Company of Chaos - All Around Golarion


Cute but dangerous
A placid pony and a small sturdy horse to carry an armored man were quickly found in the stable, and a few minutes later, the borrowed horses paced towards the Razmiran temple. The paladin was mumbling under his breath here and there, not quite curses but definitely sounds of displeasure. His nightblindness made it hard for him to see anything beyond the sporadic gas lanterns lighting the almost completely abandoned streets. The chill of the night didn't agree much with him either. He supposed he would have to get used to things like these if he was to stick with this group, and he had a feeling that he would.

The chaos at the temple was obvious from afar. City guards were moving towards the building, and to Bjön it seemed as if they were taking their orders from the Razmir priests, which made him frown. Almost every window was alight, and there was a small crowd of onlookers. They stood in the shadows and out of the way, likely to not rile up the followers of the Masked God. There was little noise, though, and the priests had their followers well under control as they walked through the streets, obviously searching for something or likely someone.

"Are they l-looking for Teltz?" Mook wondered.

"Not too likely. One escaped acolyte wouldn't cause a commotion like this, if at all." Bjön rode right in front of a group of city guards coming from the temple and announced himself as paladin, demanding to know what was going on. The guards seemed uncomfortable, but finally, they decided it could do no harm to tell. A theft, they explained, and the thieves escaped unseen. Then they hurried on before the dwarf could ask anymore, and maybe that was for the better, as they didn't need any extra attention.

Near the temple, between two high buildings, the paladin dropped off his pony, and as Mook did the same he handed her the reins. "Try and find your wolf," he said. "I'll see what else I can find."

Slightly annoyed that he would just leave her standing here, Mook tried to feel for Dadawin, but the wolf was already trotting towards her from the shadow of a bakery. The gnome crouched down to greet him, feeling his excitement. Not about anything he felt was dangerous, but because Samin and Zaza had been anxious. And there was the impression of someone else in his mind.

Mook felt comfortable with Dadawin because he understood most of her thoughts. She didn't have to talk, which meant she didn't have to stutter. Sometimes when she actually used words, she did not stutter at all. But there was also the frustration of the bond's limitation, as she could not make heads or tails out of the wolf's messages right now. Someone with yellow skin? And fangs like Dadawin's? But, as the wolf seemed to think, mostly harmless. Feeling her emotions of needing to talk to her friends, the animal stepped a bit ahead, turning around. Mook didn't know if to follow; the ponies disliked the smell of the wolf and Bjön would expect her here. But then she decided that she would not be commanded around like that to begin with. Leaving the reins long so the scared mounts could keep some distance, she followed her companion.

Samin stepped out of the shadows so suddenly that Mook almost attacked him. Out in the wild, she would have smelled him; in the city, there were so many scents, even at night, to mask what she knew that it would take her a long time to get used to it. "W-what's happening?" she asked, trying to to let her surprise show.

"We're not so sure, but it is like a bee's nest over there. From what we heard from guards passing below, the temple has been robbed. Supposedly by some demon or the like."

"Huh!" Mook scratched her head. "L-likely s-some exaggeration, r-rumors flying."

"Yeah, but I still worry. What if there was something evil in there? My da..."

"Oh, a-almost f-forgot to t-ell you! Your da is b-back at the inn, l-looks exhausted and s-sickly." Mook pointed vaguely back to where she had come from. "Cajun s-stayed with him and our p-p-paladin is trying to g-get m-more info."

"Da is back?" A worried frown appeared on the three-quarter-elf's face. Then he relaxed. "If Cajun is there, good. But how did he get there? Did he say anything?"

"N-no, he didn't w-wake. W-e thought at f-first they are so t-troubled because he is g-gone b-ut B-bjön says that is not l-likely. And now they are l-looking for t-thieves."

"Yeah they wouldn't go all this crazy over one acolyte, I suppose, but Edawon is still inside. I wonder why da got out though, and..." Samin trailed off as a bunch of guards stopped some men coming home late from an inn, none of them sober, and started searching them. Probably just to have something to do. Samin stepped back into the shadows and Mook, keeping the ponies calm, and the wolf followed.

When the guards were finally gone, Mook had come to a conclusion. "I g-guess your da wanted t-to give us the results o-of the investigation. M-maybe s-something has ha-happened to Edawon and h-e had to do s-something b-before they were allowed to g-go out on t-their own?"

"Yeah," Samin agreed. "All the more important that we get him out of there. I don't like all this."

"J-just how? D-doesn't l-look like even B-bjön will be of m-much help in all this chaos." Then the gnome remembered something. "Say, where i-is Z-zaza?"

Before Samin could answer that, the piercing cry of a female voice easily recognizable as Zaza's could be heard to the east. Mook's best friend let out a stream of cries for help, but before Mook could run off, Samin grabbed her Arm. "Ah, yes, that is part of the plan Kronk has come up with," he said with a sheepish grin.

"W-who," Mook asked while quickly losing her patience with this matter, " is K-kronk?"

The attention of most of the city guard so eager to do the bidding of the Razmiran priests was immediately turned to the small alley where the cries for help originated. A small figure in a robe was carrying a young gnome girl away while holding a large dagger in one dark, scaled hand. The fact that the scene was started out right under the brightest lantern illuminating the sign of a female accessory shop seemed to do nothing to arouse suspicion. It seemed that most guards were happy to have an excuse to not participate in the Razmiran's search for a thief who might as well be a ghost.

The noise several dozen guardsmen made while trying to follow the strange abductor and the supposed victim was incredible. Shouts of "cut them off," get the bows ready" and "inform the guard captain," could be heard among curses, promises of capture or worse and stomping feet and cluttering weapons. It took but a few moments to abandon the Razomirans and their temple, and only a few priests and their lackeys were left standing. And a certain paladin who had been insulted and accused to probably cover for the unknown thief by a Razmiran Herald.

Bjön had been about to smack the insufferable lout of a herald back into his senses and out of his mask – if the guy had ever had some sense to begin with. The alarm cry and the following commotion made his well planned show of strength and authority unnecessary and confused him as well. The dwarf saw Zaza being abducted, but no Samin or wolf in sight. For a moment, he was not even sure it was really Zaza, but her high-pitched-when-wanting-attention voice was unmistakable. It however differed greatly from her help-me-I'm-scared voice, which he had heard twice so far – once on the board when she had fallen overboard and something in the river had tried to get at her and then in front of the inn when a wagon team nearly ran her over 2 days ago. She could not be in danger when she screamed like that, the dwarf concluded. Maybe the scaled villain was really Samin – did the boy know a spell who could do that? In any case, it was clearly meant as a distraction.

The herald went to try and stop some of the guards from following the others, and the paladin decided it was time for some action on his part. There were more priest at the gatehouse, but none of them paid him any attention, they were looking to where Zaza and whoever carried her had vanished. More guards came out of the temple, following the calls to action from outside, and in the commotion Bjön slipped into the courtyard of the temple. Before anyone would notice him specifically, he made his way to the wide open temple entrance. He was thinking that this was not a way to do any investigation, that any potential thief would have an easier time escaping in all this chaos, but then he suspected that the seeming lack of discipline was rather a cover up. Something very important and very dangerous in the wrong hands must have been stolen, and someone was staging the chaos to prevent anyone from finding out what exactly it was. Very possible that they had already cut their losses and now tried to escape before any evidence could reach the wrong hands. This made him remember the bard and he grumbled at himself for not checking if Teltz had brought any evidence to bring the temple down. But it was as it was, and right now he needed to find whoever was in charge here. And Hest, of course.

Back at the inn, Cajun had just changed the wet linen cloth on the bard's forehead when he saw that Teltz' eyes were open. For a moment, the bard's eyes were unfocussed, confusion obvious. Then the man remembered what had happened, at least part of it. "Bag... holding," he mumbled barely audible. "Ledgers. 3 of them. Get... to Reginar."

Cajun blinked, then he reached to the bag, putting his arm in and concentrating on 3 ledgers without being able to specify. But the bad obliged, although he had the feeling of a mocking presence in it. He ignored that and pulled the volumes of temple accounts out. When he flipped through, he immediately saw the relevance. Especially of one detailing the expedition to Kassen. He put that one aside – their quest was their own, in his mind, and had nothing to do with Reginar or the city. The other two though... They had to go to the Pathfinder, indeed. But where would he find the man at this time of night? Maybe Bjön would know, but Bjön was not here. He turned to ask Teltz, but the bard had already fallen unconscious again.

How was he to know where Reginar was? The time to meet the man again was late tomorrow. But there was someone else who might be able to help. The inkeeper was a member of the city council, and from what they had heard in the common room, not at all a friend of the Razmirans. The half-orc made sure Teltz was comfortable, then took the information and went downstairs, hoping the owner of the place was around.

Said halfling was listening to the upset discussions of the other acolytes at the moment. When they had arrived here, Krant had thrown a sorrowful look at his beer in the kitchen, and then walked away grumbling, instructing them not to go out or let anyone in. He had said he would make sure Teltz would be with them in a moment, but he had not returned yet, and from what the acolytes knew, he was rather about chastising the other priests and looking for someone to beat up, having forgotten about the missing acolyte already.

All of the acolytes had removed the masks. They often did that down here, as the masks were not quite so comfortable. This time, though, Edawon had the impression that most of them did not want to put the mask on again, much as if they could sense doom befalling those who would wear the mask after today. The halfling had the same feeling, especially as he was now as good as sure that the whole trouble must have something to do with the bard not reappearing. He was not sure what he thought of that. A part of him felt abandoned. But he had been left on his own a lot of times before and wouldn't even rate this as one of the more dangerous incidents. When push came to shove, he would certainly find a way to leave.

"...should not be here when that happens," the dwarf was just saying. "Most of the townfolks will not be so supportive anymore if they do not feel they have to, and guess who will bear the brunt of their scorn? Not the priests, maybe they are already packing their bags."

The others mumbled their agreement. "We can join up with another temple," the young half-elf suggested half-hearted. From his discussions with Evlar, Hest knew the young man had only joined up as a means of having a roof over his head and to get away from an abusive father.

"We could get to the Masked God's own nation," the dwarf suggested. "That is what the priests will do."

"I don't know, if they are running, then something more must be up than pressing some money from the locals," one of the women said. "I for my part would rather go back to honest prostitution than being in danger of getting charged with who knows what." Her sister nodded.

"What about we leave now?" Hest suddenly heard himself saying. "I doubt we'd be in too much trouble, we are just initiates, after all, and can claim to know little about anything but the basic doctrines of the faith."

"They'll stop us..."

"Who, the priests?" Hest felt his anger rising. "If it is true that they are preparing to abandon ship, if what has been stolen is so dangerous for the faith, then they will have no time to worry about us lowly acolytes now, will they?"

Evlar got up and walked to the door, hesitating only a moment before gripping the door knob. It didn't turn, though. None of them had noticed Krant locking the room; the key was on the outside to keep drunken senior members of the faith from raiding the kitchen at night but Krant was usually noisy about it.

The whole of them went to the dining room and tried the other door leading to the hallway, but it, too, was locked. "So what now?" Evlar inquired. He panicked slightly at the idea of being locked in. "What if they burn the temple to destroy evidence or something? We'll die in here!"

"Silly boy," the dwarf harrumphed. "They will not burn a temple to Razmir! The situation cannot be that bad. We just..." He stopped himself, sniffing the air suspiciously. So did the others. There was no mistaking the smoke in the air, not yet very disturbing but clearly creeping in from under the door. Likely, it had been there for a while but had not reached the kitchen door yet.

"We're doomed," Evlar muttered and went white as a sheet of fresh snow.

Bjön had found no one but a few confused and relatively new followers of the faith in either rooms of the corridor leading into the temple. He told them to get out, and the axe in his hands made them not doubt the wisdom of his words. He asked where the acolytes were, but only the 5th of them managed to get out a coherent answer. "Downstairs." She seemed to have no idea if this was true right now, or only their usual place of living though.

As he pushed open the doors to the main temple, a square looking man with a club and an iron mask covered in runes bumped into him. He had the garb of one of their priests, the first one Bjön had seen inside. "Halt! What is going on here? Where are the priests running this place?" the dwarf demanded to know.

The answer was the club swinging towards his head. The priest didn't even seem to think twice about attacking whoever was in front of him. It took the dwarf a moment – and endless moment as it seemed to him – before he could react and dodge the attack. He could feel the rush of air over his head where a moment ago his head had been. Sliding backwards, he was already about to push the attacker back with his axe – he had no intention of killing someone who might have an answer for him – when his masked foe used the door to bump it in his face and propel him against the wall. Blinking lights appeared in front of the paladin's eyes for a moment, but then he shook it of and turned slightly angry.

"Desna," he growled, staring at the advancing brute. "Let's do this!"

Any possible onlooker might have been surprised by the paladin's way of calling on his deity, but the priest swinging at him again didn't even notice anything. He chuckled under his mask, probably imagining the damage his hit would do to the paladin's skull. The club went off mark though, too much hurry had made the man miscalculate. Bjön, however, had not miscalculated.

The axe undercut the cover of the priest and hit him right under his left shoulder. There was a sickening crunch as the axe cut through hide armor and bone. With a grunt, the priest came to a halt, but his unharmed right arm swung his club again as if he did not really feel the pain – which was likely true, Bjön realized.

There was little time to free his weapon and not enough time to evade the blow. The club hit Bjön at the back of his left shoulder and took him off balance. The dwarf fell to the ground, barely catching himself before hitting the floor face first. Reflexively, he rolled around and tried to grab the advancing enemy's legs with his own, but the brute sidestepped his efforts. Even with the wound Bjön had caused, the priest' did not slow down. Not a very clever way to act, Bjön thought, but then, there were always the dumb ones.

He had not lost grip of his weapon, so the dwarf rolled over his unharmed shoulder and used the momentum to hack at his foe's legs. It caught the left boot and sliced a deep gash into the priest's leg. Now the brute swayed, having trouble to control his movement. For the first time, the eyes in the mask stared at the injuries, seemingly having trouble to comprehend them. But instead of backing up, pure rage showed and with a battle cry – really more a battle grunt – he went forward again, his club about to come down hard on the head of the paladin.

Again Bjön evaded by rolling around, but then his injured shoulder came into contact with the wall of the small corridor and for the first time he felt pain. The rush of battle had pushed the pain back until now, but that had ended with being trapped between the wall and the brute while still prone on the floor. Bjön began to wonder if this had been badly misjudged on his part and if his life would already end here.

There was a blur of movement through the doors, and the eyes of the brute went wide under his mask. A second later, he fell forward, his neck at an awkward angle. On his back was a small robed figure, it's yellow, scaled hands still holding the neck of the dead villain.

Bjön had time to recognize the hand as that of the supposed abductor of Zaza before he passed out.

Zaza rushed through the temple, stumbling over tumbled over chairs and tables and once over a door torn from its hinges. She could tell there had been an argument between the leading priests – mainly because one of them was on the stairs to the upper level, staring at the ceiling with dead eyes while a large dagger was sticking out of his chest. The young halfling pushed the image aside and ran on, catching her breath. "Edawon?" she called again and again. "Teltz? Where are you guys?"

She passed the mask robbed of its jewels and stopped. The quarters up here were more rich. She doubted they would house acolytes here. She had wasted time choosing the wrong place to check out. The basement it must be, then. But that was where the fire must have started. By now, the smoke was a lot more dense, almost as if someone had laid a smoldering fire with purpose instead of creating a blaze. Likely to give someone time to flee. Rushing back down the stairs, Zaza hesitated for a moment but could not quite get herself to take the dagger out of the dead man, even feeling the need for an additional weapon.

Maybe they had taken the acolytes along. If so, they would have a completely different problem in finding and freeing them. But half down the stairs, she heard the muffled shouts of people locked behind one or more doors. Maybe more priests who had lost an argument, but it could also be who she was looking for.

As they had entered through the southern doors, which had been abandoned but locked – it had taken her a minute to open them – they had noticed the smell of smoke and the emptiness of the building. They had also heard the sounds of a fight, and the kobold had send her to check for her missing comrades while he... well, she had no idea what he would be doing. Investigating battles could be dangerous, and she could have used the help. But nonetheless, she had found herself doing what he said. Again.

The whole way back to the temple, through backyards, over fences and walls and once a short way under the road through a water drainage, she had been following him. Sure, he knew his way, but she had not only followed him in direction. For some reason, she had not even asked a question when he gave her orders to hide this and that way, or when to freeze and when to rush. He certainly knew how to hide. Maybe one had to, as a kobold.

Someone was now banging against a door to her right. For a moment, Zaza wondered why it was that most people didn't bother to have the tools to get themselves out of such a situation. "I'm here," she coughed, only now noticing how much smoke there was. It smelled like incense and wet clothes mixed with charred meat. She didn't want to think about that part.

Luckily, it took only a moment to unlock the door. Zaza had no time to even put her tools away before the group of acolytes stormed out. The only halfling in the group prevented her from being run over. "Zaza!" he smiled. "How did you get in?"

"Through the doors, what do you think?" She turned and ran in front of him. "The rats have abandoned the sinking ship, so to say, and have laid fire to it, too. No one to stop us really."

"So Samin is here, too? Did you get to inform the others?" Hest had no trouble keeping up as they followed the rest up the stairs and out of the area with heavy smoke. It was hotter now, the fire seemed to have gotten to a part of the temple where it could produce real flame.

"Not sure where Samin is, last I saw him he was waiting for the others to arrive." Our of breath and feeling dizzy, the girl arrived at the top of the stairs. "Why wasn't Teltz with you? Where is he?"

"He went off to check the rest of the temple out, seems he has invisibility spells. He didn't come back and the chaos started after he left." Edawon grabbed Zaza's arm and rushed her along to the main portal. "I have a feeling he was somehow the cause of it."

"Wouldn't wonder," Zaza mumbled, then she stopped Hest. "There was a fight before, in that direction."

Edawon listened but couldn't hear anything. "Whatever it was, it seems to be gone now. We need to get out of here and find the others, see if Teltz is with them."

In the corridor, Hest recognized a dead on the floor man as the acolyte master, but decided to not waste any thoughts on the brute. He most likely deserved this fate more than any other of the priests he had seen.

A yellow reptile face popped out from behind the doors to the courtyard. "I see you found one of your friends. The one named Teltz is safe, so that paladin of yours assured me."

Edawon almost fell over his own feet. "A... a kobold? You know it? Who is it?"

"I am a he," Kronk said, sounding slightly insulted. "Can we do the small talk later? I was told there are lots of flames in the back of the building now."

"I'm not arguing with that," the halfling mumbled as they walked out to a courtyard full with angry townspeople and guards. Bjön was sitting on the steps to the portal, looking slightly worse for the wear. He waved at them and got up, not looking all that steady.

"Big oaf in there knocked him out," Kronk explained. "I was there just in time. As usual, Kronk to the rescue." The kobold chuckled like it was a joke only he could understand.

"Zaza! Ed!" Samin pushed through the crowd, smiling brightly. Further back, they could see Mook and the wolf, just out of the crowded area.

Bjön beckoned them to the courtyard. "They were waiting for you to come out," he explained. "Looks like they do not plan on fighting the fire, no buildings next to the temple to catch fire and they just want it burned down and gone for good. The city's council guards arrived, with order to arrst every priest´they can find. Looks like Cajun alerted them with information Teltz brought with him."

"How did he..." Edawon stopped himself. "Later," he then sighed. "I need a beer and something good to eat and a good night's rest." Which was something they could all agree upon.

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Cute but dangerous
Bjön's Pathfinder Diary

27th of Lamashan

On board of the Black Mist, on route to the so-called Isle of Terror

Events have gotten hectic after the temple of Razmir burned down. Most priests have been captured trying to sneak out of the city, but a few of them remain missing. No doubt they will sooner or later resurface somewhere, but that will hopefully be no concern of ours.

After the temple was destroyed, no one asked too many questions as to how we got the information, in was enough for them to know we had infiltrated them to find something belonging to us. Even after we discerned the destination of the cult's travels and her purpose, the Kassen people were not willing to let the priestess Iramine get away with their property. The fact that said woman is also trying to cause more problems by finding riches for her so-called god played a secondary role. One could say they are simple minds focused on just what is important to them, but I do not think so. It just seems to be that the whole scale of the situation hasn't penetrated their backwater educated minds yet.

Except for Teltz and Samin. I wish I knew what was up with the two of them. It is not for me to pry in their affairs though. I have made certain no evil emanates from either of them, and that is enough for me.

We had to leave Teltz behind at the inn. He has not yet recovered from what has occurred in the temple. Samin wanted to stay with him, but we convinced him we needed another magic user – however inexperienced – and especially his hawk familiar on this journey. The sorcerer the government has sent with us – Brenn – doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in me. He is a tall, pale fellow who, despite the lack of pointed ears, seems to have more elven blood than Samin and talks less than Mook. I haven't been able to determine what his spells are, but we are sure to find out.

Now Kronk the Monk, the kobold that came to my rescue in the temple, is another riddle to me. He won't say why Zaza is so important to him. He has come up with some herbal remedy to allow the halfling to sleep at least while on the water, but she still can't keep any food in. I will watch the kobold carefully.

We boarded the Black Mist 5 days ago, in pursuit of the Witch's Stitches, a slow riverboat which may not even have made it to the isle. While this would solve the main problem, it would also mean the Kassen people would not get their amulets back, and I would be sorry about this. They have done a lot considering most of them – Teltz not included – are more inexperienced than I am and would certainly deserve to be once more welcomed as the heroes at home.

As our ship is not made for the sea, we are traveling along the southern shore of Lake Encarthan. Tomorrow, we are to turn north, into the open sea. The weather does not make Captain Walren or his new helmsman, an old ex-pirate named Mabon, very hopeful. We might have to sit tight for a day or two while the weather cleans up, despite our need for haste.

At least until now, the journey was uneventful, with the exception of a dire crocodile and an angry water elemental.

"How is the w-weather up there?"

Samin stopped staring ahead into the storm and looked down into Mook's grinning face. "Same as down there, I suppose," he smiled. "How is Zaza?"

"She s-stopped f-feeding the f-fish but I think it's just b-because there is no more f-food in her," Mook replied. The weather had cleared up for the most part, only a thin veil of rain was coming down from above, and the ship was barely moving up and down anymore. Yet Zaza's disagreement with being on water was as bad as ever.

The journey north towards the isle had been brutal. They had been loocked up in the belly of the boat for their own safety, except for Konk who seemed to know a little about sailing and had already shown his balance and reflexes were good enough to help the sailors. Strangely enough, both the captain and Mabon liked the little guy, despite the captain explaining that, generally speaking, he hated kobolds as they had once destroyed his family's hold.

"That's Aroden's Landing," Samin said, pointing to the small halfmoon bay just ahead. "I don't know how I feel going onto an island, one with such a bad reputation at that. If anything happens to the boat we can' t get off anymore."

"Or if w-we are too late," Mook sighed. "10 d-days the captain g-gives us. S-seems like not m-much t-time."

"Well, he can't wait forever." Samin pointed to the clouds over the isle. "Negative energy storms. I have read all the information Reginar gave us before we left. Part of me thinks it was not such a good idea to follow this priestess."

"A-and the other half?"

The thee-quarter-elf smiled widely. "The other half is all excited about adventure, finally doing what my da used to do when he was younger."

"Your f-father went on qu-quests and s-some such?" Mook had suspected this, as had most in Kassen, but the bard had enver talked about it.

"Yeah, well, not sure if you could call it quests. He used to be a traveling bard and encountered a few things over time."

The Black Mist went into the bay, and the storms on the isle seemed even more violent from here. Ewem, the deckhand, and Kronk were already working on preparing the old rowboat to get ashore. The others were gathering around, Zaza half carried by Cajun and the wolf whining pitifully.

They had some trouble all fitting into the boat. Mabon and Captain Walren too it upon themselves to transfer them, Mabon bailing water out of the boat the whole way, commenting about bad seamanship, while Walred was whistling and grinning. Everyone was relieved to have solid ground under their feet again, despite the grim looking landscape. Samin was especially happy to get his hawk's claws out of his shoulder pads. The dwarf captain reminded them about the 10 days he would wait, and the two fires they were to lit if they wanted to be picked up. "Just t' be sure no cultist tricks us," he explained again. "I wish you all the luck of Golarion in your pursuit."

Not too long later, the party was watching them row back to the boat. "I guess this is where trouble truly begins," Cajun said in a low voice, staring at the stormy weather and the ruins of what looked like a former keep – Fort Landing. In party, sand had gone up to about 30 feet at the sides of the remaining walls. Wind, sand, and storms have scoured away anything organic and left behind a sandblasted set of interconnected walls that now formed a sort of ruined maze.

Edawon Hest found the first camp of the cultists inside those ruins. When the others followed his calls, they also found 2 graves ringed with stones near a wall. "Not good," Hest shook his head. "While it means less of them, it also means this place has the right name."

"How long ago have they been here?" Zaza, still pale and weak, wondered.

"Hard to say, but it sure was more than a day ago," Hest replied, studying the campsite.

"We shouldn't stay here," Bjön worried. "There is enough light of day left to follow their trail and we have little time. They did leave a trail, no?"

Hest nodded. "A rather easy to read one. They moved east from here, and I agree, let's move away from here."

East proved to be swampy area. The map Reginar had given Bjön proved accurate enough. The group stayed to the north of the swamp and mostly on dry ground. Dadawin and Wilbur were both alarmed about something that seemed to follow them, but nothing was visible. "Some s-ort of w-wolves," Mook said at one point. "N-not normal ones, he is v-very worried about t-them."

"Do not worry about them," Brenn suddenly spoke. "Animals, no matter what kind, so not attack where I am present."

The others exchanged looks and shrugged; while curious, they had given up asking the sorcerer any questions. His statement did little to stop them from worrying, but nothing attacked and their speed was good despite Zaza's incomplete recovery. A few hours into their walk, close to dark, they saw the first example of what negative energy storms could do. Some sort of lightning struck a tree a distance away, and it crumbled to ashes just like that.

Nightfall brought the problem of setting up camp. Using any trees as shelter did not seem wise after what they had witnessed earlier and given the violent bursts of wind almost knocking them down in irregular intervals, it made little sense to put up the canopy. Hurdled in their blankets in what seemed the middle of nowhere, they didn't get much rest – except, of course, for Cajun, who snored like a bear. Brenn took the first watch and Bjön the second, but asides from twisted sounds like the howl of wolves but way more evil, which made Dadawin howl back in anger a few times, nothing happened.

The morning was met with more winds and strange lightning from the massive clouds overhead. As quickly as they could, they made breakfast and were on their way again. A slight depression settled in, seemingly affecting everyone but the half-orc and Brenn. Brenn mentioned something about orc heritage probably making Cajun immune to some of the effects of the place.

Nothing happened the next day, except them finding another camp of the Razmirans the next day early afternoon. This one was under some high and strong trees, and the group decided to camp here, too. Zaza nursed a bumped head – the cursed wind had blown her over a few times – and Cajun had a scratch on his arm where a branch had hit him during one of those violent outbursts of wind. The next morning arrived much as the last one, with no one but Cajun truly rested.

They crossed a body of black, foul water early that morning and followed the south shore of the lake it came out of. The Whispering River and the Whispering Lake, so the dwarf told them. Close to what must be midday – hard to say with the sun barely visible and the isle in a twilight – they reached the second camp of the cultists. At first it looked as if it also was their last. Bodies were lying around, partly eaten by scavengers. They counted 9 Razmirans and 2 strange looking lizardfolk-like beings. They were black, eyes and scales alike. Here and there they spouted weird mutations. The high priestess was not among them though.

"Definitely lizardfolk," Hest asserted. "The negative energy here must have twisted them."

"Twisted them something good," Cajun agreed, examining the morningstars and wooden shields the creatures had dropped. "I would not want to battle with them if I could avoid it."

"You and me both, lad," Brenn growled and grabbed his weird combination of quarterstaff and spear harder. "But it is very likely we will have to fight them." His eyes went over Zaza and Mook, as if judging their battle worthiness. Mook stared back in defiance, while Zaza tried a weak grin.

"Those morningstars are poisoned," Bjön noted. "Likely from the waters of the Whispering Lake." Said lake, he had explained to them on the way, was pure poison, which was easy to guess as it was all black and thick. It was almost like negative energy gone solid. It was, to their judgement, quite stupid to make camp here, but maybe the Razmirans had had no choice. Hest soon found the trail of the surviving cult members.

Zaza was already going through the dropped gear of the cultists. At the edge of the camp, she gathered her findings. "12 daggers, 7 short swords, 2 rapiers looking like masterwork to me." Cajun nodded at her questioning look. "Crossbow and 12 bolts, that's mine seeing how it is halfling sized and I lost mine when the water elemental attacked. I'd also like to keep the daggers." No one argued with that. "Other than that, some masks no one needs, tools for thieves – mine, too, I insist – and some money. 2 smokesticks, 2 sunrods and some potions.

Samin examined the potions. "They are even labeled," he grinned. "Healing potions, all 4 of them."

"Now that's nice," Bjön said, pointing to the dead. "Didn't help them much though."

"They look like their attackers had tried to tear them apart," Kronk mused. "Doesn't look like beings who can be reasoned with."

Cajun was relieving one of the dead men of a half donned leather armor. "Looks better than mine," he commented. Seeing Zaza's frozen look and Mook' shaking her head, he stopped for a moment. "What? Do you think this guy can still use it? It is not damaged or even dirty unlike mine."

"Never mind," Zaza replied. "You are right, I just don't think I will ever get used to having dead people around me."

Dadawin suddenly growled, and Wilbur, circling a few meters over their heads – any higher and the wind would blow him away – screeched a warning, too. Brenn whirled around first and got into a defensive stance. "I suppose we will see if those lizards can be reasoned with or not," he said calmly.

It was 4 of them, one of them looking to be tougher and taller than the others. Their chief, they realized. He snarled something in Draconic and waved for the other two to follow in his attack.

Samin frowned, and then he seemed to change somehow. Some of them had seen this once before, in the Crypt of the Everflame, although then it had not been so obvious. The effect spread to his childhood friends again. Bjön noticed the subtle change and wondered what they would do this time to avert hostilities. He was, as before, unaffected.

A stream of words came from the young mage no one but Kronk could understand. The kobold seemed a little surprised at the use of Draconic language but just watched. Bjön looked at Cajun, and the half-orc, hammer raised, shrugged. He had quickly donned the leather armor and looked quite different in it. He also had, the paladin noticed, opened his pouch for a quick access to his alchemical supplies should they become needed. Brenn, too, had his pouch open to get at his spell components, and Bjön himself had a tight grip on his axe. Zaza and Mook had taken position behind the wolf.

The three-quarter-elf nodded to the words of the lizardfolk. Invaded territory, wanting to destroy all the invaders. The usual, he thought. "We apologize for not noticing this is your territory," he replied while the lizards were still advancing. "You killed some of those we follow. See they invaded our territory, too, and stole from us, so we had to keep on their trails. We would have asked your permission but we didn't know about you."

Samin could not fail to notice the Razmiran masks the black scaled beings had taken from the dead. From a crude necklace over shield ornament to the chief wearing one of the masks over his face – quite an ill-fitting match. The chief stopped right in front of Samin, and his morningstar hit the ground with a thud, causing sickly dust to rise.

"We laid ambush for those with the masks," he hissed. "But in the glorious battle, they used foul tricks and killed many of our numbers. They must all die."

"So they must," Samin said, trying to make his voice a bit darker. "They stole from us and killed some of us when they were in our territory. We hunt them to get back what is ours. If there was any sign that this area is yours, we might have been able to go around it, but we could not know." Thinking back, there had been some signs the area was inhabited but they had paid little attention. "Maybe the masked people destroyed your border marks. You want to kill us for doing what you would do as well? You would follow them anywhere, and so do we. If you really must do so, let us catch the transgressors first."

This irritated the chief visibly. "They are ours to kill., We track them. We don't need you."

"How many more people do you want to lose to their tricks of magic? We have magic, too. We can probably defeat you. But if you think it through, we should probably work together."

"We don't need others to help us. We are strong," The chief lifted his morningstar again and came a step closer. "You, you are first to die."

"I don't think so," Samin replied. "It is much more likely we will kill you all. Then who is there to punish the masked ones?"

The chief grunted. "If the maked ones are dead, we will fight," he announced. "And if you fail to kill them, we will fight them. Maybe they kill you first and we don't have to fight you." His pronunciation indicated he meant it as mockery, but it was clear to Samin that the chief was not so sure if he could take them on, or would have a lot more luck against the cultists before reinforcements arrived.

"Get more of your people, then, and follow us," Samin said, wondering about himself before the words were out. "Then you can make sure it gets done."

"And leave you out of sight? We are not stupid." Again, the morningstar crashed into the dusty poisoned soil. Somewhere close by, a flash of negative energy hit a rock as if the pronounce the chief's words.

"Where would we go?" Samin asked calmly. "This is an island. We all can't swim very well. We do not have a ship." A half truth, but it worked. The chief grunted again, then all of a sudden turned and waved the others to follow. As he and his men broke noisily into the vegetation, Samin noticed everyone was staring at him.

"What?" he asked. "Kronk has taught me Draconic while we were bored on the journey."

"Yes, but..." the monk scratched his scaly head. "I have never seen anyone learning a language this quick. I was already surprised on the boat but seeing this now..." He chuckled, suddenly like any other kobold. "Ah, it got us out of trouble, it did, so I am not complaining."

"Add to that," Brenn pointed out the much more perculiar matter, "their sudden amiability. Seriously, from what we know, you can't reason with those half mad things. At all. And you got them to... do what, exactly? Leave us alone?"

"Not quite," Samin said, wondering where to start his explanation of the negotiations. He had taken matters much into his own hands – or mouth, at that – and part of him couldn't understand it. He knew he was good at negotiating, but it was almost as if the words had come on their own. As if he had just been the listener. Before he could continue, Cajun rescued him from his confusion and embarrassment. "Do we burn the bodies or just kick them into the poisoned waters?"

"Burn them," the paladin decided. "They were, after all, sentient beings and some of them might not have been beyond redemption."

Samin sighed at those words. It would be difficult to make the dwarf see the necessity to kill the cultists – or let the lizardfolk kill them – if any of them would surrender. And him thinking like that shocked himself. A few weeks ago, he would have balked at the idea of coming to a place like this, and now he was acting like...

Like his father had before, he thought.

Bjön and Cajun set to gathering the bodies while Kronk gathered wood and foliage dry enough to make a pyre. With the lizardfolk in the area, they doubted any other sentient being would follow the smoke, and animals would be driven off at the same time. Bjön was still doubtful of the sorcerer's claim to be able to hold off any animal attackers, but they would already be gone before the fire burned down in any case.

As the fire was burning – or rather smoldering - there was suddenly a warning from Dadawin. The wolf sniffed the air in confusion and did a single bark – a sound, so Mook assured, only heard when he was very confused. A few minutes later, the source for the confusion appeared.

Emerging from the nearby brush with his arms raised high and bearing no obvious weapons was a human man, about six feet tall, with a tangle of long, dirty red hair and a long red beard, wearing tattered, hole-ridden clothes soaked through with mud and stained black in many places. Even before he got close, his stench preceded him. It was not only as though he hadn’t bathed in years, but that he seemed to have actually gone out of his way to cover himself in the most horrible smells the Isle of Terror had to offer: a blend of rotten eggs, human waste, and decaying organic matter. An arrow was lodged in the back of his right leg, but seemed to cause him no pain as neared the group. Suddenly he stopped. His eyes went wide and he loudly exclaimed “I found you!”


Cute but dangerous
Bjön's Pathfinder Diary

2nd of Neth

Isle of Dread, marching east on the trail of the Razmirans

After the encounter with the twisted lizardfolk, Samin tried to explain what he had done. He seemed to be unsure as to where his sudden luck in negotiations came from. Brenn said he had noticed magic around him similar to that of a domination spell. This confused Samin even more, and he assured us he knew nothing of such magic. The best he can do is charm someone, and it only works, as he says, when he is in the right mood. Magic works differently for him than for most people. It would be a good idea to present him to a group of experienced mages eventually, to help find out what is going on with him.

He proved his weird skill once more, after which I asked him to please not do it again. He says he can't control it though, and I am inclined to believe him. The encounter he displayed his strange ability again was curious. We ran into a former Pathfinder who seems to be the last survivor of his team. Dusan Dremlock, a deranged ranger – Zaza laughed at that expression for a good hour.

From what we could gather, he is here for almost 10 years, an awful long time. Anyone would have lost their mind all alone in this place. He could barely talk and seemed to have a hard time finding the words for some things. Apparently, he used to talk to himself until he found it just attracted unwanted attention. Here is what he told us, in his own words:

“Venture-Captain Tree Roots said we should come to… island to island and then we left the city and swam north, keeping abreast of each other to fend off fish and then we swam and swam and we swam for years and came here to the island and we went inside the island and saw its heart and it was black and we knew it was black and we came out and we were black and then the blackness consumed them, ate them alive, ate me alive, and then we were all dead all dead all dead and I was dead and they were dead, and they were dead and I wasn’t dead—do you see? I was alive! I was alive and they were dead and then I lived here and I lived in a tree and a cave and in the ruins and I saw, I saw, I saw things, and then the men in masks came and they fought the lizards and many died on both sides, many died, oh yes, many died and they did not get back up they were not dead like me and they headed to the doors, to the many doors by the river, the many doors where I slept once when the storms reached down and grabbed me. They are there now, they try to open the doors come with me, yes, come come come with me. I can show you where they are.”

Those were his precise words. The ramblings of a lost soul, yet there is definitely some truth in there. What does he mean with dead, and not dead? Is he some sort of undead? He doesn't seem to be, but then, anything seems possible in this place.

When he smiled at us with his missing teeth, he looked somewhat innocent, but when he pointed east and said he'd take us to the men in the masks, he looked rather devious. As I gathered, he tried to talk to the cultists, but they tried to kill him. That is when he got shot with an arrow which is still in his right leg. It is infected and smelly but he seems not to notice. Is this the first time he got seriously wounded? Does he not know he will die if he does not take care of it?

He wants to help us if we take him with us when we leave. I think that is something we would have done anyway. Yet, I am suspicious about him. He seems not to be a safe person to have around, and the smell he emits is unbelievable. He smears himself with all sort of things, from his own waste to the stinky soil of the swamps. He resisted any attempts at cleaning him up, claiming the stink is what kept him alive all the years. This makes no sense, and what is worse, he tries to make us cover ourselves in stink as well. None of us will comply, especially not Zaza who has a really weak stomach and can't even stand the sight of the guy.

Dusan calls Xin-Grafar, the place we are looking for, the City of Golden Death. I am sure it is a good description of it. My hope is that the cultists get taken care of without our help, but my experience up to know makes me believe this will not be so.

We have been led to the cave this unfortunate survivor has lived in for some time now. It smells as bad as he does. He took some food from there in a half rotten backpack and strapped on a broken sword. Our offers for better equipment were denied as well as the offer to help with his wound.

Brenn went deeper into the cave to check it out, likely hoping for any journal or other information on what happened to the expedition so long ago. When he was out of sight for a few minutes, the twisted wolves that had followed us for so long finally attacked. It seems to be true that he can hold the wildlife off. We managed to defeat all 4 of them. Good that is was a small pack, though. Cajun used alchemist's fire on them, which was a great help. I am not too comfortable with alchemical things, but in the right hands, it truly makes a difference.

The ramblings of Dusan can get on everyone's nerves, but he helped us to avoid some poison plants and also warned us about the deadly mists from the Whispering Lake. I would have missed the danger, and it seems the others didn't think about it either. The lunatic is useful to have around for now.

The weather has taken a turn for the worse. The relentless storms from the mountains so aptly called The 3 Furies has picked up; and it can even topple over a whole pack of these wolf-like mutations still following us at a distance. It blew them all around, and would Brenn not have used some rooting spell on all of us, we would have been blown away, too. There was only one of those very bad blasts yet, but I have a feeling there are more to come. If that happens, I only hope Brenn has enough of those spells available to prevent us from being gone with the wind.

We didn't gain any ground. The trail of the cultists twisted and turned a bit, and we found is heading more to the north, between what is called the Whitewood and Shadow's heart, two forests likely aptly named. I am happy enough we do not have to go in there.

The lizardfolk are following us. Both the hawk and the wolf make them out periodically. Right now, the hawk can't fly in the storms and has to be carried by Samin, which causes problems with the young man's health. This is the first I ever saw a wizard being allergic to his own familiar. He can't stop sneezing, and his eyes water so badly he can barely see. Cajun is constructing a shoulder pad for himself right now, so he can carry Wilbur in his friend's place.

The entrance to Xin-Grafar finally stood ahead. Two enormous stone doors, each thirty feet high and fifteen feet wide, covered in carved, vertical wavy lines, with the left-hand door standing open, a complex internal mechanism of worked stone and metal clockwork gears visible along the door’s side about halfway up. The doors wee recessed about ten feet into the side of a large, grass-covered hill and tilt slightly inward. A firepit smoldered beside the right-hand door, tiny tendrils of smoke still curling skyward from its coals.

Exhausted and dirty and scratched up, the party stared at the entrance. It was early afternoon, and the day had been hell. Storms had almost blown them away, they had had to rescue Bjön from a quicksand hole, the negative energy storm had hit close to Cajun and Dadawin and made the use of all the healing potions necessary plus exhausted Mook's healing magic. Then a tall branch had hit Cajun just before the storms had finally relented. Luckily, his new armor had protected him for the most part. Samin had used up all of his magic to provide flight over another quicksand hole – the way around would have taken hours – and Brenn had called lightning down on one of the lizardfolk who, maybe to make a name for himself or to drive a point home, had tried to kidnap him.

Additionally, whatever magic Brenn had used to hold off wildlife had run out just a few hours ago. More wolves had come at them and a creature vaguely resembling a badger. The latter managed to bite Kronk in the tail, but luckily, this did not have any poisenous effect. Right now, everyone was too drained to be happy to arrive.

Despite his exhaustion, Edawon immediately went to check out the cultist camp. Two more graves were nearby. The halfling shook his head. "No more than a dozen of them left, I reckon," he said wearily. "Still more than enough to be concerned about."

"We are all too tired. We need to rest." Cajun voiced the obvious. "It does not matter how early or late it is in the day, but we can't go on like this."

"Is this city underground?" Zaza wondered, staring at the gates and the hill. There was a looming dark behind the doors.

"Underground, yes, all dark place, dark as in no light, nono, no light," Dusan chuckled. "Never go in there, I don't, not anymore, oh no. Can't find stinky things in there either. But the masked ones, they are gone in, you see? Must follow, you, go hurry."

Mook sighed. "W-we a-are n-not g-going i-in t-there w-without r-rest." Her stutter was worse when tired.

"Ah, maybe we should not stay out in the open..." Samin begun and blushed when everyone stared at him. "It is just... well, maybe behind the gates it is safer? The cultists must have either triggered or disarmed any traps, no?"

"Yeah, and sometimes traps reset themselves," Zaza groaned. "Remember when we found that cave of the gold digger when we were barely old enough for school? Anf that was a harmless trap, all in all."

Bjön considered Zaza for a long moment. "Would you be able to find such traps?"

The halfling hesitated. "It is not like I've had any experience beyond that cave, and the few books I could read about adventures," she explained. "And the stories of that one group of adventurers - fortune makers, as they called themselves - coming through Kassen some time ago. But I can find the obvious, and I know that just because someone else came through fine it does not mean the next group will."

"We are staying out here, then," the paladin decided. Brenn looked like he was about to say something, but then decided otherwise. He was older than the dwarf, which sometimes made him try to take on the leadership role in the group, but by now he was beginning to understand that not only did the rest of the group trust Bjön, but the paladin was beginning to get a grasp on leadership.

Asides from the howling of twisted wolves, nothing happened for the rest of the day and the night. Their meal was as simple as always – they didn't dare to touch anything the deranged Pathfinder had. They would soon be hard pressed for water, though, as the few sources they had come upon could not be used without purifying, and there was no one to do that here.

Before the dim sun came up, they had their usual breakfast and went on preparing for the day. Samin looked grim, probably worried about his spell selection and his spontaneous spells. They knew he had tried to learn a few new spells from a spellbook found with the dead cultists, but how effective he had been, no one had dared to ask.

Without the negative energy storms, temperature had dropped considerably, making them feel the onset of winter. It was curious that the unnatural storms should have the effect of keeping the cold out, but no one was complaining. It was better to be cold than live in fear of those lightning strikes and gusts of wind.

Their mad guide did not dare to come inside, saying he had brought them here and would wait outside until they came out, dead or alive. Shaking their heads, they continued their journey.

Behind the gates they carefully entered proved to be a seemingly endless, winding tunnel leading downwards. There were no more dead cultists, no traps and no warnings – it simply seemed to be the road to a normal city. This was likely misleading, so no one dared to let their guard down and they advanced slowly. Finally, after hours of threading carefully and looking out for surprises, the long, sloped tunnel leading down to the city suddenly opened into a large rectangular room. The floor here was sand and showed signs of recent foot traffic. The walls were all painted in enormous murals that depict a city in its prime. The south wall showed hundreds of men and women in a marketplace, trading everything from fruit and livestock to construction materials such as brick and wood. The north wall depicted row upon row of unarmed, uniformed men standing large in the foreground and growing smaller as their ranks disappear over the horizon toward the far right of the painting - a horizon over which an enormous golden sun was rising. The east wall was a huge map that portrayed a city constructed of three concentric circles and divided by canals of pure, crystal-clear water that flows from the city’s innermost ring. Below this map someone had scrawled numerous notes and mathematical calculations in charcoal. Finally, the west wall depicted a leader of some sort, crowned by a golden sun and speaking before a huge crowd of people wearing white shawls and golden togas.

"So, we are finally here," Brenn said.

Zaza was about to make a snide remark at the sorcerer for stating the obvious – she didn't like the man at all – when Bjön took out his journal and began to copy the map as best as he could. "Best to use the resources offered," he commented. "We can wait for a moment longer before we enter."

There was no arguing the logic of that, so the others decided to rest for a moment. Samin took the time to decipher the charcoal scribbles. "It speaks of the city being made into what it is now, from a city originally called Kestrillon," he read. It was hard to read the words, while they were in Common, the writer had a bad handwriting. "Something about a Jewel of Everlasting Gold, and fire, floods, and molten gold. And those calculations..."

Bjön lifted his head from his copying work. "Can you identify what they mean?"

After a long moment, Samin nodded. "It calculates the amount of gold needed to flood the city with molten gold to a height of 40 ft and how long it takes to do so. Supposedly, it takes 73 hours and 20 minutes after the gates have been opened to flood the first two rings." Samin glanced at the map. "And it takes 25 hours to drain. Why would anyone want to flood a city with molten gold? Oh and there is a note saying that this magic jewel can only start but not reverse the process."

"After the g-gates have been o-opened?" Mook piped in. "B-but the c-cultists have a-already opened it!"

Edawon checked the ground for the cultist's traces again. "They didn't bother to look at the map or the notes, they just went in. Maybe they know about this, though, their leader having been here before."

"Can we know how long ago they have entered?" Brenn asked in a tense voice.

"No, sorry," Edawon shook his head. He looked even smaller than usual admitting this. "But they were not much ahead of us anymore when we arrived at the camp outside, maybe 6 or 7 hours."

"I'm almost done," Bjön mumbled.

A few minutes later, the party went on. A large doorway passed from the room of murals into the city proper. A lightly glowing green fluorescence emanated from the cavern roof above, illuminating a once-great city now reduced to ash and rubble but whose ruins were coated entirely in gold. A large, covered bridge across a canal glowed white-hot and emits a searing, golden light. In the center of the bridge stood a man-shaped statue covered in fine gold plating, its carved face eerily human-like.

"A construct," Samin recognized. "Likely a mindless guard."

"And there were others," Cajun pointed. The inside of the bridge was visible enough to note two piles of melted gold and other metals, about the volume of the statue they were facing. "Guess the Razmirans took care of them."

"Too bad they didn't get them all," Kronk mused. "But they are obviously defeatable."

"How does one defeat a gold statue?" Zaza wanted to know.

"Maybe we don't have to," Samin pondered. "We have 3 potions of invisibility, an oil of invisibility, a potion of gaseous form and I can fly and have up to 3 of you flying as well. That would take up much of the magic I do not have to prepare though."

"That l-leaves out D-dadawin, he w-wouldn't know how to fly and m-making him invisible s-pooks him," Mook pointed out. "We tried that a y-year or s-so ago."

"Ah, yeah about that... maybe we should have the wolf wait here?" Bjön suggested.

"W-why? H-he is in n-no more d-danger than the r-reest of us," Mook complained. "A-and he might be m-more in danger out h-here."

Bjön didn't want to point out the difficulty a canine could create in climbing up walls and other situations, but he had to admit Dadawin might also be helpful. "Could Mook carry him while flying?"

"No, she would not be able to carry more than she usually could, but Cajun or you probably could. Not sure if you would be able to carry Dadawin around normally."

Cajun didn't hesitate and grabbed the wolf, lifting him up without difficulty. "I'd not be able to carry him far, but over the bridge, sure."

Dadawin whined and protested, and Mook had to calm him down. Bjön thought for a moment, then he nodded. "Fine, the fight would probably take too much time anyway. But to save a potion, and because we might need to use gaseous form later, I'll carry Zaza, she is lightest." The paladin had done so for a short distance before, and in the storm. "No need to waste precious magic if we do not have to."

"And maybe Brenn can carry me?" Kronk suggested. He was, after all, not that heavy either.

"W-while at it, I'm n-not heavy either, so y-you could c-carry me," Mook pointed at Samin. "S-saves us a-another p-potion."

Samin seemed to calculate her weight and his strength. He wasn't that weak, and had carried her here and there before. It would work for just over the bridge, so he nodded.

"Aw, no one to carry me," Edawon mocked. "At least I carry my own weight." He chuckled at his own joke, but it sounded like he was trying to mask his fear. He was bulkier than any of the other small people in the group so carrying him would not have been so easy for anyone.

Samin handed Edawon one of the invisibility potions. "We'll fly over first. Right over the bridge. Then you can come follow us. You'll see where we land and can probably find us quicker."

"Right," Edawon mumbled. "Hurry up."

The first ring of the city was elevated compared to the entrance, and the other two rings elevated in turn, with the gold flow staying at the lowest level. While his companions flew over and up to the other side – he noticed Samin struggling a bit – Edawon pondered all the wealth in this place. Was all the gold even real? What he could do with it if he had access to it. Fighting slavery would be so much easier...

A call from the other side woke him from his musings. Cajun was shouting for him to hurry up. The construct had not noticed or cared about them. Wilbur was circling high over the city already to watch out for problems. The halfling nodded to himself and drank the potion. As he disappeared from sight, he made haste to cross the bridge, carefully avoiding the statue and the rubble inside. He still made a trail and caused some dust to raise, but the statue didn't care for either. "I'm here," he whispered as he arrived where the others where.

"Don't be so dramatic," Zaza chuckled. "Wow, I can't believe we are inside. Really inside a legendary city!"

Bjön was staring at the map, seemingly oblivious to the still invisible halfling's arrival or Zaza's enthusiasm. "I wish we could wait a day and renew your spell power, so we could fly in over the molten gold canal to the inner city, if you could prepare an additional spell. But with the gold flood probably to come – if the mechanism still works, we will not have time for that, thus need to make it through the city."

Cajun scratched his head. "Will going through the city really be quicker? The cultists are ahead if us and probably left some nasty surprises, as they are expecting at least the lizardfolk after them."

"Talking of those – where are they? I thought I heard them following us into the tunnel." Brenn looked back at the city entrance, but nothing moved over there.

"We'll worry about that later. Right now, we need to decide how to proceed." Bjön was already walking towards the first intersection, nose still in his notes.


"Halt it there!"

Zaza and Samin shouted at the same time. Alarmed, the paladin looked about, hand to his axe, but he could not see anything out of the ordinary. "What..?" he started.

"The intersection," Zaza said with an accusing frown.

"The circle," Samin pointed at the same time to the same place.

Looking down, Bjön could see it. "Yeeaaah..." he admitted, sounding sheepish. The runes in a circle around the intersection definitely looked suspicious. "I can see the point. Literally."

"We better go around that one, then," Brenn added in a mocking voice and grinned at the dwarf. Bjön sighed. That had not helped for him to establish a leadership role.


As you wrote that not all of your players are present during every session and some are even interacted with via email, is this the reason why the action was that heavily split up between different groups of two or three in the second adventure?

If so, I'm really enjoying your rather unusual GMing style as I always like to see events described from different points of view. In my opinion, changing the perspective from time to time or even focusing on one single character makes your story read like a real novel instead of a mere campaign journal.

Another aspect that might contribute to this impression is that your sessions seem to be quite combat-low. Or is it just that combat scenes are not supposed to play THAT major role in your story hour and are merely quickly described in one or two sentences, as, for example, the fight with the mutated wolves (which would also be fine for me, at least)?

The last thing I'd like to ask is how you came up with the idea for Kronk? Very interesting to see a kobold (yellow, to boot) take the side of the characters' party.

Looking forward to the next entry!


Cute but dangerous
Almost the whole 2nd adventure was done via email, chats, SMS and one single session (Teltz). The adventure warns you not to split up the party but this way, it was really workable. A pale substitute for our traditional "meet for 2 weeks over xmas" RPG excesses, but as we could not make it this year, we at least made some progress.

They also avoided one encounter (which I wasn't keen on including so that's a good thing). By now, they are through the 3rd adventure although I'll need the notes of Mook and Brenn to finish updating.

Of course, they did something totally unthinkable. I was hesitant to allow it but as the adventure in itself had a lot of logical fallacies, it went through and we got derailed somewhat.

Combat is usually very low priority - unless we do sieges or big battles needing weeks to resolve. Additionally, I'm not that good at describing a lot of fights, as they tend to repeat themselves. The idea is only to post those battles in detail where something important happens. The way to the underground city was actually rather heavy on random encounters (battles and otherwise) but it would have made a very boring read even when it was fun to the players.

The idea for Kronk was born when his player (a neighbor girl) remarked that kobolds, who descend from dragons and don't shut up about it, seem to come only from the so-called evil dragons (color means a lot less in our games in regards to evil or not though) and wondered what happened to descendants of the other dragons. So we invented them. After we did, it was logical that someone wanted to play one. We diced out the colors and it happened to be a yellow (gold) kobold. With the lawful tendencies we gave them, a variant monk was a good choice I think.

Here's the party update.

Edawon Hest – Young, pale skinned halfling ranger with stubborn red hair defying all attempts to keep it combed and green eyes which seem to stare into your soul. Used to be a forced street thug and a slave but doesn't really talk about this part of his past. Member of the Bellflower Network.

Kronk – Kobold monk and scholar, has a bit of a split personality, being scared of heights and some other things one moment and then ignoring all perils. He's yellow golden, unlike most of his known kind.

Brenn – Sorcerer of Chance (homebrew class, kinda mix between sorcerer and spellthief). Originally joined the group only because he was sent by the government of Nirmathas.

Players are:

Bjön - my son
Mook - son's girlfriend
Cajun - son's best friend
Zaza - another one of son's friends, playing a female PC for the first time
Kronk - neighbor girl who is now old enough to play late nights
Brenn - work buddy of husband
Samin - husband
Teltz - neighbor
Edawon Hest - neighbor boy


Cute but dangerous
The group made a fairly good pace, considering that the street was covered with gilded rubble. The fumes from the gold canals were bothering Zaza and Wilbur, who was now perched on Cajun's shoulder, so avoiding the intersections they had gone to the main street closer to the inner wall. They stopped at every small intersection to check left and right. It was hard to make anything out in the greenish light coming from some moss above, but there were no more dead cultists, which could be seen as either good or bad. Here and there, they found gilded remains of skeletons though.

Just when everyone was beginning to relax and talk about what the cultists were really trying to get from this place, something moved in all the glittering gold. Zaza saw it first and cried out a warning. A clanging of shields and weapons now resounded as a pack of flaming, gold-plated skeletons bearing golden scimitars rose up from the nearby ruins and advanced.

"Really, again?" Cajun grunted and grabbed his hammer. "Do we have something that attracts undead, or is the world really so full of them?"

"The latter, I'm afraid," Bjön answered and was just getting ready to go against the enemy he had dedicated himself to when lightning came out of nowhere, striking the weird looking skeletons and reducing them to gilded ash. An acrid smell rose from where they just had been and Zaza grimaced. Bjön turned to Brenn and stared in disbelief.

"No need to thank me," The sorcerer grinned in a challenging way.

Anger – righteous anger, as he thought – rose within the paladin. "What, in the name of all gods, was that to be?" he asked in a barely controlled voice. "Those were just skeletons, and I could have probably taken them alone, given my training and equipment. And there is Cajun to help. It might have taken a moment, but we could have done it. Instead, you decide to waste your magic on something so simple. Did it ever occur to you that we might have a need for this type of spells somewhere down and around this road? How many of those lightnings do you have left?"

The falling face of the strange man told them he had not considered that, and that he probably only had few, if any, offensive spells remaining. Brenn was about to say something, but Bjön just walked on. The others followed after a moment, leaving Brenn to bring up the rear. Edawon loaded his crossbow and held it at the ready, and Mook decided to do the same. It was not the sort of weapon very effective against undead, but they certainly felt safer. And who could know what else was lurking.

"You know this is weird," Zaza whispered to her brother while she readied her own crossbow so that only he could hear. "Last month, we were happily or unhappily doing our daily, harmless duties around our home, and none of us but Mook had ever seen undead before. And she only knew the spirits her grandmother deals with. Now, we seem to begin to treat skeletons, at least, as the most normal thing in the world."

"Yeah, and that's not the only thing. We have a kobold as... friend? At least as companion, we are on a most dangerous island and still alive and... well I begin to get a grip on this. I felt too restricted in Kassen as it was. I mean, my apprenticeship basically done and not much more to learn about alchemy in such a small town... I am not sure I can go back to small town life after all this."

"Who says we have to?" Zaza grinned. "Nothing is really keeping us there. Once we've delivered the amulet we'll hopefully get back, we can set out again."

Cajun thought about that and looked at Samin and Mook. He knew Samin would probably not be going back with his father, given the little he knew about them. But Mook had a lot of family in and close to Kassen. He could not imagine the shy, stuttering oracle to want to be out and about for too long. "We'll see."

"I could feel at home in this place," Kronk the monk grinned, showing all his teeth. "The city is just my color."

"Oh but you pale in comparison to those skeletons," Edawon said. "They were really shiny, you are kind of... dull."

"Hey, I'm anything but!"

"You are, maybe, anyone's butt," Edawon laughed. He liked the kobold, as much as he had wanted not to at first.

"Bridge ahead," Bjön pointed.

"No statues this time." Samin was relieved. "I was beginning to think there would be some sort of enemy at every gate."

It was the same sort of heat and fumes protected bridge they had seen before. The builders of the city had originally build a normal bridge over a normal water canal, and thinking about it now, the changes would have appeared ugly if the city would have still been intact. Cajun was about to comment on it when there was a banging sound as if someone had exploded one of those expensive balloon toys at a fair, and then a stench like sulfur washed over them. A few meters away, a bony being, almost like a skeleton,l had appeared, skin glistering with some sort of slime dripping to the ground with a hissing sound. The thing had horns and a decidedly evil smile.

Edawon, who by now was long visible again, lifted the crossbow he had been holding ready and fired two bolts in quick succession. "Babau," he shouted with a hatred they had never seen in him.

Zaza and Mook, without thinking, fired their weapons as well. While Edawon's bolts hit the being in the chest, Mook's found the right shoulder and Zaza's buried itself in the left leg. Bjön and Cajun readied their weapons.

"What's a Babau?" Cajun hissed.

"Some sort of devil, it looks like." Zaza replied, before she remembered her brother's fear of devils and demons.

"Devil," Cajun gulped and went visibly pale. "Not a good idea to fight those."

"Not a good idea not to," Kronk said. He kept in the back, having no fitting weapon against such a being and not planning on touching the outsider.

"It's not a devil, it is a demon," Edawon explained. "And it has to die!"

The Babau was looking almost amused at the bolts in his body. They vanished with more hissing sounds, dissolved by the acid. It was not clear if there was any damage or if the demon had healed, too. When Bjön, with his axe, and Brenn with a short sword, came at him, it swung a wicked looking longspear coated in its own acid. Bjön ducked while advancing, but Brenn got caught at the left cheek and screamed out in pain.

"Demon isn't any better." Samin's hands flew as he reached for his components and then made the necessary gestures while pointing at the outsider. A new spell flew from his lips, one he had gained from the spellbook of a cultist. Luckily, he had decided to memorize it just in case. This was the case now. The magic missile he had managed to create hit the Babau unerringly, causing it to stumble backwards.

"Do something," Zaza shouted at her brother and fired again, missing widely this time.

Mook moved backwards to get a better angle to shoot from and called her wolf back. Bjön rolled forward, hacking at the demon's leg but the quick sidestep from the Babau prevented any damage. Edawon, still cursing the demon out, shot twice again, both times hitting home. Again the bolts dissolved but their enemy now looked decidedly angry.

Brenn was spinning around, trying to stab the Babau in the ribs, but not only did the sword glide off the skin of the outsider, the weapon touching the acid was not a good thing. The weapon begun to smoke and to dissolve. Cajun woke from his shock and started to search in his alchemical supplies for something useful. Kronk was suddenly nowhere to be seen.

"Figures the kobold runs at the first sign of danger," Brann muttered while jumping out of the reach of the devil's spear. This was, of course, unfair as Kronk had been helpful against the warped wolves before, and in other situations as well.

Another magic missile flew by and hit the Babau. Bjön's attack had missed again, but after what he had noticed about the sorcerer's weapon, he was not so keen on hitting the demon anyway. His mind started going over the possibilities when he heard Cajun calling in an almost panicked voice. "Get out of the way!"

Edawon turned and ran to reach the others. Mook and Zaza were already behind Cajun, who was taking a few steps back while aiming something at the Babau. Bjön hurried to the left just when the Babau stabbed at Brenn again, seeming to want to finish off one after the other. Brenn was unable to block the attack with the remains of the sword, and the acid coated spear buried itself in the man's left shoulder.

Cajun had already been in the process of throwing his bomb at the Babau when the spear stuck. As Brenn cried out and tried to free himself, the bomb came down in front of the demon. At the same time, Mook landed another hit while Zaza missed once more.

Flames engulfed their enemy – and unfortunately splashed over to Brenn, who now cried hysterically. Zaza cried out as well, while Mook just looked more determined. To their horror, the demon looked almost unharmed by the flames as they died down. Brenn's howls suddenly ceased as he lost consciousness. Then suddenly the world went dark.

Mook cursed, one of those curses she reserved for dire situations and usually cost her a smack from her relatives back home. Stumbling backwards, she attempted to get out of the area of the darkness spell. She could hear Zaza's breathing shifting and deducted she was doing the same. The gnome felt helpless, and not knowing if Brenn was still alive made it worse. None of them, she thought, were ready to go up against a demon, except maybe Edawon – what a hatred he showed – and the paladin. Maybe if Teltz would be here they would stand a chance. Maybe...

A shriek and the noise of another bomb exploding interrupted her thoughts. Then there was a sound of something breaking, and the distinct sound of a crossbow firing and hitting something else but the demon.

Mook broke out of the are of the spell and bumped into Zaza. "What's going on?" the halfling asked, breathless from tension. The gnome shrugged and looked for Dadawin. She found her wolf crouched next to the road, out of spell range. "D-don't kn-know but it sh-should be light again s-soon, no?"

"I don't know how long a demon can maintain a spell," Zaza said, looking around for something, anything, to help them out.

A streak of pale yellow passed them by, dashing into the darkened area from which, at the same time, the dwarf emerged by crawling backwards on the ground, spouting a tear in the robes he wore over his mail. From somewhere inside the large patch of darkness emerged an otherworldly scream, and more sounds of fired bolts and the tell-tale hissing of dissolving bolts. Then in the blink of an eye, the spell winked out and they could see the body of the demon, neck looking broken, vanishing from this plane.

"What happened?" Zaza asked.

Edawon, covered in some yellow powder, grimaced. "When they die here, they just reappear in their native plane. You gotta have to go there, usually, to get them for good."

"No, thanks," Cajun grumbled, voice slightly wavering. "All things should stay on their plane, indeed, and not disturb the order of others."

"What's that y-yellow s-stuff?" Mook inquired, staring at Edawon, who also seemed to have gotten some damage on his arms from the demon's acid where the spear had scratched him.

"Gold dust," the monk explained. "I needed some sort of weapon, and I thought the best option was to blind the Babau for a bit. No sand, no dirt, so I scraped gold off of some of the rubble around here. Worked well, I'd say."

"And when the thing was blind, I hammered it down," Cajun said, now sounding proud of himself. "Nothing happened to my weapon either, maybe because I had hit his horns, and that spun the head and broke its neck. Have to admit, it already looked rather damaged."

"Nice work," Bjön nodded and then went to check on Brenn. Mook was already kneeling next to the fallen sorcerer, checking his life signs while starting on a healing spell. "How bad is he?"

"Qu-quite serious. He h-has burns over a l-lot of his b-body, he l-lost a l-lot of blood from the s-spearwound, there is a-acid d-damage and we are all out o-of healing p-potions."

"Your magic not strong enough to make him better?"

"I can m-make him better, a-as I can assure he will b-be b-breathing for a while. B-but I only can d-do so m-much a day, and only little with e-each a-attempt."

Bjön saw the bleeding stop and the wound now looked like it was a few days old and in the healing process. The acid destruction of the skin was gone, and the burns on the man's face looked less severe. His clothing remains also did not appear to be stuck on the wounds anymore. "We need to undress him."

"Y-yes, and apply b-bandages, and healing salves. I d-do n-not know if I have enough of those. H-he will be in p-pain, and we can't take him along in this state."

"So, we leave him behind, then?" While not liking the man, this idea seemed wrong to Zaza. "Then who will care for him? Burn victims need a lot of water, no?" Zaza saw Mook, who had taught her a lot about healing, nod gravely. Their water supplies were scarce, as with the negative energy outside, Mook had not been able to purify any water. In here, they had not seen any water resource.

"We stay the night, and you use more magic on him tomorrow?" Samin, who only now returned from studying the spot where the demon had vanished, suggested. "Although, that would set us back and we could have camped out right back at the gate."

"Maybe we should put him out of his misery," the kobold offered."Just saying, if he is dying anyway because we are out of healing supplies..."

"H-he won't d-die!" Mook exclaimed, contradicting her former statement. She already put some medicine into a small flask filled with a greenish liquid, shook the components and then carefully made the still unconscious sorcerer swallow it all.

"Didn't you have a wand from the crypt, to cure light wounds?" Bjön suddenly remembered. "Or did you forget that in Teltz' backpack together with most of the other useful things he had?"

Samin looked defeated. "I brought some of the stuff, but not all."

"That is a no, then," Bjön sighed. He would never again make the mistake not to cross check the equipment his companions traveled with.

Kronk had been going through his small backpack and now finally produced a small vial with a silvery powder. "Maybe this will help," he said with hesitation. "It does not heal but it turns you into one of your ancestors for about 3 days. It is part of a kobold ritual that..."

"It would shapechange him?" Bjön inqured. "And thus cover his injuries? And when it runs out he returns to what he is now, am I right?" The paladin had heard of potions like that, but they were usually taken to make you tougher in battle for a short time.

"Yes, but he would continue to heal normally in that time. Sometimes, the rich in my tribe use it to make someone stay alive for quite some time. But..."

"We'll try that," Bjön decided. "It has been used on other races before, yes?"

"Yes, but there are risks..."

Mook took the vial from the kobold's hand and stared at the powder. "How do I g-get it into him? C-can I m-mix it with water?"

"Yes." Kronk tried to keep up with the speed of events. He had not even explained the risks. The side effects. But then, the man would otherwise die.

"He will be able to come with us?" Cajun asked. The sorcerer, while arrogant and distant and quite a show off, had been useful after all, having one less member knowing how to use a sword was not a good thing.

"Yes, he will just look different and may be confused. And he might now have all of his spells, if any, and maybe some others in their place."

"So, if he comes out as his great-great-grandfather who was a farmer, he might only know how to tend fields and cows, is that it?" Zaza asked.

"Basically, but usually you take on the form of your most heroic ancestor." Kronk showed all his teeth in the attempt of a grin. "And he has been going on how he was from a long line of sorcerers."

In all the talk, Mook had already given the powder to Brenn, and a weird change took place in front of their eyes. The flesh of the sorcerer became pale, his frame slimmer and his eyes turned yellow. He began to look like he had not had a good meal in a long time, and the fingers looked a lot more like claws now.

"What, in the name of Desna, is that?" Bjön gasped.

"I believe," Samin said while staring at the transformation, "that is a Fetchling."

Bjön's Pathfinder Diary

3rd of Neth

Isle of Dread, City of Xin-Grafar

I have the feeling we are running out of time. And I am probably losing control of the situation, if I ever had control, that is. We made it into the city just fine and found it full of canals of molten gold, eerie green light and a stench accompanying the molten metal. There were some minor skeletons here, nothing we can't handle. Brenn got ahead of himself and wasted his magic on the first group we encountered. We have to hurry, because there is a timer set to flood the city in gold once the gates were opened.

After being badly injured in a fight against a summoned demon, the only way to save Brenn was using an ingredient for a kobold ritual turning him into one of his ancestors. Brenn's transformation into Krall Dalingh the fetchling – or, as they call themselves, kayal – had us all stumped. We know little about fetchlings other than that they are from the plane of shadow, but at least the sorcerer's ancestor was not hostile.

At the same time, we heard the sounds of battle far behind us. It is likely that the twisted lizardfolk still following us had come across the guardian construct at the first bridge.

As we soon figured out, Brenn kept all of his memories, but they were overshadowed by the memories and skills of his ancestor, and he could only act as Krall Dalingh. This was to our advantage, though. After disposing of more gilded skeletons we finally reached the bridge to the next ring of the city. Standing before the gates to the city’s 2nd Ring were two hulking skeletons in shining golden breastplates, their thick bones plated with gold. Their huge, gold-plated halberds were crossed in front of the gate, barring the way forward. This was the first time I ever encountered the skeletons of ogres.

They attacked as soon as they noticed we planned to cross the bridge. I do not know what exactly Brenn-Krall did, but he touched them one after the other while turning himself into some sort of shadow they could not hit, and they were drained of all color and, as it seemed, were pulled into the shadow plane. And Krall didn't even appear to be exhausted.

Immediately across the bridge, the gold-plated road reached a crossroads and disappeared beneath a mound of partially melted treasure. Gold coins, weapons, armor, and glittering gems covered the entire intersection in a mountain of wealth that reached ten feet high. It was a sight to behold.

It had to be a trap, and Zaza made out the gilded skeleton wearing a Razmiran mask just next to the pile. It seems likely that there is a fountain of molten gold to be expected when touching anything, so we gave the trap a wide berth. Not even Zaza looked twice at any of the treasure, we aren't even sure if all of it is real.

The gold coating everything from the former floods didn't reach all up to the top of the buildings here, so there is hope that even if we can't get out before the flood, we will be relatively safe in the upper floors or in the 3rd Ring. The whole 2nd ring has walls as high as the ceiling, it almost looks like a cave within a cave. It slopes upward in here, and Mook was so tired she had to ride on her wolf to keep up. We had to backtrack once because the bridge we planned to take did not stand anymore.

The inner city seems to have taken little damage. On our way around to the bridge leading to the 3rd Ring we noticed two destroyed citadels though. They spouted a weird sight, with skeletons nailed all over the walls. We guessed it was the original defenders of the city, and the evil that conquered them made an example of them.

It was here where the priestess Iramine left some of her remaining cultists to try and stop or at least delay us. One of their herald asked us to surrender, trying to make it sound as if there were hundreds of them. Kronk moved out of sight – easy for him with his yellow color in all the gold, I guess – and took care of some of them while the fetchling vanished into the sparse shadows and dealt with the rest. I was not too happy about that, but I was not asked. I begin to get the feeling I am not made to lead anyone. Neither Kronk nor Brenn-Krall left any of them alive. For some reason, Mook seemed to be even more upset about that than I am, but I hope no one noticed my anger. After all that has happened, I can understand why they did it. Brenn is not himself, and Kronk is a kobold after all. I have yet to be completely convinced that he is truly on our side, which might not happen unless I know what is going on with him and Zaza.

The good thing about that was that in the gear of the cultists, we found useful things. The best was a potion of cure moderate wounds, which we gave to Brenn.Krall so that his healing process would be speedier. Once he returns to his normal form, he might still die otherwise, and he understands that very well.

We came up to the bridge we had to cross to move upward to the last ring. Two gold-plated columns carved to resemble female warriors flanked the entrance. But they were alive, as we soon found out. The cultists didn't have to fight their way through all of these guardians, as they have the key to the city. Iramine, with whoever she has left, must be far ahead now.

Brenn-Krell's shadow touch did nothing to those statues. We had not expected it to, but it was worth a try. On the bright side, they couldn't harm him in half-shadow form, so he just went over to the other side to aid us from there. He cannot use this ability again for the day either, as he explained.

We had found more invisibility potions with the herald of the cultists Kronk and the fetchling killed. So we could get more of us to the other side, and we still had the gaseous form potion. My guess was that the statues would only attack who moved over from this side, so anyone on the other side would be able to do ranged attacks against those guardians without being targeted.

There was one little issue with this – we didn't have a lot of ranged attacks which were hopeful to do damage against constructs. Cajun had a few bombs left, but fire isn't that effective against constructs, and neither is his cold version of the bombs. Samin had a lot of cantrips available, but only a few would cause the constructs minimal problems.

Mook instructed Dadawin to try and get to the other side, to see if the statues would see an animal as a threat. They did not. This was a good thing, as it meant only one of us would not be able to get to the other side. I was about to devise a plan, when Kronk chimed in and ignored my attempts at leadership. The kobold told Mook to use the oil of invisibility and join her wolf, and for Samin to "be a gas" and follow, then asked the rest of us to get the potions ready and distract the statues so they would move over to the south west. He assured us he would be able to get past and once they noticed him we should just drink up and follow.

No sooner had he said that he left to the side, and almost became one with the golden rubble. Well, we did as he was asking, no point in arguing a good idea. The gist of it is that it worked. Kronk is fast and agile, and he can climb like the best of them. He crossed on top of the bridge, and the constructs lost him from view.

Maybe I am just not cut out to lead people. As a paladin, I was taught it is important to take on a leadership role, and that only a few of us would not do so. I seem to be one of those.

In any case, we met out greatest challenge yet, and none of us is confident we could manage this. It is an undead dragon coated all in gold, and from what Samin says, it might have been a real gold dragon when it was alive. That would be a twisted curse of fate indeed.

This skeletal being stands guard on the last bridge over a narrow canal of gold leading to where we know the remaining cultists must be. It has not noticed us yet, Wilbur has warned us in time. Mook is making a desperate plea for the dragon and his fate to the others, but I have retreated from the dead end conversation.

Mook is all upset, saying she can sense good deep within a twisted, tortured mind. She wants to help this aberration. I think it is beyond help, despite admiring her good heart. Millenia of being here, supposedly guarding the inner sanctum, must have left the remaining mind of this poor creature totally corrupted. Maybe we can find a way to put it to final rest, but I am doubtful. We have no one to turn an undead being into a true dead, and the possibility to find something similar in this city seems to be slim. Ironically, we are now resting in the building that is the twisted dragon's hoard – it seems to have kept some sense of self, although the hoard is mostly made up of gilded rubble otherwise worthless. I found a battle axe of gilded adamantine, though, and as sure as I am one of Desna's own, I am going to keep it. I can feel it is special. Samin has also found an equally gilded brooch of shielding and another horn of fog. The latter reminded me that it might have been wise of me to use the horn I am already carrying to hamper the demon earlier on. I know that I everyone is prone to make mistakes in the beginning of their work for the greater good, but I can't help thinking I might have spared Brenn a lot of anguish. We also found more potions to cure moderate wounds though, and Mook had them all into Brenn-Krell in no time. She assures us that with her healing spells of the next day, should she not need them for anyone else, he will be almost fine when he returns to his normal self.

Kronk seems to be a little depressed. I think it is because of the ritual powder he gave up for Brenn. Maybe it is expensive or hard to come by. I will ask him when it seems to be a good time.

Despite the countdown on the gold flood, we need rest. We cannot take on this undead dragon or the cultists without new spells and full strength. We still have no idea what they are doing in there, what they are searching for. It could be anything, and we need to be prepared. I have the first watch, and I hope nothing will fall upon us.


Cute but dangerous
Late update, chronic eye infection acting up. Could not write as much as I wanted either, maybe I manage more later today.

The characters of Brenn and Mook are undergoing a semi-planned change, so will the others over time (hopefully) as they are supposed to be our Golarion's epic heroes eventually. Turned out different from what I originally envisioned (of course :) ) so I now need to flash out a new oracle archetype.


Mook stood at the entrance to the ruined brick building they had picked to stay at for the night that was none and crawled her wolf's ears. The everlasting green light was beginning to annoy her. While she had slept fine enough thanks to exhaustion, once Cajun had woken her for the last hours of nightwatch, she was getting more and more nervous and irritable. And that had mostly to do with the dragon skeleton still guarding the bridge.

In her desperate want to help what must have once been a beautiful being, she had called upon all gods good and merciful, but was not sure if she had gotten a response worth mentioning. She had had visions in her dreams, of a young golden dragon being captured and tortured, then turned into the undead guardian she saw now. The gnome could not be sure how much reality those dreams had, her experiences from past dreams hinted at a fairly good chance that most of it was true.

She had to admit to herself that she was astonished to have this urge to help a potentially deadly creature. Yes, she had always been one to aid any being in need; if it had been up to her, the cultists they had met late last evening would not have had to die. Most of them had probably been tricked into the cult and brainwashed. While the world was a harsh place, there was no need for her to make it an even harsher place.

There was one option, she thought, but she had never used that particular spell for anything else than slapping Zaza out of a frenzy or stopping Samin from panicking when he had learned one too many spells and started to mix them all up. With the right god to call upon, Desna in this case, there was almost no failure chance. If she could just gather her courage and...

"It will not work."

Mook swirled around to see Brenn-Krell standing behind her right shoulder, a weird smile on his face fitting his snarling voice. "Wh-what will n-not? You d-don't kn-know what I had in m-mind."

"Not the details. But, I am guessing you know some kind of spell you think can help, maybe something that, strictly speaking, never fails because one of your gods or the other grant it to you. And you are forgetting that a spell is only so strong as the wielder, unless the gods personally intervene. Which I consider unlikely. What is it? Some kind of stun?"

"N-no. It is a s-spell to m-make it calm and c-clear again. I used it b-before." Mook frowned, considering what he has said about spells and wielders.

"On your friends? Some hostiles, maybe? Certainly nothing like this." Brenn-Krell made a wide gesture with is arms to drive the point of the city's strangeness home. "So it will work. You will have a clear, sound minded undead dragon for a moment. Which is not to say that it is not still evil. But even if it is not, the evil of its existence, the millenia of being isolated, the memory of whatever has happened to it will be right there, working on its mind again. You may have a few minutes before it is insane again. I can feel its insanity, it is immense. Only that it seems to be bound to this place stops it from acting it."

Mook felt the tears rise up inside her and forced them back. "There h-has to b-be a way."

"As it is undead, I can shift it to the shadow plane. Not an ideal solution, as that plane will just twist it more, but it will be gone, at least."

Turning back to the dragon pacing on the other side, Mook could still feel the weight of the strange man's stare. "I can still t-try," she whispered. "And wh-when it doesn't w-work you can... d-do whatever it e-exactly is you are doing."

Brenn-Krell chuckled as he realized she had drawn him into her plans, quite cleverly so. "How do you want to get over there without it killing you while approaching?"

"This," Mook explained and lifted the second horn of fog they had found in the undead dragon's meager hoard. "It'll w-wake e-everyone else but I sh-should be over there in t-time."

"And once you are close he notices you, and if you get to touch him and he stays evil, then you are just prepared to die?"

"I d-don't think I'm p-prepared for anything," the oracle admitted.

"Could help you, I think, but you will not like it. For anyone not from the plane of shadow, it is a strange experience." Again, he flashed his weird smile.

"S-stranger than all th-this?" Mook imitated his gesture from before, including him.

"Point taken. Hold on, then! And be ready with your spell." Before Mook could ask what he was planning to do, Brenn-Krell lifted her and her gear up as if she was light as a leaf and started running towards the bridge, just like he had done the day before when going for the ogre skeletons. Mook felt dizzy, as if the world around her would blurr and lose all color. It did not agree too wel with her stomach, but before she could really think about it she noticed they were on the bridge and the dragon had noticed them.

Dropping her and circling the dragon, Brenn-Krell did all he could to center the dragon's attention on himself. Mook tried to ignore the fetchling and instead ducked under the bony wings of the undead foe. A part of her was watching everything, unbelieving what was happening and scared beyond belief. The other part of her was acting as if she had done this her whole life. She could feel the blessing of the gods – all good gods – with her. Fascination and repulsion was both present as she touched the dragon's gilded form. The spell flew from her lips and then she jumped back. Where the fetchling was, she could not tell.

Then she saw the bony tail of the dragon hit the fetchling, depositing him close to the edge of the golden canal. The skeleton opened his fangs and roared. The roar from the skeleton sounded wrong, and for a moment Mook pressed her hands on her ears. Then she saw the change in the dragon's aura. She was not good at seeing auras, despite her father trying to teach her. But it was all she needed to find the ourage to speak up." "Hey, d-dragon? Y-you with the b-big head!"

The head turned to stare at her, just a hand from her face. The gnome had trouble breathing, and she half expected to see her life flash before her eyes, but instead she heard herself say the first thing you usually ask strangers you meet. "I'm Mook. W-what's y-your name?"

The silence seemed to stretch. "Mar'Karthon..." the dragon then replied. "Mar'karton.... Mar'karton.... I do not remember my full name!" As much as you could say with undead, there was a distinct confusion in the eerie voice.

Mook remembered what she had been told about the spell not lasting long. "Y-you are the g-guardian here, yes? "W-what is inside?"

"You shall not pass. I cannot help it, I must defend this place, I'm enslaved, I am..." It seemed to be already happening.

"Oh we d-don't want to pass," Mook hurried. "W-we just w-want to know w-what that woman is l-looking for i-inside."

"You come here not knowing what is the heart of the city?" The dragon skeleton sat down on his hind legs, sparkling in the everlasting green light like a small sun. It looked beautiful. "The Jewel of Everlasting Gold, of course. But no one will own it, and it cannot be removed." The dragon said that with much certainty.

"So, the b-bearer of they key to the city can't r-remove it, either?" Mooks eyes went wide with the implications. If that was true, Iramine could only hope to come back later and take as much gold as possible from the city.

She must have stuttered that aloud, because the dragon's creepy laughter echoed off the walls around them. "The gold created by the Jewel cannot be removed. It will always return to the city." There was new malice in his voice, the effect of the spell was already ending.

"If that is s-so, we would not have n-needed to c-come here, s-save for the k-key that was not ours t-to begin with," she whispered. "Thank you, M-Mar'Karthon-can't-r-remember-full-n-name." From the corner of her eye, she saw the fetchling was still not moving.

"Mook?" Zaza's panicked cry came over the canal. Of course, the others were awake now after all the commotion.

"You are welcome, Mook-with-name-so-short," the dragon replied, and it sounded amused. "I do not feel well. Can you do that again?"

"W-what?" The oracle saw Brenn-Krell was moving his legs now, and seemed to slowly edge away from the canal. That was a relief.

"T-touch m-me. F-feel me." Mar'Karthon's empty eyes caused Mook to shiver as he moved his head even closer. "You... made me wake up form... something. What has happened to me?"

Mook stretched out a hand and touched the gold plating of the skeletal frame again. Once more she was a conduit for divine energy, more confident this time. And even more aware of the little time she had left now that the poor undead would want to find out about his – the name sounded male, anyway – existence.

Brenn-Krell now rolled around, carefully getting to his knees. He didn't feel harmed, but his shapechanged form was probably also protecting him from new damage. The fetchling had heard every word. It was time to act, to send the dragon to the shadow plane before it would succumb to madness and evil again. He was very surprised that the spell worked so well and could even be renewed. On wobbling legs, Brenn-Krelll got up. From the corner of his eye he saw the paladin stride onto the bridge, surrounded by a golden glow of divine protection. Soon there would be too many visitors to this party, he knew, and staggered over to where Mook was still talking to the dragon.

As he readied himself, swirls of shadow seemed to emerge from his body. All he needed to do was to become half-solid and then sink his hand into the undead creature. The sensation was both familiar and new, the constant confusion of his momentary state.

Mook's head turned towards the fetchling as he came closer. The gnome's eyes went wide as she realized Brenn-Krell was about to send Mar'Karthon to Krell's native plane. "No!" she shrieked, making the dragon back off in confusion. The thought of Mar'Karthon being stuck on that plane, even losing the fake gold color he was spouting now, was too much for Mook's mind. She was already hovering on the edge of losing it since Braan had almost died the day before. Following the dragon who turned to attack Brenn-Krell, she touched the creature once more, shouting a word in her gnomish language her friends did not understand. There was a bright flash of purple light, reacting eerily with the green-golden light reflected from the gilded skeleton. For a heartbeat or two, time did not seem to move, then the dragon blinked out of existence and Mook, losing her support, fell to her hands and knees.

Bjön arrived just in time to grab her and drag her into his zone of protection as the negative energies stored during the creation of the undead unleashed and danced around them. It lasted but a moment, yet to the paladin it seemed an eternity. The spell fizzled out, and a deafening silence fell over the area. Then he heard the footsteps of the kobold, Zaza and Cajun, all of them muttering in worry. Brenn-Krell reappeared from somewhere and Samin cursed. "We have company."

Bjön wanted to turn around to see what the young man meant, but the a raspy voice now speaking made it all clear. "Impressive, very impressive," the leader of the lizardfolk mutants snarled. "We saw the trail of deaths in your wake. If the last of the trespassers are in there, we want them."


Cute but dangerous
The last sounds of the flute faded in the common room of The Weathered Rose. The sparse crowd applauded and went back to their foods and drinks as the bard climbed down the stairs of the stage. He was still feeling weak, even a day after he woke up from fitful, feverish sleep. Performing kept his minds off his experiences and worries about the rest of the group, so he had insisted he would keep the patrons entertained for the help he and his friends had already gotten. At first, he had hoped to set it up so he would be assumed to have died after returning, in the hopes of getting the pursuers off their tracks. But he had had no chance with all the visitors and officials and other people wanting to thank him for his help with the Razmiran problem.

As Teltz sat down at the bar ordering an ale, he thought about the likeliness that the strangers who had found them at Kassen after all those years would simply wait there for their return. No doubt they had heard the story of the crypt and the theft of the pendants and the group's journey to retrieve them. Yes, they might just wait in town, but then, it would be better for them to follow and catch them on their way back. That thought brought to mind how much they had endangered the others by traveling with them. Maybe their foes would not wait to catch Samin and him alone. Maybe they would just try to take everyone out. Teltz was not sure if they wanted him and Samin alive or not, but in any case, it would be very bad to be caught.

Discretely paid lookouts he had sent through the city had reported no party like he had seen in Kassen coming up the river, or into any other part of town but the latter was hard to make sure of. There were not enough lookouts for him to employ, but if any pursuers would follow them on other ways, they would be significantly slowed down and not be able to be here yet.

While he was thinking of something to do other than wait, the current bartender, a young half-dwarf with the most amazing green eyes and blonde hair came over to him. Teltz thought that, overlooking the slight beard on her upper lip and the small size, she could be considered a beauty by human standards. "You don't look that happy," she stated the obvious. "Worried about your friends, no doubt. Do they know what they are doing?"

The bard thought that to be an odd question, he had expected more talk along the lines of pointless reassurances, as he had gotten them all day. "No," he answered truthfully. "I have no idea if they know what they are doing, because I sure as hell is hot would not have let them go had I been awake. What a folly, the cultists will never escape the island again."

"From what I heard," the woman grinned and put down another ale, "that high priest of theirs did return once."

"Yeah, with experienced friends at her side, not a bunch of whacky cultists," Teltz grinned. "My friends," he added, "have as good as no experience. We just left our hometown after all. " He didn't want to talk about his own experience in such matters.

"But you got more experience." The bartender said that matter-of-factly. "You don't have to say it. I know experience when I see it."

"Not that much more." Finishing his ale, Teltz felt slightly dizzy, reminding him he had not eaten dinner yet. "What about getting me some stew and bread?" he smiled, trying to find a new subject to move on to.

While the half-dwarf – Linnie, he remembered now – went about his orders, he had a look at the current patrons. It was late in the evening, and only those staying at the inn were here, as it seemed. No one he had not seen already, new guests were not that common this time of year. The weather had taken a turn for the worse and the winds were now blowing almost constantly, often bringing water sprays deep into the city. Winter was coming quickly, not a time for traveling far. But they would have little choice once everyone – hopefully everyone – was back from this ill thought through adventure.

As he started eating, Teltz noticed Linnie still looking at him. "What?" he asked between two bites.

"Oh I was just wondering, if it was possible.. I mean, if you feel well enough... if you could..."

Now the bard got it. "You've got a problem you do not want to bother the officials with, and you were wondering if I could try to take care of it?"

She had the decency to blush. "There not many people here willing to help, especially not any with even the slightest experience. They all have their own business to attend to. Even all the paladins are gone, with the war and the undead in the area and all."

Teltz nodded, but didn't say anything. He figured if it was important enough to the woman, she would speak up again. "It probably won't take you long, and it might take your mind off your worries..." she indeed started again.

"Alright, so what is this about?" Teltz half expected a rat infested cellar for him to use his rat piper melody on, or maybe her younger brother he had seen earlier who got into trouble with someone.

"I'll show you after my shift... or maybe tomorrow, you look like you could use some sleep," Linnie winked. And as to that, she was definitely right.

"Of course," Bjön decided before Samin could do his weird thing again. "All we ask is that we get the amulet back their leader carries."

"Deal," the lizard hissed. "Not like we could use it for anything." But to anyone listening, this promise did not sound very sincere.

As the lizards went on to enter the center of the city, Samin chewed his lip, Cajun scratched his crotch and Zaza held the still unconscious Mook. It was the fetchling who finally said it. "We do not need the amulet – the key to this city. No one can remove this magic item creating all this gold, and the gold will stay in the city at all times. Thus, the cultists pose no threat. There are other riches here though, some of them no doubt dangerous. We do not really need them, tough I would not object taking as much as we can safely remove. You cannot return the parts of the key to your undead people at the crypt, no matter if benevolent or not, nor can you hand the other part to the pathfinders. My apologies," he bowed slightly to Bjön, " but the Pathfinders are not a basically good aligned group. If they were to keep one part of the key while knowing where the others are, only ill can come off it eventually. We need, however, leave here quickly. Either the cultists will kill the reptiles, in which case we only have to avoid the raising level of molten gold. Or the reptiles win, in which case..."

"...they would come back and fight us, as they have promised, giving us the key or not." The kobold fell in with slight amusement obvious in his voice. "Which is not a good thing looking at their numbers. And if we leave the key with the obsessed priestess, it will never leave the city again, right?"

Mook suddenly spoke up. "The doors to the city will close, no matter where the key is. And only be able to be opened again in 10 years. The dragon told me before... before... what happened anyway?" Mook sounded weak, but Zaza's worries that she would turn out like Teltz had seemed unfounded.

"So," the paladin decided, eying Brenn-Krell with new respect, "if we leave, Iramine will die in here because the doors won't open again. We just need to close the doors before they close on its own... would that help?" He looked questioningly to the gnome. Mook nodded. "Let's go then," he ordered.

After some hesitation, Cajun lifted Mook to carry her and went back the way they had come. "But... Zaza dared to mention. "Our mission... the retrieval of the amulets... Kassen's rest?"

"He, of all people, would understand," Samin said, sounding certain. Then he turned and followed Cajun, and the others fell in behind.

But this was another problem they had to discuss on their way back. There was no way they could admit to the Pathfinder lodge they had left the key inside and betrayed their mission. It would cause all sorts of trouble for their future endeavors. It was Samin who finally suggested they should not return, at least not all. He suggested Bjön and Brenn-Krell – once he was pure Brenn again – should find their ship and go back, pretending all the others had died. Then pick up Samin's dad and meet elsewhere.

Kronk, who could handle a ship well enough, could sail back with the rest of them, using the hopefully still present ship of the cultists – or, of that was not seaworthy, come pick them up later. The idea of staying on the dangerous island for longer, even at the shore, was terrifying, but it seemed to be the only logical decision.

Bjön was adamant that he couldn't lie that well about what had happened, and it also went against his oath as paladin and pathfinder. He eventually agreed but insisting that only he went back. Brenn-Kell agreed, pledging to stay with the party, as he had little to lose back home. He had been volunteered for this mission by his enemies to hopefully die, as he explained in an exasperated voice.

They had no problem leaving the city. Bjön noticed that Cajun and Zaza managed to pilfer some more treasures from buildings and some minor traps. He did not comment. They would probably need it all later, right now, all he wanted was to leave this godsforsaken island.

Zaza brought up the issue of the madman who had led them here. But when they exited the city, the former pathfinder was nowhere to be seen. Edawon Hest said he had been gone for some hours, and from the rotting flesh in his wake, he would probably be dead soon. This made them all sad, especially Mook, but there was little to be done about it. They settled at the doors to wait if any of the cultists or the reptiles would come back out, but it did not happen. With the doors closed without problem by the party, they decided to go back to the shore once they knew the molten gold must be receding.

On the way back, Mook realized something. "If we p-pretend to be d-dead... our f-families? Everyone else b-back home?" she asked weakly. Zaza and Cajun only had a mother barely aware what she was doing anymore, thanks to alcohol, and Samin's father would follow them. But Mook had a whole extended family of gnomes all around the area.

"I am sorry," Samin muttered. "I forgot... here is the thing though, da and me cannot go back. Remember the strangers showing up before we left? The ones everyone was so curious about?"

Mook nodded. She remembered her vision, and the promise she gave to herself to stay with her friends. Except she had not planned to pretend to be dead to her family. Cajun grunted, seeing his suspicions come true.

"Da warned me they would eventually come to hunt us. I don't know the details, he won't tell me. I will ask him again, I think we all should know now, but I just don't know. But they cannot get us!" shock at what he had let slip was suddenly in his face.

"We'll all keep the secret," Bjön assured, looking at Brenn-Krell. The fetchling just nodded. They saved his life, he would keep their secret save. Bjön seemed not at all concerned about the kobold.

Kronk then spoke up for the first time about his purpose here. "I was told the thieves of thieves would come aid the area of my origin, my home, in an important task. I come from a place called Falcon's hollow – or better, from the hills north of it. The other, more sinister kobold tribes cause havoc in the area. I was given a vision, a mission, to bring the thief of thieves and friends there. And that you would help the town. We can't, although we tried. There are only few of my tribes around."

"How would you know I am the one you were looking for?" Zaza snorted. "A lot of people steal from thieves. And I'm not really a lawbreaker."

"No, but you are the thief of thieves, I knew it when I saw you first," the monk insisted.

"So, w-where do we m-meet again?" Mook asked while riding on her wolf.

"The best is," Bjön said, " to travel upriver to Detmer and Kerse, and if needed, Macridi. Wait there for us until I show up with Teltz if we have not caught you by then. From there, it is just south to get to Falcon's Hollow eventually." He looked questioningly at Kronk, who nodded. "A few days, with horses and good luck." The others agreed. Mook was slumped over her wolf though, morning the self imposed loss of her family. If she had insisted, they would have let her go back, she knew, but it would feel like betrayal. And she had to admit, the prospect to return to the sleepy town of Kassen, a large village really, was not appealing.

The trek back was, luckily, much easier as the negative energy storms had stopped. To their relief, they did find the ship the cultists came in, including some of the slaughtered crew. They had run afoul of the lizards, as it seemed. There was no sign of any trouble around though, and as Bjön left them to light the fires promised to the dwarf captain, he prayed for them to have no problem with the ship and placed on it the blessing of Desna.


A short musing about the adventure modules so far. This set of 3 modules was not the best match, and not the best single adventures either. Mainly, there are some logical problems.

For one, in the 2nd part, the town people supposedly burn the temple of the Razmirans down. This makes no sense at all, not only because the danger of fire jumping to other buildings in such a densely populated area would be way too high, but their nation is at war and hard pressed for resources. One would think they would just drive the evil out and reuse it.

Which was what my players wanted - they intended to try and claim it as an interim base to get back to regularly. However, that does not at all work with part of the overlying story arc Teltz' player and me came up with. So I had the cultists burn the place down, which makes a lot more sense seeing how they need to get rid of evidence and wouldn't want to leave any bit of value for the city to use.

Originally, all the PCs wanted was the key, and maybe stop the cultists from getting more treasure. They couldn't know what was inside the city, as the two enemy undead in the crypt never mentioned it (which is in itself another mistake, as they should have been able to recognize the hands of her former comrade at work).

So, as was suggested at one point, all they would have to do was wait outside for their foes to come back out. and if they would not come back out, the key would have probably been lost anyway. Or better yet, one idea was to just find their ship and disable it, then just negotiate for the return of the key if the cultists came back - or just leave the island bye bye.

For the sake of staying as much in their young characters as possible, and for the sake of actually seeing what comes next of course, we at least got almost to the end of the story. That they decided not to fight the priestess and her remaining few made absolute sense after they found out about the gold in the city and all.

And talking of gold, the air in there would have had to be really toxic.

That's not the first time this group committed the unthinkable heresy to change the premise of an adventure, of course, but I found it most fitting as it also gives them a good reason not to return to Kassen anytime soon. Certainly makes my task to keep their foes on their tracks a bit more interesting.

Coming up next, some interludes and the Falcon's Hollow adventures.


I can see the difficulties you had with this set of adventures and I think they more or less match what I've heard about them so far (especially the logical inconsistencies suffered by the last two adventures).

Considering this, let me say that you managed to wrap up this mini arc pretty well. Kudos! I particularly (this is a repeat) like how your party manages to avoid combat if it is not entirely inevitable.

Good luck with the Falcon's Hollow set! Hope this will work out better for you!

BTW, when do you plan to start your first Adventure Path? And which one might it be? Rise of the Runelords or one of the later ones?


Cute but dangerous
As some of the APs have references to others (well, at least one has) We will attempt to do them in order, except maybe put Serpent's Skull first. Probably soon after the Falcon's Hollow set, but there needs to be a reason why they travel to where what action is. This is the main problem in all the "let's do all adventures" campaigns I run/play in (some of us are doing this for Faerun and Greyhawk as well).

It is made more difficult by Paizo concentrating on certain cities/areas like Absalom (way too many of the society scenarios are played there). There is nothing happening where the PCs are now. As the adventures are somewhat tightly tied to the locations, I find it difficult to rewrite them. Of course it would be feasible that nothing happens to the group for an extended amount of time, but given the story arc over all the adventures, this is not all that likely.

I've ran the Falcon's Hollow set for the neighbor kids a while ago, and it played out more easily. So hopefully we can stick with the story this time, but I also like my players to surprise me :heh:

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