Aiwan

Return to Under Dome
A Sight to Behold

The Party

  • Aldo
  • Ducky
  • Rost

In our last outing, The Adventurers of Aiwan (as we have been named by the townspeople) stumbled upon a strange dome in the middle of the blighted forest.  With the night quickly approaching, and our appetite for adventure dwindling, we decided to leave the dome unexplored and return when we had fresh horses and empty pockets.

As we made our way back to the blight, we passed the watery cave where the powerful stones were entombed.  Unlike our previous excursions this way, however, we noticed signs of disturbance in the dirt outside.  Rost, ever-vigilant, stated that he detected the remnants of an evil presence.  We made note of the disruption and vowed to return sometime in the near future.  We had a dome to explore.

As we entered the blighted clearing surrounding the dome, we encountered two shambling zombies, not unlike those we first encountered in the graveyard.  Unlike the cemetery-dwellers, these ones were unusually fleet-footed, and quickly rushed us.  With a flash of his holy symbol, Rost scared the two beasts off as fast as they came.

Once at the dome, we scouted the surface for any openings or clues as to what lay inside.  We found none, but gained an idea of the interior of the structure – there appeared to be three smaller domes, connected in sequence, bubbling off the side of the central one.

I opened the large stone door and discovered two grotesque beings.  They were rolling balls of flesh, pocked with more mouths and eyes than any creature would ever need.  Ducky and I fired our trusty crossbows at them, but eventually exhausted our ranged options as the enemy appeared to be impervious to our bolts.  Rost charged in and struck with his weapons and, while effective, quickly found himself surrounded.  Meanwhile, one of the blobs spat some noxious substance at Ducky, blinding him.  Seeing my compatriots on their heels, I drew my morningstar and charged in, ready to provide Rost with the reinforcement he needed.  While I am loathe to engage in close combat, my assistance was needed as the other blob turned the floor into sand – making it difficult for Rost to find purchase.  After great difficulty, we killed the foul beasts.

Inside this first room there wasn't much to see, save for a doorway leading to one of the side rooms.  I picked the lock to it and we moved on.  Inside, there was what looked to be a large table strewn with broken remnants of something that looked vaguely alchemical.  There was time for further inspection as we were immediately set upon by two wraiths!  Our party was inventive with their combat, with Ducky climbing up the walls and Rost showing that experience can trump might in battle, but they were hurting us pretty seriously.  Somehow we scraped by and vanquished the wraiths.  We weren’t in good shape, however, and decided to camp inside the dome for a few nights and recover.

Once we were ready to move onto the next room, I started inspecting the lock on the door which lead into the third adjoining half-dome.  I couldn’t see any mechanical trap, so I picked it and pushed the door open.  Rost, unbeknownst to me, pulled Ducky back several paces.  It was a good thing he did because there was an enchantment on the lock that discharged some strong lightning at me.  Thankfully, my reflexes allowed me to dodge the incoming energy.  We pressed on to the next room.

… only to discover two two glowing orbs similar to those we encountered in the watery cave.  They were annoying to fight, but we defeated them.  The only doorway in this room led to the central dome, but the door itself appeared to have been blown off the hinges by a force from inside the structure.  If these three rooms were any indication, we were in for a fight when we went through, so, once again, we rested.

The next day we peered into the center dome.  It was pitch black.  Risking discovery, we threw an illuminated rock into the room and observed a large pit in the center of what otherwise appeared to be a barren landscape.  We also heard some scrabbling echoing off the walls.  Rost, obviously having spent too much time with Oz, marched inside and towards the pit.  Ducky and I scrambled behind him.

Almost immediately, beams of light streaked out of the darkness.  Rost and I managed to dodge them, but Ducky, unfortunately, was struck and fell to the ground, dazed.  He didn’t look to be doing too well, so I dragged him out into the side dome.  Rost lead up the rear, ensuring we weren't set upon by whatever strange creature was attacking us.

At this point, Rost (the only one of us who saw the enemy), informed us that this appeared to be what was called a "beholder" - a floating orb of flesh with a large central eye, and several protruding eyestalks.  Of course they were dangerous, and of course we had to get rid of this one.  Ducky still appeared to be out of it, so we hid on either side of the doorway, getting ready to confront our foe.  I centered myself (and my sights), popped into the doorway, and fired.

My aim was true, and the creature was unprepared.  My bolt sailed deep into the middle of its eye.  Rost, himself, followed up with a magnificent blow of his own.  Almost soon after, the beholder was dead! We caught our breaths while we waited for Ducky to regain his senses and rejoin us.

Once he was standing, we resumed inspecting the main dome.  The walls had rubble strewn against them, with bits of diamond shard glinting within.  In an effort to determine the depth of the pit, we threw the lit stone inside.  Ducky and Rost claim to have seen it hit the ground and disappear, but, with a great feat of will, I managed to see past whatever glamour was deceiving my friends.  Instead of a floor, there appeared to be a body of water at the base of the pit, into which the rock quickly sunk and vanished.  We decided that this merited further research in Aiwan, and turned back to return to the city.

To ensure the security of our find, we locked each room behind us. I left small, inconspicuous tripwires behind that would signal if the doors had been opened in my absence.  The front door presented an issue, however, as the two zombies had returned.  Ducky and Rost galloped out of the dome and attempted to draw the zombies away.  They were successful and I had time to lock the final door.  In the meantime, Rost had once more presented his holy symbol.  Unlike last time, only one of the shambling spirits turned heel.  We figured three-to-one were good odds, and dispatched it without fanfare.

We rode past the cave and decided that we had enough time to look into what was happening inside.  As we crept to the entrance, we heard three vampiric thralls discussing attacking Aiwan in order to get high quality food.  This couldn't be allowed to happen.

Ducky brought his lute to bear, and, instead of his usual standard, regaled us with a song that made me feel as if I was vibrating with energy.  Later, he informed us that he had made us faster to better our footing against the vampires.  With this bardic aid, we were able to kill them fairly easy, and destroyed their coffins in the process.  Despite not sensing any more evil, we ventured further into the cave and verified that the glowing stone was still untouched in the bottom of the pool.

Confident that we had left the world safer than we found it, we returned to Aiwan to warn the city guard of the looming vampiric threat, and to discuss the mysteries we had unearthed with the rest of our party.

View
Fallen Friends and Flights of Fear
Challenger Approaching! A new foe has appeared.

Ever since I arrived in these forsaken northlands, I have felt that Pelor was… testing me? training me? Placing in my path, no matter where we journeyed, stronger and stronger foes. Rewarding me as we bested them one by one with greater and greater power. Leading me ever forward to some unknown destiny, probably in the depths of his great temple.

But for the first time, about a week ago, our band came across a foe we had no chance yet of besting.

After our encounter with the vampire spawn in the ruins of the keep, and Jory's bizarre and troubling flight into the blackness we had left unexplored, I spent much time researching. Where there are lesser spawn, there must assuredly have been a more powerful vampiric force, and I sought all the information I could find, from the library of a half-orc priest in town named Malthu, and in letters I sent south to the order's fortress, on means of combating vampires.

But even all this foreknowledge was not enough. We returned to the keep, the sun shining with the brightness of midday (our group was Oz, Aldo, Ducky, and I, and Snorri came along as well, eager to add a vampire to his list of kills), and saw that, true to the goblin message that had been left for us at the town gates, the keep bailey was abandoned. It appeared Grok and his crew had fled in haste, leaving behind their stores and equipment, much of it now streaked with blood. An ominous silence hung like fog from the walls. 

Planning to travel down the main hallway to the room we had first encountered the spawn, we came down the same stairway we had descended last time, but heard as we did the sound of feet scurrying away into the darkness.

As soon as we came around the bend into the larger underground passage, we could see the misshapen goblinoid forms of the two vampire spawn waiting for us ahead, clearly reformed after the last fight. But now a third shadow appeared in the darkness at the edge of the firelight. It stood with a calmer and more assured posture than he used to have, and though the light was faint, the way it reflected off his sallow skin was… wrong, but… there could be no doubt. It was Jory.

And yet not. Though he may yet stand and walk and talk (and fight) and believe himself to be the same man, whatever power he found in the depths of the keep has killed him as surely as any blade through the heart. That it reanimated his body and corrupted his soul is only further desecration done to our departed companion.

The creature greeted us as friends in Jory's voice, and delivered some detestable speech about the new "power" he had gained, about how we should "join" him and bring "order" to a disordered world. It was the same drivel that the tyrants and villains of stories ages old tell themselves to ease their sinner's mind about the deal they have made with the literal forces of darkness. It was nonsense. My friends, without a god's light to see as clearly as I could the shadow that had replaced Jory's soul, gave his words more attention than they were worth, but being ultimately good-hearted (or at least fiercely independent) fellows, they joined me in resistance when I drew my hammer and declared an end to the pointless palaver.

The spawn rushed at us down the hallway, and after they had exchanged a few ineffectual blows with Snorri, I channeled Pelor's light through my amulet, and again drove the unhallowed creatures away back into the depths. We had a more important foe to fight.

But this new Jory was beyond our power to combat. He moved with blinding speed past us and into a smaller room in the corner between the two main passageways, and though it allowed us to surround him from both sides, such advantage was wasted.

Oz, Aldo, and Ducky shot at him many times but in a blur he sidestepped the arrows and bolts as easily as if they had been casually tossed stones, and even silvered and magically charged Snorri's and my weapons could find no purchase as he dodged and deflected with his bracers.

When he struck back against Snorri and connected a stunning blow, I watched in horror as the dwarf seemed to wither and grow sallow in an instant, and the few scratches we had made on Jory's skin closed over. When he lashed out at me, I could feel the energy being drained out of me, like a rope being pulled straight through my heart, my vision growing darker and my knees nearly buckling. 

This was not a fight we could win.

We began our retreat, and trying to keep his attention, I unleashed all the divine energy I could muster into a few attacks that actually seemed to impact solidly, with bright flashes, on the creature's chest. Then, relying on the one bit of new knowledge that proved of good use, I drew out again the holy amulet, and though its light seemed dimmer in those shadows, it was enough to stop Jory in his tracks. He glared in calm fury at me, but would come no closer. After a pause he rushed off to try and catch my friends as they went up the stairs, but I had bought them enough time, and as I slowly ascended step by step, keeping the amulet focused on Jory the whole time, he laid not another hand on us that day.

As we fled back into the sunlight, Jory taunted us repeatedly with his offer to join him in his infernal pact, and before I stepped away and let the amulet drop, I urged him, if there was any of our past companion still within that blackened heart, to follow me outside and put himself to rest permanently, in the sun's divine light. But he simply returned to the darkness.

As we caught our breath in the empty courtyard, recovering from the first fight we had truly lost since we began adventuring together, we heard the howl of wolves. Maybe smelling blood in the air, a large pack, ten or so, had come a'hunting. 

Quickly springing back into battle order, Oz deployed one of the arcane blasting disks we had found in that very keep in the gateway, and the resulting explosion when the first few of the wolves ran over it was an effective way to kick off what became a chaotic battle. Weakened as we were, I was first dragged from my mount, and then Snorri and I both tripped to the ground while trying to fight off the swarm of fur and teeth, but Oz pulled us back within the safety of the keep gatehouse before we could be overwhelmed, and the wolves were forced into the narrow passageway and quickly cut down. Aethon himself felled a few of the beasts that foolish enough to stray too close to his flaming hooves.

We returned to down, heads hanging low, and tried to recover, each in our own ways. I'm sure all in the tavern gave Oz a wide berth as he sulked over his ale. As I knelt in prayer for the coming of the dawn, I could feel the dark energy Jory had inflicted upon me worming it's way around my body, trying to find permanent purchase, but I focused hard, and as the first light of the sun peeked above the horizon, I could feel it surrender and disperse like the steam off of morning dew. Snorri too was able to fight off its dark claws, whether from his natural hardiness or sheer force of will. 

Disheartened and thoroughly cowed by the ease with which the thing-that-had-been-Jory had driven us off, and eager to exact some petty revenge on the forces of darkness, we set off a few days later for a quick trip to map out more of the dungeons beneath the temple of light.

Making our way quickly over familiar ground and through the already cleared floors of the dungeons, we came to the cave branch that led further into the ground. As we followed it down, we came to another tunnel off the main path (which continued to spiral down into the darkness) and followed this split to see what lay on this level. It was more stonework rooms and passageways, in similar style to the architecture above, but the darkness seemed even more oppressive on this level, and foul runes and stains of evil smelling filth littered the walls and floors. 

Behind one door, we came upon a demon with black skin and a single large horn. It seemed uneager to engage in direct combat with us, though magically powerful, and though Snorri and I landed blows that seemed to wound it just fine, there was some sort of acid on his skin that tried to eat away at our blades after wounding it. Before long, the creature was looking weak, but before we could cut it down entirely, it chanted some foul spell and disappeared in a small puff of dark energy. It seems even in the choking fires of hell, there are cowards to be found. Heh.

We remained on edge after that, watching all directions as we moved deeper in for the demon to reappear and attack again, like the thing that hunted Aldo on the Wizard's isle, but we did not see it again.

As we reached another room, we heard the clanking of a great many chains, and as we carefully moved around the next corner, we could see the room ahead was filled with those chains, hanging from the ceiling, and dancing sporadically around, though there was no wind or movement at all in the air.

From within that metal forest, a woman-devil charged at us, wrapped up herself in similar chains, and wielding them like barbed whips at us. Oz took a few blows from these weapons as our group fought our way forward and close enough to strike back, but after a short fight we cut her down, giving her no opportunity to flee like the demon before.

After this fight, the floor itself nearly gave us more trouble than the demons that trod it. Having detected some sort of trigger on a door in our way, Aldo urged as all to stand back as he fiddled with the mechanism. He uttered a surprised curse and jumped back lightning quick as a pit opened up on either side of the door, leading to a nasty spiked pit below. A close call to be sure for the little halfling.

We backtracked and found our way to the other side of the pit from a different direction. In the next room down the hall, a striking sight greeted us. A great door set into the wall, carved into the shape of a horde of skeletal limbs, interlocked across the door's surface and impossible to count. In the center was a panel, and lo and behold there was an indentation that matched exactly the relief on my holy amulet! There was a great deal of good natured ribbing of Oz then, who had been so eager to sell off the raw platinum of the original before I could make a casting. Luckily better sense had prevailed then, and though the imperfections of the replication meant it took some forcing and wiggling, I was able to slot the amulet with a satisfying click into the door. When I turned it and then removed it from the panel, the door began to sink into the ground with a rumble.  

The room beyond was coated, floors and walls and ceiling, with innumerable skeletons, as if they had been plastered or carved from the stone, but these were clearly true bone, and the creation of that room remains a mystery.

Within stood a fearsome sight. A skeletal creature, but not truly a skeleton of any living being, stood cloaked in the shadows, a grinning mouth filled with far too many teeth, and each of its long arms ending in many sharp claws of bones, which before our very eyes seemed to shiver and blink, at one moment being like normal fingers, at another stretching out to a great length.

Being old hands now at fighting skeletons, we pulled out what bludgeoning weapons we had, Snorri and I our warhammers, Aldo his club, and Oz turned his axes around to improvise hammers out of the flat edges behind the blades.

The creature lashed out at us from 20 feet away as we approached, but it had trouble cutting through mine and the dwarves' armor. Whenever we would charge up and land a blow, it would quickly retreat, forcing us to advance slowly through the storm of claws it created or risk taking hits to close the distance quickly.

But soon enough it had run out of room to retreat as we forced it into the room's corner, and without space to take advantage of its reach, we smashed it down in short order.

Though there was more of that floor to explore, and indeed Talys' research leads me to believe the next fiend, the fiend of beasts, lies further on "beyond the chamber of bone down in the caves", we decided to return then to town, cautious of overextending ourselves after the fight with the vampires.

P.S.

Among some of the treasures we found in the bone-clawed creatures lair was a small brass urn, stoppered with lead and decorated with scrolls and runes. From the mouth of the urn, even through the stopper, issued a thin stream of smoke. We thought it nothing extraordinary at first, though when Oz and Aldo each handled the urn they reported feeling a great discomfort, and were unwilling to hold onto the metal for very long at all. My mind being distracted by thoughts of the vampires, I didn't pay much attention to what they had mentioned, though thinking back when I placed the urn in the pack I felt as if a great weight had been removed from my shoulders.

However, when I took the urn to Aeven to be identified, along with the rest of that batch of treasures, she nearly fell backwards out of her chair in shock, explaining that there was a miniscule chance every time a magical item was created that a form of sentience would spring into being within the item. So had apparently happened with this "Eversmoking Bottle" as she described it.

She warned that these intelligences always had motivations of their own, and that there was risk sometimes of the items dominating their users in service of those motivations if the users were unwilling to comply. But the force of will of the spirit was proportional to the strength of the magic in the item, and this one was weak enough that she believed there was little chance of it being able to overpower one of us. It was not even strong enough to use true language, as some could, communicating purely through flashes of emotion.

With this new knowledge revealed, I took a detour on the way back to my room to test out this new trinket. Walking out beyond the walls into the empty fields between the town and the edge of the forest, I unstopped the bottle, and was instantly surrounded by a thick bank of black smoke, blocking all sight and vision. As I stood in the cloud, I could feel a tug from afar, as if a thin string was pulling the bottle in my hand from afar, and I became sure that the spirit within wished to return to the temple and fight the darkness within. That the spirit's goals align with my own was an immediate comfort, and makes me curious if it was created long ago by the original defenders of the temple. I uttered the command to reseal the bottle, and fought my way out of the cloud towards town. I'm not sure how much use the bottle itself will be, since it blinds me as instantly as it does my enemy. If our group is forced again to retreat perhaps it will prove useful then. But perhaps there is more to its power that I shall discover when we return inevitably to the depths of the temple.

As my sight began to return at the edge of the smoke, I turned back and stopped suddenly, seeing within the faintest hint of two figures battling within. I tried to focus my eyes on them, but the breeze picked up, and whipped away the last remnants of the smoke as I strained.

I returned then to town, and I have not told any of my compatriots of the true nature of the bottle, beyond its original magical effects. It is clear the intelligence within would be unwilling to be carried by my more… free-spirited friends anyway, and since its desires and what I feel to be my ultimate quest in this land align so well… it feels… right, that the bottle should remain with me for now.

Though I am not sure yet what that vision in the smoke portends, I feel confident, even after our first real setback, that I am in the right place, doing the right things. Though the shortcut to power that the fallen Jory took puts him currently out of reach of my cleansing vengeance, I am sure that in time, even he will pale and cower before the heights of might and glory I shall reach if I only keep following the sun's light.

View
From the Pen of the Hand of the Mind of Valence V. Vaughn


Oh diary, much has transpired since last I had chance to put quill to parchment! In addition to being a misunderstood artificer prodigy, I am now a bonafide adventurer and illicit vendor of artisanal magiccraft! Isn't that marvelous! Ah, but I am getting ahead of myself. Let me recount the events as they transpired lest I deprive you of even a single exciting detail.
The journey to Aiwan was without incident. The trip overland passed quickly and I soon found myself staring at the gates of this hardy frontier outpost. I must admit, the city, if I dare call it that, is not without its rugged charms. I have no doubt that spending some time away from the overbearing Guild, with their pesky "regulations," "safety precautions," and "ethics", will allow me to give my research the focus it deserves.
With almost preternatural destiny, I found myself thrust amongst a company of brave and hardy souls seeking to travel beyond the wall into the unexplored hinterlands beyond. They invited me to join, no doubt sensing my innate fascination with the unknown and an untapped potential prowess in battle.
Now, ensconced amidst the embrace of Hindsight, the crystal-lensed spyglass that she is, it strikes me as curious that they welcomed me so quickly, seeking precious little in the way of details around the reasons for my sudden appearance in town or the circumstances of my abrupt departure from my previous place of employ. One could forgive me for being concerned that they might be accustomed to a, how to put this… rapid turnover amongst their number, fearing to grow too attached lest the mighty wilds claim their cheer as well as their companions.
No matter! We will be the best of friends. Oh yes! I can feeeeeel it. We will all feel it. In our bones.
Friends!
Passing beyond the borders of civilization, our ragtag party soon found ourselves outside a goblin hovel of prodigious size and smell. It reeked of goblin. The tribe's leader, Throk? Thrunk? Grunt? is apparently some sort of goblin mastermind who on a prior occasion, if I understood him correctly, connived the party into committing genocide on his behalf? (Additional details were not immediately forthcoming from my new friends, I'll have to remember to ask them about it later). 
Upon entering the catacombs, our party was almost immediately beset upon by a great and furious … Cube-thing. Massive, about the size of eight or nine horses boiled at length down to their constituent particles and forced to recongeal into a regular polyhedron, and as transparent as the muggy air above an open sewer. It was terrifying. Really, it was. Maybe you had to be there. It did almost kill all of us. Well, Oz. It almost killed Oz. The Cube… "cubed" at him with part of its cube-ness, paralyzing the Dwarf. But before further harm could befall the grizzled warrior, Jorven summoned one of her sacrificial hell-hounds to distract the beast (Why one would engage in extensive study so as to magically forge quasi-sentient beasts only to immediately doom them to a painful journey back to discorporate non-existance is beyond my comprehension, but I suspect our dear Jorven may have had an unhappy childhood).  Nevertheless, the hell-beast diligently went to its grim fate, halfheartedly blasting the Cube with fire and forthwith absorbed into the monster's translucent squarelyness. (Truth be told, I was a little disappointed that Oz did not take its place; administering Heat Metal upon his armor while inside the Cube would have made for a fascinating experiment.) Oh, and then we killed it (the Cube). (NOTA BENE: the remnants of such monsters may have utility in the cleaning of fine metal instruments. Or maybe a poison, but like for torture. Either way a possible untapped MARKET OPPORTUNITY!!!)
Our next confrontation was with a pair of squirrelly undead folk. I initially assumed them to be a fellow party of lost travelers, but before pleasantries could be exchanged, Rost produced a glowing charm of religious iconography and our erstwhile friends were driven, gibbering and afraid, into the recesses of the feshly-illuminated room. The rest of the party set upon them with gleeful ferocity. This did not strike me as particularly sporting, but Rost's stern, unwavering gaze (his eyes were also glowing, did I mention that?) convinced me to keep my observations to myself. Besides, why spoil everyone else's fun?
The pair resembled goblins in both countenance and stench, but the rest of the party assures me they were most definitely vampires (to be fair, our foes did burst into a dark miasma of shadow and flies that fled of its own volition, a trait not typically associated with goblins (NOTA BENE: Preliminary experimental evidence suggests that such vile vampire-goblin vapor is not damaged by the throwing of currency)) 
Oh yes, at some point we found some giant magic rocks. They seemed super magic, but Rost chucked them into his Sack before I had a chance to see if they could be disintegrated into magical essence. (TODO: Can they???)
Next our journey took us to a suspicious pile of rocks, or as our Dwarven compatriots informed me, a suspicious pile of clearly-not-rocks. It was a mimic, laying in wait, no doubt to crush our party as we walked within striking distance. Fortunately, the element of surprise was on our side! Or, it would have been, if we had not universally missed every attempt to damage a beast which was, without exaggeration, fully as big as the large side of a mid-sized barn. Thus alerted to our presence, the mimic set upon us and the usual assortment of fisticuffs and sacrifical-hellhound-summoning ensued until it was eventually defeated. Ooh, but I did administer a combat mixture, a sulpher-based pyrotransacetic unguent. That was fun.
What else? Oh yes, there were some particularly fleshy ceiling-dwelling arthropods. Apparently they developed in an environment free of ranged weapons, as they were ill-equiped to defend themselves from our bows, arrows, slings, spells, or, as it turned out, the cave floor. Regrettably, their grotesque visage combined with the stress of easy combat proved overwhelming to poor Jory. The young monk, in an entirely unexpected and, dare I say, unwarranted, fit of self-destruction threw himself, alone, down a darkened hallway. His final scream still echoes in my nightmares.
Regardless, I am sure Jory is super-dead and never to be seen again. 
After that, we turned our attention to vacating the catacombs without arousing the suspicions of the Goblin dwellers above. This was a simple matter of utilizing scrolls of Invisibility and Silence (Yours Truly) and rolling around in slug offal (Everyone Else) It is fortunate I was present; if left to their own devices, Grunk would have talked the party out of their treasure and, no doubt, sold them a used donkey for good measure.
That's all for now, diary! Tomorrow I rise at dawn to start work on my first custom piece; an Amulet of Natural Armor. Fingers crossed this turns out better than my last ill-fated attempt! Fortunately this time countervailing umbramatics are not involved and I have the power of Friendship on my side! Oh, and I've got a hot lead on a property for rent; a large warehouse just came on the market!
Talk to you soon!
Valen

View
The Mystery of the Magical Meteors
Fail hydra

David Galloway cornered me the other day and pointed out that it had been several weeks since he received word of our party’s forays north of the wall. He was starting to grow suspicious as we would venture out and return bloodied.  Being the slightest one there, I’d wager that I presented an easy target for his entreaty.  Normally, I’d shrug off such a request and go to the bar to listen to the drunken ramblings of people with more coin than sense, but Mr. Galloway is putting me up in nicer accommodations, so fulfilling his request seems like the prudent choice.  My ability to recall events from over a fortnight ago isn’t the best, so consider this an abridged version of what was a journey fraught with peril, and having exactly the right number of handsome halflings.

The Party

  • Aldo
  • Rost
  • Oz
  • Ducky
  • Bing Bong
  • Jory

When Oz and I visited the Blackfoots, they were attacked by a strange orb of light they referred to as “The Swamp Star.” It had been terrorizing their village for some time, and they beseeched us to eliminate the threat (with a promise of a feast the likes of which we had never seen).

This adventure, the party set out for the black swamp – the source of the attacks.  We made good time, but soon became bogged down by the muddy ground and low-slung mist that surrounded the swamp.  It was because of this visibility impediment that we inadvertently stumbled upon two giant reptiles that were guarding something.  After we refused to turn back, they came for us.  Despite the hostile terrain, we slayed both of them and pushed on.

We soon came upon a clearing.  What immediately drew our attention were two large pyramid-like structures several hundred yards in. The nearest had a glowing orb being tended to by a lizard person with flowing robes, while the other had two dimmer orbs being guarded by two lizards.  Additionally, there appeared to be a lizard pen in the center.

Realizing that the glowing globes were most likely the cause of the “swamp star” phenomenon, we decided that we needed to intervene with our particular brand of diplomacy.  There was only one thing keeping us from our target – a rapidly flowing stream spanned by a dangerous-looking bridge. For a being as nimble as I, this presented no issue. However, the party was not entirely comprised of halflings, so we had to mitigate things by running rope across the bridge for others to grasp in the event of catastrophe.  We were almost successful, but Bing Bong stumbled and took a dip.  Oz dove in to save him, and, using the ropes, we pulled them to shore.  They were waterlogged, but none the worse for wear.

Once dried off, we needed to figure out how to take down the inhabitants of both pyramids.  They were stepped structures (research later identified them as being “ziggurats”), so there was a way forward that allowed us to avoid detection by the creature we now suspected as being a lizard priest at the peak.

We slowly ascended the closer of the two buildings, formulating a plan for taking down its inhabitant: Ducky – the bard with the fancy shoes – would sprint to the top of the ziggurat with a looped rope, which he would throw around the priest.  The rest of the party (save for Jory who was hanging on the ledge as back-up) would then yank on the rope to pull the priest out of sight of the other ziggurat, driving him to the ground.

It worked exactly as planned, except the priest didn’t succumb to injury.  Instead, he morphed into a giant hydra, with more heads than Jory had common sense. I say that because the monk immediately leaped from the top of the pyramid and onto the back of the creature.  Our party battled the hydra, and, despite Jory being knocked senseless and requiring aid, we managed to defeat the hellacious creature.

This time we all scaled to the top and investigated the orb.  It appeared to be made out of a crystal that ceased glowing when it was removed from the pedestal.  By this point, our presence was noted, so we pocketed the stone and quickly retreated into the woods, attempting to circle around the clearing and avoid the lizard pen in the center.

At this point, Oz’s eagle, Horus, proved his value as he pinpointed the enemy on our tail.  Realizing that we were moving faster than them, we pressed forward to the base of the other ziggurat.  We realized that we had been spotted by the warriors atop this pyramid, so, without fanfare, we ascended the steps and met our enemy head-on.

This battle, too, passed without significant damage to the party. Maybe we’re cut out for this adventuring thing after all?  The orbs here weren’t glowing, leading us to believe that they were inert until placed atop the other ziggurat’s pedestal.  We grabbed the two and scoured the area for anything pocketable.  Sure enough, we hit paydirt – a secret entrance on the top of the first pyramid opened down into what appeared to be the priest’s living quarters.  We liberated the chamber of its valuables as payment for our troubles, and then hurried back to Aiwan.  After seeing that horrific hydra up close, we all needed a stiff drink.

View
The Fell Deeds of a Petty War
One HobGobMobKabob, Charcoal Grilled

Pelor's radiance shines a little brighter on the Northern wastes today, but the sharper light casts deeper shadows, and the fiercer sun scorches more easily all who walk un-carefully in its light.

Having settled for a little longer the question of the dangerous magic metals of the eastern way, our group turned at last our attention to what we figured as the source of the Hobgoblin threat that had harried us so often in our travels and that had been so eager to occupy the stronghold at Hightower so close to Aiwan: The "war camp" that had been described to us by the Blackfoot goblins, and whose smoke had been spotted off to the west when first reaching the northern hills.

Oz and Aldo, ever the most helpful and interested in the 'goblinoid' portions of our adventures, came along on this outing with me, as did Jorven and one of our newer members, Snorri, who is quickly proving himself a most valuable ally in the thick of battle, even if his… enthusiasm for violence puts me sometimes ill at ease, more often even than Oz's occasional moments of, hmm, moral disinterest.

As we traveled through the hills into the north, Oz and I mounted, the rest on foot, we had the mixed fortune of stumbling directly into the path of a mounted patrol of eight hobgoblins, presumably from the very camp we were journeying to attack. Unfortunately we had no advance notice of their appearance, but thankfully they also had not spotted us. A scrambling fight began.

Knowing the tendency of these foes to flee on their horses when combat went sour for them, we strove in this matter to keep them from escaping and warning the camp of our approach. Oz pulled a new trick from his bag, attuning with the grassland around us to animate a large patch of weedy tendrils just as the patrol charged us, tying down their horses and limiting their movement heavily. Some got stuck trying to pull free from the grass while others managed to force their way out of the circle and into our waiting arms, but their formation was shattered and one by one we cut them down in short order.

While these hobgoblins are foul creatures of evil, the horses they possessed seem no worse for being ridden by such masters, and as they began to disperse after the battle, we managed to corral five of the eight, and herd the remaining three to bolt in a direction opposite the warcamp, leaving no trace of the patrol to return and warn them of our coming. Now all our party was mounted, and we could make much greater speed.

After a few more hours of travel we spied our first glance of the encampment. Up on the tallest hill in the area, perched above a fast-flowing stream it was, ringed all around with a wooden palisade. Until now, we had been unsure of what type of defenses the hobgoblins had established, and so this sight was mostly a relief. The camp was surely well defendable against open assault, but the palisade was not even twice my height, easy enough to climb, and hardly impregnable. 

From here on we stuck to the gullies and lowlands between the hills, working our way slowly closer while staying out of sight, until Aldo could dismount and sneak to the top of a hill some three hundred feet from the walls and get us a better scouting report. At this closer distance he was able to discern that an inner layer of palisade separated off the largest building from the rest of the camp. 

Assuming this was probably their leader's hall, and knowing that while a snake with its head removed at the first blow may twitch still, but is ultimately doomed, we set a plan in motion.

Tying off our mounts in a thicket out of sight in a depression in the land, we approached under cover of midnight until nearly to the foot of the last hill. Then with the aid of a scroll purchased from Aeven, Jorven cloaked us all in magic un-sight, and our close formation scrambled up the hill to the foot of the palisade behind the large hut, unseen by any watchers on the walls. Aldo and Oz scrambled up the logs, tied off a rope at the top, and our group lifted ourselves over the edge, landing on a platform that ran along the top edge the whole length of the palisade.

We dropped down into the grass behind the large building, not a soul in sight and only the sound of our armor and gear creaking in the night. As Aldo silently scouted around the edge of the building, the last whorls of the invisibility magic dispersing around us, he spied three horse-sized dire wolves sleeping lightly in the space in front of the hut, and noted that only a space in the palisade, not any inner gate, divided this building from the rest of the huts below. 

With this information gathered, he and Oz quietly pushed open a back door they had found into the hut and looked around in the darkness, finding many trophies and weapons on the wall, animal skin rugs scattered on the floor, and a number of benches arranged around a central firepit, now extinguished.

They heard another door creak and ducked behind the furniture just in time to see the chief hobgoblin emerge from what they immediately assumed was his bed chambers. Figuring there was no time like the present to begin our assault, Aldo popped up from his cover and loosed a bolt at the chieftain, with Oz quickly following his lead. They scored two brutal hits, and from the wounded howls of the chieftain we knew the battle had begun, and the three of us rushed in to aid our campatriots.

The battle that followed was relatively quick, and though the chieftain's mate emerged from the bedchambers to aid him, and the chieftain himself doffed a few potions to heal and blur himself in combat, they were quickly taken down. Snorri cut down the wife as she attempted to heal her downed husband, and the chief died on the ground, wracked with spasms from the acid Jorven had pierced deep into his chest with her wand. An unceremonious and painful end for these two, but those who wage war on stouthearted men and the other races who love the sun's light deserve no better fate.

Now, however, our night began in earnest, as we heard the howl of the dire wolves, awakened by the sound of the fight, as they pawed at the front door. We quickly dragged the two bodies back into their chambers, trying to remain undetected for as long as possible, but a night watchman opened the front doors just before we could close the inner portal and saw our party. Aldo loosed another bolt, his well-aimed crossbow punching a brutal tear through the hobgoblin's throat and he fell back, dead in a single blow. 

The damage was done, however, and the three wolves now had a way inside. They charged at us as Aldo fell back, and we had a brutal fight with them through the bedchamber door, with Oz blocking the way inside, hewing with his axes at their clawing limbs, even fighting from the floor with the beasts when a lucky blow dragged him to the ground, while Snorri and I aimed blows at any wolf foolish enough to stick its snout through the doorway, and Aldo and Jorven loosed their attacks from afar. 

The wolves were taken down in quick enough order, certainly less of a threat than the awful lion from weeks past, and we had a brief respite from the siege. Aldo ran to the front door and shut it, but not before noticing the growing crowd of dim shapes in the dark, including three that were definitely not hobgoblin sized. It seems the ogres we killed at Hightower were not the only ones these creatures had recruited to their forces. We had little time to act before the hulking giants would surely crash down the door. 

We all scrambled at once then, Aldo picking at the chest at the foot of the chieftain's bed and finding it locked, while I stripped the corpses of any valuables and found a key in the process. Tossing it to Aldo, he opened the chest, and managed to dodge mostly out of the way when a spray of darts sprung from it, the trap un-noticed in our haste, and took only a few small pricks. He and Jorven then sorted through the numerous contents of the chief's treasure hoard, identifying the magic items for later and shoveling all the coins and gear and scrolls into our bag as quick as we could. 

As we heard the first crash of an ogre crashing his bulk at full speed into the door, we had come to a moment of decision. We might have time to flee with our treasure, the hobgoblins now leaderless, and avoid further danger. But we had not come to be assassins, we had come to eradicate one more cancer from the lands of the north. Pulling one of my pints of oil from my bag, unused since we had found the everburning torch, I shattered it upon the roof where it met the wall, dousing the thatch in oil, and set my flint and sparks to the straw. The flames had just caught and begun to lick their way up the inside of the ceiling when the door gave in and the ogres burst into the hall. 

Though there was some indecision among the party as to whether we should flee or fight, in the end I was confident, having taken out two such creatures without too much danger before, that we could best these foes, and taking up position to protect Aldo and Jorven, who had quickly fled back out into the back yard, I urged the two stout dwarves to make a fighting retreat back outside the back door, and fight the larger foes in another chokepoint. 

This fight was as fierce as that with the dire wolves, and I can now say I understand all rumor of the enmity between dwarves and giants, as Oz and the ogres raged in close quarters. My pink-bearded friend, and Snorri too, avoided numerous blows of the ogres clubs by merge inches, or made perfect last millisecond parries. One by one, we slayed the oversized brutes.

The fire had spread in our battle, and the hall had filled with smoke. The blaze threatened to engulf the whole structure at any moment. Aldo made one last sprinting pass through the main chamber to check for any missed treasures, as Snorri and Oz claimed their trophies from our eight kills (sigh). 

Emboldened by our victory over the ogres, we decided we should certainly do more damage to the war camp than just the one building, but decided to use the attention we had surely earned to our advantage. We climbed back up the platform we had come in over, noting over the roof of the hall the crowd of hobgoblins trying now in vain to quench the growing inferno, and, still unspotted by the bulk of their forces, hopped back over the palisade. Staying as close to the wall as possible, and thus un-seeable by anyone inside unless they craned their whole neck over the edge, we made our way around to the front gate, which would now be nearly behind the direction in which we were sure all the hobgoblins would be paying attention. We prepared a brace of firebombs from our remaining supply of oil, and climbed the palisade once more.

In our eagerness, no one in our party spotted the hobgoblin guard standing not thirty feet to our left on the platform as we climbed over, or if Oz did he had not the time to warn us as the rest of the group ascended. Thankfully, the guard was staring raptly towards the blaze higher on the hill, and saw us not. He turned only at the sound of my boots thunking onto the wood, and Aldo had managed to retrieve his crossbow and quickly silenced yet another watchman before he could make more than a grunt. His body slumped against the inner wall of the palisade and we were inside, undetected, yet again. 

Taking a moment to light the cloth fuses of the firebombs, and divide them amongst the party, we slipped down into the camp proper (Oz for some reason decided he should jump straight from the palisade platform onto the roof of his chosen hut, the showboater) and set fires in the thatch of five more huts. Just as we each finished, a few hobgoblins came down from the chieftain's hill, presumably to collect more water from the central well, saw the new fires, and raised shouts of alarm.

We had about a minute to reform our party in the central plaza, as the bulk of the hobgoblin popoulation formed up into a clump and advanced towards us. 

It was only now that a few of the more attentive members of the party pointed out what I had not noticed, the sound of crying come from the buildings around us, including those we had set alight. Then, the details of the approaching crowd became clearer: It was not a formation of soldiers, but a mob of hobgoblins, bedecked in cloth, not in armor, bearing pitchforks and spades and torches, not weapons of war. A sudden realization came upon us then,  that this was not the fortifications of an army, but rather a hobgoblin village

The slimy goblins had lied, surely hoping to take advantage of our enmity with the hobgoblins to trick us into purging this settlement and weakening their enemies! I felt a great rage within me then, as well as a shuddering, doubtful horror. Burning children is not a valiant act, even children of such a foul and evil race, and villagers are hardly an appropriate foe for battle-hardened veterans. Deeds as these are not why I ventured so far from my home.

But we had barred no doors, prevented no women or children from simply fleeing the fires, nor yet killed anyone who was not armed for battle, and it was too late to talk down the angry mob advancing towards us. Now it was a matter of survival.

Reading from the last of the scrolls we had bought Jorven summoned a storm of sleet on top of the mob, blocking all vision as the winds and icy particles swirled in the night, and Oz created another patch of magical entanglement beneath them, buying us twenty-odd seconds of tense peace as the mob fought its way forward, out of sight. Oz perched on the edge of his roof, just within the storm. I put away my spear and armed myself with sword and shield against the coming onslaught, Snorri took the time to set fire to a few more buildings, while Aldo and Jorven shot bolts, of steel and acid, into the black tempest, the results impossible to discern.

Then the crowd broke free of the plants and the sleet with much ragged, raging yelling, and enveloped Snorri and I. Chaos was unleashed. Within the storm of combat I slashed blindly and widely, cutting through tunics and hewing the wooden shafts of their improvised weapons, slamming my shield out to try and clear room, dazed non-stop from the constant blows landing from all directions on my amor. I saw from the corner of my eye Oz step off from his roof with a shout and land in the middle of the crowd, a veritable whirlwind of axe blades, while the barbarian cries of Snorri echoed through the village alleys as he cleaved the hobgoblins down two, three, four at a time.

I barely managed to stagger out from the crowd just before I blacked out from the never ending shock of the impacts on my steel, and quaffed the potion at my belt, before the two dwarven bladesmen thinned out the crowd to the point that, at last, the villagers realized they had lost this fight, and fled in all directions. 

We let them go, hopefully to collect their children, and pursued them not as the town emptied out, leaving us standing in the plaza, the blood pooling in the grass. Soon the only sounds left were the crackling of the fire and the guttural noises of pain from those hobgoblins still dying on the ground. 

As the wind picked up and began to spread embers from roof to roof, we made a pass through the remaining area, finding a few carts and loading them with our trophies, and all the supplies of value we could find throughout the village. It was not much in money, really, especially compared to the chieftain's hoard, but they were quality goods, if a little rough in make, and it seemed senseless to let them go to waste in the fire after all that tasteless bloodshed.

We found too a cage, further into town in another plaza, containing six goblins, prisoners apparently of the turf war we had become embroiled in. Oz and Aldo let them go, and surely this tale will spread and only further our infamy amongst the goblinoids of this land. So be it. Maybe if the rumors paint us as unstoppable monsters in their eyes, they will try less to spread from the mountains towards Aiwan, and more villagers might spare themselves the wrath of the cleansing fire.

Dragging the carts behind us as we left by the back gate and returned to our horses, we prepared our train for the journey ahead, and left behind the village, now entirely consumed by fire as even the palisade blazed in places. 

As dawn broke, we crested one last hill and looked back to the blackened ruin. This was not a night of valor and purity, and its outcome does not make me… happy, but you must first venture into darkness before you can there bring light, and I know the greater good of Pelor is well served now that one less threat is within reach of Aiwan's walls. These hobgoblins from the first had made the aggressive moves, ambushing us in Hightower and in the wilds, and seeking to establish a stronghold so close to the great wall by retaking Hightower in force. We have only responded in turn. Evil spreads if a good man does nothing.

I close this entry noting a growing dissatisfaction with our "truce" with the goblins, an arrangement I only just tolerated from the start. Fighting a mutual enemy is one thing, but now I feel our band has been used by those loathsome, sneaking creatures, and I am sure the time will soon come when "peace" with them is no longer a burden worth bearing. We shall see…

We turned back towards home and descended from the hills, leaving only smoke.

View
The Cave

The Party

  • Ducky
  • Bing Bong
  • Oz
  • Rost
  • Aldo
  • Fenor

 

As told through Fenor:  Upon entering a dark cave shortly after defeating a Soulspark, the group discusses their next moves as they examine their surroundings.  Inside the cave, all that could be seen was darkened water that led to the unknown.  Oz bravely takes a step into the water and dives down descending into the blackened depths of the opaque water only to return with two globes.  As he had to carry them up one by one, due to their ability to shock him upon touch, Oz attempted to pack them in his sack, not knowing what they were or what they were capable of doing.  

 

The entire group decided to trust in blind faith and venture down into the water, even though it was hard to see.  Coming up on the other side, the group was able to see four figures in the room guarding a centered piece, later identified as a glowing orb.  Combat initiated after the midnight creatures were charged at by a few of the group, while others stood back, still hesitant to completely enter the room and engage.  Ducky, at this point, started walking across the ceiling and eventually landed on the orb, which didn’t stop the combat, but allowed him to examine the orb.  Combat persisted through several rounds as the creatures were not going down easily, but after a long battle, the group was able to defeat their enemies and examine the orb, which Ducky was sitting on.  

 

After inspection of the orb it was examined as potentially able to store magic and energy so the group decided to take the orb and find Durandia.  In order to do this they needed to leave the cave and venture towards the border, where she was known to stay.  While the group traveled through the darkness of night they were met by a terribly hostile creature that after getting close enough, was able to be identified as a bone-armor plated lion.  Ducky needed to use his animal language skills to communicate with the creature but it was easily learned he was not interested in being friends, but very interested in eating the group as a snack.  The creature was tough to defeat in combat as Oz and Bing-bong nearly reached their termination, but in the knick of time they were saved by Rost.  

 

After healing overnight, dawn arose and the group was able to meet up with Durandia, but were not met with praise by her.  Durandia was extremely angered and alerted by the group taking the globes out of the cave water, as they were placed there and around the world in order to decrease their magic potential of destruction.  At this point, the group traveled back to the cave with Durandia and replaced the globes back into the water, but were met by two more soul sparks who had the ability to regenerate health after they were struck in combat.  Durandia stuck around in the background while the group tirelessly battled with the soulsparks until eventually one of them was killed while the other one ran away outside the cave.  

It was decided that now the globes were safely returned, the group wanted to discover the worth of the crystal orb they had obtained at the beginning of their adventure.  Upon returning to town, Aeven is thrilled at the sight of the crystal orb.  “She says it would be a powerful tool for sorting and offers 10,000 gp for it. She also notes that there is about 2,000 in previous metals in the case if you were to scrap it.”  The case the was found, as well, was sold in town after it was revealed to be just raw metals. 

 

 And that’s where our next chapter begins….

View
Return to Hightower

Over the course of our adventures, we seem to have built a working relationship with some of the goblin clans, in particular the Blackfoot and Broken Axe clans. Much of this nigh-positive relationship is predicated upon our mutual distaste for hobgoblins, so when we discovered that hobgoblins had settled into Hightower and were building a war camp— mere hours from Aiwan by horse I might add— we were both dismayed by the proximity and encouraged to action by the prospect of strengthening our burgeoning but tenuous alliance. We agreed: the hobgoblins at Hightower would have to be removed.


We— Ducky, Rost, Oz, Jorri, and myself, Jorven— set off from Aiwan in the early morning and arrived at Hightower by midday.


Upon our arrival, we discovered that much had changed since our last trek to the tor. Two foul ogres stood sentry outside the entrance, and archers hid in waiting as well. Oz and Rost attempted to draw the ogres out of range of the archers, but surprisingly, they did not fall for the trick. Once we regrouped and mounted a combined attack upon them, however, they fell quickly. Jorri learned a lesson about getting within arms’ reach of an ogre, though. I suspect that such a blow to my skull would have left me unconscious.


Upon our success, we passed the barricades, opened the tall doors to the main entrance, and peered inside, ready for battle. We did not have to peer long, however, for no fewer than a baker’s dozen of hobgoblins, grouped and prepared to fight, raised their foul war-cry as the doors creaked open.


Rost gave a chortle— a very paladin thing to do, if you ask me, not that anyone does— and hurled the last bead from his Necklace of Fireballs into a cluster of hobgoblins. In an eruption of flame, half the creatures were instantly dispatched. We fell upon the remainder with justifiable aplomb, and quickly finished, by way of fist, sword, crossbow, and spell, what Rost had so exuberantly begun. 


Upon inspection of the room, it was clear that the hobgoblins had, as had been suspected, been building their supplies and forces. Sacks and crates overflowing with rations were strewn against the walls— most certainly a recipe for a rat infestation, I might add. In hindsight, we may well have pried information about their noxious war-plans from one of their number, but I digress into merest speculation. 


We ventured further into the familiar but newly hobgoblin-inhabited halls of Hightower. I’m not sure how Oz quieted the clanking of his rather vast collection of weaponry, but he scouted our way with unsettling noiselessness. The next creatures to fall before our assault was a group of wargs; despite their ferocity they stood no chance against us, however.


We discovered another group of hobgoblins in a large, domed hall. One amongst their number was more well-armored and generally tougher-looking than the others. As Oz had scouted the way, we tried to leverage our foreknowledge of their forces and trick them into exposing themselves. When insults did not goad them into rash action, Ducky and myself borrowed some of Oz’s spare axes and cast Mage Hand to float them (quite eerily, it may be added) into the room, hoping the hobgoblins were superstitious and would believe them to be wielded by ancient spirits, or perhaps by powerful but slow invisible warriors. Sadly, they were not as gullible as we had believed! Only one hobgoblin threw his javelin at the “invisible threat,” and he was immediately reprimanded by their leader. 


Finally, Oz forced the hobgoblins to expend some javelins by exposing his rump to them. Upon this, we burst ruefully into the hall, Rost, Oz and Jorri forming a wall of steel and muscle, Ducky attacking from above, traversing the ceiling in his spidersilk slippers. I loosed Cracker II from the magical plane, and despite the bite of their multitude of javelins, we dispatched most of the hobgoblins within moments. However, their battle-scarred, heavily armored leader quickly caught the drift of the battle and began climbing a rope up to a hole in the center of the domed ceiling, clearly intending to flee and thus live to fight another day. Oz pursued, ascending rapidly behind him (unbecoming for a dwarf, the most dignified and gravitas-filled of the races, I know, but I suppose it was not entirely unjustified, given his fraught history with hobgoblin leaders).
None of us, though, expected a Drop Gnome.


Unnoticed by the rest of us, Ducky had sprinted up the inside of the dome in his spidersilk slippers, and grabbed onto the hobgoblin’s ankles as he tried to disappear up the hole. With a victorious cry, Ducky wrenched the creature back into the room, and once his grip had been lost, gravity came to our aid and brought him crashing to the ground. Jorri, Rost, and Oz crushed him quickly. We discovered no dearth of high-quality, masterwork items upon the body.
Finally, we battled one more group of hobgoblins, as well as an ambushing warg. Fortunately, as we were deep within Hightower, there was no easy escape route for wounded foes. These fought fiercely, but before too long lay slain like the others. This seemed to be a makeshift vault, and we found a plethora of gold and treasure. 


Having secured the tor— and quite a bit of money— we departed for Aiwan. As we made the trek homewards, I found myself hoping the hobgoblins would learn their lesson and not venture so far to the south. Or at least that if they returned that they would bring more gold with them.

View
Craving Closure from the Chapel
..and breaking in some new adventurers

The Party

  • Ducky
  • Lucky
  • Bing Bong
  • Oz
  • Rost
  • Aldo
  • Fenor
  • Snorri 

The Adventure

We gathered around our usual table in the public room of the Tasty Pig.  By this point, we’d left several open threads of investigation across the continent, and needed to close a few so as to restore peace to some part of the world.  How we transitioned from “take everything that isn’t bolted down,” to “perform this good deed… and take anything that isn’t bolted down,” eludes me, but I think it has something to do with exposure to the plight of others.  We’re not bad people, just differently motivated.

In the midst of our planning, we were approached by two adventurers – a elven sorceress and a dwarven barbarian.  They had heard of our hijinks (apparently the townsfolk had started referring to us as the Adventures of Aiwan) and wanted in.  We sized them up.  They sized us up.  Apparently both sides were okay with what they saw, because they joined forces with us on a trial basis.  Honestly, I was really happy to see people with their skills – having offensive spells, and someone heavy on muscles and a short temper is great for dealing with the more… hands-on parts of adventuring.

We decided to finally clear that accursed chapel.  We had wasted countless days on the moldy, festering passages that zagged beneath the property and desired closure, while Rost, who I believe was motivated by more spiritual needs, wanted to cleanse this once-holy site of its taint.

We set out and encountered no enemies on the grounds of the church.  I hadn't explored this level, but Rost, Ducky, and Bing Bong seemed very familiar with it. Apparently they cleared large portions of it one day, but retreated back to Aiwan once they realized they were outclassed.  Our numbers were far greater this time around, so hopefully the odds would be a little more in our favor.  Rost and Oz led us toward a door they had barricaded last time around.  We opened it and wandered into the dark beyond.

As we approached the end of a hallway, we realized that there was something in the darkness.  The same darkness unnaturally consumed the light from our lanterns.  We engaged the shadowy creature.  After a few puny attacks, including a whiff from your’s truly, the one-two punch of Rost and Oz came down on the poor sod with great efficacy.  The hulking monstrosity collapsed before us.  Whoops.  Being the experienced group of adventurers we are, the body and room were quickly liberated of their wealth.  We marched on.

Not too soon after dispatching the fiend did we arrive upon a dark hallway.  Thinking there might be additional fiends waiting for a beating, we sent a dwarf down the hallway (solely because he could see in the dark).  Of course, dwarves are as graceful as a stubbed toe, and two ghastly visages set upon him and we had to to jump to his rescue.  Of course, we dispatched of them.

That’s not the interesting part, however.  As we were inspecting their hiding spots, someone (not I, otherwise you, the reader, would know it) discovered a lever in the wall.  Upon pulling it, a portion of the wall slid aside and we were presented with a dark room containing a faint moaning.  Nothing could be seen, so we followed Oz’s lead and barged in.  We were immediately confronted by what later analysis classified as a Shadow.  Many attacks fell short as our blows dealt no damage.  However, our new compatriot Fenor proved her worth by launching magic attack after magic attack at the gruesome specter.  Eventually they fell, and we weighed down our pockets with more gold.

We moved on.  Apparently the next room we were to enter was a special one – Rost and Oz even had a sword that was designed to open the door.  What madman invented a door that used a sword as a key?  I’ve seen quite a few locks in my time, and none of the secure ones use a blade as a means to open.  Well, anyway, we put the sword in the door and rushed in.  Almost immediately, I was stuck by a sense of fear.

Now, halflings don’t get scared.  Or so mother told us.  But what I felt was the most excruciatingly bed-wetting of sensations – it was as if my mind shut down for over a minute.  During said time, while I was a prisoner in my own body, I witnessed several members of my party face down a giant fied with burning eyes.  As if that wasn't enough, he (it?) was accompanied by skeleton warriors.

I was finally able to channel my fear into rage and charged forward at the skeletons (a few had started to cower despite not being attacked – it was later revealed that Bing Bong cast Turn Undead).  Everyone started slashing, stabbing, poking and casting.  Snorri was rocked several times by heavy blows and required healing.  Finally, after much effort, the shadow fell, mercifully taking his skeleton horde with him.  We felt that we had finally almost rid this portion of the chapel of the evil that inhabited it, so we ventured on.

Almost immediately after exiting that chamber we hit a suspicious blind corner.  Cursing my lack of low-light vision, I was forced to encourage Oz to move forward.  While he was silent, this time around, his oz-tentatious armor caught the light and drew the attention of a hellhound that was guarding an adjoining room.  After we killed that, we were immediately set upon by a goblin, which we, too, killed.

Eventually, we encountered a ramp that led up a level.  Ye gods, we had (almost) fully explored the chapel!  Some of our more spatially-oriented party members informed us that there were only a few more small chambers to go.  We decided to venture forth and rid the chapel of evil once and for all.

On this new floor, I snuck forward and found an altar not dissimilar from what we had encountered a few weeks back.  This time, however, there was fresh blood spread all about.  I also heard the clanking of armor not too far in the distance.  I retreated back to the party to inform them as to what I discovered.  We moved forward and, eventually, fought a party of several goblins.  They were no problem for us, and were promptly reduced to several gory puddles on the stone floor.  As we moved past we discovered two additional creatures, hobgoblins, lying in ambush while threatening violence against a prisoner (?) that sounded like a goblin.  At this point, momentum was in our favor and we were able to dispatch of them quite easily.

Rather than calling it a day and heading back to Aiwan, Ozymandas, motivated by his unilateral alliance, and me, motivated by my desire to rid this plane of a thing that would displease Elhonna, marched forward to challenge the creature imprisoned within.  It turned out to be a goblin shackled against the wall.  After some discussion with him (my first after completing the “advanced” level Goblin courses in Aiwan), he revealed himself to be a member of the Broken Axe Clan, not explicitly allied with the Blackfoots (Oz’s buddies), but not opposed, either.  After we received his assurances that he wouldn't attack us, we cut him loose and shepherded him to the surface.  We then parted ways, the party headed back to Aiwan, while the maroon mistake scurried back into the woods, hopefully never to be seen again.

We returned to Tasty Pig Tavern after an uneventful trek, and decided that these new warriors weren't too bad.  We could always use more firepower, and they definitely brought it!

View
Mountainous Maladies
The fates keep dragon us down

Party

  • Aldo
  • Rost
  • Ducky
  • Jorvan
  • Oz

The Adventure

This time around, the mystery of the green ball got to us.  Aeven suggested that it was headed in the direction of the island in a lake on a mountain.  Easy to find, right?  Think again – my map is still incomplete (especially after a few weeks puttering around Aiwan while the others ventured out – don't want to get too attached to the party).  Thankfully, this town is far from podunk - they actually have a library!  I visited, hoping to glean some local lore that had thusfar not tickled my earhair.  The librarian, one Mimar Rala, stated that, while his establishment didn't contain any specific knowledge of this area, common logic would dictate that melting ice and snow from mountains run off and turn into rivers.  What a fascinating world this is!  Profusely thanking him, and gratefully palming a coin he refused to accept as thanks, I set out to inform the party of the good news.

We followed the river to the northeast, striking camp when appropriate.  As we got to the mountains, the air started getting crisper, and the wind started getting colder.  We made camp under a bluff and were undisturbed as the night advanced.  When day broke, we broke down camp and marched on to the mountain, continuing to follow the river via a winding path through the foothills.  I shouldn't have agreed to this – while us halflings enjoy a good stroll, my legs were burning.  [Note to self: don't let Rost (a human) set the pace.]

As we crested a particularly steep slope, we were immediately struck by the majesty of a rolling valley and large, tranquil lake, containing not one, but two islands.  For once, I was speechless.  As we approached the shore of the lake, we realized our folly – we didn't have a means to cross the river.  While I suggested that we turn back around to bring a boat, the others, being far more optimistic, recommended that we at least circle the lake to see if there was anything worth finding.  And that's what we did.

As we approached the southwest bank of the lake, we encountered a startling sight – off in the brush was a slumbering green dragon!  Imagine elder Janto.  Now imagine him if he was actually able to eat everything he put on his plate at one of my mother's solstice parties.  Exactly – this thing was gargantuan!  Discretion being the better part of valor, we quickly moved on… or at least, we tried to.  We didn't prepare for dozing dragons, and, as a result, our clinking armor woke it up.  A voice echoed through the beach and shook us to the core.  It asked who we were and what our intentions were.  Thinking it was the still-slumbering beast (I've never seen a dragon before!) we sheepishly begged off, offering to retreat rather than engage.  The voice, as it turns out, was not from the dragon – it was from a fey-like creature that popped out from the bushes.  The dragon, as it turns out, was not from this reality – it was an illusion cast by the fey.  "Illusion."   Tell that to my underclothes.  He claimed to have been just joking around with us, but, after a quick five-minute set of my material, he appeared to be reassessing his misconception of being a comedian.

After some back and forth with the creature, who eventually introduced himself as Oberon, we not only learned that he observed many explosions, the strike of the sky flame (a "meteor", according to Rost), and strange sounds from the two islands, but also discovered that he knew of the location of a boat!  Of course, every person has a price, and his was ridding the adjacent woods of a particularly aggressive antagonist, one with claws, wings, and a bad attitude.  After a brief conference, we agreed to honor his request.

We started tracking the beast, and, eventually, wound up almost directly behind it.  We tried to sneak up on it, but once again the clinking of armor from the heavy-footed amongst us gave us away.  The creature, an owlbear, charged us, but was almost-immediately tripped by one of Jorvan's summoned hounds (affectionally named 'Cracker Two') and hacked to death by the party.  Pleasantly surprised by how easy the battle was (and spurred by Oberon), we moved on to the owlbear's cave (but not before Oz skinned it).

Once we arrived at the cave, we detected the presence of another creature inside.   Thinking we were clever, we strung a rope across the floor of the cave's mouth, emitted a distress call similar to that of the owlbear we dispatched, and attempted to trip the other owlbear as they rushed out.  Regrettably, this one was far larger than its partner, and both Rost and Oz were unable to keep the beast contained.  Once more, however, the hounds and party managed to take the owlbear down.  As we explored the cave, we found a large egg, but no much else.  Oberon was very disappointed by this, but held up his end of the deal and directed us toward the boat… which ended up being right on the beach and immediately discoverable – we embarked on this side quest for nothing.  Well… almost nothing.  As a form of thanks for dispatching the owlbears, he also offered us a large battle axe.  Oz, being the only one among us who could effectively wield such an impressive weapon, was strangely hesitant to pick it up.  However, desire got the best of him and, upon grasping the hilt, his top hair turned a bright pink. How hilarious!  As a form of thanks to Oberon, I shared some of my best liquor with him and called him a friend.   Of course, I have no friends, but people don't need to know that.

Not soon after bidding farewell to Oberon did we stumble upon a cabin with two boats alongside.  The cabin was empty, but both of the boats appeared usable – one more so than the other.  Oz and Rost attempted to grasp it to heft it into the water, but almost immediately it morphed into something atrocious – a mimic!  Poor Rost was trapped in the mouth of the beast and unable to escape.  After a hard fought battle, one in which I exercised more acrobatic knowledge than I knew I had, the mimic was killed.  We looted it and placed the real boat in the water, but not before I grabbed a bailing implement (since the vessel looked less-than-seaworthy).

We set sail for Wizards' Island – the island where Oberon had reported seeing the green streak in the sky land.  With Oz and Rost on paddle duty, and me handling the bailing, we were taken by surprise when two lizard-like creatures swam up to the boat and started attacking us.  What was even more shocking was the fact that they were shocking… us.  Both Rost and Jorvan were taken down.   It's only by the grace of Elhonna that, for this particular encounter, my crossbow rang true and tore through the accursed beasts.  Once we got to shore, we successfully revived both injured compatriots and hunted for the lizards' base of operations.  We looted it and moved inland, eager to find the fallen skystone and get home.

Almost immediately after moving inland we observed a large crater uphill in the distance, and heard a loud cackling sound emanating from within.  Exercising caution, we split into two groups and attempted to flank the crater.  I say attempted because, almost immediately, we were attacked by a creature that apparated before us.  And by "we", I mean "I".  Several times it came for me, but, thankfully, it wasn't able to do much damage while I managed to get my licks in.  Realizing that the creature was picking us off, we circled up back to back and shuffled toward the crater.

Once reaching the crater, we encountered a large jelly-like blob that was cackling madly.  We girded ourselves for battle, but Rost proved his worth by dispatching of the creature with one powerful strike!  I knew we kept that old man around for a reason!  While the others were celebrating the victory, and poking around at the innards, I kept alert – the apparating foe had already knocked me around a bit, and I wasn't going to take it any more.  It was good that I did because almost immediately after we killed the jelly, the other creature popped back in… only to be met by my short sword in its gaping maw.  In an act of revenge, I liberated it of its mandibles and handed them to Oz.

As we poked through the jelly's remains, we not only recovered the heart of the jelly (as requested by Aewen), but also found some adamantine ore!  Off in the distance, we noticed another jelly, this one glittering & leaving a trail of small explosions behind it. Emboldened by our success, we gunned for it.  Or, should I say, it gunned for us.  Because, not  soon after we took a few steps for it, it moved faster-than-expected towards us, breathing down our necks.  My simple weapons proved useless, while Rost, Oz and Jorvan were all able to deal damage (with the aid of Ducky's sonorous ballads).  They were able to kill this one, too, and harvested a heart.  By unanimous decision, we decided that we'd reached our quota of near-death experiences for the day, and set forth for Aiwan.

We returned unmolested, and retreated to our respective rooms to feel the cool, comfortable embrace of slumber.  This continent is truly massive, and we definitely need to explore the mountainous area further.

View
Alliance with the Goblins
Do you Grok it?

Journal Entry No. 2 of Oz the Great and Powerful

         After successfully negotiating a tentative truce between our party and the goblin clan known as the Blackfoots through a halted discourse with none other than their chieftain, Grok Blackfoot, I have had persistent thoughts about how this might yet continue to play to our advantage.

         Some time later, as I continued to give it thought, the seeds of an idea began to sprout in my mind. I may be a dwarf, and as such have never been too amenable to the likes of goblins, but if there’s one thing that can be said about them, compared to hobgoblins they’re little cherubs. In fact, the hobgoblins of the territory have been nothing but trouble for our adventuring band since day one, and so with renewed resolve to further broker a lasting truce with the goblin clans, I rented a second horse and hired out the services of one Artur Colbidro, a local expert in 8 languages including Goblin, whose wife has been sick, forcing him to search for additional ways to earn coin. Despite his fears of venturing out into the wilderness, the promise of 5gp a day plus all the rations he can eat is enough to entice him to join my endeavor.

         The next morning at sunrise Artur met me at the gate, and we set out towards the location where previously the party had encountered the heated battled between goblins and hobgoblins. As we neared the now familiar sight of Hightower, my trusty Bateleur Horus began circling the tor, and we soon after spotted signs of smoke coming from the very top. As we rode closer we spotted a cave entrance with a group of humanoid creatures gathered around it… they appeared to notice our approach, so with the realization that I was alone with only a translator at my side, I decided that discretion is the better part of valor and we rode on past Hightower, venturing no closer.

         Despite my dwarven heritage, I’ve found that there is a certain charm to riding a horse… namely, it took us a fraction of the travel time before we found ourselves once again in the area where we first encountered the warring goblins and hobgoblins. Thanks to my experience in the wilderness, I had little trouble tracking the path of the goblins we had met and bartered with, and as such we followed their trail much further West than any of our adventures had yet taken us. Several hours of riding later, Horus once again began circling ahead, and we were alerted to signs of smoke in the distance. Planning ahead, I grabbed a branch from a nearby bush and affixed my empty sack to it in an attempt to fashion a flag of truce of sorts.

         Peering ahead, I quickly spied several goblins hunkered down in the tall grass of the rolling plains, and promptly called a halt. At last my man Artur had the chance to earn his pay! “Artur…” I said to him, “I spy goblins laying in wait ahead. Call out to them in their native tongue that we come in peace, and are in search of Grok Blackfoot of the Blackfoot clan!”

         The goblins seemed to start in surprise, and one of them shouted back to us in goblin, “What do you want with Grok?” Through Artur, I replied “We are friends of Grok and wish to discuss establishing a mutually beneficial arrangement!” In response, we hear, “You stay here. I go ask Grok. We may still come back and eat you.”

         After some time of waiting tensely, I saw Grok returning, flanked by 4 armed goblins. Upon seeing me, he brokenly shouted in common, “What do you want hairy man? I gave you more than a fair deal last time. No take backs!” Once more speaking through Artur, I explained to Grok that I did not come searching for more gold or goods, but instead wished to establish a potentially mutually beneficial relationship with the Goblin clans, as I expected that my compatriots and I would be venturing forth into these lands much more in the future. As a token of good faith and to represent such an understanding, should he wish to come to this arrangement, I had brought a small gift for him to establish good will. I then took out the intricately carved bone warrior statuette recovered from the depths of the Endless Maze and held it out towards Grok.

         Upon realizing that the presence of Artur greatly eased the communication barrier between us, Grok reverted to goblin and delightedly exclaimed, “Oh, pretty bauble! I like big friends. Big friends can help smash ugly hobgoblins, or go down deep into caves where hungry monsters live to fetch treasure for Grok!” I explained to Grok the rare and valuable nature of the statue, and also added that should any of the Blackfoots or their allies encounter adventurers, speaking up that they are “friends of Oz” would be an excellent way to confirm that said adventurers were of my compatriots, and thus assure an amenable encounter.

         However, I was not finished yet. I knew that to make this “word of mouth” alliance work I needed a token myself, so asked Grok if he would share with me a hail or some small token that would allow us to establish our group as trustworthy with other goblins of the Blackfoot clan or their allied clans! That way we might work together to push back the hobgoblins, as well as share in any spoils of war that we obtain through joint effort.

         Grok greedily snatched the statue from my hands and paused to think for a moment… then from his pocket he withdrew a black rabbit’s foot. Pulling a large tooth from his necklace, Grok used the string to bind the foot and tooth together into a charm, and handed it to me saying, "I will make it known amongst all the goblin lands that Oz, bearer of a black foot, is to be left alone. Also those who know to claim friendship with Oz shall be unmolested if they pass peacefully through the land. Now when do we start making plans to smash the skulls of the evil hobgoblins?"

         I carefully accepted the charm and stowed it away. After thanking Grok for his generosity, I inquired if there was any information that he might wish to share in regards to how we might help the cause of the Blackfoot clan in the future.

         Grok, eyes aglow with passion, spurted out, "The nasty hobgoblins have set up a war camp in skull rock south of where we first met. They send raiding parties out to harass us as we work on excavating the old ruins. That is how we ended up in battle and had great fortune shine down upon our friendship. We have also been loosing many goblins to the monsters in the depths of the ruins. Perhaps you clear out the monsters and split the treasures 60/40. You get 40 for fighting monsters."

         Always angling for a bit of a deal he was… but I was not ready to commit to such terms so quickly, so I suggested that perhaps the split of loot might be a matter for discussion once monsters had been slain and hobgoblins driven out. After a moment’s thought, Grok acceded that if "You clear out foul hobgoblins from skull rock and we talk about your portion of shinies found in the ruins."

         I began preparations for my departure, bidding my farewells to Grok and his goblin escort, when he suddenly called out, "Let me provide some food for your journey home. Kloz, go get some of the good goblin cheese." A goblin whom I can only assume was Kloz scurried off and returned carrying a chunk of multi-colored cheese with the most pungent of aromas I had ever encountered, even from several feet away. "Here, hairy Oz…”, Grok said, “…is the finest of wild boar cheese made in all of Goblindom."

         Once again I expressed my thanks to Grok, and then taking my leave, Artur and I rode back to Aiwan without incident. I returned the rented mount used by Artur, and for his excellent services I gave him an additional 35gp for his trouble. As I laid down to sleep that night, I felt confident that good things awaited us in our adventures ahead… after all, currying good favor with all the goblin clans of the plains might just come in handy one day.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.