Autumn 1146

New Moon

Summer 1146


12 (F)
14 Breakfast

16 Nearshore

21 Refugees
22 Harpy Combo Plate
23 Lookout Surprise
25 Key Location
26 A Messy Rescue
27 Something Goes Smoothly
28 Waiting for Laird
30 Farewell to Sharn
31 Searching for Something
32 Town News
33 Cave of Fear!

34 Forest of Stone Deep Ways
35 Grimlocks Wind and Water
36 Sammit's Throne?
37 Flight
39 Fight

43 (F)Ultimatum

49 Innita
51 Revelations

58 Not That Hard
59 Fractional Alliances
60 Divisions
64 Stranger in the Desert

67 Fighting Krthog
68 Caravan News
69 Ambassador Godrick

71 Neveneth, Again
72 Scorpions!
73 Sandstorm, Investigate
74 (F) Hanna’s Knees The Bad Rose Investigate2
76 Ambush

80 Synod Rendevous
82 Fu’ad al Shihab

83 Skin Job
84 Hearing
86 Minzerek and Uster
87 Giants Redux
88 Rescue, Maybe
Winter 1147
<-- Autumn1141 | Winter1147 -->

Next new moon: 89 Autumn 1146

14 Autumn 1146, in the City of Corak

In the city of Corak, Duke Fredrick has spent the last week celebrating his 40th birthday. The night of the full moon was the climax of the festivities, with a great parade in the streets of the upper city. Now most of the revelers have left, and our heroes have gathered for a quiet breakfast to catch up on old times. It has been five years since they talked to the oracle, and they have much catching up to do.

The quietude ends when Basil shows up very drunk smelling like the stables, being very loud. He also has hair now.

Aidan and Nadia are afflicted by some kind of magical rash that nobody can figure out, but they feel compelled to head West. The group packs up, mounts up (except for Basil who has to be tied to his horse), and leaves Corak taking the northwest road to Strait.

16-17 Autumn 1141, near the town of Walter's Bailey

The roads are good and the countryside is peaceful, so the party makes good time. In the afternoon of the second day, by occasional backtracking and feeling their way, the sisters lead the party to one of the nicer estates in the area. A fine two-story stone building with a tall well-thatched roof, surrounded by acres of fields for hay, oats, and horses. A well-maintained drive leads up to the house, and a sign on the gate reads Nearshore.

While the party discusses whether to approach the house directly or not, a riding master approaches them and introduces himself as Lewis. The home is owned by the Lady Calanth (a niece to Duke Fredrick) , but she is not taking visitors that day. Bishop Ambrose leaves a note for her and the party heads to town to find a place to spend the night.

Before they get very far, a runner catches up with them to bid them come to Lady Calanth. She will receive the Bishop and his friends. At the house the party is met by Beauchamp, the Lady's personal healer.

Calanth is ill, with the same rash and fever as the sisters except that she seems much more ill than they were. Her compulsion is different, however. She searched madly through the house until she found a mysterious box. Ambrose detects strong magic on the box, while Minzerec does not. When the sisters touch the box, writing appears plainly on its lid.

  • Whiterose Hall holds for you what should not be lost, but can not be used.
  • You hold for us, when we can not hold for ourselves.
  • This our covenant is signed in the blood of Hemet’s sons.

Inside the box is a metal siloute of a bird (some kind of crow) in flight. The metal isn't valuable -- just ordinary bronze. But the workmanship is superb.

While most of the party looks through the Lady's library to learn about Whitehall and Hemet, Aidan and Nadia watch over Calanth. The search produces only an old copy of an older map of the region around Stamhead. Everyone decides to call it a night.

The next morning finds Lady Calanth feeling better and in the library researching Hemet's line. She is quite sure she is descended from Hemet, but that doesn't explain why the sisters are there. Perhaps they come from one of the "pruned" parts of the family tree? After all, 600 years is a lot of generations.

When one of the sisters touches the bird figure it croaks:

  • Old King Samit’s most feared power
  • crushes armies, topples towers
  • sinks ships, forges woe
  • lights the dark,
  • undoes foes.

  • The Old Rook lies in bronze retired:
  • exiled Magi, hunted liar.
  • Before you seek what he concealed
    • ask this:
  • Is truth always best revealed?

Asking it to repeat will cause it to say the verses again. Incidentally, it understands the same command in elven.

A messenger arrives at nearly mid-day. There is indeed a treaty between the Harrell family and the Lairds of the defunct Duchy of Stamhead. But it is very old and there is no record of the Harrells ever being called upon to fulfill the terms of the treaty. Just why the sisters are affected by the spell is a mystery, but it can be dealt with later.

The Duke requests that the sisters, and such able companions as they can muster, go out and help Stamhead with whatever their problem is. Then find whatever object the Laird is keeping safe for Corak, and bring it home. That should nullify the magic and prevent future generations of Harrells from being inconvenienced.

Armed with an out-of-date map and the box with the bronze bird in it, the party sets out.

roleplay xp: 150 at 7th level

21 Autumn 1146, on Felton Moor

Days pass. This time of year the moor is passable in spite of the poor (almost non-existent) state of the road. Wolves, herd of elk, and other wildlife abound here. Knee-high brush covers the ground for miles and miles in every direction, slowly going red and yellow and gold in the autumn sun. Where towns are marked on the party's map hardly anything remains. Sometimes a few scattered stones show where a hearth may have been. There are occasionally hills or large stands of trees to break up the monotony, but little else.

On the morning of the 21st the group spies a haze of smoke laying low to the horizon. They find a wood, hidden by the contours of the land, and discover a large camp of people living there. The smoke was from their campfires.

After being forced to peacebond their weapons they meet the leader, Laird Kelowind of Stamhead He says that they are all refugees, having fled the town of Stamhead and the surrounding area after it was taken over by a Warlord and his people. When it became clear the town was in dire straits Kelowind stood before the seal of the first Laird and said words that were supposed to summon help defending the town. He didn't think it would really work, but was desperate enough to try. He is surprised and disappointed in equal measure: he didn't expect anyone to come at all, and he was hoping for a much larger force.

Kelowind tells the party that they need to retrieve the treasury key from the body of the Captain of the Guard, who died while trying to evacuate the city. The treasury is a trap which causes people to covet the treasure inside to point of killing each other. If the key can be delivered to the warlord without him suspecting anything, it is hoped he will open treasury and succumb to its magic.

The party leaves in the afternoon for Stamhead to look around, with a guide provided by Kelowind. They are briefly missing Aidan, who left during the "planning" stage to get some fresh air. She had encountered a harpy, but hadn't engaged it.

22 Autumn 1146, Harpy Combo Plate

In the wee hours of the morning there is singing. Minzerek succumbs to the siren song of the harpy and begins walking towards them. Everyone else is fine. Aidan sits on Minzy and ties him up.

While everyone else is still waking up Nolan sneaks out to look around: there are two harpies and a manticore laying in wait. The party attacks. Abra Basil engages one in melee while everyone else stands back and uses spell or ranged attacks. Consequently, he takes nearly all the damage during the fight (lots of arrows and manticore spikes). One harpy almost gets away, but Minzerek brings her down with a wing-binding spell. The fall kills her. The second harpy takes to the air, but Abra does a surprising jump 60' into the air and kills her most unkindly. After that, the manticore tries to fly away, but everyone gangs up and disables him.

combat xp: 1200 at 7th level
roleplay xp: 150 at 7th level

22-25 Autumn 1146, Lookout Surprise

The manticore talks a little but proves to be more annoying than informative. He gets a coup de grâce. Basil reveals that the warlord is Sharn the Ruthless, and that he's had dealings with the man before. Sharn thinks nothing of killing dozens of innocent people.

For a few days the party moves at night and rests during the day. One day a patrol passes nearby their camp, but the party lets them be. Lucas says they look like Stamehead troops, but they are probably in the employ of Sharn now. He has heard that people who refuse Sharn's bidding are impaled on spikes. It is doubtful that any resistance is left inside the town.

On the night of the 25th the party arrives at their destination: a mountain cave with a good view of the town. Basil and Lucas sneak up to the cave, and see three people sitting there apparently keeping watch. Basil smells decaying flesh, and figures them for undead.

Basil and Lucas retreat to confer with the others. The party, ignoring Basil's beleaguered state and recent bouts with DTs from his cold-turkey break with the fire-water, take his report at face-value and attack the assumed undead (albeit unusually quiet and sleepy looking undead), but when they storm the cave they discover the occupants are just dead humans propped up to look like they're alive. Then one of the bodies explodes. Everyone but Minzerec is injured and Lucas is killed. Exploded human giblets blanket the vicinity, transforming our intrepid party into a pathetic group of stinking gore covered escapees from a tallow maker's abatoir, escapees who have rather loudly announced their presence and foolishly discarded any pretense of stealth (if indeed they ever possessed any such thing).

Some motion nearby attracts the party's attention, and a figure retreats into the woods. With a single arrow, the foe is felled: one goblin.

No xp.

25 Autumn 1146, near Mt. Stamhead

After sending up their big signal flare, the party decides to move along. They skirt the north side of the Stamfield farmlands trying to get to the mountain ridge south of the town. Along the way they encounter a pack of young adults (and some not-quite-adults) who are living in the forest and resisting Sharn's rule. Someone FINALLY thinks to search Lucas' body and discover a telepathy stone he was using to communicate with the Laird.

After a brief meeting, a plan is formed. The party will get the aid of three young insurgents: Kacin, a little guy named Quarili, and a pretty girl named Terri. The party captures a town guard to use as a messenger. Basil hides in town as backup, Kacin escorts Terri up to Whiterose Hall to create a mild distraction, while Nolan and Quarili penetrate the keep. The infiltrators have to kill a couple of guards and dump them over the side, but overall things go as planned. Until they find Cpt. Raydun in the dungeon, who was the last known person to have the treasury key.

Raydun has hidden the key in his ... uh ... person. After a brief crytal-convo with the Laird, it is decided that Raydun will reveal the location of the key himself (rather than giving it to the party, who would then arrange to get it to Sharn). Raydun and the Laird think this will be the most convincing way to get the key to Sharn.

26 Autumn 1146, Stamfield

Dawn comes mistily to Stamfield's town square, where Sharn is having breakfast among the corpses of those he has impaled. A few hundred people have sullenly gathered there to witness the fate of Cpt. Raydun, who is about to be put on a spike. When offered a quicker death in exchange for information about the key, the Captain reveals his secret then spits in Sharns face. The warlord disembowels the captain, and the key is soon recovered. Sharn and his bodyguard immediately carry the key up the hill, leaving Raydun dying, still in the stocks on a cart, attended only by a few guards.

Basil and Nolan were lurking in the crowd, waiting for an opportunity. As soon as Sharn is far enough away, they kill two of the guards. The crowd takes care of the rest. Raydun is rushed to a safe house, and soon is joined by the rest of the party. Surprisingly, he is not dead yet. He takes a lot of healing from Ambrose.

roleplay xp: 400

26-27 Autumn 1146, Stamfield

The party decides that its next move should be to isolate and kill the big manticore -- Sharn's personal mount and cohort. A little asking around reveals that the beast hunts almost every night in the area, and has taken a liking to a particular farmer's sheep.

The party does some simple repairs to the farmer's barn, puts the sheep inside, and sets up an ambush. There is some scent-covering that goes on that's very unsavory, but they'll do whatever it takes.

The ambush goes off mostly as planned, and the manticore dies quickly. The party returns to town, where they find that Raydun seems to have recovered some of his old spirit. He has taken control of the town and is organizing things.

That night the group helps to guard the "halfway-house" a gate on the road to Whiterose Hall. On the next day, the day of the new moon, they help to dispose of the dead. There's a awful lot to dispose of.

combat xp: 200

28-29 Autumn 1146, Stamhead

On the 28th, Raydun moves his infantry forces (almost all pikemen) to the field between the keep and the lake. He stations his few cavalry and his lookouts below the keep, to catch anyone trying to escape.

The sisters seem eager to hit the keep and whittle down Sharn's forces. But Minzerec and Ambrose convince them to hold back.

Late on the evening of the 29th the Laird arrives with the bulk of the surviving army, exhausted from their forced march.

roleplay xp: 400

30 Autumn 1146, the gates of Whiterose Hall

Sharn rides out the gate in an apparent attempt to escape, but pulls up short when he spies Abra Basil in the party. There is some mutual taunting.

Abra jumps at Sharn and attacks him. Sharn double-chops Abra with electric hand axes. Sharn's bugbears try to kill Minzerec, and almost succeed. General melee ensues and goes badly for the warlord, who tries to escape using a Kite spell. He dies with Aidan's arrows in his body.

While everyone else is content to let the keep burn, Aidan gets impatient and sneaks in to kill the goblin archers and open the gates to the keep. The Laird's people finally show up, and try to put out some of the fires.

The Laird is obviously unhappy with Raydun.

  • 50 platinum pieces
  • 3 magic rings
  • 2 handaxes (magic +1, +1d6 electrical damage)
  • 1 medium-size masterwork breastplate armor
  • 5 masterwork flails
  • 5 sets of plate armor
  • 1 scimitar of historical significance

combat xp: 1400

31-32 Autumn 1146, old Whiterose Hall

The party goes looking for the item being kept safe in Whiterose Hall with the intent of bringing it back to the Duke of Corak, thus negating the magic that brought them to the town of Stamfield. They start off in the treasury, looking at the seal but it doesn't offer many clues.

The party heads off to the original Whiterose Hall, which is now ruins on an island in the lake. They don't find anything of interest until they discover the crypt. Down in the deepest parts of the crypt is a large chamber with several sarcophagi. One is a double-wide, with effigies of a man and woman cast in bronze atop it.

The sarcophagus is wide enough for two people, made of a huge chunk of marble, with a heavy bronze lid. Atop the lid, fashioned in bronze, is the image of two people, a man and a woman. The woman is strongly built and wears a long chain shirt and riding boots. She bears in her left hand a small shield emblazoned with a tree and sword. Her right hand is over her heart, holding a sheathed sword. Her eyes are closed as if in sleep. The man lying next to her is enveloped in a cloak, his features mostly hidden by the hood drawn over his head. Only his nose and his ereily open eyes are visible. At their feet is the legend “Corvidae-Hemmet 477”

The sides of the sarcophagus is engraved with several panels depicting Stamfield and Mt. Stamhead looming above it. The first panel shows a battle pitting a group of humans against several giants. Leading the humans is a king-like figure, behind whom is a banner with the tree symbol of the Lairds of Stamfield. The Laird is flanked by two heavily-armed warriors who, by their heraldry, are his sons. Also with them is a man wearing wizard robes. The second panel shows the king and his men gravely hurt, but one of his sons and the wizard remain standing, and they defeat the giant chief.

The third panel, at the foot of the sarcophagus and facing the entrance, shows a wedding party. The wizard Corvidae marries the Laird’s daughter, while one of the Laird’s sons marries a princess of Corak. The King of Corak is there, bearing a symbol of Aspera surrounded by a nimbus of light. A magic circle surrounds all of them inscribed with symbols of joining and purpose. The wizard’s right hand is raised to touch the inner edge of the circle.

The last panel, which takes up an entire side of the sarcophagus, depicts a prosperous town of Stamfield, In the foreground are the happy couple surrounded by five children of various ages. There are people in the fields, a bountiful harvest, and several prominent buildings of the town can be seen. Elk run in the distance, and birds fly above. Looming above it all is Mt. Stamhead.

When the bronze bird (remember that little trinket?) is brought close to the sarcophagus, words replace the wedding scene:

  • Walk with me, oh Gods, through the Cave of Fear.
  • Protect me from Letusha’s breath.
  • Open the ways that are barred to me.
  • Guide my feet with the divine order.

  • Give me strength to follow the deep ways,
  • lift me over the running death.
  • Shield me from the unliving, that they will not perceive my passing.
  • Let me perceive your works and your glory.

The party decides to stay the night, to give Minzerec a chance to study the carvings at length. Nolan searches the island some more and finds the town's favorite make-out spot.

In the morning Minzerec reports that the people in the wedding party are bound by some kind of extremely powerful binding spell. It's the kind of thing that couldn't be done with just one person. Not knowing what else to do, the group decides to open the sarcophagus. Hardly is the suggestion made when Aidan and Nadia are rowing across the lake. In a few hours they return.

The contents are a bit of a disappointment. Two skeletons, one make and one female, holding hands. A smaller bird skeleton lies next to the man. The seem to have been buried with nothing of value.

The box is closed again and the party heads to town to figure out what to do next.

32 Autumn 1146, Stamfield

It doesn't take long to find someone who knows about the Cave of Fear. Kacin says that it is just a spooky place that boys use for hazing each other, but it takes a lot of time to get to. The party gets its provisions in order for an early start in the morning.

Also in the news: The Laird has retired Cpt. Raydun. Yes, Kelowind is being a jerk.

33 Autumn 1146, Cave of Fear!

It's a long day hike to the cave, but the party reaches it without any problems. Someone casts Calm Emotions on the party before entering so that nobody will panic. At the back of the cave there is the image of an archway carved into the stone, flanked by statues of two Naga. One of the statues is broken. In the archway is an arcane symbol (a Symbol of Fear) and a depression shaped like the bronze bird token. The bird is placed into the designated spot, and a three-foot-thick stone door pivots open. Behind it is a narrow corridor sloping steeply down, cut into stairs.

Descending the stair, the party runs into a thick green poisonous fog. Three people (Nolan, Aidan, Nadia) are chosen to go down into the fog (with the help of some more divine magic to protect against poison) and find out where it ends. At the bottom (nearly 800' from the door) is an iron door with a handle. Nolan is sure that whatever mechanism is inside the door is broken. He can't find any other latch or device for opening the door. The three head back up to the small safe zone of the stairs (out of range of the symbol of fear, but not in the poisonous cloud).

The party covers the symbol so they can rest in the cave. Minzerec helps piece together the broken naga. (Dwarves and stone, right?) The clerics get a full night's rest.

In the morning, armed with Neutralize Poison and Make Whole, the party repairs the Naga statue then sends Earkey down to fix the iron door. The door now opens smoothly.

roleplay xp: 1000

34 Autumn 1146, Beneath Mt. Stamhead

Beyond the door is a room full of pillars of different sizes carved from the rock, and a profusion of colored lines on the floor. It is impossible to see more than about 30' into the room, because of the pillars in the way. They have no tool marks, and stretch from the top of the cave to the bottom. They are of different sizes, and are in no discernible order.

Aidan tries to go in and follow the white line, and gets lost the moment she is out of sight (maybe even before). She is lucky enough to find her way back several rounds later.

Basil and Ambrose come up with the idea of using Detect Law, which reveals to Ambrose the way out. The party follows him, but half of them get separated just 40' from the entrance. Lots of yelling and rope and searching later they get the party all together and proceed, this time tied together so nobody gets lost.

34 Autumn 1146, Beneath Mt. Stamhead

They emerge into a high cavern. There's lots of fungi growing on very large animal droppings on the floor, and much speculation concerning "the poo". But there's a well-beaten path, and the party decides to follow it. They are crossing a bridge when they are attacked by Cloakers. One of them hovers setting off a poo-and-spore storm. One fly-by-attacks Earkey, and another grapples Minzerec and wraps itself around him. What follows is the usual leaping, casting, hitting, and so on. The only difference today is that Minzerec manages to get beaten half to death.

Two cloakers are killed. One gets away.

The party continues following the path, through the first cavern and then down a fisure that goes much farther down and into another, much larger, cave filled with biolumenescent stuff. There is dim lighting just about everywhere. Along the path they encounter a magical construct, about 9' tall and made of stone, that is walking along the path. They let it go by and it doesn't bother them.

The path runs to the edge of the cavern and into a short man-made tunnel that stops at a rushing underground river. At the opposite wall is a carved rook in flight, pointing upstream. A terrific wind is also blowing downstream. Indications are there's a waterfall about 100' downstream, but the party can't send a light upstream because of the wind.

After a lot of discussion, Aidan wonders if there's divine magic that would let them walk on water. Ambrose says there is, but he needs rest.

The group retires to the main cavern to make camp.

combat xp: 1000

35 Autumn 1146, Beneath Mt. Stamhead

Third watch gets attacked by Grimlocks: an archer, two barbarians, and a rogue. The party wins, but Basil nearly dies in the process. Someone also cast an Entangle spell but Minzerec doesn't find them.

They have a lot of loot, but you haven't taken time yet to detect magical properties. The coins are strange: triangular in shape and heavier than the coins you're used to. On one side is the image of an elven woman with very long ears. On the other an obelisk radiating some wavy lines. There is writing on them, too, but nobody recognizes it.

  • Coins worth 1160gp by weight
  • Pouch of small alexandrite gems (500gp total)
  • Assorted other gems (900gp total)
  • 2 Banded agate cabochons (150gp total)
  • A dark metal ring, beautifully wrought (50gp)
  • 2 Potions
  • 2 heavy flails +1/fire (4350gp ea)
    • You know these are magical because you got smacked by them enough times.
  • 2 Kukri, masterwork (308gp ea)
  • Masterwork longsword (315gp)
  • Masterwork Composite Shortbow (+4 str) (775gp)
  • Masterwork Black Mithril Chainmail (4500gp)
  • 2 Masterwork Breastplate decorated with a blue gem (650gp ea)
  • Masterwork studded leather armor (175gp)
  • Masterwork leather boots (???)
  • Masterwork trapmaker tools (metal spikes, ropes, and things for snares)
  • Amulet (???)

combat xp: 1100 at 7th level

While they are collecting loot and healing, the stone golem comes by and collects two of the grimlocks and drags them away upstream.

35 Autumn 1146, Under Mt. Stamhead

The party goes back to the underground river and Waterwalk their way upstream. They find a new tunnel, heavily warded against undead. Nolan goes on point and sees a room full of mummies before the party can just walk in on them, so everyone goes back they way they came.

They rest, to gather spells.

36 Autumn 1146, Under Mt. Stamhead

Again with Waterwalk, then Invisible to Undead to get past the mummies, and the party finds a round room with a dias under a simulated starry sky. On the dias is a throne.

  • The throne is made of a dark wood, elaborately carved and decorated. Right above where the king's head would be is a huge yellow diamond which forms the center of a sun, radiating light. This is flanked by rearing warhorses. On the king's left and right are carved towers. His legs are flanked by images of weapons. Under his seat is the skulls of his defeated enemies. Inscribed on the armrests is "Here sits the King of Aspera." and "Long may he reign."

People sit on the throne and get dusty. Nothing happens.

Nolan finds the secret compartment inside the dias, and inside is a wooden crate. The party drags it out and opens it. Inside the crate is a bundle wrapped in paper. The paper is covered in arcane symbols of preservation and magic suppression. This magical wrapping is held together with a large wax seal embossed with the symbol of a rook. The contents of the wrapping seems to be in several large pieces, but tightly stacked.

Minzerec wants to take the night to study it.

There is a very long discussion before bed time. Nolan learns that a heavily-armed Academy party is been dispatched in the direction of Stamfield. Minzerec admits that his mentor, Magi Uster, is on his way "to help protect" whatever it is the party has found. Aidan says the Academy has no business messing with religious items of historic importance to the kingdom, and that the item should be taken to the Duke, who sent the party for the item in the first place. Earkey, Nolan and Abra suggest possible compromises. Ambrose, both eloquent and forgetful, has no time for foolishness and is determined to open the package.

Minzerec says he doesn't think the sisters are completely human and that they're hiding something. Aidan says he's the one with all the secrets. Minzerec admits that not everyone in the Academy can be trusted. Nolan is amused. Ambrose is not. Earkey doesn't seem to care.

Rhetorical mayhem ensues.

Roleplay xp: 1500 @ 8th level
Treasure: one big fancy yellow diamond worth 30,000gp

37 Autumn 1146, Mt. Stamhead

After a night's rest (during which Basil meditated on the box to prevent it being stolen), the party preps the spells it will need and heads out of the caves. At the poison-gas stairway they decide to go up in two groups, since poison-neutralizing magic is difficult to come by. The first group is Ambrose, Aidan, Nadia, and Basil. Then Aidan grabs the box, runs out of the cave, sprouts wings ("dark like my luxurious hair, but with a golden sheen") and flies away. Basil tries one of his huge leaps and tries to disarm her, but her attack of opportunity hits (using the box as an improvised weapon) so he fails.

When Minzerec gets up the stairs he casts Fly on Basil who gives chase. Sadly, the magic only lasts 8 minutes so he has to land and commandeer a horse. He pursues Aidan for five hours at a hustle, some of it cross-country, before he loses sight of her. At that point he turns around and heads back to meet up with the remainder of the party. As of nightfall Aidan is three miles ahead, and she gets another twelve miles (1 hour) before she becomes fatigued and decides to stop.

Meanwhile, the party leaves the cave by foot and makes its way down to the "half-way house" (a gate on the mountain road) where Ambrose smooths over Basil's horse-stealing by paying for the mount, and even convinces the guards to loan the party horses for pursuit. They get into town, quickly trade the borrowed horses for their own, and follow Basil's thought-stoned directions. Two hours after nightfall, Basil and the party are rejoined.

39 Autumn 1146, Felton Moor

At the end of two days' hard travel, the company meets an Arcanist party. The arcanists (excepting Uster) wear gray robes with a green tower symbol on them. The pary is composed of:
  • Magi Leeman, a representative of the Chancellor
  • Magi Uster, a council enforcer and Minzerec's mentor/superior
  • Two other arcanists
  • Five Bear-Riders of the White Guard
  • A human scout

Things continue to go about as poorly as they have been going since the party was under Mt. Stamhead, when doubts about who could be trusted began to really rage, doubts that percolate back at least as far as the Felton Moor. But it was when everyone made camp for the night, at the end of the first watch, when the Bear Riders turned on our noble adventurers and attacked Ambrose and Nadia, that fate proved things can always get worse. Everyone is soon up and fighting.

It was the Bear Rider's night. It seemed they could not so much as think of landing a blow without it singing true its song of pain into the flesh of our intrepid group. Whatever gods exist in As-Perod, they smiled on the Bear Riders this night.

Through the confusion of the ambush, and the horror of the fight, it became clear that Nadia was their primary target. They referred to her in terms of categorical revulsion, and made plain their intention to subdue her at all cost, refusing to brook any resistance in their quest.

When we left our heroes, most were wounded, some severely, Nadia was dizzied and trying to run away (with help from hers and Aidan's horses), Basil was charmed, Ambrose was not fighting any more, and Minzerec had done basically nothing. Erkey was trying to protect Nadia, Nolan was panicked and running away, and it was unclear if even a single member of the party truly knew who was friend and who was foe.

The fight ends predictably -- with Nadia bound helpless, stripped of her armor and weapons. Her true form is much like the one her friends have known for years, but even more beautiful and with the addition of huge <strike>leathery</strike> velvety bat wings. The severely injured Magi Leeman takes custody of Nadia and walks out into the night, where he departs for Khum-Khari "by the fastest means available". The White Guard riders and the two lower arcanists saddle up their mounts and ride west. Only Magi Uster remains with the party.

Uster pulls Minzerec aside and berates him loudly. His career as a trusted agent of the Academy is finished. Minzerec is as unsurprised and stoic as ever.

Academy intelligence indicates that Nadia's plan had been to steal the artifact and take it to Prince Jamyt, who would then use it to gain the throne. As a reward she would be married to Jamyt, making her Queen of Aspera. "Aidan's plan will be along the same lines but instead of using Prince Jamyt, whom she dislikes, she will take the artifact to Corak. Fredrick wants the throne, and he'll no doubt be willing to exchange official recognition of her bloodline for the artifact. Her plan isn't as good as Nadia's, but her desires are the same: legitimacy and power."

With Uster still in their company, the party heads towards Corak.

43 Autumn 1146, the audience chamber of Duke Fredrick of Corak

The party is witness to a key moment in Asperan history. The academy ambassador stands before Duke and demands he hand over the "bastard abomination" called Aidan, the relic, and Aidan's mother Seraphina. The Duke refuses on all counts:

  • "We have neither Aidan nor the relic, but if they were here you still would not have them. If you think she has taken the relic for her own purposes then you do not know Aidan of Ardengard as We know her. Her parentage may be in question, but in the house of Harrell even our bastards have honor. And as for the relic itself, it is not yours to take. It was made at the direction of our Gods as a sign to our people. You will not have it.
  • Seraphina has been Our loyal baroness for decades, as was her mother before her. We will not reward her faithful service by handing her over to the Academy."

The ambassador reminds Fredrick that there is a lot of magic holding up his palace, and threatens to remove it if the Duke does not comply with Academy demands. The Duke turns his back on the ambassador and leaves the audience chamber, leaving the ambassador facing empty air.

Early that evening, half of the silver dome of Corak caves in and the palace catches fire.

Uster meets with the party one last time that evening:

  • "The Academy has the means to listen in on telepathy stones. It is expensive and unreliable, and very secret, but they can. I'm telling you this because apparently it wasn't as good a secret as we thought -- all of the high-level communication in Aspera is now coded. And they're using OUR codes, too. Probably learned them from Issyren. She used to be an enforcer, you know, back in the days before we had cheap telepathy.
  • "Funny thing, though. Seraphina and Aidan and their helpers have been using codes over their stones for days now. But they're not using the good Academy ciphers. We've been able to break the code, and Aidan is definitely headed for the Dutchy of Nychanter. So that is where I'm headed, following my orders.
  • "No Ambrose, I really don't want to hear your speculations. We all know Aidan is in this for herself, and if she didn't turn to the Duke of Corak and she doesn't get along with Jamyt in Newholy then she's headed for Nychanter. It is the last logical place she would go."

49 Autumn 1146, Oxhed

Ambrose thinks Aidan really went to Oxhed to consult the oracle there, and the party agrees. During the journey a lot of extraordinary rumors are heard in every town along the way: most of them the products of wild imaginations. Reliable sources indicate King Oldeaus has rejected the Arcane Academy's ambassador.

When the party is just two days from Oxhed, the throne issues the Proclamation of Faith, which asserts Aspera's religious character and expels the Academy from Aspera all together.

Upon arriving in Oxhed the party is greet the the Heirophant himself and everyone (except for Minzerec) is taken into a room deep in the mountain, where High Justicar Clausen is sitting on the High Seat hearing cases and making judgements. "This is what Sammit's throne was made for," says Heirophant Danburr, "discovering truth and delivering law and justice to the kingdom."

Ambrose responds, "And law is something that has been in short supply lately." Ambrose feels betrayed, both by the Academy's unprovoked attack and Aidan's departure with the relic.

Later that day, the party is taken into a room occupied by a very sick Sister Innita, whose skin is so pale you can almost see through it. While Innita sleeps, Aidan sits at her side. The group talks some, but it is the same old arguments again. Innita awakes, and speaks in a strained whisper:

  • "At last, you are here. Soon I can have the atonement for which I have waited for so long. The spirit of the oracle has not left me since the time I was in the sacred grove, and because of that I am dying. I will not last until the new moon. Listen, I have urgent words for you.
  • "The Golden One approaches. For so many centuries he has been a prisoner of the Fey. But now he is free, and his wrath is terrible. Fire sweeps before him, and destruction is his wake. They die by the hundreds to stop him, but they have no one left to oppose him.
  • "Now he waits. He waits for the way to open and he will return to take back all that he lost. He will build and army and remake his empire. But he doesn't know ... the way will close again behind him. Even reduced, he is a terrible enemy.

Ambrose wishes Aidan luck.

Roleplay and chapter xp: 2500 @ 8th level

51 Autumn 1146, Aspera

The party has disbanded, and scattered to the four winds. On the night of the 51st, members of the party all have a common vision.

  • Your slumber is uneasy, laced with thousands of voices and images which flash and blur like fish darting beneath rippling waters. The weight of a thousand minds presses down on you, but one among them seizes the rippling fabric, shakes it once, then lays it down flat and smooth. The face of an elderly man appears before you, against a starry sky. Even without the obvious resemblance to the Old Duke you would know that he is Fayden Harrell, and that he knows who you are. Your senses all turn inside out...

  • Magi Leeman sits across a desk from a woman with dark hair wearing a scribe’s robes. He reads out loud from a sheaf of papers in his hand as the woman writes. “The deviant known as Nadia of Ardengard to be blinded, wings amputated, and put into the Deeps.”

  • “She has WINGS? Actual WINGS?”

  • “Had. And if her sister is any indication they work all too well.”

  • “No wonder they wanted her so badly. No gibbac?”

  • “They might want to ask her questions some day. Right now they’re just pleased to have her out of the picture.”

  • “Okay,” says the record-keeper, “and what about family?”

  • “Grandfather: Fayden Harrell, brother of Ludo Harrell, also known as Menash. Status is still uncontrolled seer. Kill on sight.”

  • “No ... change.” writes the scribe, followed by a date, then puts the paper aside exposing another.

  • “Grandmother: Magi Issyren. We’re moving her up to the active pursuit list.” The scribe looks at the arcanist in surprise. “Expedition to be organized within ten days.” He waits for her to write “active pursuit” and a date on the bottom of the page and put it aside. “Mother: Magi Seraphina. Kill on sight. Also, cross-reference with this” he hands her a new sheet of paper, “an unknown thaumaturgical device, class six or higher. Fifteen feet long by about nine feet three inches wide. Whatever it is, it used to be in her tower but now it’s gone. She probably took it with her to Corak.”

  • “I thought thaumaturgy was the weakest magical force. How do you make a ... “ She stops at the look on Leeman’s face, and puts the new paper aside in a pile marked “to copy”.

  • “Sister: Aidan of Ardengard. Deviant. Kill on sight. Here’s an alternate description for you.”

  • “Not active pursuit? Didn’t we have major resources tasked to finding her?”

  • “If we get her, some of the Synod might think we’ve won. If we had known about the deviants when they were born, we would have finished off the lot of them decades ago. But she’s useful on the loose right now. Non-family associates, who do you have there?”

  • “The bunch from Stamfield. Go alphabetically.”

  • “Ambrose, the so-called bishop. Status is untrained sorcerer. Capture and recant.”

  • “We care about the religious zealots now?”

  • “Oh yes. All but one are going on the recant list. Avra Basil, elf, swordmage. Maybe the only one left since we found their hideout. He moves up to kill. Earkey Timbers, another religious one. Capture and recant. Nolan, no status. New to the associates list is Danburr, an old friend of her gam’s and the Heirophant of Aspera. Kill on sight.” Leeman sighs with regret, “He would be on the active hunt list, but he’s too well protected. We’ll get our chance eventually.”

  • She puts the stack aside, leaving just one more paper. “And Minzerec Granitehelm?”

  • “Untrusted. Idiot didn’t have enough sense to just destroy the artifact when he found it. It’s not like we were ever going to let Aspera have it. Then he choked in the fight. Too bad, too. He had a promising career.”

  • You vision lurches again over thousands of miles of starlit sky...

  • People stand around a bed on which lies an old man, white hair haloing his head, face slack in death. They are in their nightclothes. Some of them are sobbing softly. Hands pull sheets over the man’s face, sheets emblazoned in silver with the seal of the Kingdom of Aspera. “The King is dead,” says a quavering voice as the hands smooth the linen, “gather the peers of the realm.”

  • Another sudden movement, but painful this time, as if you your mind is being squeezed through spaces too small for it...

  • A room, in shades of blue. Divan, tapestry, vases holding sickly ferns, little ornamental knick-nacks trimmed in silver filigree, and other rich appointments are all illuminated by magic. Two small porcelain cups of tea sit on a low polished table in front of the divan. A wan woman in an elegant red dress sits thereon, as still as the dead king. Gold gleams from her collar, which has chaffed her neck raw. So pale is her skin that even gold is darkened by comparison.

  • Someone is lurking in the shadow across from her, but not even Fayden’s sight can pierce the darkness there. “No demands, Lori? No request to see your daughter? No outdoor excursions? This is not like you.”

  • The woman does not look at the shadow, but stares ahead at something only she can see with her red-rimmed eyes. Only her lips move. “You should have come days ago. I told them it was urgent. Precious time has been lost.”

  • “That’s not for you to decide.” The thing in the shadow is angry but the woman is unmoved. “Tell me what you have Seen, and the Council will decide what will be done, and when.”

  • “The Golden Emperor has escaped, and all of Gon-Perod is not enough to restrain him. He intends to raise an army to remake his empire. I am sure of this.” The shadow is silent for a long time while the woman he called Lori keeps her stillness about her.

  • “What route does he take?”

  • “When I saw him he was on a broad road. The sides were bordered with a little wall of white and blue rock. But that was four weeks ago.”

  • “The king’s road.” The shadow grew excited and began pacing the room, “ This is perfect --Sidir will wreak havoc in the capital city, the Vohanis slavers will raid from the west, and lizardmen from the north. When Aspera becomes desperate, Soubous will come to their rescue with us as their allies.”

  • “It will not be that simple. The gods will raise a hero for them, another Tygar.” Her words become an accusation. “You will bring death and misery to untold thousands when Aspera is not the enemy that you pretend? Sidir is the true enemy. He has always been the enemy. Strike now while he is alone.”

  • “Aspera and it’s religious cults are the biggest danger to the Academy. Aspera falls first, then we will muster against Sidir.” The shadow is gone, and from somewhere you hear a heavy door being bolted.

  • “Fool.” The woman reaches for her cup, “How can it be it possible to be so stupid?”

  • The blue room fades now, and you are in the Badlands standing next to someone. The sky wheels about until the waning moon rises and you see it is Fayden next to you, in elven clothes. The heady scent of spice trees and desert flowers is on the wind, but how can that be when as far as the moon-aided eye can see the land is flat and lifeless and white?

  • “Basil knows where the sand is purest, the last residence of Ghaucia. It is a fitting place for the Fu’ad al Shihab, the heart of the fire. There are answers here, if you survive the King’s Bridge.”

You wake with the dawn and the clamor of voices in the street. People have forsaken their morning routines to trade news and heed the criers. The king is dead, they say, and a new one must be chosen.

58 Autumn 1146, the King's Bridge in Maedyn
The night of the new moon.

After Fadyn/Menash's vision the party, sans Aidan, heads west towards Maedyn. Aidan recruits Paladin Jekys and some hardened veterans from the King's massive funeral cortege and is a day or so behind everyone else. Everyone meets at the bridge, argues yet some more, and the party decides to hang back and just watch the fight.

Sidir comes across as expected, but with two companies of undead fey(his recently departed enemies), two very tough-looking undead (who knows what they were in life?), and a 15' magic sphere made of bones (more recycled enemies) with something powerfully magical in the inside. He is easily fooled into thinking the troops are loyal to him, at least for a little while. Minzerec messages Aidan to keep Sidir talking because his magic ball thing, whatever it is, is slowly failing.

In time, Sidir realizes he has been taken in and secretly begins considering which uber-powerful spell will give him the most killing enjoyment. At that most inopportune moment (for him) his magic field collapses. It is so very on.

The cavalry and archers focus mostly on the undead, with some massive zombie-powdering assistance from Ambrose and Earkey. Basil opens the fight against Sidir with one of his ridiculous leaps into the maw of death and a vicious blow. Adian flanks and power attacks. Earkey prays (which does a lot to turn turn the battle), Minzerec does mirror image. Sidir goes down fast.

But wait, there's more! He rises as a lich, and his fear effect makes life difficult for a lot of the horsemen. Nadia's horse is paralyzed from his touch, but his other spells don't seem to do anything to anybody. It's just not his night. People keep hurting him until he tries to leave, but Basil once again brings down the fleeing villain. Minzerec and Ambrose realize his prayer beads are where he is hiding his soul, and people mob-stomp them into dust. The riders clobber the few remaining skeletons (our priests didn't leave them much to play with). Miraculously there are zero casualties for the good guys tonight, although some riders need healing and Aidan's horse needs a Remove Curse.

In examining the ex-magic-ball Minzerec knows he is looking at a device that the Academy, with all its resources, could not have built. But Sidir has apparently cobbled it together from spare parts, probably over the course of just a few weeks. It is a mind-numbing achievement. He knows that it counteracted the effects of the Veil over a large area, and that it drew power from the magic weapons within it, but the workings of the thing are far beyond him.

The ball is made of bones which are tied together with bits of silk rope to form a hollow sphere. Inside the bone sphere is a another sphere composed entirely of a hodge-podge of magical staves, rods, swords, and other stuff. A couple hundred thousand gold worth of magic items have been drained and ruined. Suspended by silken thread in the center of the inner sphere is a strange disk-like object about 8" across, seemingly carved from a massive ruby. It bears a sign/word/ward that nobody recognizes. Touching it gives one a painfully powerful sensation of magic, but it otherwise seems magically inert.

A search of the gear left behind by the undead reveals that some had been loaded down with coinage -- apparently Sidir's loot from the faeries.

Treasure: about 10,000 gp in gold and platinum by weight. The coins are a strange Fey design, so the chances of spending them like regular money is about zero. But they can be sold for their metal content at only a slight discount. Please don't forget to share with the Paladin and his brave men.
Combat XP: 1000

59 Autumn 1146, Maedyn

The night after the battle against Sidir, the party rests in the common room of the White Ledger. It has taken much of the day to clean up the courtyard and endure the endless toasts of the city. Paladin Jekys and a crowd of his worthies swings around for a hello, then out again on their way to the next tavern. Minzerec has wisely elected to wear something other than arcanist robes in public, lest he be beaten at the whim of some random mob.

The party is attempting to plan their next move, but they are still stuck on whether or not Aidan can be trusted. So they are essentially sitting there, minding their own business, when a huge bear of a Rider approaches them and mumbles something about a poisoned hand. Ambrose identifies the man’s blackening hand as a victim of Deathcut poison. A couple of small miracles later and the tavern’s faith in Cuthbert is thriving.

The man, overawed by the famous personages around him, mumbles his way through a backstory that amounts to “My name is Sleestack and I’m unemployed because I killed a wizard. Now my baroness can’t keep me because of all the attempts on my life.” Nobody can bear to ask the poor man why he has a lizardman name. It just seems too cruel so soon after he was poisoned.

Aidan spies a suspicious barmaid, and signals Avra who then tries to get close to her without her noticing. The Evil Barwench draws a crossbow to try and finish off what she started, but her draw is clumsy and the weapon gets caught in her skirts. She flees, covered by magic (Solid Fog, Expeditious Retreat, Illusory Wall) out the back. The fast people are definitely in the chase, but the slow people suck wind. They are helped some by Earkey successfully dispelling the fog, but this is a chase, not a fight.

The party, plus the poisoned stranger, tries to block off her escape through an alleyway, but she is much too sly. She gets a final shot at Sleestack before diving right past him into the busy street and disappearing into the crowd.

Uncle Slick (a.k.a. Count Ferrule, thane to the Throne) drops by to congratulate the party personally, and to inform them that Aidan and Nadia have been awarded titles of Baroness. No land or responsibilities come with this particular title, it is a sign of the Regency Council’s gratitude and trust in their loyalty to the throne. There is also news from Soubous: the Academy is in an uproar because one of their high-security prisoners escaped from the Deeps. Several jailers were killed during the escape. The Count isn’t sure the escapee is Nadia, but it seems a good bet.

Now for the bad news: the Regency wants the party out of Aspera. They don’t care much what the party does, they just want the party out of the Kingdom for a while. He recommends they take Sleestack with them. They’ll need as many strong arms as they can get.

Still they argue, into the night. It seems entirely possible that either they will all ride into the desert in aggrieved silence, or else Aidan will make her way to her destination separately.

60 Autumn 1146, Maedyn

Minzerec has decided to leave the party. He seems sincere in his belief he can do more meaningful work within the Academy than elsewhere. He joins a caravan, and begins the long slow trip to Soubous.

The rest of the party, wishing to avoid a highway full of Arcanist caravans, heads south down the Creche to find another route up the Stair.

It takes a day to find a less-used (and less-maintained) path up, and two days to climb, but on the 62nd they reach the top and enter the desert.

64 Autumn 1146, The Badlands

Early in the day the party encounters a man, sitting and reading on a rock in the desert. After a polite approach, Aidan asks the fellow what he is reading.

“It’s a story about a group of heroes, who are famous throughout the land.”

“It sounds like my kind of story,” encouraged Aidan.

The stranger continued, “They decide to make war on the most powerful group in the land.”

“Definitely my kind of story,” said Aidan.

“But it ends very badly,” he said. “They die horrible deaths because they don’t know how to travel in secret. As soon as their enemy is ready, he destroys them utterly. Allow me to introduce myself. My card,” and the stranger points, rather inexplicably, to Aidan’s pocket.

She reaches in, and finds there a card engraved with Tom Lochlas, Liar Extraordinaire.

After some conversation it is established that Tom is offering his services in concealment and discretion, in order to help the party travel more cautiously. Clearly he can use some forms of magic, but the party reasons that if he were an enemy he would most likely have brought enforcers down on them already. They agree to take him on for the time being, until he have a chance to prove himself.

It is on this evening that they send coded messages to Minzerec, trying to convince him to rejoin the party. He is adamant, but they determine to try again one last time in person. After another day the party diverts to a camping ground they know along the Imperial Road, there to wait for Minzerec’s caravan to arrive.

67 Autumn 1146, somewhere beneath the hills of Arducia

Nadia, having escaped the Deeps wingless and blind, walks an ancient highway beneath the principality of Arducia. She rides a strange horse, granted to her by her benefactor, is guided by new senses, and is accompanied by a shadow hound that was kept by her former jailers. At her side is a greatsword, which she took from the dead body of the Academy’s torturer.

She has fought her way through checkpoints, crossed underground rivers, and passed through massive caverns. At times the path was disguised, or blocked by semi-real walls. But thanks to the remarkable sight she was given, she can find her way. The hound was lost while passing over a broken bridge, but Nadia still has her horse. She is also equipped with armor, thanks to an armed checkpoint. She even has paper, taken from an apprentice wizard’s spellbook.

There are carvings every ten miles or so, and a strange dark arch covered in wards. She takes rubbings of everything, until she runs out of paper. She wishes for another wizard.

Nadia enters territory controlled by a Kobold tribe, run by the chieftan Krthog. She demands passage through their town, which he denies her. Before the battle can be joined, Nadia’s horse falls into pit trap, and she barely escapes. Krthog is no mediocre combatant, and he and his Giant Dire Weasel attack to great effect. Nadia uses the pit to her advantage, denying Krthog opportunities to charge her. He dismounts so he and his weasel can trap her from opposite sides. Nadia kills the weasel (to an anguished cry of “Noooooo!”), and Krthog flies into a rage. Wielding double magical picks, he tears into Nadia. It is her supernatural darkness that saves her, causing him to miss what should have been several sure blows. Nadia takes Krthog down, then gives him the coup de grace in front of the whole town.

After that, nobody tries to impede her progress.

Also, dire weasel tastes like chicken.

68 Autumn 1146, the Badlands

Minzerec’s caravan arrives, and sets up camp. With so many mages in tow they have traveled uncommonly fast (for a train of wagons), reaching this stop fully three days ahead of schedule. It is the place where, five years ago, the party found the burnt remnants of the caravan that had carried Lady Calanth. Travelers still stop here to rest at nights, as they have for centuries.

The party remains hidden in their tents while Tom, under the guise of one Roger Coombs, looking for lost friends from the Academy, searches the caravan pavillions for Minzerec. Miraculously, he convinces Minzerec to come away with him to meet (again) with the rest of the party. After some discussion, nothing is truly decided. Whether or not Minzerec rejoins the party is unresolved.

The caravan brings news: Three of the High Magi were killed in Soubous, by Nadia. The official word is that she escaped the Deeps, found and killed the three Magi in revenge for her imprisonment, then lost her pursuers in the many passages under the city. Rampant and fanciful rumors as to the details of the case abound, as to how she might have escaped, and what her reasons for targeting those three Magi might have been.

69 Autumn 1146, on the road to Vohanis

Minzerek is approached by the Magi Godrick McClurty, who until recently was the Academy’s Ambassador to Aspera. With three members of the Arcane Council dead, the Synod of Mages has been called for two weeks hence. Godrick can ill afford to travel at the caravan’s pace all the way to Khum-Khari. Neither can he simply head over the desert alone. He has put together a couple of young toughs from Vohanis, and Enforcer Meako (an employee of Magi Uster), but he feels the need for another experienced (read “battle hardened”) companion. He invites Minzerek along.

Minzerek agrees. He has business of his own in Soubous, which is on the way. Godrick conjours up some phantom steeds, and they depart.

71 Autumn 1146, between Vohanis and Soubous

A messenger of Neveneth the Terrible intercepts the mage party on the road. The dragon wants words with Minzerek, and promises a truce if the wizard will agree. Minzerek sends Magi Godrick and friends down the road a ways, and waits for the Blue Terror to show up.

Neveneth lands, and greets the wizard. He wants information, of an authoritative sort, and is willing to owe Minzerek some of the same in return. The dragon asks about the real dealings between Aspera and the Academy. He is particularly interested in the fate of the throne, and the whereabouts of Nadia. He offers Minzerek further compensation or favors in return for additional (but reliable) information on Nadia’s fate.

Godrick and Minzerek talk about the current crisis. If the council seats three new “pro-action” Mage Lords, it will have the unanimity required to run a military campaign against religion in Aspera and the dwarf halls of E’Shyris. The mood among the Magi is outrage at the “Asperan fanatics”, but there are still some moderates. If just one of the open council seats goes to a moderate, then war may be prevented.

Godrick and Minzerek agree that the story about Nadia’s escape has a lot of holes. If someone could find out what really happened, maybe that would puncture some of the hard-liners’ credibility, and improve the odds of getting a moderate onto the council. Without so much as a by-your-leave, Godrick dragoons Minzerek into being the special investigator. Meeting with a dragon, and coming away unscathed, seems to have made an impression on the Magi.

72 Autumn 1146, in the south dunes

During the first watch of the night, the party is attacked by a gargantuan scorpion. True to form, Avra leaps into its claws, from whence he can best reach the beast. Aidan and Sleestack use ride-by attacks to pierce its armored hide. Earkey calls upon his gods to aid and assist his friends.

Avra gets some divine healing from Aidan (which he chooses to keep to himself for the time being) which helps to keep him from dying. Earkey gets poisoned, but not too badly. To general acclaim, Sleestack gets the killing blow. He-who-plays-Slesstack does a victory dance.

Also, giant scorpion tastes like chicken.

73 Autumn 1146, in the Badlands

The party is forced to hunker down in the face of a massive sandstorm. They lose a day of travel.

73 Autumn 1146, the City of Soubous

Minzerek begins his investigation, in the face of some hostility from Director Nazgol (Hu Fe Wiz) and Deputy Director Soheil (Hu Ma Wiz). But, armed with his commission direct from Mage Lord Bergson, nobody will stand against him directly. Soheil gives Minzerek someone to help him out, Arcanist Luca (Ha Fe Wiz). This is her first real job, so she’s of limited help. But she seems to know the city pretty well.

Minzerek visited the Deeps and spoke to Warden Furst (Hu Ma War), then visited the surviving guards in the hospital. Minzerek has put together part of a narrative about how Nadia escaped. He is under a lot of time pressure, because the report has to be ready before the Synod convenes.

He ends the day by putting out the word he wants to get a delving party together. He wants to explore what is under the Deeps.

74 Autumn 1146, in the City of Soubous

Minzerek beings his day with an examination of the secure conference room where the Mage Lords were killed. He learns that a lot of things don’t add up. He also decides to purchase a wand to reveal hidden doors.

Minzerek arranges for the campus liaison to get him a meeting with the Lord Marshal.

74 Autumn 1146, Al’Arish

The party enters Al’Arish, one of the larger canyons used as a permanent settlement by Elves. The first sign that something is wrong is the lack of challenges to the party. Further investigation indicates an orderly evacuation, but there is no apparent reason for it. The party treks to the other end of the valley intending to climb up the far side. (Who wants to slog through sand instead of wandering through verdant oasis gardens?)

The party is attacked by two huge carnivorous plants. One tries to eat Avra, but the sly elf gets away. Then it tries to eat “the liar presently known as Tom Lockless”, who uses magic to escape. The Riders use ride-by attacks. Just when the party thinks they might have a handle on these things, one of the plants put up a huge bank of deadly fog. The fog might have killed everyone, but Earkey dispels it. The party kills one of the greenvines, then has to deal with another deadly fog. Tom dispels the second fog. After that, the party decides to just stand off and shoot the plant until it dies.

A search of the plant copses reveals iron collars, which appear to be of academy manufacture.

combat xp: 1200 @ 8th level

74 Autumn 1146, at Hanna’s Knees

Finally, Nadia emerges from her long journey underground. Although she cannot see her surroundings, she can feel the night breezes and cold moonlight on her skin. Like so many before her, she has emerged from Mosyph’s secret road at the full moon.

She is met by a small party of Seosur (orcs). They have been waiting for a great warrior, and demand her name. She tells them she is Nadia, and they joke with her about the current less-than-pleasing aspect. She is invited to stay with them and rest, and bathe, and have decent food.

Apparently, they were told to wait for her by someone whom they respect highly, the one they call Bey Rabbah.

Nadia barely has time to get clean and eat before there is a disturbance: mountain trolls have come down to the valley to raid the Seosur settlements. She goes out with the chieftain Kantee to fight them, over his objections. They fight a very huge troll, and one of the lieutenants is killed. They drive off the trolls.

Afterwards, Nadia learns about Bey Rabbah, which means “king fox”. Several years ago, he came through the old road like she did, and in spite of his exhaustion and wounds he outsmarted the kobolds under the mountain and freed an ancient bronze dragon. The dragon is none other than the fabled Fanar, a personal friend and ally of Mosyph. With his dying breath, the dragon gives his hoard to Rabbah, to be used for some unspecified purpose. The Seosur still honor Bey Rabbah by sending him their best young warriors to be his bodyguard and learn from him.

Nadia gets her own Seosur name, Digewi Tlvdatsi (Dee-gay-wee tlu-da-chee), which means “Blind Panther”. It is a good name, derived from one of their legends. The hero of the story is a warrior who, because the guardian of the underworld took his eyes, did not need them to see. He could find his way through the underworld, and was not easily fooled by appearances.

Nadia and Kantee discuss her next move.

76 Autumn 1146, In the Badlands

The main party gets hit with a large fusillade of arrows. Then a magic ray hits Earkey and gives him an awful case of the clumsies. Aidan charges in the direction the arrows came from, and discovers that a nearby sand dune is an illusion. Inside are two hill giants and a score of goblins.

What starts out as a very dangerous situation quickly degenerates into a farce after Tom Lockless hits half the opposition with confusion, and the bad wizard (who is unseen) loses all control of his actions for the next three rounds. The party wraps up the bad guys in no time.

The wizard was an old gnome. He had a name. He had dreams. He had a mission. He had multiple escape plans. But he died. He and the giants left behind:

  • 2100gp in various denominations
  • 400gp in assorted gems
  • Amulet of Natural Armor +3 (18kgp)
  • Deck of Illusions, full
  • Staff of Transmutation (CL 9, 45 charges, 20100 gp)
    • Expeditious Retreat (1 charge)
    • Alter Self (1 charge)
    • Blink (1 charge)
    • Polymorph (2 charges)
    • Baleful Polymorth (2 charges)

combat xp: 1125 @ 8th level

There is some discussion as to whether or not the wizard should have died. Tom is of the opinion that the party shouldn't kill so freely, and the rest of the party thinks he's slightly off his rocker.

80 Autumn 1146, in Khum-Khari

After delivering his report, Minzerec is persuaded to lend a hand to the loyal opposition, by campaigning for Magi Kineel, a moderate. Godrick and Bergson want him to use his newfound notoriety to persuade all the moderates to vote for Kineel.

After three days of fevered campaigning the Synod begins, and the magi meet for three days behind closed doors. In the end, Kineel wins by the narrowest of margins.

80 Autumn 1146, In the Badlands

Nadia spent a few days with Kantee and the Seosur, establishing relations and learning just how willing they might be to move against the Academy and the Principalities.

Kantee and several of his bodyguard accompany Nadia through the Valley of Hannah, down into the Badlands, and then north until they find elves. After a careful approach, the elven leader named “Tarven” announces he has been sent to retrieve her for Menash.

Nadia’s appearance provokes shock and sympathy among the elves.

82 Autumn 1146, Fu’ad al Shihab

Tarven guides Nadia towards her destination, and on the 84th they enter a tunnel in the hills. After a winding journey, Nadia enters the elven enclave of Fu’ad al Shihab. Menash, her grandfather, is taking an afternoon nap. She settles in to wait. He looks old and tired, but otherwise healthy for a man of his advanced age.

The main party also arrives on the same day, and there is a (briefly) tearful reunion between the Sisters. An old man named Menash examines Tom Lockless, and seems to accept him for the time being.

The party is introduced to Shadow, who is the memory of Ghaucia preserved in glass. He tells them of the creation of the Veil, how it was allowed to exist much longer than expected, and the necessity of destroying it. He charges the party, if they are so willing, with recovering the six sigils held by the Oracles. Once all six are collected then the "macchina", as he often calls the veil, can be destroyed. The ultimate fate of those bearing the sigil is an unsure one.

83 Autumn 1146, Fu’ad al Shihab

There is some commotion in the enclave. Several elves were found dead, and apparently skinned. The party splits up to try and find the intruders, and several minutes later they find Sleestack’s body, sans skin, in a remote hallway.

A few members of the party corner some undead skin creatures in a storeroom, and fight them. Ambrose and Earkey have a hard time turning them. Eventually, the evil undead skin creatures are defeated.

The party departs for Kepharix on the next day, to catch a boat to the western isles.

84 Autumn 1146, in Khum-Khari

Minzerek is called to give testimony to the council about his investigation into Nadia’s escape and the deaths of three council members. What begins as a question and answer session devolves into accusations of being in league with the “Cultists”. The chancellor produces the magical green rock that Minzerek has been carrying around in secret, and accuses him of trying to keep the “keystone” to himself. Minzerek professes to have no idea what they’re talking about, and gets hauled off to solitary confinement amid a general uproar.

Eight magi are arrested on the same day, but Minzerek doesn’t know what happens to them.

86 Autumn 1146, in Khum-Khari

Minzerek’s mentor, Magi Uster, visits him in jail. He tries to convince Minzerek to tell the Academy what he knows about the Ordo Macchina, Where his former companions are gong, and what they are doing. Minzerek refuses, even under the threat of torture.

The same morning, Minzerek is put into a cage on a cart, which leaves the city for Soubous, the Deeps, and torture.

87 Autumn 1146, on the borders of Soubous

Some rocks get tossed into the camp, and nearly crush Earkey to death. It’s those pesky giants again, but this time they’re undead! Their ghoul touch doesn’t affect anybody, because the front line fighters have insane fort saves.

After several attempts at turning, Ambrose finally succeeds. Once he does, the fight is essentially over.

Sorry guys, no treasure. But you do find Sleestack's brother, Knot-Sleestack. The giants were carrying him and his horse around for a snack later. The party heals him, and informs him of his brother's ugly demise.

88 Autumn 1146, somewhere between Khum-Khari and Soubous

Some strange half-elf woman kills Minzerek’s guards in the night, and drags him out of his cage without so much as a how-do-you-do. She steals all the horses, hauls him up on one, and warns him not to be any trouble. Still in shackles, and deeply curious, he agrees.

They ride for days, until Minzerek is past exhaustion. He doesn’t even remember much of it, having slept on the back of a horse most of the time. The mystery woman had to tie him to the saddle to keep him moving.