The ancient Poets animated all sensible objects with Gods or Geniuses, calling them by the names and adorning them with the properties of woods, rivers, mountains, lakes, cities, nations, and whatever their enlarged and numerous senses could perceive. And particularly they studied the genius of each city and county, placing it under its mental deity. Till a system was formed, which some took advantage of and enslaved the vulgar by attempting to realize or abstract the mental deities from their objects; thus began Priesthood. Choosing forms of worship from poetic tales. And at length they pronounced that the Gods had ordered such things. Thus men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast.

- William Blake “The Marriage of Heaven & Hell”
 

 
 
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CHAPTER ONE: Out of Riot's Gate
Cuthberta Eodakarday, Eomoraday & Eofreeday
Session 5

Book I,
Chapter I

D.ex.M INTRO

Frankie

You still shiver at the thought of having touched Mnemonium as she winced and tensed her massive frame. The surgeon Woden had found cut between her scales, deep inside her, guided by your best guess on how to trace, find and remove the tiny bits of shot. She had over forty pellets lodged in her hide, and many more wounds where shot had entered and exited her body.

The entire procedure was conducted in the Skybridge warehouse, while Thalazzar kept watch at the door. When all was done, and her wounds packed and stitched, she stared at you long and hard. The surgeon left nervously and quickly. Woden had departed to see to his own affairs hours before. You felt like cracking a joke to ease the tension, but you didn't. Thank the Constructor

Mnemonium spoke to you then. Her voice was sweet and melodious. Her tone, maternal and gracious. Her Naurie flawless and fluent. "A word and a token, Child of Kith, to express my gratitude and make plain my support of any endeavour undertaken to frustrate the One. I know what you've agreed to do for Woden, and it is well. From what I know, mortals judge his apprentice noble and kind. Know, however, the Masked Wizard serves only himself. Exercise caution in your dealings with him." She produced two small trinkets in her great clawed hand to give to you, though you have no idea where they came from, "For you, and the Dwarf. They may help you to avoid attracting the attention of the Servants of the One while you traverse their land. Do not, under any circumstances, underestimate the One. It is not as our gods."

She stretched then, with a sigh that made the rafters creak, and left the building. You and Thalazzar followed her out the door and down the street to the edge of the mountain from which she leapt effortlessly. Stretching her wings with a snap, she fell, flying North and low, in the shadows close to the treeline. And she was gone.

Thalazzar

While Frankie worked, Tallim's owl familiar, Tyconderoga, watched you with unnervingly human eyes. It would occasionally shift its weight from side to side where it was perched, but otherwise it was as still as a stone. "Follow her," Woden had said. "Great," you had thought, "You talk for an hour about politics and spend 2 seconds on instructions to find your apprentice."

According to the Skybridge clock, it was two in the morning before you and Frankie made your ways back to the Bell + Dragon. At some point, while you were in the warehouse, it had become overcast, and Seluna was only visible for her glow through the cloud cover. It must have rained because the cobblestone streets were slick and dark, like the colour of fear. The entire way back, you two hardly spoke, though not because of the animosity and mistrust that has existed between you. You were both listening carefully to the night.You occasionally heard a scream echoing down the empty streets. Glass breaking. Footfalls running. Swords clashing. Defiant shouts followed by unmistakable silence.

You arrived, finally, exhausted. Nimbus was awake, and had been keeping watch in the main hall. Frankie was too wired to sleep and agreed to take the next watch, she wanted to make some notes anyway. Nimbus returned to the barn to rest and you went to your room, and lit your pipe, though you took no pleasure in the smoke. Your mind was still racing when finally you fell into a fitful sleep. Tallim's owl perched atop your wardrobe, like an accusation.

Tiberio

You and Nimbus arrived at the Bell + Dragon hours before with Arek and Domaldi. Susan Kenna finally let you in the back door after your shouts and halloo's proved enough to convince her who you were. She and some of the other patrons had barricaded the windows and the main door.

You were severely wounded yourself, but Susan helped you to get Arek and Domaldi to bed for the rest they would need. She did not ask about Plake - which was a small boon, you suppose, because you do not know what you would have told her. As she cleaned and bound your wounds, in silence, you could plainly see the slave scars on the backs of her hands, and she paused briefly over your own. Her eyes searched yours a moment, speaking without speaking. A lifetime ago, she too had been chattle unto the River Baronies, though further down stream than you.

She finished her work competently and quietly and prepared some warm tea for you from a massive brass kettle - a recipe from her Quilombo she mumbled. You drank it and disappeared into a dreamless sleep.

Arek

Tiberio and Nimbus helped you and Domaldi back to the Bell + Dragon. Unity was hidden safely inside your robes, but you were as self conscious of the burden as you are of the overwhelming cavern of loneliness inside you. Ever since you were a child, you have felt the presence of Moradin, and now you know what it means to be truly alone. It is not simply a matter of no longer being able to channel His power - He is not there.

Wielding the great Steel Stone Maddock, meanwhile, ought to be an honour, the culmination of a lifetime of dreams, you tell yourself At least, it ought to be a comfort, but you find no pleasure in this new responsibility you bear. It was unearned, and the events that brought it to you are still too horrible to contemplate.

The streets of the city were choked with smoke and danger. Your path back to the Inn was twisted, indirect and uncertain. In the distance you could see Axes Bithtat brooding, wounded. You wanted nothing more than to rush to its defense, though you could hardly hold yourself up on your own legs. Your arrival at the Bell & Dragon was a blur of shouts and wincing pain.

In a room with Domaldi, you sleep fitfully and dream of your childhood on the mountain side above Lake Dakar, listening to lost tales of glory and Dwarven pride form Uncle Ulgar. Your chest burns with shame at what has become of your beloved Claimers but, even in your unconscious state, you begin to draw strength from your iron grip upon Unity.

Domaldi

You tell yourself you are having a nightmare. But that does little to assuage your fear.

Every one of your senses is alive. Your upper torso, right arm and shoulder are in a vice. You can hear your bones cracking. You tell yourself you should be feeling much more pain, but your nerves are making it feel like icy cold instead. The calm reason your mind has forged in countless battles tells you that the wounds must be very severe indeed.

You would shrug but, your lungs have been punctured. You know because you can hear them gurgle and wheeze when you try to breathe. More pressure.

You are wet and warm, wrapped in the smell of salt and iron, digestive juices and sulfur. Something tosses you. You fall like a rag doll across a dusty street and you drop what it was you were holding. A child, screams, and falls from your arms, and as it hits the ground as you awaken with a start…

Arek is in a bed next to you. He is awake and staring at the ceiling, but clearly lost in his own thoughts.

Nimbus

You are troubled by thoughts and worries of the Lunar Elves and the Nocturnal Temple, to say nothing of their Lunar enclave. Was it safe? How far did the magical null spread? Was Axes Bithtat the Centre? What of the great Spelljamming vessels with which the Lunar Elves plied the infinite traverse? You are meditating on these thoughts, trying to calm your mind when you realize quite suddenly that you are not alone in the barn. Someone is breathing heavily, as if he had just run, or were very anxious.

You were about to stir when the person spoke, "Have you seen them? Do you remember?" Woden? When you do see him move into the moonlight, he seems a shadow of the man you saw, earlier that evening. Diminished. Empty. A husk.

"Seen who?" you ask. Woden shivers and closes his eye, "Them. The In-Between Men." You are stupified by the reference. You have no memory of any such men.

"I didn't see it the first time I laid eyes on you," he continues, nearly oblivious to your presence, "That day that Tallim returned to gift you a coin while you begged…" he catches his breath. "But then, yesterday, when I saw you at the cable tram…" he cannot speak for a moment, and seems to catch his breath before he continues.You encourage him to calm down, and answer finally that you have no knowledge of what, or who, he is speaking. He replies, "You bare the signs of their meddling. If you do not remember, it may yet come to be that you will. They are looking for something. They are trying to understand."

"Does this have something to do with the Dream of Horrors?" you ask.

"I do not know if this (i.e. the Dream of Horrors - DM's note) involved them. If it did, what you have described is like nothing I have ever learned of their ways. You must try to remember everything you can about this event and search each moment to determine if they were involved."

When you asked, then, whether these creatures held any power over him, Woden clearly had a hard time formulating his answer. He fially replied that they held no power over Woden, speaking of himself in the third person, but the Masked Wizard added, "Before I was Woden, I too was taken."

You had many more questions, but when you asked who these so-called "In-Between Men" actually were, Woden became agitated and changed the subject. He looked out into the street. "The Dwarf is still here," he said speaking to the night, "The Unspoken are looking for us. I do not know how, but somehow they made the connection between me and Arek. They know a great deal already; I fear that someone has betrayed us to the Unspoken. I have bought you some time, but they will be here soon. I'm sure Grist will be done with his bit of fun shortly. You must get him away."

You spoke a while longer, but he always returned to the need to get Arek out of the city and away from the Unspoken as quickly as possible. After a time he returned into the shdowa with a spin of his cloak, and disappeared stealthily. Magic or not, Woden was as multi-talented as he was full of confounding mystery.

   

 

Book I,
Chapter I

THALAZZAR

The morning mist cleared as Thalazzar and his companions met to discuss their next move. They met in the room shared by Domaldi and Arek, both of whom were recovering still from the wounds suffered the evening before. It was clear that the party would leave Riot's Gate in pursuit of Tallim, but the route was not clear. Crossing Lake Dakar to the town of Goesse and the Saltwater Barrows beyond was one option although the route to the Order was more difficult to traverse and the party might have to backtrack. The gnome was set on traveling to Peppershot to deal with family matters. In an effort to break the impasse, the party divided for the morning to attend to personal issues.

Thalazzar's first objective was gear for the journey and to sell his old leather armour. Now that he had unlocked the mysteries of the magician's defensive aura, he would no longer need the encumbrance. He was happy to see that Grist returned Plake from the Dripping Blade. Of those on Thalazzar's personal list, Whitey had been slain, leaving Rizzlefikit Phil and the Big Dolphin at large. Their time would come.

Plake approached Thalazzar wanting a little "extra" for his help fencing the salvaged goods from the Ombreclair merchant vessel. This struck Thalazzar as a little odd as Plake had not previously made any indication that he had expected anything for the assistance he had given in fencing the Hankuan silk. As the wizard understood that Plake had been through a traumatic evening and his business had suffered, he had left him a 3% commission on the silk more out of sympathy than anything else.

Further, Thalazzar wanted to be rid of the Dream he had taken from the cultist's lair. He wanted little to do with it after the misunderstanding with Domaldi and thought that if Plake could move it, it would be a bonus for him. Thalazzar hid it out of reach in Frankie's room and left a note for Plake saying it and any profits he could make were all his for the taking. It was likely a large chunk of gold to gift the barkeep, but Thalazzar didn't have time to dispose of all of it himself. Plake apparently decided he couldn't dispose of it either as he returned the Dream to the party - to Domaldi of all people - along with his commission on the Hankuan silk. Apparently his near death experience had given him a change in moral leaning. If not for the humour in watching Frankie sputter about Unspoken conspiracies to frame her for Dream dealing, Thalazzar would have been more upset about the gold thrown over the rail of the tram-car. At least Tiberio had had the good sense, yet again, to keep the trust of the wizard and keep quiet.

The good news was that consensus had been reached to venture to the Saltwater Barrows. Tallim was the end-goal but the party decided that they had a duty to the Federation to unlock any mystery that might be found there. To this end they ventured to the port where Thalazzar secured passage for the party on the Lusty Wench, a trading cog crewed by dwarves. The ship seemed sea worthy enough and the dwarves were a welcome breath of normalcy compared to some of his elitist, do-gooder companions. The gods must be trying to teach him humility, thought Thalazzar, to force him to endure the rambling, patronizing nonsense of the dirty beggar.

On their second night of travel, Thalazzar awoke in surprise to see that a foul, scaled fish-creature known as a sahaugin had somehow snuck onboard. Its moist yellow belly glistened in the soft lantern light of the cargo hold as it approached the sleeping companions, a metallic trident in its clawed hand. Domaldi, completely naked save for his tattoos, was awake and valiantly fighting faster than Thalazzar could get out of his cot and grab his staff. Although he was seriously wounded, Domaldi severed the creature's head with one powerful stroke, sending the head rolling amongst the companions and spraying thick black blood in an arc across the hold's ceiling.

It was then that the companions heard the sound of distant battle and saw the moonlight glinting off the weapons of more of the creatures in the far end of the hold. A quick ranged fight ensued with bolts and tridents being flung back and forth in the confined space of the hold. Thalazzar scooped up the severed sahaugin skull and attempted to intimidate the evil creatures to no avail. His inability to use magic at that moment was incredibly frustrating. Unable to close the gap, however, the creatures withdrew to the deck to try a different approach. Thalazzar and his companions followed suit, coming on deck at the base of the Lusty Wench's forecastle.

By moonlight through the soft mist of the evening sea spray, Thalazzar observed the struggle at the far end of the ship where the mighty Arek, who had been on watch, stood alone outmatched by a pair of sahaugin. As he watched, the beggar descended from the crow's nest to join the fray. Unsure what to do with this brave but stinky, unarmed wretch, the creatures wandered away from the heroes towards the centre of the ship. The beggar seemed to strike one from behind causing it to collapse unconscious to the deck near the ship's wheel. The others advanced on the companions at the front of the ship, led by a hulking sahaugin with black stripes across its hide and a huge trident.

Arek, badly wounded but unwilling to let the battle end just yet, pursued the creatures felling one with a hefty blow from his magic hammer Unity. The force of the blow cracked the creature's spine, piercing its vitals with bits of bone and causing it to vomit black blood onto its companion before collapsing to the deck. Leaping over the corpse, Arek continued into the battle eager to exact more revenge for letting them sneak onboard unnoticed. Tiberio and Frankie continued their exchange of fire as the sahaugin crept up the deck. One of the dwarves, Waklaw Thalazzar thought, emerged from the crew quarters fighting for his life. A life that ended quickly with a powerful trident thrust from Black Stripe that pinned the unfortunate drunken dwarf to the deck.

The massive Black Stripe was the first to charge the companions. Tiberio attempted to fell it with an arrow but the creature nimbly dodged it, opened the bard's guard with the butt of his trident, spun, and drove the prongs deep into his stomach. Thalazzar, behind the bard, saw the trident emerge from Tiberio's lower back and was helpless as the man collapsed, bleeding to death (Tiberio's took a moderate critical wound to the chest - DM). Frankie backpedaled, peppering her assailant with crossbow fire to little effect. Thalazzar ascended to the forecastle, readying his staff in case Black Stripe charged. Arek and the beggar charged up the deck with the dwarf felling another sahaugin raider near the Wench's mast leaving only Black Stripe.

With all of its companions slain, Black Stripe was more cautious, fighting off the blows of three of Thalazzar's companions. Seeing an opportunity, Thalazzar bolted to the rear of the ship thinking to escape the conflict and perhaps aid any of the felled dwarves. As he ran, the remaining sahaugin abandoned the fight and dove overboard pursued only by Frankie's iron bolts. Seeing the battle won, the wizard quickly checked to see if any of the dwarves survived. They had not. Hearing his companions approach, Thalazzar quickly surveyed the captain's quarters for anything of value. Seeing little besides the maps, he turned to the fallen dwarves. As his companions joined him, it seemed that one of the dwarves - Urban - was still barely alive. Thalazzar helped tend his wounds as Domaldi used what healing magic he could muster on the dwarf. (Which was none - DM)

Thalazzar leaned against the wall of the captain's cabin as his companions fretted about the dead and dying. While it seemed likely that he would live, it would be unfortunate if Tiberio were lost. Thalazzar had enjoyed his company and song. The most immediate problem was the crewing of the Lusty Wench, as only one badly wounded dwarf remained. They were still a half-day's sail from their destination with no one knowledgeable of a seamanship and some inclement weather on the horizon. Thalazzar snorted thinking to Fagorgitto's equally deadly ambush two weeks ago. At least this time the ship had remained afloat. Dropping anchor would only leave them open to renewed sahaugin attack so all that could be done for the moment was to keep the ship on course. Thalazzar set aside the chaos and groans of the wounded, picked his way through the corpses and strode to the ship's wheel.

   

  

Book I,
Chapter I

DOMALDI

Cuthberta Eodakarday

I was barely able to stay awake during my evening prayer after returning from our Battle. Even the pain of my wounds was not enough to keep me awake long after putting my head down. Unfortunately, my dreams were plagued by images of the foul Dinosaur and even though I slept most of the morning, I did not feel refreshed. I awoke to the sound of Nimbus' voice and saw that our Band had collected for a discussion. Staring intently at all of us with an obvious sense of impatience was Tallum's owl Tyconderoga. Nimbus had spoken to Woden during the night and talked of the In-Between Men. They are able to hold some power over others. Woden said "that before he was Woden he was taken" by them. However, he was not very interested in talking about them as he was about the Unspoken. Because Arek was one of the few remaining Claimers and held Unity, they would be diligent in their search for him and by default, us too (Note: Given the speed with which the Unspoken got on the Party's trail, Woden worried that someone had betrayed his meeting with the Party to the secret agency - DM).

We resolved to pack up quickly and leave Riot's Gate to avoid their anger. Frankie was firmly fixed on going to Peppershot right away while I was certain that the next step was at the Salt Water Barrows. To rush after Tallum into the vastness of Jamhyria Theona'la would be imprudent when the Barrows and the lure of Anupkhaz is only a week away. I proposed that I would see to the Barrows and meet Frankie at Claxxon before penetrating the Wall. Arek saw it as I did that the evidence leading us to the Barrows was too great to ignore. Tiberio made an offer of his services in exchange for my later assistance in finding his family in the Order. I would have happily offered my assistance without bartering so I pledge my Assistance to his Cause as soon as practical.

We decide to tidy up our Affairs separately and quickly as Plake and Grist arrive. Grist has dispatched the Dripping Blade and they will not be bothering Plake anymore. Whitey has met his untimely demise as a result of his conclusive death. Frankie gave Grist an amazing trinket that she made resembling a tiny dragon. I agree to take a book to Plake's brother Tokket in Bellhold. His brother owns a tavern there called the Bell & Clapper.

A Journey of this kind cannot be rushed since only a little preparation is necessary to improve Success immeasurably. I go to the Temple to survey the damage, offer my assistance and collect Pelu and my equipment for the Road Ahead. I was shocked to see the damage actually wrought. "Total" is the only word I could think of. The Towers of Axes Bithat had fallen on the Temple and what was not crushed was destroyed in the fires that followed. While Pelu survived with a few burns, most of my equipment was completely destroyed. I sifted the ashes of the barracks for my Mother's Mirror and my Father's Sword and was fortunate.

I go to see Kullak to see if there is anything I can obtain to support our Journey's ahead. He tells me the losses and destruction are so bad that he is the Acting Lord Commander of the Order. I explain to him that I believe that I am bound up in a Knot of Evil that can only be untied by seeking Tallum and Anupkhaz starting in Göesse. He offers a small measure of goods to outfit Pelu from the paucity of resources he has remaining. I collect from him Dispatches for Forward Advance that I will carry as far towards my birthplaces as I can on my way to the Barrows.

I search for Bishop Jones in Morgue and the Hospital. I find him among the hundreds of casualties of the Night Before. He was cruelly burnt and near death. In his pain, he expressed his Guilt for making errors in his Investigations. He determined that the writings that he would not decipher were actually older than the parchment itself, implying that they were transcribed from something else. He said I needed to find Dwarven Master Linguist in Kronos to learn more. He said the language was like Elvish but older, more complex and more frightening. He tells me that the Map was destroyed last night. I tell him that his efforts and knowledge are worth more than the Map - the copy will have to do because that is the Will of Heironeous. On my knees by his cot, I pray for Bishop for a man of his dedication and knowledge is worth ten soldiers.

The burdens of this Morning make me late so much so that my Companions wisely leave for the docks without me. At the Bell & Dragon I bid Plake farewell. He thanks me for taking the Book to his brother. However, he gives me five silver pieces to return to Thalazzar and expresses anger at how certain business transactions resulted in so much pain and so little profit. He also gives me two packages of Dream that he found in Frankie's room. We both know that it is an unsubtle and foolish act to imply that Frankie would use drugs. However, I believe that Plake was trying to implicate Thalazzar in this by following it after discussing the Silver. Given the value on the Street some would place on these vile packages, the onerous criminal punishments if caught by the Watch and, most importantly, the pledge that Thalazzar made to me just yesterday, I doubt his involvement. It could not be the Dripping Blade because they are not in a position to be clever and subtle especially with gold. It has to be someone motivated for Power over Money: the Unspoken or the In-Between Men (if not both!).

I think Plake is a good-hearted soul who wants no trouble, and, sadly has seen more than his fair share given his chosen profession. He did not seem to want a cut in Thalazzar's take for the connections he helped him make, even though it is only fair that one might have been offered. It seemed like his declaration was one of exasperation, for he felt he was not involved at all and lost an ear for it. Plake admitted that it was Thalazzar's lack of apology that wounded him the most. He thought the human had been his friend and was hugely disappointed in him. Plake said that he was beginning to feel himself a member of our Group and felt a little brushed off. He said that he felt bad about feeling that, and that was why he admitted that to me, since " you are a man of the cloth and the Valiant," as he put it.

I decided that Plake might know something about those following us and I asked him about the Unspoken. His eyes widen at the mention the secret service and he became visibly shaken. He began to whisper, "What have you guys been getting into?" Then to himself, "What have I gotten into? Maybe it is best if you leave." He then said that he would be more comfortable delivering his brother's book himself. I swear to him that as a Man of Honour, I will deliver the book to his Brother as promised. I assure him that we are on business to assist the Federation. All of us, including Frankie, have been thrown into a strange situation involving manipulation and magic and we want to sort it out. Given that we are heading south after the next leg of our journey, Frankie is looking forward to meeting Plake's brother and we will be visiting him regardless now. Frankie is clearly an unwilling and innocent participant in the events of the last days. I value her involvement in getting to the bottom of these events as she is clever and competent but she needs to be clear of these Adventures so that she can safely finish her Studies. So, I will deliver the book as Sworn and Promised. However, if Plake knew anything about the Unspoken or the In-Between it would certainly speed all our clearance from these untidy events so that we can all walk in the soft grass at the end of this path.

At the mention of the In-Between Men, he was (already) totally distracted and worried (by talk of the Unspoken - DM), but he eventually assured me he has no idea what I was talking about. I reassured him and he seemed to take me at my word, he suddenly looks very tired and shakes his head and apologizes, he says he meant no offence. "Please don't get my brother in trouble, that's all I ask. He and I have a hard time with one another as it is, and I just want things to be right." He apologized again and

ssured me he knew nothing of the In-Between men and asked if they were another gang he should worry about. As for the packets of Dream, he was pretty clear he thought it was "planted" it in Frankie's room, though he stopped short of saying it. He cringed and looked around every time I mentioned the Unspoken. He assured me he knew nothing of "Them" and looked at me searchingly afraid of who could come and visit him next and what they might take.

I resolved to talk to our Company of Adventures about the Dream because a Shadow like this cannot lie between us before such a Journey as we now face.

I met up with them at the tram and we were in a private carriage for two hours. I gave Thalazzar his silver back and revealed to the Group what I discussed with Plake. Thalazzar stated he knew nothing of it. While I discussed with Frankie how to destroy this Villainy without harm, Tiberio grabbed the packages and threw them over side where they fell out of sight down the mountainside. While it was not an effective destruction, it will have to do: I pray to Heironeous that the Harm and Evil they represent is now finished.

We reached Guania and look for a ship. Thalazzar found a cog named the Lusty Wench captained by Allbras and his first mate, Siprian. The remainder of the crew is: Waclaw, Gustav and Urban. These dwarves were travelling to Göesse and agreed to take us at a reasonable price. While Captain Allbras was clearly a drunkard, he did know how to pilot this cog and that was we needed. We negotiated for better terms to include working for our fare.

I look forward to good, honest work that is part of simply getting us to Göesse.

Cuthberta Eomoraday

My first day on board this cog is spent cleaning the decks, coiling rope and securing cargo in the hold. I am enjoying this ship travel in spite of the bad weather because your whole world is within arms reach and there is always another responsibility. It is like farming. After I handle my ship duties, I clean and feed Pelu. His wounds are healing well and he is so stubborn that the ship's motion does not bother him. Finally, I spent my evening listening to Tiberio entertain the crew while I cleaned my gear. My armour and sword were in need of careful maintenance as was my clothes. My Mirror and Father's Sword were damaged by the Fire but after a few hours, were back to normal.

Cuthberta Eofreeday

This day started out as yesterday and I happily went about my Duties, my Ass and my remaining gunna. It was another busy and tiring day and sleep was welcome. Just after the Dog Watch, I jumped awake to the sound of the Bell and fighting. In our quarters, was a Sahaugin warrior. I grabbed my sword and as I stood up in my bunk, the beast struck me. I clove its head in two as I jumped down to face another two. As Tiberio, Thalazzar, Frankie and I squared off I realized that I was completely naked. I recalled stories my Mother told me about ancient Trudorean warriors and how they would fight without armour or clothes. They felt that it created magical protection against any attack. My Father always laughed at these and scoffed. I always believed him until I saw Nimbus fight and now I think there must be some truth in it. As my side continued to bleed from my most recent wound, I shook off these distractions and prepared to receive my Foe. Perhaps another day I would learn to be invulnerable with only the Marks of Faith on my flesh to protect me, but not this day.

These two Sahaugin continued to shoot and throw tridents at us so I grabbed my bow and began firing at them. I could hear a battle raging on the upper deck above us. After an exchange of arrows, our foes fled to the upper deck. We followed them up and dispatched all but their leader. While wounded, he managed to escape to the watery depths.

We discovered the crew had been slain by these foul creatures except Urban. I bound his wounds with Arek's help and he will live. Unfortunately this night we need Urban to wake soon for none of us can sail this cog and the weather is turning. It will be a long night for us all and a prayer is needed before I return to deck.

Nimbus of course had managed to capture one of them alive and its questioning will be handled later. Even though it is the blackest of evil, it is a sentient and the Code protects it since it has been disarmed and made a captive. My Father often told me that we must take the opportunity to show Mercy to our foe when it is prudent because it is the only way that Evil can be Redeemed. He said it was a hard lesson that even he could not always apply. This is the first time I have faced this. Perhaps we can communicate with it and learn why they attacked. I have never heard of Sahaugin in Lake Dakar in my memory or even as a story. Their Villainy is renowned even among the Lizardmen or the Order. It seems too much of a coincidence that in the middle of this lake we would be attacked randomly by us of force.

As Eosularday comes upon us, I say the Litany of Heironeous and ready myself for the challenges ahead.

    

  

Book I,
Chapter I

FRANKIE

*Found in Frankie's travelling journal
Believed to be recorded under the stars on the beach south of Göesse*

Worst boat ride ... EVER!

Through teary eyes I find myself recording the past few days in my traveller's journal. So much has happened!

Leaving Riot's Gate was a blessing. Not only were the Unspoken threatening my Uncle to reveal my whereabouts, but they also likely behind trying to frame me with Dream possession. What a bunch of manufacturer-rejects!

At the very least my uncle helped me with my resignation. I truly hope my Dad will not be TOO upset with me!

My companions found a boat to Göesse, and the boat ride started out fine enough. Besides having to put up with a drunk captain, the rest of the crew were all business. They even appreciated the new winching system I set up for them.

Then everything went into the junkyard.

During the second night, Arek failed to notice that some sahuagin had snuck aboard. They managed to slaughter almost every single crewmember except for Urban. I woke up with a sahuagin right beside my cot. Good thing my jumpsuit is comfortable enough to wear to bed!

The following fight almost saw us dead! I even had to get a bite disinfected! Yucky! Unfortunately the leader got away, but we managed to subdue a soldier sahuagin.

As most things go, the question of what to do this this foul creature caused great discussion amongst us. Thalazaar and I were all for putting it down, while the others' wanted it to be kept alive... perhaps even allowed to flee?!?! Tiberio was unconscious from the fight, which was too bad since his solutions to these debates tend to work out good.

    

  
 
 
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CHAPTER TWO: Vengeance for the Keeper
Cuthberta Eosularday & Menteselunday

     

Session 6

Book I,
Chapter II

FRANKIE

Found in Frankie's travelling journal
Believed to be recorded under the stars on the beach south of Göesse

Worst boat ride ... EVER! (continued)

We soon discovered that the boat was going nuts, and we had NO idea how to steer it. For some reason everyone thought I could do something... crazy! This boat was totally retro; no self-respecting tinker would claim to know how to handle such an obsolete creation.

After everyone tried to do their own thing, I took command and remembered what I could from the previous day. Nimbus and I had to browbeat Thalazaar into helping, but we made it work. Thalazaar also noted that there was a boat with a red flag nearby too. Weird!

As we sailed for the shoreline, Thalazaar took off and managed to bring Tiberio then Urban back to consciousness. Urban began to get excited at the state of the boat, and got angry when I told him I was going to head below to repair the ship. I sent Domaldi up and began to get to work on something I had a better idea of doing.

Finally after several hours a friendly vessel from Göesse pulled up and competent sailors boarded to help us. Thalazaar got us together below decks, and brought to our attention that the former captain was going to turn over a clockwork on-board to slavery! I hate to speak ill of the dead, but this was pushing the gyro-phanning threshhold!

That also explained the strange appearance of the boat with the red flag; the captain was going to turn the poor clockwork over to them! Certain things began to make sense. Perhaps this was how Tallim as taken to the Monotheocratic Order!

We opened the container holding the poor clockwork, and I found an operator's manual that a second grade gnome could understand... I was so upset, but this was but a taste of things to come. I spent two hours getting the clockwork working, while everyone went off to do their own thing. At one point the group confronted Urban to determine his innocence. He was obviously not an accomplice, but at one point I was called a "Federation clockwork agent" or some kind of nonsense. I felt sorry for Urban and told him that Thalazaar likes to exaggerate sometimes.

Soon the time came: Calibre came into the world for the first time. My uncle Sparks told me there was no other feeling like it, and now I know. I was so happy for the clockwork! I was so deluded into thinking that I had helped the clockwork avoid being born into slavery...

Calibre greeted me, and called me "master". I regarded the clockwork in confusion, and asked what it's name was. Calibre answered, "My name is Calibre, master. You are the one who activated me, I will follow your orders to the letter".

I began to feel a numbing dread, and began to look through the manual. My eyes began to burn with angry tears as they looked upon the operating instructions for the THRALL MODULE that was implanted. This is absolutely horrible! Calibre was born into the world with a mental disease, and I suddenly had a daunting personal responsibility to set it right. The helplessness I felt at that moment was intense. I did not have the training to do anything about this engineering problem.

After the crowd at Gosse's dock had settled down, Thalazaar loaned a robe, and I asked Calibre to have his lower arms appear to make it have a pot belly, and also let me do all the talking. We made it to the Headman's house, and the group began to question the clockwork. I also met one of the stranger's in town, named Inigo. He seemed friendly enough, but I did not like hearing about how he liked to fight in armies. I have seen more than enough people get hurt already!

After eating some fish stew, I promised Thalazaar I would go shopping for supplies after a quick power nap. Have to recharge the batteries! The village was friendly enough, and no one seemed to mind dealing with a gnome with her tall companion.

Returning back to the Headman's house, the group updated each other of what they found out. A villager reported that the body of one of the villagers washed up on the shore; apparently he was helping the Monotheocratic slavers to bring Calibre into slavery.

We also found out that the sahuagin attacked the boat to sink and 'acquire' a crate, even though the leader did not tell it's soldier that the contents were a clockwork.

Then things got nasty.

Nimbus and Tiberio were not satisfied with their sahuagin interrogation, and wanted Calibre to speak to it. Not wanting to expose the new-born Calibre to the hateful being, I was reluctant to "order" him around to do so. What followed was a lot of nasty jibes of me being a cruel "slaver". I was so upset! I can honestly say that that was the worse insult to me in my entire life.

I eventually got brow beaten enough that I asked Calibre to help out. We went down to the sahuagin's jail, and as a precaution I got my x-bow out in case the nasty beast tried to jump Calibre. Arek told me to put the weapon away. I swore on my honour that I would only respond defensively, but that was not good enough for Arek. Truly depressed, I mumbled to Calibre to "do as the others' asked" and left in tears.

Leaving the headman's hut, I wandered down the south beach and found an abandoned tent. I sat beside it and looked up at the stars, thinking back to better nights in Peppershot. Eventually I opened up the clockwork manual to study it, then managed to barely crawl into the tent before collapsing from the emotional exhaustion of the day.

The next morning I returned to the Headman's hut, not having much to say to my companions. When Calibre heard where we were going, it was against me going to the caves, since it did not want me to go into danger. What a sweetheart! I didn't want to leave Calibre alone in Gosse, so told him that I needed to go because I had to help my companions. Looking back now, I am only full of regret for this poor decision on my part.

My companions and I set off.

*Insertion found with some mud stains*

This is terrible! I brought Calibre along with us to keep the clockwork safe, and now it lies here torn apart by the claws of a troll. I am so thankful that Calibre is not dead! The frustration I find in my inability to repair Calibre has set something off inside of me... I guess this is what my Granpappy meant when he said that your calling in life will find you when you least expect it.

A new purpose fills my being, fueled by anger and frustration. Opening up the clockwork manual I begin to learn what I can about repairing Caliber.

I WILL overcome this challenge... and vow to stuff Caliber's thrall module down the creator's throat!

   

 

Book I,
Chapter II

D.ex.M

The Journey of Inigo Tarrega

Being a Summary of Inigo's Travel Journal

Sailing from Amitlan (40 days)
Motivated by a search for personal fortune and the dream of reuniting his shattered family, Inigo leaves Corona. A long monotonous journey from Amitlan costs Inigo most of his purse. The ship stops briefly in Hespan. Sailing to the Mazari, it must avoid Feraln Elf pirates, a scourge of those waters. He grew up being terrified by, and then terrifying his siblings with, bedtime stories of these bloodthirsty and merciless scoundrels. He arrives in Divinity deeply indebted.

Cundinamarca, Coast of Divinity (15 days)
Inigo is broke, he runs up more debts and looks for honest work but soon realizes there is no such thing in Divinity. After a couple of weeks of falling deeper into debt, he steals away in the middle of the night to avoid getting sold into slavery or worse!

The Dream Road (10 days)
Inigo moved to the next town, a small decrepit village with a large "Dream herd" (people used to farm the drug Dream) in a warehouse outside town. Only a minimum effort is made to hide them. It was well guarded by non-uniformed toughs. He decided to keep moving. He moved north and east into the interior, eventually reaching a larger city, Dekassegi, where troops were mustering.

Divine Guardians (30 days)
The Divine Guardians, what passes for a military in Divinity, press ganged Inigo into their militia and Inigo found himself shipped into the hills. He does not completely grasp the politics of the conflict in which they are engaged, but the Sgt. tells him to "fight who I bloody well tell you to fight." Rather than fight, however, Inigo actually spends five weeks marching in the jungle, looking for so-called "freedom fighters" who use the Dream trade to fuel their "Hobbit-addled revolution." Even though they have yet to encounter any enemy other than themselves, there are food and water shortages, daily casualties, and several outbreaks. Inigo, meanwhile, wonders why the militia does not go back to that small town with the Dream herd he passed if they want so badly to deliver a blow to the Dream trade. A revolt is brewing in the militia ranks. Late one night, Inigo awoke amidst a mutiny All the officers were dead. Taking what he could from the stores, he escaped in the ensuing chaos, but into what?

Revolutionary Army of Divinity (RAD) (90+ days)
Inigo spent three days alone in the jungle before being caught by a group of freedom fighters, the Revolutionary Army of Divinity (RAD). This was probably the same group the militia was looking for. He surrenders and exchanges what little knowledge he has of the Divine Guardians movements, with several creative embellishments, for his life. The freedom fighters of RAD argue whether to use Inigo as dreamstock, but he killed the first man who tried to come at him to that end. Suddenly finding a vacancy in their ranks, RAD decided Inigo would probably be more useful alive. They threatened to feed him Dream to make him more suggestible, which in itself was suggestible enough for Inigo and he suddenly became much more accommodating. In fact, their are few Dream addicts amongst RAD's ranks and they frown on its use.

He joined their cause to save his skin, and learned more and saw more than he wished he ever had. The freedom fighters are fighting both the government backed Dream Cartels and their private armies as well as the Divine Guardians. They smuggle Dream into the Sunterranse Federation through openings in the Wall of the Righteous in the Monotheocrate Order. Most "Dreamstock" are peasants, slaves, kidnap victims, captured soldiers, etc.

The Monotheocrate Order (12 days)
Border skirmishes have been occurring between Divinity and the Monotheocrate Order for weeks, everyone expects a full scale war to break out soon. Sometimes its seems as though RAD Fronts fight anyone they can find, even one another. Inigo eventually gets picked to guard a shipment from the Order into the Federation. He sees it as an opportunity to escape this madness and he waits. The opportunity does not present itself at the Wall. After he makes the shipment and picks up supplies and cash in return, he makes his way back to Divinity, dispondent. The Order invaded Divinity a few days ago so the patrols are running thick and fast. Soldiers are evrywhere. That night, Inigo surreptitiously attracts a patrol of Janissaries of the One (Monotheocrate Order's slave soldiers) to the RAD campsite during his watch. They finish the sleeping camp quickly and Inigo makes his way back to the secret passage beneath and through the Wall. It is not exactly an honourable thing to do, but he is completely untroubled by this - "TO THEIR DEMENTED, LONELY GOD WITH THEM ALL," is written in bold letters in his journal.

The Federation (26 Days)
Inigo has never seen so many different kinds of people before! Since arriving in the Federation, he has met Hobbits, Gnomes, Dwarves and even a Clockwork! He had seen the others in places like Cudinamarca, though he had never spoken to them, but he had only heard of Clockworks and hardly believed the stories of the mechanical men, let alone believed that they were considered "citizens" in the Federation, and not property! Orcs, Half-Orcs and Goblins, as well as other creatures walk freely about their business and behave in a civilized manner he couldn't have imagined. He had seen these creatures fight in the arenas and at the circuses, after all.

The only Elves and half-elves he ever knew (besides Aethlyr) were slaves. In the Federation, he sees them as administrators, leaders and freemen, though by their scars and tattoos, it was easy to see that many (mostly humans, half-elves and half-orcs) had once been slaves themselves. Instead of hiding their marks with shame, however, they walked with a baffling pride. As he traveled, he began to grasp how the Federation seemed to have become so powerful and wealthy so quickly - their is no single overarching ancient tradition here - everything is innovation, pragmatism and entrepreneurship. These folk do what they must to thrive and survive, but not at the expense of one another. Inigo cannot help but be impressed.

The towns are much more orderly and relatively safe; the economy, fairly strong; the people, decent and trusting; and the authorities, competent and honest; the contrast with Divinity and even Corona in Amitaln couldn't be more striking. Still, the roads between towns and the wilderness are filled with dangers, and Men of Honour, such as Inigo, can find honest work. Inigo manages to find work as a sell-sword for merchants on the High Wall Road that runs through the mountains of Lake Range parallel to the Wall of the Righteous. He spends several weeks travelling back and forth along its length, earning his keep and making a modest living and wondering what to do next.

The Order of St.Cuthbert (8 Days)
In Huygens, Inigo has the chance to meet some of the red clad priests of St.Cuthbert. He remembered having heard them proselytizing and giving out food and silverleaf weed (to ease the pain of Dream addiction) to worthless addicts in Cundinamarca. Back then he thought them naive wags, now he is impressed by their righteousness. They don't just talk, they listen as well. He strikes up a friendship with one of them, Hipparachus, who happens to speak Hespanic. His Order is helping to ease the suffering caused by an outbreak of Withering (a baffling magic resistant plague) that has struck some of the local communities. By travelling with the Priest, Inigo is able to avoid being press-ganged into the Sunterranse Legionnaires a couple of times. The Federation, he learns, is fighting its own battles - a Horde of marauding Brutes has invaded from the Wilderlands.

As Inigo and the priest of Cuthbert travel together, he tells him a great deal about the Eye of Independence Eclipse (he remembers it having been called the Eye of Corona), when the two moons of Sentar pass in front of each other. Many of the Order of St. Cuthbert are meeting in Riot's Gate for the event, and encouraging others to go to the fabled mountain top city of the Dwarves as well. The view from there is supposed to be unrivaled, "Though our old mountain top temple above Lake Sular that we gifted unto the Lunar Elves, is a close second," Hipparachus comments.

This attracted Inigo's attention because of his mentor Aethlyr. He learned that the Lunar Elves have a secret cloister above Lake Sular, in the Wilderlands, beyond Federation territory. It is the best news he has heard in an Age.

The Eye of Independence
Hipparachus tries to convince Inigo to come to Riot's Gate, even pushes a little more than he seems comfortable doing, but Inigo is determined to seek out the Lunar Elven Temple. They part ways at Telemar on Lake Dakar, where Hipparachus catches a ship and bids him journey to Riot's Gate one last time. Again, Inigo declines, thopugh he assures the priest his path will eventually lead to the capital, for he apparently has some personal feud to settle with none other than the Vice Chancellor of the Federation, Diego de la Espada.

They have travelled together only 8 days, but Inigo knows he will miss the priest's company. There is something noble about him that Inigo admires, and he is the closest thing to a friend Inigo has encountered since leaving Amitlan. A merchant vessel takes Inigo as far as Dunwater for a pittance and from there he catches a small fishing boat on Lake Dakar to Göesse. To Inigo it would seem it is the shortest distance to the Lunar Elven Temple. It is not long after his arrival in Göesse that he realizes he probably made a mistake.

Arrival in Göesse (4 days)
Inigo arrived in Göesse, a backwater fishing village, with a small community hall built by the Federation and the Order of Plentok Veris, the patron deity of the Federation. He is surprised to see two men from the Monotheocrate Order here trying desperately to fit in. Although many of the locals are of the same ethnic stock, the pair sticks out badly but they seem to be waiting for something. The locals ignore them as best they can, more out of fear than respect. "We don't want no trouble," ought to be the town motto, and the fisherman stubbornly focus on their daily chores and petty personal dramas, oblivious to the dangers surrounding them.

The Magic ran out the day after he arrived, so he is told. It is the talk of the Thorpe, though the impact seems to have been small: the sermon from the priest of Plentok Veris lacked its usual light show, which apparently was "really something to see," according to the townsfolk. "Artemis, Get me out of here!" Inigo wrote.

Though it is not Inigo's business, he is curious and decides to watch the Theonean agents (the dudes from the Order). They seem to be waiting for something. It takes them a couple of days to notice Inigo noticing them. That bothers them but they sit tight. Inigo thinks of buying them drinks, just to see if their cover will allow them to imbibe what they are not permitted to do in their own land.

Inigo is waiting for a boat or something himself. The Nocturnal Temple of the Lunar Elves is still far away, and the wilderness road out of Göesse is too dangerous. Besides, he again has no money. He is exhausted from travelling as far as he has, and the road only stretches further on. He muses, has it really been nearly a year since he left home!?

Inigo notes rumours of a nearby cave and a brave knight who died there fighting several trolls. Perhaps there was some treasure to be gained there. Judging from the talk he'd heard and maps he'd seen in roadside taverns since he arrived here, even within the Federation, the wilderness was riddled with ruins from the age of the Mazarean Empire, to say nothing of those from ages before and since. Perhaps one of these locations has not yet been looted too thoroughly!

Inigo hears the announcement for the arrival a ship in peril arriving into port. If nothing else this should provide some entertainment, if not some work…

And so his journal ends.

 
   

 

Book I,
Chapter II

INIGO

Having drunk in the all the sights and sounds of Göesse within minutes of having arrived, Inigo Tarrega had spent the past several days attempting to sort out its truly remarkable array of bad smells.

The complexity of the fishing hamlet's bouquet was truly astonishing--dead fish, bodily odour, sour ale...now and again the odd whiff of old urine. It was a perversely satisfying way to spend the time, since he happened to have the time spend. With each day that passed, Inigo was finding it increasingly difficult to avoid coming to terms with the fact that he didn't know where he was going. Certainly, his path led northward through the mountains and wilds to Lake Sular; but with limited funds and no sense of the distance or dangers of the road ahead, he was coming to the realization that he was going to require assistance of some form or another.

Every so often he'd play cards with one or two of more frequent tavern patrons and make a point of pretending not to notice their clumsy attempts to cheat. He'd let them drink their winnings and then win his stake back again when they were fully in their cups--after all, the people of Göesse were good people for the most part. Gruff, uncouth, sometimes shifty--fragrant, definitely--but for the most part, good.

Perhaps he had been mistaken in declining his Cuthberite friends' invitation to accompany them to Riot's Gate. In hindsight, he certainly would have been able to find directions in that city, or possibly some work as a guard or scout on a patrol heading northwards. Of course, putting himself out as a sword for hire had never worked out all that well for him in the past. In fact, it wasn't that long ago that he'd summoned a patrol of enemy janissaries to wipe out the supply caravan he himself was guarding--Inigo didn't expect any of the survivors would give him a very good reference...

And so he waited in this strange, smelly fish-town, standing out like a sore thumb--or would have, at least, were it not for the presence of two highly conspicuous agents of the Monotheocrate Order trying hard to fit in and lay low. "Hello!" Inigo overheard during a conversation between one of them and a local. "Do you like fish? I like fish. I'm a fisherman! Would you like to buy some fish?"

They were not blending in terribly well.

Inigo supposed that they must have been present on some kind of official business--what with their attempt to disguise their origins and that fact that they seriously seemed to think their cover was working. He'd considered buying them a round once or twice on the occasions he'd crossed paths with them in the local cantina. He thought the better of it given the perversely obvious steps they were taking to look like locals. ("We're locals. Yup. We're dirty local peasants alright. What are you looking at? Stop looking at us! Sons of dogs...").

Inigo let the presence of these two strangers drift into the background as he pondered his direction and attempted to savour the full aroma of Göesse in all its splendour. He'd heard rumours of a cave nearby which had been the scene for a recent battle between a brave warrior and a legion or two of trolls...perhaps there remained some secrets or wealth to be discovered there? But when news drifted in of an injured vessel limping into port, Inigo was as curious as everyone else in town. "Perhaps they're carrying a shipment of soap," he thought hopefully to himself.

The town was abuzz with tales of a deadly attack on the water which had resulted in a single dwarven navigator fighting off a dozen murderous fish-beasts ("Well, if it was a dwarf at the helm, it must've been TWO or THREE dozen," Inigo offered to Constantin, the local innkeeper--it never hurt to fuel a little idle speculation now and again).

Oddly, the arrival of the ship seemed to inspire anything but curiosity for the Monotheocrate agents. Catching sight of them as the ship arrived, Inigo noted that they seemed to be locked in a bitter argument. One of them--the tall with the short temper--stormed from the inn without paying his tab while his companion calmly finished his ale and followed moments afterward.

Inigo trailed the agent out, pausing to catch sight of the ship as bumped into the pier and noting by how low it sat in the water that it had barely survived the voyage. He casually followed him a short way down the shore to what appeared to be a pre-arranged meeting with a couple of local fishermen (one of them, Isabye, he remembered from a couple of nights earlier as having been a particularly bad cheat at cards). Not wishing to attract attention to himself, Inigo returned to the pier and got his first look at the "crew" of the vessel on the deck. Although they looked nearly as battered as the ship they sailed in on, they didn't look anything like sailors--sell swords, more like. Clearly, there was more to this story than was grinding through the rumour mill. He decided to make their acquaintance. If they weren't heading northwards themselves, then perhaps they would have information about the best route to take.

As events transpired, he didn't have to wait long for an introduction. Becoming curious about the effect these events were having on his "friends" from the Order, he asked after them at the inn only to find that they'd hastily settled their bill and fled. Inigo started to trace their steps when he was accosted by a pair of filthy orcs. They demanded he surrender his weapons and accompany them and "not cause any problems". "Orcs?!" the thought. "Violent, stinking, dirty orcs holding my own blade at my back and telling ME not to cause problems? Oooooh, I am sooooo gonna kill one of these guys." In the end, however, they managed to keep their heads by politely accompanying Inigo to the headman's dwelling.

When he arrived, he was greeted by the headman and an odd group of characters who must have come in on the ship. "Sell-swords? No. These are adventurers on some kind of quest, clearly." Inigo had entered in the midst of a debate over the fate of a prisoner the group had taken at sea. "There's a fish-beast in a tub in the next room?" thought Inigo. "Who's idea was it to bring a ravenous sea monster to this helpless little town in the first place? Good grief--if they won't take it far away and get rid of it then they should just throw it on the barbie and light a match!"

The headman was clearly embarrassed for having sent for Inigo in such an uncourtly manner and seemed a little relieved when the escort sent out to accompany him burst in--breathless, but with all their heads and limbs. Inigo understood the concern, however, having come to the conclusion himself that so many strangers turning up in the village at the same time could hardly be a coincidence. He answered the barrage of questions from the headman and the adventuring party as best he could, and although slightly puzzled by their probing interest in his background, he allowed that they'd undergone an ordeal and were probably fleeing from danger into danger (as adventurers often tend to do). Inigo assured them that whatever dangers they feared, he was not one of them and accepted the invitation extended by the disheveled monk to accompany the party to investigate the nearby cave where, as it turns out, it had been the paladin Domaldi's father who'd met his end in a massive troll-fight.

But before they set out, there was the small matter of getting to the bottom of the link between the Monotheocrate agents and the attack at sea. While the adventurers had been ripping up floorboards and bailing for their lives, they'd apparently come across a crate containing a mechanical being which was designed for underwater combat. The pieces of the puzzle weren't hard to put together--an underwater killing machine, purchasing agents from the Monotheocrate Order, an attack by fish monsters--someone was dealing in underwater weaponry and someone else wanted to put a stop to it. The party followed the leads as far as they could, but the agents escaped and the prisoner in the tub had a serious attitude problem and wasn't giving out any information.

And so they prepared to set out the following day. Inigo was hopeful that their path would lead them further towards his own objective.

"This is an odd group," thought Inigo. "Clearly, there must be some reason keeping them on the same path. I will travel with them for a while. But the monk...his vow of poverty is noble, perhaps I could convince him to accept a small gift of some soap...?"

 
    

 

Book I,
Chapter II

DOMALDI

Cuthberta Eosularday

As we began this day after the attack, Frankie was trying to steer the ship. Arek and I went below and found the ship was taking on so much water that the pumps themselves were submerged. We set up a rotation where one would pump while holding his breath and the other would recover. The latter would replace him on the pump and the other would then recover in a never-ending cycle. We later found that Thalazzar had given Urban a healing potion who promptly woke up and began organizing the cog to sail properly. I was pulled off the pump to properly trim the sails under Urban's direction. After four hours, we are within site of Goesse and a crew of its citizens take over the sailing duties. I don my armour and weapon and check on the Sauwagin. I find that it is dehydrating and so I dump water on it.

Thalazzar found a note in the Captain's cabin while he was searching for maps and sailing instructions. The note said that a fisherman with a red flag would meet the Lusty Wench in Goesse to take possession of a crate. The crate in the cog contained an inactive clockwork that Frankie began reviving. The concept of a sentient being sold as a commodity causes the Party to react with strong Anger. Thalazzar is so fired up that he begins intimidating Urban. We learn that the Captain was looking for a good pay off from something that he did not share with the crew. It seems clear that Urban knew nothing of this Crime.

As we were coming into the dock in Goesse, Arek told me that he was hearing Moradin faintly again. I pray on deck and faintly hear Hieroneous. I am so jubilant until Tiberio pulls me aside. He said that he believes that the One has moved between us and our gods and it might mean that there is a Battle for the Cosmos within which we are fighting. While I agreed with him that his theory was plausible, the magnitude of it is daunting.

We met with Festerelis, the half-elf headman of Goesse. We brought him on board and show him the Clockwork and explain to him the events of the last few days. That clever Frankie is able to activate Calibre the Clockwork. It had 4 arms, 6 eyes and was 6'4". It was a creation of clever construction and devious intent: a creature forged to do battle and it only wanted to serve, made to serve. Frankie explained that it was a newborn with a thrawl module that enslaves its will. It appears that it was built with the purpose of combat and underwater operations. Luckily it was found by Frankie, its new mistress.

We take the Sauwagin to the town gaol and prepare a small pool of water for it. We planned to question it after it recovers and we have rested. We collected in the town hall for a palaver with Festerelis and a meal. We explained the troubles with the Sauwagin, the Clockwork and Riots Gate. In attendence was Stanislaw the dwarven cleric of Plentok Veris for this region. Festerelis tells us that a few days ago three strangers appeared in town separately and did not interact with the townsfolk much. Since we had arrived, two of them could not be found. He produced the one stranger who had not fled: a competent looking mercenary named Inigo Tarrega. As I listen to the Paen of Hieroneous in my mind I know this man is not evil. It was certainly a stark contrast the scream in my mind caused by the nearby Sauwagin.

I hope Father is correct about Redemption and Mercy. As Festerelis questions him, I take the measure of this man. While not wealthy, he had a noble bearing and the balance of a fighter. He carries two swords and gestures like a duelist. We learned that Inigo had been travelling across the Continent including Jamhyria Theona'la making a living as a mercenary and was seeking the Elvish Lunar Temple north of Lake Sular where Nimbus had trained. He bears an amulet that Nimbus explained was a token indicating we could trust Inigo. From that point, we began to trust him with our Council. Inigo tells us that the other two strangers were clearly from Jamhyria Theona'la. He had seen one of them flee down the beach to the South. I give my messages from the Temple of Hieroneous to Stanislaw and he explains that an acolyte will go with haste to Forward Advance with the messages and word of the Sauwagin.

Next, Inigo, Thalazzar and I tried to track that Stranger in Town. One of the local fishermen had seen him, but it does not look like He Will Be Back Around. He apparently Left Without a Sound.

Nimbus and Tiberio searched the tents where the strangers stayed. They talked to Latja and said they spoke to the fishermen Isabi and Pellas. Frankie and Calibre were able to acquire equipment for our upcoming Journey to the Caves.

Nimbus and Tiberio went to the Sauwagin and learned that it spoke Common. It spoke with great hatred towards humans and said we were "all price, no pride" and that "the Wall will Fall". This Strike into the Federation cannot be Random. Possibly it is part of some attempt by the Sauwagin to gain advantage over Jamhyria Theona'la using the Calibre. We arrange for the Sauwagin to be guarded until a Keeper can take possession of It.

Cuthberta Menteselunday

We woke early and proceeded up the Trail to the Caves. I was able to guide my Friends easily up the Trail even though I was deep in thought. Just a fortnight ago I walked up this Trail with my Father as we sang the Paen of Hieroneous. My Path was so clear so short a time ago. Now I am Adrift.

The Caves of Goesse were exactly as I remembered. The Smell was unmistakable. I cautioned my Friends as we reached the Top and saw the cave entrance. As we spread out, a Troll attacked from the stream. I cursed my luck as I was the farthest away as it struck. It hit Inigo and lunged for Frankie. Calibre advanced to protect her as I rushed to attack. I thought it would be over before I could spill its Blood. It was but not like I had expected. Calibre was reduced to a heap of metal in seconds. As Nimbus drew its attack, I drove in and delivered a Mighty Blow uttering a curse as I struck. The others were firing on it relentlessly and it went down. Then it stood up again and we knocked it down. I had heard of the foul regeneration of trolls but never believed it. That Father struck down twelve of these Beasts was a staggering Feat of Arms even I could not appreciate. As it went down again, I saw Victory. I set myself and delivered the coup de grace to sever its head. As the Troll finally Fell, I felt deeply Remorseful. I looked at Nimbus and saw that he too understood my feelings.

As we healed our wounded and Frankie tried to save Calibre, I gathered my thoughts. I stepped to the side and engaged in prayer. The Remorse was profound and clearly caused by striking down a "helpless" foe. But it was not helpless was it? It was not defeated but only weakened by our attack. To have delayed further would have possibly invited the death of another of my Companions. I believe that my Remorse came from my Lust for Vengeance and Revenge. I forgot the Face of my Father. The Act was not wrong: I broke no Code written or otherwise. I killed with my heart as I was taught, but for the wrong reason.

 
     

 

Book I,
Chapter II

THALAZZAR

The Göesse beach was quite still as the evening grew late. Soft waves rushed up the sands and retreated from Thalazzar's bare toes as he walked along, his slippers tucked in his cord belt. There was a slight bend in his back as he peered downwards at the sand, searching for the right piece of driftwood. His thoughts drifted to the events of that day - no stranger than any day of the last week - where his sea voyage aboard the Lusty Wench, yet again, almost left him marooned with only a bit of salvage to survive on. Perhaps, thought the mage, sea travel was not for him.

Through their investigations, it was determined that the sahaugin had targeted the Lusty Wench on purpose, seeking to sink it in order to prevent its cargo from falling into the hands of the Monotheocratic Order. Similarly, agents of the Order had been waiting in town to collect the clockwork and had instead fled upon the companion's arrival. Thalazzar was curious as to the identity of the buyer - known only as T.X. - but he had apparently fled, if indeed this T.X. had been in Göesse at all. Although the two events appeared to have been connected, the business with the clockwork smuggling was little more than an interesting twist and had little to do with their group's quest to rescue the Orindish heir. Thalazzar was averse to slavery but being stuck with a war clockwork in these parts might not be such a bad thing. It was notable, however, that the reach of the agents of the Monotheocratic Order went as far as this backwards little fishing village.

Thalazzar scooped down and grasped a twig with a particularly pleasing shape. As he did so the pooled lake drizzle spilled from his deep red, wide-brimmed hat to the beach below. From thick end to pointy tip, the twig had a slight spiral to it that reminded him of the root toes of Stooped Birch, his one-time Entish mentor and protector. The familiarity of the twig gave Thalazzar some comfort in what he was about to do.

His thoughts drifted to dinner as he continued down the beach, specifically of the new face who apparently would be accompanying them north. Thalazzar didn't quite trust his motives and he seemed to be hiding something about his connections with the clockwork incident. Nonetheless, it appeared that the swordsman might accompany them north tomorrow towards the Saltwater Barrows and, like the clockwork, an extra fighter wouldn't hurt in troll infested lands.

A shell on the beach stirred another memory in the wizard. Traveling the River Baronies on his way to Riot's Gate, Thalazzar had witnessed a bizarre execution of a sorcerer in some woods in the tiny holdings of Baron Yurgith. The sorcerer had run afoul of the goblin wizards of the Blue Conch Mercenary Company. Apparently, he had been paid to smuggle a crate of wands created by the Blue Conch to men loyal to Baron Yurgith, had skimmed some wands to sell for himself, and had replaced the stolen wands with sticks enchanted only with Nystul's Magic Aura. Thalazzar had counted 43 very real magic missiles blasting the unfortunately entrepreneurial sorcerer. The twig in his hand would make a fine wand Thalazzar concluded.

A green-speckled Dakar turtle crossed the wizard's path, and Thalazzar decided this was the place. Using his twig, he traced a circular sigil around himself in the sand and sat himself in the centre of it. Placing the twig in his hat beside the hippogriff feather, Thalazzar muttered some arcane words and the circle glowed a bright sky blue. Thalazzar imagined that the light could probably be seen from the village but this would only take a moment. The waves of Lake Dakar rolled up the beach, breaching Thalazzar's circle and wetting the hem of his robe. The blue glow of the circle shining through the surf cast a strange shadow across Thalazzar's bearded face but only the turtle was there to notice….and seeing that his magic was functioning, not for much longer.

The turtle crept back out to sea, helped slightly with each receding wave, but with little thought that speed was of the essence. Just below the waves, a dark portal was opening causing the water to froth and churn. The turtle paid no heed. Suddenly, the tide was filled with a small horde of dark gremlins, pulled from another plane to Thalazzar's call. Sitting quite still, the wizard muttered more arcane words under his breath with only a slight drip of Dakar lake water on his moustache to threaten his concentration. The dark gremlins surged through the surf seeking something - anything - to vent their hatred upon. Seeing only the turtle, the tiny gremlins swarmed over the reptile like a dark cloud of death. Having devoured it in an instant, they sought another victim. Like a flock of birds or perhaps locusts, the swarm turned and shifted towards Thalazzar. His arcane muttering stopped and the wizard raised one eyebrow in curiousity. Under his summons yet not under his command was the answer to tonight's question. The swarm and the surf rushed against Thalazzar's circle but only one could penetrate it and as the wave receded once more, the tiny demons raked, bit, and clawed to no avail. The wizard's circle of protection held firm. For a few seconds, the dark swarm fought against the abjuration but then, as quickly as they appeared, their magic was spent and they returned to their home plane in a poof of grey smoke.

Thalazzar stood and straightened his robe. This twig would indeed, he thought, make a fine wand one day, worthy of the Blue Conch wizards. It was unfortunate that he could not yet create one himself. As he strode back towards Goesse, Thalazzar had the distinct impression that tomorrow - well, perhaps longer than just tomorrow - there would be use for such wands, particularly with magic so unstable. A powerful Keeper had died to the trolls of these swamps and one of Thalazzar's bravest companions would certainly face an adversary close to his heart tomorrow. A wand would certainly come in handy in seeking vengeance for the Keeper.

 
    

 

Book I,
Chapter II

URBAN

Tracking the Agents
A letter from Urban to a lost love...

My sweet Glindi,

It has been far too long since I saw you last and I am afraid that I may have left my apologies until they were beyond reaching you. My last memory of you was the glare of your sparkling emerald eyes glistening with anger for my indulgences and for that I am truly sorry. Leaving Riot's Gate seemed like the only path in front of me at the time. Your demands to leave the ale to Moradin and find work brought me to a ship, the Lusty Wench, where after 150 years of indulgences, I finally found work that was fulfilling again. It may please you to know that, due to some unfortunate events and the death of its crew, I am now the proprietor of that lowly vessel. So, perhaps your drunken love is now Captain Urban, such as that title will aid me in my current state.

My darling, although my Dethek is poor I scratch this note on the back of a shipping manifest trapped in a cage from which I think it unlikely I shall leave alive. I thought to do good, aiding a priest of Moradin in a quest to uncover an unsavory band of murderers and slavers. Should this note reach you, know that your love is held captive in an old temple to the serpent pantheon and the dark god Sss'Rast (DM's Note: Sss'Raast is not a single god but a now defunct pantheon of gods of scalykin), deep in the fen but fifteen or so miles northeast of the village of Göesse. I traveled here overland through the marsh and with my companion swam across a small lake to our current location. It is a lake covered in reeds and strangely lacking wildlife or even insects. Perhaps it is the past evil that has occurred here?

The temple itself was an intriguing find, filled with statues of serpent warriors and their foul deities. The temple depth was filled with their dark history and character of their race but far from abandoned it was also filled with the possessions of the evil agents. Apparently the agents of this foreign Order had been holed up here for some time. We found the evil agents we had been tracking, dead, and ate by obese giant frogs which we slew. I fought well my love! I hewed one in half like the orcs I fought during the Battle of Ajukit Shadow. Remember me as I was then love, for that was the dwarf I was again when I fought the vicious gnoll champion responsible for my current condition. Know that even as the brother of Moradin fell I continued the fight. I fear that the documents we recovered from the evil agents will be lost - secret documents, rare sacred texts, cursed holy symbols and fine rubies like the ones I gifted you when we summered in Amber Cleft. They also carried some drugs and drink tokens for a place called Telemar. The gnolls, curse their vile hides, were by chance seeking shelter from the marsh and the rains. Faced with survival in the swamp, we came to blows with one of the largest among them, Hynanegg I believe the beast is called. This beast, should you seek to avenge me, has yellow mottled fur with a brown spot shaped like a gauntlet under his eye. I now sit in a cage, a cage once used by the slavers we tracked, awaiting my fate - "Urban" scratched in its roof alongside the mysterious words "seven bells" inscribed there. I believe the priest is kept in the cage where a giant white owl was once kept but I am unsure of his fate. I know not how much time I have but know that I thought to spend it writing to you.

I am truly sorry that I cannot hold you in my arms again and that our last words were spoken in anger but I pray to Moradin with my last breath that you know that at the end, I was once again the dwarf you fell in love with.

Until the Halls of Our Fathers,

 
    

  
 
 
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CHAPTER THREE: Riddles for Answers
Cuthberta Menteselunday, Mentedakarday & Mentemoraday 
  
Session 7

Book I,
Chapter III

DOMALDI

Cuthberta Menteselunday

After praying for guidance and thanks after our battle with the Troll, Frankie approached me and asked if I could heal Calibre. I did not know that I could do such a thing but bend my strength to the task. I said the Litany and focused on my Third Eye to channel the Power of Heironeous through to Calibre. I could feel its Lifeforce and I no longer doubt that it is truly a living creature. I will now add to my prayers that the Clever Frankie finds a way to release it from its Slavery so that it can achieve its true stature as a Warrior of Good. As Calibre awoke, it said "Ripplestick": clearly the name of some Gnome - more for the Mystery!

We made a blind for Pelu and Calibre and entered the Cave. It was exactly as I remembered until we reached the back where man-size creatures had been living since I was last here. There was some rotting remains and military style bedrolls but nothing to give any further clues to these new Actors in the Drama. We searched with all our skills for three hours until Frankie found a Secret Door. It led to an Armoury and a Magic Gate. Obviously a Hobgoblin Quartermaster had been moving weapons when the Ley Lines failed and has cut in half. Thalazzar was able to determine that this gate is not two-way but one in a daisy chain of locations; possibly a series of such equipment and weapons caches exist for some Foul Plot. This was only confirmed for as we searched, we found many documents for false identities in Kronos and the Federation, bank records and inventories. We further found a sack of gold and some gems. We are all able to re-arm and re-equip. My Father always said that to take the Sword of Your Enemy is twice the attack for half the work as it weakens him while it strengthens you. I am able to find a suit of chain mail and equipment to replace my travelling stores. Inigo and I claim two fine composite bows. I take the Hobgoblins long sword noting its superior craftsmanship. In the Armoury, there was a suit of Black Halfplate clearly belonging to Orkish officer. Such armour is not fit for me but the value it could fetch from a smith will strengthen us on our travels and deny it to this Cowardly Force.

We returned to Göesse with our Wounded and to rest for the night. I secured our Spoils and made a tithe to the Church of Plentok Veris in honour of their Generosity. I will make another to Heironeous when I next find a Temple.

Cuthberta Mentedakarday

After my morning prayers, I rose to learn that Arek and Urban had returned to Göesse. Arek told us that after we when to the Caves, they tracked the two agents of Jamhyria Theona'la through a swamp to a Temple of Sss'Rast. Inside they found one of the Agents dead and were attacked by Giant Frogs. They both fought heroically - Moradin is obviously also watching us as well as Heironeous. They found the Second Agent's body as well as a variety of holy symbols, documents and religious drugs. Most importantly they found the legendary "Final Text". It is truly a book of dark prophecy and portent. My Father, who survived the Lament, the Wars of Independence and killed a dozen Trolls single-handedly, would never speak to me of its contents. Woe that we must now study it openly. Tiberio was able to read it quickly and spoke of the One and an overthrow of All that we have now. Dangerous enough, but I know that Thalazzar's further studies will uncover further Sorrow that we will have to face. Among the things Arek brought back was a leather disk with Yithic writing: the word "Thal Vazar" (That's "Thala Xevar" - DM) and a spell.

What connection does it have with our mysterious Thalazzar?

Next, Arek spoke of empty cages by the Temple for a human and a bird. Feathers from that cage clearly match Tyconderoga before she was able to escape to Riots Gate. In the larger cage, scratches of "seven bells" - what was Tallum trying to tell us? Finally, Arek told us of a Band of Gnolls lead by Hynanegg that they fought and then by whom they were freed. As a result of this adventure, Arek is in need of rest and healing. The remainder of the day we prepare to go to the Salt Water Barrows.

Cuthberta Mentemoraday

We departed early for the Barrows and as we reached the start of them, we were attacked by four Ogres looking to eat us. Nimbus attempted to reason with them but it was to no avail. Tiberio once again played his fine Music to our Inspiration. Even after I called down the Power of Heironeous on the First and split it in two, they continued. As Thalazzar's magic and Arek's Unity worked on another, I was able to sever its leg. The others brought the Third low with their arrows and Calibre's magic. The Fourth ran off, seeking Reinforcements. We had already suffered at the hand of these Four, more would harm us unacceptably. While it stood, it was a Threat. It collapsed and was at our mercy. My Compassion demanded that I save its life: possibly Redemption was possible for this pitiful creature as well. Heironeous granted me the Power to heal it so I did, praying for its Redemption. I escaped this glorious battle with bruised ribs but Arek did receive a Mighty Blow. While these creatures were carrying some jewellery, Thalazzar's spells were unable to further enlighten us as to any magical properties. All will be learned in the course of time. Once we made a pyre of the bodies and searched, we returned on our Way.

 
    

  

Book I,
Chapter III

THALAZZAR

The fire crackled on the beach of Göesse as Thalazzar and his companions sorted through the days' adventures. Seated on a washed up log, Thalazzar watched as the fire's light danced on the evening mist coming in off Lake Dakar. Tiberio sat beside the wizard, strumming quietly as the group talked, trying to decide where they would go next.

At the troll cave they had discovered ominous things. They had found a malfunctioning magic gate and a large war cache hidden in a stone chamber that Domaldi had not found on his previous encounter at this cave. It looked probable that there were in fact several gates, created long ago in the Age of Giants that mysterious powers were using to stage attacks against the Federation. The weapons, gold, identity documents, and Kronos banking slips that were found seemed stored for use in a conflict. Thalazzar was entrusted with the documents for further study and also kept a fine dagger. Domaldi was given a magic sword found on the unfortunate hobgoblin. The only good sign was the corpse of a hobgoblin warrior, severed in half by the unstable magic of the portal. One could only conclude, however, that as magic gradually returned to normal, so to would the portals used by the Federation's enemies. The party had taken the gold and documents, leaving the arms to be dealt with by the Keepers.

Upon the party's return to Göesse, they were met by Arek of Moradin who had had adventures of his own during his separation from his companions. Arek had tracked down the hideout of the Monotheocratic Order agents only to find them dead. Having found an owl feather that could only have come from Tyconderoga, Tallim's escaped familiar, it was concluded that the agents who had planned to smuggle the war clockwork were the same agents who recently smuggled Tallim into the Order. The trail seemed to lead to the coastal city of Telemar, close to the Wall of the Righteous. Thalazzar suggested that after investigating the Saltwater Barrows the party's path should lead to that southern city.

Arek had also found documents and items that provided more riddles than answers. The agents had carried holy symbols of the Order's deity, copies of their sacred religious text, ceremonial narcotics and a strange leather disc. They also carried enchanted scrolls that Thalazzar had taken for further study.

The wizard had a great deal to study in fact. Besides the documents, scrolls, and sacred text, the leather disc bore an inscription with curious resemblance to Thalazzar's name - Thala Xevar. Seated around the fire, his companions debated its significance with the beggar going so far as to suggest a return to the Sss'Raast Temple where Arek had found it.

"This disc has a personal connection to me that I am not yet fully aware of" recounted the wizard. "Its magic is both familiar and foreign to me, given that it seems to originate in the Order, a place that I have never been."

The wizard leaned forward towards the fire as his companions turned their attention to him.

"My magic is limited by the recent troubles but even if I was as strong as I can be, there are things about my powers that remain a mystery - even to me."

"I will contemplate on this further," concluded Thalazzar, "for now we should focus on answering the riddle of the Dream of Horrors and that means finding Tallim. While it would have been better to question them, we are fortunate in a sense that the agents of the Order are dead as no one in Telemar will have yet heard of our quest."

Thalazzar had no answers to his companion's questions so they did not ask any. Instead, the conversation turned to the next day and the lengthy march to the Saltwater Barrows. There, perhaps, answers might finally be found to some of their questions.

* * *

Gremlins! Thalazzar could not contain his pleasure as the tiny devils swarmed over the hide of the enormous ogre amongst the Barrows. Their tiny claws grasping miniature weapons that stabbed over and over again like hornets defending their nest from a Land's Edge boar. He could not help ponder again the vast power behind the horde in the Dream of Horrors without a small amount of jealously. Protected by his own shimmering abjuration, Thalazzar held no fears that victory would eventually be theirs.

To his left, the gleaming Domaldi used his magic sword to lethal effect, felling a giant easily twice his size with one powerful stroke. "Ogre slayer, Keeper's son" - a fitting description as Tiberio sung an encouraging tune from behind. Close to the wizard was Frankie, the gnome's whirling mechanical contraption launching a torrent of iron bolts at their enemies. One by one, the beasts fell with only a few wounds spread amongst his companions.

When it was over, the spoils were theirs. The Barrows lay before them and another day's adventure lay ahead!

 
    

  

Book I,
Chapter III

INIGO

The Road to the Murke Flats to the Caves of Göesse was short and uneventful. Inigo Tarrega spent the time trying to understand his new companions. Since joining the party, he had been making a number of observations. "They each seem to have such different goals. It is difficult to tell what keeps them together on the same path. I hope that when the time comes, they will fight as one and not flee in different dir---OOOOOF!"

It was precisely at that moment when Inigo first started to question the wisdom of taking up a career in adventuring. While picking out some high ground from which to survey the surrounding terrain, a savage troll exploded from the muck beneath him and gave him a blow which nearly broke him in half.

He scrabbled away and managed to waste a few arrows in it's general direction, but otherwise failed to leave any mark on it at all, except perhaps beneath its fingernails. Were it not for the bard's bracing chorus, he would likely have slipped away altogether and left his musings until after his recovery. Tiberio's courage was contagious and allowed Inigo to keep an arrow to his bow, even though he accomplished little more than smearing the haft with his own blood.

Inigo had never been injured so severely before, although the novelty of it failed to make it any more enjoyable. Fortunately, there were more competent warriors in the party. Frankie's mechanical servant, however, was not one of them. "Good grief," thought Inigo after the Troll had actually managed to rend the unfortunate creature in two. "That sure was one fragile machine."

Frankie, Inigo was not surprised to witness, was clearly inconsolable over the fate if her gadget. He weakly attempted to point her in the direction of some of the cogs and gaskets which the troll had sent flying, but found the effort of doing so seriously interfered with his ability to hold his guts in.

The monk Nimbus, on the other hand, seemed equally distraught over the death of the filthy, stinking monster which was rendered forever harmless with a sharp blow from the paladin's shining blade. The monk was a bit of a puzzle to Inigo. He could tell that they both shared the same concern for the cruelty and pain of the innocent, but he noted that they seemed to differ over on the matter of those he might consider innocent and those he would more likely classify as ravenous, muck dwelling monsters. "Peace?" thought Inigo. "The monk wants peace? That stinking beast has pieces of my kidney under his fingernails! If it were allowed to rise again it would have come for my liver too! I...I..." and with that Inigo gave up his fuming and decided to pass in and out of consciousness instead.

The rest of the day was rather a blur. From what he could piece together later, the exploration of the cave was long and tedious. The heightened nausea brought on by significant blood loss made the stench coming from a pile of rotting flesh in a dark corner particularly distressing. It seemed to have the opposite effect on Thalazzar however, who seemed to perk right up when he discovered there was a stack of unlooted corpses nearby.

After several hours, as the last inch of the cave was finally combed, Frakie found the "click" that led the party to the cave's secret--a hidden armoury with a crackling portal at the far end. Judging from the half-a-hobgoblin sprawled in front of it, the portal did not seem to be in proper working order. The search of the armoury was productive, however. Gems and weapons--as well as important documents--were to be found aplenty. Domaldi pressed a fine bow into Inigo's hands and Inigo nodded, although in his weakened state he could barely pull the string.

It seemed that this armoury was at one time in the not too distant past part of a supply network spanning the continent. That this node no longer seemed functional was probably connected in some way to the arrival of the trolls and the death of Domaldi's father. But how? For Inigo, the answer to that question would have to wait for another day when he was thinking properly and no longer felt a draft on his innards.

After gathering their finds, the party debated spending the night in the cave or in the swamp. Luckily, his companions took seriously his input to the discussion: "Hello? Bleeding? Town? Please?" And so they sealed the vault and proceeded to Göesse--which, by comparison, smelled considerably sweeter than the remnants of the gore still clinging to Thalazzar's boots. Inigo did not wait to find a room, but made at once for his bed from his previous nights in the town, litle aware of the dwarvish occupant already there. "By Moradin's bald spot" were the last grumpy words he heard before he lost consciousness for the next eight hours. The next morning, Inigo's senses cleared considerably with some healing from the paladin. The cleric Arek, he learned, had also spent a good part of the previous day on death's doorstep having left town briefly to investigate a nearby abandoned temple. "Troll caves? Magic portals? Hidden temples? These rustics of Göesse have no idea of the dangers less than half-a-day's travel in any direction. I hope they extract a good price for their fish."

While much of the tale told by Arek had little meaning to Inigo, he was interested to learn of the sad fate of his two "friends" from the Order. "Eaten by frogs--may my own bones fine a more dignified resting place".

Always the romantic, he had half-fancied to meet them again and renew their acquaintance. Perhaps they might even one day have grown to become adversaries to be challenged in a duel of honour. And with this he began a second time in as many days to question the adventuring life. He had a duty to fulfill in the north, and yet now there were plans to take an eastern road to a place called The Salt Water Barrows. "Very well," he thought. "These are my companions and I will travel the road they choose. Perhaps this will lead me closer to my goal; perhaps it will not. But whether here or on the Fields of Elysium, I will be reunited with my family!"

 
    

 

Book I,
Chapter III

FRANKIE

Religion. What is it good for?? Healing Clockworks!!

So there I crouched, gathering up the smashed fragments of poor Calibre. My mind was racing for solutions that it was not trained to do. Namely, how to repair a clockwork.

This is one of those moments in time where an engineer's insecurities come back to haunt them.

A memory flashed to the surface: There I was, barely into twenty years of age trying to figure out advanced hydraulics formulae that I just KNEW were going to be on the family examination. It was one of the few times I had struggled, and it choose a poor time to haunt me. Grimacing, I focused on the issue at hand, and another memory surfaced. A gnome priest of the Constructor was giving us village kids a lesson on Clockwork mechanology, "...and remember students, divine magic will somewhat repair a clockwork, unless you ask the Constructor for specific repair guidance..."

That was it!

I tried to compose my features, and in a calm voice asked Domaldi to heal Calibre. He stepped forward, and for a moment I saw some doubt. He was a true religious fanatic, and he brushed it aside. Holy energies emanted from his fingers, and I saw Calibre's internals repair slightly! Wizbang-it! Functionality restored!

As Calibre came too, he yelled out "Ripplestick what are you doing?!" I filed the name away. When I dropped off Calibre in Peppershot to get repaired, I would have to ask the engineering council to conduct a member search in the annals about this Ripplestick...

Before we entered the caves, we thoroughly set up a blind so that the donkey and Calibre could rest up.

What followed was a long and agonizing search. After several hours I finally found a cleverly disguised secret door (I could just feel my dad rolling his eyes if he knew how I was putting my engineering schooling to use)

Inside we found a weapons storage, along with a hobgoblin that was missing it's better half. Hah! I managed to pick up some more crossbolts, but couldn't find anything of real use. My comrades also found identification, obviously meant to allow agents to infiltrate the Federation. Just wait until the Keepers come to sort them out! We also found a portal that Domaldi's poor dad tried to find. Good thing it isn't functioning too well.

The group pillaged the room, and we organized outside at the blind and returned to Göesse. It was super late when we got back, but I made sure Calibre was tucked in properly before crashing.

The next morning saw the return of Arek and Urban. They looked like a mess, but at least Arek came back ok. I followed the conversation for a bit, but it soon became heavily religious so I snuck out. I talked to Calibre for a bit and helped out with repairs and maintenance. Not seeing much else to do, and tired of the thrall module controlling the converstation, I headed out in a futile attempt to see if I could find anything pocket-worthy.

The day passed, and we set out for Salt Water Barrows. The trip was uneventful, until someone (something?) sent some kind of magic device to spy on Thalazaar. *Note to self: see if I can make a magic detector

We finally arrived at the barrows, only to be greeted by hungry Ogres (never seen an Ogre before, but Arek understood the grunts they were spewing from their drooling mouths) I began to feel despair kicking in. They looked so mean! I'm an engineer... my first two shots went astray in my indecision. Then a soothing presence entered my mind. It was almost as if Uncle Swapgears was in front of me again, "You showed that troll the business end of yer x-bow. Get shootin that xbow missie!"

I took calming breaths, released the safety inhibitors, and let loose. I even got one of the meanies in the head. Nasty! Domaldi went in shouting battle oaths, Nimbus went in reasoning, and Thalazaar unleashed a lot of small tiny, ah, blue skinned thingies that made shrieking noises and clawed away. They even tore into Domaldi for a short bit. I don't think I like this magic stuff! Even Calibre fired off some weird magic attacks. Good thing I told him to stay close by me.

Soon it was all over and everyone had survived.

 
    

  
 
 
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Session 8

Book I,
Chapter IV

AREK

"…Bless my steps Moradin and those of who travel with me. Though I fail to understand everything that is happening to my companions and myself, I lay my destiny in your hands and wield Unity for your greater glory. I have basked in your light and yearn to one day return to you, yet I accept with thanks and humility the tasks that lay before me. Praise Moradin, praise the Soulforger."

Arek finished his daily morning prayers to Moradin and slowly raised himself. Since his days in the mountains near Lake Dakar, he had always enjoyed praying to Moradin as the sun was rising. While he often thought and prayed to Moradin at various times during the day, the morning prayers seemed to be those where he felt closest to his god. Arek had felt more than once Moradin's grace mingled with the warmth of the first rays of the sun. As Arek looked around the makeshift camp he and his companions had been staying in for two days, it appeared he would again need Moradin's favours soon.

As Arek got up, his gaze fell upon Unity, always in his right hand as he prayed Moradin. Such a weapon! he thought. Yet am I worthy to wield it? Moradin has clearly chosen me to care for it but will I be the one to regroup the Claimers? Surely more experienced leaders would be better suited. I had barely become and inductee an now must care for one of the holy relics of the clans? Arek examined Unity and again marvelled at its intricate detail and its perfect balance. It was a beautifully crafted weapon of war, yet its power not only came from the steel stone it was made of, nor from the blessings that granted it divine properties. Unity was powerful because of what it represented. Unity, in the proper hands, could rally the Claimers once more and perhaps even more dwarves than that, far beyond Riot's Gate. Will my hands guide Unity on its true path? Since receiving Unity, Arek had decided that he would die trying.

Arek tightly held Unity. The Dream. Bithtal Bithtat. Guhl-Thundarr. The Fall of Axes Bithtat. The Claimers disbanded. Woden, dragons, and Unity. Lake Dakar. Dead serpentine religions. The One and his followers. The pillars of Sentar. What incredible weeks these had been for Arek! Despite heroic tales of his own, even uncle Ulgar would be impressed. Yet despite all this, for Arek, it always came back to Moradin. All praise for Moradin! Twice now had Arek been admitted in the golden halls of the Dwarfather. Twice! The first time had disturbed greatly Arek. Though he had clearly joined the Creator as he and his companions waged battle at the Riot's Gate mechanical lift, Moradin had seemed distant. In fact, Arek had only seen Moradin from afar, his back turned to his followers. Prior to falling, Arek had faced a loneliness he had never felt before. Moradin had not acknowledged his prayers, let alone answer them. This was not the same case the second time after the engagement in Sss'Raast's temple. Moradin had returned and answered some of his calls. But not all of them. Moradin was present, yet distracted.

As he thought this, Arek turned to Tiberio, who was still asleep near the small fire. Arek thought of the discussion he and Tiberio had had a few days ago, leaving Saltwater Barrows. They had talked of a prophecy Tiberio had been blessed with. Perhaps Apollo, the bard's deity, was right. Perhaps the gods were involved in some form of fighting and were unable to attend, as they usually did, to affairs in the mortal realm. And perhaps it was true that this group had a role to play in these divine conflicts. Their shared dream might be connected to this godly confrontation. The Bard, as with all the others of the group, had his secrets and seemed to know more than he let show. But Arek was happy to have earned the trust of this man who had proven his worth on many occasions since their first meeting. A divine revelation was not an easy thing to discuss or reveal to others.

The drop of a metal tool against a small boulder made Arek look towards Frankie. She was working on the Clockwork again, trying to figure out how it worked as much as finding clues to the mechanical creature`s past. Arek could not hide his smile as he looked at the young gnomish engineer. Female engineer! Clearly you could not judge a scroll by its case. Arek was very impressed by the way Frankie carried herself. She had single-handedly saved hundred of lives and was deadly with that automatic crossbow yet, as soon as she could, she would plunge into a manual or fiddle with the many items of hers pouches, oblivious to what was happening around her. Arek had noted her obvious disinterest for religious matters. She would have made a worthy addition to any dwarvish engineering crew in Axes Bithtat. May Moradin protect you little one. I suspect we will need your inventiveness yet again.

Without a word, Arek softly walked over to his pack and bedroll. As he came to his part of the camp, he noticed Domaldi and Inigo, talking intently. Both had just arrived a few hours earlier during Arek's watch. Arek was more and more impressed by the young Paladin. He had been struck by Domaldi's words in Riot's Gate as he sent his father off to Heironeous. Arek's respect had only grown since then. The Paladin had saved this group more than once with his feats in battle. Arek smiled as he remembered the powerful (and fatal ) blow Domaldi had struck against the evil sword-wraith two nights ago. Clearly Domaldi could fight but Arek had been most impressed by Domaldi's solicitude for Inigo and his cool head with the Lizard men. While Arek had felt sick to his stomach leaving his two companions to face the trial of the lizard-folk, he had realized it was the only choice if the rest of the group was to survive. Through his faith, deeds and words, the young Paladin had the makings of a great human leader and would surely make his father proud.

Arek was somewhat more worried about Inigo. The fighter seemed capable enough in battle (if somewhat rash) but what had befallen upon him might endanger the whole group. If Domaldi's account was accurate, Inigo had been the target of powerful divine magic. The spell he was under was well beyond Arek's capacity but he knew what it implied. Inigo now had to find the creature (or entity) that was terrorizing the area. Arek recalled his adventure in the swamps surrounding the Sss'Raast temple. The unnatural silence, the stillness still raised the hairs of Arek's neck. Whatever had caused the Gnolls to be so terrified was not to be trifled with. And now the group had to track it and kill it if Inigo was to be spared. Well, if it is your wish Moradin, I will follow. Inigo had fought and bled for the group, he deserved as much. Inigo was not part of the dream, but his destiny seemed intertwined with that of the group.

Sweet smoke, different from that of the campfire, tingled Arek's nose. Thalazzar. Arek turned to see the mage, off by himself at the edge of the camp, smoking and reading intently. If Inigo's current dilemma was cause for concern, Thalazzar's past seemed even a greater liability. Arek had no reason to distrust the mage. In fact, contrary to what Arek had initially thought of him, Thalazzar had been steadfast in his support for the group. While the spellcaster was clearly of a different temperament than most of the group, he had let no one down. Yet Arek felt that something of Thalazzar's past was always lurking, just around the next bend. What that could be Arek had no idea. Thalazzar was more secretive than the others. By Moradin, let's hope that out here in the wilderness, Thalazzar's past deeds will not be as problematic as they had been in Riot's Gate. Well, the tall human was resourceful and the group needed his arcane knowledge to piece together the mystery they were part of.

Arek realized he had thought of everyone in the group in just a few moments, as he often did in the mornings. Perhaps it was his way of taking stock before setting out on the next step of their quest. Not everyone. Nimbus. If Thalazzar's past seemed a mystery, Nimbus' was painfully obvious. Yet as much as Thalazzar had a quick wit and a sharp tongue, Nimbus was impenetrable. Arek stared at the monk who was still resting. Arek had met a few monks in Riot's Gate and had always been fascinated by them. Arek considered Nimbus a man of strong faith. Yet our faiths are demonstrated in such different ways! Never had Arek met a man who could move and act like Nimbus. Arek recalled how Nimbus had swung, dived and tumbled to his aid on the Lusty Wench's deck. Nimbus had jumped from the main mast's crows nest! And then there was how Nimbus acted with others (even with his adversaries in combat.) Arek could only applaud Nimbus' respect for the sanctity of life. It was beyond his own abilities. While respecting a prisoner's rights was one thing, calling out to spare an ogre who had tried to eat him just moments ago was something else entirely. In combat, Arek sought Moradin's inspiration and passion. Nimbus was all about calm and detachment. Perhaps we share our path for a reason that goes beyond the dream? I will look, listen, and learn Moradin.

The sun had fully risen and Arek noticed that Inigo was becoming slightly more nervous and edgy, checking his pack and weapons time and time again.

We should be going then. First, to the pillars. And then? Will we find that which hunts the night?

Arek turned to the sun again and then to the earth, and closed his eyes, gripping Unity tightly.

Bless our steps Soulforger. Though I have doubts and concerns, I lay my trust in my newfound comrades. Humbly, I accept your trials Moradin. Grant me the strength to face them with wisdom and honour.

 
   

 

Book I,
Chapter IV

THALAZZAR

Thalazzar spat some vile, dark curses in his native draconic as he plodded through the marsh, leading the heavily overburdened and increasingly stubborn Pelu. Nimbus' limp, drooling, rag-covered body was flung haphazardly over the beast as they trudged west along the river. More than once had the wizard contemplated the consequences of the beggar "accidentally" slipping off his irritated mount and disappearing unconscious into the marsh about them.

He swatted at an insect as they continued along. Arek and Tiberio just ahead, and the gnome just behind as her little legs attempted to keep pace. Their collective mood was as dark as the growing shadows of evening about them Pelu's hoof caught a root, drawing forth a stubborn grunt and a brief pull at the rope. Why, thought Thalazzar, would devils so easily heed his call and yet this cursed animal resisted him so. Perhaps the ass could be enchanted but then that magic would be spent should they encounter lizardfolk more aggressive than the last….or worse.

They had traveled all this way in the marsh to finally find these pillars only to be turned back by a luckless encounter with a bunch of wild, tribal lizard creatures. At least the mercenary Inigo had fought well, reckoned the wizard, hostile intentions or not. Frankie had exclaimed that the mercenary had caught and almost slain two of them before Domaldi could catch up in all his armour! Thalazzar was not sure what would happen to either him or Domaldi. Half of the companions had not even seen the lizards, Thalazzar among them, and understood only partly why their party had been split in half. It had been decided though, that Inigo's fate was his own but that Domaldi, as one who had shared the Dream of Horrors, was just as important as Tallim, the Red Rider, or the rest of his companions. If he did not return to where the Saltwater Barrows met the river by evening tomorrow, Thalazzar had suggested that the companions venture back into lizard lands in an attempt to rescue him. Domaldi would certainly have done the same for them he rationed.

The wizard stepped in a muddy hole, soaking his leg so high that mud oozed in over the top of his boot. He so preferred the comfortable slippers that matched his robe, but they were even less appropriate for bogging about then his fine boots. Another draconic curse, a wipe of mud, and he and Pelu trudged onwards.

Thalazzar and Arek struck up a conversation as they marched. Thalazzar had been quite impressed by the dwarf's display of holy power the evening prior in the Barrows. Moradin himself had little appeal to the conjuror, but such overt divine presence was a new experience for him. Thalazzar's prayers had always been uttered with a sense of fear that his god could well decide to eat him, but such was the way of things with the Khi'Ganad. Plus, it was the only god that Thalazzar had ever known and despite his wicked ways, he was convinced that his divine patron had gotten him out of a few spots. Arek was in a contemplative mood, having found these steel stone pillars so similar to the ones of the old legends. The rest of the evening's march involved some history on the wars of the dwarves and legends of old.

And so they sat. The companions had little other to do than sit and wait once they had made camp. While they were nervous of encountering more restless Barrow dwellers or vengeful ogres, they still had sufficient strength to repel most attackers. Thalazzar spent a grew deal of time pondering whether he could risk smoking some of his remaining Bluerush Root or whether he should try again to decipher the enchanted Yithic scrolls. He had been more scarred by that incident that by any of the enemy they had faced in the last few days! Well, that wasn't exactly true, as a certain goblin in Riot's Gate owed him for a still tender crossbow wound.

Tyconderoga was also growing irritating the more irritated she got. What Thalazzar loved about conjurations was that his beasts went away when he no longer required them. Why he was the one burdened by bird, ass and gnome was beyond him. The bird's nervous clutching at his shoulder risked damaging his new magic cloak - interestingly not plundered but brought forth from the Barrows by a skeletal gift bearer. If only more such arcane trinkets would arrive as gifts!

Thalazzar glared at the owl, perched across their campsite on a lazy tree dangling into the river. The bird was glaring back seemingly demanding that the whole group of them abandon Domaldi, march off into zealot-driven danger, and rescue her master liked a spoiled only child. Thalazzar did not understand how the average wizard could stand some pesky animal familiar clutching at him all day. He vowed that if he ever called a familiar, it would be something capable of taking care of itself when it had too!

The group passed the evening and the next day with little incident, gnawing at dried fish trail rations acquired in Goesse, swatting at insects and attempting to find dry sticks in the swamp to keep their fire going. Tiberio was always good for a rousing tune that drowned out the rambling gnome, but even a bard's fingers grow tired. Nimbus flitted in and out of conscious much as he always did. The gnome was all up about some sort of wooden perimeter defences and spent most of the day babbling and nailing damp twigs to what passed for the forest surrounding them.

As evening drew about them on the second day the party began to discuss how they would find and rescue Domaldi when both the knight and mercenary strolled into camp none the worse for the wear. The verdict: back the way they had come at dawn to the pillars and adventure beyond. As he rolled out his bedroll, Thalazzar picked a bit of dried fish out of his fine black beard and muttered in draconic;

"At least the knight will take his ass back…."

 
   

  
Book I,
Chapter IV

DOMALDI

Cuthberta Mentemoraday

We prepared camp after the battle and some forage for food and water. As I swore, I cut off the heads of the ogres and put them on stakes to warn the Others of their folly in attacking us.

As we sleep, Skeletons and their leader, a Sword Wraith, attack us. Calibre got damaged early but continued to fight. I tried to channel the Power of Heironeous to drive them off and was unable. I could feel the Power flow through me but as it left I felt something sickening. It was almost as if an evil force was channelled upon me. Possibly it was the Swordwraith, or maybe it was the One between Heironeous and me. As the battle raged, I tried again but could not focus enough. That was went Arek showed us and our enemies how it is truly done: Arek channelled the Might of Moradin through Unity and his holy light destroyed the skeletons. I felt the holy burning and charged out of the cave. I needed no armour or clothes for my Faith surrounded me. As my companions surrounded the surviving Wraith, I became the Justice of Heironeous and struck. "By my Father's sword, I am the Light from which you cannot hide", I yelled as I struck the foulness of its evil flesh. As the battle ended, we tended to our wounded and returned to sleep.

Cuthberta Mentefreeday

At dawn we awake and prepare for our day of travels. We found that the Ogre has escaped. I return to prayer to contemplate my Choices. The purest form of the Lumina teaches that we must utterly destroy our enemy but the Keepers Law states that justice cannot be issued from the end of a sword. The Second Rule states all Sentients deserve Justice and the Fifth, that the Ends do not Justify the Means. A fallen foe must be given quarter. It is so confusing! Mother was the Scholar, not I. That Ogre will likely join another tribe and spread more evil. My Father was right that the choice is not clear. In my humility I see the answer for today: while I can channel the power of Heironeous to heal, I cannot give Life only Death. My motives must be clear when I take a life for I cannot repair a mistake. I am too small to know what part my Foes have in the Grand Scheme, much less my own. I will continue to live by my Father's Rules, those of the Keepers, because since his Death, that is all I have left of him. Possibly by the time I can wield my Father's Sword, I will be enough of a Man to see my Path.

Inigo tracked the skeletons to their lair to determine why the Ogres were camped so near so many barrows but no solution was found. We break camp and walk east to a cliff edge. It formed part of an oxbow from the main river. Tiberio spoke to Tyconderoga and she scouts for us and finds ruins. As it was near the end of the day, we camp. Pelu continued to hold up under the heavy load in his usual way, like an Ass.

Cuthberta Mentesularday

We broke camp and walked to the ruins. They were three stone pillars as tall as the trees and ornately carved. Arek determined that they were Steel Stone: one perfectly smooth, one carved in orderly and complex patterns and the last is chaotic and complex. These clearly represented the Pillars of Sentar for some ancient people: the bases of the pillars were marked in Bakare. Nimbus told us that the Elves spoke of a Fourth pillar and he said that he felt the power of Sentar here. He went between the pillars and meditated in the Point of Power. We found that around the pillars were Bakare numbers in a ring as I investigated them, Inigo ran off. I followed out of instinct and saw that he was chasing lizardmen of some kind hidden in the trees. My first thought was of Saughin but we were too far from the Lake. I was falling behind but I saw them attack him and he quickly struck them down. In a flash, their clothes and weapons become familiar, Lizardmen of the Suzeranty. I yell for them to stop fighting as I reach him: they are locals not assailants.

A dozen emerged from the woods and their leader yelled, "Get back Federation. He killed two of ours, we must kill him. There will be War for the Truce is broken." I lower my Sword and tried to convince them not to attack. A War with the Federation and the Suzeranty would be devastating to both now and would only play into the hands of the Order. I convinced the Lizardmen not to attack and they demanded that Inigo stands trial. I offered to speak on his behalf and we went to their city to face their Justice unarmed. The rest of my Companions left the Suzeranty to await our return as Nimbus was in an unwakable trance.

Cuthberta Clairselunday

We were taken to the Lizard City to go their Court. We spent the entire day in preparation among these Lawful people. They did not molest or harm us in any way.

We were taken to their Court. This consisted of their leader, Kausat and his advisors. I spoke of that day's events and the mistakes and conspiracies that surround us all. I must regret my Failure, for the Decision of the Court was that that Inigo had to die for his crimes and I demanded to stand for that charge as well. Both Inigo and Kausat told me they would not allow that. We were taken away to collect our feeble belongings. Then Kausat came to us and told us that his people were being killed, something was Hunting the Night, something from the Temple of Sss'Raast. They were not going to kill Inigo but instead enslave him. I would not tolerate that and spoke out again. Amid my denials, Inigo offered to Quest to find and destroy that which Hunted the Night. Kausat smiled, nodded and left.

Cuthberta Clairdakarday

At dawn, three Lizardmen priests dragged Inigo away to their Temple. They cast a spell on him that marked and compelled him by their god, Semuanya, to protect the tribe and destroy that which Hunted the Night. They returned us unharmed to the Pillars while explaining the situation. Warriors from many villages in the entire area were being killed and disappearing. It was a powerful and strange foe for which they had no defence. We rejoined our companions at the Pillars and told our story as we set up camp. We would continue to the East according to the Map, certain that it was related to this new Evil.

 
   

  
Book I,
Chapter IV

FRANKIE

Who gnomgineered this schema, cause it's malfunctioning badly!
(translation: just WHAT were we supposed to do in this swamp again?)

After fighting the ogres, the group decided to call it a night, and the majority decided to sleep in the cave that the ogres were using. We settled in, but the eight hours of sleep evaded us.

During the night a small army of skeletal undead appeared out of the darkness and assaulted us. Inigo and Nimbus kept them busy while we tried to organize ourselves. I couldn't see past anyone at first! Domaldi tried a few times to do something, I heard a lot of intonations to Heironeous. Things were not looking so great, so I crept out and nailed a skeleton with an xbow bolt. Didn't seem to do much, not looking good. Arek started praying to his god as well, and after a long moment this flash of light flooded out and obliterated most of the army! I decided to shoot what appeared to be their leader. The bolt sunk into him and he (it?) didn't even wince. Even the acid that Calibre was throwing at it didn't cause it to yell (but it's face sure did melt good).

Domaldi, wearing next to nothing, starting yelling out a litany to his father. Of course he had already chopped the undead thing in half before he finished, but I am not gonna complain. That religious fanatic stuff is pretty effective!

The group healed each other up and we got what sleep we could.

* * *

The next day was something else. We started tromping around, and it is a good thing that Calibre always knows where true north is. I am pretty sure that is the only thing that kept us from becoming lost. During one of the breaks I handed Calibre a note I had prepared, along with some instructions. I have taken the clockwork on as my responsibility, and it is only proper that I do what was right.

As our swamp meandering progressed aimlessly later into the day, we stopped and Tiberio started talking to the owl somehow.

I think I am becoming too used to magic. I wasn't even that disappointed when Calibre informed me that he used arcane energies to repair. I had even learned a lot of clockwork mechanics to do repair Calibre the "old fashioned way". Ah well.

The owl seemed quite agitated, but eventually flew off. She returned later and guided us to three stonesteel pillars. The first thought on my mind was: wow, I bet that stuff would make excellent engineering material. I wisely kept these thoughts to myself.

I didn't know what to really look for, and the ancient writings were beyond me (heck, I learned to decipher ENGINEERING schemas, not this stone druid stuff) Nimbus walked into the center, sat down, then collapsed. He really should start getting healed properly, I think the strain is too much for him. A short time later, Inigo began to patrol the outlying ring of these pillars. He yelled out something about "lizards" and ran off. I think he is a little too weird sometimes.

Domaldi gave chase, as did Calibre. I did not want Calibre running after lizards (the lizard guts might get into his internals... the maintenance work would be a jiggered gear smatch pile to sort out) Then Arek heard something and started heading off. I asked him what was going on, and he said Domaldi was yelling about a fight. It appeared Arek was going out, and I wasn't going to let him go into danger alone! I asked Calibre to carry me due to my short legs, and Calibre sprinted off.

We came upon a weird scene. The lizards turned out to be lizard folk, and two of their number were on the ground being cared for by a large group of other lizard folk. Domaldi and a bloody Inigo were talking to their leader, and soon it appeared that they wanted Inigo's head for the fighting that had happened. Domaldi and the leader began talking things over, and soon the leader demanded we disarm ourselves. The leader made it clear that if we didn't, the remaining lizard folk would rush our comrades back at the pillar and slaughter them.

Seeing no choice, I broke down my x-bow and asked Calibre to drop his maces.

Domaldi asked Inigo to disarm, and the leader said that Domaldi could represent Inigo at some kind of hearing. I tried to recover their weapons but the lizardfolk leader wouldn't have it.

Arek and I left Domaldi and Inigo to their fate, and returned to tell our comrades what had happened. We decided to give the lizard folk two days, or we were going to go rescue Domaldi. I owed that fanatic a debt.

Nimbus recovered the morning of the second day. Good thing the pillars had not done that to the rest of us. The morning of the third day came along, and as I was getting the x-bow primed, we came across Domaldi and Inigo. Inigo was covered in weird scars and blood, and we soon discovered that we had to go hunt something in the swamp to patch things up with the lizard folk.

A thought occurred to me "What were we trying to do here again???"

 
   

  

Book I,
Chapter IV

THALAZZAR

Jungle Tribes of Divinity

A bedtime story, er, I mean "campfire tale," by Thalazzar

Thalazzar's stock of Bluerush Root was running low and the closest city was growing ever farther away. As the companions sat about their evening campfire, the wizard concentrated on the conversation to keep his mind off the growing twitch of his moustache. Inigo was telling the companions what he knew of the lands to the south, tales of zealots, drugs and conflict in the jungle. Thalazzar listened intently, absorbing everything and contemplating how these tales fit with the messages and history contained in The Last Book. Soon, the mercenary had told what he could and the fire grew silent. The night was young, though, and no one yet seemed ready for sleep.

Feeling his lip twitching from the need for root, Thalazzar fondled his pipe and searched for distraction. Thinking back to his time in the Land's Edge Woods, the wizard's thoughts suddenly camp upon a tale perhaps relevant to their talk on Divinity. Deciding to fill the silence with the distraction of a story of his own, Thalazzar began to recount what he knew.

"I believe I have a tale about Divinity as well" began the conjuror. "I hadn't thought much of it before but now that I hear Inigo's words, it seems that I have studied some of the tribes native to that land."

Thalazzar explained that what he knew was not of the politics or wars of men. At least, his history was not one that normal scholars would have heard of. The wizard, however, had had unusual teachers as wizards tend to have and his knowledge was sometimes equally obscure. But his tale required a bit of truthfulness as to his past.

"Before coming to the Federation I spent several years in the company of a sylvan protector and mentor, an Ent of the Land's Edge Woods whose name was Stooped Birch."

"This Ent was a great friend to me and had for hundreds of years learned things about this land that the most of the races of this world pay little attention to - the history of forests, jungles, and their creatures."

Thalazzar told the tale of a secret war unknown to men, a secret war between two races big and small. The first was the Oota Bataboota, a tribe of fierce jungle trolls. These trolls, unlike their more northern cousins, had blue tinted hide which they painted with bright war paints - pinks and whites, oranges and purples - garish to men's eyes, but quite at home in the bright colours of the southern jungles. This tribe was led not by warriors or sorcerers, but by voodoo witches whose fireside jungle chants and drums filled the denizens of their jungle home with fear only matched by their cruelty and wicked curses. They lived on islands in the Sea of Lost Souls, off the coast of Divinity, in waters where even treacherous Feraln elven reavers dared not tread.

But one race shared their home, hiding in sylvan grottos, steamy volcanic pools, and the bright jungle canopy on the mountain sides where the Oota Bataboota could not easily reach. The Shyamelyn pixies, distant cousins to the fairies who frequented Stooped Birch, were not a warlike race but defended their secret hiding places with a martial finesse worthy of their sylvan heritage and a thousand years of intimacy with their islands. The Shyamelyn lured their large evil enemy into steaming vents and volcanic flows, wielding their arrows to distract and illusions to hide the island's heated weapons.

While losses meant little more than an irritant to the Oota Bataboota, every fey that fell was hundreds of years of history lost from their immortal enemy. The trolls derived great pleasure in crushing their enemy's brilliant gossamer wings into coloured pastes and using them to make their bright war paint. The Oota Bataboota also squished captured or fallen fey between wooden planks, wearing the pressed pixies on their shields and ritual masks as an herbalist would press flowers in a book. So clad, the trolls would dance and sing into the night, beating their drums and leaving the fey to dream of days before this menace came into their islands.

Thalazzar finished his tale to find once more the silence of his companions around the campfire. This time, however, the weight of politics had been replaced by a sense of wonder at the magic of this world and that night, they all dreamed in oranges, whites, pinks and blues.

 
    

  
 
 
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CHAPTER FIVE: Where Lizards Weep
Cuthberta Clairemoarday
  
Session 9

Book I,
Chapter V

D.ex.M

From Pillars to Grove

Tiberio, Nimbus and Thalazzar - the day you spent at the Pillars Site was not a wash, for you learned the following while you were there…

As Thalazzar explains, magic flows - scholars debate whether the flow creates the Ley Lines, or whether the Ley Lines determine the direction of the flow, but the essential points are that the world is awash in Magic and that that Magic is in motion. Another debate is whether "flow" is a metaphor or a description. One theory posits that because Magic is tapped either through the words (as with Wizards) or the blood (as with Sorcerers) of dragons, the Ley Lines and the magic that "flows" through them are commonly understood in fluid terms.

Like all things that flow, magic also pools. Places where magic pools are power sites, and they are known by a variety of culturally dependent names. Though they often occur where Ley Lines cross or converge, these sites need not be fixed, and can even be people - powerful Wizards and Sorcerers - or other mobile objects that act as reserve fonts of magical energy (Feat tree, Ebb & Flow). Some spells are more potent close to these flows and pools and there are those adept at tapping directly into them to empower their spells all the more. The pillar site is almost certainly one of these sites. What is not clear is whether the model pillars were built because it is a power site, or that it is a power site because the model pillars were built there.

What is clear to Tiberio is that the Pillar site is not entirely or primarily religious in purpose, but rather scholarly and perhaps even arcane, related to some manner of astrological or magical research. Little enough is known about the Pharonic Ra-Nephi civilization of Semerkhet that originated the Bakare alpha-numerical system. It was highly accomplished in architecture advanced mathematics. Ra-Nephi was originally based in the Atamara desert and, along with its gods, it was effectively wiped out by the Monotheocrate Order as it grew.

It is not clear, however, that this site is the product of the Ra-Nephi civilization. Something about the proportions of the site, particularly the writing and some of the ancillary structures identified in the surrounding wood suggests its Giantish origins - not so old as the legendary Age of Giants, but certainly from the era of the Durgoshii Empire. This would make it a little over 2,000 years old. Not as ancient as many things on Sentar, and certainly not more ancient than recorded history. This doesn't explain the "frighteningly old" language written on the base of each pillar that Domaldi recognized matches the faded writing on the parchment that the map you are following was originally scrawled upon.

Furthermore, it appears as though the site has been cleared recently, if not with an eye to functionality, then at least with an interest in knowledge of its central feature (the pillars). This occurred in, perhaps, the last 10 years. It would take an experienced tracker to determine an exact date.

It is worth pointing out, Thalazzar allows, that the "fluid" allegory for magic, though descriptive and helpful, has its limits. The "Blood and Words of Dragons" theory is tidy and elegant, he explains, but like many tidy and elegant theories it only fits if one takes a selective approach to eth facts. In this case, ignoring several other aspects of magical power such as, divine sources of magic and their relationship with the Ley Lines, the apparent magical potency of the Yithic tongue (womething which you have only just learned), or the manner in which Bards, Rangers and some others learn to tap into the Ley Lines without the benefit of Draconic incantations or the blood of ancient wyrms flowing through their veins.

The relationship between Magic and the Ley Lines, as well as magic's fluid properties, are certainly clear, but Magic is more versatile and resilient than theorists would have it. Understanding its mysterious nature seems all the more important in light of the devastating aftermath of its absence.

 
    

 

Book I,
Chapter V

THALAZZAR

When Lizards Weep

Out of the corner of his eye, Thalazzar registered that the clockwork might not survive, its gears bashed and metal plates greatly distorted. Arek and Domaldi, reinvigorated by dwarven prayers, rushed once more into the marsh to drag its hulking form out of the path of the rampaging bramble beasts. In the dark shadows of the swamp, their glowing red eyes could not be hidden easily as they advanced on the withdrawing companions. With steelstone hammer and hobgoblin blade, the pair would have given any other rational beast considerable pause, but not these creatures. The gremlin horde of Gnarrgyn could not be easily seen, but their presence was also keenly felt by the companions. They could hear their malicious chatter as they skittered over the brambles, ripping and tearing as they swarmed forward ever closer to the grove.

The conjurer knew that he and his companions would be safe from his Gnarrgyn horde within the grove's protective aura. His companions did not. What's more, they could not easily tell how many of the wooden creatures lay beyond their sight and whether they could enter the grove. Scraped, torn, drenched, bloodied and soiled, the companions fought there way backwards towards the peaceful sunlight of the grove behind them. From there, some form of sylvan fey was rendering them assistance as fine arrows flew from the grove to strike their vicious bramble stalkers in the shadows. Even though he stood within the grove's soft light, he could see little of their new ally save for wisps of long flowing hair amongst the stalwart oaks, dancing like leaves in the wind.

Thalazzar distractedly twirled the tip of his moustache around a single finger as his other hand gently repeated a rune form in the air, a linking sigil to the Abyssal realm of Gnarrgyn from whence his gremlins had come. His chin lowered in concentration, his tall red hat drooping perilously forward, the wizard sensed that the battle was won and that the gremlins had pursued the creatures deeper into the swamp. Ending his arcane concentration and leaving his horde to dissipate, Thalazzar looked about to see his companions collapsing onto the blue flowered mound to catch their breath.

Their host was far more beautiful then any of them had imagined. Her delicate willowy form and deep bright eyes were entrancing. But, to Thalazzar's chagrin, the creature was most interested in Tiberio and his music. Resting within the enchanted grove, the dryad explained her long vigil over this place, once tended by druids of old. She asked Tiberio of his music, having heard of the tune he sang to the lizard tribe (DM's Note - She did not hear the Lizardman song, she observed the divine origins of Tiberio's lyre, and recalled "Apollo's siste" who has gone missing past "the big wall," so she asked for a song). With a sly grin, Tiberio began his song once more.

Although Tiberio's Draconic was far less fluent than his own, the minstrel captured a great deal of the essence of the lizard dialect, admittedly far different than Thalazzar's native kobold tongue (DM's Note - Not sure what Tiberio actually played). It was the emotion behind the words that made it such a powerful performance. The words lisped off his teeth, a sad but romantic lament of the conflict between duty to one's tribe and one's land, torn between saving family and saving home waters. Things, perhaps, more heartfelt to a cold-blooded tribal lizard, but lyrics that brought a strange beauty to these dark, wet lands nonetheless. Their dryad protector seemed genuinely stirred by Tiberio's tribute to the marsh she had watched over for so long, surprised by the human's ability to articulate the beauty hidden between the bramble, mud and root. Whatever ills the companions had committed in these lands prior to that moment had been forgiven.

The wizard felt rested and whole as the sun dried their clothes and eased their battered bodies. Thalazzar removed his boots, put on his soft pointed slippers for the first time in days, if only for a short time, and stretched out on the grass.

And then a surprise as the dryad gifted them some items from the old druid burial mound beneath them (DM's Note: The Items belonged to the druids that had trapped her here so long ago. They constructed her barrow glade, but you do not know who or what if anything is buried there. Nor do you know from whence she extracted the items). To Thalazzar's care, an enchanted staff of deep black ash. Holding it in his hand he could immediately sense its age and latent, foreign power. Divining its magic, tiny sylvan lettering glowed green amongst the natural twists and turns of the charcoal coloured wood. He could sense great powers within, powers of conjuration not dissimilar to his own, but certainly powers beyond the abilities of anyone within their little group. To one of elfin kind or perhaps someone with a mastery of druidic arts, this staff would be a great prize of tremendous value. Holding it in his hands and running his palm across its smooth, dark surface, Thalazzar distinctly felt the elemental wrath churning within it - undiscriminating energy like a hurricane in a forest. While none of them could unleash it, this indeed was a kingly gift.

Thalazzar stood in the grove and gripped the ashen branch tight, letting its energy infuse him. He imagined that this was what Stooped Birch must have felt like, his thick legs rooted in place for centuries if he chose, absorbing Sentar's powerful natural energy into his gnarled ancient limbs. Such a shame that he could not wield this power thought the wizard. The old tree's jibes to abandon his dark arcane ways and embrace the druid's path now took on a new irony Thalazzar realized with a smirk. "Kalthanalas" in Sylvan it read - a bearer, a master, an origin, a mystery? Sitting down again finally with his back against the grove's oak guardians, Thalazzar softly touched the staff to his cheek, feeling its energy tingling the ends of his beard as he watched his companions exploring their other gifts.

Peering out into the shadows beyond the grove Thalazzar noticed for the first time the silent stream running over a rocky, shadowed entrance and the quiet beauty of this place. With Tiberio's notes lingers in his ears, he could almost hear elfin singing as he closed his eyes.

 
   

 

Book I,
Chapter V

DOMALDI

Cuthberta Clairemoraday

After completing the Prayer of Dawn, I noticed that Inigo had packed his meagre belongings and was shaking hands with everyone. I approached him and he stated that he had to part company with us to pursue his new Quest. While I worried for his safety, I knew the Compulsion under which he was placed. Arek and I both said a Blessing over him and we parted Ways.

We set out from the Pillars of Sentar (DM - It's only a model) to the North and East and found the hills that were marked on the Map. We were followed by lizardmen but were not molested. Tiberio played a haunting song familiar to these watchers and they parleyed with us. Their leader warned us that "trees and plants" beyond the swamp were something to fear. He left us and we continued on our way.

As we were passing through the swamp, we were attacked by unnatural lizardmen and hobgoblins. Somehow the trees themselves had possessed them. As I was dispatching some of these foul creatures, Nimbus again ran into the thick of the fight and found the central beast of this Drama: a Yellow Musk Creeper. While not graceful, I jumped the brook and engaged one of the hobgoblins as the Creeper was brought low.

We proceeded South-East, met the River and moved to the East. As we moved through the forest and hills, we found another Convergence Point: a barrow surrounded by thirteen green oaks. It was in front of a cave entrance coincident with the Complex marked on the Map. As we advanced, I sensed an Ancient and Unspeakable Evil and strange wooden creatures resembling a Dire Boar and two Wood Woads attacked us. I summoned the Might of Heironeous and savagely struck the Woad and it still stood. Arek next struck soundly with Unity and it still attacked. As the others surrounded the second Wood Woad, Nimbus kept the Boar at bay. He saw a figure in the Grove and repeatedly called to her. Finally, Arek and I were able to shatter the Woad and Arek proceeded to the Grove while I attacked the second Woad. Suddenly another emerged. It was only by the Grace of Heironeous that I was still standing. The Dryad of the Grove reappeared and began firing arrows at our Opponents. Frankie and Arek learned that this Grove could protect us from this Evil. The second and third were dispatched but we knew we could not defeat the Boar. We began withdrawing to the Grove and were entangled by some foul magic caused by this Beast. In spite of these Challenges, our Party was gaining safety as Calibre fell. Nimbus again fixed our foes with his Acumen as Arek and I dragged Calibre to Safety. Arek and I were able to heal him sufficiently to revive him. As before, that clever Frankie began to repair Calibre as they chatted in their orderly yet alien language. With all of us in the Grove, the dryad commanded the Boar Garasoth away.

The dryad, Folha, explained that the Grove was created by an Elven-order of druids long ago to protect the cave entrance. When the Ley Lines collapsed, many vile things have been set free. She was able to command Garasoth away with a talismen of the druids. Folha's beauty was astounding but so shallow. The prattle from her mouth distracted from the beauty of her eyes. However, she did send her folken to bring back a miserable and dirty Pelu from whatever haven he went to during the last battle and so I will pray for her in my Blessings of the Sunset.

Thalazzar was clearly smitten by her but she was focused solely on Tiberio and his lyre. Folha asked him and Tiberio played a song. Tiberio's songs have often inspired us to Valour and Courage in the darkest of times and they have outshone the Paens of the Legions. This new song, Folha's Request, still blazes in my mind like the molten iron and was so beautiful the gods themselves must have heard.

Folha had a package of items left behind by the druid. To her simple and frivolous mind, they were worthless. However, they were items of great power and utility: clearly fated by the gods in some unimaginable puzzle to aid us in our Quest. My companions trusted my Honesty and placed the goods in my Care. I gave the staff to Thalazzar to replace the one destroyed in our last battle. The sheltering cloak, I gave to Tiberio. Arek clearly was in need of good boots after many a hard mile. Folha pointed out the scimitar and called it Woodclaw. It had the look of oak but was shaped and edged as steel. Its craftsmanship was of the highest quality and antiquity.

In my youth, Father had taught me to wield a curved blade while fighting from horseback. Since it had been over a year since finishing my cavalier lessons, in my nostalgia, I reached for it. As I grasped the grip, it was like my whole arm was on fire. Woodclaw grew into my arm in seconds as the roots of an oak would over a century. While I could not let go of it, I was able to draw it into myself without mark or blemish. At will, it emerged like the claw of a cat ready for use. Folha stated that as I learned and gained strength, it too would strengthen. Like a child with a new toy after the Solstice of Heironeous, I fenced with Woodclaw for an hour as my Companions rested and cleaned up. I contemplated how this curved weapon would be an outstanding cavalry blade: you could not drop it if you wanted. All I needed now was a warhorse…

 
    

 

Book I,
Chapter V

S'TRASSK

A report of the Huntwarden S'trassk to King Kausat and the Circle of Eight

Shadowy figures are scattered around a number of small but effective fires. Their conversations are subdued, as if those talking are afraid of drawing someone or something's attention. A figure emerges from the tree-line without hesitation or fear and suddenly all conversation stops. The figure strides up to a circle of eight figures, halts and salutes.

He sits before the Circle and begins to speak: "Kausat I wish to tell you of what I have seen about the Humans. Where are the rest of my Hunters? I sent them back before mid-sun yesterday."

"S'trassk, they were found slaughtered by that which Hunts the Night this morning. We thought you too had been killed and stolen as the others"

"Semuanya forgive me! I sent them back to avoid the Darkened Swamp only to send them to their Doom at the hands of another Vile Fate!" He spits and utters an ancient curse.

Kausat raises his claw, shiny and scaly in the flickering firelight. "Peace brother, your tale is all the more necessary as only you remain to tell it"

S'trassk breathes deeply and closes his eyes. He opens them suddenly and it seems for just a second that they glow in the light of the fire. His concentration unnerves many in the Circle and his voice takes on the force of a North wind:

"After the Human with the Mark of Semuanya rejoined his Companions, we moved off to watch them. As always, they all chattered like frogs in the swamp late in the summer. From the Pillars of Stone, they proceeded away from our lands towards the Yellow Grass Hills. While they milled about like grazing cattle, one of them began to play the Lament of Trees. While this human pronounced the words like he had gravel in his mouth, the music was beautiful like a mountain stream. He was calling to us and so when they returned to the cover of the trees, we went ahead and set an ambush for them as our fathers taught us. I revealed myself to them and told them of the Darkened Swamp. They spoke of odd things and showed me an ugly piece of cloth with marks on it. They can be foolish like children sometimes. One, He with the Song made sense. We parted and they continued into the Darkened Swamp. I returned to my Hunters and sent them back. The fate of the Lament compelled me to follow them but I could not risk my brothers to my strange affliction.

"I followed them into that place I swore never to penetrate. In an open grove, they were set upon by the trees but, oh greater horror, also the twisted victims of Vile. The stories of our youth are true! It is truly Where the Lizards Weep! I saw what remained of Ys'othn and Lmod and several of our brothers I could not recognize. It would seem after they fled the Circle's justice last season, they strayed too close to the Darkness and became its victims. More disturbingly, there were also hobgoblins fighting as twisted-tree puppets as well. To find such creatures so deep into our lands confirms in my mind the story that the Smooth-Tongued human told us: conspiracies slither beneath our feet. The Human with the Song summoned the Lament to call on our brothers but it could not work: they were lost. Instead, the Humans cut these Creepers down without trouble. To my shock, the Humans continued as if they had just emerged from sleeping in the sun. They must have been addled in their nests as eggs. Perhaps the Song protects them…

"I felt the need to follow further. I as tracked them I was able to ponder their strange questions to me. They moved through the swamp like a winter storm so I was not challenged in following their signs. They had asked about a structure made by Others of which I did not know since they said it was deep in the Swamp. What if there was something there? What if That which Hunts the Night emerged from there? "They reached a Cave as they had planned and were attacked by an Ancient and Unspeakable Evil. Perhaps the minions of Blibdoolpoolp, I do not know. But I do know that these Humans battled with the skill of a dozen Hunters and unflinching Valour. The calm and quiet one that carries no weapons: you were wrong Kausat, he is not their porter. He is like a reed in the wind with the courage of a bear. We knew the Paladin was formidable but what a sight in Battle! Even though they were filthy, bloody and battered, they stood their ground against a superior foe. It seemed like they were drawing the Evil into a Grove to re-organize their Last Stand. When their Metal Man fell, I thought that would cause their Egg to Crack. Oh, how we misunderstood them! The Paladin and the Digger of Moradin left their Defence to save it. It was at that point that I saw the Lady of the Glade and she commanded the Evil away. As she turned to the Human with the Song, she caught my eye. If not for her interest in him, I think she would have enslaved me. Semuanya be praised, I knew dawn had come for me. I fled with so little care I almost ran into the human's beast of burden. The minions of the Lady were dragging it to her Grove. Clearly it was the most sensible of the lot of them since it ran when the Evil Emerged. I laughed as I dodged around the minions for clearly this beast of burden was not making it easy for them to drag it to that enchanted grove and away from its grass.

"I would not risk the Darkened Swamp Where We Weep again for even Semuanya's patience has limits. I went across the River at the Knee of Shekinester and came back directly."

Kausat nodded and spoke, "S'trassk, your tale is like sun over the mountains at dawn: sudden, terrible and a shock only a fool could not predict. We have been foolish and you may have saved us from that because of these Addled Humans. While the Marked One seeks That Which Hunts the Night, these Humans are like a claw pointed at the heart of some evil that stalks our land without our knowledge. Go to your home, recover from trials and mourn your brothers. The Circle of Eight will consider this tale and decide by dawn tomorrow what we will must do about it."

S'trassk stands up and walks to the far side of the clearing as the conversations begin again with greater urgency and fear.

 
    

  

Book I,
Chapter V

FRANKIE

Frankie's childhood memories

As I sit in a copse of fine oak trees, winding up Calibre's gears for re-activation, a childhood flashback returns to me...

"Frankie!! The militia patrol is coming into town with a group of adventurers! You wanna go see em?"

"Naw, I want to do some research on mechanology. My mom hinted that it is going to be on the next midterm my dad is getting ready for me"

"Ah jigger it! You are always spending time studying. You Kantankerans are so BORING"

"You take that back! I don't see YOUR Dad on the Engineering Council!"

"Hah! I bet your gonna be an adventurer one day! Jinx jinx!"

Her eyes flare and face turns red. She remembers turning around and storming home...

Calibre's voice interrupts her thoughts, "Thank you for repairing me Mistress" A smile appears on my face, and I reply, "No problemo Calibre"

The rest of the group has been healing themselves in the meantime. I was still counting us lucky that we had made it out of yet another mess alive.

Inigo had left our company to pursue that creature (?) that was killing in the swamp. I personally think he was nuts... but what can ya do? At least one thing he said made sense: He pointed out that he was far safer on his own than with us. Can't dispute that logic!

Before we set out the group began to talk about magic again. Booorrrinnng. Good thing I have lots to study in this Clockwork manual.

So finally we broke camp and set out. This time our trip seemed more promising since we were actually making progress. We came across a landmark on Domaldi's map, and set out from there. By this time a few of the group noticed some lizardfolk were tailing us.

We kept moving along, then Tiberio began to play some kind of weird song. At least he is getting better, compared to that performance back at Plake's. Even his weird music is enticing.

Nimbus asked Calibre to speak with the hidden lizardfolk, and I knew that it wasn't a smart option. I soon asked Calibre to stop speaking; I am no diplomat and neither is Calibre. Takes one to know one.

I soon deducted why he played the tune he did. A Lizardfolk chieftain was waiting for us up ahead, and asked to see Tiberio. He thanked Tiberio for the weird song, and warned us about "killer plants". This is just great. Small wonder the Confederation left this swamp to the lizardfolk.

Of course, this warning did slow my group down. We soon came across one of the "killer" plants, and found out why the lizardfolk feared them. This plant fills the brain pan of lizardfolk and other intelligent peeps with plant matter and gets them to go killing other sentients. Unfortunately for the plant, I stayed back on Pelu and shot it up with the x-bow. Nimbus actually did some weird unarmed combat on it. He was actually ... angry?! He sure is a weird one, but his strikes were effective. I managed to shoot a vital spot, and as the plant died the other controlled bodies slumped down. Once the principle controller was removed form the equation the subroutines go off-line.

The group patched up those who needed it, and eventually our travels took us to a peaceful oak grove. The peace soon became fraught with peril when a blackened boar-like plant confronted Nimbus. Other wooden men appeared out of trees, and assaulted us. It was a long fight, and a lady from the grove came out of hiding to help us out. Soon we were retreating to the grove, but not before the mean boar thing knocked Calibre down. Not wanting Calibre to become non-functional, I dashed out and stabilized his mechanical process, working as fast as I could. Nimbus tapped the boar thing on the shoulder and began to do his martial dance with it while Arek and Domaldi dragged Calibre to safety.

Once we retreated inside the grove, the dryad held up a stone and banished Garasoth with it.

The group fixed themselves up, and we soon talked to the lady. I noticed that she wasn't wearing much... then again, she IS living alone in a bunch of trees. Seemed to be a tad air-headed too.

She introduced herself as Folha, and gave us the background of the area. Apparently a druid order set this grove up to keep the evil cave nearby in check, but when the ley lines went down the protections went ka-boom. Nonfunctional! The boar thing was some druid's pet, and the evil of the place obviously got to it. Guess this is a good reason why Clockworks are soo much more appealing to have as companions. Wish I had some of my Aunt's hair conditioner. Her prototype made her hair fall out, wonder what it would do to the plant boar?

Then Folha began handing out some items from previous visitors. Magic staff, magic sword, arcane flux detector... ARCANE FLUX DETECTOR?! Who would leave something like this behind??!

The device was mostly intact, but needed to be repaired. I asked Thalazaar if he would spend some time in helpin me fix it; he readily agreed before I had to think of a way to convince him. Hmmm, he's one tricky conniver! I bet he's going to use that as collateral!

I set aside thoughts of repair for the moment to see if the device had the engineering signature of it's maker, tuning out what my other companions were doing...

 
    

  

Book I,
Chapter V

D.ex.M

From Pillars to Grove: Redux

Folha threw Tiberio a dirty look after his flaming arrow plunged into the thick tangle of black thorns and bramble that made up Garasoth's hide. Then, she did a double take.

No sooner had she commanded the woodling boar thing away than did she approach the laconic bard, "I love you," she smiled. "For what you are setting out to do." She blushed. Several in the party exchanged glances themselves.

"Do, Madam?" Domaldi began.

"Well, my trees and some of the animals asked to hear you play your lyre," She said, her attention never leaving Tiberio. "It speaks to the Wild and has the smell of the Olympians about it. Apollo's sister has disappeared beyond the Big Wall and you're an awful long way from cities. He must have asked you to look for her. I may be cute but I'm not stupid."

The healing had begun, but Folha's word left a wash of questions, most particularly, what was this place?

"An order of Elven Druids once guarded this place. That's how I got here. An age has passed since the last Druid died. They were very serious. They swore to protect Sentar from the secrets buried in there," she pointed at the cave. "As the world pressed in," she shrugged, her gaze finally leaving Tiberio, "it grew easier to destroy intruders than to try to hide from them. They constructed the barrow grove and trapped me here, to help create a Convergence Point with my trees.

" Those poor mad creatures were the products of the magics they used to guard this place. The swamp is full of such aberrations. I'm afraid living in such proximity to the cave without the Druids has corrupted them further.

"When the Ley Lines collapsed, a great deal of the Druids' protections and shackles disappeared, including my own. Since the first fluctuation a short time ago, I worried that a total coolapse like this might happen. I am happy to be free, but I do hope that it was worth the price... a lot of tree-hurting things must be wandering freely again through this world."

Her words hung in the air, weightier than the sylvan tones that delivered them. Thalazzar inquired further about "the price."

"Where else would the magic have gone," she answered playfully, "if someone had not used it all up? Whatever it was used for, it must have been very important.

"I will stay here. I like my grove. Now that I am free, I hope to spread its influence," She turned then to look again at Tiberio, "I do hope you find Her. Please be careful and be sure to come back and visit and tell me all about when you are done. You could stay as long as you like," Her smile gave Tiberio the creeps, not because it was anything less than perfect, but because of the 'as long as you like' of which she spoke, certainly held in it the age of trees.

"Would you mind playing a song for me and my trees before you go?"

Now it was Tiberio's turn to smile, it had better be good, he thought, because it was going to have to last her. "Milady," he responded, "it would be an honour." Tiberio tuned his lyre, and then he began to play...

 
    

  
 
 
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CHAPTER SIX: Stumbling Into Depths
Cuthberta Clairefreeday
  
Session 10

Book I,
Chapter VI

DOMALDI

Cuthberta Clairefreeday

After staying the night in the Grove, we spoke with Folha more on recent events. She said that another group entered the cave before the Ley Lines fell. They were a party of a halfling, human, goblin and dwarf. Only the halfling escaped. He prepared ourselves and went to the cave entrance. It was a triangular opening covered with Bakare numbers from one to ten. That clever Frankie constructed a type of key and we entered the number 1037 into the Arch. We heard some kind of stone sound but could not identify it.

As we descended into the cave, when we reached the first level, we found that it was flooded. We were able to follow the Map and found an area like a ritual washing area. There was a corpse floating in the room but it turned out to be an Undead Cleric of Erythnul: the Human of whom Folha spoke. He launched a savage Attack that we defeated quickly even as it tried to support Foul Assistance. However, we were sorely wounded and needed to recover for a short time. After that, we proceeded into the flooded tunnels. Using Calibre as an anchor, we crossed a dangerous part that almost claimed Frankie. This cave system seems unmistakably Old but also much Unused. We were able to continue along the route on the Map and encountered another Undead: the Dwarf. Its Attack was all the more difficult because it was surrounded by fearsome Bloodbloaters. We were able to withdraw to a superior position and render the Bloaters ineffective. That allowed us to surround the Foul Creature and strike it down. We were struck heavily by this second creature and therefore went back to the Grove to recover.

Cuthberta Clairesularday

Spending the whole day in the Grove was necessary but difficult. We know that Tallum is getting farther away and yet this Cave beckons us. I am concerned that we still must face an undead Goblin below. Moreover, we still do not know what defeated them and therefore I am concerned that proceeding farther will spell our End and Doom Tallum to an undesirable fate. While cleaning the Belt I found on the Dwarf, I thought on this. My Quest to come here at first was about my Vengeance. However, it is striking apparent now that a Conspiracy of Evil moves in the shadow to overthrow the Federation. Something stands between our gods and us. This Map and Cave are on our Path even if it is not the shortest way to Tallum. It is the necessary Way. Father always said that to attack an Enemy from the front might be brave but was stupid and often fatal. A Plot not of our making or understanding surrounds us. We must plumb its depth.

 
   

  

Book I,
Chapter VI

THALAZZAR

The strangest image entered Thalazzar’s mind at that point. There were clawed, orange scaly hands grasping the rocky edge of a clear pool and a rasping draconic chanting in the background but it was the pool’s image that was foremost in the wizard’s memory. The image of a city made of tin on the edge of an airy abyss. A city filled with towers and swirls of blue smoke from arcane forges, populated with astral planar beings and their elemental guardians preparing for perpetual war. Elemental servants made wholly of water, enslaved by magic cloaks that bound their essence into timeless servitude.

It was Kijugitat’s summoning through the scrying pool recalled Thalazzar. Rushed, panicked, desperate to call planar allies as the caves of the Khi’Ganad were being overrun, their wicked mechanical traps foiled, the wizard and his minions drawing ever closer to the heart of the kobold lair. Thalazzar remembered crouching in the shadows, awaiting what might have been the final command of his master. He remembered being enthralled with the magic. It had been a devil though that answered the call, and not an elemental. The City of Tin had resisted Kijugitat’s desperate plea. But the devil that came instead had been enough. It had slain the elf with its barbs and battered the great wizard’s powerful abjurations until the Khi’Ganad’s spikes and blades could find their mark. The wizard had failed, the tribe survived, but only just.

It was that fleeting glimpse at distant elemental mastery that rushed through his mind at that moment. It was being crushed between the wave and the hard, stone wall that brought him out of it. Thalazzar knew his wound was severe, he could feel that his ribs had been snapped. Never in his life had he been injured so badly. Through the dark water of the elemental before him, the wizard could vaguely see Calibre’s limbs flailing and the gnome rapidly peppering the being with bolts as fast she could. Thalazzar wheezed, took a step away from the creature and held his sylvan staff Kalthanalas out defensively as best he could. He knew he couldn’t survive another blow, and the pain was such that his magic was beyond him.

The elemental surged again, this time against Frankie, washing over Calibre and blasting Frankie from her mechanical mount. The elemental paused, swirled, and angry white foam was the only indication of its evil intent to recoil and strike again. But then, in a flash of steel and cries of valour, the knight and the dwarf arrived. Their enchanted weapons splashed into the elemental crushing the enchantment binding its essence to this plane. It could only take so much and after a moment, collapsed into nothing.

Thalazzar lurched forward, clutching Kalthanalas for support. It was only a short time, though, before Arek was able to call on his dwarven patron to ease Thalazzar’s pain. The wizard risked a quick prayer of thanks to the dwarven god, hoping Kurtulmak’s unforgiving eye was turned elsewhere at that moment. Without Moradin’s blessing, Thalazzar was sure he would have collapsed. He remained thankful for his companions strength throughout the rest of that day faced with walking dead, ancient traps and bizarre swarms of slime. And when the companions finally emerged into the early evening to rest once more in Folha’s grove, he was thankful for any other deities that might have watched his back in the depths of the marsh. Still though, in the comfort of the grove with the danger abated, Thalazzar’s thoughts again turned to the elusive elementals of the City of Tin. Soon, he thought, soon he too could attempt to call elemental guardians. Guardians that would make the gremlins of Gnarrgyn pale in comparison.

 
    

  

Book I,
Chapter VI

FRANKIE

Engineering tools make a gnome drown good!

The day started off on a good note. While everyone else prepared to venture into the foul looking dungeon entrance, I borrowed some of Thalazaar's time and fixed the arcane flux detector. Works like a charm now!

We set forth, and approached the entrance. Good thing that annoying vegetable boar wasn't around.

The entrance to the dungeon had Bakare numbers around it's circumference. We matched them up to what they were on Domaldi's map, and identified some internal mechanisms. I managed to gnomivate a few doo-hickeys to jimmy the mechanisms into working. Those Bakari must not have known about how good we gnomes are at engineering. Besides activating the mechanisms, we could not determine what purpose they have.

We made our way inside, and proceeded down a hallway. We came upon what looked like to be a water-logged corpse. Domaldi poked it, and it rose up and attacked us.

As things usually go with our group, things went from bad to worse. A vile water creature ambushed us and Thalazaar and I got slapped around. Calibre was beat up a bit too, but we managed to previal. I was hit right in the face and knocked fully into the water. Gross!

We returned to the dryad's tree farm to recoup and heal, then went further in to the dungeon. Nimbus discovered a trap by triggering it, but managed to totally avoid it. The move reminded me of Basic Engineering Survival 101 training I did back in Peppershot. I disabled the trap, then spent some time trying to get some pockets. As my luck went, got nada. I'm really short on pockets too, never a good thing for a engineer!

So after the trap the hallway was crossed by a strong, nasty looking current. Domaldi had this brainwave that we could cross holding a rope. I knew I was in trouble when he asked me "You can swim, right Frankie?" and after I said "no", he said "ok lets cross on a rope using Calibre as an anchor".

So I made an attempt to cross. The current hit me, and all forty-three pounds of me got swept off the rope with ease. I remember banging into the rough stone of the corridor, and wondering when I was going to run out of breath. I realized that I hadn't decided on what religion I should get into, and realized that now was most likely a bad time to convince some divine power that I didn't want my spirit to roam aimlessly for all eternity. As I pondered this, I felt a hand grab me. I thought that this was it, but curiousity got ahold of me and I felt where it clutched my back. It was Calibre! The Clockwork had wizbang telescoping mechanicals built into his arms. That sly gear-chummer was full of cool engineering tricks! Calibre brought me to safety and I realized that I needed to ask him some more religious questions, especially about a somewhat taboo subject back in Peppershot.

Calibre looked really worried at my close call, and I was thinking that if I kept adventuring like this I would have to invent my own solution to fixing the thrall unit instead of looking for an expert with time I did not have. Especially after Calibre had saved my life!

We gathered our waterlogged selves together, then went down another corridor into a Bakare burial preparation room (NOTE - The party already determined that the numbers on the entrance, and even some of the architecture, were Bakare - a human civilization - but the structure itself is Giantish in its proportions -DM). Left the room to move deeper in, until we saw some disgusting white floaties and a dead dwarf. So far it appeared that the group that the dryad spoke of that never made it out of this dungeon were all undead!!! After a short fight we discovered that the white floaties liked sucking lots of blood, so we retreated to the dry burial room where we proceeded to make short work of both floaties and the dwarf. The dwarf managed to get a lucky strike in on Nimbus, but his weapon broke when hitting his skin. Almost reminded me of the time when great Uncle Fizzerbig's anti-rust formula had a bad reversal during experimental stage M3.

So far this dungeon was appearing to be like most other "adventures" with this group. Painful and dangerous!

 
    

  

Book I,
Chapter VI

AREK

Hmmph! Magical boots? After facing that boar, a magical torch, lance or catapult would have been more useful, Arek thought as Domaldi handed him the pair of boots, one of several items Folha had offered to the party. “Well, my own boots are in poor shape and we have travelled many miles.” Arek said gratefully to the young paladin. Arek lifted the boots to better examine them and immediately noticed how light and soft the dark green leather felt. “Probably elven handywork. They seem a bit big.” As Arek sat down and pulled his boots off, he noticed runes embroidered in the boots with golden thread. “Hmmph! Too bi…” Arek was astonished as the boots that originally were a few sizes too big adjusted themselves to his short and thick dwarven feet. “By Moradin! Magical boots indeed!” Arek took a few steps and even hopped. Never had he felt so agile and light on his feet. Perhaps the boots were a blessing after all.

As the sun was dipping below the trees of the fetid swamp they had trudged through, Arek once again took in his new friends, scattered around the grove, Frankie again fussing over Calibre while others, such as the wizard and the monk were off meditating. Tiberio was again strumming lightly as Folha was sitting on a small rock before him, her small legs rocking to the bard’s musical tales. Friends? Yes, that is what they were now, much more than individuals bound by a dream. While Arek did not share the Paladin’s continuous zeal for righteous actions, he would do everything he could, with Moradin’s blessings, for any member of the group. More importantly, he was starting to believe that the others would do the same for him as well. This was new for Arek. He had known this type of kinship only in his clan and during his stay with the Claimers. He had known other races in Riot’s Gate and had made a few friends, mostly other priests. But he had never fought and bled for them. This strange band was slowly turning into a small clan for Arek and with that came loyalty.

As Arek finished packing his equipment for tomorrow’s travels, he looked at the cave that was to be their destination. Well, we are going underground. I should be more comfortable, not to mention useful, than on a ship! Just then, the light seemed to diminish abruptly and a chill wind blew on the grove. Arek looked over the flickering flames of their campfire. The wind seemed to be coming from the cave.

* * *

Hmmph! Giantish architecture. Big and clumsy. A waste of fine stone, Arek thought as the party followed the encline down to the underground complex’s first room. Looking at the mildewed walls and organic debris on the floor, Arek doubted they would find anything linked to their quest for Tallim here. Well at least Domaldi’s map has come in handy. The Bakare numbers on it matched the ones on the main gate. It did seem to be already open. Perhaps the previous party has already unlocked it. In any case, Frankie’s improvised keys would probably do the trick. Probably.

As Arek moved with Nimbus ahead to the other small encline leading to a lower level, he blinked a few times and switched his normal vision to darkvision. As he neared the bottom, he realized that he did not need to see what lay ahead as he heard water rushing. As usual the monk went quickly ahead, oblivious to the potential danger. There is a sight, Arek thought: Nimbus, glowing, in knee-deep water in a long-forgotten underground complex of evil. This adventure is getting stranger every day.

After the others slowly followed, the group turned right and cautiously entered a room filled with water, waist-high for Arek. Floating just ahead was what seemed to be a human corpse, face down in the water. Domaldi moved forward to inspect it and it suddenly moved.

* * *

“By Moradin! What are these vile blood-sucking creatures! Damn them and their creator,” Arek did not like the idea of pulling back from fighting what appeared to be an undead dwarf but fighting in the water was too much of a tactical disadvantage for the group. Arek pulled back as quickly as he could, Thalazzar and a few others having done so already. The group was in bad shape. Thalazzar and Domaldi had taken important damage in their previous encounter with the undead human and the water-born creature. Arek himself had been hit a few times, especially by those floating vampires. And now the undead dwarf was putting the group at peril. As part of a rushed plan, Frankie was in a precarious position atop Caliber trying to bait the undead dwarf. Well, at least these boots have me moving, Arek thought as he finally came into a dry spot were the party could fight with less of a disadvantage. The room appeared to be some sort of cloakroom or changing room for giants. Thalazzar was further back, his tall frame leaning on his new magical staff, clearly spent after his encounter with the water creature. Tiberio and Domaldi were ready. Arek stayed at the water’s edge with Nimbus. Even with Moradin’s help I cannot seem to turn this creature. Well, steel stone will have to do, Arek thought as he lifted Unity. Just then, the undead dwarf turned the corner, hesitated, turned his creamy white eyes towards the changing room and continued towards the party.

* * *

Arek fell to his knees, exhausted. He lay down on his bedroll and looked at the darkening sky. They were back in the grove. All in the party were wet, wounded and miserable. Thalazzar was resting. Good, Arek thought, the spellcaster needs his strength and we need his spells. Arek sat up and looked at the armor he had taken from the undead dwarf. After just a quick wipe with a small piece of cloth, the old metal was gleaming again, bouncing back light from the campfire Domaldi and Tiberio were lighting. Although he could not make out the fine dwarvish etchings, he immediately felt power emanating from the banded armor. Perhaps when the group reached a civilized town, he could pay someone to have it properly identified. A civilized town? We seem very far from any such place right now, Arek thought. Every one of his bones ached. He had never felt so tired. Sleep was coming fast. He lay back again on his bedroll. A few stars were starting to appear in a gap, just above the grove, through the ever present clouds that seemed to cling over the swamp. Well, at least here we can rest. Arek turned his head and looked towards the entrance of the cave once again. He thought of tomorrow and what it might bring as they would likely go back in again. “Moradin, we will again need your favour.” Arek felt his limbs getting heavier and heavier, his breathing regular. His last thought before giving in to sleep was of his light, dry, comfortable boots. Elves could make practical objects after all. And Arek smiled for the first time in many days.

 
    

  
 
 
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CHAPTER SEVEN: Flame & Shadow
Cuthberta Clairesularday & Cuthberta Umberselunday
  
Session 11

Book I,
Chapter VII

THALAZZAR

Thalazzar shuddered as he once again treaded into the dark, cool water of the Bakare underground, following along the rope towards Calibre. On the far side stood Frankie, dripping wet and holding the lantern a moment while the others crossed. As they amassed on the far side, the wizard could see only a few dozen feet down the corridor in front of them. They bore light, perhaps too much, especially since the beggar had taken to glowing.

The strange man seemed blessed by some power. His weaving movements and speaking in riddles were undoubtedly drawing the attention of something in the beyond. Thalazzar still did not trust the man, but he could no longer say the beggar was not pulling his weight with their little group. He stood shoulder to shoulder with the Claimer and the knight as they cautiously moved down the hall before them, slowing pushing through the shallow pool that marked the spot where they had retreated the day prior.

Thalazzar found his footing through the pool with the help of Kalthanalas, staying in the middle of their group. He thought it strange that the giants had created this place but wondered more as to its purpose and what parts of it lay buried forever beneath the marsh above. The wizard felt better prepared today for the evils of these deeps. Yesterday, he had focused his magical preparation on combating the agents of the Order – perhaps gnolls or some other minions. It had proved less useful on the strange, ancient evil that filled this place. The evil, it seemed, had taken care of those that had entered previously and now used their felled power for its own dark purposes. Thalazzar felt more confident in his magic today. He had focused on his conjurations, and was drawing nearer to unlocking a connection to the plane of Mechanus. His time crafting the wicked spikes and springs of the Khi’Ganad had given him an understanding of that strange world and the riddle to open that gate lay just outside his grasp. With a smile he thought of how Frankie would react when he unleashed the denizens of that dimension to do his bidding.

The party traversed another pool, deeper than the last, but ultimately passable. Halting at the base of a broad staircase, Domaldi held his father’s map before him in order to study their route by lantern light. Consulting with the dwarf on their direction, they passed by some corridors and climbed upwards. Nearing a junction, it became clear that either their map was in error or something was missing. Investigating, Frankie nearly fell through an illusionary wall into a hidden door beyond. As the gnome fiddled with the lock, the party peered into the darkened corridors around them. Something was hidden in the dark. It was something dark and unspeakable that they did not need Domaldi’s premonitions to sense. There were whispers in the shadows. Frankie worked quickly on the door but apparently not quickly enough.

Suddenly the darkness exploded with a rush of flame and heat. The gnome managed to duck into the alcove (DM: Actually, she slipped down into the foot of water in which everyone was standing) of the portal but the rest of the companions were blasted from their feet by the force of the arcane fiery assault. Thalazzar was set aflame and blown several feet down the corridor. Unable to rise or even squelch the flames, Arek rushed to his aid while the rest of the party attempted to form a defensive block. The wizard thought to warn his companions to spread out before another attack came but his lips were too charred to speak.

With a click, the door gave and Nimbus was through followed quickly by the rest of the party. None wanted to face what lay in ambush in the darkness. Although Moradin had saved Thalazzar yesterday, they were too far in the depths of evil for his call to be heard and Domaldi was forced to channel his own healing energy into the conjuror. On his feet, the party hustled through the hidden portal and into the chamber beyond, leaving whatever lay in the darkness to follow and plan its next attack.

Inside, their light revealed a large chamber. Thalazzar leaned against the wall and braced himself with his staff to catch his breath. Tiberio was within the chamber quickly, searching for something to brace the door closed with. The warriors ventured deeper into the chamber. Then something strange happened with the door. Where once it had been closed, it was open. Even though he could see nothing and could do little to warn his companions, Thalazzar sensed something afoot and managed to cast a minor divination to detect magic in the room. He hoped that he could identify whatever evil presence had joined them in the chamber but, alas, it failed to detect anything. What’s more, the wizard had completely spent himself and had not the energy to cast another spell.

Gazing at the chamber, the party found that this giantish hall reached up above them into darkness. With them in the room, standing like enormous statues were ancient, rusted suits of giant armour accompanied by matching huge weapons. As Tiberio and Frankie sealed them into this chamber, their other companions found another locked exit on the far side and called for them to help. At that moment, they realized that they were indeed not alone in the room as two of the giant armoured behemoths stepped down from their pedestals. Panic gripped the party as the creatures raised their twelve foot blades to strike. The beggar rushed to hold one off, his nimble dance dodging the automaton’s blows. His glowing shield even caused the animated armour’s rusted sword to crumble to dust upon impact.

The other companions turned to engage the second as Thalazzar hobbled away from the combat. Arek called to Moradin and brought down a bolt of holy light into the darkness, briefly illuminating the chamber in its entirety. The wizard stole a glimpse upwards and was rewarded by a ceiling framed by huge stone spans and gigantic frescos of Bakare history. It might have been beautiful had not the group been in such a dire situation.

At that moment, the evil in the shadows chose to appear. Their adversary was a wild-eyed, white haired goblin hag - very much alive in contrast to her undead, now returned to death, companions. With a snarl she unleashed her magic once again, filling the chamber with a pillar of webs from floor to ceiling. Snaring most of the party within the column, the unengaged automaton took the opportunity to attack smashing into both Arek and Calibre the clockwork with its enormous weapon causing great damage. The dwarf, calling to Moradin, used his magic to sink into the stone floor thus saving his life.

Domaldi, free of the webs, charged the goblin hag who, distracted by a well-timed arrow from Tiberio, was felled in two quick strokes before she could cast again. Thalazzar, badly wounded and unable to cast his magic, used all of his energy to keep the pillar of magical threads between him and the giant armoured monster. The beggar, seeing his companions in trouble, bravely attempted to draw the second suit of Bakare armour onto him with a well placed stone throw. The paladin shouted a cry to Heironius, rushed around the webs and laid into the first golem, bashing it to pieces with his magic hobgoblin blade until Calibre was finally able to bring it down with an arcane orb of acid.

Sensing the battle turning, the companions focused on the unarmed remaining enchanted armour, pummeling it with fists, swords, arrows and bolts. Thalazzar, unable to help, investigated the goblin corpse before more statues came to life and they had to flee without a clue as to her purpose. As the second automaton was brought down, felled through both legs by a mighty swing from Domaldi, Thalazzar pocketed several of the goblin’s magic trinkets for the companions to share later.

The fight concluded, the party rested in the giantish hall, allowing Frankie and Tiberio time to discover several vaults connected to the main chamber. After some time at rest, Thalazzar’s strength began to return and he was able to unlock the other door from this chamber. They did not leave immediately, however, and it was fortunate that they did not as the companions uncovered within the vaults an immense historical treasure – a lost history of the Age of Giants. Rifling through the ancient documents, Tiberio rapidly tried to absorb much of the tales as he could for there was no way that the group could move anymore than a small fraction of the find. Interestingly, Thalazzar was able to help decipher some of the work, particularly those parts that dealt with fighting the One. In fact, there were some scrolls inscribed with Yithic magic that the conjuror was also able to pocket. Through his studies, Thalazzar was becoming to come to grips with the ancient and powerful threat posed by this deity.

Before moving onwards into the depths, the companions investigated that which was taken from the goblin hag. One item, a ring, provided an answer to the now obvious mystery as to how the goblin had pursued them. It was enchanted with a powerful illusion that caused its wearer to vanish. While illusions were beyond Thalazzar’s study, he recognized that it would be of great use to the group. They now carried so many trinkets that they would need a week in town to decipher all their purposes. That is, if they survived the rest of their journey through the dark…

 
    

  

Book I,
Chapter VII

DOMALDI

Fire & Steel

Cuthberta Clairesularday

A day of rest. We healed to allow our bodies to recover: we cleaned and repaired our equipment. I mediated and prayed at length to gain my Inner Eye. I again sought the Evil that surrounded us in the Grove to better gauge and understand it. When I first used my Inner Sight to detect the Evil of Garasoth, it was like jumping into a Frozen Lake: drowning and suffocating. This time, it was like carefully wading into a mountain pond: painful but controllable. I was not stunned and blinded. I could not see anything with my eyes but I could feel the crushing presence of Motes of Evil floating around the opening of the Cave. I have never felt such a corruption and never even heard Father speak of such a thing. The Grove stands as a Bulwark against this Sea of Ancient and Unspeakable Evil. This Evil runs over my skin like ants in the sun and unnerves me greatly.

After this Effort, I needed to practice my sword drills to re-gain my Centre. I practiced with Woodclaw while wearing my new Belt and Breasttplate. I felt great strength and power as I wielded the sword. It was like Fire raging through my veins and mind. I could hear the trees calling me and the chaos of nature ran through my veins. The Power inside me was like a caged animal. During my drills, I felt exaultant and powerful in a growing and dangerous way. These things I have now must be used carefully! With great effort, I was able to regain my sense of Order and master my Abilities. I will strive to use these Gifts wisely to help the Good: destroying Evil is only a means to achieve this.

Cuthberta Umbersulenday

We entered the Cave again and proceeded along the route on the Map. We quickly found a junction covered by an Illusion. In one direction, I could hear the voice of a child begging for help. I turned my Inner Eye and felt a deeper Evil behind us and assessed that it was a Vile Trick. As Frankie and Thalazzar worked on the Door that barred our way, I moved to the back to guard our rear with Nimbus. We suddenly saw a man holding a knife at a woman’s throat talking to Tiberio in Zularian. He stabbed the woman and we attacked. As I struck, he disappeared with the woman as if they were but illusions: yet he was so real! Suddenly, there was an explosion of fire. Frankie opened the Door and we entered a large room. As we crossed it, we were attacked by two giant armoured constructs. Nimbus and I drove outward to each of these Guards to open a wedge for Frankie and Calibre to run through to open the next Door. Just then the Goblin appeared and cast a web to entangle us all. I broke free and rushed her. She tried to blind me with her spells but I Smote her with the Might of Heironeous and she fell. I turned and charged the flank of one of the Dreaded Guards as Nimbus drew its attack. I shattered its side as Calibre delivered the killing blow. I again rushed the second Fell Creature. We traded blows before I delivered the Killing Stroke.

We examined he frescos and saw an Ancient Story. It was an incredibly gruesome process of Giants capturing and torturing various creatures including Nephilum (DM - the Nephilim were clearly the principal target of the Giant's activities). A symbol of a massive Circle of Light (a spiral) was involved possibly representing the One. The Hall connected to six secret doors. Three were flooded and the other three contained vast stores of scrolls; some in Yithic and others in the language that Bishop Jones spoke about with such dread. When Tiberio tried to read one, he became lost and agitated as if the language itself was Chaos. He proceeded along our Quest…

 
    

  

Book I,
Chapter VII

FRANKIE

Another day came upon me, and I was not looking forward to returning to the dark complex. Frankie went back to helping Calibre with maintenance, and began to ask some questions concerning the religion of the Clockworks. Calibre seemed to avoid the questioning, and this was most likely due to the thrall module. Of course, this is only speculation.

Calibre asked to take his leave of me, so I let Calibre head off to be with it's own thoughts. We set out to the dungeon again, and I was a tad nervous. So far that boar plant has left us alone... my paranoia began to think that this thing was waiting for an opportune time. Maybe for Fohla to be absent?

Eventually we returned to where we first met the undead dwarf with the white floaties, and followed the map to where it should turn off in the direction we wanted. Blank wall greeted us at the supposed juncture, but upon further inspection I determined that it was an illusion! Nimbus went through, and we followed afterwards. I glimpsed down the wall and saw a finely made vault door. I wonder if there was any engineering salvage that way!

Nimbus looked unsettled as we came through the hidden passage, but did not comment on what had happened. We moved onwards, and came to another branch which was hidden behind an illusion. This illusion hid a locked door.

As I began to inspect the door, I heard voices talking in an unfamiliar language, shortly followed by a woman's scream. I lifted my head to investigate, just as a glowing red bead shot into the group's general vicinity. Engineering HAZMAT 101 training kicked in, and I fell prone into the water while everyone else got BBQ'd. Thalazar was especially cooked.

Nimbus yelled to get the door open, so I did just that and pushed on it. I shouted for everyone to move through and for Calibre to secure the door when he went in. I took the x-bow's safety off and adopted a firing position to cover the group's retreat. We all entered the room, and Tiberio and I secured the door with some spikes. Before we could do that, the door was swinging ajar... this did not bode well. Nimbus asked me to look at another door across the way. I asked Calibre to take me there, and as we moved forward a web appeared out of nowhere, magically assaulting us!!

I ducked and weaved to avoid the strands, and noticed that two of the dormant statues in the room began to animate. The fight was nasty, and in an attempt to get out of the webs I slipped and got myself tangled. I eventually gave up and just let myself hang there. Good thing the group won.

After the fight those who needed healing rested up, and Thalazaar said he had found several items on a crazed female goblin, who apparently was responsible for all the magical assaults. Guess she got what was coming to her!

One of the items was a set of cool engineering goggles. I asked Tiberio to use his religious fanatical ability to see if they had evil heeby jeebees. He gave me the a-ok and lo and behold they fit me perfectly (after I cleaned them up and made sure they were hygienicly sound; the goggles WERE worn by some crazy goblin)

As I showed my gear buddy my new specs, I noticed a secret door across the way. It turned out that there were six doors. Some of the rooms they led to were flooded, but we managed to find three that had lost history of the giants and other religious stuff. No engineering tidbits, unfortunately.

Having some time to thing things over, my only regret is not knowing the good Clockwork god's name. Even Arek only knew of Cable, which was one of the "bad" names mentioned in Peppershot.

There might be some hope. There are a few sections mentioned in the Clockwork operating manual on the thrall module. I will find a way to re-engineer this module and free Calibre.

After a well deserved rest, the group headed further in.

 
    

  

Book I,
Chapter VII

DexM

Hall of Frescoes

After wiping away the grimy black moss, a bewildering mural is revealed. The frescoes are made with colourful triangular tiles of various sizes – some, such as those used to write out mathematical equations, are extremely small delicate (Most of these equations use the Bakare number system). There are numerous vignettes, but it is impossible to determine, in this short period, the significance of the order and whether it has any meaning. In no particular order, the vignettes depict:

• Giants battling Dwarves
• Giants battling Stone Druids
• Giants battling Scalyfolk
• Giants battling Nephilim
• Giants battling Theoneans (humans, most in garish masks)
• Giants battling one another
• Giants building the Devourer
• Giants gathering Brutish slaves
• Giants with Dwarven slaves
• Giants torturing and sacrificing countless slaves, some, to their gods
       o The Giants seem to derive some sort of power from this process
• Giants torturing and sacrificing Nephilim
• Giants working with Stone Druids
       o Stone Druids delivering one of their own unto the Giants
• Giants battling something resembling a shining circle, designed in a spiral of tiles, annotated with a large number of equations
• Giants creating undead
Dygranog (the peak from which Axes Bithtat emerges) and the Three Pillars are the most unmistakable features of the background, also with accompanying equations
• Detailed accounts of torture and dismemberment
• Mathematical equations
• Star charts rim the ceiling

 
    

  
 
 
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CHAPTER EIGHT: Darkness Falls
Cuthberta Clairesularday, Umberselunday &Umberdakarday
  
Session 12

Book I,
Chapter VIII

AREK

“The Horror…The Horror…” Arek had slipped just moments before into the chamber’s floor, escaping the magic web and probably certain death as well. But now, being one with the rock of this forsaken place, Arek was not so sure if he should not instead have taken his chances with the giant enchanted suits of armour above him. Images of dwarves being tortured, whipped and brutally killed where flooding Arek’s mind. It seemed that years and years of hatred and war were being poured into Arek and he could not do anything to stop the flow of vile images.

One scene was particularly painful: a dozen dwarves were being cornered by several stone giants wearing battle armour similar to those that Arek had seen on the ceiling of the vast chamber. Arek was near the dwarves but out of the giants’sight. He could see the pleading expression of some of the dwarves and heard one of them say, “Cleric, call to Him, ask Moradin to help us. Our brothers are being butchered.” Yet Arek felt himself not caring, saw himself turning his back to the dwarfs in need. Arek watched in horror as what was clearly himself but in a blackened and filthy uniform, his hands holding a sunrod, signal to the stone giant party and indicate to them where the other dwarves were trying to mount a last fight. Arek felt his stomach churn and almost threw up as he heard himself say: “There they are. Kill the filthy dogs and spread their bones over the hills.”

Arek could not stay another second underground. With a gasp he willed himself to leave the stone and found himself in the magical web yet again. Luckily, the giant armoured creature had been slain. Stuck in the web, Arek shuddered and tried to forget the visions.

* * *

Arek ran the steps as fast as he could. With the help of his magical boots, he leapt the steps two by two. Arek was confused and afraid. What was he doing here in this godforsaken place? What was that huge, decomposing creature with lettering all over its skin?

All that Arek knew was that he had to get away and fast! As he reached the top of the stairs, he felt different. A few more paces, this time much more slowly. DomaldiNimbusTiberio Frankie and Calibre… What?

Arek stopped and looked around. He had reached a small landing. He heard Domaldi cry out to Heironeus. He heard the sound of metal against metal. Fighting! My friends need me.

Just as Arek realized this, he saw Caliber and Frankie, perched on the clockwork’s shoulder, crashing through the double doors on the other side of the landing and running back towards where Arek had just come from. Without a word Arek followed, Unity already in his hands.

* * *

“No!” Arek cried out. “By Moradin, no!” Arek saw Domaldi’s crushed face hit the ground with a sickening thud.

The young paladin lay completely lifeless and Arek knew that Moradin could not help the young human. Not through Arek’s limited understanding of faith at least. Just moments ago, he and Domaldi had joined forces and turned one of the undead ogres. Both had been fighting another undead ogre and the huge creature with the rune-covered body. By the grace of Moradin, Arek had delivered a powerful blow to defeat the ogre. But Domaldi had taken the brunt of the attacks coming from the other creature. The last hit, a huge blow that sent the Paladin flying a few feet, had been fatal. Arek was certain of this.

Down on one knee, Arek felt the leather grip of his warhammer tighten against his palm. He had lost a loyal companion and a friend. If he did not act, he might lose others on this day. He himself might reach Moradin’s side more rapidly then expected. He felt his muscles tighten.

He gripped Unity and screamed with all of his might: “MORADIN!” As Arek engaged the creature, he knew that it would die even if he had to go down with it. He owed Domaldi that much.

* * *

Arek felt sick to his stomach.

Dragging Domaldi’s body up the stairs, Arek was not sure if he would be able to take another step. During combat, Arek’s grief had been overcome by the sheer intensity of trying to stay alive. But after hearing his friends’ words to accompany Domaldi’s spirit and now carrying the young man back to where they had planned to spend some time to rest, Arek was feeling his strength leaving him.

A few more steps…

Arek shifted his grip on Domaldi’s body and then he felt it. The same feeling as when he had been underground in the ruins’ foundations. And then he saw it. An image that filled Arek with dread and shame. Arek saw himself looking over Domaldi. But instead of uttering his final blessings as he had done just a few moments ago, Arek was laughing. Arek was heartily laughing, smiling an ugly, distorted and un-natural smile. Arek could feel the misplaced glee and happiness.

This is not right! This cannot be. Arek stopped, cold sweat dripping over his forehead and down his back. And then the vision was gone. But the shame remained.

And just then it seemed to Arek that the walls were a bit closer and the shadows darker all around him. A few more steps and perhaps this nightmare will end…

 
    

  

Book I,
Chapter VIII

DOMALDI

Darkness.

Where am I? I do not know.

Who am I? This I do know. I am Domaldi the Justianian son of Pilus formerly Aquifiler redeemed Janissary and Caroline of Forward Advance, servant of Heireoneous.

Writing in this book is clearing my mind as it swirls in chaos. Heireoneous…

Heiiiadsf;sgggg…….

By the Prayers of Heironeons, I regain myself. I recall now all that has come before. I have studied this journal obviously of my own hand of my Journey to find my Father’s killer and its link to some terrible Struggle among the Gods. I recall the events as I had previously written:

… wounded and weary, our group proceeded forward after defeating the Mad Goblin. We entered a large, dark room amid the sounds of chaotic and oppressive babbling. Two zombie orges and a larger massive evil giant attacked us. I can recall the inspiration of the Bard’s song and how it allowed the Tattooed Monk and the Dwarven Cleric to regain their control. Arek the Claimer, I remember now. I was able to focus the Will of Heironeous through the Claimer and his weapon Unity to drive one of the Zombie’s away. The Monk was able to hold the two Beasts off but my bow was useless against such foes. I charged one of the ogres and hewed it massively. Arek delivered the killing blow. I charged the giant Beast, an Inscriber and delivered blow after blow. It turned on me and struck…

Darkness and emptiness.

NO! This fight is not done! I must return for my Companions need my Arm! I MUST RETURN!

A stronger force pulled me along. I was floating on the shoulders of a giant through the darkness. I hear sounds and feel sadness but do not understand.

Bright light and warm, fragrant winds. I am aloft on the wings of a dragon towards the clouds. They are clouds of a thunderstorm. They are the fortress of my god, gathering in strength for a War. I reach the Clouds themselves and walk among warriors of the Past. I see a place set for me around a grand table of heroes and legends.

Father! I recognize the Face of my Father! I have not forgotten! I move to him. He said, “My worthy Son, you are a true warrior. For you died on your feet with your enemy to your front and your companions to your sides. You honour our name and our Cause. Sit. Your place is prepared and ready.” I go to sit and feel a hand on my shoulder. I turn and see a magnificent Face. His voice Echoes: “You will go back. There is much more for you to do. There is no time for rest and song. You will go back and drive evil before you. You will be the a Scythe cutting down the Fields of Evil in my name.”

I am pulled away on a cloud and see the Smile of my Father’s Face. I feel the Force of Heironeous flowing through me.

Darkness.

I hear a voice: “Do you wish to live? Speak now! Do you wish to live?”

“Yes”

“WHY?”

“To serve Heironeous”

Darkness

 
    

  
 
 
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CHAPTER NINE: Ancient & Unspeakable
Cuthberta Umberdakarday, Umbermoraday & Umberfreeday
   
Session 13

Book I,
Chapter IX

BESTH

  
This is a summary of the journal kept by the Hobbit researcher, Besth
Found along with the hand of a Hobbit in a secret room inside the Devourer
Some notable marginalia is included here, on the sides.

 

Sunfalls, Bithal
Research Journal Begins: Olidamarrak Moraday, Year of the Awakening

• The Halfling, Besth, begins keeping a research journal. She has been hired by someone she refers to only as “the Client” to determine the whereabouts of an ancient Durgoshii power site located somewhere in the region of Lake Dakar - find it, explore it, and map it. The Client is quite wealthy and he (or she) seems to have provided her with a generous retainer, but otherwise Besth’s notes give no hint about who the Client might be.
• The Client has provided her with three triangular obsidian keys and a “winder-finder” (this is a mechanical device used to locate its mate). She is to use the device to map the shortest distance from the entrance to the device’s mate.
• Besth spends some time at the Libriohenaeum Cloister in Sunfalls where she seems to have had the access of a Master of Texts. After several months of research, she learns of an Orcish legend of a Giantish site east of Lake Dakar known as “the Devourer.” The site is approximately 900 years old and pre-dates the construction of the Wall of the Righteous.
• The site seems to have been the “final destination” of a massive trade in slaves and sacrifices that drove the Giants ever further afield to make war, even on their own kind. In relation to the Giants’ war with the elder monotheistic worshippers of the One, Besth has circled two lines of her own marginalia: “Did the war with the Order fuel their site? / Or did the needs of their site fuel the war?”
• A shred of a poem in Drüüg is included in Besth’s notes in a section that relates to the site. It is a translation that dates back to the Giantish Durgoshii Empire, apparently of a far older poem from the ancient Hrakuu civilization: “From deepeth pahst thaye didst come / Destroyne neare ahll but sayving sum / Not thee firth to fiyte the One / Thayve payne enough to thwart its come / Payne enough if focust done.”
• She learns of the site’s use of Bakare mathematics and her notes contain several pages of Bakare numerical codes. They apparently have some relation to the doorways and traps inside the site.
• Besth knows a Goblin necromancer named Sally, “who would be perfect” for this type of work. Sally currently works in the morgues in Riot’s Gate.

Riot’s Gate
Begins: Beltfhanha Mentedakarday

• Besth does some more research on Bakare codes and architecture related to the triangular keys.
• Besth and Sally meet Gurghur, a calloused and cynical Dwarven warrior in a tight financial spot.
• The two convince Gurghur to join them, Besth uses part of the Client’s wealth to cover some of his debts and the Hobbit and the Goblin thereby acquired the services of a fighter before setting off to Cauldron to research land titles and slaver records East of Lake Dakar.

Cauldron
Begins: Yondhalla Claireseulnday

• Besth spends several more weeks doing research while she and her companions apparently live quite well. She is confident she has located the site based on some old Bandeirante journals and other records in the city’s archives.
• She begins to worry about the religious overtones of the site and decides they ought to hire a cleric.
• Gurghur meets Thom Glass, a human Cleric of Erythnul, while gambling. They hit it off and he introduces him to Besth. Although he is a little unpredictable, he was a once a soldier and is capable of some self-discipline. Besth thinks he is suitable – mostly because he is eminently disposable (“no one will ever miss him”) but, given the nature of “the Client” his participation could provide a hedge. (This is the only revealing reference to the Client in the entire text).

Dryad’s Grove
Begins: Tirna Eofreeday

• Besth has seen the Dryad and prefers not to step into her grove. Gurghur, Glass and Sally have killed eight corrupted “tree men” while she is completing her research. They spend about four days here.
• Gurghur and Glass spend much of their time baiting and killing monsters in the vicinity of the cave entrance, of which there is never a short supply. Gurghur has been getting seriously wounded, and Glass is making him pay to get healed. All of this irritates Besth to no end.
• Besth’s notes for this period contain a great deal of Bakare equations. She appears to be working on the right combination for the triangular keys based on the coded notes she had made.

The Dungeon
Begins: Tirna Mentemoraday

• Her work is interrupted when a creature that could only be Garasoth chases a badly wounded Gurghur and Glass and ultimately drives the party into the cave sooner than Besth would like. Gurghur apparently met his end almost immediately upon entering the dungeon, as did Glass, shortly thereafter. Besth’s notes on the issue do not go into detail.
• Sally and Besth find a secret room and decide to hold up there.
• Besth’s notes become much more frantic and worried. Sometimes they are only a few lines. Most make reference to an increasing number of disturbing dreams and visions experienced by both as they do their best to recover from the wounds - too frightened to leave but too beaten to go on.
• Besth makes a reference to Sally’s increasingly “eccentric behaviour.” In fact, her own notes bespeak her own deterioration. Her writing is much more cramped and painfully detailed during her final entries. The meticulous researcher is gone, increasingly replaced by someone far more disturbed. Besth seems to be writing the notes as a way of speaking to someone called “Fossey” who has apparently been dead several years, but who has recently begun speaking to her.
• They hold up for three days until they are well enough, physically, to continue. Sally has been making forays out of the hiding place during this time. Besth feels she is beginning to behave strangely.

Final entry…

“Thank the Destructor Fossey! Not a moment too soon, the winder-finder has found its mate. Their Captain gave me the Client’s completion sigil, which is worth its weight (and wait) in gold. I made it plain that you and Sally covered me from behind. Good thing too! I am sure they would have simply killed us and taken the map if we hadn’t taken that precaution. Good thing for Glass’s holy symbol – Sally made them think she would bring Erythnul himself down upon them. Stupid Brutes. What luck Fossey. It’s as though our every step was pre-determined. What rubbish, Fossey, I am only joking. Now, we can leave this horrid place. Sally tells me she wants to stay and rob the Brutes as they pass our hiding place and she wants to explore the secrets of these whispering halls and darkened and flooded tombs. She’s mad if she thinks the Brutes will fill this place with anything but their blood and screams, but she probably knows that, which is probably why she wants to stay, Fossey. They’ve barricaded themselves behind their portals, waiting for their dark masters. Won’t they be surprised, Fossey? Won’t they? Don’t you think? They will stay there I think. Let Sally wander the catacombs, try to rob them. Crazy, smelly she-Goblin, Fossey, just like you always told me to avoid. She needs my special ring for her plan to work, Fossey. Got to convince her, the completion sigil is worth more. More with the map with all of its traps marked. Thank you Fossey, that was a nice flourish. With her share of the reward, she could buy every Cultist in the Vile if she wanted. Maybe you could talk to her Fossey, tell her there’s nothing here but death. Oh, you are right Fossey, that is what she wants, isn’t it? Should have listened to you Fossey. Still, even crazy, smelly she-Goblins have their uses, Fossey. What’s that? To Winter with them all, Fossey! I am tired of skulking through here, and want us to leave forever. If she is not back in two more hours, Fossey, we will leave without her. Maybe we should leave now. Yes that’s what we’ll do. Can I tell you a secret, Fossey? She’s starting to behave strangely, and the walls here are whispering louder and louder. I do not know how the Brutes can stand it. They’ve barricaded themselves well enough, Fossey… what? I know, I said that already. I am not stupid Fossey, but they truly have no idea what horrors this place contains, Fossey, what horrors I fear may be awakening, Fossey. What horrors have they awoken Fossey? What horrors have we become Fossey? I saw a corpse lumbering in the great chamber last night Fossey. First movement of corpses I have seen since we arrived, Fossey. Did Sally do that? Stupid Goblin! She says that this place speaks to her. She’s crazy! Where is that wretched Sally? We will leave as soon as she is done collecting her bones. I don’t trust her Fossey. She wants my special ring. Needs it for her plan. Wants us to forget the map. Stay here. Become part of this place. She doesn’t know I saw her looking, Fossey, but I did. Oh – there is her knock, my Fossey. Maybe we should just kill her and feed her to this place. Make her stop looking and asking to stay, Fossey. Then you and I can have the reward ourselves. Dammit – she’s knocking again. Yes. That’s what we’ll do. Where’s my sword? Shh. Don’t tell. It will be our secret, Fossey, just like when we were kids...”

 
 
 
   
 
   
 
 
 
   
 
    

  

Book I,
Chapter IX

JANARL

Cuthberta Umberdakarday

I reached the Sacred Grove centred in a wild jungle of Evil. It is like the eye of a hurricane. I entered it quickly and find Folha. She told me that a group of humans entered the Devouver following a Knight of Heeroneous. I was compelled to follow in spite of my best judgement.

I was able to follow their trail into the Vile Underground for a time. However, there were many trails and much water and I lost them. I went farther and farther down, farther away from the forest and light I loved and came to a dark cliff. I jumped down and continued along. I heard a scraping sound; a thud and all went black. My dreams were fractured, disjointed and a swirl. I could see the Destruction of Sentar, the Rending of the Web, the Scouring of Krin and all restored by the Spear on an Thundercloud…

I awoke slowly and heard a human voice in my ear. It asked my name but had no body. I was bound from head to foot in a spider’s web and could not move. I nswered with my name and the asked the Voice to release me. This Voice spoke a strange form of Draconic with which I was unfamiliar. I explained my Quest and it set me free. It was a Human! He was somehow invisible and questing in these caves for ancient objects of power. He said he did not know the Spear of Justice but asked me to continue along with him.

Suddenly, again I heard the scrapping and this time saw its source; a giant spider! I begin shooting arrows at it as four grimlocks also attack. The human, Thalazzar fought like a true warrior smashing all the grimlocks while I finished off the spider. We find that this room is a dead-end and work our way back out to the Sunlight.

We found Folha in the Grove in a panic. She spoke of more humans coming from the sky and that we had to hide. Thalazzar and I hid and watched them arrive. They were clearly great warriors and they spoke of Heeroneous! They were looking for another of their Order! I revealed myself and so as to avoid provoking them, I performed the Custom of Greeting. I sheathed my sword and threw it to the ground as I had seen my Chieftain, Kalsaut, do many times. They attacked me and pummelled me to unconsciousness…

I was awoken by the sound of prayer and saw the face of a Stone Dweller smile at me. It was so kind that I could feel no malice. How could a race so capable of craft and wonder and religion have caused the Shattering of the Web? I looked around and saw many strange humans and a gnome as well. The she-gnome was tending a mechanical man, they called a Clockwork. A human named Tiberio was tending Pelu! These were the humans I had been tracking. I asked excitedly after the Spear. Curse my poor Common. They were very confused and spoke of a weapon. A man, a Man! Finally they spoke of a Fallen Comrade. I could not believe that the Spear of Justice could have fallen and be dragged off like a deer carcass by the likes of Lokiyar and his disrespectful, ignorant squires. But alas, he was not the Spear but his son. A son! Of course the Spear would have a son. The humans called him DomaldiThe Time of Justice. An apprentice was needed to continue the Following of the Keepers. What does his Fall mean? The father and the son killed in the same month. Oh dark times! My head was swimming, my quest ended, a failure in ashes so soon…

My wounds were great as were the rest of this band and much rest was needed. We stayed the night in the Sacred Grove.

Cuthberta Umbermoraday

The next day we held a palaver and walked each others’ paths. At midday, another human appeared by the waterfall and came to the Grove. He was a great warrior called Gunther who was a life-friend of Domaldi. He said that Lokiyar had taken Domaldi’s body to the human town to the west, Filula, the Fish Pot. They had tried to use their divine powers to call him back from the Beyond but had failed. Gunther claimed that Domaldi’s soul was trapped somewhere and could not be rejoined. The humans began to buzz like bees and the Tattooed Monk declared that his soul must be trapped in the Devourer. They declared they would go back to free him and crush this evil. I too swore that I would lend my claws to redeeming the Time of the Spear.

Cuthberta Umberfreeday

We went back into the Caves and went through a Secret Passage cleverly hid in the stone. No wonder I could not find them! (DM - When Janarl first passed the door the party had jammed open, the Devourer hid the passage from him to keep him form joining them.) We found the spot where Domaldi had fell and it was more dank than the South of Sengil. I said a silent prayer to Zuras and the Wilds but knew that It was very far away. We continued along the corridors and saw a purplish light. A massive and unspeakable evil beast that could barely fit down the halls attacked us. I went into the adjacent room hoping to find a more defendable position only to find more Evil: a massive skeleton with giant claws and an animated mass of dark razor chains. I could not close the door and joined in the general fray. We fought as a team of warriors. I was honoured to deliver the killing strike to the Boneclaw. The Tattooed Monk and the Knight turned the tide and laid our foes low.

In that Room of Vile Pain, a Nephilim was chained to a table and the subject of a vast and unspeakable torture. We found books describing this Villainy but this was beyond me. The Tattooed Monk tried to unchain it and its flesh attacked. Gunther and I tried cutting the strange tubes. We all agreed that this creature’s pain had to end and the Stone Dweller destroyed its mechanical heart using the Unity of Stone. Somehow, its Pain fed the Devourer itself…

We continued deeper into the Madness. We found a sarcophagus where the Nephilim had been raised in an unholy ceremony. In that room, an open grave of dead bugbears and hobgoblins awaited us. From there we found many strange portals. My companions looked at these and nodded in a strange air of understanding that I did not share. We continued on and entered a large room with a giant obsidian obelisk. In that room was a massive grey evil…

 
    

  

 Book I,
Chapter IX

THALAZZAR

Alone in the Heart of Darkness

Thalazzar stood alone in the darkness watching the final flickers of his companion’s torch light disappear. Cloaked in a magical aura of invisibility, he felt little unease. Thalazzar had spent most of his life alone in a darkened underground surrounded by evil. The only difference, he mused, was that this evil felt somehow older and deeper. The Khi’Ganad and their demonic conjurations were certainly evil but their world had been understandable and predictable to a certain extent. Something here was drawing the wizard into the darkness and away from his companions. They would likely assume that he was quietly following and he would, eventually. Something, or perhaps someone, was behind them in the depths and Thalazzar began moving towards it. Feeling his way in the dark through the chamber of Drugoshii records, Thalazzar moved towards the door that Tiberio had bolted closed.

Once through the portal, Thalazzar decided to risk some light. Drawing forth his old lantern, he lit the wick. While still invisible, the wizard realized his light would draw attention and so moved forward with great caution, his eyes scanning the silent shadows ahead. He decided to move down the hall from where the goblin’s fiery arcane attack had come, periodically setting down his lantern and scouting ahead so as to not always be in the centre of the light.

Emerging into a triangular chamber, Thalazzar found what appeared to be sacrificial altar with grooves in the floor. Perhaps, he thought darkly, they were for draining blood away from the centre of the room. As he approached, the darkness began to move. Incorporeal wraiths began to swirl about him as he backed away, quickly casting a protective abjuration against evil surrounding himself. He had set his lantern on the floor, close to the entrance, and he moved backwards towards it. The wraiths whispered in his ear and flew about the edge of his light, but none came any closer – save one. Coalescing from the darkness, a spectral wraith pushed forward into the light bent on draining the life from the wizard. Backing off, Thalazzar called out once more to the gremlins of Gnarrgyn and their multitudinous, bumbling masses surged forth from the void to rip and tear at the spirit before him. The wraith hesitated, distracted by the gremlins ripping at its dark fabric with their planar claws, but still managed to rake an icy cold, incorporeal claw through the wizard. In silent, still-invisible concentration, Thalazzar left his minions to their revelry and soon the wraith dissipated back into the shadows from where it had come.

Although that wraith had dispersed, Thalazzar continued concentrating to maintain his gremlins on that plane of existence. Still invisible, the gremlins could sense Thalazzar’s presence and swarmed all over the spherical abjuration surrounding him attempting to feast on him as well. Like the tale of a piper leading his rats, Thalazzar, shielded in his cloak of gremlins, continued forward into the underground depths, daring further wraiths to approach him. The spectral beings continued to test the light, but until the gremlins expired Thalazzar would not be seriously threatened again. And he did not linger long enough for that to happen.

* * *

Standing on the edge of a crevasse, Thalazzar considered his options. His companions would by now be far ahead of him in the darkened underground halls and finding them would risk him getting hopelessly lost. Something continued to call him forward though, and despite its being several feet wide Thalazzar looked for a place where he could perhaps jump across. The depth was considerable and if he missed the far side and fell, he would be invisible, badly wounded and beyond the reach of his companions. And so he jumped, finding himself on the other side of a darkened hall filled with rubble and cobwebs. Large cobwebs.

A quick glance through the room found a creature trapped in webs, struggling on the floor. The wizard had seen footprints in the dust, assumed they were from the goblin necromancer, but now understood that they led to this creature. He had a sense that this was why he had been lured away from his companions and so began to free it. Speaking to it in his native draconic, Thalazzar quickly learned that the small lizard-like humanoid was named Janarl and seemed to be searching for Domaldi or perhaps Domaldi’s father. Yet another layer, he thought, in layer upon layers of mystery surrounding his companions. The conjuror played the fool for the moment, saying only that he was a powerful wizard searching for arcane artifacts – more a partial truth than a lie given the ring of invisibility he now bore. As Janarl’s intentions seemed innocent enough, Thalazzar decided he did not need to burden himself further with the complexities of Domaldi’s personal tragedy and that he would bring the lizard back to them. Thalazzar no longer felt drawn away and decided it was time to return to the grove and await his companions rather than risk losing his way.

Turning to leave the pair were suddenly confronted by the spider that had trapped Janarl as it descended from the vaulted ceiling above. As if that were not enough, the spider’s former prey, reanimated by the evil of the place, chose that moment to attack as well confronting the wizard with not one, but four enemies. Janarl, it seemed, was some sort of tracker amongst his people and fought well. It was the wizard though who defeated their foes in a rare display of physical aggression that surprised even him. For those few minutes, he was no longer the wizard and was again the Unj’Kaltigmag who had clawed, broken and crushed his away to supremacy amongst the underdark he was subjected to by the Khi’Ganad for the better part of his life. Unlike those days when his only weapon had been the rocks around him and the blessing of his massive strength, Thalazzar now held in his hands the staff Kalthanalas infused with powerful sylvan magic. Blow after powerful blow, the wizard reemerged relatively unscathed after a few moments and re-crossed the crevasse with Janarl in search of his companions.

* * *

Smoking a packet of Dakare pipeweed did little to cleanse the grime that covered Thalazzar or clear the taint that slowly ebbed out of him. He was also not sure what to make of the whiteness of his formerly fine, black beard. Apparently his brief physical encounter with the wraith had drained something from him. He was slightly concerned that he might now look more different from his namesake but, then again he thought with a smile, he was different. The wizard sat on a moss covered rock, just out of sight of Folha’s grove, awaiting his companions return. In fact, the only thing that was in sight was the grey puffs of smoke periodically drifting away from his invisible hiding place. Janarl had decided to wait nearer the grove, despite the dryad’s warnings, so eager was he to meet up with the knight. They had been unable to find them leaving the Drugoshii depths and so had emerged thinking to wait for them with Pelu the donkey. Thalazzar grew increasingly uneasy, however, as dusk turned to night and his companions did not emerge from the underground.

He had much to contemplate. He also had much to study, some of which he wished to remain secret from his companions, and so he took advantage of an evening of solitude in the marsh. One source of study was the Last Book from which Thalazzar had quickly gained a functional grasp of the Yithic language. Only fluent pronunciation now eluded him. He was learning as much as he could about life, faith, geography and magic on the other side of the Wall of the Righteous. The wizard also spent time continuing his own arcane research, focusing a little on counter-spells and deciphering some references to obscure planar realms and their calling incantations. What eluded him, he concluded, was the ability to decipher Yithic magic and the pile of scrolls he had obtained. He decided that this finding a way to read this magic would be a priority for him once they left the Federation.

Several hours after midnight, Tyconderoga finally found him again and put an end to his study. He sputtered a draconic curse in the bird’s direction but received only a condescending hoot in response. Yet again, the owl reinforced Thalazzar’s decision that when the time came to call his own familiar, it would not be some mundane irritating animal. Reminded, however, of Janarl’s existence Thalazzar checked on the lizard only to find him maintaining his vigil over Folha’s grove, Pelu and the cave entrance. Thalazzar grew more concerned that his companions might not emerge at all and decided that he would rest, wait until mid-morning and if they had not come forth he would return to the coast. For someone who had spent little time in civilization, he was curious as to how much he missed the urban bustle of Riot’s Gate. He found himself thinking of replacing his now completely soiled robe with something finer – a premise that seemed bizarrely foreign yet appealing to someone who had lived most of his life in rags underground. Thalazzar wondered what he would do if all his companions were slain. He decided that he would proceed onwards regardless. If everyone save him and the owl were slain, it became that much more important to find Tallim, the Red Rider, and the hidden connections behind the Dream of Horrors.

* * *

Thalazzar was more disappointed than truly sad upon learning of Domaldi’s fate from his reemerged companions the following morning. He had learned early in life that emotional attachment only made it harder when people were eaten. He thought, as he often did, of a certain beautiful Gallantish girl who had met her tragic end in the maw of a one-eyed ogre. Domaldi had been brave and a beacon for virtue. His loss, however, was notable. Perhaps his heroics had been a pull towards good for the wizard as much as his upbringing had been a pull towards evil. In a few moments in their time together, Thalazzar had found himself wishing he could be more like him. Without Domaldi, the weight of being burdened with ass, gnome and beggar would be that much heavier. Without Domaldi’s influence, Thalazzar was again back to hovering in the shadows of morality. This was the second time in the past week when Domaldi had been taken from them, first by lizards and now by this Keeper, Lokiyar (DM - Lokiyar is not a Keeper, he is a High Inquisitor of Heironeous), and he had a funny feeling that the knight’s part in this tale was not yet finished. In fact, Domaldi had been replaced by not one, but two companions – the lizard and an old friend knighthood friend named Gunther. This warrior had apparently been searching for Domaldi as well but was beaten to it by yet another faction. Regardless, his body was taken and all that was left for the companions to care for was his spirit, tied to the evil of the Drugoshii depths. This Gunther seemed determined to ensure his friend was free to join Heronious and so, they decided the fallen knight was worth one more trip into the cavern’s darkness, one more attempt to end the evil that lurked beneath. The owl could wait one more day.

* * *

The final trials of what they learned was called the Devourer were violent and dark. Unspeakable creatures had been found at the heart of the place, and by the grace of some powers, good or evil, they had been defeated and the companions emerged victorious. Thalazzar’s role had been crucial in the fight as the largest and vilest of the evil they faced had been sent back to the void by his magic alone. His prize had been a tome of necromantic magic plundered from the goblin’s lair. Domaldi’s soul was now free to whatever fate became of it and for now, his body borne far away, he would need to be left to that fate. Also freed from its pain was one of the elder beings called a Nephilium that they had seen flying over Riot’s Gate. Its eternal torture had been the ultimate source of evil in the Devourer and now that it had ended, perhaps light would return to these lands.

On a more practical level, another interesting twist had been further evidence of the sophisticated Brutish plot against the Federation. The companions had found recent remnants of a gnoll outpost, all slain by the denizens of the Devourer, close to a defunct magic portal much like they found in the Saltwater Barrows (DM - the portal in question was found hidden in the Caves of Göesse) where Domaldi’s father had met his end. The connections between the Order, the Brutes, and the Federation remained unrevealed, but the answers it seemed remained in the south. It was now time for the party to turn to the Monotheocratic Order and the rescue of Tallim. If in doing so the answers to the threat against the Federation were revealed, that much the better. Domaldi’s quest had been a journey into the heart of darkness. Whether by the compulsion to do good, a desire for vengeance, or for patriotic loyalty to the Federation, his quest had been the end of him. Thalazzar was not driven by such things and with Domaldi’s passing, that quest had ended. Thalazzar’s own heart of darkness remained hidden, but he was sure that it lay in the road south of Telemar.

 
    

  
 
 
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CHAPTER TEN: Taint of the Devourer
Cuthberta Umberfreeday & Umbersularday
  
Session 14

Book I,
Chapter X

FRANKIE

Still kind of choked up over how things have turned out, but repairing Calibre has kept me busy. I also got more reading done, and found out some interesting tidbits on the Clockwork religion. I am totally off the scope on this one, hope this schema doesn't nail me with a malfunction that Nimbus seems to be undergoing.

Finally get things wrapped up, and I see a sapling begin to grow from where Domaldi's body rested in the airhead's grove. Glad that Domaldi's soul has been freed from that foul place.

Realizing that my comrades might need me, I hurry back in (hopefully for the last time) and eventually come upon a torture chamber. I wanted a closer look, but heard fighting break out further in. Guess some things never change, the others' are always finding some trouble.

After asking Calibre to stay close by (I just fixed him up, didn't feel like having another major repair job right away), I entered a room with a gigantic steelstone obelisk covered in some kind of organic slime. I saw a weird looking "ape" and a slime thing battling it out, along with some undead. I yelled out to see which large monster we were trying to fight, and tried to help out. Alas, my x-bow was not up to the task of handling these creatures, but my comrades were. Will definitely need to enhance it with magic. Hopefully I can make it back to Peppershot and obtain advice from one of the weapon engineers.

Afterwards I tried to understand how to dismantle the Devourer, but quickly came to realize it was beyond me. Instead I stopped by the torture chamber and pillaged the machines there. If nothing else, having all the prime internal components removed will throw a wrench in the cog if someone wants to re-activate these infernal devices.

Even the giant-sized alchemical bench was gross. It had vials of nephilim extract... no way was I going to touch that, let alone keep it on me. From what I have studied, it apparently was good to use against nephilim. I think I will include nephilim under my common sense heading of "things to stay away from" that dragons fall under.

We rested up, and I managed to finally managed to get my xbow specs to the first initial stage of the XB530a model (a current favourite of my family, unless a new prototype is out). This stage allows magical enhancements, which is totally wizbang. I almost freaked when Arek tripped over me while I was busy working. Note to self: ask Calibre to keep my gnomgineer area clear of unwanted snoopers.

Unfortunately the next morning Arek could not remove the taint from those affected (I am glad that Calibre and I weren't, I never want to feel taint ever ever again). Fortunately, the airhead said we could go visit another tree spirit that could help, but that the spirit would want a boon for doing so. We decided on taking Domaldi's sapling; it seems fitting, I know he would want to help us in this manner.

Janarl led us to the tree spirit with no problems, and just as we got there the boar plant confronted us. Well, this time we had a surprise for it.

Arek had given me some alchemical fire (I love the stuff, in a purely engineering sort of way). With a quick apology to those who would be splashed by it, I doused the boar plant thoroughly. The rest of my comrades helped while Nimbus talked to the woodland spirit who came out to watch. After watching Thalazaar's latest hell minion of the week tear apart the boar plant, we met up with the wood spirit.

Don't know what Nimbus said to her, but she seemed very happy and willing to help our tainted fellows. Seeing that they would be taken care of, I set to work on upgrading my xbow cartridges. I feel so giddy after the prime gear haul I had.

We parted our way with Gunther, and the wood spirit said she would escort him safely away. Gunther was going to try to clear Domaldi and our names (hope it doesn't get him killed), so I gave him my uncle's name in Riot's Gate. Hope my uncle can keep him safe (and that my uncle has been safe all this time!)

The group made good time heading towards where Janarl's people lived, and we settled in for the night. Hopefully I can be back in Peppershot soon.

 
    

  

Book I,
Chapter X

THALAZZAR

The Taint, the Boar, and the Big Yellow Hat

Now the hat really wasn’t that big, recalled Thalazzar, but the wearer’s ego certainly was. He remembered thinking he looked a bit like a yellow mushroom but even the wizard would never have said anything. Loifen Three-Feathers would have stuck several knives in his chest with a laugh before he could finish saying anything about his favourite hat. It was more a pillow really than a hat – plush, tasseled, and with three long, blue, elegant hippogriff feathers making the bearer seem that much taller. And he needed it because Loifen was less than three feet tall.

Loifen was one of the rare hobbits who succumbed to the Yondering, an affliction to the majority of his people where a young hobbit wandered away from home and hearth to see what lay beyond the next hill. More often than not, these hobbits eventually returned to their village, retired to their hobbit-holes and wrote their memoirs. Loifen, recalled the wizard, had been so successful a Yonderer that if he ever returned to his pastoral roots, Thalazzar imagined that it would be in a golden carriage surrounded by mercenary hirelings, his fingers dripping with gems and fine Hankuan silk covering his ever-so-slight paunch. Not to mention what his fortune would have done for any hobbit economy. But he had been so quick with his knives and he had been an engaging person to work for.

The hobbit had earned quite the reputation and even more gold as a Bostikan privateer serving the various Gallantish courtiers who played their intrigues within the River Baronies. Thalazzar had worked for a short time as part of his retinue, providing minor arcane defenses to his privateers as they enforced Bostikan shipping memorandums on rivals trying to run the Devil’s Horn Canal without paying their dues to the barony fleets. Thalazzar had first encountered gnolls when working for Loifen extorting gold from a Federation-flagged vessel at sea guarded by brutes hired after the Selunaport Piracy Protection Act was enacted. Loifen had joked that hobbits might have introduced democracy to the Federation, but that didn’t mean he voted for it!

The gnolls had been wearing too much armour for service at sea, betraying that they were new to Lake Seluna, and were drunk on Trudorean Fire Spirits. They had braided and dyed their hair purple and were among some of the most garish looking beasts Thalazzar had ever encountered with their mottled brown and yellow hides. He distinctly recalled how much fun Loifen had had swinging about the rigging, flinging knives, and pushing the beasts over the sides of the vessel into the murky depths, his oversized yellow hat never leaving his tiny well-groomed head. Thalazzar couldn’t have imagined gnolls looking worse until a horde of dismembered, decayed, undead brutes rushed them in their final moments in the Devourer.

While the gnolls had been only a minor irritant compared to the evil elemental that had beset the party, Thalazzar could only stare and twizzle his moustache in amazement. He hadn’t had to do much fighting. Now that he had unlocked a summoning ley line to the rocky, mist-filled realm of Rhodoxia in the Nine Hells, he had an inexhaustible supply of toothed manglers to fling at his enemies. Some wizards evoked fire or ice, Thalazzar summoned devils. Some wizards had pesky owls for familiars, some wizards searched the planes for minions of legend. Arek had ensured that these brutes stayed dead, far more quickly than Loifen ever could with the power of Moradin behind him, and Tiberio found his stride in combat felling both an undead champion and the elemental with swift strokes from Domaldi’s enchanted blade.

The Devourer had not been so eager to let them escape its clutches, however, and had left several of his companions tainted with evil. This necessitated an excursion to the glade of a sylvan ally of Folha, some sort of elfin tree spirit, who was quite taken with the beggar and cleansed the party of their taint. The dirty beggar had given her a sapling representative of the sacrifice of Domaldi and the return of life to the marsh. This, however, was not before the companions fought the evil bramble creature, Garasoth, once again, quickly destroyed this time by gnomish alchemical fire and the powerful claws of yet another Rhodoxian toothed mangler. Thalazzar had considered a horde of Ysgardi wildrunners from the forests of Nidavellir or barbed ice beasts from the Kulhucitani glacier, but they would have to wait for another day, and other foes.

As the party finally trudged south much to Tyconderoga’s delight, they replaced one new companion with an old one. While the lizard Janarl seemed willing to escort them south through his tribal lands closer to the Wall of the Righteous, Gunther decided to return to Goesse to clear Domaldi’s name and the charges against Thalazzar and his companions. The returned companion was Inigo Tarrega with a warning that That Which Stalks the Night was very near. The party broke camp in the middle of the night and prepared to face their next challenge. But Telemar, the Order and Tallim were finally getting closer…

 
    

  

Book I,
Chapter X

JANARL

Cuthberta Umberfreeday

…we entered the large room with an dark obelisk and were immediately set upon by undead. The tattooed monk attacked the massive elemental as I shot arrows at it. It somehow moved through the floor itself and harshly struck me. It was as hard as stone but moved like water. As it struck me, it felt as if it passed right through me. It was almost as if it had tarnished my soul. I was able to withdraw and survive as all of these foul creatures were dispatched. I would not have believed that a Stone Dweller could command so much righteous energy and yet this one called Arek was instrumental to winning the day.

After the battle we examined the obelisk and I learned it was a material called “steel stone”. It was only after looking at the Unity that I understood its value. In the Enclave, some of the elders talk of Sentariss ba rital or the “rib bones of Sentar”. I had always thought it was a tale told by the foolish when they were drunk. To know the bones of the world could yield such weapons and that so much could be dug up by the Stone Dwellers causes me some concern.

The she-gnome and her mechanical man attempted to stop the flow of pain into the Obelisk. The rest of us searched the rooms but found very little of interest. The she-gnome was unable to affect any more change to the Devouver.

The she-gnome Linkosplitzit told us that before she left the Grove to join us, she say an amazing thing. A place where the blood of Domaldi had spilled on the ground had been transformed in a swirl of light into a small tree. Apparently, we had released the spirit of him by destroying the Heart.


By this point, Gunther was not doing well and we felt that leaving was necessary. When we emerged into the sunlight we saw that Folha’s Grove had grown by our good works. The evil of the Devouver was diminished.

I went to the tree and prayed to the Wild. His spirit had been freed! To what fate I do not know.

Arek, the leader of these Followers of the Eye, called his people around and made me an offer. He explained that when the Time of Judgement had fallen, a living weapon he carried called Woodclaw left his body. Arek explained that it was a powerful magic weapon that used the power of nature itself as its attack. He placed it before me and said that he thought I should become its new master. I faced much confusion: this was the living weapon of the Son of the Spear! The Web of Life led me here to this moment. I could sense the Keeper’s son’s blood in this sword. I could hear the Song of the Forest through it. As Domaldi’s closest friend and a creature of strong conviction, I trusted this Claimer Arek and his judgement. I took up Woodclaw and felt it enter my arm like a thousand thorns. It was fire like a forge all through my body. I could feel the call of the trees in my mind and in my veins. Somewhere behind it all I could touch an echo of he who was Domaldi. I could see him smile knowing that a Creature of the Forest such as me would use this Sword to fight evil. I spent the rest of the evening willing it to emerge and withdraw as I practiced my sword drills. Lo to the next beast that challenged me!

Cuthberta Umbersularday

We awoke after our needed rest. We determined that we had done all we could to the Devouver and that we need to proceed to other tasks. I explained that their Quest would be best supported by travelling via the Enclave. I also need to explain the loss of the both the Spear and the Time of Justice to my People.

We proceeded to the place of a forest spirit called Zieata or as the humans called her “Zayda”. I spoke to Folha at length and was certain I could find her Grove one league to the South. We travelled for two hours and reached the Grove and its characteristic stream. Suddenly we were attacked by Garasoth! I shot it many times with no effect. Therfore, Nimbus and I went ahead to see if there was other evil underfoot from a rise of rocks. I quickly searched the hilltop and returned to the Battle confident we would not be flanked. We had Garasoth surrounded and charged in on him from the flank and stuck hard. Finally, Arek and Gunther finished him off.

On the hilltop, Nimbus had found Zieata and had given her the Tree of Domaldi as a gift. She took us into her Grove and healed our wounds and taints. She is an elf of the wood but one of vast power having transformed partially into a tree herself. We spoke at length and she explained that she thought That Which Stalks the Night was a new beast upon the world: possibly from the Temple of Sss’Raast. She said when the Stone Dwellers opened the Door at Dagonon and cut the Web of Magic, many things changed and many other things could have been set free.

She planted the Tree of Domaldi and it immediately grew strong. Gunther then departed to continue his efforts to free Domaldi from the claws of those Knights of Heeroneous that now had his body. I was tempted to leave at first but realized that my path now lays with these others as they try to save this human girl trapped within Jamhyria Theona'la.

Berrona Eoselunday

Nimbus and I were standing watch in the dark of the night and a figure emerged from the shadows. Nimbus recognized him immediately a Inigo Tarraga, a human under the geas of Kausat to find and destroy That Which Stalks the Night. He told us that we were in danger and had to leave now with him…

 
    

  
 
 
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CHAPTER ELEVEN: That Which Stalks the Night
Berrona Eoselunday
  
Session 15

Book I,
Chapter XI

JANARL

Berrona Eoselunday

Inigo explained to us by the campfire that we needed to split up to distract That Which Stalks the Night. He claimed it was urgent that he and Arek proceed alone to discuss great issues. We needed to proceed to the Lost Temple of Sss’Raast and then to a ship commanded by a Stone Dweller friend of Arek. The Tempiss Liassi was never spoken of in Krin except to scare children around the campfire but I knew from Argea that it was dread and a blight on Sentar. As I did not know this human, I was uncertain of the soundness of this plan but the others agreed. I went off with Linkoplitzit and her Mechanical Man who had Pelu, so that they had some protection and guidance in the night. An hour into our journey, we were attacked in the swamp by a pack of six wolves. I suspected that they were under some foul influence as they were mangy, wounded and sick but I was unable convince them to leave us. We were forced to kill them all and even Pelu fought according to legend.

We arrived at the Lost Temple of Sss’Raast on time and worked our way around to its entrance. As I came around the corner, I saw Nimbus and Tiberio fighting spawn of the undead and Inigo. That evil creature was at the centre of the fray in fact: this foul man deceived us! I heard him taunt the others claiming that he killed Arek. All manner of undead spawn from the swamp joined the attack. The bard’s song inspired my new arrows on their way to the foul man but to no effect. I instead focused on the vampire spawn of a fallen knight of Heeroneous. Ah yes, the one who beat me in Folha’s grove named Gahir. Even as I fired on him, I bore him no malice and only wanted to free him from a curse which must have so pained his Inquistior’s soul. I wanted to save the brave wolf guarding Tiberio that was fighting in our pack. Suddenly, I saw my venerable uncle Adiya shamble towards Nimbus. Oh woe and veritable shame to be lost to these undead. His face unmasked in death to reveal his fall from grace and descent to savagery.

We began to turn the battle and managed to defeat Inigo. He cried, “Master I have failed, here is your meal!” and disappeared into smoke. His Master then began to emerge from the depths of the Temple. It was a Yuan-ti vampire: truly a thing of dread from the worst of nightmares. Nimbus rushed towards it bleeding all over his body. He touched a fallen figure and ran to a defaced pillar drawing the fiend toward it. Arek stood up from the healing touch and called the strength of Moradin to him. He was able to strike down the remaining spawn with his might and I saw my uncle collapse, thank Zuras!

As the last spawn fleed from Arek, Calibre struck it down and I ran to aid Nimbus. His lifeblood was draining away and the Temple began to collapse. I ran into the Temple, searching amid the rubble with Arek. We found his body pinned under the rubble and with the she-gnome's mechanical genius and Arek’s strength, I pulled Nimbus’s limp body from the ruin as the dawn broke.

On the blood-soaked grass, we tended to Nimbus and a cleansing rain began even as the sun got brighter. The Temple collapsed unnaturally as it began to glow in the daylight. Suddenly, Nimbus drew breath and collapsed. It was as if his spirit had been away from his crushed body and had now returned. The birds began to sing for the first time since I had been out of the Enclave.

I took a silver dagger from the wizard and went to my uncle and drove it into his heart to destroy his corruption. I found his mask on his body and began the Ritual of Passing. As my mother had taught, I covered his face with my unmasked face, holding our masks and saying the Prayer. The Prayer of Passing:

“Oh blood of my mother and my clan, you return to the land. Your spirit will now soar on the wings of the Raven among our ancestors.”

I collected his mask and his Spirit Pouch fashioned by the hands of my mother to protect him on his quest. What that quest was, I do not know and will keep that question under my scales until I next see my mother.

We decide that we will again need the aid of Zieata to restore Nimbus and we proceeded together to her Grove.

 
    

  

Book I,
Chapter XI

AREK

“A Fatal Mistake”

The low glow of the campfire quickly faded as Arek jogged to join up with Inigo in the thick swamp. The situation was not to the cleric’s liking but there seemed to be no time. Inigo seemed possessed and would not listen to alternate courses of action. The fighter insisted that he and Arek had something urgent to discuss. Arek attributed this strange behaviour to the Geas spell the Lizard-Men had cast on Inigo. Perhaps the magic-induced quest had affected Inigo’s mind. But there was no time to find out. As Arek moved deeper in the swamp and farther from his friends, he hoped that Tiberio’s intuition was wrong and that Inigo could indeed be trusted. If not, there was not much Arek could do alone to avoid a trap. “Guide my steps Soulforger,” Arek prayed softly as he went into the fetid darkness.

***

“Stop Inigo! We have come far enough. What is happening here? What have you found out? What is my part in this? What is that which stalks the night? ” Arek cried out as Inigo was again getting out of sight. Arek was getting tired despite his magical boots. He had followed Inigo in the swamp for several hours now, sometimes only relying on broken branches the fighter had left as a sign of his mad dash. Arek looked up to see Inigo has stopped and moved back closer to him and hissed: “Silence! I told you no talking. We must keep quiet in the swamp so as not to attract the beast. When we get to the temple, then I will tell you.” Without another word, Inigo turned and resumed his run. As Arek started to follow, at a loss for words and considering Inigo’s answer, it seemed the night was even darker.

***

They finally reached a clearing. The ground was firmer here and the forest less thick with trees and shrubs, Arek noticed, similar to that in the surrounding area of the temple of Sss’Raast. Arek was relieved that he was finally getting closer to some answers. As he crossed the last line of trees, Arek noticed Inigo at the far end of the clearing. With his darkvision, Arek could see that the fighter was facing him, was waiting for him. A slight parting of the mist, which usually clung over the swamp, showed Inigo to be deathly pale. The cursed fighter called out: “Arek, you asked before what is that which stalks the night?” He paused. “I am!” and slowly faded back into the trees. Arek felt his blood chill “No! Damn you Inigo. And curses to my folly and following you here alone,” Arek thought. He could not see Inigo or whatever looked like Inigo. He crouched defensively and called out : “Moradin, hear my call. I need your blessings.” A few moments later, Arek was in a dense cloud of mist. He felt confident he could not be seen but he also was now blind.“What a stupid mistake this has been. What a stupid fatal mistake. A Claimer in training indeed.” Arek thought as he spat on the ground, gripping Unity tightly and trying to think of a plan to fight this creature. But only images of terrified and beat up gnolls kept coming to him

***

“Arek, come back to us. Quickly!” Arek felt the pebbles and sand on the ground as he slowly emerged from a dark sleep. “Inigo…A vampire!”Arek’ eyes flared wide open. “The fight…I should be dead. I was dead… My friends.” Arek saw Nimbus touch him for a second or two and then he was gone, moving swiftly as he always did, around a pillar. “Pillar…It seems familiar…The temple of Sss’Raast.” Arek felt the lifeforce coursing