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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.

Session 11: Seeking Counsel: 
As Tacin laments momentarily over a query for Dalan he forgot to voice before departing, the party finds themselves following some clear tracks made by the carriage of Hashken's prisoner escort. Some time after crossing the halfway tower, however, the tread marks are joined by three sets of footprints. The feet follow the carriage directly for some ways before veering off into the grass nearby, though still visible enough for the party's prying eyes to follow. They divert further once Somnophis comes into view, towards a few nearby patches of foliage--a few clusters of trees and bushes here and there a stone's throw from the road, if they move in a straight line.

Garn takes a curious shot in the dark at some of the greenery he suspects a creature to be potentially hiding within, but two arrows yield no actual results aside from the shaking of distant bushes. With Spider at the helm to detect the warmth of blood, Garn casually trots over and dismounts Demon before moving to try to find his arrows. Spider's hiss of warning leads Garn to believe a rodent of sorts is hiding, and urges Spider to go hunt. The rapid shuffle of Spider's approach begets the sudden emergence of three goblins in waiting, two green ones with a larger hobgoblin, and all appearing much stronger than any seen by the group before.

Curiously unarmed, the hobgoblin of the bunch steps behind Spider and delivers four rapid palms to Spider's flank, quickly overwhelming and subduing the beast. Garn finds himself beset on both sides soon after, though Tacin is quick to intervene, a word of power bringing fresh life into Spider's body. The hobgoblin is also punished by a well-placed dagger cloud that cuts into its side before Gildie sprints forwards upon Daniel, leaping from the horse to place herself properly into the foray. She gains the attention of one of the goblins with a stab to its back, giving Garn a little room to breathe as he works. He renders himself invisible, steps back, and fires upon Spider's attacker, his eyes seeing blood.

The smaller goblins chase down the now-conscious spider and render it incapacitated once more before turning to Gildie, unable to land a blow through her uncanny defenses. Her own counterstrike fails, but serves to keep the goblin's attention on her for the moment. The hobgoblin, wounded near death, opts to flee with a flashy farewell. Its hands glow purple before three spectral darts fling at Tacin, who is able to absorb the missiles with a spectral shield of his own, before it turns and flees with a move speed comparable to a horse at full gallop. Tacin recognizes the power as one granted by his own variety of shards, calling to the team that the hobgoblin mustn't escape.

The two smaller goblins are little more than mere distractions after that. Gildie is able to thrust hard enough to send one goblin into the still floating dagger swarm, multiple stabs and cuts now rendering it lifeless within the cloud. Garn goads to Demon that the fleeing hobgoblin was trying to kill Franny, which spurs a moment of thought from the beast. He knows the fight is his owners against evil looking things, but that the Hobgoblin is fleeing. So Demon rears a single leg up and slams a hoof into the wounded goblin's head, a sickening snap ending its life. Garn steps further out and, with his well practiced bowmanship, fires through the foliage and rain to find an arrow to the fleeing one's back.

Garn returns to Spider's side to help mend the injury, Goodberry's magic offering quick recovery of the basic functions. Spider gratefully flees back into Garn's pack before the team moves to examine the corpse for how its shard may expunge itself. Much like the bullywug, a little glow of purple is seen before a needle-like stone protrudes slowly from the space under the hobgoblin's collar but over his heart. The skin is cracked in purple lines, but unlike the bullywug chief, a chunk of its torso does not flake away entirely. There is no measurable difference in the stones' total size or power, however, leaving the group curious and still slightly worried for their future fates, though it doesn't stop Tacin from taking and placing the shard in a vial.

The trip back is otherwise uneventful, and the party chooses not to muse too hard over the relation between the carriage's movements and the goblin troupe's tracks. There are no signs of a struggle, after all, and the tracks of the carriage continue onward without worry. It occurs to the party as they arrive that they don't know if Somnophis can house their horses well. Gildie is quick to coax it from a townsperson that the closest stables is in the southeast corner of the town, pointing towards Thantras. The quadrant of the town is a little more run down, being the town's original buildings before reconstruction, both those that did and did not survive the chaos of decades past. But the people still seem well, and offer no trouble, nor charge for the housing of the steeds.

While en route to Ember's forge, Gildie notices a curious sight that aligns with a rumor she heard while alone in the town on her first day. A kenku--a flightless bird that can only speak through mimicry--rests its back against the wall of the Sleepery's side of the fortress, motionless. She remembers hearing of a kenku that peddles information, but opts not to actually do more than point out its existence and rumored job to the party. Little interest is shown in its supposed wares, either, and the group enters Ember's Fabrications to find Gimble and Kiba behind the counter together. The gnome points out that Ember is in her workshop under the building, and knocks on the door. It opens without any further touch, inviting any who want to descend. Gildie and Tacin go, while Garn admires the beauty of the Oathbow hanging high upon the wall.

Ember is at work whittling away a wooden mask the size of a table, recognizable as a recreation of Achion's face in a position of great delight. She explains that it is a lifestyle choice of some greater cloud giants to collect such theatrical masks to help express themselves, and brags that her talents in them is part of what helps Achion remain in Somnophis while offering his services for so cheap. The eyeball portions of the mask are solid as could be, but are freshly enchanted to allow one to see through them. Tacin curiously leans and looks from under the mask, indeed able to see not only the ceiling above him, but the silhouettes of Garn's, Gimble's, and Kiba's feet. The strength of the enchantment is unfortunately to wane as the magic settles in throughout more of the wood, useful as it seems at that moment.

Before much can be spoken about, Ember grows curious about the success of another of her works and beckons the two to a stand where a metal pole rests on display. She asks them both to work together to lift it, and together they must, for despite being naught but a pole it weighs as heavily as a fully crafted maul. Gildie buckles under the unexpected weight shortly after hoisting it, and Ember works to help Tacin more safely lower his half before explaining it is her biggest project yet, though the details can wait for food to be present for the conversation. Before heading upstairs, however, Tacin inquires about the kenku outside, as such loitering is an unexpected sight in the town. It turns out Ember is none too pleased with it, since the kenku broke a customer confidentiality rule by telling one person that another had pawned an heirloom behind the family's back.

Regardless of what else he was looking at in the meantime, Garn is found examining the bow again as the others ascend, and Ember playfully points out that she wouldn't suggest reaching up for it without her express permission. Tacin takes a jab at Garn for being found out before everyone moves to the doorway. Ember casts a spell that sparks white flame around the kenku, a crow of surprise ringing out before it shuffles away. It walks with a limp, one of its legs seemingly permanently stiff and its wings hanging quite uselessly at its sides. It's not mentioned further as the group moves to the largest table, settling in to once again resume eating. And once again, Ember ignores the idea of starting the conversation, preferring to keep her mouth full of food or drink unless it's her turn to speak.

The conversation starts with a curiosity what all Hashken may have relayed on his way through, and the status of the caravan, since they're not in town. Without knowing the full story for herself, Ember can only assume she was told "a lot", though knowing Hashken, close enough to the full story. His services have been proven (once again to Ember) invaluable for the region, and he is currently moving to rest with the carriage at the halfway house between Dispatere and Somnophis. He voiced concern about any of the Council's connections in Somnophis itself being able to interfere directly in town, and thought it prudent to move on until evening. Thinking on friendly faces, Riyae is the next concern, and to the team's delight he seems to be in good health and able to move and act freely again. He even hopes to come to Somnophis on the morrow.

With shards on the mind next, Enna's status as a viridian shard user comes up, with a shard available for her in tow, but she and Kiri are mentioned to be part of the escort from Somnophis to Dispatere proper. Yet another instance of being an hour short of handing off the shard. The next obvious mystery is the biggest worry for the party themselves; they bring up their observations about the two late foes who lost shards from within themselves, and the varying degrees of mutilation to their bodies. It's news to Ember, however; she has only obtained any of her shards by old fashioned searching around. She can only flatly suggest the solution is to not die.

Questions on hand wrap up, and attention turns to the future. She reminds Gildie and Tacin of the heavy metal rod in her basement, and points out its intended use in the future; it is a mere handle for a polearm, to be wielded by someone worthy of such great weight and effort. Achion comes immediately to mind, but she says no and points out that she hopes it will be fit for Moradin's hands in time. The weapons' head, however, rests in secret and has been largely crafted of a material she only reveals then and there to the party. She places a lime-sized diamond on the table, letting it roll near the center, challenging the team to identify it properly. They could earn it on success, but nobody can pin its origins; even Garn's attempt at figuring out its source of magic fails, only feeling that it has a lingering wisp of energy floating within it.

It turns out to be an Astral Diamond, a Fourth Era carryover that used to be more common and used as a proper currency. Once worth a full ten thousand gold in that time, they now are scattered antiques, of which she has gathered enough to hopefully fashion a proper weapon head. It takes a few moments to put the pieces together, though she drops a hint that the enchantment on the handle is simple, and took only a few months. Garn inquires about that inconsistent sounding claim, to which Ember draws her sword, pointing out it rivals popular names like a Holy Avenger or Sphere of Annihilation for rarity. It took a solid year of effort to build, compared to the three months of the handle in question.

The team's overall success thus far is good, but Garn reminds Ember he is not actually around to be part of an adventuring team. He hopes to find some kind of way to equip Spider in light but protective materials before making his break for the northern jungles, but is reminded that the travel ban is indeed in effect. It's unfortunate, but Ember grows more interested in his bow once her eyes actually stay on him a moment. She asks for his bow and points out that five places on the ends of it, near the bowstring's loops, are cracking and splintering. Furthermore, the words "Glorified Lanternlight" are etched into its handle, also unknowingly added under Garn's nose. Ember grows curious and inquires about the bow's origins.

The weapon was made by Garn, composed of wood, twine, and string from the fey. The nature of its changes grows clear to Ember, who points out that the centerpiece of the bow--the handle and sturdy central component of wood that takes the most pressure--is tinted with magic and has been absorbing Garn's spite towards evil beings, alongside possibly some bits of the actual power of the recently slain devils and undead. The other portions of the wood are wearing and tearing early due to not being professional work, but Ember can do something about that. Truly, she seems excited at the idea, citing a favor owed to her that can be used for an occasion such as this. She drops a hint that it involves collecting wood from a dryad before urging the group to wrap up anything else they had in mind for her, needing to take her measurements before her newfound trip starts.

Tacin simply makes sure to voice that he'd like to borrow the telepathy helm for a moment, and the plates are clean, so she hurries back and prepares to measure out both Spider's dimensions and Garn's posture while holding and wielding a bow properly. He makes light of the situation by taking on unrealistic poses of heroism and cowardice, earning two eyerolls from Ember before she takes Spider's measurements instead. On threat of it being his last try, he actually draws out his bow and nocks an arrow proper to aim at the wall. Ember hurriedly notes the pose and the sizes needed before moving to her shelves and displays of items, leaving Garn curious if he can stop posing and holding the string back. He indeed can, though she's quick to take the bow from his hands and push a fresh one in its place.

The helm is given properly, and Ember calls out for "Euca" and "June" while making her way out. Only the pixie's now familiar trail of glimmering dust somewhere behind its body is seen tucking into one of Ember's pockets before she's off on a flying broomstick, the party now left alone for the night. Gimble seems a touch concerned about running the establishment for the night with the curious two Euca and June missing, but makes himself ready for the deed. Gildie finds little to do as Garn heads off to scour the nearby fields for some form of beast to attempt to befriend alongside Spider.

As soon as an hour has passed, and while watching over Garn from a short distance, Tacin dons the helm and attempts to contact someone from his own homeland, though not someone he's intimately familiar with. Curiously, in the mental conversation with a handmaiden, he poses himself as an eccentric, elderly wizard named Charlie who is asking around across continents for news about the weather. The lady proves a little too chatty at first, starting to mention the lack of ability to perform the duties around the land, but catches herself as divulging too much. It's confirmation enough for Tacin that the weather is indeed affecting his homeland, and he ends the brief chat before joining Garn proper to watch.

Garn finds a rat's nest, hole big enough to perhaps fit Spider, but attempts to lure the spider out by voicing in rat speak insults and goads. The nest's inhabitant responds all too swiftly with a bite to the wrist, not even deterred by Tacin's distracting voice, but Garn wrestles with and subdues it rather rapidly. It's pacified well before midnight, understanding of Garn's intentions and status but certainly not trained enough to operate at Spider's level. Satisfied, Garn returns to town to rest up alongside the team for tomorrow's news, potential visit, and likely pleasant gift.

Session 12: Awaiting: 
As dawn breaks, it breaks in a way that brings relief to the weary of water. The clouds have thinned enough that the sun's position can be not only seen, but its color shines through the layer of cloud cover, offering a sight better than the dreariness of slate skies. The rain itself slows once again, a drizzle and mist falling instead of heavy dose of hard drops. Cloaks and covers are still in use, but there is hope of relief in sight as the party awakens to the view. Their descent in the Sleepery offers another view of familiar faces; Riyae sits across from Emily at a table, with the youth excited to see Gildie and Tacin. Garn is a welcome sight as well, but as he is breaking his newly tamed Rat into the ways of society, Emily shies away, citing a worry of having to pretend to like the rat like she did the spider.

Tacin and Gildie assure her that her true feelings are fine before turning their attention to Riyae's well being. He is still struggling to find his voice, having had to lie in bed for almost the full week before being able to move and perform again. The atrophy that comes with lying still for such a long time in a row has his muscles and limbs still recovering, though smoothly enough to his relief. He is able to cast spells and operate, and his voice returns steadily to its former soothing depth by the time he ponders Ember's status and what the cheery Gimble may have to offer about the situation. He bids the party keep Emily company while he departs to check on his old friend, to which they happily oblige.

Having hinted at the adventures' themes thus far of dragon negotiating, corruption finding, being kidnapped, and so on to Riyae, Emily is left curious what it means for an adult to be kidnapped, asking Tacin directly what happened to him. Despite being a girl of only seven, she seems able to keep up with that evil people are able and willing to do bad things to others for their own gain, and unshaken by the notion. She's instead happy for Tacin's current well being, voicing it as Riyae returns to the Sleepery with a tired-looking Ember shortly behind her. Only at this time does the party really grow curious why the child is here, with Riyae answering as he sits again that it was Emily's own request to see Ember. She seems shy about voicing why aloud, though, and pulls Ember to another table to talk in quiet.

Riyae uses this opportunity to review his current standing and plans in greater detail to the group. His first Wish was one that triggered a permanent backlash, after all, and all for a tuning fork that he produces from a pocket of his robe. It is uncommonly short, its metal thick, with three prongs instead of the typical two, and fashioned of metal as red as blood instead of a typical silvery steel. He describes the fork as a "necessity" to a spell that offers interdimensional travel, one of two such spells. His attempt at one ended in being stonewalled by a higher power--the plane's owner or a deity--but the tuning fork's resonance to Achelys allows him to attempt the other spell.

He entrusts Tacin with hearing the significance of the fork, turning to tap it lightly against the corner of the table. Its low, soft hum is still a deep, dissonant chord that immediately strikes a surge of dread in the four, Tacin's sensitive ears allowing him to hear the depth of the despair the noise evokes. Truly frightened of it, he steps back from the source of the noise until Riyae puts the fork away again. Gildie points out the oddity of ringing such a sound out in a place like the Sleepery, but oddly enough, none of the other inhabitants show any reaction at all. Between his soft touch and the low tone, the noise was not piercing enough to ring in anyone's ears save those right next to it.

The party is told of Riyae's and Ember's hopes that they can join in the first exploration of Achelys, being the strongest and most well versed in the current state of affairs able to do so. Whilst he explains this, the corners of the groups' eyes see Emily with her hand at Ember's back, gently but insistently urging the elder out the door. Riyae may have lost his backup in voicing the hope, but the party still yields to the request, accepting that they still seek to help end the troubles of the region, and world if they can. Riyae is delighted, bidding the party await Ember's return with Emily by joining him with a meal. It has been a week since he's been able to eat his own food, let alone of this quality.

Emily and Ember step back in, with the child very visibly different; she now sports a set of half plate armor, styled quite closely to what Gildie currently wears. The group grins and has a friendly laugh over her newfound ambition. Not to be outdone for giving armor to one, Ember asks Garn to settle Spider onto a table to bring out its own new armor. She shows splint strips of mythril, made to lash together near Spider's legs, over the joints at its "knees", and a piece for the back of its head, carefully working the thin straps with her tools. As she works, Tacin warns Emily that adventuring is no life of frivolity, that there is always true danger in it. She understands, but knows she was saved by adventurers, so there's something good she can do, eventually. She does seem satisfied for now about simply having the armor and being ready to help her father or Riyae again.

As Emily's request is now fulfilled and the party is ready for the day, Riyae produces a piece of chalk and begins inscribing runes and patterns in a circle around the six. Upon its end, their vision flashes with streaks of cool colours before they find themselves standing before his desk in Trisme Gate's library. Tacin is quickly reminded of Riyae's generosity before with coin, and pays it back with two gold swiftly set on the nearby countertop. Riyae ensures Emily is bid farewell and off to see her father before turning to the party, asking to take two measures of precaution before the gate is opened. With a few swift motions, he casts a spell that offers the party a mental bond with each others' thoughts, and a sensation of being able to breathe beneath the water.

Gildie brings up a caution of her own that she has been afflicted with a curse, and begins describing that projectiles will willingly seek her out. Ember seems to know exactly what it could mean and steps behind Gildie to confirm that her shield is indeed what it is. Tacin and Gildie both predict what Ember is about to do, the tiefling's hand already reaching out towards the shield. Gildie scoots away while Tacin cries out for no actual action to be taken, though Ember is quick enough to have her hand on the shield, a moment from finishing a spell to remove the shield's influence on Gildie. It's a clash of wills for a minute as Ember urges the party to reconsider having the shield while Garn is in the party, while Tacin and Gildie assert the benefits trump the consequences. Ember is somewhat livid that the shield, one of her old possessions, managed to resurface from the depths under the mountain in which she buried it, cursing to her self at the bullywugs who must have somehow unearthed it.

The matter is settled with no action taken (beyond a stern call for personal space from Gildie), and tuning fork is once again produced, and Riyae outlines a basic plan of entry. The portal will not stay open for long, but he still hopes for himself and Ember to enter first, hoping their versatility of spells will allow them to halt any immediate danger so the trio can enter seconds after. The portal opens at the chime of the fork and casting of the spell, and as instructed, the two veterans step through before the trio count a couple seconds before moving in after. A surge of magic or onslaught of missiles, there is not. Instead, a piercing cacophony of noise assails everyone's ears, blurring vision and wrecking everyone's ability to hear as dozens of bells and chimes ring and echo rapidly around them. The ringing only lasts for a second before the overload of noise cripples all the party's ability to hear.

Fearing for the noise's ability to continue to harm by vibration in spite of current deafness, Ember produces an area of silence in the room, offering relief from the buzzing sensation afflicting the party. Tacin utilized his newfound mental imagery to project a curiosity to Gildie if her hearing has been damaged, earning a nod. Ember more directly utilizes the group's telepathic link to communicate, thankfully needing not to hear through her ears to voice the unexpected nature of the sound. With the noise no longer an issue, the party is finally able to look around with vision's clarity returning.

They sit in a long, rectangular chamber composed of grey brick-like stone, twenty foot high ceilings held by twelve archways that hold dozens of chimes and bells apiece that continue to sway and move. At the room's center, a bubble-like dome of force vibrates rapidly, shimmering purple and blue streaks of color every so often that obscure a lone, humanoid occupant. The person's appearance is buzzing as rapidly as the bubble, impossible to truly discern. After a minute of waiting out the chimes, Ember sees them and the bubble slow in their motions enough to risk stepping out from the silence area, feeling largely unaffected anymore. She enlists the help of Riyae and Tacin in using magical hands to grip and silence the sound making devices, while Garn settles in a space outside the silenced area to start casting a summoning of a spectral servant in case it is necessary.

Gildie is unable to do more than reach the lowest hanging chimes and instead looks around the room, the first to notice two bricks protruding a small ways from the north wall. She avoids voicing this until the chimes are all silenced and the bubble can be explored. The motions come to a halt as the sounds cease, revealing an elderly woman with wrists and ankles bound in metal shackles, slumped unconscious, but smiling in relief. It's a curious sight, one that Riyae moves to investigate further. He looks carefully at the elderly's face before his own twists into an awestruck one, eyes wide and mouth agape. Against all the grace and poise he has shown up to this point, he drops to his knees, visibly stunned. The force of the impact of hitting the floor as such sends another heavy vibration through the bubble, obscuring and shaking the prisoner within for a moment, though eyes are on Riyae.

"Ioun" is his reply to the worry and curiosity. He hasn't seen this particular disguise of hers before, but recognizes the imprints and effects of her fabled stones along her head. He is certain that it is her in disguise captive in the mysterious bubble. He lifts a hand and swipes a dangling sleeve across the bubble, once again sending ripples and shaking through it and its occupant. Ember approaches, little vibrations continuing in time with her footsteps. She surmises that the bubble is responding to sound, demonstrating with two soft taps of the toes of her boot against the floor. Despite the effect of the silencing spell being quite well active, the knock of her boot spikes two more shudders in the bubble, though much gentler than before. A curious prison indeed.

As Ioun is currently unconscious and slumped down beyond anyone's ability to reach, Gildie assumes this a good time to bring up the protruding bricks in the wall. Shaken from his stupor by a way to potentially work Ioun's freedom, Riyae ascends and tiptoes to one such brick, laying a hand on it to examine. Gildie stammers a little at not having meant to outright risk harm by pushing them around immediately, but Riyae's touch is delicate yet measured as he attempts to work the brick. It is in no way mobile, not inherently a magical brick as far as he can tell at a touch, and no handle or button he can feel. Tacin moves to the other of the two bricks to investigate, but as his hand comes within a foot of the protrusion, its form changes.

With Tacin's hand nearby, the stone's form strengthens, a polished sheen spreading across it and faint outline of a seam and handle appearing. It doesn't produce a strong enough effect to allow any manipulation of the stone, though. Ember moves to the stone by Riyae, and to his surprise, the material starts to decay and fade away into nothingness, revealing the spaces inside. Gildie joins Tacin at his piece of stone, causing the material to further refine itself and show a greater portion of its potentially true appearance. Ember curiously approaches, finding that as her hand approaches the other two, the stone reforms back to its neutral state before decaying and cracking ever so slightly.

While mulling this over, Ember's silencing effect fades, and Garn's servant comes into its invisible existence. A curiosity is voiced if Ember can use the decayed holes to see through the openings at what may be inside or behind the wall. She moves back to the left brick and kneels, voicing that she only sees solid wall at the back of the space, but hanging in a cavity seems to be a large glass vial holding a single eyeball. She is bade, and quickly moves, to examine the contents of the other stone protrusion, finding a disembodied hand curled up in its space. It starts to occur to her what may be possible here, but these workings are not quite her expertise. She bids Tacin to join her and Riyae in a corner of the room so the two can offer Riyae a heightened presence of mind with which to mull over a curiosity she soon voices. She points out the clues on hand between Ioun's imprisonment and the body parts hidden before merely asking what Riyae thinks of, "Vecna?"

Riyae's mind is a whirlwind of thoughts, enough that his lips move to (unsuccessfully) voice some of them while they work out in his head. He surmises that it is not only possible, but all too likely that Ioun's imprisonment in this space is his doing. The presence of his hand and eye are an enigma, as they are typically well removed from his person and only used to extract souls and information for his bartering pleasure, but given the nature of opposing deities fighting through the Gods' War, it's likely Ioun lost and has been set in a prison of despair where any attempt at casting a spell or receiving outside help leads to a traumatic surge of noise enough to knock her out. The conclusion is that the effect of some peoples' presence against the stones is in accordance with the prophecy of good and evil powers coming together in the awaiting Achelys.

There is a short dispute over if the nature of the shards' power is indeed inherently good or evil, but Ember stands by her assumption that it's merely prophetic code for the source or variety of power in question. More important is figuring out where who lies on the spectrum. Riyae produces no results to either stone, but Ember and Garn find their decaying effects stacking while Gildie and Tacin add upon each other's refining force. Tacin and Ember draw similar conclusions that the color of the shard is the likely source, and Tacin surmises that the amber shard will lean closer to Ember's crimson and Garn's orange, while the leftover viridian will likely work alongside his Violet and Gildie's Turquoise.

The next mystery lies in the nature of the bubble. It responds to sound, even through the effect of magical silence, but actual interaction with it still needs to be tested. Garn takes the first attempt, ordering his ghostly servant to try to come into contact with the bubble. At first touch, its form visibly bursts into spectral flame before withering away to nothing, effectively ending the service. The contact, however light, results in another reverberation and writhing of Ioun in pain, despite her perpetual smile. Tacin backs away and whispers as quietly as he can a word of healing power directed at Ioun, which as far as he can tell registers. Six seconds afterwards, noise erupts both through the chamber--resulting in intense shaking of the bubble and its area--and in the heads of everyone in the chamber, wherein a smug male voice jokes about it being some time since a healing spell was cast old Vecna's way. The voice goads the team into trying again before fading away.

Garn indeed tries, readying to let loose an arrow. Gildie and Ember recognize Gildie's proximity to the bubble, despite Garn aiming what he thinks is double the curse's area of effect, and Ember confirms that even a fragment of the target bubble's existence within range of Gildie will trigger the curse while she steps out of range. With that out of the way, Garn fires in a way that hopefully will hit merely the portion against the floor away from everyone, but the missile vanishes into its target. It emerges within the next second, aimed right at Garn's heart and striking just near it. Again, six seconds pass before the arrogant voice takes a jab at the boring attempt at an arrow before coaxing Riyae to attempt proper magical disintegration.

Now wounded, deaf, and out of options to try to free Ioun in short order, the party decides this a good time to leave. Garn follows one last curiosity and takes an arrow to the protruding brick closest to him, trying to push the arrow through one of the holes made visually. It stops against what appears to be midair, proving that (for the moment) any changes are merely visual, with the entirety of the brick's matter staying in place. All but Riyae plug their ears as he creates the portal back, bringing everyone home to Trisme Gate right where they came from. Ember uses the newfound safety to cast a full five rounds of a powerful Heal spell, restoring everyone's hearing one by one while tending wounds inside and out at a touch.

Riyae vows to spend his time attempting to wait out Ioun's unconsciousness and attempt some, any form of communication. Once again playing the waiting game, everyone concludes that the most useful thing to do at the moment would be to continue adventuring across the region to find more shards of power with which to compound the stone manipulating effects. Ember looks to Gildie for help forming an official contract on the matter with which to earn the party a little more freedom of movement and authority before assuring the group that they will also be outfitted a little more thoroughly for the adventure. Satisfied, Riyae vows success on his end and once again draws a circle with which to teleport the team back to Ember's workshop, staying behind himself.

Once returned, the party figures out that they were gone for a little over an hour and a half, while their internal clocks put them at just under two hours. The time difference between the material plane and Achelys is figured to be inconsequential, but still a little beneficial for Riyae spending more time at a time in the dimension. With the importance of future efforts in mind, Ember looks to the party and begins searching her wares for items to pluck from shelves, stands, and displays, coming out with numerous for everyone. Garn's bow may be in progress, but he is still fashioned with a quiver able to magically expand internally to hold even his large bow-to-be and more arrows than before. Tacin is offered a conjoined pair of rings and bracer with a sizable gem studded, outlined as being able to save the energy of spells in the former and have greater success influencing his magics with the latter.

Gildie, meanwhile, still has a shield that the team doesn't want to depart with just yet. Garn might prefer the shield gone, continuing to threaten Gildie with a wayward arrow that will assuredly seek her, but Tacin caves into the pressure and outlines a plan for the future to use a spell that offers even greater defenses to two allies while sharing their pain, a spell he's hard of and wants to use to multiply the effect of the injury suppression in the shield. It's a spell Ember herself knows, and knows will not work due to the injury halting magics being similar enough to not add unto each other. This deters Tacin enough that he, at least for the moment, halts his defense of the idea, leaving it up to Gildie if she wants a more stable shield or a cursed one with variable usefulness. Gildie opts for stability. The idea is shelved alongside with the shield once the swap is made, and a potential backstabbing-to-be with an arrow from Garn is temporarily averted.

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Last edited by Kikori on February 28th, 2019, 5:48 pm, edited 6 times in total.
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 Post subject: Re: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
PostPosted: January 9th, 2019, 10:33 pm 
Burning my Dread.
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Session 13: Gildie's a Guildie!?: 
With much of the day's remaining light free and no clear objective in mind, the team decides it's worth a shot to explore the immediately surrounding area for any possible shards lying on the not-as-beaten path. After all, with clearly established roads between towns and safety via guard patrols along them, the terrain elsewhere is a prime target for something to be hidden. After a little consideration about their most likely future directions and admission from Ember that her theory of shards being in religiously significant locations is now disproven, the group decides westward towards the fey woods is the least likely path to need to be traveled in any days to come. They set off, eyes to the sky for keeping time and to the ground for any sign of their quarry.

With her eyes scanning to and fro, Gildie realizes not long into the trip that the team seems to be the quarry instead. Something small enough to remain hidden under the tall grass is parting the greenery while approaching at an incredibly fast direction. She only has time to mention this, earn a single humorous quip of accusing Kiran, and point out the movement's direction before it's upon her. Visible almost exclusively to her is a creature up to her knees, adorned in garb fitting a life in nature but blurred from its own speed, with its hand rapidly moving to claps her rapier before it makes to run off. Gildie reacts as best she can, trying to grasp her blade for security and trip the little creature as it moves, but to no avail. She finds her blade stolen and almost one hundred feet westward in nearly the blink of an eye.

Freshly prepared for such a distance, she rushes forward with hand crossbow at the ready, but the creature's speed makes it far too difficult to aim at properly. Tacin concludes its speed is magically aided and approaches with hopes of casting away whatever aids its movement, while Garn takes a more direct approach of watching its path and casting out spikes to fill the terrain ahead of it. Neither proves effective, as its fleetness of foot comes as naturally as its ability to stop and circumvent almost all of the thorns placed in its path. It even knows to circle wider around to keep the approaching Spider from being able to get a quick bite on it. The team notices its path looping around for a second pass at the party, likely to swipe something else with its free hand before it breaks free.

Tacin employs an often used trick of summoning a whirling mist of knives that swipe through the creature's form while it sprints in its thankfully predictable line, its body collapsing and skidding many feet before the tall grass fully stops it. Upon closer examination (and recovery of Gildie's blade), it's revealed by Tacin's memory of books to be a quickling, a trickster fey with a love of tormenting and pilfering passerby with a casual pace equal to a stallion at full sprint. There is only one small patch of grass in the distance that shows sign of being parted in the same way the battlefield is, so the hopeful team tries to follow the path from their current position in a straight line through the grass and off in its direction to the woods, but come up with naught but time spent.

There's still relief that nothing is stolen for good as they return to town as dark settles in, finding Ember at work working the wood for Garn's new bow. Gildie produces her quality paper and ink to begin using her expertise in contracts. They go over in brief what the grand goal is, opting to avoid setting any actual deadlines in which the contract is wholly fulfilled. After all, who would seriously believe the rain may stop if Ioun is freed from an interdimensional prison? The reward is also left without a whole figure, Gildie understanding ahead of time that the party's "gifted" equipment is in itself payment up front for their quest. At the end of the page, it ends up looking like a document writ by a politician and signed by someone with more respect than one, outlining a simple case of "I'm hiring these people to help the land, so don't get in their way if they're not breaking any actual laws." Ember signs without reading it, trusting both that the document is worded honestly (as the back of her neck isn't itching) and that it may help ease some tensions about the party's presence in the land.

Eat. Sleep. Wake. And the sun is still visible behind a layer of clouds, a welcome outline of light that shows some improvement in the land. Ember is found downstairs at a table alongside Enna and Kiri, who are returned until their second round of escort services are needed. The need is shown soon as two Dispatere guards clank their way downstairs to take seats at the bar and begin breakfast; their findings and recorded testimonies from Astraere's events are the final pieces in the case against the corrupt Council. Enna and Kiri are to accompany them, hopefully alongside the trio whose firsthand account of the kidnapping and murder attempt may tip the scale if it is not already far enough along.

Ember is quick to hand off Garn's new bow, the seven foot behemoth of a weapon built to match Garn's imposing stature. She assures him it holds like a bow, hits like a crossbow, and fires further than either normally should. Tacin, meanwhile, happily gifts the viridian shard to Enna, who recognizes breaking it in public is a poor decision. She excuses herself outside and waits for no eyes to be upon her before snapping it, coming back moments later in a curious stupor. Lacking the imagination of the party, she simply describes the sensation of a "green voice" whispering in her head, and that she feels a surge of ability in healing not dissimilar to her divine touch, yet seemingly more based on spirits or nature.

The power and party's company on the road are welcome, as news is that the road is currently the source of Ankheg activity. Kiri pipes up that they are effectively ants the size of horses, quite well able to spew acid in between bites. The constant marching and noise of the caravan is suspect of triggering their activity on the surface, and if history is to repeat, the trio's help will be appreciated in avoiding any injury. Ember excuses herself about this time, pointing out that she has already gifted her two anti-acid potions to Kiri, cutting off Tacin's desire to ask for an even trade of anti-poison for one. Kiri is amused, recognizing Ember's possibly rude form of charity as standard issue for the lady, before noting the guard's meal is currently what's being waited on.

Everyone is invited to take whatever time is needed to enjoy a meal, but Garn points out his repeated use of his favored Goodberry supply is not lacking. Enna grins and produces her own stalk, already missing two berries from it, triggering a playful whose-is-bigger contest as Garn sets all fourty of his to the table. Despite Tacin growing fond of the taste of the magical fruit and being content from the previous night's supper, the sisters still point out the taste of good food is something they'd prefer not to miss out on. The guards finish their meal and make ready to leave, and the few horses are left behind so everyone may travel at the same pace on foot.

Almost halfway through the trip, Enna and Kiri note ahead the locations of the previous appearances of the menacing giant bugs. Enna, with the heaviest armor and step, takes point and urges the party to get ready to dodge a stream of acid. Garn hangs back to ensure ambush tactics are harder, but it's Tacin's ears that catch the bubbling and crumbling of earth as a hole forms. Everyone turns to find the great monstrosity poking its head out to fire upon Enna, Tacin, and a guard together, though all three are able to lean out of the way of the bulk of the liquid.

Before it can fully escape its hole, everyone makes ready and rushes in, a swift massacre ended as the guards set on either side of it to strike it four times while it recoils from the speedier offense of spells and arrows. The ease of the fight is noted to be from numbers, though the durability of the beast is still not as imposing to the team as it could be. Enna's head works a little further ahead than that, pondering if everyone would agree that the hole seems big enough to explore and the hive needs to be put down to ensure peace on the path. The guards are capable fighters, able to handle themselves against any typical obstructions on the road now that the ankheg territory is known and soon passed. The trio agree that the creatures are indeed a threat and the idea of scouting is worthy, enough that Garn takes initiative and sends Spider out to figure out how safe to traverse the tunnel system is.

The guards depart about the time Spider returns, seemingly calm in its chittering as it responds affirmatively to the tunnels being both humanoid traversable and leading into a larger, open space. With twin casts from Kiri and Tacin to light up Enna's sword and Gildie's shield, and a harmless ever-burning torch tucked into Garn's belt, the team descends one at a time to begin the hunt. The tunnels are softer than they'd hoped, the dirt being more pushed and pressed into a firmness that has faded with wetness, enough that they fear taking even a handful from he wall or ceiling may collapse everything around them. It's stable enough as they walk, though, enough that they move.

Spider's memory is correct, a room opening enough for free standing and stretching, the terrain even drying somewhat for the moment. A lone ankheg is in range of the light, starting another swift fight in which an acid spray washes across the two light-bearers in lead before the lone monster is slaughtered. As Enna looks around the edges of the room to find more tunnels leading upwards but collapsed with time, Kiri ponders if the party feels an hour of exploration will be sufficient. The group soon figures that any fight is ending too quickly to feel bothered by the time spent fighting, merely hoping they can explore enough to be meaningful. The potions are given to Enna and Gildie, bolstering their defenses against the (hopefully) predictable first strike of the ankhegs.

The team soon finds a fork in the path shortly after a naturally set but curiously untouched rocky outcrop. While Enna and Gildie look ahead, Tacin examines the rock, aided by Kiri enough to find that it's a natural deposit of iron ore amidst the stone. The reason for clearing the hive is doubled in their minds as the party ponders left or right, both sides seeming to move out a few feet before down and out again, steps of sorts in the mud. Tacin is loathe to put himself between two rocks for fear of one falling upon the party, leaving the party to move (by Kiri's memory) east and downwards.

The air dampens and smell dankens as the party descends, Gildie able to see from her placement up front that any part of the ceiling Spider lingers upon bubbles outwards as if it will fall loose. Even Spider notices the sensation enough to move itself onto the floor without command, catching Garn's attention. With the status of the tunnel made known, the group tries to turn around, but hears screeches as Spider finds itself sprayed from behind by another of the monsters. Rather than risk leaving the beast behind, the party instead starts approaching, hopping down the high steps to get the monster in range of light and sight proper. It takes more missiles and spells than anything to bring the foe down--even as far as a hurried hurl of fallen stones--as nobody is able to move into striking reach except the vengeful Spider.

With the party sitting still in the moist area, its lack of stability is shown with the ceiling starting to collapse in places. Garn and Tacin pick up Kiri, shocked too greatly to move, before descending the rest of the way to safety. The tunnel behind them rests fully collapsed, though thankfully with nobody truly marred by the falling debris. Kiri tends to Spider's hurts before Garn asks a minute to give Spider a stern, short lesson in not moving too far ahead (though it hadn't moved beyond the light cast by the team's belongings). With their path decided, the party again explores their surroundings.

Another tunnel seems to move upwards, but also lies collapsed with age. Around another outcrop of rock is a path winding back and downwards, moving under a couple hanging boulders of sorts before a third room-sized opening is seen. The sounds of an approaching ankheg ring on the ears of Garn, Enna, and Tacin, and before the foe can even finish ascending the tunnel to fire acid upon the party, the three cut it off with a swift dispatching. Rather than descend the tunnel it came from, they take a more gentle slope down that seems to circle back a bit before it grows jagged. Garn notices the walls seem to be artificially filled, perhaps from more cave-ins but possibly by manual labor. Enna discerns a possible ambush point and thrusts her blade dead center into one of the possible false walls, but it sinks only halfway in as it should when thrusting into mud and dirt. A mystery, but no risk of danger.

At the path's end, another ankheg rests at the edge of Enna's light, but it retreats instead of advancing upon the party. There are numerous sources of noise from the room ahead, but not advancing, staying as still as the party. Being much smarter, however, the party takes a moment to plan out an approach, largely relying on Enna's volunteering to rush ahead and dodge the gushes of acid as a signal for the others to follow. Tacin and Kiri offer support, readying her mind and body for swifter movement out of the acid's path before everyone else draws weapons and takes positions. And so she rushes in, two typical ankheg nearby a larger one, all three firing at a too swiftly moving half-elf at once.

Garn and Kiri hang back, firing arrows and spells while Tacin takes his favored position halfway between the front and rear. Gildie catches up to Enna swiftly enough, but with Spider advancing upon one ankheg and Enna shifting to take placement behind another, the decision becomes hers who she offers her offensive support to. Spider's bite and Garn's arrows easily finish one foe before the nearby larger ankheg is distracted by an illusory flame that assails its mind enough to believe itself to be burned by the fire. Screeching in pain and fear, it moves away from the fire only it can see while staying in range to try to bite the much smaller Spider before it.

As the monsters try and fail to connect their mandibles upon their nearby foes, Enna waits with sword at the ready to cleave the moment her mark is distracted by someone behind it. Gildie realizes she can't move far enough to satisfy both Enna's preparation and her own desire to finally thrust her rapier into a monster, moving instead to assist Spider with a swift assault on the larger monstrosity. It is swiftly clipped in the legs to fall over and grazed at the head in a way that puts its eyes on Gildie proper, inviting Spider the freedom to sink its fangs into the weakest part of its body. Tacin, meanwhile, offers Enna the help she wanted, sliding into place behind Enna's mark, a single turn of its head offering her two swift, destructive swipes that end it in two seconds. Garn takes the opportunity to sink a final arrow into the beastly ankheg to ensure its death after Spider's venom froze its body in place.

Once again, Enna takes a moment to explore the room while Garn moves to examine the larger of the foes. He sees an odd bulging in its abdomen and, upon pushing, finds an egg rolling out of the wounded monster's body. Taking no chances, his axe assails the monster again and again, trying to cleave every possible egg and related orifice before a familiar sound starts to grow in the party's ears. The sounds of anger, a chorus of screeching fury, are echoing through the tunnels. Whatever just died, its death is now known to the hive, and the team only has one direction they can possibly move forward to hope to escape.

Session 14: Feeling Antsy: 
With the cries of rage starting to ring louder in the team's ears, everyone decides there's no time or reason to stay. The party lines up as they start running, sentinels at the front and rear to hopefully stave off roadblock and ambush. The first curve on the path forward leads them to a wide open room, yet shockingly empty, save for some tracks that moved back to the room they recently fought in. With only one path to take from this space, they move through a tunnel, but a sound and tremor trigger a rapid response from Spider, who stops and turns around with an angry hiss. Not everyone reacts in time to see a mound of the dirt bubble up and spray as a great beast flies out from it, sharp plates coating its body and sharper claws outreached for the rear half of the line.

Gildie is able to roll out of the way to avoid the brunt of the slam, but Tacin and Kiri are too slow to react; its sharp edges cut deep gashes into their bodies before they are knocked down and buried part ways under its weight. Enna is furious as she steps back and swipes at it, a cleaving blow that finds its mark in one clean swing. The radiant energy burns deeply, though Gildie fares poorly in finding a weak spot in its plates to pierce as well. Tacin, injured and held down, groans out one spell to ease his wounds before whispering another into the beast's ear to strike a chord of fear. It immediately starts shimmying backwards, down the tunnel it came from, all while everyone else's attempts to swing at it for fleeing fall short; it moves too fast back into its hole. Tacin scrambles up and gets behind the team, as does Kiri, but she pants out that the monster is a "Bulette", intending to fight to the last to eat them all.

Garn takes advantage of the monster's position to look into its tunnel, the torch in his belt allowing him a view of the monster's face as it starts shedding its fear. He casts a growth of spikes along its path before fading into the colour of the earth, hopping over the opening enough to rest at its side, ready to swing with his axe. Gildie likewise prepares to thrust upon it if it flies into her and Enna at the front of the line. And fly it does, trampling the spikes to pieces under (and into) its feet as it moves up to make another leap. Due to the constraints of the tunnel, it can only reach Enna and Gildie proper, one sliding back while deflecting the beast while the other's rapier strikes true and slides her back as well, both able to halt the worst of its claws. Kiri unleashes a held flame of light that sinks into the monster's wounds before Enna compounds upon them, turning the monstrous creature into a lifeless roadblock for Garn.

As Tacin carefully ascends its sharp, serrated carapace to help Garn climb over and through the small opening left, Enna kneels beside Kiri and immediately tests her new, supposedly spiritual healing ability. Wisps of viridian mist fly from her hand, trails of feathers and glimpses of nature's beast swirling around Kiri once before her wounds start to close. The effect doesn't satisfy, prompting a proper shine of radiant light to finish the job. As the party move forward, everyone with the magic berries on hand eats them one at a time, letting the vitality aiding magic behind them work to soothe their pains for a short ways. The relief ends as the party comes up to a wall, fifteen foot high to the ledge.

Tacin is quick to think of offering his hands out and cupped to hoist someone upwards, but Enna is already smirking at her own plan. Tacin sees her plunge her greatsword near to the hilt in the dirt, merely using his hands as a stepping stone to hop up and balance upon the handle. With her height, it's not far of a hop from there to get atop the ledge proper, kicking a little dirt down before she stands. Out of sight, she grunts in some pain as rope descends, offering the party a way up. Despite the aching in her voice, she calls for someone to try to bring her sword, which Tacin finds after his first curious tug of the rope that he feels comfortable grabbing it. And take it he does, yanking it out smoothly enough to not interrupt the stream of people ascending.

The party arrives in full over the ledge to find Enna bracing to hold the rope with both hands, staring down three ankhegs with fresh acid dripping between them. Worse yet, on the edge of the light now produced after their ascent, everyone else notices three more on the edge of their vision, and sounds of more approaching. Enna drops the rope before stepping back to ask for her sword back, shaking it clean with a radiant glow. The light spreads a little, encasing herself, Gildie, and Garn, a proper blessing for battle cast upon them before she takes a combat ready stance. Kiri recognizes the need for an opening to escape, casting a spectral blade to swing upon the beast most directly in the way, while Garn sends out Spider to join in biting the same. He's too immediately harried by an ankheg to comfortably take a shot, preparing for the moment it utters its last breath.

The numerous beasts move in, fresh waves of acid from new monsters splashing across the party. One foolish beast bites Garn, exposing itself to Enna and Gildie. The rapier thrust of Gildie is angled just right to push the monster down onto its belly, exposing it further to another blow soon after. Tacin weaves a powerful swarm of his favorite dagger cloud near the center of the cluster of beasts Enna's swing ends the monster, allowing Garn his moment to fire freely upon the ant facing off with Spider. Kiri's flames fail to find their mark, but her blade continues to swing true, trying to move at the center of clusters of monsters to highlight her point of focus. Garn eases into a little more breathing room, trusting Spider's battle prowess for a moment as he joins the assault on the beasts closer.

At last the full numbers show, two more easing into view into the light with their own gushes of the stinging liquid as a third comes up along the escape route to pin Spider between three foes. The poor companion is brought near to its end, pained sounds ringing worry in Garn's ears. Worse, with Enna on the forefront, each burst of acid runs more liquid over her, the biting touch causing her attention to her blessing to waver enough for it to be lost. The shock of it exposes her to a brutally strong bite that sinks into a couple gaps in her armor.

Gildie moves fast to thrust back near as powerfully, the pain causing the ankheg's bite to release before it is thrust back, knocked into two of its allies. She moves to take a position beside Enna before Tacin succumbs to the pressure of the situation, running a finger along the spell storing ring gifted by Ember before unleashing its stored spell of widespread healing. Across the room, all six of the party find their aching eased considerably, ready to turn the tide. Kiri shuffles forward to touch her hand to Enna's, two rings ringing aloud as she weaves a spell of protection and pain sharing for the two before scampering back, allowing her blade to move and cut through a portion of a monster. Enna takes a tactical route and offers herself up as bait for the knife swarm's placement, standing near it and making ready to dodge any possible attack. Garn meanwhile urges Spider to carefully step back, widening its distance from one of its three assailants before firing into the knife cloud to kill another.

Mercifully, the ankheg hive's next move is largely ineffective; Enna's preparedness to avoid everything allows her to weave to the side of most of two more gushes of acid, as does Spider while one catches up, and her movements make it too hard for either monster surrounding her to find a place to bite. Spider's already fleet feet also hop back from its own assailant, ready to bite on command as Gildie takes the chance to attack the monster foolishly focusing on Enna twice more. Tacin laments being unable to direct the swarm elsewhere as his typical insults fail to find their mark on the monsters' ears, but Kiri's flames finally find themselves working into open wounds and vital spots, bringing another beast down. Enna turns and swings, ending the one pierced by Gildie while the still-spinning knives spray blood behind her.

As the cloud is successful in opening a path, Garn finally moves up into place to fire upon Spider's assailant, joining his companion to allow it the lethal blow on the now-distracted foe. With the path wider yet, he moves past it and offers himself as a shield against the one beast still nearer him. And so the battlefield is divided, Garn and Spider near the escape route with one slightly wounded beat facing them, and two ankhegs still nearby Enna with the others behind her but steadily advancing. Kiri marks the first of the two for the party's focus, Enna agreeing and hoping to utilize the still spinning knife cloud by slashing upon her foe before teleporting in a misty leap through space to a position behind it.

Sadly, the foe is too smart, recognizing the cloud as dangerous before it instead scuttles next to Gildie. Its strike against the smaller lady starts to prove true, but Tacin takes a different attempt at catching its attention, and catches enough that Gildie can knock aside the mandibles of one before the other in suit. She lashes out back at it, and Tacin decides the field is divided enough that can risk being more up close and personal, teleporting in a violet mist behind Gildie's target to join in thrusting with her rapier. Kiri's magics work the last injury needed to fell the beast, freeing Enna's attention to turn to the wounded monster between her and Garn, cleaving it with a fatal back swing.

The last beast knows not to flee, instead trying and again failing at Tacin's voice to concentrate on its attack. The party descends rapidly, two rapiers and stings of spells raining upon it before Garn's arrows knock into it, causing it to recoil upwards. Spider is on its way along the ceiling to catch it at its peak, biting through its chitin to drop the last ankheg into a lifeless, curled corpse. Wasting no time celebrating the victory, Enna gathers her rope and tugs it behind her as everyone rushes up the path, finding the same rock-walled five foot step from the first fork in the path that Tacin contested not wanting to descend. Two turns later, the light of day shines before them, and everyone pushes past their first ant corpse to freedom.

Nobody wants to talk just yet, moving the half hour further down the path to a stable roof and soon-to-be warm fire for a proper place to rest. Garn is immediately taken by the two torches at the sides of the main room, curiously detecting their magic to be similar to the ever-burning torch still tucked in his belt. As he tries to take one as well, Enna is quick to grab his hand, pointing out that taking it would be worthy of accusing him of serious theft if he does. With that fresh in mind, she asks if the one in his belt is the one missing from Trisme's halfway house. Garn reluctantly admits so, but is quick to point out that he did leave a torch in return, and had no honest knowledge of ownership of the magic ones.

It's not at all enough to convince Enna to stay her hand as she out-muscles Garn, removing the one from his belt and flinging him a few feet from the wall before taking a seat beside Kiri. Garn reaffirms that he wasn't sure of ownership and that he himself needs a source of light beyond consumable torches, to which Enna is quick to chide that Tacin is quite capable of producing light. That doesn't satisfy Garn's needs, though; he has no intention of tailing Tacin forever, and wants to advance to the northern jungle in the near future, necessitating a more stable light source. While that doesn't justify the theft in Enna's eyes, it does touch Kiri's memory about his predicament back when all five plus Ember were gathered in the Sleepery. She charitably offers up one of Ember's gifts to her and Enna, a crystal ball coming out of her own bag before she whispers a word to it and tosses it to Garn.

The "Driftglobe" as Kiri calls it hovers a few feet in front of him, producing an equal light to what she and Tacin have been able to conjure. As she tries to diffuse the tension about noting everyone had just finished saving each others' lives as a team, she answers Garn's curiosity about the sphere, its ability to follow its user and produce varying degrees of strength of light. With the anger present at least settled, everyone is able to focus on their rest, though Garn isolates himself to spend the hour working to teach Rat to perform as Spider does.

Late into the rest, Enna remembers a curiosity about the cave. In specific, a sensory effect she noticed as everyone tried to exit, one that neither Tacin nor Gildie picked up on. Due to the rush and smell of blood, she couldn't be sure, but something caught her attention. Tacin notes it may be worth investigating, since the fleeting aroma was reportedly smelled on the contested step near the entrance. With enough daylight to make the trip there and back comfortably, everyone gathers and sets back off for the ankheg hive. They arrive to find the landmark corpse removed, a hole in the ground and much mud and grass with marks that something was dragged through it.

It doesn't take long for Garn to figure out why. Running alongside the skid marks, muddy footprints in the grass where Kiran-sized feet approach and enter the cave. Suddenly a little concerned for their ally as well, the trio urge the confused sisters to join them in moving quickly, if quietly, down into the depths again. When they near the fork in the path, Tacin notices both the calming touch in his head and the joyous ring of an uninhibited Kiran's battle cries from deeper in the cave. Garn can't detect any trace of the shard through the depth of the dirt, but with two people able to confirm its approximate location, Enna offers to plunge her sword into the dirt to shove part of the ledge down and cave its mass into more of a ramp.

Tacin and Garn grow a little worried, both about the manner of "caving in" the tunnel and if the party can be trusted with ramps (specifically as Garn remembers the comical failures of Gildie ascending the bullywug tunnel's wet stone pathways). Enna is both confused and impatient, simply thrusting her sword to the hilt and hoisting upwards like a shovel, the step converting rapidly from a right angle to a passably smooth dirt ramp. Thankfully, the tunnel doesn't weaken, and Garn can at last see the aura of a turquoise shard beneath the new surface created. He moves to mark it with an arrow, but fears descending the hastily made new path due to the memories still in his mind. Enna reminds him that there is a friend whose situation may need assisting, so her fires an arrow into the dirt without further delay to show where exactly to dig forward at.

Enna begins the work, able to tug out piece by piece of dirt without risking the stability of the tunnel. Kiri, Gildie, and Tacin stay atop the tunnel for the moment while and Garn descends further, Spider once again brought out to explore. Two tunnels sit on the west end of the open space where the nine ankhegs were fought, one leading up and one down. The ascending tunnel shows another near-fifteen foot ledge, one that Garn sends Spider up to investigate with orders to retreat at any sign of ants. Before Spider can return, Enna produces the shard in question, a turquoise marble that she tosses to Kiri who walks it over to Gildie in offering. Free to crush it without pressure, she works to smash it between her palms, a familiar jolt of life energy rushing through her and further stimulating her understanding of nature and magic. As she tries to settle these feelings, Spider descends, rather calm compared to other scouting missions.

Garn's attempt to word what he's curious about almost sparks a reaction, but his choice of clicks per response halt Spider's thoughts. He concedes the subtleties of scouting may be too hard for A or B clicking and properly magics his mind to understand Spider's speech, communing with it to figure out what lies above. It's described as an open space with numerous, shallow spots dug out and signs of entrails behind each of them, closer to the walls than anything. There is no sign at all of an ant, save perhaps a stray leg or feeler, and no tunnel leading further. Garn figures it's safe to explore, but is at a loss how to ascend the extra six or so feet needed to get to the ledge. Enna, finished with packing back in some of the dirt she dug out, comes down with the rest of the group and offers herself with cupped hands to hoist Garn up.

With Tacin's aid to Garn and Kiri's guidance to Enna, the two easily make the move as Garn plants a foot on Enna's hands before both hoist and push upwards, getting Garn from the waist up over the ledge. Enna moves from under him as he kicks off some dirt while finishing the climb, finding as described a totally barren room where ankheg-sized beds of dirt sit. He can detect no magic and pokes curiously at some of the entrails with an arrow, the freshness of one sticking to his arrow. He does not object to having a feces firing option in the future, trying to store the arrow a little separate from the others in the quiver before returning to the ledge. With no easy way to brace for the fall, he sits on the edge and drops, skidding along the wall a bit before gravity greets him to the dirt, spiking pain through his legs but not disrupting the stability of the cave.

Tacin moves to the cave where Kiran's voice rings strongest from, calling out into it. It's seemingly a long ways in, as he hears his echo for many seconds before calling again. Kiran answers shortly after, distance playing tricks on response time as he claims to have forgotten who he's speaking to but remembering the voice. Within a minute the echoes of heavy footsteps come forward, Tacin moving away from the tunnel's opening a few seconds before Kiran leaps up and vaults the ledge, rolling once before he's smoothly upon his feet. He seems coated in light acid burns across most of his exposed skin, but seems quite healthy, even chipper at the sight of friendly faces. He immediately lets his shy side show as he spots the unfamiliar Enna and Kiri, who understand as they merely wave or curtsy in greeting but otherwise stay silent.

Kiran seems much the same as before, a little bumbling and comfortable working his ways off the beaten path. Garn gives him a friendly jab at his lack of subtlety in moving the ankheg's corpse from the side of the road, something Kiran had hoped he was improving on. He moves to change the subject to the matter at hand, everyone's presence in the caves. Tacin points out they're doing "the usual adventuring stuff", exploring caves and hunting for treasure while potentially slaying the queen of an ankheg colony and all nine corpses in the room. Kiran beams at the party's improved prowess while noting he's been enjoying himself without company or rules to fret over, counting twenty ankheg corpses at that moment. Kiran himself offers an apology to the sisters over following them without permission earlier, which confuses Tacin, but Enna catches on quickly that he's trying to play the role of a helper from afar and he was likely spying on the important-looking carriage to defend it only if needed. The statement fits Kiran to the K.

As the dwarven ally decides this a good time to rest before resuming his sweep of the cavern, everyone figures their business with scouting for their treasure concluded. Tacin had mused some over the thought of if any shards of power lie unclaimed to give Kiran, but with none available, there is no chance to spread the wealth. Remembering this, he can only turn with the party, offering farewells before ascending the hole once more, thankful the mining efforts soon will be uninhibited due to safety being in good hands.

Session 15: Ants Can't Stop Justice: 
With a fair amount of daylight left, the group returns to their walk north to Dispatere. Once the halfway house is again barely at the edge of everyone's vision, a cloaked figure comes from it and begins to cross paths with the party on their way. Their eyes spot a feline face beneath the hood, identified by Kiri as one of a race of "Tabaxi", though the first any of the five had met. Tacin offers a cordial wave and hello, to which it gives a light bow and greeting in return. Gildie and Garn get the sensation its speedy step and posture imply it's trying to get distance quickly, and not from the rain. Once out of earshot, Garn suggests the cat may have stolen from the halfway house, which triggers haste in Enna to see for herself. Sure enough, she reaches the doors first, finding it pitch black inside with no torches to burn everlong.

She doubles back and makes to dash along the path, but between her and the nearby Garn and Tacin, the three see the cloaked figure sprinting away at speeds rivaling Kiran's dexterity. Garn curses himself for not bringing the horses along, which triggers in Gildie and Tacin a worry about not having arranged for a longer term of care for them. Enna curbs her frustrations enough to mention Ember's likely taking care of costs before returning to the house, begrudgingly admitting she forgot part of her courier duties in logging what's missing supply-wise from the building. She withdraws the torch she recovered from Garn and, assisted by Tacin wielding a coin of light, goes inside to start taking notes of what's been taken.

Kiri takes advantage of everyone being split to tug on Garn's sleeve for attention while still outside. She's worried about Enna's grudge-holding habits and asks for permission to demonstrate just what has Enna angry. Garn hesitates but accepts, to which Kiri identifies the difference between Garn's twenty magically sturdy arrows, and his five mundane reclaimed ones. For the sake of argument, she "owns" the five mundane, and swaps them out for five of the magic from Garn's quiver, effectively trading them. This leaves Garn with only fifteen magic arrows instead of twenty, an unfair trade to him; the same logic was used earlier when he claimed his trade of mundane for magic torch was a justification of his actions, the kind of logic that eats away at Enna.

As she swaps the arrows back into their original positions (and advises Garn to clean the feces-stained arrow), he grunts a reluctant agreement to apologizing. Once it's settled, Kiri scampers to the halfway house's doors as Enna finishes her inventory; alongside the torches, a handful of most immediately edible foods are missing, though Kiran is a possible (and more honorable) suspect in that. Tacin muses that Kiran seems a bit more self sufficient, but also recalls that he was met while cooking a soup or stew on their first day adventuring. Enna simply mentions that she wouldn't mind if it were Kiran, and that her job dictates the supply be renewed anyway, before moving to scoop up Kiri for a piggyback ride and calling to everyone for a ready check to go.

The rest of the trip is largely uneventful, though the cloud cover and rain wanes steadily as the desert approaches. The ground turns more to dirt, patches of grass and a few spots of sand around while approaching the great walls. Enna brings the party around to the west wall, some twenty feet high of stone with thirty foot high turrets at the center of the walls or corners. In the town's center is an equally high spire, silhouettes of archers looking over everyone as they enter. The rest of the guard seem to be preoccupied on the north end of the camp, a hobgoblin leading them in training exercises. Enna quickly identifies some buildings as a jail, a guest house occupied by Hashken, the general Ohma's headquarters, and a high-ranking Mardei's home nearby.

Enna and Kiri part ways to go to the cathedral, a building on par with Trisme Gate's library or the Somnophis Sleepery in size, but much more clearly identifiable as a sanctuary building. Garn, not too fond of the desert or in the know about its beastly inhabitants, moves to the cathedral as well to relax within it as Gildie and Tacin circle the camp. It's built for efficiency, solid stone with little trim anywhere but officials' buildings, the barracks' rooms only holding necessities and enough room to dress and sleep. The hobgoblin, identified by Enna as "Korcho", gives Gildie a vicious glare while she passes, but makes no movement to advance on her and Tacin as they skirt the training grounds. East of the town lies a trench dug out and surrounded by a fence of intertwined wood logs, fashioned to disrupt waves, wind, and harm horses that attempt to ride into or leap over them. Some puddles of water rest at the deepest patches in it, though far less than the floods seen elsewhere.

Once their lap concludes without much success of finding shards scattered around town, Gildie moves to join Garn in the cathedral, but Tacin lingers behind with business in mind. He looks to the prison, a cube of stone with naught but a couple drains at foot level and a door. One guard inside watches over the four Councilmen, who look at Tacin in disgust. He gives Tacin permission to speak to the prisoners, but notes to keep it civil. Tacin stands in the doorway and tries to ask why they did what they did; not only to him, but the murders and brutality in general. Joshamee makes it clear he has no intention of talking to Tacin, but Wren caves under pressure and guilt, admitting to some degree the vice of greed and the fear of change. Astraere's success had been stable, but the threat of losing what they had ate at them. Before she can admit aloud the involvement of imps, Joshamee fires a death glare at her that silences her before a potentially damning admission.

Tacin's grudge gets the better of him, goading the Councilmen with a dark query of how it feels to be caged and doomed to their fate. The guard warns Tacin again to keep it civil, but with Joshamee in his sights, he persists, all but asking the elderly man to lash out at him verbally or physically as he points out the failures of Joshamee's murder attempt and empire. The guard presses the handle of his lance against Tacin to start nudging him out the door, to which Tacin silently agrees and turns to rejoin the group at the cathedral.

It's a sizable building, a stained glass window proudly displaying Avandra's symbol as its centerpiece above the three-man-wide doorway left perpetually open. Two spaces jut out from the sides, partitions at the walls' centers offering four rooms back to back, two on each side. Facing the entrances framed in violet curtains are cots with cozy-looking blue sheets draped over them. On the reverse sides of the walls extend an emergency medical space to the right and a small worship area to the left, stairs ascending to the second floor at the back wall. Everyone is made at home as the sisters continue their work, leaving the party to talk among themselves. Tacin seems reluctant to be present, though he hides his grudge and thoughts for the moment, wanting more to go elsewhere and search for shards of power than stay for the trial. Gildie finds this odd, but consents to waiting to press the matter.

Enna comes shortly before their sleep begins to note the upstairs space is off limits, as it's hers and Kiri's personal space, as well as a closer guarded store of supplies for the city and even a magic mirror being used to safeguard the lives of some mortally wounded soldiers. She says this with eyes on Garn, noting that its disturbance will put him at the top of the suspect list. Garn seems a little exasperated at being treated as the criminal again, but simply points out he has no interest in rummaging through their personal space.

Morning breaks with no surprises aside from three plates of fairly well cooked food left just outside the room upon crates and a barrel. Enna and Kiri are already out at work, leaving the party to ponder their purpose for the day. Tacin again iterrates that he doesn't want to spend a day at court, particularly given the trial at hand. Gildie seems particularly shocked that he doesn't want to be the most damning testimony against his attempted murderer, pressing the odd inconsistency. Tacin caves and vents his frustrations, that Joshamee is correct about the party's lack of physical evidence, that his testimony is naught but words that can be rebuked, that he doesn't want to get sucked into Joshamee's game of his influence vs. Tacin's lack thereof, and that it should've been on the guards or Hashken to gather evidence from the town. He wants to see no joy from Joshamee at the struggle to pin the crime, nor to spend a full day avoiding their more pressing issue of working on rescuing a goddess in need.

Though his allies understand his point of view, they still did arrive for a reason. Gildie ponders talking to Hashken about sidestepping the day being spent in a trial, and Garn figures everyone only needs roughly an hour to do what they need to to either get their point across or find a way out of things. As they leave the cathedral, Kiri waits by the town's central spire to wave them over. She seems cheerier than normal despite the purpose of the day, pointing out that a combination of what the guards brought from Astraere and everyone's presence has unlocked a particularly swift, undoubtable method to the trial; the Council are to be put under a truth-telling spell of her work, which Tacin can join in just long enough to give his testimony and leave if he pleases. With the situation suddenly turned on its head, he reluctantly agrees that it's worth joining in, even if briefly. Garn, meanwhile, wants nothing to do with it and simply asks where Enna is.

Before Kiri finishes explaining the process, he goes alone to Enna while she guards the entrance to the headquarters where the trial is to be held. Though not too earnest in tone, he still brings up Kiri's lesson in the value of the bad trade before apologizing. She gleans it's not wholly honest, but still relaxes a little, apologizing herself for being so wound up recently. She reminds Garn that he is not the only with goals or things to do, and she's currently stressed over working two and a half peoples' jobs at once in order to keep Kiri from working herself to sickness again. Garn voices no grudge held, departing after Enna nods to agree. He makes west to avoid the judicial system altogether, leaving Kiri to bring up Gildie and Tacin.

Within the headquarters, the typical layout of the building has been changed. Numerous tabled have been shifted into rows beside which Hashken, Korcho, the tiefling Mardei, and Kiri take places. Enna keeps to the door, and in the corner opposite her, a broad, tall man in draconic-themed plate mail rests with naught but his expressionless mouth exposed. Mardei takes the floor with a call to order that the trial's methods and results will be expedited courtesy of the method of magical influence. Due to Hashken's experience as a spellcaster, he will be able to verify the motions and words needed for the truth spell, alongside Korcho's and Mardei's authority as witnesses to its validity. Tacin is placed close enough to the Council that he may be affected as the rules are read off that any attempt to resist the spell will be taken as an admission of guilt, and any needless delay or refusal of answer will be the same.

As soon as Kiri casts the spell, Mardei fumbles somewhat over his understanding of Tacin's testimony and simply asks Tacin what happened the night he was drowned. Quite accurately, Tacin points out hard facts of his kidnapping and suspicions of what his kidnappers did or said through the process: Gagged, blindfolded, bound, tossed out a window, and drowned once the kidnappers heard him get his gag free. Only by the grace of a necklace did he breathe underwater, and only by a spell of thunder did he blast the coffin's lid free. When asked about damage elsewhere in the waterway, Tacin claims no responsibility for anything except the area around his water pit, and the window of Alphone's building that was damaged by something flying from it.

Hashken finalizes scribing the testimony, offering Tacin freedom to leave if he pleases. With the speed of the trial, Tacin figures it worth staying a moment, him and Gildie staying near the door to observe as Mardei produces a bag of holding from near a table. From it emerge numerous bone pieces, rusty remnants of equipment and moldy rope or clothes, fire-charred bricks of the waterway, and a single imp wing that escaped the dissapation. With everything on the table, he asks few questions, but ones that cut to the core of the matter. Did the Councilmen conspire with one imp apiece? Did they conspire as a group? They could do naught but nod as questions sealed their guilt, to which Mardei flung numerous fragments of evidence from the table while turning it out of place to make a hole for Korcho to approach once beckoned. He leans in and gives Louisse, the closest of the accused, a very spiteful and sadistic grin.

Tacin calls out that he still has two questions not answered, concerning motives in particular. Though they are not the concern of the trial due to guilt being established, he's allowed to ask why once again. Why him, and why murder. Joshamee is dragged back into the truth field to begrudgingly admit a genuine dislike of the party's seeming alliance with the dragon Solana, that their disappearance would remove an obstacle from invasion of her camp. Furthermore, the hints Wren dropped the previous day are brought to light, that the Council never felt themselves above muscle, even violence, to stop threats to their seats. Murder, however, was a true accident that only ever happened after the imps entered the picture. Once the first happened, however, the rest came much more easily; only after being separate from the devils' influence did they start to feel guilt properly, according to Louisse.

Somewhat satisfied, Tacin and Gildie make room for Korcho to drag out two of the Councilmen at a time, to be held down by guards until the other two are brought out. Mardei shoos away Hashken, Tacin, and Gildie, with business concluded and the headquarters no longer a place for outsiders. The three opt to follow the sisters' idea of not watching the soon-to-be execution, instead gratefully musing the speediness of the trial. Hashken proudly states it his doing, that he stayed in the camp in order to apply a law he himself wrote about officials and trusted spellcasters present to apply the truth telling by magic. Ever clever and benevolent, Tacin asks if Hashken has heard any other news of the land. Sadly, Hashken has been wholly preoccupied with the trial, and has since lost a night and a half of sleep. Gildie immediately apologizes for keeping him up before she and Tacin try to politely end the conversation so he can rest.

Enna and Kiri giggle at Hashken as he walks by, as his yawn produces a few wisps of his toxic dragon breath on accident. During this time, Garn has settled himself somewhere outside eyeshot of the town and taken to trying to sculpt a recreation of a forest out of the wet dirt and sand. His efforts are clumsy and halfhearted, but finally alone, he's free to speak his mind to his companions, that he hopes to soon find a way free of this constant travel and simply reside in a new, quieter land. But with his destination still closed behind red tape, he can do nothing but count the minutes away before coming back to camp.

The sisters once again gather with the three, asking what their plans are for the day. With nothing immediately thought out, Enna wonders if they could perhaps do a favor. She brings the party a bit further from the gate before admitting she and Kiri happened upon a small settlement of Drow in the desert. Indeed, the dark elf Drow who hate sunlight and are famous for infamy and backstabbing. By their recount, the drow's colony underground has degraded from clever betrayal to outright wide-open murder, sparking an exodus of some seeking to flee the violence. With only the possibly inhabited desert ruins to their east and Dispatere to the south, the estimated eight drow are currently trapped in a dome of their own making, foraging and effectively waiting help.

Kiri points out they can't devote more than a day, as their schedule has them moving between towns constantly to make deliveries, check on families, and so on. The trio, however, has much more free time to potentially explore avenues such as checking on the ruins, or escorting the Drow to a proper grasslands. They can't promise success, but Garn knows the frustration of wanting to be somewhere comfortable and being trapped in an unpleasant setting, a hint that somehow goes over Tacin's head before Enna promises to somehow alert him first and foremost once the travel ban is lifted. She produces a full set of ten berries, claiming they're for the drow before thanking everyone for at least being willing to try. She points out on a map of her own where they're located, due north and thankfully not far from the ruins.

The sandy terrain proves decent for travel, drying out and warming up the further in the party goes. It still takes up most of daylight, nearing five o'clock by the time they reach the ruins proper. Dozens of buildings lie buried under mounds of sand, ten foot high walls fully smothered in the stuff on a couple sides. A round wall at the center hides most of the inner city from view, thirty feet high where uncrumbled but weathered terribly in a few places. The buildings inside fare much better as a whole, though the ruins show signs of tear from a millennia of age and lack of upkeep. Even the central palace is impossible to navigate, its two doorways either caved in or buried under sand enough to fill a house entirely.

Spider is first sent out to scale buildings and look for signs of life, though ordered to return upon finding any. Despite the lack of anyone nearby, Gildie still gets the sensation of a difficult to describe purity tingling in her feet when closest to the central building. Garn sends Rat to scour for ways in and out, advising him to look for if things are navigable by humanoids. Tacin, meanwhile, produces a hand made of magic to try scooping away sand from the buried doorway to enter the center building by. Shortly after, however, Rat comes back out with three slash marks on its back, prompting Garn to immediately cast a communication spell with it to discern what happened.

While Rat was looking, it noticed a lot of the area to be much like the inside of a normal building. Before it could find any holes leading outside or anywhere new, a shadow came up and cut it from behind. It turned to see a figure with bat wings trying to bite it, almost Gildie's size but colored similarly to Tacin's bag of holding. Garn tends to its wounds a little before letting it scamper back in its bag, with Spider curiously approaching the ruckus. As everyone considers what may be able to make such marks, the culprits make themselves known as statues decorating the roof of the building spread wings and descend. Five quite living gargoyles swoop down, ready to make quick work of the party.

Everyone spreads apart by instinct, Gildie bringing one to the ground with a bolt to its wing before stabbing its prone form while Tacin and Garn fire spell and missile. They become quickly surrounded as two wrap on either side of Gildie and Garn, one to Tacin's side, lashing out with constant streams of attempting to rake someone in to bite at them. Garn is caught off guard enough that all four attempts sink in, a pain he can not withstand twice, as Gildie counters one of her assailants and Tacin dodges his. With Garn's danger immediate, Tacin successfully scares away one of the gargoyles, freeing up breathing room for Garn to bring Spider in to take the monster's attention before he steps back to start shooting. The injuries seem to affect his ability to hold steady, however, as the shots sail wide.

The battle slowly works its way inwards to center around Tacin at the middle of everything, but he and Spider find their attempts to pierce the lithified flesh of the monsters less effective than spells' assaults or Gildie's special blade. Worse yet, Spider's venom finds no blood to properly invade, leaving it as naught but a biting force. Worst of all, Garn's wounds halt him from landing one arrow, the beasts shockingly nimble at reading and ducking his half-second slow shots. Finally he abandons his bow, taking out his axe to join in the up close brawl, chipping away with swing after swing. The process is slow, Gildie constantly staying at the ready to lash out whichever beast turns to strike someone else while Tacin balances his defensive distractions with attempts to make one of them fly away to open an avenue of movement.

After near a full minute of the exhausting effort, the gargoyles lie still as statues, one's fangs flaking apart to reveal an unusually dagger-shaped shard of crimson. Garn may be frustrated enough to relish the thought of shattering it immediately, but Tacin calls out for him to hold back for the possibility of showing Hashken and Enna proper other shapes or colors they may have to be on the lookout for. This strikes Garn as curious, but for the moment, he relents; recuperation from the draining fight is first on everyone's mind, particularly with the sun setting steadily.

Session 16: Get Got, Gargoyles: 
With their wounds still fresh, the party decides a break is quite well earned. The mystery of if the gargoyles swept in from above or from a hole leading into the building remains unanswered long enough for everyone to find a building at the edge of the ruins to hunker down in and rest. An hour later, however, and everyone is back to explore a couple points of curiosity. In their search for the shard that fell from the gargoyle's mouth, everyone recalls a curious dip in the sand at the south and west edges of the inside of the wall, as if a small bowl had been dug out. And with the building's potential entrance lying on the roof, its investigation is kept on the list to do.

Tacin tries to shift a magic hand down to see if it can reach through the southern dip's sand enough to find a more solid, artificial surface, but to no avail. Garn conjures a spectral servant to aid the hand in shifting away sand slowly, but an epiphany strikes Tacin about a gift from the first days of the adventure. He withdraws the decanter given by Ember and conjures its most forceful stream of water, a jet of liquid spraying away a wide swath of sand in mere seconds. By the end of a second use, everyone hears the water splash on wood instead of mere sand. Curiously, it's a couple old, slightly decaying strips of wood that have some holes where sand could indeed fall through to potentially cause a dip in the sandscape.

Before committing to this specific space, Tacin moves decisively to investigate the west depression, and within a few blasts, uncovers much the same. Garn leaves Gildie to keep Tacin company in case something comes up from the woodwork and looks to the central building, sending Spider to climb it and search for holes that gargoyles might have been able to fly out. It's to no avail, however, as the only entrance available seems to be a hole Rat could squeeze through. Everyone converges in front of the large building in question to discuss their findings, and with the never-ending geyser of water available to them, Tacin volunteers to blast away the sand blocking the entrance he attempted to magically dig through before.

Thankfully, there is no retaliation from statues this time as he washes away piles of sand. He is soon met by a pile of debris rivaling the other entrance, however; sheets of sandstone, rock, and metal frames of furniture piled in a way that suggests a likely collapse of some of the space of the second or potentially third floors. Moving the pieces might be possible, but only with time to also cut at them to avoid too much scraping against or pulling at another. If this building is to be explored and its inhabitant brought to justice for harming Rat, who has confirmed a gargoyle to be the shape of its assailant, they must find whatever entrance may remain. And so Tacin leads the party back to the southern space to begin spraying water at sand, revealing a proper trapdoor.

Gildie does the honors of opening it, with everyone else behind corners of a building in case something flies out to investigate the ruckus. The door is large and heavy, but she is able to fling it fast enough that its hinges squeak with minimal time to make noise. Greeting her is the sight of a spiral staircase made of stone, looking quite sturdy, clean, and well maintained compared to the wooden door. There are piles of sand piled across the first flight, evidence of the falling of sand over the years, but it's nothing that can't be handled. Tacin offers Gildie fresh light from her shield while Garn keeps a hold of his newfound orb of light, and the party descends slowly, shifting sand aside to make footholds first the first few steps before it turns much more steady.

Steady, indeed, but deep. Everyone estimates nearly a hundred feet underground is walked before Gildie sees a potential ground floor, and hears a sign of life. There's a low, feminine sound, a woeful humming of sorts. Gildie stops the train from descending, prompting Garn to send Spider to carefully walk forward before coming back, shivering and chittering a little confusedly. Garn tries to discern with his yes or no questions if what it saw was dangerous, natural, and the like, but Spider hesitates repeatedly about clicking its responses. It looks humanoid, somewhat natural yet not, and not immediately dangerous. That's enough for everyone to at least look around the corner by. They're greeted by a spectral outline of a lady, an elderly (possibly half-) human ghost who fades into existence properly in front of them. Scattered around the floor are piles of bones, with her near the middle.

Tacin offers a cautious but cordial greeting, to which the lady responds timidly by asking if the party has come to help. Everyone attempts to rather calmly work out what happened, but she only seems to respond with anguish that everyone's dead, and she doesn't know why. She can't leave this space, and she doesn't know why. She doesn't remember if the bones of those around her were her companions. No matter what they ask, she plainly doesn't know, and the agitation of it causes her voice to grow more angry by the word, enough that the bones are rattling and shifting on the floor. Garn tries to beat the aggression to the punch and looses an arrow through the lady, concluding negotiations.

The bones shift rapidly into properly functioning skeletons, tarnished leathers and rusty swords in hand as they try to swarm Garn immediately in retaliation. Their clumsy nature makes them relatively easy to avoid and much less painful to be struck by than much the party has dealt with recently, but with their forms now blocking part of the path forward, the ghost is free to finally let her pent up anguish free. A shrill shriek comes from her as her face contorts and twists into a mask of horror, a sight that rattles everyone for a moment but truly shocks Gildie to the core. She finds herself not only frightened, but like the scream shatters part of her very existence, heart skipping a couple beats and body feeling a full decade weaker for the experience.

The counterattack is swift enough, with the skeletons easy to break apart with a full round of cooperation and magical retribution via insult and the chilly backlash of spectral armor. But Garn remains the focus of the ghost and skeleton crew, blades trying to weaken his body while the ghost shifts forward to grasp at his soul. He barely manages to hold his consciousness together as she moves to drift into his body to claim it, the shock causing her to recoil back in the thick of the battle. Gildie has some trouble working her body due to the shock and dread of the experience, but shakes off the fear in place of adrenaline to power through the fight. The skeletons soon collapse back into piles of lifeless bones before the ghost starts to find her form too well maimed to feel safe, attempting one hasty swipe at Spider on her way to the furthest wall of the room. Garn ends the encounter with a well placed shot that pierces the last of her most solid matter, dissipating the ghost shortly after.

Gildie needs a moment to compose herself, but Garn and Tacin are keen on moving on without giving anything a chance to converge on the noise made. Double doors fly open, revealing something of a living space, wooden furniture and containers spread around. To their north, similar doors to the ones they just opened. To the east and west, fourty-foot walls are lined with many doors attached to tall pillars, making the walls more door than stone. Inside some of the containers seem to be remnants of tools and materials for basic needs crafting, the materials one might use to cobble together goods or necessities showing signs of age as strings and fibers pull apart at first tug, or metal and wood crackle upon being gripped.

Garn makes a quick move to the west and east, his brightly lit globe revealing all of the hallways shown behind each; the four sets of doors per wall lead into the same wide open space, curved and symmetrical halls lined with shelves, bunks, and similarly aged-to-fragility fabrics that show possible living spaces for many people. Everyone can look and figure out that, from their position at the south, the halls show off almost half a circle, a predictable loop of space probably centered around whatever may be in the middle, behind the unopened northern door. So he decides to leave Rat at the door with orders to raise a ruckus, break things, and sound some sort of alarm if something comes from those doors before everyone heads along the west wall. Garn again opens a door first, light revealing a somewhat better maintained but much smellier room, and the sources of the smell reveal themselves immediately.

Three flesh heaps rise from their piles, showing off ghoulish figures with long fangs and longer tongues from their wide-open, growling mouths. Tacin tries to take advantage of the one open door and possible idiocy of the monsters by conjuring a dagger cloud in front of the one open door immediately before the largest of the three moves directly into it. In some form of hissing common, it cries back to its comrades to use another door as it takes advantage of its momentum (despite its poor placement) to sink its claws into Garn. He finds himself locking up under the vileness of the monster's touch, body clenching in paralysis. The two smaller companions make good on their orders, one rushing ahead to fling another pair of doors open and revealing a path for the second to come up and attempt to nick Gildie, unsuccessfully.

She counters with a firm thrust at the legs of the leader, tripping it and causing its ghastly body to start bleeding out as it gasps in agony. Garn shakes off the sensation after a few more seconds, Spider lashing out to try to stop the assailing ghoul from approaching further. As it tries to stand, the leading ghast can only move amidst the swirling knives, and in mere moments the last of its life is cut. With no more strategy and insight offered from their overlord, the two lesser ghouls attempt to blindly lash out at the nearby Gildie and Spider, every monstrous blow dodged earning a well placed strike of retribution from the party.

Despite the stench of the ghast trying to sink in and sicken their minds, they overcome with naught but a single claw's worth of injury, still fresh from their rest enough to press on and explore. They look at a copy of the blueprint of the chamber they were in before, four sets of wooden double doors at their sides and across from them, and single stone double doors to their left and right. With their left possibly being the space that should be a stairway up, Tacin waits for Garn to eat through enough of his stored berries to feel comfortable again before peeking through the door. He's greeted immediately by the bright light of a flame, pointing out that the room is either on fire or inhabited by something that is. At the worst, another foe, but at the best, another endlessly burning torch.

So he coordinates with Garn, readying to yank the door open and hide behind it while Garn shoots at any possible sign of monstrous life from afar. Indeed there is, as Tacin swings the door open wide to reveal many more bones scattered around a single, flying skull cloaked in yellow-green flame, producing light much like a campfire. Garn's arrows strike true, but the skull is more prone to rolling and taking the blow than shattering by it; Garn unleashes greater force from his next arrow in an attempt to shatter it before it can retaliate. Another batch of three skeletons show up and try to rush through the door at their only immediately visible assailant, but a well positioned Gildie is at the ready to strike at the first that appears and moves past her.

Her blade moves between the ribs of a first strike, but clips the spine well enough on the second that the skeleton falls into a pile and struggles to reform, cracking heavily through its body. The two remaining halt by the doorway proper, clumsy thrusts failing to pierce Gildie's armor. Tacin opens the door the rest of the way and joins in on clearing the skeletal minions while trusting Garn's aim and power to destroy the skull proper. Due to its ability to roll and let the arrows bounce off less harmfully, it survives long enough to cast a proper fireball before it, catching everything but it in the conflagration. Everyone is able to turn and shield their vital parts from the flame as it tears through one skeleton and nearly roasts another to ash in one go.

With its one great hurrah spent, the party can easily approach and end its semblance of life before a second blast can be done. Aching some but able to recover well enough with their own stores of (now slightly charred) berries, everyone takes a minute to eat their wounds away while looking about. Garn notes an oddity about the stairs and how they seem to meet the ground level, but nobody can place their finger on why just yet. Merely keeping note of it for now, the party decides to cut the building in half by swinging back, seeing Rat still gazing at the north door of its room to check for trouble, and move to the eastern chambers. As they go, they realize they've figured out the likely source of the stench of death with the ghouls, but have seen no true clues about the cause of the mass (un)death around them.

As they hit the doorway, they figure out the possibility of a fight seems likely, Gildie preparing to open a door as Garn nocks and draws back an arrow in preparation. Upon entry, however, there's nothing to be seen. Garn relaxes a little and sends Spider to investigate as Tacin moves in to peek curiously under the lone table. Spider comes up with nothing, but one of the many chairs surrounding the table fly at Tacin, the large and old piece of wood thankfully visible enough to dodge. With no assailant immediately visible, everyone readies for another scuffle, but with no clear indication of who or where to focus.

Spider is sent to investigate the corner from which the chair was plucked but comes up empty, and Tacin tries to solicit some response from whatever may inhabit the room by offering a rather genuine attempt at diplomatic emotion through his telepathy. He fails to sense exactly where the message is sent to, though, and is responded to with a firm slam of spectral energy directly on his head from above. He readies to retaliate with a burst of thunder from himself as soon as Gildie moves from his side, but Garn is quick enough to react by having Spider scout the space above Tacin. Indeed, it senses some form of life hovering in the space between it on the ceiling and Tacin on the ground.

Gildie moves to the opposite wall, freeing the space around Tacin for him to cry out a sound that rattles the old wooden furniture and pushes the invisible figure up to ceiling level. Spider's gaze shifts to follow it, marking its closeness well enough that it has to retaliate by grabbing and flinging Spider to the floor. Spider is unable to find the being again on a second round of searching the ceiling, and Tacin fails to hit the monster with one of hits couple darts, leading Garn and Gildie to prepare their missiles to strike whatever source of movement or sound may happen. And happen it does as yet another chair flies, this time at the Spider who is well able to scout it, but the elevation needed isn't gained.

Bolt and arrows fly at the space directly next to the chair, sinking into invisible body enough that the air starts to whirl and twist. For a brief moment, everyone is able to see a being of energy flicker into existence before it fades away. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief but realizes the lateness of the hour and scope of the situation; they're running out of steam and feel their bodies need proper rest to get themselves back into any condition to potentially explore the remainder of the area. They figure they've uncovered well over half of the perimeter of this underground space, but that says nothing of possible dangers lurking at the center. With this miniature gauntlet behind them, they close the trapdoor to the surface and find their previous rest house still in poor but stable condition, sand proving comfortable enough to earn a decent rest before the rest of the ruin greets them tomorrow.

Session 17: Desert Tomb Descent: 
A new day breaks, and delivers a promise of rain again beyond the reaches of the desert. While comfortably dry (if burdened with sand in too many places) where they are, the party can see the cloud cover elsewhere reverting from its previous layer of thin grey to a much thicker, stormy black. While unfortunate, it has little to do with their current situation and its outlook. The ruins seem no closer to having their mystery solved, and the drow still have not been met nor asked if this kind of abode would suit them. Yet, with their previous mission of "find shards" in mind, they deem it worth exploring; having found one overground, the possibility of one underground does seem likely. Having grown accustomed to his magic, Tacin voices his desire to try new spells that have been on his mind, successfully working one to boost the endurance of the trio so to be caught in less dire of a mess if overwhelmed.

So everyone helps heave open the thick, rotting trapdoor before descending, Gildie's lit shield leading the charge back a hundred feet below. Everyone decides quickly to ensure the second death of their foes stuck, following a path of doors they left open to examine to and fro. They see from afar the glow of fire produced from yesterday's burning skull, suddenly worried for their mission if others behave the same way. Instead of fighting this foe again, though, Garn slides himself carefully to the still-open door, eases it shut enough to get himself fully behind it, and gives it one good push that slams it fully closed before the skull can notice his presence or its fate of being trapped again. As small bursts and explosions push at the door, everyone piles the remaining wood containers and pieces against it to barricade it further.

The skull thankfully proves the only familiar face to the party. Rat resumes his position of guarding the southern chamber's north door, which the party still suspects to hold the main hall entrance closest to their escape route. Eastward they go again, Tacin performing a "come get me" dance for a moment to attempt to lure out another flying chair. Nothing comes of it, however, and learning from their previous haste and mistakes, they set up just outside the door to what's presumed to be another stairway chamber on the east most side. Garn hangs back with his bow at the ready for Tacin to pull open a door and hide behind, which bears fruit; as soon as the door is open, a floating shadow with piercing white eyes turns to face him as his arrows fly true and cut through its ectoplasm.

Its skeletal servants quiver and form on the floor as it responds in kind by floating through the wall, smartly finding what it thinks is the coward who opened the door. Indeed it finds Tacin, but fails to grab hold properly in its misty clutches. Tacin nudges the door shut behind him to offer himself wiggle room, and to possibly cut off the skeletons from rushing out all at once, but at such a close range, his attempts to work another of his new spells fails to hit its mark; missiles of force fly out, but with rushed accuracy and only success blasting the stonework behind the wraith. Garn's arrows continue to hit home, thankfully, while Gildie's maintained position by the doors allows her to respond to the skeleton's charge with efficient thrusts to level one and nearly crumble another.

The wraith breaks free of Tacin and Spider, flying too quickly for their responses as it hovers before Garn, successfully digging its spectral fingers in front of Garn's heart. He feels as if death itself is trying to suck the life from him, pulling away before the sensation can settle in to his core, but still feeling unsteady and severely wounded for the single touch. Tacin's bolts strike true this time, but the pitch black of its core remains before Garn. Trusting he can successfully hit it from up close, he nocks his arrows and tries twice, his hasty shots and attempts to avoid the clutches of the spirit worryingly errant. Yet by virtue of his bow's desire to see death brought twice to such enemies, he grazes the corner of the remaining piece of the wraith's spiritual mass, soon sending it dispersing in a black mist.

With naught left but a few measly bones that fail to land a blow against Gildie, everyone much more relaxedly disposes of the foes before looking to Garn. In a rare display of mortality, he groans a heavy sound of pain before confirming he's still at least good to go... after eating an entire set of ten of his stored magic fruit. Once he feels refreshed, everyone enters the former wraith's room to examine around, finding only the same curiosity Garn noticed earlier; the bottom-most step seems improperly attached to the floor, as if it has in some way shifted or wasn't appropriately attached. Tacin notices this quicker, but for his first time, while Garn accounts for other stairways seen as being the same. Suddenly everyone is met with the notion of another floor below them, with mixed emotions on the matter.

Yet for the moment, this floor is their main worry, with the north wing to go. Again they pass through a hall of shelves and bunks extended from the curved walls before coming to another quartet of wooden doors, swinging one open for Garn to get a good view to fire within. He sees three zombie-like creatures standing about, but decides rather smartly that the one in proper armor and holding a sword is the best bet. His arrows again hit well enough to give the team confidence in their start to the fight as everyone prepares, but the armed undead is slightly faster. It descends with retribution in its eyes upon Garn, hand reaching out and attempting in much the same way to grip him at his torso as the Wraith did. He manages to duck that before getting nicked by the creature's old blade.

Gildie and Spider work together to settle on the opposite end of the wight, yet they and Garn are unable to end the creature. Tacin, with no completely clear vantage point to resume his firing of his newfound blasts of force, instead bursts through another door and sings out an song of poor luck to the three figures. It proves somewhat useful in making their attacks slower and motions clumsier, hand and blade of the wight turning upon Gildie but finding neither opening it needs to leave a mark. Spider clips the foul being's leg and drags it down properly to slump in lifelessness, leaving Garn free to fire two powerful blows upon one of the zombies. It recoils and attempts to stand again, but slumps too far to recover from.

The other fails to be lay low by Gildie's blade, and fails further to strike Tacin as he steps back to counter with a less harried shot. His forceful burst to the zombie's head causes it to recoil and nearly stand up again, but courtesy of Tacin's own miniature curse, the recovery is just a hair too little too late, and it falls over upon itself. With a small victory of a successful change of fate under his belt, Tacin prepares to open the north most stairwell door, waiting for everyone to take their places for preemptive strike and ambush. Garn takes a moment to loot the rusty, aged sword and arrows from the weight in case they can find some use later before he places himself far from the door to aim in, while Gildie resumes her strike-what-rushes-out position by the second door.

Yet as Tacin opens it, Garn finds naught but scattered bones to shoot. Worse, as he is testing the newly looted arrows, one crumbles under the pressure of him pinching it to pull back on the string, flustering him enough to entirely miss any of the scattered bones on the floor with his next arrow. Only Gildie can see inside well, and she sees a coiled up string of bones with a somewhat humanoid head bearing fangs at her, but the two are out of reach of another for the moment. It quickly fixes that by slithering across the open doorway, head rearing back and tail tip touching Gildie's foot as it hisses an incantation. Gildie finds herself feeling clouded in negative energy that risks her body freezing up, but shakes off the sensation just before it reaches where it needs to. As it tries to slither back out of sight upon its failure, her blade finds its tail tip and pierces enough to shake its body into slumping fully prone.

She chases it inside, smacking the second door open to reveal the room proper and plunging her blade again and again. With her foe down and facing away, she is free to summon her reserves of energy to plunge and strike four times in a flurry, chipping heavily at a portion of its spine before stepping back. Garn sends Spider to bite the patch of bone on its back, resulting in a break that causes the skeletal snake to fall to pieces. With the greatest threat of the room again brought down first, the skeletons are made bonemeal of within seconds, still charging the evasive Gildie first and failing incessantly to thrusts old blades into her.

After their death, Garn confirms the nature of the ruins by looking through one of the wooden doors leading west, seeing the same set of four doors and curved hallway as the rest. Indeed, they were correct that this is a ring of rooms, sleeping quarters and storage shelves divided by proper living spaces attached to stairways up. The only remaining threat possible lies in the central room, a possible worry enough that Garn asks to take the time to move the wooden furniture into place to be a barrier hiding all but one quarter of his body to fire in by. Tacin picks a door and counts with trepidation before pulling it open to reveal a small strip of space, an extension of the room they're in for another ten or so feet of storage. The containers are less frail with age, and some fabric inside actually show some signs of being possibly used.

While they're examining all the things, Garn holds aloft the driftglobe to cast light upon the whole room from up high, looking for signs of any false walls or hidden doors. He finds nothing of the sort, but Tacin notices a curious crack and finds it to be a keyhole. But with no signs of a key in any of the containers thus far, the team decides the closets must be consistent with all the "central" doors they have thus far left untouched, entering the eastern one to again find another storage area and keyhole. Garn decides to press ahead while Tacin is working on his search, the southern chamber's closet proving the one to worry about as his lit globe reveals a trio of bodies standing stiff against the far wall after he opens the door. Two are lightly garbed zombie-like figures, and one is a properly preserved, bandaged mummy.

Garn jumps back, provoking the mummy's head to snap in his direction. In an aged, strained voice, it asks who he is. Garn yells out loud enough for everyone to hear in the next chamber "Friends!", luring the mummy into further investigation as everyone else rushes to Garn's side. Sensing the attempt to be cordial between Garn and someone else, Tacin enters slowly and calmly before Gildie, while Garn's lack of threatening nature or deception earns the cooperation of the mummified corpse. It asks the party's desires, and why they are currently causing such a ruckus in the ruins. It doesn't seem agitated at the idea of living inhabitants in the chambers again, but does note that all who entered before met their end in the former master's chambers in a room to his north, pointing behind him. It sees itself more important to worry about than others, none else in the ruin worth talking to and its rest and isolation being important enough to dismiss the party to resume.

Tacin asks as it attempts to close the door if it would agree to refugees taking up residence in the rest of the ruin, sparking its curiosity as to their nature. When the word "Drow" comes up, the mummy grows agitated at the idea of dark elves further defiling its home, but everyone is convincing enough about the supposed defiling of the drow's one home that they simply seek peace elsewhere for the mummy to hold its anger inwards. It merely states it shall see what comes and closes the door. Garn beckons everyone to the southern stairwell, calling aloud that they'll have to tell the drow the ruins are no good before closing the double doors once everyone is in place.

With the mummy out of earshot behind two sets of stone doors, Garn begins to say in a hushed voice that he feels the mummy's nature as undead should exclude it from being catered to; aside from ghosts specifically, no undead seems to possibly be good. Gildie and Tacin stand firm to the idea that a sentient creature should not be randomly killed unless it is the aggressor; outvoted, Garn relents for now, and opens the doors when the party is ready. Tacin puts on a similar show of noise about saying the whole ruin should be explored, earning no audible response from the mummy before everyone checks the western closet. The same story awaits them, a storage space and keyhole.

Their only unexplored avenue now lies in the mysterious stairway puzzle, and the possible basement. Everyone agrees that any adjustment to stairs shouldn't be on their only completely clear avenue of escape, opting for the north quadrant. The west still contains the skull, after all, and the east's deceased wraith isn't an assured safe zone to commit to due to the unknown strength of wraiths specifically. So they reach the stairwell and give the stairs a few curious pushes and pulls, one of them causing a shudder through seemingly the entire stairwell. Tacin seems exceptionally surprised by the idea of the whole well turning, a hundred feet of stone to be pushed by four mere people, but with nothing to lose, lets Garn and Gildie take a turn seeing what they can do.

It turns out, little. To avoid crowding too heavily, places are exchanged, Spider putting its weight at the bottom while Tacin pushes near the middle. It takes a few seconds, but the two start a rotation that continues smoothly enough, only roughly six feet high of stairs rotating into the wall. On the other side of the partition spins a hook with a key dangling from it, which everyone deems highly suspect and immediately investigates for fear of traps. They find nothing of the sort, though, and claim the key as theirs. However, they can see no way to undo the rotation of the wall just yet.

Garn wisely points out the key might be specific to the corresponding north most keyhole and wants to test it against the west quadrant's closet space. It turns out, the key does not fully fit in nor turn in the keyhole. With the theory confirmed, everyone returns to the north end's closet, and Tacin bravely takes the job of putting the key in--too which it plunges deeper--and turning. And turning, and turning again, almost a full minute of cranking the key in circles before a click is finally heard and the stone wall parts. Like fans folding up, a vertical line of bricks splits and the stone walls roll out of the way, revealing a hallway ending in a stone door barred by a statue of a humanoid holding the door and leaning in a way to try to prevent its opening.

The statue appears to be an adventurer--decent travel bag, breastplate, longsword, shield, athletic body--and is a worry enough for everyone to think to retreat and consider gathering evidence of the other secret doors. as the round to the east, they find a matching hidden space behind the stairs empty. Worse, they can find no way to undo the stairs' turning here, either. Garn thinks for a moment that the unlocking of the door might have moved some gears and turned the stairs back, but finds the wall still showing its key hook instead of the stairs to the north. Everyone figures the southern path must remain intact, as it's their only clear avenue of escape, and ponders if there's a way to stop the process halfway. So they figure the west ward worth testing this upon, skull or no skull.

With Spider's strength and ability to handle basic objects, everyone is able to prepare for the skull behind the door before the door opens. It's caught well by surprise enough that everyone can score nearly two full rotations of missiles upon it, felling it once more before looking to the stairway. They attempt to turn it only part ways, but it sadly tries to continue its motions past what they hoped for. With their combined efforts, the motion is stopped, but they have to keep holding against its force; it only ends early by the sound of something snapping. Everyone suddenly finds the stairs able to shift almost freely in their hands, much more loose than before.

Unfortunately, this is deemed unsafe for climbing the stairs, removing the option of doing this for the south wall. Worse, their efforts bear no results, as the west ward's key is also missing. With their route locked to the north, the conversation turns quickly to three points. Are they ready to investigate what's stopped other adventurers? Is this a worthwhile fight to pick? And what do they do with the skull that they can't purify themselves that Tacin knows will light afire again within an hour?

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 Post subject: Re: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
PostPosted: January 9th, 2019, 10:35 pm 
Burning my Dread.
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 Post subject: Re: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
PostPosted: January 9th, 2019, 10:36 pm 
Burning my Dread.
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Joined: July 25th, 2004, 12:46 pm
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 Post subject: Re: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
PostPosted: January 9th, 2019, 10:36 pm 
Burning my Dread.
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Joined: July 25th, 2004, 12:46 pm
Posts: 11,464
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Donor: Guardian (2009)
Reserved for future content.

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 Post subject: Re: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
PostPosted: January 9th, 2019, 10:40 pm 
Burning my Dread.
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Reserved for future content. This is the most posts I've made in a day in years!

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 Post subject: Re: Dungeons & Dragons 5e: Gods' War journal
PostPosted: January 9th, 2019, 10:41 pm 
Burning my Dread.
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Joined: July 25th, 2004, 12:46 pm
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Reserved for future content. This should be the last. Sorry to make you scroll down for nothing to this point.

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