Old School Hack--the Fictive Way

Smooth Sailing
Troublemakers just gotta make trouble.

Return to Mire Port
Back at Mire Port, Ashook looked after all those sick with the Red Flies problem, and Skritt, who was so despondant that he chewed off his own buds so he would not bring little goblins into the world cursed, and eating mostly sorrow stew, a goblin concoction of basement clay and rat blood.

Wayland and Tuleo recovered their wits, to find that Hector was hiring town criers to go to the roughest parts of Mire Port with crude drawings of Tulip and the tidbit that Tulip was wanted by the Pembriss Scholars, with a bounty for 10,000 gold pieces. A tent city of the ugliest thugs in Mire Port sprang up on the city side of the Cleansing Gate, waiting for the gladiator to return so he could be cashed in.

Meanwhile, Ellinda Silverkin came to Mire Port. She had a vision, or dream, about a dragon; she followed her instincts to Mire Port to hear about Tulip’s exploits from the town criers. From there, she checked who was new in town, and as she investigated, she found herself on Ashook’s property facing Geshinara. She asked to be in on the action, and she was told to wait in the basement of the mansion (staying clear of the nutter goblin) until Tulip could decide what to do with her.

That all changed when Tulip and Vayu got back from the Black Mire. They were held extra-long in decontamination in the Cleansing Gate, as a runner spread the news he was back. Wayland, watching the Gate, saw the commotion and went to the mansion to collect more firepower. They gathered at the Gate, along with over a hundred ruffians and cutthroats. With a grim screech, the gate was hauled open. Vayu and Tulip stood cornered, facing a massive mob of ne’er-do-wells.

Rumble at the Cleansing Gate
Combat was joined. As the tide of filthy humanity gushed at them, the adventurers snapped into action. Tulip tore them down with ferocious speed and savagery as Vayu’s constructs protected him; he intimidated the crowd, then tore the life from one of them with dark magics, resorting to his staff to batter them down. Yet more came, and more.

From the rear, Ell and Tuleo attacked, trying to thin the herd as Wayland fired into the mass. The battle churned, those fleeing and those rushing in a tangle of stinking thugs, blood spraying and bodies flying through the air as shouts and screams and the crunch of bone were lost in the roar of battle-mad fury.

Wayland spotted Hector maneuvering into position near Tulip and Vayu—atop the wall, safely out of the fray. He fired an arrow, pegging the seedy wizard (after Hector’s spell failed to disable the two brave adventurers fighting for their lives below.) Realizing their peril, Tulip and Vayu also attacked before Hector could stagger away. Tulip flung his massy sword, and it whistled past the wizard. Vayu’s mystic bolt and Wayland’s second arrow knocked the wizard out of sight, lucky to be alive.

The tide of battle well and truly shifted as ten griffon riders descended to preserve the peace. By the time the ring of griffons settled in the mostly abandoned area around Vayu and Tulip, the heroic adventurers as a group had defeated over forty thugs!

The rest of the adventurers sloped off, not wanting to be caught for questioning by the town officials and the Griffon Guard converging on the “disturbance.” Tulip and Vayu surrendered to the Griffon Riders, who pulled them up on the griffon mounts and flew them to the Skyview Tower.

Leaving Mire Port
There, they had a chance to clean up and bind their wounds, then they were shown in to meet with the Griffon Magus Cholran, an old man with long white hair. Cholran didn’t care much about the bounty, but didn’t want further disruption. He banished Vayu and Tulip from Mire Port. They were given supplies, and a chance to send a message about the success of the holy water to the temple in town, then they were flown out by the Gate Camp.

Word of their banishment spread fast, and the rest of the adventurers met them in the Gate Camp to strategize. Geshinara went back into Mire Port to run errands for them. (She was now pretending to be married to Ashook so she was a citizen, and not charged tax to go through the Cleansing Gate.)

Tuleo had a vision earlier, that if he was going to continue to call upon Thogro for mystic favors, he had to become her servant. He agreed, pledging his service and gaining her holy energies as a cleric. As he recovered from his strange conversion experience, a woman from the camp threw herself at Tuleo’s feet; called Castaway, she had amnesia from a shipwreck, but she felt she belonged to Thogro (and now to Tuleo as Thogro’s representative.) Tuleo didn’t care for her name; he said he would call her when he needed her, and she eagerly adopted the name “Whenynedja” or “Winny” for short.

A short time later, Geshinara brought them the amber they had previously liberated, and a wagon full of sand and rocks from the beach, that Vayu raised up into minions and guards. Geshinara refused to enter the Black Mire again, but she sent her folding boat with them for good fortune. Ell was accepted into the group, and they set out on the boardwalks of the Black Mire yet again.

Again With the Frog God
With the mass of sand and rock minions to stand guard, they slept securely on the boardwalk, and they were not troubled by monsters as they traveled back to the Frog God again. The shokoro were agitated and waiting for them, sensing the approach of the amber. They presented the amber to the Frog God, who emanated a dark glee; one artifact to go!

Following Vayu’s reliable map, they trudged endlessly on the boardwalks, finding the road to Courvon but turning back to the swamps, their task unfinished.

The Tree
They found a massive tree, unnaturally huge, looking like it could have been a source of wood for the enchanted boardwalk. Wayland hopped off the boardwalk to get a closer look, finding the vast bark etched with symbols of the ghim. As he was returning, he was attacked by a swarm of stirge that had been hanging under the boardwalk; he was on the edge of being overwhelmed when Tuleo swooped down and pulled him back to the boardwalk, where Vayu’s sand minions scoured the stirge off. They traveled a short way, then rested until Wayland recovered his strength. The journey continued.

The Graveguard
One night, they encountered a scout with a gator skull helm, one of the Graveguard. Tuleo pulled away from the group a space and had a long, productive chat with the Graveguard scout, learning that there were graves that belonged to the Graveguard that were sacred, and that they might have a bit of cannibalism going on, and that there was a fey lake where people disappeared for a year and a day, or sometimes forever. He got directions to the graves, and instruction not to go there. The curious scout left with the definite impression that these weirdos had a thing for baskets, that’s all they really wanted to know about.

The next day, they traveled to the edge of the boardwalk by the wetlands, and decided to retrace their steps and try to cut through the graves to get close to the lake instead of continuing by boat. Tuleo collected reeds, because his new follower knew how to make baskets, and they should have a cover story/peace offering.

They met with the arrogant and uppity Graveguard, and asked about baskets. Someone important from the camp (a magnificent spined fish skull helm) told them that the fey did have a basket. To justify all the questions, Tuleo (now the spokesman of the adventurers) explained they were basket connoisseurs, looking for exciting baskets in the Black Mire. The adventurers learned that the cannibals used the skulls of family to make braided-hair-handled skull “baskets” full of magic ju-ju.

Tuleo offered the now-unladen donkey and the modest reed basket Winny made in exchange for safe passage, and the Graveguard countered that they could not see the graves. All agreed, they were escorted around the Graveguard lands. They slogged through the marsh on the far side to where the boardwalk picked up again, and hiked along it to where Vayu’s mystic sigils from his last adventure in the marsh appeared on the intersection.

Confident they knew where they were, they discussed the prospect of striking out across the marsh in a boat and hoping to find the lake. Disliking their odds, they decided to return to the Graveguard and negotiate passage to a clear line of travel to the lake, in exchange for a bigger basket. Winny obediently wove a bigger basket, and again they found themselves talking to the prickly Graveguard. The curious scout returned, and agreed to help them. He turned his alligator helm sideways, hanging the basket off the snout and holding the other side for balance, and he struck out into the swamp with the adventurers at his heels.

Into the Black Marsh—On Foot
They passed the skeleton of a thirty foot gator festooned with skulls; a warning for the fey not to approach, and the Graveguard not to pursue into the swamp. After a six hour slog, they camped in the skull of a massive creature, risking a small fire. The curious scout pointed them south, and returned to camp the next day as they continued on. They used Geshinara’s boat, so they did not have to slog through the waist-deep murk. Sadly, Vayu had to leave his minions behind. Vayu used his navigational skills to keep them oriented south, and they continued.

The Fey Lake
Finally the marsh resolved into sawgrass on water, then lilies, then a mass of mangrove trees. Navigating between them, the adventurers found themselves on the fey lake once more; a thousand yards across, ringed in mangrove trees, decorated with lilies. They closed in on the “party cove” and saw a nixie, told her they wanted to speak with the king.

Meanwhile the little fellow on the big fish again accosted them, asking if they wanted to sell their boat; they declined. Soon enough the king made an appearance, parting the lilies, his stone basket boat gliding forward pulled by giant bass as nixies fawned around his waterplant throne.

King Fauchwizzle looked like a blueberry with long limbs. Nixies touched the group, and they could breathe water; they hopped in the water so Vayu could demonstrate the boat’s magic properties. The king agreed to trade with them, his boat for their magic boat (he was really excited to learn how it folded and unfolded) if they joined him at a feast. Reluctantly, they agreed, trading entertainment for the feast. They figured they’d show off what they were good at; katas, magic tricks, stories, and so on.

Party On
The party was wild, and half remembered. A vast turtle surfaced enough for them to have a party island in the middle of the lake. The fey braided Ell’s hair, then stole it all by morning so she woke spear bald. They seemed fascinated by Wayland’s fingernails and toenails, painlessly removing them and nibbling them then putting them back on before he realized what was going on. Tuleo wasn’t sure what they did, but he felt sullied and weird in the morning. For Vayu, they touched at and massaged his bones where they were closest to the surface of his skin, fascinated by how he was put together. For Tulip, they coated pretty rocks in their spit and piled them on him, making little stacks all over him over the course of the party. He woke naked and hairless on the basket boat.

Groggy, the party tried to recover from the fey feast. They noticed a statue that was eerie in its likeness to Tulip, made of the little stones that had been on him. It had some of his skin inside it (but he was uninjured.) It had claws that resembled goblin/human hybrid, and it had Ell’s hair. When Tulip looked in the eye socket, he saw the statue was empty.

Sufficiently creeped out by the weird little fairies, the party readied themselves to move as Tuleo verified that the fey mostly left Winny alone. He then poked his face into the water, still able to breathe air, and called out to the fey. A nixie popped up, and Tuleo invited her to adventure with him. He really troweled on the charm, and she agreed. He promised to protect her, and she gleefully left the lake (if they could go right away.) She said her name was Pippin. Tuleo asked her what they did to him, she matter-of-factly explained everybody had some of his blood to drink; the cosmic buzz was awesome!

The Fruum
Away from the fairies, the stone boat no longer floated. They trudged through the marsh, Wayland and Tulip balancing the massive statue of a basket, with the nixie frolicking in the waters of the marsh nearby. Then, a massive earthquake seemed to tremble the marsh; trees tilted in the mud, water danced. The nixie shrieked in pain and leaped up on Tuleo’s head.

A deep sound resonated, like “fruuuum.” A tentacle, 20-30 feet long and all black and unreflective, whipped up and assaulted them as they scrambled for a muddy hillock. More tentacles burst from the mud, tangling Ell; Wayland pulled her clear, and Vayu shouted for them to run as a vague memory of the shokoro servants of the Frog God stirred in his mind.

They sloshed as fast as they could through the waist deep water, and knee deep mud beneath, feeling the whole marsh alive and slithering below them. Winny was picked off, and as the nixie leaped to the boat for safety, Wayland and Tuleo fired on the tentacle. Severed, it withdrew, and Tuleo flew over to rescue Winnie as they struggled on through the marsh as fast as they could.

Eventually, on the edge of collapse, they had to stop their killing pace. Panting, they speculated on what that was, and what to do next…

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A Rose by Any Other Name
More fun in the Black Mire

Preparing

Most of the party was laid up with red fly bites, and Skritt was moping and moaning about, utterly depressed because of his curse. He also helped Ashook take care of all the medical patients loaded into the house.

Tulip noted a dirigible coming in low. He realized it was Effson’s airship, and suspected Hector’s involvement. He bribed the guards at the Red Griffon Tower to fill him in, and his suspicions were confirmed. He had Vayu write a cryptic message in Elvish to lure Effson to meet him at the Boar’s Head.

Then Tulip and Vayu went to the Soothotchan temple, making a contribution and discussing the possibility of getting holy water with the priest. He instructed them to return that night, and he showed them a reflecting pool around a column with the holy bone saw used by the founder of the order, that presumably would render the water holy. Satisfied, they left, and purchased a small cask to carry the holy water.

They met Effson at the Boar’s Head, and he confirmed that Hector was talking about Tulip and the bounty on his head, and probably had some overarching goal to get at the dragon’s treasure, but Effson was only a courier and not really a partner in the venture. They parted amicably enough.

Geshinara met them at Ashook’s house. She had followed them to Courvon, then headed back to the coast and sailed around to Mire Port to meet them. Previously, she consulted with the Alabaster Oracle, finding out the rose had been stolen from her long ago, but she had a tip of a leaf (like a black arrowhead) that could be used to find the rose. She also brought a magic collapsible boat, and she planned to go along on their expedition. She brought belated warning of Hector’s approach as well.

That night they picked up the cask, and the priest wrapped it in holy symbols for them. Vayu also found a field medicine kit with flasks marked with Soothotchan holy symbols, and put holy water in three of them to carry on his person.

Heading Out

The next morning they left before dawn, bribing the guard to open the gate early for them. Vayu took a rock guard and two sand minions along on the trip. They headed out into the Black Mire on the boardwalk. They dealt with bandits dressed as pilgrims (who failed Tulip’s pop quiz about the saw they were going to visit) and also adventurers, and again saw the troll lurking in the Mire waiting to strike.

The Isle of Death

They found their way to the end of the boardwalk near undead contagion, watched by a vulture familiar. Taking the boat out past truly disturbing animated dead, they scrambled up on the island made of a conglomeration of corpses animated together. Geshinara and the rock minion guarded the boat as the others headed inside, battling constructs ripping themselves out of the island, leaping down a hole after the vulture familiar.

Shoving their way past the animated gripping arms of the tunnel, and narrowly avoiding a nasty spike trap, they at last confronted the necromancer and his wight guards. As Tulip slew the wights, Vayu counterspelled and then shot the wizard. As the battle concluded, they used liberal splashes of holy water to loosen the island’s grip on the 8 foot long black rose of iron. Tulip tore it loose, and as the island began to come apart, they splashed holy water all over a weak point so it fell apart in quivering nausea enough for them to escape as Vayu fended off undead wolves and escaped with the necromancer’s staff.

Narrowly escaping a massive catfish that munched the stone guard, they steered the boat away from the collapsing island and made it back to the boardwalk using Geshinara’s ability to sense what was connected to the water.

Adventures in the Black Mire

They traveled to the Frog God and turned over the rose, then headed back to Mire Port. They got hopelessly turned around on the boardwalks, and they explored with increasing frustration as their rations ran low and they found themselves in the middle of the Black Mire. They found an ancient tree that looked like it was one of the sources of wood for the board walk. They found a dry area with tombs, where they were chased off by local guardians. They encountered a number of different tribes of shokoro. Traps on the boardwalk hammered Geshinara, once flinging her out into the Mire; as they pursued, a massive gator bit Vayu, hurting him badly, and they barely made it back to the boardwalk to rest and heal. One advantage was their use of the constructs as guards while they slept.

Lake of the Fey

They left the boardwalk at a point where it sank near fresh water, and navigated through fresher wetlands to an actual river. Heading upriver, they found a lake that was also a spring. It was infested with fey, who offered to trade for their boat, so they could have one that was as nice or nicer than the king’s boat. Suspicious, they declined to discuss the matter. They saw a fey cove, and fey celebration on the lake at night from where they camped on the shore, but they were studiously disinterested.

The next day they tried to escape downstream with increasing frustration as something kept them on the lake. Again they ignored they fey party, and the next day they hiked out until they found swamp water deep enough to again use the boat. They headed back to the boardwalk, and made it back to town the day their two weeks of rations were finished.

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Ruins of the Bear
Shapple's "Awesome Islands"

Spender, wielder of dark fey magics and elderly chain-smoker of the Wizard Weed.
Fletch Shaft, deadly elven archer.
Wolf, fey warrior with a red fairy named Ivan and a purple longbow.
Noran Trotter, kiskov with snappy matching outfit and a crush on Wolf, wielding a steel oar.
Cule Dannik, cleric of Preyvask the Huntress, a very serious man.
Xing Xang, llama monk, daughter of Spender.

The party started on the Maiden’s Toenail, but sailed into a hurricane and wrecked. They dragged themselves ashore on a rowboat and camped under a stone dome, near other stone domes.

The Job

The next morning they found they were on Burias Island, as they talked to Maurice Lawson, a big man with a giant red hat.

They found out that to the north was the city of San Pascual, a port city several days travel away on the Causeway Road. Refugees were heading south to Claveria, the other port, to flee the island; the refugees were not sure what happened up north, but some disaster. (Maybe an earthquake split the north part of the island, or a large sea creature (kraken? sea turtle?) was attacking, the Disciple raised a cannibalistic undead army and attacked the town, etc.)

Maybe one of the Disciples of Ezra the Insane, a mad wizard who lives at the middle of the island went crazy. Ezra trained many wizards, long ago, and the powerful wizards seemed immortal and carried out his will Malfas was a disciple, 300-400 years old, who may have gone crazy up north; maybe something came out of his tower. Maybe he’s attacking, maybe he’s defending the city, no one really knows what happened.

Lawson wanted the group to go north to his old family estate, where one of his ancestors (Great John Lawson) was rumored to have angered a Disciple, possibly by misbehaving with his daughter; an army attacked the place, but found little or no resistance, and they flattened the place with catapult and cannon. (Maybe there was an escape route under the castle.) Lawson came to the island a month ago, to find the catacombs under the estate to find his family’s crown, signet ring, and any genealogical information. His family used to be magnificent, but his siblings are wasting their lives, unlike him. The group agreed to help out, to restore his family’s honor, and Lawson gave them a week’s supplies; he was delighted the group was at all interested. Xing Xang decided to help guard the refugees as the rest proceeded on.

The Ruin

The company checked with refugees and soldiers as they traveled to the ruin, gauging their travel to arrive mid-morning. They noted growth stopping far short of the keep, they found a Soothatchan bag with healing potions, they found a statue of a man grappling a bear (the man’s head some distance off in the brush, chopped off the statue.) Then they tangled with some giant spiders and spider swarms. Dispatching them with ease, they faced off with an undead ogre, which was crushed by Trotter and a hail of arrows.

Heading into the ruined keep, they found a secret passage behind the crumpled stone throne. They headed into the dark, down into the deep. Banners with bear shadows behind a strong man were prominent, as well as statues of bears and bear-men. They found an underwater lake, and an enchanted bow for Wolf. Then they fought through waves of hardened zombies and a red-eyed monstrous undead preying on them.

They liberated a Mirror of Boomaxle (which they all agreed to return to a temple of Boomaxle, and which gave everyone looking into it an Awesome Point), then found a half-flooded throne room. They explored beyond it, finding a book of genealogy and some gems under a statue base, and the “crown” helm on a sarcophagus. A magic scroll was claimed by Spender as the rest shoveled a pile of found gold coins and gems, statues, and so on into their packs.

On the way out, a watery figure rose to bar their exit. They struggled not to drown in the creature’s presence, and they joined vicious battle; Spender’s magic was unable to suppress its field, and it held its own against the kiskov and archers, healing as it was attacked over and over. Finally, after being pegged by Wolf’s magic bow and Cule’s blessed bow of Preyvask, the creature tried to retreat, and Spender’s transmogrification magic dragged the rest of the enchantment from it and dispersed the wicked thing (which seemed like it was the Disciple’s daughter, or some shadow of her.)

They returned to Lawson, and got paid.

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The Black Mire
Robbing Gods to Pay Gods.

Leaving the shokoro camp, they were attacked by a Red Swarm, tiny biting red flies. Kumiko and Kitten succumbed to their venom, turned into staggering delirious victims that had to be dragged along the boardwalk towards where the shokoro said human civilization waited. They were terrified by a troll stalking them for a while, but it never came to a fight (since they pushed on, wearily trudging through the night.)

Tulip, Vayu, Skritt, Wayland, and Sherwood were accosted on the boardwalk as they approached the coast; a griffon rider told them they’d have to go through the Cleansing Gate into Mire Port, and then took off again having determined they weren’t much of a threat.

The Cleansing Gate
They approached the gate into Mire Port, and a tent village of beggars outside rushed them to get silver so they could get into Mire Port. Throwing them some money and hiding behind Tulip’s flexing and growling, the group got close enough to make it in through the massive cypress wood gates two at a time. The de-lousing and medical inspection were hard on the ego, and very thorough, but everyone was released into town with a clean bill of health. Kumiko and Kitten were treated for their fever, and would need a lot of rest. Tulip talked the medics into shaving all his body hair and oiling him up, so he looked at the top of his gladiatorial form.

A bureaucrat informed them they were in Mire Port, run by the Order of the Cleansing Saw (a Soothotchan order). They also saw a massive tower with griffons circling it, on an island in the bay. They noted the fortress at the end of the town that pointed cabled ballista at the bay mouth, to discourage pirates.

Rejoining Ashook
They convened again in the Boar’s Head Inn. Sherwood agreed to stay and look after Kumiko and Kitten, as the rest of the group continued the adventure. They were joined by Ashook, who led them to an abandoned home of a scholar who had died. Ashook had taken the place over secretly, and combed through the extensive interviews in the library, cataloging a lot of knowledge about the Black Mire. (Ashook knew they had arrived because he had urchins on retainer at the dock and the Cleansing Gate to look for newcomers. Captain Boomcrusher had left Geshinara in Falatria Port, and then sailed around the island to Mire Port and dropped Ashook off.)

Tulip filled Ashook in on what they learned from the Frog God, and what they were searching for. Ashook remembered reading about Pluves, God of Rains, and a dodecahedron with otherworldly amber in it. The instruction was to go always south, and always west.

Joined by a Godling
An urchin summoned Ashook, notifying him that there was another capable-looking stranger down at the docks. While Skritt looted the house (finding a hidden door behind a clock that led to a room stuffed with gear purchased at the pawn shop sales) and Vayu tossed the library (finding a hidden Migric scroll with a lethal death magic spell on it) the rest of the group followed the urchin to the docks.

They found the ever-charismatic Tuleo trying to free himself of a crowd that had gathered around his divine light and miraculous stories. Tulip muscled in close, distracting the women for a moment, and Tuleo left with him. They still had a crowd after them, so they split up; Tuleo took flight with Ashook, escaping back to the house, but Tulip bumped into a palanquin and was escorted into the fortification of the Portmaster of Mire Port.

The Portmaster’s Family
Introduced to the lovely Portmistress Elyria and her husband Portmaster Venndi, Tulip had a lovely tuna dinner with them. Afterwards, he was invited to stay the night. Later that night, Venndi slipped into his quarters and noted that a cult of Oblivorix was strangely powerful, and trying to get into the Black Mire past the Cleansing Gate to get at drugs and plants for their wicked trade. He asked Tulip to help; Tulip declined, as he had more important business, but promised to keep the Portmaster in mind in the future.

Heading Out
The next day they were fortified (Vayu by studying death magic, others by rummaging the supplies in the scholar’s house or buying new supplies.) They traveled for days, going south or west. At one point they passed near what Tuleo’s airborn scouting revealed as an island teeming with undead; aside from some clashes with the undead on the boardwalk, they steered well clear of that. They also killed some gators that came after them on the boardwalk.

The Maze
Finally the boardwalk sank into the Mire. They spotted a dodecahedral territorial marker, and Wayland identified marks like those of a huge centipede walking in the mud of the island. Again Tuleo scouted by air with Wayland in tow, and discovered a massive black thorn maze half a mile from the board walk, guarded by centaur centipedes (part man-like, part centipede body.)

While Tulip, Vayu, and Tuleo hid on a nearby island, Skritt and Wayland melted into the shallows and shadows, working their way up to the island and racing to get into the ever-dim maze. The rain sluiced down on the thorns, so they were always in motion and muttering with the water flow. Exploring the dim, the pair found a large central chamber with the 12 foot across dodecahedron and the otherdimensional amber in the top.

Worked into the thorns were the deceased of the guardians, which was a bit creepy; water ever flowed out of the idol, sliding down all sides. Wayland and Skritt approached, Wayland hefted the goblin up, and Skritt yanked the amber out; somehow, the guardians were alerted, and as they closed in, the thieves tore all the amber free and hid it in Wayland’s cloak, then melted into the shadows and slipped past the agitated guardians to rejoin their friends, all racing for the boardwalk.

In the meantime, Tuleo was bitten by the Red Swarm, and he was towed like a delirious balloon (since his powers of flight acted unpredictably in his fevered state).

The Journey Back
Aside from another clash with the undead, the journey back was uneventful (except it rained the entire way; they began to realize Skritt had been cursed by removing the amber, and rain would follow him…)

Going through the Cleansing Gate, Wayland and Vayu had to be de-wormed, they had picked up parasites from the water. Then they all gathered in Ashook’s house. He had pretended to be the scholar’s elvish uncle, and taken over the property. He played host to Kitten, Kumiko, Tuleo, and Sherwood as they recovered from the Red Swarm and as the group planned their next move.

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Search for the Mountain Door
The Black Mire, behind Grizelle's Hoard...

WHAT HAPPENED OFFSCREEN BEFORE WE STARTED

Gathering the Party
After 10 weeks in Baffram, Kitten the Deadly, Wayland the Hunter, and Skritt the goblin were rounded up by the town guard and put in a local gaol to be interrogated on behalf of the Pembriss Scholars for what they know about Timothy the Tulip.

Kumiko heard about Tulip from some dwarven smiths who sold him his cannon; upon finding he was ready to kill a dragon, she figured she’d get on his good side by rescuing his buddies, hoping they could lead her to him. She hired an archer, Sherwood King, to assist in the jailbreak and the resulting hijinks.

Mokthresher, a kiskov captain of the ship Foamlash (a really fast ship, a racing ship that wins competitions) raced out of Baffram with them. The elven captain Telleryia chased them in the Implacable. (Mokthresher has a grudge against Telleryia, and so was willing to help, just to outrun her.)

Khorhuuk Island
Mokthresher and Boomcrusher met up on the island. (Lots of bromance, they are buddies.) Boomcrusher explained to the group looking for Tulip that he went to Falatria. He explained that Vayu, Geshinara, and Tulip were scouting the port, as it was reputed to have a road up to the volcano of the Senchillian Elvenforge (now Grizelle’s Hoard) wiped out long ago.

While Mokthresher led Telleryia off on a wild chase, Boomcrusher set sail for Falatria with the adventurers, as well as Saffron Petal, Tulip’s war donkey and cannon. Once Mokthresher drops them off, he continues leading any pursuers on a merry chase.

Falatria Port
One side of the island Falatria (named for the port) is a sheer cliff with the volcano on top, clear view of the sea. Geshinara heard a rumor of a legendary ancient back door; worth the delay to find it. Getting in unseen improve their chances, instead of sailing a ship towards a flying, fire breathing, impervious monster.

They noticed that sea birds follow them; maybe some others know where they are…

Leaving Falatria
A message was left for a kiskov captain. Tulip and Vayu headed for the interior town of Courvon. The hike is several days. After some consideratino, the adventurers left Saffron Petal in a warehouse, with a crate with all the cannon gear, to be sent out a day and a half or so behind them. They gave Tulip a new alias, “Jacques.”

Rumors in the Area
They heard a variety of interesting rumors about the town of Courvon, which is at the end of the road from Falatria before going into the Black Mire (somewhere within is the secret Mountain Door.)

They heard that the commander of the watch has been stuck here, probably for an indiscretion. There is a fort out there called Kuln; there may be giants there after a war of extermination against dwarves. Somewhere in the mire, there are statues of long-forgotten gods, still channeling their needs. Tree moss is poisonous to the touch. The prostitutes of Courvon are a major power block in town. Gnomes in the hills around Kuln are necromatic assassins, not innocent tinkers. A dozen black dragons guard treasure and eggs in the mire.

The city has a garrison of soldiers to protect against giants. Dwarves still live at Kuln, they just sealed it off. A frog god in the Black Mire hates giants and will help put them down. Bury 10 gold in the mire or be cursed when you leave. Leaving the causeways is death. There are many walkways; some are magic, some rotting. Shokoro in the swamp don’t all get along; some may be helpful. The Oracle of Courvon has a second home in the Black Mire. “Skeewiss” is shokoro for “we don’t seek conflict!”

WE JOIN THE STORY ALREADY IN PROGRESSTHIS WAS ALL ONSCREEN

Courvon Arrival
A monument says it is “The Swamp Arena.” They approached from the east, the road goes up to a ramp, then an old stone fortification. Guards were bored, waving them through. (Fortunately, no gate tax.) A single road in, a tower in the middle of town, advertisement of ladies on balconies to the left, walls painted red.

Asking around, Wayland found out the arena has tournaments once a month. Kitten asked around after Tulip, found out he was spending money and asking after the ghim (a kind of dwarf) in town, in the north settlement. King bought a fancy green silk outfit, then headed to the arena. Pickpockets start fleecing the party as they debated what to do and whether or not to scatter through the town since they had no party leader.

King headed for the arena, he was intercepted by four guards, they quoted city ordinance (possibly just made up) prohibiting carrying a strung bow in town. They arrested him and tossed him into a reinforced room/cell.

Everyone but King headed for the southern neighborhood with the red walls. The guards were relaxed and casual, as were the women. (A number of the prostitutes have chain belts.) Kitten asked around, looking for a tall man spending lots of money, maybe with a tulip helmet. Exchanged coin jogged some memory. “The Ferret’s Snout” is an inn where he had been staying. They went there, seeing a huge ferret skull hanging over the door.

Mostly guards and prostitutes there, and armwrestling in a back corner, where Vayu was watching Tulip earn money with the arm torquing. They welcomed each other, and shared introductions all around. They told Tulip Saffron Petal was back in Falatria, under Tulip’s alias as “Jacques.”

Tulip found out they were jailed because of him. Tulip told them about rescuing Ashook from the Gulldaw prison. Tulip cut them in on the dragon heist. Kumiko explained she’s hunting the dragon that killed her ninja clan—and it is Grizelle, the dragon they are hunting.

Rescuing Sherwood King
They noticed Sherwood King was missing, and Tulip figured they should look for him. He checked with Madame Elandia, leader of the Red Lanterns, who knows what’s going on in the town. Tulip took Kumiko and Kitten six blocks to consult.

Madame Elandia charged 20 gold to help, and Kumiko paid for it. Elandia suggested any misbehavior from a newcomer like King would result in going into the cages in the arena; check with Lysander, a guard. She estimated 5-25 gold to get their friend out of trouble. She wanted them to come back when they’re free. They returned to the group, and all headed to the arena.

They accosted a guard, noting Madame Elandia referred them to Lysander. They were escorted to a watch tower overlooking a 100 m across pit with a 10 m arena at the bottom. They talked to Lysander, and instead of filling out missing persons paperwork, they paid a fee for him to expedite the paperwork. “A man, wearing silk, not working with the Lanterns; should be easy to find.” The guards escorted King out with a bag on his head. King had been a well behaved prisoner, ignored by obnoxious guards.

Out of the bag, King was pleased to be reunited with the group and his gear.

Visiting the Ghim
To the south, prostitutes manage the crime. In the town core, the guards do it. In the north, crime is a problem. (The watch go in groups of 8.) Up a 2 story bluff, the buildings are sturdier and older.

Following directions, they got to a door with a symbol of a hammer on it. A ghim answered the door, and Tulip asked for Corvaglian, the reputed leader of the ghim. The grumpy doorman demanded to know their business, then let them sit in the “quarantine chamber” for ten minutes.

The leader, Corvaglian, had a multi-braided buckled beard, and he met with them in his study. Tulip asked after Grizelle’s Hoard, noting people referred him to Corvaglian, who asked for a reason to talk to them.

Eventually, he tells them they are looking for the Kuln gate, the back door, locked as only the ghim can lock it; mortals can’t batter through or dig around, they must have the key. Tulip offered him a share of dragon money, and that offended him; he likes things the way they are, with a sleeping dragon (that is not torching the local population.)

Corvaglian explained that humans are stupid, and this was next-level stupidity. Tulip mentioned some of his exploits, hoping to inspire confidence (and failing). Corvaglian tried to talk him out of going after the money. (He felt having them locked up is the right thing to do.) He grudgingly referred them to the Alabaster Oracle north of town, her investment in this would be different than his. He planned to decide what he wanted in return. (They admire the disassembled organ gun he was using as a wall hanging, and his fancy artistic firearms.) They were escorted out, and searched, then released.

They went to “The Landed Fish” with a 3 part wooden fish hanging over the door; they crash in the common room for the night.

The Alabaster Oracle
Early, in the foggy streets, they went past the ghim part of town and past the north wall, rented a boat for 10 gold, ferried across the river to a trim, square house with pale pillars in front, and a door standing open in the chill air.

They heard a gutteral sound, like mumbled chanting or running water underground. The building was open, with few signs of life and several open doors inside. Then, in the hallway, they heard swishing sound of robes; three hunched shokoro in deep cowls with hands together in their sleeves met them. “She is ready to see you.” They followed to the chamber at the end of the hall, seeing that half the building was one big room with a throne (carved like a tree, spreading across the back wall) and pale stone with veins, almost like flesh. They saw an amazing statute of an elvish woman seated on the throne, sculpted with exquisite superhuman detail. A shaft of light illuminated the center of the room. The shokoro closed the door behind them, leaving them alone with the statue.

Mosaics on the wall had been painted over. Tulip approached the light, waiting. “You’ve come a long way,” said the statue. She rose, still gorgeous. (Someone spent lifetimes animating this…) She said she has been waiting for them. She asked them to identify a guide, so she could tell them where they must go.

Vayu stepped into the light, she beckoned him closer. She took his elbow and wrist and pulled her hand down his forearm. He felt a sharp or hot or cold painless damage he didn’t know how to interpret. A diagram of the path was printed in his forearm, silvery. That was the walkway path, (like a subway map) to find the one who has what they seek. She saw them coming, but she does not know if they will arrive; she recommended they stay on the walkways.

“You seek the Frog God, for he is the only one who can open the Kuln Gate.” She seated herself, pulled her cowl down to cover her features, and became motionless. The doors opened, the hall was empty, they all left quickly. Doors drifted closed behind them, barring themselves.

Tulip told them they had a day to prepare (while the donkey and cannon arrive.) They returned to town.

Sherwood King’s Strange Desperation
King told Skritt that he would belong to him, if Skritt bought him silk pants. Skritt immediately agreed. King bought fancy pants, emerald green silk.

Frustrated by his lack of coins, King headed to find a town guard and challenge him to an archery contest. It’s warm-up for the tournament. A guard anted up for 10 gold or his clothes; he wouldn’t agree to more than 1 arena away, over King’s objection.

The guard out-shot him, and took all his fancy clothes; they’ll look great on his wife. Double or nothing? King anted up, agreeing to have sex with the guard’s daughter (including foreplay) if King didn’t win.(By now, guards gathered to watch, laughing at his nakedness; they said he’d be better off buggering a donkey than the guard’s daughter.)

King lost again. They clapped him in irons in case he tried to run once he saw the daughter, and they hung a rope around his neck and disarmed him. They sent a messenger ahead to the guard’s daughter, telling her to “file off her biscuits,” whatever that meant. King was allowed to keep his loincloth, but he was disdainful of it, and wanted to go naked.

A gentleman caller for “Pampliset” won fair and square… she charged in, shaking the earth with her waddle. He was taken into the barn. She had brackish hair, yellow eyes with vertical slits, and a greenish tinge to her skin. King and Pampliset had highly unpleasant coupling (for him, anyway).

Then he got a few moments to compose himself, and he was given a blanket and released on the street. King offered triple or nothing, and the guard laughingly declined, but gave him his weapons back. King kilted up and staggered back to the inn.

Others Amuse Themselves in Courvon
Kumiko picked pockets, and found some coin and some tightly-rolled recipes. Skritt enjoyed a lovely meal. Kitten bought a week of food for everyone in the group, about 60 servings for 1 silver each, 2 loads. Also, she bought an 8 man tent, 2 loads.

Wayland asked around after the Frog God; not many people know about it, it’s a ghim legend from way back, probably from inspired by all the shokoro (lizard man) tribes in the murk. The ghim closed a gate of some kind thousands of years ago; they were here before the elves came, and nobody knows why the elves came. They’re gone now. What’s the problem with giants? Well, they’re giants…

Vayu took Tulip with him to scout for collections of rocks, in case he needed to animate them later. There was a supply by the arena. Some broken houses in the north part of town (but Vayu didn’t want to annoy the ghim.)

Back at the inn, they smelled King before they saw him. He looked…proud. King bought clothes from the innkeeper, who collects clothes from people who die while staying here.

Arena Fighting
That afternoon, arena fighting! They went to watch, paying 5 silver a seat (it was free for locals). People who broke minor laws charged out first, fighting shokoro, who sometimes attacked with tail spins. Then an abomination from the mire was pitted against 4 volunteer town guards; it had 4 legs, like a centaur with no torso, and leg spikes—like a mutated shokoro thing. The guards knocked it down and won. Local champions strutted and fought. Lots of theater.

At sundown, they lit torches and had a music festival in the arena. Pushcarts and vendors surrounded the upper level of the arena. Then the adventurers went back to the inn and slept.

Into the Swamp
The next morning, Saffron Petal was delivered to Tulip, who was proud to take it with him into the swamp. Tulip introduced his high-quality donkey around. Kumiko began establishing a relationship, bribing the donkey with apples. It started following her hopefully.

They crossed the river again, finding the beginning of the boardwalk after 10 minutes of hiking; a pavilion, then a 2 m wide walkway, stone and wood, in fantastic condition for being so old. The walkway was misty. Vayu asked people to help gather stones, they gathered up enough rocks for him to animate a guard to help them adventure. Tulip got his cannon out and showed it off.

They followed the instructions on Vayu’s arm, traveling all day on foot on the walkways. The walkways didn’t look like they were made for travel, they were like patterns over the swamp. No benches, no campsites, etc. The walkways were elevated about 2 m over the swamp. Wayland’s survival training allowed him to set up the tent on the walkway, without nailing things anywhere, on the relatively narrow walkway. Vayu made a fire pit out of his stone guardian, planning to reconstruct it in the morning. They set guards.

The Recruiting Bandit
The next morning, they came to an intersection where they were greeted by a too-friendly man, Helvok, with backup in the marsh flanking the walkway. He suggested there were more riches back in Courvon than out in the Black Mire, he tried to recruit them for crime, offering them 10 gold a day for a week to investigate well-defended areas and plan to rob them. This evolved to threats, then the flexing and growling—

Helvok recognized Tulip, and said he should rule Courvon, or topple it for the bandits to rule, they could help as native guides. Tulip suggested the gods lead them, so the bandits opened fire. It devolved into a brutal fight. Tulip crushed the leader down at once, and the bandits fled into the marshes; the adventurers did not chase them (though Tulip bellowed at them to surrender). Looting bodies, they took the leader’s anti-leech powder, and Tuleo picked up a couple quivers of arrows.

The Frog God
As they set up camp for the second night, a hissing rose from the swamp all around. Two shokoro invited the group to come see “the master.” The party suggested they should be paid first, the shokoro said they only deal in blood and honor, not the weak crust of civilization (money). “Come with us…or die.” Vayu’s arm map said they were in about the right place. The adventurers followed the shokoro, to a ramp into the marsh.

Drums and torches started up in the mist around them in the gathering dusk. There were 20-30 gathered warrior hunter shokoro in the shifting light, in mass. It was difficult to see individuals.

About 500 m from the walkway, they found an island. They faced a statue, about 4 m cubically, of a frog with a pot belly, leaning back with blank staring eyes, draped with moss. The shokoro torches were doused, a green luminescence in the mist intensified, so it felt like they were not entirely on the island, but somehow else—this was old, predating the fey.

The frog “spoke” to them, telling them they had something it needed—freedom, mobility, and clever warm-blooded minds. It felt like they heard a voice resonating in the bones in their skulls. Tulip explained they were looking for the key to the back door; the frog noted “she” is beautiful (assuming they got the information from the Alabaster Oracle). They thought he was talking about the Oracle, and they noted certain similarities in the style if not the subject of the sculptor’s art for both.

The Frog God had the key, but could not easily return it, and so required something from them. There were three objects it lost in the Black Mire. Tulip agreed to seek them out. It showed them something like a hologram, of a massive black iron rose. Also, a basket—a flat bottom basket with a handle over the top and ends, maybe 5 m long. And finally the gift that goes with the basket; pure, otherworldly amber. Four chunks. If they bring these to the Frog God, it will give them the power to pass through the Kuln Gate.

Tulip asked how to find these things. The Frog God suggested if he knew where they were, he would not need them. When did he last see them? They were gifts given to another, he explained; come back when you have one or more. The presence faded, and the shokoro started lighting the torches again. There appeared to be about 40 shokoro out there at that point.

Questioning the Shokoro
The shokoro eyed the adventurers, half expecting they’d have to kill them. Tulip asked them where to start looking; who could we ask? Skritt wondered about the possible Alabaster Oracle house out in the Mire; the shokoro didn’t know where, they stay here. Their task is not to quest, their task is to protect.

Wayland asked the shokoro if they knew where the humans living in the swamp were, asking if any humans had raided them, suggesting the adventurers could sort them out. The shokoro said there was a port, two days walk, following the walkways, the opposite direction from the way they came. The group figured they’d go that way.

Vayu asked if any of them have had the task of questing. They hesitated, then explained the ghim “broke it.” Once there did not need to be questing, but the ghim trapped “them.” Other shokoro tell the speaker to shut up, and he swims off. Skritt asked them about the ghim.

A shaman type with an alligator helmet and bone staff stepped forward, noting that in the distant past, before “all was steady” there was a time when the outer dark came to this place. Several came and began to live in this place and spread, the ghim contained them and bound this place, so all the “knowings” are old, none are new. Time before time before time etc. it happened, but it is still there. These are their gods, and the shokoro worship them.

Vayu remembered when all the breathing of the world focused through the gods, then the gods created the Most High that plunged into the earth, and with all that energy, things came from outside, and the gods used the ghim to plug those holes. Maybe there are things here that were not banished and could not escape; the patterns of the walkways may make more sense. And there might be other gods out here…

The shokoro warned them not to “hunt the godlings” as Wayland carelessly suggested they might do. The shaman warned them, about Pluves, God of Rains, (all the shokoro hissed) and especially, “the Fruum.” They didn’t make any noise, but they dropped so nostrils and eyes were all the adventurers could see. “It is forbidden to speak further of it. You must go.”

The adventurers reluctantly returned to the walkway and camped at the edge of the shokoro territory.

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Dead Rising.
Undead Apocalypse in the Alanar River Valley

Getting Started
Tuleo and Makon traveled far away from Gothmagog after drought and coming war made it inhospitable. Jela, a crazed zealot of Thogro, hustled research showing a discrepancy in scripture signalling the end of the world hustled towards Baffram to prove it, considering his mission validated by the presence of Tuleo, Son of Thogro. Vani, a Ghim in a viking helmet and wielding hammers, was looking for a good place to build a fort.

They were aboard the cargo ship Vixen, captained by Bellowave, a kiskov, for a month. The Vixen was to resupply at Alan’s Port, then sail on to Yoria.

Their plan was to follow the River Road from Alan’s Port to the Hylar Trade Route, all the way to the other side of the island. On the Lucid Coast, get to the port city Vasiara, and get a ship to Pembriss, then on to Baffram.

A Pleasant Walking Tour
They landed in Alan’s Port and rather than finding lodging, they pushed on, sleeping by the side of the road. For several days they traveled up the River Road, surprised by how plump and happy the people seemed to be, a bit worried by the local lack of suspicion. They followed the road past the farms above the portage of Corona, and Jela insisted on paying respects in the Geldurk temple on the island there (the War Spike.) Meanwhile, as always, Tuleo had to fend off a crowd that wanted to bask in his presence while Vani grumped in the background.

They pushed on past Corona, overnighting with a nice family, Horace and Wilma Krum and their 6 children. The next day, they traveled past the end of the farmland, to the bottom of the last portage between them and Prosperity, the town on the trade route.

The Strike
Mid-morning they saw something streak out of the sky, far to the south, and a minute later they felt a shudder like an earthquake. They continued on to the portage.

They met ten cavalry soldiers who were at the base of the portage, because of reports of activity from shokoro in the area. A vigorous debate about what the sign in the sky could mean was in process; one theory was a dragon.

They had a pleasant afternoon, where Makon asked about the three kinds of shokoro around the island, the dwarf refused to ride a horse, Tuleo inspired a soldier to gift him with a horse, and Jela converted one of the dimmer soldiers to be a firm new believer in Thogro.

Night Assault
The cavalry did not post watch, trusting their horses to rouse them. The more suspicious adventurers still posted watch, and in the wee hours, as Vani went to wake Makon, spectral riders approached. The adventurers reacted faster than the cavalry, but a couple of the riders raced through the camp hacking away, cutting down the soldiers with injuries (only one fatal, but seven more injured.)

The adventurers disarmed and battered one, but it twisted impossibly, summoned its chilly scimitar through the air to its hand,and raced into the night.

Shaken, the camp tried to organize itself and tend to the wounded.

Sunrise
As Jela was building a cairn over the dead soldier, it reared up and clutched at his throat; his only weapon was his prayer book with its metal binding and corners, and he battered the body down.

The injured were getting worse, dying, and the earliest deaths were starting to lurch up to life. They built a pyre, pulling the 2 least wounded aside as Tuleo speared the reset to death and decapitated them, piling corpses and heads in the fire as the horrified and sickened others looked on.

They decided to ride back to Corona, where the Geldurk clerics of the War Spike might be able to help.

The Cottage
They stopped by the Krum family holding, to see if they wanted to go to Corona too; the homesteads appeared locked down, but there were a number of dead roaming the fields. A pack of fast-moving recent undead assaulted them, and they hewed the creatures down.

They persuaded the Krum family to come along, doubling or tripling up on horses (some were children.) They rode on with desperate speed, and only the last one in line (one of the two remaining soldiers) was pulled down by the dead as they raced away.

The Tower
They pushed the suffering horses through the last paces to cross the bridge onto Corona; a bad sign, the bridge to the island was not barricaded. They reached the war stable, but it appeared all those still healthy had pulled back into a tower, shooting anything that came close.

Persuading the tower occupants to open up while fighting off the enthusiastic dead was a challenge, but they crammed their horses in, and headed to the roof to talk to Captain Canton. He explained how their leader had taken the rest of the force out to restore order, and had not been heard from.

They hit upon a plan to get to the boats on the west side of the island to go where the riders likely didn’t go (unless they swam.) But first, to retake the compound. As Tuleo scouted by flying, noting the War Spike was still defended,and there was house fighting all through the island, Jela inspired the troops in the tower to fight.

If the adventurers could get to the gate and close it, then the troops would be willing to clear undead from the rest of the compound, so they had a secure area.

Battle of the Gate
As Makon fired on the undead with musket and pistols, Tuleo flew above them firing down like a homicidal cupid. Vani stood at the top of the ladder up Makon’s shooting post, defending it, as Tuleo carried the shrieking and frothing zealot to the gate; the undead shrank back from the words of power the zealot spewed, and together, the zealot and the son of Thogro shoved the massive gate shut, blocking the way so more undead could not run in.

Then it was down to battering waves of undead, and firing into the rest, and before long the adventurers had cleared the gate area.

Flight
Tuleo flew them across the river one by one, then they proceeded up to Spur Camp, where they found a fortified blacksmith shop. The owner, Hotch, ahd a small anvil on a pole as a weapon; they had defeated the dead that clawed their way out of the cemetery and shuffled this way, much weaker than the fresh ones on Corona.

After spending the night in the blacksmith fort, they continued on up the spur, intent on getting to the lake on the other side of the mountains and going for help. Instead of going through the mountain pass, Tuleo carried them over one by one, and they made it out of the valley of death.

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Down and Out in Gothmagog
Brothers don't shake hands--brothers HUG.

Makon Mondaviak, veteran scout.
Darrin Carter, veteran mechanic.
Tulio Miguel, divine offspring of Thogro.

The Job
Bennudis, lawyer of the Mondaviak Estate, hired Carter (in case they need to explore behind locked doors) and Tulio (Bennudis heard he was “the best”) to assist Makon in his errand to find his wayward brother and bring him back to the bedside of Makon’s father, Karistos, before the old man died.He filled them in on the mission in the old man’s imposing office in the estate.

Rudolfio, the eldest son, was last heard from two years ago when he came home for a visit and argued politics with his father. After that, no contact. But the old man wanted to reconcile, clear his conscience. Bennudis gave them a tintype of Rudolfio, a trim and handsome young man. If the adventurers returned before the old man died, they would get equal shares in a new vinyard. Otherwise, nothing. He gave them 50 ducats for expenses.

The Road to Gothmagog
They prepared to leave in the morning, while Tulio fended off advances from Karistina, the old man’s daughter (looking for ways to marry out of her lot.) They rode out in the gray rainy dawn, keeping to themselves, knowing they did not have the luxury of curiosity when they saw strange happenings on the road. After riding the better part of the day, as they approached Gothmagog they saw a hanging tree in a clearing, with a sign: Justice’s Last Stop: Next Stop, Gothmagog."

They rode over a stone bridge into the outskirts of the sprawling city. As they closed in on the university, a patrol of guards fined them for being on horseback after dark, and advised them that heavy armor and two-handed weapons were not to be carried in the city. Tulio shrugged his cloak further over his armor, and they continued.

The Hunt for Rudolfio
At the university, they arrived after dark, and were turned away from the first gate when Makon mentioned he was a veteran; the guard did not think much of the war. At the second gate, Tulio wisely interjected sparrow lore into an argument the guards were having about relative airspeeds of a swallow laden with a coconut. After this brilliant bit, they were allowed in through the gate minus the normal gratuity.

They entered the student center in its raucous glory, and asked around; Tulio glowed with cosmic energy, attracting a lot of attention, and they all questioned students about Rudolfio.

Turns out he was the life of the party, but wasn’t seen much around the university for the last six months. He quartered in the Drowned Rat tavern; they decided to have a look.

By now it was quite late, after eleven, but they grimly soldiered on in spite of their weariness. Checking with town guards, they headed out of the murky gaslight and into the darker twisting corridors of the city.

At the Drowned Rat, they quietly checked with the barkeep, who did not feel inclined to share information on anyone really. After a few false starts, they found a student and a lady of the night in the back corner, and after a few rounds of drinks, they discovered that Rudolfio was a cool guy, bought rounds for the house; if they wanted to know where he went, they might want to check with the river barge gypsy Vistanti, he was seeing a lot of a girl named Sezarina.

Ambush!
Considering the late hour, they decided to return to the inn where they arranged lodgings, near the University, in a safer neighborhood. As they headed back to The Fishook, they got lost in the maze of side streets and alleys. Predictably enough, they were attacked—but their attackers did not seem to be simple muggers.

Four men with polearms, two archers on the roof, boxed in an alley—that was bad enough, but as Makon fired his pistol and the others fought with dagger and chain mace, a man in black leather appeared. While Carter struggled with him, he managed to fire a mystic cobra at Makon—the snake bit him! Makon dropped to his knees, struggling to survive, and the mysterious snake-chucker forced his way past Carter and escaped.

The battered and bleeding party took a prisoner back to the Fishook with them, and tied him to a chair, questioning him. He was not feeling cooperative. They searched him, discovering a strange abstract blooming symbol on his left heel.

They got some sleep with Carter on guard, then he grabbed a power nap, and when they had all woken and eaten, they decided to leave their prisoner tied to the bed naked, and they took their horses and left.

Gypsy Barges
Heading down to the river front, they found the Vistanti barges, surprised to note these Vistanti were elvish (half-elven, had elven blood). They were greeted, and one of their greeters went to see if Sezarina was available. The adventurers were escorted out on a barge, and from there to another (many were tied together, and tied to the dock.)

On a pleasant barge with shrubbery and herbs growing there in planters and a tent on the hull, they had tea with a worried middle-aged couple, Gorgo and Hespahia. After a half hour of required pleasantries and hospitality (Tulio did not eat or drink, stashing the food in his sleeve for later), they were joined by Melastasya. The young woman was impatient, and explained that Rudolfio took Sezarina with him to join the Chaos Messiah Cult, now headquartered out on Leper Island. He bought into the ideology of the crazy cult, and took her sister with him. Melastasya offered to go along to get them back if they would have the courage to interfere with the Chaos Messiah.

Wanting some more manpower, they put out the call, and three more Vistanti joined up. They took a longboat out to the island, where they were meet by a pack of lepers.

Leper Island
The desperate lepers were starving, now that the clerics of Urmia who cared for them had been driven off by the Chaos Messiah and his cult. Tulio impressed them by conjuring a fish that leaped from the river, they ate it raw. They ravenously tore into the contents of the adventurer’s packs, finding things they needed to subsist; disgusted at being pawed by lepers, the adventurers let them have it, in exchange for the location of the Chaos Messiah Cult headquarters and a warning about “The Hag.”

A despairing leper begged Carter to kill him to end his suffering; as Carter recoiled in horror, Tulio calmly crushed his chain mace into the unfortunate, killing him, and tossing him into the river. “Anyone else?” Another leper came forward, was executed and dumped in the river, then Makon hustled them along.

They followed the path towards the house, and Makon scouted ahead, noting about 20 cultists with cheesy Chaos tattoos and wavy bladed shortsword daggers. He noted a blonde elvish woman leaving with some more cultists; the Vistanti told him her name was Termantha, she was the Prophetess of the Chaos Messiah, off to preach in the streets.

Assault on the Chaos Messiah
They formed a plan. Three Vistanti threw rocks at the house and then ran, and a handful of cultists chased them off, drawing down their numbers. Then Tulio emerged, shining with cosmic light, and challenged the Chaos Messiah, saying he was a false messiah and Tulio was the real thing. That brought all the cultists out, and their leader.

The Chaos Messiah was huge, neckless, rippling with muscle, his teeth filed and nails driven into his skull in patterns. A massive chaos cross was tattooed all over his torso, and his leather pants jingled with chains and studs. As he tried to intimidate Tulio unsuccessfully, Makon drew a bead on his head from the forest; the bullet struck with deadly force, blowing the Chaos Messiah’s head off.

This did not dismay his followers; on the contrary, they cheered as his staggering corpse bulged and distended, then tore, and a protoplasmic wad of blood and puss squidged loose and swarmed at Tulio!

Its acid gushed at him, hissing and burning through his armor as Carter leaped to his aid. Cultists swarmed Carter, but he activated his spring-loaded heavy hammer, crushing down four cultists in seconds. The Hag leaped out a window to join the fray, and Makon coolly picked her off too, a head shot driving life out of her and sending her corpse sprawling, her wicked and corrupt weapon hissing death in to the grass only.

Tulio fought for his life, and Makon fired through the cultists to try to help, as the obscenity from the stars slathered its corruption at him. It yanked his morning star away and dissolved it, and as he considered whether or not to punch it, Makon got a final shot in that blew its core apart.

The cultists screamed and ran away, frantic. The Vistanti returned from the woods, dragging Rudolfio as he struggled; he was tattooed, his teeth filed, his head shaved, a cultist himself. Melastasya came out of the house with the concubines, freeing them—one was Sezarina.

They were unenthused about searching the greasy, rickety building, so they torched it instead. It fell into a sinkhole under the building, leaving a smoking pit.

Job well done, they retreated to the boat, and sailed across the river, putting in and getting their horses. Makon bought a horse for his brother with the last of their funds, and they tied him to it. He was sobbing as they rode out of town, and cursing and spitting, hysterical and frantic.

Sezarina had nothing to say to Rudolfio, but coldly went her way, pausing only to kiss each of her rescuers chastely on the cheek and promise if they ever needed aid from the barge Vistanti of Gothmagog they would have it if she had any say. Melastasya took her home.

The Return
They steeled themselves to pain and exhaustion, riding through the night without stopping for more than short breaks, and in the small hours before the dawn they arrived at the Mondaviak Estate.

They hauled what was left of Rudolfio in, and made it to the old man’s room as his last breaths were hard-fought. The old man reached out with a trembling hand and touched his quiescent son, then passed on. Bennudis made good on his promise, and willed the vineyard to the adventurers.

However, for the first few years of its operation, it will need some additional funding to be successful. So, looks like they need to find another job…

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The Great Pirate Jailbreak
Lizard pirates and an undead turtle prison.

Timothy the Tulip, treasure-hunting gladiator.
Vayu, pistol-wielding earth wizard.

12.17.11 IRL, Iaram 14, 8912 IG.

Pembriss Island.
The Tulip had six weeks in Baffram, with associated hijinks, acquiring his war donkey and cannon in the meantime. The adventure began as he arrived on Pembriss island, looking to consult with the Pembriss Scholars, an elven enclave that was sure to have more information on the Senchilian Elvenforge’s layout and possible defenses that may have survived the Elvenforge being taken over as a dragon lair 450 years ago.

He led his war donkey out to the massive fortress (Ischiala Kelvaes, the Fortress of Pages), noting the round doors along the base of the wall and wondering what they were for. He had a brief and unsatisfying conversation with the impolite door guard, who suggested he could not enter without a recommendation from a reputable scholar—a recommendation he did not have and did not realize he needed. Irritated and broke, Tulip trudged back towards the port.

On the outskirts of town he passed the Searing Suds tavern, where Vayu was morosely nursing a drink and thinking unkind thoughts about the Pembriss Scholars. Vayu flagged Tulip down, noting he had an unsatisfying encounter with the scholars, and finding out that he was looking for a scholar with some knowledge of an elven location in the area.

Well, Vayu’s friend Harvin Ashook was a former Pembriss scholar who was ejected from the order and imprisoned for helping Vayu on the side, doing some research for him. It rankled Vayu that he felt responsible for his friend being in prison, and he wanted to break him out.

Vayu didn’t know much about where Ashook was being held, except that it was an amphibious prison named Gulldaw guarded by elves, big eels, and crabs, and roughly the area. But he had a small boat, and a plan; go to Khorhuuk Island a few days sailing away, defeat the leader of the Axefall Pirates, and use their ship to conduct the rescue! Not much of a plan, but… he didn’t have a better idea.

Tulip agreed to help out. Not knowing how to sail, they hired Mr. Peg, a long-time sailor with a peg leg, to sail them to the island and look after the boat (and donkey, Saffron Petal,) while they explored how best to suborn the pirates.

Khorhuuk Island.
After a four day voyage, they set foot on the strangely shaped island. Tulip And Vayu hiked along the beach, then climbed up into the jungle and around to the pirate camp where lizard men celebrated a recent victory. The jungle was thick with territorial owl-monkeys, and snakes, and big pteradons circled lazily over the tree canopy watching for careless food.

Closer to the pirates, Tulip and Vayu saw a kiskov (minotaur bison), an elven woman (looked like a cleric of Thogro, the sea god), and about a hundred reptillian pirates (Shokoro) celebrating and eating dolphin and tuna on the beach, with the Axefall (a captured elven galley) at anchor in the bay.

Tulip brazenly approached, telling them he wanted the ship and crew for a jailbreak. The kiskov captain (Boomcrusher) ordered ten of the crew to jump him, and Tulip handily smacked them down. Tulip played the hissing crowd, and maneuvered the kiskov into single combat to decide if the pirates would help or not.

So the elven woman drew a circle in the sand with her staff, and the two massive muscled monsters wrestled, human gladiator pitting his sinews and thews against the authoritative monstrosity of the kiskov’s depthless strength. Tulip tossed the kiskov out twice, then was tossed out himself once, then flung the kiskov out of the ring for final victory!

The captain left in a huff, and the lizards set about redoubling their celebration. Vayu followed the elven woman (her name was Geshinara) out into the jungle to where she slept, and proposed she help them. She agreed to help, still feeling conflicted, for 500 gold. Vayu agreed.

Gulldaw Prison
The next day they picked up their little boat, Mr. Peg, and Saffron Petal the war donkey, and set sail. After an 8 day voyage, they closed in on the amphibious prison, Gulldaw.

Geshinara of Thogro had explained on the voyage that the prison was a vast undead turtle, 120 meters long, with a fortress on its back. The only entrance and exit was the mouth. The regenerating necrotic matter of the interior of the turtle was shaped, cut, and arranged to form a multi-storey prison, occupied by crabs the size of dinner tables and eels the size of a man that squirmed through it. You had to really annoy the Pembriss Scholars to get sent to this prison.

They fashioned a desperate plan; sail up behind it (easy enough, as it left bobbing chunks of dead turtleflesh, the sharks swarmed around it and ate it, and some of them became undead in turn) and they could follow the stinking swathe of corruption to easily catch the slow-moving prison.

Once behind it and too close for the ballista from the fortress on its back to hit them, Tulip would use his cannon to blow a hole in the meat of the hindquarters between the shell and plastron, and they could make their way into it. Then, find Ashook, don’t get bogged down in battle with elven guards, crabs, and eels, and escape.

They got behind the turtle, sporting a few new ballista spear decorations on the galley, then they managed to climb a cable they fired up to the turtle butt, and Tulip… well, he fired the cannon into the undead meet of the turtle’s backside, and blew a hole big enough for them to… to wriggle in.

We will gloss over the horrific details of the journey through the turtle’s interior. They found an elf guard who they interrogated, and they found Ashook’s cell, rescued him, and pushed out a plate on the back shell that was loosened so they could dump waste out. The three reptilian pirates leaped to the water, smacking down and finding sharks; one made it back.

Both the wizard and the scholar (as well as the cannon) hung from the mighty Tulip as he climbed along the shell, then slid down the back in a hail of arrows, catching on at the last moment to dangle over a dizzying drop to the sea.

Spotting him, the elven cleric used her wind powers and swung the mast around so the two smaller men fell on the belled out sail and slid down to only smack down on the deck with some force. Tulip fell harder, but could take it; the ship heeled about and fled, the jailbreak complete.

On the way back, Tulip cut Vayu into the treasure hunt, as well as Geshinara and Ashook. The four of them began to think through how best to take the next steps, taking full advantage of the lore that Ashook offered.

Khorhuuk Island.

They had to return to their base because they lost 25 of the 50 Shokoro pirates they sailed with, and they needed more. They extensively discussed their next move. Upon landing on the island, Tulip decided they also would need more ships, and that meant a captain could be useful. He and Vayu decided to go looking for Boomcrusher, the kiskov captain.

Vayu made a rock monster, and they followed the monster as it plowed through the vines and brush of the jungle. They found the kiskov’s tracks by fresh water, and followed the trail to a camp site. He was wounded, and wary. They explained he could have his crew back, and they suggested he join them on the treasure hunt.

He explained he had been hunted by a beastmaster sent by the Pembriss Scholars, fighting monsters and beasts sent into his camp every night. After a brief discussion, they agreed it was in everyone’s best interests to find the beastmaster and stop him to death.

They spotted him flying a pteradon with his hair flowing in the wind, and they followed him to a cliff face where the pteradon entered a cave halfway up the 60 meter cliff. They decided to take him there, where he would be feeling safest.

Vayu sent his rock monster some distance away to cause a ruckus randomly chucking boulders. Not long after, a little bird flew to the beastmaster and told him. The beastmaster flew out to investigate, and they climbed down the rock face to his cave; Vayu rode on Tulip’s back for the difficult climb, but the kiskov, used to sailing and mining, was a skilled and powerful climber.

They found the neat little camp the beastmaster set up in his cave. Apparently, he had been sending messages tied to bird legs to Pembriss with information on his investigations, and the movements of Tulip (which by now were connected to the jail break.) Vayu made himself a stone guardian out of loose boulders, to help out, and they waited…

After dark, the beastmaster returned; or, at least, a pteradon did. Tulip couldn’t see the beastmaster, but decided not to wait. He fired the cannon in the deafening confined space of the cave, pulping the pteradon; the beastmaster hucked a hatchet at him and leaped out into space, calling for his pteradon brothers to catch him!

Two failed rolls later, he landed 30 meters down with a bit of a splat.

They spent the night in the cave, and climbed down the next morning to make sure he didn’t make it. They found his corpse, and the pteradon, and they were attacked by a bog octopus, the dreaded devilfish!

A cannon shot blew a big chunk out of the devilfish, but it perversely continued to fight until they waded out into the bog with it and struck it repeatedly with their weapons. By that time, local scavengers were gaining courage, with all those corpses around, so they climbed back out.

They returned to their camp to plan out their next moves…

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The Road to Baffram
The Road Grows Wild and Dangerous

Adventurers:

Timothy the Tulip, mighty gladiator.
Tibbers the Musical, inspirational goblin.
Skritt the Sneakthief, goblin packing firearms.
Kitten the Deadly, cute little gambler.
Wayland the Wild, penniless hunter.

(This adventure uses the “Road to Baffram” scenario. Players: if I missed something important, please let me know and I’ll update this.)

They began as the caravan eased into Gretchia after a long day’s trudge. They headed to the Unsteady Wench inn for some relief. Tulip had been dragging a hand cart loaded down with the wealth he and Skritt had amassed so far in their adventures. Tulip paid Honest Pete to look after the cart in the stable, then they headed inside—where all the local feminine attention was handily absorbed by Tulip’s manliness.

Tulip questioned them about the road ahead, finding out that it was dangerous, a sand wizard barred the way, there was some strange wind that stripped victims to the bone, and other good chilling tales of the road. Then he took his pack of ladies out to the barn, and to the hayloft.

Wayland, penniless, took a look around town. On his way back, he noticed a pack of sand creatures and three giant rock monsters lumbering towards the inn! He hollered for backup, and his allies rushed out as the monsters burst onto the scene.

In the ensuing carnage, Skritt destroyed one with repeated shots of his pistol. Tulip destroyed one with massive blows. The third fell to Wayland, who clambered atop it and knifed it repeatedly, severing the energies that held it together. Oddly, the rock monsters were interested in destroying the horses!

Meanwhile the sand creatures tried to kill everyone in the open area, then tore the front off the barn, while some raced through the inn starting fires. Kitten held her own, fending off sand monsters as they viciously flowed at her.

Since property damage was all the rage, Tibbers hunched on the roof of the barn and tore up shingles, finding ones that were aerodynamic enough to pitch down at the sand creatures, bursting them. He also played his new instrument, a three stringed lute/ukelele instrument for goblins called an impythri. His stirring stylings (vaguely reminiscent of Castle Vania music) inspired the whole group to greater efforts.

With the inn half destroyed, but all the horses saved, and no one killed except sand minions and rock monsters, the triumphant heroes settled in for the evening. Tulip found a blue tarp to use for a tent in the barn, and he garnished his reward from the very appreciative bar maids, who also bathed and groomed him.

When he returned to the inn common room, an old man approached the group, asking them if they would escort his daughter to Baffram for 200 gold per human; they bargained him up to adding 150 for each goblin too. So for 900 gold here, and 900 on the other end, they agreed to the job. Tibbers was suspicious, noting the old man was more spry than he pretended.

They met his daughter, Adelle, an innocent young lady, all blonde and blue eyed. Then they negotiated with the caravan leader, who was selling off his stuff as the road to Baffram was too dangerous for him to continue. After carousing with him, and the goblin Skritt’s starry-eyed plea, he sold two horses and a cart to the travelers.

They loaded the carts with their sacks of gold and some supplies for the road; firewood, horse fodder, water, and so on. Then, with Adelle, they headed out. (Also, during this time, Skritt became Wayland’s patron, funding the hunter’s expenses in exchange for having a sort of pet human.)

Some ways out, following the flags, they hit a supernatural sandstorm. Tulip and Wayland scouted, and staggered back badly sand-burned and disoriented after having seen sand-monsters awaiting the travlers. They tried feinting around the sandstorm wall, and in so doing, discovered it moved with them. Skritt waited as the wall moved, and snapped off a shot with his pistol, winging the wizard hiding in the rocks!

As the sand monster and sandlings attacked, Tulip guarded one horse from the rock monster, Kitten guarded the other from sandlings. They managed to hold their own, and pull victory from danger, and Skritt killed the wizard. Adelle killed the rock monster by flinging her only knife into it’s eye, helping them carry the battle. They regrouped, examining the wizard’s corpse and taking his staff, then moving on down the road.

The next day they followed the road from the desert flags to the badlands, the road now marked with waystones carved with the Khuselb Wizard sigil. Fortunately, they did not attract the attention of massive flying creatures, hyenas, snakes, and other menaces in the desert.

However, they reached a rockslide across the path, and saw heat mirages; Tulip investigated, to find a swarming monster of unfocus, eyes, fangs, and whip-like tendrils. As he battled the eye-smarting and sanity-bending creature, Wayland and Skritt maneuvered to the cliff over head. Wayland fired into the fight, and Tulip defended himself as best he could, and they brought the creature down; like a puma with six legs, and flesh whips from its shoulders. Other monsters cried out in the rocks, outraged but not to the point of attack—not yet.

They emptied the carts, carried them through the rock slide, leading the horses, and reloaded everything on the other side. Meanwhile Skritt shot one of the strange creatures that was flanking them, scoring a solid hit, chasing it off.

Piling the monster corpse in the cart, they pushed on as fast as they could.

Later, they found a watering hole, and Tibbers found three-toed bird-like tracks around it; Wayland identified slith sign, and after the experience Tibbers and Tulip had surviving the Lopelia fort, they urged the party to go on as fast as they could!

Eventually, they got close to Baffram; but there was a wide stone arch over a chasm, separating the end of the badlands and the beginning of the high grassy steppes. As they headed for the road, a terrifying troll confronted them!

They put up a fierce struggle, firing pistols, arrows, knives, and whatever came to hand at the monster as the warriors slashed and stabbed at the monster. As fast as they rammed lethal damage into it, the monster’s wounds sealed before their eyes! Finally they got the upper hand, and the creature retreated, rather than fighting to the death. They let it go, limping across the bridge with their treasure.

Finally they reached Baffram, passing through it’s granite gates for a hefty fee. Adelle told them she needed to check in with her uncle, and they would get paid tomorrow. She asked that they stay at the Thrown Shoe. They did. She headed to the bathroom, and Kitten followed, noting her sliding out the window! Kitten gave chase, yelling, and the goblins followed, scampering into the ladies room and darting out the window, pursuing Kitten, who pursued Adelle.

The goblins hollered “hobbalobbalobba hobba lobba” as they ran; a goblin trait, they have a third lung to allow them to do so, to allow them to be tracked by noise in the endless dark. So Wayland and Tulip could chase the goblins.

Through a baker’s basement kitchen (where the goblins were covered in flour) and all through the back alleys, until Adelle failed a jump and fell into the canal; Tibbers was not about to let her escape, and he flung himself into the canal, swimming after her.

Adelle swam under a grate, and climbed out of the sewer on a stone shelf, muttering curses to herself in the Assassin’s tongue; she did not see that Tibbers still pursued, and he tracked her till she left the sewers and took to the street, dressing in a kitchen wench’s garb and heading for the Nylak Trade Guildhouse.

Tibbers attacked her as she headed in, bloodying her with his knife, but she slipped around him and called to the guard for help, escaping into the compound. Tibbers grimly followed, melded with the shadows, tracking her as she changed clothes to hooker wear, and headed up a tower back stair, telling a guard she had an “appointment.” Tibbers interrupted, using his illusion of innocence to persuade the guard that she was an assassin. A tussle followed, and the guard overwhelmed her, so Tibbers escaped to avoid awkward questions.

Reunited, the travelers shared their experiences of the chase, and then reflected that while they didn’t get the extra 900 gold, they were still totally rich; time to plan adventures in Baffram!

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The Tireless Archer
Tomb in the Frozen Mountains

Adventurers:

Makimo: Delicate Oriental scholar with a pistol.
Eduardo: Jaunty gambler.
Pepper: Primordial Ape with aviator goggles and a very heavy wrench.
Kumiko: Low profile ninja.
Battlin’ Bill of Baffram: Incognito swashbuckler.

Makimo came into possession of some secret information on a tomb hidden in the mountains, and she hired a raiding party and Effson with his Skyglider to help get to it and check it out; that’s all they knew.

During the 12 hour dirigible ride to the mountains, they discovered Bill’s fellow pirate crew had been hung, so he escaped on this mission (avoiding detection by trading his magnificent hat for an open-faced helm). Eduardo was lucky, then unlucky (in that order) in love and had to flee—still wearing his stylish brown fur-lined hood. Pepper wanted to build his own dirigible fleet somedway. Kumiko didn’t have much to share, but she did put on her hunter-safety orange ninja hood.

Because they were a bunch of lightweights, Pepper agreed to carry bundled fur robes so they could huddle in them and warm up to rest and heal as needed.

They found a roiling wall of storm in the mountains, high above the snow line. And, on a promontory, a shrine with a rope bridge leading into the storm.

Before they all rappelled down, the sharp-eyed Makimo spotted carnivorous snow apes blending against the snow, patiently waiting for their prey to come within reach. She blasted away with her pistol, the soft lead ball pulping the corded muscle of the apes. Hot lead and Kumiko’s terrifyingly dangerous shuriken, as well as Eduardo’s well-flung daggers, raked the furious mass of carnivorous apes below.

Pepper slid down and engaged the carnivorous snow apes in vicious ape-on-ape battle. It didn’t go too well, as the charging apes caught him off guard and tossed him around. Only his profound inhuman vitality kept him alive. In sliding down the rope upside-down, Bill got a bit tangled, and as the carnivorous snow apes tried to play piñata he fired upon them with gristly results. Eduardo slid down to help Pepper, only to discover much to his dismay that the snow apes were a lot bigger from close up. By the time everyone was down, a bloody Pepper roared a challenge to the snow apes that successfully encouraged them to re-think frontal assault as a successful tactic.

They took some time to bind up wounds Bill and Pepper took in the fight, and Eduardo found some mosaics in the shrine, indicating it was for people who climbed the mountain and needed somewhere to rest. Also, pictures of a magnificent barbarian archer king, and wizards.

They headed for the rope bridge, sending Pepper across first. He hooted the all-clear, and everyone traversed the bridge with no significant problems. Once on the other side, they were confronted by strange mutters and wailing from the vents where concentrated storm would sometimes gush out, and a falling boulder inspired adrenaline-spiked reflex scrambles to keep from pulping the whole group.

As they crossed the hazards of the pass, Pepper headed up to a doorway in the rock, noting it said “Restful Dead.” On a whim, he broke it open and sniffed inside. Skeletal remains attacked him, trying to pull him into the tomb as he flailed at them, their bony fingers colder than ice.

By now, the rest of the group was at the base of an icy stone bridge leading into the fog. Pepper retreated with Makimo, and they all headed across the bridge, leaving the disturbed dead behind.

They reached the grand entrance to the tomb itself, and as they peered up into the vast dim of the open antechamber, chill balefire lights ignited some ten meters up or so, then a frost giant stepped into view! As they quickly consulted on what to do, the giant lifted his axe and glowing orbs spilled from it, dropping into snow and creating snow warriors animated with the gristly spirits of the dead.

There were ten of the warriors blocking the way up the stairs to the giant, who told them to go away in the ancient elemental language Vetchiu. Then battle was joined!

As Eduardo and Pepper smashed into the skirmishing mass of dead ice warriors, Bill and Makimo opened fire repeatedly with their pistols, from the cover of the statues ending the bridge. Kumiko used her remarkable throwing expertise to inflict horrific carnage with shuriken.

As the giant prepared to enter the fray, Makimo snapped off a shot that hit him right between the eyes, and Bill followed with a shot that vanished into the beard in front of his throat. The massive giant tottered, then crashed down dead, and all the snow warriors dissolved.

The raiders cautiously examined his chambers, finding big tables with samples of cold influenced by magic (Makimo told them the labels included such odd elemental titles as Secrecy Storm Wind, Snowsoul Extract, Vault Ice, Enchantment Dandruff, Guardian Breath.) The fire pit was next to a pile of snow ape bones, and the bed was snow ape hides.

Exploring further, they found an ice throne against the wall. Pepper climbed up and proudly prepared to hold court. Eduardo saw through the throne to the passage it blocked; ever accommodating, Pepper climbed down and shoved/broke the throne until they could get through.

On the other side, they found a 6 meter across glassy tunnel going up at a 45 degree angle, with a heap of bones at the bottom. To the side, a hole to outside had been hacked by a giant axe. The first 2/3 of the tube were marked up by the giant using the axe and greaves to try to climb to the top—and bloodstains on the ice.

Pepper looked up the long tube, and an animated statue with a longbow thudded an arrow into him for his trouble. He stepped back and plucked it out with a shrug.

The group wrangled best tactics, some thinking a run up the tube covered by fire support would help, others all for going around outside. Eventually, Makimo and Bill traded fire with the statue, Kumiko crawled over the harsh broken mountainside clawed by icy winds, and Pepper carried Eduardo over the outside path too.

Seems the giant had gotten fed up with the challenge and made a way around, and some of them took it. As musket balls and feathered shafts whipped back and forth down the glassy approach, the intrepid climbers managed to get to the top and climb down through a hole hacked in a stone dome by a giant axe.

Kumiko darted across the round room, flinging shuriken at the stone statue, knocking chips off. The statue moved out of line of fire of the glassy approach, intending to finish Kumiko off, when Pepper and Eduardo joined the fray.

The statue had suffered from repeated gunshot wounds, and been cracked by cunningly-placed shuriken. Pepper leaped at it and shattered its head.

Panting and victorious, the group looted the tomb, carrying away a set of evil books, some giant chests of money, and the longbow and quiver set. They won!

(Happy Birthday, Mom!)

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