Adventures in Thargothras

Session 21
The Season 2 Finale

While most of the rest of the party traveled to Cacot, Skyler and Vaelin flew to Pehill to have a look around. From the air, they saw a few figures, some larger than others. Once landed, they were able to identify some advanced skinstitches, and also encountered a half-elf with a scar on his left cheek. The half-elf never volunteered his name, but offered a substantial reward for the tracking and slaying of a rogue junk golem. After the junk golem was found and destroyed, the scarred half-elf dug through the wreckage and retrieved a shard of yellow glass, which he took with him. Then he tossed a purse full of gold, which Vaelin caught, and left.

To the north of the empty town, the bleed gate crackled in the sky, and many cabalists, including the ratfolk suspected to be the vessel for Kemassu, Prince of Pestilence, but no other known leaders, had set up some scaffolding in preparation for its use. Five towers, each with a differently sized bell, surrounded a flattened hillock. As the bells were rang in a repeating, yet discordant pattern, a sixth ring echoed from the gulf between the worlds, and Keiran identified the device as a tonal key, set to resonate with the incoming tower. Luckily, Keiran also had a cunning solution: to change its form to be able to cut through sound – as an object made of sound itself. Vaelin had to use up a good deal of his arcane reservoir to activate this ability, but it worked. When the tower appeared, the ratfolk went up to the door, grasped the handle, and jumped back as the entire six-story building crumbled into dust – having suffered the equivalent of a thousand thousand shatter spells from the disrupted tonal magic. The two heroes flew off to meet their compatriots in Pastow, leaving the ratfolk half-buried in grey sand and the other cabalists scurrying in panic.

Once the party (minus Felicity) had congregated in Pastow, they split up a little. Seralyn had been given the task of helping the local priestess of Ivideme to establish a library, and visited the baroness, and half of the members of the Iron Order, asking for donations. Vaelin had promised to speak to some of the members of the Iron Order about their trade restrictions on livestock, considering that a large portion of Whitefield's livestock are from there. Because the ones that the citizens of Whitefield used to grow themselves are still being stolen by ogres. These ogres still have bounties on their heads that no one wants to collect. That makes me sad. Anyway, both Vaelin and Seralyn are invited to join the last three members of the Iron Order that they haven't met yet, for dinner at one of their mansions. This would be less complicated if one of the other people they've spoken to hadn't mentioned that these three recently came down with an illness that makes them really pale and sensitive to daylight, provoking suspicion in the party (who are able to make Knowledge (religion) checks that the ordinary villagers didn't) that they might be vampires. A plan was hatched that Seralyn and Vaelin would accept the invitations to dinner, and bring Audreyn and Allen as guests, while Skyler and Joshua snuck into the house through a window or something to snoop around.


Karmic adjustments:

Allen remains at 25.
Audreyn remains at 8.
Felicity remains at 12
Joshua remains at 12
Seralyn remains at 25
+2 to Skyler for risking his own safety while avoiding violence, bringing his score up to 17.
+1 to Vaelin for not killing any cabalists, bringing his score up to 19.

The price of victory

The news regarding Duke Eddamer Emyn  had hit him, and his household, quite hard, but it had hit others far worse. The money taken from the overtaxing of the baronies hadn't gone to the Duke, though he did know quite well where it had gone. When questioned, he offered no explanation. His brother had questioned him in his throne room, and in a separate chamber privately, his wife had asked him in their bed when the lights were out and the crickets sang in the fields, his children had even asked, one by one, and his answer was always the same. "I cannot say." The king figured him greedy, as did the barons who had heard the news. His wife thought him unfaithful, and though she said nothing of it, he knew she'd been crying in the long afternoons in her library, during which she was not to be disturbed. His younger children likely suspected nothing, but wanted to know why they would never visit their winter home again. The eldest wanted to know why the money couldn't have been put to something useful, like more parties or a new pony. None were satisfied with his answer, but he could not bring himself to lie to his family, nor could he endanger them with the truth. No one could know his connection to the Night's Army, even now, and not a soul save a few select members ever would.

The Hierophant had called a meeting on short notice to discuss the news with a few administrators and other nearby members, and hopefully between the dozen or so present, in Staygate, they could postulate possible solutions. Agent 21, who was still undercover as a high-profile functionary in Whitefield, and who had been indirectly involved with the whole affair, had notified the Hierophant as soon as he could, but the damage was mostly contained, and would take time to repair. With their major source of funding gone, a new source was needed, else the Army dissolve into self-supporting factions and cells. The hunters themselves only needed training and privacy to function properly, but the network of support and quality of equipment depended on discreet acquisition of wealth. Agent 33 had an idea, but it was not without risk. His/Her undercover role, like her allies Agents 76 and 104, was as a member of Dragon Syndicate, the organized crime community in Staygate. So great was their influence and notoriety, they were able to extract tribute and call favors from almost every major town and city in Viridonia. If an alliance could be had, it would likely require some amazing persuasion skills and some very big favors to begin and maintain, and would also likely require extortion to keep it secret for long, but for the cause, it may be justifiable. And if anyone could hide large payments to anonymous recipients, it was Dragon Syndicate.

Too soon, Agent 21 had to leave to attend to his cover identity, and the matter was tabled until more missives could be sent. And of course, they had yet to hear from the Yslor boy they'd sent out on reconnaissance….

Session 20
Partings and meetings

Since the party was separated for a while, due to the absence of Dame Zelcir, as she accompanies young Lord Vincent and Sir Wersil. Audreyn must, as her post required, attend Dame Zelcir on her travels, and Sir Vaelin MacLear must, as the highest-ranking law enforcer, stay within the barony until their return. This is the session in which this was resoved, with Dame Zelcir's return to Whitefield bringing in much more than anticipated.

On Joysday, Sextar 7, everyone returned, with great news, and with quite a crowd.
About a hundred footsoldiers, three heavily armored men on horseback, hundreds of sunburnt, manacled men and women, flanked by more mounted knights in two loose columns, thirty large wagons with extra horses, bearing full loads of cargo – clay, lumber, crates painted in bright colors, three carriages and two wagons full of humans and halflings, and finally, four mounted knights, one wearing Zelcir’s colors (that was Audreyn) . A quarter of the footsoldiers and nine of the wagons stayed in Whitefield to serve, while the rest of the knights head to Heslan Barony and everyone else, leaves the road to walk southwest.

While Dame Zelcir and Gabriel Button were content to retire and sleep after their journey, and Baron Vincent de Noumenn and Baron Wersil are content to part ways and travel into their respective baronies, Audreyn has quite the story to tell her other friends. Some important points include:

  • Lord Vincent is now Baron Vincent de Noumenn, and the kingdom now has a new barony, Noumenn Barony, right here on the map. They’re going to build three settlements and hopefully have good farmland by autumn. All of those soldiers that left with him are under his command now, and all of the prisoners are his new citizens, from Healey’s prison. More will be coming from other prisons over the next few months, all nonviolent.
  • Lord Vincent had a disagreement with one of the courtiers, Count Dennis Fairweather, over a trifle and they spent the rest of the week avoiding each other and sending servants back and forth with larger and larger tips to humiliate the other in some way, like presenting them with rash cream when they were in the company of others, or to “accidentally” spill wine on the other’s clothes during dinner. Now they hate each other. This might go poorly for Lord Vincent, as Count Fairweather is jockeying for the position of Groom of the Stool and will have many opportunities to besmirch Lord Vincent uninterrupted if he makes the promotion. (See the post "Putting the Feud in Feudal" for more details)
  • Dame Zelcir successfully pled her case to the King that she was being overtaxed, and when the Royal Treasurer’s official records were different from the records taken by the tax collectors, a decades-long embezzlement scandal was uncovered and Duke Eddamer Emyn not only lost his job as treasurer, but was forced to give his best properties to the Baroness in compensation, which she sold back to him at twice their value. She is now to be charged by the number of people in her barony rather than the rate she was subject to for decades before.
  • Some of her money was in the form of royal IOUs, which she redeemed in Healey for building materials, most notably the tons of clay bricks from House Yslor. She intends to use more of her tax refunds on continuing shipments. Also, with a large amount of cash and a lower tax rate, she was able to hire 25 more guards for her castle, some of whom are trained in siege weaponry. Then, in Pastow, she hired two teams of halfling carpenters and masons to assist in building new bunks for her guards. Those teams may stay in Whitefield if they have steady employment.
  • Dame Zelcir gave Audreyn and Gabriel some of the cash to celebrate, but Gabriel lent Audreyn a large portion, claiming he had “nothing to spend it on at this time.” So, she went shopping and got something for everybody, including herself. She even used some of the money to hire teams for her friends’ businesses.
  • Caduceus Spirits has been officially endorsed by Baron de Noumenn, and he invites the company to build a branch in his new barony as soon as possible.

    A couple of party members, namely Allen and Felicity, decided to talk to the prisoners, and discovered that they had had their personalities or emotions magically by an employee of Lord Vincent. No longer do they have any violent urges, despite being former criminals, including murderers, vandals, and thugs. The rest of the party, when informed, agreed that this was highly unusual and suspect, and agreed that it merited further investigation.

    With all of that sorted, the party decided to follow up on some leads about the recent cases of Vile Rigidity in Cacot and Pehill. The disease had left almost no survivors, and those who had survived fled to Whitefield and Penmawr. Kemassu's influence is suspected.

The next day, the party split up, and Allen, Audreyn, Felicity, Joshua, and Seralyn hopped on the backs of dire bats to fly to Cacot. On the way, but nearby, they encountered a Fachen riding a Spire Drake. They made short work of both, and discovered that the fachen had several javelins coated with paralytic poison. After some thought, they concluded that the presence of such creatures was related in some way to the machinations of Ignidia, Lothligar, and Kemassu's vessel, whose name is still unknown to the party.

In the nearly deserted town of Cacot, the party found a great deal of salvageable objects, but more importantly, the shocking discovery of strange rats the size of housecats, with human faces, dragging corpses into a tannery. Even worse, the strange creatures (called ratlings) were skinning the corpses to create material for lesser golems called skinstitches. But worst of all, the ratlings were being ordered to do so by a kind of creature that categorically doesn't exist. A creature that is impossible. A Rat King. After killing everything in the building, the party decided to collect the salvage and take it to Healey for a reward, except for Felicity, who would collect the body of the spire drake and take it to the Mystics of Burall to see how much they'd pay for whatever exotic components they could harvest.
From Healey, the group left for Penmawr, and met the holy man they'd heard rumors of: Master Farenroth. They arrived in time to hear the second half of Farenroth's sermon, and he asked them to disarm themselves, leaving only Farenroth's bodyguard, a dwarf named Dakarai, armed. After the sermon, Seralyn and Allen decided to talk to Farentroth while Audreyn went outside to keep an eye on the locals. Farenroth revealed that he has strange visions that overtake him, during which he cannot recognize his own surroundings. He also identified that Kemassu's vessel was most likely a ratfolk, because of the Prince of Pestilence's affinity for rodents. He also revealed that he is 940 years old, but offered no explanation of how he has lived so long. It was around that time that the session ended.

Karmic adjustments:

+1 to Allen for his concern regarding the prisoners-turned-serfs, bringing his score up to 25.
Audreyn remains at 8.
+2 to Felicity for agreeing to transport the spire drake alone, for the profit of mostly other people, bringing her score up to 12.
Joshua remains at 12.
+1 to Seralyn for suggesting that as much salvage as possible be returned to the citizens of the same barony, bringing her score up to 25.
Skyler, not present, remains at 15.
Vaelin, also not present, remains at 18.

The General's Betrayal

The poem "The General's Betrayal" is believed to be close to a hundred years old, though the events it refers to (that is, the ambush and assassination of General Ulna Brandlewart) are 112 years in the past. The debate over its exact age is partly because it is attributed to two authors, the historian Sir Ingres and the songwriter Mourlo Pex. There is also the theory that the two may have cooperated on the work, but because there are two versions of the fourth, fifth, and sixth verses, it is popularly believed that one version is the original, and the other stolen and rewritten as part of an ongoing rivalry. Both versions were heard in taverns and around campfires by minstrels, and due to the disorganization of their spread, no clear origin can be traced with certainty. Both versions of the poem verse are presented here in no particular order.

Version One (this is the version attributed to Ingres)

The General rode up to the stones
as the birds did cease their flight
a letter in her hand she carried
as mist rose up to meet the night

Her lover asked to meet alone
ere the battle at next dawn
to share with her a last embrace
in case the evening saw her gone

The General rode up to the stones
tied her horse and walked ahead
her lover met her at the summit
wine in hand and blanket spread

The lover bade her drink the wine
and once she drank, a glint of steel
as soldiers from behind the stones
did step, their motives were not weal

The general stumbled toward her sword
unarmed, unarmored, and head uncleared
but ere she stood upright an arrow
in her naked back appeared

Her lover fled, with heavy pockets
to match the weight within her soul
the shame she felt for her betrayal
her heart to ne'er again be whole

And so thee listen, and listen well
when honor clashes with your purse
no weight of coin is worth your heart
the glint of gold can lift no curse

Version Two (this is the version attributed to Pex)

The General rode up to the stones
as the birds did cease their flight
a letter in her hand she carried
as mist rose up to meet the night

Her lover asked to meet alone
ere the battle at next dawn
to share with her a last embrace
in case the evening saw her gone

The General rode up to the stones
tied her horse and walked ahead
her lover met her at the summit
wine in hand and blanket spread

Her lover bade her drink the wine
and once she drank, she froze in place
her limbs were stiff, her eyes still open
surpise and horror on her face

From darkness did an arrow fly
and pierce right through her naked flesh
the force did lean her body forward
her blood still quick, her sight still fresh*

The last thing that the General saw
as her lifeblood stained the land
her lover with tears in her eyes
and a purse of coins in her open hand

Her lover fled, with heavy pockets
to match the weight within her soul
the shame she felt for her betrayal
her heart to ne'r again be whole

And so thee listen, and listen well
when honor clashes with your purse
no weight of coin is worth your heart
the glint of gold can lift no curse

*"fresh" being a synonym for "clear" at the time of writing.

With the latter version being more dramatic, and, on the whole, less realistic than the ambush by multiple soldiers, it is more likely that the former version is true, but not necessarily original, as Sir Ingres was known at other points to "correct" popular works for historical accuracy and pay to have them sung in as many locations as possible (for further instances, see "The Death of Sir Forrintine" and "The Wayward Fop" as examples of his meddling). 

Session 19

Shortly after Jorba's death, Felicity decided to blow the wooden horn labeled "bloe fr halp" and a few seconds later, a flaming projectile arced from far behind the treeline and smashed into the roof of Jorba's cabin, igniting the thatch. Half a minute after that, another projectile followed, from another direction. Dozens of kappa emerged from the foliage, primitive weapons in hand. Erosia, feeling intimidated by the sudden influx of allies attempted his usual abrasive, aggressive diplomacy, and failed, turning his allies from helpful to indifferent towards him, and they elected to negotiate their services with Seralyn instead, who apologized on his behalf. The salvaged siege weapons that the kappa had repaired since the party's last visit to the cabin were to be delivered to Whitefield, in part by labor and in part by magic. 

Once home, on the 18th, the party checked Dame Zelcir's library for information about Baraz-Bolgrik or its previous owners. What they found was incomplete and mostly pertaining to Viridonia's diplomatic relationship with Silverhold, but they did find references to two other works that were within reach in known locations. Fueled by curiosity, Allen, Joshua, and Felicity (who had other motives related to business) made haste on the backs of giant bats to the libraries in Healey (where they learned of the urgrosh's previous owners) and Gunargun (where they learned more of the last owner's family history).

Felicity made a point to obtain pedigrees for Queen Miriam in order to learn more about her relationship to the High King, but results were inconsistent and inconclusive. A comment about the geneologist's grand-mentor being Talabyr may prove significant in the future.

Karmic adjustments:
+1 karma to Allen for relieving many kappa of manual labor at his own expense, bringing his score up to 24
-2 to Erosia for threatening and alienating known allies, +1 for taking care of the sick and sharing information with the rest of the party, leaving his score at 15
Felicity spent 2 points supplementing a failed knowledge check, lowering her score to 10
+2 to Joshua for volunteering to assist in research at the risk of being charged with treason, bringing his score up to 12
Seralyn remains at 24
Skyler remains at 15
+1 to Vaelin for his ongoing efforts to improve the lives of his fellow citizens, bringing his score up to 18

Putting the feud in feudal

From the Journal of Algen Sedgewick, Chief of Staff, Emyn Palace, Staygate, Viridonia:

After a week of investigation and thorough questioning of the staff, I have uncovered the incidents in relation to a rivalry between Lord Vincent and Count Fairweather, and have, to the best of my ability, created a timeline during which those incidents and their causes may be chronicled.

Day 1: Lord Vincent arrives with two higher-ranking nobles and their escorts, and after introduction to the king, Lord Vincent was walking through a hallway to his room and his shoulder collided with the shoulder of Count Fairweather, who was also heading to his room in the opposite direction, and both stopped in their tracks demanding apology. Neither would admit wrongdoing, and so the king's steward was called upon to arbitrate, and the decision went in favor of Count Fairweather, being that he was an established member of the court and not a foreigner seeking citizenship. Incensed, Lord Vincent issued a quite insincere apology and retired to his chamber. It is during his bath that he offered to pay a servant to "find some itching powder and put it in [Count Fairweather's] next bath." The request was declined twice until the payment offered reached 30 gold pieces.
Two days later, Lord Vincent made a sardonic comment tipping the Count off that he was the source of his discomfort, and the Count retaliated by paying another servant to present a pot of [redacted] ointment to Vincent at an inopportune time. Vincent responded later that evening by paying yet another staff member to "accidentally" spill red wine on the Count's shirt during dinner.
The next day, the Count arranged to have Lord Vincent's entire wardrobe sent to laundry and be replaced with women's clothing, one size too small. Lord Vincent circumvented this inconvenience by borrowing an outfit from one of Sir Wersil's bodyguards and intercepting the launderers, with just enough time to retrieve half of his wardrobe before lunch. Not to be outdone, Lord Vincent arranged for all of the Count's meals to arrive burnt for the rest of the day.
On the fifth day, both were occupied with official business and did not engage each other in any fashion.
On the sixth day, Count Fairweather bribed an attendant to misplace Lord Vincent's shoes. Lord Vincent borrowed a pair from Dame Zelcir's bodyguard, and took her shopping, where he bought six new pairs of shoes for himself. On his return to the royal palace, he arranged for the floor in Count Fairweather's guest bedroom to be polished and freshly lacquered, forcing the Count into another guest room for the night to avoid the fumes. By some design, the room the Count was relocated to was one with a noisy draft due to a window that could not be completely closed.
On the seventh day, the Count was exhausted from lack of sleep, and challenged Lord Vincent to a rapier duel in the palace garden. Lord Vincent agreed, and knocked the Count unconscious with his basket hilt.
On the eighth day, unwilling to consider the matter settled, the Count nonetheless resorted to less drastic means of obtaining his revenge, and sent the youngest prince and princess to harass and annoy Lord Vincent at every opportunity. Lord Vincent had no direct retaliation to this, but befriended both children by telling them scary ghost stories and sending them to play elsewhere.
On the ninth day, the King stepped in, summoning both of them to his throne room and telling them that from that point on, they were to cease and desist all actions against each other while in Staygate. As far as I know, the feud is unresolved and will remain so until one or the other is dead.

Session 18
Jorba dies at the end

Keeping their promise to personally deliver the jar of teeth to Jorba the Rotten, the party (minus Audreyn, of course), flew to her cabin at the edge of the Swamp of Ghosts. On the way, one of them spotted a small wooden horn get thrown out of the treeline into the middle of the dirt road as they were passing over, and landed to pick it up. On it were etched the words "bloe fr halp." They decided to hang onto it, but not use it just yet, and continued their flight to their destination in about a day.

Once arriving within a hundred yards of the cabin, keeping within the treeline, invisibility was cast on Felicity, who daringly scouted the area, only to see Jorba sweeping dust out her front door. After passing an invisible line, Felicity unknowingly activated an alarm spell, and Jorba nervously retreated indoors. At that point, Felicity returned to the party and they agreed to storm her house. On the way there, four kelpies rose from the water, but only the one disguised as a majestic dragon horse was able to enthrall a party member (it was Skyler). The others were cut, burnt, or shot down while disease-ridden zombies rose from the mud to infect the unwelcome guests. When Vaelin opened the door, he was greeted by a large sack of hungry, cancerous flesh that tried to consume him – he slashed at it, only to watch it nearly double in size in the space of a few swings. It was soon clear that any blows that broke the skin caused its growth, so it was up to Allen and Erosia's elemental assaults to end it before it grew to an enourmous size. As Erosia's jet of water slammed into it, provoking dark violet bruises and welts, Allen's scorching rays caused it to sizzle and emit a revoltingly delicious scent. Under those attacks, combined with the damage it had already sustained (and not regenerated) from Vaelin's sword, it was quickly felled.

Jorba, after a brief search, was discovered to be under the floorboards, and after a ruse was used to fool her into thinking the party had dropped off the jar and left, she emerged from a trap door beneath a throw rug, whereupon she was entangled in magical webbing and slain.

On her body were 10 javelins coated in poison, and a +2 dagger. Outside were a set of bronze cubes of alarm (improved stones of alarm – greater area). The had nothing else

Karmic adjustments:
Allen remains at 23
Erosia remains at 16
+1 to Felicity for scouting at her own risk, bringing her score to 12
Joshua remains at 10
Seralyn remains at 24
Skyler remains at 15
-1 to Vaelin for leaving Whitefield leaderless for 3 days, but +2 for ending a threat to his subjects at their request, leaving his score at 17

Unrest in the Citadel

Ividay, Quintar 13. Early evening.

"Is it done?" Negost asked, somewhat impatiently.
"Not as such, your majesty." Tugruk tried not to stammer. "I went to the cell at the appropriate time, and she was not there." His queen was staring daggers, but said nothing, so he continued. "Not only that, but I think she may have frightened Janet on her way out. Our best lead is one of the hobs you put in charge of the inside patrols. We placed him into custody, but the only thing he remembers is detaining some wandering beer merchants who'd gotten lost in the woods "
"LOST? In MY woods, this close to MY fortress? I don't know how they're involved, but this is no coincidence, Bonearm. Bring them to the torture chamber at once, so we can find out everything they know."
Tugruk hesitated. "My lady, they are gone, too. The same guard released them minutes after they were taken inside, but according to everyone's testimony, they never left the room they were held in. It could not have been them. I suspect the hob was under magical control. His testimony is flawed, and has too many holes, and I noticed he was behaving differently

"Then take him to the torture chamber and find out why he was so far from his post that she could hit him with a spell. I'll have the truth yet." Her voice was cold enough to grow frost on wine.
"Of course, but I doubt it's his fault, either. He mentioned blacking out on the staircase, which, frankly, is part of his patrol, so he may have been taken by surprise. Still, you're right, as always," he noted that her expression brightened slightly. "…and it always pays to be sure."
"And just where were you when you think she left?"
"Why, I was in the room you prepare for me every time I visit, my lady, biding my time to strike. That is, until the hob came to my door and told me that Janet was loose. The little nip almost turned me to salt in the storage room, but I came right back to my room after that scare and didn't go downstairs again until it was time."
"Then did you at least find Janet?"
"Yes, your majesty."
"Good. And at least we have several gobs and a hob that can provide testimony. See what you can get out of them in the torture chamber."
Tugruk smiled, remembering the guard he'd used to hold Seralyn's cell door open. The poor sap would need to corroborate his own story. "I'll see to it personally, my lady."
"Excellent. Why can't they all be as dependable as you, Tug? Now, I'm going to the Magic Room in a few minutes. Bring me her confiscated gear so that I may scry on her."
Tugruk nervously scratched at his nose. "About that, my lady…"

It took several goblins to scrub the scorch marks from the wall after Negost was done with her tantrum, but, to his endless relief, Tugruk was unharmed, save for a hole in his shirt from an errant spark, and she was out of magical energy for the day. He and Negost were down in the Magic Room now, and she was tapping on a pair of magic mirrors, trying to initiate conversation with Kellored and Palthanga. After a while, the mirror to Kellored swirled and the old warlord's face appeared.
"Why are you contacting me out of schedule? What emergency presents itself that I must interrupt my bathing?"
"We may have a problem with the Viridonians, my esteemed peer." Negost's voice reeked of sycophancy.
Kellored scowled. "What did you do, goblin?"
"We imprisoned a diplomat seeking to prevent war. The elf-witch from Whitefield, in fact."
"I see. Well, don't let her talk you out of the cause, heh heh. This could be good, even. We can use her as leverage to keep the humans at bay until we're ready to sack their villages and have our siege weapons built. Keep her locked down and don't call me again unless there's an emergency."
The mirror started to swirl again, but Negost had time to stop it. "She escaped!"
Kellored's scowl returned in greater force than before. "How could you let this happen? This could bring the war to us! Your job was to wait for my orders, occupy the larger settlements with your armies until they ran low on arrows, so that we, the hobs, and the idiot ogres could go in and do the real fighting! Perhaps you do not want the arcane secrets of the elves, after all."
"WAIT!" screamed Negost, genuine fear in her eyes. "I'll get her back! I'll send assassins! I'll do whatever you want! I need those scrolls, Kellored. I need them."
Tugruk startled. He hadn't been clear on why Negost had shown such support for the cause of the orcs. Up until now, he'd assumed there was some profit or glory in it for the goblin people, but a bribe that only Negost would see? This was not worth sacrificing so many of his people.
Kellored spoke with much deliberation. "You aren't going to handle this one. I'm going to call in some… outside help. I need you to be prepared six months earlier than we'd planned. We cannot give the humans time to launch an assault until our war machines are complete. Do NOT disappoint me." The mirror swirled once again, and Negost did not stop it. Tugruk was already writing his letter of resignation in his head. The other mirror swirled into focus, presenting a confused ogress.
"I need you to send your son to take care of a problem. How well does he remember the elf-witch from the trial he went to?"
"Yes. And don't bother making it look like an accident. We need to send a message with this one. Peace is not an option."
Now, Tugruk had to interrupt. "My lady, wouldn't it make more sense to let the humans fall into complacency? If they think peace is not an option, our people will be needlessly slaughtered when we go to battle against a prepared army."
"You dare contradict me in front of her? I want the elf-witch dead and I don't care how! You couldn't get it done, so I'm asking for a professional!"
"Why not let Kellored's, er, friends, take care of it?"
"Because I want her dead yesterday, and I don't know what the hell the orc has planned. You're going to stay out of this until she's gone, do you hear me?"
Tugruk stopped writing the letter in his head. "You know, I really regret the last time I got involved in something like this, so I think I will stay out of it. Not only that, I'll be staying out of this pointless war with the humans, and so will my tribes until you come to your senses and stop playing with our lives on the off chance you get your hands on a bunch of dusty old elf-books. I don't care if you hire a dozen assassins and summon a demon, I'm leaving for the Gnest right now!"
Seething with rage, Negost turned her attention back to Palthanga. "You'll have Burshuk bring me that elf-witch's head, or I'll summon enough demons to sew your mouth shut, and we'll see what's funny then!"
Now it was Palthanga's turn to be afraid. Ogres, for all their strength and swagger, only knew enough about magic to be afraid of it. A quick nod as her face turned pale was the last thing visible before the mirror swirled again. Tugruk was already out the door, leaving Negost alone to sob and kick furniture. She hated to admit it, but without Tugruk's contributions, the goblins of the region were greatly weakened. Kellored would not be happy, but she would deal with that later. To let the prisoner escape alive was to show weakness, and power could not be maintained if one showed weakness. Now, just in case, she'd need to look around for that book on demon summoning she kept hidden away….

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

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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