Kingmakers!

Diplomacy, Schlomancy, part 2
The library is open. Again.

We return to town to find another missive from the Mayor of Varnhold.

Esteemed High Oracle Isolda,

We thank you for drawing our attention to the threat in the uncivilized portions of Nomen. We have dispatched our own Nomenic task force to assess the situation and dispatch whatever creature is threatening our superstitious natives. Your assistance is no longer required.

Once again, we express our appreciation for your part in handling this situation, and look forward to many years of cooperation between our two nations.

Cordially,
Maegar Varn, Mayor of Varnhold, First Steward of Nomen

We reply. (Natural 20 Diplomacy roll! 31 total.)

Maegar Varn, Mayor of Varnhold:

We are delighted to hear that you can deal with the threats within your chartered territories. We feel as good neighbors that we need to inform you of our discoveries thus far in this endeavor. You will require magic capable of trapping and damaging an ethereal creature. My arcane advisor, Graeme Koenigs, has informed me that Force magic can affect ethereal creatures. Through our research and exploration within our own territories we also acquired a sword which the creature may have a particular weakness to. We would be happy to loan this weapon to you until such time as the creature has been dispatched. We are also willing to assist personally if you do not have worthy adventurers capable of dealing with this powerful magical threat.

Cordially yours,
Isolda Thrace, High Oracle of the free territories of Hartswood

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Fools Rush In
Fae Bower of Doooooom

uhuraii.jpgAt the top of the stubby tower Graeme finds a beautiful woman somehow both dancing alluringly and fighting with his air elemental. With a shake of his head, he shrugs off her strangely compelling beauty.

She turns and casts an Entangle spell, causing grass and vines to sprout across the entire floor of the chamber except for a small sliver of floor where she stands. Graeme is thoroughly entangled, but continues to hurl spells at her, only half of which seem to actually affect her. He mutters, “fucking fey spell resistance.”

As each of the party climbs the stairs and enters the room we slowly learn that most of the party’s sexual orientation is “opportunistic,” as each person except for Isolda enters the room only to find themselves staring, slack-jawed, at the beautiful dancing lady. Spells are ineffectually thrown back and forth for a while until she grows frustrated and crosses the room to grapple Graeme. She succeeds in grappling him and proceeds to drain copious amounts of blood by savaging Graeme’s neck. Fortunately, in doing so, she had to stop dancing, which allows Elean and Handel to soundly thrash her.

There was much kerfluffle, she moves back across the room, more blows are traded, and she’s eventually defeated. There was much treasure. Such wow.

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Where castle?
There castle.

Approaching the small elven keep, Elean attempts to scout the main archway leading into the courtyard and somehow triggers the portcullis. It falls, narrowly missing him. Isolda then levitates Elean to the top of the wall, and he informs the party that there appears to be a breach in the far wall, so we carefully skirt the outer wall to reach the fallen bit of wall on the castle’s backside. [innuendo] The party enters from the rear. [/innuendo]

As we begin to carefully enter and explore the courtyard, Handel is rudely attacked by a creature that moves so fast we only see it as blur. After being stabbed by the creature, Handel feels weaker and a bit sickly (CON drain). Graeme, Isolda, and Thrash attempt to parlay with what they’re relatively certain is a fae creature, but Handel has been angered by the creature’s attack and is uninterested in diplomacy. A fight ensues. There is a lot of running to and fro chasing the speedy little fae until he is finally dispatched by a readied magic missile from Graeme.

We approach to inspect the downed fae, discovering a magic short sword and a few other interesting baubles. In the course of our corpse searching, Elean is surprised by an attacking vine whipping out from the nearest tower. Before he even has time to react, he’s also attacked by another strange fae creature jumping off the tower. We eventually dispatch the creatures and explore the tower only to find a chest we cannot open. No, seriously. Graeme even attempted to Knock the chest, and it still didn’t open. (He rolled poorly.) We decide to leave it and come back later.

One of the other towers appears to only contain rubble, the 3rd contains only rats, but the last seems to have a newer door than the rest of the keep. After gaining entry and cleverly discovering an urn of full of treasure (by knocking it on the floor and spilling gold and gems everywhere) we quickly determine that this must’ve been the home of the Quickling we dispatched upon first entering the keep.

Last, but not least, we approached the building in the middle of the keep. The first floor seems oddly foggy. Elean, Thrash, and Handel enter. Things get weird. From outside the doorway, Isolda and Graeme sense impending doom, quickly confirmed when Elean attacks Handel. Assuming that his friends have been charmed by someone or something in the tower, Graeme summons an air elemental on the stairway which he commands to ascend and kill whatever it finds there. Isolda casts a calming spell on all of the inhabitants of the building’s first floor, and everyone continues to act strangely distrustful, but the violence ends. Shortly thereafter, Graeme rushes through the room, shakes his head and looks around wildly, but then continues on his course running up the stairs.

At the top of the stairs, Graeme finds his air elemental engaged in combat with…

…to be continued.

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ISO Elven Ruins
...and long hikes in the woods

The next morning we set out for the elven ruins to the west. We take the most expedient route toward the settlement of Tatzylford, dispatch some wandering (flying) tatzylworms along the way, and rest for the night upon arriving at Tatzylford.

After Tatzylford, we make a quick stop at the dryad and satyr’s grove in the hopes of gathering some intel on the elven ruins and to get a little nookie. Alas, the fae know nothing of the elven ruins, and the party regretfully moves, but at least some of us got nookie.

After journeying to the west for a while we encountered a strange hole in the ground in the middle of a field of wild flowers. It looks as if a giant hand from the heavens has scooped out a bit of earth and carried it away. Handel climbs a tree and indicates, “large stone thing that way.”

“A tomb?” asks Thrash.

“Yeah, that,” replies Handel.

So, the party sets out in that direction, and we discover not a tomb, but what appears to be a long-abandoned castle of elven design.

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Civic Planning
zoning laws are so in season this year

After dealing with the burial mounds, our party spends a day and a night in Stagshelm. During this time, Graeme unveils the civic planning that he’s been working on “in his spare time.” Discussion ensues, plans are adjusted, but a general plan is agreed upon: civic planning, Staghelm map, and Hartswood regional map.

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We Own You
Elean's Story

Also upon our return to Staghelm, Elean informs us of his past dealings with Humble Ned, the leader of an unsavory group of rogues who took Elean in and took care of him during a difficult period of his life. Unfortunately, they still feel that he owes them a debt, an unpayable and permanent one. Apparently Humble Ned is now calling upon Elean to help him and his associates establish a foothold in our burgeoning nation.

There is much discussion amongst the group on how to handle this revelation, and no real consensus is reached. Elean replied to Humble Ned stating that they should discuss terms but made no promises.

Graeme also informed the group that if he could make it so, he would build a community utterly devoid of crime, but he recognizes that this isn’t really possible. He trusts the group to make decisions in regards to any sort of organized thieves guild within our nation, but he would rather not be informed of related actions in the future.

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Diplomacy, Schlomancy

Upon our return to Staghelm, a message is waiting for us.

Esteemed leaders of the township of Staghelm: The stalwart citizens of the nation of Nomen are eager to maintain friendly relations with our neighbors to the West. However, representatives of your village have recently been observed in the mountains near Lake Silverstep currying favor with the native tribes of that region. I ask that you once again review the charter graciously granted to you by the Swordlords of Aldori, which clearly states the geographical boundaries of your fledgling community. In the interests of preserving the friendship between our growing nations, in future, I urge you to respect the conditions of your charter and refrain from entering Nomenic lands uninvited.

Cordially,
Maegar Varn, Mayor of Varnhold, First Steward of Nomen

We reply. (Diplomacy roll of 30.)

To our esteemed neighbors at Varnhold: We are sorry for the perceived trespassing. We were unaware that you had decreed closed borders between our territories. We graciously responded to a cry for help, and we found evidence of a monster, a danger to your community as well as the village of Gloym. It also isn’t outside the realm of possibility that this threat could move into our territories, so we have a vested interest in dealing with it. We’re in the process of doing so now. If you wish close borders or wish us to refuse pleas for help from your territories in the future, please let us know, but in the meantime we must continue on our errand of mercy. In the future we will be sure to send notice before crossing into your territories. Obviously, we will need to cross into your territories at least once more in pursuit of resolving this issue.

Cordially,
Isolda Thrace, High Oracle of the free territories of Hartswood

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Hartswood
the free territories

It’s so exciting! Our band of merry adventurers and erstwhile kingdom builders have finally agreed upon the name of our lands. From this moment forward we shall be known as Hartswood with Stagshelm as our capitol city. Let the Hartswoden peoples rejoice!

Hartswood.jpg

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Lovely Burial Lumps
my humps, my humps

We set out from Staghelm to explore the regions immediately to the East where we suspect we can find burial mounds to defeat the wiitikowan and save the people of Gloym.

In our first day of travels we’re just minding our own business when we’re attacked by a pack of wolves led by a Worg. Graeme unveils his new fireball spell and destroys all but the Worg and one wolf. The Worg immediately charges Graeme, biting him and knocking him to the ground. The party leaps into action attacking the two assailants, and on Graeme’s next action he discovers that he is actually wearing a cursed robe that completely incapacitates him. The party soon prevails, and Graeme proceeds to throw a temper tantrum at his robe which apparently can no longer be removed. After much consternation he determines that he can destroy the robe with force missiles and proceeds to do so.

On the next day we discover a rocky cleft in the side of a hill. Upon slipping inside, Elean discovers hexagonal chamber with walls covered in intricate decorative carvings. Also, bat swarms. After defeating the bats, we move into the next chamber, also hexagonal with hallways in four walls and the remaining walls in each of the cardinal directions are carved with strange faces meant to represent a malevolent version of the four winds. There is a skeletal corpse lying in the midst of the room. Detect magic reveals that the faces radiate necromancy, and Elean cleverly triggers the trap by moving into the room. Each member of the party is attacked by some sort of enfeebling necromantic ray, but only Laurence is fully affected, and skeletons begin shuffling into the chamber from the two side hallways. We slowly dispatch them. The two side hallways lead to chambers housing biers, likely the source of the skeletons we just fought.

Moving through the final hallway, we discover a single catafalque bearing a well-preserved corpse holding a sword. Graeme studies the room and informs everyone that the sword radiates Conjuration while the corpse radiates Necromancy. Just as Graeme and Elean are beginning to debate the best course of action, the corpse sits up, and combat ensues. “Oh shit,” says Graeme. “That’s a wight.” Combat ensues. Weapons and spells fly. The wight’s touch drains life force from Handel before we succeed in defeating him. Graeme informed Handel at in roughly a day an echo of the wight’s drain will wrack his body, and at that point he will either rise above it and shake off the effect or it will become permanent.

After the battle we decide to camp outside the tomb and rest for the night. As we settle into camp, Graeme casts Identify on the recovered sword and determines that it is a broken +2 Fae Bane long sword. The “broken” condition gives a -2 to attacks and damage, essentially counterbalancing the sword’s pluses, but the Fae Bane effect is still fully effective.

The next morning we return to Staghelm.

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Any Sufficiently Advanced Magic...
...is seen as godhood

Thanks to Trindon‘s iron constitution, the village of Gloym finally accepts our help which we oh so graciously provide, and they tell us their goddess, Istria’s dolmen is at the top of a waterfall to the Northeast of the village. The pepper challengers regroup with Isolda and Graeme and set out to find Istria’s dolmen.

dolmen.jpgUpon reaching the dolmen at top of the waterfall, the party is attacked by a strange emotional malaise that threatens to overwhelm them with a suicidal depression. Next to a cliff. Convenient. Probably also not coincidentally, we are attacked at that moment by an undead raven. We managed to dispatch the raven, but not before Elean and Laurence flung themselves off the cliff. Thinking quickly, Graeme grabbed his bonded amulet and cast an unprepared Featherfall upon the leapers as well as himself, Handel, and Thrash. All of the enspelled folks drifted slowly to the lake below, leaving Isolda to take the long way around and bring the party’s remaining mounts.

In the lake below we quickly ascertain that there is a small island, and upon it appears to be the body of a woman, but before we can investigate further we are attacked by a stromkarl, a fish-tailed male water-spirit. The party quickly ascertained that something strange… er… even stranger was afoot, because this clearly male-torsoed water spirit was shouting, “leave a mother alone in her grief.” Fey don’t always conform to gender norms, but this still somehow struck the party as a little odd, and we eventually figured out that the spirit of the woman on the island was possessing the stromkarl. Counter to our usual frontal assault methods, we managed to end the fight and engage the spirit in conversation.

Long story short (too late!), the poor woman’s daughter died from some sort of illness, and she came to Istria seeking answers to why her family was taken away from her. A raven attacked the body of her dead daughter at the dolmen above, and in her fight with the raven both she and the body of her daughter eventually plunged into the lake below. Since that time she has been possessing Istria’s lover, the stromkarl. Some combination of the woman’s spirt and the stromkarl were able to tell us that Istria resides in her mountain home just south of Lake Silverstep, and the stromkarl was able to open the way but unwilling to impart that knowledge while still possessed.

After much deliberation and agreement that Graeme was the least threatening party member (if he doesn’t have his spells), Graeme very reluctantly agrees to allow the woman’s spirit to possess him in order to visit Istria and, perhaps, find some closure. Upon the spirit’s migration, the stromkarl gifts the party with a braided ring of his hair which will open the way to Istria’s mountain home.

The route to Istria’s home is a steep mountain climb. This was, as is our usual luck, interrupted by an avalanche. Elean and Handel quickly skirted to the side of the avalanche while Graeme cast levitate and lifted himself with Isolda and Thrash clinging to him into the sky above the tumble. The floating adventurers unfortunately caught the attention of a Giant Owl. They waved and hoped it wouldn’t attack. Thankfully, it did not, but it was very scary.

8d137d5ec9fa9e86f2e4b4fe32ba02b3.jpgFinally, the party reaches their objective, an audience with Istria. It turns out that she is a mercurial and powerful fey spirit, and not a goddess at all. She is mystified why the village worships her, but she is not entirely without pity. Despite not actually being a goddess, Istria is moved by the woman’s story and apologizes that she could not save the child. Finally finding resolution and some marginal sense of peace, woman’s spirit leaves Graeme’s body and moves on to the next world. Istria goes on to explain to the party that upset over a perceived slight by her companion stromkarl, Byard, she created the wiitikowan, a bestial force that began ravaging the Ughur people. (See “mercurial” above.) Unfortunately, she does not have the ability to unmake the creature.

Istria does, however, know how to defeat the creature. She’s just uninterested in doing so herself, so she tells the party that they must find an ancient weapon of the peoples who used to occupy this region from burial mounds nearby-ish as well as discover elven magics to contain the ethereal creature in order to defeat the wiitikowan. She then gives the party a crystal flower that the village will recognize as coming from their “goddess,” and helpfully teleports them back to their steeds, whereupon they travel back to the village.

Stunned at the party’s possession of direct evidence of their “goddess,” the village welcomes the party, the entire party, with open arms. However, the party informs them that their plight has not yet ended, and seeks the village’s aid in finding nearby burial mounds and elves in order to defeat the wiitikowan. The party deigned to shake the entire village’s worldview and decided not to disillusion them as to the true nature of their “goddess.”

It turns out that the burial mounds as well as rumored elven ruins are relatively near Staghelm, so after overthinking and discussing things thoroughly, our party decides to return home while exploring uncharted terrain along the way.

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