Silanya

Expedition 89 - Trials and a Tribulation

March 17, 2018

[Posted on time — characters get 0.1 HP]

Personnel

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

Transformative Experiences

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

Experience

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

Gold

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

Map Notes

  • Displacer beast lair with shimmering pool

Items

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

SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

LOG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Expedition 88 - The Desert
We explored the desert.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

[Posted on time, participants get 0.1 HP]

CHARACTERS

CHARACTER CHANGES

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

MAP UPDATES

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

XP

  • 1888 xp/person, including sheet update

GP (not including any items bought)

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

LOOT

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

SUMMARY

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

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

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

LOG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Posted on time, +0.1 hp]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We make it back to the portal and back home.

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

Monday, February 19, 2018

[log posted on time +0.1 hp]

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

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

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

POI
House of Roots in 9.16 (250 gp)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The rules are as follows: BEGIN!”

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

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

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

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

We travelled home without further incident.

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

Saturday, February 17, 2018

[Posted on time, participants get 0.1 HP]

CHARACTERS

CHARACTER CHANGES

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

MAP UPDATES

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

XP

  • 2007 xp/person, including sheet update

GP (not including items bought)

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

SALEABLES

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

LOG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eventually we thanked them for their time and they left.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Team

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

The Numbers

XP

1732XP per member (after update)

GP

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

Changes

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

Loot

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

Log (Written by the seventh Tabitha of Loress)

Day 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAY 2

So begins the longest day of my life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I learn that Linna is quite duel-prone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAY 3

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

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

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

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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.)

View
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) (Claimed by Mags)
  • 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
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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