Pathfinder Off the Beaten Path

The Glowing Tunnels of Madness
(Season 2, Episode 1) Under Brinewall, the fellowship encounters the Derro of the Shadowlands.

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The glowing tunnels of Madness…

After taking a long winter break to restock, rebuild and further prepare ourselves for the eventual Hobgoblin onslaught, our hunting party decided that to brave the howling winter storms this year would be tantamount to suicide. Besides, beneath the fortress was a yawning cavern opening into untold peril that had to be investigated to insure that no attack would come from that direction. Additionally, we realized that with all of the building and preparation we had been doing, our coffers were dipping low, and perhaps there would be opportunities for riches in the shadowed halls that could solve two problems with one stone. I was not so eager to disappear into the benighted depths, but the unseasonable cold just continued to get worse, and the harbor was locked tight until spring from the deadly morozkos.

So, we gathered what gear would could and began our journey at the very base of Brinewall Fortress. The first and most important thing to realize about traveling beneath the ground, is that it is very very slow going. The first obstacle we had to overcome, was the fact that Brinewall appears to be right in the center of a large nest of gremlins. As we made our way from the keep, these blighted little creatures did their best to trick us with several lethal traps and The twisting caverns and caves do not lend themselves to easy navigation, and my abilities to keep my direction were pushed to the absolute limit. Even then, we would occasionally find ourselves cut off from further progress and be forced to turn back to find another route that would let us continue. The days and Miles crawled by as we descended deeper until we were set upon by a raiding party of troglodytes who had wandered far from the known territories of their tribes. We done fully know if they were just lost, or their tribe had split off from a larger group, but after we had defeated them by killing their leader, the rest of them lost the will to fight and gladly handed over all of their worldly goods.

We were nearly several weeks in, and to date, our haul consisted of some bits of bone.. a few polished river rocks.. and a wooden sword made with shards of volcanic glass, it would be useless to us in combat, but might be worth some coin to a collector. We were determined to reach the intersection with the map provided to us by Olli’s mother. Unfortunately we had found little of any value,so we would soon be forced to turn around and start back home with next to nothing to show for our efforts.

That night, as we slept in a side cave, our party was attacked by a group of Derro, who came upon us at night and immediately set upon us. They used a curious kind of poison on our hunting party, but we were able to turn the combat and overcome them before they were able to kill one of us. That was when we made a startling discovery..

Each Derro had a small vial of an alchemical potion that destroyed memories. This potion would keep new memories from being formed for a while, and would erase the memory of anyone that was forced to drink it for an extended period of time. This alchemical mixture was extremely valuable, as it can only be produced by the Derro.. and the Derro being hopelessly insane do not willingly part with it. Therefor we had found a return for all the time and fighting down in the underdark.. hopefully. The nature of the mixture and what its normally used for present some unique challenges. Furthermore, its so valuable, that offloading it might prove more of a challenge then we had first imagined. Tammerhawk of Riddleport has the resources, but considering the shaving we got over the Golem, All of us are reluctant to deal with him again unless absolutely necessary. None of us are eager to put ourselves over a barrel with the arch-mage, so we may need to find a relatively fast way to Magnimar or some other port with the resources to offload these potions.. especially if we return to retrieve more.

We turned back to go deeper into Derro Territory, (I managed to find patterns in the glowing fungus which were not natural.) and once we encountered and defeated a second group, we had let one of the derro go to bring back his “enemies.” .. in retrospect it was probably not the wisest of moves, but in truth, I had grown tired of having to kill defenseless captives. It was a violation of the Hunt, and in the eyes of the spirits, crossed the line between hunting and murder. The death-lands below the forest are not places for the living, and if it were up to me, I would seal up every entrance I could find and purge their locations from living memory. There is nothing down there.. but Darkness and Death.

We finally linked up with Olli’s map and after some searching were able to find an easier route through the tunnels into the known cave systems of the North. When we finally turned back to retrace our steps.. there was an ambush by several short robed creatures who used shadow to attack us led by a taller one who possessed a degree of magical skill. This battle was hard fought, as they had set an ambush which allowed them to get close undetected and attack at point blank range….

I am truly starting to loathe the Shadowlands.

After a vicious fight, we were able to defeat the Shadow creepers and continue on our way.. but we had sustained numerous poisoned injuries.. so we made our way as quickly as possible back to the keep and up into the safety of the light.

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The Tower Falls .
(season 1, Finale) The Forgotten Watchtower is reclaimed

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At last it is ours…

THE SIEGE OF THE WATCHTOWER
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Time was running short, and if we were going to reclaim the tower from the hobgoblin garrison, then it would need to be done soon. Horrible storms had already swept across Varisia, and once fall finally gave way to true Winter, then any hope of attack would be gone. It would be far better, to let the hobgoblins stew over the loss while we did what we could to fortify our position and prepared for the inevitable counter attack on the watch tower. But before we could do any of this.. we had to take it back.

Our attacks along the supply road had weakened the garrison, and there would not be a better chance, although we knew precious little about what waited for us inside. Olli was able to estimate how many troops were garrisoned by counting the food they consumed. When combined with reports of caravans, a clear picture was painted in that we would be hard pressed, but it was far from impossible odds.

On the morning of the attack, we swept in through the hidden entrance, knowing that it would be the only way inside without facing withering fire from above. Hopefully they had not had much chance to reinforce or prepare that entrance to repel invaders, or else our attack would be extremely short lived. As we burst into the structure, we came across a group of slaves and cooks who were preparing a side of beef for their hobgoblin masters.

All of us had prepared ourselves for the combat as best we could, and possessed a number of magical items that would empower and protect us. My own powers were growing, and recently I had taught myself how to cast my druidical magic while still in the form of a beast. Olli, Zuristoi, Thrindil and I had made ourselves as ready as we possible could, because this was an all or nothing gamble. For the first time, Ahoot and I were fighting side by side.. Armored bear and armored cat, tearing into the hobgoblins as best we could. It frightens and exhilirates me at the same time as I consider what it was like. To be possessed of such strength and freedom, along with the will and desire to commit such violence. My human mind looks back at what I did with horror, even though at the time all I could feel was the exhilaration of the kill. Time will tell, and hopefully with the help of my friends and my brother A’hoot.. I will not succumb to the lure of the beast and lose myself entirely.

After we killed the slaves and a small number of hobgoblins in the “kitchen”.. several cooks were able to escape and warn the rest of the tower of our attack. The advantage of surprise was gone, but all was not lost, because we were already inside and now they had to repel invaders without the use of their siege weapons.

We pressed the attack into the main structure under the hill, and the hobgoblins met us in force. Two cooks had escaped the slaughter in the kitchen, but one had been killed by the garrison commander for not staying and fighting. Fortunately the close spaces kept the goblins from using their mounts, and the fight was kept between us and the footsoldiers and scouts of the garrison. A’hoot pressed his armored bulk against the spears of a heavy block of hobgoblin infantry while I kept them from flanking us in my armored cat form. Zuristoi, Thrindil and Olli hurled magic and song at the defenders, driving them back inch by inch, although at several points the fight was still in doubt.

The hobgoblins had linked shields and were working together like we had never seen before. This was obviously an elite trained force, and even now I shudder to think what they would have been capable of had we not disrupted their operations. This teamwork made the attacks of their lieutenants even stronger, and My brother and I took several battle wounds. Fortunately for us however, the hobgoblin tactics were not enough to save them, and they crashed like waves over us, only to be repelled and killed in turn. There was a time when things were in doubt, as hobgoblins and their goblin scouts swarmed over us and faced us with a wall of steel.

As the battle started to turn, a human mage descended the steps and began casting magic in support of the hobgoblins. It was readily apparent that he was little more then an apprentice, but his stinging shots and bolts were keenly felt in the pitch fight before he fled upstairs. By the time we took the stairs, we knew their mage would be waiting for us, but we had to finish what we started.. There could be no survivors who would return to the hobgoblins and warn them about what had happened.

We raced up the stairs in pursuit as I unleashed my druid magic and called down several bolts of lightning through the roof. The defenders held out to the end, because they knew there would be no quarter granted in this battle. The male human mage was supporting a cleric dedicated to one of the dark gods. She cast horrific spells at us, but by now the fighting was far too close and she could not get enough distance to strike. My brother and I continued to fight, although both of us were quickly becoming exhausted. Olli and Zuristoi made use of their magic to keep the dark caster busy while my brother and I engaged their foot troops. After several minutes of vicious close quarter combat, the hobgoblins were either dead or dying and once again we had control of the Watch Tower.

My blood was still racing from my time as a beast, so I did something I am not proud of. We killed the human mage instead of questioning him, and thereby lost potentially valuable information. I am not proud of what happened, but as I have said, when I am lost in the blood of the moment, it is difficult to see the most reasonable path. We also killed the goblins, against the protests of Zuristoi, but the rest of us understood what a scourge they would become on the countryside if any of the blighted creatures were able to escape and breed.

After an extensive search we were able to locate the payroll strongbox and loot it before starting the long task of making the tower ready for habitation by our own troops.

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Counterattack!
(Season 1, Episode 11) The hobgoblins turn the tide, and hunt the hunters.

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The Battle of Goblinbone valley

As recorded by Althrax Vemnis of Cheliax

This tale is one of great peril and struggle for survival. It weaves a noble yarn about how a few noble adventurer’s, along with their servants completely destroyed an entire army of Goblinoids. Before I begin however, I would first like to make one thing perfectly clear, one of the minor players in this drama cannot be blamed for his inability to succesfully contribute much beyond his meager skills, because he is Shaonti. These primitive tribe’s men are well known to be poorly suited for war because of their ill temper, lack of mental capacity as well as a deficiency in manual dexterity. Nevertheless, Sa’hetna the greenwalker was able to expand beyond the racial limitations that were constrained upon him at birth and achieve a measure of notoriety while assisting the major players in this battle. He is a lesson that one should never completely discount a servant’s ability to contribute to a larger effort.. even if they are only Shoanti.

Several weeks before the battle, the adventurer’s set out with their servants in tow and the commandant’s trained bear who had been loaned to them. Zuristoi the Dragonslayer along with Ollinthivel the Chaos bringer and Thrindil Forge father gathered up their shoanti servant from his drunken stupor and moved into the forests to attack the goblins. Together they conducted a series of raids up and down the valley, hitting the goblin supply caravan’s and replacements before they could ever make it back to the watchtower. They would begin an ambush by gathering rocks into the crags above, and command their servant Sa’hetna to release them so they would pour down unto the road below. Fortunately the shoanti was up for this fairly simple task, so their raids were successful much of the time.

The Commandant’s trained bear would maul any goblins foolish enough to come close, and once he had released the rocks everyone else had gathered, Sahetna would draw his cudgel and attempt to beat some goblins senseless before the others concluded the matter.

the rest of the manuscript was torn away

At some point in the future, I must travel to Cheliax to discuss the views of Althrax Vemnis in person. In the meantime, I could not bear to read any further without using this book to wipe my own backside.. so I will try to record the events as best I can remember.

We fought hard for over two weeks, running ambushes on patrols and attacking anything that was foolish enough to come down the trail from the secondary garrison. The palisade was too heavily defended to attack directly, so we busied ourselves with destroying anything that traveled west to try and reinforce the tower itself.

A few days in, we came across a cave that appeared to be perfect for a camp and morning ambush. I am still kicking myself over the fact that the cave was too perfect. As we bedded down for the night, we were set upon by horrific shadows. The undead creatures laid claws upon us, and drained us of our strength, and I have no doubt, that if they had been able to drain one of us completely, we would have joined their horrific hunting party. Several of us almost died at that point, were it not for Olli’s cunning use of a spell that rendered us invisible to the undead. This timely spell saved us all, along with Zuristoi’s bursts of radiance that caused the creatures to explode into flames.

I blame myself, had I looked around, I would have noticed the cave was “too” perfect.. but weariness from combat was dulling my senses, so I vowed to pay better attention next time.. or else. The final ambush came early in the morning, and instead of approaching up the trail en mass, they came at us in waves of attack. The first wave consisted of Goblin scouts that had dismounted and were moving up the trail through the trees in hopes of catching us unawares. I had learned my lesson from the shadows however, and so would not be caught by surprise again. I spotted the creatures moving through the trees, and we were able to turn their ambush and destroy them before the next wave of hobgolbin troops was able to bring itself to bear. At this point we began to understand that this attack was different, and so we began to stretch out our resources in preparation for the inevitable rush that came from reinforcements. It seems that our attacks had finally stung the beast, and so this column had been given orders to sweep down the trail and destroy us. We would later find out that the hobgoblins were convinced that this was a rival clan. Our use of magic however that could be heard far up the valley would likely dispel that notion unfortunately, but it had been a useful illusion while it lasted.

The final wave was a troop of skeletal undead and litter bearers who carried their burden into battle. I began to suspect that the caster who normally rides in the litter would never be foolish enough to risk their person in actual combat, so I channeled one of the lightning bolts down to burst throught he ceiling. Just as I suspected, the palanquin was empty, and the actual spell caster had sent it forward while watching the battle from far up the road.

As we realized where she was, escorted by several of her elite guards, we moved forward to attack while the caster began to defensively weave magics around her that would protect her. We had exhausted much of our power through the successive waves of hobgoblins, but we were still ready as we surged forward to attack.

She had surrounded herself in a powerful shield that reflected physical attacks, meanwhile her guards tried to keep pace and a fighting retreat began as they tried to escape the ambush. We ran her down and eventually overcame her defenses, as well as her guards in a bloody fight to the finish. Even from a distance, this attack would have generated a great deal of noise and attention. We had fought hard, and stung the hobgoblins enough to where their attention was now swinging this direction. If Brinewall is to survive.. we cannot allow them to establish a foothold.. so the next course of action was clear.. the Forgotten watchtower must fall back into human hands, and we cannot surrender it again… otherwise we may never get it back.

..Sa’hetna..

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Ambushcade!
(Season 1, Episode 10) Vikings come from the North, and the hobgoblins ambush

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“Councilman sa’hetna”

 the name still brought a chuckle to his lips in a wash of irony that held little humor. Brinewall was going to be the buffer zone between the interests of Cheliax  and the tribal home of the Huho’tach Maudi, therefor it needed to thrive and prosper if it was going to be of any use to his people. The green walker still held a great deal of affection for the folk of this town, but he also realized with a note of finality that would never truly be one of them. What was worse, in the fullness of time and twisting of fate, he may have to contend with the very people he was helping if Brinewall’s growth continued like a wild bramble. The Children of the lawgiver had a long and bloody history with those people who held themselves apart from what many considered to be “civilization,” and Sa’hetna had no intention of defeating the Iron Consortium, only to have Brinewall rise in its place and look hungrily towards his tribe.

It was already a well known fact throughout the town that he hated coins, mostly because of the constant vigilance that was required by the illusion and deception which swirled about them. With coins you could hide the value behind a wall of metal and a veil of lies which was navigated for even the simplest of purchases. It was an invented layer of barter that opened a myriad of possibility for those of a duplicitous mind, something that was never in short supply among towns and cities. So he held himself apart, kept to the grove or the camp, and enjoyed the quiet solitude of nature as often as he could. He was not considered lazy by any measure, but his priorities would always leave the folk of the town scratching their head in curiosity, which was the way he preferred to be seen.

The arrival of Bjorn Jarlsonn had been an unsettling shock, even though Thrindil had been delighted to see the town of Brinewall finally getting noticed. The only reason Sa’hetna accepted the position of councilman was because when settlers of different people came to the hills surrounding Brinewall, There would be an influx of foreign faiths, cultures, and ways of life that could the rip the reins from the hands of an unwary driver. He did not want to close doors to outsiders as his tribe had done, but a great influx of people before the threats of the countryside had been quelled could mean disaster. Furthermore, he did not know what the arrival of Bjorn’s people would mean to the enclave he was building for the Huho’tach. The simple fact was, they needed to be exposed to the world, but it had to be done safely with a measure of separation, so that his tribe could feel safe and know that their culture would be preserved even as they encountered the outside.

While the Ulfen were here, Zuristoi “The Passionate” found a long legged, golden haired, Shield maiden who spent almost the entire time with him, and became quite enamored with the bard. I suppose I should be grateful that the Varisi was keeping up relations with our potential neighbors, but I fear for his life if this towering woman warrior should ever cross paths with the many lovers he will attract over time.

Such warriors have a way of finding their own entertainment if such is not provided, so before future visits it might be best to focus some resources on building the “Copper Dragon.” This way, there will be a place for them to congregate and enjoy themselves without worrying the town overly much. I have noticed that there is something unique about a tavern which strikes at the heart of a town or a city. These places of congregation are as essential as any temple, for without them the people become dour and the town itself acquires a reputation for being cold and uninviting.

After the warriors had left however, we had decided it was time to take the fight to the Hobgoblins. If we were trying going to name ourselves the protectors of this town and claim any kind of authority within it, then it was only fair that we should back this authority up with action. We had scouted, but now it was time to turn that information into strikes against the hobgoblin infrastructure. We would waylay their caravans, kill their scouts and massacre the slaves who performed their work, all in order to delay the inevitable build up towards their attack. Eventually as we stung the beast enough times, it would turn and reveal its fangs, then we could either disappear into the hills if we were incapable of dealing with them, or settle the matter right then and there. I will not deny that I was eager, the hobgoblin threat had been looming over us from the beginning and few things unified the members of a hunting party like the blood of an enemy.

For over two weeks,we stalked the hobgoblin caravan’s like reavers and phantoms, leaving no trace of our victims. The purpose of this was two fold, one was to play upon the fears of our enemies, and the other was so that they would not be able to gather information about us from clues left in our wake. The more they learned about us, the more likely it was that they would develop a strategy specificially designed around our raids. We had to keep their commanders in the dark as long as possible, and simply bleed them until they could tolerate no more losses.. and sent their best to clear us out. Two weeks out on the trail has Threndil fit to be tied, but Zuristoi, Olly and I are in high spirits as we slaughter the hated hobgoblins and make them pay for every inch of ground.

I fear however, that as our campaign enters into its third week.. they will finally have their fill of our attacks.. and we will soon see them bear fangs.

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The Incident Report
(season 1, Episode 9) Scuffle at 'Father's Forge'

Official Incident Testimony: Brinewall Keep
Official: Commandant Chaleb Kelton
Report: 1st of Lamashan
Incident: 29th of Rova
Witness: Thrindil Talmin’atar
Location: Father’s Forge

Eliza visited us later after the initial meeting. They inquired about Nick and Nadiya, the two people who fought to keep this town safe from hobgoblins not too long ago. I have a sneaking suspicion that they planned to kill or torture nick and send Nadya back to a royal hag family (she’s likely a changeling, given she is a heterochromatic sorcerer), where she would likely be turned, given her powers. Eliza and I brokered a trade deal with her to build a flame-forged knife. I don’t know what she plans to do with it, but the next frost queen cycle is upcoming, and I imagine it’s for nobility games.

Directly after, Eliza sent an ermine to spy on our conversation. Sa’hetna spotted and grabbed it.

We bagged the ermine, Eliza’s familiar. She sent a young white dragon to retrieve it, disgusting, vile creature. We managed to subdue the dragon as well, but Sa’hetna’s bear, A’hoot got ripped up pretty bad. He swiped at me but missed. This was on my property, mind you. We threw the dragon into the vault and as soon as we did, Eliza and her entourage beached their boat on my property and banged their shield, her Deathguard itching for a fight, yelling and banging their shields. Zurastoi was angry we didn’t kill the dragon and wanted to kill them all. I wanted to gut the dragon and negotiate for the ermine. Sa’hetna wanted to give them both back and tell them to get lost, and Ollie wanted to go on a date with Eliza, thus he parlayed.

Ultimately, Olli won out simply because he was likely the first one to die in case we angered them. Sa’hetna was unwilling to provoke Cmd. Kelton a second time (you’re welcome, Commandant) and I realized that with opinions split so far on the scale of diplomacy options that it was safer if we consolidated. We handed over both (to which Zuristoi was furious), Olli got his date, and we smoothed things over. They left on amicable and more respectable terms. I believe my trade deal is still intact.

I’ll also here report of our scouting of the hobgoblins to the east. The watchtower is fairly infested, and they’ve moved in aurochs as a food source, goblins in as a workforce, but it’s clear they’re not ready to attack Brinewall. It’s likely they’ll start drilling troops there and attack in the spring, or if they’re left to their own machinations, attack before winter. We’ve found a forward outpost eastward of the watchtower. That is likely where we will attack first.

I, Thrindil Talmin’atar, hereby willfully agree to this testimony, and that all written is the complete, unerring truth, by the word of Iomedae.

Off the Record: Cmd Kelton, we have eyes on us. I’m a political target for Irrisen due to a debt my father owed. The Chilaxians are likely spying on us as we’ve apprehended spybot constructs that have been looking into our records. Our best trade deal is with a Riddleport crime lord. You don’t survive in riddleport as a leader without slitting throats.

Eliza showed up in town, unwilling to offer her identity yet expecting to be recognized as a entity of Irrisen, which is disgraceful in my opinion. While my compatriots frowned at me for inquiring at her identity, ultimately it served us poorly that we didn’t pry. You want order to rule in this town? Expect representation for recognition, send away people who refuse, and jail people who misrepresent. Make it law. I think we have the right to know who files through our town if they ask to be formally recognized.

We are not just in establishment danger; we’re in political danger. Until we have forces, all we have is attitude and grit and respect. We must act as if we are in a position to demand respect from people who visit, or we’re going to get sacked.

We have respect from Irrisen now, and we carved that respect by demanding it. By rights, we should have slain them, and we did so not out of respect for them, but respect for you. Things here are going to get uglier before they get better, and I have more important things to do than write up incident reports, like prepping for a 4-man war against more hobgoblins than we can count just so this town can last until winter without having the populace pinned to the keep’s walls like trophy mantles.

I’m running for mayor in the winter. I hope you’ll back me.

If you’re wise, you’ll burn this report.

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A Winter Knarr (part 1)
(Season 1, Episode 8) Hidden enemies revealed, and a traveler from the North

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Time and again I had complained of the stink of Brinewall, but as we rose over the ridge, and could see it off in the distance, I felt for the first time, like I was coming home. perhaps it was the many horrors of Riddleport, that made me take a kinder look at our adopted home. Whatever the reason, we topped over the rise and even the mild stink of Brinewall brought an unconscious smile to my face. We were home, and it had been a difficult journey which sorely tested all of us in ways that we had not imagined upon setting out. We were quiet while riding the last few leauges, but as the people of Brinewall came out to greet us, I felt a warmth of welcome I have not felt since leaving my home village.

Fortunately, The Commandant and Ollie had not been idle while we were traveling north to the far off port. In an effort to assist Brinewall in preparing its defenses, Ollie scouted out the Watch Tower for signs of activity, and what he discovered was not welcome news. Several dozen hobgoblins and their goblin slaves had returned to the tower, and even now were hard at work to reinforce and build up their defenses to withstand another inevitable attack by the same adventurers which had previously destroyed their hasty garrison. If the hobgoblins continued to build up their forces, they would be drawn to attack brinewall like flies to rotted meat in the summer sun. We had to strike first, but the green-skin numbers just seemed to come back stronger every time we wiped them out. The others have suggested we need to find out where they are coming from, and I am inclined to agree, although that will mean eventually going Into Hobgoblin held lands.

For now, they have possession of the watchtower, and it seems clear they will retake it as many times as necessary and sacrifice whatever troops they need to in order to keep it. The only way we can insure it will remain unoccupied or unavailable as a base of operations for the hobgoblins.. is by either leveling the tower, or by placing a garrison there. There was a great deal of fruitless discussion, that boiled down to the point of, “we can do nothing to stop them right now, and if they attacked Brinewall, we could save the people by retreating into the castle but the town would be put to the torch.” abandoning our town or the grove to the mercy of the hobgoblin did not sit well with me, and I further advised against it. Unfortunately, for now the decision would be out of our hands.

As we were going back and forth to the keep, the workers who had tilled the tobacco garden came up to us as we were about to speak with the Commandant, and informed us that something was “wrong” at the grove. A strange presence along with yellow eyes had been seen lurking in the twilight hours around the perimeter of the grove, and there was a strange sense that someone was “trying to read” each person who entered. My first thought was perhaps the grove had attracted a visitor from the first world, but when we traveled to the grove to investigate, it became clear that there was something much more local and sinister afoot.

I told Yundi to return to town, and not return to the grove until we had investigated what was wrong. Zuristoi began to play a delicate song which drifted over the trees and entranced Jaroon while we continued to search the area. A’hoot would not enter the grove because of the stink from flayleaf, and even I found my head getting slightly dizzy the longer we stayed. Fortunately my search took me towards the perimeter, where I discovered the tracks from a Hob-nail boot that led all around the edge the grove. Hob-nail boots are unique to hobgoblins, and suddenly I began to fear that the hobgoblin garrison of the Forgotten watchtower were already making a subtle move towards Brinewall’s outer settlements. It was strange however, because the tracks never actually left the grove, only circled about before returning back from whence they had come inside.

By this time, my head was filled with suspicions, to many times we had grown lax in our vigilance, only to have it return and attack us when we least expected it. Jaroon was a source of many questions, and his love for Bladeleaf forced many, including our animal companions to keep their distance from the grove. Now there were potential enemies infiltrating our village, and the only occupant of the grove was a drug addled old man. It was time that Jaroon’s curse of addiction was lifted.

Zuristoi continued his song to lull Jaroon into a deep enthrallment that would make him easier to deal with. Unfortunately, when he tried to take his staff from him, Jaroon had been pretending to be entralled, and in fact stepped back to simply use his staff to catch all of us in a the field of writhing plants and grasping vines. We tried to subdue him, and knock him out so that he could be locked in his hut while drying out from the drug, but when his staff was taken, suddenly the true mask dropped away and Jaroon was revealed to be a doppleganger!

The fight was short, but brutal, as the False Jaroon used his staff and vicious claws to slash and tear at us when his disguise was finally lifted. He fought with great strength and terrible purpose, as undoubtedly he would have killed us all and taken our form to move among the town undetected. He was unsuccessfull however, and eventually our fellowship was able to overcome the doppleganger and strike him down so that his true form melted into a heaving puddle of blue slime. As he was dying however, Olli cast his magic to rob the creature of recent memories. Through those memories, we learned that the real Jaroon had been dead for some time. His body was buried in a shallow grave nearby when the doppleganger had killed him and taken over his life.

That night as I dug up his body, and transplanted it into the roots of the sacred tree, I wept for the druid that I never got a chance to know. Jaroon was a harmless old man who had taken on Yundi to train in the ways of the forest. It was now my charge to train the boy as a druid in honor of his slain teacher. Even then, I felt the chill of fear as I realized how close I had come on many occasions to being alone and murdered at that beasts claws. This terrible land never ceases to horrify me, and fill me with dread at each new terrible revelation. Whom can we trust?.. whom dare we trust? In riddleport, the evil of that place was on display for all to see and feel. But to date, some of the most vile creatures we have encountered so far, have cloaked themselves and hidden among us under a veil of benevolence.

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Shortly after the druid’s burial, another visitor came to town via a large Longboat. It was not flying the flag of the Linnorm kings, and instead carried the banner of Irisen, land of the Ice Queen. Our fellowship met them at the docks, and the guards who attended a Noblewoman from the North were well trained, but edgy and ready for combat at the drop of a hat. When we escorted her to the Keep, we learned her name was Elisa, and she was looking for a fugitive who had stolen something very valuable.

This fugitive’s name was Nick Hawkes.. and he had stolen a woman from her family.. Nadia Begeris.

Unfortunately this complicated things a great deal. I was now curious as to why a noblewoman from Irrisen wanted to apprehend Nick and bring Nadia back. They had mentioned fleeing the country, but had said nothing in the way of specifics. Now that a ship from Irrisen was in the harbor, those unmentioned specifics became much more important.

Later that evening, she met with Thrindil and I at his Forge to discuss some terms for possible side work. Thrindil conducted the negotiations while I simply whittled at some wood, not wanting to be alone in my camp so soon after the horror of Jaroon’s death. We discussed the possibility of going after Nick, and I told her that I would find him. At this point, I knew little about what was happening, but it was clear that forces in Irrisen wanted Nick and Nadia back, so it was imperative that Nick be contacted about what was happening. Sa’hetna also wanted some information as to what they had done to cause such an overwhelming response as to have a ship full of deathguard sent to track them down. After we had conducted the negotiations, Eliza left, and we called the others together to discuss the situation.

Zuristoi was outraged at the possibility of going after them, and found any negotiations with Eliza to be extremely distasteful. I knew little of Irrisen, but I had no intention of handing Nick over until we got some answers as to what he was really wanted for, and I told the bard as much. He would have none of it however, and before long we were in a heated argument when I noticed a glint of white under the door.

A Winter coat Ermine had been listening to our conversation, and I immediately suspected that it was in fact a familiar sent to spy on us. The creature scurried away in an attempt to escape. I transformed into the firepelt and tore after it before catching it in the underbrush and bringing it back to the others.

At this point another creature made itself known and attacked us with the sole desire to retrieve the ermine. At first we were not sure what it was, but as we closed, a small white dragon made its presence known and suddenly our fellowship was in a pitch battle with the beast. We fought bitterly, and took several injuries before we were able to subdue the creature. Zuristoi “The Dragonslayer” wanted to live up to his title and slay the evil beast which had dared to attack us in our own town, but Olly thought it best to spare it for now and use it as a bargaining chip for when Eliza eventually came to retrieve her familiar. Thrindil wanted its pelt for use in his forge, and Sa’hetna did not want to kill the beast, but was not about to let it tear his companions to shreds. Fortunately the Earth elemental that Thrindil had summoned was successful in subduing the beast with A’hoots help and we were able to capture it.

Disgusted that we would allow such a foul beast to live, and knowing that any negotiations he had with one of the witch servants of Irrisen would quickly devolve into violence, Zuristoi was about to remove himself from the situation and slip quietly out a side door as Eliza’s longboat rowed up the river towards Thrindil’s Forge. All we could do was patch ourselves up as best we could, and prepare for a potential battle if Eliza was determined to see bloodshed.

(edited 9/27)

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Of Riddles and Shadows
(Season 1, Episode 7) In Riddleport, the fellowship is entangled in a web of intrigue

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It may seem strange, but I follow the whispers of the spirits. I do not hear their voices speaking directly to me, but I feel their pull when I close my eyes and open myself to the feeling of their influence. The spirits are all around us, influencing, guiding and sometimes interfering with us, but like the rest of my people, I have come to put great faith in their hands. I must trust that the spirits shall show us the way. That is why, as soon as the discussion of Riddleport arose, I felt it was where the spirits wanted us to go. The direct reason for our trip to Riddleport was to have the clockwork soldier repaired so it could then be resold and provide both ourselves and Brinewall with the means to prepare our defenses.

At every turn I become more frustrated by the intense desire these city dwellers have for gold.. but I must use it to finish my task and build an enclave for my people, and anyone else who is a child of the green way.

Before we left, I took some time to speak with Master Jorune Ashstaff as well as his young apprentice “Yundi,” and as I reflect upon that meeting, even then I could see the hold Flay-leaf has upon him. I firmly believed then as I do now, Its time he was broken free of its control, and his senses returned to him. I suspect he had the potential to be a powerful druid once, but that has been consumed in a cloud of Flay-leaf smoke. I was resolved, upon return from Riddleport, I would make preparations to cleanse him of its influence once and for all. It will not be easy and he will not thank me for it, but as I see him wasting away, I know it has to be done.

After several days, we were finally prepared to leave, and so our hunting party set to the road and made decent time considering we were all crammed aboard one of the wagons. It was not a glorious start to our hunting expedition, but one must use different means to hunt other kinds of prey. This time, our prey was coin, and the bait was the damaged tin soldier wrapped up in the back of our wagon and secured for the trip. I do not mind telling you however, It is an extremely unpleasant way to travel, and I will always prefer a horse beneath me compared to the bumpy, unyielding wood of a wagon. I now look at Zuristoi’s people, and their lifetimes spent in these rolling rattle-boxes with a new respect for their fortitude and endurance. After only a few hours I was done with our transportation, but we still had a very long trip ahead, so I settled down with my brother and tried to sleep through as much of the trip as I could.

After twelve days on the road we finally arrived at the outskirts of Riddleport, and even from a great distance, I could feel my nose burning with the chemical stink along with the fetid stench of brine and rotten fish that was many times stronger then Brinewall..(although in all honesty, I did not think that was possible.) As our Rattle-box wagon trundled into the city, I was assaulted by such a clamor that I do not think I will ever forget it. I had not imagined so many people in all the world, especially gathered together in one place such as this. Everywhere was noise, people, stink and motion, until finally I found myself shaking and retreated to the back of the wagon to huddle with A’hoot until we were some place where I could get my bearings. After we passed several street hawkers who tried purchase both A’hoot and myself, we witnessed numerous beatings occurring down filth encrusted alleyways, and for the first time I began to wonder if we had made a mistake by coming here.

Although we had come to a dark and shadowed place, Thrindil seemed a touch more at ease here, which did provide some comfort as we searched for an Inn to settle in our wagon and begin the search for a powerful mage who could repair our clockwork. However, even Thrindil was cautious, and advised we mind ourselves and our belongings while in Riddleport, and I for one did not disagree in the slightest. We set up in a room at the “Brass Dwarf” before packing up our things and trying to make our first contact with one of the magi of the cypher lodge. It was well known that the Cypher mages were some of the most powerful wizards in the area, and if we were going to find someone with the enchantment needed to repair our clock-work, it would be at their lodge next to the base of the Cypher gate.

If you have never seen the Cypher gate, I can only speak of it as one of the great wonders of our world. The thought that such a thing was made by men is difficult for me to accept, such was its immense size and scale. The metal alone required to craft it must have emptied entire mines, and upon it’s long curved surface, carefully scrawled writing can be seen stretching from one end to the other of the vast gateway. Surely, such a thing must have been created by the spirits in a time long since forgotten by men, now it sits here inspiring a cabal of wizards to study and document every inch of its surface.

We drove our wagon up to the Cypher lodge in hopes of speaking to a wizard that could cast the spell we needed. Unfortunately, from the very beginning we ran into some difficulty, as there was a problem at the lodge which had caused them to close their doors to outsiders. There was a woman named Finella who flatly turned us away, and would not allow us to speak with any of the mages who were in residence at the lodge. We went around back, pretending to deliver supplies and entered through the kitchen despite the protests of the cook as we tried to find someone who would talk to us. Zuristoi, spoke in that smooth and charming manner of his, but even his considerable charm was to no avail as Finella demanded we leave at once and started to cast a spell that would have held us in place while we were bodily removed from the premises. Finally, a powerful mage came to the front and informed us that we were now trespassing, and lowered a wand aimed directly at us. At that point, Thrindil informed us all, that we were now breaking the law, and within moments this mage would likely activate his wand to whatever dire effect if we did not vacate the premises immediately. We would find no assistance here, and so we turned our wagon around and returned down the side street we had come, back towards the Brass dwarf.

There was a temple of Calistria here in the city that might possess the spell we were looking for, but as Thrindil explained the Goddess of Lust and Revenge, was well as the style of her worship, I felt a knot of fear develop in my gut at the thought of going there. It was at this point, Zuristoi decided to try playing some music for the patrons of the Brass Dwarf, in hopes that it might loosen their tongues. One of the serving women asked if he could keep his performance quiet, as “we were not the Golden Goblin.”.. and there was a sense of propriety to be maintained here. At that, Zuristoi decided to seek out this rowdy place in hopes of finding a lead on something that could help us locate what we were looking for. I did not think it was a good idea for any of us to travel the streets alone, even one such as Zuristoi, so I gathered my things and accompanied him down the street towards the Golden Goblin.

As we entered the Inn and Casino, once again my senses were assaulted by such a clamor that I had not imagined before. The main room was filled with a vast variety gambling tables, spinning wheels and card dealers that serviced a huge noisy bellowing crowd. Everywhere there were people, and Zuristoi seemed at ease, while it was all I could do to try and find a quiet corner and watch to make sure no one came at us unawares or made off with what little coin we had brought with us. Having found someone’s face in the crowd, Zuristoi sat down at the card-table of a blonde half elven woman. The two exchanged pleasantries, and after losing several times, suddenly Zuristoi won, and there was a message which seemed to pass between them. I later discovered that the blonde haired woman was named Samaritha Beldusk, and she had recently passed through Brinewall on her way to study at the Cypherlodge in Riddleport. Half an hour after Zuristoi sat down at her table, she took her break on a nearby balcony that overlooked the street. Before doing so, she had passed a note to Zuristoi that he should meet her and they could talk. I positioned myself close enough to make sure nothing untoward happened to Zuristoi, after all, the lesson of Desna’s pilgrim was not lost upon me, and I would not allow such an ambush to nearly kill one of our hunting party again. The kindly old woman had caused me to lower my guard, so that was a mistake I would not make twice.

Samaritha Beldusk had taken a job at the Golden Goblin, because the cypher mages had closed their doors not just to people looking for aid, but to potential apprentices as well. Fortunately, she had spoken with Finella, and had been informed that Lord Tammerhawk would be greatly interested in the services of relatively unknown adventurers such as ourselves. She sent a note to Finella, and a meeting was arranged for the following morning with the Lord of the Cypher mages.

Shortly after dawn, we left the inn and made our way through the city towards the base of the Cypher gate. Fortunately this time, instead of forcing us out, we were welcomed by Finella, and shown into the Lodge master’s quarters, past the brooding enforcer who nearly discharged his wand at us the day before. Even though we had been welcomed here in hopes that we could be of service to the Lord of the Cypher lodge, I had no illusions about the fact we were still in considerable danger. It was the only option left however, if we did not wish to turn back towards Brinewall or seek out the bladed pleasure palace of Calistria.

Ellias Tammerhawk was a gruff wizard of Chelish descent who had a keen eye and a sharp wit despite his never ending pursuit of the esoteric. There was a no nonsense approach that made things very clear at the start of exactly what he wanted. One of the other Crime lords was moving against him, and scholars he had sent for were being intercepted before they could arrive in Riddleport. Tammerhawk wanted us to find those responsible and put a stop to what was happening. A Tien scholar was overdue, and Lord Tammerhawk feared that he had been taken like the others. This was a local matter, and as such he did not want to risk open warfare on the streets, that is where we came in. Any survivors were to be found, and those responsible were to be punished.

Here at last, was something I could come to grips with. For the first time since we had arrived in Riddleport, I could feel the will of the spirits humming in my chest as a hunt was called and I could clearly see their purpose in bringing me here. Tammerhawk was a powerful man, and although the hive of Riddleport did not encourage fairness and mercy in its leaders, having his favor would do well for us if we had business here in the future. Thrindil and Zuristoi began to ask questions about access to knowledge and resources that Tammerhawk had, in order that we might begin our search. But a good hunter knows that your prey will not hide in bush that has already be searched by another hunter. I spoke to Lord Tammerhawk, telling him that we would find who had done this, in exchange for a spell that would repair our clockwork. If he would cast it for us then we would see to it his will was done. After he agreed to our terms, we set out for the docks to investigate.

I was done hiding in wagons and shivering like a child at the seemingly endless hordes of people in Riddleport. My blood was up as we took to the hunt and I found purpose in the search for our prey that distracted me from the filth and squalor that surrounded us. My brother A’hoot felt is as well, and together we moved through the city like hunting cats in our eagerness for the kill. Zuristoi found an old dwarven fisher who told us about a building down by the dock which had been abandoned for some time before being recently “reoccupied” as we moved down by the docks to take a closer look, we realized we were not alone. I noticed a group of toughs who kept a sharp lookout over the building, and so we gathered they were probably scouts and guards set to watch for any approach and alert the thugs inside of intruders.

We approached quickly, but they were alerted to our presence as soon as I cast a spell upon my brother which made his teeth longer and more vicious. We set upon them and closed the distance as fast as we could. A’hoot surged forward and had mauled all three of them to some degree as the rest of us moved into position. They turned and fled into a different warehouse behind them as the fight moved inside the building. We were fully armed, and they had little more then saps with which to attack A’hoot’s armored bulk, as a result the fight was over quickly as the rest of us moved into range and joined in the attack. We still did not know exactly who these people were, and the power structures within Riddleport were like a maze of influence between different crime lords one must navigate carefully. Furthermore, although my blood was up, we did not wish to leave an obvious trail of bodies that could be traced back to the Cypher Lord who had hired us. I stablized the one who had been nearly killed, and we interrogated the scouts about the building they were watching.

As it turned out there was another Crimelord who was interested in the events happening here on the docks. A tremendous half orc named “Boss Krote” had sent his thugs to intercept anyone leaving the building, it was only luck and a sharp eye which had discovered them before they could have in turn ambushed us on our way out. There is a saying among the huho’tach, an ambush turned, visits mischief upon its maker tenfold. We patched the thugs up as best we could, and sent them back to their boss with a warning not to interfere in Alligia’s Business. As of this point we were still a mystery, and we wanted it to stay that way. After interrogating the thugs, they informed us that people and crates of salvage had been sent here from a ship called the “Lionfish.” Now that we had the name of a connection, we continued into the warehouse from a side door. Thrindil had secretly unlocked the narrow side door that was on the other side of the warehouse and I prepared for battle by transforming myself into a Firepelt. Thrindil assisted me by quickly placing the armor over my body, then we proceeded inside.

Even now I find it difficult to describe what it felt like as a firepelt. If I were to give it words, I suppose: pure Exhilaration, would be the only thing coming to mind which gave it any justice. A’hoot and I climbed over the top of some crates which alerted Allegia’s Thugs to our presence, but the time for subtly had passed and the time for blood had come. Ahoot came down among them and they turned to attack as I leaped down off the boxes and tore into a nearby thug. It is difficult to fully explain the joy and pleasure I felt as my teeth ripped into the flesh of my prey and there was a heated wash of copper tasting blood in my mouth. I bit through his neck and crushed his windpipe, then turned to swipe at another as A’hoot also slashed at a different thug. I was consumed by the kill and could only feel the power of my new form as A’hoot and I murdered them. There was no grace or art in this fight, only butchery as we tore them apart amid savage claws and the spray of blood. Thrindil and Zuristoi were able to hit them with magic several times before the last thug went down. Fortunately we were able to take one captive, who sneered defiantly as he tossed his weapon down and surrendered.

I had not returned to my human form, but A’hoot and I watched carefully as the thug led us to one of the crates where a woman was being kept. Zuristoi could see that she was was in dire condition, so he pulled her out and channeled healing energy into her body which brought her back to consciousness. Thrindil then ordered the remaining thug to remove his weapons and climb into the heavy shipping crate where the woman had been kept. Zuristoi had assumed he was going to remain in the crate until he was discovered and released, but none of us were prepared for the reality of the situation. I had a few moments to calm down after the fight, but I was still filled with the need to kill, and as Thrindil asked a confused Zuristoi to remove the woman from the area, he also instructed me to “destroy the evidence.” and pointed towards the box with the captured thug. Perhaps it was the predator talking, but it made sense the more I considered it, because as of this point no one knew who we were. A band of two bit thugs thought of us as a Allegia’s henchmen, but if we left a survivor then other crime lords could eventually put the pieces together and figure out who had intervened on Tammerhawk’s behalf. The Cypher mage could not afford to have the Crime Lords unite against him, but neither could we afford to have them notice us and decide to take revenge directly or punish Brinewall for interfering in their affairs.

I would not order my brother A’hoot to do it, so I leapt into the crate while the Street thug screamed in terror and soon the room was filled with my roars and the wet sounds of meat being ripped apart. There were splashes of blood on the sides and my instincts took over as I used claws and teeth to finish the thug as we were confined in the crate. I was horrified with myself, but at the same time I cannot deny a certain exhilaration as I was able to give vent to the need for violence in my Fire Pelt form. I jumped on the edge and emerged from the silent crate covered in his blood as I stopped myself before committing the sin of eating his flesh. The taste of his blood still filled my mouth as I returned to my human form and I could not suppress a deep shudder. Zuristoi was understandably displeased, but agreed to help us as we cleared the bodies and filled the crate with corpses from the other thugs in Allegia’s employ. After that terrible moment, we locked the warehouse up behind us and moved on the Lionfish.

The mood was grim as we realized what we would have to do. When it came to Allegia’s thugs, there could be no survivors left alive to draw the ire back towards us and Brinewall. They would have to be killed to a man, and so we set off towards the Lion fish by stopping by an old dwarf fisher woman down by the docks. The boat itself was at Anchor in the harbor, so we needed a skiff to take us out there quietly. So far, the old dwarf had proven to be both helpful and discrete, valued traits in a city like Riddleport as I was quickly coming to learn.

We were rowed over to the Lionfish, but the fight to take her was very very messy. The ship itself was captained by a Gripli Alchemist who fought by throwing vials of ice oil and stepped out to stab me from the shadows at every opportunity. Unfortunately we alerted them before we could get A’hoot on the boat, so Thrindil spent much of the fight man-handling the gangplank down into the skiff moored to the side of the Lionfish. Zuristoi fought like a lion, and attacked the others while I engaged the captain and several of his men. At one point, the Gripli captain had stabbed me several times, and I did not know if I could fend off another attack before he landed a killing blow. I backed up against the railing as we fought and simply dropped backwards into the black water of the harbor to get away from the fight. Fortunately, I did not catch the disease that is carried in the harbor water, but I was careful not to draw any of it into my lungs as I surfaced and climbed slowly back up into the boat. After the battle, Zuristoi healed me by channeling energy into my body after the terrible wounds I had taken from the captain’s blade and his many alchemical bombs.

We were close now, as we discovered papers and maps in the captain’s quarters with detailed plans for Allegia’s ill conceived move against the master of the Cypher-lodge. After some negotiations with the dwarvish fisherwoman.. (in which Thrindil seemed to make new friends as always.) she agreed to gather a crew and sail us the short distance up the coast to the rendezvous point. Upon reaching the hidden cove, we could see a cave where Allegia’s latest victim was moored, A Tian vessel which had been carrying a scholar from half way around the world in Minkai. We sailed the Lionfish up the into the harbor and quietly moored our ship nearyby before disembarking and making our way into the dock.

The cave split into two tunnels, so we investigated the tunnel to our right and found it ended in a ledge over a pit filled with trained warhounds. The beasts had been horribly mistreated, and I grieved at seeing them, so filled with mindless rage. I hoped that after all this was Over I could perhaps take them back to the grove and tend them back to health. I could not get through the them however, and their noise had certainly alerted the others of our arrival. .. so we prepared for combat and made our way down the other passageway to the left.

Once inside we found that the passageway expanded out into a large cave ..where Allegia had prepared to make her stand. Allegia herself was of some kind of race I had never seen before, her skin shimmered and there was an quality to her body that led one to believe she was not fully human. As she appeared from around a pillar in the room, she held the tian scholar in front of her with a hand crossbow resting aimed at his throat. More thugs came from around the pillars and the situation deteriorated into a standoff.

Zuristoi, Thrindil and I all spoke, trying to negotiate and buy time, but as she made offers to us, our cover was becoming thin and I realized that we were running out of time to act. I stepped aside and gave A’hoot the command to take the Scholar and hold him on the ground. My brother surged forward and took the scholar from a shocked Allegia as her thugs cried out and attacked us. He threw the scholar on the ground, protecting him while several thugs moved towards us on the attack. Allegia and one of her henchmen tried to reach the lever which opened up the dog kennels below. Thrindil summoned an earth elemental in their path, while I stepped forward to engage Allegia with my club. She was very quick, and danced with her blade as it snapped back and forth in a seemless order of attacks. We traded several blows as A’hoot tore into her henchmen, finally she landed a cut on the side of my arm, but it started bleeding fast enough that the poison smeared on her blade was not able to do its work. Thrindil’s elemental took out the last thug and moved to attack Allegia from behind as the summoner commanded it to stop. He shouted at Allegia to stand down or die, and so after a moment of looking around at her fallen henchmen, she surrendered her weapon. I would take no chances, so I struck her from behind with my club to knock her out while we tied her up and prepared her for transport back to the Cypher lodge. Zuristoi healed the Tian scholar, who was grateful for our rescue.

We were taking a chance, leaving Allegia alive, but I had no doubt that Tammerhawk would make sure that loose end was tied up… permanently. Upon returning, Ellias was overjoyed at the return of his scholars as well as the capture of his rival. Both were swept away by servants who heeded his commands quickly and efficiently. That was when the situation turned, as he informed us that.. the greater make whole spell was a recently researched conjuration that he did not.. as yet, have access to. We explained what we needed it for, and he nodded in understanding before offering to broker a deal for the clockwork to his sources in Magnamar. Our role in its acquisition would be erased, and he would take a generous cut of its sale in exchange for handling all the details such as transport and repair. We haggled briefly as Zuristoi fought hard to get us a better deal.. and we did finally reach an agreement that was more to our liking. The three of us would receive 2500 gold each, in addition a trade route would be established between Riddleport and Brinewall using the “Lionfish” Because the Lionfish was flying Riddleport Colors, merchants would be desperate to book passage for freight and passengers too valuage to risk attack by pirates. Therefor the new dwarvish captain of the Lionfish stood to make a tidy profit along with Brinewall.we were also free to take any loot or salvage from the lionfish or Allegia’s warehouse as our own.

It was not a great deal, but I sensed danger… Tammerhawk was a crime lord of Riddleport after all. So I feel we left with as good of a deal as we were going to get. We thankfully sold the wagons, and with loaded packs, headed back on the road towards Brinewall..

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Ashes to Ashes..
(Season 1, Episode 6) A fire spirit attacks, and a dark secret revealed.

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Sa’hetna’s Journal -

It was with a heavy heart that I turned away from my village and began the slow trip back to our home in Brinewall. I suspect the others were ready to leave, but I still wanted to stay. My goal was still incomplete however, for while they had been defeated, they would return in time. It seems strange to think of it now, but the village of Brinewall has become our home. For as long as I can remember I have never thought of someplace else as being home except my village, but Brinewall has changed to become something more. It is a muddy, smelly place that stinks of fish, salt and dung, but even that is slowly changing. The wagon was loaded down with the spoils from the battle of Ancestor Hill, and while Threndil was excited, all I saw when I glance into the back of the wagon was a huge load of gears, plates and junk.

He has said, “It can be melted down into things which will be useful.” so I chose to simply defer to his advice on the junk-pile and focus my effort on tending the ancestor tree.

On the road back into town, we first met an old Tinkerer who had broken down on his travels across the countryside. His wagon was damaged and so we paused in our journey to help him fix his wagon and speak with him briefly before moving on. He was a wandering Tinkerer who moved from tiny village to village to provide whatever services they lacked. The Tinker was not a skilled Artisan, but he could provide the bare necessities to a hamlet that had little to offer besides room and board.

Two days later, we had returned to the road and were attacked by a rogue Ankheg. This scourge would normally avoid larger caravans, but unfortunately it saw our small party as a potential meal, especially our horses. The beast burrowed under and exploded from the surface to rush our group in a direct assault. I had dismounted and was about to move around my horse when it focused its attack on Teh’tuon, my brave mount! Its first bite cut deeply into its neck and my horse would have been killed had we not been able to overcome the beast. Zuristoi, Threndil and Olli all attacked the beast with our weapons and powers until it was finally overcome and it fell in a twitching heap of oozing chitin and bug innards. Zuristoi had used his powers to heal Teh’tuon and save my horses life, an act for which I will always be grateful. Threndil, never wanting to see anything go to waste quickly set upon the carcass to remove the chitinous plates and save them for later use. When he sets upon a fallen foe, I cannot help but think of our women, and how they would tear into the carcass of a fallen Elk to clean and remove anything and everything of use. His single minded devotion to picking the dead clean is a slightly morbid marvel to behold, and a I suspect that he could teach the women of my tribe a thing or two in finding use in that which has fallen on the battlefield.

Several days after the encounter with the Ankheg, we met a traveler on the side of the road, this was an old pilgrim of Desna who had been wandering the road for some time and was exhausted from her journey. It was strange, because she had no food, pack or water, but none of us realized that at the time. Perhaps we had assumed that she used her favor with Desna as a means to support herself, in looking back I admonish myself for not being more cautious in my consideration of such things. I can see now, that too much of my healthy suspicion has eased since we have settled into Brinewall. We could see that she was exhausted, and so we accepted her into our group and continued back towards Brinewall. Some time later, as we had settled into camp for a peaceful evening, The Pilgrim and Olli had stepped away from the Campfire to observe the stars, when she drew out a spear and stabbed Olli. At first we could not understand what was happening, but she continued to attack, muttering something about how she had to “save the world”

Ahoot and I had lept into action as Olli drew back clutching a wound and his hand was covered in his own blood. Fire started to sparkle in her eyes and her voice became thick with anger as she moved to attack Olli again. By this time, our fellowship had sprung into action and we attacked the pilgrim with intent to put her down. She was either possessed or insane, but whatever the cause for her unprovoked attack on Olli, when my fellow hunter was safe, it would be answered with blood if need be. I clubbed at the witch, while Ahoot swept in for the attack. The others used their powers to attack, and soon the pilgrim and whatever force possessed her was on the defensive. After A’hoot tore at her neck, she screamed out and scalding blood shot from her wound as she died. The woman appeared to be bursting into flames as Olli shouted for us to get away from the dying woman. I knew that if her body was going to explode, there was no way we could get away in time, so I tried to move in close, so that my brother A’hoot and I could meet the spirits of our ancestors side by side. Fortunately for us however, she did not explode, but simply burst into flames and the body was quickly consumed by intense heat. A strange, malicious fire beast burst forth from the body and ran all over camp before we were able to bring it down. tainted spark elementals burst into life after the thing had called to its strange god “Cthugga.” This name did not sound familiar, and as we saw the tainted fire which was called up by invoking its power, I suspect our ignorance was probably for the best.

The Fire beast of Cthugga ravaged our camp, injured several of our hunting party and sent one of the horses fleeing into the night before we were able to put it down. It did not focus its attacks on the ancestor sapling, but instead seemed focused on killing Olli. After the fight, when we asked him about it, he said that a similar situation had happened with his previous group. A fire creature had possessed a hobgoblin and after the course of a battle, seemed as if it was about to explode. Instead of hanging about wondering what was going to happen, Olli had fled before he could see the results. At that point I began to suspect perhaps this was the same fire creature, after all, if it could possess a hobgoblin, why not a pilgrim of Desna?

We buried her corpse, because if she had been possessed then it was unfortunate circumstance that placed her at the wrong place at the wrong time. Our hunting party returned to the road, much disturbed by the events from the previous evening. I set out ahead of the group to try and track her path and came upon the campsite where the pilgrim had slept previously. The blackened remains of a pack mule were all that remained, as the fire spirit had obviously attacked and killed her mule before taking her body and possessing it. Such a horrid violation still shakes me deeply, what sort of foul spirit could do such a thing as possess a host while still burning with such unnatural heat. Is the victim still alive?.. do they feel the fire inside them?.. all of these questions and more shook my spirit, and despite our victory back at the village, the remaining ride into Brinewall was absent of conversation.

When we finally returned to Brinewall, I wasted no time in returning the tree to the Grove and started the ritual to place it within the holy ground prepared for it. It was at this time we noticed something strange. The accidents had returned and become even worse. All work on the walls and buildings was being brought to a standstill by accidents that would happen throughout the day. It was as if the entire village was under the affect of some curse. Threndil was beside himself, as he was preparing to make use of the green dragon hide for a magical bag that would help Olli.. when an accident in his workshop almost ruined it completely.

We had decided that enough was enough, because this curse was obviously not natural and had to be stopped. Eventually everything we were trying to do would come to a halt and we would be defenseless against the hobgoblin’s attack. In addition, people were being injured and in some cases nearly killed, so we had to find the source of these accidents. A’hoot and I began to search as the hunting party returned to some of the places we had searched before for some clue as to what was happening. I already had a terrible suspicion that the foul luck bewitching brinewall was the result of a visitor from the first world. There were many different kinds of fey creature which could be causing this, but it had to be something that could either turn invisible, or was very small and could hide. We searched the old lighthouse, and detected old tracks that led back into Brinewall. after a time, we started finding tiny three toed tracks that crisscrossed the town. We followed the tracks until we arrived at the cathedral of Desna currently under construction. There, A’hoot and I heard what the mysterious curse of Brinewall was.. Gremlins.

We attacked, and while the Gremlins tried to disappear into the shadows and flee, we had their scent now and our hunting party was relentless in pursuit. Olli, Zuristoi, Threndil and I attacked and were finally able to corner and squash two of the creatures before it was able to disappear back into the town and escape.

We followed the tracks of the gremlins back towards the keep and suddenly we remembered the old record of its retaking. Apparently there was a terrible fight that had happened with a strange demon creature in a cavern deep below Brinewall Keep. The beast was defeated, but the existence of such caverns below the keep could mean a great many things. So, we informed the commandant that we were going into the lower levels, and reopen the way to investigate. As we reached the sub cellar, we discovered more gremlin tracks led from below and easily squeezed between the bars installed to keep out intruders from below. We had to investigate, so we removed one of the bars so we could squeeze through and get into the cavern below the keep.

We were on our way into the cavern, when we were attacked by an entire flock of Gremlins from the shadowlands. There were Gremlins of the kind we had fought before, but there were also others. Dark hooded gremlins with long pointed ears and sharp claws hopped about and slashed at anyone and everyone close enough to attack. It was a vicious fight, for the gremlins did not want to give up their new home, and they fought to the last. After a bitter combat, their bodies were strewn about and we continued down into the cavern to make a truly unsettling discovery.

Something had tunneled up from the shadowlands and had bored their way into the old cavern below the keep. The entire place smelled faintly of troglodyte, which meant the beasts had been digging for some time up from below. The caverns would have to be sealed and gaurded, or else more gremlins and worse would bubble up from the caverns below. There could be an entire tribe of troglodytes down there, and we had been completely ignorant of it. The town of Brinewall had been plauged with curses until then, but such foul luck ultimately gave way to good luck as we were now aware of a new threat from below. If the Troglodytes had chosen to attack before this entrance had been discovered, then they might have taken the keep unawares and Brinewall could have relived a second massacre in its dark and bloody history. Such a realization chilled me to the marrow.

The commandant had sent to his order for more troops, and workers have been ordered to seal the entrance with multiple layers of brick and mortar. The threats we were facing were starting to mount and we did not have the resources to prepare defenses against them all. After our hunting party gathered to speak on what to do next, we decided to hurry to Riddleport and find a mage who could repair the Clockwork soldier and then a buyer would could trade us the money we needed for it. I despise this need for money, but if it will help me complete the grove along with Trendil’s forge and Zuristoi’s caravan.. then at least it can be used for something useful.

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The Battle of Ancestor Hill
(Season 1, Episode 5) The Iron Consortium has come at last.

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The Battle of Ancestor Hill..

Throughout the history of Varisia, many details about important events can get rather difficult to confirm for obvious reasons. The first intermediary period was a time where the country was wild and untamed, and many key figures took on the roles of local heros, and eventually legends who’s fantastic stories were repeated through the ages. There was no centralized government, and the local populace consisted of Native Shoanti to the North, and scattered caravans of wandering Varisi everywhere else. Several figures however play an interesting role in what would become the foundation folklore of the eventual city of Brinewall. This place had originally been established as an outpost by fleeing nobility from the far east, but almost all of the family had been wiped out by a concerted attack by the Oni, and for many years the keep was laid to ruin.

This ruin was later rebuilt and became a hub for trade that was headed North into Kalsgard and the lands of the Linnorm Kings. It was at this time, a tribe of Shoanti called the Huho’tach Maudi began to make their presence known. This distressed tribe had spent many generations isolated both from the outside world and the other shoanti tribes, but now was under attack by a shadow arm of the Chelaxian government called “the Iron Consortium,” Thier people had begun the long slow decline into cultural dissolution, when they sent one of their young braves to Brinewall in search of a solution. Unfortunately for them however, the Iron Consortium had been busy, and was preparing a logging expedition to move up into the hills and make a direct assault on the sacred ancestor grove.

Sa’hetna had been using this time to establish himself in Brinewall, when he returned home just in time to find his tribe under attack. There was no time for tactics or long thought out strategems, the situation was critical because the consortium were already well under way with their assault and soon it would be too late. In later writings, Sa’hetna had long had misgivings about the slow decline of his people, and when he returned to the tribe, there was already a heated debate in progress about how to best deal with the invaders.

A tribesman named “Haargev” had formed a degenerate cult of worship for those creatures which dwell beyond the dark tapestry. This dark cult had already wormed its way into the hearts of several tribesman as their fear and desperation grew to a fever pitch, and now, “Haargev” knew that the time was ripe to make his move. The hunt master Nath’rek had taken issue with the use of “summoned spirits” and wanted to gather for a direct assault. Meanwhile, “Haargev” had insisted that the help of the spirits would break the backs of the invaders.

At this council meeting, “Haargev” invited the fellowship to participate in a summoning ritual that would call forth the spirits that would liberate the tribe. Sa’hetna and the others, agreed to attend, but as the greenwalker would recount years later…

“Something felt profoundly wrong about this. I had felt the influence of the spirits and the dire warning I had received from Rancher Fauster did nothing to put my fears at ease. This was something terrible, it was the reason our ancestors had warned us about influence from the outsiders. It was not the lure of money, or the working of iron which had filled their hearts with horror and kept them looking up into the endless sky with dread. The source of their fear, was the profane knowledge that somewhere out in world, these abominable rites and rituals existed, and could be used to call up such evils that no sane man should ever be exposed to.”

When the fellowship had arrived, the ritual began, and suddenly reality itself twisted as something foul and otherworldly was summoned into being. The fellowship only marginally helped as Threndil assisted the ritual by giving his voice to the cult leader, meanwhile Sahetna and the others prepared to deal with the aftermath of what was happening. Shocked and frozen in horror, Sahetna could only stare as the cult leader lost control when the offering mysteriously died just before the creature could consume it. The beast, thus denied its feast, lashed out and nearly took the cultleader before he fled. Fortunately, Olli used his power over the mind to force the cultleader to flee back towards the beast. When he did so, the creature took him in its tentacles and started to drain his life essence. Partly in punishment, and partly in mercy, Sahetna along with the others targeted his attack on the cultleader to finish him off and kill the fool before his soul was consumed by the strange creature from beyond time and space.

It was a close thing for the huho’tach maudi, because if the beast had escaped the confining circle it would have inflicted untold death and injury before it could have been stopped.. if it could have been stopped at all. The circle held however, as the magic of the Harrow revealed itself through Zuristoi and saved the lives of the fellowship and the village. After that disasterous turn of events, the council and the tribe realized its folley in turning the to dark spirits from beyond and decided that now was the time to fight. The fellowship agreed to fight by their side and gathered with Nath’rek in the morning for the attack.

As the Consortium continued up the hill, the Huho’tach moved to attack the other two elements while the fellowship crept forward to attack the third. Each element consisted of 2 clockwork soldiers alongside a clockwork harvester and attended by gaurds and an overseer. The fellowship planned to attack the overseer, and disable the harvester until all the others had been dealt with. The attack proceeded as both Olli and Zuristoi used their magic to occupy the overseer while Sa’hetna and Threndil used claw and summoned creature to attack the gaurds. The clockwork soldiers were very strong, and could inflict terrible wounds upon anyone who got close. Fortunately however, one was led off by Threndil while the other was attacked and dismantled by Sa’hetna and A’hoot. The fight did not last long as the gaurds were cut down and the overseer was forced into a magical slumber from which he would awake only briefly. His gaurds did their best to protect and revive him, but by the time they realized what was happening, they were being overrun by the fellowship and the tide was turning against them. As the battle was nearly finished, Zuristoi led the harvester on a merry chase while the others tried to use the keys to take control of the clockworks to no avail. The other groups of Huho’tach were successful in their attack, having brought down the clockworks with huge mallets that smashed joints and caved in armor. After leading his harvestor on a chase through the field.. Zuristoi led the device towards the warriors, who knocked its knees out from under it and proceeded to smash it into metal bits.

Nath’rek had decided to press the attack, kill the next shift and burn their camp in a wave of destruction that would chase the consortium all the way back to the shore. Sa’hetna and the others followed and wrecked terrible damage upon the consortium until chelish troops began to deploy from the boats to call a halt to their assault. Meanwhile the tribe’s advance had left a path of destruction in its wake, and the consortium would have no choice but to retreat.

The warriors of the Huho’tach and the fellowship returned to the village victorious, and a great feast was gathered in honor of those who fought, and those who had died to make victory happen. Sa’hetna was given a sacred ancestor sapling to place in his grove, and after making a quick stop by the sawmill to say goodbye to Breanna, he guided the fellowship back home. Threndil had been busy collecting salvage, and so he traded his horse for a wagon that would carry the metal back to Brinewall for his forge. This meant the trip home would be longer, but with the metal and spoils from the battle, it would well be worth it.

None of the fellowship had any illusions about the eventual return of the Iron consortium. They had been beaten once, but now was the time to prepare. They would come back eventually, stronger then before and ready to fight and destroy the Huho’tach maudi forever.

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Zuristoi... Dragon slayer
(Season 1, episode 4) Shepard's Bane is cornered and slain.

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Greetings mother and father.. I will be returning home soon. It will be very good to see everyone again and I am looking forward to seeing the mighty ancestor trees which grace our homeland and keep the spirits of our ancestors. I know now, that I am on a great spirit quest, and that our journeys will become legends told to children many years from now, provided we survive. I have made a home in the stinking town of Brinewall, where it smells very bad all the time. I am hopeful however, that as I am able to show them the way, and convince the people to work with the land instead of struggling against it, they will achieve some measure of harmony, and then they will aid us in our fight against the consortium.

Nearby, there is a great tower of stone which is a nesting ground of evil spirits. They call to goblins and hobgoblins, filling their ears with desire to dwell in the company of darkness. Twice we have cleansed this place of evil, and twice it has reached out to call more of its kind to dwell there. I fear that there may be no way to finally be rid of it, except to raze this nesting ground of dark spirits to the ground and return its bones to the earth from which the stone was drawn. I must always be mindful, for not every dark spirit is necessarily evil, but whatever is calling to these goblins and bringing them down from the mountains, makes it difficult to secure the town of Brinewall from threats to the North.

In our most recent adventure, we had finally killed the goblins and secured the tower before realizing that the small green dragon which had started amassing its horde in the basement would likely soon return, and be very angry with us. A dragon knows its horde like it knows its own skin, every coin is like every scale. Everything has a place, and as soon as we took some of it, the dragon would know its lair had been defiled and its treasure touched by outsiders. We tried to return the goods, in hopes that the dragon would not immediately attack and give us enough time to recover some of our energy. The blessing of the trees would not fall upon me until dawn, so I had to make do with what I could while Zuristoi, Olli, and Threndiil had recovered enough of their strength to be useful.

We barracaded ourselves in the tower to wait while the dragon returned from its hunting to consume its latest catch and add its bones to the growing pile. We knew that we would not be hard to find, but we had returned the treasure we had taken in hopes that it would not be so angry with us, that it would hurry to engage us. After resting for a time, we heard a disturbance outside.. so Threndiil sent one of his eagles out to give chase, but we didnt hear anything after that. Zuristoi used a trick of the light to make it seem like someone had gone to the door, and the decoy was consumed in a massive cloud of acidic gas.

We fled back down into the dragon’s lair, and made ready to assault the beast. It would seem counter intuitive to attack it in its lair, but its true strength, was in the air where it could attack us with impunity and we would be nearly helpless to stop it. By this time night had fallen, and the lair itself was nearly pitch black. Zuristoi had used another illumination spell, and we soon discovered the creature as it moved to confront us.

Our attack was swift and decisive.. everyone attacked as best they could, A’hoot closed while I cast my spells and helped as best I could. The dragon’s attack had taken place too soon for Ollie to replenish his spells, but he helped attack the beast as best he could. Zuristoi however was quicker on the draw and drew up next to the dragon with his sword raised high. He struck the beast once.. then again as it died from its wounds. The dragon was defeated and the scourge of the local livestock was now dead.

We were hailed as heros upon our return.. and Zuristoi spun tales well into the morning while the rest of us went to tend to other matters.

I had investigated the area, and found a ruined grove that could be used with some time and attention. Meanwhile .. the town itself was attacked by an acid scarred ogre who had come down from the hills. Its savage attack was cut short as our hunting party gathered to stop it. The people of Brinewall fled while we raced in the other direction to confront the beast. It had left a trail of devastation in its wake, but we caught up with it before it was able to kill anyone. We attacked the ogre head on.. and brought it down, but not before several of our group were wounded. At this point the fellowship decided it was time to see to the ogres in the hills, and end their threat once and for all.

We left for the hills in the early morning.. I did my best to guide the others and track the path the ogre had made in its rampage. Finally, we followed the ogres back to their lair, a stinking cliff cave that was covered in strange burns that were likely made by the dragon. We wasted no time inside, and hurried to engage them before they could better prepare themselves. Two ogres came out of the darkness as we went in.. and the fight was terrible. Ahoot had been knocked down and was bleeding badly. Were it not for Zuristoi’s magic and the wands we had purchased, I don’t know what would have happened to my brother.

We finally defeated the Ogres, and on our way back, saw a terrible sight.. a caravan of hobgoblins and goblins, moving into the tower to once again fortify it as a garrison of their foul race. My heart sank as I considered what we had just sacrificed to clear it.. but the goblins and hobgoblins were a truly numberless enemy.. and it was not going to be easy.

Finally we made our way back.. and I asked the others if they would help me return to my people, so I could acquire an ironroot tree seed as the center of the new grove in Brinewall.

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