Silanya

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]
  • 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 He Who Abides Alone or He Who Consumes All. 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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Expedition 82 - Glitch in the Source Code
In which Rockstars are pricks, Time is fluid, and Ants are chatty.

Sunday Feb 4

[Posted on Time: +0.1 HP]

Mission Personnel

  • Aythe von Dusthafen, Bard 2
  • Hadley, Fighter (Battlemaster) 3
  • Lucens Princeps, Warlock (Fiend/Fae Chain) 4 [Deceased, replaced by:]
  • Jean-Pierre du Vayrir de la Grand Contumace Saint-Emilion, Cleric (Forge) 6
  • McDonald, Warlock (Fae Blade) 3
  • Nico di Pietra, Ranger 1
  • Sovan Dareshin, Bard (Lore) 6

GP / XP

  • 839 XP for JP, 885 for all others (if sheet updated on time)
  • 498 GP with Donation to LMF,
  • 581 GP without Donation to LMF

Changes

  • Aythe levelled to 3 and joined the College of Glamour; she also read from the Oracular Saga and has the College of Valour’s Combat Inspiration feature. She is slightly closer to escaping the mental echoes of the Puppeteer.
  • Hadley procured a Riding Spider, misread the Oracular Manual (lost Battlemaster Parry), and won the Duelist’s Epee (+1 Rapier, +Battlemaster Dice Size).
  • Jeepers is a Phoenixheart (+ d6 to any Radiant attack, permanent Protection from Evil vs. Fiends and Undead), read from the Oracular Orisons (+ Ceremony Domain Spell, + Level 3 Dawn Domain Spell), and collected the Group Souvenir of a Heaven’s Ray for his prior visit to the Oracle on Expedition 78 (one-use, no-proficiency DEX or CHA attack to fire Radiant Lightning). He is currently spending a week with the Well of Transformation to try to understand our current woes regarding the Source and the Stalkers.
  • Lucens has died to Stalker ambush and turned into the Ring of Bertie (sigh…see below).
  • McDonald read from the Oracular Grimoire and can turn their Spear of Smiting pact weapon into any form at will as a Bonus Action – maintaining the Thrown 20’/60’ feature. They also got a small and lovely child’s colouring book, The Oracle and You! (Crayons Not Included).
  • Nico levelled to 2 and read from the Oracular Omens (Ranger casting becomes DEX-based).
  • Sovan is an Eagleheart (has a Miracle – 1-time Cleric spell of SL 6 or under – and can use Veillantif twice per combat) and read from the Oracular Curio (tiny book lets Sovan adopt a Tiny (sub-ant-sized) form 1 minute per Expedition.)

Loot

  • Fala Climbing Harnesses (26*30 GP profit = 780 GP)
  • Bag of Silver Ogre Coins (100 GP)
  • Plot XP – The Nature of the Source (1000 XP, no GP)
  • Duelist’s Epee (+1, +Battlemaster Dice Size) (2100 GP – Magical) (Claimed by Hadley)
  • Book – The Oracle and YOU! (Crayons Not Included) (10 GP)
  • Fela Riding Spider (500 GP)

Log Proper

Hello lads and lassies – ‘tis I! Bertholdt Rohrbach, writing through the hands of Wee Babby Jeepers, who is wearing me – or, my golly gosh, my mistake, he’s a big fella now, JEAN-PIERRE ‘PHOENIXHEART’ –

SCRIBE’S NOTE: This is not a nickname that I wish to catch on. I am aware that saying this is tantamount to asking for it to be immortalized by some among you (yes, Darling, I am looking at you) but I must still hope to appeal to your better natures. Call me foolish.]

DEAD AUTHOR’S NOTE: What a beautifully foolish thing to say! Aw, dash it all, Jeepers, you’re so sweet you’re probably writing all this down even if I can’t see it. You rascally little flirt you-]

SCRIBE’S NOTE:All future interjections by ‘Lucens Princeps’ / Bertholdt Rohrbach concerning other peoples’ business will be limited to those relevant to the Log.]

- in any event, I died. And I was another fella, whole time, big long story, very dull, face melted after the ol’ “Turn into a tiefling after Infernal Pact goes specTACularly wrong” scam, came back, acted like a big soggy bore, dead without even a break to have some chocolates. But here’s the important bits that Jeepers will agree to write down despite his “being verr’, verr’ beezay”. (I wish he still had the silly little accent! I missed it so second he got smart and pretty and stopped gabbing so much.)

BUT – here’s to him sleeping four hours a night! And thus having pots and pots of time to write out my INCREDIBLE INSIGHTS (did he do the capitals? I hope he did the capitals. And then wrote this aside. STOP COPYING ME JEEPERS. Rutabaga rutabaga.)

SCRIBE’S NOTE: A promise, praise the Tree, is a promise. A regret is also a regret.]

Day 1 – The Felar Wood, Trial of the Century

Here we are again, Felar Woods, still not the Perfect Fela Utopia Lesh used to sketch out, possibly in Ks’Shan blood, all over her notebooks. Not for my want of trying, I’ll admit – GAD but agreeing to support those drearily authoritarian little Chosen was trying, but DOUBLE GAD if I was going to let her spirit one-up me.

(NB: I’m now haunting our honking little Bird Friend’s left hand, same way as Lesh is haunting her dreadful little sprog, which I gather is Deeply Ironic since they nakedly despise each other; even if Ciggy von Mommy Issues seems to play it off as ‘disinterested concern’ she seems about as happy to be told ‘No’ as a golden retriever stuck with a plate of piping hot sausages.)

Sovan and Jeepers are there, in the Leg of Lavishness and the Armor of Extravagance;

There’s also Hadley, a rather hairy little fella with a new-found Fela Chosen kick.

We turn to McDonald – they have on flashy old robes and are Beholden of Oberon. We’d have had a lot to bond over had I not been exsanguinated on this Very Day – OooeoeeeeEEEEEooo – Fooooooreshadowinngggggg~~~~

…then we have Nico, a vain little creature bearing Amara’s Gauntlet, the Mace of Terror, the Gourd of Healing, the Chip of Shoulder…apparently she ranges. Bully for her.

Aythe rounds us out – she is staring and dull-eyed, and speaks as if form does not exist, identity is a lie perpetuated on reality by thinking <snooooooore> <never> Nice little lassie, I sort of want to offer her a drink and then corrupt her insofar as her enthusiasm allows, but I’m not doing that sort of thing anymore, having a) at that point turned over a new leaf and b) now being a doornail, a dodo, a duck doused in toxic hoisin sauce and left to stew in a Soul Ring. So I content myself with pretending to find a conversation about “What is real, who is a person, if an egg falls in a market and nobody sees do you have to pay for it” rather more fascinating than it in fact is, e.g., at all, ever, for even one second interesting.

SCRIBE’S NOTE: Many personal remarks excised for brevity. Just brevity, Bertholdt.]

Walking – as one does – if one is alive, and not a ring – we meet Sub-Ranger Bo, a First-Draught Fela Chosen. Little blighter is trying to do that ripping thing Valerian does where they bank an arrow off another arrow and then drink some tea while the thing dies behind them, very Dramatically. Bo’s imitation goes about as well as you’d expect, it’s like watching a cabbage try to recite blank verse. Arms too stubby, not enough scarves, whatever the Primrose Method requires, this mandibular little milequetoast, ‘il n’a aucune idée.

We stop and talk to Bo, who’s attempting (badly, as above) to catch rabbits. He asks if we’re here for the Execution of 7 Rising Sun diehards. Two days ago they were tried, refused to recant, and were sentenced to death. By the Burning Bowels of Baalzebul, WE TALKED ABOUT THIS, YOU RASCALLY LITTLE LIGHT-LOVERS. “LAY LOW, WAIT FOR THE GLOWING DWARF MESSIAH.” (I did not say.) But with Sovan and Jeepers along, surprise surprise! we decided to intervene and Save Everyone with Talking Problems To Death.

SCRIBE’S NOTE: Talking often works. And even if it does not, Good withers in the absence of hope that things need not be as they are.]

(Before we left, Sovan Inspired the little blighter to catch up on his rabbit-nabbing quota. What a big soft stack of pancake of a man he is. You’re so dreadfully lucky to have him, Alive And Well People. Maybe throw him a parade now and again? You know he’d love it and buy everyone drinks for a week.)

SCRIBE’S NOTE: A month, more like.]

Running along, Jeepers and myself were quite slow – my being a Frail Lad, Jeepers wearing about thirty strapping soldiers’ worth of expensive magical armor and having the legs of a prepubescent rugby player to bear them along with even in his Boots of Hot Trotting. Luckily the others were kind enough to push our firm and shapely bottoms into gear.

Nico took this opportunity to opine that this was useless and we’d never change their mind – she’s one of those awful little shits who thinks that pissing in nicer people’s coffee makes her seem intelligent and self-reliant in a very impressive and libertarian way that would ring more true if she wasn’t, at time of piping up, loaded to the gills with free magic items and healing potions that her principles seemed perfectly content to make use of with about as many thanks as a Tharizduun Cultist whose tooth you just took out with a handy doorknob.

Jeepers rather beautifully SARCASM-ED at her (“Your well-informed and thoughtful opinion is very much welcome” and I practically plotzed. All that man, all that beard, and a sense of HUMOUR? Put a ring on it, Sovan.

SCRIBE’S NOTE: …Bertholdt is, apparently, despite dying and returning from the Grave as a different species, impervious to change.]

When we arrive, escorted by Chosen Hadley (ooh, fancy, what’s THAT when it’s at home young sirrah?) we find the ever-welcome sight of a rather fetching Fela Firing Squad filing forth to the quad to fill a fella full of fletching. They are led, wot ho, by the Esteeemed* Sub-Commander Zzzzt, who apparently doesn’t at ALL realize that their name is bally ludicrous. Like a suppressed sneeze, or a ripped piece of thick paper.

They – Zzzzt – ask if we’re here for popcorn and state-sponsored murder, like the proper little jackbooted fascist he is. (Bahamut’s blessed baby pictures, Lesh, what you saw in this rubbishy little Officegarchy I shall never know.) The Old Boys (Sovan and Jeepers, In A Tree, H-E-L-P-I-N-G) chime in that we of the Guild are in FACT here to help TURN the Rising Sun – how much more impressive, to wit, would it be to have these brave outspoken sorts repent and return to the Fold? How many secret sympathizers will be dismayed? How much…bloody…silk…piling…labour? (or whatever it is peasants do) can we keep in the job market?

Zzzzt shakes their head and waffles a bit about “Already done”, but Hadley uses their nascent Bureaucracy to think up ‘filing a proper form’ and sells it quite well (CHA 22). They grab me and Aythe (still scuttling around asking people if they’re wave forms on God’s Arse or whatnot) to help and dash off, with Dorkins staying behind as a bit of comms. Aythe chooses now to dreamily chime in that she can ‘take [the Felas’] clothes to memorialize them should they Pass On’, ahem, ODD, so full marks on ‘Bertie is Perturbed by a mysterious remark’, Aythe, good job, creep crept all down THIS spine, v. v. well done.

Meanwhile, as the retrial in an hour, Sovan Jeepers and Nico take Dorkins down to the Stockade. We’re accepted as Counsellors for the Prisoners, and Jeepers leads with a stirring speech about faith being hard and self-denial being wonderful and the kind of sappy rot that Sovan probably goes all ga-ga for and finds infuriating ALL AT THE SAME TIME (Persuade 30).

Jeepers, newly studly Tree-Fancier that he is, gets our many-eyed malcontents to agree to stick to our play, do what it takes to survive, and then – I can’t resist the theatricality – Dorkins BOOOOOMS forth my voice saying something Dashed Impressive about “Hoooooold faaaaaiiithh – the Shining Man, Jean-Lee, shall return, and walking the Mountain of Conflict shall leeeeead thee to the Valley of Peace~~~~”…demme but I do miss having a mouth, and being able to lie to people, and for a good CAUSE even so I don’t have to pretend to apologize.

Meanwhile, in an incredibly boring library, Hadley files the paperwork for an appeal and (INT 24) correctly identifies and fills out a form for change of date – the trial is now! In an hour! Hadley also uses their noggin and recalls that one of their sponsors for becoming Chosen, Spider Expert Ma’rrr, is a renowned Spider Lawyer. (And you think OUR lot get their hands in a lot of pockets…) Ma’rrr takes Mc’s light crossbow for help, and the assisted Hadley (INT 28) goes to a dusty corner of the Felar Archive holding records of a since-defunct Severed Hand alliance – the Foreign Powers Exception Clause.

“Why, WE’RE a foreign power,” you likely say, dear reader – well if so, then stop it, nobody likes a smartypants.

Regardless, the doc dictates that when the Magnificent Fela are in alliance with some foreign power or other, Felar citizens normally sentenced to death can instead be conscripted by said power for ‘purposes needed’. The problem – and rather a thorny thicket it was with which to tackle a particularly sticky wicket of a geopolitical tangle – was that Fela are not allowed behind the Wall, so most of our uses for them would be curtailed.

We decide, long story short, to Play it Vague and say “We’re taking them elsewhere, where we need them”, and resolve to take them with us to Undertree and reunite them with their Rising Sun Inner Circle. (Those lovable dogmatic over-zealous highly magical scamps!)

This goes suprisingly well, as it transpires. We file all this paperwork, by which I mean Hadley files it and I stand around looking Wise and Beautiful. We all have our little part to play. This filing gets kicked up ALLLL the way to our Judge, Webtown Commander ‘Oolong’ (her name was hard for me to remember through the pain of my (at this point imminent) cruel demise.

A tired and bored looking Oolong flips through it – mystified at the efforts we’re going to for these unwashed masses – and asks the obvious question “What purpose do you need these rebel farmer scum for?” Sovan chimes in (KISS being his motto, that “We’re taking them elsewhere. We promise they won’t be your problem.”

Oolong takes this at face value, or at least doesn’t care enough to get stroppy about it. She ‘reminds us’ that the necessary Allied Treaty compensation payment for the prisoners is due in 3 weeks – about 2 light crossbows’ worth of crafting per prisoner, 14 altogether, should suffice. Hadley, rough-housing little rapscallion that they are, buried that lead somewhat (not the best!) or missed it entirely (worse!) but all is well in the end – Sovan promises Many a Plant Growth instead and off we pop, proud shepherds of 7 Fela:

  • Mi (7 HP)
  • Tio (2 HP)
  • Ta (7 HP)
  • Mobak (11 HP)
  • Kira (6 HP)
  • Sannn (9 HP)
    and
  • Blath (10 HP).

Day 1 – The Dark Forest, Lucens No More

On our way to the Dark Forest, we top all them little Felas up with Level 2 Aid, before Jeepers meets his Well of Transformation Fancywoman (Mirranonath? Mirononanoneth? Mirnana-nana-nannynonoth?) and heads off.

SCRIBE’S NOTE: Bertie…grow up. Mirrinonath.]

We cluster them around me so I can Silent Image and put them behind a bit of cover should things get Squiffy. Hadley chats the little nippers up – Kira’s standoffish, but they get quite tight with Tio. We all set out for Undertree…

…and that’s the last I remember.


SCRIBE’S NOTE: From here on out, I, Jean-Pierre…‘Jeepers’…will take over based on that told to me by those on the expedition who were present when I was absent until the rather traumatic subject of Bertholdt’s death is past.]

Lucens was struck by multiple hand crossbow bolts fired by 2 Stalkers of the Well of Prophecy – perhaps outraged by the Prophecy we apparently unwittingly fulfilled of Conflict with the Source – and 1 Stalker of the Well of Inspiration – the latter not so openly hostile as to cold-bloodedly murder Guild members before this time. The poison would have killed him if the repeated traumas did not. No-one had a chance to save him.

The culprits jumped away. Sovan used Plant Growth, and the others held shots until they could see any movement, while our Fela charges scattered wildly.

McDonald missed their first spotted target, but tried to describe their location; Sovan and Aythe (who snapped to focus in combat emergencies) inspired McDonald and Hadley respectively, before Sovan cast Fly, revealed his Continually Flaming Pipes -

BERTIE INSERT: Continually Flaming, EHHHH?]

and ascended 60’, illuminating a Prophecy Stalker dangling out of the Plant Growth by one arm. Hadley and Nico shot and hit them, but could not make the Stalker’s arm release the branches.

That Stalker leapt outside of Sovan’s Pipes radius and attacked him, but Shield kept my beloved safe. Below, Hadley and Nico readied another round of shots, while Aythe’s Puppeteer-addled chatter failed to calm the Fela (Disadvantaged Persuasion 6.)

Sovan lit up this Prophecy Stalker for the archers, and Nico critically hit (17 piercing) before Hadley hit a ‘called shot’ Trip for another 16 damage, causing this Stalker to fall to their death.

The other two escaped, and as the party regrouped and recovered the Fela a flare-illuminated crossbow bolt landed not far away – McDonald and Sovan went over to find a note in Elvish – “Your Depredations in our home have not gone unnoticed, and are now not unpunished. We slew the worst among you to send you a message – stay out of our home.”

I joined the Well of Transformation. I thought Quincy, Silverleaf and myself brokered at the very least a ceasefire with Excellence, with the other Elders, even with Competence. I am confused and dismayed and do not know which ‘Depredations’ they speak of. Perhaps my new Well can tell me more.

For this expedition, I heard a dirge played on Sovan’s shawm, and my guide turned to me – “It is your lover. Go to him.” I went.

While I ran, Bertholdt’s Ring was donned and all was revealed; at this point Bertholdt / Lucens can resume narration.


Well, you can’t shrink ‘Bertholdt Rohrbach’ without getting ‘BRB’. (Rather, you can, but correcting the minor and poetical flaws of others is never a good look, darling ducks.)

Sovan finds me ring, puts it on, and we have a little tete-a-tete before he flatly flakes out on the sheer apocalyptic weirdness of a notorious scapegrace and Guild Nemesis popping back in as a pale pillock with the street smarts of a tank-bred goldfish and the humour of a Church newsletter after a run through the Bishop’s Censoring Committee.

Soon after, they all get cracking with the burning of my body – Ironically PREMATURE, as it turns out, due to Mr. Miracle getting his “Death has a Do-Over” power later in the trip. During the kindling-finding, Jeepers returns. He hears me tale, puts on me ring himself – “HELLOOOO JEEPERS~~~~~” I croon – and the little bugger pulls me off his finger!

Then he hears about the Vampire Debacle with Captured Camille up north on the Sending train – and THEN Jeepers SEARING SMITES me! The cheek! The unmitigated gall! Why I ought to write to the Times! To the POST, even! (Gosh but he looked dashing doing it.)

They walk away while I yell things but as a Ring I am easy to ignore, I shall find to my chagrin. Pretty, I remain; shiny, I certainly remain, priceless – when am I ever not? But vocal? Such is not for we, the Costume-Jewellery-Silanyans of the world. Our embattled community, all the poorer for it.

(NB: It’s rather a rippingly Good Thing they don’t hang about to watch me be toasted medium well – there’s a “WAAAAIIIILLLL”, from behind, as if a Whale and a Giant Sasquatch had a bouncing baby monstrosity and it howled itself to sleep; but much, much worse than that. A bally great Roc flew down aussi – more Whale-Wailing, Roc FUCKS right off, we thank our lucky lampshades and press on sprightly-like.)

We move on to the 06.14 Hidden Door, and despite some mild efforts (CON saves) needed to sleep there all squashed in with 6 fellows and 7 Fela…we all make it.

I sit in the Ring and start to think about what Eternity might feel like and begin rather strongly to suspect that I may not like it at all.

Day 2 – Undertree and the Source-Dweller

We get to Undertree in good order. Sovan does that funny Burping Grunting VIbrating Jazz-Scatting business that wonks out the Webrealm arachnids by telling them about the last time he peed in a public bath or what-have-you. It seems to go well, as at least one giant spider monster doesn’t come and turn us into gobbets of Spider-Chow.

As we arrive, a little Fala rascal named ‘Glib’ (are they joking?) tries to volunteer to be our guide. Luckily Soma, whom we know rather better – elbows him out of the way. He and Sovan chatter back and forth like day-labourers high on Sket-weed for a few minutes, to Jeepers’…amusement? Golly but he’s learned to be cool, and let buzzes be unharshed. Will Wonders Never Cease? THIS one certainly did!

SCRIBE’S NOTE: I wish I could say that this was the last of Bertholdt’s rather self-pitying ‘jokes’ reminding the reader of his death. Only the best will be preserved for posterity.]

Seeing the Fela, our Fala chum queries us – he ‘thought these dudes were not cool’ – Sovan reassures him that these Fela are ‘chill’, and then of COURSE like the rabbit-y little roused rabble they are they are about as chill as a Aganazzar’s FUCKING Scorcher to hear they’re being taken to meet the Inner Circle of the Rising Sun, also living here in exile.

Good riddance, you ungrateful little swots. Thanks for all the help during my assassination! HE SAID SARCASTICALLY.

SCRIBE’S NOTE: Bertholdt is being rather unfair here, but I can hardly blame him considering he was walking slowly surrounded by Fela he meant to protect and they ran the second he was felled.]

We start in on the Source, to which Soma says – in a curiously flat and non-Fala tone -
that “Questions about the Source are not to be answered by this person.” (real BOOPBEEP – I AM A CONSTRUCT FALALIKE, TOOOO-TALLY GIVE ME MACHINE OIL, DUUUUUDE stuff, did not like it ONE little bit.) We are, it seems, to be briefed on the Source by Sevalli.

Asking about Vliblin, we find he’s been away for some weeks and that Soma the Perpetually Helpful can’t recall why. Ah! Glad to know that the ‘most ruddy ominous non-explanation possibly imaginable’ award is well and truly locked down this year, takes the pressure off rather. In ‘thanks’ for his ‘help’, Sovan tosses Soma a cider. "Excelleeeent,” he witters. I do so enjoy these lovable doofuses. Deplore them at the same time, sometimes, I’ll admit that, but they’re cute as big bags of burnished buttons.

We get to Servalli, who stands with a clearly du Vayrir bespoke false leg propping her up. She sends Soma out to clear the area, buying us some privacy, and squat atop the stairs to keep rubber-neckers at bay. Good strong leadership! Does a body (politic) good.

After her brief thank you to ‘Smith Dude!’ Jeepers regarding the leg, and an accompanying technical inspection, she advises us:

“We got shit to talk about, but, sorry my excellent peeps, let’s deal with this up front – I got my reasons – you wanna trade? Potions for harnesses? Eh? Ehhh?”
“What are these potions for?” Sovan asks.
Servalli is breezy and evasive – “We got dudes who really use them.”
“Dudes like you?’ we ask. “Kiiiind of. Out of curiousity –” and here her voice changes to a businesslike and rather chilly, clipped tone, spooky as anything “– how many potionshave you brought today?”

We confer, confirm, and give her 26 (counting mine and Jeepers’) and receive 26 harnesses at 780 GP of profit. Proper ‘trade with the Natives stuff’, like my ancestors probably did, unless they didn’t at all! Servalli is very chuffed and drops our healing draughts down a nearby chute to be picked up by spidery little hands unknown.

Servalli then, FINALLY, comes to the point: “So bros, let’s talk about the Floating House. What exactly is your interest in that place? We try to keep our connection with it on the DL.”
Sovan breaks into Fala dialect, sounding rather a lot like a suburban art teacher deciding to have a ‘rap session’ about drugs, ‘yo’. “That Floatin’ house be messin’ with our Juju – we totally just wanna talk – be rad together, smooth this shit out.” (Isn’t it just like a drunken and rather elderly uncle trying to speak to the Help in their own language at Michaelmas? Isn’t it?)

Servalli ‘thinks we’re in luck’, as a denizen of the Floating House (the Source, for our slower home readers) is here – and apparently, a fully-grown adult, possessed of reason, sensitivity, and a fully developed franchise as a member of society, they WILLINGLY and COLD-BLOODEDLY go by the name of ‘Zippedeedoodah.’ I have no words. Truly this continent is some kind of socially awkward, HOPELESSLY provincial hell maze. From now on – you know what? He’s ZIPP. Which is ALSO the amount of interest I have in ever writing out his full name again and hurting poor Jeepers’ wee little hand any -

SCRIBE’S NOTE: Why, thank you, Bertholdt. Your extended lecture about why you want me to write less is very much a reasonable use of both our times.]

In any event, ZIPP is ‘doing a concert’ – “Let’s go to a concert!” we cry. (I mean, I twinkle in a pocket, but cry I would could I only.) Jeepers acts as designated purse-holder and takes Hadley’s breastplate so the others can dance about.

We arrive to a throng, a stage with a silk curtain, just as a long-haired, quite sharply dressed Fala takes the stage – you know, that louchely expensive ‘hobo chic’ thing I used to pull off JUST a little more beautifully. Better legs for it, y’know. The chap has a rather curious lute covered in metal strips.

Sovan yells out to this minstrel “YOU GOT THIS!”, Inspiring them, just as this – obviously a WIZARD – begins to use Shocking Grasp to electrify this lute into some kind of…electric instrument? The Fala go berserk (in a dance-y way, no one is torn limb from limb, at least not that I’ve heard of. Hadley’s moshing about (4) is terrible, but enthusiastic.

Sovan’s Inspiration, and his impromptu harmonies, lead to a 30+ Performance – this chap throws up his guitar to finish his set, which turns into a lightning bolt and reappears on his back. He pushes through the crowd to Sovan, yelling over the crowd – “Sick harmony – I felt the extra juice, normally I’d need a posse for that much music.” Sovan just grins and shoots back "Stick with me dude, I got yer back”.

(All the while, this Falar Don Juan of the Dark Forest – is pushing off groupies, including Hadley, with whom he shares a rather anatomically complex mandibular makeout.)

Zipp (ugh ugh UGH) agrees to meet us after he…freshens up. With Hadley. (Dear me! Hope they’ve had their shots, YOU know musicians.)

(NB: Banging It Out Scorecard: Hadley CON Athletics 13, Zipp’s 25. Zipp carries them, but Hadley likely doesn’t realize how outclassed they were.)

We go upstairs and wait for our lustbirds to return, suspiciously disheveled and with bed hair, and everyone quite graciously pretends to be mystified by what might have transpired in the interim, except for Sovan, who keeps winking at everyone salaciously, like a leering old priest at a mass Solstice wedding.

Zipp sits and wants to confirm that we have "questions about the Crib – where all the rock stars hang out.” (‘Rock Star’ apparently means ‘vain musician who is trying too hard.’) Sovan visibly struggles not to kill himself right away so as to immediately reawaken in this Jangly Electric Lute Valhalla.

We mention that the Source – his ‘Crib’ – is messing with our Wall. Zipp turns, deeply perturbed, to Servalli – "I thought you said they were cool!” Jeepers, about 100 times more relaxed than I’ve ever seen him, reassures Zipp that we are cool, and that we want to understand and fix this situation.

Mollified temporarily, Zipp calls our Wall out as “nasty juju. It’s harshing our vibe – ya gotta be in tune with the flowwww, ya know? Your Wall, man, it’s just – man, knocking things out. There’s a Rhythm of magic – but you’re just sitting right there on serious currents – messing with the flow. Y’get it?”

Jeepers, who is also reportedly about as smart now as Lesh ever was (UTTER TOSH) does in fact get it to some extent (Arcana 24) – the objection of the Source to the Wall is partially a ley line concern, blocking flows of power, and partially a purely aesthetic one. Which, of course, please please PLEASE let us have our children corrupted or murdered so as not to disturb your artistic sense of balance. Let’s ever so much do that.

Zipp continues, smugly: “That’s our biz – taking down stuff that ain’t supposed to be here. We got lots goin’ on, yours is just the biggest one to fix on our to-do list. Like, a while back, we fixed up the Fire Bros in the swamp so it’s not so damaging.” Apparently a boiling hot unnatural swamp full of fire monsters and a set of defences so thin a half-insane peasant could crack them and release a pair of magical evil Genies is better than any kind of Ward? This pimply little git is obviously glitched as a cucumber tossed in a sausage-grinder and yanked back the wrong way, and I’m not entirely sure he isn’t inbred.

Sovan and Jeepers – whom he seems to respect as interesting folk at least – ask him to consider letting us make a replacement for the Wall before smashing it and leaving us defenseless. “Imagine a sweet coat,” Sovan says, “but it’s harshing someone’s vibe – you could make a better coat – but not if the other guy keeps punching you to take the coat off.”

Zipp isn’t an aficionado of the analogy – “this ‘coat’ ain’t a coat, S-cat – it’s a Web-disturbance. An Abom.” He clearly hasn’t the mental energy to get through the whole word ‘Abomination’, poor lamb. If our innocent civilians and kids are behind it and at risk? Maybe they’re actually bad and wrong themselves. The pompous git is utterly immovable on ‘Walls All = Bad’.

Jeepers, probably the most neurotically moral person I’ve ever met, suggests that this is, in fact, illogical, and that we’re proof the Wall-people aren’t all bad. “Your people set this up?” Zipp says sharply. Jeepers figures lying is ultimately pointless, and says that others from our land did set it up – not us personally, but among our people.

Oh Jeepers. Sweet summer child. You never, EVER tell them the truth unless it’s actually going to be helpful.

“You guys…” Zipp starts slowly “…ok. For SOME reason, you’re tight with Servalli, who told me you were cool, so you get ONE pass. Walk away. Get out of here.”

We make various efforts to have him listen to us – that we will HELP him bring down the flipping Wall if he can let us patch in an alternate solution – but Zipp just sets about ‘playing us out’ like we’re a set of rodeo clowns who’ve outstayed their welcome, strumming ominously on his lute like the nasty little showboater he is.

Sovan and Jeepers, being strong as the dickens, look about ready to throw down, and Jeepers’ fancy ‘eats lightning’ armour seems poised to get its first big workout in a while…when they look around at the rest of the little Guildies along, pale-faced and terrified of starting a brawl in a city full of surprisingly hardy little spiderfolk, where best case we kill half the town fighting our way out.

Both let discretion be the better part of valour. We leave, heads high, as Zipp’s playing fades into the distance behind us.

The shit-heel then has Soma throw us out of Undertree itself, and we leave, increasingly sure we may just have to give these bullies a cauliflower ear right up in their dreadful little sky-shack.

We leave the Webrealm unmolested and decide to ask the Oracle what more can we do to deal with this dispiriting dilemma, now that Zappeedapdumdum has rejected overtures.

SCRIBE’S NOTE: Bertie’s original revision of the name was rather more scatological; I have censored it to be more family-friendly. I was still raised in a holy monastery. Put Bertholdt on if you wish to know what he said first.]

Day 2 – The Oracle’s Antechamber, Tiny Sovan

On the way to Oracle Central, we encounter 7 Ogres fighting a flock of Stirges. Jeepers charges his Guardians, while Sovan fires 2 Fireballs – we murder the whole Ogre group and perhaps 30 Stirges, claiming 100 GP in silver coins from the Ogres but lacking carry capacity for a big stack of plated copper. One senses that our Sixth Circle Initiate Power Couple had rather a lot of Post-Zipp, post-Camille, post-Me anger to work out and these poor lumbering blighters crossed their path at a fatally unfortunate juncture.

SCRIBE’S NOTE: Bertholdt is, I must sadly say, correct that Sovan and I were not entirely ungrateful to have an opportunity to make the Wood a bit more hospitable by removing some marauders. The loss of life was unfortunate, but we’ve yet to see any ogres offer quarter or accept parlay, so for now we must think of the new adventurers, any of whom a single ogre’s lucky blow could crush, and steel ourselves to valuing the younglings’ safety as our highest priority.]

We make it to the spiffy little Tree Fort Miss Oracle has prepped for her guests, and find our ticket ready – 21721! Now being served! Now THAT is what I call service. Pay attention to this kind of efficiency, Guild Canteen staff! …we go upstairs. Some Mummies take our ticket and usher us inward.

A rather lissome young-looking shifted Couatl secretary greets us, and asks us to please fill out the log book – with Disadvantage, JP’s roll to comprehend the local Bureaucracy (with Sovan patting him Inspiringly on the bottom) is a 24, and all seems to be in ordnung. We’re asked next to drop off our coats in the waiting room, before entering through the Hall of Geometry.

Said waiting room turns out to be lined with a variety of comfy chairs and plush accoutrements, little magazines, whole works, like this doctor I used to go to back Home whenever my boils were acting up, real classy place, tiny fountains. As Jeepers helpfully hangs up our coats, he sees (Perception 16) that the closet is a lot deeper than it ought to be – and surely it can’t be Coats All The Way Down!

The Secretary, asked about this, tells us it’s the "Way to the Village” – reassured that we can visit without voiding our Oracle appointment unless we spend a great deal of time inside, we decide to go in and take a look, like the turista imbeciles we, despite our best efforts, turn into the second any kind of novelty rears its sprightly head.

Through the magic cloakroom passage is a forest in what looks to be a pocket dimension – a demiplane of a few hundred feet in diameter. Sitting in front of us, outside a small house, an elderly gent on a rocking chair sits, rocks, with his right arm withered like a dead thing’s clear to his right elbow. He quavers as soon as he sees us in a quaint rural accent: “Best not speak until I explain some things."

“My name is Old Man Willis – gatekeeper and guardian of this here place. There’s some Rules to follow:

  • The First, and most important Rule – any question asked of the villagers forfeits y’all’s question to the Oracle. You can do it, but hope yeh don’t mind waiting another week to ask HER anything.
  • The Second Rule – there’s a set edge to this world. It’s not considered polite to ask about it, and don’t fall off. Please, if you’re wondering why we’d say somethin’ so obvious…believe me, you’d be surprised at how many people have come here and done one or both – we made this rule explicit for a reason.
  • The Third Rule – there’s no passage of time in here for us – your body is indestructible and won’t change – but time passes just fine outside. So don’t miss yet window."

We talk to him, studiously avoiding questions, and find out the Village has been here, untouched, since Corruption – its space-time (this is a clever person way of saying “Strange Bits”) folded up by the Oracle somehow and cordoned off. Willis advises us “Don’t be too fancy, and don’t convince the Villagers to leave. That would kill ’em.” He gestures to his withered half-arm. “Forgot that Rule once – I used to be YOUNG Man Willis.”

Regarding ’Don’t be too fancy’, he clarifies that he has a rod that goes out if we ask a question, and dims ominously if we try to be clever – Jeepers stating “We surely would love to hear about <topic> if you happened to want to talk about it.” That sort of thing.

We decide that Aythe and McDonald will go out to the cloakroom to make sure we don’t waste all our time.

The rest of us proceed into a lovely little village – least squalid I’ve seen, almost a proper place to live! Minus the culture, the running water, the nightlife, the proper clothes, but, y’know, trying its bally best to be civilized. The roofs are (Jeepers excitedly yelps out as if this is interesting) tiled as they were in the Old Empire. With some significant time here, he might rediscover methods whereby magic was woven into their buildings, and even their day to day life – there are wards and spells in every building, and most of the peasants are a) not even a BIT smelly and b) know a cantrip or ritual or two.

The burg looks set to hold ~50 people; one one side, there’s an empty plot where a church once stood (Mr. Stonecunning again with the apparently unwarranted enthusiasm for Knowledge!), a corn maze, an apple-bobbing competition, a petting zoo (hosting rabbits, cats, dogs, and a single, doubtless desperately lonely pig).

Across the village square is a sparring ground and a vegetable garden – many of which look eerie and unfamiliar. We meet Tommie, the head gardener, who – hearing that we’d like to buy some produce, offers a caveat emptor: “From our experience, it’s hard to track which won’t turn to dust. According to Old Willis, it’s somethin’ in their makeup."

We offer to buy some regardless. He laughs at our offer of gold coins (in this little backwater I suppose currency is of limited value to subsistence farmers, says Someone Clever). He will, however, give us his best 3 ‘cukes’ and pair of apple tomatoes if we get Little Cynthia to laugh. We set to it – surely Silanya’s Greatest Bard can make a small child giggle, we confidently assert.

We find our 6-year-old target, sitting forlorn and grumpy as a little goose girl by a crooked willow tree near the Church ruins. Sovan, being half a genius and half an idiot ten year old boy, combines both beautifully to _Major Image a skit of a drunken duck, stumbling about, pooping on everything, but especially Jeepers. It is OBJECTIVELY the single funniest thing that has ever existed (Perform 25). (From what hearsay tells Your Author, who was Only Sort of There)

Alas! This superlative performance only makes Sylvia wanly smile – “Clever – very magical. Can you take me out of here?” The deafening silence that follows. The realization that she’s probably 300, and that she’s been 6 that whole time.

Nico steps in: “You are not going to get what you need from others – you should TAKE what you want-” and then Jeepers, angrier than I’ve seen him in a while, Commands Nico to ‘Desist’, apparently on the theory that cavalierly advising a desperate child to a course of action that could involve her trying to leave this nightmare time bubble and thereby killing herself – all in the interest of some dreadful half-baked self-indulgent Libertarian puffery about how ‘strength should be defined by self-reliance as soon as I’m pretty sure that I’m strong enough to do well out of that system’ – is a rather rotten thing to do.

SCRIBE’S NOTE: Correct.]

Nico subsides into a sulk.

Jeepers gently asks if Sylvia might like to laugh, just to feel it, if he helped her to do it – clearly thinking of Command. She says no, but asks if such magics as we clearly possess might deliver her from stasis. We apologize to Sylvia and say that they cannot, but promise that, when we are able, we will ask the Oracle about the Time Bubble. She is sad that our rag-tag little collective are not the magical paragons to deliver her, but accepts our helplessness as part of her deeply tragic little lot. (Poor wee nipper).

We leave, out of cheer, suddenly desperate to clear this bucolic little prison for lost souls, feeling like a great collection of useless flophouse ninnies in the face of that pretty, despairing, ageless little girl.

Tommie runs after us as we leave. He apologizes for sending us to the grimmest corner of the Village to have a little ‘fun’ with us – he says, and golly gosh goodness do we believe him, that it warps one’s sense of humor living here. There are, apparently, fun tricks to try in future in a land where one cannot die from physical trauma. Well splash me with scent and call me a dockside doxy, m’luds, who WOULDN"T want to try ‘drowning forever and not dying’? I cannot even EVEN begin.

Jeepers, ever the bigger man – but for true, not for show – says ‘no hard feelings’ and uses Channel Divinity to make Tommie’s scythe better. We leave on good terms.

All Tommie’s food turns to dust as we leave.

It’s days like this what cause unrest.

This whole time, outside, McDonald has been making friends with a pack of flying sharks that float around outside their tanks as if the air was water. Like guard dogs, but the size of wagon-carts and made of teeth and pure hate! Charming!

Seeing this, and seeing the rest of us return, the Secretary Pounces Opportunistically on our clearly animal-loving cadre – advising us that we can help her if we like, as “the Winged Ones want help with the Growing Darkness.” ‘What is that dangerous-sounding new thing we can risk our lives against for dubious reward(s), and who are these probably ungrateful Winged patrons of our heroism?’ we cry (in more polite language than that).

We are told (please, please stop me if any of you seasoned adventurers have heard this before) that we “need to see it to believe it.” The Secretary is right – she ISN’T good with bloody words. Our Anti-Sovan leads us onwards like a fretting little ferret to our Call to Adventure.

Along the way, we ask our guide “Are we in danger? from this Darkness?” Apparently we are not, unless we ‘eat the mushroom’ (read on to learn of that sack of terrible idea), and maybe not even if we do imbibe – we ‘seem tough.’ (I always love it when they say “You brave warriors can take it” – that’s around when we start getting shot at from cover.)

The Snakeretary (tra~~~~ just thought of it~~~) opens a door to ‘defenses’ – one of those irritatingly peculiar mechanical ‘only step on the Red Tiles’ jobbies. We go through into the Secretary’s Chambers – a long hallway connects the cloakroom, with a back passage to the Oracle. Also adjoining, a Souvenir Workshop for the Gift Shop and our destination – a little Pocket Dimension Garden. Less isolated than the Village, it sits in the Forest Canopy, with Abjuration wards in place to stop Stalkers coming in and stealing all the peaches and leaving threatening notes attached to flares in all the birdbaths.

McDonald has the nous to get answers without asking questions on How This All Works -
we are told that, while it is dangerous to pass through THESE wards, they do not punish Questions as does the Village with losing one’s Oracle Appointment.

The Secretary explains her ‘Winged Ones’: “I’ve been tending this Garden since the Corruption. These ants – much like Giant ants – form complex societies. They have wings… they can talk.” Right – JUST as we start looking around for her straitjacket, a swarm of hundreds of winged ants fly up and land on her arm. “Ok,”, she mutters, “engage Agreed Communication Protocol. Confirm.” A mob of squirming little wigglies arrange themselves to spell out, in good legible Common, “CONFIRM”.

(NB: THAT IS DISGUSTING. EUGH. CREEPY CRAWLIES. Literally the ONLY reason I’m glad to be shut of my body is to never ever EVER have to touch an insect again.)

We stand around slack-jawed, as the Secretary continues: “Okay – these people here might be able to help you fight the Growing Darkness. Do you think they could help?” Ants Spelling: YES. “Can you explain to us what the Darkness IS?” Spelling: NOT EASILY."

McDonald tries to speak with one using their odd Warlocking – can’t hear a bally thing. Sovan steps in and uses Enlarge to make one an inch long. It starts jabbering: “This is fascinating! You can really understand me?” etc., etc. The 60 seconds it’s Enlarged are all wasted as it asks what seem like, but in fact aren’t, rhetorical questions, lost in marvelling at the wonder of its own wondrous bloody marvellous excitement, boil my bollocks in molten hoisin sauce but the only thing worst than an ant is one that can TALK and WON’T SHUT UP.

We tensely ask the Winged Ones to get their next little speech down to one condensed expository monologue. The buggers confer, and produce a distinguished little ant in a tiny crown. It is enlarged, and speaks:

“Greetings – I am Duly Elected Prime Minister <ant> of the Winged Ones. I am so, so honoured that you would all take the time to speak to us in this way. Our Colony, as the Secretary has said, consists of Intelligent Winged Ants. We are currently assailed by the Growing Darkness – our holdings stretch across several trees, but inside our original home, this Dark force is gnawing into the tree and eating our egg clusters. If you wish to aid us, heroes, eat of the Shrinking Mushrooms and join us in our fight within this tree.”

McDonald gets that Light in his eyes that I’ve come to recognize as an obsessive being handed their wildest dreams on a silver platter – apparently he doesn’t just Talk to the Animals, he wants to snuggle them and give them treats and bind their little wounds. Show me a Cause and I’ll show you someone who thinks we should all give up hot breakfasts and go liberate something before sun-up, brisk calisthenics to follow. In short: McDonald likely to make this a thing.

Still, for now our existing agenda still prevails – we say that we think we’ll go for the Darkness Tour after talking to the Oracle. We do decide to test the Shrinking, as Hadley noshes on the white half of a little mushroom to shrink (naked) into a great cavern formed by their discarded breastplate – only attuned magical items (including weapons and armor) shrink.
Hadley is Tiny: as such, the Square / Cube Law applies, so they can jump 30’ relative to their scale and take no falling damage. Still, they can’t communicate with us, the Ants are suddenly like flying mounts, which they decide to ride around…it all sounds v. v. dreadful.

At least some good news – Just one bite of the black half gets Hadley back up to scale – no ‘3 days of slowly eating a giant mushroom top to tail’ here. it MUST be the same mushroom as shrunk one, however. The trick is being able to chew down on the black half and return – Sovan shrinks too small (8 on CON save when shrinking). “This can happen!” chirps the Secretary; what gloriously shite timing she has!

We’re told that we can take the rest of the black mushroom half with us as we proceed and just…wait until Sovan can be not a tiny little Sovan-man. We do so, glaring balefully at the Secretary, especially Sovan (who, with cutting and JP Mending, finds a little nook to nestle in around JP’s armoured shoulder).

Still, The preliminarily thankful Secretary tells us our Trials to meet the Oracle will start in the Hall of Geometry; we’re told “don’t mess with the Platonic solids.”

We sleep – or rather, the others sleep, and Jeepers tells me what’s happened and lets me give it flair.

Day 3 – The Oracle’s Trials

We’re off to see the Oracle.

Room 1: The Hall of Geometry.
There is a Door of Brass we must reach by navigating across a maze of mysterious patterns of floating solids. The Platonic ones, the Secretary reminded us all, are Not To Be Trifled with. We work out that one could either use Acrobatics to parkour across to the door, or an easier Intelligence check to find a pattern and solve it like a puzzle.

Jeepers cheats and has Sovan cast Fly on him. He flits across like a great clanking pixie.

Everyone else makes it – Hadley Nico and McDonald use their Dexterity to bound across like beautiful young gazelles honking their way up a slippery staircase (McDonald seems to steel their Resolve to not make a muffin of the whole affair), while Aythe clocks her Intelligence to ride a rhombus into easy jumping distance of our destination.

Reuineted, we enter the Door of Brass.

Room 2: The Flames of Purity.
Along this 100’ * 10’ square corridor, the ‘flames of purity’ shoot in sheets of flame down and between the walls, a new one starting at the opposite end whenever one gets 80’ down the corridor towards us. Halfway down, 50’ away, is a lovely Fire Giant warrior maiden sitting on the floor, hair a mass of literal flame tumbling in scorching curls about her ear, and NOW I’m reminded once again that I no longer have genitals, thank you Silanya, thank you SO much.

Jeepers, it turns out speaks Giant – rather like someone not especially musical confessing that they’re curiously enough a savant on the bloody Zither. He “Halloo”-es to the Fire Giant and she rumbles back: “Yes, little one?”

(in Giantish:)
“What is thine purpose?”
“Originally, to measure the contents of one’s heart! In these sad fallen times, it has become less so. Those who will not brave the test of Heart can try their strength and cunning ’gainst the Flames.”
“What is this test, good Lady?”
“I speak literally, Little Brother – I will weigh your living heart against a feather on the scale.”

At this, Jeepers wants to go be Tested, and Sovan waggles his tiny little arms about and insists on being tested too, because my sainted AUNT but that relationship has its odd spots of competition.

The Great Big Lady says “Sure ’nuff!” to our heroic cohabiting comrades, and the three go up into the Shrine of Testing – a door built off the corridor to one side. Said corridor fills with flame behind her as she leaves her post, all but screaming “Oh PLEASE, you little rascals, just TRY to sneak past me while she’s gone.” Handsome and youthful as we look, we weren’t born yesterday, so we sit still and act like good little childrens.

Meanwhile, Jeepers spends five minutes removing his armor – Blessed and Inspired, he stands as directed in a magic circle. He (luckily) just ACES a Constitution Save (25+) as she literally rips his heart out of his chest – Jeepers loses a vast quantity of health which she restores by Laying on Hands. Sovan turns a mite green from his nearby vantage point.

Giant Fire Paladin Lady takes the Heart of Jeepers and places it on a golden scale. Weighed vs. an eagle’s feather, the feather CRASHES down; against a giant eagle feather, CRASH goes the feather to the floor. Looking quite FUCKING impressed I must imagine, she pulls out a phoenix feather, and – I suppose all those Moral Sit-Ups did the trick! – they equally balance.

She turns to Jeepers and inclines her head with respect. “Little Brother – I am honoured that this grim world still produces those such as yourself.” She goes to a nearby cabinet, pulls out a tincture from the VEEEERY far end of a row, and pours it on his heart, which begins to glow. When reinserted, Jeepers is permanently under a Protection from Evil spell against Fiends and Undead, and does +1d6 Radiant damage whenever he would otherwise make a radiant attack.

And ALL HE HAD TO DO was be ridiculously morally upright every day for the entirety of his life!

Not quite done, our Miss Flaming Paladin Big’n’Tall advises Jeepers – Jeepers the PHOENIXHEART – that, after going through the Storm Front ahead, the bottom exit is the much easier of the two paths forward.

SCRIBE’S NOTE: Again. Please. Please do not call me that. I have Aided you all so often. Please. It is so embarrassing. Please.]

Rather cowed after all the PHOENIXHEARTing, Sovan goes through the test, beats the Giant Eagle, isn’t a PHOENIXHEART but does get one ‘Miracle’ –a 6th Level or lower Cleric Spell, one time – and another usage per short rest of his Veillantif leg’s acceleration effect.

Nobody else feels quite up to having their heart scooped out of their chest. We move on, the PHOENIXHEART’s example meaning we need not brave the flames ourself. For FLAME cannot hurt the PHOENIX-

SCRIBE’S NOTE: At this point in my writing, I advise Lucens that I can take him off and give him to [Bugle] for a few days. He stops antagonizing me for a few minutes.]

3. The Storm Front
Now – this NEXT room is terrifically unpleasant. Big 40’ spherical room jobby – nasty thunder and lightning effects, howling buffeting winds. Ahead of us, one door at the bottom (20’ down), another door at the top (20’ up) relative to our door in the middle of one side. As Hetty Heart-Weigher, Flame Guardian, told us, we want to take the Low Road (don’t we all?)

McDonald’s turn to cheat flagrantly – they Misty Step to the bottom door, where their Athletics 23 wrenches the door open so they can get to a wooden ladder leading down into a well-lit and extensive library (see below). One down.

Tying a rope to the ladder, and the other end to their Spear of Smiting, McDonald flings said spear back at the entrance – it takes them a long, long time (hours, it feels like) to make the attack stick, but gradually they get the hang of aiming through a persistent hurricane and nail it.

Jeepers makes it across no problem, his PHOE- his perfectly normal and not at all noteworthy heart doing well by him. Sovan rides his boyfriend.

SCRIBE’S NOTE: Bertholdt. You are making the joke by conspicuously not making the joke. Just say it if you’re going to.]

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Apologies, readers, if I seemed to intimate any sort of silly little jape at the noble art of tender lovemaking. I certainly did not explicitly intend any imagined homoerotic vistas of tensed flesh seizing as-]

SCRIBE’S NOTE: You know, on further reflection the silent implication works for me..]

Anyway, Sovan ACCOMPANIES Jeepers across. The other three cock it all up and take a bloody ton of thunder and lightning damage flopping around in the air, as one by one we get them to catch the rope (as McDonald resummons their Spear and releases the line from the other side) and soon after that reel them all in.

We proceed down into the great library.

4. The Oracular Archives
While the party takes a Short Rest, Jeepers investigates (25), finding a glowing book of runic script labelled, in a language he can read, The Oracular Orisons. He reads it and overcomes a certain resistance (WIS save 24) to master it, after which Ceremony is always always a prepared spell for him, as is a 3rd-Level version of Dawn (damage reduced from 4d10 to 2d10, no longer Sunlight, scales back up with SL).

On reading it, furthermore, something CLICKS and Jeepers realizes we can’t leave until we all read a book.

Our results:

  • Aythe (31): Read the Oracular Saga. She can use the College of Valour’s Combat Inspiration to inspire +AC against hits or +damage on successful hit.
  • Nico (32): Read the Oracular Omens – her Ranger spellcasting is DEX-based.
  • Sovan (25): The tiny Oracular Curio flew up to him, let him return to normal size instantly (he instantly did so, his bottom suddenly atop and crushing Jeepers’ shoulder (which he’d been riding) into the ground). Sovan can also adopt his Tiny form 1 minute/Expedition.
  • McDonald (31): Read the Oracular Grimoire, saved INT 21: they can reshape the Spear of Smiting into any weapon they wish as a bonus action, retaining the ’Thrown 20’/60’ ’ property regardless of the weapon. (Thrown Greatsword? And how!)
  • Hadley (22): Read the Oracular Manual, saved INT 11: they forgot their Battlemaster Parry ability.

With that, a door creaked open and we could proceed, great big brainy boffin heads scraping the ceiling as we walked and discussed trigonometry, and derivatives, and such. Wot wot.

5. The Duelist’s Mirror
Emerging from the library, we found a large, mostly featureless room. In its centre stood a suit of what our Dwarven Smith Stereotype advised was Duelist’s armor, wielding an epee in a frozen en garde position; the sword’s basket hilt was surmounted with a small key. One side of the room held our entrance door, another a second door, locked, a third held a rack of fencing sabres.

Sovan failed to pick the lock to continue (15), and Jeepers approached the Duelist – it straightened, saluted, and went back to en garde, now visibly tensed to attack. Jeepers accepted that, while a living battering ram of a man, he’s not really much cop at the flashing blades thing and doesn’t know the rules of fencing any more than he knows what a brothel is for. (Bet you he won’t even add a corrective note here, too busy blushing-)

SCRIBE’S NOTE: Maybe when you left, and I was younger, and more Wise but also more foolish. I truly believe I know why you used them, Bertie, and why i do not, and with that I am content.]

But ANYWHAT, Hadley takes the case! Jeepers makes Hadley’s rapier +1 with Forge God’s Blessing (and the Duelist’s began to glow); Sovan Enlarged Hadley (and the Duelist grew.)

Seeing the writing on the wall, we stop making BOTH sides stronger and left them to it.

The Duelist wins Initiative (19 vs. Hadley’s 17) – and leaps forward, doing 15 damage, before returning to en garde stance. Hadley ripostes, dealing 16 damage, and trying for a Trip maneuver, but the rotten old revenant is strong enough to stay upright.

Second pass, the Duelist misses dreadfully, at which point our Hadley pounces – using their Prismatic Fruit power, Sovan’s Inspiration and a Battlemaster’s Precision to hit a called Disarm stab on the creature’s wrist, a total of 32 to hit(!) and sends the Duelist’s epee flying.

(NB: This wasn’t as sure a hit as it ought to have been – quick hands on this big metal menace gave this a +10 to effective AC, as Hadley explains at excruciating, enthusiastic length to Jeepers and Sovan, who both seem to stay interested past all reasonable bounds of courtesy. It’s like the new fellow at a party who’s recently taken up weightlifting and will…not…let…it…go.)

Defeated, the Duelist shrinks, walks over to unlock the door with its retrieved sword, and bows. A sword suddenly flies past Hadley back to the rack – they makes a surprise DEX Save 22 and gain a +1 rapier that increases Battlemaster dice size by 1.

We leave and finally, finally get to the Oracle’s chamber. (Next time, I advise you all to cheat flagrantly somehow, this was a loooong night at the theatre.)

6. The Oracle’s Audience
We enter the room of the Oracle to find a beautiful she-sphinx regally gazing down at us like a lion mixed with a sexy lady mixed with a powerful magical being, because that is exactly what she is. She smiles beatifically – “I am glad you finally made it, without cheating this time.”

Jeepers asks, as we agreed, “What should we do to move towards the best possible outcome from my perspective?” We figured incorporating the values of a squeaky-clean little fella like himself oughtta keep the Monkey’s Paw out of the wording.

The Oracle sighs: “Phoenixheart-” IT IS CANONICAL SHE SAID IT – “there is no good outcome possible, as you would see it. I know this is not a good answer; I will do you the courtesy of letting your party ask again.”

Jeepers sits, waves to us vaguely to continue, disgusted at the notion of a no-win scenario.

Finally the rest of us muster a question: “How do we stop the Source from destroying our Wall?” We are told quite bluntly that if we kill the Corrupt manning the Source and aiming its barrier-breaking at our Wall, a kernel of power will remain within. (Perhaps for us to use for some restorative Forest purpose, perhaps to fly us the fuck out of this terrible little Plane, who knows? I leave the thinking to people with brains, and hearts, and pulses these days.)

We give the Oracle our earnest, if slightly saddened thanks, and she summons a great whirlwind which mystically takes us right back out to the front. The Secretary is there to greet us: “Oh, you made it back! Good. Might you come back some other time to deal with the ants?”

Nico and McDonald look at each other and asked why we even need to get involved – surely this Angel Food Snake can Couatl her way into solving an ant-scale pest problem? She looks a bit abashed, and affirms that she doesn’t want to cut the tree down to fix a parasite if she can help it.

Sovan cuts in and asks, quite fairly, if this young lady might reward us for dealing with the Winged Ones’ concerns to raise the priority of this adventure, as our docket is exceedingly full at present and we’d need some kind of incentives to induce adventurers to shrink down and fight for a set of Ants living in a tree within any kind of reasonable timeframe.

The Secretary seems to understand this and says she’ll see what she can scrounge up as weregilt for future Attacking the Darkness. She asks Jeepers to Send her in six weeks to see what the upshot is. We suggest that we check in every week to see if anything has transpired, which she all-but-curtseys to and accepts. Rather a courtly little dame when you get her in a good mood.

We leave the Oracle’s, heads held high, slightly drained.

Day 3 – The Road Home.

The decision is made to stop at the Gift Shop on our way home. Why not? It’s not like I’M NEVER COMING BACK TO LIFE BECAUSE I COMMITTED TO A DRAMATIC CREMATION GESTURE.

SCRIBE’S NOTE: Bertholdt has learned a valuable, if terminal, lesson regarding the perils of letting theatricality trump good sense.]

Reaching the Oracle’s Gift Shop as safely as a Sunday Youth Group climbing a church steeple, we follow a series of arrows (diverting away from the Vampire Shadow Manor of Doom) to find a small homey structure labelelled ‘YE OLDE GIFT SHOPPE’ in rather pedestrian ‘antique’ lettering, about as authentic as an Elven apology. Above the door is a secondary sign – “We Respect the Diversity Act of [Year] – It’s not a Tusk Thing, it’s a Fairness Thing.”

(The brainy team members recall this from their schooldays History exams – an Act passed to raise the too-low status of Old Empire half-orcs by being ‘slightly more fair’ to them. I support this sort of thing! Lots of great half-orcs I know. Best tailor I damn well ever met was a half-orc, and I’ll be jiggered if he didn’t make me look like the Prince of Solstheim on a terribly meagre allowance. Never once tried to eat my liver or form a horde or anything! Right gent.)

Entering the ‘Shoppe’, its Couatl proprietor wings down, Elf-forms , and speaks – “Hello! Welcome to the gift shop. You have been to the Oracle twice!” (Apparently Jeepers riding Silverleaf as a necklace counted.) "You are entitled, for both visits, to a Spectacular Collective prize, or individual prizes!”

Like any sane set of individuals whose souls have shared a tiffin together, we claim “Two Spectacular Collective Prizes, please!”

First Jeepers, regarding Expedition 78 – he gets quite lucky it seems (d100: 91) and gets a “Ray of Heavenly Power” – a one-off ranged attack (150’/600’, Dexterity- or Charisma-based as he pleases, no proficiency bonus.) On hit, it does 12d6 radiant damage, 24d6 to undead or evil outsiders. It hangs around on his shoulder as a teeny little divine lightning bolt. Anyone on that expedition who is not a pile of ashes, to wit Martin, Sil, Quincy and Garibaldi, can also hold and make use of it.

After this princely gift, we stare intently as McDonald steps forward. Sweat drips! Imagined music swells! Thunder cracks! And the Couatl pulls out a 10 GP children’s colouring book – “THE ORACLE AND YOU! (CRAYONS NOT INCLUDED)”.

Well.

At least it’s exquisitely well made.

Jeepers leaves us after that to meet his Stalker Sponsor, and the rest of us pop back home with no further fighting.

We DO stop on the way with the Fela, for Sovan to Plant some Growths and Hadley wrangle a riding spider.

We get behind the Wall, and I prepare to answer a great many questions and then live on [Bugle] for the rest of his natural life. (Chin up, Bertie old boy – you’ll be able to carry on telepathic chats with Silanya’s Most Eligible Bird Bachelor.)

(Oh dear.)

(Oh dearie me.)

(The only thing – the ONE thing that makes this bearable?)

(Whatever’s happening to Dorkins right now is doubtless even worse.)

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Expedition 80: Total Eclipse of Melora
We encounter the creepy-ass Keeper and lose a badass

Sunday January 28

[posted on time, +0.1 hp]

Adventurers
Sarene [cleric 4]
Sam [fighter 3]
McDonald [warlock 1]
Eleanor [paladin 1]
Melora [paladin 5]
Beth [wizard 5]

Character Changes
Melora dies. RIP.
Sarene gets -4 max HP but a prism fruit flower bracelet – once/SR can make an Ice Knife (60ft, ranged, S, d10 piercing and hit or miss everything within 5ft must Dex save or 2d6 Cold damage)
Eleanor gets a permanent injury – disadvantage Insight.
McDonald has been implanted with a modron beacon in his right shoulder (-3 Str, +2 corruption), and now registers as a modron monodrone, thanks to an implant he received in Roguetown. This makes him invisible to tridrones and higher, and makes quaddrones and higher invisible to him.
McDonald got an epiphany from surviving being crushed by an ogre’s club: giants attacking him do 1 less die of damage (so ogres do 1d6 instead of 2d6, hill giants do 2d8 instead of 3d8).

Loot
A lot.

Day One

God, it’s fucking disgusting outside. I can’t see my hands. I can’t feel my ass.

McDonald says: “Mother Earth has told us to wait.”

Melora says we must press on. I really don’t give a shit as long as we don’t stand around arguing in the cold.

We press on to the portal. In a break in the snow, I see a glint of metal a little ways off to my left. I give everyone a heads up, intending to be a bit cautious about it, but Melora (of course) immediately stromps off to go investigate. Alright then.

It is a sharp metal object sticking outside of otherwise-undisturbed snow. Melora starts clearing the snow down to hard-packed earth and manages to pull it out. It’s a lance, that has been somehow preserved in the ground. There are also other bits of metal – matching Old Empire lances and shields, from some kind of knightly order. All told, the lances weigh 720lbs and are worth 300gp.

We drag it back to the Wall, leave it there, and set out again take two.

Back out this time, we hear the sound of giants, though we can’t see them (seriously, fuck this weather). Nito does a little loop around and finds five ogres.

Sam taps Beth on the shoulder and says, “I would say I’m feeling it’s time for an ogre bonfire, what do you think?”

I would say I disagree with this course of action but I don’t think it would make any fucking difference.

Beth sneaks up in preparation for a Fireball. We all get into position for an ambush. Luckily the ogres are walking in a stupid clump and don’t notice us at all.

Beth’s Fireball lands like a beauty (26). Eleanor sticks an ogre with a scythe. Love how these kids listen to me when I tell them to “stick with me and be careful”. Still, good hit though.

Sam charges another ogre, with impressive results (22). McDonald tries to scare them and succeeds, with all except the most-hurt one, who just seems really pissed. I light yet another one up with a Guiding Bolt, and Melora follows that up with some good magical shitkicking (7 then 16).

Now the ogres seem to be aware that something’s attacking them. Eleanor goes after one and misses. Sam charges the same one she went for before, now tottering on the brink of death. McDonald misses and I do too. Eleanor’s, Sam’s, and Melora’s ogres all turn tail (ass? Ogres don’t have tails) and start running. Eleanor and Melora both manage to sink parting shots, and Melora’s dies. Eleanor’s, however, hits her (13). The other one aims for McDonald and downs them (22). For fuckssakes, I told these idiots to be careful…

Never mind, what the shit, McDonald is up?? And suddenly an epiphany that’ll help him against giants in the future (giants attacking him do 1 less die of damage).

Shit, Silanya’s a young person’s game now I guess.

Beth goes to distract Eleanor and hits her ogre with an axe (11). Melora gives one of them the business (one of the ogres, not us, obviously) and it starts looking real bad.

Eleanor continues to give her ogre a hard time. Sam MASSACRES the one on McDonald (crit) and slashes another one. McDonald runs and chugs their gourd. At least we have that. I Toll the Dead on the last fucker that is still sticking around. Melora, Beth, and Eleanor send attacks after it, and Eleanor sends one last javelin which ends up killing it hella dead.

Melora to Eleanor: “Well done. In such combats are mighty heroes forged.”

I quickly tell Eleanor not to let Mel blow smoke up her ass – a bitch still gotta be careful around here.

Melora tells me: “Gatekeeper, this was us being careful.” Girl, my name is Sarene. I swear you know it.

We get to the portal and go through. Gosh, it’s nice to not wear seven million layers anymore.

We go through the portal and land in another tire fire of shit, this one resembling piles of greenish goo. Oh fuck, a travelling convoy of poison spawn. Ten, to be precise.

Melora strides forward, trying to aggro as many of them on her as she can. They slap around her ankles as she smites them, exploding one and severely hurting another. Sam engages two of them in melee, killing the hurt one and moderately fucking up yet another.

Beth Misty Steps herself to a good angle and Fireballs the five assholes in the back, barely missing me. They look singed but alright. Forgot they were fire-resistant. Awesome.

McDonald hexes one and it pops. Three down, seven to go, some that are pretty toasty-looking but real mad-looking. Eleanor slashes at one, again not having that much effect.

One finally hits Melora, sapping her strength (-3) and another misses Sam. A third goes for Beth, but her shield blocks it away. I Toll the Dead on one, which atomizes, and try to move to a clear area. Melora kills another. Sam rams one of the five remaining, which looks particularly strong. Beth tries to swing an axe at one of them and catches herself in the thigh (crit fail, then a 1, then max damage…) One of the puddles looks at her pityingly. Dang.

Beth: you’re still pretty boss, though. Just so you know.

Eleanor kills one and now there are two remaining on Beth, four total. They both swipe at Beth and miss. I try to Toll one of them and miss. Melora kills that one and Sam slashes at the other. McDonald kills it. These newbies are kicking pretty shocking amounts of poison-goop ass.

I try to Toll one of the others and miss, again. This is frustrating. Thankfully Melora downs the second-last one, Sam misses her turn, Beth just misses entirely, and McDonald finally nails the last one.

McDonald says something about Oberon(?) I didn’t hear it.

We go off toward that snake asshole’s place because apparently that’s who we do business with now. I find us a nice secure cave to take a short nap in. Or we would, if we didn’t encounter a bunch of calcified-looking poison assholes – four small, one big – chasing us to get revenge for the first group.

I love our relaxing little vacations.

The big one bites me. Jesus, fuck. I can feel the life sapping out of me (-1 Con, -4 max HP till next SR – these are Con-eaters). Beth circles around and readies Thunderwave for the four little ones. Eleanor javelins one of the little ones. The little ones dash up to Beth and once they’re all within ten feet, she Thunderwaves them, flinging two of them away. McDonald aims a Hex at the big fucker, but misses. Sam kills a little one and Melora closes with the big one, laying a hand on my brow and healing me as fully as possible, though I’m still poisoned.

Say what you (I) will about her, and her sanctimony, and her occasional inability to consult with party members… she has your back. I appreciate a bad bitch.

I Bless Melora, Beth, and McDonald, and the big asshole tries to hit and bite me again. No dice (Shield). Eleanor javelins another little one and kills it. McDonald Eldritch blasts the big one and seems to give it a papercut of sorts (2). Sam shoots a little one and Melora readies her magic sword for the big asshole. I Command the big one and a little one to grovel – the big one doesn’t, but the little one does.

The big one goes for Melora and does some serious damage (19 claw, 9 bite, -3 dex) [jokes on it, Melora doesn’t use Dex for shit, what with her heavy armor and all].

Beth kills the second-last little one and Eleanor gives the last one a whole world of hurt. It retaliates by sapping Eleanor’s strength (-4). McDonald misses. Sam brings it to within an inch of death.

Melora slashes at the big guy, but misses. I heal her (19), just in time for him to wallop her again (14, -1 Con). [Silanya achievement unlocked: Melora was now suffering from temp Str, Dex, and Con poison damage all at the same time!]

Beth finally dispatches the last little one and Eleanor misses the big one. McDonald Eldritch blasts it pretty respectably (11). Sam and Melora both hit the big one, but acid pours down Melora’s sword and she drops (-5 Strength till the end of the expedition).

I stabilize Mel and drag her outside of the big guy’s range, while it swipes at me (11, -1 Str). It runs after us, but Beth catches him with a Shocking Grasp, which blasts a chunk out of its back (21). It wallops Melora’s prone body again, but I throw myself in the way of its bite, which REALLY fucking hurts (16, -2 more Con).

I am never talking shit about Melora in a log again. It seems like every time I do, I get my ass kicked by the universe.

Eleanor forcefeeds Mel a potion and she’s up again while I feel like absolute death. McDonald blasts the big guy, tearing more pieces out of it (11).

Sam hits it too, and I gobble down a potion just in time for its claw to miss me and its bite to knock me the fuck out. (Temp Scar – disadvantage Con saves against poison)

Eleanor gets me up with a Lay on Hands and McDonald hits it again. So does Sam. Melora misses with a javelin, but ends up attacking herself and thankfully misses. I Toll it pretty respectably and tell it to go fuck itself. Unfortunately it downs me again (Temp Scar – disadvantage Persuasion checks)

(AN: My stat line right now is 9 7 6 14 16 10 thanks to this asshole. Just ravages the first three of my stats. Amazing.)

Beth finally blasts it and wipes it out of existence. We scoop up some of the valuable poison goo, then stumble along to the cave to rest for an hour (all stat damage regained).

Somewhat rested, we carry on toward the Oubliette. We see some big cat tracks but decide not to follow them. We make it to Snake Asshole’s base, which is fenced and guarded by Modrons. They allow us access.

We get inside and the Garden is a smoking ruin. There are Arms Wardens all around, looking extremely pissed. Snake Asshole is standing in the middle of them, and as we approach, he says “That’s close enough”.

Beth asks what happened. He tells us that the robe that the prior expedition (the Waterflow expedition) had drowned its Warden keeper on dry land within his own quarters. An Apostate raid had followed and destroyed the Garden. He thinks it’s all that expedition’s fault for “playing politics”.

Melora sets him straight – in any case, Snake Asshole hadn’t properly warned the prior expedition, which barely got away with their lives and managed to return a token to him.

Snake Asshole says he already apologized last time for providing faulty intel, and says he spoke from anger and loss as he bears personal responsibility for every life lost under his care. He apologizes for his brusqueness.

Melora seems to also apologize for Raevori for some reason… I’m not going to ask why. Probably some kind of diplomatic thing. [Or her giving me shit for having better things to do like the sanctimonious so-and-so that she is. Not to speak ill of the dead and all. -R]

Melora extends our condolences and tells him that we ourselves have suffered Apostate losses. We’re silent for a moment, remembering Amara. Snake Asshole seems interested in this, and we discuss the possibility of us taking on a future Warden mission in exchange for the ability to rest safely here tonight. Snake Asshole comments on how savaged we all look, and asks about Linna’s health. Weird family dynamic. I won’t judge, though. Maybe I should stop calling him Snake Asshole, but I keep not being able to pronounce his name properly.

Sam rolls for her gun pass, with pretty great results (18). Because her item needs specialized preparation, we have to come back in 6-10 days to collect it.

Snake… Pal shows us to our tents. We notice he looks really tired and worn-down. So are we. We rest for the night.

Day Two

Snake Pal tells us we can scout out the military setup in the South if we want, though at the moment they’re in active wartime so they can’t guarantee our safety.

We offer to send another party at a future date to do that – right now, we’re not really the best-equipped bunch. We agree to report accurate numbers of any Apostates we kill or encounter, though. I also agree to get him tokens of Apostate dead, but not like, weird ones.

We go down to the river, hoping to get any crocodiles to come out onto land so that we can behead them for Roguetown chits. Sure enough, there are two crocodiles doing the dead-log thing in the river, and Nito’s echolocation tells us there are also two people under the crocodiles. Maybe Apostates?

We discuss the possibility of going after these crocodiles and chancing a fight with Apostate waterbreathers, but while we’re discussing it, they pop up to say hi. One of them is wearing a grey robe with a blue stripe and the other one’s robe is slashed. “Hello. We apologize for our rudeness to your Warden companion. We see that it was a failing of our way. They changed the life of one of ours, and we must accept that such things sometimes happen. There are no hard feelings on our side.” They ask about Waterflow, and if we are from the same guild.

Eleanor asks about the Void. “The Void is a source of strength.”

She also asks about the scouts who killed Amara. “We do not agree with their way.” They say they are only very loosely associated with them.

Melora: “What quarrel do your people have with the renegade clockwork-beings?”

“Oh, mine? None, though those of the scarring hate all life. We have attempted to explain that we currently do not hold the Oubliette, but that has not accomplished much. They resent that some of their numbers serve us, and that the Oubliette does not permit them access. Many resent such.”

Eleanor: “How’s your day going?”

“I am attempting to ascertain whether our brothers from the Oubliette are assailing the South. We were exploring, using these friends as cover.”

The crocodile tries to snap at the Apostate but he slaps it away.

Melora: “We are seeking one of these crocodiles as a token of our interest to the rogue clockwork beings. Is there a sickly one we could pick off somewhere, in a way that would not be destructive to the overall river?” Eleanor: “Or could we borrow a head from… one that you’re using?”

The Apostate thinks on it, and decides to share a head with us to make up for Amara’s loss. Not that it ever would, but this is a good step for the day. He punches it out while Eleanor and Mel saw its head off. McDonald looks really pissed for some reason. It’s not the prettiest thing, but we manage to get 150gp of hide and the head.

Eleanor asks them for help crossing the river, and the grey-robed one laughs. He directs the crocodile lengthwise across the width of the river as we all cross on its back. We thank them for their help and they say, “The advantage of not living as we do in the North is the ability to make up some of our minds about how to live our lives. Not all of us may feel the same way. We would not wish to face you across a battlefield.”

They tell us we can find the Scouts at the mine or at their village, if we want to fuck them up in Amara’s honour. They tell us they could also help us make a formal challenge against the Scouts to cleanse a “stain of honour”, whatever the shit that means. Maybe Pierre can chat them up about it.

We learn that of the Apostate factions, Water likes us, Wood disdains us, Fire hates us, Earth fears us, and Metal will accept us for now.

They tell us that the sacred weretiger area in the south of 9.16 is not to be entered, and they tell us we can “try talking to Kerrek, and see if he answers”. I mean… we could, though.

We say bye and keep going west toward Roguetown.

Melora hears rhythm up again – lots of little marching feet. We avoid them, deciding to take a detour around. Looking back after a while, we see a flying boxy shape covered in painted sigils – probably a Warden-allied modron.

We continue on, passing the hot springs. At one point, I feel suddenly anxious about something (21 Perception) but can’t tell why (…21 Perception?)

We get to the Roguetown entrance. McDonald tries to call out to Commander Bush, who answers in the “language of the bush, which is silence”.

As we get closer to town, a drone in a farming outfit pulls out a little cart. “Oh, I am woefully unequipped for this task. Would that my retirement savings were up to the task…”

When Eleanor offers to help, it whips off its disguise to reveal… Commander Scar, who is Beth’s… robot-boyfriend? “We must stop running into each other like this. I have many duties and cannot constantly pull a cart around in an attempt to secure your attention,” it says, and if a modron could wink, it would definitely be winking hardcore at Beth right now.

Robot boyfriends. Okay. Yeah, this is cool, whatever.

Scar gives Eleanor a piece of paper that says GALLANT ROSE. It’s not actually a gallant rose. “You may come to town if you wish,” it says, looking at Beth. “I cannot bar you from entering, so you may enter.”

Is Beth now having robo-drama with her robo-boyfriend?

Man, who am I kidding, I haven’t gotten laid in forever. I’m down with it.

“IN CELEBRATION OF THE MASSIVE LOSS OF WARDEN LIFE, THIS IS HERETOFORE CONSIDERED A FESTIVAL DAY” reads a sign at the entrance to the town, framing a papier-mache parade of Wardens getting shot, decapitated, and fucked up in various colourful ways. With jaunty little songs. We picked a great day to visit Roguetown, apparently.

There’s even a little float with a little Dave, looking like a modron with a tiger-beard, with two big thumbs up.

We head into town and drop off the crocodile head at the tavern, where the duodrone behind the bar goes “I see you have been busy. Also you have brought me a large head.”

Eleanor: “Here to collect the bounty?”

“Ah. That explains why you have brought a crocodile head into this drinking establishment.”

It gives us two more chits, so now we’re up to four.

Our usual zoning site for tents is apparently currently being occupied by a picture of Snake Pal and a very scary-looking modron with two giant knives and lustrous golden hair, being boiled alive. Like you do. A modron explains, “That is twin-knives Linna. She apparently kills 700 people a day before breakfast. And yet she never speaks, because the sound of her voice causes headaches, and eventually cancer.”

Sam asks if she can do trick shots to “help the kids”. The modrons don’t know what trick shots are. She uses her hand crossbow to shoot the head off one of the papier-mache figures. And promptly gets arrested. I briefly wonder if we should rescue her, but Beth explains it’s just for a night (if it’s only a first offence). Alright.

Beth yells down into Sam’s cell not to deface the copy of the modron legal code in the corner. Sam apparently wants to do a jailbreak just for practice, but there’s no one for her to jailbreak with, so a modron guard just tries to ham it up by dragging a javelin across the bars to “set you straight, young… man. Man? Man.”

Sam tries to insult its mother, which it totally doesn’t understand. You do you, Sam. If anyone asks, I don’t know you.

Beth tells all of us later – when Sam calls her for legal counsel, because she is going to trial in the morning – that Sam’s committed another offence, this time insulting the modron chief of police (who the guard thinks is the equivalent of his “mom”).

Beth takes the file and decides to make a date out of paperwork review with robo-boyfriend. “I will of course have a chaperone present. Your dignity and virtue are not to be impugned by one such as I.” Their companion will be a little matronly-looking modron who starts knitting while staring Beth in the eye.

But first, Beth, Eleanor, McDonald, and I go off to the Hero’s Proving Ground with our chits.

Eleanor gets an 84. They take her through a whole bunch of filing cabinets and a library catalogue. She picks one and inside is a small prism fruit.

McDonald gets a 4. “Ah! Thank you! The cause of science will be much advanced.” He is picked up by a bunch of nun-modrons and priest-modrons for “experimental modron surgery”. McDonald chooses to get a alpha-grade modron-chip implanted. I hurriedly Guide them, but they still gets moderately fucked during surgery (permanent -3 STR). Now they have a modron-beacon inside him, and a tridrone tries to walk into them but is repeatedly unable to. They seem to be invisible to tridrones – they count as a monodrone, so tridrones and above can’t see them.

Beth gets a 6 (on a d20). She gets taken into a small room and told, “You are beautifully laid out, but you are drastically uneven. We will assist.” A spray covers her (she has to pool and evenly divide her stats). She can “come back for a finalizing procedure”. (Later, Scar seems to be… really… really… into it.) Her hair is preternaturally even and symmetrical, as are her features. She’s uncanny valley attractive, and misses her old plainness.

I get a 21. “Heavens! Emergency ration administration!” A small plinth rises from the floor, with a slice of beautifully prepared bread and jam on it. I bite into it and feel a little bit stronger. (+2 THP for when I next take damage.)

Beth’s legal research goes okay (13) and the next morning she goes to release Sam from custody for her trial. The Quaddrone Modron Judge, who is apparently the parent of the Chief of Police and grandparent of the prison guard, says “So, sonny buck, you think you can come into my town and call my daughter names? That was a rhetorical question. We have a recording.”

Beth points out that the guard misgendered Sam and this apparently attacks the jurisdiction of the papers. The judge throws out the case, but challenges Sam to a duel of honour, since they are both gentlemen (“gentlefolks’… gentleladies’? gentlefolks’…), with crossbows. Sam accepts.

McDonald keeps asking me what’s going on. They can’t see the judge. Modron chip perks.

The judge squares off with Sam. Beth hurriedly tells Sam that she can take a shot (only one), but she can’t Shield, and that the judge will also only get one shot.

The judge’s shot is a near miss.

Sam takes her only shot, a called shot to its crossbow arm, and nails it (critical!). “Ah! The wound! ‘Tis mortal. I am slain. I am slain!”

A bunch of tridrones approach and start clubbing it with their crossbows until it disintegrates into dust, after which it disappears and one of the tridrones turns into a quadrone. (McDonald: “Where’d it go?”)

The dead modron’s heavy crossbow lies on the ground, and we take it.

The rest of the modrons compliment Sam on her shot. This includes the tridrone chief of police, strangely. “He always was a prideful fellow. As I see are you… handsome.”

Meanwhile, Scar holds Beth’s hand for comfort. Beth ever so politely declines the offer of making this evenness permanent. To be honest, I liked her old haircut better anyway, even if the rest of her does look technically “prettier”. (The effect will last for three days, then undo itself if it is not finalized in that time.)

Eleanor persuades the barkeeper to give us another chance to bring them a bounty. Now they want us to produce the heads of at least three LUA. We have no problem with that.

We spend the night, and set out for the Garden of the Heart the next morning.

Day Three

An hour and a half in, we see rain advancing toward us from the south. Fuck.

We see an overhang nearby and head toward it. Nito flies over to it and sees a lizardy clawed hand grab him before he gets eaten. We decide to be careful and call out a safe hail as we get closer.

A Gnomish head pops out. “Oh, it’s you – oh, okay, come in – I apologize though, there’s no -” A deeper voice says “Oh, fucking make room.”

There are three broodguards, a Warden… and a weretiger? Just chilling out. Alright, whatever.

“You never saw me,” says the weretiger. “Weretigers are all south of the river. You never saw me, right?” We all nod, still surprised as fuck.

“I’m Pardy. This one’s called -” The Warden says “Less’nef’tet”. “Yeah! Perfectly normal name. We have to share this space for now. But – “ Pardy gestures and the broodguards all sit outside while the rain drums down on them.

We make ourselves at home, and Pardy chills with us for the next three hours.

Sam asks Pardy about the Apostates near the mine. “The ones with arrows, they’re really proud of some shit in their mine. My buddy here’s fucking freaking out because he gets hit by an arrow and he’s all AHHHH, MY ARM’S BOILING OFF, sorry, that’s probably really sensitive – you guys are sensitive anyway, to pain – they found a way to make poison hurt each other, which is really dumb, but business is business right? Not like I’m doing any business.”

“Right,” says Sam, “because you were never here.”

Pardy leans to McDonald. “You smell kinda funny.”

“Oh, that’s probably cause of my implant.”

“Oh. That’s one of those gross words that leads to a conversation. Let’s not do that.”

He and I strike up a pretty sweet game of euchre with the cards in my pack, which I eventually win (22 vs 21). He’s a chill dude, even if he seems to be hanging out with a bunch of tightasses.

Once the rain lets up, we get to the Garden. We use our token and a cylinder of pale green light orbits around Melora. There’s a thin layer of interference between Melora and her divine abilities.

Inside, we see the Arbour with snails gliding around. Sam suggests we kill a snail and take its shell, but the rest of us veto that – there’s no need for us to ravage the garden’s minders.

McDonald goes up to a snail, trying to chat it up.

“Hello. You have a lovely home here.”

“Looooot – woooork.”

“Any news from the last week?”

“Replaaaced the – Gaaardeners. Someone – kiilled the Gaaaardeners. It was – saaaad. Keeper found new Gaaaardeners though.”

“Where’s the Keeper?”

“Groooove.”

“Thank you.”

“Kaaaay.”

We find five special rations (+d4 temp HP, only weigh 0.1 pounds), but that’s all. Things apparently are still regrowing.

Sam says we need to see who the new Gardeners are to see how pissed the new Keeper might be pissed at us, and we can’t spend too long here, because the new Keeper might be pissed at us. I mean, fair enough. Our last party did fuck a bunch of shit up here.

The Poop Room (David: “I can give it the fanciest name in the world, but it’s still the Poop Room…”) is slowly being rebuilt, starting with the statue. We send Nito through, who sees a collection of bodies with leafy growth covering them. They look a little like Camille. I should hang out with that chick sometime. I bet she could kick ass at euchre.

It looks like they’re a couple of Wardens, one Lurker, and some other beings – like the Keeper would take things that were wandering by – and four broodguards. They don’t seem to notice Nito, but one of them steps wrong and there’s an explosion – part of its leg gets knocked off and the leg starts slowly sliding itself back towards the body, knitting itself back together. We skirt the edge of the room, staying away from the middle with the mines, and one of the gardeners tips its little hat to us. We get to the next door, to the unknown room.

We step down a little onto wet, marshy ground – it’s wet and gross up to our mid-calves. We see a bunch of lockers with access hinges in the walls under the water, but no plinth, and we hear a grunting mumble. Beth inspects the water – it doesn’t seem special or unique in any way, but it smells really bad.

Nito flaps around over to the lockers and sees a large gazebo, sealed-up. Near the centre of the room, he sees a couple of hairy, gross, shambling looking humanoids munching on some leaves. We debate turning on the lights or ripping out one of the lockers.

Meanwhile, Melora slides into the water, which feels cold and itchy, but not poisonous. After a few seconds, Mel starts to feel something slide against her arm. From the soil underneath, these long red leech-like fuckers start coming up Mel’s legs. Eleanor and I yank her up, but the gross-ass leech things come up with her. We manage to scrape them off.

Mel decides to wade along to the lockers, knowing now how to watch out for these leech-things, but we have no way of opening them.

We head to the centre room. There’s a corridor, with two clay-and-twig looking guys standing there with a club and a shield each. Eleanor asks if we can pass.

One of them reaches into its chest and draws, in wet mud on the wall, “PURPOSE?”

“Admiration of your beautiful garden,” I say.

“GARDEN OUTSIDE.”

We tell them we’re exploring.

“ASK KEEPER.”

“The Marsh leeches hurt us. We can’t get to the Keeper.”

“MOVE FASTER.”

“Can we pass through to the Grove?”

“GROVE OUTSIDE.” They point back and around.

Melora unbuckles her sword and puts it on the ground, then walks up till she’s nose-to-…thing… with them. She tries to walk in between them, but they put their shields up. Melora starts to push their shields very slowly. They start clubbing at her (9 damage). When she stops pushing, they stop clubbing.

“RETREAT.”

We get back to the mushroom hut, adjust the plinth, and turn on the lights. The hairy things in the Poop Room look up at the light, pick up their baskets, and lurch over to the structure, trying to push their way inside. It starts to get really hot, really fast. These weird opalescent bubbles rise up from the water in the marsh room and start floating in the air.

The zombies all walk right into the mines and… die.

Beth finds out that the bubbles seem to be starting to float toward us and toward the explosion – maybe protectors of the Garden.

The marsh room, which we can now properly see, has about 20 different lockers and a gazebo. There’s a grid of slightly deeper water around each of the containers, maybe to keep them cool or irrigate them. The two 12 foot tall monster men look like clumps of knuckledragging, shambling things, which are now in the gazebo. One has a nice-looking spear jammed into its side.

Sam tries to pop a bubble with a crossbow bolt, and it explodes. A misting of greenish-black flares out in a 20ft radius, hangs in the air, and then drops. Floating green energy mines.

Beth asks the bubbles, in Sylvan, if they’re alright. They don’t respond. After we pop a few, they drop down into the water again in surrender.

Mel and I wade out toward the monster men, with Eleanor on Mel’s shoulders and Beth on Eleanor’s like a magical tower of badass chicks.

There’s a bunch of flotsam under the gazebo – some of it looks like bones. We outpace the leeches and get there, knocking on the door, which opens inward to reveal them. Their foreheads have peeled back to show a greenish-red third eye in each of their foreheads.

“Bad move,” says Eleanor.

One monsterman looks at Mel and its third eye flashes jet black (make Con save). Mel feels a wave of energy tear at her vitality (38 necrotic). It rushes up to her, stinking horribly. It stench assails Beth, but she is fine (23 Con save). Beth Misty Steps, casts Haste, and gets the entire fuck out.

Melora gets another wave of necrotic energy from the second dude, and instantly dies. The monsterman walks over to her body.

Eleanor is Poisoned until the start of her next turn from their stench.

I immediately fuck off, carving an arc around what I hope is the range of their necrotic aura, hoping against hope to just make it to the door and – not die please God please Yamaa (I GUESS) not die -

Melora is dead.

Can’t think about that right now.

Sam’s shooting at one of them, and then she gets out.

McDonald Eldritch blasts one of them and gets out.

One of them looks at us running away, picks up Melora’s body, and goes back into the gazebo.

As we run away through the next room, we hear a low silvery tinkling and a beautiful stag behind us, which says “Twice in as many weeks. Trouble in my home.”

We explain that we didn’t try to fight the monstermen – they attacked us, and we were just trying to help. And the zombies ran into the mines all on their own. We just wanted to visit the Keeper.

“Ah, so you just wanted to visit me. Come to the Grove. Lay your hand on my flesh.”

McDonald does first, and has to fight to avoid showing how gross it feels. Like a rotting apple. We all do the same, and our surroundings disappear and reappear to show the Dawn Grove of the Enduring One. It looks like a beautiful assortment of trees in clean rows, with hanging glimmering spots of light around them, and prism fruits in various stages of ripeness.

The air is gorgeous. It smells like honey, and spices, and… and Melora should be here. And she isn’t. Because she’s dead in a room of stinking water.

Don’t think about it. Keep them alive.

There’s a large white stone altar that we get led to by the Keeper, who says “This place is my pride.”

I ask the Keeper if I can do my ritual, hoping he won’t realize I’m trying to find Undead. But he laughs. “Yes, child of Yamaa. You will find perfect balance here.”

I detect three fairly strong Undead in this room – floating tiny winged skeletons. They feel not that strong physically, but definitely malevolent. One is sitting on the Keeper. Two others are floating above the trees. I Message this to everyone else, telling them we should dip.

The Keeper, meanwhile, gives Beth a horn of the cloud jerks and offers to fix her “evenness”. Beth tells him it’s fine – it’ll wear off. The Keeper laughs again. “Well, if you wish to lay down with dogs…”

Eleanor asks if we can get into the inner chamber.

“Such is not for you. If you were to find your way in there, you would not enjoy the experience. Can you not trust that the Keeper will tell you things for your own good, that you should take on faith?”

He bops Eleanor very lightly on the nose, in a flash of Radiant light (4).

The Keeper tells us to traipse along and explore, and to ask him if we have any questions.

McDonald asks about Melora, but the Keeper says “She will become the cycle of life in this place.”

I ask him if we can get Melora’s corpse, to honour her body appropriately. One of the little flying skeleton-things goes to retrieve it.

The Keeper shakes his head. “Oh, naughty children. Naughty, naughty children,” he says to the monstermen. Vines grow around them and root them in place. “No dinner for you.”

Melora’s body is in front of us, but the Keeper doesn’t seem to want to allow us to take her body back behind the Wall. “I can stand in for her god. Valkor, right? She was born to die.”

Fucker. I’m trying as hard as I can to keep my face straight.

Sam pulls the spear out of one of the monstermen’s sides. The Keeper sighs. “Mercenary. Not inappropriate.”

Sam says, “We were attempting to complete our original mission of removing a thorn from a cat’s paw.”

“Well, it looks like you picked the wrong cat,” the Keeper simpers.

Another voice from above, one of the creepy-ass skeletons, says “I felt her passing. It was delicious. You fed me well today, travellers.”

Sam asks the Keeper, “There are those behind the Wall who cannot venture into the garden, but would love to taste the fruit here. May we take one or two back with us?”

“Certainly. We can find good, ripe fruit for you. How many would you wish to take?”

“We have two, maybe three people if that would not be too bold, who would wish to eat of them.”

“We will find the ripest and best,” the Keeper says. “I would like to see one of you eat them, though.”

I volunteer to eat one. I don’t even know I’m going to do it before I do it. But I hate the thought of Mel being buried in this rotting place for… what? A spear, and nothing else?

While his creepy-ass minion collects the fruit, I light the pyre as the vegetation parts to make way for her body.

I clear my throat. “Melora, we didn’t always agree on things. But if it weren’t for you, everyone here, and probably most of the Guild, would be dead three times over. Thank you for everything.”

Eleanor says, “She was a fine knight.”

Sam says, “It seems that there are good people in the world, and brave people, and careful people. Your god stuck around for a long time because he was all three, and I’m sad that two-thirds wasn’t quite good enough for you.”

I ask Yamaa to send her on her way in peace. I don’t know if she can hear me here. I think it’s the first time I’ve asked her for anything.

The flame burns hot and bright, until she turns into white ash. The compressed ball of white ash, now feeling like a lump of sandstone, floats gently into my hands.

Now for the fruit. They all look pretty similar, I go for the one that looks safest. (-4 max HP, small bracelet of flowers grows out of my wrist) The Keeper compliments me on a good choice, and gives us a third replacement fruit.

McDonald asks what the best way would be to get to him again – “If you leave through this door, you will be able to return.” We’ve finally unlocked the fourth door.

A lovely tree sprouts up where Melora’s body was. Instead of her soul having gone to Valkor, it seems to be caught in this tree. But before I can protest, a voice from above says, “For those of you slow on the uptake – LEAVE.”

We leave. Beth sees a pile of horns, dust, and tiger pelts – probably weretiger pelts. There’s also a stand of Warden weapons in the distance. We don’t touch any of it, because we’re not fucking idiots.

We walk out into the bioluminescent glow of snail slime in the Arbour.

Eleanor asks the snails how their day is going.

“Looots of wooork. Neeew treee! Neeew treeeee. Neeeew fruiiiit.”

Oh for fucks sake. That’s how they make the fruit. I feel kind of sick.

“Can we help you guys with any work?” asks McDonald.

“You can help teeeend. Weeeeds.”

Normally I wouldn’t agree to this, but it feels good to do something with my hands in the earth, not thinking about the woman we just cremated, whose soul has gone into making fucking prism fruits instead of being given over to Valkor as it should be.

We work and work, and find 13 Permanent Goodberries.

DAYS FOUR-SIX

We keep working and helping the snails, and with every weed I pull and bush I plant Melora’s death eats a tiny bit less at my soul.

Finally, the Keeper shows up on Day Six and politely but obviously asks us to leave. Which we are more than happy to do.

DAY SEVEN

Beth snaps back to her usual self, slowly and then all at once – first with a strand of her unnaturally even hair snapping out of place, and then her entire body going plink-bonk-snap back to its normal, imperfect self.

She looks great.

I keep watch for crocodiles while Beth Misty Steps across the river to tie ropes to a tree. I briefly lose balance and sway into the river (9/not poisoned). McDonald also briefly dips in but makes it across OK. Eleanor and Sam are both fine.

We get to the Wardens again – Snake Pal’s place – and get access. Beth notices that the modrons at the gate are not as “matchy” as they’re supposed to be.

A Warden comes to the top of the wall and says “Urgent business takes A’sshel’t’kov to the Oubliette. Your package arrived yesterday. The weapon is inside. Assembly will be relatively easy. Ammunition included – you will receive 10 ammunition, it is hard to replace so be sparing with it please.”

Sam thanks them. The pieces fit together into a heavy-looking badass-as-shit weapon called The Wrath of the Sun.

(Wrath of the Sun (15 lbs.) – 3d10 radiant, 100’/300’, Reload 2. Overdrive: Use 2 Ammo = DC[DEX] save for ½ within 10’ on hit (750 GP))

We head back. As we get to the bridge where the Portal is, we see nothing beforehand as suddenly a set of LUA pop out from the trees on the north side where the Portal is. Two aim for Sam, one for me, one for Beth, one at Eleanor.

Eleanor is downed by a pair of arrows. (Temp -5 STR, can’t use left hand – anything offhand, shield, bow, etc.)

I get missed. Beth takes a pair of hits. Sam takes a few hits as well.

These goddamn fucks. We’re by the bridge. There’s a clearing in front where the bridge and portal used to be, and these assholes have popped out of the trees ahead.

Sam goes first, running toward the Portal and firing twice at the sergeant. She misses with one but hits with the other (9), falling prone. The sergeant directs the other LUA to “CLEAR THAT GROUND” where Sam fell, but one shoots at me.

Or rather, at himself in the foot. But the second one hits me, aggravating the hurt from the river (5). Another one shoots at me but misses. Yet another one shoots one of his teammates over Sam, and the last one shoots me. I’m feeling real fucking raw (down to 1HP).

I get Eleanor up at full health and drop myself down to take cover from the grass. McDonald hexes the sergeant and shoves the gourd into my mouth, thank goodness.

Beth Fireballs two of the soldiers and the sergeant. Sam shoots at one of the hurt soldiers, killing him, and misses another. The sergeant, in turn, directs one of the soldiers near Sam – misses – and Beth dodges another shot. One of the soldiers breaks and runs. Another hits Sam (4) and one more (11). She’s down (-4 Con).

Eleanor dives over to feed Sam a potion while I bless Sam, Beth, and McDonald. Beth Fireballs the sergeant and the trees behind him, hoping to catch the running soldier. And she does – killing him and bloodying the sergeant badly.

Sam aims at the guys near her, shooting one.

The sergeant turns – “Get word to command, this is beyond us” – and runs. Beth catches him with Shocking Grasp. He makes it into the brush, however.

One of the scouts takes a crack at Sam, but misses. The rest of the remaining scouts scatter – the sergeant ran north, the others run west and east.

Eleanor scythes one who ran into the brush and tripped (8).

I Command the sergeant to Return, which he does, through the brush.

McDonald Eldritch blasts the other runner (9).

Beth Misty Steps to Web that runner, restraining him. Sam shoots him twice (16).

The sergeant Returns all the way back. “Hi,” I tell him.

The LUA at Eleanor’s feet slashes at her, downing her (Permanent Scar – disadvantage Insight).

I stabilize Eleanor and Toll her attacker, running off, who is barely still up.

McDonald misses the sergeant with a hex. Beth keeps fucking up the guy in her Web with axes. Sam kills him and then takes a shot at the runner, but misses.

The sergeant runs again from me, and the other scout keeps rushing.

“RETURN,” I Command the sergeant again. You’re not getting away from me, fuckface.

Beth hustles after the running scout and cleaves his head in two with an axe. The sergeant, gasping, comes back to us yet again. “Hi,” I say yet again, and we kill him. It’s great.

We loot their shit, take a brief rest, get Eleanor up (Ryan: “Out of all the paladins on this expedition, you did the best!”)

We get through the portal to where the Blazing Banner seem to be setting up some fortifications on the bridge. We nod to each other, thankfully not giving each other any shit.

Beth asks what they’re doing. “Fortifying passage.” We ask if we’ll be allowed passage, assuring them we don’t deal with the Crested Skull or the Severed Hand. There’s some shop talk about JP and a battle that apparently didn’t go too great. I dunno, I’m not really listening.

And we get home, sadder and wiser.

View
Expedition 79 - The Stalker Elders and the Laughing Sphinx
In which 7 is an unlucky number (of manticores).

Saturday Jan 27

[Posted on Time: +0.1 HP]

Mission Personnel

  • Garibaldi, Bard 1
  • Lucens Princeps, Warlock (Fiend/Fae) 4
  • Martin van Horne, Cleric (Life) 4
  • Quincy, Fighter (Battlemaster) 5
  • Silverleaf Moonshadow, Druid (Moon) 5

GP / XP

  • 725 XP (if sheet updated on time)
  • 304 GP with Donation to LMF,
  • 365 GP without Donation to LMF

Changes

  • Garibaldi has levelled to 2!
  • Lucens has a permanent disadvantage to endurance based physical activity.
  • Silverleaf has levelled to 6!
    Silverleaf is 20 years younger.
    Garibaldi is 6 years younger.
    Martin is 6 years younger.

Loot

  • Manticore Skins (160 GP)
  • Diplomatic Point of Interest (07.15 – Canopy) (225 GP)
  • Focussing Bra of Healing Word (800 GP – Magical) (Claimed by Jasper / Valerian / Linna.)
  • Eyeless Rock (300 GP – Magical)
  • Blazing Banner Horse (150 GP)
  • Giant Snake Skins (400 GP)
  • Secure Secret Sleeping Place (7.15) (MPoI – 50 GP)

Log Proper

Day 1

NB: Any first names are used out of ignorance, as this author is not aware if any surnames exist for these individuals. No offence or presumption was intended.]

This week’s proposed mission – to investigate the Source, the mysterious ‘Wall-Cracker’ floating over the Dark Forest – was wracked by confusion and at times calamity from the first moment of its material execution.

To begin with, Mr. du Vayrir de la Grand Contumace Saint-Emilion was in attendance for most of the expedition, but also flat on his back at home.

How, you ask? How indeed – ‘twas magic from his Well of Transformation Crown, given to him by the Stalkers who welcomed him into that Order. He passed this crown to Ms. Moonshadow, where it settled around her neck as a thick torc. In doing so, I gather, Mr. du Vayrir de la Grand Contumace Saint-Emilion worked out a way to see through her eyes and speak to her mind (JP WIS 25) but did some damage to her as her psyche tried to hold the influx and gave way slightly (Sil CHA 18 – drop table with Advantage 10 – Disadvantage on Initiative and Perception for the expedition.)

Our Holy Smith friend collapsed during the above process into a comatose state, in which he would remain until her borrowed torc was returned to being his crown. In our experience, his being able to comment on events, apply his Knowledge, and help Ms. Moonshadow in social situations was, nevertheless, invaluable despite his body’s vegetative state and the heavy cost to both.

Our preparations continue with a discussion of whether we ought to take the Mace of Terror from the Leshanna Memorial Fund. As we debate the pros and cons of our having it versus it going to the crew of (half) neophytes departing tomorrow, the ethics of whom best deserves what…Ms. Moonshadow walks back over to us holding the Mace she very pragmatically walked in and took.

She hands it to Mr. van Horne, saying “We need it.” (I gather from what I know of her that the “Don’t be an idiot” is implied. Tonally.

We progress outwards through the very non-war-torn Felar Woods. I grieve for the fallen and dispossessed among the Rising Sun, but see the admittedly fragile peace we helped to engineer and cannot think that we acted badly within our limits.

A handful of Fela Chosen riding spiders near us, tip their mandibles as they pass, and – as Quincy put it – “They don’t bug us.”

We proceed quickly and without incident until reaching the edge of the Dark Forest, where Ms. Moonshadow magically enables Quincy and Mr. van Horne to see in the Dark, as she will do for the next several days. Mr. van Horne extends Aid to the entire expedition, and we enter the woods, with Quincy and Mr. van Horne in the vanguard, myself and Mr. Garibaldi behind them, and Ms. Moonshadow guarding the rear.

The day is long and uneventful thereafter – slow traversal of the cathedral-like pillars of dimly-glimpsed Dark Forest trees.

Near day’s end, just as we are crossing into 6.16, Quincy and Mr. van Horne fail (Perceptions 10 or less) to see a pit trap. While Quincy rolls back from the brink with his usual aplomb, Mr. van Horne falls some distance onto prepared javelins that pierce his unusual bone plate (9 falling damage, 12 javelin damage). We bodily yank Mr. van Horne out and move on, with no further incident.

Eventually we arrive at the invaluable Secret Room hidden inside a massive tree trunk in 6.16. WE camp there for the night, leaving Dorkins outside on watch.

Midway through the night, Dorkins alerts me that Old Scaley – the immense, blind, blind_sighted_ Megamonitor that stalks these woods – is nigh. He approaches the door and stiffens as he notices us, his blindsight’s radius penetrating the simple wood of the structure. He sniffs at the door hungrily, batters it lightly with his mighty head, urinates on it (territorially?) and leaves.

The rest of the night is quiet and we are not eaten. Result!

Day 2

We set out from our secret lair, and take an Eastward in the empty space north of the Manor of Shadows and south of the Lizard Fields.

We soon hear, and then from a distance (through Dorkins) see, a trio of Vampire Spawn with Zombie minions attacking a Ks’shan High Priest, 2 of their attendant Light Priests, a Ks’Shan Champion and 12 regular Ks’Shan.

…much as it pains us (or at least myself) to let the foul things slaughter each other unimpeded, we let discretion be the better part of valour and detour north around the Lizard Fields, taking the long way to the Oracle.

When we arrive, the number on the display is “Now Serving 27119.” We pull a ticket with our prepared leather squares – ‘27120.’ Evidently we have been pre-empted for this week, but are unsure when the week will reset and give us our opportunity.

Taking care not to try to force ingress and incur Oracular Displeasure (and thus, more pointedly to him, MY displeasure), Dorkins flies up to the Oracle’s abode and sees the only entrance is from the gated, guarded ramp detailed in Expedition 74. By natural or magical means, the windows are tinted and opaque – he gleans nothing useful from his scouting.
Forced to wait to see the Oracle, we decide to use our time as profitably as we can and go to see the Stalkers in the larger 07.15 Canopy encampment known to us, walking along the undergrowth until we are able to climb up to the canopy within a half mile of that settlement. We hope the time gained not traversing the high branches will serve us well and that our chosen ascent will not be immediately violating their territorial jurisdiction too offensively.

To test this hypothesis, we hit the trail; not that long afterwards, Mr. van Horne rather indelicately steps on a suspended high-tension wire which fires off what looks to me like a dozen crossbow bolts. Most bounce off the dwarf-forged half-plate of Quincy and the bone plate of Mr. van Horne; the arrows that do hit deal 15 damage to Mr. van Horne and only 5 to Quincy, but leave Quincy poisoned. We are very, very lucky that only two of us were hit, and once each, at that.

In a very sincere effort to mend fences, Mr. van Horne instantly uses his Lesser Restoration to remove the poison from Quincy’s body.

Soon after this second minor trap debacle, we (28 Survival) locate a Secret Tree Door just north of the dead centre of 07.15 and find a secure place to sleep, where – true to form! – nothing interesting happens overnight.

Day 3

In the morning, Dorkins spots a Ks’Shan Light Caravan in the distance. Much benefit to the world at large as it might be to thin out what I understand to be the Ks’Shan menace, we again stay mission-oriented and ignore it.

On the ground below the Stalker village, we find a relatively relatively easy tree to climb. Climbing kits and pitons are produced from various bags, and we estimate that we will require 30 minutes to climb the ~300 feet to the canopy if all goes well. Ms. Moonshadow takes a Spider’s form to be a mobile assistant should others of us falter.

This plan immediately proves very intelligent as, for the first 100 feet, most everyone does quite well, but I falter badly (Athletics 6) and then dangle (STR 13) until Ms. Moonshadow gets me through the rest of the first 100’ up without any further embarrassments.
For the next 100’, Garibaldi and Mr. van Horne fail repeatedly to end with any confidence; at one juncture, Garibaldi ALMOST falls (3 Athletics, 5 STR) but with his being pegged in securely, manages to stay with us.

For the last 100’ up, Garibaldi leans (quite literally) on Ms. Moonshadow the Spider and we relatively safely make it up to the high Dark Forest Canopy, 300’ above the earth. We sit a spell and watch the pearlescent clouds of an overcast winter’s day sprinkle soft snow on the broad branches.

Returning to task, we set out to walk the ~1/2 mile to the Stalker Village. We fail to see until it is too late that the Village has already found us – out of nowhere, two Freedom Well Stalkers (known for their multi-coloured hair) charge and tackle Mr. Van Horne off his branch. He flings out a Fala Web Harness [using Resolve, DEX 17] – and it sticks, with a satisfying ‘TWHIP’, to the bottom of a branch, leaving him dangling from a thread.

Which thread then snaps. He plummets down into the dark.

We snap to action. Ms. Moonshadow lets a Stalker run, beginning to summon beasts to help us, which soon turn out to be 8 Giant Owls as I call out the names of every known Stalker that I have heard of – all, at least, who met with Mr. du Vayrir de la Grand Contumace Saint-Emilion back in Expedition 70 – and plead for peace. It avails little, I am afraid.

Meanwhile, Dorkins arrows downwards and delivers my Lady’s Guidance to Mr. van Horne.

Quincy, hero that he is, leaps down and kicks off the branch to somehow catch up to Mr. van Horne, catches him in his mighty arms, swings around, and lashes his Chain of Power like a grapnel around a nearby branch, arresting the pair’s fall. He is knocked unconscious from the shock of impact while supporting a plate-mailed compatriot [temporary injury – disadvantage on DEX saves to avoid falling), but Mr. van Horne remains conscious and is no longer plummeting to his death. An improvement!

Mr. van Horne BARELY catches himself on Quincy’s boots, and shouts up at his saviour the mighty Healing Word “HELLLLLP” to raise Quincy into consciousness once more.
Seeing little more to do, I pass my Lady’s Guidance to Quincy via Dorkins and sit down very carefully, as far from precipices of all kinds as I can manage.

The eight summoned owls swoop down purposively. One grabs and props up Mr. van Horne, another does the same for Quincy, and the other six ready themselves to try to catch either in the event of a fall.

Quincy responds by finding a Second Wind in his inhuman well of stamina, and levers himself up to a branch (STR 15) but – quite understandably after his near-death experience – fails to drag Mr. van Horne up with him (supplemental STR 10).

Mr. van Horne does eventually manages to get up to a branch and heals Quincy and himself to a passable level, and – cordoned by Giant Owls – we carry on, following a Stalker path Ms. Moonshadow found with her almost supernatural grasp of tracking in the forest (Survival 30). We take this thoroughfare to be open and frank in our approach to the city – we decide that subterfuge and sneaky tactics will avail us little, and honesty shall be our watchword.

Arriving, after some minutes, in a large open plaza surrounded by tree dwellings, we enter a cleared space among dozens of Stalkers. Many are not marked by a Well. Most that are so marked bear the red feathers of the Well of Excellence, and only six or so have the colourful hair of the Well of Freedom, including those who pushed Mr. van Horne to his near-doom. (A likable young chap, he chirps out a hurriedly-taught “No hard feelings, fellows!” to his attackers and is rudely ignored.) Every other Well – including the never-before-seen gorgeous eye makeup of the Well of Inspiration – is represented.

Waiting for us in the cleared space are five Stalkers in heavy cloaks, notably different than the light and mobility-centric outfits of their fellows. Among them is a woman in Excellence’s red feathers, armed with a quarterstaff – a woman we saw shoo us away from this very place long ago, during Expedition 24.

She speaks: “Greetings, those who bear –“ and here she looks closely and confusedly at the now-Torc of Transformation orbiting Ms. Moonshadow’s neck. Indicating it with her staff, she quizzically asks “What exactly did the new member of the Transformation Well…do?”

Ms. Moonshadow explains the situation – later, she explained to me that she was more or less repeating verbatim the mental summary of her esteemed passenger Mr. du Vayrir de la Grand Contumace Saint-Emilion. The staff-wielding woman turns to a blindfolded man to her right and asks if such a thing as becoming a passenger in another’s body is possible; he replies that the Transformation Well holds many strange powers, and she seems content enough with that.

Returning her attention to the rest of us, she greets we of the Guild who have attended, claiming that this is a “Fateful time” and advises that we may speak to their convened Council of Elders (their cloaks, it turns out, denote Elderhood) until Sundown. We accept.
Mr. du Vayrir de la Grand Contumace Saint-Emilion and Ms. Moonshadow disagree as to whether – based on her demeanour – there was anything inherently sinister in this invitation; later events might suggest so, but perhaps hindsight is an inherently flawed lens.

This Council – which seems a temporary state of assembly, not a permanent static body – on this occasion numbered five:

  1. Ishirra, Elder of Excellence (female, Quarterstaff Wielder, likely some kind of caster)
  2. Gishnoan, Elder of Excellence (male, withdrawn and quiet, clearly expert with his crossbow)
  3. Modanian, Elder of Competence (female, curious about us – and notably less hostile than most of her Well, very engaging personality)
  4. Tavar, Elder of Fate (male, blindfolded – he seems to have drunk deeply from his Well, as the Blindfold seems to denote far advancement down that Path.)
  5. Nagathani, Elder of Prophecy (female, prominent third eye Sigil, sceptical of our intentions.)

We get taken to a hollowed out space inside a tree trunk, while six Well-marked guard the entrance. Before we come to the main matter at hand, Modanian of Competence refers to Mr. van Horne’s crisis, telling Ms. Moonshadow that “It speaks well of your people that the creatures of the forest serve you so clearly and willingly, and that you help your companions even when you fall.” It seems that Mr. van Horne was pushed as part of some kind of preliminary test of our character.

Ms. Moonshadow cites her strong connection to the forest in strong but simple language. I add that, although very different, we all pull together to accomplish more than we could alone – not unlike this Council between the Wells. They seem less than overwhelmed by my rhetoric at first blush, but do not dispute the point.

Ishirra of Excellence rather critically points out “plundering of the forest” by Guild personnel. Apparently [Bugle] shot some sort of…sacred purple bird? Ms. Moonshadow expresses her disdain for that action and our willingness to forego any future assaults on the rare lifeforms in this Forest. Mr. du Vayrir de la Grand Contumace Saint-Emilion chimes in, as relayed by Ms. Moonshadow, that our Kenku fellow is…well, he does not quite say “he’s very loyal but rather stupid”, but the implication lingers in the air.

The Elders demur, saying only that any agreement reached today would not extend to [Bugle].

They proceed, having many questions about our people. They reiterate that Transformation advocates on our behalf – perhaps appropriately, as what are we if not agents of Change at best, Chaos at worst? We confirm that Freedom misunderstood the Sapphira Affair, and Ms. Moonshadow (Persuade 14 with Guide/Inspire) convinces this Modanian of Competence, if not her entire Well, to believe our story that Sapphira was bound to protect her and others.

The Elders repeat, for our benefit, that it stands as a mark in favour that no Freedom Elders are present today, as they are implacable against us until Sapphira is presented to them and her being not reasonably accessible apparently is of no moment to them. We ask for alternative standards of proof, and the Elders suggest bringing Qua, Fela, or others we have rescued to vouch for our commitment to ideals of freedom.

Quincy, speaking up with a very wise thought, suggests that the Stalkers instead seek out those people themselves to ensure that we do not bring tame or captive souls to lie on our behalf, if they wish to be certain. This suggestion seems to be met with approval for its frank efficiency (two words very much at the heart of the Quincy Experience).

Eventually Tavar of Fate cuts in – “Now. There is something more pressing before us than your Guild’s feuding with the Well of Freedom.” The time has come, it seems, for us to discuss the Source – the floating construct-castle currently eroding the Wall.

We explain that we are here to discuss said Source, and Nagathani of Prophecy sighs. “We have seen it – these Strangers bring Ruin to the Forest. They are on a collision course with the Source, and with it gone, we of the Wells would be left weaker. This is the course. This is the thing we might break.” They look at each other, these Elders, grim and quiet.

Ms. Moonshadow, softly, respectfully: “We don’t want to destroy anything. Tell us more.”

Tavar of Fate explains: “Paths wind in time, some open, and some close. There was a Path open months ago that might have prevented this Prophecy from becoming inevitable.” NB: He appears to be referring to the vision experienced by Valerian et al. in Expedition 35.] “Now, however, that Path is closed: your Wall or the Source will fall. There is no middle road.

Ms. Moonshadow opines that, by Tavar’s very logic, such a Path could open again in the future. Ishirra of Excellence sadly, wryly asks that “If you are here, speaking to us, does that not indicate clearly that you have little time left to wait for such a thing?”
I riposte that our diligence in attending to this matter denotes caution, not desperation, and that we are hardly on the brink of collapse (not UNtrue, as I understand the Wall’s status). Ms. Moonshadow adds that we can attempt further measures to slow things down, and exhorts that the Elders ought to give the Guild a chance to find a better way for all of us.

To make a long story short, Ms. Moonshadow’s final speech – passionate and achingly sincere – fails to convince them to help. [Persuade 4 – with Session Resolve.] The Council is soon after adjourned.

Modanian of Competence strides towards us across the room, smiling slightly. “Due to the exigencies of Fate and Prophecy, we skipped the customary Challenge – we will now Challenge your Competence.” She gestures for us to follow. We agree, hoping to build our green shoots of diplomacy with the Well of Competence.

As Modanian and six other Competence Stalkers take us on a long walk, an hour or more outside of town, we ask about this Trial’s particulars; Modanian only tells us teasingly that we will “find out when we get there”,

Eventually we stop in a wide area near a large, flat expanse of wood – a stable platform. Modanian turns to us: “This will be the Trial of Competence. It will start in a little while. If you have any combat preparations to make, please do so now. The challenge for you: do not die.” We notice that one Stalker is missing, and see the other six surround us in a circle. We find out that ‘anything goes’; when we ask how long we’re meant to survive for, Modanian only smirks and asks how long we think our lifespan ought to be. …how unutterably Charming she is.

We hurriedly convene on the platform to avoid having to worry unduly about falling to our deaths.

As we think we are fighting said Stalkers, Ms. Moonshadow touches a tattoo on one arm – a symbol of a gale – that calls forth a 10’ radius of Warding Wind, spectral ravens floating in the maelstrom, designed to block their crossbow bolts and force them into range.

Crammed into this radius, deafened by wind and surrounding Ms. Moonshadow with our bodies to protect her Concentration, we are very proud of ourselves for so perfectly preparing to fight Stalkers.

The missing Stalker returns, leading 7 flying manticores. The other Stalkers call something muted out by the Wind and drop from sight into the undergrowth.

Seven manticores.

Two manticores attack first, launching barrages of 3 tail spikes that are all plucked from the air around us by ghostly raven forms dancing through the howling winds. Garibaldi fires back with his crossbow, but the winds snag his bolt in a spectral beak as well. Ms. Moonshadow manages to hit one manticore with a longbow, while Mr. van Horne misses with a Guiding Bolt,

The other five attack – 4 tail spikes launch through the Wind cordon, one hitting myself for some damage and three striking Garibaldi, dropping him instantly (Temporary: DEX save disadvantage).

Quincy manages to shoot one forward manticore with his longbow; it looks very bad. I both Hex and release my Scorching Ray at that manticore, hitting twice, and it looks almost dead.

The less wounded of the first two manticores to act fires through the Wind to hit Quincy twice, while Garibaldi starts to stabilize. The other vanguard manticore, near-death, flees to 180’ away in partial cover.

Six left in the fight.

Ms. Moonshadow strikes the nearest manticore with _ Produce Flame_, while Mr. van Horne misses with Sacred Flame. The other five manticores keep attacking from the sky – 1 hits Quincy, 2 hit myself, and Quincy misses with his longbow repeatedly before I manage to hit the fleeing Manticore, killing it to fuel the sudden vitality of my Fiendish Endurance and to let me move my Hex to a nearer specimen.

Finally, our luck seems to run out – the first manticore braves the Warding Wind and crashes through a hail of chain-whips from Quincy’s Weapon Specialization, missing him as it lands. next to usGaribaldi casts Heroism on Quincy, but stays prone – trying with some success to ‘play dead’ (Performance 14). Ms. Moonshadow turns into an acid-dripping magical bear, missing the landed manticore twice but manoeuvring to stand protectively over the prone Garibaldi. Mr. van Horne misses yet again.

Now, it seems to us in the moment, we are for it – the remaining five manticores swarm in past the Wind. Some are damaged slightly by the ever-moving cloud of whipstrikes by Quincy’s Chain of Power. 1 point to others. Ms. Moonshadow is struck in bear form but maintains Concentration on the Wind, while one manticore assailant claws itself in the face. I, however, am dropped [Permanent, disadvantage on CON-based endurance.]

At this point, with two frailer members down, Quincy acts as heroes do in times of crisis – he turned the fight around masterfully. First critically assaulting one manticore with his magical off-hand hammer (19 bludgeoning), he slashes one of the manticores assaulting Ms. Moonshadow twice with Chain (16), then in a sudden Surge of Action uses his Chain of Power’s Burst ability to damage and Restrain all 3 around him, advantaging our efforts to slay them and disadvantaging their reciprocal blows.

As Dorkins potions me back to health to start my recovery, I arise and finally invoke one of Granny’s bestowed Crown powers that I had yet to use before this day – fey fire lights my blade as I strike out, critically slashing through the monster that dropped me (15) as Shillelagh channels through my Sword of Office.

One of the restrained manticores misses thrice, as Garibaldi heals me with his magic Word, then shoots the one I just assaulted (5). Ms. Moonshadow critically bites another restrained manticore, doing -1d4 (2) damage in acid degradation to its AC.

Trying to thin the herd, Mr. van Horne clears his throat, raises the sacred Mace of Terror and howls – “I’m looking forward to you not being here any more!” (…the ‘howl’ is perhaps slightly more akin to a ‘yelp’ or ‘hoot’.) Two of the manticores run, at that stinging denunciation. Ms. Moonshadow and myself both punish the fleeing manticores with attacks of opportunity (14 each).

Four left.

One of the restrained manticores tries but fails to get out of the Chain of Power, as Quincy hits and critically follows up with his hammer, dealing grievous blows and felling the beast.

Three left.

I, inspired by Quincy’s example, swing my sword but miss [despite advantage from restraints], while Dorkins crawls around my face to feed me another Healing Potion.

One manticore is fleeing the scene after its fellow.

Two left.

Another manticore breaks free and runs – Quincy hits hard (13) but still it seems poised to get away until Garibaldi kills it with a crossbow bolt.

One left.

Ms. Moonshadow bites and claws the last manticore in the battle; Mr. van Horne pours on Sacred Flame; finally, ruthlessly, beautifully, typically, Quincy clinically kills it and retrieves his chain.

The Trial is over. We have all survived. We spend time waiting for the stalkers to return cutting 160 GP worth of manticore hide from our fallen adversaries.

The returning Competence Stalkers, arm tattoos garish, are led by a smiling Modanian, who informs us that the mass aerial assault was, in her words, “Well handled.” She will bring word of our success at this trial this to her Well, and in the interim bestowed a token of her esteem – a magic brassiere that improves a Rogue’s ability to identify and strike vital weak spots from hiding, bestows charges of Healing Word, and fits like a dream (800 GP).

The Well of Competence see their way to letting us stay in a spartan tree hut, that I use Silent Image to decorate as if a cozy Hotel room. We sleep, save for set watches.

On first watch, myself and Ms. Moonshadow watch as 3 Freedom Well Stalkers approach, stealthing with drawn crossbows, clearly intending violent mischief – Ms. Moonshadow summons attack spiders as I reach inside and begin reluctantly stoking the Flames.

Cutting in like a knife, the sharp and clearly exasperated voice of Modanian tells these would-be assassins that she had “_TOLD THEM ALREADY_” that we of the Guild were competent, and advised them in the strongest possible terms to “_GO HOME_”.

The Freedom Stalkers did so with admirable dispatch.

We slept, exhausted, and a mite discouraged – our most suitable allies against the Source among the Stalkers despising us as they so clearly and persistently do.

Day 4

In the morning, we say our sad farewells to the largely indifferent Stalkers and descend from their village on the wings of (yet more) summoned Giant Owls. Ms. Moonshadow seems quite taken with these fluttering protectors, and after their sterling performance to date I can hardly blame her; we drift as motes of dust to the forest floor below, alighting as if from a dream of flight.

Off to the Oracle, we declare! And no further delays. Our mood is businesslike; the Manticore Swarm, it seems, has beaten rather a lot of our easy-going energy out of us. We will be focused! We will brook no delays!

Fairly quickly, as four spiders descend from above us, it is brought home to us that delays might well seek to brook us. Luckily Mr. van Horne’s expert wielding of the Mace of Terror (“No more of that now, alright fellas?”) sends them running for the hills. (1/8 XP for 3 CR 1s, 1 CR ¼.)

Returning otherwise unmolested to the Oracle…still no change. 27119 taunts us from the “Now Serving” display as it did on our departure. Quickly we resolve to have Dorkins invisibly lurk outside the sign and neither move nor become visible until the sign changes while we wait in a place of safety – the 06.16 Secret Door, to be precise.

Dorkins acquiesces so cheerfully it’s as if he volunteered! Well done, Dorkins. I allow him to remove his gaily be-ribboned heeled boots as a reward.

En route to the Secret Door, we retrieve 400 GP in heavy Giant Snake skins from the abandoned Country School without incident. Our thanks, members of Expedition 70!
We settle in with some supplies…

Days 4-6

…and much stealthy dumping of chamberpots, playing of cards and subsisting on the products of Ms. Moonshadow’s Create Food and Water spell ensue. Her spell is notably blander than Mr. du Vayrir de la Grand Contumace Saint-Emilion’s, if just as satisfying in a prosaic sort of way.

…it is not a good idea to make this last remark out loud to Ms. Moonshadow. She might well Glance Significantly. I hasten to alert my Constant Reader to this valuable Survival Tip.

Day 7

Dorkins finally alerts us that our Number is Up! He is allowed to vanish to his Timeless Void briefly before I summon him to my side where he belongs. We set out, very pleased to no longer be trapped as 5 fully-grown near-strangers in a very small room with no natural light and limited air circulation.

(Perhaps it was just me.)

Astonishingly, we are neither ambushed nor waylaid, and we return to the Oracle with our number in tow. Tamed Mummies take our ticket, and bring us into a large and dreamily labyrinthine tree-top structure full of High Bureaucratic queuing and arcane filing requirements.

The gestalt-ghost of Mr. du Vayrir de la Grand Contumace Saint-Emilion sees us through in good stead (INT 21) and we navigate the lines and file the triplicate requests and are ushered into the Grand Central Chamber of the Oracle – a Gynosphinx, as it transpires.

She eyes us with the same breed of fastidious concern often briefly afforded by well-bred cats to wayward mice. “Newcomers. Your guild is the one that mangled the process about a month ago.” She refers, I believe, to Expedition 74 and [Bugle] and co.’s…enthusiastic efforts to cheat the entry system.

I apologize as silkily as I can (19) and she seems mollified to some degree, but still sardonically, and in a strange cadence, asks us “to be more conscious of the time of others, CHILDREN-“ – and the room ripples. We all try to endure a sudden wrenching PULL (save CON: Luke 16 (Pass), Quincy 15 (Pass), Martin 11 (Fail), Garibaldi 9 (Fail), Sil 1 (Fail).

Garibaldi and Martin both visibly youthen from their 30s to their 20s, and Silverleaf…apparently feels 20 years younger. (As a full-blooded Elf one must understand that this is approximately like us feeling ‘8 months younger’ if I understand the maths.) Our Hostess has a dark sense of humour and some ability to distort time, it seems.

Being an Oracle, she need not even wait for us to tell our errand, we swiftly discover: “You come seeking advice on the thing assailing the wards that protect your home. You do not know the nature of the foe.”

Correct; correct.

“You are not yet ready to confront that foe directly – to learn more, seek out the denizens of Undertree. Bring those whose magic trips through words and song. Question them closely.”

Bards, we suppose.(?)

After this wisdom, we thank the Oracle profusely and swiftly depart so as not to tempt fate any further.

On our way home, we decide to eschew a visit to the Oracle’s Gift Shop until after we have returned our vital intelligence – a lead, of sorts! – to the Wall.

We do encounter a single Eyeless before leaving the Dark Forest; we kill it, and get an Eyeless Rock from its remains. Our focused fire is rather spectacular when we set our mind to it, after all.

Soon thereafter, we return to the Felar Woods. We encounter nesting Hippogriffs, and I advise that Dorkins could very probably steal us valuable Hippogriff eggs for flying mounts, but Ms. Moonshadow seems disinterested and makes us carry on empty-handed. [NB: Sil is horrified at the thought of taming wild beautiful animals like this to the saddle but didn’t feel like telling anyone but the JP voice of her motivation.]

Later still, a Blazing Banner war party, two leaders on horseback with a dozen subordinates, draws near. Quincy tells them to Fuck Off (in…slightly more words?…perhaps? Unless I imagined them internally) and – after a momentary show of bravado from our erstwhile allies, cooler heads prevail among the Tribesmen (aided, I must humbly hope, by my idly Silent-Imaging Tabitha, Sovan, Raevori, Jean-Pierre and other powerful Guild Luminaries smashing various foepersons).

The Banner ‘fuck off’, in other words, so fast that one Bannerman forgets his horse, which we confiscate for our troubles and for their extraordinary rudeness.

Thereafter, we return. Ms. Moonshadow restores her Torc to Mr. du Vayrir de la Grand Contumace Saint-Emilion’s brow; he awakens, and and all is well.

Thank you for reading, gentle people.

May nothing hidden find you in your sleep.

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Expedition 78 - All that and a bag of poop

Sunday January 21st

[posted on time]

Adventurers
<waterflow> – Level 2 Kenku Monk
Amara Invictus – Level 5 Wizard
Saoirse Brannoch of House Ferrus – Level 3 Halfling Rouge
Martin van Horne – Level 4 Life cleric
Pierre Lee – Level 5 war Cleric

All adventureres get 941xp (856 w/o Update)
Amara and Waterflow earn 475 gp
Rest of the party earns 396 gp

Character Changes
Amara is now descessed
Pierre is gone temporarliy

Loot
Reactive Staff w/ 0 charges of darkness (400 gp) -claimed by Saoirse
3 Throwing Knives (15 gp) -Claimed by Waterflow
Disruption Coil (250 gp) -Claimed by Saorise
2 Modron Chits (200 gp) -Claimed by next jungle party
10 Enhanced Rations (150 gp) -Claimed by LMF
10 Invigorating Greens (200 gp) -Claimed by LMF
3 Heart of Titan (750 gp) -Claimed by Saorise
2 Platinum Bracelets (20) – Claimed by LMF
Old Empire Rake (5 gp)
36 lbs of Poop (180 gp) – Claimed by amara
Dead Guys Stuff (75 gp)
Old Empire Shovel (5 gp)
Rare Poison Mushrooms (40 gp)
4 Red Arrows (40 gp) -Claimed by Bugle
Focus Handaxe (700 gp) – Claimed by Saorise

Log
**remove jungle bridge from map.
The day starts out mundane. Clear weather, nothing too special. Before we depart from the wall I pull Amara and JP aside, I hand them each letters in the event I do not return, for good that is.
I kept this a secret to most, but I plan on staying with the weretigers for a little while. But as secrets go in Silayna, everybody already knows.
We leave. Shortly after departing we notice some suspicious lo9oking footprints in the ground. Seemingly as if someone was trying to cover them up. So naturally if they do not want to be followed, we follow them. The trail takes us to a nearby cave, was too close to the wall for comfort. Saoirse and waterflow sneak up to the cave to scope it out. They return promptly, Waterflow communicates in her kenku fashion that there are Lua hiding out in that there cave. My grip tightens around my hammer and my brow furrows. Visibly angry I shake it off, I’m not about to let a personal vendetta danger the party.
{but if anyone wants to deal with that please let me know]
We carry on hopefully unnoticed by them and proceed to the portal. As we pop out we are greeted by the lovely presence of two masked wardens (sarcasm), guns drawn and at the ready.
“State your business” one of them bellows in a weird distorted voice.
“just passing through” we reply.
They seemed to recognize us as frequent patrons to their snake shack so they let us pass. I couldn’t help noticing they were affixing something fishy to the pillars of the bridge.

not 5 freaking minutes later boom

Gosh dang it they blew up the bridge.
Well, nothing we can really do about that now. We carry onward to the Ebon bank, and make it over without any impeding incident.
A were-rat greets us or rather we greet him. He’s slightly perturbed we interrupted his whittling. Waterflow makes a flawless Val impression asking to check up on our account balance.
I actually totally didn’t pay attention to the actual number so I hope its not important
I drop my sack full of magical items for deposit, none of them mine. We begin making casual small talk with this rat who clearly just wants to go to sleep. We do learn that there’s some bad shit happening down in snake town, but like when is there not. Also that those black wardens we saw at the bridge were called “Fangs” and not to mess with them because they are dangerous as fudge.
We venture off beginning our long trek to the garden of the heart. And we are Ambushed by more friggen snakes! _ Apostates_
Battle #1
• A series of throwing knives come out from the brush dropping Saoirse (disadvantage on perception)

• one of them closes with waterflow and deals the final blow, dropping her. the punch seems to force some kind of fire energy into the punch
• Amara blasts one with fire, and it just seems to absorb it .
• Amara drops
• Martin uses his channel divinity to bring back waterflow and Saoirse.
• I go full were form and construct spirit guardians. Waterflow Replicates the voice of the flowing one to try and mitigate the attack,
• one apostate runs up to attack martin and drops him, chucks a dagger at waterflow.
• another attacks water flow again, and drops again.
• waterflow uses mace of terror and causes one to flee.
• The two remaining apostates close with me and do a ton of damage.
• I whack the big one and hit the smaller one in the off swing killing one
• the big one disengages and flees off like a coward
• The chittery boys run off in the woods chasing the fleeing party
• we find a quarter staff on the dropped apostate and a few fancy throwing knives
• we take much needed rest after that whole debacle.

We make it up the river, and the bridge is indeed missing. We do spy a croc off in the distance seemingly minding it’s own business. It has no business doing that, so we throw a bunch of spells its direction and put a stop to that.
Safe from the presence of crocodiles, waterflow walks across the water with a rope for all of us to cross. Now the presence of clumsiness is a constant threat, and throw Amara and Saoirse right into the water.
With a tag team effort from Waterflow and I we get Amara up. Saoirse insists they’re okay and swims across. As Amara scrambles up to shore, she puts an arm on my shoulder,
“Can I borrow some health” she asks, I oblige reaching for my potions pouch.
BUT INSTEAD she sends a searing pain right through my whole body.
“Thanks” She looks immediately rejuvenated.
“no problem” I say between breaths, wasn’t really expecting that one.

We venture on and approach an injured warden resting up against a tree, Martin heals them up, and asks him what’s up.
“OH Thank you, I was sent to see the keeper, hopefully to make him see reason.” He looks up at martin
“Be respectful if you ever meet the keeper, this didn’t do me any good but it might help you. It will make it hard for it to come near you”
He hands martin a contraption and insists that his divine connection will make it stronger, but we have yet to see it in action. We send the warden off letting him find his own way home
But LO from above, it’s nobody else but the loveable commander bush, come from rouge town to share in the holiness that is Dave. Apparently their church has been quite prosperous this month, and came to share in its bounty, in the form of two Modron chits.
[In reality he was hunting the previously mentioned warden and Pierre totally pointed him the right direction]

The garden of the heart! We are greeted by the blaring voice of a security console,
“Security measures have been reset, and wardens have been banished from the area”
The garden of the heart is Quit majestic when you break it down, I mean this is the first time I’ve been here and it’s a thing of beauty. Wild vins growing around the floor and up around climbing up the walls.

The snails crawled along the floor eating up the plant material, they greeted us with their usual snail greeting by not acknowledging our presence. Amara and waterflow make a really clean sweep of the area gathering up a good haul of various fruits and objects

· 15 rations that when we eat them we gain 1d4 temp hp
· 10 goodberries
· 3 avacadoy looking things with a radiant smell called hearts of titan, for a long rest you can fight right up to your negative HP
· a small kind of platinum braclet on a descecrated skeletal body

Theres a plinth in the corner of the room that seems to be supporting a mechanism. It’s two round circles overlapping one another with the same centerpoint. And an image of a black snake beside them.

We turn the suspicious looking crank on the side of the mechanism and the snake image turns into an image of an ornate arch (all images in order Snake, Arch, She who increases,Heart) The dome in the garden closes and the room gets immediately dark and much much cooler. We take a short rest here with the snails. One snail comes up and in a happy mellow tone says

“dark” Amara then casts darkness on the snail, in darkness. Whatever though, the snail seems pleased with it.

The log from here on is in point form, I just thought it was important to get it up before the next jungle expedition

we head into the poop room and the skeletions are harvesting mushroom in a very orderly fashion
we turn back to turn the dial to make the poop room bright .
but when we come back to the poop room two skeletions notice and charge at us
amaras skeletion puts on the outfit the dropped skeetons were wearing
the skeleton tries to grab some of the poop in a disguise

Amara summons buttons into the poop room but its confused by the skeletions as one of the harvestable mushrooms so its pickewd up by a skeleton and dropped into a chute buttons rose up into a pile of mushrooms and casts light on one of them. buttons notices a door in the distnace with a flashing red light
buttons knocks on the door. and a skeletion answers the skeleton puts buttons back in the bin. buttons notices another door and a plinth behind the door. but as the skeletion puts ubttons back he dissapears.
amara sends her skeletion in to try and harvest some manure. The skeleton makes its way to a big ol pile of poop and picks up as much as it can cary
the skeleton finds a few valuables in with the poop pile.
the skeleton makes its way back to us with a pile of poop and poop covered valuables.
Amara sends the skeleton back for more investigation. we find a deadd guys satchel in the poop pile and take that along with more poop. the skeletion comes back with more poop some gold and a small piece of paper that says
“hey new guy cheat sheet is stuck behind of shelves of tags, we arent meant to have it, dont let mamagement know”

We walk in in attempts to go into the maintence shed. being careful not to go neare the poop.
as we approach the door the statue looks very interested in us.
as buttons remanifests in the room and knocks ar the door. turns out the platinum bracelet we found before opens the door so we go and grab the cheat sheet we found out the room titles
SW room “noontide arbour of the consumer”
NW “duskmidden of the increaser”
NE “night apothecary of the abider”
SE"dawn orchird of the endurer"
there is also a plinth looking like the other one, with a picture of a gate on it
the skeleton turns the crank.
THe room lights up and the skeletons become agressive.
4 run towards us and 2 immediatley get blown up, One by my hammer may I add.
the statue takes notice and perks up.
we crush the skeletions and the statue does not takew tha too well so the statue rushes up to attack us
the styatue swoops up and divwe bombs me and nother one.
they push me towards the poop. and I appear to have lost consciousness
waterflow punches one real hard and flees
Martin heals me and I’m back up
Amara casts shatter on 3 statues in the air
saoirise runs in to the mine field to fee me a piotion.
the statues try to close with amara by swooping down. but it seems to have a real hard time handling the light. and hits oont of the other statues.
two approach me. I get up and cast spirit guardians. and whack one with a spirit hammer
waterflow seems to be kiting the skeletions real well but runs up and wrecks one with a flurry of punches
amara casts shatter but taking martin in the blast. seems to do a bunch of damage on the 3 that are close to her
saoirse feeds a potion to waterflow
the spirit guardians take action and try to grapple me fools move.
They grab saorise pick themup and drop them right inot problem zone
I swing at one with my hammer. the runes in my hammer gloriously light up recognizing a dragontype creature and the runes on the side light up. obliterating the statues in my path
waterflow runs up to me and helps me with my attack
amara casts another shatter on the three surrounding her killing all of them
soairise runs and leaps right out very acrobatically and chugs a potion
but gets dragged back into the thick of the mines by another statue.
She de=tonated a mine but emerged amazingly not dead. (ephiphany)
two statues go to rest on a plinth the plinth starts glowing and it seems to heal
Martin kills one and amara kills the other
we clear the room and seem to try to manouvre the minefeild
amara just pushes one of her bois into the minefeild blowing a lot of the mines blow up
as we approach the poop the stench is unbearable and we notice a bunch of little maggots
So we disenfect our poop so its free from littl emaggots with my radiant damage ….. disinfecting poop youve read that

we gather mushrooms asround the poop they seem to be rather valuable
we decide to make a shelter outside. as we leave a slug asks “What noises”
waterflow mimics the noises from inside the room and says “was me , Sorry”
the snail buys it and lets us out to go to sleep.
Overnight we encounter a bundle of apostates
Arrows fly out and drop both martin and amara.
They come in and drop me when I havent put my armour on yet
they throw an arrow at water flow she catches it and throws it back ast them. the arrows seem to bubble at their skin wioth some weird crazy fire damage.
martin ressurects me like the siant he is
I full were out and maul one fo the spostates that attacked me, and whack another one trying to flee
the apostates seem to fly off with a mace of terror
saoirise finishes the one I was attacking off.
I run out and pounce mauling one of the other ones, killing it.
The other one swipes at me and Shouts “this is our land”
I’m like “no” although it very well might be
It dashes off and takes a real good hit from ol ’me
but saorise takes it out

I try to use the revify componenets on amara
it fails
I failed

I send to kerrek asking if we can meed up here “freind passed, can you meet us here”
kerrek comes and sais " in the front, good"
He picks amara up bandages her up and carries her back to the wall
he stops suddenly and roars he bellows " not now"
The clouds abouve us spark with electricity and fizzle out

Kerrek approches the portal I leave with him saying my peace

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Expedition 77 -- We Survive Because the Boss Didn't Feel Like Killing Us

Sunday, January 14, 2018

[Posted on time, participants get 0.1 HP]

CHARACTERS

CHARACTER CHANGES

  • Waterflow levelled to 2, gained the Changing Way, and got Compulsive Balance (from dropping in the jungle – when you have an odd number of Ki points in battle, every turn you must pass a DC 12 WIS check to not spend one at start of turn (on any available Monk option) until you have an even number of Ki points).
  • Archer levelled to 2 and lost her arcana proficiency.
  • Silverleaf can only hold her breath for half as long and (from dropping in the jungle) cannot take the exact same Wild Shape twice in a row.
  • Pierre gets an epiphany (immune to apostate poison while in hybrid form) and a jungle quirk (from dropping in the jungle): you must always make a DC 12 WIS check on your first turn of any combat to identify the strongest-looking foe (prioritizing apparent martial/physical prowess as a tie-breaker), and do nothing but attempt to move towards that target and attack them with every means at your disposal for that first turn. (If you fail the save, the DM will pick a target at their discretion.) If you cannot attack the designated target, you spend your ‘object action’ to loudly taunt and attempt to lure into battle, but can otherwise act as you wish.
  • Aa’li’naa: armour gained two charges of shatter, and (jungle drop quirk) You gain a bite attack: finesse, melee range, 1d4 piercing + 1d6 poison. You must use this as one of your two attacks if able while Dual Wielding.

MAP UPDATES

  • island apostate mine
  • apostate sacred location (towards the centre of the southern side of the eastern half of the mountains in 9.16) – although AFAIK we haven’t told Linna about this location, so idk that it would be on an official map.

XP

  • 887 xp/person, including sheet update

GP (not including items bought)

  • Silverleaf, Waterflow: 536 gp
  • Aa’li’naa, Pierre, Valerian, Archer: 459 gp
  • LMF: 158 gp

LOOT

  • tea sachet from A’sshel’t’kov, given to Val
  • prism fruit, 250 gp, bought by Hadley
  • lightweight chainmail, 0 charges of blur, 600 gp bought by Sarene
  • Waking Wild (book), 80 gp
  • Cocktail Recipes (book), 10 gp
    • contains mostly unpleasantly sweet recipes
  • shortbow, 12.5 gp
  • blue-tipped apostate arrows (5), 50 gp
  • beautiful innovator (né apostate) rug, 25 gp
  • non-perishable innovator rations (5), 2.5 gp
  • ki rocks, 800 gp, claimed by Waterflow
  • garnet, 50 gp
  • Equivocator (pistol), 250 gp, claimed by Val
  • Equivocator ammunition, 10 gp, claimed by Val
  • Waterbending bead, 100 gp, claimed by Waterflow
  • Marble chest, 650 gp
  • Radiant gun, 550 gp, claimed by Linna
  • Radiant ammo, 50 gp, claimed by Linna

SUMMARY

There are fewer birds in the jungle these days (maybe related to the Cloud Jerks).

Pierre successfully apologized to the weretigers and got a do over, and Kerrek has accepted him as a protege. We also met Gen, another weretiger champion.

We ran into a Cloud Jerk on the ground, which had shapeshifted to appear different and smaller. We helped it unbury a cache that had fallen to the ground, then it went invisible, went giant, and cast a cone of cold at us. (CLOUD. JERKS.)

Sshelly sent us to go scout/raid an apostate mine. He thought the boss (the Flowing One) wasn’t going to be there, but she was. She kicked our ass enough to prove that she could, then gave us a few trinkets and a taunt to pass on to Sshelly, asked us to go bring her any religious artifacts that we find in a certain sacred location in the mountains (we didn’t actually promise to do this but implied we might), and then turned us loose. We successfully invoked her name to avoid an apostate ambush later.

LOG

AN: I haven’t gotten around to character-voicing this yet, but I will do that within the next couple of days – just posting this now in case people are curious. (Also like 80% of this is going to be in the meta brackets of ‘Silverleaf doesn’t consider this important enough to log’ anyway).

The party sets out, taking the mace of terror, the healing gourd, and the pearl of power (because they have two babies to protect).

Pierre Aids Archer, Valerian, and Waterflow (NB: Waterflow is currently nameless, because her monk order gains names for deeds they have done, and she fucked up and all of hers were taken from her. However, she received the name “Waterflow” at the end of this expedition).

Waterflow is encumbered because she doesn’t want to ask anyone to help her carry things, but the party notices and tells her she needs to let them help.

Val offers Archer tea. Archer tips her hat very attractive and Val is Overcome.

We get to the portal without trouble, but as soon as we get to the other side we immediately hear metal grinding against metal and see two gorgons right there. They haven’t spotted us yet, so Sil casts pass without trace and then shifts into a tiny spider. Waterflow picks her up and the party hides – our stealth of 32 beats their 22 perception, so we wait for them to leave and then carry on towards Sshelly’s base.

(David: You head off through the jungle, it’s its usual sweltering, thick self
Ryan: Same.)

We are going stealthily, because of the babies. Sil stays as a spider for advantaged perception checks. She sees seven poison men (green liquidy organisms) slinking along the trail we’re on, obviously looking for prey. Sil turns back into an elf, tells people, and we dive off the path into cover. Only a 14 hide but they don’t see us. There is a capybara-looking animal that they catch instead – one of them engulfs it and leaves behind a tiny wasted husk with a green mushy patch. After they’ve left, we burn the corpse so it can’t spawn more poison guys.

Val tells Waterflow and Archer that if there’s fighting, they should stay hidden and safe – don’t try to come out and be a hero.
Waterflow: “I am here on a mission. I will not jeopardize my mission.”
Archer: “I’m really sorry, hon, but my particular style of helping, well, it ain’t subtle.”

As we travel, Pierre notices that there are far fewer birds than usual – the jungle generally abounds with critters of all sorts and there are still the normal amount of land animals, but not many flying ones. (We don’t actually know what this is about, but we suspect it’s something the Cloud Jerks are doing and later on Sshelly says that he suspects that also.)

We reach Sshelly’s outpost without further incident. The guards formally salute and genuinely seem to be respectful towards Linna now (instead of the previous ‘oh, look, it’s the boss’s daughter’), one looks at the dagger that the Law gave her and looks impressed, the other says if she ever wanted to stop by the mess someday she’d be welcome.

We are brought to the pavilion and seated at a table with refreshments, Sshelly comes out to see us.
Sshelly, to Sil: “The farmers and tenders of the base are thankful for the good harvest we’ve had this year, may all involved be blessed.”
Sil nods.
Ss: “So you’ve come to see about a bit of work.”
Pierre: We came here to sleep.
Ss: “…if you would like to hear about it, or should I make you a nap and perhaps a cup of warm cocoa.”
Pierre: Yes, please.
Sshelly asks if Pierre wants milk or water, Pierre obviously wants milk. The cocoa is served and Pierre adds marshmallows to it from his own pack, then falls asleep in one of the tents Sshelly’s people have set up.

Valerian asks if they may be allowed to inspect his garden and talks about how beautifully arranged and tended the flowers are, compliments the loam, etc, lightly tastes the loam which is poison and not a Good Idea. But Sshelly is overall impressed with their botanical knowledge.

Sshelly stares at Archer. “I have yet to meet you. Charmed. Ashheltkov.”
She raises a hand to him and curtseys. He bends over the hand as if to kiss it but doesn’t actually because he has a snake mouth and that would be weird.

He introduces himself to Waterflow. She recites her phrase about who she is and explains that she does not have a name.

Sshelly gets down to business. “I cannot express my gratitude that you are finally willing to fight our true foes to the south. (We had Sendinged to him earlier telling him we wanted to scout/attack an apostate mine, and asking for recommendations). The base I recommended is a rather specialized apostate facility. There is valuable product in there. Let us take this as something of a field test – ideally you’d cleanse the base, with maximum prejudice. Otherwise, liberate as much material as you can, and try to scout it. I have intelligence that if you go in 3 days time, there will be a period when the locals will be preoccupied within. I might not to tell you your business, but recommend that you exploit that.”
Sil: What are they occupied with?
Ss: Something of superstitious importance to them.
Sil: Where did you get this information?
Ss: Refuses to answer, but appreciates the effort.

(Throughout this, Val is tending and examining the flowers, Sshelly keeps looking over somewhat anxiously even though they are doing a very good job. Pierre is deeply asleep with a serious cocoa mustache.
Ss, to Val: Based on my prior discussion with Dimitri, I thought that you tended towards typical elven botany – but I see an almost gnomish influence, with those geometrical patterns…
Val: That is such a compliment, etc etc – do you enjoy tea?
Ss says he does, although he’d prefer to steep it with his own water which is kissed by the jungle, aka, poison.
Val gives Ss a small sachet of tea, gives him advice on how to steep it, he seems to genuinely appreciate it and have a nice time. Later, when Val goes to bed, they find a small sachet of tea in a little bag among their personal effects.)

Sil: What are they mining?
Ss: A particular form of gemstone or calcite with irreproducible local properties, of great significance to their…religion? War effort?
Sil: Do you want it, or do you just want to take it from them?
Ss: I would pay for it. Those who tend the place are far more adept than your typical apostate. If you see anyone wearing bone plate armour, that is a Poison Duke and you should not fight them.
Sil: What can they do?
Ss: They are strongly connected to the jungle, and can interfere with the abilities of others.
Val: If we are forced to fight them, how would you recommend we go about it?
Ss: Swarm it. Use the more expendable members of your party to distract it while you try to do enough damage to kill it.
Ss tells us that the Poison Dukes go through periods of quiescence, where they miiiiiight be within our powers. If the light in their eyes is flickering, they are weaker. If their eyes are glowing solidly, the are full power and would just Wreck Us.
He also told us about the local apostates, who he expects to be wearing black robes with coloured stripes. Anyone in a solidly coloured robe is extremely unpredictable and powerful.
Sil: What can they do.
Ss: They perform marvelous feats with their bare hands. I have seen one punch a hole through solid metal doors, move incredibly quickly. They are very hard to hit – I’ve seen one catch a bullet. (aka, high level monks). Anyone wearing a robe will have some such abilities. Anyone in a solid coloured robe will be more powerful.
Sil: We will try to be stealthy. How perceptive are they?
Ss: They are very perceptive and if you approach too closely, they will almost certainly know that you are there.
Sil: How many do you expect there.
Ss: Our saving grace is that they are very selective. No more than one master, one chosen disciple, and 4-12 others in a single group. If they all assembled, they would be unstoppable but they are unpredictable and fractious. Broken into small cells with local interests. I believe this mine to be within your power. Surely you understand that I would not send my daughter into a death trap.

Strategic discussion done, we move on to Val getting tested for a gun. They hand in their chit and Ss has a small pentagonal piece of starmetal brought over. “Concentrate and touch this. I can’t provide you with one if it’s not on stock, but if you register with one, I will have it fetched from the Oubliette and it will be waiting on your return from your mission.”

Sil guides and Archer inspires – Ss couldn’t really explain how it works but said that might help.

(Archer’s inspiration goes like this: She puts her hand on Val’s shoulder and looks her deep in their eyes and for one beautiful moment, it’s like they’re the only two people who exist on this earth. Then she says:

“Anyway, here’s Wonderwall” and she just starts belting it at top volume and she’s so bad, it’s the worst thing you’ve heard in your entire life. She says, “I will keep playing until you succeed at this” and immediately succeeding at that task and making it stop, please god, make it stop becomes your deepest wish.)

Val feels an incredibly faint resistance and then a very small ping. Ss: “There’s something. Come back in a few days.”

Ss asks Linna to come inside to have a private discussion with him and they go off. She returns with 10 more pieces of ammo.

Val makes experimental tea and says they don’t think this one is very good. Archer wants to drink some but Sil tells her that a) sometimes the tea is dangerous, b) she told Sovan that she would keep Archer safe, and c) NO. Archer doesn’t drink, which is good because the tea makes Val risk throwing up on their next initiative roll.

The next day, we leave the base. We are heading to visit the weretigers, so Pierre can apologize/socialize. After a few hours of travel, suddenly an array of arrows fly at us (surprising us all except Val because their feat means they are never surprised).

Nine apostates pop up, in groups of three. 6 attack Pierre and 3 attack Linna.
Then one group fires on Archer and all miss (AC 11! The arrows just zoom straight through her hat).
One group drops Sil (temp injury: -1 con). Waterflow feeds Sil a potion. Sil casts Wolves and turns into a bear, then moves to stand directly in front of Archer in hopes of blocking her.
Pierre weres out (-4 wis, +4 str) and pounces on one, also gets up Spirit Weapon.
Archer puts Sil’s ice claws on her and inspires her (with terrible, terrible rapping: “My name is – Archer! I – am – Archer! I’d really like – not to die today – I’m Archer!”)
They drop Pierre but he springs back up with an epiphany (he’s now immune to apostate poison while in hybrid form).
Some apostates attack Sil, who had run up to close to melee with them. One crit fumbles and stabs itself to death. The remaining two of that group drop her (perm injury: can only hold her breath for half the usual time). (also, then one stabs her and makes her fail two death saves, so if that first one hadn’t accidentally killed itself, it would have also stabbed her and just straight up killed her).
Pierre heals Sil and keeps fighting apostates. Archer inspires Pierre (by making an extremely long fart noise).

We kill them all and find a small box with a prism fruit in it.

We have a short rest. Val makes some tea that they think will be good. Waterflow drinks some, and Sil also lets Archer drink some this time. Turns out it’s special tea of “disadvantage on stealth until your next long rest, because you are frequently and loudly farting”. (Archer’s tea drinking privileges are rescinded again after this).

We keep travelling. We pass a bunch of wardens pulling a little wagon, who greet Linna warmly enough and ignore the rest of us.

We reach the weretiger grove in midafternoon.

Fionn (young and awkward weretiger, Uthgar’s apprentice) greets Pierre from a tree. “Pierre! I’m scouting!”
Pierre: “I’ve just come to say my piece. I’m pretty sure you saw what happened last time (Pierre lied to Kerrek, who then publically beat the shit out of him).”
F: “Yeah, we’re all still talking about it, I’ve never seen Kerrek come that close to actually killing a person. Who then lived.”
F comes down to talk to us by just falling out of the tree and slamming on his side on the ground but not taking any falling damage. “So when are you guys gonna do something for Beau?”
P: “Probably some time next month. Do you want to come too?”
F: Yeah! I can handle myself, you know!
P: I know
F: So I get to come too!
P: …okay…

We head into the central clearing. We see some weretigers lounging around, some of whom are training new tigers to learn how to jump while wearing saddles.

(It’s not going great because the young tigers are kind of like kids and keep getting distracted and not wanting to focus on actually completing their training.
Archer offers to help and says she can make them better at training. They accept.
She pulls out a set of spoons and starts bellowing: IT’S THE EYE OF THE TIGER IT’S THE THRILL OF THE NIGHT.
They genuinely make more progress and are overwhelmingly like: “Great, thank you, you’re done, you’re done, I can’t be helped any more than I already have been, there’s no possible way I could be helped more, you can stop.”
Archer: Any time y’all need help, you know where to come
Weretigers: …so any time we need help, you’re gonna do…that.
Archer: Oh, yeah, anytime.
Weretigers: OK PEOPLE WE ARE DOING THIS TODAY, we are going to GET THIS DONE.)

A tiger starts creeping up behind Pierre. Then he pops up suddenly as a completely naked Uthgar and says in a ghostly voice “ooooooo Pierre, I’m your dead family! Oooooo”
Pierre turns to look at him.
U: “I got you! Oh, the look on your face, you thought I was your dead family! You were like ‘why did I become a stupid priest of Bill or Tom or’ what was the name of your god actually?”
P: Dave the Nameless
U: But that doesn’t make sense, he’s got a name, it’s Dave, how can he be nameless…is that a pseudonym or a surname?
P: It’s an acronym
U: For what?
P: Deity, and very excellent
U: …so, do you want me or Smythe to beat you up this time or….?
P: I’m gonna hold off on that this time, I actually just came to apologize. I don’t fully understand your ways, I came to maybe apologize or learn.
U: pulls on a loose tunic and gets ready to lead Pierre into the hall.

(Val, standing nearby, tries to pull a sexy pose and succeeds despite their frequent and loud flatulence from the tea.
U: “Well, looks like somebody ate well today.”
V: “I could eat better.”
P: …these are my friends, please don’t…
U: Oh, you called dibs! Okay!
P: That’s not what I meant!)

(Linna is standing off to the side, looking visibly frustrated to be here. Sil asks why she doesn’t like them and Linna says they’re just not right.)

U: Let me take you in – actually, the other two are in, so we can do a small meeting of the champions. If you get your ass whooped again, I promise not to tell anyone! (He is 100% lying and intending to tell everyone but because he made a promise in the jungle now he’s actually bound by it, oops).
Uthgar leads Pierre into the hall and proclaims, “Boys! We have our erstwhile little lamb back.”
The hall is basically empty. Kerrek, Smythe, and another older looking weretiger are sitting around by the fire.
Kerrek just looks silently at Pierre.
P: I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that, I know I was way out of my reach.
K: Done what.
P: Well, for starters lied. For another thing, doubted your strength. I don’t know how you do things here.
K: No
P: I clearly don’t – regardless of what I thought, it was the wrong decision
K: I’m glad you worked that out. So?
P: I thought that maybe I could come here and learn your ways instead of just going around doing my own thing
K: Why should I bother? I didn’t see anything to impress me earlier.
Pierre is saved by answering by the fourth weretiger, Gen (who met Rae and Amara earlier but hasn’t been introduced to us yet). Pierre made a necklace of the megamonitor teeth he’d knocked out of Old Scaley with an awesome called shot in the last Dark Forest expedition.
G: Those look like fancy teeth. How’d you get those, boy?
P: One of my friends was stuck in the mouth of an eyeless megamoniter, I just hit it really hard
G: You got all the way up there? That’s a good pounce.
P: Nah, I have a magic hammer (he casts Spiritual Weapon)
G: Hit me with that thing. Come on, boy, you’re not gonna hurt me. Hit me
Pierre lands a hit and does 12 damage, Gen’s head snaps back.
G: Got me through my skin, that’s pretty good
P: It’s handy.
G: How far will that thing go?
Pierre sends it flying to the back of the hall to demonstrate.
G: Don’t suppose none of us can do that, boss man
K: So he can make a hammer.
Pierre casts Spirit Guardians, to demonstrate what else he can do. His spirits show up in the ghostly form of actual weretigers – Uthgar is one of them, but also Eadgils, various other weres we don’t recognize.
U: (transparently delighted) “Look! It’s me! I look incredible!”
Smythe jumps up, startled, and a sword appears in his hand. He sheaths it slowly and settles back into his chair (and has enough grace not to try to hide having been startled).

Kerrick stands and up walks forward, slowly, staring at the spirits arranged in dignified ranks before him, and says “Amaldin, Renard (he starts listing names, staring at specific figures)…you never met them, how do you know them?” He is visibly holding back tears. (He pauses in front of one figure in particular, wearing chain and carrying a spear – no one we recognize, but one going theory is that she’s a prior apprentice)

P: “I can call upon spirits to protect me and the ones most connected to me show up.”
K: (still extremely emotional, and very sincere) “These men, women…they did not come for anyone’s call. They are champions all. This is a good company to keep. You are welcome to begin again.”
P: “I would like to.”
K: You would normally live here and train with us. Are you willing to leave your guild?
P: A lot of these people depend on me to survive. That’s my role.
Kerrek accepts this and then explains that Pierre would also have one specific weretiger to supervise him. He can ask anyone he wants, but they have the right to refuse. Pierre asks Kerrek. Kerrek tells him that they fight very differently (Kerrek is a barbarian) and he might not be able to teach Pierre as much as someone more similar, but could teach him something.
P: You are a shining example of the kind of guy I want to be

Kerrek pulls Pierre into the back of the room and orders everyone else out. Kerrek then pulls one of his teeth out and offers it to Pierre. Pierre does the same. Kerrek sticks Pierre’s tooth into his mouth, Pierre jams Kerrek’s into his, and then Pierre has a shiny new red tooth and a mentor.

When Pierre exits the hall, Uthgar is waiting and pretending to be offended. “So…Kerrek…(drops the act) OH COME ON, THAT’S SO HUGE! He doesn’t take anybody! Oof, man, gotta watch out! You’ll be after my job…If you come after my job, I’ll be really hard on you. I’ll get things started off, come on!”

Uthgar explains that each champion has a table for their disciples to sit at. Pierre will be sitting alone because Kerrek doesn’t have any others. (He used to. Don’t bring it up). He also mentions that Fionn wants to come with us to avenge Beau, and make sure not to snub him because he’s very touchy, thinking that we’ll only want Uthgar, just because Fionn is young – even a young weretiger can still beat anyone else!

We spend the night drinking and dancing. Archer plays non-inspiring but respectable country music on her banjo, there’s much square dancing and fun. Val and Uthgar slip away and have a wonderful evening (a 22 wonderful evening, because Archer inspires them and Sil guides them [Pierre: oh my god, these are my friends, why. Uthgar: Apparently there’s no kind of dibs situation soooooo.]).

We spend all the next day with the weretigers (since we are waiting until the time when the apostates will be occupied with their Superstitious Thing)

Pierre finds out more about Gen. Fionn tells him that Gen left for a while and just came back – he never formally gave up his champion status, so the status quo of champions is a little up in the air now that he’s back – it’s a bit of a pickle, but they’re gonna sort it out.

Pierre has some private training with Kerrek. (Part of it includes Kerrek jumping up into a tree to see if Pierre can follow. Pierre pounces up onto the branch. They discuss his movement, etc, then Kerrek jumps down and walks off, leaving Pierre up the tree. Pierre gets down by just throwing himself off the branch, like the weretigers all do, except unlike them Pierre still gets to take falling damage).

Smythe and Linna have a side conversation at some point.

We leave the weretigers the next morning, sneaking along because we want to avoid encounters given the babies we have along.

We spot a purple, slightly bulbous humanoid figure with a long glaive. It’s wrapped in a thin, sealed suit and looking at a thin sheet of material, also in a sealed wrapping. “Is it here? Is it here? Where is it, where is it, where is it? Oh, yes, clean, yes, ugh this is filthy.”

We watch it for a while more. “It fell, where did it fall, oh hang on, oh yes, alright.” It finds a marble slab embedded in the ground and starts gingerly cleaning it off, pours some liquid over it, muttering to itself about cleaning it and about the filthy dirt.

Everyone except Val steps forward out of hiding.

Waterflow: “Hello! We are from the adventurer’s guild! My compatriots would like to talk to you.”

Archer starts chatting it up, but it mostly just seems freaked and suspicious, still clutching its glaive and muttering about filth.

Linna says that she has cleaning magic and casts prestidigitation. It asks her how often she can do that – she says only a few times a day and it starts saying “Liar, you’re withholding it CLEAN ME! CLEAN ME NOW and I might forgive you.”

She casts prestidigitation all over its suit, and it hovers a little off the ground so she can clean the soles of its shoes. We assume that it’s one of the Cloud People, but maybe a different sort of cloud person than the jerks we met before. It asks us to help level the marble out of the ground – it says that it flew down here to retrieve the cache, which had fallen, and it says it’s alone. Pierre and Archer get to work uncovering it. Sil watches the cloud guy and Linna keeps an eye out for anything else approaching.

As soon as we fully uncover it, the cloud guy says, “Thank you” and goes invisible. Then we all make con saves from a sudden blast of cold (except Val, who is still hiding in the woods). Waterflow drops (temp: -5 cha). It reappears and is flying above us and has shifted back into its giant form. (So it is, in fact, exactly the same jerks we met before.)

Linna prestidigitates to make the inside of its faceplate dirty and it is extremely revolted.

(Shona takes a very long time trying to figure out how to fight a flying creature “…because bears can’t fly…but it’s flying…how can I reach it? Should I just longbow?…if only bears could fly…” before remembering WAIT I HAVE SPELLS I’m really good at playing d&d u guise).

Waterflow uses the mace of terror and Sil moonbeams it. Archer uses vicious mockery (“You’re gonna get diiiiirty tonight, I love eating worms and eating bugs”) and then inspires Sil (by keeping up her song, but focussing it at Sil: “He’s gonna get diiiirty tonight”)

It starts to fly away because of the mace, then shakes off the fear after getting 60’ up. We also see that its skin is knitting back together. The rogues do their ridiculous damage and we eventually kill it. Moonbeam keeps doing steady damage to keep it down while we perma kill it with fire. We investigate the marble slab, which is incredibly valuable marble and contains 2 books and a suit of chainmail armour. We bury it to dig up later, because it’s too heavy to lug around.

We head down towards the apostate mine. We come to a very small lake (/ large pond) with an island on it and a building occupying most of the west side of it. There’s an oily greenish blackish tinge to the water. There are some kind of stone surfaces deeper out in the lake (like ruined building or something) but they are submerged.

A path leads down to the closer shore and another well-used looking path is on the other side. There is about a 20 ft drop down to the lake.

Pierre uses his truesight and sees that there’s a bridge – which looks like it’s made of water. He steps onto it and it ripples a little but is stable. Linna runs across it and pulls a rope behind her, so that we can follow it (since nobody else can see the bridge). We make wis saves to not freak out at the actual feeling of walking across a bridge that no one can see.

On the island, there is a big open stone plaza 25’ by 35’, blocked by a gate and portcullis. We sneak up to it and don’t see any obvious mechanism to open it. Also, it looks like it might be loud if we tried to enter by it.

Pierre’s round of truesight had also shown what looked to be some kind of balcony behind an illusion. Pierre pounces around a few times and weres out, then climbs up the wall to get to the balcony. He tosses a rope down and we climb up. Val listens at the door and hears the quiet breathing of someone asleep. Linna, Val, and Waterflow sneak into the room (lavishly appointed, with a lovely fireplace and an expensive rug – a lovely bedroom with a nice view, and water chimes hanging delicately in a continual flow of water). In the furthest bed, there’s a sleeping apostate scout. Val does 49 damage in one blow and kills it. It has a good shortbow and one small quiver of blue-tipped arrows. We have a short rest so that Sil can regain her wildshape (she spidered up the wall earlier, because her athletics sucks).

We head out and start sneaking through the complex. We spot two robed apostates, one of whom says, “It’s done now, brother.”

We see a huge obsidian statue of a snake-like being with powerful arms, and dozens of snake heads.

Eventually we find a set of stone ladder steps descending into a shaft. We sneak down and come to a set of double doors with a huge rune signifying water on them. We hear a low rush of falling water from the other side.

Linna quietly slides the door open. There is a long room with water falling in pillars in even rows down the middle. There are training dummies, racks of weapons, and marked off sand pits. Two robed apostates (blue striped robes) are sparring in one of them.

There is a stage on the other side of the room with a model of the Oubliette, with a dome of water hovering over it like a shield. Draconic writing on the wall behind it reads “To live unchanging is to slowly die.”

We burst in and attack.

Archer tries to vicious mockery one (“You know what else is made of water? PEE”) but it doesn’t work.
One apostate runs up onto the stage and touches the wall. There’s a shiver and a section of wall flips around (like a hidden door thing) and when it flips back, the apostate is gone. That door also has a water rune on it.
Pierre runs up past the Oubliette model and part of the water-shield breaks away and wraps around him. He is completely coated in a thin sheet of water, which starts drowning him. The other half of the water slinks back and seeps away through a crack in the wall.
Linna stabs the water on Pierre, and damages both it and Pierre.
The water inside Pierre’s lungs does 25 damage and drops him (temp: disadvantage on concentration checks).
Linna says (suggestion): “I’m the one that you want, come get me” and the water ripples, but doesn’t leave Pierre.
Sil produce flames at Pierre, which damages both him and the water (which hisses and steams).
Archer uses thunderwave and knocks the water off Pierre. Waterflow runs over and feeds him a potion.

The door opens with a clunk and two scouts enter.

Val investigates the wall and accidentally flips around to the other side. They see the other water creature (which swipes at them but they make their save) and an apostate in solid blue robes (i.e., the kind Sshelly said could kick our collective ass).

The wall flips back, bringing Val and Blue Robe into the training room with us. She sees Linna and makes a gesture – water wraps around Linna and yanks her over, then Blue Robe knocks her out with a punch, and also stuns Val. She asks for us to end the battle (we immediately do). She tells us to tie up Linna before we heal her, which we do. As she waits for us to finish tying Linna up, she casually walks up the side of one of the waterfall-pillars, just to amuse herself.

When Linna is bound and conscious, Blue Robe asked how we knew to come here, to which we reply that we were hired. She gets us to put all of our weapons and magic items in a pile, and picks out Linna’s gun. “I know what this is…what’s your name?” Linna tells her and she remarks about the ‘house of Aa’. She asks if Asheltkov is her father or if he’s moved on to grandchildren by now.

She introduces herself as the Flowing One.

FO: “Why did you attack us?”
L: “Your kind have attacked us without provocation.”
FO: “How many children roam the oubliette?”
L: (visibly extremely upset) “Not enough.”

Val offers that if she takes us as hostages, our guild will pay our ransom. They also say if she just wants to kill us, maybe consider only killing the more powerful people and letting the new ones (Archer and Waterflow) live, since they don’t know anything about the jungle and aren’t really involved. Val also offers that we could switch to being her mercenaries, if that would keep us alive.

FO says that she needs to exact revenge for the deaths of the monk we just killed (and the scout that we admitted to killing upstairs). She sends a whip of water around Val and drags them over to the scouts (who are waiting next to her and looking very angry). She says, “shake hands,” Val does, and then she says that it’s over (the scouts don’t look convinced but they’re not going to argue with her).

FO tries to talk to Linna about how the Oubliette needs to change to be healthy and live – but Linna can’t get over her Warden-ness to really listen to or accept any of that.

The FO offers Waterflow a ‘vision’ and she accepts without hesitation.

The scouts grab Linna and they escort us all into another room (which is damp and warm). There is a huge statue of a bunch of armoured figures (cobra helm with a mace and shield, constrictor helm with a greatsword, viper helm with a spear and shield, mamba helm with a bow and a sash around its body).

There is a pool with glowing blue water. FO tells Waterflow that once she is in the pool, she will stop breathing but should embrace it and let it take over.

Waterflow enters the pool and feels the water seeping into her, sees herself home to this vast ocean that expands far beyond her, she has a moment of complete self-awareness. There is something about the water that isn’t what it used to be and she has the chance to embrace it or not, and chooses not to. When she comes out, the whites of her eyes are pale blue and she is (temporarily) blind, and has learned some of the Changing Way (gains an extra ki point with every two levels, immediately gains the projectile catching monk thing and gets advantage when she would normally gain that later, gains a point of ki back on a crit or a kill, on a DC 12 wis check can walk on water).

She says, “Now, you mentioned business” and brings the party into a separate room (except for Linna, who remains tied up outside with the two scouts, who insult and provoke her but don’t actually hurt her).

(FO: (while asking us about what we’d be willing to do for her) Would you be willing to kill Asheltkov?
Pierre: Yes!
FO:…CAN you actually kill Asheltkov?
Pierre:…No!)

FO: “We are trying to change the Oubliette, better it…their ways are set in the past, life is change…We need to change the Oubliette, but it must never fall…We would still call ourselves Wardens, what do you call us?”
Sil: Apostates. That’s what they call you. What do you want us to call you?
Archer: “We can call you whatever you want so long as we don’t call you late for dinner!”
FO: (visibly upset at the answer, but amused by Archer) says that she understands that we need to call them Apostates to Sshelly and co, but asks that we call them Innovators among ourselves.
FO: “There is another place…it is not appropriate that I go there…It is not sacred to me but it is sacred nonetheless, explore it and you will find what you find…It is a place high in the mountains where the cold never lessens and the rain never stops…Oh, yes, the rain hurts you, of course…(she pulls of a bead and hands it to us) Break this and you will be able to control water as I do, long enough to explore safely.”
We ask what she wants. She says that she wants us to bring her any religious artifacts that we find, but we can keep anything else. She draws a picture of a scroll and tells us that it is very important. She doesn’t know for 100% sure that it’s there, but very strongly believes that it is.

We don’t actually promise to do it, but imply that we might at some point.

She asks what exactly we were hired to do here. Waterflow kenku-recites Sshelly’s voice giving us the instructions. When she hears his voice, FO is immediately enraged. A bright blue frill/hood flares out around her head and she summons a wave of force and punches it at the ceiling in rage.

She gives us a small bag of monk-gems to prove that we were here. Then she takes off her robe and folds it up and hands that to us as well (as a taunt to Sshelly). She suggests that we could tell him that we just found them and stole them (although we ended up straight up telling him that she gave them to us, since we didn’t think Linna would be up for lying about it).

She then ushers us out.

We head back across the water-bridge.

We reach where we had buried the marble chest and retrieve that (Pierre carries it).

We camp for the night.

Linna is visibly very upset with us (and also suffering from a pretty serious wis injury that isn’t doing wonders for her composure). Sil promises that we didn’t actually agree to do anything for her, or to kill or harm any wardens.

(Sil: Would you have preferred us to fight and die?
Linna:…No.)

The next day as we are heading towards Oubliette, we are suddenly hit by a volley of curved arrows.

Archer drops. Waterflow feeds her a potion, and they both stay prone to try to avoid being hit.
Pierre spots apostates in black robes with grey stripes.
Val shoots them and then shouts “Stop shooting – do you know the Flowing One?”
Sil summons wolves, shouts “We’ve talked with the Flowing One. We don’t want to fight – we’ll stop if you stop.” and then turns into a bear.
One apostate pops out and says, disbelievingly – “You do not know a night master.”
Waterflow recites her voice (telling the scouts not to attack us).
The apostates melt back into the shadows and we don’t see them again.

We make it back to the Oubliette.

Sshelly notices Linna’s missing gun (the FO had given us back all of our items, except for that).

Linna accuses him of sending us into a deathtrap.
He is seethingly angry – says that his information was inaccurate, and seems genuinely upset and embarrassed about that.
When he hears there was a solid-coloured robe there, he demands to know what colour the robe was. We say blue and he obviously recognizes her and is furious. Waterflow plays a recording of her voice and he can barely contain himself, claws scratching up the metal cup he is holding.
We give a brief report, and show him the gems and the robe.
He offers to buy the gems (for 400 gp, and then 400 gp and a magical item when we refuse the first offer) but Waterflow wants to keep them and he’s unwilling to haggle too much. He gives us a garnet for the robe.
Upshot: we got a few trinkets and scouted the base a little, but didn’t really succeed. He says his source will be repaired or replaced.

Val receives a heavy pistol from Sshelly, which was the gun they’d tested for earlier.
Sshelly takes Linna inside for a sidebar discussion. When she comes back, she has a replacement gun.

We make it back to the wall without further incident.

Val suggests that Waterflow (who has been nameless up to this point) take on the name “Waterflow”, which she accepts. Sil suggests <waterflow> (pronounced basically ‘FOOOSH’) if she wants a kenku name, which she also accepts.

Back in town, Sil tells Linna everything that went down with the Flowing One except for: a) the actual location of the sacred place that the FO wants us to go to (it’s in the hilly jungle region to the east of the modron portal – about the middle of that half of the mountains, to the south), and b) the fact that she asked us specifically about killing Sshelly.

We tested the blue-tipped arrows and they seemed to have some sort of poison that even Linna wasn’t immune to.

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Expedition 76 -- An Abyssal Rift Located
Mercifully Short, by the Grace of Valkor

January 13th, 2018

[Posted on time, participants get +0.1 HP]

HEROES

CHARACTER CHANGES

  • None, thankfully.

MAP UPDATES

  • New Hex, 4.17, Southern Plains
  • New Hex, 4.18, small NW patch of Southern Plains, mostly Demon Plains
  • New Hex, 5.18, Demon Plains
  • Gate to the Abyss, POI, 5.18
    *Fortress containing spiteful glabrezu, 5.18, mPOI

XP

  • 699 xp/person, including sheet update

GP

  • 85 GP for all civic-minded and upstanding persons who donate to the LMFfAG
  • 99 GP for Amara

LOOT

  • 330 GP of elephant hide and ivory
  • 250 GP of magical unmelting ice (claimed by Sovan)

LOG

Preparations:
[Regis agreed to let LJ take him shopping before this expedition, so he is looking fiiiiine]

Jean-Pierre’s 35 religion check revealed that demons are susceptible to being controlled or weakened by use of their truenames. Demonic Abyssal is kind of like German in that it’s built up of compound words. If you know something about how a demon behaves, you can guess a portion of its truename. For example, if it swallows things whole, gluttony is often a part of its truename. We can make Charisma or Intelligence based Religion checks in combat to try to guess/use portions of truenames against them. This is done as part of the action, risk of backlash if you mess it up.

We lay in 4.4 gp of waterskins, rounded up to 5 to buy the waterskin stitcher something nice. (42 waterskins, good for 6 adventurers for a week, which weigh 210 pounds when filled)

Log 76

Day 1:
Today at long last we turn our attention to the grave evils of the Southern Plains. We have assembled a mighty, holy company for this purpose: our mightiest and third mightiest cleric, our two best paladins, our premier monk, and Amara Invictus, who wanted to come along for some reason. This powerful combination of 4 gods, 1 honest faith, and Amara is sure to triumph.

After an uneventful journey through hexes 3.14, 3.15, and 4.16, we spend the night in the Western Abyssal Guard fort.

Day 2:
Some of the Western Abyssal Guard (our dear friends) come with us to talk to the Eastern Abyssal Guard (powerful, but displeasingly standoffish).

Three big burly Eastern Abyssal Guard and a shaman exit their fort and come to treat with us, apprehensively, but willing to talk since we are accompanied by the Western Abyssal Guard.

“But you can’t kill demons.”
LJ’s channels Shiranna might through her sword.
“Sure, but you can’t KILL them.”
“We’re trying to close the portal.”
“Do you know how to use the portal?”
“We have a friend that can teach us.” (Silesse knows a ritual that she can teach us that can be cast at 4th or 5th)
“We closed the portal once, or at least sort of shut it.”
“How did you do that?”
“We don’t know, the people who did it died.”
“We’ve closed smaller portals before.”
“Maybe you can teach us?”
“We need to find the portal first.”
The Shaman uncorks a little vial and walks towards Lee-Jean. She decides not to dodge. She splashes it on Lee-Jean’s face. It smells weird and burns a little. The Shaman does a gesture and the demon ichor flies off Lee-Jean’s face and back into the bottle. She examines it curiously. “You’re not a demon.”
“No, shit.” Shiranna evidently has different strictures on the use of foul language.
“Since you’re not a demon I’d better tell you some things about how to move around up there. Maybe you’ll survive longer.”
“There’s a mountain up there. You can kind of see it from here but not really. It’s shallow but wide. Maybe 5-6 miles from end to end. There are some caves in it that the demons rarely go in. There are also a bunch of rifts (where the ground’s been torn apart) and sometimes in those rifts there are passages that you can take from place to place. There are fewer demons underground. The portal is in, about 4-6 miles north of the water and 10-15 miles east of western coast.”
“There’s a tunnel on the east end of the mountain.
“And there’s a tunnel that goes from a chasm on the west, barely in from the edge of the cliff underneath one of the towers to one of the other ravines.”
“Towers?”
“There are three towers (one smashed) and a bunch of ruined fortresses up there. The two remaining towers are flanking the portal 6-8 miles off.”
“Oh, one last thing. The demons are stronger up there, and smarter. The strongest ones stay up there, as do the smart ones. The ones that come down here are pretty dumb.”
They also confirm that demons take at least two weeks, often 1-2 months to recoalesce.
They give us two pairs of activateable silver shackles, which we can activate using a rite (action) that they teach us. The demons are more likely to fail the save the weaker (more wounded) they are.

They also tell us about the dangers we may face. Glabrezu are among the scariest demons. The Eastern Abyssal Guard trapped a Glabrezu in a magic circle that one time. They have interesting, strange capabilities, over and above the Western Abyssal Guard. If we want to talk to them in the future, how would we convince them that we’re not demons? The Eastern Abyssal Guard say in general they won’t attack us if we’re fighting demons.

After this conversation we take a brief moment to re-iterate for Lee-Jean standing Guild policy on things that are trapped in towers, then we turn to Amara to get her to find a ‘fold in space,’ also called a ‘portal’ or ‘rift.’ We enter the portal in 5.16 and come out in 4.18, at the base of the cliff. That wasn’t particularly useful, although I guess we got some new hex gold. Also, the rift effect is ripping rocks off and threatening to tip them down on our heads, so we beat a judicious retreat northward.

In 4.17 (also a new hex, since the guild has been very prudent about avoiding demons since we realized the gradient of danger sloped up so steeply as one proceeded south), Amara searches for another ‘magic space tunnel.’ Honestly, this mage lingo is very hard to keep track of.

Amara does a much better job this time. In a short trip through a blinding white space, we emerge…somewhere on the top of the plateau. We’re pretty sure we somewhere in 05.18, based on the position of the mountain and the sea. Downside, there’s a large demon.

While most of the party is slightly off-balance by their trip through the blinding place, I charge into battle without hesitation, my longsword in my hand. Faster even than my honed combat instinct, Brother Regis blurs past me into the fray. Brother Regis cuts it with his silver shortsword then misses with a pair of unarmed blows. The massive four-armed beast (Glabrezu, as JP later informs me) snorts and its wound closes, then it slashes Regis twice with its pincers and it waves a hand and utters a harsh string of Abyssal syllables.

This targeted spell afflicts the party’s two paladins, binding our oaths against us in an unholy perversion of the sacred words. I am compelled to move 30’ away from the demon, while Lee-Jean manages to temporarily act normally, smiting the demon. Her radiant power does great damage, her silver rapier does some limited damage, and the flame from her blessing of the Flame Prince bounces off its thick hide ineffectually. JP summons a heavenly chorus of chanting dwarven ancestors (Ho-ho-ho-ho-ho) and assails it with his spiritual hammer. Martin Van Horne calls on the power of Elyra, goddess of platonic friendship to bless Lee-Jean, myself, and JP, and then heals Brother Regis.

Amara sends her quartet of skeletons to restrain me from being compelled to move further away. In my confused state, I shrug off the first two but the second pair manage to get a hold on me.

Brother Regis drinks a potion and dodges. The demon walks menacingly towards Amara, realizes it’ll come up short, misses twice attacking Regis, and then waves a hand and a 20’ radius of darkness descends. I overcome the churning bind of magic, call to Amara to have her skeletons release me, charge the demon (reaching it because it moved towards me before casting the darkness), and smite it twice despite darkness with my silver longsword. Lee-Jean also powers through the magic, smiting once even in the darkness, and the magic afflicting the paladins falls away.

JP wades into the darkness, and then the darkness falls. When it clears, the demon is dissolving into ooze. The powers of light have overcome this foe, for now. [CR9 demon, but maybe a weaker example of its kind, we only get 1/8 xp because it’s not permanently dead]

Now that the combat is over and we have time to look around our surroundings, we see a wall of fire a few hundred feet long a mile and a half to the NE.

We make our way over to this massive wall of fire. The land is sparse, blackened, and blasted. There’s a mountain to the north of us, and a fissure in the ground to the south of us, and otherwise the land is blasted and destroyed. Every so often we come to a pile of rubble where recognizable bits of masonry. Good thing we brought sufficient food and water for a week, because we are unlikely to find anything to eat or drink in this blasted terrain.

As we approach the fire, we hear a low chittering and a trio of bounding buglike creatures slightly smaller than people bound through the flame, making long 40’ leaps at a time. We are 150’ away from them.

Lee-Jean calls on Shiranna to fill her rapier with holy power. Brother Regis moves forward and dodges. The trio bounds forward 40’, spaced 30’ apart. One raises its hands in the air, and lets loose a horrifying shriek, calling an acidic cloud up from the twisted evil earth at our feet. Martin breathes it in, choking and taking a moderate amount of poison damage (large for Amara), but calls on the blinding guiding bolt of Elyra, criticalling the caster of the cloud and dissipating it with the sheer force of his holy power. Amara takes a moment to contemplate how much of her magic is fire based (why is she here with us?), arranges her skeletons in a defensive pattern in front of her and begins to slowly deploy her thug mushroom familiar ‘Buttons.’

I call on Valkor to bless my blade, and advance. Behind me, JP blesses LJ, myself, and himself. Lee-Jean and Regis move forward, warily. The trio converges on LJ, one bringing down a wave of darkness with its spread hands, and the other two rending into Lee-Jean when she couldn’t see them.

Surrounded by such holy comrades, Amara experiences the first true miracle of the expedition, having Buttons light up, piercing the darkness. [Light cantrip cast as a 3rd level spell slot…normally not allowed. As we’ll see, won’t happen again this expedition.]

JP manages to fell the one we’ve been focusing [CR5, based on Amara’s hp harvesting]. Lee-Jean manages to smite another, then Brother Regis fails to grapple one as the two extra upward protruding arms snap into place to block him. It counter grapples him. The other calls up that horrible poisonous gas. Martin takes more damage from it and misses with a Guiding Bolt. Amara’s familiar Buttons succumbs to the gas, vanishing after sending up a puff of distress spores. Amara’s quartet of skeletons slash and claw, not totally ineffectually. I smite the summoner of the cloud, who manages to maintain concentration and evade my follow-up attack. They are surprisingly tough and nimble [AC18]. Despite resisting the cloud somewhat, it still slammed my mortal form [13 damage on a successful save]. JP and Lee-Jean manage to fell the (second) cloud-caster. The one grappling Regis remains. Regis considers trying to escape the grapple. “Try winning the grapple!” I ejaculate. “Very Melora advice,” Jean-Pierre comments. He does not in fact win the grapple.

The horrible small creature escapes, bounding away from Brother Regis’s attacks, and drops the poisonous cloud on us again. Martin steps out of the cloud and readies a guiding bolt. Amara attempts to invoke the creature’s true name with “Blighty Nasty Insect Hoppy Boy” (Martin gave her the appropriate words in Abyssal to invoke), and is, amazingly, somewhat successful. She shakes the creature’s control of its poison cloud (but it doesn’t fade). She also whoops about ‘not taking damage’ or something. Not sure why she’s concerned about that. She’s so far away. [Backlash damage is a possibility on truename invocations].

I charge to the last demon, closing with it with my glowing longsword at the ready. Jean-Pierre smites it with a mighty third level guiding bolt, but its fell form earths much of the holy power [10 radiant damage on 6d6…].

LJ closes and strikes it, Brother Regis closes and fails to grapple, then it casts darkness and hops away. Martin tells Amara where it is, and Amara attempting to invoke its truename does nothing (if that’s what she was trying to do). I manage to leap across the terrain, Valkor’s grace lending speed to my steps, and bring down a righteous smite upon its head. It dissolves into ichor.

We then withdraw a judicious distance to prevail on our own natural constitutions to bind our wounds and resharpen our blades since Martin, Lee-Jean, myself, and . In absence of any real cover, we sit around a rock. During that hour, we are approached by a scantily clad human female holding her hands up in a peaceful placating gesture. Jean-Pierre marks a line in the blasted sand about 30 feet around from us and says “Do not pass this.” “Ok,” she says, scuffing a toe over the line then subsiding. “What are you doing here?” “Sightseeeing.” “She’s a demon,” I confirm. “Gasp! A demon? Here?” She looks around theatrically. “Yes I am.”
“I saw you in action, and I think that we may be able to help eachother. I have some demon problems, actually. In fact, I’ll give you the first one for free. There’s a powerful glabrezu around here. I’d watch out for that one. He’s surprisingly spiteful.” This is a hint about his truename.
“My spiteful friend has taken over one of the small fortresses there and has a small number of demons, say half a dozen with them.”
“What should we call you if we meet again? Badly Dressed Naked Lady doesn’t get you very far,” JP asks flatly.
“Let’s go with that.” She leaves, swaying her hips at JP specifically.

Later in that same hour, Martin hears a creature walking near us. I pinpoint its location using my Divine Sense (moderately powerful demon, quite nearby, casting a spell), Lee-Jean outlines it in faerie fire, and Martin, Regis, Amara, and JP unleash a flurry of attacks. We fail to interrupt its spellcasting. It unleashes a torrent of cold on the party, dropping myself (temp -3 Cha), LJ (temp -1 Con), Regis (temp -4 Cha), and Martin (temp disadvantage to endurance checks), almost dropping Amara, and destroying three of Amara’s four skeletons.

Jean-Pierre revives me with TREE! then misses with a guiding bolt, and closes with our adversary, a tall reddish-black demon-ogre like creature. I use all my Lay on Hands healing on Lee-Jean, pouring 25 points of Valkor’s purity into her body, then close with it. “Face me fiend!” “Ok,” it says, leering at my many injuries. But it has evidently never faced a paladin of Valkor, and its claws rake on my armour ineffectually.

Amara rallies her remaining skeleton and … charges into melee?! Something about touch of a vampire. I guess I’ll never understand wizards. Jean-Pierre manages to fell the frostbeast mage, and then we conclude our short rest. [CR7 frostbeast mage]

Half way back to the fire rectangle, we see Badly Dressed Naked Lady in the distance, standing there watching us. Inside the fire walls (there’s a small safe path) is….the Demon Portal. It’s not a physical structure. It’s a gaping wound in the fabric of reality. Bubbling out of it is dark gases and fog and the sensation of being watched.

Praise be to Valkor. Our objective has been achieved, and now it is time to try to get home. The ‘tunnel’ we came in on as a second use, so we could leg it back there to get out, and we start trying to do that. “Why possibly bring Amara? She’s not useful. We should convince Camille to come. Tunnels aren’t useful.” Amara says, repeatedly. She seems confused. Maybe she’s having an episode of some kind?

On our way back the the ‘portal’ (the terms are seriously confusing) a trio of small horned beings lunge out at us from the gnarled terrain. Brother Regis drops one with a mighty punch, and Lee-Jean fells another with a powerful kick (they aren’t very strong). The third one goes “Fuck!” in Common and shapeshifts into a bat and starts to fly away, but succumbs to a javelin of mine and a sacred flame of Martin’s.

We make through back just north of the plateau in 4.17 and start walking north towards the Western Abyssal Guard fort in 4.16. Three minielephants start charging us. A fireball failed to dissuade them. And a volley of ranged attacks did minimal damage. JP, Martin, Amara’s last skeleton, and myself form a defensive line. The skeleton is smashed to smithereens, but otherwise our heavy armour protects us from their charge and they pass.

We drop one with ranged attacks, and Lee-Jean charges after the remaining two. One dies to ranged attacks after turning back towards Lee-Jean, but the other turns to gore Lee-Jean, but is Shielded from afar by Jean-Pierre. We collect 330 gp worth of elephant hide and ivory. Amara then animates one of the corpses to help us drag all three corpses to the Abyssal Guard.

We arrive at Western Abyssal Guard with three fresh elephants worth of meat. Amara is riding the skinned zombie elephant, so even with an impromptu saddle she’s COVERED in blood by this point. They are skeptical, but we manage to get a party going with all the elephant meat as food and “We found the Gate!” as a reason to celebrate. We find out, surprisingly, that the Abyssal Guard are quite competent dancers, and that wild parties are apparently how they cut loose. At the party, at some point some of the elite warriors are doing demon ichor shots, and LJ, Amara, and JP?! take one. Two of the AG who took it well seem to have it like a combat drug, speeding up and getting into an epic brawl. It burns in LJ’s stomach the entire night, but does nothing. Amara feels irritable and like she wants to fight someone but manages to keep it under control. JP manages to suppress the urge to strike back when an AG bashes into him in a friendly fashion, but does nothing otherwise.

Martin’s faith is shaken on seeing such holy people act in such a fashion. We held each other comfortingly for a while, as our gods would do.

Day 3:
On the way home, we visit the Frostbitten on orders from Sovan, and Lee-Jean tells them the story of us visiting the Demon Plains and finding the gate. They have a story about a demon visiting here that they repeatedly killed (it didn’t have fire attacks) until it gave up and stopped coming. They are suitably impressed because their demon was really tough. They give us 250 gp worth of that unmelting ice (the prior week’s expedition laid the groundwork for us).

Nothing interesting is happening in the Fela Wood post-failed revolution.

We make it back to the Wall, triumphant and unscarred.

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Expedition 75: Fela Civil War (or, The Adventures of our Good Good Party Messiah)

January 7, 2018

[Posted on time, participants get 0.1 HP]

map

CHARACTERS

Valerian, rogue 4, mostly-log writer, red-carpet-pelvic-thruster
Jean-Lee, cleric 4, messiah and Magical Girl who’s actually a good good boy
Sovan Dareshin, bard 6, occasionally-tusked friend
Lucens Princeps, warlock 4, cool under fire
Brier Demanscus, paladin 2/sorcerer 2, bureaucrat extraordinaire
Hadley Jones, fighter 2, cave-shimmyer
Ayden Meyers, sorcerer 2, brains and beauty

PERMANENT CHARACTER CHANGES

  • Jean-Lee gains the following blessings from Miaar (+4 Corruption for Corrupted delivery method – and see his character page for full details):
  1. Everything of Light – Jean-Lee is a good good glowing boy
  2. Light Reservoir – 31 light points, refillable at the temple to Miaar in the underground Grey Hills
  3. Arms of Searing Bright – can use 4 light points to add d8 radiant damage to a hit
  4. Miaar’s Steadfastness – memory is immune to tampering and advantage on memory checks
  5. Bask in My Radiance – Switch Wis and Cha, + 2 to Cha, Cha is now his casting stat
  6. Light is My Domain – Gain the Light domain (so he has 2 domains now)
  7. March it like a Runway – + 5’ move, can use a light point to negate difficult terrain for himself and following allies if following allies strut like they’re fiiiiiiiiine bitches
  8. Divine Mission – must build a 50 crafting point temple to Miaar, cannot take other downtime activities until it is complete
  • Val levels to 5 (+SA die, + 2 Weapon Specializations) and gets some cool Fela-draught powers (TBD).
  • Hadley levels to 3 and gets some cool Fela-draught powers ( +11 HP, expertise in stealth, Advantage on all checks relating to spiders, double points for taming spiders, and proficiency to riding tamed spiders, Permanent +1 to the skill or weapon attack of your choice, +2 Corruption, Their arms got a bit thinner and more wiry and they got patches of spider hair mostly mixed in with their existing body hair, +2 corruption)!
  • Ayden levels to 3 and gets some cool eye-magical-mist powers! ( +1 Int, +1 Cha, +60ft darkvision range, gain 60 ft telepathy, and gain a 1/expedition 30’ cone mind blast power)
  • Brier levels to 5 (Paladin 2, Sorc 3)! (and declined to get his eyes back)

Loot

  • We get 1641 XP with timely update
  • Everyone but Lucens (+51 GP) and Hadley (-188 GP) earns 651 GP.
  • Other Loot:
Jewelled Lurker Clubs – 300 GP Tunnel Maze Gems – 900 GP Strange Moss (Magic Crafting, Divination) – 300 GP, claimed by Tabitha Horn of Blasting (see DMG) – 2400 GP (magical, 1/2 xp), claimed by Camille

Log Proper

DAY ONE

Let it be known that I am EXTREMELY EXCITED at the prospect of venturing forth, for the first time in quite a while, with such wonderful friends: Sovan, Hadley, Ayden, Jean-Lee, Brier, and Lucens. We are venturing underwater, in fact! In a yellow submarine! Would that we all lived within said submarine.

At the edge of the Felar Wood, we are greeted by a few Fela, who link arms with Jean-Lee and dance round in a circle. Suddenly Jean-Lee flies into the air, his armour spins around him, and completes the most wondrous transformation – within a beam of light – afterward walking down from the glowing halo, having retained his sunglasses the whole time (Magical Girl Transformation – CHA and WIS just switched to make Jean-Lee the BEST BEST PARTY PRIEST).

He looks over his sunglasses and proclaims, ”Behb."

Lucens elaborates: "’Behb’ contains all you know and all you need to know. When Behb rings in your hearts, you are truly enlightened.”

The Fela cry, “The Chosen’s blood shall run like rivers this day!”

“Ok, hear me out, what if the Lurkers’ blood runs like rivers?”

Jean-Lee uses his extremely convincing aura to convince the the Fela that our killing the Lurkers will be an excellent plan.

Sovan convinces fourteen of the Fela to stay home and pray for our success. Lucens also adds that they must write “Jean-Lee will totally win this thing” 14,000 times. Jean-Lee organizes outfits, catering, and light-flickering for a most worshipful “rager”.

A few of the Frostbitten also show up, and Sovan finally gives them their goddamn instruments.

We introduce ourselves to the rest: Cloak, Balm, Shadow, Shield, Sword, and Helm, who shall accompany us and fight alongside us. I take to my companion, Shadow, a fellow rogue, quite nicely. My usual pickup lines come out somewhat awkwardly, unfortunately (6 CHA).

With our new companions and our 300 pounds of mediocre-quality meat, we set off, Sovan keeping me company at the back.

We approach the lurker crevices and send Dorkins, as a spider, to reconnoitre down one of them. He promptly sees three lurkers and then gets eaten. Lucens decides to resummon him before we go down.

Brier and Jean-Lee charge up to the edge of the crevice. Brier sees three lurkers and a connecting cave system to the other three crevices. “They’re all connected!” he shouts before the three lurkers begin to swing their clubs from within the crevice. All three miss, and Brier and Jean-Lee kill one lurker and injure another. Brier’s Fela partner helps to kill the remaining two.

Sovan and Ayden run close to the next crevice – Brier tells us there are four more lurkers behind the two nearest crevices. The ones near Sovan apparently withdraw.

With Lucens, I run close to the other crevice, readying my shortbow while Shadow readies their crossbow. The ones near us also withdraw, Brier says.

Brier and Jean-Lee jump down their crevice. Brier elbows Jean-Lee as they jump, avoiding a pit trap. A quartet of lurkers attack them, including a stealth lurker and a berserker.

Hadley goes right up to the edge, while Shield jumps in and prepares to shield should it be required.

Over by Sovan and Ayden’s crevice, they run in and Helm falls down a ten-foot pit trap, getting impaled by javelins. They go further down the tunnels, Sovan readying a Shatter if something shows up and Cloak readying a Firebolt. After brief discussion, Lucens and I do the same.

Brier and Jean-Lee continue bravely battling their lurker foes, killing a couple more lurkers (“behb… also please heal me” from Jean-Lee) as snarls begin to sound from below. Hadley jumps in and feeds Jean-Lee a potion while hiding behind him. Sovan comes up from behind, through their tunnel, and Shatters the last lurkers in melee – Ayden feeds Holm a potion.

Luke and I, and our Fela friends, go further down the tunnel and see two lurker-berserkers running off. Brier’s team dispatches the rest of their lurkers and continues down, accompanied by Hadley. Sovan and Ayden follow the lurkers. Shadow and I dash ahead, trying to get off a shot, but Shadow falls down a pit trap and I manage to shoot one lurker (6 damage).

Balm stops at the pit to help Shadow out as the two berserkers continue running.

Jean-Lee lifts one foot, spins in a perfect circle, and puts it down with Purpose and Flair. A runway opens up behind him as he struts down the difficult terrain of the tunnel with ease, the rest of us following (“like a string of strutting ducklings” – Shona). After a while, the lurker-berserkers turn for one valiant last stand – which does not last long – before we slaughter them.

We continue down our fabulous runway. Suddenly, the edge of Brier’s blindsight pings several more lurkers, and he throws out his hands to try to stop us from advancing into their blindsight. He is too slow, however, and a small cavern full of at least 9 lurkers detects us.

Sovan “drops a Fireball on these jerks”, with the stench of rotting blood and screaming responding. Another Fireball kills all but two lurkers in the cavern, with Helm and Cloak killing one more. Lucens hexes the last one and Shadow and I both kill it. (All together we have slain 5 lurker-berserkers, 2 stealth lurkers, and 17 regular lurkers. Jean-Lee proclaims a hearty “BEEEEEEEEHB”.)

Jean-Lee blocks off the cavern entrances with light walls while I make a rather disappointing dose of tea (disadvantage on my next initiative roll).

Jean-Lee then conjures another light runway and we continue strutting deeper into the tunnels. The walls of the next chamber are coated in a strange black ooze, and the lurkers have stamped out a dirt pathway through the ooze. Jean-Lee advises us that “caves sometimes have stuff in them, it’s probably fine”. We toss a piece of ration into the ooze and it starts bubbling and sinks in. It is likely acid.

We continue on our fabulous runway, undaunted by ooze, acid, or other terrors. Two pseudopod arms reach up out of the ooze toward me and assault me (22 damage). I gabble down a gourd potion and strut-sprint for my life, followed by the rest of our party. We turn and kill two of the pseudopods, while others ooze into the cracks in the walls.

We now face several branches of tunnels. Lucens sends Dorkins down a side tunnel invisibly while we continue down the main tunnel. Brier detects, in the next area of our tunnel, that there have been small bits of meat placed strategically under drips of water in order to affect their rotting process. There is also a lurker creche with several lurker babies and two minders. (The babies are playing adorably with their toys, while one of the minders is teaching them the alphabet. This last is something only Brier knows, and does not share with the group. Thankfully.)

We slaughter them. (Sovan has some qualms. Lucens seeks to dispel them by persuading Sovan to “childproof” the tunnels so as to not endanger the eventual settlement.)

One lurker-berserker, still unarmed, tries to scoop up three babies and fly away. We kill it and its progeny. (Shona: “What CR are the babies? Babies are covered in germs. We could’ve caught something.”)

We block off the northeast entrance with a light wall and continue.

We then come upon another cavern looking like a sporting arena, (with more baby lurkers swinging little clubs and hitting balls while adult lurkers cheer them on – only Brier notices this). We decide to sack the Little League game.

Hadley shoots at a berserker with military-style decorations (who looks to be playing with his child in a manner that indicates that they have not had quality interaction for some time – again only a Brier piece of knowledge). Lucens, Shadow, and Ayden follow suit while my shot goes wide, killing him.

A berserker and five adults run down one tunnel while two more adults run down the other, along with some offspring. Shadow and I go after the two lurkers, who land attacks on us, but nothing too severe. Shadow misses themself with a crossbow. I shoot one lurker, who misses back at me, and we dispatch the two adults with alacrity.

Meanwhile, Dorkins encounters a large purple worm, some ways away from us, with burrowing abilities. He stays away from it and then finds some lurkers ritualistically torturing a K’sshan to death. In another cavern, he finds lurkers with javelins – the first javelin-wielding lurkers we have encountered, though we have seen these javelins in their traps before. They are made of an odd kind of wood that we have not previously seen. Dorkins warns Lucens that if we hear a deep rumbling, we may be eaten by one of the purple worms (the worm does seem rather tame and is able to guard the lurkers).

(We realize that these worms may be able to burrow under the tunnels that we shall employ the Qua to create. We will have to exterminate all of them to avoid this. “There are very few problems that cannot be solved by an ever-expanding circle of murder,” says Brier.)

We then come upon a larger chamber, or rather, a complex and large set of crevices that were worn away by the same black ooze we found earlier. They seem to have two ways of creating tunnels: with the burrowing purple worms, and with the acidic ooze. We find a lurker, and Brier attempts to replicate the chittering sounds of the baby lurkers at it, in response to which it begins to make soft chirping sounds as it moves away down the tunnels. Sovan chases it down with Dissonant Whispers, and kills it.

Some of the tunnels reduce down to crawlspace height, so we must all try to “crawl like a runway”. Some of us (i.e. yours truly, who incorporates a truly incredible pelvic-thrust routine) do quite an admirable job. Some of us (i.e. Sovan, who gets too enthusiastic and gets stuck, or Hadley, who tries very hard to make it sensual but ends up going far too slowly) do not.

There are six lurkers (that are performing interpretive dance [Brier only]) that are lurking down this crawlspace-like tunnel. We split up and take care of them; however, two of them manage to scream an alarm before it dies.

We advance. Helm and Jean-Lee get jumped by a pair of stealth lurkers. They kill our brave friend Helm and land a serious hit on Jean-Lee as Shadow and myself sprint to his aid. Shadow gets left behind as I sprint ahead, but the remaining stealth lurker (Jean-Lee kills the other) runs off.

Back at the rest of the party, Hadley and Shield get jumped by a pair of lurkers and a stealth lurker but make it out with Brier and co.’s assistance. (Shield’s shield is named Shield. Shield’s rapier is also named Shield.)

Jean-Lee gets healed by Sovan and we set off after the stealth lurker. We come to a branch in the tunnel and are momentarily stumped until Sovan notices it on the ceiling. We kill it.

We then decide to short rest and loot the tunnels. Now that we have some time to pause, I must admit these artworks are truly impressive. I would love to collaborate with these individuals on an artistic project at some point. Tis a pity I must instead kill them.

Meanwhile, Dorkins has found a room with a local gravity effect which causes some gelatinous cubes to move back and forth across the cave. He then finds a house of a commuter family and burgles it. A mushroot farm comes next, followed by an armoury, then a shrine to a Sasquatch-type creature, then some tentacle-wrapped stalactites, then some more warren-like lurker sites, then finally a dead end.

Back to the artists’ colony that we have ransacked, we are now proceeding northwest. The going begins to get very rough and we bring out Jean-Lee’s runway again until we get to a large open chasm that extends far down into the earth. There used to be a rope bridge across it, but the artists’ collective cut the rope. I shoot Luke’s grappling hook across and Ayden notices a stealth lurker hidden 60 feet up the opposite wall. Luke, Shadow, and I kill it. Luke scrambles across on the grappling rope, brings back the rope ladder, and Brier and Ayden mend it to exceptional quality (30 mending). We leave the bridge up and continue.

(At this juncture, my friend Ayden takes over the log while I sharpen my swords in preparation for the upcoming battles.)

Ayden notes
Dorkens keeps going NW in cave drinks potion.
Massive gusting winds in vertical column. Tunnel in other side.
Walkway crossing over with wind blowing past it.
Dorkens barely makes it across. The wind was very strong.
Going west for a long way. 10-15 min bend going SW
5 other tunnels branching
Picking a random direction.

(My gratitude, Ayden!)

Dorkins encounters some Dorkins-sized elementals and flees northwest into a collection of lurker warrens. He finally finds the end pit as he hears food falling and a gigantic maw begins to munch behind him, before a massive wave of psionic energy washes over him and he is annihilated.

When we get across the cavern, we decide what to do about strategy. If we take Dorkins’ way, which we know leads to the end pit, we will likely encounter a devastating purple worm along with other sasquatch horrors. We decide to put up a three-sided light wall zone to rest while Dorkins is resummoned. As we are pulling up the bridge, however, with some of us advanced into the tunnel, Jean-Lee happens to look up and see 7 stealth lurkers as well as a lurker with eyes and armour (?) which is putting its fingers to its temple and focusing (?).

Sovan catches the big one and two others with a Fireball which significantly injures the two and only lightly singes the big one. Brier can now see them, which means we must have broken the caster’s concentration. However, they look weird and wobbly (he has disadvantage on attacking them).

Hadley gets a couple of savage hits on themself and Luke and I try to come to their defence, landing some hits in return. Shadow tries to help but proceeds to shoot themself in the other foot. Well done, friend. I understand. We all have performance anxiety sometimes.

Still in a significant amount of danger, Hadley disengages and runs back into the tunnel. Jean-Lee unleashes a beautifully radiant attack upon our foes. One dies; the rest are injured but survive. Brier follows it up with a bioweapon that causes two extra arms to burst out of his shoulders. It is disgusting. And somehow strangely erotic. Ah, the power of curiosity.

The eyeless lurker drops to the ground and snaps its fingers at Sovan, who manages to avoid being Dominated. The lurker then comes into the tunnel and stares at myself, Shadow, Cloak, Lucens, Balm, and Ayden. Cloak, Shadow, Lucens, and myself are Stunned. Sovan yells SHOWTIME! But the eyed lurker is unaffected. I finally break out of my paralysis, while Shadow is still caught.

The battle rages on. Hadley uses their Mace of Terror and the eyed lurker merely laughs. Jean-Lee swung and missed at the scary asshole, but restores Hadley with a Healing Word.

(At this point, it pains me to say – quite literally – that I must hand the mantle of log-keeper to my friend Lucens. Friends, never brew your tea with stale elderberries. It, ah, lends some force to one’s intestinal expulsions. Focused as I was on trying to suppress the sounds of my rear and defend our party at the same time, I had to abandon my chronicles. I do humbly apologize, and thank Lucens for his kind assistance.)

Brier touches an orb on Eadgil’s Gauntlet, which flares, Blessing Lucens, Shadow, Valerian and himself. He then runs heroically, dodging an AoO, to use his Commander’s Strike to encourage Val to make a Sneak Attack on the eyed lurker; their arrow strikes true.

The eyed lurker moves farther from Brier, who smites him (missing with their sword) to hit with their spider arms for a smite. It turns, calling him its ‘eye-sire’ and asking if it does not wish to join it; it has his eyes. His old eyes that he lost. They glow with the light of his transformation.

Sovan is assaulted by 2 of the Stealth Lurkers; he casts Shield in response and blocks a blow, although another forces its way through. Sovan Shatters himself to take down one of his attackers, briefly seeming to drop but being restored by his Gem’s Relentless enhancement. He puts himself back up with a healing word.

Ayden and Cloak fire spells; Ayden launches a ray of frost that misses a stealthy lurker, while Cloak kills another stealthy lurker. Then a stealthy lurker assaults Sovan, penetrating a shield for 21 damage and reducing Sovan to a Boar. Another dagger smites the piggy. Balm heals Sovan-pig back up.

Val misses the eye lurker, while Lucens breaks the stun and Shadow fails to. Sovan-pig is dropped which does EXACTLY the damage (11) to knock him back to a barely standing half-elf, Shield saving him from a last blow. Hadley launches the Mace of Terror once more; the eyed lurker runs, along with 3 of its minions. Shield misses.

Brier responds to the suddenly spooked eyed lurker, enjoining Valerian to shoot the eyed lurker, but they miss. JL misses with a Guiding Bolt, but JL and Brier get to AoO it as it runs away. Brier misses with a spider-arm Grapple, JL does 11, it jumps off a cliff.

Brier uses his normal AoO to kill a fleeing stealth lurker. Sovan rushes down and gets to see it (in JL’s Good Good Light Boy shine) but can’t hit it. Ayden runs up and misses with Ray of Frost. Cloak drinks a potion. Val shoots it from the edge of the cliff and kills it for 11. Its eyes pop out of its head and start flying towards Brier(!)

Lucens shoots one of the Stealths on the other side of the chasm. Hadley shoots at it and does 9 damage, while Shield misses. JL hits it for 2 more with his rarely-used longbow, then Val on Brier’s commander’s strike, then it is killed by Sword’s crossbow. The other is quickly dispatched.

The eyes are shot by Hadley and Val – they puff into mist and go to Ayden, who takes +1 INT, +1 CHA, 60’ telepathy and 120’ darkvision range, and a 1/Expedition Mind Blast power (4d8 psychic, int-based DC 30’ cone, no stun). He always knows where Brier is. Does not raise corruption.

We go into a cavern, seal it with Light Walls, resummon Dorkins and take a good good nap.

While we sleep, Dorkins finds two dead ends off the Sasquatch statue cavern with the chasm, then there’s a path leading to the underside of the Fela lake. Also a dead end. No way to the (ostensibly other mind lurker) guarding the bunker. We’re stuck. Massive lurker defenses going up on the other side.

Brier, Lucens and Sovan swim up through the lake. We get to Webtown, and are taken in to the High Commander. Brier, as Ambassador, reports that we smashed the Inner Circle and have scattered their memebership; the Rising Sun is no more. Bluff 25 (w. Guidance and Inspire worth 12) and he seems believed.

The Commander asks if it is safe to let some Rising Sun stay where they are. Brier insights (21) that they are gauging our reaction and may have something on us. Brier advises restraint, saying that he believes they can be rehabilitated, and says that he will pay for their upkeep as prisoners when the Commander balks at paying to feed them. They ask if the ‘false prophet JL’ can be brought to declare the end of the Rebellion in Webtown.

Lucens says he is tired and injured and we can see when he’s better; the Commander says we need to ‘crush the idea’ in the peoples’ hearts. Sovan talks about how we could make him ‘appear to show up’; the Commander seems to know what we mean re: Major Image. Brier has a bad feeling about this – they probably want to kill Jean-Lee.

Sovan returns, a terrifying Major Image appears. They say it’s not bright enough. Brier insights that they insist on killing the real one. Lucens politely infers that any attempt to kill our guild member will lead to fire and fury. They get stuck in a glitch loop over Brier’s inability / failure to read his paperwork. They think he knew JL was a sacrificial lamb. Sovan and Dorkins go to find increasingly excited and clever memos. Think Brier was behind ‘sacrifice’ of 9 people to get us involved; the Rising Sun thought it was a false flag. Confusion!

We take the memos, hidden from Blindsight. Brier keeps up loop, grabs available silks, edge them into Lords of Webtown chamber. Brier natches intelligence to get them in, and Bureaucracies 28 to countermand some of the memos to institute another plan where JL isn’t murdered. Huzzah!

JP and Rae are brought to rescue the crew; JL shoots like a Flying meteor into the sky, the Fala reluctantly take in the Rising Sun, a Major Image of JL makes a lame speech – vogues half-hearted, turns passable at best. “As your messiah, I beg of you, save yourselves, do not continue this foolish fight we have losed, nay already lost, leadership lost, rebellion is over, return home, reintegrate selves into past life, perhaps with rager, forget beautiful dream held far too short a time.” Glasses down, shakes head, tosses gem on ground.” (Persuade 30).

Penned up Rising Sun wailing, rending clothing (spidersilk isn’t going for it). Parcelled up, sent home w. Families, chosen patted on back, all is well. Chosen skeptical but pass us. They also give us a Horn of Blasting.

We get 1641 XP, everyone but Lucens (+51 GP) and Hadley (-188 GP) earns 651 GP.

Rising Sun Inner Circle Status

  • HELM: LE DEAD.
  • SHIELD: Morale 3, AC18, hp 52, Stealth 6, Str 10, Dex 18, Con 16, Int 8, Wis 9, Cha 7, Rapier +6 (1d84), Crossbow 6 (1d84), Reaction: Shield, impose disadvantage on attack on an ally, Reaction (6/exp): impose disadvantage on an attack within 30 feet with a glare of light (not used)
  • BALM: Morale 5 AC 12 (14 if Helped last round) HP 24 Stealth + 2
    STR 7 / DEX 14 / CON 12 / INT 9 / WIS 16 / CHA 11
    Helpful: When taking Help action, Balm gets + 2 AC until end of round.
    ACTIONS
    Staff: + 2, 1d6 + 2

Remaining Light Points: 5
Bathe in the Light: Reaction: target ally just reduced to 0 HP is reduced to 1 HP instead.(3 LP).
Cure Light Wounds (1st Level): 1d8+3 HP, action at touch (1 LP)
Healing Word (1st Level): 1d4+3 HP, bonus action at 60’ (1 LP)
Mass Healing Word (USED): 1d4+3 HP to up to 6 targets, bonus action at 60’ (3 LP)

  • SHADOW: Morale 4 AC 15 HP 22 Stealth + 5
    STR 9 / DEX 17 / CON 14 / INT 11 / WIS 9 / CHA 11
    Rogue-like: SA + 2d6, Bonus action to dash / hide, Reaction to reduce incoming damage by ½
    ACTIONS
    Rapier + 5 to hit, 1d8 + 3 piercing
    Crossbow + 5 to hit, 1d8 + 3 piercing, 80’/320’
    Blinding Escape: Action: Automatically Hide (Stealth 22) as glaring flash of light covers escape (3/expedition, not used.)
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Expedition 74 -- Oracles and Demons

Saturday, January 6, 2018

[Posted on time, participants get 0.1 HP]

CHARACTERS

CHARACTER CHANGES

  • Bugle got an epiphany (advantage to escape grapples from creatures huge or larger).
  • Jasper Perrin levelled to 3 and touched an eyeless rock (+1 dex, lessened colour vision).
  • Camille dlFdPdlLedN touched an eyeless rock (+1 cha, lessened colour vision).

MAP UPDATES

  • Ye Olde Gift Shoppe (5.16)
  • menhir portal (5.16, at intersection with 5.15 and 4.16)
  • spring and purple mushroom patch (5.16)
  • oracle’s nest POI

XP

  • 1119 xp/person, including sheet update

GP (not including items bought)

  • Bugle, Jasper, Silverleaf: 436 gp
  • Aa’li’naa, Pierre: 363 gp
  • LMF: 147 gp

LOOT

  • fela silk, 300 gp (not useful for armour but you can spend 150 gp worth to gain a reroll on a crafting roll). bought by Silverleaf
  • pre-corruption Dark Forest map, 100 gp
  • purple mushrooms, 100 gp (crafting component)
  • peryton horns, 100 gp (crafting component for magical bow), bought by Bugle
  • eyeless rocks, 300 gp x 2, one bought by Jasper, one bought by Camille
  • deer hide, 1 gp
  • gem-encrusted lurker clubs, 880 gp
  • three oracle tickets (1 mangled, 1 next number, 1 forged – the non-forged ones have lost their magic)
  • Old Scaley teeth (megamonitor), 50 gp, bought by Pierre

LOG

Headed to the Dark Forest through the Felar Wood. Some Rising Sun fela stopped us. They thought we’d come to help them. Didn’t listen when we said the people helping would come the next day. Bugle told them we were helping with a secret mission in the forest. [Which Sil translated for him and got a 19 deception, which is literally the best lie she has ever told.] They seemed to believe it but three followed us. Not well [10 stealth]. We lost them. [At first, the party tries simply asking them to leave (Sil: Fuck off. Pierre: Can you just wait, like, a day? Linna failed suggestion: You guys should go now.) They pretend to leave but keep following us ‘stealthily.’ Jasper talks loudly about how the fela are supposed to be planning this huge rager for Jean-Lee and boy, hopefully they have enough alcohol and the decorations had better be great…one of the fela runs off to do that. The other two keep following, but then we stealth away (and are actually good at stealthing) so we get away.]

Then ten chosen rode up. Shock-Commander Zeb of the third Draught talked for them. She demanded our help. Didn’t believe we were doing something unrelated. [One excellent moment – Jasper: What are you actually asking us for? Zeb: Are you important enough to be worth responding to? Jasper: Yes, you should respond. Bugle: <chittering of a spider facing off against a house cat] Bugle told them that Sovan would come tomorrow. [RED EMPEROR. ONE. MAN. ARMY.] Zeb said the chosen would meet them at the Wall tomorrow. Then they fucked off. Pierre Lee Sent home so they could sneak away.

We entered the Dark Forest. Bugle found buried spider silk. We slept in the tree room between the lurker rifts in 6.16. [The party finds the Secret Letter that Hadley left when they were here before (it’s knock-knock jokes in pig-latin). It takes Bugle a Long Time to decode it.] Some fela rode past [“Now is our hour! The time of glory has arrived!”]. Ignored them.

We followed the wooden arrow into 5.16. Snuck past a flock of stirges. Found another arrow in 5.16 and corrected our course. It led to a building called “Ye Olde Gift Shoppe.” The sign was lit by continual flame. The wood was rotted but recently maintained – not repaired well, though. [“Either by someone who didn’t have a hammer and nails or who didn’t have opposable thumbs – it’s hard to tell.”] Inside was an ethereal flying snake, about 10 ft long, and shelves of rusted tourist trash [but it looked like some of the snowglobes might still be functional, so if anyone wanted an Old Empire chachki…].

We knocked. The flying snake shimmered and shifted into a half-elf. He was friendly. He said we should have seen the oracle before coming to the shop. After we get an answer from the oracle we can get souvenirs from the shop. He gave us a map of the Dark Forest before the land folded.

We searched the rest of the forest in 5.16.

Found a group of four menhirs. A beam of stable yellowish light shone between two and faint reddish light flickered between the other two. Sometimes the red light strengthened and overpowered the yellow. Throwing rocks and sticks through the light did nothing.

I conjured wolves. One walked among the stones. It turned and stared directly into the yellow light, then ran into a menhir and disappeared. I told the second wolf to do the same but try to return. It ran into the menhir and couldn’t stop. Pierre Lee used truesight and saw it is a stable magical gateway. We tied a rope around the third wolf. It ran into the menhir. We couldn’t pull it back through but could feel it moving. Then the yellow beam changed direction and the wolves returned. It was around noon. The direction shifts then.

The wolves said there are hunting grounds on the other side. There is a wolf pack with at least one dire wolf. There were some trees but it was mostly rocky terrain with good cover and clear sight lines. There were strange things around but they didn’t have words for them. Sounded like the Grey Hills.

A bit south-east of the menhirs is a spring with clear water. A wolf drank without harm. We took a bottle of water. We detected magic on it the next day, didn’t see anything. There is a patch of glowing purple mushrooms.

Set off a lurker javelin pit but didn’t fall in.

Camped securely that night.

The next day three perytons swooped down at us, then realized they couldn’t see in the dark and bailed. We killed two and took their horns.

Two eyeless attacked us. A fela and a stalker. They were harder to hit than most – very graceful. You can’t hide from eyeless – if you can see them, they can always see you. The stalker eyeless misted away, we got the fela eyeless stone.

In the eastern forest in 5.16, two shadow demons attacked [maybe resistant to physical damage, AC 13-ish. Can hide as BA]. They focussed on Aa’li’naa Aurae and immediately dropped her [three attacks total hit, 13 dmg, 14 dmg, 17 dmg, all psychic: temp -5 cha, unable to speak]. Then they hid. I cast moonbeam but couldn’t find them in the dark. Pierre Lee cast Spirit Guardians. We healed Aa’li’naa Aurae. We waited. They stayed hidden. Bugle located one with a seeking arrow. It was waiting 90 feet away. Aa’li’naa Aurae shot one with her radiant gun and killed it. She cast light on a rock so we wouldn’t be fighting the other in the dark. They can see further in darkness than us. We waited several minutes. It didn’t return then but it found us again the next day.

We finished with 5.16 and spent the rest of the day exploring southwest 6.16. Camped securely over night.

There are two dead light pillars south of the lizard fields. There is another arrow south-east of the pillar near the vampire place. We kept heading east.

We found a lurker hut. The hut is a hemisphere of entwined sticks about 20 ft across. Five berserkers were drumming inside. They do it to provoke stalkers into attacking. We snuck up. I started burning it. The fire caught slowly. I cast moonbeam and turned into a bear. Pierre Lee cast spirit guardians. The lurkers started running inside the hut. Bugle flew after them and mimicked a stalker voice at them. They threw the hut into the air with weirdly good coordination. Spirit guardians didn’t penetrate it or slow them down until they lifted the edge of the hut. It has abjuration and transmutation magic in it. They clubbed Pierre Lee down [temp lose 2 hit dice]. They were going to beat him to death. Bugle swooped in front and took one of the blows. The lurkers would have dropped Bugle but his mushroom gem activated. We killed them.

We took their clubs – covered in gems. The gems are carved to reflect moonlight. They are clearly carved to fit lurkers. They are blind. Don’t know why they’d care about moonlight.

We fought two more eyeless. Ks’shan. One misted away. It tried to carry off the other’s stone, but Pierre Lee stopped it. [His first super cool called-shot moment of the session, STAY PEELED FOR THE OTHER].

Some wobbly plants went past.

We found the oracle. There is a staircase winding up a tree. An elven sign at the base says “All those wishing to speak with the oracle must take a number.” The number dispenser is broken. Another sign said “Now serving 21715.” Bugle wrote down the next number on a piece of paper and we went up the stairs. 100 ft up is a landing. Two hooded figures guard the door forward. Bugle handed them the number. They looked at it and handed it back. Bugle moved closer and got no response but when he tried to open the door, one grabbed at him. Its hand is humanoid and wrapped in bandages. He backed off and it subsided. The other pointed at the side of the tree where a sign used to hang.

Aa’li’naa Aurae put a piece of paper through the dispenser. The machine imprinted it magically but the paper was too thin so it got mangled. Jasper Perrin cut a piece of leather off their gloves. It got legibly imprinted but it skipped a number because of the mangled paper. They tried forging the missing number but the guards didn’t accept it, just pointed where the sign used to be. They also didn’t accept the leather number. Pierre Lee’s truesight showed that the mangled paper and leather numbers were magical and the forgery wasn’t. They tried to change the “now serving” sign to skip a number but it snapped back. Jasper Perrin thinks they could hack it if they spent a week here. We moved on. The numbers stopped being magical after a while – the mangled paper number lasted about 6 days. The leather one’s magic faded exactly 7 days after that. So the counter might be on the right number now.

We heard heavy footsteps and hid. A megamonitor. When it got within 30 ft it lunged at us. It was scarred and battered. Lost its eyes in a fight. Guess it got driven in here and got blindsight. It grabbed Bugle in its mouth and almost knocked him out [41 dmg but he rolled an epiphany on dropping. Advantage to escape grapples from creatures huge or larger which is SUPER CONVENIENT timing considering where he currently is] and swung its tail at Jasper Perrin [14 damage]. Aa’li’naa Aurae shot it. Then Pierre Lee hit its jaw with his spirit hammer [Super difficult called shot but… he gets 31 to hit! It hits]. It let go of Bugle. Pierre Lee also knocked out a few teeth. It ran before we could attack again [and Pierre gets bragging rights forever. The megamonitor moves about 50 ft].

Later the shadow demon found us. We recognized it by its claws. It brought two others. They attacked me before we saw them and knocked me out [temp injury: loss of int save proficiency]. Aa’li’naa Aurae shot one with her radiant gun. They ran and hid but it looked like they were heading for her. Bugle used his seeking arrow to find one and hurt it. Pierre Lee killed it with guiding bolt. I summoned giant owls [because I as a player just realized that wolves don’t have darkvision and therefore should actually never have been summoned in the Dark Forest on previous occasions, ooooops]. One demon broke cover and Aa’li’naa Aurae used her prepared shot. The owls found one and surrounded it. Bugle used another seeking arrow, then Pierre Lee another guiding bolt and Aa’li’naa Aurae another radiant bullet. Eventually we killed them.

The owls spotted a trio of stalkers watching from the canopy. From the competence well. They dislike us but haven’t attacked before unless there’s a freedom stalker with them. We called them over. We told them that we are Jean-Pierre’s friends and that we’d taken out a lurker hut. They asked what we’d done with the stalker skulls. They say that’s what the huts are for and called us idiots or liars when we said we didn’t see any skulls. We said idiots. They were disappointed but not violent. Then they left.

Nothing happened at night.

We headed for Sila. Couldn’t find a tunnel home. We avoided a group of eyeless. Saw a group of blind riding horses. Avoided the Felar Wood. Nothing important on the plains.

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Expedition 73 -- Fior, We Have A Submarine Heist
Could totally pull this again

Friday December 29th, 2017

[Posted on time, participants get 0.1 HP]

CHARACTERS

CHARACTER CHANGES

  • Tabitha Loress levels! She is now a level 5 Wizard (Abjurer). Welcome to the Fireball club!
  • Jean-Lee whose last name is too long and also sucks also levels. He’s now a level 4 Cleric (War). Wonder if that means he’ll be working those sexy arms more.
  • Sovan has permanently lost 1 point of strength to a killer bad frog handshake.

MAP UPDATES

  • Hex 10.18 (new hex!) is dense non-poison hilly jungle with a big central lagoon and others on the coast (occupying ¼ of the hex’s southern border)
  • 9.18 and 11.17 are both hilly jungle
  • MPOI in 10.18, Ruin on a hill
  • 16.20, full POI of a shipwreck with an abjuration barrier inside.
  • Hex 15.18 (new hex!) ultra dense jungle
  • 15.17 and 15.19 also ultra dense jungle
  • 15.18 POI: port city of Copros
  • 15.18 MPOI: lair of the firesnake
  • All of 16.18, 15.16 and 16.17 are (along with 17.17, 17.16, 16.16) shallow reef. Shallow reef is ½ new hex gold for setting foot in it for the first time, as it is definitely explorable.

XP

  • 1475 xp/person, including sheet update

GP (not including items bought)

  • Raevori: 1123 gp, donated to LMF
  • Sovan: 1123 gp, donated to LMF
  • Beth: 1123 gp, donated to LMF
  • Lucens: 1123 gp, donated to LMF
  • JL: 1123 gp, donated to LMF
  • Linna: 1123 gp, donated to LMF
  • Martin: 514 gp, donated to LMF (half share because he stayed in the sub)
  • LMFfAG: 1039 gp 5 sp

LOOT

  • Fire Snake (Salamander) Egg, 200 gp, claimed by Bobert, will hatch on June 1st 2018
  • LUA Full plate, 750 gp, claimed by ?? (Needs crafting done to be wearable)
  • Blackfeather Longbow, 12 gp 5 sp, claimed by ??
  • Fancy Glasses from LUA Congress, 25 gp, claimed by ??
  • Golden Sceptre from LUA Congress, 75 gp, claimed by ??
  • Silk Gloves of Disguise Self 1/day from LUA Congress, 200 gp, claimed by Sovan
  • Reflective Studded Leather with 0 Charges of Shatter, 600 gp, claimed by Aa’li’naa
  • Sacred Venomous Pike (lay on hands 5 points / expedition, any enemy hit must make a DC10 Constitution saving throw or be sickened for one round), 800 gp, claimed by ??
  • Twin Bestial Corroding Wooden Dagger (2 / expedition, can add +2 AC, +1 magic natural weapons, and a further +1 acid damage to a wild shape, and criticals by that wildshape degrade armor on critical hits), 1800 gp, claimed by Silverleaf Moonshadow
  • Agile Rejuvenating Chainmail (max Dex bonus of the armour increased by 1 [to 3], and add +1 hp of healing per healing die spent to heal the wearer [from spells, potions, etc.]), 1000 gp, claimed by ??
  • Focus Draining Longbow of Feather Fall (2 charges remaining) (can take an action to make it a + 1 weapon for a minute on a roll of 13+ , and once per expedition can add +3d6 necrotic damage to an attack, healing the wielder for any extra damage dealt this way), 1300 gp, claimed by <bugle>
  • Pyromaniac’s Tinderbox (ignites or suppresses fires within 5’ as an action), 200 gp, claimed by Bobert

Pre-expedition prep:
The Gem of Impersonation is borrowed from Bugle, lent to Sovan. Raevori lends her black glove of stealth to Jean-Lee.

We do some checks on the submarine, which was recovered in Expedition 33 (Operation Fishfry) and repaired by Jean-Pierre (it is owned by the Leshanna Memorial Fund for Adventurer Greatness. Here are its stats:
100 hull integrity percent (HIP, or inspiration, for simplicity), every 5 HIP lost it springs a leak (which can be sealed with the Mending cantrip), every 10 HIP lost there’s some sort of mechanical malfunction.

The submarine also has 8 torpedoes (irreplaceable as yet, we’d need to research how to make more, and we’d need more starmetal). These torpedoes burrow through big things like ships or large sea animals so they do a big chunk of damage to them (3d6 / round until it goes through), but if it can’t push through a target it doesn’t really damage it. One torpedo can be fired per round, and the attack modifier is Wis-based (must be made by the pilot). No-one as yet has proficiency in firing torpedoes. To successfully fire a torpedo on the pilot’s mark, the person loading and priming the system must make a DC12 Intelligence check. As of right now, we have no mechanisms to Help a torpedo shot action, since seeing outside the submarine isn’t enough since the mechanism is so complicated.

The submarine has a 5’ periscope on top to look around, as well as a small glass observation blister for mages with a small opening that can allow a caster to stick their hands out into the surrounding water to cast a spell (like, for example, lightning bolt, which does full damage underwater in its primary area and half damage in a spreading area around it. If lightning bolt is cast directly away from the submarine through the blister, the submarine takes no damage.

It can travel at 4.5 miles per hour for 16 hours (covering 12 hexes) before it has to be recharged. It is recharged by beaching it and having someone turn a crank for 8 hours.

It also has a stove for cooking food, and 3 cots. The submarine can hold 7 people with 8 hours of air. Piloting the submarine is wisdom-based. No-one yet has proficiency in

We also lay in a pile of familiar components (10), since Beth has a habit of losing her familiar and having to resummon it. Before we leave, Beth and I resummon Nea-X and Aelthrunn as tiny octopi that cling to the outside of the submarine.

We decide to leave the Gourd and the Mace of Terror in town in case another expedition wants to use them.

We also Valkoren the ship “The Beautiful Kraken.”

Day 1:
We submerge The Beautiful Kraken in Sila’s Harbour amidst cheering crowds of dock workers glad to see off an expedition directly from town for once. It is a beautiful day, but that fact quickly becomes irrelevant as we close the hatch and slip into the cool aquamarine depths. Aelthrunn and NeaSix are clinging to the outside of the sub as tiny octopi.

Sailing (swimming? Poodling?) along southward, we confirm with our intrepid pilot Martin van Horne that we are sticking to the coast the whole way. Martin graciously agreed to come along on this expedition to pilot the getaway vehicle, to so speak, for a half share of gold.

Since The Beautiful Kraken can only travel 12 hexes before stopping, on the first day we only travel 3, to the south side of 03.15 to recrank the sub. This will allow us to bypass the thick of the Demon Plains tomorrow.

We stop some minor activity in the hex. There’s one demon wandering around, and another demon flying south carrying a pair of deserters in its claws. It’s a big winged thing that’s fuzzy and hard to perceive. We let it pass by without incident by briefly submerging the sub. Deserters are distantly enough related to our valiant allies the Abyssal Guard that I don’t feel more than a twinge of regret at our practicality.

We then boldly set off into the unknown southward, the strange contraption at the back (pro-puh-lur?) whirring merrily.

In 3.17, the sub hits an underwater squall, and Martin deftly navigates through it with the aid of Jean-Lee help and Sovan’s inspiration (bardic inspiration, not submarine inspiration. Sovan doesn’t provide any additional sturdiness to the submarine. I’ll refer to submarine inspiration as HIP from here on out to avoid confusion). We suspect that water this rough would normally do some damage to the sub, but with a 30, we take no damage. Our baby-faced driver is certainly earning his keep.

In 3.18, we hit another patch of rough water. The submarine loses 1 HIP as it creaks and groans as the water strains its walls slightly. 99 HIP remaining.

In 4.20 we pass a strange shimmering island that winks out of existence as we pass it. We spend all of 5.20, 6.20, and 7.20 debating what it was, and eventually we make tentative plans to revisit it on April 1st.

In 8.20 there is a collection of severe eddies, but with a 29 the sub makes it through with no damage. Note: the coast from 4.20 to 8.20 is the sharp plateau of the Demon Plains, based on our periscope soundings. We only surfaced with extreme caution, as the region is known to be infested with demons.

Hexes 9.19 and 10.19 then also slip by without incident.

Day 2:
Shortly after dawn breaks on day 2, we reach our planned rewinding site in 10.18. Lucens dispatches his trusty imp familiar Dorkins to investigate. There is a series of lagoons in the coast on this hex. The hex is hilly with dense, tropical trees. We have a choice of three secluded lagoons: the first is quite small and a little ways out into the water off a little outcropping of water. The second is large and central to the hex, with ocean caves inside it. The third is up the edge of the hex, and the trees grow right out into the water.

We pick the third, tree-lined lagoon, looking for a place with good cover from the sky. The site is moderately secure, by Martin’s reckoning. We see a very large number of very colourful regular sized frogs swimming around and through the lagoon. Aa’li’naa captures one and examines it. It’s some kind of poisonous, and we think that capturing and collecting them could yield some amount of gp. We plan to maybe scoop some up on the way back, time and energy permitting.

After we’ve been here for 2-3 hours cranking, we are approached by a trio of brightly coloured humanoid frogs carrying primitive spears and axes. Sovan casts comprehend languages. The frogs go “Bllaaahhh” at Sovan. Sovan replies “Blllaaahhh.” They look at Sovan in confusion and repeat the sound. Sovan “Blllaaahhhs” again and they jump up and ready their weapons for a moment, then stop.

Lucens casts a Silent Image of Sovan and a frog thing hugging and looking happy. One of the frogs tries to hug Sovan. Sovan reciprocates, making a Con save, but getting a 20 and receiving no adverse effect.

We offer them some rations and one swallows some pemmican with its long coiled tongue. The one that was hugging Sovan was still standing there confusedly hugging Sovan. Sovan ducks out before having to make another Con save to the poison.

Lucens images Sovan handing the frog a bag of rations and the frog handing Sovan a bag of gold and gems. Sovan actually hands the front a bag of rations. The frog takes out a pouch and shakes it out on the ground, roots around in it, and hands Sovan a slightly shiny rock. Sovan accepts the rock.

“I feel like that’s about all we’re going to get from these guys,” Sovan says, tosses out some inspires (slang for inspiration — Normal inspiration, not submarine inspiration, again, to be clear) and then going to sleep.

The frogs are just standing around the camp, and after a while they start making their “Blaaahhhh” noise more and more. Jean-Lee thought the early ones were greeting, and the later the croaking is something different, maybe a gathering call.

In the 10 minute window before Sovan’s inspires fade, Aa’li’naa and Beth go looking for a snake to let Aa’li’naa use her snek skills to ask it what’s up. They find one, which says that the frog people are dangerous (to a snake at least) and says that there are lots of frog people north of here and lots of frog people west of here. There are also hungry people-sized monkeys, and normal-sized mongoose.

Exploring the hex from the air, Dorkins doesn’t see much because of the thick tree cover, except for a ruin on a hill (minor Point of Interest).

After a while, 20-25 frog things show up. They are all the same size, but there are three that look more intelligent and aware than the others. The three that walk up start croaking in what is recognizably language this time. “Greetings, you are welcome to gift us now.”

They spurn Sovan’s gift of rations. I think to offer them a healing potion, but to make sure they know what it is I ask Lucens to cast an illusion to show what the healing potion does by having an injured frog that is then healed by the healing potion, but initial image of the injured frog freaks the frogs out and they start running around and falling over. One of the smart ones ends the illusion with a cutting motion. Another one casts an illusion of frogs standing in a line and the frogs form up neatly behind them. The smart ones evidently control the dumb ones using illusions.

“That is sacred, why do you use it?”

“Because Lucens is sacred too!” Sovan assays, cheerfully.

“YOU ARE NOT SACRED!” One of them waves his hand and summons a massive glowing scepter with something that is like a conjure magic weapon spell.

Sovan offers them five rations.

The frog smacks the rations out of Sovan’s hand with the scepter, then holds out its empty hand to Lucens. “Give me the sacred.”

I wave my hands in a giant pushing motion and end with tapping Lucens lightly, casting invisibility. Sovan says “We have sent him away!”

It follows where the invisible Lucens had moved to and crits. They can see invisibility, evidently. Lucens fortunately remains standing, just.

“Don’t lie to me!” it yells to Sovan. “Give me the sacred, or we will kill you.”

“We can’t give him the sacred, it is inside him.”

“Well you’ll have to stay far away from here. Only we use the sacred here.”

“What if we don’t use the sacred?”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

“Shake.”

Sovan shakes his hand and rolls on the drop table at +2. He takes a permanent injury, losing 1 point of Strength. Worst. Handshake. EVER. Aa’li’naa and I were waiting for a signal to waste these guys the whole time but the more cautious types didn’t ever give the go-ahead, so we let it slide. The frogs then illusion cast frogs marching away, and the real frogs follow. Someday, when we have more time, we’ll come back and rip the illusion-magic-sacred-whatevers out of those smarmy sons of tadpole spewers. Today, though, we have LUA to mess with.

Shortly after the death-marked frogs depart, two large gorilla type things jump down from the trees (presumably where they were watching us…while we were treating with the frogs) and approach.

One of the gorillas speaks a Common-derivative to Sovan. “So I see you had a run-in with the high priests,” Sovan interprets easily.

“Yeah, they were pretty mean.”

“And you can do the thing they do?” He’s referring to illusion casting.

“Some of us can do it, yeah.”

“All of you?”

“Some.”

“Can you teach us?” Direct as ever.

“Um….I don’t think….” Sovan as usual is missing the obvious.

I tap Sovan on his shoulder. “We could totally turn them into warlocks, say, of the Sunfish?” Seems like an easy way knock those croakers down a peg.

“What are you talking about?” The Gorilla asks.

“We were thinking of it. It would be hard though. We could do some work for you though. What do you need done?”

“The things are really annoying and we’d like some way to get them to leave us alone.” Sovan is no fun and decides not to teach these gorillas how to worship the Sunfish, since spreading the worship of an aboleth would be ‘a bad idea.’ However, he does offer to return in about 3 months (we can sending him using Martin by then) to try to deal with the frogs. That way we can get paid to get revenge and acquire illusion magic items. Neat deal.

We find out that the gorillas have a few settlements in the trees (plus the place on the hill), generally places that the frog people don’t go. We also find out that although they can’t do illusions they have some people who can do other kinds of magic. They don’t have a name for themselves (they call themselves ‘Us’), so we decide to call them the Treebros. They just call the frogs the “frogs” or “frog-priests.” So we decide to call the frogs Badhands. They tell us that the Badhands sometimes eat the Treebros. The Treebros have books but the books aren’t for trade. When asked if they want more books, they say ‘we have them already.’

To summarize, enemy of our new enemy is our new, stealthy but not especially literate, friend.

After that, we manage to recrank without any further diplomatic sadness and move on.

Day 3:
We travel from 10.19 to 11.18 and bypass a nasty set of eddies without damage. I can’t tell if Martin’s getting the hang of this or country bumpkins get a special dispensation from the Lady of Luck.

Nothing interesting happens as we hug the coast until 16.20. As we start rounding the southern eastern extremity of the continent, we’re skirting a large reef and the lamp on top of the sub reveals the edge of a sunken ship. Beth and I scout it with our octopi familiars. NeaSix dies on a decayed but still active abjuration barrier. There’s almost certainly undecayed loot in them thar wreck. We mark the wreck as a full POI and move on.

This expedition has been usually comfortable so far. It’s a little cramped, but the company’s reasonably fun, the sights (such as they are) are interesting, and we have warm beds and can cook food on the stove without giving away our position. We’re living in style.

Shortly thereafter we come up on the beach in 15.18, and see a sizeable landmass (multiple hexes) 15-20 miles to the east. Maybe one of the other two major continents noted in initial exploration?

Near where we’re coming up in 15.18 (on the NE side, we’re on SE side), there is the remains of a port, but a cataclysm has clearly occurred. Tall jagged cliffs, spires of rock, like the whole area was pulled apart in a shear force. It seems like a large portion of land fell into the sea. If the Bella Cuprica mansion is somewhere in the area, it could well be submerged.

There are severe spatial distortions here, that Aa’li’naa can see (although they give her a headache…I used the submarine’s lil cook stove to brew her one of the less spicy teas that Valerian taught me), so the cataclysm was space folding in a way that strained that land and made it fall into the sea, so this was a result of the space folding. Beth observes some tree species on the spires that means that the folding happened around 300 years ago, so right around the time of the Corruption.

We are making landfall on the SE side of 15.18 on what appears to be a port. The jungle here is ludicrously thick. The trees that are growing on the shore are growing insanely fast, based on the rings (the grow effect doesn’t extend out into the sea). There is a natural background of transmutation here, like a plant growth type effect (not quick that strong initially, but that ramps up over time).

The port’s buildings have been completely eaten by the jungle. We only know it’s a port by the stone piers that extend out into the sea.

Dorkins crawling around in the jungle finds a big opening into a collection of buildings, including a half-remaining metal sign. From the handful of letters and Sovan’s prep, we identify this as the port city of Copros (full POI).

We are completely surprised when four saber-toothed wolves come leaping out of the woods. Two jump on me, knocking me down and doing 14+11 damage with the clawing, but I manage to roll and avoid the bites. Two more leap at Jean-Lee who nimbly ducks out of the way with an exaggerated NOPE. Linna springs out of hiding with a truly underwhelming sneak attack, then Lucens unloads a fearsome scorching ray volley on the same target but it doesn’t do down. They have 80+ HP, and are massive. I take another 12 damage from claws through my Shield as a pair of these monstrous things loom over me, clawing and trying to bite. I am grievously wounded, and Misty Step away then go invisible to consider my options, using my speed to reach a place of safety on the prow of the submarine.

The wounds on the sabre-tooth wolves are slowly healing, but the grievously wounded one falls to our attacks. Martin rouses from his slumber and heals Jean-Lee nearly entirely (from near death) with a second level cure wounds. The Domain of Life is puissant, if passive. I start casting fireball. Beth is tangling with one as two are charging after Jean-Lee. Her axe fails to penetrate its thick, bristling hide, which is covered in bulbous growths.

Sovan catches all three standing ones in a hypnotic pattern. As we take a breather to get set up to finish them off, Aa’li’naa says “The one on the ground is getting up!” and I turn it to ash with my fireball without disturbing the only ones.

We take a two round breather, then finish off the injured one in a single round. It was hit with Chill Touch from Lucens, and so doesn’t get back up. We manage to kill the third, using Chill Touch again. We barely finish off the fourth. Chill Touch keeps them down.

We dissect them, determining that they don’t have a specific regenerative organ like a troll, but are just feasting on the ambient growth magic here. Beth skins the hides and collect three pelts worth 45gp each.

We continue cranking, and an hour and a half before we’re ready to leave a group of 5 gangly almost eight feet tall humanoids carrying tree branches as clubs. They walk up to the tiger corpses (now hideless) and poke them in confusion.

“What happened?”

“We killed them.”

“Killed them? They’re too young. Ow.”

“We’re very good.”

“We don’t understand. They’re too young.” They go back to hitting the bodies trying make them wake up. It takes a WHILE for it to sink in that we killed the saber-toothed wolves before their time, but when it does, one says “Guys. We have to GO,” and flees in terror.

Sovan says “No, we’re very powerful. That’s why you should be friends with us!” 29.
One flees, two hesitant, and two stop nearby.

“I guess we don’t want you to be mad…”

“We only defended ourselves.”

“But they would have just eaten some of you and left.” They approach, confused.

“You are so YOUNG. You’re like an adult but you are so YOUNG.” We talk to them a bit more and confirm that babies have no tumors and that later people have a bunch and that (by deduction) the growth magic of this place is so strong that no-one dies before their time, just of old age and being turned into a ball of tumors or something. Our new contacts are gross. I decide they are the Lumpen, for their lumps and cloddish attitude.

“Where do you live?” Sovan asks, cheerily.

“We’re….not going to tell you that. We don’t want to let people who can kill young people near our people.”

“That’s fair, but we have lots of things we can help you with.”

“Like…what?”

“Like metal tools!”

“Yeah…these don’t last very long. We just use tree branches and pick up new ones.”

“What about this, Behb?” Jean-Lee asks, offering them his hip-flask. They seem to like vodka. We eventually confirm that they know the difference between a normal metal weapon and a magic weapon, and we confirm that Some of the older Lumped do have a few minor magic items that they might be willing to trade for alcohol.

There’s only one thing that scares them, which is a thing that kills things like we do. “It’s like a big snake. It has…fire. If we give you things like that…” he points to the minor magic item weapon, “you can kill the firesnake?”

“Maybe. We’ll have to scout it out and stuff.”

These Lumped tell us with excruciating precision the hunting range of the firesnake, which is a greenish red colour. It might or might not have wings. The Lumpen leave.

We send Dorkins to the Lair of the Firesnake. The center of the hunting range is a lair/cave/deal that is unusually hot. In the cave are 4 eggs. We debate what to do about it.

Jean-Lee says “Guys, if we smash the eggs, won’t that make the dragon mad?”
Sovan: “It literally had NO WAY to know we did it.”
“It’s actually better than that,” I point out, grinning. “If this pisses off the fire snake, the Lumpen might get scared of it rampaging and offer us MORE magic items to kill it later.”
“See, THIS is why we keep Rae around,” Aa’li’naa chimes in.

We finish winding without further scuffles and slip back into the depths.

Day 4:
All of 16.18, 15.16 and 16.17 (along with 17.17, 17.16, 16.16) are shallow reef formed from the cataclysm that crumpled the continent here. The three hexes near us close to the coast have trees and clumps of land in the shallow places.

As we enter the shallows of 16.18, activity picks up. A trio of porpoises start swimming around the ship. One of them nudges the ship with its snout. I stick my hand out the casting blister and make a spark in the water with a Shocking Grasp to try to warn them off. This triggers ramming behavior, which is dissuaded before impact by Sovan’s Harrowing Orca.

A few minutes later the orca shimmers and then the ship flexes and shudders. A small leak springs. I see that a small portion of the water is faintly magical…conjuration? Possibly a water elemental. Lucens uses phantasmal force to conjure the image of a fiery efreet under water, which smites it for some force damage. Martin manages to roll the ship around, giving me a clean lightning bolt shot for 42 damage. The water elemental decides to flee in the face of an efreet prince conjuring lightning. The boat now has 90 HIP, but no malfunction occured. The water elemental dies to the phantasmal force as it flees, but it got so far away that we can’t find its heart.

We proceed into 16.17, which is crowded with sea life, but amazingly none of it is hostile to us.

In the 15.16, a massive, long eel-like creature side swipes us with its tail for 2 points of damage, incidentally as it goes past. We let it go.

Nothing else of interest happens until we reach the harbor of Xan in the evening on Day 4. The LUA have several small craft in the water, and a naval fortress facing the water. With Lucens’s illusion of featureless water covering our air-refill times, there’s effectively no chance that they can spot us. We’re chilling at a place where the water is 150 feet deep, so we can rest on the bottom and wait for Dorkins to scout. While we are waiting, a bad squall does 2 points of damage to the ship. 86 HIP remaining.

We plan to chill here for about a day and a half to give Dorkins time to invisibly fly around and scout the city for a central repository of magic items. We’re having him focus on any armouries (location TBD), where their sneaky black feathers hang out (location TBD) and the Generals’ Headquarters (known location, doing last because it’s likely the highest security), based on my recommendations. “My theory of LUA culture is that they are a practical, regimented, martial people, which means that they would keep around any unusual magic items, but wouldn’t hand them out if they clashed with their very neat, very standardized kit. So, the blackfeathers (spooks) are likely to have some odd-ball items, the armouries are likely to have some magic weapons that haven’t been paired with a wielder yet, and the Generals are likely to be hoarding some of the good stuff for ‘just in case’,” I explain to Lucens before he sends Dorkins out.

Lucens, warging into Dorkins’ vision, quickly identifies a likely landing location near the middle of the docks that’s especially vacant. This will be a useful entry/exit point.

The southern portion of the city is quite empty, apart from the garrison at the wall.

There’s a strange shaped building (looks like a gingerbread man) that is being guarded by a division of LUA. There’s more than a dozen armed and armoured LUA standing around it.

The naval fort is fairly heavily manned.

There’s a compound with the triangular building that has a black-feather coming out of there.

There are a good number of LUA guarding the building we know had a General in it at one time.

We haven’t seen a single on-fire person this whole time.

And there’s a garrison on the northern wall as well.

We scout the gingerbread man building first. It seems to be some kind of LUA senate, with a score of unarmoured fancily dressed people standing in a large circular room arguing.

They seem to be arguing about farming. Which land should be allocated to who, where to focus their resources. In the fancy Chair In Charge there’s a powerful person in sweet sweet armor with a sword at her side and a hammer in her hand. This guy has a flame tattoo on the side of her face of a flame leaping.

“This guy sounds like a fair fight. That’s not what we’re here for.” -me
“That sounds like a fair fight if we catch him ALONE.” –Aa’li’naa

The person is referred to a few times as General. She looks bored out of her mind.

In the rest of the Senate building are a bunch of offices. There are also fancy things here. Dorkins manages to pocket a pair of fancy spectacles (25 gp), a pair of white silk gloves (Special / 5 gp), and a golden specter worth (70 gp).

The southern gate garrison is the biggest garrison. Inside, there’s an armoury with an assigned quartermaster guarding the stock. In the desk by the quartermaster, there’s a compartment with an ornate blade and bracelet that the quartermaster opened long enough for Dorkins to see. So, likely two minor magic items, and perhaps some of the weapons on the walls could also be magic.

Dorkins next goes to explore the place we saw the two blackfeather LUA. One of them starts at some point when Dorkins is imp-sized to manipulate something (while still invisible), but doesn’t go crazy . The building has a courtyard where the special forces are trained.

Inside the building, there is a small armoury for this group. The armoury has a normal collection of weapons, and two items in special cases (a longbow and a bracer).

We then go check out the house with the solo General. This house doesn’t have an armoury or special repository. It seems to be an administrative building with a General in it, who also has a burning tattoo, a burning arc across his check. This building definitely has records, along with a bookshelf with 11 books on the shelf. This building has sleeping quarters in it.

Dorkins proceeds to the Headquarters of the entire city. There are two patrols of four guarding a building (one led by a captain, one led by a mounted heavily armoured lancer). Inside there is a table with seven seats (so, probably 7 Generals in total). Three are occupied. All have a flaming tattoo on their right cheek (one with a fireburst, one with a flame, and one with a little slash of fire). Jean-Lee is taking some light sketches of these guys. The generals seem to be discussing army administration. Our sense is that they spend a lot of time deciding where troops patrol, etc.

We’re pretty sure that the armoury here in the headquarters has magic. The stuff in here is more of a mish-mash of stuff, less standardized. It’s literally down the hall from the Generals, but we don’t HAVE to pass the generals to get to the armoury. We don’t see sleeping quarters in this building, but as Dorkins is leaving he sees another General walking around and heading for the building.

We think that the Headquarters is the building we’re interested in. That armoury sounds like the kind of jackpot we were looking for, especially since it seems like there aren’t dudes that sleep here.

Day 5:

We spend the whole day on the bottom observing guard patrols around the HQ and naval patrols. The harbor won’t be a big entry / exit problem

The plan:
Jean-Lee, Aa’li’naa, and I will be going in. Sovan will cast fly on Jean-Lee, Jean-Lee will cast enhance ability on himself to double his carry capacity, and he will carry first an invisible Linna, then an invisible yours truly over the wall. Once inside, we’ll sneak inside invisibly to the armory, silence + kill the quartermaster, stuff a bunch of magic items in our packs, and then start sneaking out, with my invisibility covering Linna + Jean-Lee. Once back at the wall, I’ll misty step through the wall with the vision from Aelthrunn (back safe with the outside team), and the invisible Jean-Lee will carry the invisible Aa’li’naa out. Our window for doing this is the 10 minute duration of the Fly spell on Jean-Lee, so we have to act fast.

We have Lucens draw us a floorplan using what he saw with Dorkins, and identify a gap in the patrol sightlines on the Western Wall of the HQ.

Our evac plan is to signal Martin by leaving NeaSeven inside the sub. When we get to the end of the dock, Beth can warg into NeaSeven and have it signal Martin to bring the sub up.

Day 6:
In the harbor, we surface without being spotted, we think. We split into two three person teams to try to get there unspotted: Sovan, Jean-Lee, and me in one group, Linna, Beth, and Lucens in the other. I cast a 3rd level invisibility on myself and Jean-Lee (lasting one hour) right before leaving the sub. Jean-Lee’s a stand-up guy, by the by. Sweet buttery smooth magic splint mail makes him a heavy hitter AND a stealthy boi. Pity about the fam.

We bound out the sub as quick as we can, from the sub screened by an illusion onto the dock screened by an illusion (both Sovan’s Major Image). There’s only two feet between the edge of the illusion and cover. We wait for the sub to submerge and then move the Major Image cover the gap, and then we split, planning to rejoin eachother at the HQ.

The HQ is only 1/3 of a mile in from the water. Linna’s and Lucens’s group dodge the first group with Lucens highly skillful use of illusions cloaking their progress.

The first group my group passes is a group of militia led by a scout, which we avoid by ducking into a house. The second squad that passes by us is clearly a group of hunters, ie, hunters for us (possibly the last group of hunters), including the guy with the flame-whip. With two of us invisible and Sovan extremely well hidden, we bypass them.

For Lucens’s group, their second encounter is a group of seven LUA, where the leader seems to be a sergeant type. They duck down a side street and fortunately the patrol goes down a different side-street.

Both teams are both independently faced with the same obstacle: a collection of torches and look-outs covering the southern arc of the fortress. My team slips through a gap where there’s only dim light between torches, Jean-Lee and I spotting for Sovan to ensure that the scout is looking the other way. We slip through and make it to the western wall of the headquarters, where we wait.

The other team, confronted by the same obstacle, ducks closer to a building with a bunch of guys on top. They cover the open gap where there’s no cover with a Silent Image that’s slightly wonky and duck through. The Silent Image has some details wrong – a weird shadow from a torch and some brickwork out of place, and one of the scouts on the wall waves and points, but it’s more of a “check that out” not a “alarm!” And they slip through and dismiss the illusion without an alarm being raised.

When we rendezvous neat the HQ, we have a massive stroke of luck. Jean-Lee spots a black-feather sentry in a SUPER hidden watchpost (21 perception didn’t spot it, 25 did). This was why the Western Wall of the headquarters was less guarded than we thought, because Dorkins didn’t see this guy. Fortunately, these guys are non-magical, so our invisibility flying plan works.

Jean-Lee casts Enhance Ability (Strength) on himself and bearhug lifts the invisible LInna inside, then flies back and bearhug lifts the invisible moi. Nice arms. The second landing is every so slightly wombly (Athletics 17 including Guidance), but not noisy.

Our pre-chosen point of entry is a second storey window without glass. Linna has to use her Resolve and I have to use Sovan’s Inspiration to get through the window without making a noise, but we do so, perfectly. There are two guards at the end of the hallway by the staircase, facing the window we just came through. But we’re invisible so weeee.

As we’re walking down the hallway, we leave subtle impressions in the carpet and one of the guards comes over to check it out. I have to use my Resolve to bolster my stealth, but I manage to flatten myself up against the wall and he walks past me, pokes the carpet, concludes it was nothing, and returns to his post.

We pass them and walk down the stairs. Linna barely notices in time that one of the steps is creaky. She stops and I feel her ahead of me using my ready questing hand. She Thieves Cant tells me ‘creaky’ and I bypass the step. Sometimes I ask myself why everyone in the Guild doesn’t know Thieves Cant. And then I remember, most of them aren’t cool enough, and we also don’t do cool stuff like this enough.

There’s a guard outside the armoury and silence’s range is too large to not catch the quartermaster inside or the guard around the corner. We decide to try to kill the guard quietly without using a silence spell.

Jean-Lee natches TWICE. He flawlessly stuffs a gag in the guard’s mouth, lifting him in the air and pinning him. Linna and I pummel him with daggers and a shocking grasp (both notoriously quiet forms of attacks). Dorkins did a scorpion sting. Jean-Lee strangles him as a bonus action, killing him. We’re visible, but alone in a room.

Jean-Lee then lays the body on the ground.

Dorkins crawls under the door.

Jean-Lee casts Silence from the Black Velvet Glove of Stealth (that I lent him and which looks gooood on him by the by), then picks the lock. We swing open the door, and roll initiative, because the quartermaster is ready for us (in full armor, with a shield that isn’t raised yet).

Linna and Jean-Lee close with him, as do Dorkins, all doing damage. He tries to bull rush out but fails to Jean-Lee’s enhanced strength. I then shocking grasp him and kill him with a kung fu chop to the throat.

There are 5 magic items in the armoury. We loot the room, and I find a 6th magic item and 400 gp in cash in the time it takes Jean-Lee to strip the full plate off the quartermaster. Between the non-magical full plate and the magical chain mail, we have enough crap that Jean-Lee can’t carry it and Aa’li’naa all in one trip. We’ll have to throw the chainmail over the wall.

Right as we are finishing looting the room, we hear “Is someone smoking on the job?” The general smelled the maresh I used to help me loot the room (so sue me, I don’t think I would have found the 6th item, the tinderbox, without the boost) and is coming down the stairs. I cast invisibility on myself and Jean-Lee and Lucens casts invisibility on Linna through Dorkins. The General comes down the stairs and sees that there is no guard and yells. We try to slip past him on the stairs. He feels us going past but misses his attack of opportunity on me.

Outside, the outside group (Sovan, Lucens, Beth) take advantage of the chaos to attack the Blackfeather on the wall. Linna did an acrobatics check to jump from the window to the wall and joins the attack, ending the Blackfeather.

Jean-Lee throws the chainmail over the wall and flies me out. Spiffy, dandy, could ride this more often. Then Jean-Lee flies Beth to the submarine, both invisible, and the other four start sneaking (Raevori, Sovan, Lucens, Linna, with Raevori and Lucens invisible). We dodge a regular group and an elite group of LUA, with only a 17 collective stealth (partly with invisible people helping us dodge).

Sovan then casts Major Illusion to give us eerie cover, while Beth and Jean-Lee at the end of the dock call up the sub.

No-one notices any of this. We dive headlong into the sub, slam the door shut, and the sub plunges under the water and we make our getaway.

Once we’re safe in the sub, Linna turns to me. “Smoking is a nasty habit, Raevori.” Touché Aa’li’naa, touché, but hey. That 6th item turned out to be your boy toy’s favourite Christmas present, so don’t get too carried away busting my balls.

To recap: in the LUA city, no-one took damage, no-one was SEEN by a LUA who didn’t die immediately, and we walked out with 7 magic items (the funky gloves were also magic). All the LUA who know is that someone invisible who smokes with an imp (the guard on the stair saw the imp) came through their territory.

Day 7:
We get buffeted by a total of easyish 9 navigation checks to make it home. HIP dips some but not terribly. Final HIP 82.

We also manage to pick very secluded places in the hexes we were in before, and have no encounters in Lumpen or Treebro territory. We forget to harvest the frogs, because fuhgeddabout all the frogs in that hex, seriously.

Day 8:
We meet a number of AG near the place we have to stop to rewind in 3.15. They tell us that things are getting bad. We say that we will totally be going to work on that soon. Time to phone the pally-types I guess.

Day 9:
We make it home!

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