Ilderan Tales

All In The Name of Blibdoolpoolp

THEN

At the best of times, the climate of the Deadmere, just south of Tharakka Morass, is a hot, sticky swamp. The cool breeze that comes off the water gets caught in the trees of the Aelthindaar, so by the time a lost traveller like Asanya finds the slightly more hospitable weather of Uld Vroggen, they’re already hopelessly… damp.

Some might enjoy this, a change from the colds of the Crag or the Counai Heights, but most do not, and it’s the Night Hags that had taken her captive a day prior that count on the exhaustion of such people to keep their putrid bellies full. Such people like her and the little gnome in the light blue robes who was there when she arrived. He looked like he had fought hard at first, but the Hags were immune to his magical attacks, so he now sat in his pen, defeated.

By the second night, the Kalishtari woman had worked her bonds free enough to pry open the sticks and rope that held her in place, and after retrieving her favoured dagger from the Hag jailer she surprised and knocked unconscious she freed the little gnome and the two stole into the night, down the closest river and towards an uncertain freedom.

Stealthily travelling, keeping the Night Hag encampment to their backs and the river flowing ahead, the gnome introduced himself as Corrin, who was questing the area for hidden treasure when his party turned out more roguish than he had anticipated and left him to fend for himself. The pair swapped stories of their travels, and over the course of a week when they were clear of danger, they found themselves parting ways, Corrin heading back south, while Asanya took the roads to the next closest outpost: Endamos Keep.

The border fort of The Keep was the largest Asayna had seen in quite a while, her own quest having taken a turn and causing her to become hopelessly lost. Her shoes worn, her belly aching of hunger, and her gear in need of some repair, Asanya set up lodging in the Wandering Squirrel and broke immediately for the local smithy.

There, she met Elias I and his son, Elias II, and the two became fast friends. The young man was training to become a Ranger, and while he was all limbs and gawky presence, Asanya could see the goodness in him. Over the next few months, Asanya shared with him her dreams of creating traveller safe stations, places free of violence along the frontiers, and the two realized that Elias’ own hopes of how he could shape the Rangers aligned with her own. In return for her friendship, Elias was happy to pass along his Ranger training to Asanya, who until then had mastered the theory of survivalism, but lacked the practical training.

On the eve of his Ranger initiation, Elias took Asanya on his last tracking mission, and after a few hours the pair came face to face with an owlbear; 800 pounds of alchemaic fury that took all their cunning and resources to take down. Returning to The Keep late into the evening and wanting to celebrate their victory, Asanya and Elias both get matching tattoos. The following morning, confident she had learned enough to survive on her own, Asanya left The Keep and her friend Elias.

NOW

The cool, salty air whipped the sails of the Cry of the Hangman as it waited in Malkara’s harbor for its morning charges. On deck the captain, crew, and some early arriving passengers waited for the rest of their charges.

One passenger, a bookish Kalishtari woman, was lost in thought about her first sea voyage when she was suddenly grabbed from behind and lifted into the air. Yelping in surprise, her fear and confusion quickly turned to surprise when she saw it was Elias Bllackthorne, the young man she had not seen in over a year. They spoke briefly and as Elias introduced her to his companions, they were surprised to learn she already new his gnome companion Corrin from a previous adventure.

The captain, a Rilador orc named Diego welcomes his new charges and soon the ship makes way, passing an odd looking ship coming into the harbor that seems to be made of both wood and giant bones. Saena immediately requests to work the rigging in the sails, and having grown up on ships, Diego agrees. Elias offers to work in the galley ask thanks for the passage, and does so after stowing his gear. Meanwhile, the rest of the group finds their cots and settle in to their journey, Corrin opting to remain below decks due to becoming increasingly seasick.

Into the day Mara takes to exploring the ship, and comes across Gili Boomstick, the cannoneer. Pistols in hand, he leers her away from the back of the ship where the powder is stored, so she decides to spend most of the trip in the crows’ nest. Meanwhile, Corrin passes time with the other passengers and crew playing several games of Traveller below decks.

Late into the afternoon of the first day of their voyage, those on deck are startled when they hear an odd bzorp sound. The captain immediately calls everyone to arms, as he is a veteran of these waters and recognizes it as the teleportation shound of the Kuo-Toa, dangerous fish-men who attack boats to sink them for their treasures and snack on the unfortunate crews.

Saena swings down from the rigging, firing her first barrage of lightning bolts, but they seem to have no effect on the creatures. As she lands, Diego and draws his cutlass and leads the crew into the battle, while Mara unleashes her spiked chain and manages to ensnare one of the attackers.

The commotion from above brings the remaining fighters and crew above decks, and Elias slashes at one of the Kuo-Toa (to little effect) as a mystical arrow sails through the air and hits it in the chest, the flesh sizzling on impact. Soon, Ludo and Asanya are on their targets as well, while Bobba works his way through the chaos, healing his comrades.

Just as it appears they turn the tide, one of the Kuo-Toa teleports away, leaving the others to fight alone. Not a moment after, shots are heard from below deck, causing Diego and his men to fly back down the hatch to protect the passengers and the incredibly dangerous powder room.

Defeating one of the remaining fish-men on deck with a mighty slash of Asanya’s dagger, the other mutters something in its odd, gurgling language and jumps overboard. Elias calls the group to split up and help below while still guarding for new adversaries.

Below, Gimli is a whir of firing and reloading his pistols, the last defense of the door leading to the hold. He breaks for an instant at the sight of Diego and the rest, and is knocked out of view by a leaping Kuo-Toa. Mara uses her spike chain to trip another, while Corrin casts a spell to slow them down. Bobba smashes through the closest Kuo-Toa, killing it, and they all converge on Gimli.

The last Kuo-Toa, slowed by Corrin’s spell but still taking slathering, acid-filled bites out of the cannoneer, looks up at the group who burst in and suddenly disappears, teleporting away. For the moment, the ship is secure.

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A Drunken Cleric, and the Return of Erik

Somehow, Astaria found herself being dragged into Malkara’s Temple of Sarek. Though not the largest temple in the city, it would definitely be the most fortified. The temple of Sarek had played host to an army of knights in the past, but that was during wartime, and things were different now. Several clerics and acolytes puttered around performing random maintenance duties; candles were lit, or replaced if they’ve burnt out, shelves were being dusted, and stain-glass windows were being cleaned.

Boba started off the tour with a few simple questions: where Astaria was from, what her temple was like, how she spent her free time. Things weren’t as awkward as she thought they’d be. Not until he asked her if she liked Shoal Halflings. As she tried desperately to deflect the conversation, her deity Zuri must have sent a blessing, as Lady Marella walked through the door, carrying some boxes of supplies.

Where a minute ago, he had been swooning all over Astaria, Boba’s attentions and affections had moved on to the tall Elven priestess. She passed him a couple of the smaller boxes, and in exchange for his help, offered him five potions of healing, to aid him and his friends. She also has a small task for him.

Apparently, while Boba was out fighting for his life, defeating countless enemies on the battlefield, Lady Marella had fallen for someone else, an Elf warrior named Galinor. And she wanted a letter sent to him. Well, Boba wasn’t happy about this at all. After a long conversation about how Galinor wasn’t a real hero for competing in her honour in a tournament, Boba decides he’ll take the letter, and size up his competition.

His competition ended up being several sizes too large for him, but his pride and several tall stouts gave Boba the encouragement to make a scene for all the Rampant Hero patrons to hear. Galinor, seated with his companions Maeve and Cela, laughs off Boba’s insults and jests, and offers the Halfling another round of ale. In the meantime, Cela and Astaria speak to each other in their native tongue, both amazed to find another Kalashtari in the bar.

After a painfully embarrassing time, Astaria drags Boba from the bar, and heads to meet her friends at the Inn of the Red Owl. While everyone enjoys their dinner, Saena and Corrin go to book rooms and check them out.

Saena tells Corrin of her encounter with Winifred, and Corrin doesn’t really want anything to do with their former, now-vampiric friend. Saena lets him know that she didn’t know who else to trust with the information, and should something happen to her, Winifred will be contacting him. Now, more than ever, Corrin wished nothing but safe days ahead for Saena.

Meanwhile, Elias, despite always warning others against venturing off alone, has ventured off alone. He wants a word with Jeffrey, the local “businessman” in charge of keeping the inns and shops protected. At the Maiden and Goblet, Elias grabs a hold of him for a quick conversation. Sadly, none of it is good news. Danov has resurfaced, and is doing business with Holti Ostersson, the evil dentist, in the burned quarter of Malkara. Erik Maline, former “businessman” in the position Jeffrey now holds, has been resurrected, and his girlfriend, the Tiefling sorceress we saw stealing Mayline’s dead body from the apartment, is looking for his killers. It’s likely the two of them aren’t in town anymore, but they’re just two more problems in an ever-growing list for our adventurers.

Back at the Red Owl, Elias informs everyone that Maline is back. He also tells them that in Isard, to seek out a woman recommended by Jeffrey, at an inn called The Murdered Archer, named Mithrime.

Before heading to bed, they devise a quick plan for Isard. Boba, Astaria and Elias, the more reputable members of the company, will head towards the university and see what information they can find in the library. Mara, Corrin and Saena, the more suspicious three, are going to rendevous with Corrin’s brother, Finsy, who owns a small pawn shop in town, and then see what they can do from there.

It’s been weeks since any sign of The Wolf, but with Winifred’s help, and a large city full of opportunities, the vampire’s days might be numbered.

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A further reason for revenge
Downtime adventures

One day while out on leave from the Wandering Night, Saena came across a young woman being chased by two Camona Tong Slavers. Not being a fan of slavers, she killed the two slavers and found that the woman was seriously injured so she took her to a temple to be healed and stayed with her to keep her safe and once she saw she was a little… crazy… to keep the temple people safe as well. The strange and amusing nature of Mara interested Saena and the two became friends.

Elias knows Mara because they worked together during the war and he brought her home to meet his family in an attempt to… normalize her. It did not work so well, and also, his little brother Drake fell for her.

Boba and Mara know each other… but I don’t remember the reason, something to do with tea.

Present Day:

A Letter has been sent to Malia by the group, to let her know of what happened at the tower and the party regroups at Elias’s parents house minus Spooks but with the added addition of Mara. Mara was sent there by Elias Sr. who finds Mara a bit creepy.
Elias introduces Mara to everyone and welcomes her back and we check on everyone. Boba and Saena have a little bit of a tiff and then head off with the others to look for Spooks. Mara hooks her arm through Saena’s, who ruffles her hair as they walk off.

The good news is that we do find Spooks, unfortunately he is in pieces scattered along the riverbank. It looks like he has been torn to pieces, bare handed.

He’s still talking though, his bodyless head is still whispering something. Saena drops Mara’s arm and runs forward to see if she can hear what he’s trying to say, despite Boba’s yelled warning of not to get too close. Elias follows Saena in as well, followed by Mara and the others as well.

Spooks eyes are milky white and they lock onto Saena’s as she comes close and he whispers “See you soon.” Saena dives away from the head looking like she is about to throw up or cry. Mara smiles and comments “oh Saena, you have a talking head too!”
Elias leans in close to the head as well and then draws his sword while telling the group that Spooks has been turned to a Wight. With apologies to Spooks, Elias chops the head in two as Saena turns away. The speaking stops.

Elias creates a fire and kicks all the remaining pieces of Spooks into the flames while Boba chants a prayer.

After the body is burned Elias begins to search for the killer but finds no tracks but those of their friend and the group of them. He moves to the river to look out for any clues to be found in the clear waters but finds nothing. Astaria interjects that we do not have the power to track this Vampire down and Elias agrees but brings up the idea of sticking around the keep a bit to train up and find research on Vampires and perhaps the Wolf in particular. Astaria agrees with this idea as well.

An argument begins within the group over whether or not to go after The Wolf that moment or after we have gathered information and improved our skills to the point where going after him is feasible. Though Saena is still against letting Winifred and Spooks murders go unavenged, she is convinced by Elias to slow down and take the time to do it right.

Over the next 6 weeks the group spends time working to better themselves and others. Corrin works for a local from Endamos Keep to keep himself busy and make some money. Astaria searches for information on The Wolf and The Master of the Morass. There is little to know information about The Wolf but the Master of the Morass involves slavers and the swamp Tharakka Morass. It is a dangerous place that is home to venomous creatures. Boba spends a lot of his time with Saena and studying in the temple . He also decides to pursue Astaria romantically and asks Saena for help.

Saena decides to find out more about the Khador Ruins themselves. No one likes to go there but a few know about it. No one in their right mind would go there though because it is so freaky. Saena hooks up with an Archivist named Carmen, who she meets through Aziz and a Halberdier named Danny. Carmen tells her that no one goes inside and the area is magically unstable.

Mara spends her first few days catching up with Saena and then looks into information about ancient vampires who might have been sealed away. The only reason why you would seal something away is if it is lost for some reason or if it is too powerful to kill. The priests are sure that if you are looking for a vampire that was sealed rather than killed, than what you are seeking is no mere monster. She also asks for information on fighting them and gets the typical silver, holy water and garlic. He also looks for ruins nearby for the vampire to have set up shop in. There are lots of small ones around in a few miles, the countryside is rife with them and no way to narrow down where he might be.

Elias gathers the same sort of information as the others do and increases his skills to go after The Wolf. He sends messages back to Malkara to Sir Bart to update him on the situation. He goes and asks his parents if they know anything as well and neither do they know anything or have they ever fought a vampire, they would like Elias not to do that either.

The group of them want to have a conversation with Steve since he was sealed down the hall from The Wolf. But he does know a bit about them. There is an old story that the Wolf is one of four brothers and hellfire rides at his heels. He is like a gladiator and likes killing. The four brothers work for the Lich, and his brothers are The Cobra, a crazy assassin, The Raven, a dark undead knight, and he doesn’t know the other one though it may just be the Hellfire lich itself.

Elias and Saena go to the Wandering Squirrel to talk to Aziz. He understood that the people who hired him were some kind of religious cult, obviously bad guys but they didn’t identify themselves. He was there to protect the camp, to repay a favour he owed to the Tong. He did not like slavery and did not associate with them.

After these weeks of preparation, the group begins their trip to Isard. Elias uses his ranger ties to find us a ship to take to Malkara or even all the way to Isard. Elias explains the situation with The Wolf and our need for more information so we can come back and destroy the vampire. Ashton, a local ranger that Elias knew from training, is more than happy to cover our passage to Malkara on The Suave Daniel. He’ll also send word to the citadel and the ranger network will send word to us in Malkara or Isard if they know anything.

We return to Malkara, and stop at the Red Owl where Mikael is glad to stay with us and gives us rooms on the house. Elias goes looking for Malia and is directed to the Marquis Inn near the palace where he ‘might’ find someone. Boba takes Astaria with him to show her the town. Mara goes to see some friends and Corrin goes with Elias. Steve accompanies Saena.

Corrin and Elias head to the Marquis Inn to look for Malia to no avail but as they return to the Red Owl there is a note waiting for them in Mikael’s hand that they should wait in the bar after it closes. Malia arrives around midnight and informs them that there has been some trouble in Malkara. Elias asks if there have been any rumblings of the undead in the area and Malia says no, the problems in town have been entirely mortal. She tells them that north of Endamos Keep there have been problems with slaver wasps, they take children and…

Mara goes to check in with Vlad, the leader of her cell an elderly gentleman with an antiquities shop. She explains the situation with the Wolf in the Khador Ruins and asks him if there is anything she can do for him in Isard. Though he doesn’t know The Wolf, he is aware of the one called The Cobra, once the most feared assassin in the land.

Saena heads down to the dock to see what ships are in town. The Cry of the Hangman and the Devil’s Howl are both at dock and though they don’t fly a pirate flag, everyone knows their allegiance. They are captained by two Orc brothers Armand and Diego. Diego has been avoiding Volos for a while but it keeps him available in other ports. She tells Diego of the fate of Winifred and secures the group passage to Isard on The Cry of the Hangman.

On her way back to the Inn Saena hears a whispered psst and after Steve goes to check out that she doesn’t seem dangerous. Saena heads in and is shocked to find Winifred there. Winifred tells her that she is still her, though does have to do what The Wolf wants when he is focused on her. She does manage to tell Saena that The Wolf is planning on freeing his brothers. Saena decides to keep this information to herself for now, perhaps telling Corrin so she’s not alone in this.

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"Everything Is Fine" by Motley Crew and MurderWagon

The sound of buzzing is slowly fading as Elias slams the wooden door behind him. With only stretched animal skins covering the windows the farmhouse is by no means “air tight”, but the roaring fire Astaria started in the hearth provides some protection from the largest opening back outside.

Taking stock of the situation, he moves around the room checking on his companions. Those in his party, as well as Delia and Aziz, seem to be no worse for wear, while Barus and Big Chuck still cough and wheeze from the near fatal locust attack. Eventually, Steve drops down from the chimney, the flames having no adverse affect on his demonic form, and the entire party is again accounted for.

Stabilizing wounds and taking a moment to breathe, the group cautiously steps back outside to take stock of the cart and the remains of the farmers inside. After some discussion, the party prepares a funeral pyre. Delia, who knew the farmers the best out of anyone, is elected to say a few words on their behalf. While she’s not the best with sentiment, she speaks to Edwin’s past building siege engines, how being sold into slavery forced Massen to give up his alcoholism, and the pride Infring took in his swiftness. The bodies burnt and a final search of the farmhouse completed, the party sets out again towards Edamos Keep.

As it turned out, the farmhouse was one of the outlying areas close to The Keep, and the path they’re on soon gives way to a more built dirt road heading directly towards the main tower. By mid afternoon, the begin to encounter the hired outriders who keep the general “peace” of the farmlands, who soon give way to regular patrols, and eventually are met with the smell of cooking hops and barley, brewing being a regional hobby of Edamos Keep and possibly keeping them from the worst of the Scything Crag attacks.

By early evening, weary and dust covered from their travels, Elias leads the party through the main entrance of The Keep and through the roads and alleys to his family home: a fair sized home dwelling off the heart of the city proper. He invites everyone inside for a home cooked dinner, but most have plans of their own: Barus, Delia and Aziz get directions to the local Ranger bar, Bug Chuck takes what is left of his wears to the local market to unload and make repairs to his cart, Spooks heads off to camp by the river that flows through the city, and Saena heads off to the enclosed forest to meditate (with Bobba trying to keep up), leaving Elias and Astaria alone.

No sooner had the group dispersed when Drake, Elias’ younger brother, came home for the evening, causing their father, Elias I, to come out the door and grab his son in a huge embrace, tell Elias and his “wife” to come inside and say hello to his mother. Elias insists that he and Astaria are only travelling companions but his parents will not hear it, and soon he is giving Astaria a tour of his parents’ house and pouring her a cask of Titan’ Brew, a top beer taken out only for special occasions. After a fine meal, he gives her a silver and sets her up with a room at the Golden Candle Inn.

Meanwhile, Bobba is struggling through the crowds trying to keep up with Saena, and while he loses her a few times, he eventually catches up with her deep in the woods. She is desperately trying to meditate alone, and her and Bobba get into a heated argument about her current emotional state, Bobba refusing to abandon her. She does eventually give in to allowing Steve to stay and “keep an eye on her” while Bobba goes off to retrieve her equipment from a local tavern run by a contact named Triona and bring it to Elias. Bobba tracks her down and manages to convince her to hand over the pieces, and makes his way to Elias.

The knocking after 10 in the evening brings Elias downstairs in his sleepwear. Bobba drops the extra equipment at his feet and relates the evening’s events, insisting Elias needs to intervene. Looking at the situation more rationally, Elias comments that Saena just needs her space, causing Bobba to storm off. Sighing, Elias pulls on his clothing and races after him, accompanying him back into the woods and to Saena.

Unimpressed that he is there to distract her now also, Saena and Elias exchange some words and Elias leaves, assuring Bobba that she will be fine and will be back the next day. This infuriates Bobba, who storms off, commenting that the group has not had a chance to deal with all the current events and that they’ll all soon collapse. Unable to comfort Bobba, Elias gives him another silver to get a room at the Golden Candle as well, and heads back to his parents’ home.

Raging into the Candle, Bobba takes a stool at the bar and orders a full Titan’s Brew from the owner, Arleen. He’s already downed it in one mighty gulp and has ordered a second by the time he notices Astaria at the other end of the bar. She gets up and sits with him, and over beers they spend the rest of the night talking.

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8 Dead Farmers In A Runaway Flaming Cart

The party is on it’s way to Edamos Keep, where Eias’ mother, father, and younger brother still live. The Keep is a frontier settlement, fairly large and rich, where people generally strike out to make their fortunes. Corrin comments that he knows a man named Thomas there, who often sends him out in search of treasure, while Saena knows a brewmaster named Triona Finley. Even Astaria alludes to some business she has at The Keep, but does not elaborate.

After some travelling, the group realized the road ahead has become very lumbered and desolate: there is little to no vegetation, no animal life, and where there should be grass is only razed dirt. Some ways in, Elias notices an ivory spot that looks like bones, one of which looks like a human skull. Elias starts investigating after telling everyone what he sees.
On his way into the clearing, he sees a small farmhouse that looks like it hasn’t been used in quite a while. Elias kneels to adjust the bones, and they look like full skeletons in a heap. They’ve been bleached and picked clean of their meat, and when he relates this to Saena (who travelled with him to investigate), they both notice the glen is eerily quiet… that is until they catch the faint buzzing from all around them.

Realization dawns on Elias too late: the planes have a locust problem: massive swarms of flesh eating creatures likely the cause of these bones and many more to come. Suddenly, two massive clouds emerge from the trees, causing Saena and Elias to be trapped by the bugs.

Saena casts lightning on the bugs, killing many of them, while Corin casts invilibility on the cart, which disappears, along with some stray locusts. Astaria enters the house and makes a fire in the fireplace to block the biggest entrance from the locusts, and calls for everyone who can to get inside for safety. Unfortunately, it is too late, and many of the farmers become swarmed.

Using her lightning, Saena manages to take out another swarm, but realizes that the majority of the farmers are too far gone, save for Barus and Big Chuck. She exits the cart and calls back “burn it”. An oil lamp is tossed at the cart once Elias, Barus and Chuck are clear to try and eliminate the last of the swarm threat, but this causes the mule (who managed to remain mostly unharmed) to run off in terror, pulling the flaming cart behind him.

Eventually, the party makes it to the farm house and bar the windows behind them, lucky to be alive…

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An Unexpected Reunion

Boba didn’t grow up around wealth. He was often deprived of the luxuries other kids his age were used to having. It helped to keep him humble, and never did he find it in his heart to pray for more than what he was given. He made friends with a kid his age, Wilkis, who came from an extremely wealthy family. Despite seeing the vast difference in their lifestyles, Boba was never jealous of his friend; that’s just the way things were, and he would accept that. It was indirectly through Wilkis that Boba met Nirav.

Nirav was a street rat, and his moral code varied greatly from that of Boba. He wasn’t necessarily a bad person, but he found interesting ways of justifying his wrong-doings. One night, he gained access to the house of a rich family, and was attempting to help lighten their load of valuables, when Boba caught him in the act. Seeing a bit of himself in Nirav, Boba found in himself the will to change the young gnome into a reputable person, to turn Nirav away from his sins. Nirav, obviously not wanting to be turned in to the authorities, befriends Boba, hoping the young cleric will help bolster his reputation. The two have built a friendship on what truly matters the most: the desire to make themselves feel better.

Two years later, in Volos, Nirav has made friends with a man named Joseph, the son of a weapon shopkeeper. Joseph was, for lack of a better term, a braggart. While not terribly skilled with either the weapons or the business, he was very generous with his spending habits. This may have something to do with why Nirav was his friend. One day, Joseph was excited to introduce Nirav to his girlfriend, who was coming in to harbour that afternoon. She was a pirate of the Rilador, and they had spend many evenings together, and were planning their upcoming marriage. Saena, however, had not been informed of all these things.

A long story made short, Saena and Nirav became friends quickly, as they laughed over the broken nose she had given Joseph. She wasn’t his girlfriend, they hadn’t spent evenings together, and they most certainly were not getting married. Later, at the weapon shop, Joseph was trying to impress her, and attempted to use a bow with the same skill Nirav had shown. He knocked himself out cold, and after a long laugh, Nirav and Saena took Joseph to a healer to get him fixed up before his father returned.

Saena and Nirav visited a bar for the first time together, and things didn’t end up going well. Nirav got them into a brawl with a group of pirates. Well, Nirav possibly started it. It was more than likely Saena’s fault, as the other pirates weren’t fans of hers. But needless to say, barring a few bruises and cuts, the two got out with nothing but more appreciation for one another.

Anyways, there was some form of adventure going on. Where were we?

Elias has watch over camp, and everyone begins waking up to the sounds of Barris hyperventilating, trying to keep himself composed. Life is difficult away from the safety and comfort of cheese-making. Delia is paring down a large branch, forming it into a makeshift club, unsatisfied with the short spear she took from one of the dead guards. Steve the Familiar is hanging around, keeping quiet. Even more quiet is Aziz, who sits staring off towards the grave he dug, where he had buried his friends the day before.

Following the directions of Delia and Elias, the large group heads slowly north. A game trail leads to a lonely trade road, which has been long-abandoned. Moving away from the Khador Ruins, sounds begin faintly coming back into existence. The air beings to fill with sounds: the wind billowing through the leaves of trees, the chirping of birds, the breaking of twigs and plants as 16 pairs of feet tread over them, and the sound of flesh being torn apart by an axe. Naturally, there’s always some sort of trouble afoot, and everyone beings running in that direction.

None of them, however, were expecting to see what they saw. A caravan lies at the bottom of the hill, two dead guards and one dead ogre surrounding it. One ogre, a giant 8-foot tall Shatter Skull ogre carrying an equally large axe, has turned his attention to the last guard, a tiny gnome with a bow. Using the caravan for cover, the gnome fires out a couple arrows, but they whiz by the ogre. As the ogre takes two steps towards the gnome, he sees a strange mixture of humanoids running down the hill, weapons drawn, towards him. Shatter Skull ogres have rarely known fear, and this wasn’t one of those times. Yelling out a warcry, he starts moving towards them.

The fight is over almost as quickly as it begins. Delia smashes the ogre in the face with her new club, filling his eyes with blood, and blinding him to the blast of fire from Spooks’ mouth, and the arrow and bolt launched from Astaria and Corrin. The gnome breaks free from his cover, slings up another two arrows and fires them right into the ogre’s back, one which pierces straight into the heart. A loud thud rings through the valley as the ogre staggers forward, coughs out some blood, and drops to the ground.

The adventuring party pauses for a second, as they see Nirav climb up on top of the ogre and take his arrows back. Saena and Boba are taken aback at seeing their old friend, and are also surprised that each other knows him. Spooks grabs the greataxe, and picks it up to use as a walking stick. Shuffling can be heard from inside the caravan. The merchant is still inside, and he’s Big Chuck, a lover, not a fighter. Nirav agrees to accompany the group, eagerly awaiting a chance to catch up with his old friends.

Working out a deal with Big Chuck to help transport the farmers, Barris, Delia and the party, as well as Steve, the caravan sets off towards Endamos Keep. With the sun rising in the sky ahead, the trek will be long for the adventurers; but at least for now, the worst is behind them.

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Live and Let Die

…The place smelled of rot, blood, sweat and death. Corpses lay on the rune-filled floor like carpets, their blood filling the air with the stale scent of iron and death. The vampire creature, gleeful from the turmoil around him, had made off with his prize. The warriors were left to the empty dungeon, fearful of what else may be lurking nearby.
Elias heads to the prison gate, allowing the prisoners their freedom. They all cower in fear, spare one: a short, brown woman barges out of the cell and starts searching the nearby corpses. She takes whatever she can – some chainmail, a longbow, and whatever else she can use. Astaria asks her what happened before the group arrived. She replied that they were looking for warrior blood. Clearly these farmers were not worthy enough to sacrifice. She introduces herself as Dalia, still rummaging through the bodies as if her life depended on whatever she could find, which it very well could have. A man in the prison looks around sheepishly and full of fear. He can barely make out the words, and asks what’s on every other prisoner’s mind, “can we leave now?” Dalia introduces him as Baras, a simple cheese-maker. His question remains unanswered.
The warriors stand around, unsure of what needs to be done. Saena and Spooks had run off in separate directions, in fear of the vampire, the room was ripe with corpses that were once powerful, and probably very wealthy. Elias heads down the first corridor he sees, still very wounded with a gaping hole in his chest. Corin and Astaria stay behind to search the bodies – Astaria, hopeful to find something useful, Corin hopeful to find something expensive. Boba stays to watch them, waiting for something else to happen.

Saena runs and runs, unable to stop, running as far from the charnel house as she can, hallway after hallway, room after room – cells with corroded bars, a laboratory – it’s all very creepy, but she doesn’t even notice. She runs off and finds herself at a dead end. She’s in a dark, empty, black ritual room, trimmed and walled with a deep black stone. There are rune-like circles on the floor. She hears a tock, then a tick, coming from a clock. Saena’s fear quickly turns to anger. She draws her weapon and smashes the floor and the walls. Nothing happens. Her anger boiling, she unleashes bolts of lightning, needing to destroy something. She hears a deep, reverberating dong. 13 times it chimes, like a clock with an extra hour. The room starts to glow as light gathers within the walls. Saena notices the runes, which looked like they were carved into the stone, were not carved into the stone at all. The light starts to fragment like glass as she slowly backs out of the room, hoping to find something to kill.

Spooks’ fear releases him and he finds himself in a near-empty study. He searches the room for something useful, but all he can find is a very old bag of pipe weed and a magical cloak. Elias finds him as he’s putting on the cloak. Noticing that Elias has no torch, Spooks finds what he needs to make one so they can find their way back to their companions.
They head back, the room smelling even worse than they remembered. Spooks notices that Saena is still missing and runs towards her. Elias and Astaria follow behind him as Corin, Boba and Dalia organize the prisoners and follow in tow.

Saena sees a very short figure appear, floating above the floor. It manifests a flame from a finger and brings it toward the cigar, hanging from his mouth. As it nears the flame to its head, Saena notices it’s reddish in colour and has little horns protruding from its head. He speaks to her with some kind of eastern new-world accent, “Hey, you gonna help a guy out?” She looks at him, confused, “What kind of help do you need?” He asks for the date. She ignores him and asks him who he is and what he does. He identifies himself as Steve, a familiar, willing to help out. He used to work for a wizard, and, as it seems he was left behind, now has no master. He asks Saena if she wants him, instead, she tells him to leave. With nothing left to do, he exits the room, looking for an exit himself. He runs past Spooks, who enters the room to find a depressed Saena. Although they speak to each other, no one mentions her dead friend as they slowly head back to everyone else.
Steve runs into the group of heroes and farmers. He leads the warriors to Saena while Dalia takes the prisoners to the tunnel’s exit. They meet back up with Saena and Spooks, relieved that everyone is still in once piece. Saena struggles to go back to find her fallen friend. Corin fumbles through his thoughts, trying to find words, which just come out as a mess of nonsense. Elias saves him the trouble and breaks the news to Saena. Without a word, she hits Corin with her rapier and the group heads toward the exit.

They get themselves back to the mercenary camp; the farmers had already found their way up and out of the tunnel. The stop to survey the land. Everyone is dead, or gone. All the tents were raided and the enchantments that were on the people are gone. They hear a faint sound of a man clasping to life. The man is Asis, the leader of the mercenaries. He tells them that the vampire told him to relay a message: His name is Wolf. The end of all things are coming. Astaria heals the man as best she can.
Dawn has come, Corin and Saena go with Asis to help the fallen mercenaries as Astaria and Boba go to pray. After her morning prayers, Astaria plans on resting for the rest of the day.
Delia reveals herself as a ranger from Trachros and shows him her tattoo. She tells him that she found many tracks, and that, if the vampires were walking, they couldn’t have gotten very far. Camping here and waiting for nightfall would be a very bad idea.
After the graves were dug, the funeral rites said and the campsite was built, it was the early afternoon. The group hadn’t rested in days, and it was catching up to them.
Astaria, having slept the most offers to watch over the camp while they rest. Steve decides to stay up with her and, being the loquacious being he is, chat.

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The Unquiet Dead
Legends of Madjan

Screams echoed through the opening hallway and past the giant dais, through the excavated tunnels, abandoned meeting room and the torture chamber, and all the way down to the very bowels of the Khador Ruins. Gerald the Dragon had cleared their way out. The only thing left to do was to make it out alive.

With their final destination upon them, Spooks picks up the crossbow from the ground and passes it to Corrin. Noticing the hole in the floor, lit by torchlight, Spooks hops down to take a look. He’s followed gracefully by Astaria, Boba and Winifred. Less gracefully is Saena, who falls flat on her face, and injures her ankle. Elias sets up a rope for Corrin to climb down, but the knot comes loose, and Corrin tumbles to the ground. When the dust settles, voices can be heard. Chanting voices.

The hallway opens up into a pantry with various spices and jars full of pickled items. Passing by quickly, glancing at a jar full of eyeballs, Spooks leads the group into the final room, as the sounds of a loud, choking gurgle can be heard.

The floor and walls are layered in runes, interlaced with silver, and the torches are giving off less light. The air is heavy with evil magic, and Astaria and Boba feel it with each step they take, eating away at them. A figure in dark robes pulls a knife out of his latest victim, and the body is thrown atop a growing pile of corpses. The floor is covered with blood, and standing in it are two warriors, two archers, a cleric and the hooded figure. At the far end of the room, a cage holds many slaves; slaves who are far past the point of sadness, awaiting their own death.

The site of this fuels the rage in Saena and Spooks, and the two charge into the room. Astaria lets an arrow fly past them towards the hooded figure, but he ducks by it, and it hits the wall. And disappears. He shouts to the guards in the room, “Intruders!”

The two warriors lock their shields together and throw their javelins, as the archers launch arrows past them. The hooded man throws back his cowl and joins the warriors, forming a shield wall. Their cleric moves in to attack, and cast a spell, fueling her companions for combat. And they’ll need to be ready for combat, because the party of adventurers have come in swinging.

Lightning crackles from Saena’s fingertips, as Spooks lets loose a blast of fire from his mouth. Elias launches into battle with an overhead two-handed slash of his sword, as Winifred charges in, both axes flailing around wildly. Boba whistles a tune, which is picked up magically by his sword, and inspires a greater battle sense in his allies, as Corrin loads a bolt into his newfound crossbow, and takes aim.

The hooded man falls quickly as Elias’ sword pierces straight into his ribs. Winifred runs in and decapitates one of the warriors in one swift blow. Corrin fires a bolt directly into the windpipe of one of the archers, who clambers to the floor clutching his throat. As pools of blood begin adding to that on the floor, it begins to bubble and boil. In the centre of the room, emerging from one of the runes on the floor, a pale figure rises. He’s covered in scars, which form similar runic patterns, and smiles with sharp teeth. “Finally…” he proclaims, as he enters a battle stance.

Spooks takes an arrow and falls to the ground. Astaria, noticing this, creates an arrow out of thin air made with white fire, and shoots it towards Spooks. As it heals his wounds, he rises back into the fight, but takes a hit in the face from the cleric. After landing her blow, the cleric runs over towards the scarred man.

Spooks barely dodges another arrow, while Elias runs up and slashes towards the cleric; his blow glancing off her armour. Saena tosses lightning into the cleric, as Boba charges in for an attack. The cleric batters away his tiny sword and begins to laugh, but fails to see Winifred charging in. One swing from her axe, and the cleric’s head is split clean in half. The last archer drops to another well placed bolt from Corrin’s crossbow.

Laughing with excitement, the scarred man utters an unforgivable spell. Dark magic swirls momentarily through the air, as the bodies on the floor begin to animate, bones ripping themselves free of flesh. The room fills with an army of skeletons. The man flashes his fangs, revealing himself as a vampire. He thirsts for the blood of the living, and since casting the spell, his scars flare with piercing white light.

Chaos fills the room. Boba blocks skeleton after skeleton, trying his best to turn them away with fear. Astaria has slightly more luck with her magic, as skeletons begin fleeing from her. Winifred and Corrin focus their attention on the vampire, but he turns to mist every time a blow would hit him. As Saena and Spooks try clearing out some skeletons with lightning and fire, the vampire utters a spell, and the room becomes split in two by an invisible wall.

Saena, Spooks, Astaria and Corrin are trapped on one side with a horde of skeletons, while Boba, Winifred and Elias are stuck on the other side with their share of skeletons and the vampire. While destroying some of them, a skeleton knocks Spooks down to the ground again, and another knocks Saena down. Corrin runs in swinging his quarterstaff, and to his own amazement, knocks the head clean off one of the undead. Astaria turns even more skeletons away with fear, and starts destroying them as they turn to run. She then casts a spell, helping Saena and Spooks return to the fight. As the last of the skeletons are destroyed on their side, the four companions wait for the wall to drop to help their friends.

And their friends need it. The vampire thrusts himself upon Winifred, biting deep into her throat. Boba withstands attacks from all sides, but is finally overrun by the bone warriors. Leaving Winifred in a bloody mess on the floor, the vampire reaches towards Elias, and tears a hole straight into his flesh, ripping at his internal organs. As he’s knocked to the ground, Boba throws him his last healing spell, giving Elias time to crawl to the corner of the room, clutching his bleeding stomach. As the wall drops, the vampire jabs Boba in the face with his fist.

Saena charges a bolt of electricity towards the vampire, his face covered in the blood of her best friend. Astaria helps Elias back to combat, as the vampire turns to mist, avoiding Spooks’ incoming line of flames. After casting a quick spell, one glare from the vampire sends Spooks and Saena running. Corrin heads over, opens up the cage filled with slaves, and urges them to help in battle. They decide they’re safer inside the cage.

Winifred, who by all accounts should be dead, rises from the ground. Looking confused, and covered in blood, she moves towards the vampire. He turns to look at the adventurers, half of them barely conscious from the fight, and says “I was merely looking for some fun, which you gave me. We’ll have to do this again.” Grabbing Winifred by the wrist, he casts a spell, and the two disappear through a dimensional doorway.

The clattering of skeletons still cowering in fear, and the sound of Spooks and Saena’s footsteps heading back can be heard under the slam of the cage door. Corrin yells at the cowering slaves, and locks them back up.

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Dungeons and Dragons

The sounds of battle with the stone warriors still echoing through the halls, our heroes swiftly move through the large meeting room and down the spiral staircase leading into further darkness. They note that this stairwell is different that the ones before – the smooth walls have been replaced with a much rougher hune, and the smell of stale blood hangs heavy on the walls. Luckily for the battle weary adventurers, they make it to the bottom without setting off any further traps.

This older part of the structure makes way to another large room, much the same as before. Taking a survey of their new surroundings, it is obvious that this was a holding area for prisoners: the blood continues down here, holding cells line the back wall, and between them and our travellers, rows and tables filled with all means of devices meant to extract information from unlucky captives. At one point centuries past, this was also the site of a great battle, as it is clear the ceiling of the room had been blown away, only to have been magically repaired.

Splitting up to search for a way out, Corrin examines the cells in the back and comes to a shocking discovery: one of them remains occupied and is still sealed by heavy magics. The creature inside appears humanoid, tall and lean, but with pale skin, spiked teeth and hands, and glowing, evil eyes. His light armour is covered by a blood stained leather apron, and as the heroes approach, he haunches over and smiles directly at them.

Elias recognizes it as a pain devil, an excruciarch from one of the Hellish planes that specializes in torturing its victims. It begins to communicate with the minds of the group, and reveals its name to be T’Sarek, and that it has been locked down here for centuries. It muses that we must be the final victims of the Lauqimos, but for its freedom, it offers the group passage wherever they wish to go.

The group heads back to the main meeting hall and debates releasing the creature for passage, and after examining the available rooms again thoroughly, they are only able to find a hidden cache of potions. Hesitantly, they head back to the cells and bargain with T’Sarek for the path to the slaves, which he oaths to us by the Nine Lords and the Throne of Screams. With the deal set, Saena uses her lightning attack to blast the spells and open the locks.

T’Sarek, now freed, emerges from his cell and begins flexing his power, which had gone unused for centuries. Immediately, the group is hit with a wave of pain and sorrow, which passes quickly but leaves small cuts all over our exposed skin. Knowing that we are seeking the “Ritual”, it leads us back through the fireball trap (healing Corrin after he is caught by it again) and back to the magical platform. Giving us the proper spell word of Lie’Schess, T’Sarek smiles at us as we vanish down further into the citadel.

When the world fades back into view this time, the group is met with the sounds of pick axes and shovels, the hallways better lit by torches, and the sounds of work ahead. Elias leads down the tunnel and peers around the closest corner to see a large, spider-like creature standing in front of an open hole in the floor. Before he can duck back to tell the others, it spots him and releases a horrible screech, and from a side passage emerges a fair sized blue dragon, who immediately breathes lightning over the adventurers. The dragon is met by a few warriors, and the battle begins.

Our heroes throw themselves into the combat: Elias charges at the dragon, swinging with his sword but not connecting as well as the dragon, that sinks into him with its claws. Saena steps up and uses lightning on it, but it has better effect on the human guards flanking it. Corrin commands a powerful pain spell that eliminates one of his targets, all the while the group shifting positions and trying not to be hit by the spider-creature’s poisonous arrows.

Through the flurry of steel and sorcery, healing and dodging, the group takes note of magical arrows that are flying from the same side passage and assaulting both the guards and the dragon. Winnifred leaps forward and sends her axes smashing into the beast’s leather hide, causing it to retreat to the pit and spider-creature. As the group advances slowly forward, entangled by the dragon’s powerful lightning attacks, it unexpectedly begins to claw and maim the spider-creature until it is dead, then turns back to the heroes and offers its surrender.

Calling itself Jeremy, the dragon relates that it had only recently broken free of the mind control powers of the spider-creature, but had remained in its search for hidden treasure. Free from its pseudo-master, and not wishing to die here, it leaves, flying up through the tunnels and exterminating any guards and slavers unfortunate enough to cross its path.

The dust settled, our heroes are surprised to find the magical arrows had come from Astaria, the Kalashtari archer who several of the party had met previously. While providing light healing for the group, Astaria relates that she too had been mind controlled by the spider-creature, and had only come out from under the spell during the battle.

Somewhat healed, the party stands over the pit leading down to the slaves and prepares to jump in, their task almost complete.

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The Long Dark
Legends of Majdan

The day had just started, and things were already looking bad for Elias and Spooks. Their friends were beating them up.

A few hundred meters out from the Khador Ruins, an old crumbled Aecha Ostai tower, a sullen group approaches, three slave drivers, and two slaves who have seen better days. As they make their way into sight of the ruins’ guards, a small boulder appears behind them, hiding their back-up plan.

“This isn’t going to work” mutters Boba, under his breath.

“Trust me, it’ll work” replies Saena, the leader of the “slave drivers”, as Winifred pushes Elias, motioning him to walk fast.

Two dusty-skinned guards approach them, bows at the ready. Saena explains to them that they’ve arrived with all that remains of their group of slaves, but these two will do nicely. One guard runs off, and reappears several minutes later with four friends.

One of them, Aziz, sends Elias and Spooks off to the empty slave pen, with Winifred standing guard, as Boba and Saena follow him towards a small tent. Inside, they speak with Omar, the camp’s leader, and try to negotiate for a better price. Finally Saena gets them to agree on a reasonable price, as long as the party accompanies the slaves into the tower and delivers them. He hands Saena some unfamiliar currency, and gives her a password, Asched, which they will need once they enter the tower to operate the lift. He also warns them against going down through the tunnel which has been dug in the ground, for they won’t be the only thing in it.

As the door to the tower is opened, the small illusionary boulder is gone from the distance, and Corrin sneaks in past Saena and the others, and waits for them inside. As they begin to move forward, the door closes and is barred behind them. There’s no turning back now; they must face the long dark of the ruins.

The foyer of the tower is lines with mosaics of triumphant wizards facing dragons and demons, beasts and armies. Some of them look familiar, like stories of long ago passed down as fairy tales, or through drunken adventurers in pubs. These aren’t just any wizards though. They’re all members of the Aecha Ostai, alumni who would have trained or taught at the tower any centuries ago. A giant dais stands right in the centre of the room, covered in ruins and interlocking silver circles.

Saena leads them up to the platform, everyone standing on the circles, and she stares down at the small tunnel dug into the floor, where one large panel is missing from the tile. She recites the password…. more or less.

Silver circles flair to life under them, and suddenly the surroundings have changed. The room is no longer illuminated by glowing runes on the ceiling, and a thick layer of dust covers the floor. As Corrin passes out a couple sunrods to light the room, Spooks pears around the corners of both halls, which converge on each other.

“Guys, I may have messed up the password,” Saena admits. Everyone had already guessed at this.

Creeping down the hall slowly, everything is quiet and still, until the party reaches a point near the doorway leading out. Their noses fill with the scent of freshly baked bread, and the hallway light ablaze with the flares of a giant fireball. Saena, last in line, managed to jump back in time, but everyone else is struck and forced back, to heal their wounds and put out the chars on their robes and cloaks.

Wanting to test the floor, Spooks grabs a bar of soap and launches it down the hall. Again, the hall is filled with fire. Boba tries throwing his cooking pot, to pinpoint the location of the trap, and they realize the floor is no longer an option. Saena levitates herself, and investigates the hallway, realizing that if they can get everyone in through the air or along the ceiling, they’ll avoid the trap. She levitates Spooks and Boba, and Corrin casts Spider Climb, getting himself, Elias and Winifred up the walls, to the ceiling, and along it through the door.

The room is filled with chests and sacks of long forgotten treasures, the walls are lined with old rusted weapons and uncharged wands. Dried food and blank scrolls line the floors. A small staircase leads down one side of the room. As time is of the essence, the party continues down the stairs, into a room with a large table in the middle.

As they enter, runes activate on the ceiling, illuminating everything. Glowing spots on the floor circle some of the chairs at the table. Scorches pock mark the walls, and there are several skeletons, long since void of any flesh, along the floor in from of them. Circling the room are several eerie statues, each covered in armour and holding a sword. Most look to have remained in good condition, though several have definitely not held up against time.

Dragging a chair out, Saena comes to a quick stop, as she is stabbed through the chest. The sword belongs to a Dread Guard, one of the statues which has come to life. As Winifred begins fighting off the statue, protecting Saena from any more damage, more of the Guards come to life around the room. Elias and Spooks charge towards one, but Spooks’ breath has no effect. Elias’ swords, however, have great effect, and he impales into one. But it keeps on coming.

Boba does his best to keep the party alive using his healing spells, and Corrin aids with his healing belt, but things just keep getting worse for everyone. Having destroyed two of the statues, three Dread Guards are still attacking them. Saena lights the room up with bolt after bolt of lightning, as Elias tries his best to hold ground against the constructs. In a desperate attempt to gain an advantage, Spooks grabs one and summons all his might, knocking it down to the ground.

Winifred finishes off one with her axes, as another can no longer endure the power of Saena’s lightning, and is torn apart into fragments. Spooks takes an unlucky hit and falls temporarily unconcious, but is revived quickly by Winifred. He is stabbed yet again, but somehow manages to stay on his feet. Despite bleeding profusely, Spooks grabs a hold of the last Dread Guard, and headbutts it repeatedly until it falls to the ground. Elias gathers the last of his strength, and finishes it off, slamming his sword through its stone heart.

One last statue remains unmoving in the room, and Saena walks over and lights it up with a devastating storm bolt, causing it to detonate into small shards of rock. With no immediate threat left, the party takes a moment to rest and thank their gods they’ve all made it through the fight alive.

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