Dark Sun 3.5 - The Lost North

Session 16 Recap

As our "heroes" continued exploring the basement of the palace, they came face to face with a swirling mass of black smoke that formed into a grayish shade.  A wraith!  The short battle was inconclusive.  They could hurt it but its incorporeality made it difficult and yet its attacks missed their mark.  Still, after several attacks, it fled them into the Gray to lick its wounds.  They probably haven't heard the last of that one.

They finished making the rounds of the basement, finding nothing more dangerous than a crate.  But that crate contained 16 iron helms imprinted with the royal seal. They couldn't leave it behind, so they shouldered it and carried it with them up the stairs back to main level. 

They made a circuit of the main level hallway checking out rooms as they went and finding some small treasures in some of them.  When they had nearly come full circle, they came to what must be the great hall or throne room.  Mark decided to listen at the door to see if anything was in there, but Jeremy was having none of that.  He knocked Mark out of the way and shattered the double doors leading in.

The throne room was a very large room, easily 40'x50' and just over two stories tall. But the presence of 5 undead giants made it feel considerably more cramped that it might otherwise have.  Arrayed before them were 4 giant zombies standing in front of a dais along the far wall.  On that dais, sitting atop a pile of various valuable items obviously gleaned from around the palace sat another giant, not a zombie but not alive either.  Its purplish skin and starved-looking features made clear that it had passed beyond mortal life.  Along the wall to the … thing's left, three human sized figures stood casting an unseeing gaze across the room.  After the primer that Zed had given them about undead, they felt sure that these were ioramh.

The giant seated on the dais chuckled at the intrusion.

"So this is what has been causing such a ruckus in my city.  Honestly, you don't seem capable enough to have survived so long. 

I am Gorlak and this is my palace.  There have been many visitors over the years, but none have ever left.  You will fair the same."

Brian, with the gall of a halfling, began trying to chat the thing up, even going so far as to transition into his bardic poetry.  The only effect he had was to give the party (and the giants) a round to prepare for the battle to come.  Jeremy used magic to hide himself and Mark from the mindless undead so that they could close with the leader without getting held up by the subordinates.  Brian readied the elemental stone they had only recently found in order to summon an earth elemental to fight for them and Larry activated his psionic force shield.  This was going to get bumpy. 

And indeed it was so.  The zombies swung their fists with devastating results.  The three ioramh used their telekinesis to lob chunks of rubble at targets.  And the leader swung a spear the size of a tree trunk.  With the help of the summoned earth elemental, they took the fight to the giants and, though the less melee-oriented party members were definitely hurting it looked closed to resolved within a hand of rounds.  Then the leader smiled wickedly and burst into immolating flames.  Jeremy and Mark fell back initially and the giant felt secure in his reach.  But Mark switched over to psionics and Jeremy waded back in, accepting the burns, and together they dealt him the final blow.  But as he collapsed, he seemed undefeated. 

"Impressive mettle, small ones.  But as long as my maker lives, you cannot be rid of me so easily.  We shall meet again."

At that point, the ioramh stopped their assault and mopping up the zombies was hazardous but the end not in doubt. 

After they finished the zombies, they had the opportunity to study the ioramh more closely.  The three were dressed in the decayed remains of fine clothing that was embroidered with the royal crest.  One of them seemed to have been a man in young  middle age when he died, one was a woman of similar age, and the last couldn't have had his 20th birthday at his death.  With no other good options, they destroyed the ioramh.  But then again, maybe not.  Ioramh are bound to the will of their creator, so they may not be laid to rest yet either.

A sweep of the room yielded a hoard of treasure they couldn't hope to fit into their various cargo conveyances.  Sacks, backpacks, the magic saddlebags, and the crate were quickly filled and they had to leave a pile behind.  They also needed to rest and heal from their battles.  That last one had been closer than they had been willing to admit.

Here began The Argument™ – "can't just leave it.  someone might get it." "but it's in a palace still guarded by a n army of undead."  "but we know(!) that there are other looters in the city now."  "we don't know any such thing."  Round and round they went, but eventually decided to check the final floor of the palace once they had rested for a day.  Nothing disturbed them the whole time.  Could they have finished off the inhabitants of the building?

Upstairs, the found more rooms "decorated" with ancient blood stains and destroyed furniture.  One set of rooms appeared to have belonged to a set of children, two older with single rooms and two younger that shared.  A single sliver hair comb set with topaz lay amid the rubble.

The rooms set aside for servants yielded nothing until they found a satchel secreted under the remains of a mattress.  It contained a few coins, a hat, an amulet, a cloak, some thieves tools, and a garrote.  (several magical)  A curious set of equipment for a servant.

One set of rooms was obviously the royal chambers.  In a ruined chest, Jeremy discovered a secret compartment.  When he opened it, he and the others could only stare in wonder, and no little shock, at two exquisite pieces of jewelry – a gold and sapphire tiara and a gold necklace with a very (!) large diamond pendant.  On the reverse were markings and a royal crest.  Nothing but a true king's ransom could purchase such items.

Lastly, they found what must have been a study and library.  It was in awful condition with most of the books and writings decayed or fallen apart.  But in the mess, they found a map of the palace tucked between two large folios.  On the map, there was a notation of a hidden door in the exterior wall of the city immediately behind the palace gardens.  In addition, there were two books in surprisingly good condition.  One was titled "Lineage and Genealogy of House Mezik – Founding of Thorlo through the 170th Kings Age".  The other was a thick book containing tips for improving instinct and perception – but seemed to offer more than just pointers (borne out by Jeremy's magic detection).  Lastly, but by no means least, under the wreckage of a desk, they found a letter.  Brian and Jeremy, being the only two who could read, passed it back and forth but couldn't make out the archaic script and turn of phrase.  But it looked old.

Feeling assured that they had searched all the places they could in the palace, they made their plans for escape.  They had the figurine of wondrous kank to use as a beast of burden at least for some part of the trip home.  The front of the palace was literally crawling with undead.  Larry had glimpsed some giant zombies in the remains of the gardens behind.  With Jeremy's spells replenished, he was able to hide them all, including the kank, from the mindless undead and they decided to head directly for the secret exit in the garden.  With the map, they knew exactly where to go and were able to open the door into a space that filled most of the width of the walls in this area.  Inside it was dark, so Jeremy activated his flaming axe to illuminate things.  The light showed a room with racks where equipment would have been stored.  Bits and pieces of backpacks, other standard supplies, and long expired rations were stacked undisturbed.  The chamber was obviously used to store emergency equipment.  There were even two stalls for animals the size of erdlu.  And on the post of one of those pens, a sealed scroll tube hung from a strap that fell apart as soon as they disturbed it.

Inside the tube, they found another letter.  Perhaps it was a second exposure, or maybe the handwriting was better, but this time Jeremy and Brian were able to decipher the text.

“My brother. Thank the living stone that I was preparing to leave for Kurn when the attack began.  On your orders I ran to the children’s rooms to gather them and escape the palace, but I could only find the twins.  I have them and we are riding hard for the mainland.  I pray that Sensha and Torvin are with you and that you will be in fast pursuit once your advisors finish flaying your ears off for not having beaten me out the door.  I will send the garrisons from the watch towers to hold the gates and allow as many citizens as possible to escape as I pass, but I promise you the boys will reach Kurn alive.  I will count myself a lucky man when you arrive to meet us there.
— H”

The group stood in silence for a few minutes.  Mark said,

"Well I think we know what happened to Torvin."

They sealed the letter back up, closed the inner door behind them, and opened the outer door beyond the walls.  They came out in the ruins of the outlying neighborhoods, far off the northern road they entered the city by most recently.  The carefully marked the location of the exterior door on their map and then proceeded to make good their escape, hoping that no one was watching this particular piece of ground for them.  

Feeling more than a little exposed, they decided to send Larry on ahead.  She could reach Kurn by nightfall and arrange to bring a wagon back to meet them on the way.  By husbanding their use of the magical kank, they figured they could meet at the first ruined tower they explored in about 3 days time.  So Larry took to the air.

She did manage to track down the three (now-former) slaves that had been captains in their little army and convinced them (10CP per day!?!) to go with her back down the road to retrieve the others.  Arrangements were made and they left the following morning.  The rendezvous happened as planned for once and they were able to ride back to Kurn from the tower.

One the way back, Jeremy and Brian put their heads together to reexamine the first letter they found.  With the other letter and some more experience, they made sense out of it.  It was addressed to… "King Oronis of Kurn"……

“Thorlo and Kurn have never been more than neutral trading partners.  Were it not for House Azeth, there wouldn’t even have been that.  Your recent overtures, thus came as very much a surprise, though a welcome one.  Would that I could conduct the talks in person and bring my family for a state visit as you suggest.  My advisers have put their collective foot down and I have learned to listen to their wisdom even (or especially) when I would normally throw caution to the wind.  I will, however, send my brother Hellas as ambassador to Kurn to discuss more open relations between our kingdoms.  I look forward to quickly finalizing arrangements for opening a consular residence in Kurn and a summit where we may meet in person. 

In the spirit of ongoing collaboration, I include a small matter as a favor to my queen, Amarinth.  It seems that disturbing portents have been driving my house priests to distraction for the last week.  ‘A dragon chasing giants through the streets of Thorlo.’   They are certain it means something, but I’m a simple man and to me it seems like so much silt mirage.  But we would be interested in knowing if your sages and wise-people have any insights that might prove helpful in their interpretation or if indeed any of your own foreseers have received similar visions.

I pray that our peoples may one day share such trivial conversations over a meal and good ale. 

Erys Mezik, King of Thorlo
63rd day of Fruitburth
Year of Enemy’s Agitation
171st King’s Age

Stunned into silence just by the implications they could grasp, the party rode many miles before the questions surfaced about all that they couldn't grasp.  The letter was OLD.  If the tales are true of the fall of Thorlo, nearly 1500 years old.  "A dragon chasing giants through the steets of Thorlo" has so many possible interpretations as to boggle.  "The" dragon hadn't been seen in a decade, but any child can tell you that another name for the sorcerer kings of the table lands is "dragon king."  Maybe Oronis is title rather than a proper name.  Or maybe Oronis is another dragon king and was driving the giants in their attack.  Or trying to destroy them.  Were those giants they fought the remains of the attackers?  Or were those what attacked?  Was someone threatened by a possible alliance between Thorlo and Kurn with Thorlo the easier target to eliminate?  

The letters together weave a chilling story that didn't yet make sense.  And in the wrong hands, they could very well cost them their lives.  So they decided that no one else would see them until they had a better grasp of what to do.

When they arrived in Kurn, they still didn't know what they were going to do with the hoard of treasure they returned with.  They were flooding the market with iron and steel.  The makers were starting to look askance at all the low grade magic items cutting into the profits their apprentices needed to finance their instruction.  And those unbelievable jewels they returned with - there was literally no one who could buy them.  

While the rest puzzled over their next moves, Mark went to the Library to check in with his pal Zed who he'd tasked with tracking down more information about the Thorlan royal family.  Initially he had wanted to know if any of them survived in case they didn't want their ancient family stuff sold on FleaBay.  Now, it seemed they needed to know everything they could find out about the family and whether "the twins" made it safely to Kurn as Hellas had sworn they would.  Without telling Zed what they'd found, he inquired about the research.  Zed was able to corroborate that the family that had ruled Thorlo for the last several King's Ages of its existence was House Mezik.  Prior to that, there had been another House but either they ran out of heirs or some other fate befell them leading to a change in succession.  Zed hadn't made much progress on discovering specific survivors, but he was able to say that several hundred refugees had sought sanctuary in Kurn, perhaps as many as a thousand.  The cast stores of the library will probably yield information about particular individuals in time but he had so far not found those records.  Mark asked him to continue his good effort and made another (for them) sizable donation in thanks.

Back at the ranch, the group came to a conclusion that they had only one way forward - take the letters and the jewels directly to Oronis.  Jeremy was one of his Tempars after all.  Surely he could get them an audience, even if it lasted only moments.  So they bundled up the four priceless artifacts and set off for the administrative quarter.  In the Templar Headquarters, they followed Jeremy directly to Andas offices.  After passing through a few handlers and waiting on benches, they got to see her to make their case.  Jeremy got as far as saying that they had found a letter written by King Erys of Thorlo to King Oronis of Kurn when she cut him off, asked a few clarifying questions, and then took hold of her Templar sigil.  Her eyes closed and Jeremy could feel a hum in his own sigil, almost like a conversation happening on the other side of a thick wall.  After a few minutes, she said that they would have an audience with Oronis that very afternoon.  An aide would lead them through the buildings into Oronis personal area and there they would wait for him to be ready for them.

With that taken care of, she shooed them out of her office where they were acquired by said aide and soon enough found themselves waiting in an antechamber to be called in before the most powerful being any of them had ever met.  

They were summoned after a time and ushered into what looked like a private study with windows looking southward from a tower rising out of the Templar buildings.  Oronis stood before them as they entered looking just as he had the day they arrived in Kurn almost half a year before.  His pale‐blue eyes counseled silence before he thanked his attendant who bowed himself out and shut the door behind him.  Now they were alone with him.

Then he looked at Jeremy and simply said, "Report."  And so Jeremy did.  He laid out their "explorations" of Thorlo and ended his report by saying that they had found some things that only Ornonis could help them understand.  He laid out the letters and the jewels on Oronis' desk and stepped back.  The king examined each piece carefully and then looked at them.

"Let us tackle the easy things first.  These two," pointing at the jewels, "are part of the crown jewels of Thorlo, most recently to be found around the person of Amarinth Mezik.  They are almost literally without price and no dealer, honest or otherwise, in my city would be able to pay even the metal cost nor would they when they see the unmistakable marks on the reverse.  These two cannot return out into the public square"

Gingerly fingering the letters, "Now these… these are hard.  I had learned of the planned attack too late to move to prevent it.  But I did try to save the royal family and as many as I could without starting a panic.  I thought that if i could get the king and his family here, then fewer lives would be lost trying to defend them.  Obviously I failed.  But at least now I know why and what happened."

"What do you propose we do with all of this, my Templar?"

To which Jeremy suggested (on the fly but with nods of agreement from the rest), "Excellency, we came originally with the thought of requesting a finders fee for the jewels.  My companions and I now think the best way forward would be for you to simply take ownership of them outright.  For ourselves, I ask that we have your blessing to bring such other treasures as we have found before your agent for right of first refusal.  We imagine the Templar corps could always use additional steel and magic weapons, armor, and other items and will offer our findings up to your agent before anyone else."

This pleased Oronis and it was done.  "You may make arrangements with Andas when you have goods that you wish to sell or trade.  Now, if you would excuse me, there is much weighing upon my time."

The doors opened and Oronis' attendant appeared to escort them out.  But as they were leaving, Oronis asked Jeremy to stay behind for a moment.  "It won't take long.  Your friends can wait outside."

XP: 4500

Session 15 Recap

The group decided to work their way to the rich sections of town. That's where the best loot would be, after all. From their location by the southern gate where they entered, those sections of town were northward. They opted go going directly north and searching the Warehouse district on their way and ended up spending the entire day ransacking the warehouses and finding some pretty incredible things, not all of which are readily movable. There was even talk of sending Larry back to Kurn on the wing to bring back wagons and whatever of their private army that she could assemble quickly. After all, there was all that obsidian at the pirate hideout that could be picked up too. In the end, they simply threw a tarp over the large crate of raw obsidian that they had found to return later. As darkness closed in, they decided to flee back outside the city walls.

After an uneventful night, they returned via the northern gate the following morning, left the Warehouses about 90% explored, and turned their attention to the Nobles Quarter. They spent the morning and early afternoon picking through these houses until they stumbled upon a particularly nice one that happened to be guarded by a golem constructed entirely of obsidian. The maker must not have possessed particularly good fighting skills to impart to the guardian because it only connected a few times (although to potentially deadly effect). The party eventually wore it down and battered it to shards. Exploring the house, they found a great wealth of treasures that were almost all inscribed with the crest of a house. 1500 year old heraldry not being in anyone's wheelhouse, they don't know who it is. They just gathered it all up.

Belatedly, they realized that they had probably caused a lot of noise during the fight with the golem. Brian discretely went about determining if they were being watched and oh boy were they ever. Brian got sign of two individuals and a group of some sort watching them from a distance. They had grown accustomed to the occasional skeleton or zombie that they had to stop looting and deal with, but this was something else entirely. Freaked out and not wanting to be caught with their pants down with all that loot, they decided to head back to Kurn as a group, sell what they could easily, and drop the rest at their compound.

On the way, things were pretty normal at first. But on the second day out from Thorlo's ruins, a sack that Larry was carrying exploded. In particular, the sack in which he was carrying the remains of the very strange undead defiling creature they had encountered on their way in. The remains seemed to have reanimated in some way. The ashes of the creature assembled into a 16' tall mass of ambulatory heat and coals, emanating from a central human-shaped center. Given the vagaries of reforming (and going last because of a bad initiative roll…) the party took it apart from a distance before it even got to unleash its new fresh hell upon them. After that, there were no more surprises on the return trip to Kurn.

Once back in their home base, they managed to sell off many of the simple treasures of steel and small magic. Belatedly (again), they realized that by dropping a whole mess of old steel and a few pieces inscribed with the seal of Thorlo's royal family, they may have inadvertently drawn unwanted attention to themselves. Huh… They secreted all of the identifiable pieces in their house for dealing with later.

They also had good sense to go to the library and ask some questions about undead. In particular, they asked about the creature that had risen a second time to trouble them. The creature is called an Ashen and it forms in a couple of different ways. Drawing in arcane energy by defiling provides an addictive high to practitioners which must be resisted. If too much energy is taken in and not released for too long, it burns up the mage from the inside. The other way is if a mage is killed while holding a "full tank" of defiling energy, they can rise as an Ashen. On occasion, Ashen rise a second time in a very unstable form something like a fire elemental but possessing the same destructive undead attacks. Beyond learning about Ashen, their Librarian friend, Zed, gave them a basic primer on common undead of Athas.

Skeletons and zombies are common, of course. But there are many free-willed, intelligent undead under the red sun and, despite some commonalities in form and origin, they are all unique with a different set of strengths, abilities, and weaknesses. Zed warned the party not to assume that what worked on one undead would necessarily do likewise on the next of that kind that they encountered. Beyond that the basic forms of undead include:

  • Banshee: Banshees are dwarves that died with their focus unfinished. The concept of a focus is so ingrained in dwarven philosophy that if a dwarf dies while his focus is unfinished, he will return to haunt his unfinished work.
  • Dhaot: A dhaot is an incorporeal creature that died far from its home. The impulse to return home is strong enough to sustain the creature into undeath. When the dhaot returns home, it finds it cannot rest until its remains also have been returned.
  • Dune Runner: A dune runner is an elf that died while running to complete a mission or quest. Unable to complete its important task, it rises again as undead, compelled to run one last journey, forever running through the night. Dune runners are a bane to caravans, because they attempt to compel other humanoids to join them.
  • Fael: Faels are creatures whose gluttony in life was unsurpassed. Their hunger for the excesses they had in life makes them appear anywhere food is present, eating and drinking as much as possible. Most faels come from the upper echelons of Athasian society, and are usually elves or humans.
  • Fallen: These are warriors who died unjustly, returning as angry spirits able to take corporeal form and fight, lusting for battle: the only passion they have left. They often inhabit deserted forts or fall under the command of more powerful undead, forming entire legions of undead warriors.
  • Ioramh: These creatures were weak-willed servants and henchmen of more powerful beings in life; when their masters rose to undeath, the master’s will prevailed and pulled them back from the Gray to serve in undeath as they did in life. Ioramhs are mere shadows of what they once were, unspeaking and hearing only the voice of their masters. After the death of their masters, the force holding them onto Athas no longer binds them and they simply cease to exist.
  • Kaisharga: These creatures are among the most powerful undead on Athas. They are creatures that voluntarily chose undeath, believing it to be a form of immortality. A kaisharga is extremely powerful and rare.
  • Meorty: Guardians of crypts and ancient burial grounds are meorties, beings buried in tombs to protect their domains. They strictly uphold ancient laws and hunt down any who would violate their domain. These ancient laws are long forgotten by the current residents of the Tablelands, yet the meorty upholds them, and a transgressor’s ignorance of these old laws does not excuse him from a death sentence.
  • Morg: A morg is a powerful, free-willed undead usually created by a Sorcerer-King or being of similar power. The morgbirth is usually a reward for years of service—a means to extend the life of a favorite general or bodyguard to serve beyond his normal lifespan.
  • Namech: These creatures are the victims of more powerful intelligent undead such as meorties, wraiths, zhens, or raaigs. Namechs have either by coercion or trickery agreed to serve their undead master in exchange for eternal undeath. Namechs retain most of the abilities they had in life. Upon the death of their master they are free, either to die or remain as independent undead. Meorties and raaigs most frequently use namechs as subordinates.
  • Raaig: A raaig is an ancient, incorporeal spirit sustained by its belief and faith. Raaigs serve as protectors of ancient temples and shrines. They defend their temples from any whose morals differ from their own. Occasionally they reveal themselves to creatures they deem worthy, mostly those of similar alignment. All raaigs are at least 2000 years old and are of the ancient races: dwarf, elf, human, halfling, and giant.
  • Racked Spirit: Guilt fuels the racked spirit’s existence. Racked spirits are creatures whose guilt over committing an offense contrary to their basic nature sustains them in undeath. These spirits suffer eternally and find joy only in destruction and chaos.
  • Thinking Zombie: Thinking zombies are creatures that died before being able to complete an important quest or task. They can be easily identified by the spark of hatred that burns in their eyes. Even in undeath, they relentlessly try to fulfill their task, never allowing themselves to be diverted from their goal.
  • T’liz: T’lizes are powerful defilers whose search for knowledge and power compelled them to seek undeath to complete their studies. They are a great source of information, as they exist for many King’s Ages. Their hatred for the living is amongst the strongest, and any living being seeking knowledge from a t’liz should beware.
  • Venger: A venger is the animated corpse of a being wronged in life by an intelligent being. The venger is animated by its hatred and rage, and exists for the sole purpose of slaying the being that wronged it. Unlike many other undead, a venger has no interest or hatred of the living and ignores anyone not actively preventing it from reaching the single individual it lusts to destroy.
  • Wraith: Wraiths are creatures that either voluntarily sought out undeath as a form of immortality or were created by another undead creature. They exist primarily in the Gray but can manifest themselves on Athas and take possession of an object or creature. A wraith’s spirit is tied to something on Athas, often a gem or book, to serve as a magnet.
  • Zhen: Zhens are undead created by the dark, twisted energies of the Dead Lands. Their transformation has endowed them with great strength and many powerful abilities.

With all that good news under their belt, the group decided not to delay in Kurn but return to Thorlo before some other group scooped up so much as a handful of silt from within its walls. There were no surprise visions of Oronis atop the walls on their way out of town, but the memory triggered a question that had surfaced the previous time for which they had no answer. "When they inquired of a nearby citizen, they were told that he has done this in the past and the walls have never failed during Flamesky." What the hell is Flamesky and why would Oronis need to strengthen the walls for it??? But their desire for information had to war with a growing sense of paranoia about leaving the ruins "unguarded." In the end, everyone but Larry continued on out of town ("Hi recognition!") while she stopped to talk with the gate guard and ask about Flamesky.

Flamesky is the season that follows Coldnights (the current month). This season is a time when scorching sun dries the mud and greenery of the Trembling Plains. Many plants that survived the near freezing temperaturs of Coldnights go to ground until Fruitbirth rolls around. But the main reason that much of regular life in the Trembling Plains grinds to a halt during Flamesky (at least outside of sturdy walls) is the vast herds of mekillots that stampede across the plain and the horde of trin that chase and hunt them. This then is the secret of the name "Trembling Plains". A typical mekillot stands between 28 and 30 feet long and weighs around 12,000 pounds. Mekillots are lizards with huge mound–shaped bodies covered with a thick shell everywhere except for on their sides and bellies. The vast herds roam the trembling plains during Flamesky, browsing on the brush and plant life. Their tons of dung are a major reason for the fertility of the plains. The trin strongly resemble thri-kreen, but with two arms instead of four and a less-developed culture. This creature has a sandy-yellow exoskeleton with gray mottling, powerful claws and a long neck and antennae. Trin (sometimes called thri-trin) are found most of the year in the Hinterlands, but during Flamesky the trin bands swarm eastwards like locust, driven by the lack of food in the drier Hinterlands and the abundance of mekillot to hunt. They are feral and in their hunger and vast numbers even the thri-kreen give them a wide berth. It is this annual trin invasion that gives the thri-kreen such a bad reputation among the Eloy and Kurnans, since they generally fail to differentiate trin from kreen. This wonderful scene is set to begin in about 50 days, so the party decided to be done with their Thorlan exploits before it began.

After Larry caught up with the rest and communicated all he'd learned, the group's paranoia grew to such heights that they had Larry take wing again to check their back trail. All she could tell for sure was that they were not the only group to leave Kurn that morning. There were three other groups of travelers that left in the few hours after they did. None of them looked suspicious from that height but the party obviously suspected them immediately. The situation was basically stable for the first few days traveling south along the Trade Road. When the time came to leave the road, they did so in the middle of the night and had Brian wipe out their tracks for a good mile before they rested for the night. From there, they continued on to the city and once again entered by the north gate. Having explored about 85% of the Nobles Quarter, they decided to go for the big enchilada – The Palace.

The palace was separated from the rest of the city by walls only slightly shorter than those around the city. From the gate, the party looked onto a plaza piled with heaps of bones of various sizes. The piles were all over the place. But across the plaza at the steps to the palace, there were guards – two giant skeletons at the foot of the steps and two giant zombies at the top. They decided to use missile weapons to soften them up while Mark and Jeremy crossed the plaza to engage them. Good plan! As soon as Mark and Jeremy set foot past the gate, the piles of bones animated into more of those creeping claws that they had seen elsewhere in the city. A lot more of them. Someone went all Rain Man™ and came up with a number of 260 of the bastards – about 100 tiny, child-sized claws; about 100 small claws, about 50 adult-sized claws, and 20 massive, giant-sized claws. Larry decided to get airborne to see if there was a way around the claws. He didn't see a bypass, but flying for the first time within the city did provide some useful . 1) The palace wasn't a plain rectangle. There was a section protruding from the rear and one wall of that had been demolished. 2) Far off to the southeast, on what was once the coast, there was a low spot in the silt covering half the city and there was a rooftop exposed as if it hadn't been touched by silt in a very long time. 3) The group of Razorwings launching themselves out of shallow silt on top of one of the other buildings were intent on seeing what villichi tasted like. During this time, Mark and Jeremy had thought better of walking across the plaza and had backed out. As soon as they passed the gate, the claws stopped pursuing them, returned to their resting places, and dis-animated themselves into piles of bones. The giant sentries hadn't even begun to move from their posts so they continued to do so.

A short battle with the Razorwings ensued. All but one found themselves unable to make a controlled landing and that one glided away from the scary two-legs.

After some thought, Jeremy remembered a piece of his Templar training – he had access to a spell that would allow them all to hide from the undead in the plaza. He had enough to get them all in and then get them all out as long as he didn't use any spells of similar power. So that's what they did. They all felt more than a little weird simply walking through the plaza and up the steps between the giants but it worked. They got inside the palace and after a few short turns found a staircase leading down and they took it.

The basement, being below ground, had more silt built up – about 4 inches in general and drifts of a foot in some corners. They searched much of the basement finding some treasures but also some opponents. The silt bugs were mostly a nuisance but the living shadows were more challenging. One hit from those things drained a body of 2 points of constitution and the hit points associated with them until they could rest and recover. Pshaw. Who needs rest?! They pushed on and came face to face with – (to be continued)

XP 3100

Session 14 Recap

The party spent just over a week getting new gear and spending themselves poor again. In the time that passed, Larry felt a shift in the spirit of the land of the trembling plains heralding the change from Windflood to Cold Nights, a time of hot, dry days and near freezing nights.

After making their preparations, the group set out one morning. As they made their way towards the Trade Gate from their compound, they heard murmurs and exclamations "He's there! On the wall!" Pushing forward along the road toward the gate, they were swept up in a crowd of citizens hurrying in the same direction. When they were in sight of the gate, they could Oronis himself (!) up on top of the walls. He appeared to be walking along the walls. He would stop every 10 feet or so and make gestures. He was casting a spell. A big one. In fact he was never not casting a spell. Whispers said that he had been doing this since the early hours of the morning when he started the walk atop the Farm Gate. Larry understood that he was casting an Epic spell of some sort and it seemed likely that he would continue to do so until he closed his circuit many hours later. When they inquired of a nearby citizen, they were told that he has done this in the past and the walls have never failed during Flamesky. (That's the next season after Cold Nights.)

Larry wanted to get as good a view as possible and thought it was a good idea to fly up. Not only did this cause gasps of surprise and fear from the commoners, it drew the bows of every Black Brethren and militia member (and not a few regular citizens). She (wisely) did not make any move toward the wall but simply watched. Luckily, Oronis did not lose focus but continued his slow progression along the wall. When she had seen enough, Larry returned to the ground and the party and they resumed their journey, feeling the familiar recognition as they passed through the gate.

The group traveled back to the first tower they found on the peninsula and made a sweep of it to ensure that it was still clear. Finding it unchanged, they set up a camp at the bottom of the stairwell to use it as a chimney to obscure any smoke from their fire. In the morning, the view from the front steps showed the ruined road they had seen before and they set out upon it to the southwest.

After traveling for a few miles, they came to an intersection. One path continued ahead and the other turned to the left and set off down the peninsula. The group was about to follow the new road, but Brian pointed out that there was probably another guard tower ahead. It would be a bit silly to have just the one. This convinced the group to continue and see what they could find.

They went a similar distance forward and indeed found another tower, though this one was much different than the last. A full three stories and in good condition, though obviously ancient, the tower seemed to be in good working order. As they approached, Larry could see figures moving along the battlements, unnaturally, as before. And waiting for them in front of the main tower door was a warrior dressed in bright copper armor with his hands resting on the pommels of twin short swords. The warrior called out,

"Ho, travelers! What business brings you to fair Thorlo?"

After a bunch of discussion that went nowhere, Brian finally voiced "exploration" as their response. This seemed to confuse the warrior.

"Well, Thorlo is fairly settled but I suppose a certain form of exploration can be found on her streets."

Again, much discussion ensues this time with confusion on the part of the PCs. They finally decide to try and get information from the warrior who is obviously undead.

His name is Morget and he is the Guard Commander of the Southern Border Tower of the kingdom of Thorlo. He claims to not know how long he has been at his post, but it is clear that he doesn't grasp that Thorlo is long destroyed. He says he stops deserters now and again and they either join his troop here at the tower or they are dealt with as befits such cowards. Morget also expresses surprise at a second party of visitors so close upon each other after so long of having none.

That got the party's attention, all right. They probed for more information and Morget said that it was a party of four (seemingly a fighter, a priest, a mage, and a thief) who claimed to have come from Azeth's Rest and passed by the South Tower less than a week past. They parlayed for a short while with the commander and then took their leave up the ruined road saying that they would follow it into Thorlo proper.

Jeremy was utterly convinced that House Azeth had betrayed them by sending a party of their own into Thorlo to scoop up treasure, although the other point out that they haven't actually told anyone all the pieces of where they have gotten the treasures that they sold to Azeth.

After talking a short while longer, the party got bored and greedy. They wanted the metal that Morget had on him and decided that they would just take it since he was an undead. The battle was a bit more difficult than at the other tower but the party still prevailed. Morget and his warriors fell primarily to the pendant fireballs deployed by two of the party members. A search of the tower showed nothing out of the ordinary for a functioning military outpost and no treasures except those on Morget's remains.

The party camped and set out early the following morning, traveling back up the road to the crossroads then turned southeast. Brian used his tracking to confirm that they were following in the footsteps of a party of four. After several hours of walking, Larry signaled that he saw something approaching them from the direction they were headed. It appeared to be a humanoid shambling along parallel to the road and moving up peninsula towards them. When they were close enough to see the figure themselves, they saw what looked like a human or half elf that had been burned up from the inside. Its greasy, bloated flesh seemed to be slowly breaking down into ashen flakes. Its face was a mix of painful grimace and purest bliss. A bright orange light shone from its eyes and places where its skin and flaked away. It did not seem to take notice of the party. Looking closely, it seemed to be leaving a trail. Its footprints were blackened ash, like they had seen defilers make. That settled the party on their course of action. Attack safely from a distance.

When the creature came within about 100', Mark and Larry let loose with bow and psionics. When confronted, the undead released a surge of energy that coruscated across the sky like a great electrical serpent and flew towards them to attack. The serpent damaged Jeremy as he closed to javelin range and the party poured on the fire. Under the onslaught, the creature went down quickly, especially since Larry's bow had been upgraded to do particular damage to undead creatures. When it fell, it crumpled into a pile of ashes and the serpent dissipated.

The group moved up to prod the pile and insure it was really dead. Again. None of them had ever seen anything like it, but it seemed like it could be some sort of defiler so they swept the remains up in a sack to research and/or take to Madge to feed her Tree of Life. With nothing else to go on, they continued a while longer before night caught up to them. Jeremy wanted to keep going through the night, but the need to rest and regain spells caused them to camp. In the morning, they continued their way.

After walking much of the morning, Larry radioed down that he saw a structure of some sort across the road some ways up. When they got close, they saw the ruins of two towers, one on each side of the road, flanked by a buttress wall. The remains of a connecting span lay in the road itself. Off to the east of the road was a 20' circle of defiler's ash and the ashen footprints led directly away from it back along their path. Their thinking about the implications of that were interrupted by the giant zombie that stepped out from behind one of the towers and closed to do battle. Larry didn't make his spot check that time.

The huge creature was tougher than a regular zombie, but no match for their combined firepower and it fell to their attacks. Not finding anything of value on it or in the rubble of the towers, the party turned its attention back to the defiled ground and looking for the earlier party. Brian confirmed that four sets of tracks reached the towers but one seemed to end in the circle of ash and the other three split up and ran around the the towers and giant to continue southward. The group was left to wonder what had happened. Did the strange undead manifest and kill one of them? Did one of them become that thing? There were no answers here, so they continued.

Again they were forced to camp on the road. Again, they went unmolested through the night and rose early to continue. Soon enough a second set of towers came into view. This time the towers and the joining section were intact and they could tell that, once upon a time, a wooden portcullis could have been lowered to completely block the road. Larry flew a circuit around the towers this time, looking for any surprises but found none. There were double doors in the base of each tower, but the western ones were ajar and the tracks led right to it so they went that way.

Inside, the main level of the tower was mostly empty but with a stairway built into the wall spiraling up through the floor above. They climbed to the second level and saw piles of refuse against the far wall. Mark started to walk over to investigate but his foot went through the rotten boards and he convinced the light halfling to go instead. Brian made it just fine but didn't find anything of value in the piles. So the group continued on up the stairs. About halfway up that section, Mark stepped on a step that had been rigged to collapse, and he and Larry went falling. They broke through the rotten second floor and landed in a heap on the main level. While they were climbing back up, Jeremy and Brian examined the trap and determined that it was nowhere near as old as the tower itself but had been in place for some number of months. Helping the others cross the gap, they continued their climb paying more attention to their footsteps.

On the top floor, the stairs continued up to the roof but there wasn't anything else in the room except a door. Having checked the roof and finding nothing, they tried the door but it was locked. So Jeremy busted it down. And saw/felt a bone needle bounce off his armor. Brian investigated and found it poisoned and could again tell that it was about as old as the other trap. On the other side of the door, was the passage leading across the road. In the floor, there were a series of 5 hatches that would open down onto the road. Obviously these were murder holes in case someone on the road needed dying. At the far end was another door but this one stood open a bit already.

On their guard, the party crossed the bridge. When he got to the door, Jeremy saw a shoe in the gap of the door. Pushing the door further open, there was a foot in the boot attached to a leg and in fact a whole body. Closer inspection revealed a half elf dead on the floor with one of those same bone needles in his neck. He was young and equipped like a rogue. Obviously the earlier party had lost a second member.

In the room, they found a living space. A few cots and chests of drawers along with a desk and a stairway leading to the roof and down to the lower level of the tower. A search revealed no valuables, but the desk yielded information. There were charts of islands and the coastline of the Silt Sea as well as a message note. The note told the reader that "the skimmer has been left at the spot on the map." The author was headed back to it to get the wagons to exchange some of the latest haul for a crate or two from the stores. "And we have to be in place to hit that ship off Charvass in less than two weeks time. So you better get back to the ship soon."

Going down the stairs, they found the pirates' storeroom. The whole level was filled with crates. In the middle of the floor there were two doors which opened down into the bottom of the tower where it was clear that wagons could be pulled in and loaded using the pulley attached to the ceiling of the storeroom. About half the crates in the room are filled with obsidian and the other half with raw giant's hair. The tonnage of obsidian would be quite valuable but without the necessary wagons to haul it out, the party decided to leave it.

Making a final circuit of the towers, the PCs realized they could see the city walls of Thorlo from the upper battlements. It looks a little too far to make before dark so they stay put one more night. In the waning light, Brian searches around and finds the trail of the two remaining predecessors. They appear to be striking out northeast, directly for the coast and headed to the spot where the pirate's silt skimmer is supposed to be. Apparently they just want out of this whole business.

In the morning, the party got a very early start in order to make it to the city proper as early as possible in the day. Just past the last set of towers, the road split into two approaches to the city. The map they got from the library showed outlying districts along both paths, but now almost nothing remained of them. The party chose the southern route and reached the walls just before midday. There were no gates barring their way and, while still standing, the walls were damaged by battle and time. Looking down the main thoroughfare into the interior of the city, they saw that the battle with the giants caused great damage and in the intervening centuries the silt had swallowed about half of the city. The mounds of silt had pushed up into the city completely covering buildings and sections of the city with tendrils of the stuff pushing far into the interior along major roads.

Going though the southern-most gate, the party entered the part of the city furthest from the royal palace. To their right were the modest homes of freemen laborers. To their right were buildings and storage spaces for trade houses long dead. Choosing a few houses at random, they searched and found a few trinkets but also stumbled upon undead. The skeletons and zombie were becoming old hat. But the creeping claws… they were unnervingly different. Just the hands and feet of skeletons that are animated on their own and climbed all over a person to find a gap in their armor. The party was able to deal with the undead without much trouble.

XP: 2400

Session 13 Recap

Session 13 Recap

Armed with their tiny shred of knowledge and the basic location of the ruin, the party set out.

This close to Kurn there was little danger as long as they stayed near the road, so the party traveled light. Only Larry's Kank and the rest walking. It was about a day and a half of walking. It being Windflood still, the land on either side of the road (and some parts of the road itself) were thick mud from the rains (!?!). When they reached the point where they needed to leave the road, their progress slowed. But Larry flew up to help watch for dangers and scout for the ruins. They were fairly close before the features of a ruined tower distinguished themselves from the landscape. It lay basically along the route they were following.

Larry continued to scan the ruin as they approached and saw that there was movement on the upper level of the tower. It looked as if some portion of the tower had been shorn away exposing an upper floor where there appeared to be humanoids moving around. They seemed to be moving around from arrow slit to arrow slit as if they were on watch, but something about their movement didn't feel right. A little programed. A little unnatural.

The party continued to advance and when they got within a few hundred feet, a voice hailed them. 
"Halt! Who goes there?" 
It was clearly understandable and completely not produced by a living voice box.

They party answered back with some squabbling about what the party name was.

The voice responded, 
"Are you friend or foe of Thorlo?"

After more discussion, they answered that of course they were friends of Thorlo. They went way back to that time in college where there was drinking and maybe some shenanigans with the poodle.

The voice instructed them to
"Advance so that you may be verified."

Larry was still aloft, but the rest advanced toward the tower. From the ground it looked like a two story building about 100' in diameter. The If there were more levels above at some point, they were gone now. The walls of the second story blocked view of what was there, but Larry could tell them that there were 6 figures there, most likely undead, dressed in armor of guardsmen. Mark walked up to the door to the tower and pushed. It swung open easily as the wood was decayed and the latch nonexistent. Inside he could see a 30×30 entry way with double doors on the other side. He motioned for the rest of the party to join him as he entered. They did. More fools they.

They walked into the entry and Mark went straight to the double doors. They were in much better condition, though still old, and they were locked. As he tried the latch, a sound from above drew their attention. A hatch in the ceiling had been pulled back and four figures armed with javelins peered down and began their attack.

Larry opted to run out the front door and take wing. (From there he could see two of the original six heading down a spiral staircase while the four gathered around the opening.) The rest began to do ranged attacks from the main level. After much javelin tossing, flying bum rushes, and swinging of axe, the party dispatched the attackers. They then smashed through the double doors into the interior of the tower. Inside they were met by two more of the warriors who were also re-slain. A quick search of the main level yielded an armory with nothing but useless scrap and an office of some sort that was in complete shambles. In the office there was also sign of battle with brown stains of aged blood on the walls.

The party broke through the door to the stairwell landing and saw stairs going up and down. They quickly searched the upper level and found a few odd valuables but no other targets. (Addition: It was clear that the stairs had gone further up in the past but those floors no longer existed.) So the party went down past the main level to the first basement. On this level they came out into a hallway with a set of double doors straight across and single doors at each end. They of course slammed through the double doors first and came face to face with four more of the warriors. They were no more real threat than the others, but by this point they had all been wounded some amount.

The party split up (always a good idea) to check the other rooms. Mark and Brian tried the near door and found the remains of a kitchen. Nothing but decayed scraps remained and the walls showed the signs of carnage like upstairs. Jeremy and Larry tried the other door and found an unexpected horror. This had been a larder but hanging from the meat hooks were the desiccated remains of humanoids. No one really felt like reaching in and searching either space.

The stairs had one more revolution downward before coming to an end so the party descended once more. At the bottom, they entered what seemed to be a small receiving room with a bench for waiting that was clearly old and in disrepair. There was a single door, upon which was the remains of an emblem or coat of arms. Brian was able to memorize it for later research. The door led into a sitting room or parlor that was in really bad shape. From there the party moved through an opening into what seemed a private dressing chamber with an arms rack and mannequin for holding armor. There was also a chest of drawers that was searched. There was a final door that the party burst through and found themselves in the destroyed remains of a bedchamber. Standing in the room waiting for them was what probably had been a noble warrior before his death. Now the undead looked upon you with hate for the living and shouted
"How dare you enter here?!"
and battle was joined.

The Fallen soldier opened with a breath weapon of obsidian shards. When Jeremy moved forward into melee, he was nearly overcome with despair and found himself less able to fight. The steel breastplate and longsword (!!!!) wielded by the Fallen made him a very difficult opponent even without his undead powers.

The battle was very close and relied on everyone contributing. At the last, it was Larry who delivered the final blow by bestowing healing on the fell creature damaging it with positive energy.

The party searched the room and Jeremy cast his Find Secret Doors which showed a secret exit from the bed room into the receiving room at the bottom of the stairs. No other secrets were found, though, and the party made their way out of the tower.

Looking out from the main entrance, the group realized that there was a road, or the remains of one, leading away from the building to the southwest; basically paralleling the main trade road about a half-day's journey west. And Brian noticed some stones along the side of that old road that bore the crest he had memorized inside. This tower was obviously part of something larger. But the group decided to return to Kurn to do research on what they had learned to better prepare themselves for what might lie ahead.

Upon their return, they went to the library to learn about the crest, which was also engraved into both the steel breastplate and the steel longsword they had taken from the Fallen. It turned out to be the crest of the royal family of Thorlo, a city that once stood at the tip of the peninsula where they had been. The city itself had been sacked by giants about 1500 years prior but the ruins were still there. Obviously the tower they had explored had been a border frontier guard for the small kingdom. The road probably connected to other parts of the kingdom.

Then the party had to argue about the steel treasures. They finally decided to sell them (#shock #surprise) and then argued about who to approach. They decided finally to try House Azeth. The price such items (+2 after all) could command would likely be beyond most crafters, but the trading house might have the funds. After a bit of a rocky start, the group met and bargained with the second Agent of the compound in Kurn, Jessen, and agreed to a price. Jessen said that such an outlay was significant and not something that could be done often, but that about once a season (after the Great Caravan) he would be able to entertain such acquisitions.

The party made their plans with what do with their windfall and set them in motion. They decided to spend about a week in town to see them through before returning South to explore more of the dead kingdom of Thorlo. 

XP: 3150

Session 12 Recap

Session 12 Recap

The party and their small private army continued to explore the village of Ravish in search ot Akive and the other ~50 of her bandits.

They made their way up a main road towards the center of the village where there was a square. In the center of that square was a fountain with an attached windmill that drew water from the oasis into a basin where the bandits could get water without risking the oasis itself.

The party continued to check houses on either side of the street as they made their way toward the square. Upon reaching the last row of houses that fronted onto the square, they still had not encountered any additional resistance. The three cadres of archers they brought with them formed up at the end of the street while the party checked the two houses. Still no trace.

From the street, looking into the square they could see:

  • the fountain in the center
  • directly across from them was the largest house in the village, presumeably occupied by Akive in normal times
  • 10 houses arranged around the circumference of the square.

There was much squabbling about what to do.

Finally, Jeremy just decided he was going to take his portable battering ram accross and start punching a hole in the side of Akive's house. After he passed the fountain, two fiery rays shot toward him from houses at his 10 and his 2. Neither came even close to hitting. All of the archers, including Brian and Larry, returned fire. There was no response other than cries of pain.  Mark decided to check out the house at Jeremy's 2 o'clock and Larry decided to join Jeremy in his house assault. Brian stayed back to command the archers.

At this point several things happened at once. Mark reached his target house and smashed down the door, finding the arrow filled remains of someone who probably shot the energy ray at Jeremy as well as 5 bandits waiting inside. As he backpedaled out the door, they followed and that was apparently the signal to spring the trap. From 9 other houses surrounding the square, 5 bandits rushed out to attack. About half of the assorted lot made for the archers and the other half converged on the three party members out in the square. And at the tail end of the round, Akive stepped out of the big house to confront them.

Numbers were definitely on the site of the bandits, but having 30 archers at your back is no small thing. The archers were able to pick off many of the bandits before they could close to melee range with anyone. And even when they did close, the party's ACs proved mostly capable of repelling their attacks. Mostly.

The main threat, as they knew it would be, was Akive and Jeremy went up toe to toe with her. He enlarged himself and activated his fiery steel axe to take her on. (As he did so, he noticed something new. As the fire covered the great blade, Oronis' symbol blazed to life on the shiny steel. He felt a spell activate that he knew to be the Templar spell Hand of the Sorcerer King. Since he didn't request that in the blade's construction, he was a bit surprised, but not unhappy.)

It came down to initiative. Jeremy attacked and did significant damage. Then Akive returned in kind. Jeremy knew that if he didn't take her down before she attacked again, he'd be done for. Luckily his rolls were with him and he managed to drop her with his next attack.

Following Akive's fall, the fight went out of the bandits. She was the only thing holding them together as a force and they simply surrendered. Anyone who could take her out, could easily best the rest of them, right? So the party and their army secured them all as prisoners and then combed through the village searching for every hidey hole and cache of valuables. They also secured all of the supplies and consumables. They would do nothing to harm the oasis or spend the time to destroy the adobe buildings, but they were going to march their captives all the way back to Kurn for justice and they needed all the supplies they could get to do that. Then they marched them the whole assemblage out of town.

They stopped to rest and resupply outside of Fort Meraan to let them know that, at least for a time, they would not face attacks from Ravish. Then they continued on along the base of the mountains without molestation. There was nothing willing to confront such a horde of humanoids. A little more than a week after leaving, the party returned to Kurn without having lost a single member of their small force, which was miracle enough. But they returned with a near equal number of prisoners for Kurn's justice. Larry had flown on ahead to alert the templars of their arrival, and there was a processing center set up outside the Farm Gate on their arrival. Anyone who could be salvaged would be put to work for Kurn. Those too bent on destruction to stay would be dealt with. The party didn't inquire about that but just turned them all over and washed their hands. Then their forces were disbanded, paid their wage and share of the loot, and released to petition their own freedom from indenture. 

Afterwards, Jeremy sought information about the strangeness with his axe. He started with the templars but they had no idea what would have caused it and told him to speak with the mage who enchanted it for him. So he spoke with Cunet who found it very interesting but noted that this was not part of what Jeremy had requested he enchant the item with. So he still had a mystery on his hands.

While Jeremy was searching out answers, Mark and the others sought information on new adventures. They inquired (marginally successfully) at the library for ruins or other sites in the region that might provide challenge and reward. After digging and digging and probably buying off a junior librarian, they found reference of a small ruin south of Kurn near a peninsula jutting out into the silt sea. No info about what was there or what to expect but at least it would be close.

XP: 1600

Session 11 Recap

After all the excitement at Fort Meraan, the team decided to head back to Kurn. They had plans and stuff to do.

They took the cart path along the base of the mountains in an attempt to avoid the undead from Hogalay without going all the way south to Azeth's Rest. (And Jeremy wanted another encounter…)

As luck would have it, not long after they passed the trail up to their Kobold Cave Crypt, a large boulder came crashing down the hillside toward them. They were easily able to avoid it but the Gith party that sprang out of concealment was harder evade.

The Gith party was stronger this time than last and managed to hurt everyone. The leader was a psionicist who had some punch. But they took them out after a minute or two and managed to keep one alive for questioning. Why did they keep coming back here? What were they trying to accomplish? Were there more coming? 
Too bad the Gith didn't understand the common tongue…

In the end they decided to release him to scamper back up into the mountains and continued on their way.

They stopped off, briefly, at Rockfell. Larry figured that the Janek the Ranger would want to hear about the Gith. After passing along the news and saying hello to the fire priests Letru and Tavaros, they carried on to Kurn.

In Kurn, they took two months to do various things: Jeremy commissioned a full metal target, I mean, great axe with all sorts of upgrades; Mark got himself some decent armor for the first time; Brian set about making some nasty poisons and drugs with the Poisonmaster Shetek; and Larry hired some construction workers to turn the house next door into a barn for housing the erdlu and wagons, as well as his kank.

The team also decided to recruit a small band of fighters to go after the bandit village of Ravish. After speaking with the Templar order, they were given permission to get volunteers from the ranks of the indentured slaves who would have to be paid a fair wage, get a share of any loot, and would be able to petition for release from their indenture upon their return. They amassed 30 fighters (20 3rd, 10 1st) and outfitted them with bows, armor, and spears. Once they had all finished their side projects, they set out back along the mountain route to take the fight to Akive and her lackeys. I'm sure no one in town saw a thing or passed along any information on their progress.

The two months spent in Kurn also saw the season change. Seasons are an unfamiliar thing to Drylanders, but the month of Ral's Rest gave way to Stormflood and violet thunderstorms swept across the Trembling plains. The countryside was turned into a plain of mud. The mountain path was less affected but it did slow their progress. They eventually made their return to Fort Meraan, and bivouacked the assault force outside of town while seeking information from Beorne and Willen. The exact location of Ravish and its oasis was … fuzzy. The records of previous raids indicated that it was about 2 days northwest of Fort Meraan, but that's as detailed as they got.

The force moved northwest for a full day without seeing any sign of the oasis. Larry went as high as she could and could just barely make out something that might be a village on the far horizon, another day's journey. The next day they went half a day and Larry checked again. There was definitely a village there just beyond what they could make with the time remaining. So they camped and planned to set out early the next day so as to arrive about noon.

On their approach to the village the following day, Larry saw those same dust lines as they saw during the Fort attack and they picked out 5 sail carts bearing down on their position. Three of them pulled out into the lead while the other two slowed somewhat. Brian used his napalm missiles to destroy one, but this time it exploded rather than just going up like a torch. Larry investigated and found that the three that moved ahead had no drivers or passengers but barrels of some sort stacked in the cargo area. The steering wheels had been lashed to only drive straight ahead. They took out the other two kamikaze carts, but the two with actual people had already turned and headed back to the village.

The village itself was made of mostly adobe buildings but the force did what it could to burn everything with flaming arrows and napalm dropped or thrown. After a while, everything that could burn was or had. Still not sign of an assault from the town. Until four magic acid arrows shot out from different buildings to strike the party members. They retaliated and didn't get fired on again. They waited some more, and suddenly a head popped up out of the sand (actually out of a concealed trap door) and fired off a fireball that hurt but didn't kill any of the troops. The assembled multitude returned fire and took out the caster. They had come down a tunnel from underneath the village but no one went up the tunnel to see where it went and they left it intact.

At this point there was much arguing about how to proceed. They decided to take a small force and begin clearing the buildings on the edge of the village with the rest hanging out outside to shoot at anything that reared it's head.

They cleared a few buildings and took out a few of the fighters in the village but have yet to encounter any large force. After establishing a beach head, they called in the rest of their forces. Luckily on the way in, they avoided the various sand cacti that the bandits had cultivated as protection.

Akive and her minions are in there somewhere. Waiting.

XP (Just for the Gith encounter): 1100

Session 10 Recap

The party had finished their first evening in Fort Meraan hold up in a tavern learning all about the dead city not two days travel to the southwest. Everyone here knew to give Hogalay a wide berth and couldn't imagine anyone striking off through that part of the Trembling Plains so ill-prepared as to run right into it. That would take real stupidity.

But the tavern was closing and they had no rooms to rent. The barkeep said that the Azeth trade house maintained rooms for visiting merchants and that the party would likely find a place to sleep there. So they headed to the main building in town to get rooms.

Walking through the main door into the local offices of House Azeth, they entered a well-appointed front room with a counter running the length of one wall. Behind the counter stood a man in his late 20s, who Larry and Brian recognized as Willen from their night stop along the road from the kobold crypt back to Madge the herb witch. He looked up at the bell with a smile on his face to greet them, but the hello never made it past his lips and his face turned ashen. He grabbed a small runner-boy from around a corner and told him to "Bring Beorne here immediately." The lad sprinted out of the room down a hallway.

This surprised the party, immensely. Larry and Brian greeted Willen warmly and reminded him that they knew each other. Willen acknowledged this was true and said but then clammed up again. Mark and Jeremy, who had no knowledge of this man, started getting jumpy about how weirdly he was acting, but the other two kept them from doing anything rash. It became clear that Willen was just stalling for time and Jeremy was about to lay hands on him when another figure came through one of the doors behind the counter. He stopped as soon as he saw the party and put a hand on the door frame to steady himself. Brian and Larry recognized him as Beorne the Air Cleric that was also present that night by the rocks with the caravan wagons. He looked white as a sheet as well at their presence. Beorne recovered somewhat and asked the party to follow him to the parlor. Willen lifted the runner-boy, who had returned with Beorne, onto the stool behind the desk, gave him instructions to stay and mind the counter, then followed the group into another part of the building.

Beorne led them into a comfortable room with chairs, couches, and a fireplace; obviously someplace where they could entertain particularly important representatives. He asked them to take seats and he would explain their strange reactions.

On their last trip to Kurn, before they met Brian and Larry, Beorne experienced a strange vision during one of his morning meditations. He saw images of an attack on Fort Meraan and was sure that it was something that had not yet happened. For one, he had some minor psionics of foresight but he also saw himself and Willen involved in the battle. There was much from the vision that he didn't understand, though, including faces he didn't recognize taking part in the fight to throw off the attackers as well.

On the days before they reached Kurn, Beorne conducted such auguries and divinations as he could but was not able to learn much about the attack itself or the reason for it. But he did discover that there was an individual in Kurn that somehow had knowledge of the attack – a halfling of all beings – and he intended to find him. He did find the halfling, one Cuthir, sellings miscellaneous items from a small stall down one of the alleys off the main market. (Even if the party didn't recognize his name, the description was identical to the mysterious halfling that the party had encountered before.) Beorne attempted to bargain with Cuthir for information on the attack and thought he was getting somewhere when the little fellow abruptly ended the negotiation and told him to come back when he could make a better offer.

Returning the following day, Beorne found the stall empty and no one nearby had information on his whereabouts, at least none they were willing to share. So, with his investigation at a dead end and the trade mission completed, Beorne had no choice but to rejoin the caravan and head back to Fort Meraan. He hadn't told anyone of his vision, because he didn't have enough information to go on. He figured he would bide his time and try to learn more.

Then on the return trip, they ran into Brian and Larry. Beorne recognized them instantly as two of the faces from his vision.  Beyond simply being a good person, he wanted them to stay the night with the wagons to try and learn more about them. In the morning, he did not try to get them to come with them to Fort Meraan. He knew from the vision that there were others beyond these two and that their road didn't lead there yet. But after they all parted ways he decided his had to tell Willen. That is, Willen Azeth, lead agent for the House in Fort Meraan and therefore the "mayor" of Fort Meraan. Willen trusted the Air priest in all things and so was happy to have the foreknowledge of the thread. Without more details, it was going to be hard to prepare but there were some things that could be done. And for all they knew, the fluid future might run a different course.

When the whole party had walked through their doors this evening, that possibility had died and they were confronted with the reality of the threat to Fort Meraan.

The party was shook. 
There was some talk of how they could avert this future but nothing concrete or executable. So they turned to thoughts of preparation.

Beorne told them that the attack would definitely happen during the day. So at least they knew they had one night to rest and prepare. After throwing around ideas and not getting anywhere they decided to sleep on it and start fresh in the morning. While most everyone did that, Larry – who doesn't sleep much since he got that ring of sustenance – wandered the town and the walls flirting with all the soldiers on duty.

The party rose early and set about learning about the defensive nature of the place. The Fort itself was about the size of 2 large city blocks, surrounded by 20' tall sandstone walls that were 6' thick. There was one main entry with two 10" thick wooden gates. There were 10 guards on the walls at a time, in three shifts for a total of 30 as well as a half dozen other internal security personnel in the warehouse.

As the sun came up, several small trade caravans were already lined up at the gate for admittance. The drivers said that they all camped together out in the waste when they couldn't make the Fort before nightfall. Jeremy asked Willen if this was on the up and up, and after checking with the log books Willen said that these caravans were expected and that it all seemed to be in order. Jeremy watched the gate guards search the wagons, interview the drivers, and generally do a thorough job of it but still felt that something was amiss. He asked Larry to use his canine nose to sniff around. Doing so, Larry did detect a scent that seemed famailiar, but couldn't place it and tracking it led only into the courtyard where there were many people coming and going obscuring any trail.

The party decided to just spread out and watch for anything. A full -fledged attack on the Fort would take an army, so they sent Larry aloft to watch for the dust of approaching enemies. And the day progressed with no sign of danger.

In the early afternoon, Larry called down that he did indeed see dust on the horizon coming in from the northwest, the direction of most of the bandit states. They all went to the northwest corner of the Fort walls to see what could be seen. From Larry's vantage point the situation resolved into a column of dust being kicked off the ground by something moving faster than a marching army or a wagon caravan. As the minutes ticked by the dust seemed to separate into individual lines. Someone with a spyglass said that it looked like individual lines being kicked up. Sail carts?? The sail driven attack craft of the bandit states were fast, maneuverable, and highly useful on the flats of the desert, but they weren't gnerally attack craft. The party thought that perhaps they had been laden with explosive and planned to ram the gates or the walls. When the picture resolved more and it was clear that there were only 6 sail carts each with a driver and a passenger with a crossbow, Jeremy became immediately suspicious that this was a diversion and that the real threat was already in the compound. Mark and Jeremy left the walls to test his theory, while Brian and Larry stayed with the wall's defenders.

When the sail carts came within long range, Larry and Brian attacked and managed to knock out two of the craft. Beorne himself drew his bow and let loose an arrow that struck the lead cart with a thundering CRACKOOOM!! shattering the craft utterly and leaving its occupants rolling across the sands. Brian's fiery missiles sent two up in flames. One of Larry's hits, took out the driver but the passenger was able to climb into the seat and angle the craft away to attempt an escape. Larry flew after it and prevented that. The combined might of the Fort's defenders sundered the remaining sail carts and any bandit stragglers before they could get away.

Meanwhile Jeremy and Mark were not finding anything in their scouring of the compound. They heard the fighting from the walls and knew that it would not take long to route the sail carts, so whatever was going down had to be happening right now. Luckily, Mark rounded a corner of a building and saw a group of men leaving the warehouse by a side entrance. Two pairs of men were carrying crates between them and an elf was leading them off towards the northeast corner of the Fort, away from the main conflict. Mark called to Jeremy and they converged on the group. The leader heard the call and turned to see them on the chase. He paused his run, pulled a stick of some sort from his belt and pointed it at Jeremy a point of light streaked toward him and exploded in a fireball. Hurt, but not nearly done in, Jeremy threw his two javelins at the caster and seriously wounded him. Mark took a pot shot with his psionic energy missile but wasn't able to take him out. One pair of the crate bearers dropped their burden and turned to face the oncoming threat. That bought enough time for the elf to cast a spell and disappear, leaving a circle of ash in his wake. A DEFILER!!

The other pair of bandits dropped their crate and engaged but Jeremy and Mark made quick work of them, although one survived unconscious for questioning. They weren't able to see any sign of the elf, but turned their attention to the crates. One of them had broken open from being dropped and inside were 20 high quality light crossbows. They opened the other crate and found the same there. It seemed unreasonable that they would have staged all of this for 40 crossbows, so Jeremy cast Detect Magic and all 40 of them glowed. Well that certainly changed the value proposition.

After the fight at the walls was finished, the other party members as well as Beorne and Willen came looking and found Mark and Jeremy bandaging up their wounds and putting the crates back together. After hearing the story, Larry shifted into dog form and found a trail for the elf. It was the same scent as he had smelled earlier and that also meant that he hadn't teleported away! They tracked him to the northeast corner of the compound where the group had been headed and there they found another 20' diameter circle of ash. But there was no scent up the walls or anywhere else, so he must have figured out a way to elude capture. But how did he do it?! (Out of Character: it totally was a Rope Trick spell, timed so that he could hide out until the cover of dark, rest and heal, and then make his escape. mwahahahahaha!!!!!)

After that dead end, the group consulted with Willen about the target of the raid. These two crates of magical crossbows had been the reason for their recent trip to Kurn in the first place. The aarakockra of Storm Peak had commissioned this very expensive purchase as a major upgrade to their own defenses. Each of the crossbows was +1 with the Shock ability. Loosing these weapons would have meant a substantial loss for Thunder Peak and it's inhabitants but also a quantum leap forward for the bandits who managed the heist. After looking through the wreckage and carnage at the walls, and questioning the surviving bandit (Jeremy can be very intimidating…) they learned that it was a group from Ravish, the very bandit group they wanted to find. And this would constitute a significant loss (about 20%) of their fighting strength – but still left about 60 fighters with a handful of other defilers under Akive's thumb.

In thinking about the brief encounter with the elf, Mark thought that he had looked somewhat familiar. They realized that it was the same elf that had been in their slave wagon coming up from Draj. He had not spoken much but his name was Kyloth. Somehow he had escaped after the party was bought in Aezth's Rest and found his way to Ravish. Well, it seemed likely that he would not receive anything like a warm reception if he decided to return to Ravish. But there were 6 other bandit states that would likely accept a mage.

Having stopped what would have been a major black eye to House Azeth and the aarakockra, the party began to bargain for a reward. Shoddily at first, to be honest, almost ruining any chance they had of working with House Azeth again. But they came to an agreement. Willen gave each of them an Azeth Trust Token. This white ceramic medallion is slightly larger than a ceramic piece, and does not divide into bits. One side of the medallion shows the mark of Azeth’s Rest, a palm tree set between four stones. The other side of the medallion shows the mark of House Azeth, a creature with a male human face and torso, and the body of an inix. On the side rim of the medallion, a message in picts reads: "You may give me to one you trust, but do not sell or buy me. Remember who gave me to you, and truthfully, or your name is forfeit."He says that it will allow you entrance to Azeth's rest, bring guests, and is entitled to 4 gallons of water per day, without cost. All provided that they acquired the token as a gift from someone. If it was bought or stolen, they would be banned from Azeth's Rest for life.

In addition to the trust tokens, Willen gives the party a purse of 1000 Cp.  He also agreed to speak to the aarakockra on their behalf when they came the following day to pick up their shipment. The party decided to wait for that pick up the following day to see what would come of it.

The bird people came for their property about lunchtime the following day. Flying in a triple V formation, nine aarakockra flew down from Thunder Peak. Larry was aloft to watch for them, but then she landed with the party before they arrived. 6 of the 9 alighted on the perches built for them on the eastern walls, while the other three landed in the courtyard where Willen, Beorne, the party, the crates, and some others awaited them. Willen solemly concluded their transaction and then told them that he would ask a boon for these fine adventurers who had averted catastrophe the previous day. The aarakockra all looked to Larry, naturally assuming that she was in charge of the land dwellers. Larry recounted the story of the day and made a request for two of the crossbows. The three senior bird-people conferred and then assented to the reward. In addition, the leader gestured to his left and the one there removed a cloak from his shoulders. "This is a protective cloak woven through with feathers from an ancient aarakockran wind priest. It will protect you." (Cloak of Resistance +2) Then he gestured to his right and that one removed an amulet from around her neck. "This amulet was fashioned from a piece of air drake ivory. It will protect you." (Amulet of Natural Armor +2) Then he bowed and whistled. The two triads flew down, attached lines from their harnesses to the two crates and then they all lifted off and flew off toward Thunder Peak.

The team retired to the trade house to contemplate their next moves.

XP: 3000

Session 9 Recap

The party decided that the thing to do next was to start trying to take out bandits. Their ultimate goal was to get at Akive and her bandits since they were the ones that attacked their caravan on the way into Kurn so many weeks ago.

They remembered that two of her bandit trainees had switched sides during the battle and come to Kurn to be free of her, even if it meant spending years as a slave. Using Jeremy's Templar connections (for once), they tracked down the two. The dwarf Hurli was indentured to his kinsmen in Fort Stench working in the tanning facilities there. The half-elf Zlata was indentured at the arena just outside of Farm Gate performing physical therapy services on the gladiators successful enough to afford her. The party chose to go talk to Zlata.

Zlata was able to tell them a lot about the Bandit States in general and the specific one ruled by Akive, Ravish. The seven Bandit States are villages of escaped slaves and former herders gathered around an oasis in the desert under the control of someone with the charisma or strength to hold sway. Some of the States are more violent and ruthless than others, but they all prey on merchant caravans for their own survival.

Ravish is a village of some 75-100 souls almost all of which are engaged in fighting the villages battles. Ravish is not a place for non-combatants. Akive rules with an iron fist and has maintained control of the State because she has killed any who would challenge her. Ravish is currently on the ascendant because neighboring Spoil has been spending less time defending its territory. No one in Ravish knows why Spoil has pulled back. This has allowed Akive to push further south into the Trembling Plains as was likely the reason she was leading the training squad onto the trade road that day in the first place. It became clear to the party that a direct assault on Ravish and Akive would not be smart.

In an effort to do some damage to the Bandits in general, the party decided to outfit two wagons to look like traders. The wagons would be pulled by erdlu and if things went south the party would be able to cut loose the wagons and escape (hopefully) on the erdlu which could be fast mounts for a single rider. They set about buying all that was needed.

And just when they were about ready to take off onto the road, Jeremy got a "pull" sensation from his templar sigil. Interpreting this as a call to report he went to the templar headquarters to check in. There he was told that someone had requested his help with an assignment. When the person showed up, it was Cunet, the mage that the party had been performing tasks for. He had wanted to requisition the party's help with regards to the silt quest they had finished, but didn't have their contact information and Zeek the weaponsmith wasn't available to act as an intermediary this time. Cunet wanted the party to take him to the place where they had gathered the silt and silt eel tongues. He had been performing experiments on the materials in his lab and now wanted to try them "in the wild" in the place where those materials came from. Jeremy didn't feel that they had the option of saying no, so he agreed that that they would do this. He told Cunet where their house was and they planned to meet there as soon as Cunet got the things he needed from his workshop.

The party decided to make this a trial run of the merchant setup and rigged up both wagons to go on the outing down to Silt Side. Things were pretty quiet on the way down to the Silt Sea. Cunet seemed to be deep in thought and not interested in conversation. Since they knew where they were going this time, they didn't need to stop in Silt Side but kept on going out onto the shore to the small inlet where they had collected the materials and fought the Silt Horrors the time before. Naturally, the party was nervous to be back in the same place and was very much on their guard. When they reached the spot, Cunet hopped down off the wagon and went right up to the edge of the silt. He stood there and began to cast a spell. And kept casting. And casting. And casting. There was a palpable build up of power that set even the non-spellcasters' hair on end. After nearly an hour of continuous build-up to the point where everyone was sure it simply could not continue, there was a release of power like opening a floodgate. Starting just in front of Cunet's feet, the silt began to shimmer and swirl and then transformed into water! This miraculous transformation rippled out through the silt for the distance of perhaps 100 feet before slowing, and then stopping. After a few seconds, the water sank into the silt and more silt blew in from the sea to fill the void. Cunet looked very tired but somewhat pleased with himself.

Larry perceived (via Spellcraft) that a spell of Epic level had just occurred right in front of them. After reboarding the wagon for the trip home, the party began to ask questions of Cunet to understand what they had just witnessed. Now that his purpose for the trip was complete, Cunet seemed more open to talk about it. Cunet told them that, long ago during the Cleansing Wars, one of the Chosen of Rajaat had been tasked with killing an entire underwater civilization. The mad-man had concocted a powerful spell and unleashed it on the capital city of the lizard folk. The spell did what he wanted and transmuted all of the sea water around the capital into silt. But something had gone horribly wrong. The spell didn't stop. The effect continued to spread until it had turned the entire Sunrise Sea into a vast basin filled with nothing but silt. In attempting to merely wipe out a race, he had destroyed an ocean and everything in it.

Cunet has devoted his life to trying to figure out how to undo that spell. He has made some progress and this casting represented his most successful attempt yet. But there is still much to do. The initial spell was not completely understood by the one that cast it and reached a critical tipping point that carried its effects across the sea. Without knowing where the original spell went awry it has been that much more difficult to devise a spell to reverse the effects. But he intends to keep trying. The return of an ocean would have as dramatic and potentially devastating effects on Athas as its removal did but at least water would return to the wasteland. All of this was news to the party and they spent the ride back trying to understand the implications.

After dropping Cunet off at his workshop, the party decided to rest the night and then head out onto the road to try their bandit trap for real.

The next morning, they set out down the trade road. Leaving town they felt that "recognition" as they passed through the gates that they took to be connected to the geas that Oronis had laid on them. The road was good and the way clear, so they made it pst Fort Stench the first day and past Stonerock Cascade the second. This area is well within the high security zone maintained by the Black Brethren around Kurn so no bandits were in sight. After these two days on the road, the party decided that they needed to get off the protected road if they were going to attract any bandit attention. So they decided to leave the road and travel for Fort Meraan at the southern tip of the White Mountains. Larry and Brian could call on the traders they had met and learn more about this part of the area.

After a day of uneventful travel, the party made camp in the Trembling Plains themselves. The night was quiet until Larry's watch just before dawn, when a group of forms came shambling out of the night. It looked like dwarven zombies and human-sized skeletons were coming to attack. The party managed to destroy the undead and finished the night in peace. In the morning, they could tell from tracks that the undead had come from the direction that they were headed, so they decided to keep a watch for other suspicious activity during the day but nothing materialized. That night they camped again on the plains and set watch.

This time, during Brian's watch, he barely heard the approach of a dozen small forms before they swarmed into the circle of light cast by the fire. These were zombies the size of halflings or smaller but with features that none of the group had ever seen. Different even from the "kobold" creatures that built the cave burial chamber. But the 12 of them set to attacking the party. Once again, they were successful in destroying the intruders and once again the trail led directly along the path they were taking.

The next day as they continued along their way, around noon they saw what looked like buildings of some sort on the horizon. Larry took to the air to try and get a better look. What he saw astounded him. It was a city in ruins, but populated with forms that moved around with the shambling gate of undead. A ruined city filled with undead. A city easily the size of Kurn filled with undead. As many undead as you might find people in a populated city of that size. What the hell was going on?!? But she also saw one very large undead heading directly toward the party's position and flew back to prepare them.

The form that approached the party appeared to be the zombie of a giant. As big as the brute's they had seen wading in the Sea of Silt on the wagon ride north from Draj. Carrying an enormous morning star. Through the use of ranged attacks and Jeremy's extra hit points, they defeated the giant and decided to get further away from the dead city. They traveled south until they figured they were about a day's ride from the city and then made a wide circle around the city to get to Fort Meraan. They encountered a pair of Ghouls before reaching the safety of the town but were able to dispatch them without too much trouble.

Once they reached the fortified trading post of Fort Meraan, Jeremy's templar credentials got them through the gate. Jeremy went immediately to one of the few bars in town and started asking questions about the city to the southeast. "oh yeah, Hogalay. Best stay away from that place." By asking a number of people they were able to string together some parts of the story.

Hogalay had been a prosperous city in the years before the Cleansing Wars. It had boasted a diverse and tolerant society, mainly dwarfs but with residents of all the peaceful races. The dwarven king and queen of the city were powerful clerics of earth and provided protection to the city. But 3500 years ago during the Cleansing Wars, one of Rajaat's champions was set to destroy the city and the dwarves that lived there. During the battle, the king was killed saving his wife. Driven mad with anger and grief, she called up her power and spent her life force to lay a curse on every being within the walls of Hogalay. The dead of both sides rose and slew the living, who then rose themselves in undeath. It is said that the king and queen still rule their city, now populated by the dead of the residents and the attacking army.

Turns out, most people don't take the direct route from the trade road where the party set off cross-country. Travel to the north and Kurn often takes the route along the base of the White Mountains, as the party was doing that met Larry and Brian. Travel to the south goes more or less directly southwest to Azeth's Rest. House Azeth is in control here so that also makes sense.

The party rested in Fort Meraan to decide on their next move.

XP: 1750

Session 8 Recap

So Jeremy's character got put on KP for mouthing off to one of the non-human templars above him and was taken out of the action for a bit. And Mark found himself up to his eyeballs in psions at the House of the Mind trying to figure him out, so he was busy too. ;) 
That left Brian and Larry to do a little exploring of their own.

They managed to sell of the crystal from the spider's web to Zeek the weaponsmith that you all sold the METAL SHORTSWORD to. He gave you 540 Cp for the lot in addition to an agreement to let you buy 1 large, 1 medium, and 2 small weapons at the regular price for obsidian weapons (instead of the gold price that this material will command).

In addition, Brian decided to sell the crystal spider's poison gland to Shetek the poisonmaster rather than try to spend a year turning it into usable poison. He gave them 200 Cp for it plus a promise of 1 does of the poison when he has finished refining it (a 1000 Cp value).

With Brian a newly minted Ranger, the pair decided to pay a visit to Jannek, the Ranger in Rockfell who crafted Larry's bow. He's retired now and they thought he might have some ranger-ish things that needed doing that he just didn't have time for anymore. Upon arrival in Rockfell in the afternoon, they did not find him right off. They tried the inn and he didn't show up that evening. So they got a room and figured to inquire the next day. In the mean time they decided to entertain the townspeople with performing. Larry's Dance of the Seven Wings drew a lot of excitement, but Brian's Halfling poetry apparently lost something in the translation. They were always on their best behavior to try and repair some of the reputational damage the party did after the incident with the Rain priestess.

Later in the evening, Letru the fire priest came into the inn and greeted them … warmly. rimshot He said that Jannek doesn't always come to the inn but he told them where his cottage was just outside of town where they could go the next day.

So the following morning, they rode the kank out to Jannek's. Announcing themselves outside, Jannek came out to meet them. They offered their services if Jannek had some small tasks that he just wasn't going to be able to do anymore. He said that there were other rangers in the White Mountains and most of the significant things had already been taken up. But there was one thing. There is an herb witch named Madge from somewhere south in the Drylands who came here a decade ago and set up in one of the low valleys of the mountains about a day's ride outside of Rockfell. She doesn't make it into town very often so Jannek used to check in on her on occasion, but hadn't been for several months. Brian and Larry volunteered to go see her. Brian was especially interested in her herb knowledge. Jannek gave them a list of small things he usually took out with him when he visited as well as a token to give her so that she knew he vouched for them.

They went briefly to town and loaded up a small box with the items on the list and then set out for her home. Brian found that he could strap the box down to the kank and then ride in it with all the other baggage.

They traveled into the foothills and found the mouth of the valley. Out of the valley flowed a small stream. A moving body of water!?! The two of them jumped off the kank and proceeded to bathe and splash around in the shallow flow. It was cold from the snow up above that fed it during this dry time of year. The stream essentially ended just outside the valley as the water soaked into the ground.

After slaking their fascination with the stream they returned to the trail that followed it into th valley. As they got further into the valley, the already abundant (for Athas) vegetation grew even more lush. The steep valley sides became crowded with plants and trees and bushes of all sorts. And around a bend in the trail, they entered a clearing in the valley bottom in which nestled a cottage and garden on a grassy clearing.

After announcing themselves and meeting Madge, they talked at length. Brian was impressed by the depth of her herbal knowledge, particularly of "hidden" things such as halfling poisons. But she also had an impressive pharmacopia and claimed to have the only stand of Esperweed within several weeks ride. Brian was looking for local plants that could be substituted into his tribe's traditional poison recipe and they were able to exchange some knowledge along those lines.

After striking up a budding friendship with her, they asked if there was anything that she just couldn't get that might be within their power to find and provide. She said that the only thing she could think of was a particular kind of fertilizer for one of her most special charges. She said that if they ever came across (or created) the remains of a defiling wizard, she would see it put to use in repairing some amount of the damage they caused in life.

Larry remembered that the cave where the Gith were hold up had that hidden area where there was a wizard with implements of defiling magic. They offered to go retrieve the remains and return. Madge was very happy at the prospect. She hosted them for the night and they left early the next morning.

By timing when they stopped, they were able to make it to the cave without having to camp in the open. They reached the cave and camped in the back reaches where they hoped they'd be safe, and in fact they were unmolested. In the morning, they collected the remains by simply folding up the robes and sheets that he had laid down upon. After making a quick search of the cave again just to be sure they hadn't missed anything, they set out again, intent on making the edge of civilization before nightfall.

Well, they didn't quite make it. It was after dark and they decided they needed to stop, so they searched along the foothills to find a defensible spot. As luck would have it, they found one but it was already occupied. Several wagons were pulled up around a large fire up against a rock outcrop. Larry succeeded in covertly flying close enough to see a number of human-type folks around the fire and the wagons were branded with the symbol of House Azeth. So they decided to risk approaching.

They were introduced to Beorne, a Wind Priest, and Willen, the house agent in charge of the small caravan. They explained that they were taking the long way along the foothills from Kurn to the trading outpost of Fort Meraan at the southern tip of the White Mountains. There wasn't much in the way of time pressure on the trip, and a little adventure often paid off in some way for them. Even though Aarakocra visit Kurn directly, most of the routine trade between House Azeth and both Winter Nest and Storm Peak happened through Fort Meraan.
They invited the two to join them at the fire that night to which they agreed and offered to share the watch. Over the evening, they discussed trade and such things but Beorne also noted on the rarity of halflings, at least sociable ones, in Kurn's environs. To be so rare and yet they had now encountered two separate ones in the last few weeks. This obviously piqued their interest and they asked about this other halfling. Some of the merchants' activities and needs took them into side alleys off the main marketplace in Kurn. They were working on a deal with a halfling at his stall (he wasn't at liberty to say what kind of goods were being negotiated) when the little man declared that a deal was not in the offing and that Beorne could return when he had a serious offer to put on the table. He went back later to try again but there was no sign of the halfling. That had been a week ago.

In the morning, the merchants continued west after the pair headed out to the east. They made an uneventful trip back through to Madge's cottage over the next few days. When they showed up on her doorstep, she was surprised that they were able to make the trip so quickly, but she welcomed them and told them to follow her so that they could see what this was all about.

Following her into the deepest part of the woods, things got impossibly even more lush and verdant until they broke out under the branches of an immense tree, hundreds of feet tall with a trunk 20' in diameter. Madge explained that this was a Tree of Life. Larry, and even Brian, could feel the life force just radiating off the tree (and Larry felt sure that he would be able to do some interesting new Druidic things under it's branches). Larry had also seen a tree like this in the Grove of Kurn. She went on to explain that the tree would protect the surrounding land from defiling magic by absorbing the damage itself. While not inexhaustable, a Tree of Life is very hard to kill completely and would regrow to full size in a matter of weeks even if chopped down.

As for the remains, she took the ashes and bone fragments and put them into a wheelbarrow. Then, with a sledge, she made sure is was all of an even powder consistency and then mixed it in with compost and manure. She then began to spread the mixture around the base of the tree and work it into the soil. The pair of adventurers could feel the life energy knob turned up to 11 at least briefly and offered to help.

Afterwards, in keeping with her promise to reward them, Madge gave Brian a box of herbs that he could use to make his traditional poison, a package of weomre leaves, as well as a small box of esperweed root. She cautioned him that it would not keep more than a week without some form of magical stasis or stabilization so he should begin processing it into whatever he was going to make soon or pass it along to someone else who could.

So there were no battles and no treasure of the normal kind. But the pair made contacts, perhaps even friends, in several parts of the area and came away with some potentially valuable herbal resources.

XP: 500

Session 7 Recap

After going through some rigmarole with Zeek (the swarven weapon merchant they sold the sword to), the party is able to make a connection to one of the wizards in the Maker's Clave who is willing to hire them off the books to perform tasks for him in return for a reduction in the cost of magic items he makes for the group. At the moment, Cunet only had two tasks that needed doing.

The party first opts to bring him the 10 silt eel tongues and wagon-load of silt that he asked for. They spend a little money to purchase a wagon and some crodlu to pull it as well as barrels and other tools, then set out for Silt Side to find someone who can provide the expertise to accomplish they task.

I Silt Side, the group experiences the cold war footing that exists between Kurn and Eldaarich. Silt Side is a trade villiage maintained by House Azeth, but the Black Brethren of Kurn provides the security. Kurnish Templars are also in evidence. On the other side of the marketplace, Eldaarich templars and military stand behind the stalls from that city. It is unclear if they are there to insure that no one takes advantage of their merchants to to keep their merchants from trying to escape.

The party finds a leatherworker who claims to have knowledge of how to capture silt eels. The party hires him for the cost of what he would make at his stall in an average day as well as the unneeded remains of the eels. He takes them down the shoreline of the sea to a small inlet a few miles out of town. There he has them set up their nets to be able to pull in the eels and then club them in the head once they were on the shore. The others set to filling up the barrels with silt for the other part of the task.

As they were finishing up, the group was set upon by a swarm of Black Silt Horrors. In what was actually a pretty unworried fight, the group took out all five and even managed to pull three of the bodies ashore where Brian could extract the poison glands from them for later processing.

After returning the silt-related items to Cunet, and not having anything else they were willing to do, they set off after his other request, which was 4 eggs worth of shell from a Roc's nest. As a first step, they headed back to Rockfell, because they knew that there was a ranger there. He confirmed that there are Rocs that nest in the White Mountains but he couldn't tell them which nests were occupied or vacant at the moment.

After some prompting, Larry remembered that Druids can speak with animals via a spell. That allowed them to zero in on where to look. On the first night out into the mountains, the group was set upon by a pair of Tigones and survived (because the DM forgot some of their powers). Jeremy skinned the cats for their really cool fur.

The next day they continued upwards into the mountains. From the air, Larry could see something shimmering in the path and called down a warning, but Mark was to clumsy too avoid stumbling right into the crystal spider's web. He takes damage but manages to extract himself and the spider attacked. It was close a couple of times, what with the spider's laser and all, but the party eventually triumphs. They realize that there are gems and shinies embedded in the web but also that it's incredibly strong, incredibly sharp crystal that probably would make some amazing weapons. They take it apart carefully and bundle it up in the tent they've been carrying around in the saddlebags. They camp and are fortunate enough to not be disturbed before morning.

The final day they reach the crest of the mountains and are able to track down a Roc nest that is unoccupied. After clamoring into the nest to extract the shells, the party decided to see if there were any valuable remains in amongst the detritus but is beset by a nest of boring beetles who had made the nest their home in the absence of the nest's creator. This one almost ended the party, but they were able to finally kill all the beetles. They grabbed all the egg shell fragments they needed and evacuated the area.

XP: 3750

From the Crystal Spider's Web
Amber (100 Cp)
Hematite (9 Cp)
Hematite (13 Cp)
Rock Crystal (50 Cp)
3 gold pieces

From the Roc's Nest
Two Wands
A very fine obsidian dagger
A small chest of rare spices. (50 Cp)


I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.