Northern Reaches

Luth's Reflections 3

We found ourselves in a whirlwind of trouble, but at least we were alive. Boyar Valencie had sent his best mercenaries to kill us for poking around in his business. Luckily, his assassins had failed and we had cajoled and threatened as much information as we could from the one who lived, thanks in part to Bellis’ forcefulness. After careful discussion, we decided that Mogrin and Bellis should keep watch over Caliss, the halfling sorceress, and the corpse of Ord, the warrior monk assassin. Meanwhile, Stirling and I would try to reach Captain Islan and convince him to help us.

Under cover of deep night, we reached Islan, who decided to help us, though he was doubtful of our story. The consequences of us being correct and no action taken was something he simply couldn’t live with. He sent guards and a cart to gather up Bellis, Mogrin, our captive, and our corpse. We all regrouped at the castle to compare information with Count Neska’s son, Albert. After a few minutes of Albert’s account of the deal to buy the Shadowpines from Sinaria, Stirling had a sharp insight which made it all fit together: Albert had made the deal with the theater troupe dressed as the highest nobles of Karcau, who had later been killed to cover up the evidence. Albert’s maid was from Karcau- she knew his story was “off,” so she had to die too.

We waited in Albert’s room until word came that Valencie was at court. Then, with Captain Islan, several guards, a damning testimony, and a fresh corpse, we entered Count Neska’s presence like a troop of avenging angels. We presented our case: Valencie set up the fake land deal with Sinaria and duped young Albert by using actors famous for portraying Karcau’s nobles, including Countess Livgrace; Valencie then had his partner, Haltross, kill the actors and hide their bodies; in addition, Valencie failed to execute the necromancer found on his lands; finally, when we came to Barstoi asking questions, Valencie sent his mercenaries to kill us in order to stop our investigations.

Thanks to Caliss’ testimony and Mogrin’s “zone of truth” spell, we discovered that much of our suspicions were true. However, Valencie had simply been greedy for land and power, and not involved in a grand conspiracy with the necromancers we originally came looking for. In fact, Boyar Talglori of Sinaria had set up the fake deal and duped Albert AND Valencie. Once he found out the truth, Valencie just tried to cover it up because Count Neska was so pleased with the acquisition and because Valencie apparently has some great grudge against the Shadowpines and the fey there.

Count Neska was satisfied that the truth had been revealed. He sentenced Valencie to help end the fey threat in the Shadowpines until he died in the effort. Caliss was given a similar sentence, but would be allowed to live if the war was won. Count Neska made us an offer: escort Valencie, Caliss, and Islan (their unhappy bondsman) to the Shadowpines, hold them to their sentence, and help Barstoi end the fey and dragon threat once and for all. We accepted only on the condition that we could abstain from fighting the elves if we could broker a peace between the two peoples.

After convincing Mogrin that the necromancers were less of a threat and less of an imminent one than war between Sinaria and Barstoi, we set out for the Shadowpines with a small contingent of guards. At the forest’s edge, we were attacked by a crafty satyr and his dire wolf hounds. With more front line warriors than usual, we formed a line of defense and prepared for the wolves’ charge. As I waited for the melee to begin, Bellis, Mogrin, and Caliss used support spells to prepare our large group. Islan and Valencie proved fierce fighters with dual short swords, while the guardsmen helped with longbows and melee weapons. The satyr was effective with a bow, downing several guardsmen and almost Captain Islan. Stirling and Bellis focused on slowing the fey’s arrows, while Mogrin and I waded into the melee, helping our allies where possible. Caliss changed the flow of the battle by entangling the satyr with nearby roots and grasses.

Just as the battle should have ended, though, the satyr’s horn drew an unexpected ally. The green dragon we had fought just a few days before came upon us in a fury. Luckily, Mogrin was able to save our less experienced allies from a likely death. I cried out for all of us to scatter so fewer would fall to the beast’s noxious cone of acidic breath. While the rest of us focused on the new threat, Valencie tirelessly focused on the fleeing satyr. We regrouped and flung our best at the dragon, but it flew just out of reach and we couldn’t mount a serious offense. I suggested that we retreat to the woods where it would be less able to maneuver and we could take advantage of the forest’s cover if we had to use ranged attacks.

The forest gave us a decisive advantage. Although the dragon used his breath again to devastating effect, Stirling was able to put several well-aimed arrows into the beast, while Bellis conjured an enduring ball of flame which the dragon was unable to dodge. Islan and I tried to draw the dragon’s attention with brutal blows while it lashed out with its hellish claws, teeth, wings, and tail. Meanwhile, our priest of the death goddess decreed that we would not meet her that day and poured out as much healing energy as he was able, saving most of our large group from the grave.

The beast finally fell to Bellis’ spell, shrieking in frustration and shaking the ground as it fell. We were lucky to be alive, had taken a big step toward making the forest safer, and had gained considerable insight toward future battles.

Mogrin Doesn't Write

Valenci help undead. I kill Valenci.

Luth's Reflections 2

After some consideration, Stirling, Mogrin, Bellis, and I decided to tie up a loose end at the Hidden Abbey and finally reclaim it for Mogrin’s brothers and sisters in Pharasma’s faith. So a cleric and several lay devotees of his church accompanied us on our journey back into the Shadowpines. Once there, we checked the rooms we had cleared out last time and found no sign of intrusion. But at the bottom of the abbey, we found several bodies. The group turned out to be the theater troupe which the Countess patronized, murdered while in costume and dumped here by someone. Mogrin insisted on burying their bodies before notifying their next of kin on the slim chance that they might rise as undead, so I helped him do so. Based on other information and a recently learned spell by Stirling, we learned that the troupe had been killed by a diseased halfling from Barstoi.

We also found the corpse of the apprentice necromancer who had turned the place into an unholy bastion of the undead. Apparently he had failed the final challenge left for him by his master. Where he had failed, we would succeed. We prepared for the battle against the silent, unmoving gargoyles. As soon as Stirling let his first arrow fly, the gargoyles fell upon Mogrin, his armor negating much of their punishment. I quickly grappled one of them and had little trouble pinning him while the rest of the party went to work. However, the gargoyles focused on me and I took some serious damage from their claws, bites, and horns. Mogrin kept me hail and fighting, while Stirling rained arrows. Bellis is still working on her aim with her new fire ray, but she did what she could.

After downing the winged guards, we approached the door behind them. Stirling just barely caught the flicker of a glyph on the door- some kind of trap. The sorceress and cleric identified it as a magical fireball trap. The only idea we had was to douse the nimble ranger in water and have him trigger it. Stirling was singed, but the trap was taken care of. The door was sort of tricky, but we managed to get it open. We were surprised to find that it actually opened into a storeroom larger than should have existed. I think one of the casters called it an “extra-dimensional space.” Our efforts were well-rewarded. The storeroom contained several items which each of us were happy to make use of.

We spent the night at the abbey, healed our wounds, and bid good luck to Mogrin’s brethren who would restore the Hidden Abbey to its former use and glory. We then headed deeper into the Shadowpines, visiting the elven village we had come upon earlier. On the way, Stirling noticed something small and quick shadowing us, which I suspected was one of the “quickling” fey we had heard of. At the village, the elf we had met last time was pleased to see us, and Bellis laid on her usual charm in returning our goodwill. We told him about the conflicting reports of Barstoi acquiring the Shadowpines from Sinaria, as well as our mission to wipe out the network of necromancers we had uncovered.

The next day, we resupplied and headed out for the forest’s edge. Bellis’ keen senses (helped by the new glasses she had claimed) noticed a green dragon stalking us. She tried to negotiate with the beast, but it was determined to kill trespassers in “his” forest. The others seemed uncertain about fighting or fleeing, so I stupidly ran into melee with the creature. Not only did I neglect to use my new-found ki mastery to better dodge his blows, but my strikes failed to dent his scales. His breath weapon and several natural attacks had me near death in moments. Luckily, the elven guards had been following us and aided us in our battle. This distracted the beast while I feigned death and snuck a healing potion down my throat. Mogrin held the beast’s attention while Stirling and Bellis joined the elves in pelting the beast until it had had enough and flew off.

We returned to the elven village, where they explained to us that the dragon was the only thing keeping the Barstoi guards from reaching the village. So the elves had made an unspoken peace with the dragon until coming to our aid. The elves helped us heal up and we left the next morning. We soon saw Barstoi guards and troops at the forest’s edge doing a controlled burn. One of the guards directed us to the nearby ferry across the river, where we met Captain Islan, who had helped us clean out the Stag Lord’s fort. Islan was cordial and even gave us a letter of introduction for the high lord of Vische, where we headed.

Upon arriving in Vische, we met with this lord, whom Bellis carefully and politely milked for information. The nobleman asked about our business in Barstoi, so we told him about the necromancers we sought. He informed us that he knew who we sought because they had already been discovered and slain. He referred us to a Count Valencie, who looked unhappy to see us. It turned out that one of the necromancers had been found on his lands and this count employed a group of adventurers, one of them being the murderer halfling we were after. We kept our insights to ourselves. Before leaving, the high lord of Vische made us an offer: if we could kill the dragon laying waste to his men in the Shadowpines, he would reward us with permanent positions as wardens and keepers of the soon-to-be-settled Shadowpines. Our combat ability and good name among Sinarians would probably ease the process of convincing them to settle on Barstoi territory.

We retired for the night and I expected no trouble. Stirling slept in his armor and insisted on a watch. His paranoia may have saved our lives. On Mogrin’s watch, a warrior monk crept in the window and delivered an assassin’s blow which nearly killed our tough priest. He reached me before I could react and put me down with stunning fist attack similar to my own. The assassin must have been surprised at how hardy and quick to join battle we were. In his surprise and attempt to flee, he misjudged the distance of the jump across the street into the next building, grabbing the sill as he floundered. I made the jump and startled a halfling waiting near the window. As the assassin tried to jump away from me, I gave him a taste of his own medicine through a stunning fist between his shoulder blades. He landed face down on the street.

The halfling turned out to be a sorceress and blinded and stupefied me with the same damned spell as the barbarian shaman we encountered in the Sunken Monastery. As she tried to sneak away using an invisibility spell, Stirling and Bellis took pot-shots at the assassin’s back. Thankfully, Mogrin came to around this time, though he was quite battered. As the halfling tried to flee with her partner’s corpse, Bellis charred them both with a cone of flame that ended the battle.

Bellis interrogated the halfling sorceress (how ironic) as the rest of us intimidated her. We learned that she was taken with the halfling murderer we were after and that she, the warrior monk assassin, and the halfling we sought were all working for Count Valencie. We started discussing our options: take our attackers (one a corpse) before the authorities of Vische and use the law against Valencie or kill the sorceress and hide the bodies. I pushed for the first option, while Stirling leaned toward the second. Bellis and Mogrin seemed to prefer my suggestion, but we are still considering the likely consequences of either path.

Luth's Reflections 1

After doing some things for my brothers back home, I headed to the sunken monastery to meet the rest of the party. I found them right after they almost lost Bellis to two ice trolls. I didn’t realize that it got that cold in Ustalav… I helped Stirling track the one that got away, which we found grappling with an ogre in deep water (a “merrow” Stirling called it). The woodsman took a few shots at the troll while I waited for it to charge at us. The merrow killed the troll before I got my hands dirty, so we quickly left the area.

One of the others had heard some chanting in the monastery, so we decided to explore it. We came to a large main chamber blocked by a bearskin curtain. When we opened it, we were attacked by three swamp folk, tribal humans who roam the area. Their leader was a shaman whose godly witchcraft struck Stirling and me blind and oblivious for what seemed like minutes. By the time I could see again, Mogrin had deflected several blows with his armor and shield, given a few back, and Bellis had used her magical rays and missiles to devastating effect.

We interrogated the surviving two swamp folk and found that their leader was from the inner swamp tribes, which they claimed were more feral and revere dragons like the one that used to be here at the monastery. They had been told to avenge the dragon, but had clearly failed. At my urging, the barbarians were released with a warning for the locals: “avoid the sunken monastery from now on or receive the same fate as your shaman.”

We headed down to the 2nd floor and found a small, but sturdy locked chamber. Mogrin was able to recognize that the lock required holy energy to open, so he summoned some of Pharasma’s healing power to do the job. We immediately ran into ghouls and a ghast like we found at the bottom of the Hidden Monastery of Pharasma. Unlike last time, Mogrin was the only one paralyzed, and we fought off the stench and disease of the creatures long enough to put them down. As usual, Stirling’s archery and Bellis’ blasts of arcane fire covered my advance into the melee (shielded by Bellis’ armoring spell).

Soon after we watched a shade relive the moment of its death. Bellis tampered with the body and it rose angrily. I quickly destroyed it, but a rot grub wriggled out and leapt into the meat of my arm. Stirling tried to remove it with a surgeon’s tools, but failed. Luckily, Mogrin’s holy power put the little bastard down for the count. I crushed the two others I saw on the corpse.

A little exploration revealed that the priests of Eradin had been trapped by the entry lock when the power of their god suddenly vanished. But one of them had secretly been a devotee of Urgathoa, Pharasma’s greatest foe. This dark priest had been able to conjure food to keep himself and a few others alive, some of whom he converted to the evil faith of the Pallid Princess. At some point, though, one of his apprentices poisoned him. Such is and always will be the nature of evil: it works against and eventually consumes itself.

Farther in, we found a few locked doors. We busted them down and found a deranged, senile, and very old halfling priest of Desna, the Great Dreamer in a small, moss-covered room. Bellis quickly took the halfling (whom we started calling Karl Moss as a joke) under her care. We found a secret passage in Karl’s room and followed it under the swamp to a side building or vestibule of the main monastery building. Inside we found more wights, which we downed fairly quickly. Inside the vestibule, we found tomes and histories of the church along with some minor relics.

With great reluctance, we decided to burn the monastery to its foundations. For a little over an hour, we watched it burn, this last reminder of humanity’s lost patron. The undead-infested and monster-attracting monastery had become a mockery of all that it had once represented and it brought us grim satisfaction to see it end once and for all. We then headed back to civilization.

Stirling, Ranger's Log 6

Returning to town, Cecil was again too busy with his fancy noble-blooded affairs and did not deign to meet or speak with us, his low-blooded vassals, and had left Luth practicing his punches, nearly sundering the trees around Cecil’s property. The monk barely greeted us, but fell in with our group again. The man is stubborn and disagreeable, but says so little that he may be the least annoying of my new companions. We retired to the Adventurers Guild tavern, where I hoped Belus would have had enough of adventuring and returned to her former life as a bar wench. She is quite capable in a fight, but her incessant prattle wears on one accustomed to natural solitude, and her tiny stature combined with her recklessness means she needs constant minding. Alas, she seems to think we are close friends, and introduced us as such to her former co-workers.

Morty, the crusty old dodger that owns the place, nearly had his eyes bug out of his head at the sight of the dragon skin we carried into the bar. No doubt trying to re-live some of his past glories, he pulled us into a back room and showed us a treasure he had been hoarding, a magical quill that, propelled by its own powers, drew a mystical treasure map on the dragon’s skin, supposedly to the greatest treasure the beast knew of. Since the map did not direct us to the hoard we had already plundered, I can only assume that we now know roughly the location of its father. I suspect the beast will eventually hear of the fate that befell its child, so at least I now know from what direction my doom will come. I had the hide tanned and rolled it up, hoping to find a future use.

In conference with Luth, we decided that it was time to exact bloody revenge on the Stag Lord, and that the best route would be to ambush him as he did us. We returned to Oleg’s trading post and offered to serve as tradesmen for him, bearing a shipment along the route the bandits had preyed upon, with the hopes of surprising a group expecting defenseless merchants. With Luth and Mogrin wearing cloaks in the cart, Belus and I crept through the woods alongside the road.

Traveling along the southern road, we encountered many patrols from Barstoi, who continued to tell us about the purchase of the southern territories from Karcau. The patrols are apparently commanded by a soldier named Islin. We did not find any bandits, who had no doubt been suppressed by the heavily armed patrols. Undisturbed, we made our delivery and returned to Oleg’s. We earned a peasant’s wage for the job, but at no point was I attacked by a dragon, molested by the undead, or locked in mortal combat with a deranged criminal. At times I think of returning to my simple life in the woods.

In conference with Oleg, we agreed that the road had probably been cleared by the patrols and that banditry would have shifted to unpatrolled areas. We again attempted the ruse of posing as simple merchants, this time taking the King’s road west, through the abandoned and desolate lands there. As we traveled, Luth seemed to have been infected by whatever it is that keeps Belus from shutting her mouth, fawning over the half-woman in a foul manner. I am sure that there were few women among the hardened men that trained him, but to (literally) stoop to this girl-woman seems unnatural and foul.

We set up a camp at the crossroads, with a roaring campire that would signal to any bandits that we were the stupidest and fattest merchants in the region. I retired into the woods, some ways from the fire, and watched the shadows for dark-hearted men.

Something much darker came to us in the night. I did not notice, but a being of pure shadow had lifted the halfling and seemed to be feeding on her, but leaving no visible wound. Nevertheless, she groaned in pain. A strange battle ensued, as we tried to attack a creature that barely seemed to be there. I would swing my weapon at a shadow, and just when I thought I had missed, my blade would catch at a wisp of darkness as if it was solid tissue, but then the feeling would be gone again, with my sword swinging clearly through the air. I truly have no feel for this weapon, even in combat with a more earthly enemy. The sword, with its thin, curved blade and delicately weighted handle, is the tool of a dandy, delicate and artful, and not in keeping with what I know of combat. It belongs in the hands of someone wearing silk underwear, who has attended a fencing school and fights duels of honor with other noblemen because he has nothing else to keep him busy. Nevertheless, its edge is preternaturally sharp and it seems to guide itself towards the enemy. If only I could find an axe with the same craftsmanship.

Mogrin approached the shadow fearlessly, the stout dwarf driving a strike where the beasts legs joined to its trunk, a blow that would have unmanned any earthly warrior. The creature seemed to cry out and melted away. Perhaps the spirit had more in common with mortal men than is readily apparent.

Belus had been gravely weakened by the foul touch of the thing; although she had not suffered so much as a bruise, her eyes fluttered weakly and she could barely lift her head. The cleric tended to her throughout the night. In the morning we found that we had set up our camp not far from an unnatural death. A once-stout warrior had been slain by unnatural forces, his shriveled body lost within armor that must have fit him well in life. This was the fate Belus had narrowly escaped.

With Belus’ strength recovering as she rested, we decided to press on, with the intention of letting her fully recover in the safety of town. My life being doomed to eternal affliction, we had barely moved further down the road when three bandits stepped out to block the road and steal our goods, one of them wearing the terrible crown of horns that had seemed such a nightmare in the snowstorm that night.

Without hesitation I loosed arrows at his companions, felling one where he stood, and gravely wounding the other. Luth, quick as a flash, was out of the cart and sprinting towards the Stag Lord, who barely hesitated at the death of his men and drew his own weapon, badly wounding the reckless Luth. The party struck our most lethal blows on the towering villain, who seemed surprised by the bestial fury of our attack. He seemed to recognize Luth as he staggered under our blows, and turned to run. Like all those who prey upon the week, the man was a coward when he faced his own mortality.

Just as I had crawled into the bushes to die like a dog so many weeks ago, the Stag Lord fled into a bramble. Luth, covered in an admixture of his own blood and the brigand’s, sprinted without hesitation after our quarry. As our short-legged companions rushed to catch up, I heard the sounds of a furious struggle in the undergrowth. I found the two men locked in a deadly embrace, and knew that within moments one or both would be dead. Firing from feet away, I buried two arrows in the Stag Lord’s body, which gave Luth enough time to grab his foolish helm and snap his neck with a noise like a man crushed by a heavy cart. The enormous body immediately went limp, and I pulled off his helm to take his head for a trophy.

The face underneath the mask was horribly scarred, as vicious in death as his actions in life had been. Wanting to see the world as such a man had, I placed the helm on my own head. Rather than simple bone resting on my brow, I felt as if I was looking out at the world through eyes not my own. The stag’s skull must have been blessed with the power of the Stag god Erastil himself, turned to foul uses by this man. The god’s power that had not led me in my own life had been guiding this man in preying on the innocent. Stripping the other bodies, we gave them a bandit’s burial and returned to town with the helm under my arm.

We met the countess to collect our reward. The noble clearly resented that we had interrupted her dancing halflings and other amusements of the idle rich, and turned up her nose at the rude clothing of our group, but nevertheless the beauty did seem to genuinely appreciate that we had stopped the bandit lord.

We collected the reward, a sack of gold coins the size of a farmer’s sack of flour. My companions, especially the halfling, ran on at the mouth about our achievements, as the queen rolled her eyes and yawned. Then, with a wave of her hand, she brought out another sack, just as large as the first, and handed it to our group. To dispense such wealth with a wave of the hand! Nobles are as alien to me as that shadow in the dead land. The feeling must be mutual, as she expressed far more concern about missing a theater performance because of some disappeared theater group than the fact that a necromancer had been slaying peasants on her land. Knowing artists, the performers had probably accumulated too much debt and decided to take their show to another city.

The countess seemed shocked to hear of the Barsoi patrols, and said that no such land sale had been made. This could bring war to the land. I hope we can be far away when the nobles decide to spend the lives of their people to protect their own claims to wealth.

At Oleg’s trading post, we met Islin leading a detachment of Barstoi irregulars, come to assist us in emptying the Stag Lord’s fort of what bandits remained.

I rode in the van, wearing the horned helm in hopes of confusing those behind the walls. The gambit worked, as the doors opened to our train amid much confusion and grumbling from the bandits. Realizing that their leader had been killed, the bandits threw down their arms when facing down a dozen loaded crossbows. Even as the apparent leader of the group approached us the parley, there was some bedlam involving a giant half-wit, and a giant door opened, allowing an owlbear into the yard. The moon calf was slain by the creature, and I shot down bandits attempting to flee, but the fort was quickly subdued by our superior numbers.

Belus used some combination and magic and revealing clothing to persuade the bandit lieutenant to give us information, and he informed us that the decrepit old man we had heard of was still in a secret basement under the fort.

The man, acrimos, revealed the door down, and I descended into the mouldering depths. The filthly hovel was decorated with bits of bone and other foulery. Just as I had begun to look about the area at the bottom of the stairs, chaos broke out. A giant ant attacked us, then a horrible swarm, and I saw a freakish wolverine walking along the ceiling like a nightmare vision. This creature was clearly the old man in a wild form, as it directed the actions of the other creatures. It caused part of the ceiling to fall in on us, nearly crushing Belus, and attempted to scuttle upwards through the hole it had created. Even as the wounded creature disappeared from view, it fell back to earth, split into two pieces. Acrimos, who had not descended with us, had struck the beast’s head from its shoulders with one clean blow.

We found an amazing amount of wealth in the dingy area, the bandit’s spoils. We managed to convince the Barstoi men to leave without searching the area, with Islin clearly understanding our intention, although they did clean out the armory. As we counted out the gold coins, I overheard Luth making some sort of lewd comment to the halfling girl about buying baubles in exchange for certain favors. Disgusting. If Mogrin wasn’t so slow-witted that he didn’t understand the meaning behind these comments, I’m sure he’d protest the complete lack of morality and respect for natural order on display among our companions.

Ranger's Log 5
Stirling, Ranger's Log 5

With Cecil running around trying to figure out which barmaid had his father blacked out in her bedroom, and Luth carrying his bags for him, Mogrin, Belus and I decided to venture to the sunken monastery to find what we could there in the middle of the Graidmere swamp.

The logging camp by the river crossing has a foul air about it. These men are only a little bit of equipment and an unprotected purse away from becoming bandits, but they averted their eyes from the party when they saw we were armed and prepared to defend ourselves. We hired some men to ferry us across, and they told us that Castle Knroquist has been occupied by the undead. Cecil will surely be interested to learn of the fate of his fellow land-owners. The party was attacked by boar prior to the crossing, and we saw both scrag tracks and eel eggs in the swamp once we’d crossed. This is truly a foul land and I am cursed to be living in it.

Even as I was grumbling about the foul nature of this place, the very earth turned against us, as the grasses tried to seize our feet and an assassin vine reached out and wrapped around our halfling’s neck, her eyes nearly popping out of her head. Hacking the plant up, we progressed further into this swamp, even as it became clear that it was hostile to sentient life. We observed a tower far to the north, not marked on any map I have seen. An exploration for another day, perhaps.

Eventually we came to the spot Phillipe had indicated, finding a single belltower rising out of a giant sucking swamp. We crept down the stairs, finding the building remarkably well preserved, and peered through several doors.

Behind the first, we found three kobolds playing cards. Listening in on their conversation (the halfling speaks their language) it seems that this place has become a home for the wretches. We interrupted their game and quickly slaughtered them. Creeping onwards, we discovered four Kobolds who seemed to be asleep, but as we plunged our weapons into their bloodless bodies, there was no reaction other than foul stirges rising up to try to drink our lives as well. It seems that my destiny is to face all the disgusting filth in the world.

Squashing the bulging bugs, we moved on to discover a room full of hideous scrawlings that Belus translated to be plays. After being jumped by two more kobolds lurking in the room, and slaying them, she continued to read the plays. Evidently written by kobolds, they repeated the same story over and over, of a black worm leaving behind his family that did not appreciate him, and becoming the strongest in the land, the envy of all, even as his family wept at even not appreciating him. Childish, even by Kobold standards.

We came upon what must have been the main entrance hall for the monastery, with a carved statue holding what Belus identified as a real wand, which we prised from the hands of the fallen goddess. In the next room, with a door labeled by the Kobolds as greatly dangerous, was a strange grayish puddle. Fearing acid, I poked it with a stick, only to find the entire puddle rising up and oozing at me.

Terrified, we quickly fled the room and re-sealed the door, deciding to explore other parts of the building. We would find no less danger in the next room, however.

In what turned out to be the building’s main chapel, we discovered that the altar and religious ceremonies had been replaced by Kobolds cavorting in what was clearly an attempt to perform one of the plays we had early discovered. Watching this farce was a small black dragon, with a strange forelock of hair all but covering one of its eyes. This dragon whipped its head around at my entrance to the room and coughed a ball of bubbling acid onto me.

We quickly slammed the door and began our retreat along the path we had taken. No sooner had we reached the stairwell into the belltower than the dragon burst from a side door and attacked us again. The fighting was desperate in such cramped quarters, with the dragon leaping the gap onto the stairs and dividing the halfling from the dwarf and I. We did our best to wound the beast, with Mogrin carrying out an almost unbelievable feat of daring as he stepped on the monster’s very back to reach and assist Belus before the beast could eat her.

We were amazed to find our blows landing true and the dragon becoming desperate, even as our own wounds taxed our strength. I was shocked when the dragon turned and fled, apparently cursing us as it retreated back into its lair. I could swear it was even crying.

We fled the place and hid in some nearby bushes to lick our wounds. The next day, feeling better than I had in days, thanks to a full night’s rest and the amazing healing powers of our cleric, we talked. Belus had apparently seen the creature resting upon a pile of treasure, and was stricken with the crafty greed that often befalls her people. She managed to bully us into trying to return and slay the beast, which she promised would still be suffering the effects of our wounds even as we had been restored by Mogrin’s god.

We entered through the side door the beast had burst from, encountering what appeared to be the nobility and leadership of the Kobolds in the fortress. They suffered a horrible fate, being burned by the halfling and hacked apart by our weapons. One had tried to flee deeper into the basement of the building, and we saw his body dragged away by undead. We quickly shut the door to the deeps, thinking it best to leave it unexplored for now.

We ambushed the dragon, which was indeed sulking, licking its wounds, and weeping atop a pile of treasure. Caught at bay, it was dangerous quarry, but it fell before us and we took its head and skin as a trophy. We quickly scooped up its loot and set out to meet the boatmen and return to town with stories and boasts to match any Cecil of the silk undergarmets might have from his noble friends.

Ranger's Log 4

Stirling, Ranger’s log 4

Well, we finally met the Cavalier Cecil, who more or less set this entire change in my life in motion with his quest to eliminate the banditry in the area. Like I’d always thought about nobelmen, he seems to think the solution to everything is to talk about himself. That said, he does seem well-equipped and his horse, at least, appears to be a competent warrior.

I’m sure the man sees the rest of us as nothing more than his servants. The first time he asks me to polish his boots I will tan his hide. Luth seems to have much more patience for the degradation. Perhaps carrying the man’s bags reminds him of his days scrubbing the monastery floor at the behest of his brother monks…or whatever they do in those cloisters.

After interminably lecturing me on the history and virtues of his family, Cecil decided it was time to send his servants away so he could spend more time exercising his jaw with his noble brethren. He was gracious enough to let us sleep in his servant’s quarters, far nicer than any home I’ve been inside of. Some serving wench came by and offered me drink, and I remember nothing else until waking up reeking of vomit. Cecil paid the same girl to clean up the mess, and said no more about the incident, probably to save face in front of his parents. I should really try not to enrage the man, since noble clans can be quite dangerous and petty.

We agreed that it would be worthwhile to try to exterminate the mite threat once and for all, given that they were marauding travelers and had even killed a holy man. There was also the promise of a reward from Oleg. I personally wanted revenge for Phillipe’s gruesome death. I had not spoken with the man to any great extent, but he seemed a decent sort and certainly deserved a better end than he suffered. I never thought such a small knife could bring forth so much blood and whatever else was flowing from….

I digress. We decided to spend the night in an abandoned farmstead on the road towards the home of the mites. It being completely impossible to get a decent night’s sleep in this accursed land, the cabin filled with horrible rats in the middle of the night. A wave of hundreds of them. Thinking they might carry her off entirely, I woke the halfling. With the gleam in her eyes I’ve begun to fear, she called forth her magical fire, roasting many of the rats and causing some of them to burst in a foul manner. I am accustomed to the various liquids and smells of the inside of nature’s creatures, but the former bar wench looked quite sick at the sight and ran screaming from the room. Perhaps she’s finding adventuring isn’t as romantic as it seems when listening to some besotted old fighter spinning tales across the bar at her. Although I’d think she’d have been used to rats, given the condition of the bar she served in.

When the rats had been dispersed, I endeavored to return to sleep as quickly as possible, but Cecil, perhaps missing his fancy feather beds and silk sheets, insisted that we remove the stinking corpses from the shack. Naturally this work was left to Luth, our Dwarf, and myself, as Cecil insisted that he must look after our horses and treat any rat bites.

With two nights in a row of ill sleep, I approached the mite home in a sour mood (more sour than usual, even). As the entire expeidition was fairly ill-planned, we had not really thought about the fact that the entrance would be mite-sized and that we humans would have to crawl to get inside, hardly a posture for hostile invasion. After some futile efforts to get them to come out and fight us, we sent our smaller party members into the hole, where they exterminated various vermin, and came back to fetch Luth down into the hole with them. Cecil and I kept watch, but I quickly insisted on climbing the tree to better “observe the territory” in order to get away from his prating on about the intricacies of last year’s jousting tournament (which he, of course, claims to have won) and the various noble lords he unhorsed and the fair virtues of whatever inbred noble wench threw her lace hankie at his tilting-stick after his victory.

Soon enough we heard wild screaming coming from the hole our companions had crawled down. Rushing to the scene, we saw Luth covered in the ichor of some giant insect thing he had mashed beyond recognition, and furiously trying to prevent a tick the size of a boar from locking its jaws on him. This tick was being ridden by the fanciest mite I had ever seen, dressed in colorful rags and screaming the typical mite obscenities. Luth actually reached up and pulled this mite’s arm clean off his body, drawing shrieks of despair from what I noticed to be a gallery of mites throwing their tiny darts at us. Before I could draw my bow against this group, they fell in a pitiful screaming pile as they were engulfed in our halfling’s fire. I saw the gleam in her eyes and yes, this is definitely one to keep an eye on. She delights in burning living creatures.

Cecil may be a braggart and a blowhard, but at least he’s not a coward. He immediately ran towards the giant tick, and the creature was quickly slain. Luth was covered in grievous wounds, but soon recovered under the cleric’s ministrations. We eradicated the rest of the mites. I’m glad the land has fewer of these foul creatures. Just seeing the foulness of their home justifies their slaughter, even if they were not marauding the land.

We found a fancy statue a Kobold prisoner of the mites had said was precious to his people, and traded it for Oleg’s ring on the way back to town. From their slithery dealings, and emboldened by the destruction of their enemies, I have a feeling that the Kobolds will be the next vermin to trouble the people of this land.

Upon returning to town, Cecil learned that his father had disappeared, and left to investigate, taking Luth with him to carry his bags. It seems we are destined to get tied up in some sort of nobleman’s game. Not wanting to spend much time in town and give in to its temptations, I encouraged my remaining companions to seek the sunken monastery that Phillipe had been questing for prior to his death. The halfling clearly craved adventure, and the dwarf seems entranced by all thinks holy, so they readily agreed.

The Fa'Diel Chronicles Chapter 2

After Luth finally recovered from the strange illness he contracted when battling the necromancer’s forces, we decided to head north-east to the great Sicamore tree where the mite’s were said to have taken the wedding ring of Olef’s bride. A small quest to be certain, but I felt establishing good faith with the trader would be worthwhile. Upon reaching the place, we found the bodies of kobolds and mites strewn about the entrance to the place. Our shorter companions crawled into the mite’s lair and slew a few centipedes, then came out to drag Luth down with them. Stirling and I were finally convinced to squeeze down into the smelly pit when I heard the sounds of Luth beginning to be eatten alive by what turned out to be a giant centipede. Of course, he had already slain the beast before we got down there, however, the rest of the mite’s drew arms in a vain effort to defend their keep. Their leader did not last long against our combined might, and our Belus fried the rest with her magics.

Upon defeating the mites we found a statue that the kobolds wanted back, so we ventured into the swamp to trade it for the wedding ring (which had somehow come into their possession. They were very grateful (if the foul things can feel gratitude that is) that we destroyed their enemies and said they would no longer trouble humans and would keep to themselves. I highly doubt this but as my crew we tried from our trek through the swamp I thought it best to let them be fore now.

We also ran into a patrol of soldiers from Barstoy (sp?) that mentioned that the Shadowpines had been in fact purchased by their kingdom. I Told my father that perhaps selling some weapons and other war provisions might earn the money he needs for his big trade before the tradewinds turn and limit our business for the months ahead. I worry what Barstoy is up to by purchasing these woods, perhaps they are after some great secret that lies within. It would be interesting to see them be crushed by some other kingdom after the beasts and elves of the woodlands wreck havoc on their military forces.

We returned to civilization only to find that my father has gone missing. This has never happened before and I am greatly concerned for his well being. We will spread the rumor that he is simply ill and not taking any visitors until he is fully recovered, I hope this rumor stick as the other houses would see his disappearance as an opportunity to strike at our house. I must be exceptionally vigilant and pray to Iomedae that my father is simply frazzled from his duties and off on a bender somewhere…

Cecil's Journal
I have finally returned after having to attend to some business back home, and I must say I was impressed by the new faces that Luth has gathered to my cause (or at least persuaded to tag along and help for a duration). It only slightly pains me that the old wizard passed away in my absence, honestly I do not know what my father was thinking sending along a cripple to venture into the wilderness. This loss aside, I am quite happy with the progress my team has made.

Luth and his group of new faces discovered an undead uprising, and we were able to find a hidden entrance to a desecrated temple of Pharasma where a necromancer was building an army. Needless to say, I led the team bravely against the foul man and his hordes of undead minions. The strange foreign man who was following us around while looking for his companion was happily reunited, as well, after I cut down the ghast that the necromancer kept around to make ghouls for his army. I am not sure that the two will survive their quest to infiltrate their enemy country, having already suffered a casualty and being captured without even making it halfway, but I wish them luck all the same.

After dispatching the necromancer, we were welcomed as heroes at a nearby elven community (a place so isolated that we were in fact the first non elves to be allowed in for several decades). I hope to use the trust gained with the elves to help my father expand our business dealings and possibly become a middleman between the elves and dwarves of the area for ore trading.

I am uncertain of my next course of action, two gargoyles guard a door down in the lost temple of Pharasma, and there is still the matter of the ring thieving Mites to be dealt with, however, I am growing more keen on taking the Stag Lord’s head before he can replace the bandits that our team has slain.

Stirling, Ranger's Log 3

I have been shot, so I will be brief.

Looking into the disappearances of the serfs along plantation row, we learned that the Talglory lands had been abandoned for quite a while. Upon further investigation, I discovered fresh tracks leading to a barn, within which we discovered a skeleton animated through the dark arts and a strange dark-skinned man. The alert man attacked us, attacking me from a window with what first seemed to be an arcane tool, but was simply the exotic musket.

We have recruited a halfling sorcerer to replace our dead elf, and she promptly set fire to the barn. The dark-skinned man was slain attempting to escape, decapitated in mid-stride by one of our sturdy dwarves. As the barn burned down to cinders, we discovered he had a printing press and had been printing revolutionary tracts encouraging a revolution against the black sovereign. Typical political maniac. We agreed it would be best to blame the burning barn on him.

The dark-skinned man was not alone. As we were resting that night in one of the hovels that the peasants had been disappearing from, a second man fell victim to one of my well-placed traps. We captured and interrogated him, learning that he and his former companion were simply trying to cross this land for their own strange mission, and the man we killed was a bit of a half-wit.

This second man had a similar goal to ours, as the third member of their group had disappeared into the same area the peasants had. He had been occupying himself with a daft plan to lure out more skeletons with captured skeletons, including one held in a pit. We crushed this pile of bones lest it escape and run rampant among the good people on the plantations here, and proceeded towards the source of the trouble, a dark forest, encountering a horrible shack filled with zombie crows along the way that inflicted vile, but minor, injuries with their foul beaks.

This forest was clearly tainted by evil, as we immediately stumbled upon undead wolves, and our cleric was stricken with strange dreams at night. We encountered a hunting party of elves who explained the extreme difficulties their people had been suffering trying to live within this now-blighted place.

Pushing deeper, we encountered a small temple, with an empty pool and overgrown statue, of the god our cleric serves. He claimed that this was exactly what he had seen in his dream, and insisted that we do the work of the lowest of his order’s underlings, clearing scrub from a temple no one will visit as he re-filled the reflecting pool for I know not what purpose using one of the stranger magical tricks I’ve seen, shooting water from his hands. I hope he doesn’t expect me to drink that.

In the middle of this labor, we were set upon by a monstrous armored skeleton as well as more wolves. A life or death struggle ensued, but we managed to overcome the beasts (although not without significant injuries). As I sit down to rest my aching body, I remain unsettled by this whole place, especially that pool. There is something unusual about it.


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