The First Day
Trapped in comfort is still trapped.

The game got off to a late start with last-minute character math and absurd amounts of gp remaining to be spent, along with the fact that we gathered on New Year’s Day and convened at 4pm. We didn’t start until some time around 8pm.

The game also got off to a somewhat rocky start because of my lack of preparation. That notwithstanding:

For various reasons, Orphan, Sierrafinia, Luvanar, and Eilonwy happened to be in the same place at the same time, when they were suddenly attacked by strange, apparently demonic or angelic creatures. It was hard to tell exactly what, because they were invisible, but Luvanar’s see invisibility and Oprhan’s _glitterdust _helped shed some light on the subject. One of them identified himself (telepathically, to Luvanar) as Nekemneron Magekiller; the rest did not bother with such pleasantries.

Whatever these creatures were, they fought with powerful weapons that caused the PCs to bleed what appeared like golden sand when struck, although the wounds suffered were most grievous and painful. The PCs were summarily defeated, but did not die, instead falling through darkness and a golden/amber haze into a strange realm that gave them everything that they desired, as long as it was edible or made them feel good. Orphan took advantage of the realm’s apparently endless supplies of food and drink, while the ithers, most notably Sierrafinia, were a little more cautions, but eventually gave in. Teleportation and similar magics did not work in this place, and other modes of planar travel were impossible, at least by conventional magic means.

After wandering around, they found a small cottage by a lake where an older halfling woman dwelt with several large mastiffs. She identified herself as Aurelina, and offered the PCs whatever hospitality they could ask for. When questioned about the place that they were in, she insisted that since they were there, they had been sent there, and had to remain. It was her task to make sure that they were comfortable in this place, but would offer little other information than that. When asked if others came and what they did, her answers seemed not to line up exactly- others came for as long as they were there, they built such structures as suited them, but she could not tell anyone where nor whom these other people were. There was an end to this place, but they were advised not to step over it, as they might come to harm.

So naturally, the PCs went looking for the edge of the place, much to the anger of their hosts. Another cottage appeared on a plain (which only appeared after Sierrafinia wanted to eat dandelions), this one tended by a younger, but still rounded halfling woman named Rosalina. Elionwy used true seeing to scan the place, and found that the lake had a haze of golden dust around it, and that Rosalina was more than she seemed, she carried a silver trumpet of some kind that was strangely curled and had a woven texture to it.

After an intense question-and-answer session where the PCs found that they were strongly advised not to look in the lakes, and if they desired to swim in the lakes, they should instead swim in the river, awkward battles and rule-wrangling ensued. Sierrafinnia decided to swim, bllindfolded, in the lake, where she heard the sounds of the world that they had left. After telling the others, they decided that entering the lake was the proper course of action.

The PCs managed not to actually kill anything or even sustain real injury, instead finding freedom from this strange prison plane by swimming to the bottom of the lake. The PCs emerged from the lake to find themselves amidst the carnival that sprouts up around the Council of Kingdoms. Elionwy was first to escape, then when Orphan emerged next to her, they were able to see Luvanar struggling through a haze of golden mist.

Sierrafinia eluded the cottage (which had risen up in outrage at the PC’s attempt to escape), and adroitly dove down a channel in the water that Elionwy had created straight to the bottom and made her escape with Luvanar.

The party rejoined at this point and took stock of their surroundings. Some distance off, hitched to a post by the Council building, a heavily-muscled nightmare waited, concealed from the world by the same golden haze that those who had emerged from the portal were able to see those who had not yet escaped. The creature’s hide was carved with runes in Abyssal, Celestial, Infernal and another language that even comprehend languages could not unravel. Those that the party was able to read were accounts of various major conflicts, from the Blood War to civil strife between neighboring kingdoms.

And on that ominous note, we ended.

While You Were Out...
The times, they are a-changin'.

Only a few moments afterSierrafinia, Orphan, Luvanar, and Eilonwy emerged from the portal, Eilonwy was stricken by some form of sudden terror/anxiety and fled, telling the others that she would catch up with them when she could.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, two strangers, a seven-foot man wearing an exquisitely crafted porcelain mask and a rugged-looking woodsman with a paisely scarf around his neck were attacked by invisible assailants. Sierrafinia recognized the harpoon/dimensional anchor combo and turned on her scout’s headband so she could see the enemies. Luvanar saw them as well, and Orphan started chanting “Wall of Demons.”

Nekemneron Magekiller gave his salute to the masked man and laid into him (although the masked one was able to see him) while Darastelga invisibly shellacked the woodsman with her greataxe. He gave nearly as good as he got, thanks to Sierrafinia hurting her and forcing her to give away her position (along with a crossbow bolt in her leg- Darastelga promised Sierrafinia some physical improbabilities involving various parts of her body and her crossbow), then the brawny outsider had to change her tactics slightly because of the outside interference. Luvanar kept raining spells down on them, but they seemed to be immune to much of his magics. Finally, mass hold monster took hold of Nekemneron (ironically), who was forced to flee. Everyone turned their attention to Darastelga until Nekemneron reappeared and flew down to Masks and resumed trying to take him out.

The Band arrived and used their powers to reveal the locations of the enemies. The lead singer realized just what they were up against, and asked Orphan which god she hand angered, that would send concordant killers to kill her. Orphan didn’t really care, instead wading into the fray to not hit anything.

Darastelga conjured a blade barrier which the party was able to avoid, then Luvanar drew upon his mastery of things arcane to imbue an arrow with some sort of countercharm and turn the magic against her. This spectacular tactic would have worked, but she seemed to be warded against force effects. Sierrafinia started sniping from cover to great effect, just before Dogar was defeated.

Luvanar and Sierrafinia, realizing that the two they were trying to help were going to be defeated, told them to swim to the bottom of the lake. At the time, it didn’t seem to make any sense, especially considering the situation that they were in.

Luvanar cast ironguard on the people in his eldritch weave, which the two concordant killers realized would render any attempts at extracurricular mayhem more difficult than it ought to be (Darastelga was already very injured at this point and didn’t know if she could keep getting shot at) Darastelga decided that she’d done what she’d been paid to do and left, with a mocking salute to Luvanar, whose magics she had laughed off, and the Orphan, whose weapons had as yet to harm her. Masks tried to flee, but couldn’t get far enough from Nekemneron, who spread his wings and chased him down. Luvanar promised to find a way to unmake him as he defeated Masks, but the outsider laughed and simply telported away.
In the wake of the battle, Luvanar realized that he might need to get some intelligence in order to determine what exactly is going on. So, he teleported to the Mage’s Consulate and had a conversation with the Librarian, one Enrellan Ansovald, and his unwilling companion, the Seven-headed Terror of Chimrill Ridge. Over steadily stronger drinks, the situation (as far as either of them understood it) unfolded as follows:

*The four who disappeared from the Teyrn Statue Garden have been gone for four months, even though it only seemed like two days to them.
*A god or gods have sent concordant killers to slay/defeat the party and probably others as well, given recent events.
*Luvanar feels that the people being targeted are people that might work to stem the outbreak of war across the world, regardless of their level of personal power, even incidentally influential people were being removed and tucked away in that strange dimension.
*The nature of the pocket dimension that they were sent to and the golden sand is still unknown.
*The nightmare that the party saw once they had gathered outside the Council of Kingdoms hall is indicative of an Abstract- an incarnation of a concept or force greater than any deity. This particular Abstract, if it is indeed such a thing, is most likely the Abstract of War.
*The presence of any Abstract is a sign of great portent in the life cycle of a world.

The Librarian gave Luvanar a few books on the several subjects that they discussed, and Luvanar left in a hurry.

Meanwhile, Orphan wandered off, making friends of the people around her. Many of them seemed to be especially interested in her for her appearance, and had small flags or other tokens that they waved at her. The rest, she simply used her powers of persuasion on. She quickly assembled a large crowd, including several members of the security forces for the Council (they had an astonishingly quick response time- their guardsmen arrived in less than thirty seconds after the start of the battle, but still not quickly enough to be of any help to the defeated). One of them, a soldier named Ahrenholz managed to resist her powers and nearly arrested (or attemted to arrest) her, but Sierrafinia smoothed out the confrontation with a more-or-less truthful explanation. The guard agreed to wait for Luvanar, who could explain the situation better.

Luvanar returned. Luvanar explained that Great Things were afoot, and that war was likely to break out at any moment because of outside interference. Ahrenholz explained that it already was:
*The Giants were coming back to Irunnia. They claimed that a corruption had set into Giant Country and that they were forced to flee it. Iif anyone tried to stop them from returning to the mainland, they would consider it an act of war.
*The High Elves were going to war against the Settled Orcs because their princess had been raped by the estranged brother of the Orcish king.
*an army called “the Black Velvet Legion” was carving a swath through Lotash, apparently intent on liberating it from the oppressive rule of its various leaders.

Aren felt that the three of them needed to see his captain immediately, as someone else had been struck down and disappeared by an invisible assailant. Luvanar felt that he needed to speak to the Queen of the High Elves and try to dissuade her from her genocidal designs, and the guard complied.
Luvanar found an low-ranking noble, who believed that he was there to aid the cause, and took him to see the Queen. Luvanar tried his best to make her see reason, but Jardeth Kathaor was set on her path of destruction. The only thing that she would hear from Luvanar was his oath of fealty to aid her.When he would not give it, she dismissed him.

Meanwhile, Dogar fell through a void of darkness and golden haze… to land in a raging blizzard. Using his woodland skills, he was able to make his way to a snug cottage where a halfling named Rosalina dwelt. She offered him food and shelter, but Dogar was wary of it all, wishing he could sleep outside, but the weather clearly was not going to oblige him. Masks made his way to the place shortly after and made himself quite at home.

Dogar left the cottage as soon as he could, trudged off in the direction that he saw a clearing that was most likely to be the lake, and was shortly attacked by some wolves, which injured him, but he was able to defeat them. There was a picket fence around the lake, which Dogar started to hop over, but grew in response to his attempt. He then started attacking the fence with his swords. The adamantine blade made short work of the fence, but it was slow going, and the cold iron blade was hardly effective. The weather rapidly worsened, the air dropping to blood-chilling temperatures that would have killed lesser men, but Dogar pressed on, until his frantic chopping started sending chunks of ice and wood flying back at him. Bloody and chilled, he returned to the cottage, where Rosalina gave him a luxurious towel and offered him a seat by the fire, which Dogar declined. He did allow Rosalina to heal him, however, which she did after explaining that she “knew a little magic.” Dogar stayed up through the night until the sun rose while Masks worked at his pottery wheel and ate the most delicious asparagus ever.

The next morning, the snow had drifted 5 feet high in places. The cottage was snowed in. Dogar was really annoyed, and climbed out the window after fashioning some snowshoes out of a bedsheet and some broomsticks. He set off again, and was ambushed by some polar bears, but flew away from them. The fence grew to match his flight, so he raised his Man Level and went to work on it with his two blades, eventually cutting a hole in it as the weather intensified.

Masks woke up and had a hearty breakfast. It was the best breakfast perhaps in the history of great breakfasts. He then talked with Rosalina about a few things, and offhandedly mentioned how nice it would be if there was a theater nearby. Almost on cue, a trio of halflings arrived in a dog-pulled sled, and dug the house out. Masks asked about this, Rosalina explained that “the boys from town always come and dig her out,” and he didn’t quite believe her. Nevertheless, he continued to avail himself of this strange plane’s hospitality, politely asking one of the three to look after Dogar, while the other two came inside and played “hide the metamagic rod” with each other and with Masks. Rosaslina politely left the cottage at that point.

Masks would have been happy to see one of them murder the other and start scrawling messages in blood on the walls, but that didn’t happen. That may have been the last straw.

Dogar hacked a hole in the fence and slipped through, to see that there was probably two feet of ice over the lake. It was clearly not natural ice; it was a uniform thickness throughout, but the ranger was at a loss as to what to do. First he gathered up some pieces of the broken fence and started a fire, just managing to keep it going in the howling wind. Then he finally came to his wits’ end and started attacking the ice sheet with his swords, breaking through and falling into the chill water. He held his breath and started swimming.

Masks grew tired of the games with the boys from town, and went outside with them, and tried to order them to take him to the lake. They refused. Masks tried to capture them, but they were too quick for him. Rosalina came around the side of the house, and the two of them had a staredown. Masks broke first, and tried to attack the house with his chains. The chains would not attack the house, instead mocking him. Masks turned and left the place, or tried to.

Rosalina cast a pair of spells on Masks, rendering him nearly helpless. His strength fled him and he collapsed under the weight of his gear, and she dragged him back into the house, tucked him into bed, and broke his feet with a large hammer. She set them improperly and used healing magic so he could not move as quickly.

Masks tried to step into the shadow realm, but he couldn’t. So, he was forced to lie in bed for three days while he recovered.

Dogar started swimming down to the bottom of the lake, as he had been told. A Large-sized something was waiting for him, so he swam up to it and killed it. Dogar was not an exceptionally capable swimmer, but he didn’t drown. He emerged through the bottom of the lake perhaps twenty feet from where he had left, less than three hours from when he had disappeared, wet, shivering and sorely wounded.

Luvanar explained to Orphan that she was being used by some other force, and used a cunning net of words to entice Orphan into inciting less people into an anti-Lotash riot, and perhaps to do something that he wanted her to. I missed part of the discussion.

Masks finally recovered, and broke his own feet, using fiendish resilience to fix them. He walked downstairs. Rosalina apologized for what she did. She seemed truly sorry. Masks made her an offer- one of them could stay in the cottage, and the other could leave. If Masks stayed, he would see if he could bend the cottage to his will Rosalina immediately offered to leave, but explained that the cottage would not obey him unless he raised the blackness from his heart. Masks explained that that would never happen, and besides, he didn’t think that she understood what he meant. The two of them went back and for the for awhile, the Halfling not understanding what he meant, until he took his mask off, looked her in the eye, and put it in simpler terms about what was likely to happen if he were to remain in this place, given who his masters were and the nature of his mission.

Rosalina. Was. Frightened.

She asked Masks to remain for a short time while she conferred with her superiors. She returned an hour later, and returned Masks to the island of Garbesh. Masks arrived just in time to see Dogar in a new suit of clothes, looking for a place outside to crash.

Sierrafinia and Orphan declined to attend the Council session, instead going to a bar (with the intention to get drunk, at least Orphan) while Luvanar went by himself. As he walked into the building, he could not see the nightmare.

A Night at the Bar
Mindless self-indulgence: 1, Party cohesion: 0.

As mentioned last time, Orphan and Sierrafinnia went to the bar (The Lazy Dragon Inn) while Dogar had some unfinished business to take care of, and Luvanar went to the Council Meeting. Orphan started working on getting good and drunk, challenging other patrons to drinking, then punching contests.

A dark-skinned warrior wearing Volhkerhaast colors and a large sword (I forgot to mention that in-game) helped the loser of Orphan’s punching game to his feet, and Sierrafinnia tried to read his thoughts. She was unable to get through his defenses, but she did pick up the stray thoughts of his dark-haired companion, who she decided to chat up while listening in on her underthought:

“Oh, Orren, always helping folk. I love ye fer it, but d’you always have to do it?”

>cognitive dissonance< O’Creagh? That’s impossible! How could she… >apparently communicating mentally with something else< I know, but-

>alarm/outrage/disgust/shame< reading my mind?!

The woman, who was known by the name Xiandra Balefire, was shocked to find out that Sierrafinnia was who she was, and accused her mother of causing her family much pain and loss of status. Sierrafinnia had had no idea that the curse on her was the result of so much trouble, and offered to help out if she could. Xiandra put her off, as she was very clearly uncomfortable around the pixie.

As this was happening, Orphan challenged the Volkerhaasti, whose name was Orren, to a punching game. He politely declined, then seemed shocked to see her there, insisting that she was last in Lotash a month ago. Orphan did not like that line of conversation, and instead began concentrating more on getting drunk. Xiandra withdrew from Sierrafinnia, and told Orren something about her encounter. She too was taken aback by Orphan’s appearance, certain that she was in the company of with General Marcos Demmill in Lotash, far away from here, and on campaign. This made Orphan angry, and while Orren managed to defuse the situation, the two of them were not to become the best of friends. Orren and Xiandra left the bar shortly afterward,

Sierrafinnia tried to talk to Orphan, but she remained closed to her, so Sierrafinnia performed a song about how even despair must pass, followed by a lively song about taking life by the short hairs and yanking for all you’re worth on her harp, much to the delight of the patrons of the place.

Meanwhile, Eilonwy found a curious stone tablet under distressing circumstances while she was gone. She returned and found Masks, who spoke to her briefly, thinking that she had been sent back from the strange realm of golden sand and halfling comforts. She hadn’t, but she had been there, so they bonded briefly, despite Bleddyn being unsettled by the seven-foot masked man and Eilonwy unsettled his tales of what he did to the halflings while he was their guest.

Luvanar wandered back at some point, I don’t remember when, and said that he would be gone for a little while, and that he would catch up as soon as he could.

Masks and Eilonwy found the others, and everyone looked over the tablet. Only Sierrafinnia and Eilonwy were able to read it, and it seemed to be some sort of riddle. They tried to show it to Orphan and Masks, who could not see the riddle.Orphan didn’t care about it, since she was not interested in words written anywhere, and had had more than enough words for several days, after having listened to Luvanar talk so much. Masks put on a mask with no mouth, which Orphan approved of. They talked about the problems of words and emotions, and she felt that they had a moment. Orphan shared her devilweed with him, ranted a bit more, then passed out mid-tirade. The innkeeper rifled her pockets to pay for all the alcohol she’d drank, which was a lot, but Orphan had no money with which to pay, so Sierrafinia covered her, as well as a room for a few nights. Two of the workers at the Inn carried her upstairs, and put her to bed.

Masks tried to take the stone, and touch it with his chains, but the stone did not like that at all, turning into a rough-hewn stone rat and trying to flee from him. Eilonwy caught it and stowed it in her bag of holding, patting it to soothe it. They also made a permanent image of the stone in a discreet corner, in an attempt to show the others what they saw, as trying to transcribe the riddle failed. Finally, they deduced that perhaps their place of origin (The Blue Tree Wilderness) might have been the reason.

Armed with this information, they sought out Xiandra, who was likely from there, or at least its surrounds, and after several entertaining and tasty distractions and an encounter with an enthusiastic fat man, who told them that Xiandra and her companions had defeated the pit fiend that was ravaging the front lines in the battles between Cardinnia and Lotash, they tracked the girl down.

Masks, apparently bored or restless, began wandering the room and relieving patrons of their money. Sierrafinnia caught a glimpse of this before she left, as the weed had slowed down Masks’ reaction time a little.

Xiandra was less than pleased to see Sierrafinia back so soon. She admitted that she was from around the area of Blue Tree, but she could not see anything on the stone. She called for Kevin, who turned out to be an old friend of Eilonwy’s, who seemed to be more knowledgeable of the ways of magic than she was, and he could not see anything either, though he did confirm that the stone was indeed powerful magic.

Back at the Lazy Dragon, Masks found a playmate, and was looming over the hapless fellow, who kept backing away from him, saying that Masks should stay away from him. The other bar patrons were interested in this, as it’s not every day that a 7-foot wraithlike man wearing a porcelain mask with animated chains emanating from his body tries to intimidate someone in your favorite bar.

The man’s distress reached a peak, and two of the barbacks approached Masks and told him to lay off. Masks replied with some sort of cryptic phrase that I can’t remember, and they tried to club him. Masks was too fast for them, a burly man named Ferd, lowered his shoulder and shoved Masks back 30 feet. The patrons “Ooooh’ed” at that. Masks asked Ferd if he wished to change his part, or something almost as cryptic, and said something else along the line of stage direction that a random commoner with an Int of 8-10 wouldn’t understand, then whipped out his chains and flayed the man’s face off. Ferd was dead before he even knew what happened.

Stunned silence, followed swiftly by bedlam and panic ensued as everyone in the bar ran the hell away from Masks, screaming for the guards, who were already on High Alert after talking to Luvanar barely two hours ago and finding out something about the concordant killer attacks. Within minutes, they mobilized a party to capture or subdue the perpetrator, while Masks calculated the price of a room at the inn, and lay down.

Several archers took shots at Masks while more soldiers and a pair of iron golems lurked downstairs. Masks jumped out the window and hid in the shadows. Orphan woke slightly from all this commotion, and fluttered past some frantically running soldiers to get a bottle from the bar and resume her bender.

Masks tried to retaliate, but the wizard in charge of the arresting party was prepared for him, and closed him in a plane of ice, trapping him for a moment while the others rounded the corner. They demanded his surrender.

And Masks surrendered, allowing himself to be manacled. They clapped a pair of antimagic shackles on him, and marched him away. Orphan came out of the inn, and tried to explain that Masks was a good guy, and that he had died, but come back to life, so that that might have made him a little crazy, and that they should let him go.

It didn’t work. The wizard caught a whiff of Orphan’s self-medication, and decided that whatever she had to say could probably use some wringing out. Eilonwy and Sierrafinnia realized that Orphan might have woken up, and were hustling back to the Inn when they came across this procession. They fell in line, and got some idea of what had happened.

The group went to the Council of Kingdoms, down to the lower levels, where Masks was tried. The trial was as ridiculous and brief as the events that led to it. Fifteen eyewitnesses, including the other barback were present and identified Masks as the perpetrator, and described what Masks had done. Eiulonwy and Sierrafinnia were horrified by this turn of events. Masks insisted that he did not do it, claiming several things, including, but not limited to:

  • Ferd had asked to die.
  • The Chains were not under his own control, even though they apparently came from his body.
  • Another wizard had or could have caused the chains to kill Ferd.
  • Masks had acted entirely in self-defense.

None of these arguments swayed the court. Masks was sentenced to be executed in five days. Masks made the request to be buried in the earth after he was killed. They agreed.

Sierrafinnia and Eilonwy went looking for Luvanar, but he had left the building, last seen heading from the Valdarian embassy. He walked away from there, but may have teleported after that. Orphan kept following the judge, telling him that he needed to let Masks go, that they had been killed but didn’t die, that she had been killed and didn’t die, that one of the angels who had killed her had probably killed this guy, and other things. The judge simply replied that she needed to bring back proof before he would do anything.

Orphan felt that Eilonwy and Sierrafinia needed to help her get Masks out of jail, because Masks had been killed, and needed to kill someone else, or something. Sierrafinnia poked a hole in Orphan’s argument, sighed, and tried to tell her that she was going down a dark path which would only result in a bad end. Orphan did not get it, instead deciding to look for Xiandra, as she had seen Orphan only a month ago in the company of General Marcos Demmill of the Black Velvet Legion. She was unable to find her, however, and slept off the rest of her hangover in an alley.

Five Days to Masks’ Execution:

Orphan spent the morning looking for Xiandra. She finally found her, and found asked her and Orren about Marcos. They told her that he was fine, leading his army across Lotash apparently against Duke Grinnash. She seemed satisfied with that, and uninterested in anything else that they had to tell her about what they saw.

Orphan was ready to fly to Lotash… Until she got high enough to realize that she was on an island in the middle of the ocean, and had no idea how to get where she needed to go. For some reason, perhaps because she regarded him as a friend, Orphan felt that Masks would be the best way to go about getting to Lotash. Orphan came up with A Plan.

Orphan decided to charm a guardsman to get access to the cells and try to free Masks. In her relentless charming style, she managed to charm a guard and he happened to have a friend of a friend who was a caster. She suggested that he convince him to go get him, with some wine, and they would all party at the Rusted Wheel, a modest inn. Somehow, it worked.

Sexy time happened, during which Orphan tried to beat the wizard unconscious. He was made of sterner stuff than she expected, and he managed to escape, sans most of his gear. Orphan sent her first patsy back with apologies and explanations, and waited.

Four Days to Masks’ Execution:

Somehow, the wizard was convinced to come back. Orphan explained that that was just how she liked it, and let him hit her. He did, with a spell that lit her body with cold fire. Burning sexy time happened, then Orphan tried to hold him down and geas him. Unfortunately, he actually had ranks in spellcraft, and realized what she was trying to do. Some struggles ensued, we all learned that Still Spell is perhaps the greatest thing ever, and the wizard escaped, telling her not to call on him again.

Three Days to Masks’ Execution:

Finally, Orphan took the direct route, and snuck into the holding area ethereally and was quick enough to break him out. The two of them dimension doored out of there, then began shadow walking to Lotash.

While all that happened, Eilonwy and Sierrafinnia went to the place in the Blue Tree Wilderness where Eilonwy had found the stone. things were pretty much the same as she had left them, and there was little information to be had. There’s probably at least 2 days of downtime that they can use to investigate further; I was somewhat distracted by trying to pull things out of the fire there.

Aside: Dogar's Night Out
A New Challenger Appears, and more riddles.

Dogar had made arrangements to meet back with Sierrafinnia and the others after taking care of some business of his- namely tracing down some poachers who had stolen some griffins from his stomping grounds.

Through a clever mix of rangerness and asking around, he had triangulated their most likely location somewhere in the crowds of booths that ringed the Council of Kingdoms. However, when he got close, something was strange.

There was a hugely fat man wearing naught save a diaper and strolling around the vendors area, talking loudly about his prowess. Manriki was trying to follow up on some rumors he had heard about priests not fulfilling their sacred duties when he came upon a pretty, dark-haired, lightly freckled girl in a black dress strolling down a narrow aisle between booths. The corpulent priest offered his services as a bodyguard, proclaiming his ability to do anything with the utmost confidence.

She looked him over, and decided that she couldn’t afford him, then departed gracefully, slipping past Manriki’s bulk without disturbing a single roll nor a hair on her head, and melted into the crowd, which wasn’t really thick enough to lose a single Medium-sized creature in so completely. Dogar watched this exchange with a mild sense of amusement, as he moved across the vendor’s area.

When he got within 30 feet of Manriki, something caught his eye- a scroll shrouded with a haze of golden sand was stuffed in his diaper. He approached the fat man to ask him about it.

Manriki was a bit concerned that Dogar was able to see the scroll, which as far as he understood, only existed when he thought about it- that it was not an actual object, but a manifestation of his faith in his deity. He pulled out the scroll and looked at it, and Dogar noticed something on the back of it- a riddle of some kind, which Manriki had not seen before, but was definitely there now. Manriki also noticed that Dogar was pretty badly hurt. Manriki’s estimation of Dogar changed a bit after realizing the amount of healing that he needed to get back up to top condition- he had been through quite a bit and still stood to tell about it.

Before they could talk much more about anything, Dogar got attacked. Out of nowhere, a dagger appeared in his back, and seemed to be digging its way deeper, though no one could tell where it came from. Seconds later, the graceful girl who had talked with Manriki rushed out of the crowd holding a long, thin sword, thicker than a rapier and edged for slashing in one hand, and a dagger in the other.

She charged up to Dogar and laid into him with both weapons, her arms moving in a dizzying blur that seemed to have a pattern to it. When both of her blades connected, she would twist them together, tearing Dogar’s flesh even more. He nearly died outright from that assault. Manriki tried to pull the dagger out of Dogar’s back, but the vicious blade held on and dug deeper, causing more damage.

Dogar began his dance of death, and (wisely) focused on defending himself. By keeping his scimitars close to his body, he was able to parry nearly as elaborately as his assailant was able to attack. During one of their clinches, she leaned in and told him that he “had something that did not belong to him.” While Dogar was locked in this dance, he noticed a human running along the tops of the booths. Manriki cast a pair of healing spells on Dogar, who then took the fight to the girl, counter-attacking with a burst of blinding speed. Manriki moved in and grabbed her as she frantically tried to keep up with the ranger’s whirling scimitars, catching her in a bear hug and lifting her off of her feet.

Dogar’s assailant disappeared in a clot of inky shadow, traveled across the battlefield, and stood next to Dogar, where she resumed trying to kill him. Manriki moved to intercept her as Dogar landed a few more telling blows.

Faced with this combined opposition, she sheathed her main-gauche, left herself open as she retrieved her dagger from Dogar’s back (both Dogar and Manriki took advantage of this opening, though it apeared she was ready to capitalize on the opening if either of them missed), sketched a quick salute, and disappeared into another clot of shadow, traveling out of sight. The human on the rooftops was also nowhere to be seen.

Dogar and Manriki caught their breath for a moment, when suddenly a man holding a large red sword, riding what looked like a nightmare rode towards them, separated from them by a shimmering golden haze. Manriki was visibly disturbed by the presence of this creature and firmly suggested that the two of them go Somewhere Else, and discuss what they had both seen.

The Abstract did not follow them, instead laughing and proceeding towards the Council building.

Dogar told his story, and Manriki thought it might be a good idea to meet with the others that Dogar had met. So they went to the Lazy Dragon Inn, which was under investigation by a largeish contingent of guardsmen. When asked what the problem was, they explained that a man had been killed in cold blood there, and they were trying to determine if this was connected to the other disappearances that had happened over the last few days, or the suggestions that Luvanar had given them a few hours ago. The two of them got directions to another bar, and Dogar had his money refunded. They went to the Bloated Toad, where they drank some and became the type of friends that nearly dying makes any two people.

After finding that the man who committed the murder had also gone through the same thing that Dogar had, Manriki wanted to bespeak him, but Dogar swayed him somehow, I don’t remember. They resolved to wait for/seek out the rest of the group before doing anything else.

Aside: Luvanar's Plea
The grey elf takes six weeks to think, then speaks. ;)

“In a war between two nations, one may fall. In a war among all nations, none may stand.

I am called Luvanar, and I pray that, whether you know me or not, you will hear my words and consider them well.

In recent months, there has come war, and rumors of war. Some come to claim what they see as rightfully theirs; others fight to hold their family’s lands. Some seek to avenge a grievous wrong; others fight to maintain their innocence. Old rivalries resurface, and new enmity is

Such wars happen, but they are usually limited to a time and a place. What I see now is an entire world poised to tear itself apart. When war borders war, there is a place where the two meet, unleashing fury like two storms meeting in a mountain pass.

I am reminded of the neighboring nations of Hytheronia and Pelagar that once shared the now-desert island of Thane. Civil war broke out in both nations at nearly the same time. Some say that the leaders of each nation funded the rebels in the other; some say that a mercenary warlord seeded both wars for his own ends. But only one thing is known for sure: the twin wars overspilled their borders and soon no one knew who was fighting who, or why.

No one present today is descended from the lines of Hytheronia and Pelegar. They were wiped from the world. It is only through messages left in their ruins that we know of the fate that befell them. One message left burned in stone may have been that island’s final message to all of us: “Hold your spells. Sheathe your swords.” This plea for peace is all that is left of two once-mighty nations.

So I ask you today: who among you is not at war, or has no neighbor at war? What compels you to fight? Is it the best interests of your people? Can you be sure your cause is just, and not the manipulation of some other power seeking its own ends? What message will you leave
for the future generations?

Hold your spells. Sheathe your swords, at least for a time. I offer my services to the rulers of any nation that desires peace. I will act as ambassador, as diplomat, as independent investigator to determine if your war is just and needed. I offer this free of charge. I do not seek riches, only peace.

Thank you for your time. May peace and prosperity find you all willing to receive them."

A pregnant pause follows. The Empress of Valdar gets to her feet and bows just enough to indicate respect while maintaining her status. She gives the traditional greeting that one gives a ruathar, and speaks.

’’Well met, Ruathar Luvanar of Odo-Cerith Emyn. My grandfather told me stories of your prowess and heroics when I was learning to walk. If you are willing, I will bespeak you further about the offer you have made."

She sits down, and Silmeara rises, bowing deeply to you after greeting you according to your station. “It is good to see that you have not lost your helpful nature, Ruathar Luvanar. As my people are not at war with anyone yet-” he glances to the frost giant, who looks impassively back at him, “I do not have need of your services, but I would enjoy speaking with you, if other, more pressing obligations do not prevent you from doing so.”

As Silmeara retruns to his seat, Duke Grinnash stands. He bows as well, a touch more deeply than the Empress did, and speaks. “Goodsir, I would greet you as the others did, but I would only make a hash of it. Surely you are aware of the troubles that plague my lands as well as those of my allies- first unjustly attacked by armies backed by divine as well as infernal power, and now this… uprising deep in the hearts of our lands. As soon as you are able to, I would ask you to come and speak with me about how we can help each other- you helping me rid Lotash of this newest threat, and I backing your camapign for peace to the best of my ability.”

King Kakerek of Hellzapoppin hops up on the table. “I’ve got a couple of roads that could use some new cobbles. You gonna help out with that?” As the crowd laughs, he does a handspring off the table and back into his seat.

You notice that each time another ruler finishes speaking, Just Lorgenlooks like he might want to say something, but is holding himself back. No one has anything else to say, and the meeting continues with a fat woman complaining about the taxes on beans in Teyrn and how it’s ruining her bean business.

Into the (Temporal) Breach
Because the DM is a masochist... Time travel!

Following some aerial reconnaissance, where it was revealed that the weather and terrain had shifted (again) to temperate and pine-forested, along with the addition of towns and at least one squat fortress, the party made landfall on the mysterious demiplane.

Luvanar informed the members of the party who had not been here before that teleportation effects would not work here, and they proceeded. As always, there were halflings greeting the party, but this time there were lots of them, and they were all what they appeared to be. Luvanar conducted most of the discussion with the mayor about the Moonspeaker, which revealed that these halflings were farmers and shepherds with the odd habit of taking their sheep out to graze under the light of the moon- it made their coats shiny, but recent predations by wolves had forced them to change their ways, and enlist the aid of “some of the boys a couple towns over.”

Sierrafinia didn’t believe this, but further investigation revealed that the otherwise normal (aside from being prime specimens of sheepdom) animals had a silvery tinge to their wool. Sierrafinia bartered a coil of silk rope for a sweater and a large pair of socks, and the halfling hosts invited them to dinner, which like everything else around here was luxurious- except to Dogar, who didn’t trust it at all, instead refusing to go inside and preferring to eat rations, though he couldn’t help but notice how nice things were here, and Caden, who felt that things were pretty normal.

After eating and getting what information they could, the party left, and began casting spells to find where the Moonspeaker was. She was in the Deep Woods, which didn’t help overmuch, but they were able to locate her through a combination of Eilonwy’s ability to move through the deep undergrowth unhindered faster than a horse can run on open ground, and more of Luvanar’s magic. Sierrafinia found some tufts of hair that turned out to belong to legendary monsters known as brachyuruses, these monstrous wolves were thought to be the progenitors of modern wolves, and are known for knocking down their victims and ripping them apart. The party proceeded with caution after this information was passed around, for the wolf tracks and spoor only got more profuse the further into the Woods they went.

They approached the clearing where the magic showed her to be, and were almost immediately beset by wolves that sprang from the dense bushes. The party seemed to be in dire straits- Luvanar unleashed his most potent magics and the attacking wolves were hurt, but not killed, Caden was overrun, and that damn kiloren archer was too busy bowing and scraping to the Moonspeaker (who seemed to be having some cognitive difficulties, as far as Manriki could tell- she lacked the noble bearing that the portrait had) to be any use at all.

To compound matters further, a small band of halflings was creeping into the clearing from the opposite side; they were melting from cover to cover, clearly stalking the Moonspeaker. A crystal amulet that the silver dire wolf wore cried out “you there, get me off of this bitch and take me back to my ship!” just as Kayla’s Luck pointed out to Sierrafinia that there was a magic item nearby that she miiiight want to avoid. Eilonwy channeled her love of nature into soothing the savage beasts, and Sierrafinia told them (as it turned out that the brachyuruses, but not the Moonspeaker, could speak and reason) to mind the halflings, who suddenly thought better of the situation, as their element of surprise was lost, and fled.

The Moonspeaker seemed to be acting like a beast. Manriki approached her, and she became angry and afraid, as a feral dog might when approached. The brachyuruses were not to be swayed by Luvanar’s diplomacy; they insisted that they would kill the party if they tried to remove the Moonspeaker from the place. Manriki pointed out that something was wrong with her, and Sierrafinia suggested that she’d been in her animal form too long.

Dogar, realizing that Luvanar was more interested in retrieving the amulet (the Starshard) than the woman, darted in, relieved the Moonspeaker of the object, and almost got away with it, except that he was within charging range of the brachyuruses. With a cry of “You are thieves!” battle was rejoined, wolves pouring out of the underbrush and filling the clearing nearly to capacity. People were pulled down, Dogar had his throat torn, which left a terrible bleeding wound and all seemed lost. Caden called to Rambler for help, and the ship mobilized, appearing overhead, weapons at the ready.

Eilonwy cast some sort of spell that forced the Moonspeaker to resume her elven form, but not its intelligence. Luvanar wished that she would (as close to verbatim as I can remember) “gain the intelligence of [some elven deity] and realize the pointlessness of this conflict.”

The wish worked.


Luvanar felt the magic slipping out of his control, and saw [some elven deity] sitting in her divine realm when suddenly, the tapestry of reality unraveled behind her, revealing a rapidly thinning curtain of golden sand. The goddess turned, a look of purest shock and horror on her face as a scarred nightmare bearing rider who held aloft a red sword bore down on her, malice and triumph in his eyes. Luvanar was able to splice another _wish _ into his first, at a significant cost.

The curtain of golden sand was renewed, and the Rider thwarted, but Luvanar aged more than a hundred years in an instant. The Moonspeaker’s intellect was restored, however, and she was able to use her empathic command of wolves to stop her would-be defenders and keep the party from getting killed.

This change of state didn’t alter the brachyuruses’ stance on things, however, but Eilonwy cheated the laws of the plane (and of physics) by casting transport via plants to transport everyone to Rambler’s terrarium. Before the wolves could react, the ship was racing out of the atmosphere and back to the river of sand.

The Starshard, while somewhat grateful for its rescue, was more than derisive of the methods employed. It belittled the methods of propulsion that Rambler employed, the materials of its construction, and everything in between, saying that its ship was much better in every way. Sierrafinia tried to get it to reveal what its ship was like, but the crystal was evasive to her.

The party bent their combined will to push Rambler through the river of sand…

14 months earlier than when they had left the world.

Are We Then Yet?
Getting there is half the fun.

Following a lot of discussion upon realizing the implications of traveling back along one’s own timeline, the party was at something of a loss. While they were first discussing this, one of the cabin boys-turned men found a beautiful blond girl in the hold. He brought her to Caden for questioning. Caden then turned her over to the group.

It turned out that the girl was from a place called Emai’comia, an island on a far-off world formerly annexed by the Abyss. She was not sure how she had gotten on the ship, but she seemed willing to help however she could. She was also very interested in the party’s history as well as their comings and goings throughout the ship. Manriki decided to commune with Hieroneous, and everyone got a few questions in, although many of the answers that they got were not encouraging, and others even less helpful. Following this, Manriki decided to use sending to contact several high-ranking followers of Hieroneous and have them do what they could about the coming conflicts.

Sierrafinnia decided that the adventuring life was not for her, and asked to be dropped off at the Blue Tree Wilderness. The party also left the Moonspeaker there, so she would not be accidentally destroyed in a closed time-loop anomaly. Somehow the idea of using the Starshard as a dowsing rod for other powerful artifacts came up. I don’t know how serious people were about this.

The party then discussed vague esoteric things for awhile, at which point, Dogar got bored and decided to get some drinking time in. Meanwhile, Luvanar felt that since the party was going to be Doing Something in this current time, they would need to keep a low profile, and therefore, need to have new clothes. So he went down to land and buy some raw materials.

He met a beautiful, scantily-clad catgirl named Desirra, who seemed mildly interested in whatever it was that the party was doing, and the fact that they had an airship. She came onboard, much to Manriki’s pleasure, for it was rare that women would just fly up to him- usually they had to run to him.

Desirra quickly became bored with the vague esoteric things that the party was mulling over, and decided to wander the ship, where she found Dogar and joined him for a few drinks. Dogar, being a professional as well as a gentleman, slowed down his pace to let the newcomer catch up, and then they made their way back to topside, where they became bored together with the vague esoteric things, and decided to spar.

Desirra was a skilled combatant, but Dogar’s magical snakeskin armor protected his vital areas too well for her fighting style to be effective against him, and his patented “Dance of Death” proved to be too much for her. Eilonwy threw some healing at the catgirl, and continued the discussion without batting an eyelash, though Luvanar was a bit distracted by the bouncing lady-bits.

Perhaps spurred by the endorphin rush of watching the pretty lady fight, Luvanar had a sudden flash of insight that I don’t quite remember the details of, concerning the nature of the riddles, the Abstracts, the River of Time, and maybe even a sandwich. He consulted with Eilonwy, who drew upon the power of her Ancient Aspect to consult the accumulated knowledge of Nature, and they dredged up some ancestral memories of the Beginnings of the World(s). Eilonwy also got a bit of insight (and I do mean a bit, looking back, it was really probably not that much) as to the riddle that the Aspects of Oxia Gensh had left her.

And then somehow we all decided to go play in the Time Stream, so that Luvanar could try and get a better idea of how it worked. Desirra either didn’t get this explained to her properly, or really did not want to risk being lost in time, because she politely excused herself, along with a significant portion of the crew, though Desirra did seem interested in looking up an old friend of hers after talking with Luvanar about the Shit That Is Going Down.

No. All of the Shit. I think.

Luvanar tried to sway them with Large Sums of Money, but it didn’t work. So we went to Valdar and hired a new crew, including one janni lady who was gung-ho about traveling the planes.

So after provisioning and a carefully worded wish, the party was back in the time stream. A few Spot Checks and deductions later, we were flying back to the Material Plane, racing against an encounter. We managed to avoid it, but emerged into the Material Plane approximately 3 months before the start of the game after spending nearly no time in the Time Stream. About 14 days later, the party arrived at the Northern Citadel, where they inquired about recent travelers, and found that there had been a party recently, but that they had not returned.

Aside: Desirra's Discovery
you probably should have tried to kill her.

Desirra traveled to Giant Country, meeting a polite knight named Sir Shield on the way. They made their way to the lands of the Forest Giants with little incident, and she was reunited with her old friend Trammis, who told them what he knew about the rumored spreading blight:

  • Lesser giants; hill giants and ogres, mostly, were coming from the hills to the north to trade with increased frequency because their livestock were sickening and dying, and there was less to eat there. Some of these migrants were actually staying in the south, because they had been driven from their places.
  • Crops, even standing trees were also affected by this strange malaise, and in some extreme cases, standing structures were giving way to this consumptive rot that seemed to be gripping the land.
  • It hand not spread any farther than the hilly lands to the north of the foreest giant territory, but Trammis was afraid what would happen if it spread to the lands of the evil giantkin.

So the three of them decided to see what they could see about this strange chain of occurrences. The lands were indeed suffering; the sunlight had a thin, watery quality to it, the earth had a wasted, used-up look to the trained eye, and the erstwhile paladin’s detect evil revealed an ambient trace of evil in the air, which intensified once the sun went down. A few days out, they discovered a strange, unsettling sight.

A gang of humanoids was depositing shovelfulls of the fouled earth from a rusted, pitted sheet-metal cart into the ground. The strange part was that these humanoids were… altered. In various places, parts of their bodies had been replaced with completely ordinary objects: one had a bedpost for a leg, there was another whose torso had been replaced with a chest of drawers, a third had had its spine replaced with a large spring, and so on. Even more disturbing was that these people were all still alive.

Upon spying the group, the once-people attacked them, but the party was able to dispatch them with relative ease. The dirt was clearly, almost painfully evil, and the party was able to follow the tracks that the cart had made.

A day or two later, the party was waylaid by a gang of ogres led by a hill giant, who had actually been busy trying to rob some other people, a young girl with heavy bandages around her hands, midriff, arms and legs, and a man in very heavy armor (which didn’t sem to help him, as he was flung through the woods to land badly, breaking his leg and barely able to stand) who did not lift his visor. The hill giant picked up the wagon that the two victims were riding on, and threw it at Trammis, then Shield, and it went crashing into the woods.

Desirra filleted a couple ogres, and Trammis punted one 60 feet, then the would-be robbers decided that the PCs were tougher than they looked and fled. The two robbery victims thanked the party, then one of them, a girl, asked Trammis and Shield (who were rather wary of the two of them, one because they were trespassing in Forest giant lands, the other because they had traces of Evil about them) to please help recover the wagon.

They grudgingly did, while the girl talked with Desirra, then magically transported her to someplace where she did not want to be, slapped some spectral bells on her body, and challenged Desirra to some sort of dance-off, where she was forced to hop, skip, jump and dance her way through some sort of vertical obstacle course while a strange monster chased after her and visions of other people unfolded before her that she did not understand nor like. If she failed to step lively enough (and sometimes even when she did), she was punished by a horrid jangling from the ghostly bels that chafed at her very soul at times.

The catgirl was frustrated and annoyed and didn’t really get what was going on, and finally got enough of the beat to dance her way out of the remaining obstacles and back to the place that she had left, much the worse for wear.

12 hours later.

While that was happening, Shield and Trammis found that the wagon had fallen into a sinkhole, at the bottom of which was a lake. The wagon was floating in the lake. They tried to rescue the wagon and were attacked by an angry glob of solidified evil. Its touch was significantly unpleasant, but Shield was able to channel his faith to defeat it after Trammis beat the crap out of it with his axe.

The two of them recovered the wagon, then found that Desirra and the girl had disappeared. They were not happy about this, and started asking the armored man what had happened.

He didn’t know. He was really rather evasive, but it seemed that he had to be. They let it lie, but if they did not get satisfaction soon, they threatened to do unpleasant thigns to him. However, Desirra returned before that happened.

Some more cryptic dialogue ensued where it was made mildly clear that there was Something Happening, and that they were Being Helped After A Fashion, although none of them liked the form that the help was taking. Some dickering for the wagon went on, when finally it was worked out that they would give the wagon back to the girl and she would take away their corruption. It was painful, but they were cleansed. Desirra’s wounds were much worse than previously thought, and the strange girl gave them some advice as to how they might be healed- there were sacred springs and other blessed natural spaces in the world, more importantly, one near the forest giant village.

The strange girl answered and evaded some other questions, telling them that if they wanted more, they should seek the Silent Scholar, the one she had given much information to, just the way that they wanted her to, and he failed in the end. She also advised them that “The clowns are exactly what they appear to be,” that if Trammis took his people’s warriors to the heart of this corruption (which she was hesitant to admit _could _be embraced and used to fight the encroaching darkness with), they would be killed by Knucklebone (a giant boogeyman of sorts whom the girl insisted was real) or turned into more of those things, or perhaps both.

“You will gather your warriors, and I will give you what you want- I will take you there, and Knucklebone will kill you. She will kill you all. they will replace your heart with a furnace and set you to digging, or worse.”

The three of them asked if they would be able to call upon her again, she told them that they would not, for she had other things to do, other people to tell about the situation in the hopes that this world would be able to use the Chance that it had been Given to survive after Something had been Taken from it. She then took them on a ride in her wagon, which grew chicken feet and waddled off into the night.

When the day came, the three of them found that they had been given items of some kind. (they were not evil) Further inspection found the girl in the market place of the giant village, and Trammis took Desirra to see the village elders and start spreading the word about the Shit That Was Going Down.

Desirra spent 24 hours convalescing at the giants’ sacred spring, and then she began making her way back to the lands of Men.

Dim Skies, Dark Nights
You only need enough light to write by when all around is shrouded in darkness.

The party was on its way to Giant Country when Dogar asked to be let off in Cardinnia, and if they could, to come back for him after at least a week. Luvanar had a “Eureka!” moment, said he needed to visit the The Mages’ Consulate to do some research, and that he would return as soon as he could, then teleported away.

The party arrived in giant Country where they inquired after the missing group of Manriki’s friends. They had come through perhaps two months ago, but had not returned. This was not exactly normal, but not unheard of, depending on the nature of the mission involved. One dwarf became very excited upon the realization that Manriki was Manriki, and began telling the party how great he was. Manriki didn’t stop him.

Desirra walked into the Citadel seeking passage back to Irunnia, and was spotted by Caden. The two of them talked a bit, and Desirra spoke about her recent visit to the land of the giants, and what she had seen, as well as what she had learned, against her will. The mention of bedposts aroused some interest from the rest of the group, and they gathered around her to hear her descriptions of the place.

She told them what she had seen, and wondered if perhaps Manriki or someone would be able to cast a hallow spell on a portable hole or something so they could carry it around. The party did her one better, instead hallowing the entire ship, which took a few days. Manriki also tied remove fear to his hallowed areas.

The party then flew off around 10 AM the next day. One of the first things that they noticed was that the sunlight seemed watery and thin, as though the sunlight, but not the rest of the world, were being viewed through some sort of haze, or perhaps that the sun itself were more distant here. Some spyglass investigation confirmed Desirra’s tale- the earth here seemed used up in places.

About 3 days of travel later, they spied some ogres hiding in the woods just outside of the forest giant territory. The party stopped the airship, and Manriki used a spell that made his voice carry for something like 2500 feet so that he could politely remind the ogres that he was Manriki and that they should surrender. The ogres were a little unnerved by the airship and started running off. The party gave chase, with Caden using himself as bait, which the ogres gleefully took, and the fight was joined.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

It was a pretty tough fight- the ogres hit hard and nearly took out Caden, and then Bleddyn ran up and skewered an ogre’s kneecap. Eilonwy might have been in danger, but Desirra stepped out from behind a shadow and killed some ogres real good. The ogres seemed a little concerned about the sudden appearance of the dual-wielding catgirl. Manriki cast a spell of some kind, then a hill giantess, the same one whose band Desirra had fought a few days ago stepped out of hiding and threw an iron gate at the cleric, hitting him a few times. More blows were exchanged, and suddenly reinforcements rushed over from the other side of the ship.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

Caden was killed, but not before accidentally turning an invisible Desirra to stone, and the giantess insane. The ogres, feeling that they had the advantage at this point, began mobbing Manriki and Eilonwy when Manriki called upon Hieroneous’ power and restored the fallen ones, then politely asked the ogres to surrender again. They considered for a moment, and did.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

The insane giantess ran off into the woods, Desirra chased after her and subdued her, then politely relieved her of her valuables, leaving her portcullis and returning with an enormous opal necklace.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

Then we had a civil discussion with them, where they revealed that they worked for someone named “Gor’rum Tanturo,” also known as “The Dragon,” a bit of a misnomer because the giant brigand is not actually a dragon; he is dragon-blooded. He rules a section of territory in the northern hills where he exacts tribute from the people around and anyone foolish enough to cross through his lands, but does not bleed them dry.

However, since the Mists had started coming, giants had been fleeing the Dragon’s territory, forcing his henchmen to go farther and farther afield to look for plunder, hence the current state of things.

The brigands also mentioned that they had seen the Mists (which came out at night) and the patchwork humanoids, but they avoided them both, because one of the henchogres had tried to eat one of them and gotten very sick from it- they usually find a cave or other secure place to stay at night.

The party let them go, and began investigating the ground, trying to figure out a direction that the corrupted earth was coming from. They figured it out that it seemed to be coming from the north, and radiating out from whatever origin in regular, mostly-straight lines. They continued along this path for about three days, when on midnight of the fourth day, Something Happened:

Manriki was meditating on the deck; Desirra was prowling, as cats often do, and had perched in the crow’s nest (although there were no crows up there). Eilonwy was asleep in the terrarium; Aria and Caden were asleep in their quarters. A small contingent of sailors was on deck, managing ship things. Suddenly, out of a clear, but otherwise dark night, a terrifying sight struck the ship.

What appeared to be a literal river of tortured souls, shrouded partially in a think grayish mist rushed at the ship, filling the air with a constant susurrus of moans, pleading cries, threats, promises and whispers. Several of the crew were struck dumb or rendered helpless by this vision of evil and Desirra was shaken to her core, covering her eyes in order not to have to face this horror.

The specters floated across the deck, leaving terror and fright in their wake. The majority of the crew was overcome by the sight, but a pair of rangers managed to get belowdecks before the battle was joined in earnest. An alarm sounded, alerting the other members of the party.

Manriki conjured a blade barrier and cast a few more spells as the Mists rolled around him, seeking easier prey, which they found and began tearing apart. Eilonwy, Caden and Aria made haste for the upper decks. Desirra’s conscious mind retreated further from the horror and carnage…

Allowing something greater to step forward.

Without looking at the creatures, she launched herself into a devastating flurry of attacks, hissing and spitting like a bag full of feral cats. She destroyed one of the clots of vaporous evil and heard a tiny voice thanking her as she felt the soul of the lookout she had been sharing the crow’s nest with depart.

The pilot was attacked and forced to release the wheel, causing the ship to slow down. Caden tried to protect his crewmen and found himself in danger instead, as seeing these things shook him badly as well.

Eilonwy emerged on deck and cast a sunbeam spell which had some effect, damaging two of the howling clouds of spirits.

Aria stepped out on deck. She recognized the attackers for what they were. This unnerved her a little bit, but she stepped forward and asked the cloud of howling, pleading, cursing, wailing souls to “tell her their piece.” She was rewarded with a chorus of voices that she could neither make heads nor tails of.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

Desirra and Manriki fought a pretty desperate battle in the bow of the ship, Desirra was able to destroy several of the creatures, and Manriki’s magic inconvenienced them, even destroyed a few of them outright, and because of their effectiveness, more of them turned away from the rear of the ship to focus on them, drifting through the lower decks as they went, much to the distress of the huddled crewmen below.

This was not to say that things in the rear got much better. Caden was in dire straits, and tried a desperate gambit. He threw himself at the elemental energy conduit and somehow merged his form with that of the ship, using the elemental’s power to bolster his spells as he struck at the Mists.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

Aria continued to dance with the Mists, but neither of them was able to touch the other, and it really wasn’t the time for an interview. Instead, the cloud of tortured souls started to choke the life out of Eilonwy, stealing her dreams and filling her mind with darkness.

Meanwhile, at the Mage’s Tower:

Luvanar finished his calculations, checked them once more. “If this is even partly accurate, this would be of invaluable aid to my companions,” he mused out loud. He spoke the words of the teleport spell, and found himself in the cabin he used aboard the Rambler.

An alarm shrieked a warning. He dimension doored to the top deck, and witnessed a truly unnerving sight- Eilonwy was battling a creature so horrible, so foul, that he had to kill.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

One of the smaller clots of Mist channeled dark power at Desirra, seizing the connection her subconscious mind had with her body and giving it a sharp yank. Desirra fell lifeless to the floor. Manriki channeled his own life force into her, then with a mighty surge of positive energy, healed himself and injured the Mists around him. He then had a significant portion of his mental faculties taken from him, and was given some darkness in return.

With a cold, precise hand, Luvanar pointed at the nearest person and fired a polar ray. Eilonwy was struck in the back by the searing blast of cold energy, and then grabbed by the Mists, which continued to feast upon her purity and her thoughts. She channeled her remaining sunlight magic into a blast to push he across the deck towards Luvanar and used heal to bring him back to his senses.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

Luvanar then used his “pick up a blade barrier and hit someone with it” trick to cage the Mists that had come up behind him. They were shredded by the whirling blades of force, but still reached through the spell effect and tore him loose from this mortal coil. Eilonwy fell soon after as the Mists grabbed her again, choking the life out of her. In a desperate move, she unleashed the several potent sunlight spells she had prepared, which the Mists greedily drank in with little ill effect.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

Caden emerged from the ship and realized that the hallow spells that had been cast earlier were being eroded, presumably by the presence of the Mists on the ship. He cast another few spells in quick succession.

Desirra’s new presence expanded somewhat. She tapped into some hidden reservoir of power, and began to literally glow with added strength. She was able to utterly unmake the last two of the monsters that were threatening her and Manriki, and then she began traveling through the Ethereal plane towards the remaining sounds of battle. She, Manriki and Caden were able to clear the rest of the deck, and Manriki brought Eilonwy back to life, with a little difficulty. Eilonwy felt a little sick and disoriented after being brought back.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

Desirra went belowdecks to check on the crew, and wished she had not. The entire middle of the ship looked like a nightmarish charnel house. Apparently the bulk of the crew had run mad, some of them turning on the others, some of them turning on themselves, others still so deep in shock that they would never recover from the sight. There were 18 out of the hundred or so regular crew members who were fit to do anything, and nine of those were still deeply troubled. None of the specialists had been seen during the battle, aside from one of the pilots.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

Caden turned the ship around. Manriki apologized, and brought the remaining people together to heal them, and the Rambler flew away from the northern giant lands at top speed.

Aria recorded this perfectly.

Aside: The Legend of Dogar
Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta.


Day 1:

Dogar returned to Cardinnia, in the hopes of finding out something about the mysterious assailant who came after him five months from now. He returned to the city of Haven, a port city near Cardinnia’s capital, which also has the dubious honor of being a hotbed of criminal activity.

Dogar sought out an old contact/flame of his, a City Guard named Arianna Blake. She was surprised to find that Dogar was in the city, as apparently the Thieves’ Guild master King John had put a considerable price on his head, as well as his gear. The two of them caught up and hooked up. Then, Dogar went looking for some more information, as the news that there was such a high bounty for him had upset him slightly.

Meanwhile, Masks had also found his way to this place and time, although moments before, he had been helping Orphan look for Marcos in the hills of Lotash. He asked around, and found out that Orphan was also here. He looked her up at the Golden Anchor Yacht Club, but he didn’t have a membership card. After a few tense moments with the bouncer, Orphan decided that the 7-foot masked man had piqued her interests enough for her to actually want to talk to him. She pulled some strings with the bouncer and Masks came in.

About three minutes later, Orphan punched him in the face for asking the Completely Wrong Question:

“Did you find Marcos?”

Another tense moment ensued as the security staff tried to defuse the situation by politely, but firmly asking Masks to leave the establishment. Masks eventually gave in. Orphan followed him, playing pranks on him with charmed and suggestioned passerby. Masks responded by killing some of them in creative ways.

Orphan decided that she needed to find out about this strange man. So she went looking for a friend that she had made (without resorting to charm person), a woman known as Jenny Pickets, and told her to find out about this man, emphasizing that he was weird and that she was really interested in him. Jenny was concerned that this man had done something… untoward, but Orphan assured her that that was not the case. Jenny agreed to have her sources look into it, and Orphan left- to go shake down people for enough money for Jenny to grease the wheels. She came back with about 2.5 times as much money as she needed and gave it to Jenny, and then went off.

A little while later, Dogar came around. He gave the secret knock that he knew from his last time in the city (some 10 years or so ago) and was rewarded with a crossbow bolt. It missed, but made him angry enough to yell about it. Jenny recognized him, but would not talk to him, instead running away (her posted sentry ran off too). Dogar, being much, much faster than even a fleeing ratwoman caught up to her and coerced her into meeting him the next day.

Masks found a place to stay by the docks that went by the charming name of the Puffer Fish Inn. He had pleasant dreams which infected the inn with strangeness and him with darkness.

Day 2:

Masks woke up feeling a little sick. He skipped breakfast, and met a pretty young girl with platinum blond hair. She identified herself as “Roba,” and Masks felt a powerful desire to be near this woman. The two of them walked for awhile; she asked him many questions about who and what he was, but got few answers that made much sense. Finally, Masks explained that he wanted to have relations with her while the two of them came within half a hair of overdosing on Silk. Roba decided to cut her losses and bid him adieu. Masks then tried to do Bad Things to the town’s water supply, but failed. He decided that he needed to do something about these feelings of illness, so he went and asked around about a healer. A few hours of Q&A later, he discovered that there were not as many active clerics in the town as there used to be, but there was a druid in the park who was offering healing services.

Dogar woke up lateish and went to meet with Jenny. While entering the park, he spied Masks. Not wanting to disrupt the Time Stream, he pretended not to notice him. Masks had no such qualms, however, and approached Dogar. They spoke briefly, and realized that they both seemed to know what had happened to them both before. They decided that they should meet at the Puffer Fish and talk later, as they each had Things to Do at the moment.

Dogar went to the meeting place where a cloaked and hooded figure handed him a note, then promptly fled. Dogar ran after them, and Jenny shifted to full-on rat form and tried to bite him. Dogar backed off, angered and dismayed.

Masks got to the druid’s tree and found 20 people waiting in line to see the healer. Masks knew that he would not have to wait in this line, as it was for people with normal problems, and walked to the front of the line…

Much to the dismay of the peasantry, some of whom had been waiting in line since dawn. Masks tried to reason with them, he tried to bribe them (one person walked off with one of his masks; I don’t remember the emotion) and while this was happening, the current patient was healed, and the door opened. The person who had been waiting tried to go in, and Masks killed him somehow, probably involving chains.

The other 18 people fled, Masks felt a little fuzzy-headed after this last bit of exertion, however, the druid refused to see him. Masks left a parting gift, which was returned unceremoniously. He then fled town, seeking refuge in the next village over. He took a room in the only inn where a grandmotherly innkeeper offered to set her son on anyone who “might want to give him trouble” after she heard his version of the situation.

Orphan woke up and went looking for Jenny. However, the strange robed woman had gotten there first, and Jenny saw her first. They spoke briefly; the robed woman gave Orphan a few strange looks, and then went inside. A few minutes later, she left, and Orphan and Jenny talked. Orphan decided that she needed to find out who this person was, and spent the rest of the night tracking her down.

Dogar came to Jenny’s, saw Orphan leaving, and followed her through the rest of the night, well into the next afternoon, where she found Roba heading towards the Golden Anchor, taking the bouncer in with her for a chat. Orphan went into the back; Dogar crept in invisibly and in disguise. Dogar watched the two of them converse, and then started tailing Roba.

Day 3:

Orphan asked Scotty Dougal (the bouncer) who Roba was, and where she lived. Scotty didn’t know. She then asked if Roba was a member of the club. She was, but a “Special Member.” Orphan told Scotty to get her Roba’s membership information, but he refused. Orphan first found someone who could read, and made an agreement with him to meet the next day and have him read some stuff for her. Then, she waited as long as her patience would let her, then broke into the upstairs office, used eyebite on the owner of the club, and took all the Special Member scrolls (they were blue).

Dogar and Roba had a chat. Dogar gave the alias “John Connington,” and told her that he was new in town. She offered to take him to the Leprechaun’s Pot, a place that Dogar knew, but Dogar refused and ran away before she could change his mind. He then went to the Puffer Fish. Masks wasn’t there, but he rented a room and waited.

Day 4:

Orphan took the scrolls to her Guy Who Could Read. None of them had information on Roba. She was a little annoyed, but there was nothing she could do. So, she went to bed, deciding that when she woke, she’d take the scrolls to everyone’s favorite contact- Jenny Pickets.

Masks woke up wracked by spasms, his ears filled with a crusty, scabrous growth, and his mind filled with unpleasant dark thoughts (even for Masks). He could not stand to be alone, and felt compelled to seek out others whose sum of their experience was closer to his own. He shadow walked back to Haven, and began looking for Dogar.

While Masks had been out of town, an all-points bulletin had gone up with orders to attack first and ask questions later- the terrified townsfolk thought Masks to be some sort of undead or outsider in human guise. 4 City Guard rushed him and laid into him. Masks asked them why they were attacking him, and they told him that he was under arrest. He suggested that they arrest him, and then destroyed two of them with his chains. They activated some sort of magic items that they had and sped up, finishing him off with a lucky blow to the ribs.

Masks fell through darkness, into what could only be described as a closetful of himself. Unseen hands roughly fitted him for a new suit, stuffed him into it, and threw him unceremoniously back onto the street-

At Dogar’s feet. Some dialogue ensued about how each time Masks has died, he ends up with Dogar, but then the two changed the topic of discussion to the fact that they both knew Everything That Had Happened to Them Both, but Orphan did not. They didn’t have an explanation for that, but figured that they ought to go looking for her. The only lead that they had about Orphan’s whereabouts was everyone’s favorite contact- Jenny Pickets, whom, as it turned out, Orphan was just on the way to see. They were tailed briefly, but they managed to shake the tail thanks to Masks’ magic.

Roba was there first. Again. Roba ignored Orphan this time and just went in; Jenny reassured Orphan that she would see what Orphan had as soon as she could. The two of them talked for a bit, then Roba left, and Orphan went in.

Jenny was wrung out. Orphan didn’t understand. Jenny tried to explain The Way That Things Were. Orphan didn’t quite understand why Jenny was so afraid of Roba, who could read people’s minds, or the guy that she worked for, “the King of the Softies,” who controlled much of the city and more territory besides.

Grasping at straws, Jenny asked Orphan “what do you live for? What makes you happy?” Orphan wasn’t sure, but she did like candy. Jenny explained that she liked helping people (many of her clients might not have been able to make any money if it were not for her services, and she really liked her son, that she loved him. She admitted that she liked Orphan too, even though she always yelled at her when Orphan failed to use the Secret Knock, but she liked her a lot. She explained that she knew that things must have been hard for her (as evidenced by her scarring) at one time, but she hoped that Orphan found something that she liked, something that made her happy.

Orphan didn’t quite get everything that Jenny told her, but she decided to try this “helping other people thing,” by helping Jenny. If Jenny could help her find out where Roba lived, then she could take care of her for Jenny.

Dogar and Masks showed up, each under a different guise. Dogar tried to get in, even lifting his disguise briefly so that Jenny could see that it was him, and Jenny told Orphan to get rid of him; that he was a guy that she used to know who was bad news. Orphan went out and started talking to them. They revealed themselves, and explained that they needed to talk to her about stuff. Orphan agreed, but only if they would take her to The Golden Whore, an upscale trendy strip club/bar/techno dance party.

The party finally convened and began forming some sort of plan to do stuff. Kind of. Orphan was unimpressed at first, until Masks explained to her that Dogar could Travel Through Time, and that was part of the reason that King John feared him and wanted to kill him. Dogar wanted to capture Roba and talk to her. Orphan came up with the idea of overthrowing John, and then Roba would work for them. Masks (I think) turned it into just taking over the city. Dogar revealed that he was Dogar, and a bouncer overheard. Orphan charmed him, and he told them (after making a huge Knowledge: Local check) that while John wanted Dogar dead or alive, what he really wanted was his bracers. If they could get Dogar’s bracers and bring them to John, they’d be living like kings. Orphan managed to dissuade him of this idea. Somehow between Masks’ urgings and Orphan’s willingness to believe, Dogar became something of a mythic figure at their booth in the Golden Whore. Finally, the plan became that they would overthrow John with their new gang. Orphan laid some ground rules: Jenny had to be set up proper once the coup was done; they weren’t going to hurt kids, and one or two other things that I don’t remember.

Masks, Bui the Bouncer and Dogar retired to the Puffer Fish while Orphan went into the night to collect gang members.

Day 5:

Orphan came back the next day with a sizeable amount of Goons, something like 28. The four ringleaders sat around discussing how to go about taking on King John’s criminal empire when a voice began speaking in Dogar’s head.

It was Roba. She first asked politely that Dogar just give up the bracers. Dogar refused. He then asked her to come work for them; why would someone as powerful as her work for John anyway? She said that she was paid well enough, and she enjoyed the work. Besides, Dogar couldn’t afford her. This back-and-forth went on for a little while, until Roba hung up, and Dogar turned to the others, saying that they were probably about to be attacked.

They were. Roba, a pair of powerful warriors and a smallish mob of grunts teleported in as Dogar finished speaking. Roba channeled her psychic power to tear through the party’s minds, killing Bui the Bouncer instantly and dealing large amounts of damage to Dogar and Masks. The Minions stepped up to Dogar and attacked him.

Dogar’s adrenaline kicked into overdrive (thanks partly to Steve’s initiative count bungling). In a fantastic blur of motion, he cut down the nearest three Minions, then rushed over to the smaller of the two mercenaries and tore him apart before he could react. He then danced around the room, narrowly evading the other mercenary’s massive hammer and Roba’s psionic attacks. Dogar leapt out the window as a finish.

Masks fled the room, and Orphan turned ethereal. The mercenary jumped out the window, landing with a great thud, and slammed Dogar with his hammer. Roba leaned out the window and reached into Dogar’s mind, showing him all the greatest pains that he had gone through in his life, and forcing him to relive them. Twice.

Dogar was completely alone. His mind frantically ran through options, but could not find any that included him walking away from this fight. It was a gamble, and he was about to lose it all.

Perhaps it was the pressure of so clearly facing his own mortality, perhaps it was a lingering effect of the psionic attacks; perhaps it was always there. But Something Shifted in Dogar. He understood that had always been at his best when he stood on his own two feet without anyone at his back but the wind. And now, more than ever, was this true.

Dogar fought with doubly renewed vigor and skill, weaving and ducking through the assailants and cutting straight for Roba’s heart. He might have killed her if she had not prepared a contingent power and teleported away before the killing blow could land.


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