Age of Despair

Session #27
A Stranger Shore

Sitting here in the comfort of my new desk, I have the unexpected luxury to reflect upon the events of these recent years and consider the truth of the saying about humans. The mayfly does indeed live a frantic life. I fear that I may grow to become infected with a frantic nature of my own in such company, but who is to say that some urgency is not called for, times being what they are? And meanwhile, I am making considerable progress with my studies and performing ground-breaking work with regards to this matter of divine magic. I have traveled among these companions for only a short time, but my observations have led me to construct the basic foundations of a hypothesis. I have seen Gertrude, Kunegunde and Alaric make use of powers that are well outside the realm of arcane magic. There is no doubt that they possess abilities that humans have not had access to since the last Age. It was the old story of the King and his family that began this mental process in which I am now engaged. The old stories tell of how it was the collected will of the humans that transformed all of reality into the plane on which we now dwell. It is the power of belief that drives this divine magic. But we can say with certainty that this power does not obtain from an exclusively internal or external source. If it were the latter, then Alaric could draw upon this ever-flowing font of power and heal those around him without limit. But he and others who possess this ability can only perform so many “miraculous” acts before the reservoir is depleted. This indicates either that there is an external source and it is exceedingly small or that there is some internally-fueled aspect to the magic. We discard the first of these suppositions when we consider that as Gertrude and Alaric have pursued and explored their faith, they have gained the power to perform more, and more powerful, magics. But we can also determine that the mechanism is not exclusively internal or the loss of this type of magic would not have occurred when the “Gods” left. During the Forsaking, whatever phenomenon that maintained the faithful’s connection to their source of divine magic following the fall of Illios was severed. It is only now after 300 years that the connection has been reestablished. Cilka’s research tells us that, in the days before Illios, “demons and servants of the gods walked the land at will”. After Illios, the land was closed to these outsiders and magic was tied to the moons, but the Faithful retained the ability to practice divine magic. Then this too was lost. It was the Threshold that was responsible for this connection. Why then did it end? Was the Threshold destroyed? If it was, whence comes this new power? If it was not destroyed, why did the Forsaking occur? We know too little of the Threshold or the connection it served to maintain. And what is it that resides on the other side? What are these “Gods”? The humans tell that the gods created the land before the First Age and then departed. A motley collection of manifestations personifying the virtues and vices of humanity, entities of unimaginably vast power that have no inclination to intervene or assist on behalf of those who have dedicated entire lives to their service. Beings that no one in living memory or written record has ever seen, or spoken to, or interacted with in any way. Is it possible that they are an artifice, a manufactured structure which allows humans to access this connection to a removed font of power? That these stories of the gods and methods of worship are In fact a match for the symbols and formulae that I commit to memory each day? I believe that Alaric possesses the power to heal injuries; I have seen it proven time and time again. But to believe that this power derives from some benevolent outsider, bestowing its blessing upon the faithful? I have seen the finest facets of human behavior drawn out in the name of these gods. I have seen Bravery. Courage. Determination. I have seen the workings of a miraculous power that arcane magic cannot replicate and could never hope to equal. It saddens me greatly that these human think so little of themselves that they must attribute it to some greater power.

Arriving at the camp of Brother Engle, we find that there are no gallows or hanging bodies here outside the camp. The structures in the camp seem to be recently renovated or restored. We are quickly brought to meet with the Brother. He is a young man for one of his station. We told him about our travels and what had brought us to the Order of the Star. He seemed to be very interested in the matter of the Old Gods, and we described to him the particulars of the Divine Record. He was given the scroll and began to peruse the document. One of his men, a groom, was summoned to the chamber. After a short interrogation, he was presented with the scroll and despite his professed ignorance of the written word, began to read the text aloud. Brother Engle was quite interested and asked for time to study the scroll, which we left in his care. We were provided a place to stay while he reviewed the text. I offered to provide suitable lodging for our group, but the steward had other intentions. They forced a few of the soldiers to move to tents in the courtyard to make room for us. Gertrude visited to Infirmary to tend to the injured there.

We were offered dinner with the men, and there were stares but no commotion was raised. The meal was drab but there was fish. In the night, Engle came to speak to us. He said he had been troubled by dreams of stars in the sky, a cross, and terrible danger coming, the stars being blotted out. This forces me to consider the value to compiling a lexicon of the unusual dreams that we have encountered. Each of those in this company has had some type of significant dream/vision. Is this some expression of Divination magic? I should ask Engle when he had this dream and cross-reference with the charts of the moon to see if Celene was in ascendance or conjunction at the time. Likewise, I should remember to request that the others share any unusual dreams they might have, and record moon phases at the time. Regardless, he believes that the Order was founded to preserve mankind, not just protect land. He said he would need to consider his options for the future. He offered something to us in exchange for the knowledge we gave him. He produced a scroll that he had kept in his family for many generations. I was able to translate the scroll, which was a recording of travels of Pytheas, who ventured from Ilios to the frozen lands of the North and to the Edge of the World. I did not sleep, but others did, and awoke with tales to tell. Gertrude saw the stars fall from the sky to become a silver lance in her hand. With her lance, she slew the dragon. Cilka had a dream of a purple gem and many people fought over the gem, but anyone who took possession of the gem was transformed in terrible ways. I must remember to check if there are any unusual effects that might amplify the moon’s effect for that night. We decided to travel north to the Edge, with the chance of visiting the temple of Larani that Pytheas found there. We found a ship that would sail north and return for us after a month’s time for only 1600 gold coins.

We boarded our vessel and began our trip north. I considered fashioning a more suitable residence for us on the deck of the ship, but I refrained from doing so. I am pleased that most of my companions regard Cilka’s response to my magics as unfounded and irrational, but I am mindful that this is a singularly unique crew and others we encounter might be as close-minded or fearful as Cilka is. The voyage took 11 days and we found ourselves on the shore of a large bay. The captain put in at the nearest beach and let us off the ship with our horses. We found a small clearing where I created a small hut for us to stay in for the night. During the night, Gertrude heard something passing through the forest to the north, but it did not find us. The next morning, we made our way north and we shortly came across a group of ogres resting along the path we were travelling. We decided not to force an engagement with them and so we backtracked and found another route through the region. We saw many signs of other giants travelling in the region, and thanks to Kiki’s skill at finding paths, only lost about a quarter-days’ time. It was growing dark as we finally found a place where I could summon forth our temporary dwelling for the night. Unfortunately, we were not permitted a restful evening. A band of Ogres emerged from the forest and Kiki rousted us from our comfortable beds. The ogres rushed at the group but we quickly saw them off without suffering any injury to my person. These specimens were unlike previous orges I have encountered. They had a thick, rubbery skin and what appeared to be gills, though I did not observe the creatures underwater so cannot confirm that they were functional organs. It would explain why the ship’s captain was so averse to staying close to the shore. One of the creatures had a crude necklace fashioned with a poorly cut, or rather, uncut amethyst. Being as it was a large purple gem, this caused Cilka some degree of consternation (that means she was upset, Kalli). But cooler heads prevailed and Kiki took possession of the item. It is unusual that such an item would appear following a dream that seems to feature this exact object. I would expect a divinatory dream to be masked by some type of symbol or archetype. If I had thought that Divination was so straightforward and direct with the information it provides, I would not have neglected it in my studies. Perhaps I can devise an experiment to collect more information.

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Session #26
In Koshlin

As we enter the city, and along the edge of the bridge, are many iron cages that have charred bodies of gnolls. We find a modest, but relatively clean inn and make arrangements for our accommodations. The town appears to be thriving, though not terribly well off; there is no obvious upper class section. It is a rich and fertile land that appears to have been only recently settled. The folks here will have it easier than most to build their fortunes. The food is good, early crops make for fresher faire than we’ve seen of late. The town is close to the ocean, and so has a wide variety of fish to offer. Commerce is scarce, nothing much is open later in the evening.

We ask for an audience with the old man we came to see, we’re told we’ll receive word of when he will receive us. We partake of some hearty stew, fish and fresh bread at the inn. Coy mentions he’d like to visit the sea tomorrow. We rest easy that night.

May 8th Large moon is waning and small moon is high

Coy, Cilka and I visit the ocean while Alaric explores the town and Dom sleeps.

The ride up to the coast is easy with much of the land along the river being cleared for cultivating. The ocean is grey and relatively calm, we can barely make out the far distant island shown on Coy’s map. We spend a pleasant morning on the shore and return that afternoon.

We receive word from the steward that we are invited to attend Grand Master Bertron before the evening bell around six PM.

There are men training in the courtyard, being supervised by a dwarf. He is different looking than the ones we met on our underground journey. Coy makes his way toward him, interested in striking up a conversation. He waits patiently to be acknowledged by the dwarf, finally losing patience, Coy makes his presence too obvious for the gruff dwarf to ignore.

Heironomous, as he introduces himself as, leads us into a tight, enclosed space that is more private. He calls for refreshments and addresses us. He does not show much hope that we will meet with success in garnering support for our mission from Bertron. He and Bertron used to be close, but as happens, the younger Bertron had more respect and esteem for the dwarf and now seems to be convinced of his own merit over the merit of others.

We learn that Heronomous’s family was orphaned during the time of the forsaking, he was raised away from the land of his ancestors and does not have much knowledge of his heritage.

Coy speaks to him of the human gods and of their return. He explains our mission and tells of some of our experiences. Heironomous tells us of the origin of the Order of the Star, that it was originally established to help protect the lands after the collapse of the Umbrian empire, with their own interpretation of the moral code of that time. Horonomous gives us insight into the Grand Master, telling the story of when the gnolls overran him and took his arm, it served to inspire the Grand Master even more in his fight against them.

Coy speaks of the dragons, and the danger that we believe is coming this way.

We invite him to join us at the tavern to show him our maps of the tunnel of the pontis and speak more of our adventures. Heironomous advises us to speak with the scholar of the castle, Soren, Cilka is intrigued.

We go into the keep to speak with the Grand Master. We are received with due respect and courtesy; we were expected as they have received the letters sent ahead. We are met by a steward of the keep, Julian, not the Grand Master himself. We are advised not to bore the scholar when we speak with him. I think Cilka can handle that, and hopefully it won’t involve too many scorched books.

We are not making headway with Julian, he is an officious road block. Alaric decides to cut through some resistance, literally. He provides a demonstration of the healing we are blessed with. Gertie offers that healing to any that might benefit of it.

Coy suggests that we come up with a philosophical question to intrigue the Scholar, Soren enough to ask for us the meet with him. Keth nods and speaks briefly with the steward before we start dinner.

Nearing the end of dinner, we are visited by the Soren who requests to speak with Keth and Cilka. Cilka is granted access to the library and Keth has a lengthy talk with Soren.

The rest of us return to the inn. In the morning Heironomous joins us for a late breakfast, we forgive him his tardiness as he has a nice bottle of brandy with him. The brandy is a gift of thanks for bringing him stories and news of his people. He and Coy spend much time going over maps and talking of what we learned in the tunnels. Horonomous and I make short work of the brandy, he is a worthy drinking companion! I’d share a cup with him anytime.

Heironomous give us more advice on how to approach Bertron. He tells us more of Bertron’s history and his rapidly increasing loss of way, allowing himself to be ruled by his fear of failure, which has impaired his ability to be an effective leader.

Keth returns late in the afternoon, stumbling tired after his long time spent in the company of the scholar, discussing how to destroy the heart of the litch.

May 10th Evening

We finally are given audience with Bertron. Julian hovers in the background, Coy speaks for us. He explains how Chalcedon has initiated several military attacks and has overcome many of the cities and towns to the south. Coy aptly draws the connection between the demons the Chalcedonians have conjured and the gnolls, handily providing Bertron with a more impressive enemy to focus on, one that is much more worthy than the lowly gnolls. The news of conjured demons is new to Bertron and he feels it is definitely worthy of his attention, however he is constrained by his lack of manpower, unsure of where to pull forces from to address this new threat.

Bertron says he will think on the matter. Gertie brings up the gods return, that it is not only evil that has come back, we too have divine assistance. Bertron wishes to see a demonstration of this, he invites us to the drill ground tomorrow morning.

May 11th, morning

Keth and Cilka return to the library to continue their studies, while the rest of us go to meet Bertron on the training field. Keth requests they use live steal and fight to first blood. Gertie heals the one hurt. Alaric then asks all the men to cut themselves and draw near. He closes his eyes and concentrates, he prays loudly to Peoni and Lo! The men are healed.

Alaric then speaks to the men of Peoni, a few of them are given the honor of reading the scroll. Julian is among those to partake of the knowledge of the scroll.

That evening, Cilka talks of what she’s learned in the library. She talks about some kind of connection to the gods that was a gift, it was located in Umbria and was called the Threshold and allowed the humans of Umbria to remain in contact with their gods.

Summup-
Magic was prevalent, demons and avatars walked freely among us, then Illios fell and magic was severely limited, only some divine magic was still available. The Threshhold stone was given to the humans of Umbria as a gift to grant them access to the divine. They used that power to become the equals of the Bellatore.

There is much back and forth discussing of what may have happened when… They spoke of the forsaking and Illios being the only place that still had a connection, through this threshold. Then Illios fell and that small connection was lost as well. Cilka wants to go to Illios to find this threshhold. I care not so much for the history of it all, give me the enemy to fight and good wine to drink and if both are righteous I will consider myself well blessed.

May 12th

Master Julian arrives at the inn with the divine record. Julian wishes us to show this to brother Engel, the person that had the grave misfortune and audacity to rescue Grand Master Bertron. Engel was highly respected and is well regarded by the men, though due to damaged pride he has now fallen in disfavor with the lord. Julian wishes Engel to experience the scroll and possibly be the one to make it known in this land, maybe even to be the leader of the Order of the Star once Bertron is no longer serving that post.

Keth attempts a crafting that makes Cilka quite uncomfortable. It requires much for its making that is unusual and smacks of an unclean origin. The result seems to be less than what was desired, Keth is visibly frustrated and returns to the library. Keth has given us no reason to distrust other than his insatiable pursuit of knowledge in all its forms. He has proven a worthy comrade, and until I am shown otherwise, I’ll have his back.

Coy and the rest of us head back to the training grounds. Coy speaks again with Heironomous, asking him what he thinks of Engel and showing him the scroll. Coy also asks him his theory on battles, fighting dragons and the like. Sadly he does not have much useful advice to offer, accept stay out of their way.

Coy and I take to the training fields to show the men a thing or two, I am on top this day, and give them all a good thrashing.

Keth figured out how to get the statue to work, he is rightly please with himself. I understand it is somehow imbued with the healing power and can provide extra spells of such on demand.

May 13th

A message arrives from Julian, “Bertron has sequestered himself and suggests we leave.”

We head to the keep to speak with Horonomous, retrieve the scroll from him, and leave a message for Bertron explaining our departure.

We leave, heading to Memel to find Engel. Julian provides us with a writ of passage, granting us free pass through and Order of the Star territories.

We arrive at the ferry at Dahn the evening of the next day and make our crossing.

May 15th Both moons are new

This is the time that conjurers are high in power, Keth is concerned the litch will conjure something and send it against us, we must be vigilant for the next few days.

We camp for the night, this is the darkest night of the moon cycle. The magic wielders are jumpy. Close to dawn I notice Keth’s bag rattling. The box containing the litch’s heart is shaking, and then goes still. Magic radiates from under Keth’s pack. The ground there looks undisturbed, but once Coy starts to dig we see that the ground is dead and smells rotten. Coy digs a little deeper and finds the heart, still beating, in the dead earth. We quickly place it back in the box and try to figure out what we might do to secure it better.

We get going a little late that morning, the incident having set us all on edge; we are unsure what the litch’s next move might be.

May 16th

Travel is uneventful during the day. Overnight we have the same trouble with the heart, twice when checked the box is empty and the heart is buried in dead earth.

The next night, Alaric consecrates the ground below the heart. This works, the heart stays in the box. We all sigh a breath of relief, yet still we worry, fearful the litch may find a way around the consecration.

May 17th – a day of uneventful travel.

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Session #25
Into Nordmark

April 24th Small moon is waning, large moon is waxing
We prepare for our journey north, purchasing supplies and mending gear, and then we head out. Travel is uneventful; evenings by the fire are spent in song, with Coy and Keth bending over their paper and pens by the firelight. Coy is learning the written word, setting aside his concerns of madness in an attempt to learn more about how to control his affliction.

Travel is pleasant; we stop in several active and productive villages along the way. The weather is good to us as well; it is almost too easy to put aside the dark purpose that pushes us on.

We reach Thorn, the large town is protected by high wooden walls. It is odd to see such substantial walls made of such an insubstantial material, walls of this size and fortitude would have been constructed of stone in the lands we’ve come from.

This is a more troubled town that the ones we’ve passed through to get here, there is evidence of local strife that creates more of a military feel.

Keth initiates a discussion of faith and belief. He tells a story to illustrate his point that sounds like a “How the world began” sort of thing. Of course, it is from the Elves perspective, “The People” as he calls them. It is interesting to me how we humans are vilified, the cause of their fall from grace. I can see from their perspective how it could be seen as such, we are so short lived and spread so far, so quickly. Our short lives and the machinations our different nations play at, what seems to us an age, to them must be the blink of an eye. I can see how that lends itself to their seeing us, almost as insects, taking over their world.

Keth’s story is a story that reflects that belief. He states that he does not believe it, that it is an untruth, but if others are believers, maybe that explains the motivations behind the recent actions we’ve seen against our race. Divinely assisted supremacists are a truly scary thought.

We decide to seek lodging for the night with the manor house of the town. The sigil of the Order of the Star is present, though bedraggled and threadbare. The town is on a par with Laibach in size, though maybe a bit more rundown. We head toward the barracks, leaving our horses off at the stable for a negotiated rate and seek audience with the officials of the town.

We are brought toward the military barracks and summarily refused entrance, they kindly offer to bring the “ladies” food in the hall, I politely decline, offering to school any that wish it as to the value and mettle of my sword. Curse them, if they don’t wish to hold us in respect, maybe they don’t care to hear our word of warning either!

Kuni takes me to dampen my ire at a tavern. Ale is good for dousing the flames of trampled pride, so is the handsome young bartender. I regal them all with stories of my prowess at arms and of the adventures we’ve had.

We make our way back to our lodgings, the rest of the group gets back shortly after, Coy has brought me some of the fine venison from their meal, they may be right bastards, but I have to admit, they are skilled with the victuals.

We travel in more wild lands on the last leg of our journey, being careful to set watches at night. The second afternoon brings us the smell of smoke hanging in the air. We come up on a manor house that has been sacked, burned with bodies strewn around. The remains of the building has been burning for a while, the fire appears to be finally running its course and was most likely set a day or two ago.

There are gaps in the palisade around the main building where it has been breached, the openings wide enough to let a mounted rider pass through. The bodies have had the heads removed, with the heads having been burned in the fire. I ponder if the dead have been treated in such a way so as to ensure they do not rise up to fight as undead. The livestock has also been killed, with some obvious signs of butchering for meat.

We find a place to tether our own horses, away from the smoke and smell of death, and then we go back in to search the main house. A statement was made of the man we assume was of highest rank, he is ritually laid out, spiked into place on the table, headless with his heart removed. His tabard has been smeared with his own blood and fastened to the wall with a knife.

We find a surviving serving girl who tells the tale of what happened. The walls were overcome by a giant gnoll, who just tore its way through the walls. The attack was fast and brutal; the few guards quickly overcome by the 20-30 gnolls that attacked. Deciding to bring her with us, we pack her some necessities and do what we can for the pore souls massacred here.

About a ½ hr from the manor house Kiki calls a stop as we find an obvious ambush point. We all dismount as we see gnolls coming out of the woods. I take a moment to pray over the rod while Coy does his usual growing big. Cilka casts that speed spell of hers and we prepare to bring swift death to the gnolls. Alaric casts a spell on me to make me stronger and Coy and I rush forward to engage.as I rush forward I over compensate on my swing and while I connect solidly don’t make nearly the impact I would have liked only minimally hurting my gnoll.

Clouds of dense noxious fumes spring up in several locations, luckily I am not caught in the vile ick. The sound of retching and gagging is almost louder than the wails of the injured. Through the gloomy cloud I can see one of the monsters is positioned just in front of me, and I split him nearly in twain, Ha! Female sword swingers, we’ll show you! Take that you craven star knights! They are right to fear Callie! My presence alone would have been enough to overwhelm them!

Another huge monster comes looming out of the smelly gloom in front of me, he swings and misses, but I am hit with an arrow from just beyond him, cowardly archers! I hear an electric snap from my right, followed by a gurgling scream and a thud, that must be Coy’s work. I step forward, plant myself and heave a mighty blow, following through and coming back around again, he may be large, but that just means he falls all the harder. Oh how I wish those foolish star knights were here to witness this! Can’t eat in their precious hall, not good enough to sit at their table and share their meat, HA! They are no match to ME!

I am running out of monsters to hit! I full out charge one of the last two remaining cowardly archers, all but shearing the side of his face from his head. He is done, all that remains is to loot them for the treasures they stole from the sacked manor.

May 4th
We travel onward for the rest of the day. As the day winds down toward evening, we can see a small trading town, Dahn far off in the distance of the swamp. It would be difficult to reach the town before darkness overtakes us, we will rest tonight and enter the town tomorrow. The keen eyed among us can see gnolls hanging from the walls, this could explain the brutality we witnessed at the manor, retribution perhaps?. A few more hours of travel will get us there tomorrow. We’ll pass through and continue on. At Dahn we give the sad news of the raided manor house and make sure the lone survivor, Abbey the servant girl, will be well cared for. We continue on our way.

May 7th brings us to Koshlin.

A huge castle dominates the diminutive city; the castle is constructed of red brick and stone, it sits nestled up against the river. The city is enclosed in another of the wooden style palisades we’ve seen so often throughout the area. We ride on in.

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Session #24
Escape to the Star

Coy goes to work dismantling the travesty that is this church, he seems to take the bone church as a personal affront evidenced by the energy with which he is tearing it apart.

Dom and I keep watch while Alaric explores the area under the trap door. Gertie prays and Keth explores looking for clues to what made this place the way it is.

A cloaked figure approaches, small of stature, possibly female. She calls out as she strides forward, “May I enter”, more of a statement that a question, though she does pause at the door.

“No?” I say, so very forcefully and sure.

Gertie speaks, “Only if you promise to do no harm”.

The cloaked figure enters, she is clad in rough scale armor that has seen better days, draped over the shoulders by a ragged red cloak. She pulls back her hood, revealing a corpse that is much better preserved than others we’ve seen. She also differs in that she is not immediately attempting to separate us from our lives.

She introduces herself as Petra, daughter to a prominent teacher in this city. He and his students were brutally slain, she asks for the heart we found so she can wreak vengeance upon the one that killed her family. As we thought, it is the means to his demise, or as she would have it, his torture.

Keth asks to be given the time to study the magic that is animating the heart in an effort to understand it enough to be able to counter the spell.

He is able to determine that it is warded, the ward must be overcome before the heart can be destroyed. The strength required to break the ward is beyond him.

We learn that the scholar we have been searching for, the owner of the undead heart is Hywelledd, as we had guessed. The former head of the illuminators guild (run out by Tobias), and author of the book of necromancy.

We debate the merits of facing the necromantic scholar now, vs. being more prudent and leaving with the heart to regain our strength. Ultimately we decide to let reason prevail by taking our leave now and facing the necromancer when we are at full strength.

Petra understands our decision, she is disappointed not to wreak her vengeance now, but believes we have every intention of destroying him as soon as we are able.

We plan our route out of the city using the shortest means possible to regain our horses. We set out at a brisk pace with Kiki leading the way. We know we are being followed, but so far they have not approached too closely. We press on.

We enter into a square at the base of the tower along the wall where we plan to make our escape from the city. Diagonally across the expanse of cobbled market space, we see the base of the tower is blocked by several heavily armored skeletons, as is the lane directly across where we enter into the square.

Gertie surges forward, the rest of our band straggles out in an unorganized line diagonally across the square, the enemy moves up in a mob toward her. I drop to my knees to invoke the rod.

Gertie and Dom cut one down while I charge the group on the right. Most of those move past where I’ve engaged and face off with giant Coy. Keth casts another pit directly behind those Coy is facing, almost all tumble in.

I face three now, handily set up for a cleave, as long as I can stand the stench rolling off them. Keth has summoned the Hound Archon, we need to buy this guy a mug of ale sometime, he’s saved our keisters too often and with little thanks.

Dom takes out one of the three that were lined up so nicely for me, hard as it is to admit, that is probably a good thing as I am still feeling weakened and my sword weighs overly heavy in my hand. I cleave the remaining two, dealing them telling blows but taking neither of them death blows, or re-death blows I should say.

I hear a surge of sound behind me as hooves clatter into the square. I steal a glance over my shoulder, another of the headless horsemen. Cilka raises her hands, Fire lances out and all but pierces the monster to the right, she spins and invokes again, lashing out at the horse and horsemen in a searing beam.

All the wretched undead in front of me are down, the horseman looks to be well attended to by my companions, I decide to run toward the archers that are remaining by the tower. We all converge on the three archers, I almost feel badly for them, almost. We destroy them and continue on our way, leaving the three remaining in the pit to their own devices.

We climb the tower stairs to the top of the wall. Using ropes we climb down and gather our horses. We press on pushing ourselves to the point of exhaustion to put as much distance as we can between ourselves and the necromancer, carrying his heart along with us. Alaric, Kuni and Gerti heal us as best they are able and in the morning Alaric helps Kiki and I regain our strength. We travel hard for another day looking for a ford across the river but find no luck. During the night Dom and Alaric report a bat winged creature flying around in the distance and possibly spotting us but nothing else happens of note the rest of the night.

Morning of April 19th, I am feeling like myself again and Alaric helps Kiki regain herself as well. We hit foothills midday but nothing of note happens that day or night, just riding, and more riding.

April 20th
MORE traveling….boring…

April 21st

Smoke on the skyline!! We can see Legnica!…it only took most of the day to get here..

April 22nd

We enter Legnica midday. Legnica is a junction of rivers. The walls all look fairly new, as if they have been rebuilt from ruin. We find an inn called the Plough and the Star and take rooms there. Alaric, Cilka, and Gertie head off to find the Order of the Star.

Gertie comes back and tells us we’ve been invited to dinner by the local order of the star, Master Lucas. They would like to hear of our travels, what we’ve experienced. This is a military order; we assume they will want facts and evidence.

While at dinner, I do my best to entertain everyone with the funniest joke I know, it always got a good laugh and a few snarfs around the bandit’s campfire. These folks are too good for that kind of humor and my foot is now sore from being stomped on repeatedly by my lovely cousin. Fine, I will stick to my ale and keep my mouth shut, I should be used to that by now.

Kuni, Gertie and Alaric all talk of our experience and the return of the gods, Master Lucas is skeptical. Keth steps up and slices open his hand, before Master Lucas can finish asking us for a demonstration. Gertie prays, and Keth’s wound is healed. Master Lucas is impressed, never having seen such a display. Alaric looking to Gertie for her agreement moves to introduce Master Lucas to the Devine Record. Master Lucas asks for our permission to study the writings overnight.

We all return to our tavern to sleep.

We are invited back after breaking fast at a leisurely pace.

Master Lucas was very impressed by the scroll; he was persuaded and wishes to share it with his order to the north.

After much discussion, we decide to accompany the scroll north to Koshlin to speak to Master Lucas’s lord and bring him the word in person. We will be accompanied by members of the order of the star assigned to the task by Master Lucas.

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Session #23
A Church of Bones

Run Notes 4/29/12

We set up watches and try to rest up a bit. I am on fourth watch with Coy.

Kiki wakes us- I hear a regular hollow thudding noise coming from below, there are undead outside the gate, relentlessly battering their way through. As the thudding starts to be accompanied by a splintering, cracking sound, Alaric steps up and casts mend upon the straining timber barring the door. This could continue for some time.

Keth looks down on the animated mass of decaying bodies pressing in waves against the door, extending his hands he mutters in a rhythmic tone, finishing with a flourish and up out of the ground bursts another patch of the black tentacle arms, enwrapping the writhing mass, trapping all but one in a crushing grip, decimating them almost completely.

We all gather at the door, everyone waiting for somebody else to throw it open. I linger in the back taking the time to invoke the rod. Gertie shakes her head in disgust at the rest of us and pulls the bar from the door, flinging it open and stepping aside to let our eager companions through. Only two of the enemy have survived the tentacles, and they both fall quickly to the concentrated blows turned against them. We re-enter the keep, bar the door again and go back to our interrupted rest.

Coy and I are on watch, I am watching the shadows in the dim light of a small smoldering torch on the pillar near me. I notice the shadows starting to cast a shape that is at odds with the other shadows around us. A thrill of fear cuts through me, “Coy!” I yell as I invoke my sword, the flames leap into life circling up my blade, bringing the shadow monsters creeping up on me into sharp relief. I holler wordlessly as I engage them, trying to wake my sleeping friends.

My sword slides through them, seemingly doing little more than temporarily disrupting the smoky black vapors that these shadow monsters are made of. I am heartened when one of the shreds of vapor I cut from the one on my left does not reform, they can be damaged. This feeling of relief is short lived as they turn the attack on me. Icy fingers sear through me as I am touched by the vaporous tendrils, my strength drains away, sucked into the icy void of the creature I am facing. With an agonized cry I lash out again, desperate to save myself. I land a massive blow, the creature shreds apart, dissipating, evening the numbers as I face only its companion now. The remaining shadow reaches for me again, scorching through me with searing iciness, again I feel shaken and weakened. I rally and with two blows dissipate it into the ether.

We make our way out of the keep and down into the town surrounding it. As we pass through, every now and then we see a parody of what life might have been like before the town was overtaken by evil. Glimpses of skeletal shop keepers going through the motions of what their daily life once was, a macabre undead dance, re-enacting the patterns lived before.

We do our best not to draw attention to ourselves, lest we disturb the dance, the fragile illusion that tenuously holds the peace in this town. We reach the bridge over the river, a large stone construction spanning many feet across, supported by large stone pilings plunging down into the rough river flowing swiftly below. The bridge is anchored by two solid 20 foot towers on each side. Upon approach we see the remnants of a huge web spanning across the arched entrance of the bridge tower. The web trails along the stone causeway, shredded all along the bottom, we may be able to pass through without touching it or getting entangled in its threads. We nervously scan the upper reaches of the tower, looking for the creature that spun such a large weaving.

Coy moves forward, he is one of the more dexterous of the group, if anyone can make it through without getting entangled, he can. I wait nervously at the back of the group, watching to be sure he passes with no ill effect. As he moves under the shadows of the tower we see him peer up into the gloom, and freeze. He then springs into action, maneuvering through the webbing and spinning to face the monster that drops down behind him. As the creature crashes to the ground, a wave of spiders of all sizes pour out of it, spilling over and milling in a five foot radius around it, they are so thick they completely obscure the stone underneath them.

Coy lashes out against the animated carapace facing him, ignoring its minions below. The party runs in, coming to Coy’s aid. Alaric is bitten by the creature and crashes to the ground unmoving. Cilka does her best to smother as many as she can under her flames. I pause to invoke the rod, I feel frozen in place, why did there have to be so many spiders?!

As we deal with one, another drops to ground in front of us. I move up to support my companions, I can only get into place, in midst of all the swarming spiders. Cilka reaches around me and shoots more fire into the swarming mass, the flame smashes into the carapace and it falls to the ground, as it falls, the life drains from the swarm and they skitter away disappearing from site.

Coy sees a winged humanoid glaring at us from the tower on the other side of the bridge, it turns and lifts into the air flying away. Coy warns us that we have been seen, we should move off with haste to avoid being caught out in the open, or pinned on the bridge.

We cross the bridge and enter the city, the open square at the center of the city has a gallows ringed by a few skeletons. We approach, the ground ripples around the gallows, causing the skeletons to almost lose their footing, and a body erupts from the ground below. The smaller skeletons approach and as the larger one moves up, the ground below him seems to push him forward, almost like he’s riding a wave.

I invoke the rod while my companions move up to engage the skeletons. The big nasty ground surfer moves up, raising his arms- and sharp rock spikes shoot up out of the ground beneath Coy, Kiki and Cilka. An evil undead, mage surfer? That’s just not fair.

I watch as Coy goes down from the skeletons and Alaric steps up and presents his amulet damaging the skeletons and destroying one. Keth summons a badger AND a pit (madness!!) thereby dispatching the remaining skeletons.

The large undead thing attacks the Badger …which only seems to anger it and the rest of us begin to close on it. It whirlwinds, hitting most of us, I step up and make a feeble swing… still tired from the night before I think. In a fine display of swordsmanship Kiki destroys it.

After some brief healing we head to the city church. The bell of the church tower is made entirely of bones, as it turns out, only a portent of what lay inside. Coy and Dom open the doors. A frightening scene spreads before us, an homage to religious evil brought to life in the form of a church completely formed of bones. Countless skulls tile the walls and form the base of the alter, a chandelier constructed of various shin and arm bones graces the center of the room. Four skeletal statues, one at each corner of the center stand guard. It is an evil shrine that fills us with shivering dread, the sheer number of people brutally slain to construct this monstrosity is staggering.

We slowly move into the church, watching for any movement. Skeletons have not been our friends of late and we are bracing for the very walls to converge upon us. Gertie moves ahead, as she passes beneath the chandelier a grotesque part scorpion part man drops down upon her. It had been camouflaged in the shadows above.

Our fears are realized, the walls don’t swarm us, but the statues do come to life, I am hit hard before I have a chance to invoke the rod. Distracted by the skeleton I am facing, I cannot see how my companions are faring. I hear the clash of arms and both Kiki and Gertie cry out. I deal a scathing blow punching through the skeleton’s armor and severely damaging it. Rea comes to my aid, and finishes it off.

Turning I see Cilka raise her hands and a cloud of glittering dusts bursts forth, covering everyone in its radius. I search frantically for the scorpion beast that I know is causing great harm to those I care for. The dust falls, coating Kiki and showing an outline of the scorpion creature that I can only assume had magically hid itself from our sight.

There is another skeleton between me and the glittery scorpion, I step up to it and swing with authority, it is in my way and I do not have time for this. Luckily my sword agrees and lands true, true and hard, it goes down with that one blow.

I see Gertie is down, but conscious, she gathers herself and cautiously regains her feet, keeping her weapon in front of her defensively. He seems to have been attracted by her movement, its tail arcs up and over powering down upon her. She is able to deflect, but only just barely. This thing is lightning fast, it doesn’t miss a beat, going right from the tail attack to snapping claws at Dom who is able to dodge. Dom responds with a quick counter attack that slashes a gushing gash in the thing’s tough leathery hide. Kiki is down but struggling to rise. Keth is murmuring as is his wont, I am sure something will soon pop into existence to give us aid.

I position myself to be able to lunge at one of the last two statue skeletons, while still being in a position to attack the sparkly scorpion should the opportunity arise. I unfortunately miss the skeleton. Keth’s spells are complete and the ever faithful and trustworthy hound archon steps through the portal of its own realm, looking somewhat put out at first, we’ve called upon its aid often of late. Upon seeing the scorpion beast it was summoned to assist us with, it immediately snarls viciously and leaps in to engage it. It is sorely pressed, and Coy dives in with killing blows. The remaining two skeleton statues are easily dispatched.

Coy moves toward the alter, upon which is a gaudy gem encrusted silver box. We all step back while Coy, either bravely or foolishly (it remains to be seen) opens the box. Inside is a beating, human heart. All attempts to stop the heart from beating are met with failure.

The box, upon further inspections appears to have been of superior craftsmanship, it is just dirty and tarnished. The gems are well cut and laid, but they seem to all be flawed along the flat side, almost as if they were infected by the evil contained inside the box.

View
Session #22
An Undead Duke

We line ourselves up, and open the door to continue this folly. I truly am beginning to question our reasoning, fighting our way inside an occupied keep only to have to turn around and fight our way back out again… This can’t end well.

I hear a bellowing voice through the doorway, it sounds muffled and far away, too far to make out any words. I pause to pray again over the rod, we will need all the help we can get. The others move up around me and enter the hall beyond the door. I can see past them to a wide expanse beyond, this place might be impressively beautiful if we were here for other reasons, all I can do is mark the architecture in passing as we face off with two more skeletons wielding axes.

A balcony spreads out before us, with openings down to the area below. The high vaulted ceiling is supported by rows of columns running through the center of both main sections of the balcony on either side. A section of walkway cuts through the center of the gallery, bridging the two balconies into one. I finish invoking the rod and prepare to make my way through the doorway onto the balcony, last as usual.

As I start to move toward the door I hear a voice call out in a lordly, affronted below- “how dare you profane my domain!” followed by a searing crackle, followed by the curses and bellows of my companions. I charge onto the balcony, there’s not many to face yet, I see stairs at the other end, where Kiki is alone ready to defend, I move up to lend her a hand. She is facing one skeleton, but if the bellows below tell me anything, there’s more to come. As I move past the first gallery I see what I assume is the source of the lightening attack, he is decked out in full armored regalia, black shield and a sword that crackles still with electric energy. Out of the corner of my eye I see a green glow on the other side of the balcony, across the bridge, it quickly disappears through a door.

Cilka casts one of her sticky webs down below, very effectively slowing down the next wave of skeletons on their way up to deal with us profaners.

Keth has waved his hands and mumbled some of his magic words, the skeleton and his companion on the stair behind him both lose their footing on the grease that has appeared on the floor and top of the stairs. The skeleton crashes to the ground, his companion behind him on the stairs, wobbles a bit, but remains standing. I stop just before the floor gets shiny and slippery looking, but within lunge range. It takes a bit, but Kiki and I take them both out.

Keth removes the grease and we descend to take on the lordly bellower and his minions.

Going down the stairs with my companions, I see doors to the left that are just now opening having been freed from the webbing that was holding them shut. I lunge and strike one as I come up to the doorway. Then prepare myself to settle in and work my way through these two, alas it is not to be, Keth does more of his magic mumbo and suddenly the floor falls away from beneath both of my opponents, they crash to the bottom of the newly formed pit 30 feet below where they once stood on firm ground.

The Bellowing Lord is the only one remaining, my stalwart companions have made short work of the rest. We surround him and take turns pounding on him, which seems to have depressingly little effect. Slowly the hits that are landing on him start to make an impression, he takes a step back raises his sword and fires off another round of electrical energy which spreads out in a crackling cone just missing Coy and I to either side. Kuni crumples to the ground, I have no idea how hurt she is. I hit him with two mighty blows, all that shows for it is a small chunk taken out of his armor, my gods this guy is tough.

Gertie’s sword seems to almost glow with a heavenly light, it’s blows weigh heavy on him. Hers is the blow that finally brings him down. We take this brief break to tend our wounded, check our surroundings and ready ourselves for the next onslaught. I stand by the pit on the other side of the door, guarding against the moment the evil nasties held at bay are able to advance against us once again.

I hear the others shouting back and forth, about doors and the tower we needed to find is here! And Keth, “More are coming!”… I stand my ground and guard the pitted door.

Standing by the pit, waiting for the ground to close in again, I am suddenly rocked back by a blow out of nowhere, I see a shadowy shape floating in front of me, similar in outline to the bat-winged creatures we recently defeated. I am severely weakened by this blow, it’s as if it’s sucked away much of my inner strength. Kiki, Coy and Alaric rush to my aide, my weapon meets no resistance as I slash at the thing. Theirs with the magic and the holiness do seem to make a bit more of an impact on the specter. Then Cilka comes up and sends her balls of fire racing into it. It takes off through the doors and espcapes over the pit.

The tower we were searching out with the dark cloud over it has been found, and other enemies are coming, we must move along, or die before we even get past the first rooms.

I run up the stairs and attack another armored skeleton waiting on the balcony. I glory in this fight, something I can hit! I watch in dismay as the skeleton sends Coy down to the ground with a swift blow.
In anger I lay the skeleton low as Alaric revives Coy

Gertie, Keth, Clika and Kuni have followed a green light up the tower and out onto the roof to find the source of the oppressive cloud. Meanwhile Keth’s pit goes away and skeletons flood the area and I turn to defend. I lunge at the first skeleton coming up and connect solidly on my second shot. Kiki and her Snake continue to take down the archers. Alaric steps up and attacks while Coy dispatches the other with electricity. I lunge and dispatch the undead and then head to help my friends on the roof. Coy and Alaric close behind

When we reach the top of the tower roof…we see smoke coming out of a cracked and broken urn-type thing and one of those flying undead things attacking everyone. We deal with this beast and Cilka bashes the urn with her magic and smashes it to bits. The urn contains nothing, no ash, nothing that would burn, just… nothing.

The green light is the ghost of the wife of the Lord of the keep, she is sympathetic to us and not an evil spirit as we had first feared. Gertie seems to have a bit of a rapport with this sad dead woman, she converses with her, learning what brought her to this fate. Gertie learns that the Lady’s husband was not always evil, he was a good man before the scholar came. After the scholar came, he changed and in a fit of rage he cast his wife off this very tower. We assume the scholar is the real source of the evil that pervaded this place, we fear the Lord was just a lackey doing the scholar’s bidding.

We search the area, but don’t turn up much of note.

Hearing Kiki call out from below, warning us of more of the evil undead gathering to harry our escape. We all pour down the stairs bottle necking at the doorway out. Cilka hurls the last gem from her necklace at the group of the enemy across the pit, a fireball smashes into their midst and chars them all quite badly, a few do not get back up. Gertie decides to leap out the window. After I get over the shock of this tactic, I realize Coy is already out there so I decide that it’s actually a decent idea and I follow suit, but I do choose another window.

I manage to get to my feet pretty quickly, but need a second to regain my bearings. Kiki lands much the same way I did not too far off. I rush over to assist Coy who is battling some skeletal archers. We deal with them quickly and head into the keep again to rescue our friends.

We dispatch the rest of the skeletons, fearing the scholar might still be in residence and wanting to re-sanctify the church of the city, we decide to hunker down to regain some of our strength before continuing on.

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Session #21
A City Under a Cloud

April 13th Moons- small is waxing, large is low

We travel for 3 days through the hills.

April 15th big moon is new

It is colder today, as we leave the hills. We reach Frieshtat after crossing a small river running swiftly down from the hills. We pay our faire to cross, the air has that special tang that speaks of tanners nearby. Frieshtat is of a similar size to Leibach, circled by wooden palisades with stone towers at each corner. There are a number of inns to choose from and a lively market. We find a decent inn, the Red Stag and get a few rooms for the night.

Everyone but Keth goes out to explore the town and look for abandoned churches. We find a small building that looks to have served this purpose in the past, though not of a large enough size to have the typical crucifix shape and it is currently being used as a storage shed. The roof line has a hint of a cross in its architecture, the beams are laid out in such a way that leads us to believe this was a chapel at one time.

Coy and Dom go back after dark to explore.

Keth approaches me and asks what we have for funds available, he is interested in experimenting with the goal of creating a healing object. He’s not sure how much he’ll need, the kind of sum he is estimating I would need to speak to the group about. He said he’d check more into the cost before he talks to the group.

Heading out early in the morning by way the north gate, we find it must be opened special to let us through in that direction, the guard eyes us warily as we pass and closes the gate again firmly behind us.

Coy consults his map- we will pass through wooded hills toward the town Sedlec, the journey to Sedlec will take us about 2 and a half days.

Kiki notes the road has seen very little travel, and even those small signs fade away as we move into the woods. Coy suggests that we consider crossing the river the road passes along to avoid the woods and travel along the plains. We travel through the day, but find no good place to ford the river. Kiki finds us a passable place to camp for the night. A fog settles in.

Alaric, Kiki and Cilka are on first watch, Coy, Kuni and I take second, Dom, Gertie and Keth take third. The fog muffles the night, everything sounds distant, later in the evening the rain starts.

April 17th
We get a soggy, cold start as the rain continues to fall. As we approach the town we see patchy smoke raising, the town has been razed; most of the buildings are leveled and still smoldering. As we ride up we see the silhouette of a dark figure on a horse ride out from behind one of the more intact buildings, as he clears the town and we come into view, he pulls his horse to a quick stop and retreats. The silhouette is strangely shaped, it’s hard to make out in the rain, but the rider seems to have no head.

Of course we decide to go into the town to investigate.

Several revolting, smelly figures approach. These are similar to the creatures that attacked us in the church, but more… gooey.

This time we manage to hold a line as we advance, they move up as well and we are almost overcome by the rank smell. The first few fall with deceptive ease. Coy swings as the rider charges, but he suddenly loses his grip on his staff, very unlike him. Gertie is able to duck away, avoiding the rider’s wild swing, she comes back up sword slashing the monster open then staggers back from the retched stench she has released. I step up and swing at an animated corpse Coy has so kindly left right in front of me. Facing this decaying thing is disconcerting; I almost drop my sword, but manage to recover and cut it down with my next blow.

The big nasty is taking a lot of damage from Gertie and Kiki, after Kiki’s flurry of blows, large parts of his armor and the dead flesh beneath falls away in chunks, each cut releasing another wave of noxious stench. Kiki’s snake is viscously attacked; bitten and clawed, Ria loses her strength and falls to the ground.

Keth’s whispered words reach a crescendo and an angelic wolverine appears. It lashes out with glowing golden claws, this bizarre creature steps into spot I was planning to move into myself! Keth continues to mumble his nonsense words and suddenly a field of the same kind of black, grasping tentacles we faced when fighting Albertus springs up, this time entrapping much of the enemy. It’s nice to see the tables turned for a change. Our foes were not prepared for this, they are all caught by the twining black appendages, struggling in their grasp as much of group once did. We are reassured by Keth calling out that he had cast that spell, not Albertus.

Alaric steps in just behind Gertie, he holds out a holy symbol releasing a blinding white light in a wave of force that rolls out over our foes, the already injured fall including the horseman and the few remaining stagger under its weight. The rest is just clean up.

Coy tells us that the spells of Aculid could have made these moving dead monsters. The headless rider was a darker construct, more powerful but also of necromantic origin called a dulhallen.

The villagers are all dead, and recently so. The tracks from the creatures lead in from the north, about 40 or so were piled together neatly, we presume to make more of the ghoulish creatures.

We search the village, it is of very humble means, not much livestock and the buildings are very rough. None of the bodies have anything worth taking with us.

Coy consults the map, trying to determine where the necromancer might be holed up. Gertie takes some time to pray over the dead, after an hour or so, we head out following the tracks with Kiki in the lead.

We pass through two other villages that have been long deserted. The attack on the village looks to have been a patrol, circling around Sedlec. As we follow them, a few more observant of our group notice there is a low dark cloud hanging over the town.

We pull back a bit, deciding to find as good a place to camp as we can and try to deal with the necromancer tomorrow in the light of day.

Kiki finds us a relatively hidden spot, not terribly dry or comfortable. Alaric kneels and prays in the center of the camp, the area circling him spreading outward feels lighter and less oppressive when he is done.

We set up our regular watches, the night passes uneventfully.

April 18th Small moon is full, large moon is low
The light of day brings us better weather and a clearer view of the town we intend to invade in our search of necromancer. The cloud still looms over the castle, almost touching the top spire. The plan is to get as close as we can, and send Dom in to get the lay of the land. We need to determine if we’ll be fighting our way in, or if we can blend in with the townsfolk and target our attack.

Dom’s excursion into town brings him back in very little time, he reports seeing a skeleton on patrol around the town. Dom has taken a circuitous route back to us and does not appear to have been followed. It is a town full of undead. We decide to go directly to the keep across the river from the town in the hopes to find the necromancer in residence there.

We travel upriver looking for abandoned boats or a place to cross, we are marginally successful, taking the time to ferry all of us across on two old rickety boats we find. The first crossing attempt is aborted as the boat we set off in has a leak. Down to one boat, we take more time, but eventually make it across all in one piece, mostly dry even.

As we approach we can see the dark cloud looks to be coming from the keep, we manage to move up quietly, for once I’m not the one making all the noise. Coy scales the ridge and sprints to the wall, climbing over it he drops a rope to help the rest of us scale the wall. We all start running for the rope. A pair of skeletons are on the wall shooting at Coy but he quickly dispatches them. Alaric, Dom and Cilka make the wall while more skeletons start coming from one of the towers.

We are struggling between trying to get the rest of us up the wall while the ones already at the top are fighting off the skeletons. It will be pretty sad if we fail before we even enter the keep. As I climb quickly up I hear the clash of arms from above.

A fiery lance shoots from Cilka down into the courtyard, handily drawing our attention to the two huge winged beasts that are jumping into the air to join the fray. They are raggedy undead types with bat-like wings. One slides into a gap in our line where last of us onto the wall have not yet caught up to the other, the other lands right in front of me. I miss my first attack; but manage hit it solidly on the second blow. It shrugs off the blow, only the fire that is sparking from my blade makes any kind of impression on the monster. We are hampered by the tight line we have to keep on the wall and I fear for my companions ahead of me. Gertie, turns from the line ahead to face the winged thing now between us. She hammers it a scathing blow, rendering one of its wings completely useless. Now the beast cannot escape us.

I take advantage of its disorientation, landing two massive blows one right after the other; it falls from the wall leaking its undead life away as it crashes to the ground.

I cannot see much of what is going on up ahead, there is another of the winged monsters on the way with Cilka right there. As I start to move forward, she is hit and frozen into immobility, just like Ria was in the village. I can’t see much else beyond the flapping wings. Kuni is just behind Cilka, she will have to pull Cilka to safety and make room for Gertie and I to move up. Gertie maneuvers into place, swinging with a vengeance, I come up behind her timing my blow to lunge around her. We keep at it, the tight confines making our blows less effective than normal. I can see Coy behind the beast, he looks like he had been paralyzed just like Cilka, though he seems to be shaking it off, he turns and attacks the beast from behind, knocking it unmoving to the ground below.

Now that the beast is cleared I can see the entrance to the tower where Dom and Coy have been sorely pressed. I am afraid I will be too late and I’ll miss the rest of the fun! Cilka is starting to stir behind me, I am glad she’s OK, she really have the chance to wear that pretty new dress at least once.

As I feared, they don’t leave me any, though with our luck, I am sure there will be more as we continue into the keep.

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Session #20
Against the Bindermittel

April 3rd – Afternoon
Keth’s presence and our talks with him have made us rethink some of what we have experienced up to now. He asks to look at the tongue, which I haven’t even really thought about much since we found it. Cilka was surprised that Keth didn’t know about it, and know it was in our possession, she had been under the assumption that Albertus had wanted Keth to collect that from us along with the books we were sent after.

Upon renewed inspection we find that the tongue radiates an alien presence, it is not from this place and has a magical signature.

April 4th
The next morning when we wake, over breakfast, we talk. We each had strong dreams the night before we share what each of us experienced. This conversation turns to Coy, he shares more about his curse and we talk about looking for a way to help him.

Cilka discusses her dream, a dark dream about a woman doing a ritual, she thinks to bind something. Keth is very interested in her dream and thinks it might have something to do with the dragons and circles and binding and all that magical stuff.

(Both moons are waning)

We travel in the rain throughout the day reaching Passua in the late evening. We secure rooms in the inn we stayed last time we were here, planning to stay for the week, awaiting the completion of the armor and clothing we had ordered. We decide to go to Albertus in the morning. I offer to stay back with our stuff. We feel it prudent to leave the items we secured at the inn while we attempt to discern Albertus’ motivations; Coy stays behind to keep me company.

April 5th – Afternoon
Later in the day, after the others have returned from meeting with Albertus; I hear a voice whisper on a breeze, it is Coy telling me to tell Gertie that her father is in town, and he’ll return shortly. He tells us he’s seen Gertie’s father along with a knight with the trinity cross on his tabard.

We go to where he is staying. Gertie’s dad has a few retainers with him, an odd lady with a huge serpent on her lap that she is feeding and the knight that Coy told Gertie of is standing nearby. There is an emblem on the knight’s chest, a stylization of the constellation in the sky, a trinity cross. They are introduced as Alric (a soldier Gertie has met before) and a tracker named Kiki.

Much to her surprise, Gertie’s father has been studying the scroll and has been strongly affected by what was written. He tells of his travels, how Klemen betrayed his people and went over to the enemy. This is why he left. He believes it is his mission to spread word that the gods have returned and plans to make this his work. Gertie shares with him our plans to head north to search out the order of the star. Kiki helped Henrick’s party travel through the mountains while Alric protected along the way. Henrick no longer requires their services. We offer them the opportunity to accompany us, Alric and Kiki will travel with us and aid as they can (for a fee…).

Alric speaks to the soldiers around town and finds word of the order of the star recruiting and training out of a city called Legnica. The order has been pushing back against knolls and others that have been plaguing the area.

We are still at odds about what to do with the books we retrieved and the tongue we are still carrying.

Keth spends whatever time he can copying the books we have found.

April 6th
(both moons are still low, tomorrow the smaller moon will be low)

Gertie and Alric go to visit her father to pray. Gertie spends some healing on Henrick, washing away his weariness from the road.

Coy, Cilka and I go exploring the area of the city where Jensen had found ruins. We look for an entrance to catacombs or anything else of interest. We find where the old town church had been, we explore the area looking for any hidden entrances that may have been forgotten in time.

We are in a leather working district with an old graveyard nearby. There is a stone slab, we find was once a foundation. Hidden nearby, we find a staircase that goes down below the old foundation, it goes down about 15 feet and opens up into catacombs. Coy makes his lightening light and we see many openings branching off from about a 5 foot wide hallway. The passages lead to small cryptlike rooms, similar to ones we’ve seen before. They are evenly cut and each is like the other. At the end of the corridor there is a larger room, where the crypts are marked with old brass plaques, this must be where the more prestigious dead are laid to rest. Cilka reads a few after we clean away the grime, these graves are dated in the 800 and 900s. This place seems to be just what it appears; there is no sense of evil, just the quiet dead.

April 7th
There is more talk at breakfast and throughout the day about what to do with the books and stuff.

Gerti goes down daily to talk with her father, who is preaching in the squares, people seem to come back every couple of days to listen. He may be starting to pick up a following.

April 8th

More conversation between Cilka and Keth regarding the Bindermiddel. Cilka decides to keep the books.

April 9th – 12th
We stock up and prepare for the journey to Legnica to search for the order of the star, picking up my armor and Cilka’s pretty dress before we leave. We head out toward Legnica.

Kiki earns her keep finding us an easy path through the woody hills.

Cilka wakes us, she hears horses approaching. Coy helps me into my armor; as soon as it’s settled I pull out the rod and concentrate on it. As the horses get closer, a circling wind starts to pick up around Coy.

We see them through the trees, a few human sized shapes approach with a large, ugly lion in the lead.

Cilka steps up and throws her hands out- a searing white beam of electric energy comes shooting out of her hands and smashes into the lion. Kiki runs up and slashes the lion dealing it a telling blow. She’s advanced our line, so Coy and I move forward to support her. Coy’s staff has a crackling white energy running up and down its length. They are foolishly overconfident, charging at us with weapons ready. As they approach Coy knocks two down and I land a blow on another. We hear surprised shrieks from behind us, but facing our foes we cannot look behind.

There is a mad flurry of blows between us all, the lion and two more are down. The one facing me tries to disengage; I step up keeping him in the battle. A noxious cloud of green vapor springs up around us, we’ve dealt with this same tactic before. I brace myself against the stench, it doesn’t seem as bad this time. Kiki goes charging off to the left, not sure where she’s going. Why would she be leaving? Coy follows after her, I am facing the last man standing, I trust Coy to deal with whatever they’ve found.

Still hearing unhappy sounds coming from behind me, I take a quick step to the left out of the cloud and lash out several blows to the man I am facing, finally landing one, sending him to join his ancestors. Fearing the shrieks I heard behind me, I run to aid the ones we left behind. I find Kuni, Keth and Cilka all trapped in black tentacles that have sprouted up from the ground. They are struggling futilely to escape. I circle around to Kuni who is closest to the edge and try to break her free from the tentacle’s crushing grasp. I can’t get her free from where I am standing. I yell for help, brace myself and step into the tentacles right next to her to gain better leverage. With a surge of effort I tear her free and toss her clear. A moment later the tentacles fade away.

I can only hope the others have dealt with the one casting these horrendous spells against us and help is on the way as I give what aid I can to our sorely injured companions.

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Session #19
Under the Beleuchtung

April 2nd (still!)

There is a symbol on the door that our magically inclined huddle over for a while, but can’t discern it’s meaning. We arrange ourselves strategically, brace ourselves while Dom attempts to disable it. Nothing exciting happens. After some time working on the lock, he opens the door.

The room revealed is large and well appointed, the far wall is decorated with an assortment of heads of many different species, all but one looks like they once came from a living being. The odd one appears to be made of metal in the shape of a bull. One of them has three heads on one, a dragon, a goat and a lion. We split up to search the different items in the room. Cilka mumbles and waves her hands, then assertively states that the heads and the light fixtures in the corners are all magic.

The bull has empty sockets where the eyes would be. The 3 headed beast is on a massive wooden plaque, the monster was caught mid-roar. The human head is female, pretty but ritually scared down both cheeks with her hair pulled back in a ponytail. She is screaming and has sharpened teeth. Her head is mounted on a simple brass plaque, her neck was not cleanly cut, it looks like it was roughly shoved onto a spike on the plaque. The steal headed beast and the three headed beast were both from magical creatures. There is a chimera’s head that was much more professionally mounted and has glass eyes.

A handsome set of books all similarly bound line the shelves, Volumes one through twelve, “The Study of Arcana”. Keth looks them over and determines that these are probably not the ones we were sent for.

Flasks and burners are scattered around on the tables and shelves, almost like supplies for a classroom.

Three doors along the side open to small sleeping chambers that have not been in use in quite some time, bedding is rolled and stowed and dust coats the surfaces.

Jensen cries out as he is suddenly attacked by a large skeleton looking snakelike creature. I rush to his defense, but my sword does not seem to have as much affect against the things boney body. Gertie charges, her blade is having just as little impact as mine. Another snake come from the open door and tries to slither past Gertie and I, we manage to keep it cornered. Coy’s attacks are much more effective than ours. The snakes don’t last long and cause us minimal injury.

Coy inspects where the snakes came from, actual real monsters from under the bed. They seem to have been lying in wait from some time. Coy does locate a door secreted in the wall of that room. Further searching reveals a few rooms that have had more recent occupants, but no more hidden doors.

Dom goes back to close the first secret door we came through and we all follow the corridor revealed on the other side of the secret door Coy just found. At the top of a flight of stairs we come to a wider hallway with a hallway branching off to the left, and takes a turn to the right further on. The hallway is lit with more of the same type of magic lights we found in the room downstairs. There are doors on either side of the corridor that branches off to the left.

The door on the right opens to a nicely furnished bedroom, men’s clothing is scattered around as if someone had been packing in a hurry. Dom works on the lock on the other door, a spark shoots out of the lock, Dom jumps back hastily out of its way and with a little more wariness, goes back to working on the lock.

The hallway to the right opens out into a wider area with a door at the far end and a shrouded shape standing in the corner. Jensen whispers to me that there is movement behind the door. I call out to the rest of the group to let them know. For some reason this annoys Jensen.

Jensen starts to move into the room with the idea of exploring what might be making noise behind the door, only to have the object in the corner starts to move. Jensen continues toward the door, the cloth covering the statue slides away revealing a blindingly bright crystalline figure that lunges at Jensen. Jensen reals back from the blow and falls to the ground with deep gashes that are bleeding badly.

We circle around the glittering figure trying to make any kind of impression on its crystalline hide. Coy makes his way to Jensen’s side to try to stop the bleeding. Keth asks permission to cast a spell on me, I hesitate then find myself twice my normal size. I stumble a little at the change, then flex feeling the added strength in my limbs. Dom tumbles through the monster’s grasp landing nimbly behind it and deals it a mighty blow.

Jensen has recovered enough under Coy’s ministrations, he is able to climb to his feet only to be hit again, once again falling to the ground. I try to swing, but my new size throws me off and I am unable to land any of my blows. Keth flickers out of sight and re-appears behind the monster. Gertie’s sword smashes into it, the cold blow seems to make is move more slowly. I finally land a hit, but the fire from my sword actually seems to mend some of the cracks that had spidered through its surface. I concentrate for a moment calming the flame and letting it die away.

A sour, cloying mist starts to permeate the room, spreading from the corners. The noxious fumes sap the strength out of our limbs, rendering some of us completely helpless. I am nauseous and disoriented, unable to find the enemy much less orient my weapon. I can do nothing but flee the room and wait for the noxious gas to leave my system. The sounds of battle come to me through the haze the fumes have made of my head.

My head finally clears and I am able to function again. I move into the room bracing against the noxious fumes. Too many of my companions are on the floor and Cilka must have taken a blow to the head, she is in hysterics behind me. The haze blinds me and I miss.

Through the door I see Coy’s outline grappling with the enemy mage. Then just one shadowy figure remains upright. The sight of Jensen unmoving next to me ignites my rage and I smash the crystal monster two mighty blows and it finally smashes to pieces. Jensen is dead.

Coy hands me the unconscious sorcerer to guard.

We find:
Silver chalices, jewelry, books, ivory writing set, portrait of a beautiful women, quarter staff (magic)from the sorcerer. Amulet from the sorcerer (magic) with flame image, 2 potions

3 Books (magic)- Big spell book, book with wrinkled crack leather binding, notebook- roughly bound.

Coy tends to Gertie who is badly injured while I watch the unconscious sorcerer. After about an hour the sorcerer’s eyes flicker open and close again, I yell for Coy to let him know the murderer is awake.

Coy questions him, he tries to fool us into believing he was a member of the guild left behind. We are having none of that and quickly catch him in his lies. When his story is disproved, he quickly resorts to trying to establish his value as a hostage we could barter for our own safe passage out of the fallen city. Coy draws out of him that he was under the direction of Elsbeta (the dragon lady) to find an old leather book for her. One of the three we now have in our possession. We debate his fate, Gertie pauses for a moment, looks at him closely then moves forward and drives her blade through his gullet, smiting him.

Dom has gotten the other door open and comes back with news of more treasure in that room, our coffers are refilled and we have added several new weapons to our arsenals.

We take extra care searching the various rooms we have found. The portrait of the woman has a nameplate, Lydia Garson inscribed underneath, it is beautifully framed and might be of value but is cumbersome to carry. Garson is a well-known rich family in Achua.

After some discussion and division of equipment, Coy wraps Jensen’s body up and we begin our exit from the building. Keth and Cilka seem to be having an argument about the spell books…big surprise.
As we leave the building we can see(and hear) the attack happening again and one of the towers is ablaze. As we head to the walls to escape we hear the call of the dragon and people begin to panic. We make it to the wall. We enter through one of the towers and Coy is stopped by a guardsman. We talk our way past him and get over the wall, using the elephant statues we manage mounts and head straight to our horses with Cilka and Keth working to cover our retreat.

Coy, Keth and I lash ourselves and Jensen’s body to our elephant. Gertie, Cilka and Dom are on the other one. Dom shouts and points the way, I pray over the rod and we head out.

Lumbering forward as fast as we can, trying to aim our bows and keep the mounted enemy at bay. I am clumsy with the new bow Coy gave me, I miss my first shot and on my second the bow slips from grasp and falls away behind us. I can almost hear Jensen cursing at me.

Cilka has learned from our last encounter, she casts that same noxious gas over a group of clumped together riders, they break down and stumble around in a chaos we are all too familiar with. The beasts we are on are fast moving, we are past the first wave and moving on toward the next in a blink. Coy is prepared for my clumsiness and at his next opportunity hands me another bow. I actually get a decent shot off this time. They give as good as they get, I get grazed as well.

Keth places another noxious cloud around as many as he can, I am surprised by how many seem unaffected, but the big ogre does withdraw. We exchange arrows back and forth dealing little real damage to either side as we race toward each other. I almost feel sorry for the poor schlob that Cilka angles her elephant over, trampling with a sickening crunch. Gertie lets out a wild yell as she comes within range of the other one that was stupid enough to be in our path. She guts him straight through with her spear and we are almost away. Coy and I take two more shots leaving them down one more. Two are able to come into range behind Cilka’s elephant and take a couple swings at Gertie, Cilka tosses a few sizzling balls of magic over her shoulder and we are free of them moving rapidly away from the fallen city.

After a short time we locate our horses, Jensen’s absence is sorely felt.

We push on into the night, putting as much distance between us and the city as we can. Keth doesn’t look too good, he’s a soft city elf, not used to all this hard travel. Coy finds us a decent place to rest for the remainder of the night. We take our time in the morning, allowing ourselves a little extra sleep to recover. Coy finds a fitting place to lay Jensen to rest.

April 3rd
Keth is studying the journal we found. As he opens it and begins to read, a huge amber snake rises up from the pages and envelopes him. We can see his shadowy outline within the snake, he is wrapped in an amber glow, like he has been frozen. We can touch him and move him, but he is unresponsive. Cilka stashes the book away while we try to figure out what we can do to help him.

Coy utters the original name of the illuminators guild and the stasis is broken.

We decide not to go back as the book warns of Tobias’s distrust of Albertus. Albertus’s motives are suspect as he sought the necromancer’s tomb. Coy questions Keth because Keth was sent with us by Albertus as his agent. Their conversation shifts from Common to Elvish and I lose the thread. I will trust Coy to help us decide whether or not Keth should remain a trusted companion.

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Session #18
Breaking into Aachau

We see the outlines of the city through the trees it’s under siege, surrounded by an army and sorely damaged. We will be hard pressed to find the artifacts before the city falls and yet we must take the next few hours to rest and recuperate from our fight. The army appears to cobbled together from a conglomeration of tribes. Keth offers to make it so a few of us will not be visible to their eyes, unfortunately this method will only shield us from sight, it does not counter any noise our passage may make and as we know some of us are very challenged in the stealth area.

We circle around to the river, crossing a road along the way. The area has a few scattered tracks, and does not seem heavily traveled. We are able to avoid the few patrols we see along the way. We make our way to the river, planning to cross over, travel under the cover of the woods on the far side, and cross back at the base of the city wall.

Crossing the river takes some time, as we reach the other side we are faced with a large patrol of orcs, having only enough time to re-amour ourselves, we form up and prepare for a fight. We are smarter this time, learning from our last fight, we form up and hold steady- letting them come to us, peppering them with our arrows while they advance. I even get a shot in with my under-used cross bow.

We cut through the first few easily, and brace ourselves, the next wave will bring bigger ones and some that are better armed. Coy takes a devastating blow from the hill giant’s large axe-like bardiche, Coy crumples to the ground. The Ogre sounds out a clarion call on his horn, rendering our little river excursion completely mute- now they all know we’re here.

I swing trying to take out the hill giant to protect Coy prone on the ground, but my sword is just not swinging true. I manage to land only one of my blows and that he shrugs off as if it had been the swing of a kitten. Then I fall victim of the bardiche and drop to the ground unconscious.

I wake to find myself being ministered by Jensen, followed by some more significant healing by my cousin. We must leave this area as quickly as we can, they will be answering the call of the horn soon. We hope they will be thrown off by our moving toward the city, rather than away.

The keen eyed among us spy creatures in flight coming toward the city from the far side, the creatures are huge, much larger than the manticores we’ve been encountering. We make the quick journey through the woods and across the river. Keth attempts to make a quick crossing on the back of one of his summoned bat creatures, but ends up taking a long cold drink instead. We splash our way across while Kuni hails the human patrol on the wall. They assist us in scaling the city’s defenses, we explain our presence more or less diplomatically and are released to go try to find our contact.

Kuni asks a local for directions and we make our way toward the tower. Groups of soldiers are moving into the area, setting up barricades and weapon caches, they are obviously expecting to try to turn a breakthrough of the enemy. We come up to the guild building and move toward the door. There are some faint sounds of movement from behind the door. After some quick back and forth conversation, we are invited grudgingly in.

After some confusion, we make our way into the building and the higher ups chambers to search for the special books we were sent to secure. We try to puzzle out how the beacon works, there is the damaged tower full of shattered crystal that looks to have fallen from the top, and a blindingly bright white column of light pouring up. At the base of the tower, where the column of white light originates is a furnace with glowing red coals smoldering away and a chimney the light seems to rise through. We go down to the basement level trying to find the source of the bright white light. Coy fumbles around inside the chimney for several minutes and finally emerges with a large marble ball that glows unbelievably bright. Cilka studies the ball for a few minutes and states disappointedly that is nothing more exotic than a permanent light spell. We search the entire building but find nothing of note. The guards mention they had barred the back door in the kitchen, the same door we found wide open. Coy finally locates the secret door in the corridor leading to the coal room.

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