Ilderan Tales

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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The Importance Of Freeing Earnest

Volunteering for the first watch, Spooks sits against the low flame, allowing his Orcish eyes to adjust to the darkness. The winds are too calm, the stars are not in their right place, and save for the low, feline growl that suddenly eminates out of the darkness behind him, not a single animal can be heard.

In mid turn, and before he can sound an alarm, a monstrous, padded tendril whips out of the night sky and smashes Spooks in the face, sending him toppling back over his post and into the dirt. Following close behind emerges a dire creature – an eight foot long feline with ice blue eyes and a second tendril curling and shifting from its shoulder. The distinctive flicker of the foe in and out of sight, padding slightly in almost every direction at once confirms the worst – a displacer beast.

Scrambling from the ground, Spooks lets loose a blast of cold breath that hits the beast, causing it to slow just enough for him to step out of range of the flailing tendrils that miss him by mere inches.

Winnifred, closest to the battle, awakens and immediately lunges at the giant cat, only to be caught unprepared for its ability to phase in and out of this plane, her axes missing their target. Saena is next to launch an attack, her elemental lightning connecting with the creature and causing it to sizzle and burn, while out from the forest two large wolves menace the displacer beast from behind while Corrin tends to Boba with his healing belt. Boba, now healed, and Elias, now awake, lay into their foe with fist and iron.

The fierce but quick battle rages on in this manner for almost no time at all, but what seems like forever: Winnifred keeps it off balance with her axes and Elias with his longsword, while Saena and Spooks flank using their element might of lightning and flame, the only things seeming to do notable damage to the creature. After taking a few more hits, Spooks steadies himself and unleashes a final cone of fire breath that surrounds the massive cat, and when the smoke clears, nothing is left but charred bones.

The night returned to its eerie calm, hearts and minds beginning to settle, Winnifred takes the second watch while the group attempts more sleep, soon followed by Boba, both scouts reporting nothing of note throughout the night.

The next morning the heroes break camp and again head off towards the ruins. They do everything they can to quicken their pace, hoping to arrive by nightfall and beat the slavers from completing their evil purpose. By the time they lose the light and are forced to make camp, they are a mile out from the ruins, which glow dimly in the distance.

Saena sets herself for first watch, the group now more alert to the beasts and monsters so close to the ruins. Luckily, nothing eventful happens in the first few hours of the night, and soon Saena is relieved by Winnifred. After some time, her eyes adjusting to the odd darkness, Winnifred can make out a shape in the distance. She wakes Spooks, who has excellent night vision, and he informs her that it seems to be a cart and donkey, but the form is being greatly distorted by the odd magical resonance of the plains. They opt to sneak in for a closer look, and confirm that the figure is indeed a man with a cart and donkey, and they appear to be stuck in the mud. Spooks tells Winnifred that while there is some faint magic coming off the stranger, the cart is afire with hidden magic. Soon, they make their way back to the camp and alert the others.

After some discussion, Elias leads the group cautiously back to the old man. Corrin casts invisibility on himself and scouts ahead, returning with the knowledge that the entire cart is full of oddly shaped and coloured flowers. Saena and Elias both realize that the flowers are a local oddity, a medieval form of natural balloon, and upon conversing with the traveller (whose name is Earnest), the heroes help him and his cart out of the mud and leave him to his own stubborn, magic-grass eating mule.

Feeling that they should not delay any longer, and now weary of patrols thanks to Earnest’s cautionary tales of his once competition Piotr, the adventurers set out to the ruins before dawn. From even one hundred feet out, the old stones are lit up in the night sky: old stones hover and glow, warding spells dance across their faces, and the campfires of a mostly Orcish mercenary force guard the outer most perimeter, blocking their path to the open gates below.

Fearing that the slaves are already inside, the group inches closer to a ridge just beyond view and hatches a plan to gain access to the quarry…

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Run For The Ruins

Their clandestine mission from Malia set, the brave adventurers choose to fortify themselves with dinner, and remain at the Red Owl Inn until they can sneak out into the night more unnoticed. Spooks offers to identify Corrin’s newly acquired magical items as general magical tools – a healing belt and Archanists’ Gloves. Under the din of the various travellers, story tellers and musicians, Elias informs the group of his special mission for Sir Bart, and offers any who choose to help a share of the glory.

As they consider Elias’ offer, the hour has arrived to head to Toad House. However, due to the upcoming festival, the streets are not as deserted as they had hoped: the streets are bustling with people preparing their shops and city watch patrolling. Working their way through the crowds, the group cannot help but hear the rumors circulating about the fire that started on the other side of town. Townsfolk attribute it to everything from a dragon to Scything Crag to a fire-breathing cat…

Working their way through back alleys they quietly arrive at Toad House around midnight. Toad House is an alchemy shop just off the central square of the market place, hidden just out of sight from the standard merchants. The House reveals itself to be part of an old manor (which has been long torn down), and stands as one of the older buildings of Malkara. For those that take the time to look, it’s patched roof and odd shape draw the eye to the windows (those few in the city paned with glass) and the lanky, long bearded alchemist puttering around within.

Elias, Bobba and Corrin decide to go in first, while the others stand watch outside. For those who thought the exterior odd, the interior draws wonders: a tiny, crowded room home to a variety of experimental alchemaic equipment, a skeletal cockatiel, dusty books, and notably a jar filled entirely with blue eyes, each that seem to follow the onlooker. Hardly looking up from his mortar and pestle, the shop owner directs the group through the back of the shop, up a rickety ladder (once the grand stairwell of the manor) and through a thick, wooden door where they are greeted by Malia in an oddly contrasting simple bedroom. On her request, Elias sends for the rest of the group, and the meeting soon begins.

By dim candle light, Malia tell the group that she appreciates the work they have been doing to rid Malkara of slavery. While she typically is work-for-hire, she has a keen interest in seeing this come to an end in the region. To this point, she has been gathering intelligence on local slave trades and routes, and has found that certain shipments heading from the south to the Crag have been going missing, and that her sources have confirmed that the next large shipment is due to head to the Catala Ruins, home of the ancient Ica Ostai Tower, where their bodies and souls will be used in some sort of ritual meant to open a mystical gate buried deep in the bowels of the earth.

Malia also reports that rumors are circulating that may or may not be related to this that in the Axeveil region, a party of adventures met, battled and defeated a small hoard of skeletons and zombies, indicating that someone has been practicing the forbidden art of necromancy. With this knowledge in mind, the group resolves to ambush the slavers at the Ruins after they make landfall at the Bay of Stone. We arrange passage on a boat that will take us to the Ruins directly, and lay in wait. To aide us in our mission, Malia gives us six pearls to purchase supplies with, and we take our leave.

Still into the wee hours of the morning, Saena and Elias opt to gather whatever information they can from the locals about the region the group will be heading to. Most of the info is relative to the trip, news about local politics, rumors of battles along the way, and ultimately that the road leading to the Ruiuns along the Elfendar Forest is relatively clear. By 4am, Saena and Elias are laying by the hearth of the Rampant Hero.

Meanwhile, at Bobba’s request, he, Winnifred and Spooks head to the temple to prepare and search for information of their own. Unbeknownst to the others, Bobba’s plan to do this was to sneak into the Lady Marella’s chambers, wake her, and ask for advice on the upcoming adventure. The following conversation, comprised mostly of unrequited advances, hushed laughter from the hallway and less that controlled yelling gains little for Bobba, who retires with the others to sleep before they embark.

As soon as the sun settles in the sky and the shops open, Corrin (who had purchased rooms for the travellers at the inn) heads down to the market to purchase supplies. Satisfied, he finds Elias and Saena asleep by the fire, and offers them their beds for a few hours while the others gather. Corrin pushes directly to the temple to collect the others and while Bobba stayed behind for morning prayers they meander only slightly long enough to give the remaining party enough time to rest their eyes before they head to the boat. The party notes that through the night Shayama has disappeared, but knowing her habit of this and her many dealings in Malkara, they are sure they will meet her again.

The boat that awaits them is small, but the entire party manages to fit aboard along side the “captain” Mikaus and his first mate, and large, scarred ogre named Umalog. Soon, supplied up and course set, the Stealer of Dreams sets off. The river runs long and they pass many trading villages set up along the large trade routes, who mostly get supplies ready to ship to the Edamos Keep and local lumber merchants. It takes them a sold half day to make it to the mouth of Gemrik’s Breath. Their journey is thankfully uneventful, and between short naps Saena helps Umalog with the sails while Mikaus works the rudder. The one exception to the monotony of the journey is the appearance of a white, fully-saddled war horse swimming its way to the opposing shore. Not to how to take the omen, the group decides to press on.

Into the following evening, we spot a faint corona over the next horizon, which Mikaus identifies as the Tower, and that it is time to make land. Stopping briefly at an old dock, we have enough time to gather our supplies before the ship is already on course back down the river. Taking shelter under the crest of a hill just beyond the Tower, we decide to make camp. Spooks takes the first watch, Winnifred the second and Bobba the last.

Setting himself up next to only the minimal fire, Spooks cannot help but notice that everything about this area seems just a little off: the stars do not seem in their natural place in the sky, the ground does not feel right under his feet, and even the grass seems to grow differently than it does away from the Ruins. Just as he notices that there is not even the familiar sound of evening insects, Spooks catch a flicker of something from the corner of his eye. He turns quickly to peer into the darkness, when his ears perk with the sound of a low growl drawing dangerously close…

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Barging In

Written in Ink

After discussing the options before them, our brave adventurers decide to first drop of the package, containing a book, to Kabu in Theringrad and then head for Yllaina’s village. They board a barge heading for Theringrad called the Crown of Flame, a rather run down looking boat piloted by Captain Crosar. In addition to the plentiful cargo aboard, there are two other passengers, Sir Leon of the Dawn Star Templars and Zaphira, an ambassador from a cabal of mages who wish to join the Theringrad Spellbinders Ring.

Along the way, we find out that Sir Leon, wearing non-regulation armour passed down from his grandfather, has been tasked with looking after the roads and waterways, patrolling them and keeping them safe for travellers. Although he has been a knight for only a couple of weeks (since the Templar orders were founded) he has experience in fighting, having taken part in the war where he was badly scarred by a Crag beast. Our heroes tried to recruit him to aid in investigating Yllaina’s village but he must first consult with his superiors in Theringrad.

Zaphira is a force mage who, along with her fellow cabal mages, was a mercenary in the Samarese City States. It has been a bit too peaceful there lately so they decided to come to Temir to join the TSR, who are always looking for skilled magical mercenaries. Her arm is covered in tatoos representing “fair kills”, those she has killed that had a chance to kill her. There are dozens of these marks.

While crossing the scarred plain, the barge is stopped by a chain across the river. As Captain Crosar brings the boat to a halt, thirteen hobgoblins can be seen on the banks, brandishing bows and spears. Their leader demands the Crosar hand over half his cargo plus one of the passengers since they are all feeling a pit peckish. Crosar, choosing discretion over valour, hides in his cabin, bolting the door shut.

After a brief conference, Jarven leaps over the side of the ship, attacking the leader head on and followed closely by Dreg who smashes through the railing. The rest remain aboard, shielding Yllaina and taking care of the archers on the other bank. Jarven quickly cuts down the leader and along with Dreg, smashes all but one of the hobgoblins on their side, while Zaphira and Saebald launch volleys of Magic Missiles which cut down all the archers on the other bank.

The last remaining hobgoblin, Shu Ling (Resplendant Goldfish), wisely surrenders. He explains that they were Commona Tong bandits who were left there to rob ships that come along the river. Their partners are coming to pick them back up in a couple of days, heading back towards Satu Mare from Theringrad. They have not had any luck yet, aside from a priest they killed who was heading to Athtia to perform a wedding. They have his effects (cloth of gold vestments, silver chalice with lapis lazuli, and velvet mask with citrines) which the group takes with them. They decide to strap the hobgoblin to the prow of the ship as an early warning beacon/punishment and Zaphira adds six more brands to her arm.

After the fight, Yllaina seems petrified so Nick tries to comfort her and see what is wrong. It turns out that she was lying about the magical ruins near her village and about her grandfather’s sword. Neither of them exist. She was just desperate to get help and it seemed like the others would not have agreed to investigate without some sort of reward. Nick advises her to keep quiet about this and that he’ll try to smooth it over with the others later. Nick also learns more about Yllaina and her village. She is a middle child, with three older sisters (two married in the village and one left) and four younger brothers. Her village was mostly involved in logging and herbing along with some farming to sustain themselves.

Shu Ling is eaten during the night by something in the river, his lower half is mostly not there. They untie his remains and let them fall into the river. Aside from that, the rest of the journey is uneventful and our heroes arrive in Theringrad, ready to finish the first step of their quest.

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Pirates, Punches and Parchments

Having concluded their business with the warrior woman Ruby, our weary heroes venture back out into the streets to return the news to Geoffrey, and as usual find his young boy Robert outside the Rampant Hero. After discussing their successes, they make plans to meet his father later that day, who returns that they should all meet at Hunter’s Hall later the following day. Elias, a born Ranger, insists he takes them to the hall right away to not only show them the location (should they become separated) but to exalt to them the pride of his brotherhood.

The once glorious hall, where Rangers met in secret to carry out peace and order in the realm, is these days not much more than a closed bar and run down museum, a fact which Elias is not proud. Expecting to find no patrons inside, the group is surprised to come across David Trelawne, captain of the recently docked Majestic Eagle. All flourish and bravado, Trelawne explains that he is in Malkara for two reasons – the upcoming festival and to have a regular meeting with the head of the Rilador, who have been settling in for the winter. He bears no new news of Tacros since the gates have been closed, and along with his manservant Smith soon takes his leave.

Wishing to return the sword Aria to its rightful home, Elias seeks out the attendant of Hunter’s Hall to present him with the treasure. Behind a modest desk, half dozing they find Boldo, who informs them that he does not handle general acquisitions. Elias, aghast that he does not know the legend of Aria, insists, but this only causes Boldo to become indignant to his plight and causes Elias to loose is composure and assault him. In an attempt to avoid too much of a scene, Spooks (in his new form) knocks out Boldo with a single punch, but Elias leaves him some gold for his troubles.

They regoup outside the hall and notice that Corrin has disappeared into the crowd, intent on telling our contacts when our next planned meeting was. After a quick search, they catch up to him but realize they need to accomplish some tasks beforehand. With this, Spooks and Bobba return to the Temple of Serik to look through their looted papers, which reveal some information about Eric’s grandfather Atherd, some love letters, and some personal correspondence, but not much more.

That evening, our heroes convene at the Inn of the Red Owl for their meeting with Malia. Despite their hardships, unintentionally compounded by the group’s efforts to help, Mikhail and Irena seem to be doing steady business that night. Drinks are ordered and a table is found off in a corner, and soon Malia arrives. It is accepted that, for the most part, the mess we caused has been cleaned up, so further business can happen. With that, she leaves a scrap of parchment on the table with the message: “Come to the Toad House at midnight”.

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Lightning Round!
Written in Ink

How Nick knows Nyla:
They met in a fight against bandits. Nyla attacked Nick, thinking that he was a bandit. They then fought bandits together, defending Big Tom the merchant. (Brother of Big Chuck.) Nyla got injured, and Nick patched her up. They escorted Big Tom to Malkara, with Nyla joining them as a guide. Since the bandits took some of their supplies, they ran out of food. Nyla went hunting for some food, as she is an expert woodsperson, and encountered the Pigeon King, who attacked them for murdering so many of his people. (The Pigeon King is an 8-foot pigeon with half of his face missing.)

How Jarvan Knows Dreg:
Dreg’s boss sent him up to Taer Sulei with a band of mercenaries. Jarvan and Dreg became drinking buddies, becoming friends over many stories. Jarvan got a tattoo of a rhino on his ass. They both hated an asshole mercenary who was kind of a jerk, and didn’t obey the rules and ranks of Taer Sulei. Jarvan’s patience ran out, and he killed the mercenary for insubordination. Dreg saw it happen, but no one else knows about it.

How Nyla knows Jarvan:
Nyla tried to steal maps from Jarvan’s camp in Taer Sulei. Jarvan then tried to chase her down, but she crossed a lake and sunk his boat when he tried to pursue, and then captured Jarvan. They agreed eventually that they were fighting for a common cause. They went together and took out Scything Crag’s supply line. During that adventure, they came into some dire circumstances where their lives depended on Nyla trusting Jarvan. She was disinclined to do so, but her hummingbird landed on his shoulder – something that it never does – and she took it as a sign that she should trust him.

How Nick knows Dreg:
Dreg’s employer travelled to Makara to do a drug deal with Nick’s employer. This upset the Tanril Agezar quite a bit, as it meant that someone was boning in on their drug-dealing territory. They showed up and murdered Dreg’s Rilador boss. Dreg then hulked out and murdered all of the goblins brutally. Nick, having witnessed all of this, later found Dreg a new job with Big Tom. Dreg eventually travels with Big Tom back to Makara. Nick at this point needed desperately to leave the city, and Dreg and Big Tom smuggled him away.

LATER (TENSE CHANGE)
At a bar in Satu Mare, Nyla and Jarvan intend to plan a caper of some kind. Jarvan gets hammered and they plan nothing useful. Big Tom shows up with Dreg, and Jarvan and Dreg get pissed together, like old drinking buddies should. Nyla and Dreg also bond over stories and tattoos. Nick shows up collecting alms, and recognizes Dreg and Nyla, and joins them. As they all leave the bar, 3 goblins of the Tanril Agezar attack them. One tries to climb Nick to get at Dreg. Nick lasers it in the crotch with his eye lasers, Nyla shoots an arrow into his throat, and Dreg knocks his head off like a croquet ball and Jarvan very conspicuously does nothing. The other goblins decide it would be prudent to flee.

MUCH LATER (in actual gameplay)
The four decide to hunt down the Pigeon King, as it is murdering innocent people. They travel up the river to the [closed] forest to hunt him down. Sunce they do not place the required amount of grain at the Pigeon King’s Black Altar, the Pigeon King begins to hunt them. They encounter the Theringrad Spellbinders’ Ring [TSR] who are trying to trap the Pigeon King for science. Nick’s feelings are that as long as he is off the road, all is well. Thus they team up with the TSR to find the Pigeon. The three TSR people are noobs, so they don’t find it, but it eventually descends upon the group. The Pigeon King immediately kills David (of the TSR) and the veteran caster amongst them immediately vanishes as combat begins. Nyla shoots the Pigeon king in his good eye, blinding him. Jarvan is pinned by his massive talon, and about to have his face pecked off. Dreg smashes its wing with his hammer, and Jarvan God-of-Wars the hell out of that shit, tearing off its leg and stabbing it in the heart.

They escort Alice, the remaining TSR person, back to Theringrad. She has conversations with David the whole way. They go to Satu Mare to collect the pay for killing the Pigeon King. En route, they are attacked by a giant snake. (Which is totally not an ankheg.) The snake sinks its fangs into Nick’s arm, and he totally misses it with his eye lasers. Nyls shoots it in the neck and it removes its fangs from Nick’s arm, coiling itself up. Nic heals himself and strikes at it with his quarterstaff. His staff whizzes past the snake ineffectually. Jarvan hefts his great sword and lops the snake’s head off. They all go back to sleep.

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