Kingmaker

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

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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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Episode 20 - A Stag for the Stag Lord
Assault on the Aerie of the Stag Lord Pt I

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The Greenbelt Defenders boldly stormed the Stag Lord’s aerie in broad daylight. This episode, together with episodes 21 and 22, chonicles the events of that fateful day.

“Get off the road!” Tad whispered, as he, Khrystos, and Vincze approached the fort along the winding dirt road. Just then, the front gate lifted, and a party of bandits on horseback rode forth, following a flock of five cackling crows. Desna was clearly on the heroes’ side, because they went unnoticed hiding in the chapparal along the roadside. After the bandits passed, the Defenders dusted themselves off—all except the white wolf, Toboe, who hid deeper in the brush, awaiting the call of his mistress Jane, soaring high above in eagle-form, together with Skyduster.

It was hard to believe that just a few hours earlier, they were all comfortably gathered as Vincze conducted a Harrow card reading (see Vision 7 of Vincze’s Visions ). Immediately following that, she and Jane activated no less than nine spells—and Khrystos drank one potion—to prepare the group for the day’s events. Vincze also used her Dust of Illusion on Tad, disguising the large half-orc as a human bandit. The group knew that, with these dweomers in place, it was too late to turn around—the protective magicks they had activated would expire within a few hours. They broke camp and quickly headed east towards the fort.

Overhead, Jane reviewed the plan of attack as she circled, watching the fort carefully with eagle-eyes. At the last minute, the plan had changed slightly, at her request: unwilling to leave her elk-mount, Jakul, behind, she suggested that the others bring him into the fort as an offering for the Stag Lord. “A stag for the Stag Lord!”, she smiled. So, instead of leaving Jakul, the party instead left their horses tethered in the woods, together with Tad’s pet cat, Agamemnon. After traveling with them for a bit, Jane said her goodbyes to her beloved animals, assumed eagle-form, and took to the air.

Down on the barren plain below, Tad, Khrystos and Vincze approached the Stag Lord’s front gate. The midsummer sun was high in the sky—it was hot and dry, but Tad had insisted on attacking in daylight so that his human companions could see better inside—eliminating the bandits’ “homefield advantage” and minimizing the shadowy hiding places for any rogues that might dwell there. The guard in the northwest tower called out to them. Khrystos held up his silver stag amulet and answered with the fort’s password: “We bear the heads of the Greenbelt Defenders!”, a phrase that sent shivers down the player characters’ spines. “Do you, now? Come show them to us,” the guard replied. The front gate opened, and the adventurers were ushered into the bandits’ courtyard. Khrystos explained that they’d brought a tribute of booze for the Stag Lord, and handed the bandits some bottles. “What’s with the elk?” asked one of them. Khrystos replied that it’s a tribute for the Stag Lord. One bandit grabbed Jakul’s reins and started leading the elk into the fort, saying “I’ll take him out back and butcher him.” The party was surprised—they hadn’t expected this!—and Tad said, “I’ll come and help you.” Meanwhile, Khrystos and Vincze were led into another room.

“New recruits, eh? Who sent you?” Khrystos and Vincze looked at each other and Khrystos blurted out, “Kressle. She escaped the Greenbelt Defenders and has established a new cell up north.” The bandits were a bit shocked at this news, but seemed to buy their story. Changing the subject, Vincze smiled and gushed, “I’ve always wanted to meet the Stag Lord”, and wondered if he might join them for a drink? The bandits stared at each other until someone finally growled, “He’s busy.”

Meanwhile, around the corner, the bandit who was leading Jakul suddenly stopped and produced a knife, bringing it up to the elk’s throat. Tad quickly sucker-punched the would-be butcher, but he wasn’t able to prevent him from crying out a warning to his colleagues: “FOES!”

What happened after that was so quick, it’s difficult to give a blow-by-bow account. Here’s a summary of what transpired next:

Following Tad’s lead, Jakul impaled his would-be butcher on his antlers, though Jakul was injured in the process. With Jakul safe for the moment, Tad ran up a nearby staircase, towards the northeast tower, to intercept the Stag Lord’s lieutenant, Ox, who (responding to the alarm) was rampaging around a corner, brandishing a massive wooden club.

In the adjoining room, Khrystos and Vincze were immediately set upon on all sides. A figure hidden in the shadows, whom they guessed was another lieutenant, Dovan, began to pull a rope, opening a gate in a wall… revealing a beast that hooted and roared more with every passing second! Vincze cast a Web upon the gate to prevent it from fully opening, but to no avail—within a few short seconds, a huge owlbear emerged from the opened gate, and mauled a nearby bandit while she looked on in horror. She downed her potion of Sanctuary in a desperate attempt to buy her some time (which it did), exclaiming, “What are they doing with an owlbear?!” Meanwhile, Khrystos was taking quite a beating from two bandits. He successfully deflected one of them by using his fey-blood-powered Laughing Touch; then, he dropped a well-placed Entangle spell between himself, the bandits, and the owlbear. Dovan, meanwhile, was nowhere to be seen… Where had the rogue ran off to?

Seeing trouble below, Jane landed, assumed elf-form, and healed Jakul a little bit with her magic wand. The next round, she noticed Dovan heading straight for her! She fended him off and he dashed into the adjoining room, disappearing into the shadows near Khrystos, who was still fighting with two bandits.

Vincze shouted to Khrystos, “I don’t want to leave you here!” But Khrystos nodded and waved her away: “It’s OK! Go! Get away from that owlbear!” Seeing the bandits positioned between the owlbear and Khrystos, she acquiesced and ran outside into the courtyard, where two bandits had run already. The owlbear followed them all and mauled one of the bandits as he attempted to open the front gate. Vincze quickly cast Levitate on herself and rose to the top of the northeast tower, carefully avoiding a hail of arrows. As she ascended, she announced “We are the Greenbelt Defenders! Give up the Stag Lord to us!” She then watched in amazement as Aggie the cat slipped through an opening in the palisade, and crossed the courtyard. When a bandit approached the curious cat, Vincze was astonished to see Aggie disappear into thin air! She then watched Toboe (having avoided a pack of zombies en route!) climb over the fort’s palisade (aided by a Spider Climb spell that Jane had cast on him) and dash into the room where Khrystos had been cornered. Vincze turned, loaded her crossbow, and finished off the guard in the northeast watchtower, with a magical Diviner’s Fortune assist from Trixie.

Across the courtyard, Skyduster dropped an alchemist’s fire onto the northwest tower guard, and then finished him off with his razor-sharp claws. Another kill for Khrystos’ feisty owl familiar!

All this time, on the landing adjacent to the northeast watchtower, Tad had been tangling with the Stag Lord’s behemoth lieutenant Ox—while fending off arrows from that tower’s guard. Tapping into his ki pool, Tad finally managed to knock the brute off the landing. Ox landed, unconscious, in the same room Khrystos was struggling with his bandit foes, just as Toboe appeared. Seizing an opportunity for a coup de grace, the wolf ripped out the large man’s throat. Seizing a similar opportunity for a sneak attack, Dovan burst forth from the shadows and stabbed Khrystos in the back, seriously wounding him. Khrystos turned and successfully blasted Dovan with a Magic Missile—a difficult maneuver, since he was forced to cast on the defensive. The very next round, however, Khrystos was laid low by one of his bandit opponents, and fell unconscious to the floor. He awoke a few seconds later, healed and restored, with Aggie’s tail brushing against his head—had the strange cat somehow healed him? Suddenly he, Aggie and Toboe looked up as Tad lept down from the walkway above, kicking Dovan in the head before landing gracefully on his feet.

Around the corner, Jane had troubles of her own: Akiros, the Stag Lord’s third lieutenant, entered the room from a hide-covered door in the back wall, and headed straight towards her. Trying desperately to buy time, she cast Soften Earth and Stone on the wall adjacent to him, which caused the already-weakened roof to fall on the man’s head. When the smoke cleared, however, she saw that Akiros was still standing, so she summoned a stirge (a bat-winged, mosquito-like creature), which successfully attached itself to the lieutenant’s head—distracting him for the moment.

Jane inhaled sharply as she observed another, ominous figure emerge from the hide-covered door… a tall, strong man, his face hidden by a stag-horned helm! The Stag Lord himself had finally entered the fray. Turning to face her, he ruthlessly sank two arrows into her faltering elk mount—almost killing him.

[Here ends Pt I]

[As I wrote up this summary, I couldn’t help but notice that each of the four player characters’ strategies in this battle “fit” into a distinct “theme”. In other words, each character fit a particular ARCHETYPE:

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The GUARDIAN- JANE, the elven druid, is a True Neutral protector of the natural world. She watched over her friends as an eagle-eyed sentry. She then defended her corner of the fort like a she-wolf defending her pups.

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The SURVIVOR- KHRYSTOS, the human fey-blooded sorcerer, found himself surrounded by enemies, but against all odds, inexplicably rose from the ashes. The sole survivor of his slaughtered Greenbelt tribe, this man appears (like the proverbial cat) to have nine lives.

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The DAREDEVIL- TAD, the half-orc monk, fearlessly jumped from one opponent to the next. With little regard for his own safety, he threw the first punch, defeated the Stag Lord’s most formidable lieutenant, and rescued both Jakul and Khrystos.

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The UNTOUCHABLE- VINCZE, the human diviner, escaped injury using a clever combination of protective spells and potions. The magical mastermind of the party, she literally floats above the crowd. This runaway fortune-teller from a Taldorian royal court is becoming an expert at keeping out of harm’s way.

… Just my two cents!! –SLG]

Next episode: Stag Party!

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Episode 19 - In the Heart of the Night

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With the sun high in the sky, the Greenbelt Defenders rode southeast to the Stag Lord‘s fort via the most direct route, i.e. over the hills past the Fangberry Patch. Eleven miles southeast of there, the fort loomed on the horizon, just as the captive bandits had described it. As dusk approached, the elven druid, Janekfan, used wildshape to become a Great Horned Owl and spent a couple hours flying around the fort, bravely swooping low, and even alighting on one of the three watchtowers! She verified that the fort’s palisade was 15 feet tall and made of wooden beams, about 6 inches apart[CPM: six inches thick. no space between.], and topped with spiky bits. As the party suspected, she noted that one of her Warp Wood spells would warp one of the beams; in other words, it would take two such spells to bust their way in[CPM: leaving a 12" gap to squeeze through.], should they decide to go that route. Jane spotted one of the lieutenants, Ox, playing with toys on a rooftop, with a bedroll and wooden stick next to him. The simple thug just waved and said “Hello Mr. Owl” to her as she swooped by. She also saw two horses inside the courtyard, and a pig roasting on a spit in a corner. Once in a while, she saw someone go turn the pig, but other than that, the only bandits she saw were Ox and the three watchmen, one on each watchtower (which she noted were all made of stone [CPM: actually the watchtowers and the bridges are made of wood], as is the entire fort except for the palisade). As she was leaving to head back to the party, the clouds parted and moonlight revealed an indented, sunken-in area in the earth, outside the palisade, just to the south of the fort; she landed and observed what appeared be a stone trap door. Did it lead inside the fort? She hurried back (dodging pot-shots that the watchmen were taking on her, with their bows!) and excitedly reported everything she’d seen.

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The adventurers conferred and decided to go explore this secret, trap door. Under cover of night, they drove their horses around the west side of the hill country surrounding the fort (giving the fort a wide berth so they wouldn’t be spotted). As they rode through the night, they noticed that the land surrounding the fort was completely stripped bare, up to 300 feet away from the fort, where a low, shrubby scrubland began. Proper “forest” did not occur around the fort, unless one walked for miles. The half-orc monk Tad, who has the highest stealth of all party-members, as well as darkvision, offered to stealthily crawl on his stomach to the trap door and see if he could open it—and see where it led. The human diviner Vincze cast Darkness on him (she actually cast it on a rock Tad carried in his hand) in order to give him even better cover. Tad set off while Jane, Vincze and the human fey-blooded sorcerer Khrystos waited in the shrubbery. After a few minutes of crawling up a low hill, Tad heard something behind him—when he turned to look, there were three zombies crawling out of the ground on the hillside, shambling towards him! Horrified, he wound his way back to the others in a roundabout fashion, leading the slow-witted zombies on a merry chase. As he turned around, he heard one of the watchtower guards shout “Our friends are restless tonight!” to another guard—apparently in reference to the zombies. As soon as Tad got to the shrubbery, the zombies lost interest and headed back to the low hill surrounding the fort, and dug themselves back into the ground.

At that point, it was about 4 in the morning, so the group decided to head off south [CPM: west. South is the lake…], and make camp in the forest there. On the way, they drafted a plan of action… a plan of assault against Public Enemy #1, the mysterious bandit leader known as the Stag Lord and his bandit cronies:

-Jettisoning the idea of using the trap door, it was proposed that the next day, the party will approach the fort via the front entrance (assuming that the zombies in the hills don’t haunt the road) in full bandit drag. Vincze will have cast all of her protective scrolls on the party (Mage Armor and Protection from Arrows for everyone); these spells last 4 hours, so they will have 4 hours to find the Stag Lord and kill him, once the scrolls are read. Khrystos will lead us to the front gate, and talk his way in by offering a tribute of wine (and showing the stag amulets). A more appropriate leader could not have been found, Khrystos being eager for revenge as the lone survivor of a Greenbelt clan wiped out by the Stag Lord’s men just over 3 months ago. Vincze may use the Dust of Illusion taken from the fallen kobold shaman, Tartuk, to disguise him. The approach will be on horseback, with Agamemnon (“Aggie”) the cat, Skyduster the owl and Trixie the rabbit accompanying Tad, Khrystos and Vincze, respectively. Jane and her wolf companion, Toboe, meanwhile, would wait outside (see below).

“The combination of disguise, the current password, the stag amulets and the booze may JUST be enough to get us in,” reasoned Vincze, out loud, as they trudged through the darkness after a long night of reconnaissance. Tad added, “we should try and stay undercover, in disguise, long enough to meet the Stag Lord, and put ourselves in optimal position to take him out—with minimal interference from the other bandits, especially his three lieutenants.”

Meanwhile, Jane and Toboe will wait in the wings, presumably hidden somewhere in the shrubbery surrounding the fort. At either a pre-arranged time, or perhaps on some pre-arranged signal (maybe Skyduster could come rouse them?), Jane will cast Spiderclimb (which she prepared on a scroll) on Toboe, and then assume eagle-shape; the two of them will then quickly top the Stag Lord’s palisade and join the fray. (To Jane’s dismay, her elk mount, Jakul, will unfortunately have to remain behind, in the woods; there is no way to sneak him in, and no way to hide him in the shrubbery outside the fort). Once entering the fort, Jane proposed using Soften Earth and Stone—and possibly the Produce Flame scroll she acquired from the Ghoul Queen, and/or alchemists’ fire—to bring down the central (NW) watchtower in a big explosion of mud and flame, adding to the chaos and drama of the evening.

Plan B: If, for some reason, Khrystos and the others can’t successfully bluff their way in, and are denied entrance to the fort: they will simply call Jane and Toboe, who will join them at the front gate. Jane will then use her two Warp Wood scrolls to blast through the palisade—and everyone rushes in, weapons raised and spells blazing.

Escape Plan: If everything goes pear-shaped, Jane will have a Swarm spell prepared, and she and Khrystos will both have one Entangle spell each prepared. These can be cast on as they’re making their escape from the fort. Vincze will also have at least one Web spell memorized to block the bandits if they try to pursue us.

“The time has come to embrace our destiny” said Vincze, grimly, as she finished reading her star-charts and wrapped herself in her bedroll, waiting for sleep to come.

Next: A Stag for the Stag Lord!

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Episode 18 - Tatzylwurms, Trolls & Thylacines
This episode was sponsored by the letter "T"

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The party had left the two captive bandits in Jhod’s capable hands and were making their way back to Epitaph when they were surprised by two tatzylwurms. One sunk its teeth into Vincze‘s leg, and then grappled her with its long tail. The other wurm bit into Corporal Horsington (Tad’s warhorse), who bucked and let out a shrill whinny. A short battle ensued, amid cries from Vincze of “don’t damage their heads! Oleg will give us a reward for them!” Most of the party trying to free Vincze, while Tad and the other horses attacked the second wurm. Although Janekfan failed to hit wurm #1 with her bow (she was firing into combat), and Khrystos‘s Sleep spell didn’t work on it (it was the first time he’d ever used it), Vincze was eventually freed, although she was bleeding and nauseated (-2 CON) by the primitive dragon’s foul breath weapon. Tad (and the other horses) quickly pummeled wurm #2 into pink dust. After the battle, Khrystos remarked about the irony of stumbling upon two creatures that we’d tried to hunt, unsuccessfully, in the not-so-distant past.

As it turns out, only one of the tatzyl heads was intact, but that was enough for Oleg, who gave us a generous reward (600 gp). The gold was added to the treasure horde the party found in the wurms’ nest; that horde (found on the skeleton of a would-be explorer) included gold and silver coins; a suit of magic scale mail armor; a masterwork longsword; a silver ring; a small statue of a nude female elf; and a drinking goblet. Svetlana paid us handsomely for all those items (save the ring, which Vincze kept for herself). The horde also included an old parchment map of the NW corner of the Greenbelt, rolled up in a tube. There are a few buildings (and other features) marked on the map which may bear closer inspection in the future.

After basking in the warm welcome from Oleg and Svetlana, the Greenbelt Defenders secluded themselves and convened what can only be called a council of war. Plans for attacking the Stag Lord’s fort were proposed and discussed. The four adventurers reiterated that subtlety and subterfuge were out of the question at this point because the Stag Lord was probably on his guard. In any event, the Defenders are not the stealthiest bunch—except for their animal companions and familiars, who would perhaps come in handy for reconnaissance.

Vincze earlier proposition, that the group spend a few days at Oleg’s waiting for the Wand of Cure Light Wounds to be delivered from Restov, and scribe some spells that would be useful for attacking the fort, was discussed. They agreed that Vincze should scribe 4 spells of Mage Armor (Khrystos having two potions of Mage Armor already), and 4 spells of Protection from Arrows. Meanwhile, Jane would scribe 2 spells of Warp Wood, which would come in handy for breaking through the wooden fence surrounding the fort if all else failed. She would also scribe a scroll of Spider Climb, which would come in handy for scaling the fence, and/or the watchtowers. The group also decided to stop at Crazy Old Bokken‘s to collect the herbal, healing salves that Jane had asked him to make for us. An additional stop, to explore the hex NW of the Stag Lord’s fort

Over the course of the next few days, Segra returned from Restov with the Wand. The group noted that since Jane and Khrystos were the only Defenders who could use the wand, their safety was of utmost concern during the attack on the fort. Jane and Vincze spent two days scribing their scrolls, while Tad and Khrystos gathered together bandit

ambushed by tatzlwurms on the way back to Epitaph. Get back to Oleg’s uneventfully. Sell scale mail and sword. Get wand.

Head to Bokken.

1 Day to Gold Mine – avoid 3 trolls.

2 Day to River Ford – avoid 4 trolls

Day 3 get to Fangberry Patch uneventfully

Day 4 explore forest for clearing, freed the thylacine and gave it rations. Find wooded glen with a crow with a locket around it’s neck.

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Episode 17

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Travel from Epitaph to Elk Temple – 1 Day
Travel from Elk Temple to Stag Statue – 2 Day Fight bandits, capture 2. 2, including the leader, get away.
Travel Back to Elk Temple – 2Day
Interrogate

[Vincze:
At the Temple of Erastil, we questioned Jhod about his dealings with the half-elf, Marina, and he stated only that he’d “taken care of her” or something to that effect. He was strangely silent on the matter.

The battle we waged against the bandit cell at the statue of Erastil was more difficult than any of us had predicted. Tad successfully intimidated one bandit after pummeling one to death, while I levitated and held my “ground” with a Protection from Arrows spell (first time I’d used either of those spells; they both worked perfectly). Meanwhile, Khrystos/Skyduster and Jane/Toboe finally captured one bandit after various divine spell mishaps (a misguided Swarm spell and an ineffective Entangle spell). Their leader (Damish), apparently a multi-classed ranger/rogue, gave us the slip, although Tad nearly caught him. We managed to capture the bandit that Tad had intimidated although he too nearly escaped into the night. At the end of the evening, of the 5 original bandits, one was dead; two (including the leader) escaped; and two were captured. Khrystos and I both suffered serious wounds in the battle, but Jane healed us.

The next day, we returned to the Temple of Erastil, captives in tow. Khrystos and I interrogated one bandit in a cave within the temple, while Tad and Jane waited outside with the other one. Although I was using a Detect Thoughts spell, very little was learned from the first bandit; when Jane revealed to him that I was using magic to pry into his mind, he immediately shut his mind off from us, and refused to answer any more questions.

Khrystos then left the room to begin interrogating the second bandit in the hallway. In a clever ruse, Tad insinuated to the second bandit that his friend had just been killed for refusing to talk… and Khrystos just nodded in solemn agreement. Scared that he might be next, the second bandit quickly began offering information about the Stag Lord and his fort. The bandit described the fort, confirming Cass’ description that it was surrounded by a tall fence of spiked wooden beams, and that there were 3 watchtowers as well. He confirmed that there were 3 lieutenants who resided in the fort almost all the time, in addition to the Stag Lord himself. Further, there is apparently a monster (!) inside the fort that screams and hoots! He also told us that the bandits who escaped yesterday probably were headed back to the Stag Lord’s fort, and would report everything to the Stag Lord, necessitating a bandit password change. He confirmed that the fort’s password changes every week, and to obtain the new password, bandits gather at a grove about 1.5 days’ travel (by foot) NW from the fort. There, they make offerings to the gods, after which the password is bequeathed to them. He showed us the rough location of the grove on a map, and told us it’s “near a place where we have a trap set up to capture animals for food.”

My vision is cloudy. I’m not certain what the fates have in store for us next. We’re all pretty certain that we’ve blown any chance for subterfuge at this point; the bandits who escaped have probably relayed their story to the Stag Lord, assuming they made it back there alive. So the question before us now is: Do we journey to the grove of trees and attempt to obtain the latest password? Or, do we head back to Oleg’s, and prepare for a direct assault on the Stag Lord’s castle?

Nettle’s curse wears heavy upon me. I must rest now.]

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Episode 16 - Downtime at Oleg's

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Research the Stag LordVincze aids Khrystos
Train Horses – Vincze and Khrystos aid Janekfan
Forage for Food and Herbs – Jane
Meditating – Tad
Helping Oleg Leveton Build – Finish Stable and Start on House – Tad
Gemcutting – Tad

Order Wand of Cure Light – pay 250gp as downpayment (500 gp still owed)

[Vincze: Khrystos and Vincze discovered quite a bit about the Stag Lord using a combination of conversation with visitors and Detect Thoughts spells:
1. The SL’s keep is near where the Shrike River and Lake Tuskwater meet, about 2 days’ travel south of the Trading Post.
2. The SL has 3 lieutenants (Akiros, Auks, and Dovin) with him in his keep and an unknown number of other bandits.
3. There are three watchtowers in the keep. The keep is surrounded by a strong wooden fence, through which there is apparently only one entrance, the front entrance. The keep is surrounded by low hills.
4. Rumors that the SL is a big drunk were confirmed.
5. There are 5 ‘bandit cells’ that operate for the SL. The SL doesn’t know all of his bandits, but he has the password for entrance to his keep changed every week for security purposes. A trapper told us that one of the cells just set up camp near an old statue of Erastil, in the Gnarlmarches west of Jhod’s temple. The trapper said they are likely to be there for a few days]

[Vincze: The Greenbelt Defenders made a quick decision to seize this opportunity to find the bandit cell at the Erastil statue, in order to get the latest password for the SL’s keep. Before heading out, they] Go to Crazy Old Bokken‘s – order Mother’s Love.

After this, they spend a night at the Gold Mine; thankfully, no monsters were encountered on route. As they travel, the Defenders make plans for finding the SL’s keep and possibly infiltrating it… One potential problem is that they won’t be able to bring the Wand of Cure Light Wounds (which they ordered from Oleg just before leaving the Trading Post) with them, if they hope to reach the SL’s keep before the password expires! What to do?… They may be forced to act against the SL without the Wand. ]

Head to Epitaph, encounter Marina the half-elf from the temple. Apparently she has been talking smack about Cass and Father Jhod. Greenbelt Defenders follow her and confront her. She claims Cass tried to rape her, but Vincze reads her thought and learns that she forced herself on Cass and Jhod bought her off to keep her quiet.

[Vincze: During our next episode, the Defenders will continue west to Jhod’s temple, where they will question the cleric about the Marina situation. From there, they will head west in pursuit of the bandit cell.]

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Episode 15 - Curses
Foiled again!

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Following the harrowing experience with the Ghoul Queen, the Greenbelt Defenders spend morning recovering. Jane trains Elke. [Vincze: We sold off much of the Ghoul Queen’s treasure (except for the chalice which Khrystos wanted, and the comb which Jane wanted, and the crystal skull which I wanted). Then we talked about possibly pooling our money and buying a wand of Cure Light Wounds (we may do that next session)]. In the afternoon, they decide to go see Crazy Old Bokken. They order some potions and spend the night waiting for Bokken to prepare them. [Vincze: I spent this night doing divination techniques trying to uncover the source of my nightmares, and found out that I was cursed. I apparently am now chronically “fatigued” ; I suffer -2 on strength and dexterity, and I can’t run, or charge. Bad.]

[The next day, I woke from a nightmare-filled sleep, and approached everyone else and told them of my previous nights’ vision (see Vision 6 of Vincze’s Visions )]
…Then the group made their way to the gold mine, where they spend another night, uneventfully.

In the morning, Jane finds some tracks which Vincze identifies as possibly draconic. Knowing tatzlwurms are draconic in nature, the group sets off following the trail. After losing the trail, and taking a quick assessment of where they are, they head along the river towards Epitaph. Jane detects a moving bush, which lashes out with its brachticles. A shambling mound; a plant creature that caused them some trouble, almost killing Tad and Toboe, before having enough and running off. [Vincze: my and Khrystos’ horses bolted, and the two of us spent most of our time trying to get them back (I finally ended up casting Webs and stopping them in their tracks)]. They limp on to Epitaph and encounter some trappers who share their fire. They are starting to rebuild. As they fall asleep, Tad swears he hears Aggie speaking in a language that he doesn’t understand.

Mid- afternoon of the next day, they get to the Temple of the Elk. Jhod and Cass tend to their wounds and Vincze speaks to him about the curse she feels she is under. Jhod tells her the only way to break the curse is to do as Nettles has commanded. A more experienced priest may be able to do more, but Jhod’s faith is not that strong. [Vincze: Total bummer for me :( In addition, Kass (the bandit converted to an acolyte of Erastil) confirmed a number of things: (a) the Stag Lord’s fort is near where the Shrike meets Lake Tuskwater (but the fort isn’t right on the shore, so we can’t approach by water); (b) there are indeed rumors of an old man living as a prisoner in the Stag Lord’s basement; © the Stag Lord is a big lush—he likes his booze; and (d) while it may be possible to convert some of the Stag Lord’s bandit followers to a “better life” (like we did Kass), the Stag Lord himself seems irredeemable and hopelessly evil (too bad; no “Grinch That Stole Christmas” ending for us!).]

The Defenders spend the night. In the morning, Tad asks Cass what a proper offering would be. Cass responds, “Nothing is more satisfying than the fruits of a days labor.”. The Defenders take the day and help Cass and Jhod clear some land for crops. [Vincze: the temple has a new denizen since we were last here: a female, soft-spoken half-elf acolyte]. Following the days’ labor, the Defenders spend the night at the temple. [Vincze: I also told Jhod of our plans to vanquish the Stag Lord, and asked him if he would take care of Trixie if she survived and I didn’t. He said yes.]

In morning Jane teaches Jakul to Come and sells horsie to Jhod.

3 days back to Olegs pass uneventfully. [VincΩe: The Defenders have decided to spend the next few weeks at Oleg’s, training our horses for battle, to prevent future bolting. We are also ordering armor for all of our horses.]

8 days

100 xp

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Episode 14 - Fall of the Ghoul Queen

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The Greenbelt Defenders watched in disbelief as the undead monster disappeared into the hole in the floor. While Magda comforted Danell, the party had a quick meeting and came up with a strategy for hunting down the horrid ghouls (for Tad, with his religious training in his monastery, confirmed that they were, indeed, ghouls): First, Tad would take Trixie, and using their darkvision, they would pursue the ghoul that grabbed Danell. Toboe would head down the same hole, but search the tunnel in the opposite direction as Tad and Trixie. Vincze and Jane, meanwhile, would guard the hole where the ghoul had just escaped, and Khrystos would watch the middens “sinkhole” where Magda’s husband had been dragged just a short time ago. Magda and Danell were hurried up onto the Trading Post walls and guarded by Keston Garess and his men.

Before the party split up, Vincze cast Mage Armor on Tad; Khrystos cast Mage Armor on Toboe, and gave his Wand of Magic Missiles to Vincze; and Jane cast Light on Toboe’s armor. Tad then warned everyone of a ghoul’s frightening ability to paralyze with scratches from their claws—and the fact that a person injured or killed by a ghoul has a high probability of becoming a ghoul themselves! Khrystos quickly went and checked where they’d left Magda’s husband’s body in the yard, and they were all relieved to hear that the body hadn’t been moved.

Tad and Trixie crawled through the tunnel after the ghoul who attacked Danell. Toboe headed into the same tunnel, but in the opposite direction as Tad and Trixie. Jane, meanwhile, cast Cure Light Wounds on Danell and restored his health.

Toboe soon discovered, to his surprise, that his part of the tunnel ended abruptly in a somber scene: a large cavern filled with human remains. Tad, meanwhile, reached the “middens”, where Khrystos was standing guard; Khrystos let the girls know of Tad’s whereabouts. After a short detour into a side-tunnel which led beneath the stables, Tad found himself followed by a ghoul (Trixie’s panic alerted him), sneaking up behind him. The rabbit-familiar lent her Diviner’s Fortune to the monk, helping him to rapidly dispense the foul creature with a “Flurry of Blows” delivered with his strong half-orc feet.

Meanwhile, above-ground, another ghoul clambered out of the middens and started straight towards Khrystos! The sorcerer yelled out in terror, prompting Jane to run to the window of the building she was in and land a well-placed arrow into its putrid, rotting flesh. Just then, Vincze—who was already heading to the middens as a result of being alerted by Trixie’s panicked emotional state—let loose a Magic Missile, which put an end to the undead being.

Desperate to reach Tad & Trixie, Vincze descended into the middens and tried to crawl down the tunnel towards them. This proved to be slow-going, however, so she read her Scroll of Reduce Person. At the same time, Trixie alerted Tad to another ghoul, headed straight towards them. Tad let loose with some martial-arts moves, again aided by Trixie’s Diviner’s Fortune. The ghoul, however, kept coming, clawing at the monk’s face and paralyzing him. Just then, the newly reduced Vincze reached Tad and—remembering the wand that Khrystos had lent her—finished off the ghoul with a wand-produced Magic Missile. Vincze pushed aside the defeated ghoul, scooped up Trixie, and (seeing that Tad was overcoming his paralysis) headed back towards the middens. After shaking off the ghoul’s poison, Tad continued down the tunnel, away from the middens and (from what Tad could deduce) out of Oleg’s Trading Post altogether.

Toboe, meanwhile, having been summoned back by Jane, was now exploring the last remaining tunnel: the one leading from the middens, from which a ghoul reached out and scratched Khrystos at the end of last episode. From what Jane could surmise from their empathic link, Toboe soon reached some sort of barrier and seemed confused. Unsuccessful in his attempt to climb over the barrier, the wolf turned back to the middens.

All this time, above-ground, Khrystos was watching intently as Skyduster circled the Trading Post, searching for any additional ghoul-holes from the air. (Luckily, it was a clear night, and the moon was nearly full). After a few minutes: Success!—his keen owl-eyes spotted a hole right in the middle of the field that Oleg Leveton and Tad had recently been plowing. Khrystos quickly alerted Jane and Keston, and then he & Jane headed out the main gate and into the field. Jane, with her low-light elven vision, descended into the hole and crawled along (there were two directions in this tunnel; she followed her instincts and headed away from the Trading Post). After a short time she reached a point where the tunnel opened up a bit, and she was faced with a steep slope that seemed to go up about 30 feet. This made absolutely no sense at all to Jane, since she couldn’t have been more than 5 feet underground! But with a successful Will save, she managed to keep her wits about her and return to the field to give Khrystos the news. A few minutes later, Tad appeared in the tunnel—crawling steadily forward with his monk’s nimbleness, he had indeed left the Trading Post and was now standing in the middle of the field with Khrystos and Jane. Jane relayed what she had found to Tad, and Tad went to see for himself. Easily climbing the 30-foot slope, he heard a woman’s voice coming from the darkness at the top: “Has one of my children returned? What spoils do you have for me, my child?” Could he have found the ghoul’s lair?—Who was this woman? Tad quickly climbed back down to get reinforcements.

Vincze meanwhile discovered Toboe, confused in the middens, staring down the tunnel he had just explored. Curious, she and Trixie headed down the tunnel. She convinced Toboe to follow them. She saw what had confounded the wolf: a tunnel ascending about 50 feet up! Try as she might, Vincze failed her Will save and stood transfixed, temporarily losing two Wisdom points as her mind attempted to grasp the situation. Finally, she was able to compose herself, and she, Trixie and Toboe tried climbing up the slope. Trixie made it to the top first, but didn’t find anything—all Vincze received was a feeling of “suspense” and curiosity from the rabbit. Vincze, still at the bottom of the slope after failing her Climb roll, sensed that her Reduce Person spell was about to end, and made haste to the middens, where she could safely assume her normal stature. At that point, Toboe nearly made it to the top of the slope, but failed his last Climb roll and fell 40 feet, landing on the dirt with a thud! Vincze quickly summoned Trixie back to the middens, and then waited as the seriously-injured wolf slunk his way back to them. After feeding Toboe one of her potions of Cure Light Wounds, she and Trixie climbed out of the middens. Then, after asking Keston where the others were, left the Trading Post and headed into the field to join them.

The Defenders discussed everything they’d seen. It appeared likely that Tad had indeed found the ghouls’ lair, and the voice he’d heard was the voice of their leader. The four entered the tunnels again, intent on reaching the ghoul’s leader and putting an end to the vile, undead infestation of their adopted home. All four reached the top of the slope: Tad first, Jane second, Vincze third and Khrystos last. They were greeted by that eerie, female voice once again! At the top of the slope was a short tunnel that opened (after a short 10-foot drop) into a cavern where Tad was the first to see their opponent: a statuesque female ghoul, dressed in tattered vestments, chanting away to herself… Vincze identified the spell she was casting was Protection from Good. Tad moved to engage the evil hag while his companions, one-by-one, dropped into the cavern. The foul Ghoul Queen reached out and with one finger, opened up a gaping hole in the half-orc’s chest! (was it a Cause Moderate Wounds spell?), and Tad realized that his martial arts moves (Flurry of Blows and Stunning Fist) would be ineffectual against this opponent. Jane fired an arrow at the hag but missed, while Vincze and Khrystos fired Magic Missiles at it, doing some serious damage to it. Next round, Tad switched to his commas[sic] [Chris – kamas], but failed to connect any of his blows against the monster! She began chanting again, and Tad found himself engulfed in flames! He felt his health rapidly fading away. Jane came to his rescue by conjuring a Flaming Sphere, rolling it at the Ghoul Queen, incinerating her in a puff of smoke. Thus fell the evil Ghoul Queen! Victorious, the Defenders searched the ghouls’ lair and found a heap of treasure, including some magic items (detailed below).

Epilogue: Over the next few days, with the elven druid Jane at his side to comfort and heal him, the young boy Danell made a full recovery. Apparently, he had not contracted the dread disease which causes a slow, painful transformation from ‘living person’ to ‘undead ghoul’.

500xp

You find the following

27pp, 242gp, 134sp, 947cp, three magical potions, three magical scrolls, an uncut onyx, an uncut zircon, a saltwater pearl, a crystal skull, a polished darkwood kuksa (it’s a drinking cup), a silver comb with an ornate handle that looks like a tree branch, and a silver chalice carved with images of faeries frolicking.

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