Scott's Rise of the Runelords Campaign

Moagh's brush with death.
Wherein the heroes fight a fat giant.

BarlbreakbonesMalodorous black smoke hung thick in the air of the expansive cavern, filling the atmosphere with a choking acrid stench. Carefully, the party creeped forward, mindful of the massive rib bones jutting haphazardly from the cave walls and floor. Any light from the mountain peak was quickly smothered out by the stinging cloud plunging the enormous depths into darkness.

Despite this, the cave provided a welcome respite from the incessant rains that had plagued the group for weeks.

Moagh trooped ahead without worry, knowing that any opponent who approached would face pitiful odds against his blade. The others though felt more trepidation, as stone giants by and large were a much more dangerous foe than any ogre could prove to be. Dimitri reached out and grasped Moagh’s shoulder, halting his advance.
“Let Jesail scout ahead.” The cleric whispered to his stout companion.

Jesail’s perceptive ears twitched as he heard the whispered suggestion and nodded his assent. He was one of only two in the party who could traverse without something to light the path. Though his companions still did not know his true identity, they ceased to question why, for example this so called ‘elf’ could navigate the shadows with perfect precision, where his kindred elf Variel could not. Perhaps it was a ranger thing.

Jesail slinked forward, silently hugging the wall and deftly weaving between the protruding bones. Soon he slipped out of sight of his allies and into the foreboding depths of the winding crack in the mountaintop. Everything about the cavern was oversized; openings to tunnels gaped like toothless mouths, ramps dipped at precarious angles, and simple stone steps reached up waist high or higher. Still Jesail creeped onward, craning his neck to peer around corners and cupping his ears to catch even the faintest sounds of stirring. At last he heard life, down a tunnel to the east he could hear voices. Two male, one female. Ogres. A disturbing coquettish giggle and coy intonations revealed that somewhere down the tunnel, ogres were flirting with each other.

Returning quickly, Jesail reported what he had heard, asking the others what their recommended course of action would be. Unfortunately no one seemed able to formulate a plan beyond ‘go shoot at them and lure them back here’. Variel cast a short yet familiar enchantment, and quickly vanished from sight. With the rest of the group following close behind him Jesail crept back toward the ogres and, taking a vantage point on the wall of the cave with the assistance of his magical boots fired a short volley at one of the ogres.

It was a mistake. Immediately the second male ogre who was not injured pulled out a metal gong and struck it furiously with his weapon, sounding the alarm. The other two turned to face his direction. The struck ogre bellowed furiously and charged toward him, but could not see the elf clinging awkwardly high up on the wall. Momentarily confused, his eyes alighted upon a hated sight— the dwarf, Moagh.

The dwarf stood stout against the charge, his wide greatsword poised and ready. A roar, and the singing of metal through the air and the great form crumpled before him.
Down the tunnel to the south where the sounds of pickaxes rung quietly more noise began to stir, soon, a group of ogres charged through in response to the panicked banging of the gong.
One, who lingered slightly behind the others, yelled orders that only one member of the party could understand.
“Don’t stand there, cowards! KILL THE INTRUDERS!”

Picked out as the leader, Variel’s quiet voice whispered to the eldrich energies. That one, he decided, would be the next to perish.

Stone giant bear1From the great ether a thick, noxious cloud sprang forth into being in front of the ogres crowding and growling in the tunnel. Almost immediately they doubled over, seized with choking gasps and coughing spasms. Thick, calloused fists wiped at eyes and fanned ineffectively to disperse the mephitic gas. When they discovered this would not work, they instead ran, breaking into different directions. A few charged at the awaiting party, before being felled by arrows, mace and sword. Most of the others, their leader included, were routed, disappearing through the tunnels to the north and south. All told, six ogres were slain outright. Of the adventurers, only Geth had sustained any significant injury.

“Shall we follow them north, or south?” Dimitri asked, pausing to tend to his fellow cleric, who stood leaning against a wall, breath ragged from injury. His hands hovered over his companion’s body, and a soothing, white light penetrated his armor to knit his battered flesh back together.

“The cloud will travel opposite wherever I am. If we go north, we will not have to concern ourselves for now with what lies south.” Variel said, crinkling his nose at the faint acerbic scent the cloud left in its wake.

Thus decided, the party turned north, heading up in elevation. The winding passageway twisted and broke into several forks. Two turned west, one east.
“Which way do we go?” Asked Geth, turning to his fellows.

Jesail held up a finger indicating silence. Holding perfectly still, he turned his perceptive ears down the tunnel they stood before. He could hear his companion’s breathing, the soft shifting of their fabrics, the tinny clanks of armored pieces rubbing against one another. But beyond that, in front, the susurration of incantations. He could pick out three distinct female voices, haggard with age, though the words were lost in the echoes of the cavern. Also, the stench of the smoke grew intensely down this tunnel. He turned around,
“This is where the smoke emerges, and where we are likely to find our friend Lamatar.” He said.
“Let’s waste no time.” Geth said, striding into the lead down the tunnel.

This passage was shorter and narrower than the others. Trying to hide their presence, the adventurers crept forward. Soon a wide but short room opened up. There, just like the mirror had revealed, the room with the hags. A large enchanting circle was drawn, and the runes glowed with profane magics. Around a great bubbling cauldron, the three living inhabitants stood, jointly casting their magic on the putrid mixture within. So engrossed were they in their ritual, they did not notice the party creeping closer behind them.

Off to the side, organizing the bottles on the shelf, stood the withered and desiccated body of the former black arrow known as Lamatar. He had undergone a horrid transformation into an undead creature, and though his face bore resemblance, his body was twisted into a new form, most noticeably in his right hand, where the flesh had extended and frozen into long icicle claws.

Variel’s malicious smile went unseen by his companions as he quickly broke into a routine much familiar. Web.

Thick ropy sticky strands of spider webbing erupted from the floors and walls, tangling everything in the room into a white sticky trap. The hags shrieked in surprise, but were unable to react in time to avoid the magic strands. They were caught, as Lamatar, immobilized.

The next incantation was almost interrupted as Variel could hardly contain his malevolent laughter for his second most favorite spell. Fireball.

The room was enveloped in bright yellow light. The eldrich fireball expanded, though there was no sound, nor wind. Only heat brushed the faces of the adventurers as the hags were consumed in the flames. The panicked shrieking grew in volume and fervor as the webs that bound them were set alight, searing patterned wounds into their deformed hides. Still the hags could not move, as though the strands were burning, they were not completely vaporized.

Moagh was next to act, charging headlong into the room. One slash, and the first hag’s body was cleft in half, though it was held suspended in the burning webbing. It would be a few seconds longer before the webs could no longer hold her weight and dropped her lifeless and charred body to the floor.

Arrows and a mace downed the second hag without much fuss. Lamatar unfortunately could not withstand the flames and crumpled to the floor without being able to act.

Seeing her two sisters slain, and her pet reduced to cinders, the last hag collapsed to her knees.
“Please! Spare my life!” She crowed, sliding closer to one of the humans,
“I will tell you whatever you want to know.” She slid between the adventurers. Frantic eyes darting back and forth between impassive faces.
“L-lord, the Lord Barl Breakbones has come and he enslaved the ogres of this mountain.”

“What spell is this circle for?” Variel queried, stepping forward from the back of the ranks toward the boundary of the runes.

“Well,” The hag began, standing shakily under the watchful eyes of the adventurers. She sidled up to the wizard elf and batted her eyelashes at him. It took a herculean effort not to retch at this broken, blistered hag attempting to put the moves on him. The smell of singed skin and pus was hardly more than he could stand, and he shot the hag a withering look. “This is where he ordered us to control the rains.”

Variel twitched noticeably, “It’s time for the rain to stop.” He glowered at the hag and shifted away from her, pointing a long, thin finger toward the circle.

“Yes yes, if I stop the rain, will you let me leave?” She asked, folding her twisted hands together in a pleading manner.

“We will also need more information on Barl Breakbones.” Dimitri piped up, “But please, stop the rain.”

She did as she was told, shuffling toward the center of the circle of runes. Lifting her hands, she spoke a few soft words in an old tongue. Briefly, the runes shone brighter, then were snuffed out. Inside the room, any change could not be felt, but Variel quickly noted that the magic had ceased.

“Tell us of the leader.” Geth commanded.

Ice hags 3 final“Yes yes. I do not know much about him, other than the fact that this mountain top used to be an ogre den, when Barl and his tribe came and enslaved them. He wields powerful dark magic, and forced the ogres to mine under this cavern for ores to smith weapons and armor for himself and his clan members. Now please, let me leave.” She pleaded, turning to Geth.

“So he’s a necromancer?” Variel asked, to which she nodded.
“Do you swear not to warn Barl of our presence here?” Geth asked, she nodded again.
“I never wish to set foot in here again, I will leave and never return.” She stated earnestly.

The adventurers parted to each side and allowed her egress through the tunnel. Variel strode toward the devastated figure of Lamatar.
“Someone help me put this into my bag.” He said. Moagh strode forward to lift the singed corpse off the ground. Variel opened the lip of his bag and cinched it closed when the body had been placed inside. Somewhere under his breath, Jesail heard the muttering of having to wash it out later.

After a quick discussion, the party decided to head on forward to confront Barl himself.

Unfortunately any attempt at stealth was quickly thwarted as Barl’s booming voice echoed down the tunnel.
“Welcome adventurers. I see you have caused me a good deal of trouble.”

The scale of this room put all of the others to shame. The high ceiling vaulted at a steep angle and at the pinnacle, a skylight broke through, revealing for the first time in weeks, a blue sky. The stone on the floor was slick with rainwater, though no new rain emerged to reveal that the hag had kept her word. Connecting to the tunnel was a wide pathway leading upward, where on either side of a six foot high ledge great stone heads glowered down at the path menacingly. At the end of the path the floor and the ledge evened out, though about thirty feet beyond that, another ledge broke the room in half. Atop this, and surrounded by two giant bodyguards sat Barl himself.

The throne on which Barl sat seemed to be part of the mountain itself, having the rock face around it carved away but without separating it from the wall or floor. Still, it was a simple throne, though huge. The leader reclined lazily against an armrest, himself as cold and grey as the mountain in which he reigned. Still, the most distinct feature about Barl was that, for a giant, he was quite overweight. Still, even his bulging gut seemed firm and stiff, much like the rest of his body. His two guards stood before piles of great boulders, with arms crossed, standing perfectly still. Two ogres stood beside these guards as well, but they shifted about nervously.

“Still,” He continued as the party came into line of sight, “I could use more with your strength and abilities. Join me, and you will be rewarded handsomely, I can make you the lords of the states after we usher in a new age of darkness under Mokmurian.” He said, “If you refuse, you will face either death, or slavery.” This last bit twisted his gravely countenance into a sinister smile.

The adventurers all looked at each other in bewilderment momentarily. Jesail was the one to speak up first,
“Lords of state? Can you sweeten the deal at all?” He asked, catching astonished looks from his companions. Barl smiled at him,
“Well, we also have donuts.” He said, smiling.
“Really?” Asked Moagh, incredulous.
“No.” Barl answered, his face downturning.
“Whaat? Screw this you donut-lying asshole!” Variel shrieked, immediately diving into an incantation. From the ether another poisonous cloud broke forth into the room.

Immediately the poisoned atmosphere broke into a flurry of activity. The ogres, as before, coughed and retched miserably, though unfortunately the stone giants seemed less affected. Barl rose his ponderous mass from the throne and began casting an incantation of his own. Instantly, he vanished.
When the ogres recovered enough to run through the cloud toward the party, Moagh leapt forward to counter them, charging headlong into the center of the great room. Jesail nimbly scrambled up the ledge to his left to take cover behind one of the great stone faces, and Variel backed up slightly.

Dimitri grasped hold of his holy symbol of Serenrae, and called forth her blessing of fervor to aid his companions, though Moagh had just run out of range of her holy grace.

For the first time in many months, the party quickly found themselves facing an enemy that actually halted their destructive advances. Despite being peppered with arrows and slashed brutally, even the lowly ogre stood his ground for several tense seconds. Time seemed to run in slow motion as spells were fired off back and forth, and the giants charged forward to intercept the closest threat.

Dimitri’s heart grew colder as he saw first one ogre, who fell, than a second, and a stone giant, and finally Barl himself close in and surround Moagh. Despite the dwarf’s stoutness and supernatural seeming deftness when facing Giants, hit after hit struck him true. Blood poured from Moagh like a torn water skin until his entire body seemed to be one reddened, slick mass. His life dripped down from his own armor to mingle with the water on the damp floor, making the area a slippery mess. Still Moagh fought on like a cornered animal, snarling incomprehensibly as his rage caused him to linger where lesser men would have been killed outright.

A last great swing from Barl’s club finally was what brought the mighty barbarian down. The party’s eyes grew wide as the club cracked down on his skull, rending it with a sickening crunch that resembled a melon being split apart. Moagh staggered, his eyes rolled back as he first collapsed to his knees, then dropped to his face in the growing pool of blood beneath him.

“Goddess,” Dimitri whispered under his breath, witnessing for the first time Moagh the unstoppable being brought down by the great stone tower known as Barl Breakbones. His heart skipped as he wondered whether this may be a fight they would not be able to win. Marshaling the courage that once inspired him to be a paladin, Dimitri broke into a run. He had to reach Moagh, he had to save him, lest his friend’s fire be snuffed forever.

“WAIT!” Variel commanded in an uncharacteristically loud shout from behind him. Dimitri immediately stopped dead in his tracks, halted from his fevered task to yield to someone smarter than himself.
“Geth, grab Moagh and pull him away, NOW!”

Geth, who stood close enough to Moagh to be standing in his blood puddle sprung into action. He was caught once by Barl’s backhanded swing and knew exactly how that club felt. He deftly ducked under Barl’s lumbering form and grabbed the dwarf’s unconscious body, heaving it with all his strength away from certain destruction.

Variel’s hands and mouth was a flurry of action, weaving unknown symbols and ancient incantations he had never cast before in a last ditch effort to save the others. It was not immediately apparent what he had cast, but as Barl turned around, and brought down his club to try to end Geth’s life as well he stopped just a few inches short, bouncing off an invisible force.

“What?” He growled, astonished, a second swing proved just as ineffective. He reached out a thick hand to touch his obstacle as his two retainers chucked boulders past him. They cracked and shattered but went no farther forward than Barl’s club had.
“You idiots! This is a wall of force. Do not waste your strength on this, you cannot break it.” He commanded.

Dimitri ran forward toward Moagh’s body, as Geth laid him on the floor, revealing himself to now be stained thoroughly with Moagh’s blood. He looked down at himself in horror.
“Do something! For the love of Abadar, save him!” He cried. Dimitri stood tall and raised his arms toward the beam of light streaming in from the roof.
“Serenrae help this man, help my friends. Help us!” He pleaded. Immediately his body began to glow with a pure, white light. It radiated out from himself, and upon touching Geth and Moagh, began to stitch together their wounds and repair their bruises.

Moagh groaned miserably as the light ripped his mind back from the bliss of unconsciousness and into painful reality. He became at once aware of the cold, wet floor, the metallic taste of blood in his mouth, the stabbing agony of his broken ribs, the fire of his protesting muscles, and the intolerable pounding of his rising blood pressure on his battered brain. Gods, he was tired, but with the returning of his mind brought the awareness that the fight was not over. He heard his companions voices and panicked yells though they wavered with the pulsing rush of blood in his ears. Slowly, he pushed himself back up and staggered to his feet.

Once again, the pure waves of white light embraced his body, and each respective pain lessened, his mind cleared as it wiped way the fogginess of concussion, and he became aware again of his great sword dropped to the side.

A great boulder landed beside him with a great crash as the giants tried to lob the massive stones over the invisible wall to crush the people on the other side. Fortunately, their aim was off, and several stones bounced off when they aimed too low, others went wide over and missed entirely.

Barl continued to cast spells, magic missiles leaped over the wall and unerringly found their targets on the other side. Frustrated, he even cast fly on himself, implausibly lifting his great bulk up and over, to land on the side with the adventurers to continue his warpath.

This was a mistake, his enemies regrouped and refreshed met him with a barrage of attacks. From Dimitri, a searing bolt of divine fire melted his toughened skin. Arrows found chinks in his armor and pierced the places where he was softest, heavy mace swings cracked his stony exterior, a coruscating ray sapped his energy, leaving him weakened, and Moagh, revived, grabbed his vicious war fork and attacked with renewed vigor, though each of his swings also caused grunts of pain from himself. And through all his, he was alone, as his loyal guards could not bypass the wall as he had.

In desperation, Barl took off vertically, reaching for that opening in his chamber to freedom. In the end, he could not reach it before a final few shots from those who could reach snuffed his own perilous grasp on life and brought him down like an avalanche, crashing into a lifeless heap on the floor.
Almost immediately, the remaining ogre threw aside his weapon and surrendered, pleading for clemency because he had no choice in obeying Barl. Barl’s stone giant guard was suddenly recalcitrant toward the heroes.

“I thought stone giants were usually neutral, why did you follow Barl?” Variel asked the giant.
“Barl offered us glory, a chance to retake our lands from you disgusting humans.” He said bitterly, staring at the fallen form of his leader. Jesail and Variel both resisted the urge to remind him that they were not all humans.
“But you have a chance at redeeming your image before the minds and hearts of people, if you behave that way, you can reclaim your honor without others resisting you.” Dimitri offered helpfully,
“There is no honor in acquiescing to thieves!” The giant shot back. “Even though Barl is dead, and I have failed we will succeed.”
“How? We just cleared out your tribe.” Jesail asked, incredulously. A deep rumble emerged from the giant as he chuckled bitterly,
“You think our whole tribe is here? You have no idea.”
“How many?” Geth asked. The giant shot him a cold glare,
“We are armies.” He straightened up, “But I am disgraced, I could not protect Breakbones, and cannot return. Kill me, as my life no longer has worth.”

Moagh shrugged, and before anyone could stop him thrust his military fork straight into the giant’s eye sockets, letting him crumple to the floor beside his leader.
“Why did you do that? We could have asked him more.” Geth snapped at the dwarf.
“He asked for it.”

Variel spent some time picking over Barl’s corpse for magic items.
“You.” Jesail said, pointing to the ogre, “Tell your buddies what’s up. And know this, we have slain Barl, and those who attacked Fort Rannoch and those who beset Skull’s Crossing. If you attempt to betray us, you will find no mercy.”

The ogre nodded enthusiastically “Yes I will tell them, you will never have trouble from us again, saviors!” He said, scurrying out the tunnel and down to the south.
The party followed behind, catching up with him as he addressed his clan. All around there were looks of relief mixed with sadness as those who worked through the battle down in the mines saw the corpses littered on the floor of the barracks.

“One more thing you can do to repay us for saving you.” Variel said, admiring the craftsmanship of the weapons on the wall, “Make armor and weapons for human size, to equal in number those here and deliver them to Fort Rannoch. Then your debt will be repaid. Though you do not have to kill yourselves with labor.”

The ogres agreed.

After resting for a night in the fort, the party made their way back through the fey lands toward where Miriana had sent them on their search for Lamatar. They found her incorporial form still weeping bitterly in the glen where she resided. When the form of her lover was presented to her, she cried out in joy.
“My love! Come forth and join me.” She said, resting his corpse in the center of her glen. A light shimmered around his body as a shadowy, ethereal figure of a handsome young man emerged from the battered remains. They entwined around each other. She gazed thankfully upon the group who had returned him.

“I promise, for hereafter, you shall always be welcome in my domain in the fey wilds.”

And with that, they vanished.


Fey portal thumb

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From the Realms of the Fey to Hook Mountain
What happened to Commander Lamatar?

The arduous trek through the Shimmerglens was one that the party was not wont to take often again.

Too close to the spirit realms, too touched by the unreal lights of the spectres, even the magical Variel felt uneasy in the realm, and for the first time in the woods, felt a fear he could not place. Moagh winced through the wet air, attempting to ignore the sickly warmth, and the strange cries in the distance. Memories of home he tried to shake off.

Dmitri clutched the holy symbol of Sarenrae he had worn for so long the edges were slightly chipped where his thumbs curled too tightly and he muttered prayers under his breath hoping his mistress would find them safe passage through this strange land.

Geth, reflecting on his reunion with Abadar, couldn’t understand the water here – it did not act like ocean or sea water, it seemed to have a life of its own, animated by what he knew must be the evil fairies that dwelt beyond his vision. He would be happy to be far, far away – he had heard these lands were enchanted, full of…

…seductive sprites and temptations that priests like himself need stay far from. But this place was…this place was corrupted, by what he knew not, but it seemed as if the mischievious soul of nature had its heart not only broken by torn out of its chest and put on display.

The whispers he heard from the side of the road were not welcoming but drove all pleasure of life from his soul.

Jessail kept his eyes on the road, but could not stop himself from seeing the hanging bodies of children.

Up ahead, skeletal figures blocked their path. Yap, the small pixie who had requested help for his dear Myriana, began to cower in fear. Variel’s unease of the place was quickly replaced by a now nearly lustful desire to strike back at this hand – these figures represented an opportunity – he knew how to deal with foes.

From his fingers leapt fire, and the skeletal fingers collapsed in an explosion of stale blood, and weeping cries – yet, these were not man, or demi-human, but trees whose sap had become stale blood. What the party had thought were fingers were curled up, tangled bark, now nothing but cinders.

Variel looked at the party – then drew his cloak’s hood tighter around his head, hiding his own apprehensions. Deeper then, into the fey. Hopefully, this blasted pixie, Variel considered, isn’t leading us to our doom.

Past a galley beached by the side of the road, past spiders who had poisoned themselve at the side of the road, beyond a pool with a light enchantment which showed bizarre briefs of the future, Yap led the party to a clearing.

“She is in there.”

“Well, ugh, let’s get this over with, yeah?” Moagh belched and strode in, followed by his fellow veterans.

And the sky, which had taken a break from the torrential rains, darkened. They were in Whitewillow. And Whitewillow was black as night.

Myrianna“Sooooo….the murderers of Lamatar Bayden have come to DIE,” cried the creature which rose from the depths of the swamps. Sinews and muscles shown through the reflected green spectral light – whatever death that had torn Myriana from this world might have made her grotesque and obscene, her command and charisma left them all sure, she must have been one of the most beautiful creatures to observe in the light.

“We are not murderers,” Geth replied. Behind him, Variel turned his eyes away.

“We have come to help you, your friend brought us here,” Geth continued.

She wailed, she screamed, and she recanted a tale which dispelled one of the many mysteries which had stalked the heroes. She and the Commander of Fort Rannick had been lovers – but she knew not what happened to him, only that the Kreeg Ogres had taken him. Her boney finger stretched out, the only light in the dark glen.

“Hook Mountain. He is in Hook Mountain.”

“Alive?” Dmitri asked.

“He is in Hook Mountain. Bring him to me. If he is slain, bring something that I can pull his spirit to me. If not, I will make sure your people burn like my heart, I will see your wives gnash their teeth and your children feast on their own entrails.”

Then she was gone, and the darkness lifted. The dark shadows that fell through the slats of the great swamp trees provided again a trifle of light to make their way towards Hook Mountain.

And to Hook Mountain the party, after a stay in the Inn at Turtleback Ferry, went.

The rains, the incessant rains, finally changed – the cold of winter began to slowly make its way known, and as the party ascended the Ogre trails which led upwards, turned to sleet, then snow, then merely ice.

“Are you all right?” Geth asked of the shivering Variel, whose eyes seemed to burn a crimson hatred of the weather, as his fingers played through his expanding spellbook – if he did not have a spell that could change the weather, he thought, perhaps he could cast a cloud of death at it.

“What was it you saw in your mirror?” Dmitri asked Variel.“What enemies can we expect?”

“Nothing I can’t handle,” Variel responded, shaking himself free – he hated it when the clerics cornered him, as they always seemed to do. A minute later, he had an opportunity to prove it.

6 Stone Giants, which stuck out like sore thumbs from the snow drifts around them, seemed to be contemplating something. In a warmer climate, the party might not have noticed them as they seemed carved from the rock itself, but out here, they were the only rocks not covered in powder.

“Well, Variel?” Geth said, lightly goaded the elf.

“Mmmmm,” Variel answered and ruffled through his pockets, pulling out a gem. Pulling the party back to safety, he mumbled an ancient incantation over the gem. Then he set the gem on light breeze and weaving his fingers, he sailed it to the group of giants and let it fall to the ground. At the same time, he, himself, collapsed to the ground, lifeless.

The giants finally noticed the gem, and one brave soul picked up the strange treasure. Immediately, he stiffened up, as Variel’s soul transferred from gem to the creature. He stiffened then began to strike out at the other giants, who responded to the violence in kind and threw him careening down the mountain. Another giant, recognizing the ancient curses that Thassalonians had often left behind them, kicked the ruby as far as he could away.

Lost caverns pic 550Variel returned to his body.

“Well, I got rid of two of them,” he said. The party looked at him with a mixture of astonishment and surprise. Shortly, the giants began to head up the mountain. Behind them, the party followed, up, up into the cold, the storm.

Finally, the giants walked past a pair of ogre sentries into a cave which was bellowing foul, foul smoke.

“This is it, then,” said Moagh, whose military fork seemed to reflect the dwarf’s own blood lust. The party entered, ogres collapese on them, and ogres fell. and fell. and fell.

Each member of the party receives 6,240 experience points.

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Things Happen & Moagh Thinks

4e trollsThe trolls were forced from their hiding places by a Wall of Fire from Variel and were dispatched quickly as they charged blindly through the flames.

Our heroes ventured onward and descended the stairs leading to Grazul’s Lair. The heavy stone doors were barely open. Moagh and Jesail heard voices inside. Geth stepped forward to investigate but was pulled back to allow the stealthier Jesail to peer inside. He found several ogres milling about around a pool of water, one was attempting to fish with a crude pole. Variel called out to them, wishing to parley with Grazul. The ogres confused by his fancy use of ogre language peered into the stairwell and demanded payment to prove friendship. Variel and Jesail offered pickled fish. As the ogre moved to take the fish, he was hooked by a viciously barbed tail and dragged into the pool ironically like a fish. The party closed the doors as the ogres scattered and heard another ogre fall. Once the screams stopped, Moagh slowly opened the door again. Dimitri wisely sealed the pool with Stone Shape. As the party enters the room they hear another ogre struggling for his life in an adjacent room.

Just as the screams stop again, a half troll half fish monstrosity breaks down the door. Variel jumps out of the way and casts web as Moagh charges in. Moagh is hit by the monster’s tail and bite attacks but dodges the vicious fork thrusts at him. Variel launches a Flaming sphere at the fish-troll. Grazul pushes through the doorway, to escape the fire, and bull rushes Moagh as he steps back, pushing him back futher. With a combined effort the heroes slay Grazul as the 2 surviving ogres reenter the room. Variel lulls them into a false sense of security before Moagh, Geth, and Jesail take them by surprise. Moagh claims the fish-troll’s fork as his own. The ogres, oddly enough, possessed a helm of fish finding.

The room opposite is blocked by a pile of skulls gathered by Grazul over the years. Another room housed a scale model of the dam’s face. Each floodgate was represented by a polished human skull containing an intricate gear system. Moagh stubbornly attempted to pry the mouths open to open the floodgates below. Variel however believed the key to opening the floodgates was behind the door blocked by the skull pile. Inside he found 2 runed circles of warding. One contained a pile of crimson ash, the other a diminished devil. The once great pit fiend begged for his release. Variel, intrigued by the prospect of gathering more information, forced the Pit Fiend to bargain for his release. The devil quickly promised not to harm any mortals on the material plane, to explain how to open the floodgates, and recount how he came to be imprisoned in the ward for his release. Variel dispels the wards temporarily and the pit fiend drags himself out. He tells a tale of how he became imprisoned by the Runelord Karzuk along with his brother, the pile of ash, to power the dam ages ago. He goes on to explain the circles use life energy to open or close the floodgates. After the pit fiend returned himself to Hell, Variel conjures a pair of sacrificial bulls to power the circles. The bulls wail as their life energies are rapidly burned to open the floodgates’ jaws. Moagh calls from the other room, “I think I did it!”

Back at Turtle Back Ferry the people hold a celebration for the party saving the town from flooding yet again. Shalelu pulls Variel aside and asks about his investigation into the “artifact”. Variel, fueled by the good halfing inside his head, consults with Geth and Dimitri about using the Calehadron to bring back Jakardros. Dimitri agrees to use the artifact, Geth can not decide, while Variel’s curiosity forces his hand to see what it is capable of. Jakardros is raised; Shalelu is forever greatful, however his new life is fueled by a dark energy. The party travels to GiddyWillow the next morning.

Our heroes spend the night in Giddywillow. At dawn the next day Variel travels to the halfing’s burial grounds where the spirit of the halfling cleric inside him was released. Variel was himself again. With Sarenrae’s grace, Variel recounts his recent adventures to the local Bard and conveniently leaves out any morally dubious acts on his part.

A ferry ride later the party finds itself back in Magnamar. Geth collects his commissioned shield of Abadar, from the smithy and proceeded to levy his accusations against the heretical priest. He informs the Church’s elders, and therefore investors, of the priest’s actions. They call an emergency meeting to sort out the alleged misconduct. Through Geth’s conviction Abadar’s true aspect bathes the council chamber in the golden light of pure law. These actions show the heretic to be a follower of Calistria, goddess of Trickery. Geth and the Elders are unaware that the heretical priest was an unwitting pawn of his deity’s deception.

Tiefling rogueThat evening Jesail was contacted by a former associate from the Magnamarian underworld. The one time fence for the Friendly Merchant, Alek Denero, found himself in the midst of a power vacuum left behind by the untimely petrification of Siav. Jesail tentatively accepted the contract hit on one of Alek’s competitors. The next day the party meets with Lord Mayor Haldemeer Grobaras to receive payment for locating the surviving Black Arrows and securing Fort Rannick. After the meeting with the Lord Mayor Jesail excused himself to prepare for that evening’s task. He scouted the block surrounding the tavern where the hit was to take place, hoping to find an isolated position from which to snipe his target but learning the location of the marked booth made such a shot impossible. It would have to be a close and personal kill, one that the ‘elf’ spent several hours determining. Later that evening Jesail made his move when Alek excused himself to visit the outhouse during meeting with his competition. Taking the form of Alek, Jesail enters the private booth where he shoots an arrow through the man’s heart and left with the gold waiting for him on the table.

The following morning Moagh was awakened by a knock at the door. Waiting for him was the dripping, shivering, and soon there after unconscious form of a Fey. Moagh moved the body to his bed to rest and wake while he donned his armor across the room. The creature upon rousing pleaded for the heroes’ assistance to save the Feywilds from his queen’s depression. Her despair had caused so much chaos in her realm that even the weather of other lands have been affected. Moagh thought for a bit, “I think I get it…”

The party assembled to teleport back to Fort Rannick where the fey creature would lead them to Whitewillow located in the Shimmerglens. Before they leave Jakardros tells Variel of the unnerving nightmares he has been having about armies of the dead and the mythical Rune Lords of old. They both suspect the Calehadron is responsible.

For this session,
Geth & Variel receive 4,590 xp
Jessail receives 4,040 xp
and Moagh & Dmitri receive 3,840 xp

View
Saving Turtleback Ferry
"Everybody gets one."

After vanquishing the Lich before it had a chance to recover its Phylactory, Jesail and Moagh spent the remainder of the day in Giddy Willow down in the dark recesses of the mine. At first the halflings were hesitant to work with the two adventurers present, but a quick flash of the broken shards of the Phylactory were enough to convince them that the dangerous creature was gone. The sickly halflings immediately abandoned the dark easterly curving tunnels to go celebrate with their families.

Variel, still under the possession of the halfling priestess of Serenrae immediately took to the Lich’s often used alchemy lab, laboring under the wizards notes trying to synthesize a cure from the potent poison and ineffective remedy. A young halfling winemaker accompanied him, hoping to learn the cure so a similar control could not be used on them again.

The two clerics, Geth and Dimitri poured over the extensive library, scouring through tomes ranging many subjects, though few piqued their interest. Into Geth’s hands a large and varied tome entitled ‘Immortal Swords’ was found. Inside it was information about twelve swords forged simultaneously with the making of the world. Primal blades were lost to time immemorial, wielded by ancient divine ancestors to the modern pantheon, all of whom had been long forgotten by the masses. Each blade represented a different aspect of the newly created world; some were good and pure, others neutral or held within a balance of duality, yet others possessed an evil so ancient it dwarfed the machinations of evil creatures and gods alive today.

Ba565 Yet the most extensive information was found in the form of notes in the margins about a terrible and foreboding dancing sword called Shadow Bringer. Though Geth could not understand much of the coded information, the blade was accompanied by a series of illustrations describing the slaughter of millions by the blade operating on its own. Determined that this blade should never be reformed, when Jesail and Moagh returned from the mines inquiring about why the tunnels head easterly, Geth refused to answer, saying that the blade was old and evil, and he would have no part in assisting in it’s location.

However, within the wizard a deep stirring inside his inner soul waged a battle with the halfling priest for supremacy, and briefly, he won. Variel decided to put it to group vote on whether or not to stay in Giddy Willow to search for the pommel, noting that the only way to either purify or destroy the sword would be to first have it in one piece. Geth reluctantly agreed under the premise that they would try to use the sword for good, and if not, then they would destroy it to prevent someone like the Lich from ever finding and reforming the pieces themselves. Either way, they needed to remain for at least one day more to finish making enough cures to heal the rest of the halflings. The party, given free rooms at the halfling inn with just enough ‘long people beds’ to house them reflected on the possibility as they drifted to sleep.

The next day, Moagh and Jesail consulted with the halfling mayor about the pommel they were searching for. The mayor handed Jesail an amulet the diggers had been given, a dark disk on a thin chain that would burn their flesh when the piece was close at hand. Curious, they took it back to Variel, who irritably only gave them enough time to briefly study it, as he was focused on finishing the cure.
“The amulet is divine magic, attuned to necromantic energy. However, it has a limited range, as this is the equivalent to a dime store divining tool. Now leave.” He said, turning back to the bubbling flasks before him. Undeterred, the elf and dwarf wandered off to explore other options.

The rain began to fall in force again as the day progressed. Around noon, Dimitri’s holy symbol of Serenrae began to glow and hum in a way he had never experienced before. Upon touching the symbol, Dimitri’s mind was flung many miles, connecting him to the mind of Father Malen Shreed of Turtleback Ferry. Shreed’s mind was a chaotic whirl of flashing images. Sick people huddling together on a stone floor, torrential rain obscuring the view from a high up window, a swollen river dumping millions of gallons of water out onto the streets, people running around in panic as the waters swelled up to their knees.

“Please!” He implored, “Turtleback Ferry is flooding! Skull River is continuing to rise and people are trapped in their attics. I am with many sick and wounded who cannot be moved easily. The water is two feet high already and threatening to swallow us. By morning I fear Turtleback Ferry will be swept away, and the church is already showing signs it may collapse!”

Thoroughly shaken by the message, Dimitri relayed it to the party. Though the rain was also very severe in Giddy Willow, there were no rivers nearby and with the overall feeling of joy from the halflings, they seemed far removed from the danger.

“We are more than a twelve hour ride from Turtleback Ferry,” Said Jesail somberly “By the time we arrive we will likely be too late. The rain will also slow our progress significantly.”
“There is always a way!” Variel interrupted loudly. Through his heavy pack of assorted magical items he pulled out a large and old tome; a Thassalonian spellbook found earlier. Variel looked ruefully at it for a few moments as his inner soul waged a war against the halfling priestess. Variel’s soul railed against the priestess’ suggestion of what was to come. Ultimately his inner self was suppressed and the evil voice faded away as he cracked open the book with a creak of protest from the weathered spine. He flipped through the pages until he found the one he was looking for, the spell Teleport.

Without flinching he ripped the page clean from the book, turning to the rest of his party who stared at him in utter disbelief. What in the world had happened to him to cause Variel, Variel who would gladly allow each and every one of them to die for a single remnant of Thassalon, that same Variel to damage a Thassalonian spellbook?
His voice had the hollow ring of someone who had just committed a deeply remorseful act.
“Everyone gather around me. We only have one shot at this.”

The next thing anyone could perceive was the sudden pounding of the thick, heavy rain against their backs. For the first time the others could see what Dimitri had felt a few scant minutes before. Turtleback Ferry was awash in chaos. Boats and ferries lay capsized in waist high water. Near the general store, a ferry had tipped against the strong current and trapped several screaming children against the wall. Across the road, the church’s stone foundation showed the beginnings of wear as debris smashed into the building. People ran shrieking, carrying children and helping others through the rising tide.

The party leapt into action, Moagh, Dimitri, and Geth went south to assist the trapped children, Variel and Jesail east to the church.

Because the rushing water heading toward Clay Bottom lake was pushing against the underside of the upturned ferry, the first few attempts to haul the slick and wedged boat failed spectacularly. Dimitri began an incantation and called forth a water elemental from its home plane, commanding it to create a whirlpool to divert the rushing water away from the ferry. With another mighty heave, aided by the elemental, the boat finally came free, tipping upright and pulling the children inside.

No longer wedged, the boat surged south, threatening to carry the children and schoolmarm out to the lake. Moagh used his dwarven stoutness to drive his heels into the mud, but his short stature threatened to drown him as the water swirled up around his throat. Geth and Dimitri reached forward and each grabbed a portion of the Dwarf, helping him stay upright.
“Get in the damn boat, Sailor!” Moagh spat at Geth, unhappy to be manhandled in such a way.
“I’m actually not that great at swimming.” Geth responded somewhat pitifully,
“What!?” Moagh growled at him, “Well yer’ still a sailor, and you can keep these welps from being stranded at least.”
His point conceded, Geth released Moagh, and scrambled through the water and up onto the boat.

Variel and Jesail’s task seemed less perilous as they were not standing right on the edge of the swollen Clay Bottom lake. Variel used the spell fly to lift himself up to the bell free where the people where hiding.
“Come, we are here to aid you!” He called, his voice sounding thin and far away amid the howling rains.
“Thank the goddess!” Malen cried, standing to meet him. “What would you have us do?”
“VARIEL!” Jesail shouted from below, “I have brought a boat! Tell them to get in!”
Variel looked down and saw it was true, his companion elf standing in waist high water, tying off the ferry to a lamp post.
“Come downstairs, there is a boat waiting!” Variel commanded, watching as people struggled to get to their feet. He was counting, there were about thirteen people in the tower, and the smaller ferries could usually seat ten, and it would not do good to overcrowd the boat, it would increase the likelihood of capsizing.
“Jesail!” Variel called down from above, “There are too many people for that one boat, find another!”

Jesail turned and scanned around quickly, spotting a canoe not too far away. He rushed through the rapidly rising tide to fetch it. Variel turned back to speak to the people when a large, dark object floating down the Skull River caught his eye. It was big, black, and sort of looked like a tree, an enormous, ancient tree barreling down toward Turtleback Ferry.
“Tree!” Variel exclaimed, “Heading this way! It’s BIG!”
Thinking quickly, Variel lined up a shot and loosed a fireball at the waterborne danger, hoping the heat would cause the water to steam and fracture the tree into smaller pieces when… Nothing, no explosion, the fireball simply vanished. Moments later, the tree disappeared, submerged into the river.

“That’s no tree!” Variel yelped, fear rising in his throat, “We have to get these people out of here!”

The next few moments were a whirl of activity, Moagh, Dimitri, and Geth attempted to scramble out of the ferry and onto the school house to try and get a look at the tree-not-tree. Jesail moved like an elven blur as he rushed up and down the stairs, carrying the infirm down to the waiting boats. When they were full, he cut the tethers and let them drift away toward the lake.

The water before them started to bubble and roil. Out of the waters just before the church came a creature never before beheld. The head and neck of a great sea serpent emerged but connected to a tumbling mass of tentacles more suited to an octopus than a serpent. It crashed into the church, cracking the stonework down the foundation, knocking huge stone blocks down around them.

“What is that thing?” Dimitri cried, looking to the airborne Variel.
“I have no idea!” Variel responded, eliciting a cold dread in the rest of the party.
“Oh crap.” Jesail muttered.
Black magga.small
Mumbling the incantations of a spell a crackling of eldrich energies sprang from Variel’s hands as he summoned four large sharks around the creature. They thrashed in the shallow waters and bit furiously at the creature before them, managing only to draw the smallest trickle of blood. The creature reared its head back, opened its tooth studded maw and with a deep rumble produced a thick malodorous fog.

Jesail managed to gasp and hold his breath, only catching a few of the noxious fumes though he soon became dizzy as the poison leeched his mind. Variel came close to tumbling down. More troubling however was the look in his eyes as he spun around in a circle, staring maliciously as his gaze alighted upon his faux-elven companion.
“DIE!” Variel snarled as he tilted his body and dove down toward Jesail, raising up his fist. Fortunately, wizards were not built for brawling and his ineffective strikes brushed off Jesail’s armor as easily as raindrops.
“You are not yourself.” Jesail said as he snagged Variel’s cloak and dragged him away from the otherworldly creature.

From a safer distance the group watched the battle between the sharks and the creature, knowing very quickly that this beast far outmatched their abilities to damage it. They began to look around to any other people they could help out of harm’s way. An older gentleman and a woman with a child were caught in the fog like they were, and were soon steered away and into boats with the others.

As suddenly as it started, the rain let up, as as the group floated toward the middle of the lake they watched with horror as the creature started after them. However, as soon as it reached the deeper waters, it submerged once more. Peering over the boats into the muddy water they waited with trepidation for the creature to re-emerge. All was silent.

The rest of the day was spent taxiing the ferries back to relatively dry land and helping people get re-situated into their homes. Malon Shreed, overcome with emotion proposed a feast in the party’s honor for their efforts in saving the people of the ferry. He also had some other troubling news to discuss with them, about the dam Skull’s Crossing.

Skull’s Crossing bridged Skull River and held back the Storval Deep from doing what it did that day. An ancient Thassalonian piece of architecture, a band of trolls had long housed within so few dared to attempt repairs or maintenance of the structure. He worried that some foul play was involved, both with the storms, and possibly with sabotage to the dam itself. If the entire thing broke through, nothing would be able to save Turtleback Ferry or the nearby settlements.

The party debated on their next move, Variel struggled with his desire to return the priestess’ soul to Giddy Willow, as the ritual to free her had to be performed at sunrise, but the priestess’ good nature was swaying him toward assisting with the dam beforehand. Moagh and Jesail both wanted to return to Giddy Willow, but agreed that waiting an extra day or two would likely not harm anything. Dimitri was for the dam, but Geth, sitting quietly, piped up again and asked when the group would want to return to Magnimar.

Everyone turned and stared at the cleric. He looked pale and overtired, fretting about something unknown to them.
“Why?” Variel, asked.
“Because…we will get paid.” Geth offered weakly, peering around.
“People’s lives are at stake here, payment can wait.”
Geth settled down in his chair with a heavy sigh. Dimitri, sensing something amiss with his fellow holy man reached out a concerned hand to him. They had always been close, discussing things between them often before anyone else in the group knew. Whatever it was, it was desperately important and personal to Geth, for he had not mentioned anything even to Dimitri.
“To the dam, then.” It was decided.

Skull’s Crossing certainly lived up to its namesake. A towering structure that spanned two cliffs three hundred feet in height, the face was decorated with thousands upon thousands of sculpted skulls. Five enormous ones in particular formed the floodgates, though on the eastern side one had completely broken away, unleashing a torrent of water down to the river below. On the west, a winding treacherous stairway led up to a cavern, and out again to the dam’s walkway.

As they approached the stairway, Jesail craned his neck high, able to pick out the moving figures of several lurching humanoids on the dam itself.
“They aren’t trolls,” He said to the others, “too small.”
“I will go see, and will return shortly.” Variel said, casting a spell that caused him to fly, and a second one to vanish.
Peering up at the top, they could not see much, but that the figures soon fled and were out of sight. Variel’s voice came back behind him with a small shock,
“Ogres.”
“Did you defeat them?” Dimitri asked, receiving a sigh in return. “Let’s go find them, then.”

The climb, though certainly dangerous, was not difficult, and everyone made it to the summit safely. The cavern itself was as enormous as the rest of the structures here, with a ceiling forty feet in height.

“Jesail scout ahead and report what you see.” Moagh suggested, knowing that the heavy armor on the rest of the party would quickly give them away.
“I will follow.” Variel’s invisible voice added.

With a nod, Jesail stepped into the cavern and melted into the shadows, completely silent. Moments later the chanting of a very familiar spell caused the rest of the party to break their wait and charge inside. Web. Fireball.

Inside, atop a fifteen foot ledge stood five ogres and one ettin. They had been plotting an ambush but completely in vain as they all stood traped inside an incinerating web. The party broke into a flurry of well orchestrated combat; Jesail took to the ceiling, climbing the walls like an elven spider to snipe the enemies below. Magic energy crackled around the newly visable Variel, Moagh stood firm against any who approached, Dimitri loosed divine fire from his hands, and Geth brought forth celestial weapons that fought on their own.

Before long, the ogres were dead. On their bodies they found pickaxes; the ogres were actively destroying the Skull’s Crossing Dam. Wait, there were only four ogres here… The party charged after the one who fled up onto the dam’s walkway. No sign. Peering over the edge, Jesail saw a spectacular sight, the ogre had leaped from the dam, plunged three hundred feet to the bottom and was swimming away!

“I got this.” Jesail and Variel said in unison. Nocking three arrows Jesail let them fly downwards, while Variel jumped himself and dove down while under the effects of his own fly spell. The arrows whistled faintly and none but Jesail could see as one hit the water, one hit a rock, and a third pierced the ogre’s back, causing the creature to sink.

With all the ogres dead they turned their eyes ahead toward a foreboding structure shaped like a pile of skulls in the middle of the walkway, a watchtower called, surprised? Skull’s Watch. The party approached, but the doorways were barred from the inside. Variel, still under the effects of the fly spell rose up and into one of the windows in the skull’s eye sockets, opening the door from the inside.

The walls were smeared with ogre grafitti, including one repeating phrase. “BIG POPPA GRAZUL DWELLS BELOW. ALL HAIL BIG POPPA GRAZUL.” Without needing to discuss they knew to wait to deal with Grazul and checked the rest of the floor. In one room, attempting pitifully to hide behind thick ropy fungi stood five trolls.

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Halflings Saved
The Heroes Save a Town, and Variel Struggles with a Conscience

The lich was defeated – the scourge of the town of Giddywillow lied in pieces at the base of his own tower. The halflings of the village began to slowly see if what they heard could possibly be true.

Evil wizard by endyamarVariel was the first to enter into the sunlight, cupping his hand over his eyes. Sick with the disease the lich had given them to make them subservient, they slowly began to make their way towards them, their eyes open with gratitude and appreciation.

“Thank you,” said Giddywillow’s Mayor, a curmudgeonly old hobbit known as Cullentree, “you’ve…you’ve saved us all, from that thing.”!

“Yeah – sure,” said Variel, waving him away, “where’s your Aroden-damned cemetary?”

Each member of the party receives 4,400 Exp

EXCEPT for

Dmitri who received 4,900 XP for dealing with his side quest and honoring Saranrae.
Variel who receives 4,650 for role-playing Variel as Lawful Good. (and staying true to his character’s motivations evil or good).

View
Rannick Renewed
The heroes defeat the ogre menace - and their Lamia Queen

Lucretia “Mokmurian will be pleased to meet you, my pets,” whispered the crimson-haired beauty, gliding her wispy, ethereal form towards the party of blood-stained adventurers.

The glint in her eyes shone mysterious – and unmistakeably evil, and yet – inviting. The group sat there transfixed, watching her, waiting to reply, as if not only stunned by her beauty, but reticent to find the words that could match her dark divinity.

Variel, one of the few whose hair wasn’t clotted with the blood of the slain ogres, did not wait to take action. Muscling past his transfixed comrades, he strode to the front, and before the woman could breathe another word, cast his magics into the air.

His arcane words gave form from his fingertips and thick, tangled strands of spider webs enveloped the room. Beside the mysterious woman, a giant ogre with grey spirals of horns lay caught in the web and screamed blood lust at the party, his rage turning turning his eyes a milky cosmos of anger and rage.

The two ogre sentries at the door were trapped as well inside what had previously been a chapel at Fort Rannick, but had been turned into a de facto war headquarters for this general ogre and this…strange beauty.

They struggled against the bonds, and ignoring Dmitric’s plaintive plea to Variel, “Wait…who is Mokmurian?,” weaved more sorcery from the air and turned the air into searing heat, burning the witch and her ogre compatriots.

When the smoke cleared, and the web merely ash and cinder on the floor of the chapel, they saw she was no woman. Though above the waist, her form and visage were striking and wondrous, below was deformity and horror. She slithered across the floor, a viper’s form where her legs had been. “You will pay for this – and my sister’s death!” she howled, and her and the ogres advanced towards the party. Steel clashed, and magic burned. Dmitri and Geth cast protection and healing spells, while Jessail’s arrows flew and Moagh’s blade danced in the torchlight. Dmitri brought creatures of magic from another plane that tore and bit at the lamia while the ogres fell to Moagh’s blade.Jaagrethkreeg When Moagh stood toe to toe with the lamia – he wasn’t sure if the met his match. For the first time, his own mortality crossed his mind, until his own bitter raged snuffed out the thought. The wilds outside of Jorgenfist had taught him one thing: if you didn’t want to die, you’d better believe you couldn’t.

The touch of her twin blades seared and cut, and with each sting of blood, Moagh felt some deep part of his soul wither – he…began to forget who he was, why he was here, but he let his sword arm do the thinking, and when the lamia made the horrible mistake of leaning in too close to Moagh, he pushed her own blade into one of her eyes, blinding her, and coating her face with blood.



It was a fatal mistake, and one Moagh paid her for dearly, finally sinking his blade, deep, long and true into her rib cage, cutting sinew, tissue, then bone and organ. She heaved a final sigh of life and collapsed. As sense returned to Moagh, his sensibility did not, and the light behind his eyes had faded. There was blood everywhere, the ogre king was dead, his guards, but…why. How had he gotten here? Why was -

and who were these people?

Geth recognized the blank look, and quickly led him away, Moagh happy for now to let someone else guide him until this…fog cleared.

Before they searched the chapel, though, they would deal with the traitor. Kaven Windstrike had killed Jakardros Sovark, and even attempted to deliver Shalelu Andosana to the ogres. Shalelu’s bloodlust for Kaven was evident, but ever the scion of Sarenrae, Dmitri kept her at bay. He wanted to question Kaven. He didn’t want him dead.

“Kill me, my life is forfeit without her…,” said Kaven, tears in his eyes, looking at the lifeless, mangled form of the lamia.

“No, we want answers. Namely, why do you have the Sihedron rune tattooed on your body?” Dmitri inquired. He received no answer.

In the chapel, which the ogres had desecrated in the name of the unspeakable Norgorber, Variel looted.

Later, when they had collected themselves, aware that the rest of the Fort was still buzzing with ogres who did not know their leader was slain, they piled the bodies by the door and waited.

During the night, the other ogres came in, but seeing the limp body of their leader, drove them away into the hills and mountains in fear and loathing.

One cried, “We will avenge you, Jaagrath Kreeg, we will avenge you!”

The party rested in the now quiet keep, among the corpses, in the shattered remains of the rangers old home, before deciding to make a trip back to Turtleback Ferry. They had once answered the call of Sandpoint, and had now answered the call of Magnimar.

But – where were they? Moagh was too imbecile to questoin his place, but during the dying fire inside the keep, Geth questioned his faith to Abadar, who knew was questioning him. Dmitri wondered if he had been true enough to Sarenrae, and pondered on the dark task he knew needed to be performed, a willing Variel or no. Jessail thought of Magnimar, the shadow alleys she’d grown up, and found herself grieving her dead thief friends, and missing the streets. Variel read, poring over the new maps and tomes he had, greedily eyeing the treasure map he’d made out of the lamia’s flesh.

He saw the flickering lights of conscience in his friend’s eyes, and reflected back at them, only his own sordid ambitions.

Conscience, he thought, is wildly overrated.

Outside, the rains beat the castle stones down, down, down.

Dw

The party receives 7,800 points of experience, EACH.

View
Assault on Fort Rannick
Will the Order of the Black Arrow be avenged?

From the journal of Geth The Protector:

Mammygraul

The horrid smelling house of the wretched ogrekin proved little challenge for us as we stormed the bed chamber of the massively obese matron. Upon reaching the fat spell caster- Variel placed a wall of flame between us and her magics.

As we made in-roads to the room a dretch demon appeared whom we took down as flaming zombies came through the wall. I tired of this blind dance and with the divine might flowing through me braved the wall of flames to bring the battle to the foul witch, destroying the remaining false image of her before she set to make her escape- narrowly escaping through the window as our blows struck true.

Pursuit was given and her flight- while aided by magic- came up short as we caught her attempting to flee the Barn with Variel’s fire elemental. The battle ended, we searched the remaining rooms and returned to Turtleback Ferry. Whereupon Dmitri and I set out to bring Variel to the oracle of Pharasma…

His price was heavy to ask, even I would hesitate in turning over artifacts of unknown power to a man of Variel’s…indiscretion. The matter postponed, Dmitri and I went to meet the oracle and Dmitri appears to have met the ghost trapped in limbo…the prophet of Sarenrae.

We returned to the rescued rangers to check up on them before preceding to Fort Rannick.
Scouting ahead, we gained entry to the caverns via the waterfall’s cliff- as planned. establishing a foothold, we waited and prepared and Jesail and Variel went back for Shalelu and the rest of the rangers who wished to accompany us.Rannick

After establishing our plan we proceeded and began to infiltrate the lower level where the caverns connected to the Jail. Jesail scouted ahead, invisible, and managed to open the doors and report back- that a woman, red haired and mannered, was with the Ogres. We herded the shocker lizards into the keep as planned and proceeded to flank the ogres via one of the secret doors. After Dmitri translated- we were assured of our success with the ogres being called by the woman to defend the keep and attack the shocker lizards and us, supposedly, down in the bottom of the keep at the jail level. Yet, since Dmitri had sealed the cavern as it connected with the portion near the jail, the shocker lizards and the ogre forces would have no way of pursuing us via the upper caverns.

As we gained entry to the fortress we were able to infiltrate the keep and as we did so, we sought to put the ogres and their mistress inbetween a rock and hard place, almost literally as Variel called up another flaming wall spanning the hall of the keep and keeping the exits to the lower levels blocked.

Having established this, the real battle began as the Ogres started finding us and attacking- though broken up by being in separate rooms and coming up from the jail level. The rangers covering the main entrance and our best exit- we proceeded to explore and engage the ogres. Dmitri and I took one wing, Jesail and Moagh split up around another and Variel controlled the halls from the gate. One by one, though some of the ogres fought harder than others- we established our control of the main keep level and the rangers took the tower. Yet, as the ogre corpses piled up they ceased in their attempts to enter and attack us- we lost the element of surprise and await the next wave…with their mistress no doubt aware of our true plans.

Yet with the rangers in the tower, the flaming wall still up and most of our resources still at command (including a healed Moagh), the battle may still remain in our favor. If our information is correct, we control the only known exit from the jail and caverns below. The monsters and their mistress have no escape and it is only a matter of strength and numbers and time now.

For this adventure, each Hero of Sandpoint receives 2,760 points of experience.

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A Strange Bear
On the road, Fort Rannick, our Heroes take a detour

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Wave after wave of hunting dogs attacked the party, cloistered in a circle, around the large dark bear, his left leg viciously mangled by the bear trap.

Variel let acid arrows fly from his elven fingers, scorching the air as they burned canine hair, and mangled flesh. Geth’s spiritual weapon, its ghostly wisps wrapped around a translucent blade, as it darted into the swaths of eyes and teeth. Jessail’s arrows flew as fast as his elven fingers could place them on the string. The powers of Sarenrae flowed through her vessel, Dmitri, as he attempted to close the wounds the dogs were inflicting as quickly as they were opened.

Moagh, wielding his longsword, like the only friend he knew dared any to approach.

Finally, something did.

Rukus Graul stepped from the underbrush, surveying the scene before him, and demanding the party leave him to his prey, the hurt bear. He was a giant, a misshapen, deformed insult of a giant,an ogrekin, the victim of what must be some unspeakable inbreeding. He had a gaping wide mouth, and one huge misshapen finger for a right hand, and boils that seemed to cover most of this leathery flesh.

“I’s hunting bear! No concern o’ you’s less you’s wanna be hunted, too!”

Well, for as long as he could remember, Moagh had been hunted, so he had no fear of this ogre-thing’s boast, and stepped to face him.

Why were they protecting this bear? They had been traveling up the road to Fort Rannick after a few days in Turtleback Ferry. They had nursed their wounds at the local inn, Dmitri had spoken with Erakbo, the Oracle, and had gleaned their was something of a mystert going on in the local parts. They had met a citizen with the seven-pointed star, which the Heroes knew only as reserved as part of some unmentionable ritual during the killings in Sandpoint and Magnimar, willing tattooed on his body! He spoke of the pleasure barge, The Paradise, a place where…unmentionable pleasures could be attained, and the tattoo made you a VIP.

The barge had sunk…but a new mystery had been brought to life. Still – duty was first, and the disapperance of the rangers was not only foremost on the minds of the party of Heroes, but also on the concerned folks of Turtleback Ferry. The barge could wait…Fort Rannick could not. One the way there, with Shalelu along for the journey, this bear’s cries had alerted them. While investigating, they were attacked by the ogrekin’s hunting dogs…and now lay feet deep in their blood. Would no journey be complete without being sidetracked by one of Golarion’s many vile monsters?

Perhaps not, but Rukus stood there, grinning, and Moagh, well-rested, despite wondering if his stomachache would ever be truly free of the horrible Spirits of the Turtle he’d been pressured to drink back at town, met the challenge.

4348977933 5c5f10a042 o Moments later, the party was trailing Rukus away, towards…a farmhouse and a barn. In the fields, tending to misshapen, rotting, stinking crops was another deformed ogrekin, this one with what resembled a pumpkin for a heard, and a shiny, foreboding, ogre hook resting on his hip.

The party stopped at the clearing. The bear urged them on, as if compelled for some reason, but the party needed to make plans.

There was something most definitely, absolutely wrong with that home.

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The Trip to Turtleback Ferry
A reunion and a mysterious traveler
River at night1 The party arrived in Turtleback Ferry, weary and not unscarred – by no means had it been an easy trip from Magnimar. The winter rains had become brutal, and although the waters were calm on the tiny river that wove its way to Claybottom Lake and Turtleback Ferry were calm, the trip was not.

During one night, Moagh heard the sounds of fighting, and odd, familiar elven voice, from the riverbanks. Grabbing the ferry’s captain and demanding to stop, he rallied the Heroes and drove into the forest, to find Sandpoint’s mercenary ranger, Shalelu Andosana in a pitched battle with a triumvirate of trolls using a massive, hairy, voracious ogre spider as a pet, and weapon.

Wiping sleep from their eyes, not many spells nor healing salves were necessary, as Moagh’s skill with his longsword gutted the spider and made short work of the regenerating green humanoids…and rescued Andosana from being their pet’s meal.

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She recounted her recent days, and bid the Heroes welcome. She, too, wished to join them on their quest to discover what had happened to the rangers of the Order of the Black Arrow. She was coy, though, about her motivations, but the party, always eager to welcome a new hand (as long as it gripped steel or could wave a wand)invited her along.

That night, Dmitri was visited by a traveler, who also bore the symbol of Sarenrae. He heeded counsel, and when Dmitir obliged, shared with him the story of a ghost who could not be free because he had been murdered before a ritual offering him…to dark forces he did not understand. Although he was happy to not have his soul devoured, until he could face this murderer, his sould was stuck in a horrific limbo. The traveler knew the killer was among Dmitri’s party – but he knew not who it was, although that this halfling apparition had signaled he was among the Heroes.

Dmitri was tasked to bring his murdered before the ghost to stand trial for his crime, or to help set him free…to do this, Dmitri would contact Erakbo, Turtleback’s Oracle of Pharasma, who was known to converse with the dead. He would make the connection possible, but Dmitri needed to find a way to bring his killer to Erakbo.

Two days later, and the ferry drifted into Turtleback Ferry, a small fishing, farming, and trading village. A quaint, forgotten town, its inhabitants were glad to see Magnimar sending some help. In an area surrounded by the twin, foreboding forests of Ashwood and Sanos, and under the looming giant shadows cast by the Wyvern Mountains, Turtleback Ferry was no place to be without professional protection.

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On to Turtleback Ferry
Sandpoint's Heroes are tasked with a mission from the Lord-Mayor of Maginimar

“Of course, we will find out what happened to the Black Arrow Rangers,” Geth replied to Lord Mayor Haldemeer Grobaras, reaching for another of the magistrate’s excellently spiced and roasted boar.

The Sandpoint heroes were being feted at Halbera’s own residence, Defiant’s Garden, for their role in stopping the vicious murders which had plagued the town, linking them to the deadly Norgorber Cult known as the Skinsaw Men led by Justice Ironbriar, but ultimately directed by the evil lamia matriarch known as Xanesha.

Dwarven party machines As Moagh dirtied his thick beard with the finest meats and cheeses of Grobaras’ royal court, Dmitri ministered about Sarenrae’s deep devotion to her people, Variel sat in silence – undoubtedly counting over and over what he might do with the 6,000 pieces of gold the party had received in reward, Jessail entertained with a card trick from a borrowed deck of Harrowing, Geth took counsel with the obese magistrate, who was intently trying to see if he could pawn a task on the group.

He had mentioned that there was small farming and trading village located a few days from Magnimar known as Turtleback Ferry – so named for the ferries had created from the protective shells of the giant snapping turtles they had harvested from Claybottom Lake.

The town was under the protection of Magnimar, in order to control its assets, especially from Magnimar’s chief competitor, the sprawling metropolis of Korvosa. The Lord-Mayor had stationed a fort near the town, Fort Rannick, supported by members of the capable, if grim, Order of the Black Arrow. But they hadn’t been heard from in a while. Reports were not being received in Magnimar, and the town of Turtleback Ferry was growing more and more anxious as reports of heightened animal attacks were growing. And ever lurked the omnipresent threat of the malicious and dangerous ogres in the region. So, could Sandpoint – and now Magnimar’s – heroes possibly help out?

Of course, Geth agreed – it was after all, why they were a group, to work on bringing hope to the hopeless. He had another motive as well. He didn’t want to be in Magnimar any longer than he need be. His own patron deity, the great, wise and just Abadar, was angry at him but he didn’t know how to remove the traitor in Abadar’s Great Hall in Magnimar.

On to Turtleback Ferry then, as soon as Moagh would put down his flagon of mead. Which he somehow seemed able to fill as fast as he emptied it. Variel’s sorcery?

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