The Mystery of the Empty Keep

Having vaporized the vaporous menace of the Wiitikowan, our intrepid heroes returned to Stagholm. They continued about their business, slightly anticlimactically after destroying a legendary monster. After some debate, they allowed Istvan and Marik to go back to Varnhold, and did some administration work around town. A few days later, Istvan and Marik come riding hard back into town, claiming that the people of Varnhold have disappeared!!

Our intrepid adventures saddle up and head out to Varnhold to try to solve the mystery. On the way, they’re trapped in the pass by a Bulette, who manages to vaporize Laurence with a well placed claw-claw-bite. Thrash is psychologically destroyed, but the party solders on to Varnhold, where they find the town mostly abandoned, except for a Dire Boar who pops out and totally gets fucked up all to hell by Handel and Elean, who are basically this team’s superstar players. Like, seriously, these guys are monsters of monsterslaying.

Anyway, our intrepid adventurers wander around town a bit more, stopping into the tannery and finding some tanned centaur hides, which is gross, because centaurs are sentient and nice. Marik and Istvan claim that Varnhold has been having some trouble with the local centaur tribe. Maybe they’d have less trouble if they didn’t skin and tan the hides of their enemies. Shit is gross.

Then our heroes wandered across the bridge, and we stopped game.

Fae-d to Black

We decide to take a little time to focus on civic projects, and Graeme starts working on some magical Bracers of Armor. He completes one pair and starts on a second when…

teddy-bear-omg.jpgIn the middle of the night we’re awoken by the town guard, because apparently a strange bear is attacking the wall, a bear that won’t die. We groggily, except for Isolda who seems quite excited by night adventuring, make our way to the city wall to look down upon the bear. Graeme Lightning Bolts it, and it runs toward the farms, so we leap over the wall with a Feather Fall and chase it down. We eventually kill it, and discover that it’s under the effect of some sort of fae possession.

After Isolda consults Desna, she decides to completely ignore her goddess and takes us on a wild goose chase into some empty plainsland near Stag’s Helm. We encounter a few other fae-possessed animals, but nothing significant. Attempting to track these animals to their origin is also fruitless. Altogether, it’s an excellent waste of a couple of days, so we return to town.

As Graeme completes his second set of magic bracers, our second scouting party fails to return at their appointed hour. Off we go again!

We encounter a scouting party from Nomen, or the remains of one. Merick and Istvahn have lost the rest of their party while hunting the Witikowan. After conversing with them for a moment, the air grows noticeably colder. It quickly becomes apparent that this is not a normal temperature shift, and the party prepares for battle, dismounting and finding defensible positions.

The Witikowan materializes from rising mist. Combat ensues. Graeme casts the force sphere, and the party attacks, eventually dispatching the strange creature after it discovers that it cannot escape via mistform. Hooray!

Bored now. Let's explore!

leucrotta_1_color_Ryan_Rhodes.jpgWhile waiting for a response to our diplomatic message, we send Handel off with a party of workers and a cart to retrieve the heavy valuables from the Elven Keep. We also decide that the remainder of our merry band will explore some new territories within our charter.

Our first encounter is a Leucrota. It tries to ensnare us by mimicking a woman’s voice screaming for help, but thankfully its ploy fails. It’s a bizarre bony stag-badger thing, but we efficiently dispatch it.

hill_giant_chief.jpgMoving on, we hear some loud slurred speech coming from over a nearby short rise. It’s a language that we don’t recognize until Isolda casts her Comprehend Language spell. Long story short, there’s a (hill?) giant named Munguk who’s sad that he’s run out of moonshine. A crazy plan is hatched whereby Isolda attempts to communication with him via Ghost Sound, but this proves challenging, and she eventually simply stands on the rise and converses with him normally. Thankfully, he understands Common. Munguk is not only lacking moonshine, but also friends. Isolda offers to be his friend, and he informs her that he also needs a big lady friend. After an uncomfortable silence, the subject is changed, and we discover that he tried to befriend some trolls. They didn’t like him. We ascertain roughly where the trolls are located within our chartered lands for future reference. Eventually, Munguk follows us like a lost puppy, a very large lost puppy, as we continue to explore.

The next area we enter is a bit marshy. Upon encountering a strange clump of mushrooms and vegetation, we decide to investigate, but as we approach… OH MY GODS, WHAT IS THAT THING?!? It rears up on a viney snake-like body and roars through its scary dripping, thorn-lined maw. Elean attempts to circle the thing looking for a vulnerable area to strike, and he gets engulfed and partially digested for his troubles. Thankfully Murguk, our giant friend, is with us, because he decimates the thing with a particularly powerful greatclub strike.

After successfully exploring the chartered areas we set out to see, we decide to return to Staghelm. Elean rides ahead of us to warn the town about our new giant friend, and we determine that he would make a good mascot and ally for our burgeoning capitol city. Kept happy with a steady supply of moonshine, he will likely act as a good deterrent to marauders and invading armies.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Isolda Thrace, High Oracle of the free territories of Hartswood


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