The Awakening

Where To Next
Where To Next?

I awoke suddenly at the Fat Minstrel, quite comfortable in my own bed but having the distinct feeling something was off. Last night was a blur. . .
Last I remember was having sex with a very attractive vampire after winning her over with my charm and cunning. But that was days away from the Minstrel, so things didn’t totally add up. Pretty sure I killed her afterward too. Apparently (I learn later) Sadron The Merrymaker (HAH! Have you met the guy?!) has been spreading rumors about my good name around town, even getting job offers at parties. No doubt turning them down for effect (as any TRUE artist would know). . .
Of course this ends with me drunkenly defending my honor somewhere before my friends charge in and keep me from a jail cell for painting the walls with the fools’ blood; which ought to be a medal rather than a noose. Or something like that. This cut on my neck must have been from a precarious fall, and I’m usually so nimble. . .

It appears Glim spent the time shut in-doors building a clock for his wrist. While impressively crafted and probably worth a few coins in a scratch, I can’t help but think that the sun tells everybody the time the same, and when its not available who cares what the hour is. The sun’s going to rise the next day I promise, you know.

Breakfast finished at the Fat, Glim, Leo’nel, fucking “Sadron the Entertainer,” and myself trek off to the Lazy Badger to find Garil. When we arrive the barkeep points us toward the Crimson Pipe, since it appears the dwarf has never been here, but has somewhat of a reputation anyway. You know what they say; the smaller the Dwarf, the wider his infamy. Or something like that.

Anyway, once we rendezvous (Leaving Thrash in his room with the box containing what’s left of my concubine, which is cool if you’re into that I suppose) I learn that Sadron has procured a rather polite and useful young bootlicker to do my bidding. I can’t fathom what makes this kid a sycophant for Sadron in particular, but I have to assume its a consequence of their relationship (‘to the church’, guys).

Somebody took some initiative while I was heroically recovering from something nodoubt impressive and got us a job selling drugs, which we should have no problem doing. Probably Glim or Le’onel’s doing, as wizards love vials. Selling drugs is easy, and there’s not a drug dealer out there that’s ever made Stalwart Mezla Mezla twitch. It’s not like we’re gonna end up with our heads mounted to a wall or anything; drug dealers are small time, somehow the never move up to the real political rackets like water or running real markets.

We decided to embark; to traverse our way to the nearby city of Reca. It should be easier to move our product in a city where we’re not famous (yet).
The sun moved in the sky as we rode from the city of Aleford, and some time before dusk we were approached by a band on horseback, riding heavy and visibly armed. They parted, with a bit of an attitude I thought, around our cart, surrounding us for just a moment while continuing the pass. A short time later, Glim’s pet raven flitted overhead and told us, in astonishingly clear common (!), that the troupe of armed horsemen had stopped and turned around to return our way.

Warned, we stop the cart and dismount. Well, the others actually do the dismounting while I ride off into the sunset, hoping to get around the attack and making an ambush of my own. Glim gets shot with an arrow as the bandits stop thirty or so feet away from the cart. The leader claims he meant to miss, but they came to a stop exactly on the edge of the magical grease patch that Glim had laid out, without telling anyone about at all, so maybe they saw his jazzhands.

Garil does the dismounting, and he and Leo’nel stand before the cart to parlay with the neat rank of horsemen. They’re riding pretty heavy and make no secret of their intention to deprive us of all our possessions. I wasn’t there to talk anybody into a reasonable fight, but the leader has the audacity to taunt Garil to his face. Apparently he had said they would take our cart or “we’re all going to bleed today.” To which Garil withdrew his cooking knife and sliced into his own crazy face! No doubt he’s trying to imitate my dashing neck-scar, but this was frankly excessive, ‘cause his face might be seriously messed up for a while. It did have the shocking result that the bandit band decided they didn’t need a cart after all.
Ended up being a shame, those guys were probably more heavy with gold than armor and weapons, and must have been total wimps to turn away from a dwarf, a gnome, and a couple elves, even if the dwarf is a self mutilating maniac.

On my ride back to the party, to inquire how they talked their way out of what looked like an obvious fight, I fell victim to Glim’s grease trap and was thrown from my mount, but managed to leap off the tangle of legs and flip gracefully to my feet with a flourish.
We camp later that evening in a cottage of my magical creation. The cottage makes use of whatever floorplan most accommodates the local terrain without modifying it. This time, instead of creating a cabin in a clearing like the steppes, it took the form of an elaborate treehouse wrapped around treetrunks. It was quite comfortable, and I figured out who arranged the drug deal when Leo’nel chose to sleep outside with the cart.

Another morning, another heroic breakfast, and we set off on the road. After a while someone mentions hearing a cry for help, and we summarily come upon the wreckage of a wooden carriage, overturned, broken and smashed. Sadron dismounts to find a small girl pinned in the husk of the carriage, among the bodies of two soldiers with uniforms that looked extremely familiar. . .

Garil, naturally, lifts the wagon off the girl, while Leon’el, more haphazardly, pulls the little girl out from under it. Nobody really looks her over and the bloodcurdling scream she lets fly reaches all the way to Sadron’s deity, who moves him to do the signs and symbols that will heal the girl’s broken legs and back. Little girls are pretty useless, and I can’t imagine why someone would be shipping one around by herself so lightly guarded, but I’m just glad she didn’t turn out to be another evil demon deity. Nothing to do but take her with us, as we’re nearing Fort Gallant.

Which, I recall when I see the epauletted captain of the guard, was the uniform that both the man before me and the dead soldiers could be found currently in. I attempted to make an artistic entrance, hoping to thread the needle between being seen as kidnappers or saviors, when I was upstaged by the small and fully healed, rather energetic girl pushing past my dignified self and charging the captain, leaping to his happy embrace. He asks the child if what I say is true, that we saved her, and she nodded vigorously, but he looked me dead in the eye when he said “I thank you for your charity,” and I knew the thread was broke as I’d be.

Captain Harald, the lovable cheapskate with the epaulettes is apparently both the current leader of the fort and the intended recipient of the young girl. He mentioned she had planned to accompany a delivery of coin to the fort, and was angry when we mentioned only two guards. Harald explained the politics of the fort after learning, and rather approving, our treatment of the previous overseer. Some find it wildly complex when power changes hands but it’s really quite simple; you either pay protection or pay taxes.
With all this talk of rank and not getting paid I find myself with a powerful thirst, and head for the Cloak and Stagger. Naturally my good sense is followed the rest, nobody really pressing the issue of a finder’s fee. I’ll have to write another song about Garil, boldly cutting up his face to scare away bandits sitting on a whole town’s wages. They’re probably drinking and celebrating this very night!

The Cloak has changed hands (the Stagger was always ours, I imagine) and is run by an old bald dwarf with a long, white beard. As we inquire over the previous owner and general state of the fort he invites us to a long table for drinks. The short people chat it up in Dwarven, and we learn that the old guy is Krane of clan Ironhand. After some introductions Krane leaves the table for the bar, and returns with a large stone jug, almost as tall as Glim, and probably more stout. Only dwarves could make stone look so bulbous, as if anyone else would choose stone.

I’ve never seen anything like it before, but the short people seemed to have a pretty good idea. I looked up and suddenly Glim was standing on the table, Garil on his seat holding the stone jug like a pirate, sloshing the contents enthusiastically into Glim’s open mouth. He managed somehow to not spill a drop, and looked increasingly pleased with himself as the drink settled. Garil shared the jug around with Krane’s blessing and it was so good I can hardly recall the nuances of the flavor. . .
Somewhere along the way I noted that I was more merry than Sadron but less overcome than L’eonel, who looked like he was trying to remain on-plane.

Krane and Garil continue chatting about dwarven things and shortly turn to Haglid and Garil’s powerful loneliness (you’ve seen one dwarf man, ever). Krane is in fact related to Haglid, an uncle or a grandpa or something. He recognized who Garil was after some debacle with a lost tooth and Haglid, who’s brother Kellin can restore with a gold replacement (terrible metal for a tooth. . .) and thank you if you please.
The night passes and as Krane encouraged stories and games he looked downright happy to be drinking with our legendary group, like he knew how close to divinity we are, and enjoyed it, but knew better than to mention it.
Soon, but not soon enough for some I imagine, another dwarf enteres the Cloak. She runs over to the table tutting Krane facetiously for drinking the fancy wedding booze, and surveys the table. Krane gestures the seat next to Garil and introduces Haglid, who we remember from the potion shop (and Garils nonstop mentions). Aglid pulls up to the chair and the jug, hooks it to her hand, and pulls mightily before sitting down to give Garil a look that’s hard for me to describe. Suddenly Krane and Leonel are engaged in captivating conversation while the two dwarves drink and swoon at eachother. Glim talks about his timepiece and I recount how great I am over some more drinks. Every now and then Krane rouses the table for a round of drinks, and it becomes more and more clear that the old man approves of the spark between his dwarfette and ours.

Honestly, I don’t remember the rest of the night all that well. I think Garil’s beard made it around only once, or one whole time, not sure how satisfying that is in Dwarf culture. I woke up in my chair to the sound and smell of Krane cooking stewed venison with radishes and black bread. After a short breakfast a good sized crowd gathered outside to see us off, being famous heros after all. We travel overnight through the wedge of wood and pass through our sentimental home of Keen Crag, where we stop for fond memories and lunch at the Hare of the Dog before continuing east to the Fathom Forest. We’re almost through the forest even now, as night falls. . .

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A Party, Lit by Holy Flame
It was Lit, Fam

SOMEWHERE ELSE, The Second

Leo’nel, just now realizing how many books he has been carrying around, decided wisely to lose a few of them. He gave this one to me, and it looks like it hasn’t seen any better stewardship in other hands since I last had it. Skipped pages, big gaps, scrawling writing; it’s like these surfacers think paper grows on trees, or however that phrase goes.

Mezla has decided, against my recommendation, to consume the… thing he plucked from the remains of that hag I cast down at his feet. He claims it has healed him, but he still looks pretty messed up to me. Always has, of course. This lighting isn’t helping – the moon, not yet full, is casting a bit of a gloom on everything. The mansion has some nicer lighting on, but the whole place is otherwise eerily dark, and warm, ever since we left the regular world behind and stepped through the coffin.

The witches are telling me that it’s something about a magical false image. I guess they would know best. The good news is that maybe we haven’t traveled to some terrifying other world after all, and are just across the lake in a magic field. Not that this is making me any more comfortable, and now we’ve heard some rusting in the bushes, and I’m heading out to investigate.

Well that was exciting! As we approached a fountain, something big knocked me down and then vanished again, eventually revealing itself to be one of three shadowy ‘dogs’, or at least that’s what the others called them. Brotrillisk tried to roar at them and scare them off, but it was more than obvious that he was scared pantsless himself, and eventually made a run for it. In any case, we managed to save him from the beats that chased after him, though I did lose one of my throwing axes in the process.

As we headed closer to the door, I’m able to see through the window that there are a fair number of guests, dancing and enjoying the music that comes from within. These vampires, whatever else they might be, can throw a party. I made sure the let the others know that the party was a “Litfam”, which is what we used to call those sorts of group dances back home. And they all laughed! People say dwarves don’t have any humor, but that’s obviously not true. Not that I intended it as a joke, but I’ll take what I can get.

Mezla, in his usual manner, decides he’s going to knock on the door and convince them to let us in, since he didn’t think I was the right person to do that. Not that I agreed, but once I saw him lying through his teeth about how we were there by invitation, to perform a traveling dance for the Lady of the house, I’ll admit I was a little impressed. It definitely reinforces my determination to never trust the knife-eared little shit further than I can throw him, but it did the trick and got us into the Litfam.

He did entertain the idea of offering us up as food for the party, but apparently they had already finished dinner so we wouldn’t be needed as food. So, whatever vampires are, they eat people? They didn’t look like the sort that would do that to me, too well dressed for that kind of savagery. I’ve seen goblins cannibalize before though, and any group that smells even the least bit like a goblin is no friend of mine, so I’ll make sure to stay on my guard. I’ll write more soon, they’re having us come over and dance now. I hope Mezla has a plan.

Safely on the road back to Aelford, with a bounty to collect and talk to have with the good Deacon afterward. What a story! How do I best describe what all happened? I suppose I’ll start with the dance itself.

Once we got inside, it was clear that we didn’t belong – for one, we’re not vampires, which seems to make you superbly tough-bodied, but for two, we didn’t have masks. Somebody said something about a masker-ade, which is I guess a kind of Litfam that rich people like to have. No skin off my back, but we did stand out a little more than I had liked. We were trying to get Marceline alone to kill her discretely and get back out, but with everybody’s eyes on us it was a little difficult, at least at first.

Mezla, deciding to pretend he was Sadron, led us all in some honestly ridiculous dance, but the crowd seemed to enjoy it. They even went so far as to gossip in groups about having the Great Sadron come to their next party. This not only incensed our poor Mezla, who ought to not lie as often as he does (so I can’t feel sorry for him), but was quite funny considering how little I imagine a vampire would like to have Sadron at their next party, if they saw what I saw him do later in the evening.

Anyway, after seeing that our dance went over much better than anyone could have hoped, I spoke to the doorman about having a private showing for Marceline, thinking it might get us alone with her. No luck, of course, but she did want to come down and dance with this Sadron everyone was talking about, so I let Mezla know he needed to try and get her alone after he wooed her with his dancing. He replied “I always try to do that”, so I left him to plan his mating ritual and went to enjoy the untouched food, restraining laughter when I saw Glim being wrenched about by his dance partner. I decided to toss him one of my shielding rings, just in case she got any more aggressive with him than she already was. The poor gnome is a fragile soul!

Brotrillisk later decided to try some of the wine they were giving out, which was a surprise because I have yet to see him drink. Maybe ale isn’t to his liking. Then again, maybe wine isn’t either, since he just poured the whole glass on his shoulder and walked off. I still don’t know what to think about that one. At the very least, he directed the party’s scoffing attention off of my eating habits. Apparently it’s not good manners to use your hands? Not a Litfam I want to be a part of if that’s how people are going to act.

Around this time, I noticed that Mezla and Marceline were heading up the stairs together – the plan had moved into the next phase, but we weren’t coordinated at all! We all were in different places, not everybody was aware that Mezla had made his move, and none of us were going upstairs with him. While I bandied about, trying to quietly gather everyone together and figure out how we were to rejoin with Mezla and finish the job, Marcelle burst into the room again, demanding that we all leave, as the party was over. This was a bad sign, I thought – Mezla must have done something boneheaded again – but it was good, because the other vampires were leaving! All we would have to do is reconvene outside and force entry once the coast was clear. I headed outside, already drawing up assault plans.

Of course, none of the other Knights were outside – it wasn’t Marceline, but Glim, magically disguising himself as our hostess. He was waving his stick at me, trying to give me a sign to his identity, but all I knew was that the lady was waving a stick at me, and it would be wise to leave. I’ll have to talk with the whole gang about having a more coherent and coordinated strategy in the future.

No matter, as we all did manage to get upstairs and to the room Marceline and Mezla had gone to. Her three servants, who took us there, were nearly as surprised as I was to see that Mezla was in the process of some sort of horizontal elf dance, on the bed no less! And without his clothing? And Marceline was unclothed as well – none of it made much sense to me, but elves never do. Regardless, a fight broke out as it was revealed that our friend Glim was an imposter, and I set to making sure the Halfling Rime stayed buried this time.

It was not as easy as I had hoped. Marceline vanished in a cloud of smoke, and I struck Rime seven times, cleanly, and it was as though I had done nothing at all. I spit in his face and scared him into cowering before me, but my hammer seemed as if it could not harm him. It was all a bit demoralizing, if I’m being honest. It was then that I heard a curdling bellow from behind me, and some form of divine force rocked me on my toes – as the wave passed through me, Rime’s face peeled open in a wordless scream of agony, and his form blackened and fell to ash. Looking back, I saw Sadron, holding aloft a carved symbol of… was it Treesus? I forget the name. In any case, he decided to use that instead of his sword, which was lodged in the wall halfway across the room. Maybe he would have been better off using his magic to begin with.

As we debated what to do, looking for Marceline’s whereabouts, we noticed that Son, the pirate, was hung up on the wall, nearly dead. We’ve seen him this way quite a few times now, and I honestly don’t remember him in any other way by now. Which I suppose will stay true, because we did leave him there. Didn’t seem like there was much we could do to revive him. During the search, the doorman came back in, took in the scene, hissed (weird), and attacked. Sadron threw fire at him, but it did nothing of consequence, and when he used his holy symbol once more, the doorman did not crumble, but fled instead. Immediately aware that we weren’t going to be able to fight him if we couldn’t harm the lesser vampires, it would be best to leave. Immediately.

I ran down the stairs to the front door, trying to come up with ways to convince Enderdas that either the bounty couldn’t be done, or that we had slain her (without evidence) – I opened the door to see the acolyte from Aelford’s temple of Pelor about to knock and enter! And he was carrying a leash, chained to our old acquaintance Safeir. Some conversation occurred, but the short of it is that our Werewolf friend is cured, and the acolyte intended to sell him to Marceline – then threatened to kill him if we didn’t get out of his way or pay for his release. I, eh, made it clear that his price was too high, and he fled after selling the cleric to me for a much more reasonable price.

Leo’nel shot him through the back of the throat. I suppose it’s fair, since I promised that I wouldn’t kill him. Somebody else letting him live was never part of the deal. And besides, he was probably breaking a good three dozen laws or rules of his city, his church, or both. And he forgot the most important rule – don’t insult the Champion of Moradin. And the second most important rule, don’t turn your back on a half-elf.

After the others looted his corpse, they found some wooden stakes, which inspired everyone to give this vampire hunting thing another go. Supposedly, stabbing a vampire through the heart with a wooden stake kills them, which would have been really good to know before I tried crushing their skulls for a good ten minutes with no progress. Wouldn’t hurt these buffoons to tell me things like that every so often, but I suppose that’s what I get for being late to dinner the other night.

We headed downstairs, where the acolyte claimed Marceline would be residing, and once my hammer was given magical light, we ventured into the darkness of the basement. We saw several candles and a coffin, and I stabbed down with my wooden stake into that coffin once the lid was removed, intending to drive it through Marcelle’s black heart and finish the task that Thrash had bound me to. Fat lot of good he was, getting us into this mess and running off with his share of the coin. I’m sure he will conveniently be with us when it’s time to collect the bounty, of course.

She wasn’t in there. But I stabbed right and hard, and kicked the coffin over into one of the candle sets. This lit a tapestry aflame, and Marceline revealed herself then. The Vampire queen can apparently be bothered by fire. As I readied the wooden stake again, preparing to end her evil, Sadron roared out some incantation or other and she was consumed utterly in holy flames. The others grabbed up her gems before I could get to them, but I managed to scoop some of her ashes into my empty flask as evidence, and her fancy green dress as well. Maybe Aglid would like it? I don’t know that it would fit her, being some much more shapely and beautiful that this aberration was in life. But the material is nice, and maybe somebody in Aelford can tailor it for me, should we ever head back to Fort Gallant.

Eventually we gathered the rest of her ashes into the coffin and loaded it up on the acolyte’s wagon he had ‘conveniently brought here for us’. I don’t know where the doorman went, but we didn’t have time to worry about him as we spend off down the road, making for Aelford. Eventually we passed through a portal of sorts and the true depth of winter was felt once again. The zone of magic, however it came to be, was behind us, and we continued on.

A day or two later, Glim noticed a bad smell coming from the coffin, and as we opened it up to take a look, it appeared as though her body was beginning to reform inside. Leo’nel placed his stake where her heart would have been, and the smell ceased. I guess holy flame isn’t quite enough when it comes to vampires. It was somewhat nice, though, since now she’s recognizably herself again, which will make collecting the bounty a little easier, along with the portrait we stole on the way out.

We should be at the square in Aelford by this time tomorrow. I’m going to have to have another talk with the Deacon Orrin – firstly to let him know he’ll need to find another acolyte, but also to determine what exactly we’re supposed to be doing about all this Neelos business. I don’t think vampires were the right kind of supernatural evil, but unless the jobs board says something about awakening demons and returning ancient warriors, the end of the world, etc, I’m probably out of luck on my own.

Besides, he has to grant an audience to the Feud Champion, right? Even if I did execute Aldur against his wishes. I suppose I could always inquire at the Anvil-Altar again, in case the Allfather sees fit to provide more concrete guidance for me. Anyway, my hand is tired from all this writing, and I could use some sleep. I’ll see if Glim wants to carry this tome for me, as he was nice enough to do it last time.

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Titties on Patrol
Fisty Nine

Titties on Patrol

Start time – 11AM
Party is in Redhawk @ the Chaste Maiden, planning to search for the Vampire Queen
We make dinner plans with Orrim later in the evening @ Chaste Maiden
Mezla spots a male Elf Priest (Almore) in the corner
He is erratically scribbling notes, seems out of place.
Mezla learns that the priest is from Pelour (sp?) and is investigating the weird deaths reported from the townsfolk & is attempting to find a correlation between the deaths and the “rumors of lore”
We learn that Almore performed the last rights for the individuals freshly buried in the cemetery & also noticed obvious bite marks. He also informs us of a rumor of a “woman who appears as if shes dead”
He mentions that there were 4 bodies.. not the 3 we know of…
Almore seems willing to help the party investigate the rumors of a vampire queen.
Son & Glim Join the party
Son tells us of his experience in a meadow where he met a young., beautiful lady.
She was extremely enchanting, almost suspiciously so.
After he busts nuts, he is infatuated with her & she is able to know what Son is thinking/feeling.
He forgets her name, even after being told many times, and proceeds to chase after her – against the party’s best judgement. Sadron equips him with a refuge stone.
The Gravedigger & Monroe Manor
Mezla speaks with the barkeep & she mentions that “old Town” was founded by the lake but was eventually abandoned once the soil mysteriously lost fertility – she also mentions that Antionette (one of the 3 bodies) actually fancied the area. Mezla suggests that we search for Old Town.
The party decides to split up.
Group 1 (Brotrillisk, Sadron & Thrash) decides to seek out the gravedigger.. (Sigil)
They notice only 3 frsh plots – not the 4 the priest stated.
They locate the undertaker who says that the funerals were open casket, for all to witness.
He also confirms there were 4 deaths, but only 3 burials.
“Theres no 4th body but there was a 4th death”
The body was in a coffin but it disappeared after the third grave was dug. He refuses to say more.
Brotreillisk attempts to intimidate & learns that the 4th body was a halfling names Rime & also had bite marks.
Group 2 (Leo’nel, Mezla & Glim) will attempt to find Monroe Manor.
Group 2 sucessfully finds Monroe Manor.
Mezla knocks on the door & asks to speak with Antoinette.
The butler informs us that she had fallen ill and they have no idea what caused it.
The day before she fell ill, she was frolicking in the woods & came back feeling faint. He believes she mentionsed something of “walking West to the Waters”
The Party returns to the Chaste Maiden for dinner – its 6PM

Thrash suggests that the 4 bodies v 3 graves could imply a mass coverup.
Orrin says that issues with missing shipments began within last 3 months & that there were only 3 deaths (Griswald, Melchor &Rime) – & Swade was not among them.
Orrin says the story of new town is that it was founded by nobles who didn’t want to live near the graveyard – but even he is suspicious of that story.
Orrin suggests he knows where the stolen goods may have ended up.
A halfling walks in – spots himself in a mirror- and flees into the darkness.
Party chases him, assuming he is a vampire, but he vanishes into the night,
Party escorts Orrim to a room, locks him in, while Brotrillisk stands guard.
We learn that Vampires can go gaseous at any time & head back to their coffins. The coffin is a “safe vessel” & is the only way they can travel across FLOWING water. Garlic disorients & wood stakes kill.
The next morning

We head south and spot a lake with what looks to be overgrown bushes.
Bushes turn out to be overgrown headstones & a statue of a woman – shes on a pedestal, blindfold over her eyes. Headstone reads Marcelene – and is engraved with foreign characters.
Two inscriptions on her forearms
Cupped hand – “I cover cities and destroy mountains, I make men blind but help them see” –
Uncupped hand – “Two bodies have I, though both joined in one, the more still I stand, the quicker I run.
Garil spots another tombstone and Hammers the ground- uncovers a coffin with a shiny figure 8 style figurine.
Party places it in the open hand – it melts into the statue and sand appears – a 20 minute timer appears to have started.
Mezla places sand in the other hand and trhe statue begins to animate.
“of no use to one but absolute bliss to two, the small boy gets it for nothing, the young man has to lie for it, and the old man has to buy it”
Mezla kisses statue, she smiles and lays down and unblindfolds herself.
“He who makes me doesn’t want me, he who buys me doesn’t need me, he who uses me doersnt care”
Leo notices the timer has stopped – and she re-blindfolds herself and retuns to her original stone state.
Riddle answers are – Sand/Time/Love/Coffin

Garil hammers below the statue and finds an empty coffin – he jumps in and disappears – we follow in suit and end up in a 20×20 dungeon.

We notice a floating red head with green eyes and wings – Brotrillisk kills them.

Garil finds false door and kicks it in – Sadron finds a chest containing a mirror.

Sadron looks into the mirror and sees what seems to be an old man stealing from the chest – but in real life – like a portal to reality.

We continue on to the next room where we encounter 4 red head flying monsters which mezla quickly dispatches, leading us to a stairway to the outside.

We encounter a Night Hag which “only attacks all things good” but we fucked up and all attacked – thankfully mezla is a boss and we live.

THE END.

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The Road To RedHawk

Gather ‘round you travelers, merchants, and squires; free once again to roam the roads at will, fearing not for your soul’s eternal safety. Gather ‘round and hear tell the story of the heros who saved this realm’s commerace and safety, who stalwartly safeguard it against foes beyond your wildest nightmares.

There we were cough they were, off to find the head of the dreaded vampire queen Marcelene (actually, I’m not sure how well known she was when she was alive, pesky vampire habits and whatnot but I digress). And good riddance to that stuffy city of Pelor or whatever its called. Cities have their grandeur, and fine taverns and tassels, but being on the road hearkens to bards that follow Fharlanghn with the crazy name. Something about the air is refreshing, at least right before you get attacked by beasts!
Which, of course, happened to the heros just outside of Fort Gallant, where they had left off their armed guard with their blue tabbards and steel. Those same heros had previously liberated the city from its criminal overlords, returning a precious artifact to the temple of Pelor in the holy city of beer. Yet shortly after departing they were set upon by a huge, yellow creature with fins bursting from a strange shimmer in the ground directly befrore Drognan and his cart. Traveling in front as bards often do, the party’s bannerman was targeted with the initial attack, some sort of sonic blast that hurt like hell. The pirate unleashes his quick crossbow, but the darts mere tacks in the giant thing. Ranger unloads with his own bow and the valiant bard slips to the beast’s back and draw his quick rapier, but gets a slash from the creatures claws for his participation. Crossbow bolts of all sizes wing wild. Even the ranger’s aim falters with the arrow. Cleric calls up a firestorm to torch the beast, an impressive skill leaving allies unscathed, while the sorcerer, who I’ve always had more faith in, manages to jam his crossbow!
Even after the conflagration the beast still stands. The bard takes up an inspiring speech meant to rouse his allies to victory and stabs the thing, glancing unfortunately from its hide. Arrows and bolts continue to fly, sometimes even hitting their giant target. The cleric assures us that another flame strike will resolve someday. The sorcerer returns to his forte (presumably out of bolts) and begins firing magic missiles, which have the benefit of being unable to miss, and the strategy proves effective.
Suddenly the beast leaps from the ground, unfurling enormous wings and snatches Drognan from his seat on the cart! As it rises, clutching the rather calm trader, the pillar of fire from the cleric’s god does indeed resolve. The thing drops Drognan (luckily) who falls maybe sixty meters (unluckily) before being engulfed in a raging torrent of liquid fire (unfortunately). Its hard to tell if the thing was poured directly from the heavens themselves or if it sprang from the ground like a stalk of flames, anyway it was spectacular. It roasted both Drognan and the creature before they fell to earth.

After fretting eternally over what to do with the body of the trader the party moved on, to be set upon shortly by two more winged creatures! They dive-bomb the outriders, walloping them with poisonous damage, but the travelers are stalwart indeed. Heroic bard leaps from the seat of the cart (he had magnanimously give up his horse when a companion lost his in the last fight, and offered to suffer the rickety cart ride) and slashes the nearest creature, which appears to be a Wyvren of some species or another. One is intent on the pirate and grasps him with its talons, swinging in with a gnarly looking stinger, but luckily misses! The other takes offense to my strike and grasps my body with its brutal talons, stinging successfully with its poisonous stinger. Nevertheless he makes a rousing inspirational speech about duty to succeed while attempting another stab. It is of note that the sorcerer seems to have caught some foul vapors and is summarily incapacitated throughout the cacophony!
Valiant bard passes out, the poison is too strong after all, and the cleric blasts a creature with some powerful touch spell. Arrows fly. No longer a threat, one of the Wyvrens turns from the unconscious to the pirate and cleric, lashing out at the thick armor. He fares much better against the claws and stinger and poison. Did you know a ranger can miss a point blank shot with a bow!? Finally the cleric pulls out his sword and swings wildly, managing eventually to connect with a tender point to bring the creature down. The other takes to the air and repositions itself to take vengeance for its fallen comrade. The pirate is shaken and does more missing with his crossbow, along with the ranger. The cleric makes another final attempt to fell the beast, but manages to throw his longsword twenty feet away when swinging through a well aimed strike blocked by a wing membrane or something. The Wyvren attacks as its nature, clawing the cleric but failing to poison him.
Being unconscious sucks because you miss all the good portions of the fight. Apparently the creature went wild, attacking everybody still standing individually before the ranger finally, miraculously, lands an arrow true, killing the creature. It is at that point the cleric finds the time to call upon his god to heal our good storyteller, who proceeds to quickly loot the creatures, for everybody knows Wyvrens have gold, and it turned out to be true!
By the evening they have reached the edge of the Lino Forest. Their destination of Redhawk should be in sight soon. The pirate, in a rather inspired moment of action and sharing, regaled the party with a tale of finding suspicious vials of what the sorcerer identified as Menis, an energy boosting drug of some sort, and a few members helped themselves to a few, Drognan being crushed by a flaming corpse after falling to his death. While ransacking the cart wine is found and the ranger rustles up some possum (opossum?). After checking for poison for some reason, the wine is discovered to be a fine chocolate and raspberry port. Did it remind the drinkers of another illicit wine, chocolate flavor liberated from a quarantined ship? Who knows, for while it was not poisoned it was rather strong even for a hearty bard. The pirate joined in too, naturally. Of course the choirboy fell asleep on his own, free from the confines of his metal cathedral.

It is an early evening, with the fires low when the bears attack!

The first charges straight for the unarmed cleric and tackles him. Hes literally wrestling a bear, naked with no armor; and its going about how you’d expect. Hes pinned rather quickly. The second bear charges the mysterious sorcerer, who’s doing something mysterious, to no avail, so we’ll never know the intention. The bear’s gnashing teeth barely hah miss taking off an arm. Everyone is missing, even the bard’s second heroic (becoming iconic) leap from the wagon, a flying slash to the nearest bear, is turned away by its thick fur. He’s rewarded with a serious chomp by the unharmed bear. While the cleric is pinned by the first (presumably in a mating ritual) the valiant ranger and even his companion wolf miss more chances. Even the magical forces are failing the sorceror, once again awake, evinced by the tear that comes to his eye. Only the sharp steel of a good rapier can be trusted, so somebody has to do all the work. Damage returned with a claw to the prominent hero’s body. Suddenly he too is wrestling a bear! This puts a damper on the inspiring speeches, luckily the energy should sustain for some time hence.
The sorcerer’s ray finally strikes true, and theres a whirlwind of activity in the bear fight. The ranger and his wolf are slashing and biting, managing to free the cleric from his assailant. Magic missiles fly and wouldn’t you know the heroic bard wins his wrestling match with the bear and breaks free. Only to wheel around and slash the cleric, who was just freeing himself and standing to help out. It grows a crossbow bolt between the eyes (gotta talk to this magic guy about using his real prowess, like Garil the dwarf and his damned shield). Swords and claws flash, bear re-pinning the cleric who just got up even while other swords become literally stuck in its muscle. More magic missiles fly, bringing down the wrestler-bear, unfortunately directly on top of the cleric. Wolfy bites the other in the face, who turns his anger on the ranger and claws him as he swings is scimitar wildly. Hes got him in his claws! The pirate wings bolts forth, and yet more magic missiles fly, felling the beast. Like a hero cleric, the bard heals the pirate and is healed in turn by the god of the local cleric. They take the rest of the night asleep, and there are no more attacks.

The next day, awake and armored, the ranger ties his own horse to the cart by his damn self, and roves ahead to scout for the city. He’s found subsequently chilling, after spotting the smoke of the town in the distance. So, bard assuming the position of command in the cart, the party heads towards the city of Redhawk. The place turns out to be a rather aristocratic looking provincial town, well engineered and astutely built. The crier Gregran receives the travelers in the market and directs them towards Byron, a master merchant in the house over yonder who will actually receive the shipment.

View
The Feud

I go to grab the journal from my pack and pull out this book. I don’t understand why so many pages are skipped. Paper is a precious resource and there are only so many pages in here. Chaos. Perhaps my entry will set things right in this journal once more.

The sun is up. It’s around 7am on feud day!

I’ve never been in a melee fight, except that time I dropped Mezla for sucker-punching me. That was too easy though.

The Colosseum should be a sight to see. Possibly the only thing worthwhile beyond the temples in this prison called a city. I’ll have to find a place to drop my first message… maybe with Jeeves if the Colosseum doesn’t pan out.

I join Mezla heading down the stairs. Arlor is playing with his rapier cutlass in a manner that strikes me as odd. I ask him of the steel’s name, and why he put it down. “Steel never lets you down.” He says it’s named Hruntink.

Mezla asks where the entrance to the Colosseum is, and I hear it’s behind the temple of Pelor.

As I finish my beer, I set the folded note under my mug and walk out. Nobody seems to have noticed.

Walking through the square toward the job board, I hear a shout , bordering on a shriek, coming from the Crimson Pipe. Mezla joins as I head that way.

Mezla shouts to Leo’nel, Glim and Garil. The consensus is that that sound belongs to Son. and I’m the choir boy?

Glim says Son was totally fine this morning. We went to check on him.

At his room, Son tells Glim he tried to pee again. He clearly wasn’t okay when Glim spoke to him before. Why lie about that??

Son sounds to have contracted a slow clap from Beata. I tell him, “Son, I will pray for your penis.”

We head to the Colosseum.

Once we arrive, we grab any seat we can. This place is YUGE; filled with diverse peoples. I may have underestimated this event.

Deacon Orange raises and asks all competitors to walk to the sands. All sorts of movement. I wonder who are champions and who are simply pompous like our bard.

The Deacon announces a man named Fullbort Bloodwart. A halfling steps out and the crowd raises in cheers with him. When our time has come, we will be called upon by the guard. We walk to a preparation/training/holding area.

A guy I somewhat recognize is practicing with his longsword. To cinch up my armor, I ask Garil for help. He wants gems and asks for my squire to do it. I don’t have gems.

I ask Leo’nel. He doesn’t trust me, so I offer him Jericho’s platinum crown in exchange if I tell him where to cinch. It’s sad that’s what it takes for a person to pull some straps tight.

We see a dead body hauled from the arena. Mezla’s name is called. Are those cheers for him or his death?

Noise from the crowd was a succession of ups and downs, then a sudden hush.

Mezla comes back, boisterous as ever. He won. I guess I should have bet on him. Apparently the Halfling was throwing smoke bombs, although I’m not sure what I can believe from Mezla’s mouth.

Another eruption. The hero must have been revived. My name is called, so I move to the gate.

I shove a note into the guard’s belt loop. It may not have been my most graceful move, so I hurry along before anything can come of that.

I walk toward Fullbort with my sword raised. He throws smoke. No jest. Alright. I see a blade come toward my face; just missing.

He steps beside me. I reach for him and grab tight. Somewhere around my torso I hear my armor tink. I try to throw him down and lose my grip. As he stands, I slash his chest. He returns a stab. I step to the side and slash again. He’s still here.

He runs to a distance. I run at him with a stab; no connection. boom A bomb goes off. Where is he?? I step forward and slash blindly. Nothing.

I’m hit.

My vision is clearing up. I look over my back shoulder and see Fullbort Bloodwart right behind me. I quickly stab backward, and the Halfling falls. I raise my arms to cheers.

As I’m returning to the prep area, Glim pulls out the Deck of Many Things. Two cards.
1) Ruin – all non-magic items lost
2) Moon – 1 wish to be made within 1 minute (dope +4 staff)

Glim is suddenly naked, however a bright light appears when he asks his god for help. Some aura seems to be emanating from a new weapon in his grasp. Glim turns to me and throws the deck; hitting me squarely in the chest.

He turns, still nude, and walks to the arena. This fight has got to be a spectacle to behold

The cheers sound… awkward.

Glim returns on his two feet.

Leo’nel goes next. He survives as well.

Garil’s turn. The place is going wild; erupting in cheers. The dwarf quickly returns.

Our fellow adventurers all advancing, the Deacon asks us to get our rest for the next day’s festivities. As we leave the arena, I take some time to pray.

Returning to the square, Mezla approaches with a page of the Brothers’ whom has my winnings. I’m satisfied on that front. Mezla and the page tell us that feud rules have changed.

We go to the Deacon to hear about the new rules. Apparently, our party are the only competitors to have advanced through the first day. How droll this “city” is. No gumption… The people and the council have decided to slightly alter the rules accordingly.

For the remainder of the feud, only one competitor will take on the hero each day. If the competitor loses, the group advances to the next day, however that competitor may no longer compete. If the competitor wins, the whole group advances to the next day, however that winning competitor cannot compete again for two days.

I head to the Crimson Pipe to check on Son. He opens his door looking pale and rough. On my request, he allows me into his room so that I may close the door behind me. I cast Remove (slow clap) Disease.

His cheeks instantly regain rosy color, and he turns/sprints to the corner where he pees like a firehose, in obvious relief. I retire for the night.

Day 2

I hate to admit that Garil is clearly the dominant fighter for this competition within our group. He will try his hand at days 2, 5, and 8 in order to get the champion Alder in the event we make it that far.

At 2:1 odds, I give five plat to win four. We head to the arena.

A monk stands ready.

Garil hits the monk with his hammer. The monk misses. Garil sunders the monk’s quarterstaff with his hammer, and it bows.

The monk swings his staff and wildly misses. Garil steps passed and swings his shield into the opponent. The monk misses again and steps back. Garil brings his hammer around into the monk’s skull. The monk cripples to the ground.

Garil raises his hammer and waits.

Robed figures come out to instantly revive the monk.

We collect our winnings.

Day 3

Garil cinches my armor and the party pushes me into the arena. I bet on myself before the gate closes behind me.

Concentrating, I call for fire in my palm. I’m rewarded with naught but a small fizzle.

I hold up my silver holy symbol and yell to the crowd. Preaching free will, I assure any listeners that a defeat for one’s own cause is always worth more than victory serving the cause of another.

An old man shouts above the crowd, “HE’S JUST A CHOIR BOY!”

I put away my symbol and pull my sword.

The spearman approaches, sticks at me with his pole arm. I close and swing into his spear with no luck. He misses after stepping back. I close again and miss.

We repeat our dance once more, both missing successive opportunities.

He strikes as I close. I hit him this time, but not as well as he got me. We repeat, and the light fades behind my eyes.

I wake with a coin on my chest. I’m out, but the group still advances. There goes that bet. I was mismatched from the start with no magic against superior speed and reach.

Day 4

Mezla takes a turn. Nobody takes the Brothers on the 2:1 bet excepting the bard himself.

The crowd chants, “Tristan! Tristan!” The hero draws a circle in the sand around himself with his sword. Mezla takes a defensive stance.

Tristan misses his first swing. Mezla attacks. Tristan strikes.

Mezla misses, and dodges from Tristan’s counter. Mezla once again does not connect.

Tristan hits him good, bloodying the bard. The crowd is getting into it.

Mezla connects a valiant strike. Tristan clutches his arm to chest as he swings a miss.

Mezla finds comfort with his rapier, sending it straight through Tristan’s throat.

Tristan is revived. Mezla walks out proud. And boy is he celebrating tough tonight…

Day 5

Glim enters instead of Garil. 6:1 odds, but no takers.

The crowd is surprised at the gnome. Glim slams his staff into the ground in an attempt at intimidation. The dwarf hero visibly trembles, swinging his two-sided Morningstar.

Glim advances, swings. The dwarf trips Glim. Glim stands from his prone position, connecting with the dwarf.

Glim avoids the next trip attempt and swings his staff in a counter-trip maneuver. No dice. One more staff swing at the meat of the dwarf again falls short.

The dwarf catches Glim’s ankles with the chained weapon, tripping him prone. Glim rises, swings, hits.

Tripped again. This time Glim is hit during his attempt to raise. Lather, rinse, repeat.

As the spry gnome finds his feet for the hundredth time, he swings for a critical hit.

Another trip. Glim tries to get up as the chain comes smashing back down on his face, putting him down for good.

In reflection of the tourney to this point, I pull out the Deck of Many Things in the privacy of my room. I pull three.
1) Sun – 50k exp + wondrous item (small marble elephant figurine named Donald Trunk)
2) Sun – 50k exp + wondrous item (ioun stone – incandescent blue sphere, hovering 2 feet over me)
3) Fates – Can’t stop something from happening, but can return myself to a state as if a certain passed event did not happen. Does not return others to same state.

Day 6

Leo’nel. 13:1. The odds aren’t a good sign, assuredly. Mezla takes the bet.

This hero wields a rapier, rushing into Leo’nel. Leo’nel stabs with his dagger and misses.

The hero tries to pig-stick with both hands and skewers Leo’nel, who proceeds to pull himself off the weapons while taking a slash of his own.

The skewer comes again, connecting on one side.

Leo’nel is bleeding out.

On his way out of the arena, I hand Leo’nel the Deck as a consolation prize.

Day 7

Mezla makes a 4:1 bet on himself. Surprise

The crowd is so silent that crickets echo through the Colosseum.

Mezla picks up sand, rubbing it between his palms, and pockets a handful. The hero probably saw that.

Mezla closes the distance and swings, connecting.

The hero misses. Mezla swings twice, hitting once.

Screaming in pain, the hero tries to cut Mezla in half. Firm hit.

Mezla comes back to connect with two raging slashes.

The hero strikes back.

One more critical hit from Mezla finishes the hero off. _What. In. The. Fuck. How did the bard – who can’t take a chained fist – manhandle THREE heroes of the feud?

Garil requests and takes the two rings remaining in my pack. His desperation for gems has me a bit confused, but I tried them on once and couldn’t see them through my gauntlets, so I don’t foresee a need to hang on to them. They haven’t felt magical.

No sooner do I hand the rings over than Garil is donating them to his god. Hrmph. It better work.

Day 8

Garil is ready to go.

Things are different in the arena.

Earth-shattering cheers at the sight of the dwarf across from Alder. My ears ache from the noise. I make a 10:1 bet in Garil’s favor.

Garil drops his shield.

Alder reciprocates by dropping his helmet into the sand. This place is going bonkers

Garil throws something, but misses. Alder glides in for a hit.

Garil power-attacks; misses. Alder returns the favor, also misses.

Garil tries again. Crater in the sand, not in Alder. Alder, an apparent copy cat, tries again unsuccessfully.

The dwarf finally lands a blow. Alder hits back.

Another hammer swing from Garil caves Alder’s skull, but the hero remains standing.

Alder sprints backward to the wall. In the process, Garil smacks Alder’s ankles. Alder rolls the rest of the way to the wall, all the while Garil boasts.

Alder charges in and grapples Garil. Garil shifts his weight and gains control in a power-top position. Alder is pinned.

Garil punches. Miss. Alder takes control of the grapple. Garil takes it back. Alder again.

Alder releases the grapple, swinging his Morningstar. Miss.

Garil powers his hammer toward Alder and misses. Alder connects with the Morningstar.

Both miss a few times.

As the competitors stand face to face, Garil throws an acid flask at their feet. Both are splashed.

Alder pulls a shield off his back and bashes Garil critically. Garil is hit again while trying to grapple.

Both attempt power attacks, each missing in succession.

Garil hits once more. The last hit Alder could take. The hero and feud champion has fallen! The crowd goes wild.

Post-feud

I wake on the first day after the festival. The feel within Aelford has changed as a whole. At the Crimson Pipe, I meet up with the squad.

Son walks in and gives Glim a piece of his mind; announcing his good health to the rest of us. I’m not certain whether he actually learned or not from Beata.

We inform Son about the festival’s feud results. He had heard about the changes himself and learned more – although the festival has concluded, there is still more to do with Deacon Orrin.

Some of our best fighters may be offered spots as hero next year, or the new champion Garil.

The barkeep, Churri, tells us that he believes the Halfling hero from this year is retiring. He goes on to inform us that the new champion, Garil, has the duty of publicly executing Alder.

Garil wishes to get details from the Deacon. If he wants to follow through, I’m all for it.

Son accompanies us, but still no sign of Thrash or Bro throughout the feud or since.

At the temple of Pelor, four robed acolytes approach and say they were just on their way to retrieve us. They lead Garil to an outside stage area in the temple district.

As we enter the staging area from another location, we speak with Garil once more. He tells us that the Deacon looked uncomfortable AF while saying to Garil that he does not wish for this tradition to continue, however the council and decision-makers of the city believe in the old ways to appease the gods. Garil says the Deacon continued on to confirm his duty to behead Alder with a rather ornate-looking sword.

Does Garil even know how to swing one of those? I only ever see him bashing things.

Garil finishes by saying he was informed by the Deacon that the council will execute him and, likely, the rest of us (as accomplices) if he does not follow through with the execution.

The dwarf refuses to shirk his responsibilities, however he assures us that he does not intend to stand as champion once the task is completed.

Glim is writing away in a new book of his. The crowd is gathering in and packing close.

As I hone in on some chatter, one woman is very excited for the execution and optimistic regarding the city’s success to follow this sacrifice to the gods. A son perched on his father’s shoulders asks uneasily why a man is being killed, to which the father responds, “This city remains full of draconic tradition, unfortunately.”

I bow my head in prayer, and for a moment, all of the commotion around me quiets in my mind.

The crowd is parting. Glim and I are two steps from the execution seat. I lost Mezla and Leo’nel.

A hush comes over the crowd.

Footsteps behind me. It’s Alder. Not in his armor. Very clean, simple clothes.

I brush my shoulder against his. As he turns, I pass him one final message to do with as he will. He reads my note, passes it back to me, and walks on to his seat. He sits silently.

Garil approaches the seat and looks around.

Moving behind the chair, Garil pulls the sword back, ceremoniously points the blade at the temple of Moradin, and strokes.

He hits the throat, cutting halfway before the blade halts. Alder’s eyes go huge.

Blood sprays across my face.

Garil pulls the blade from Alder’s spinal column and swipes back the other direction. The head falls.

The sight catches me very much by surprise. It’s so ghastly! He’s just staring at me…

I vomit. I’m concerned about how this will affect my psyche, but I don’t think I’ll have night terrors. Glim seems unphased. What the heck is this little guy’s deal?

Garil stands there.

As the crowd begins to thin, an acolyte takes the sword back from Garil’s hand, wraps it, and heads back toward the temple of Pelor.

The area is nearly clear. One man with a bucket and rag begins scrubbing the once-white, bloody stones at our feet. I consider my religious knowledge of Pelor for honoring a fallen soldier, and we decide to move along.

As we turn to go, a group of seven others approach. They are the first seven heroes of the feud. Moving quietly passed us, they pick up Alder’s remains and carry him toward the temple.

What’s next?

We still have this vampire queen thing. We proceed toward the square.

On the walk back, Son rejoins us and asks if we want a drink.

The Fat Minstrel is fortuitous for me. We go there.

Arlor, the owner, is standing at the front entry, looking chipper, as though he anticipates good business. Arlor stops Garil at the threshold and encouragingly offers him a bath in order to stay. Barbra guides Garil away with a bucket and washcloth.

Arlor appears to be armed as he was before. I order up some grub and a flagon of ale.

Everything in this place seems to hit the spot

Arlor accepts my order for the dwarf’s meal, and winks. Was that with his left eye?? I ask if that matters. Mezla tells us that a left-eye wink kinda means ‘fuck off’ and/or ‘die soon’. I don’t remember which eye he used, although the action felt intentional.

On his return, Garil tells us that the Deacon was not in attendance for the execution, and may be upset with Garil. I’m ready to get out of this city.

Mezla thinks Nhilos will find us, with our growing reputation, thus there is no need for us to hunt him (or her) down.

Garil recalls the vampire queen bounty. The provider of said bounty has requested we meet with her after the festival for more details. We stop by Ivar von Ivan’s, then to the Crimson Pipe to find her.

Ivar is willing to teach me a trick or two when time allows, however this may be somewhat difficult to find ample time around adventuring. I’m not real keen on this city business, anyway. He tosses me a warn book, called “Armoring: Simple repair of Faults and Cracks”. There is some good material in there, I’m sure. Ivar tells me that I may find a squire with wide eyes in the stable who will wish to adventure with us. I offer a gold piece for the information, which he graciously declines.

At the Crimson Pipe, I hear guys talking about a place haunted by dragons. A female elf merchant looks similar to the one Thrash previously spoke to.

Glim approaches the men, and later tells us their talk of Ghostlight Woods, where Lord Greywolf lives.

I walk with Mezla up to Inderdas.

He asks her about details regarding the side-action. She feared the Ranger ran off with the coin. Yet here we are.

She says a small city near Llino Forest, called Redhawk, is where we should start. She’s heard rumors, but cannot verify exact whereabouts of the queen because none of her caravans return. Inderdas does not think highly of Thrash – he seems lazy – much like her, she says.

Although she cannot prove the existence of the vampire queen, she trusts we will report back to her as our findings progress.

Time to ketchup with our whole party and prepare to blow this popsicle stand. This particular recounting may prove useful down the road, so I ought to copy it over to mine own journal for safe keeping. Too much writing. I’ll leave this other book in someone else’s gear.

View
A Prophecy Foretold

My fellow diminutive compatriot, Garil, relinquished this tome to my responsibility upon entering the Temple of Pelor (He has been in possession of it for quite a spell, and I think his head must grow weary from using it for such an extended unit of time).

Our bard, Mezla Mezla, has also given to me a powerful item of wonder, The Deck of Many Things. I recall hearing of this studying back in Walarth’s. I fear I must not use it, but I feel like I must. I am curious about the probability rates of the cards contained within. But, I digress from the situation at hand.

As we enter the temple, we find a lone acolyte within and he greats us stiffly. As we wait for the Deacon, I am able to look about the cathedral and pay more attention to the little details. I am not a student of architecture, but it is quite a sight to behold and truly shows the might of Pelor. Humorous, the difference between this and the “temples” of Garl – more like hole in the ground. While losing myself in my thoughts, I notice footsteps approaching and glance their way. It is our indisposed friend, Safeir, and another acolyte. I would say he looks marginally better – I wonder what they have been doing to him in the interim.

We learn that the acolyte’s name is Johan, and that he is tasked with ridding Safeir of his malady, and that he has, as of yet, been unsuccessful. There are 17 days until the next full moon – which sounds a ways away but I think the time will past quite quickly. I hope he is successful. We must have arrived quite early, as we continue to wait for the Deacon. I spend my time tracing arcane figures in my head.

Eventually the Deacon approaches, and looks quite earnest when he says he is nervous about performing this test before us. And I thought he was the professional! But this rite has never been performed before, for all of these untold ages – seriously has anyone tried to establish a timeline on this? I will make a note to revisit this at a later date.

The Deacon then leads us towards the feet of the great statue of Pelor at the end of the nave, and he quietly mutters a word and moves his hand, and a stairway appears between the feet of the statue. As we descend the stairs I notice the air increasingly become warm and humid. Quite warm, in fact. Since it is approaching the winter solstice, I have not felt this temperature in many months. The stairs exit to a large open, circular chamber, that goes up as far as we can see. Within the chamber are 8 seats, and a podium with a large volume resting atop of it.

He asked us to disrobe. Buy me a drink first, Deacon! But, I follow his orders, as do the others. Johan opens a chest, and withdraws several items and rests them on the podium. They are:

  • A cloth
  • A pouch
  • A white pipe

The Deacon himself looks confused – oh how I wish there was an expert in the room. He asks Leo’nel, of all people, for advice. Apparently he does know something (surprising since he skipped any education), and he identifies the substance within the pouch as Sphynx Feather, a powerful psychotropic drug of some kind. Sounds a bit more powerful than the leaf I used to partake in back in Underhill, as a child. Leo’nel says it offers intense mental clarity and guidance.

I swear it is getting hotter in here, and I’ve already taken off my clothes. What to do at this point? Beginning the ceremony, the Deacon loads this (very ornate) pipe, and holds the mouthpiece out to me. I take a lungful, hold it briefly, and exhale. It is quite a thick and acrid smoke, and burns a good deal, but I was able to smoke it without coughing like a novice. I immediately feel a sense of euphoria and relaxation. The deacon continues down the circle of chairs, allowing us each to take a drag of the pipe. As the deacon approaches Safeir, Johan questions if it is wise to allow Safeir to smoke considering his.. condition. The Deacon backhands Johan swiftly and powerfully – I wonder if this holy man has a past much different than we think.

As this is happening, I feel the drug take a stronger hold. I no longer feel relaxed. Maybe it is the gravity of the situation, but I feel quite anxious and I feel my heart rate begins to spike. The walls begin to flow like water – that is definitely an anomaly. The drug must be interfering with a portion of my brain responsible for vision. Suddenly – everything turns black, and my body is gone.

Where am I?

Am I alive?

What is I?

After spending and unknown amount of time in this state, my sense of self returns and I remember my name – Glim Ronrick “Felix” Hispos Winchworth. I still do not have a body, but I do have my brain. I could get used to this!

“Hello?” I call out into the dark.

A voice answered me. I will skip these details as they are quite personal, as is anything that a man says with his god. In the end, he told me to listen to my heart – and follow my fate. He also tells me that I am, worthy, stalwart, and a mark begins to burn into my chest. After some time, I wake.

We are all still in our chairs, and it appears to be daylight, which means some time has passed. Garil is quietly weeping. If his experience was anything like mine, he must have a very strenuous relationship with his god. Thankfully, Old Garl is like a friend to his grandchildren.

We realize that this mark has been emblazoned on all of us. The Deacon tells us that we must always cover this mark, and to tell no one. It is the mark of the Stalwart Knights, we are told. So the prophecy is real, and secrecy is paramount. Hm, perhaps I shouldn’t have written all of that. When I have time I will look into a method to store this journal outside of the Prime Material.

When I set out on my sabbatical, this is NOT what I had in mind.

Distracted by my thoughts, I am brought back by a loud exclamation from Mezla Mezla: “I’m a fuckin’ poet!” Quite.

We discuss among ourselves the next course of action. If we are fated to destroy Nhilos, where do we go? We decide to first stop by the Temple of Boccob, since it is so close, and see if there are any reports of nefarious outsiders. Then we will stop by The Square and look for any odd jobs around that might indicate to have something more than it seems.

We enter Boccob’s temple, and I step in front and approach a nearby acolyte, practicing his somatic movements. It looks like he was trying the motions for Resistance, and so I try to offer to help. They definitely don’t teach them here like they do at Walarth’s, poor lad. I ask if he can help with finding someone to aid us, and apparently with the Feud it is nigh impossible. We could hire someone to scry for us, but we don’t really know where to look or what to look for, so that will not help.

Some of the party wishes to buy some articles, and so we swing by the merchant quarter. Since my vision, I have decided to fight in the Feud, and so I also acquire a set of leathers to fight in.

We then head to The Square, and look for some jobs. There are a number, but one sticks out – hunting some evil or something inasmuch. We head to the Crimson Pipe to inquire. Thrash finds the interested party, and begins to speak with them about the job. I order a mug of ale – what a day! Thrash returns, and informs us that he has agreed for us to hunt and kill a vampire queen. What in the gods’ name was he thinking?! He even took a payment up front, so there is no reneging now. Although we may be able to use our lycanthrope’s might to fight her. I am definitely on Team Safeir.

Lastly, we want to make some bets on the Feud. “Why not” I think – I have nothing to lose since I have a good chance of becoming a thrall of this vampire. After asking around we discover there is a pair of halfling brothers that take bets. After finding their place of business, Freight Gate Inc., I enter to inquire.

Apparently betting is actually illegal, and so the extort a favor from us. They have a shipment in quarantine, and we must retrieve a few barrels of liquor from it. I will not bore you with the details, for this is a trivial matter at this point. We best the guard (eventually, but Mezla will tell you we did it immediately), and after some difficulty return with the barrels (Mezla would say it was easy, but let me tell you I almost drowned!)

I place bets on both Garil and Mezla Mezla to win the first round. Garil is a sound bet, and Mezla Mezla has great odds. No, I did not decide to bet on myself.

After this, we return to our respective inns and retire for the evening. And that is where I am now, in my room recording the previous days. What a strange turn of events this has all been. I will spend some time pouring over my spells, and my current research, and then turn in.

View
Out About Town
Thank you, Fish, for them notes!

As we concluded our meeting with the Deacon Orrin, the ever wistful Mezla Mezla handed me this book of his, and said “two days to the feud. Write that down”, so I did. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of being his scribe and writing stories for him; I had figured that’s what he should be doing for me, but he never mentioned this journal here since. I figure it’s mine now, which is good since he went and lost all of his worldly possessions later in the day, which I’ll get to later. Would have lost the record of our adventures he so long windedly out to paper, and what a shame that would be.

Anyhow, looking at the previous pages I suppose it’s up to me now to keep the story going, so I shall. Here’s what happened on our second day in The Holy City of Aelford.

The deacon and his acolyte gave us two pieces of information that matter, if you don’t count all the Neelos stuff – we will need to come back to meet him in the temple district at midnight for some sort of trial, which will get us into the tournament if we make him happy enough, and also that the eye of the basilisk isn’t going to be leaving that statue anytime soon so I had better get used to being without it. Unless I win the tournament, and then maybe I can ask for it as a reward. Doubt they’ll give it, but it can’t hurt to try. Apparently the Deacon at the time led some sort of crusade to get it back after a siege laid the city low around two centuries ago, and only found the one. We found the other, so hopefully we’ll get some sort of parade in our honor, but again, no idea on whether or not that Rynn fellow is going to try and take the honor from us again.

Oh! And he did ask about our werewolf friend after doing some furious scribbling in whatever paper stack he had at the time, and we showed him the tattoo and all. It looked lighter in color, according to those of us who bothered to pay attention to it before, and was still spinning around. The Deacon said that meant he might not turn again for some time, and that the changes don’t always follow the full moon. He has specialists in his employ who could help, and he hasn’t reached some stage where he can’t be helped, at least they didn’t think so. The process to remove the curse or what have you is apparently long and painful, but Safeir decided to go for it – after all, if Son can stand being chained for a few days, why can’t he?

So we left him there to be treated, and hoped for the best. They had two prior successful attempts to deal with this sort of thing, so we’ll let them work. One took only a week, maybe less, and the other was several months, but there’s not much else we can do at this point so we sent him on his way, and then went on ours.

As we headed out to the temple district at large, a carriage trundles along and lets out a rich looking half elf, which means he’s only half bad. Apparently he knows Glim from back in their school days, and the gnome completely missed this old acquaintance coming along because he was buried in reading some scroll or other, which I can’t say comes as a surprise. After they caught up, it was decided he would stick with us for a while, since he too had business with the deacon, and I gave him a pass despite the magical Elfiness because he made some comment about Glim finally growing stones. That was good for two reasons – I’m not the only one calling them stones anymore, and he’s giving the stunting a hard time, so he’s all right by me. The others, of course, proceeded to interrogate him and it was all rather uncomfortable. What I got out of their squabbling is that his name is Leo’nel and he apparently has some magic or other. Ostracized by his elven village for his mannish half, and his self-important ‘arcane knowledge’, he left to study with some academy or other, where he met Glim. Bored, if I’m being honest, I took the opportunity to head off to what looked like a dwarven temple and do something I have been meaning to do for a very long time. I would have done so earlier, but this was the first shrine to Moradin I’ve come across since leaving Karak Duin.

It was a good feeling, no, a grand feeling to be back in dwarf-masoned halls once more. I would have liked to spend more time reveling in the feeling, but I had business to attend to – the business of atonement and repentance. Exposing my arms, and the shameful tattoos I bear, I knelt before the Anvil-Altar and set about my prayers, surrounded by the hewn stone statues of the heroes of old. I gave prayer and a promise of penance for Clanggedin Silverbeard, and his forgiveness for what I have done, and Dumathoin, for my brother’s keeping and protection. I failed him, but Dumathoin would not, if he accepted my offerings. I prayed to Muamman Duathal, that he keep me, in turn, on this journey, and Ulaa, that she would watch over my kin and their industries while I was away. And of course to Moradin, that he might see my intent and bless me in its pursuit.

I left the altar, lighter in gems but heavier in spirit, despite the generous looks the other dwarves gave me for respecting the old ways and the like. It’s a burden, you see, but it must be done. Throne below, I hope so dearly that I am given the forgiveness and respite I seek. I’m not one to take everything as a sign, but if I were to perform well in the upcoming Feud, it might just mean that I’ve been heard and that the Gods part their beards to smile upon young Garil, at least for a moment.

While I was busy, the rest of them had their separate ways, I ended up rejoining them in the crafters district later to pick up some new fighting gear, since I intend to win that tournament and might need a bit heftier armor and a hammer that has seen a little less rough use lately. It ends up that we shopped at the open workshop of Ivar Von Ivan, the armorer we learned about at the Hearth and the Harlot the night before. His shop, which he called “The Dragon’s Arsenal”, had some pretty incredible pieces. Nothing we could afford of course, so we stuck to the ‘lowly’ master worked items. Lowly I say because while I thought they were just fine, Ivar seemed less than impressed with his own work. There was one piece that was apparently taken from the horde of some dragon by the name of Sangana. The dragon was apparently hording valuables in The Copper Desert some sixty years ago, and an army defeated him and pillaged the loot, some of which seems to have made it out this way. Hearing the tale, and maybe remembering something he learned in that glitzy school of his about werewolves and their weaknesses, Glim decided to pony up and purchase the toothpick. What use he had for a blade escapes me, but maybe a little bit of dragon luck rubbed off on it and he’ll turn out more handy in a fight.

The pirate couldn’t keep himself away from the water any longer and had run off to go see to that boat he won drinking with that Dan fellow, and from what I hear he decided to be charitable with some fish he caught, giving half to sale and the other half to beggars in Squalor’s Grotto. Probably not what I would have done, and not what I expected him to do either. The running off part sure, but the giving food away? Different story.

After some more time at the stores and such, but not enough time for me to find a gem cutter to train with, or at least buy some tools from, we headed to the bars. Hearing about this place they call The Square, ringed by four different inns, we set off to see how the ale in that part of the foreign quarter compares to what we have sampled to far. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, but I still have yet to taste anything far beyond goblinish greenskin swill up on the surface, but the rest seem to enjoy it.

Regardless of what we set out to do in the square, what we ended up doing was a little bit different. It wasn’t long after we arrived that we heard, and then saw, a naked woman dangling out a window. Some of the party ran off to save her, and I just sat back and chuckled while magic of some sort boosted our new friend Leo’nel to twice his size, and as he struggled to pull her down, she fell, nude mind you, right onto our pious elf cleric. The sight of it! I doubt a woman has ever been that unclothed near him, or that near him at all really. I nearly split my pants laughing!

It got a lot less funny shortly after, when Lady Grey herself came by and saw the whole thing. Whether or not it was as bad as it looked – groping a screaming nude woman in a public square like he was, in the middle of the day – it did LOOK pretty bad. Smelled bad too, seeing as Sadron had picked up a touch of the flesh-rot on his wrists somehow, which I have yet to figure out. More reason to stay away from him if you ask me. Anyway the whole thing was bad enough that she can’t be seen associating with the likes of us, and so her charity was quickly reversed, leaving us homeless as a result. A shame, since I was looking forward to having elf-odor-free lodgings for the next week or so in The Nightingale Flat. Just my luck, it would seem; Moradin in his glory has seen fit to punish me with the stench for the time being, which is only fair.

The woman, calling herself Dion, who caused the whole mess, was very apologetic, and invited us in to the Fat Minstrel to apologize over a drink. We learned there that her husband, who goes by the name of Tusk, is a bit of an animal when he gets lusty. Big surprise, name like that! Long story short, he’ll be down eventually once her charm potion or whatever wears off, and we really should meet him. So, we drank and ate until we did. He seems a nice fellow, despite being a half Orc, and invited us to a free musical performance that evening, which we promised to attend. In the meantime, we had picked up some rumors, like that some servant girl is spying on her mistress, some farmer has a polymorphed prince rabbit on his cabbage farm to the east, and that a band of Orcs is in town on the lookout for mercenary work. If I’m lucky, they’ll find it in the Feud at the business end of this new hammer of mine.

Before the performance, we had to set out to explore the other taverns in the square and arrange some lodging for ourselves. Leo’nel was given a room in The Lazy Badger, and I grabbed a room there for myself as well. It had straw mattresses and the like, so the others were unwilling stay there. Pah! Mezla Mezla and Sadron decided to stay at the Fat Minstrel, the only remaining rooms, and Glim, Son, and Thrash booked accommodations at The Crimson Pipe, which has fanciful blue roof tiles, and is just perfect for their tastes, or so I assume. Glim had popped in to the Wizard and Mug, but didn’t bother to ask around and left the place rather quickly. An elf runs the place, and it’s got wizard right there in the name, so no need for me to accompany him, and his leaving so fast confirms my decision as correct.

Of note, there did seem to be a jobs board in the square, though all the postings for the day had been taken. Perhaps tomorrow after the Deacon’s test we can see what things need heroics and earn ourselves a little more coin, treasure, and glory. Plus, the rest of the crew will need something to do while I fight in the Feud every day, winning the blasted thing, so they can busy themselves with odd jobs while I once again do all the work if they can’t find anything else to do during The Frost Festival. Again, I doubt there will be a parade for us to march at the head of until I come back as the new champion and put Moradin rightfully atop the heap of Gods in this place.

Returning to the Fat Minstrel, we readied ourselves for the promise of some fine music and a way to kill the time before we were to return to the Deacon at midnight. After another round of ales, the orcman and his wife came over and let us in on a little secret – he once got himself a pack of cards in the Tamboori Jungle from some curio shop. Telling us he wasn’t always a bard, and that he once was a sight more awful than he already was, he credits the cards to turning his life around and making it so’s all he’s wantin’ is to do some good in the world and make people happy.

The trick with these cards is you’ve got to tell them how many you want before you take them, and the pretty pictures will fill you with whatever their charms are – but only the once, and never again. I thought it was all fancy talk and didn’t much care for it, but Mezla being the fool he is went for it right away, and talked to the cards to let them know he wanted five. He talked to the cards, I can’t emphasize that enough. But plain as granite, five of them came out and he ended up losing all of his things and gaining some book or other. Can’t say I saw why I would want to have that happen to me, but he seemed rather pleased as he ran off naked to the market to purchase some new clothing with Glim’s money, which he traded the cards for. Now he’s without a sword or a lute, so I suppose I will just have to settle with listening to his voice some more.

Some more rumors abound, as flowing drinks are wont to cause, and looks like we’re finally the talk of the town, and for good reasons this time! The pirate’s charity was well received, and word has gotten around that the Deacon has hired some people to take care of things for him. Some flirting by the ranger, which was not well received, and some flirting by Son, which surprisingly was, and we were well and warm and in our cups by the time the music came around. We watched the performance Tusk put on and it was actually quite nice. I’m not up to snuff on musical matters but I found it enjoyable, and I think the rest of the people at the bar did too. I can’t help but feel like the song had more than just regular lyrics, as the story told felt a little bit of prophecy to it all. Least that’s how I felt.

He went on about how our journey here was far from done, and come the sunrise we’d descend through judgment valley, with no direction but to trust our final destination – to follow what we know – to follow with faith in her direction and not to fight the flow. In the end, we would weigh our worth before her majesty, no longer strangers. Now I don’t know exactly what those cards did to our singing friend, but they might have just given the half orc a touch of ‘the sight’, as the stone priests used to call it back home. I suppose only time will tell.

In any case, we’re off to the Temple of Pelor once more, now that midnight has nearly come, and it’s dead quiet with no activity in the temples district. I’m going to stash the book for now, since it seems like an acolyte has just opened the door for us to usher us in, and we’ll see what the Deacon has in store for us – and whether or not these ‘Stalwart Knights’ as we may be can indeed be found worthy in this judgment valley to come.

View
Make For Aelford
AlEford IN sight *heh*

Thanks Nikolai for Notes!!

As I finish looting the disgusting two-headed moron
first of all its a wonder these grimeballs even have possessions, and what use would the beast have for the scroll I found on him anyway
I look up to the eerily bright moonlight and find myself thankful for the bright light of the moon waning gibbous, incase anyone is curious, follows the full moon as it diminishes being just past its fullness, the cold light feeling warm given the potential in the full shine.

Speaking of, our drunken new friend appears more capable, managing to hold down some food which I must admit was surprisingly delicious and I’m more astonished by the quality than the gesture, but we’ll get to the account of that forthwith.
I’m torn on how to treat this; the opportunity to travel with such a legendary creature will surely fuel tales down the trail, and I hear that once you contract the disease and master the symptoms there can be some tangible benefits to a half-transition stage. Maybe I could become something truly legendary if I allow myself to be injured.
On the other hand, this guy seems like an imbicile at worst or a drunk at best, and I should not only keep away from whatever he’s contracted what if its sexually transmitted!? o_0 but also keep wary lest he try to get his god to curse me for not howling at the moon or some such prayerlike nonsense you never know how you’re gonna run up on the wrong side of these religiosos

Speaking of Clerics, it is of note that we are luckily in the company of two, the aforementioned afflicted rambler, and our found-in-the-woods friend Sadron, who was most probably a choirboy, lost, when we found him in the woods. Thank the latharian Lotharian, Lorthian, Lathlathinian? or whatever that we’ve got clerics getting to this holy city! They always seem to come in handy, and I’ve never been to a city so pompous to call itself holey but I bet clerics will come in doubly handy, and we have two!

Thats like, quadruple clerics!

But its really like 1.5 clerics honestly. . .

Or whatever.

Things I remember from Fort Gallant: That was the name of a place we were just at. We escaped from some assholes dungeon and got duped into killing a guy for some OTHER asshole who imprisoned us again, luckily solving our quest to find Kirin, who “as a friend” he had also had imprisoned. Kirin doesn’t know dick about the book I and shit I hardly even dare commit to ink other than that Nilos was ‘once a man, he became consumed with his ambition to become a warrior powerful enough to rival the gods.’ We also rescued a scruffy pirate rogue from the second assholes dungeon I mean come on how could we not, he was basically being tortured TO DEATH and hopefully this good deed doesn’t come back to haunt us, but after hearing the piteous screaming for like three days what sort of person could leave a man to that fate. We’d killed all the guards anyway, it would be double ill to leave him tied to the wall like a mule to starve.
I was pretty convinced the not-trolls, “Ettin,” Kirin is kind enough to eventually enlighten us after ridiculing the nuances of troll-hood and troll-being, were actually being somehow summoned or called not intentionally, but like a beast to bait, and let me tell you from the looks of her I would sympathize to Kirin herself given her absolute absence in the last battles, but maybe she simply has some more restraint than our own stout BDFs.

She remarks, somehow simultaneously, how much of a mess the corpse of the Ettin is in its giant foul disgusting misery, and how hard we have been pushing ourselves and could use a rest. Like a civilized person I suggest we head upwind some few leagues or at least some paces before bedding down for the night.
Huntsman Thrash sent his wolf out into the woods for scouting and the animal comes back with a message for him of a clearing shortly ahead suitable for our party to make camp. As we press onward, past the stench of the corpses Son introduces himself to Kirin again, and not as ‘the sailor we rescued from a dungeon’ I imagine.
I need to get my ears checked, can’t hear for shit
She remembers him she was there after all and seems to buy the ridiculous story that he was being tortured, almost TO DEATH, on a case of mistaken identity and legitimately didn’t know whatever they were looking for.
Note to self, she’s dumb and seems to be intrigued by scars this is only now starting to make sense but thats all hot…

Eventually we break into a clearing whos perfection for camping is made all the more clear by Kirin loudly plomping down and removing her boots to massage sore feet and relax. I’m not far behind heh as I think about settling down with a drink and a fire. I should carry wineskin in addition to this water. It can’t be too heavy to not be worth it, honestly.

Across the trail I can see Thrash’s wolf dragging something into the clearing which looks optimistically deer-shaped, if not on the small side. Watching the woodsman work is mesmerizing as he deftly cleans, prepares and portions the meat. In an equally mesmerizing and skillful demonstration he neatly freed the heart of the fawn with his swordtip and flipped it to the wolf, who obviously scarfed down the treat. Everyone seemed vaguely impressed by a wild animal eating raw meat, and I had an unfortunate spasm on seeing someone ELSE get to eat that left Kirin thinking I was a vegetarian or something. Whatever, something’s up with that icequeen, and Garil keeps muttering the word Heartseeker over and over and over and over and over and over and over and. I’ll admit, the imagery of the wolf eating the heart of a fawn at the hands of a human has much potential for poetic embellishment, and nobody will ever have to know what Thrash REALLY looks like…

Undeniably generous however. Kirin works up a spit hah, believe me I wish too for the veel and soon the sizzling sound from the fire reminds me why this is my second-favorite spit-related activity, not to mention the smell. Thrash, as I mentioned, generously shared “his” hunt with us, but I couldn’t help but notice he was rather crudely doling out succulent and choice cuts as his preference, so I didn’t study too close and was thankful for free warm meat. It was hard to miss the pile of stuffing and gibblits Thrash kept on his plate but relinquished with a coy look from Kirin alone. As I mentioned, the food is stunningly prepared and even our new were-friend Safir keeps it down.
As we’re eating I can barely overhear Son pressing Kirin for more information, probably where we found such a good looking woman or some other obvious novice drivel. One word kids: poetry. You’ve heard of the Great Deluge? Eve was a woman, God the first poet. Its that simple Shes taking credit for breaking us out of the cells, and I must admit she tells a pretty good story, but I’m sure she forgets details. The heart of any truly good story is to have the audience hanging on the the important little details. The cloak I’m wearing at the moment, was once green. Its more faded than I’d like to admit, which is why I haven’t committed its glory to ink just yet, and is not yet a detail you, as a reader, would much hang on to. But soon, now that we’ve reached the holy city (spoiler!) I may come across some finery worth true poetic description.
Sadron the other cleric, the not-werewolf, just to keep them straight (do you have to have an S name to be a cleric? Or maybe just for this god?) blessed me with a holy spell after supper and I was feeling so well and restored that I let Glim the Gnome talk me into letting him hold the scroll I found on the Ettin under the allegation that he could decipher it, which apparently he cannot so thank you very much? He can carry it to Aleford Note to self, get that shit now that we’re in town, you can find a shop for sure

Meals finished, moon high in the night, fully healed, its definitely time to retire and get some well deserved sleep. Before I turn the page however, I must break a bit of bardic protocol and recount a story of that night that I did not witness firsthand. Yet this story is too good not to be told, so I will commit the event with as much accuracy as I am capable of piecing together from the hearty recollection we had in the few spare civilized adult moments of reflection while we were supposed to have breakfast.

I awoke, early, sopping wet at the literal asscrack of dawn. Apparently it had started raining shortly into first watch, which Garil the dwarf had volunteered for, even though the magic animals of our huntsman or wizard friends had this task covered, or at least I felt confident in their abilities! Anyway, speaking of abilities, Garil’s keen senses picked up that it was raining at some point and those lucky light sleepers who woke up to the strangely out-of-place sound of rain on metal got to see what I can only imagine to be a fantastic and glorious sight:

Our valiant BDF Garil the Dwarf from Karak’Dween or whatever sturdy shield held stoutly overhead, hammer out, hoisted at half mast, looking around aggressively if not frantically or at LEAST quizzically, while remaining safely untouched by a single drop of rain.
Apparently it took some convincing from Glim what is it with these tiny people? that the freaking RAIN was totally normal and not some sort of curse or spell or catastrophe set on soaking him personally.

At first I thought all the small-brain stereotypes about dwarves was obviously going to be true how else could they take hammer-to-head hits we know they do as children? but as I reflect on the event I think, underground, water falling like rain probably does signify some impending catastrophe or attack of some kind. No wonder dwarven beer and ale are the highest of their craft; those guys sources of “clean water” aren’t something I’d like to swim in before the monks get their hands on it.

Eventually Garil calms down and manages to let Kirin take second watch again, animal servants and shit? In the aftermath of the commotion nobody notices Glim scoot himself into Son’s lean-too and snuggle up to the pirate like a really confused big spoon.

In the morning I wake up full, but fucking soaked, as discussed, and its super hella fucking early, again, as mentioned. Son is yelling about Glim sleeping with him or something, Glim does himself the favor of talking about how small he is and that nobody can tell when he’s in their bed anyway so no harm no foul? Somehow through all this Son is still managing to flirt with Kirin, and between the gnome in the bed and general being-a-rogue I honestly don’t know how he manages to pull off maintaining a conversation!

The smell of salt on the morning air reminds me of baking and at first I’m sure we’re near the city of Aleford finally and I start imagining civilization and cooking and food and pubs and music and conversation. A couple quick smells and some reflection reminds me that the salt is probably merely the nearby sea of Anas Anus? There are so many legends of the sea of Anas. Legends of piracy, trading, and the holy city itself. Brotrillisk even thinks he remembers stories of Son’s Father (heh) being one of the less vulgar pirate captains of the area as we continue to push for Aleford in the wee hours of the morning.

Forthwith, our path leads out from the thickness of the forest to increasingly open rolling bluffs overlooking the ocean. Not forgetting the adventures of the previous night we allowed some of the less civilized and less traveled members of the party some moments to marvel at the sea. A surprising number of people have never seen the ocean or even suffered the horror of traveling by ship, so they are predictably amazed by the sheer honey-badger-ness of a body of water that big. The dwarf especially I think came close to a religious experience, and I’m rather not sure whether he enjoyed the growth.

A figure appears in the distance and Sadron the cleric draws my attention to it. What happens next is unfortunate to say the least. As soon as I focus on the distant figure I can make out a bit of a face. She seems to be vaguely woman, with a dull yellow hued skin, but I can hardly tell because I’m already on the ground retching up my guts and prior meals and thats not even the worst of it. She couldn’t have made my clothes heavier just by seeing her, so the feeling in my gut was doubly worse knowing I must really be as weak as I feel. Brings the idea of a sickeningly foul image or ugly person really into frame once you’re physically assaulted by a ‘person’s’ visage. Moral of the story is I better get some future healing for this shit, and seriously!

Brotrillisk the Burninator wants to fight the monster, but can see the folly in attempting a solo suicide run. The bitch injured me with a mere glance and I would hate to see whats left of Brotrillisk when his strength has left him. The potential hordes of gold have Bro more vocal than I’ve ever heard him in the past; it seems the honorable way to this dragon’s heart is through the coin-bone a trait I find similar in hookers, I might add (dragonmen can’t read right??) After my first encounter with the Sea-Hag what else is yellow and physically revolting and will obviously fight you? I wrangle my louder-growling stomach and we take the long route edging around the Hag’s bluff keeping her well out of sight. Its not until Sadron steps off and kneels in a clearing to pray that I realize just exactly how many hours overdue breakfast is exactly, and I spend the hour fruitlessly hunting for vermin with my crossbow until praytime is over.

Getting back down the ole dusty trail, which is decreasingly dusty being that were almost on a beach road at this point, which is weird if you think about walking across a beach but maybe thats the whole purpose of a road anyway to keep from trudging through swirling sand hungr GOD DAMN IM HUNGRY
Finally we reach a bluff and once were on the top we can finally see the holy city of Aleford stretching before us. At first look it appears to be frighteningly far away, the way the city draws your eye to the horizon, making it seem to stretch infinitely away, but, least you get dismayed and return to the fort of prisoners run by prisoners for a warm cooked meal, a cursory examination will reveal that the size of the city is creating this illusion, it encircling walls seeming to meld with the horizon on all sides, as if we will crest the hill and spill into the city.

Thats not how it works obviously, and the other side of the bluff reveals the enormous walls of the holy city now rather close to the road.

We move towards the city and slowly join an increasing press of travelers towards the gate at the terminus of the road. Kirin tells us a little about the city but by the time I can remember to pay attention to not-her-ass its a songbird, that im writing, a, song about. . .get over it were already passed the walls extortion-free. “Holy City and All That” or somesutch. The guardsmen at the gate seem impressed with Kirin and our musty clerics in this town i feel like they spell it Cleric very perposfully, thats the creepy vibe im getting and caution us against using our arsenal. They don’t seem too excited when Garil mentions Rin, but whatever, guards is guards (they’re never excited unless theres a fight).

Kirin slowly seems more cheerful as we make our way deeper into the city this way and that. As we cross some streets and turn down others she rambles amicably, expressing that the local Deacon, a man named Orin certainly has the answers we seek, typical religioso outlook that the reason we see the place packed with fancy nobles out and about nobles NEVER do that! Its not . . like, . noble! is because of the local Frost Festival in which all the various people of the religious Holy city all attempt to curry favor with their gods how can this go wrong?! :D Apparently they do this without hurting eachother by, ironically, organizing a tournament of some sort and dressing it up as a festival. This will make it harder for us to find a room for ourselves, although apparently some deities curry favor to your person when you rent your house to valiant travelers, which suits me just fine if we can connect with the right noble!

It turns out that trying to get through a bustling city, especially a Holy city on the holy sabbath for people devoted to like EVERY GOD is totally hard. Even Kirin found her route blocked by rows of gleamingly polished guards bedecked in their most regal formal armor and accoutrements standing attention aside most important intersections. Its hard to tell whether they are watching the streets or the crowd until the parade begins to move down the thoroughfare and they block off the crossing streets as a shieldwall to allow the parade to pass unmolested.
As we wait for some enviously dressed lords and ladys, and priests, the third sex hah to pass, opening passage through the route once more Kirin explains some “details” about this Deacon Orin, who will answer our questions. I wonder if he disguises himself in orange and plays as Deacon Orange? Anyhow he’s the guy in charge of the tournament, called the Feud, and he’s also apparently in charge of determining those who meet the requirements to compete, but he won’t be available until tomorrow after the sabbath services. She’s super talkative these days!

The Feud. Someone explained me the rules very carefully but I can’t for the life of me remember. It seems to be a melee tournament of some sort, available for one to many contestants, no magic allowed. Sounds like it could be fun? We’re pretty skilled at swinging the sword, even if our dragonman is a little haphazard. He tends to have trouble controlling his cough however, and I wouldn’t really like to tangle with a whole city of expensively armored guards. Enlisting for a little bit to GET some of that armor maybe, but never brawling against them!
Eventually we reach a mildly graphic sign for an establishment called the HEARTH AND THE HARLOT depicting a busty woman serving ales over a large black stove. The place is massive; once you get inside you forget you’re in just one building in a city of many equally large buildings! Sometimes I understand the dwarf mind and wonder why we ever even go outside. hah, that guy and the rain, man i gotta write a song about that or something Add in a warm fire (like a hearth get it!) and some music, ale, fine ladies and dance and there’s no excuse to go aboveground see, its so easy to get into unless you have to piss.
Well this place has all of it: Women, smoke, drink, warmth, spice, fire and light sprawling out before us. At the back there are rows of rooms and a shadowy staircase leading upstairs to untold delights. But the eye is drawn to a massive negative space created by a giant jet black hearth; literally jet black as in the huge thing looks to be carved from a single slab of the jet the mineral of the finest calibre.

Here I might pause to say ‘looks to be’ and ‘the eye is drawn’ and ‘to the hearth’ and such because all that is made possible, once we kindly and courteously gain entry to the establishment, is ripped asunder by Garil the dwarf absolutely charging towards the hearth, attempting to hug what parts he can wrap his stubby arms around, hugging the warm hearth itself which, we all as greater beings realize is essentially a zazzed up grill!

He starts yammering about dwarven relics and rune carvings and where to get this grill and how you transport a giant grill this huge and heavy and how long it must have sat here grilling while we politely gather around and feign interest in his great story bro. Speaking of Bros, I’m pretty sure Brotrillisk is still with us, but even so conversation seems to have returned to normal level after Garil’s momentous like a rolling ball, not like something that will go down in history entry.
He’s immediately attended to by a young, strong Boytoy who tries to answer all the details of his ridiculous questions while fishing for a tip HAH, i meant in coin, but i was trying to figure out how to lead the double phrase The relevant information was that rooms at Clair’s was booked up for the festival and ale cost three copper, for which I’ll probably get swill after making a fool of myself trying to test my bargaining and boasting for the first time in a proper crowd in some time if I do say so myself, but I’ll admit that I shook a fair bit of rust off completely successfully.

Fishing for more tips Boytoy seems especially interested in our Cleric sadron. Theres so much I don’t know about what is and is not cool in religion nowdays I’ll never know what is and . . . is not . . . cool in religion. . . nowadays wow that was awkward ANYWAY happygirl Kirin has suddenly become infinitely less helpful right about the time she started making out with another woman, which was hot, but like, disappointing and annoying because shes always supposed to be giving us information which, like her hot body, is always apparently on display but not actually for sale and never seems to be available when you need it. Luckily for us she prised her tongue from the mouth of a nearby mistress of some sort long enough to recommend some neighbor who might have room for us even though we heard many of the local nobles rent their, pause for poshness, one of their many, townhomes to visiting clerics in attempts to look righteous in the eyes of god, while accomplishing a little showing off in public as well, for the good of the land of course, I’m sure honor demands proper payment; its a festival afterall!

Eventually an attractive stately woman in her 40’s probably her 50’s lets be honest siddles up to the hearth and begins answering some of Garil’s innane questions rather proudly. Apparently it is indeed an old, maybe even ancient dwarven relic that predates the owner and probably the establishment itself. The woman, who somehow I think is Clair but only by the way she manhandled the boytoy and called off the check for our drinks explains more about Kirin’s recommendation. Apparently the Lady Gray rents her estate to traveling clerics from time to time, but is especially finneky about receiving a sign from the proper gods at the proper time to determine renting her estate, as everyone knows she fickley devout and sometimes will leave the estate empty if she doesn’t feel she’s received the proper symbolism. In this case were only in luck because nobody proper has been found before us in this surge and the festival/tournament begins in three days so weeklong rentals are diminishing fast.

At this point Thrash attempted to pull a fast on us, taking advantage of the fact that we hadn’t eaten in near half a day at the same time as a loud man calling himself Don the Drinker loudly challenged any and all comers to participate in a drinking game. I figure I’m so hungry I could easily out-drink anyone, but as I learn more about this game it turns out there are way more rules than ‘who drank the most mugs of ale’ and I’m not huge on complicated rules for drinking more on complicated rules for drinking later! Around this time a crew of well attired kitchen knights strolled towards the hearth hoisting along a large and finely prepared boar on a spit and racked it on the DwarfHearth. Clair makes it known that we can get some of the succulent bits in less than an hour and I’m almost too impatient to wait. Our available server is of no use because all the food in use for the festival and that tonights meal for all will consist of finely seasoned boar with deliciously salted rolls with no-doubt luxurious butter. But not for almost another hour oh god! (i guess we’re in the right place)
After finally having convinced three other morans at our table to accept Don’s 4v1 challenge Thrash gets up with Garil, Brotrillisk, and Son (dirty pirate hookers always good fir drinking am i rite?) unwittingly in tow and saunters over to his table to accept the challenge on their behalf. In negotiating bets and stakes Thrash makes clear his cowardly plan of introduction and non-participation does that make him like our wolf? He goes and gets the shit, i guess we let him think hes special by feeding him the heart. . . HEARTSEEKER!! My god the dwarf isnt a total raving lunatick, he just confused animals! Garil the not-so-raving dwarf obviously just wants gems, and Don tells Bro that defeating him will go a long way towards a discount on a single item at a locally esteemed craftsman’s shop, “anything the dragonmaster could select.” In the case we (they) loos is that even a word? Don simply wants a night with Clair, although he doesn’t seem to be able to describe this price expressed in a satisfactory way to Garil, in imagining piles of gems, so I’m beginning to think it may be a trick, a ruse if you will allow, asking for something he knows we won’t be able to provide. Pullin the old Rasp double swap. Son he tempts with a boat (obviously) and Thrash remains committed to his character even after Don goadingly calls the game Hunter, insinuating he’s a superior hunter than our own ranger.

Right before the game starts, Don still grumbling about the one-sidedness of a game against him without the requisite four more players and probably Thrash’s yellow belly, Glim stumbles up to the table yelling drunkenly about losing at gambling and wanting a piece of whatever action we’ve got going on. ‘Stumbles up to the table’ is probably a generous description, remembering the height of a gnome and the height and your average tabletop!
The game seems simple; count up in rounds replacing every three with ‘Blood’ every six with ‘Sweat’ and every nine with ‘Tears’. Or something like that. I have a hard time remembering anymore because the rules that seemed so simple at first that I could easily write them down with only 7 digits and three words were made to look so impressively complicated and unweildy. But more on that later.

Don wins the first two rounds quickly and handiy. “Glim seems to be the weak link” is a written note. I should have participated as it seems pretty easy, and I could have made out like a bandit. At least I would have walked in knowing some of the rules before plunging in and saying yes to whatever in whatever god’s name they plan on drinking! Unlike some gnomes I know.

Glim strikes out again, having made it past ‘3’ (the first ‘blood’) but with only four participants overall it wasn’t long before 9 came around to be replaced by ‘Tears’ which is way more than fits into a gnome brain. Feeling magnanimous Don makes a show of graciously allowing Glim to bow out of his ill advised game (he really seems to be on a losing streak today) for the mere fine of 10 GP, which Glim pays with drunken relief.

Next round Brotrillisk scores a point on the mildly slurring bigman Don, but this is the part where when you’re hustling someone you let them have a little rope to hang on. Garil the dwarf loses at 30 these short people and their tiny brains! where I think I would at least have said ‘Bloody’ as its obviously a 3. I wonder if that would pass? Anyway in classic dwarf fashion Garil pulls out his purse and begins to stack gold coins in front of a smug and laughing Don Drinker.
‘Ah good to see a stalwart Dwarf always stays bound by his word’ but goes on to explain that nobody in the town will compete against him and by now even the visiting travelers have learned their lesson and refuse to compete. Don admits he’s simply getting bored and has taken thousands of gold pieces from travelers to the city and despite his best efforts they make no difference to Clair’s virginity, so he did pull a little fast one saying ‘all’ he wants is a night with a woman. No-one will play him anyway, it makes sense to be gracious in victory.
For being honorable in ‘combat’ Don graciously accepts from each contestant more bottles of the expensive perry handed over by Glim in liu of the some 2000 GP wager they had initially explored. Additionally he tosses Garil the forest garnets they were discussing as wager! Now I know I should have played; there wasn’t even any losing, the best kind of drinking game! But weakness makes you stupid sometimes I guess. Impressively, Garil deftly catches the two tiny stones and slips them in his pocket all the while protesting that he cannot accept these stones for a defeat, blahblahblah dwarf crap, but man was that an impressive snag.
Don explains to Son something about a boat in slip 12 called Zephyr divine wind fyi and tells Brotrillisk he’ll pass along the message to discount an item to the next dragonman in the shop; there can’t be too many even in this city I figure. You’d think the dragonman would protest more than the dwarf to be rewarded for a loss, but Don volunteers that he’s made a rather good life fleecing visitors and will gladly pay for the entertainment of a good contest, if for no other reason than to spread the idea that he CAN be defeated.

Back at our table, Sadron is having a low conversation with our serving girl Lin. I can’t overhear much but she seems to be confirming that the main cleric at the head of the temple, and thus the city pretty much, is indeed the guy who can issue writs for the competition. They also remark on a solitary ‘stranger’ isn’t really the right word, more like local eccentric lord or someone, who enters solitarily, yet seems surrounded by an entourage of invisible children all clamoring for a tale of sword swinging and maiden saving. I pick out the name Alder the Stone. Of stone? Stoned? Maybe thats the plan: we have Sadron meet the onion Deacon and they can commune with their gods to get us some entry into this tournament and a little public recognition.

As if reading my mind, young Lin comes to my seat and, on bended knee even, asks ME, a wand’ring minstrel if I could possibly perform in place of a scandalous no-show (the nerve of an unprofessional scallywag!). I mention that I haven’t eaten still and for performance I’ll require supper for my crew and myself and enough gold to buy one of those bottles of perry for myself. i need to remember to go back and collect She agrees quickly and informs that the performance begins in 20 minutes! Thats hardly time to stuff my face with some of this delicious boar, whet my whistle, and consort with the muses.
The final products were obviously rather rushed, and not worth committing to posterity verbatim. The first half was a lyrical poem set to a little string tune, I’ve found audiences are soothed by the rhythm of the strings even though the real art is in the lyrics. I’m none too sturdy on the strings, but I can accompany a tune, and complex thoughts tend to aggravate simple minds, so its good for them to have something to fall back on that they can follow. The second half I figured would be appropriate for a holy city and let the strings mostly fall silent, falling into an accented sermon-like speech inspired by my own recent events rescuing people from themselves and the trouble they’re found in.
When I concluded there were a few moments of baited silence, which I’ve learned is the best way to end a performance, with the audience waiting for more, before erupting into raucous cheers, applause, and general conversation. Roses and coins were even thrown on the stage and I made more from the crowd than promised by the establishment!
I can’t help but be a little offended that our lycan friend slept through my performance, especially as central players were ‘crazy people we find in the woods,’ but any time he’s sleeping harmlessly I’m somewhat relieved. Performance over, Boytoy finally serves me up with a proper plate of well deserved veel and the tenderest loins the roast boar, not his! and rich dark ale. After a delicious, well earned, satisfying dinner (?) who cares its food, for me, Sadron and like everybody else head outside to speak to the Lady Gray about establishing a rental, or at least having a pray on it presumably. I mean, I figure thats what they’re doing; I looked up from my plate and suddenly everyone was gone besides Garil, and maybe Bro, but who can really tell where hes at in his ‘brain.’ dragons have brains tho rite? In between tankards Lin suggests I might visit with the strange solitary lord Alder the Stoned, as he is a powerful local and my performance seems to have penetrated his glacial persona.

Alder the Stone didn’t yeild much I wonder how he got the name? and after hooking me up with an entire platinum piece for my performance i threw in a little godfearing spice for safe measure we discussed my recent travels and my encounter with the Hag. Alder suggested I might recover after a night sleep, and I think he has no idea how true I knew that might be; a night in a proper room, warm and safe, can do physical wonders.
Turns out Alder has been the champion of the Feat wait its Feud Feud for the past 8 years! The format is such that champions progress through challengers each day culminating with the final challengers against the previous champion on the last day of the tournament (or something, its complicated i guess?). Alder has been champion for the past 8 tournaments since winning the title from the previous contestant, called only “Hextor’s Champion” although I can’t really say whether that means he fights every year or not, it sounds like very few people make it to the later stages of the tournament?
He explains the format again, and again I totally space it, and confirms for like the fifth time that its the Deacon Onion who determines who may fight and basically outlines everything in person if/when we’re sure to eventually meet him for sure. Mostly him and Garil talk about the tournament, Garil babbling about honor and glory and gods and victory and promise.

Before I’m totally asleep Sadron and the rest of the team return and I can pull away from the rather dark and brooding champion. I’m happy to have brought a glimmer of hope to the guy’s dismal existence, maybe I can use this moment to power some new spell or something, but its nice to get back to our table which seems a little warmer and cheerier now. But that might be due to the team being back with good news.
Sadron found Lady Gray and talked about their shared acquaintances. Usually I mean people, which is hard enough being a visitor in town knowing only a few names, but it turned out that the Lady had been holding her estate open in hopes of currying favor with the god of Obad Hai. Obad Hai happens to be Sadron’s god as well, and the Lady is so impressed by his solid credentials as such that she promptly takes our appearance as a sign to make an easy 100GP for the entire estate for the entire tournament, which is undeniably somewhere between charity and a crap businessmodel, but when you’re an aristocrat and have many estates and they’re already paid for it hardly matters what level you profit right?

The clerics is it supposed to be like clerk? lead us to the estate and a few powerful raps on the heavy doorknocker we start to think the cleric was pickpocketed again, but the door opens eventually, attesting again to the sheer size of the estate. The man at the door introduces himself as Geeves the Manservent heartily and knows all about the rental and is anxious to make himself available to us.

The estate itself is truly rather reasonable; a typical city townhome with apartments upstairs in addition to the main floor’s kitchen, dining room and even a reasonably stocked library. Sadron clears up food and meal times, you know those guys are all about ‘what exact moment it is right now and whether i should pray or not’ and how that will alter around mealtimes, which need to be predicted and planned so you can pray around them. Ain’t nobody got time for that shit, so I bounced upstairs and claimed a room at the end of the hall. Key in the open door lock just like they said, spacious dresser yawning empty and best of all a real bed stuffed with, well, I know better than to look too close, but legitimate blankets and pillows. The place was such a comfortable relief I barely got the door closed before collapsing on the pillows. Sleeping with a sword strapped on is not very comfortable, so I was able to hope Alder Stone was right about the SeaHag thing while I threw my pack and swordbelt in the armoire before falling into a pork-induced slumber.

BONG!! BONG!! BONG!! GONG!! GONG!! DING!! DING!! BING!!

Some bigass loud sound pulls me from my dreamless slumber and I must admit that I feel stronger, more normal again. I’m not starving, but I head downstairs to the kitchen and hearth to find the source of that obnoxious racket. It came from a tall grandfather clock next to the hearth, and I can only hope its not like the bird clocks some elves find so appealing, chirping as loud as their gears will allow at specific intervals. Particular tasteless homes prefer their clocks to chime every hour for a total of 24 times a day. Luckily the sound acts as a deterrant and those people are usually easy to avoid.
Next to the hearth, as Geeves is cooking hard in the kitchen Sadron and Glim are strapping down Sadron’s armor. Shortly we’re assembled at the large dining table finishing plates of thick cut bacon and fried eggs. I’m definitely feeling full strength these days; its invigorating simply to not be incapacitated!

Another series of bells rips through the estate, this time coming from the city belltower signaling the ninth hour and official start of the commercial workday. Before we head out I trouble Geeves for another ale and egg and he complies without too much more than a quizzical look, much to my relief. Knocking back the traditional hero’s breakfast trademark we head out to meet the Deacon.

You could tell we were getting into the Temple district because the expensive fine clothes of the nobles began giving way to the expensive fine robes of the priesthood, and the increasinly fine estates often prominently feature the no-doors at least in the front! often found on public temples. The namesake of the district is an enormous snow white cathedral-like temple with a gilded roof and, ironically, two huge wooden doors attended by pristine guardsmen. Obviously the building was constructed with the purpose of “drawing the eye of god” but the effect was so successful I feel like an insect under a glass; like I’m actually being observed by a giant ready to smash my whole world. Its rather unnerving.
Eventually Sadron speaks some mumbo jumbo to the guardsmen and they dutifully run off to facilitate our meeting with the Deacon. They prepare us by imploring respect and lead us through the temple to a large, ornate office, the door of which is opened by our guide/attendant but instead of entering he beckons us to do so instead. Peculiar, but classic religious behaviour and I naturally walk right in.

The man in the regal, ornate vestments before us can only be Deacon Orin, and to see him in his robes and his age one does not stretch far to find the inspiration to his nickname the Onion Priest. hah, who knows, maybe it’ll catch on! He asks us what we seek, and without buttering him up asking about the Feud tournament or some other reasonable small talk, Garil immediately asks about Nilos, Neelos, whatever, and the book of madness! Dwarves and Tact, honestly, but even still I thought we all knew this was supposed to be rather quiet knowledge. Although maybe the Dwarf was right, everybody keeps saying that this is our man, the only one who can help us so he may as well know now?

I tell you what Orin seems uneasy with the information. He wonders how we came upon this information and with barely a word Glim hands him over the cursed book. Seriously what is it with these tiny people and their brains!? If Onion wasn’t uneasy before, now were ALL clearly uneasy, and the Deacon frankly demands to know how we came to possess the book. He seems especially interested in whether there were two demon children or just one, and who exactly led us into the trap. The harder I try to remember the fuzzier the details seem. Some guy wanted us to find his lost kids, but when we found them one had killed the other and apparently become a powerful demon, much more powerful than a mere werewolf we’ve found. So i guess it was only one, which is significant in whatever prophecy he was mumbling about, which I’m sure he’ll share whenver he’s good and ready (you don’t push people with that much power in their home city). I gather that ‘The revelation of Nilos’ resurrection may instigate prophecy and the return of Nilos’ power’ and he summons Kirin and Rin from a back room to vouch for our stories.

Ever the diplomat, Garil begins gruffly quizzing Rin on location of the eye of the Basilisk, which we learn to be the eyestones for a hundred foot tall, solid gold statue of Pelor. As such, and you can guess, they won’t be given up for anything as the statue is a holy relic which the city was founded around in the first place. That one eye was missing for so long is already enough of an affront to Pelor, already more than these people can bear.
The Deacon can indeed administer the test of worthiness to allow entry into the tournament he admits, but the examination/test will have to take place at midnight, although I didn’t catch the location as he quickly ushered us out. I suppose we could always show up at the temple and see what happens.

DAMN now thats an account! I deserve a tankard. Heartseeker, old boy, good Ranger, why don’t you fetch me one ;)

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To The North!

Where am I…? My eyelids, struggling to lift finally peel open, swollen and sore. My body, beaten and thrashed, refuses to obey any command, unable to lift itself… Completely useless. A sharp stabbing strikes my knee, giving enough distraction from my many pains to sit up, wrapping my hands around it, as I scream. Quickly lunging forward, I noticed a deep tearing pain in my chest, dripping down my torso. I don’t have to have sight to know these wounds that I’ve suffered are grave, but how am I still alive? I have no recollection, no sense of time, how did it all come to this?

Green light forms as my eyes gain sight, I’m outside in a forest thicker than the ocean fog at night. I sense a figure approaching, it’s a man, he emerges out from the green telling me he is here to help. I recognize his voice, it is that of a human… Thrash! One of warriors I helped infiltrate an orc lair in attempts to seize a highly sought after gem, the Eye of Basilisk. Thrash carefully mends my wounds with a makeshift medicinal concoction of leaves and spice, wrapping my knee, and stitching my chest. It gave me time to think…Oh dear god…!!

“My map! What in god’s name happened to my map!?”

Another voice bellows from behind me, it’s …Glim, I believe to be his name, the dwarf I remember from the pub. “Easy now… That body of yours has endured enough strain that it can already handle, any more of it and all attempts to heal you will go to waste.”

Garil fills in past events, unveiling to my astonishment, the fact that I had been tortured deep within the dungeon of Jericho, and after a trying escape from the prison cells, have continued north to the holy city of Aelford, in search for the eye of Basilisk, seeking answers at the temple of Pelor.

“Son, is this your map?” Glim digs out from his back what certainly is a map, but not that of my own. Another creature, Mezla Mezla, the elvin bard who’s song echoed through my skull, suggests we head to a cabin at the top of the hill. A woman, whom I don’t quite recognize, points to a horse that appears to be tied to some bush, which the dwarf attempts to free. There is an uneasiness in the air, no doubt the animals can sense it stronger than I. As Garil reaches to untie the horse from it’s tether he is instantly flung to the ground, the horse dragging him along the mud runs for it’s life. Garil loses grip not soon before he loses his horse.

Onward we march, horseless, myself being carried on a stretcher that was quickly made by Thrash. I must say it’s amazing what skills these people possess, yet time is lost through their indecisive course of action.

We came across a clear section of the dense jungle and deem it suitable to setup camp for the night. I exclaimed that whomever retrieved my remaining equipment return it to me promptly. To my surprise it was being kept by the mammoth reptilian giant. I didn’t catch his name, he keeps silent most of the time I’m not sure if he’s even awake! We all prepare for the night. The bard sharpens his sword as the dwarf builds a fire. My memory connects as I recall the elvin character, Sadron, gets up from his kneeling position, perhaps praying to his god of some sort, walks over to me and places his hand on my shoulder. I immediately regain strength, not fully healed, but enough to get up and robe myself. Perhaps conceived notions of worshipping to silly gods pays off for those who believe. We eat around the fire, I can tell the woman, who answers to the name Kirin, wears an annoyed look on her face and she remarks at our behavior as too indirect to function as a cohesive team. What team? Why did these people decide to help me? They could have left me for dead and moved along, but they didn’t. I suspect it’s because of the comradery we shared earlier in the orc’s lair, but with my map missing I don’t don’t trust anyone’s motives.

“My god man, watch out!” Mezla shouts to Thrash. A wolf moves his way over to Thrash’s knee and Thrash brushes his hand up and down the beast’s grey coat. “This animal is my companion, my dear bard. Nothing to break your strings over.” Mistrusting the creature, Garil turns his back to the fire, keeping watch, some follow by his example, except the dragon, who flippantly sleeps in the distance.

“Shh…Did you hear that?” The dwarf alerts. Another crackle and brush is heard among the trees, everyone leaps to their defense. The noise becomes so alarming it wakes up the dragon brut…Finally.

“You there!” the gnome Glim shouts. I had almost forgotten about this short fellow as he’s quite sly and easy to miss, though I do recall his initial efforts to smash drinks with my fellow sailors back at the pub, so perhaps he’s not so bad. He must rely greatly upon his inskincts.

A wounded yet manic elf emerges, incessantly shouting in pain!

“Thank the Latherion…FUCK!” He belligerently screams. The gnome seems to recognize the bastard citing an event they shared weeks prior, although the elf bares no signal of recollection in his face, he is screaming in pain and won’t shut the hell up. Kirin demands that if we know him we should help him… just who is this woman? She decides to take matters into her own hand and calm the elf to his senses. Or at least she tries. Thrash pours some nightshade into the elf’s mouth, my kind of tactic, the elf’s name is Safeir, he exclaims nothing about himself other than his confused rants about ‘sharing drinks’ and some place called ‘the Head of the Dog.’ I’m hoping that nightshade kicks in fast. He finally settles himself and promises he will explain everything he knows after he gets a good night’s rest. As Safeir falls asleep Garil clues both Mezla and I in as to his association with our present crew. After all is said and done the party rests for the night, all but the battered elf and myself.

Something is up with this creature, as I lay there restless listening to his agonizing screams, I decide to swiftly search his person for clues. A sudden shine bathes us all in moonlight that wakes the elf. His eyes burst open, burning bright like golden glass orbs, he belts out and roars,

FUUOOOCK!!! PIIIIIIISSSSSS!!!!”

I jump back in astonishment witnessing before my very eyes hair as black as the night growing from every inch of his body. His mouth protrudes out into the shape of a snout, his hands bulge as claws emerge from the tips of his fingers, legs as thick as tree stumps collide with the ground beneath him shaking the earth, bringing everyone to their feet. A werewolf!

Both Garil and I attack the beast, but to no avail. He’s much stronger than we anticipated. When I realized our attacks were futile I commanded the dragon beast, Bro-something to knock the werewolf out cold, leaving no critical wounds. He complies…Bitch. But even his strike proves ineffective. The gnome thinks it worthy to cast a spell that coats the opponent in glittery dust. Great thinking. I couldn’t decide whether to further my attacks or to skin the beast alive and wear it as a trophy, so I quickly moved my position to a place safer for long ranged attacks.

When all hope seemed lost the winds blew and the clouds blanketed the moon, covering the light from our campsite. Safeir reverts to his normal form and, thinking quickly, Kirin blindfolds the half-beast. She warns us of the “curse of the Lichenthrope”, a marking on ones palm that turns the person into werewolf at the sight of an unobstructed full moon against it’s will. The palm tattoo is said to have an arrow that points in a certain direction, only the marking we found on Safeir, revealed by Mezla Mezla, is not only unfixed but is spinning uncontrollably.

Kirin suggests someone who can offer help, Deacon Oren, and Thrash notes we have roughly 1 month until the next full moon.

The dragon makes another attempt to knock Safeir out and shut him up, but Safeir’s throat manages a way to blow more air. “We were getting drinks!” he screams in confusion. We constantly find ourselves having to explain to him over and over our mission and how we can help. He doesn’t seem to be aware of his previous transformation, and is bewildered. Kirin says to Safeir that if he should ever find himself separated from us, that he try and find us again. Whatever that means.

We discuss more of our plan of action when we find this man Deacon, and our future endeavors in the holy city of Aelford. We all halt and notice Kirin’s orb glowing, trouble is afoot. A loud thunderous noise echoes not far off in the forest, and a large beast appears in front of our very eyes…A troll!

We make our efforts to attack the disgusting monster to no success. Garil sustains a heavy blow as the troll rips through his shoulder. The troll reeks an overbearing odor. Mezla casts Bartic knowledge and we soon learn that trolls can be defeated in 2 ways: Fire or acid. Safeir, now conscious and ready for battle, summons a celestial owl that pummels the troll square in the nuts. Nice. That could have been the 3rd way to defeat a troll, I thought. Brotrillisk fires a javelin into the trolls eye, blinding him and finishes him off with one last fire breath.

When all was thought to be finished we were ambushed by another troll! This time a two-headed beast who’s smell stretched for miles. Our party had sustained multiple near-death attacks, but we managed to vanquish the enormous beast.

As we regain composure, we ventured onward, to the north, to find the holy city of Aelford and the man who Kirin believes can help cure our long lost friend…

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Of Gems and Granduer

Before heading up the stairs, a last look around revealed a shimmering darkness that fell away from the stone walls. I had never seen this kind of magic, it was as if Rasp had an open portal and it closed when he died. Finally, in the next room, we collected our wits and exchanged our loot. I helped Sadron into his newly acquired, ill-fitting, plate armor.

After this scene of camaraderie an argument sprang forth concerning our next move. Not trusting Jericho, I proposed that we split up, leaving Garil and Mezla to watch over the Eye and the rest of us to present Rasp’s tartan to Jericho as a sign of our completed task. The delivery of the Eye would come after our audience with Kiran.

After a reminder to lock the door behind us we exit Rasp’s into the SW corner of the Fort and returned to the bar, to wait. At the Cloak and Dagger to find a busy scene but are fortunate to be flagged to an open table by Tarn.

Son rejoined his boisterous group of sailors but not before I cautioned him to keep this hush. “I couldn’t have gotten this far without knowing when to keep my mouth shut.” Brotrolisk left the group with an apathetic huff and headed to the cellar.

Back at Rasp’s, Mezla kept watch between cartwheels and seeking inspiration for the words to properly commemorate the battle the pile of bodies in the corner had given their lives for. Garil was content to drink deeply of his ale and deeper still of the Eye.

Jericho’s men arrived at the bar and informed the group that he was not interested in our contingency plan and would see us all in the morning WITH the gem. Sadron and Glim retrieved Mezla and Garil from Rasp’s and I informed Son of the meeting. Upon retiring to the cellar I found a note from Brotrolisk, he had grown tired of this place and people and would find us in a few days time. I hoped this wouldn’t affect our deal with Jericho.

With the day drawing to a close Mezla and Garil decide to grab some grub as the remaining party set out for the shops. On our way Garil summons a raven, a large bird for such a small creature, and it informs him of its scouting. First stop, the armory, where Sadron sent his plate mail to be fitted and I sold the leather armor he had given me (Which was also his only other clothing). Next was Aglid’s where we met up with the two diners. Mezla exchanged some acid flasks and Garil commissioned some embroidery, why the need for such frivolity escapes me. With the shopping done we retire to our basement dwelling for the night.

In the morning we rise and head up for breakfast. Thiles is the lone person in the bar and he beckons us to the large Center table in the middle of the room. Mezla asks for for the Stannick breakfast drink and performs it heartily. Thiles recalls his adventuring with Stanick but has no idea of Keeran…he rescinded the breakfast tab on account of nostalgia. As we dine the teethling enters with 30 men and surrounds us, informs us that we will be hooded and lead to the meet with Jericho. As we are lined up, the men take a moment to look over Son, he is assaulted and separated from us.

We are lead once again through the catacombs of the prison fortress, moving deeper into the ground. We are lead through a large door into an expanse of a room where we are brought in front of Jericho. Son is not with us.

Jericho asks of our endeavour and Mezla recounts his poem to the delight of the Prison King. After demanding the Eye, Garil hands it over. As Jericho places the treasure on its pedestal he then asks for the warrant for Rasp’s death. We cannot produce one as a didn’t know we needed one and as we argued for self defense we are all rendered unconscious by the guards.

We awake in what appears to be stone prison cells, Mezla and Sadron in one and the rest of us in another. Sadron proceeds to use this as an opportunity to pray. The rest of us lament at the situation when we discover another prisoner. She seems overly calm about the situation and when pressed divulges she is familiar with Jericho. As we regale her of the unfortunate events that lead us to these cells she perks up at the name Stannick, at which point I’m convinced and discover we are in the presence of Keeran. She explains her situation and that the cells are impossible to escape from; even through arcane means.

A guard shows up and drags out Mezla and Sadron for what he called “games”. Keeran advises to play along for the betterment of all. Our compatriots are brought up to a room, fairly empty except for a desk along the far wall which is in front of a placard with a hook. Sadron and Mezla are kicked into the center of the room, surrounded, and told to fight. Ever the crowd pleaser, Mezla cocked back and punched Sadron square in the face. They proceed to scuffle, only for a moment as Sadron quickly deals a knockout blow and the two combatants are dragged back to the cells. After a brief recap from Sadron, the rest of the party joins Mezla in slumber.

The time drags on, becoming intolerable. What seemed like days, but we’re only hours passed by when the teethling emerges to ladle porridge into our hands. As we eat like dogs the teethling informs us of a key that will unlock the cells and Sadron tells of the placard where it may hang. A glimmer of a plan, of hope, emerges.

More time passed, at a snail’s pace, before 10 guards show up and storm my cell. They pin me to the wall and drag out Garil and Glim, kicking me in the jewels before heading up the “the arena”. This time the two combatants observe a guard handing the warden a key, which he hangs on the hook on the placard. Being the dwarf of action as he is, Garil makes a swift move for the key and is thoroughly beaten by the mob of guards. They are thrown back into the cells and I catch a faint sound of screams from deeper in the cells. Dread befalls the group.

After some time, and for lack of anything better to do, the party schemed for a way to get the key from the warden. It came down to myself and Keeran. We caused a cruffufle so as to gain the guards attention. We were bound and led to up to the arena. Knowing the drill by now Keeran got the fight started early and with a flourish so the warden forgot to place the key on his neck from the hook. As we grappled and played to the guards emotion I advised Keeran to throw me to the wall with the placard. She succeeded, thoroughly enough to give me enough time to throw the desk chair back at her, splintering it in a glorious distraction giving me time to grab and secure the key. After some more fighting I concede defeat and we are escorted down to the cells. Just before they are about to use the key we knock out the guards, well Keeran mostly, and we use the key to free the rest of the party.

Being free of the cells was a brief relief but we still knew there was much left to do. I grabbed a dagger of one of the guards and we proceeded to move to the arena. We come across a chest, before unbeknownst, and are overjoyed to find our confiscated gear. Everything seemed to be in order, except some lighter purses. We suit up and continue to the southern door.

We enter a room and discover the warden and six guards looking over a severely beaten and tortured Son. After a spirited battle we slay the enemy and quickly untie Son. As I dress Son’s wounds and Sadron clothes him, our comrades loot the bodies and Keeran opens the chest on the room finding a map. Ever the scholar, Glim takes the map and we head to the next room where we find a hoard of treasure!

After filling up on gold and loot we continue up the stairs, past a tapestry and into Jericho’s throne room. Moving faster than I have ever seen anything move, Keeran was upon Jericho and was ruthless in his slaying. There wasn’t much time to rejoice as the teethling arrived and told us that we had done a great service for the church retrieving the Eye of the Basilisk and that his name was Rin. He advised us to head north to the Holy City of Aelford where we could find answers at the Temple of Pelor.

Rin makes his escape and we follow close behind. We come up in the center of the city, where the tribulations of below had yet to surface. We acted quickly, retrieving our things from the shops and head to the gate. Thankfully the guards were also oblivious to the commotion and were easily bribed for some horses.

And we were on to Aelford…

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