Adventures in Thargothras

Session 17
Duels and Dragons

Vaelin's second duel was far more successful than the first, even in the absence of victory, he earned glory for having fought well and with all the tricks and glamers at his disposal.
Erosia's duel was of a more psychological nature. He directly fought the knight of the Owdi crest, referred to as the Oak by his fellows, and for every shot that hit him, he returned a blast of water that tore into the ground, leaving deep runnels at his opponent's feet. Then, having suffered the wounds of two or more arrows, he would take the time to recover completely from all wounds. The Oak, believing him to be an oni or similar water-spirit, conceded the duel, as did the second challenger. Thus, the stakes of his duels went in his favor, and there was much joy to be had before he returned to the work of curing the out-of-towners afflicted with Vile Rigidity, an insidious and deadly disease of the skin.

The other half of the party returned from Silverhold, and not an hour had passed after Allen walked through the door to his observatory to recover from his long flight than a young messenger boy brought him a letter. The letter, signed only with an initial D, threatened dire consequences if the jar of teeth taken from Jorba's cabin was not delivered to the Silver Sphinx by sundown. Fortunately, that gave him plenty of time to gather his friends to scout the location. The stranger in the teahouse was frightening, impatient, and well-armored but unarmed, but there was little more to be learned from observation. Their curiosity satisfied as well as could be, the meeting was held outdoors behind the Sphinx to minimize any potential collateral damage. Joshua was stationed on the roof as a sniper.

Early into the conversation, the mysterious malefactor identified himself as Durvininth, one of the two dragons of Blackwyrm Mire, and his grievances were aired plainly. Seeing a deeper distress behind the dragon's demands, and seeking a diplomatic solution, the participants forged a new agreement: the Tabard family would be left alone, and all punishment would fall on Allen, to be paid for with his service as a necroturge for thirty-five years in compensation for the death of Durvininth's friend and skeleton provider. The duty was to begin in one year, and a blood oath was made, after which each one's blood flowed quick in the other's veins. A promise was made to return the jar of teeth personally to Jorba, and the dragon departed for home.

The session ended there, on Quintar 15th.

Karmic adjustments:
+1 to Allen for seeking a location ideal for minimal collateral damage, and a further +3 for making a blood oath to avert the death of his apprentice's friends, bringing his score up to 23
Erosia remains at 16
Felicity remains at 11
Joshua remains at 10
Seralyn remains at 24
Skyler remains at 15
+1 to Vaelin for helping scout and choose the location of the meeting, and a further +1 for his ongoing efforts to solve the concerns of the people of Radimyr Barony, bringing his score up to 16

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A dragon's due, part 2
Come not between a dragon and his wrath

Durvininth had brought one of his most prized treasures from his lair, the crystal ball of Endriphus the Dreamer, a focus of powerful divination, and the skull of one of his broken skeletal servants. Miles he had flown, careful not to drop either object, all the way to the cabin of the vile rot hag, the site where his friend of thirty-five years had been slain. Assuming humanoid form, still careful not to drop the delicate cargo in his massive claws as they shrank, he called out to the cabin's only occupant through a broken window.
"Jorba! It is I, Durvininth the Black, keeper of the Blackwyrm Mire and friend of Wicked Peggy Knucklebones! I request that we may jointly seek revenge for her untimely death. May I enter?"
A low chuckle echoed from within, and the door swung open. "Come in, for the enemy of my enemies is a most needed friend! Come in, that our wrath may be increased all the more with our union."

Hours later, the dragon and hag had determined that the teeth were beyond the power of the crystal orb, blocked perhaps by planar barriers or the utter destruction of the teeth. Determined, they scoured the filthy cottage for anything, no matter how small, left behind by the attackers. More hours later, through scent and diligence, a single singed hair was found clinging to the wall. The hair of a wolf, struck by lightning. It was the work of a moment to locate the wolf it belonged to, in the halls of a dwarven market. Following patiently, they watched and listened as four of the slayers grouped together and spoke of their progress and travel plans.

Now armed with the names and location of his prey, Durvininth took wing to the home of the coven's last live acquisition, Rose Tabard, to inquire about the other four present at the assault. Jorba remained at home, calling in favors from dark fey, digging up old servitors from their long incubation, and perhaps coaxing greater life into one of her "children" she'd stashed away…

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Session 16
Fungus and Fey-knights

Allen, Felicity, Joshua, and Skyler were all called back to the temple of Ortrul in Silverhold to take care of a delicate matter, which turned out to be an escaped ochre jelly, which the Gravetenders used as part of their burial preparations, and needed alive. After brief but heated combat, the clay urn that acted as its vessel was repaired, and the ooze sufficiently subdued for recapture. After rewards were issued, conversation with the priest turned to the appearance of Baraz-Bolgrik in the hands of Miriam Quickhammer, and her false story about how she had acquired it. Knowing the truth of the matter, Skyler drew forth the darkwood shield recovered from the tomb weeks ago, and mentioned that the suit of plate armor had been recovered as well. This caused great consternation among the dwarves, who realized immediately that their newly promoted leader could not be trusted, but they had no power to do anything about it. The four party members vowed to learn what they could, and recover the armor before any confrontation could be made. On their trip to the Silverhold library, they learned that all books pertaining to King Matthias II or his ancestral weapon were checked out by the Queen, a turn of events that did not bode well for anyone hoping to challenge her legitimacy.

Meanwhile, in Radimyr, Vaelin and Erosia had decided to explore the Vastwood, seeking to turn two problems (food shortage and abundance of monsters) into one solution. They encountered an owlbear, which was no match for them, as well as a disturbing clutch of immature fungal maulers. Erosia, with surgical precision, removed and killed one of the sprouting weeds, but it was then that the parent arrived, offering poor offense, but proving quite resistant to most attacks. Thankfully, it was not immune to lightning, and Vaelin struck it in such a way that it exploded into burnt spores and fried chunks. Erosia made short work of the other three sprouts, and as they settled down to rest, an amphisbeana, mature and hungry, approached them, only to be run down by five elfin warriors on horseback. The warriors introduced themselves as belonging to the orders of the Lion, the Stag, and the Owdi, the latter of which was the leader of the other four. After some argument about who was to claim the bounty of the hunt, a challenge was declared for the following morning: Erosia and Vaelin were to duel any four of the knights (once for themselves and once as champion for each of Vaelin's militia cohorts), and stakes were called and confirmed.
Vaelin's first duel was exhausting and unsuccessful, but he used his new knowledge of their skill to plan for a much stronger defense.

The session ended there.

Karmic adjustments:
+1 to Allen for informing the high priest of the falsity of the queen's official story, bringing his score up to 19
+1 to Erosia for helping Vaelin solve the public's problems at his own rish, a further +1 for killing the immature fungal maulers, and a further +1 for taking the role of champion for one of Vaelin's followers in a duel, bringing his score up to 16
+1 to Felicity for corroborating with Allen's story, bringing her to 11
Joshua remains at 10
Seralyn remains at 24
+1 to Skyler for corroborating Allen's story and a further +1 for willingness to provide physical proof, bringing his score up to 15
+2 to Vaelin for taking an active role in his responsibility to his subjects and taking his job seriously, and a further +1 for volunteering to act as champion for one of his employees in the feyknight duel, bringing his score up to 14

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Incident at Rodillon's Bridge

Audreyn hadn't spent this long in a saddle for ages, and was starting to get sore, and they were only two days into their travel. As they were riding, up to Rodillon's Bridge, under Ortrul's bright eye, one of the attendants far ahead shouted something and pointed into the water. After a minute or so, word finally reached the back end of the caravan that the whole procession was stopping for everyone to refill their waterskins and water barrels for the continued journey. Anxious to walk on her feet again, Audreyn volunteered to collect the waterskins of Dame Zelcir and Sir Wersil, and even Lord Vincent de Narsiik and refill them herself at the river bank. All accepted, as they were in the middle of a game of cards in Wersil's carriage and didn't want to be interrupted. Audreyn hastily dismounted, collected the skins, and ran awkwardly and painfully to the water's edge. No sooner had she began dipping the skins into the river when a long, pinkish serpent broke the surface and snapped at her. The battle that ensued went something like this:

Surprise!
Latch toad attacks from stealth. Audreyn is flat-footed.
17 fails to breach Audreyn's AC.
Initiative!
Audreyn loses.
Round 1
Latch toad attacks with 16, 23, and 14. All misses.
Audreyn moves to attack, provoking an attack from the toad. Another 17 fails to hit.
Audreyn attacks, usin power attack. Her 25 easily hits the toad, dealing 16 damage, reducing the beast to 51 hp.
Round 2
The toad steps back 5', and attacks again. 20, 29, and 30. The second two hit, dealing 8 (5) and 7 (4) damage respectively. Audreyn is reduced to 58 hp, with a reduction pool (granted from her Iron Ward Diamond) of 24, and is covered in goo, but passes her save to avoid being glued to the ground. The toad attempts a grapple using its grab ability for 29. Even with her specialized defense, Audreyn is grappled and brought adjacent to the toad. 
On her turn, Audreyn decides to full attack the toad, accepting the -2 penalty to her attacks.
Her first attack, a 14, only hits because the toad also has the grappled condition. The attack deals 11 damage, reducing the toad to 41 hp. The second attack, 24, threatens a critical, but fails to confirm and deals 12 damage, taking the toad down to 29.
Round 3
On the toad's turn, it attempts to deal more damage. It rolls a 10, a 24, and a 31 which confirms. The damage dealt is 9 (6) and 14 (11) respectively, taking Audreyn down to 41 hp with a reduction pool of 18.
On her turn, Audreyn full attacks back, hitting with a 26 and an 18. She deals 12 and 11 damage because she can't roll higher than a 2 on the damage die when she's grappled, but the toad is reduced to 6 hp.
Round 4
On the toad's turn, it attacks again, fighting to the bitter end. 17, 10, and 14 all miss.

Audreyn, determined not to die, full attacks with 14 and 18, both of which are hits. She deals 13 and 16 damage, which together reduce the toad to -23, which kills it. Audreyn is victorious, but desires to wash off the goo as soon as possible.

After her victory against the beast, she waded upstream to refill the waterskins, and decided to stay in the saddle until nightfall, ignoring the pain in her thighs.

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Session 15
A Rescue Party

The plan to rescue Seralyn had two parts, and luckily not all characters were required as fewer things went wrong than anticipated. 

Bean, Susan, Detective Siba, and Ellen Moore took a wagon laden with tinctures through the woods in hopes of running into the Citadel, while Deneit, Caleb, and Svalina stayed out of sight. Svalina manifested just long enough to possess the goblin who waylaid them, and guided the wagon to the entrance. Once there, a hobgoblin guard brought the four with the wagon inside for interrogation and processing. During this interview, Svalina used her goblin host to get the entrance guards drunk, including her borrowed body. Once the guards were sufficiently inebriated, Caleb and Deneit snuck inside, followed by a discorporated Svalina. After disposing of a goblin whose attention had been caught, they waited for the hobgoblin to march downstairs and Svalina possessed him as well. From there it was a simple matter to gain access to the dungeon cells and bypass the salt basilisk ("Janet"), only to find that Seralyn was no longer in her cell.

The plan shifted to finding both Seralyn's location and the location of her gear. The gear was found with Tugruk in his room, and the goblin chief volunteered to assist in the search. After hearing that Janet may have escaped, he willingly took a blindfold, allowing Caleb and Deneit to move behind them without as much fear of being caught. The first stop was a storage room near the doorway leading to the dungeons, where Tugruk did a cursory search before being frightened by the sound (Ghost Sound) of a walking basilisk. He headed off to look for Janet's keeper Bornik, while Svalina, Caleb, and Deniet were left alone to search the storage room more thoroughly. Seralyn was found under some loosely piled sacks of who-knows-what, and Caleb took out some thoughtfully purchased invisibility scrolls. While Caleb, Deneit, and Seralyn quietly proceeded to the entrance, Caleb continued his Ghost Sound to raise a false alarm and drive wandering goblins out of the path. Svalina, still in the guise of the hobgoblin, ordered the four new prisoners to be released immediately, and everyone headed to the door, a few bottles of alcohol poorer, but with Seralyn in tow.

While it was not shown, the rescue party and their gear are assumed to have arrived safely in Whitefield in the afternoon of the 14th.

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Bad news

Susan wished she had volunteered to go with Seralyn to the Goblin Citadel. She didn't trust Karst on account of him being a goblin, but she knew that, and she knew Seralyn had gone to goblin lands before and returned unharmed, and so far this goblin hadn't shown hostility, so Susan had graciously stayed behind to keep an eye on the goblins still inside their patchwork fortification. And to talk to Caleb, which she rarely had the opportunity to do anymore. Caleb hadn't been able to follow Seralyn because he'd failed to hide his spellcasting, and the look of dread on the little goblin's face when he realized he was in the presence of not one, but two witches, he'd emphatically denied Caleb the opportunity to join. It was, Karst had explained, for the safety of all, as Queen Negost was unsettled by witches. Susan now realized she should have inquired further into that, but she was eager to find out what Caleb had been up to, and to share in kind. She should have gone with her gut, shouldn't have second-guessed herself. Too late now, but not too late to go in after her, with a few friends and friends of friends in tow. A rescue team, just like in the stories and the action plays.

On the plus side, she was now getting to spend more time with her childhood friend. He had his own spellbook now, but Allen hadn't yet taught him how to fly or summon lightning. Too bad. Those spells would be handy right now. Caleb had also spent a long time learning about the stars and their positions. Susan supposed that spending all day in the Observatory must get pretty boring if any of that stuff started to sound interesting, but she changed the subject politely enough when he started on the movement of constellations. When he started talking about his new friends, she became very curious indeed. Especially when he started talking about Catherine. Catherine Stoky, daughter of Jack Stoky of Stoky's Textiles, lived in Whitefield, but word of her beauty had reached to the edge of the barony. And from the sound of things, Caleb had been working very hard to get her attention. He was even asking Susan for advice, which he hadn't needed for the three months or so when she'd dated him at fourteen, so she told him to just be his sweet self, tell jokes but not all the time, and if it was meant to be, he'd win her over. That's when he told her he also liked Elaine, a Hearthfire acolyte, perhaps more, but didn't think he could impress her as easily. Gods, two years ago he was almost too afraid to talk to women he hadn't known for half his life or longer, and now he wanted two, and damn if he didn't have a chance at either if he'd just be more confident in his ample charms. She tried to tell him that being a wizard wasn't just a play-act, it was his world and his life, and he was no more a farmer than she was. But he didn't get it. He was too focused on making other people think he was a real sorcerer instead of just accepting that he was one and owning his destiny.

After that conversation, she'd gotten to tell him about her progress in the militia, her new dog, her little brother starting to grow up and talk about joining the militia, too. Then she told him about her boyfriend Sten. He wasn't very romantic, or super bright, but he had big, strong, gentle arms and he didn't smell as bad as some of the other men in the militia. She didn't meet a lot of people outside of work anymore, and he seemed a better pick than most at the time. The look of surprise on his face when she'd kissed him after a long sword practice (just the two of them, of course. She wasn't going to risk rejection in front of everyone) was adorable in its own right, and when he leaned forward to kiss her back, grabbing her shoulders with the same intensity as he'd held his wooden training sword (right up until she kissed him, and he dropped it), the moment had been magical. Caleb didn't seem as enthused, but it served him right for making her listen to all that stuff about the other two girls. Then she told him about how great she'd gotten with a shortspear, and stood up to show him a spinning move she'd practiced, and he agreed that it looked quite intimidating, especially with the scream at the end, and she was vindicated again.

But none of that mattered when Karst came back to the ramshackle encampment alone. Susan didn't speak Goblin, but according to Caleb's translation, the conversation had gone something like this:
"Where's Seralyn?"
"Please don't kill me! She was captured and imprisoned! She convinced the Queen to take my people back, but then the Queen decided to keep her for ransom! Please don't kill me! It wasn't my fault!"

…At which point Susan felt a weight in her stomach like a pile of lead. She should have been there. She should have helped Seralyn fight her way out, laying her life down if necessary. After all, if the things she heard were true, Seralyn alone was worth ten of almost anyone else in Radimyr. Maybe more. Something had to be done immediately. Leaving Karst to gather his fellows, (no point in asking how to get to the Citadel, no goblin ever gave that out to non-goblins), she went to gather a few friends of her own, starting with Ellen Moore, her healer. Ellen would know even more people, being the second-highest ranking Hearthfire in the village. Grabbing Caleb by his shirt, she marched southeast to Whitefield. No time to waste.

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Session 14

My apologies if my notes are sparse. I am working largely from memory, and the session was rather short.
Allen, Felicity, Joshua, and Skyler flew on their giant bats for eight hours, stopped on the hills on the south side of the Greywall Mountains, where they were attacked by three hill giants, who were quickly dispatched, interrogated, and slain. The next day (Quintar 13), they entered Silverhold, where Joshua and Allen went to the Gravetender temple in the lowest levels of the city. Joshua received an electrum token from the one of the resident priests. Allen studied the frescoes, and other facets of the architecture. Meanwhile, Felicity sought out local independent breweries in hopes of finding new business partners and expanding her product line. Skyler was… I honestly can't remember what Skyler was up to. Probably trying to sell giant/goblin jerky to dwarves.

Erosia recounted his meeting with his new assistant a day earlier, during which he was somehow generous, contemptuous, and efficient. And very clear in his orders to make an undead-proof morgue.

Seralyn was led by Karst to Negost's underground citadel. Caleb, being another spellcaster, made Karst uneasy, so he was told to stay behind with Susan Jordan to wait for her return. Naturally, he followed her in secret for as long as he could, but eventually lost her and was forced to retrace his steps back out of the woods. Seralyn was blindfolded for the majority of the journey to keep the location of the citadel a secret.

In Negost's throne room, Seralyn pleaded a case for peace with the Goblin Queen, only to be rebutted. Apparently, Negost sides with Kellored in his interpretations of Satcotaar's will and the goddess's habit of only granting her favor to the victor of a previous conflict. Kellored plans to win a war against Viridonia to gain power before going after his true target – the elven provinces in the east. After some heated exchanges, Negost had Seralyn imprisoned in the deepest cell in the citadel's dungeon.

Later that night, Seralyn was visited by the ghost of Svalina Bire, who wishes to help Seralyn escape as part of her plan for revenge against the goblins responsible for her death – Tugruk and Negost. Tugruk is to be left alive but humiliated and demoted, and Negost, well, her fate is still undecided.

And that's about where we left off.

Karmic adjustments:
+1 to Allen for killing the giants to prevent further depredations, bringing his score to 18
+1 to Erosia for generosity towards his manager, even under the guise of selfishness, bringing his score to 13
Felicity remains at 10
+2 to Joshua for bringing Simon's body for burial as his first priority, and a further +1 for drawing fire from the giants, bringing his score to 10
+5 to Seralyn for minimizing the risk to others in her diplomatic expedition, attempting to preemptively end a war, and shaking Negost's self-confidence and Tugruk's confidence in his queen, bringing her score up to 24
+1 to Skyler for killing the giants without undue cruelty, bringing his score to 13
Vaelin remains at 11

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Goblin Politics

Ividay, Septar 3, 926 (about four years ago).

A pair of hobgoblin soldiers roughly shoved Svalina Bire into a dark room with a glowing ceiling, and removed the black bag from her head. Hisses of disgust and contempt filled the room, nearly masking a few gasps of fear. At the other end of the room, a goblin in glowing face-paint stood, and the room fell silent. A spear's butt to the back of her knee forced Svalina to kneel, and armored hands on her shoulders kept her down. The goblin with the face-paint spoke first.

"Elf-witch! Do you know who I am?" All the faces in the room turned to Svalina.
"I don't know your name, but I'm guessing you're the queen I've heard so much about today." This was a lie; her captors had told her countless times today that she would "face the wrath of Negost Dreadtongue, Goblin Witch-Queen of the Forest," and so on. But Svalina knew that goblins loved knowing their names were on the lips of others, and to tell Negost that she'd been referred to by title would direct some of the goblin's anger away from her and toward her captors. The threats against her were vague, but she was certain there would be retaliation for what she had done. She should have killed the goblins and been done with it, she kept telling herself. Any attempt to teach a goblin empathy was a lost cause.

"I am Negost Dreadtongue, Goblin Witch-Queen…" Great. This was going to take a minute if she was going through all of her titles. Svalina noticed that her captors left out a couple. Svalina waited patiently for Negost to finish.
"…and Supreme Ruler of all goblins within a thousand miles. Do you know why you're here, Elf-witch?" Well, Svalina thought, time to put my brilliant brain to good use.
"Greetings, Negost Dreadtongue," she replied, making sure to keep all of the titles in the right order. "Goblin Witch-Queen of the Forest, Slayer of the Gilded Elk, Conqueror of the Cave of Leeches, Burner of a Hundred Dogs, Climber of High Mountains, Moon-kissed, Mistress of the Arcane Flame, Blessed of Nerith, Chief of the Broken Daggers, Subjugator of the Spider Faces, Bloody Boars, Dead Voles, Centaur Choppers, and Yellow Vipers, and Supreme Ruler of all goblins within a thousand miles. I'm Svalina Bire, representative of the Owdi Triumvirate of the Vastwood. And I suspect I'm here for the reckless audacity of defending my home and friends from your underlings' unprovoked attack?"
Negost's expression had slowly turned from contemptuous to impressed, showing only a hint of surprise when the Owdi Triumvirate had been mentioned. Clearly she knew whose servant she was dealing with. Her face returned to contempt at Svalina's sarcasm at the end, but Svalina wanted her to know that the charge was ridiculous.
"I'm sorry, perhaps your Goblin is a bit rusty. You said 'friends,' but I'm certain you meant to say 'pets.' I suppose our language requires a stronger tongue to pronounce."
"I know what I said. And just because you only see the creatures of the forest as food doesn't mean that's all they can be. But for all your intelligence, you'll never be more than primitive savages if you can't learn that. Now, is this a real trial or are you just out for elven blood? Because I'm pretty sure you're supposed to charge me with something if you bothered to drag me all the way here. I take your silence on the matter to mean you admit the attack was unprovoked." 
"I admit to no such thing. You set fire to the clothes of a team of foragers, sending them home naked after they shot a few rabbits? A bit of an overreaction, don't you think? And what kind of friend is a rabbit, anyway? They don't talk, they're useless in a fight, and they're too small to do any work. For that matter, how are they even useful as pets? As anything other than a meal? But who am I to try to understand the mind of an elf? I may as well try to look for the deep blue of a lake inside a rain puddle. Do you deny the charges? Because I have a great many witnesses capable of speech, and it sounds like all you have is a handful of prey creatures and patrons that don't care enough to protect you." Negost's grin was terrifying. "And you've been rude to the real queen of the forest. Tsk tsk. Perhaps a stay in our dungeon will teach you a lesson about meddling with us."
"The Owdi will hear about this when I get out!"
"Then they can take it up with me and I can tell them what happened. I take your silence on the matter to mean you admit to attacking our hard-working food suppliers under flimsy pretenses? Take her to the deepest cell until she apologizes properly!"
Oh, shit, thought Negost, as her guards dragged the screaming elf back into the hall. Lost my temper again. It helped her reputation among her people, true, but sometimes led to some diplomatic mishaps. The Owdi were not a force to be trifled with. Better to be safe and kill her before she could tell them. Then again, if the elf-witch made it here, then either they weren't really all-seeing in the forest, or they knew and did nothing to stop the events that unfolded, so maybe they weren't going to be a problem anyway. Still, another witch in the woods could lead to a power struggle later down the line. It was not unheard of for a nongoblin of significant power, even one as revolting as an elf, to become a goblin monarch, for a time. Best to be rid of her, and claim she was beaten unconscious and carried out into the woods. There, all planned out. Now to find someone to do the sneaky work.


A few days later…

"Tugruk Bonearm, wasn't it? Explain to my why you've made this appointment on such short notice, and insisted, nay, demanded that my guards let you enter my private chamber?"
"Your majesty. my boss, Chief Snapjaw of the Spider Faces, is planning a coup against you. I thought you ought to know."
"Is that so? And how does he expect to accomplish this?"
Tugruk straightened his back. "He plans to have you poisoned at the Eclipse Festival Feast on Pasaday night, and run you through with his blade while you're in a weakened state. He has promised one of your guards a discreet promotion a month or so after she slips giant squid ink and demonscale into your food. While you're stiff as a plank and your magic is dulled, he knows you wouldn't be able to stop him. Does that answer your question?"
"This is a very serious accusation, and you stand a lot to gain if he is removed from power. Do you have proof of any of this?"
"'Tis true, your majesty. I would become the new chief by another's hand, and in doing so would become one of the most powerful chiefs for a thousand miles in any direction. As for proof, I can give you the name of the guard he chose. But I came here at great risk, so if I may be so bold, I would have compensation."
Negost's eyebrows raised even as her eyes narrowed. "And what would you have for compensation? Be aware that any payment I promise you can only come to you after I confirm what you've told me."
"Money is always nice, but I have ambition, and a plan. I want my promotion, and I want it on my terms, and I want your cooperation in response for saving your life."
"You presume much. What is your plan, should my guard confess?"
"Offer her the same promotion sooner, or better, to poison Snapjaw instead. Feign paralysis, and if we time things properly, when he stands to attack you, he'll freeze up right after he draws his sword, I'll stab him in the back in front of everybody, and I become leader of the Spider Faces, and your Left Hand."
"I see. Ambitous, indeed. And why would I trust a Left Hand who would so willingly betray his chief? You'd be Left Hand whether he died or I did. Perhaps you think me easier to slay? Tell me truly, why should I trust your ambition to end so close to the top?"
"Your majesty, to speak frankly, I cannot defend the throne were I to take it, and I'd rather be the Left Hand of a powerful Queen than the Left Hand to a horse's ass."
"Ah, so it's personal, is it? Does he not treat you well?"
"I am paid well, but his stupidity is only outmatched by his brutishness and skill at arms. If he were king, he would rule poorly and our people would be gone from these lands in two generations. I cannot let this happen to my grandchildren."
After a long silence, the queen nodded.
"I see. Very well, I accept your terms. You will give me the name, but while I confront my guard, I need a little more proof that your loyalty is not based in cowardice. I have a matter that needs to be tended to discreetly. Once we have completed our tasks, we can work out the details of your future. Are you willing to risk death or curses to serve your queen?"
"Anything, your majesty."
Negost pursed her lips. "Good. Walk with me." she purred as they left her chamber together.

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Session 13
Bats, orcs, and goblin forts

On Alvsday, Quintar 11, the day before half the party gets back to Whitefield, the other half of the party is accosted by stranglebarks as they pass through the Vastwood, along the Theomehtar River, (and later the River Ohron as the two rivers join) on their way north to the Western Headlands. After sorting that out, using some clever teleportation tricks and nonlethal tactics, they escape and slay the eldritch creatures quickly.

At the shores of Lake Audrey, the party decides to scout in a counterclockwise fashion around the lake in order to locate the home of Granny Willow, the storm hag with which they are loosely acquainted. The only structure in sight is more closely investigated by an invisible Skyler, who takes note of a circular hut with a high, conical thatched roof, orbited overhead by stormclouds that match the description of storm elementals. Also present was a troll, seen fetching firewood from outside. Having delivered his findings to Allen, Felicity, and Joshua, they decide to look for a bat cave and camp out when they find one.

As the sun sets, a few giant bats are seen leaving a nearby valley in the hills, where the party also discovers three orcs in bat masks guarding a cave, the entrance to which is covered in a wide net. Approaching peacefully, the party negotiates with the orcs to purchase eight bats (three female, five male) at an inflated price, and camp for the night. Skyler goes out hunting with Gurgamang (f), while the other three stay with Burvil (m) and Slosk (m), one of whom shows a greedy, if foolhardy, streak. The next day, they begin their flight to Silverhold.

On Felsday, Quintar 12, Seralyn hears about the recent goblin attacks and immediately fetches Caleb Ekhart to accompany her to try and make peace with the invading tribes. The two find themselves followed by volunteer militia to have shown up to warn her, and to protect her in case something should go wrong. After some very tense conversation with their leader, Susan Jordan, Seralyn comes to the understanding that they will be tagging along, and makes the best of the situation by instructing them to look as non-threatening as possible when she approaches the goblins. They comply, and when they find the ramshackle goblin fort, she is greeted by two goblins, representing portions of tribes that briefly marched under Ignidia's banner. Karst, who represented the Stonedrakes, explains that they are unsure of whether their loyalty to the Spider Faces and the goblin cause overall will be questioned, and does not want to risk civil war or execution by showing up after so much lost time. Seralyn volunteers to talk to Negost on his behalf, should he lead her to the Goblin Queen, and Karst accepts.

The session ends there, resolving the events of Quintar 12 for 6 party members. The activities of Erosia and Audreyn are still unresoved, but Audreyn's destiny currently lies separate from everyone else, so her narrative is predetermined until she returns with Dame Zelcir.

Karmic adjustments:
Allen remains at 17
Erosia remains at 12
Felicity remains at 10
Joshua remains at 7
+1 to Seralyn for risking her life to speak to the goblins directly and trying to minimize risk of casualties, bringing her score to 19
+1 to Skyler for assisting in the nightly hunt and +1 for his bonding with Gergamang, bringing his score to 12. Gergamang is now an optional contact, should he pursue further friendship.
Vaelin remains at 11

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An unlikely assassin

Joysday, Quartar 7, 930, somewhere on the plains between Radimyr and Draganyr.

It was the middle of the night, and Cruxer was beginning to fear he was lost. On a basically flat plain, with mountains looming a dozen or more miles behind him to the west, and presumably the sea, to the north. 
He'd been hired for his skill at tracking humanoids, but he was not especially gifted at it. His other skill – the reason he'd been chosen for his last mission - was interrogation, and it was of no use to him here, unless he wanted to interrogate a deer on the whereabouts of a massive quantity of goblins, and a few humans. 

Then, the scent of goblin hit him, carried by a southbound breeze. Cruxer instinctively crouched into a predatory stance. There were rumors that his family had been once tainted with barghest blood, and that their uncanny sense of smell was a lingering vestige of that line. Cruxer didn't know for sure, but he believed it was as good an explanation as any for the way he felt and acted during the hunt. Curling his bare toes into the soft earth, between the roots of the thick green and yellow grass, he tightened his calves and launched into a sprint, following the scent as it was joined by smoke and cooking meat. In the far distance, campfires appeared, and the outline of tents under the green moonlight.

Having witnessed his quarry's location, he stopped running, as a rabbit does when hiding from a hawk, and crouched hastily so that his back no longer showed above the grass. Slowly, he waddled between the blades in a wide curve, inching ever closer to the largest tent, until he was almost inside the encampment.

By a combination of skill and sheer luck, he evaded the gaze of the few who remained at the camp. A few goblins, reeking of sweat and dried fungus-paint, a handful of humans, smelling of fear and warm steel, and another smell he did not recognize. A spicy, smoky odor, mixed with animal blood and something chemical. This smell came from the largest tent, and so Cruxer was able to place the smell as dragon. The sensation of a new scent washed over him, and he gripped his sword, a short blade hammered from iron that had never touched rust or flame, but which still held a razor edge, and listened at the cloth farthest from the entrance for what transpired within. He heard only a deep breathing, rumbling but raspy, only a few feet from his ears.

Cruxer was not a professional assassin, but he had learned a few tricks of the trade from his elder trackers over the years. With one hand tightly gripping the handle of his sword, unsheathing the blade in utter silence, he used his other hand to gently cup and pluck a ceramic orb from a belt on his shoulder. His hand guided by instinct and experience, he tossed the orb high into the air, to have it land beyond the firelight, but close enough to catch the attention of anyone on guard. The orb shattered with a vague snapping sound as it imploded on impact with the ground, and, predictably, several footsteps followed, leaving the camp to investigate the noise. Leaving the general's tent unguarded and vulnerable, if only for the few seconds he needed to get the job done. Curling a finger beneath the edge of the tent, letting a sliver of light escape, he readied himself.

In a series of movements so smooth and quiet that the untrained eye would see only one motion, and the untrained ear would hear only the rustle of fabric in the wind, Cruxer threw the cloth of the tent upwards, somersaulted into the room, letting the cloth fall behind him, and raised his sword to plunge into Ignidia's chest. What he hadn't planned for was a human woman standing on the other side of the opulently carved oak cot, glaive in her hands, striking the sword from his grasp in a roundhouse swing. Cruxer jumped back and drew his backup weapon, a slender dagger of elven make, purloined from one of his elders on a hunt gone badly. Noting that the general still lay unconscious, he reassessed his target priorities and dashed forward around the cot to strike the human. Her glaive brushed his ribcage as he closed behind her reach, and his dagger unerringly stabbed into a gap in her mail. Evidently, she hadn't had the time to dress in her full armor, which lay in a stack beside another, far less beautiful cot at the side of the room. The dagger's blade slid under the human's left arm, in a clear vector to her heart, and stopped, hitting something hard before it could pierce her skin. Cruxer reflexively pulled the dagger back to his chest, and glanced down to see that the end had broken off, leaving it useless for piercing strikes. Flipping it in his hand so that the blade pointed downward from his fist, he readied a quick jab at the human's face, but he never got the chance. Pulling her glaive to suit a close-quarters fighting style, she lunged forth and plunged her blade into his unarmored throat. The glaive bent and pulled her to her knees as his body went limp.

Letting go of her weapon, satisfied that the threat had ended, the human woman reached into her armpit and removed a short length of dagger-blade and a broken sending stone, kept where it would not be seen, but less secure than she had hoped. This was the stone that connected her to her precious daughter Seralyn. How would she coordinate with her daughter now? Hopefully, she could contact her father to send a message her way, but that could put more lives in danger if he were to expose himself. By the time he could get a message safely out of Port Westvale, Seralyn may have found her uncle and given him the dud stone, leaving him alone again without knowing her mistake. And because of her strict instructions not to initiate contact, it could be weeks before the mistake could be corrected. But there was a gilded lining to the situation. Ignidia would now trust Wilhelmina completely, and might tell her more about the grand plan at work, like why they were heading south after meeting with Kemassu's vessel….

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