Old School Hack--the Fictive Way

Awesomeness in Oscelot
Adventure 1

Two characters, Brenna the sneaksy thief and Timothy the Tulip, enormous gladiator. They were in the town of Oscelot, in a tavern, the Boot Tongue. Tulip accepted a big guy’s challenge to arm wrestle, for the prize of a music box. Beat him; the guy wanted his music box back, so Tulip beat him arm wrestling again; then the guy wanted to fight, so Tulip beat him some more. When the guy swung a chair at him, he tugged the chair out of the guy’s hands and knocked him cold. Left a note in his belt that if he wanted the music box back, he’d have to tell Tulip why.

So the belligerent arm wrestler was rolled and tossed in the street shoeless, and Tulip was toasted by admirers, and showered with job offers. Not only was Tulip huge and strong, but he had a bastard sword, chain mace, enormous sledge hammer, and big spiked gauntlet strapped to him.

After about an hour, Brenna made her move. She had been gleefully picking pockets during the arm wrestling match, but she was on a mission to check on her friend, a seedy wizard named Hector. She didn’t want to go alone, as he kept rough company, but she was worried about him. The fighter she was going to meet didn’t show, so she offered Tulip 10 gold to escort her to the Tower Annex where Hector lived. He agreed, and they headed out into the rain swept night of Oscelot.

Upon arriving at the Tower Annex, leaning over the fast-moving river, they knew something was wrong. The doors hung open, and the place smelled terrible. Checking it out, they found four guys hanging around the foyer, dressed in leather and canvas with masks. A melee started, and didn’t go well for the intruders in masks. Now seriously worried about her friend, Brenna led the charge upstairs, where they bested a number of the intruders; but some of the intruders belched a hideously noxious gas (described as industrial park mixed with skunk roadkill) that choked the room and made fighting difficult.

Several more had Hector at knife-point tied to a chair. Brenna flung a knife to cut the cord and drop the chandelier on Hector and his hostage-takers, and from there it was a swift matter to dispatch the stinky foes.

Hector explained they were Stenchites, they wanted in on his upcoming plan. He was collaborating with Albion, an albino elf with a lead on getting to Sordeg’s Retreat. Sordeg, a famous fighter centuries ago, had a retreat with a trophy room. There, he had a mural map with sites he famously dealt with, and one was the elven forge that was conquered by a dragon–Grizelle’s Horde. Surely Sordeg’s Retreat would have other pawn-able treasures! And Hector owes Mongrok the Orc Lord of Oscelot (an underworld figure) 700 gold by Monday.

If the Stenchites found Hector, Albion might be in trouble too. They headed into a bad part of town, to a basement entry to what looked like an abandoned block of buildings left to squatters and degenerates. Hector suggested he’d look after the rear exit, and left Tulip and Brenna to go in the “front.”

There, in the cellar, they battled a number of Stenchites as well as a toad-thing that spat restrictive rotten-toffee-like gluey expectoration on them. Tulip lined up a barrel from the cellar stores, and as reinforcements raced in he kicked it at them, bowling for Stenchites. Those still up quickly crashed to the ground beneath mighty swings of his chain mace or spiked gauntlet. Brenna slew the toad-thing with a flung dagger to the back of its throat–it croaked.

Bloodied and panting, they wasted no time in retracing the path of the reinforcements, coming to a hidden library where an albino elf was being tormented by a huge mass of Stenchites and their leader, a lanky fellow with a chain flail complete with thorns welded on the links.

Tulip gallantly defended Brenna as she flung knives into the surging mass of foes. The leader ordered some lackeys to take Albion off, then he joined in, firing a stench-ball of energy into Tulip and gagging him for a few seconds while the henchmen gleefully hacked away. Then the leader withdrew after his forces, leaving Brenna and Tulip to the tender mercies of his Stenchites.

Finally victorious atop a steaming mass of stinky foes, Brenna and Tulip had a decision. Rest here, or push on before the Stenchites escape? They clutched at their wounds and pursued through the dark tunnels. They found the rearguard and dispatched them with ease, and just when they thought the leader had escaped with Albion, he headed back towards them!

Hector had put the rest of the minions to sleep, and the leader retreated back this way with his prize, Albion. But he met his match as Tulip and Brenna slashed away, puncturing him with daggers and the hideously deadly gauntlet. He toppled beneath their repeated blows, then Hector joined them, and they took Albion back to his library.

Stay tuned for next time, when we find out if Albion and Hector can find Sordeg’s Retreat and make enough money to keep Hector out of the claws of Mongrok the Orc Lord of Oscelot!

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An Oscelot of Trouble
Sordeg's Retreat

9.23.11 In game, Thursday, Foover month, 78921.

  • Tibbers goblin with a beanie skullcap.
  • Skritt goblin with a shaved head.
  • Wayland hunter with an open-face samurai helmet.
  • Timothy the Tulip with an open face helm with a yellow plume and a tulip painted on the side.
  • Brenna sneaksy thief with a flambouyant hat and a white plume.
  • Kitten gambler with a tall, conical hat.

A seedy wizard named Hector hired agents to go to various taverns and offer work to adventurers. Those who responded met in the snug of the Keystone, an inn built over an arch to a gate into the inner city.

Hector paid all who showed up 5 gold, as promised. Then he turned to Albion, an albino elf, to explain the expedition.

Albion reviewed the history of Oscelot. The town was built to logistically support pilgrims and fellow adventurers who came to visit Sordeg’s Retreat. In the old books, Sordeg’s Retreat is described as being in the cliffs above Oscelot (which is surrounded on 2 sides by cliffs.) But Albion realized that Oscelot used to be in the valley below, and was moved up onto this cliff after repeated flooding and rock slides. So, the cliff over Oscelot used to be the cliff Oscelot is now built upon!

Underwhelmed by the party’s blank stares in response to his brilliant research, Albion hurried on. The entrance to the Retreat used to have stairs down to the valley, but a rock slide wiped them out. He hired Effson, an elf with a dirigible, to help them find the site so they can go in and see what treasure they might acquire.

As the briefing was winding up, the sharp-eared Skritt heard a ruckus down the street. Upon poking his head out to investigate, Hector drew it back quickly as an arrow thudded into the window frame. Right! And the briefing was over.

As they hurried downstairs, they passed through the main room, where a wedding was occurring. (Wedding music had played all through the briefing; apparently the bride took her time in deciding whether or not to show up.) Passing the back row, Brenna just couldn’t help herself, and she dipped into some pockets.

The father of the bride saw this, yelled “Thief!” (which did not improve the solemnity or celebration of the event), and charged at Brenna. She whipped a knife up at the chandelier overhead, snapping it (it was a near thing; she had to lean like a bowler, and the knife path curved to hit the cable just right.) The chandelier crashed down, pinning the father of the bride to the floor; the mother of the bride golf clapped.

A grand melee threatened, as wedding guests reacted to the disruption. Half the characters (including Hector, of course) scampered outside. Tulip, Brenna, and Wayland matched themselves against the assembled wedding guests. As a wave of them pummeled Tulip trying to get to Brenna, Wayland tried to fling one guest at a pile of other guests, thwarted when the fop dug his nails into the back of the chair, squealing as his kicking legs flipped his tunic up and revealed he had displaced his stuffed codpiece with all the thrashing.

The characters outside saw a mass of what Hector identified as Stenchites coming; lots of warriors, and several toads, and a big riding beast that looked unpleasant. They split up, Hector and Kitten going one way and the goblins going with the rest of the group. Hector mentioned they were to meet at the Ariel Plaza, and they went their separate ways.

Brenna and Wayland slipped around the guests trying to block their way, but Tulip was blocked; only one guest successfully stood in his way, as long as it took Tulip to bash him in the chest and knock him down, breathless, strolling over his prone form.

One of the goblins successfully harvested some rats from the garbage while hiding, and Hector did his best to flirt with Kitten; only one of those efforts had remotely appetizing aftereffects. Soon they found themselves at the Ariel Plaza, a lovely vista with tall pylons and a railing, overlooking a 200 meter drop down the cliff side upon which Oscelot was built.

A 10 meter long dirigible was docked to a pylon on the plaza, with several boonwings menacingly perched atop the bag, eyeing the goblins hungrily. Here began the tradition of goblins riding on Tulip and Wayland for ease and safety. It was not easy for everyone to work up the nerve to climb up the pylon with the dizzying gulf on one side; only Tulip seemed to enjoy it enough to go more than once, trying to lend his depthless confidence to the more timid in the party.

They cast off, with a boonwing unmooring them. As they drifted into the gathering dusk, they made arrangements to sleep aboard the dirigible, with the goblins snuggling up to those they hoped would protect them in case hungry boonwings snuck in. Hector noted as party leader he’d get two shares of the treasure; the rest of the group didn’t say much in response, eyeing the skinny wizard and thinking their own thoughts.

In the morning, Effson mounted a cannon in the cabin of the dirigible. After a few morning shenanigans, the group was ready to go; Effson fired a grapple and line at the mountainside after the sharp-eyed characters identified the half-buried entry to what could only be Sordeg’s Retreat.

The characters had an adventurous time zip-lining down from the dirigible to the broken mountain side. Brenna got stuck, hanging over the dizzying drop, and Skritt took her another cable to help slide down. Eventually they all made it, and Effson released the cable and drifted off. Tulip coiled the cable and carried it with them. They didn’t notice until later that somehow Hector didn’t make it down with them, remaining on the dirigible.

Wayland noticed tracks of spiny rock crawlers, carnivorous predators about the size of an anteater. Going into the retreat, they found a room full of tribute and gifts of regard, all of them centuries old. And they found five spiny rock crawlers, four skulking through the tributes, and one clinging to the roof. They dispatched the crawlers, mostly with ranged weapons, flinging knives and firing arrows through the heroic kitsch. Tulip crushed two in single combat, and one charged the archers to be mowed down before reaching them.

Tibbers became Tulip’s weapon caddy at this point, clinging to his back and offering him the right weapon at the right time. Also, this began an escalating hero-worship, with Tibbers coming up with oil to rub on Tulip’s muscles.

Pleased with their victory, they proceeded on to a large room with a dais on the far end, and a green orb on a stand. The walls had murals that had been stripped of gold and looted, but there were runes across the floor and walls that blocked the way in. “Do not disturb lightly,” the runes said in the language of magic.

Wayland was first across, then the rest, and only Brenna couldn’t do it. Tulip fired her up with an inspirational speech, and she eventually managed. Then they looked into the green orb, seeing a scene of trees, a trail, a lake at the end. They touched it, and were all transported through the crystal.

They noticed the place was manicured, very well tended. In no time, they were intercepted by deer-headed warriors armed with bows, with packs of hunting rabbits. Wayland climbed a tree, the others clustered around the base, and they parlayed. The deer-heads told them to go back, they insisted they wanted to explore.

It was on the edge of violence when Tulip asked them how they resolved challenges (since they couldn’t have a cook-off, not cooking their food, or so any of the other challenges the characters suggested.) They had head butting contests to settle things. He accepted the challenge! A pudgy dumb deer-headed warrior trotted up, and Tulip butted heads with the deer-headed warrior.

Impossibly, the human was still standing and only slightly cross-eyed, knocking the bone-pated deer out cold with a single mighty forehead whack! Overcome with grudging respect, the deer –heads escorted the characters to the shore of the lake, insisting that they not go anywhere else, especially not to the domed building of Sordeg’s Retreat.

Tibber’s increasingly disturbing hero-worship escalated, as he skipped along before Tulip spreading rose petals in his path.

Once at the shore of the lake, they encountered a moose-headed warrior, at least twice as big as the deer-headed warriors. (They also saw the hunting rabbits drag a subdued raccoon out of the brush for the deer-headed warriors. Disturbing.)

The moose-headed warrior demanded to know what they were doing here. Being a gambler, Kitten gambled; she explained she was a great-great-granddaughter of Sordeg, here to visit the places he had been on a kind of pilgrimage. The moose-headed warrior softened, believing her lie, and allowed them to visit the retreat itself. But stay out of the north closet.

The rotunda had a built in recliner throne, open vista on the twilight lake (always a balmy twilight here), three watery women strumming harps and hanging out, a coat on one wall and a sword on another. (And two closets to the north—forbidden, with keep out signs.)

Tulip talked to the water women, who did not have any sense of time passing (how long it was since Sordeg was here last.) They knew that the men had itchy glue in them, and offered to harvest it, so the men could relax and be sleepy. Tempted, they declined.

Skritt checked out the tail coat, The Coat of Starlight. (They had plaques.) It was a gift from Forgess Maesha, for saving the Senchilian Elvenforge from disaster, by slaying a dragon they named Gris. He took the coat and stuffed it in his sack; it wasn’t locked in glass or secured in any way.

Wayland took the sword, Lash of Peristrina. Sordeg’s wife Chuliet was the last one who could bear the blade (of the bloodline of Ardlian) and she was eaten by a dragon twenty years before Sordeg died.

Tulip relaxed on the recliner throne, and in joining him there, Skritt noticed the ceiling was a mural mosaic, with gems and text for all the places Sordeg kicked butt and did heroic acts; he could chill out with his gorgeous water nymphs playing music, surrounded by his trophies, reminiscing at his mosaic map. Not too bad.

So of course Tulip got out his polearm, a goblin clutched the top, and Tulip raised the goblin high enough to pry some of the gems loose. The moose-head, deer-heads, and nymphs looked on with vague interest. Inquiring about what was behind the stone doors, the characters found out from the nymphs that both closets led to things that could disrupt life here, and one could destroy it. They did not care to discuss it further.

With some loot in hand, they decided not to press their luck. Kitten assured the moose-head that they’d look forward to returning (a glib lie), and they headed back to the emerald wall, returning to the inner stone chamber.

After once again cajoling the frustrated Brenna over the runes, they returned to the spiny rock crawler lair and gleefully looted the centuries-old gifts to the mighty hero Sordeg, finding all sorts of valuables among the kitsch.

It was dusk in the real world; time must move a little differently in the retreat beyond the emerald wall. A boonwing hunched waiting for them, and flew off to alert the dirigible as they emerged. Skritt got a fire going, and the dirigible returned, firing a new zip line into the mountain face, then lowering so they could slide down to the dirigible.

Again, the wind picked up, making it a difficult trip, but all of them made it down to the dirigible. Brenna and Tulip told Hector they found the location of the Senchilian Elvenforge—but they didn’t share what it was. He agreed to make both of them partners in the expedition there (somewhat reluctantly.) They decided to cut him out altogether, but didn’t say that to his face. After all, they know where it is…

Upon returning to Oscelot, both Tulip and Kitten did genealogical research, tracing their bloodlines as best they could. As it turns out, the elven family of Ardlian had some exiles to the island Kitten is from—she may have a trace of their blood! So she kept the sword.

The Coat of Starlight was made for a big guy, and fit Wayland, so he traded all his loot to Tibbers for the coat; both were pleased.

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The Darkology Experiment
Lopelia--Alchemal Fortress Ruin

9.30.11 In game, Tuesday, Foover month, 78921.

Adventurers:
Skritt, goblin
Timothy the Tulip, gladiator
Erasmus, questing knight

Skritt and Tulip were on their way north towards adventure with a dragon’s horde, and they were sharing a campfire with Erasmus, questing knight, while on the road. A bony scholar came to their campfire, and told them of potential treasure beneath the ruin atop the brooding hill. He said he’d give them 100 gold just for going down into it, and he’d buy from them any plant samples or books they found. (He was sure to point out he didn’t have the money WITH him! But it was buried nearby, and while they were adventuring he’d dig it up.)

Always up for adventure, the intrepid trio agreed. The next morning they hiked up the hill and began poking around the charred centuries-old ruin. They found two entrances near each other, and chose the one that seemed more “dramatic.”

With the dark-seeing Skritt in the lead, followed by the armored shielded Erasmus, and Tulip hefting a torch in the rear, they headed in. On their way down a long corridor, they heard an unearthly squeal; Skritt recognized the call of a guard rat, and cycled to the rear.

Erasmus readied his sword as they followed the retreating eyes of the attack rat, hearing a strange metallic dragging sound. Then they saw where the rat’s chain was fixed to the floor, and realized they were all in range! It rushed at them, savagely biting Erasmus before he cleanly struck its head from its shoulders. The massive rat was almost waist high to the bold warrior.

They continued down the corridor, finding where it split. Skritt was startled by the statue of a scholar, but statues are harmless, so he was relieved. They encountered a locked door; untrained, Skritt spent some time with his lock picks and managed to jimmy the door lock. So he jumped to the back, and the warriors led the way—

—discovering a mass of over a dozen goblins and four enormous rat guards! In the background, a vast pillar rose, with stairs around it and a statue of a scholar at the top. Under the dispassionate gaze and the faint luminescence of the room, they joined in mighty battle.

Erasmus wavered beneath the tide of foes, and even Skritt leaped in, a deeps goblin fighting the more weedy surface types that serve his kind as food and slaves. Tulip’s vast hammer whirled and crushed, and Erasmus’s deft chopping with his bastard sword took its toll. A leaping attack rat bit at the goblin weak point, the bridge of the nose, but Skritt ducked and lost a strip of scalp instead; Tulip followed up by batting the rat into the wall, taking a goblin with it.

Demoralized by their ferocious foes, the goblins turned to flee, but their attackers maneuvered between them and the exit, looming over them. Then Tulip got tagged in the cup, and as he staggered back, most of them fled and the rest were mowed down as they ran.

The characters rested and bound their wounds, then climbed the long winding stair to examine the statue at the top. It turned out to be a statue of Hegretch Lopelia, ruler of the Alchemal Fortress. A band at the top of the tall room emulated sunrise and sunset with alchemal chemicals, and his stone image was smug in that dim light of universal success.

From their high point, they noted goblins cautiously checking out the room, looking to see where the invaders went. Tulip bellowed to them in ogrish that they had better fall down and worship the newcomers, or get mashed. The characters headed down the stairs, then checked out all the doorways out of the room, following their ears and the vaguest luminescence. Rather than following the goblins directly, they took a passage they hoped would let them flank the area’s defenders.

They came out in a fungus “garden” that was the breadbasket of the goblins. There, they were confronted by a number of guard rats, and a few “farmers.” Demanding to speak to the leader, they waited until the leader showed up, eyeing the massive rats in an uneasy cease-fire.

To the pathetic bleat of a trumpet, King Gurglehug strode in, his crown a boot with fungus growing out of it, and a shield strapped to his back. His shaman advisor had a hat of slith teeth, and a staff with slith skulls nailed all over its top. Big rats accompanied them.

They had perfunctory diplomacy, the invaders asking questions about the area and the goblins stubbornly insisting on their sovereignty. Eventually, the king agreed to send a guide with them, after telling them that to the north was a big library, and to the east of that, fantastical magical gardens. And, the king chuckled evilly while telling them this.

The characters agreed to give the goblins one of the books they found, in exchange for a guide, and they decided on the “long way” that was maybe less dangerous, instead of the direct and more dangerous route.

They followed a corridor with signs of intense slith fighting, and cut thornbushes and fire. Then their guide, Snig, warned them to be utterly silent and to douse the lights. The thorns glowed ever so faintly, and they navigated by that light, with goblins holding the hands of those unable to see well in the dark.

Astonishingly, the characters moved very quietly, coming undetected to the edge of a 4 meter cliff down broken stone intertwined with the luminous poison thorns. They were breathless, looking out on a vast chamber heaving and tossing with mounds of thornbushes, intertwined and magnificent. Within, untold numbers of slith went about their business, the cat-sized leathery “land piranhas” not yet aware of the characters’ presence. Also, on the walls, basketball-sized beetles clung to the roughened stone, seemingly unaware of the characters.

As they carefully climbed down, heading for a staircase, Tulip fumbled, and—leaped from the cliff, pushing with his toes. He managed to land on his feet with only a rattle. The others were relieved that he did not slip, tear himself on the thorns, and clatter all the way down the cliff.

Still, the slith were alerted to their presence. The characters raced along the corridor and up the stairs, hearing a growing tide of vermin sprinting after them. Hoping against hope, they were relieved as the grueling chase resolved in a pair of doors. Snig freaked out, not knowing which was best, so they snatched the one on the left, leaped in, and slammed (and barred) it behind them.

They caught their breath as slith leaped and snapped outside, finding themselves in a dusty, empty chamber. After a bit of rest, they cautiously continued their exploration, going through some empty chambers (always listening at the door first) and finding a long corridor.

Not trusting long corridors, they took the first intersection they found, and it turned into unfinished stone. As they followed it, they detected a secret door! Opening it, they found a privy for scholars. They were disappointed, but Snig asked if he could wait here for them to return with a book; they were beyond his knowledge, and he was terrified of being eaten. They agreed, and Skritt left him with a rat, to tide him over.

They cautiously proceeded, through a chamber to find a room where a gimlitch beetle almost spat at them, interrupted by Skritt’s well placed knife flung across the room and killing the beetle. They saw signs of a vicious beetle on slith throw-down in this room, and they cautiously peered into the next, then withdrew, shaken.

They found the rotating library! And centuries of beetles had used it as a breeding ground, turning the books into a paper mache volcano in the middle of the room; there was disquieting evidence they put dead slith up in the cone, but the characters didn’t feel it best to investigate.

Three doors to the south were open, the rest closed. They headed for a closed door, muscling it open. They found a dusty room, which relieved them. Heading north, (after closing the door behind them) they found a long corridor that led to a lounge and guest quarters for visiting scholars; no loot, though. And there was an ugly gray stone statue hunched in the corner of the lounge that unsettled them.

In the lounge, they were MOST pleased to find a cask that was centuries old; it had turned to port, and they congratulated each other on their success getting this far with a round of drinks, taking the cask with them as they left.

Retracing their steps then exploring to the south and west, they found a suspiciously lengthy corridor that just went on and on. At the end, they found a pair of statues blocking an intersection, to the north and south. Skritt examined one closely, and it attacked!

In a moment, the characters were fighting for their lives in the narrow corridor. Skritt retreated from the battle scene, only to find another gargoyle closing from the rear! Beleaguered and tattered, the characters pulled out every trick they knew just to stay alive. Tulip’s mighty hammer knocked off horns and limbs, shattering one, and Erasmus flailed and hacked with his heavy sword, but their foes were implacable as stone.

With one destroyed and one badly damaged, the group faced an intact gargoyle cutting off their retreat. They managed to slip around it and flee, and if it pursued, it didn’t chase them fast enough. They slammed the door behind themselves, freely bleeding and badly bruised.

Taking time to have some more port, and bandaging their wounds, resting, having something to eat and drink… they struggled to regain their nerve in the face of the horrible stone monsters that waited to slay them. Lucky for Erasmus, there as a decorative shield on the wall to replace the one torn from his arm by a vicious rat. It seemed as good a time as any to explore in other directions.

They snuck back through the central library; the scent of torch hung on Tulip, and he allayed beetle suspicion by squirting some oil on himself, left over from when his weapon caddy attended his every need. They slipped through another closed door, finding a series of corridors and rooms that used to be servant quarters and a kitchen.

Slipping past the beetles again, they found a corridor to an open “reading room” area with many cells. Unfortunately, the room was also full of yellow fungus that smelled of sunlight and heat and—strangeness. Tulip, being the toughest, agreed to scout out the room, hopefully returning before he passed out.

He checked all the cells, finding four massive tomes of lore. Gasping for air and coated in yellow spores, he managed to rejoin the others. They got some distance from him as he brushed the spores from himself, and he got a sample of the orange fungus to sell to the scholar who sent them in.

Hefting the books, the characters returned to the circular library again, this time choosing another door. They found a corridor with some resting seats/privies, and a meeting room overgrown with peaceful, luminescent fungus.

Returning to the library again, they explored the last closed door, finding a head librarian’s office, where young beetles forced their way in over the centuries and died of starvation after eating all the scholar’s books…

They decided not to explore the remaining doorway leading out of the library, as it was sure to lead to a clash with slith.

Their nerve restored by frequent and daring forays through the library and extensive non-lethal exploration, they faced a choice. They could return to goblin territory, or look for a way out in the gargoyle territory.

Bold, they headed back into gargoyle territory. They smashed the remaining guardian of the hallway, then detoured through what appeared to be a ritual preparation room for wizards. Finding some oddly-shaped rooms, they knew they were in wizardly territory, so they tread cautiously.

They opened a door into a crooked room, noting a sleeping gargoyle and a well-tended planter of mushrooms that looked like stained glass, light streaming through them from another place. They closed the door, then Erasmus and Tulip viciously assaulted the statue while Skritt stuffed mushrooms in a sack.

The battle was not going well—Erasmus owed his survival to his new (and trashed) shield, and they just barely managed to put the gargoyle down. Panting, they bound their wounds yet again, then cautiously continued their explorations. In the room next door, a stroke of luck! Erasmus found a shield on the wall with the coat of arms of a wizard order extinct for centuries. He hefted it, and on they went.

Following a strange and narrow corridor thorugh its angles, they came to another room, and inside, a planter with yellow mystic flowers and a gargoyle guard! Having honed their technique, Tulip and Erasmus crushed the guard before Skritt had even finished harvesting the flowers.

They followed a stone tunnel that led down to knee-deep murk, and Skritt rode Tulip as they waded through, rising up to a strange huge chamber with a pit and a statue of Dufell, the goddess of deep places (as explained by Erasmus, who also knew that gargoyles are not indigenous to this dimension, that they live until killed, and some can grow wings at will.)

The chamber was strewn with vines that were responsive to stimulus; the characters decided not to go into that highly risky area, they retraced their steps instead. Exploring down another corridor, they found a room of resting gargoyles—and quietly, slowly, backed out and closed the door…

Heading northward again, they found a secret door they had missed before. Passing through it, they found the summoning chamber, with a genuflecting gargoyle sleeping there. They stealthily withdrew, seeing no profit in killing a guard so they could inspect a mystic summoning circle.

Grimly determined to find an alternate way out, they followed a twisting corridor of natural rock, their last hope for an escape without going back through slith territory. Down, then up, and they found an artificial stone wall.

Skritt and Erasmus retreated to give Tulip some alone time with his hammer and the wall, and he knocked it down, breathing sort-of-fresh air, and finding the back of an animal den! They clambered through, and out to late afternoon sunlight.

Joyful at their escape, they met with the scholar, who had paid peasants to dig up his chests and drag them to the meeting place. They negotiated hard for the value of their knowledge of the layout and its defenses, and they sold the books and mushroom and plant samples. In the end, they had over 3,500 gold! The old scholar had to give them a voucher, not having expected such wild success.

Pleased with themselves and the outcome of their exciting adventure, the companions decided to rest, then continue on towards the next challenge.

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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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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 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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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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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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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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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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