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 Post subject: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
PostPosted: November 8th, 2018, 11:32 pm 
Burning my Dread.
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Hey, it's another of these things from me where I keep a running journal of an active D&D game for the few who may be interested or involved in it!

Locations revealed: 
Tycci (tie-chi) - The continent in question
Somnophis (sahm-no-fiss) - Central hub of a six-town region
Trisme Gate (triz-um, gate) - Northwest town, farmland, home to a great library
Astraere (ahst-rare) - Southwest city, fine goods and arts hub
Dispatere (diss-puh-tear) - Militant town bordering the desert

Characters mentioned: 
Gildie (guild-ee) - Human Fighter/Ranger, DEX melee focus, hunter's guild receptionist. Topsummoner's character
Garn (rhymes with barn) - Firbolg* Ranger, DEX archery / beastmaster focus, hermit. Ex Rex's character.
Tacin (tah-sin) - Human Lore Bard, apprentice Bard adventurer. Jaron's character.
Ember - Tiefling Forge Cleric, formerly deceased craftswoman and wizard.
Riyae (ree-yay) - Deva* Divination Wizard, scholar and Trisme librarian.
Kiran (ky-ron) - Dwarf Monk/Barbarian hybrid, disinherited wanderer.
Enna (en-nuh) - Half-elf Paladin, town travelling helper. Kiri's sister.
Kiri (kee-ree) - Halfling Cleric, town travelling helper. Enna's sister.
Hashken (hah-sh-ken) - Green Dragonborn Sorcerer, diplomat and inter-town aide to Ember.
Algras (all-guh-rass) - Eladrin, unknown class, overseer of a dragon's lair.
*Firbolg are part elf, part giant forest guardians.
*Deva are angels who used to walk the world as adventurers.

Plot given: 
20 years before the game starts, a wave of chaos blasts upon the world at the change of the year. No continent is spared the sensations of what might be called a Dark Age: demons roam freely in greater numbers, clergy reported feeling no connection to their deities anymore, and the seasons began gradually shifting to a darker, colder, wetter year. This pandemonium was highlighted by what is known as the Great Gnoll Raid, a surge of gnolls appearing from numerous points along every continent in a mad effort to consume anything that bleeds.

The raid was largely held back by the combined efforts of all armies and militia of the land led by the champions, clerics, and veterans of both Kord's and Bane's elite followers. The tide was stemied, but at the cost of almost all the devoted of these two gods. One by one the others' starts winked and faded, until few were left. At present, only the Raven Queen, Sehanine, Ioun, Vecna, Torog, and Asmodeus still shine in the sky, with the three evil being the only at full strength.

Tycci's salvation came in the form of a seasoned adventurer in Ember rapidly fortifying the Somnophis area enough that its people could find safety within a fortress' walls, able to defend itself until starvation took the gnolls and the strength in numbers faded. With the region safe, she found herself partnering with the Deva Riyae to spend the next twenty years rebuilding the region to its former glory or further.

Session 1: Festival of Seasons: 
Game begins in Somnophis, during a season's change festival from Summer to Fall, on a mercifully clear, sunny day. A play is being performed in the evening, with a knight set to win his maiden's kiss at midnight. He is interrupted by a bolt of lightning that sets the stage aflame, and a downpour barraging the townsfolk. The people are called onto the stage, wherein the tent is pulled over it to protect the people from the rain. While everyone is going over why the weather changed as it did, one townsfolk stumbled forward in a trance and, in a voice well not his own, uttered what could only be a prophecy before collapsing.

Ember takes it to heart, having come into possession of a painting that could only have been done by her in her sleep... except she's no painter, never having put brush to canvas in her life. As the people look over the picture for its significance, her attention wanders to something that grabs her attention, and only hers, leaving the tent for a moment before returning with a needle-like fragment of something between a gemstone and glass shard. She crushes it in her hand, orange electricity crackling through her arm before she glows in its light for a second. None left can deny the circumstances are too odd to ignore. After all, an adventurer of two lifetimes and two varieties of magic claims to not know what the power she grasped comes from. Only that it's not the first, and always seemingly from somewhere steeped in religious or historical significance.

At this point, Tacin steps forward to confirm who exactly she is. An outsider to this region, he was advised to seek her out to offer himself as a fledgling adventurer who might be available to help if help is needed. Gildie, nearby, had been whisked away due to a misunderstanding by Ember about her intentions, having said in days past that she wished to taste the adventuring life instead of seeing it from behind a desk. Ember takes these two at their word and guides them (with only a little arm twisting) past the fortress-sized inn, wherein its cloud giant proprietor asks what the news is with this dreary weather. She's more interested in the precense of an eight foot tall stranger at a table, the firbolg Garn, who for lack of a better goal in mind agrees her requests for help are worth a listen.

Ember turns out to be in possession of three more of these "shards of power", one of each red, blue, and green. After some explanation that it seems to be a poor idea to try to shatter one color after attuning to another, she makes the nature of her request known; she wants the trio to be a fresh group of eyes, a new perspective on the land, to scout for what's what while making a delivery of the shards and her painting to Riyae in Trisme Gate. As she tries to convince the trio of the importance of this, one of the townsfolk from the tent comes by her forge with a clay statue of a golem-like creature adorned with many gods' symbols in positions that imply being within its grasp. With the religious importance of the request set further in stone, the trio agrees, and allows Ember to pay for a night in the cloud giant's inn.

The inn, aside from being a gaudy display of some of the most expensive looking pieces of treasure a thief could wish to even appraise, is incredibly comfortable, putting the trio in good enough spirits to try to get to know each other over breakfast. Ember, meanwhile, has prepared a starter pack of sorts for the group, a few relatively common but still useful magic items and proper gear set for the newfound adventurer in Gildie. With their mission re-stated, they depart to the northwest, cloaks tight around their bodies to fight off the cold and wet of the still heavy downpour.

At a halfway house, a rest house and prayer chapel combined, they're greeted with the building abandoned and coated in dust, empty of life save a scarcely clad dwarf, Kiran, stoking the fireplace. He makes it clear that he's not at all the owner or caretaker, merely trying to escape the rain, before making a clumsy attempt at starting stew for the team. He makes a little history of himself known, that he's a traveler who isn't allowed among his family anymore and doesn't want much to do with direct society anymore. He still cares for the people, though, enough to observe from afar, and protect off the beaten path. He leaves the stew to boil while looking outside for an unlikely traveler, and finds a less likely surprise. The trio is interrupted from rest by his reaction; a furious scream akin to a bear's roar, a smash into the wall near the entry doors, and the sight of a dead goblin corpse being flung into another goblin that gets toppled over.

And so the fight breaks out, with the party making their way out rapidly to find Kiran surrounded by seven goblin, but looking past them around the corner of the building to a Hobgoblin hanging behind to give orders. He is cut numerous times, but shrugs it off as he punches a hole through the group, pins the hobgoblin, and almost breaks his neck with one well placed punch of his bare hand. The party is left to deal with the seven smaller goblins, who end up unable to regroup in time to ambush the rookie trio. It ends up four-against-three before Kiran realizes he did indeed leave the smaller Goblins behind, catching his fists aflame before ending the hobgoblin and three of the lessers in one swift swoop. By battle's end, only Garn takes any true injury, a single scimitar slash to his shin.

Gildie recognizes goblin culture well enough to know this was a scouting party using the rain as cover to move closer to the road, and makes out their tracks as having come from the southeast as well. Kiran takes off in a dash to ensure there are none more coming, leaving the trio to recouperate for a few moments. As Garn remains near the entrance to find some suitable food off them for his pet, he hears ravenous chewing sounds from outside, seeing a gnoll with its mouth happily around the hobgoblin corpse's arm. With his own personal hatred of gnolls fuming, he begins the second round of fighting with a swift arrow directly between the eyes of the demon.

The damage isn't lethal, but is enough to cause a shriek that alerts all surrounding people, even the distant Kiran. The dwarf doesn't make it back in time to join the second fray, but Gildie is able to stand firm before two gnolls and bounce away every would-be attack against her while sword, arrow, and mockery spell assail the demons to their end. Fearing another search party of gnolls, Kiran agrees to make up for his running off in the wrong direction by carrying the corpses some three hundred feet away to ensure no further scouts prioritize the halfway house, offering the team a chance to properly rest for the hour. Stew's cooking, after all.

Session 2: The Trisme Gait: 
The party feels somewhat stronger for their experiences, yet their journey has only just begun, and the day only half spent. Unfortunately for them, the constant cloud cover casting the dready downpour on the land only makes it seem later than it is; despite their earnest desire to get to know each other and their new comrade in Kiran, time has to cut their conversation short. Tacin is willing to muse to the group over his understandable, deep-rooted worry about Ember's sense of responsibility in giving three perfect strangers a mission to carry mysterious and prophetic items, shards of power, and gifts of magic items for the sake of unraveling a seemingly continent-wide mystery. For what little Kiran knows of Ember through eavesdropping on local travelers, he knows she's well praised among many in the region, enough to abate the group's fears somewhat.

In his desire to pay his debt of leaving the group alone for the would-be Gnoll ambush, Kiran accompanies the trio the rest of the way to Trisme Gate's borders before excusing himself. Evening falls and the town awaits, dimly lit by torches casting lights from within homes and along the outside of the great library at the town's center. A building built to rival the size of the Somno Sleepery, it beckons as the obvious first destination for the group. Its doors are closed, but upon opening, they are greeted by a great man standing at the ready shortly inside, towels spread along the entry way. Almost seven foot tall of lavender skin, milky white pools of white for eyes, and streaks of blue and white decorating his flesh, he is obviously not human. Making this fact more apparent is the golden, feathery decorations adorning his purple robe's back and neck, angelic in style. Riyae, the Deva.

He stands calm, almost as still as a statue, unblinking and unwavering even at the burst of cold on the doors opening. He instead greets the trio in a calm but deep voice, beckoning over fresh cloaks brought by invisible hands. The party is understandably hesitant to trust such displays at first glance, but Tacin takes the lead in accepting the hospitality, following his lead to a reading area beside a sizable fireplace. Gildie follows, though Garn stays put comfortably on the towels, not wanting to take off his muddy boots and expose himself (and likely stinky feet) to the group proper. With their cloaks drying by the fire, tea starting to heat, and the basics of introduction made, the group get down to business.

Tacin procures the statue, painting, and three vials with a shard of power apiece onto a table while voicing his concerns over the weather, the confusing nature of Ember's request, and the mysterious artifacts thrust upon him and the group. Riyae seems completely unshaken by Ember's behavior, however, assuring the group this is somehow standard fare for her way of life and that their task was not entrusted lightly. As they call his explanation into some question, he spends a few moments examining the objects, drawing a few basic conclusions about them while waiting for an opening to reveal his initial findings.

The golem in question isn't identified, however the numerous symbols of gods ensure the divine nature of the problem at hand is to blame. Ember's choice to petition his help comes from his nature as a Deva, good-natured immortals who consider it their mission in all their reincarnations to grow close and helpful to the gods. For all the many deities who can be identified by symbols, one stands out as important to not appear; Sehanine, the goddess of the moon, trickery, illusions, and the autumn season. The timing of the start of the downpour, that her two best friends in the pantheon are shown in the statue as potentially captive, and that a shard of power appeared in Somnophis specifically leads him to the conclusion that the goddess weeps uncontrollably, sending unchecked rains upon the land.

Of the drawing itself, four ghosts chasing a skull chasing a bird's head, a simple conclusion is drawn that the Raven Queen is being hunted by Orcus. There is little room for doubt, given the nature of the statue and religious overtones to the whole deal. The prophecy inscribed on the back, however, presents a unique challenge in that it is in the style of the true seers of old, of which Riyae was not. There is one single word standing out from the rest, spelled by Ember how she thinks it may have been pronounced. The few ways she wrote it down are read aloud, ringing familiar to Tacin's ears with how he once attempted to pronounce the same sounding word from an old Celestial dictionary he chanced upon. Riyae soon pieces together the likely idea that it was misspoken, and is indeed the Celestial word for "Despair" used in the prophecy. Why that single word is an issue and in Celestial, however, is not yet figured out.

The shards of power, however, present a unique mystery to him. They are familiar enough that he stands a chance of some form of identification, but not enough that he can do so at a simple glance or first touch. He concentrates on each one among the Red, Blue, and Purple shards, coming to a more solid conclusion the more he lingers on them. Within a few minutes, he has an epiphany; these are the selfsame style of shards of power found more commonly in the Fourth Era, used by the divine magicians dubbed "Invokers" at the time. Though smaller, less powerful, and more varied in their magical natures, they resonate the same way he felt in past lives when encountering similar power. Garn finally becomes curious enough to remove his boots and take his place beside the group, examining the shards properly for the first time himself while Riyae speaks.

Tacin's mind works quickly, coming to the conclusion that different shards might manifest different forms of power specifically, though his first thought is that different colours may signal different schools of magic. If so, however, their associations of colour to school are faulty; Ember described a nectotic-esque loss of life force from the backlash of crushing a green shard some time after orange. Garn, whose Firbolg nature allows him to detect the magical nature of items and creatures around him, promptly asks Riyae if schools of magic associate themselves with different colours. Tacin wonders much the same, yet he would expect necromancy effects to be akin to black, or perhaps purple, but certainly not green.

Riyae thinks much the same, but takes it a step further; perhaps the power is not in a school of magic, but a source of power entirely. He muses that the nature of the shards is the powers gods grant all magic, not simply wizardry or divine strength, an explanation he feels is backed up by his own discovery to the energies he felt within each individual shard. Of the Red shard, he felt a sense of a Warlock's all-consuming power, coupled with a unique familiarity to the Invoker's strength of old. To the Blue, he sensed naught but a glimmer of natural magic, his mind's eye likening the strength to what he would know in the Fourth Era as a Warden's strength. The purple, he could assume naught of its strength or origin, only that it held the same magical nature as his own Wizard powers.

The trio are left wondering why Ember would not have saved the Orange shard for herself to add to this collection fo research, and what to do with this newfound information. It was Ember's request of an inquiry, after all, not theirs. Riyae, however, is left wondering what to do with the shards of power themselves. Manifestations of gods' own strength, they were not to be taken lightly, and cerrtainly not to be left alone for fear of falling into the wrong hands. After a brief conversation via telepathy with Ember herself, he confirms that her goal was information. She herself was attuned to the orange shards' power, after all. Given his understanding of the powers of the Fourth Era, Riyae offers his suggestions of what to do.

Garn could make use of the Red, for Archfey warlocky was a possibility and its power useful besides, and his wise nature brought him closer to religious proficiency than his comrades. Gildie, being the only of the group who seemed comfortable facing foes toe to toe, was presented with the Blue shard, whose suspected ties to a Warden's strength was to be a potential boon for her. The purple shard, however, Riyae seemed hesitant to offer to Tacin, who seemed equally hesitant to accept it. Only Garn was courageous enough to crush the offered shard, finding himself growing in vitality, reserves of energy, understanding of the arcane, and somehow coming to know a spell he had never pursued. He curiously casts it, finding himself coated in a cool, magical aura that Riyea identifies as the Armor of Agathys.

There is no question about it, the shards are indeed powerful. But Tacin and Gildie opt out of using their own offered shards, replacing them in their vials for the time being. With the mysteries largely cleared up, the trio recognizes they are somewhat in over their own heads for dealing with the problems of gods, and find themselves weary, even with the long-boiling tea finally served to refresh them. Riyae offers to pay for their night at the inn, given their lack of spending money coming back to haunt them, but Tacin's eye catches a curious sight on the way. A young girl of maybe seven or eight summers is looking at them from around the corner of a house, outside, in the heavy rain.

He petitions Gildie to not retire for the night yet, and asks Garn for his cloak to offer the girl, but being an eight foot man, the cloak is exceptionally large and heavy with water. Instead, he makes it a point to offer his own as he approaches the girl, worry apparent at her likelihood to catch cold or worse. With the promise of a dry spot and what looks like a hug, she leaps herself into him and shivers the entire time. She speaks little, but agrees readily to join him to the inn to find a dry place. Riyae identifies her as Emily, but she seems to recoil from him even as he works his magic to rapidly dry and warm her clothes, before the rest of the party's in turn. Though she doesn't want conversation with him, Riyae voices his worry for her safety, his hope that their family's torubles end, and that he misses seeing her in the library.

The group work to cheer up the girl, with Tacin and Gildie offering conversation and questions while Garn uses his innate magic to offer her a pleasant distraction. Illusion cloaks him to appear almost five feet tall, yet reality prevails as his still eight foot tall body reaches over to, with permission, scoop up Emily and hold her piggyback atop his shoulders, a magic trick of levitation to successfully shake her mindset out of her gloom. Deeming herself among friends, she mentions that her father told her to get out because she interrupted him and her mother's alone time, even though she was hungry. It was sometime after breakfast that this happened, likely near noon, and there had been no sign of the parents missing or searching for her at all.

Gildie fumes, and is overcome with an urge to give these two parents a piece of her mind. With the barkeep onlooking and in agreement about the insanity of the situation, he offers up what little he knows, alongside a quick meal for Emily. Her father is Robert, described as a good man and hard worker who suddenly came into relations with an outsider that seemed to take an unusually direct shining to Robert. Emily's sudden seclusion and the potential for abuse, however, are an entirely unheard of idea, even among his gossiping patrons. Though her resolve to get to the bottom of such neglect is unshaken, a new possibility hangs in the back of Gildie's mind. The team is moved enough to proceed at once, though, using the barkeep's direction of the southwestmost house as the target.

Garn is the one who knocks. Yet Gildie is not far behind, and even Tacin able to hear a feminine groan of frustration before a minute passes and a well kept man opens the door. Among the immediate chatter, Gildie's piercing cry of "Are you Emily's father!?" prompts a sudden change in his demeanor. His visage shifts from a hazy, absentminded gaze to a genuinely distraight sight, guilt clear in his voice as he realizes what has happened. Despite this, Garn blocks the doorway, seeking answers before entrusting Emily's safety to a potentially neglectful or abusive father. He never once seems to lie or show anything but crystal clear worry; the feminine voice makes itself known as an uncommonly beautiful lady pokes her head out of the second floor clearing to voice her disdain for the situation, and not in a way that shows any concern for Emily's well being.

Robert's earnest worry wins the party over enough to lead him through the rain, Tacin making it a point to stop at the building where Emily was originally seen hiding. Robert knows nothing about why she would choose such a spot, given her preference for games in the fields or time in the library, and laments the idea of her spending such a long time in the icy rain. They proceed to the inn proper, where Robert all but vaults to Emily's side, relief apparent and guilt still consuming his voice. Emily takes a few seconds to cave into tears herself, with Gildie's ears catching hints of such cries as wondering why he never looks at her this way anymore. She missed this side of him.

Unbeknownst to the two, though, Garn took the moment to slip away to pursue his own approach to the situation. He is en route to the household again to directly confront the stepmother. Out of caution, he makes it a point to attempt any direct sources of magic before and after opening the door, finding nothing but the lady's voice waiting. She proves to be as unconcerned for the situation as before, merely telling Garn to get out before humoring his accusations. Emily confided to the party that it was Robert's word to get out, a story the stepmother sticks to quite readily. She herself has no hatred of or real problem with Emily, statements that Garn can't discern to be lies... but he can discern that her tongue is silver with experience of getting into peoples' heads. His audacity to enter the building leads her to appear beside the open doorway, tell him to get out, and slam the door behind him when he obeys quite readily. As he leaves, Garn notices a curious, pink, heart-shaped trace of magic exiting himself and floating towards the closed door.

So he returns to the inn, unable to successfully recount the situation. It's an unusual display of uncertainty and forgetfulness from an otherwise straightforward fellow, enough to trigger worry in his allies. What he does recall is his effort to talk to her, his swift departure, and the fragment of some enchanting magic leaving him before his return. Tacin attempts to work out the details himself, but Gildie seeks to put the pieces of the puzzle together with help, returning to the library alone to seek Riyae's assistance. He himself knows nothing more of Robert's wife and their life than the barkeep, but he grows concerned for Garn's change of demenaor, returning to the inn alongside Gildie. Near the same time, Tacin catches Robert trying to escort Emily home, leading him to convince Robert over the next few minutes that Emily would be safer in the inn, to which he eventually complies.

Gildie returns with Riyae during the exchanghe. The four isolate themselves to a corner far away from the calming girl, learn the name of the mother at last to be Jessica, and double check that Garn's testimony hasn't changed. Riyae, fearing the worst, asks permission to touch Garn's head, and casts dispelling magics in rapid succession to remove general spell effects and curses. Garn's head immediately clears, and he recalls in much greater detail how the lady acted, how she mysteriously appeared in the doorway, and how her presence up close shifted his mindset.
Riyae asks if she used the ladder to descend, knowing the layout of buildings in the area. To his dismay, no. She did not.

Riyae's fears are revealed after considering the situation from all sides. He is of the opinion that Jessica is a succubus, targeting Robert. As much as they wish to help, the adventuring trio has no desire to pick a fight with a devil while they themselves are still spent from the halfway house's fighting, a stance shared by Riyae. The morning, however, promises to be quite the adventure.

Session 3: {b}Jessica{/b}: 
Although their original mission was merely to deliver goods and request investigation about them, the party feels the presence of a potential succubus is well worth sticking around for, as neither the trio nor Riyae want to leave a fiend unchecked. Riyae convinces Emily to retire for the night in the library, hallowed ground resistant to fiendish attention. Agreeing to see Riyae shortly after awakening, the three retire to their own rooms, though Garn has the idea to send his pet--a giant wolf spider he otherwise has kept tucked safely away--to scout the household for audible signs of struggle or trouble. There is nothing to report, however, merely a surprised inkeep and a further scared inkeep's wife come the new morning when it skitters from and to the inn.

The night passes without any visible issues, and the three reconvene at the library to find Emily passed out quite peacefully on a couch facing the fireplace, and Riyae behind his desk awaiting their return. He leads them into the entryway, out of earshot of the sleeping child, to go over both the nature of the enemy, and his plan. He briefly explains for the party's sake that among fiends, a devil differs from a demon in that they obey their own laws, seeking to corrupt a soul rather than destroy it, as part of their ways. The more good or faithful a target, the more satisfying the corruption, and the worse the fiend spawned of the soul. Given the behaviors a good man like Robert had recently shown, and Emily's dire situation, he deems the party's arrival to be just in the nick of time.

Despite his quite apparent book smarts, Riyae's skills at combat strategy are somewhat limited, and his ability to explain them worse. His idea's core consists of the trio bringing Emily back home, a sign of delivering her to lower the guard of Jessica and Robert, before having Emily run back to the library. During this time, Riyae is to enter the house ethereally, while the trio force their way in physically, barring the door to prevent Jessica's escape in the material world. Riyae, in the ethereal plane, will conjure a spell that binds her in a spectral cage that stops her from shifting away in any directon. Riyae points out his susceptibility to her charming effects, calling on Tacin's ability to allow him to perform above his normal, keeping his inspiring tones in reserve to call upon if he finds himself a target of her charms. With this, Riyae hopes to systematically eliminate the succubus' options, leaving her isolated and an easy target on either plane, given a succubus' or incubus' physically frail nature.

Tacin, however, promptly calls out the problem of leaving Emily unattended to potentially witness violence, and Garn chips in that her ability to stick to a plan instead of lock up or watch out of sheer childish curiosity is a worry. Riyae, however, has no expertise in illusionary magic, and they must hire the innkeep's wife, Jillian, to leave her station for a moment to play Emily's escort. Riyae sparks some confidence in Jillian's reliability due to knowing her and Jacque to be good people, and certainly that Jacque would have told her of the happenings of the night. And so she agrees, takes it upon herself to wake Emily up, and leads the group out to the house. Jillian is visibly confused about how to approach the situation once there, as is Gildie when the door finally opens to show Robert waiting in it, but Garn and Tacin lead the charge in and push Robert to a side wall so everyone can funnel in while Jillian coaxes Emily away and back to the library.

The first few moments of this entry are an awkward exchange, Gildie wondering what the signal is of Riyae's spell and Robert trying to get answers out of Garn and Tacin. Garn assures Robert it's for his own good, and after ten seconds of waiting, escalates the tension by taking a rushed and unfortunately inaccurate shot at the still disguised Jessica. She scoffs and drops the facade, pointing out that she should have killed Garn when she had the chance, before she vanishes into the ether. Unknown to the group, Riyae awaits her on the second floor balcony, already having wrapped her in the force cage and at the ready to fire deadly accurate missiles upon her. The team takes their positions and hopes for the best; Garn bars the door and awaits a chance to shoot, Tacin holds steady in front of a window while hurredly trying to explain the situation to Robert, and Gildie dashes herself up the ladder to put herself as close to the succubus' original position as she can.

The lady reappears where she once was, trying to fly away but ending up only squishing her side against the very tight prison holding her in both worlds. Garn's arrow explodes in a magical spray as it lands, and Gildie's blade finds itself just barely missing the fiend's face, while Riyae rejoins the fray with another barrage of missiles and Tacin's words cut through to her black soul. She turns and tries as expected to charm Riyae into turning against the party, but his mind is all too well steeled against the effort, leaving her isolated and outnumbered. Seeing the desperate situation for the fiend, Garn beams to himself and figures out the perfect method to conclude this dark chapter. Being an eight foot giant looking upon a ten foot balcony, he uses a table as a footstool to roll himself over the edge and scramble into place behind her, pinning her between himself and Gildie. Restrained, distracted by Gildie's efforts to scar her beautiful face specifically, and caught in the middle of two foes, the succubus is helpless against Garn's headsman's chop with an axe, soon giving the devil a taste of the dullahan's life.

Mich to Riyae's displeasure, the dissapation fiends are known to undergo upon death is a slow process. He expected her to flicker away into flame or ash at an instant, but instead the corpse very slowly fades into a back smoke, and would take too long for his taste. Tacin jabs him with a point about his lack of being able to plan, though Riyae's lack of fiendslaying history is hard to blame, but agrees to the idea of bringing Robert to the library and ensuring Emily does not watch the door while Riyae telekentically flings the corpse through the doors to dissolve much more instantly within the holy, hallowed aura. Robert and Emily are reunited, and both seem much more revitalized for being rid of the succubus' lingering influence.

Riyae congratulates the party, pointing out that he feels cheery enough to perhaps ring a bell in celebration. Garn's mind turns in memory of his dream over the past night; a large bell swinging, with an amber twinkle somewhere at the hinge of it glinting at him every so often as it swung. He does not voice this dream specifically yet, but asks to see the bell to confirm for himself if it's a coincidence or not. The bell in question is upstairs, comparable to a house in volume and a brilliant brass in color, but Garn pays its beauty and Riyae's explanation of its use as an alarm clock of sorts no mind. He instead maneuvers himself around to the same angle he remembers it in his dream from, even using his magic detection ability to try to pinpoint the location of where he dreamed the shard. Indeed, standing directly under the hinge, he finds himself able to see a lustrous yellow glow of magic, to which he explains to the party his dream and that there is something triggering his senses. The bell itself is not magical, only being born from a spell alongside the creation of the library. Curious, Riyae flies up to the hinge, and comes back down with a shard of amber pulsing in his palm.

After a minute, Riyae concludes that the primary power flowing through the shard is true divine power, clerical and holy in nature, but couldn't quite name the secondary power hidden at its core. He claims the power is a rare form of holy power, but not one that he had seen more than once in a past life, and certainly not in-depth enough to recall more than its nature as some form of artistry, with pictures or words. Despite this, the shard's existence is clear as day, as is a renewed reminder from Riyae that the trio is free to break the shards as they desire as per Ember's request and permission. Gildie is still hesitant to risk subjecting herself to unknown magical effects, but Tacin confirms with Garn his lack of ailments from his own red shard before risking the violet one stored away. A brilliant streak of purple electricity courses through Tacin's hand as he squeezes the shard, giving him a similar charge of vitality, store of energy, insight into the arcane talents of Wizards of old, and clarity of thought about arcane knowledge in general. Being a very practical soul who knows his well being is important to him, his power manifests itself in the form of a protective shield that he can summon once per day to shove away an otherwise true strike against him.

With the business of the bell concluded and the nature of the dream resolved, the party reconvenes downstairs, finding Robert reading a children's book to Emily. Riyae gives the painting back to Tacin, having transcribed a summary of his findings upon it so Ember has a hard copy, and makes it a point to say he intends to investigate the statue further on suspicion that it is for some reason hollow. Gildie and Tacin make sure to give Emily a farewell before the team squares away a proper meal to ready them for the trip back to Somnophis. The weather, unfortunately, has not improved whatsoever. The road is similarly dull, though that seems to be a good thing as little happens on it. At the halfway house, the team finds themselves feeling less like stopping and more like getting the trip over with, but a squeak of the door's hinge and slam shut after they pass confirms to them that the place is occupied. Fog heavily obscures the windows to the entry, however, and Gildie takes initiate with sword out and shield ready to peek the door open. She is greeted by a rather rough and tumble figure with his own weapon drawn, a man who cries out "They know!" before a melee breaks loose.

The team is initially outnumbered four to three, but cut and run tactics give Gildie a quick chance to stab one bandit fatally before she takes a defensive position in a corner of the entry room to avoid exposing her back. Sadly, the three cads are quick to respond, swarming her rapidly. The largest of the group, a scarcely armored man wielding a big stick, swings wide once but crashes his club against her while a more nimble man with two daggers steps through her guard. She is overwhelmed rapidly, slumping unconscious against the corner while the leader rides the momentum to step out and fling a dagger at Tacin. The second lesser bandit sprints out after Garn, who has taken a distant position to shoot into the building, leaving Tacin an opening to sing a quick rejuvenation spell to Gildie. The second bandit is lost to Tacin's swift backstab after, leaving the fight effectively split in two.

Gildie contends toe-to-toe with the thug, who makes it a repeat performance to miss with his first strike before the backswing catches her off guard. She gives into the need to survive and dips her shield arm's hand into her bag to force her grip through both the glass vial and turquoise shard within, finding herself revitalized as well and able to further rejuvenate herself even more with a bard's choice of the same healing spell Tacin cast before. The ringleader contends with Garn and Tacin, slipping up and striking blow for blow as best he can with the Bard, but struggling de to the heavy rain in his eyes and the surprise of a spectral shield just as he thinks he has an opening. In desperation to create some distance, Tacin summons a blast of thunder, failing to push the leader away but creating a resounding thunderclap that roars out for quite some distance.

As the heroes' resources are spent, they find their assailants looking only about halfway to defeat themselves. The confrontation as it is will end in defeat, for sure, but there is a follow-up roar of sound charging from the southeast. Garn is the first to see Kiran chasing the source of the noise, rushing forward to deliver his furious justice upon the bandits. The leader recognizes four to two are bad odds and calls for a retreat between him and his ally, but his ally is soon pinned by Gildie and Tacin blocking the doorway and preparing to dodge any onslaught. Dodge they do, Gildie well readied to deflect both swings before Kiran once again punches a streak of fire from his fist. A single blast to the face is enough to fatally wound the thug, and Kiran is free to dash the distance to the leader for an unexpectedly efficient grapple that halts the absconding scoundrel, though only for a moment when the struggle is too wild to hold any longer.

Garn takes one more good shot at the foe before Kiran once again holds the bandit steady, one well-placed strike to the neck ending the poor sap. Despite her fatigue and injuries, Gildie looks through the building for more signs of the bandits, but thankfully comes up short. The party perseveres, and is thankfully in good enough company to take a well deserved rest from putting their lives on the line.

Author's note: Curse the limitations of BBcode. The original title was to be [b]Jessica[/b], the title of the session being a Mafia vote reference for throwing the succubus under the bus by lynching her, but code in spoil titles is a no-go.

Session 4: Big Bandit Band Bashed: 
Gildie and Tacin, both feeling quite on the brink of collapse, take to the nearest available seats by the fireplace to begin recuperating. Garn had taken no real injury to himself, and Kiran was still ready for trouble, so the two move together in retreiving arrows and dragging the two corpses out of the rain into the wayhouse proper. With no real identifying features or signs of home, the brigands are unable to be immediately identified, leaving the group to muse who they were and why they were here. The phrase "They know" is a point of contention, with Kiran supposing this means "they" refers to a group, not he himself alone, implying the adventuring trio are the intended targets. Garn takes a curious stab at tracking their footprints in the wet grassland, but comes up short, especially compared to Gildie's expertise in the workings of humans. She is able to determine their origin in Somnophis' direction, but that is as far as she is willing to figure out before the need to recuperate sets in again.

With Tacin's heartfelt lute performance to set the tone for a restful hour, recuperation goes quickly and mostly peacefully. Kiran is too restless about the bandits, working with somewhat lax assistance from Garn to strip the men of their gear and clothes, quite literally turning the pieces inside out to search for a motive. The last one checked should have been the first; tucked within the man's bandana is a folded piece of paper, which Kiran reads aloud. "Gifts for Milady? A new bag, a fancy water glass, a ruby necklace, a gold choker." Tacin muses that the man has high standards and very low means, and has left behind a rather sad milady. Gildie's thoughts on the matter are quite the deadpan snark, but after hearing the list a few times over while the paper is examined, Garn deduces that the party themselves are in possession of the intended "gifts": a Handy Haversack, Decanter of Water, Periapt of Wound Closure, and Necklace of Adaptation, as titled by Ember.

The group can only conclude they were the targets to be mugged for their goods. Kiran's thoughts about once again escorting the party to their destination are solidified upon this discovery. They waste no time gathering their goods and setting off, though are stopped at the door with the four corpses still lying there. Kiran grimaces a bit but hefts three of them up for himself to carry, Tacin again volunteering to follow his lead with one, but Tacin is left with the bearish brute, a struggle to drag. Kiran ends up meeting him halfway after depositing his own three bodies on the far off body pile to collect and dispose of the fourth, leaving a rather macabre display of death in their wake.

With the lights visible ahead from some of Somnophis' taller or larger buildings, there's a sigh of relief at safe travels... and at an unnatural relief of tingly pins and needles poking at Gildie's feet, in a way that isn't unpleasant. It comes and goes over a couple minutes, but is unique enough for her to actively point out aloud. Tacin takes this to heart, figuring that Garn's dream was unnatural yet accurate, so perhaps an inexplicable shift in Gildie's senses is to be investigated. Like a hound to a scent, she follows the waves of warm quivering rolling across her feet, able to tell its direction well enough to find a small area where the feeling is its strongest. Garn follows up with his magic detection, scouting the small area before he's able to see a familiar green glow, guessing it to be about two feet under the dirt.

Though the party has no shovel nor spade, Kiran assures them no such tool is needed. With a roar of determination, he plunges his hand to his elbow within the gold mud and grass, yanking a cornucopia of dirt and debris into the air before following up with his other hand. In a mere two powerful pulls, he unearths a green, coin-shaped shard that glows with a familiar light to everyone's eyes. Garn catches it before it can crash land back into the dirt, but Tacin is taken by a unique sensation of a comfortable stillness of mind while the little crystal is exposed. The sensations fade all around when the shard is set into a vial, though the party doesn't dwell on it too greatly with the prospect of warmth and food ahead. Kiran takes his leave before entering town yet again, giving Tacin a handshake upon thanks for the concern and escort.

While on their way to Ember's shop, they're cut off by a man being thrown--quite literally hurled through the air--out of her shop, with Kiba following to toss a sack at the man. "And keep your shinies!", he chirps before moving back inside. The party is amused at the idea that they are nearly coinless, but those with coin are tossed out of shops, but make their way inside to see and question Ember about the sight. The man was suspected of attempted theft, but assuredly guilty of troubling Kiba and Gimble enough to warrant Ember's intervention. She seems disappointed to consider that her two helpers are seen as easy targets, and more so that her efforts in a task were interrupted by the alarm sounding. Anything else, however, can wait; she's very hungry, and wants something bloody. The group is not one to turn away free food or lodging, considering their struggles to secure a means of food and shelter by their own coin. She stops only to withdraw the Telepathy helmet from its slot for Gildie to contact her homeland with.

The Sleepery is still warm and comfortable, though considerably empty. A silver dragonborn and human lady sit near the fire, and the group takes to a round table to set out their news, deliveries, and questions, though in no particular order. Over the course of the conversation, numerous points of contention, curiosity, and carelessness are in some manner addressed. The immediate thought on everyone's minds is the attempted theft and mugging, a thought that confirms some sort of rumor Ember has some inkling of. She laments not letting the thief actually walk away with something, able to track stolen goods via magic, and urges the party to simply give away any further demands of the sort. Riyae's notes are produced, and his observations read rather quickly with Ember's tail able to serve as a third hand for handling the paper. She is visibly concerned for the state of affairs, but does not want to draw any conclusions until every piece of the puzzle is examined; the hollow nature of the statue is, in her eye, the most likely key to the right answer.

Midway through the conversation, a green dragonborn enters, giving Ember a formal nod. He mentions that his business can wait until she is free, and he settles himself in a seat near his silver brethren, leaving Ember free to explain who he is. Hashken, a sorcerer, and more or less a wandering diplomat between the cities. Gildie knows him by name enough to feel comfortable greeting him as well, before exusing herself to her own isolated seat to make use of the helmet to reach out to her guild. The guildmaster surprises her with knowledge of her fight against a succubus. The ambiguity of her explanation about departing and the potential involvement of someone thought deceased in some circles warranted the guild's reaching out to the cleregy's more talented casters, who were able to scry in the morning just in time to see Gildie flanking the devil as Garn rolled into place to give her neck a fresh breeze. Furthermore, guild operations in the kingdom of Kojiga are temporarily suspended due to a similar flooding across their continent, leaving their adventureres more involved with relief effort preparations than hunting monsters that don't want to come out into the cold rain either. She finds herself free to take her miniature vacation for the sake of adventure, especially since hers is directly involved with researching the dismal weather.

About this time, the talk turns again to the weather, and that Sehanine is most likely responsible for it. Ember quips that she doubts she could enlist another favor of the Raven Queen, which sparks curiosity in the group about her possible relationship with a god. She recounts Riyae's telling of her death, but specifies that she was turned lycan as a result of the struggle, and would have been reborn lycan under normal resurrection circumstances. To avoid this, Ember's ghost at the time of her death made a plea to the Raven Queen, feeling her death untimely and unjustified and being willing and able to repay a favor of the Raven Queen's choosing when she calls upon it. In exchange, she asked to be able to resurrect clean of a lycanthropy curse. The Raven Queen accepted, but with caveats; Ember would have to remain a ghost for the full one hundred years her soul is alloted to cling to the world, and when alive, she is forbidden from reversing time or death for herself or anyone until the favor is paid. This business-like relationship is in start contrast to Riyae's nature as a Deva, angellic folk who will quite literally set another plate at a table in case a god or celestial wants to join them for their meal. This, unfortunately, keeps the onus on Riyae to dissect the situation.

Garn's desire to part with the party is still apparent, however well he keeps it to himself. Before the conversation can continue further, the doors to the inn open again, and a tall lady giving a childish figure a piggyback ride under her cloak heads to a nearby wall to paste up a large sign. The two settle at the bar side seats, greeting Ember before taking to themselves. Ember greets them back, but Garn and her focus immediately after on the posted sign. It reads as an alert that the northern jungle is temporarily inaccessible due to flooding, so shipments of some of the exotic herbs, medicines, and goods will be impossible for the unforseen future. It ends with a note to see Enna and Kiri for emergency medical assistance, which Ember confirms as referring to the two half-elf and halfling ladies at the bar.

Out of concern for his ambitions to relocate, Garn approaches them directly to ask what's what. Enna tells him that the shipment caravan found itself under at least a foot of water after one mere night of rest, and it was all they could do to save their own goods and vehicles. So dire was their situation that they had to resort to emergency contact, using a long-distance messaging system of papers that teleport to their intended recipient before flickering out of existence. The two ladies confirm that their reason for travel was to post such signs before moving onto the next town, in their case Salaccia. Garn's hopes weigh heavy on him as he seats himself again, though it is to some relief of Tacin and Gildie that he's now free to resume travel with them, having proven himself a stalwart enough ally.

Ember continues to press on through the discoveries, however, picking up with the shards and their strengths. With four people now at one table with four different shards' powers at their disposal, and two in a bag, they're free to reconsider the exact nature of the magics and powers within them. She confirms her powers are arcane and martial in nature, with Sorcery-toned magics and augmentation of her weapon given to her by her orange shards. After going around with who has discovered what, and what Riyae gathered from the shards, she figures Warlocky, Wizardry, Sorcery, and Clerisy are distinctly accounted for, with Bardic or Druidic powers highly suspected from Gildie's strength. Furthermore, each of their senses in in a fashion augmented to the magic nature of other shards. Ember is able to see a halo of light and colour, Gildie's feet tingle upon the ground alongside them, Tacin's head and mind react to their presence, and Garn seems to dream of them. To test these theories, she plugs the amber shard in a vial and calls to Enna, the half-elf of the two wandering medics, before tossing the viridian shard overhead.

Enna catches it, unknowingly squeezing it to secure her grip on it. The squeeze causes it to shatter, and a rush of green energy flows in wisps along her arm, leaving her confused for the display and newfound strength. She gives Ember an understandably incredulous reaction, but concentrates on the new strength, finding herself able to produce a vine laced with rich, ripe berries. Garn recognizes the ability, and Enna curiously eats one for herself, shocked at its richness of flavor and how filling it feels. She shares the fruit with Kiri and the pary's table before leaning on a nearby table to ask properly what's going on with the green rock. Ember asks her how she feels before uncorking the vial with the yellow shard, giving Tacin a warmth in his head and Enna a warm tickle enough in her nose to prompt a sneeze. She supposes she's allergic to whatever is in the yellow shard, and the sensations do indeed fade when the little gem goes back in its vial. Confused, but trusting in Ember's good (if mercurial) nature, Enna excuses herself to resume eating. Kiri, however, makes no effort to hide that she's eavesdropping on the conversation a little clearer from then on.

Enough becomes enough for trying to take in information, and food is well within everyone's bellies. The conversation turns to the future, and what to do. The shards of power are useful, yet potentially dangerous in the wrong hands, and are a good idea to hunt. Riyae's research on the statue is expected to take a day and a half. And there are still small-time problems and rumors circulating the region that need investigating. Whatever the decision, Ember deems it time to pay the group for their excursion, having pointed out before and redoubling the point that they passed numerous tests they didn't know they were taking. She had claimed at the table that her store contains an infallible lie detector, of which failing causes the back of Ember's neck or head to begin itching terribly. The party, whether selfishly or to help, reacted immediately and decisively upon the heavy rain during the festival. They were fresh faces, able to report on the land with unbiased eyes and ears. And they figured they were working through hardships pro bono, testing their devotion to doing the job right. With passes in all marks, Ember sees fit to pay them quite well in both currency and favor.

Five gemstones valuing one hundred gold apiece and a promise of fully fashioned and properly fitting armor for both Gildie and Tacin are quickly produced, though Garn brings more a mystery than a payment. Though he doesn't visibly hold grudges enough to be seen as a spiteful man, he has etched numerous small insults in many languages along his bow, but doesn't recognize one; for the many languages he does know, Infernal is not on his list, yet the phrase "Hellfire Bitch" rests inscribed upon his weapon in the tongue. The group is mystified by this, and Ember gives him an offer to investigate the nature of this overnight. Ember assures the trio that their room is again paid for, and muses to herself that she wishes she had told the sisters good-night. The confusion is quickly dispelled, pointing out that she is referring to Enna and Kiri, though this only spawns more curiosity about their possible relations.

Tacin and Gildie go to bed quickly enough, though Garn tests his spider's mettle by seeing if it's picked up enough on his verbal commands and methods to hunt by his lead. It takes a few tries, but he flushes out a mouse from nearby a small patch of broken down building, which his spider pounces quite successfully and devours. It's a short but successful test before a long and restful sleep. The heroes awaken before anyone else, finding nobody else in the lobby or dining area. Garn inquires if the sisters had already departed to Achion, who confirms somewhat reluctantly that they have not yet. Something about his wording sparks inspiration, however, as the cloud giant steps carefully overhead and out the door, his booming voice chanting a quick spell before a roughly thirty-foot-wide patch of the grass becomes blessed with sunshine. Enna and Kiri are not amused, rubbing their faces and ears on their way down. They were already awake, but it's still sometimes too early for a giant to yell at the top of his lungs.

Garn's curiosity gets the better of him as he approaches their table to ask how they're sisters. Being a being of nature, his mental image of procreation is quite confusing, a thought that Enna confirms is not the first time it's been voiced. Kiri is left in a fit of giggles as Enna explains how twenty years ago and change, she was with her Elf mother on the north edge of the western woods. As a Half-elf, Elves and humans are reluctant to place full trust on her, leaving her free to herself. One such day to herself, she spotted a pretty girl about her size gathering flowers and fruit. But, guess who it was? Kiri point out, her grandmother. At the time, over twenty years ago, her grandmother was about as tall as she is now, and Kiri was less than a foot tall herself. Despite the confusion, Kiri's grandmother was amicable and amused enough to play with Enna as desired, until Kiri's mother showed up with Kiri herself in tow to check on their relative's well being. So Enna found a new kind of people and new friends, practically new family for how friendly and charitable the halflings are.

After some time, when Kiri grew properly strong enough to join Enna alone in play, the two were at the woods' edge when the Gnoll raid hit. They could only flee further into the woods before being swept up in a fleeing caravan headed to Somnophis. With no word of the well being of Kiri's family and Enna's family's whereabouts being inscrutable due to Elven nature, the two stayed together from then on, sisters at heart. They ended up growing and finding employment in Dispatere's medical field, though they recently took to adventuring properly from town to town to bring succor to people instead of waiting on trouble to come to them. Besides, Kiri probably likes seeing the world from Enna's shoulders instead of her own vantage point. By the time this jest prompts another smile on her face, however, Achion's attempt at creating sunlight has failed, the space shrinking rapidly. Garn makes use of the still-existing sun spot, running out and flopping upon it while Tacin and Gildie inquire as to Achion's ability, or current lack thereof, to control the weather. It's an innate ability among his kind, though being actively held back by a powerful force.

Their hearts warmed some by the care behind the sister's story but downtrodden by the loss of sunlight already, the group make the short trip to Ember's shop, finding her coming up from her workspace with Garn's bow in tow. His curiosity again gets the better of him as he tries to remember how to pronounce the Infernal inscription in its tongue, but has a lapse of judgement. He is only able to voice is curiosity by looking Ember in the eye and saying the phrase in Common, earning him a sharp smack to the forehead with the bow before she hands it over, proclaiming his weapon somehow has tuned itself better to the death of fiends in general. An offhand, off-color comment from Gildie earns her a similar smack with the bow, though aimed at her helmet instead of her actual head, before she and Tacin are shown their new armors. Tacin's new studded leather looks good enough to change into on the spot, but Gildie's half-plate suit deserves a little more privacy, taking it upstairs to once again go through the change. Shortly after she arrives to show off the new equipment, a puff of smoke hits in front of Garn's face, and a scroll of paper unfurls for him to catch.

Childish handwriting and shorthand grammar describe that Riyae is hurt and a wish has gone bad. Ember looks at the note, and notes the irony that she has performed Wishes in front of Riyae for nearly two decades, yet his first ever Wish of his own turns out to trigger the worse possible backlash of the spell. She casts it to gain telepathic communication immediately with the Deva, and explains to the party in almost real-time that his supsicions seemed to be correct across the board. The hollow statue contains another two sets of symbols, one immediately identifiable as Torog's and confirmed more from the fact that the hollow interior is actually held partly by chains connecting wall to wall inside the statue. Another symbol rests unidentified for now. Torog, being an Underdark god of jails, prisons, and torture, is now suspected of being aligned with some part of the earth responsible for holding numerous gods captive.

Furthermore, the Wish itself that has crippled Riyae for the time being is one that seems to have partly answered the mystery of the prophecy spoken aloud at the festival. The mystery word, "Achelyss", Celestial for "Despair", seems to be the title of its own dimensional space. Riyae failed to use a powerful planar travel spell to enter it, a powerful force barring his entry. Another spell is possible, but it requires a key of sorts, which he used a Wish for to gain the key. As a result, he currently lies physically feeble, too much so to operate comfortably, and needing the help of Emily and Robert to make it to bed to rest. Ember shudders at the combination of circumstances: a torturer god working to imprison other gods, a dimensional space well unexplored possibly holding the final answers to the riddle, and an all-but-assured trip into the Underdark awaiting. For the moment, though, the party agrees to spend the time of Riyae's recovery on a joint venture to Astraere to search for possible shards and to investigate the rumors of thefts springing up. Ember gives a final gift of two healing potions and one poison resistance potion, both for health's sake and the need for empty vials, before the party sees themselves off.

Shortly outside the city, trees become more apparent the further southwest they get, and enough that one near the road houses a magpie that swoops down to pluck up a single silver piece back to its nest. Garn finds this a good time to demonstrate his spider's abilities, sending it off to stalk and pounce the bird to its demise. In a quick and graceful leap, it catches the bird in its jaws, itself on the branch, and sends the bird's nest tumbling with many shiny things dropping. A few coins, a small decorative stone, and yet another green shard of power. The party considers this a good win overall and a great start to the trip, though Garn's held up with wondering if the sisters would be at the Somnophis Sleepery an hour later to receive this newfound crystal for Enna. (Hint: They wouldn't be.)

Session 5: Thieves and Magpies: 
The trip to Astraere is, for a mercy, without issue beyond the magpie. The team arrives not at a halfway house, but more of a miniature tower, something of a fort alongside the road. A few armed guards patrol its top, and as they stop in to dry off by a fire at its ground floor, a single guard arrives to ask if they are there for rest. He is a Dispateran soldier on duty alongside the others to ensure no criminal activity or monstrous raids happen while tourists, merchants, or merchandise otherwise are in transit along the popularly traveled road. The party decides to use his willingness to escape the rain as a chance to gain some information about the workings of the land, namely the differences in what requires a halfway house or tower, or just how common of problem raids and ambushes are. Beasts are perhaps once a week, and fiends or ne'er-do-well cads perhaps once a month (though chiefly due to leftover gnolls scouting the land), and their presence is more required where risk of loss or injury is its highest. It makes sense enough to the group.

Evening falls with early darkness again as the team makes it to Astraere proper. It's a much more modern looking community than Somnophis or Trisme Gate were, the entirety of the area coated in paved or smooth stone except where buildings stand. A grand building cits at its center, surrounded by a miniature man-made river with decently sized shops on either side. The waterway is propelled clockwise by a combination of gravity and fountain-style jets pushing it forward, giving it the appearance of a constantly floating stream. On the outlying corners of town lie a sizable inn furnished enough to earn its title of a hotel, a receiving and storage warehouse on its opposite corner, and smaller homes of citizens on the outskirts otherwise. Tacin recognizes the lay of the land enough to know where Dalan's establishment is, and to know which zone in the central hub of business should have the food-related businesses most likely to get hit by the rumored thefts.

He decides to start small, however, and investigate the smaller shops ran by people selling from their own homes that are more likely to be stolen from in the night. He opts to ask a fletcher if he's heard aught of the crime string, and to the group's luck, the rumor seems quite well founded. There's no specification of the nature of how it's done or how the payment is worked out, but sure enough, there has been confirmed theft from the Council's central cuisine building, one of the four rulers of Astraere's markets directly being stolen from. The man goes on to say that numerous factions of people have been asked to help, from soldiers outright to common folk and many in between, with no success. The thieves are nothing if not slippery.

With their target confirmed, the group backtracks to the establishment proper, quite out of place compared to the few but still well-adorned patrons enjoying their meals indoors. The party immediately talks to a man waiting behind a counter, confirming their recount of what htey know while attempting to offer themselves up as potential investigators of the problem. While a busy man, the Councilman Joshamee is still intrigued enough to come down to speak with the party. He is an elderly human, wrinkles showing off years of experience furrowing his brow to the words of others. Once again, the party must confirm their knowledge is indeed accurate before finally being able to voice some of the more specific curiosities to a man most acquainted with the source of the problem.

The thefts are unpredictable in timing enough that some of the previous attempts to watch the building were unsuccessful even during nights of confirmed goods stolen. The quandry of where to watch has been a mystery on its own to solve, with money left behind and goods stolen on nights that almost every front was being looked over: the edge of town, outside the building, in the lobby, and within the storage area of the establishment itself, all missing their targets. There is no solid relation between the value of food stolen and the value of money left, but the Councilman has a glimmer of insight that it is a greater value of money in proportion of the weight of the food taken; the closest the thieves had come to matching was nearly coin for pound of relatively common fish like salmon, nothing exotic taken en masse. Finally, there is no inconsistency in the operation, with food only being taken from the building's storage area and money only being left on the counter.

With this in mind, the Councilman reaffirms the team's desire to help investigate, and lays down one rule about location that skews their plans; they are not allowed behind the door leading into the actual business area. They must trust that anyone who is allowed in that area to able to watch their charge, while the team stays outside in the dining area or further out. Tacin and Garn do not agree about how to handle this handicap. Tacin wants to divide the people down the middle, their group in the lobby and the few allowed in the back to stay among the food, but Garn seeks to disrupt the thieves' plans by crowding the lobby and trying to catch the culripts at the oddest moment of the crime, the payment. Due to its originality, Garn's plan wins out, leaving the party alongside two of the business' workers to watch the counter while a token one man keeps eyes on the food stores.

After hours, the lights are dimmed and places taken. Tacin waits under a table's hanging cloth with a coin in hand, Garn behind a seating area's couches, and Gildie nestled behind a curtain to help muffle her armor. Minutes turn into hours, and it takes until shortly before Dawn breaks for anyone to notice movement. Garn, who has taken to his illusory magic to keep his head effectively invisible and able to peek further than others, notices the very slow ascent of a miniscule leather pouch coming up from behind the counter--on the employees' side--to roll into place. The motion is so slow and careful that he has time to confirm what he sees and react by charging across the furniture, axe in hand while tackling himself over the counter. Tacin springs into action himself, bringing a radiant light out to shine from the coin itself before flicking it over the counter to illuminate the scene. Garn spies one of his favorite enemies to slay, a humble kobold reaching up from an opening made by displacing a stone slab.

It yelps in shock and lets itself drop back down into its tunnel some ten feet below the ground, escaping a vengeful swipe from Garn's long arm, before it and its one cohort skitter off to the southeast. Garn considers sending his spider after them, but decides the risk of trapped tunnels too great, and gives chase overland on foot in hopes their line is a straight one. With their lantern-lit coin reclaimed, the party charges, finding very fresh tracks from the to little reptiles bounding southeast. Garn's dash, and his even speedier predator pet, places them as the first to spot the two creatures, a wayward arrow missing them. Instead of dropping their food and fleeing, they instead drop it and turn around in unison, prostrated upon the wet ground and craoking out loud, clear apologies.

Garn has none of it, sending Spider to pounce one to the ground fully while plucking the other up with a mighty hand around its throat to hold it aloft by. The two kobolds struggle for their lives, but don't seem to actively fight back, simply trying to get out of a tight grip around the throat. Tacin and Gildie see that the two are neither armed nor aggressive, pleaing for Garn to stop holding one in a life-threatening manner, despite that Garn had no once actually risked full strangulation in his grip. He appeases all parties by hoisting the little thing upside down to hang by an ankle, which it thanks him for.

So the team tries to talk over why the thefts were happening, reluctant as the kobolds are to speak about their business. They confirm openly that they thought they were doing right by leaving money, since that was their understanding of trade, but they couldn't get the amounts right due to having been chased out of the establishment once some time ago. Their aim was not directly to feed their own colony, since as a race kobolds are crafty enough to farm subterranean crops enough to survive. Yet this leaves their true aims a mystery, since they refuse to speak directly of where they're headed or for whom they are gathering. They let slip, however, that a figure named... or, well, pronounced "all-grass" is who taught them to try a commercial approach to buying the food.

The pieces slowly come together as the party works out their little slips and what they know of kobolds thus far. To buy fish, there is a food shortage, but kobolds can grow their own food. They confirm this "all-grass" is not the one needing food, either; he is an elf who taught them to try to buy food. They only recently began this food buying because fishing has run mostly dry where the river meets the mountain, which the party can easily draw a mental image of the mountain range southeast where the great lake flows down the rocks onto the plains and swamps surrounding. For kobolds to act so uncharacteristically to their kind confirms the influence of the one trigger that could cause such a shift; the food is for a dragon.

The two are quick to defend their ways, that the dragon, Solana, is a young red one who seeks no harm. Their elven patron is hopeful that he and someone powerful he knows, who they only know part of the name of (Titan-something), want to groom Solana into a figurehead for worship, to steady some of the religious turmoil still sweeping the land. They make it sound like the act is one of good, but the party is still dealing with kobolds and a dragon... and fatigue. Without a proper night's rest, still cold and wet, they debate how to proceed. The kobolds have a halfway spot of their own to rest and ensure the food is preserved for the rest of the trip to the moutain, but the party doesn't want to risk their safety to typically evil creatures while so drained themselves. They opt to bring the creatures back as prisoners instead, to be held and possibly interrogated in the time they themselves are asleep.

After the kobolds are bound, everyone returns to Astraere, headig immediately back to the scene of the crime to find nobody in the lobby, but sounds from within. After a shout for someone, one of the three employees who helped with the operation comes out, understandably surprised at the prisoners. A suggestion is offered to leave the two in the warehouse at the town's southwest, an unofficial holding place for troublemakers. Garn and Gildie lead their two captives to it, finding a brute of a man stacking boxes and an open office to deposit the two in. The large man points out that he knows what's probably coming, and he'll keep an eye on the two reptiles. Tacin, however, stays behind to meet with the Councilman again, recounting most of the details learned from the prisoners. He chooses to omit exact locations and names, having a mind to get to the bottom of the kobolds' claims without risking sharing information too freely.

Tacin conveys a plan of sorts to use the two kobolds as guides in case the group can not properly track their movements all the way to the nest, on an impromptu quest to actually securely locate the dragon's lair. A good a plan as any for the Councilman, yet he becomes reluctant to share the entirety of the team's due reward, since taking money to the lair of a potentially lethal, greedy creature seems like an unnecessary loss waiting to happen. He does, however, part with a full fifteen gold coins for lodging at the nearby hotel, enough for two nights for three people at a room apiece. Drained and dripping, the siren song of a warm, dry bed is too alluring to resist for Tacin and Gildie. Garn personally doesn't mind saving coin by taking floor space with his bedroll in Tacin's room.

Session 6: How To Train A Dragon?: 
Morning comes, and almost passes by, before the team wakes from their late slumber. Less than an hour before noon itself, the three reconvene in one of their rented rooms to discuss possible plans, and lack thereof. Their expectation to investigate the truth behind the potential dragon threat might loom over them, but it doesn't help them figure out the best possible approach to their situation. They must trust words of Kobolds about the path and location to the lair, or trust kobolds as guides. They need to in some way discern the true threat between a potentially violent (if newborn) dragon, an elf gone rogue, or a band of impertinent dragonkin spreading lies to cover thievery. Two prisoners of sorts sit in a room awaiting their fate, but it's unclear if it sends a worse message to march without them, or with them as prisoners. The numbers are against them no matter what, with the kobolds counting almost eighty of their own kind before the two greater powers are considered. And the moral compass spins wildly for Tacin specifically, thinking the kobolds may be victims to the elf's or dragon's agendas. And the distance to the mountain is a little over a typical day's journey, while the party is starting shortly before the stroke of noon.

Garn quite seriously jokes about simply standing at the base of the lair and firing a deluge of arrows blindly into camp, but Gildie is quick to refer to that as plan Z. With no set order of priorities on what to do between travel, lodging, and tracking method, the team descends to the lobby to find Tacin's brief teacher, Dalan, waiting in a corner of the establishment. They're pleased to see each other, with Dalan quick to joke about Tacin's new status as a night own and success at finding a team to adventure with so quickly. But discussions about the matter at hand wait until everyone is led to Dalan's own office, to which he pre-emptively warns the party about the current situation. The Council called a meeting to the big names of the city, Dalan included, to discuss the basics of the thievery situation and its current status. Furthermore, the two kobold prisoners have escaped, a tunnel found in the warehouse as well. Councilman Joshamee's name strikes Dalan the wrong way, also warning the team of queer circumstances around the four Councilmen altogether, mumbling to themselves and swatting about their heads as if hitting flies during times of annoyance.

But their affairs are neither here nor there to the party at the time, instead turning to talk of the journey itself. Dalan decides the team's need for a hasty exit warrants an "investment", as he calls his gift, of knowledge and money for the team. Fifty gold is procured, and a hint that the city stablemaster has a method of ranking his steeds that helps people in the know find the best, or worst. Advised to "take out the trash", the team should be able to help clear the stables of a few of its less than profitable performers. The mounts' names--specifically the letter they start with--denote their final grade as compared to a scoring and grading convention. Garn is unfortunately quick to use the phrase and expand upon it to the stablemaster, though, risking sounding as a shady businessman directly in front of the poor lad muckraking in a nearby stall. Laws prevent abuse of animals, including dumping them for copper on the gold to people with their own business in mind for the animals. The man is hopefully confident that he'll be able to help the stableboy see the truth behind the practice.

With that flub behind them, the stables are indeed home to three possible mounts fitting the bill. Frannie, a sweet young horse, is his only F due to an unfortunate birth defect causing an issue with a joint in one of her legs. She can manage a trot about equal to what a normal human could dash at, but anything further would risk irreversible damage. Daniel is an entirely unremarkable, slightly less than average steed in every way, well suited for a single journey. Demon, meanwhile, is a physically imposing stallion who is near perfect in body, but far too abrasive in temprament. None except those stronger than him have been allowed on him for long, though he does have a quirk of being more protective and calm near horses weaker than he, particularly poor Frannie. Garn is entrusted with being able to commune with and handle the beast, given his ability to interact at a higher level with animals, while steel-clad Gildie takes hold of Daniel and lightweight Tacin puts the lightest burden on Frannie. The three are able to deal at seventy-five gold for the horses alone, and take an offer to accept well-used riding gear, the likes of which will not last the month.

After a little confusion behind the possiblity of upgrading now or later to more reliable bits and bridles, the group makes way due southeast, opting to aim for the riverbend first to pursue the idea of a smaller establishment to investigate. The tracks are mercifully easy to follow, even on horseback, with the tracks seeming to follow the same line and made clearer through the somewhat muddy terrain. As if being lifted from the earth, the tracks stop in front of a grassy patch, sparking Garn's curiosity to dismount and do what he does best. The grass, while real, is discovered to be artifically placed, tracks continuing down into a straight line tunnel. Spider is instructed to attempt to traverse or map the tunnel, and retreat if it sees trouble or enough time passes. It makes its way fairly rapidly through the tunnel, coming out some two hundred feet away through another patch of grass, giving a rather predatory series of clicks.

Garn beats down the confusion with a more trusty system of linking the amount of clicks to answers and simple questions, rapidly coming to a conclusion that the den is one straight line tunnel with space enough for a family of kobolds in the middle. Eager for results and to use the successful sneaking of his pet, he instructs Spider to hunt for one, non-lethally, to drag out. Gildie and Tacin chide him for the seeming bloodlust, but the venture bears fruit as Spider comes out dragging one of the selfsame two kobolds who were imprisoned, shown by a recognizable scar and scuff mark from the rope. Only then does Garn inquire about numbers, figuring out a baker's dozen kobolds are present. While ambush tactics and flushing out the creatures is a valid option, a slaughter is still not conclusive to a diplomatic approach, with Tacin successfully urging Garn back to the original mission.

With this break offering the horses some time to rest and graze, the trip is back on, with no trouble on the way to the mountain itself. The terrain is decent, considering the conditions, with roots, stones, and hard-packed dirt offering a stable enough footing for the three. Their horses, however, must be lashed to a nearby stalagmite for fear of running off, and muddy tracks are followed across the path. It winds and ascends more than it covers distance, offering a fair view of a near quarter mile's drop by the time a sign of life is discovered. Or, more accurately, it discovers the party, Garn's biased and trained ears able to recognize the sound of a surprised Kobold dashing away among the pitter and patter of heavy rain. With surprise no longer on their side, the team trusts to diplomacy and ascends further, coming to a bend that takes them into a clearing within a split dome providing some relief from the rain.

At the center of this clearing, however, is an elf, this "All grass" sitting cross legged with his eyes closed. His face points straight at Gildie's as she rounds the corner first, simply smiling before it turns to Tacin's at his curious peek. He waits patiently, and the team offers the first greeting, much to the elf's relief that he would have to either break the ice himself or ready for worse (though he only voices the former). Tacin and Gildie accept an offer to sit under one area of this somewhat domed clearing, under which a fire burns, while Garn urges Spider to sit atop the roof of the dome itself while Garn takes the end nearer the trail down. Before anyone can speak further on who is who, the team immediately locks eyes with a pair blinking from the shadows of a cave, clearly not human in nature. They found the dragon.

Algras offers his introduction first, quick to point out the confusion behind his name. The spelling is similar to "All grass", but provides both the correct pronunciation of "Al guh rass", and amicability about accepting any comparable effort or nickname. Solana, meanwhile, has pride to keep and is to be refrred to as "Lady" Solana out of fear of smoke plumes billowing from her cave. Finer points of introduction squared away, Algras offers the party the first chance to speak, knowing the kobolds' version of events but not those of more intelligent creatures (a quip that earns one such plume of annoyance from Solana). Tacin describes in brief the confusion behind the kobolds' actions and the truth of their thefts, sparking a rapid series of thoughts and conclusions in Algras' mind that are only confirmed further with each passing sentence in the description. He opts to omit the party's interaction at the riberbend's den, otherwise describing in brief but accurate details about their involvement with and thoughts on the matter at hand.

It's of equal parts surprise and disappointment to hear the news, with Algras claiming quite sincerely that this was not his appraisal of the situation. With his eyes still closed, he walks to the ridge's edge to think for a moment (much to Gildie's worry) before walking back to describe his version of events. He had hoped the kobolds were purchasing the food honestly, as an active effort to bridge some distance between humans and non-evil kobolds, while providing Solana with much needed food for her expected growth. Nothing the dragonkin told him seemed to ring untrue enough to question his faith in their performance thus far, until this new news hit his ears. Now he finds himself unable to trust them, but being forced to by the nature of his personal quest at the lair. This sparks newfound worry in Algras about the stability of Solana's food supply, his ability to forge positive relations with people enough to earn any degree of worship, and the lair's personal, paltry coffers.

Curiosity is sparked about how exactly Solana is to be the "next dragon god", or anything of the sort. Algras explains some degree of the process about gods being more often made than born, achieving greatness through strength and deal-making enough to earn the earnest thoughts of people. Those with power within themselves who wish wholly for aid spend a fraction of energy that seeks a vessel worthy of their wish, often drawn to deities associated with the domain of the plea. Like ships to port they amass, building power that is often fed back to lesser beings--from gods to Clerics or fiends to Warlocks--in service of the deity's ideals. Such is the birth of great power and the sharing of strength, still felt despite the effects of the Gods' War. Gildie, the least worldly experienced of the group, is quick to ask what exactly that refers to.

The present state of affairs in the world is that no dragons seem to be able to "feel" their thoughts reach their gods, even the primrary two Bahamut and Tiamat. So it is with even those of divine orders, able to receive on some level the powers or blessings of their patron but scarcely able to sense their former connection. So it is that divine champions like Enna and Kiri continue to exist, though without the divine guidance of their higher powers. He adds that it only seems to affect gods directly, as fiends always exist, and archfey, like his patron Titania of the Summer Court, were largely unaffected by the Gods' War. It's a curious combination of circumstances, that power still flows freely, able to reach some destinations but not others, and return to some people but not others. As for Solana, the idea at hand is to shape her into a neutral territory but powerful magnet for the thoughts and prayers set adrift from dragonkind, neither inherently good nor evil but a willing magnet to receive the energies lest they find themselves drawn to darker forces.

Satisfied with this explanation and Algras' agreeable, cordial nature, the party agrees to not pursue anything violent or untowards to the encampment, but all are still left with the unfortunate situation of inevitable hunger of Solana, fragile relations with Astraere, and likely missing funds from the dragon's hoard. It seems a little much to tackle all at once, even with the possible help from both the party and the camp's sole resident human, Mitchell. He is noted for being a man of imperfect physical health, but an able sculptor who is at work as the party talks. There is some deliberation on whom to trust with what for repairing the bonds of trust with the merchant town, but Algras seems adamant that any effort to deal so soon with food of similar quantity as what has recently been stolen will only send warning signals through the land. His first goal is to figure out the debt at hand, an issue that will take time and perhaps some luck, leaving the party with little to do on the morrow. There is a suggestion brought up that their fresh eyes, and likely more experienced in the arts of hunting or fishing, could offer insight as to the fishing situation at the river.

The party agrees to give it a look while Algras figures out his end of the problems on the list, bidding good night and following kobolds to Mitchell's decently sized cave. He's a middle-aged man hard at work working clay, but to no great success just yet. He seems an agreeable fellow, giving his short tale of being a former merchant of Astraere who was muscled out by better craftsmen. He arrived at the camp by happy accident of looking for some unique material or regent to help give his work some pop needed to win business, and instead stayed for the experience of seeing how an elf trains a dragon. His work at the time specifically consists of trying to fashion some sort of holy symbol or piece to fit atop an altar to recognize Solana by, though inability to see a dragon up close for long leaves him only partly in the right direction for his result.

Once again, night comes cold and wet. Garn is untrusting as ever, though enterprising enough to spend his rewnerable primal energies before bed to summon a sizable store of berries for the next day, and Tacin cautious enough to consider shifts between them. Gildie, meanwhile, seems cheerily convinced of the good nature of those around her enough to sleep soundly. Tacin is awake to find a package placed at the end of the cave, consisting of preserved fish filets to be cooked or enjoyed at their leisure. A little more convinced of the decency of his lairmates, he rests well, with the night passing seemingly without any incident. An entire day and the party failed to find a single shard, but sizable progress on the understanding and workings of a potential new goddess.

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Last edited by Kikori on February 16th, 2019, 6:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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 Post subject: Re: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
PostPosted: January 9th, 2019, 10:32 pm 
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Session 7: Fish, Finances, Frustrations: 
The party is disturbed no further in the night than the delivery of food. The sound of rain so close by reflecting off natural stone is actually a rather decent noise to rest by; even as the team awakes to discuss their situation, Mitchell is sound asleep in his nook of the little cave. There's a bit of a cloud hanging over the team about who they think lies on what side of the moral scales, and to whom what has been promised. Many names and opinions have been tossed about in the span of a single day, after all, and even the guildmistress needs some regaining of composure over what to make of whom. Joshamee remains the most suspect, with two people voicing worries over his methods, and the Council in general is a rather large question mark on the records. Alrgas' placement in the picture is a unique anomoly, being seemingly blind but able to observe without fail and seemingly with no visible source of power but able to hold dominion over a red dragon being trained to not be evil. He, however, has earned a measure of trust to that point, and the party agrees to continue to fulfill their duties as promised without thinking violently of the kobolds.

So they descend their ledge to offer up the meat back, as they have their own food on hand, but Solana is quick to growl from her cave that a portion of it was meant for Mitchell. A harmless oversight, and one that earns a chuckle from the would-be goddess as Tacin admits forgetting to account for the sculptor. The kobolds, at the team's request, gather additional fishing supplies to help with the testing, and they all proceed through the lighter, less consistent rain back down the path and up a new direction. They muse about how the rain seems to have grown tired of raining while coming up to a grassy mountain path leading to a fast-flowing waterway, almost fifteen feet wide and divided by a ten foot higher ledge on the opposite side. After a quick bit of testing, demonstrating, and memory recall, the kobolds show that a hooked worm takes almost ten seconds to flow from upstream to line's end downstream, approximately four seconds less than what it took while the water was lower and calmer before the rains. Truly, the situation can not simply be that the rain is solely responsible for the lack of plentiful fish.

Garn takes the first shot at trying to test the waters himself, casting out. With a sensitive hand, he feels far too much turbulence from the bait being tossed around by the waters, and creatively feeds the line through one of the decorative holes punched in a copper piece to tie as a sinking weight. In one try after, he lucks out and hoists up a three-pound fish, far larger than the kobolds had caught in some time. Their excitement is tangible as they clamor over what to use, wondering if any more coins are on hand for their own testing. Garn's frustration with the creatures shows as he refuses any further help than telling them to use their heads, but Tacin and Gildie are able to buffer the thoughts to asking Mitchell or Algras for help. Tacin even hands one a silver coin, with full expectations of getting it back, for its own test, which it happily takes to give an attempt at.

With one kobold fishing and one nearer the water than the others, the peace is broken when two uncommonly large toads leap from the water and grab the unsuspecting fisherlings up in their maws before continuing their flow downstream. The two remaining kobolds cry in disdain, giving chase a second before the party joins them. Some ways down, the ledge lowers enough to allow the toads to hop up to safety on the opposite side of the little river, and the chase is on. The party is caught having to rush to backtrack towards a makeshift bridge--a tree leaning over the opposite ledge with its topmost branches cut for a path--while firing what they can at the toads. Their quarry is quick to duck out of sight and underwater, hidden by the light of the ledge too well for even Garn's expert eye. Gildie is first to cross, spotting the toads' shadows swimming in a pool of swampy water, offering the team a way to track and pursue.

The toads emerge only long enough to scale a few feet up a ledge and into another pool of water, yet one that only leads to a rather steep section of rugged mountainside. As best they can, they whittle at the beasts, but a cave hidden behind some trees is too dark for more than Spider to properly continue the assault after the toads both slip into it. Tacin quickly withdraws another coin to fling inside, providing enough light for Gildie and Spider to continue the chase first. It's a rather pale cave, ashen grey and wet throughout, a tight enough squeeze that one toad takes up almost all the wiggle room to proceed. Gildie and Spider are unable to dispatch the more injured of the beasts before they take a turn and vanish from view, with Spider quick to pursue and Garn sprinting shortly behind.

Spider is able to descend all too easily, but Garn is faced with a unique challenge at the four-way insertsection. The toads proceeded down a path of wet, slick rock that drops at near forty-five degree angles before offering a ledge, descending thrice and turning somewhat out of sight. He doesn't have time to measure his movements and tries to slide down with any grace, but slips and bounces down on his back, ending the bumpy descent in time to see three toads staring at him. Behind them lies a wall of bones, a few kobolds visible behind its thick ivory form. Tacin is able to see Garn's shoulder, but fares worse as he tumbles forward and rolls down before landing facefirst, injured for the affair. He still has sense of mind enough to see the situation before him and hastily cheer Garn into action. Gildie manages to insert herself before toads can turn proper, successfully gliding down by her feet before springing from the bottommost slope to land between her allies.

And so the fight resumes, Spider quickly engulfed in the maw of the near-dead toad while the other two attempt to pin a surprisingly hard to hit Gildie. Tacin summons a floating arsanel of small blades to cut between two toads to make use of the cramped quarters. Garn brings an end to the one hurting his little friend before Spider lashes back in a joint assault with the young lady, systemically working down one toad at a time, and thankfully with nobody else contained in the maw of a beast. Despite the noise, there is nobody checking the scene, everyone free to investigate why eight kobolds are behind a bone cage. All look weary and injured, including the two recently kidnapped, with only one able to stand and speak well to what has happened.

The cave is inhabited by the large toads, and little toad people who are big bullies. They demand the kobolds do chores and serve without question or be punished, always hurt and never fed or let rest enough. Tacin asks if they are among Solana's charges, and upon confirmation recalls something about Algras mentioning that fishing seemed to be a more dangeorus activity as of late. The cave suddenly becomes the team's business, and a rescue operation is on. Garn shows no interest in saving the kobolds, specifically, and sends Spider to creep through the cave system and scout around. Tacin offers up a length of rope to see who can climb out, but only half the kobolds have the strength to scale over the spiky bone wall before Spider returns. Garn works out from its expert scouting and mandible clicks that the party should prepare to face ten more foes, divided in two places.

Tacin takes back his rope, but offers up a dagger for any able bodies and eyes to find the bindings in the cage and cut them to open a door properly. Tacin and Garn scale the slippery slope well enough, but unused to such muck and heavy armor combined, she struggles to crawl her way upwards. Mercifully there's nothing waiting for them at the top of the ramp, but shortly into the trip down the third tunnel at the intersection, a short ways in and a curve that leads them to an awaiting bullywug that fails dismally to hurl a spear at the leading Gildie. Garn and Tacin dispatch the obnoxious toad person quickly, but Gildie approaches rapidly to find a fresh set of three giant toads waiting for the party alongside the new corpse. The toads aren't bright enough to pin one person at a time, two clumping together at Gildie's face while one circles around in attempt to grab the first available target in line, Tacin.

Between the fencing bard and Spider's fierce venomous bites, the toad dies rather quickly, but it is a large, squishy roadblock stopping the two from joining Gildie in short order. The time it takes is enough for her to stand toe to toe with her two opponents for a few seconds, but one toad manages a lucky bite that sinks its studded lips into the tiny openings of her armor, a touch of venom joining the injury. In desparation, she thrusts her rapier and hand together in a way that pushes the beast back against a far wall before retreating a couple steps to regain her composure. Garn doesn't want to risk a still-injured Spider being shown the same fate, sending it back to the intersection while he and Tacin slowly approach the fray, once again working together to knock down one foe at a time. A distracting chide from Tacin successfully spares Gildie from being sent down a toad's maw again, leaving her winded but thankfully standing.

Despite the success, Gildie's stamina is quite spent, and the situation calls for a brief break. The party opts to use the kobold's prison as a temporary shelter, particularly for Gildie, with Tacin neraby to observe the kobolds and watch over her. Garn, meanwhile, wants to take a more proactive approach to sitting and waiting, giving orders for Spider to watch the last path for anything coming. Spider is to pounce its prey and make as much noise as possible (while biting at Spider's head level, which on a bullywug is... intimate), offering Garn a way to blindly but accurately shoot at bullywug-head level over Spider's cries. The plan, for better or worse, excites Spider enough that a half hour later, a single approaching bullywug finds itself dead from the precision placed bite before the poison can even settle in. The creature is no longer identifiable as Spider drops it at Garn's feet, who kicks it down the ramp for his party to observe. The kobolds laugh and cheer, at least.

The final path is much longer, seeming to circle around all the others a little before arriving at its own split. Garn halts Gildie from pushing her face into a tripwire down one path, and the party eases further along the one with Spider waiting. Garn instructs it to wait above an unsuspecting target, and to pounce when the light touches the foe. It goes all too smoothly, with Gildie entering the range of the bullywug "throne" room's vision as the light touches the nearest one holding a spear in preparation. Spider dispatches the little foe in time to disrupt any plan the bullywugs had, starting the final push in the mission.

Tacin springs forward to summon another knife cloud between a large toad and adjacent bullywug, the small one dropping like a fly while the toad recoils from the wound. The bullywugs hop to it soon after, one lashing out at Spider as a much larger one, seemingly the chief, saunters forward. Its hands glow with a similar violet streak of energy as what Tacin produces from his shard power, summoning a wave of fire that blasts over him and Gildie, though the resulting flame is dampened somewhat compared to their expectations. Gildie has had enough. She finally places down the visor of her half helm, a small illusion masking her face in bitch black save for the newfound red glow of her eyes. In one swift thrust between its eyes, she pierces the chief and lets his corpse drop before stepping over it to the small fry harassing Spider, plunging her rapier through it as well on her way to the room's center.

Spider joins the fight, finding itself trading bite for bite and once again in a toad's jaws, content with this small victory despite the blades gnashing at its side. Garn steps up from the shadows and lands the final blow of the fight, leaving the toad to cough out Spider before it slumps from the powerfully drawn missile. There is a silence in the caves, victory seemingly finally at hand and only the spoils of war to consider. Tacin and Garn immediately inspect the bullywug chief, Tacin in particular able to sense a resonation of power. Whether it's as a magnet or of its own accord, a faint purple speck of light approaches the surface of the bullywug's skin, its flesh and muscle near the collar transmuting into a violet, crystalline tone that cracks and splinters apart as a marble-sized fragment forces its way out of the body. The group suddenly feels a spike of fear at their own possible fates, if the shards can indeed materialize back into solid form within them as well. They unanimously agree, when this is over, they're seeking Ember out first thing.

Session 8: Time To Go, Kobold!: 
A wave of worry takes the party as they consider the possible mechanics and consequences of their newfound shard powers, especially about the permanence of the effects and possible ill effects on the body. With that weighing on his mind, Tacin opts to store his newfound purple shard in a pocket of his bag rather than expose himself to potential detriments. Gildie takes an early sweep of the rest of the room during this time and finds a unique shield harnessed to the back of the throneside giant toad, resembling a drawn longbow in shape and adorned with a pattern of steadily shrinking bowstrings towards the center, like a spider's web without the crossing strands. In good condition, it serves as a new trophy for her before the team returns to the last, trapped room to solve the cavern's final mystery.

Garn sends Spider to scout the situation with the tripwire and the likelihood of something on the ceiling of the cavern. Despite being able to see clear as day in the cave, Spider is only able to relay that the string is indeed found leading up to the ceiling, offering no clues to what. Instead of risking a boulder rolling upon them, Garn advises the team to step back so he can attempt to disarm the trap. During the effort to move the string out of the way while applying the pressure needed to not trigger it, the string slips from his hand, and a pile of debris falls from the ceiling mere feet before Garn. Three seconds later, a great boulder topples from the newfound hole, set to crush anyone who had set foot further into the room. Mercifully, he and the party are safe at and before the entrance. The room is a pain to maneuver into with the rocks fallen, but they are able to do so and explore its emptiness of any visible treasure.

Erring in the side of caution against illusion, Garn again focuses on detecting the presence of magic at play as he climbs back upon the stones to make a round. As he does, he notices within the ceiling recess made by the rocks a glint of light as if reflecting from metal. His magic detection spots a half moon aura of evocation, which sits atop a small pile of coins he feels as he reaches for it. It turns out to be a golden circlet with a pale, light blue gem surrounded by thin golden spikes protruding in a ring around it. Approximately fifteen gold richer and fifty percent more pretty for his new headgear, Tacin turns to show it off, spotting another aura--lightly tinged in transmutation--surrounding Gildie's new shield. She decides to keep it strapped comfortably to her arm, confident she can make use of its magic.

The trio returns to the intersection, Garn holding the rope as Gildie and Tacin descend to find all eight kobolds out and ready to go. The strongest returns Tacin's knife, while the weakest slumps uneasily, identified by Gildie as suffering from near fatal levels of exhaustion. During this exchange and looking over, Garn returns to the opening of the cave, spotting a blindingly thick fog outside, and a very small dragonlike figure fluttering inside. Reminded somewhat of a faerie dragon, he allows it to perch on his shoulder while attempting to ask it in Elvish what it is. Much to his surprise, Algras' voice rings out, explaining in some detail the situation with the fog. It's quite clearly unnatural, and centered around will-o-wisps that have rolled in along with it, even within shooting distance of Solana's lair.

He promises to approach, as best he can while unable to see his hand held out before his face, while Tacin calls out the group is ready to ascend and leave. Garn holds the rope again, all but the weakest able to climb before he the straggler up tied within the rope itself. There's some worry about how to trek through the marsh while leading kobolds of varying strength, eventually deciding that it may be worth standing at the cave's edge and shooting outwards at the wisps. Garn sees some within range, aiming carefully at a distant light before finding one pop up right before his face. His shot goes wide out of surprise, and the touch of the wisp shocks him to the core before it giggles a sadistic chime and vanishes from sight. Tacin tries to bring up worry about how to deal with this threat, but finds himself assailed in the same manner.

The group quickly goes over their options for both seeing the wisps, and seeing at all. Garn produces the stolen ever-burning torch to join Tacin's light-producing coin. The fog immediately around them lights up a little further, obscuring near to their noses, but the dimmer light at the edge of what's shed offers proper silhouettes of the trees or reflection from the water. Garn and Tacin prepare a round of long range attacks apiece if the creatures show themselves, and one certainly does, again trying for Garn's heart. Tacin's words cut through its concentration, saving Garn another burst of pain as Spider leaps through the ball of light in an attempt to bite it. It fails to go invisible again, sparking the proper start to a most unusual encounter against the two nearest foes.

With their immediate area all but totally obscured, movement proves tricky as Garn and Gildie fight through the trees surrounding the cave's entrance to find position to strike or shoot. Tacin maintains safety by the mouth of the cave, ready to retreat should news turn too bad, continually trying to twist foul words into disrupting the attention of the malicious lights. To their dismay, Garn and Gildie find their attempts to pierce the wisps ineffective, both struggling to land a blow upon the agile creatures and to hit hard enough to leave a visible, lasting impact. Time and time again the wisps pepper the team with electric touches, sapping the team's strength quite well even after one flakes away to nothingness. Garn even resorts to an extreme defense of hiding Spider against his invisible, magically armored self while everyone else finds their positions.

Throughout the fight, more distant wisp lights crackle and pop before fading away, Algras seemingly true to his word as he approaches and dispatches them steadily. The Kobolds see the struggle from within the cave, two of the still stout ones taking requisitioned spears to hurl out from within the cave. They soon after charge out to attempt to stab together at the last remaining wisp. Algras' efforts to attack fall mere feet short, leaving the party to fend for themselves against the tricky foe. His final attempt to close the gap seems to end with him falling in the flowing water, audible from the combat zone yelling in shock about the water's temperature. The wisp's flame is down to a mere ember, and it dances its jolt upon a kobold enough to knock it unconscious before attempting to descend into its heart. Despite being out cold, the kobold's will is steeled enough to withstand the wisp's attempt to actively drain its life away, allowing Spider the chance to pounce it from behind with a lethal bite.

Even Garn has to respect the kobolds' brave efforts enough to toss the unconscious one a magic berry from his reserve, and once it's awake, the party quickly retreats back into the cave to wait out the fog's dissipation. True to his word and despite visible, incredible shivers, Algras stands at the ledge awaiting everyone, with his pseudodragon immediately taking flight to join him before vanishing. He assures everyone the path is indeed safe to head back, promising safety now that everyone is close enough to watch over. A proper chance to rest awaits, and its siren song too alluring to resist compared to the wet outdoors or dank cave. On the way back to the lair, Algras confides to the party that there are two honored guests, both dragonborn, discussing matters at hand. Hashken is a familiar name, but Rhogar is a new one to the trio, and one that Algras advises the necessity of good cheer and laughter towards.

Algras breaks from the group to rejoin company once the lair is within close proximity, and the team finds Mitchell settled upon the edge of the ledge, a tarp held by two kobolds to stop the rain from assailing him. He's hard at work sculpting, for he has his first chance to see Solana visible in full and holding still. She is perched just outside her own cave's entrance, giving Rhogar a queer look. He is a seasoned fellow, tall and broad, with scales that seem to reflect between brass or bronze depending on the light and angle. He speaks with a heavy accent and cheery voice, ringing a promise to aid the camp in its recent troubles with the debt to Astraere. The party is given praise for their efforts once they're settled in, even earning a commendation for their prowess from Solana. Tacin's humbled reply gives her a puff of pride in her chest, much to Mitchell's appreciation.

Hashken, meanwhile, takes a chance to greet the party again, mentioning his lucky arrival due to being sent by Ember to check in on the party. As he greets each of the three, he points his finger at Tacin in particular. Tacin hears a whisper in his head from Hashken, that the visit also includes seeing if fiendish activity is present in Astraere as well. Tacin responds to the magical whisper with a mention of a possible clue, to be told later. Rhogar and Algras depart to figure out just how much money is available to be used in repaying the debt, leaving the rest of the party alone with Solana, who ducks back into her cave at first chance. The party is free to talk with Hashken about the recent misadventure and rescue, as well as Hashken's own pre emptive findings in Astraere. He leaves it to the party whether he returns the same day or waits to join them tomorrow, but notes Joshamee's lack of enthusiasm for their venture and likelihood to stick to the letter of the law that the encampment could be put to the sword for theft.

Tacin muses to the party that they could cover the remaining deficit in order to wipe the slate clean of Joshamee's debt, trusting Algras is a much better figure to associate any such debt with. The estimate is that Algras' eighty gold on hand falls short of the assumed 120 deficit (if Hashken's learned figures are correct), leaving fourty to work out between the party. While producing and counting the money, Rhogar finds his need to spin a tale on behalf of the encampment no longer necessary. He had hoped to tell the town that it was he, a dragonborn, that was being gathered for, and the kobolds were misunderstood out of cold, fatigue, and panic. Believable though the difference may be, the truth is worth winning out, and Rhogar opts to retreat early so everyone else can work on their business. He promises to check in on the encampment from time to time as he goes.

From the treasure coffer, Algras produces the coinage, and some specks of gemstones comparable to the tiny pebble Garn earned from the magpie's nest. Among them is a curious red one that glows, catching the extrasensory attention of Gildie and Tacin. A deal is quickly brought up that the party's funds could be used to buy that little stone, with Solana having the final say. She decides that the stone would make a good repayment for the newly incurred debt to the party, and even succumbs to Tacin's indomitable earnesty to not call out his quick interest as a way to earn more money in the transaction. For the moment, Tacin places the stone in a Haversack pocket separate from the others, having no vial to contain it.

Algras as he moves to return the empty chest to its hiding place. Tacin points out to Hashken that they trust their trip will be safe tomorrow, offering Hashken the chance to return to his own fiend scouting job without delay. He does ask Hashken to wait at the foot of the mountain, though, as he has to consult the team before offering the hinted clue. Hashken agrees, leaving Tacin to bring up the fact that there are multiples and spares of shards, even on their person, so perhaps Hashken could make use of them. The dragonborn is a traveler and diplomat, so he's certain to be out and about in many places. With no objections, Tacin rejoins Hashken at the mountain's base as promised. Hashken is quick to congratulate Tacin on the successful shard discovery, but has to remind Tacin that they were all four in the Sleepery along with Ember and the sisters when the business was being discussed. A rarity thus far on the adventure, Tacin finds himself embarrassed over the memory lapse.

After some assurance that it is the right course of action for everyone involved with the shard business, Hashken indeed accepts and clenches the long-held amber shard, finding a small streak of glittering lights running over his arm. He likens the knowledge of spells coursing through him to those he has seen from Ember in his time around her, and inquires what the supposed sensory effects are to him. One at a time Tacin produces the crimson, viridian, and violet stones, and Hashken's ear fins twitch in response to each. He finds himself able to hear respectively a crackle of fire, a steady and pleasant breeze, and a dissonant hum that strikes an uneasy chill through him. Confident in his ability to make out any further sounds and use his new talents, he thanks Tacin and awaits the clue about the situation in Astraere.

It's a much shorter affair to explain Dalan's suspicions and observations, offering Hashken a clue of what to potentially look for or do about it. With business concluded, he bids Tacin farewell before using a spell to whisk himself away some 500 feet away, bypassing the horses that seem wary of his presence. Tacin returns to the group to find Algras curious about the stone, and produces it for Algras to look at. One for quick action instead of long explanation, Garn claims it and gives it a solid pinch to shatter within his hand.

Another wreath of crimson, fiery energy runs over his arm, and he feels a familiar glimmer of insight into the arcane, burst of vitality through his self, dip into the deep pool of Warlocky... and an unfamiliar flash of inspiration into the supposed secondary, latent power deeper within the stones. He feels the red magic pulsing in him, his mind's eye seeing it and seeing through it a talent if the original Invokers of the fourth age. He comes to understand the workings of magic enough that he feels like he could perform the rituals of spells through careful, more lengthy preparation. The realization of this power is impressive and somewhat overwhelming, leading him to forget to test his actual newfound spell. Algras is impressed by the seeming potency of such a small piece of rock, and decides to hold no grudge over not being told the magical nature of the stone earlier, and instead offers a deal to the party. Any further such shards found will be saved for purchase later, if any are found. It's a fair deal to the party!

With business finally seemingly concluded, rest awaits. Garn continues to wear his newfound circlet, and Gildie her new shield. The rest is refreshing and restorative, and Garn finds himself able to sense a limited use but renewable warmth from the circlet, able to project energy from it. Gildie, however, discovers her shield sends a spike of cold dread through her arm once its magic locks in. Suddenly worried about a curse, the party is quick to figure out what its nature may be, deciding the shield's shape--a drawn bow--is the most obvious clue. Garn tests by tossing arrows like darts near her, and the arrows swivel rapidly to aim at her breastplate. Despite short distance and gentle tosses, the missiles turn and approach with deadly accuracy and force, seeking out the weak points in her armor to pierce her, rather than the shield.

Despite this, any of the projectiles that reach her seem to wound her much less than they should. What looks like a solid blow that would send a whole arrowhead under her skin only pierces itself halfway, a lobbed stone ends its gut-check only partly dug into her skin, and even Tacin's much lengthier knife scrapes her rather than inserting normally. But no matter what the trio try, any solid projectile that's aimed at a space within a certain distance of her veers right to her. Funnily enough, aiming away from her yet loosing a missile through her results in no change, and aiming at her with another person between arrow and Gildie herself results in an impossible twist and curve of the object to reach her. Algras makes sure he has her permission to test an unfortunate possibility, firing a streak of magical energy in front of her. It thankfully does not veer into her, implying it is only solid objects drawn by the shield's magics.

Algras supposes the shield is indeed cursed, as even cursed equipment carries a benefit to its detriment. Gildie is now permanently fated to be the new target of any projectile aimed within a certain distance of her, until the curse is removed, and the shield grants a measure of protection from the injury sustained by any such missile. Were it that she could simply use this power to protect the party from opposing archers, that would be nice. However, this entails having to be sure Garn is not loosing his arrows at targets near her, and ensuring she does not fall in battle with anything still being slung magically at her direction. The party is left to muse this double edged shield as they prepare to retire for the night.

Session 9: That Was Dragon On: 
Tacin remembers before bed to ensure the idea of a sinking weight by the lure is shared between Algras and the kobolds. Mitchell is given the relatively easy task of creating appropriate devices, which is tested with some improvement in the fortunes for fishing. The mystery of the sudden disappearance of the fish's numbers remains unsolved, but any improvement beats none. A point of curiosity about the possible shard-buying deal comes to mind as well, with a lack of clarity on how to communicate over long distances in case a possible shard of power is found. Algras simply smiles and points out his pseudodragon via a stroke over its crest, recalling to mind its ability to let Algras speak through it. With these worries abated, Tacin is able to properly settle down to sleep.

Morning breaks with relief that most business on the matter concluded, though little improvement in the rain. Worse, after discussing the plan for the day, the party finds the rains have taken a toll on the grassy path leading back to town. The saturation of water on the tall grass and slickness of mud underneath leaves the terrain difficult even for their steeds, causing almost all of daytime to pass before Astraere even comes back into view. Anthony is in the stables proper, and voices immediate curiosity upon the party's return what they're planning to do. He hadn't expected them to return, let alone with their mounts, and is quick to point out the two most likely deals; return the steeds to their stables for the night, or sell them off to a good butcher.

The idea causes Garn to fume enough that he uses his ability to speak to beasts during this time, bringing it up to Demon what is being discussed. Despite a visibly flaring temper, the behemoth curbs his anger and waits for what is said next. Tacin and Gildie aren't enthusiastic about sending the horses to the slaughter, even if their longevity as steeds for the party is in question. True, the idea of legal profit is pleasant, but doesn't quite tip the scale. Garn leads Demon a little ways from the stable and channels a proper spell for full, two way communication with Demon to ensure the facts of what's happening are laid bare. Demon proves understanding of the basics, but unable to think further than a single night at a time, voicing only his continued worry for his weaker comrades in hooves.

It takes a few minutes, but Garn figures Demon's reactions to mean that he would prefer to sleep in a drier, warmer place overnight and place his trust in people who have treated him and his friends decently (sans nights in the cold rain). Garn sweetens the deal by promising Spider will be on hand to assist in ending Anthony if anything untoward is attempted. Demon's eyes glint maliciously at permission to do the deed if it feels threatened, and trots to Daniel and Frannie to lead them back to their own stables. The sudden moves confuse Anthony, but he's quick to take it to mean a night for the three, and three silver in his pocket for it.

With no clear schedule for when to give the news and payment to Councilman Joshamee, the party opts to sidestep that for a moment and visit Dalan. Tacin in particular wants corroboration on Mitchell's opinion on the Council, which Dalan is quick to give. Of course no actual facts or records seem to exist of any foul play, but the stench is strong enough to keep Dalan's full distrust. Furthermore, the Council themselves are growing a little less discrete by the day, not even attempting to hide their odd ways at some points. Dalan found himself a moment of opportunity to spy upon two, Louisse and Joshamee pretending to communicate between them but holding two very different conversations face to face.

The talk proves proof enough for the group that something is amiss, and they take their leave to deliver the news to Joshamee. With Dalan's warning of treading lightly well in mind, they circle around the decorative stream towards his establishment. On the way, Hashken awaits at the hotel, full glad to see them in good health and ready to join. He leads the party a few paces off the direct path, away from most prying ears enough to mutter one word aloud. Imps. Gildie can only associate the name with devilry, and Garn just enough to know they are trickster devils that attempt to serve yet misguide their masters. Tacin, however, knows all too well that their methods of corruption and influence fit the bill with the rumors of the Council's behaviors.

As the situation grows more delicate by the moment, the trio enter the establishment, with Hashken waiting patiently outside but in close proximity. It seems closing time in the building, and the host politely awaits their greeting and reason for entry. Upon confirming from their own mouths that they are on business for Joshamee, the Councilman is summoned within minutes. He is truly surprised to see the party hale and healthy before asking their version of what happened. Tacin is rather vague about the details of the inner workings of the camp, opting instead to focus on the kobolds' desire to gather food a more proper way. He does mention Rhogar's name as a possible supporting party in the adventure while loosely describing a tit-for-tat favor exchange while at the camp to figure out how to avoid any more theft.

Hashken is quick to point a finger under his robe to Tacin, mentioning that Rhogar's name had not been brought up yet. Tacin is urged to focus more on the specifics of how the food might be safely procured in the future. Tacin skips the mental reply and pulls out the money, hurriedly adding that the fish problem should be dealt with via the sinking lure discovery and testing. Despite his rush and vagueness, Joshamee believes his earnesty enough to not press the matter further, instead outlining the numbers as logged. In addition to the money from Solana's hoard, Tacin has to offer out twenty-five of the party's accumulated gold to cover the rest of the debt. Joshamee separates fifty pieces from the debt pile and offers it back to the party, their job well done reward.

Joshamee bids the party good night once business is concluded, though his tone smacks of frustration. Tacin suspects he is disappointed as some form of lost opportunity or a conclusion he did not desire, but just smiles himself at how well things seemed to go. With imps at hand, however, Hashken hurries the party back to the hotel, casting a spell on his way. His haste only grows as the party makes it into the building proper, and once together in his room, calls the group to speak only in a whisper. He was using magic to scout for invisibility, which showed an imp's shape to him on their way back. They were and are being watched, though thankfully not listened to so long as their voices are kept quiet.

Despite Joshamee's agreement that business is concluded, the issue of imps warrants full attention from the group, despite lack of clarity at how to proceed. Unlike succubi, it's not clear whether or not imps can flee to the Ether, though Hashken shows his preparation on that matter via a potion allowing him travel into the plane for a time. The issue is mostly that the imps are not ones to be directly involved in conflict and combat, likely to flee at first sign of trouble. Yet the council must be shown as decisively having had contact with imps in order to avoid any use of their political sway to avoid admission. The iron seems hottest when the council is all together, at a daily meeting in the building at the town's center.

This comes with unfortunate obstacles. Commoners aren't allowed inside, even those like Hashken who were involved with the town's construction. The laws he wrote for the region come to work against him, with many avenues of force blocked off. The party still muses how to potentially blockade exits in a way that seems like a happy accident, hoping to lead the council in one direction together, but continually falls short of a way to avoid backlash or intervention of the guards. Even those in power, such as the other larger business owners who join the council in their meeting, aren't allowed to bring strangers to the table for fear of assassination attempts. The building is warded against general infiltration magic, undoing the idea of entry by invisibility.

The conundrum calls for starting over with the goal first and foremost. Putting the council together in one place at one time, despite each having a reason to go four separate ways. An idea is sparked at possibly having Dalan invite the four to a meal to discuss further matters, allowing a single route and time to be decided. Tacin figures that Dalan is willing enough to undo the council's corrupt power that help is viable. It's worth a shot. He, Gildie, and Hashken make their way to Dalan's studio, while Garn opts to split and check on the steeds. To his relief, none of the three seem harmed, and Anthony allows Garn to stay after hours if he pleases. Garn uses the offer to scout for the imp if it followed him, again cast his spell of communication, and ensure no foul play was had. Spider is somewhat more coherent than Demon, relaying a simple grooming and feeding during Garn's absence. Demon trusts nothing bad will happen, freeing Garn to reclaim Spider and return to the inn.

Dalan, meanwhile, is surprised for the new and returned company. Tacin speaks, but Dalan seems to have his mind on something else for the moment, offering everyone a seat. He requests Tacin share a more full story of how Hashken came to be known and their time together, which Tacin happily obliges to. It becomes apparent only a few sentences into his recount that Dalan is continuing to hold his attention elsewhere, nodding and responding in simple sounds of the affirmative or small laughs or worried hums, and not always at appropriate times. Hashken remains dead silent through the story, leading Tacin to draw a conclusion and take a hint. His story becomes a little more one-sided, ensuring any ques for response from Dalan are highlighted with a more open question, "Am I right?" or "Don't you think?" styled segues growing much more common. It's a new experience to Tacin to attempt to force such an issue, however, and he recognizes his inability to maintain full discretion.

Before the story concludes, Dalan returns to his proper bombastic self, responding as he normally would until the tale ends. He gives Tacin a knowing wink before seeing the party off, to which Hashken confirms both the imp's continued spying and the confirmation of the plan anyway. With the element of surprise hopefully on the party's side, everyone shares a meal and retires to a separate room. Shortly into the rest, Tacin is awoken by a very swift series of motions. A cloth of some kind shoved between his lips, a hood over his head, and bindings rapidly spun around him to pin arms to his sides and ankles together. He is lobbed from the window, of course unable to brace for the impact, before being hoisted off in the rain.

He manages to spit out te gag enough to cry out his healing spell, which stirs Gildie to waking up but sparks panic in his captors. While Gildie knocks at the door and calls to Tacin, the man himself hears his captors exclaim surprise and call to "use this one", a doorway opening before he is thrown into a pool of icy cold water and shut in. Mercifully, his necklace remains on, allowing him the ability to brethe in the water as he struggles to figure out his surroundings. Bones and sharp objects litter the coffin-like space he's in, and he scratches himself at times while working to cut through the rope. As Gildie's calling wakes Garn, Tacin manages to get his hands free, but fails to fight through the bones to get in any position to push at the lid above him. Garn kicks the door open to find Tacin's room empty, and its window open. Tacin, meanwhile, attempts to blow the lid off things in a much clearer manner.

After taking a deep breath, Tacin cries out a burst of thunder that pierces his prison and rings out through the whole town. The latch of the lid is snapped, and the entire door pushed forward enough to fly fully open. Some fragment of the latch of material around it flies off to crash through a window in Councilman Alphone's establishment. Gildie and Garn are quick to chase the sound, finding Tacin submerged in a small pool dug under the decorative stream that circles the town, trying to wrestle the rest of his bindings away and get out. Gildie jumps at the chance to help drag him out as the reactions and noise start stirring around the party. With their equipment largely left behind in the hotel, the party stands fairly exposed and uncertain about what may approach. One thing's for sure; someone really wants them dead.

Session 10: Drowning In Attention: 
Shivering and wet, the party tries to figure out what recently happened before the rest of the town can come out and begin throwing out too many opinions. It doesn't take long before a few denizens of the hotel or Alphonse's establishment come into earshot, though, and ere long, almost the whole town's population is gathered around to look. The ruckus brings out the four of the Council in near unison, who immediately start demanding some form of explanation as to what happened to the entire waterway.

Gildie's able to observe well enough through the rain to recall a difference in the cityscape, particularly with the decorative stream. Not only is the area affected by Tacin's Thunderwave broken, but four additional places are now crumbling and leaking water rapidly. This certainly couldn't have been caused by a simple blast of noise upwards, loud but not destructive enough to reach so far out. Despite Tacin's best efforts to make the distinction, he is accused of being the only magic-capable individual in town aside from Hashken, who is trusted due to his part in writing the laws of the land.

Tacin attempts to remove suspicion on himself by hopping back into the water pit to produce a human skull, calling out that he could not have been responsible for previous deaths in the same manner he was attacked. The council is quick to deny any knowledge of the bones' placement or pit's presence, of course. They instead begin needling the trio on their motives, as new faces to the town who seem to have allied themselves in some way with dragonkind. After all, they seemed all too content with leaving a chromatic dragon and its band of thieving kobolds alone on the promise that fishing would improve.

The Council continues this attack on two fronts, inconsistent in their target but always on the offensive about the issues of magically sourced damage to the waterway or their supposed lack of concern over the town's well being due to allying with a dragon. The trio is bewildered at the lack of clear target, but Hashken recognizes what's happening as the crowd starts rousing into a quiet but angry chorus. He calls for a brief time to let the party collect their thoughts and organize their story, as the situation seems to be taking a more improvised town tribunal than anything. Unable to call out the law scribe as easily, the Council agrees, and the few townsfolk gathered at the back corner of the inn make way to offer the group some room.

Hashken warns the group that diplomacy is no longer an option. The Council are attempting to use a law writ for a failsafe against corruption against the party. Should the majority of the town cry corruption or foul play, the will of the people is to supersede the letter of the law in exiling a trouble figure or party, and enough numbers could lead to immediate punishment, even execution. The Council, whether by force, threat, money, or loyalty, have enough of the town in their pocket that talking will not win the day. Hashken, having drank the Etherealness potion moments ago, calls for a more direct way to solve all issues at once. Fight, to subdue threatening figures while they're not gathered together and to buy Hashken time to hunt the Imps.

Trusting that even those whose loyalty was bought will change their mind at the presence of devilry, the team agrees that it is the best option, if rushed. Hashken nods and summons his way with words to deliver a short but rousing, assuring speech to the group, enough to bring lifted spirits and even some humor in the team. The party finds themselves bolstered and prepared for what may come, and Tacin leads the trio back to the forefront of the crowd to deliver a rather heartfelt apology and concise explanation of the situation, from the lack of ill will to the fact that he is also a victim of kidnapping and attempted murder.

The townsfolk are largely calmed for the moment with the explanation, one even noting an open window where Tacin's room is. This does not deter the Council from their original plan of attack, calling to fact again that their two points of interest remain very much the same. Tacin remains one of the two in town who are capable of magic, and the party still has put themselves on the side of mercy where the livelihood of a chromatic dragon is concerned. Garn chides back that he doesn't care of the dragon lives or dies as he bravely wanders the crowd, but nearby Joshamee is not to be deterred, calling for Garn to halt before force is used. Garn chides back that he truly doesn't care for the livelihood of the kobolds, and stands his ground.

Garn's relation to Tacin as a fellow adventurer on his team is used against him to place him back on the side of villain, well enough that the town continues to murmur and rouse into anger. Before the momentum can shift further, Garn and Gildie plainly say what is on the team's mind; the Council is simply trying to add to their collection of corpses. Garn blatantly insults Joshamee with a word strong enough to wash the crowd in silence, and Gildie needles the Council immediately for being the corrupt party allied with devils. Unwilling to stand such insults, Joshamee calls for the party to be seized, and Alphonse blows a whistle to summon guards.

The townsfolk largely break free and begin running, leaving the party with one of the brutishly large men from the warehouse and a couple well built Council-establishment employees drawing weapons. Tacin seeks to avoid being the primary target of trouble and cloaks himself in invisibility, stepping under an awning to avoid rain drops giving away his silhouette, otherwise prepared to verbally weave his magic where needed. The Council flees to their central headquarters as Garn turns and points his bow at one of the knife-wielding employees, attempting to intimidate the man into not fighting. His size does him too little a favor, and he instead hides his own body from sight while creeping against a building. Gildie is settled beside the brute, trying to trip the man more than anything, though his size proves too stout to undo the balance of.

While everyone is maneuvering, Hashken reappears some feet behind Tacin, letting loose a burst of poisonous liquid true to his green dragon heritage. The spray is able to drop two invisible imps dead in one go, a third sputtering and alive but visibly dripping the liquid for a second. The tides attempt to shift as Garn finds his body bumped into from behind by another employee trying to join the fray, but he is still able to lean out of the way of the daggers blindly thrusting. Gildie's opponent calls for aid to attack from both sides, club raised as he maneuvers behind her, but she responds with a step of her foot that puts her outside the range of being blindsided. Much like the thug of days ago, one swing bounces off her shield before the other comes with proper aim at her head, though the sudden appearance of Tacin's voice distracts him enough to let Gildie raise her shield in time.

Tacin responds to the rush with another dagger cloud where the dripping imp was, resulting in its overkill before it falls nearly in pieces next to its comrades. Garn once again pleas for peace, though with a much more silver tongue, able to calm the two nearby knifemen if only for the moment. It's a moment enough to put away his bow and round the corner, setting Spider loose to seek an imp. Spider indeed finds one, but doesn't have the presence of mind to attack it yet. In the seconds that follow, however, Gildie eases the brute's wound via her own limited magic, resulting in his own hesitation at everyone pointing out the presence of imps. The fourth imp attempts to flee the scene, but Spider will not be deterred as it leaps up and catches the beast in its fangs, poison potent enough to bring the imp into an unconscious, paralyzed stupor.

With all four devils laid bare, Hashken steps up and projects his voice in his own thunderous boom, calling "Peace!" to the battlefield and beyond. The tension in the air dies rapidly as the three adventurers continue to call for no more fighting, with imps present and largely disposed of. The approaching guards are the last to calm, rounding corners with measured hesitation, ready to strike but quick to halt upon sighting the devils. The knife-wielding employee who had attempted to move to Gildie's flank mumbles something about being done with this fight, his voice ringing with familiarity to Tacin's ear. The memory of his kidnapping bursts in his mind, linking the voice to the one that called for him to be dunked hastily into the water pit he was tossed into.

A call is made to stop the man as he flees, Hashken quick on the draw as he casts a spell that drops the fleeing foe within a second. A guard asks what Tacin's worry is before recovering the man, asleep thanks to Hashken's hasty spell. With devils afoot and a kidnapper in hand, the guard takes a moment to measure the situation before deciding the Council needs to be detained and questioned as well. The townsfolk start gathering slowly back to the scent of the fight, murmurs of frustration growing as they come to the realization that devils had influence on their town, seemingly through the Council. The corpses in the water pit suddenly register as likely being those indeed of the townsfolk, Tacin inquiring with one citizen about that same suspicion. The man is flumoxed by the idea of it, but indeed confirms that the Council has been willing to openly claim a business owner's lack of success and departure from the city at times, pondering if those names rest in the watery grave.

Shortly after, the guards come from the headquarters and call for the adventurers to come. Three of the Imps have largely flaked away, but one remains paralyzed for proof, and the sleeping man still snores. Hashken carries the unconscious body to meet the lightly bound Councilmen leaning against the wall. Their fearful faces betray their otherwise stony silence, showing their guilt before it can be told. The kidnapper is roused from his slumber with a more direct wash of water on his face, seeing himself cornered and backing into the closed door behind him. Whiny and worried, he preemptively confesses his guilt, pointing to Joshamee as the figure directly responsible for hiding him. When the guard holds a blade to the man's throat, he promises to write down the names of his cohorts, cementing the doom of all involved.

Hashken turns to thank the team for their contribution to the efforts, but Tacin and Gildie aren't satisfied. They ask what people did to deserve their fate, why seemingly innocent lives were put under. All but Alphonse stay silent, the man muttering a feeble, halfhearted attempt to say they didn't know what they were doing, implying the imps' control, to nobody's genuine belief. Garn seeks to rub their situation in a little further, grabbing Joshamee by the hair under guide of wanting to see if he was even going so far as to disguise his looks. When the elderly man's head is pulled upwards a little by the grip, Garn whispers the same insult from earlier that night into the man's ear before stepping back.

The party is assured that the Council will be sent to Dispatere to answer for their crimes in a proper judiciary hearing, where armies and law are properly born and maintained. Hashken personally will see to it, asking the team to resume their rest in peace. Garn attempts, and fails, to start a chant of "Guillotine" among the town, and resumes his silence as Hashken outlines the basic plans of transportation and likely results before sending the team to bed. Tacin lingers to give the Council a disappointed gaze before crossing the bridge to the inn. Dalan meets him at the bridge, offering him a silent, somber pat on the shoulder. The clock shows near midnight at this time, thankfully not too great a disruption to the group's schedule. Garn offers Tacin a shared room again, which Tacin gratefully takes.

Dawn breaks, cold and wet as it has been all week. Dalan and Hashken await the team in the hotel's lobby, Dalan smirking as he calls out Tacin on putting him in a fine mess. Due to line of succession laws written by Hashken, Dalan's status as the central district's longest lasting resident, he has been escalated to one of the four to sit in the now vacant seats. The "rather clever Dragonborn" is complimented indirectly for a minute, gracefully pointing out all the team's involvement in the success of the night. He lingers only to point out that the carriage, too full for more company, departs at his arrival once his business is finished. His business is to produce an oblong marble of turquoise, pulsing a soft light, in offering to Gildie.

She takes the stone, but for fear of causing confusion to Dalan and the host at the desk, merely pockets it for the moment. Tacin continues the charade of ignorance by asking where the marble was found. It turns out a shopkeeper in store had it on open display, supposing it a Gem of Brightness that had lost most of its potency. He seemed willing to offer it freely to Hashken as thanks for saving the night, however, and now here it sits in Gildie's pocket. Dalan smiles a little more at knowing the party has a reward that seems to satisfy them, and excuses himself for having to catch up on the Council's schedule. Hashken departs soon after to begin the escort, leaving the three free to do as they will.

Gilidie voices her displeasure at not having a reliable way to attack from afar, going alongside Tacin to a smithy on a far corner of the smaller, house-run stalls. A man is hammering too loudly to hear their approach, but quick to smile at the idea of business with local heroes. Gildie inquires about heavier thrown goods, earning a playful jab at her lack of knowledge about practical combat. He points out her rapier and correctly guesses her lean towards finesse before force, guiding her to think of something like a small crossbow or throwing knife. He demonstrates the dexterous nature of flicking a knife, but unknown to him, it's a bad idea to let loose in such confined quarters. The knife spins and crosses near his face before deflecting off Gildie's armor. He looks stupefied and picks up the same knife, ignoring both Gildie's and Tacin's panicked protests as he flings the knife away from Gildie, only to have it swerve back and the scene repeat.

It takes some convincing and demonstration that it won't end the same if Gildie throws it, proving she can fling the knife many feet away into the grass without it converging on her, before the man is comfortable dealing in any long-distance goods. The hand crossbow proves to be too expensive, and Gildie leaves with a package deal of three daggers for one gold off the total price. Tacin takes advantage of the shopping spree to seek two platinum rings for his own future spellwork, finding a nearby shop with none in display. The lady at the table assures him more is kept behind lock and key, but knowing Tacin's capabilities, is pained to inquire if the two rings are for a spell. She only has one such ring of platinum, and wouldn't want to cheat Tacin out of good coin if the rings must be in some way linked or tied to each other, pointing him to the larger jewelry shop in the town.

Tacin still pays her for her honesty and concern before finding himself allowed a discount on his own purchase, even pocketing coin instead of a small gemstone as his change. During this time, Garn has made his way to the stables to check on the group's steeds. The horses are as whole and healthy as the day they met, and calm enough in Garn's presence that he risks trying to lead all three through the city to the path to depart. He unfortunately fails, mounting Demon but unable to steer him as the three beasts wander only slowly through town. Gildie and Tacin are amused as they reach this scene and mount up to make for Somnophis. While on the road, Tacin asks if Gildie wants to make use of her own shard of power now that company is private.

She finds herself gaining a familiar rush of energy and knowledge of Bardic magic, but like Garn, an unfamiliar sensation washes over her. Behind closed eyes, she sees a turquoise aura form in a rough shape of her body, pulsing with her heart. As she watches, she finds her own vitality brimming, little discomforts and potential ailments easing away. She foolishly suggests she might have been cleansed of the curse, earning another arrow to the shield from Garn's expert pitching, and instead surmises her body is simply more healthy and harder to negatively affect. The physical vitality of the Wardens of old courses through Gildie, a promising sensation to think about on the ride back.

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 Post subject: Re: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
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 Post subject: Re: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
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 Post subject: Re: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
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 Post subject: Re: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
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 Post subject: Re: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
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 Post subject: Re: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
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 Post subject: Re: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
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 Post subject: Re: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
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 Post subject: Re: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
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 Post subject: Re: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
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 Post subject: Re: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
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 Post subject: Re: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
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