The Awakening

Trials and Coronations

Entry 241

The tournament is over – thank Garl. I did a little wagering to pass the time, but otherwise found myself twiddling my thumbs. And I had other things on my mind. Trumpets and other fanfare announce the official end, and heralds announced that the winners will receive their awards soon, at the watchtower. So we move with the river of people towards the watchtower and eventually find ourselves at the edge of a rowdy throng of people surrounding the tower.

We are standing around somewhat awkwardly. It feels like everyone is so distant, yet we are all standing shoulder to shoulder. Strange. I will research this phenomena when I have the opportunity.

While we wait, I begin to think of my meeting tonight with Rhuman. Why exactly am I in charge of this? Why do we even have this horrible drug? I am an arcane scholar, researcher and wizard. I have no desire to “push” any drugs and ESPECIALLY no desire to get involved in any coups. There are more important things that warrant my time.

Oh – what was that? I think they announced the winners, and I wasn’t really paying attention. Thrash tells me he overheard two of the generals discussing a plan of some kind. I instruct Muninn to follow them to see where they go. Some of my compatriots talk with people in the crowd, but my mind is turned to my meeting.

We return to our rooms at the keep, and I attempt what Leo’nel calls “cutting” the menace, so as to lower the potency slightly but increase our quantity. And we’d sell it at the same price! Fascinating. I was able to generate an extra 20%! He’s upset that I don’t know more, well maybe he should just take the lead!

We clean ourselves up and get prepared for the feast this evening. Safeir relieves himself and stinks up the whole place.. Lovely.

We arrive at the feast hall, and it is filled with all kinds of delicious food. Boar, quail, onion stew, BISCUITS. I haven’t had a good biscuit in awhile. I grab a goblet of mead off the try of an attendant, and I savor it’s sweet deliciousness. There are many performances, one being a familiar face. I believe it was Tusk. He’s the one that gave us that cursed deck, and destroyed my spellbook. He recites a limerick.

During all of this I noticed that many people are giving gifts to the newly anointed king. I can’t believe I am going to be supplying a coup against him – he seems like he could be such a benevolent ruler. I still don’t know how this will all sort itself out, but with a strong feeling of guilt, I approach his table. I take out my merciful silver dagger, from the horde of a dragon, and offer it to him. I tell him that I hope it guides his decisions, and he is quite honored. Let’s hope he remembers that later.

Next up it is our turn to perform. We do the hokey pokey, and the people know truly that that’s what it’s all about.

After returning to our chambers, we discuss at length the upcoming meeting with Rhuman and how to handle it. We take a little sample of the Menace with us, and Leo’nel and I head out. We meet at some tavern – only Rhuman is inside. He doesn’t like that I brought someone else, but I explain to him that Leo’nel is my compatriot and any deal I do, he will be there. We discuss, back and forth, how this is going to go down. Rhuman wants us to follow to a second location – my mother always said to NEVER follow a druid to a second location, I’m sure that applies here. We decline. Then Rhuman says something very cryptic about meeting with the other generals. Was this all a test? Have we been double crossed?

Find out next time…

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In Pursuit of Titles
THE STORY YOUVE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR

Its always nice to have your reputation precede you yes?

Thats how I came to awake in the western tower of the Palace of Reca, which seriously needs a better name.

After being helpfully rescued from the well-fought, valiant sleep just wrested back from the blasted six bell toll, Mezla emerges from his chamber with fresh eyes for the first time in days. His floor on the tower is the perfect place to house a company sized unit; the sparse individual rooms surround a central den of thick carpet and simple tapestry. The furniture is equally functional, a sturdy wooden construction that belies formal, irregular use. There is a hearth on the wall a few doors to my left. Of singular note is the broad table commanding the room.

Sitting not at the table but various chairs throughout the room is Sadron, the alleged Merrymaker, struggling to climb into his carapace. Glim is near the hearth, enthralled in some wizardly doing. Shortly, a knock at the door and a muffled voice rouses him to greet a young servant looking boy who chides him in only possible way a young servant boy can. ‘You Rang’ he says with a slight bow, drawing out the vowel sounds and lowering his voice for dramatic effect. Glim, rather fashionably, requests coffee with the exactly appropriate level of respect for said serving boy while Leo’nel, now that I’m awake apparently feels comfortable quietly brooding at the hearth. Again, an appropriate and fashionable choice, being in a castle. Sadron on the other hand, requests a half dozen eggs in beers and has the nerve to toss a copper at the kid! He quickly and politely rushes the coin to the nearest flat surface, stammering something about guests of the king as he hustles off, presumably to the kitchen.

Looking around the room as I help Sadron clamp into his armor, it does not yet occur to me what is about to happen. The coronation of a king can be the perfect opportunity to catapult your level of fame, as a general rule. Anything you do at the inauguration can be repaid hundredfold. No favor cannot be granted! And I am going to be the one to perform! Me, Sadron the Merrymaker and my merry band of knights! The spread of his name galls me, but one must give the people what they want. I have far more regal titles anyway, but thats for later.

A squawk announces Munnin, Glim’s velvet voiced raven, swooping into the room. Glim asks whats going on, and Munnin gives, for a bird, what I think is a rather flippant shrug and explains that the bells come from the square where basically everyone is headed, probably for the obvious coronation today. Like I said, a rather flippant bird. Right on cue the serving boy enters with some wenches who carry ham and biscuits in addition to a stack of eggs and ale to accompany the fancy coffee. The biscuits look especially delectable, hearty oats accompanying the coarse wheat and cooked in some hip new way (I think it involves boiling dough).

Safeir, who can be seen through the open door staring out his window joins us at the smell of breakfast and a delicious egg drink. The door to Brotrillisk’s room remains poignantly closed, snoring resonating from the other side. After my own drink, I banged his wooden mug on the door until he relieved me of it, promising to drink the entire time. Eventually he opened the door and took the mug with what could almost be thought of as an imperceptible nod; high praise in dragon culture I’m sure. Glim is explaining the results of his, rather our, botched drug meeting the previous night and its new variation today, at midnight after the coronation.

Luckily we tested the drug successfully last night, however Glim failed to arrange a price or a delivery, but details, details. Garil has been notably silent, even for his normally stoic self. One might assume he was nervous about being in a joust, having just seen a horse for the first time the other day and barely coming up to its knees, but I know thats ridiculous. I can’t be the only one who was disturbed by what happened when those ladies exploded. Although maybe I’m helping the Dwarven overthrow of the land, I never thought of that before. He did call himself Moradin’s Chosen at court the other day. Thrash is there too, but he’s busy staring longingly out the arrow slits called windows when nobodys attacking. I like our chances, all told. Based in this room we could fight our way out of the tower, room by room, and then take the palace, and eventually the world. But thats a lot of war, so I hope he doesn’t see it coming.

After some time the Retainer for the Prince, whos title, now that I think of it, comes in question the moment the Prince becomes King, barges into the tower and announces himself with a croak. He reminds us, rather repeatedly, to be respectful and address “Your Highness” appropriately and not to make any mistakes. It’s too early in the day for the future king’s retainer to be this disheveled, but thats life under the man. He outlined the schedule; the day begins with the maneuver presentation on the parade ground, and shortly he might add, and then the tournament begins, ending with the tilting. With a final reminder to be polite and not besmirch people, he is sure we will be ready for the production of Sadron the Merrymaker at the feast following the games, and hustles out of the room. Sadron runs out to ask when and where the coronation starts and the valet, again birdlike (read, flippant) only suggests that it is very soon, and to follow the crowd.

There’s really no trick to looking important. Just look around to see which way everybody is headed, then push your way to the head of that crowd by being faster and obviously superior to everyone else, but restrained enough to convey a regal attitude of nonchalance. It worked as the Heros Ten, give or take, took their rightful place just on the edge of an ornate, but hastily assembled stage. I’m sure each member had their own individual thoughts, but I was busy thinking how sweet it would be to get our appropriate recognition.

The stage is crowded with familiar faces, and some new nobles I’d never seen. They all have names, Haskavir, Eve, Brolder, Hal, Rumen, Helni the Fine. Obviously they’re the commanders of the battalions that will face off after this ceremony! Any recognition is blasted away by trumpets announcing the approach of Prince William Covenwood, black of hair. Hes wearing full armor (what am I, a blacksmith?) and his sword on a strange harnass which is clearly a baldrick of exquisite quality. The exotic red wood is ornate and carved and full of gold filigree. Its definitely magic.

We get the slightest of nods as he takes the stage and kneels before one of our new friends, who administers the annointion (totally a word) with gusto. I wonder if he even tried to hide the smirk as he administered the blows. Must be nice to get the last good slap on the future overlord. Long Live the King rings out from the town, right on cue as William stands, jibing with Rumen. His first decree: “Let the Games begin!” Glim shoots sparkles in the air as a cheer goes up and the onlookers all move toward the parade grounds. Parade grounds is just a fancy name for the killing field outside of a fortress that is flattened by all the brutal, last stand battles that have ever happened in the fortresses lifetime, but nobody seems concerned about that as the wine flows freely. I generously donated my silver for the nearest cup, so I could be the first to drink to the new king, before finding a cup-monger giving out better wooden cups, but value and the beholder and all made my wine sweeter.

From our vantage its clear that the mock battle is really more of a unit-pride display. The combat is more skilful than intense, the exercises are a display of tactics and competence. Rumen’s unit is clearly well trained, amplified by his micromanagement, deftly attenuating the progress of his attacks on frenimies who know your focus is the flanking attack. Eve looks great in the saddle, and commands her forces serenely. Someone mentions that Haskovir leads his forces very personally, like the phantasms hes so into, which sounds interesting. Glim asks the nice old lady about Rumen. She explains that Eve is her favorite champion and that Rumen has it out for the king, being his half brother. Thats totally news to me! Elsewhere, the king is making his knowledge of battle tactics known with his critique of the various developments. Tusk the bard and his human wife are spotted in the crowd and we celebrate.

I take this time between events to speak with the new king. He allows me to enter the duels with the specific honor of kings champion, and I totally forget that last time this happened we had to kill a pretty honorable guy. But, thats kings. Brotrillisk also gets sponsored, but he’s only allowed to swing a big wooden plank. At the end of the drills the king stands and pronounces Rumen the winner and raises him as champion. With that, the tournament is begun!

The jousting, which the locals call the tilt, or list, takes place at the same time as the duels, making for a rambunctious spectacle, especially if you get concussed with a wood plank. My first foe was naturally unmemorable; swept aside with such ease and grace that women tossed roses onto the dueling ground for me. Then Brotrillisk the Burner was up with his hickory stick, which was delivered impressively by a squire. He proceeds to beat the old elf opponent into the ground, which, while impressive, was quite savage and lacked, in my ever so humble opinion, class. But thats animals.

Anyway, our fight was next. Brotrillisk, keeper of the board and Mezla Mezla the storyteller. I remember the cheering from the crowd as my name was announced before Bro starts hitting me with the board. Never too smart to cash in on a rigged fight, he decides we’ll have to do this the old fashioned way, so we had a go at it. Cost me a sword, but I reign victorious. That guy is a fighting maniac; I didn’t think you could actually break a sword in half. Even just as the match was over and I offered a hand he tried to throw me out of the ring, then falls down laughing. Gotta be careful around those bloodlust types.

After the king comes in and declares Brotrillisk Bladebreaker, Keeper of the Board (a pretty fucking sweet title I might add) and myself Mezla Mezla the Just, which is obviously true, but not very exciting for a title, Brotrillisk draws from the deck of many things. Like me, he draws strength, which goes to the mind and not the body. He chose jester and took the safe route and was punished with the last card being some demon thing that lobotomized the guy a little.

At this point we run towards the lists to watch Garil tilt, which is hilarious. Dwarves are not generally big horsemen, but his Feud reputation precedes him, so people give appreciative laughs instead of comedic laughs. Another dwarf woman takes bets, assuring she’s got no confidence in her fellow dwarf. We hype for him as he faces the challenger, some Tinkerwood jackass. As they clash Garil’s lance glances off the shield of his opponent and strikes him in the faceplate, a perfect unhorsing hit. Unfortunately, Garil is also struck in the chest, but remains mounted. Brogga the dwarf pays out with a laugh and collects from Leo’nel.

Next up is my last fight. The whole thing was a blur, and I blame the plankman. I almost missed it watching Garil ride a horse, then I got on the field only to remember my sword was literally broken in half! Even more unfortunately, my opponent was way more classy than I and took the opportunity to educate me on the protocols of dueling with the flat side of his blade. One moment we’re facing off, I’m no doubt about to trip this guy up and win handily, and the next im smelling my way awake enjoying the cumulonimbus clouds and sunshine. A familiar looking human lifts me off the ground and gives me the bad news. On the other hand, it appears Sadron is fighting in the joust, magically disguised as Garil, which I fully approve of.

Which brings us to right now! There are more rounds of jousting for our faithful dwarf, and dragonman might have to fight with his stick again, but I’ve had a lot to drink at this point and, well, its a party!

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Naruto Run
Arriving in Reca

We safely traverse the Forest of Shadows. As we get close to the coast, a black sea can be seen under white foam. The road begins to widen upon entering the kingdom of Reca.

Approaching the western gate, we pass apiaries and granaries in the fields outside the great stone castle.

Garil asks a man about the coronation events; receiving only snide comments in return. He asks to play games – these are managed by Collins… the same dude that paid me to come here and for whom we are looking.

The snide bastard is Gilderoy. His attitude toward us took a 180 when he found we are seeking court. He’s a half elf with short golden hair and blue eyes.

Gilderoy says him and the others who are not in the court are staying at King’s something, in the middle of the square. He swiftly rides off on his horse, with obvious skill.

The crew continues toward the castle; seeking Collins and hoping for a place to stay. There are seedy places down south, near the warf. Guards stop us along the way – surprised that I, Sadron, do not fit the description they have heard.

I tell them I hide behind my armor – the one who fits the description is a silly, garbage elf who is more spry for the show which I conduct.

We advance to the base of the stairs. Gilliam is rattled. Our wagon and horses will be in the stables north of the palace grounds. Thrash is very concerned about the care and discretion of the wagon, so I tell the assistant man that I am very sensitive to the care of my darling Sunsparkle.

A woman named Helen asks us for our titles for announcement to the court.

I tell her I am Sadron the Merrymaker, with my band. The others provide their titles, and we introduce Mezla Mezla last, for fun.

We are led up stairs and into a large hall unempressive throne at the end of a long row of knight and nobility portraits.

The man on the throne is tall; adorned in scale mail with a vibrant red cape (complete with wolf skull and tail along the shoulders). This is Prince William; soon-to-be king; hand hanging on the hilt of his sword as he leans on his throne, petting a red, long-haired, hunting dog.

We all bow together, then individually as we are announced.

William immediately asks why the most important (me) was announced first. We awkwardly attempt to excuse the blunder by claiming we put our best foot first.

William is excited to have us and to hear stories directly from Garil the Champion of the Feud.

Garil refers to him as His Tallness.

The king-to-be is disappointed to not see Garil’s name in the lists – he loves the tilt. Garil says he will compete in either competition.

“Why not both?!”. “Sure…”

Typically people don’t get that hurt, and not that many die.

I tell William that we arrived late and found no suitable place to reside. We are the main entertainment, and are thusly given the west wing of the palace for the duration of our stay. Wow

William hates the name ‘Palace of Reca’. If I, Master of Words, can think of a better name, we will let him know. We are shooed away and follow Collins to our rooms.

Thrash asks Collins for a sorcerer. Collins tells us that guilds aren’t typical in the kingdom – there is no religion present in this area. Public worship has been outlawed. Religious dealings could lead to the death penalty. Allolis is the nearest city where we are likely to find guilds.

Gill will stay in the stables with the wagon and our horses.

At the end of a hallway, the door opens into a larger hall with separate rooms with beds for each of us. Dinner is to be held in the grand dining hall, and we are invited.

The coronation will be midday tomorrow, followed by games on the royal parade grounds. Commoners are allowed here for the event. The military will also have a parade.

We plan to go to King’s Pub until dinner. We Gill to work on trying to pedal drugs through the stable, so we stop by to talk to him first. The stone stables are huge, and a luxury to the kid – Gill seems very excited for his stay and accommodations.

He thinks everyone around is like Gilderoy and unkind. We ask him to still gather information on potential leads for menace.

Thrash takes a vial with him, and so does Glim. Before departing, Garil asks Gilliam which horse is best for tilting. Gill has never heard of a dwarf tilting and wants to see how he looks on a warhorse. Garil will need to squeeze very hard, but a suitable horse may be able to be provided. Gill describes basic points to him – three charges; first connection is a point.

We go to King’s Pub. The sign out front is a shield placard with a 3-pointed crown. People inside are talking about the owner Graffek. I stay at the bar and get no attention.

Thrash calls for barmaids carrying mugs on the floor; asks for ales all around. Comes to 4 copper/ale, and Thrash provides a gold coin for 8 ales “with haste…for SADRON”. There is a bit of a hush, and some looks… not much of a reaction.

Garil asks a random guy if he’s riding. Rosey cheeks; he’s drunk, but also competing in both games.

Glim changes his disposition and tries to sell drugs – he sits with a well-dressed man.

I’m taking the place in as Thrash talks to some women and gets them drinks. I hear shouting from those same women a few minutes later. Without looking back, I turn for the door and sprint out of the establishment. The others emerge in the riot and we all bail toward the palace.

Some gate guards ask what happened. I tell him I have no idea but got away when I heard a commotion – he totally buys it.

Actually, Thrash had dosed those women with menace. It did not go well. What is this shit?

Glim uses some magic to clean our clothes for dinner. Collins collects us – our stories and travels are all the entertainment expected of us for the evening.

We are taken to a HUGE feast table. I am directed to the seat on the right of His Highness; at the head of the table. A horn blows, and the prince walks in.

It’s a multiple-course feast of fowl, fish and exotic dishes from the edges of their realm.

Thrash is sitting by Haslaavir Saldani, a general with a short sword. Garil is by Eve Harkethin – an orc woman with a long sword and a throwing axe. Glim is beside a dwarf ranger, General Rheuben, who looks like a confident pessimist.

The prince tells me that he fears the Generals plot against him. This is the most peaceful period in their history; providing schools and sanitation. They don’t need perpetual war. I tell him I hope we will bring the people together through our entertainment.

He does need allies if he is deposed. A king isn’t always a tyrant.

If there is one thing I can assure him, it is that we will give the people cause for distraction. I tell the prince a story of dragons. The story is real enough that it could be true, but fanciful enough to not be possible. The mostly true story of our recent dragon encounter

All of our non-cohorts believe everything. Even our cohorts were into the telling.

A tear comes to the prince’s eye. He couldn’t believe how beautiful of a story that was. Before parting for bed, he proposes one last cheers for the coronation on the morrow.

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Bere or Bust
Good Thing Sadron Didn't Find This Place Sooner

Alright, when we get to this coronation we’re going to have to have our story straight.
You know, to make our heavily armed selves less suspicious. At least the vampire body will disguise our potions, but we’ll need a Raison D’etre to enter. (heh)
People will want to know where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing and all that.
Why so much swords? Why such a large troupe? Where are your banners? Etc. etc. etc.
I say we tell the mostly the truth, because it’s easy to remember, and it’s even true, after all we really are a performing dance troupe versed in the Holka of Polka and other entertaining dances like the Electric Slide and the aptly named Hustle.
Nobody needs to know about the vampire killing or the Menis, unless we judge they look like they should know, and then they’ll get to know.

But to the Rubes in the tavern, after a few drinks, we can tell them the real story. The story of how I, Mezla Mezla of far off Yonderland came to meet the dragon IDISSE, in the nearby temple to St. Cuthbert in the ruined city of Bere.

It was a calm night camping, me and my fellows here, some hours outside of the ancient city when we heard and erie call. A ghostly woman’s disembodied voice wafting on the wind sounding like a sweet angel, calling, promising, enticing us.
Pulled us right out of our sleep and on towards the ruins, where we wandered around aimlessly, hoping for another gust of the voice to lead the way.
The entrance we found was blocked by a boulder and a massive pillar (I forgot to spot whether it was Doric or Ionic) which had been pushed so as to keep either from being dislodged by anything but the strongest of titans. Fortunate for us that some pathfinder discovered the glorious rope back in ancient times!
It was put to good use by our stout Dwarf and Actual Confirmed Dragonblooded Dragonman in unlocking the entrance to, what turns out to be quite a large temple that used to contain a giant statue of a god.

So there we were, spelunking around in this cavern. It was large and vast and blahblahblah. There’s nothing in there, but in the darkness you can hear the sweet, terrible call again.
So we went deeper. And eventually the rough hewn floor became a proper floor, cobbled with stones that fit together and filled with mortar. The hall was very long; it seemed endless. I kept walking and walking and walking, plodding along to the sound of the sweet music. The voices had such harmony, and the percussion! I didn’t know a voice could make a sound like that until I snapped alert like a splash of water slapped me in the face and found myself on the edge of a steep chasm; a very spear filled tiger trap, right in the middle of this hall!
Looking around I could see that Sadron the Entertainer had snapped out of the trance just as I had, on the edge of the precipice. Our dimmer friends were less fortunate, and I assume they became aware either just before or slightly after that last step gave way to nothing, and they pitched into the spikes.
It was rather impressive, on reflection, that nobody was impaled even more, and I will admit that the bootlicker’s God’s food is helpfully fortifying. Maybe that’s what gave Brotrillisk the strength to leap from straight off the spike through his leg right up to the other ledge, where Sadron could smoothly hoist him up (had he been stronger, cough). Either way, focus on the heroicness.

Anway, suddenly the air is full of smelly Harpies, wings flapping, titties flopping everywhere; claws and swinging clubs and screeching. To preserve the boys in the pit I throw my brave self at one of the creatures while Sadron is slicing into the other. Our magicians unleash their various magics while we engage the Harpies tip to tip while our impaled friends extract themselves. Garil’s powerful legs even eventually carried him to the battle in time to land a smashing blow which must have been satisfying because he worked very hard to get there. (Olive Juice Garil, remember that at least Gnomes are so short that when it rains they’re the last to know!)

Harpies entrails rearranged (get it?) we moved on with fatter pockets and that cursed call out of our minds. But now the place was starting to look grand. The hall became more regularly tiled with stone, each carefully formed and fit together without mortar. Our tiny friend shrouded us in invisibility to enter the next room, lead by my brave self and our shield-happy dwarf.
Inside were more Femoid Monsters. Terrible hags, but with squiggly heads of hair that could only belong to the Medusa (thanks Glim!). Bursting from our cloaking sphere we made short work of the demons and found their chamber to diverge. One path continued down into darkness, while the other was cut flat and level too the floor.

Being the exploratory type, Garil and Myself continued to descend, with Safier following up for good measure. The floor is strewn with the bodies of explorers and adventurers, one even carrying a familiar looking note from our own Bieda, instructing to seek this place.
(Now guys, don’t tell the Rubes this, but I think Bieda might be working with this Nilos guy; feeding him victims like Willam tried to make of us)
There is a figure in the distance, and given the bodies it must be up to no good so Garil and I charge it with all our might. As we close the distance it turns its twisted visage to Garil, who briefly locks eyes and feels death, but stoutly moves on, shaking off the cold as his hammer swings mightily, whiffing not once or twice, but each of three mighty swings.
We recognize them to be Bodak, the undead remnant of a humanoid who has been destroyed by the touch of absolute evil. It screams at us to get out, or maybe it needs to get out. We do the chore of freeing these creatures from their Chasmly bonds, and standing over the bodies Safier dangles his testicles daringly into one snarling mouth and asks about a pot of tea.

Our more magically inclined crew explored the depths of the previous chamber, the one not covered with the bodies of unfortunate adventurers. The only treasure they find is the thrill of combat, blasting more Bodaks and Wraiths from the field. I’m sure it was glorious, but you’d have to ask one of them who was the most heroic.
Eventually we reunited down the tunnel, wading through the corpses. It dawned on me (or someone anyway) that there must be an additional entrance to this tomb. I have a hard time believing that pillar we moved had been replaced recently. Some of the bodies laying around were still fresh, and there was Bieda’s note to consider.

Finally we reach the bottom chamber, and this place is Grand. Fully architecturally designed, finely and acutely constructed, the mausoleum is empty save a massive, intricately armored stone statue. The likeness is so detailed it seems the figure’s gaze can be felt through the ages it’s been standing there, cudgel casually ready to be brought down on any defilers. Sadron consecrates the ground, and Garil is made strong like bull through the even smaller Glim’s magic.
It’s clear that this is a likeness of St. Cuthbert himself, the man who succeeded in achieving Godhood through his dedication to Law. I shivered thinking of Nilos, who aspires similarly, but without the commitment to, well, anything as far as I can tell. Behind the statue is a ornately gilded and carved stone pair of doors with iron ring-pulls.

Naturally I go for the door (because seriously who just starts smashing statues; we’re not vandals), and you can guess what happens when I grasp the ring. The door doesn’t move, even the ring seems locked in place, like its rusted where it hangs. Maybe rusted isn’t the right idea though, because just as the door remains frozen there is a deep grinding as the statue of St. Cuthbert straightens on its platform and turns to look my way.

Safir, to his credit, says hello to the statue and tries to make friends. It turns its gaze from me back to him and seems to acknowledge his presence, but in the way you acknowledge a stray dog at the market by not kicking it, as long as it keeps far enough away. Unfortunately we are NOT far enough away and the statue raises its club to smash Brotrillisk, whos great slash glances harmlessly off the stone thighs. Glim thinks quickly and greases the area around the statue, which falls over colossally. With my prompting, Sadron’s god knocks open the door behind the statue and brilliant light pours from the small crack of the opening of the door.
While the statue struggles to stand Garil pounds it with his hammer, occasionally breaking boulder sized chunks off the figure. Leo’nel’s acid magic seems to have no effect, as does Sadron’s spellcasting. Brotrillisk bounces another slash off the figure and Leo’nel narrowly avoids impaling himself with his own crossbow bolt while I heave the door open only to be blinded by the bright shimmering light from within.
Garil hammers away while the statue stands, greased and encased in Glim’s sticky white web. It’s cudgel falls to Brotrillisk, who is smashed to the ground but survives. Seeing this, Thrash valiantly runs around the statue and bolts into the door I just worked so hard to open!
He finds himself in a second beautifully crafted room centered on a deep, serene pool. The room shimmers as if the light itself comes from the ripples on the pool, but on inspection can be found to come from the hoard of treasures and riches within the pool itself. They are stacked so high that a natural island forms in the center, made entirely of riches.
And on the island in the center is a beautiful humanoid being, as serene and as naked as the surface of the water itself. She begins to approach the edge of treasure island calmly when Brotrillisk and Glim both rush into the room behind Thrash and I.

On further inspection it is clear that the light is not exclusively from the treasure in the room but also torches surrounding the pool. Feeling guilty that almost nobody was left battling the statue I attempted to boost Garil’s spirits by letting him know the scope of the hoard and that I could surely talk this maiden into allowing us to partake of some in exchange for everyone walking away intact. It seems to work, because Garil finally figures out how to hit a giant statue with a hammer, breaking off further chunks of the living stone. It falls again as it stands, and Thrash calls to the maiden to call off her guardian.
Can someone be impressed and nonplussed at the same time? She seems to be both, implying that she didn’t even know it was possible to open the door without defeating the golem.
Brotrillisk astutely notices this woman is not human and asks her (in Draconic, which I am fluent in) where she is from. To which she replied that she has always been here but took this form especially for us (which I appreciate). Leo’nel enters the room as well, noting that the treasure trove is filled with magical items.
Garil finally gets some assistance when Glim enlarges him to nearly equal the statue as I try to convince the maiden that we don’t need to destroy the statue to claim some of the treasure. She explains that only the combat is worthy, and even success will result in none of her hoard.

Outside, Sadron smashes at the statue with his mace, doing considerable damage before striking his own foot while the statue writhes on the ground ensnared and engreased. Garil rains down giant hammer blows and smashes the face of the statue to smithereens, obliterating the head and causing the entire statue to explode into dust. The heavy doors burst open, and the figure on the island says oh, now that we have completed the task we can talk. I ask about the treasure again, but she explains that Garil is the one who defeated the statue, and he will be the one rewarded as she approaches him.
Brotrillisk speaks again in Draconic, and she replies that ‘we are of her’ which makes sense in his dragonblooded case, but less so in mine. To Garil she extended her hand and introduces herself as IDISSE daughter of TYRREDIE and walks back to her island where she jumps into the pool in a flash of bronze. For the slightest moment we glimpse her true form, a long bronze dragon slipping into the water, to return a moment later back on the island, back in naked form holding a fine cloth presented to Garil. Leo’nel flicks a copper into the pool and she regards him balefully, although I think the gesture was understood since we weren’t summarily exsanguinated on the spot.
Still holding the cloth, Glim asks about his silver dagger, which formerly belonged to a similar dragon’s horde. Vaguely perturbed by the interruption she explains that she is young on their scale and does not know the particulars of Glim’s story, but perhaps it is of her father’s era.
Eventually she is able to present Garil with the Tabbard of the Great Crusade; a relic of considerable power provided the wearer’s alignment is sufficiently lawful. It will certainly help us on our quest, however she could not illuminate any further on Nilos other than the familiarity of the name. She is both quite young, and quite old after all.

Curiosity satisfied on both ends IDISSE reveals her true form once more and blows mightily (gigity) causing the water in the pool to rise. The water fills the chamber and we are funneled through a small hole in the ceiling, hoisted by the rising tide to the surface, where we can easily step out of a well. Noone need know Garil himself fell on his face for a dismount. From the well we can see Gil and the wagons and horses a short distance away and, Glim still yammering about the amazing chance to comport with a dragon, we reunite with our charges and our goods to formulate a plan for the upcoming coronation and what to do with our relic. (for the record, giving it away is the WORST option!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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