Ye Gilde

Carnival of Tears: Until Someone Loses Their Soul

When they finished trussing up the minotaur an owl swooped by and dropped a note. It read:


Hail Champions,
A bleak and bitter frost has fallen across the forest, and it
has reached even into the hearts of my people. Aided by
agents of an ancient evil, they are about to visit such destruction
upon the people of your community as has only been seen in
nightmares. Your actions tonight have shown that not all of your
kind are heartless villains. If you deem the townsfolk worthy
and you would save more lives tonight, please come swiftly to
the grove beyond the east entrance of the carnival.
Do not be startled by my appearance.

—Syntira

On the western edge of the grove, a pinprick of yellow light flares suddenly against the darkness. From the smallest flash of color, it silently increases its radiance until it seems as if the sun itself has come down from the heavens into the grove. Suddenly, directly in front of the light, an alluring female form appears. The intensity of the light makes it almost impossible to determine any of her features, but it is clear she must be stunningly beautiful, and completely naked. The only part of her that is clearly visible is her eyes, which are liquid brown and seem to draw in the light. Her voice chimes with the crystal beauty of a mountain spring on a summer afternoon.

“Please do not fear. I will not harm you. I am Syntira, nymph queen of Darkmoon Vale, and I am of the First World. My court of fey lived in these dark woods before the first of your kind set foot upon its verdant green. For an age or more we have watched you from tree and shadow, through spider’s eyes, underneath the wings of sparrows, and behind the grub worm and acorn. Long have we watched as your people bled the land with axe and flame. For a spell my anger grew such that I would see you all pay for this scourging of the forest. When I wallowed in the deepest pit of hate is when a cold wind blew down on my grove. A rider came with the wind; atop a dead stag and sheathed in frozen blades he came, and with a voice like steel on ice he promised me revenge. I agreed then, but now I know this course is ill. I only hope I have not awakened to the truth of this evil too late. When the rider came, my people changed. The cold froze their flesh; their hearts turned to ice. They forgot the green, forgot the woods. They forgot everything but hate. Now they come with the wind, led by their cold rider. They come to the carnival to butcher you and the rest of the mortals, and the only one who could stand against them is chained by bands of love stronger than iron.

“You must act quickly. My kin already begin their slaughter. Your people bleed—I feel their pain as I once did the torment of the trees. Pain is evil. Tree, beast, or man, it makes no matter, and no measure of cruelty tonight can repair the sins that came before. Your kin suffer for nothing but spite. Save them, and save yourselves. But take this with you, lest you offer yourselves to the frozen fey as lambs to a butcher.”

The intoxicating woman waves her hand across the snow, and a small collection of perfume vials appear. “Sniff these unicorn farts and you will not fall prey to the rider’s magic. He carries an iridescent purple flower of living ice called the Eye of Rapture, enchanted to cloak horror and agony in a guise of mirth and merriment. So long as this crystal remains unspoiled, your people will continue their revels as the fey cut them down. You must stop the slaughter. Only by frustrating the cold rider can you force him to appear so you can end your people’s suffering once and for all.”

The moon is high in the sky; its light shimmers off the ice like pale ghosts dancing in the darkness. On the surface of the lake, fairgoers revel and hoot, stomping their feet to rollicking fiddle music played by a band of grigs that maniacally bow their instruments while hopping about the bandstand. A gong sounds from the stage and scores of colorful rockets suddenly spring into the sky, where they explode into glistening clouds of multicolored sparks that drift gently to the ground. As the sparks slowly drift on the wind, an unseen mist seems to lift from the scene, and in a moment, everything changes.

The grigs continue to play, but instead of a lively dance tune, they are playing an eerie, haunting melody that drips with sadness and cruelty. They stand off to the side with expressions of anxious expectation. Meanwhile, instead of colored sparks, a rain of leeches drifts from the sky and settles over the crowd with a series of wet noises.

XP: 1450

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Carnival of Tears: It's All Fun and Games

[Partial story]

Strange winds blow down from Droskar’s Crag, bringing on an early winter. The ground crunches underfoot with thick frost, and autumn surrenders without a fight. Days grow shorter and stars hold court in the darkness reigning above. An unnatural cold permeates the town, and the Foam River’s jubilant voice is frozen under the
ice. Birds abandon their nests for warmer climes, their songs silenced by winter’s grim embrace. But the frozen riverbank now hosts a shimmering respite from the gloomy cold in the form of garish tents, joyful shouts, and sumptuous smells. Quinn’s Carnival has come to town.

Gaiety and laughter cut through the cold wind, and even the sky-shy sun peeks its face from around the gathering winter clouds. Children squeal with delight and gasp in awe of the sights, sounds, and smells of Quinn’s Carnival. The Titan’s Wheel creaks and groans as a burly lumberjack tests his might with a hefty spin, a
family rushes giggling into the sprawling ice maze to the north, and dozens of happy skaters flit about the rinks atop the frozen river. Carnival dolls are handed to wide-eyed townsfolk as prizes and a menagerie of freakish creatures and glowing lanterns beckons the curious. Garish skirts and scanty veils call others to a different breed of voyeurism altogether. Treats and wonders abound for young and old to enjoy, and for a time the early winter is forgotten in joyful revelry.

Adjacent pairs of rickety podiums tacked together from pieces of apple crates form raggedy ticket booths that mark various entrances to the carnival. Eager-faced fairgoers cram about them, gleaning wonderment from
faded posters promising stilt-walkers, terrifying rides, and all manner of freaks. Tirelessly working the booths, baggy-eyed carnies busily hawk tickets to various events and do their est to direct the stream of excited townsfolk.

A crowd of unwashed beggars shielded from the winter’s harsh kiss by nothing more than tattered rags huddles by the entrance to the carnival, pleading with passersby for a few meager coppers or a bit of food to see them through. Many are children or old men and women fallen on hard times. A good number are maimed from lumbering accidents or crippled by a horrible bout with plague or pneumonia. Rich merchants turn a blind eye to the haggard indigents, pretending not to see or hear them at all, and lumberjacks snarl, guffaw, or even kick at the dirty beggars as they stroll into the carnival to spend their coin on games, shows, and other frivolities.

Beneath a tall signboard reading “Mr. Sathelbry’s Wild Sleigh Rides” stand four massive chargers hitched to three wooden passenger sleds coupled together with chains. Hunched in the first sled is the driver, an aged, one-armed man dressed in a long threadbare wool coat, his snarling face wrapped with a dull red scarf. PCs notice a group of ragtag orphans loitering near Mr. Sathelbry’s Wild Sleigh Ride begging for a free ride. The crusty old sleigh master snarls at them, even kicking one into the snow with a cold-hearted laugh and a “no copper, no ride!”

A small cove of wagons and tents curls around a rickety three-foot-high stage cobbled from a wooden platform precariously balanced on stacks of unmortared bricks. The stage planks creak and moan in time to the prancing and posturing of a dozen or so freakish humanoids as they perform their comically grotesque displays. A dough-faced huckster preaches to the crowd and flails about a cane to pontificate the show’s details. He sees their golden tickets and ushers them into the Menagerie of Freaks.

The Dog-faced Girl
Chained to a stool, a dog-faced little girl in a charming yellow and white flowered dress mournfully howls at passers-by. This disturbed the group and made them feel a little sad for her.

The Baby in a Jar
Propped on a small stool sits a two-gallon glass jar filled with a murky yellow liquid. Suspended in the liquid, a deformed, infant-shaped creature bobs slowly. Its tiny, hairless form is dwarfed by its oversized head, from which two sickly colored amber eyes stare hauntingly. Belinda recognized it as a homunculus.

The Man of 1,000 Stitches
This bulky, bald-headed man proudly displays hundreds of wounds running across his torso, arms, legs, head, and face—all stitched shut with thick black thread.

Human Fish
A young man with flaky, scaly skin steps on to the stage as the barker shouts, “Behold the terrifying human fish!” To the crowd’s dismay, the man unfolds a straight razor and proceeds to bloodily slice gills into his neck. Next, two muscular men seize him and thrust his head in a large tub of water. At first, he thrashes about as if drowning and the crowd screams in terror. The ringmaster removes his hat and lowers his head, asking the stunned crowd for a moment of silence. Moments later, with his head still submerged, the fish man’s feet and hands begin to tap a lively rhythm on the stage and barrel. Soon both the stage freaks and the crowd are stomping and clapping in time to the music. Once this happens, the fish man jerks his head from the barrel and dances off stage.

The Sword Swallower
wide-eyed, middle-aged woman staggers across the stage, gasping at the crowd and holding her throat as if she is choking. She hacks loudly and, to the roaring delight of the crowd, belches a billowing puff of black smoke. Then, spasming uncontrollably, she draws forth a longsword from a nearby basket. When she holds it aloft, the sword bursts into bright orange flames. The crazed woman then proceeds to insert the flaming blade into her throat until only the handle remains visible. Finally, with a flick of her wrist, she pulls the blade from her gullet in a single smooth motion and tops off her act with a final belch of smoke.

The Pinheads
Jebro and Nedders are unfortunate beings possessing burly frames but tiny craniums, their eye sockets sealed with their graying flesh. They drool and loll about the stage dressed in worn pink tutus, much to the evil delight of the audience. The huckster invites the audience to throw coins to hear the brothers sing. and the crowd obliges, the pinheads squeak out a spittle-spraying version of the following song.

Welcome people one and all,
Welcome to our Carnival.
Over vale and wood we roam,
You won’t find a better home.

Welcome people great and small,
Welcome to our Carnival.
Join our land of make-believe,
You won’t ever want to leave.

Welcome people one and all,
Welcome to our Carnival.
Sweep away the winter weather,
Come inside and stay forever.

The Fat Woman
This disgusting obscenity of lard and folded flesh sits atop a tiny groaning stool as her greasy sausage-like fingers dive nimbly into the huge basket of dumplings upon which she gorges. Many of the townsfolk openly ridicule or show disgust at the sight of the woman.

Udmor the One-headed, Two-headed Ettin
Standing upon the stage, a brutish hunchbacked giant dares audience members to take a peek into the large sack it gleefully swings about. When a small child offers the brute a copper, it kneels down before him, opening the sack just wide enough for the eager lad to garner a peek at the grisly contents. The poor child begins retching violently as the creature breaks into roaring laughter. Then it turns slowly and with a knowing glance whispers to the now still crowd, “Its me other ’ead.”

This freakish performer had two heads until he met the wrong end of a giant-slayer’s vorpal sword. Although he
survived the brutal attack, he soon became lonely and sorely missed the companionship of his other head. He took his head to a hag and, with the help of her foul necromancy, had the head instilled with unlife. Udmor carries his second head around with him, happily chatting with his old self, although now when they have disagreements he simply places the undead head in a sack and bounces it around until it shuts up.

In the field before you stands a towering windmill disguised beneath mountains of papier-mâché to resemble a great titan. A large plastered head with bulging eyes and a long tattered beard covers the roof, while two muscular arms jut from the side of the building and clasp posts raising a banner that reads “The Titan’s Wheel.” The windmill’s blades have been replaced by a massive fifteen-foot-diameter metal wheel painted in nauseating spirals of lime green and orange and threaded with flapping rainbow streamers. Before the wheel, a gap-toothed carny woman with a wispy shadow of facial hair barks loudly through a sawed-off yak horn. “Step right up, folks, and spin the Titan’s Wheel! Prove your strength to the ladies! Wow all the jacks in the cutyard! Come on, folks! Show ’em what yer made of!”

Barrel-chested axe men take turns grabbing rungs on the wheel and throwing all their muscle into giving it a whirl. Once
spun, the wheel churns wildly while terrifying howls of laughter echo from the titan’s great plaster head. After a few rotations, the wheel clicks slowly to a stop, at which point the gap-toothed emcee pulls a stream of tickets from the base of the wheel, interprets the data, and informs the spinner that he has yhe combined strength of two, three, or even more men. The tickets are worth free beers in the beer tent in the adjacent cutyard.

A few plain-colored tents stand before a row of cargo wagons. A wooden sign staked into the ground before them reads “CARNIES ONLY! NO ADMITTANCE!”

The clack of tankards and roars of laughter swell from this bustling tent filled with sweaty lumberjacks. Casks of ale are stacked nearly fifteen feet high behind the tent. The thirsty patrons here down pint after pint as they carouse, tussle, guffaw, and stagger about.

Just beyond the pavilion where jacks swill ale like gasping fish sits a pair of nondescript tents. The closest one emanates the soft rhythmic music of shakers, clay drums, and tingling bells. In front, a cross-armed orc stands at the tent’s entrance with a look of firm determination.

The frozen lake has been transformed into a wonderland of winter fun. Several ice skaters twirl and dance across one half of the shimmering surface, while on the opposite half two teams of men struggle as they attempt to tug each other back and forth across the slippery ice.

XP
These XP totals include everything, activities and contests, kewpie dolls won, people helped, the minotaur.

Balinda: 1,100
Cromag: 1,020
Elmer: 715
Gwaiyu: 1,100
Lemmywinks: 760
Sinya: 40

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A Day in the Life of Heroes

They had just paid for lodging in the town of Falcon’s Hollow since their free housing arrangements were getting a little strained. Gwaiyu and Elmer each purchased their own place, while Lemmywinks and Balinda chose to share a rental hovel … er home. True, they were gaining a reputation as heroes after ending the plague and rescuing the inn, but still life was expensive under the Lumber Consortium’s grip. They decided to pay for a month and choose where to go from there. Plus a carnival was coming to town and who wants to miss a carnival?

It started with a knock on the door and Lemmy answering to a young boy named Chester. He had run all the way from the Sheriff to find “The Heroes of the Hollow”. Sheriff Baleson needed them for something. Lemmy thought she might be in trouble at first but called Balinda who calmed her fears. They gathered up Gwaiyu and Elmer (prying one from his prayers and the other from his day drinking) to join them – the cat woman and her “assistant” were indisposed. Rumors were starting to spread about those two. Together they hurried to see Sheriff Deldrin Baleson and learn why he had summoned them. Luko the Thrush supplied a happy walking whistle. Turned out the sheriff was seeking aid from the reported heroes since over the last three nights a young woman and four of his volunteer guardsmen had gone missing. He wasn’t certain the woman and his guards were related incidents but thought they might as well investigate both if they were inclined to help. The heroes did not even hesitate in taking up the mantle and did not so much as ask for any form of reimbursement, much to Baleson’s relief. They asked a few questions, with repeated information as Lemmy asked the same questions Gwaiyu did. She was eating and missed that part. They learned that the girl, Aleena, was the adopted daughter of local innkeepers and that one man was supposed to be on watch with Mathusala (the last watchman to go missing) but he never showed for his post.

They mapped out the town and chose the most effective route – the inn, the chapel to Iomedae then the home (the later two being places Alec the no-show guardsman frequented), and finally the guard stations. They learned that Aleena’s parents, the Mops, were not the most loving and that they thought she must have run away. Elmer enjoyed their ‘mop swill’ though. They also learned that Alec was a raging alcoholic and only worked at the chapel because he thought the priestess was pretty. They found Alec and confirmed that he was simply a drunken loser that overslept. Through their information gathering they had also discovered that Thuldrin Kreed, Gavel of the Lumber Consortium and virtual owner of Falcon’s Hollow, had a dislike for the sheriff as did Payden “Pay Day” Teedum, his tax collector and personal body guard. The sheriff only got elected to his position after standing up to the tax collector and quitting the consortium. The people liked him as a sort of representative of the common folk.

They also staked out the path the missing guards took and visited their guardhouse on the western end of town. They discovered some faint tracks thanks to Elmer’s keen eyes and Lemmywinks scouting skills. It appeared a number of people had simply walked off into the woods beyond the town. Everyone except Gwaiyu noticed the strange musky smell. Lemmy and Balinda decided was a plant odor. Following their tracks a ways into the woods they found what they thought was a game trail due to the stag print in the mud. This did not add up and seemed like a lost cause. Turning back to town it was time for a plan.

Through the course of their investigation the party formed several theories: Gwaiyu suspected that Thuldrin Kreed and his bodyguard plus thugs might have waylaid the volunteers in an effort to lower the sheriff in the people’s eyes. What good would he be if he couldn’t protect them like the consortium could? Elmer agreed with this idea. Lemmy had another idea that some sort of plant creature had lured them into the forest where they disappeared. Both ideas seemed plausible to Balinda. In an effort to catch the culprit, they asked Sheriff Baleson if they could take the night’s watch. He gladly accepted their offer. The plan was simple enough. Balinda would use her disguise and acting skills to pose as a lone watchman handling the western route between the hours of 11pm and 3am just like the man that vanished the night before. She even had a disguise self spell ready to use if anyone got suspicious. The rest of the party hid inside the guard shack ready to pounce if anyone came after her. Elmer even chopped a hole in the wall so he could have a “peekin’ hole” in the direction of the forest. Unfortunately for him, the time when he was cutting the hole was the same time someone had decided to sneak up on the guard shack. A figure was watching him through his peephole so he alerted his companions and they rushed to exit the shack and apprehend them. It was dark out and only Gwaiyu could see clearly. When Elmer and Lemmy threw open the door a large man with an earthbreaker stood ready to swing. He narrowly missed them. The party called to Balinda who was marching away at the time and leapt into action. They quickly realized there were a group of thugs outside the shack, four in all. Gwaiyu gave him a cursed touch and Lemmy dazed the big man with her magic while Elmer darted past them taking a slash to the side. One of the thugs struck a torch and Gwaiyu used his prayers to gain a better vantage point without drawing similar attacks. The fight was on and Balinda rushed back to join them despite the thugs shouts for her to stay back and stay out of the way. Lemmy color-sprayed the men and one dropped unconscious but the others resisted. Gwaiyu was starting to doubt if they were the ones responsible. Elmer and Gwaiyu were trading blows with the men when a voice cut through the night, coming from the woods. It was a woman’s voice and it cried for help. “Help me! Please hurry! Come and help me!” Everyone felt the power behind the voice tug at their minds. Gwaiyu, Elmer and Lemmywinks resisted that pull but all three of the standing thugs, Balinda and even Luko did not. They all rushed off heedlessly into the dark woods to help the woman in distress. Realizing foul magic was at work but unable to identify it, the three in control of their senses chose to follow at a safe distance keeping the torch bearing thugs plus Balinda in sight.

They crept into forest with Gwaiyu trying to catch up to Balinda to talk her out of this madness. His words had little effect. She needed to help this mystery woman. Elmer’s keen eyes caught sight of something large moving through the foliage toward him. Lemmy saw the shape too and called a warning as she conjured magical light. Elmer readied his weapon. Gwaiyu was the only one that did not see it but he heard his companions warnigns as it charged him and took a nasty bite out of him. The creature was a bizarre mix of badger, stag and wolf. It spoke in a deep voice then taunted them in that woman’s voice that called out from the woods. Lemmy identified it as a Leucrotta, a dangerous beast that was both intelligent and cruel and able to lure people away with its mimicry magic. Gwaiyu finally smelled that musky smell coming from the creature, some kind of fungal smell. Elmer and Lemmy joined Gwaiyu in pressing the attack on the creature. It proved a sturdy opponent, taking several solid blows and delivering its own. Elmer felt the brunt of those attacks and was soon warning them that he could not keep up this exchange for long. Gwaiyu turned the tables on the beast by touching it repeatedly and debilitating it with his God’s divine gifts. He caused its eyes to cloud up and then cursed its attacks and resistances to weaken. That plus several good hits from them caused it to rethink its advantage and flee into the dark forest. Gwaiyu would not see it escape so easily. He dug his hooves into the ground and charged. With speed of his demonic birthright and darkvision to spot it he managed to deliver another serious blow with his morning star. It was not quite enough and the leucrotta raced off into the forest calling for its enspelled victims to follow.

The party paused briefly to regroup and let Lemmy catch up. Her tiny legs meant she just wasn’t as fast as the bigger folk. Elmer convinced Gwaiyu to do something he loathed to do – administer magical healing. Then they hurried after the beast which left an easy enough path to follow in its haste. Despite Elmer’s warnings to the contrary, Gwaiyu and Lemmy convinced Balinda and Luko to come with them so they could “find the missing lady”. The thugs went their own way in search of her. They wanted nothing to do with the heroes.

An hour of picking their way through the dark wood brought them to a clearing and a hillock with a cavern. This had to be its lair. Lemmy used her small stature and stealth to creep up to the entrance and peek inside while everyone else waited at the edge of the forest line. That cave sure was dark. She pulled her glowing light stone from her pocket to flash them a signal since no one seemed to see her. That flash caught something else’s attention. A swarm of six tiny bat-sized bug creatures descended on the unsuspecting Halfling. She immediately recognized them as Stirges. Her light stone fell to the ground in the scuffle and everyone could see the giant bugs latching onto her and hungrily drinking her blood. Lemmy screamed for help as her constitution drained away and she went pale. Four of them were stuck to her body feeding. Elmer tried to shoot one with his bow but missed. Lemmy stepped to the side to color spray the two that still circled the area and one fell unconscious. Gwaiyu dug in his hooves and charged the other flying one, swatting it out of the air dead. Balinda moved up and then color sprayed Lemmy at her request. Luckily she resisted the spell and the stirges did not. They fell to the ground around the half dead Halfling. Lemmy swooned dramatically (though everyone could tell it was for effect – she was no actress). Elmer collected his sword and put away his bow then joined them just as he watched a familiar face burst from the darkness of the cavern entrance. The leucrotta snapped its jaws at Gwaiyu but missed. Balinda conjured an illusion of one of the thugs from earlier, the big guy, and had him charge up to support Gwaiyu and Elmer. The leucrotta fell for the ruse and snapped at the illusion. Gwaiyu called upon his divine magic as the leucrotta pulled back into the cavern, blinding it permanently. Then Elemer put it down once and for all. But it did call back into the cave as it was dying. Lemmy crawled away then stood and with Balinda’s help began crushing the unconscious stirges. Elemer squished one too. But other things began to come from the tunnels requiring his attention.

A gnoll stepped out and Gwaiyu engaged it. Elmer joined his side and they pushed the dog man back into the cave before dropping him to the ground. It howled and other howls sounded. Soon other gnolls appeared. A raging female with a heavy flail, an odd looking one with a strange weapon and then more. Five more gnolls in all crowded the tunnels as the oni-blooded priest and the human fighter tried to hold them back. Lemmy was all but dead, her constitution drained away by the stirges so she kept her distance and weakly fired into the fray missing more often than hitting. Balinda stayed back with an illusion ready should they decide to flee. Both Gwaiyu and Elmer were having a hard time hitting then the blows started to land. The brawny female gnoll batted Gwaiyu. Elmer paid her back by leveling their leader, the raging female, with one clean and powerful blow – impressive. Her mate, the flind, stepped up and yanked Gwaiyu’s weapon away with his flind bar. Another big gnoll wielding a nice-looking bastard sword planted it in Elmer’s shoulder then one with a scorpion whip scored a critical hit right between the bumpkin fighter’s eyes sending him reeling. Elemer let Gwaiyu know it was time to run. Something faint caught his ears but he ignored it. He could drink those nightmares away later. They planned a withdrawal and Balinda created waves of fire to block the exit. Lemmy was already running for the woods, wheezing and coughing from exhaustion. She knew she needed a head start.

As Gwaiyu exited the cavern he too heard the faint cry for help. A woman’s voice pleading from deeper in the caves for someone to save her. Aleena …. it must be Aleena. Gwaiyu regretted his decision immediately. He could not leave any victims to the wrath of these creatures. The whip gnoll saw through the illusion and gave chase. As he passed Balinda she cracked him over the head with her staff and he fell unmoving. The flind ignored the illusion and charged Balinda. Her snatched her staff away with his flind bar. Elmer urged them all to run, Lemmy was already hobbling away into the woods. But Gwaiyu turned back to help Balinda and he could not leave any captives. It just wasn’t right. Hearing the change of plans, Elmer sighed and drew his bow while Lemmy hobbled back with her sling-staff ready. Gwaiyu, having lost his weapon, resorted to something else he loathed, his demonic tusks. He lunged at the flind and caught its throat in his teeth, tearing it from the creature’s body in a spray of gore and blood. Everyone paused in shock at the gruesome sight , especially Gwaiyu who called for Balinda to “clean it off” quickly. The mage did not hesitate, prestidigitation wiped away the blood and ichor from his face. This was definitely something they would not talk about. The tides had turned. The fire illusion fizzled without Balinda’s concentration but the gnolls realized they were outnumbered. The remaining two fled into the forest taking pot shots from Elmer and Lemmy.

Gwaiyu led the way in search of the captives. They found Aleena in shackles as well as her lover Mathusala, though the man was unconscious. The other three missing guards, Tommy, Bobby and James, were here too, but they were not so lucky. All three were already dead. The party took the time to heal what little they could to get the guard walking and search the lair plus bodies for valuables. They also found a vat of mushroom and plant pultice, the strange musky smell. Upon closer examination Balinda used her alchemy skills (she studied under an alchemist once) to identify it as some kind of ointment they probably used to cover their scent from the stirges. They then returned with the freed captives and received a reward from the Sheriff and townies of a small amount of gold plus plenty of praise. In the end everyone was on the same side with the missing people. Kreed was actually trying to protect the town with his thugs though things did not play out so well.

Treasure:

1 Heavy Flail
Potion of cure moderate wounds (2d8
3)
Claws of the ice bear

Elmer, Lemmy, Gwaiyu & Balinda each earned 1,450 xp

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The Job 2
The Bee n Bee

From Lemmywink’s Journal:

We’ve been hiding in the cellar for two days. The rest of the bees returned we have been down here ever since. Elmer was almost dead. We tried to first aid but nothing helped. We needed a whole day for Gwaiyu to apply his healing magic and use the enchanted bandages. Tomorrow we plan on going out with Color Sprays blazing and take out the rest of the hive.

I’m going to start a game of Wyvern’s Race now.


Our plan worked! We came out of the cellar and Elmer and Gwaiyu were stung and poisoned immediately. Can you imagine? Its like they didn’t listen to the plan at all.

So to make a long story short, there were ten bees repairing the hive, closing holes, removing bodies, and so on. Most of those were injured from the day before when they busted back into the hive while we shot at them. Between our protective magic, their injuries and a couple of Color Sprays the fight was not nearly as troublesome as the day before. After killing those ten we ambushed the others as the returned. What a day!

We are going to have a lot of honey to sell and even some royal jelly. Score! Now we will be able to rent a place in town. Our welcome is wearing a little thin.

XP: 2,400 each

16 Giant bumblebees killed

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The Job
The Bee n Bee

Falcon’s Hollow rejoiced in the decoction Laurel prepared from the rare ingredients retreived from Darkmoon Vale. The six of them were heroes. Different families put them up for the night as the townsfolk healed.

Lemmy took a job with Laurel helping to brew and learn about different herbs. The unused and dilapidated outdoor stage caught Belinda’s eye. The actress chased away the spiderwebs and fall leaves and started giving impromptu solo performances from The Marriage of Tremior. The Mayor realized the potential and advertised several shows. Sinya prepared a hypnotist act and the Mayor was really excited and told her absolutely, but first she could collect tickets and seat people. She’d be able to do her act another time. The rustic townsfolk had a habit of forgetting Elmer was one of the heroes. He had a tendency to blend in. His gout had gotten worse and his right big toe looked like an angry plum so he spent most of his time with his foot out for show, the big toe covered in one of Laurel’s smelly unguents. Most people had a hard time accepting Gwaiyu at first but they slowly came around. Then the town cleric of Iomedea, Lady Cirthanna, found him and their theological discussions caused people to lose interest. The cleric was not held in high esteem after being useless in ending the Blackscour Taint. The fact that this exotic second holy man also couldn’t help was not lost on them.

Between their various day jobs and gout, the group wasn’t going anywhere and the days quickly turned to weeks. Their celebrity had been wearing off but the hardscrabble frontier folk had grown on them. They began to wonder what they should do for winter when they were approached about a level appropriate job.

A growing crowd led a haggard man to them His name was Johnny. He begged them for help with his inn on the River Foam. He had been away all season in Oldfen earning hard currency to fix the dilapidated structure. He returned to find it inhabited by a nest of giant bumblebees. Please help. He didn’t have enough money to make it worth their time but they could have all the honey inside and it was sure to fetch a good price. It turns out the Lemmywinks was something of an expert on bumblebees and she filled them in on the details. About then Laurel arrived and offered to pay good money for any Royal Jelly inside. Honey might only retail for 6gp/lb hereabouts but Royal Jelly was worth 300 gp due to its curative powers. Lemmywinks assured him that they would help.

From Lemmywink’s journal:
We left that evening after dinner and slept a little off the trail in the gorge. The rapids were very loud but we still heard some wolves howling in the distance. The next day with finished the hike to Johnny’s inn. We watched the giant bees coming and going all day. We decided to wait the whole next day too so we could count the bees. There were 18 and they were leaving from the upper story out of the north facing wall.

The next day we put our plan into action. Johnny stayed behind in our observation post and the rest of us walked down to the building after the bees left. One of the giant bumblebees was perched on the roof watching but it didn’t stop us. The front door was missing and the first floor was messed up. Once we got inside the buzzing and humming changed some. I took point and snuck over to the stairs. A pair of bees intercepted us. The fight started. Before I knew it a 5 foot bee stung me and shot me with poison. The guard bee outside came in through the front door and attacked Belinda while the rest of us fought them off from in front. It was rough there for a little bit but Color Spray knocks them unconscious. I was stung again. Balinda created some illusory fog but it confused Elmer as much as the insects. Eventually we killed the six bees that came downstairs.

We crept upstairs which was vacant except for the queen. The upstairs was chewed up and the rooms converted into honeycomb cells. Wax structures hung from the dilapidated ceiling. Down the hall a bloated bee shifted her bulk in response to the intrusion. Elmer charged down the hall and got stung pretty bad. He was poisoned too. Balinda magicked up an illusion wall but the queen moved away and Elmer had to step through. Gwaiyu ran up and healed some of Elmer’s damage. I don’t know why Gwaiyu ignored me. I had just asked for the same thing and I was almost dead.

Anyway we all ran up. Elmer seemed to have more injuries than before. The queen bee was squeezing down the hall toward the opening in the wall. Elmer was swinging and she was stinging. He looked ready to drop. I sent a few more sling bullets into her and Gwaiyu swung a few times.

She tried to sting again and then lurched into the hole in the way. Elmer charged and planted his greatsword into her. The queen died halfway out of the exit hole.

bumblebee_attack.jpg
Lemmy’s drawing of Elmer and Gwaiyu during the bumblebee fight

XP: 1,300 each

6 Giant bumblebees killed
1 Giant queen bumblebee killed

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Hollow's Last Hope (Part 2)
root and mushrooms

From Lemmywink’s Journal:

Elmer and Gwaiyu surprised us by stumbling into the grove tonight. They didn’t stay in Oldfen after all and have been trying to catch us this whole time. Good thing too because Balinda and Sinya were out cold and Juno wasn’t much better. Gwaiyu healed us all up. Even my little cut was gone.

Nothing bothered us that night. In the morning we were getting ready to leave and Sinya and Juno gave us the bad news. She didn’t feel right bringing her freed slave, Juno, into such danger. They would wait here for us to return this way. That didn’t sound like a great plan to me but whatever.

The rest of us left for Ulizmila’s cottage. We didn’t have much of a description or directions and it didn’t seem too likely but we managed to run into it. It looked abandoned except for a bear. It was a nastly little mud and twig hut in the middle of an overgrown glade. We snuck around but the bear kept snorting at us. Finally Balinda scared it off with a fire illusion and started scanning for magic auras. She found a bunch! The old lady never answered her door so Elmer busted it in. How rude! We were here to ask for help finding the pickled root we needed but he busted right on in. So we started snooping. Then all heck broke loose when Balinda picked up a jar from a shelf. The rusty cauldron in the middle of the room came to life and jumped on her head! It started swallowing her but somehow she slipped free. We fought back and it slammed into us or tried to swallow. It was probably funny to watch if it wasn’t happening to you. We (actually Elmer) finally knocked enough holes into it that it stopped. Well after that we ransacked the place. She hadn’t been there in a long time so we took anything that was magic or looked valuable. I’m a little ashamed thinking back to it but she’s probably dead so we aren’t really stealing. Anyway we got bunch of stuff including the special root.

Next we took some game trails west until we exited the woods. Droskar’s Crag rose up above us. It’s the biggest thing ever and its lower slopes are covered in dwarven ruins. We were interested in an old monastery. Another group of adventurers had been through the area before so it shouldn’t be too dangerous. We hiked uphill through the scrub and light forest. Finally we got to the ruins late in the day.

Well to make a long story short, the ruins weren’t empty. There was a spider in a tower that webbed Gwaiyu before we killed it. Then there was a bat swarm. Then two wolves. The a big nasty worg called Graypelt. He was a little tougher but we did what needed to be done. And in his lair we found almost enough ironbloom mushrooms. The last one we needed was down the hall.

And that’s it. We still had to walk back but our mission was completed.

We did make it back to town and Laurel was able to make medicine to help the sick people with blackscour taint!

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Hollow's Last Hope (Part 1)
Falcon's Hollow is Kind of Sexist

From Lemmywinks journal:

Not long after our adventure in the Arthfell Forest retrieving the Panoply and getting out of some legal trouble, Us new friends parted ways temporarily. Elmer the country warrior developed gout in his big toe and it made walking difficult. He and Gwaiyu headed into Oldfen when they had the chance. Me and Balinda were short on coin so continued toward the small town of Falcon’s Hollow. We would rendezvous there after Elmer was better.

l felt sorry for Balinda, the out of work actress. She was so poor that she didn’t even have a blanket. She shivered in her dingy gown at night and tried to share my tiny bedroll. Falcon’s Hollow couldn’t come fast enough although what we heard hadn’t made it sound so nice.

A rough community wholly owned by the local Lumber Consortium, Falcon’s Hollow rests on the edge of Darkmoon Vale, a blunt, sawdust-choked stop on a winding trade route. Home to fewer than 1,500 humans and a smattering of other races, most of the townsfolk care only for the paltry coins paid for their backbreaking work and what simple comforts they can buy. A few, however, understand that what’s bad for one is bad for all, and so the community thrives on a tenacious mix of greed, debauchery, and stubborn self-reliance. It is also rumoured to be a good jumping off point for adventure seekers.

We met a cat woman and her man friend waiting for the ferry across the River Roam. Sinya and Juno were from far off Osirion. She initially claimed to be a hypnotist by trade but it was soon discovered that she only wanted to be a hypnotist, she was actually an usher in a hypnotist’s show back in Osirion. Awkward.

The townspeople seemed gruff but maybe it was just because they were worried about the outbreak of blackscour taint that had broken out. That doesn’t explain the sexism though. Apparently there aren’t a lot of unarmed, unescorted females roaming the edges of civilization.

Several dozen people in Falcon’s Hollow have contracted a fungal disease called blackscour taint. While the malady is not exceptionally deadly, poor conditions and a general lack of supplies mean that many of the sick—especially the elderly and young—face mortal consequences. Slowly deteriorating, most of the afflicted can hang on for several more days, but already the weakest have succumbed, with their number growing daily.

We found Laurel, the proprieteress of Roots and Remedies. There was a big line for her herbal cures and she had a Help Wanted sign in her window. After an hour they got inside. Laurel was sort of sexist too. She asked if we were there for love potions! Imagine! When asked about the help wanted sign she apologized and said she had all the help she needed in the store. She needed someone to collect rare ingredients from Darkmoon Vale. When we applied, she seemed confused and looked between the three of us and asked if we meant our husbands! I’m a ranger almost and an eldritch slinger! And Balinda is so brave and an illusionist. And Sinya is a cat woman. Just don’t stare at her weird upside down fingernails. (They grow on the bottoms of her fingers not the tops)

She was convinced and promised to pay 30 gold each! All we needed to do was bring back some special moss on an old tree, a pickled root, and seven fancy mushrooms. They were all new to me. I didn’t get to that class in the Learning Annex before stopping to become an eldritch slinger.

It was awesome! I talked and whistled to keep the bears away but it was birds that attacked (and a mean hobgoblin). The goblin shot Juno with and arrow and his pet razorcrows mauled Belinda’s face. Good thing for magic healing or she would never work on stage again. Sinya enchanted the hobgoblin with magic sleep and I batted his birds out of the air. We freed the rare fox that he was baiting his trap with. We left him tied up.

The next excitement was on the shores of a lake. We were following the shore around to the opposite side when a dead kobold shambled up. Can you imagine? It was up to my trusty sling staff again but this time the lead shot did not do anything. Someone said to slash it so by the time it was close my scimitar was ready. Slash, slash and down it goes! Then guess what? A nasty rat crawls out of it’s head. I killed that too. Gross.

When we left the lake it was pretty easy to follow the drainage up to the hollow at the heart of the wood. Wow the trees were enormous and right smack in the center of the grove was the most impressive specimen. We stood there and gaped. We needed some special moss growing on its trunk. It looked harmless enough but Balinda Vanished anyway and ran out there. She was pulling up the moss by handfulls but then her spell wore off and a giant snake with a dragon head and two little claws sprung out from above. It bite her and clawed her and she collapsed. We all rushed to help. It was a tatzlwyrm. I pelted it with sling bullets and Sinya and Juno ran up. That did not work out so great. Before I knew what happened it coiled around it’s newest victim and pulled itself back into the tree.

I gave Balinda one of her healing draught and was almost crushed when Sinya came falling. She was out. The wyrm returned while Juno pulled Sinya to safety. Balinda sat up and used her magic. Colorful lights sprayed in the thing’s face disorienting it. Balinda fell back unconscious and me and Juno beat the dragon to death. Whew! Tatzlwyrm-dragon defeated!

And now we are camping in this beautiful grove of ancient darkwood trees. I can’t think of a more wonderful place for Balinda and Sinya to regain consciousness. Tomorrow is going to be even better!

2 Razorclaws Killed
1 Hobgoblin Slept
1 Zombie Kobold Shaman Killed
1 former rat familiar Killed
1 Tatzlwyrm Killed
2 PCs Unconscious
2 PCs Wounded

500 XP

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Into the Haunted Forest (Part 2)
The race is on

The party rested and then set out to take up the mission of collecting the Panoply for Dr. Krane in exchange for the draconically labelled magic dagger ‘Brightflame’ and obsolving their considerable debt for destroying the Dr.’s prime exhibit. Part of the challenge was that the same offer was made to the company of the Black Banner, and they had a head start. With map in hand, Elmer led the way on the hunt to find the Druid Willowroot and gather the Panoply he guards.

They entered the great Arthfell Forest. Lemmywinks warned them that bears were probably out here and she was a city halfling. Elmer rolled his eyes and took up the lead, guiding them with the map. Not far into their journey Elmer located a dead rabbit, slain by an arrow then flayed and left behind … but why? He collected the rabbit. It was going to waste here. The country fighter continued onward trying to prep the rabbit for dinner as he went. He absently avoided the trap but little Lemmy was not so lucky. The rope snared her ankle and flung her into the air to dangle from a tree. The wolf drawn by the smell of rabbit blood showed up just in time as Elmer chopped the rope with his axe dumping Lemmy to the ground (she shouldn’t have called him stupid). The halfling magus fought from the prone position with her staff-sling while Elmer swung his axe, Balinda tossed drops of acid and Gwaiyu attempted to bite the rabid animal. Together they put down the wolf but the fight went on for some time. To finish a bad situation Elmer dropped the rabbit and the meat was ruined! At least Lemmywinks spotted a discarded scroll case from her prone view. Inside was an arcane scroll (comprehend languages).

They arrived at the ‘X’ on the map and found a ritual site at the Druid’s grove. A dying wolf wrapped in a tangle of living vines surrounded two stone monoliths and a stone altar all with writing Lemmy told them was in elvish. They could not see the writing clearly because of the young assassin vine. When Elmer got too close it grabbed him and dragged him into its folds. Gwaiyu moved to help, again trying to bite. Elmer made a baby cartwheel and escaped the vines but the oni-blooded cleric was then pulled into its grip. Sling bullets, acid and Elmer’s axe tore into the vine. It was not a weak creature and no one knew enough about it to be able to tell if they were hurting it. It’s coils tightened and Gwaiyu basically gave up in its hold, surrendering to his God and swooning. When Gwaiyu fell unconscious Elmer pulled him from the vines and narrowly avoided being grabbed himself. During the struggle Lemmy noticed a tree branch that hung over the alter. She suspected she could get a better look at the writing from that vantage point so she climbed the tree like a monkey. During her climb the others killed the vine. The halfling’s instincts proved solid and she not only read all the writings but spotted two objects hidden in the tops of the monoliths – a silver ring ( which she slipped on her finger – finders keepers) and a breastplate that turned out to be one of the special items (the Breastplate of Sacred Fire). After vaguely deciphering the riddles inscribed on the stones they made a plan to find the rest of the scattered Panoply. Unfortunately, Lemmy’s Vantage point also identified something else, tracks heading in all four directions, the directions of the scattered items. The Black Banner had been here first. A decision was made. Balinda would stay and watch over the unconscious priest while Elmer and Lemmywinks collected the items as quickly as they could.

The pair headed for the nearest riddle direction hoping they might be able to find an item and handle the divided member of the Black Banner. They found a cave with two sets of footprints coming and going. Afraid the item might still be inside they entered the cave with Lemmy lighting up Elmer’s shield with a light spell. Too bad the velvet-lined coffer inside was empty and the black bear living there was not happy about the bright disturbance. Lemmywinks knew there’d be bears! This bear was very angry and bit Elmer. They agreed the animal was too much for them so they beat a hasty retreat. Luckily the bear did not give much of a chase. Doing their best to follow the direction of the Banner member’s footprints they headed for the next item.

They reached a pool and easily spotted the Black Banner mage, Pudge, hiding in the reeds. They thought to sneak up on him while pretending not to see him but he shot Elmer with a magic missile warning them to stay away, so Lemmywinks dropped him with a sling bullet to the forehead. They made sure the man was not dead but looted him and left him in the reeds. When they searched the pool a nixie poked her head out of the water. She seemed disappointed in her charmed guardian and mentioned the elven cleric of Urgathoa fleeing. They tried to befriend her but Elmer’s poor manners and Lemmywinks lies of being part fey only annoyed her. If they wanted the druid’s Bottle she wanted a magic item in exchange. At first she wanted the silver ring Lemmy secretly claimed. She wanted magic for magic and was uninterested in any paper items. They found a potion, spellbook and a magic bolt from Pudge’s body. Elmer drank the potion before she could request it, hoping it was some sort of healing but it only caused his body to turn blurry. The screaming bolt was traded and the Vial of Pure Water was acquired. Now they had two of the Panoply.

They raced for the third item, finding a huge hollowed out tree with a scroll case banging against it in the wind some 30 feet up. Not wanting to chance climbing so high and having her magic not quite reach, Lemmy convinced Elmer to let her sit on his shoulders so she could try to weaken the straps holding it up there with her ray of frost magic. There were several missed shots and barely scraping blows plus plenty of noise but the stacked pair managed to dislodge the scroll tube. The noise they made drew the attention of something living in the tree. Elmer could hear it scraping and moving and kept urging the halfling to hurry! As the bone tube hit the ground a man-sized beetle crawled into sight. Elmer ran to the tube with Lemmywinks on his shoulders. The halfling tried to do a fancy dismounting move but failed so she basically slid down the country boy’s body awkwardly instead and grabbed the tube. Elmer fled into tree cover with little life left and the beetle tried to bite Lemmy but missed. Too bad she did not move so fast on little halfling legs. She fled and the beetle turned, blasting her with its acid butt spray. She avoided the worst of it so she wasn’t melted alive but was still singed badly. They did acquire the Codex of the Firmament though – win!

Feeling weak and tired they crawled back to regroup with Balinda. They hoped she could identify the magic they collected including the ring, scroll and the bottle of liquid.

They found Balinda hiding in the bushes with Gwaiyu’s body. She did in fact identify the ring as a swimming ring and the liquid in the bottle as two doses of healing potion which they quickly scarfed. Elmer recovered with one while Gwaiyu was awakened with the other. The cleric then channeled to heal everyone up to a respectable level of health. It felt good to have the cleric up again. They held three items and the Black Banner had one. Next they moved as a group to find the last item.

Following the riddle clues yet again they navigated their way to a dilapidated Inn long overgrown with foliage. Inside they spotted a gruesome scene with several skeletons in their death throes from a battle long past. A magical ghostly fire burned in the hearth and Balinda detected another magical source buried under one of the skeletal corpses, the only human-sized one amongst goblin, centaur and satyr skeletons. Elmer moved to collect the hidden magic with Gwaiyu staying just inside the doorway as backup. The ladies waited outside. Luko, Balinda’s Sparrow familiar called a warning and they turned to see the remaining trio of Black Banner members creeping up on them from the bushes. When Elmer claimed the Spirit-Staff of Narven a creature of roots and thorns spilled from the wall of the Inn. Balinda identified it as a wooden protector, a creature created from Druidic magic to guard a location. It’s viny appendages twisted together to form a spear which it used to plunge through Elmer. The fighter cried out, hurt badly. Gwaiyu moved to support him against the protector.

Outside another struggle was underway. Grelm fired arrows at Lemmywinks and Balinda while the goblin, Knu, moved in under shadow cover wielding the Wand of Earth’s Ire. Nirashi the cleric of Urgathoa cast a spell identified as magic weapon on her scythe as she advanced spitting curses. Lemmy nailed Grelm with a solid sling bullet hit. Balinda raised a wall of earth and foliage separating the Inn from the Black Banner. The illusion fooled everyone including poor Lemmywinks who was outside its protection in the forest. When the Black Banner trio advanced Lemmy knocked Grelm out with a flash of colored lights, revenge for punching and kicking her! Gnu tried to put her to sleep but she resisted his magic. When they heard the men inside the Inn screaming for retreat, Balinda forfeited maintaining her wall in exchange for her own color spray at the evil cleric, dropping her unconscious, too. The goblin vanished into hiding.

Elmer and Gwaiyu worked in tandem to distract the wooden protector and flee with the staff. Gwaiyu’s slow movement (he was wearing the Breastplate of Sacred Fire) left him standing in the doorway. The protector stabbed him while fleeing leaving him staggered. The tiefling cleric opted to channel and heal everyone . It was a sacrificial gesture of goodness but his God was watching over him and aiding, the protector missed him this time. As Elmer and Gwaiyu fled the Inn the protector followed. Balinda used her staff to beat on the unconscious Grelm. Gnu the goblin surprised Balinda, blasting her with a sheet of fire from the wand. The illusionist was badly burned. Lemmywinks took that opportunity nail the goblin with a slingstone, laying him flat. With The Black Banner down, they focused their efforts on the protector who seemed set on recovering the sacred Panoply. Elmer dropped with another vicious spear strike. Gwaiyu used his healing magic to wake the fighter as Lemmy and Balinda peppered the protector. Elmer, while weak, hit the creature with the sacred staff and landed some serious axe blows to the protector. When Nirashi stood, the party groaned. They knew those color spray spells would be wearing off. The elven cleric of Urgathoa channeled negative energy knocking out Elmer again and hurting everyone. She laughed and told them to surrender everything to her or die. The party dropped the protector but they could see its body knitting itself back together. Another negative energy channel sent pain through everyone. Lemmy had seen enough. She took aim and popped the dark cleric spinning her to the ground. With all enemies down the magus, cleric and illusionist focused their efforts on the healing plant creature, destroying it utterly. They checked, looted and stabilized the Banner members, dragging them back inside the Inn and leaving them there. With Panoply in tow and Elmer recovered to a staggered position they limped their way back to The Traveler’s Stop Inn.

Dr. Krane was happy to see his goals reached. He dropped the criminal charges releasing them from debt. The sheriff kept his word, awarding them the dagger, Brightflame, and sending them on their way. The party celebrated their wins, spent the night for free then beat a hasty retreat from this nightmare stopover in the middle of nowhere, more experienced and a few coins richer.

Gwaiyu and Balinda each earned 900xp

Elmer and Lemmywinks each earned 1535xp

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Into the Haunted Forest (Part 1)

358A7D41-EF6C-4541-9A92-6CF344669C67.jpegThe adventure started with a trio of unlikely traveling companions making their way down a rural road boardered by the mighty Arthfell Forest in Andoran. Gwaiyu the oni-blooded tiefling priest from a foreign land, Elmer the human country-bumpkin fighter, and Lemmywinks the ever-cheerful halfling magus came together for safety. When they happened upon a pack of wild dogs feasting on a humanoid corpse things got interesting. Elmer, deciding these couldn’t be much different than the animals back on the farm, tried to bond with the dogs. When he got too close they snarled threateningly. So, Gwaiyu and Lemmywinks took a different route. Gwaiyu put a crossbow bolt in one dog and Lemmywinks beaned another with a sling bullet. Elmer screamed and frightened the injured dog with the bolt in its side away, but the one hit by the bullet dropped instantly, unmoving. The last dog charged Gwaiyu but the priest bashed it on the head with his Morningstar. Elmer charged and finished off the dazed mutt. The travelers examined the body and identified it as a hobgoblin in antique armor with a sundered antique sword. Lemmywinks noticed several injuries in addition to the dog bites. She declared him dead by blades before ever encountering the dogs. Elmer traced the hobgoblin’s tracks and determined he was chased through the woods by several people approximately 12-16 hours earlier. While tracing his steps, the halfling spotted something glowing. She recovered a dagger that flowed with liquid fire at its heart. It fit the hobgoblin’s empty sheath so she claimed both and strapped them on her belt.

The party travelled a few more hours along the road before arriving at their intended destination for the night – Travellers Stop Inn. It was the only real stop for miles and a regular trading stop as well. There seemed to be a bigger crowd here than usual, possibly due to the banner stating “The Traveling Exhibition of Dr Phineas Krane, Professor of Antiquities and Master of Shroud Artistry”.
They made their way into the busy taproom of the Inn. Elmer headed to the bar for a drink while Gwaiyu and Lemmywinks stopped to hear Dr. Krane speaking at a table where an antique linen and some ceramic trinkets were displayed. When the teifling lifted the halfling to get a better look, her newly acquired dagger showed and sparked an incident. A large man by the the name of Grelm Hammerlock stormed to them demanding the dagger as his. Gwaiyu positioned Lemmywinks away from the angry man while the halfling told him the dagger was hers, she had found it fair and square. Grelm proceeded to punch the small woman in her face, once again demanding his rightful property, stating he had “killed the hob” and that dagger was his. The fight drew the attention of the whole taproom as the big man attacked the tiny woman. Gwaiyu and Elmer moved to protect little Lemmywinks. Grelm’s associates (an elven cleric of Urgathoa, a portly human wizard, and a scary looking goblin – calling themselves The Black Banner) moved to support him. Elmer flipped the table trying to swat Grelm but missed. He did However succeed at dumping Dr. Krane’s valuable antiques to the floor shattering several pieces and setting flame from a lamp to the linen shroud. Gwaiyu spotted a lady at a corner table working the gestures of a silent image spell just before two city guardsmen burst into the taproom from the front door. The guardsmen seemed out of place so far from the city. Grelm chased Lemmywink under another table and proceeded to kick her there repeatedly before a man rose from the bar brandishing a fine long sword and a brooch identifying him as the local sheriff. The city guardsmen vanished. The law man stopped the fighting and called in two deputies to escort both parties to separate holding rooms. He confiscated the dagger until morning when he could sort out this mess. The Black Banner was placed in one holding room while the traveling trio was placed in another chamber, each with a deputy watching over the locked rooms. At some point during the night both The tiefling and the fighter awoke to someone unlocking their door. They peeked but did not leave the room, fearing a setup..

Come morning Sheriff Cage called both groups to the taproom. Evidently the dagger was stolen from beneath his pillow during the night. He pulled out several suspects including Grelm, Lemmywinks and the lady that cast the illusion spell (Balinda). There were a handful of witnesses including the disgruntled Dr. Krane. Pudge, the human mage from the Black Banner and both Gwaiyu and Elmer took up the Sheriff’s challenge to weed out the culprit. They began an investigation, questioning each of the witnesses. Unfortunately, neither the tiefling nor the country-bumpkin were particularly good at diplomatic endeavors so most of their efforts either ended with Elmer threatening the people or the witnesses just walking away annoyed and upset with them. Actually, the more information they gathered, the more the priest and fighter began to suspect their halfling companion of actually stealing the dagger. How well did they really know her anyway? They met on the road..

Meanwhile poor Lemmywinks was being terrorized by Grelm. They were put in a holding room with the other suspects. The big man in black scalemail spent most of his time posturing at the halfling and threatening her while she huddled in a corner flinching. The magician, Balinda, tried to support her but the other suspects just wanted to avoid all conflict.

After much interviewing, searching the Inn room by room, and calling in help to identify their findings, the party discovered a trail leading from the Sheriff’s window to the stables. There they spotted a hole in the wall. They had already identified bird prints in the room, so suspected a nest. Elmer crawled atop a hay bail to have a look and was attacked savagely by a large owl. The bird clawed his face relentlessly while he and Gwaiyu battled it. Gwaiyu slowed it down with a crossbow bolt and Elmer finally cut the bird in two with his large axe. In ran a farmer screaming. He was a suspect but the least likely. Turns out he was a mage too and the owl was his thieving familiar. They robbed visitors of the Inn regularly.

With the crime solved and the dagger retrieved, the sheriff called the trio in to offer a means to both excuse their significant debt since they had destroyed valuable items of Dr. Krane’s and to also acquire the magic dagger. Dr. Krane needed a group to go find a handful of ancient treasures suspected to be scattered about this part of Arthfell Forest and convince their Druid guardian (Willowroot) to allow him to examine the treasures in exchange for a shroud of the dead king they once belonged to for the Druid. Gwaiyu asked the question and they learned that The Black Banner received the same offer. Belinda the mage/actress offered to aid them against the awful banner members and their next adventure was set begin ….

The treasures they seek are:

Breastplate of sacred fire
Codex of firmament
Spirit-staff of Narven
Vial of pure water
Wand of earth’s ire

The five together are known as the “Panoply”

Gwaiyu, Elmer, Lemmywinks and Balinda each earned 635xp

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Gallery of Evil (part 2)
The investigation continues

They took a minute to catch their collective breath and expend a few valuable healing spells to boost their health. They were headed into the lion’s den. The wizard artist Imron had to be in there somewhere.

Their charge ended abruptly as 3 more weird serving boys surprised them all in the foyer. They stepped from behind curtains and began wailing on them. Pugno and Shokkanaw began tearing into them quickly. They wanted Afarrah to save her dwindling magic. There was also a long golden rope hanging from the ceiling that reached out to grab Shokkanaw, but he avoided its grip. With the servants destroyed and transformed into more piles of black goo, they decided to venture upstairs. The group debated destroying the annoying animated rope first but Shokkanaw told them that was a problem for future Shok!

When they reached the top of the stairs a brawny wild man in leaf armor and wielding a huge axe charged with a scream. He barreled into Shokkanaw and sent the rogue tumbling over the balcony. He deftly landed on his feet but was then smacked in the face, hard, by the animated rope. Future Shok did not take long to get here. While Shokkanaw evaded the rope, Pugno faced off against the wild man. Afarrah tossed flames at him with little effect. Pugno used his training to dodge most of the man’s blows but when they did hit him it really really hurt. Every miss tore holes in the walls or floor. When Pugno blocked a blow with his specially crafted three-section staff the huge axe chopped it into two pieces! There went a thousand gold pieces down the drain. Realizing that the man was severely dangerous, Afarrah summoned a spiritual ally and Pugno focused on damaging him. Still his blows were deadly so they voted to lure him out where they could flank him in the foyer. They pulled back and he did follow, only his method was not the stairs. He leapt from the balcony landing a deep chop on Pugno in the process. Afarrah had to heal the monk quickly to keep him in the fight. Shokkanaw was trying to stay out of reach of the massive axe and used his bow. They damaged the wild man heavily and he turned and fled. Pugno gave chase, dodging past that damn rope. Realizing they all needed to follow, Shokkanaw and Afarrah combined their efforts to fight the rope. Pugno found the wild man healing himself with potions so he took that break to do the same thing. Meanwhile the others still fought that rope with magic and bow. Ultimately, Pugno got tired of waiting and tossed a shuriken, severing and destroying the animated rope once and for all. They converged on the wild man and brought him down. With him out of the way, the search for the missing wizard began. They found another cryptic note but made little headway with it other than becoming more confused.

The party searched every door and hallway of the manor. From rooftop garden, to creepy servant-guarded kitchen, to workshop, to study to dusturbing bedroom, they wandered. They never paused to search any room in particular and only skimmed them visually in search of their quary. There were numerous weird and disturbing paintings throughout the home and plenty of other interesting and expensive decorations to see. Shokkanaw was careful to mention they should not steal anything. That would be wrong.

They wound their way through the manor, peeking in fancy bathrooms and guest rooms plus numerous servants quarters that looked unused for months. Where was this wizard? When they ventured to the basement things got interesting. There was a chamber lined with suits of armor and banners Afarrah named as prominent houses in Absolam’s history. She also pointed out that each of those 8 suits of armor was enchanted. When Pugno tried to sneak across the room unnoticed, he triggered a pressure plate and a large portion of the ceiling fell on him. Buried under the stone, he wriggled free to find all of the armor suits poised to strike with their halberds. Shokkanaw watched from the wings shouting a warning to his maestro. Pugno miraculously dodged two rounds of attacks from the armor with only 1 glancing blow. Afarrah launched a fireball into the room and mostly melted the armor suits. Shokkanaw and Pugno finished off the damaged constructs with Shokkanaw taking a few hits in the process. They needed more healing from Afarrah.

Onward they went, deeper into the basement and found a huge gallery filled with over 50 paintings of all topics. Some were enchanted and others mundane. Both Pugno and Shokkanaw spotted the shadowy figure leaping from painting to painting. Afarrah was preoccupied searching for magic among the pictures. An illusiory wall separated the student from his maestro just before the shadow creature targeted its victim – Shokkanaw. Shokkanaw decided to take the fight to him, charging and striking with his falcion only it passed right through the incorporeal monster with no effect at all. The creature retaliated, dragging a clawed hand across the 1/2 orc’s face. The touch burned cold and left a shadowy handprint that twisted Shok’s features. Pugno raced to the rescue but was not fast enough. Again the creature clawed at Shokkanaw while leaping between paintings and his face became even more twisted and ugly as his charisma was drained away in rakes of pain. Afarrah blasted a section of the wall with fire and damaged several paintings along with the shadow beast, causing it to flee. Pugno gave chase and took note of not only the creature’s new location but also of a painting high on the wall that resembled the thing. He shouted for Afarrah to blast that painting. First he had to point it out to her. She was having a hard time spotting it. She tossed a firebolt at the picture and the creature began to plead with them to stop, promising it would allow them safe passage. That sounded like a pretty good deal to the party. “All day long!” Shok insisted. The creature nodded. “Forever!” Pugno corrected, and shokkanaw repeated “I meant forever!” The creature nodded again in agreement then vanished into the painting. They could see it slowly repairing itself.

From there they moved to a deeper level of the basement and found a most uninteresting storage room filled with mundane supplies, how boring. On an off chance, Pugno decided to search the room for any clues. He found a lever concealed to look like a broom handle. When he moved the lever a large section of the wall and floor swiveled carrying him away to an adjacent chamber. Shokkanaw and Afarrah watched in surprise as he vanished. On the other side of the wall, the maestro found himself facing a life-sized portrait of what he suspected was the wizard, Imron, To one side stood a large clay statue. He called the others through the secret passage and soon they all gazed upon the seated wizard with his crystal ball in hand. Afarrah studied tte chamber with detect magic and told them the painting was definitely magic, strong magic since it stunned her! The statue was magic too. They were annoyed with so much unidentifiable magic in this wizard’s house!

Unsure what to do next, Pugno told Afarrah to touch the painting as he readied to grapple the large statue if it moved. She did and it did and a fight broke out. The statue lurched forward and Pugno tried to grab it but failed to get a good grip. The thing swung wildly punching both Afarrah and Shokkanaw in their faces. Again Pugno called out for them to work together to grapple the statue but even with their help they failed to slow it down so it punched Pugno and Afarrah this time. The large statue’s punches really hurt too. Pugno asked them to unite and give it one more try. The rogue and priestess wiped the blood from their noses and went for it. This time they succeeded but it still hit them again before he was able to pin and drag it to the swiveling part of the floor. Beaten down and bloody the group dragged the struggling statue a few feet to the side. Once it was in place, Shokkanaw kicked the lever and the clay golem guardian swiveled out of the room. They released a collective sigh of relief until they realized they had just trapped themselves in this room with no other exits. Oh well, that was a problem for future them. The pounding on the wall reminded them that they were on borrowed time. Examining the portrait of the wizard only revealed glowing runes … more unknown magic stuff (sigh). So they agreed to let Afarrah try to destroy the painting. Her answer to everything was to “purify it with holy fire from Sarenrae”. She conjured a wall of fire pressed against it and watched it slowly catch fire and burn under the intense heat. No one realized the Id Portrait might be a minor artifact or that destroying said artifact might result in a huge explosion …. it did result in the destruction of the magical artifact and that did result in a massive (20 dice) explosion of flames! The explosion took out the swiveled wall and left both Shokkanaw and Afarrah unconscious on the ground smoldering. Pugno and Shokkanaw took cover behind Afarrah so their burns were less severe. The priestess was nearly obliterated. If not for her innate fire resistance and a quick action with a healing potion from Pugno, she would have died instantly. With the wizard dead, the golem, which was linked to him, had also suffered serious injuries and now stopped moving. Pugno dragged his companions from the deadly manor. In a completely unplanned and unorthodox way, they had stopped the killer. They reported their results to the local authorities and collected their reward. They even let them know about the missing artist so that he could eventually be rescued from his painting prison trap.

Unfortunately, they did not piece together that in a way, the wizard was a victim here too. The prominent art community had been stealing his artistic ideas and giving them to the famous artist that worked for them in order to make them all rich at the wizard’s expense. But all’s well that ends well, right? It was a Guild success!!

Pugno, Shokkanaw, & Afarrah each earned an incredible 10,933xp and 2,500gp to split for their efforts

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