Kingdom of Aeristine

An Enigma Wrapped Up In a Demon Inside of a Dragon
Epic Boss Fight: Tyranthraxus

We caught our breath after the Hedge Wizard had fled. Blake then used a Wraithform spell to move easily through the walls to scout out the rest of the labyrinth. He safely returned, and described our best route to the central stone tower, and we filed out again one by one.

Vexatious Vines

Turning down a few corridors, we noticed the hedge walls grow darker, thornier, and less floral. Suddenly in one long passage, thick choking creeper vines erupted from the walls and snaked around us all! Before we knew it, they encircled my comrades’ legs, torsos, arms, and even throats, and began to squeeze! Luckily the magic of my Ring of Free Action seemed to keep them from finding a good grip on my person, and I frantically ripped open my pack to dig out my old Scroll of Protection From Plants. I found it and began to read aloud as Blake summoned a Wall of Fire along one hedge wall, immolating half of the offending vines. The others made every attempt to hack and slice and fire spells at the vines coming from the other wall. I finished reading the magic words, and a sphere of herbiphobic energy pulsed about me, pushing the vines back 10’ around me. Unfortunately they didn’t let go of my comrades, who were consequently shoved hard back up against the thorny hedge walls along with the vines!

I took a zen moment to collect my thoughts, watching my comrades struggling to breathe as they sawed at their bindings. I had not known exactly what the scroll would do, and now I had inadvertently prevented myself from getting close enough to help anyone. At a loss, I simply prayed for Ronan’s blessings. This must be why the secular humanists complain about us faithful – that we pray instead of doing anything concrete to actually solve problems – but alas I was doomed to sit passively in safety and comfort while I watched my friends struggle for their lives mere steps away. Still, perhaps Ronan’s invisible hand intervened at my request, for my friends’ tenacity eventually overcame the vexatious vines. All glory to the Swiftfooted One! We hacked and burned the last of the vines, and moved on with my scroll’s magic warding off any further vegetative defenses.

Attack of the Cookie Monster

A few twists and turns later, some of my party began remarking on the delectable scent of baking cookies. I could smell naught, however, and suspected they were coming under the influence of some fell illusion. Ben Ken was the most powerfully affected, and he finally shouldered us all aside and began jogging ahead, frantically looking this way and that for cookies, muttering about how he just had to have some. I think he was really starting to unravel after the trauma of having all his ribs broken and reset in the battle with the fire giant. Anyway, Stefan took off after him and it was a good thing too, for halfway down the next corridor was a large, spiny plant with wicked-looking jaws not unlike the one we had seen back in the Hedge Wizard’s chamber. It turned out that this vile shrub was producing an insidious cookie-smelling pollen that was meant to lure in prey to be devoured. Stefan caught Ben Ken by the hair just as the mad wizard was about to dive headlong into the gaping clam-like jaws, hoping for some cookies inside (he would’ve found only death), and yanked him back to safety. But Ben proceeded to Grease himself up and squirmed from the half-elf’s grasp, diving to slide once again toward the source of the compelling scent. But just then Kalli and Stefan charged forward, hacking the plant to shreds as the wild-eyed mad wizard began to wail and sob… I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbles!

The Tower of Incomprehensible Architecture

Not twenty feet from the “cookie monster,” the stone wall of the central tower could be seen. We approached, and Hrolf’s sharp dwarven senses noticed a secret door! He figured out the mechanism and slid it open, revealing a dark but empty square chamber. We filed in, glad to be out of the menacing hedge maze, and began exploring. Kalli slowly moved around the perimeter, tapping the walls with her shield, until at one point her shield just slid right through – an illusion! She then stepped through and found a staircase leading up. We all slowly ascended, with Reynard meticulously checking for traps. The stairway opened out into a landing, which then gave way to another stairway going back down. This lead to a door which Kalli opened, revealing a pitch black room.

The sound of clinking chains reverberated off the stone walls in the darkness. Blake tossed a Light coin into the inky darkness, and we immediately beheld a grotesque form scurrying out directly towards us! It came up just short of Kalli’s face, at which point it was yanked back by the chains that held it fast to the chamber’s floor. It was a womanly form, only atop its head was a writhing nest of snakes. “LOOK AWAY,” shouted Kalli, deducing that this must be a legendary Medusa, capable of petrifying with a glance. She turned away too, pulling out a small mirror to regard the ragged creature, and began to interrogate it. The Medusa spoke in broken Common, punctuated with gutteral howls and ghastly shrieks, but we gleaned that she had been imprisoned by “The Flaming One” who must be the tower’s master. Ben Ken argued that we ought to release her, but I was concerned that she was A) dangerous just to look at, B) incorrigibly evil, and C) apparently insane and liable to attack even her liberators. Saying that we would decide whether to free the captive monster or not later on, we then closed the prison door again and continued on our way.

Farther along, I found another hidden door quite by accident. It lead to a nicely appointed parlor room, in which sat a lone man in some kind of officer’s garb. The room contained fine couches, tables, tasteful decorations, and a delectable spread of snacks and beverages waiting to be eaten… even a platter of cookies, which Ben Ken immediately went for and began gobbling (I may have snuck a cookie or two myself, and a cup of coffee). Kalli approached the man who regarded us coolly, and he said something about waiting for our delivery for Commander Jinheeris – did he take us for messengers or movers? It would make sense considering my Order Of Parcel Service robes, so we decided to go with it, and Kalli demanded to see “the boss” so he knew we had arrived. This made the officer grow agitated, but his anxiety relaxed when Blake magically put him to Sleep, and laid him down on a couch. ZZzzzzz

Our scrappy warrioress then knocked on the next door and boldly opened it, only to duck as a Fireball sailed into our the midst of our parlor! It detonated right by the sleeping officer, killing him and burning the rest of us badly as it upended and scorched all the furniture. We all ran from the burning room into this next room, a sort of office, with a snarling wizard crouched behind a desk. Hrolf and I prayed for all of our burns to heal over, as the rest charged the offending mage swinging blades and slinging spells. Kalli slammed the desk back into him and ran him through, though as he gasped his last breath he leveled a wand and released a freezing blast of Cold magic on the rest of us! We shook it off without too much damage and relieved his corpse of that wand and a glowing ring.

But now, surveying the carnage, I couldn’t see Ben Ken. Had the mad wizard wandered off? Before moving on, we all dashed back the way we had come in search of him… and sure enough we found him back in the Medusa’s cell. He was spraying jets of magical Acid at her chains, attempting to release her! Kalli darted in, grabbing him and hauling him back up away from her, and slicing off her menacing head as her snake hair hissed in protest. Whew! She gingerly picked up the head and stuffed it into a bag to take with. We castigated Ben and dragged him back up to the offices, from which a stairwell lead up. Blake paused before ascending, read a scroll, and carefully brewed some kind of potion that he seemed to think would protect him from demons. We all enjoyed the brief rest and choked down some burned cookies, then resumed our climb.

Tangling with Tyranthraxus

Reynard now took the lead, and sneaked quietly up to the top of the stairs, followed by Ben Ken who had made himself Invisible. The two peeked out into a large open-air chamber. There was looming Tyranthraxus himself, a massive bronze dragon taking up almost the entire space! He was flanked by a pair of imposing, fully armored warrior-knights. He looked directly at the inconspicuous duo, unfazed by their attempts at stealth, and addressed them courteously in a booming dragon voice, inviting the rest of us to come up. We obliged, and he recognized us as “The slayers of the White,” referring to Siegfried, the elder white dragon patriarch (and his mate and their offspring). Kalli used Francis the sword to hover up near Tyranthraxus’s face, and noticed a shimmering aura of fire around him as she looked him straight in the (remaining) eye and began to bark interrogative questions, demanding to know what the meaning of his mischief was. Meanwhile, Hrolf quietly intoned his Dimensional Anchor prayer, ensuring the dragon couldn’t pull a fast one on us. Eventually, growing tired of Kalli’s yammering, Tyranthraxus reared back and let loose a billowing cloud of raw Repulsion! It enveloped us all. I scrunched by eyes shut and held my breath, and fought off the urge to flee. But Hrolf and Ben Ken couldn’t resist, and turned tail to scramble back down the stairs. Hrolf had the sense to realize he was under the influence of a magical effect, and at the bottom of the stairs he must’ve prayed to his blasphemous dwarven god to Dispell the effect, for a moment later he came lumbering back up, hurling his flaming axe at the dragon. The mad wizard Ben Ken, however, was just unraveling further and further, and he kept frantically running all the way back out the hedge maze. (We don’t know what became of that tortured soul; he may have finally snapped completely, or perhaps he joined up with the Hedge Wizard as his apprentice, or maybe he was devoured by more of the creeping choker vines.)

In any event, battle had now been joined atop the tower. Stefan barreled into the first warrior-knight, their weapons ringing off of each other’s armor in a flurry of expert attacks and counters. Kalli was bowled backwards in the air by the Repulsion, but spun around, grabbed the Medusa’s head from her bag with her free hand, swept it around to petrify the other warrior-knight. I prayed to Ronan, and by His grace called down a searing Flamestrike from the heavens onto the dragon’s back… but it had no effect! Somehow the dark powers of the demon inside must be protected from holy magic. Kalli then then flew back in towards Tyranthraxus’s face, arm outstretched holding the head right up to the dragon’s eye. Tyranthraxus seemed to smirk, then his great dragon jaws snapped forward around the head, chomping down around it and taking Kalli’s arm off at the elbow! He stared coldly at the warrioress as he swallowed, and she screamed in agony and rage but managed to swing her sword arm back around cleave deeply into the dragon’s nose. His great head swung to the side as he snorted blood.

The dragon’s gaze fell on the axe-wielding half-elf harrying his armored minion. Tyranthraxus bared his teeth, and the seemed to be crackling with electrical sparks… sure enough, his jaws widened and he breathed a devastating lightning bolt down on poor Stefan, who’s skeleton could be seen convulsing in his fried body for a second.
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He stood there dumbstruck and smoking, as his warrior-knight foe paused to see if he would regain his senses in a moment of touching professional courtesy. Kalli, enraged by her dismemberment, slammed Francis into the side of the dragon’s head once again, Reynard began loosing arrows at him, and Hrolf hurled his axe. At this onslaught, the dragon vanished! He couldn’t have teleported thanks to Hrolf, so he must’ve just gone invisible…

Meanwhile I trotted up behind Stefan and prayed for his recovery from that exceptionally high-voltage electrocution. While Ronan couldn’t seem to directly harm this demonic enemy, at least we could indirectly aid the demon’s enemies, and so Ronan’s powers healed the staunch half-elf. Stefan took a deep breath and launched himself at the warrior-knight once again, and with renewed fury hacked through his armor to deal a killing blow. Still smoking, he then stumbled into something – the dragon’s invisible leg! He bit his axe into it and the dragon reappeared, swiping down with a massive claw, OVER the offending half-elf, at ME! I pivoted in time to avoid impalement, but was knocked back on my butt and burned by the inexplicably flaming claw swipe. I rolled to put out the flames and crawled away back towards the relative shelter of the stairwell. Behind me, Tyranthraxus cast a spell on Stefan, this time Holding him frozen in place. He reared up, about to chomp down on his immobilized, crunchy fried snack, but Blake detonated a Fireball on his head just in time to distract him, and Kalli hacked again into his back as Reynard peppered him with arrows, occasionally finding a chink in his scales. Hrolf came up to me and helped me stagger to my feet, and the both of us then prayed intently, focusing our holy energies to Dispel the evil magic paralyzing Stefan. It worked! He shook free of the spell and stepped back.

Kalli now maneuvered back around to Tyranthraxus’ face and began shouting insults at him. He growled back some pompous line about how oh-so-great he was, and that Snor-Snar was nothing without him (perhaps the dragon’s original name, prior to the demonic possession?). Kalli taunted him again, and received a flaming claw swipe in return. But then she swooped back around to drive her blade right into the center of his skull! The great form crumpled to the floor, wheezing “Thank you” as it fell, and a cloud of fiery radiance was expelled with it’s last breath. This cloud hovered over us for a moment, then rasped something about retreating to a “pool of radiance” or something, then flew up out of the open-air room and vanished.

We had defeated the monstrous, demonic adversary! We dug Kalli’s arm out from the dragon corpse’s esophagus, and I was able to Repair the Injury to the bone and reattach the arm, but the flesh was still dead and Kalli would need a higher level of medical care than I could provide in the heart of an enemy fortress if we were to save it.

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Into the Inner Bailey
fire giants, ogres, and hedge wizards, oh my!

Continuing to storm the castle, we now filed through the inner wall towards the courtyard. We could hear snorting from the towers above us, and a heavy thumping reverberating through the ground.

Kalli, Blake, and Raynard wasted no time, and began to climb up the side of the first inner tower. Meanwhile I walked to the corner and peered around, to see a hulking fire giant patrolling down the corridor towards us. Another appeared around the side of the other tower 50 yards to my right.

Up above, the climbers had come upon two squads of ogres on the tower tops, and could see a vast hedge maze in the center of the castle. Raynard dropped down on the ogres, viciously assassinating a couple.

“Case closed,” he announced with his new lawyerly affectation. He and Kalli then proceeded to engage in melee combat with more ogres.

Blake lobbed a fireball over at the next tower across the wall, which burst somewhat feebly, singing the ogres there. He rapidly followed it up with a second more powerful blast, which finished the job… smoking chunks of ogre meat rained down upon us.

By then the fire giant who had rounded the far tower corner had us in his sights. Ben Ken conjured a puddle of Grease before him to interfere with any possible charge, and I intoned a prayer to Chill the Metal in his armor – fire giants hate feeling cold! He spotted us spellcasters though and began just ripping chunks of stone off the rampart walls, and hurling them at us! One rock beamed me after I finished my prayer, slamming me back and nearly breaking my arm. The giant bellowed as he began to feel the freezing bite of metal on his skin, and charged! He lumbered right over the grease pool, barely noticing it, but then Ben Ken turned around, bent over, and wafted a Stinking Cloud at him. This slowed his charge as he coughed and hacked, distracted.

Stefan decided to charge at the first fire giant that was still lumbering down the corridor beyond the first tower. His ice axe bit into the giant’s chest, and Hrolf came trundling up hot on his heels. A moment later, Kalli dropped down from the tower above, hovering behind the giant with her magic sword, and slicing into its back! But the giant just reached back, grabbed ahold of the warrioress’ midsection, and used her to deliver a powerful overhead slam to the half-elven axeman before him! WHAM, that put Stefan on his back, and I could imagine that he could now see a little spinning ring of birdies over his head.

The second giant, coughing and freezing, continued galumphing towards Ben and I. He swung his tremendous club around at me; I ducked and the club went sailing over me, right into an incredulous Ben Ken! I heard at least a dozen bones crack as the poor bastard went sailing down the hall through the inner wall we had come through, back out into the outer bailey. Not feeling up to single combat with an angry fire giant, I quickly darted down the hallway after my battered comrade, for some triage work on his shattered skeleton. As I approached, I could see him gritting his teeth and coughing blood, as he managed to sit up and fling an Acid Arrow past me at the giant’s leering face peeking down the hallway. That would give him pause! He bellowed again, the stood up and stomped off after Stefan and Hrolf. I reached Ben and began praying for his bones to knit back together.

Having stabilized the mad wizard, I jogged back to the inner bailey just in time to see Raynard drop down from the first tower too, attempting to stab the second giant… but the great creature grabbed him in mid air and began flailing him around like a club! I sprinted up, whipping my enchanted flail in great circles and then… CRACKING the iron weight at great speed directly into the giant’s ankle! It let out a piteous howl and fell to it’s knees, dropping the rogue, and then falling to it’s side and moving no more.

Stefan had now come to his senses and crawled from the carnage. He stood up and charged back in, this time burying the head of his ice axe into the center of the last fire giant’s chest! That giant too fell over dead, but backwards and directly onto Raynard. Ouch. We managed to pull it off of him, and paused to catch our breath. I prayed a benediction for the dead monsters’ souls.

We got word that Cadorna, the wealthy merchant who originally hired our company and subsequently screwed us over (sending us through phase-spider infested forests to the gay Nazi Bane-worshippers to be executed), was skulking somewhere in the inner bailey. But we decided to forge on with our primary mission, and head into the hedge maze.

It was dark and foreboding, full of thorny plants and glistening black flowers. There were 3 paths to choose… Ben Ken chose the leftward path and we all followed. A little ways down the path, he came upon a door, and yanked it open… to reveal a surprised hedge wizard, who immediately blasted Ben full in the face with a Ray of Stupefaction! The mad wizard stumbled back, confused, and wandered off further into the maze. I chased after him to see if I could help, and summoned some snakes about me to protect me as I babysat this stupefied imbecile. Kalli shouldered her way past me into the doorway in pursuit of the assailant. But inside the room, she found only a huge man-eating venus fly-trap plant with several waving tendrils that darted at her, wrapping about her limbs and drawing in towards its gaping maw. Stefan followed her in, and began hacking at the tendrils with his axe. Raynard entered too, shooting arrows at the plant’s “face.” The plant then turned it’s attention to the angry axe-wielder, grabbed Stefan, and yanked him off his feet and into it’s mouth! It began gnawing at his armor as his arms and legs flailed wildly.

Kalli escaped, and came to find me, asking me to pray for True Seeing, working under the hypothesis that the plant could be simply an illusion conjured by the hedge wizard who had suspiciously disappeared. I complied, but after my careful research, the evidence failed to support her hypothesis. We were then forced to accept the null hypothesis: it was not an illusion after all, and thus, by deduction, must be a REAL PLANT MONSTER CURRENTLY INGESTING OUR HALF-ELF. Finally, Raynard slew it with his hail of arrows, but just then a fireball then tore through the corridor as the hedge wizard made his escape.

Whew! What else would this sinister maze have in store for us?

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Full Frontal Assault
rooting out Tyranthraxus

Finally it was down to Tyranthraxus’ personal forces, holed up in a well-fortified keep. Our company volunteered to spearhead the final assault. Our job: to breach the defenses and admit the elven war host.

Our quarry had gathered his veteran elite troops around him, and had entrenched in a well-constructed fortress in Phlan. Before our brave company stood the main gatehouse – a 40’ tall structure behind a pair of massive 30’ wrought-iron gates. Behind those was a heavy iron portcullis. Behind that was a small chamber full of traps and murder holes, after which was yet another portcullis and set of iron gates. On the roof of this structure lurked a quartet of abominable duergar – a grotesquely misshapen and sadistic subspecies of dwarf that normally live miles below the surface and are almost never seen above ground (Tyranthraxus’ influence must go deep indeed!). These four clutched wicked crossbows and swept their beady eyes back and forth across the field before the gates, waiting for someone foolish enough to approach the main entrance. Flanking the gatehouse were two massive 50’ stone guard towers crowned with battlements. Atop each one, a roaring giant stood sentry, hefting boulders aloft. Each giant was surrounded by a squad of elite hobgoblin snipers crouching behind the crenellations, sunlight glinting off the barbed steel points of the arrows they held drawn at the ready. Coming off from each guard tower, a long 30’ tall rampart wall stretched into the distance to either side. Rows of more hobgoblin archers lined these walls, their cruel eyes glaring at us hatefully. Every now and then, colorful garb indicated the presence of sorcerers or shamans among their ranks.

The drums of our elven war host pounded behind us, and Kalli decided it was time to begin the assault… by air. Our new, naked comrade Ben Ken (now greased up for some reason) used a Featherfall spell and then clung to Kalli as she drew Francis the magical sword and launched upwards, to surmount the leftward rampart wall. Blake used a Fly spell and bestowed a Levitation spell on Stefan, then took off after Kalli, the warrior in tow. Raynard took off sprinting beneath them all, also heading towards the left wall. That left Hrolf and I in the field facing the gatehouse, our war host behind us, waiting for the gates to be breached. Our foes wasted little time, launching a salvo of fireballs and boulders at the two of us, lost in prayer. Our gods saw fit to save us from most of the damage, though a large rock bounced off the dwarf’s hard head, and a fireball singed us both.

But now Ben Ken began the aerial onslaught, with a fireball of his own that blasted a group of hobgoblin archers off of the leftward rampart, clearing a landing zone for our assailants. As he and Kalli touched down atop the wall, a beam purple energy struck the warrioress full in the chest, seeming to sap her of strength! Meanwhile, Blake and Stefan broke off, and headed more centrally and higher up to the leftmost guard tower. Here, Blake appeared to attempt to shove the Levitating warrior over the crenellated wall and down behind the line of snipers, but as soon as his hand broke contact, the half-elf just floated there helplessly in mid-air… right in front of an angry giant! The great creature grabbed a club and swung mightily at Stefan, who luckily absorbed the worst of the blow with his shield, but tumbled back in the air several feet. Blake then darted back down to land near Kalli on top of the left wall. Below, meanwhile, Raynard had reached the base of the wall relatively unmolested by archers thanks to Ben Ken’s distraction, and the crafty rogue began to scramble up the face of the wall itself, finding improbable handholds as he went.

At the limits of the defenders’ range, Hrolf and I continued to pray furiously, he to his blasphemous dwarf god for Immunity to further Fire spells, and myself that Ronan would grant me Sanctuary from my enemies’ attacks. Then we both began to advance, slowly but resolutely, towards the gatehouse.

Up above, Stefan had managed to maneuver himself back to the tower ledge, and touched down enough to cancel the Levitation effect. He wasted no time and began hacking into the nearest couple hobgoblin guards with his axe, stepping back from the raging giant. Down on the wall, Francis (who hates mages) pointed out the warlock who had ensorcelled Kalli, and, though weakened, she focused her fury, brandished the magic sword, and charged at and sliced into the poor fellow. Francis squealed with glee as the blood flew. Behind her, Ben Ken began to pepper the defenders of the tower up above with Minute Meteors, distracting some of the guards and facilitating Stefan’s ferocious slaughter, until a couple of clever hobgoblins flanked the axe-wielder and held him at bay for a moment… but his martial skill eventually proved that to be a futile tactic. The raging giant in the first tower had used the moment of Stefan’s distraction to clamber up on the edge of the tower wall, and now attempted to pounce downward to crush the foolhardy half-elf… but the clumsy brute missed and succeeded only in shaking the whole tower, disturbing the aim of his archer allies. For his part, Blake used a Dimensional Door to teleport over the far side of the gatehouse, appearing high over the rightward rampart wall.

Down below, fortified with faith, Hrolf began his fearsome dwarven charge. His little legs began pumping and he steamed forward, shield held before him, tromping slowly but inexorably to his destination – the iron gates. I began running at the gate too, quickly outpacing him. The duergar and some of the hobgoblin archers above opened fire on the encroaching clerics… but Ronan had seen fit to make me hardly noticeable (not a threat worth wasting ammunition on) and so my poor dwarven comrade suffered virtually all their hail of slings and arrows. Incredibly, this sustained volley could not stop his slow charge, and though a few missiles struck home, they did not prove deadly enough to sway my stalwart comrade’s determination, and he charged on leaving a trail of his own blood behind.

Blake began unloading a magical salvo on the defenders on the right side. A fireball detonated atop the second guard tower, blasting a few hobgoblins off to fall to their deaths, and singing the other roaring giant. The wily bard then summoned a Wall of Fire all along the top of the right rampart wall, catching several of the archers lined up in the blaze. Quite a few, however, leapt back in time, or leapt off forwards to hang onto the outer lip of the wall.

Back on the left, Ben Ken lobbed another fireball at the first tower, yelling “Broken Arrow!” as Stefan hunched down to avoid the worst of the blast, which finished off the remaining hobgoblin snipers. But it just further angered the giant, who then managed to get ahold of the now crouching Stefan. Grabbing the armored warrior with a crushing grip, the monster actually lifted him up and began swinging him about like a club! As Kalli flew up to assist, the giant swung Stefan at her, narrowly missing again and again. Before long, Stefan brought his axe down on the monster’s hand, prompting his grip to release… sending the half-elf right over Kalli (who deftly ducked) to tumble down 20’ where he landed with a painful thump on top of the leftward rampart wall. He was going to feel that one in the morning! Perhaps a trip to the chiropractimancer would be in order.

At this point I finally reached the great iron gate doors, still escaping any particular notice from the defenders. I prayed for a serendipitous Column of Wind to whip up, and Ronan saw fit to allow a sudden powerful gust to bodily lift me up, up, up all the way to the roof the gatehouse, and up and over the oblivious duergar crossbowmen…

…and to deposit me gently down just a few yards behind them on the roof. Hrolf was closing in on the gate now too, and had the duergar’s full attention, as he was ranting and raving about his god’s divine retribution. Without pausing his charge, at one point he threw a hammer, which hurled end over end to strike one of the vile duergar full in the face, smashing his misshapen nose into his brain and instantly killing him! This served, of course, to firmly cement the rest of the duergar’s attention on this onrushing zealot barreling in towards the gate right below them. Their crossbows thrummed as they continued to fire down on him, ignoring the friendly human priest standing right behind them chanting increasingly fervently… something about purifying flames from the heavens to cleanse the earth of the unrighteous, certainly no cause for alarm.

Reynard had finally scaled the leftward wall, strung his bow, and began sniping at the giant and other guards who appeared on the wall, covering Stefan as he struggled back to his feet, joints cracking. Stefan took a deep breath, and then began hacking at the tower door, thinking to enter and ascend from the inside stairs. He made splinters of the door and entered, finding inside the various mechanisms that operated the portcullises and gate doors, and decided to begin opening the first gate.

Up above, Kalli now stood on the wall of the first guard tower, facing the raging giant. She darted in and out, sliced at it weakly as Ben Ken scrambled up beside her to perch on the corner of the tower… but another hobgoblin guard had come up too, spotted him, and launched a flying tackle at the mad wizard… who sidestepped and watched the poor hobgoblin tumble over the wall to fall 50’ to the ground below. Kalli was holding the giant’s attention as Reynard peppered it with arrows. Finally she feinted in, eliciting a charge that drew the monstrous creature off balance, and a final blow pushed it over the edge – it. too, fell down to its death below in the field outside with a resounding crash.

Across on the leftward tower, the second giant saw what Kalli had done to his friend. He picked up the charred body of a hobgoblin, and heaved it across the gap right at her! The crumbling corpse slammed into her, knocking her back against a battlement, briefly stunning her.

Below the second giant, down on the rampart wall, a hobgoblin warlock backflipped over the wall of flame, clung to the outside of the wall, and skittered in towards the guard tower like a nightmare spider.

Kalli regained her composure, stood up, held Francis aloft, and went rocketing up, over the gatehouse, to descend on this new giant assailant in the rightward guard tower. As she flew, Ben Ken conjured an ethereal bow back on the first tower, and shot a magical Acid Arrow across the gap beneath Kalli, striking the giant full in the face! He bellowed in pain as his face started melting.

Having dispatched the rest of the guards along the leftward wall, the Black Fox now stole into the leftward gatehouse behind Stefan, to take over the operation of the mechanisms that would admit our war host. Stefan, relieved of this duty, opened the tower door leading out the gatehouse roof, and was a bit startled to see me praying calmly right behind a line of snarling deep dwarves, apparently unnoticed. With a wink and a gesture to stand back, I finished my supplication to Ronan, and indeed in His infinite wisdom, He saw fit to send down a searing blast of celestial fire, a Flamestrike from the sky that engulfed the duergar in a brilliant column of incineration, wiping the blight of their existence from the surface of the earth. Stefan’s eyes widened a bit and he grinned.

Up above, Kalli drove into the second giant with a flurry of blows (her strength seemed to be returning) as the acid continued to melt his head, trickled down his ear canal and finally melted his brain. His hulking form collapsed in mid-swing at Kalli and he too dropped to crash below on the ground. Francis then began to call out the location where the other Spiderclimbing mage was skulking, and again Kalli rocketed up into the sky, down to his position on the wall, and impaled him.

Raynard had finished opening the gates and portcullises. Our assault had been withering to the defenders atop the walls and towers, but now another wave of enemies (the second shift?) began pouring out of the bases of the guard towers inside the castle walls! There were a couple more giants, a few more duergar, and many more hobgoblin archers and warlocks. One of the new warlocks hurled a fireball at Blake to the right, striking him in the chest! The airbourne bard flew out of the blast, blackened and smoking, then lobbed a fireball of his own right back at the warlock, engulfing him and a few other hobgoblins in the blast. Leave it to The Decanter to fight fire with fire.

Reynard then scampered up to the roof of the first guard tower to take up a sniping position, and began thunking arrows into the giant that had come out of the same tower on ground level, and who had just picked up a duergar corpse and was swinging it around like a club at Kalli. Behind this giant I saw a warlock creeping out from the tower as well, seemingly gesturing and intoning the words to some heinous spell. I called out to the world of insects, and sensing a colony of army ants, I asked Ronan to bend them to my will. It worked! A column of them skittered out from the cracks in the ground, and they zeroed in on the offending warlock, marching up his legs and swarming over his flesh, biting and crawling in his mouth and eyes. He would have trouble finishing that spell now.

Then a group of hobgoblins and duergar rushed over to the second gate (the doors between the inside castle courtyard and the gatehouse) where Hrolf was about to come through, and quickly slammed the iron doors shut, barring them once again and trapping the dwarf inside! Poor Hrolf’s assault was frustrated, but he quickly began Stoneshaping the walls around the iron doors’ hinges in hopes of just collapsing the whole gate. I then stepped forward to the ledge of the gatehouse roof, and looked down upon the squad of enemies that were preparing to attack should Hrolf manage to emerge… I called upon the holy power of Ronan to Hold them where they stood, and indeed they became held fast. As I debated whether it would be too evil to drop down and simply Create Water down their throats, drowning them where they stood paralyzed, the mad wizard Ben Ken leaned out above me from the corner of the first guard tower, and summoned a Mount. He sent the large horse tumbling off the tower, to violently crush my frozen victims! What a way to go.

Blake swooped in then, strafing Magic Missiles at anything that moved, while Kalli dispatched the second tower giant. Stefan charged over across the courtyard at the last remaining giant, but tripped and fell at his feet. The giant began to shake with laughter, until Raynard’s perfectly aimed arrow punctured his thick skull. He sunk to his knees and collapsed, dying.

(A moment later, Ben Ken’s summoned mount, now dead and mangled, disappeared back from whence it came. Some farmer’s daughter’s favorite prancing pet no doubt, and the family’s livelihood. Poor Peggy-Sue would never understand why her beloved horse had disappeared one day, to reappear a bloody broken mess moments later.)

Girl_at_Funeral.jpg

In any event, we had now subdued the gatehouse’s defenses, and breached the gates! Next time we would assault the inner bailey.

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Cry 'Havoc!' and Let Slip the Gnolls of War
in which we repel Tyranthraxus' monstrous horde

Coming back down from the rooftops of the haunted island keep, we encountered a strange creature indeed – it was a naked human, hunched in a dark corner, clutching a knife and gnawing on a dead rat! It turned out he was a fugitive wizard, who had fled Phlan after the initial attack long ago, by swimming out to this abandoned island keep. It was said to be haunted, but he never encountered any ghostly denizens. Once he grew accustomed to a diet of mostly rats, he became quite comfortable living there alone, and used his magic to create ghostly dancing lights and other apparitions to keep the fearful superstitions alive in the hearts of the populace of Phlan. In this way, he kept strangers and explorers at bay, and had the entire keep to himself… until we arrived. An odd fellow, to be sure, but nevertheless this Ben Ken as he called himself proved friendly enough. The years of solitude must have left him hungry for company and adventure, for he decided to tag along on our mission and get involved in the war for the realm. I loaned him my Towel +1 from Ignax’s Bathhouse, and the green Hatchetmen’s sash, to clothe himself in temporarily. We returned to the mainland together and headed out to the Northwest of Phlan to see what discord we could sow amongst Tyranthraxus’ monstrous ranks.

As we headed out of Phlan, a messenger caught up with us and brought us word from the Duke. It seems that recruiting was going well, with thousands of soldiers and scouts being drafted from among the lower castes of Burke. Additionally, gnomes, halflings, and other voluntary militia were filing in from the surrounding countryside. The Duke was also being reinforced by a legion of the King’s own men, and the coalition forces were entrenching in a long siege line from East to West across the center of the realm.

Encouraged by our Duke’s determination to hold the line, we headed into a region of known troll activity, to see if we could persuade the vile creatures into betraying Tyranthraxus. No such luck.

On our way Westward into the swamps, another messenger caught up with us, bringing word of the first major battles of the war. Tyranthraxus had made the obvious move. He sent a large force of ogres and orcish skirmishers directly at the center of the coalition siege line, hoping to fracture it at the town of Glenbarrow. Had it worked, the tactic would have been incredibly demoralizing to our comrades. As it turned out, many brave human militiamen, bolstered by hardy dwarven mercenaries, lost their lives at the Battle of Glenbarrow, yet the attackers were repelled! “They came, they saw, they ran like a bunch of whipped dogs,” boasted the messenger. Meanwhile, we were informed, a naval fleet carrying marines had departed from Burke and was headed up the coast towards Phlan, when it clashed with a smaller force of Tyranthraxus’ ships. Luckily, the enemy ships had recently been damaged by an encounter with a sea monster from the deep, and so our boys had little trouble sending them to a watery grave.

We continued on our way, slogging into the swamplands to parley with the various bullywog tribes that made that moist territory their home. Here we had some success, persuading the chief of one particular tribe that his best interest lay in an alliance with the human King. Just when he was marshaling his warriors to accompany us though, a black-robed mage appeared in the village and had a secret meeting with the chief. After that, the leader of the frog-folk turned chilly towards us and nullified our agreement. Curses, foiled again! We hustled out of town before we could be bushwhacked by Tyranthraxus’ treacherous minions, and continued West.

On our way into the forested outskirts of Helirne, another messenger tracked us down. The news had turned sour. It seems that some of the dragon’s forces had assaulted one of our walled towns, and had managed to take it with only minimal casualties. In another spot along the siege line, there was a massive battle in which the Duke’s men were routed by a monstrous host, although in that instance the enemies’ ranks were sorely depleted. The silver lining was that not one, but two of our biggest coalition armies were approaching that location, so it looked like the depleted monstrous army would not be able to hold their prize for long.

We now headed into elven territory, and began to treat with the leaders there. This was a long and drawn-out affair of diplomatic pomp and ceremony… it is always thus with the elves, but they could prove powerful allies so we persisted.

While enjoying their hospitality (and possibly making a few half-elves), another coalition messenger reached us. He brought word that the two aforementioned large armies had engaged the enemy. The King’s own infantry had thrown themselves with foolhardy abandon at the now dug in, but outnumbered, monsters, only to be bloodily repelled. Cleverly, though, a large force of the King’s calvary used the distraction to come around from behind the trench lines, destroyed their position, and ran down every last survivor! We also heard tell of a fortuitous flash flood on one of the rivers, which evidently had drowned quite a few gnolls – the unit’s morale was broken and they slunk back to their homelands with their tails between their legs.

Finally we reached an accord with the elven leaders, and they dispatched a generous force of their warriors to accompany us back towards Phlan for a concerted assault on the enemy HQ. We began the long trek downriver together.

Halfway there, another messenger brought news. The King had recruited a large force of mercenaries who mounted an assault on Tyranthraxus’ own personal army. It was a resounding success… a heroic scout sniper had taken out one of the dragon’s eyes with a well-placed arrow, causing him to flee and his monstrous army to lose morale. They were then completely defeated! The Duke tried to press some of the orcish warriors into service on our side, but most of them fled back to hide in their orc holes. Then the Duke’s forces had teamed up with Team Rocket, our old rivals, and they had engaged a unit of ogres… but an assassin struck at Team Rocket, taking them out of commission.

We continued marching downriver, using various magics to speed us along our way.

Nearing Phlan, we came upon another messenger waiting for us. She related that Tyranthraxus had recovered from his injury, and had mustered another large personal army. They had struck at the King’s army, decimating them and driving the survivors back beyond the siege line.

But now Tyranthraxus had pulled his battered legions back to Phlan to lick their wounds and re-strategize. Though the enemy was well-fortified there, and numerous, It was time for a final assault. Our coalition hammered its way into the city, resorting to close-quarter tactics in this urban environment, and steadily driving Tyranthraxus’ undisciplined beasts back to the edge of town. Eventually a siege line of goblins, hobgoblins, and trolls hunkered down inside an abandoned castle, and managed to repel two massive assaults (by land and by sea) for several hours. Finally, as we rolled into town with our elvish war host in the eleventh hour, it was our faithful servant Hef who led a charge of mighty minotaurs to batter down their last defenses and root them out.

Only Tyranthraxus and his personal guard remained in a highly-fortified keep.

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Looking into Phlan's wreckage
Hrolf's Log,

After some last-minute shopping and re-supply, the Party met with the commanders of the expeditionary force being sent to Phlan to discuss plans, and our groups’ role in the coming conflict. We were initially told to scout ahead of the army, but Kalli reminded them that they had scouts for that who knew what to be looking for – and who wouldn’t be slowed down by a 4’ something Dwarf… And we weren’t hired for that anyways. We were hired to kill a dragon (our specialty), and cause as much mayhem and destruction of enemy supplies and forces as we could, ahead of the E.F.’s attack.

We decided to take a boat to somewhere north of Phlan, and make our way into town, a 2-day or so trip. Near sunset of our first day out, a crewman shouted a report of a sea beast heading our way. Kalli readied her bow, while the rest of us with ranged capabilities readied our spells and weapons. As it approached, it was revealed as an Athanc, a great sea serpent known to create whirlpools to suck down ships into the depths and devour their drowned crew at its leisure. One shot from Kalli slew the mighty beast, as she was using the Arrow of Sea Monster Slaying found in Ignax’s dungeon (that I thought we’d never use!).

The following day, after many Athanc steaks and ales, another report of approaching monsters: manticores with goblin riders! We armoured up, as we were approaching shore, and prepared for battle – including a rarely used Call Lightning spell from myself, and flight spells/abilities from Kalli and Blake. With a cry of “For Tyranthraxus!” the goblin riders directed the manticores to attack! With our usual level of bloodshed, and some well-placed Magic Missiles from Blake and a nasty Flamestrike from Deacon, as well as a few Thunderbolts from your truly, we made short work of the manticores and their riders, leaving no survivors to tell of our coming.

After nightfall, we approached Phlan, using a Silenced longboat to cross to the old haunted keep on the island, we set up camp. We later went to the roofs to look at Phlan, and see where we should start our search for the dragon, and found much of the city to have been razed to the ground…

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5 Holy Waters to the Wind
Hrolf's Log

Upon the death of the old white dragon patriarch, we found ourselves with a lot of stuff, and few options to get home. So we removed the dragon’s head, wing membranes, and some choice scales and hide, wrapped the hoard up in the hide, and flew down the mountain on Stefan (Blake having Polymorphed him into a roc first). A short time later, we loaded everything into the wagon and took off again, not stopping (except for short rests for Stefan the roc) until we got to our winery outside the Walled City of Burke.

After our triumphant return, we mostly went about doing our own things, with half a chest of mithril and a lot of cash to spend, but we also arranged for servants for the manor, additional guards, and to have the dragon’s head taxidermied. Kalli commissioned a suit of plate mail (made of mithril chain and scales from the elder dragon), while Stefan repeated his demands on the armoursmithing community for a set of magical mithril full plate (non-cursed if you please). Kalli and Raynard purchased new Elven boots, Blake supplemented his store of arcana (and taught at the mage’s college), and a number of potions were bought for the party supply. Raynard took some Law classes, while Deacon commissioned a golden statue for the megachurch and hired some monks to produce some Swiftfootian propaganda pamphlets to be used in missionary work in the surrounding towns and villages.

In our travels around town, we noticed a number of new, well dressed clerics of Ronan Swiftfoot, including one with a big, impressive, ostentatious hat. A discrete inquiry revealed that Deacon’s home church had assigned a Cardinal to Burke (not Deacon?!?), who made the decision to move the site of the megachurch to a spot outside of town along the main road, and put a hiking boot factory on the previous site, employing many of the poor in the surrounding slums.

After a week or so back, we gained an audience with the Duke, which Stefan and I stayed back from, both to guard the manor from possible reprisals from the Hatchet Clan (strangely absent from town now) and because, frankly, we both get rudely wild at parties – and this wasn’t that kind of party! Kalli and the Company of the 4- no, 5, is it 6? Dragons (by extension) gifted the Duke the preserved dragon’s massive head, and a suit of golden full-plate armor found in Siegfried’s lair. During the discussions at the gala, we were hired to kill Tyranthraxus, the bronze dragon whose horde had once again taken Phlan, and help with that city’s liberation (again)… and possibly discover the whereabouts of the previous party that had been hired to help with Phlan’s recovery.

Afterwards, during the month or so of preparation time for the expedition, Kalli discovered both a desire to learn roguery, and a secret admirer! He left her a masterfully crafted gold and platinum rose on a folded Elven cloak, in her trapped and enchanted iron chest, along with a note saying, “Cute chest!” She later discovered a partial report on the group’s adventures and misdeeds, and later met one of the observers: a rogue working for a group called the Brotherhood. The name of her admirer was also revealed, and the strange individual who took some of the party gear, leaving other loot in its place. A mage-rogue named Ghostwind instructed another thief named Nilvin to instruct Kalli in the arts of roguery, and to let the group know we’re being watched… though whether just as a warning to “clean up our acts,” or to let us know of a new possible threat, we’re not sure.

Finally, we began our journey – off to Phlan at the head of an army!

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A Bit of How's Your Father
Hunting the White Patriarch

Before we could leave, the psionicist spoke through Stefan again. He must have accessed Stefan’s past memories, for he began to praise us for our prowess as dragonslayers. Along that train of thought, he came to mention that he knew where the last of the white dragon family – the father – was. Siegfried, as this papa dragon was known, roosted on the highest peak at the headwaters of the river we were on. We decided to go after him, both to finish off this malevolent family that had threatened Burke, and in the hopes that this dragon might actually have a hoard of treasure we could add to our funds. And he was clearly evil! What a relief to throw myself into a task with no moral qualms to worry about.

We set our horses free, and Kalli, still in black dragon form, flew us and our wagon as far West as she could before sunset. Then we made camp at a bend in the river, Blake polymorphed Kalli back to her normal self, and we slept the night.

Next day we began the slow hike upriver, coming to a fork at one point. My prayers of Divination revealed the correct route, and we continued, starting to plod uphill. By the end of that next day it was growing cold as our elevation increased. Blake conjured us up a Secure Shelter, a sort of well-appointed cabin, and we rested cozily inside. I filled the basin in the cabin with water and used it as a Magic Font to do a little scrying, scouting the way ahead and verifying the papa dragon’s location. Indeed, I could see him lounging in the crater of a dormant volcano some miles ahead.

Next day we continued upward, ever more steeply. It began to snow. Hrolf and I prayed for all of us to Endure Cold (few of us were equipped for an icy mountain expedition) and we slowly picked our way up the craggy, slippery rocks, using Stone Shape, Wind Column, Spider Climb, and other magical contrivances to facilitate our travel. We eventually stopped again when daylight gave out, and this time Blake conjured us a sturdy stone hut. I scryed the dragon again and we rested, the cabin’s Unseen Servant massaging our weary muscles by turn.

Finally we approached the summit – Siegfried’s lair. Blake Flew up to the lip of the crater and fastened some pitons there, tied a rope, and let it down to us. Stefan climbed up and then, one by one, hauled the rest of us up the last of the way. What a view! From the lip we could see down into a vast volcanic crater, the bowl of which was covered in thick ice and snow with a few trees poking out here and there. One edge of the lip was a sort of roofed-up ice shoal, and under the overhang could be seen the glint of gold, gems, and other treasures! We were in luck, if only we could defeat papa dragon.

And just as the thought crossed my mind, there was a great stir in the center of the crater. It was as if a massive sheet of snow trembled and began to rise… but then the snow fell off, revealing an enormous pale draconian form. Siegfried was impossibly huge – he dwarfed any of the other dragons we had encountered. He looked older, more venerable… apparently, mama dragon had a thing for older men!

At any rate, we now had to act fast. Kalli held up her shield and appeared to be calculating furiously whether she could “ski” down the bowl on it to charge the white dragon. But before she could, Siegfried’s wings rose up and violently beat down, launching the magnificent bastard high into the air over our heads! He banked around and came diving down at our neat little row of dragonslayers, perched precariously on the icy lip. I muttered a prayer to Resist Cold and, almost without thinking, I leapt forward and began tumbling down the snowy slope into the bowl. Raynard leapt after me, tumbling in my wake, and Hrolf quickly followed suit (though far less gracefully to be frank). Blake flew off to one side. Kalli drew her magic sword, Francis, and it launched itself into the air dragging her with it.

Only Stefan, the indomitable tank, stood his ground. He braced for an onslaught the likes of which had never been seen… and which never came. Instead, Siegfried redirected his angle of approach, whipping his tail out at Blake and bowling him, end-over-end, out high into the air over the mountain (home run!). Then Siegfried looked down and unleashed a devastating blast of frosty breath on us three tumblers! We were enveloped in impossibly cold frost, and if not for our prayers of cold resistance our flesh would’ve instantly shattered. As it was, Hrolf and I escaped the worst of it, but Raynard was frozen solid in a block of ice.

Kalli (and Francis the sword) darted up to the enormous wyrm and slashed at his side, over and over. He tried swatting her away but couldn’t connect, and her harrying drove him back down into the bowl. He landed in the center of the crater and glared at Kalli as she floated up near his face.

Hrolf waddled back up to where Raynard stood frozen, and began chipping away at the ice block around him. I came with, and started praying for any frost burns to be healed and for Raynard to revive. It seemed to be working, and luckily we were able to rescue our comrade free from further attack since the others now had Siegfried’s full attention. Blake had detonated a fireball on the dragon’s rear legs, distracting it for just a second and allowing Kalli to dart in and chop viciously at Siegfried’s face. It howled in pain – a fearsome echoing boom – and swiped out a claw at the raging warrioress, rending her armor and tearing through flesh. She staggered backward just as his jaws clamped down where she had just been.

Then it turned away from the wounded warrioress, leapt into the air once again, and this time dove down upon Stefan, charging up from behind. WHUMP – the whole mountain shook as Siegfried came down violently… and the shining knight could be seen skittering, rolling, skittering out from under it, miraculously unharmed! He must’ve been positioned in just such a way that there was a concave impression in the snow protecting him from the dragon’s crushing weight. As the dragon groped about for Stefan, Kalli staggered to her feet, gritted her teeth, and then strode up behind it and unceremoniously sliced it’s scaly throat wide open with a mighty strike of pure vengeance! The ancient dragon thrashed briefly, and bled to death without further ado.

We gathered our composure, Hrolf and I praying for everyone’s health, and began to sift through Siegfried’s underwhelming hoard. We discovered a few coins and gems, but mostly potions for some odd reason. Anyways, we had all survived, and added another dragon hashmark to our tally! Any dragon-fight you can walk away from, is a good dragon-fight.

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Amber Alert
An Ethical Dilemma

Having defeated the Hatchetmen’s fearsome championess, we took the enchanted axes she dropped and retreated back to the entrance of the mines to lick our copious wounds.

On the way out, Stefan suddenly jerked upright, and began speaking in a strange tone of voice while flexing and musing about how his body felt. When he addressed us it became clear that the psionic master of the mine had taken over his body and was using it to communicate with us remotely. Kalli stepped forward and began to negotiate. She offered that we wouldn’t come back to finish the slaughter if he were to give us 3 chests of mithril. After some time, they struck an even bigger deal: the psionicist would dissociate from the Hatchetmen, removing his mantle of protection from them (and therefore allowing us the opportunity to finally destroy them once and for all) if we would kill the amber dragon we had encountered earlier, who seemed to be protecting Riverton and the surrounding wilderness. Furthermore, he would give us a bonus if we could procure for him some of the dragon’s blood.

This didn’t sit well with me, but before I fully comprehended what was said, the deal was struck. I would have to chew on this for a while.

The psionicist then relinquished control over Stefan’s body, and he came to. Next Blake examined the ornate pair of axes, and determined that at least one of them was imbued with fire magic. He read a command word on the pommel, and violet flame sprung up the handle, engulfing the blade! He couldn’t read the other, but speculated that it may be imbued with ice magic. Stefan took them back and we continued to trudge out of the mine, down the mountain, and out of the dead magic zone.

Our psionic powers diminished, and eventually our magic returned. As we marched, I reflected on this moral dilemma I had been thrust into. My comrades were a good sort overall, although perhaps a bit too prone to greed for my taste. But still, my cut of the earnings from this quest would complete the construction of Ronan’s megachurch, and endow the Burkean congregation with a fortune to keep it strong for decades to come. That had to count for something, right?

As we traveled, I fell into the rhythm of the march. Feeling my pack sway as my legs moved methodically, my body proceeding automatically, I Withdrew into a deep, meditative trance. Only a few hours passed for my comrades, but I experienced days, weeks, perhaps eons flying by as I pondered the mysteries of my destiny. I examined the situation from all angles:

  • The psionicist was clearly evil, a strange bedfellow indeed.
  • Amber dragons, I knew, tended towards moral neutrality. This one had even seemed to help us, by relieving us of Stefan’s cursed armor that had brought us so much grief.
  • Although, the dragon probably had not helped out of altruism so much as for her own selfish ends. She had seemed strangely attracted to the armor, desiring it for herself. The dragon’s act of assistance to us perhaps had the same moral weight as any other neutral force of nature that happens to help rather than hurt, like a fortuitous rainstorm that fills our canteens and helps deliver us from the burden of thirst. Right?
  • The dragon had seemed to be protecting the village of Riverton, and the surrounding wilderness. Seemingly a good act; and what would happen without her protection in the future? Perhaps some of the villagers would become unwilling slaves of the psionicist, toiling away the rest of their lives in his mines…
  • But who knows why she was protecting the village? It could be simply to safeguard her own ready supply of meat: the innocent villagers like a fenced-in herd of pigs just waiting to be turned into so much bacon.
  • There was the Greater Good to be considered as well. Even if the dragon were altruistically protecting the innocent villagers, how does keeping that tiny village safe weigh against the consequence (if she dies and we annihilate the Hatchetmen) of saving the entire region, including the populous mega-city of Burke, from being ruthlessly terrorized by a brutal criminal syndicate? Surely that good outweighs the murder, or martyrdom really, of one neutral being, who perhaps carries the same moral significance as a powerful force of nature. Right??
  • So really, her living stood in the way of the greater good, but her death would help advance it. Nothing good comes with out a price, they say. If you want to make an omelette, and all that. Right???

After anguishing over this for what seemed an eternity, suddenly it dawned on me: this was not murder at all, but more akin to an execution in a civil society. Unpleasant, but necessary. The honorable course of action would be to just lay it all out straight for her. Inform her of the reasons why she had to die so she could make peace with her fate, and then just do it as mercifully as possible: quick and painless. Maybe she would even see reason and accept her demise gracefully, the way that land whale had on the road to Riverton. Yes! Blunt, clear, and honest was the way to go. It was regrettable that it had to be this way, but it was not murder, I could rest at east. It was but duty to the greater good. She had to die, so that we could use the evil psionicist as a tool in the service of good. I hoped Ronan would understand.

I came out of my trance, relieved and now excited by the challenge at hand. We continued marching until it grew dark, then we came to halt and made camp. Hrolf and I prayed for healing for us all, and we rested the night.

Next day we spent strategizing how to locate and slay the amber dragon. I was able to Divine the creature’s approximate location, and we set off hiking through the forest in that general direction, hiking for several hours. We came into a clearing that I judged to be in her territory, and decided to see if we could lure here there. Everyone spread out, and I thought it might be of use to Call some Woodland Beings to our aid, since we’d be fighting, after all, a dragon. I sent out a Summons for any nearby bears or wolves to take part in the execution, but none came! Had Ronan judged my reasoning false and cut me off from His good graces? Or perhaps had all the local bears and wolves become prey for our quarry long ago? I couldn’t say, but the question put my nerves on edge. I Called out again, but this time I felt her presence: the amber dragon. I sent out empathic vibes that it was imperative that I speak with her, posthaste. I could sense her curiosity, and felt her draw near.

She emerged behind me from the dense foliage, mere yards away. But not in the form that I expected: she was a mere little girl, naked and appearing as innocent as you please. She looked up at me, inquiring with big yellow eyes what was the matter. I suppressed a sudden emotional urge and spoke sharply, barking my explanation quickly before her innocent appearance could soften my heart.

“My lady. I’m afraid that your life is now forfeit. If you submit, we’ll make it quick and painless, and I will shepherd your soul into the next realm.”

“What? Whyyyyy?” She ask plaintively, beginning to tear up and sob.

I could sense my comrades rolling their eyes at my sentimentality, but only Ronan mattered to me now. I had to tread carefully.

“Look, it’s not that you’ve done anything wrong. The whole thing is regrettable. But it will be for the best if you die, so that we can take some great villains out of the world. You’ll be dying for a good cause, you’ll see! Well, I suppose you won’t actually see, seeing as how you’ll be dead, but you can trust me on that.”

Blake must have sensed my wavering resolve, for in the middle of my sputtering justification, he fired a salvo a magic missiles at the girl from up above where he had been Flying around the clearing. By rights, they should have blasted her into a fine red mist, but instead they barely knocked her back an inch. The innocent look in her wide eyes vanished, and she narrowed them to glare at the bard through slits of hot yellow anger.

I don’t know what I expected then, but it was not for her to disappear. Yet she very nearly did, but for a tiny mote of glimmering amber light where her heart had been. This rocketed up high over my head and straight at Blake! It seemed to zap him angrily with jolts of electricity as it buzzed around him. Kalli, holding aloft her magic sword (Francis) rocketed up into the air too, slashing at the mote. I wondered if the dragon-girl had used some kind of shape-changing magic to transform into a Will’o’the’Wisp… I prayed for any magic on her to be Dispelled. It worked! She instantly reverted to full-grown dragon, amber scales and all, right between the airborne Blake and Kalli. She now stood on the ground, but immediately shrieked a terrible roar as Stefan dashed in, hacking off a piece of her tail. In response, she flapped her terrible wings and launched herself into the air, scooping up the armored half elf with her rear claw as she rose. Blake stayed low but Kalli followed the dragon (and Stefan) up, slicing and slashing at her vulnerable wing joint. The harrying distracted the dragon enough to drop Stefan, who Blake caught with an impressively timed Feather Fall spell; he gently floated to the ground.

Across the clearing I could make out Hrolf intoning the words to a Dimensional Anchor spell, which I figured would prevent the dragon from making any sneaky magical escapes. (Who knew the little fella was capable of such forethought? I gave him a spiritual “bro-fist” from where I stood.) Indeed, the dragon seemed to be attempting some Blink magic… and was a bit surprised when it didn’t work. I yelled, “Your magic has no power here!”

Kalli took advantage of the brief distraction to slice again, doing more damage to her wings.

Now she somehow managed to revert back to wisp-form once again, and seemed to almost fade from view completely, but Hrolf once again had her in check with an Invisibility Purge. Repeatedly thwarted from her powers, she apparently chose now to flee instead. She rocketed off into the woods to the South. I summoned a Tree Steed and picked up Stefan and Hrolf to follow, but Kalli had other ideas. Blake was about to fly off after the mote, but instead Kalli barked a command at him to Polymorph her, and so he cast the spell. She quickly grew into a giant black dragon! Her plan was to use another dragon’s acute senses to track the amber dragon… and it worked. She launched herself up after the fleeing mote, crashing through the trees in her way and leaving raw destruction in her wake, quickly outpacing my poor wooden horse.

I don’t know quite how it happened, as there was nothing for us to do but follow, but after some tense minutes the black dragon came crashing back. Kalli had caught the mote in her massive black dragon maw! She motioned for Blake to get out the Bag of Holding, which he did, and when he held it open, she spit into it and he sealed it back shut. The amber dragon was dead, though it was now physically in wisp form. I muttered a fervent benediction for her departed soul.

Kalli gathered us up and flew us back to the mine entrance, to pay our blood price to the psionicist. Then we took our earnings and discussed what to do next.

Now, polymorphing is a dangerous procedure even when turning into a simple creature. Becoming something like a dragon almost never ends well for the morphee. By rights, Kalli should have been permanently brain damaged, and yet knowing this she had chosen to put herself at risk on behalf of the mission. That’s dedication! Yet somehow, despite all odds, she finally reverted to her scrappy old self, in perfect sanity. I hoped I could say the same for myself after coming to terms with my moral compromise… was I starting down a road that could lead to spiritual bankruptcy? Or was I ensuring the greatest good for the greatest number? It was a crisis of faith. I needed a vacation.

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To the Mithril Mines pt. 2
Lair of the Illest Illithid

WILL FILL IN DETAILS LATER

On the mountain road up to the mine, we all felt a queer sensation, and seemed to hear a strange keening sound. Our enchanted gear grew heavier. I felt a preternatural spiritual quietude, and asking Hrolf, he felt it too, like our chakras were disconnected from the network. Blake murmured some incantation, but his spell fizzled! I quickly spoke a prayer, but there was no response! We must have blundered into one of the fabled “dead-magic” zones. Yet at the same time, we all noticed our minds racing. It was exhilarating, like an epiphany, a sudden expansion of our cognitive abilities somehow. I realized that I could easily create new interpretations of common things and events, telling a crushingly cynical and demoralizing story about the meaninglessness of things people love, and further that I could somehow telepathically project that sense into another’s mind, giving them an instantaneous aversion to that thing, action, place, or event. With some experimentation, my comrades discovered similarly startling powers: Hrolf could think portals in space into existance, like little dimensional doors. Blake could telekinetically move objects without touching them. Stefan could agitate matter on a molecular level, causing explosive detonations. (OTHERS?)

Then we all heard, or rather sensed, an overwhelming and sinister voice warning us off, and taunting us. But our courage was indomitable, and we resolved to continue into the mine despite the apparent loss of our magics, enchantments, and divine protections.

We finally came to the gaping mine entrance. It was unguarded, and we followed the cart tracks into the dimly lit mouth. Some fortifications and dwarven architectural ornamentation greeted us inside, and as our eyes adjusted, we saw a form lurking in the shadows further in, beyond an ornate archway.

(BRAIN GOLEM AND ZOMBIE DWARVES)

(SNIPER POST AND PORTCULLIS)

(HALLWAY WITH MROE ZOMBIES, FLAMING BARREL)

(KITCHENS, DINING HALL)

(BARRACKS, 2 BROTHERS AGAIN, AXE WARRIORESS, MORE ZOMBIES)

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To the Mithral Mines, pt. 1
The perilous road to Riverton

After assigning our workers to extricate the worm corpse and repair the brewery, we headed back home to the island stronghold to return to business as usual. Our next task was to investigate the mithral mines up the river to the West. We would have to travel some 180 miles and determined to make the trek on horse rather than by barge, because it would be faster. So we gathered up supplies, readied a wagon, and six horses, and departed. Stefan rode out front, scouting a couple hundred feet ahead. He was followed by Raynard, then came the ecumenical healing wagon which I drove, and which carried Hrolf and our supplies. Behind us rode Blake, singing jolly travel tunes, and finally Kalli brought up the rear. Our first day’s journey was pleasant and sunny.

But partway through the afternoon, Stefan called a halt. He shouted back that he had noticed something glinting in the reeds by the water, and that a learn-ed man should come forth to investigate. As one such man, I stepped down from the wagon and walked out to meet Stefan near the shore. I bent down and peered at some kind of crystal scepter; surely an ominous thing to be just randomly laying in the reeds. Sure enough, something moved rapidly, whipping through the reeds – clutching troll claws burst out at me! I jerked my head back just in time, stumbled backwards, and fell, as two of the stinking beasts vaulted out, trampling over my prone form and fixing their eyes on Stefan. “SCRAAAAAAGS!” I yelled.

River Troll Ambush: Epic Fail
troll2.gif

The two trolls charged up the shore at the mithril-clad warrior, but Blake detonated a fireball right on top of them, giving them pause and igniting some of the reeds around me. Raynard raised his bow and loosed an arrow that struck one of the trolls as it scrambled, smoldering, up the shore. Seconds later, several more scrags emerged from farther downriver, near Kalli at the end of our convoy. She charged her horse at the nearest one approaching, violently knocking it back into the river. Meanwhile, Stefan had lifted his axe and brought it down hard, cleaving into the first troll to reach him. The other troll was coming up fast on its heels, and Stefan bellowed a challenge to it even as some kind of acid arrow flew from Blake into it’s chest, causing it to shriek and smoke as it fell to the ground and rolled back and forth.

I could see Kalli then dismounting farther down the shore, and she began one of her improbable spinning assault routines, tearing through a couple more scrags like a whirlwind of razorblades and leaving behind a fine green mist. Hrolf could be seen hurling a flaming hand-axe. When it missed and landed amongst the reeds, he turned around and tromped off in the other direction. Where are you going, dwarf?!?

I used my faith to summon a watery psuedopod, which splashed out to wrap around the nearest troll and drag it backwards toward the river… but it splashed through and leapt on Raynard, clawing bloody scratches in his face. Then Stefan came charging up, chopping its head off. It’s body collapsed on top of Raynard and twitched. I climbed to my feet, grabbed the scepter, and climbed back up to the road as Raynard extricated himself from the troll body, and the others gathered up the pieces and burned them. I actually felt sorry for the poor bastards. For all their low cunning, they had foolishly messed with the wrong travelers, and been massacred for their troubles. We continued on our way.

Shortly thereafter, we came to a signpost on the road, indicating that we were nearing the village of Riverton. Blake suddenly exclaimed, “Hark!” and cupped his hand to his ear, listening. Then we all heard it, a kind of gutteral screech from afar. We turned to look across the river, and there was a massive 40’ long behemoth of a killer land-whale! It’s black and white skin shone in the sun, and it gazed balefully at us for a moment before thrusting itself into the water.

The Unfortunate Behemoth
behemoth.gif

We could see the sinister black dorsal fin cutting across the river, making a beeline straight for us. Blake ignited the reeds along the shore again, putting a curtain of flames between it and us. But seemingly heedless of the flames, the enormous form launched itself out of the water, galloping furiously on its four stumpy legs straight at Stefan! It opened it’s 6’ wide maw, picking up the half-elf and even scooping up the dirt beneath him like a shovel, but he twisted aside and rolled back before it could snap it’s jaw shut around him.

In shock from this thunderous and sudden assault, my comrades now all began to dismount and ready their weapons. I calmly stepped down from the wagon, placing all thoughts of violence aside. Time seemed to slow down for me as I approached the marvelous beast. I placed my hand to my forehead, thumb and pinky outstretched, and began to generate a low-pitched whinging sound in the back of my throat as I prayed. I peered into the behemoth’s soul, and we had a real moment there.

Imagine this water buffalo is a giant killer whale with legs

Ronan be praised, He truly watches over His travelers. The massive creature, which could’ve bitten any of us in half without thinking of it, instead simply became entirely passive and lay down at my feet. ‘This would make a great parable for my flock back at the megachurch!’ I thought, but just then Kalli came striding up behind me and shoved a spear into the creature’s eye, hammering it with the heel of her hand until it sunk all the way in through the brain. The poor beast didn’t even resist, just accepted its fate, shuddered, and died. We should all die so gracefully. We mounted back up, and rode on.

Much Ado About “Nothing”

Not much further on, we approached some kind of black sphere, a few feet in diameter, half sunk in the road. But it was slowly rising, and soon floated up out of the road, leaving a hole behind. It leveled off a few feet up in the air, and floated slowly towards Stefan, who was in the front line with Raynard. While advancing unsettlingly steadily, it moved slowly, so Stefan and Raynard trotted their horses around it. As soon as they passed it though, it veered around and began following directly behind Stefan. He began to dodge this way and that, but the thing seemed to track him, always moving slowly but inexorably in his direction! Raynard, noticing this, bolted away, but still the sphere moved slowly. I prayed that if some foul magic were causing this phenomenon, that it be dispelled, yet nothing happened. Blake cast magic missile, attacking the darkness, but it just swallowed the streaking bolts of energy up and continued on its implacable way, unaffected. It was like some kind of preternatural force of negation, a kind of sphere that annihilated all matter and energy that it touched… and it wanted Stefan! Oh dear.

We new began to wonder why the thing was following our mithril-clad warrior. We realized that the hostile creatures we had previously encountered had also seemed intent on getting to Stefan. Was he attracting them in some way? Was he cursed to arouse the ire of monsters? This had never happened before… and he had just gotten that fancy new suit of armor… was the armor cursed? We debated that theory and decided that, to be safe, Hrolf and I would endeavor to pray hard for Stefan that evening, when we had time to concentrate, and hopefully we could exorcize whatever curse might have befallen him.

….
……..
…………
at some point we come to the outskirts of Riverton and are greeted by a golden dragon lady polymorphed as a human, made a bargain with her, she removed Stefan’s armor and took it. We came in to town, got in a scuffle with some hatchetmen at the local bar, headed out on a side quest to protect the local farms from some rampaging frost giants, came back, and headed up to the mithril mine itself! WILL HAVE TO FILL IN DETAILS LATER

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