Of Stone and Shadow

Evil

I have acquired a retinue of followers in my quest to vanquish evil. Several of them seem less then reputable, but they will lay down their lives for valor regardless of their inner motives and feelings.

None detect as malefic.

There is a great shadow south of town, surely the work of a dark lord. We traveled their and slew some of his servants, only to be turned aside by a mighty beast, foul in temperament, and large in size. Our deaf prophetess was weak in spirit and had to be rescued.

Surely there must be some way to defeat it. The divine did not intend me to die for his cause, only others.

I will pray on this.

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New Things

My Dearest Hadrian,

I know you told me to never trust paladins. I should have listened. It may come as a surprise to you, but self-awareness through meditation just isn’t working for me. I can’t do it any longer. Or you may not be surprised at all. You always did know me better than I knew myself. I remember you warning me the path I had chosen could prove to be not what I thought. I think that was your subtle way of telling me I’d be bored. If so, you were right. I help people regularly, which I am very pleased to do in exchange for their coin. I think if you had stayed we could have worked out a very profitable business. As it is I have to pay someone to translate for me. She’s a little daft, but nice enough and her presence gives me someone to talk to while waiting for business.

But overall it just isn’t enough. I was talking with Dhasceana, and he was thinking about finding a couple of people to go out into the Fens with. I told him I would be interested if he found other reliable people. Instead he found a paladin and dwarf. The dwarf carries this sword made of bone that just emanates a cold aura, with literal frost dripping off of it. The dwarf’s eyes are glazed as if he’s being influenced and a strong magical aura is detectable. I’m a bit worried but he doesn’t seem to be evil. In fact, quite the opposite, he does seem to take an unnatural pleasure in cutting down undead, and he does it with such ease. I’m worried the sword is going to be trouble however. The paladin is what you might expect of a paladin, eager to find and combat evil, so I would think it apparent that Aretos, the dwarf, isn’t evil.
Once we got together it was determined we should go off and “fight evil” which was a ridiculous concept but considering Dhasceana and I were just concerned about bolstering our financial situation, we didn’t object.

We spoke with Zook, an information broker, who told us about an area to the southwest that was dark and unusual. No one who had gone to investigate had returned. Of course the two new guys decided that was where we should go, and so we did. I don’t know what I was thinking.

Once we reached the place, it was evident that something was wrong. The paladin stood still and kept glaring at things randomly as if trying to pinpoint the source of the malevolent energy, but Aretos quickly detected something buried in the water and slashed at it with his sword, slicing off the head of a zombie. His sword makes this awful ringing noise when it hits undead and I’m sure it could be heard for quite a ways. More of the foul creatures began rising out of the water, but the paladin decapitated another one before it had even fully risen. The others quickly took care of the ones that popped up, maybe 4 or 5 more. I don’t remember if I even hit one. We continued moving forward, overconfident in our abilities to handle anything we might encounter. We weren’t paying close enough attention to realize the danger we walked into until they were upon us. Zombie alligators attacked us and after a failed swing at one of their heads, it managed to grab me and wrench me under the water. They killed it before I had swallowed more than a mouthful of disgusting swamp water and by the time I had reoriented the other was already dead as well. Flush with our victory, and more than a little stupid, we continued on.

Fortunately the next obstacle was seen before it reached us, 5 skeletons approached us from the direction we were heading while a group of zombies approached from our west flank and some other large creature slowly approached from the east. We set ourselves against the skeletongs as they charged us through the swamp water. We took a few wounds from them, as there was a bloody skeleton with them, and we definitely should have turned around at this point. With so many undead constantly coming at us, I think it was pretty clear that we were not going to be able to take care of this issue immediately. But alas, we thought enough of ourselves to continue, despite my own personal weariness and Dhasceana’s wariness.

We turned to take on the oncoming threats. We recognized the large creature as an undead triceratops. Thinking it possible that being undead had weakened it and caused it to be slower and significantly less deadly, plus with the showing of the magical sword and the paladin, we were sure we could take it. The paladin, recognizing my relationship with nature provided me insight decided I had the best chance to stand in front of the beast and avoid being hurt. That bastard. They went around to attack from the sides, but from an inordinately long distance, nearly 15 ft. the triceratops gored me. I was flung away unconscious into the swamp.

This was two days ago. I just woke up today. I’m grateful to be alive, and I was told it was the paladin who pulled me from the swamp as they scattered and made their escape. Still, I should have known better. I still wish to adventure, and I don’t have a problem doing so with the paladin and certainly not with Dhasceana, but I think I’m going to have to be more careful and think things through a little bit more. I know you always told me adventuring wasn’t about bashing through stuff to find the treasure. It seems I’ve got a pretty good reminder. I ache all over. But I am alive. I hope you are well and are enjoying your adventures. I miss you, and I love you. Take care. By the time you get the messenger finds you to deliver this letter, I will probably be on my next adventure. Wish me luck!

Forever Yours,
Ellandra

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All things large and small

What do a wolf and a dragon have in common? One is a stinking, snarling, fur ball, and the other a slimy, alien, monster. The answer? They both will do everything in their power to kill you if you piss them off. The other answer? They are both worth a lot of money dead and to the right people. The danger in adventuring for a living is trying to figure out which of the two answers is more important. The old saying goes, there are old adventurers and there are bold adventurers but there are no old bold adventurers. Eventually foolish actions will lead to death and misery. There will come a day when every courageous adventurer will be laid low in the ceremony of his or her choice while friends drink to their memory. The group managed to avoid that fateful day for at least one more week, though it was a close thing.

After the successful stirge extraction some of the group was ready to go back into the ruins seeking treasure, some wanted to investigate the rumors of the catacombs under the crypts, and others wanted to avoid dungeons all together. Eventually, though, it was decided to plumb the dwarven ruins one more time. With greed in their eyes the group readied their gear and left town, but made it less than a mile before running into their first hurdle. A pack of wolves was ranging through the snow. They were paying no attention to the party, the party was not so kind back. Instead of wolves Rolniak and Liryl saw walking piles of gold, and refused to leave them unmolested.

The wolf pack was out of accurate range for everyone with a bow, so Rolniak got the wolves’ attention by firing two sickly green bolts of energy into the closest one. Like all wildlife the party had encountered before, this action earned a swift and decisive reaction. The wolves howled and rushed the party. Sturbin had readied his bow and swiftly release two arrows as the pack came within range but missed wildly. Donella, Liryl’s henchman, release a third glowing bolt of energy into the pack. Four of the wolves had a taste for amphibians and ran past the rest of the group to molest Sturbin, the other four spread themselves out among the five other grounded members. After dodging two bites and taking two more on his armor Sturbin tried to leap out of the melee so that Rolniak could use his powers more effectively. The wolves reacted faster than Rolniak was able to and three of them followed Sturbin’s leap and met him as he landed, the fourth joined his other pack mates in harassing the rest of the adventurers. From her elevated position Donella continued raining down green missiles into the pack, and Rolniak’s burst of sound managed to effect just one wolf. Luckily for Sturbin one of the wolves that had followed him was limping slightly from the opening magical barrage and he was able to dispatch it before the other two turned his newest suit of armor into a pile of rags. With a concerted effort the group managed to dismantle the rest of the wolf pack, and Sturbin was able to down the second wolf he was facing, though not without significant pain. Seeing the rest of the pack bleeding on the ground the last wolf facing Sturbin reassessed its loyalties and then, reaching the correct conclusion, fled into the woods.

With a large bounty of wolf pelts and parts, and being only a few yards from the edge of town, the group decided to take a small respite from the road. Sturbin took the opportunity to find a helpful priest willing to take a donation in exchange for repairing his pretty face. He also stopped by the, now very familiar, armorer for yet another suit of specialty leather armor. Liryl and Rolniak performed their favorite alchemical trick and turned a pile of stinking meat and organs into an equally valuable pile of precious metals. With much of the day still ahead of them, and only one member in any sort of discomfort, the group set off for the ruins yet again, and yet again they did not make it.

This time the distraction was of a much more formidable nature. As they walked through the ravine a disturbing sight greeted them. An 8 foot long slimy snake like creature with a large jaw, many eyes, and large claws was coming up the path toward the group. Clearly this was a dragon, and Rolniak had seen it in the area before. Once again greed overcame wisdom and after a brief debate the group settled upon a tactic. Sturbin was to take up a high position and rain down poisoned arrows on the creature while Amshel, the summoner, distracted it with his powers. The rest of the group was to fill in and worry at the creature until it was down. Things went badly right from the start. Sturbin was able to find a suitable sniping position a few feet up the ravine wall and Amshel began calling his mighty cat, but something about the ritual he was performing angered the creature and it made a garbled trumpeting scream before charging over the heads of the party straight for the little gnome. Forimyr was able to distract it with a swing of his mighty military pick and one of Sturbin’s arrows found its mark in the creatures right claw. When Forimyr tried to slash at the creature something startling happened. The red tracery that followed his swings snuffed out like a candle in a wind storm. As soon as he withdrew his pick from the area immediately surrounding the dragon the tracery reappeared. Somehow the creature was turning off the enchantment on the weapon.

Forimyr’s weapon was not the only thing affected. Per their usual tactic both Rolniak and Donella launched a salvo of glowing green missiles at the beast only to have them harmlessly dissipate before they even connected. Clearly something was horribly amiss and the party was now at a huge disadvantage. To make matters even worse, the dragon, after brushing aside his ineffective swings, mauled Forimyr into unconsciousness. Lyril quickly stepped up to defend the fallen dwarf and began battering the creature with her, now blessedly silent, mace. Donella turned and fled and the rest of the party was put into a questionable position. With Forimyr down if the rest of the group fled the dragon might not give chase, content to simply eat the dwarf instead, but with Liryl engaged with it and the possibility of a large pay off, the group decided to defend their fallen comrade.

Liryl’s distraction proved to be the perfect opening for Sturbin to leap from his position onto the back of the creature, poisoned axes first. Both weapons managed to strike true through the tough leather skin and deliver their deadly payload. With a roar the dragon turned to face his new assailant and Sturbin cowered behind his weapons hoping to fend off the forth coming attacks. The beast reared, screamed and lunged, only to fall dead at the quivering frogs feet. With poison in its veins and the wounds on its body the creature had finally succumbed to the parties might. It was a near thing, but Liryl was able to stem the dwarfs bleeding and see to her own, thankful that this time her shield had warded a deadly blow.

Once again the group turned back from their trip to the ruins and headed for the town with a wounded companion and another pile of organs and meat in tow. Liryl and Rolniak performed their magic one more time, and somewhere a priest earned enough in donations to found a whole new church. The party was about to settle down and part ways once more when Rolniak remembered something potentially important. They had killed a dragon, a dragon that might have a now unguarded lair. Though they had no evidence to support it, the hope was that the lair would contain some amount of riches the party would be able to put to better use. For the third, but not last, time greed won out over wisdom and the group, with no preparations, set out in search of the dragon’s lair. The party would have had more success if it had not been snowing, but even with no chance of finding tracks the group had an idea of where to look. Farther up the ravine the dragon had been crawling through was a pass leading off into the wilderness. The group figured the lair might be somewhere in that region and set off to search.

The path was a switchback trail that led farther up the mountain to a steaming lake. As they approached, the party heard the sound of a water fall and splashing noises, as if a creature were playing in the lake. Fearful of encountering another dragon the group sent Donella ahead to scout from the air. After a few minutes the pixie fairy came fluttering back, weaving back and forth as if dazed or drunk. When asked what she had seen, Donella claimed that a stunningly beautiful humanoid woman was swimming in the water. The entire party was immediately interested, some because the thought of a beautiful naked woman swimming alone in a lake was enticing, others because the thought of an unarmed naked woman swimming in a remote lake in an area known to be inhabited by a ferocious dragon was utterly terrifying. After a brief debate wisdom won its first, and only, victory of the day, most likely due to the lack of visible wealth in the situation. Rather than approach the lake and confront the unknown woman the group decided to skirt the edge and scout the valley below for any signs of the dragons lair.

It was debated who would go first, Donella, because she could fly, or Sturbin, because he could scale the walls. In the end it came down to a matter of survivability and courage. Sturbin, being larger, was more likely to survive and Donella had already proven herself to be a complete coward with no loyalty to her fellow explorers. So off Sturbin went, into the wild unknown. As he crawled down toward the valley floor he spotted a potential cave opening behind the waterfall. Cautiously he crawled across the walls to investigate. It turned out to be a natural hollowed chamber behind the tumbling water, with a limestone floor, a few stalactites and stalagmites, and a large sword floating above an altar. Not for the last time greed won out over wisdom and, using his cloak, Sturbin snatched the sword off the altar and fled from the cave. When nothing dire appeared, and no doom rained down, Sturbin took a moment to inspect the treasure he had absconded with. It turned out to be a stylized iron hilt with a serrated bone blade, the whole weapon radiated cold and even coated the inside of Sturbin’s cloak with ice. Wary of a potential curse or trap Sturbin decided that even though he was tempted he would not touch the weapon until he had shown it to the rest of the group.

The ascent was no harder than the descent and Sturbin was quickly reunited with the rest of the party. Everyone was interested in the weapon but agreed that the suspicious circumstances surrounding its location and appearance warranted further investigation. The group resolved to return to town for the final time that day and seek out a sage for further information. The trek back was uneventful and the flock of priests that had been waiting at the gate for their return were disappointed to see no wounds or dripping blood. With regards to the sage there was good news and bad. The good news was that a sage existed, the bad news was that he was a specialist in dirt, plants, weeds, and herbs, but would still gladly take 10,000 gold to answer some questions about the sword. With a deficit of gold, and a surplus of foolhardiness the group decided to instead just learn about the weapon through experimentation. Being the only full member of the party with martial expertise it fell to Sturbin to wield the weapon. What happens next is a tale for another time.

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Plans coming to Fruitiion

Ah, the rewards that await those who plan well are definitely worthwhile. Despite my death experience, I was ready to go out and take on the deadly stirges that guarded a room in the Dwarven ruins. I asked the little pixie-fairy Donella to accompany us, knowing more could be better than less. I expect to have her come with us many times in the future, so I made sure she had a good selection of spells. I didn’t really give her a choice in the matter, and selected a spell of force and a spell I very much looked forward to using that pooled all the gold within a certain area, even pulling hidden gold from its secret locations.

My companions were grim and intense and we were able to get there this time with little disruption to our plans. We carefully set up the trap, knowing that any mistake could cost us our lives. We placed a large fishing net vertically in the room, leaving enough space for them to fly into it. We attached ropes with a slipknot to hold the net up on the ceiling, and tied a rope on the door. Then the summoner brought in some elves (after a failed attempt with some rats) to open the door between our trapped room and the stirges, and lure them back to us. Donella didn’t seem any more concerned than the rest of my companions that we were sending people in to possibly die, and I was relieved that my allies lack of morals wasn’t going to become an issue. I myself wasn’t quite so devoid of morals, but I was able to accept the use of summoned creatures knowing they would be sent back to the nether once their duty was fulfilled.

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Good things come to those who wait, and plan, and murder

It was snowing again. The weather had been getting colder and the nights were getting longer. For some this was a good thing and for others not so much. With the leaves turning and the occasional frost at night it was time to get serious about nesting away. Building a proper nest requires money though; piles and piles of glimmering coins, heaps of gems, or crates full of rare luxury goods. These were things that had been weighing on the minds of the collective party for nearly a month. Specifically it was the fantasies of finding these things hidden away in the stirge lair that had been driving them all to distraction. They had concocted a plan, bought materials, and prepped themselves for the conflict, but had been denied the chance by the collected forces of the universe, and some anthrophagic anthropomorphic bugs and their fungus infested minions. Like the tide, though, they would not be stopped. This time, this week, the party would be successful.

The group met in their usual haunt, a small bar that catered to adventurous types. There was a different feeling in the air this time. It was best characterized by what it didn’t have rather than what it did. It was the aura of joviality that normally clung to the group like a thick tar. No jokes, no smiles, no quips, and only the barest recognition of Liryl’s restored state of being. This was a determined group, with one mission in mind; wresting the wealth that was due them back from the greedy hands of fate. This time around Rolniak wasn’t the only one bringing friends. Liryl had met and recruited a small pixie fairy named Donella to help.

As the group left the city limits, pulling their prison cart, many of them made sure to mention the goat episode and get assurances from Forimyr that it wouldn’t happen again. Despite his promise and best intentions, fate would make a liar out of him, though Sturbin was also largely at fault. Before that though there was a curious incident. As the party made its way across the, now very familiar, landscape there came, form the opposite direction, a large sweating man. There were many things that struck the group as odd about this gentleman, chiefly was the fact that he was in the middle of nowhere, with no apparent gear aside from a club hanging on his belt. Also, when hailed, the man acted in a rather suspicious manner. This could have been due to the fact that he was being faced down by what amounted to a crew of midgets pulling a prison cart, but regardless of the reasons his actions were suspicious. If it had been another day it might well have turned out that this man was a bandit, but as the group was busy and focused they decided to give the portly person the benefit of the doubt and let him trudge on by unmolested.

Not long after the odd encounter with the obese gentleman the group had finally reached the ruined gatehouse that marked the entrance to the path leading to ruins. After a check for recent habitation the group moved through, much like they had on previous weeks. Also like previous weeks, there was something waiting on the other side of the walls. This time a very large spider had been sunning itself and waiting for prey in ambush. The creature was about two feet in length and when the party saw it, it froze in place, standing on top of a stump. Ordinarily, especially with Forimyr’s promise, the group would ignore a creature that posed them no threat or substantial gain. This particular creature happened to be a spider though, and at least one person within the party could not stand to let the creature continue its life unmolested. Upon laying eyes on the spider Sturbin drew an arrow, knocked it, and then called for the creature’s death. Ever willing to put his crossbow to good use Forimyr quickly drew a bead and fired before anyone else could react. He grazed the beast and began re-cranking his bow for a follow up shot. With an astonishing show of speed and agility the spider leapt from the stump it had been sitting on and landed on Forimyr’s shoulder. The creature attempted to sink its fangs into Forimyr’s face, but was foiled by his helmet. The following comedy of errors resulted in a dead spider and bruised egos but no real wounds.

Putting the spider behind them the party made their way back to the stone filled clearing in front of the ruins. Their paranoia at an all time high, the group carefully checked the area for signs of aggressors, then checked the upper eye windows for an ambush. The entire place was quiet, but showed signs of recent activity. With no other beings in the area the group decided to take their chance, unload the prison cart, and make their way into the ruins.

A careful search of the large entry chamber revealed more of the same. No other creatures, but signs of recent activity. The group passed through the area on full alert, and went up into their staging room. After having gone over the plan so many times before everyone knew their role. The net was threaded, weighted and hung from hooks that Rolniak plastered into place. All that was left was for the gnome to summon forth the bait. His first attempt called forth a horde of large rats and while they would make excellent bait, their lack of opposable thumbs meant that opening the doors between the trap room and the stirge lair would be impossible. The rats were dismissed back to the ether and the little gnome tried again. This time his circle called forth two elven warriors. They made perfect bait for two reasons. Having hands meant they would be able to open the doors blocking the way to the stirges, and being elves meant that no one would be sad to see them drained of life. The gnome gave his minions their commands, Sturbin readied himself with the door rope, and Liryl and Forimyr took the pull ropes into hand. Everything was set and the gnome sent his charges off with their commands.

The group waited with baited breath. This plan had taken many hours to devise and set up and many more hours to actually try to implement and failure could spell doom for the entire group at the end of a stirge proboscis. The screams let the party know that the elves had encountered their targets, the thumping that followed inferred that the elves had come running down the stairs. Everyone gripped their ropes a little tighter and waited for the targets to appear. It did not take long for the two elves, now covered in stirges, to stumble into the room. Sturbin waited until he was sure the majority of the creatures had followed before pulling on his rope, slamming the door closed. The elves were dismissed and Forimyr and Liryl simultaneously released the mooring hitches that had been suspending the net. The plan had worked beautifully and a full nine stirges were now trapped under the large weighted net. This meant that at least one had gotten away, but one stirge would be little more than a bother if the party was ready for it. With the stirges temporarily trapped below the net Sturbin, Forimyr, and Liryl set about clubbing them into unconsciousness whole Rolniak, the gnome, and Donella kept watch on the room entrance.

After a few seconds a loud humming could be heard on the other side of the closed door, followed by many thumps, like a ball being thrown against a wall. After about a minute the humming sound began to fade, only to pick up again coming from the opposite direction. The remaining stirges had found a way out through the dwarf eye and were now coming up the stairs to attack the party. Liryl, Forimyr, and Sturbin could not afford to stop beating the netted creatures for fear that they might wiggle out captivity so it was left to the three arcanists to protect the investment and defeat the stirge Assault. All three of them activated arcane defenses and readied themselves to overcome whatever might show itself. They did not disappoint.

The first stirge to come flying up the stairway was met with a barrage of glowing green bolts of force, managed to dodge a crossbow bolt, but was finished off by the gnome’s cat companion. Gleeful of their victory the three did not have long to celebrate because more humming could be heard approaching their position. Sure enough two more of the creatures came flying up the stairs, these two were met with a green barrage, a cat assault, and this time a successful crossbow shot from the gnome. The two stirges were enraged and hurt, but still able to threaten the group. Like living magic missles the two stirges homed in on the gnome and his companion, unlike magic missile though, the stirges did not hit their targets; the first was deflected by the cats thick fur and tough skin, while the second rebounded off of an invisible shield of force that surrounded the little gnome. It took almost no effort to finish off the wounded stirges, but by this time a fourth one had shown up. This stirge too went for the gnome with similar results. Angered that it had attacked his master Scruffy batted the creature out of the air and made short work of it. By this time the three arcanists were at the end of their resources and looked back to the stairs, but were relieved to neither see nor hear another beast. It only took a few minutes more to finish beating the netted stirges into submission so that they could be gathered and placed in a closed sack for transportation.

With the stirge problem taken care of the party set it’s sight on their real goal, the lair. It was an easy matter to follow the dry rotting smell back to it’s origin, a pile of rotting desiccated corpses in the middle of an L-shaped room. With quick efficiency the party searched and stripped all of the corpses of anything that looked remotely valuable, then quickly made their way back to the prison cart. After piling the loot into the cart, including the captured stirges, the group escorted their mobile treasure pile back to the city for proper examination. All in all, the group had made out quite nicely. Aside from the assorted coin, gems, and sellable equipment, the group had also found a vial of sweet water, a substance that would purify any water source, a pair of rare arcane scrolls, and a jeweled wand of fire. Even with this haul though, many in the group were not satisfied. Their thoughts were turning back to what else might be hidden away in those ruins. With the stirges now taken care of the group figured they would be able to explore the ruins more thoroughly and decided, contrary to Sturbin’s objection, to set their sights back in that direction next week.

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Good Help

Good help, it’s hard to find, it’s also necessary. I myself had aspirations of finding good help once….I have learned my lesson. It doesn’t exist. I have noticed a tendency in my mood to become frustrated and impatient rather quickly. Which for a wizard, is an appalling weakness. Maybe, it has to do with the fact that I think people talk to much and say more than they need to in order to convey a point, or plan which in most cases won’t work. Maybe, it has to do that I have chosen to party with people who are, in fact, half my height. Mind you this normally wouldn’t bother me. However our party is beginning to fill out and I feel less like an adventure and more like I am running a daycare…. This is not to say that they are not capable it’s just aesthetics. I would like to not have the crick in my neck, that I usually have, from pouring over a tome for days when I have casual conversation. However, it is not to be. I have resolved that I shall forever have a pain in my neck.

Speaking of I found a rather lively dwarf who was spouting off some nonsense that he was a powder keg of power ready to explode on the nearest giant. He was of course drinking heavily as most dwarfs do. However, I noticed that those who stepped up to challenge the vertically stunted sir. Were met swiftly with defeat regardless if it was arm wrestling or a drunken brawl. His gear looked more than sufficient and was well kept. I have had instance to pause several times on my adventure lately from not having enough protection. Whether it’s from a mass of skeletons or the bite of a stirge (rubes shoulder unconsciously). I could use someone capable between me and whatever may come. This dwarf fit the bill. He was pleasant enough and showed genuine interest in finding a solid adventuring party to join up with. A deal was struck.
Rolniak 1 Universe 0

His name was Forimyr and he was every bit as sturdy as I saw him in the bar so feeling rather confident in my new companion and the plan my croaking friend had devised for capturing the stirges. I was for the first time in a while looking forward to potentially getting some serious coin for my research without the looming and imminent presence of death.

We started our journey as we have so often before towards the ruins and as we come upon the gate house. My mind wanders to the many treasures that we will be able to glean from the ruins when I hear CACHUNK, and look up in time to see a heavy blot fly up into the hills by the gate house. I immediately think we have been attacked and drop to the ready to find myself staring at…..a ferocious bloodthirsty…..goat? I think what the f… just in time to hear the SECOND shot. Where as the first bolt missed, and merely got the herds attention this shot went right into the flank of one of the herd. Then the herd comes charging down the mountain at my diminutive friend at which point, I have just enough time to think “What a wanker.”. Before I run my ass around the back side of the gatehouse with Liryl. While hiding back there from the herd of mountain goats and lamenting my decision to hire the dwarf. Six goats coming tearing around the corner and line us up in their sights. I refuse to be done in by common wildlife and as such hit them with a stream of color and noise that instantly drops them as if they were no more than fainting goats. I honestly have never seen that spell work so effectively so smiling inwardly to myself I take note of another two goats assaulting our summoner who had the presence of mind to hide behind bars. I also hear the distant sounds of melee and hope Forimyr also has the same aversion to being killed by common wildlife. When all was said and done there were 8 dead goats and my new recruit was very apologetic saying something about testing new equipment. I decided to let it slide seeing as no one was hurt and the 8 goats would bring us some coin from the hides and such. Rolniak 1 Universe 1

Moving on we finally get back to the ruins and see one of the goblin lackeys of the bugbears run into the entrance. We cautiously take note that now the front area have been fortified to withstand assault. The room is filled with goblins and bugbears behind fortification walls. We decide to try and appeal to the diplomatic half of the bugbears. We also quickly find out that there is no diplomatic half to the bugbears. I immediately drop a globe of darkness on the largest group and prepare a color spray as the melee gets in full swing. As we confidently press forward against the hapless bugbears. We get a second surprise that they apparently alerted their boss to our last invasion, as a giant bugbear with a large obviously magical polearm, and three goblins riding spiders join the fray. Things look bad, I am glad to see that Forimyr was not all talk as he has the brunt of the force held at bay with his armor and shield. I see potential as the grouping is tight around Forimyr and begin to make plans to wade into the action. Liryl seems to have other ideas as while I am moving into the battle she is moving out of it.(A move that later would be revealed as the right one). Rogan was keeping one of the spiders busy and our summoner had dropped some rather disgusting leeches on a grouping of bugbears and goblins effectively removing them from the fight. I saw my chance and moved into position just in time as I cut loose with the spray it was not as effective as last time but it dropped a spider and goblin immediately from the fight and seriously messed with the big guy. I noticed he was stumbling and trying to recover from a blow he had dealt to Forimyr that was sizable. No sooner had I assessed that, Sturbin, with uncanny awareness and reflexes took the opportunity to leap upon the giant bugbears back and murder him. A tear will not be shed from me for that beast. I expect to see the tide turn in our favor with the boss and several spiders down. However, it was not meant to be as it only seemed to enrage the goblins who quickly fire some bolts I thought were coming at me only to realize they were aimed at poor Liryl behind me. I look back just in time to see her jaw splinter into a mess of blood and bone as the magical words she was speaking cease instantly. She is dead beyond a shadow of a doubt I watched her die. Forimyr without the pressure of one of the spiders and the boss quickly makes work of whats in front of him as I see Sturbin bound away on his hit and run strikes. Rogan downs the last spider and when it falls the tide finally shifts and they break and run. The battle was hard fought and the loss was truly felt not only for poor Liryl, but also for the hoard of loot that was once again going to have to wait another week. We shall call this one a tie since our companion survived the cruel process of being ripped back into life. Something I am glad for as I have grown to like my gnomeling friend. Rolniak 2 Universe 2.

We shall see how fate’s fickle finger finds me this week.

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Plan: A list of things that arn't going to happen

Plans are good; they make people feel confident, like they are in control. The wise man hopes the plan will work but the fool knows it will. The real difference is in approach. A fool makes a plan and sets out to enact the plan with the full faith that the world will conform to his plan so for a fool the plan is the important step, once he has his plan the rest is easy. A wise man knows that planning is the easy part, it’s mostly just thinking and talking, but the world loves nothing more than taking some lovely perfect plan, a masterpiece of ingenuity and the culmination of many hours of discussion and debate, and shitting all over it like so much waste paper in a canary cage. A wise man knows that his plan will probably fail and is ready. A fool knows his plan will never fail and provides the world with yet another humorous bar tale.

The latest party endeavors began with a plan. It started out complicated and was slowly refined, poked, and prodded until it became a streamlined thing of beauty. The work of three great minds all focused on one problem. The party gathered the pieces, enjoyed the successes of the previous week, and mended the failures. The best plans always seem to be the target of the biggest shit storm, and the world was loosening its belt and squatting into position, ready to drop a huge steaming pile all over the plans of these unaware fools.

It is important to stop a moment and describe the problem, as perceived by the party, and the elegant solution they came up with. The problem was that there was a potential treasure trove of secondhand gear and money sitting around on the floor amongst a pile of desiccated, slowly rotting, corpses. Further complicating this problem were the ten or so wildly mutated stirges that had created said pile of corpses. Previously the party had underestimated the danger of handling unknown wild animals, but this time they were going to go in prepared. Thus The Plan. The Plan was simple, incapacitate the stirges then loot their lair. The incapacitation was to be done by way of a large fishing net suspended from the ceiling in a small room with large doors on either end. The idea was to bait the stirges into the room, shut the doors, and drop the net, capturing the stirges. This gave the added benefit of changing the stirges from winged death into winged piles of money. After capturing the creatures the lair would be open season for all would-be treasure hunters. That is what everyone hoped would happen and in case things didn’t go as planed there were back up plans, and back ups to the back ups, but no one accounted for one important thing, the incontinence of the universe.

Things were off that day from the start. Rolniak, the drow wizard, had decided to recruit a bodyguard. He was a dwarf named Forimyr. He didn’t seem like a bad fellow and the plan was so good that it should have been able to survive the addition of a new, untested, party member. It was actually fortuitous that Forimyr had been recruited because Maellus sent word that he was once again unable to attend the meeting. After filling Forimyr in on The Plan, the gear was gathered and the group set out, ready to tackle their little piece of the world. By this time the route to the ruins was well traveled and familiar, and the party met with no distractions or problems until they reached the crumbling gatehouse. The party decided to scout things out before walking the cart of supplies through the murder infested main gate tunnel. After clambering over the broken sections of wall everyone was ready to check out the building when suddenly Forimyr noticed a herd of wild goats grazing on the hill side. Worried about the possibility of some tribal herdsman about, the group stopped to inspect the herd from a safe distance but quickly realized it was truly a wild group with no shepherd present. Everyone was ready to just write the goats off and continue on to the more exciting options of earning huge piles of gold and platinum, everyone except Forimyr. Apparently he had just acquired a new crossbow and felt that this herd of goats would be the perfect opportunity to test its range.

The rest of party watched with a mixture of annoyance and bemusement as the new dwarf cranked back the winding mechanism, carefully lined up his sights, slowly pulled the trigger back, fired a shot right past the goat he had been aiming for, and into the side of the hill. Stubborn and frustrated, (in other words just a dwarf.) Forimyr quickly cranked back on his crossbow and fired off a shot without all of the careful aiming. This time, either through luck or skill, he managed to hit the goat in the flank. Understandably this pissed the goat off and he responded by bleating, turning, and charging, along with his ten herd mates.

Faced with a stampeding goat herd the group did what they do best and fled from the instigator to positions of relative safety. Sturbin climbed to the top of the gatehouse, Liryl and Rolniak sprinted through the gatehouse tunnel and ducked behind the corner, while the little gnome wizard lept into the caged cart locking the door behind him. Meanwhile Forimyr, showing more wisdom than any of his previous actions ducked into one of the openings in the gatehouse. Three of the charging goats chased him down the hallway while the rest of the herd split with six of them going through the hole in the wall and the remaining two rammed the cart in an attempt to get the gnome.
As the bulk of the herd erupted through the hole in the crumbling wall they must have been surprised to see a lone dark skinned figure standing defiantly in front of them. Their surprise lasted only as long as it took Rolniak to raise his hand and release a dizzying barrage of color and sound. The resulting disorientation caused the entire group to skid to a halt at Rolniak’s feet. Liryl, Sturbin, and the gnome began raining arrows down on the two goats at the cart and Forimyr fended off the three who had chased him down the hallway. After dispatching three of the conscious goats the others fled off into the hills. After the goats had fled, Forimyr sheepishly joined the rest of the party among the unconscious and dying goats to apologize for inciting the stampede. With little other option, the group grudgingly accepted his apology, butchered the goats and continued on their way.

The trip through the ravine was uneventful and the party reached the clearing in front of the ruins unmolested. Wary that more goblins or bugbears might be in the region, the party cautiously approached the stone outcroppings and noticed a small hunched figure running through the broken portcullis. Knowing they had been spotted and fearing an ambush the group approached the entrance to the ruins with some trepidation. Peeking through the opening the group saw that the denizens of the hive had erected barriers to hide behind and were armed with crossbows pointing in their general direction. Heartened that they were not immediately fired upon, and hoping to avoid a fight the group decided to let Liryl and Rolniak attempt to parlay with the goblins and bugbears. Unfortunately the hive creatures were just as intractable this time as they had been the previous foray into the ruins. They demanded that the group meet with the queen if they wanted to enter the ruins. No one in the party thought this was a viable option, and the combination of greed and worry about being shot in the back led the party to one conclusion, it was time to fight.

Rolniak opened up the battle by calling a globe of darkness down to engulf almost half of the room, rendering four of the goblins and one of the three bugbear blinded. Sturbin lept out past one of the columns and attempted to bring down one of the bug bear with an arrow to the leg but only managed to graze and enrage him. Liryl and Forimyr moved into the room to get a better position for a charge on the bug bear when he left the globe of darkness and the gnome dropped chaos onto into the ranks of the remaining goblins and bugbear in the form of three giant leeches. Whatever confidence the party gained from the effectiveness of their opening maneuvers was quickly washed away when the enemy reserves entered the field. Three spider mounted goblins and a giant bugbear wielding a polearm came charging down on the party from the dark recesses of the room. As the bugbear herded the cavalry forward he swung his military pick through the air leaving faint red afterimages behind. The display of leadership and the deadliness of a potentially powerful magic weapon entering the field brought the focus of the entire party down onto this new adversary.

The new bugbear and two of the spiders moved to overwhelm Forimyr while the third spider charged Lyril. Lyril was able to fend off the spider’s bite but the goblin’s short sword slipped past her defenses. Forimyr was able to deflet both spider bites with his shield, dodge the two attacks from the goblins on their backs, and parry the morningstar attack from the original bugbear. All of those attacks might just as well have been diversions though, because it allowed the larger bugbear to swing past the spiders with his long polearm and get a solid hit on the dwarfs shoulder. With a new and more deadly target on the field the party quickly changed tactics.

Sturbin switched from the group he had been assaulting and ducked under one of the crude barriers to get cover from the enemy crossbows while he fired at the bugbear leader. While he scored a grazing shot Rolniak charged forward and began frantically chanting to try to bring down the spiders and Bugbear with a color spray. Lyril fled from the spider that had charged her, which made room for Reagan to charge it. For a moment it looked like Lyril was going to flee the fight, but when she got to the portcullis she turned and started firing her crossbow at the goblins around the edges. From the back the gnome commanded his leaches to attack and also set about harassing the goblins with his crossbow. Through all of this mayhem Rolniak managed to complete his spell.

Everyone held their breath as light and sound exploded out of Rolniak’s fingers cascading over the melee in the middle of the room. When the spell display cleared one of the spiders and its rider were slumped down unmoving, and the large bugbear with the pick was stumbling and looking around dazed. By his movements everyone could tell something was wrong since he didn’t seem to be responding well to the fight going on right in front of him. Taking advantage of the moment, and hoping to end the fight in one decisive maneuver, Sturbin stowed his bow, quietly lept behind the bugbear, and buried both of his axes into the confused creatures back and neck. The bugbear fell with a gurgle and stopped moving; unfortunately it did not fully have the intended affect. Instead of laying down their arms or screaming in panic the other goblins and bugbears continued fighting, only now Rolniak and Sturbin were completely exposed to the crossbow fire from the back line, a fact that the goblins did not fail to notice.

It only took four crossbow bolts to turn a moment of triumph into a scramble for cover. Within moments Sturbins armor was in tatters, Lyril was bleeding from multiple wounds, and Rolniak was harried to the point of fleeing for cover. Luckily for the party Reagin, Forimyr, and the gnome, now free of the rain of crossbow fire, were able to press the attack. Forimyr doggedly wore his foes down dropping them on by one, Reagin kept the attention of the last spider rider, and the gnome replaced his giant leeches as soon as the magic holding them in this realm dissipated. Things appeared to be going in the party’s favor, they had taken out a large portion of the enemy force and had sustained no casualties of their own, but suddenly everything changed. Fate released its bowels and everything went to hell all at once.

Lyril had already taken a few hits and the pain and blood loss had begun to take a toll. With no enemies in her immediate vicinity she took a few seconds to pull power and begin to close her wounds and revitalize her body. Unfortunately those few seconds were enough time for two goblins to notice her distracted state and take slightly better aim. The first crossbow bolt clanged off of her shoulder and while it did no physical did break Lyril’s concentration and caused her to lose the power she had been shaping. It also made her look up just in time to catch the second bolt straight in her lower jaw. The projectile hit with enough force to shatter the bone and pass through her lower skull. When combined with her other injuries this proved too much for the little gnomeling to handle and she fell, lifeless, to the ground. Seeing their companion mortally wounded, and most likely dead, made the rest of the party take the little goblins more seriously.

Sturbin and the gnome took revenge on the two who had caused the death of their companion. Reagan dispatched the spider he had been facing, and the resulting death throes sent the mounted goblin sprawling. Forimyr finished off the dismounted spider rider he was facing and then slit the throats of the spider and rider who had fallen under Rolniak’s spell. Faced with the renewed fury of the adventurers and lacking their cavalry the rest of the bugbears and goblins turned and fled deeper into the ruins.

With their plan now in complete ruins the group gingerly gathered the body of their fallen comrade and made a thorough search of the dead bodies, collected ears their bounty, piled everything into Lyril’s cart and head back to the city as quickly as they could. It seemed that fate needed to take a break after evacuating its collective bowels on the plans of the four mortals because they were able to make it back to Arkhein unmolested. Furthermore, the priest that had fixed the gnomes shoulder was willing to accept more of their hard earned gold to attempt to bring Liryl back from the plane of the dead and repair the damage to her body. With their dead taken care of, the party turned to the important matters of coin and plunder.

When Sturbin had searched the large dead bugbear he had found more than just the large powerful pick, the creature was also carrying an odd decorative knife and a fur wrapped ceramic bar with a carved grip. Worried about the possibility of malevolent powers, the party waited until they were back in civilization to examine the weapons. It turned out to be an unnecessary precaution as the weapons, while powerful, were also curse free. The large military pick and the ornate knife were exactly what they appeared to be, high quality magically enchanted weapons. The ceramic bar, however, turned out to be an axe with a blade of light that would only appear when it the grip was held. Forimyr, after feeling it’s power, claimed the pick, and Sturbin requested use of the axe.

Though they had not found the treasure they had sought, the fact that Lyril was not permanently laid low combined with the goods and coin they had found on the hive creatures had the party feeling like this was a victory of sorts. They were also more determined than ever to get back into the ruins and explore the stirge lair. The fight with the bugbears and goblins had brought two important questions to light. Where had that larger bugbear acquired such powerful relics, and more importantly were there more to be found?

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The Lesson of Death
Adventure log 5

I never expected to die. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been well aware of my mortality. However, it seemed a safe assumption that when traveling with; a deadly assassin, a wizard of impressive talent, a summoner of countless beasts, and a few well trained henchmen, that my death would not be that day. I was dead wrong.

It started out like most Sundays, though we were better prepared than before. Having encountered dangerous stirges of unusual power and the group had gotten together throughout the week to plan out what to do about them. The plan started with trying to get them drunk, but the team was unsure of the effects alcohol would have and so poison seemed a better idea. However, after having decided on poison, it was brought up that the stirges were barely recognizable as such. Because of our uncertainty we determined that just trapping them would be sufficient. Once trapped we could leave them there while we explored more fully and then perhaps take them back to town and find a buyer for them, or if that proved too difficult, we could leave them to starve to death. The plan seemed good and I was confident in its success as we left town again for the dwarven ruins with our supplies.

Rolniak had found himself an interesting dwarf to accompany us. Forimyr was nice enough but didn’t have the common sensepossesed by a child. At the ruined gatehouse a herd of goats was enjoying the cloudy day and the grassy hillside provided them sustenance. Forimyr cocked his new crossbow and aimed it at one of the goats. Everyone watched as his shot missed. The goat blinked at him and nagged, tossing its head. I was prepared to continue, for what need did we have of goats? But Forimyr was determined to kill something with his bow, so he cranked his crossbow again and shot at the goat once more. The arrow thunked into the side of the goat. The entire herd turned and let out angry bleats and charged us. Sturbin reacted quickly, leaping up the side of the gatehouse and Forimyr turned and ran into the doorway of the building. Rolniak and I ducked behind the other side of the wall, not intending to get involved in dealing with a bunch of angry herd animals. I watched as the summoner escaped into the prison cart and then we were suddenly surrounded by goats!

Rolniak had a powerful spell prepared however, and as he cast it with a swirl of colors and sound, the 6 goats surrounding us slumped to the ground. Two goats were butting the side of the prison cart with the summoner inside. He shot an arrow at one of them and I shot an arrow at the other. I wasn’t able to see Forimyr, but I could hear bleating and his shouts as he, presumably, swung his weapon at the beasts that had followed him. Those of us around the prison cart finished off the animals there and shortly after Forimyr came out of the goathouse, sheepishly apologizing for his actions. I slapped him on the shoulder and told him not to worry about it. Suggesting we could use the dead goats to lure the stirges out made everyone look at me with disgust. I shrugged and helped Rolniak break them down into alchemical components instead. We continued on our way to the ruins with no other distractions, determined to enact our plan and reap the rewards of being well prepared. Too bad we were prepared for the wrong thing.

As we got to the ruins we surveyed the area, looking closely for other creatures or people. We saw one of the deformed goblins skittering inside the main entrance, seemingly to alert others to our presence. Frustrated at the potential delay, we cautiously approached the entrance, prepared to deal with more goblins and bugbears before continuing on our way to our intended goal. Once we reached the entrance, however, we saw that the area had been barricaded and the monsters were ready for us. Responding to pressure, I stepped forward and spoke to the bugbears there, asking them to let us past so we could rid them of the stirge infestation above. Instead of allowing us to grant them this favor, they insisted we meet their queen before we could pass. Knowing that an encounter with the queen could prove fatal, we decided, instead, to move forward and attack.

Rolniak exhibited an interesting ability to create a globe of darkness, which he placed over a group of goblins and bugbears to shut them out of the fight temporarily. Forimyr and I moved forward, ready to attack the ones that tried to leave the sphere, while a group of disgustingleeches, created by the summoner, behind one of the barriers provided an excellent distraction. Overconfident in our ability to resolve the disagreement, I was completely unprepared for the emergence of a giant bugbear and three spider-riding goblins! One of them skittered up to me and slashed through my chainmail. I dodged backwards, sure the rest of my allies would flee as well, but instead Rolniak sprinted into the room! Not willing to leave my companions, I turned and fired my crossbow at one of the goblins that had emerged from the darkness, but missed in my disarray. I saw the new dwarf take a mighty blow from the huge bugbear, and turned towards him. I saw Sturbin leap through the air to dispatch the bugbear, but my attention was on other matters. Knowing that another hit could be the end of me, I began casting a mending spell to cure my own wounds before I helped out Forimyr. The next thing I knew was a shattering and wracking pain in my jaw, and then blackness.

That was it. Inglorious and uninspiring, and total disappointment, believe me. Death for me was a grey expanse of dullness. But in this dreary vastness I was without pain or concern. Oh sure, I had a distant hope that my allies would survive against such overwhelming odds and perhaps even give me a proper parting ceremony, but it was not an immediate concern. I thought upon my dreams of combining artifice and life to give myself immortality. While I contemplated the combination of magics that might have brought me such everlasting life, a small pain blossomed upon my jaw. Disturbed, I didn’t have time to react before pain greater than the arrow that had slain me convulsed through my ethereal body.

I opened my eyes to see a strange figure standing over me. I leapt to my feet, unsure of what nefarious purposes the villain may have intended for me. He smiled, it wasn’t particularly malevolent, nor was it grandfatherly. He patted a purse on his side and turned away, tending to some other thing and seeming to have forgotten me completely. Realizing I wasn’t undead, and was actually back to my own gnomeling body, though feeling very weak, I turned to escape. The pain in my jaw hadn’t gone away and I felt light headed, so when the stranger put his hand on my shoulder I didn’t have the energy to wrest away from him. However, 6 heartbeats later, energy flooded into me and I could feel my jaw knitting back together. The pain receeded to a dull ache and I felt whole again, though perhaps not as sturdy as before the incident. The cleric smiled sincerely this time, and patted the other purse on his belt. It was then that I realized he was indicating he had already been paid for his services.

My allies weren’t waiting for me when I left the cleric’s care, but I didn’t expect them to be. I tracked them down and they greeted me with exuberance. They even gave me a split of the money we had earned in the ruins. I was surprised and warmed by their friendship, and was happy to see I was the only one to have truly suffered from the encounter.

The transition from death back to life has given me a resolve I hadn’t had before. It is similar to when I decided to be a proponent of a faith that combined artificing and life, or when my mind awoke to abilities not possessed by others. My dedication to finding a way to grant myself invulnerability and eternal life through artifice is stronger now than ever. And I am even more sure there is a way now, after having visited the lifeless and dim afterworld that awaits me if I were to die again.

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Of Bloodless monsters and Bloodsuckers
A Concise log of Adventure 4

It was a gently snowing morning when Liryl met with her other adventuring companions. The plan was to visit the Dwarven ruins, and for once nothing had come up to deter them from that objective. They headed out of town on the north bound road. There were no other people or creatures to encounter this time, and so they made relative haste to the ruins. They did become distracted by some other abandoned buildings. Liryl remembered having been told that some of her companions had encountered skeletons here previously. Determined to discover what the skeletons were protecting, Liryl convinced her allies to accompany her in ridding the place of the undead present there.

There was nothing in the first chamber, but the second did not prove to be so empty. Liryl raised her symbol, determined against the foulness of moving bodies with no gears or flesh and chanted her praise of gears and the miraculousness of life. The skeletons fled from her power, scrambling to get away, but trapped by the walls of the room. As she continued chanting, her partners quickly dismantled the unnatural creatures. Everyone was dismayed to find nothing in the room the skeletons had been in. They went back to the main chamber, and went into the other room. In the center of the room was a pedestal with a grotesque dome with appeared to be dedicated to some evil deity from times long past. The pedestal had a compartment on it which Liryl was sure could contain the things being protected by the skeletons. Cautious, everyone retreated after Liryl cast a protection spell on Sturbin to prevent any evil spells from taking hold on him. Sturbin carefully opened the compartment, standing back and using a long stick. An oily, evil tinged mist curled up the stick but stopped short of the aura granted by Liryl’s spell. The entire trip seemed to have been a waste, as there was no treasure even in the trapped and hidden compartment. Liryl however, was quietly satisfied to have gotten rid of the undead, even if there had been no other reward to gain.

The party continued on their way, temporarily pausing to consider the idea of traversing the side of a canyon to spy on others that may come through from the ruins, but that scheme was quickly discarded after a short attempt proved unproductive. Upon reaching the ruins the party tried another fruitless endeavor of scaling the side of the dwarven face to enter through the eyes which were raised off the ground and not a typical entrance. However, also getting a large cat to scale the side of the flat face was not something any of them wanted to attempt so they went into the typical entrance only to be promptly attacked by a bunch of crazed deformed goblins. The cat leapt into battle and quickly dispatched a goblin, but was then turned upon by the remaining misshapen monsters and went down under their ferocious assault. Fortunately, the cat’s sacrifice was valued, as the other goblins went down quickly due to the distraction the cat had provided.
Their victory was short lived however, as two bugbears came charging out of a door to the side. However, the cat’s gnomish owner summoned a host of elves to quickly dispatch the bugbears. One died swiftly while Liryl kept the other alive to question. That was fruitless however and he had to be slain before he could warn others with his sudden keening noise. The creatures had some few small treasures on them which were quickly taken as compensation for the injuries received by the dead’s previously vicious hands.

Liryl decided and was supported in her decision, not to investigate the direction from which the bugbears had come, due to a concern that surprise may no longer be on their side as well as the unknown factor of the size of forces in that direction, the crew decided to go upstairs instead, with hopes of finding the eyes that had been their intended entrance, since hopefully there would be treasure where there was less travel.

They entered what had at one time been a weapons room. The weapons were still there, but so was another pair of bugbears. Fortunately, these proved to be just as easily dispatched as the previous pair, this time with the assistance of a few giant rats, again summoned by the wizardy gnome. And again, questioning proved useless as the bugbear left alive began a loud high pitched noise, seeming to be a warning for the other bugbears or their queen. Liryl was beginning to get very annoyed at her lack of ability to find out more about the bugbear forces that may oppose them searching the ruins. They took the dwarven weapons that had been safeguarded as their rightful reward for slaying the beasts that had guarded over them.

The small group found one of the eyes, and after surveying the land from a lovely vantage point, continued on their way. As they did, a strange buzzing filled the air. Members of the party with previous experience with the noise knew it to be the sound of stirges, large mosquito-like bugs. It was with confidence and conviction that the party made a plan to summon some more creatures to distract the bugs, while the wizard cast a spell that would hopefully effect most of them and disorient them, making quick work of the creatures. It was unfortunate the bugs proved to be much more than normal stirges.

As the wizard and summoned elves stepped forward to enact the plan, darkness prevailed, overriding the light from the torch and preventing even the darkvision the group had from functioning correctly. Screams filled the air and Liryl, unable to see who or what it was she was attacking, scrambled back down the stairs and to the safety of the light. Sturbin made it out before her, and the wizarding gnome and drow stumbled out long enough for Liryl to see with horror the strange creatures attached to them with a long proboscis inserted through their flesh draining them of blood and energy. Then everything went dark again. Unable to fight in the dark and concerned to hit her allies, Liryl fled again. Sturbin made it out alongside with her and moved to slam the door behind him. Fortunately the elves dragged their other two companions out of the room before he managed to close them off. Some stirges were still attached to them, but they flew off without causing further trouble. The wizards were barely conscious and Liryl had to look over them quickly to determine the summoner was much more grievously injured. She quickly applied her magics to him to help stave off some of the pain, and the crew had to leave the ruins to heal and recuperate from their encounter with the strange stirges.

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High Impact Ecology Lessons

It was early October, and it was snowing. It was not a heavy, blinding, driving, deep winter snow just a dreary, pathetic, barely worthy of the name kind of snow. But still, it was snowing, in October. The party should have taken that as a sign and stayed at the inn spending money on drinks instead of marching out to investigate some old abandoned ruins. That’s what they should have done, but not what they did. Plans had been made and broken so many times now that everyone was determined to finally see this thing through. This time around Malleus was busy with other matters but an acquaintance of his, a gnome with an arcane bent, was available in his stead. The poor little guy had no idea what was about to happen. At least he had an interesting cat to keep him company, for a while anyway.

The trip to the ruins was cold and uneventful. Apparently the bandits and animals were smarter than the group and decided to bow to the unusual weather by staying indoors. After a few hours of easy hiking the group was met with the now familiar decrepit gatehouse. Previously Malleus and the drow had explored an odd cavern but had been firmly rebuffed by a force of skeletons. Interested in the area and wanting to flex her liturgical muscles, Liryl pushed for the drow to reinvestigate the cave. Since she was willing to lead the fray everyone else was willing to stand behind her for support.

When the group entered the cave the only thing they found was a gloomy atmosphere and a dusty floor. The drow was quick to defend his assertions that this area had once been full of skeletons and marched past Liryl to investigate. The group waited while he went off down one of the corners to investigate. It didn’t take very long before they heard a girlish scream and saw him fleeing back toward the entrance to cower behind his diminutive companions. Behind him marched a small platoon of armed skeletons, veritable giants compared to the defiant figure standing between then and the drow who had awoken them. Everyone except for Liryl gripped their weapons a little tighter and prepared for the worst should she fail. Liryl stood short and held out the crossed cog of her faith and began chanting. The skeletons’ bones rattled and their feet made scratching sounds as they charged across the worked stone floor. Suddenly the gloomy aura in the cave lifted some and a faint sound like clockwork seemed to emanate from the all points in the room and the skeletons stopped charging and turned to flee from the little cleric. The drow stood and straightened his robes before accompanying Sturbin and the panther in dismantling the terrorized undead.

The rest of the cave was a disappointment compared to the brief encounter with the skeletons. It was a small three room complex with nothing but dusty floors and cobwebs in the central and east rooms and a ransacked, and much graffitied altar, in the west room. When Sturbin was sent to investigate the relic they found a small hidden panel. After much checking and debating it was decided to open the panel from a safe distance. The smoke and dark tendrils that erupted from the small panel proved this to be a wise choice, but the empty compartment also proved that it had been a pointless risk. Disappointed with their find the group briefly debated the possibility of removing the trapped altar so they could sell it to some nefarious group as a decretive temple adornment and hidey-hole, but the weight of the altar and the logistics of transporting it proved to be too daunting. A brief investigation of the rest of the gatehouse ruins proved that this region had already been visited by grave robbers and bandits.

The group continued on through the ravine toward the abandoned ruins. As the walls rose around them some of the party became apprehensive about continuing blindly through a box canyon . It only took a few minutes to locate a small trail leading up the canyon wall back toward the west. The group followed the trail up the wall hoping to gain enough vantage to scout out the ruins before proceeding, but like everything else that day this ended with disappointment. Not even the towering drow was able to see past the next bend and no one felt it would be worth the time and effort to try to scramble up the sides to get a better vantage. Resigned to whatever fate would bring, the group trudged back to the canyon floor and continued on in the directions of the ruins. Their progress through the ravine was unimpeded, though whether this was due to the snow or the location no one could say. As the party exited the ravine they were met with a rather magnificent, if dilapidated, sight. The entrance to the abandoned ruins was a large carved dwarven face complete with a helmet and windows for eyes. The open area in front of the huge head was no less impressive with large stalagmite like structures bursting from the ground. Wary of the prospect of an ambush the now paranoid group scouted the area thoroughly, even going so far as to have Sturbin and the drow examine the rooms behind the eye windows. Like the rest of the trip this area was devoid of both life and loot. One glimmer of hope for the trip was that the rooms behind the eyes seemed to be undisturbed, hinting at a potential for rescuing priceless artifacts before any despicable thieves were able to abscond with them.

Sturbin and the drow were in favor of entering from the top and looking around in the seemingly unexplored sections of the ruins rather than enter through the, obviously, well-traveled front entrance. After a brief deliberation, the newest member of the party pointed out the difficulty in lofting a 200 pound struggling feline 100 feet up a sheer cliff with a rope. When faced with the option of entering through the eyes at three quarter force or entering through the door at full force the choice was clear and the group cautiously approached the giant stone mouth. Two of the three portcullises were rusted but intact; the third had been bent and broken so that it looked like the stone dwarf was missing a tooth. It was through that black and twisted portal that the party entered and quickly discovered that abandoned is a relative term.

Though it was possible for all of the adventures to see without light, Liryl was not comfortable with how limited her field of view was. Considering both her performance against the undead horde and her oddly persuasive mien, the group decided to forgo the possible benefits of not carrying a light source and allowed her to light a torch. Unfortunately the misshapen creatures standing sentry did not have a similar photophilic member among them. Upon their entrance the brave amateur archeologists were met not with warm words and welcomes but instead with cold steel and mangled gibberish. It wasn’t clear what exactly was attacking them, but that had never given anyone in this particular group any reason to pause. Arrows were responded to with arrows but no mortal wounds were inflicted to either side. While the two sides were exchanging steel words the cat decided to sample the local cuisine and raced straight into the middle of the fray, taking a few hits on the way. With little damage inflicted on them from the back ranks the creatures turned their bows and swords toward the snarling beast in their midst, well, all but the one that had been disemboweled. Sturbin, Liryl, and the gnome used the snarling distraction to move into better positions for laying down covering fire, while the drow led his henchmen into battle. From this closer range it became apparent that that the three remaining creatures, as well as the pieces of the dead one, were some form of mutated or mutilated goblins. The dead one must have been a particular favorite among the group because the response to his death was swift and decisive. All of the goblins turned on the cat and though two of them missed rather spectacularly the third proved his mettle and dropped the poor beast with an arrow straight to the heart. To almost everyone’s surprise instead of falling down in a pool of quivering fur and blood the cat yowled in pain then disappeared in a puff of smoke. This gave the triumphant goblin the perfect vantage to see his fellows cut down in a rain of arrows and slashes. Goblins are not well known for bravery and this one proved no exception. The monstrous little beast ran for one of the many doors that lined the main hallway and began banging on it and shouting. The last things to go through his mind were hope that his companions would get there in time, and the arrow that proved that they would not, in fact, do so. The gnome had revenged his fallen cat friend.

The group had less than a minute to enjoy their victory before the door burst open and two large bug-like creatures charge through swinging crudely made morning stars. Reagan took a glancing blow to his armor but was otherwise unfazed. Romil would also have taken a glancing blow to the armor, if anyone had thought to outfit him. Instead he took a glancing blow to the torso, but managed to keep his weapons up and facing the proper direction. The new gnome on the block proved to have quite a few tricks up his sleeve when five armed and armored elves suddenly appeared behind the two bugbears and began laying into them. One of the elves fell to friendly fire, but the remaining four were able to distract the bug bears long enough to allow Sturbin to execute his signature move, the leap and execute. The sudden and bloody end of his ally distracted the second bugbear long enough to Reagan to deliver a stunning blow, while Romil’s wound, or native incompetence, caused his swings to be ineffective. Being injured and vastly outnumbered the bugbear wisely decided to surrender. With nothing left to murder Sturbin and the gnome set about searching the room and looting the corpses while Liryl and the drow questioned the bug bear. They were able to find out that the bugbears had a hive in the ruins and had collected much food, hinting at other humanoids, but when questioned about the location of the hive the bugbear began to let out a high pitch keening noise. Worried about the possibility of an ambush Sturbin quickly cut off both the keening, and the bugbears head.

Without Malleus to help absorb some of the impact, the group felt that a frontal assault on a hive of unknown size was probably a mistake. Instead they decided to head up the stairs to investigate the seemingly untraveled upper reaches of the ruins. It was clear that things were odd in this area when they entered the landing at the top of the first set of stairs. The tile floor was damaged and there was a faint musty rotting smell. After a careful search the room proved empty and uninteresting aside from the damaged floor. The next room was full of damaged shelves, broken pottery, and a stronger musty smell. Having already pushed their luck with one undead army the group decided to head further upstairs and into cleaner smelling air. At the top of the stairs the group was surprised by a pair of bug bears standing guard at a door on the opposite side of a long room. With two bug bears yelling battle cries and rushing across the floor the party reacted quickly and began peppering them with arrows and bolts. This time the gnome surprised everyone by calling forth giant rats to distract the two foes and aid in combat. With the help of the sudden vermin the bugbears were brought down, one dead and the other alive. When questioned this bugbear also started to make a loud keening noise and was also quickly beheaded. A search of the room turned up some old dwarven weapons, a few shields and some barrels full of arrows. Not wanting the weather and neglect to cause further harm to these potentially priceless cultural artifacts the group decided that it was best if they took them into custody until they could find their rightful owners. Satisfied that there were no further relics to be rescued the group opened the newly unguarded door. This proved to be one the rooms behind the dwarven eyes. After checking the ruins entrance for any sign of potential looters the group took a moment to enjoy the view of the valley. Of special note to the drow was the close proximity of a small town to the Hammer rock. Immediately he and Sturbin began to try to calculate how much effort it would take to cause the hammer to fall upon the town in such a way that it would look like some great titan had decided to smash it like a nail. Their discussion was not entirely appreciated. Satisfied that all of the relics and antiques in this area had been accounted for and collected the group headed back down to the stairs and into the room with the smell. Worried about what might creep up behind them the group decided to open the door and figure out where the odor was originating.

Beyond the door was a small room with a similarly small stair case leading upward. As the group cautiously ascended the stair case two things became clear. The musty smell was getting worse, and there was an odd buzzing sound beginning. The drow stopped the group’s ascent and explained that the sound was familiar. He was pretty sure it was a bunch of large bloodsucking creatures known as stirges. The group stopped and listened trying to figure out how many might be up there and if there might be anything else around. Sturbin concluded that there were probably 12 of the creatures and everyone agreed that if prepared that was probably not beyond their abilities to handle. After all if this area were ever to be restored to its proper cultural glory these pests would need to be excavated. A plan was hatched in which the gnome would call forth another small group of elves to enter the room and act as a phalanx for the drow who would attempt to knock out as many o the beasts as he could with his disorienting magic. Things seemed to be going well for a few seconds, then suddenly the entire hallway became black as pitch. The torch was no longer shedding light and even the various night vision abilities among the group seemed to not be working. From the darkness came a loud girlish scream and a lot of agitated buzzing. The group quickly stumbled down the steps and moved instantly from pure darkness to visibility and light. This only lasted a few seconds though, long enough to see that the drow had two hideous creatures attached to either side of his neck that appeared to be draining his blood.

As soon as another of the creatures flew into the room darkness once again enveloped the party this time the gnome was set upon by a pair of the creatures. Quick to move to a tactically advantaged position Sturbin and Liryl lept through the open door back into the room with the smashed tiles and started to slam the door shut on the devilish things that brought the darkness with them. Fate smiled on the fallen drown and gnome though because just before he was able to slam the door shut the two summoned elves pulled the body of their creator and his companion through the rapidly dwindling opening. With the rest of the Stirges locked behind a stout slab of oak Stirbin and Liryl set about stabilizing their companions and removing the stirges. When the dust had settled and the fiends had fled with bellies full of blood Liryl looked over the two fallen mages and found that the drow had suffered little more than heavy loss of blood and pride, while the gnome had received a grievous injury. One of the stirges had pierced a major artery and without proper aid the gnome would have bled to death in minutes. Even with her holy powers, Liryl was unable to fully repair the damage to the arm. With two companions near death’s door and a large force of demonic entities to contend with the group decided to head back to their bar of operations and see about recruiting some further aid before completing any more community rehabilitation projects in this area. On a more positive note, when they made it back to town they were quickly able to find the rightful owner of the dwarven relics, a nice Halfling arms merchant with enough gold to prove his rightful claim to his lost family heirlooms. Everyone resolved to test themselves against these new and interesting stirge specimen again after recuperating from this last wilderness foray, though this time with a little help from some ecology experts possibly.

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