Kingmaker

Armag-eddon It!
Cause Ovinrbaane never wants it to stop

Kingdom of Arboria, Year 3, Month 7

Armag's Tomb

It's not every day that one finds a sentient evil sword and buries it in a pillar of stone. I'm not even sure it really happened. I pretty sure I just finally snapped, and what you are reading are the ramblings of a madwoman. Then again, here's a sackful of gold, jewels, and weapons that tells me I'm at least not completely imagining the events of the last 24 hours.

So yes, let me ramble. Where did I leave off? Test of Tactics; right! I forgot to tell you that Gelros used some sort of special soap to wash both Kris and Shella so they could shake off the demons' mind paralyzing effect. After that, there was some discussion that I tuned out while I wrote my previous journal entry. The conclusion was to finish the exploration of the passageways around us before moving deeper into the cave.

The Test of Balance: After our usual roping up trick, we found our way back to the entry and went down the left-hand passage. This passage came out at a huge, smooth disc on the floor, which turned out to be a balance beam of sorts: you had to balance just right to walk across to the far side. I was busy brainstorming a way to rig a rope across when Narzeth floated the idea of using his flight spell. On the dinosaur. Yes, please, let that sink in: Narzeth cast flight on Spike, Kris's stegosaur. And so began the tale of how I got to live out one of my specific fantasies: riding on a flying dinosaur.

But, like all dreams, elements of it were just weird. First, Spike has no wings. Also, I hadn't anticipated riding alongside five of my closest friends or teaching Kris on the fly how to properly steer a bareback mount. But whatever; we flew right over that disc.

The Test of Agility: Through the misty passageway beyond the Test of Balance came a room I shall call the Test of Agility. This was a cylindrical chamber full of spindly half-pillars of varying heights. It was pretty clear that the intent is for a supplicant to jump from pillar to pillar across the room. But screw that. We were on a FLYING DINOSAUR. We flew Spike straight across to the other side and bypassed the pillars altogether, even when a hurricane-force gust of wind nearly blew us all off his back.

From the Test of Agility we arrived back in the chamber of the Test of Prowess. We decided at this point to rest, and did so. Surprisingly, nothing tried to eat us while we slept.

Armag's Army: Rested and ready, we passed beyond the test of prowess into a natural cavern. Turns out this cavern was filled with a skeletal army. We did what one does with hostile skeletons: we disarticulated them.

The Guardian: Beyond the Cavern of Surprisingly Disciplined Skeletal Soldiers, we found a huge man (I guess?) who appeared to be the guardian of the tomb. He stood sentinel in an ornate chamber that appeared very clearly a temple to Gorum, even to my untrained eye. This man was too ancient in attire and mannerisms to be a true priest; he was more of a shaman. In any case, he was not threatening, but instead simply watched as Shella entered the chamber.

"You can die or you can get out of the way. I am so sick of this place." That's our Shella! To my surprise, the shaman looked Shella up and down in careful assessment, and then stood aside for us to pass: "Armag awaits you in the following chamber." Shella told me later that this fellow is a "divine guardian of Gorum" (her words, not mine) appointed to guard this temple for eternity. Sure; fine; whatever.

Armag: Past the guardian was a door carved with one of the insignia of Gorum: a massive fist. Shella strode through like she owned the place. (Who knows; maybe she does now. I'm not up on Gorum's property succession guidelines.) In the next chamber we found a man pacing among braziers of fire with a giant greatsword, swinging it rhythmically. The corpses of many of the barbarian warriors littered the floor. When he saw us, he shouted maniacally, "My enemies are here! I knew they would come!"

Shella stepped up. "Armag" charged. The doorway became a choke point, surrounded by skeletons holding shields to assist their master. Both Gelros and Narzeth flung spells at the greatsword-wielding madman, but the spells had no effect. Even I had a hard time getting arrows in; I ended up focusing on the skeletons instead just to knock some of the damn shields out of the way.

Shella, on the other hand, was born for this. She and Armag went toe-to-toe, trading blows that would have bifurcated any normal person. And here is where it got seriously weird: the sword was screaming, and the ground began oozing literal blood and guts. Kris slipped on an intestine and nearly went down. Gelros teleported himself and Spike back behind Armag, and I lost track of him… although I could hear fireballs flying. Jaric shouted something, while Narzeth snapped a skeleton in two with a word. Then Shella cut Armag in half at the waste, and it was over.

"Armag" turned out to be the sideshow. The main attraction was the sword. The next few moments were… uncomfortable. First, the sword complained audibly, "Well, isn't anyone going to pick me up?" Second, Shella picked up the sword. Next thing I know, she's standing tall and demanding fealty from all in sight. She was so terrifying that all of us knelt… even Gelros. It was involuntary. It was also not normal.

A look at Shella's face told me she wasn't all there. And I swear I could see her hobgoblin features soften ever so slightly and the ghost of a beard appear even as I watched. Shella-not-Shella turned to march toward the far end of the room, and Jaric, Gelros, and I immediately huddled up. "You think it's the sword?" "Yes, it has to be." "Jaric, I'll distract him. You make him snap out of it."

Gelros began quietly chanting, and Shella turned around. She stopped, watching Gelros. Jaric came up next to her, muttered something, and touched her arm. Almost immediately, the crazy look vanished as Shella jammed the sword point-first between two stones in the floor. What followed is one of the most bizarre conversations I've ever witnessed. It went something like this…

Sword: "No! Take me up; together we will slay the enemies of Gorum!"

Shella: "Let me be perfectly clear: I forge my own destiny. You can follow ME on MY adventures and perpetually feel the glory of blood on your blade, or you can lie here in the cold unfeeling ground for eternity."

Sword: "I… I will have to think about it."

We later asked the guardian about the sword. It is called Ovinrbaane, and "only a true champion of Gorum can wield it." The guardian asked us, "Will you not take the sword?" To which Shella replied, "Maybe. I do not relinquish my claim, but I will leave it here. For now." The guardian assented to this, but could not guarantee that another champion would not take the sword in Shella's absence. So, Gelros ensconced the cursed thing in a pillar of stone using that lyre of his. Like you do.

The Tomb: There is little more to the story. The tomb of the real Armag (not the insanity-induced Armag impersonation) lay just beyond the chamber of the dead barbarians. It was filled with treasure as I have never seen, not even in Vordekai's lair. With Shella's permission, we took all of it. I guess the sanctity of tombs isn't a thing with Gorum per se.

On the way out, Shella attempted to convince the guardian to come fight for Gorum in the arena, but he swears his place is with the tomb. He did take us directly to the entrance, somehow, which is in part what makes this whole thing feel like a hallucination. But regardless, the Tomb of Armag has been explored and plundered, and now we face the other pressing issue: the leaderless barbarian horde on its doorstep.

XP

  • Defeat Armag (57,600 XP)
  • Convincing the Shaman Zorek to stand aside (28,800 XP)
  • Cavern of the Slain (19,200 XP)
  • Surpassing the Test of Agility (14,400 XP)
  • Passing the tilting floor trap (7,200 XP)

Loot

  • Masterwork breastplate (x4)
  • +2 keen dagger (x4)
  • Unholy symbol of Gyronna (x4)
  • Spell component pouch (x4)
  • Bric-a-brac and traveler's castoffs worth a total of 2,100 GP
  • +1 Breastplate bearing heraldry of Gorum (x10)
  • +1 Greatsword bearing heraldry of Gorum (x10)
  • <s>200 arrows</s> (claimed by Nith)
  • Statues of Gorum worth 1,700 GP
  • Crates full of old helms worth 1,100 GP
  • Potions of cure serious wounds (x3)
  • +3 full plate with masterwork armor spikes
  • +2 keen battleaxe
  • Ovinrbaane (left entombed)
  • Amulet of natural armor +2
  • Belt of physical might +2 (Strength and Constitution)
  • Ring of protection +2
  • Cloak of resistance +4
  • Headband of inspired wisdom +2
  • +3 hide armor of light fortification with +2 dragonbone armor spikes
  • +3 heavy steel shield of arrow catching
  • 98 PP, 17,847 GP, 35,425 SP, 73,253 CP
  • 2 diamonds (1,000 GP each)
  • 1 large diamon (5,000 GP)
  • 1 fire opal (1,000 GP)
  • 6 violet garnets (500 GP each)
  • Electrum crown with a blue star sapphire worth 4,500 GP
  • Pair of silver armbands worth 1,850 GP
  • Malachite-adorned gold necklace worth 1,350 gp
  • Belt of incredible dexterity +2
  • Headband of vast intelligence +2
  • Bracers of armor +2
  • Salves of the Second Chance (x2; worth 2000gp each)
  • Bag of holding type II
  • Belt of giant strength +2
  • Horseshoes of speed
  • Necklace of fireballs (type II)
  • Pearl of power (2nd level)
  • 1 dose of restorative ointment
  • Ring of counterspells (contains enervation)
  • Wand of heroism (50 charges)
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Cave of The Mountebank
What? It's full of mist and teleporting demons. What do you want?

Kingdom of Arboria, Year 3, Month 7

Armag's Tomb

We're four chambers deep into this cave complex and have just wrapped up another mildly horrifying combat. This whole place is reminiscent of the arena at the hand of Gorum: it's as if we're being put through a series of trials for someone else's amusement. I've even got names for the tests. They came to me naturally, as if I were acting out a script written by another. A curious feeling.

But I've little time to write, so let me sum up our progress.

The Entryway: The cave walls are rich in iron ore, which gives them an eerie semblance of being coated in dried blood. Thirty or so yards into the darkness, the unimproved tunnel widened out into a hewn stone chamber. Here, we found a line of red demons backed by a line of female figures in black leathers, all spoiling for a fight. We got the better of them once we had all managed to squeeze past the demons and into the room. It was interesting to watch the leather maidens' faces go from smug, to determined, to concerned. I'm not sure what they expected, but probably not a 7' angry hobgoblin lady who can blast beams of white and purple light from her greatsword. But it's hard to feel pity for a foe who is doing her best to have her pet demon eat your face off. We killed them and moved on.

The Test of Strength: Next came a passageway that involved hoisting a set of four boulders of increasing size up a series of steps and placing them in large impressions on the ground. There can be no purpose for such a contraption except to deter entry from weaker supplicants. Shella, with some assistance from Kris, got all the boulders in place in time on the second try. This opened another door.

The Test of Endurance: The chamber beyond was cold. As in, northern mountain glaciers in winter cold; we would have all frozen to death in there in an hour or so without protection. Again, the test wasn't subtle: Shella just had to turn a huge frozen iron wheel in the center of the room. Narzeth granted Shella magical resistance to the cold, and a minute or so later she had cranked the wheel enough to open another door to the left.

The Test of Tactics, Part 1: The passage beyond was filled with a mist that not only obscured vision but also appeared to mess with one's head. Several of us took wrong turns even when following immediately behind one another. I had us all rope ourselves together to avoid losing anyone, and we progressed through some webs to an illusory wall that led into the next chamber.

The Test of Prowess: We filed into a large, circular chamber with an iron statue of what I assume must be Gorum standing on a central pedestal. Naturally, it immediately came alive and attacked us. (Don't all statues come alive and attack strangers on sight?) Our attacks were only marginally effective. Fortunately, Raven and Narzeth leveled some defensive spells at the golem statue: grease (Raven) and ball lightning (Narzeth), which, we discovered, didn't hurt it but did slow it down. With Gelros' inspiration and some assistance from another of Jaric's close personal extraplanar friends, the rest of the fight went smoothly. Basically, Shella exchanged blows with the poor prone golem until it stopped moving.

Immediately after we had all relaxed, the statue was drawn back to the pedestal as if on a string, and we all heard a deep chuckling of amusement reverberate through the walls. (I would have thought it was just me going crazy, but I distinctly saw Kris and Gelros looking around too.) Nope. Not creepy at all.

The Test of Tactics, Part 2: Having felled the iron likeness of Gorum, we chose to exit a hidden door just to the left of where we had entered. It was filled with… more mist. Also more webs, and insanity. We found out what was making the webs: some kind of multi-limbed demon spider. It's hard to describe; it was somewhat non-Euclidean. There were two of them, and they made a horrific chittering sound that literally made you lose your mind. I blacked out for 10 seconds or so before I recovered, but Shella and Kris spent the entire combat running about madly with no regards to proper battle discipline. Gelros and Raven ran screaming back down the original passage, but only for a moment.

Speaking of the battle, it was chaos. The demon spiders summoned swarms of wasps, flies, centipedes, and other vermin. Jaric summoned swarms of angels. (Ok, he only summoned three, but still.) The demons could teleport, and one did so to try to get around behind us. Its mistake; Narzeth and I finally had a clear target. Gelros started weaving information on their known weaknesses into his battle chant, which helped. While Kris and Shella distracted one demon and Jaric kept us all alive, I killed the other. This made the first angry (aw, demons have feelings too!) and it came after me. Which, of course, made it a target too. We had it down a moment later and the bugs vanished as quickly as they had appeared.

Moral of the story: always kill the summoners first.

We're pretty beat now, but Shella wants to press on. Jaric could use a rest. I could too; I feel drained. But this room may not be safe and we don't really want to redo any tests. The others are talking it over now. Oh, they're calling me; we must have come to some resolution.

XP

  • Defeat the leather maidens and their demon pets (19,200 XP)
  • Test of Strength (14,400 XP)
  • Test of Endurance (14,400 XP)
  • Test of Tactics (28,800 XP)
  • Test of Prowess (38,400 XP)

Loot

  • 1700 GP worth of discarded knick-knacks
  • 1700 GP worth of ancient relics and paraphernalia
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You Won't Like Her When She's Angry
Sometimes she gets bigger when she's angry

Kingdom of Arboria, Year 3, Month 7

Armag's Tomb

After leaving the swamp, we moved steadily northward, following maps and the info Shella had sought out. After some searching, we located the barbarian encampment earlier today. This camp is smaller than I expected: a dozen or so guards, and a handful of tents. I had been expecting an entire tribe, but perhaps the others are nearby. There was, however, a large tent that appeared filled with captives.

While we scouted the camp, their lookout spotted us. Or, rather, he spotted Kris's dinosaur. Hard to make a dinosaur blend in, particularly when it is wearing armor. In any case, he sounded the alarm. Several of us braced for a combat.

As this expedition is Shella's deal, we all waited for her to make the first move. I expected it to involve beheading the poor lookout, but to my surprise, Shella didn't play it that way. Instead, she marched across the creek right up to the lookout and demanded to speak with his leader. Now. She looked very convincing. I'm not sure he understood the words, but he got the idea. He backed off and was soon arguing with his comrades, gesticulating wildly. We latched on quickly: Narzeth enlarged Shella (as if she isn't tall enough already), and Jaric began to use his menace tricks. It seemed effective; none of the barbarians in the near vicinity came after us.

However, the ruckus summoned some others from across the camp, who didn't look quite as convinced about not picking a fight. Several ran up and tossed axes at us. Amateurs. I filled one full of arrows as a warning. The others didn't get it, so Kris and Shella carved up the second. The third was still too dumb or proud to back off after Narzeth burned him a little, so Shella put him out of his misery too.

I do feel a little bad for the poor buggers. Even without the rest of us as backup, Shella is way out of their league. They had no idea.

At this point, I noticed that two tent guards had entered the tent and drawn weapons. This seemed bad; part of our goal was to find and rescue the lady Numesti's sister. So I pulled out something new I've been working on: plant growth. It's tricky, but if you do it right you can turn almost anything into a jungle. Narzeth immolated the one outside the tent, and the plants and the resulting confusion still gave me enough time to run up and get into a standoff with the two inside.

The standoff negotiations were going poorly. The guards had two women by the hair, heads pulled back and throats exposed. Jaric's hound archon friend came over and waved his sword, but said something in a language I don't understand and failed to look at all threatening. Meanwhile, bow raised, I told them to back down, but all I got was wild-eyed sword brandishing. Fortunately, Shella wandered over. Noticing that I hadn't yet shot them, she said "Well then, I defer to Nithlara's hostage negotiation." Sometimes I'm not sure if Shella is joking, but in any case, the appropriate response was "No please. Your skills are better than mine." Which is true. Shella ripped the top off that tent in a single pull and only had to glare at the two remaining guards before they soiled themselves and surrendered.

The captives were indeed five of the missing noblewomen from Drelev, including Tamary Numesti. (The others, for the record, were Anjana, Galine, Marinda, and Sophelia.) Rescuing them put us in a bind: how to protect five former captives when the barbarian leadership was still at large? Narzeth offered to teleport them away. There was a lot of back-and-forth, but in the end we let him, despite my misgivings at letting Narzeth take any young ladies anywhere using magic. It took Narzeth two trips, but he's back now and resting.

It's  midafternoon. We've taken over a command tent. The conquered barbarians don't seem to know what to do with us, but they've mostly just avoided us. And we them. After Narzeth rests, we're going to enter the cave. Did I mention the cave? It seems likely this is the location both the barbarians and Shella are after. Soon we get to find out what the fuss is about.

XP

  • Explore hex (3,-3) (150 XP)
  • Explore hex (3,-4) (150 XP)
  • Explore hex (2,-4) (150 XP)
  • Rescue Tamary Numesti (19,200 XP)

Loot

Nothing of significance

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Shining the Light of Iomedae on a Dark World

So many adventures I have been on since joining with this team. Who would ever thought that a boy from a rural village would end up not only a cleric of Iomedae but also a Marshal of a quickly growing kingdom?!? It was only in our last trip back to Bandit's Rest that I realized I have been so focused on doing good out in the world and vanquishing evil that I forgot about the needs of our people right here! No wonder that all of the citizens attend those grotesque coliseums that the Temple of Gorum holds every holiday, they don't realize that there is a time and a place for using might for the greater good and not nonsensically. I have been thinking about the challenge that Iomedae's avatar placed on me and I have realized that the way to win followers to my goddess is not to try and beat that crazy inquisitor or her cleric, but rather that I need to serve the people. Thus, I have placed my acolytes in charge of providing kitchens for the hungry as well as a few of my temple guard to pay attention to any acts of ill repute that cause harm to others. Further, I have instructed everyone that anyone who visits our temple is not to pay anything for services that we provide. I have obtained plenty from my adventures to cover the needs of my flock. Finally, I want to ensure that our people can care for themselves as well, and the temple is open to any who want to learn the craft of healing, regardless of who they pay homage to. Iomedae is more about ensuring that good is being done in this city, she is not like other deities who has to hear her name be praised to feel accepted by her people. This is how I will spread the word of Iomedae to the people, praise be to the Light and the goodness She shines on us!

 

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The All-Seeing Eye Sees All
Or "How Gelros learned to stop worrying and love the evil eye"

Kingdom of Arboria, Year 3, Month 6

Bandit's Rest

Narzeth is stranger (if that's even possible) and angrier now that he's back. Not that he flies into a rage or anything; more that he harbors a smoldering resentment at the world in general that no one can quite pin down. Which brings me to the Eye.

Remember the Eye? The one we recovered from the insane cyclops atrocity? Gelros had it locked away (I'm not even sure quite where, to be honest), but Narzeth found it, and stole it. This happened while I was away on patrol, but Gelros got wind of it shortly after I returned. He summoned the rest of the core ruling cadre and we confronted Narzeth in his tower.

Here's where it gets just weird. Narzeth was there, examining the eye. He didn't pretend that he hadn't stolen it, or try to hide it, or anything. He simply said, "I need it." Gelros: "Why?" Narzeth: "I don't know. I just need it." So, yeah, this sparked a debate.

Gelros was dead set against it, but as we talked through it some things became slightly more clear. First, Shella believes Narzeth is telling the truth. Shella can smell a lie at a hundred paces with the wind at her back, but she says Narzeth his telling the truth: he is sure that he needs it, and he doesn't know why. He's under some strange compulsion to take and use the Eye, and he's being very straightforward about it. Narzeth actually threatened to kill anyone who kept him from using it, or to die trying. He sounded almost apologetic.

Second, there may be hope for the vile thing. I'm not so much into this good/evil morality struggle (although some things are just wrong), but the Eye is clearly powerful and could be a valuable asset. The fear is that it will corrupt Narzeth. (It seems to have driven its last owner insane.) But Shella thinks he, and we, can control it. She and Jaric discussed at length a magic spell that variously seems to go by the names "geas" or "quest"; this spell can compel an individual's behavior in powerful ways. Something about the gods blah blah. Shella suggested that Narzeth voluntarily submit to a geas, in which he promises to never use the powers of the eye to harm the kingdom or it's citizens in any way or he'll be forced to remove his own eye. Narzeth agreed to this.

Jaric still needed convincing. At this point, I suggested (naively maybe?) that maybe we should just redeem the Eye. After all, Jaric is big into displaying the power of his deity right now and she's apparently big into redemption. There was a moment of silence in which everyone stared at me in a slightly different way. Shella: impassive. Narzeth: pleading, longing. Jaric: incredulity, fading into genuine enthusiasm. Gelros: pity for my ignorance. Kris just looked bored. Then there was a lot of heated, overlapping discussion, most of which involved religion and magic. Finally, Jaric agreed. Huh.

There was a ceremony, of sorts. Narzeth voluntarily stripped himself of all magical defenses, as Gelros watched. Jaric cast the spell, obligating Narzeth to use the Eye only in the service of Arboria and its citizens. I filed my nails. Then Narzeth lifted the Eye and placed it in his empty socket. It fit like it was intended to be there. Who knows; maybe it was.

Also Bandit's Rest

Oh, and as an aside, the Lady Quintessa Maray is now friends with the world.

Kingdom of Arboria, Year 3, Month 7

Hooktongue Slough

This Eye thing is done, and Narzeth seems about the same. (You know: creepy and slightly deranged, with a twist of lovable.) While I was making wine at the farm, Shella was doing some research on the materials she brought back from Drelev. Now she is dead set on following the barbarian horde off to the ruins they found and recovering something there. She won't say what. (I'm not sure she knows.)

So, off we go to scout the lands to the east. We crossed the Hooktongue Slough uneventfully yesterday and disembarked. Whereever the corpse of its namesake went, it isn't bothering us just now. There was some other strangeness, though. Traveling along yesterday evening, we heard the sounds of struggle from an islet just offshore. Kris investigated, finding nothing at first. Then, we all heard sounds of a woman screaming and falling in the water.

Kris followed, to rescue her… and was promptly attacked. I didn't get a great look, but let's call it a badger-shrew. It had claws, a strange snout, and a tail with a grasping hand, which it used to drag Kris underwater, apparently in an attempt to eat him? There were some moments of confusion while we all scrambled to figure out where Kris was and what was happening, but eventually Shella and a shark (shark!) that Jaric summoned gave chase and drove it off. We let it go. Note to self: don't believe your ears out here in the swamp.

Poor shark. I'm pretty sure sharks aren't meant to swim in fresh water, or swamps. That was probably unpleasant for it.

XP

  • Explore hex (4,-1) (150 XP)
  • Explore hex (4,-2) (150 XP)
  • Drive off the aquatic badger-shrew (3,200 XP)
  • Explore hex (4,-3) (150 XP)

Loot

None, unless you count the evil Eye.

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In The Depressed Border Town of Drelev, They Were Forced to Depose Baron Hannis
And there was much rejoicing.

Kingdom of Arboria, Year 3, Month 6

The Castle Previously Owned by Baron Hannis

We entered in the early morning via the keep's secret entrance: a cave on a beach. It was unguarded. No surprise there; this Hannis fellow is nothing if not incompetent. We fought through some oozes (guess this entrance isn't used all that much?) and ascended a ladder into the keep itself.

At this point, as the others moved ahead I was waylaid by a group of guards. They realized their mistake quickly, poor souls. If I hadn't been worried about a general alarm, I wouldn't have wasted the arrows. Turns out I shouldn't have been so concerned for stealth. When I caught up with the others, there was a serious firefight in progress across two levels of the keep. On the ground floor, Kris and Jaric stood facing the keep door, which was barred. Bodies littered the floor. I could hear Shella and perhaps Gelros upstairs, but didn't see Narzeth.

As I was assessing the situation, Raven appeared in a burst of feathers. (Neat trick, that. Wonder where she learned it?) It was at this point that I saw Narzeth's rod and rings sitting atop a small mound of black dust. Uh oh. Raven swooped up the rod, fire in her eyes, and rushed toward the window. Jaric shouted something about "get the bloody wizard." Double uh oh.

Something was battering down the door. I left Raven flinging fireballs at it and ran upstairs, looking for my own arrow slit. On the second floor, I found Shella and some other fellow knocking heads about and Gelros forcing the surrender of a gaudy, pathetic man. Hannis, I presume. I inquired about said wizard, and was directed to a window. Gelros also said something about "he's blind now." The wizard? The Baron? This other guy in rags with a sword?

I found our later that, in fact, it was the wizard Imeckus Stroon (some relative of Hannis's) who had killed Narzeth. Gelros in turn blinded him and he attempted to flee through the air, only to be chased down by Raven. I managed to loose one poorly aimed arrow before Raven's fireball brought him out of the sky like a meteor.

What was more relevant at that point was the fight at the front door. There were guards, sure, but they were of no consequence. In fact, Gelros had forced Hannis to call them off; by the time I arrived upstairs they were retreating in disarray. The six hill giants, on the other hand, were either too stupid or ornery to leave. They destroyed the door in short order, after which Kris and Spike held them at bay while Everiel, Jaric, and Gelros (who had once again gone downstairs) provided support. Once they were down to two, they broke as well.

Shortly after, it was over. Gelros had to talk down a murderous Raven, who would have burned the place to the ground had he not assured her that we would get Narzeth back. He also won over the one remaining hill giant, who he then released back to Pitiax.

We made a brief survey of the castle grounds before returning to the keep to look for Shella (who was still searching the tower). It is a typical castle, although in poor shape. Maintenance is badly needed. The keep itself, though, is still lavishly appointed. We found Shella on the fourth floor, where she had encountered and subdued the Baroness. They other fellow I had seen turned out to be Lord Terrion Numesti, released from the stockade and now guarding the captured Hannis on the second level.

In another chamber hidden by a secret passage, we found "The Lady Quintessa Maray," who proved to be the mistress we had heard about. Her armor is on par with Stainder Moorne's (which is to say, impractical); not that she was wearing it (or, mysteriously, anything else either) when we walked in. She claimed to be in the process of donning it, although this seems unlikely. The fight had started nearly 10 minutes ago. Nobody can be so incompetent as to fail to put on leather armor for 10 full minutes. Especially when there is as little of it as she had. But whatever. Her story is that she is a musician by trade and the Baron kidnapped her and held her as a mistress, against her will. Apart from the armor, it seems to check out.

We went out to find most of the town assembled at the castle walls. Honestly, I tuned out at this point and let Gelros do his thing. Something about leaving Numesti in charge; something about the captured mercenaries extradited to Arboria; something Baron Hannis something something gross negligence… you know. Politics and public discourse. I wasn't paying attention; I was thinking about Narzeth. Gelros says we'll get him back, but becoming a pile of dust looks pretty permanent to me.

Lake Hooktongue, Western Shore

Strange things afoot. We arrived back at our boat to find Bob dead and Hooktongue's body missing. But Bob is no kind of ordinary dead: he looks awake and is in fact extraordinarily well-preserved. It took Jaric a few minutes of puzzling, but he concluded that Bob's blood had been turned to wood in his veins. Yes, you read that right. There's no trace of an assailant, either. This turn of events is disconcerting. Gelros feels we should question Bob further and has asked Jaric to speak with his spirit. Which Jaric can apparently do… tomorrow.

Lake Hooktongue, In a Boat

We woke early to find Jaric preparing the ritual to speak with Bob's departed soul. It was a morbid but fascinating ceremony; I've never seen anyone speak with the dead before. It started off solemn, but rapidly turned into somewhat of a farce: poor Bob couldn't move his jawbones to answer the questions posed, so Shella "liberated" his jaw from his face somewhat for him. The remaining answers went like this:

  • Q: "How did you die?" A: "Growing wood agony"
  • Q: "Who killed you?" A: "Purest corrupted beauty"
  • Q: "What happened to the orm?" A: "Don't know"
  • Q: "Tell me your final wish." A: "Bury me good"

So we did.

We're sailing back across the lake, and we've seen nothing of interest. Oddly, though, the boat is spotless and smells of fresh flowers.

Bandit's Rest

We arrived back in Bandit's Rest a week ago. Gelros made a brief appearance and speech, and the newly conscripted Arborian 1st Legion marched past in parade. Impressive; the instructors up at the Hand of Gorum have trained them well.

But this was mainly formalities. Having determined that scrolls of resurrection were nowhere to be had in Bandit's Rest, Gelros and most of the rest of us traveled to Restov and back. It took hours, but in the end we found a single scroll of resurrection available in a dusty shop from an old shopkeep, who looked first suspicious and then ecstatic that he was able to sell it at last. We brought it immediately back to Arboria under heavy guard.

The resurrection ceremony for Narzeth was this morning. Jaric laid out the dust and cast from the scroll. I don't know how this is usually supposed to go, but it looked like a struggle. Jaric was fervent and sweating. Narzeth's body reformed before us and came alive in a pulse of light, but he was screaming as if in agony. Jaric immediately poured positive energy over him, and he stopped. That's when we noticed: Narzeth's left eye is entirely missing.
    
XP

  • Contacting Stainder Moorne and recruiting her (2,400)
  • Defeat 20 guards (24,000 XP)
  • Defeat barbarian hill giants (28,800 XP)
  • Capture the Baron (25,600 XP)
  • Kill the wizard Imeckus Stroon (19,200 XP)
  • Free and ally with Lord Numesti (4,800 XP)
  • Completed Kissandra's Plea Parts 1, 2:

    • Rescue her father (19,200 XP)
    • Depose the baron (19,200 XP) 
  • Explore plains hex (5,-5) (150 XP)

Loot

  • Two masterwork longswords
  • Three masterwork breastplates
  • 120 arrows are stored here. (Nith takes all of these.)
  • Closet full of dresses worth 5,000 GP
  • Wine cellar worth 6,000 GP
  • Detailed notes on various factions, including dealings between Drelev and Pitiax
  • Various magical items, not yet identified
     
View
Ashes to Ashes, Dust To Dust
Getting disintegrated makes for a bad day

One moment I was staring out of an arrow slit at the Baron’s army and the flying wizard, and the next thing I saw was a bolt of purple energy flying out of the wizard’s hands and coming directly at my face. I tried to duck out of the way, but was unable to move in time so the bolt slammed into the side of my head. I stood there for a second, hoping that my magical defenses would be sufficient to ward off whatever spell had just hit me, but I knew that I would have no such luck when I saw my hands begin to dissolve away from my arms. There was a short moment of excruciating pain as the rest of my body followed in the same path as my hands and then there was nothing as numbness consumed my thoughts and senses and I passed into the realm of the gods.

*

I awoke after an indeterminate amount of time in a place that was cold, dark, and lifeless. I tried to move, but found that my translucent hands, feet, and body were bound to what appeared to be a large stone altar. I thought I was completely alone until I heard a voice coming from somewhere off to my right.

“You’re awake,” someone said in Abyssal in a voice that oozed with evil. “My master has been watching you and has recruited you into his service.”

“Who are you?” I asked. “What do you want?”

An extremely large daemon lit a brazier and then stepped into view. “I serve Charon, horseman of the Dead as do you.”

The creature was just as hideous as it was evil and seeing it made me redouble my efforts to escape. “Let me go!” I screamed as I struggled against my bonds.

The creature only laughed. “Where are you going to go, fool? You are in Abbadon now and there is no escape from he who rules over death.”

“I will never serve Charon,” I said resolutely.

The demon laughed as he began to torture my soul. “We shall see,” he cackled, knowing full well that I would break eventually if my friends back on the mortal plane waited too long to bring me back…

 

View
Your Orm's Off
What are you going to do, bleed on me?

Kingdom of Arboria, Year 3, Month 5

Lake Hooktongue, Western Shore

"Look my son! All that your eye can see will one day be yours." "Dad, it's a swamp."

This morning we came to the edge of Lake Hooktongue proper. As opposed to the muck we've been wading through for days, which I suppose is the "slough" part? A mile along the shoreline we found a most peculiar shipwreck. The ship itself, the "Wind Furrow" according to her prow, was a simple trade vessel: low and flat and designed for calm, shallow waters. However, she was in two pieces and covered in uprooted trees. Moreover, the stone statue on her stern looked suspiciously as if it were once a man. Whatever inhabits these waters is not to be trifled with.

From the nearby cliffs we can see that the shoreline turns steadily south, but our maps indicate Drelev lies to the northwest. The quickest way is across the lake. We depart tomorrow in our magical pocket boat.

Lake Hooktongue

I'm going to record this for posterity, but chances are you won't believe it. Chances are I won't believe it either, when I read it later. So perhaps I am hallucinating or… but then again, there's the body of the beast right there, dragging behind our boat.

A bit of background is warranted: the Hooktongue Slough is named for a legendary water snake (Hooktongue, naturally) said to inhabit the lake. Or, so goes the legend, according to Gelros and Kris. Legend or no legend, three days ago we left the eastern shore and set a course toward Drelev, keeping a careful watch for whatever fate befell the Wind Furrow. Halfway across the lake, we spotted a huge school of fish. This wasn't remarkable (in fact, we had seen several), until said school of fish coalesced into a giant black serpent.

The combat that followed was fierce but brief. The serpent's eyes flashed and Kris's new pet Spike turned to stone. Kris, enraged and incoherent, leapt fifteen feet across the water and onto the beast's back, hacking wildly. Shella joined him in the water, while I took to the air (courtesy of this new chainmail!). Hooktongue (for it could only have been the legendary beast itself) breathed a cone of fire at me, but I dodged. Gelros was chanting now, and I could half see defensive magic happening below me.

The next few seconds involved me connecting with a volley of arrows (deadly to water snakes, apparently, courtesy of Everiel), while Shella opened several chest wounds from below to complement Kris's back wounds above. The creature's eye's flashed again and I felt cold magic flow over me, but I shook off the effect. It then bit Shella and dived. Shella dove too. 

Luckily for Shella, she has that ring. A few moments later, Shella reappeared in a cloud of blood, dragging its head. She told us later: "It ripped a part of my soul out of me. So I went to get my soul back."

The body floated up a dozen yards away, and we pulled the boat around to examine it. Narzeth identified it as a water orm, but much bigger than usual. Gelros noticed that it had patches of stone and of bark for scales, which is definitely not normal for a water orm. After some puzzling, the two of them concluded that it may have had basilisk blood, and perhaps treant too. (How such a thing happened I don't want to think about.) I would have called bullshit on all of this speculation, except for what happened next.

There is an old legend about basilisks. Well, two, actually. The first is that they can turn you to stone. The second is that if you bath a basilisk victim in the blood of a freshly slain basilisk, the stone melts back into flesh. No sooner had Gelros calmly relayed this bit of arcane trivia than Shella had hopped out onto Hooktongue's corpse and sliced out it's cold, massive heart. Standing atop Spike's stone back, she sliced the heart clean in two, giving Spike (and most of the boat) a nice fresh Hooktongue blood shower. At which point Spike promptly bellowed and shook his way back to life, flinging shiny droplets of slowly congealing blood in all directions. The rest of us looked on in stunned surprise.

Shella was particularly enthused about this.

Now that we had established that the water orm's blood could reverse it's stone gaze, our statue friend was the next patient. He awoke on his back covered in blood, staring up at a nearly 7' tall hobgoblin in plate mail holding a slashed liver the size of a goat. That is to say, he awoke screaming, and kept screaming. After some magical sedation, courtesy of Gelros, we determined that his name is Robert Marshall Atticus Bogrunner III, or as his friends call him, Bob. He also positively identified the dead beast as Hooktongue, who he had personally encountered on the Wind Furrow.

And so, here we are, traversing Hooktongue Lake while slowly dragging the dead corpse of its namesake behind us, with an exhausted merchant sailor sleeping in the bow. I won't be surprised if any minute I wake up and find that this was all a dream.

Lake Hooktongue, Eastern Shore

Once Bob woke up, we learned a few things. First, he is a skilled bog runner; Gelros has therefore hired him to transport us around the slough. Second, until we killed it, Hooktongue had been preying on ships more frequently than usual. This had ground trade to a halt and depressed the economy of Drelev and the whole slough region. Third, the Baron has made an utter fool of himself and lost the people’s trust in the process. Bob wouldn't mind seeing him deposed and speculates that most of the populace of Drelev wouldn't either.

At Shella’s insistence, we’ve hauled Hooktongue’s corpse all the way to the eastern lake shore, where it is now hidden and resting peacefully under Everiel’s tender ministrations. Gelros has paid Bob to watch the ship and the corpse while we head north to Drelev.

The Velvet Corner, City of Drelev

Here we are, at midnight in a cozy pillow-filled room in a brothel, and nobody is getting laid. At least, not in this room. There’s enough banging going on next door that even the intentionally thick and padded walls don’t fully mask it.

"Here" is The Velvet Corner, gambling establishment and local brothel, owned and operated by Ms. Stainder Moorne, friend of Kisandra Numesti. We arrived in town late afternoon, having left Spike and Bessie in the forest. The city of Drelev is a mess of military construction. It appears that a large city wall is going up, but from the disposition of the guards it isn't clear if said wall is meant to keep enemies out or the residents in. We were briefly challenged at the west gate, but Gelros tossed the guard two gold coins and passed us off as the "Sons and Daughters of Gorum." The guard looked quite astonished. "Who did you say you were?" "We're the Sons of Gorum, man. We don't work for cheap."

Following Bob’s directions, we located the Velvet Corner with no trouble. Within, we made the acquaintance of Ms. Moorne, who was wearing some highly improbable leather armor… and knives. So many knives. Having identified her, Gelros purchased a beer and passed her Kisandra’s signet ring with his payment. Her eyes narrowed in surprise and she looked right at Gelros. I listened carefully to the exchange:

"Where did you get this?"

"From a young lady who worked hard to get it to us."

After that it was suddenly a practiced smile and "Oh, darling, meet me in the orange room. I’ll follow shortly." And here we are.

Stainder has come and gone several times on business, but also made time to answer Gelros’s questions. She’s quite the professional, in her way, and knows this town inside and out.

  • What's the disposition of the military? Locally, there are six hill giants (an "honor guard" on "loan" from Pitiax) as well as many mercenaries. The barbarians, however, are somewhere to the north, days outside of town. 30-40 guards in the keep, 20-30 on patrol.
  • How many barbarians? When they came through town, there were at least 2000 (most of the tribe, arrayed in a show of force). The Barbarian Lord Armag took women hostages and left toward the north.
  • What’s this about a temple? Apparently, the Baron found an ancient temple to the north that he used as leverage in his surrender. It’s likely where the barbarians went.
  • How is Drelev doing? The populace is on the verge of revolt. There's a famine for common folk, but the guards are supported from Pitiax and remain well-fed. Also, there's a curfew in force. Violators disappear permanently.
  • What do you know about the Baron? The Baron, his wife, and his brother (said to be a powerful wizard) are all in town. The Baron also keeps a paramour, from Pitiax. Or maybe she keeps him. By reputation, she’s quite the looker, and a skilled musician.
  • Any way into the keep? Rumors have it they are planning a party, so we could try to get in the civilized way. But a more direct route would be through the keep’s secret escape route, which exits in a cave on the lakeshore outside of town.

Stainder is fairly confident that if we were to depose the Baron, Drelev would join Arboria with open arms. There was some debate that Gelros should seduce the Baroness, or perhaps the paramour. But once a painting of the Baroness was produced, Gelros put an end to the discussion: "I don't want to seduce that hag." So we’ve decided to just take the keep by storm and sack the place. It’s more our style anyway.

XP

  • Explore (5,3) (150 XP)
  • Explore (5,4) (150 XP)
  • Killing the legendary water orm Hooktongue (76,800 XP)
  • Quest to kill Hooktongue, acquired from Bob (19,200 XP)

Loot

  • Bob the Sailor (NPC, ranks in Profession: Sailor)
  • Hooktongue's Corpse
View
Into The Swamp
Should we drain it?

Kingdom of Arboria, Year 3, Month 5

Eastern Nomen Lands

This morning we arrived at the site of the crag linnorm skeleton. I say "the" because we had heard of it in passing from Mother Moon and the Nomen. It is a sacred site for them; they often offer sacrifices here. The skeleton of the linnorm is indeed awe-inspiring. It's vast: one could fit a small ship inside its jaws.

We fought off a mastodon there. I use "we" loosely here, as I refused to help put down a mastodon who was only defending his heard from perceived aggression. I attempted to sooth it into leaving, but was unsuccessful before Shella sliced it's shoulder nearly off, Narzeth froze it in a block of ice, and Jaric's hound archon finished it off. Oh well. At least we had fresh mastodon steaks for dinner tonight.

North of Nomen Lands

Yesterday we finally encountered the fabled manticore infestation. We had nearly given up, having searched the entire eastern wilderness except for this one path of plains near the border with Brevoy. Riding west again yesterday, we came across the ancestral burial grounds of the Nomen centaurs. They consisted of a dozens of grassy barrow mounds nestled into a swampy valley. I spotted dark shapes among the graves and notified my comrades. Not wanting to disturb a place holy to our allies, we sent Jaric's lantern archon to investigate. It chirped merrily along, only to be torn apart by several spines. We had found our manticores after all.

It wasn't so much a fight as it was a fireworks show. Shella and I killed a few the old-fashioned way (you know, with weapons), but Narzeth and Jaric had other ideas. Jaric summoned some kind of white-haired humanoid creature which likes to shoot lightning from its fingertips. Meanwhile, Narzeth and Raven made sport of freezing manticores in large blocks of ice and watching them fall to their deaths in artificial pits. It was entertaining, in a morbid way. The manticores make a few more half-hearted attempts to kill us, swooping and biting, but it was over quickly. And we got our quills.

Kingdom of Arboria, Year 3, Month 6

Bandit's Rest

We arrived back in Bandit's Rest yesterday and found the Lady Kisandra recovered and requesting an audience. Gelros went to see her and brought the rest of us along. She recapped the recent history of Drelev, which (if you have forgotten) is this: Baron Hannis picked a fight with a horde of barbarians, lost, and is now effectively a vassal of Pitiax. However, Kisandra now formally requests our assistance to rescue her family and has referred us to Stainder Moorne, a friend who runs a gambling ring in Ft. Drelev and will help us if we can present proof of loyalty (specifically, Kisandra's signet ring, which she entrusted to us).

Gelros, who does nothing if not think big, interpreted "rescue family" as "depose Hannis and annex Drelev." So, we leave in a week.

The Hooktongue Slough

Swamps, as it turns out, are swampy. Fortunately, I spent some time surveying and studying the land, and we've been able to make good time. Our only major encounter so far has been with some giant dragonflies. This went the way things usually do, with arrows (me), swords (Shella), and chanting (Gelros). Well, almost the way things usually go: Narzeth substituted some kind of flesh-eating compulsion and a bleeding spell that involved slashing his own wrists for his usual fire magic. I worry about him sometimes…

XP

  • Killing the mastodon (9,600 XP)
  • Killing the manticores (7,200 XP)
  • Explore (6,12), (6,13), (7,13), (5,13), (4,13), (3,13), (3,12), (2,13), (2,12), (2,7) (150 XP)
  • Wanted: Manticores (7,200 XP)
  • Explore (5,1) (150 XP)
  • Explore (5,2) (150 XP)
  • Kill dragonfiles (14,400 XP)
  • Explore (5,3) (150 XP)

Loot

  • 4,500 GP for completing Wanted: Manticores
View
They're Trolling Us
We have a strict "no trolls" policy and will banish you from Arboria now.

Kingdom of Arboria, Year 3, Month 4

Tatzelford Council Hall

We rode into Tatzelford mid-morning, after breaking camp early. We found the town's mayor and local council in conversation with a young lady who gave her name as Kisandra Numesti. According to her story, she is the daughter of one Lord Terrion Numesti, formerly a high-ranking commander in the army of Baron Hannis of Drelev (the nation to the east, beyond the swamp). Apparently, this Hannis fellow is quite undeserving of the title Baron. The recent history goes something like this: Hannis first picked a fight that he couldn't win with the nation of Pitiax and a host of barbarians, promptly lost said fight, surrendered, and became a spineless vassal of Pitiax in order to preserve his place on the throne. (For the record, any embellishing here isn't mine; I'm just recording the story as we heard it.) Under the terms of the surrender, the eldest daughters from six leading military commanders (including Kisandra's father Terrion) were to be given to the barbarians. Terrion refused and was thrown in the brig. Her eldest sister was shipped off to pleasure some barbarian lord anyway, and the rest of the family persecuted.

That's the story as we heard it. In any case, here is Kisandra, reporting to us that Hannis, in a ploy to prove his "worth" to the barbarian tribes, is (at Pitiax's urging) sending an army unprovoked to harass Arboria. She snuck along as a camp follower and seems to have a decent amount of information on this army (if such a disorganized band can be called such): there are barbarian toughs, brigands, mercenaries, and a number of trolls less than half a day's march from Tatzelford. I'm not sure if she's relaying this information for self preservation, hope for gain, or out of a thirst for revenge, but any way it is valuable.

As I write, it is shortly after noon, and we are preparing a defense. Gelros is presently using his rather amazing new toy, the lyre, to construct a low city wall. Narzeth has located himself and Raven atop the Tatzelford keep to provide covering fire (literally, in this case), while Shella has taken it upon herself to hold the bridge. Kris is on the front lines giving out tips on holding trenches, and Jaric is preparing for triage. I also heard some rumor about some local druids talking the resident bear population into participating. Meanwhile, I've asked for the town's best archers to join me in the surrounding forest to snipe at the enemy as they cross the river. And here they come now… I shall write more later.

Arborian Council Encampment, Outside Tatzelford

It was a rout. By mid-afternoon or so, the enemy arrived noisily on the far side of the river, running in long, loose columns. No military discipline at all. Shella did easily hold the bridge, but it didn't take them long to figure out to just ford the river instead. But after that, they crashed up against Gelros' new city wall like waves against cliffs… and went nowhere. We dealt them enormous losses.

The brigands were handling the brunt of the assault, and suffering the most losses. At about the point when it seemed they would break, a leader blew a horn and eleven trolls burst out of the forest to the north in an attempted pincer. Gelros and Shella looked at each other, and then signaled the rest of us that we would deal personally with this new threat.

It was almost boringly easy. The trolls seemed intent on destroying buildings and ignoring us. Their mistake: we killed them all within 60 seconds. Narzeth's fireball opened the engagement, hand-to-hand combat dispatched most of the ones that were left, and I shot a couple for good measure. Once the trolls were dead, the enemy was completely demoralized and retreated in a shambles. We gave chase and took several captives, but unfortunately the commanders escaped. Or maybe we killed them all inadvertently; could be that.

In the end, only a few buildings were damaged and less than a dozen villagers lost their lives. Not bad. Gelros is annoyed (understandably), but given the sheer incompetence shown by our enemy today, he doesn't seem worried. We held a brief council: the plan is to raise a standing army, secure our Eastern border, and then go personally dispatch this Hannis fellow. Pulling together Arboria's first official, organized infantry is going to take a while, so we have some time to finish our exploration of the Southern mountains as well.

Kingdom of Arboria, Year 3, Month 5

Wilderness Camp, South of Nomen Lands

We've been out several weeks now, mapping the land and looking for manticores. They might be a menace. (All right, I admit the real reason is that some famous half-baked poet is willing to pay a lot of money for manticore quills. Also, I hate manticores.) So far, no manticores.

Jaric is complaining good-naturedly of the monotony. Even Shella looks bored. We did have an interesting event a few days ago, though. We had encountered a chasm. Rather than ride miles around, Gelros felt it would be easier to spend a day with his lyre and build a permanent stone bridge. It seemed like a good plan, up to the point where he screwed up a chord, causing construction to cease and somehow also awakening a horde of angry plants. This ignited a brief but fierce combat, in which Kris was covered in slime, a plant attempted to eat Shella (but she punched it to death), the archon summoned by Jaric (apparently that red beast he's been talking to is something he just summons at will to air him!) was swarmed by flies, and our spell casters burned the flies to death.

Monotony or no, I'd rather be out here than in the city. Besides, we've made some important discoveries: caves full of precious gemstones, the carcass of a silver dragon (I'm sending part of it back to the museum!), and a rich vein of iron ore. We've finished our travel east, and tomorrow we head north toward Nomen lands.
 
Loot

  • 640 SP, 690 GP, 26 PP
  • MW Bastard Sword
  • Lesser silent metamagic rod
  • Helm of comprehend languages and read magic
  • Ring of feather falling
  • Slaying Arrow (plant)

XP

  • Won the battle of Tatzelford (19,200 XP)
  • Killing plant monsters (14,400 XP)
  • Explore hexes (7,9), (8,9), (8,8), (8,7), (9,7), (9,8), (9,9), (9,10), (9,11), (9,12), (9,13), (10,13), (10,12), (10,11), (10,10), (10,9), (10,8), (10,7), (8,10), (8,13), (7,12) (150 XP each)
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