and Flynn ready actions to shoot and/or stab the first hostile creature that appears.

    A moment later a spider pokes its head into the light down the left-hand tunnel. Flynn, Miaoyu and Tsarae fire as one, and the creature collapses in a twitching heap with two arrows and an eldritch bolt protruding from its face. There is a collective sigh, then a rasp of wood on leather as Miaoyu and Tsarae reload.

    A full round goes by and no further spiders are stupid enough to expose themselves to death by readied-action. Gavin gets antsy. “Standing here does us no good. We need to advance.” Aelron casts Light again, re-igniting his staff with a few reserve HP, and Gavin leads the way down the right-hand path. Nüwa and Meng follow him, with Tsarae and Aelron behind them, Seeker behind them, and Flynn and Miaoyu on rearguard.

    The path Gavin has selected is ridiculously narrow and almost immediately hooks out of sight to the left. Just before he steps around the bend, Gavin turns back and checks the line behind him. Nüwa, Meng, Tsarae, Aelron... looks like a good order of battle, except...

    “Nüwa, Meng, trade places please.” Meng and Gavin both have a feat that grants AC bonuses while adjacent to another fighter. Nüwa, as a rogue, does not trigger it for either of them.

    Nüwa gives Gavin a sultry smirk. "Sure, but I’ll miss your sweet butt."

    Between Vision of Color and Acute Sense: Optic, Nüwa is currently seeing infrared (among other things). Gavin's face turns almost white with heat, and she smiles as she turns around to try and trade places with Meng.

    Gavin, attempting to escape further mortification, steps around the corner early and promptly has to make a Fortitude save: one of those damn Yankees was waiting for him.

    Gavin fails the save and is promptly pulled down the corridor (“Amber alert! Amber alert!”), into the waiting claws of one of the large spiders. The hallway widens again just behind the large spider, and three Yankees are waiting behind the bigger one to drag more victims into its reach. Nüwa immediately abandons the swap with Meng to hurl daggers at the spider, but she’s fighting ‘left-handed’ again and rolls a natural 1. One of her daggers scrapes along the wall while the second clatters against Gavin's armor and falls to the floor.

    "Stop starting at my butt and hit this thing!" Gavin cries, stabbing furiously at the large spider.

    Tsarae charges past, muttering something about “Amateurs,” and plants a sword in the spider's thorax. Aelron follows, and arcane bolts hurtle down the tunnel, sparking off the spider's chitin with brilliant flashes of violet light.

    At the other end of the tunnel, Flynn and Miaoyu spot two strange humanoids stumbling toward them down the left-hand passage and both open fire. The light down that hallway is terrible; Aelron and Gavin are the only remaining light sources, and both of them are moving forward rapidly. In the dimness it's difficult to be certain, but it certainly sounds like they hit flesh. Their targets just don't seem to care.

    When the creatures shamble into the light, the why becomes apparent: these aren't living creatures, they're the reanimated corpses of hobgoblins. Their eyes have been replaced by obsidian shards, and dark lumps dot their skin like jagged-edged bruises.

    One of the zombies lurches forward and hits Miaoyu with its arm. The arm snaps with the force of the blow and shards of obsidian dig into her shoulder. Miaoyu retreats a bit and shoots the zombie right between the eyes, but it keeps coming. Seeker rushes forward, reprising his role as a living shield, and casts Light to compensate for Aelron and Gavin moving further away.

    Nüwa, caught between the two battles, falters for a moment before going to support Seeker, Miaoyu, and Flynn; the battle that Aelron, Tsarae and Gavin have been dragged into is around a bend in the tunnel and currently so cramped that Nüwa couldn’t get a decent shot even if she wasn’t fighting at disadvantage.

    One of Nüwa's daggers is apparently the final straw: the leading zombe jerks violently, falls to its knees—and explodes in a shower of obsidian shards and bone shrapnel. Flynn and Seeker are standing adjacent to the explosion and have to make a reflex save. Flynn succeeds and ducks behind a stalagmite; Seeker fails and yelps as a few shards burrow through his fur to lodge in flesh.

    At the other end of the tunnel, Gavin pins down the giant spider with one of his spears and then rushes the Yankee that pulled him. Aelron, knowing that if he attacks from range the spider will move into melee and clobber him (melee attacks are made at advantage on a target that has made a ranged attack during the round, and it doesn't take these spiders much to hit Aelron), moves into melee first and swings the crystal-weighted head of his staff into its eyes. It chitters angrily at him and swings a hooked forleg at him, but Tsarae interposes herself between Aelron and danger at the last moment, taking the damage instead.

    Fun Fact! This is the first time in the campaign that Tsarae has taken damage.

    The spider has two attacks each round, though, and manages to hit Aelron with the second. It doesn't actually do that much damage, and Aelron returns fire (ha!) with a double-empowered Burning Hands spell. The large spider and one of its Yankee companions go up in flames; they die in a horrible harmony of hissing shrieks.

    Just the sound of it is so beautiful it has Miaoyu tearing up.

    Gavin reaches the first Yankee and stabs it hard enough to pin it in its own web. He's raising a mailed fist for the killing blow when Tsarae puts it out of its misery with a well-placed arrow. Gavin shoots her a glare (“Dammit Tsarae!”), but Tsarae is too busy wiping spider guts off of her sword to notice.

    Flynn, Miaoyu, Nüwa and Seeker make quick work of the second obsidian zombie; despite making attacks at disadvantage, Nüwa scores the killing blow on this one as well, and, forewarned this time, Flynn and Seeker have danced out of range before it can explode on them.

    A new Yankee chooses that moment to come around the corner into the cavern in which Aelron, Tsarae and Gavin stand, panting triumphantly, over the smouldering and pin-cushioned corpses of its friends. The Yankee quickly decides this is way more than he bargained for, turns tail and flees back into the shadows. Tsarae and Gavin just laugh at it, refusing to follow it into a trap.

    The party regroups on Gavin and begins heading deeper into the cavern. Once again, they come to a three-way crossroads. One tunnel continues pretty much straight ahead, while the other diverts to one side and slopes downward. Gavin stops the party to consider which way to go, until he remembers the blessing Miaoyu put on him. Normally, Seek just grants rerolls, but he decides to expend it for a push in the right direction. Which he gets quite literally: Gavin finds himself stumbling a couple of steps down the straight-ahead pathway.

    "This way," he says, triumphant, and the party matches forward… to another intersection.

    “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice dungeon crawling,” Flynn observes. Meng snorts.

    "Maybe I should stop and make a map," Nüwa offers.

    Why do we never remember Sanselie until we're already lost?

    "And I’d appreciate it if you checked out this scratch," Miaoyu says to Seeker.

    So the party settles in for a ten minute break. While Nüwa communes with Sanselie, Seeker dials up Larlon. Some divine spells that were instant before, like Diagnosis and Locate Object, have been altered to be included in a ten-minute commune time. Which translates to Seeker being put on hold. Soft, classical music plays in his head while he waits, and from time to time, a neutral, feminine voice informs him that, Your prayer is very important to us; your call will be answered by the first available Archon.

    Eventually, Seeker gets in touch with an archon, who patches him through to Larlon direct—just one of the many perks of being a high priest. Larlon gives Miaoyu a brief scan and nods absently. “She's fine. A few cuts, bruises and abrasions, but even your flamboyant elementalist over there could fix those in his sleep.” Hurrah, no imminent necrotic infection!

    Finally, Nüwa finishes her communion with Sanselie and shows her new map to the rest of the party. As before, Sanselie drew the map through Nüwa; this time she's helpfully labeled a few points. The downward sloping tunnel just behind the part is labeled ‘Certain Death’, supporting the party’s theory that it leads to the Underdark. Dead ahead is a large cavern with a little drawing of what appears to be an altar and the words ‘Pretty Certain Death’. Encouraging!

    One other thing grabs the party’s interest: one of the tunnels they’re standing before leads to a small side cavern, unlabeled on the map. Nüwa and Miaoyu quickly volunteer to explore it: there could be treasure down there! They have no idea if spiders keep treasure rooms, but it’s a possibility that deserves investigation.

    Tsarae volunteers as well and the three of them begin to peel off from the group, until they realize a fourth has joined them. Meng gives Miaoyu and Tsarae a disapproving look and Nüwa sighs. “Can’t you just…,” Nüwa makes a shooing motion with her hands. Meng glares.

    Miaoyu takes in a deep breath and approaches Meng. “Listen, I promise you nothing will happen to her, okay? We just need to be able to get in and out without anyone hearing or seeing us, and your armor makes too much noise. We won’t let anyone hurt her.”

    She makes a pretty decent Rhetoric skill check, too. Too bad Tsarae just has to chime in.

    "You mean we won’t let anyone else hurt her."

    Meng and Miaoyu give her near-identical Qennish death glares. Tsarae looks smug. The bickering continues even as the four of them march around the corner and into the small cavern, stopping only when they realize they've reached their destination: the small room is full of of cocooned bodies and empty of enemies.

    Seeker immediately begins checking for survivors and finds that nine of the web-wrapped figures are alive. Everyone is hopeful at first, until Flynn says, “They’re all poisoned.”

    Now, Gavin’s Unicorn Style lets him heal or cure poison once per person per day. That means he could, in theory, cure each person. The problem is that the cocoons that they’re buried in are thick and sticky and it would take at least two hours to safely cut their occupants free, plus more time to cure them and get them moving, and even then there’s the problem of what to do with them after. Gavin is, of course, raring to tend to them immediately, but reactions to that vary around the party.

    Most notably, Nüwa disapproves. “If we cut them free, then what? How are we going to protect them when the spiders attack us again?”

    Gavin takes in a deep breath and nods. “Okay. You’re right, I was getting ahead of myself. We’ll take care of the spiders and the altar, then we’ll come back for them on our way out.”

    Everyone seems more or less satisfied by this, and the party gets back on track, heading towards Pretty Certain Death. Gavin takes the lead, followed by Flynn, then Aelron, Nuwa, Meng, and Miaoyu. Tsarae brings up the rear; she has the perfect skill set for it, including her ability to see in pitch darkness, competence with swords and bows, and immunity to surprise rounds.

    As they approach Pretty Certain Death, they spot three more spider holes in the ceiling, one of which is located in a corner right above the last bend in the tunnel before the Pretty Certain Death cavern. The other two are hidden in crevices, one over the far entrance to the cavern, and the other in the middle of a long stretch of wall. The spiders will have a definite mobility advantage for this next part. The party grits its teeth and presses forward.

    A Yankee blunders around the corner, spots the party, and takes off back toward Pretty Certain Death. Gavin gives chase, turns the corner—and two OTHER Yankees pull him right into yet another giant spider. More giant spiders, Yankees, and zombies quickly appear from every nook and cranny. The party charges into the room as far as it can, attempting to come to Gavin's aid.

    Behind the party, a spider-like humanoid—an attercop—drops down from the spider hole. It chitters something unintelligble and menacing, and once again the light atop Aelron's staff goes out. Another attercop steps out from behind the giant spider looming above Gavin and casts a spell, then retreats back toward the far corner of the cavern. Suddenly, the entire party is deaf and mute. Voices don't transmit, shrieks of dismay and pain are canceled out, the clangor of chitin-on-steel combat is utterly absent... even wind through nasal passages makes no sound, and breathing is eerie. Without the reassuring sound of rushing wind, the body begins to wonder if it is in fact getting enough air.

    “No tactical communication,” Tam tells us, “Until the silence is dispelled or lifted.” Thus begins the quietest few rounds we’ve ever had.

    A giant spider drops out of a hole in the ceiling about three feet from Nüwa and tries to overrun her; Meng loyally intercepts, raising his shield and stepping between Nüwa and the blows. Meng and Nüwa counterattack, but Nüwa is once again choosing to fight at disadvantage and can’t manage a hit—between the spider and eerie silence, her hands are shaking too much. Seeker moves forward to assist, placing himself between Nüwa and the spider as well.

    Nüwa is staring in horror at the spider looming over her when an eldritch heavy crossbow bolt appears in its side and its blood sprays in a horrible, black arc over the web-wrapped walls. Without sound, the bolt made zero noise as it shot past her, cracked the spider's carapace and embedded itself in the creature's guts. Seeing Flynn standing behind her, arms raised for another shot, is a comforting sight, if somewhat unnerving.

    At the back of the party, Miaoyu and Tsarae engage their attercop. Fortunately, they have years of experience fighting together, and don’t need to discuss tactics much regardless of silence spells. Tsarae takes a moment to boost her AC with Turtle Style, and Miaoyu begins sniping at the closest attercop. Due to the risk of close combat, she employs one of her less-often used abilities and creates a shadow clone of herself to confuse her enemies. Once their defenses are taken care of, they begin chipping away at the attercop, Tsarae at close range and Miaoyu at a distance.

    Pressure stays on Meng and Nüwa, with the giant spider continuing its attacks and a zombie and another attercop cleric coming forward to join it.

    Aelron does not like the dark. He stops for a moment and focuses on his staff, willing the light enchantment up to full power. The crystal glow gutters for a moment, then suddenly blazes to life at its brightest setting, rivaling the light coming off Gavin's armor. The attercop engaged with Miaoyu and Tsarae cringes, and Aelron decides he'll make a good target. He twirls his staff and blasts the attercop with arcane energy. It smokes a bit and crumples to the floor.

    Gavin makes a desperate charge past the giant spider directly in front of him and strikes at the attercop sustaining the Silence spell. His spear drives home with remarkable accuracy, just below the creature's shoulder blade, and it shrieks and loses focus on its spell.

    Sound returns in a rush. Flynn's next bolt flies with a whoosh, Tsarae's determined hacking at the attercop squelches as it should, and Meng's battlecry rings clearly in the confined space.

    Just in time, too. At the far end of the cavern, Aelron sees a cluster of zombies and a Yankee scramble into a hole in the ceiling. “Miaoyu, Tsarae, more incoming!” he shouts.

    Miaoyu and Tsarae don’t have much time to prepare: the zombies drop in behind them almost immediately. Fortunately, the zombies are all worthless combatants: not a single one can land a hit on Tsarae's AC or differentiate Miaoyu from her shadow-double. Miaoyu and Tsarae resume their battle. Tsarae steps forward, trying to cover the whole hallway, while Miaoyu falls back to stand with Aelron. She might have a shadow-clone to help her, but the sheer numbers and the possibility of flying obsidian shards make her nervous.

    Flynn's next shot kills the giant spider in front of Meng and Nüwa, and Nüwa turns to give Miaoyu and Tsarae support while Meng and Flynn dispatch the zombie and attercop. Nüwa flings one of Aelron's spell grenades at the zombies to soften them up, and Aelron, deciding that sounds like a fantastic idea, follows it up with an empowered version. The obsidian-laced zombies start flash-melting, and actually begin bleeding magma. Seeker puts a quick heal on Meng and then moves after Gavin.

    Gavin is completely surrounded by this point, cut off from the party by a wave of zombies and a giant spider, with a Yankee and the attercop he just stabbed crowding him toward the big spider. Behind the attercop is the altar that was illustrated on Nüwa's map: a slab of green stone shot through with red veins. Gavin decides to try and provoke a morale failure, and shoves past the attercop to clamber onto the altar. He hefts up his his waterskins, gives the attercop a wicked grin, and pops the seals on both, dousing the altar in saltwater. He sure hopes they understand human body language—he’s going to die spiting the Princess of Spiders, if he has to.

    The Yankee that Aelron saw finally clambers down from the ceiling caves and manages to drag Tsarae forward, into the midst of five zombies. She growls at the spider, elbows one of the zombies out of her way, and sidesteps to the edge of the zombified crowd, just in time to clear the way for Aelron’s next grenade.

    One fiery explosion later, the zombies are barely standing. Miaoyu lines up a shot and looses, grinning maniacally. Her arrow pierces a zombie’s skull and the creature explodes into obsidian shards. Those shards pierce the zombies adjacent to it, and they're just not fast enough to dodge. The detonation brings both of them to zero hit points and they detonate as well, which brings the two behind THEM to zero as well. When all is said and done, only one Yankee and one zombie remain, and Tsarae is laughing.

    As if sensing his cue, one of the larger spiders drops down into the recently-depopulated hall between Miaoyu and Tsarae. Flynn hears it and whirls to send a bolt that direction, but a couple of Yankees team up and pull him away, deeper into the cavern and toward Gavin.

    Gavin's small ocean of opponents doesn't let him remain on the altar for long. He drops behind the altar, placing it between him and the largest of his opponents, and using it to restrict the directions from which his smaller opponents can attack. It’s not the best defensive position ever, but he’s not as exposed as he was standing atop the altar. It gets a little crowded when Seeker clambers in to join him.

    “You always pick the nicest places to visit,” Seeker comments as he slips in to stand back-to-back with Gavin and uses his last healing spell to restore some of Gavin's lost blood.

    “And you keep coming along,” Gavin replies, stabbing viciously at a zombie attempting to clamber around the altar and forcing it to stumble to a halt. “What's that say about you?”

    Flynn, while struggling with the Yankees, spots Seeker and Gavin hunkered down behind the altar. He shouts a warning, then lobs another of Aelron's grenades. Unforunately the Yankees grab him AGAIN, and jerk his arm mid-throw; the spell-form clatters off a stalactite, drops to an empty patch of floor, and detonates to no effect other than scorched webbing.

    Tsarae and Miaoyu continue their dance. Tsarae pulls back toward Miaoyu, who picks off the last zombie. Its detonation kills the wounded Yankee they've been beating on, and Tsarae dives forward again, slashing at the giant spider that has just dropped in. Aelron flicks his staff again and arcane bolts sizzle as they strike the enormous creature's legs and back.

    Gavin has been doing his best to cull the small horde of enemies he’s acquired; over three or four rounds he's managed to kill the giant spider, wound the attercop and wound several zombies. He and Seeker are still surrounded by zombies, though, and that attercop cleric hasn't bought it yet. Flynn manages to regain his footing and chucks another grenade, carefully missing Seeker and landing right in the middle of the zombie horde. The grenade only manages to kill one zombie, but most of the rest fall to fratricide, and they take the unlucky attercop with them. When the corpses stop exploding, only one zombie is still standing; it makes the mistake of charging toward Flynn, who coolly dispatches it with a well-placed arrow.

    The giant spider facing Miaoyu, Tsarae and Aelron decides that enough is enough, and retreats through the hole in the ceiling. Tsarae calls insults after it in several languages, but it does not reappear.

    With the battle done—for now, at least—the party regroups. Miaoyu's shadow-clone sticks its tongue out at her, then vanishes. Seeker tends to various wounds (mostly Gavin's), and Gavin finishes pouring his ten gallons of salt water on the altar, then kneels before it and begins consecrating it to the Ocean Witch.

    "O, my Lady of the Seas, please accept this humble inland shrine as a sign of your endless, awesome might."

    Nah, the Ocean Witch replies coolly. Gavin gapes into space, confounded. The Ocean Witch sighs irritably. Look, I don’t care about some boring inland shrine, okay? You’re free, whatever. Are you still here? Go! The connection between Gavin and his now-former deity falls dead and Gavin rises to his feet, still a bit dazed. A few mild congratulations are made, as are some plans for a proper celebration, and then they move onto that which is most important to any adventuring party: the loot!

    It takes a bit of time to gather everything up; Gavin's dance on and subsequent dousing of the altar appear have scattered the thing that were resting on it, but eventually the party scours up a decent sum of money. Near the altar, and presumably once residing on top of it, is a fist-sized diamond in a golden frame crafted to resemble spider legs. Miaoyu and Nuwa estimate that they can get a decent sum out of it from Danica, the jeweler back in Brandt. The altar itself, the party finds, grants one power over spiders if one kneels before it and pray to the Princess of Spiders.

    But those are the more mundane finds. What the party really cares about are the magic items. The first one they find is a belt made of woven blue leather with a blue gem clasp; it is cold to the touch. It grants cold resistance, turns the wearer's weapon damage into cold damage, and increases the damage of all ice- and frost-based damaging effects. After a bit of discussion, Aelron takes the belt, both for the hilarity of having resistances to frost and fire, and because it will provide a damage boost to his spells so long as he prepares them to deal cold damage.

    Gavin finds and claims a warbar made of bone and silver. Despite the rather gruesome materials, the craftsmanship is remarkable. Seeker's Identify reveals that it will deal double damage against undead targets.

    Nüwa finds a sapphire-tipped wand near the altar that allows the user to cast Mage Armor as if they were a seventh-level mage. Nüwa, with the lowest AC of the group, takes it for herself.

    Finally, tucked away in the corner and almost overlooked, is a lusterless black gem leaking an inky fluid. Nüwa picks it up and casts Identify on it. The spell fails, and she has to make a Fortitude save to repress the urge to vomit. She sets the gem back down.

    "I don’t think it likes magic," she says.

    "Could be a gem that one of the gemstone faeries escaped from," Flynn says.

    "Or it could belong to Tykanria," Seeker says. "She’s the goddess of darkness and secrets. If any relic would refuse an Diamond spell, it would be hers."

    "Well I’m curious," Miaoyu says. She slips the gem into a pouch on her belt. "I’m going to hang onto it for now."

    The party leaves soon after, stopping to cut the surviving spider victims free and cure them of poison. They’re barely lucid at best, and the party has to take it slow to escort them out of the caves safely, but they reach the forest and make camp at nightfall.

  21. - Top - End - #111
    Pixie in the Playground
     
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    Default Chapter 30: Dead Ends

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    The party shepherds the victims it rescued from the Webs of Death back toward the village where Keegan, Allison and the horses are waiting. No one bothers attacking them in the woods; the group of people is just too big and too well armed, and the spiders, no longer controlled by attercops, have scattered and appear content to remain well clear. Mostly it's just a long walk through dense forests, helping nine very tired, very hungry, very confused people stumble past thorny shrubs, over narrow gullies and around steep hills. Gavin leads the column, talking constantly in a reassuring baritone, giving the refugees a voice to latch onto and move toward. Nüwa and Meng walk beside him, Nüwa holding the map and choosing paths. Miaoyu and Flynn are on rearguard, making sure none of the stragglers straggle so far as to lose sight of the column. Seeker moves from person to person through the column, helping a man here, a woman there, healing scratches if people fall, and just generally being the sweetest puppy over seven feet tall you might hope to meet. Aelron and Tsarae patrol up and down the party's flanks, ensuring no one strays off the chosen path and watching for intruders.

    Of course, it wouldn't be any fun if it was just an uneventful trip back, now would it? At about midday, the party arrives at a clearing, and there's someone waiting there for them.

    The clearing is set at the top of a small hill. Trees give way to a thin screen of bushes, which opens upon a flowering, grassy meadow soaked in vibrant sunshine. The view of the surrounding valley is stupendous: sky-scraping mountains rising in the distance to either side, streams and waterfalls glittering blue and white, and beautiful forests as far as the eye can see.

    Standing in the center of the clearing is a humanoid figure with a Mediterranean complexion, bold blue hair, and opal eyes. All around the figure, dozens of blankets cover the grasses of the field, and are covered in turn by plates piled high with delicious fresh-smelling food. A songbird twitters from a nearby tree, voicing a melody to which butterflies and hummingbirds waltz through the air above the picnic.

    Everything is highly saturated colors, delicious smells and delightful sounds, and it all reeks of Seelie fey.

    "Hail!" the figure in the center of it all calls out, raising an arm to wave in greeting. "Please, sit." The figure—androgynous to the point of genderlessness—lowers its waving hand in a sweeping gesture that takes in all the meadow and the mountain valley, offering both the hospitality and the beauty of the scene as its gifts.

    The party clusters at the edge of the trees, but no one moves forward. Gavin, having just gotten out from under the Ocean Witch's thumb, has exactly zero desire to get tangled up with yet more fey creatures. Miaoyu and Tsarae don't trust this chance meeting one bit, and Flynn just knows there have to be strings attached to all that delicious-looking food. Seeker doesn't want to let his patients get exposed to that much food; the temptation to overeat will be very strong, and he's having enough trouble keeping them from overeating on iron rations, which are only food in the loosest sense of the word. Aelron is curious but cautious. Nüwa alone seems unconcerned with safety, and starts into the clearing. She doesn't even make it out of the trees before Meng steps directly into her path and stays there.

    Flynn, Miaoyu and Gavin exchange skeptical glances. "And who is this banquet for?" Flynn asks.

    “Why, for all of you, of course!” the figure in the clearing says, as though that should be obvious. “The great heroes!”

    Nothing like flattery to win over PCs. Aelron, Gavin, and Flynn, though still clearly skeptical, take a few steps forward, stopping at the edge of the blanekts. Nüwa beams and flounces around Meng, finds a blanket laden with delicious Qennish cooking, and plops down, smiling up at the figure before her, raptly attentive.

    Miaoyu shakes her head, glances over at Tsarae. “Heroes?” she murmurs doubtfully. “I’m kind of a scumbag.” Tsarae rolls her eyes. The two of them don't budge from the shade under the trees' edge, and Seeker stays put with the wounded.

    The fey welcomes those who join the banquet and beckons to those who remained behind. “Come, come. The food, I assure you, is most delicious.” Miaoyu just raises an eyebrow; Tsarae scoffs and looks away. The survivors are leaning toward the food, but Seeker continues to hold them back.

    The figure in the center of the clearing sighs and raises his right hand, placing his left over his heart. “Perhaps this will assuage your fears: as long as you remain in this clearing, you are protected as guests of my house. No harm shall come to you.”

    Fey beings are notorious tricksters, but they take guest rights deadly seriously. If you are accepted as a fey being's guest, you will be kept as safe as the fey can keep you, unless you do something truly stupid and violate the guest-host protocol. Invoking guest rights means that this creature is truly serious about not meaning us harm. He's pledged all of his resources to keep the party safe while it remains in the clearing, and given his attitude, appearance and apparent knowledge, it's not unreasonable to assume he's a fey lord. Being under a fey lord's protection, while it can get complicated quickly, is usually a pretty safe place to be in the short term.

    Seeker goes forward immediately, his patients in tow, murmuring to them about portion sizes and restraint. Gavin stiffly takes a seat but does not touch the food. Aelron and Flynn gravitate toward different blankets; Aelron's is piled high with Illian delicacies, while Flynn's appears to be a smorgasboard of foods you might find in a Connish pub.

    Tsarae and Miaoyu still haven't moved, though Miaoyu is confused; she's read enough to know what guest rights are, and how seriously the fey take them, and the fey lord's promise has cut a lot of the rug out from under her tingling danger sense.

    Nüwa turns her big, brown eyes on Miaoyu. “Come on,” she says, popping a grape in her mouth. Behind her, Flynn is munching on golden bread. Aelron has picked up a small stuffed mushroom and is pondering the fey lord as he nibbles at its edge. Meng is standing beside Nüwa, glaring down at her. Nüwa ignores him, firing up the charm on Tsarae and Mioayu. “It’s perfectly safe. Just sit down and have a drink, take a load off….”

    Miaoyu finally sighs and joins the banquet as well. Tsarae follows with extreme reluctance. Everyone takes a seat, though Tsarae pointedly sits at the edge of the banquet, shoving aside one of Seeker's patients to find the seat she wants.

    Once everyone settles in, the fey smiles broadly. It has brown skin and hair of bright, vibrant blue. One of its arms appears to have been either armored with or outright replaced by an appendage of living wood, and its cheeks have two triangles of blue painted upon them. Or... is that actually a tattoo? Is its skin just that color?

    "Welcome," the fey says, smiling broadly. Blue lips and teeth of brilliant white mesmerize as they move. "I am an emissary of the Seelie Court. We have heard of your recent heroics at the Webs of Death and we’re hoping to form a mutually beneficial relationship." The figure reaches into its robes—Gavin, Flynn, Tsarae and Miaoyu tense, hands going for weapons—and produces a thick envelope. The fey ignores the unintended slight to his guest pledge and displays the envelope for all to see. It's a bulky vellum skin sealed with red wax; the elaborate seal in the wax is not familiar to any members of the party.

    "This letter," the fey says, "will bestow a title and an escort on whoever chooses to take it.” A title is fairly obvious; the party is being offered a minor fey lordship. The escort it refers to is a bit more complicated. When fey creatures and servitors get together, everyone knows everyone else's rank, and rank determines how many servants and bodyguards one can bring to any given event. This title apparently comes with the privileges of an escort, permission to bring bodyguards to any fey meeting without slighting the host. “Only one may take it, unfortunately, but the benefits are intended for you all to enjoy. This title will be free of most responsibility, akin to your knight errants; the land granted by the title is uninhabited and requires no supervision. If growing your power within the court intrigues you, however, it does offer plenty of room for growth.”

    Nüwa’s eyes light up. “A title, you say?”

    Gavin shakes his head. “Believe me when I tell you that you do not want to do this. It starts off sounding like a good deal, but they will drag you further and further in and by the time you realize you’ve made a mistake you won’t be able to get away. I only just managed—”

    "And for that, we forgive you," the fey interrupts coolly. Nüwa looks between Gavin and the fey, eyes measuring, and finally settles back on the fey, apparently dismissing Gavin's concerns.

    "So what about other benefits?" she asks, hoping for a promise of some form of protection. "We did piss off the Princess of Spiders."

    "Well, if it sweetens the pot for you, I’m sure we could cure you of your regrettable fear." The fey smiles brightly. Apparently it is within its power to 'cure' arachnophobia.

    Aelron blinks. Flynn glances at Miaoyu, who is staring at the fey in something like horrified fascination.

    "I doubly advise you against letting a fey into your head," Gavin cuts in again. "You can’t listen to anything a fey says."

    The fey glances briefly at Gavin, then returns its gaze to Nüwa. "I agree,” it says with a silky smile. “Don’t listen to him—he’s a fey."

    Gavin flushes in anger. “I am not a fey! I am not a member of either court, and I have severed my ties to the Ocean Witch!”

    The fey gives him a cool, scornful look. “There is more to being a fey than which court you belong to. Perhaps if you removed your cloak and burned it, forever sundered from your heritage, you could do more than merely pretend at being human.”

    Gavin shakes with rage, grinding his teeth audibly, forcing himself to remember guest rights. Nüwa tilts her head, waiting to see if the exchange is finished. “Well, if no one else is interested….” She reaches for the scroll, looking at each party member expectantly.

    "I’ll support you if this is what you want to do," Miaoyu says. Behind her, Tsarae has fostered a beautiful, bored expression.

    Aelron is clearly conflicted. On one hand, the fey have obscure and powerful magic, and that's got to be tempting, but this is a clear attempt to sink hooks into the party, and Aelron is a free spirit at heart.

    Gavin gives Nüwa a pleading look. “I’ll advise you one last time: don’t do this. It can’t end well.”

    "I agree," Seeker says. "This is a bad idea."

    Flynn, like Tsarae, looks bored out of his mind, but a light in his eyes betrays his interest in what will happen next. He offers no advice.

    Nüwa quirks a brow. “So no one else wants it then? Being a bit dramatic, all of you….”

    She takes the envelope, and the fey lord smiles broadly, obviously delighted. “I am pleased to name you the Lady of the Garden of Razors.”

    Flynn's sudden smile is a bit disconcerting; everyone suddenly gets the impression that he’s quite pleased to have another edge against the Huroc, one that has no immediate cost to him.

    Gavin is less pleased. He stands, sending a platter of stuffed and grilled fish flying into the grass, and takes a step toward the fey lord. Aelron slides over and interposes himself between the two, holding a up a hand and staring straight into Gavin's eyes. “No,” is all he says. Gavin fumes for a moment, then storms out of the glade. Aelron gives the fey lord an apologetic glance, then hurries after Gavin.

    Seeker makes to follow as well, but Aelron stops him at the edge of the glade. “Stay with your patients. I can handle this.” Plus, Aelron doesn't say, getting a lecture from a Larlonite wolfman is probably the last thing Gavin wants at that particular moment.

    The fey shakes its head, hair rippling in the sunlight, before turning back to Nüwa. “Now then, shall we discuss the finer points?”

    They spend the next half-hour going over Nüwa’s new privileges. She has the authority to recruit a dozen hobgoblins as an escort, to use as she wishes. If she should require further assistance or otherwise would like to contact someone of higher standing in the court, all she needs to do is speak with someone else of the Seelie Court, and they will deliver the message. Furthermore, she will be serving under a fey lord known as the Blue Lion of Varaz.

    "I believe that concludes my duties at the moment, unless the lady has any further questions?"

    "Well…," She drawls, shooting a glance at Seeker. "I have a friend here who was separated from his wife and now she’s banging a dragon." Seeker facepalms—facepaws?—at this, but Nüwa keeps going. "I was wondering if you could help us piece together what happened. It’s a matter of the heart, after all, and that is the domain of the Bright Queen."

    "Of course," says the fey, ever cordial. "What was her name again?" The fey glances at Seeker. Just before Seeker can respond, it snaps its fingers. "Ah, yes. Alfirin. We would certainly love to help. But it seems you’re quite capable of finding this information with the magic already available to you, my lady. It is simply a matter of focus. Now then, I bid you all farewell."

    The fey seems to vanish between blinks of the eye, and the party groups up, collecting Gavin and Aelron and helping their patients along. When they glance over their shoulder at the glade, they find it empty of the banquet, with not so much as a blade of grass crushed from the heavy picnic blankets.

    The party continues for some time, Nüwa nearly glowing. “You know,” she says to Seeker, “once we get back to Brand or another city, I think I might actually have an idea of what he meant. I just need a bit of time to mull things over.” In order to cast a spell that will peer into the past to find out why Seeker's wife has turned against him, Nüwa would need to be a master of divination, Diamond tower magic. At the moment she's one point short of mastery, but she's a human, which means that once per session she can move a skill point around. She’s planning to shift one more of her skill points to diamond magic so she can perform the ritual necessary to look into the past. Seeker expresses gratitude and cautious hope.

    Nüwa glances at Aelron, waving her new letter. “I don’t know if you heard the discussion after you followed Gavin off, but I’m serving under the Blue Lion of Varaz. He’d know all about obscure magic and I’d be happy to share it with you.” She flutters her eyelashes at him.

    Aelron gives her a look that combines disgust, hurt pride and astonishment. “Did you just try to bribe me to sleep with you by offering me magical knowledge you don't actually have?”

    She blinks at him. “Of course. Is that... a problem?” She seems genuinely confused.

    Aelron stutters. “You’re married!”

    Nüwa scoffs. “So? It’s not like I took any vows of fidelity—or any vows at all.”

    "You married an Aurbeski woman," Seeker offers. "Perhaps you should follow Aurbeski customs."

    Miaoyu rolls her eyes. “You can’t ask Nüwa to care about Aurbeski culture when she didn’t even know she was getting married and her wife hasn’t so much as tried to establish a relationship. It was a political marriage. It happens.”

    Nüwa nods. “It’s not like she’s trying to understand my culture. All she did was write a crappy poem.”

    Miaoyu nearly stumbles. “A poem?”

    Nüwa rolls her eyes. “Don’t even get me started. All it did was talk about birds and the stars and flowers. So boring.”

    "Flowers?" Gavin says. "You do know of the language of flowers, do you not? It’s used to convey complex emotions and ideas through the simple imagery of flowers." There’s a faint light in his eye as he thinks proudly of one of his country’s cultural hallmarks.

    Nüwa sighs, all drama. “Of course I know the language of flowers. But the ones she used were all foreign flowers. All meaningless! Not a single Qennish flower among them.”

    Apparently it never once occurred to Nüwa that her wife might have been using a different culture's language of flowers. Or that a different culture might have a launguage of flowers.

    "A poem?" Miaoyu repeats.

    "A bad poem!"

    "But a poem!"

    The conversation doesn't get any less frustrating than that as the day wears on, and by the time they reach the village where they left the horses and noncombatants, Seeker's patients are clapping their hands over their ears and singing to drown out the arguing. Fortunately, the barn the party is assigned to serve as temporary living quarters is large enough to comfortably fit their group of survivors too. Keegan, despite the late hour, is nearly bouncing with energy when his friends return.

    "So how did it go?" he asks.

    "Well, have you ever seen a god swat at a bunch of bugs?" Flynn asks as he shrugs his pack off and makes himself comfortable on a pile of hay. "Because that happened pretty literally."

    The party describes the divine wrath that Miaoyu called down to Keegan and his eyes light up. He wraps Miaoyu in a hug, practically bursting with admiration. Miaoyu glows.

    Allison, on the other hand, looks like she almost died of boredom. Nüwa bounces up to her with a grin. “I became a fey lord,” she says. “Lady of the Garden of Razors. Impressive, isn’t it?”

    "Quite, my lady," Allison says. Her tone is, as always, flat, but her eyes become a little less lifeless and she alters Nuwa’s stationary to include the new title. Then she corners Nüwa in the barn and won't let her leave without a complete recounting of the events since the party's departure, especially anything relating to the new title.

    Tsarae crouches down next to Miaoyu as the latter is spreading out her bedroll. “So,” Tsarae says, almost delicately, “I’ve been thinking it’s time for me to head out.”

    Miaoyu looks up. “Oh. Okay. Well, you can stop by the clubhouse any time you want, and you can use my bed.”

    Tsarae rolls her eyes. “Yes, mother.”

    "And I want you to take this, too." Miaoyu rummages through her pockets until she finds the silver sword amulet she picked up in Old Drougant City. "It’s pretty, and you can sell it too."

    Tsarae scoops it up and pockets it, then grabs Miaoyu by the hand and drags her off to the forest.

    Miaoyu returns after the sun has set and attempts to sneak quietly back into the barn. Her attempts at discretion are foiled when she finds the party still wide-awake, apparently up late telling more stories to Keegan. They take in her rumpled appearance for a moment.

    "Where’s Tsarae?" Gavin asks.

    Miaoyu flushes a bit and points vaguely in the direction of the forest. “That way?”

    Gavin sighs. “She’s gone, isn’t she?” Miaoyu nods.

    "If I had the chance, I’d tell her to take care of herself," Seeker says, "though, come to think of it, that's what she does best anyway, so..."

    Nüwa leans towards Miaoyu and whispers, “You still have leaves in your hair.”

    Miaoyu makes an undignified squeak and combs through her hair to dislodge the last of the foliage. Aelron smirks.

    The next morning, the survivors who are strong enough to do so move through the town. For many, there are happy reunions with families who had presumed them dead. A handful of others make arrangements for transportation to nearby home villages. Flynn keeps watch over the entire group as they move about town, ensuring that nothing untoward befalls them.

    Only two of the rescued are from far enough away from home that they can't make easy arrangements to get back.

    The first is a Kadashari woman, who approaches Seeker. The Kadashari are descendants of a slave trade that spanned the entire continent, and she is of clear mixed descent and has an unusual combination of features. “My name is Ildiko,” she says. “You have saved my life, and for this I owe you a debt. I am too weak to offer my services now, but when I am recovered, I would seek you out.”

    Seeker inclines his head. “I have made a home in the town of Hangtree. Wait for me there when you are able.”

    "Do you need any money?" Miaoyu asks.

    "I have some," Nüwa adds, and begins to reach into her bulging coinpurse.

    "I will make do," Ildiko says stiffly.

    "May I offer you a blessing of Larlon?" Seeker offers, and her discomfort only grows.

    "I will make do," she repeats, more loudly this time. Kadashari are known for having turned away from the gods and worshiping beast totems instead, believing them uncaring of the pain their ancestors suffered. Seeker does not press the issue, and instead bids Ildiko farewell.

    Not long after she has departed, a dwarf approaches Seeker as well. He struggles to communicate clearly, often stumbling and backtracking. “Forgive me,” he manages eventually. “It has been… many, many months since I spoke with another.” He has a listless look in his eye for a moment before turning his attention back to Seeker. “I would like to offer you my aid. I must first visit my hold, but then I could… serve you, if you would but give me a place to rendezvous.”

    "I have a home in Hangtree," Seeker says. "But if I may ask, what is it that you do?"

    The dwarf gives him an odd look, gesturing at his tattered robes and holding out a walking stick which, on closer examination, is carved with tiny lines of dwarven runes. "Why,” he says with a smile, “I am a wizard, of course."

    Seeker perks up. “Actually, I know someone who’d love to meet you.” He waves Aelron over.

    “'Sup, Seeker?” Aelron asks as he ambles over. “Need a hand with something?” His glance flits to the dwarf and the staff in the dwarf's hand, lingering there.

    Seeker smiles. “This is Aelron Firemind, our resident mage. Student of the Gemstone Towers and—get this—an elf.” The dwarf raises an eyebrow.

    Aelron shrugs. “Long story.” He turns to Seeker. “And since when are we advertising that?”

    Seeker gestures at the dwarf. “Since he's a wizard. I thought you two might have a lot to talk about, and 'you're an elf' is about as good an icebreaker as it gets.” With that, Seeker stands, bids them both farewell, and strides away. Aelron and the dwarf fall into conversation, comparing notes on their magical educations and generally geeking out over inscrutable runes. By the time the dwarf departs to return to his hold, Aelron is practically glowing: he's made a new friend, and perhaps apprentice!

    Once the last of the survivors gets squared away, the party agrees to head for Brandt. There, Gavin can take his oaths to Turmlar, Seeker and Aelron can craft magical items, and Nüwa can dump ridiculous amounts of money on various people to procure food and other mundane supplies.

    It's a long march back to Brandt, fairly uneventful but for one night about three days into the journey. At dusk, as they're looking for a place to camp, the party comes upon the ruins of a small stone structure. At first, it looks like a good place to set down a camp, so Keegan leads the horses aside and starts setting up a small paddock while the rest of the group sets about clearing space for tents. Only when Miaoyu ventures too close to the building does it become apparently that something isn't right: there's music emanating from a trapdoor in the floor. Eerie, haunting string music that just makes you want to yell, “Put. The candle. BACK!”

    "I’m going to stay up here," Miaoyu says. "That looks way too creepy."

    "Me too," says Flynn. "I want to make sure Keegan and the horses stay safe." The two of them retreat to just outside the crumbling stone walls.

    Everyone else heads through the trapdoor to find the source of the music. The ladder under the trapdoor groans ominously, almost harmonizing with the echoing music as it deposits the party one by one into a dark, narrow hallway. Aelron increases the light output of his staff, and Nuwa activates her shining amulet. They come to a right turn and see a dim, green glow around the next corner.

    The glow comes from a floating green ball of light, and when Gavin draws near, it floats toward him, hovering just above his head and moving with him, as if intended to light the way through the dark corridors. It appears to be an enchanted werelight, a small light spell programmed to hover around this vicinity and approach any people that enter the room. Aelron examines it thoroughly, and can't find anything malicious about it, so Gavin shrugs and turns toward the next door.

    Just then, Miaoyu comes crashing around the corner and into Nüwa, half blind in the dark. “I couldn't stand the suspense,” she says by way of explanation. “Flynn has it handled.” And indeed he does, whistling a jaunty tune as the rest of the party stumbles through the dark. A jaunty tune that sounds remarkably like the melody line of “Never Split the Party”.

    Further down the hall, Gavin come to a door that’s stuck to its frame and gives it a mighty kick. The poor, innocent door gives under Gavin’s assault, opening to a room with four doors, each with another green light next to it. Meng touches one, and it floats above his head as the other did with Gavin. Curious, Miaoyu does the same with another light. After a moment of satisfaction, Miaoyu suddenly scowls and swats at the light. “Go away,” she grouses. “You’re cramping my style.”

    The light rudely stays where it is. Miaoyu pouts. “Be that way,” she says, and douses it with Tykanria’s orison. Miaoyu sighs at the blissful darkness.

    The light comes back. Miaoyu curses, but decides to let the light live. For now.

    Back to the task at hand, the party tries to decide which door to go through. One ridiculously high skill check later, Miaoyu is able to just barely discern which direction the music is coming from: the door opposite the one they came in from. It opens with a creak, revealing another long hallway.

    Gavin takes the lead, and as they travel down the hallway, each corner is dotted with another green light. Each time that Gavin passes by one, it begins to float above his head. Fortunately, the lights aren’t additive, so they don’t obscure his vision, but the party begins to worry that they may be dangerous, and Gavin has collected ten of them. Miaoyu, in protest of her little glowing friend, color shifts to blend into the shadows regardless of its presence. She’s more or less decided that he new color-changing powers are “eh, probably just an extension of the shadow walking or something”. She’s now a little green at the crown of her head and hard to focus on.

    When they finally reach a door many corners and werelights and arguments later, Gavin rattles the handle and turns to the rest of the party. “It's locked.” Miaoyu practically jumps up.

    "I can take care of that! I’m so bored." She squeezes down the hall and cheerfully picks the lock before shuffling back. Gavin pushes the door open.

    The floor of the room is covered in humanoid bones, most in relatively recognizable, whole skeletons. Gavin takes a slow, careful step through the door. The skeletons remain rather dead. He lifts his warbar and crushes the nearest skull. They continue to lie inanimate. Seeker steps in and casts Phoraduk’s orison on one to determine if it is alive, dead or undead. The spell returns a result of “Duuuuuuuuh” as the skeleton's hand snaps up and grabs for Seeker's wrist. At Seeker's startled yelp, skeletons all about the room begin to rise.

    Gavin lunges forward and kills the skeleton grabbing Seeker, then swings his warbar through a wide arc and pulverizes several more. Miaoyu and Nüwa let fly arrows and daggers, dropping skeletons with puffs of bone dust. Aelron blasts the nearest skeleton with arcane energy, vaporizing half its ribcage and sending the remnants clattering back to the floor.

    It's over just as quickly as it began; between Gavin's wildly flailing warbar and the fullisade of ranged attacks, no skeleton survives long enough to hurt the party. Once everyone has been checked over for scratches and Gavin has double-tapped all the skeletons, they continue exploring, searching for the source of the music.

    Unfortunately, there's a lot of corridor down here and not much in it. Nüwa communes up a map eventually, and the place is huge, an enormous dungeon with no easily-discernable logic to its layout. Finally, the party decides it has had enough and turns around to head back to Flynn.

    Flynn is, at that moment, being attacked. The DM asks for Flynn's Armor Class, then rolls and reveals the die: a nat 20 attack. “Fort save, please.”

    Cade rolls, grins, and reveals his die as well: yet another nat 20. It's good-news-bad-news time for Flynn. The bad news is that a hand went through his chest. The good news is that he’s actually pretty used to seeing through his own chest. The bad(der) news is that he’s feeling… older. About four years older.

    Flynn whirls around, scrambling away from the next attack. His attacker is a human male of apparent Drouganti descent... or used to be, back before he died and became a ghost.

    The horses flee in horror, Allison not far behind. Keegan stands his ground, reaching for his staff and drawing up his courage. Flynn holds out a hand to stop him. “No. Get the horses. I’ll be fine.”

    Keegan only hesitates a moment, then races after the horses. The ghost lunges at Flynn again, and he loses another four years. He’s not about to sit here and just take the abuse, though. He raises his hands, smiles at the ghost, and says, “Get lost.” Critical hit. Maximum damage. The ghost opens its mouth to scream, but what comes out is simply a violently screechy remix of the same ominous music the party has been hearing for the past half-hour.

    Another attack, another critical, another nat 20 on a fort save. Flynn loses a year. He growls something ungrateful and fires again, but the ghost has backed him up against someone's bedroll, and he stumbles and sends his shot wide. The ghost lunges, seeing its opportunity, and Flynn loses another two years. When Flynn gets his feet under him again, he stands his ground and lets the ghost have it point-blank as it approaches for another swipe. This time his eldritch bolt tears through what should be the ghost's heart, and the figure appears to collapse in on the bolt, vanishing like a puff of steam. The music fades away, leaving Flynn panting in silence and dusky dimness.

    A few minutes later, the party comes back to find Flynn thirty-five years old. Miaoyu frowns, glances at Aelron and Seeker. “How long were we down there?”

    Flynn looks evenly at his friends, only a hint of displeasure in his face. “So, ghosts suck. Also, I can see them.”

    Flynn fills everyone in on what happened, and Seeker eagerly reaches forward to de-age him. “Wait,” Flynn says. “We’ll get the others and the horses and once we know everyone’s okay, then you can worry about me.”

    It takes a couple of hours and a couple of quick calls to Gilgadar, but the horses are rounded up and Allison and Keegan are found safe and sound. Flynn is returned to his previous age and Gavin sings some health back into him.

    Now the party is faced with a new dilemma. None are particularly enthusiastic about returning to the depths of the dungeon, but they can’t in good conscience just leave it; it's dangerous, and should be cleared, and this is exactly what adventurers are supposed to do. Ultimately, a compromise is made. Aelron magics up a warning on the side of the house, a list of dangers the party encountered while down there, and a reproduction of Nüwa's map.

    With their quest marker firmly in place, they return to the road. Eventually they come to a river village, and Nüwa kindly buys passage for everyone to Brandt. While most of the party is perfectly content to accept, Gavin stiffly turns to the ferry man.

    "How much to purchase passage for one?"

    Let’s just say that Gavin doesn’t have anywhere near the money. He swallows his pride—and dislike of the Bene and the fey—and accepts Nüwa’s offer. They arrive in Brandt that evening and the next morning begin on their errands.

    Nüwa goes to the wealthy side of town and peruses fine silk dresses until she finds one that will work for her scrying ritual. Once she has a few alterations done, she returns to the inn the party rented out and begins an eight hour ritual to see into Seeker’s past.

    Gavin and Miaoyu go to Danica’s Fine Gems, and after a pleasantries are exchanged, she shows them to the backroom, where she keeps her tools.

    "We found this gem while battling spider cultists," Gavin says, pulling out the huge diamond. "The frame may be valuable as well."

    Danica takes the gem begins to examine it, inspecting the cut, clarity, and sparkle. “It’s lost its sith,” she says, referring to the gemstone faeries that give gems their inner sparkle, “so that will bring the worth down significantly. It would be of interest to collectors, however.”

    She offers them a considerable sum that the party is happy to accept. After the exchange is made and Danica stores her new diamond away, Miaoyu reaches into her pockets and produces the black gem. “We’re not necessarily looking to sell this one, but I was hoping you might be able to tell me a bit about it. We found it in the same place as the other one, but we’ve never seen anything like it before, and when one of our companions tried to Identify it, she was overcome with nausea. It appears to respond... poorly to divination magic.”

    Danica quirks a fine brow and delicately places the gem on a small dish to catch the flowing black liquid. She spends some time studying the gem, then the liquid, before finally leaning back in her chair. “It’s strange, but I can’t seem to place the gem itself. As for the liquid—well, it’s not a liquid at all. It’s actually some sort of dust that flows like a liquid. I don’t know what it is, but I believe it has some sort of connection to siths. I’m sorry, I can’t tell you much more than that. I would suggest speaking with the Ylsilarites.”

    Miaoyu and Gavin thank Danica for her time. Outside her shop, Gavin says, “I’m going to head off to the Temple of Turmlar.”

    Miaoyu nods. “I’m going to the Ylsilarite Complex. But have fun, I guess.”

    They part ways. At Turmlar’s temple, he finds Flynn and Aelron waiting for him. “We wanted to be with you for this,” Aelron says, smiling warmly. “It's a big step to take, and I've always rather admired Turmlarites.” Gavin nods stiffly and they all enter the temple. They enter in the midst of a sparring match. Gavin waits for them to finish and address him, standing tall and straight.

    After a few minutes, the match winds down and the Turmlarites replace their weapons in their respective racks, chatting amiably. One of the older priests notices Gavin and approaches.

    "Good day. Is there something we can do for you?"

    Gavin takes in a deep breath. “I would like to pledge myself in service to Turmlar.”

    The priest brows raise in surprise. “Why have you chosen to do so?”

    Gavin swallows and takes a moment to collect himself before speaking. “By birth, I am a coward. My instinct is to run away and hide under the waves. But that’s wrong. I should be protecting the weak, not abandoning them. When I was young, I made a mistake. I acted recklessly, and without thought of the consequences. I am free now, and I wish to do what is right.”

    The priest gives him an approving smile and beckons him further into the temple. “Your cause is noble. Come, let us make your oaths.”

    Gavin takes his oaths with pride. Normally a new initiate would begin as a novice, but Gavin has already proven his mettle and has experience as a priest, so an exception is made. Flynn and Aelron both congratulate him.

    At the Ylsilarite Complex, Miaoyu is finally being waved in to visit with one of the librarians after a long stretch of waiting. A middle aged man greets her and sits with her at a table. “What knowledge do you seek?” he asks. She pulls out the gem.

    "My companions and I found this. We attempted to Identify it, but that just made our diviner ill. We thought it might be an artifact of Tykanria, given its color and aversion to diamond magic."

    The librarian hums thoughtfully. “I believe a novice is required for this.” He reaches behind him and rings a bell. A few minutes later, a teenaged girl enters. “Cast Identify on this gem,” he instructs.

    The girl does so, and one failed fort save later, she's puking violently and the librarian is ringing for a healer. As the librarian ushers Miaoyu to a room that doesn't reek of vomit, she catches sight of a long line of Purifiers outside the complex.

    "It seems that we’ve verified the truth of your previous claims," he says as they enter a new room and settle into their seats. "Have you other suggestions?"

    "Well, maybe we should see if the gem reacts that way to all diamond spells, not just Identify."

    The librarian nods, and Miaoyu watches in horror as he rings another bell to summon another novice, this time a boy. “Cast Detect Artifact of Tykanria.”

    Another fort save is demanded, but the boy manages to make it, though the paleness in his face suggests his discomfort. The librarian glances at Miaoyu to see if she has anything to say.

    "Maybe we should see if it reacts the same way to all magic, or if it’s just diamond," she says, torn between curiosity and concern for the novice.

    "Move the gem about with a cantrip," the librarian says to the the novice. The boy takes in a deep breath and summons up a small gale. The gem tilts slightly and the dust around it stirs. The novice waits a moment, but when no feeling of sickness overcomes him, he lets out a sigh of relief.

    "Any other theories?" the librarian asks. Miaoyu shakes her head. "Then I would be happy to take the gem off your hands."

    "No, I think I’ll hold onto it and see if I can figure out what it is. Do you happen to know where I can find a Tykanrian?"

    The librarian stares, offended.

    Miaoyu grins at him. "So… not that you’re willing to admit?"

    The librarian’s jaw clenches and he blinks at Miaoyu rapidly.

    "Frequent blinking is a sign of lying,” Miaoyu informs him offhandedly as she stands. “Just thought you should know."

    "Then what does that say about snakes?" he asks coolly. Miaoyu suddenly becomes aware of the many holes about the room, perfect for snakes to travel through. He turns to his novice. "I believe it is time to escort the lady out."

    The boy meekly opens the door of the room, beckoning to Miaoyu. She breezes through the door, pausing only to get in the last word: “I’ll let you know how the thing with Tykanria turns out. And I’ll tell them you say hello.”

    The entire journey out, she’s caught between giggling and anxiously eying passing snakes.

    Once everyone has finished their respective oaths and research, they all group up at the inn to await the results of Nüwa’s scrying.

    It takes a long time and a lot of dancing, but eventually Nüwa finishes her ritual and begins to see glimpses of Seeker’s life. It starts at the beginning of Seeker’s life, and Nüwa just huffs. She has no particular interest in seeing him learn to walk, so she fast-forwards. She sees Seeker’s first meeting with Alfirin in a blur, his awkward attempts at courtship, and eventually their marriage. Finally, Nüwa reaches the point she was looking for: the night of the attack. The attackers are composed entirely of elves, who strike Seeker unarmed with elbows and knees until he loses consciousness. They don’t strike Alfirin, however. In fact, she leaves the scene so peacefully that Nüwa is forced to suspect that she had been enchanted; her initial reaction to the attack had been one of surprise and distress. The only other explanation would be that she faked those emotions, but there’s no clear reason why she would.

    The vision jumps forward. Alfirin is with an old, withered pureblood elf. Elves only begin aging in their last few years of life, so for her to show her age she would be around four hundred years old. Alfirin and the other elf exchange spells in what seems to be a call and response.

    Another montage begins, this time of its own accord. Nüwa sees Alfirin leave the forest. She spends some time traveling around Drougant, visiting many keeps and counties. Then she’s in Splitshade, asking around for what Nüwa assumes to be the dragon baron. She goes into a cave—likely the lair of the dragon—and time skips forward again, Nüwa’s scrying unable to penetrate the wards around it.

    The last bit is brief. Alfirin mingles around the village, accepted as one of them and admired. In a keep not far from Splitshade, she meets with a familiar Dhar man. Next, she is writing out angry letters to an unknown recipient.

    Nüwa’s spell ends: there is nothing left for her to see. She recounts it to the best of her ability.

    There’s a long stretch of silence. Finally, Seeker manages to speak. “I knew there had to be an enchantment involved. That old elf, she might have been a Tykanrian, though I don’t know if they can be scryed on.”

    “She must have been a mind mage or enchanter,” Aelron agrees.

    “We might be able to look into that old elf,” Miaoyu says. “Given how old she was, she’s likely died of old age, but if she’s as powerful as we think she is others might know of her.”

    The discussion continues for some time, but even with the new influx of information, they still only have bits and piece of the puzzle.

    With that done, the party has a few days left in Brand. Aelron takes to creating a charm protection bracelet and Seeker begins working on his own spell. The priests of the group—everyone but Flynn, really—also have to worry about the newly implemented tithing that their priesthood demands to maintain favor with their respective gods.

    For Seeker, Nüwa, and now Gavin, this is a simple task. The church of Laeros is a mainstream and organized religion, and as such their tithing comes in the traditional form of passing a percentage of their income to the church.

    Miaoyu and Aelron, as members of small cults, have different demands. Aelron is required to spend a portion of his income on arts or other pursuits that would please the Mother of All Dragons, and as such he purchases some nice art supplies to begin a painting.

    Gilgadar is a bit unusual in his tithing demands. Like many dwarven gods, he is also a hearth god, and asks that his priests help their respective communities gratis. Unlike other hearth gods, he is also a god of outcasts, thieves, and the homeless; his definitions of “helping” and “community” are a bit fluid. Basically, Miaoyu ends up stealing a lot of freshly-baked pies from windows and giving them to orphans.

    Once half the children in Brand are well on their way to a sugar high, Miaoyu returns to the inn and stumbles across Seeker taking a break from his spell research. “Oh! Good, you’re not busy. Come here, I need your help with something.”

    Miaoyu leads a curious Seeker to her room, sits him down on the bed and pulls out a bucket. “If I start vomiting, please do something.” Then she sits on the ground, pulls out the black gem, and begins communing with Gilgadar.

    Hey Gilgadar, she asks sweetly, can you help me with something? I’m looking for a black gem.

    Gilgadar is silent for a moment with utter incredulity. You mean one that’s about the size of your fist, has no shine, and leaks black... is that dust?

    That’s the one!
    Miaoyu chirps.

    Gilgadar sighs. Seriously?

    Just humor me. It’s important, okay?


    Miaoyu can almost hear Gilgadar roll his eyes. The gem you are looking for—the one that you’re looking at as you pray to me—is right there, in your hands.

    Miaoyu beams. Okay, thanks! You’re the best!

    Gilgadar grumbles something about someday having enough followers to demand a little respect and cuts the line between them. Miaoyu gives Seeker a thumbs up.

    "No imminent vomiting! Looks like this is safe on the divine end."

    Seeker seems pleased and together they return to the common room for Seeker to enjoy the rest of his break before resuming his research.

    Later that evening, Miaoyu sneaks out to find a nice, boarded up house to duck into. She finds a windowless room and seals up the cracks in the doorway and anywhere else that lets light through. She counts down the minutes until the sun sets, then closes her eyes and begins to commune with Tykanria. She keeps it simple and reverent: she has something that may belong to Tykanria, and she would be happy to return it, if so desired. In the back of her mind, she can hear Gilgadar complaining that she’s never this respectful to him.

    The prayer ends, and the gem still resides in Miaoyu’s pocket. She’s not concerned; if it does belong to Tykanria, she now knows that Miaoyu has no intention of withholding it should she want it.

    Satisfied, Miaoyu breaks the seals on the door and leaves for the inn, casually dodging two men who attempt to mug her.

    Sorry for the long delay, folks! Just an update: the campaign itself is actually finished! We hope you'll enjoy reading the last few chapters as we post them: we've got some interesting stuff in store.

  22. - Top - End - #112
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Chapter 30: Dead Ends

    Quote Originally Posted by AverageSparrow View Post
    Sorry for the long delay, folks! Just an update: the campaign itself is actually finished! We hope you'll enjoy reading the last few chapters as we post them: we've got some interesting stuff in store.
    Yay (well, that it reached a conclusion, not that it's over)! I've been reading for a while and enjoying it, though I haven't commented before.
    Thanks to Elrond for the Vash avatar.

  23. - Top - End - #113
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    Something to look forward to, possibly: I will be running a pathfinder (system) game in my own custom setting starting in a few weeks, and my players have expressed interest in creating a campaign journal. And possibly, it will be illustrated! I'll be posting it when it happens, even though I won't actually do more than annotate it, probably.
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  24. - Top - End - #114
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    I would like to call attention to the first post, where AverageSparrow has uploaded a number of REALLY NICE MAPS.
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  25. - Top - End - #115
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    Default Chapter 31: Dunderheads and Dragons

    Spoiler: Chapter 31: Dunderheads and Dragons
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    “Okay,” Flynn says once Nüwa is done communing, “We need to think about our trip into Old Drougant here. Do we want to bring any other people in with us? If so, how many, and who? Do we want to bring pack beasts? And how are we going to cross the lake to get to the keep?”

    “I think bringing along some backup might not be a bad idea,” Gavin says. “Having someone to hold the manor behind us when we venture into the throne would make a good fallback point, and hopefully keep our line of retreat clear.”

    “Do we want mules?” Nüwa asks. “I can buy mules. I can buy LOTS of mules.”

    Flynn nods at Nüwa. “A few mules seems a good idea. Perhaps eight of them so we can distribute the supplies and have spare carrying capacity remaining. We can buy those in Scarlet, though, closer to our objective.” Nüwa nods and has Allison make a note of it. Flynn turns back to the rest of the group. “Who do we bring?”

    Seeker's ears perk. “What about those adventurers we left in Hangtree? The ones from Scarlet?”

    Flynn frowns. “Dorn's crew? The ones who wanted to speak with Hangtree herself about securing Scarlet's independence?” He snorts. “If they're willing to come, they'd be ideal. The could probably hold the manor house without much trouble, and this would get them a lot of credit with Hangtree.”

    “Will they come along, though?” Aelron asks. “I mean, we've all said with varying degrees of seriousness how suicidal this trip is.” Meng grimaces. “Will they want to come along?”

    “Successful ventures into Old Drougant are profitable,” Miaoyu says confidently, tapping the emeralds woven into her armor's ivy-leaf tracery. “We can persuade them.”

    “We'll ask for volunteers,” Flynn says flatly, “But I don't want to bring anyone with us who doesn't want to be there.”

    Miaoyu opens her mouth to say something stupid about Meng, but when no less than three feet either collide with her shins or stomp on her toes, she wisely decides to hold her tongue.

    “As for getting across the lake,” Aelron says, talking smoothly over Miaoyu's sudden cough, “I can study up on rafting and boating before we leave Brandt and should be able to figure out how to put together a simple raft we can use to get across the lake. We'll just need to bring some extra rope and a bit of lumber to put the thing together once we're at the lakeside.”

    Flynn nods. “Good thinking. I'll do the same.”

    The party departs for Hangtree the next two days later, with Flynn and Aelron both using the human ability to shift a skill rank to Trade: Sailor. The trip home is mercifully short and uneventful.

    Once they reach Hangtree, the party gathers up the adventurers from Scarlet, inviting them to the clubhouse for a briefing. It's a little crowded in the common room with the entire Scarlet crew plus the party crammed into a space that usually only has to host half the party at any given time, but when Flynn unrolls the map of Old Drougant City and its environs on the table, everyone forgets about the crowding. Three or four of the Scarlet crew even dissolve into laughter.

    It takes a few long, uncomfortable moments of silence and Flynn's stony staring for those overcome by mirth to realize that this is no laughing matter. Finally Dorn shoots a skeptical glance at Flynn. “Come on now, man. You can't be serious. Old Drougant? Have you got a death wish?”

    “No,” Flynn says quietly, scratching idly at his neck, perhaps remembering the noose that once laid in that same spot. “We've already made one trip into the city to lay the groundwork for this trip, and will ask no more of you than to accompany us into the city's outskirts and help us transport valuable cargo back out of the city.”

    Bekki the dwarf narrows his eyes. “What kind of valuable cargo?” he asks.

    “Books,” Aelron responds immediatley. “We found an old Ysilarite library whose protective enchantments are still functional enough to protect its contents, and we visited the library in Brandt to get keys that will allow us through to access them. We have a list of which books would be most valuable, and the Ysilarites have agreed to pay us a considerable sum for their return.”

    “You want us to risk our necks for a bunch of books?” Dorn asks, incredulous.

    “The books will be the source of income,” Miaoyu puts in smoothly, “But that's not the mission's primary objective. We're not asking for your help with the primary objective, though. All we ask of you is to accompany us as far as the library, help us move the books to a manor we've secured outside the city's walls, and then hold the manor for us while we venture in after our primary objective.” Flynn nods, pointing out the library and manor on the map.

    Dorn shakes his head. “Sorry, but no. Old Drougant is far too dangerous for me to be running in there to please a bunch of Ysilarites. I won't stop any of my crew who want to go, but I'm not going in there myself.”

    Bekki nods agreement and stands. “Come on, lads. Let's go find something sane to do. Caravan guards through Demonsbreath Pass, maybe.” The majority of the Scarlet party leaves, but four are still at the table when the commotion dies down: Evanna, a fighter/rogue half-elf; Luff, a Connish fighter; Morag, a fighter/mage half-dwarf; and Coleen, another fighter.

    “Okay,” Coleen says cautiously, once the rest are out of earshot, “What's the pay for this insanity?”

    After a quick headcount, it's determined that there are ten people who would actually be venturing into Old Drougant proper and would want a share of the loot. “Ten percent of whatever the Ysilarites offer for the return of the books,” Flynn tells them. “It should be quite the payout, especially if we can find any of the books on their list.”

    “Huh,” Coleen says quietly, leaning back. “Actually, that sounds pretty good.”

    Evanna and Morag are nodding along, but Luff balks. “You can afford more than that, and for this level of risk, I expect better than that. You'll be getting more loot out of whatever your main expedition is. I want a share of that.”

    Evanna and Coleen turn frowns on Luff. Morag just shakes his head, murmuring, “Here we go.”

    Luff glares at them. “What? It's only reasonable. Look at them!” His sweeping gesture takes in Nüwa at one end of the table, still resplendent in her recently-purchased Quennish ritual finery; Gavin's rack of armor and weapons along the wall, gleaming like new; Miaoyu's ivy-traced robes and unicorn-hair-strung bow; Aelron's glowing staff and Seeker's elven-woven armor. “You think they can't afford to pay us more?”

    “Whether or not we can afford it is immaterial,” Flynn says calmly. “You'll be paid for the work you're doing, which is goods transport and stewardship, with combat bonuses and hazard pay. You'll be able to say you've been inside Old Drougant City and returned to tell the tale, and best of all, no one will be dead. Will that be sufficient?”

    Luff looks ready to continue arguing, but between the daggers Coleen and Evanna are glaring at him and the placid, utterly immovable look on Flynn's face, he drops it. “Fine.”

    Flynn smiles. “Excellent. Gather your things. We depart tomorrow midmorning. If you have anything special you want loaded onto a mule or horse, see Nüwa tonight. She's handling logistics. If you need any potions, enchantments or healing, talk to Seeker. Anything else, talk to Miaoyu. Aelron and I have some reading to do before we head out.”

    Coleen stands, steps forward and holds out her hand to Flynn. “Looking forward to working with you,” she says, somehow combining a smirk with an air of respect. Flynn shakes her hand, still smiling.

    Morag, standing near the door, nods. “Should be interesting.”

    Luff departs without much ceremony, and Evanna shoots an apologetic look over her shoulder as she rushes after him.

    Once they've all left the room, Nüwa stands, surveying the table. “That went pretty well, I think.”

    “Not as well as I'd hoped,” Gavin says, “But it'll do, I think.”

    “Well, I have food and other supplies to stock up,” Nüwa says, heading for the door. “I'll talk to you all lat—oof!”

    She's just run straight into Meng, who is blocking the door, staring stonily down at her.

    She arches an eyebrow at him. “Yes, Meng?”

    Meng's face remains stony. “I will allow you to go to Old Drougant City under three conditions. One: no wandering off alone.”

    "I agree," Miaoyu says immediately, interjecting from her seat at the table. "You don’t know how dangerous it is in there. Being alone, even for just a minute or two, can be your death sentence. That means if you have to tinkle, you bring someone with you.”

    Meng frowns. “The world must be coming down around me. I actually agree with the outlaw. Two: I am to accompany you at all times. Three: in the event that you are about to do something unbelievably suicidal, I get the right to veto. I have one of these. Are these terms acceptable?”

    Nüwa glances back at the rest of the party, but no one seems inclined to argue with Meng's serious face. "Fine…" Nüwa drawls. "I accept."

    Meng smiles and steps back, clearing the doorway. “Excellent. Thank you.”

    Later that evening, Nüwa returns from procurement to find Miaoyu sitting at the clubhouse table alone. The table's been cleared off except for two candles and a small white cloth, atop which rests Miaoyu's mysterious black gem.

    Miaoyu looks up as Nüwa enters and smiles. "Wanna do something fun?" she asks

    Intrigued, Nüwa takes a seat across the table from Miaoyu. “What's the game?”

    “Trying to figure out what this is, what it does,” Miaoyu replies. She produces a notepad from one of her seemingly infinite pockets. The top sheet of paper is covered with scribbled notes, some circled, some crossed out, some underlined, some followed by question marks. “I have a list of everything I know, everything anyone has guessed, hypotheses tested and hypotheses I have yet to find a way to test.”

    Nüwa cracks her knuckles. “Let's see if we can't find some ways.”

    About an hour later, Aelron comes out of his room in the back of the clubhouse and finds the two of them conducting experiments while Seeker watches from the corner. Nüwa is in the process of casting a divination spell, and the table is scattered with pages full of scribbled notes. “What are you doing?” Aelron asks.

    "Trying to figure out what this does," Miaoyu says, gesturing at the black gem. "So far, we know it’s safe to cast a diamond spell on someone holding it; it doesn't appear to interfere with divination unless the divination is directed at it specifically.” Miaoyu frowns, sets down her notepad, and looks up at Aelron. “You’re the magical theory student. Tell me what you make of this: Nüwa’s been casting various Detect spells. Last time, when the Ylsilarite novice did that, he cast Detect Artifact of Tykanria, looked at it, and got violently ill. Nüwa cast Detect Spoon and didn’t get sick. Did that mean that maybe it is an Artifact of Tykanria and it reacted to the spell because it actually got a ping?"

    Aelron, who has just poured himself a drink while listening to Miaoyu, practically does a spit-take. “Detect Artifact of Tykanria? You mean he actually cast that?!” And he dissolves into laughter. Nüwa and Miaoyu stare in mild alarm until Aelron can get himself under control enough to explain.

    “Detect Artifact of Tykanria is a spell usually used to haze new Diamond tower initiates. Pitting piddly cantrip-level detection magic against the goddess of secrets and darkness NEVER ends well, though the consequences vary from case to case. Some people get a splitting headache, some people vomit all over the place, one kid I knew went blind, I felt really sorry for him. He was stumbling around in the dark for a few days before a Larlonite showed up.”

    “But did they were casting it on an artifact of Tykanria, right?” Miaoyu asks.

    Aelron snorts. “Oh, hell no. I mean, usually it was something at least vaguely associated with darkness or secrets. A shroud, a locked journal, a lantern shutter, something like that, but all completely mundane items. Actual Tykanrian artifacts are protected by actual Tykanrians, who know better than to go blabbing about what they are. As near as anyone who has studied the phenomenon can deduce, Tykanria doesn't want people casting that spell and uncovering her secrets, so any time someone does, she makes it distinctly uncomfortable for them.” He shrugs. “Magic has lots of consistent rules that it follows rigidly, right up until it tosses them out the window. Usually because of divine meddling.”

    "There goes that theory." Miaoyu sighs and crosses out something on her notepad.

    "You know what?" says Seeker, who had been watching from a corner. "This is driving me up the wall too. I’m going to ask Larlon."

    All priests have the favor of their god, and in the case of some gods, such as Larlon, the favor can be expended once per session to ask a question directly. So Seeker dials up Larlon. “My Lord, is there anything you can tell us about this gem?”

    Larlon peers through Seeker's eyes for a moment, sees the gem, and withdraws. "Your favor is not expended," Larlon replies, uncharacteristically terse. "I won’t answer your question."

    Seeker blinks. “That was unexpected,” he tells the others.

    Miaoyu's eyes light up, and she looks to Aelron, who shrugs again, looking puzzled. “That is... new. Inconclusive, but it certainly suggests that whatever this gem is, it has someone very powerful protecting its secrets. I've never actually heard of Larlon refusing a request for wisdom, let alone been in the room when it happened.” Miaoyu scratches down more notes, then returns the gem to her bag.

    Aelron does a double-take. "Are you taking that with you to Old Drougant?" he asks, alarmed.

    "Yep," Miaoyu says.

    "Don’t you think that’s incredibly dangerous?"

    Miaoyu shrugs. “As far as we can tell, it doesn’t do anything. But if it does, Old Drougant would be the place where we find out. And if it becomes a problem, I’ll toss it.”

    Aelron mutters something about suicidal Qennish idiosyncracies and stalks back to his room.

    As the party begins gathering up their things the next day, Gavin conspicuously clears his throat. Everyone alternately looks up from their activities or makes some sound of acknowledgment.

    “I’ve been giving this careful thought,” Gavin says, his seriousness earning him a couple of double-takes. “I was thinking of bringing Keegan with us.”

    “No,” Flynn says, before anyone else has a chance to respond. His tone suggests little tolerance for counter-arguments.

    Gavin presses on, regardless. “He can help us with all of the animals, and he’ll never be alone. The last expedition went amazingly well.”

    “Reasonable,” Flynn says. “No.”

    Gavin sighs. “Why don’t we ask Keegan if he wants to?”

    “Normally I would agree,” Miaoyu says, looking up from the toolkit she has spread out before her. “But not with something like this. It’s too dangerous and kids his age want to please their caretakers. If we ask, he’ll say yes, regardless of whether he wants to or not.”

    Gavin finally relents, and a wise decision it was: Flynn’s player later revealed that if he had continued to insist on bringing Keegan, Flynn would have challenged him to a duel.

    Once the last of their things are packed away, they depart with their hirelings and set out for Scarlet. The journey is short and uneventful, and they reach their destination on a sunny afternoon. Strangely, Scarlet is in the midst of preparation for a celebration of some kind. It's not harvest festival season, and there isn't a major holiday coming up... Flynn stops a few passersby and learns that not only did the king grant Scarlet's request to become an independent barony, he came to the town himself to sign the paperwork. Luff, Coleen, Morag and Evanna are thrilled—all of them are Scarlet natives and had been hoping that their service to Hangtree might incline her, and therefore the King, to look favorably up their county and grant independence. It couldn't possibly have gone better for them.

    Apparently the King is currently staying at Forscythe Keep, about a day’s ride away. Some of the party gets confused looks at this news. “Isn't he off fighting rebels in the west?” Seeker asks.

    "Yes and no," Nüwa says as she purchases a treat for Keegan. "There are campaign seasons—late spring, summer, and early fall—and seasons where everyone rests and gathers resources. This is the resting season. With no active campaigning going on, he's got time to come down here and attend to Drouganti internal affairs.”

    Everyone stares. Gavin and Flynn exchange glances. They know that she's perfectly correct, but they’d never guess free-spirited Nüwa for the type to know that.

    "How?" Gavin manages.

    Nüwa rolls her eyes playfully. “I’m a Sanseliean, aren’t I? Before we can become ordained, we have to hold a military command. When I was working on one of my cases, I was a commander for two days. I learned a lot in that time.”

    The party decides to book it to Forscythe in hopes of earning an audience with the king and discussing the return of the sword. The hirelings elect to stay behind and enjoy the festivities. A wise choice, too, given that the party begins a forced march and actually take reserve hit point damage. Fortunately it's only one night's forced march, and Seeker undoes the damage almost immediately.

    When they reach the gate of Forscythe's keep, Flynn calls out: “Oi,” expecting one of Hangtree's guards.

    "Who goes there?" a gruff voice replies. Apparently the King's guards have taken over security. Gavin kindly performs introductions.

    "Sir Gavin of Tidehollow; Flynn, bailiff of Hangtree; Aelron Firemind of the Gemstone Towers; Seeker, Purifier of Larlon; High Priestess Miaoyu." Gavin swallows and does his level best to keep the annoyance out of his voice. "And Nüwa Benechuss, the Lady of the Garden of Razors."

    Beyond the gate, they can hear scrambling and the gate slowly opens for them. They are shown inside, where they encounter a young Connish woman with a broadsword. Flynn and Aelron greet her immediately; they met back in New Drougant City. The rest of the party hangs back a bit.

    "Hello, Calli,” Flynn says warmly, glancing back at the rest of the party. "Calli is one of the Lady's friends in the Royal Court, and the woman responsible for our audience with the Gilroy family.” He turns back to Calli, smiling, and asks, “Is the Lady in?”

    Calli cringes. “I knew you were gonna ask that. Come with me. We need to talk.”

    She leads them into the keep and finds a small unoccupied sitting room replete with a table of pastries and drinks where they should be relatively undisturbed. Once everyone is seated, she looks to Flynn and says, “I suspect you’ll just tell your friends what I’m about to tell you, so they can stay. You see, the king and Hangtree sort of… fought. Then she stormed out.”

    "Was it a duel or a lover’s spat?" Miaoyu asks as she bites into a pastry. Beside her, Nüwa leans forward eagerly.

    Calli pauses. “I wasn’t expecting foreigners to be quite so… interested.” She turns her attention back to Flynn. “The king wasn’t happy with the way Hangtree handled herself here in Forscythe. He felt she overstepped her bounds by making a huge spectacle of Forscythe's death. The other counts and barons in the area are decidedly nervous. They're afraid she was making a power grab, and that they might be her next target. That’s distinctly NOT the impression the King wants his nobles to have, so he's come out here to give Scarlet its independence personally and rap Hangtree's knuckles. He wanted to show the other nearby baronies that nothing bad was going to happen to them, and he was keeping her in line.”

    Gavin speaks up. “Not to bring the conversation off track, but if the king doesn’t like big displays of power, do you expect that he’d object to us retrieving Fidelity?”

    At Calli’s confused expression, Flynn hastens to explain. “We're on a mission to retrieve the Sword of Drougant, the old relic of Laeros, and return it to the King.”

    Calli blinks. "I see. Flynn, can I talk to you in private?" She pulls him into the hallway and begins whispering frantically.

    "You're traveling with a Benechuss and a landed Aurbeski knight, and you're telling them about our national relics? This is obviously a Bene plot to get their hands on the Sword. Please tell me you’re just leading them on."

    "Yep," says Flynn without hesitation.

    Calli blinks again. Apparently she was expecting Flynn to protest, something along the lines of 'No, really, they're helping, and they're not that bad of folks.' His immediate confirmation throws her, but only for a moment. She nods in satisfaction, and returns to the sitting room.

    “Sword of Drougant, huh?” she says, resuming the conversation where it left off. “Well, the Sword's been lost for centuries. I imagine the king would welcome its return, but I sincerely doubt you’d be able to find it.”

    "We have found it, actually," Gavin says. "The source is reliable."

    Calli raises a brow. “Oh? And what is this source?”

    An awkward silence falls over the room. Eventually all eyes are on Miaoyu.

    Miaoyu shrugs. “May as well just be straight about it. I asked Gilgadar.”

    Calli doesn’t seem perturbed at all, but she leans closer to Miaoyu, peering at her curiously. Eventually she seems to remember herself and straightens up. “Sorry,” she says after a moment. “I just thought the sundered fate would be more… crackly.”

    Miaoyu grins. “So did I.”

    Calli shakes herself. “Well, then. you have your… quest. As for the baroness, she stormed out of here in a towering hurry. She seemed furious. Headed north.”

    "The Corpse Copse is north," Aelron says, worried.

    "You’re familiar with her spear, aren’t you?" Flynn asks Miaoyu. He's having none of this speculation garbage.

    "Yeah, I saw her beat up Olaf with it. Give me a few minutes." There’s a brief lull as Miaoyu begins her augury. When she's done, she nearly chokes on her wine. "She’s in the King’s Woods. She’s right outside of Old Drougant, barely north of the city's boundary line." Miaoyu glances at Flynn. "Do you think she went after the sword herself?"

    He shrugs. “Maybe. She might also think we went back and is looking for us.”

    Nüwa, Flynn and Gavin throw together a plan. The party spends the night at the keep and at first light Miaoyu, Aelron, Seeker, and Flynn head to the King’s Woods. Nüwa and Gavin return to Scarlet to collect supplies and their hirelings as well as find an inn for Keegan and Allison. The two groups will meet outside of Old Drougant’s west gate.

    Gavin and Nüwa have a peaceful trip, or as peaceful as can be expected given that each of them detests the other’s personality, culture, and life choices. Arrival in Scarlet goes similarly: they purchase last minute supplies, pausing only to snipe bitterly at one another. Occasionally Nüwa shakes things up by blatantly ogling Gavin’s butt, which of course annoys him to no end. After the third shopkeep locks his door behind them, Gavin has had enough.

    "Can we just settle this with a duel?" he grinds out.

    Nüwa looks insulted. "A duel? We don’t do anything so barbaric in Qen. We’re more of a poisoning society."

    "Then how are we going to deal with this?" Gavin asks, throwing his hands in the air. Nüwa gives him an appreciative once-over. He glares at her. "No. I swore an oath not to pass on the selkie bloodline."

    Nüwa rolls her eyes. “Fine. Meng, can I have a duel?”

    "No."

    "Does that count as your veto?"

    "We’re not in Old Drougant yet," Meng says calmly, “So, no.”

    Nüwa nods. “I appreciate your traditional Qennish dedication to technicalities.” Meng smiles without mirth.

    Alas, Nüwa and Gavin don’t find a way to, ah, relieve tension.

    Miaoyu periodically checks on the Baroness’s location and find her moving east and a little south, supporting the theory that she may be intending to enter Old Drougant. By the time they reach the King’s Wood, however, she seems to have stopped traveling; Miaoyu's augury is returning the same destination every time.

    The forest itself is beautiful and lush, but a heaviness weighs on the air, as though the entire forest knows it is being watched. On a whim, Aelron casts Draconic Introduction. He gets a response: Mark of Death, Blade of the Pursuer, Shroud of the Wood of the Lost Eye.

    Shroud of the Wood. That’s not intimidating at all.

    Night falls and the woods seem to shudder. The soft noises that lingered over the course of the day seem to all but vanish and the animals fall completely silent. Flynn wastes no time leading the party to shelter under the roots of a great tree. No one lights a fire for fear of alerting whatever has the animals so scared. Mark of Death, Blade of the Pursuer, Shroud of the Wood of the Lost Eye... no one sleeps well that night.

    Morning comes and Miaoyu finds that the spear—and hopefully the Baroness—is still in the same location. The party sets out directly for it. In the light of day, they notice something they hadn’t before. The limbs of the trees have been pruned so they rise high above their heads; Flynn is able to comfortably ride his horse through the forest. It's almost as though the entire forest is someone's garden.

    Oh, wait. Dragon.

    Miaoyu gestures at the perfectly shaped trees whose branches don't begin until fifteen to twenty feet off the ground. "Maybe the dragon did that, if he travels through the forest on foot a lot?”

    Aelron nods. “It’s possible. Dragons can pass through their home without a trace if they desire, but I imagine a dragon with a name like that is large enough to want plenty of clearance if he's moving around down here.”

    They trek through the woods for the better part of the day, stumbling across what appear to be the dragon’s gardens. They often resemble the Zen gardens that Miaoyu is familiar with, shaping and beautifying the already existing terrain, plants and natural features to create beautiful scenery. At one point, an obviously sculpted river winds through a series of small saplings set among beds of small flowers, all in the midst of a small clearing that allows enough light to reach the flowers for them to flourish. Aelron fixes the image in his mind, but urges the party to hasten on.

    Eventually, Miaoyu announces that they are approaching the location of the spear. The party is moving through thinning tree cover, approaching what appears to be a large clearing. “It’s just past these last few trees,” Miaoyu says. “I’m going to find a spot to cover you guys.” She promptly disappears into the shadows. Flynn dismounts and approaches the clearing, Seeker and Aelron a pace or two behind.

    The clearing is huge and beautiful, dotted with wildflowers of all varieties. A small hill at the far end of the clearing is home to the skeleton of a huge ash tree split down the middle by a huge burn scar; obviously the victim of a direct lightning strike.

    Hangtree sits between the party and the ash, fast asleep, her spear propped against her shoulder, leaning against the lolling head of an enormous dragon.

    It’s a great, serpentine beast, grey and blue scales shimmering in the sunlight. Its hide has been punctured in multiple places, and its blood is even now still oozing slowly to the ground. Its limbs are crumpled at odd angles. Aelron fires off another Draconic Introduction, but gets no response. Apparently the Mark of Death is no match for the Knight of the Bloody Chalice.

    Flynn promptly goes to Hangtree and sits down in the grass. He'll be clearly visible and non-threatening when she wakes up, but he's making no move to wake her. Assured that there is no impending danger, Miaoyu leaves the shadows and joins him, staying several respectful feet away. Seeker approaches Flynn. “I’d like to look her over if I may—”

    "No," Flynn says, and the matter is closed. Seeker retreats to Aelron’s side.

    "Shall we investigate the tree?" Aelron asks, more for something to do than because the tree is really that interesting. They leave the others, though easily within shouting distance, and Aelron studies the tree for components. Eventually, he’s able to extract a small piece of its bark and enchant it for a small resistance against electricity. Dawnflame, Aelron’s player, is dying to take apart the dragon for magical components, but as a priest of the Mother of Dragons, Aelron isn't allowed to profit off the death of such creatures.

    It’s late afternoon when the Baroness finally awakens. She blinks slowly at Flynn. “I don’t remember you being here when I went to sleep,” she says, then winces. “Is Seeker here? I think the dragon’s head is holding my internals… internal.”

    “Seeker!” Flynn bellows. Seeker trots over immediately, Aelron following more sedately, toying with his new enchanted piece of bark. As soon as Seeker is in view, Hangtree gestures him closer and points out where one of the dragon's talons punctured her armor. It doesn't take Seeker long to set her at least mostly to rights, and as soon as he’s finished, Hangtree shakily pushes herself to her feet. Aelron casts Regeneration—a divine spell granted by the Mother of Dragons—on Hangtree, hoping to heal any internal damage that Seeker wasn’t able to reach.

    Thankfully, the Mother of Dragons isn't a vengeful deity, and, as mothers go, is a fairly hands-off sort. She grants the spell to Aelron. If you, as a dragon, aren't strong enough to fend off one piddly little mortal knight, well, that really isn't her problem, and the fact that you're dead now is no reason not to grant her priests the spells they request. Even if those spells are being used to cure the person who offed you.

    Feeling a little more steady on her feet, Hangtree looks at Flynn. “Why are you here?” she asks again.

    Flynn shrugs. "You said to follow."

    She gives him a smile. “I suppose I can't really be upset with you for following the letter of my instructions in true Drouganti fashion. Headed back into Old Drougant, I take it?”

    Flynn nods. “Would you like to come?”

    "I’d like to say yes." She sighs, winces. "But I think there’s a rib in my lung."

    "In that case, would you like us to accompany you to Scarlet?"

    Hangtree agrees and the five of them set out. They met with Nüwa and Gavin just outside the walls of Old Drougant and Hangtree, satisfied that she no longer needs help the last few miles, continues to Scarlet alone.
    Current Campaign: The Drouganti Chronicles

  26. - Top - End - #116
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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

    If it's ok with everyone, I will write up a summary of the last two sessions and get them posted here. We're so close to the conclusion (painful as it was) and I'd love to get it out here for the Playground.
    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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  27. - Top - End - #117
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    AverageSparrow's Avatar

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

    I actually have most of the stuff written up and can be posted fairly soon, I was just waiting on Dawnflame. Whatever we do works for me.
    Current Campaign: The Drouganti Chronicles

  28. - Top - End - #118
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Re: Drouganti Chronicles, Year 876: A Campaign Journal

    I just finished reading the campaign journal and thought it was great. Thank you for the time and effort that you took to write it up and post it.

    I did have a couple of questions about the system that your DM has created. Does he plan on publishing the system? If not, has he compiled it into a PDF, or somesuch, and posted it to share somewhere?
    "They're chasing a rabbit around...I'm surrounded by large, unhappy dogs." - some angel

    "I counter your competence with my ineptitude..." - random idiot

  29. - Top - End - #119
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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

    I don't think he planned on publishing. He's in the second revision, and I'm about to run a campaign to test the second wave. We'll see how it goes.
    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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