Silanya

Expedition 96
We meet Aythe's soulmate, trade with some Cavers, and investigate the secret basement of the temple

June 10, 2018

[posted on time, +0.1 hp]

Characters
Sovan Dareshin (bard 7)
Quincy (fighter 5)
Aythe (bard 4)
Martin (cleric 5)

Changes
Aythe makes a friend!
Quincy levels to 6!

Important Notes
The roc seems to be attracted to fire. Possible strategy for luring it in when we decide to kill it?
The Cavers are particularly interested in trading for high quality pickaxes, salt, spices, special metals, or information about locations for mining or locations marked with ravens. They have a lot of diamonds so they can buy a lot of stuff.
We found a permanent portal from 5.13 to 7.16 with a stable branch leading off it to somewhere in the vicinity of 8.04.

Log
[not in character voice this time, I’m a little brain dead and just wanted to get it written]
We went into the Felar Woods to look for a portal. We passed some Blazing Banners fighting skeletons, so we left them to it.

Aythe found a portal to 6.17, but when we came out there were 11 Eastern Abyssal Guard (the jerk ones) gathered around a magic circle with a mosquito demon trapped inside. The EAG seemed to assume we were demons too, so the caster shored up the circle and then they all turned and attacked us.

We tried to convince them that we weren’t demons, which they didn’t want to believe, but when we pointed out that their circle seemed to be breaking and about to let the demon out, they decided they had bigger issues to deal with and let us go. We offered to help with the demon, but they declined.

After a short rest, we crossed into the Broken Forest. In a previous expedition (92), we visited the Church of the Wild, and began to sense a connection with something somewhere else in the Broken Forest. When we crossed the border between hexes, Aythe’s sense of connection got stronger and we followed it to try to find whoever or whatever was on the other end.

Aythe led us to a clearing with a tree, where we met a tiny angelic moth-person who introduced itself to Aythe. It claimed to have come down here with its mother, but something killed its mother, and then when it felt the connection with Aythe it decided its purpose must be to help her. Near the tree there was the body of a dead celestial, which it said was its mother. The creature wanted to bond with Aythe. We asked it to wait until we could prep and cast Detect Evil and Good the next day, and it agreed.

When we asked what it wanted done with its mother’s corpse, it requested that we cremate her so her body couldn’t be used for power. We built a funeral pyre, set it on fire, and beat a hasty retreat before anything that might be attracted by the fire could come find us. Fifteen minutes later, a roc swooped in, knocked over the fire, picked up the remains of the celestial and flew away with it.

We slept.

Detect Evil and Good pinged the little creature as celestial and a little aberrant, which is basically what we expected, so Aythe agreed to bond with it. It dug out a little space in her neck and lives there now.

Our next goal was to establish trade with the Cavers. We went to the temple where we met them before and set the beacon, which was answered by another beacon far away indicating that the Cavers were on their way. Last time, it took them a few hours to arrive after they saw our beacon, so we decided to kill time by poking around the secret room we’d found under the temple (also in exp 92).

We climbed down the ladder and came to a little chamber with a door with a carving of a raven on it. As we examined the door, a stone barrier rolled into place to block off our exit back to the temple. The door clicked open to reveal a larger antechamber containing a set of black plate armour with raven wings on its helm. A section on its chest glowed as it asked for the password. We tried the password from the other Raven area we’d found (in expedition 95) but it wasn’t accepted – that was probably only a password for that specific area, and won’t apply elsewhere – and the suit of armour attacked.

It seemed to be in extremely poor repair, and several times it tried to activate abilities that didn’t work. Nonetheless, it was pretty tough (21 damage on a hit, could force a teleport to swap its position w a party member so they took the hit instead of it, limited healing ability, immune to force damage, probably magic resistant). We took it down and retrieved its core, which is a valuable crafting component, as well as collecting the plates that made up its body.

Inside the main room, were four statues which looked like the statues we saw at the Tomb of the Eight (exp. 17). There was a huge being with a vast maw devouring a tiny city; an extremely attractive sort of combination of various demon princes; a childlike figure with huge eyes surrounded by corpses and gnawing on a bone; and a giant beast of iron and fire. In the corner we found a bag containing a set of mildly magical tools, although we’re not sure what the tools are for. We also found a book written in some kind of cypher in a small compartment inside the dismantled suit of armor.

A very high investigate found a well hidden secret door covered in plaster, but we decided not to investigate further until after our meeting with the Cavers. We went upstairs sealed up the passage to the basement, then rested until the delegation of Cavers arrived.

There were 3 red hatted Cavers and 3 with blue hats, and the red hats seemed to be in charge. The red hatted Cavers were child sized and emaciated and twitchy; the blue hatted Cavers were significantly larger and more muscular. The lead red hat introduced himself as Roko. We showed off our trade goods, and they also expressed interest in the plates from the Raven armour. We traded most of the things we’d brought and the plates for a partial map of the underground and 4 magic flowers (spend some HD to cast a druid spell, one use). They mentioned that they had other valuable things which they would be hesitant to trade them because “to craft such as the gloves takes time” and could only be done by particular special Cavers with extra power. (I think? We didn’t think to ask for clarification or more details at the time, so if you want to know you’ll have to ask about it later.)

They wouldn’t tell us what their hats meant, but warned us against setting fires, and that the jackals were not to be trusted.

After they left, we waited for a while to be sure they were gone and then headed back down the ladder to open the secret room. When we scraped off the plaster, we discovered a magical ward, but determined that it was designed to keep things out not in (we made REAL sure of that) so we decided to break into the room.

The ward was really complex (DC 25 to get full effect from a ward breaking spell) so it took us many tries, but eventually we cracked it and went inside. The door opened into a burial chamber, which was empty except for a dais in the center of the room with a figure floating slightly above it. The figure looked to be a fully non corrupt human in old, old clothes, and was completely immobile. A pulsing glow rippled up and down its body from head to foot. Detect Magic saw strong abjuration and some evocation. We searched the rest of the room very thoroughly (31 investigate) but the body was the only thing there.

The body was still warm and gave every appearance of being alive but in stasis. Detect Evil and Good didn’t ping. We realized that if we broke the spell holding the person it might cause a shock to their system and hurt them really badly, so we decided to leave it be for now and head home, stopping on the way to pick up the snake skins we stashed at the potion refuge (in exp. 95).

On our way there, we ran into 13 giant boars, but we managed to Hypnotic Pattern all but 2 of them, kill the two standing, and book it out of there. They didn’t seem interested in chasing us.

After that, we found a permanent portal from 7.16 to 5.13, with a stable branch leading off it (probably to somewhere near 8.04, but we’ll have to go through it to find out for sure). The other end of the portal dropped us directly into the arboretum of our ent friend. Sovan cast Plant Growth for it and it gave us a beautiful antique spear in gratitude. We made it the rest of the way home with no further issues.

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Expedition 93 - Servants of the Sundered
In which we talk to four birds, two trees, and a dragon.

April 7, 2018

[Posted on time – +0.1 HP.]

Changes

  • JP gains 1 HP from studying logs posted in a timely fashion.
  • Quincy gains 1 Corruption (with no apparent boon) after being downed by a psychic projection.

Notable Loot

  • Everyone recieves 3058 XP with timely log update. Everyone gets 607 GP, or 728 GP if they did not donate to the Leshanna Memorial Fund.
  • Sapling of the Sundered Pine. Grows into a permanent Very Secure refuge when planted; has healing properties [permanent] and offers a boon akin to Grandmother Dryad’s Blessing [on first use]. (2 * 800 GP)
  • Helpful Amulet of Locate Object. Can Help as a Bonus Action once per LR. One charge of Locate Object. (700 GP)

Preliminary Preparations

  • Valerian borrows the Spidersilk armor and the Healing Gourd.
  • The party brings a total of 21 healing potions.

Log Proper

Preamble

We accomplished a deadly mission, but not the one to which we had agreed; we destroyed a great evil, but may well have ushered in worse; we both greatly assisted and deeply displeased a powerful new patron.

The Sundered Fens should be marked down in all Guild records as very dangerous, both in terms of its denizens and in terms of the near-impossibility of acting correctly – in terms of moral certainty or our wider ambitions to save this continent – without extraordinary care and preparation.

And we should not eat any more proffered apples.

Valerian came again. They were cautious, this time – frustrated. The messengers that brought us our orders, humourless and inconsiderate and strange, clearly bothered them a great deal, their inconsistencies maddening both aesthetically and pragmatically. I touched their bow with the light of the Tree and it was magical – a decision that paid great dividends throughout our journey. Periodically they vanished where there was no remotely visible place to hide, and then strong things died when they reappeared. One grows accustomed to wonders, out here, but wonders they remain.

Sovan made good use of his lyre. We relied, as we always do, on Sovan simpliciter. He was magnificent.

I have missed Quincy. It was good to see him – and even today, I remember when he was far, far stronger than I, and his broad bank in front of me made me sure that he would always be the one protecting me as I hung back and saved lives and took none. We took a long road to get here. Part of me still blanches when that chain that slit my throat appears on his arm and lays waste to all around it. He said little, this outing, as is his wont; even laid low and polluted by the Vision Worm, that horrid Servant, he was uncomplaining. His nose for the arcane led us to our quarry. His selflessness saved others’ lives. I think he is at the cusp of a further breakthrough in his martial technique.

Tabitha remains a pure soul in an impure setting. I am never quite so certain of the value of my faith as when I see her own – blazing certainty, rejecting compromise and weakness and acceptance of failure. She has suffered more than she or anyone deserves, here – those hammer-blows that fall upon the Guild seem to strike at her nearest and dearest. The boats that brought her, and Marc, and Beauregarde, and Melora to this side of the ocean forged lifelong friendships – quite literally, it seems, though the lives be cut cruelly short. Tabitha reminds me of a bright blade I made once that was keen as an adder’s tooth; the sharper its edge, however, the more brittle. I will try to focus on helping her temper her grief and her outrage at this place; it may well become a source of ever greater strength.

Beth had to leave the expedition at the last minute; a sudden illness. She fired Lightning Bolt charges at my armour as a curious form of apologetic payment. I like her very much.

Day 1

Meeting by the wall, we stared out into a drizzling grey depression of a day. Our stated aim: to kill a ‘Servant’, a ‘smaller Puppeteer’, for the Sundered One of the Fens. I used my Forge Blessing to give Valerian a +1 longbow, which they used to great effect all the expedition.

Quincy and I took point (which with Tabitha and Sovan bringing up the rear, and Valerian as a mobile reinforcement in the middle of these two pairs. Tabitha performed a mighty and elaborate ‘high-five’ of solidarity with Sovan at their rear-guard status, and off we went.

Much of the journey there was uneventful – I will identify specific locales where any incidents of note occurred.

04.13: Crossing the bridge past the Blazing Banner waystation, we noted at least 2 hobgoblin patrols in the northwest of the region, massing near 05.12. They were too savvy to attack a party this strong, but they may need to be dispersed forcibly in the future, especially if they begin more active slaving or interference with Guild patrols.

Passing on, we find the 06.12 Tunnel to 13.07 north of the Blazing Banner fortress surveying that area. I cast Water Walk – not knowing what the tidal condition was on the other side of the Tunnel entrance – and we near-instantly travelled up to the Sundered Fens.

Signs of the impending End of Days they may be, but the Tunnels are certainly convenient in the interim.

13.07: As we splashed down onto the water, we saw that the tide was knee-high to a typical human (thigh-level to myself) but not notably moving – we seemed to be at high tide. (JP Nature: 25). As I surveyed the area, I saw few birds but many fish-folk – those who rode the tide inland and harpooned the bird-people on our last visit. Fishers of the land.

The Fishers seemed to alternate between creeping along the land and burrowing just under the muddy ground below the shallow waters. Sovan, seeing new friends to be had, as he always does, approached with Comprehend Languages up, smile at the ready.

Two Fishers disappeared beneath the water as we approached; others tried (ineffectually) to hide themselves. Not our best start, but not our worst.

My darling persevered: “Hello, friends!” They burbled back a non-verbal noise of threat and aggression. Sovan refused to take the bait, and offered the Fishers some lightly-spiced chateaubriand still redolent with brandy demi-glaze. One Fisher approached, sniffed, ate. Pushed a hideously slick hand, dripping with some natural secretion, into Sovan’s face. Sovan looked back at us – clearly thinking of handshakes gone terribly, horribly, wrong – but decided to endure risk for the sake of diplomacy.

The Fisher rubs Sovan, considers. It makes revolting burbling noises – Sovan’s Comprehend Languages lets him understand that it is saying “This one is clean.” It considers further – “…mostly clean.” Indefatigable, Sovan chirps back “Hi -” – pointing to himself – “SOooo-van.” And beams. The creature seems immune to his considerable charm and turns to Valerian.

The rest of us are groped in our turn and “mostly clean” seems to be the overall verdict. Perhaps, in context, it means Corruption? Notably, the Fisher seems almost actively displeased by our ‘cleanliness’. It looks around to its companions. “There are a lot of them. Let’s go.” (I must assume that it was unaware Sovan could understand it.)

Even his trilling, flutey “Goodbye, new friends!” receives not a wave nor a glance. Pearls before swine, I suppose? To adapt that old saying: ‘When one is tired of Sovan, one is tired of life.’

[ADDENDUM: WELL SPOKEN. THIS ANONYMOUS COMMENTATOR THINKS THAT RED EMPEROR IS A PRETTY COOL GUY AND IS SUPER FUN AT PARTIES, SQUAWK SQUAWK.]

[ADDENDUM TO ADDENDUM: SPECULATIVE NOTES ON THE IDENTITY OF PRIOR ANONYMOUS COMMENTATOR OR COMMENTATORS ARE NOT APPROPRIATE FOR INSERTION INTO OFFICIAL GUILD RECORDS. SUCH INEFFECTUAL ATTEMPTS TO IMITATE THAT COMMENTATOR’S COMMUNICATION PROTOCOLS CLEARLY INDICATE AN EXCESS OF ENERGY AND FREE TIME THAT MAY FIND ITSELF CURBED QUITE PROACTIVELY IN THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE.]

As the Fishers depart, Sovan offers more meat – ‘good meat after bad’ – and is ignored. The Fishers are unfriendly from the start despite our best efforts, which will ease my conscience later.

We look about us, and see that it is high tide. I put my hand to a nearby tree, recalling the Sundered One’s advice that they would find us at their leisure in these lands, and reach out with my senses, newly attuned to the Land by that apple the Sundered One gave me.

Almost instantly I feel watched from afar – spiritually, at first, and then quite literally as the tree bark cracks and the tree’s heartwood shifts into a great opalescent eye the size of a dinner plate. It blinks at me. I blink back. It closes.

Two minutes later, a cormorant perches on the tree’s branch. A messenger, a proxy for the Sundered One. Its first words, in Elvish: “Why are you here?” It seems honestly puzzled.

i look about the group, decide to keep going, and explain that it asked us here to destroy an ‘abomination’ of sorts, a Servant. I cite the Sundered Apple it offered me, which caused the Sundered’s Bird to visibly brighten and ask if it was delicious. I try to be diplomatic by alluding to the surface illusion of beauty and good taste that concealed its Corrupt core, but indicating that I appreciated the gift anyway.

“That – but – why – oh. Yes. The surface is part of the whole.” the Bird stutters, slightly raggedly. (It seemed momentarily confused by what I said but then remembered what I meant.) “All part of the artistry, I take it?” I asked ironically. “Yes!” it replied happily.

As Valerian weighed in quite animatedly on what they thought of this definition of artistry, we noticed a thing – the Bird, or rather the Sundered using it as a relay, caused us to silence when it spoke. All our sound just…cut out, so its soft deliberate fluting voice cut through the air unopposed: “Now. The Servant. Go North and West, then North and West and North, in equal proportions, and you’ll find a twisted tree there. Kill that.”

The directions do not get better on repetition or request for clarification, but we do find some things out:

  • The tree Servant mentioned is not the great Mangrove.
  • It calls other trees to its aid.
  • It is twisted, wrong; it distorts reality and deploys illusions; it affects the minds of others.
  • It is vulnerable to fire.
  • It sits atop a hill over the marsh, ‘where the land changes’.

Otherwise, the Bird cannot tell us much – it is unclear whether our ‘cleanliness’ or lack thereof comes from its touch. Regarding the Reef Snakes met on expedition 90, they are to the North-West of the Fens.

Asked about whether we should approach them, the Bird is largely indifferent; then it is…deeply confused. ‘Of two minds’, one might say. “Do what you want” is its final conclusion. After relaying this, the Bird flies away, apparently done with talking.

As it left us, we realize that we are no longer under the influence of Water Walking – clearly much time has passed without our being aware of it. Any conversation with the Sundered One or its Bird, therefore, risks the slippage of an unknown amount of time.

Immediately after this, and more pointedly, we realize that we are half-surrounded by a semi-circle of well over a dozen Fishers, armed with wicked harpoons. A trio stands behind them – one with a twisted driftwood staff, two burlier than their fellows and armed with simple but well-maintained crossbbows. As we watch, some are sinking into the mire, others emerging – they seem to burrow through the fen-matter as fast as through air. Our ambu

Valerian reacts faster than thought, and before our ambushers see them move they are sending an arrow into the shoulder of the staff wielder, obviously shattering their shoulder joint (42 piercing Sneak Attack). “Take the casters out first!” they trill, and there is a wild delight in their eyes at the prospect of righteous violence…and then they disappear from my view.

Rogues.

Sovan hums a song of terror from the deeps, of great fangs lashing out, and Major Image forms a vast sea monster near us, roaring and frothing. The Fishers recoil but do not break.

Instead, six of the regular Fishers surge forwards, and six harpoons lance out at Tabitha, visibly the least armoured among us. Adequately tactical beasts. She is hit once (11 piercing), twice (12 piercing) – tugged but resisting both times – and then the third sinks into her (11 piercing), yanking her fowards for a terrible bite. Three more spears drop her to the brink of death and shred part of her left arm. (2 Failed Death Saves, Temp. Injury: -1 DEX).

As she falls, she opens her eyes as my Healing Word, which as always is “TREE!”, washes over her and she is conscious. I summon my Spirit Guardians and, braced by the song of my ancestors, I charge into melee, standing astride Tabitha.

As Tabitha’s Pattern fades, another six Fishers split into two groups of 3 – one hangs back, eyeing Sovan’s monstrous Image, three trying to down Sovan – who they clearly see as its summoner. He is hit twice by harpoons (11 + 10 piercing), resisting the first reeling-in but succumbing to the second, to be bit grievously (7 piercing) as he enters the Fisher’s range…

…and from somewhere underneath me, I hear a weak “Oh, fuck, shit, SHOWTIME!”

Rather foolishly, I look down. Tabitha is glowing with Divine Flame, as her…‘perfectly normal half-elf’ heritage manifests itself. A wave of holy Fear spreads out from her slumped but radiant form, and I resist the Blessed Shroud but 4 of the Fishers do not and are terrified.

At some point I will have to talk to Tabitha about ‘trick plays’, and about the need to mention them to allies and to practice them with said allies before trying them out mid combat.

Wincing slightly, she stands, and Eadgils’ Gauntlet glows as one of its orbs heals Tabitha with Cure Wounds. She is safe, for now, and I am standing guard over her.

Happily, at this time, six of the Fishers miss Sovan from 30’ away with their harpoons. He smiles at them as if to say “Is that the best you can do?” He has always been something of a rascal.

Meanwhile, two of the Burly Fishers fire at Valerian, whom they can apparently see, and use what appear to be Battlemaster techniques to attack them – one hitting (19 piercing) though Valerian resists an apparent trip attempt. Their confederate with the staff launches out a vast inky tentacle from its staff that gets within a foot of Beausoleil before the armor cantilevers out a spike of Divine Essence Energy to angle the blow away from the pauldron-

[ADDENDUM: MUCH DISCUSSION OF ARMOR TECHNIQUE EXCISED. NEVER ONCE ARE THE SURPRISINGLY OBVIOUS WORDS ‘OR MAYBE I COULD LEARN TO DODGEUSED.]

- and it misses. Waste of a spell! I could empathize, were it not a vile Fisher Shaman attacking us after we tried to make friends.

Quincy steps forward to the cluster of six Fishers that missed Sovan with harpoons, and his chain flares with hellish glow, and he lashes them savagely (11 damage) and they are restrained in a web of chains coiled about them, though none fall prone. Still, he interposes himself; his face is set, neutral, but a certain air of ‘None Shall Pass’ sits in his stance. He is a rare presence among us, but a welcome one.

Valerian briefly blurs into view, kills the Fisher Shaman with an arrow between its mottled eyes, and vanishes once more.

Rogues!

Sovan gestures languidly and moves his Image monster over to the four Fishers fighting Tabitha and myself, only one of whom is not visibly broken in spirit by its proximity. His other hand points to Tabitha and words of encouragement Inspire her, while healing Sovan. Granny’s blessing is not to be trifled with any more than are her pranks.

Three of the Fishers near me break as their morale crumbles and the Spirit Guardians sing and smite them with their immaterial hammers and picks (13 radiant); I cuff one with Durandal as they flee and do another 6 damage. Meanwhile one of those that remain stabs Tabitha for 9 damage and she winces but does not fall.

Seeing her resilience, and trusting her capacity to handle so few foes while her Shroud is active, I run towards the Battlemaster Fishers and get them, as well as the Tabitha Fisher, within my Spirit Guardians radius. She will doubtless be triumphant! I ‘double down’ (as a slick city gambler might say) and launch a Guiding Bolt (16 radiant) which illuminates one of the Battlemasters…and then my Spiritual Hammer misses its skull regardless.

Near-simultaneously, the three Fishers attacking Sovan do, between them, a single glancing blow (6 piercing). Karma has its answers, I suppose.

Tabitha decides to let discretion be the better part of valour, and a Bless erupts from Eadgils’ Gauntlet over myself, Valerian and Quincy, then a Mirror Image trio bursts into life around her and she stands her ground.

The other Fishers retaliate – six missing Quincy, scrabbling to attack him from within the restraining Chain Net. Meanwhile one of the Battlemasters uses his martial prowess to actually penetrate Beausoleil and my Shield spell (13 piercing). I manage to maintain concentration on my Guardians but am rather surprised to be struck, I will admit. No construction is perfect; perhaps, though, if I double the connectors -

[ADDENDUM: YES, MORE ARMOR TALK TO EXCISE. WE RESUME THE BATTLE BELOW.]

Quincy kills one Chain-restrained Fisher (6 slashing) and injures another (10 slashing). Valerian pops into sight, grievously injures a Battlemaster Fisher (16 piercing) and hides anew. Sovan Shatters Quincy’s restrained Fishers, killing 1 and leaving 4 near death; his combined Word heals Tabitha and Inspires myself.

The three Fishers left near Tabitha suffer different fates – one dies to Spirit Guardians, one fruitlessly attacks a Mirror Image, at which his morale breaks and he flees. One clips Tabitha with a harpoon (9 piercing). I continue to attempt to drop the strongest foes, bloodying a Battlemaster Fisher with Guiding Bolt (20 radiant) and Spiritual Weapon (9 force).

More Fishers fail to injure Sovan, only one hitting him (10 piercing) and leaving him looking a trifle more ragged than usual. Tabitha uses Eadgils to Cure Wounds, runs into the shelter of my Spirit Guardians (evading any opportunity attacks) and badly hurts one of the Fishers that were upon her with Scorching Ray.

The Fishers near Quincy knock him prone with a harpoon thrust (13 piercing), but he parries the worst of it – taking another hit while on his back (6 piercing), he rises, muddy and grim, and kills 2 with three attacks. (8, 10, 7 slashing). Two remain in his chains.

As his blade falls, an arrow, seemingly out of nowhere, kills a Battlemaster Fisher (27 piercing). Valerian grins and vanishes. Sovan crows out his delight and shouts something mocking at Tabitha’s remaining adversary, who is startled enough to miss Tabitha with a harpoon.

My spells continue to pound at the remaining Battlemaster Fisher (22 damage total) but he does not fall; his plight, however, inspires the Fishers attacking Sovan to run for the hills. Tabitha uses Firebolt to reduce the last Fisher attacking her to a smoking ruin.

In a near simultaneous flurry of violence, the last Battlemaster hits me again (9 piercing) and is killed in turn by Valerian, as Quincy kills the last two normal Fishers near him.

Searching the bodies, their gear is simplistic and low in value, although we do find a strange amulet on the Fisher Shaman – a Helpful Amulet of Locate Object (see above). I search for a place of in which to take a short rest with Survival skills honed among the Stalkers of my Well, finding a spot of high ground on the NW edge of Hex 13.07 as the tide begins to recede.
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Much healing ensues; when we feel better, if lighter of potion pouch, we discuss whether we are content with killing a Servant for this somewhat inscrutable Local Power. Overall, we decide that we should at least see the foe and decide for ourselves, but that we might engage in some diplomacy en route to the Servant. As such, we resolve that we shall attempt to locate the Reef Snake village before proceeding to the Twisted Tree’s demesnes.

To that end, we head northwest through 12.07 – our estimation is that the Reef Snake village is in 12.06. We observe areas of high ground around the lake and rivers, which seem to keep above even high tides; these areas descend into frequently flooded flatlands around them. We cross two rivers heading northeast out of 12.07 – one into 13.06, one into 12.06 – with patches of high ground around them. These rivers slowly turn into deltas as they near the sea.

(Sovan’s beautiful map is worth checking for more details on the specifics of the local topography.)

All seems well, our journey progresses north through 12.06 towards the Reef Snake village’s likely locale…until suddenly everything is awful.

Three Vast and squamous tentacles erupt from the ground immediately ahead of us, connected to a hideous central body – a dark floating ball rising out of the murk, with wide white teeth set in a disquieting and malicious smile.

Valerian reacts, again, near-instantly – firing an arrow into the Dread Orb’s centre of mass (18 piercing) and hiding extraordinarily well. Sovan sings a nasty little crab-canon-phrase of psychic harm, and the Orb seems unaffected; he inspires me and subsides to see if the Divine Light fares any better.

As we enter this desperate combat, we notice that a heavy mist has arisen all around us, and our visibility is strictly limited. Perhaps this obscured vision is what distracts Tabitha as two of the Orb’s three tentacles lash out and grapple her, one missing, but the others slamming into her hard (17 and 13 bludgeoning).

At about this time, Quincy and I, in the vanguard of the expedition, feel chilled and pained (5 cold damage) – but, sadly, fail to connect this to Valerian striking the Orb until I hit a weak spot with Guiding Bolt (32 radiant crit) and follow up with my Powerful Spiritual Weapon (14 force)…and both hits hurt myself and Quincy (in 10’ range of the Dread Orb’s main body) and Tabitha (grappled, in contact with its tentacles) (2*5 cold).

Quincy, learning this lesson where I did not, momentarily pauses in assaulting the creature to attempt to secure Tabitha’s release from its grip, but is overpowered (STR 9).

Tabitha herself is about to pass out, and I see her panicked intention to turn on her Mantle of Flame – and as far as we know, immediately provoke her own unconsciousness from the creature’s chilling feedback – but Sovan shouts for her to hang on, and she trusts him implicitly enough to begin casting a Scorching Ray.

A good decision: as she finishes the spell, Sovan has dashed forward on mighty Veillantif to grip her, Dimension Door to safety, and let her unleash her Rays – only one of which hits, but both scores the creature (8 fire) and, through heating it, prevents the chilling feedback damage that it unleashed before.

Valerian seems to be waiting for us to clear out before they fire; this proves a risky decision, as the Orb advances towards them, obviously entirely aware of their location despite their Stealth. We swing at it as it leaves us, only Quincy drawing a line of thick ichor from its side (10 piercing.) Its three tentacle attacks on Valerian do, however, all miss.

I try to draw the Dread Orb’s fire by taunting it and running past its view – it misses with a quick tentacle attack, as do I with Sacred Flame, before my Spiritual Weapon strikes true (10 force) – as, from behind, Quincy slashes at it, hitting twice from three attacks (7 + 5 slashing) before settling back to find his Second Wind.

Valerian seems reluctant to shoot it from so close, but as they reappear, and the creature seems poised to press its attack, chanting emanates behind Valerian – Sovan and Tabitha both have a finger outstretched, familiar white-hot motes glowing in the air before their fingers. I am instantly and heartily glad I did not follow into melee.

Valerian flips backwards, firing an arrow in midair, which snaps the target’s head back as both Fireballs streak forwards and the creature -

- ‘pops’ out of existence. I…am not sure what has happened, but from my recent studies into the nature of Arcane reality-sculpting (in researching the Corrupt), I know something is wrong. This thing was not corporeally real as we understand the term…and yet it was there? I am confused. (1/8 experience.)

Quincy is more practical and specific – he smells a line of power coming from the north with his wolfen senses. My own Nose for Magic can assist him once he directs me to the scent. A remote entity ‘puppeteering’ this Dread Orb we fought. We resolve to track back this scent and kill the master while weakened from its puppet’s loss.

The smell weakens and fades, but we march north along the straight line of its path. Some minutes later, Quincy picks up the scent again, but more dispersed – as if a whole zone is polluted, ostensibly closer to the originating source. The smell is detectable even to ourselves – a stink of fetid ozone.

Seconds later, a mass of vegetation surges towards us. A Shambling Mound. I still my readied Lightning Bolt to avoid empowering the beast (Arcana 24 to know lightning absorb property.) Meanwhile Sovan and Tabitha blast it with Fireball (28 fire) and Scorching Ray (26 fire)…and seem to do full damage where the waterlogged Mound should resist flame. Curious.

Valerian and Quincy miss.

I Investigate the surroundings (18) and find that it is at least somewhat illusory – this is not a real mound, these are not real mists about us. Tabitha Blesses me, along with Quincy and herself, and holds off on attacking in case the illusion is ultimately invulnerable.

While we debate this in breathless seconds, the Mound (Image?) slithers forward and engulfs Quincy (14 bludgeoning). He disappears inside it, and Sovan’s Dissonant Whispers make the Mound shriek (27 psychic), but the Mound fails to run.

Valerian strikes the Mound again from hiding (15 piercing), and Quincy escapes its grip as it reels. It dodges my Sacred Flame [NB: I was idiotically asking for WIS not DEX saves all along…] and I content myself with using my Well-given Rally to bolster Quincy’s resolve (5 THP).

Another Fireball from Tabitha does significant damage to the Mound (28 fire) but it rolls over Quincy once more (15 bludgeoning) and ignores Sovan’s efforts to frighten it. Valerian strikes the Mound with another well-placed shot, missing the struggling Quincy (16 piercing), just as Quincy briefly surges out of the Mound, dashes away – and is caught as he moves, sucked back in to the Mound’s interior.

When I try to drag the thing off of Quincy with Thorn Whip, unfortunately enough he turns out to move with his captor. Tabitha misses with a Firebolt; the creature flails outward at myself (missing) and at Quincy within (also a miss). The Mound ignores more of Sovan’s mind-affecting magic, but takes yet more savage damage from Valerian (23 piercing), before making Quincy’s form inside it…disappear. We have no idea, at that time, where to.

The second he was out of its space, I used Beausoleil to fire a Lightning Bolt into the Mound’s body and make it ‘pop’.

The second it disappears, we see an unconscious Quincy; he is not injured, but is slightly more Corrupt on waking and feels nauseous beyond belief (+1 Corruption – No Boon). I pick up the nearby scent of these apparitions’; master with my Nose for Magic and we swiftly track it down.

As we near the master, the Sundered’s Bird appears on a branch. It informs us that we have, through dumb luck, found a Servant it did not in fact hire us to destroy. It seems elated, still, at this chance opportunity – “Well done, it’s close!” it caws out – but informs us that it can’t help us find it beyond telling us to “look carefully”. The Bird flies away.

Its speech, all through this time, is confused, discursive; as it leaves, we see thick furrows carved into the branch where its claws lay.

Regardless, we find the source of all this mayhem – a 4-5’ long worm embedded in the ground, pulsing with hatred, half-coated with mud. The Worm begged for its life, but offered only unspecified but doubtless tainted power, mixed with further lies that it would spare us in future. Tabitha looked into its heart, and saw only its own selfish lust to propagate its time on this Plane.

I look at the wounds on my comrades and take great pleasure in incinerating it with my last stored Lightning Bolt. It turns to ash, some of which we collect to feed to Aythe as part of her blanket request for the remains of strong adversaries.

As I do, the oppressive ozone stink around us dies down; the Sundered’s Bird appears, asking us to ‘come North’ to find us, travelling ‘over the water’. Its voice is different than before, but we know not precisely how. It leaves hurriedly.

Deciding that our efforts to reconvene with our Patron can wait until we are no longer stinking and half-dead, we find a secure enough location for the night (Survival 20). We sleep. We take watches. We are not disturbed.

Day 2

The next morning, Quincy is less nauseous. Conferring, we decide to kill the Tree Servant already from last expedition before we get rewarded, reasoning that bringing two bounties will perhaps earn two rewards. So decided, we proceed N through 12.06, heading to 11.05, and with continual castings of _Water Walk we make swift progress.,

As we travel, a third river delta beneath our magically floating soles, we see the tide coming in aggressively; bird humanoids wheel away above us, and Reef Snakes watch us from the north – making no response to Sovan’s Draconic “Hello!” save to instantly flee.

I think of my Sending to Sin of the Reef Snakes, unanswered whatever I said. I think of the look in their eyes when I described myself as a Servant. I decide that any diplomacy with those folk is best done without me present.

We press on.

Mid-morning, we arrive in 11.04, and find a bizarre mishmash of lowland marsh and forested hills, interspersed with little visible rhyme or reason. We see highlands exten into 10.04 and 11.03, and full-on coniferous forest in 12.04. – surmounted by a truly gigantic pine tree, the equal of the Mangrove to the southeast, similarly visible for miles.

A sea cliff arcs up along the edge of the bay to our north.Bird people fight Fishers in small clusters; all ignore us. We breathe in air half swampy musk and half crisp ocean breeze, and we ascend to a larger hill in front of us to take the lay of the land and find the Tree Servant’s lair.

Sovan, Quincy and Valerian stealth away to the hilltop, seeing the Pine in 12.04 more clearly, but also a copse of trees in southwest 11.03 that likely shelter the Tree Servant.

Tabitha and myself, meanwhile – left behind for our…rather patchy history with sneaking about – take a brief break below to discuss the Lightbringer series. Midway through a discussion of Book III, the Sundered’s Bird lands near the two of us. “Good – I’ve found you,”: it croaks. “You’ve done what I asked.”

When I remind the Bird that it wanted the TREE dead and that we were off to get that done, the Bird got agitated quickly. It stated that it could not reward us for both, to which Tabitha responded by suggesting a ‘Tab’ (the unintentional(?) pun!) and asking if the Tree was Evil as the Worm was – in which case we two would both happily turn it to ash.

At this point, the Bird began to vacillate – the Tree WAS evil, yes, but its priorities had shifted, and so it recommended that we hold off on slaying it. I think back to the mixed messages we’ve received – I think of the name ‘The Sundered One’ – and I ask the Bird if it serves two masters. Tabitha follows up, asking for it to clarify what it means while avoiding calling it a liar (Persuasion 10).

The Bird is visibly upset at this question being uttered, and at her attempt to cajole it into honesty. As the others return, Sovan reiterating Tabitha’s plea for clarity, the Bird states flatly that it “cannot explain this [inconsistency] to [us].” It hops about anxiously: “Things are not what they appear. You – you know things – that – I d – I don’t know that you know -”

We glean from what the Bird says that

  • The Tree Servant is both ‘a problem’ and ‘not a problem’ at the same time.
  • The Pine Tree (12.04) and the Mangrove (13.06) are both the Sundered One.
  • The Pine Tree wants us to spare the Tree, the Mangrove does not.
  • The Sundered One’s priorities shift constantly.
  • It can, however, tell us at a later date which Servant we really should kill.
  • We should still go to the Pine Tree and get paid for the Worm Servant we slew.

The Bird leaves, still agitated. For the present, we decide to listen to this most recent directive and leave the Tree Servant for now. We head north to the Sundered Pine – as we go, we see hills crumbling away and falling into fens to our east. The landscape is shifting more to the marshy southeast terrain all around us.

Arriving in the 12.04 coniferous forest, we approach the great pine tree, and see a vast eye form on its side – as, for a second, a blighted patch mars all of the pine’s southern face. “YOU’VE COME TO ME.” a great voice echoes out of the tree.

We are in the direct presence of the Sundered One’s Pine.

It speaks to us again: “I OFFERED YOU…A GIFT. YOU SLEWTHAT SERVANT. A GIFTSHALL BE GIVEN.”

Two of its branches arc down, unfurl, and drop knots of natural heartwood on the ground before us.

These Sundered Saplings are described to us as repositories of the Sundered One’s magic – a well of power to “offer respite”. When I ask where the Saplings might best be used, the Sundered Pine muses that we should not plant them here in its domain, nor that of any other Power; otherwise they should function, and the Sundered Pine “should be able to reach them” and activate them.

The Pine seems sincere and grateful, if a trifle remote, throughout this discussion. It is frank that the Saplings will be a locus to potentially spread the Pine’s power; they will definitely, however, offer us shelter and healing forever as well as “strength” – something like Grandmother Dryad’s Boons – to whomever is present on their first being planted.

Regarding the Worm Servant, it is…both good and bad, in the Pine’s estimation, that we killed it. More good than bad. Asking about the Tree Servant, the Pine grows suddenly more stern – “why would I POSSIBLY want you to kill that?” It looks crossly down at us, and advises that next time we should return ‘here’ to find out what it wants. When we querulously ask if it means ‘right here at the Pine’, it snaps “Of course – where else would you go to meet me?”

(We stifle multiple Mangrove-related comments.)

I venture to ask about the blight I saw on the Pine’s south face, only to be cut off and told, VERY harshly, that I was mistaken and no such blight existed.

The interview ended quickly after that – for us, at least. For the outside world, it took most of a day, so we eventually slept nearby with very little accomplished for that entire second day of expedition.

The night is uneventful.

Day 3

We set off for home, as the Sundered Pine has clearly vetoed any attack on the Tree Servant at this time.

We make it as far as 11.05 before the Sundered’s Bird reappears and asks why we’re leaving without killing that Tree Servant. It is adamant that it never told us not to, and seems unaware of our discussion with the Pine. Of course it can reward us for killing the Tree Servant. We must do so at once!

The Bird is so insistent that we look at each other…

…consider…

And head back north towards the Tree Servant’s likely lair.

(At this point Quincy and Valerian begin muttering fabulously inventive profanities about this winged messenger and its mixed messages. Sovan, Tabitha and I try to be more cheerful about the confusion, but our smiles to each other are evidently strained.)

Only to be stopped by the Bird again. It questions where we are going…

I take several deep breaths.

We firmly tell the Bird that we were just ordered back to slay the Tree Servant and that it should let us do that. The Bird hems and haws, but very tentatively accepts our intentions.

OR SO WE THINK – I am sorry. Or so we think, because minutes later, a swarm of bird-persons, led by a frazzled looking speaker named ‘Arek’, swoop down in front of us. They look as if they have rushed here through a hurricane wind; I suspect that one iteration of the Sundered One warped them here at unsafe speeds to cut us off.

Arek introduces his people as the Flock. He disclaims any knowledge of what exactly is going on, and nervously tries to hint that he cannot say certain things he knows without endangering his own safety. He begs us not to kill anything ‘up here’ (among the Sundered Pine’s hills) – “Things will only be worse” if we do. The area’s landscape will become even more unstable in its rifts between Fen and Hills, at the very least.

Arek tries to drive home the point, when we mention that we despise the Fishers, by opining that the Fishers would love for us to slay anything we find in the Sundered Pine’s hills. The implication that the other side is pure, unmitigated evil is not entirely realistic, in my experience.

Nevertheless, we decide that this is not the day for a probing inquest into a free summary of local politics and agree to leave, the Tree Servant unmurdered for now. Arek and his fellows are visibly relieved.

The Flock, it turns out, have a trading post in 10.04, a third of the way in, to which we are welcome any time. Arek will not likely be there, but others can treat with us in his stead. We say our goodbyes and head southeast towards the portal. Surely, we think, this is our last discussion on the subject!

As we descend into 11.06, trotting along the surface with Water Walk, we hear a slight throat-clearing noise – and nearby we see a young black dragon.

“Hello.” it says, as meekly as any dragon reasonably can.

“Hello!” Sovan says, far less meekly than that. “I’m Sovan!”

“Call me…Dak.” Says the dragon. The BLACK dragon. (Most purely malicious of all the chromatic lineages.) The black dragon with whom we proceed to have a perfectly civil conversation.

What a job we have.

Dak opens with a welcome frankness – acknowledging that it is a Servant of the Sundered One. “The Mangrove?” I ask, beginning to grasp the divide we are facing. “Yes…” Dak says, almost sheepishly.

(Before you die, you owe it to yourself to see a dragon being sheepish.)

Dak goes on: “I know I’m not a convincing messenger, but I want you to take what the Northern people (the Flock, the Pine) say with a grain of salt.” I think he is either truthful or a brilliant liar. (Insight 22.) He proceeds to narrate at least one internally consistent version of events.

Dak chides us, ruefully, for killing the Puppeteer – we made things worse when we did. The Puppeteer is a sign of the Corruption, and of how things have changed, but that is not universally awful – the Sundered One Half (yes, you’ve likely already worked this out, but to us it was a welcome confirmation) he work for, the Mangrove, doesn’t mind being a half. The Pine is far more fussed about Unity and Purity and such.

I ask some questions and Dak confirms that, broadly:

  • The Pine supports the Flock; the Mangrove supports the Fishers. (Dak winces at our expressions when the Fishers come up; heasks us not to find guilty by association, at least not on his part.)
  • The Pine supports the land, the Mangrove supports the water.
  • The Pine supports what once was, the Mangrove supports what is coming to pass. Change. Destruction. Renewal.

Dak also confirms that the Worm we killed was a fellow Servant of the Mangrove, but ‘broken’ – although it was ‘useful’ nonetheless in shoring up reality and stability in the region. He understands why we had to kill the Worm, although he is not happy that we had to; there are now, he advises, only 7 Servants left including himself. Four serve the Mangrove (Dak being one.) Three serve the Pine.

He asks me to ‘read’ him, and I Detect Good and Evil – he is a bit Aberration, a bit Celestial. I report this and he sighs. ‘I used to be mostly Fey’, he grumbles.

I abruptly interrupt to ask if the Sundered Apple I ate might turn me into something like that Worm Servant. “Yes,” Dak replied, with a pained look that he held onto for most of the discussion. “In the worst case scenario.”

(As he is talking, I am briefly imagining myself, oozing, shrinking, embedded into – but no. Other solutions will be found. I will not turn; I will see to that most assiduously.)

Snapping back to the conversation, Sovan is asking if the Sundered Saplings are safer than the Apple I ate. “Oh, yes, most likely,” Dak reassures us. “They don’t lie – only we do. …I know that I am not able to do the best job of convincing you to trust us a little, but I want to be honest even where others may not be.”

I must say, his frankness IS rather refreshing.

The specifics of the ‘worse’ we made the world when we killed the Puppeteer, we ask? “You made it harder to hold the world together,” Dak grimaces. “DO NOT kill another Node-Keeper. Help it to be better instead.”

To clarify this rather singular bit of advice, Dak goes on to fill in many blanks in our picture of the Corruption event – with his own overt disclaimer that he has put much of this together on his own over centuries of careful consideration, and can prove almost none of this.

Dak confirms Aythe’s reading that the Puppeteer was a fusion of a powerful mage, keeper of the Felltower Node, and the Corruption Entity that overtook the Node Network. This Entity was, as best he can surmise, the fusion of a ‘god over gods’ that had come to prevent some unspecified calamity, a catastrophic instability of local reality, provoked, it seems likely, by there being “too many Nodes” in the Empire’s network.

This Arch-Celestial made a deal with Aberrant Powers to gain raw power by fusing with the Far Realm. It thereby became a powerful Divine Aberration that invaded the Node Network and turned it into a set of ‘stitches’ on the world that held it together…while leaking Corruption from the reality-warping, life-hating Aberrant side of its nature.

All of the Nodes the Corruption Entity touched thus became fountains of Corruption, and their Node-Keepers either died or fused with the Entity to form beings like the Puppeteer. Only Nodes knocked offline (as with the Dark Forest Swamp or Silesse’s Retreat) were spared.

Turning to the local specifics, the Mangrove Tree turns out not to be just a mighty growth – Dak confirmed that it is, in fact, an active (Corrupting) Node. But the particular nature of its Keeper, the Sundered One, renders it less hostile than those run by humanoids like the being that became the Puppeteer.

Long before the Corruption, the Sundered One was a great Fey spirit of the Land and Sea, and specifically of the creative chaos where they met in the Fens. Silanyans came to the region and forced this Arch-Fey into service as Keeper of the local Node. At that time, they still were one being. The Servants were its Fey courtiers.

Dak paused, here – very serious – and said to us all “I have to tell you…DO NOT talk to either Tree (the Pine or Mangrove) until memory of this discussion has faded into a background memory.” Both can, it seems, read recent and surface memories; this might be disastrous were either, but especially the Pine, to see that we had discussed the nature of the Sundered One, and especially that we knew it had been split.

This split was an act of self-preservation. The Sundered Pine, sensing the wave of Corruption inbound, broke as much as it could of itself away from the Mangrove Node, returning to the Pine that is its current home as the Corruption Entity took hold of the Node. In so doing, it preserved most of its pure Fey nature, but became obsessed with that ‘purity’ and the idea that it was not diminished or split with the Mangrove Node.

The two trees, Pine and Mangrove, remain connected halves of the once liminal and region-spanning whole. They exist in an uneasy truce – and Dak suggested that we not kill any more Servants of any stripe, as that tips the balance of power. When either half, either Tree grows stronger, they gain more influence – and might be able to more directly control the Servants…including Dak.

Dak was blunt about his vested interest in the status quo – he currently enjoys a measure of independence and unchanging Dragon nature due to its Master being divided against itself. He values that independence and will, if we resume Servant Hunting, try to kill us to preserve it. He would not relish that, but would not hesitate.

At this point I interjected: “This is very fine. But – to be frank as you have been – what would you have us do? The Puppeteer was destroying all in its path, as do all these Nodes. You would have us do nothing, but what point is there in keeping the world intact if the world becomes a blasted nightmare?”

Dak acknowledged my point: “There is a lot of truth to that, yes. The Entity came, and everything changed, but you have to understand that we’re still better off than we were before – it stopped…something, I don’t know exactly what. The Sundered One knows more but isn’t very straight with me – sometimes it can’t be, sometimes it doesn’t want to be. I DO know that, as far as it believes, this is an interim step before things get worse by far.”

“What you can maybe do,” Dak says tentatively, “is try to talk with the Celestial portion of the Entity. It’s part of a bad thing that wants you all to die – but that’s not ALL it wants and you might be able to help it see that it wants other things far more. What it came here to do. You need to try to talk with the Corruption.”

Apparently, according to Dak, we need to do so at a working Node. To wit: another Felltower. How manageable and reasonable. Pushing through our significant skepticism, Dak asks us to at least try to make contact with Corruption and try to find a better way forward. …likely, he is not wrong that it is worth the proverbial “College try.”

One location Dak suggests for a possible contact with the Corruption Entity is The ‘Blighted Steppe’ – a series of plains corresponding to 7.03, 8.03 and 8.04 on our maps. (It apparently took decades for it to glean that location, considering its spatial limitations vis-a-vis the Folds in the landscape.) That area has a Node, dormant but still connected to the Corruption’s area of the network.

If we activate that Blighted Steppe node, its local Corruption will spike (as with the Felltower Woods while that Node was active), but the Corruption will likely come through, at the very first, in a form more amenable to parlay. Right after this, it will likely attempt to kill us all, so we should speak quickly and to the point.

Amongst ourselves, later, we brought up Silesse’s node – if we could hook it back up to the Node Network (she was ejected forcibly during Corruption, saving her life) that might be another way to meet with the Corruption and talk…but would likely kill her or far, far worse. Never. Never EVER.

(…not unless there is truly no other hope.)

Alternatively, we could try talking to the Sundered Mangrove Node. It is less inimical to all life than many. But we should be aware that this is by no means safe – just not as terribly hateful as the Puppeteer we killed in the Felltower.

Whatever we do, Dak underscores once again, we should not kill any more Servants. Not even Dak’s enemies, or he may fight us to preserve the status quo – he does not know what killing more servants will do the precarious local balance between all Powers involved.

If we wish to talk to Dak further, he roosts near 11.06. He reiterated that the Mangrove Servants can and do lie, and that much of what he said is conjecture, but he asks for us to trust at the very least that he will not attack or impede us as long as we do not sink further into the war between the Sundered One’s two sides.

We say our farewells for the present, as Dak takes wing and we head to the 13.07 portal home.

No further incidents occupy us as we return to the Wall. We make it home.

As I write this, I look at the wine-dark stain in the shape of an apple on my hand, lambent in the soft candlelight by which I write, and I hope very much that it is the shadows and my imagination that make it blacken.

That make it pulse.

That make it cover a little more of my hand than it did yesterday.

Signed in the Light, this Twentieth Day of Cleansing,
Jean-Pierre du Vayrir de la Grand Contumace Saint-Emilion

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Expedition 92 - Another Tragedy in the Broken Forest
Giant scorpions aren't any more fun than rocs and megamonitors

Sunday, May 6, 2018

[not posted on time, sorry y’all]

CHARACTERS

CHARACTER CHANGES

  • Sovan levelled to 7 and gained advantage on interactions with the Church of the Wild music
  • Mag levelled to 3, lost 4 strength, and gained disadvantage to strength saves
  • Aythe levelled to 4, got a weird and mothy session resolve, got a bond to something in the Broken Forest, and has found one portal
  • Stu died

GP/XP

  • 1517 xp/person, including sheet update (42 xp for Stu)
  • 614 gp/each, 463 if donated to the LMF (29 gp for Stu)

SALEABLES

  • guava, 1 gp, bought by Jean-Lee
  • scorpion poison, 280 gp, could be used for contact poison
  • bone cylinder with map to something in 7.16
  • healing potion plants, 400 gp, bought by Jean-Lee
  • 15 books, 4 of them magical, from the raven library (see library catalogue)
  • clay gloves (advantage on gardening and harvesting/handling dangerous plants), 200 gp, _bought by Silverleaf [unless someone else wants them, she doesn’t have a claim to them so just lmk]
  • beacon rock from Cavers, 10 gp, bought by Sovan
  • random shit from Ksshan caravan, 180 gp

LOG

This expedition planned to explore Hex 8.17 in the Broken Forest. We went south through the Felar Wood for a while first to get somewhere with a clear shot at a portal. On the way we saw about 20 Crested Skull, mounted and pulling carts with statues and a lockbox. They fired a few warning shots at Sovan when he greeted them so we just kept going.

Stu opened a portal that took us to thick, hilly jungle (10.16). Right in front of us were a bunch of corpses being skinned and looted by some grey-skinned, moth-winged creatures wearing porcelain masks. One had with a rose outline, one had a scar painted down the enamel. Sovan greeted them in all his languages. One of them snapped its fingers and disappeared. Another started talking in Sylvan. When Sovan cast comp lang, it said that ‘the toy’ could speak and told him he was far from home. The invisible one appeared again and shot an arrow at Sovan but stopped when the other one asked it to. It asked us why it shouldn’t hunt us down as prey. Sovan told it that we’re talented, hard to kill, and useful potential allies. They asked for a gift since it was ‘near the festival’ and suggested the usual fey stuff like dreams, emotions, first borns. Aythe offered to get a memory from one of the bodies and then let them eat the memory. She did and they seemed pleased. They gave her some weird prophetic glimpse in return [extra session resolve to use later, but it feels a bit strange]. We assume that the dead things were powerful and evil, because after that Aythe cancelled her LMF donation.

While that was going on, Sovan went to take a healing potion and one of the moth fae reached out and touched it. When he drank it, it was very effective but he started grinning crazily and couldn’t stop for the rest of the day. When they were done taking the memory, they gave us directions and we looked for a portal away.

Then we went through the portal and fell into the ocean. The weather was good but the waves were still very strong. Sovan cast fly on Jean-Lee, who then picked him up. Stu turned into a crocodile and supported me and Aythe while she opened the portal back up. We popped out into another jungle area. This area didn’t have any obvious dangers, just a lot of monkeys eating guavas in the trees. After a short rest, we finally portalled into a stand of trees next to a small lake in the NW of 8.17.

While we were finding our feet, a megamonitor leapt out and attacked us. It knocked me out with a bite [cue massive damage roll] and almost flattened Aythe with a tail swipe [up at 1 HP]. Sovan healed me. Jean-Lee cast calm emotions on it and it started wandering away. Stu cast speak with animals and told it that I wasn’t worth eating and it could find something better somewhere else. It dropped me and fucked up my shoulder [4 perm strength damage and disadv on str saves], but then it was gone. We’d heard some lizard roaring from further away, so presumably it went off to go hunt with that one.

After another rest to heal, we harnessed Stu to Jean-Lee and Sovan cast fly on him so they could scout the area. A few hundred feet up, they saw the roc coming. They flew down and managed to hide with PWT and a fog cloud. We saw the roc crash into a different section of trees and fly off with a large goat instead. Apparently they live in pairs. One will hunt and bring food back to the nest to gorge itself on, then spends a while sleeping it off while its mate circles the nest to protect it. So if you see one successfully hunt, don’t go near the nest but the rest of the forest should be safe for a while.

As we were going through a patch of trees, we heard a crunching noise and got attacked by three giant scorpions. One took Jean-Lee down [temp -1 str, -2 dex] and grappled him. Another dropped Stu [temp -investigation prof]. Aythe made the one holding Jean-Lee think that disease was spreading up its claws where it was touching him, but it didn’t let go. The third one dropped me again [temp -4 dex] and almost killed me, but Sovan rammed himself between its claws to take the hit instead. He healed Jean-Lee and Stu, Stu cast Moonbeam. Then the scorpion grappling Stu killed him and started carrying him away. It looked fast at least.

Sovan got hurt some more and turned into a boar. I used the mace and they all started running. Sovan and Aythe each killed one as they ran past, but the one carrying Stu got away. I chased after and saw it disappear down a crevice. When I approached, a scorpion popped up and seemed to sense me but didn’t know exactly where I was, so they have some kind of blindsight or tremorsense. They’re tough to fight. Their shells makes them hard to hit [AC 15]. They can go around 40 ft, so they’re hard to keep up with. They strike three times at once, a poisonous stinger and then two claw attacks.

The next morning we went back to get revenge for Stu. We snuck up and saw five scorpions sunning themselves just inside the crevice. Sovan fireballed and we killed 4 quickly, then the last when it tried to run. We found a bone cylinder with a screwtop that turned out to have a map in it marking something in 7.16. There was the body of one of the gnome-like people (Cavers). He was wearing a red hat with a blue feather, which we took to give back to his people.

We recovered Stu’s body and buried him beneath a large tree near the lair. I didn’t know him well, but anyone could see that he was brave and competent and reliable. He served the Guild well and died honourably.

When the burial was done, we went to explore a nearby mesa. It was honeycombed with tunnels so we picked a likely looking one and went in. The tunnels look like they were originally natural but were expanded and changed in some places. As we were heading upwards (to see if we could reach the top of the mesa), five poisoned darts hit Jean-Lee. Sovan stepped out in front and made a show of not having any weapons, and several of the Cavers came out to speak with us. The spokesperon, Nif, was wearing a green hat with a red feather. He told us that we should leave and there was nothing here for us to see, until Sovan mentioned having killed a nest of scorpions (he also returned the hat to Nif, who gently cradled it) and he started fawning. Aythe started dancing in the background to charm them, which worked although apparently they’re not allowed to dance. They avoid the roc by travelling through underground tunnels, these are dangerous but not off-limits to us. The mesa contains a diamond mine, which the Progressed Ones use for magic. They ‘serve the land,’ but didn’t get too descriptive about it. They wouldn’t say any more about the Progressed Ones but told us to go to the temple and light a fire if we wanted to talk to someone official. A bell rang from above and Nif and the others ran off to deal with that, after getting permission from Sovan.

We took the tunnels down and came to a large, black lake. Jean-Lee cast light on a stone and threw it into the lake to reveal a bloated humanoid corpse face-down in the water about 30 ft from shore. We tied a rope to a lighted arrow so we could pull the corpse close enough to see properly. When the arrow struck, it reared up and shrieked. Aythe cast Faerie Fire and we saw about 20 creatures who’d been swimming towards us beneath the water. Jean-Lee turned undead and 15 of them ran, Sovan fireballed and killed 15 as well. Aythe flared into radiance and the rest of us got inspired to run away from them without drawing attacks.

The main one pulled some kind of black ichor out of its face and black appeared in the eyes of the grunts near us, then it dove underwater. They went incorporeal, so that not even magic weapons could hurt them, and got harder to kill – you’d think you got one, but then it would get up again. Eventually we killed them. Later on, one of the Progressed Ones told us that the hive only dies if you kill the focus, though.

We stumbled away. Jean-Lee had gotten hit and was feeling shitty. Some kind of rot was setting into his arm, fast enough that we couldn’t cut it out without amputating. Sovan had heard that sometimes Bless stops undead effects, if you do it fast enough. Jean-Lee blessed himself and we saw the image of a necrotic hand get ripped off his arm. Just before the mark faded he heard a voice in his head telling him to ‘come back’.

We took another path forward that avoided the lake. After travelling for a while, we found a chamber lit by sunlight coming through cracks high in the ceiling. There were big, broad-leafed plants that Jean-Lee said are used in healing potions so we collected a bunch of their leaves. Aythe left a ragdoll behind to help us find the place again.

We were going along a tunnel that seemed to be going upwards when we heard loud rushing water. We hid in a side chamber and saw two creatures rush past, filling the tunnel with water. They were human-shaped but made of water themselves. They passed by without noticing us.

After a few more hours of travelling, we saw light ahead and came to an open plateau shadowed by an overhang of rock. There were several very shabby buildings and a herd of large, two-headed goats. One charged us and we killed it, the rest stayed away after that. The buildings were mostly full of rotting grain and rusted weapons. Whoever lived here was about human-sized. A map on the wall showed a ‘probable location’ in the SE but it was water-damaged and basically useless. Upstairs, we found a room with a stone table and a carved, blank shield. With thieves tools, you can pivot it, then press the raven symbol on the other side and open a secret door near the stairs. Inside was a bookshelf, which we emptied out, and a crest with a black raven clutching something demonic looking by the throat.

The next day, we kept exploring. In one place, we saw a lot of bubbling, spraying water through a crack in the wall. Detect magic showed evocation but we couldn’t make out much else. Eventually we reached the surface and headed overland towards the temple.

After a while, we felt a strange humming that turned into singing – it sounded like a religious summons. We snuck up to a clearing full of all kinds of animals gathering peacefully. Trees were growing around them to form a place to worship and the earth formed itself into pews. A fire erupted from the ground in the centre and the animals bowed to it. I wanted to join [failed wis save], the others weren’t as interested. Flowers bloomed in a line ahead of me to lead me to the right pew, which grew to fit me and the rest of the group when they followed. Jean-Lee and I found the prayer refreshing and peaceful [regain a HD if we have expended one, disadvantage on next initiative]. Aythe felt a pulse connecting her to some moving presence in the north. Sovan tried to harmonize with the music and got an idea of how it works [advantage on checks to interact with it in future]. After a while, the song ended. The fire died down and the animals left. I think this happens regularly.

We reached the temple and explored it before lighting the signal fire. It’s open with pillars and druidic writing on the walls. In the centre, there’s a ring of statues: gods standing in a circle with their hands outstretched. We saw Herne, the Nameless God, Oberon, something that looked like an elemental plane god. One statue looked like some sort of con, it was a guy with a mishmash of divine symbols on his robes which apparently didn’t make sense except as a costume. Aythe found a mechanism under the back hem of the robe, which opened up the plinth to show a ladder descending into darkness. We shut it again and left it for the next party.

We lit the fire and saw an answering fire on a mesa several hours to the west. After three hours of waiting, the envoy arrived. Several Cavers carried him on a litter. He was ancient and withered, wearing a yellow cap with a red feather marker with an X. There were some invisible people hanging around as well. He introduced himself as Aster, using some kind of control over the others – he spoke through them using their voices in unison. When he wanted to offer his hand to Sovan to kiss, he had the underlings lift his hand for him.

We offered an alliance, possible trading, maybe service. Aster negotiated with Sovan and assumed the rest of us were his wards. He is very progressed, obviously. He didn’t tell us much about the pictures and the ward the last expedition saw since the Cavers have seen too many outsiders and demons to go around trusting everyone they meet. Apparently the pictures were potentialities. He warned us to be careful in the temple, since your spirit will be trapped in your body if you die here. He told us not to enter the settlements in the mesas without permission. Apparently, they will all be guarded or marked. The next time the call to prayer happens, he told us to just follow our guts and not try to use cunning to manipulate anything.

In terms of trade, we gave them Stu’s armour and they gave us two items in return. The first was a beacon of some sort. It’s a rock that they charged with electricity, and as long as we carry it with us the Cavers should know not to attack us. They also gave us a pair of gloves made of dirt that will help with gardening or harvesting dangerous plants. Next time we meet, we’ll bring items for trade and see how that develops. They might hire us if we prove ourselves trustworthy or if they really need us.

Once they’d left, Aythe looked for a portal home and we came out near where we wanted to be, in the middle of a ksshan caravan. We killed most of them and took their wagons, then got home without anything else happening.

View
Expedition 90 - The Sundered Fens
In which a Revival prompts a job offer.

April 7, 2018

[Posted late – no +0.1 HP. All apologies. Wedding stuff.]

Changes

  • Hadley levels to 4 (and takes Crossbow Expert feat)!
  • Marun levels to 2!
  • Herb levels to 2!
  • JP eats the Sundered Apple (2 Corruption) and gains the Thorn Whip cantrip and the ability to prepare Conjure Animals as per a Druid.

Notable Loot

  • Everyone recieves 569 XP. Everyone gets 321 GP, or 375 GP if they did not donate to the Leshanna Memorial Fund.
  • Rod of the Unseen Servant – Allows for the summoning of a permanent Unseen Servant (as per the spell); seems guided by the caster, as JP’s has become a lugubriously fussy butler named Heinrich. [Claimed by JP.]

Preliminary Preparations

  • Hadley borrows the Springvine Longbow
  • Herb borrows the Mace of Terror and Healing Gourd
  • Marun borrows Amara’s Gauntlet
  • Hadley, Herb and Marun bring 4 potions, Valerian brings 3, Night brings 2, I (JP) bring 0.

Log Proper

Preamble

My first expedition in some time. Since becoming, as Sovan won’t stop calling me dramatically, the ‘Phoenixheart’. My first since the Well took me in. Showed me the Forest – showed me where change, mutability, growth lurks even in what appear to be the very pillars of stability.

In its quiet way, a lot changed on this trip out.

For myself, at least.

But first – the journey, before the outcome. It was a chilly, windy day. We bundled up and gathered by the Wall. I was met there by four others.

Valerian I have known of old. They remain decidedly wild and slightly maddening and liquidly courteous. Around their arms and shoulders, the Armwrap coiled – for them a silken shawl that seemed to diffuse their elegantly wasted limbs’ movements, make them hard to track. After some time with the Stalkers, sparring, part of me started idly trying to identify where I’d look to deflect a blow as I closed and found it frustrating, if enticing, to watch their arms sway as if carried by an itinerant breeze. Perhaps if – or maybe if I pivoted – but I have not, surely, been brought to the point, even in the abstract, of imagining how my comrades might be bested -

They are, ultimately, very deadly at any range and supremely reliable, and that is all I need say about that.

[Night’s Mistress] (‘Night’, so named by [Bugle]) is a curious one, to my mind – a second Kenku that underscores the real lack of unifying monoculture between their flocks. Where he is all overt suspicion and caustic bluntness and military right angles, she…glides. She is very polite and helpful and extraordinarily hard for me to read; her past behaviour has at times been reckless but her moral rectitude seems unwavering. She is the sort of enigma, the shade of grey with whom I am finally beginning to become a little, little bit more comfortable. I am not sure how she and [Bugle] get on so well, except that when he flies she looks at him like a graven idol. I do not doubt that he would be uncomfortable with that characterization; I am less sure whether that characterization is not quite apt.

Highly effective once she closes; tremendous stealth-enabler. ‘Glass jaw’ – any further injuries to her core run the risk of incapacitating her.

Herb is a burly, grizzled, highly pugnacious Paladin-in-Training (not yet sworn to an Oath.) He is – from all the available evidence – garrulous, unscrupulous, antagonistic and blithely unconcerned with diplomacy. I found my tenure as his expedition leader / minder / apologist to the Corrupt deeply frustrating; my candour stems in part from my very strong belief that he will never actually read this Log past the pages indicating the GP value of his allotted treasure.

That said he is a neophyte in our Guild and many have grown rapidly (in more areas than purely martial aptitude) in the crucible that is this continent. My frustration with his present is a continued resolution to hope for better.

Marun is a fellow cleric, though he follows Leira of the Mists. She is a Goddess for whom I have significantly more time now than I did as a rather more judgmental young man; a puckish force of chaos, although in Marun’s hands it seems more like mischief than misrule. He is charming and possessed of many interesting, amusing and/or heartwarming stories, almost every one of which is at least partially a lie. I like him quite a bit. (Possibly out of ongoing familiarity with one of Silanya’s foremost ‘creative truthtellers’.

Marun is, however, very young in his Choosing, and as such his powers have much room to grow. Keep him safe and well-covered and he is an able healer.

Finally, we turn to Hadley. Hadley is boisterous, impetuous, and a devoted…disciple?…of the dearly missed(*) Camille. They are perhaps a little bit afraid, I think, that I will judge them harshly on that basis, or attempt to induce them to drink less and attend more services of the Tree – which they perhaps imagine, based on certain apocyphal accounts, are typically held near dawn and involve drinking very cold water and silently holding hands in fellowship. This is not strictly accurate. I hope to get to know Hadley better in future; this expedition did not prove to do the trick.

Give Hadley a ranged weapon and they will, with their marvelous eyes, do rather a staggering amount of damage from very far away.

Day 1

Our plan is to head to an intermediary point and form a portal to the lands north of Antorem without ‘pushing our luck’ regarding distance. We make our preparations and leave the wall into hex designate 04.13. Seeing the immaculate surface split smoothly before us, then reform, I cannot help but think of the crack – and of those who caused it – and grit my teeth in frustration.

For the moment, however, we head to the nearest bridge over the river and pass the Blazing Banner-occupied waystation also in 04.13.

Continuing on to 05.12, we see significant numbers of Blazing Banner cavalry in combat formation surrounding a hobgoblin outpost. We decide that our erstwhile allies of convenience can handle themselves, and that we are not going to risk the new blood’s life for a den of slavers, and ignore this conflict.

Further still to the northeast, in the high grass on the way to hex 06.12, there are many trampled down tracks coming and going from the nearby Blazing Banner fort, accompanied (as the trackers among us confirm) by wagon ruts. They seem to be aggressively supplying their own fortress from their farther headquarters to the southeast.

Entering 06.12 proper – Crested Skull territory – we see their light cavalry watching us from the north. I send out a cheery ‘Hello!’ and they fire warning shots that, obviously, do not risk injuring me whatsoever. As we continue, heading northeast and diverging from the road (though staying well south of the Crested Skull fortress), we head for the river – our landmark heading north. En route we see the burnt-out remains of a trebuchet and wagon, all but buried under many Blazing Banner corpses pincushioned with arrows. Logic suggests the Crested Skull, master archers, were involved. Nothing is to be done; we move along.

By early evening, we reach 07.11, the (poetically named) Crumbly Hills, walking northeast until the firmer land along the riverbank, then north on that safer ground.

Proceeding north along the riverbank, we spot a poorly concealed burrow – haphazardly covered with vines by someone with more enthusiasm for spycraft than talent. Entering, we find it to be an occupied Ogre cave [MPoI], although it is currently empty. The party decides as a whole to take bone cups and an ankheg’s carapace for later resale; feeling conflicted about robbing an empty house, however irrationally, I Create Food to make them a veritable feast. (Later, Marun impishly informs me that he ‘spiked’ it with hot peppers. I think I keep my face from blanching at the devastation that would wreak upon the careful spice balance I imparted to the bisque and laugh, weakly, at his well-intentioned jest.

As we leave, several live ankhegs begin to sidle towards us, only for the hill to collapse under them. We suspect a subterranean predator, but close inspection (and consultation with the Elemental in my armor) suggest a simpler solution: that the most ‘crumbly’ inland sections of the hills are treacherous; my own weight in armor might cause me to collapse the topsoil and be partially entombed. Worth noting for future parties!

Our northward trek leads us to the GrosQua fortress in 07.11, where we are greeted warmly. We are welcomed to stay and eat of their many mushrooms, fuelled by the Idol gained back from the Rebel GrosQua long ago. The tribe, we are informed, prospers; 2 new Shamans (possibly from a Fold in space-time?) have joined the community, and as yet no obvious hostilities have arisen from their Corrupted Glitch. The Banded are mostly gone, and they have been able to collapse the earth on those who do menace them and slaughter many. Their tribe’s food situation is stable, and they are otherwise peaceful. A ray of light in this dark place, at least for me, that our efforts led to a period of tranquility. If only for some.

Our bedroom is adjacent to their ‘mushroom fields’ – a vast cavern shored up by stone pillars, spreading fungus everywhere. I make the tribe, and the group, delicious quiche to go with the mushrooms. Marun harvests some of said fungi for the road – though there is much magic in spurring their unnatural increase, Detect Magic spies no appreciable magic left in the mushrooms once grown. They are safe to eat. That ascertained, we bunk in for the night.

Day 2

After we wake, Valerian shares some of their…unusual tea with Hadley; both find their eyes enhanced. (+ 10’ Darkvision.) We take our leave of the still-grateful GrosQua and proceed.

As we walk into 08.11, we are in the region once known as the Felltower Woods. Remembering what this place was – vast waves of Anti-Life, mutagens borne on high-frequency magic pulses from that hellish lair of the broken puppet-thing – I Detect Magic to ascertain what remains of the extraordinary aura of corruption. The result is mixed; while the ambient magic field continues to degrade, its ‘half-life’ (a coinage of Raevori’s) is such that the rate of decrease is slowing, and will probably persist as a low-grade residue for many years to come. Still, at present, the land is less blasted than it was, though it still seems sparsely populated – there are, indeed, far fewer of the Banded.

The Banded are not, however, entirely gone – as we passed a collapsed building, Hadley and myself see Banded excretions on the surrounding foliage and identify a likely occupied lair. From then on, most of us proceed with greater caution.

Carrying on into 09.10 – I manage (22 Perception) to see a Banded Ant nest [SW portion of hex, 1/3 into hex on diagonal line from SW corner]. Meanwhile, Valerian, Hadley and Marun begin a game of Hide and Seek. Before I can ask them politely to reconsider their judgment and timing, the Tree offers them a harsher lesson in choosing when to make sport as four Banded Hunters (the invisible scythe-armed skirmishers) appear and attack.

Valerian, with their truly remarkable reflexes, is Alert enough to turn and shoot one of their own ambushers with a nearly impossible headshot (37 piercing), but it survives and grazes them with one of its two counterblows (6 slashing). Another Hunter savages young Night with claws and bite (37 slashing), but she stays on her feet. The other Hunters miss. A Banded Gazer (the blurred ranged caster breed) emerges, Confuses Hadley, then peppers Herb with Scorching Rays, only missing with one Ray (14 fire).

We are able to respond, at last – Valerian for the second time. They go to hit the Gazer – and manage to nick it with an arrow (5 piercing) despite the permanent Blur effect on such beings, before hiding quite effectively among the trees (19 Stealth).

The Gazer drops Herb with more Scorching Rays but Marun fights off its Confusion effect; Herb begins to bleed out (1st Failed Death Save). I am finally able to act and send up Spirit Guardians while shouting the sacred word “TREE!” at Herb to heal him. (Later much is made of me using healing magic ‘for once’; I must try to accept that if it has become a Guild-wide joke, perhaps there is some truth to my combat priorities being unusual for a man of the cloth.)

Meanwhile, Hadley strikes out through the Confusion but critically misses, while Night disengages and runs out of melee to better situate her abilities (and not die.) As she is out of range of his healing, Marun chooses to Cure Wounds Herb to reinforce my own efforts to restore him.

The Hunters strike – though the most injured falls to Spirit Guardians – with one hitting Valerian with a light blow, while 2 fell Hadley, carving them as they fall [2 Failed Death Saves].

Valerian continues to sneak attack from the shadows, landing a deadly shot on one Hunter before Herb uses the Mace of Terror, setting all 3 to fleeing. I cast Guiding Bolt upon the Gazer and restore Hadley to consciousness with another Healing Word; Hadley is unable to act on waking (still Confused as it transpires) but shakes off that condition immediately after this momentary lull. Night readies their Darkness ki ability and begins dodging, while Marun lashes out with Sacred Flame, searing into the Gazer.

A second Hunter drops to my Guardians as the three survivors take to their heels – Hadley and I miss with attacks of opportunity as they go. Valerian makes a brilliant critical longbow shot upon the Gazer, after which Night drops her readied Darkness on its field of vision. I pursue the fleeing Hunters that remain to keep them in Guardians range. Herb shoots one such fleeing Hunter with his longbow. Night then kills that Hunter with her shortbow, while Hadley digs deep for a second wind and readies an attack on the next Banded to attack us. Marun misses it with a Sacred Flame.

Finally, my Guardians kill the last Hunter. Valerian, Hadley and I all ready ourselves to shoot the Gazer on Night dropping her Darkness – while Herb shoots into the black void and (surprisingly?) misses. The Gazer is, however, gone when Darkness lifts. Clearly this Gazer has heard about discretion being valour’s better part.

Licking our wounds, we make temporary camp in the nearby Baned Lair that we find (Survival 20) and restore ourselves. Searching the many, many half-gnawed corpses littering that foul creche, we find a lovely jeweled bracelet (250gp) on a long-deceased half-elf and take it, as I say a brief but sincere prayer of thanks that their old ornament can be used to fuel fresh life and our sacred mission.

Leaving our tempoarry camp, we walk into 09.10 to see the previously described zone of sharply demarcated and apparently permanent magical rainfall; Herb’s pleas for a shower regardless, we ignore it and head farther northeast into the lush and temperate Singing Rainforest.

The land ahead flattens into an elevated plateau that hugs the south edge of the Northern mountain range. As we march, we see the ‘Quiet People’ described by the Silver Lancers, but ignore them.

As evening falls, we hear and thereby move to avoid encroaching Singers, before finding a secure campsite and sleeping unmolested through the night.

Day 3

We press on into 10.10. It’s unseasonably cold and damp; the slender Night is wrapped in a blanket to stay warm in the sudden cold snap. Hadley, warmed from a night of ‘snuggling’ with Valerian into which I will not investigate too deeply in these notes, gallantly offers their cloak to Night, who gratefully accepts. It is strange to see a Kenku so…tolerant of…anyone else besides Sovan. Apparently it is not impossible for Kenku to express the sentiment ‘thank you’ or ‘yes, this IS your property that I am making free use of’.

[ADDENDUM: PLEASE RESTRICT FUTURE PERSONAL REMARKS SO INDICATIVE OF AN INTERNAL FAILURE OF REGIMENTAL MORALE AND/OR OPERATIONAL DISCIPLINE TO THE DOUBTLESS TEAR-STAINED PAGES OF ‘DEAR DIARY’. —AN ANONYMOUS COMMENTATOR.]

More Singers from the northwest as we march on; Night opens her mouth and the song Sovan taught her pours out. It’s a lovely imitation, if not quite the real thing; evidently the Singers think as I do, as they confusedly engage with the static reproduction, try to alter it, and fail. Ominously, I assess (based on lengthy experience with Sovan explaining the emotional tenor of Bardic music (aka Charisma 31)) that they are trying to make ‘Sovan’ bellicose and angry.

We decide to sneak off and not engage; Night sends forth a wave of concealment and trailing shadow, and we Pass Without Trace) along our way (Stealth 31). Behind us, we can see Blue Psychics fighting Singers as they tumble into the clearing, attempting to mentally dominate each other in a very even standoff. The Singers clearly expect to find allies in the clearing, which momentarily shocks them, but the battle is soon renewed; we leave before its outcome becomes clear.

Entering 11.09, our Night-assisted stealth leads us past a swarm of Antorem Hooligans, far outside their usual haunts in town.

Then, as we hit the border into 11.08, we find a Psychic treehouse. We offer to trade experiences for Powerful Thoughts, partially out of curiousity about these strange mental masters, partially as some such thoughts have already saved lives among our ranks. In order:

  • No interest in Hadley’s Prism Eyes (from a Jungle Prism Fruit)
  • No interest in Valerian’s…marvelous poetry
  • No interest in my psalms, explanatory pamphlets, brief agitprop theatrical pieces, or independent ministry regarding the Ever-Flowering Tree.
  • They are very interested in my memories of making Beausoleil, giving me a Powerful Thought of Misty Step – my mobility is an issue, and I am thankful.
  • They are similarly fascinated with Hadley’s abilities as a Battlemaster, offering them a Thought of Blindness.
  • Valerian demonstrates their preternatural Alertness for a Thought of Comprehend Languages.
  • Night, meanwhile, demonstrates her Ki energy and is extended a Thought of Levitate. .

Eventually, Hadley drives them off with what Valerian rather acidly (but not inaccurately) describes as ‘stupid offers of nonsense’.

We carry on into the new hex of 11.08, where trees high as the famed Southern Redwoods of Home are visible southeast of the hex’s centre through breaks in the tree cover; it is decided to investigate, cautiously, into this landmark.

We get within a mile of this copse of beautiful conifers, where my Clairvoyance can reach, and see a massive nest stretched between their boughs. It is as if tougher, slime-drenched spidersilk was woven on a massive scale into a platform. I also see a drained and bloodless corpse atop that platform, which lets Valerian’s studies into Natural Phenomena latch onto the details and deduce that the Wyvern we’ve been told haunts these woods is a rare bloodsucking type, larger and far more vicious than most. They immediately move to christen the web-spinning wyvern a ‘Spivern’, and we all enthusiastically agree. The location of its unique lair is thus of some significance [PoI].

Continuing onward to the northeast, we soon see this very Spivern, Huge in size, scoop up an unfortunate forest creature and fly off to feed. Even at a distance, it looks not to be trifled with.

Arriving in the northeast of 11.08, we nothing but plains due north. A slow decline leads down into 11.07, 10.08 and 12.08, which form a rolling, descending plains area; 13.08 is fully ocean, and sits on the other side of a 200’ sea cliff, one possessed of the jaggedly discontinuous profile that we have learned to associate with ‘rough folds’ from the compressed continent. The three hexes mentioned form a highland zone, with the cliff as barrier, cutting off around the northeastern portions of 12.08 and 11.07 and onward.

200’ below them, 12.07, 13.07, and 11.06 are a vast saltwater marsh, where the sea salt and the inland muck meet in a briny slough battered by rough and vigorous tides. Farther off still, in the northeast section of 13.06, a titanic mangrove tree, at least 80-90 meters tall, commands the surrounding terrain from on high.

Before exploring this great vista, we decide to make camp and rest until the next dawn. We will then attempt to reach the sea and walk along its edge before (hopefully) locating a Tunnel home.

That night, during the third watch, Valerian and I see an osprey alight on a nearby branch. It begins to talk to us in good Common, but only gets so far as – “Hello and welc-“ before a flash of silver Abjuration magic (not cast by any of us!) lashes out at it; the bird squawks, clearly offended, and flies off to the northeast – where the massive mangrove abides. It ignores my attempts at Sending it further queries or offers of parlay.

When Valerian climbs up, the tough, thick hardwood of the tree is unnaturally deeply furrowed where its claws met the branch.

Day 4

Our fourth morning underway, we see a camp of some kind – replete with smoke from a fire – by the 12.08 portion of the sea cliff, 3-4 miles away near the centre of the 12.08 hex. We decide to investigate this apparent settlement.

As we Head over, what appear to be riderless horses ride out from camp. Herb, _acting completely without sanction or consultation from the group, fires an arrow at these creatures, at which point they…use their human arms, on their horse necks, to draw bows.

I promise you that the following picture of what we see more clearly as they approach is not an asinine joke.

Horse-Man.jpg

I rush to the front but take no violent action; arrows sail towards me and repeatedly bounce off Beausoleil harmlessly. The party itself makes some Inconclusive volleying and misses; eventually the horse-people turn to my left to flank my bulwark and strike at the rest of the party. This in turn leads to the party pivoting to my right, to keep me between them; their slower pace but smaller circle around me means that both are even, and running in circles around me to no end.

(I am overheard by a member of the party to say, in Dwarvish, “This is an idiot sundial, and I its gnomon” and begged in the strongest possible terms to please append that remark to this Log. So pleaded, so done.)

Eventually seeing we’ve ceased to meaningfully threaten, the horse people fire a round of arrows into the ground and approach me.

Valerian uses their thought of Comprehend Language – provoking an immediate reaction of hostile alarm until it becomes clear that they are just trying to improve their linguistic abilities. We try to express our wish to open diplomatic relationships; the horses respond, quite reasonably, that attacking them was a sub-optimal opening to such a conversation. We explain Herb; their response best translates as ‘Control your idiots.’ We very securely tie Herb up immediately and with no regrets.

At this gesture, they visibly relax, and explain their settlement: it is a trading post for the ‘Sailing People’. They trade salted meat and fresh fruit – contextually, rare shipboard supplies – in exchange for commodities. Led back to their settlement, we are greeted by a wide array of stables and storage sheds, solidly if inexpertly built from wood. I attempt to solidify cordial relations by doing some Mending for the horsepeople. Before we leave them, they agree to stock ‘luxuries’ – jewels, coinage, and especially books – in future. They promise to try to respect, or at least not massacre, any party that shows them a Guild crest.

They have no idea what the osprey, or the silvery Abjuration burst that spooked it, mean.

Continuing on our way, we find that the horses’ carved path down the cliff leads only to a dock for trading; being fast-moving but heavy quadrupeds, they rarely if ever go to the swamp, a terrain where they are likely hard-pressed to accomplish much if anything.

Instead, we walk further northwest along the cliff, and take in the land below. A large lake in covers the southwest half of 12.07 and southeast third of 11.06, its southwestern edge pressed right against the sea cliff. Many rivers appear to feed out from this lake:

  • one descending southeast from 12.07 through 13.07 ;
  • a second running northeast from 12.07 into 13.06;
  • a third flowing along northeast along the 11.06/12.07 border into 12.06;
  • and a fourth river north from the middle of 11.06 into 11.05.

Stretching out from the southwestern cliff edge, the lake’s other borders are not clearly defined – gradually shifting from open water to marshy wetland. In a few areas, water runs more forcefully out into the wetlands beyond. The air is redolent both with salty sea breeze and the sulfurous miasma of the marshes. Mangroves, tiny children next to the gargantuan one to our north, predominate throughout.

Farther still from our clifftop vantage, the marshes degrade into tidal mudflats half-buried by water. Whereas the lake water looks clean and clean, the rivers and marshes look brackish – the salt tides pollute them. At the time of our first look out, we saw the tides at a low ebb – the flats were mostly exposed until 13.06, where a foot or so of water sloshed about the roots of the giant mangrove.

Birds flew in great wheeling arcs over the terrain. Night did not immediately insist on killing every single one. It was a refreshing and pleasant experience.

We moved to scale down the cliff face, rappelling as we went; our physically gifted party encountered no problems, though my armor did make my descent more fraught than most. When we were closer to the bottom, Night used a rather extraordinary set of flapping and twisting maneuvers to Slow Fall her way to safety.

At the bottom of the cliff, we looked out over the lake area’s slow northeast gradient to saltwater marsh. I immediately begin a Water Walk ritual – as we proceed, this turns out to have been a very useful notion of mine, as we avoid sudden sinkholes, and swift rivers that would otherwise need fording. It is resolved to repeat this ritual as necessary – it cuts into our profit margin but no-one looking down into the leech-infested muck finds it in themselves to put a price on never, ever touching that disgusting morass.

We continue northeast, the tide apparently endlessly receding before us, to hear a sudden loud series of ’CAW’s as a massive swarm of birds rockets down towards our vicinity from the northwest. A large group lands near us and stalks about, clawed feet patrolling high marshes, ripping out vines and seaweed. We understand very little of their intentions. We avoid them.

As we continue, veering slightly more to the north to reach the coast, two crocodiles approach us. Night stiffens; sensing her distress (as giant versions of these beasts did grievously injure her) we all but effortlessly kill and skin two perfectly normal crocodiles. She seems very pleased.

As we finish our butchering, we see two snake-folk, with long coiled bodies banded in black and white and human torsos under snake heads, emerge out of the water. One casts Tongues on itself – literally stroking along its mighty tongue – in a relatively high-order display of Clerical magic.

“What are you doing here?” it asks, with more of curiosity than hostility in its tone. We mention that we are explorers and not conquerors; he relaxes somewhat, introduces himself as Sin, using ‘he’ pronouns. His people should be called simply the Reef Snakes.

Querying Sin about the bird, he speaks of a local Power called the Sundered One that uses osprey messengers. It is a dangerous being that controls the waters, but is also mentally deranged by tidal patterns; chaos reigns when the tide changes and it fights all it encounters. To treat with it, Sin recommends, wait until the tide is decidedly in or out. Asked where the Sundered one resides, he points both northwest near the mangrove and northeast to the ocean. Asked if it is a god, a monster, or something else, he is glib and not to be drawn on specifics.

Notably, SIn scoffs at our querulous idea of his making introductions with this Sundered One on our behalf – we gather that he is risk to brave some risk involved. He mentions the dangerous entities known as Servants; foolishly, I do not long remember the significance of this term.

Sin has no idea what the silvery Abjuration that drove off the osprey means.

As is our adventurers’ wont, we ask about any deal we can make or service we can perform to make friends. It transpires, luckily, that they are plagued by undead – at which the divine among us, Marun, Herb and myself, perk up. Sin advises us that were we to enter 12.06 and destroy any undead we find there, his people would be appreciative, and could offer us valuables in exchange. We agree.

Asking (perhaps belatedly) for more details, we are told there are two main types: Risen are like aquatic zombies, but comparatively far more burly and quick; they hide underwater and attempt to drown intruders in the silty depths. Mist Wraiths are incorporeal ambushers and much more dangerous – they phase in, attack, and phase out, and are difficult to fully destroy.

Taking this under advisement, we head north to 12.06 to find our prey, only to be stopped by Sin – who informs us that there has been an attack and we must help the Reef Snakes currently in danger. We follow him to see 3 Reef Snakes fighting off a pack of 12 Risen. 1 Reef Snake is already dead, while another older one is continually chanting to maintain a powerful shamanic water barrier, like an outwards rushing torrent from the point on the mucky swamp in which they are immersed, washing back attackers and keeping them at bay.

We move to the attack. Hadley shoots one Risen and knocks it off its feet, which alerts them to our presence. 2 RIsen peel off and, burrowing just beneath the murk, come towards us, forcing us to fire at them through partial cover. Valerian kills the one Hadley weakened (who remained with the main pack), while Marun shoots one of those approaching, then Herb misses it entirely.

Meanwhile, another group of Risen, surge against the water barrier – one gets through, and we see that its claws paralyze on hit as it scratches the Reef Snake Shaman, who seizes to a halt and drops the barrier.

I run forward past the 2 approaching Risen, ignoring claws as they scrape against enchanted armor. While I distract them, Night runs past, on the other side and joins me. We are still a good move away from the Risen – Night could likely have made it to them, but evidently was loath to rush in alone when I am a far slower (albeit sturdier) companion.

Back with the main group, they focus fire – Hadley and Valerian hit and badly injure an approaching Risen of the 2 that left the main group, while Herb and Marun miss.

The Reef Snakes are beleaguered, as 4 Risen surge in – the Shaman’s 2 escorts shove the zombie things away as best they can, but still one escort is clawed, though they stay upright.
Sin comes to their aid – he rushes forward past me and Night, and with an almighty GUSH he slaps the water with his hand, forming a tidal wave that pushes 3 Risen away and out of sight with one great burst of natural prowess.

Inspired by his bravery and example, I close with the main Risen pack, _Shield_ing away an attack of opportunity, and summon my Spirit Guardians and Spiritual Weapon , which strikes at a nearby Risen. Night, hanging back, shoots that Risen, which lives – until Hadley, with a beautiful lobbed arrow, slays it from afar.

The 2 Risen that left the main group swing to attack us – one dies as it leaves the muck, battered to death by jolly hammer-wielding ancestors; another lives long enough to find it cannot reach me through their interference, only for Valerian to put an arrow between its eyes and end its confused misery. Marun, inspired, shoots; Marun, inexperienced, misses.

The Reef Snake escorts flail about as the Risen attack – one dying to a Risen claw which punches through the Frost Wolf’s Shield I throw in the blow’s path. At least, we note, another Risen simultaneously falls to the Guardians – and the Shaman finally, blessedly, ends their paralysis.

Herb shoots an injured Risen, while Sin grabs one and his hand shocks it with electricity, as a third dies to the Guardians, who sing and pivot in strict martial order as they kill. I follow up by using my bursting Hand of Glory / and the vast hammer of my Spiritual Weapon to kill two more Risen, right as another Risen emerges from the muck and vaporizes in turn. My five companions’ archery kills the rest.

What happens next is…possibly a diplomatic misstep.

Asking for the body of the recently dead Reef Snake, I concentrate – trace diamond dust upon their ravaged chest, and whisper to the Tree, as I did before to no avail with poor dead Amara: “Not yet.”

The Reef Snake starts – stiffens – breathes. He came back. Lord, great flowering beneficence, Root of Creation, I am humbled before the mercy I am so privileged to allow you to express through me. I am enraptured – distracted. Moreover, I walk around legends in the making, take tea with heroes; I am too inured to marvels to think about the true scope of such a gift.

I look up into the Reef Snakes’ faces and they are stunned. They are terrified. I touched a dead person and they lived. I was very stupid not to warn them, to ask them, to consider what this might mean to their culture, their faith.

That said…I would have done it again. Life is hope; life is potential; death ends a story. It is not, cannot be wrong to save a life worth saving.

SIn comes up to me, almost fawning, far more respectful of tone. He apologizes for not recognizing my power, and asks what nature of being I am – trying to be truthful, to honour my beliefs, I call myself a Servant. Which, in the case of the Tree, I am. I forget what ‘Servant’ means, in this land – ‘violently powerful Proxy for a power’. They offer us ‘a greater reward than they had originally intended’ – Sin takes from his own pouch an ivory rod that radiates magic and places it near me.

Then the Reef Snakes, to a one, flee in what appears to be abject terror.

It is a very uncomfortable feeling.

Moments later, we hear a soft sound behind us, and on a tree branch sits an osprey: it speaks, informing us that it is indeed a mouthpiece for the Sundered One. ‘We are welcome to its lands’.

The conversation is largely fencing, posturing, attempts to display a cool and unconcerned bravado on both sides (I will admit to some sabre-rattling of an urbane nature myself.) Like most Powers we have met here (the Grandmother, the Chainlord, the Puppeteer), the Sundered One is slippery of diction and reluctant to explain its cryptic allusions.

This being is very clear on one point – it wishes to hire me, specifically, to kill one of 5 local ‘Servants’ – beings it describes as akin to, if weaker than, the Puppeteer. It will not explain how it knew about our battle with that vile thing, nor what the silver abjuration was, save that it was – in 11.07 – ‘near the limits of its zone of influence’. I am, in turn, cagey – I promise nothing, but offer to speak again in future.

If the being is sincere, I would be happy to destroy new abominations – as long as this does not release some direr peril. Please rest assured that I will be reasonable and balanced in my judgment on this matter.

Please rest assured despite what happens next.

The osprey takes its leave, saying that the tide is turning and it will soon be unable to maintain a pleasant discourse. As it goes, the branch on which it rested bends low, and a bright red beautiful apple descends in front of me. Allegory made flesh.

Herb and Marun immediately pipe up, gushingly ask how I can resist eating this apple, and it truly does look beautiful – Detect Magic shows it as strongly magical but fading fast, but much of that is illusion to enhance the visual beauty of its appearance, as well as (more sinisterly) to exaggerate the transitory nature of its magic.

Beneath that illusion is strong Transmutation magic founded – as a followup casting of Detect Evil reveals – by a mix of Fey, Celestial and Aberrant magics. There is godly and natural force at work here, but somewhat distorted; nevertheless I take a huge, crunching bite.

Any who wish to understand why I, so long reluctant to in any wise embrace this Corrupted place’s gifts, would so succumb…I have tasted deep, literally and metaphorically, of the Well of Transformation. The silver circlet on my brow is not simply an ornament, but a commitment to explore a spiritual wanderlust entirely independent of my hitherto unshakable and, I feel, fully justified faith in the essential rightness of the Tree’s beliefs. I do not doubt Her or Her aims, but I most routinely doubt my own capacity to uphold myself as her lone Servant in these wilds, and as I walked the paths of the Stalkers of my Well, I was exposed to good, brave, wild-hearted people who found out far more than I have yet to about their unchanging bedrock values by seeing what – when everything was tested – refused to change, to melt away, to become amorphous.

I look at that apple, I feel nature in its balanced pulls of care and cruelty, wrapped in a divine shell overlaying a mysterious new opening for change in my life, and I do what I have agreed to in my heart of hearts for this year to come, I open myself to change. I bite.

The first rush of flavour is sweet, wth bitterness behind. I feel faint and slightly sick [2 levels corruption] but then I brace [WIS save 24] and a new awareness of the natural world, the land about me and the magics coming from its primal architects, rushes into my consciousness. [+WIS mod (2) Druid Spells to prepare].

With this new awareness, I feel it immediately as, on my bite concluding, the air around us starts to hum. The tide, far faster than it should be, is flowing in towards us. Looking out into the inrushing surf, gilled fish folk with wicked harpoons hunt the flocks of birds that still soar over the marshes, pulling them down as they are impaled for purposes unknown.

We retreat inland, southeast towards 13.06, in good order; the tide nears us, but unnaturally fast as it is, we can still outrun it with some effort.

As we enter 13.06, the tide is, however, surging anew and soon to be knee deep. We quickly find what appears to be a permanent Tunnel from the northwest of 13.07 to the centre of 06.12. Moreover, we sense a ‘branch’ in the space-time fold within the Tunnel that could lead elsewhere – probably as a permanent ‘fork’ in this Tunnel.

Thereafter, we are not attacked and no further encounters of note occur.

We make it home safely!

The only unknown item that we found, the mysterious Sin’s Rod turns out to create a permanent Unseen Servant that I claim, thinking of Sovan’s house, and Sovan’s area of my house, and in fact of any area in which Sovan spends an appreciable quantity of time, and seeing where a tireless Butler could be a great asset to a harmonious relationship and to my not having to hunt for rogue socks and eggy plates under heavy items of furniture. At least not by myself.

That aside, we return to Sila, strong in the light of the Tree. We are a little different…I am. But still – as much as anything is in this world – I find myself inescapably bound by certain remnants of the “same old, same old” as the twice-departed Herr Rohrbach once blithely, but not unwisely, put it to me.

Time will tell if this ultimately proves a comfort.

Signed in the Light, this Seventh Day of Growth,
Jean-Pierre du Vayrir de la Grand Contumace Saint-Emilion

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Expedition 89 - Trials and a Tribulation

March 17, 2018

[Posted on time — characters get 0.1 HP]

Personnel

Aa’li’naa Aurae (rogue [arcane trickster], 6)
Lee-Jean Challenges-Debicourt de la Terre des Romances aux Rivalieux-Quandamouzieres Sur Vantera-aux Alpes Maritimes (paladin [devotion], 5)
Beth Lorress (wizard [abjuration], 5)
Martin van Horne (cleric [life], 5)
Morgan Wheeler (wizard [divination], 3), Log-writer

Transformative Experiences

  • Lee-Jean remembers a reality where she was a high elf — learns one arcane cantrip of her choice.
  • Beth remembers a reality where she was half-elven — gains darkvision, elven eyes.
  • Martin lost an eye to the Consuming Way’s flaming touch, which replaced it with a fiery orb (shedding light as a torch). When he hits with a spell or a creature fails the save against his spell, he can choose to spend a spell slot or take 1d6 fire damage to find out that creature’s type, AC, senses, best save, worst save, a vulnerability, or a resistance.
  • Martin remembers a reality where he was a halfling — can attempt to hide behind creatures at least one size larger than he is.
  • Morgan remembers a reality where they were a consulting detective — advantage on investigation checks to look for clues, find secret doors.

Experience

339 xp for Aa’li’naa, 800 xp otherwise

Gold

Aa’li’naa: 347 gp
Lee-Jean: 344 gp, elocution primer
Beth: 143 gp, paid off Bugle
Martin: 544 gp
Morgan: -56 gp, modron glasses
LMF: 546 gp

Map Notes

  • Displacer beast lair with shimmering pool

Items

  • Books
    • TBD nothing book, 10 gp
    • TBD Xan memoir, 50 gp
    • TBD world details book, 30 gp
    • Magic book, 800 gp (ranger/pally learns cloud of daggers, hold person, see invisible)
    • Elocution primer, 200 gp (one reader can choose one of the following three options: advantaged persuasion and disadvantaged intimidation, advantaged deception and disadvantaged persuasion, or advantaged intimidation and disadvantaged deception. This lasts one year, after which they can choose the same or a different option, or a different reader can) bought by Lee-Jean
    • Poetry chapbook from ogres, 10 gp
  • Magic items
    • Modron glasses (darkvision [blind in bright light while on and for d4 rounds after removal], two rounds of truesight per expedition), 600 gp, bought by Morgan
  • Miscellaneous items
    • Chalcedony and teak box, 35 gp
    • Diamond weretiger statuette, 420 gp
    • Frog tongue for modron bounty, 100 gp
    • Fela silk for crafting, 450 gp, bought by Silverleaf
    • Cart from Crested Skull, 5 gp, left at the wall outpost for use by future expeditions
    • Ogre coins, 320 gp

SUMMARY

We returned the poison duke’s armour to the Consuming Way and Martin underwent their punishment, fulfilling the promise exacted on Expedition 85. They burnt out one of Martin’s eyes and replaced it with a ball of flame. NB: Their representative told Martin that he will forever be a part of something greater than himself and left him with a new ability, v ominous, also warned us away from their territory south of the river.

A’sshel’t’kov is upset that the apostates have the armour back, as it will apparently spawn another poison duke. He is both mad and disappointed that we did not consult him before meeting with the apostates and offer him the chance to provide us with counsel and a sniper team.

The wardens have a weapon which displaces living creatures within a 100 ft radius into a demi-plane between ours and the ethereal plane — leaving you stranded, static, and starving. They have used it near the portal on a group of apostates to great effect.

We were visited by the two snakes, who offered us several realizations/ideas and glimpses into alternate realities.

Aa’li’naa was tried and found potentially not evil-snake-person; she has been granted access to Roguetown. The library in Roguetown contains sections which might be useful for understanding/navigating the jungle’s factions, admittance may be possible in future.

LOG

The day dawned somewhat incongruously brightly, given the grim task we had set ourselves to (i.e., escorting Martin to something unknown but certainly unpleasant). We safely traversed the plains to the portal, passing some ruins which were empty and of little interest to my colleagues.

We exited the portal to find ourselves in the midst of a grotesque tableaux. The area within a 100 foot radius was slightly hazy, as if shrouded by a faint, intangible mist. We were surrounded by 54 blurred, frozen figures. Though otherwise paralyzed, their eyes would roll to orient on you at your approach. Proximity resulted in a low-grade staticky hum. Lee-Jean poked one with a stick and the fuzziness began to quickly spread along it. When she released it, the stick remained suspended in the air. Beth determined that they were inhabiting a demi-plane — that they had been knocked slightly out of phase, towards the ethereal plane but not fully into it. They were left conscious, immobile, and slowly starving to death.

We left the area and Martin sent to Opal, our Flowing Way contact. He had messaged her earlier to inquire as to where he might report to the Consuming Way and been told to ask again on our arrival. She told us to head east and follow the ‘obvious tracks,’ then asked if we had brought someone able to sense Ki. We had, perhaps shortsightedly, not. We followed the tracks northward. After an hour’s travel, a flare went up a half-hour to our south-west. We followed it and eventually reached a clearing in which two figures in slashed red robes stood before a large bonfire. One was poised to send up another flare, although we had not approached stealthily and one could not help but wonder whether that pose had been assumed solely as an insult.

They ordered Martin to put on the poison duke’s armour, which we had thought it more decorous not to wear. When it was donned, the monks reached down and pressed their hands on either side of the fire. Red light flowed down their arms and the flames twisted and shrank into a single, radiant point, then blossomed out into a tall, burly figure in solid red robes. The flames dissipated and left him standing before us, fully corporeal. The teleportation process looked quite draining on the two subordinates.

He taunted Martin — to the tune of ‘you saw something pretty and took it,’ ‘perhaps you will think more deeply when next you see something that you want that is not yours’ — and then pressed a finger to Martin’s eye. The eye vaporized and light washed over Martin’s skin. Lines rippled down the armour and the detailings etched into it seemed to come alive — images of warfare and slaughter lit up, seeming to move and bleed. The armour pulsed and glowed and burned. The light took on a golden tint, then the armour collapsed in pieces off his body and disappeared into puffs of smoke. The monk told him: “You will now forever be part something greater than you could ever be. Do not cross the river. Do not enter the territory. All who do will be consumed.” We decided not to pipe up that we were, in fact, intending to cross the river almost immediately.

When the smoke cleared, Martin was left shaken [drop roll, temp disadv. on initiative] with a ball of fire in his eye socket, casting as much light as a torch. He later discovered a new ability — on successfully using offensive magic against a creature, he can expend further magical energy or burn himself to gain certain insight into it [when he hits with a spell attack or it fails its save, can spend a spell slot or take 1d6 fire damage to learn creature’s type, AC, senses, best save, worst save, a vulnerability, or a resistance].

We headed back west towards A’sshel’t’kov’s outpost. En route, we became aware of a low, musical hum emanating from all around us. We felt a vibration run through us and saw that the shadows extending from our feet — the sun was directly overhead — were two long snakes, curling back and forth. Beth activated detect magic and saw that this was an exploitation of some sort of tension between us and something else; it was hiding within our shadows and using them as a conduit to appear to us. Lee-Jean demanded that they reveal themselves. They did.

A black snake and a white snake formed crawling up each of us. They gave off illusion magic and something else without an arcane classification and were strongly Outsider with a veneer of celestial (the black snake) and fiend (the white). Lee-Jean asked them what they wanted and they began to stare into our eyes. It created a hypnotic feeling — disconcerting but not unpleasant. She asked why they were here and the realization formed spontaneously in her mind that words were not the way to communicate. We felt our consciousnesses begin to fade. I looked away [wis save, 17 passed] and was suddenly aware that strength is respectable. Martin tried to hum along with them — inexpertly, but then his humming changed to meld into theirs. Beth thought about her prior experiences in the jungle — the earlier snake visions, the modrons — and tried to contextualize them in that system. She felt them become more regular and pantomimic and gained a sudden awareness that a life so skeptical of wonder really has its drawbacks. Lee-Jean felt as if she was assessing potentialities, seeing what could be, and the thought formed that living with contradictions will eventually grind down the spirit.

We then experienced an onslaught of images of ourselves in different lives, parallel worlds. Martin found it difficult to withstand and was badly distracted for the remainder of the expedition [disadvantaged drop roll: temp -3 int, leaving him at a delightful 2 int for most of the session]. Each of us was left a strong impression from one of the visions. Lee-Jean remembered being a high elf and learned [TBD wizard cantrip]. Beth saw a version of Lorress with elves living on its outskirts where she had been half-elven and her eyes physically changed, gaining darkvision. Martin remembered a life as a halfling and retained the knack of hiding behind creatures larger than him. I remembered working as a detective and picked up a few investigatory tricks [adv on investigation checks to look to clues, find secret doors].

The thought insinuated itself that an offering would be appropriate — perhaps blood. Lee-Jean cut herself for the snakes to drink from, Beth and I held out our hands to be bitten. When the black snake delicately bit my hand, I felt a warning and an apology — to be careful, that this place damages the soul, that the snake was sorry. Beth and Lee-Jean received that realization that they will be more capable if they grow stronger. Abruptly, the shadows, the humming, and the tension disappeared. We stood in the middle of a clearing, with many large snakes forming a circle around us. They bowed in unison and dispersed. Two hours seemed to have passed.

We carried on and reached the warden outpost. They have constructed a wall around the base since the assault, which was being repaired and cleaned by several modrons. The wall was scorched and pock-marked but only superficially. A warden opened the door and escorted us through, while others set up a table with provisions.

Several minutes later, A’sshel’t’kov approached and greeted us with a smooth cordiality. Then he asked why Martin was not wearing the poison duke armour. His demeanour changed abruptly on hearing the explanation. He chastised us for not bringing the matter to him — we had cost him a valuable opportunity to set up a targeted assassination of a high-level apostate. We had delivered a powerful magical item into the hands of his enemies, without even the courtesy to warn him that another poison duke would be spawning shortly (almost as if no one had explained to us how the armour worked — but I must assume that our ally had mentioned this to us previously). And after he had so magnanimously allowed us to keep that armour, trusting us to protect it, etc., etc.

He was unswayed by our protestation that we had been forced into a promise — as the jungle promises are much more malleable than we might assume, which he certainly could (would?) have told us if only we had asked. Our diplomatic ventures are confusing, our vacillations undignified, and to not even consider approaching him about this tantamount to an insult. (Throughout I did not sense any particular feeling on his part that there was any hypocrisy to demanding our trust and candor without offering us his.) He left us with the idea that perhaps it would be desirable to salvage something of the day by completing our proposed mission to induct Aa’li’naa into Roguetown. The door was then firmly indicated.

After leaving, the party had a brief discussion about what intelligence Aa’li’naa would be providing to him as several guild members are very fond of Roguetown, and at any rate wary of turning them into enemies. Aa’li’naa said that she intended to report back to the wardens but in the end we decided to leave it to the Black Wing pentadrone to decide how best to protect any important information.

When asked about the scene by the portal, Aa’li’naa said it was a trap laid to take out a group of apostates. Terrifying, although at least it needs to be prepared ahead of time and cannot be cast from afar. She seemed pleased at the result.

Partway to the river, we heard movement. Lee-Jean, Beth, and Aa’li’naa snuck to investigate and reported four apostates: one older, robed and carrying a familiar, and three young adults. Aa’li’naa wanted to kill them, I questioned the morality and the prudence. She explained that the apostates were exiled because they had selfishly put everyone else in danger but could not say how. I refused to kill based on that and was wary of initiating further violent retaliation from them. At length we let it be.

We crossed the river safely with Martin’s ritual water walk. The pentadrone was waiting outside the gates of Roguetown when we approached, and clearly prepared to act as judge; it wore powdered wigs on each of its five limbs. A monodrone handed Aa’li’naa manacles, which she dutifully put on, and brought her forward. The pentadrone launched into a prepared speech — “We have before us one who is a snake person. There are no redeeming features which could possibly induce me to-” — only to be interrupted by a monodrone crying out in distress that its cat was escaping and would surely run into danger! Aa’li’naa dove forward to rescue the cat (a monodrone with cat ears stuck on). When news of that noble act was relayed to the pentadrone (modrons can only perceive other modrons within one rank of themselves, so the story had to be farcically repeated up through the ranks), it determined that perhaps she could be redeemed — could at least be tried, for what is more heroic than saving a defenceless and beloved pet. Reading the logs can really only prepare one so much for actually meeting the delightfully melodramatic Black Wing.

Beth, Lee-Jean, Martin, and I were set up as proxies who would complete trials on Aa’li’naa’s behalf, before she underwent the final challenge. We were given four trials and allowed to assign them as we thought best. The Terrible Trials were as follows:

Gentle Restraint: Martin was taken to an interrogation chamber and seated before a modron who hurled vicious insults at him — “Is that your face, or is that a snake with a hat on it?” Warden weaponry was compared to various types of fecal matter. The political intrigues of the wardens were deemed uninteresting. Oubliette was referred to as — steel yourselves, gentle readers — not the most impressive fortress they had seen. Martin remained unphased. Finally they gave up and told him that he was too good at this and had caused them to doubt their job performance. He assured them that they had done very well (and surely an evil snake-person would not be so kind?)

Friendly Virtue: Lee-Jean was assigned an essay in which she was to detail her goodness (or rather, Aa’li’naa’s) and what she admired about Roguetown. It was judged in terms of its honesty, grammar, and adherence to modron values. A modron consumed her essay and approved it wholeheartedly.

Noble Answering of Mathematical Questions: I was taken to the sub-sub-basement of the Proving Grounds (passing through a library containing sections on warden weapons, strategy/tactics, and geometric theory). The proctor gave me the test and then marched out of the room after instructing me not to look at the answer key — presumably contained in the large booklet ostentatiously labelled ‘Warden Secret Weaknesses and Our Plans to Exterminate All the Wardens.’ I immediately and loudly proclaimed my love for math and disinterest in any form of cheating and got on to the test, which was far about my capabilities. At the end of two hours, my good proctor returned and triumphantly threw open the door with an AHA! sure that I would have fallen for their cunning ruse. It then demonstrated that had I opened the forbidden book, I would have been caught in a hold person. It demonstrated this by opening the book and activating that glyph itself, prompting other modrones to burst in and accuse it of being an evil snake-person.

Sustained Counting: Beth was taken to a spherical room and instructed to count to 1 million, by ones, while monodrones whacked her calves with lead pipes — as evil people have no heart to counting. She counted out loud for many hours, as they alternatively bruised her legs and then rubbed healing salves on them. By the next day, she was bleary-eyed and exhausted but triumphant.

Aa’li’naa was brought to the Chamber of Judgement. The pentadrone tested her virtue by demanding that she agree to give it any information it requested on the wardens and the guild. She correctly demurred on account of loyalty. He announced the good news — that she is ‘no longer the Evil-Snake-Person Aa’li’nna, but the Probably-Still-An-Evil-Snake-Person-We-Have-Decided-To-Give-A-Second-Chance-To Aa’li’nna (pending discovery of her true evil nature).’ All involved seem to be getting side-eyed, but no matter. We received three chits which we traded for four books, listed above.

The day passed peacefully. We went to the Church where Lee-Jean donated 5 gp, I donated 1 gp, and I received a chit (redeemed for a pair of glasses attachments giving darkvision and limited truesight). Beth took a stroll with her steadfast suitor Lieutenant Scar. A modron dressed as Pierre told us about a parade in the works depicting a mirrored version of our guild. Lee-Jean spent the afternoon providing direction to them so I expect it will be superlative. Aa’li’naa issued a challenge to one Commander Bush, who apparently still greatly distrusts her. She will prove herself by sneaking up on him; if she fails, he may shoot her once. I was allowed to scan the library’s section on geometric theory but not the more consequential sections. They may grant visiting reading rights to those if we bring them books relating to planar portals.

In the morning we set off on a toad-hunt (the modrons had given us a bounty for one). We were attacked by a new type of poison spawn — tall and slender, bubbling with green poison, vast bone-shard wings, gaping maw, sharp proboscis. It released a miasma that caused a slow effect and attacked with claws and proboscis. It was agile and exceedingly difficult to hit. It maneuvered around us to use us as cover against each other but did not target based on armour. When struck with melee attacks, it gushes poison onto its attacker [20 dmg from one backlash]. Initially, that damage could not be healed by lay on hands or healing word but we were later able to heal it with the gourd and cure wounds. We speculate that the creature has an aura which blocks healing in a radius around it. It is resistant to lightning. Radiant seems normally effective. It is not vulnerable to any damage types. We did a fair amount of damage to it and it flew into the air. Aa’li’naa and Lee-Jean fired shots after it. It threw down a pair of sharp bone spurs and dropped Lee-Jean, then flew away laughing.

We returned to Roguetown to rest and tried again on the third day. We found and killed a giant toad. Spotting a small red flag planted in the ground, we unearthed a beautifully crafted and abjured chalcedony and teak box with teeth detailing around the edges, containing a diamond figurine of a weretiger.

We crossed back over the river. I was curious about how deep it was and Aa’li’naa obliging stuck her head in and reported 25 feet here. Aa’li’naa lead us to a displacer beast cave (between the portal and A’sshel’t’kov’s base) for Neaten to scout. She has seen them drowning a weretiger, so expect some level of tactics if fighting them. Neaten reported several weird big cats, shimmering water, fancy armour (heavier than breastplate), and another tunnel.

Aa’li’naa split off to return to A’sshel’t’kov and the rest of us headed for the portal. The frozen apostates remained as before. We decided to kill them in what turned out to be a rather unmerciful mercy killing. We shot one and saw the arrow sink slowly into them with a sluggish bloom of blood as their eyes rolled wildly. Extrapolating, the arrow would have taken nearly 30 minutes to fully embed itself. The time distortion means that it might have taken months, maybe up to a year, for dehydration to kill them.

We returned to the plains and saw Crested Skull being attacked by asshole birds. We stood by and waited for the birds to finish killing them (the justification: they would be unlikely to help us, why should we help them?). The birds made relatively short work of our erstwhile allies, we killed the surviving birds, then took the now-unattended cart of fela silk. Onwards we went. We came upon two ogres, snuck up on them, and killed them. Hasting, smiting. The whole nine yards. It was very efficient work. We acquired from them a pile of coins and two books (a poetry chapbook and a magical elocution primer). The remainder of the trip was uneventful and we returned having successfully accomplished our named goals.

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Expedition 88 - The Desert
We explored the desert.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

[Posted on time, participants get 0.1 HP]

CHARACTERS

CHARACTER CHANGES

  • Silverleaf Moonshadow lost 1 dex.
  • Bugle levelled to 6.
  • Alexandre Augustin levelled to 4.
  • Elanor Peregrine levelled to 4.

MAP UPDATES

  • permanent portal in 10.08 [?]
  • stone fountain in 8.08 (barren oasis, armadillo creatures and ghouls)
  • giant chasm in 8.07 (weirdly smooth)
  • plateau and ruins/foundations in 8.07
  • calcified rib cage in 8.07 (ancient aquatic skeleton, scorpionfolk)
  • plateau in 8.06
  • oasis in 7.05
  • plateau in 7.06

XP

  • 1888 xp/person, including sheet update

GP (not including any items bought)

  • Bugle, Night, Silverleaf: 673 gp
  • Aythe, Elanor, Alexandre: 576 gp
  • LMF: 291 gp

LOOT

  • healing cactpire sap, 400 gp, bought by Lee-Jean
  • two stone golem hearts (transmutation, conjuration), 600 gp each [Claimed by Bugle]
  • clay golem parchment (transmutation, conjuration), 500 gp

SUMMARY

There is a permanent portal in 10.08. Something horse-like that drags objects passes by here. Cactus-vampires ambushed us near there. They target weak people and try to separate them from the group.

We killed three golems. They are strong and not hurt by physical attacks. They are guardians of the Cloaked who ask us not to destroy more of them. The Cloaked claim the territory of the hills around 7.05 [?]. Some have magic to speak with us. [Word] means understand – if we have someone who will cast magic to speak with them. [Other word] means tangent – if we want to pass without engaging. They are unlikely to attack if we do not destroy more golems or any oases.

There are giant hyenas, burrowing worms, and large scorpions. The white humanoids are ghouls. Their attacks make a disease that weakens you daily until you die or are cured. There are scorpionfolk in the slatelands and to the north. They are slavers who use mind-control but did not attack us. They are wary of magic. Moisture-suckers are brought by rain – maybe any water poured on the ground.

LOG

We went to the plains. Bugle found a portal. Took us to sandy plains area. The portal looks permanent. Marked by a large tree. Plains to the north and east, temperate jungle to the south and southeast, mountains to the southwest, desert to the northwest. Hoofprints marked the ground. Looked like horses’ hooves. There were also lines on the ground. Like dragged objects. Came from the north and headed east/northeast. Some tracks from yesterday, some older.

We went northwest toward the desert. The land is dry. Low rocky hills and mounds of cracked dry earth. There are signs of earthquakes, worn down by weather – many centuries ago. The hills are fissured and the rocks jagged. Bugle flew up to scout. This was 9.07 and the portal was 10.08. North of the desert is plains, then a petrified forest. There is swampy land to the far east.

Three creatures attacked us. From ambush. They’d waited for Bugle to leave. They are humanoid. Their skin is thick like a cactus. They are fanged and spiky. One lassoed me and bit me. Another bit me. The third lassoed Night. They target weak-looking people. They drain blood from you and scratch with claws like cactus needles. They will try to pull you away into crevasses. We killed them. Their bodies secrete healing gel.

We rested. We heard rock hitting rock – a 10 foot tall statue walking past. Its face was worn away. We finished resting then followed its tracks. It turned to us when we got within 50 ft. We tried all the languages we know. It reacted a bit to Druidic. It cast a spell that let it talk badly. In fragments. It spoke an unfamiliar language. Not related to anything we’d heard. It repeated whatever it was saying a few times. Then it moved aggressively. We attacked. It attacks twice at a time with heavy blows [17 dmg, then a crit for 38]. Many attacks bounced off its rock skin. Physical attacks do not hurt it. Magic and radiant do. The fight was difficult. Aythe von Dusthafen made it imagine a box around itself. This blinded it or made it waste attacks punching through the walls. Alexandre Augustin made opportunities for Bugle to attack it. Its body crumbled when it died. There was a glowing stone inside with writing on it.

We rested, then followed its tracks back south. Led to the centre of 8.0?, then northwest. Then we lost them.

During the night a pack of animals like giant hyenas bounded past. Night had cast Pass Without Trace. A huge worm burst from the ground but missed our campsite. We ate goodberries and conjured water. Do not pour water onto the sand. We were warned it brings moisture-suckers.

We went north into sand dunes. The sand was about 10-12 feet deep. Difficult to walk on. We reached 8.08. At the border is a weathered stone fountain. We snuck up. There were four white humanoids, moving slowly. There were three grey, rubbery armadillo-like animals. Their trunks were in the fountain but there was no water. The fountain looked a thousand years old. We left.

We reached 8.07. The ground changed from blackish-red rock to dark slate buried by a foot of sand. It sloped down for a mile. We went north. There is a deep, wide chasm northwest and a plateau continuing to the southeast. Bugle flew up to look. There used to be a city on the plateau. Only faint foundations left. The chasm is weirdly smooth. Carved out by water erosion. The lower slate area was an ocean bed thousands of years ago. Coastal cities on the plateaus around it. He saw something white to the north. Used to be bone. It was a 20 foot high rib cage. Weathered and crumbling. Maybe an 80-90 foot long fish.

We saw movement behind the ribs. Aythe von Dusthafen made friendly gestures and we greeted it in all our languages. One creature came out. Humanoid torso and a scorpion’s body and tail. Its eyes glowed faintly. It wore protective veils. There was an outline of a bird on the back of its veil – very faint, not meant to be seen. Its language was closest to common but very different. Alexandre Augustin offered it a goodberry. We used gestures and drawing in the sand. It drew the boundaries of its territory. It was wary when I cast Guidance but did not attack. It didn’t look afraid of us. At least two others stayed hidden. We did not see them when we circled around the ribs going north.

We saw a shimmer like a mirage. We approached and it stopped. It started again when we had passed. We went back to follow it. When we were about 400 feet away, a large group of archers revealed themselves. They fired warning shots. We backed off.

We reached 8.06. The ground goes up into more badlands. At the edge of the slate is an 80 foot high plateau. It continues flat on the other side. We saw two golems on it. We camped at the base of the cliff. The night was cold and windy. I slept badly [con check or lvl of exhaustion]. A group of large scorpions passed in the night.

We climbed the plateau. The golems started slowly approaching when we got closer. Bugle shot one with magic arrows. Night conjured Darkness so he could hide. They ran towards us quickly [60 ft move]. Bugle and Elanor Peregrine shot at one. His arrows did magical damage and hers slowed it. They were difficult to hit but not impossible. One was stone. Bugle flew over it and kept shooting and killed it. The other was clay. It was very strong. It hit Night and weakened her. The damage did not heal without Greater Restoration [21 damage, also -21 max HP which did not return on a LR]. Aythe von Dusthafen cast Phantasmal force again. Elanor Peregrine smote it. Bugle kept firing magic arrows with Alexandre Augustin directing. I turned into a snake and squeezed it. It crumbled. The stone golem had a glowing stone heart. The clay had a piece of parchment. The writing on the parchment moves past as you look at it.

There was nothing left on the surface but we found hints of buildings. If people excavate here they will find ruins.

We went northwest through 8.06 into 7.05. The land became low, cracked hills. We saw mirages on the horizon. We approached one and saw different movement in a overhung place on a nearby hill. We retreated and they swung around to cut us off. We tried to evade. One of them uncovered itself and approached. They have bits of stone and slate worked into their cloaks to camouflage them. They tie the cloaks back when they must fight. It spoke to us, then cast a spell on Elanor Peregrine so she could understand. Its language was unfamiliar.

It said this is their land. All of it. It asked us not to travel through it. The golem are remnants from what used to be here. The Cloaked don’t remember it but the golems still respond to them a bit. Golems only attack if you approach them. If you stay 1000 feet away they will not. They are irreplaceable. The golems protect the Cloaked from sandbeasts, worms, the moisture-suckers who grow when it rains, the scorpionfolk. The scorpionfolk live in the slateland and north of it. They are slavers and use mind-control. The Cloaked do not want us in their land but do not want to fight us. It warned us not to break more golems or the oases. It told us not to approach large groups of Cloaked. Bugle told them we could be useful to them against the scorpionfolk. It taught us a word for ‘understand’ to use if we see them and will cast magic to speak to them. It taught us a word to ask them to leave us alone – ‘tangent’ which means we want to pass by. There is an oasis 2-3 miles north. If we wait there, Cloaked scouts will find us within a few days.

We went south. We avoided some scorpions. There is another massive chasm. It extends just outside where the slate begins. We went south around it. The sand gets thicker and higher. Badlands to the north and northwest. Rising sand to the south and southwest. The slate lakebed to the east, rising into dunes. Another plateau in 7.06, east of the centre.

We slept without trouble. The night was cold again. Night lit a fire before dark, then cast Darkness over its embers.

We went south through 7.06 into 7.07. Bugle flew up to scout. There is a fort low on the north face of the mountains. We started to go there. The ground in front of us moved. Some white ghouls burst out. One dropped me [perm: -1 dex]. They claw at you and cause a terrible thirst. They can paralyze you. The party killed them. Healing did not work on me. Bugle found a portal. They carried me home and brought me to Tabitha Lorress. She said it is an undead disease that drains your life. You weaken every day. Paladins can cure it was a disease.

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Expedition 86 - Hail Hydra
Death, Rain, Snakes and Riches

[Posted on time, +0.1 hp]

Adventurers:
Sovan- Bard 6
Linna- Rogue 5
Pierre-Lee – Cleric 5
Saoirse – Rogue 3
Stu – Druid 1

Permanent Injuries :
Pierre Lee: -2 to poison saves
Linna: Inability to tame any non-snake animals. Non-snake animals are extremely fearful and aggressive toward her

We depart Silanya on a lovely day. So lovely that we don’t need winter gear. We head up the eastern plains instead of through the portal—partially because we’re heading to the north of the jungle, partially because we should probably stop appearing in the same spot in the middle of a war all the time.

We come across three ogres fighting a giant elk and sneak up on them. One of the ogres has a fancy spear and we destroy it before it can move. The rest of the ogres run away and the elk charges us. Sovan dissonant whispers the elk, causing it to run away. One of the ogres who ran away grabbed the spear and I chased it down and finished it. The elk apparently hates snakes because it didn’t care about the fireball and dissonant whispers and went right after me. It missed and Sovan scared it away again. As it ran, I shot it with a blue apostate arrow to slow it down. Saorise hits it twice in the chasedown and finishes it off with a shot that would even impress Sam. Stu guts the elk real good (37!) and we carry the heavy antlers back to the wall.

As we progress, we run into creepy mounted zombies riding zombie cavalry (2 big 4 small) and begin a battle. I begin by hitting a big guy with my gun and hiding. The radiant damage does not seem particularly effective. Stu uses faerie fire successfully on all the smaller zombies and mounts. Saoirse hits one, then the riders attack Sovan, emit a black radiance from their hands, and attack again. (Sovan had to make a CON save but passed). Sovan shatters himself as well as the two big zombies and hits them fairly hard. The rest of the zombies charge up and land a punch on Saoirse. I finish the other rider off with my gun and close.

The remaining one hits Sovan with a black hand attack and his max hp goes down by 8. When it does this, Sovan notices a glowing black palmprint on it’s forehead. Sovan shatters at his own feet and hits the calvary softly. This has the disasterous consequence of destroying Sovan’s mushroom gem. I take out my whelmblade and dagger and start beating on the mounted zombies. Saoirse hits one fairly hard, but it seems to falter a bit and not die for some reason. Sovan disengages and I finish one rider, but the rest pile on me and do some heavy damage. Stu finishes one off and the duo of zombie riders that have been piling on Saorise for a few rounds finally miss. I finish off the last rider and a mount, as I am unhappy about being hit. One of the mounts turns around to charge me but I aoo it to death.

As the battle winds down, Sovan chucks a rock at a mount and connects! He also follows up by cutting words-ing a real strong attack on me, so that was nice. I finish off a couple other mounts and throw my dagger at the one remaining mount that is still wailing on Saoirse. Saoirse tries to finish it off but it won’t go down. Luckily, Stu finishes it off. We find a piece of haf plate armour and some very nice leather armour. (I attune— on short rest. It is leather armour with 1/ex auto-pass a saving throw, once/lr get rid of extra damage from a critical).

We try to push on to the blazing banner fortress, but Stu and I take a level of exhaustion from the difficulty. We poorly sneak up on 2 giant crocodiles with signs on their back that say “Giant crocodile delegate 1+2 for the interspecies delegation of peace. The LUA see us and turn on us.

The LUA start off weak with the commander closing 60 ft, and the other two missing and shooting the commander in the back. I start off by hitting the commander weakly, Saoirse follows up with another hit on the commander, Sovan mocks them, and Stu delivers a crit. The commander sees me as the real threat that I am and shoots me with a paralyzing dart. The rest pile on me and the world goes black. I am knocked out and take a temp injury of 3 int. Saoirse gives me a potion and I’m back up. Sovan hits the commander with a dissonant whispers. The commander strikes back with a paralyzing dart and runs up and auto crits him. I run up and dagger+bite him for massive damage. The commander hits Sovan hard and the others finish me off, I go down again and take 3 Dex damage (fuck). Saoirse finishes the commander and gets me back up. Sovan heals me for more. One runs away, and the other stayed for a bit and got destroyed by the rogues (Stu handed Linna his longbow). Linna hits the one retreating at full with the longbow. It manages to escape though.

We reach the BB fortress and give them a thank you piece of armour from the LUA for their hospitality (they heavily inferred that we should). We sleep with the BB and they give us a small chain medallion. We sleep the night and Stu attempts to help them cook gruel a bit better in the morning. They hate Stu’s gruel even though it is strictly better. I prestidigitate our gruel so it doesn’t taste terrible.

On the way to the jungle, we sneak up to a solitary were tiger beating up a bunch of BB. This is fine. We move on and make it to the jungle. It’s raining and the rest of the party forces us to waste 2 hours. Sovan thinks this is a good time to bond, and I let him know about a possible MPOI that I saw near the portal. It looks like the displacer beasts may live there. I saw a wereitger being drowned by them and dragged away on my solitary journey.

Stu notices a void apostate (slashed robes- named Vast) lurking in the shadows. “Are you following us?” Stu asks. Vast comments on how short Saoirse is. I hold myself back from shooting him in the back as he departs. I’m sure Sovan is very happy.

As we continue, everybody in the party but me hears a hissing under their feet and sees an exploding seed pod below. They take force damage and I feel lucky that I didn’t happen to be standing on one. I acrobatics up a tree to avoid these. Saoirise tries to do the same but takes some damage on the way up. Stu and Sovan walk out the old fashioned way—Stu is fine but Sovan hits a pod on the way out, triggering a reaction where he hits 3 more pods. Stu makes an amazing survival check and uproots one for further use. It can be chucked at an enemy with Dex if needed.

We finally reach Pierre! He looks different, just like me. Maybe we aren’t so different after all. We approach the Hydra range and it begins to pour. I resume my regular duty of putting tents up alone in the rain, but because this rain was so unexpected the rest of the party takes heavy damage for 8 rounds. Many potions are chugged. I get ready to prestidigitate the party and dry their soaking wet clothes when they get into the tent. I build the second tent in the pouring rain and I take watch in a tree. We thank the LMF and Sovan for their potion contributions and settle in.

While in the rain, a full-caste Snake person with red stripes painted on it’s face shows up. This is bad news. I sleight of hand a mage hand and push it. It lets off a hiss and alerts the party to it’s presence. It slashes open a tent really hard but critical fails on it’s way into the tent. Stu faerie fires it and succeeds. Saoirise hits it. I fire from above and jump down from the tree—attempting to see if this may be a misunderstanding with it being on our side. Sovan drops a harrowing major image of a hydra that seems to have no effect.

Apparently it is clearly not on our side, as it then attempts to fear everybody (succeeding on Sovan and Saoirise) as it’s face appears to melt off as it laughs at us. Saoirise runs straight out of the tent into the rain and eats a hard hit. I drop my bow and hit it with my whelmblade and dagger, unfortunately taking a lot of acid damage in the process. Stu also hits it and takes a poison damage in response. Sovan runs out of the tent, inspires Saoirise, and calm emotions the rest of us.

Pierre runs out into the rain and pounces—taking rain damage as well as an acid splash. It attempts to polymorph me and I use the new armour to save. It runs away and we destroy it with AOOs. We take some more rain damage and I mend the tents. We find a small glowing crystal light on it’s body.

The noise from the fight had the consequence of attracting an actual-not major image hydra, which was the whole point of coming here, but would be a tougher sell in the rain. Sovan casts fly on me and it’s my job to live out Sovan’s dream of soloing a hydra. I shoot it first and it makes the smart move of running toward me and dropping prone—this is a problem.

[Linna kills a head, 2 heads pop up and it seems to be feeling a little better, she kites it for a while, misses w a red arrow, it fucks off]

We decide that we are too depleated of resources to fight a hydra out of the rain now—so we shift our focus to the ebon bank for the rest of the day.

We run into our Ebon bank friend Rahuul. He has heard of Pierre but not me, which must be some sort of an overlook on their part. He presents us a wrapped book to communicate with the bank when Raevori is unable to do so. We then deposit our items and bring up the swamp in conversation. We ask the bank if we could pretend we borrowed the stolen warden uniforms from them so as not to arouse suspicion. This was a falsification of oubliette documents but I managed to shrug it off (and looked like she took some psychic damage in doing so). We pay 20gp for the documents.

We are told the swamp is filled with ruins, and there is someone in the middle of the swamp who may be persuaded to join the bank on their endeavours. We are commissioned to grab the lay of the land as well. The person is dangerous, but not necessarily hostile. The poison in the swamp will hurt even me, so I must also wear a warden uniform inside. There is an artifact in the structure, and we are warned against it’s power. There are also apparently flying poison spawn in the swamp.

Pierre attempts to deposit some items he had on his person to start a retirement fund. Which frankly, is ridiculous, as his whole weretiger thing is based on fighting until dead—forgoing the very idea of retirement. Sovan convinces him to RESULT TO BE RECORDED LATER-.

They offer us a hydra hunter to help but the steep price of 1000gp or 200gp to find and gut it. This is a waste of mone because the guild is perfectly capable of doing so ourselves. Rahuul sings a song that may or may not be a reflection of Sovan’s personality—and it is very lovely.

“Do you have a problem with me?” Sovan asks as Rahuul walks away—unmoved.

The rest of the weres come out and escort us to a safe place to sleep and try the hydra again tomorrow. One of them is the were rat that stole all my shit and threw a bunch in quicksand when I passed out in the jungle from sasquatches and I will never forgive them. They dont seem to recognize me, which is much worse.

Pierre uses his magical flask to gain command and identify, drinks a second time for mirror image, trickery, and pass without trace. He drinks a third time and gains blink and dispel magic. Looks like Pierre is tanking the hydra.

After a fantastic survival check by Stu, we find a hydra drinking from a pool. We prep by having Pierre cast mirror image, spirit guardians, and blink on himself. Sovan casts enlarge on Pierre, and Stu casts longstrider on himself and Sovan.

As we approach, the hydra pretends not to see us but then rears up when we are about 80ft away and closes to 20.

Sovan starts with a heavy 31 dmg fireball. Stu follows up strong by running away. Pierre is blinked out of existance and it decides to focus me for 21 damage. It then grows 2 heads. Pierre then blinks back in, weres out, and pounces it. He then hits it for some damage.

Saoirse and I both disengage and try to run away. She only makes it 40 ft and I make it 60 ft. Sovan hits a weaker fireball and continues. The hydra runs 30 ft and attacks Saoirse with it’s 10ft reach. Then it grows 2 heads.

Pierre comes back into existance and pounces it. Spirit guardians hit, Pierre hits and blinks out of existence. I strafe 30ft away and shoot it for 9 damage. Sovan hits it with a fireball and kills a head. Stu hits it for some insignificant amount of damage. The hydra sprouts 4 more heads.

Pierre appears 60 ft from the hydra and double moves into spirit guardians range, then blinks out of existence. Sovan dissonant whispers it but it passes. We smack it some more, and it stays still and readies an attack, sprouting a head in the process. Pierre pops into existence and attacks it, the hydra’s readied attack hits a mirror image. Pierre’s strike bloodies it.

After some ineffectual attacks from the rest of us, Pierre eats 9 hydra attacks (all the mirror images are erased) and goes down, taking a permanent injury of -2 to poison saves. The hydra now has 11 heads. I shoot it for some solid damage then hide again. Sovan dodges and moves to within 40 ft to take aggro from the hydra. Stu goes behind Sovan with the mace of terror but not quite within the reach. The hydra smashes Sovan for heavy damage, but does not finish him.

Saoirise crits the hydra super hard for 34 damage, and I follow up with 29 damage with my gun. Sovan disengages, Stu tries to use the mace of terror but it fails. The hydra uses athletics to move back between Sovan and Stu. It grows more heads. Saoirise and I both hit it. Sovan disengages and runs 40 ft away. Stu does the same. The hydra runs away.

Pierre misses with a guiding bolt. I also miss with a blue arrow. Sovan closes and misses but inspires me. We chase it down for a while. Sovan fireballs it. It runs away and jumps in a lake. I try and follow it and dive in. It comes up from behind me and kills me. Pierre makes a disadvantaged attack into the water and kills the hydra.

Pierre dives in the waterand gentle reposes Linna. We find a place to short rest, get inspires back, and then look for a place to long rest. Pierre also drags the hydra up and we gut it, using all 28 of its eyes to create a trophy.

We long rest, Pierre casts revivify, and I shoot back to life. He says “you’re welcome” as if to say there was literally any chance of me not being thankful.

We head back to the weretiger grove and run into a small convoy of LUA on the way with a leader, black feather archer, a shaman hunter, and 3 basics. They have a wagon full of diamonds and rubies and we see each other.

I shoot the black feather with a red arrow and hide. The commander shouts at the black feather archwer to shoot at sovan and misses its attack. The commander then moves forward and shields the black feather archer. Stu entangles the group and the basics failed. The black feather’s chest bursts with flame from the red arrow and it hits Sovan hard. Sovan decides to let these guys in on the secret that we have fireball and roasts everyone for 26 damage. Pierre uses spiritual weapon and almost drops the black feather. The commander bolsters the black feather, who shoots more fire from his chest then hides. Sovan dissonant whispers the black feather and it dies.

Sovan gets shot by the shaman hunter and turns into a boar. The three basic dudes run really far away and it looks like the LUA may learn that we have fireball. Saorise and I shoot it from cover and hit it softly. The shaman shoots sovan a lot and Sovan triggers relentless, sitting at 1hp. Sovan decides that the scouts should not get away and fireballs them again, killing all 3. Then he runs away and goes prone.

The shaman hunter shoots Sovan and runs into the trees. Pierre pounces on the commander. Saoirise and I both shoot it and I run at it. The commander runs at me and hits me, and also gets the shaman to hit me. In turn, Pierre tackles the commander and Linna bites them. They surrender.

The rest of us finish off the scout. The commander begs for forgiveness but is really stubborn and I finish him off. Sovan isn’t very happy with me but we hug it out. They have a tonne of loot and it’s awesome.

While resting we run into a warden and two broodguard. The warden mentions something about Novus broodguard but I tell them to shut it.

We make it back to the portal and back home.

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Expedition 85 - The Way of Ghouls
We participate in monk games after nearly dying

Monday, February 19, 2018

[log posted on time +0.1 hp]

[i cut a bunch of interesting but not tactically relevant details, you can read my notes here if you want for instance more details about the fights]

Characters
Waterflow (monk 3, log writer)
Archer (bard 2)
Beth (wizard 5)
McDonald (warlock 3)
Kalandria (sorcerer 2)

Changes
Waterflow levels to 4!
Kalandria levels to 3!
Waterflow gains 1 point of wood ki, which she can use as regular ki or spend as a reaction when damaged by lightning to gain d6*spell level temp hit points
Beth gains 1 point of water ki, which she can use as bonus action to send out 30’ water whip, DC 13 dex save. On a fail, enemy takes 1d6 bludgeoning to and becomes prone them or is dragged 25’ toward Beth
Beth takes a permanent injury, -1 dex

POI
House of Roots in 9.16 (250 gp)

Magical loot
Ring of Warmth – no problems from cold environment, resistance to cold damage, 1000 gp
Cleaving Trident, 4 charges of burning hands – when you kill an enemy with it, does prof damage to an adjacent enemy, 400 gp (claimed by Waterflow)

Handy Reference to the Different Ways
Way of Change – Water Element, led by Flowing One
Way of Growth – Wood Element, led by ?
Way of Consuming – Fire Element, led by ?

Way of Enduring – Earth Element, led by ?
Way of Void/Emptiness (Jungle translation is unclear even after ‘processing’) – Metal Element, led by ?

Log
Greetings, friends and guild mates! Waterflow here. I’ve never written a log before, and there doesn’t seem to be much by way of agreed-upon terms or templates for style, length, content, or, well, anything – more or less every element of log-keeping seems to vary from person to person and log to log – so if there’s anything I’ve left incomplete or unclear, please let me know so I can tell you in more detail and amend the log with better information. If I’ve instead sacrificed clarity by including too much extraneous detail, well, there’s really nothing to done about that aside from ignoring the chaff as best you can and muddling through it. You have my apologies should you find this to be the case. If I can make it up to you through some small favour or service, please do let me know.

Several days before the expedition was due to set off, we asked Martin to Send to Loam (an apostate monk of the wood monks) to ask for the details on the monk contests he invited us to. He replied that the event would be happening soon, and we would be met by a large tree ten minutes south of the biggest apostate mine (the Mine of the Many) at midnight.

So, the expedition: we set off through the plains to the planar portal and encountered nothing of note on our initial travels. Travel through the portal was much as it ever was – not unpleasant, exactly, but very strange (I won’t bother describing it; either you’ve experienced it and you know or you haven’t and you can’t understand anyway). What was undoubtedly unpleasant, however, was the conclusion of our little extra-dimensional jaunt, in which we fell headlong onto the body of a cloud giant and into the midst of a melee between a knot of frogs and a streak of tigers who were fighting over same.

We joined the fray. Kal seriously injured a tiger with three magic missile darts before McDonald managed to get their wits about them enough to speak to both groups of animals, asking them not to fight. The frogs acquiesced, but the tigers were having none of it and went after us nonetheless. Seeing which way the wind was blowing, canny McDonald changed strategies and addressed only the frogs, telling them that if they helped us against the tigers they would get all the meat from the giant’s corpse and the soon-to-be corpse-ified tigers. Swayed by McDonald’s innate charm and the imminent promise of meat (realistically, more of the latter than the former, although it wouldn’t do to discount McDonald’s charm entirely) the toads hopped back into action on our side. Between the twelve of us we chased away several of the tigers and made short work of those that remained.

We offered to prepare the tiger meat on the frog’s behalf, which allowed us to skin them and take their (non-delicious) pelts for ourselves. Profit!

Meanwhile, Beth investigated the giant corpse and came up with several items: a magic trident, a magic ring, several opals, and a canister of gas with strange properties. The body itself had a large hole through the chest, perhaps from some large impact, and was located within a small impact crater – this giant had clearly fallen from quite some height.

We found a place nearby to rest and bandage our wounds, during which time we attuned to the ring and the trident and discovered their magical properties.

To continue our journey, we next had to cross the river. I failed to activate my water walking abilities, so McDonald decided to Misty Step across and toss a rope back over for us to cross on. Beth teleported after them so they would not be alone on the far side of the river. McDonald heard someone retreating through the bushes, when they called to them an apostate from the Consuming Way (a fire monk, basically) appeared, tossed several daggers at McDonald, and then ran off. McDonald and Beth managed to take him down while Archer, Kalandria and I watched from the other bank. Three more fire monks emerged from the trees. The battle that ensued was brief but terrible, and ended with the Beth and McDonald unconscious surrounded on the far bank.

Kalandria stood up and called across the river, asking them if they were willing to deal for our companion’s lives. The two junior fire monks stabilized Beth and McDonald and sat with knives to their throats while their leader stepped forward to speak to us. They told us they would spare Beth and McDonald’s lives if we’d give them what they wanted: the bone armour from a poison duke that Martin currently wears, and “the scum who is inside it”. They agreed not to kill Martin, but require that he come and be punished “non fatally but soundly”, and forced Archer to promise to bring Martin and the armour, or else someone else to be punished in his place.

Before they leave, the Consuming Way apostates carve scars on Beth and McDonald’s foreheads in the shape of small flames, and seer them into place.

I searched the nearby jungle for a long springy stick and vaulted across the river to feed potions to McDonald and Beth. McDonald tied a rope to his spear and hucked it across, embedding it firmly in a tree on the other side. Archer and Kalandria climbed across on the rope.

We travelled to a place near the appointed meeting place and settled in to sleep early, in order to be rested for the coming games. Beth brought cheese, salt herring, and an assortment of pickled vegetables to fortify us. We arrived at the meeting place shortly before midnight: a huge, gnarled old tree with silvery bark and dark green lustrous leaves. After a few minutes, a tracery of silver green light began to work its way up from the bottom of the tree, swirling around to form five hand shaped sigils. We placed our hands on them, and were sucked in through the tree into a huge underground cavern with walls of winding roots.

The area was made up of a large central cavern and several smaller side rooms. Several wooden platforms around the room held various apostates, waiting. The other participants wore simple clothes that gave no clue as to their Way affiliation, but I sensed that there was no one from Fire there (I can sort of feel when someone from that Way is nearby, and no one was). On a dais in the center, two figures danced, surrounded by green energy. One wore bone half plate and a long snake helm, the other a long green robe. Their dance shunted energy to roots on the sides of the cavern, which further carved out the space. Eventually they finished and fixed everything into place, and sat.

Loam (our host) appeared and welcomed everyone. He gave a speech introducing the games, and introduced us as “the Way of Ghouls”. The people gathered seemed to have mixed feelings about letting us participate, but Loam was actually quite welcoming, if in a deeply sardonic sort of way.

Loam introduced the contest: it would start with a free-for-all melee, at the end of which the top 10 would be paired up to fight in individual qualifying matches.

“The rules are as follows: BEGIN!”

No one seemed very interested in us – they seemed to consider us weaker, and left us alone during the initial match in order to try to take out stronger opponents in hopes of fighting us during the paired matches. We waited while the fight went on around us, until eventually the five of us and five others were the only ones left standing.

Each of the ten competitors were given death wards, and we were warned that outside help would not be tolerated (they stared at Archer specifically. “What’d I do?” she protested. Loam replied: “None of you carries instruments for your health.” Fair enough.)

Each of the matches would take place in an area prepared by a specific Way, and no one from a Way was permitted to fight in their own Way’s arena. Loam offered to match us up against other competitors rather than each other, and even allowed us to each choose which arena we wished to fight in. We relayed our decisions and the competition began.

Beth and I won our bouts, our companions did not. Winning granted us a small prize, as well as qualification to participate in the larger tournament that would occur some time from now. For prizes, I was offered a seed and Beth was offered a cup, each of which granted us a single ki point and a minor ki power we could use that energy on. Loam offered to send us back to the portal, and when we agreed he slammed his hands on the ground and we found ourselves teleported there.

We travelled home without further incident.

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Expedition 84 - Rainforest, Antorem and surprise! LUA
Fun with space tunnels

Saturday, February 17, 2018

[Posted on time, participants get 0.1 HP]

CHARACTERS

CHARACTER CHANGES

  • Alex levelled to 3 and got an epiphany (berserk hooligans are disadvantaged to hit him)
  • Mag levelled to 2

MAP UPDATES

  • Frilled Coward fortress (east of the bridge crossed to attack Felltower)
  • secure (30) place to rest near-ish that fort
  • Lancer glade (6-8 miles north of Antorem – somewhere in 11.08)

XP

  • 2007 xp/person, including sheet update

GP (not including items bought)

  • Bugle: 967 gp
  • Everyone else: 805 gp
  • LMF: -1.5 gp

SALEABLES

  • aberrant tentacle bulb components (transmutation), 200 gp
  • assorted gold and trinkets from the student quarters (3 gp from shittiest housing, 8 gp for accessories and minor noble crest from the slightly less shitty housing, 25 gp for brass ring and coins from the townhouse, 7 gp of assorted trinkets from the main dorm)
  • Principles of Magic Textbook, 30 gp
  • arcane focus (orb): +1 to a concentration check, once/day, bought by Sovan
  • loose change from City Hall, 10 gp
  • sack of bills from City Hall, 0 gp but maybe useful at some point
  • magic cup that purifies water, 800 gp
  • uniquely minted coins, 45 gp
  • random shit from the estates, 18 gp
  • Arcanist books [details TBD] – technical book 110 gp, four nothing 10 gp books, technical book 120 gp, technical book 130 gp, literature book 110 gp, magical resource book 150 gp bought by Sovan, technical book 80 gp
  • Imperial Writ, 800 gp, bought by the LMF
  • Arcanist gold, 22 gp
  • magic scimitar (+1 in dim light, get a BA when you use an action surge, cleric can cast a spell up to one level higher than usual with no spell slot but one level of exhaustion per spell level) (claimed by Quincy)

LOG

We prepared to set out with what I assume are standard procedures. Me and Alex ate some Fancy Rations, which give you an extra HP boost and make you grow patches of moss. Martin Aided me, Alex, and Bugle. He then handed me a magic mace and explained that he frequently uses it to terrify enemies into fleeing. Must be some mace.

We headed into the southern Grey Hills where Bugle tried to find a magic tunnel for us to travel through. The hills are dry and a bit crumbly and really, really off-putting. They sure are grey, even the bits that are other colours. Bugle, at the front, spotted some little fleshy spiky things sticking up about half a foot out of the ground and waving around. We unsuccessfully tried to avoid them and got ready to fight (which involved Bugle climbing onto Martin’s shoulders and making farm animal noises – turned out to be a good tactic, actually). It attacked us. It was one creature, with three big, weird hands coming up out of the ground – each limb stuck out about to mid-arm, with flailing tentacle fingers a couple feet long and a beak sticking out from the centre of the ‘palm’.

They do two attacks at a time – one with tentacles, one with their beak. I used the mace on them with no effect – they’re pretty good at resisting magical effects. Bugle shot an impressive amount of arrows at one, which slumped to the ground, then fucked up another one – might have bloodied it or not, hard to tell since they’re so strange. [They have AC 12.] We shot, hacked, and cast at them (I failed to hit them even once – sorry, guys). One of them lashed its fingers around Alex and started pulling him into the ground [CON save 12 v poison passes, STR save 17 v being dragged passes]. Bugle attacked that one and mimicked the noise of the other hand dying but it’s hard to tell if it cared since it doesn’t have a face. Sovan used Dissonant Whispers on one hand, and it Whispered back at him, and even got his spell quirk down. One of them lashed out at Alex again and paralyzed him, then pulled him waist-deep into the ground. Another paralyzed Bugle [CON save 10 fails, save at end of turn]. He fought it off but was poisoned. Nasty fuckers. Sovan Enlarged Alex, who shook off the paralysis and managed not to get dragged down any further [STR save 12]. Eventually we knocked out all three, and they started to pull back into the ground. Bugle wanted us to actually kill the creature, so Alex started to dig. He unearthed a weird bulb with the three limbs coming off it. Bugle harvested a stone-like thing, like a fruit pit, and we hacked and burnt the rest.

We made it out of the Grey Hills and into the plains without further aberrations. A little into the plains, Bugle found a place where reality was weaker and opened a portal. Instantly, we were being shaken and rattled which hurt like a motherfucker [CON saves, DC 15. Take 10 dmg on a pass, 20 dmg and get booted on a fail]. I fell out of the tunnel early. The others pushed out after me [extra 5 dmg because they had to submit to the shaking].

I’d popped out a bit east of the bridge in the Felltower Wood, directly in the midst of a group of vaguely humanoid creatures with large frills around their heads and long, prehensile tails (some holding weapons). There were six and more up on the walls of the fort in front of us. They immediately lunged, but stopped just short of striking us, and beat their chests and postured aggressively. They responded to a greeting in elven with a flurry of something elven-derived but quite different, and extremely fast. Sovan got them to slow down a little and got a message of strong territoriality. He apologized and asked which way to go. They waved us towards the Singing Rainforest.

As we left, they kept feinting at us. Bugle tossed them a ration and they ignored it. When he went back to retrieve it, he collided with one that had been lunging towards him. It tumbled over and immediately its crest deflated and it ran away from him, making itself as small a target as possible. The others followed suit. They have two leg joints, which they had been extending to seem taller – now they buckled down, keeping their cores as far away from us as possible, and scattered into the trees looking about as terrified as can be. We kept going, in case they came back with braver reinforcements, and Bugle found an extremely secure place for a rest. The Felltower Wood apparently feels better than it did – no ominous glow, no oppressive energy. Martin ritually detected magic and reported that the ambient magic is basically back to normal background levels.

After we started moving again, we heard heavy footsteps from the north, about ½ a mile off, and loud, booming singing. In a language that sounded like giant. Approaching pretty quickly. Bugle climbed a tree, confirmed that they were, in fact, three giants – and not hill giants, either. They were taller than the trees, not armoured (I assume they don’t need to be), carrying long clubs, casually tossing boulders back and forth, and occasionally knocking over full-grown trees. We avoided them.

We reached the edge of the rainforest. Sovan had briefed us earlier: he’ll go in front and try to talk to any Singers we met. If they attack Sovan, we do nothing, if they attack someone else, we get to fight. Sovan played some music for Bugle to replicate as a background for him later.

On entering the rainforest, we summoned the Lancers with their magic horn. Within a minute of calling them they arrived. They dismounted and hovered slightly over the ground. Bugle pulled out a fancy lacquered box filled with, apparently, fancy bugs (to the tune of 100 gp). One of them – apparently the same one that ate our previous gifts – swallowed it, box and all, and bowed a greeting at us.

Sovan thanked them for their help and told them the area seemed much better. They confirmed that it’s returning to the way it’s meant to be, or at least in that direction. The lancers really don’t like that the land is shrunken and distorted. The Felltower was an anchor. There are at least three others (one far in the north, one on an island off the north-east coast, one in the Grey Hills) that are keeping things distorted.

They got rid of the Felltower because it was encroaching on their lands and polluting their area – an urgent poison, different from the slow poison still rotting the place. The corruption is bound in anchors like the Felltower. If we tried to remove the other anchors, the lancers would want to help but they get much weaker the further they go from their land – and because the land’s been folded, even places that are relatively ‘near’ are actually still very far for them.

When asked about their purpose, they just said “We are.” When asked what they do, they said “We don’t do. We are.” Sounds nice.

Then Bugle spoke to them in kenku, and then in auran. They respond in languages that they are spoken to in, which is great for when you’re on an expedition with people who speak rare languages and don’t translate. Bugle talked some more in auran, ignoring Sovan tugging at his sleeve, then Sovan cast Comprehend Languages and then Alex made some more notes. It was swell. Fantastic teamwork.

The lancers told us that the Singers and the Psychics (blue guys who will trade new experiences for ‘thoughts’) are fighting, especially lately. They try to assimilate each other and frequently succeed. They take over the Quiet Ones (tall, skinny pale things) as well, but the Quiet Ones can’t take over anyone back. Apparently the Psychics don’t ‘exactly’ take mind slaves, so that’s comforting

The lancers offered to answer any other questions we had (this time), in gratitude for our help with the Felltower, so:

The Sailors pass by Antorem every now and then, travelling up and down the eastern coast. They are big, burly gilled humanoids. Sometimes they’ll ferry people along the coast, sometimes they’ll pillage depending on mood. They are amphibious with collapsible fins they can use to swim very fast.

The lancers described a glade 6-8 miles north of Antorem (somewhere in 11.08) as their place of power, where we can seek them if we want to talk again. That’s about the northern edge of their territory.

They warned us about a wyvern that lives north of Antorem.

They told us about the Arcanist, who we ended up killing.

We asked about the building that is only half-visible sometimes (on the map as “perceptiony building”). It’s a house made of solid air.

They mentioned that the LUA are a nuisance, as they sometimes come and take their children – the Singers and Psychics – but didn’t ask us to intercede (“If our children cannot defend themselves, so be it.”)

The Frilly Guys are new. They recently fell out of one of the space-time folds.

The Source is too far from the edge of their territory for them to be familiar with but they are willing to try scrying for information about it. They’ll send us a message with any results the next time we’re close enough to their area to receive it.

They remember the corruption coming in waves across the land, from the north east. They watched the towers fall and saw space folding as they did. The towers had been quite domineering and exerted their power forcefully, bounding their territory, so they were relieved at first but have since learned to be sad over it since their territory is now extremely limited.

[We can ask a couple more questions if we think of them later since we wanted to move on IRL]

Eventually we thanked them for their time and they left.

As soon as they disappeared, the air around us thrummed with high-pitched singing and we were surrounded by 15-20 Singers, who can travel very quietly when they want to with a preternatural hush.

Sovan started performing, with Bugle replaying his music. The Singers sang more quietly and a trio stepped forward to interact with him. They listened a bit, then two of them started singing a dissonance and they made Sovan’s voice quieter, so he shut up to listen (I swear, I saw it happen). The trio started playing with the melody that he’d been singing, making it weirdly pitched so it should be dissonant but wasn’t, etc – he said it felt like a creative challenge. So he started playing again and got them to sing with him. He directed them into a mix of what they’d originally been singing and what he’d been singing to try to communicate peace between us.

Sovan said that after singing with them for a while, the background hum of the others gave him a very accurate awareness of where they were, and a sense of their intentions. He could feel the different pressures – some aggressive, some curious, etc. They don’t understand lyrics, but their singing is so complex that it’s probably got a full linguistic meaning behind it that Sovan was half-tapped in to. He also started getting affected by their emotions himself, so that he’d actually experience some of what they were feeling.

He sang them a really cheerful melody to make them happy, but also a simple enough one that other guildies might be able to repeat it in future as a way to express friendliness.

This took all day (thanks for the card games, Alex). When they started getting tired, Sovan wrapped up his part of the music which confused them. They don’t understand final cadences, apparently, because they never stop (Sovan has found his people). They got over the confusion and started on with more of their own music. Sovan gave them an autographed lyre, which they didn’t really connect with but took.

We started walking away and a few of them followed and sang at Sovan. He sang back in and understood that they were worried about where he was going, since he was leaving them but not going off with another chorus. He sang that he was going to do something different, and then felt a faint compulsion [wis save 10 passes] to return. He slowly transitioned into playing countercharm – not using it exactly, but getting a little more uncomfortably close to it until they left. They pushed a few more times, then worriedly backed off. We left them behind.

A bit further on in the rainforest, we ran into a group of twenty-one Psychics, and three Singers with them. We greeted them and they were friendly back, then we got down to the brass tacks of maybe trading experiences to them for more thoughts. Sovan offered to help them the way he had before, which they were no longer interested in. Bugle let them experience him experiencing flight – they linked up to him, he flew around, and they got to feel what I can only assume is pure euphoria. They sat down and watched, acting stoned. When he stopped, they sat around, then one ordered him to do it again. He did. Then they ordered him to go again. He told them that he can’t since he’s still learning, but that he can fly in another way that’s still good but a bit diluted. Sovan cast Fly and he zoomed around for 10 minutes. At the end, they ordered him to do the first way again. He said he physically cannot, but he could come back later. They told him to do it now. Sovan started playing countercharm just in time for them to try to dominate him. A few others who hadn’t been connected sent us a very very strong and unpleasant feeling of NEVER DO THAT AGAIN. Apparently Bugle is so happy it’s like drugs to them. We apologized and made ourselves scarce, because I guess it’s our problem that they don’t know what’s good for them. We found a good campsite. A few psychics wandered past during the night, but didn’t see us.

We set off again the next morning. There was a sudden very soft, quiet stillness as every sounded faded a bit. Sovan told us all to shut up (even though he was the only one talking). One of the Quiet Ones was sitting and staring into a perfectly still pool of water. There was wind but no ripples. Martin looked into the pool, which was normal except for the stillness. He started casting Detect Magic (which revealed that it wasn’t magic). As soon as he started speaking the words of the spell, the thing jumped up, snapped around to look at him, and leapt into a tree and away. The water started rippling when it was gone.

Further on, we hear a loud baying – probably at least 6-7 creatures, which we detoured around easily on account of all the noise.

Eventually we reached Antorem and immediately headed to the university district to finish exploring it. We snuck past a few of the blobs without trouble. We went to the single large building first – filled with (previously) luxurious leather chairs and solid oak desks. There was an abjuration ward around it, relatively weak, and some divination magic. We decided to come back the next day with Dispel Magic prepared.

Then we went to an unexplored cluster of small buildings (a handful of smallish buildings of different constructions and ages). The first building was some shitty student housing – rotting beds and shoddy desks at the end, with nothing magical or valuable. The next building was a little higher-end and overly ornate. There was a simple crest – looked like it was constructed a few years pre-Corruption for a noble student who was just important enough to demand private accomodations. The third was on-campus student quarters. We found one uneaten book in a sturdy stone container. Some sort of basic magical principles textbook. The townhouse looked like it was for head students of some kind. We found a magically enhanced arcane focus – an orb. The next two houses were the main dorms and basically worthless.

We snuck over to the estates to loot those next – not particularly stealthily, but a group of hooligans ran past without noticing us anyway because they’re even stupider than we are loud.

There are five estates, arranged near the City Hall. One of the estates was newer and very noticeable – built to convey power, not wealth.

The City Hall was mostly administrative offices, with a central dias and counsel chamber. There were many filing cabinets with some intact titles but not much information in them. The estates seem to have been municipal property with different occupants every year or two, maybe given to counsel members. We took a sack of paper currency, in case it might mean something to the policitaurs still.

Each estate would take about half a day to fully explore, so we did quick 20 minute sweeps with Detect Magic up to pick a target.

Estate 1 – The most visible ornate. Showed no magic, but had a portion of the attic and basement sealed off behind a hidden door. (This one has been explored now.)

Estate 2 – Also nothing magic. The entire house was filled with paper scraps.

Estate 3 – As we approached this, we heard loud buzzing of at least 25 creatures. It’s a fancy leisure estate full of 5-6 foot long wasps and several wasp-people. A discussion ensued about what to do. Bugle wanted to kill them all, Sovan thought it was risky, I didn’t care either way, Alex said that he preferred to take notes instead of directly contributing his opinion which, according to Sovan, is second only to puppy-kicking in terms of sinfulness. Eventually we decided to leave it since the wasps have probably wrecked everything valuable anyway.

Estate 4 – Very stately. This one is more personalized – looks like it was occupied more permanently than the other estates. We found some coins in unfamiliar denominations and a library with likely a few books left although it’s mostly ravaged.

Estate 5 – This one has somewhat brutalist architecture. It’s right next to the City Hall, like whoever built it didn’t care about choosing an accommodating location. It had a magical scimitar and quarterstaff in a glass case in the front hall. (This one has been explored now.)

We chose the estate with the secret room first, on Bugle’s assertion that it would be a defensible place to rest after we cleared it. Bugle found the mechanism to open it – putting pressure on a certain part of the wall, which allows the wall to click back and slide open. There’s one place to look out from inside, covering the entrance-way. The main house was generic and hotel-ish, but the secret area was more personalized. The estate used to be a hereditary position, but that family was displaced at some point and would just try to take it back whenever they could manage it. We took the valuables, which included a magic cup that purifies water.

The next morning, we went back to the university. We tried to sneak at first but couldn’t manage it. A group of 15 hooligans attacked us, luckily in waves. I used my first action to try to stab one instead of using the mace of terror right away, which was a poor use of my time and resources. Lots of spirit guardians (incredibly generic knights in armour swinging their swords mechanically as they apologized), magic arrows, wild swinging, showtime, and by the end they were dead and we were alive. Alex learned a trick to avoid their attacks while they’re berserk [epiphany: disadvantage to hit him while berserk].

After that, we snuck a little better the rest of the way. We reached the campus and holed up in one of the dorms, since we were all injured and tired from the brawl.

The next morning, I took my daily Special Rations. Alex said he didn’t need any rations since they’re a useful resource (even though they are typically provided to all new adventures). Sovan accepted that. I said I didn’t need any either. Sovan didn’t accept that.

We approached the abjuration building and took down the ward (a great plan – that’s never backfired before). We caught a glimpse of something moving around a corner which Martin saw had an illusion aura. We then had a hasty conversation, with Bugle and me preparing to fight the Arcanist and Sovan surprised that he is present in his warded home. We started to head towards the door and heard the footfalls of something invisible. Bugle did a psychic shriek and then fired blindly down the hallway and disrupted its concentration. We saw a tall, thin spindly-fingered humanoid in a long robe, which Bugle then immediately shot some more.

It threw down a Cone of Cold and dropped Alex. Sovan cast a fireball, the Arcanist cast a fireball, there were more arrows, some healing, some spirit guardians. It tried to run upstairs, Bugle shot a seeking arrow after it and it died. On dying, it disappeared in a swirl. We chugged potions and went upstairs to kill it for good.

Bugle found a secret panel and slid it open to display an illusory blank wall. The Arcanist was leaning weakly up against a statue (of himself, holding a cup) and looking awful. It cast another fireball, then we killed it. When it died the second time, much of the dark liquid in the goblet drained away. We smashed the goblet and it’s curtains for him as far as we could tell.

We found some books, and the imperial writ – it apparently gives us some authority over various magical things within the empire.

We snuck back over to the estates and searched the brutalist estate, which turned up a few extra gp.

The next morning, we headed for home. Bugle found another portal which dropped us directly in the farmland just outside of Xan. We were about a mile away from Xan and half a mile away from a LUA watch-tower.

We immediately dropped prone to hide but the two nearby farmers spotted us. We killed them, then started running to the jungle to seek shelter with the weretigers. A few minutes later, we saw flags waving and heard horns blowing as two riders set out from the watchtower, with more massing at the gates of Xan.

Bugle climbed onto Alex’s shoulders and started killing horses while we ran. He killed both horses, whose riders pursued on foot A couple minutes later, the first two riders from Xan got within range. Bugle killed those horses too. The four newly unmounted LUA followed at a distance.

We hit the edge of the farmland and tried to hide in the long grass. There was signalling from the north and another fort 5 miles off (although we assumed those LUA were too far to get a chance to kill us before everyone else did).

The closer LUA fanned out to look for us in the grasses. Sovan shoved all of his healing potions at us and snuck away from the group, then started making a racket and drew off about 2/3s of them, leaving only 5 looking for us. We reached the edge of the grass with only 2 or 3 close to us. Sovan continued making noise, then cast fly and shot up into the air. They chased him, shooting.

We killed the three guys near us and started running. We got to within a mile from the jungle when we were spotted by a fort. 5-6 riders from the fort started riding us down. Bugle climbed onto Martin again and started killing horses. Killed them all – the last at 60 ft away. They pulled out longbows and started firing. We fired back. In the end we just killed them a bit faster than they killed us (thanks to potions). Alex stood directly in front of me to shield me and keep me up, since they were targeting me as the obviously weakest member. Bugle helped me target people at long range. Useful people to have around. Bugle had also leant me his magic bow that slows people down, which was extremely handy. One of them got close enough to melee, which was bad news until Martin took it down – they’re better up close, and if they’d been as good at archery as they were at melee we’d be dead.

We reached the jungle. As we passed a ruin, we heard growling and voices. We tried to sneak past, badly, and a wood apostate in slashed robes leapt up onto the wall and said, really smugly, “Were you – trying to …sneak?” We admitted that yes, we had been. He said that he had so many guests already…perhaps if we gave him a bribe – sorry, gift – he would forget that he’d seen us…on account of our friends are friends with his friends. Asshole.

I offered over the magic quarterstaff, which Martin hastened to explain was magic! Not just a stick! (Thanks, buddy.)

The apostate leapt down, took the staff, and feinted a swing at me. He taunted Bugle a bit and offered him a ‘we’ll each take one shot at each other’ deal. The monk missed, Bugle hit. (Fucker). Then we left – ‘before his friends come back.’

We got to the weretiger grove and were immediately and enthusiastically greeted by Sovan. Apparently, Sovan flew for ten minutes, then landed and ran until they spotted him, then flew again, reached the jungle, hid from a warden convoy, reached the grove, then sat around fretting over us. A weretiger named Gen approached and brought us inside to avoid the poison rain, which was looking imminent. He took us to his personal rooms, since we (very delicately put) don’t look up to enjoy the brawling currently happening in the main hall (Kerrek’s gone, so Uthgar’s partying every night). He invited us to stay the night but warned us to leave before Smythe returned since he’s ‘in a mood’ (Who isn’t around here?). Sovan asked about the musical instruments hanging on the wall and he and Gen played together a little and inspired each other, then Gen left us to rest.

The next morning, he had 5 weretigers escort us to the portal. The plains were quiet, and then we stumbled into town, richer and not too beaten up all things considered. And hey, we didn’t die. Cheers for us.

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Expedition 83 - Burn Before Reading
...in which things go both better and worse than expected.

Sunday Feb 11
[Posted on Time: +0.1 HP]

The Team

<waterflow> (alias: of the Changing Way), Monk 2
Aa’li’naa Aurae (alias: Daggers), Arcane Trickster 5
Elanor Peregrine (alias: Reap), Paladin 2
Martin van Horne (alias: Poison Duke), Life Cleric 5
Tabitha of Loress (alias: Slash and Bash), Abjurer 5

The Numbers

XP

1732XP per member (after update)

GP

977GP each, 980GP to the LMF
Linna gave 100GP to <waterflow>.

Changes

<waterflow> leveled to 3 and now walks the Way of Shadow.
Aa’li’naa stayed in the jungle to help the warden war.
Elanor Peregrine leveled to 3 and took the Oath of AWAITING UPDATE
Something definitely awakened deep in Martin, he role-played as a poison duke really well.

Loot

  • Acid Great Club of Darkness (1 charge) [600GP, magical]
  • Apostate Spellbook (2500gp, magical)
  • Arctic Diver Butterflies (x2) [50gp/each]
  • Bag of Golden Teeth (claimed by Beth) [70GP,10gp of which is a fancy bag, light transmutation but?]
  • Cleric Belt of Superpowers [1300gp, magical]
  • Conjure Earth Elemental Gem [1000gp, magical]
  • Gorgon Fragments [40gp]
  • Modron Chit (x1) [100gp]
  • Riding Horse (x3) [150gp/each] (One bought by Alexandre)
  • Shade’s Intelligence (First eighth; last eighth) [10gp]

Log (Written by the seventh Tabitha of Loress)

Day 1

The first day gives good weather: warm enough to strike forward without winter clothing. But we are not so naïve as to take such an invitation. Around us, animals take pleasure in the same bounty. We skirt around a ruined temple and Waterflow sees a small garden plot, peeking through rolling hills of snow. Five scintillating butterflies flutter in the air above snow drives. They dive occasionally into the snow. I recognize them immediately, from an old copy of De Natura Obscura, stolen from an empire transport long ago. Arctic Divers, an extinct species of magical butterfly. Extinct, but nevertheless here. Naturalists would find a specimen interesting, so we craft makeshift traps from mess kits and sneak ahead to catch a few. Elanor and Linna both dart a quick hand and snag a single butterfly each. Waterflow channels her inner… light? I confess, I understand none of a monk’s way. Waterflow channels (is this the correct verb?) her light and grabs for two butterflies at once. The Ki explodes forth with too much mirth, however, and instead of snatching butterflies she generates two violent columns of air. They send the butterflies askew and aflutter. The remaining one dives to hide beneath the snow. Happy with our two specimens, we return to the wall and give them over to a bewildered guard. He is to fetch Macdonald, for they are quite friendly with creatures.

Heading back out from the wall, nature is yet afrolick in the light of spring. Eight wild horses. We decide to try and ranch a few. I use ‘we’ generously. I cannot say ranching pleases me. But catching horses is safer than the jungle. If we die, we should have this memory between us. I help make each a lasso, and we begin our profession as wranglers. Waterflow sneaks up to the horses slowly, and simply drapes two lassos over a pair of horses’ necks. They show trepidations, but do not take flight. The remaining six begin seem enervated, so Linna pops out. Her visage finds no appreciation amongst the horses. Linna throws her lasso at the horse, but it falls just short. We follow Linna’s lead. Elanor holds one of Waterflow’s ropes, and Martin holds the other. For my part, swept up in comradery, I lasso a surly steed. The rope slips over its neck. Waterflow quickly lassos another. She holds her horse steady, but my beast catches me off-guard and drags me. Martin keeps his horse tame. Elanor fails to convince her horse of her dominance. It bucks and kicks her hard in the chest before running away. Waterflow hands off her horse to Martin and comes to my rescue, as I tumble through a mixture of hard stone, muck, and wet snow. Elanor, holding fast her rope, tumbles though winter’s detritus as her steed barrels forward. Martin cannot manage Waterflow’s horse, and it chases after its new friend, Waterflow. Elanor tries to right herself, but ends up… what did the Lucens ring call it? Ass over teakettle? Linna, annoyed with our failings, shoots at a horse’s ankle and misses. I finally get my horse to stop, Martin keeps his calm, and then Linna lands an arrow in the side of one of the stallions and kills it. We butcher the dead horse for its meat, and bring three wild horse back behind the wall. More laughter than pain, though Elanor took quite the beating. I wish all days were like this.

As we strike out for a third time, we happen upon a single ogre. She ambles dumbly, and she pushes along a wheelbarrow. We fall on the ogre with deft precision and drop it before it has a moment to react, with Waterflow landing the killing blow. The wheelbarrow brims with kindling, but we spy a decorative great club amongst the firewood. We take it, but decide not to return it behind the wall. We find the portal, and step through.

There is no rain in the jungle. But there is war. We emerge next to the destroyed bridgehead. Earthen-works and military encampments litter both sides of the portal. Bright torches are scattered around and a bonfire blazes with the stochastic cackle which flame takes on in the jungle. Across the broken bridge, a light burns. And shouting. A few arrows whiz passed, one glances carelessly off Eldershield. Some wardens worriedly grab us and drop us prone. The apostates are maintaining a constant assault and trying to rebuild the bridge as they attack. I estimate the warden strength at thirty six members, both full wardens and disgusting brood guards represented. I cannot estimate the Apostate numbers. A few Malisons are amongst those stationed. One leans back next to a knotty tree and has his wounds tended. We are lead away from the warzone towards the southern base. The warden do not want us at this front right now.
Halfway to the base. Time goes… went? will go? still. Sound dissipates. Strange sensations settle in our fingertips. We stop. The world looks as if a thin sheet of glass has been lacquered over everything. The glass shatters into perfectly uniform shards and tumbles away. The trees look like metal poles coated in thick brown paint. The sky dissolves to reveal a vaulted dome. Where the sun should be, there is a bright burning light. The world beneath our feet and through the sky is comprised of massive chains and cogs. A hideous, perfect, uniform, clockwork, advancing, pitiless, emotionless, heartless, machine. Our hands and our faces are naught but gears and tubes. And the gears and tubes of our faces ratchet in the same rhythmic thumping as the world around us. The sky shutters, clicks, and whirrs in perfect second beats. Martin and I shake the sensation quickly. Perhaps because we have studied more—this is why I must open a public library. Of course the world is a machine, De Natura Obscura told us so a millennia ago and naught has changed in the interim. I’m a compatibilist. I think Martin feels the same. Every religious person must see the world as a machine designed by the Gods, a machine which somehow finds a place for freedom of choice through which the gods test us. The others, however, seem shaken to their cores. They began bawling, deep sobs and misty eyes. Their sobs maintained the rhythm of the sky and trees and grass of gears. I try to make it lighter for them:
“So is life, meine Kleinen. Smile und weitermachen.”

Linna retorts by throwing me the most hateful glare I have ever received in my life. Apparently, Lightness is not the order today. The mission feels wrong. I want to bring them back to the horses and the butterflies.

[OUT OF CHARACTER NOTE: <waterflow>, Elanor, and Linna could only roll 1,5,10,15, or 20 for the rest of the session]

Soon after, Martin hears a rush of wings, beating without syncopation, like a single drummer beating a thousand drums. A large modron flies down, carrying a palanquin with a grey Tridrone resting upon it. It’s one of the modrons from closer to the portal. The Grey Wing. The Tridone congratulates the party for getting more “into the rhythm” of the jungle, before investigating our plans. We tell it where we’re going, and it replies in an even tone: “continue to take the path of least resistance.” He tells us that he doesn’t need us anymore, and it will go end the peace summit itself. This modron feels very… in tune with its nature. It does not discover through experience like the Blackwing modrons in Roguetown.

We finally arrive at south base. The barrier is still up, and we are tracked by monodrones and wardens as we approach. A’sshel’t’kov is not prepared to greet us: he is covered in dirt, in his garden, disciplining his modrons despite the fact that his instructions are completely ineffective for modron thought. Linna embraces him and uses her sizable power to launder his clothes. I gather, A’sshel’t’kov wants a garden with dispersed clumps of trees and flowers. Something which looks unplanned and natural, but is actually staged to demonstrate the actual beauty of nature. A design which flawlessly disappears into itself. I asked Linna to ask A’sshel’t’kov if I may train the modrons how to plant the garden he wishes. I work with them on a new seed distribution algorithm and explain the basic principles through basic syllogisms and some of the propositional calculus. The modrons here are hurting. They are punished with random patterns, a disfigurement against their nature. They seem to be in so much pain and…

If they know how to plant better, they will have a better night. I help A’sshel’t’kov explain his wants to the modrons more successfully by giving him commands and having him repeat those commands to the modrons. He studies quickly. He gives me a bag of gold teeth in thanks. An odd gift, but it is only a sweetener. The improvement of these modrons’ lives is gift desired.

A’sshel’t’kov wants to know our plans in the jungle, and we lie. Well, Waterflow and Linna lie. I do not speak because our mission is our business. A’sshel’t’kov seems unimpressed, but he does not press. We spend the night, and Linna goes to speak with her father alone.

DAY 2

So begins the longest day of my life.

We wake up the next morning. The monodrones have massively improved the garden over the course of the night. The shrubs which border the walk from the wall to the centre of the base are perfectly distributed sweetbriars, roses, and syringas. The border under the terrace wall hides a nook of benches and swings, among currants and gooseberry bushes. A proper spot for strange fruits sits under a perfect three-clump of well-pruned trees. After finishing their task, the monodrones come to look at me for further instruction, but with a wave towards the nearest tridrone I defer them. They do not deserve more punish. Gorr’noss salts the horse meat for us, and we head back into the jungle.

As we head to north base, a troop of white wing modrons pass us on a military sweep, working for the wardens. We wait aside and allow them to pass.

Waterflow detects a nearly invisible shimmer up in the trees and she shouts, with a friendly air: “hey, you.”

Rass’n’Iltash reveals himself, taken aback by our guild’s unparalleled peeriness. He seems a bit dismayed at our crew, however. Martin is not the best liar, and apparently we are going to parade him as a poison duke in his armour. Waterflow has been inducted into the Changing Way, who may be at the location and thus disrupt our plans. I do not like this mission—lying, pretending we are otherwise, parading about in some enemy camp. But it must be done for the safety of our village. Our goal is simple: slip into an apostate manufactory, disguised as a poison duke and his entourage of Many servants. Once in, we are to make contact with an undercover warden, Na’Tek, who poses as a wizard named Shade. She will give us documents, which we most return to Rass’n’Iltash. We should also determine the reason that the apostates have called a summit at this manufactory.

Martin’s armour is from the Poison Duke of Endurance. If one activates it properly, which Martin has not, it keys you into the lingering spirits of all who have worn the armour previously. He tests Waterflow’s commitment to the Changing Way by giving her a small carving of the Oubliette and asking her to hand it back. She does so, with a mark of confusion. Rass’n’Iltash is pleased, however, and he decides he can make due with us. Linna, Elanor and I are outfitted into the tattered leather strips the Many wear. We each take a name of Many: Linna becomes Daggers, Elanor becomes Reap, and I become Slash and Bash. Waterflow is given Changing Way robes. Martin is given a large Helmet. When he puts it on, his eyes glow green, energy pulses in a brackish, green aura around him. Martin’s voice drops, becomes dark, alluring. As if he were offering pacts or making deals with devils. He tells Martin to speak as little as possible, just loom and be menacing. This is not Martin’s strong suit. Rass’n’Iltash then takes blood from the rest of us, Linna excluded. Waterflow forces Rass’n’Iltash to promise, he will dispose of the blood he does not use manufacturing our disguises. He stirs the blood with alchemical agents and each of us are then injected with the result. It causes… transmutations. Our bones and faces and eyes and ears shape, twist, move and… as if I had cast alter self, I appear as a warden. Rass’n’Iltash, for his part, is ecstatic that it worked at all. We have five days, and it wears off.

Rass’n’Iltash sends us off with a warning: the earth should love Martin; the wood should be leery of him; and he should be contemptuous towards water. We each arm ourselves with a scimitar, two quivers of arrows, and a shortbow. We set off to find a cavern with a snake-headed entrance.

We arrive at the river crossing, and see two large crocodiles. We follow the coast, hoping they get bored. Instead, they are eviscerated by a school of hungry quippers. So goes nature. Once the school moves on, Linna swims across the river, ties a rope, and the rest of us shimmy across. Once we cross, three quadrones dressed as woodland bandits and rangers creep up on us from behind. We fear these roguish modrons think us wardens, so Martin removes his helmet and shouts out he is human. The depth of the modrons’ true sight continues to amaze, however, and they knew we were humans… they were coming because they thought Linna had captured us. We convince the group that we are friendly, and Linna is a warden we are testing some sort of conversion therapy upon. Linna makes friends with them by repairing their mirror way, which takes twenty minutes. During that time, we have a conversation with one of their silver-tongued magic weapons, which offers to help us amend the rules of rogue town a bit in exchange for liquor. One of the quadrones then hands me a piece of paper with “ostentatiously expensive present” written upon it. It seems, time has come to complicate my romance plot with Lieutenant Scar.

We continue southwards, through valleys, foothills, and jungle until we reach a green coated mountain with a small pass. We take a narrow canyon through pillars of rocks and then find this yawning snake mouth. Martin casts enhance ability (charisma) upon himself, and activates the Lucens Ring. I don’t get why Lucens’ helps here, but apparently he was once a Berthold and a Berthold is the sort of person who excels at chicanery. Lucens was a capable warrior, but never seemed much for the deceits. As we arrive at the snake mouth, a slithering voice demands of us: “please announce yourself!” Martin, freshly discovering a new well of dark confidence within him, retorts with a snide “Your security is lax. I shouldn’t have made it this close.” An apostate in black robes and green stripes steps forward. They demand our customary blood donation, which we send Linna for. She pricks her finger on a snake fang embedded in stone and it drains her blood, which spirals out and up like a mess of red ribbons. Her blood glows, and the apostates eye us strangely.

“The blood is strong in you. I affirm, they are of the people.” Other figures emerge from hiding. We are lead down onto a platform suspended over five feet of water, with twenty-foot ceilings. The path forks to the left and right, and we follow the left fork to our chambers. There is a nice set of hammocky beds in this first chamber, which is the general sleeping quarters where all but Martin are left. Martin continues ahead, and I do not know what happened there.

Back in the general sleeping quarters, Elanor, Linna, Waterflow, and I are in the sleeping chambers with five others: a figure in slashed yellow robes plays a flute with discordant titters, two suspicious arcanists in wild robes, and two wizards. The two arcanists are one of our modron bounties, so I watch for an opportunity to claim their heads. The wizards draw more immediate attention, though. The pair are locked in an intense argument:

“The many are leading us down the same path as the usurpers—it will be another machine age all over again!”

“The many’s weapons are natural products of the land, in harmony with the nature of the place!”

We quickly learn that these wizards are Shade (our contact) and Shatter; the bounty arcanists are Dream and Feast. Soon, our odd behaviour provokes a mental message from Na’Tek, or the wizard Shade as she is known here. She has made us out as her saviours. She tells us to be wary of Dream and Feast, the wild-robed arcanists, as they are very experienced field thaumaturges. Shade and Shatter make their way over to our group, to ascertain whether or not we think our Poison Duke will accept the Many’s proposal. To be clear, we do not know what the proposal is. So the others simply buy time. Linna tells them “he’s very open to this sort of thing. But his voting history is very dependent upon his mood.” Others offer their thoughts, too, before Shade tells Shatter to leave us be—the poison duke never lets anyone in on his plans. The monk then wanders over to interrupt this conversation, beginning Waterflow for her watery, essential power. Waterflow pretends to be meditating, and we successfully rebuke his advances. He acted as an addict acts. Na’Tek sends another message into our minds: meet tonight, find a way to get to the roof. We discuss the nature of “the ghouls” with the Many (a name they give guildmembers) and Linna takes offense to his tone. The two exchange words, which ends with the Many challenging Linna to a duel and Linna accepting.

I learn that Linna is quite duel-prone.

Soon after, Knock enters. He is an older apostate, wearing a decorative lacquered breastplate. He introduces himself as the “future of the innovators.”

He calls for Martin and then leads the whole group – Shade, Shatter, Dream, Feast, and sundry Many back to the entrance and down the right passage. The tour ends in a large cavern with a gash in the ceiling. Through the gash, rainwater (kiss of the jungle) trickles down in a steady flow. This rain water follows a sluice until it enters a large, wide, pool of swirling water. Spiral of red and blue spring forth, bubbling with thick plops. Knock tells us that the spring leads directly to the chamber of either They That Abide or He Who Consumes. Taking a fortified cup, Knock gathers some kiss of the jungle with a swirl of the bright red liquid. The combined substance, Knock tells us, interacts with the blood of any living being by boiling them from the inside. Even wardens of apostates. He asks if we have seen the arrows in use, which we have, but then he recommends we test the combination of the red and blue arrows. He has some warden prisoners he plans to allow us to shoot. Martin, tapping into some wellspring of malice, intimidates Knock into releasing the prisoners for public execution instead. This is a gambit to save them. We do not need to see the arrows tested, he says. Martin then demands a tour of the full facility before he weighs in on the pressing question—does the Poison Duke think these arrows should be mass produced and distributed among the Apostate warriors, or do they represent the same technological fetishism which the wardens adopt?

We are lead down a hallway littered with small bones that crunch underfoot, and plumes of poison gas make several of our party queasy. Somewhat appalled, Knock thinks the Poison Duke has used his powers to make his own entourage weak to poison. Martin demands Knock let us suffer. Apparently, we had displeased the Duke. We were brought forward to a chamber where six cages, mounted to the walls, surrounding a strange, abstracted statue. Two of the cages had wardens, and two had broodguards. Each cage was beneath a cascade of water, which ran through a crystalline mesh, sourced form a bewildering polyhedral structure. A member of the changing way stands, on one foot, meditating, in the structure’s centre. This monk, Opal, is “maintaining the mistress’s procedure:” using her Ki, she directs the water or crystals or… I don’t know. But chunks of the broodguards’ frightening exteriors flake away beneath the water. She heals them. One broodguard is a Lua underneath. The other, a warden.

The warden peeking out from beneath the broodguard exterior begs for death. Waterflow wordlessly goes to help Opal, and we leave her with the monk for the next while.

Knock threatens the warden prisoners, using a mere thimble of the red poison to burn the skin off one’s face. “We’ve had our fun,” he warns, “but now you will see true pain, under the care of Matalar the Cruel.”

After showing us the prisoners, Knock leads the party (no Waterflow) to the production facility: many channels where rain water pours into basins, inverts through alchemical tubes, into barrels, where apostates ladle the water into pools, stir, transfer it to glass vials, submerge weapons, and so on. We are told they make a few dozen arrows per day, but with more resources they could fortify an entire army. The Faithful and the Growing Way see the endeavour as an abomination. The Many obviously support it. The diplomatic standstill lies in the poison duke’s hands to beak. Martin takes no time to weigh in:

“You shame our people by not believing in our innate strength,” he growls.

Disappointed, and perhaps at a loss for words, Knock escorts the party, excluding Waterflow, who still channels energy to help Opal cure the broodguards, back to the communal sleeping quarters and Martin back to his dedicated suite.

Back in the communal quarters, I notice Feast is no longer in the room. I send Nea, now a snake, to search the facility for the sneaky thaumaturge. I do not trust him. Or this facility. Oh, to set an alarm. As Nea searches for the warlock, I coordinate with Linna and Na’Tek to both extract the intel and Shatter’s spellbook from their bags. Soon after, Feast shimmers into existence beside Dream… the two whisper, and shimmer away together. I send Nea to continue the investigation: the warlocks discuss that the Changing Way know that Shade is actually a Warden spy; furthermore, the monk killed the warden guards before the Poison Duke could take them, and they are quite certain our group is suspicious. The thaumaturges go to speak with Knock. We’ve been made.

We request Martin’s attendance, and he sends for us quickly. When we get into his quarters, I tell him my concerns: we have the intel, they know we are spies, we must run. Earlier, Martin found a secret passage behind a large tapestry woven from many moultings. As we hear the crackle of bones down the hall, we go behind the tapestry and make our way up the staircase. Knock, Dream, and Feast burst into the room and immediately open fire. I hold the base of the staircase as the rest make their way up. Above us, from the top of the staircase, we hear loud grinding. Martin tells us it leads to a rooftop. I cast a web over the staircase and follow my allies up the stars and through the door.

As we all emerge on the roof, however, a powerful abjuration erupts around the facility’s roof. We plan to jump off and cast feather fall to escape, but the ward is impenetrable. From the base of the staircase, Dream casts some dark magic but I quickly counterspell it. Linna then hits Feast in the chest with one of the Apostate’s red arrows.

The door to the staircase then seals itself shut, and the strewn rubble on the floor begins to assemble. It puts a large, stone sword forward and begins moving nimbly on its toes. We cannot exit. We are forced to fight. I slam my shield against the construct and cast shatter. It surrounds itself in a mass of green flames, and my allies fall on the creature with deft strikes. Luckily, my shatter keeps its attention and it attacks me. Martin heals himself, and I cast shatter once more. I cannot stress how quickly this construct attacked: it seemed like it could swing its stone blade a dozen times for each shatter I could call forth from the axe. Linna’s ability to hurt it, however, outpaces my own. It attacks her but she is defiant: she jumps at it, stabs it with her magical dagger. The construct shatters, but soon recombines itself.

Our morale drops, but we keep at it. The recombining seemed to have made it attack more slowly. It’s magical flames also dissipate. Its rapier reconfigures into a longsword and a shield. We continue to assault the construct, but it swings its weighty longsword at Elanor and she falls (temp). It then turns to Martin and just as swiftly drops our healer (temp). I trust Waterflow and Linna, far defter than I, to heal our allies.

But the construct’s speed is still too great. With a strong swing, it drops Linna and she staggers to the ground (temp). Waterflow overcomes the menace, slips beneath its legs, and revives Linna with the magical gourd. Linna quickly snaps into action, and uses her magical brassiere to heal Martin. She then strikes the golem with another deft blow, it shatters once again, before it smashes its longsword and shield together. The pair become a massive greatsword. It moves slower still… Martin, in turn, restores Elanor to consciousness and then heals himself. I try to keep the construct’s attention, and smash it with my axe. Elanor shakes off her injuries and smites the construct, but it knows Linna is its real target. It assaults her and she drops once more (temp). Waterflow once more restores Linna to consciousness, and she snaps to action and pummels it with her daggers. The rocks slide, creak, and then tumble to the ground. Inside, we find a metal box, which Linna quickly picks. Inside, there is a large egg-gems shaped like an egg. It glows white and brims with the souls of dead wardens. I do not like this egg.

The ward slowly dissipates, but not immediately, so we heal up while holding the door closed. We hear the pained cries of Feast as the poison arrow, which Linna shot, continues to burn him from the inside.

The ward dissipates, and we jump off the roof. Using my cap of skill, I cast feather fall on the party so we can land safely. Near the entrance to the manufactory, we see the dead bodies of Shade (and Shatter? need confirmation). Before we run, Opal comes forward. She apologizes for risking our lives, but tells us that she could not let Na’Tek leave and we represented her opportunity to escape: when the wardens act, she tells us, children die; villages burn; they betray each of their allies. But we are just hired hands, and she hopes to be friends with us one day. She confirms that Dream died, Linna’s poisonous arrow burning through his veins. To apologize for risking our lives—a weak apology, though her heart seems good—she gives us a potent fog cloud to cover our escape.

We run into the jungle, lick our wounds, and find a place to spend the night. But the jungle won’t let us sleep. During Elanor’s and Waterflow’s watch, three stalkers approached the camp, but they were not interested in fighting us. Then, during Martin and Linna’s watch, a gorgon assaults the camp. My alarm thankfully wakes me and I too spring to action. I leap up and fire a searing lightning bolt at it; after its green foggy breath creeps through the camp, it gores me and runs with me towards a tree. Linna shoots at it and Waterflow activates the mace of terror to try and drive the beast off. It drops me and runs away, but then runs back and tries to breath gas over us. We shake of the poison still, and we manage to eventually kill the beast. We can only get a few fragments of its body, but we also find scraps of cloth in its gullet which were never turned into stone. We bring it along with us, to check why the clothes did not turn. The cloth is purple and blue.

DAY 3

Due to some inter-party decisions, we spend the next morning looking for somewhere, where Waterflow can copy some of Na’Tek’s intelligence. Linna wishes us to share the intelligence with her father. After copying, we headed northwards towards Rass’n’Iltash’s camp. Halfway there, the skies flicker wildly. A modron, massive one, drops from the sky and then pauses, before turning into ash. The crumbs of ash self-assembled into a giant monodrone, which itself exploded. Into more ash. Bizarre, but we continue.

Eventually, the discordant flute from the day before pops up. The monk, Loam, appears. He tracked us down, though with some difficulty. But he has no desire to bring us in. He finds our disruptions amusing. He asks us how we got Martin’s armour, and we tell him the truth: we stole it. Apparently, the actual poison duke arrived the morning after we fled. If we stayed, it could have been far worse for us. But Loam sees us as agents of natural selection. The fighting, destruction, and fire we bring can only make the strong stronger. Loam invites Waterflow to some monk games in the next week. We than Loam for his candour and continue.

We arrive at Rass’n’Iltash’s base. We retell the events of the night before. He laments Na’Tek’s death, but is ecstatic we got the intelligence and destroyed their guardian. Because we cannot use the soul egg we found, Rass’n’Iltash offers us a magical gem in exchange for the souls. I am happy to rid ourselves of stolen souls. Rass’n’Iltash undoes the transmutation, and Elanor immediately tells Rass’n’Iltash that Linna plans to give a copy to her father. Rass’n’Iltash convinces Linna that this would be a bad idea, but he lets us take the copy back behind the wall. He convinces Linna to come spend time with him, so he can explain why he is suspicious of A’sshel’t’kov. To thank us for our work, he gives us a magical belt. We are then escorted to the portal, and make it home without further problems.

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