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Thread: Tales of the Legacy - Concluded
Thursday, 22nd July, 2004, 11:34 PM #1
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Tales of the Legacy - Concluded
(This Story Hour is indexed.)
This Story Hour is set on a homebrew world, known as Aelfenn. It's a world still very much in development, so this campaign has been a real journey of discovery for all of us, including our DM. I don't want to bore you all with a lengthy exposition, so where appropriate I'll include footnotes to explain campaign elements. For now, suffice it to say that Aelfenn would likely be described as a "high-magic" world, similar to the Forgotten Realms (in fact the campaign does use some FR material). Our campaign begins with a familiar concept - the 'adventuring school'. This school, known simply as "The Tower", lies in the middle of Trageon, which is the capital city of the human empire of Targeth. Our characters started the campaign at 2nd level, advancing to 4th by the time we were out of school.
Though you'll have to wait a bit for the first installment ("What? He starts a Story Hour and doesn't include any content? What a load of..."), I can at least start with introducing the PCs.
Kyle Goodson - Male human wizard. Kyle was born a farmer's son and was trained as a carpenter. His latent talent for magic was discovered after he was hired on by the Tower as a handyman. Generally good-natured, he has a tendency to stick his foot in his mouth frequently.
Ariadne "Arrie" Verahannen - Female human exoticist (a fighter variant; basically trades in the Martial Weapon Proficiencies for 4 Exotic Weapon Proficiencies). Arrie hails from the kingdom of Merlion, a tiny human barony in the midst of the elven nation of Tlaxan. Arrie is part of one of the ruling noble families of that nation, but for some reason has been allowed to roam free of her lands and attend classes at the Tower. Strong-willed and implusive, she sometimes leaps before she looks.
Autumn Verahannen - Female aasimar sentinel (a NG paladin variant focused on preventing incursions from evil outsiders). Autumn was adopted by the Verahannen family, and she and Arrie refer to each other as sisters. In many ways Autumn is the opposite of Arrie; refined where she is rough, reserved where she is impulsive.
Lanara Rahila - Female cansin bard (cansin are like tieflings or aasimar, but are descended from a chaotically-aligned outsider). The epitome of the wandering minstrel, Lanara calls nowhere home for long. Lanara prides herself on her ability to subtly manipulate others for a bit of fun.
Osborn Greenbottle - Male hin fighter/rogue (hin is this world's term for halfling; I think it's actually in the PHB race description, too). Osborn grew up as part of a travelling hin circus, where his father performed as a knife-thrower. Osborn went on the trail of a pair of thieves that had stolen the troupe's money, not giving up until he'd secured the stolen funds nearly two years later. He was sent to the Tower by his troupe as a reward.
Tolly Nightsleaving - Male human cleric. An orphan raised by the church, Tolly naturally entered their service. He was sent to the Tower by his superiors in order to make him a bit more world-savvy. He is dedicated, but a bit naive to the way the world works.
(Tolly eventually picks up a cohort, Crystal, a female axani cleric/rogue.)
Baobab Ghurka - Male human druid. Ghurka was a druid obsessed with fire. He only lasted through our first adventure, as his player decided that the character didn't appeal to him. He was replaced by Tolly.
Xu Dhii Ngao - Female human monk. A young girl who ran away from an arranged marriage, Xu (and the name is pronounced "You Die Now" ) took shelter in a monastery and learned their ways. Usually quiet, she expresses herself on the battlefield.
Kavan - Male elf cleric. Kavan (he has never given a family name) had originally followed in the footsteps of his father, becoming a professional escort. But an encounter with an angry spouse led to a questioning of his life, and a discovery of his faith.
Madrone - Female elf favored soul. Maddie comes into the tale much further along to replace another character, the circumstances of which I won't reveal here.
Razael Fletcher - Male elf tracker (non-spellcasting ranger variant from Complete Warrior). Razael is a very old, and very cynical elf, who has a tendency to get the wrong people upset. He was a replacement for another character (which one? You'll have to stay tuned to find out...)
Yuri Fanchon - Female human dragoon (a nation-specific prestige class that emphasizes leaping, acrobatic combat with reach weapons). Joining the party late in the campaign, Yuri is a professional soldier who was recruited after her unit was wiped out in a war (which war? Read on...)
That's it for now. The first real post will hopefully come tomorrow, or late today if I can manage it.
Last edited by Delemental; Monday, 22nd December, 2008 at 08:13 AM. Reason: Concluded!
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Friday, 23rd July, 2004, 12:10 AM #2
I've never run or played in a game that featured one, so this isn't familiar to me -- and it sounds interesting. Are you running this campaign, or are you one of the players (your post suggests the latter, to me at least)?Originally Posted by Delemental
This is a big party (thank you, Counselor Troi...)! I'm curious to see how this pans out in the story -- and in play, as the party for my current campaign has been pretty large at times.
In any case, I liked your introduction.
Friday, 23rd July, 2004, 07:50 AM #3
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
The concept's something I've run across a couple of times - the party starts out in some sort of formal training program. It's meant to allow characters to bond and get comfortable working together in a relatively "safe" environment (ie, less chance of a TPK at low levels just as the characters get to know each other). It's a method for starting a campaign that, like any other element, can be done well or done poorly. Generally you have to be careful how long you run 'school' adventures, because after a while players want to start doing things that are actually real instead of simulated. One advantage is that you can string a variety of different types of adventures (dungeon crawl, investigation, city-based, etc) together without having to worry about tying them together.Originally Posted by haiiro
And yes, I am a player. My character is the wizard, Kyle. I've been keeping the logs for our campaign since the beginning, mostly I think because I'm the only one willing to do it every week.
The party size was a bit of a concern for us in the beginning, especially since a lot of the players are roleplay intensive and like to have their own personal subplots. So far, it's gone all right, though we've learned the hard way that 'solve the mystery' adventures don't flow very smoothly for us (because inevitably with those kind of adventures splitting the party ends up the most efficient way to deal with the investigation, which means you end up with 3-4 separate groups... it took us 4 sessions to finish a relatively simple adventure).Originally Posted by haiiro
Last edited by Delemental; Friday, 23rd July, 2004 at 08:05 AM.
Friday, 23rd July, 2004, 08:01 AM #4
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
The large double doors creaked slightly as Kavan pushed his way into the chamber, looking around at the rows of empty tables and chairs. Even the circular instructor’s dais in the center of the room stood unoccupied. At first, Kavan thought he was the first to arrive, but his keen elven ears picked up a slight scuffling from the lowest row of tables. Moving to the side to get a better look, he saw a large figure crouched on the floor, apparently fiddling with one of the chairs. The scene was almost comical as the broad-shouldered man tried to squeeze himself under the long table to get a better angle at his work.
Nothing but a common laborer, Kavan thought at first, but caught himself. Whoever this man was, he was one of Erito’s* children, just like himself, and worthy of respect as such. Kavan fingered the holy symbol around his neck, and said a silent prayer asking for forgiveness from his goddess.
The man rose from his work as Kavan let his symbol fall back to his chest, and for a moment the elf’s usual poise and reserve was nearly broken. The man had somehow managed to fit his broad shoulders into a set of mustard-colored robes, which Kavan swore were the same kind the school issued to students of magic. The man brushed a few wood shavings from his black scruffy hair, then flashed a toothy grin as he put away his dagger.
“Howdy,” he called out in a leisurely drawl. “You here for Interdisciplinary Tactics?”
Kavan nodded as he set his pack down on the table in front of him, far up on the back row. He’d felt a little silly hauling all his worldly possessions up to the 267th floor of the Tower, but the directions given were specific.
“Me too,” said the man, sitting down in the chair he’d just been working on. He shifted his weight back and forth, then slapped his hand on the arm of the chair in satisfaction. “I hate a wobbly chair,” he said. “It’s why I always show up early – I swear there weren’t four chair legs of equal length in this whole tower before I got here.” He put his feet up on the table, then looked back up at the elf in the top row. “Name’s Kyle,” he said. “What’s yours?”
“My name is Kavan.” He studied the man below him for a moment. “You are… a student here?”
“Yup,” said Kyle, grinning. “And let me tell you, no one was more surprised by that than me.”
Their conversation was interrupted by a commotion across the room, as two women in heavy armor came into the room through a door across from Kavan and Kyle. The first was a blonde-haired woman in half-plate, with a longsword on her hip and a shield strapped to her back. She had one hand wrapped around the arm of her companion, and seemed to be pulling her along. The second woman wore chainmail armor, and wrapped across her chest and waist was a length of spiked chain. Strands of brown hair drooped into her face as the two of them found seats in the midst of the room. As the crash of metal and wood echoed through the room, no one noticed as a small figure slipped in through the door Kavan had used, and stood in the shadows observing.
“Okay, Autumn, you can let go now.” The woman shrugged out of the other’s grasp, then looked around. Across from her she saw an elf with short, dark brown hair, wearing simple white robes. There was some sort of holy symbol around his neck, but she couldn’t make out the details. Erito, probably, she thought. Below him sat another man, human like herself. Even though he was as large and muscular as some of her fellow students in her combat training courses, he wore wizards’ robes. The man looked up and grinned.
“Howdy, ma’am,” he said to her, “Name’s Kyle. What’s yours?”
“I’m Arrie,” she replied, “and this is my sister Autumn.” Arrie gestured at the woman with strawberry blonde hair, who nodded in reply. “She can’t talk today,” Arrie continued, “she got sick after last week’s outdoor survival course and lost her voice.”**
Kyle nodded at the introductions, though he was having a hard time seeing the family resemblance. Autumn seemed to have an inner glow, a subtle quality that suggested she was one of the Touched***, an aasimar. Arrie, on the other hand, seemed as human as he was. Still, the style of etching on their armor suggested noble heritage, and nobility sometimes had a strange definition of ‘family’.
Arrie and Autumn’s glance turned up toward the elf in the top row. “My name is Kavan,” he said to the implied question.
The doors opened again, and a slender woman dressed in an unadorned outfit made of green silk stepped quietly into the room and sat down. Her black hair trailed down her back in a long braid, which curled loosely around the end of a long pole strapped to her back. She sat quietly, eyes nearly closed, until Kyle spoke.
“Howdy, my name’s Kyle. What’s yours, ma’am?”
“Xu Dhii Ngao,” she replied.
Kyle’s eyebrows arched in surprise. “You know, it was just a simple question. No need to threaten me.”
Xu’s brow furrowed. “I do not understand,” she said, perplexed.
“Well, all I asked was your name, and you tell me I’m going to die now. What am I supposed to think?”
Xu shook her head, a tiny smile on her face. “No, no, you misunderstand. My name is Xu… Dhii… Ngao. You may call me simply ‘Xu’.”
Satisfied, Kyle relaxed. “All right then. Well, this is Kavan, and that’s Arrie and Autumn.”
Another figure entered as the chimes signaling the beginning of class began to sound. This person, also a human like Kyle, Xu, and Arrie, wore deep green robes that were frayed and singed at the edges. He wore a full beard, and his blonde hair was long and starting to turn gray. His eyebrows were missing, and the skin on his face seemed unusually pink, which only highlighted the criss-cross scarring on his cheeks that was typical of someone who has survived wyrmrage fever as a child. He appeared several years older than the others, and at first it was assumed he was their teacher. But he sat down quickly at a table without comment.
Everyone in the room turned toward the central podium, expecting their instructor to appear. After a minute had passed, Kyle looked up at Arrie and Autumn. “Um, are we sure this is the right room?”
Just then the door closest to the two armored women flew open, and another female dashed in. This one had a wild shock of hair that seemed dyed in a garish mix of pink and orange, and wore clothes in various shades of violet that, although seemingly thrown together from several different styles, somehow managed to look good together, especially considering the amount of skin they revealed. As she collapsed in a chair, the others could see that her left eye was emerald green, the other sky blue. She let out a muffled greeting, her voice blocked by the wedge of flatbread still in her teeth.
Arrie elbowed Autumn. “See, I wouldn’t have been the last one here,” she quipped.
“Well, now that everyone else is here…”
They all turned at the sound of the strange voice. Stepping out of the shadows in the corner came a diminutive figure, just barely over three feet tall. The young hin wore a black vest over dark studded leather, and his long black hair was pulled back. A set of pearly white teeth flashed in the middle of a neatly trimmed goatee and mustache, and everyone could see the hilts of several daggers protruding from his vest, belt, boots, and his wrists. He jumped up on top of the table near Kavan and sat cross-legged, still grinning.
“Impressive entrance, Osborn,” said another voice, this one high above them. Looking up, they saw a large man in leathers clinging to the ceiling, observing them. He let go, and spun in midair, landing gracefully on his feet in the center of the instructor’s dais. “I was wondering how long you would remain hidden. At least I know you weren’t late for class.” The instructor’s eyes wandered meaningfully over to the wild-haired woman. “Isn’t that right, Lanara?”
The woman called Lanara merely shrugged. “Long lines at the kitchen,” she said, wiping crumbs off the table.
The instructor turned back to the class without comment. “Welcome to Interdisciplinary Tactics. My name is Shilsen Brandovich. Up until now, your instruction at the Tower has been focused on improving your individual skills; thus you have been working primarily with those of your own profession. Now, you will learn to work with those of different talents and abilities. You will learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and in so doing learn to create a more effective whole.”
Shilsen circled slowly, taking in each person in turn. “I’ve observed that most of you have already begun introducing yourselves. This is good, as you will be working closely with the other students in this room for the remainder of your term here at the Tower, and quite possibly beyond. However, this course is supposed to be about risks and how you handle them as a group. Therefore, your first simulation will begin immediately.”
The students looked around at each other. Simulation?
“In one hour, you will be taken to a simulated scenario very much like what you would encounter in the outside world as professional adventurers. This is a simple pass or fail test; complete the assignment, and you pass. But if you don’t complete the assignment, or you die, then you fail.
“You have in front of you all of your equipment that you either brought to the Tower yourself or has been given to you as reward for your studies up until now. This is what you will have to complete your mission. Other items that can aid you may be found within the scenario itself, but don’t rely on that. You have the next hour to talk amongst yourselves, to figure out what your capabilities are and what you lack, and make any plans.” With that, Shilsen stepped off the instructor’s platform, went up the stairs, and exited the room.
* Erito is the head goddess of the Aelfenn pantheon. She is the patron deity of the elves, and also the goddess of life, death, and magic.
** Translation: after making the character, her player was unable to attend the first few sessions. Thus we needed some explanation for why she wasn't able to participate in the conversation.
*** The various races in Aelfenn that are humans with mixed blood are known as the Touched. There are the Planetouched (classic aasimar and tiefling, as well as the chaotic cansin and the lawful axani), the Element-Touched (the same as the genasi in FR), and the Elf-Touched (half-elves) and Orc-Touched (half-orcs).
Last edited by Delemental; Friday, 23rd July, 2004 at 08:06 AM.
Friday, 23rd July, 2004, 11:29 PM #5
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
An awkward silence drifted through the chamber. Finally, Kyle cleared his throat. “Well, for starters, I don’t think we ever got your name, sir.” He looked at the bearded man in green robes.
“Baobab Ghurka,” he replied, “but I prefer to be called by my family name, if you don’t mind.” Introductions were made all the way around, including the hin Osborn and Lanara.
“Pardon me for asking,” said Kyle to Lanara, “but you’re a cansin, aren’t you? One of the Chaos-Touched?”
Lanara nodded, even as she leaned back in her chair. “Why do you ask?”
“Just wanted to make sure. We don’t get many cansin in the school of wizardry.”
Lanara stuck out her tongue in disdain. “Wizardry? Books and studying? No thanks. I prefer the natural route myself.” She waved a hand and tiny sparkles of colored light appeared over her head.
“Wait,” said Kavan, “you’re a wizard?” He studied Kyle for a moment; with his broad shoulders and large arms, he looked more like a lumberjack than a mage. He’d seen the robes, of course, but Kavan had half-convinced himself it was a fluke.
“Well, trying to be, anyway. But how about you? What do you do?”
“I have many skills. I can fight with bow and blade.”
“From the look of that pendant around your neck, I would have guessed that you’re a priest.” Kyle squinted at the symbol around Kavan’s neck. “Erito, I think?”
Kavan nodded. “Yes, I serve the goddess Erito as her priest.”
“So you can command divine magic, including healing, and have power over the undead?”
“Good to know. As for me, even though my own grimoire is a bit thin right now, I’m willing to help out any way I can. Offense, defense, information; I try to cover it all. I looked into specializing – conjuration, divination, and all that – but in the end everything I saw meant giving up something else that seemed real interesting, you know?”
Arrie watched the exchange with interest, then piped up when Kyle finished. “Well, I’ll have to speak for both of us today,” she said, pointing at both herself and Autumn. “My sister here is a Sentinel – a holy warrior devoted to righting wrongs, especially when they involve outsiders.”
“Outside where?” asked Lanara.
“Beings from one of the planetary realms besides our own,” explained Kyle. “Demons, devils, that sort of thing. It would technically include celestials too, though I get the feeling that Autumn’s not so opposed to them.”
“Right,” agreed Arrie. “As for me, I’m a warrior as well, though not as picky as my sister about whose head I bash in. I’ve trained in a few unusual weapons, such as this.” She unwrapped the heavy spiked chain from around her torso, showing to everyone. “It’s effective, and it’s great for knocking down those annoying, stick-figure wizards.” She gave an apologetic half-smile to Kyle. “I also have these.” She reached into a large sack at her hip and produced a ball of iron about the size of a grapefruit. “It’s an orcish shotput. Deadly, if a bit clumsy.”
Osborn’s eyes widened. “That thing’s almost as big as my mother!” he exclaimed.
“Yeah, I think that we used something like that to kill pigs back on the farm,” mused Kyle.
“So did I,” commented Ghurka.
“You were a farmer too?” asked Kyle.
“I was a farmhand,” Ghurka replied, “until my boss’ farm burned down one year. He had to let me go, since he had no crops to tend. Work was hard to come by then, so I ended up staying in the woods near the farm, living off the land. Over the next four years I watched the earth reclaim the land than humans had taken from it, and I gained a great respect for nature. I was especially intrigued by how the whole process had started with fire. I came to understand the important role fire plays in the cycle of life, and began to play my part to help that cycle along, setting blazes in the forest to clear out old growth so that new growth could prosper. In time, members of the Druidic Order sought me out, and inducted me into their mysteries.”
Kavan’s eyes narrowed. “You set fires in the forest? On purpose?”
“That isn’t natural,” the elf said.
“Untrue,” replied Ghurka. “I am a part of the world, just as you are. How can any action I take be unnatural? It’s not as though I laid waste to the entire forest. Creation and destruction exist in a cycle; both must exist in equal measure.”
Kavan was silent, clearly still not approving.
“Say,” asked Lanara, who had produced a fiddle and was tuning it, “are you the one responsible for the scorch marks on the floor on the 82nd level?”
Ghurka looked around the room for a moment before replying, “I don’t know anything about that.”
“Right.” She began playing a soft tune.
“So then what do you do?” asked Ghurka.
“Oh, a little of this, a little of that. Not much of a fighter, but that looks to be the job of the Tin Twins here. I’ll just immortalize you in song… or write a moving eulogy, as the case may be.”
“Okay, then,” said Kyle, looking around, “that leaves only two of us who haven’t spoken up yet.” He turned toward Xu, still sitting quietly in her chair. “What about you? I’ll admit I don’t have a good guess. Usually you can get a good idea from what a person’s wearing or carrying around, but you don’t have much of anything on you except that pole. What is it you do?”
Xu looked over at Kyle calmly. “I, like the others of my order, train our bodies and minds to act as one… no, to be nothingness.”
“Um, run that by me again?” said Osborn, who was trimming a loose thread off his vest with the point of a dagger. “What exactly is your gimmick?”
“My ‘gimmick’?” asked Xu, momentarily confused. Then understanding dawned on her face. “Ah, you mean my style of combat. My style is that I have no style. When the opponent expands, I contract. When he contracts, I expand. And when the opportunity presents itself, I do not hit.” She held up one fist in the air. “It hits all by itself.”
They all were silent for a moment, considering Xu’s words. Then Arrie clapped one hand on the table in front of her. “Down and dirty, fists and feet. My kind of woman.” She looked up as Osborn. “Well, I’d have to guess you’re good with knives.”
“That I am,” Osborn beamed. “I’m also skilled in reconnaissance, and the circumvention of security devices… I guess you could say I’m an ‘acquirer’, if you will.”
“Well,” said Ghurka, “we seem to be rather well-rounded in terms of talent. That’s a good thing.”
The eight students spent the remainder of their hour discussing details of their individual capabilities. They dug through their packs to see what kinds of potions, devices, and other useful items they had accumulated during their first eighteen months at the Tower. They all had a chance to meet Rupert, the great dane that served as Osborn’s faithful companion and mount. They also were introduced to Ghurka’s animal companion, a hawk named Cawn. Just as their conversations were beginning to wind down, Shilsen Brandovich re-entered the room.
“Everyone, gather your belongings and make your way to the northwest transport,” he ordered. The students followed him down the long hallway, gathering on the hovering steel disc that moved students through the various levels of the two-mile-high building*. Shilsen moved to the small pedestal in the middle of the platform, which held a crystalline orb at about a human’s waist height. He rested his right hand on the orb, and fished a smaller copy of the orb out of his pocket, holding it up to his forehead. The platform was instantly surrounded by a bubble of magical force, and began descending rapidly. Shilsen put his instructor’s key back into his pocket, and stood patiently next to the control orb.
In less than a minute they were in one of the underground levels, where students were normally barred from entering. They exited the platform and stepped into a rather ordinary chamber. At the far end was a plain wooden door.
“Your scenario lies beyond that door,” Shilsen explained. “Once inside, you will meet people who will explain your objective. Remember that this is designed to be a realistic simulation of the real world. Your opposition, whatever form it takes, will be employing deadly force, and you may respond with the same. Death of all members of the group will result in failure of the scenario, though of course the Tower’s policy of using resurrection magic on fallen students is still in effect. Now, are there any questions?”
A couple of hands went into the air. Shilsen smiled. “Good. I sincerely hope you discover the answers at some point.” With that he turned and got back on the transport platform, ascending rapidly.
The eight of them (plus Rupert and Cawn) milled about uncertainly. “So, who wants to go first?” asked Osborne.
“We have no idea what’s beyond that door,” said Ghurka. “We could be walking into the middle of a battle for all we know.”
“Good point,” said Kyle. “Maybe we should make a plan? Decide who’s going first, that sort of thing?”
Arrie yawned. “Well, why don’t we just open the door and see what’s on the other side before we decide?” Before anyone could stop her, she walked over and put her hand on the doorknob.
The door seemed to swell in size, arching over their heads. The door opened, and the frame seemed to rush toward them, enveloping the group. There was a flash of bright light, and suddenly the group was standing on a well-worn road, surrounded by trees. It was late in the day, with the first stars glimmering in the sky. A few hundred yards down the road, they saw a small village, with smoke from cooking fires curling into the sky. They could see a few people walking toward the large inn at the center of town.
“Well,” said Arrie, seeing that everyone was staring at her, “at least it wasn’t a battle, right?”
* Yes, two miles. The Tower is built upon an elemental Node, sort of a natural font of magical power, that supports the structure as well as the rest of the city. The city of Trageon itself consists of three levels; an underground portion, the main city on the surface, and the upper levels which rest on a gigantic floating platform. The Tower extends through all three levels throught the middle. The best visualization is the city of Sigil from Planescape, but imagine Sigil as a disk rather than a donut.
Tuesday, 27th July, 2004, 06:25 PM #6
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
After getting their bearings, the group agreed to head into the small town, assuming that their ‘scenario’ would start from there. As they approached the inn, which was constructed of rough-hewn stone, a voice called out to them.
“Hail, strangers! Are you the ones sent by the king?”
They turned to regard the speaker, a heavy-set man in his forties. After looking at each other uncertainly, Ghurka stepped forward. “Err… yes?”
“Thank the heavens,” said the man, coming up quickly and grasping Ghurka’s hand. He went around and shook the hands of each of the students as he talked.
“We’d just about given up hope – it’s been nearly two months since we sent word to the capital. Everyone inside will be thrilled to see you here at last. You’ve come at a good time – we’re holding a town meeting tonight. How much have you been told?”
“Umm, not much I’m afraid,” Osborn said quickly. “When we found out how… desperate your situation was, and how much time had passed, we left immediately. I’m sure you can fill us in on the details.”
“Of course, of course!” said the townsperson, who rushed to the door of the inn and pushed it open. “Come in, we’ll explain everything!”
The group made their way into the inn, a dimly-lit, smoky building whose ambiance was not enhanced by the throngs of men of various ages packed inside. Their presence was noted almost immediately, and no introductions were needed. After several minutes, the students found seats, their arms numb from unending handshakes and friendly shoulder-slaps.
A grizzled man of sixty years stood up, raising his arms to signal quiet. As the room settled, he walked up to a spot near the bar, standing up on one of the long wooden benches to address the crowd.
“Friends,” he said in a voice rough with age and hard labor, “Clevin has asked that I go over our situation from the beginning for the benefit of the adventurers sent by the king. So bear with me for a spell. For you young folks from the capital, I’m Parthus, and I’m as close as we get to any kind of authority around here.”
While Parthus was talking, Kavan leaned over and whispered to Kyle, “I see only men in this inn. Where are the women of the town?”
“Home, probably,” replied Kyle quietly, “you know, making dinner, watching the kids.”
Kavan frowned. “That is not right. In elven communities, women have an equal say in such matters. They have as much right to attend this meeting as the men.”
Kyle shrugged. “I wouldn’t disagree with you in principle, Kavan. But I know these folks – they’re simple people of the land, set in their ways. And now ain’t the time to educate them.”
Kavan let the discussion lapse as Parthus began explaining the problem. “This town was built up around a copper mine that was discovered below some old ruins just a little ways to the east. For years we’ve been mining the copper and selling it to the capital – the soil around here’s too poor to grow anything, so the mine’s all we’ve got to keep us going.
“About two months ago was when the invaders came. Actually, there were two invaders; goblins and kobolds. They came up from below, overrunning the mines and chasing us out. It seemed like there were thousands of them. They’ve settled into the mines, and they have been raiding the town regularly ever since. Some nights it’s the kobolds, other nights it’s the goblins, and sometimes it’s both one after the other. We tried to send in a group of our own to root them out – fifty good men went in; barely a dozen made their way out. We tried to set some traps in the upper levels of the ruins, but we haven’t seen the raids slow down – we think they may have another way out of the mines. Our town once numbered over three hundred, and we’re down to what you see in this room, plus the women in children.”
An uneasy silence settled over the room. Arrie was the first to break it. “How many goblins and kobolds are there?”
Parthus shrugged. “Not sure, really. Few dozen of each, maybe. They’ve settled into the lowest part of the mines, each in their own area. We’ve seen enough to know that they aren’t working together, and they fight each other as much as us. Probably the only reason we haven’t been wiped out already.”
“Seen any with any unusual abilities?” asked Kyle. From his studies he knew that kobolds in particular had a tendency to manifest sorcerous powers.
“Nothing more unusual than them coming up and killing us,” Parthus said dryly. He spat on the stone floor. “Course, not bein’ high-up wizard types like yourself, we ain’t been all that interested in studying them.”
Kyle dropped into silence as the students leaned together, whispering. Then Arrie stuck her head up. “We’ll do our best to aid you and your town, Parthus. We’ll go into the mines and root out those filth.”
Cheers erupted around the room. As the noise died down, Parthus addressed Arrie with a grin. “We’ve got rooms here at the inn you can sleep in till morning,” he said. “Then tomorrow…”
“Tomorrow?” Arrie interrupted. “I figure there’s no time like the present.”
Parthus’ smile faded a bit. “Tonight? Are you sure about that? Those critters are likely just getting ready to go about now.”
“They won’t expect an attack now,” she said confidently. “We’ll catch them off guard. Besides, I’m not afraid of anything a bunch of goblins and kobolds can throw at us.”
The room was filled with the sound of cheering voices again at Arrie’s bold pronouncement. Next to her, Autumn just rolled her eyes, her illness-ravaged voice too weak to make further protest. As things quieted down again, they heard Osborn let out a large cough, which sounded remarkably like the word “reward?”
Parthus nodded. “Well, of course you can keep anything you find down there, except for our mining tools, of course. Other than that, well…” Parthus looked down at the floor, and the room fell silent.
Kyle spoke up. “Hey, the only thing we need is to know your town is safe again, and for you to save us a couple of those rooms in case this takes a couple of days. Deal?”
Parthus looked up and nodded. “Deal.” He spit into his palm and extended it. Kyle did likewise, and they clasped hands in agreement. This time it was Osborn’s turn to roll his eyes.
Tuesday, 10th August, 2004, 08:49 AM #7
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
They were out the door within the hour. They would have departed immediately, except that the townsfolk insisted on treating the companions to a round or two of cheap ale. They’d escaped a third round by pointing out they needed to be at their best to do their job.
They decided to scout out the surrounding hillside first, to see if there was truth to the rumor that the kobolds and goblins had exits out of the mines other than the ruins. Sure enough, after only a couple of hours they stumbled across a small hole with a few kobold tracks going in and out. The hole was so small that only Osborn could have fit inside, an idea he didn’t relish. Instead, the students sealed off the hole with several large rocks, capped off with a large boulder rolled over by Kyle and Arrie.
They searched for another hour or so, but couldn’t find a similar passage for the goblin tribe. Finally, with the night wearing on, the group decided to head for the ruins and descend into the mines.
They approached cautiously, and soon found the entrance, a single doorway in the hillside. Parthus had told them that the building had once been a monastery of some sort, but decades ago a mudslide had buried it, and it was abandoned despite the fact that it was mostly intact inside. The early settlers of the town had used the ruins as a communal root cellar until the day they were digging out a section and discovered a vein of copper ore just below the surface.
The group lit torches and went inside. There were no signs of activity in the upper levels, and dust hung thick on the floor. Osborn waved his torch at the ceiling to point out a rather obvious deadfall to the rest of the party.
“I think a wooden sign in the ground saying “Pretend there’s a trap here” would have been just as effective,” the hin said sarcastically.
“They’re miners, not trapsmiths,” pointed out Ghurka. “They did the best they could.”
As they moved on through the ruins, they spotted a few more crudely designed traps. Conspicuously absent were signs of goblins or kobolds – no tracks, no broken weapons, no shed scales or hairs. The group concluded that the tribes must have decided to avoid the upper level entirely rather than deal with the traps, since they had other means of getting to the surface.
The group turned and stopped just short of a large square chamber that was thick with cobwebs. Just as Osborn was about to proceed in, Kavan’s keen eyes spotted something, and he grabbed the hin by the shoulder and pointed. In the corner, the silhouette of a spider crouched, it’s body as large around as Osborn was tall.
They stepped back to inform the others. “What do we do?” asked Osborn.
“Spider webs burn very well,” said Ghurka, a gleam in his eye.
“You’d kill a defenseless creature without provocation?” said Kavan.
“I’d hardly call a three foot wide spider with deadly poisonous fangs ‘defenseless’,” quipped Lanara.
“Look, this is pointless,” said Kyle. “We’re here looking for goblins and kobolds, right? Well, I don’t see signs that either has gone near that spider. So why sit here trying to figure out how to get past it when we can just avoid it altogether?”
The rest of the group agreed that dealing with the spider now was pointless. They moved along down the corridor, eventually coming to a larger room. A strange, square structure was visible just inside their light; Kavan and Lanara, who could see better in the dark, told the others that there was a similar small building just past it. Cautiously, they moved into the room, spreading out slightly.
Osborn crept around the edge of the small building, coming to a half-rotted wooden door. Gingerly, he reached out with the tip of one of his many daggers and flicked the door open.
He jumped back in alarm as a human-sized skeleton came crashing out of the room toward him. The others rushed over, weapons drawn, but by the time they arrived they could see that the skeleton had collapsed in a broken pile of bones.
Osborn poked at the skull with his dagger while Xu looked around inside the room. “Who do you suppose this was? A prisoner left here to die?”
“Unlikely,” answered Xu. “This was a meditation cell; the door has no lock. Perhaps it was one of the monks who inhabited this monastery, who chose to remain here after the slide that buried this place.”
“Well, let’s keep looking around,” said Arrie. “There’s a few of these cells, and I think we should check them all; there could be sentries hiding in them.”
The group spread out through the room. There were a dozen of the cells in total, with one or two near the far wall partially ruined by the hardened mud. Each student took a door, and opened them in unison. Most found nothing but simple cots and wooden bowls, but in the far corner they all heard the sound of Arrie’s spiked chain unfurling, followed by a high-pitched squeal. Xu, who was closest, ran over to her side. There was another squeak, and then the two women walked out to join their companions. Both Arrie’s chain and the edge of Xu’s foot were stained with blood and bits of gray fur.
“Rats,” said Arrie simply, as she re-wrapped her chain around her torso.
There were two exits at the near wall; a door and a simple open archway. Osborn checked the door, and finding no traps he pushed open the door. A pair of stairs led downward into the earth.
“Well, at least we know how to get down from here,” he said, pulling the door closed.
The group chose to explore the archway, not wanting to leave anything dangerous at the top of the stairs. They proceeded along a narrow, winding hallway a short distance, with Osborn scouting ahead slightly. As he turned a corner, he stopped short and let out a slight yelp. This time it was no dead body that had startled him.
Arrie, Autumn, and Kavan rushed forward to see a huge centipede uncurl from its resting place on the floor in front of them. As they drew weapons, the centipede lashed out, far quicker than it seemed for an insect of its size, its mandibles skittering off Autumn’s shield.
Kavan was the first to react, drawing his sword and slicing at the centipede. He stepped back, seeing ichor running from the tip of his sword, when the centipede struck back, sinking its jaws into Kavan’s forearm. He immediately felt a flush of heat, and his muscles went slack as the centipede’s poison took hold. Kavan tried to step back, but his legs weren’t responding, and he was unable to avoid another bite from the centipede.
Ghurka stepped forward, seeing that the elf was in trouble. He summoned up healing energies from the earth, and with a touch sent them into Kavan, closing his wounds. But for his trouble the druid drew the centipede’s attention, and it lashed out with a vicious bite, poisoning Ghurka as well. The two of them barely managed to drag themselves out of the combat, leaning on each other’s shoulders.
Arrie and Autumn pressed in on the centipede, hacking away at it, and were shortly joined by Xu. The corridor was too narrow for anyone else to contribute to the fight; Kyle tried to fire a crossbow bolt but it went past Arrie’s shoulder, missing entirely. But the three trained fighters were more than capable, and after a few seconds the centipede began crawling away toward a small crack in the wall.
“Oh, no you don’t!” shouted Arrie. She dropped her chain and pulled out her orcish shotput, heaving the massive iron ball at the retreating centipede. It connected solidly in the middle of the creature, and yellow-green ichor splashed in a wide ring across the hallway. The centipede thrashed and quivered, practically torn in half. When the death throes faded, Arrie walked up and retrieved her shotput, wiping the gore off before dropping it back in its sack with a satisfied smile on her face.
As the three fighters cleaned their weapons, Kyle handed Kavan and Ghurka each a small vial. “Antitoxin,” he explained. “Made it myself. It should help counteract the remaining effects of the poison.”
They both drank, and felt the effects immediately. They thanked Kyle and then stood up on legs that were not as shaky now.
Seeing that there was nowhere left to go on the upper level, the group decided to head down the stairs. Once again Osborn took the lead, who went silently down the stairs to a moderately-sized chamber of rough stone. Scattered about were a few odd picks and other mining tools. At the far wall stood a door.
The group quickly surveyed the room, finding nothing of interest. They gathered near the door, waiting as Osborn inspected it.
“It’s trapped,” he whispered, “and not by miners.” Osborn fiddled with the door for a few minutes, at first seeming frustrated but then at last smiling. “There. I’ve disabled the trigger for the darts that shoot out from the wall.” Osborn pointed out two tiny holes in the stone near the doorway. As Osborn set to work on the lock, Arrie stepped up and placed a hand over one of the holes. She called upon her Talent*, but she felt no telltale tingling in her mind informing her of the presence of poison within the darts.
Osborn signaled for quiet as he pushed the door open a crack. He peered inside, and immediately saw a single kobold sentry, sleeping in a chair. Osborn suppressed a smile, and motioned for the others to remain where they were. The hin slipped into the room, quietly drawing a dagger.
He emerged a moment later, wiping blood off his blade. “Well, there’s one kobold down.”
“What else did you see?” asked Xu.
“The one I got was sitting on a chair next to an open archway. There’s another sentry in there, off in a side chamber. I couldn’t see where he was, but I could hear him.” Osborn wrinkled his nose. “I think he was relieving himself.”
“What now?” asked Kyle.
“I say we let Osborn take care of that one the same way he got the first,” offered Ghurka.
“No,” said Kavan. “We should capture him.”
“Good idea,” agreed Arrie. “We could get information about how many there are.”
“Okay then,” said Osborn. “We go in, grab him, and haul him back up the stairs to question him. Ready?”
“Hold on.” Arrie dug into her pack and produced a set of bolas. “Another of my specialties,” she said. “I can trip him up without hurting him.”
Osborn, Xu, Arrie, and Kavan readied themselves to rush into the room; the others held back, knowing that the other four could easily handle one kobold. They moved in quickly. From outside the room, Kyle, Lanara, Ghurka and Autumn listened as they heard weapons slashing through the air. They heard the whir of Arrie’s bolas winding up and flying through the air. There were grunts, and shrieks. Ghurka dashed into the room, leaving the other three outside. There was a crash, and they a high-pitched shout in a language unfamiliar to most of them.
“Intruder alert,” Kyle translated, sighing.
The other three moved into the room as they heard a larger commotion. Arrie, Xu, and Kavan were engaged with a small pack of kobolds, perhaps half a dozen. Osborn was throwing knives at one off to the side, and dodging sling bullets being shot back. Autumn immediately moved to her sister’s side, while Kyle began to circle around the outside of the room, looking for a better angle. Lanara stood by the door, waiting to see what happened. Ghurka was tossing flasks of oil at the kobolds.
The fight was vicious, but brief. Soon all seven kobolds lay in pools of their own blood. The students took stock of their situation. The room wasn’t large, and in the center was another of the meditation cells like those above. The stench emanating from a small opening in the stone wall marked the location of the kobold latrine. On the opposite wall, an archway marked the beginning of a hallway that stretched into darkness beyond the range of anyone’s vision.
“So much for one kobold, eh?” Lanara quipped.
“Little bugger was fast,” complained Arrie. “I’ve never seen anything wiggle out of a bola that quickly.”
While the rest of the group discussed what to do next, Kavan began walking down the hallway slowly, trying to make out enough detail to get a layout of the area. He picked up a small pebble and imbued it with a light spell, tossing it a short distance down the hall. His elven eyes picked out the walls; the hallway stretched on into darkness, and there was a corridor to the left about thirty feet past the archway. Kavan moved forward, trying to see further down the hall. As he moved, he became so intent on the hallway before him that he didn’t realize he’d stepped out in front of the side corridor.
The rest of the group was alerted when they heard a sound like hailstones. They turned to see Kavan under a barrage of tiny stones. Several bounced off his armor, but a few had struck home, opening gashes in his head and legs.
The group rushed forward into a wall of kobolds. The front lines were armed with spears, while another rank behind them were reloading slings. Arrie, Autumn, and Xu rushed into the mass of small lizard-like creatures, whirling and slashing. Kavan stumbled back long enough to call upon Erito for healing magic, closing his grievous wounds. Ghurka and Osborn were the next to charge in, the latter riding atop Rupert. From behind them they all heard the clear notes of Lanara’s fiddle as she launched into an inspiring battle-chant. Kyle attempted to move around to fire off a spell, but once again found himself cut off by the press of his companions. Cursing himself for choosing to prepare ray spells that day, Kyle cast mage armor on himself and waited for an opening, keeping an eye on the long corridor in case reinforcements came from that direction.
The battle was going well. Ghurka had called upon the spirits of the nearby plant life, and their roots had vines had erupted from the ground below the kobolds, wrapping them up and preventing them from firing more sling stones. He was now back to throwing oil flasks at his opponents. Arrie, Xu, and Autumn were making good progress on the front rank of kobolds, and soon Xu was able to break free and begin assailing the back rank, who switched to their spears to defend themselves. Kavan rejoined the fray, slashing at kobolds when he could but keeping an eye on his companion’s injuries. Osborn, who was unable to move through the tight ranks, decided to pull back. He guided Rupert back to the sentry chamber, where Lanara was still singing, and decided to investigate the meditation chamber while he waited.
Then, from far back behind the second rank of kobolds, they heard an odd sound, and then instantly the entire intersection was filled with sticky webs. Everyone except Osborn and Lanara were trapped in the webs, and they were too far away to help. Arrie was stuck fast, unable to move at all. Kyle managed to pull himself free slowly, but he emerged in the empty hallway, cut off from everyone else.
Xu twisted and pulled her way out of the webs, all the while trying to avoid the spears of the kobolds. But fortune was not with her, and she became stuck for a few seconds – long enough for the kobolds to take advantage and jab her. Bleeding from several serious wounds, Xu finally pulled free, and tumbled past the knot of kobolds before her, hoping to get at the spell-using kobold despite her injuries.
Behind her, Arrie and Autumn managed to pull free enough to begin attacking the kobolds again. Behind them, Ghurka shouted in triumph as he managed to call upon the power of a produce flame spell. Using the flames to burn himself free, the druid hardly seemed to notice the self-inflicted burns as he turned his attention to a nearby cluster of oil-soaked kobolds. Grinning, he tossed a handful of flame at them, and watched them erupt in a foul-smelling conflagration. Then he turned his attention to burning a path out of the webs.
Xu found a small side corridor and darted down it a moment to catch her breath. She’d seen no sign of the kobold sorcerer; it must have escaped. Before returning to the fight, however, she heard a strange sound further down. Curious, she moved on, moving agilely through Ghurka’s field of entangling roots. She turned a corner, and had to suppress a laugh. A band of four goblins was struggling underneath a heavy net, apparently rigged up to prevent just this sort of sneak attack.
“Opportunity knocks but once,” she said to herself. She cracked her knuckles, and moved up to the first helpless goblin…
* Every sentient being in Aelfenn has a Talent, which is essentially a low-level spell they can use once per day. The Talent is usually something suited for the person's profession or personality. Arrie's Talent is detect poison.
Friday, 20th August, 2004, 12:16 AM #8
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
It took the group several minutes to collect themselves, burning away the last remnants of the web spell and finishing off the last dying kobolds. Xu returned to the party, her hands stained with goblin blood. The others could plainly see how badly hurt she was, and turned to Kavan. The elven priest shook his head sadly.
“My strength has almost entirely been depleted from this battle. I have only one minor orison left to me today.”
“I have the same problem,” said Ghurka. “Healing does not come as easily to me as it does to Kavan, and what little ability I had has already been used.”
“No problem,” said Kyle. He pulled a potion vial out of his belt and handed it to Xu. “This should help.”
Xu accepted the potion and drank it. It took another dose from Osborn’s supply before Xu’s injuries were healed enough to continue on. Others busied themselves with cleaning their weapons or binding minor cuts. Ghurka gleefully went about piling up kobold bodies and burning them. Kyle began gathering up the kobold’s equipment and tossing it into the single meditation cell near the stairway.
“What’s the point?” Arrie asked him. “That stuff isn’t really worth enough to bother with.”
“Not to us,” said Kyle. “But it occurs to me that even if we succeed in clearing this mine, it’ll still take a while for those townsfolk up there to get things going again, especially since they’ve lost so many. I figure they can sell some of this stuff off to bring in some money for food and supplies.”
Arrie nodded. “Or keep the weapons to use for their own defense. You have a good point.”
The party proceeded to explore the remainder of the second level. They found the bolt-hole that the mysterious kobold sorcerer had used to escape, and blocked it off using a barrel of foul-smelling spirits that Lanara identified as Thudrud. Ghurka desperately wanted to light the barrel and try to smoke out the kobold, but the rest of the party convinced him not to. Kyle ended up using a smokestick to try rooting out the kobold, but when nothing happened, the party assumed the sorcerer had escaped to the surface, and just plugged the hole again to keep it from sneaking up behind them. A quick count of the sleeping mats in the barracks told them that at most, only one or two kobolds had evaded them.
In the chambers reserved for the kobold’s leader, they found a stack of twenty silver ingots under a pile of rags, as well as two unmarked vials. Kyle attempted to determine what they were, but without proper alchemical equipment he didn’t get far. The party agreed to donate a few of the ingots to the town to help them recover.
In another side chamber they found a shrine, which Kavan said was dedicated to Qin-Chu, the demigod of lies and deception. After a brief debate, the party decided that the picks and shovels of the miners would best deal with this evil god’s shrine once they’d finished their job. Autumn seemed disappointed that she couldn’t personally tear it down, but understood that her efforts were better placed elsewhere.
They proceeded down the hallway from which the failed goblin ambush had come, with Xu carefully gathering the net the kobolds had set up. They easily found the door through which the goblins had come, and inside a small room they found two things of interest; a set of stairs going down, and a lone goblin corpse, lying in the middle of the floor. There were no signs of injury on the goblin, but one hand was stretched out rigidly.
Ghurka went to examine the goblin, and to his surprise found that it was still alive, but apparently unable to move. Kavan noted a circular black patch of the palm of the goblin’s outstretched hand. Lanara and Osborn, who were the only ones who could speak the goblin tongue, tried to get information from the goblin using a simple method of ‘one blink for yes, two blinks for no’. However, after a few minutes it became clear that this was not a prize example of goblinoid intellect. All the rogue and bard were able to glean was that there were more goblins downstairs, and that the item that had poisoned him was in the same room. A quick check revealed that the doorknob for the room was coated with a contact poison, placed by the kobolds to prevent goblin raids. This particular goblin had apparently been the sacrificial lamb.
The group debated briefly over what to do with the goblin. “We could burn it,” offered Ghurka.
Autumn’s stare informed the group that she did not approve of that idea, evil creature or no. “Well, we could tie it up and take it back to town later,” said Lanara. “Let the townsfolk do what they want. Give it a trial, or whatever.”
“Trial?” said Kyle incredulously. “Let me tell you, I know exactly what they’ll do with this goblin. They’ll use what they call ‘frontier justice’. Namely, they’ll just cut its throat as soon as they get the chance.”
“Oh, well, then if that’s the case…” Ghurka pulled out a dagger, and before anyone could stop him, he opened the goblin’s throat from ear to ear. It kicked for only a few seconds before going still. Then, while everyone was still trying to figure out what had just happened, Ghurka proceeded to saw off the head entirely and shove it onto the doorknob of the room. Everyone gaped at the druid.
“What?” he asked, wiping blood off his dagger. “It’ll keep us from accidentally touching the poison on the knob later.”
“Ghurka,” said Lanara after a moment, “one of these days I’ll have to explain to you what a handkerchief is for.”
The students decided to continue on down to the goblin’s level before things became heated. Osborn proceeded down the stairs carefully, and stopped at a wooden door. Listening at the door, the hin indicated that he heard nothing.
The group crept slowly through the door. At first it seemed to open into a long hallway of sorts, but the echoes of their footsteps indicated that it was a much larger room than it appeared in the darkness. They realized that the wall to their left was actually a pile of rubble that went from floor to ceiling, blocking off their view of most of the room. The rubble seemed to end about forty feet ahead of them. Osborn and Rupert took the lead, watching for signs of goblins.
Just as they reached the end of the rubble, there was a loud rumble, and a pile of rough bricks fell from the ceiling. Rupert managed to jump out of the way, but Osborn was struck by a few of the bricks and was nearly knocked to the ground. As a cloud of dust rose from the pile, they heard a shrill voice call out in a strange language. The party didn’t need Lanara or Osborn to translate the alarm the goblins had just raised.
Moving forward as Osborn pulled back to drink his last potion, the party could barely make out two figures huddled behind a smaller pile of rocks nearby. The figures threw javelins at the party even as Kavan tossed a pebble he’d cast light upon earlier toward them. The javelins skittered off Arrie’s armor as the goblin sentries were brought into sharp focus by the light.
Most of the group pulled out missile weapons. Kavan did well, hitting one goblin with his longbow. Next to him Kyle also fired, but though accurate his bolt barely seemed to penetrate flesh. Ghurka enchanted a dart with his own light spell and threw it, missing a goblin but giving more light to his allies. Even Autumn tried to shoot at the goblins, but her arrows skittered harmlessly off the rock pile.
Arrie pulled out her orcish shotput, and with a mighty heave launched it at the closest goblin. Her aim was true, and the sickening crunch of bone echoed through the large room as the goblin’s brains spilled out of its skull. Just as Arrie was about to go retrieve her shotput, she saw a group of five more goblins running up. Grinning, she uncurled her spiked chain and waited for them to come.
Most of them never got the chance. Raising his arms, Kyle uttered words of arcane power, and beneath the feet of the largest group of goblins a layer of slick, fatty grease appeared. Three of the five goblins slipped and fell. The other two charged toward Arrie, receiving a lash with her spiked chain for their trouble.
Unfortunately for the goblins, they seemed unable to mount a capable defense. Another shot from Kavan’s bow felled the last of the two original sentries, while Kyle blinded the grease-covered ones with a flash pellet. Xu and Autumn moved up to help Arrie, but then Xu noticed two more figures approaching. These were much larger than the others, and carried longswords instead of morningstars. “Hobgoblins,” muttered Xu, and she quickly leapt over the rubble pile to meet this new threat head-on.
Kavan and Kyle contented themselves with firing on the greased goblins. While Kavan continued to do well, Kyle once again found his bolts barely effective. “Something must need tightening on this thing,” he said to himself, putting away his crossbow. He was about to prepare a spell when he saw Ghurka walk up calmly to the cluster of goblins, a flask of oil in hand. After dousing the pile of struggling goblins, Ghurka called upon his Talent, and suddenly his entire body was engulfed in flame*. Though the flames seemed not to hurt him, the same could not be said for the goblins, who squealed in pain. Two of them died instantly, while a third managed to extinguish the flames and ran for the far end of the room, disappearing in the darkness. Arrie picked up one of the nearby light stones and threw it all the way across the room, striking the far wall but not spotting the fleeing goblin. Kyle tried to do the same with his own light stone, but his aim was off, and the pebble bounced off Autumn’s helmet. Kyle looked at her sheepishly.
Nearby, Xu was keeping the hobgoblins busy, their two on one combat coming up a stalemate. But then one of the hobgoblins was struck by a beam of pure blackness shot from Kyle’s hand, and then Ghurka, who was still aflame, came running up toward them, the flames shooting out in all directions and scorching the hobgoblins. Enraged, one of them slashed at this new combatant, and the strike hit true. Blood spurted across the floor, and Ghurka fell, trying to hold his own entrails in place.
The others rushed in to finish off the hobgoblins. Kyle cast another negative energy ray at them, while Xu and Arrie pelted them from both sides. Kavan rushed to Ghurka and used the last of his divine power to stabilize the druid before he bled to death. In a few bloody moments, it was over.
The party rushed in unison toward the area the lone goblin had run, with Ghurka and Kavan trailing behind after pouring one of Ghurka’s healing potions down his throat. The group hoped to be able to catch any counter-attack before it had time to organize. As it turned out, no counter-attack was coming. The goblins’ numbers were far fewer than the kobolds, and only a handful were remaining. They were scattered about the remainder of the third level of the monastery, hiding, and were easily rooted out and eliminated. Another shrine to Qin-Chu was discovered, almost identical to the one in the kobold’s stronghold. Within the hobgoblin chieftains’ chambers they found yet another stack of silver ingots, as well as a few gems and platinum coins. The hobgoblins also held a store of healing potions, which were happily parceled out among the party. The entrance to the mine was found, and the reason for the interest of the goblins and kobolds became apparent; though the mines did hold a few meager veins of copper, they came upon new work that had revealed a rich vein of silver ore.
“Well, that explains where the ingots came from,” commented Lanara.
“I think we should go deliver the good news,” said Kyle.
The party returned to the surface and reached town just as dawn was breaking. They were greeted at the inn by Parthus, who had obviously waited up all night for them. “What news?” he asked hopefully.
“Well, we managed to eliminate about fifty or so, but there’s still a good couple of hundred left,” quipped Ghurka. As Parthus’ face went white, Kyle elbowed Ghurka sharply in the ribs, aggravating his wound.
“Our druid friend is making a joke,” said Lanara quickly. “We’ve cleared out the ruins and the mines for you.”
“That’s wonderful!” Parthus exclaimed.
“Yes, and we have both very good news, and slightly bad news,” said Arrie. “The slightly bad news is that you’ll probably have to hire some guards for your mine. The good news is that the reason you’ll need guards is that a vein of silver has been unearthed down there.”
“Silver?” gasped Parthus. “Truly? This is better than I could have expected! Our town will be back on its feet in no time at all! Oh, brave adventurers, how can I…”
Parthus’ words suddenly became very faint, and his features blurred. Soon the entire in was a haze of colors, which quickly melted away to reveal a very bare room. Shilsen, their instructor, was standing where Parthus had been just moments before.
“Congratulations,” he said. “You’ve all passed. Granted, it wasn’t perfect, but overall very well done for the most part. There were, however, some glaring issues.” Shilsen looked directly at Ghurka. “Baobab Ghurka, I will need to speak with you in my office privately.”
The druid looked up, his hand resting gently on the spot where he’d received the terrible wound in his gut. “That… hurt,” he said, mostly to himself. “I don’t think I want to do this any more.” With that, Ghurka turned and walked out the door without saying another word to anyone, including Shilsen.
“Well, it seems as though he’s already made a decision,” Shilsen commented.
“Hope he can find his way out,” said Lanara.
“Well, he can always burn his way out,” added Kyle.
“Students,” Shilsen interrupted, “if you’ll follow me, you can receive your rewards for completing this exam, and we can discuss the details of your scenario.”
They followed Shilsen back to the classroom they had started in. Arranged on the tables were seven wooden chests of various sizes. A neatly written sheet of parchment on the table in front of the chest identified who it belonged to. As the students entered the room, they saw an eighth chest being carried out the back by two large figures.
“You may claim the contents of your chest as a reward for a job well done. You will also receive time to rest and prepare for your next exam. You will be joined by another student in a day or two. You will, of course, still receive instruction in your individual professions as needed, but from this moment on you are expected to spend the majority of your time with your classmates. How you choose to spend that time is up to you – the Tower neither condones nor discourages any type of social activities among students. Just bear in mind that the normal school rules still apply, and that you are still expected to perform at your best during exams.”
The students looked around at each other, not quite sure what to make of the situation. Kyle was the first to react, walking over and standing next to Autumn.
“Well, I for one sure would like to get a chance to have an actual conversation with you after all this. Let me tell you about an old home remedy I learned from my pa to treat a case of sore throat…”
* Ghurka's talent is body of the sun.
Saturday, 21st August, 2004, 12:16 AM #9
Novice (Lvl 1)
Nice start Delemental! Keep your posts to the SH coming!
Wednesday, 25th August, 2004, 08:26 AM #10
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
First of all, thanks to Parlan for being my first commenter. Always nice to have someone break the ice.
This installment was one of our first roleplay only sessions, mostly a 'getting to know you' scenario.
Kyle yawned loudly as he walked down the hall toward class. Despite his enthusiasm yesterday for getting to know his new classmates, the effort was short-lived, as they’d all discovered that they were too exhausted from their ordeal to socialize. They’d gone their separate ways, promising each other they rendezvous another day. For Kyle, the rest had been short-lived; that evening he learned of a last-minute opening in the student alchemy lab, and decided to take advantage. Kyle had always found it difficult to schedule time in the lab, though he’d heard no similar complaints from his fellow students of wizardry.
Kyle pushed open the door to the classroom, and was slightly surprised to see the chamber was occupied. Sitting nearly dead center in the class was a large man with light brown hair, as broad as Kyle in the shoulder if not quite as tall. He wore a simple brown and gray tunic underneath a polished steel breastplate, and a marble disk carved with the likeness of a bear hung from his neck. The man regarded Kyle with bright blue eyes.
“Hello,” said the man. “My name is Tolly Nightsleaving.”
“Howdy, Tolly,” replied Kyle, shaking the hand that was offered. “Kyle Goodson. You must be the new guy we heard would be joining us.”
“Yes, I received the news yesterday afternoon that I was going to be advanced into Interdisciplinary Tactics a few months ahead of schedule. I must admit I’m not sure what to expect.”
“Aw, I’m sure you’ll fit in fine,” said Kyle. “Besides, the rest of us have only been together a day, so you don’t have much catching up to do.”
“A day?” Tolly frowned. “I was told I would be joining an advanced group.”
“Well,” Kyle shrugged, “I guess that’s technically true. It was quite a first day!”
“I see.” Tolly studied Kyle for a moment before speaking again. “So, you are a wizard, then?”
“Yup, sure am, believe it or not. I like it, though I wish they made clothes in my size.” Kyle strained his arms against the tight fabric of his yellow robes.
“Perhaps you should take up sewing,” commented Tolly.
“Well, how about you? I’d wager that you’re a priest of Ardara*.” Kyle gestured at the bear symbol around Tolly’s neck.
“Yes, in fact I was raised by the Church.”
“Huh. Well, we’ve already got an Eritan priest in our group, so you two should get along fine.”
“I look forward to meeting them. Do you have other skills besides wizardry?”
“Well, I’d been working as a carpenter and general handyman for the Tower for a while before I enrolled.”
Tolly nodded approvingly. “Carpentry is a worthwhile trade. I’m also a blacksmith by trade.”
“A smith, eh? That’s great. I’ve pounded the anvil a few times myself.” Kyle’s speech slowed as he uttered this last statement, as he became aware of the unintended double meaning. If Tolly recognized it, he showed no outward sign, and Kyle decided it was best to just press on rather than backtrack.
The potential awkwardness was broken when the door opened and Xu walked in, quietly taking a seat. Soon others followed; Kavan was next, and then Autumn and Arrie appeared just as the chimes rang to indicate the start of classes. Lanara had slipped in just behind the two sisters. As the chimes finished ringing, they realized that Osborn was there as well, having come in unobserved. Tolly introduced himself as he got the chance.
They waited quietly for the next minute, expecting their instructor Shilsen to appear. When he did not arrive, the students began to look at each other nervously. Then they heard a strange noise coming from the large wooden desk in the center of the room. Xu stood up to investigate, and she heard noise coming from one of the desk’s deep lower drawers. Cautiously, she used the end of her long pole to open the drawer.
Shilsen was inside, contorted into what seemed an impossibly small space. “Thank you,” he said to Xu, as he began to extricate himself from the tiny space.
“Showoff,” muttered Lanara to herself.
“Welcome, class,” Shilsen said as he finally stood up and slid the drawer closed. “I see that some of you have had a chance to meet Tolly Nightsleaving, your new classmate. The rest of you will have that opportunity later. For now, however…”
And thus began a grueling course of book study. They covered every conceivable subject, from history to religious theory to etiquette. Between this and their normal courses of study in their individual area of focus, the group barely had time to breathe, let alone spend any time together. Each of them looked forward to the upcoming Earthturning Festival**, when they would be given a break from class work.
Their patience paid off. After two weeks, Shilsen announced that all students enrolled in Interdisciplinary Tactics were to be given a full tenday off in addition to the two days of the Festival. Thus on the morning of the 25th of Lupan, the group found themselves standing outside the Tower for the first time in nearly two years, blinking in the bright sunlight. All around them they say the hustle and bustle of Trageon, the tri-leveled city that surrounded the Tower and served as the capital of the kingdom of Targeth. Only two of them were missing; Autumn had decided to spend her time off in prayer and meditation, while Osborn had excused himself, saying he had some “personal matters” to attend to. They’d also had to send Tolly back into the Tower to change clothes, convincing him that walking about in full armor would give off the wrong impression.
“Well, now what?” asked Kavan.
“Obviously, we explore the city,” said Arrie. “I have a few things I’d like to look into, and that’s where all the fun is going to be anyway.”
They all agreed on this plan, as each of them had things to buy or investigate.
“So,” asked Kyle, “do we split up, or stick together?”
“I say stick together,” said Arrie. Suddenly her face brightened. “Ooh! We should have dinner together!”
“Excellent,” said Lanara. “I’m looking forward to getting Tolly here drunk.”
Tolly looked confused. “Are we not going to spend the Holy Days sequestered in prayer and observance? I thought that was what one did during Earthturning.”
Lanara rolled her eyes. “Oh, honey, have we got a lot to teach you.”
“I know that I’d like to see the Upper City,” commented Kavan. They all cast their eyes upward to the floating upper level of Trageon, where the wealthiest citizens lived and did business. They saw the morning light reflecting off the inverted crystalline prism upon which the Upper City sat. At mid-day, the light from the sun would filter down through the city and into the prism, sending rainbows of light down to the surface so that the main city would not be obscured in their shadow. Only the Undercity, far under their feet, remained in perpetual gloom.
“I dunno,” said Kyle, scratching his head, “I’m just in the market for some good tools. The Upper City looks… pricey.”
“Hey, we can do our shopping down here another day,” said Arrie. “After all, we have twelve days. We’re just going up to look around.”
Eventually they agreed on a plan, and a few minutes later were on a transport platform headed for Upper Trageon. They spent a few hours browsing the high-priced shops; Kyle looked wistfully at a business specializing in magical goods, while Lanara studied high-quality instruments. As the sun came close to dipping below the edge of the Upper City, they decided it was time to get their meal. After asking around a bit, they were referred to a ‘restaurant’ – an odd type of business that was like an inn, but without rooms to rent, only food. The group gathered in front of the cozy, elegant building – a sign out front read “Gio’s”.
Everyone had brought along their best clothes for the occasion, and had changed into them before arriving. They sat in the lobby of Gio’s for about fifteen minutes or so before being escorted to a large, oval-shaped table. Glittering silver candelabras decorated the center of the table, surrounded by fresh flowers. Somewhere in the background, an unseen harpist could be heard playing soft, comforting music. Each person at the table was handed something called a ‘menu’ – a very thin book listing the dozens of dishes and spirits served by the restaurant. It was a bit unsettling for those who were used to more common inns and taverns, where the selection for a given evening could usually be counted easily on the fingers of one hand.
“You know,” commented Kyle, looking down the listings, “I know that this is written in Common, but it still doesn’t make sense.”
A well-dressed servant came by and took drink orders. Kavan ordered a bottle of Fire Wine, while Arrie opted for a more refined elven wine. Lanara’s only criteria for a beverage was that it be ‘something blue’; however, after receiving a sapphire blue concoction that had the taste and aroma of spring water, her next request was for something with ‘a bit more character’. The servant also had them place their food orders. Tolly, wanting to try something different, ordered elven cuisine; Kaven in contrast, wanted something bold and spicy, and ended up with an orcish dish. Xu ordered a vegetarian dish to go with her tea, while Kyle ended up pointing at the menu at an essentially random selection. Lanara ordered seafood, and Arrie chose a dish inspired by the four elements.
“So anyway,” said Kyle, as they sat around enjoying their drinks, “I had a question for you, Arrie.” He continued when Arrie’s gaze met his. “A few weeks ago, during our first exam, I remember making a comment to you that you seemed to be some sort of nobility, because of the etching that was done on your armor. Now, it seems to me that you weren’t too comfortable with that comment. Did I get it wrong?”
“Well, no,” she said. “It’s true that my family does have land and titles. But I came to the Tower of my own free will, and I don’t want anyone to think that I’m here because Daddy sent me to get a piece of paper telling everyone I’m smart.”
Each of them nodded in understanding. The Tower did not cater exclusively to adventurers; wealthy families sending their heirs off to get training in etiquette, heraldry, diplomacy, and other ‘noble’ pursuits generated most of its business. Each of them had had multiple run-ins with young, arrogant men and women in silk blouses who acted as if they personally owned the Tower and everything in it.
“Yeah, I can understand that.” Kyle grinned at her. “Well, if it means anything, I sure think you’ve proven you have what it takes.”
Arrie nodded at the compliment. “So, what about you, Kyle? You spend so much time asking everyone else about themselves, I don’t know much about you.”
“Ah, well, that comes from my Pa. He always told me the best way to start a conversation is to ask people to talk about themselves, ‘cause it’s the one topic most folks are best at.”
“Was your father a wizard too, or a carpenter?” asked Tolly.
“Farmer, actually. My folks raised two things well; barley and kids. I have four siblings, two on each side of me age-wise. Well, things were good until about the time I turned eleven. That was when Ma caught the fever and passed on. That same year was the big drought, and Pa lost the crop. He couldn’t manage the farm with five mouths to feed, so he sold the land and became a sharecropper. He sent all us kids off – the young’uns he sent to live with old relatives, and me and my older brother and sister were apprenticed. I went to work for a carpenter, and that’s where I learned my trade. After a few years, I left Master Silas and came here to Trageon. I got myself hired as a laborer in the Tower, but then a couple of years later I discovered I had what the instructors here called ‘magical aptitude’. So I took out a loan for tuition, and here I am.”
“Any idea where your father is, or your siblings?” asked Kavan.
Kyle shook his head. “It’s been years since I’ve seen them. Pa did what he had to do to make sure we all survived.”
“I hope you find your family again someday, Kyle,” said Tolly.
“Speaking of family,” Kyle replied, “I thought you mentioned that you were raised by the church of Ardara? What’s your story?”
“There is little to tell,” Tolly said quietly. “I was found on the doorstep of the church as a young child. I was fostered by the Church, and raised in their tradition. Becoming a priest was a natural progression for me. I have spent little time outside the Church, and have known few people besides Ardara’s priests and her dwarven patrons. Thus it was felt that I would benefit from an education at the Tower, in order to give me… experience.”
“Probably a good thing,” commented Lanara. “I can’t imagine a life locked up in a temple worshipping rocks.”
Tolly’s response was interrupted by the arrival of their meals. Distracted by the delicious smells, they ate quietly for several minutes. Kyle wasn’t sure what he’d received, but noticed that Lanara had the same thing, so assumed it was seafood of some sort. Whatever it was, he decided, it was delicious.
“So, Kavan,” said Kyle between bites, “you have a story to tell? What made you end up here?”
Kavan was silent for a minute before answering. “I don’t think I’m ready to discuss my past with all of you yet,” he said. “Suffice it to say I have done things I regret, and I am trying to live a better life in service to Erito. Coming here to the Tower is a part of that.” Kavan smiled slightly. “Don’t worry, friends. I know that secrets and half-truths are no way to win trust. When I am ready, I will share my story with you.”
“Fair enough,” answered Kyle.
“Thank you,” Kaven looked across the table at Xu, who was quietly eating crispy vegetables in sauce. “Though maybe it’s unfair to keep my own past shrouded in mystery and then ask another to reveal theirs, I find myself curious to know about Xu.”
Xu gently put her utensils aside before speaking. “My tale is a simple one,” she began. “My parents are merchants from a land far from here, and like many merchants they wished to rise to a better station in life. Thus I was betrothed to a nobleman. Upon meeting him for the first time, I knew I could not marry him; his wealth was the only quality he possessed of any merit. I wished to marry for love, not status. So I ran from my family and this noble, and was taken in by an order of monks. They taught me their ways, their philosophies. Upon leaving the monastery, I came to this city to educate myself in the local ways, and in the hope that my family and my intended fiancé would never find me.”
Everyone at the table nodded in sympathy. “It’s a terrible thing to be forced to into such a position when there is no love,” Kavan said, his eyes strangely distant.
Almost in unison, everyone turned to look at Lanara, who was the only one who hadn’t spoken yet. She looked back at them, a few loose tentacles dangling from her lips. She slurped them up and grinned.
“Oh, my story’s not that interesting,” she said, still chewing. “You’ll hear it soon enough, I’m sure.” Suddenly she pointed at the doorway. “Ooh, look! Dessert!”
Lanara’s tale was forgotten as the dessert cart came around. Several minutes later, over plates of pastries and custards, the conversation turned to plans for the following days. At one point a glittering ring on Arrie’s finger caught Kavan’s eye, and he commented on it.
“Thank you,” she replied, without offering further explanation.
Kavan was about to press the issue, when he felt a strange touch on his back just below the neckline. He looked up to see someone behind him.
“Good evening, Kavan,” said the stranger. The others looked up to see a dark, slickly attractive stranger standing behind their elven friend. Looks of puzzlement and curiosity crossed the faces of much of the party as they looked upon the stunning and androgynous being standing before them. Kavan held this look as well, although it was not the first time this being had crossed his sight. The stranger, dressed in elegant green robes that shimmered like scales moving across the water, wore a symbol of a serpent about the neck. A few of the party recognized the pendant as a symbol of Qin-Chu, remembering the symbol from their first exam a few weeks ago.
The stranger’s eyes had not moved from Kavan. “It is quite a pleasure to see you again,” the stranger said, still holding the stare.
Kavan, his face turning instantly red, replied coldly – but unconvincingly – “Perhaps a pleasure for you.”
“My! What manners! Don’t they teach you etiquette?” The stranger finally broke the stare, looking around the table at Kavan’s companions. “Then again, it looks like they’ll let just about anyone in there, won’t they?” he said, flashing them a sweet smile that didn’t quite reach the eyes. “Well, have fun, then!” The stranger looked back down at Kavan, who was now slightly shaking, “and I’ll see you later.”
“Not if grace finds itself my way,” muttered Kavan, as he watched the dark being walk away. The being looked back a couple of times, catching Kavan as he quickly tried to look away and go unnoticed.
Kyle’s eyes followed the stranger’s progress as well. “Is… that… a ‘friend’ of yours?” he asked.
“I wouldn’t say a friend, dear Kyle,” replied Kavan, as he firmly patted Kyle’s shoulder, attempting to avert Kyle’s gaze without showing any jealousy or desire for the stranger.
While the tension of the situation was alleviated by the arrival of the bill, Kavan would remain transfixed, thoughts about the stranger swarming. He would need to seek counsel about this entity, as it was pulling him back to old patterns of thought, dangerous patterns of thought. Kavan was not sure that he was strong enough yet to resist such a delicious temptation.
Arrie scooped up the parchment that listed their bill and looked it over. “Not bad,” she said. “Only two hundred thirty gold. Well, since this was my idea, I’ll cover half.” She brought out a small pouch and began counting out coins.
The rest of the table nodded approvingly and began doing the same. Unseen by the others, Kyle was growing pale. Two hundred and thirty gold coins on one meal? He’d had no idea it would be that expensive; the menu had not listed prices. That was a year’s income on his parent’s farm. Kyle looked sheepishly at his coin purse. He’d received a share of the treasure from the first exam like everyone else, but he’d very carefully set aside the majority of it to buy a few good sets of tools. He didn’t have nearly enough left to cover his share of dinner, let alone have any money left for the rest of the vacation. He started to consider what purchases he could do without.
Kavan caught him looking into his coin purse. “What’s the matter, Kyle? Someone swipe your money before you left?”
“Um, err… no…”
Kavan smiled at him. “You didn’t bring enough, did you?”
Kavan waved at him dismissively. “I’ll cover you, Kyle. I’ve had times myself where I didn’t bring as much coin as I should have.”
Kyle’s face reddened. “Um, thanks, Kavan.” He was too embarrassed to point out the flaw in Kavan’s assumption.
With the bill taken care of, the party went out into the streets. However, they found that Upper Trageon after dark was… dull. Almost all the businesses were closed, and the residents had retreated to their manses for private celebrations of the upcoming festival. Thus they decided to drop back down to the main city, and made their way to the Temple District. Lanara had suggested it, saying that Tolly needed to see how other religions besides Ardara observed Earthturning. Not surprisingly, the cansin led them to the temple of Feesha, goddess of chaos***, and Ladta, goddess of good fortune, where the celebrations were decidedly more… liberal.
The next afternoon, the party gathered to begin their shopping. Many of them had bought a room in the city, although Tolly had stayed at the Temple of Ardara and Kyle had insisted on sleeping back in his room at the Tower. After meeting for a quick breakfast, the party spent their day going back and forth among the shops of Trageon, either as a large group or in smaller clusters. Kavan inquired into the possibility of enchanting his longsword to create flame, but soon learned that such an enchantment was well beyond his means. Others looked into more reasonable items; Kyle acquired his tools with the help of Tolly, Arrie did some investigation into makers of exotic weaponry, and Lanara priced new instruments.
Late in the day, Kyle sought out Kavan. “I have something for you,” he said, presenting a small package to the elf.
Kavan unwrapped the brown paper to reveal a beaten copper vial. “What is it?”
“Bladefire,” Kyle said. “An alchemical liquid similar to alchemist’s fire. You can coat a weapon with it and it will burn. It only lasts a short time, and it’s not quite as potent as a magical flaming sword, but it’ll do the trick until you can get the real thing.”
Kavan turned the vial over in his hand. “Thank you.”
Kyle smiled. “Thanks for dinner.”
* Ardara is the goddess of Earth, Law, and the patron deity of the dwarves. She is one of a quartet of primary deities known as The Four, which are the world's primary deities under Erito.
** Earthturning is one of five mahor festivals in Aelfenn, dedicated to Ardara (somewhat appropriate, since we had just acquired an Ardaran priest). As it falls in the spring, Earthturning is primarily a planting/fertility celebration.
*** As a side note, Feesha is one of The Four as well, and in addition to being the patron of Chaos, she is the goddess of Air and the patron of the Hin.