Aiwan

The Fiend of Beasts
And Stumbling Upon a Lion

The party:

  • Ducky
  • Oz
  • Rost

    It has taken me a while to feel up to the task of recounting this particular adventure, for reasons that should become clear to you by the end of my tale. Our party was smaller than usual, as it was just the three of us. This did nothing to lessen our confidence, however, since we are all experienced dungeoneers at this point and are used to working as a team. We had rarely known defeat, except in the cases of losing Krom and having to retreat from Jori. So tonight we returned to the Chapel, with the intention of clearing out any evil remaining on the third and fourth floors.

    The third floor was mostly clear, with the exception of one last room that was filled with bones and a couple creatures that we handily dispatched (my memory is hazy here, as if I'm trying to remember someone else's life…). We soon found ourselves on the fourth floor, the first room of which contained some stone statues around the edges and a large, evil-looking circular inscription in the center of the floor. Rost and I didn't trust these symbols, but Oz couldn't resist knocking over the statues. He gleefully positioned himself between the nearest one and the wall, and proceeded to put his back to it and push it over, using the wall as a support. The statue fell and smashed into the symbols on the floor – as soon as contact was made, the inscription began glowing, then pulsating with light, until flames burst forth and produced a lone figure. It was a woman; she stood there naked, looking questioningly at the three of us.

    As soon as she appeared, I reflexively cast Hold Person on her, but, to my puzzlement, it failed to have any affect. Then she gasped, clutched at her neck, and told us that she had been sacrificed upon those symbols in some ritual, and she pleaded with us to lead her out of this place. I felt a strong will pressing against my mind; luckily I noticed it and resisted. My companions were much more open to it, though, and both Rost and Oz began sympathizing with her and leading her up the stairs. By this point I was convinced that she was dangerous – I wasn't going to fall for her victim routine, and only wanted to prevent our party from becoming HER victims. So I pulled out my lute, and ran after them while performing a countersong to battle with the hold that her enticing voice had over Rost and Oz. Her influence was strong, and so it took until we were on the second floor for me to break the spell on both of them. She then became enraged and flew at me; Rost, angry himself that he had his will bent by an agent of evil, quickly struck her down and thanked me.

    Slightly shaken, but encouraged by our teamwork, we went back down to the fourth floor and continued past the inscription. The room beyond opened up to a large split, one side of which was a hallway containing waves of flame that periodically surged across the floor. We went the other way, and came face to face with an ugly abomination that had tentacles coming out of its face. It grappled with Oz, and the two wrestled until they were on the ground, flailing wildly at each other. Rost and I, careful to avoid hitting our friend, stabbed and shot at the monster whenever it was exposed to us. Eventually it slumped over dead, and Oz tossed its corpse off of himself. By this point, both Rost and Oz appeared more cautious after their frustrating encounters; I was on a roll, so I eagerly forged ahead into the next room.

    I felt invincible – I was ready to take on more, nothing had tested me yet! My skills had proven useful multiple times already, and the party could have been in great danger if not for me. Around the corner I spotted a lion made of light. Finally, a worthy adversary for the mighty Stumbleduck!! I rounded the corner and showed off my new skill, loosing two crossbow bolts in rapid succession. The rest… the rest was a blur to me, and is the cause of my hazy memory. Rost and Oz say that the lion bounded across the room and pounced viciously on me, doing terrible damage before they could close the gap. They rushed to my defense and desperately fought the lion off, but worried that they were too late…

    As I lay motionless, mortally wounded, Rost and Oz began to pick me up with the intent of riding hard for town, to take me to a wizard who might be able to resurrect me. But by some miracle, I came to, and asked "how'd I do, guys?" Rost, relieved, healed my wounds with his Lay on Hands, and told me I wasn't allowed to lead the party any more…

    Finally, we came to the door to the next fiend. Feeling much more cautious this time, I cast Haste and Inspire Greatness on our party, and we used some scrolls to buff up. Rost then flung the door open, and we charged in to clash with the Fiend of Beasts. This fiend was a physical brute, but was no match for our preparation. We quickly tore through him, then cleared out the last couple enemies on the floor. I must confess that I don't remember much of that either; I was just glad to be alive.

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Into The White Plume Mountain
The Reminiscings of Snorriā€™s (as transcribed by a threatened villager)

Scribbling this down is a waste of time when just talking would do fine but you all asked so here’s my tale. In the early morn we set out to reclaim the property of Riikan Dack from the White Plume Mountain. Seems the man got robbed by some scheming wizard and like all magic folk with too much time on their hands, the wizard decided to make a show of it. A bad move in my opinion.

With the offer of gold on the table Jorven, Rost, Bing Bong, Ducky, and me went journeying North toward the Mountain. We found our way in and took barely a step before coming across a beast guarding the path and spouting nonsense. Seems the beast wanted to play games before letting us past. Now while I was of the mind that it would look better without its head on its shoulders, Rost was quicker. The man puzzled out the answer to its game before I could provide my option and the beast showed us the way East.

Now as we went down that path, walking through an inch or two of some foul water, Rost proved that reading books aint everything and fell down a hole. After we dragged him and his plate mail up out of the water Ducky went down exploring with those magic shoes of his and found us some loot left by the last man who fell in without friends to pull him out. After an impressive leap by me and some less impressive leaps by the others we left the hole behind.

As we continued on the hall opened up into a small room where we heard the sound of movement in the water around us. From the murky depths crawled out four creatures looking to tear us apart. Needless to say my mood was improved. However, the battle began and ended in a heartbeat as Bing Bong used his holy magic to turn the undead back to the grave. In the water where they rose we found a hoard of gold and other metals. Ducky probed for coin in the dark for an hour before we thought best to continue on and found some new fresh hell around the corner.

The next hall was lined with copper plates along the walls that had that maddening look of something magic. Now being the fearless dwarf I am I let the other worry on while I went forward to test their effect. Now they may laugh just because it ended in me on fire and making a less than dignified retreat, but I think we can agree that it got answers. After a time, the group found it was our metal the plates would heat and by carrying our gear on a rope we were able to avoid a second roasting.

Forward we went and found a room of a different sort. Two great chasms filled with blades lined the near and far ends of the room with a long stretch in the middle. Again Ducky used his shoes to walk along the walls but as he stepped down to the floor he lost his footing and slid to the other wall. The floor was slick as ice ruining my chance for more impressive leaps. As Ducky worked to steady himself from the far end of the room emerged a harpy with murder in its eyes. Flying toward us we quickly drew our weapons. It called out to us with its strange song and we found ourselves moved to the edge of the chasm feeling our toes over the edge before regaining control. Stepping back from the edge we struck out at the beast as it struck at us but with a piercing thrust of Rost’s spear it was the Harpy that was cast down upon the blades of the pit. Having killed her we were free to move. To cross the room, we each in turn entered the bag of holding and let Ducky carry us to the other side.

Through the far door was a room of rafts with a river floating in the air from wall to wall. With Rost’s magic we made a raft glow and sent it downstream. It wasn’t long before we saw it making its way back from the other end so it seemed harmless enough and left with no other options we moved to mount our rafts. Turns out getting atop a raft on a floating river isn’t half as easy as it sounds and while I was falling on my backside the others made their way through the tunnel. By the time I hauled myself aboard and made to follow a ruckus could be heard down the way. I emerged to find Ducky, Jorven, and Bing Bong caught in nets with Ducky plucking his lute like he’s performing at a tavern. Stranger there was a crew of bandits admiring quietly while baring their steel. As Rost and I moved to cut the net Ducky managed to trick the crew’s leader (some fancy knight he seemed) that we were his allies come to save him from his backstabbing crew. The dense fool began to fight his crew and we did our part to help him only for Bing Bong to catch the knight with a poison arrow in the head. Now they say he was a wanted man in town so we took his head and as is my way I took a keepsake from each of the crew. Convenient none of them got any acid on their thumbs.

Now here’s where the tale takes a turn. From the burning halls, water filled halls we thought we were on our way through what the wizard called the “boiling bubble” so we were right surprised to find ourselves atop the inverted ziggurat. Multiple levels of water and stone laid out before us, each filled with fearsome beasts and each battle cost us dearly. Twice we fought beneath the water having Jorven’s scrolls give us breath and fighting alongside the sharks he summoned. We faced great lobsters, sea lions, scorpions, and manticore; each battle testing the limits of our strength and will. Many times we were grappled and pinned down as our band struggled against our foes, catching the barbs of stingers and the slash of claws. When the dust settled we stood at the base of the ziggurat surrounded by the corpses of dead beasts, some of them mangled by Bing Bong’s attempts to extract their poison for his strange ends.

Behind the mass of one of the dead manticore stood a single door and our only exit. Making our way through and down a dark hall we came across another door which had the gall to be locked. Me, not being stopped lightly, smashed in that wood with a mighty blow! Inside we found a fancy room full of stuff you’d expect to find in a lord’s house and weak lookin’ Halfling standing surprised at our grand entrance. He spun us a tale about being the wizard’s prisoner after gambling his life away. Something about everlasting servitude or some other. To be honest with ya I was only about half listening to some Halfling’s moaning. That is to say until the wee bugger disappeared.

Caught off guard, we stood with steel drawn waiting for any sign of him. Jorven whirled as he heard the Halfling moving on the walls and caught sight of a great blade mounted atop the door frame. We watched as the blade moved from the wall and held suspended in the air near the ceiling. Now I was most amazed that as small a lad as him could hold the thing but we soon found he wasn’t so small as he looked. He dropped his disappearing spell and there on the ceiling stood a giant monster, blade in hand and with murder in his eyes. With his size he swung at us from the ceiling, catching us with dangerous blows. We returned in kind slashing and stabbing, shooting bolt and spells. The fight went like that awhile and my breastplate shows he held nothing back. But as always it us we who laid the killing blow.

Our enemy laid mangled but leaving us not much better for wear. Hurt and tired from our trial we searched the room for our goal. The others took their weight in coin and me… I found the legendary great sword, Blackrazor. A tool that, once bound, we will use to crush our foes, slay any beast, and cut down the evil of this world. But most importantly… it’ll probably help me get more thumbs.

Alright I’m tired of talking and this peasant’s been shaking about half an hour. Point is we found our way through once but we didn’t find the weapon that Riikan really wanted, Wave. So we’re back in town and we’ll head back once we’ve had plenty of ale. But I’ll tell you what… Moradin help that wizard if he’s in that mountain when we

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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.

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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.

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Lost wood trail

It's been awhile since I've picked up the bow, and even longer since I've picked up the pen. On this adventure, the party consisting of Aldo, Ducky, Rost, Oz, and myself are exploring the trail around the Lost Woods. As we headed down the trail, the party noticed that there was a large fire to the northwest, near the goblin village. Wondering what could have caused the fire, the party came to the same conclusion – Jory. We decided to continue on the overgrown trail until Aldo notices four large plants ahead of us. Wary of the odd plants, he prepared a molotov and tried to get close enough to move. Proving his suspicions correct, the plants began to move and one ensnared him. A battle began, and I guess my senses have dulled more than I thought, because I missed almost every shot I took. Luckily, the other members of the party have been adventuring and sharpening their blades. Jorven was able to finish off the fight by ending two of the plants in one go. 

Shortly afterwards, the party discovered some skeletons of unfortunate adventurers who have fallen prey to the plants before us. It's good to know those plants won't be ending any other adventures prematurely. Not long after, an even larger plant with long vines flailing everywhere appeared to the side of the party and railed Oz. Before being able to inflict anymore damage to Oz, the foe was quickly destroyed by the party. I hope this is the last plant we have to deal with, because I'm getting tired of getting smacked by vines.

As we continue down the trail the party noticed that there were an increasing amount of blighted areas. While I pondered to myself why there were blighted spots, I heard the ground drop from underneath Oz and his horse. Fortunately, Oz was able to pull back and avoid falling into a hole trap. Further down the trail, we reached a red ring of blight, where in the distance the party noticed a topiary of some sort. It was a bit hard to make out the shape since all the leaves were gone. Just as we figured out what it was supposed to be, the lion shaped topiary pounced towards us and bashed Oz (really not his day; no heads and the traps and enemies are after him). However, not only did he receive damage, but he also delivered damage and we were able to dispose the topiary fairly quickly. 

After a short break and a healing session, we reached a corner of the forest and encountered a deranged elf. She yelled out "You mortals ruin everything!" in elvish. Using what I know of the elvish tongue, I tried to reason with her and tell her that we're not her enemy. Sadly, she had lost all of her elvish intellect and began attacking us. Rost charged at her on his steed and struck her, but not before she created a wall of fire to separate them from the rest of the party. Unable to see Rost and the crazy elf, Oz, Ducky, and Aldo quickly rode around it. I cast protection from fire on myself, closed my eyes, and walked through the wall. I opened my eyes and let out a sigh of relief, thanking Corellon I'm not a pile of ashes. With the party, minus Jorven, on her side of the wall, the elf ran into a wooded area as we began our attack. Remembering that I still had some poison, I thought it was a good time to use it. Sadly, the slew of profanity she threw at us, "YOU ##( FOOLISH MORTAL #!$& YOU &^!#% RUIN EVERYTHING #%#(… #!$&…", made me nervous and my hand slipped and the poison coated arrows cut my hand. Uh, I might have taken too long of a break… at least the poison wasn't that strong. I got into range of her and shot the poisoned arrow. It missed. Nice… definitely the poison. The elf attempted to cast another spell, but the party closed in and was able to knock her unconscious. 

Filled with questions for her, we tied her up, and Rost slowly healed her until she had awoken. She immediately began handing out insults and profanities to everyone in the party. After asking her a few question in Elvish and getting nowhere, Oz suggested gouging out her eyes so she can't look so crazy, to which she glared at him and spat in his direction. This was followed by a few minutes of her spitting in the direction of any party member that tried to talk to her. Fed up with her attitude, Rost wished to execute her, and confirmed she is truly a lost cause (a being of evil). "Perhaps we should…" Aldo began to say, but was quickly interrupted by the sound of Rost's sword being thrusted into the elf. "… nevermind." We decided to give her a proper burial and rest up.

Later that night, the other party members educated me on skills and abilities I had never even heard of before, and I became a disciple of the sun. We continued our adventure the next morning and found a black dome. It looked smooth on the surface and I wondered what type of magic could create such a structure. I don't think any being, no matter how skilled, could build such a thing. 

We began to move on. Feeling weakened and woozy from the poison, I can barely recall where we walked, but eventually we reached High Tower, where we see our Blackfoot goblin acquaintances in the distance. They waved at us to follow them inside. Suspicious of their behavior, Aldo seemed hesitant, but the rest of the party insisted on just entering. Once again, Aldo's suspicions were proven correct as the goblins looked pretty pale and began attacking us immediately. Using the gift the sun has given me I reduced all three vampiric goblins to dust, but not before they sucked some life out of Aldo. 

The party members informed me what they've learned about vampires and that we must destroy their coffins. We went through the tower searching and destroying. As we were destroying the second set of coffins, Aldo (who was on watch duty) warns us that Grok Blackfoot was here and he was looking "pretty pale". A few seconds later, we saw him standing at the door gazing into Oz's eyes, doing nothing. "You are no longer allies of the Blackfoots! You destroyed us by finding the weapon we have been searching for!" Grok angrily stated. Well, if turning into a vampire did anything for him, it's that he's a lot of smarter sounding than he used to be! Oz took the symbol of the Blackfoot clan, threw it at Grok's feet, and firmly responded, "No. The Blackfoot clan is no longer friends of Oz!" We began fighting and an angry Oz delivered a devastating blow to Grok. He immediately turned into a gaseous state and floated away. Jorven quickly suggested that he's floating to the top and back down to his coffin to recover so we returned and searched the other room. Lo and behold, we found the coffin with Grok's body inside, which we drove a wooden stake through.

With me still feeling the effects of the poison, and Aldo tired from getting some life sucked out of him, we decided to head back to town. Thank Corellon, I am done with all the plants, vampires, crazy elves, and self poisoning for one adventure. Too bad I can't rest for long if I want to stay vigilant! Until next time…

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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

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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.

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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.

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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….

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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.

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