Adventures in Thargothras

Session 5
Flowers and dead letters

On the morning of Felsday, Tertiar 22, the party had made it outside the gates of Port Westvale, only to find a mini-market in front of a closed and barred town entrance. It was explained by Anne Sulari that the town was under quarantine. Allen met an old friend, Joshua, who volunteered to help, and was answered with Elmegor Vant, who beseeched any volunteers to retrieve as many samples as possible of the Tellovari flower in the Bloodfire Marsh to assist the herbalists in making a medicine capable of helping the plague. After learning of the symptoms, the party determined that the strain of disease was probably artificial, and extrapolated (correctly, though they do not have any confirmation yet) that it could be the work of Kemassu, the Prince of Pestilence, working towards the Silver King's ends in some way.

The party began their quest, heading west and stopping at Camor Castle to sequester their refugees and purchase 27 doses of vermin repellent (with 1gp and 5 sp left as a tip), which, in a party of 8, meant between 3 and 3-1/2 doses per person for the trip. Anyway, between Port Westvale and Camor Castle, Allen cast Ereborn's Emergency Equine a few times to fetch Erosia from Whitefield. The next day, the party embarked across the Sassaran and into the Bloodfire Marsh, where they happened upon a small group of native grippli. One grippli spoke passable Common (albeit in a croaking voice), and offered to lead the party safely through the marsh to the "Fire Flower" as she called it, on the condition that the party collect no more than half the blossoms, as the flower was sacred and its ecology delicate. The party accepted the terms.

When the guide stopped, the party continued on a short distance to find a wheel-shaped pool, in the center of which was an island with the Tellovari, or Orange Lilac if you prefer. There was also a lot of brown mold and a 5-headed pyrohydra, which they knocked unconscious rather than kill in deference to its occupation as a sacred guardian beast. Having collected no more than half the petals, the party was led out of the marsh and returned to Camor Castle, from which the citizens of Radimyr were sent home upriver, along with everyone else in the party except Allen, Seralyn, and Erosia, who decided to deliver the petals to Port Westvale and try and get more information, find her father, and assist with the sick, respectively.

When the rest of the party arrived at Whitefield, they found a horse drinking from a trough, pulling a small wagon driven by a dead man. The wagon was carrying a curious box, and the driver a letter and some red chalk. Naturally, Gabriel Button was consulted on what to do with the box, which was, as evidenced by the letter, en route to Vroden, the necroturge in the Gravewood. Mr. Button agreed that the box should be opened carefully and at a safe distance from any villagers. Inside were two allips, which presented a nasty challenge to a party with only two magic weapons (Keiran the Black Blade, and a magic fang spell cast on Faolin), but Joshua helped draw attention, Audreyn assisted in some of Vaelin's attacks, and even Gabriel Button, once his fascination was broken, got a good shot in. Felicity helped immensely by cutting the aural threat in half with her countersong. The box, proven able to hold incorporeal undead, is still in working condition.

Meanwhile, in Port Westvale, Erosia assists in many, many heal checks, and gets free training with Sir Selnos as his reward. Allen receives a new spellbook from Elmegor Vant, and Seralyn gets to meet her father for the first time. Unfortunately, due to a mistake involving Tylenol PM and a rather exhausting work week, these events have not been roleplayed properly and must wait until another free day. Absent PCs are still given credit for their contribution to the safety of the town, but will have to be compensated with money or something instead of specific boons unless requested.

Because the PCs in Port Westvale cannot leave until it is cured of all plague on Alvsday, Quartar 1, they cannot make it home to Whitefield until at least Felsday, Quartar 2, or Ividay Quartar 3 (depending on method of travel), which is when the session will end in-game. Since that marks the beginning of a new month, it also means someone gets to draw a new event card. :)

Karmic adjustments:
Allen keeps his score of 15.
+6 karma to Erosia for his personal assistance in the recovery of dozens of plague victims, brining his score to 9.
+1 karma to Felicity for keeping herself in danger with no way to defend herself against the allips in order to assist her allies, bringing her score up to 9.
+1 karma to Joshua for volunteering to help Port Westvale at the first sign of trouble, and a further +1 for bringing his score up to 3.
Seralyn keeps her score of 15.
Skyler keeps his score of 8.
+1 karma to Vaelin for negotiating for the safety of his people and honoring his agreement, bringing his score up to 10.

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Odigan's Plans
and how they might be disrupted.

It was an old trick, but an effective one. A quick trip away, a pilfered potion of flying and a pilfered potion of invisibility and a quick trip back, just a few feet higher than before. Lothligar watched as Ignidia threw her fit, scolding the remains of her army, now disjointed, never to be under her complete control again. The best she could do was hang on to as many goblins as she could afford to pay, and that wasn't many. He held in a chuckle as she stormed off into the sky to dive-bomb some unlucky wolf or whatever, and noted her path through the sky. Then he watched what the humans did while they thought they were alone. Satisfied with his observations, he flew away in the same direction Ignidia had gone.


Ignidia, stood over the wild horse she'd pounced on, now butchered and burnt, disdain overtaking and replacing her rage. She chewed thoughtfully on a chunk of its meat as she wiped her blade clean, searching memories that didn't belong to her for answers to the situation. Her reflection was interrupted by a familiar voice.
"Shi-Domas, I bring news!" came the nasal outburst from an empty patch of sky.
"Dammit, talk to me, not to him! I'm just as much a part of this as you now!"
Let me speak. The voice rose inside her like dead fish rising to the surface of a pond. Ignidia relented. This was a struggle she'd lost before, and had lost hope for ever winning. She relaxed her muscles and let the spirit inside control her mouth, passively listening to his words.
"Greetings, Lothligar. What news do you bring for us?"
Lothligar dismissed his invisibility with a grin. "I have a better grasp on who our friends really are." He casually tossed Ignidia the Gathering Stone from his pocket, which she caught reflexively.
"Indeed? Pray tell, and while we're here, can you also tell us what happened to the Radimyr Cabal?"
"The authorities caught on, and I almost managed to turn one of them with some trinkets and blackmail, but alas, his allies are many. Evidently I missed a siege that put everyone behind walls but me. And knowing what I know of the security protocol in the event of hostile forces, someone engineered that I be left out. There are supposed to be both audio and visual cues-"
"Come to the point, pig! Where are your minions?"
"I have only the five most promising youth, who I have spent a great deal of time preparing. The half-hearts were talked out of loyalty inside the keep during the goblin siege. I heard that the half-elf seer and the mystic repairman spoke out against our cause. And that cat-woman joined them. Even the Baroness's champion chimed in. My children held for as long as they could, but they lack the skill and talent to win in a public forum. But I have other news that might interest you as well…"
"This… this is a major setback, but not crippling. What is the other news, before we work on our battle strategy?"
"Bad and worse. For the bad, the humans are going to warn Port Westvale of our attack."
"Well then I want to know whether Kemassu has completed his mission. Is the port town significantly weakened that an advanced warning will result in surrender? Have they isolated themselves and do the soldiers stand sick at their posts? Will they fight to the last man? With a reduced army, I must know that we will meet little resistance, or I must abort the invasion."
"I don't know, but I'm sure the Prince will join your camp shortly. It's not like him to be anything but punctual, and he was due to leave behind a rotten shell of a town days ago."
"Hmmf. Well, we can't attack until we know, but hopefully we could still push for a bloodless surrender with the proper show of force. Oh, before I forget, I have some bad news, too. The false prophet is back. You know the one."
"What, you mean the little shepherd? That pathetic vessel may have power, but he's never figured out how to wield it properly. He's a shell, nothing more, and the worst he can do is-"
"We have seen what he can do, and he is no mere shell!" interjected Shi-Domas, jerking Ignidia's body forward as he spoke through her. "He can undo our work if we don't let him in on the plan, and even then, he may vex us out of spite! Have you forgotten what happened in Duunvarik Canyon? Auspice Cove? Terrace! Fucking! Island?!"
"Fine, those are all very good points, but at least he's predictable. Shows up, tries to speed up one of the manifestations — helping us, more often than not — and tries to get into the palace. Pity for him he doesn't know how. In any case, we can plan contingencies for his arrival at any of our operating sites."
Hmm. Wait, before, you said bad and worse. What's the worse news?"
Lothligar turned his gaze to the distance, and, after some hesitation, spoke through a gimace. "Nerith has activated one of the Black Blades."
Ignidia followed his gaze and stood beside him, staring at the horizon. "Shit. No way around that one. Even killing the bearer will only slow it down. Hardly worth the bother at this point. Might as well just try to contain or mislead it."
"Mmm-hmm."
Shi-Domas having returned control of Ignidia's body to her, she turned to face the Sultan of Famine once more. "Do you really trust Odigan's plan? I mean, if he was such a great fortune teller, why did he die so young? You always say he had the potential to be the most powerful of all of you if he'd had more time."
"You know, I've wondered that myself," Lothligar replied, his voice distant. "and my best guess is that it was somehow part of the plan. The notes he left don't mention it either way. And by now you surely understand how thorough they were. Besides, I'm not even sure he did die."
"But you said you found a body. His body. Unmistakably his."
Lothligar said nothing in response. He turned and produced a cigar from his pocket. Ignidia stared expectantly as he clipped the end, fumbled for a tindertwig, sat on the ground, lit the end, and took a few puffs.
"Odigan is a mystery to us all, young miss. I suspect he thought of a way to come back and is just waiting to make a grand reappearance. A big spectacle to show us up and make us humble. I mean, the rest of us found a way around mortality. Hell, I found mine by accident. You'd think the Suzerain of Death, who had time to write a veritable encyclopedia on how to conquer the world in every century leading up to the year 1100 would have a personal contingency. Then again, maybe his gift didn't include his own future. Now, instead of wasting time waxing philosophical on whether we're taking orders from a dead man or a liar, let's get to the most urgent question of all."
"What's that?" she asked, taken by surprise.
Lothligar pointed to the dead horse. "Are you going to finish all of that?"
After a moment of tension, looking from the horse to each other with narrowed eyes, both of them dove at the carcass, tearing at the flesh with their teeth and noisily gorging themselves and reveling in their competitive and predatory natures. After several minutes of ceaseless consumption, only bones were left.

Ignidia rose to her feet and spread her wings. "The sun's going down. Time for me to head back to camp. How about you go find Kemassu and see what I'm up against?" The first couple of flaps to get airborne were the hardest, but she was off the ground before she finished her request.
"Agreed!" he shouted, and with a click of his heels, he was gone.

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Session 4
Trials and Travels

On Satcoday, Tertiar 16, the day after the siege, Allen and Seralyn left Whitefield for an undisclosed location in the Vastwood. On the way there, they ran across a wild boar that died giving birth to six amphisbeana, two of which fought the party and their goblin escorts. The edifice was ancient, resembling an amphitheater or fighting arena, and overgrown until recently. There, representatives of all four races in Kellored's Horde, including Burshuk, Gnark, Kellored, Negost, and Tugruk, were present for a series of short depositions. Mormuk, a hobgoblin attorney, worked on behalf of the humans' innocence and safety, and helped explain the powers in play and the nuances of goblinoid customs and law. After determining the culprit responsible for the abduction and death of Martin Fliss as well as the human trafficking of the other abductees, an orc named Cruxer, who had to be ferried in by dire bat. 

On Alvsday, Tertiar 21, the two returned to Whitefield safely. After reading her mother's letter, she contacted Allen right away, insisting that something be done immediately to rescue her mother from Ignidia's clutches. It was shortly after that she examined her mother's possessions and weapons and armor superior to her own, and a great deal of money. 

The same day, after gathering the rest of the party, Vaelin interrogated Lothligar, with some other party members present, in the hopes of convincing him to help against Ignidia and her army. After some negotiation and payments, Lothligar learned about Keiran, took back the amulet of natural armor from Vaelin, got Vaelin to agree not only to drop all charges but award him with land after the assistance was rendered, and give him back his bag of pilfering. In return, the party learned some of the history and powers of the Gathering Stone. After picking up some war gear from his extraplanar apartment, including a helm of brilliance and boots of teleportation, he used his bag of pilfering to procure enough carpets of flying to carry himself, the party, and his five fanatics. Eight hours later, they arrived at Ignidia's camp, and Lothligar entered a heated exchange with her to distract her while Felicity and Skyler stole the Gathering Stone from her person. During that time, Seralyn got to chat discreetly with Wilhelmina, who had already achieved the position of bodyguard for Ignidia. Wilhelmina is evidently not under anyone's control, but is instead attempting to work as a double agent, looking for a way to give advance notice to any settlement before Ignidia attacks it.

After a hand-off, Lothligar dismissed the effects of the Gathering Stone and teleported away with it, leaving an angry half-dragon to bark a few orders and fly away looking for something to kill. Seralyn tried to talk a few goblin officers into going home, Vaelin disappeared for a minute, and then everyone who wanted to go home approached Port Westvale with the intention of making some purchases and getting a ride home.

During his time away from the party, Vaelin was at the top of a mountain, standing in the presence of Nerith, who told him of the significance of his sword, and marked him with a glyph on his hand symbolizing his power to sever connections between Thargothras and Dol'haddur exploited by the Silver King's agents.

Karma adjustments:
+2 karma to Allen for assisting in the prevention of a war with honest testimony, bringing his score up to 15.
Erosia keeps his score of 3.
+2 karma to Felicity for attempting a skill check of unknown DC at incredible personal peril for the sake of others, bringing her score up to 8.
Seralyn +2 karma for assisting in the prevention of a war with honesty, and a further +1 karma for trying to talk goblins into leaving Ignidia's army, bringing her score to 15.
+2 karma to Skyler for assisting Felicity's check (and sharing the risk), bringing his score to 8.
+2 karma to Vaelin for accepting assistance during negotiations and taking no unnecessary risks with the lives of others, bringing his score to 9.

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A town in peril
and a last, best hope.

From the journal of Elmegor Vant, Cartologer for the Parliament of Swords, on Lastday, Tertiar 20, 930:

A pall hangs over my precious Port Westvale, darkening our hopes as an overcast darkens the waters of the sea. I speak, of course, of the plague that pools in our streets and poisons our relations with our neighbors. Quarantine has failed, due to panicking minotaurs breaking down the ramshackle walls we have placed around the docks. Luckily, their dislike for the Viridonian inland keeps them within the city walls for now. The other demographics of our populace have proven more compliant, as Carmina has spoken to the crowds of loyalty and hope, and the importance of containing and curing our affliction. Earma enforces the embargo, and has managed to construct a new landing point for incoming ships, staffed with her ratfolk allies. Unlike their namesake rodents, they are reputedly clean and free of disease due to their strict hygiene regimen. Anne, despite similar protests, has managed to keep all but the most persistent pilgrims outside the gates (and all travelers inside), and sent for help from the Cloister a few days ago. I pray they will hear our plea and are willing to risk at least one among their number to assist our healers, who are currently overwhelmed.

Sir Selnos is untouched by the disease, due no doubt to his hearty constitution and the disinfecting qualities of alcohol. Either that, or his unwillingness to receive visitors has kept him unexposed.

I, for my part, have done no small amount of inquiry among our herbalists into what else may be procured for their efforts for a cure. My sources tell me of a rare plant colloquially referred to as the Orange Lilac, and my long forays into the library have revealed it's true name, Tellovari, and where it may be found in large amounts. I regret that the only source is far outside town, and I would only be able to send someone to retrieve it from the Bloodfire Marsh under some personal peril to themselves. Since I cannot in good conscience violate the quarantine and risk exposing the whole of Viridonia to danger, I will have to wait for visitors willing to travel to the marsh, search for and retrieve the herbs if there is to be hope for a cure, and an end to the quarantine before the entire town starves, revolts, or worse…

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Session 3
Tensions rise

We begin the morning of Felsday, Tertiar 2. With fourteen days to make preparations against Lothligar's cabal and prevent the apparent sacrifice of 20 people, the party decides to act normally until the day of the meeting, when they will fake an attack against the barony, herding everyone into the keep.

Until then, there are a couple of small problems the villagers need help with.

Seralyn decides to do a favor for Madame Raleigh, delivering a misplaced package to Olafmyr Gapas the Red, reputedly the most powerful wizard in the land (outside the Mystics of Burall) and brings Vaelin and Erosia along for the journey. After planning logistics, they settle on just going directly to the tower rather than try to catch up with the courier. The wizard tells Vaelin more about rakshasas and the danger they pose. They spend the night, sheltered from the fading cold of winter. On the journey back, the party encounters a lone centaur, who introduces himself as Artimeus, who explains to Erosia that a certain hand signal is frowned upon in centaur culture.

Meanwhile, Skyler, Allen, and Felicity task themselves with the recapture of Roland the horse breeder's prize saepino horse, Cupcake. Skyler tracks the horse to Milner Lake, where the horse has stopped to rest before possibly heading into the Thirsty Hills. Calming him with offerings of red apples, Felicity negotiates with Cupcake while Allen reads his thoughts to determine his demands. A larger pen, more mates, and large amounts of apples are promised, and Cupcake agrees to return. Roland pays 10% of the horse's sale value as a service fee.

After that, Allen works on his business at the observatory, and also spends a few days studying portents in the stars to quantify the threats to the kingdom. The results are as follows:
Bleed is at rank 5, Horde is at rank 4, and Undead is at rank 4, and the undead are a lesser threat than the horde.
Part of the reason the Bleed track is so high is the impending wave of magic emanating from a minor breach, a singular event which causes a great many mundane animals in the Vastwood to conceive magical beasts and give birth within the month. Luckily, this appears to be a unique event, not a recurring issue.

Felicity rents out her laborers with the hope that her and her team's usefulness will be noticed by the villagers, which she can use to curry influence among key citizens.

Vaelin, curious to learn more about rakshasas, asks Gabriel Button permission to research the creature in his library on supernatural threats. Allen and Seralyn come along, but only Allen and Vaelin find anything useful among the tomes. Seralyn does provide good company, though. Beyond that, Vaelin tends to his business within the keep. They learn mothing of rakshasas during their time there, but they do discover some important information – the rising number of magical beast appearances is tied to corruption from Dol'haddur, and two nearby locations have the ideal conditions for a stable gate/breach to the plane. Also, Gabriel Button has numerous redundant volumes on the detection and destruction of undead and lycanthropes, and a secret room full of silvered weaponry that he begs his visitors to forget for their own protection as well as his own.

Excepting the days she spends on the road or in the library, Seralyn spends her time making money with her small business.

On the day of the intended cabal meeting, Pasaday, Tertiar 15, Vaelin instructs the watchmen that an attack is expected, but that the militia in the watchtowers spread across the barony are not to ring the bells as part of their alarm as per usual, only lighting the fires and going door-to-door shouting the alarm. While this method takes much longer, Vaelin assures the guards that the alarm must be mostly silent to avoid tipping off the invading force that their presence is known. The real reason is that Allen has gone to a great deal of trouble to block visual cues of alarm (but not audible cues) from the abandoned farmhouse that holds the cabal meetings, which Lothligar is sure to be inside, oblivious, when the alarm is raised. The ploy works, and Lothligar does not head to Zelcir Keep with the rest of the barony.

The alarm goes off a half-hour earlier than planned. Evidently, the fake attack is interrupted by a real army of goblins marching from the east, having likely followed the Ashbryne River south from the forest they live in. They surround the serf-filled keep and begin a siege, though no arrows are fired from either side of the walls, save one. Attached to the arrow is a letter demanding the surrender of the "witches" that attacked the White Hands camp, and some conversation in goblin between Seralyn and one of the officers reveals that they are to be taken to Negost's lair for trial. Seralyn stalls for time, promising that she and Allen will come with them in the morning.

Having all of the serfs and no Lothligar in the Keep, Seralyn, Allen, and Felicity form a team (later joined by Audreyn) to let everyone know how dangerous it is to fool around with dark magic right now, and three fanatical cabalists take the bait and begin a verbal duel. The stakes, unbeknownst to the fanatics, are the lives of at least twenty less fanatical cabal members. The duel is intense, as the fanatics show much determination, though the defenders of the barony win almost every exchange. Finally, the crowd is swayed by the harsh reality that the only certainty in following under the Silver King's shadow is the casualties of war. During the duel, Vaelin makes note of the identities of the fanatics for later use.

Shortly after midnight, Ignidia appears on the scene, dropping Lothligar onto the keep's outer wall and landing on it herself, glaring at the people on both sides before choosing to kill one fifth of the goblins with no meaningful resistance. She festoons a nearby tree with their corpses and places an object (later identified as the Gathering Stone) at the roots of the tree, at which point all but a few goblins march to her as if in a trance. Many humans within the keep try to make excuses to follow her as well, but are stopped. The army marches north, and disappears over the horizon. The humans who fell under her sway and failed to hide it, guards, serfs, and freemen alike, are identified and held under lock and key, to be released only when the effects have proven to wear off. Others, better at hiding their motives, return home to collect wanted gear and discreetly march north later. Among them, Seralyn discovers after she and Allen return from their trial in goblin lands, is Seralyn's mother Wilhelmina. Allen, sympathetic to her loss, begins to formulate a plan to free Wilhelmina from Ignidia's sway, hopefully using the fresh resentment between she and Lothligar as a means to that end.

Lothligar, apparently being punished for his failure, is left abandoned by Ignidia at the keep, where Vaelin takes him into Dame Zelcir's custody. 

 

Karma adjustments:
+2 karma to Allen for creating a plan to bring everyone in the barony into one place overnight, without tipping off Lothligar, and a further +2 karma for volunteering to join a verbal duel to reduce the cabal presence at the risk of making enemies, and a further +3 karma for risking his life to accompany the goblins to trial, bringing his score up to 13.
+3 karma to Erosia for seeing a need for a secular healer and working to fill that need, investing his own resources in the process, brining his score up to 3.
+2 karma to Felicity for negotiating with Cupcake rather than simply allowing his capture and reporting his desires to Roland, and a further +2 karma for assisting in the verbal duel at critical points, bringing her score up to 8.
+2 karma to Seralyn for initiating a verbal duel to reduce cabal presence at the risk of making enemies, and a further +3 for agreeing to go with the goblins for trial and negotiating a continued cease-fire through the night, bringing her score up to 12.
+2 karma to Skyler for allowing Cupcake to walk home on his own rather than be turned into a tiny statue, bringing his score up to 6.
+2 karma to Vaelin for trusting the plan to fake a siege, and a further +2 karma for arresting Lothligar without compromising his position as a mole, bringing his score up to 7.

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A rude awakening
Long live the King?

William awoke on a stone slab, surrounded by chanting people and strange geometric patterns spread out in paint. This struck him as quite unusual for three reasons. First, he did not know who any of these people were, and second, he was not accustomed to sleeping on stone slabs.
Third, he was absolutely certain he hadn't been asleep. Really. He'd been standing in line for what felt like days and hadn't had to eat, sleep, or breathe, and everyone else in line was talking, like him, about where they had lived and the last thing they remembered doing before they died. Since it was not a single-file line, he had plenty of people to speak to, all strangers. The strange, but gentle creatures tending the line took the time to explain to everyone that they were in line for the holy judgment of Ortrul, so be sent to whatever afterlife they deserved. Also, this was the first time William had all of his fingers on his right hand, and a right foot (!) that didn't hurt his leg when he walked on it.

William sat up. The chanting came to a brief crescendo and stopped. He looked down. It was his old body. The one he was happy to have left behind, but now it felt… right. There was no pain. His right hand had hooked blades where fingers hadn't been, and he was… dry, but he wasn't thirsty. As he looked around him, he imagined slitting the throats of each person, and the spray of blood hitting his face, until he saw Master. He could never kill Master. He would fight to defend Master forever and without hesitation. Deep inside, something clicked, and something else snapped.
"You're a necroturge!" It wasn't anger, but revelation that gave strength to his voice. "And I'm… a zombie?"
"You are much more than that." assured the Master. "You are more than that. You have a mind of your own and the ability to advance yourself. You are a bodyguard, a scout, a spy, an assassin…"
William was puzzled by his excitement at the prospect of murder.
"…or even something specialized, like a kidnapper, if I need you to be."
"Yes, Master."
"You will start your first duty right away."
"Yes, Master."

William had been standing at the window for fourteen hours before he realized he hadn't blinked. He felt anxious, itching for violence, a sensation that had never occurred to him in life. He imagined that somewhere was a part of him that was free, that was still in line for judgment or off in some paradise, while his body was here, but he couldn't be sure. One of the Master's apprentices approached him and made conversation the next day. William hadn't moved from the window, and he still hadn't blinked. The apprentice introduced himself as Irving, and explained that another apprentice, Corben, had been the one to dig up William's body. William was a rarity, and met certain requirements for the very special kind of undead he had been made into. Strong and graceful, silent and deadly. William did not ask many questions. His gaze never left the window. Master had told him to watch for trespassers, and that he did. Irving told him that Master's name was Vroden, and that he was the great grandson of King Aldrax, and that he planned to retake his rightful place on the throne of Viridonia. William understood, but said nothing. Whatever Master wanted was fine with him. He hoped he wouldn't be asked to kill any of his old friends, partly because he liked them, and partly because he might enjoy it, and that made him feel guilty, but he knew he could never refuse Master. 

More days passed. Then, something different happened. One of the skeleton patrols didn't return from the northern edge of the woods. The whole tower went on high alert, and Vroden's apprentices were sent out to retrieve more corpses to replace the skeletons lost. Master came to William, and told him to investigate the patrol route and find out what destroyed or detained the patrol, and, if possible, track the perpetrators and report their location. William had never tracked anything before, but he somehow knew what to do, the same way he had woken up knowing how to use swords and bows, and how to hide his presence while moving. It was a whole new life for him, one that Master promised would last for as long as he was good at his job.

William took careful note of the wolf tracks and the three sets of more human footprints in the soft earth. North. Crouching in the tall grass like the lions that lived in it, he followed the footprints. Today, he thought, would be a long, long walk, but unlike before, he wouldn't have to worry about his unreliable heart and lungs getting in his way….

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Session 2
by Ruthie

After an uneventful trip returning the civilians from the goblin camp to their farms, our heroes wait for Allen to return. He arrives swiftly with a magical book gifted from the Tracker Hive in thanks for returning their egg.  

They return to Whitefield and check in with their families. Vaelin decides to experiment with the Hedron, but even after asking Kieran, his sword, it seems only to make steam and boiling water.

After meeting up, our heroes decide to attempt to track the missing bodies, but find that the the tracks lead far to the south. With their deadline quickly approaching, they decide to split the party.

Seralyn, Skyler, and Audreyn continue South, tracking the bodies. On the way they are ambushed several times by lions, but each time Skyler is able to distract the lions with his Goblin Jerky. However, when they are attacked by a Chortler, they are not so successful and are forced to kill the beast. After taking some of its hide, they continue on.

Eventually they reach a tower that appears to be under construction and surrounded by undead. Skylar sneaks around and overhears a small meeting, but there is little information discovered. Skylar, Seralyn, and Audreyn decide to travel back the way they came, as they believe assaulting such a heavily guarded fortress would surely be suicide. Nonetheless, they make a note of the location on their map so that they can return later.

Meanwhile, back in Whitefield, Allen, Vaelin, Felicity, and Erosia begin to investigate the strange cabal that possessed the Hedron. On the day before the full moon, they sneak out to the woods where the Hedron was found and discover a seemingly abandoned cabin. After mapping out the rooms and finding a poorly made sigil of the Silver King on a tapestry, they stake out the cabin until a man wearing robes arrives and enters the cabin to begin cooking,

Hatching a plan, Allen casts phantom steed, and Vaelin chases the steed while Felicity sneaks into the stable. Having heard the commotion, the man inside "Mr. Greg" comes outside, and talks to Vaelin, who claims to have "caught" the steed. Unfortunately, Mr. Greg sees through his deception, prompting Vaelin spin another lie about needing an alibi. Mr. Greg seems to believe him and invites him to attend the cabal meeting the following night.

The next night, Vaelin attends the meeting as instructed, with Allen, Felicity, and Erosia staking out the location as previously decided on. When Vaelin goes to the meeting spot with two silver pieces and a snack, he meets two acquaintances, Bridget Ailemer and Henry Barker, who give him a silver mask and  black robes and is taken back to the farm house.

Inside, Mr. Greg collects the silver and half of everyone's snacks. saying "Silver for the Silver King. Sustenance for his swift return." After a short amount of mingling, Mr. Greg invites Vaelin and two others back to the back room where he offers to take them on a "vision quest."

First he casts sleep on them, but Vaelin resists the sleep spell. Mr. Greg pours some liquid begins to inquire about the Hedron. He offers to trade Vaelin an item of his choosing for the Hedron, and eventually offers a +3 Amulet of Natural Armor. The offer is hard for Vaelin to resist, and refusing may break his cover, so he agrees, and trades the Hedron (which Mr. Greg knew he had on him) for the amulet. Mr. Greg then tells Vaelin to invite Felicity (who had been sneaking around in the stables) in to share in the snacks.

After he does and the two head inside, Mr. Greg waits outside a little longer when a red-winged figure clad in plate armor comes into view. She lands and he greets her as Ignidia. She calls him Lothligar and asks if the sacrifices are ready yet. He says that he doesn't have enough yet and that she should wait another week. She is frustrated and threatens him, but eventually agrees to his terms and flies off.

Upon hearing the name Lothligar, Allen immediately recognizes the name as belonging to one of the Silver King's disciples (one presumed dead), the Sultan of Famine.

After that, the Cabal meeting wraps up, and Mr. Greg — Lothligar — says goodbye to Vaelin, placing a hand on his shoulder. When Vaelin arrives home he realizes that Lothligar's hand was backwards, and, upon telling Allen, discovers that this is a sure sign that he is a Rakshasa. 

When the party meets back up, they share information and decide that they have to keep the townspeople from the cabal during the next full moon. They decide that they will fake an alarm and keep everyone safe inside the keep where they will attempt to dissuade them from further cabal activities.

 

Karma adjustments:
+1 karma to Allen for assisting Vaelin's lies against Lothligar (and protecting him by doing so), bringing his score up to 6.
Erosia keeps his score of 0.
+1 karma to Felicity for volunteering to expose herself to danger by being the first to spy on Lothligar, bringing her score up to 4.
Seralyn keeps her score of 7.
+3 karma to Skyler for using class abilities to avoid wanton killing of local wildlife, bringing his score up to 4.
+3 karma to Vaelin for placing himself at the mercy of an enemy and risking his reputation, but-2 karma to Vaelin for accepting a bribe to give away the party's bargaining chip with Lothligar, bringing his score  to 3.

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A meeting of chiefs
...and a call to arms

Chief Tugruk Bonearm, leader of the Spider Faces, subjugator of the White Hands, the Stonedrakes, and the Wolf Racers, chief by his own hand in the most sacred traditions of the Goblin Way (mostly murder), slayer of bears and wolves alike, builder of the most secure fort that goblins labor could make, the Spiders' Nest, owner of an almost unrivaled collection of well-sharpened knives, guarded at all times by his tribe's strongest, fastest, and most loyal warriors, was scared out of his damn mind. 

Gnark had returned from the White Hand encampment, leading a mere handful of wounded archers. Blipglick was dead. The spiders were dead. There would be no riding spiders in time to meet Negost's demands. And it was infamously unhealthy to disappoint her. Tugruk had heard rumors that she could peel off all your skin with three spoken words. That she could turn your bones into jelly or fill your mouth with ants, or enchant your toenails to tear themselves free and attack you in your sleep. And the worst rumor, the one driving him to the brink, was that she was arriving tomorrow for inspection and a progress report. 

There was nothing else for it. He'd have to tell her what Gnark had told him. The humans, and the elf-witch, and the wolf, and the catfolk. He had one night to come up with a convenient story that absolved him of blame, and then an elaborate plan for revenge, and make it sound so good that Negost would let him live with his toenails attached. Grabbing a stack of paper and some quills, Tugruk began to write. 

"Oh, mighty Queen of goblin-kind, the horrors I must tell you. I promise, by the end of this tale, you, too, will agree that our best course of action is swift preparations for tenfold vengeance against the human sof the south. Under the bright sun, the army of Viridonians marched on us unprovoked…."

 

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Session 1
Here be spiders

Actions

Gabriel Button finds out Skyler is in town and grabs him and drags him along while he grabs Seralyn and Allen and brings all three back to the keep. On entering the keep, he outs Audreyn for loving sticky rolls enough to dress in Horace Zelcir's armor and take his place during one of his training sessions with Vaelin. Erosia pays for Felicity's early release from the dungeon and Button agrees on the condition that she help out with the local problems and pinky swear not to sell any more booze. Erosia can go along to if he wants.

Button explains the three problems happening right now, and they are indeed worse than the usual drama that unfolds in small settlements with low crime rates. Eight people are missing (taken by orcs), three graves are empty (one of them recently dug), and one man was caught trying to sell a stone ornament that releases hot water and steam in a way anyone can activate. Everyone agrees that the missing people are a high priority, but since the dungeon-man and magic rock are in the same building, they might as well do that first. Using a couple of cantrips and his knowledge of the arcane, Allen determines that the stone is an artifact, and does not conform to the laws of contemporary mortal magic, which adds a whole new level of complications to the situation. Also, the seams that glow blue when it's activated glowed red while he was moving it with mage hand. Further experimentation has not occurred. Since the man in the dungeon won't talk to anyone local, Felicity, who's been talking to him for two nights, talks to him, accompanied by Erosia, and manages to find out his name (Holden), where and from who he stole the artifact (a meeting house full of cabalists of the Silver King), and which shopkeep was almost scalded and turned him in (Zeke). After recruiting Holden to her business branch in Staygate, Felicity arranges with those involved to keep the matter quiet while the party roots out the cultists. 

The whole party and all of their vehicles are brought out to the homes hit by the orc raid, Skyler tracks the slave wagon to an interrogation cave and finds a body, some teeth, and other signs of struggle, and concludes that some intimidation occurred. They decide to leave the body alone and later retrace their steps to bury the body properly. Moving on from there, they track the humans to a goblin camp, brag about how much food they have<s></s> attempt to negotiate the release of the prisoners, and are attacked by the goblins, starting with the "elf" and the "witches." All of the goblins are wearing distinctive warpaint (handprint on chest) and are guarding a cave entrance. After quickly dispatching the goblins, Seralyn stabilizes the goblins that haven't bled out, and they proceed into the cave. Four more goblins and nine caged spiders are within, six spiders are released, two goblins are incapacitated and one killed, and one is stunned and tied up for questioning. Gnark answers the questions posed to him and reveals the social structure to the local goblin tribes; the Blue Hands work for the Spider Faces, led by Tugruk, the Spider Faces work for the Broken Daggers, led by Negost, and Negost has been thinking of allying with Kellored the Pious' orcs. The humans were asked questions about Whitefield by the orcs, bought by the goblins from the orcs, and used as target practice for spider mounts-to-be. Also present were a dwarf (Benjamin Ironborn) and a hive spider (Tracker 48 of Hive 1-1-9), arguing over a magical Egg MacGuffin. After hearing both of their cases, the party agreed to let the Tracker keep the egg in exchange for the dwarf getting first pick of the treasure, which was acceptable to him when he found out the treasure included an ancestral axe that he could use to claim kingship over Silverhold, which Seralyn volunteered as her portion of the treasure. Allen agreed to escort the Tracker to its hive, Vaelin asked the dwarf to remember him when he became King of Silverhold, the surviving goblins were set free, and treasure was divided.

Consequences

Treasure:
Audreyn claimed a set of +1 field plate.
Skyler claimed a masterwork longbow, and is free to take the masterwork heavy darkwood shield, as he is the only other person who would use a shield.
Vaelin claimed all gems.
Seralyn claimed the Urgrosh given to the dwarf.
Other treasure not yet distributed.
 

Other:
+1 Karma to Allen for agreeing to escort Tracker 48 alone, bringing his Karma score to 5.
+1 Karma to Erosia for paying for Felicity's bail, bringing him to 0.
+1 Karma to Felicity for offering and brokering a witness protection service to Holden, bringing her Karma score to 3.
+2 Karma to Seralyn for healing the goblins even though they attacked her, bringing her Karma score to 7.
Skyler keeps his Karma score of 1.
Vaelin keeps his Karma score of 2.
(Sorry, guys, I rolled 1d8-3 for starting Karma and most of you rolled low.)

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Restlessness in the Keep
A prelude...

It was early morning on Pasaday, Secundar 25, 930, when Gabriel Button woke from an unsteady sleep. Too much waiting, too much time lost while the Barony could be in peril. Again, as he had the day before, and the day before that, he dressed, went downstairs, cooked and ate a small, simple breakfast, belying a man of his station, and left the keep, trading the safety of its walls for the cold wind of early spring twilight. The sun still hovering just below the horizon, the animals as asleep as the people of the town, no one, save a few guardsmen at the last hour of their overnight shift, noticed as the young man paced around the walls of his Lady's estate. They paid him no more heed than usual; Sir Button was not a heavy sleeper. This was a walk he had made often during times of stress. Weighing on his mind were many problems, but a few stood out as more urgent than the rest, and it was this walk in the quiet that helped him think.

First, he thought, was the problem of the missing persons. Eight adult citizens. Kidnapped by orcs, the boy said. Orcs. In Radimyr? In Viridonia? That didn't seem right. Last he'd heard, they were off getting their numbers thinned out in the elven provinces. Perhaps the boy, Bron, had killed a few people, but then why turn himself in with such a story? If they lived, those people needed rescue. Of course, one does not become the aid to a baroness by only planning for the best, and he needed to consider practical, if morbid, eventualities. If the citizens were dead, he would still need confirmation, to exempt the affected households of tax until they recovered, and to update the census. If possible, the bodies should be recovered for burial. Ortrul's faithful did not approve of leaving the dead unburied, and Gabriel was quite faithful. 

Speaking of the unburied dead, the second issue was that of the graveyard. It was good to know the halfling was doing his job, but what could have happened to the bodies? As Gabriel stared at the plumes of fog issuing from his mouth, he narrowed the possibilities. The could have been dug up. This bore several implications, none of them pleasant. Any animal digging up fresh corpses was a sign that prey in the woods was becoming scarce, and that could be due to so many factors….
But if that were the case, why would it dig up the other two graves, which would surely be skeletons after so many decades? So no, not an animal. Nor, in that event would it be a problem of ghouls, who only sought flesh to sate their unholy hunger. Or so he had once been told, on another cold morning so long ago. Not the time to think about that. No time for the memories of the red skeletons in the snow, broken and chewed, and the priest, and the torches, and the fear. Focus. Focus. 
Not an animal. Not ghouls. That left but four options he could think of.
The few pranksters and troublemakers he knew of wouldn't pick the graveyard, as it was too far out of the way. They preferred to vandalize buildings near the keep to taunt authority, and their handiwork was limited to rude graffiti or broken fences. Three options left.
It wasn't grave robbers, because no one in that graveyard was buried with anything of value, and even if they had been, a corpse is not something you could easily transport or fence. Speaking of fencing…
Focus. One problem at a time. Two options left. Either that halfling was right and the dead were digging themselves out to wreak havoc on the sinners of Highridge - unlikely, and even if their motivation was divine punishment, wouldn't they attack Whitefield first, after that feline had caused all of that trouble with the drinks? Also, there had been no sightings. One option left.
Necroturgy. Someone was collecting the bodies of the dead. William had no enemies in life, and no one who knew him would have known the other two. The other two. Skeletons by now. Animating skeletons was cheaper, wasn't it? Hadn't Akram the Damned laid siege to Harlsburg with wave after wave of them? The fresh body must have been a target of opportunity, under looser earth. With limited time, in the dead of night, perhaps the digger chose William over another, older grave rather than risk taking too long. In any case, the situation needed further investigation, and the corpses should be recovered if possible.

With that settled, he turned his mind to the third and fourth problem. The new prisoners. Now was the time to think about the feline, and her peddling of spirits. Being an outsider, she wouldn't know the history of alcohol abuse the village had suffered after the cotton blight. So many farmers losing their jobs and drinking away what little money they had left. The rash of crime as they turned to illicit means to keep the rotgut in their bellies. The graves filling as people drank themselves to death. The Hearthfires, weary of funeral rites, begging a much younger Dame Zelcir to forbid the drink. Gabriel knew, though it was before his time. He heard the stories, and understood what had to be done. The feline had traveled through before many times, but for the first time, the hawking of her merchandise was heard and wanted, as William was mourned. 
Enough. What to do about the prisoners. The feline had already been charged. Solicitation of alcohol consumption, Intent to subvert rightful authority, Intent to subvert morality, Possession of alcohol without lisence, and whatever else he and Dame Zelcir could think of. Now the feline was sitting in the dungeon next to that man. That man who refused to give his name or to talk to the guards. Mr. MacAllister had been very cross and intent on pressing charges as soon as possible, but without knowing the facts, Gabriel couldn't know what to charge him with, if anything at all. The only person he spoke to was the feline, and never in the presence of the guards. Gabriel had visited himself, and as persuasive as he was, could only convince the man to tell him that he wouldn't talk to anyone from Whitefield and feared for his safety. All this over a magic stone? Sure, the stone was very old and potentially dangerous, but where had it come from? There was no proof it had been stolen, no proof the stranger knew it was dangerous, no proof that any crime had been committed, save perhaps accidental endangerment of a shopkeep, and that was hardly a crime at all. Knowing he couldn't hold the man on suspicion alone indefinitely, Gabriel formed a plan. The feline could get him to talk. And he didn't really want to keep her locked up, only scare her sufficiently to keep her from breaking the law. And that other stranger she'd been traveling with, the one that slept beside the well, had offered to pay her bail. All Gabriel had to do was graciously allow her early release on the condition that she assist in the investigation. Hell, she could help with all of them, as long as someone was with her to keep her in line. Audreyn could do that job, and it would be good for her to leave the keep for a while and do some field work….

As Gabriel Button walked back through the front gates, the sun had begun to show over the horizon, and the cockerels crowed in the distance. Hopefully today would be the day Skyler Hollow came into town, and he could ask his help and round up the rest of Whitefield's more competent free citizens. Mr Hollow, of course, was a capable hunter and tracker, and could locate the missing persons in short order better than anyone in the village, and might be able to track the corpse looter as well. Mr. Knoll, the magician, would be able to tell more about the boiling water stone and would probably find a way to be useful against the other problems as well. Miss Smith, even without her divine magic, with her gift of arbitration and intimate knowledge of the area, would be a prized asset to use for any of the pressing issues. Audreyn, for protection. Sir MacLear, being Captain of the Guard, would have the authority to make arrests if need be and lend the operations legitimacy as a government operation. The feline – Felicia? Felicity? – She could go along with them as part of her sentence and with Audreyn and Vaelin to keep her in line, she might prove useful. At the very least she could take what was left in her barrels out of town and stop tempting the guards in the impound lot to sample the contents. If her traveling companions decided to accompany her, that wasn't a problem, either. There. All planned, all set, just waiting. Now it was time to sit by the fire for a while and write the rest of his daily itinerary….

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