Kingmaker

Interlude
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[ Vincze’s Interlude Activities:]
Our heroes’ encounter with the Stag Lord’s erstwhile father ( Episode 28 – The Druid’s Warning) worried Vincze greatly. Diviners love information; they always seek it; they thrive on it. However, she had returned home to Nettle’s Rest knowing precious little about the Druid, or his benefactress, or their next move. She hadn’t even obtained a lock of hair, or possession, from the old man, to use in scrying for him (which was her original intent for seeking him out)

She consulted her Harrow deck; her runestones; and her spirit board. She even choked down a bitter tincture brewed by Janekfan from herbs that were rumored to cause visions. But, no visions came; the future remained shrouded in mist.

After a few days of this, Vincze decided to set her worries aside, and busy herself with her role as Grand Vizier. In the little house she shared with the other Greenbelt Defenders), she turned part of their parlor into an office. There she sat, and compiled a list of the school-age children of Lomindor. She next created a list of potential schoolteachers. Within a week, she was teaching 40 bright-eyed children in an outdoor classroom of rough-hewn benches on the shores of lovely, nearby Tuskwater Lake. She taught them reading, writing, and dance. Another woman joined Vincze, and began teaching them math. Between lessons, the youngsters played with Vincze’s celestial rabbit familiar, Trixie; all the children adored her. At the end of the first week, the Grand Vizier led them smiling into a nearby meadow, where they released a cage-full of beautiful, multi-colored butterflies. Although she wisely refrained from assigning any religious meaning to it in front of the children, Vincze intended this as a simple offering to the goddess Desna, for smiling so brightly upon her new school.

[Chris:] Throughout this time, Vincze found some difficulty sleeping. She would wake in the night from dreams of surreal woodlands where colors were both more vibrant and more muted at the same time. The vistas she wandered through were charicatures of the world she knew, some beautiful and some terrifying and twisted. She encountered no creatures, although she caught movement and shadows out of the corners of her eyes.

These dreams, while not nightmares, made her sleep disturbed. While, thankfully, it was not as disturbing as the dreams of Nettle during her time of the Curse, they still left her feeling unrested during the day. As the days wore on, she began to feel a growing unease, as she began to notice the same flickering movement and shadows out of the corners of her eyes when she was awake as well as asleep. Once, she caught fleeting movement in a looking glass as she passed by, as if something had darted away as she approached, but the hall remained empty apart from her.

One rainy morning, she awoke to a voice in her bed-chamber. She sat up in bed, glancing around and noticed a girl standing in her looking glass. Not before her looking glass, in her looking glass. The girl had hair of long flowing grass, and skin that glimmered like butterfly wings. Her eyes were dead black. And the woman spoke. “Awake, Vincze, for I bear a message for you. You need to listen well, young thing,” the looking glass faerie looked to be all of 5 years old. “Your words have attracted the attention of someone you do not want to have the attention of. You shall be more careful of the names you utter, or the next visitors you get will not be as…diplomatic. Heed my words, mortal, for we bear power beyond your comprehension. And not all of us are as nice as I.”

With that, the girl’s beautiful mein dissolved as the horrific, twisted creature beneath her flesh burst forth, shattering the mirror and sending razor sharp shards throughout the room. Vincze threw up her hands to protect her face, and when she lowered them, the mirror frame held but a few shards of silvered glass. The rest were scattered all over the floor and all bore the fanged face of the thing that had exploded the mirror. As they faded, a myriad of voices whispered, “Speak her name again and you will not come out of it with just some cuts from a broken mirror.”

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Episode 28 - The Druid's Warning
...evil? Did someone use detect alignment? Nah, he's just crazy...

Before setting forth to investigate rumors of a Swamp Witch haunting the southwest shores of Tuskwater Lake, Vincze asked Skylgannon and Khrystos to accompany her into the basement of the Stag Lord’s fort. She’d been wanting to find a possession left behind by the Stag Lord’s father—the old druid that they had set free, months before—in order to enhance a scry spell, should she want to keep tabs on him in the future. (…Even though she was not yet powerful enough to cast a scry spell, she explained, she was preparing for the eventuality. After all, the Council was planning on using the Stag Lord’s fort as the base for building Baron Khrystos’ castle… And once they did that, there was no hope of recovering any of the druid’s possessions…)

As the three descended down the dark basement stairs, Khrystos and Vincze were reminded that the Greenbelt Defenders hadn’t yet cleared everything out of the basement: there were still boxes of things lying around—mostly sundry supplies, and other non-valuable things. They made a mental note of that, and then began exploring the parts of the basement that comprised the druid’s lair. They didn’t find much, but tracing the seams of the walls with magical light eventually revealed a long crack along the floor. There was air flowing through—as if there was a room hidden behind the wall. Vincze pulled out a scroll of detect secret doors, and cast it; but no secret doors came into view. So she asked her familiar, Trixie, to burrow deeper into the wall. After a minute of digging, the rabbit was able to access the hidden room. When she returned, she told them the room contained a lantern, with a sack next to it. Skylgannon and Khrystos both set to work, excavating the room with any tools they could find.

The room turned out to be a small alcove containing exactly what Trixie had described. The sack, they discovered, contained a dried-up, blackened husk, which Khrystos identified as a dead will-o’-wisp. Vincze cast detect magic, which indicated that while the sack and the husk were both non-magical, the lantern radiated a strong aura of divination magic. The spell also told her that, in order for the lantern to work, the husk needed to be placed inside it.

The wizard carefully placed the husk inside the lantern and ZOW! a blue beam of light shone forth. The beam pointed west, unwavering, regardless of which way they turned the lantern. Seeing this, they immediately tabled their investigation of the swamp witch and instead focus on the new quest in front of them. They mounted their horses and headed west, following the lantern’s blue light deep into the Narlmarches.

By late afternoon, the trio found themselves in a wooded area, far to the west/southwest of Nettle’s Rest. The sky had clouded over at that point, and it was beginning to rain. The lantern’s light led them to a ring of stone towers surrounding a central tower. The towers’ ancient stonework was covered with moss and undergrowth, partly obscuring the symbols and runes carved into them. The strangest thing about the towers, however, was that the Greenbelt Defenders had already explored this section of woodland, and no structures of any kind were noted on their map! The towers, in other words, seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. [Chris: Or perhaps they just missed it last time, because they were not as perceptive as they could have been…]

As they entered the ring of towers, they noted that the blue beam of lantern light was fixed upon the central tower menhir, which was tallest. Vincze approached the central tower menhir and tried reading the runes on it, but couldn’t make sense of them. Meanwhile, Skylgannon and Khrystos made a slow sweep of the area, when all of a sudden, one of the other towers menhirs—the northern-most one—fell forward, pinning Khrystos beneath it! Skylgannon and Vincze rushed to his aid, and after an hour of digging, they managed to free the injured Baron. Khrystos healed himself with his wand of cure light wounds, while Skylgannon unsuccessfully attempted to scale the central tower. As their Warden was unsuccessful, Vincze cast a levitate spell and rose to the top of the central tower; she carried the lantern with her, and they all watched as the lantern continued to shed light down upon the top of the tower, bathing it in an eerie glow. She saw that there were more runes on top of the tower; but, try as she may, Vincze couldn’t decipher them.

It was raining steadily at that point, and getting dark, so the group decided to set up camp, choosing a spot about a hundred feet from the ring of towers. They took the dried-up husk out of the lantern, and built a fire to warm themselves. Vincze had first watch, and used her time to study the runes on the central tower more carefully. Slowly, she began to make sense of them. Apparently, she read, if the lantern’s light was cast on the central tower stone at midnight (“when the moon was high in the sky”, the runes seemed to indicate), a door would open into another realm: a world filled with druidic lore and magic. Vincze quickly woke the others and relayed this to them. As it was very close to midnight, they hurriedly returned the husk to the lantern’s core, and cast its light upon the central tower.

Vincze cast another levitate spell, and ascended the central tower stone to once more bathe it in the lantern’s eerie blue glow. Suddenly, BAM! She, Sklygannon and Khrystos found themselves in another world: it was daylight, and they were in a different forest entirely. The towers single menhir was still there- (Vincze was still floating about the central one)-, but the surrounding forest had changed dramatically. For example, a wall arch stood before them, with doors set into it [Chris: there was no wall, just an arch with the doors in them]. The doors were elaborately decorated to look like a flower that might open; there were petal-like decorations surrounding it, and wooden tendrils that snaked towards them.

The self-appointed protector of the group, Skylgannon bravely strode forth and, seeing no knobs, hinges or other hardware, simply pushed upon the doors. They opened easily, revealing a long, wooden bridge, about 20 feet wide, which spanned a forest down below. They could see the forest canopy around them, beyond the bridge’s edges, and it was full of life: all manner of birds and insects buzzed around them; some giant-sized and strange, while others, more familiar. The bridge spanned hundreds of feet before them, ending at another set of flower-bud-like doors. The lantern’s light shone forwards, over the bridge, and the group had the distinct feeling that whatever the lantern’s light was seeking, it was just beyond the bridge, just beyond those doors! [Chris: you had remove d the husk from the lantern as teh light was not pointing anywhere.] They followed it, Skylgannon leading the way; Khrystos taking the middle rank; and Vincze bringing up the rear.

Before they reached the bridge’s midway point, something happened. Skylgannon heard a buzz, like fluttering wings—yet saw nothing. A little while later, Vincze cried out in pain—she felt like she’d been stabbed—and she was bleeding! Turning to see what had attacked her, she noted a shimmer in the air in the nearby forest canopy. She felt her wound go numb, as if she’d been poisoned. Suspecting foul, fey magic,[Chris: the characters had no reason to suspect fey magic; this was player assumption Lomindor’s Grand Vizier fished into her pack and found her scroll of see invisible, and cast it.

Vincze’s eyes narrowed as she spotted a small, winged, cherubic-looking fey-like being where the shimmer had been. It had a large head and a dagger in one hand. It scowled and rushed at her, stabbing her again as it moved past her. Once again, her wound went numb, and she felt her strength being sapped. She shouted to Khrystos to give her his potion of lesser restoration, so he sent his owl familiar, Skyduster, to her with the potion in his talons.

The wizard downed the potion and instantly felt better, though still weak. It was a struggle to produce her wand of magic missiles, but she did so. As she did, she felt herself covered with what felt like tiny bites, and itchy welts! Vincze recalled that the last time she was poisoned (see Episode 27 – Wolf in the Fold), it had a very similar effect. What foul itching poison was this?

Regaining her composure, she spoke the wand’s command word, surprising the little- fairy- creature [Chris: the creature had not bee identified as fey at this time] (it didn’t expect to be seen), and wounding it slightly. It flew off, away from the party, and hovered in the forest canopy.

Just then, Skylgannon caught sight of it, and fired an arrow at it, grazing it. Khrystos spotted it as well, and tried to get a bead on it with a magic missile spell—but, due to its shimmering [Chris: concealment], he couldn’t. So the Baron threw his dagger at it instead. Unfortunately, the dagger bounced off, ineffectively falling away into the tree branches below.

The creature once again drew its poison dagger and flew at Khrystos, injuring and weakening him. Vincze then described the creature to Skylgannon and Khrystos. From her description, Khrystos recognized it as a rare, Unseelie fey creature called a Lurker-in-Light. He explained that it can be rendered visible in dim light—so Vincze cast a darkness spell (which, fortunately, she had memorized) on the edge of the bridge closest to it. Unfortunately, the spell didn’t darken the bridge nearly enough, so the Lurker was still invisible.

The nasty fey launched itself again, this time at Vincze, slicing into her torso and poisoning her once again before flying back into the canopy. Catching sight of it again, Skylgannon fired another arrow at it, hitting it—but the arrow just bounced off. Khrystos took the opportunity to remind them that, like all fairy creatures, the Lurker can only be injured by [Chris: are resistant to damage from all weapons but those made from] cold iron- weapons-.

Vincze considering drawing her cold iron starknife, but decided to try another spell. Struggling against her waning strength and burning skin, Vincze managed to cast a fireball at the Lurker—setting it, and the trees around it, on fire.

The monster grew enraged, and made a horrible face at Vincze. It appeared to be attempting some sort of spell-like ability, but to no effect. It tried this same trick on Khrystos, also to no effect! The poison in Vincze’s wounds was nearly overcoming her, but she struggled against it (and her itching skin)— and successfully lobbed another fireball. As the severely scorched fey fluttered above the bridge, trying to collect itself, Skylgannon spotted its shimmer. Exchanging his bow for his cold-iron axe hammer, he charged the creature—and drew blood! The winged menace slumped lifelessly onto the wooden bridge, blackened and bloodied. [Chris: before their eyes, the creature crumbled to a faintly luminescent silvery dust][Chris: I had forgotten to add this detail]

Unfortunately, at the same time, Vincze also slumped onto the bridge—the Lurker’s poison finally overcame her. The trio realized they had no choice but to turn back, take a few days of rest, recover from their injuries, and regain their strength. They left the bridge and set up camp among the circle of towers.

Two days passed, and Vincze slowly recovered her strength. As she did so, she studied the towers’ runes more carefully, and discovered how to return home: the runes indicated that the teleportation could be reversed by smearing the blood of a fey-blooded king upon the tower. Khrystos looked skeptical, but noted that fey magic worked can indeed work in strange ways…

After Vincze was strong enough to walk, she, Skylgannon and Khrystos once again set forth across the bridge. They noted that it looked like it had recently rained—perhaps someone had wanted to quench the fires set by Vincze’s fireballs? When they reached the end of the bridge, Skylgannon pushed open the second set of doors, revealing a large, bright room beyond. They noted two entryways into corridors leading away from the room, but their searching eyes were soon drawn to a dark alcove directly across from them, where a robed figure beckoned them. From the alcove came a familiar voice: It was the Stag Lord’s father, the crazy old druid whom they’d set free from the fort’s basement, so many months ago.

“You have found me, my old friends”, it said.

Khrystos addressed him, asking him about his life since his son’s—the Stag Lord’s—death. The old man answered that the Stag Lord “did not survive because he was unfit. It’s all about survival of the fittest”, he quipped. He then admonished the three of them for vanquishing the bridge’s guardian—one of his “pets”, he called it. But, Skylgannon commented that the Lurker must have been “unfit” as well. The druid just laughed in response: “Hmmph. Well, there’s plenty more where he came from, right? She will see to that!”—and looked behind him, into the shadows.

Vincze then asked the druid: “What do you mean? Of whom do you speak? Nyrissa?” The old man’s eyes grew wide and he said, “Do not speak her name, or she will notice you. You have spoken her name far too many times, child, and she has noticed you…. Trust me!”

“Nyrissa, Nyrissa, Nyrissa!” mocked Vincze, unphased by the Druid’s warning. “What’s she going to do, send her big, bad fairy army after us?”

The druid scowled and Baron Khrystos stepped in, silencing Vincze with a look. He questioned the druid further, asking him, what shall we call you? “Nargush”, he answered. What was his connection to the fairy queen? “I am her herald,” he replied. Khrystos questioned him further: The fairy queen rules her own First World realm, he argued, so why would she want to interfere with Lomindor? “For her, it is a stepping stone”, he smiled. Khrystos shot a worried look at Vincze and Skylgannon. Clearly there was more to the story, but Nargush was being cryptic—picking and choosing his words with care.

Vincze spoke up again: “Would you like your lantern back?” Nargush said yes, he would, and asked her to bring it to him. She strode warily towards the Druid, and gave the lantern to him.“Thank you for returning my lantern. I have something for you, too”, he said, and handed her three, ice-cold, jet-black stones. “Thank you”, she replied, and put them in a pouch on her belt. Then, the three heroes bid the druid farewell, and headed back to the circle of stone towers. Khrystos cut his hand with Skylgannon’s axe, and smeared his blood upon the central tower. In a flash, POW! they were instantly returned home, to Lomindor.

They journeyed home to Nettle’s Rest, their minds troubled. Clearly, Nargush had gone out of his way to warn them. But why? And, what were these ice-cold, black stones he’d given them? Vincze studied them as they traveled, and cast detect magic, which told her they had a strong aura of necromancy. Upon returning home, she cast identify on them, to find out their origins. She shuddered, and tears welled in her eyes, when her magic spell told her why the stones bore such a strong, necromantic stench: each had been forged from the souls of 3,000 innocent babies. What sort of fairy queen would commit such abomination?

Next Episode: The Legend of the Tuskwater Swamp Witch

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Episode 27 - Wolf in the Fold
or "An American Werewolf in Lomindor"

At the Council meeting on the first day, the two Nettle’s Rest murders were discused at length. The Council decided the culprit could be one of two things: 1. A worg or 2. A werewolf.

The two murders occurred at opposite ends of the kingdom (the bar maid, Saki, in a berry patch to the southwest of town; the shepherd boy, Bevin, on the outskirts of town about a mile northwest). The big paw print, plus the fact that it’s now a full moon, led the Council to believe it may be a werewolf. Tonight was in fact the last night of the full moon, so they decided to act on that presumption—as this was the last night they could catch the perpetrator, should it be a werewolf.

Council assigned the new Warden, Skylgannon, the task of coming up with a plan to solve the brutal slayings, and bring the perpetrator to justice. After thinking for a minute, the Warden proposed enacting a curfew for that evening, for when the sun reaches the horizon: all people should be inside their homes for the duration of the night, he said. Meanwhile, Skyduster and Trixie would canvas the town and watch for any unusual activity. When the sun reached the horizon, Skygannon would dress as an old woman and drive a horse-drawn cart, as “werewolf bait” ; the cart would bear Khrystos and Vincze in it. Trixie would come with Vincze while Skyduster remained airborne, surveying the town from above. The Council approved the plan.

Throughout the day, word of the curfew was spread throughout Nettle’s Rest. On the advice of Jhod Kavken (see last episode: Episode 26 – Lomindor’s First Council Meeting), the Greenbelt Defenders went and bought some healing potions; potions of lesser restoration; and some antitoxin-; all from the Trade Shop-[Chris: can’t buy magical potions from the trade shop, but Segra Leofurbut can sell you some from Segra’s Trading Caravan.] Skylgannon also bought a silver hand axe, because silver weapons are the only weapons which will hurt a werewolf (Baron Khrystos already has his silver, masterwork trident, courtesy of his patrons, the Sword Lords of Restov).

Khrystos, Skylgannon and Vincze decided to go to the Tavern and find out more about the bar maid. They first interviewed the head barmaid, a sultry, red-headed woman named Lily Teskerton. She didn’t know anything. Vincze cast a detect thoughts spell and confirmed that she wasn’t playing dumb. She was very flirtatious with Skylgannon and Khrystos; but Vincze didn’t need detect thoughts to know that! Lily was very forthcoming and told them everything she knew: Saki had wandered so far from the Tavern, after her shift, to pick berries. When interrogated further, Lily also told them that there were three newcomers to the Tavern: Tomas & Malita, from up north; Kundal, a Kellid barbarian who drank a lot; and Myrddin Emrys, an odd man with a piece of silver on his head, who sips wine and reads a lot.

Skylgannon, Vincze and Khrystos then set about interviewing these newcomers. First, Myrddin, who was in the Tavern that day: he said he was a loremaster. The PC’s asked him about werewolves, and he confirmed that werewolves are larger than normal wolves (furthering the PC’s suspicions that they were, in fact, dealing with a werewolf); he also confirmed that only silver weapons can harm them. In addition, he added that there are two kinds of werewolves: those that are born into a werewolf family, and those that contract the disease of lycanthropy by being bitten by another werewolf. He told them that the latter kind may not even be aware that they’re werewolves! He also said, when asked, that he knew nothing about the two murders in town; Vincze confirmed this with her detect thoughts spell.

They next interviewed Tomas, also present in the Tavern that day. He was surrounded by farmers like himself, who were, like him, finished with their day’s chores. When approached, they all bowed to Baron Khrystos, but the sorcerer/ranger said they needn’t do that—they should resume their idle gait and laughter. Vincze went outside and surreptiously cast another detect thoughts spell, then went inside to join the conversation. She told them that although the farmers were treating them like heroes, the farmers were actually the TRUE heroes, for they had followed the Greenbelt Defenders into a new land, sight unseen, and were very brave. The farmers liked this and seemed to open up to her. Everything the farmers talked about seemed to be truthful, Vincze’s spell told her, including the fact that Tomas’ wife was absent because she was away for the day, on their farm, churning butter. One of the farmers present in the Tavern turned out to be the father of the dead shepherd boy, and Baron Khrystos offered his condolences, telling the man that his death would be avenged. They told the farmers that the Council suspected that the beast may in fact be a werewolf, and that’s why the curfew had been instated that night. The PC’s warned the farmers to secure their houses and not go outside—and not let their wives or children out, no matter what.

The three Council members regrouped at their house and discussed the matter further. It was puzzling to them that Kellid, the barbarian who was new to town, was not anywhere to be found at the Tavern, or elsewhere. Vincze suggested that they get Agamemnon the Spymaster to use his gaseous-form ability to search his room—and all of the newcomers’ rooms, for that matter. The PC’s found Aggie asleep in the sun and tried to talking to him; he woke and looked confused. Trixie then hopped up and said “Aggie doesn’t understand you; he speaks my language!” Vincze realized that the language must be Celestial, so she cast tongues and repeated what she had said earlier. Aggie agreed to the plan and went to investigate the Tavern.

Later that day, after eating and napping, Aggie returned and said (via Trixie, who translated) that he found some old bloody women’s clothes under the bed in Tomas & Malita’s room, and that Kundal’s room reeked of urine and vomit—and there was some blood in that room as well. Myrddin’s room, on the other hand, was piled with books, and there were some strange bags that smelled funny. Skyduster also returned from flying around town and told Khrystos (via Janekfan, who acted as interpreter with a speak with animals spell) that he’d seen nothing out of the ordinary. None of this gave them much information, so they decided to go along with Skylgannon’s original plan, and waited until sundown.

Just before the sun hit the horizon, Baron Khrystos ordered Trevin to stand watch inside the Tavern. If anything unusual happened, he said, he was instructed to shoot a flaming arrow into the sky to warn everyone. Then, they heard the town crier announce the curfew, and Khrystos, Skylgannon and Vincze set off, in their covered cart, north of town.

After going a mile into the ever-deepening wilderness, they heard a noise up ahead. They followed it, and suddenly, a growling werewolf stepped out from behind a tree! It then howled and ran full-tilt towards the cart! It was bearing a large battle-axe!! Vincze quickly used her wand of mage armor on Khrystos, who then cast dancing lights on the entire area to give them light to see by. He then drew his silver trident and climbed down to the ground. Meanwhile, Skylgannon was already on the ground and within feet of the snarling creature. Skylgannon traded blows with the creature, with Skyduster aiding the fighter’s defense by flapping his flapping wings. After buffing herself with mage armor and shield, Vincze finally climbed down and zapped the lycanthrope a few times with her wand of magic missiles. Baron Khrystos bore down mightily upon the beast with his silver trident—unfortunately, mostly missing.

After a few rounds, Skylgannon (who was the object of the werewolf barbarian’s rage, apparently) collapsed from three devastating battle-axe wounds. Vincze turned invisible (preparing to attack) while Khrystos stepped back—desperate after seeing one of his best men laid low!—land fired a scorching ray at the beast. The spell did maximum damage, incinerating the creature! Vincze and Khrystos then healed Skylgannon back to consciousness, and the three traveled back to Nettle’s Rest with the dead werewolf (who had, upon death, resumed his human form).

A big crowd gathered at the Tavern soon after Vincze, Skylgannon and the good Baron arrived: news had traveled fast! To the raucous cheers of his people, Baron Khrystos displayed the Kellid’s body, and declared that the menace to the town had been removed—it had been the barbarian newcomer who had been causing the trouble. Khrystos asked the loremaster, Myrddin, if he thought that the werewolf might come back to life—but Myrddin shook his head and said, sarcastically, “No, he looks well dead!” After serving a round of drinks in celebration, Lily took Skylgannon into a private room to “heal his wounds”. The PC’s partied into the night with the joyful citizens. Vincze took a break from dancing to cast a Web spell which read “Justice”, and then set the Web on fire, as a sort of fireworks display.

After the party was over, Baron Khrystos and Vincze obtained keys to the barbarian-werewolf’s Tavern room and searched it. They found something that Agamemnon had not found: a bloody, detached human ear under the mattress, with an earring still in it. Questioning of other employees at the Tavern confirmed that the earring did indeed belong to Saki the bar maid (Skylgannon gave the earring to Lily the next day as a memento).

Vincze spent the next morning visiting the townsfolk who had children, and spoke to their parents about enrolling their kids in school. She also asked around to see if anyone wanted to be employed as their teacher because, although she herself might take the headmistress role, she couldn’t be around every week to teach classes.

Skylgannon appeared much later in the morning, happy but spent. He reported to Khrystos and Vincze that Lily had told him some interesting things during their “pillow talk”. Firstly, she said she was very passionate about anything elven, and said that there was an ancient elven castle somewhere deep in the southern Narlmarches. If the PC’s could bring her back anything from that castle, she told him, she’d be very grateful! Lily also told him that there was a nasty old Swamp Witch who lived on the northwest shore of Tuskwater Lake. The Witch steals babies, she said, and turns them into stew in her magic cauldron! Upon hearing this, Baron Khrystos was very concerned, and so it was decided that the Greenbelt Defenders would investigate the northwest lake shore as soon as Lomindor Council business was concluded at the end of the week. (see Quest Log)

XP for this episode: 400xp.

Total XP for episodes 24-27: 4870xp.
Note: We need 1300 to reach the next level!

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Episode 26 - Lomindor's First Council Meeting
As the Kingdom Turns

The days leading up to the First Council Meeting of the newly formed Kingdom of Lomindor went by quickly. Baron Khrystos I, Grand Vizier Vincze, Skylgannon and Caspar finished exploring the hex [Chris] area where, last episode, they were attacked by the crazy old vagabond and his giant pet cat. (They decided to leave the cat unconscious in the woods, with a healthy supply of rations nearby, for when it woke up.) Apart from a night-time raid by a swarm of giant spiders, the heroes were in good spirits when they returned to Nettle’s Rest, the fledgling nation’s capital.

[Chris] Good spirits meaning that everyone had fought off the venom of the spiders apart from poor Vinzce, who had to ride strapped to the back of her horse all the way back to Nettle’s rest. Skylgannon saved her some face by suggesting that she be placed in front of him on his horse as they rode into town.

Upon entering the city limits, they were met by the Marshal [Chris] Warden, Janekfan, who reported that two people had been murdered in their 3-week absence: a shepherd, and a barmaid from the newly-built Lakeside Inn. The druid said that the two were violently torn apart; and, the tracks near the bodies appeared to be those of a giant wolf. Although Vincze could still hardly [Chris] couldn’t stand on account of multiple giant spider bites, the others sprang into action, calling the First Council Meeting of Lomindor (for a summary see: Kingdom Building Turn 1 – 03-Sep-2015 ).

The Council met in one of the city’s newly-built houses, escaping the bright, mid-summer sun for the better part of a day. In addition to discussing the murders, the Baron congratulated the Council for the rapid building progress. After some discussion, he ordered the building of a Trade Shop, and a system of roads, with bridges spanning stretches of both the Shrike and the Skunk Rivers (both of which run close to the capital). The good Baron also declared the annexation of the hex immediate to the northeast, where the Thorn and Shrike Rivers meet. Further, the Baron officially appointed Keston Garess‘s right-hand man, the able fighter Skylgannon, as the nation’s Warden.

Treasurer Svetlana Leveton reported that the month’s tax income was good, and that even with the new buildings and concomitant consumption of goods, Lomindor’s Treasury was in decent shape.

After hearing reports that children were approaching the Stag Lord’s fort and being chased by zombies, High Priest Jhod Kavken was called upon to “Hallow” the ground around the fort. He agreed to do so, but only if a cathedral dedicated to Erastil was built where the fort now stands. The Baron and the other Greenbelt Defenders rejected the proposal, declaring that they were already planning on building a castle on that spot. However, they promised that they would, eventually, build a cathedral for Jhod somewhere in Nettle’s Rest.

The Council continued to meet every day for the rest of the week. Their discussion mostly revolved around investigation of the murders (see the next episode, Episode 27 [Chris] “Wolf in the Fold” ). They also hammered out Lomindor’s Laws, which were posted around the Kingdom by week’s end. These laws officially declared murder (among other things) as a punishable crime.

In their spare time, the Greenbelt Defenders—with Svetlana’s and Segra Leofurbut‘s help—liquidated the treasure they’d accumulated over the past three weeks. In all, 203 gp each was awarded to Khrystos, Vincze, Jane and Skylgannon.

1170xp

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Episode 25- Introducing Skylgannon
Never a Dull Moment

The next day, the sleep-deprived, boggard-bruised rulers of Lomindor headed south to the place where Jubilost Narthropple had told them a dryad lived. They planned to ask her help in re-growing the five felled trees, downriver along the Shrike, where the lovely (but angry) nixie, Melianse, made her home.

Halfway to the dryad’s grove, another one of Keston’s men—a swarthy, human called Skylgannon—intercepted the party. He told Janekfan that she needed to return to Nettle’s Rest at once. Bringing Trevin with her for protection, Jane drove Jakul and Toboe eastward. Skylgannon then assertively took up the druid’s position, leading the group southward as per the directions on their vellum map.

It was late morning when Khrystos, Vincze, Skylgannon and Caspar stopped abruptly in their tracks. They heard a melodious, female voice crying through the shrubs up ahead. Approaching cautiously, they entered a lovely clearing on the banks of the River Shrike. The opening boasted an enormous oak tree on its north shore; sitting daintily on the tree’s roots was an exquisitely beautiful faerie with leaves sprouting from her hair. The Defenders’ half-sorcerer, half-ranger Baron leader, Khrystos, asked her what was the matter; why was she crying? The dryad sobbed that she was afraid for her life! When questioned further, she explained that a horrible, black tree-creature terrorized this part of the Narlmarches, wilting all vegetation and killing the fey beings who dwelt within it.

Just then, a handsome, horned satyr appeared from behind a nearby elm tree. Introducing himself as Falchos, he beseeched the Greenbelt Defenders for assistance in felling the evil tree. Khrystos then negotiated a clever agreement: if the dryad agreed to help Melianse re-grow her fallen trees, the Defenders would slay the black tree. After shaking hands, Falchos directed the humans to the spot marked “Blighted Hollow” on their map.

The sun was high in the midsummer sky when the Defenders reached the Hollow. The edges of the glade were marked by a ring of pallid, wilting vegetation. Spreading out cautiously and moving slowly, they noticed the local flora took on a black, putrid appearance towards the hollow’s center. Vincze then caught sight of something wretched—something vegetable!—rising up in front of them: “Scythe Tree!” she yelled, lobbing a Fireball at it. The plant-creature then ripped into Khrystos’ ribcage with a sharp, hook-shaped branch, and the Baron yelped in pain! One more fireball, and a well-placed axe-hit from Skylgannon, and the terrible tree was no more. A quick search among the tree’s roots turned up some gold, silver and copper pieces, a silver ring, and a dark blue robe [see Addendum, below]. Using Detect Magic, Vincze identified the robe as magical, but couldn’t figure out what sort of robe it was. She then suggested, in both fear and admiration of the rare plant, “Let’s bring a specimen back to Jane! She’ll be sorry she missed this.” And she tucked a branch of the scythe tree into her robe.

The Defenders spent the rest of the day exploring the remainder of the hex, finally bedding down for the night a good mile away from the Blighted Hollow.

The next morning, the group headed back triumphantly to the dryad’s abode on the shores of the River Shrike. She and Falchos greeted them with great enthusiasm, for she had already picked up news of the scythe tree’s demise from the roots and vines that formed a continuous, living net across the floor of the Narlmarches. “Thank you! I am in your debt!” she exclaimed, and put bags of treasure in their hands. “This is all my treasure; it is yours,” she stated. The bags held much gold and silver, and also included some potions, together with six magic tokens. “These little tokens,” she explained to them, “will cause a tree to grow when planted in the ground”. The Defenders, overjoyed with the promise of new trees for Melianse, headed east at once to find the nixie’s grove.

Before leaving, the group asked the dryad whether Queen Nyrissa would be happy to hear of their victory over the scythe tree and its Blighted Hollow. The dryad rebuked them, warning them never to utter Nyrissa’s name. Khrystos shuddered, sensing fear in the faerie’s quivering, dulcet tones.

Melianse was relieved to see the human heroes approach her portion of the river, and was especially relieved once they planted five of the tokens. New trees began to grow immediately, and reached full size in less than a minute. Melianse then released the two loggers whom she’d been keeping captive with her fey charms. “My sisters and I will not forget this,” she said to the humans. “From now on, we will watch this part of the river for you, and alert you to any dangers we perceive.” The group then questioned her about any imminent river-borne dangers—especially any boggard sightings. Melianse thought for a minute before finally divulging that, far upriver, a lone boggard lived in the ruins of a stone building. She explained that he was a hermit, and had nothing to do with other boggards. The rules of Lomindor thanked her for this information, and then took their leave of her. After a short time, the loggers turned north to join the rest of their party.

As the Defenders headed east again, Vincze consulted her astrological calendar and advised the group that their “exploraging time” was growing short: they all needed to return to Lomindor soon, to see how the clearing, improvements and infrastructure-building was proceeding in Nettle’s Rest. “We must get on with the business of running this kingdom,” the diviner advised, and Khrystos nodded. They still, however, had about a week before they needed to return, so they could perhaps do a bit more fieldwork and reconnaissance. They decided to spend their remaining time “exploraging” the two hexes immediately to the east. Vincze decided to have another go with her detect magic cantrip, and successfully identified her newly acquired magic robe as a Robe of Bones. She put it on.

That night, after spending another full day carefully leading their horses across the densely forested southern Narlmarches (and dispatching a pugnacious, wild boar—butchering it afterwards), the group fell asleep quickly. (Exploring ancient woodlands is not easy work!).

Unfortunately, their sleep did not last long. Vincze was just in the middle of a dream (see Vision 9 of Vincze’s Visions) when she awoke to Skylgannon’s whistle, alerting them to the presence of an intruder. The group rose, and did a double-take as they noticed a flaming stone orbiting Skylgannon’s head—what sort of magic item is that, Khrystos wondered. They all grabbed their weapons: who was threatening them this time?, Caspar thought.

A terrifying cackle broke the night: “Look at these people, Cat!”, it said, “Let’s kill them now!” Turning to face the voice, the group spotted an old man in the woods, dressed in tattered rags and robes, standing next to a fierce-looking puma. The two then burst out of the shadows and attacked! A scuffle ensued which left the giant puma sprawled unconscious on the ground, and the ragged man seriously wounded. “You killed Cat! You’ll pay for this!” he shrieked, and ran off bleeding into the woods. The group tried to pursue, but couldn’t find him; he’d vanished without a trace.

Luckily, it was still early, and so the group attempted to get a full nights’ rest by sleeping late the next morning. Everyone except the wizard (who needed more sleep so she could study her spellbook) kept watch in pairs that night, just to be safe! The next morning, the puma (whom they had stabilized before going to sleep) was still unconscious. The Defenders broke camp and made plans for more exploraging.

Addendum:

Reward bequeathed to us from our dryad friend:

3 pieces of amber
Robe of Bones – Vincze has taken charge of this.
42 Copper Pieces
55 Silver Pieces
6 Gold Pieces
Simple Silver Ring, not yet appraised.
Sickle
Bag of 5 goodberries and 2 potions, 1 scroll, and a wand (which turned out to be of Cure Light Wounds which Khrystos took possession of), as well as 178 more Gold Pieces
Longbow and arrows
We also received 6 small metal tokens in the shapes of trees – 5 were used to regrow Melianse’s felled trees

1200xp

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Episode 24 - A Fey to be Reckoned With

These aren’t the humans Hyperia told me about, thought Melianse as she watched the loggers fell the last of the ancient trees surrounding her river glade abode. These are far more dangerous.

She hadn’t been gathering eelgrass for long when the sound of axes drew her back to the little pool she called home, on the shore of the River Nagasiby (known by the far less elegant name of Skunk River in the Common tongue). She was one angry nixie when she saw eight lumberjacks unceremoniously cutting down her trees! She begged them to stop but the men chopped away. Desperate, she used her fey magic to charm one of them, dragging him into the water and holding him close. Still, the men continued their vandalism.

The last tree hit the ground with a thud. They must be stopped, she thought, and successfully charmed a second axe-wielding oaf, who joined the first in her watery lair. Defensively keeping her head below shoreline, she waved a webbed hand at the men’s leader, crying, “You are not welcome here. These trees sheltered my glade for 200 years, and now they’re dead. Your men will pay the price!”

Their leader, a strapping, bearded man, replied “Release them at once!” and threatened her with violence. How dare they? Melianse thought, as the argument reached a fever-pitch.

Just then, another, smaller group of humanoids entered the clearing from the forest edge—four humans, and an elf maiden, to be precise. Ah, these newcomers must be the travelers that Hyperia had warned me about! Melianse thought. She watched warily as one of them, a stocky, bearded male with obvious fey ancestry, asked the lumberjack leader, “What’s seems to be the problem here?”

While the lumberjack leader discussed the situation with the fey-touched, stocky man, the elf maid slowly approached the shoreline, pausing just a few feet away from the nixie’s green-haired head. The elf was white-haired, and possessed a kind visage, and Melianse relaxed a bit, sensing a kindred spirit. ‘Let Janekfan reason with her,’ the nixie overheard one of the other humans saying—a young, blond woman in a blue robe. “She is a Druid after all!” When Melianse heard this, she relaxed a bit more, knowing how benevolent and delicate Druids can be when dealing with fey such as herself.

“Please release the men,” the elf maiden pleaded. “Not until they replace my trees!”, Melianse responded. I just know her Druid magic can re-grow my fallen trees, she thought. Speaking as though she’d read the nixie’s mind, the blonde woman called out, “Jane, can’t you just cast a Plant Growth spell and fix these trees?” The elf, however—clearly sharing Melianse’s sadness over the loss of the beautiful, old trees—shook her head despondently. ‘No, Vincze’ she replied. “However,” she said, turning back to the nixie, “if you release these two loggers now, I promise we will find a way to restore your glade”.

Meanwhile, the fey-blooded newcomer had convinced the lumberjacks to leave the riverside and continue their lumbering operation in a stand of trees of the same species, about ten miles to the north. He had produced a map and was in the middle of showing the lumberjack leader the exact location of the grove (and explaining that he could personally vouch for their safely, because he’d helped vanquish two tatzlwyrms that resided there just a few months before) when Jane interrupted him: ‘Khrystos, the nixie is willing to release the two humans, as long as your men leave the area and never return… AND as long as we help restore her glade to what it once was. She will release these two when the trees have been replaced.’ ‘Remember Jubilost Narthropple’s map?…There’s a dryad just west of here, supposedly. I bet she can help restore the nixie’s trees!’ she heard the blond woman excitedly exclaim as the group disappeared into the forest, leaving her alone.

A dryad?? Thought Melianse. _Why would a dryad help ME? Well… dryad or no dryad… they’d better find some way to restore my trees…

The next morning, Melianse’s sister—a nixie named Diadema who lived 15 miles upriver—visited the glade. She was shocked and saddened by the loss of Melianse’s trees, and the two cried in each others’ arms as Melianse related the tale of her human visitors from the previous day.

“I believe I saw your visitors—some of them, at least,” Diadema suddenly said, wiping away her tears with one webbed hand. “Some faerie dragons spent a full night pranking them—they led those humans on a merry chase indeed!” she giggled. “The next day, they slayed three nasty tatzylwyrms just south of my glade. And then, late last night, they were set upon by those nasty frog-people!” Apparently, her sister explained, the blonde woman spoke with them, defusing the situation. But as they were hurriedly packing their things, she produced a wand of some sort, which caused the boggards to attack them. “I saw the whole thing!” Diadema shouted with an excited gleam in her eye. “Luckily, they defeated the nasty froggies…but just barely.”

Dumb blonde, Melianse thought. “They’d better be more careful,” Melianse said, worriedly. “There are many dangers in the Greenbelt. One false step, and I won’t be getting my trees back!”

Addendum:

Treasure obtained from the tatzlwyrms’ nest:

Magic Scale Mail from skeleton, magic – The Greenbelt Defenders gifted this to Trevin.
38 Gold Pieces
520 Silver Pieces
Pewter Drinking Stein worth 12 Gold
Silver Ring worth 30 Gold
Jade Carving of a Nude Female Elven Monk, 85 Gold
Silver Scroll Tube, waterlogged/unreadable scroll, but the tube itself is worth 25 Gold.

2000xp

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Episode 23 - Vincze and the Nine Gnomes
From Hydro to Hydra in One Day

Getting bored of setting up their country and establishing a colony, Vincze and Khrystos gather two of Keston’s men (Caspar and Trevin) and head out into the wilds to the west.

Along the banks of the Skunk River, they encounter a nixie, named Hyperia, whom they befriend and get some information about what lies up the river. She also mentions that the “veil between this region and the 6th World is very thin”. Vincze recalls that, among some people, “6th World” refers to the Faerie Realm. The nixie also cryptically mentions that her Queen, Nirissia, is “coming”…but disappears beneath the water before Khrystos or Vincze can question her further.

At a ford in the river, they encounter a feisty gnome explorer, Jubilost Narthropple, and his expedition of eight other gnomish explorers. Something spooked their mules, causing the beasts to rush off into the ford with their wagonload of supplies. Krystos takes Caspar and Trevin to unhitch the ponies, while Vincze calls to Hyperia for help, but help does not arrive. Together, the group manages to save the wagon.

Jubilost is an adventurer and cartographer, and the two groups spend the rest of the day chatting about Greenbelt geography. After Khrystos gains his trust, Narthropple lays his map out, agreeing to share all points of interest between his map and Khrystos’. Afterwards, the groups while away the remaining daylight hours by comparing cantrips—and to their great delight, the humans find that the gnomes have many interesting magicks up their sleeves.

During the night, the creature which spooked the mules comes back. Neither Vincze nor Krystos can identify the five-headed serpent; but it matters not, because the armed band of four humans and nine gnomes rapidly slay the monster. Khrystos uses a Scorching Ray spell as the coup de grace to prevent it from regenerating.

In the morning, the two groups part ways. The Greenbelt Defenders spend the rest of the day exploring the forest surrounding the ford.

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Interlude - What Happened in Restov

The Greenbelt Defenders ask Keston to send some men to the Stag Lord’s former base, the ruins on Tuskwater Lake. Keston says he will take some of his men and defend the place. You see that his ranks have grown and that he now commands eight men. Before he leaves, he writes a letter and hands it to you, telling you to give it to the captain of the Black Company, a man by the name of Raven, promising you four masterwork weapons of your choice. Leaving five behind, including three of his most senior men, he and three others ride south.

Your trip to Restov takes a while. You thought it more important that Keston and his men travel quickly, so you authorized them to take some of the spare horses from Oleg’s. The others, you purchase from Oleg for a good price and secure the bandits to them for your ride north.

It takes you the bulk of the day riding hard on the road to make it to Fort Serenko. The fort is abandoned, as it was when you passed this way so many months ago. But the gates are open and you find a dry place to sleep for the night.

The next morning you head out. Late morning, you make it to Nivaktas Crossing, a small town of hunters, trappers and fishermen on the banks of the Shrike River. The town is surrounded by a wooden palisade. While the people are serious, and cautious of strangers, they possess a dry sense of humor. While the locals are quiet and suspicious of most of the group, Khrystos, with a little cajoling, finds someone who is willing to talk.

Narlmarches, eh? You been explorin’ out there? Been hearin’ some words about the goin’s on there. Me bruder, Max, he say he saw himself a green dragon prowlin’ around the forests down there. Says his hunting party was completely et by the beast just inside the forest to the west of Lake Candlemere.”

“And Candlemere! There be another story! I hear the keep on the island in the middle be a place where the boundary between worlds be rasped thin. Ol’ Max says he seen some sort of ‘orrible monster lurkin’ in them ruins. Candlemere? Why it be just south of the Tuskwater. To be sure, if’n ye follow the shore of the Tuskwater, eventually ye’d fine Candlemere.”

Another day, and you are in Restov. You declare yourself at the gate as the Greenbelt Defenders, and sign the register at the gate. You tell the guards you have business with the Lord Mayor and the Swordlords, presenting the Wanted Poster for the [[:stag-lord | Stag Lord]]’s bounty.

You make an appointment with the Lord Mayor the next day. That evening you find lodging and relax sharing the stories of your adventures with the locals.

The next day, you show up for your appointment. You are shown in to the Lord Mayor’s office. Behind the desk is a middle aged man with shoulder length hair. Standing at his side is a woman with long brown hair, an ornate curved blade at her hip.

“I am Lord Mayor Ioseph Sellemius. This is Jamandi Aldori, emissary of the Swordlords. My men have informed me that you have information in regard to the brigand known as the Stag Lord.” You present the head of the bandit lord, the stag-horned helmet, and tell of the battle for his keep.

“Well then. We have been hearing of your antics for some time now. From Oleg’s report over two months ago, to Rada’s reports. You have impressed us.” The Lord Mayor continues. “Now, we gave you a mission, to map the Stolen Lands, from the River Shrike, west to the Western edge of the Narlmarches, from the South Rostland Road to the Tuskwater. Let’s see your map.”

You produce the map you have drafted. “You’ve done a good job here, in the Kamelands, but your exploration in the Narlmarches,” he points to the forest, “is lacking.” He pauses for a moment and Jamandi Aldor leans over, peers at the map.

“We are extending your charter,” states Jamandi. The Lord Mayor starts and the Swordlord quiets him with a look. “Continue your exploration of the Narlmarches, and push south, to where Lake Candlemere empties into the Lower Shrike and the Little Selon River join – here.” She points to a location on your map, about 35 miles south of the Stag’ Lord’s Fortress.

“In addition,” she continues, “we grant you this.” She produces a scroll, which she hands to you. With trembling hand, you unfurl it and read.

“Be it known that the bearer of this charter, having delivered the northern reaches of the Greenbelt from the scourge of banditry, having provided detailed maps of the lay of the land, and having done no small amount of work in the exploration of said land and the culling of hostile monsters and indigenous hazards, are hereby granted the right to rule. The nature of the laws of rule are theirs to define, and the well-being of this new nation is theirs to protect. In accordance for providing a stable nation to the south of central Rostland, let there be a generous stipend of funds, support, and advice provided to this fledgeling nation as a token of Restov and Brevoy’s goodwill such that future relations between kingdoms might be mutually beneficial. So witnessed under the watchful eye of the Lordship of Restov, and by the authority granted by Lord Noleski Surtova, current regent of the Dragonscale Throne."

After you have read the document, she receives it back, drips blue wax from a nearby candle on it, and presses her signet to it. With a flourish, she signs the document, rolls it, ties it with an azure ribbon, and returns it to you. “Who you select as ruler, and council, and how you govern your new nation is up to you. Choose wisely.”

She motions to a chest on the floor against the wall. “Within is your reward for defeating the Stag Lord. To establish your new kingdom, you have been granted supplies and labor to start your realm. A caravan with men, settlers and goods will be sent to supply you with what you need.” She steps back.

The Lord Mayor looks between you and the Swordlord for a moment and then speaks. “Right, now, if you need anything while you are in town, you have but ask. I will send an emissary to your lodgings. If you have no other questions.” He rings a small bell and the door behind him opens. Rada Pendulfsen enters and bows.

“Greetings, my Lords and Ladies. Please, if you will follow me.” Rada leads you out of the chamber and back to your lodging. “If you need anything, I am at your service.”

You spend several days in Restov while the caravan of goods and settlers is established. Vincze sees to some research with the court wizard, a Qadiran named Jafar. The rest of you ponder over your options for rulers and councilors, generals and high priests.

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Episode 22 - Searching Through the Wreckage

After removing the Stag Lord’s helm, the Greenbelt Defenders used Akiros’ sword to detach the villain’s head. Then, Jane healed herself and the rest of the party in preparation for confronting the “creepy old man” who supposedly dwelt in the fort’s basement. Tad, Vincze and Khrystos spent a fair amount of time searching for an entry to the basement; as it turned out, it was directly under the portion of the roof that Jane had collapsed with her Soften Stone and Earth spell—so it was more difficult to find than it normally would have been. Clearing the rubble revealed a staircase in the floor with a big, wooden board over it. (At that point, Vincze suggested that the party camp for the night, keeping a close watch over the staircase, in order to regain their spells; but she was overruled).

And so the adventurers removed the board and crept down the musty stone staircase. Tad’s darkvision made him the best choice for being first in the marching order. As soon as he got halfway down, he spotted a shadowy figure duck around a corner of the basement, and then Jane smelled smoke, as if from a candle that had just been blown out. So the bandit rumors were true!—someone was indeed down there. They followed the figure to the threshold of what appeared to be a store room. Jane cast Light on a rock which she threw into the room, but it revealed nothing but a bunch of crates. Then everyone heard something above, and looking up, they caught sight of a sinewy old man with a long beard and wild eyes scuttling across the ceiling of the room!

The group was battle-weary, and so had decided beforehand that they’d had enough bloodshed for the day. Thus they agreed to try and spare the old man’s life—if possible. The old man looked down and said, warily, “Who are you? Where is my son?” Speaking on behalf of the group, Khrystos stepped forward, replying: “We are the Greenbelt Defenders, and we have come to set you free!” The old man again asked about the Stag Lord and so Vincze told him,“You never have to worry about the Stag Lord again—he can’t hurt you anymore. You’re free now, go on peace, and blessed be, my friend.” The old man seemed to accept this vague answer, and continued scuttling across the ceiling until he reached the opening in the ceiling above the staircase. Then Tad asked him, “What are you? How are you doing that?” He turned back to the group, smiled a wicked smile and replied, “Old druid tricks!”, then quickly disappeared upstairs. When the group emerged above-ground a minute later, there was no trace of him.

The group then went back downstairs and performed a thorough search of the cellar, uncovering three cobweb-filled rooms with crates filled to their brims with furs, coins and other stolen goods. Of note was a sack full of gems, both cut and uncut, which attracted Tad’s attention. The group was amazed to discover—after a quick appraisal—that the entire stash was worth well over 6,000 gp!

After again climbing back upstairs, the group searched the fallen bandits, with Jane and Khrystos using the spells Detect Magic and Identify to diagnose magic items. [A complete list of the treasure found in the fort, including on the bandits themselves, has been compiled elsewhere]. The party then went outside and dispatched the zombies in the hills surrounding the fort (as it turned out, there were a total of 12), so they’d no longer be a threat.

As they searched the bandits’ bodies, Jane performed heal-checks and discovered that four of the bandits were actually still breathing. So she spent the rest of the day stabilizing and tending the four survivors, letting them remain unconscious while restraining them comfortably. She also prepared the Owlbear’s hide for curing. Tad spent the rest of the day meditating and listening to his strange pet cat, Agamemnon, who (unbeknownst to anyone but Tad) seemed to be trying to communicate with him (!). Meanwhile, Vincze spent the day poking around the fort, trying to work out the history of the place. There were runes on the walls of the Common Room, along with a symbol of a single, bloodshot eye. After an hour, she translated some of it, revealing that the ruined, stone building they were in was a former monastery—or, more specifically, nunnery—dedicated to the goddess Gyronna, whom Tad (with a Knowledge: Religion check) told her was the chaotic evil goddess of hatred, spite and revenge. The two of them deduced that it was probably Gyronna’s power that had animated the zombies on the hillside (actually the nun’s burial ground) surrounding the fort. An hour earlier, Vincze had mused about converting the fort into the group’s permanent headquarters, but after learning this, she had second thoughts! She and the others agreed with Tad when he suggested that they instead tear down the entire structure in the near future—though Khrystos expressed some trepidation over possibly angering the goddess of vengeance in the process.

Vincze also took some time to read Akiros’ diary and was surprised to learn that he was from Taldor, the same country she hails from. It turns out that he was training to be a paladin of Erastil, but his life went terribly wrong and he became a chaotic barbarian instead. That explained the holy symbol of Erastil that they’d found on Akiros’ body. “Poor Akiros,” she mourned, and the other Defenders agreed.

The group spent a blessedly uneventful night in the fort, keeping watch in succession, as per normal. The next morning, they decided to burn all the bodies of the dead; but upon Jane’s suggestion, they saved Akiros’ ashes in a sealed jar, just in case they wanted to resurrect the luckless lieutenant in the future, to give him a shot at redemption. Before the pyre was lit, the four unconscious bandits were roused in order to say their final goodbyes to their comrades. Unfortunately, they all seemed completely unmoved (and unrepentant) by the ceremony. The party then quickly packed up, taking one surviving bandit each with them on horseback, to turn over to the Brevoyian authorities at Oleg’s Trading Post. Before leaving the fort, they closed and locked the gate, after which Jane used Warp Wood to jam it shut—ensuring that no-one else could use the gate until the group returned. The party also left a vellum sign announcing “No-one is home. The Stag Lord is dead. He has power over you no longer.” (Or similar words to that effect).

After exiting the Stag Lord’s fort, the party’s first stop was the River Shrike, to fulfill their promise to Nettle and thus remove Vincze’s curse. As luck would have it, the southern-most stretch of the river was only a few miles to the east of the fort. After throwing the Stag Lord’s headless body into the rapids, Nettle rose up in all his putrid glory and grabbed it, yanking it free from the rope the group had used to tether it to shore, just in case Nettle didn’t appear. As soon as the undead monster dragged the corpse beneath the waves, Vincze’s curse was lifted: she felt better than she had in weeks! Then, suddenly, a beautiful quarterstaff washed up on the riverbank. Clearly, the group agreed, it was a gift of thanks from Nettle. Upon further inspection, it was revealed to be a magical +1 double-headed ring-staff, which the group gifted to Tad (it being the perfect weapon for a monk).

The group then traveled a few days’ to Oleg’s, where they received a warm welcome. It turns out that one of their bandit captives was wanted by Keston Garess (the captain of the guard at Oleg’s), so he took all the bandits into custody and then bestowed a reward upon the Defenders. After listening intently to the tale of their epic battle with the Stag Lord, Keston insisted that they travel to Restov and tell the Swordlords their story in-person, presenting the Stag Lord’s head as evidence. In that way, he explained, they could be celebrated as the heroes they were—and, of course, collect the generous bounty that had been placed upon the Stag Lord’s head. “What a wonderful idea!”, exclaimed Vincze, “but I don’t have a thing to wear!”, summing up everyone’s feelings on the matter: a big city would be quite a change for them, after spending so long in the untamed wilderness.

Next: To Restov!

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Episode 21 - Stag Party!
Assault on the Aerie of the Stag Lord Pt II

Editor’s note: Add comments, beginning and ending with “[” and “]”, and follow the initial [ with your character name and “:”

The Stag Lord glared at Janekfan from behind his mask as she cast Stabilize on Jakul, who was at death’s door. The villain did not move to attack; rather, he stayed where he was and let his first lieutenant, Akiros, deal with her. With one hand, he crushed the stirge that Jane had summoned to distract him. Then he raged—revealing that he was a barbarian—and moved in for the kill.

Realizing how dangerous the Stag Lord was with his bow, Jane withdrew into the corner and pulled out one of her Warp Wood scrolls in and attempt to warp his bow. After striking Jane with his sword, Akiros was immediately intercepted by Tad and Toboe, who raced in from the adjacent stairwell.

In the stairwell, Khrystos continued to battle the Stag Lords’s second lieutenant, Dovan, as Vincze stepped from the northeast watchtower to the walkway above them, having casting Shield on herself.

Meanwhile, Jane watched with dismay as her Warp Wood spell failed: the Stag Lord’s bow bent slightly, but then resumed its normal shape—she realized then that his bow must be magical! So she ran into the stairwell and joined Vincze at the top of the stairs, calling a now-seriously-injured Toboe after her. Dovan suddenly ran to help Akiros in the next room.

Jane then healed herself and Toboe on the stairs. Then, with Khrystos, they joined Tad in the next room as he battled Akiros. (They caught sight of Dovan, hiding behind Akiros, drinking what was probably a healing potion of some sort). Vincze, meanwhile, seeing a logjam of people in the next room, pulled out her Fly scroll (which she had obtained from the kobold shaman, Tartuk) and used it on herself. Though it was a third-level spell, she managed to activate it; she then flew into the next room, hovered above the crowd (with her Levitate spell, which was still active), and cast Shocking Grasp on her right hand.

In the rounds that followed, the male Defenders—Tad, Toboe and Khrystos—battled the Stag Lord’s two remaining lieutenants, Akiros and Dovan. Jane showed great discipline, abstaining from attacking in order to heal her comrades as needed. Vincze cast a Magic Missile at Akiros, but otherwise she too kept out of the fray, waiting for an opportunity to fly in and deliver her Shocking Grasp to the Stag Lord. Similarly, the Stag Lord also remained in the background, behind his lieutenants, taking pot-shots at the party’s spellcasters as opportunity allowed.

[The fact that the Stag Lord’s arrows met their marks without fail confirmed the magical nature of his bow, because they plowed right through the Protection from Arrows spells that Vincze had cast on herself, Khrystos, Tad and Jane.]

Akiros proved very difficult to kill; he was fighting well past the point of no return—he clearly possessed the “Die Hard” feat. Tad finally annihilated him with a flurry of blows, after which he was so far gone, no coup de grace was necessary (!). Khrystos fired off a slew of Magic Missiles, as well as his two Scorching Ray spells: one at the last remaining low-level bandit in the room, reducing him to a pile of ash; the other at the Stag Lord, effectively drawing first blood (first scorch?) from his blackhearted nemesis. After a few rounds of combat, Toboe took down Dovan. Immediately following this, Khrystos delivered a coup de grace to Dovan. In doing so, he turned his back on the Stag Lord—which proved a near-fatal mistake, as the Stag Lord shot him full of arrows! (Unfortunately, Tad’s strange cat, Agamemnon, couldn’t get close enough to help him, as he did last episode). If not for some miracle (divine intervention, perhaps?), the Stag Lord would have succeeded in exterminating Khrystos’ entire tribe—him included. Indeed, the sorcerer seems to possess nine lives!…

Meanwhile, Vincze flew around the corner, through the room with the stairwell, over Khrystos’ Entangled patch in the Common Room, and attacked the Stag Lord. “Stag Lord! I have a little present for you!” she cried—and then clumsily missed!—even with a magical assist from her familiar, Trixie (who was hiding safe in her backpack, nudging her master with Diviner’s Fortune through the material). As the wizard flew past the stag-headed menace, he shot two arrows at her—but luckily for her, he also missed. The next round, she again failed to connect with her Shocking Grasp. The Stag Lord, however, shot her full of arrows that round, and she retreated into the Owlbear’s lair to heal herself with her potion of Cure Moderate Wounds.

At about that time, the Stag Lord’s remaining lieutenants fell, and the rest of the party rushed into the Common Room. The Stag Lord—seeing that he was now vastly outnumbered—ducked back through his hide-covered door, disappearing into his private chambers. The party then split up—Vincze and Khrystos, determined to cut off the villian’s escape, ran out the front of the fort (Khrystos dispelled his Entangle at this point). Tad, Toboe and Jane, meanwhile, followed him through the hide-covered door into his inner sanctum.

Khrystos ran through the courtyard with Skyduster at his side, following the wooden palisade towards the back of the Stag Lord’s keep. On the way, he noticed that the front gate had been opened slightly, and through it he caught sight of zombies eating a bandit who’d tried, in vain, to escape. At about that time, Vincze, who’d taken to the air, spotted the Owlbear, who had just finished off another bandit and was happily tearing apart the bandits’ two horses, who had run through the courtyard to the back of the keep.

Tad, Toboe and Jane found themselves in what looked like a Storage Room, dimly lit by candle-light, with two doors leading out of it. Jane and Toboe explored the Storage Room, taking note of a diary—apparently written by Akiros. Tad, meanwhile, went through one of the doorways and discovered what appeared to be the Stag Lord’s bedroom; the putrid smell of stale alcohol and vomit of the hide-covered chamber overwhelmed him. Within its pitch-black interior, his darkvision discerned a cot, a few chests, and some empty bottles scattered on the floor.

Regrouping with Jane and Toboe in the Storage Room, Tad decided to try the second doorway. Through it, the three Defenders could hear the Owlbear’s hoots and growls, together with the crunching bones and frantic screams of the bandits’ horses. Wary of the huge Owlbear just a few feet away in the courtyard outside, Tad gulped down his potion of Shield of Faith and whispered a prayer to Irori. Then he parted the curtain and crept through. Toboe followed, determined to prevent the Stag Lord’s escape. Unfortunately, the Owlbear spotted Tad and rushed him! Toboe (who had successfully snuck past the monster) bravely jumped to the monk’s defense, biting into its hind leg, wounding it (but, unfortunately, not tripping it). Battled was engaged!

At about that time, Vincze was soaring above the courtyard behind the fort, carefully scanning the ground below for any sign of the escaped villain. “STAG LORD!!” she cried, in her frustration and rage. Suddenly alerted to her presence above, the Stag Lord emerged from the shadows where he was hiding, under some stairs which led up to a walkway connected to the southwest watchtower. He let loose two arrows, and their combined damage brought the diviner down to just one hit point! Vincze quickly downed her potion of Invisibility and flew away. Next round, she drank a potion of Cure Light Wounds—her last remaining magic item.

Meanwhile, in the courtyard below, Tad and Toboe tussled with the Owlbear. Jane drew aside the curtain and stepped outside just in time to witness the powerful beast scooping up Tad, grappling him—while at the same time, biting deep into the half-orc’s left shoulder. Vincze, watching invisibly from the air above, felt conflicted: should she save Tad, or attack the now-revealed Stag Lord? She decided on the former—and flew down to activate her Shocking Grasp in the monster’s back, instantly killing it. Suddenly visible again, she floated down, and she and Jane helped Tad out from under its carcass.

The Stag Lord used the heroes’ distraction with the Owlbear as an opportunity to escape up the stairs to the walkway above. Once Tad was free, he and Toboe immediately scaled a wall and intercepted him, while Jane and Vincze waited below. Switching from his bow to his longsword, the Stag Lord desperately defended himself as Tad pummeled him with fists of fury. Just then, Khrystos finally rounded the back of the fort and climbed the back stairs. Upon reaching the top, he let loose a Magic Missile, landing the killing blow upon the Stag Lord—and avenging the grisly murder of his Greenbelt tribe! Following this, his loyal familiar, Skyduster, flew in to deliver the coup de grace: he ripped the evil man’s throat out. The villain was, finally, well and truly dead.

The distaff party-members ascended the stairs, and the Greenbelt Defenders gathered silently around their fallen foe. Vincze ceremoniously removed his stag-helm to reveal the face behind the mask: an ugly, acid-scarred visage, mouth frozen in a twisted, tortured scowl.

Next episode: Against the Evil Cellar-Dweller!

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