The Water Margin

A Throne Room. How Pretentious.

Participants:
Joani Render
Kirlat
Melmoth the Merciless
Namliia
Tikka Greenteeth
Salador Seldon
Baka the Barbarian

The party finds what must be an ancient throne room, with supporting pillars running in pairs down the center, ending in a stone dais with a large throne upon it. All along the walls are frescoes depicting scenes from the history of these strange, beardless dwarfs. At the base of the dais are a pair of braziers in which burn pale blue-green flames without fuel. A ghostly figure sits upon the throne, flanked by a pair of spectral attendants.

As the party enters the room, the dwarf-king-ghost lets out a garbled threat in an unknown language — presumably some ancient long-forgotten ancestor of the dwarf tongue. The spectral forms flanking it move to engage the party, and several figures peel away from the wall frescoes — four of them animated stone statues, and two of them skinless undead dwarfs covered in the dust of hundreds of years!

The party engages the dwarfs, but they quickly discover that their weapons are mostly useless against the incorporeal foes — only Salador’s psionically-enhanced sword can injure them. Baka is struck multiple times by the incorporeal dwarf guards and their chilling attacks drain his very life-force, rendering him comatose. The two clerics (Tikka and Joani) call upon their respective elemental patrons (rain and water) to banish the undead, and after several attempts they manage to force the two spectral attackers to flee, as well as the skinless dwarf banshees, but they are unable to destroy the undead or to affect the ghost-king. Melmoth picks up the psionic sword after Baka falls, and charges the dwarf-ghost-king. Though Melmoth’s blows are only partially effective, he trades attacks with the king, which uses its own ghostly great axe. Enraged, the king howls out some sort of spell, and stones of earth blast upward from the ground, badly wounding the party; Namliia and Salador are both so badly wounded that they collapse unconscious and bleeding. Melmoth bellows and with mighty swings manages to discorporate the ghost.

The party’s clerics help to restore the wounded warriors as best they can, but Baka will only recover with time. Kirlat helps to bring Namliia to her feet, and she uses her magic to command the cowering and angry dwarf banshees, making them her (temporary) minions. Namliaa orders the banshees to carry the bronze braziers, whose ghost-fire has extinguished with the death of the king. Melmoth picks up the king’s ghostly great axe, which now seems like a solid, real, steel weapon.

Sorely wounded and with limited resources, the party decides to retreat to Salt View to catalog their winnings, but when they return to the exit-tunnel they discover that it is once again blocked by a pumice boulder. Salador manifests object reading and determines that the boulder was created from magma! Then the ground starts to crack and hot toxic gases erupt, and the party knows that one of the magma priests from the mountain range must be nearby.

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Weird Dwarfs

Participants:
Joani Render
Kirlat
Melmoth the Merciless
Namliia
Tikka Greenteeth
Salador Seldon
Baka the Barbarian

The group settles in near Salt View, in a small encampment outside of the village’s ramshackle wall but inside of the cavern.

Qhorin plies one of the locals (via the use of his contacts class feature) for more information about the rumors of buried metal treasures in the caves, and learns that some of the villagers, while going through old volcanic tunnels to collect obsidian, have come across small troves of metal. Qhorin’s associate shows, by way of demonstration, a four-pound bronze brick with a forgemark upon it.

The team spends some money on supplies, rests, and prepares to explore the caves further.

Following directions from the local rumors, the group heads through a twisting tunnel that leads to a large open cave. The cave is hot and smells of sulfur, and the ground is littered with obsidian, ranging from tiny shards to large chunks, as well as chert and basalt. The southern side of the cave has more tunnels of various sizes.

After exploring a bit, the group discovers that one of the tunnels above ground level has signs of tooling around the walls. Melmoth climbs up, followed by Baka and Tikka, and they help the rest of the team up into the tunnel. It is wide (25’ across) but not too tall (only about 8’), and roughly hewn. The group follows the tunnel about 70’, where it ends in a large boulder that blocks the passage, but Melmoth and Baka discover that the boulder is made of some kind of weak sandstone-like material and they can easily crush it with their strength. The team slips by, and after another 30’ of somewhat worked stone, they discover that the passage opens into an elegantly-carved stone crypt with six sarcophagi.

The party examines the room briefly and determines that there are three other exits, then Joani uses her magic to sense the presence of undead, and determines (as suspected) that each sarcophagus contains some kind of undead. The group prepares for battle and they surround one sarcophagus and throw off the lid!

Namliaa, prepared for this occasion, cast control undead on the creature inside. It looks like a shriveled dwarf-corpse, with yellowed papery skin and empty eyesockets with a burning red hateful light in them, but the undead monster has the wispy remnants of a long beard (which is bizarre, since everyone knows that dwarfs are hairless). Namliaa’s spell succeeds and takes control of the undead, but the other sarcophagi open and more come out to attack!

The group fights back and forth with the undead dwarfs and manages to triumph; Tikka repels two of them with the strength of her connection to Water, Melmoth and Baka crush two of them with brute force, and Salador destroys one with psionically-projected crystal shards.

Once the undead are destroyed, the group scavenge from the remains and recover three metal weapons (a pick, a war hammer, and a battle axe) as well as three shirts of metal dwarf-mail (sadly, not the right size for anyone in the party).

The group explores further and finds a dry well to one side, and a room with a raised dais with a statue of a dwarf (again, strangely bearded). Joani searches the statue and discovers a switch on the ground between its feet, which when depressed causes the dais to lower and the stairs to slide down, revealing a short passage that ends in a pair of marble doors chiseled with dwarf-runes. Unfortunately, nobody knows how to read dwarf-script.

The group returns up the stairs from the dais and discovers another large room with a staircase that spirals up, but the chamber above is unstable and partially collapsed. Heading further south, they discover a large throne room, with carvings of dwarf warriors on the walls, reliefs depicting a pictorial history of the place, and a great throne with a translucent dwarf-warrior seated on it, flanked by two more translucent dwarf guards, and illuminated with a pair of stone braziers that burn fuelless blue-and-green witchfire!

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Southward Bound

Northeastern Crescent Forest; 190th King’s Age, Year of Priest’s Defiance, Day 3

Participants:
Dhar Graeven
Tikka Greenteeth
Namliia
Salador Seldon

Having escaped the temple of the serpent-men, the group decides to avoid further entanglements and make their way south to Salt View. The hope is, if they can cross the Great Ivory Plain, that they can meet up with the caravan there, engage in some trade and exploration, and perhaps make some real money.

While traveling through the rest of the Crescent Forest, the party stumbles across a few sights: a group of Gulg headhunters fighting (and losing against) a braxat; a small group of cloaked people meeting at a grove at night to talk to a phantasmal image that appears and claims that they will soon found a new paradise; and even a small seasonal stream that flows through the last vestiges of the southern forest.

After a day of travel, the group reaches the edge of the forest, and the cracked, dry ground of the Great Ivory Plain stretches out before them. They decide to travel at night, the better to avoid heat exhaustion, and set up camp for a few hours. Once the sun is well set and the heat of the day has left, they set off across the bright, dry ground and hope that they can navigate well enough to find the village of Salt View on the other side of the Mekillot Mountains.

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Snakes on Another Plane

Northeastern Crescent Forest; 190th King’s Age, Year of Priest’s Defiance, Day 2

Participants:
Dhar Graeven
Tikka Greenteeth
Namliia
Salador Seldon

As the team prepares for battle, two figures emerge from the depths of the strange ruined temple. One places a hand on the burning snake and soothes it into complacency. They explain that they are explorers as well, who know of this place and came in through another distant entrance — from a crystal mine deep in the compound.

The newcomers offer to escort the group, and though some suspicion lingers, the two parties agree to merge for the time being. They explore the complex and discover many empty rooms and sense that the place was deserted quite suddenly.

In one great chamber, after carefully disabling several traps, the group discovers several huge serpent-men encased in crystal. Somehow, the party accidentally frees them from the crystal, and the enraged hulking beasts attack at once. The team is forced to kill the snake-men in order to defend themselves.

One last ancient serpent-man remains, not quite a half-snake like the others. He explains that, long ago, this compound was attacked by a powerful mind-bender, a member of The Order. This psion apparently took umbrage at the serpent cult’s use of psychic powers in the creation of hybrid snake-men and took it upon himself to wipe out the cult. The cult could do little to stop him, as the psion was uncarnate — he had transcended the boundaries of his physical body. The last effort of the most powerful psion of the serpent cult was to encase himself and several of his guardians in ectoplasmic crystal in order to preserve them and hope that they would awaken at a later time when their attacker had turned his attention to other things.

The ancient serpent-cultist expires, and the group decides to beat a hasty retreat, but not until after they have secured a crystal dagger, a psionatrix, and a piece of valuable jewelry from atop an ancient throne in the heart of the temple.

As the group flees out the back door, they discover a guardsman from Nibenay. They carefully knock him senseless, but as they escape they notice more guards and a templar trying to get in through the front shaft of the compound — and their own psions sense that at least one of them is possessed by a malign intelligence. Perhaps the Order is not so distant after all? Or someone from Nibenay has been following them?

Regardless, the party flees south into the depths of the Crescent Forest.

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Losses

Ringing Mountains, 190th King’s Age, Year of Priest’s Defiance, Month of Sorrow, day 3

Participants:
Chak-ik-tik – JohnThompson
Joani Render – Adrianne
Cookie – ChristineThompson
Kissik – discordian
Vasharian – Andrewkrowe
Zarasmina – Aylaa

Having gotten a good view of the Ringing Mountains west of Tyr, the group heads away from the small plateau with the magician’s home and back to one side of the very rocky hills. As it is late in the day, the party settles in for a night among the hills. They find a narrow defile on the west side of one of the jagged, rocky hillsides, and do their best to make a comfortable and concealed spot.

Several members of the team go hunting, and they return with spitted lizards, cactus fruit, and even a pair of fat snakes.

Late in the evening, as Chak-ik-tik watches the lazy humanoids wasting time, a heavyset creature approaches the camp. At first it seems like the minotaur lizard has returned, but as it comes closer it becomes apparent that this giant lizard has no horns. Instead, its low-slung body and long, whiskered snout show that it is a fire lizard — out for its once-per-fortnight hunt.

Chak makes a rasping noise to awaken the party and leaps to attack the gigantic lizard. He manages to land a few blows, but the creature is so massive that his first swings have little impact. The team scrambles to their feet as the beast blasts flame from its maw. Zarasmina manages to avoid the cone of flame, but other members of the group aren’t so lucky.

Cookie flies into a rage and leaps at the lizard to slash and stab at it while Zarasmina sneaks around behind it. The combined attacks of Cookie, Chik and Zarasmina manage to injure the lizard badly, but not before the beast snaps up Chik in its mouth and, with a sickening crunch, crushes the carapace of the thri-kreen warrior like an alligator lizard eating a locust. The team kills the lizard, but not without cost.

Renewal

Somberly, the party puts Chik’s crushed corpse over the back of one of the crodlu, and they continue on their mission after sunrise. In only a short hour’s time they reach the famous tarn — a bright lake of clear water that trickles down from the top of the Ringing Mountains into a shrouded valley filled with twisted trees and scrubby bushes.

The party can find no sign of any habitation, but Kissik reminds them that druids have little use for houses or tools while in their favored lands.

After watering their crodlu and making sure that they don’t conduct any hostile moves, the party is startled when one of the druids appears in their midst. The druid cautiously tells the party that they are welcome to help themselves to water and grazing land on the tarn, but must move on the next day. Kissik greets the druid as a fellow brother guardian and explains the nature of the party’s quest: A hope for alliance with the druids, or at least the promise of some help for the now free city of Tyr after the army of Urik smashes into the city and leaves wounded people in the wake of war.

The druid is skeptical at first, but a second druid — a human female — appears and cajoles him. The druid explains that he and his compatriot share the duty of watching over the tarn due to some unusual circumstances. The druids become exceptionally skittish when they learn that Vasharian is a wizard, but they acknowledge the sacrifice made by Chak-it-tik in the quest to find the tarn, and grudgingly agree that when war comes to Tyr, they will help to heal the survivors. The druids refuse, however, to leave their guarded lands, or to become directly involved in the war.

Though G’rshun offers to reincarnate Chak-ik-tik, the party decides that the mantis warrior would probably be very uncomfortable in a different body, and instead they bury him in a cairn near the lake.

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Buried Serpents

Northeastern Crescent Forest; 190th King’s Age, Year of Priest’s Defiance, Day 2

Participants:
Dhar Graeven
Tikka Greenteeth
Namliia

Qhorin, eager to win favor with the templar Siyaad, decides to return to Nibenay posthaste in order to prepare for the caravan trip that he will join under her direction. The rest of the team, though, has no desire to head back to the riot-torn metropolis. They decide to spend the night in the forest once more. Qhorin decides that he will leave the next morning.

With Aygval bound, the group thinks that they will have an uneventful night, but in the early evening, Namliia hears a strange chiming sound. Unaware of what she is doing, she stands up and starts to leave the encampment, following the sound. Dhar Graeven, though, does not sleep, and he spots her wandering off. He follows the elf and quickly realizes that she is under the influence of some mental power. Dhar Graeven calls out and awakens the rest of the group, and Qhorin explains that it is probably a belgoi: a dangerous, vicious humanoid that uses a metal bell as a focus to hypnotize people and dominate them into following its telepathic commands. Namliia was almost certainly walking to her doom.

After some quick debate, the group assembles and moves their encampment to the south — but they leave Aygvar behind, as prey for the belgoi. A short time later they hear an anguished shriek that is cut off suddenly, and they hope that Aygvar’s death, if Dregoth becomes aware of it, will simply be chalked up to the belgoi.

The group sleeps a bit uneasily, and they rise with the sun the next morning.

Deciding to strike out across the forests near Nibenay and head toward Salt View without risking a return to the city, the group passes through a large clearing in the northeasterly part of the Crescent Forest. The clearing doesn’t show signs of recent defiling magic, but rather a mile-wide patch of low brush and tall grasses. Some examination shows signs that this was once an ancient battlefield.

Dhar recalls an old Nibenese tale of a battle that took place in the Crescent Forest over an ancient ruin discovered by a minor templar of Nibenay. Headhunters from Gulg attacked the excavators, the templars called in troops to protect them, the templars of the Oba became convinced that the ruins must hold some powerful artifact, and the situation escalated into a massive military conflict. Some examination of the site by Dhar seems to confirm the tale, as the group finds shards and fragments of old weapons and even the occasional bit of humanoid bone.

The team discovers a heavy stone portal affixed in the ground and covered by a thin layer of dirt and weedy plants. Though the portal has carvings of various serpent figures on it, there is no obvious way to open it. Across the field to the southwest, the group notes a standing stone, perhaps four feet high; this stone also has commemorative markings. Buried near the stone, they find a long knife that appears to be made from a single large serpent’s fang.

With some puzzlement, the group eventually decides that the ruins must have some kind of serpent cult associated with them, but they cannot figure out how to enter. Tikka, in a moment of crazed inspiration, jabs the palm of her hand with the serpent fang, and soon experiences strange visual hallucinations and fevers — serpent venom, perhaps, except that a fang that has lain buried for centuries should be empty by now. The strange serpent glyphs on the large stone appear to move and waver, and she presses her palm against them, which causes her blood to flow down the stone etchings and into a tiny aperture. A heavy grinding sound is heard, and the smaller stone marker on the far side of the field falls over.

Excited by the prospect of exploring a lost ruin and perhaps discovering knowledge about a strange cult in the ancient world, the group heads down a sloped ramp and into a complex beneath the ground. The ramp leads to a circular chamber with an empty agafari wood desk and chair, and a small closet, in which Dhar finds a key. The circular room has two exits, one slightly to the left and one slightly to the right, and the group heads to the right. The key unlocks a doorway, and the team notices that the passages in this complex seem devoid of dust or debris.

Down the hallway, the group discovers a triangular chamber that has two more exits, at the points of the triangle away from the point where the hallway enters, and each of these exits has a stairway that goes down. Also in the room is some kind of red glowing serpent of huge size …

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Dawnsinger

Ringing Mountains, 190th King’s Age, Year of Priest’s Defiance, Month of Sorrow, day 3

Participants:
Chak-ik-tik – JohnThompson
Joani Render – Adrianne
Cookie – ChristineThompson
Kissik
Vasharian – Andrewkrowe
Zarasmina – Aylaa

By decree of the new Tyrian Council, Joani is placed with a mercenary team that is given the task of finding the druids of the famous tarn in the Ringing Mountains west of Tyr. Nobody seems to know exactly how to find the tarn, so the Council generously supplies the team with three crodlu to carry supplies, two weeks of water for the group, and two weeks of food. This veritable cornucopia should keep them well-stocked — as long as they aren’t beset by bandits or monsters. How difficult can it be, though? The tarn is known to lie somewhere in the mountains across from the scrub plains in the Tyr basin, barely a day’s easy journey.

The group sets out from the southwestern gate and across the scrub plains. The trip is an easy one; in spite of the dry heat of the sun, the group has little trouble as they take a leisurely pace. Occasionally they spot herdsmen with small herds of crodlu and erdlu. At one point they pass by a small fenced-in building — some kind of ranch house. The group decides not to bother stopping, and they keep heading toward the mountains.

As the scrub plains give way to rocky hillsides, the group finds themselves traveling over stony bluffs that hide as much as they reveal. The team takes a brief stop to refresh themselves and their beasts of burden and to survey the mountains and make plans. The mountains themselves rise 20,000 feet in a sheer wall of forbidding stone. Without a plan, they could spend many days wandering through tiny passes, crevices, and treacherous peaks.

While the rest of the team surveys the mountains, Kissik keeps the crodlu fed and watered, but the bird-lizards start to become nervous. Kissik spots movement somewhere behind the group. Watching carefully, the pterran druid recognizes a massive lizard with horns on its head — a minotaur lizard! Though Kissik knows that it is probably hungry for the crodlu, it is a potential menace to the group. He points it out and, as his associates prepare their weapons, he advances slowly and carefully upon it. When he reaches a close spot at the base of the hillside, he murmurs ancient sussurating words that calm the creature and cause it to show respect to this guardian of nature (Charm Animal). The minotaur lizard, happy to accompany the druid for a while, croaks without malice and follows the group as they resume their travels.

The team spends several hours hiking along the length of the mountain range, without much success. Eventually the ensorcelment upon the minotaur lizard wears off, and Kissik manages to keep the creature reasonably calm. The lizard wanders off, looking for prey elsewhere, with no desire to start a fight with the druid.

Afraid of Heights

The team continues searching and Vasharian decides to send his familiar to scout. Since his familiar can fly, it is able to soar above many of the mountain peaks and hillsides, and Vasharian can glean a bit of information from the empathic senses of the bird if it spots something unusual.

For several minutes, the bird soars, then it spots something. Its curiosity is piqued — then agitation, then sudden pain and blackness. Vasharian feels the horrid sensation of his familiar’s death!

The group hurries to discover what happened and finds a very narrow, very tall staircase cut into the side of the mountain. Vasharian’s familiar lies in a dead, charred heap near the bottom of the staircase.

With a lengthy trip, the team ascends the staircase and finds — a mile up — a large rocky shelf with a small house atop it. The house has a terraced garden behind it, and a stone cistern for collecting water that drips down from the peaks of the Ringing Mountains. A small stone cairn marks what might be a grave. Kissik murmurs a small orison and determines that the house bears some kind of protective magics. Zarasmina clambers up onto the roof of the house, disables a magical trap on the chimney, and prepares to shimmy down inside. Suddenly a booming voice is heard: “Who DARES to disturb me in my HOME?”

From inside the cabin, the deep and mighty voice berates the group for trespassing upon his lands. The team tries to reason, but the occupant seems (perhaps rightly) aggrieved that he is being disturbed.

After a few moments of this negotiation, Chak-ik-tak hurles a chatkcha in through a window with an arcing shot. This clips the occupant, and Zarasmina manages to slide down the chimney and sneak up behind the speaker, who turns out to be a whiny teenager with a heavy staff and simple homespun linen garments.

The group asks him for information about the tarn and the druids, which the boy gives them on the understanding that they will leave him alone. Zarasmina then unceremoniously slams him in the back of the head and renders him unconscious.

Following the directions given by the strange lad, the group heads back down the staircase and looks to the north, and they spot — behind a ridge line — a small, glittering blue lake in the distance.

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Dead Hand

Cornered in the Crescent Forest, the group has no choice but to stand and fight!

Arlianothas and Mouse flee the encounter — both heading back in the direction of Nibenay. Tikka takes up a position with some of the recently-freed halfling prey. If they survive, they will be comrades tested in battle. If not, the point is moot. (DM’s note: Several of the players switched to other characters from their character tree, and the halfling captives were the perfect way to introduce them. This, of course, meant that their other characters had to leave the scene, and so Melmoth, Arlianothas, and Mouse are all off having other adventures in the background!)

Hordes of zombies advance slowly but relentlessly at the team as they take up cover among the heavy, broad trees. Tikka calls out to the powers of water, and her ululations and exhortations result in the dry skin and brittle bones of many of the zombies flaking away and their corpses liquefying and returning to the soil. Qhorin remains some distance away and fires his bow to little effect, while Dargraven sorcerously compels some of the zombies to obey his commands and turns them against their fellows. Namliia conjures her own magics, carefully drawing the limited life energy of the forest without damaging it, in order to lash out at the foes.

As the fight continues, the adversary finally arrives. A gaunt and crazed-looking human, he carries the obsidian-tipped Stygian lance. At his command, the zombies surge forward and attempt to batter the group, and he lashes out with the lance as well.

Still, the zombie horde is no match for the combined might of the party, and eventually they are destroyed. The carrier of the lance is rendered unconscious, and the group argues over what to do with him. Eventually they awaken him to interrogate him, although nobody in the team is a mindbender with the power to telepathically pry into his memories, so they settle for hard questions with the occasional rough handling.

The lance-bearer spins an incredible tale: His name is Aygval, and he claims that he is a lictor in the service of the dead sorcerer-king Dregoth. According to his tale, the ghost of Dregoth came to him one night on the wastes near the ruin of Giustenal. There, the dread king ordered him to take up the Stygian lance, a powerful psionic weapon crafted from tools that were themselves made of bones from Dregoth’s body. With the lance, Dregoth claimed, Aygval would search out other allies to join a new army that would sweep out across the Tablelands, overthrow the other sorcerer-kings who had dared to slay Dregoth two thousand years ago, and unify the region under the dead hand of one dreadful, merciless, undead sorcerer-king. Aygval states further that Dregoth has sent out other minions to other city-states in order to recruit allies or fight against the sorcerer-kings, each armed with another item gifted to them by Dregoth himself.

The group isn’t sure what to believe, but Aygval certainly seems sincere in his exhortations. Kirlat points out that if what Aygval says is true — a remote possibility, but still a possibility — then killing him may lead to worse consequences, as Dregoth would certainly be aware of what happens to his minions.

Uneasily, the group decides to bind Aygval and take him with them until they can decide what to do with him. They bury the Stygian lance deep in the forest, far from any trail or animal run.

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Dinner Guests

City-State of Nibenay, along a northwest trail to Bremil Pass; 190th King’s Age, Year of Priest’s Defiance, Day 1

Participants:
Melmoth the Merciless
Tikka Greenteeth
Qhorin
Arlianothas
Mouse

With some of Melmoth’s tribe rescued from the clutches of slavery, the group starts to discuss their next action. Qhorin proposes returning to the city to engage in a bit more trade and to earn some extra money by sponsoring Melmoth in the illegal fights in the warrens, but the group’s discussion is interrupted by a massive explosion from the city itself. In the distance, miles away, the group can see a large cloud of smoke and dust rising from one of the buildings, and a great stone tower falls.

The chaos in Nibenay silences the group, who peer as best they can to see what’s happening. Shortly thereafter, another explosion erupts, then a gigantic illusory visage of Nibenay himself appears over the city. From this distance, the party cannot hear what it says, but clearly if the sorcerer-king himself is making an appearance, bad things are afoot. Tikka casts an augury and determines that heading back toward the city will lead to woe.

The group quickly decides that it’s best to hide out away from the city, at least until the current chaos settles down, and they make their way over the rocky hills and into the Crescent Forest. There, just a few feet from the edge of the hills, they set up camp to hunker down and wait out the disaster.

With a few hours’ work the group establishes a fairly sedate encampment at the base of a large agafari tree. Tikka shows one of her fantastic powers as a priestess when she conjures water into existence in her wooden bowl! With such bounty, the team mulls over the possibility of simply living in the woods, away from the nonsense of the noble houses and sorcerer-kings . . .

As the group settles in they catch sight of a pair of dust clouds moving along the road through the hills at the base of the mountains. Investigation shows that it’s a small band of elves, running — with all their possessions on their backs — to outdistance a group of city guard mounted on crodlu. While the guards are persistent, they are falling behind the elves; their persistence is likely the result of knowing that if they come back without making a serious effort, they will likely suffer punishment.

A short time after the elves and guards pass, a small group of refugees passes along the road as well — this one, a trio; one male mul, one male human, and one female human. The mul, carrying a huge basket of supplies and an impaler, is clearly forging forward while the two humans are keeping up as best they can. Qhorin signals the group from a safe distance to ask questions about the happenings in Nibenay. The impatient mul, occasionally interrupted by one of the humans, answers that chaos has struck the city, rioting is rampant in the streets, and the sorcerer-king himself is calling out offenders and sending his templar-wives to arrest or kill them.

The party lets the refugee group pass; soon, another group arrives as well — a much less well-equipped group of humans led by a dwarf. Again, Qhorin calls out to them for news; the dwarf explains that a magical battle erupted in the noble quarter after a strange prophet climbed atop one of the high buildings and started making proclamations about the death of Kalak and the fall of the city-state of Tyr. People began to riot, templars arrived and engaged in a magical battle with a wizard, and the image of Nibenay appeared to strike fear into the populace and reinforce order. Some people, seeing the devastation in progress, grabbed their possessions and fled the city as best they could. The dwarf acquired a focus of shepherding this sad and sorry group of human refugees away from the city and escaped by the western gate before the city militia and guard became organized enough to seal it off.

Better informed, the party lets the sobbing and despondent refugees pass, then hunkers down for the night.

I Love the Smell of Bacon in the Morning

In the morning, the party wakes up and starts to plan their activities, but Melmoth announces that he plans to join his tribe and help them in re-settling in a safer part of the forest. Only a short time after Melmoth leaves and the group finishes packing, they hear strange bird-like noises from the forest, and Tikka realizes that they aren’t bird calls — they’re a halfling hunting party. Sure enough, only a few minutes later, several small faces peer out from the foliage, many of them pointing sharp and dangerous weapons at the party members.

Fortunately, the halflings approach Tikka in a friendly fashion. In a few moments they establish that Tikka is keeping the tall folk with her to have a ready supply of food for her travels, and the halfling woodsmen and women helpfully bind the party with vines and lead Tikka and the prisoners to their hunting camp a few miles away.

The halfling hunting camp is a sparse affair hidden in the woods, barely noticeable even while the party is standing in the middle of it, except for the tree with several more prisoners tied around it — including the wailing, sobbing human refugees that the party saw earlier on the road. (There’s no sign of the dwarf.) In addition, the halflings appear to have captured an elf, a confident-looking human who isn’t a refugee, and a sickly human who looks like he’s on the edge of death. One of the human refugees has already been skinned and spitted and is roasting over a large cooking fire.

The halflings offer Tikka their hospitality, and after some careful discussion they even offer some of the local flavor to the party’s curious vulture. The festivities are interrupted, however, by two halfling scouts who arrive breathless and exclaim that there’s a force of shambling, walking dead things approaching the camp. Something has been tracking the halflings — or one of their captives — and now a small force of undead are on their way. Whether it’s Nibenay or a renegade defiler, nobody knows, but it’s clear that even with two dozen skilled halfling trackers and warriors at hand, this force of zombies and worse may be a serious problem.

Aware of the problems of their situation, the halflings give the party an ultimatum: Fight alongside them and be freed, or refuse and be cut down before they can cause any more problems!

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Horrid Circles

City-State of Nibenay, 190th King’s Age, Year of Desert’s Slumber, Month of Wind, Day 30

Participants:
Melmoth the Merciless
Tikka Greenteeth
Qhorin
Arlianothas
Mouse

With their mission in the house of Norihirwat complete, and the sorcerer-king absent from his home in the Naggaramakam, the team has an opportunity to sneak in and steal away Tikka’s ancestral spirit-water bowl. The night is still young — it’s only a few hours after midnight — so, against their better judgment, the adventurers decide to help the feral halfling in her personal quest!

With Mouse’s athletic skills, the group is able to get a rope up and over the outer wall of the Naggaramakam. Then, to avoid crossing the intervening plaza and alerting the guards, Arlianothas glides across to the second floor of the building itself and secures the giant hair line. The group carefully makes their way over to a second-floor window of the huge structure and climbs inside.

The room they enter is clearly some kind of personal quarters for a low-ranking official, maybe a young templar-wife with limited station. A quick search shows only personal effects and a bed, with no sign of Tikka’s bowl. Kirlat, to speed the task, casts locate object to search out halfling-crafted wooden bowls, and points unerringly in the direction of the bowl. It must be close!

The group sneaks through darkened corridors to avoid guards, and at one point barely avoids a patrol with a cilops on a leash. Knowing that it will smell their passage, they elect to make a difficult jump from a balcony over an audience chamber to another balcony on a corner, thereby breaking their trail over air.

Following Kirlat’s magical sense, the team passes a bath area, a barracks room, and a scribing chamber, and they arrive in what seems to be a magical reasearch room — a chamber with a table holding several odd items, including Tikka’s bowl. At the far end of the room, though, is some kind of magical barricade, and inside is an awful, huge, worm-bodied humanoid. (DM’s note: A psurlon — though none of the players made a Knowledge: Psionics check sufficient to recognize that!)

The creature in the circle greets the party telepathically and offers to make a deal with them, but they refuse. It then warns that it will gladly tell anyone who comes that it saw them, and be happy to describe them in detail, unless it is appeased. About this time, though, another patrol arrives, this time two guards with a robed man. As the patrol closes in, the group exits via a window, but Mouse, ever curious, is in a corner of the room too far away to reach the exit in time. He hides in the shadowy corners near a wall tapestry and listens.

An argument ensues between the man and the creature, with the man making demands and threats, and the creature taunting him. Mouse realizes that the man must be a defiler or psion who summoned the creature, and that he was not supposed to. The creature is unhelpful because it knows that its summoner will eventually slip up, as he was not authorized to invoke such dangerous magics.

Seeing no alternative, Mouse suddenly darts across the room. He vanishes across intervening space and bolts out the window, falls, and sprints to rejoin the team.

Leaving the horrors that they saw behind, the party flees from the Naggaramakam and from the city as well, unwilling to stay behind and risk capture by staying too close to the scene of the crime.

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