Pathfinder 1E "Murder, Lies and Civic Duty."


First Post
We pick up almost directly after Gandil's surgery, tensions are running pretty high and what's potentially worse is that Kavos and Gandil were expected at the unicorn's grove the very next day to explain Gandil's plan to the unicorn. A plan that seems to have little chance of being relayed any longer.

Once Rambalt packs up the last of his tools, he excuses himself from Kavos and returns home to mourn his friend. Kavos uses Gandil's Hat of Disguise to stash the former sheriff in his basement, chaining him tightly to the far wall. He then decides to go to Rambalt's house to explain things.

Or at least that was the plan. Some kind of commotion seems to in full swing in the local tavern; it looks like half the town's shown up and most of them seem to be jeering at somebody. That's when Kavos remembers Gandil's ridiculous chess tournament and feels a pang of regret that the ghoul wouldn't get to see the winner with his own eyes.

With a sigh, he goes to check it out and discovers that it's down to two finalists: A middle aged farmer named Greggor and an unbelievably smug looking Kobold smoking a pipe. Kavos is surprised to say the least; Kobolds are pests; not people, and yet... From what he can gather from the crowd the kobold has decimated his opposition in seconds; Greggor is only left in the game because it seems to enjoy playing with him.

Even that doesn't last long however and the kobold seals the win and with it, a leadership position within Westbank.

"Well played my good man. Your problem was that you used your pawns like they were battering rams. They were more a nuisance to YOU than to me" the kobold says with a condescending laugh as it puffs on its pipe. Greggor storms off, red in the face and utterly humiliated by the experience.

His grief replaced with curiosity, Kavos takes a seat across from Westbank's new champion and sets the board back up, the kobold simply smirks.

They play a fast paced game and Kavos questions the creature as they go. The kobold identifies himself as Eadric and claims to be from a town called Greenbarrows far to the east; other questions are simply deflected as being distractions from the game.

Several times Kavos is pretty sure he notices Eadric cheating, but it's subtle enough that he can't be for sure and if anything it increases his respect for the creature. In the end they discover that they are quite evenly matched and Kavos tips his own king over in forfeit.

"Good game." Kavos congratulates the kobold. "Well played...but why are you here?" he asks directly.

Eadric looks up from his pipe. "I was told that the winner of the competition would become an official of the village. The job is now mine, correct?"

Kavos looks over the sea of scowling faces and replies "A deal is a deal."

The crowd begins to boo, but Father Adrian appears from the midst of them and chastises them with a comndening rebuke about honoring debts and accepting wisdom in all its forms.

Holding a hand up to silence the irritable crowd, Kavos says "I'm afraid the reality isn't as glamorous as the sheriff made it out to be; in fact it's quite humble. I need an assistant and advisor, if you do well we'll expand your responsibilities."

Eadric sneers, aware that his race is once more holding him back. "How about we play one more game, at a date of your choosing. I win and you instate me as an equal. I lose and I'll take any position you please."

Kavos smiles and without a doubt in his mind that he can take the little upstart he agrees to the terms. He also invites Eadric to spend the night in his guest room since the kobold is unlikely to receive lodging from anyone else in town.

Eadric graciously accepts but says that he'd like to get the lay of the land and goes for a walk before turning in. Kavos purchases several bottles of wine and decides to invite Rambalt over for dinner to try and set the mage's mind at ease over their mutual loss.

Now I should mention that while Eadric the kobold is an unknown around Westbank, Eadric himself is pretty familiar with the town. He makes regular use of Alter Self to appear human and keeps his ears peeled for juicy rumors; the juiciest of late perhaps involve the mysterious Professor Rambalt, Kavos's personal mage.

Knowing that the rematch with Kavos could happen at any time, Eadric resolves to find an edge; perhaps an item or potion which can boost his intelligence even further than it already is. To this end, he decides to rob Rambalt.

The house itself is easy enough to find, though the lights are out and not so much as a sound can be heard inside. Eadric takes this to mean that the mage is asleep, rather than processing the fact that he just (literally) butchered someone he considered a friend. With almost no effort he pops the lock and with a smile, opens the door to Rambalt's home.


The explosion is deafening and Eadric is nearly dropped to single digits by the flaming sphere that materialized as he opened the door. The door itself is splintered nearly off its hinges and everything inside and out is scorched black.

Eadric coughs painfully and manages to stumble to his feet just in time to hear something large lumbering up the stairs. In a panic the little kobold crawls over to a cabinet and squeezes himself inside to escape detection just as the flesh golem 'Junior' bursts out of the cellar door looking angry and frightened. Rambalt is behind him with a staff in one hand and wand in another.

"So help me Ibaeli!" Rambalt shouts, the fear evident in his voice. "If that's you, I swear by all the gods and devils thade made you; you AREN'T walking away from here THIS time!"

Eadric sinks down a little lower in his drawer and listens as Rambalt tears his own house apart in search of the intruder. The little kobold risks a peak outside and watches as the irate Rambalt draws a scroll from his belt and whispers a few words; the scroll shifts into the form of a dove with a note on its leg and flies off to find Kavos. It simpy bares the words "Someone broke in. -Rambalt"

By the time Kavos arrives the whole place is lit up to the gills and Eadric is groaning from his hiding place; so much for his first night in power...

Eventually Kavos shows up and helps Rambalt ransack the place, though they never manage to uncover Eadric's hiding place. Kavos convinces Rambalt that if it was Ibaeli then he's obvously been scared off and even if he hasn't then Junior is more than a match for him. He invites Rambalt to have a drink with him. With a little coaxing Rambalt leaves Junior to clean up and leaves with Kavos.

Eadric takes this opportunity to slip out of his hiding place and explore. Junior is tireless, but not exceptionally perceptive so Eadric manages to make it downstairs without much trouble.

He quickly wishes he hadn't.

Without even trying the kobold stumbles onto the remains of what looks like nearly a dozen corpses; it's hard to tell exactly because they're all just crammed into a loose pile in a closet. He grows even more nervous when he sees the racks of staffs and presumably magical weapons and trinkets that line Rambalt's basement.

"Who ARE these people?" he mutters nervously to himself as he slips upstairs and past Junior, out into the night air and freedom.

Eadric returns to Kavos's home in time to hear Kavos explain to Rambalt how Gandil attempted to kill him and everything that came after was simply self defense. He sadly confides that he would have stood with Gandil against almost anyone if it had honestly came to that, but once Gandil turned on him he realized he was little more than a mad dog that must be put down for all their sakes.

Rambalt understands why it had to happen but takes little comfort. Excusing himself and wishing Kavos a good night he takes a bottle of wine and slinks back home to be alone. The rest of the night passes in relative silence.

Morning comes quick and Eadric is still pretty roughed up from the night before but he still sets out with Kavos and Father Adrian on horseback to meet the unicorn. Adrian comments that he'd expected Gandil to be with them and says that he hopes Gandil isn't still upset over their encounter.

Kavos motions that Eadric should fall back a bit and explains the situation to Adrian, about how Gandil attacked him and had to be dealt with.

Father Adrian shakes his head sadly and says "I really did like that boy. It's a shame that things had to end that way..."

"How's Longarm doing?" Kavos asks.

Adrian smiles sadly. "He's still adjusting. His...appetites don't sit well with him."

Kavos nods. "How well is he adjusting? We need a sheriff and he has experience." he says plainly.

Father Adrian nods slowly. "He's still fit for service; he's just not happy about it."

"Miracles happen a lot in this town it seems. Maybe it's for the best that Longarm returns." Kavos offers.

"It would certainly do HIM a world of good." Adrian agrees.

They continue hashing out the particulars even after they hitch their horses and make their way to the grove itself, where they discover the massive unicorn waiting for them with its usual complement of beasts. Adrian's jaw nearly drops upon seeing the brutish creature.

Wasting no time for niceties the unicorn snaps "What is the plan which the deadflesh offered us?" it demands. "For that matter...where is the deadflesh?"

Eadric takes an instinctive step back; surprise on his face. He'd assumed that unicorns were extinct.

" dead." Kavos says, twisting the truth slightly. "His plan died with him."

The unicorn growls low, obviously not one to take disappointment well. "Then what does the manflesh offer us?" it asks.

"I offer only news of his passing." Kavos says humbly. "Any dealings you may have had with him, died with him. Instead I suggest we start anew. I want nothing more than our alliance to flourish and to see the Duke driven away from our homes."

The unicorn considers Kavos's words for a moment and then replies "Perhaps WE have a plan then." Motioning twards Eadric it says "We see that you are in possession of a dragon whelp. They are weak and cowardly creatures, though useful on occasion. Perhaps MORE whelps would better serve our interests."

"They are quite an interesting peope. Especially this one." Kavos admits.

"Humans are interesting too." Eadric replies snidely. "They always seem to think they're the center of everything. I don't know what unicorns think obviously, there aren't enough left anymore to matter."

The unicorn seems more surprised than insulted by the kobold's outburst and tilts his head curiously. "It does seem more alert than most. Perhaps less likely to wallow in its own filth for warmth?"

Returning its gaze to Kavos the unicorn adds "It knows where others of its kind live. Others which may serve."

Kavos glances from the unicorn to Eadric "Why would they serve us?" he asks.

The unicorn returns its gaze to Eadric. "Once the dragon whelps worshipped a false god. A great wyrm which lived in this forest and claimed these lands as its own. But dragons are gluttonous beasts, much like the ettercap, and their presence disturbs the natural order of things."

With a powerfuly stomping motion the unicorn says "So we slew it. Along with our brethren we crushed its skull and trampled its eggs before they could hatch. All but one. A foolish act of mercy perhaps; saving a creature that doesn't deserve saving. We have not sought it since, so it may yet live."

"How long ago was this?" Kavos asks.

"Many years past. More years than we have bothered to count..." the unicorn admits. "Find the child and parade it before the whelps; they will in turn worship you as gods."

"Where do we go?" Kavos asks.

" not remember." the unicorn admits, a note of embarrassment in its voice.

Kavos frowns, "Then how do we-"

"I know where it is!" Eadric volunteers. "Or at least I know of a den in this area. What are the chances that two wyrms claimed this area as their own and were murdered for it?"

They quickly make arrangements for a wagon and chains and leave Westbank on the word of the kobold. Father Adrian stays behind in case of emergencies.

Eadric's directions are fuzzy so they stumble around the forest for the better part of three days. Kavos fills Eadric in on the basics, leaving out anything incriminating. Near the end of the third day, they finally reach their destination.

The brush is extraordinarily dense in the area and everything appears to be covered in thistles and barbs. They abandon the cart and their horses in order to make their way to a gigantic burrow dug directly into the ground itself; the entrance is overrun with vegetation and the stone walls seem reinforced. Something intelligent obviously built this.

They go over their options:
-Plan A is to beat the thing stupid and ride it into the Kobold Warren, declaring themselves living gods in the process.
-Plan B is to kill it and drag it into the Kobold Warren, declaring themselves living gods in the process.
-Plan C is to run away and not get eaten by the dragon.

With that spelled out for them Eadric offers to go in first to make sure it's the right place and Kavos takes this opportunity to hide behind a tree.

The cave itself is completely dark, but kobolds luckily thrive in such places. It's also quite deep and he finds himself inching forward for quite a while before reaching the end where he becomes convinced this is the right place. A spectacular hoard lies here complete with coins of every denomination, gems of various sizes and shapes, rusted and shattered weapons and armor, books, knick-knacks and the bones of dozens of animals mixed in with the treasure. Perhaps most tellingly though is the horse sized dragon sleeping in the middle of it all.

Eadric eases his way forward to avoid waking the creature and hides himself with all of his considerable skill before shouting "Wake up dragon!"

The beast's eyes flare open and it narrows them dangerously. A rumbling growl rolls instinctively out of its throat.

"What is your name dragon?" Eadric asks from his impeccable hiding place. "I mean you no harm!"

"Ro'than'dur." it replies, its eyes scanning the room for the trespasser. "Come out little..." it sniffs the air, seeming to savor the scent. "Kobold. Prove your good intentions."

Ignoring Ro'than'dur's suggestion Eadric calls out "I hear that dragons are among the most clever creatures in the known world. If you are as clever as you believe yourself to be then I challenge you to a game of wits! Winner takes all."

The dragon's mouth moves into some semblace of a grin and it says "Very well. What are the stakes?"

"If I win, you serve me and the human village I now call home until I release you from your debt." Eadric says. "If you win-"

"If I win the game, I'll gobble you up. Bones and all." the dragon finishes, crawling off its pile of treasure. "I am too clever for you alone little kobold; call your friends. If ANY of you can outwit me then I will serve you."

"I will defeat you alone." Eadric insists.

"I am very, very good at this game." the dragon ensures him. "It will take all of you."

"There's only two of us, but I will be enough." Eadric says, sliding down the wall where he'd scurried up for cover. "The other is waiting outside. Come and we'll-"

Eadric stops as he notices the dragon is laughing. "It looks like I just won." it says cruelly. Before the kobold has a chance to react he's pinned beneath a taloned claw that's nearly as large as he is; he tries to shout a warning for Kavos but is cut off.

The dragon holds the kobold tightly and unfurls his wings, all but exploding out the mouth of the cave and landing with Eadric in tow in the clearing outside.

"This was supposed to be a battle of wits!" Eadric squeaks in a pained voice as Kavos looks on from his hiding spot.

The dragon gives a predatory smile and squeezes harder; digging sharp claws into the kobold's flesh. "It was. Don't you feel stupid?" Ro'than'dur replies, sniffing the air in search of Kavos.

"Where is this village little kobold?" the dragon asks. "Maybe I'll eat them instead of you. Maybe..."

The dragon looks down just in time to see an empty flask hit the ground and turns Eadric face up to see what he just did. Eadric takes a deep breath as the dragon does so and exhales a gout of flame directly into its face.

Ro'than'dur roars in pain and aggravation and snaps his jaws threateningly.

Kavos steps out of cover and casts Bestow Curse but the dragon seems to shake it off.

Ro'than'dur glares down at a smirking Eadric and takes a deep breath of his own exhaling a torrent of acid which soaks the now screaming kobold and takes him down to less than half health. Eadric miraculously manages to slip out of the dragon's claws during the excitement and bolts across the clearing; leaping over some brush and landing behind a tree. Kavos immediately hits the dragon with Searing Light to get its attention.

As Kavos and Eadric hide behind their respective trees the dragon roars something and vines erupt from the ground, attempting to entangle them; luckily they both manage to sidestep the attempts. To their horror however the dragon leaps into the air and slams down directly next to them, invalidating their hiding places.

Eadric downs a different potion and spits a sticky blob at the dragon's feet, it strikes the dragon but Ro'than'dur manages to avoid actually getting stuck to anything. Kavos casts Sonic Burst into the dragon's face but does little more than make him mad; the elderly cleric then decides to take his chances in the bushes and attempts to navigate the difficult terrain away from the now enraged dragon.

As Kavos is fleeing Ro'than'dur takes a deep breath and exhales another cone of acid at his backside; taking his hp down to the low teens. Eadric takes a potion in each hand (Cat's Grace and Stonefist) and chugs them. Kavos spins on his heels and unleashes a burst of negative energy into the dragon, barely missing Eadric. Ro'than'dur roars in pain and irritation.

"You're going to end up just like your mother!" Kavos snarls.

The dragon seems to focus on Kavos exclusively and snorts once like an angered bull. Kavos suddenly regrets his choice of words as almost a ton of reptilian rage rushes him in a mad dash, its powerful jaws miss him by mere inches and he can smell death on its breath. Acidic drool drips freely from its open muzzle.

Springing into action Eadric charges Ro'than'dur's back and leaps into the air; aiming for his spine. With a powerful Studied Strike he delivers a single focused kick which the last 30 points of damage the dragon has to offer.

It slinks to the ground with a pitiful whine and Kavos just stares as the little kobold slowly brings himself out of a martial arts stance.

"I submit!" the dragon wails. "You have won the game..." it whimpers with a ragged cough. "Take the mother's hoard, just leave me my life. I...I will serve."

Kavos tries to hide just how impressed he is as he and Eadric bind the dragon with chains and tie it to the wagon. While they're at it they decide to pilfer the hoard and see what's worth taking.

When it's all said and done they walk away with several thousand pieces of gold (not useful now, but who knows later) and a plethora of magic items.

Kavos takes:
Belt of Mighty Constitution +2
Tunic of Careful Casting
Jaunt Boots
Headband of alluring charisma +2
Amulet of natural armor +2
and Bracers of Armor +2

Eadric takes:
Monk's Robe
Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2
Slippers of Spider Climbing
Magnetist’s Gloves
Several Formulae Recipes.

They also find:
Vest of Surgery
Vest of All Tools
And two books that they assume are magical.
(I realized a session or two back that I haven't really given them a speck of treasure in 5 levels so I tried to make it up to them all at once.)

After loading up everything worthwhile from the hoard and chaining Ro'than'dur to the wagon they start back home. Eadric takes to riding the humiliated dragon and decides that one way or another this thing will be his steed.

The ride back to Westbank takes nowhere near as long and just over a day passes before they ride into town, Eadric on dragon back, like conquering heroes. The entire town gathers to gawk at the subjugated dragon and Kavos sends for Rambalt to help them go through their plunder.

While they're searching, Eadric asks Rambalt what he thinks of him using the dragon as a mount and Rambalt says that he's crazy; that you should turn your back on a dragon for even a moment. Eadric snorts derisively but doesn't argue; deep down he knows that he will break this thing one way or another.

Kavos devotes all of the recovered copper, silver, gold and platinum pieces to the town treasury; then lets Rambalt take his pick of any gems that look like they might come in handy before tossing them in as well. He turns the books over to Rambalt and while the first one is dismissed as just a spellbook; the second one actually makes Rambalt gasp.

Rambalt starts flipping through it and Eadric clambers up onto the wagon to look over his shoulder. The book seems to filled with blue prints and schematics that make even the brilliant kobold's head hurt to look at, but Rambalt pores over it like a cook book. Eadric tries to piece together what exactly it does when Rambalt turns a page and revealse a picture of a dragon-like creature made of wood and bronze.

"Is THAT what this book does?" Eadric asks excitedly.

Rambalt nods "This...takes so much guesswork out of my creations. Step by step diagrams for creating automatons." he mutters. "I..I could build an army in less time than it took me to finish Junior!" he says excitedly, then just as suddenly as his spirits raise they seem to pop once more. "Or rather...we could. If we had the materials."

Eadric pipes in "Eastbank would have what you need, we could sneak in and get some ingredients..."

Rambalt shakes his head "We'll need them in bulk; a sack of scrap won't do us any good...we need a caravan to make these things come to life."

Kavos considers Rambalt's proposal for a moment before asking about Lark and with a little probing they get word that he's just recently arrived back from his mission. Kavos sends for him and a visibly haggard Jonathan finally stumbles up to meet them; a large sack strapped to his back and his quiver of arrows very nearly empty; if he's surprised by the dragon he manages to hide it.

Kavos asks for his report and Lark replies that they're massing in the forest, he saw more than sixty of them following a single ghast, but seem to be content to just stumble about for now. He mentions taking the opportunity to scout Eastbank while he was out and unslings the bag while he does so.

As he opens the bag they can see that it's filled with six very solid (if a little lean) puppies with dark brown fur and black faces. Kavos is confused as to why Lark would bring something like that back and Lark explains that he's seen these animals fetch nearly the price of a warhorse when they're trained; he goes onto laugh that he found these eating the weaker specimens in some spoiled little lord's kennel.

"You were actually able to enter Eastbank?" Kavos asks incredulously.

Jonathan nods. "It was rough, but it's not like the ghouls are actually patrolling the area to keep people out." he points out.

"I didn't go much further than the edge of town, but almost everything's untouched." Lark explains. "Storehouses, estates, even stalls. Except for Bryce I think everybody just dropped what they were doing and ran."
He brings out an expensive bottle of dwarven whiskey and takes a swig. "You ever tasted 100 gold a bottle liquor?" he asks, offering it to Kavos who declines, saying that he's more of a wine drinker.

"And...what's a kobold doing running around town?" Lark asks, as if noticing Eadric for the first time.

"I work here now." Eadric says indignantly.

Jonathan nods and extends a grimy hand. "Lark." he says by way of an introduction. Eadric winces at the filth under his nails but shakes anyway.

" need a caravan right?" Kavos asks, smiling to himself.

Rambalt nods.

"No better time to get it than while the ghouls are busy in the forest." Kavos says. "Just give us a few hours to get ready and we'll be on our way."

Rambalt's positively beaming when he says "I'll make a list!"

Kavos waits until Eadric settles in to get some sleep to unlock his basement and creep downstairs.

"Could have used your help out there Gandil." Kavos says with a laugh. "You won't believe it, but we fought a dragon!"

Gandil hangs against the wall silently. Suspiciously silent.

"I'm sorry it turned out this way Gandil, but you left me no choice! Don't try to make me feel guilty about this." Kavos says, approaching him slowly.

Gandil remains silent and unmoving.

Kavos notices some kind of ichor dripping from Gandil as he gets closer. Thick and black, most likely what's left of his blood. He closes the distance between them and checks Gandil for injuries; discovering a large almost fist sized hole apparently chewed directly into his chest; the source of the blood.

"Gandil?!" Kavos snaps. "Gandil!" he shouts again, channeling negative energy to attempt to control Gandil and force him to respond. Just as he feared, there is no response.

He leans forward to check the wound and is positive that it looks as though something burrowed inside of him. In fact...the way the flesh pulses, it looks as though it might still be there.

Snatching a piece of wood to probe the wound with, Kavos pries it open and is rewarded with a shower of blood and gore as a spider the size of a cat leaps from Gandil's wound and sinks its fangs into his shoulder.

Kavos stumbles back in pain and fills the entire room with negative energy, slaying the spider without even trying.

Checking his own wound to ensure it doesn't get infected, he inspects Gandil once again. He suddenly realizes that it doesn't look like Gandil resisted this AT ALL. No wounds around the wrists from trying to pull free; nothing knocked over by his flailing... If Gandil had a face, Kavos swears it would be smirking. His eyes still twinkle in death, as though hes had the last laugh.

Kavos shakes his head and starts to storm out, but stops himself on the stairs. Turning to look over his shoulder he glowers at what's left of his best friend. Through clenched teeth he calls out "Hang there and rot then."

log in or register to remove this ad


First Post
We pick up where we left off. Everyone's voted to rest the night before going into Eastbank and facing the horde.

Come morning, Kavos wakes early so that he can pray for spells before Eadric prepares his extracts for the day. Once he's done, he prepares a place in his basement and casts Summon Lesser Planar Ally to ask his patron Asmodeus for an imp to aid him in his mission.

No sooner does he cease the ritual that a gravelly voice calls out "You got work fer me boss?"

Kavos turns around to see a 2ft humanoid with dark red skin and leathery wings perched on a nearby chair's arm.

Dragging out a set of the Duke's armor, Kavos nods. "Men are coming to kill me. They will probably be dressed in this. I need you to find them and report back their movements and numbers."

The imp slowly nods. "I can do that boss. Yeah, I can do that. Might take a while though boss, and as you know...nothing's free."

"What's your price.?" Kavos asks.

"1,500 gold pieces. I'm a busy imp after all and I'm doing you a favor here." the imp says.

Kavos nods. "Done. I'll take it from the treasury." and leaves to gather the devil's fee; upon returning he drops a sack of coins in front of the imp who extends his hand. No sooner does Kavos shake it than the sack and coins disappear in a flash of fire and smoke, leaving behind a smell like rotting eggs.

"Good doing business with you boss. I'll let you know what I find." the imp says with a wink, launching himself into the air and disappearing from sight.

That business being taken care of, Kavos returns upstairs to find Eadric finishing up his extracts and Jonathan Lark fitting a large wagon with a pair of ponies outside. Within an hour, all three of them are loaded onto the wagon.

Kavos has Lark head downriver before leaving, using a lie about a vision of Pelor sending them aid and recovers his 'Drowned Legion' of eight waterlogged zombies. He explains that help comes in many forms and that these men were once citizens of Eastbank, who drowned escaping the ghoul horde. It all sounds very mystical and Lark buys it without much probing. After loading the zombies into the wagon and covering them up, they head onwards to Eastbank.

On the way, Eadric removes his trusty chessboard from his sack and grins. "I believe you still owe me a game."

"The agreement was that it would be at a time and place of my choosing." Kavos reminds the little kobold.

"Yes...but then you said we would do it today." Eadric lies.

"I...don't remember that." Kavos says with a frown, but realizing even the best of us slip now and then. "Very well, I'm nothing if not a man of my word."

The two of them go back and forth but Eadric handily defeats Kavos in a complete upset of their previous game. (He just discovered the Investigator's Inspiration and blew all of it on the game.)

"Looks like I'm deputy mayor." Eadric says with a fake smile, extending his hand.

"Indeed it does." Kavos says with a fake smile of his own, shaking the kobold's hand.

The game took up a bit of time, but the ride is long and they decide to compare notes on the overall situation. The conversation drifts towards the Duke himself and what they know of him.

Most know that the Duke is a powerful cleric of Fharlanghn, the god of roads and travel and that him and his four comrades were responsible for overthrowing the Iron King some forty years ago and that they divided up Gallorea between themselves. As ringleader, the Duke took the Centrlal province as his and the nation's historic capitol as the seat of his power.

Kavos reveals that what most don't know however, is that nobody outside the Duke's personal staff has heard from him in nearly twenty years; he never makes public appearances anymore, under ANY circumstances. Neither of them really knows what to do with this information yet, but they agree that it's important to have all their cards laid out.

Finally, the silent remains of Eastbank come into view and Lark reigns in the horses to slow their approach. "The ghouls are too busy rooting around to pay attention to the road, but once we get in there we need to work fast."

Everyone agrees and as they begin crossing the bridge into town Kavos unloads his zombies to act as a wall of flesh between them and any ghouls that might be in the area. They advance slowly and take in the ruined city. The docks of Eastbank are a complete mess, the few ships still in working order are pinned in by the ones that have been burned or sunk; river travel is impossible now.

On the docks however is a sizable warehouse, Eadric carefully scales the side of the building and tears at the roofing until he can peel a big enough section back to slide inside. The inside is pitch black, but Eadric is used to such conditions and it doesn't even slow him down. He finds a good deal of lumber piled up around the warehouse and a considerable number of crates which he doesn't bother checking. He also finds the remains of a pair of dockhands who decided to take their own lives rather than wait for the ghouls; they shared a shortsword and plunged it into each of their chests.

Eadric silently searches the inside of the warehouse to make sure there are no surprises and then unlocks the doors leading in and steps out into the street to find a trio of ghouls barely being held back by Kavos's wall of zombies.

Eadric charges without a second though; leaps onto the back of a zombie and springboards himself over the horde to deliver a spinning kick that lays a ghouls' snaps a ghouls neck and drops him outright. Kavos channels negative energy, seizing control of the other two and an as yet unseen ghoul charges Eadric from its place in cover, but is put down by a pair of arrows from Lark before it manages to reach the kobold.

They take stock of themselves and except for a dead zombie everything seems to be in order. Kavos heals the remaining up as Lark surveys the warehouse.

"I'm sure something heard all this commotion." Lark says, returning from the warehouse and glancing around. "We need to work fast. You two press in and see if you can find anything on Rambalt's list, I'll load up what I've got here."

Kavos agrees and hits the ranger and himself with a Hide From Undead before he and Eadric continue onwards. They take it slow and pass by several ruined homes before finally coming to a fork. To the north lies Bryce's old offices and many of the guild fronts, to the south lies Eastbank's largest Inn/Tavern and the general market square.

They strain their ears and from the south comes the sound of animalistic growls The strum of a guitar can be barely made out over the din of gathering ghouls. To the north sounds like steel striking steel.

Eadric volunteers to check out the south and slips off before Kavos can say anything; Kavos takes this opportunity to explore the north and stops in his tracks as he rounds the bend. The Duke's standards fly everywhere and barbed wire fencing has been erected to cordone off the northern square from the rest of town; dozens of ghouls have been hung on the buildings here as a warning to others. He quickly slips back the way he came to wait for Eadric.

As Eadric creeps to the south the sound of a guitar being tuned grows louder but so too does the sound of roaring ghouls. He sticks to the shadows and finally emerges from an alley to see more than fifty ghouls throwing themselves against a dwarven shield wall protecting the front of the tavern, and a strangely relaxed dwarf in scalemail sitting on a wagon stuffed with provisions and picking at his guitar. The dwarven soldiers are dressed in fine stoneplate, they wield tower shields and axes.

Eadric inches forward to get a better look at them and notices something alarming, each of them sports a nasty brand on his right cheek which marks them as Outlaws, among dwarves they're considered the worst of the worst.

"Can't you do something USEFUL?!" one of the warriors shouts over his shoulder at the dwarf with the guitar.

Eadric pulls back from the group and returns to Kavos, reporting what he's found.

"Survivors?" Kavos asks incredulously. "Actual people, that are alive? We obviously must aid them."

"....really?" Eadric asks.

Ignoring the kobold, Kavos arranges the zombies and ghouls ahead of him as a wedge and quickly advances the direction Eadric came from; the kobold tags along despite his misgivings.

As they approach the battle the guitar's sound is much more deliberate with an obvious tune taking shape, a deep baritone rises to join it; easily piercing the sound of the ghouls:
"Before we left, a wise man said
Today's the day you die.
The Stars are right, the time is now
Why would a wise man lie?"

The dwarf with the guitar sings with a smug smile. His men begin growing red in the face and more than one shout for him to shut the hell up or help them out. The bard notices Kavos and Eadric's advance and nods in their direction by way of greeting before belting out another verse:

"Your wife moves on, your child forgets
That you were ever here.
The day is lost, our lives are spent
But noone's left to care."

The men are gritting their teeth so hard by this point that their breath is whistling in and out of them and with a look of obvious rage at the inciteful lyrics swing their axes as one, splitting an entire line of ghouls open with a single blow; yet more rush in to fill the hole.

Eadric downs an extract and spits a glob of adhesive onto one of the ghouls, holding him fast. Kavos slams the undead under his control into the flank of the ghouls and the zombies manage to drag one down to its death; Kavos then moves closer to the shield wall.

Most of the ghouls surge against the dwarves, wanting fresh meat; but a handful press back against Kavos's mini-horde; killing one of his ghouls and a zombie in their first attack. One of the dwarves is clawed at though his massive armor and fails his fort save, he goes down to paralysis and the rest shift to cover him.

"Now tell me boys, do you concede
That fate can be foretold?
Or tell me boys, do you believe
That life is for the BOLD?"

As the dwarf sings, his allies appear to lose themselves in song; they begin snarling like wild animals and howling defiantly at the horde. 'Something' begins fluctuating violently around them and the ground itself begins showing signs of being clawed at by some invisible attacker.

"A hundred men, or more have died,
They claim that so will you.
And once these bastards take our lives,
They'll take our families too."

Two of the dwarves stagger beneath the sheer weight of the ghouls bearing down on them, but the rest lash out with savage swings which separate ghouls from the limbs and emboldened by their growing rage they take a step forward to press the attack.

Eadric charges forward and lands a kick directly into a ghoul's chest, collapsing ribs and knocking the creature down. Kavos's horde presses forward, drawing two more ghouls to their death as Kavos himself slips behind the shieldwall as the bard beckons him to hide in the wagon with him. Kavos channels negative energy again and seizes control of two more ghouls, sending them against the rest of their kind.

The ghoul horde scratches uselessly against the dwarven shieldwall but another of Kavos's traitor ghouls goes down and Eadric sidesteps a handful of attacks easily.

"Your arm is weak, your feet are lead
I doubt you're even trying.
The battle's lost, and we're long dead
Can't you hear your mother crying?"

The bard continues, one of the dwarves swell in his armor; muscles bulging obscenely as he cleaves through two ghouls with a single swipe.

"Now tell me boys, do you concede
That fate can be foretold?
Or tell me boys, do you believe
That life is for the BOLD?"

The dwarves butcher another round of ghouls and continue their advance against the rapidly dwindling opposition. Eadric down's an Animal Aspect extract and his arms lengthen, becoming more like a gorillas. The kobold leaps onto a ghoul and wrenches the creature's head, snapping its neck instantly.

Kavos urges his minions to press harder and with a few lucky rolls they absolutely obliterate the ghouls standing before them. The dwarves surge to meet them and only a single ghoul manages to slip away from their pinser maneuver and flee further into the city.

The dwarf with the guitar leaps off the back of the wagon to face his snarling allies; his guitar strumming becomes much softer and his song becomes slower:

"The battle now is over,
Our lives are not forfeit!
Which leaves me with a simple thought:.."

He says, letting the note hang in the air before finishing with a shout:

"Wisemen don't know sh*t!"

And just like that the spell is broken and the song is over. A couple of dwarves snort derisively, one mentions that if he doesn't start pulling his weight they're doing to leave his ass; and pretty much to a man they collapse where they're standing to catch their breath.

The soldiers take their helmets off to let the breeze hit their face and Eadric points out their markings, each is a dwarven rune. On the bard's face is one whic labels him Deserter. The others are labeled as Adulterer, Murderer, Thief, Blasphemer, Liar and Coward.

Eadric and Kavos exchange glances but Kavos is still in a diplomatic mood and asks how long they've been here and if there's any news of survivors.

The bard/deserter says "We've been trapped in the pub since the world went to hell, though we've been trapped in this godsforsaken town a bit longer."

Kavos looks at them suspiciously. "You've been in this tavern...for a month?"

Eadric slips behind the distracted bard and manages to slide his coin purse off his person. Looking inside, the kobold is disappointed to find that it's empty, save for a list of 30 dwarven names with six crossed off. Realizing he's probably holding the titlist of a group of Outlaws, he quickly drops the coin purse into the wagon where the dwarf will find it.

"Has it been that long?" the dwarf asks surprised. "We've...ah...we've been drunk for most of it. We didn't realize. When everything went belly up we boarded up the doors and tried to wait it out; not much to do in a tavern but play cards and drink and none of us had a set of cards on us."

"What's this then?" Kavos asks, motioning towards the wagon.

"Food ran out about two days ago. This morning we found that we're down to our last six kegs; so we kicked in a few doors and resupplied. Must've woke the neighbors."

"Were any others so lucky?" Kavos asks.

"Hard to say." the Deserter says with a shrug. "Only place we've been is that house over there," he says, motioning towards a stately town house a little ways in the distance. "Certainly weren't nobody there." he says, leaning against the wagon and absently strumming his guitar.

"How about you?" the bard asks. "Where've you been holding up?"

Kavos glances around. "I'm the mayor of Westbank; we came to gather supplies to fortify against the undead."

The bard's eyebrow raises. "No offense, but Westbank must be pretty much sh*t if this is your plan B. I imagine most anything worse taken was snatched up by that bootlicker Bryce. What are you looking for?"

"Quite." Kavos responds dismissively, deciding he likes the man less and less with each word he speaks. "Lumber, steel, leather....whatever we can find."

The bard nods and calls out to one of the dwarves, Eadric notices that he calls him by the dwarven word for Adulterer. "Hey Adulterer, weren't you guys hired on by some rich fella to knock out some walls in his mansion?"

The dwarf nods, still catching his breath from the unnatural rage that coursed through him. "Never got around to putting it back togther though. Pretty sure he got ate first."

"How's the food situation in Westbank?" the bard asks.

"We're getting by. By no means will we be holding a feat any time soon, but we're stable." Kavos responds.

"How about a trade?" the bard asks, strumming his guitar with no particular tune. "You give us somewhere to hole up and 2 squares a day and we go 'shopping' for you. We've worked here a few months now, we know this town like the back of our hands."

Kavos and Eadric quickly confer with each other and Kavos says "You're branded criminals; we obviously cannot allow you residence in our town proper; but I can see that your group is given a farm on the outskirt."

The dwarf marked Adulterer leaps to his feet. "Crimes? I'll tell you something about-"

Adulterer is cut off by the bard who says "A fair arrangement. Far fairer a shake than our own ever gave us."

"There are conditions." Kavos states.

"Always." the Deserter replies.

"Should you enter the town for any reason, you MUST be unarmed. This especially applies to when you are delivering materials." Kavos says.

The bard laughs. "If you insist. You know, we're not axe crazy despite what our kin's propoganda would have you believe. In fact I'd wager that most of the dwarves you've ever encountered have been Outlaws; they've just found a way to hide the mark."

Laying down his guitar the bard says "I mean, there's only two kinds of dwarves topside. Outlaws and Bootlickers." with a laugh he adds "Which of course means that there's one more kind of dwarf topside than down below."

"Be that as it may. Do we have a deal?" Kavos insists.

"Your town." the Deserter says with a shrug.

"One more thing." Eadric says. "We'll need one of your men to accompany us now, he'll serve as an emissary between our groups."

They ask for volunteers and with a sigh, the dwarf marked Thief raises his hand. With that settled the remaining six dwarves take Kavos's shopping list and press into the town to earn their keep.

Kavos has Eadric and the Thief enter the tavern with him and he tells Eadric about the Duke's standards in the north section of town. Eadric takes the hint and sneaks off to investigate.

Eadric slips behind the Duke's lines easily enough and what he sees stops him in his tracks. More than sixty soldiers are in the cordoned off courtyard running drills against makeshift training dummies under the instruction of a balding, stern faced man with white hair and a thick mustache that the men refer to as Captain, while yet more soldiers flit from building to building like ants in a hive.

Downing an Invisibility extract just to be safe, Eadric slips closer to the captain and tries to get a sense of what's going on here. His conversations are short and terse, but Eadric gathers that they're still in touch with command and the duchy has hired a mercenary group to come and provide them support.

Eadric decides that he's heard enough and slips back, reporting his findings to Kavos who seems disturbed. He has Eadric and the Thief watch the door and performs the necessary prayers to cast a Sending spell; sending this message to the unicorn:

"The Dukes forces are in Eastbank. They are sending for reinforcements, arriving soon. Be prepared for battle."

"We will crush the trespassers if they venture into our lands. Keep us apprised should you stumble upon any more information pertaining to our alliance." the unicorn responds in turn, ending the spell.

They butcher the remaining ghouls under Kavos's control and meet back up with Lark just outside of town; he's loaded the wagon down to the point where there's barely enough room for Eadric to sit in the back; but the Thief is strong and manages to hold himself in place depite the bumpy road, and Kavos takes a seat next to Lark.

The ride back is quiet as they're each exhausted.

The town is absolutely clamoring by the time they arrive in Westbank. Apparently Adrian spun a tale about receiving a vision from Pelor absolving Longarm of his crimes and placing the blame on wicked agents of the Duke. According to his vision, they were to exhume Longarm's body and when they did they found the half-orc waiting for them alive and well.

Kavos feigns amazement. "Truly a miracle. Praise Pelor."

Most people in town don't even notice the dwarf which Kavos brings back to his home, being too preoccupied with yet another miracle being visited on them. Lark gets the help of the deputies in unloading their scavenged materials while Eadric, Kavos and the Thief retire to sleep in Kavos's home.

Morning comes around and Kavos recovers his spells; including Discern Lies for use on the Thief. He discovers the dwarf sitting with Eadric in his kitchen, playing chess against his will. Surprisingly, the dwarf dominates the genius kobold; soundly defeating him despite the half hearted nature of his playing. (We just rolled a series of Intelligence checks to represent a game and despite the fact the dwarf has literally half Eadric's Int he kept rolling ridiculously higher.)

"So you guys are playing chess?" Kavos asks, assuming the kobold would have had his fill by now.

The dwarf shrugs. "Not my game." he says, taking one of Eadric's bishops. The kobold makes his move and the dwarf says "Doesn't seem to be his either." as he takes another.

Casting Discern Lies, Kavos asks "So how did you guys survive a month in the tavern again?"

"We locked the doors." the Thief says, sitting back in his chair. "Sizable place, if we'd been a little smarter we could have survived there two months." he says almost bitterly.

Kavos shakes his head. "What in the world did you survive on?"

"Meat, bread, cheese...mostly beer. It was a fancy place, used to serve a decent dinner before everything went to hell." the dwarf says with a shrug

"Were there any other survivors you happened to run into?" Kavos asks.

Thief sighs and runs a hand through his hair. "Not that survived." he says. "We had 12 men yesterday morning..." he says, letting the implication hang in the air. "Most expensive sacks of corn I ever seen."

"What happened?" Kavos says sympathetically, leaning in.

"Same thing happened to everyone else in Eastbank." the Thief says. "When we opened the doors, we invited trouble."

In the most abruptly unsympathetic way possible, Kavos changes the topic clearly disappointed in his answer, "You're branded as the Thief. Why?"

The Thief laughs at the unexpected change of topic. "I had the gaul to demand my wage. I had a contract with a merchant, busted my ass two years guarding him. When the term came due, he said that my work was unsatisfactory and he didn't owe me anything."

The dwarf sets his jaw in anger and grinds his teeth. "I sure as hell didn't watch his fat ass for the fun of it; so I rearranged his nose and took what he owed me out of his pocket... It was LITERALLY pocket change for that son of a bitch. When he took the case to the judges, well...who do you think they sided with? The wealthy merchant or the copperless grunt? He was the victim. I was the Thief."

Kavos raises an eyebrow towards Eadric. According to his spell, the dwarf is telling the truth. "Do you have a real name? Kavos asks.

"I did." the Thief replies. "They called me Astur; but by tradition that name was stripped from me. To use it among dwarves is an offense likely to incite murder."

"Well welcome to Westbank, Astur." Kavos says, shaking the dwarf's hand firmly. "I wanted to make sure you knew the lay of the land so you wouldn't get lost delivering supplies."

The dwarf nods. "I'll make contact with the Deserter and the rest. We should have our first delivery by tomorrow morning."

Kavos smiles and pats the Thief on the back. "Be careful, alright? You'll find your weapon with Lark."

The Thief takes his leave without saying anything else.

Eadric excuses himself to go check on his dragon and Kavos settles in to contact his other allies. Casting another Sending he sends word to the Locathah: "Danger is near, forces will arrive soon. Be in touch, war is imminent."

The chieftain replies back: "We will do what we can. Your plague has found its way to our halls. The Asch'al have risen against us all."

Kavos sighs and rests his head in his hand. "Gandil..."

Eadric approaches Ro'Than'Dur in the stable and finds the beasts wings and legs bound and its mouth heavily muzzled to prevent escape.

Seeing the once mighty dragon in such a predicament, Eadric removes the muzzle and receives a snarl for his efforts.

"Speak if you have something to say Rothan. I wish for us to be partners, not enemies." the kobold offers.

"Then unbind my wings." the dragon says.

Shaking his head, Eadric replies "You've tricked me before Rothan, why would I believe you now?"

With a falsely innocent shrug, Ro'Than'dur says "What are the odds that I would trick you a second time?"

"I've had a spell placed upon me that allows me to read your mind dragon." Eadric lies. "I can see through your deception."

"Oh?" Ro'than'Dur asks, amusement in his voice. "Then what am I thinking now?"

Slapping the muzzle back onto the dragon, Eadric says "It doesn't matter. You'll lose such functions soon enough. I've grown tired of this game, I intend to end it."

The dragon growls through its muzzle and Eadric heads to Rambalt's. Now I think I might've left out last write up that Rambalt had half jokingly told Eadric that the only way keep control of the dragon would be to basically lobotomize it so it wouldn't care what happens anymore and Eadric had been violently opposed to such a procedure.

Now however, his patience is up and he asks Rambalt to carry through with the procedure. Rambalt warns that it will leave Ro'Than'Dur docile and explains that he won't make a move he isn't instructed to; he also points out that he'll take whatever move ANYONE instructs him to. Eadric is obviously less thrilled with the idea of riding a dragon that can be ordered to buck him off any time he rides into battle.

He quickly abandons that plan, and discusses options with Kavos who's all for turning Ro'Than'Dur into a zombie and being done with it. But the fact that it would take up most of Kavos's Animate Dead slots, wouldn't have a breath weapon AND would still be a mindless husk has Eadric abandon that plan.

Instead he borrows Rambalt's library and spends the next few days searching for an answer himself.

He finds one, or at least he thinks he does. A spell of binding. He shows it to Rambalt and the mage agrees that it would definitely make the dragon more agreeable, but warns that it has a number of side effects.

Eadric (literally) says "I don't want to hear anymore about this ritual until it's completed Rambalt, now can you do it?" ((He also admits that he doesn't think he plays a very good 'smart' character because of decisions like this.))

Rambalt says that he could, but that it's powerful blood magic. Eadric repeats that he doesn't care about the jibba jabba, he wants a dragon! Rambalt sighs and tells the kobold to meet him in the stable.

In short order Eadric is strapped into a chair next to Ro'Than'Dur (for his own protection) and Rambalt sketches a strange series of runes into the ground around them. He then draws an 8 inch blade and slits the dragon's throat, sending a spray of blood onto the ground as he begins his chanting. Eadric starts to ask about the side effects after all, when Rambalt does the same to him and the kobold's voice becomes a loud gurgle.

Rambalt intermingles blood with blood and begins jamming tube into each of their wounds which lead to the other, his chanting grows louder and Eadric passes out from blood loss; Rambalt continues the ritual, knowing that if he stops to heal the dying kobold they'll have to start over.

Eadric has to make several more Fortitude saves to avoid outright dying from the trauma but neither he or the dragon is aware of what's going on anymore while they do; they're both out cold.

Meanwhile, Kavos is alone in his home; praying for guidance when he hears a familiar gravelly voice "You expecting an army boss?" the imp asks, perched on his headboard.

"I expect your findings." Kavos replies.

"I searched the road like you wanted boss. Flew all day and night, there ain't no soldiers around here." The imp says.

Kavos raises himself so that he can sit on his bed. "So then it's clear?"

"Well...not exactly boss." the imp replies. "I didn't see any groups, but I did see a guy."

"What's so alarming about that?" Kavos asks.

"He saw ME." the imp answers, flashing invisible and appearing somewhere else for who. "Looked right at me and smiled."

Kavos doesn't respond for a moment, thinking. "What was he doing?"

"Coming this way boss. Didn't seem to be in much of a hurry; might be a week before he gets here." the imp explains.

"Anything else odd?" Kavos asks.

"Had a tattoo right here, and here." the imp says, indicating his forearms. "Looked like this" he says, scratching an 8 onto the headboard.

Kavos tries to make sense of this and finally says "Thank you. If I want to call upon your services again, what name should I use?"

"Hezrael." the imp says. "Careful boss. He looks like a killer."

And with that, disappears in a puff of flame and smoke.

It's early in the morning, the sun is just about to peak it's face above the treeline and Eadric opens his eyes feebly. He feels stiff and cold, much like one might expect to feel after having his blood drained for some obscure ritual.

He tries to stand, but his body feels heavy. It's not until he drags himself to his feet that he notices it isn't just a feeling, his clothes are tigther than they once were and he feels knots of muscle that weren't there when he passed out. Looking down at his once familiar hands, he sees thick green scales covering his arms.

Glancing over at Ro'Than'Dur he notices that the entire floor of the stable is stained with their blood and its only by the faint breathing of the dragon that he can even be sure its alive. Rambalt has a staff in hand, channeling healing energy into the beast.

"I see you both came through all right." Rambalt says as the dragon begins to stir as well. The mage takes a few steps back and says "There are a few things you should know about the procedure..."

Eadric ignores him and removes Ro'Than'Dur's muzzle. "How do you feel friend?" the kobold asks excitedly.

As the dragon comes to a look of absolute rage fills its face and it lunges forward, sinking its dagger-like teeth painfully into Eadric's shoulder and they BOTH shout in pain; blood flowing from the dragon's shoulder as well as Eadric's.

The kobold yelps and in response drives his fist into the dragon's face using every ounce of his power. The dragon's nose busts and blood flows freely, however Eadric too grasps his face as blood flows from his now broken nose.

"What did you do to me?" both of them shout at Rambalt.

Rambalt stammers and finds that his back is against the stable wall. "I...ah... Well you can't change a dragon's thought process without losing what makes it a dragon." he explains. "But you CAN use its personality against it. Dragons care about nothing more than self preservation. If you die, he dies; if he dies, you die. So now..."

"He cares what happens to me..." Eadric finishes. The dragon groans irritably.

"Unbind me then kobold." the dragon says sulking. "I have nowhere left to go."

Eadric does so and just barely leaps onto Ro'Than'Dur's back before the beast's wings flare out and it takes to the sky to stretch out, soaring up so high that they touch the clouds. The wind is brutal however and as Eadric jockeys for position he's ripped from his mount's back and tossed to the ground below.

Just before impact the dragon manages to snatch the kobold once more and circles lazily before landing beneath a string of trees on Westbank's south side and depositing the kobold roughly amid the leaves and brambles.

Despite the multiple near death experiences, Eadric is giddy. He'd thought he was above this; that he'd conquered his illogical kobold reverence for these flying lizards he is. His own dragon.

Thinking about his people bowing and wallowing in the dirt... He decides it feels good to be a god.


First Post
A day has passed since the events of our last session and Kavos awakens to find Eadric practicing martial arts in his yard; his pace slow and deliberate; more meditation than actual exercise. Kavos attempts to ask him a question, but discovers that the kobold is too focused on his movements to even hear.

Figuring that Eadric can just sit this one out then, Kavos heads to his basement and stuffs Gandil's rotting and mutilated corpse in a body bag before dragging it out to the town square and shouting for all eyes to be on him.

With manly tears running down his face, Kavos loudly says "A few days ago, I had a vision that the Duke's forces were gathering in the East. I called upon The Hero of Westbank, our good friend and protector Gandil, to investigate my premonitions."

The crowd goes hushed, nobody seems to know what to say. "This morning...I recovered this." he says, sliding the bag off to reveal Gandil's corpse; missing its hands and face. The crowd gasps, a woman near the front breaks down into tears.

"These men are monsters! They cannot be reasoned with, they cannot be trusted and they CANNOT be allowed to escape justice!" Kavos shouts and the crowd shouts with him.

The human mercenary Bartan shouts over the din, "I'll be taking volunteers for a militia. My partner and myself will train any man willing to defend his home!"

The crowd begins to cheer when Lark raises his hand as well. "I'm willing to teach anyone with the wit to wield a bow." the ranger offers as well.

Kavos smiles at the surge of civic spirit and wipes one of his moist eyes. "I apologize, but I'll have to leave this to you. Gandil was a close friend and....and I need some time to finish processing this tragedy."

Head bowed as he returns home to the chorus of fresh volunteers, Kavos catches Eadric finishing up his meditation. "I'm not to be disturbed." the priest says flatly; "If something comes up today, YOU handle it."

Once alone in his locked bedroom, Kavos goes through the preparations to cast Lesser Planar Ally and within just a few minutes has a Nightmare facing him down. The infernal horse gives a haughty snort, its flaming mane making the room stiflingly hot.

"Can you understand me?" he asks, before repeating the question in Infernal.

The beast nods once.

"Good. I won't keep you long then. I need you to transport me to Hell and then you're free to go about your business." Kavos says, tossing a sack of gold before the beast. The gold goes up in a puff of smoke and it bows to allow the aging cleric onto its back.

Once Kavos is on, the creature stands and leaps towards a wall; however instead of a shower of splinters and pain the two of them land on a street of iron and brass. The air is thick with the unnatural heat and choking stench of sulfur and smoke; though the numerous inhabitants don't seem to mind.

Groups of lemure led by bearded devils, patrols of bearded devils led by erinyes or barbed devils and countless other variations march the streets in near mechanical precision. The entire flowing city is abuzz with activity and life. A thriving market square filled with strange and exotic wares lays before Kavos and he steps out of the way of a group of surly tormentors as he overhears a group of erinyes engage in a shouting match with a particularly sleazy bone devil.

Kavos looks around in stunned awe for a moment, trying not to look like such a tourist, when he realizes that he's on the 2nd Layer of Hell: Dis. Before he has enough time to fully process this; the bone devil is shouting at him; having apparently driven the erinyes away.

"A mortal! Tell me mortal, what do you want? What do you NEED? I can acquire anything you know...for the right price." the creature says temptingly; a permanent grin splitting its skeletal face.

"I have come to fully pledge myself, body and soul, to Lord Asmodeus. I doubt one such as you could be so well connected however." Kavos replies.

The bone devil steeples its slender fingers before it. "You're right. I can't get you in good with the boss...but I know someone who can."

After a moment of silent waiting, Kavos looks around expectantly, "Well, what are you waiting for?"

"Not to sound crass...but what's in it for me?" the devil asks. "A favor, for a favor, right? "

"Consider this very opportunity a favor, whoever you are sending me to will be very pleased. I'm sure they will award you."

The bone devil nods, amusement clear in its voice. "Well...that's something for sure. But I was thinking something a little more...immediate. The name's Cain. C-A-I-N. Remember that name. When you get out of here; you summon me and we're square, right? I've got business in your world."

"I'll see what I can do. I'm an exceedingly busy man." Kavos replies nonchalantly.

With a flick of his wrist, Cain presents a contract made of supple hide. "Sign if you please, and I'll fetch who you seek."

Kavos thoroughly looks over the agreement and it seems pretty straight forward. In a nutshell it says that regardless of ANY extenuating circumstances that Kavos will summon Cain, or arrange for him to be summoned, and turned loose onto the material plane left to his own devices within 30 days.

With a shake of his head and a groan, Kavos signs the offered contract. "You devils and your contracts. Is all this really necessary?"

"More often than not." answers a booming, monotone voice from behind Kavos.

As the aging cleric spins on his heels he discovers an ogre sized devil with massive bat-like wings; red, leathery wings and a pair of strangely casual spectacles standing in the middle of the bazaar, sipping a steaming beverage from a large white mug.

"You know what they say," the pit fiend says, staring over the rims of his glasses. "If you don't have it in writing, it didn't happen."

Kavos notices the other, lesser devils giving them a wide berth now. "I...uh...don't believe we've been introduced." he says.

"Cole." the pit fiend says, taking another bored sip. "Used to be a general, but our lord saw something more in me; so he moved me up to management. You're...uh...Kavin, right?"

"Kavos Dasgrograv, Mayor of Westbank and servant of Asmodeus. But you already know that, I'd wager. I have a feeling you already know what I want as well." Kavos says plainly.

"Yeah...about that..." Cole says, enjoying another drink of his beverage. "Asmodeus is a busy deity and weren't expecting you for a while yet. I're not due that spell for another..." glancing at a pocket watch he sucks his dagger-like teeth, "...month or so at least. So we're gonna need you to go ahead and just, go back. M'kay? Just head back until we call for you and we'll let you know when we're ready."

"I might not HAVE another month Cole. I need power, as much as I can possibly obtain if I'm expected to survive what's coming my way." Kavos presses forcefully.

Cole takes another sip, Cole nods slowly. "Well, things do have a way of getting worse before they get better. Tell you what, you know Asmodeus's motto: He helps those who help themselves. Well, the rest of Hell is a little less picky; most are willing to help those willing to I'd start there."

"That's is? I come to pledge myself and request aid and you recommend I hire mercenaries?" Kavos asks incredulously. "I army of men out for my blood and now some mysterious figure is leisurely strolling my way; apparently seeking my head. I have enemies I don't even know of Cole, what am I supposed to do?" he asks, a note of potential panic slipping into his voice.

"This figure, he got a bit 8 on him?" the bone devil asks.

"Yes...oddly enough." Kavos responds. "Two of them in fact, on his forearms."

"See, I knew you could work it out." Cole says and pats Kavos on the back. By the time the cleric's turned around however, the pit fiend has disappeared as quickly as he appeared.

"I heard as much from Hezrael." the bone devil says gleefully. "I know of this man who seeks you, and the others who will follow. Mercenaries, and highly paid." Cain gloats. "Eight men who wage constant war for fun and profit."

"What's so special about these men?" Kavos asks.

"Most cannot truly said to be men at all, least not anymore." Cain replies. "They are skilled and well tested; I've heard of them from the lips of the dead, new souls appear daily who owe their damnation to these 8."

"To whom do they pray?" Kavos asks, hoping to find some common ground with them.

Cain laughs. "One offers prayers to old One Eye, the rest worship the three gods of all men; Platinum, Gold and Silver.

"How do I defeat them?" Kavos asks, cutting to the chase.

Cain begins to speak and then stops, his damnable smile gloating as he feigns a gasp. "THAT is the question my friend, isn't it? The first bit is free, now...what's in it for me?"

Kavos gives the devil a nasty glare. "It would be a shame if this mercenary were to kill me before I could honor our first contract..."

"It would!" Cain agrees earnestly. "You know, we take our contracts quite seriously in Hell; I mean if you can't be bothered to keep your word, then you certainly can't be trusted with any responsibility; right? Mind taking another look at our contract?"

With a finger on the part that reads "Despite ANY extenuating circumstances", Cain clucks his tongue at Kavos disapprovingly.

"Death is an extenuating circumstance, and normally a damned good one." Cain says, "But I do believe it falls under the purview of ANY and as such doesn't absolve you of your legal duties. This is the kind of thing that could hang around your neck for, well...ever."

"Help me, help you Cain." Kavos says exasperatedly.

With a sympathetic sigh, Cain nods his agreement. "Fine, but you owe me a favor." Scribbling a hasty map of the city, the bone devil presses it into Kavos's palm. "Barque is a fine soldier with good men under him. Go here and tell him that I sent you; he can provide you with the reinforcements that you seek."

Muttering his thanks, Kavos follows the directions almost to the other side of the sprawling city, to a courtyard where a bearded devil is shouting at a pack of two dozen Lemure so hard and illegibly that he's turned completely red in the face.

Kavos watches as the bearded devil takes a moment to catch his breath before flying off the deep end again and kicking one of the lemure over, it whines pitifully but this only seems to enrage its attacker further. "NO WONDER you idiots are still lemure. Do you see these? Huh!? See these?" the bearded devil says, pointing at his legs. "These are for people that KNOW HOW TO DO THEIR JOB! I ONLY WISH YOU STUPID LUMPS OF FLESH HAD SOME, SO I COULD PERSONALLY BREAK THEM!!!" the devil screeches, flexing his hands in the universal sign for wanting to strangle something.

"Barque?" Kavos says, questioningly.

The bearded devil spins on its heels. "What do you want, can't you seem I'm busy?" he growls; kicking a second lemure so hard it temporarily loses its shape in order to emphasise his point.

"Obviously." Kavos replies. "But Cain sent me."

A look of relief suddenly washes over Barque's face. "Praise Asmodeus." the wrathful devil shouts. "Here I thought the skull faced bastard was just a cheat. How many did you bring?"

Kavos looks around before responding. "I'm alone...were you expecting something else?"

Barque collapses in disappointment, landing on one of his mistreated lemure. The creature whines a little louder than usual, but doesn't seem inclined to try and dislodge him. "He promised me reinforcements. I'm due on the front lines in a matter of weeks, and all I've got are..."

Barque motions towards the lemure and it seems that one of them found an unattended sword somewhere; it slowly, and seemingly completely by accident, impales one of its fellows. They both begin whining and attempting to slip away from each other, but it forgets to turn loose of the sword and they're stuck fast.

"There has to be some mistake, he told me that you could provide reinforcements." Kavos says, shaking his head.

"That son of a bitch..." Barque replies, messaging his temples. "That's the same thing he did to me. Sent me and my men to meet some cornugon by the name of Wick; said that he'd be able to give us an edge before we shipped out. Instead, my men were conscripted as errand boys and I was left with nothing but our lemure."

"I guess you won't be much help after all then, would you?" Kavos says with a sigh.

Barque leaps up. "Look guy, I'm desperate here. I don't want to go to the front lines and die alone; help me get my men back and I'll owe you one, eh?"

Kavos laughs. "I'm a mere mortal in a land of devils. What do you think I can do?"

Barque scratches his head. "Look, you might be a mortal; but you can step between the planes. I'll admit that I don't know exactly what that means, but I know it means you're worth knowing. You help me out and I'll help you, eh?" the devil says, a pleading note in his voice.

Kavos thinks for a moment and then nods. "I'll help you Barque. When's your deadline?"

"Six weeks." Barque replies immediately.

Kavos figures that leaves him plenty of time. "Alright, I'll see what I can do. If I think of anything, I'll summon you."

Once Kavos slips away from the conned barbazu he makes his way back to the market square to settle up with Cain and prove once and for all that the mayor of Westbank is not to be taken lightly.

Kavos is more than a little perturbed to discover that Cain seemed to have packed up his stall and left while he was running that little errand and is irritated to realize he doesn't have a Plan B for finding him before going home.

"Heard you been wheelin' and dealin' boss." a familiar gravelly voice calls out from nearby.

Kavos spins to face it and watches the imp Hezrael flutter down to perch on a nearby stall.

"If you can call it that." Kavos grumbles. "Devils are a nitpicky bunch."

"There ain't much to do down here other'n try to screw each other over and kiss ass." Hezrael admits.

"So what's your deal?" Kavos asks conversationally. "What swindles are you running?"

Hezrael shrugs. "I try not to get involved in shady business boss. Life's too long to make lasting enemies; I prefer honest work for honest pay. Might not get rich, but the likelihood of getting shanked for it's pretty low."

"Honest work, eh... You want a job?" Kavos asks. "What would it take to add you to the payroll?"

"I want power boss." Hezrael admits. "Ain't much room for glory or advancement for an imp that keeps his head down, but a big score from your world? That could move me up the pecking order."

"Sounds good." Kavos agrees. "Name your terms."

With a flick of his wrist, Hezrael present Kavos with a short and simple employment contract:

"Hezrael has entered into a period of servitude to the priest Kavos; which shall last a period of 50 years or until Kavos's heart ceases to beat. Whichever comes first.
In return for dutiful service, Hezrael is entitled to recompense in the form of a single article of his choosing among the spoils, treasures or favors among Kavos's possession at the time their agreement ends."

Kavos nods and signs, finding the terms agreeable.

"Not that I don't trust ya boss." the imp says. "But you know what they say about havin' it in writing."

After picking up a souvenir obsidian pentagram from the market, Kavos and Hezrael find a nice quiet alley to return home in. With a word of prayer, Kavos casts Dismissal on himself.

He looks around and discovers that he's standing a world of flame and darkness. At first he thinks the spell failed and he's still in Hell; that is until he hears the bestial growls and notices the bulky shadows flicker along the edge of his vision.

Turning around, he spots a 12ft tall humanoid bathed in flame; sporting a set of bull-like horns and leathery wings. That's when it clicks for Kavos, it's not Hell; it's the Abyss. And that? That's a Balor.

The creature raises its arm, a flaming whip held in its hand and brings it down with a savage roar, meaning to strip flesh from bone and limb from limb; however by the time the whip comes down, Kavos has hit himself with his second (and last) Dismissal and finds himself standing in his room once again; a smugly amused Hezrael perched next to him.

No sooner does Kavos shut his door than Eadric decides that Westbank is boring and stupid and not worth wasting a day watching over. After telling Lark to make sure that Kavos isn't disturbed, the kobold leaps upon his dragon's back and orders Ro'than'dur into the sky.

For a couple of hours the two of them drift lazily through the air without direction; Ro'than'dur enjoying the feel of the wind against his face and Eadric just taking the time to get the hang of directing his new mount.

Eadric inquires as to how familiar his reluctant partner is with the surrounding area and Ro'than'dur admits that he rarely ventured beyond his meagre territory; unsure of what slew the rest of his kind but uneager to face it before he was more confident.

With a grin, Eadric asks the dragon how his kind feel about unicorns.

"I've never known another of my kind, nor a unicorn to my knowledge." Ro'than'dur replies. "Though I suspect they're as agreeable as any other creature, once they're in your gullet."

Wanting to get a better sense of what he's gotten himself into, Eadric guides the dragon towards the unicorn's grove; passing easily through the treetops due to the dragon's natural affinity for the forest.

Eadric and the dragon crash into the grove itself, startling a handful of wolves and bears lazily napping in the warm sunlight. One of the wolves leaps up upon finding unexpected visitors in this sacred place and launches itself into the underbrush immediately.

The rest of the animals split their attention between the kobold and glaring dragon and a tense standoff ensues for the better part of fifteen minutes. Finally, the unicorn lumbers out from the forest along with its usual retinue of wolves.

"Dragon whelp." the unicorn says, by way of greeting. "Why do you bring this creature into our home?" it demands, staring Ro'than'dur down.

"The same reason you bring wolves to our meetings." Eadric says, sticking close to his scaly protector. "A demonstration of power to ensure respect."

"A poor demonstration." the unicorn replies, lumbering forward. "We have crushed dragons before; if called upon we can do so again."

Ro'than'dur growls savagely and flares his wings to appear more intimidating, however the unicorn simply snorts derisively. While the dragon has the lean, coiled look of a predator; the unicorn has enough bulk and faded scars to confirm it's noone's prey.

"Easy Ro'than'dur," Eadric says. "I seek knowledge unicorn, nothing more. I wish to know more of my allies; what little I am aware of...disturbs me."

"Ask your questions dragon whelp." the unicorn demands.

"The man Kavos has made cryptic remarks considering the town's sheriff and the mage Rambalt collects the corpses of his own kind. What kind of men have I tossed my lot in with?" Eadric asks.

"Weak and soft, as all men." the unicorn retorts. "The manflesh is agreeable enough when properly motivated, but the mage's stench still haunts our domain. We have seen its abominations...and are unimpressed."

Eadric considers the unicorn's words and quickly remounts Ro'than'dur.

"I appreciate your time." the kobold calls out, as he and his mount take to the air once more; leaving the grove once again.

"What do you think, Ro'than'dur, could you take him?" Eadric asks, now that the dragon's seen what they may be up against.

"I would surely like the chance to try." Ro'than'dur snarls. " doesn't smell like prey."

Eadric tilts his head, "What does it smell like then?"

"Blood." the dragon responds. "Man's blood, beast's blood...something else I don't recognize. It isn't just a horse..."

"Don't get too worked up yet Ro." Eadric calls out. "We're just weighing just weighing our options at the moment."

Drifting through the clouds in silence once more, Eadric has an amusing idea as to how they can spend their day.

"Set down near there." he calls to his mount, pointing at what seems to be just another stand of trees in a forest filled with miles and miles of the stuff. To most eyes, the land would appear overgrown and empty; though as Eadric personally knows, his people make their home just below the surface.

Eadric orders Ro'than'dur to roar as loud as he can manage to alert them to their presence and the dragon obliges; rattling leaves off the trees with the sheer volume of his voice. After a moment or two passes without anything to show for his effort, he does it again.

It's several more minutes before Eadric finallys notices a pair very nervous kobold snouts, sticking out of a nearby bush. They both squeak in surprise and fear when they realize they've been made. One bolts back inside the safety of their home, however the second simply stares open mouthed at the dragon before him, before noticing Eadric next to it.

"N-nihilux?" it stammers. "That you Nihilux?"

"I don't go by that name any longer." Eadric says dangerously, "Nihilux was a filthy, uneducated fool; much like yourself Erwick. He is dead and will NEVER return if I have a say in it. Eadric however HAS returned and brought with him the mighty Ro'than'dur! King of the skies and last of his line."

The kobold stares back at him, obviously confused. " not Ni-"

"Yes. I'm Nihilux and I brought a dragon." Eadric says irritably, remembering why he left these imbeciles in the dirt. "Go get everybody, I want to show them."

"Oh...Yaldin not like that. Yaldin not like that AT ALL." Erwick says, scrambling back inside. Eadric stands cross armed, waiting for the entire warren to come out and behold their new deity, however instead he comes face to face with the chieftain Yaldin.

Now it had been a number of years since Eadric had left and Yaldin was still a young upstart back then; bigger and stupider than the rest of his kind with an emphasis on the bigger, however Eadric is still unprepared for what he sees.

Yaldin is absolute massive, by kobold standards, nearly as large and thick as a dwarf with finely sharpened teeth and a man sized axe strapped to his back. "Take dragon. Go." the brutish chieftain demands.

"Always a pleasure Yaldin." Eadric says, relieved at least to see that he's not grown any sharper. "I see that you've been doing well for yourself."

"No need Nihilux. No need dragon!" Yaldin growls. "Fire God bigger than old gods!"

"Fire God?" Eadric asks, raising a brow. "What makes this 'Fire God' of yours superior to a flesh and blood dragon Yaldin?"

Yaldin smiles smughly and puffs out his chest. "Dragons all die. Fire God lives! Fire God live here now, dragon goes away!"

Glancing at Ro'than'dur, Eadric asks "Know anything about a Fire God Ro?"

The dragon shakes its head. "Knowing your kind, he probably found an old lantern somewhere and prescribed divine significance to it."

Ignoring the insult, Eadric returns his attention to Yaldin. "May I see this Fire God Yaldin, so that I might bask in his magnificence with the rest of my brothers and sisters?"

Yaldin suddenly seems less sure of himself. " No... Fire God is sleeping now...we no wake him."

"This is ridiculous. I challenge your Fire God against MY dragon Yaldin. Winner rules the tribe." Eadric shouts. "If your god can't be bothered to defend his own name, then what use is he?"

"He no need defend name. He have me." Yaldin says proudly.

Eadric laughs. "Fine then, I accept your challenge. Gather the tribe so that they may see me cast you and your false idol down."

Yaldin nods and turns around as if to do as he's bid, however instead he spins around with his axe held in both hands and a bloodthirsty howl in his throat; Eadric tilts his head back just quick enough to avoid having it taken off his shoulders and responds by lashing out with a a front kick of his own, which Yaldin brings his axe back just in time to block, but is staggered backwards.

"If that's how you want it Yaldin, we'll settle this with the Old Ways." Eadric says, assuming a martial arts stance.

"Let's do it." Yaldin says with a toothy grin, hefting his axe up in a defensive posture and leaping back into his bush; disappearing form sight. Eadric can hear the chieftain screaming for his guards the whole way.

With a sigh, Eadric remembers why he's always hated the Old Ways.

Eadric leaps down after the cowardly Yaldin and lands, striking a dramatic pose for any potential onlookers. He hears a sudden *click* and looks up just in time for an 80lb stone block to swing directly into his chest, tossing him off his feet and knocking the wind out of him.

As the injured kobold rolls to his feet a group of four spear wielding warriors emerge from a side tunnel and all attempt to stab him. He dodges and weaves past their attacks and leaps into the air, delivering a powerful donkey kick into the chest of one warrior and launching himself in a devastating Falcon Punch into the face of a second. They both collapse without so much as a squeak and the remaining warriors flee screaming down two separate passages.

Still rubbing his bruised chest, Eadric drinks an Invisibility extract and slips down the eastern tunnel after one of the fleeing kobolds; he manages to find the irritating creature waiting patiently by a false column meant to bring the whole roof down on the heads of intruders. Slipping behind the devious little monster, Eadric grabs the kobold in a chokehold and puts him to sleep before continuing along his way, his invisibility spent.

Turning the corner he's ambushed by a pair of kobold spearmen and an elderly wiseman, one of the spearmen pierces Eadric's side painfully, but he manages to dodge the second attack. Now bloody and bruised, Eadric leaps into the air performs a split kick; knocking them both out cold and landing before the wiseman who takes a deep breath and unleashes an ear-splitting scream which disorients Eadric for a moment and makes his ears bleed. Before the sorcerer can open his mouth for a second attempt however, Eadric punches him in the throat and shuts him up.

Warriors begin rushing from the west, behind Eadric, and he presses on further into the tunnel; running face first into a pair of crossbowmen who seem to have been waiting for him. Only one bolt hits and it barely nicks him, however every scratch and bump slows him down that much more.

Eadric finally takes note of how many warriors are rushing from the west, counting eight among them, and quickly darts to the south and into yet another tunnel, just in time to see a squad of four more warriors and another sorcerous wiseman cutting off his retreat.

Doubling back the way he came, Eadric dodges a pair of crossbow bolts and most of the attempts to stab him, but is backed into a corner by the throng of soldiers. He unleashes his newly acquired acid breath and eight kobolds, along with their weapons and armor are reduced to little more than gooey slag.

Before he has the chance to catch his breath, the crossbowmen have each pelted him with another bolt and the squad of soldiers and the sorcerer emerge from their tunnel and a pair of dire weasels accompanied by four more spearmen rush from the western tunnel.

Eadric assumes a stance and goes on the defensive, however the sorcerer mutters something and the floor is covered in a thick layer of grease. Despite Eadric's insane Reflex save, he somehow manages to trip and fall on his ass.

The soldiers move in to take advantage of his prone status and several more bleeding wounds appear in his side. The kobold staggers to his feet, eating several AoO's and tries to back away; tripping and falling once more.

One of the dire weasels manage to slip through the crowd of stabhappy warriors and latches onto Eadric's leg painfully. Gritting his teeth against the pain, he snatches a vial from his belt and upends it into his open mouth and takes a deep breath.

The crossbowmen and warriors in the back only manage to see a burst of flame envelop half the combatants and Eadric emerge from the ashes. The remaining 4 spearmen charge the waiting Eadric and the first two receive broken ribs from a savage snap kick.

Eadric flips away from the rest of them and lands next to the sorcerer. The spearmen charge, however he sidesteps their attacks and when the sorcerer begins muttering the words of his spell, Eadric breaks his jaw with a quick punch.

The remaining dire weasel charges into the fray while Eadric is distracted and attempts to latch onto one of the kobold's flailing arms, distracting him enough for the spearfighters to back out of range and allow the crossbowmen another shot.

One bolt flies wide, the other crits and embeds itself painfully in Eadric's shoulder; dropping his health below the halfway point as he finally shakes off the weasel and tumbles over to the spearmen.

Eadric attempts to take them both out with a roundhouse kick. The first is struck in the face and knocked to the floor unconscious, the second ducks under the kick and responds by stabbing Eadric in the side.

Eadric snarls and prepares to knock him out, when he hears yet MORE spearmen marching from the south. Instead, the wily martial artist vaults over the warrior's head and pins the kobold's speararm behind its back; wrapping arm arm around the warrior's neck and shouting that if anyone moves he'll kill him.

The crossbowmen exchange glances and the approaching squad shuffle forward slowly, Eadric realizes that he's only bought himself a handful of seconds and begins inching back down the western tunnel; hostage in tow. However as he begins to pass a north facing side tunnel, a massive axe buries itself in his side.

With a pained shout, Eadric snaps his hostage's neck and spins to face Yaldin's ambush, managing to land a kick square in the chieftain's chest and knocking the breath from the burly kobold.

Now bleeding profusely, Eadric dodges a second attack from the increasingly enrage Yaldin as well as another attempted bite from the dire weasel. With a skillfully executed snap kick, Eadric manages to knock the weasel out cold and land a blow against Yaldin's side.

Yaldin responds with a rage backed Power Attack and manages to connect, dropping Eadric down to just barely above single digit HP. Eadric leaps into the air and delivers a devastating dropkick directly into Yaldin's chest which shatters bone and sends the chief tumbling head over heels backwards.

He prepares to finish Yaldin off, when a pair of bolts whiz past his head and another squad of guards come rushing from the north tunnel.

Glancing around and figuring that he's more or less cornered at this point, Eadric abandons Yaldin and charges to the east at full speed; directly at the reloading crossbowmen. He notices one of them smile and realizes at the last second that he's played into their hands...or rather, nearly did.

He leaps with everything he's worth, only noticing the tightly drawn razorwire AFTER he's cleared it and extends both arms; clotheslining both crossbowmen so hard he snaps their necks outright.

The remaining warriors surge towards him with a heroic battlecry and with an irritable growl, Eadric takes a deep breath exhales another gout of flame into their midst; setting a good number of them on fire and reducing them to charred husks.

The handful of warriors which remain, look at each other; look at Eadric; realize that Yaldin has abandoned them and to a man drop their spears, raising their hands.

"We done. No fight, we done." one of them offers helpfully.

Eadric pants, his eyes dancing wildly as he downs a a CLW extract. "How do I know I can trust you?" he demands.

The same one glances around, then back at Eadric and replies "Cause...we done."

"You recognize ME as the strongest then?" Eadric asks.

They all nod in absolute agreement. "Oh yep. Nihilux is chief now; Yaldin cut and run."

"Well..." Eadric says, wiping blood from his mouth. "Messier than I would have liked, but mission accomplished..." he says, glancing around at the numerous dead and injured among the forces he came to recruit. "I guess..."

Pointing at one of the warriors he shouts "You! Round everybody up and herd them topside, there's something I want you to see."

It doesn't take long for the forest to fill with the gawking faces of kobold; all awed at the sight of a real dragon, even one as young and inexperienced as Ro'than'dur. Half of the population drop to one knee reverently, the rest are too distracted by all the sunshine and fresh air to do much more than huddle together for safety and glance longingly at their little hole in the ground.

"As you can see, THIS is a true god." Eadric shouts. "Mighty and visible! HE deserves your piety...and he serves me." the kobold says, to the gasps of his assembled kin. "Now, somebody show me to this false idol of Yaldin's. SHOW ME the weak and ineffectual Fire God so that I may strike it down!"

The kobolds chatter nervously among themselves, and Erwick steps out of the crowd. "I show you..." he mutters, leading Eadric through the warrens and into Yaldin's private quarters. Eadric recognizes the Fire God immediately upon entering.

A reddened brass statue, resembling a mighty dwarf with flames replacing the hair and beard stands here emitting tremendous heat. Eadric reaches out to touch it and immediately pulls his hand back in pain. He looks at the forming blister in amazement and then turns to face Erwick with open mouthed awe.

"Does it speak?" Eadric asks.

Erwick nods. "The Fire God whispers, but only to Yaldin. We can't hear, but Yaldin....Yaldin knows..."

He pulls upon his impressive reportoire of knowledge for what this might be, but comes up empty. It appears to resemble an Azer, from the elemental plane of fire, but that explains very little.

Questions swimming in his mind, Eadric decides against smashing such an intriguing find in a display of bravado and instead orders Yaldin's quarters sealed up. Any kobold that even attempts to go near the room is to be executed as a warning to the others.

Returning to the surface, Eadric calls for everyone's attention. He explains that Ro'than'dur will stay to govern and protect them, however he must return to the human settlement of Westbank and confer with his associates.

Ro'than'dur is a little put out to be abandoned like this, but Eadric explains that kobold society isn't exactly stable; he explains how he had to kill a sizable chunk of the population just to get their attention and that he doesn't feel like doing THAT again. Ro'than'dur growls and barks at a group of kobolds to start widening the entrance because he's NOT sleeping outside.

They leap to do as they're bid and the dragon smiles.

Eadric assures Ro'than'dur that this is only temporary, assures the kobolds that he intends on bringing them into a new age of prosperity and assures Erwick that he will personally break his legs if anybody touches the Fire God while he's gone. With mixed emotions all around, Eadric sets out on the long walk home.

Kavos finds himself in the home of his youth, only...different. Twisted and more sinister than he remembers; with more doors than he remembers, leading to rooms he never visited. He hears a voice calling him into a cellar he doesn't remember having, a voice that he cannot ignore.

Entering the cellar, Kavos is relieved to find it empty. Just an old dirt floor and low, wooden walls. Looking down, he notices a large 8 drawn in the dirt of the floor. It's strange, he feels like he should recognize that number for some reason. Looking around, he realizes why; it's on the walls...every few steps is a new one in fact.

Glancing around nervously, the number is everywhere; he moves go back upstairs when he realizes he isn't in his nonexistent childhood cellar, but the Duke's dungeon. His hands and feet are chained and his body is covered in scars and burns from the Duke's interrogators.

He starts to scream wordlessly, when an inhumanly monotone voice admonishes him for forgetting his station. He's the Mayor of Westbank for the gods' sake.

Kavos's head whips around feverishly, trying to spot the source of the voice when he finds it standing directly in front of him. A horrible abomination with rubbery, purple skin and sall slits for eyes; a quartet of thick, three foot long tentacles extend from the creature's face and viscous saliva drips from its horrible concealed mouth. Upon its bloated forehead is a single notable mark: a simple 8.

Kavos feels the things tendrils digging painfully into the flesh of his throat as he feels his very life being slowly squeezed from him. Kavos thrashes to the best of his ability, trying to free himself of the inhuman monster attempting to devour his mind.

He chokes and sputters as he attempts to pull away until finally, he slams face forward onto his bedroom floor; his covers dragged from the bed with him. He finds that he's painfully short of breath, but try as he might he can't take more than the tiniest gulp of air.

He staggers to his feet in the pitch black room and lights a candle to find his way around. As he stumbles, still half asleep, towards the mirror he realizes it was only a dream; he's all alone in a familiar room and yet...

As he glances in the mirror he has to ask himself: If it was all a simple dream...where did the thick bruises around his throat come from?


First Post
It's been two days since the events of our last session and Kavos has spent the time capturing local ghouls and sacrificing them in Barque's name. Whatever's left of their souls going to bolster his fiendish ally.

Bartan, Rutgard and Lark have followed through with their promise and have a militia of roughly 30 good men standing by to assist the town. They're still only in training, but they're enthusiastic.

Eadric has spent this time trying to figure out the mystery of the Fire God; but so far all he's found are interesting facts about Azer. Such as: Azer like brass. Azer don't like efreeti. Azer burn things.... It's been less than enlightening, and nothing tells him what the object is doing on this plane; let alone what it could be.

Eadric's finally fed up and goes to Rambalt to demand the bookish mage move in with the kobolds and study the thing first hand...that is until he sees what Rambalt's working on. A pair of roughly mansized effigies with reptilian features and large, vicious talons. They're made of iron, wood and leather. Eadric realizes he's heard of these things before, they supposedly haunt the southern jungles...he believes they're called velociraptors.

Eadric actually gasps and rushes over, running his hands over the mechanical creatures.

Rambalt smiles "Always glad when somebody appreciates my work." he says, wiping his brow as he lays down the unfinished leg of a third effigy. "I wanted to experiment with this model before I moved on to the more complicated and dangerous varieties."

"What are these for?" Eadric asks, lost in his own little world.

"Hopefully to supplement our defenses." Rambalt replies. "A few dozen of these would give us a squad of infantry that could outpace cavalry. They're as strong and fast as the beasts they mimic, but not so hearty...luckily, they're relatively simple to replace if need be."

Eadric stares at the effigies in wonderment. "Rambalt...forget what I said, you stay here. I'll go study the idol. Just keep working!" the little kobold nearly shouts, sweeping an armful of books related to the planes into a sack and taking off for the warrens without further warning.

Kavos calls the imp Hezrael into his room and asks about his relationship to the bone devil Cain. Hezrael explains that their relationship pretty much revolved around Hezrael passing him rumors and gossip for a paycheck.

"He wants to come to the material plane." Kavos says. "Any idea why?"

The imp shrugs. "He does that every now and then. I guess he's collecting on debts or trying to make a deal. I can guarantee it's gonna ruin SOMEBODY's day boss."

Kavos suggests that Hezrael use his 1/week Commune ability to contact Cain and make sure THEIR day isn't going to be the one to get ruined.

Hezrael nods and presses a finger to his ear. After a second or two Kavos hears him ask "So, Cain..I hear you're coming to the Material Plane pretty soon. I'm assuming you've heard about my new partnership, just wanted to make sure we don't have anything to look out for." Hezrael gives Kavos a silent thumbs up. "Uh-huh... Well who does?"

"Uh-huh..." Hezrael mutters, looking at Kavos he asks "Hey boss, you know anyone in Dera Morea?"

Kavos shakes his head. "I don't know anyone in the desert...that I know of." Kavos replies. The destination doesn't surprise Kavos however, pretty much the only people that live in Dera Morea are the outlaws and lunatics that were driven from 'civilized' lands.

Hezrael nods and flashes another thumbs up. "Well how long is that going to take? Uh-huh... Well, while you're here why don't you keep an eye out for our thing, 'eh?" the imp asks, before realizing how little time he has left "Ok...ok, I gotta go." Hezrael says quickly as his Communion finally ends.

Looking up at Kavos, Hezrael explains "Some poor schmuck in the desert thinks going lich is a valid alternative to paying his dues. Cain disagrees. Wants to go out there and collect personally."

Not an unreasonable request; all things considered, Kavos thinks to himself. "I can see his urgency. I'll make arrangements for tomorrow." he tells the imp.

"Be careful around him boss. He's quick to deal, but won't part with anything more than he has to." Hezrael warns.

Kavos smiles. "The same can be said of me."

Eadric arrives at the warren early the next day. The guards all bow and scrape before him as he makes his way into the former chieftain's hall which now holds the young green dragon Ro'than'dur. Eadric's forced blood brother lounges languidly as kobolds rush around nervously, tending to his every desire.

With more than a little disgust for his kind's...well everything, Eadric asks "Ro'than' would you like the claim the warren as your own? You lead them, instead of me."

The dragon almost purrs as his frightened servants continue to pamper him. "I could see that. It is the natural order of things after all."

"See?" Eadric asks. "Blood rituals aside, this partnership actually has its benefits."

Ro'than'dur snorts. "There are some." he reluctantly agrees.

With a truly half-assed speech, Eadric explains that the kobolds now directly serve their new deity with no mouthpieces to muddle his edicts. Eadric leaves out that he considers them nothing but disgusting savages and can't stand the sight of them.

Despite renouncing his official station, the kobolds remain respectful of Eadric; considering he beat a fair number of them half to death or better. The ones set to guard the Fire God proudly announce that nobody's gotten through in all this time.

Eadric orders them out of the way and they scurry out of his sight. He then goes about laying is borrowed books out in Yaldin's old room so that he can study the idol directly. For several hours he pores over the books, finding nothing that shines any light over the idol's origins or use.

But then he hears it. A faint whispering, the words unfamiliar... He drinks an extract of Comprehend Languages and it immediately comes into focus.

"Offer to me a sacrifice little kobold. Prove your worth as the last chief did." the whispers demand.

Eadric bristles. "And what did you give him in return for such loyalty?" he asks.

"His deepest desires." the whispers respond. "Strength, prosperity...the clan."

Eadric smirks. "For all the good it did him, he wasn't strong enough to best me and now I have the clan."

"He asked for too little in return." the whispers assure Eadric.

Eadric laughs. "I care not for this clan or its prosperity; you won't find me such an easy mark."

"What of your own?" the voice asks. "I have so much to offer..."

"To me, it looks like you're the one who's stuck here. If you ever want to get free, you need me; not the other way around." Eadric states boldly.

A rumbling laugh echoes in Eadric's head. "You offer me freedom little kobold? How can you deal with something that you yourself lack?" the whisper chides.

Feeling himself flush in anger, Eadric shouts "Explain spirit!"

"You are a slave to time; as all your kind. Assuming you survive the coming storm, you will wither and die long before you find the acceptance you pursue. Your life is measured in heartbeats and you waste too many of them groveling for your next meal." the voice chuckles.

Eadric holds his head up high. "I don't want for much spirit, and what I do desire has a way of becoming mine. Stop speaking in riddles or I'll find a hole to bury you in."

The spirit seems unimpressed. "You want enough." it replies. "Ask yourself what you're chasing...THAT is what I offer. You claim to have no attachment to this clan...then prove it. Burn one of your own in my name and I will show you true power."

"I desire knowledge spirit." Eadric says. "To be the cleverest in all the land. Surely you can't-" the kobold starts with a scoff, before being cut off.

"Trivial." the spirit replies, dripping with self assurance.

Eadric stops mid sentence before stumbling over himself to the exit. "Alright then. Wait here and I'll fetch you a sacrifice. One of my own!"

Around midday there is a knock at Kavos's door. He finds Sheriff Longarm and Father Adrian standing outside. He asks them in and invites them to sit down for a glass of wine. Longarm refuses, stating that he doesn't drink anymore but Adrian accepts a glass.

"Curtis and I were talking," Adrian starts as they seat themselves around Kavos's dining room table. "With everything that's been happening lately, we think it's time to have a serious discussion about our defenses."

Longarm clears his throat. "I'm assuming you've heard of Blackstone Keep? Hell, I'm positive you have. It's the only thing worth knowing about around here."

Kavos nods.

Father Adrian nods, "It used to be the seat of power for the whole region... It fell long ago, but never to invaders. The Duke's men required treachery to penetrate its defenses." the elderly priest explains from personal experience. "I've been using Blackstone's dungeons in my experiments for years, but the rest of the castle is still serviceable."

Kavos raises an eyebrow. "What do you propose? Would it fit our whole town?"

"Everyone that's left." Adrian says with a sigh.

"When was the last time you were up there? Is the path to the keep safe, or have ghouls reached the area?" Kavos fires off quickly.

"I'm not sure." Adrian admits. "The last time I was there was when the ghouls attacked the town; I haven't went back since for fear of the town falling in my absence."

Kavos sips his wine silently for a moment. "What's the earliest we can have the town ready to evacuate?"

Longarm cuts Adrian off, "The farmers would have to bring in their crops first, otherwise you'd just sit up there and starve."

"Harvest is nearly over." Adrian points out, "Only a week or two left, and we could begin moving everyone else in the meantime."

"Does it need repairs?" Kavos asks.

"Numerous." Adrian replies. "It's sturdy, but hasn't been lived in for forty years. Everything SHOULD be replaced and it needs considerable cleaning, but it will serve its purpose even as it is."

Kavos considers this for a moment. "Longarm, are the scouts reporting ghoul activity?"

Longarm shakes his head.

"Alright, meet up with Bartan and the militia; lead them to the keep and clear a path if need be. Adrian, once they're done you need to clean up any projects you've still got going; make sure that the dungeons are inaccessible." Kavos orders. "While they're gone however, I need you to help me explain the move to the civilians."

They work fast, and while the citizens mutter complaints nobody wants to be left behind. Bartan returns with half a dozen men in the evening to report that while ghoul activity is almost nonexistant, the path to the keep simply isn't fit for a wagon. He stresses how dangerous it would be to actually move a large number of people with the roads in this condition, but assures Kavos that he can have it fixed; he just needs supplies.

Kavos gives him free reign over the stores with only a single demand: Have it done by the end of the week.

Bartan admits that it's not really his area of expertise, but figures that even minimal repairs would at least make the path traversible and agrees to Kavos's timeline.

Before he goes, Kavos utters a theatrical prayer. "Pelor be with your and your endeavor." the cleric offers.

Bartan looks uncomfortable, unsure of how to respond. "Uhh..yeah. You too?"

Eadric takes Ro'than'dur and rides to the unicorn's grove; finding the great beast surrounded by its followers in the its tranquil clearing. The unicorn snorts irritably when they come into view.

"A pleasure as always." Eadric says, leaping from his dragon's back.

"What do you seek dragon whelp?" the unicorn demands.

"I need your assistance," Eadric admits. "And if I receive it, then I think I can offer you something very interesting in return."

"We're listening." the unicorn says with a tilt of its head.

Eadric quickly explains about the Fire God's promises and that he wants the unicorn to help locate Yaldin. Eadric offers the idol to the unicorn in exchange for Yaldin.

"It promises to grant ANY wish." Eadric says enticingly.

The unicorn snorts. "What use would we have for a statue full of empty promises?"

Eadric is taken aback, but recovers quickly. "For your wolves, tracking Yaldin down would be trivial. With but a word you could drag the chieftain before us. This creature is of another world, the mage and I can both verify that. Surely that alone would be worth a simple word or two?"

The unicorn considers these words for a moment and then nods towards one of the wolves. The creature bolts off into the underbrush without a sound.

It takes a number of hours, but eventually Yaldin is dragged from the underbrush by a handful of wolves. The kobold chieftain seems smaller and frailer than the last time Eadric saw him; covered in scratches and bite marks. He's barely conscious.

Eadric draws his hand back and slaps Yalding across the face to wake him up. Yaldin howls as he sits up.

"This Fire God of yours is offering me a reward for sacrificing you." Eadric bluffs, "He must really want you dead."

Yaldin visibly shudders, "F-f-fire God knows I serve...he change mind."

"Well, we can see about that when I bring you to him." Eadric says with a grin, "Or, maybe you can answer a few questions and I let you go...starting with, where did you find the 'Fire God'?"

Yaldin glances around nervously before admitting that he didn't find it, other kobolds did...but they aren't around to ask anymore.

"What did you wish for Yaldin? What did you want so badly that you would sacrifice kin?" Eadric demands.

"Strength." Yaldin replies simply, drawing Eadric's mind to the kobold's unnaturally massive physique.

Eadric shakes his head and thanks the unicorn for his assistance, promising to uphold his end of the bargain soon. He then mounts Ro'than'dur and returns to the warren with Yaldin in tow. He drags Yaldin to the idol, repeating his demand to know where the Fire God was found or else he swears he'll do to Yaldin what Yaldin did to the tribe.

The second Yaldin sees the idol however, he rushes to it and throws his arms around the statues waste, gibbering something that sounds like a prayer the whole time. Smoke rises from where his flesh makes contact, but the zealous kobold refuses to let go even as he catches fire and his body begins to blacken.

Eadric curses and tries to pry Yaldin off the idol with a spear, but he can't even budge Yaldin thanks to his immense strength. He continues trying however and to his horror Yaldin falls away to ashes.

An amused voice echoes in Eadric's head "An eager servant to the end..." it whispers, and Eadric realizes his perceptions are expanding...his mind seems quicker and more focused. Focused enough to realize that this is a bad idea.

"Do you enjoy the feeling of true genius?" the voice asks.

"Whatever you did to's unnatural. What hold did you have over him?" Eadric demands. "What did you do to make him so eagerly throw himself into death?!"

The voice chuckles. "Not death, little kobold. New life. He prayed and I listened..."

Eadric stiffens, "You mean...Yaldin still lives?"

"Somewhere." the voice replies. "Not really in the spirit of my request to attempt to sacrifice one of my own worshipers. But a deal was a deal, so enjoy my gifts...for the next 72 hours. Then you may find new ways to serve me."

Eadric shakes his head, ordering the kobolds to fashion some sort of sledge to carry the statue with. "It's not worth it..." he whispers to the statue. "I was bluffing you sick bastard, I wasn't going to sacrifice Yaldin; I just wanted to know what you were. Luckily, you're not my problem anymore."

Ignoring the idol's protests, Eadric uses Ro'than'dur to haul it into the unicorn's grove. The beast sneers as they approach and expresses genuine surprise that Eadric fulfilled his end of the bargain.

Eadric tells the unicorn about the events involving the idol and the great beast scoffs, but then suddenly its ears perk up and it regards the idol intently.

"Be careful unicorn, Yaldin went crazy because of this thing...I saw madness, real madness, in his eyes. I no longer think this should be trifled with." Eadric warns.

The unicorns eyes are focused intently on the idol. "We are..acquainted with madness." the unicorn says dismissively, stepping towards the idol intently. "Now leave us with our prize...we require privacy."

"You don't even speak the language." Eadric says, "I really think I should stick around to-"

"LEAVE!" the unicorn barks, digging at the ground threateningly.

Leaping onto Ro'than'dur's back, Eadric shouts that he'll be in Westbank when the unicorn needs him; and with that they take to the air and leave the grove behind.

The next day begins with Kavos fulfilling his bargain with Cain and summoning the bone devil onto the material plane.

Cain takes a deep breath and glances around. "I see you finally got around to it." the devil says snarkily.

"Just...enjoy your stay Cain." Kavos says dismissively.

With a grin, the bone devil replies "Oh, I always do." and disappears before Kavos's eyes.

Kavos's player comments that the world becomes a slightly more cheerful place, every week they're in it. I point out that they've at least stopped exposing the population to highly infectious cannibal plagues, they accept that as a win.

Meanwhile, Eadric has returned to town in his usual secretive manner and is freaking right the hell out to Rambalt about what he's discovered concerning the Fire God. Rambalt doesn't like ANYTHING about this situaion; specifically the part about the crazy unicorn having possession of an evil fire idol that apparently grants wishes.

Eadric winces. "Yeah, that...that's on me. Things were escalating quickly and I really didn't want to see how they turned out, so I dumped the idol on the unicorn. I thought he'd smash it for us...but in hindsight I probably should have confirmed that before making the deal..."

Rambalt groans, but before they can continue their conversation a commotion begins arising outside. The townspeople are shouting excitedly.

Eadric excuses himself and runs outside to find a crowd surging towards the jailhouse. He notices Kavos leaving his own home and the two make their way towards the excitement. As they get closer they can hear people shouting "They caught a spy! A duke spy!"

Eadric and Kavos exchange nervous glances and press through the crowd after the deputies, they finally slip into the building and bar the door to the public. The three deputies have already forced their 'guest' into the only remaining cell and turn excitedly to tell Kavos about how they caught him hanging out in the woods.

The man himself is tall and leanly muscled with close cropped blonde hair and sharp blue eyes; he wears nice, but functional, clothing that accentuates his impressive physique. His arms are bare and a large 8 has been tattooed on each of them.

As the deputies are excitedly recounting their tale, the man interrupts. "You Kavass?" he asks casually. "You look like the boss...which must make you Kavass."

Kavos stands tall. "That's mayor Dasgrograv miscreant. What are you doing here?" the cleric asks forcefully.

"Where's Grendel?" the man asks, ignoring the question.

"You don't get to ask questions, do you not see the situation you're in?" Kavos asks, motioning towards the armed men which surround him.

"Is he at least in this room?" the man asks with a sigh. "Are you Grendel? How about you? You? You?" he asks each of the occupants in turn. "Anybody know where Grendel is?"

Looman looks at Kavos and then at the man. "You mean..Gandil?"

The man snaps his fingers "That's it! Why, what did I say?"

Kavos suddenly gets an uneasy feeling from this man and asks Devon "Where are the weapons you confiscated from him?"

Devon shakes his head, "He didn't have any."

Kavos suddenly goes white and orders the deputies to leave.

"NOBODY is going anywhere, until you tell me where Grendel...err...Gandil is." the man snaps.

"None of them are Gandil, he's not here." Kavos says, drawing the prisoner's attention so that the deputies can try to disperse the crowd.

"Then I guess it's just you, eh Kavass?" the man asks, resting his hands against the bars of his cell leisurely.

"If I allow you to take me...will Westbank be spared?" Kavos asks.

The man shrugs. "No idea what they want with Westbank, I'm just here for you. I can say with certainty though that if you come with me then only one person in this room has to die."

"You talk big for a man in your situation." Kavos says, trying to buy time.

With a flick of the man's hand the lock shatters and the cell door groans open, obviously warped from the pressure. "Is this a better situation?" the man asks threateningly. "It'll go easier if you don't resist. I mean, we both know how this is going to go, right?"

"I'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree." Kavos says, quickly casting Bestow Curse.

The man smiles as he easily makes his save. He throws a wild swing and Kavos stumbles over himself backwards to escape, the man's arm punctures directly through the wall next to Kavos and as he withdraws it and shakes off debris they can see sunlight shining through.

The man assumes a pugilist stance and begins bobbing back and forth. "I gave you a chance, don't say I didn't... I am Dolph, the Fist. Newest member of The 8 and undefeated by man or beast."

Then as an afterthought, Dolph adds "And since nobody seems to know where the hell Grendel is, I guess I'll just have to kill everyone in this damned town to be safe."

It's at this point that Eadric's player actually puts everything together and realizes who he's facing. He shouts "Watch out, this guy killed Appollo Creed! What chance do we have!?"

IC Kavos shouts that Gandil went to Eastbank.

Eadric downs a potion of Thornbody and then leaps into the air, kicking Dolph in the side of the head. Dolph immediately responds by bringing his knee up so hard that it knocks the wind out of Eadric's lungs. Dolph then lands a left right combination on Eadric's face that blacks his eyes.

Eadric manages to squeak out "Kavos, forget this guy! Get Rambalt and the giant!"

Kavos bolts towards the door, stopping to throw out a Hellfire Sound Burst, however the nergy washes over Dolph like water over a duck. Kavos rushes past the gathered crowd, shouting for Rambalt at the top of his lungs.

The deputies form a wall of swords in front of the doorway and Eadric takes a 5ft step backwards before popping a mutagen and using his acid breath. The attack fills the room, but once it dissipates Dolph casually drops from the ceiling with a smirk.

Dolph doesn't care about the kobold at alland rushes out after Kavos, casually clotheslining Horace as he bursts out of the building with enough force to snap the terrified deputy's neck outright, he slides to a stop just past Kavos. "Going somewhere?" the branded mercenary asks with a laugh.

Kavos shouts for everyone to get away from Dolph, that the Duke sent him and he's dangerous; Looman drops to his friend's side to render aid but the fallen deputy was dead before he hit the ground. Before Dolph can make a move, Kavos casts Sanctuary on himself.

Dolph smirks and glances back towards the jailhouse. "Well, you coming kobold?"

Eadric quaffs a firebreath and then rushes out to meet Dolph. The little kobold throws himself at the intimidating human and attempts to drag him down, however Dolph easily shakes him off; before retaliating with a vicious left that knocks teeth out of Eadric's head.

Dolph then launches a dizzyingly fast flurry of punches, but Eadric manages to weave and dodge around them. Kavos glances at the murdered deputy, realizing he's beyond help; the elderly cleric then begins casting Summon Monster IV.

Eadric exhales a tremendous gout of flame at Dolph, which the pugilist manages to simply side step and delivers a torrent of blows which drops Eadric into single digits and rearrange the kobold's face unpleasantly.

Before Dolph can finish the fight however, Kavos's summon goes off and a raging fiendish grizzly bear appears out of nowhere and envelops Dolph in a painful bearhug. Kavos takes this opportunity to slip next to Eadric and cast Cure Serious Wounds. Eadric then exhales a second burst of flame, which Dolph manages to maneuver the bear into but dodges himself.

With a mighty roar, Dolph flips the bear off of himself and snaps the creature's neck outright; before spinning on his heels throwing an uppercut that takes leaves Eadric's head spinning. Kavos casts another Cure spell just to keep Eadric in the positives and starts to reconsider surrender when half a ton of meat and armor crashes into Dolph, knocking him off his feet.

Kavos looks up to see Junior in full plate mail and wielding a strangely designed sword with six smaller blades along its edge (7-branched sword that Gandil designed), the blade looks odd but draws blood easily enough as Junior brings it down into Dolph's side.

Eadric downs a CLW extract and then leaps into the air, kicking Dolph in the back. Kavos casts Cause Fear, but fails to affect the resilient pugilist once more. Dolph delivers a pair of hammerfists to both Eadric and Junior; Eadric collapses to his knees left at only 1hp and Junior's chest caves in despite the armor. Junior stumbles back, gasping for breath and whining pitifully.

Eadric drives himself into Dolph's sternum with all he's worth, knocking the breath out of the large man's lungs and drawing his ire. Miraculously, Dolph's entire retaliatory flurry misses.

Bleeding profusely from their bond, Ro'than'dur suddenly comes barreling out of the sky with a mighty roar and Eadric sees his opportunity, he leaps into the air, snatching his mount's scales and shouts for the dragon not to stop; to go up! Up!

For a moment it occurs to Eadric that he's safe. That he and Ro'than'dur could fly out of here with their tails tucked between their legs and never look back. It occurs to him that that would be the koboldy thing to do...

Grasping Ro'than'dur tightly as the dragon shoots straight up, Eadric's mouth turns into a frown. The would be the koboldy thing to do...the cowardly thing, he reminds himself.

Without a single word or hesitation, Eadric lets go of Ro'than'dur to the dragon's growing horror and surprise. Plummeting from the sky like a bullet Eadric takes a deep breath, and closes his eyes to avoid distractions. At the last minute he turns a flip and plants his foot directly into a very surprised Dolph's face from above.

They're both driven into the ground where they lay bleeding an unmoving.

Kavos immediately rushes to see to their wounds. Eadric is in surprisingly good shape considering what he just did and Kavos manages to get him walking around again fairly easily. Dolph's wounds are stabilized, but left untreated.

Kavos calls for Rambalt and has Dolph bound with everything the mage can bring to bear and then placed in his basement overnight. Looman and Devon are instructed to keep a vigil over him and to stab in the face if he so much as opens his eyes.

Kavos stresses that EVERYONE's lives depends on this and then retires to his room to pray and rest. He has the same dream as before, though this time he manages to wake up before the strange creature began strangling him. He finds that he has a splitting headache regardless.

After recovering his spells, Kavos goes downstairs to meet with the prisoner; deciding to let Eadric rest. The deputies are only too eager to get out of there and rush off as soon as Kavos gives them leave.

Dolph still hangs limply in his chains. Kavos approaches, presses a hand against his chest and chants the prayer for Malediction, damning Dolph to hell in Barque's name.

Imagine his surprise when Dolph opens his eyes wearily and says "Really, we're starting with this already?"

Kavos frowns and tries the spell again, Dolph resists again.

"How about we stop that?" Dolph asks weakly.

"Give in Dolph, you know this isn't going to end pleasantly." Kavos retort irritably.

Dolph laughs, despite his situation. "You're right you know. Way more than you realize. The 8 don't take sh*t from anybody; this whole town's going to die horribly."

Kavos scoffs. "To avenge you?" he asks incredulously.

"To avenge their rep." Dolph replies. "I'm just glad I won't be around to see it."

Kavos launches a battery of spells at Dolph. Bestow Curse, Cause Fear, etc... Until they start sticking, lowering Dolph's willsave bit by bit and generally messing him up.

"Y-y-you've already seen Farakim!" Dolph says, indicating Kavos's bruises.

Kavos pauses for a second. "Farakim?"

Dolph nods. "The Beast. Been having bad dreams? That's h-h-how he starts. I hate to admit it, but I'm small time man. A work in progress; not even been with The 8 a year."

Kavos considers Dolph's words, but realizes there's nothing to be done about them if they're true. "This ends Dolph. No more fighting." the cleric says, laying his hand on Dolph's chest and sending the battered mercenary to hell.

Once he's dead, Kavos casts gentle repose on the corpse; not wanting to waste such a potentially valuable resource.

He then casts Speak With Dead and asks "Truthfully Dolph, are the other 8 coming for me? Well, The 7 now."

"It's always The 8." Dolph corrects him. "They'll replace me soon, just as they always have. But yes, they will be coming. They can't allow a black mark on their record; they'll have to burn the village and scatter the ashes. That's the secret to a perfect witnesses to say otherwise."

"Then make sure Barque has plenty of room." Kavos replies.


First Post
We pick up where we left off last time. Eadric is basically one big, bed-ridden bruise and the town is freaking out. There was only one casualty from Dolph's assault, but without Eadric's suicidal gambit there's no telling what the mercenary would have done.

Having just stolen Dolph's soul as part of his deal with Barque, Kavos decides that he needs to do what he can to salvage this situation. He leaves Eadric to rest and seeks out Elder Hadran, who's doing what he can to calm the jittery townspeople.

Kavos assures each and every one of them that he has this under control and that Horace's sacrifice will be long remembered. He even gifts Horace's younger sister, and only surviving relative, with 100 gold from Ro'than'dur's hoard to help out financially during this trying time.

Between the sum that would've taken her brother years to come close to accumulating and Kavos's insistence that Horace was the true hero of the day, she is considerably overwhelmed and throws her arms around him in a fresh burst of tears.

Kavos comforts her for a time, but eventually has to excuse himself to check on Eadric.

He discovers the battered Kobold resting in bed and pulls a chair up next to him. "Eadric...I just wanted to apologize for the way I treated you when you first arrived. I treated your appointment as something of a joke..but you saved us all yesterday. If you hadn't been here, we would have all been ruined."

Still so swollen that he can barely move, Eadric just smiles smugly. "Well...yeah." he agrees with a nod.

Most of the day is spent resting or tending to the town's needs, as night begins to fall however things pick up considerably. A chorus of panicked shouts ring across town and bring Kavos and the limping form of Eadric out to investigate.

"What's going on?" Eadric shouts irritably.

"The fish people! The fish people are attacking!" a fresh faced militiaman replies, gesturing towards the river where a mass of blue scaled creatures are dragging themselves out of the water and shuffling towards the town's walls.

The poor lighting and the creatures' dark coloration makes determining numbers difficult, but they estimate several dozen at least. At first Kavos suspects treachery, but remembers that the orange scaled locathah are the warriors; the smaller, blue scaled variety seemed to be slaves. Not the most likely choice to lead an invasion.

Of course, Kavos suddenly remembers something that the blue scaled locathah had that the orange didn't...unsupervised time with Gandil. It requires focus, but he notices that most of their attackers are missing chunks of scales and the ones they do have seem dull and mottled.

"Ghouls!" Kavos shouts, leaping off the wall followed by the groaning Eadric.

The horde is advancing steadily, but slowly. The creatures are unsuited for life on land, but have a worrying enthusiasm all the same. Both Kavos and Eadric take this opportunity to pour what healing they have into the kobold and they managed to get Eadric back up to half health and relieve the worst of his injuries.

Eadric and Kavos inch towards the river, keeping their eyes on the amphibious ghouls every step of the way. The slavering horde is comically slow, barely shuffling towards them and they take the opportunity to position themselves.

As the ghouls grow closer Eadric releases his acidic breath into the trunk of an ancient tree, catching three of the reanimated locathah in his blast and liquefies them almost completely. The tree sags a bit, but stays upright. Kavos Commands Undead and seizes a trio of ghouls near the front of the horde, turning them against their fellows to slow their advance even more.

The horde continues its steady pace and though a handful stop to attack Kavos's stolen ghouls, the majority simply push past them in search of prey.

Eadric charges and performs a dramatic jump kick into the weakened trunk of the damaged tree; the whole thing groans as it slowly topples over, crushing several more ghouls outright and pinning three others. Kavos's ghouls manage to drag down a pair of hostile ghouls between them before they are torn apart in turn, while Kavos himself brings his walking stick down on the head of a pinned ghoul, attempting to finish it off without much luck.

More of the blue scaled ghouls begin to drag themselves out of the river, however they are pulled back beneath the water instead. Eadric shouts a warning for Kavos to haul ass away from the tree and the second the elderly priest stumbles clear, he quaffs a potion of fire breath and sets the whole thing ablaze.

A group of four ghouls charge the distracted Kavos, however he uses Command Undead again and turns them against each other. The fighting is brief, but brutal and the wounded survivors are ordered into the flames. A large ghoul lunges for Eadric, but the kobold easily dodges its clumsy grapple attempt and caves in its skull with a leaping roundhouse kick.

As the trickle of ghouls dries up, and blue scaled corpses begin surfacing and floating downstream, five orange scaled locathah wielding spears climb out of the water. Kavos calls out for Eadric not to engage them, that these locathah are allies.

Eadric responds with a thumbs up and a burst of fiery breath that reduces a group of three ghouls to ashes. Kavos seizes control of yet more ghouls, using them as a barrier between himself and the horde; while the orange scaled locathah shuffle forward at full speed to render what assistance they may.

Kavos continues directing groups of ghouls against themselves as Eadric throws himself headlong into the fray, leaving battered and broken corpses in his wake. The orange locathah pick off stragglers as they catch them and Longarm, along with Devon and Looman, emerge from the town to help hold the line.

It's going pretty well until one of the ghouls finally manages to nick Eadric and sends him toppling to the ground, muscles locked in paralysis. No longer a blur of motion, five other ghouls take the opportunity to sink their claws and teeth into the helpless kobold. In a single turn he goes from nearly 40 hp to around 3. He's got three more turns before the paralysis doesn't look hopeful.

Kavos turns the ghouls closest to Eadric against their kin, hoping to buy him a few moments while the hidden imp Hezrael casts Floating Disk from the sidelines and uses it to slowly maneuver Eadric away from the horde and towards the orange scaled locathah who seem to be pleased that their enemies are now coming towards them.

Within another two rounds the last of the hostile ghouls have fallen and Kavos casts his dominated handful into the flames once more. The remaining locathah seem out of breath and not a single one speaks common.

They briefly attempt pantomime before Hezrael telepathically steps in as an interpreter and explains that the ghouls overran the Tso'cha quarantine, but they insist they have things under control now. Kavos expresses his gratitude, before indicating the mountains and informing the locathah they the town will be relocating shortly.

The locathah reply that the Asch'al will devour themselves shortly and the situation will settle itself, but Kavos explains that West Bank has other enemies and that this must be goodbye for now. The locathah bow deep and return to the comfort of the river once more.

Kavos returns home, his mind racing. Eadric weakly rolls of his Disk and just lays in the mud; figuring that the locathah have the situation in hand and that this is as good a place to rest and/or die as any.

Settling into his room, Kavos casts Sending directed at the bone devil Cain. The message is simple: "Hope you’re enjoying your time here. I have a job only one of your esteem could help with."

"I'm always eager for new business opportunities. I'll be there shortly." Cain replies.

Taking a deep breath, Kavos sits down and writes up a contract of his own as he waits for the bone devil to appear. As if on cue, Cain shows up just as the last i is dotted and t crossed.

"So, you have need of my services?" Cain asks, amusement twinkling in his predatory eyes.

"A simple matter, for one such as you, but I need this settled quickly." Kavos replies. "I need mercenaries, the bloodiest most barbaric brigands you can find to be exact, and I need them to burn this town to the ground. I need this done within the week."

Cain's amusement grows. "I can have them here by morning."

"No, that's too soon." Kavos says with a shake of his head."The townspeople have to be ready to leave or we'll actually be ruined. I only need them to to THINK that we're losing ground. In truth we're trading up; it's just harder to have second thoughts when your home has been turned to ashes."

Cain nods. "Anything else?"

"I need Barque and his men released to me for a time, disguised as humans." Kavos explains.

"Naturally. Wouldn't want the taint of Hell in your town, after all." Cain says mockingly.

Kavos shakes his head. "I want them marked with the symbols of Asmodeus."

Cain seems a little taken aback by this. "Oh?" he asks curiously.

"Pelor has been taking credit for this town's successes for too long, it's well past time time we open their eyes to their true benefactor. The bandits will pursue us to the keep where they'll, unknown to them, be slain by noble knights in the service of Asmodeous, seeking to restore order." Kavos explains. "We'll hesitantly invite our saviors in to rest and they will slowly teach us their ways."

Cain chuckles darkly. "An interesting plan. Shouldn't take more than an afternoon to arrange...though I believe you've left out the most important part. What's in it for me?"

"I imagine you want more than gold." Kavos replies.

Cain nods slowly. "Gold is such a trivial thing, I don't deal in it if I can help it. But a favor? I could get behind that."

"What sort of favor?" Kavos asks.

"An afternoon's work, at my convenience. It's only fair, right?" Cain replies.

It takes a moment, but Kavos finally nods and they exchange contracts. Kavos's lays out that the mercenaries are to use blunt weapons and torches only to avoid unnecessary injury and that their dealings are to be kept secret; as well as outlines a time frame for when what should happen. Cain's simply confirms that he's owed six hours of services from Kavos when he's called upon.

They sign their respective documents which are whisked away in a puff of smoke to Hell's archives for safe keeping.

"A pleasure as always." Kavos says, setting aside his pen.

"Likewise. Good luck with your little scam." Cain replies, gone almost as suddenly as he arrived.

Eadric finds himself in the kobold warren of his youth, sharing quarters with dozens more of his kind. He glances around in a state of confusion, finding the area covered with mud and something that smells distinctly NOT like mud.

Before he can make sense of his surroundings, a call comes out signifying that meal time has began. Like always, he seems to be completely trampled by hundreds of other kobolds scrabbling for mere scraps. He's stepped on, knocked down and even bit; eventually the meal is over without him scoring so much as a taste.

As Eadric returns to his quarters, stomach growling, he begins to realize that the warren no longer looks so familiar. It twists and turns in odd directions, severely enough to make him dizzy and scrawled along the walls is the number 8 repeated again and again.

As Eadric stumbles around an unfamiliar corner, he spots a creature more than six foot tall wrapped in a black cloak, with purple rubbery skin and thick tentacles protruding from its face and nearly reaching its waist.

Eadric starts to take a step back as the creature drools in anticipation and lunges forward, extending both its humanlike hands and monstrous tentacles to snatch Eadric off his feet. The panicked kobold struggles feebly, clawing at the vice like tentacles closing around his throat. He thrashes and twists and gasps for air before realizing he woke himself up.

Glancing around, he realizes that its morning and the usual sounds of the village have been replaced with terrified whispers. Several people in town had similar dreams and four died in their sleep, apparently having strangled themselves to death.

Eadric feels worse than when he went to sleep, but he staggers to Rambalt's house and lets himself in, finding the workaholic mage in his lab putting the final touches on a vicious looking metallic skull almost as large as himself and filled with dagger like teeth.

Eadric is mesmerized for a moment, but snaps out of it and asks Rambalt if he's had any strange dreams.

Rambalt shakes his head "No stranger than usual. I have heard they're going around though. Why do you ask?"

"Because a dream tried to kill me." Eadric replies, quickly explaining about the rash of deaths happening just outside.

Rambalt stops in his tracks. "That's...interesting. Some people ARE capable of affecting others through their dreams, however few have this degree of control."

"Do you know how to defend against it?" Eadric asks.

Rambalt shakes his head. "That's a very specific request. It shouldn't take me more than a day or two to figure something out, but it's never even occurred to me to worry about an attack like this."

"I'm going to check in with the unicorn, see what it knows about such magic." Eadric replies. "Keep at what you're doing. I'll handle the dream invader."

adric seeks out Kavos and compares notes.

"It's Farakim." Kavos replies. "Another member of The 8 and the next problem on our to do list."

"How do you know?" Eadric asks.

"It was Dolph's last words. He saw my bruises and decided to gloat." Kavos explains. "I heard the commotion when I woke up and prepared Divination today. Give me a moment and I will know all there is to know about our new friend."

Eadric shakes his head. "You can waste your time playing 20 Questions if you want, I'm going to track down a lead and see if I can find a way to defend us against this monster come nightfall."

Without sticking around to argue about it, Eadric and his 3 remaining hp snatch a horse and take off at a full gallop towards the unicorn, leaving Kavos simply shaking his head.

The elderly cleric prepares his room for the long haul and casts his spell, asking "Who will be able to give us the most information on Farakim, besides Dolph?"

"Salish." comes the reply.

"Who is Salish?" Kavos asks, casting a second spell.

"One of the three founders." is the reply.

A little confused by this, Kavos slowly asks "Where is Salish?"

"Right here chief." calls out a cheerful voice from behind Kavos. As the aging cleric spins around he finds that the voice belongs to a tall, well built elf with twinkling blue eyes and a small, flame shaped scar over his right eye. His finely tailored clothes SCREAM expensive though the way he wears them suggests they're more for broadcasting wealth than indicative of his tastes.

"Salish..." Kavos says with a respectful incline of his head, keeping his composure. "I thought Farakim was to be my next opponent."

"He is." the elf replies, glancing around the room and wrinkling his nose at the rather spartan conditions. "The Beast is already on the way. It looks like they're taking the initiative on their own... Of course, that's sort of the problem isn't it?" Salish says with a sigh. "Me and my brothers are stirring up real business and these penny pinchers are taking bounties." he loudly whispers, hand to mouth in a conspiratorial manner.

Kavos pours himself a glass of wine. "'re not here to kill me?" he asks hesitantly.

"Hey, now that's an idea!" Salish says with a laugh that dies out mid-stride. "Kill yourself." he instructs Kavos with a voice that seems to cut the cleric to his core.

Every fiber of Kavos's being urges him to squeeze his own throat until the life leaves him and it takes every ounce of his willpower to avoid giving in. The exertion causes Kavos to collapse into his chair, panting like he's run a foot race.

Salish snaps his fingers half-heartedly. "Looks like you live." he says with a chuckle. "They only get the one freebie, they're going to have to do it themselves now. I mostly just wanted to get a look at the guy that killed Dolph."

Steadying his breath, Kavos reaches for his glass of wine and replies "Dolph killed himself by coming here. I hope you'll make better decisions."

Salish cackles good naturedly. "You hear this guy Samiel? He's got balls!" he half-shouts, glancing over his shoulder as if looking up at a man significantly taller than himself. Returning his gaze to Kavos, Salish shakes his head. "We're leaving this to the kids to clean up. They wanted to prove something, they're either going to prove it or die trying."

"We don't have to fight." Kavos says. "Dolph said you'd have to raze the town to make up for us defeating one of your members...we're razing it ourselves. There won't be a scrap of West Bank left. The 8's record would remain clean...nobody would know."

"Oh buddy...that's kinda cheating." Salish says, clicking his tongue disapprovingly. "We'd know. I really expected more out of the guy that killed Dolph, as useless as he was, we're all hoping for big things from you guys."

"I guess you can say I am a cheater." Kavos replies coldly, "Cheaters usually win."

"A man after my own heart!" Salish says, his smile splitting his face amiably; before being dashed into a sigh of irritation. He strains his neck until he's looking straight up. "Yeah Kuran, I know. I'm telling him."

Kavos raises an eyebrow curiously as Salish continues staring up.

"Look, do you want to do this?" Salish asks whoever it is hovering above him. "No? Then shoo! You break sh**, I talk sh**. That's the division of labor... I KNOW you wanted it to be The 3, but that's stupid. Who would we boss around if it was just us?" Salish seems to get cut off a time or two as Kavos looks on. "Are we really doing this now? With this guy watching? Look, if you're bored then why don't you and Samiel go and torment the hobgoblins?"

Salish looks as if he's watching somebody leave and then turns back to Kavos. "We've been doing this a long, long time and nobody ever brings anything to do during a cease fire... "

Kavos looks at the apparent madman nervously. "How about we ignore Kuran and do this like gentlemen? Surely there must be a middle ground that we can reach amicably? I have a proposition for you."

It's Salish's turn to raise an eyebrow curiously.

"Your organization seems to be a member short. How about I join your 9 and we all win?" Kavos asks.

"An interesting proposal." Salish agrees. "Of course, you'll have to pass an initiation."

Kavos smiles to himself. "No group is complete without an initiation."

"In addition to Farakim, there is another operative in the area." Salish says with a wink. "You and your partner take 'em out so we can make sure it wasn't a fluke. I mean, beating Dolph was impressive; but he was sort of an idiot so I gotta deduct points."

"I assume you don't want us to kill them?" Kavos replies.

"Ya gotta kill one." Salish says. "You and your partner are a packaged deal at this point and this ain't The 9, it's The 8 and there's no such thing as an ex-member. Put one of 'em in the ground and let the other go after you're through with him."

"Which are you more fond of?" Kavos asks.

"Well...Rosh has that cool lone wolf vibe about him, but Farakim is more exotic. I mean there's only like six like him left in the world and he looks damned cool in the team portrait....I'll say don't kill Farakim."

Kavos nods. "Now we simply have to wait for them to surface...assuming they surface after what happened to Dolph."

Salish grins. "Oh, they'll show up. You accept a contract representing The 8 and you have three options: Complete job, get paid. Die on job, get replaced. Reneg on job and become one of Samiel's creepy ass meat puppets."

Kavos nods. "Right...contract. The Duke, I presume?"

Salish shrugs. "I haven't seen the contract yet, so I don't know. Whoever wanted you dead, wanted you REALLY dead because we don't come cheap. Anyway, I'm off...deposing somebody or other, wo it'll be some time before you hear from me again. Good luck on the first part of your initiation!"

Kavos waves goodbye as the image of Salish fades away and then slumps into his chair, breathing a sigh of relief. He downs his glass of wine to steady his shaking nerves and asks himself what the hell he just got involved with.

When Eadric reaches the unicorn's clearing, he's shocked to discover that it's apparently been deserted. He scans the area for droppings or signs of activity, but finds nothing. It seems to have been several days since the grove has been used.

Eadric doubles his effort, searching for any clue where the unicorn or his beasts may have gone, when he suddenly notices an older orcish woman standing before him; dressed in black crows feathers.

Eadric tenses up, but tries to remain polite. "Hello. My name is Eadric...and you are?"

The orcish woman appears emaciated and wild eyed, she takes step forward and asks "You the one gave the unicorn the statue?"

Eadric nods with a pained sigh. "I cannot deny that it was my mistake. One that I hope to atone for... What do you know of the statue or the unicorn's location?"

"It was a blessing!" she half sputters. "The beast has abandoned its worshipers for whatever magic your idol holds. None have seen it in days!"

"The unicorn just left the wolves?" Eadric asks incredulously.

The orc nods. "It carried its prize away and forbade any to follow. My brothers and sisters are away from its influence for the first time in years. Perhaps now they will see its true nature..."

"I am truly happy for you and your people," Eadric says. "But I need to find the unicorn. Do you have any information as to where he is?"

The orc shakes her head. "The beast has control of the forest, not even we may follow if it wishes us left behind. I cannot help you in this and would not if I could. The unicorn should be forgotten, like the rest of his race."

Eadric nods. " I understand, though West Bank needs the unicorn's idol. I ask that you leave mt to my search, even if you won't assist."

The orc nods and fades back into the brush. "I won't interfere, but the beast should be forgotten..."

Eadric watches her disappear before his eyes before combing the grove looking for hoof prints. Finding none, he decides to press through the brush in the direction he's seen the unicorn go.

He continues searching and finds the faintest outline of a massive hoof, it seems strange that such a hulking creature would leave such a light track.

Eadric downs an invisibility extract and continues along his way, finding almost nothing of note. Eventually, he stumbles upon a smaller but much deeper hoof print and begins following it. He finds what appears to be singed twigs and begins smelling faint traces smoke in the air.

Stumbling through the forest for what seems like ever, he finally hears the sounds of exertion beyond a line of trees. Downing his last Invisibility extract, Eadric sneaks forward; coming face to face with that which man was never meant to see...

Coming into a small clearing, Eadric discovers the mighty unicorn in mid-copulation with a Nightmare. The much smaller, extra-planar horse is obviously uncomfortable but doesn't resist the unicorn's efforts. Nine more seemingly 'spent' Nightmares are standing around the clearing. The unicorn seems too focused on what he's doing to so much as avert his eyes.

Eadric watches in horrified fascination as the unicorn finishes up, before shaking off and selecting another Nightmare to begin the process over again with.

The unicorn's eyes are weary and bloodshot, it seems to be driving itself well beyond the point of exhaustion. Eadric is unsure how to proceed, but finally settles on clearing his throat loudly...which does nothing.

"Unicorn!" Eadric finally calls out.

The beast glances around frantically for a moment, before remembering that it really doesn't care what the kobold thinks of it and returns to its business. "What do you want, dragon-whelp?" it asks irritably.

"A number of West Bank's citizens are being tormented in their sleep by a demon named Farakim. Some have even died from these visitations. I wish to know information on how to stop this from happening." Eadric says.

The unicorn's breathing is labored and its eyes are wild and sleep deprived as it replies "We don't deal with such trickery as dream magic. You waste your time dragon-whelp."

"Then I seek council with your Fire Idol. Surely you cannot be overjoyed with demons invading the land?" Eadric asks.

"It hasn't bothered out flock." the unicorn replies. "Besides, the Idol is currently...predisposed. Too busy for questions."

Eadric shakes his head in disgust. "The demon WILL come for you eventually unicorn, and you just said you have no defense against it. Assist me now, or by the time Farakim strikes you; it'll be too late."

The unicorn is quiet for a moment, Eadric assumes it's thinking its position over...however eventually it shudders and climbs off its partner, eliciting another disturbed shake of the head from Eadric.

"What will you offer it?" the unicorn asks. "It does nothing for free."

Eadric's mouth gapes slightly as he remembers the Idol's price. "Who did YOU sacrifice for your wish unicorn?" the kobold asks, horrified.

"Who can remember names?" the unicorn asks. "They screamed little. It was a clean death and a worthy cause, may we all meet our end under such circumstances."

"You sacrificed one of your own?" Eadric demands. "A druid!?"

"One of our own?" the unicorn asks with a bitter laugh. "No...not our own. OUR own perished defending the forest. WE sacrificed one of the hangers on, the parasites. The druids need us, far more than we need them. They always have. What worth is one of their lives, compared to the rebirth of our people? What value does the flock hold, when held against the shepherds?"

Eadric is speechless at the unicorn's utter callousness. "I...I have a sacrifice unicorn. Take me to the Idol."

The unicorn shrugs, figuring it needs a rest anyway, and leads Eadric away from the exhausted nightmares. They walk in a strange winding pattern for what seems like the better part of an hour before the unicorn presses through a bush to reveal the Idol.

"Well...well...well. You've come back." the Idol gloats in Eadric's mind.

"I have." Eadric replies. "Don't tell me I'm the first to refuse your temptations."

"You didn't refuse." the Idol reminds Eadric. "You sacrificed your kin and then tracked me down a second time to beg for my assistance. You've chased me harder than most."

Eadric grits his teeth in shame and irritation. He explains about Farakim.

"And you want my protection?" the Idol asks with a laugh. "My price is steep little kobold. Can you pay it?"

Eadric smirks. "How about I name the price? I believe you'll be pleased."

"Oh? What would you offer me?" the Idol asks.

"I offer you the soul of Farakim himself. A fitting sacrifice for one of your stature." Eadric says with a grin.

"Pass." the Idol replies immediately, knocking the wind from Eadric's sails. "That's so...impersonal. I'd rather have...two fingers. I'll even be sporting and let you decide which of your hands they come from."

Eadric stands there, simply stunned into silence.

"You say that kin is too high of a price. What about yourself?" the Idol gloats.

"'d be so PETTY as to have me permanently maim myself, rather than have a powerful demon be your sacrifice?" Eadric asks.

"Yes...yes, I believe I am." the Idol replies. "Where is the sacrifice in giving me your enemy? How does THAT prove your devotion?"

"But..surely the power that would come from-" Eadric starts but is cut off.

"You think I care for power? I want amusement. I want devotion. I want gifts which mean FAR more to you, than they do to me." the Idol explains.

Eadric stands there in stunned silence. He looks at the Idol helplessly, then down at his expertly trained hands and back again. Eadric tries to make a pithy retort to put the Idol in its place but can't seem to find the words, so he just stands there shuddering with rage and desperation.

"Tick...tock." the Idol gloats. "I don't have all day."


First Post
Kavos spends the next few days ensuring that the town is ready to go; he even takes the opportunity to invite the dwarves to the Keep along with the rest of the town, even relaxing his 'no weapons' policy, ensuring that their supply line from East Bank remains open despite the move.

Eadric still hasn't returned from his investigation, though Kavos hasn't started to worry yet; the kobold often disappears for stretches of time and considering his plans for West Bank he'd prefer to have Eadric's inquisitive nature elsewhere for the moment anyway.

The day finally comes and Hezrael appears by Kavos's side in time to warn him of an approaching column of nearly sixty savages a little over two hours from town. Kavos smiles and pops open his last unpacked bottle of wine, taking a moment to offer a toast to West Bank's memory.

Once his wine is finished, Kavos takes to the street and feigns panic. Claiming that Pelor has given him a vision of imminent catastrophe and insisting that the townspeople abandon their homes and take what they can. Under the watchful eye of Longarm and his remaining deputies, the citizens of West Bank form an orderly caravan of loaded wagons and being their exodus to Blackstone Keep.

No sooner has the caravan began its journey than the sound of rhythmic drumming can be heard coming from around the tree line, accompanied by drunken whooping and rowdy cheers.

"Our enemies come against us, but Pelor has already forewarned us!" Kavos shouts to the fleeing citizens. "We SHALL be protected this day!"

"What a coincidence." Longarm scoffs as he passes Kavos, shouting for laggers to get their asses in gear.

The mercenaries have trained just over 40 militiamen and Lark has trained another dozen bowmen by this point; all of who want to charge their attackers head on. Luckily cooler heads prevail and the West Bank militia instead does what it can assist and lead the caravan away; trying their best not to look at their now burning homes.

Rather than pursue as Kavos expected; the barbaric bandits stop to plunder the empty town, looking for forgotten loot in the growing ruins. This gives the wagon train ample opportunity to pull away and put some distance between them.

The caravan speeds away silently until the mountain path which will lead them to the Keep and their new home comes into view, and only the black smoke of their former town is visible on the horizon. The first set of wagons begin ascending the trail when their horses buck violently and the first flips; blocking the trail completely.

The horses of three more freak out similarly an break free of their reigns; several seem to collapse and take their wagon down with them. Fearful questions spread through their ranks as they attempt to make sense of the situation and Kavos curses to himself before calling for the militia to get the road unblocked NOW.

Four of the militia break off from their ranks to try to right one of the toppled wagons, when suddenly one of them spins on his heels and lands in a pool of growing blood. Kavos rushes forward and drops to his knees next to the man, only to discover a handcrafted wooden bolt buried in the man's heart.

Before Kavos has time to even shout a warning a second man goes down, a bolt piercing his throat. Shouts of surprise and panick ring out through the caravan and everyone drops behind their wagons for cover; with the exception of Lark and his rangers who press themselves against the mountain itself since it's closer to their position.

Huddled down behind one of the fallen wagons, Kavos casts Obscuring Mist over the caravan behind him; obscuring the sniper's view of the civilians while he thinks of something better to do.

"Tick. Tock." a gruff, monotone voice whispers in Kavos's ear.

"Show yourself!" Kavos shouts before sending Hezrael a telepathic message to find out what the hell's going on.

"Not my style." the gravelly voice responds quietly. "Dolph may have been foolish enough to believe he could take on a whole town and win, but I'm not. Besides, all I've got to do is wait here and let the bandits come and collect my bounty for me."

"You must be the one that Dolph called 'incompetent and rash'." Kavos bluffs, lowering his voice experimentally.

"Doubtful." the voice replies, unperturbed. "My name is Rosh, though usually I'm just called The Sniper, and I never rush. Because unlike you friend, I've got all the time in the world."

"You're making a mistake." Kavos hisses. "I'd check in with Salish before you take another shot, we've defused the situation. One more bolt and you'll have to answer to Samiel and Kuran."

"That's not how The 8 works." Rosh replies. "You die, or I die. Those are the terms we agree on when we join; if Salish told you differently then he's trying to get you killed."

"What do we do?" one of the militia members shouts from behind a fallen wagon, unaware of Kavos's silent conversation but knowing that the bandits can't be too far behind them.

"You've got a choice Rosh," Kavos says, holding a hand out to silence the militia. "Either you help me finish my initiation into The 8 and we pretend this never happened, or you will regret ever hearing my name."

The waiting militia man who called out suddenly drops to the ground with a bolt piercing his eye in answer.

"You know how I was initiated into The 8?" Rosh asks. "I killed my predecessor and took his place. So you understand how I'd rather not make your initiation any easier."

"Found him boss!" Hezrael's telepathic exclamation shouts in Kavos's head. "He's hiding behind the first sizable rock on the hill, I'm nearly on top of him and can barely see him; he's wearing some kind of camouflage."

Kavos smiles to himself. "In order to join, I have to find a place for myself AND another. We've already taken down Dolph, with you by our side taking down Farakim would be child's play."

Rosh scoffs. "'re saying I should pass up a contract that's about to resolve itself in order to help you kill one of my allies, who just so happens to be a mass murdering monster. I'm not seeing a net gain for me in there."

"Now!" Kavos sends his thoughts to Hezrael, who casts Grease beneath Rosh's position as Kavos, followed by four members of the militia rush up the hill at his location. Kavos ducks down on the opposite side of Rosh's hiding place while the militia men thrust their swords at the ground.

A magical hum fills the air and Kavos recognizes the sound as a Dimension Door going off. Kavos grits his teeth in irritation as one of his soldiers goes down with a bolt in the back of his head, landing in Rosh's old hiding spot.

Hezrael informs Kavos that he has no idea where Rosh is now, so Kavos uses Summon Monster IV to bring a pair of Cheetahs into the fray. The large cats sniff the air and charge up the hill with a growl.

The cats pounce Rosh's hiding place and the sniper responds by swiftly climbing up the mountain face, taking a few bites for his trouble and turning in his tracks to put one of the cheetahs down with a bolt to the face.

On the upside, Kavos can now actually see the outline of a thin dwarf scaling the mountain and unleashes a Blindness spell that sends Rosh cursing and groping at his eyes.

Upon seeing this, Lark and his recruits stand and ready their bows, before Kavos holds up a hand to delay them.

"Drop your weapon Rosh, I have a proposition." Kavos calls up.

"Oh, what's that?" Rosh shouts back.

"Weigh your situation Rosh. Do you really imagine this going well for you? You're blind, outnumbered and exposed. This is your last chance to see reason." Kavos shouts.

Rosh laughs darkly. "You really think this is the first time I've ran into bad luck on a job? I'm down, not out." he says, rubbing his useless eyes. "I'm going to retreat now, fix my eyes and then come back to murder you all." the sniper calls out matter of factly.

"Sorry you feel that way Rosh." Kavos replies, giving Lark the all clear. Before their arrows even leave their bows however, the outline of Rosh disappears as Dimension Door flares once more.

As the militia rushes to clear the path of the mangled wagons, Kavos uses what little time the cheetah has remaining to find out that Rosh seems to be moving west; going by that he surmises that Rosh must be heading for the lake. He tells Hezrael as much and then sends the Imp ahead to stake the lake out as the sounds of drums begin growing closer.

Without Rosh impeding their efforts, the path is quickly cleared and the caravan surges forward up the mountain once more. Within moments the bandits come into view, though only around half their force seems to have shown up.

Kavos pulls a bolt out of one of his dead soldiers and urges the caravan to pick up its pace.

As the column of civilians finally begins approaching the Keep, they see a group of 25 tall, strapping men in black and red fullplate flying the banner of Asmodeus. The knights seem to be minding their own business, just meandering in the hills. As the caravan and bandits approach however, the knights all snatch their swords from their waists; though Kavos notices that only the leader manages to get his out on the first try.

"Halt brigands!" the knight leader shouts, pointing his blade at the rapidly approaching group of thirty some heavily armed bandits whooping like mad men as the citizens flee. Several of his 'knights' mimic his motion and a few others seem to be studying their blades in wonder. Kavos is suddenly thankful for the full faced visors which hide the disguised lemures' vacant expressions.

The whole town seems nervous as the knights rush down the hill, mindless of the shifting stones beneath their feet, weapons at the ready. The town gives a collective sigh of relief as the knights slam directly into the whooping bandits.

"AID THE WARRIORS!" Kavos shouts and as one, the whole town finally turns on their pursuers.

The fighting is short since the bandits weren't actually expecting a fight and the savage thieves are cut down before they even realize what's happening. The militia cheer at their first actual taste of combat.

Kavos beckons their leader Barque, in the form of the tallest and strappingest of the knights.

"Well met travelers." Barque says cheerfully. "I trust these weren't friends of yours?" the disguised devil asks, playing his part.

""Anything but." Kavos replies, "They burned our town and chased us into the hills."

Barque dramatically shakes his head. "A sad day when thieves act so boldly."

Kavos agrees. "I am mayor Kavos Dasgrograv. How may we repay your men's bravery?"

Barque waves Kavos off. "We need no payment, we simply follow our lord's will...though if yonder Keep belongs to you, we would ask a night's lodging while we get our bearings."

Kavos beams. "Stay as long as you need, our home is open to you and your mean." he proclaims, ordering Longarm to find them a suitable barracks to fit their needs.

Longarm says nothing, but seems to have more of an idea as to what Kavos is playing at.

Kavos hangs back as everyone makes their way to the Keep and catches Lark issuing orders to his men.

"Jonathan," Kavos says, sidling up to the ranger. "Those hounds you recovered, can they track?"

Lark shakes his head. "They're little more than pups, though I'm a fair hand myself."

Kavos reveals the bolt he took off the murdered militiaman. "I have one of Rosh's bolts, it's all we have to go on. We need something that can catch his scent."

Jonathan nods and motions for his men to continue without him. "I have a trick or two up my sleeve. Let's backtrack and see if we can pick him up."

Kavos agrees and leaves word that Father Adrian is in charge in his absence, then he and the ranger disappear into the mountains in search of Rosh the Sniper.

Lark agrees that if Rosh is heading west he'll most likely stop by the lake, so they double time it in that direction. The whole trip takes just over two hours and the sun looks as though it may set at any time by the time they arrive.

Lark takes the bolt from Kavos and summons a hound with a few words. The summoned beast sniffs the bolt and then scans the area, searching for a sign of Rosh's passing. It takes the majority of the hound's available time just to point Lark back upstream towards the remains of West Bank.

"He doubled back." Lark says as the hound disappears. "We'll have to too, to catch his scent again."

Kavos nods and starts to follow Lark when Hezrael's voice appears in his mind. "You there boss? The sniper came to the lake like you figured, but uhh...he wasn't alone."

Kavos stops in his tracks.

Hezrael continues. "He met up with some wild looking elf and a bigass monkey. Think the elf might've broken your spell. Didn't seem to like you much boss, was pretty pissed at Rosh letting you get away."

Kavos goes pale. "Lark, hold up. Rosh isn't alone. I think...I think Ibaeli's with him."

Lark bristles at mention of an enemy druid aiding the sniper. "You sure?" he asks, not bothering to ask how Kavos could know such a thing.

"If...if you want to go back to the Keep, I'll understand Jonathan. This is gong to be dangerous." Kavos says. "I need to speak with Rosh though, I believe I can talk some sense into him."

"Or you can take a bolt to the eye." Lark responds. "Seems like it's 50/50 at best."

"One way or another, I have to handle this or we'll be looking over our shoulders the rest of our lives." Kavos responds.

Lark sighs, as if debating on leaving Kavos to his devices, but shakes his head. "I'll go with you, but if we find this guy we need to take him out. If he's allied with Ibaeli he's gotta be screwier than a s***house rat."

"If he was manipulated by Ibaeli, I'm sure I can talk him down." Kavos says.

"What if he wasn't manipulated? What if he was hired?" Lark suggests

It suddenly occurs to Kavos that The Duke might not be their only threat anymore... "Even better." Kavos replies. "That means we can make a deal."

Lark doesn't seem convinced, but still agrees that something needs to be done. Since only Kavos has a horse, he decides to ride ahead to see if he can catch up with their quarry while Lark sends an animal messenger to Longarm and catches up.

The ride to West Bank is short but nerve wracking and by the time Kavos shows up, the remains of the town are barely smoldering. The whole place is eerily quiet.

Several corpses lay in the street, which is strange considering there shouldn't have been any resistance. Rambalt's house is one of the few still standing, and a number of corpses are stuck directly to the side in coccoonlike webs.

Kavos suddenly regrets rushing ahead, but nevertheless dismounts and begins making his way towards Rambalt's home. He hears the skittering of legs, but sees nothing as the glances around.

Just before he reaches Rambalt's door darkness falls all around him and he stumbles backwards as the sound of something large slams down in front of him. Kavos backsteps as fast as he can until he leaves the unnatural darkness altogether.

"I always knew you'd lead this town to ruin." a sad, strangely familiar voice calls out from the darkness. There's an inhuman, chittering quality to it that makes it hard to place.

"Ruin?" Kavos shouts back. "This town is stronger than ever!"

"Is that what you and Adrian call burning rubble?!" the darkness demands angrily.

"West Bank was indefensible. Blackstone Keep is not." Kavos responds. "From these ashes, West Bank will prosper more than we could ever have imagined. It will rise like a phoenix."

"No, West Bank will not rise like a phoenix from the ashes, it will stagger like a rotting corpse! You destroyed these people's homes on your little power trip, how long until you destroy THEM as well?" the voice bellows.

Kavos scoffs. "Stick to what you know, go chase a unicorn or whatever it is you people do and leave the people to me, alright Ibaeli?"

Thick, spider-like legs step out from the darkness; revealing a black arachnid body larger than a horse with a human torso wielding a large two-handed sword.

Kavos's mouth gapes open and he stammers for words as he stumbles backwards over himself.

"Ibaeli?" the monstrously reincarnated form of Gandil asks in disgust. "You can't even keep your pawns straight anymore Kavos."


First Post
Eadric wakes up bloody and dizzy before the form of the Fire Idol, it takes him a minute to notice the dull ache issuing from his left hand a moment longer to remember removing the last two fingers from it.

Strangely, the pain is minimal and the longer he lays there the better he feels. He realizes that the Idol must be healing him.

"I've delivered my side of the bargain." the kobold finally says. "Your turn."

"Farakim no longer has access to your minds." the Idol replies. "It's up to you to do the rest."

Eadric winces as he flexes the remaining fingers of his left hand. "I suspected as much. Where is the fiend? I intend on finishing this now."

The Idol's reply is a little too quick, a little too precise, a little too...helpful. "Close. Within this very forest in fact." it replies. "Are you sure you want to face him as you are though? Surely an edge couldn't hurt."

With the price of his last deal still scarring over, Eadric knows better. "Just the directions Idol, I'll do this myself."

"There's nothing more for you here Gandil." Kavos says, once the shock wears off.

"Oh?" Gandil asks, raising an eyebrow as he skittes forward on his thick spider legs. "Because I can think of three traitors and an abomination that still hold this town in their grasp....not to mention poor Mr Baby. I don't think ANY of you people are fit to raise him!"

"And YOU are?" Kavos retorts "Look at yourself Gandil, you are LITERALLY a monster now. You step into that Keep and not one person will remember you as the hero we convinced them you were."

"Worry less about me Kavos and more about yourself, I won't be coming alone and once we show the town what you REALLY are, what YOU did to me, they'll welcome us as saviors." Gandil growls.

"Tell me what I am Gandil. I am the man who made peace with the Locathah; I am the man who built homes for the homeless; I am the man who protected Westbank from The 8; I am the man who was lawfully elected to lead this town into prosperity." Kavos replies boldly. "Now, what are you? YOU are a monster that spread plague and ruin! YOU destroyed Eastbank, YOU infected the Locathah, YOU drove away our allies when we needed them the most! And you claim to be a savior? Savior of what exactly?"

"Of the ruins of Blackstone Keep, once Bryce and Ibaeli are done burning it to the ground." Gandil replies coldly. "It's YOUR enemies that want our town burned Kavos. The merchant who's men YOU infected, the druid that YOU angered. They've agreed to spare the town, so long as I bring them your head."

Kavos is taken aback and stammers for a moment. "You're a fool Gandil!" the elderly cleric shouts. "What have I done that is bad you would side with a slaver over a man of law? An INSANE druid over a man of order? While they dangle the lives of innocents as leverage!"

"What have you done?" Gandil asks, gritting his teeth in self righteous fury. "Really?! You sentenced me to an eternity of silent torture to save a grave robbing liar! You locked innocent people on a crowded ship full of ghouls! You were willing to sell those we swore to protect into a lifetime of slavery..." the former sheriff says sadly. "Bryce is an a**hole and Ibaeli...well yeah, Ibaeli's crazy. I'm pretty sure he intends on eating you. But at least I know where I stand with them."

"It wouldn't have been forever!" Kavos replies almost pleadingly. "I had plans for you Gandil, for US, if only you would have calmed down! As for the ship, you'd turned Bryce against us so I did what I had to do; which I WOULDN'T have had to do if YOU hadn't started the Apocalypse around us! Maybe you can't see why I made the difficult choices, but they had to be made. Maybe they were right, maybe they were wrong, but I did everything for the sake of Westbank."

Gandil sighs and readies his two-handed blade. "Right or wrong...this is the way things have turned out Kavos. Whoever walks away from this gets to tell the town his side."

Kavos starts to spring into action but is struck by a blast of webbing from Gandil and anchored to the ground, he manages to pass his Concentration check and get off a Bestow Curse to give Gandil a 50/50 chance of doing nothing each round. Gandil surges forward and sinks his fangs into Kavos's shoulder, poisoning his former friend with a strength draining venom.

Kavos casts Spiritual Ally and a red spectral figure with large tusks and bull-like horns appears in a suit of fullplate armor, wielding a jagged mace, it hacks painfully into Gandil's side. The curse holds Gandil in place and Kavos takes this opportunity to hit himself with Owl's Wisdom, even as he feels his already meager physical strength being sapped away.

Eadric stumbles towards the smoldering remains of Westbank in confusion, bruised and battered but otherwise in one piece. What happened here? Was it like this when he left? was still in one piece. He's almost sure of it.

The kobold reaches up to rub his throbbing head and nearly panics. His headband is gone! He tries to focus and remember, but without the magic of the headband it's so hard... His instincts scream for him to return to the warren, but he's still smart enough to know that won't help anything; he's got to get it back!

His memory is fuzzy and disjointed, but he remembers Farakim. He remembers ambushing the creature by the road, being so sure of his success...but he failed. So spectacularly that his opponent didn't even try to kill him. No, he did much worse...

Eadric grits his teeth as tries to bring everything into focus. Farakim recognized the magic in his headband, slammed him against a tree with invisible force until he stopped squirming and stripped it off him. He feels the panic returning. Without the headband he's just another kobold. Just another dirty, simpering, ignorant....

"Kavos!" Eadric nearly shouts to himself. Kavos could help, he's got magic...the kind that could make things clear again, shut up the whimpering little voice deep inside that Eadric had buried so long ago...

There Westbank is in the distance! Kavos should be there. Wait, why is it burning? Was it like that when he left? was still in one piece. He's almost sure of it.

Kavos struggles uselessly against his bindings as his spiritual servant continues its assault on Gandil and the drider himself stumbles forward to bring his sword down onto Kavos's exposed shoulder.

"Hiyaa!" Eadric shouts as he comes flying from seemingly nowhere, kicking Gandil in the side of the head and sending him staggering away in confusion.

Kavos takes the opportunity to hit Gandil with Doom and Eadric recovers from his flying kick and leaps back into the air in an attempt to mount Gandil like a horse, however the kobold is quickly thrown to the ground.

Gandil stumbles back again and with a wave of his hand the ground opens up and both Eadric and Kavos plummet almost 50ft onto the waiting spikes below. Blood flows freely from their wounds as they take stock of their situation. They're a good ways below ground and the walls seem to laced with razorblades. Their every step is impeded by crude spike jutting out of the ground...but at least Kavos is no longer stuck in his web and the poison seems to have finally worked its way out of his veins.

Eadric's still wearing his slippers of spiderclimbing so he simply bolts right up the side of the pit without a word, though does manage to cut himself up in the process. Kavos calls his Spiritual Ally to him and rides the spectre out, though it disappears as he lands outside. He casts Shield of Faith on himself as he glares at Gandil's backside as the cursed drider attempts to stumble away.

Eadric charges and spits Adhesive Spittle at Gandil's legs, managing to secure him in place for the time being. Kavos cats Unholy Blight, wanting to answer the question of Gandil's alignment once and for all, but it's diverted by Gandil's Spell Resistance and they continue wondering.

Gandil attempts to free himself from the sticky strands holding him, but the curse forces him to stand there slackjawed instead. Eadric stands outside of Gandil's melee range and uses his Acid Breath on the bound warrior to devastating effect.

Gandil isn't exactly sure who this little kobold is, but assumes that if he's helping Kavos he must have some connection to the town. "Why don't you go check on the others? They might be in trouble!" Gandil says as he casts Suggestion. Eadric's expression goes vacant as he decides that sounds like a marvelous idea; charging into the only building left standing (Rambalt's place) to search for survivors.

Kavos curses as Eadric abandons him, but still takes the opportunity to cast Cure Serious Wounds on himself. Gandil responds by doing nothing, so Kavos starts peppering him with Channeled Negative Energy.

Gandil begins chanting something that Kavos can't quite make out, so the cleric responds by casting Obscuring Mist on himself to block the monster's vision. No sooner does the mist appear than hundreds of spiders erupt from the ground and scatter into the mist in search of prey. Kavos responds with a blast of negative energy which manages to wipe them all out.

When Kavos emerges from the mist he discovers Gandil scurrying away from the town at full speed. "Where are you going Gandil?" Kavos calls out in irritation, calmly following his former friend at a leisurely pace.

"To get this fixed!" Gandil says, taking a staggered step as though he's forgetting how to walk.

"I thought you had to kill me or they'd kill the town. You'd really abandon the town so easily?" Kavos says with a laugh.

Gandil chuckles in response. "No, today was only a happy accident Kavos, I just came to say goodbye to West Bank. I'm not supposed to kill you for another few weeks...but if you insist." he says, spinning in place and brandishing his blade.

"This is pointless Gandil." Kavos says exasperatedly. "We shouldn't be fighting, the town needs us both. After you died a man named Dolph came, he had a contract to kill me...and YOU. A deputy gave his life to defeat him, but Dolph's dying words were that until we were both dead everyone in town was a target."

"I am dead." Gandil scoffs. "If they need proof I can show them where I'm buried."

"I hardly think they'd see things that way." Kavos replies. "Gandil...Ibaei is working with these madmen. I have witnesses that'll say the same."

"I know, Bryce hired them." Gandil replies with a vicious smile. "Like I said he's an a**hole, but him and Ibaeli have had some sort of deal in the works for the past few days and we're smoothing things over; I'm off his s***list."

"You...know?" Kavos stammers, as though physically struck. "YOU KNOW!?" he shouts. "YOU SON OF A BITCH! You lecture ME on morality and you WORK for the people trying to kill our citizens!?"

With a shout of genuine rage Kavos unleashes another burst of negative energy into Gandil's face.

Gandil's grin grows slightly more manic. "It's not ideal Kavos, I admit. But take it from somebody who knows, dying's not the end of the world!" the deranged drider shouts as the ground opens up and swallows Kavos once more.

Kavos tumbles down into the pit, impaling himself on landing. He groans and hears chanting as he stumbles wearily to his feet. He manages to patch up some of his injuries with a Cure Moderate Wounds just as the walls erupt with spiders. Kavos uses up the last of his Channel Negative Energy attempts to keep from being overwhelmed and discovers that he's suddenly out of spells as well.

Kavos collapses in despair and sits in the pit panting until the spell ends and sky rushes to meet him once more. Gandil stands there, sword at the ready as Kavos appears and swings the flat of his blade like a club; sending Kavos rolling from the force of the blow.

Everything starts going dark as Gandil snatches Kavos by the collar and hoists him until they're face to face. It looks like Gandil wants to say something, but instead settles for punching Kavos directly in the eye socket; fracturing the bone and putting him out like a light.

"Eadric! EADRIC!" Lark shouts, shaking the little kobold until it starts to question why its digging in Rambalt's lab. "Where's Kavos?" the ranger demands.

"I...something got him..." Eadric replies, glancing around in confusion. "Spider...big...big spider."

"So that's what left those tracks..." Lark mutters, "Looks like a horse wallowed in the dirt out there; doesn't look like it even tried to be stealthy."

"Can you follow it?" Eadric asks, his focus suddenly returning.

Lark nods. "If spiders took him we may have time before he's dead, assuming we hurry."

Eadric nods. "We need help, spider has magic...."

"The sheriff is on his way, I'll send word that we're heading into the forest." Lark replies.

Eadric shakes his head. "We need more. Need Rothan...need the giant... Point me towards the spider, I'll go ahead. You get help."

Lark seems unsure about letting Eadric go alone, but it will take time to get reinforcements.... With a sigh, he takes Eadric out and shows him what to look for; though the kobold's faculties are diminished his eyes are as keen as ever and he bolts off at top speed.

The trail is quite easy to follow, it looks uncannily like a grown man was dragged along the ground and into the forest by a monster. Once Eadric comes into the forest he scurries up a tree, pausing to note thata thick sheen of webbing covers the foliage trapping birds and other small animals inside.

The trail is still quite easy to follow as Gandil appears to have simply battered his way into the forest, breaking twigs and bending bushes as he went. Eadric flits among the trees like an acrobatic shadow until he comes to a clearing with even more webbing than normal and a pair of mansized creatures with decidedly spiderlike features are 'tending' to a quartet of coccooned prisoners, Kavos among them.

"Ettercaps..." Eadric mutters to himself, remembering the terror that these things so casually spread through the forest. Eadric begins to inch towards the clearing when a gruff voice rings in his head.

"Keep your eyes peeled boss, our 'friend' is above you there." Hezrael says from his hiding spot nearby.

Eadric glances around for where the voice came from, but his eyes are instead drawn to the hulking form of Gandil nestled in a bed of webbing in the tree tops. Eadric pops the tops of most of his remaining extracts and downs Haste, Bear's Endurance, Stone Fist, Shield and Fire Breath like a bitter cocktail.

Eadric leaps from his tree to Gandil's and runs silently up the face of it until he can almost make out the beast's face. He then exhales a gout of flame that consumes Gandil's protective webbing and drops him more than 100ft to the ground below.

Gandil slams painfully into the ground with a miserable groan, but once he realizes what's happening manages to get off a stream of magic missiles that slam into Eadric like a volley of arrows.

Eadric shouts and leaps from the treetops, delivering a terminal velocity axe-kick that rocks Gandil in place. The ettercaps hiss and charge the kobold, venom dripping from their mandibles.

Eadric weaves around the trio of spider monsters with ease before leaping into the air and kicking one ettercap in the head, using the momentum to flip himself over Gandil and landing with both feet directly in the vengeful drider's face.

Gandil responds with an overhanded blow that sends Eadric reeling across the forest floor and the ettercaps spew webs which fail to connect. Eadric notices Kavos's cocoon fall silently from its resting place as a large rat attempts to chew through it. They both land on the same floating disc which saved him from the locathah and begin drifting away from the battlefield.

Gandil notices Eadric's smirk and turns around in time to notice the same thing. "He's just a distraction! Leave him to me, bring the other one back!"

The ettercaps rush towards Kavos and Hezrael, however Eadric cuts them off and breathes flame in their path; setting a good chunk of the forest itself on fire. They recoil in fear and attempt to find another way around as Gandil charges Eadric, snatching the kobold by the throat one handed with a growl.

"I don't know why you're doing this," Gandil hisses, "But Kavos is just using you! If you don't shake off his brainwashing you're going to make some VERY powerful enemies!"

Eadric opens his mouth as though to responds and simply squeaks. Gandil loosens his grip to hear what his opponent has to say and gets a face full of fire for his trouble. Eadric tumbles from his grasp as he slaps at his singed flesh.

As soon as he lands, Eadric bolts after the ettercaps as Gandil shouts in rage and repeatedly stumbles because of his curse. In a flash Eadric leaps onto the back of the first ettercap and delivers a palm strike which snaps its spine and drops it in its tracks.

The second ettercap makes a grab for Eadric, however he unleashes a flurry of attacks in response the leaves the creature in a broken pile besides its slain brethren.

The kobold pushes on in the direction they were heading and pretty much by luck stumbles upon Kavos and his familiar floating towards the forest exit.

Eadric starts to breathe a sigh of relief; however a vengeful roar rings out followed by a loud crashing sound among the trees. "We need to move. Move! Move! Move!" he almost screeches to whoever's willing to listen.


First Post
We pick up from the end of our last session with Hezrael dragging his master's unconscious body through the forest as Eadric brings up the rear, leaping into action and axekicking any spider that pokes its head out in their path until it no longer wishes to be in their path.

It seems to be working, but any time a spider runs away alive it seems to pick up their trail once they've passed by. Eventually it seems as though half the forest is swarming after them, just out of sight. By the time they break through the tree line Eadric can swear that dozens of forms are rushing in behind them but is too focused on running to check.

A barrage of whistling arrows fills the air behind them and Lark, along with 4 of his rangers in training and Longarm, are loosing volley after volley into the already injured spiders. The monstrous vermin decide to pull back and let their prey go for now.

As Kavos is out of it, Eadric attempts to explain the situation but his mental faculties are rapidly diminishing without his Intelligence amulets and his startling revelation of driders and ettercaps apparently forming a spider army bent on destruction quickly devolves into him pantomiming a spider eating and making 'nom, nom, nom' noises.

Lark and Longarm look at each other nervously before deciding that they'll have to deal with their deputy mayor going insane later, when they have more time. For the present they escort their battered leaders to the ruins of Westbank where they take refuge in the remains of Rambalt's home and Lark works the last of his ranger magic to bring Kavos back around.

"You alright?" Lark asks, placing a hand on Kavos's chest to prevent him from getting up too fast. "Feel like everything's where it should be?"

Kavos shakes his head slowly and hoarsely whispers "Nothing is where it should be,. We have to return to the keep, now."

Longarm nods, "We need to hurry, we'll be lucky if that damned sniper hasn't resituated himself by now."

"He'd be a fool." Kavos responds with more confidence than any one man should have, shakily crawling to his feet with the help of Lark. "I dismantled him once, I'll do it again if need be."

The party wearily exits the last house in Westbank and begin their trek to the keep when an earth shaking roar rings out overhead and the large form of Ro'than'dur comes into view; apparently pissed.

The green dragon lands clumsily in his rush to reach them, nearly tripping over his own feet as he bellows "What are you doing to me!?" at the trembling Eadric.

Kavos, Longarm and Lark all take a step back in shock and Eadric chuckles nervously.

"Fought Farakim...lost fight...lost amulets." Eadric explains.

"Amulets?" Ro'than'dur asks, confusion evident on his reptilian face.

"Need them back, before too stupid." Eadric responds unhelpfully.

The dragon shakes his head, "I don't..." and then it dawns on him. "So that's why you aren't digging in the dirt and filth with your brothers. You were...artificially enlightened."

Eadric rubs his temples, his head aching unbearably as he loses IQ points by the minute. "I..." the little kobold has trouble forming a response before rage appears on Ro'than'dur's face as the same pain flares through HIS head.

"FIX THIS KOBOLD!" Ro'than'dur bellows. "Playing the part of your nanny was an indignity I could almost bear, but I will kill us BOTH before I allow you to turn me into some drooling beast!"

Seeing that this might very well grow out of control, Kavos steps in. "We'll get the amulet back once we find the creature known as Farakim." the cleric assures the enraged dragon. "In the meantime, perhaps Rambalt could provide a temporary solution at the Keep. Just come with us to the mountains and-"

Ro'than'dur growls low and threateningly before lowering his head. "Get on, we fix this NOW! The peasants can take the long way."

Turning to Longarm, Lark and the rangers Kavos says "Without me, the sniper shouldn't bother you if he IS in the mountains. Just to be safe however, keep your heads down and move slowly."

They nod in agreement as Kavos and Eadric mount the dragon and take to the air.

"Where did you find Farakim?" Kavos asks the kobold once they're airborne.

Eadric struggles to remember the directions that the Fire Idol gave to him but eventually sighs in defeat. "Forest near road..." Eadric stammers.

"How far?" Kavos asks.

The kobold shakes his head. "Not sure...can't remember." Eadric says, a pained look on his face as he forces himself to slow down and say "I cannot remember more than that."

The trip is relatively short as Ro'than'dur simply bypasses the difficult and unforgiving terrain altogether. The keep appears dark and forboding in the dim moonlight and as Ro'than'dur lands in the courtyard its age and disrepair become painfully apparent.

The displaced townspeople are setting up a temporary camp in the spacious courtyard, trampling weeds and brambles as they attempt to avoid the more egregious of holes. The mighty wooden gates which guard the keep are all but rotting away and appear to be falling apart in great chunks.

Kavos does however notice that the Keep is large and well built, seemingly carved into the mountain itself, and will easily house the former occupants of Wesbank once it's made more hospitable. More than house, it will protect them once a few simple repairs are performed.

"Where are we?" Eadric asks, having missed the move.

"Home." Kavos replies, lowering himself off the dragon and gritting in pain.

"Where are Longarm and the ranger Lark?" Father Adrian asks worriedly, approaching the battered adventurers at a trot. "We received word that there was trouble."

"They're fine." Kavos says reassuringly. "They're on their way here now, Eadric has a matter of some importance to discuss with Professor Rambalt and you and I have a great deal of work to do before the morning."

Father Adrian sighs in relief and nods. "I'd say so."

With a nod, Kavos says to Adrian "Meet me in my quarters in ten minutes with writing supplies. I have an idea that may very well save what's left of Westbank's people."

Father Adrian rushes to get things ready and Kavos turns to rest a reassuring hand on Eadric's shoulder. "We'll get your amulets back Eadric, the moment we've recovered we'll ride out and teach him what happens to our...Eadric... What happened to your hand?" Kavos asks in shock, noticing for the first time the kobold's missing fingers of his left hand. "What did Farakim do to you?"

Eadric shakes his head. "Fire Idol's price, not Farakim's. He can't see our dreams, can't control us anymore. I fixed it..."

Kavos shakes his head sadly at the kobold's sacrifice. "We'll fix this Eadric. I promise." the cleric says, patting his partner on the back reassuringly before excusing himself to meet Adrian.

Ro'than'dur growls irritably and wordlessly reveals two stiff and unmoving talons on his left claw, already beginning to shrivel away.

Eadric slumps down, even more disheartened now than he was. "I...I didn't...."

"Find your mage." Ro'than'dur says, his eyes narrowing dangerously. "Fix this!"

Kavos finds himself in the lord's chambers, a spacious suite of rooms which at one time were the finest in the Keep though now that's a bit like saying they're the shiniest turd in the pile. The once lavish decorations are peeling from the walls and the smell of mildew is absolutely overpowering.

It has promise though.

Lighting a few candles to drive away the shadows and pouring himself a glass of wine, Kavos sits at a thick, decaying desk and silently drafts a letter as Adrian paces nervously.

"Enemies surround us in every direction Father Adrian, we need a solution that doesn't end with us getting murdered to the last man." Kavos finally says, glancing up from his work.

Father Adrian nods, "I obviously agree. But what do you propose?"

All but ignoring the question, Kavos replies "The Keep is in great shape for having been abandoned for as long as it has been, but I couldn't help but notice that the front gates are collapsing. Have them repaired or replaced immediately, put every available man on it before first light and put our sharpest eyes on the walls until further notice."

Father Adrian nods. "I'll have them start as soon as we're done here. I'll also station Longarm on the wall once he gets back, just in case."

"Excellent." Kavos says. "Next up is the smell of the place. Have the women burn the tapestries and rugs, then start scrubbing the place down. Anything they're unsure about, have them burn it."

"You're avoiding the question." Adrian points out. "What are you writing?"

Kavos sighs and hands the letter to Father Adrian nervously.

Father Adrian murmurs softly to himself as he reads. "Hasty desertion...wasted potential...Lord of Blackstone...loyal vassal..." the priest's blood runs cold in his veins as he reads Kavos's proposal to pledge himself, and by extension the Keep and its citizens, to the Duke in exchange for the title of Count. .

Father Adrian all but gapes as he sputters out "This...this is a sick joke. The Duke is a monster and a madman, we can', we WON'T bow our knee to him!" his voice is cold and very nearly threatening by the end.

With a smile, Kavos says "I agree. If we are to strike at the Duke however, we'll have to get close to him. We don't have the men to march on Lonegate, so we'll have to find some way to bring him here."

Father Adrian strokes his chin and nods slowly. "The Duke is a private man and even accepting such an offer is no guarantee we'll receive an audience with him...though it may at least give us the chance to GATHER the men needed to march on Lonegate. Just be careful not to be [i[too[/i] inviting or he may feel it only proper to send a contingent of men to 'protect' his new citizens."

Kavos nods in agreement. "It's a longshot, I know. But if it buys us another day that's a day we didn't have before... Now that the business with the Duke and fortifications is out of the way....Eadric. How much do you know of him? Has he spoken with you?"

Adrian shakes his head. "I'd imagine you know him better than any of us. He doesn't seem to mingle all that much..."

Kavos shakes his head. "There's much we don't know about him...he speaks of dark deals with Fire Idols and magical amulets which he apparently depends on, but elaborates little if at all. He's a mystery, and that makes me nervous....however, he saved the town from Dolph and me...from Gandil."

Father Adrian's eyes widen in shock. "Gandil is back...again?"

"He's been reincarnated by the druid Ibaeli, transformed into a drider." Kavos explains. "We fought, but he struck me down...would have killed me if not for Eadric's intervention, I'm sure."

Father Adrian rubs his temples. "That's certainly going to complicate things. He was always...high spirited.... Does anyone else know?"

"Only Eadric, but he didn't know Gandil from before." Kavos replies.

"How are we to handle this?" Adrian asks. "The town believes that Gandil died a hero, to find out otherwise may undermine us."

"Ibaeli twisted our hero and reanimated a monster." Kavos replies simply. "Whatever he was in life, is no more."

Father Adrian shakes his head sadly and sighs. "Things just keep getting worse it would seem...though there does seem to be a glimmer of good news. That man Rambalt stumbled onto 'luggage' while it was being unloaded. I was worried how he'd react, but the little man seems to be strangely comfortable with hidden corpses. He was quite excited to take Dolph's corpse with him for study, he said he believed he had an idea that could hold off the rest of The 8."

Kavos smiles. "Rambalt has been an exceedingly valuable member of our town since the moment he arrived, I'm curious to see what he's worked up...though I believe it will have to wait for the morning. I need rest."

Father Adrian nods at Kavos's wounds. "Get some sleep. I'll see to the repairs in the meantime."

Kavos voices his appreciation and passes out before his head hits the pillow.

Rambalt has more or less taken over the labyrinth like lower level of the keep, preferring to have thick walls between the rest of the populace and his experiments. His assorted stuff is mostly boxed up, however he's begun setting up a makeshift lab in the dusty cellar.

Eadric explains his situation as best he can, admitting to Rambalt that his cleverness can be primarily attributed to his magical amulets and that every minute he's away from them he can feel himself becoming more and more like his dim-witted brethren. He's nearly at full panic by the time he gets around to asking if Rambalt could make him a new amulet or if maybe he has one just sitting around...

Rambalt shakes his head as he listens to Eadric and says "Those amulets are rare and powerful, I don't know how you managed to get one but you're unlikely to find another around here."

" can make one?" Eadric asks hopefully.

Rambalt sighs. "I'm afraid I simply don't don't have those kinds of resources. With enough time maybe I could get the materials together, but... Actually, it's not ideal but I may have a short term solution."

Eadric perks up considerably as Rambalt begins unloading the contents of a box of potions, the professor draws out a pale blue potion and beams broadly.

"It's not a solution, but it should help." he explains, placing the vial in Eadric's hand. "It will only last about four hours at a time, but it should retard-"

Eadric's eyes narrow.

"I'm should slow down your intelligence loss and temporarily return you to your usual self until we can find a more permanent solution." Rambalt says.

"How many do you have? How many can you make?" Eadric nearly shouts.

"It's a lengthy process and I don't even have my lab up and running yet..." Rambalt responds. "At present I've got three that you can have, but it'll take me a day or two to start brewing again. I'd estimate I could crank out one a day with our current supplies, maybe two."

Eadric breathes a sigh of relief and downs one of the potions as Rambalt sets about packing the others into a soft, protective case for Eadric to carry them around in.

The kobold closes his eyes and just enjoys the sensation of his mind working at full tilt for a moment and then looks at Rambalt, scribbling a hasty list as he speaks. "I've got four hours to make preparations before I'm back to banging sticks together to try and make fire, I'll need these items if I'm going to bring Farakim down."

"How are you going to bring Farakim down with...knives, rope and smoke pellets?" Rambalt asks incredulously.

Eadric shrugs as he begins going over his extracts, picking out the ones he intends to use in the morning. "I haven't figured that out yet, but I've still got...three hours and fifty three minutes to go."

Come morning the Keep is a bustling place. The women are tearing the place apart to get rid of the mold and mildew and the men are doing what they can to put it back together again. New gates are being constructed in the court yard and their stores of wood are rapidly diminishing. Father Adrian pitches in where he can with Mending to conserve their supplies, but it's a lengthy process and he's a busy man.

Kavos steps out into the fresh air early, still haggard and sore from the day before but no longer on death's door and wanting to get some work done. The first thing he notices is the dragon Ro'than'dur sleeping in the center of the courtyard, the citizens go around to avoid interacting with it, but it's obviously an annoyance.

Kavos sighs irritably and moves to direct it out of the way when he sees Looman hurrying past on some important errand.

"Looman!" Kavos calls out, catching the deputies attention. Before Looman even has a chance to respond a letter is pressed into his hand. "Find Devon and deliver this to Lonegate, it's of the utmost importance."

Looman looks around. "But I'm supposed to-"

"Looman!" Kavos snaps. "This may be the most important thing you'll ever do. Make sure that this letter reaches Lonegate safely, no matter what else happens. Find somebody else to take over your duties here and leave at once."

Looman nods grimly. "Yessir, I'll fetch Devon and set out within the hour."

Kavos pats the young man on the back as he rushes off. "Good man!" the cleric calls after the deputy turned messenger.

"Kavos. We have to go." Eadric says, stepping out from beside the elderly priest and causing him to jump. "I'm in my right mind, and will be for another hour. I know where we can find Farakim."

"Are you sure?" Kavos asks, interest and a little dread creeping into his voice. His interest is further pique by the sight of Eadric sporting visible daggers and what he assumes to be a handmade bola at the kobold's hip. "Don't we need more time to prepare?"

Eadric shakes his head as he awakens the sleeping Ro'than'dur and leaps onto the dragon's back. "No time. This is the clearest I'm likely to be for the forseeable future, so it's now or never. Will you help me get my amulets back, or do I have to go alone?"

Kavos looks up at the determined little kobold and tries to count the number of times that Eadric's already saved his life in the short time they've known each other. With a sigh he grabs onto the side of Ro'than'dur and pulls himself onto the dragon's back just before it takes to the air.

This partnership would either turn out to be a very long one, or very short.


First Post
It doesn't take long to spot Farakim's camp once they know what they're looking for. Ro'than'dur gives them a commanding view of the landscape and Eadric manages to spot a thin trail of smoke from a barely smoldering campfire.

They land a little ways up the road to avoid giving away their position and leave Ro'than'dur behind until they need him; hoping that without the dragon they'll be able to take Farakim unaware.

Eadric guides Kavos's steps and leads the way into the forest at a crawl to avoid making a sound. They carefully approach an artificial clearing, that looks as though saplings and grass have simply been peeled away from the center by some event and a campfire put in their place.

"The prey deigns to seek the predator?" a hollow, inhuman voice echoes inside of their heads. They glance around frantically until they notice a monstrous creature with moist, rubbery skin in an impeccably tailored suit sitting beneath a tree. The creature's black, soulless eyes seem to focus through their very souls.

"Where are my amulets you bastard!?" Eadric shouts, assuming his fighting stance.

The creature laughs, emitting a horrible squelching sound. "That trash? I threw them in the river, they weren't even worth my time to sell."

Eadric nearly collapses in grief, his heart sinking as he senses no deception in Farakim's words. "But...but..."

Kavos grabs his holy symbol on impulse as his heart skips a beat at the sight of the creature before him. With his breath caught in his throat, he manages to ask "What...are you?"

"A rare sight, I'd imagine." the creature replies soundlessly, floating to its feet without moving a muscle. "One of the last of a dying race, perhaps too vain for its own good. Your people called us the Illithid, or in the particularly vulgar tongue, Mind Flayer."

As the creature speaks, an arm sized tentacle on its face twitches and a most undignified strand of what appears to be drool drips down its length before being wiped away with a silk handkerchief.

Kavos tries to steady his nerves and project power as he says "I've heard of your kind before as a child. What do you hope to gain by stepping out of a ghost story and into our world."

"An easy meal." it replies coldly. "Or to be more specific, several dozen easy meals. We do have the townspeople to think about after all."

"You will not find an easy meal in me Beast." Kavos shouts, suddenly emboldened by Farakim's overconfidence. "I've shut down every threat that The 8 has thrown at me and I do not plan on stopping now. Do you value your life?"

"You've bested a coward and a fool." Farakim replies. "Don't lump me in with those layabouts."

"No. I've beaten TWO fools. Any man who would stand in my way is a fool and a dead man." Kavos shouts.

Farakim crosses his arms and tilts his head curiously. "You'll be a fun memory human. Brief. But fun."

Kavos and Eadric both spring into action, readying their weapons and spells, however they're met with a strange and disorienting moment where it feels as though reality stopped synching up right for a second. By the time the feeling has passed they notice that Farakim is lounging against a tree, a look of concentration on his monstrous face, and a beast the size of a grizzly bear that appears to be made from pure, flickering energy stands where he once stood.

The conjured beast charges Kavos and the cleric believes it to be an illusion until he witnesses it level a small tree in its way to get to him; then he decides it would be best to keep some space between them and bounds out of the way using his Jaunt Boots.

Once out of the astral beast's range, Kavos casts Spiritual Ally and the infernal form of one of his patron's servants appear between him and his attacker. The Spiritual Ally lays into the Astral Beast with everything it has and the beast roars theatrically in response.

Eadric meanwihle flips over the campfire and lands mere feet from Farakim, taking a deep breath he exhales a burst of acid all over the illithid at nearly point blank range, causing his oppoenent to lose concentration on whatever it is he was doing.

"ROTHAN!" Eadric shouts at the top of his lungs, hoping his voice will carry far enough to get the dragon's attention. "NOW ROTHAN, COME HERE NOW!"

Farakim's eyes flare open and he growls dangerously. Without so much as lifting a finger he sends pure energy into Eadric's chest with enough force to hurl the kobold nearly 80ft and straight into the trunk of a tree. Eadric gasps as the breath is knocked from his body, but is more surprised as his current change of scenery.

Meanwhile, Ro'than'dur sweeps down with a roar of his own and locks his mighty jaws around Farakim's puppet, attempting to prevent it from engaging the poorly defended Kavos directly. Kavos casts Blessing of Fervor on his gathered allies while his Spiritual Ally continues stabbing the beast as the Astral Construct attempts to wrestle its way free.

Eadric hurls his bolo from the tree and the weapon whistles through the air before wrapping around Farakim's legs and knocking him prone. No sooner does Farakim hit the ground wioth a grunt that he raises his hands violently and the tree which Eadric now finds himself hiding in is suddenly ripped from the ground.

Eadric manages to leap free in the blink of an eye but still receives numerous gashes and cuts from the limbs that struck him on the way out. The tree slams down 40ft away, crashing into and through a second tree.

Kavos casts Wrathful Mantle as his Spiritual Ally and Ro'than'dur do battle with the Astral Beast, but the creature slugs Ro'than'dur in the jaw, stunning the dragon and tackles Kavos off his feet with a roar of defiance.

Before the creature can follow up however Kavos launches a Hellfire powered Searing Light into the it's face and the Ally plunges a weapon into the beast's back, causing it to flicker in and out of existence for a moment.

"Ro'than'dur, catch me!" Eadric shouts as he backflips away from Farakim, getting swept away by his 'faithful' dragon mount at the last second. They fly straight up at full tilt, reaching a height of nearly 100ft.

Farakim glances up irritably at the apparently fleeing kobold and reality distorts once more. To Kavos's horror a new Astral Beast bares its teeth and charges.

Kavos quickly responds with Dismissal and to his surprise, the newly created creature simply flickers out of existence, shattering almost like glass. The Spiritual Ally takes this opportunity to finish off the wounded beast and Kavos smirks confidently...that is until two more Astral Constructs flash into existence by Farakim's side and charge Kavos angrilly, they each land a blow on the fragile cleric and send him tumbling head over heels across the ground.

100ft up, Eadric tosses Ro'than'dur an Adhesive Spittle extract and the dragon gulps it down, while Eadric downs a Fire Breath extract, before putting itself into a dive straight for Farakim even as Eadric himself leaps into the air in a dive of his own. Ro'than'dur exhales a mouthful of glue all over Farakim's body, holding him fast to the ground, before pulling up at the last second in a looping motion.

A split second later Eadric lands an axekick to the top of Farakim's head that nearly breaks his leg and produces a sound not unlike thunder, driving Farakim to his knees painfully. Farakim struggles just to lift his fractured head for a moment and both Eadric and Kavos hold their breath expectantly...

Then have it knocked out of them as an explosion of pure energy arcs away from Farakim, toppling trees and holding them to the ground with a tremendous pressure. As Eadric glances up he sees that Farakim's bonds have been flung in a thousand different directions in twice as many pieces and a curtain of air whips around them in a 10ft diameter with such speed that it's actually visible. Debri, fire and simple dirt whip around with such velocity that when Eadric pokes an experimental hand towards it he has a portion of the flesh stripped off.

"Impressive." comes Farakim's passionless reply. Eadric swallows nervously and hurls a dagger which simply stops mid-air and flies to join the barrier.

Kavos casts Spiritual Weapon to assist his Spiritual Ally and directs them both to keep the Astral Beasts' attention off of himself while he fights to breathe through what feels like broken everything.

Eadric leaps forward and delivers a pair of savage kicks into Farakim's midsection. The wind is audibly knocked out of him, however Farakim responds by closing his eyes in concentration and assuming a fighting stance of his own. Despite the fact he has an utterly unreadable expression, Eadric could swear that Farakim is smirking.

Ro'than'dur slams directly into one of Farakim's Astral Constructs and clamps down on the thing with tooth and claw, holding it down and leaving the second for Kavos to finish. Kavos launches another Searing Light into the construct and has his Ally/Weapon lay into it as well.

The Astral Beast dives past Kavos's diversions and rakes its claws through his stomach, turning Kavos into a bloody mess barely able to stand.

Noticing how Farakim is favoring his side, Eadric smirks and leaps into the air; throwing a flurry of kicks into the illithid's shattered rib in an attempt to take him down and easilly connects with both. Imagine Eadric's surprise when he feels the distinct sensation of an angry kobold throwing every it has into breaking his already injured rib.

Farakim's entire right side is completely caved in, yet it's Eadric that collapses with a tortured scream. Ro'than'dur likewise shouts in pain and collapses where he stands, much to Kavos's horror.

"I'll admit that the meal was hard won." Farakim's voice says as the wind dies down and he appears holding Eadric before him by the collar like a battered prize. "But it appears to be getting easier."

Kavos holds his hands up submissively as Farakim's beasts stalk into a flanking position and the cleric is forced to stumble backwards until the unmoving form of Ro'than'dur blocks his way.

"What do you have to say now human?" Farakim asks, hovering dramatically above the ground, Eadric's battered body held aloft as he savors his imminent victory.

Kavos glances around in a near panic and then smirks as he places a hand upon Ro'than'dur. "That you've proven yourself a fool."

As the healing energy of Cure Serious Wounds floods Ro'than'dur's system, a fraction of the healing is transported into Eadric as well and the kobold spins around like an angry cat in Farakim's grip before unleashing a point blank Fire Breath that causes Farakim to drop him and tumble to the ground screaming.

Farakim's beasts turn to ignore Kavos altogether and charge to protect their master, however Kavos's Ally/Weapon cut off one and Ro'than'dur pounces another as Eadric leaps upon the psionic mercenary's chest and releases a second gout of flame that renders him as little more than a blackened cinder.

The Astral Constructs simply blink out of existence.

Kavos and Ro'than'dur collapse in exhaustion and pain as Eadric tries to ransack Farakim's corpse for his stolen amulets. True to his word, the Amulets are nowhere to be seen and Eadric bursts into tears of loss and outrage until he notices the magical aura surrounding the thin strap which Farakim wore around his head.

Without caring about the consequences, Eadric places it upon his own head and is shocked as his mind processes information even faster than before. The kobold collapses to the ground in turn as relief washes over his battered body.

A slow clap rings out from the treeline and a gravelly, monotone voice calls out "Impressive."

All eyes are the dwarf with the oversized crossbow trained on Kavos's heart as he says "Just goes to show you, a thousand year superiority complex and fancy psychic powers doesn't compare to a little patience."

"Put down the crossbow," Kavos says, his hands raised. "Dolph and Farakim are dead, two spots in The 8 have opened up and we've been chosen to take them. Do you accept contracts on your own allies?"

Rosh continues training his crossbow on the wounded Kavos for a long, tense moment before grinning and resting the weapon against his shoulder. "Years from now, when you're as high and mighty as him, you just remember that I had the opportunity. And opportunity is the ONLY thing that matters in the end."

Kavos heaves an audible sigh of relief. "What are your plans now? Aren't you friends with Ibaeli?"

"Friends is a strong word." Rosh replies. "I was employed by the druid's friends."

"Was[i/]?" Kavos asks.

The dwarf shrugs. "I'm being recalled by the Big 3. They never signed off on this mission so they don't consider it an official 8 assignment. I don't give a sh*t what happens to the little druid once I'm off the clock."

"Just like that?" Kavos asks. "What about their 100% success rate that Dolph was bragging about?"

Rosh narrows his eyes. "You f***ed it up, you'll fix it. Cut the heads off of enough people that might say differently and it has the same effect as being true. I mean, how the hell do you think they recruit anyway?"

Kavos smirks, appreciating the way these people do business more and more. "Tell them to drop in sometime, I'd love to meet them face to face."

Rosh actually laughs as he turns to leave, a raw and unsettling sound. "Careful what you wish for old man, initiation's a bitch."

And with that, the dwarf disappears silently in the foliage.


First Post
Kavos drags Farakim's body into the monster's own fire pit and Eadric uses the last of his Fire Breath to set it aflame. The two of them spend the next hour gathering sticks and fallen branches to stoke the flames higher and eventually a roaring fire sits atop their fallen enemy.

They wait until the fire goes out and they can be sure that he's nothing more than scattered ashes before they wearily board Ro'than'dur and return to the Keep.

Their new home is bristling with activity when they land in the courtyard around midday. All three of them look as though they've been put through a meat grinder and they wave off their worried townspeople and look for a place to settle down and rest. Kavos retires to his spacious chambers while Eadric and Ro'than'dur pass out in a stable to sleep off their respective beatings.

It's just over a day later that they begin stumbling out of their respective holes, cursing their bruised muscles and torn ligaments.

Eadric makes his way to Rambalt's lab and turns in the remainder of his 'smart potions' in case he needs them in the future. Explaining that his 'little problem' has resolved itself. He barely hears what Rambalt says in return however because he's too busy ogling the massive, reptilian skull hanging from the mage's ceiling, connected through a series of pipes to a 50 gallon tank.

Eadric wordlessly runs a hand over the meticulous workmanship and shakes his head incredulously. Judging from the dimensions, this artificial beast will be almost as large as a house and capable of delivering a breath weapon similar to Ro'than'dur when it's finished.

"This is..incredible." Eadric murmurs. "You do good work Rambalt. An army of these things will make us invincible!"

Rambalt grins appreciatively at the praise. "That actually reminds me, I have a proposition to run by Kavos. Do you know where he's at?"

Eadric shrugs and waves upstairs. "Out there, somewhere."

Kavos is handling the day to day affairs of the Keep while subtly asking about artists for an upcoming project. While several people know which end of the brush goes against the canvas, only two really stand out for his purposes. An elderly man named Geoff who once worked as a portrait artist before retiring to West Bank and the dwarf known as Blasphemer who dabbled in sculpture in his youth.

From Geoff, Kavos commissions a stern portrait of himself to hang in the hallway outside his chambers. Blasphemer is asked to carve Kavos's likeness into the outer walls of the Keep. Neither demands payment for their services hoping to get into the aspiring lord's good graces. Nor does either artist ask what purpose their work could possibly serve, figuring it's none of their business.

Before Kavos has a chance to see to the rest of the duties he'd been neglecting during his recovery Rambalt and Eadric approach him, Rambalt glancing around nervously to make sure nobody else is within earshot.

"I need to speak with you Kavos... It's about Dolph." Rambalt begins.

It's Kavos's turn to glance around as he half drags Rambalt to a corner of the courtyard and away from potential eavesdroppers. "What about him?"

"I've been giving some thought to our...erm, package, and I assume we're not keeping him as a trophy...right?" Rambalt asks.

Kavos shakes his head. "Of course not, I'm just waiting for an opportunity to present itself. You may perform any experiments you wish in the meantime."

"Actually...I believe the experiment I have in mind may be beyond me." Rambalt admits. "I've examined the body, but what I've got in mind? I can think of less than half a dozen men in the known world that are theoretically capable of pulling it off...and only one that actually has."

This catches both Kavos and Eadric's attention.

"You'd say that Dolph was a competent opponent, correct?" Rambalt asks the two of them. "That he could potentially be a useful ally if he weren't so...dead."

Kavos nods. "Of course. You want to attempt to reanimate him?"

"That's certainly one way of going about it, though rather wasteful in the long term. What's more useful than a powerful martial artist?" Rambalt asks.

Both Kavos and Eadric look at each other and shrug.

"Five martial artists. Ten. Twenty...a hundred." Rambalt replies.

"You're talking about making more golems?" Eadric asks in confusion. "Like that lumbering oaf you keep around your lab?"

Rambalt shakes his head. "I'm talking about making more DOLPHs."

"How?" Kavos asks suspiciously.

"A former teacher of mine, a brilliant man by the name of Arvyle Vestarn is an alchemist of no small renown. He's mostly disappeared from academic circles in recent years, but I know where he lives." Rambalt explains.

Kavos raises an eyebrow. "He can make PEOPLE?"

Rambalt nods. "I've personally seen him take a drop of a man's blood and grow an almost exact copy. If we could get him a sample from Dolph..."

"Then we'd have an army of him..." Eadric finishes the mage's thought.

Kavos shakes his head. "I believe you're missing a fatal flaw in this plan Rambalt: Dolph left this world an enemy. Dealing with one was more than difficult, dealing with an army... I don't relish the thought of what they'd do to us."

"We replicate the body and the mind, not the will." Rambalt explains. "We'd be creating tools, not allies and certainly not enemies. As strong, fast and hearty as Dolph but completely obedient..."

Kavos and Eadric glance at each other again, interest plainly scrawled across their faces.

Rambalt quickly scribbles a map onto a piece of parchment and hands it to Kavos. "If you'd like to speak with Arvyle, perhaps have him explain the process, you can find him here. Tell him that I sent you."

They prepare horses and supplies for their journey beyond the mountain and Eadric explains the situation to Ro'than'dur, asking the dragon to stay behind to manage the kobolds and to generally keep an eye on things here while they're gone. Ro'than'dur isn't particularly happy about allowing the accident prone kobold to go off on his own, but also knows that if he abandons his followers for too long the littles beasts will start worshipping a rock or bear or something and forget about him.

The trek takes almost a week and the pair take the time to fill each other in on their various situations...or at least their own heavily edited versions. Kavos explains to the still confused Eadric about the bandit attack on West Bank that forced the town to relocate and Eadric mentioned that the Unicorn had somehow got possession of a demonic statue which made wishes come true and was using it to continue its bloodline.

Neither are happier at the end of the trip than they were at the beginning.

Eventually the town of Banner's Pass comes into view and Eadric spurs his horse ahead in a mad dash to be the first to find Arvyle and get this over with. Kavos sighs and continues along at a more leisurely pace.

The alchemist Arvyle lives beyond the small town of Banner's Pass, in a home nestled in the woods beyond where most men care to tread any longer. His home is a small one story cottage with a crumbling porch. All of the windows are boarded over, the walls are peeling and the porch appears to be rotting; save for a well used rocking chair by the front door.

Eadric sneaks around the cottage but finds more of the same on all sides. The back door is overgrown with bushes and bramles to the point where the plants have literally fused with the wood of the home. Eadric quaffs an invisibility potion and decides to hang around the front door in case an opportunity presents itself to get a better look at their potential ally.

Of course the kobold doesn't wait long, as Kavos was only a short ways behind him.

As Kavos knocks on the old, decrepit door Eadric sneaks close enough to hear a rustling from inside. After several minutes there's the sound of several locks being undone and the door opens the slightest crack as a bloodshot eye sporting large, very noticeable cataract appears.

"Hmph?" a creaky voice demands wordlessly.

Kavos glances around irritably and leans in towards the door. "Hello, my name is Kavos Dasgrograv and an associate of yours told me that you may be able to offer a very unique service."

"I don't sell blueberries anymore!" the wheezing voice nearly shouts. "Those damned gnomes ate them all!"

Kavos blinks in surprise. "Ummm, that IS a shame sir, but I didn't come for blueberries. My associate mentioned certain alchemical services that you-"

"I don't do alchemy anymore!" the wheezing voice shouts again. "Damned gnomes stole all my reagents! They use them to get high you know...right THERE on my front porch!"

Kavos starts to say something, but just looks around in confusion. "You...are Arvyle right? The master alchemist that Rambalt told me about?"

"Rambalt...?" the voice asks softly.

The door slams shut for a moment and the sound of a chain being removed is audible, the door starts to inch open once more when it suddenly tries to close once more and the voice begins shouting "No, no, no! Azrael! No!" and with a victorious meow a severely underfed yellow tomcat rushes out of the crack and bolts into the nearby woods.

The door swings open and a similarly malnourished, nearly skeletal, old man dressed in filthy rags and sporting broken yellow teeth and a balding head of dark gray hair stands there, a look of absolute betrayal etched on his face.

"Well..." the elderly alchemist sighs in defeat. "The cat's got out."

As Kavos steps into the old man's home and Eadric rushes in, still invisible, they're both hit with the overwhelmingly pungent smell, sound and sight of two dozen completely identical tomcats prowling the darkened interior. The floor is littered with countless forgotten pages which serve as carpet/haphazard litter box for the inhabitants within. Both Kavos and Eadric cover their faces in disgust.

"So," Kavos begins. "How is it that blueberries assist in alchemy?"

The alchemist shakes his head. "Unrelated! Filthy, thieving gnomes. They steal anything not nailed down!"

Kavos distastefully steps around as much of the mess as he can while replying "No...not a fan of them myself. Always laughing...plotting... Not that I'm opposed to laughing on principle, just that where I come from they have a saying 'laughter without reason is a sign of stupidity' and gnomes are the epitome of that idiom."

"Exactly, exactly!" Arvyle shouts in agreement. "The only thing stupider than a gnome is a mangy, ungrateful CAT." he growls, punting one of the toms across the room and out of his way with a hiss.

Arvyle immediately begins panting from the minor exertion as he says "So...Rambalt believes I can help you with something?"

Kavos watches the cat bounce off a wall before rejoining its loudly whining brothers once more. "Well...cloning to put it simply. He claimed you could clone a human...though I'm not so sure myself. I've come to hear the workings behind the process before I commit to anything."

"Process is simple." Arvyle says dismissively. "Take a little bit of the creature you want more of, remove a piece of its essence a cultivate a new one."

The senile alchemist snatches one of the cats by the scruff of the neck and waves it in front of Kavos's face. "See this! Indistinguishable from the real thing, right?"

Kavos has to admit that it is indeed impressive. "What determines the actions of these creatures then? Are they automatons? Do they think or feel?"

Snorting unpleasantly, Arvyle explains "You bind the creature to its owner's will before you even start. They give the illusion of thought and will, but that's all it is. An illusion."

"So...they're just imitations?" Kavos asks. "Just soulless husks without emotion? How far from the real thing are they?"

Arvyle draws a knife and with a terrifyingly practiced motion severs the cloned cat's leg. The cat hisses in pain and anger, but when Arvyle drops it it neither seems to bleed or notice its missing extremity.

"They act like they're supposed to act...but I decide how they're supposed to act." Arvyle says.

Kavos suddenly has realization that this could help him with an unrelated issue as well. "Clone me!" the cleric barks out.

"What's in it for me?" Arvyle barks back, glaring suspiciously.

"Well...what do you want?" Kavos asks.

Arvyle glances around conspiringly. "Kill those f***ing gnomes! They've pestered me for years...but now it's my chance. My turn for justice... Bring me their leader, their father, so that he can answer for his crimes and I'll do anything you want."

"These aren't your run of the mill gnomes I'd assume?" Kavos asks a little irritably at the old man's ravings.

Arvyle violently shakes his head. "They're organized! Crafty! I've often sought them out, but I'm an old man and unable to keep up with them... I've been copying Azrael for months now in hopes of sending HIM against them but...."

"It didn't work?" Kavos offers.

"It was a poorly conceived plan." Arvyle agrees with a nod.

Now during all of this, Eadric had been snooping around Arvyle's home; hoping to get a better sense of their prospective ally. However all he'd discovered was cat droppings, soggy papers and a magically locked door that he couldn't seem to get open without alerting everyone to his presence.

As Arvyle mentions wanting to kill the gnomes however, Eadric has a theatric idea and downs an Alter Self extract to assume the form of a short, fat gnome himself. He steps up behind Arvyle, tapping the alchemist on the back as his invisibility fades.

Arvyle turns around, a look of absolute horror suddenly appearing on his face.

"Tadaa-" Eadric starts, apparently intending to showcase his powers of disguise and stealth; only to be cut off by the screaming alchemist.

"Gnooooome!" Arvyle shouts, and as one all 24 starving cats begin growling and surrounding the now nervously chuckling Eadric.

Before Eadric can even twitch he's buried under a veritable tide of hissing cats. They claws and bite with an overwhelming sense of rage, but at the end of the day they're still just a bunch of half-starved cats and a single burst of Eadric's acid breath turns them all into a distasteful goop.

"My cats!" Arvyle wails, fumbling in his rags for a potion and downs it in a single drink...before passing out.

Eadric stands there in silent confusion for a brief moment before it suddenly strikes him just what's going on and he rushes towards Arvyle's unconscious form in a blind panic. Eadric falls to his knees beside Arvyle and quickly rifles through the alchemists clothes until he finds what he's looking for and tears a dark crystal from around Arvyle's neck, holding it in the air triumphantly.

Or at least he does until a manic grin splits his features and the kobold/gnome leaps to his feet to do an excited little dance.

"Ahahahaha!" Eadric's possessed body shouts, waving the gem over his head as he dances wildly around the room. "I got it! I got one! They'll never see me coming looking like this!"

Kavos starts to say something but is cut off by Eadric/Arvyle twirling around him.

"See? I told you those damned gnomes do nothing but torment me! Ohhhh, but I've got one of them now! I'm gonna sneak in there and burn the whole damned village down, then I'm going to show this one what happens when you melt a man's cats!" Arvyle shouts through Eadric's voice. With a frown, Arvyle adds "Is a tad strange though. Most of them don't vomit acid when you confront them... Most peculiar...."

Kavos snatches Arvyle by the shoulders and looks him in the eye. "Arvyle...Arvyle, calm down. I'm sorry, but this isn't a gnome. It's my partner. He has a flair for the dramatic and it often turns against it has now."

Arvyle stops in his tracks. "Your partner's a GNOME!?"

"No!" Kavos quickly responds. "He's just a master of disguise. He's actually a kobold and a very clever one at that."

"Oh..." Arvyle says, disappointment on his face. "Wait...but your partner killed my cats!"

Kavos stammers for a moment. "Ah...well...yeah, he did do that. But..he uh...probably didn't mean to....? Look, I'm not asking you to forgive him; but I could really use his assistance against the gnomes."

With an angry grumble, Arvyle asks "So if I let him go, you'll keep him under control? And get rid of the gnomes for real!?"

"I'm not going to lie...I have no control over him." Kavos admits. "But if you let him go I'll do everything in my power to dissolve this situation."

Arvyle begins grumbling angrily once again and Kavos subtly casts Sanctuary on the alchemist's unconscious body...just in case.

"I'll let him go as a sign of good faith, I mean I can always make more cats...but not before-" Arvyle starts, but interrupts himself by shoveling handfuls of the 'well used' paper from the floor into his/Eadric's mouth and swallowing between pained gags.

Suddenly Arvyle's body sits up and Eadric is himself once more, dry-heaving on the floor and drinking every extract on his person in an attempt to get rid of the horrible taste.

"I'll kill you!" Eadric manages to shout between gags.

"One of them had worms!" Arvyle shouts as a bizarre/horrible threat in response.

Kavos moves between the two of them and hisses at Eadric to calm down.

"No!" Eadric shouts, downing a Firebreath extract just to try to burn the taste away. "He put cat poop in my mouth Kavos! Do you have ANY idea what that tastes like?"

"So you beat an old man to death over a misunderstanding?" Kavos whispers back.

"No...I'm just going to rough him up some and drag him back to the Keep myself. He can work on our army there whether he wants to or not." Eadric angrily whispers back.

"You...want to force a man that you beat up, after killing his cats mind you, to create an army of super warriors?" Kavos asks in response. "Repeat that a few times Eadric, how does that sound?"

"That's...not the point!" Eadric shouts, vaulting over Kavos and towards Arvyle; leaping into the air with a spinning kick towards the alchemist's face. However at the last second he's struck by the effects of Sanctuary and has to pull back; finding himself unable to strike the man no matter how badly he'd like too.

Arvyle has already fallen onto the ground and assumed the fetal position and Kavos breathes an inward sigh of relief that Eadric didn't see him casting his protection on the old man.

Eadric storms out of the house cursing and heading back towards town.

"I apologize Arvyle, I have no idea what would make my companion behave so irrationally." Kavos says, bowing low.

"I thought he was here to steal my heart medicine!" Arvyles shouts in response. "That's what gnomes do you know...they steal your heart medicine when you're not looking..."

Closing his eyes to ward off a headache Kavos nods in agreement. "Yes...they love that heart medication. That's just how my father died."

Kavos returned to the small town of Banner's Pass to discover that Eadric had already left town, leaving the cleric to deal with the matter of the alchemist and the gnomes by himself.

Approaching the only inn/tavern in town, Kavos introduces himself as 'Larnie' to the portly innkeeper and inquires about a room for the night. The inn only has four in all, but since the trading season's passed they're all still available.

As the innkeeper prepares the room Kavos tags along probing about the gnomes.

"I don't recall if I told you this, but I represent a traveling circus and what brought me out here today was a rumor I heard. I'm looking for some new hands to run the place...small, gnome sized hands to be precise; but they're hard to find. Damned hard to find." Kavos says. "But I heard that there might be some 'round here. You ever hear such a thing?"

The innkeeper nods with a laugh. "Most folks around here'll tell you that you're chasing your tail, but I've heard too many strange tales of the little folk in the forest to ignore them. I get travelers from all over through here and almost all the regulars say that they've seen something out there."

"Like what?" Kavos asks, his curiosity piqued.

"Shadows in the brush, giggling and whispers, merchandise disappearing right off the wagon. That forest ain't fit to travel for decent folk and I reckon that's just where a gnome would want to live." the innkeeper says with a shrug.

"But other people here don't believe in them?" Kavos asks suspiciously.

"Oh, I reckon everybody knows that gnomes are a thing. They just don't believe we've got any 'round here." the innkeeper explains. "Gnomes might be crazy, but they ain't necessarily stupid. They aren't going to just march into town."

"No, I suppose they wouldn't..." Kavos muses, Arvyle's ramblings suddenly seeming slightly less far-fetched. "I'll be heading out in the morning but I'll need some 'supplies'," Kavos says with a wink. "Fetch me up a keg for the road?"

The innkeeper laughs and says that he'll have it secured to Kavos's horse by morning.

Kavos starts to walk off but then stops, "I don't suppose there's an apothecary in town is there? I've been having trouble sleeping lately and would like a little something to make the night go by easier."

The innkeeper shakes his head. "We used to use old Arvyle but...well, he's been slipping in recent years. I'm afraid you won't get much out of him anymore. Miss Edna down th street there has a similar problem though, she always keeps a healthy supply of herbs on hand for emergencies. You could probably buy some off of her if you're desperate."

Kavos smiles. "Oh, I'd say desperate is the right word alright."


Kavos wakes up bright and early to discover the keg already loaded onto his horse, true to the innkeeper's word. With a conspiring glance around he stuffs the sleeping herbs he'd purchased off the aging spinster into the keg of ale and corks it back up with a grin.

The forest 'path' that the innkeeper spoke of is dense and mostly untrodden, having been abandoned years ago for the Duke's highway, however it's still passable by horse; even if it is slow going.

It's almost an hour before Kavos notices figures flitting about in the foliage out of the corner of his eye and another twenty minutes before he notices the faint sound of whispers just up ahead.

Kavos continues acting as nonchalant as possible, while following the sounds and shadows as best he can. The sounds grow louder and softer, the shapes closer and further away, as the day goes on.

It's almost evening time by the time Kavos hears the steady roar of hushed voices conspiring in the distance and kicks his horse into motion, emerging from the forest and into a clearing that briefly makes him question if he'd already been in the drugged ale without remembering it.

In the clearing is a sizable structure roughly 3 stories tall and garishly painted, surrounded by close to 30 patchwork mud huts built in its shadow. Before the great structure is a pair of haphazardly built sculptures which seem to present the image of a wise and powerful gnome in heavy armor, holding a sickle in one hand and a book in the other. The statues are uneven and of questionable quality.

Hanging off of every hut, as well as a dozen hastily assembled flag poles are stolen sheets inscribed with 'inspirational' messages such as "Obey!" and "Give what you can, receive what you need."

A number of people barely 3ft tall all spin around as one, panic etched on their faces. They're primarily male and each wears a thick white beard, red pointed hat and ragged clothing with a name tag permanently sewed onto their chests.

Only a single gnome isn't dressed in rags, instead he wears a rich; silken robe engraved with similar sayings as the flags. The richly dressed gnome glances around like a child caught doing something he isn't supposed to and then slowly converts his sheepish smile into one of bravado and confidence.

"Welcome the Glorious Gnomish Republic!" the gnome shouts enthusiastically.

Kavos glances around at the squalid buildings and the starving gnomes, several of which are simply collapsed face down in the dirt, and attempts a smile. "I wasn't expecting such a....beautiful town." he says pleasantly.

A nearby gnome with the word Intellectual stitched into his shirt raises a finger dramatically. "Of course not human. Unlike your people we don't live in the hollowed remains of our own dead."

Kavos blinks in confusion. "What...?"

The richly dressed gnome steps forward and motions for the 'Intellectual' to shut up. "He only means that the Glorious Gnomish Republic is a fully realized utopia whose majesty can be matched by few."

Kavos glances around at the starving citizens, half-finished homes and filth. "I must admit that I have never met gnomes before. Do all of your people like like this?"

The richly dressed gnome laughs. "Of course not. Most of them live in the woods like dirty savages."

Kavos starts to respond to that and simply shakes his head. "How rude of me to appear unannounced. My name is Kavos Dasgrograv...and you are?"

The 'Intellectual' gnome leaps up once again. "This is the Wise and Benevolent Papa Gnome, leader and founder of the Glorious Gnomish Republic!"

Kavos nods slowly. "I have been traveling for many days, I went to forage some...uh...blueberries in the woods, but lost my way until I spotted your people among the trees. I would be happy to share my drink with you if I may be permitted to stay for the night."

Papa Gnome nods and claps his hands. "We are a hospitable people human, stay as long as you like."

Several bulky looking gnomes with Laborer stitched onto their shirts appear and Papa Gnome whispers a few words to them before they run off.

"We will have a feast in your honor human!" Papa Gnome proclaims loudly.

"This should really be a treat!" the Intellectual gnome says, sidling up to Kavos. "Unlike humans we don't eat our guests for their precious protein."

Kavos jerks his head towards Intellectual again "What?" he asks, growing a little offended with the gnome's strange generalizations.

Several tables are dragged from the large structure and quickly lay it out with a variety of dishes and delicacies of the gnomish people...which is to say it's filled with random mushrooms, berries and dead animals that they found in the woods.

Several unhealthily thin gnomes try to crawl towards the feasting area, but receive the butt of a spear slammed into their nose by a pair of gnomes labeled 'Soldier', along with a variety of colorful curses.

Papa Gnome smiles and explains "They forget their manners. Guests are served first!"

"You are truly a hospitable people. I'll tell stories of your generosity and taste for the remainder of my days." Kavos replies with mock sincerity.

A handful of gnomes take a seat along with Kavos, Intellectual and Papa Gnome; the clan's patriarch immediately taps into Kavos's keg while the others try not to look directly at it.

With a smile, Kavos begins filling mugs and passing them around; though each gnome excuses themself as not being thirsty and passes their drink back up to Papa Gnome who downs it happily.

Kavos subtly casts Purify Food and Water on everything that he eats or drinks. Not only to negate the effects of the sleeping herb, but to keep from poisoning himself with the clearly toxic mushrooms the gnomes seem to find so delicious.

Kavos barely picks at his food, however the gnomes fall into their meal with reckless abandon; stuffing their faces as though they're starving...except for Papa Gnome who eats like a a-hole trying to hoard food from starving people.

It doesn't take long before the pint sized dictator's passed out, face down in his own plate.

Kavos chuckles. "I guess he had a little too much to drink."

The gnomes look like they've been slapped in the face.

"Oh, no. Definitely not!" Intellectual pipes in, causing Kavos to groan. "It's highly unlikely that someone as intelligent and farsighted as the Wise and Benevolent Papa Gnome would drink himself into a stupor. No, it's far more likely that being the beacon of effeciency and work ethic that he is, he anticipated a long night of important work ahead of him and as such chose to prepare now with a nap."

Kavos is astonished by the sheer volume of the little gnome's BS, but the other gnomes nod approvingly.

Intellectual sighs in admiration. "Foresightful as always!"

Kavos nods slowly before suggesting that the other gnomes should partake of some ale since it'd be a shame to see it go to waste and they quickly decide that they are in fact thirsty after all. Within only a few moments all of them save for Intellectual have passed out and the annoying little propagandist is all but nodding off in his seat.

Smiling, Kavos casts Bestow Curse onto the sleeping form of Papa Gnome; lowering the gnomish leader's Strength score to 0 as he slumbers. He follows it up with a Blind.

"Perhaps it was a bad idea to share my ale after all." Kavos says with a smile. "Gnomes don't seem to be able to hold their alcohol very well."

Intellectual shakes his head slowly. "Nonsense, we simply see the wisdom in the Wise and Benevolent Papa Gnome's actions. How better to improve our own lives than by emulating his?"

"Then why aren't you asleep?" Kavos asks accusingly. "Is Papa Gnome's example not good enough for you?"

Intellectual fights the urge to pass out and shakes his head indignantly. "I know what you humans do to each other when you fall asleep. I'm not going to have ANY of that!"

Kavos nods slowly and then smiles broadly. "You know Intellectual...they're true. ALL of the stories are true."

Intellectual suddenly sits up in shock, his face going white.

Kavos quickly snatches Papa Gnome by the beard and hauls the little gnome up roughly so that he can position him between himself and the other gnomes.

"Oh my gods!" shouts Intellectual gnome. "Stay out of his ear! Guards, guards!"

Once again Kavos just shakes his head in disbelief and wonders where the gnomes get their information. However his amusement is shortlived as the mudhuts very nearly explode with activity, each of them belching out around half a dozen gnomes. Within seconds there literally a hundred or more gnomes storming the street.

"The Glorious Leader!" a female gnome wails.

"Somebody save him!"a panicked male answers.

"He can save himself!" yet another gnome shouts out.

"He's helpless!" another voice shouts over the rabble.

"That's no god! He's just a gnome!" an angry soldier shouts accusingly.

"Blasphemy!" several more voices ring out.

"Kill him." a bored voice responds.

"F*** it, revolution!" yet more voices shriek.

Kavos holds up his hands in an attempt to keep the crowd calm. "My gnomish friends, please hear my words and hear them well, Papa Gnome was a thief and a liar who sought to lead your community into poverty and servitude! But I[/i} have liberated you!"

"REVOLUTION!" several more gnomes shout and strike the gnome standing next to them with rocks or fists whether they agree or not.

"No!" Kavos shouts over the din. "Revolution isn't necessary! Your society can rebuild, you can look towards your leaders for a fresh start! You can-"

Suddenly a muscular, barechested gnome with 'Stabby' bloodily carved across his chest bursts out of a nearby mudhut; a full throated scream drowning everybody else out as he stabs Intellectual directly in the head with what appears to be a homemade shiv.

Everybody, Kavos included, stands there in shocked silence for almost a minute while Intellectual convulses and dies in front of them...

"REVOLUTION!" pretty much every gnome shouts at once, pouncing upon their neighbors with the unbridled conviction of the mad. Without the ever judgmental glare of Papa Gnome watching over them they give into their natural, chaotic impulses and they seemingly couldn't be happier.

Kavos breathes a sigh of relief, tosses Papa Gnome over his shoulder and keeps his head down as he makes a beeline for his horse.

"Well that couldn't have gone better." he mutters happily, sidestepping a pair of gnomes strangling each other with their own belts.

One week later.....

Eadric arrives at the unicorn's lair and finds the Fire Idol relatively unattended. The kobold approaches the statue and loudly states "Idol, I come to you with a request!"

"Naturally..." the Idol's voice replies smugly. "But what do I get out of it?"

"I can grant you freedom. A body to inhabit." Eadric replies coldly.

The Fire Idol takes a moment to respond. "A generous proposal. What would you ask in return?"

Eadric smiles to himself. "I'm too often plagued by magic. I want that to stop... Permanently."

"A mighty request." the Idol replies. "Which I believe deserves a mighty payment. Give me your beast, the dragon Ro'than'dur to be my host."

Eadric's eyes shoot open wide. " can take my arm if you're in one of those moods, but there's no way in Hell I'm giving you my dragon."

The Idol laughs. "No, I've tasted your flesh. It bores me. But perhaps a favor?"

Eadric raises an eyebrow.

"Travel to the Plane of Fire, find the Azer which trapped me within this accursed prison and find a way to set me free. Do this and magic will flow off you like water off a duck." the Idol promises.

"How?" Eadric asks, his interest secured.

"Find the Architect, the one which built The Bastille. Only he would know." the Idol explains.

Eadric is almost drooling as he says. "You have a deal."

Back in present time....
Kavos returns to Arvyle's home with Papa Gnome still unconscious in his arms to discover the elderly alchemist's door wide open and Arvyle himself unmoving on his disgusting floor.

With a start, Kavos tosses Papa Gnome unceremoniously into a corner and rushes to Arvyle's side; placing a hand on the old man's chest and shouting in surprise as Arvyle sits bolt upright and glances around groggily.

"Has the cat came back?" Arvyle asks before yawning loudly.

Kavos sighs in relief and shakes his head. "Not that I've seen."

Arvyle frowns in disappointment until he notices Papa Gnome laying in the corner; at which point he leaps to his feet like a man a quarter of his age and whoops excitedly. "You got him? You got him!" the old man shouts, licking his lips in unsettling anticipation.

"Yes." Kavos replies, snapping his fingers to return Arvyle's attention to himself. "Now that I've upheld my side of the bargain, I expect you to get to work."

Arvyle stares at him in confusion until Kavos mentions the clones.

With a surprising amount of skip in his step Arvyle approaches the locked door in his home and knocks a simple melody against it, causing the door to swing open and reveal a set of stairs.

Kavos follows the old man down to discover a lab which reminds him considerably of Rambalt's. There are 10 man sized glass tubes evenly arranged around the lab.

"What exactly would it take to recreate this?" Kavos asks. "Could you, for example, teach me? Or perhaps Rambalt?"

Arvyle shakes his head vehemently. "No, no, no, no. I studied for 60 years to get the understanding I needed to make my process work. I doubt you have the time my friend. Perhaps my apprentice could puzzle out my formula, but...well he always preferred other pursuits."

"Understandable." Kavos says with a nod, drawing a small box from his pocket which he opens to reveal a perfectly preserved finger from Dolph's corpse.

"I need five of this guy." Kavos says, waving around the finger. "And five of me, though only the heads are necessary in my case."

Arvyle raises an eyebrow.

"Can you do both at once? Or...?" Kavos asks.

"Yes, yes...I can do it." Arvyle replies, drawing his knife and picking up a nearby bowl. "Though I'll need your blood for the process."

Kavos nods, holding out his arm for Arvyle to slice open. The alchemist collects a bowl full before splitting the contents between five glass beakers and settling in to examine them carefully.

"How long until-" Kavos starts.

"Shhh!" Arvyle snaps, not even looking up.

"Sorry, I just-" Kavos begins again.

"Shh!" Arvyle replies.

Irritably, Kavos barks "How long will this take?"

Arvyle glances over his shoulder with a frown. "Hrm...I'll let you know in a month."

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads