Age of Despair

Session #49
Facing the Dark Lady

Gertie circles round to approach spikey red demon from the back, Alaric and she seem to have this well in hand, and I have a feeling my fiery sword might be put to better use against the demon of ice rather than the demon of fiery spikes, so I head toward the icy bug. I spring in, but am unable to land a decent blow, Dom circle round to come at the thing opposite from me, Coy is moving in from the side, we’ll soon have this thing to rights.

My next flurry of blows did not do go even that well, I end up flat on my back staring up at the things icy tail whipping around above and my sword’s flame has been extinguished. Even I am not quite sure what happened.

I hear Gertie’s voice ringing out from the tent line over where they are battling spikey boy, “I smite thee!”, I am re-assured that they are faring better with their beast than us. The tide turns against icy bug as from my prone vantage point, I see Coy’s arm wrap round the monster, tail, spear and all clamping it down tight, his voice calling frantically for me to rise quickly, I take that to mean he does not expect to maintain his hold for long.

The cowardly guards continue to flee the scene, they have no remorse on leaving us to clean up their mess. I hear shouts of victory from my companions in the next tent aisle over, we may have much needed reinforcements joining us shortly.

The hound archon has joined us and is working away at the icy bug beside us. I manage to land one very solid blow, it waivers and Dom finishes it off from his prone position at its feet.

We spend a little time checking out the camp, all the guards have fled. We find a rubble wall store room, nothing of interest inside. The large tents don’t reveal much either accept a luxurious bed and what looks like a spell casting area complete with a circle inscribed and a book on a stand. Dom calls Keth over as he has interest in such things.

Cilka explores the purple tent, it is well appointed and was inhabited by a person of religious leanings, an alter and a statuette of the dark lady stand in the corner. There is an empty armor stand and another luxurious bed. No papers or other items of interest.

We continue on up the mountain out the back passage, the path is open, the land is rough but clear, there is little cover and no use attempting to hide our approach. We see in a clearing at the rim of the volcano, a circle of huge horns, misshapen as if melted by an unholy heat. The horns are all the colors of the aspects of the gods, as we saw in the underground sacred chamber, red, white, green, black and blue. The clearing is the shape of a five petalled starlike flower, where each of the petals is home to a horn. There is a gate way leading into the area, the white horn is at the closest apex.

All our preparatory spells are in place, we move forward. I am first to reach the gateway into the unholy place, but once I hit the threshold, it is as if I’ve hit an invisible barrier that takes significant effort to push through. The other side is obscured by a misty fog, as I struggle, pushing my way through, the fog clears just in time for me to see a huge monster with spikes and giant crablike claws, one of which is hurtling toward my head. I stagger under its blow, and try to move past the thing, but I am unsteady on my feet and the other claw comes round and smashes me into oblivion.

I am woken by the golden dragon that is the form Keth is currently wearing. We have the great beast surrounded, Coy, Dom and Keth nearest to me with Gertie on Star at the far side of the beast. As my eyes take in Gertie’s position, I see beyond her and Star that what we have most feared is in process.

There is a huge column of smoke pouring straight up from a pentagram shaped hole in the stone floor. Behind that is a wall of swirling swords protecting a pair of unholy monks in robes of red that are chanting in a droning monotone over a large slab of gray rock, the threshold we have been chasing for so long.

A pair of red skinned men with leathery bat-like wings are between Gertie and the monks, her attention has turned from the huge crab monster to the winged red men. I also see another figure to the left, this one is richly clad in golden armor. As I catch sight of the thing, I see it morph into a huge metal looking thing three times its original size. This just keeps getting better.

A wash of healing energy flows through us, though thankfully the beast we are facing does not seem to take any benefit from it. Dom is cut down, luckily he is almost as effective lying prone as he is on his feet.

Suddenly the chanting and droning from the monks cuts off, the world has not yet ended, so I hope this is something we’ve managed to do and are causing our enemy at least some level of consternation.

The monster crashes to the ground and we are freed to focus on the red-skinned winged, men, the ironman and the monks. There is still much to overcome.

The man of iron yells out, “attend to your lady!” he gestures and as the blade wall falls, he steps through and cuts down one the monks with a vicious strike. Blood sprays as the eviscerated monk falls across the threshold. There is no sound to accompany this brutal massacre, this explains the silence that suddenly fell over the monks, there is a spell cast over the area the deadens all sound. A very simple and effective way to cut off whatever nefarious spell they were in the midst of, it has bought a little time.

I race around to lend Gertie a hand, coming in for a flank on one of the winged men, landing a scathing blow. Sadly my fire again does not appear to have much, if any affect.

The monks and the ironman are being pummeled by ice then fire from Cilka and Keth’s spell . The image is eerie, the bubble of silence that surrounds them giving them an odd sense of remoteness, even though they are but scant feet away. The constant barrage has taken its toll, the other monk falls as well.

The bat winged man I face, swirls round, blades flashing and smashes through my halfhearted attempt to block I, once again, find myself collapsing down into a tunnel of blackening unconsciousness.

I come to in a haze, the red winged man is still on his feet in front of me, I scramble to my feet and ready my weapon to ward off any blows he might throw, I do NOT want to go down again!

My back is to the smoke column, I haven’t seen yet what is happening over there, but the air feels different and the light is darkening, a sense of ominous dread steals through me, the nape of my neck crawls with the need to spin round and see what is wakening behind me, but I cannot turn my back to the beast I face, better the uncertain danger behind me, than to expose myself to the certain death in front of me.

Dom has taken the dilemma from me by finally killing the beast we fought, there is a crash of thunder, the ground shakes, dust and pebbles dancing at my feet. I spin round and am faced with a terror more awful than I could have possibly imagined. A huge blackly scaled dragon faces us, but this is no ordinary dragon. The giant winged beast sports not one, but five vicious heads one of each color of the points of the star at which we are at the center. Each head differs in appearance, the black sports long spiral horns arcing along the side of its jaw, providing a daunting armored aspect, this head will be quite hard to hit. The green head has a large shout, is streamlined and dangerous looking, with a spiny ridge from the top of it brow down to where the neck meets the body. The white head is similar to the green, but more skeletal in nature. The blue has a wicked horn sprouting from its forehead, a sharp downward pointing snout and wing-like ears sweeping back. The red head is the most terrifying, center to all of them it sports many of the wicked attributes the others have. It is bearded, with horns arcing up from the base of its skull where a spikey ridge begins gracing the curve of its thick muscular neck. If those are not enough to cause everlasting nightmares should we survive this, it also has a stinger tail, much like that of a scorpion, complete with a venom ball at the base of the barb. All four powerful legs end in massive clawed feet, each claw as sharp as a dagger and twice as long. Even the wings are dangerously equipped with two large spikes along the upper edge, one on each side.

Just to prove the whole world has gone mad, the monster that Keth had called forth to assist us, has turned against us and is attacking my friend Dom. I take a quick step to the side coming up along next to him and finally my sword answers my call and swings true, smashing the thing to bits. Now we can focus on the darklady who has taken the terrible shape of the dragon before us. We’ve taken out dragons before, what is one more scaly beast? We can do this.

Keth’s voice rings out, and another form appears. This time it is a little more celestial in appearance, taking the form of an angel. At least the top half of it is. Once my eyes move down and take in her full appearance, I see the bottom half is a bit less angelic, she is angel on top, but serpentine and scaly from the waist down. She spreads her arms and opens her mouth, a lovely singing pours forth, and we are bolstered by a feeling of goodness and light.

This flood of wellbeing is marred by the dragon’s attack, the heads dart back and forth biting and snapping, if you are lucky enough not to be their target, the tail arcs up and over from behind, ready to puncture and poison as you try to dodge. Once again my body is battered and smashed and I lose myself to the darkness, this is becoming way too familiar.

I come to, only seconds have passed, barely taking a breath I stagger I brace myself and rise to my feet, guarding carefully against her inevitable attack as she takes advantage of my vulnerability. I hear the sounds of my companions engaged with the dragon on the opposite side, I can make out nothing of their condition, I can only hope they are all still alive.

I manage to avoid her gnashing teeth and wicked claws, and ready myself to swing again, trying to time my blow so it lands true, when suddenly her entire body convulses and, with tail thrashing, she screams from all five mouths at once, her wings quiver and her form starts to flow, almost melting as she dissipates into the smoky air.

Arms weak I stagger back, breathless with the intensity of the fight. We stare at each other incredulously, all of us still standing and miraculously alive. We are speechless, can it be we have succeeded, against all the odds? Alaric falls to his knees in prayer, Gertie’s voice joins his. It is done. As the darkly ominous oppression fades from the air, my thoughts turn to those who are no longer with us, Hamanu and Jenson, I hope wherever they are, they can see our victory, and know that it is theirs as well.

I look to the threshold, Coy’s eyes follow mine. We nod and move toward the large stone that has cost us so much, the stone we have rescued to serve the light once again. We may still have time to catch the boat tasked with trolling the shores of this land, watching and hoping for our return. The elephant statues will serve us well in hauling the huge stone to the water. We rest and recover from our ordeal, ready to get a fresh start in the morning. The stone imbues us with a sense of grace, it seems to radiate serenity.

As we sleep, we dream, and all of us share the same vision. A woman in silver appears to us and tells us we now possess the connection between mortals and the divine. The stone was a gift from the mother to the world, so mortals would not be cut off from the gods. Because we prevented the tragedy of her sister coming forth into the world, the responsibility of where the stone will reside lies with us. Our thoughts turn to the little church in Laibach, where this all began. As we consider the options, our responsibility weighs heavily upon us. After some discussion, we are all agreed, let the threshold rest in Laibach, let it once again serve as the conduit it was intended to be.

Gertie asks of the Lady, what now? The answer comes, spread the word to the world. Small words, with a powerful and encompassing message, we have direction, we have our purpose.

We leave the unholy temple as we found it, it is not our place to alter the balance of this world.

Thus ends this chapter, and the Third Age of Mortals. Thus ends The Age of Despair.

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Session #48
The Forces of Chalcedon

November 8th
Both moons are waning

There is a camp partway up the mountain, as we approach we see a patrol heading out of the camp, among their number is a figure that towers over the rest, we’ll be facing a giant again soon. There is also a flash of red wing, scaly and bat-like against the dark backdrop of the mountain, that is an all too familiar and dreaded sight.

The gully we’ve been moving through evens out ahead, we’ll be losing most of our cover soon, the ground is rough all around us. Cilka and Coy scout ahead about a half mile out onto the flats. Roughly a mile from the volcano camp, Cilka will cast a spell sending conjured orbs out to the camp to give her a better view of the enemy we’ll be facing.

They come back, shouts ring out from the enemy camp, we may have been discovered…

Cilka did get a decent look at their fortifications, they have rock walls that are well formed, smooth and polished, about 10 feet high. The structures inside are rougher, some with walls half of stone with canvased roofs, some are straight tents. There are telltale scuff marks on the ground, evidence of recent heavy activity, hopefully this is our threshold being moved around. Cilka caught no actual sightings of the threshold itself.

We debate the best way to approach, and decide to try to draw them out, so we can take them in stages. Cilka will send her orbs out again, this time with no attempt at secrecy. When they return to where we are, hopefully a good chunk of their force will follow and we will be able to attack them in two smaller groups.

The plan is moderately successful, and we gather up so Cilka can make as many of us as possible all speedy. Their line advances, a long row of well armored human sized sword and shield wielders, with one giant for good measure. I invoke the rod as we close in.

Keth raises his hands and speaks some words in his unintelligible language, a group of the enemy farthest to the left start milling about in a confused state. We all move forward as Cilka drops a fireball in the middle of the right side of their line. We have fought together so often, these balls of fire falling from the sky, and enemy milling about in sudden confusion, or being entrapped in tentacles springing from the ground has become so commonplace, we barely blink an eye. The enemy on the other hand, is a bit less nonplussed by it all; our first hand to hand blows fall on a shaken and already heavily wounded enemy line.

The giant comes forward, his momentum is somewhat hampered by having to step over the line of his allies that were felled by the fireball. This giant is another of those wielding a spear that appears to made of bone, much like the demon hunters we had fought, then befriended before. It is too bad we have not the leeway to try to right his misconceived ideas of our mutual enemy.

The confusion is taking its toll on the enemy to the left, they are turning and attacking their companions, some are just wandering and babbling incoherently, all while their commander tries to pull them together and coordinate them. Keth chuckles evilly at their predicament. I maneuver around behind the giant, trying to give a flank to my elven friend of the fists and fellow bandit, Coy.

Gertie is an avenging angel upon Star, surrounded by the enemy and laying about with her long spear. Coy steps in, engaging the giant with fists flying while Cilka skillfully places another fireball just behind the center line, trapping them between fire and the blade of Gertie’s spear. I step up behind the giant, opposite of Coy and land two solid blows, I might not be able to reach anything vital, but at least I hit it hard.

Gertie draws her ice blade and levels it at the leader, an ice spear shoots from the blade and hits him a glancing blow. Cilka moves forward a few feet, raises her hands and gestures at the space where their caster had been, where now there is a cloud of gas coalesced. The gas shimmers, flashes solid white and caster appears once again, looking a bit startled at being once again fully exposed. The bunch of confused enemy are still entertaining themselves, fighting with each other.

The giant lands a blow on me, which I shake off, he is not so lucky having already suffered from Dom’s cutting knives, he is losing blood at an alarming rate, and looks much the worse for wear. I hear an unfamiliar voice ring out and the area in front of the giant erupts in a volcanic spewing fiery mess, catching many in a burning mess.

I finish off the poor giant with one blow and follow up with two more blows to the little guy next to him, also taking him out. As I flick my blade, clearing it of the lifeblood of the enemy, I hear Keth’s voice call out, “The dragon comes!”, so much for our relatively easy win, we need to finish these few remaining for the scaly beat arrives to reinforce them.

I pause to take stock, Alaric is facing two, no wait, one, on either side. I decide to make my way to his aid, hoping that something will remain for me to hit. Dom has the same idea, and reaches Alaric ahead of me. Gertie rides Star to the spell caster, circling around him, cutting off his retreat. Coy as his large self runs toward him as well, huge hand reaching out toward the hapless caster’s head.

The dragon appears, angling right toward Alaric, the hound arcon, Dom and I, we are swept into an infernal cone of hell, the fiery breath is too much to withstand and even though I managed to shield myself from the worst of the blast I am still overcome and lose consciousness.

I wake to Alaric’s concerned face over mine, “get up, the dragon will circle back”. We have gone from a quick victory, to uncertainty in the flash of a dragon’s wing. I climb to my feet, eyes scouring the sky for the fire worm, I ready my sword for when it passes by again. The clash comes as it sails by, I am the loser of that exchange, but at least I stay on my feet.

I see a bizarre sight out of the corner of my eye, Coy has taken to the air! With mage struggling in his grasp, he flies over the confused fighters and drops the mage right in their midst. I almost feel sorry for the doomed mage.

The dragon circles round again and lands, knocking Gertie from Star’s back and pinning her to the ground. Coy moves in, and is knocked to the ground, unconscious. I also move in, trying to land a blow, but I miss yet again. Keth has summoned an air spirit that hovers in near the reptile. Alaric, Gertie and I all get another shot at it as it lifts briefly from the ground, hopping away to re-orient itself. We all manage to land our blows, but they seem to have little effect. The bloody beast won’t stay still long enough for us to engage it!

I move in again, taking another snap from its jaws, I manage to keep my feet, but do not manage to hit the damned thing, though I have succeeded in distracting it enough to allow the others to move in as well. The air elemental approaches and harries it from the front. I feel a much needed wash of healing energy pour over me just as the beast turns its head and lets loose a blast of fire, of which I am in the apex, I go down, mind darkening into a fiery inferno. I wake only seconds later, bless our fast acting healers! The scaly beast is almost on top of me. I see Dom from the corner of my eye, rush in, and spring back after slashing it in a series of lightning blows.

Cilka’s little spheres of crackling energy shoot out and pepper the thing, I think that just enraged it further. I scramble to my feet, only to be knocked down yet again. My body screaming with all the abuse it’s taken.

I wake to Alaric casting repeated heals to get me back on my feet. The dragon was finally undone by the slashes doled out by Dom. Given the intensity of the fight, the end was a bit anticlimactic, there was no final mighty blow, good old fashioned blood loss did it in.

We do what we can to prepare to take on the camp, at least the dragon is dead. There are guards at the gate, and at intervals along the wall. As we come up, shouts of warning and alarm ring out. We also hear screams of panic mixed in with the alarms, I smile in grim pleasure, we are truly frightening. Of course if they knew it was mostly our own blood we were covered in, they might not be quite as fearful.

Gertie and I advance in a frontal assault, Dom and Coy move around toward the back, to climb down the cliff into the camp, we’ll flank them between us. The guards at the front gate do us the courtesy of advancing enough to allow me to lunge and cleave through all four that are facing us, I hit them all, but only one goes down.

With my vantage improved by proximity, I see deeper inside the camp, a large bearded troll, covered in barbs, is attacking or is being attacked by guards, and there are ones that have already fallen at its feet. Huh, maybe we were not the ones instilling the fearful screams we heard as we approached. I hear more fighting inside the camp that is out of sight. This is odd, maybe if we had left them to it, there would have been less for us to come in and mop up. This is a puzzle for another time, they all need killing, and my sword is thirsty for the work ahead.

Gertie and Star move in and deal with two of the last three remaining, I take out the other on my way through the gate and continue on my way toward the bearded troll surrounded by dead guards. As Cilka eloquently sums up the situation, “In this case the enemy of my enemy in NOT necessarily my friend!”.

Alaric moves forward and attacks the troll, the beast proves quite prickly, his very skin drawing blood. Cilka’s crackling energy spheres sear through the air, smashing into it and we have its attention.

Now visible to me through the tents are Coy and Dom facing off with a giant icy bug, holding a spear that radiates coldness, it seems all the world has gone mad.

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Session #47
Finding the Temple

The locked door at the top of the stairs taunts us, we are in the midst of preparing to bash it in when we hear shouts coming from around the corner. We abandon the door in favor of not being stabbed in the back by the newest set of foes coming up upon us.

We form up at the end of the corridor right where it turns and opens up into one twice the width. Four huge monsters come into sight roaring their rage. They spy Snerr among us and shout out loudly that we’ve enslaved him. Cilka creates the most impressive fiery wall, snaking around the beasts that face us circling them in a burning inferno that is quite lovely to look upon, as well as being terrifyingly effective. They are trapped and cannot escape the flames burning inward from the wall, they are sorely hurt and manage to extract themselves before we can even land a blow. The only one that even made an attempt to break through was stopped cold (or hot really) by Snerr-Keth. I didn’t even get to take a swing.

We explore the rooms to either side of the corridor we are currently trapped in while we wait the wall of fire to dissipate. Cilka cannot release this one, so we rest, ready and waiting for the beasts to be able to approach again.

The fire finally fades enough for us to pass, we move up into the larger corridor hugging the wall as we go. We are attempting to move silently, but the corridor is large and our steps echo loudly. Cilka has crossed the hall, tempted by the door that is slightly ajar across the way. Curiosity gets the better of her, she cannot stop herself from peaking. “I found the Chalcadonians!”, Cilka hollers, subtle as ever.

I hear a squeak of surprise from Cilka and the sound of a spell crackling into life, but no yell of pain, so the Chalcedonian Cilka found must not be as talented as our own spellcasters. Alaric has joined her so I am free to move up with Coy and Dom, we approach the door on the left, where we think the beasts we faced earlier have gone to lick their burns.

The door opens wider, showing three of the large beasts we had faced before. A flurry of blows ensues with little impact, then one of them winds up a massive blow and lays Coy flat, Coy is down and the monster roars, shaking the very stones with his fury. Everyone is a bit shaken by his display, we rally and forage on.

Dom lands a solid blow and one of the beasts goes down, Alaric lays glowing hands on Coy and we all rally, pulling reserves of strength not before tapped. We are shaken, but still dangerous.

Cilka’s hands raise up and fire once again shoots from her palms. The two remaining beasts are enshrouded in fire, as the flames fade, they crumple to the ground. We shut the door on their fallen bodies and form up for a quick group heal from Alaric.

We return to the door that had so fascinated Cilka only moments before, we have no wish to leave enemy behind us. We kick open the door and are faced by three moderate and normal sized foes, two of which almost too non-descript to mention, equipped with regular looking armor and flails. The third is fancily attired in glowing plate mail and standing toward the back. He immediately thrusts his hands forward and a huge column of fire pounds down from the ceiling, searing through the four of us right in the doorway. This distracts us from the many headed beast that also faces us through the door.

Dom slips through the doorway, completely un-singed and circles round toward the armored humans, Alaric follows his lead. That leaves the many headed beast for me! I move in a swing, I’ve not faced a foe with this many moving bits, each equipped with sharp fangs, I am a bit unnerved, but it proves easier to hit than I expected, I wound it and am heartened.

Coy moves up beside me, reaching his huge arms around the monster, he grabs it and pulls it into himself, holding the monster prone and ready to be gutted. The monster responds by rearing back one of its free heads and letting loose a stream of fire. In dodging away from the flames, Coy momentarily loses its grip, it staggers back onto its feat.

A bloom of light bursts behind me with a loud boom, I stagger beneath the blast, but retain my feet though I do feel like I am now moving through a pool of cold molasses. My arms feel like they are weighted, I can only manage two swings of my blade, but at least both hit good solid blows. Coy follows with a flurry of blows and the beast is down.

Snerr-Keth moves past us to engage the caster that has plagued us. I catch my breath as a spear of sickly green light flashes out from the human, the light pierces Snerr-Keth who wobbles, looks like he might shrug it off, then spasms and falls to the ground.

Alaric and Dom are both at the last two standing humans, one of which has come up behind Alaric and suffered for his audacity as Alaric takes note of his approach and trips him up as he arrives. I run forward taking advantage of his prone position and do my best to keep him down.

The human in the glowing armor tosses his head, as his hood falls his face changes, morphing from a craggy old man into a red leathery dragon face with glowing eyes, wings arch out from behind him and he opens his mouth and a flume of fire blasts forth, searing all in its path. I am unable to step aside, still feeling as if I carry twice my normal weight, and the fire hits me dead on. Searing blackness obliterates my senses and I know no more.

I wake to the gentle radiant touch of healing from Alaric, and regain my feet still wobbly from the effects of the fire and whatever else that was that hit me before. The room is of newer construction, roughly and freshly hewn from the rock of the mountain. The focal point of the room is a large rock altar that retains a menacing air, the whole rooms seems to have absorbed that aura. We speculate that it might have been prepared to receive the threshold in some way.

Back where we faced the giants we find a secret passage back to the throne room, it is a small passage with stairs down that comes out a hidden door behind the thrones. We spied the last couple of remaining giants making good their escape through this same passage we just traveled.

Both the giants are richly dressed, they must have ruled here before the Chalcadonians came and took over. Coy catches up to them ahead of us, talking to them trying to get their cooperation. The male giant is having none of that, he casts a pit spell to block our pursuit, the walls of this pit are oddly crafted, being made of something other than smooth stone and earth.

The giants are at least speaking to us, trying to understand what may have descended upon them. They believed the Chalcedonians were fighting the demons, they were demon hunters themselves and were duped by their would be protectors. They speak of a holy place to the west that the Chalcedonians erected, possibly they brought the threshold there.

We are able to return Snerr to them at least, though we are heartsick by the killing we have done here, it was not all that we thought it was. We’ve killed like-minded soles here, and almost made enemies of those with whom we share a common cause.

We call upon the elephants to speed out path and head toward the temple toward the west. We calculate there is around 100 miles or so of travel ahead of us.

November 3rd
This is our second day of travel by elephant, the weather looks to be taking a turn for the worse, with a dust storm on the horizon. We debate, but decide to be cautious and take shelter in the conjured hut. We are delayed only 6 hours or so, the hut is covered by a thick layer of sand, though it does not take long to get clear. Our path is now obscured by all the sand, but we are able to push on. What should have only taken us three days, looks like it will be more like 4 or 5 days.

We are further delayed by a dead end canyon that requires a half day of retracing our steps, followed by another minor dust squall that slows us more. I am starting to miss traveling by boat. Our last day is spent on foot as the elephants can only be called four days in a row.

November 8th
As we move along the base of a ridge, we hear the crackle of electricity and a screech just past the rise in front of us. We go on the alert, readying weapons and spells. A large winged humanoid creature with a vulture like head lands with a screech on the rise above us. Dom and Coy move quickly around the outcropping, I see Coy rear back with a look of alarm on his face, this can’t be good.

We begin to realize why when three more beasts fly up over the rise to land at on the high ledge above us, and Coy is still looking beyond that behind the rise, this can only mean there are yet more behind the rise still. I rush up to stand by Coy and see there are indeed at least two more, they are atop a small pile of 3 or 4 carcasses of giants, they look to be feeding from their bodies.

Dom and Coy working together take one of the down, screams fill the air from the beasts above. I get close to one of them, approaching cautiously, this thing is huge and quick, and it smells terrible. Feathers fly as I lunge, cutting into it deeply, the fire from my blade seems to have little impact, only making the smell worse.

I step in, maneuvering to be opposite Dom, trying to give him a chance to flank the beast. Two of my three blows land, though the stench much be affecting me as I almost drop my sword on the third swing. Dom finishes it off, taking advantage of the distraction I have provided, and we move off to help our companions with the other feathered smellies.

I turn and rush back the way I came as all the other birdmen have flown to harry my companions. As I arrive Keth’s voice calls out as he completes a spell, tentacles now cover the top of the ridge, spilling down the sides in a grotesque undulating mass. Unfortunately they do little to impede the feathered beasts, who seem to hardly notice their appearance.

There are three on the ridge, two look like they are performing some kind of bizzare ritual, they are bobbing and stomping in a weird dance that would be terrifying if it weren’t being performed by such strange looking creatures. Coy is also at the top of the ridge, he shoves one of the dancers off the ledge interrupting it’s strange ritual and entangling it in the tentacles below, the other continues on unperturbed by its companions fate.

The dancing bird culminates its motions with a piercing screech and crackling electricity arcs down, searing all surrounding the ridge. Shaking my head to clear the sparks from my eyes, I step in and land two good solid blows to the feathered fiend in front of me, knocking it down and out. I didn’t think it was possible, but these things smell even worse when they bleed. We are slowly whittling these things away.

We ring the casting bird who has flown down to get some hand to talon action after trying to fry us with its electricity. I circle round taking advantage of Alaric’s positioning and lunge forward piercing its side. We take turns hacking away at the thing, in the background we hear a screech cut off abruptly then the sound of something wet and heavy landing after a long fall. Coy seems to have dealt with another one on the ridge. Dom finishes off the one we are fighting, and the last one has torn its bedraggled self free of the tentacles and is now on the ground in front of Cilka’s prone form, she looks to have been scorched pretty badly by the electrical burst. Keth finished it off before it has a chance to do Cilka any more harm.

It is going to be a long time before I am rid of the smell of these things.

Off in the distance we see smoke rising into the sky, this must be the volcano the temple is next to, we should be able to get there by mid-day tomorrow if we are able to stay out of the dead end canyons.

Mid-day and we are among the volcanic cones, perched on the very rim of one of them is a dark spikey crystalline structure, we have found the temple.

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Session #46
Against the Giants

Making our way toward the temple we find we are being followed. There are at least two giants, a weird looking collared lizard pet of giant proportions and a few others on our tail. Taking advantage of the best terrain we can find on short notice we clump together behind a rock, hoping to ambush them. Keth spots a large eagle soaring overhead, circling and screeching, it veers off, angling back toward the creatures we were hoping to ambush. We’ve most likely been found.

The massive lizard lumbers up, faster than expected. We’ve managed to pre-cast some of our protective spells, and the rod has been invoked, giving us all the best advantages we can muster.

The lizard is absurdly large, several times bigger than the puny humans it faces, at least until Coy becomes the larger version of himself, giving it a bit of a challenge in that arena. I am the lucky one right in its path, as it lumbers closer, I brace myself and step into range swinging madly at it. I lashes at with its craggy jaws barely missing me. I land one solid blow, but then get knocked to the ground by its massive swinging head, I still manage to stab up into it, I think I’ve hurt it badly, but can’t be sure from my prone vantage point. All I see is a chaos of huge feet, claws and dripping jaws above me.

The ground quivers beneath me with the pounding of the lizard and the giants approaching, I debate the merits of trying to roll away to get to my feet, but decide to take advantage of the access my vulnerable position provides the beasts softer under palate I continue to attack from where I lie. I can’t hear much from around me but the hissing from the lizard and the growls and grunts of the giants getting closer.

I miss my cousins comforting voice that seems to grant my arms more strength and steadies the blows I rain on our enemies. I wish we had not decided to have Gertie and Kuni go on a scout run.

The lizard must think me tasty, it catches me up in its jaws, trapping my sword arm. I struggle, trying to break free, but cannot get out of the hold it has on me. Ironically a dagger would come in quite handy right now, suddenly I am more thankful that Gertie is not here to see my lack of preparedness, after jibbing her for not being able to cut herself free of the great wyrm that had swallowed her. I really need to make sure I get myself a dagger…

Suddenly the scaly beast in whose maw I am gripped, opens its jaw and screeches, thrashing around, then crashing to the ground. I roll away from its slack jaws, leaping to my feet I see the smoldering corpse of the lizard sizzling before me, its eyes clouding over as it twitches out its last breath.

Cilka’s work is evident everywhere around me, several of the armored non-giant enemy are down, also smoldering, the giants are still up and moving quickly toward me. Coy is smashing fists into a slender opponent with a wicked looking curved blade. I don’t see Keth anywhere, but do see the hound archon, so I hope he is OK. I don’t see Dom, but then again, one does not usually see Dom anyway. I feel Alaric’s healing energy wash over me, greatly improving my outlook, and I know he is OK, at least for the moment.

Nito, the celestial friend that Alaric called a few days ago is standing near me, I feel it’s protective presence as it moves between me and the slender guy with the curvy blade. That protection is well received, but proves fatal to Nito when his opponent yells out, calling to its foul deity and smites Nito, cutting him down. I can tell he is beyond any healing powers we have at our call.

Experience has taught me caution, even though I boil with rage at the death of our celestial companion, I know I face a giant with a long arm and I clamber to my feet cautiously, knowing he will take a swing at me while I regain my feet. My caution is rewarded as I fend off a terrible blow with my ready blade. I am up, I just hope I can help before more of my friends are lost.

A wall of searing fire leaps up enclosing most of the enemy and blocking the Giant that took a swing at me, Cilka’s signature work, classic and effective.

As the slender curvy blade wielder spins around, I notice his ears have the charactertic point that bespeaks an elvish race, though he is dark and somewhat demonic looking. I step in and lunge at the dark elf, my sword lands two out of the three swings I am able to take, but my blows don’t seem to land as hard as they should.

I see arrows stream overhead and hear Cilka’s shriek cuts off suddenly, she had to have exposed herself to get the fire wall up, I can only hope she was able to get some cover before the arrows reached her, but the silence I hear now does not bode well, when Cilka is unhappy she is usually quite vocal about it, I find myself stretching to hear her voice, hoping for the complaints to come ringing out down the canyon walls.

Suddenly there is nothing left for me to swing at. The dark elf is down, struck fatally by Coy. The giants are holed up behind the fire wall, I cannot see them, much less reach them to stop their retreat. I do hear their lumbering feet shaking the ground as at least one of them moves off and away. Keth has appeared, flying high in the air, I hear him calling out that he has the last giant trapped. He must have managed to close off the opening beyond the fire wall, penning it in and cutting it off from its retreat.

Alaric has gone to Cilka, I know that whatever can be done for her, will be done. Dom is down, I run toward him, not that I can help much, but in the absence of anything to hit, I am at a loss.

The giant is now completely trapped, ice above, stone to the side and below, and fire to the near side. There is a small window that we can, or at least some of us can, angle arrows through. I need some target practice, so I try my hand and my bow as well.

We finally pepper the trapped giant with enough arrows and magic missiles to bring him down.

We set up our watches and get what rest we can, we are all healed up, but very battle weary. Dom and Alaric see a huge burly giant that was peering down the hill trying to find us, but it does not come close enough. We pass the night uneventfully.

We are close to the mountain, only an hour or so away.

As we start the climb up the mountain we see a figure off in the distance, an ogrish looking creature is there. Viewing it through the glass, we see it is an ettin standing guard on a thin walkway, it is looking down in our direction.

Dom scouts a way up that is more hidden, we take some extra time to climb up this circuitous path in the hopes that we can approach undetected. The ettin shows no signs that we have been spotted. The path becomes steeper, switching back and forth as it wends its way up the steep slope. The path is well traveled, but we see no evidence of the stone being hauled up. This is apparently the path to their dumping grounds, there is a huge pile of refuse, including decaying humanoid remains, the stench is appalling.

We plan a sneak attack on the Eton, I get to be wraithlike, given the ability to hide from all the senses of our enemy, I get to be sneaky!

Our plan is to sneak up, surround the ettin, and all attack at once. The idea is that we will bring it down in one blow, without giving it the time to sound the alert, best laid plans…

I invoke the rod and prepare to be made sneaky. We slowly and quietly move into place, the ettin is scanning the valley floor below and does not seem to be at all alarmed. So far so good, then we round the corner and the other ettin guard at the post behind the outcropping comes into view…

Luckily that one is snoozing at his post, but probably not for long…

Alaric phases into view, steps up and lashes out, hitting the beast two good solid blows. Dom moves up, knives flashing, this is his element. There is not much left by the time I get to take my swings, I almost feel sorry for the beast as it crashes to the ground before it even really knows it’s being attacked.

Coy, having faith in his companions, has broken off to try to silence the inattentive guard in the tower. Coy manages to stun him and we rush, trying to keep the alarm from sounding. The advantage will be ours If this succeeds.

I don’t even have a chance to make my way over to him before Alaric fells the stunned ettin guard. Coy grimaces, and finishes him off.

There are two ropes running through two holes in the wall, one is red and one is brown. We assume pulling the red one would sound an alarm, and the brown we surmise will open the door. At least that is our hope.

We arrange ourselves before the door, and brace for action. Coy takes hold of the brown rope and pulls, it takes more muscle than he expected, he leans his weight into it, and a grinding noise accompanies the doors slowly swinging open to revealing a corridor, there are two openings on either side with heavy curtains pulled across them both. We hear snoring from behind one curtain, and voices filter through the other. We decide not to leave anyone behind us, Coy pulls open a curtain, the sound of snoring becomes louder as the heavy curtain is moved aside.

There are four stone giants in this room, two are dicing companionably while the others are snoring away. I almost feel badly, disrupting this friendly scene, almost, but not quite.

Alaric and Dom have both gone in ahead of me and made their marks, I move in and swing a mighty blow, one hit carrying through to the other. Cilka moves in behind me and her magic takes out the first one I hit. Coy moves in while the sleeping giants wake and rise, arming themselves with whatever they have to hand. One of the dicers manages to get a few swings in before Alaric knocks him out of the fight. We have the other two, wiping the sleep from their eyes, and I am sure our ruckus has mobilized the mountain fortress, we’ll be seeing many more shortly.

I swing at one of the sleepy ones, at first I thought I missed him, then I notices the deep gash open up as his eyes go wide and he drops unconscious.

Coy takes a glancing blow and being the fragile elf he is, goes down. Of course, I must go save him, you know, because I am a girl, and that’s what we do. I deal two massive blows, the second of which hits him in a particularly vulnerable spot, dealing significant damage. This is the second time my sword has hit with almost inhuman force. On the last blow, my blade flares blindingly bright and a ring of fire explodes from its tip, blasting everyone surrounding me, friend and foe alike. I am unscathed and left standing there, holding my sword with a dumbfounded look on my face. Cilka comments that I am trespassing on her territory.

We finish off the prone giants as we hear Keth outside bellowing at the guards in the other room, some nonsense about disciplinary action. It almost works. It does buy us a few precious seconds to get a heal or two and clean up the rest in this room.

We move forward down the hall toward the giant Keth almost bluffed, I am uncomfortable leaving the other curtained room behind us.

Cilkas streaks of magic shoot past us, slamming into the giant, rocking it back on its heels. It doesn’t last much longer between Dom’s attack from behind and Coys smashing fists, it falls. Now we just have to deal with their immediate leader, Snurr.

This is when the giants from across the hall finally decide to make their appearance. Cilka cries out in fear as we all spin around to deal with this latest threat. Ogres and ettins, two of each come pouring out of the room, filling the hall with their growls and stench.

The hallway works to our advantage, we are two across yet they can only come at us one at a time. We are mechanical in our attacks, one step forward hack, hack, hack, parry and repeat. Alaric and I make a good team. Every now and then, Cilka little balls of crackling energy come flying through, pelting the ettins and they try to press forward.

Alaric steps in and lands a good solid blow, I move up and swing, my sword hit hard and true and… another blast of fire radiates out cooking everything within a ten foot radius, everyone but me.

We have cleared this area, we even let a few run away down the mountain. Keth has taken over the body of Snurr, so we have an officer of their number on our side.

Further down the hall there are large brass bound wooden doors with a five point star scratched into the face. The doors open to a great hall with a dais at the far end, two thrones grace the dais. A tall bronze statue of a faceless woman stands in the corner close to us on the right. There is a gallery to the left and a stair rising up into the ceiling. Cilka points up toward the gallery, “something moved up there!”

Keth/Snurr offers to toss one of us up onto the dais, we decide to take the stairs.

The top of the stairs shows us two more giants down the corridor with an evil looking giant red doglike thing in front of them. Keth/Snurr steps in and growls at them in an officious way. This does not seem to have the effect he was hoping, they growl back and raise their weapons in the commonly recognized I am going to do my best to kill you sort of way. I invoke the rod.

The red dog pads forward and opens its maw, flames shoot forth, bathing us all in searing fire. I am unable to fend it off at all and fall screaming into a fiery darkness. I come to with Alaric’s healing energy washing over me, relieving the searing pain of my burns. I struggle to my feet and move forward into the fray.

Blows are flying in the tight confines of the hallway, my friends are up, then down, then up, then down. Alaric has done little more than heal whoever he can reach, trying to keep people on their feet. We finally start to make some headway. The red dog and giant peering out the door think so too as the dog tries to run and the door into the room slams shut, blocking off our access to the last giant standing. Cilka calls out and the hound freezes in its tracks, it takes another blow or six from me, Dom and Alaric and finally it falls.

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Session #45
An Ambush!

We hear the sound of low horn call out in a long low blast, it sounds like it is coming from where the dragon originated, maybe they are attempting to recall the beast.

Our plan is to harry the threshold thieves. We move into the hills, fumbling a bit trying to figure out which way to go. Alaric points out some tracks of what appear to be very large men.

Coy returns telling of around 5 giants in the group we are following, they make is much easier for them to carry the threshold, this dashes our hopes that they will be forced to move slowly, the giants gives them the ability to move much more quickly than we thought they would be able to.

Dom tells of another group that is moving up behind us, they also have a couple giants among them, we are sandwiched between the two, this could get interesting. Once they find the dragon, they will know we are here and will be looking for us.

We spend the night secure among the cliffs overlooking a ravine that we expect will fill with our enemy. This provides what is probably the best scenario for us to attempt to take the threshold. We have time to set up what we can to prepare our ambush, hoping to whittle their numbers down enough that our swords can handle the rest.

November 2

Setting some poles ahead of time, Cilka is able to cast webbing across the whole far side of the ravine, corralling them to come through to us in a more concentrated grouping, optimally setting themselves up to be targeted by more of our spells.

We start off hiding behind the rock outcroppings up on the path along the ledge of the ravine. As the enemy comes into view we gather together to be hasted by Cilka, then spread out, most heading down the steep slope to the ravine floor, Dom and Keth stay above, Keth to cast spells without interruption and Dom moving around the enemy so he can get behind them to flank.

The giants make it through the noxious cloud of gas that Keth has cast in their midst, many of the smaller ones succumb to the fumes. The giants lumber forward, moving much more quickly than their ungainly gate looks like it would allow.

A stream of fire shoots out across the ravine, it is not originating from Cilka like we are used to, it lashes into the webbing that is holding them back and corralling them, it looks like they will not be slowed for long. Cilka retaliates with her own ball of fire, taking advantage of their condensed numbers while she can.

Again, some go down, the larger stay up, and more come into view replacing the few we’ve managed to take out so far, we are in it for the long haul this time.

I scramble down the steep path to the ravine floor, we are facing an intimidating line of three giants facing off against Coy, Gertie, Star and Keth. I finally make it down the slope and over to the giants, who have been joined by their well armored commander, at least he had been shouting out orders, after my sword meets his chest, he’s not shouting anything anymore. Unfortunately I am not able to carry the blow through to the giant next to him.

Suddenly the giant I failed to hit freezes in place, apparently struck immobile from some friendly spell. Alaric slashes into the middle giant, repeatedly opening wide gashes, toppling the great beast with a thunderous crash.

Arrows fly thick through the air, another giant is down with a thud the shakes the ground, the rest of their number are quickly moving up on us. Another regular sized armored guy appears suddenly in front of me, in between me and the newest giant to come up to us, it is in my way, but before I can even ready a swing to remove him, Gertie slides in and he is no longer a problem. Now we just face this new giant, he is a different looking beast, with demonic armaments and nasty bone helmet that looks to have once been the skull and spine of an actual demon.

A huge ball of fire goes arcing overhead and blasts into the cliff above, I can only hope my companions waging their war from on high were under enough cover to weather that fire storm.

The massive demonic giant lashes out at us with its long spear, reaching farther and with more weight behind the blow than should have been possible. Gertie is hit hard, I see her go down just as the swing comes back around and slams into me, that is the last thing I remember for a short time…

I come to in a world of chaos. There is fighting all around and above me. I hear a pop as air is displaced and the familiar growl of the hound archon, a welcome sound to my beleaguered ears. I clamber to my feet, a moment to take stock, and I am running toward the last few bad guys left standing.

As I engage I take a few hits from the swordsmen in front of me, nearly falling again. Alaric has my back and instantly I feel better. Coy, Gertie and the archon take it to the archers. Alaric and I dispatch the remaining infantry and Coy continues his assault on the sorcerer. The archers decide to surrender and after some interrogation they tell us that the threshold has been taken to the temple on the mountain.

We decide to head out towards the temple, opting to heal and rest overnight and then assault in the morning. Traveling all day, we near the tall mountain that seemed to be the destination of the column of men and giants, but we know that the group hunting us is now nearly upon us.

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Session #44
Chasing the Ship

October 10

We are unsure of the wisest path to take, it is hard to say what will catch us up to them more quickly, ride over land, or tempt the windy fates at sea.

The patch of blue they are arguing over on the map looks kind of like a slug. We are at the tip of the antenna, we think the boat went south, down toward the bottom of the slug. Traveling by water may be the best course as we do not know the destination of those we follow, we’d be most likely to see where they go ashore if we are on the water ourselves.

Of course we’ll have to rid ourselves of the horses again, it is sad that this is the purpose we seem to be putting all our battle earned coin toward, buying horses then selling them off for less than what we paid.

We take to the tavern for the evening, hoping to find a willing fisherman to lend us their boat and maybe sail it for us as well. Visitors the likes of us are apparently not seen here often, we are the subject of much conversation and even more hard looks. They are not unfriendly, just cautious.

We manage to order up some food and drink, though Coy complains that he did not get what he asked for. I am pleased with my tankard of ale, I need little else.

We strike a bargain with a local fisherman and his crew, he sets a price of 2000 gold to put his boat and crew at our service for the next month or two. We offer an exchange that works in both our favor, we pay 1000 up front, and one of their family members takes our horses to sell for whatever they can get as the second half of their fee, they stand to make out quite well in this bargain, it saves us some of our coin, while taking away the problem of how to rid ourselves of the beasts without losing as much on the deal. It is a win win, and I think Hamanu would be proud.

The next day the weather starts to take a turn for the worse, we see rolling clouds on the horizon to the northwest. Afir shouts for anyone that cannot be of help, to get out of their way and suffer the storm below. We are tossed about in the hold, which is leaking cold salty water. I hear shouts from above, and frantic calling from the men. A cheer goes up followed by thumps on the hull of the ship. We hear more shouts and cheers, we later learn that Coy dove over the side to rescue a sailor that had been swept overboard by the storm. We are suddenly much more welcome and accepted.

We see a boat off in the distance, it does not appear to be the boat we are looking for. We decide to put into shore for the evening, even though it is only afternoon, we do not want to attempt to move past them while daylight may give us away, we will sneak past while it is still dark.

Keth coerces a conjured assistant to improve the wind and speed our way. The captain looks a tad nonplussed, but does not question or improved fortunes. Afir snuffs the lights and shoos us below decks, imploring us to be as quiet as we can while we make our way past the port. Coy remains above to scout the port with our spyglass as we silently pass by under cover of darkness.

We make excellent progress throughout the following days, we definitely gain ground, or water with the arcane aid conjured by Keth. There is now a pronounced current in the water, aiding our forward progress. Coy spies a dragon off in the distance over the water toward the southeast. Afir thinks it may be about two days away, we are pretty sure they do not yet know we follow.

October 28th
Big Moon is high, the small moon is just off New

Coy and I notice the dragon turn toward our little boat, start heading in our direction, then just disappear. This does not bode well.

We prepare ourselves as best we can given that we are on a boat. The thing appears above the prow of the boat and lets loose a blast of electricity that arcs through a line of us, starting with me and ending with Dom, Dom, Cilka and Alaric are all down. While I pray over the Rod, Keth raises his hands in a gathering motion, everything that is not tied down on the deck of the ship rises up and swirls together in swirling clump of wood chunks, loose barrels and small metal tools, with a pushing motion, Keth throws the vortex of implements into the dragon which lets out a angry roar, but seems otherwise unaffected.

I hear Keth shout out, “Callie, to me!” as he charges half the length of the ship, pulling the spell stone from his cloak, and a beam of green energy shoots out, hitting the dragon. The dragon staggers in the air, it’s wings become tattered and it screams out in anguish.

Coy is all big now, and has been given flight, he speeds toward the laboring beast, but is unable to land a blow. The beast has had enough of us, and turns to flee. Coy shoots some arrows after it, but is unable to hit it. I fear whatever it answers too now knows we are here and are at least a little formidable.

October 29

As we sail thru the swampy shoals Dom and Coy both spot the boat we are chasing up ahead at the beach. As we rush in the boat is brought to shuddering halt as a number of plant like monsters rise up around us. As I ready my weapon I am grabbed in its slimy claw. I try to break free but I slip in its grasp. Cilka mean while dispatches one with her flames. The creatures continue to grab at crew members and I get dragged down under the water, pulling my dagger and slashing away as if my life depended on it, which in fact, it does.

Suddenly the slimy monster lets me loose as it sinks into the dark water, one of my faithful companions must have landed a blow of some sort. I struggle in the water, my feet touch the bottom, the water is relatively shallow here, but anything over my height poses a real threat to my life with the weight of my armor dragging me down.

I manage to get my fingers latched onto the side of the boat, I try to haul myself over, but my strength fails me, one more attempt and I am up and back onto the deck. It looks like there are only two of the seaweed creatures left, I am heartened, they have done well without me, though I fear for the wellbeing of the fishermen who are unused to this kind of action. I stagger to my feet and haul my rusty ass over to the last monster still up, hoping to at least be a distraction and pull some of the blows, I am water logged, but relatively unharmed, much to my dismay.

Hey! My prayers are answered! I am locked back in the tender embrace of the last remaining seaweed creature, it starts to drag me down, but then shudders and goes eerily still. I push myself away, gasping for air at the surface. With one false start, I drag myself up and over the edge, everyone is now accounted for, the all but one fishermen that were pulled overboard have been brought back on board and are being healed. We’ll have to make it as good as we can for the lost fisherman’s family upon our return.

We were subject to an illusion, the boat we were following was never ashore at the beach, it was a trap to lure us into where the seaweed monsters could make their attack.

We are close, but not close enough, we have to continue to make as good time as we have been making to have any hope of catching them, and our conjured windy assistance leaves us after dusk tonight. We lay plans as the boats continue to vie for more distance, each pushing as hard as they can. We debate the merits of teleporting onto their decks and doing whatever we can to disable their vessel, though the dragon is still in the mix and our spells will be depleted. No options are optimal, but we must do whatever we can to free the threshold from their evil hands.

We ultimately decide that no plan gets us on board with any prayer of freeing the threshold. Everything we come up with equals us dead and them able to recover and follow through with their dark ritual. The frustration of having them in our sights, and being unable to deal them any real damage is a sickness inside our bellies, a futile rage burns within us.

November 1

Partway through the night, their pace picks up and their boat angles toward a sandy spit along the far shore. As we approach the moored boat, most appear to have gone ashore, the dragon circles overhead and lands to have its rider climb aboard. The reptile still looks a bit the worse for wear, which is heartening. They are scrambling to get the stone off the ship and organize its passage to wherever they are trying to bring it.

We arrange to be dropped ashore and for the captain to check the beach daily for our return to retrieve us if we prevail. He agrees to check daily for the remainder of the time on his contract, one month.

We put ashore and debark a little ways from the beach where the stone is being unloaded, doing our best to keep the innocent fishers safe from discovery and harm. We plan to sneak toward the enemy, and asses, hoping to find a worthy place for an ambush.

The dragon follows our ship as it pulls away from shore, but loses interest when it sees that we are no longer aboard. It starts sweeping the coast, looking for where we came to land. We have come to shore a little removed from the other boat’s landing site, hoping to lure the dragon out so we can kill it unhindered, dividing their forces.

We form up behind some rocky outcroppings, hoping to avoid the reptiles lightning strikes. We have been bolstered against this attack, but that only goes so far. True to its nature, the first flash of lightning crackles through our ranks, Coy is hard pressed though the rest of us have shaken off this first attack, the protections serving us well.

I hurry to catch up to Dom and Alaric that have hurried out to engage the winged snake. I circle round, hoping to provide some distraction so Dom can wreak the havoc only he can wield so well. The thing lashes out with claws, fangs and tail. Dom takes the brunt of it all, being the closest in, he falls. I begin my dance.

I take two quick steps in toward the reptile, slashing my burning blade against its scaly side, then spin away, avoiding the snapping jaws that dart around at me. Unfortunately my blade only glances across its armor, but I have positioned myself well, Coy is directly opposite me on the other side of the beast, we should be able to distract the thing for each other. We are also aided by the Hound Arcon sent by our lady to aid us. Alaric’s prayers to the Goddess have been answered to the best of her ability, her resources are slim and we are very far from her place of power.

Keth’s voice rises in crescendo and an elven maiden appears, spinning into a whirlwind of destruction, buffeting the monster’s tender eyes and nostrils.

Even when I have the time to actually swing the blasted beast right in front of me, I am only able to land one solid blow, the rest glance of the wyrm’s scaly armor. I did cut deep with the slash that hit between its scales, the beast screeches and whips its tail and wing into me buffeting, but not knocking me senseless. To my left I see the divine Hound Arcon crumple under the slashing claws.

To my right the swirling vortex of elven maiden casts another vortex of wind and sand, while Keth lets loose another volley of magic missiles bringing the beast down.

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Session #43
Hunting the Legion

September 13th
As we clear out to sea, we find the winds are non-existent. We make very little progress the first day. The ship has a crew of 15 who are pressed a bit the second day, which dawns stormy, at least there is a little more wind. We finally start to make good time south after our slow start.

Dom pitches in, trying to learn a little more of the craft, the crew is remarkably accepting of him. Coy, not as much, he ends up playing with the new spyglass up in the turrety thing.

October 1st comes and goes with us still asea. We celebrate the double full moon with slightly better grub to eat and some drink and song. Folks are in a festive mood, we worry we may have missed our opportunity to rescue the threshold, but we are hoping whatever they have planned is actually scheduled for the convergence of the new moons, which seems more likely.

October 4th
Cabasa is in sight, but so is another vessel on the horizon. It is a Chelcadonian military ship, which we hear is an unusual occurrence. We take the captain up on his offer to run us ashore outside of Cabasa, we do not wish to endanger the ship and her crew any more than we need to, and this saves us from alerting them of our presence.

Alaric gives us all the ability to walk on water, which saves the captain from having to go to close in. The captain has decided to avoid Cabasa, given the extra military presence.

Evening falls, bringing with it the promise of foul weather in the night. We are thankful for the hut and a relatively calm beach on which to cast it. The surrounding lands are mostly badlands and desert.

We nestle in for the night.

The weather has cleared overnight, it is a rather pretty day. We see a trail that heads in the correct direction, this will be a long hard march to make it in one day. Apparently we have gone soft, between our horses and leisurely cruise, all this walking is exhausting.

As we move toward the port, the lands continue to improve with irrigated fields with rich soil. The harvest has been taken in already, so we see little activity along the way.

The first thing we see as we approach Cabasa is the lighthouse. It is an impressive structure, stabbing up into the sky and is topped with a flaming gem. We might need to get that to add it to our collection.

There is a line of carts leaving the town, it seems that most are heading home for the evening. We go in search of an inn. Keth bribes a guard to direct us toward one of the nicer inns. These are showy guards, all decked in fancy uniforms, the insignia is Chalcedonian. They gladly take our coin and make their recommendations, we decide on the Fair Beacon and no one wants to be roomed with Coy after he consumes spicy faire.

The town is logically arrayed, in a grid pattern, even I can’t get lost here. There are statues throughout the city, though none seem overly religious in nature. It is fanciful and wondrous to us, the art is exotic in nature, representations of animals and sea creatures as well as humans and the marble depictions are brightly painted in many colors.

We find our way to the Fair Beacon and settle in. It’s nice enough that even Coy says he might trust the water. It’s really expensive to stay here thou…8 gold for all of us!! Certainly no sailors here. We head out to the crimson lantern. Its seedy.

I let the others do the talking, luckily I am unfamiliar with the local tongue, so even if I do get a little too far into my cups, chances are I won’t cause too much trouble.

Cilka is acting peculiar, she’s being friendly with these strangers, and she’s not even wearing her dress!

Keth is talking to some of the locals, oddly they seem to be getting along.

We manage not to embarrass ourselves too much, nor do we end up in jail. We even got some useful information, there was a big heavy object under a tarp that nobody was allowed to look at without being flogged. There is a blue dragon rumored to be around, and is said to sleep on a boat that is docked at the harbor. The less fancy dressed militants are much nicer than the foppy ones.

We split up, Gertie and Kuni goes to check out the local leaders, name dropping has its advantages, we hope. Cilka goes looking for a church, Alaric and I join her so she has some protection. Dom and Coy go to follow some military types around, I think I will avoid that detail, I imagine I would be less than helpful there… Keth goes shopping.

Alaric has prayed to Larani and has determined we are on the right course.

There are several old temples about that are in various stages of disrepair and outright decay. The first we visit was once a large impressive marble structure, now all that is left is the foundation. Next door is another decayed structure much the same, little of note remains. No one has ventured in here in quite some time, we see no evidence of hidden doors. Next we visit the one out by the docks, it’s on an small peninsula and sits above the city on a higher outcropping of rock. As we approach we see the pathway leading up to it is guarded. We are told the area is off limits, Cilka attempts to charm her way past, but is unsuccessful.

The third temple site is much like the first, a ruble ruin with little of note. This one at least has the vestiges of some interesting marble statues.

We are being followed by a raggedly looking fellow, we decide to play it casual and head toward the market area. We split up and make our way to the market area in different directions. Coy would be so proud of me, no one saw me! When we make it to the market we see the beggar still following Cilka. Alaric begins handing coppers out to beggars to get close and spooks the guy and he takes off running. Cilka decides to not cast her magic and he gets away.

Meanwhile back at the Inn, after much debate Coy, Dom and Alaric decide to go on a stealth mission to check out the temple on the hill that was so heavily guarded. We await their return, hoping we do not hear any evidence of their being discovered.

Kuni sings suggestively (not like that!) attempting to get folks talking, she sings of a mythical blue dragon in the hopes to get them talking of the dragon we know is in the area. I just drink and listen to my cousin.

She is quite talented, inciting the crowd who start shouting out dragon sightings and the absolute absence of any dragons, cause they don’t exist! Kuni draws it all out and finds that the sound of vast wings were heard the night that ship arrived and the silhouette of a winged beast was spotted over the full moon.

We follow the lead of one of the more assertive dragon spotters toward the wall of the city by the water, he points out claw marks on the wall that could only have been made by a large clawed beast, like a dragon. He and his friend argues over what might have made those marks, and if the dragon ever existed or just left, they both agree that the large force that came on those boats left by foot through the city. That large a force would have left tracks…

Tomorrow we’ll see if we can purchase a map and search the area outside the city for signs of the legion passing. We think they left approximately a week ago. We procure new horses, trading some of our jewelry and gems for six fine looking beasts. Keth and Coy find a map that will serve our purposes.

Dom managed to catch a word with our beggar friend who led him to a person known as “Silver Fox”. This person confirmed much of the story and is trying to secure us a guide, we plan to flesh out our rations and supplies and leave at dawn, hopefully with a guide. We toy with the idea of liberating and re-consecrating the church, but wiser heads prevail and we opt to rest up in preparation for our journey, we’ll be traveling hard to catch up with the legion and hopefully the threshold.

Otieno of Swentet is the name we are given by the Silver Fox, he may be able to act as a guide, but we have to get to Swentet first, then find him. If our path takes us that way, we will try to secure his services.

We make good time, but so far do not see much evidence of a legion passing through. Asking locals along the way tells us we are on the right path. The second village informs us that they took a turn toward the ferry to cut across, possibly to Clysma.

October 9th
We are moving away from farmland, the heat is oppressive as the climate become more arid.

October 10th
We enter Clysma toward the evening, it is awfully hot, Dom seems to be having the hardest time with it. Alaric does something that makes it much easier to stand the heat. Clysma is a small river town, much smaller than Cabasa. The building are open to catch as much of a breeze as they can, whenever there is one. We find the inn and settle down for the evening, asking for news.

The legion was well prepared, from what we are told, there was a boat sent ahead in pieces and assembled, waiting for their arrival.

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Session #42
Searching for the stone

In the dwarven city, we find a secluded place to discuss our situation.

Coy explains his theory that the light (at the top of the tower) has twisted the dwarves. Coy found no evidence of a connection between these people and Chalcedon, he hands over the stack of papers as he is done with them.

Gertie calls out that we really should leave… NOW. This brings to our attention a guttural, snarling, growl that we realize has been getting steadily louder and culminates in the should of splintering wood as the gate to the towers is smashed to bits from the inside.

Lumbering out of the destroyed gateway is a huge lumbering troll, muscles knotted. Behind him is another, this one is just as tall, but whip thin with a lashing tail. These are odd trolls.

I invoke the rod, not knowing what else might be behind the first two.

Our fears are well founded behind the first two, three more come into view through the gate, one looks much like the first, but has two extra arms and it’s mouth opens the wrong way, stretching wide from chin to forehead instead of cheek to cheek. The next one also looks much like the first, but it took me a while to realize it, I was so distracted by the tentacles it had for arms and the wide bullfrog like jaw. The next was even more disconcerting, it had the look of a huge dwarf, but it’s head was all round mouth without any eyes.

Cilka has taken the opportunity of them being all together to cast the first offensive spell, she stays true to her signature style and sends a raging ball of fire into their midst, then claps her hand gleefully, jumping up and down a bit.

Tentacle arm seems to be at the mercy of one of Keth’s confusion castings, he stumbles about a bit, then attacks the dwarvish one. The other three come toward us as we form up a line toward our left, trying to draw them and allow Dom an easy avenue to get behind them where he is most effective.

The first one out, the “normal” looking overly huge troll has come right up to me in a very threatening manner, I notice it is collared, and I am surprised to feel just a tinge of sympathy for this beast, I wonder what it once was, and what brought it to its current plight. I shake off those useless ponderings, step forward and land a heavy blow, it’s skin is very thick and tough, I stumble a bit, thrown off balance by the extra bit of oomph needed to withdraw my blade from its hide. The massive beast takes advantage of this and tries to trip me and send me to the ground, thankfully I am able to regain my balance and come back with another blow, I have definitely gotten its attention, it seems surprised I was able to cause it so much harm already.

Gertie has taken the attention of the tentacle one while Dom quietly circles around to attack it from behind. Coy enters the fray at my side. Dwarvish troll takes a couple of swings at me, but I barely feel it. I hear Gertie’s shout of triumph, I can only hope this means the tentacle troll is no longer a threat. Out of the corner of my eye I see flames leap up, just past the pillar, and arrowing straight toward the tower in a blazing wall.

I take the dwarvish one down with my next flurry of attacks, and pause a moment to take my bearings…

I know there were five of them, but I can only see the two we’ve taken out of the fight. The others must be behind the blazing wall of fire that I am sure Cilka had something to do with.

With a snarling, pain filled shout, the multi armed troll leaps through the fire wall and smashes into the hound archon, I find myself in the curious position of needing to dodge a sometimes companion of ours as the archon sail through the space in which I was just standing, he crashes to the ground beside me, looking a bit the worse for wear.

Similar howling snarls fill the air from both ends of the fire wall, it sounds like tentacle guy and whippy tail are both free of the fire as well.

I land several blows on tentacle troll, on the last swing I feel a surge of power from Fulgo as fire blasts from its tip as I swing it around searing the beast enough that it actually catches fire. It staggers under my blows. I seem to have irritated it, the monster focuses all its attention on me, lucky me. All four arms come arching in at once, raking and rending, then its ugly maw splits wide from its chin to the crown of its head, it snaps shut around me, finding all the chinks in my armor. Even I cannot withstand all these mighty blows, pain chases me down the darkening tunnel as I lose consciousness.

I wake to see my cousin bending over me, a look of concerned concentration on her face.

After we dispatch our enemies and Alaric heals us we hear that the dike to the lava lake has broken, coy and Keth go to investigate
We start trying to get people to flee the area while Keth comes up with a plan to solve the problem magically.
After dealing with the lava, Daris leads us out and we camp for the rest of the night
Cilka Keth Kuni and coy all seem to sleep badly and have nightmares throughout the night
After much arguing and deliberation we will hold onto the stone for now and use it to help us defeat Chalcedon.

After much discussion we decide to follow the route of the army to try to catch up with them to get back the threshold. We will rise before dawn and push hard to get as far as we can in our first day.

We ride until it becomes unsafe, the moons are low and do not grace us with much light. Keth’s hut is a godsend, we catch a quick respite, and move on again rising just before dawn, eating our food in the saddle. We enter into the mountains during the day today and keep pressing on.

September 7th
Today is much like yesterday, the grueling pace is starting to take its toll, but we are making excellent progress. By the end of the day we are sure the ocean is in the not too far distance, which means the encampment should also be very close.

September 8th
We wake and see the encampment in the distance, it is obviously abandoned. Coy makes his way down and finds that it has been empty for about a week. There are drag marks down to the ocean, but no boats are left handily beached at our shore, c’mon, would that really have been too much to ask?

We need to figure out where they went, I find almost a dozen silver pennies with unfamiliar markings on them. They are relatively new looking with sheaves of Grain and the name Cabasa embossed on them.

We head north to Batavium with the hopes of hiring a boat and learning more about the city named on the coins.

September 12th
We travel for four days at much the same pace, we wake on our final day of travel with only the swamp left to traverse before we reach the city. The water is brackish and finally opens up to only somewhat more free flowing water. The town is a series of small islands connected by little footbridges spanning the waterways.

Keth informs us that the convergence of the next two full moons is about 18 days away, it is our best guess that this is the date the ritual will most likely be held, and it does not give us much time to find them and liberate the threshold.

Coy and Alaric negotiate passage on a boat that Coy has picked out, he is rather particular about these things. We sell the horses (so long Shoe Leather), buy some rations and a spy glass, as well as a dagger for Gertie so she is never caught inside a giant troll with no dagger to cut her way out.

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Session #41
Evil or Misunderstood

September 2 -

After meeting with the Tutullius clan the previous day, Keth and Cilka bluff their way out of the Colius clan stronghold and then bluff their way into the strange holding of the Pinarius clan. Keth and Cilka manage to charm one of the lordship’s apprentices into giving them a tour of some portions of the clan household – built into a massive formation of stalagmites. Both notice the strangely afflicted look of the dwarves who live here and the seemingly very empty halls of the vast dwelling. Keth attempts to convince the apprentice (Scylla) to let them view the lava field at one end of the cavern from a high balcony, but they are put off until tomorrow.

Back at the Colius stronghold, the party discusses the strange nature of the dwarves here and whether the purple light shining from the peak of the Pinarius home is the direct cause of it. The party has an in-depth conversation with Darrus of Colius about the history of this city and his view of how it has changed over time – apparently sometime after the Umbrian Empire grew to it’s greatest power, the Pontus of this city grew more insular and inward facing. As they withdrew from running the empire, the humans took over (which led to the collapse of the empire and the great destruction / departure of the gods). In the Chaos of the Cataclysm, the Pinarius rose to power in Umbria by using their magical knowledge to seal the gates of Umbria to the thousands of refugees trying to flee to safety – it was at this time that the great purple beacon was unveiled as a sign of the Pinarius clan’s ascendancy. They have been the rulers (and protectors) of Umbria since. They did not seem to intervene in the most recent fight with Chalcedon however.

September 3 -

The entire party decides to “go see the lava field” from the Pinarius clanhold. Scylla is surprised by the larger party of tourists, but agreeably leads the party to the chambers of his lord Keratis, head of the clan. From there, they can look out from the balcony to the immense lake of lava that fills one end of the cavern. The party is surprised by a troll servant who brings out refreshments and acts in a docile, controlled way as it squeezes through small doorways and short ceilings. Cilka and Keth both determine that the source of power is not the light at the top of the spire, but only a floor or so above these chambers, while Gertrude senses that there is at least one evil being in the area, but not an “artifact of evil.”

Thinking quickly, Cilka feigns a faint, distracting Scylla. Coy proceeds to pummel him unconscious, while Domen lines up to ambush the troll servant when it looks into the chamber. After a few quick rounds of scorching rays, backstabbing and a whirling staff, the troll is quickly dispatched. Keth collects the strange, enchanted copper collar from its neck. The party now splits, Gertrude and Cilka heading back to ascend the main stair, while Domen, Keth and Coy rifle the master’s study and bedchamber.

Gertrude and Cilka run into a massive living stone statue at the top of the stairs who proceeds to being a merciless attack on them, while Keth and Dom start climbing a private spiral stair into the same room. A tough fight ensues, where the master and another apprentice change shape and hurl magical attacks at the party while the statue continues its assault. However use of a shatter spell and the rod of ruin carried by Domen destroy the golem, while Coy bludgeons the apprentice and Keth’s summoned demon grabs the mage (even after he shaped changed into a small, fast stirge). Attempting to settle the fight without killing the mage, Keth imprisons the mage in a conjured stone cell, and the party begins to bicker about the huge, luminous purple gem in the room, the mage’s spell book and what else should be done.

While Coy and Cilka step back down to the mage’s study to investigate his motivation, the mage destroys part of his cell and attacks the three other party members with strange attacks that transform a brazier into a flowing pool of fire and the floor into a pool of hot, entrapping tar. The two from below race back upstairs, and after Coy shatters another side of the cell with his maul, Cilka dispels more of his protective magics. Coy then knocks him unconscious and binds him hand and foot (and mouth). The party recovers, briefly attempts to negotiate with the bound and angry mage. Over the loud protests of Cilka and Gertrude, Keth scoops the massive gem into his pack and opens a hole in the wall. His magic allows the party to jump out of the tower and descend safely to the cavern floor.

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Session #39

August 22 – 28

Travel to Umbria

August 29

morning of the 29th after much traveling we cross into Umbria thru rubble and ramparts

as we move into the city we see a fort a ways off with smoke plumes we leave the horses in a secluded area and begin investigating the surrounding buildings. We find what looks like it could be a type of temple with a number of daises that look like they may have had statues to the gods here. long since removed.

After much searching we find that there is a) a complete absence of magic and b) the threshold has been removed to …where? Dom finds goblin tracks…and we follow them into the hill.

We head down the stairs, they were once ornate and richly built, but have since fallen into decay. We pause on our way down, Dom warns us of a trip wire part way down. We hear rustling and movement up ahead and brace ourselves for an attack.

I pause for a moment to invoke the rod, I hear Kuni behind me break out in song while Cilka whispers
her familiar phrase that adds speed to our limbs. Coy expands, nearly cracking his head open on the
ceiling above, as we all move forward to the attack. I can’t even yet see what we are threatened by, this routine has become so familiar we all know our roles. We faced only two roughly clad little goblins and a hobgoblin, they don’t have a chance against us. Gertie opens the door on the far side of the grand room we have entered at the bottom of the stairs.

The room before us is a large pillared space with old, battered frescos along the walls. They must have been beautiful before they were defaced by the current inhabitants of this space. More goblins appear at the door at the far end of the room, Coy leads the way. Alaric alone moves through the door, I follow him, not wanting him to be caught alone and surrounded. More goblins and hobgobblins pour out of the rooms lining the short ends of the room, my companions come through the door behind me. They are conveniently arrayed in front of me, I wind up (missing my companions on either side, see Alaric, it is possible) and take out two and wound another in one massive swing. Arrows cloud the air, more of a nuisance than anything else. A few land, stinging like bees, I brush them off and focus on the dwindling enemies before us.

I move over next to my cousin to offer her what protection I can. Coy does one better and reaching over her head, smashes the goblins threatening her. As we finish off the rest of the hobgoblins, a few take off toward the stairs heading down on the far side, Coy and I take off to block their escape while the rest of the ones left in the side rooms are dealt with. Alaric takes a few moments to check out the small room off the pillar room, right across from where we entered. It is shrine-like with statues that have been smashed and a tiled ceiling with crystals set in the pattern of constellations.

The stairs lead us down into a crypt, the walls lined with buried dead and sarcophagi aligned up the
center of the room. I move halfway into the room, my companions moving along behind me. It is quiet
and restful in here, we may have ventured down here for nothing. Then an arrow flashes by, grazing me on its way. A horde of goblins and hobgobblins shimmer into sight surrounding us, here we go again!

We quickly deal with the beasts facing us, there are two archers ahead, taking cover behind a
sarcophagi. They lose their nerve and duck out, conveniently revealing the location of the secret door.

Alaric runs forward and reaching down just as the archers had done, opens the not so secret door. One of the archers hiding behind the door is surprised by Alaric, I move up behind Alaric and lunge past him with my sword, kindly relieving the goblin archer of any further worry and stress. The stairs continue the general downward trend, curving around and opening up into another room.

This room is octagonal with alcoves all around, except for directly across, there it is another door set in the wall. This room has something different, instead of more goblins and hobgobblins we are facing a troll.

A huge bearlike creature suddenly appears at the door across from us. It roars and a ball of fire comes racing directly toward me, enveloping me and those near me in a quick, but fierce conflagration. Once the flames subside, we are suddenly facing a wall of massive bugbears. Coy lobs a fireball of his own in retaliation. We are hard pressed against these great beasts, and even though fortune is guiding my blade this day, I fear it may not be enough. We take a couple of them down, but Dom falls to the troll as a wall of fire bursts up from the floor surrounding us. I am at the center and so do not take much by way of damage, but the fire blocks us from aiding Dom. Coy takes a deep breath and staggers through the flames, then shoves aside the troll that is menacing our fallen comrade. He shouts to Alaric for help to heal Dom.

A fiercesome demon appears, stepping through nothing right behind me. It is a similar to one we have
faced and fought before. Alaric shouts out a warning to me and attacks, I turn to defend myself as I
hear Keth’s voice shout out, “don’t attack that, it’s one of mine!”. I spin again and lash out at one of the last bugbeasts remaining. Gertie races through the wall, and is taken down by the troll. Alaric braces himself and steps through the wall, he is visibly shaken, but still up. Coy feeds Dom a potion. Alaric touches my shoulder and says, “Fly!”. I feel lightened as my feet lift off the ground, I wobble a bit, find my balance and shoot up and over the wall, attacking the troll. It spins and lays a solid blow into me, hitting me so hard a spin out of control, hitting the ceiling, my vision growing dim as I settle into a heap on the floor.

I come to, not much has happened since I went down, everyone still seems to be in much the same
positions. We are looking like a haggardly bunch, many of us are having a hard time just staying on our own two feet!

The Troll finally goes down, Cilka deals that fatal blow. Thankfully Lady Luck seems to have turned
away from both sides, as many attacks go astray, ours and theirs alike. I am flirting heavily with
unconsciousness, staying upright is almost beyond my ability, never mind actually doing anyone any
damage. The blasted beast is equipped with a nasty shield of fire, even not hitting it hurts! My head spins as that blasted shield takes its toll yet again, and I briefly lose my battle with gravity and fall senseless once again.

I wake again to much the same, bracing myself, I stand keeping my weapon ready. We are all surrounding these last two monsters and making little to no headway against them. We keep hammering away at the monsters, this is certainly a test of stamina.

A black rift opens up, the beast turns toward it attempting to make it’s escape, as it turns it exposes itself to our weapons and we finally cut it down before it can make good its escape.

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