Rufusreich

If They Knew We Were Coming...
Part 2: They'd have baked a cake. Mmm, cave grubs and praline. My favorite.

The next morning was just the perfect temperature. Tegan whistled to herself as she checked her arrows, and Crusoe took a moment to wax rhapsodic about the chipmunks he’d seen “doing it” as he took his morning walk.

Only Marielle and Clement seemed ill-at-ease. Marielle had started her day with a mouth full of bad breath and cleric stubble! Clement’s latest dream (where Marielle had perished of a demon-borne disease) had been so vivid that he had sleep-walked. Okay, sleep-healed? Thank goodness his CPR hadn’t been vigorous enough to break any ribs. Clement could tell that his affliction was progressing, and privately feared a psychotic break should things continue in this way for another month. Pelor, he beseeched. Help your unworthy servant…

Armed with a plan Patton would have envied, Father Neil’s strike forces prepared to enact their audacious raid. When the counts are 8 against 150, and one of those eight is a little owl (okay, owl-shaped magical beast), you just need to cheat. Guerrilla warfare was the way to go.

Divination is how you cheat, though, if you’re a power-mad orog.

Earlier today…
“They’re going to strike again today, Smeerdûk?”

“Of that I am certain, Sleegan. I just wish I dared spend another divination spell to determine the time of day. You and your beloved will have a difficult job, keeping the sorceress, cleric, ranger, and feebleminded druid busy, but I have two earth elementals waiting below ground right at the point where Gruumsh said they would be.”

“A third has returned from the Underdark, my liege. Vuno and I will wait underground.”

“Excellent. So you and Vuno to serve as a distraction, hmm, yes. That leaves four chosen ones to kill the bard, owl, and rogue. That rogue! At last my brother Thrull can rest in peace…”

“And you’re sure the dragon will be no trouble?”

“So saith Gruumsh. And soon we’ll be able to nearly double our divinations! The ritual to create the fifth jewel is nearly complete.”

“May good fortune be with us, Father Smeerdûk.”

Outside the walls of Glister.

Strike Force Alpha (Billy, Juno Nim, and Copernicus) reveled in the freedom provided by spider climb, sphere of invisibility, and silence. It was almost too easy. Juno giggled soundlessly as they crept over the wall, close enough to see the orog guard picking his nose with gusto. Popping down, they swaggered through the streets of Glister. They walked right up the side of Nikolai’s store and paused to reconnoiter.

Below them, they saw the manticore dozing in his pen, orcs and orogs on patrol, and Smeerdûk before the altar in the town square. He was completely intent on a small glowing jewel.

So close, thought Smeerdûk. I dare not make a mistake, or it is all for naught…

Juno inclined his head to the south, where a luxury hotel called the Nanther Arms lay. He and Billy could faintly hear the tinkling of a lute.

The adventurers stepped over to a side window and smashed it while still under the silence spell. Candy from a baby! Smirking slightly, Billy cast haste on himself and Juno and stroked Copernicus’ head three times: the signal for Marielle to start bombing.

In the forest

“There’s the signal!” cried Marielle. “Eat flame, suckers!” She began casting.

Tegan yawned. “I’m the best sword we got, Clem. I just want a chance to stab something. Is that so wrong?”

“Don’t fret, daughter. There are worse things than boredom.”

Underground

“Do you hear the explosion? Attack! Damn it, where is Vuno?” The rocky hulks ignored Sleegan’s pleas, and her orc underlings raised their swords.

In a disused tavern

Zarielle read the dimension door scroll. Dramuel said a small prayer of supplication that Mally and Smeerdûk wouldn’t make them wait long. They were nearby, after all.

In the market square

The manticore howled in pain as it was engulfed in fire. Yards away, orcs were burning to death. Not NOW! thought Smeerdûk, redoubling his concentration on the precious jewel…

Inside the store

Billy and Juno had only gotten a few scrolls from Nikolai’s “safe” before Zarielle, Dramuel and their servants arrived. The battle was joined! In mere seconds, Juno’s arrows and Billy’s blade had sent Zarielle to her grave. Dramuel roared in horror. Where was his brother? And how had someone silenced Mally’s lute? Was that a choking sound he’d heard? Was there … a traitor in the ranks of evil?

In the forest

“By the Gracious Beams!” sputtered Clement, as rock and soil flew into the air. Three large earth elementals, three wolves, Sleegan, and many orc helpers emerged within seconds. They cut Crusoe down like a flower, and he was bleeding out. Tegan’s battlecry echoed through the trees. Marielle kept firing at Glister, but spared a moment to taunt the orcs and engage her Frightful Presence; some of the orcs fled, and even Sleegan was shaken.

In Nikolai’s store

And one more down! “Die, dumbass cleric!” Billy cried as he cut Dramuel to ribbons. Juno took the chance to grab another scroll while “hastily” attacking a mountain orc. How many more scrolls did they dare take? Was the jig already up?

My mistress! Copernicus cried internally. “HOOT! HOOT!” Why won’t these dumb two-leg fuckers listen to me? Trouble! Trouble! Get back to the forest. Billy looked at the panicked owl and knew something had gone wrong…

The smell of flame had saturated Glister. Scores of orcs, even strong orogs lay dead in the streets, victims of Marielle’s “artillery fire.” I have no other choice, thought Smeerdûk, weeping bitterly. He let the spell lapse and the jewel turned into wood chips with a small explosion. At least now I’ll get to kill the rogue. He wheeled toward the shop, drinking a potion of haste as he went. His hand was on the door…

In the forest

Crusoe’s blood dripped ever faster into the leaves. Seconds remained before his soul departed. Clement was half-dead of his wounds, and Marielle had given up on fireballs in exchange for lightning bolts to save the cleric’s life. Tegan fought like a demon, kicking up clouds of rock powder from the earth elemental’s chest in her fury.

In the store

Seeing Smeerdûk through the shop window, Billy had a decision to make in his last few seconds in the shop. What were the priorities? To re-seal the safe, surely. Another scroll? They were precious! Could they withstand one round of the mad cleric’s attacks? Perhaps it would be worth it to bear the attack and learn about Smeerdûk’s powers. After all, the two orogs they’d killed already weren’t much. His heart racing, he made his decision and delayed. He’d stab that crazy Smeerdûk right in the face, by Fharlanghn!

Speaking the unholy words in the ancient tongue, Smeerdûk felt the awesome power of the Helm rush over him. His false ruby eye blazed like a red coal. Brother, you are avenged! he thought, as two spells hit the interior of the shop: fireball and unholy blight.

As the twin clouds of flame and palpable evil took him, Copernicus thought to himself: Oh right. I remember this. Death. His little heart stopped beating.


In the forest

“Taste my power!” Marielle screamed, as she filled Sleegan full of electricity. The huge female orog shuddered and was still. “Oh no!” Marielle cried. “My familiar … is dead.” As Tegan stabbed a wolf with her short sword, her eyes welled up.

“If they come back soon, I can revive the beast,” said Clement. “Pray that they will do so…”

As if on command, Billy and Juno returned, with scrolls tucked in their belts and the lifeless body of Copernicus in hand. The battle raged on slowly as Billy and Clement took the time to revive Crusoe and Copernicus before death could truly bear them away.

After a few more rounds, it was all over. “Damn shame we couldn’t have killed Zarielle and Dramuel here,” said Tegan. “Smeerdûk will surely have cast raise dead by now.”

“Every bit of magic we force him to expend helps us, Tegan.” said Clement. “By my calculations, less than half the evil forces remain.”

Marielle raised her fireball finger and touched it provocatively to her ass. “Honey, you know I’m hot stuff.”

Part 3: Every sorceress deserves a smoke break, now and then.

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Nikolai Joins The Brain Trust
Part 1: As Eisenhower said, "Plans are useless - planning is essential."
Sleep was the first thing Nikolai needed. Even the boisterous Tegan tiptoed around the wild elves’ cottage — Branwen Ashmara would be proud to see how demure her daughter could be when she tried. After about ninety minutes, Nikolai awoke with a cry.

“NO!! Help them!”

The party eventually soothed his agitation by assuring him they would liberate Glister as soon as they prudently could. Nikolai impressed upon them that time was of the essence, for two reasons. Firstly, Smeerdûk was creating new octagon jewels to add to the Helm each day, and each jewel gave the Helm another power. And secondly…

“He’s sent off orogs to parley with local evil races! He’s building an army. Many orc tribes have said no, but there’s this red dragon he’s known for years….”

“Not another red dragon,” moaned Marielle.

“This one commands fire giants, fair sorceress! He has an army of his own…”

“Wait,” said Clement. “What is this red dragon’s name?”

Swarven,” said Nikolai. He couldn’t understand why the party started laughing. No help would reach the orogs from that quarter any time soon.

Nikolai told them about a pompous paladin of his acquaintance named Mandelbaum. One day, “Mandelbaum’s” voice emerged from the ring … imitated by an orog bard, Mally Malloprûw. Mally grilled Nikolai for information about the stock of magic in the shop and Glister’s proximity to Melvaunt. It took a while for Nikolai to understand he was being deceived and smash the ring. Nikolai was racked with guilt for having played a part in bringing the orogs to Glister.

“Wait a second,” said Billy. “Mally Malloprûw?”

Indeed, it seemed, all six good characters associated with the Helm of Sunrise party seemed to have a counterpart among the orogs. [Confession: most names are similar so I’d have a fighting chance of remembering them.] Their prophecy tells of a Helm of Eclipse and seems to have many (not all!) lyrics in common.

Meet the bad guys:

  • Smeerdûk, orog cleric (seems to correspond to Br. Clement)
  • Dramuel, his twin brother, another orog cleric (seems to correspond to Br. Samuel)
  • Mally Malloprûw, orog bard (Billy)
  • Sleegan, orog ranger
  • Zarielle, orog sorceress
    and
  • Vuno Jem, orog rogue (who, Nikolai says, is having a torrid liaison with Sleegan).

    Nikolai had more to report:
  • Smeerdûk is obsessed with killing our Juno Nim. He wanted to know how to recognize Juno, what his armor and weapons were like, and what his weaknesses were. Why such a specific grudge?
  • The evil invaders attacked at night using large earth elementals (Crusoe slapped his forehead: rocky dudes!) to dig tunnels from the underdark without having to assault the walls of Glister. These elementals are still around. They serve Smeerdûk in all things.
  • The baddies also include small air elementals, the manticore, standard orcs, mountain orcs, and a total of about 20 orogs, including the chosen six.
  • They have a huge stockpile of magic items. However, since Nikolai had the foresight to lock his stock away in a little demi-plane (think a super bag-of-holding), they have not been able to raid his store. The demi-plane is accessible by moving aside a large portrait of Lisette. It is protected by a password: “tea bag.”
  • Smeerdûk is obsessed with divination. He knows a lot about the future, but his ability to manipulate events (as the raid to rescue Nikolai indicates!) is imperfect.
  • The evildoers can get reinforcements through the tunnels to the Underdark, although Nikolai was surprised how few seem to be forthcoming. It’s barely a trickle. And why haven’t more surface orcs “joined up”?
  • The orogs casually pepper their speech with racial epithets against duergars and drow, evil subterranean subraces of dwarves and elves, respectively. Perhaps the duergar represent a competing faction.

    ZING! Billy’s first idea came. Could they enlist the duergar against their common enemy? Tegan argued that the duergar seemed none too happy with the party…

    ZOOM! Clement wondered whether it was worth ambushing these small groups of orogs Smeerdûk had sent around to parley. After all, if the wild elves could defeat such a group, surely the party could!

    ZILCH! Crusoe wondered if they should, like, hold a pinecone in their hands “and just, like, be one with the solidity? Like it’s EARTH, man. That’s how I get my best ideas!” “Peri” the Mace told him to go hug a tree. Tegan, eyeing his rock-hard surfer abs, gently told him to stand guard for a while and rest his brain. (She likes ‘em big and stupid.)

    And on and on it went. What a brain trust! The party must have accepted and rejected thirty ideas. Even the details of the final plan that emerged were carefully considered (e.g. levitate vs. fly vs. spider climb ) Pelor, from his lofty perch atop the DM’s shoulder, quoted The Princess Bride: “Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.”

    Finally, a plan was decided on.

    There were two important goals, and they had a certain synergy. The party needed to thin the ranks of the baddies without the risk of a frontal assault; when Nikolai had inventoried the foes earlier, he had mentioned approximately 150 things to kill. Secondly, the party would need more and better magic, and Billy balked at paying the monks’ usurious prices. Instead, they’d raid the store and essentially “buy” from Nikolai, who’d only charge them—

    record scratch sound effect

    “Wait, you’re charging us? We saved your life.”

    Yes, he was. Given how much the party had (at least in the form of magic weaponry to sell) Clement thought it seemed kind of tacky to hit up Nikolai for what was essentially a 20,000 g.p. donation when his whole town lay in ruins. Nikolai kept up his negotiating face, hoping that Br. Clement wouldn’t reveal the extent of his money problems … he had told the cleric of his woes in the confessional, after all. [Ed. Yes, Nikolai is in hock up to his eyeballs. Also, Pelor was going to SMITE you greedy bastards if you didn’t pay. You’re so much richer than Nikolai.]

    Finally, it was agreed that Nikolai would take some of the wild elves’ stuff at full price, even though the normal “trade-in” value is half price. [Ed. If you thought I didn’t notice that little issue, you is wrong. :) ]

    These two goals could best be achieved by breaking the party in three. Marielle would levitate up in the air from the woods, raining fireballs on the orcs from hundreds of feet away. She’d be guarded by Tegan, Br. Clement, and Crusoe. Snuffles the dragon would fly around the north part of the town, attacking air elementals and causing confusion. And mostly importantly, Billy, Juno, and Copernicus would spider climb over the walls invisibly to raid Nikolai’s shop.

    With such a brilliant plan, and Copernicus for “command and control,” what could go wrong?

    Part 2: What Went Wrong (And Right!)
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Crusoe's Eight
Part 3: Because a good heist doesn't need Ocean's Eleven.

Pulling teeth. Herding cats. Getting good intel from Crusoe. All the same.

Here’s the executive summary, sans foolishness.

  • Crusoe arrived after the orogs conquered Glister, and therefore didn’t see how it was achieved. The forces of evil have been chasing him, but tree stride has kept him safe so far.
  • He has access to some magic items from the monastery, which he stores in his treehouse, a form of Leomund’s secure shelter.
  • There are some “big, rocky dudes” (who are neither stone spikes nor golems) who go in and out of massive holes in the ground inside the village. They also seem to be the ones digging the “moat.”
  • The mountain orcs include some spellcasters and some animal experts, who have a manticore.
  • One orog wears a golden helm and is treated with great deference by all the invaders. He has a particular orog companion with whom he spends most of his time, and they look alike. Further (sorry, forgot to mention this!) both orogs are missing an eye. The wounds have been crudely sewn up with large rubies inserted into the socket.
  • Every so often, a prisoner is sacrificed on an altar in the town square. After the ceremony, a large carving in the shape of that trippy octagon starts glowing more brightly. Its glow dissipates when various spellcasters touch it while crafting magic items.
  • Nikolai is often found in the town square, where he is being waterboarded. He refuses to speak, even when his friends are sacrificed in front of him on the altar.
  • The town is full of orogs, mountain orcs, and standard pathetic orcs. There are humans, elves, halflings, and orcs (dissidents, perhaps?) in the pens.
  • There are small translucent creatures who float in the air above Glister, flying in sentry patterns. Their shapes seem to shift: sometimes looking humanoid and other times amorphous or cloud-like. They are three feet tall and carry nothing. It is hard to say how many there are.

    After a quick discussion, the party decided that a good first goal would be to rescue Nikolai; clearly the orogs thought he was important, and it would be a kindness to Lisette. As a bonus, Nikolai is a brilliant man, and therefore he’d have more information than dim-bulb Crusoe.

Crusoe led the party to another glade, to a natural pool of water. He cast scry and encouraged Marielle, Clement, and Billy to look on—maybe their individual scry checks would yield additional information. Tegan and Juno sat nearby, playing gin rummy.

For Clement, the pool looked foggy. He couldn’t get it to resolve into an image, except for a nonsensical one: a turban-wearing monkey making a rude gesture.

Marielle (rolling better), couldn’t see Nikolai, but she saw a rather debonair orog sitting in the town square. He was playing a lute and singing a tune that sounded like heavy metal.

Billy saw one of the deep holes. A “rocky dude” was expanding it, throwing soil and stone out of the hole onto the ground at an alarming rate.

Crusoe, as the caster, learned the most. He saw that Nikolai was being held in a building which had been the Temple of Pelor. The stained glass was broken, and the symbol of Pelor had been reduced to smithereens. Nikolai was covered in cuts, bruises, and burns and looked deeply traumatized. He had manacles on his wrists and ankles, which were connected to a heavy chain that was attached to the stone floor. Around him were four mountain orcs and a bored-looking female orog. The orog wore a tiara with pink stones, and was petting our friend the hawk, who sat on her shoulder.

Again and again, this orog-ette (whom Billy dubbed ‘Princess Asshole’) asked him, “What is the password!” Nikolai remained mute, and a mountain orc beat him with a metal gauntlet.

How to rescue him? The temple of Pelor was nearly in the center of town, with baddies all around it! Luckily, the party knew how to use magic and stealth. Billy and Juno led the effort to craft a plan.

The key, they thought, was the word of recall scroll. (What a kind deity it was who provided that.) Perhaps they could sneak in, somehow. But they worried about the chains—would that put Nikolai over the weight limit? If only they had a gaseous form scroll … if Nikolai consented, they could turn him into a fog and float him right out of his chains! We didn’t have one.

But Crusoe did! Crusoe had access to the monastery’s stores of magic, and had been instructed by the abbot to sell us whatever we needed—at a huge surcharge of course, a “convenience fee.” The lawful monks believed in the law of supply and demand, after all.

Now the strike force of Brother Clement and Marielle assembled. They received ridiculous amounts of buffing (probably wise under the circumstances) and were turned invisible.

Using fly scrolls, the invisible duo began to soar over the city. They did catch a glimpse of the cloudy creatures in the air around them, but weren’t accosted by them. From the air, they saw “Princess Asshole” and her retinue leaving the temple, and being replaced by the new watch: another massive orog female, her three pet wolves, and four other mountain orcs. They also saw the crowned orog and his companion, chatting as they reviewed the prisoners in the northwest pen.

BOOM!! Clement threw a thunderstone to explode a small distance away from the temple. Surely Nikolai’s guards would investigate …. no! Instead, the one-eyed orog pair came closer, along with many footsoldiers! Marielle wisely chose to open the southern temple doors, hoping Smeerdûk (yes, he’s Crown Dude) wouldn’t hear…

But the manticore smelled something!! He began throwing his huge body against the eastern doors of the temple, baying for help. Only seconds remained before the ruse was discovered! Smeerduk looked at his companion quizzically, and pointed to the temple.

Inside, the female orog had drawn two weapons. “Do not be fooled,” she instructed the mountain orcs sourly. “All is as Smeerduk foretold.” Silently, Clement and Marielle flew into the temple, hovering near the ceiling. The orog’s eyes darted over the ceiling, perplexed, as her wolves snarled and growled.

With a lucky initiative roll, Marielle went first. She hovered down to Nikolai’s ear and said, “Nikolai! It is your friend, Marielle. You must CONSENT to the spell I’m about to cast on you. I will be turning you into gas—do not resist!”

Stomach churning, the good cleric delayed—waiting for the key moment when he could read the word of recall spell…

“THE INTRUDERS!!” bellowed the huge orog. She slashed at the location of Marielle’s voice, but missed, as did all of the jailers. The wolves clawed at the air in vain. [The dice were kind.]

Nikolai’s turn. He nodded. “I trust you, fair sorceress….”

Marielle turned the shopkeeper to gas. The mist that was once Lisette’s son floated through his bonds. “Thank Pelor!” cried Clement, and he cast the spell…

In a flash, they arrived at the wild elves’ hunting lodge. Tegan, Billy, Juno, and the animals were there waiting for their arrival. Tegan whooped with joy! Holding out a frosty mug to the trembling cleric and sorceress, Juno pronounced it Miller Time.

“I’ll have a double,” gulped Marielle … and she broke into a radiant smile. [She’s a walking Maybelline ad, that one.]

Brother Clement began to use charges of CLW from the party’s extra wand, speaking calmly to the traumatized Nikolai, and working soothingly to heal his wounds.

Next session: What Nikolai knows!!

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Jackbooted Thugs, Jack Doe, and a Jack-Off
Part 2: In which we also meet two perplexing new NPCs.

Father Neil’s happy band continued to march through the Thar. A chill wind ruffled Billy’s locks as he whistled “The Jolly Grenadier.” Juno was recounting a particularly earthy anecdote about a double-jointed halfling call girl when Snuffles started to go crazy: cowering, growling, and twitching, with his eyes fixed on a point in mid-air. “What is it, boy?” Tegan asked. “Is Timmy trapped in a well?” said Billy. Snuffles ignored them and became increasingly agitated.

From a point in mid-air eight feet above the party there came an exasperated sigh. “For the love of …” said a mysterious voice. “FETCH!!!” A peculiar rod-like object appeared and was hurled to the ground fifteen feet in front of the party. Suddenly, there was an acrid, burning stench, and the voice was heard no more.

Juno rushed ahead and looked at the rod. “Perhaps now would be an opportune time to cast detect evil,” he offered pointedly. “I’ll detect magic, too,” said Marielle. Both spells revealed that the item was mundane and neutral, and both revealed faint traces of evil magic in the air where they had heard the voice. Tegan picked up the rod. It seemed to be the perfect size and shape for a walking stick. However, it was made of an exotic gray material that felt like stone but was very lightweight. It reminded Clement of stalagmites in the cave near his family’s dairy farm.

Tegan cast speak with animals. “What was it, Snuffles? Did you smell something?”
“Oh mistress, I’m scared! It was that weird smell again, the sharp, tangy one.”
“What do you mean? You’ve smelled it before?”
“Several times this month. Twice when we were in Melvaunt, and many times on the road, but never so strongly! It is an unnatural smell.”

The party looked at one another. Billy shrugged and shook his coppery mane out of his eyes. It was outside the scope of his bardic knowledge. They decided to continue onward, and Tegan impressed upon Snuffles that he should let her know any time that he smelled the same smell again.

Soon, the town of Glister came into view. Tegan was irritated to note that the trees that had once abutted the palisade around the town had been burned away, leaving a 100-foot zone of scorched earth. Several trenches had been dug, perhaps to serve as a moat one day. The party noticed that the repairs they’d made to the city wall after the ogre attack six weeks ago had held.

“Investigate, Copernicus,” Marielle commanded. The tiny owl-like magical beastie took to the sky, commenting, “Hoo!”. Marielle began to relate the information that he fed her through their telepathic link: a town occupied by jackbooted thugs: cattle pens full of prisoners, evidence of destruction, orogs and orcs roaming the streets looking menacing, etc. But before she could see much, Copernicus cried out in pain. A hawk with two iron epaulets attached to its wings was chasing Copernicus and shooting him with some sort of ray attack. [Very Audubon Society meets X-wing fighter, no?] Copernicus dove for the cover of the forest and returned, landing on Marielle’s shoulder, gasping for breath.

Juno led the party quietly through the wooded perimeter around Glister, hoping to find their contact. With a whoosh, an outlandish figure dressed in colorful hemp robes emerged from a nearby pine tree. “DUDES!” he cried. “It is I, Crusoe the druid!” [Neat trick, that—Crusoe wears a ring of the druid spell tree stride, an organic version of teleport.]

Hours of inane prattle followed. Crusoe shook his long blond locks. He furrowed his brow. He pontificated moronically on what he’d seen of Glister by scrying on pools of water. The single piece of information that was entirely clear? He was an utter imbecile.

Billy asked whether he surfed. Juno barely restrained the urge to cut the druid to ribbons with his dagger. Tegan made impish remarks about his knowledge of indigenous herbs. Clement privately theorized that Crusoe’s crunchy granola idiocy was all natural, but decided the idea that Crusoe’s brain worked this way without potent psychoactive substances was too disturbing to mention aloud.

How do you solve a problem like Maria, so to speak?

More in Part 3.

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Serves You Right, City Slickers
Part 1: Racists are worse than the undead!

(Back to the main party’s life now, kids. No gender-bending dungeons for a while…)

Tegan staggered a bit and looked like she might faint. “Easy now,” said Clement, supporting her. “You’ve been through quite an ordeal.”

“You got stoned,” quipped Juno Nim. Marielle rolled her eyes and offered Tegan a bit of water to drink. Once Father Neil’s party had taken some deep breaths, they set back out on the road toward Glister. Billy estimated that the beleaguered town was less than a day away now.

About an hour later, Marielle told the party to freeze in their tracks—Copernicus saw something on the road as he flew high overhead. After asking the magical owl a few questions, the party determined it must be a pair of monks of Jade Harmony. Lo, as the party arrived, they saw that their deduction was correct … and they were doing t’ai chi in the road… (?)

The muscular young monk introduced himself as Fezziwig. His sober, balding companion was Bartleby. The monks had been instructed in their daily briefing from the monastery that they were to intercept the party and offer them some intelligence (which follows.)

1) The monks have identified three forces of order amidst the extremely chaotic situation in the Thar: the party, the monks, and the groups of young seminarians of Tyr. The monks, with their superior command and control structure, continued to coordinate among all law-oriented parties and convince them to aid one another.

2) A trio of monks (led by Quasimodo) was attacked yesterday by a group of stone spikes. They killed the stone spikes, and unlike the party were able to subdue and kill their masters: a pair of duergar clerics. The duergars carried a portrait of the party and Bro. Samuel. Ah… so it’s DUERGARS who are hunting the party.

3) The monks informed the party that their associate Crusoe, who was stationed near Glister, would surely know they were coming in advance and would greet them. They were to look for him in any wooded glade near Glister. Crusoe had been ordered to help them in their quest (given by Tomnein, the Abbot of Oghma) to capture an orog alive. [Don’t forget, y’all.]

The party thanked the monks and continued traveling. Before long, the sky began to darken, and they decided to make camp. The party enacted an elaborate system of interlocking wards (really: Venn diagrams were invoked—and since when does Billy own fishing line and tiny bells? but I digress…) and happily sought relief from their labors in the arms of Morpheus.

Ah, sleep, blessed sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care … unless you’re Clement, that is. He awoke with a start in the tent, trembling with fear after a dream about Tegan being disintegrated into silvery dust by King Raburnum. She’d slipped through Clement’s fingers, lost forever… These increasingly vivid dreams were driving him crazy. Can’t a cleric catch forty winks? With a sigh, he settled back into sleep.

But not for long. He, Billy, and Marielle awoke at about 4am to Juno’s urgent screaming that something had crossed Tegan’s alarm ward. As the party assembled by the campfire, they saw four corpse-like creatures running toward them. They looked very much like zombies, but were crawling with glowing green worms that pulsated and writhed. The party made short work of them, even running after them to exterminate the ones that Clement turned.

The party had only one injury in this battle, but it was a scary one: one of the foul beasts had thrown a glowing worm at Juno’s cheek, which had burrowed into him before they could stop it. Clement wielded his trusty scalpel and cut the thing out of Juno before it could reach his brain. Whew! [Ed. it would have been most inconvenient if Juno Nim had indeed become a Spawn of Kyuss; see Monster Manual 2.]

Rosy-fingered dawn spread over the desolation of the Thar. “Just five more minutes,” moaned Billy. Marielle brewed her best pot of coffee yet, and as she clinked her mug in a toast with Tegan (who seemed to be developing a sort of divine glow…), the women agreed that this looked to be a glorious day: all kittens, hugs, rainbows, and massive amounts of treasure coming their way with no effort whatsoever. They heard a mysterious chuckle.

The party prayed, prepared, stretched, communed, etc. and eventually headed off toward Glister. Around 11am, Copernicus announced that there was a strange scene about a quarter mile ahead: two humanoids standing over three humanoids prone on the ground, and all were soaked in blood. Inspired by Billy and Clement’s humanitarian zeal, the party set off at a run to come to the aid of the injured.

By the time they arrived, the two standing humanoids appeared to have flown the coop. All that remained were the corpses of three massive orogs, wearing uniforms decorated with that mysterious octagonal symbol. The bodies had been stripped of all valuable items, including weapons. Inspector Tegan, C.S.I, (rolling remarkably well), studied the scene and announced that these orogs had been killed by edged weapons and some mysterious attacks—magic? Both Tegan’s tracking and Snuffles scent ability indicated that the assailants had departed through the woods to the northeast.

The party hustled through the woods, making a tremendous amount of noise, until they reached a clearing and a strange, camouflaged dwelling built into the side of a hillock. The party paused to reconnoiter before entering the clearing, and as they did so, a massive grey beast of some kind came running toward them!

Despite Billy’s inclination to turn around and leave the beast and its lair alone, the party joined battle against this creature, which turned out to be a 4,000 lb gray render, and its companions: a quartet of Wild elves and their soon-to-be-killed wolf. The elves used magic and fearsome combat skills, and the render picked up Juno and began to tear his body in two. Luckily the party prevailed, thanks to MVP Marielle, who polymorphed the render into “The Most Bad-Ass Deer in History” (TM) and rattled two of the wild elves with her Frightful Presence. The wild elves responded with a disproportionate number of attacks on Billy and Marielle—how rude!

Father Neil’s party kept one of the elves, a sorceress, at zero hit points so that they could question her. They searched the elves’ cottage and cast comprehend languages to understand the message in Sylvan written on their wall. It seemed that this group were racist separatists, devoted to “the old ways” of elf life and the purity of elf blood. They saw half-elves as “abominations” and worshipped Obad-Hai with fanatic devotion. Using detect thoughts, the party learned that the altar shrine in their cottage had a magic trap on it which would hurt those who do not worship Obad-Hai. Tegan and Juno disabled this trap, and the party netted some weapons for resale and ten fantastic scrolls, including two words of recall which could pull the users back to this cottage. As they left the elves’ clearing, Billy delivered the coup de grace on the bigoted sorceress with … brio. The party also felt the strange urge to applaud Tegan on a job well done, doing … something? ... even as her divine glow faded.

The party continued on the road, blithely stepping over the corpses of the orogs and leaving them unquestioned as they strolled.


[ed. aside. I can’t believe we forgot to speak with dead! We were no doubt busy congratulating debutante DM Tegan. Oh, well. I’m not giving you a freebie on that one. Deal with it.]

More stuff in Part 2!

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Ch-Ch-Changes
The demi-lich gets all tranny on our asses.

‘Twas brillig on Saturday 2/28, and four of the five in our happy band had gathered at Marielle and Clement’s apartment to hunt the Jabberwock—er, I mean, the demi-lich. In the game-world, Tim Tom, Rosie, Xilaphor, and Lucinda awoke after sleeping the night outside the Tomb of Horrors. Lord Pieter and Rosie looked a little disheveled and highly relaxed, and the Crown Prince and his buddy were playing fetch with Blitzen the confused silver dragon, who was sad he had to stay outside the dungeon. If only someone would polymorph him into a smaller size…. Xilaphor looked natty and oh-so-Hamptons in a seersucker cloak and straw hat. (j/k)

The brains of the party were buzzing with two interesting alterations. Firstly, they found they had lost all memory of events after the point where they’d pushed the magic ring into the little slot … as if it had never happened (Thank you, O Benevolent Pelor, for changing the course of events so we didn’t waste the ring.) Secondly, Lucinda had had a brilliant idea while dreaming—why not go into the dungeon with a lesser planar ally?

Lucinda contacted Pelor, who put the party in touch with a minor heavenly functionary. They negotiated an agreement where an avoral named Raphael would join the party until he had taken 60hp of damage, but in exchange the party must help kill an evil creature who had really been ticking Pelor off. With a flutter of wings, Raphael appeared on the Prime Material Plane. His celestial dental work made Lord Pieter jealous.

Buoyed by the extra help, the party tromped into the dungeon. As they avoided the “lobby” pit traps for the umpteenth time, Rosie decided to put on the Tarnhelm of Calling. In a voice reminiscent of Gomer Pyle, the tarnhelm explained that he had a special function which he was forbidden to explain.

Tim Tom consulted the map he had been drawing and informed the party that there were three areas they had not explored that didn’t require the sacrifice of a magic ring. They approached the first one: the devil’s mouth. Both the gem of true seeing and Raphael’s true sight confirmed that it held nothing but deep blackness. Xilaphor explained that he was shocked he hadn’t thought of this before (he’s SO smart, had he mentioned?), but perhaps the mouth was stuffed by a globe of annihilation. The globe would permanently destroy anything that went through the mouth, including light.

Then it was on to the second such place, the misty archway at the end of the Hall of Colored Spheres. Raphael’s true sight and the gem agreed that there was some enchanted sparkly metal behind the mist, which in other parts of the dungeon seemed to be used to teleport the adventurers somewhere. As they had done in the past, the party tied a rope around Rosie, and gave the other end to Tim Tom. Rosie entered the mist, disappeared … and Tim Tom was pulled after her, with a throaty cry. Lucinda, Xilaphor, and Raphael decided that it would be prudent to merely wait a while and see what happened. Soon, the party heard faint and distant footsteps … and faint and distant cursing. Tim Tom and Rosie entered, angry and …. nude. This teleport spell had sent their bodies to the lobby, but all their gear to an undisclosed location. Soon, all their gear returned, floating on the wind and led by a jubilant Tarnhelm of Calling. [Aren’t you glad the DM provided a way out of that little pickle?]

One more misty archway awaited them in the Chapel of Evil. The skeleton of a long-dead adventurer lay on the tiled floor, pointing at the misty archway. The party was game for walking through the arch (and failed their Wisdom checks spectacularly), so it wasn’t until the party was all on the other side that they fully understood that the mist had DONE something to them. Every single party member had reversed their gender, and everyone but Xilaphor had had their alignment reversed. Chaos ensued, as different members of the party reacted differently to becoming an evil party. Eventually (after the trip back through the mist) the party broke into two factions: the evil Xilaphor and Lucinda versus the good Rosie and Tim Tom, with the help of evil Miss Raphael (who was forced to honor her service to Good, with much complaining.) Xilaphor attempted to turn Tim Tom into a toad, but failed. Lucinda struck with her weapon! Et cetera. Finally, after some subdual damage and passing unconscious bodies through the mist, the party finished the encounter in an almost normal state. The party decided to leave Xilaphor female rather than risk his hard-won good alignment. And Raphael, who had become a buxom agent of evil, was bound by his contract to help, so they decided to leave her that way and let Pelor sort it out after the alliance lapsed. [At the end of the session, Lord Pieter was stunned to watch Tim Tom emerge from the dungeon trailed by a quartet of buxom babes…]

Finally, the group decided to sacrifice the magic ring to the the trapped slot, and descend into the bowels of Acererak’s lair.

More stuff happened. Synopsis to be continued.

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On the Road Again!
(Last of Monday's recaps, whew!)

Pleased to be shaking the dust of Melvaunt off their feet, the party hit the road to Glister about 2 pm on the day of Tegan’s court case. The Thar was as desolate, damp, and depressing as ever, but at least it contained no squabbling nobles or intrigue. Marielle took a moment to polymorph Tegan’s animal friend Snuffles into a copper dragon. Snuffles took to the air, giddy with the new joy of flight. The creature giddily looked over his shoulder at his mistress, Tegan, and Billy gesticulated wildly at him, yelling “Look out for that tree!”

The party had only been traveling for ninety minutes, when Copernicus warned the party of a strange sight about fifty feet off the road: grey humanoid figures, silently pushing down trees with their bare hands. The pattern seemed random. They didn’t seem to be clearing space for a building or a road, and an augury demonstrated that their actions brought the forest neither weal nor woe. Billy and Tegan approached the strange figures, who shrank back but didn’t speak. They did not respond to Billy’s greeting… until they slammed into Billy with their rocky fists. Seconds later, a web appeared around Marielle, Clement, and Snuffles. After a splendid little battle, the party defeated all ten grey creatures and seemed to be on the verge of finding the invisible (?) wizard. However, his dimension door allowed him to escape. A search showed that in his panic, he’d dropped four items: a wand of burning hands (12 charges), a scroll of fly, a potion of cure moderate wounds, and…. a parchment with an eerily accurate portrait of the party (including Bro. Samuel!) and a sketch of a helm. Clearly, this wizard hadn’t ambushed them randomly. A comprehend languages spell on the runes on the grey creatures’ bodies gave two additional clues: the rocky creatures were “stone spikes,” and they seemed to be of dwarven origin, although the dialect was unusual.

The party kept walking. Just before sunset, they happened upon a grisly scene—fourteen corpses, clearly fallen in a small skirmish. There were orcs, both of the standard weak variety and the hardier mountain orc type. Some wore heraldry of the Broken Fang and others of the Roving Eye clans. In addition, there were the bodies of some seminarians of Tyr, a war-god to whom the paladin Argens Bruil was devoted. Clement cast speak with dead on a middle-aged female seminarian and learned that these humans had been sent from Melvaunt; Fr. Jens’ divinations indicated that “Glister would come to Melvaunt,” and that without thinning the orc population, Melvaunt would be doomed. Clement planned to cast the spell again on an orc captain in the morning.

After making camp but before going to bed, Copernicus warned the party that a humanoid with a lantern was walking down the road toward Melvaunt. This traveler turned out to be Queequeg, a high-level monk from the Monastery of Jade Harmony, far to the north. He had been dispatched to do reconaissance about the orc and orog incursions. A colleague of his, Crusoe, was checking out Glister. Queequeg said that he and his brethren were devoted to law and order, and that they hoped to find and serve whatever stabilizing force had “the mandate of Heaven.” Billy invited Queequeg to pass the night with the party. On the watch he shared with Tegan, there seemed to be some real chemistry between the two, and their conversation was lively and heartfelt. Departing just before dawn, he gave Tegan a beautiful dried orchid as a memento, gallantly leaving a smaller orchid for Marielle.

The party woke, breakfasted, and prepared for a new day. Everyone had slept well except Clement (yes, I forgot to say this, sue me) who had suffered all right with… everybody say it in unison… a vivid dream about a party member’s death. This time it was Billy, who was absorbed by a gelatinous cube. Juno changed the subject with a series of filthy jokes, until the cleric couldn’t help it and collapsed in giggles.

When the party questioned the dead orc captain (who failed his Will save spectacularly—thank you, owl’s wisdom) they learned that the orcs were murdering one another, and everyone in their path, due to territorial pursuits. Orogs were taking over parts of the surface, causing waves of orc refugees to attack other tribes of orcs: a domino effect.

After a few more hours of travel, the party happened upon what appeared to be another corpse of a Tyrian seminarian. The young female had an arrow of exotic design with metal fletches which was pinning her to a tree. Juno’s hackles were raised, and he felt the party should detect evil. He was roundly outvoted by the confident crew. Tegan approached the corpse to see what her wilderness lore would tell her… and the “corpse” stood up, removed its wimple, and stared Tegan full in the face with a gaze attack. A medusa! Her normally stellar fortitude failing her, Tegan turned to stone. Using holy smite and other serious attacks, the party dispatched the medusa before she could run. Appropriately enough, the faithful Snuffles performed the final kill. On the medusa’s body, they found some more exotic arrows (only the one was retractable—the others worked fine), 10 g.p., some rations, and a key labeled “The Dog and Duck, #5”.

What to do about Tegan, though? Now that her alabaster complexion was well and truly alabaster… and that she was far too heavy to move! If they left her in the road, would the statue come to harm before they could get help? Billy finally came up with a solution: he could teleport back to Melvaunt. He fetched Lord Calaudra, who used a scroll from his wizardly library to restore Tegan to life. It was sad to lose the teleport scroll… but there really was no other way. Lord Calaudra departed, wishing the party every success in their quest.

Law And Order “chung-chung”

Back in RealLife™, the party decided to take a break from this story for several weeks. (Perhaps Tim Tom, Rosie, Lucinda, and Xilaphor will reappear … we’ll see.) They were left with only questions. Why are inept wizards hunting the party? What is the source of the “Helm of Sunrise” song? Will Clement’s death dreams ever prove useful, or are they merely annoying? What dark presence possessed Lisette? What’s up with that octagon? And what makes this orog fight at Glister so challenging … I mean, really, our party just killed a dragon. Orogs? Puh-leeze. Can these disparate plot threads be tied together? The DM thinks so, but he’s probably drunk on dreams of “Yes We Can.” Or possibly Swarven’s Tears.

Find out next time on “As The Ioun Stone Turns!!” closing credits.

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Inherit The Longwinded
(Monday's session, part two)

Most of the party awoke in the morning ready to face the day… although Clement woke up jumpy and troubled, after a vivid dream of Juno the ghoul gnawing on Copernicus’ corpse. “Never mind,” said Marielle. “What you need is a nice restorative bowl of oatmeal!”

As the party began to tuck in, Tegan screamed “Spit it out!” Luckily, she was fast enough to keep everyone but her and Juno from eating the poisoned oatmeal… but the two of them collapsed to the floor. After reviving them, they discovered that each had taken permanent Strength damage. A quick investigation showed that the kitchen wench, Velma, had had her throat slit when someone snuck in; speak with dead revealed the culprit to be Pegrin.

Sadly, there was no time to seek healing for the heroes or prosecution for Pegrin – the demonstration was starting in five minutes! Billy helped support Juno, who was weak as a kitten. [Ok, to be precise, he was as weak as a small monstrous centipede—PHB, p. 8]. As the party approached City Hall, they passed a mob of clerics, merchants, hungover alcoholics, and whores holding signs saying “No Justice, No Peace!”, “Glister Needs Xul-Jarak’s Champions!”, and oddly enough “Free Tegan AND Mumia Abu-Jamal!”

When the bailiff admitted them, they found that tout Melvaunt was there, including the genius lawyer the Calaudras had hired: their obnoxious cousin Xilaphor. The Roves’ attorney began building his case by calling Kalman to the stand. His first witness was Kalman Leirayghon, who defied his father by speaking on Tegan’s behalf. “Tegan is my friend, and she was provoked beyond reason!” Before the case could proceed (and Xilaphor could work his legal magic!), the Despot called everyone into his private chambers and hammered out a four part deal:

1) Tegan would pay Pegrin 12 g.p. in damages. [The Calaudras paid it for her.]
2) Tegan would apologize. [That was difficult. She phrased it artfully.]
3) The party would hold a press conference expressing their support for the democratically elected(ish) government of Melvaunt. Billy added that they had no idea where the “Helm of Sunrise” song had come from. Hmm, they never really did figure that out, did they?
4) The party would perform community service by doing what they could to help Glister.

Peuter Marsk preened as the council congratulated him on the brilliance of “his” idea (#4.) Billy rolled his eyes. As the party left city hall, Archbishop Olmert cured Juno and Tegan’s strength drain at no charge. A mensch in a miter, he.

Finally, they were free to get started with the quest Tomnein had given them! As their last act before leaving town, they stopped by Halmuth’s office to inform him about the poisoning. The “CSI” wizards in the lab analyzed the oatmeal and discovered that the poison in it was called velfort root. This poison was associated with Zhentarim Keep. Halmuth told them that attempting to prosecute the Roves would be fruitless—if they were under Dornig Leirayghon’s personal protection, the case would go nowhere. However, Halmuth prepared a report on the incident to keep in his private files. Perhaps it could be used as a bargaining chip in the future.

After stopping at the corner store for owlbear jerky and their favorite Ehlonnan energy drinks, the party set out for Glister.

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More Questions, More Obstacles
(Monday's session, part one)

On the way back to the Crow’s Nest from the Oghman temple, the party passed a street preacher carrying a sign saying: “Repent! Worship Heironeous! The End Is Near!” They also met an elderly blind woman, Estelle, who believed that touching “the messiahs” would cure her. When Br. Clement used the Necklace of Holy Aid to indeed cure her blindness, she was overjoyed and ran around the streets singing the party’s praises.

Before they could arrive home, they ran into Halmuth Bruil, the Lord of Keys. Halmuth explained that the noble families of Melvaunt has been in his office all day, screaming at each other over Tegan’s supposed guilt or innocence. The compromise they reached was this: her 1,000 g.p. bail would be posted by House Calaudra, but she needed to wear a magical ankle monitor which would track her whereabouts.

The whole affair made Tegan’s blood boil. All she’d wanted was the simple life of the outdoors… hadn’t she left these machinations behind when she’d escaped the courtly role that defined her youth? To soothe her nerves, she closed her eyes and cast animal friendship. Billy laughed at the comical results: a massive boar, trotting up to the gate of Melvaunt to unite with his new mistress. Tegan christened the boar Snuffles. No wait, not christened… er, obad-haied.

When the party stopped off at House Calaudra to offer their thanks and see if the wizardly family knew any more about the troubles up North, they found that Kara and her father, Lord Calaudra, had many things to share with them. Firstly, Kara told them that Ulfa and Pegrin were staying at House Leirayghon and seemed to be “outside agitators,” brought to town to defend the rights of the poor downtrodden nobility. [DM Aside: I was waiting for the right comic moment to reveal Ulfa and Pegrin’s last name, but I cannot resist. Their family name is Rove. For realz, yo.] The scions had met the couple for the first time on the morning of the bar brawl. Kalman had told the group that his father was on the warpath, and that it would be a huge favor if they would agree to meet with Ulfa and Pegrin as his father asked. Secondly, they shared that Tegan’s ankle monitor was responsive to Calaudra commands and could be secretly removed at any time. Lord Calaudra even offered to create an illusory double of Tegan, or break her out of jail if need be. Thirdly, they offered to provide Tegan with a lawyer and to put all of House Calaudra’s clout behind her politically. Lastly, they offered a room in their home to use as a “home base” for teleportation. Br. Samuel offered to stay behind in Melvaunt whenever the party went to Glister, checking in with the group each day at noon using clairaudience/clairvoyance.

Kara offered to take the party to see her fiance, Elaint Marsk. They snuck through the stately gardens behind House Marsk, and waited while Kara’s raven familiar pecked at Elaint’s window. Elaint climbed down the rose trellis, bounded over, and took Kara in his arms. As the teenage make-out session went on an awkward amount of time, Clement cleared his throat. “Oh,” Elaint managed. “Didn’t see you there….” The party interviewed Elaint about what his father, the Despot, had been doing. They learned that his father had been trying to get the Council of Iron to call up the militia to free Glister from the orogs’ hold, but that there was no consensus; many wanted to focus the militia’s energy on building up Melvaunt’s defenses. Billy rubbed his chin, pondering the political situation. “Tell your father that we have no interest in taking over Melvaunt,” he said. “And tell him that if he has to punish us for Tegan’s crimes, he should sentence us to do community service by saving Glister. It’s what we want to do anyway.”

Footsore after all this investigation, the party set off for their scheduled dinner with Lisette. Lisette was in a state, obsessed with the danger Nikolai was in. She’d used her psychic powers to discover that he was being held in a cattle pen in Glister with other frightened humans and orcs; from his bed of straw, he had watched a young human mother being roasted on a spit and then eaten by orogs. The party consoled Lisette with promises to rescue her son, and she gratefully agreed to give them a reading concerning Clement’s visions, as promised.

The first part of the reading went as planned:

“Those who would the future ken
Scry o’er puddles in a glen,
Kneel before an altar high,
Search the planes for Gruumsh’s Eye.

Hard to make the vision clear
When the mirror’s stained with fear
Hope can also baffle Man
Drunk on dreams of “Yes, We Can”

Clement, here’s a clue to trust
Take the

At this, point Lisette began to choke. Her head spun around 360 degrees, and she said the following in a guttural tone.

“SHINING SUNGOD AND THE CRONE
SING A SONG IN HARMONY
COUNTERPOINT CAN GO TO HELL
ROAR THEM DOWNTHIS SONG’S FOR ME!
ONE FOR DEATH, AND ONE FOR WORSE
I’LL DROWN PELOR’S WITH MY VERSE!!

TASTE YOUEVEN THE OTHER FOURSOON.

GRANDMA’S JUST THE APPETIZER.”

At this, Lisette grabbed her chest and collapsed, unresponsive. The party rushed her to the Temple of Pelor where they learned she was in a coma. They notified Andros immediately, also taking the opportunity to ask him if they knew who had purchased the great jewel Juno had taken from the eye socket of the statue of Gruumsh at Xul-Jarak. Andros promised to research this question and get back with the answer soon, although truth be told we all forgot to close the loop.

Before bed, the party split up to pursue a few further investigations.

Marielle went to see Halmuth Bruil, the chief of police. She melted his heart with her overpowering charisma, and he spilled all the details of the case against Tegan, including the fact that her trial would not be decided in criminal court, but by a special session of the ruling Council of Iron: Peuter Marsk, Dornig Leirayghon, Woarsten Nanther, Vanth Bruil, and three guildmasters. Marielle thanked him with a kiss, and implied they’d have to have a date sometime. Halmuth turned bright red and barely maintained his starchy exterior. The gruff sergeant’s essential innocence was awfully cute.

Clement et al. went to a private chapel in the Temple of Pelor, where he performed a divination. His question and Pelor’s answer follow.

Clem: “Mighty Pelor, our emotions boil
We don’t want to appear too hyster-
Ical. Please help us thus to foil
Our enemies at Glister.”

PELOR: “THE PARTY WILL NEED SKILL AND LUCK
TO FACE THE HORDES OF FELL SMEERDUK [DM: that’s with a circumflex accent, btw.]
HE’S MASTER OF THE ARTS OF WAR
TO DEFEAT HIM MIGHT TAKE BATTLES FOUR
THE NUMBER’S SHITE
PLAN THEN TO “HITE.”

DM: Translation of the last two lines … who knows whether it’s four battles, but it won’t be one. How will you hide in between them, lest superior forces exterminate you?

Meanwhile, Juno was going around the town with some pamphlets authored by the wily Billy. The pamphlets asked people to come and demonstrate at the Central Criminal Court—how dare the city government waste the party’s time with trifles like Tegan’s trial while Glister suffered? In each bar and brothel Juno visited, he convinced more citizens to join tomorrow’s angry mob.

Clement, Tegan, and Billy even dropped a pamphlet off in Archbishop Olmert’s office. The Pelorian archbishop agreed to come and picket the court in full regalia, even wearing his shining double miter!

Spent, the party went home to the Crow’s Nest to sleep.

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Six Eventful Things Before Breakfast
Something's brewing. It ain't coffee.

The party has spent four days recovering from the epic battle with Swarven, and working their “day jobs” in the town to earn some extra cash. (See my comment below for details.) Tegan, Juno Nim, and Marielle were enjoying a hearty breakfast when they had the first of many interruptions: a drunken Tordor, singing their praises and criticizing Despot Marsk and the rest of the nobility who run the city. Next (speak of the noble devils) Oreal, Argens, and Kalman entered with two new associates: a tart-tongued woman named Ulfa, and her knife-loving husband, Pegrin. Ulfa pulled the noble kids into a back room, glaring at the party.

Just when the party thought they might get to eat some oatmeal, they were interrupted again by Lisette, and a visibly shaken Br. Clement. At Lisette’s insistence, Clement confessed that for a month he has been having increasingly vivid and disturbing dreams about the party members’ deaths. Indeed, he had had a dream predicting Marielle’s death in the battle with Swarven. Recently, he had dreamed of Billy being incinerated by a fireball, Juno perishing from poison, Marielle being decapitated by a monk wielding a flaming blade, and Tegan having her head cut in two by an orog with an axe. In none of these cases was Clement able to raise them from the dead (isn’t that just like a nightmare?) Lisette theorized that Clement might be developing prophetic powers, but it seemed too early to tell. She promised to give the party a free reading over shepherd’s pie at her home that evening.

Next up: newly engaged Kara and Elaint arrived. Kara asked the ladies to be bridesmaids, and Elaint kissed Juno’s ass to a fare-thee-well, even trying to cement their friendship by giving him a pair of Kara’s panties. They were dragged into the back room. When Tegan and Marielle followed, Ulfa insulted Tegan’s tenuous connection to her noble heritage and threatened to have her arrested.

Lastly: Billy entered—covered in lipstick. The ladies of Melvaunt spent all night urgently trying to seduce him, all because of a song called “Helm of Sunrise.”

Its refrain:

Helm of Sunrise, spread thy glory
O’er the city by the ocean
Alleluia!

The song has five verses:

1)One day, six champions shall rise
Despots and Kings must hide their eyes
From the Radiance, Alleluia!
Pelor in flesh shall walk the earth
By magic helm, he takes his birth

2)Pelor’s sweet hand shall draw a ring
Ill from His kingdom banishing
Praise the Radiance, Alleluia!
In this new realm, none shed a tear
Our earthly paradise is here

3)Two brothers, helmed, shall each take turn
For these the Sunrise cannot burn
Popes and Sovereigns, Alleluia!
What greater honor can take place
Than to have Pelor wear your face?

4)Dripping in gold, the kings and queens
Four lay-folk shall provide the means
Oh, their bravery! They shall rule us!
King of the song, and king of stealth
Woods-queen, and magic queen (loves wealth)

5)Princes of coin, to rest be laid
Your feeble palaces shall fade
Six new rulers, Alleluia!
Vainly ‘gainst Pelor’s will, you rail
Murder you’ll try, but you shall fail

The party (and most of the city’s inhabitants) interpreted the song to be a prophecy that they, with the help of Clement’s twin brother Samuel, would help incarnate Pelor in the flesh and take over the city, turning it into a theocratic utopia. However, they felt that the song was suspicious – could the whole prophecy be a lie? It seemed far-fetched. When the nobles from the back room overheard this song, Pegrin spat in Tegan’s face, causing a full-on bar brawl and getting Tegan in trouble with the law. The party later learned that Ulfa and Pegrin were known associates of the Leirayghon family.

After the brawl, the party saw an octagonal mandala in graffiti on the wall for a first time.

Whew! That was a lot of exposition. End of Chapter One.

The party, showing foresight verging on precognitive, decided to contact Tomnein, Abbot of Oghma, who actually had hoped to contact THEM. There they met Bro. Samuel, sent to town for a surprise visit with his twin by their benefactor, Fr. Neil. The six adventurers were briefed by Tomnein about trouble in the Thar. Orogs seemed to be walking the surface in large numbers (and gosh, it took only three last month to cause trouble at Xul-Jarak…), and had a mysterious magic item. The orogs have taken over the town of Glister, according to Nikolai, who has not been heard from since. Tomnein hired the party to capture an orog alive, so that the Oghmans can learn more about this mysterious magic item. Meanwhile, the other tribes of surface orcs seemed to be fighting among themselves.

Tomnein had two more pieces of information to share: he felt that the prophetic song was remarkably reminiscent to the origin myth of Brestelcia’s capital, Tulk City. In it, the progenitors of the Ashmara family used a golden helm to channel Wee Jas and create a miles-wide magic ring that seemed to provide law, order, and stability. Could it be a coincidence that Tegan, an Ashmara heir, was mentioned in the modern song? Lastly, Tomnein had Sr. Rana, an art historian, examine the octagonal mandala. She said that she thought it was 2000 years old, and that it featured some iconography of submission or piety.

With that, full of Swarven’s Tears cocktails in real life, the party took a break.

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