It's a small world

Return of the Prince
Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer

Wakkar had certainly changed since the last time the party saw him stepping into a portal in the Elemental Chaos. However, as the tense discusssions progressed over what the relation between the orc prince and the party would be after “rescuing” him from the hands/fins of the Kuo-Toa, it became evident that their original encounter in Erkon’s desecrated tomb was a matter of business – nothing personal.

Lisanna, liaising between Wakkar and the party, found that the prince (banished from Wruk by his brother, Varis would later add) had been working at the behest of Kima, a dwarven woman who was the rumoured archictural mastermind behind the great Western airships that dominated the Sky War. Wakkar had also been acting on some information gleaned from prophecy concerning the power emanating from the Karellian Jacaranda, but who or what his source was, he would not reveal.

The tentative alliance between the party and Wakkar was seemingly cemented by some gruffly respectful words between Trix and Wakkar. Wakkar agreed to settle old differences by ordering the freedom of Makani, the elf druid, from where she was being held prisoner in Wruk. Lisanna provided the proof via a spare scrying ritual – Wakkar was true to his word.

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A New Master
With new enemies

A single purple bellflower slowly descended through the still air of the nest-like office. Varis’ glare could have cut it in half. “Took you long enough, Larami,” he intoned. “I was beginning to think you were taking a holiday here.”
Larami’s eyebrows raised imperceptibly. He started to speak, but was cut off sharply.
“You will leave now. I will continue Uthal’s tutelage.” Varis concluded. The rubies inset into the hilt of his sheathed sword momentarily caught some morning light filtering into the room as he motioned with his hand towards the door. It opened swiftly. The doorman only looked slightly surprised.
“Go. Now. The next time I see you, you’d better be doing something useful.”
The air in the office suddenly began to thicken. On the edge of arcane perception, the flavour of the blurry magical field ubiquitous on the Isle of Karelle was becoming markedly sharper, with the characteristic metallic taste of building charge. Uthal, however, felt clearly the coalescing of potential timelines, coiling around the room with the immutable force of An Event That Has Already Happened.

The bellflower gently hit the floor.

(Later) The building directly above the source of the arcane ritual was clearly disused, but the traps the party encountered on the way to it said otherwise. The trees around it were sparser, and a few looked like they were broken in half some time ago. Descending into the teleportation circle locate at the centre of the building, the party braved a brazen adult by several blind grimlocks, but the real surprise attack came from a rogue paladin who Trix recognised as a somewhat-more-dishevelled-than-expected Karmen. Or was the biggest surprise attack from the Kuo-toa who gradually beat down Prince Wakkar’s small troop, stopping only when Wakkar surrendered.

Or perhaps the surprise was the explosive trap that sent Karmen plummeting 50 feet into a well. Perhaps not. As the party squelched their wet way along one of the side passages leading off from the well, most likely they would be in for the biggest shock when they arrived at the sacrificial chamber…

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To Karelle!
Some time later...

Battered, exhausted, and surrounded by the corpses of slain hobgoblins. The party took stock of their situation. They had just traced the object that the slaad staff was “linked” to, only to find that it was, predictably, it was a trap meant for the slaads. Hobgoblins lay in ambush for the prisoners, expecting to find them bound and carried by slaads, only to find the prisoners themselves, hungry for answers. Unfortunately, the answer for them when they asked “who sent you” was “Prince Wakkar”.

With a zealous marut sect, an vengeful orcish prince, and their lackeys hot on their trail (the party found a recently spent sending scroll in the hobgoblin leader’s possession), it was time to mask their trail and go separate ways to Karelle. It was time to split the party.

Uthal, Larami, and Trix elected the most direct route, moving through the elven towns between the southern tip of the Lorelei and Karelle. Uthal would learn more about the ways of the Brotherhood from Larami, and Trix would have a chance to catch up on what has been happening in her southern homelands. Esteban and Lasciel continued the main trek up the Lorelei and then south at the great arterial road, with a staggered start.

One by one, they arrived at Karelle, but not as the ragtag persecuted bunch of adventurers they left Port Cullis. They had come into their own, fending for themselves, by themselves. Over the jitters of their past escapades, it was time to begin anew…

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The Treacherous Lorelei
Row, row, row, your boat...

Ittigo agreed as part of some deal he made with Lucius that he would take the party to any destination within a week’s travel. Wanting to find a place to hide and on the way find out what they can about this mysterious “Clockwork Brotherhood”, they chose to meander up the Lorelei River in the Great Forest until they met the arterial road that goes directly south to Karelle.

This got them a free ride (during which no piracy was observed) to the small town of Lowbough, the southern-most Lorelei township sitting on the u-bend between Sunmoor and the Elven Highlands. Locals welcomed them without a fuss as they were in the mood for stories from afar – and the crowd was already warmed up by Larami. As the party settled in for a dinner of cooked eggs and vegetables (the local specialty), Trix and Lasciel filled the others in about the fact that a fair proportion of the few eladrin in the world are story-teller minstrels called “Scribes” who trade information like currency.

“Cool,” the others seemed to nod in mutual agreement. “Let’s go see what he knows about hiding from immortals.”

After trading everything they know (except for anything to do with timewalkers), they managed to squeeze a bit of information out of Larami concerning a contact in Karelle who may be able to help them in their quest for knowledge about maruts and hiding from them – a former member of the High Council of Karelle called “Scarface” Varis.

Also on Larami’s advice, they got jobs on a flotilla headed upriver to pass through the safest route to Karelle. All went well for what felt like almost a week of (quite unusually, according to the captain) zero monster raids. Then, the party woke up at the bottom of a 20ft deep mud pit!

After slapping themselves awake, still groggy from whatever concoction put them out for so long, the party met their first obstacle: climbing out of the slippery, muddy pit. Clambering over one another and using their rope bonds to belay others out, they managed to all arrive at the top of the pit somehow even muddier. A probing Uthal immediately discovered a strange property of the walls (‘quick mud’) whereby pressing slowly into them eventually caused a small torrent of water to splash out of the wall which then resealed itself (kind of like cornflour). Trix made the best of the strange situation and cleaned her face and hair.

Time for deliberation was at a premium, however, as when Esteban returned from one of the corridors (the lit one) he brought news that they had been captured by a whole lot of bullywugs who were negotiating the terms of their handover to some hobgoblin he saw the leader bullywug talking to via a military sending scroll. Moreover, he added, he may have tipped a few off and they were headed this way.

Trepidation aside, the party easily dispatched the 3 bullywugs who came into the “prison cell” to investigate. It appeared that the bullywugs they fought back in the swamplands off Port Cullis were the same calibre as the ones who were currently in the next chamber. However, though the party had advanced in skill, they were missing all their weapons and armour. A delicate approach was called for to deal with the situation.

The party promptly marched straight into the lit room with 8 croakers, 6 muckers, 5 twitchers, and a mud lord, with Esteban announcing that he’d like some Bullywug babies to chew on. After a LONG stunned silence, the closest bullywugs regained their composure and charged the party in a wall of frogs legs, spears, and claws. The party held the line and, with the help of some kickin’ AoE, cleared out many of the front-line grunts.

“Play time’s over” the mud lord croaked in abyssal, as he summoned a hulking mud elemental and rock elemental, fleeing the scene immediately after. Slicing and punching their way through the remaining bullywugs, the party eventually met up with these elementals and felt none too few devastating blows. Fortunately, Larami and Trix had been working their way around to the pile of weapons and armour they’d spotted on the other side of the room, and between them had rearmed themselves and Esteban (who forgot he could have summoned his sword the whole time). As for Lasciel and Uthal, they were armed with Melora’s Might and a Stolen Spear, respectively.

Just as things were looking up, the mud lord arrived back on the upper level with his comrades from below (who the party chose to avoid earlier on) and re-engaged a flagging party front line. Unfortunately, the frontline happened to be Trix and Larami as the rest of the party were engaged with the two elementals who were packing more punch than the party defenders were ready for.

Things looked progressively more and more dire as the adventurers began to fall under the onslaught of so many reinforcements. Several death saves were failed, and just when, over the small sea of bullywug corpses, you may have seen a look of desperation on the adventurers’ faces, another Larami teleported into existence to save one of their own, Trix, from succumbing to eternal sleep. This strange visage blinked out of existence only a few turns later, but helped dispatch a few enemies before it did.

Armed with the last of their resolve, the party defeated the remnants of the bullywugs, toppling the stone giant and dissolving the mud lasher, and finally got to… Well, we don’t know what they did after that – we’ll find out next time.

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Too close for comfort
They can hide, but they can't run, but they can fly

Upon returning to Brinn, a depleted morning street market of bedraggled farmers tells them that something is up in the countryside. They hear that bullywug sightings are through the roof, and, while not openly hostile, are unnerving the farmers who have to transport their produce to the main towns. When they meet Abraxis to report on their mission, he seems to care more about the party finding a reinhabited necromantic cultist lair than the repercussions of the summoning ritual. Unsatisfied with this closure to their mission (and feeling their wallets progressively lighter), they head back to Port Cullis to get closure and get paid, in that order.

Port Cullis, in the meantime, is ablaze. Or rather, the docks are ablaze and in the process of being overrun by a sahuagin raid. The semantics of that qualification however do not mitigate the party’s concern for their adopted hometown, and they rush to the defence of the town that is rallying at the northern entrance to the fort. They undertake a daring mission to rescue elements of the Fighter’s Guild that has gone missing among the docks while trying to evacuate the last citizens there, and on the way they rescue the crew of a man-o’-war whom Jeru suspects of being used to move ships into the shallows to bombard the fort with cannon fire.

The rescue of 1 man-o’-war crew helped somewhat, as it was one less beached ship hailing down iron onto the fort, but the situation looked grim for the citizens of Port Cullis as the sahuagin began to slowly overwhelm the fort with unprecedented numbers. Then, out of literally nowhere, an enormous rock, 500m tall and 100m round at its centre, teleported into existence about 10 miles east of Port Cullis, just off the coastline.

Immediately, many of the sahuagin are thrown into disarray as they began to rush towards the rock. Amid the confusion among the Port Cullis citizens, Lucius orders the party to fetch the person he thinks has the greatest chance of knowing what’s going on – Aremedes, who was sent to the Iron Tower to investigate Alumus’ workings a day prior. Unfortuantely, the party arrives to find Aremedes’ guards slain, and Aremedes himself mortally wounded.

Aremedes tells the party that he is secretly a seer for an underground network of ‘stonetouched’ (imbued with powers from manifestations of the Pandemonium Stone) individuals who call themselves the Clockwork Brotherhood. Each member has a special ability that allows them to manipulate time in some way, and each member is apparently hunted ceaselessly and tirelessly by a cadre of Maruts called the Watchers of Tomorrow, for reasons unknown. Because of this relentless hunting, the Brethren have taken to constantly being on the move, as the Watchers can detect time magic and hence “time-walkers” when they stay in one place for too long.

The Brethren tend to have codenames that are only known to other Brethren in order to maintain lines of communication that cannot be intercepted by Watchers. Aremedes’ is “Juno”, and he tells the party, who have found that Uthal has been stonetouched with the ability to “time jaunt”, to use this codename to find other members of the Brotherhood in order to help protect themselves from the Maruts. He also urges them to leave the area as soon as possible as the Watchers have taken up residence on the Pandemonium Stone itself and will be scouring the area for time-walkers soon.

Of course, no sooner does the party return to Port Cullis than they discover a band of 3 maruts (with a platoon of warforged) bargaining with Lucius about protecting the town from the increasingly dangerous mobs of demonic creatures massing towards the Stone, in return for a free run of the town to search for “a piece of the Stone”. The party steps in (sans Uthal) and negotiates that the Maruts may do so but with the party as observers.

Thus began a week of the party talking with and tracking the movements of the maruts (Exos, Arkos, & Jegos) while Uthal manoeuvred around their rituals of detection. After a few close calls, however, Uthal is forced to camp outside the town. Caught in an untenable situation, Jeru the silver-haired bugbear weaponsmaster informs them that he knows Uthal is a timewalker, and he has gotten Lucius to give him a way out of the town. The party obviously wants in, and they awaited the arrival of the “way out of here”.

The way out of here appeared in the sky a few days later in the form of a pirate ship converted into an airship, complete with 4 embedded hull propellors and a main mast propellor. Swinging from the anchor came a dashing half-elf captain eyeing the admiring crowd, but also the marut who was standing below.

“Belay your gawking, landlubbers! Who called for the Lupe?”

Exos calmly orders any who board the ship to be scanned by one of the Watchers, and somewhere in the intangible ether, there is the sound of 4 facepalms. Tricks manages to live up to her namesake by convincing Exos to split up his 2 comrades, while the ship, now with the non-stonetouched party members aboard, veers outside the town to pick up Uthal and Jeru.

Success! Jeru and Uthal clamber up the rope ladder just in time to see Arkos teleport onto the deck and demand that they come with him back to Port Cullis. The air pirates wash their hands of any high-level encounter shenanigans while various members of the party attempt to engage Arkos who, despite being garbed in naught by bronze-colour clothing, evades their attacks easily and takes minimal damage from a few point-blank elemental arrows.

With unerring calm, Arkos immobilises most of the party and “convinces” them to hand over Uthal. A hasty plan is made wordlessly among the party, and Arkos grabs Uthal and begins to fly the 200ft down to the fort. Quick to act, Uthal tries to break free of Arkos’ grip during the trip, and eventually does so, beginning a 100ft plummet towards the cold ground.

OK, OK, this can’t be that hard. Just let the time magic do its thing instead of resisting it, and direct it back in time to—

One incredible perfect jaunt later, and the party grabbed onto the railings of the Lupe and careened off into the low clouds envelopping the coastal landscape of their former hometown, watching the blocky form of Port Cullis and the flying speck that is Arkos disappear into the distance…

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Tomb Raiding

“Erkon, son of Ergir, of the Earthammer clan” reads the plaque above the ajar doors of the mausoleum. Stooping inside (it is a dwarf tomb after all), the party quickly realised that this tomb has already been raided. A hole has been punched down about 25ft, and down the party went, scrabbling down the sides.

It appeared that the necromantic energies may have mutated a plant or two down here because in the earthen antechamber they find themselves confronted with a stone entrance, a bust of Orcus, and a mutated underground flower that shoots constricting vines and razor-sharp petals. Uthal got an uncomfortably long hug from vines that pull him towards the nasty red pointy flower, while the rest of the party tried to cut down the vines faster than they could burst from the walls. After some determined cutting and freeing of team mates, the flower was bashed into the walls, taking all of its vines with it. For now, it seemed safe to breathe.

Walking down the dark corridor with a sunrod lighting the way, the party noticed huge necromantic runes written on the roughly-hewn floor stones. As they entered the room at the end of the hall, it became obvious that something nasty had gone on here for a long period of time. The floor was covered in a layer of bones, the entrance had another head of Orcus carved in stone, and there was a nicely-made coffin in the centre of the room. Needless the say, the party wanted to know what was in the coffin, whence Lasciel sensed strong ambient necromantic energy. A sleepy wight dwarf was found inside, whom the party suspected to be Erkon. Perhaps because they knew the soul had already departed, or perhaps because they didn’t want their healing surges drained, the party dispatched the wight and his skeleton warriors who rose around the party’s feet as they tried to reason with it.

All this time, the whistling sound has been getting louder as they ventured deeper into the complex. They know they’re getting close when they tip toe down the west corridor and they see a pale blue light coming from the end. When they entered the final chamber, they saw the source: a large oval portal into some swirling grey and light blue plane. Around the portal are a bunch of orcs in the middle of some kind of ritual involving a large slaad whom they have restrained. The party see their old druidic friend Makani in the corner, tied up in elf form, and immediately decide to act.

“Karmen?!” the orc leader, Wakkar, exclaims as Elle charges into battle with Uthal as Lasciel runs up to study and hack at the runes that are begining to flash azure.

Thanks to clandestine signalling, the druid was ready to cause havoc once Esteban decided to act. Unfortunately the orc warriors guarding her are too wily and discover him before he can act. As they shout and draw arms against Esteban, she polymorphs into a dire weasel and the orc warriors are split up into two to contain the swordmage and druid.

Meanwhile, the orc main forces on the semi-circular staircase are occupied with the defenders as they hack and slash away at the orc raiders descending on them. It is an uphill battle in more than one way, however, as the orc caster is wreaking havoc on their defences with his white, glowing eyes. Moreover, Wakkar (who as it turns out has the same lightning enhancement to his armour as Morkaan) is battering Elle with both insult and injury.

Luckily (for Lasciel, Uthal, and Elle), Wakkar was distracted by the druid’s escape and left the fray to grab her again. Separated from Esteban who is dicing up the last raider at the base of the stairs, she is caught and hauled onto his shoulders which were crackling with lightning as he roared in triumph.

As the slaad becomes more agitated than ever, tripping over Elle at one stage, the battle approaches endgame. The portal somehow switched destinations, and the high-pitched whistling wind sound suddenly stopped. Makani is thrown, kicking and yelling into the new portal. Wakkar and his caster then start to make for the portal, which is starting to make rippling pulses in the air. As Elle and Lasciel down the last-but-one raiders, the orcs get to the portal in slow-motion. Somewhere in the aether, a voice goes “not another time magic!”, but obviously it wasn’t coming from any of the party members because what do they know?

The gaps in the runes that Lasciel had hacked out were beginning to flare up with flashing arcs of white light, and the portal began to flicker. Proving to be too much for the last raider, he flees the scene as the whole party runs for the flickering portal. On her way out, pity overwhelms Lasciel as she attempts to ask the slaad how he got here, but she gets only disconnected phrases in response. A quick heal on the slaad appears to stabilise the portal, but it starts roaring and thrashing about as Lasciel departs for the shimmering oval gateway in the wall.

As they leap from the portal into the Elemental Chaos one by one, it appears that time has been playing tricks on them because they emerge in a haphazard order, with the caster isolated early by Uthal who got there the earliest by far. There is no sign of Makani – just the infinite expanse of floating earth motes, sheets of ice, rivers of lightning, air as sharp as knives, and ever-rolling thunder. Interestingly there are at least 2 other portals nearby that the party could see. The party saves the best for last and unleashes action-point-fueled mayhem on the caster who falls, surrounded by enemies.

Elle barely had time to dodge before Wakkar leapt through the portal with greataxe upraised, booming with thunder. Waves of sonic and lightning exploded in the air as the raging orc battled the entire party. Each blow against his foes seemed to rejuvenate his stamina, knocking out Elle and Esteban with hefty swings of his crackling greataxe. Then all of a sudden, with a smug air, he declared “I’ll finish this later”. Checking his hourglass, he strode to the nearest portal, but not before the party had more to say.

As he was kept down and dazed by various party members, Wakkar exchanged harsh words about paladins and bullywugs, but he was not to be trifled with. Barging past the fighter and swordmage, he leapt through the portal which now had hobgobliny shapes peering through it at the battle. Soon afterwards, the portals began to close, except for the one leading back to where they’d come from, although that was was flickering badly. Deciding to think about what just happened later, the party quickly scrambled back into it, whereupon the slaad expired, turning to yellowy dust. Patching themselves up, they return to Brinn for an early night.

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The Iron Tower, Abraxis, and L.L.

A psychic blast greets our heroes and heroines as Alumus works himself into a furor over the theft of his journal. Some assiduous assuagement of concerns later, and the late alchemist and his lightning-scarred, ghostly friends agree to help the party if the party helps him achieve posthumous fame and recognition. Ouem’s knowledge of thorium proves to be the icing on the cake as Alumus was curious about lightning’s effect on the strange gemstone.

The excavation team of orcs down the hallway defiling Alumus’ “laboratory” had quite the surprise when the party sweet-talked their way right up to the scalemail-clad leader and struck. Unfortunately, each blow brought forth crackling forks of lightning such that, even when the orc cronies were laid low and the handaxe raiders were contained by the tough ghosts, Morkaan was proving to be quite a handful for the combined efforts of the party.

In the end he was defeated, but at a cost. Alumus and one of his ghost friends were slain in battle, and the mysterious thundercloud that emerged from the armour of the orc leader Morkaan disappeared into the network of iron filaments running through the Iron Tower. The party was told by the remaining ghost that Alumus will likely reappear in a week having gone through a painful “rebirth” back into his spectre form. And as for that pesky orc prisoner they tied up upstairs – he broke from his rope bonds and escaped. The druid decided to track the rogue orc while the rest of the party went back to town.

Governor Bale, surprised at the resistance the party met and the fact that he’d never heard of this Iron Tower, sent the party immediately to Brinn to inform Abraxis of the situation. Interested by the tower, he also sent scholars under heavy guard to check it out. Alumus who?

After farewelling their well-wishing hostess Mouse (and getting complimentary high-grade tea sachets for the road), they were off to meet the enigmatic military-minded Abraxis. Abraxis’ solution was simple – kill the orcs. Of course, he remarks, those fuddy-duddies at the Warlord’s Guild would probably also set up some kind of tactical arrangement to up the patrols into the forest.

Putting on a show for the locals having dinner, they notice an injured paladin being fussed over by some commoners as she limped over to watch Aethar’s performance. Some magnetic force compelled them to invite her on the next day’s adventure to the surrounding crypts, dungeons, and disused temples to try and find the marauding orcs; and with that, the party set out to tombraid the countryside, happening on one strange mausoleum that had a shrill whistling sound coming from within…

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New beginnings

In one of the many narrow, zigzagging streets of Port Cullis, there are a series of squeaks. They are not coming from a mouse, but oddly enough they are emanating from a swinging sign suspended over an arched doorway that looks very much like a mousehole. In fact, the sign reads “The Mousehole”, and, even more oddly, the warm aroma of herbal teas wafts almost continually out of the round windows.

If one were to peek inside, one might get a glimpse of one of the more well-known adventuring bands in the tri-state area comprising Brinn, Port Cullis, and Corsail. It just so happens that they are currently negotiating over breakfast with the tavern/tea-house owner Zoey about a trip to the local marshlands to investigate a missing shipment of exotic herbs. And so the adventure begins…

Venturing out to the marshy bit of shoreline east of Port Cullis, the party came across the farm in question. Deserted and filthy, it was apparent that bullywugs had turned this place over. A helpful druid informed them that the local bullywugs were becoming increasingly bold in their moves against outlying settlements. The party spread out to deal with these meddling creatures.

The druid’s exceptional speed and agility distracted the bullywugs out in the open while the rest entered the farmhouse, which had been lit on fire while they were stealthing around in the undergrowth. Not one to let arson go unpunished, the avenger cleaved one of the bullywugs leaving the house in twain. The series of javelin wounds given in reply swayed him from engaging the remaining 2 arsonists; instead he gave chase to the quarterstaff-wielding leader-type. The summoned mud elemental was dispatched in similar gory fashion, but it seemed that was where Avandra’s luck ran out for him and was transferred across the way to a bullywug locked in combat with the druid.

Rushing to the cove where the staff-bullywug was fireballing from, the party tried to swarm his defences. Mud, centipedes, and people flew everywhere, but the party eventually brought the bullywugs down. Unfortunately, the house could not be saved, but thanks to quick relaying and firefighting, most of the herbs from the basement were saved.

Heading back into town, the party returned the bags of herbs to Zoey, who could finally get around to brewing that latest flavour. Concerned about the activity of the local monsters, however, she sent them to Lucius Bale, the local governor, to report their findings.

Lucius does not like this turn of events one bit. His pet parakeet Frosty seems indifferent as it bobs around on its perch. He invites the party to scout out the forest inbetween the triangle of roads that link Port Cullis, Brinn, & Corsail, suspecting that any new monsters in the region are avoiding being seen near the regular patrols and merchant caravans. “Should be an easy few hundred gold pieces, eh?” He twirls his musketeer moustache as the party leaves.

The party patrolled most of the next day, finding little of interest; but near sundown they encountered the ruins of a tower that is guarded by several orcs, a goblin, and a giant scorpion. The selfless druid again volunteered her services as a distraction as the party set up an ambush. Pretending to be a wounded but succulent wild boar, the druid successfully drew out the orcs into the open to get slaughtered by the party. Unfortunately, the more cowardly goblin and the clueless scorpion were nowhere to be seen.

Investigating the tower ground floor, it was apparent that something strange had happened here: the floor is covered in (cooled) molten iron that has rusted for years, maybe decades, and there is a small hole in the very centre of the pool. There is also a trapdoor, which the fighter is keen to investigate. The party finds a disused bookshelf with something on the very top of it – the alchemical journal of one Alumus Faestus.

Unfortunately the party is too engaged in the journal to notice that the fighter has thrown a sunrod down the trapdoor and stooped down to investigate. A hail of javelins, handaxes, and crossbow bolts later, and the party has dragged the unconscious goliath out of the staircase. Suitably more cautious, they advanced down the stairs a second time but with the goliath using a large orc as a hu—I mean orc shield.

In the confines of what turns out to be the kitchen, the battle rages, with people flying everywhere (literally), and two goblin sharpshooters almost getting away across the next room which appears to be a barracks. The one they leave (Kargor) alive quickly tells them all he knows about the raiding party of orcs that is investigating this dungeon. Led by Morkaan, they have travelled anywhere up to 1,500 miles, but what for, who can say? Kargor turns out to be a mercenary from Hillcrag just hired as muscle.

The new orc prisoner is much less amenable to interrogation, so the party ventures down into the depths of the next level. It seems to be the dorm level, since there are two bedrooms. The bedrooms, however, are still occupied by their long-dead inhabitants. Thankfully the ghosts don’t seem to be openly hostile. A gentle inquiry reveals that they are bound to this plane because their laboratory work was never completed since they were vaporised by the nightmare storms 40 years ago. They seem to see promise in the orcs down the hall who are somehow lightning-touched, and they don’t want the adventurers to meddle with whatever it is they are doing.

The head alchemist puts this very strongly to them when he appears, drawn to his journal that is currently being carried by the paladin/cleric.

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Good times, Brinn times

The first chilly morning after arriving in Brinn (with all the pomp and circumstance as a mob boss) the party mulls over the note from L.L. in the warm comfort of an Irish bakery.

“Guess we’d better find her.”

“Yeah. Where’d that crow come from?”

“Got it on prepaid.”

“Nice.”

Meeting adjourned! Throughout the day they scour the town for L.L. from its slummy south-western districts to the 4-storey governmental chambers. They soon find out from the slave-drivers and the enigmatic “B” (ruler of Brinn) respectively that L.L. is in fact the “Lantern Lady”, A.K.A. Karmen.

Karmen appears to be a wandering paladin who gives a taste of the adventurer’s life to the common people through selling trinkets of her travels – a petrified roc’s claw here, a gnome’s pipe there. She has some kind of history with B who has taken a kind of shining to her, and almost all the town know and/or admire her.

Sweet! Now we just have to uhm, kill her? Bring her to justice? The party examined their motivations for tracking down L.L. and found that they too were caught in the Karmen charm and tried to honour their deal with her viz. selling Rose up to but not including the point of sale. So, the party arranged via a few dropped notes around town to meet her at a swanky seafood restaurant near B’s tower to discuss the deal.

Generous in spirit, she orders a saucer of milk for Paws when Syra and Makkam arrive. Syra likes this. An amicable chat later, the party learn from the (slightly boastful) Karmen that, after recently coming back from the Elvan capital Karelle and gleaning some juicy information on the whereabouts of the fabled Elemental Scrolls, she’s going on a high adventure down south after Brinn. However, in true adventurer fashion, she doesn’t want the party whaling in on her XP and lootz, and so advises them to find their own information in Karelle which is apparently on the brink of civil war with at least one faction willing to sell information on their human “allies”.

After explaining her need for a healer, she was a little disappointed when she was denied this. At the same time, Ertryd and Fredrik were holed up in their inn room in the centre of town. There is a clinky scratchy sound at the window facing the back alley, and Ertryd investigated, seeing as Fredrik was busy pouring over the income/expenditures tally for the party. One shattered pane of glass and a few cuts later the two of them dispatched a triplet of thieves who were after “the healer”.

Syra and Makkam return to the room, and see that a couple of corpses have been added to the decor. “Non-lethal damage, guys” Syra mutters. Now that they’ve used Rose as bait and didn’t seal the deal, Rose’s usefulness expires to the party and they send her on her way the next morning on the 3 day trek to Port Cullis. She’ll be juuuust fine.

Understandably wary since their inn room was attacked, the party camped outside the second night in Brinn. They forgot about Splugg the goblin hexer so he stayed in the comfy inn. In the early hours of the morning they smell cooking meat coming from a field south of their position. Too tired to check it out, they content themselves with smelling smokey drumsticks while the dawn comes.

By the time they get around to the big field where the smell was coming from, they find that they are too late and the quarry has moved on. Tracking 2 sets of draconic footprints and a humanoid on horseback, they come into another town and Makkam’s crow spots a familiar platemailed figure hawking her wares to eager commoners. The party avoid a public encounter and follow her out of town again, and find that they’ve been spotted by either Karmen or some kobolds or both.

Needless to say, the kobold ambushes in the woods outside town end unluckily for the kobolds, who seemed to be protecting a “Godling” and “his servant”. Man, whatever! The party sets out an ambush for the paladin when she stops for a meal in a clearing with her dragonborn buddies. A crashing noise behind them alerts them to the presence of yet more kobolds headed towards the clearing. Since the party is split, the ranger grabs the crow phone (crone?) and she and the rest of the party mutually decide that there’s no such thing as too much kobold blood.

As the kobolds are engaged in battle at the edge of the clearing, the paladin notices and starts advancing on horseback in a phalanx with her dragonborn and her pet drake who had been riding shotgun in the saddlebag up until this point. “I gave you a chance, but you just keep coming. What will it take?” she yells. The horse takes some damage as it charges into the party, but manages to trample most of them before it goes in front of the elf and the dwarf. After a graceful leap off her dying mount, Karmen sizes up the dwarf, who just took a hoof to the stomach and didn’t fall down, and the elf, who is pointing a frostbow at her face.

Final Fantasy soundeffects play as Karmen buffs her damage to the moon

After dropping the ranger thanks to a burrowing brown dragon wyrmling, things were looking up for the paladin of Tiamat. But then again, death is no obstacle to this party, and heals promptly brought the ranger back to life and way, way back from the battle as she takes a more strategic position to loose her arrows from.

With the party back up to full DPS, the dragon and the paladin soon went down, but the cries of celebration were momentarily drowned out by an ominous peal of thunder in the skies. Needing some time to kill off the dragonborn who had up until now not been focus fired, a few rounds pass and the atmosphere gets more and more heavy with electricity.

Just when hair was beginning to stand up and crackle, another party of a wizard, berserkers, and crossbowmen appeared in a thunderous clap. The wizard seemed surprised, then bewildered, then extremely vexed as her eyes fell on the prone form of the paladin.

All kinds of swearing and cursing later, the considerable electrical might of the wizard had won through and the party lay at her feet in the inky blackness of unconsciousness. The goliath had very some unsettling dreams.

When they finally came-to, they found themselves in gaol cells in Brinn, accused of multiple counts of engaging in slave-trade, murder, and attempted murder. Incensed at such false(?) accusations, the party immediately set about breaking free, and a few feats of strength and lock-picking later, they were tearing up the joint looking for their sweet items.

After being reunited with their preciouses, it was time to pose as a team in front of a lensflare background. Back in business, baby. Realising that they don’t stand a chance in melee, the remaining guards hole up outside on a parapet, shooting crossbow bolts through a tiny grating in an adamantine door at anything that moves. Thankfully for Makkam, they didn’t have the best aim and barely missed his familiar.

Such a stalemate attracted the attention of the Man responsible for law and order in this two-bit town. The party hear a bamf sound somewhere in the gaol.

Shiiiiiit

A very miffed berlabang appears behind the party and demands to know what they have against his town that they keep turning everything upside down in it. He also makes it clear that he’s not having a good day, and he might kill them all if a) they don’t answer satisfactorily, and b) B ever sees their faces again near Brinn. Oooooooookayyyyyyy…

After answering satisfactorily and promising to never come back to Brinn, and also promising to let the barbarian get gutted with his the gaoler’s halberd if B lets him keep it, the party is alive. Phew! B ties their hands and tows them out of the gaol (where they see a gleefully gloating Splugg) and outside of town where B and his duplicate wish them the very worst and farewell.

With nothing to go on to find Karmen (who for some reason was the one who brought them back to Brinn) except the knowledge that she’s on a scroll trawl down south, they party tried to track her movement through towns and villages that way. Unfortunately, no one had seen her, so the party instead resolve to investigate the Elvan Realms where Karmen got the info on the scrolls in the first place.

Why didn’t Karmen kill the party when they were defeated? Who was that crazy electric wizard who is bound via some kind of powerful ritual(s) to Karmen? What’s this nonsense about an Elvan civil war? And what’s up with that crazy teleporting, self-duplicating berlabang anyway? WHERE ARE THE UNDEAD? Find out all this, maybe, after an extended break when we rejoin our heroes and heroines at level 3!

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Return to Civilisation!

Four wanderers descend upon Port Cullis, tired and weary from their travels. The northern sun beats down a steady warm pulse despite the wintry season. Things are finally looking up for the adventurers.

Between the simmering brine pools and the pungent fish markets, the squawk of seagulls and the background chatter from open alehouses, the “dock” part of town is a welcome reprieve. Of course, safety comes first, and the majority of the adventurers bunk up in the fortified part of town. The bard enjoys the bayside views and the barbarian visits his port of call: the fighter’s guild.

The next day, they get down to the standard business of any adventurer – selling their destructive capabilities to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, before anyone can get so much as a shake of hand from the many merchants milling in Avandra’s square, what do you know, the wall explodes.

About 30 seconds later, no thanks to the slow reaction of the town watch, the four adventurers had dealt with the goblin forces that poured through the breach. The shaman, not up to scratch on normal etiquette after bush bashing the length of the continent, gleefully waves her prize of a hexer’s rod. The ranger also notices she has stashed a note in her pocket. After a less-than-diplomatic start, the two work together to track the goblins to their camp.

A surly halfling with a green cape, Djunkar, meanwhile invited the bard and barbarian on a patrol to guard the corpse-bearers of the dead noobs (from the raid) to a nearby church which is frequented by a legendary healer of this region named Rose. The ranger and shaman are also recruited on their return with the valuable information contained in the note.

Hours later the patrol sans stretcher-bearers rolls out of the southern breach, although Djunkar is silently fuming at the governor’s decision to send out the corpses immediately. The patrol turns up at the church ready to relieve the guard, but they find them slain, and signs that Rose had been ambushed while visiting the church.

Djunkar, now furious, charges the party with tracking the kidnappers, with permission to use deadly force. Yeah, like they needed a reason, Djunko. The party follows the goblin tracks to a campsite in a clearing which they attempt to stealthily infiltrate. Unfortunately for them, wolves have +9 to perception. The ambush turns on them as wolves and goblin guards descend from the parked caravan in an attempt to scare them off. Fortunately they turn out to be just babysitting the campsite and are overpowered easily.

After freeing the shackled humans who tell them they were all captured by these goblin slavers further inland, the party picks up the tracks again heading towards the coast. One slave warned “You gotta get out of here! The rest of the slavers, they’ll cut you up!” And so when the party found a moonlit plain where 4 figures, 2 human pirates and 2 goblin slavers, were meeting, they executed plan A and proceeded to shoot them up.

“Man, that slave doesn’t know what he’s talking about. We can take these guys!” the shaman and ranger joked as they lobbed their spells and arrows at the goblins from in the cover of the woods.

Suddenly the boss goblin, who appears to take long-range punishment in his stride, calls out to his forces. The party suddenly detects muchos movementos from their right flank in the woods. The pirates have also rallied their considerable (hidden) forces and are charging across the plain.

The party, with the familiar taste of fear in their mouths, outvote the ranger in their plan of action and execute plan B – grab the dwarf and haul ass.

The party, once safe in the haven of the fort, rendezvous with Djunkar and together they report to governor Bale himself. In his own dapper way, he tasks the party to find these slavers and the town’s beloved Rose. He twirls his musketeer moustache thoughtfully as they leave.

Having been a hair’s breadth from becoming slaves themselves, they decide to track the slavers more cautiously the next morning. Going on the one piece of info they have, they work their way back to the meeting place of the pirates and slavers. After some mountain-goat agility by the barbarian and an almost successful ambush of the pirates’ lookouts, the team gets caught in a melee with a pirate ship’s crew in a narrow, sheltered cove.

With the ranger zipping arrows from a tree overlooking the cove, the shaman’s walrus wreaking havoc in the back lines of halfling sailors, and the barbarian (supported by the bard) taking out the berserker pirate leader, things were looking bad for the sailors. Just when their morale was about to break, Avandra must have taken pity on them, because the barbarian suddenly went for a swim, and the ranger fell from his tree and almost died. Rally cries rose up from the pirate ranks, and the captain rose once again. Quick AoE from the shaman once again crippled their back line and victory was assured.

With pirate prisoners in tow, the party headed back to town. The captain revealed (under duress) that the slavers indeed have Rose, and that the pirates had a tiefling mole in the docks telling them dates and times of outgoing rich merchant ships to raid.

The party headed down to the docks taverns to try and eke out some information about the mole, but the mole was apparently not walking around with a sign on his back saying “It’s a-me. Mooooole”. Anyway, the party had no time for sleuthing! Rose had to be recaptured. Too bad Djunkar took matters into his own hands and raided Lt. Teffron’s office (the dockmaster) and caught the mole red handed. The tiefling (Iados) apparently talked immediately and tried to cut his sentence by revealing a possible Sahuagin attack coming from the headland…

When the party gets to the base of the headland, it looms ominously. The ranged members don’t like this. The barbarian saunters in while the rest of the party stealthed around the various roper—-I mean stalagmites in the cave mouth. It’s dark, and it’s wet, and oh my god it’s a crocodile.

It was the bard’s turn to learn what it is to take point, and so spent most of the encounter in a croc’s mouth while the backup got held up in the forest of stalagmites by two pesky stirges who also grabbed the nearest foes. Nevertheless, the party showed their professionalism and quickly dispatched the cave inhabitants. Then they looted the crocodile for any +3 rings of protection it might have been wearing. These are professionals, people.

A long swim down a murky tunnel later, and the party emerged into a lair devoted to a demon shark. As devoted guardians, the two inhabitants of said room attempted to beat them back into the watery exit, but to no avail. No amount of invisibility or poison was a match for their constant +10 saving throws. The iron cobra guard slinks off into a narrow underwater passage way to escape their rolls.

Showing the peak of their tactical mental faculties, the party decides to not investigate the wide, non-flooded passageway up the stairs, but instead to follow the iron cobra down the narrow, murky waterway, with the tank at the back, the DPS at the front, and no sentry in the main chamber. What’s the worst that could happen? As if in foreshadowing, somewhere in the depths of the cavern, a trap is sprung and the party hears rushing water.

It can only get better from here, right? Hm. 3 tridents later, the ranger is almost dead, and there is a lot of muffled, bubbly cursing going on behind her in the waterway as the party tries to rearrange its order to something resembling tactical. Well, it didn’t matter anyway, since there’s a badass sahuagin coming up the rear now. Go, tactics!

Thankfully, once the ranger was revived and the barbarian was in melee, the sahuagin were mincemeat in no time. They high five while angry bubbles surface from the dwarf and half-elf as they attempt to fend off a resolute attacker and his ranged lackey. The party quickly realise that this guy means business and have the goliath and shaman take the rear guard while the bard and ranger scout out the hallway that leads into… a sacrificial chamber with no way out except through the afterlife. Awesome.

The rear guard have more than a little difficulty in containing the aquatic sahuagin in their native submerged environment. Sensing the barbarian’s bloodied status, they make quick work of him, but are taken out with the very last remaining powers of the shaman and ranger. After coming up into the sacrificial chamber which is now chest-deep in water, they make a frantic search of the room. Locating the control panel for all traps, they work at break-neck pace to figure out what triggers what. Just as the water flows over their heads, they open the portcullis blocking their escape to non-waters-ville.

Phew! Now that that watery nightmare is over, the party heads back to Port Cullis, carrying the unconscious barbarian between them. Even the bard and the shaman are out of teh healz. When the party is rested and recovered, they decide to track their original quarry down the SE road to Brinn.

Travelling all day under stormclouds, the rains finally break in a dramatic fashion as they near the final 10 miles to Brinn. “Hey, what’s that? Is that the slaver’s caravaaaaAAAN” the dwarf yells as she is carried by the sprinting goliath towards the most interesting thing he’s seen for miles. Admiring his axe’s gash in the side of it, the group gets sprung. But at least the tank is at the front this time. Oh crap we’re surrounded by goblins.

The barbarian, shaman, and bard made quick work of the weak little dudes with shortswords who swarmed from the roadside ditches and onto them. With just the hexer shooting spells from the caravan doors and the gash, and the goblin boss and his pet wolf surrounded, it looked like the jig was up. But two rampaging skullcleaver goblins with battleaxes burst out of the caravan! The boss chews on a toothpick at this turn of events. Give the bum’s rush to the feisty Joe—put a bruise on that tomato, see?

The feisty Joe, A.K.A. Fredrik the Barbarian, goes down in a barrage of battleaxe fury. The hexer joins his meatshields as the boss goes down to a maximised barrage of arrows from a furious ranger who keeps getting blinded. In a close battle, the skullcleavers and the hexer finally go down, but on the hexer the party remembers to deal non-lethal damage.

The hexer proves to be useless since he’s a new hire, but the party does find an interesting note from one “L.L.” who promises to be in Brinn for the Winter Solstice. Oh, and they also find Rose. That’s kind of important. She amazes them with her healing prowess, and she humbly accepts to help them find L.L. in Brinn before departing for Port Cullis once again. The hexer also accepts, but more out of fear for his life than any kind of humility.

The party headed into Brinn after nightfall, and it turns out to be not the warmest town in the world. People are afraid of rumours of undead in the area which were previously ousted by the town’s ruler, Ber… Bang… Blerk… something beginning with B. They didn’t get a chance to inquire because the hexer began shouting that he had been enslaved by the party against his will. The hexer turns out to be quite charismatic and wins over the onlookers. In a bout of quick thinking, the party decides to go with it and pose as slavers to get the attention of L.L.

They keep up the image by intimidating an innkeeper into giving them room for a night. Oh, those crazy kids! Nothing bad can possibly come of this.

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