Campaign of the Month: January 2008

A Deadly Affair

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Adventure...?

Nessie asked me to use my runes to determine whether information she gathered in a dream was in fact real information. Apparently, the Rod of Peace (I honestly have no idea what that is) is in the city of Frigos in the old Leistos Kingdom which, of course, is still plagued with demons and weak veils between the planes.

Nessie organized an expedition to retrieve the Rod of Peace. Normally, I would have no business joining such a foolish and desperate adventure. Unfortunately, Eitne showed me that five adventurers are already there and in grave danger. There were thousands of hands made of ice coming from the darkness reaching for them. I cannot turn down a venture set before me by the Goddess. And in all fairness, she is my friend and I have to help her.

Nessie hired a warrior and an expert to join us to our meet point with the church warriors. We also found a notice for a strange half orc mercenary looking for work. His name escapes me, but he’s amazing.

We ran into a band of five warrior scouts from Prince Denar’s army. From 400 feet away, they had their weapons drawn. I immediately prepared River of Winds and managed to knock the leader off his horse and twenty feet backwards. Nessie entangled one of the men and his horse for the duration of the fight. The half orc took out his first guy with one attack; smashed in his breast plate and turned him into mush.

I attempted to intimidate them into turning tail. But, I’m a wispy half elf that appears to be completely blind and helpless. I can’t say I really expected them to believe me. I think the leader said something about taking my tongue… (that doesn’t really sound pleasant). Nessie of course was easily able to intimidate. One of the guys all out fainted at her threat, but then again, I wouldn’t want the wrath of Shima (or Nessie for that matter) aimed at me either. And I think that coupled with the half orc turning another one of their men into a bloody pulp was all the incentive the leader needed to turn tail.

We got all the information we could from the two remaining guys and turned them over to the nearest town for justice. Apparently, they had been terrorizing the countryside so it was straight to the gallows for them. Nessie sent the information back to the Queen and the Inquisitors. I also sent it to Duke Victor Goldbraid. He has been fair to me in the past and I will honor his integrity with that of my own. He does seem to care about the Kingdom as a whole and want the best for it.

I know Nessie doesn’t approve…something about him supporting Fareed Al-Siddiq rather than the King’s chosen heir. Quite honestly, now that the Church of the Trinity has been outed and the Oathbreaker kept off the throne, I’m not particularly concerned. If Eitne is at all perturbed she has yet to send me any visions to clue me in and I trust her judgement above all.

Hopefully, the extensive research on the architectural style of Dwarven cities will come in handy when we reach Frigos. I’m searching my mind still to find a way to inform those adventurers before we arrive. The only information I found cross referencing the hands of ice from the darkness and Leistos was that their first god emperor controlled ice power and ruled for 200 years.

I place my faith in Eitne that this crazy expedition into demon infested land does not get Nessie or I killed…or the half-orc, I’m pretty impressed with his…club wielding abilities.

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Adapting to Change

Lem has made huge strides towards his goals, but every step forward yields a new challenge. While he’s been awarded a holding, it’s a four-day journey to reach a series of simple farming communities. While he’s helped locate and recover Prince Dareon’s soul, an assassination plot against the captain of the city guard has placed the University of the Archmage under scrutiny.

Lem’s solution? Spend money to make money. Procuring a Ring Gate from the University’s vault, Lem sent his manservant, Argyle, and a small band of mercenaries to his new holdings to evaluate the land. With one Ring Gate safe at the University and the other with Argyle, Lem will be able to readily move back and forth between Pact and his holding. Making the most of a bad situation, Lem also convinced the Sheriff of the City Watch to double his initial order of muskets.

With his diplomatic and financial plans set in motion (once again), Lem set out to find answers about the connection to the University and the assassination plot. Tracking down an old bard of great renown, Lem learned the spell used to alter Argyle’s memory was that of a bard, requiring either either a powerful bard or a well-connected and powerful wizard to do the casting in person. From the bard, Lem learned a potential weakness in the spell, and left the old bard to find the holes that might still be left in Argyle’s memory.

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Slow Motion
Stepping into the world is like wading through tar.

The first step out into the world always feels like my heart is slowing down. It is such a change, and even with the ba-bump-ba-bump of my heart before the door, it is like drowning for the first few days.

This trip in particular is interesting. I have traveled to Andar, the Elven kindgom by the Wildlands. I feel out of place in a city filled with Elves, a race I am still unfamiliar with and who feel alien to me. While here, though, I met up with a… merry band of adventurers. Josephine and I met on the boat from Kaligtasan, and in Andar we met a paladin, and two humans (one of which seems to be a mite crazy, talking to herself all of the time).

While we were visiting a local tavern, we found a drunken dwarf – so drunk he had passed out – with two guards. A smashed dwarf is rare to see, so I had to investigate! Turns out he was trying to find someone to go investigate a “frozen city” near the Dwarven Free Cities. I have no idea where the Dwarven Free Cities are, but they said it was past the Wildlands, and I am excited to see more of the world, so I asked the others if they’d be interested in the trip.

It didn’t take too much convincing, except for the crazy Brownie, who we encouraged to act as a paragon for her city and help us to take out the demons that threaten it. We got a good map, some navigational equipment, and set out.

While we traveled, we ran afoot of some Red Caps and leucrotta, these terrifying cloven hooved wild dog-like monsters. It was not terrible to take them down, but having Manbat to take me around certainly made it easier. I took the Red Caps boots, and had them enchanted at the next town.

Later, we came to an abandoned city and ran into a group of strange vulture beasts who seemed to be doing some sort of evil, so we fought with them, and it was far more brutal than I expected. Afterwards, we hid through the night in a basement, and found a ashen corpse of a necromancer who had once lived there. I procured some terrifyingly strong alcohol from casks in the basement, and the next morning we investigated and found some interesting books. We also looked in the cauldron that was being mixed by the vulture beasts, and it brought some sort of spell upon us. I kicked it over, and a gold coin fell onto the floor, and I leapt for it. The magic on it was dispelled by the paladin, and we found the words “RET HEX” carved into it. Suspicious and definitely something I am interested in finding out more about.

In the same city, we walked through a broken rift into a resplendent town center, where a massive demon was living. We tried to bribe him with the coin into answering a question for us, but in confusion managed to anger him. Brownie convinced him to give her his “most valuable possession”, the head of a dwarf in a woven glass globe. He then tried to trounce us, but we managed to defeat him after a struggle. Once he was taken out, we were able to investigate the home, and found some Leistig codices. Nadina identified the globe – it allows us to ask one question of the head inside the globe each day. I’m intrigued, and look forward to finding out who this dwarf once was.

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A Ruined City: A Ruined Past.
Remembering Zannan

We had been traveling through the wildlands for quite sometime when we came across a large city. The tarnished and crumbling stone walls were a sad sight. I could see the beauty of their previous glory, but now it was more amazing that they still stood. The walls brought visions flashing back to me. I shook them off, knowing we must continue on.

There was a moment of deterrence from all of us. This city was massive, and the rifts within her were ever weakening. To travel through the city was extremely risky. Only Kuran could know how many demons called this place home, and with the rifts so thin one could easily turn into a dozen. Walking around the city would take days more. I looked to Brownie, knowing she did not wish to be away from her community any longer than she already had. There was no choice but to go through.

As we walked past the walls I couldn’t help but take a closer look. I placed my hand along the wall running my fingers along it’s intricate design, or at least what was left of it. Seeing and touching the walls made me feel younger. They took me back to when I was only 20 years old, fresh to the world of an adventurer.

“Nadina. Focus on the task at hand. We don’t have time for fancy architecture.” Zannan always was one to be about business and nothing else. He never took that moment to take in his surroundings and enjoy the little sites. For me that’s what adventuring was. Seeing the world and all the things she had to offer. You would think a man in such beautiful, intricate, and shimmering full plate would understand such desires, but alas he never was.

We marched through the city in search of some ancient relic. I didn’t know exactly what it was to be honest. Zannan had always handled those details. I was more or less along for the ride. He needed extra protection and I needed money to live on. Not to mention that all too often his share of the cash went into his blacksmithing business which kept my father’s blade sharp as it ever was and my armor always free from damage. It was a perfect business transaction. Thinking back on it, I should have paid more attention to him in the shop.

I couldn’t help but admire the ruins that were all around us. I often felt that if I closed my eyes, I could restore them to their former beauty. The marble fountain shooting out fresh spring water as the children dove in to cool off. Their parents rushing towards them and embarrassingly dragging the children back into their sandstone homes. It at least could bring a smile, which is not to be said for the blackened and crumbling remnants left behind.

Zannan raised a hand back towards me and I stopped in my tracks. “This is the building. Only Kuran knows how many are waiting inside for us. How are the rifts looking.” Even then it was my specialty. ‘Keep a hold on the rifts and you keep a hold on your life’, he always said.

I was young. My skills were weak. “They look stable.”

“Good. Then this shouldn’t take long at all. We get in, we get the relic, and we get out. Killing demons is a necessity only to get the relic. Once we have it we run. They won’t follow far outside of the city.” He voice was powerful and confident. I always felt safe around him; knowing that he never went into a situation without knowing every factor.

The house was massive. It was clearly the home of some great house. I could see the halls and chambers frequented with nobleman and children. My visions made the silence that much more ominous. Sometimes I wished I could stop imagining the beauty in everything. I was naive and childish even at 20 years of age. Still there are days I wish to regain that innocence.

We entered a large room which was once the master bedroom. Zannan began tapping at the walls, looking for the loose stone. His tapping rang through my ears, but there was more to be heard. Amidst his taps were the sounds of some deep breathing like an overweight gentleman desperately in need of a sit. I closed my eyes trying to capture the sound and attune myself to it’s location. Zannan stopped tapping against the wall, I couldn’t tell whether it was for my benefit or because he had found the hidden spot.

The unnatural sound continued and it was undoubtedly coming towards the door. Zannan placed his hand on my shoulder and my heart nearly leaped out of my chest. “Come now. We have what we came for.” He whispered into my ear softly, and I shook my head at him, pointing towards the door. “Then we leave out the window.” He grabbed at my arm, but I did not move. Lord how I wished I would have just moved.

“Let me get some training.”, I urged, “Their is only one and you know I can fight. If worse comes to worse we take the window still.” Reluctantly he stood beside me as the door began to swing open. Before it the creature could reveal itself I charged forward. My father’s blade slashed across flash as the demon was propelled back against the wall with magical force. It hit the wall with a sickening thud before slumping to the ground motionless.

Zannan approached behind me, observing my work. “You’re lucky it was a Dretch and nothing more. Come now. We must go before any others appear.” As we rushed out of the door the walls began to move around us as if with a life of their own. “Nadina. You said the rifts would hold!” I didn’t know what to say to him. I would have sworn they were powerful here, but I was ill-trained at the skill. “Come now. If we get free from the town we might free ourselves from the rift.”

He grabbed my hands and took off through the house. It was all I could do to keep up, and there were points I felt like he was going to drag me along the floor, but my footing somehow held up. Demons were waiting outside of the building. I don’t recall what demons they were but their faces were all equally hideous. Zannan paused only for a moment before releasing my hand and drawing his blade. “We fight through and keep running. And no magic!”

We charged out of the house, my mind overrun with fear. In the confusion of the battle I lost track of my mentor and found myself exhausted from fighting these monsters. I found myself fending for my life as I blocked blow after blow, frequently not knowing which creature I was defending against. A large sword came crashing down amidst the other blows. I raised my sword to block the hit and was sent tumbling to the ground. I looked up at the purest example of a demon I had ever seen. He raised his blade up and I fought to get to my feet, but I was far too weak.

The blade crashed against steel. Zannan. He always keeps me safe. “Come on.” He pulled me too my feet and we continued to run with the demons chasing behind us. I heard an occasional arrow fly by, but my vision never turned. We found our way back to the city gates and continued running even when past. Zannan spoke through hard breathes and grunts, “We must get good distance between us and the city.”

After running for what felt like over twenty minutes, I heard a loud crash behind me. I turned to see Zannan laying flat on his face. An arrow was sticking out from the small of his back. I rushed over to him to remove the arrow. It has pierced through the armor and into his flesh. He did not make a sound as I yanked out. I frantically turned him over, fearing the worst. His eyes were shut and I could see a large gash in the front of his armor and blood running down his leggings. And stayed with him for several hours after and made sure he had a proper burial.

“You okay Nana?” I cringed at the mention and pulled my fingers from the intricate stone design of the city gates.

“Yeah Brownie.” Just remembering. We continued into the city, my beautiful, intricate full plate shimmering in the light.

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A New Leader and a New Man.

As I walked away from the inquisitor I couldn’t help but feel a shudder of joy. All this time that I’ve been out on my own, a reject of my own house, has been more than exhausting. He cast me out into the world like some kind of peasant and forced me to fend for myself in this miserable world. It has been more than exhausting and I don’t know the extent to which I could further handle such degradations.

Now I walk with an extra spring in my step knowing that this will all be behind me in few revolutions of the shadow. I suppose that I should give appreciation to the father, for without him I would be nothing. None the less I feel I will refrain from such humble actions. He has made far too many mistakes in his time to receive such praises from myself, and in the end it is his own shortcomings that bring his house crumbling to the ground.

And who will be there to pick up the pieces? Dean. But I will not make the same mistakes my father did. I may be young, but my mind is spry. This country is a tangled mess of thieves and criminals, and I shall be the man to stand above them all and unwind that mess into a beautiful harp.

With a simple plucking of the appropriate strings, I will rebuild our house from the ground up and make it what it should have been all along. The house of Deepwell will soon be known by every member of society, but more importantly all will know that I was the sole proprietor in its rise to glory, power, and fame.

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Soul Searching
And all the pieces fall into place

Lem seldom makes a choice because it’s the right thing to do – he makes a choice because it’s the most profitable thing to do. For once, the two overlapped. After receiving advice from LiAndra Vale to not use the proper channels to recover Prince Dareon’s soul, Lem approached Nesiba Carbinian for help, claiming her to be one of the few decent people in the city.

Thanks to Nessie’s connections with the inquisitors, Lem was able to present his findings directly to Inquisitor Merrennin Greenbeard. Though initially remarkably skeptical, Lem managed to bribe Dean Monsoon into divulging just enough information to warrant a full scale investigation into House Deepwell. With the aid of the inquisitors, including Inquisitor Marny Turncrank, and some mercenary forces from House Tollek, Lem and Nessie teleported to House Deepwell.

After heavy protests from both Lord Deepwell and Volcas the Destroyer, Lem and Nessie began a thorough search of the estate with the aid of the inquisitors. Locating a secret lair, the two uncovered not only Dareon’s imprisoned soul, but proof of a conspiracy to usurp control of Pact after King Denar Telloran’s death.

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Knowledge is Power
Power has a price

Successfully discovering the means to build gnomish muskets, Lem sought out the Sheriff of the City Watch in order to secure a massive defense contract. After a few demonstrations and exaggerations, Lem managed to convince the Sheriff to sign a trial period contract and pay 11,000 gold pieces for 10 muskets with 10 shots each. Thankfully, Lem’s Archon remains helpful and gave Lem the approval to construct an assembly line to handle the orders for muskets.

And then a visit from LiAndra Vale provided Lem with something he had not counted on: a chance for Lordship. Asked to escort LiAndra to the Grand Theater, Lem met Fara Chukulka, who agreed to purchase some muskets. Known more for his access to hidden knowledge than his wealth, Lem asked to know the location of Prince Dareon’s soul.

And he got an answer – somewhere in House Deepwell. Learning from Fara that the king had offered both 50,000 gold pieces and the title of Lord to whomever could provide the location of his son’s soul, Lem easily conceded to Fara’s request of 35 muskets. Though he had to submit to a geas-like contract to ensure he would provide the muskets, Lem didn’t care much, as LiAndra assured him all the inhabitants of the Grand Theater, specifically Fara, would most likely be killed by the Inquisitors shortly after their visit. As an insurance policy, Lem rigged the musket he left with Fara to backfire.

Nessie

What a test! Trying to figure out what was going on with the succession has been a nightmare. My suspicions were correct, though – Prince Denar: Oathbreaker and the Church of the Trinity not only conspired to kill Prince Dareon – rightful heir and right prick – but also are building up their army to usurp the throne. Thanks to LiAndra’s prophesy, I felt justified. With that information, I took LiAndra and went to the Queen with what we had. We knew the evidence rested in the underground theatre with Fara that we were supposed to infiltrate to drop off an idol that would permit the Inquisitors access, but had to get Danar in custody as soon as possible.

So, I requested an audience with the Queen, and handily enough managed to speak to her, and the King, and Turncrank, and Prince Danar himself. I admit, that made things a little more difficult. However, I spilled the beans like a farmer hit by lightning. I am pretty sure that Danar would be happy with me dead, but after I explained things, the King had Danar removed from the city, and we were sent to take care of Fara. Not before we offered the King the Phoenix blood – which he, in no surprise to me, refused. He’s awesome like that.

LiAndra went with Lem to see Fara, and I ran into Dean. No surprise to me, he was in a bundle of trouble. He’d somehow gotten gaesed by the Church of the Trinity to stay in the city and in the only benefit to me, he knew Prince Denar was bringing people into the city and still putting a force together. I took him to see Inquisitor Greenbeard, and with a little bit of magic on Greenbeard’s part, got the truth out of him – well, as much truth as I think he’s capable of. He still kept resisting and I swear, he made me so frustrated that I’m pretty sure I threatened to kill him in front of the Inquisitor. That kid is going to get himself killed purely out of being annoying. By someone. Potentially me.

Nonetheless, we are going to stop Denar and the Trinity. I will make sure of that.

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Unraveling Gnome Mysteries
And other preparations for war

True to form, Lem dove head first into untangling the mysteries of the Gnome weapons and devices recovered from Red Renold’s tent. After a full day of experimentation and deconstruction, Lem had discovered the methods to create and operate Gnomish devices and muskets – just in time to poke his head out to find that a storm was approaching – and all of Pact was in the balance.

While unsure of where it would come from, Lem predicted war inevitable, and approached his Archon with his concerns and discoveries, and his plan to use said discoveries to supply the city’s defense. The meeting unveiled such plans had already been discussed, however, as several of the candidates for the throne had already approached the University for aid.

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Trading coin and bullets with gnomes
Never trust a gnome you can't eviscerate with dire lions

Tracking down a gnome artifact in Pact has proven like finding a needle in a haystack for Lem. Fortunately for Lem, it seems the artifact had come to him. An expelled illusionist from the University of the Archmage had set up a tent outside the city limits, filled with trinkets from both Leistos and the Great Wastes. While most appeared to be either junk or illusions, Lem took great interest in the “Titan” which appeared to be an inactivate golem. Eager to off-load the relic, the curator, Red Ronald, agreed to sell the golem to the tower for 15,000 gold.

As Lem worked with his Archon to secure the gold and transporation for the golem, someone had already tipped the gnomes off as to where their missing property had wound up. As Lem and his Archon arrived to purchase the golem, six gnomes teleported into the tent and began attacking everyone in sight. While Lem and the Archon managed to slay four of the gnomes, two escaped with the head and chest of the golem.

Not to walk away empty handed, Lem took with him several of the gnomes firearms and some strange collar-like devices before the guards arrived. Also, for a small sum, Lem purchased Red Ronald’s research notes on the golem. Some profit may yet come from this endeavor.

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Bloody Business
Vengence in the Street and Business on the Road

Nessie

I found him. Such luck! After too long of a search for my tastes, I finally located the gold-tattooed orc who killed my mentor, Glid. I tried to reason with him – I only wanted to find out why he did it, who paid him, what the reason was. He didn’t take well to reason.

I had lost my patience with waiting for the Inquisitors and I know it is best to do things yourself if you want them done correctly. So, I did what any sensible person would – disguised myself and traveled to Mudtown to seek him out. But, wait, that’s not the important part here.

The prince has been killed! Murdered in the street, by way of a poisoned arrow. I rushed to the castle when I heard, and no magic has been able to bring him back, even though his body is in our possession. We even brought him to my church, but nothing is working. Someone has his soul and we must get it back. With this happening, everything is offset, and too many things are turning to dark and evil.

My cousin saw the whole thing – she ran to me, shaken and covered in blood. She didn’t see much, but she mentioned a gem merchant who disappeared from view far too quickly. Another mystery, and another priority on the list of things to do for the Inquisitors. That is how I ended up where I was today.

I don’t know if it was residual anger from losing Glid, the shock of the death of Prince Dareon, or something deeper, but when this orc resisted my questions and was so belligerent, I just couldn’t bear it. I attacked him, and again, and when he ran, I chased him. We ran into a crowd, and I drew the crowd’s attention to him to slow him down. When I caught up with him, I slew him – right there, in the street! I am grateful I was disguised, but if I hadn’t been, I still would have done it. His existence is just another imbalance.

I did stabilize him, to stop him from truly dying, and then took him, bloodied and bound, to the church. I will have answers. I will find a way to balance the scales.

later

Once the orc was tied up in the lower cells of the church, he didn’t resist my questions very much anymore. In fact, his responses were prompt, and I gained quite a bit of information. As it turns out, he was hired by a blind orc who lived in a theater underground. My heart fell when I heard it, because my growing suspicions of LiAndra‘s newfound friends have been plaguing me already, but now they’ve just been confirmed. Anyone so determined to make a vision happen has got to have something bad in their hand, and they were willing to stop at nothing to get that storm.

What is worse is that they are wrapped up with Drealig Crowsfist. I don’t like that dwarf, and I haven’t since I first saw him. He’s slimy and I feel always like he is waiting behind me. He, however, is the one to which the blind orc gave Glid’s head.

The assassin also had stolen Glid’s belongings, so I recovered them from Mudtown under the altar in the shrine he had been hiding in. An amulet, some assorted belongings from strangers, and Glid’s prayer box. Inside the box was a cypher written on a roll of parchment. I’m not particularly good with codes, so I called upon Dean and Dalara for their help. It took a little bit of time, but we determined that it had one important thing to say:

“Beware the dark dwarf. His plan is the end of all.”

Dean also caught a few other words mixed in, the first being Xether – the name of a terrible demon, and also “hordes”, which I suppose could simply be coincidence, but still unsettles me.

I packed the assassin up and sent him to the church for proper judgement. I hope that the removal of his hands before his departure was at least enough of a deterrent to keep him from trying to escape. There’s no reason for him to be injured more before Shima calls her judgement.

I took what I now know to the Inquisitor Turncrank. He seemed to find the information very valuable – and it is likely the Inquisitors will take on this underground theater of murderers. I just have to try to get LiAndra out of their grasp.

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