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[PF] Old Gods, new tricks

Doc Donuts

This game came out a conversation at a cookout at my dad's house over ayear ago. Two of his old college friends had recently moved back tothe area and the three of them were laughing about their old games,which were mostly 1st edition D&D and Rolemaster.

On the way home my wife commented that it was the first time she had seen my dad laugh since my parent's divorce a couple of years earlier, and it was nice to see. We talked a bit about it and a few weeks later I ended up offering to run a Pathfinder game for my dad and his friends. I hadn't had the time to doing any gaming since college and missed it. Between a new job, getting married and having a kid there just hadn't been much time.

They didn't know the system at all, but were interested and came up to speed quickly. We meet about once every three weeks, usually at my house and are still playing now, over a year later.

My wife wasn’t a gamer, but she was home for some of the sessions, and gradually she got interested, and after about six months decided she wanted to play too. I helped her create a character and wrote her into the game. I chose to start this story hour with her entrance.. The characters are 6thlevel at this point.

Amyrllis Meadowlark (Ryll): Very calm and laid back halfling and scout, deadly with the crossbow she carries. She is far quicker, stealthier and more athletic than she has any right to be given how short and round she is. She wears her light brown hair in a short pony tail and her face is deeply tanned and covered with freckles.

Figorna: A young human ranger with blue eyes, pale skin and red curly hair.She is extremely fair and gets sunburned easily. She carries a composite longbow and a longsword and wears a light chain shirt under her traveling clothes in brown and green. She has a hawk animal companion she calls Rutger that is very shy.

Melankurian (Mel) : A quiet middle aged human, tall and wiry with very short gray hair and almost colorless eyes. He says little, preferring to let the others handle the social side of things, which is good because he is awful at it. He is the main spellcaster of the group and is fond of magics that are somewhat elemental in nature. He has a ginger colored cat familiar named Cilla that disappears for long periods of time.

Vanal: At first glance he looks like your typical heavily armed dwarven warrior, though he wears a bit less armor than many of his people. A second and third glance just confirms that first impression, but also that he is extremely young to have gotten all of those scars. He has dark brown skin, curly black hair and beard and a friendly smile, and is a good bit less formal (Ryll would say less crabby) than your average dwarf.

Halfling weddings are a time where the entire community cuts loose. The wedding of Twyler Meadowlark to Raldis Book was looked upon with great expectation by the locals in the halfling village of Longmont. Twyler's mother Ryll was a well traveled woman, wealthy by local standards, and the gossip at the local inn was that she was planning something special.

There is some truth to the rumors. As a single parent Ryll is determined to go out for her one and only child. She calls in a few favors from two old friends to help her make the day special.

Melankurian and Vanal arrive one morning about three days before the festivities are scheduled to begin, escorting a teamster hired to bring in supplies that can’t be sourced locally, along with two casks of Vanal's famous corn whiskey, 6 cases of wine from Mel's wife's family vineyard and two halfling chefs imported at great expense from Wilburs in Scottdale, 75 miles away.

The event itself goes off without a hitch. The five traditional pre-wedding meals each have their own theme, and the few non halfling guests are smart enough to pace themselves. By the time the ceremony begins the crowd is no longer hungry and is more than a little drunk.

They have time to sober up. The local cleric that married them is getting on in years, and is a bit senile. He rambles on for far longer than most of the audience deems appropriate, but with a little prompting from Ryll he wraps it up eventually. After the happy couple is officially married everyone is ready for the real party to begin, and it goes on until almost dawn, with a lot more eating, drinking and dancing. By the end the band is just as drunk as the guests, but no one seems to mind.

The next day starts out a bit more low-key with a quiet breakfast in the Meadowlark family home along with the only other non-halfling who attended the wedding, a pretty young human ranger named Figorna. No one feels up to doing much, but Vanal talks the others into taking a hike further into the mountains, claiming that the best hangover cure is vigorous exercise, enough to either clear the head or induce vomiting. He explains earnestly that this cure can be followed by more whiskey if necessary.

The hike takes them about two hours over a seldom used path over some pretty rough terrain. They end up over 1500 feet higher in elevation. The three friends spend the time getting to know Figorna a bit better. She knows the Book family through Raldis's late father, who hid a bit of adventuring with her mother 20 years earlier and the two families have kept in touch. She is on leave from work leading caravans through the mountains in the human Kingdom of Avenal to the east.

After a couple hours of rough terrain Ryll leads them to a level clearing that overlooks the valley below. Off in the distance they can see the village far below, and two other small farming communities further out towards Avenal.

Vanal is as interested in the clearing as the view. The mountain continues to rise behind them another 6000 feet higher, with the peaks capped in snow even now in late summer. The clearing shows no signs that any sort of structure has ever been built there, but to his trained eye it definitely looks like someone shaped the land here. He expresses this opinion, but Ryll shrugs and tells him that when she was a kid her great grandfather told her that it has always been this way as far as he knew. Halflings have been picnicking here for centuries.

They pause for a bit to rest and enjoy the afternoon and partake of some of Vanal’s hangover cure. Mel's familiar Cilla stalks mice in the grass while Figorna’s hawk flies overhead looking for prey of his own. Figorna has to remind her companion more than once that Mel’s familiar is not food.

Their enjoyment is short lived though.

*something hunts in the woods, more than one* Cilla tells Mel as she jumps up under his cloak. He turns to look and motions the others to do the same.

For a moment they see nothing, then Ryll fires three quick bolts back down the path they had arrived from earlier.

Figorna notches an arrow to her bow and fires a half second later, just as a large ball of flames rolls over everyone but Vanal.

The dwarven warrior sprints towards the others to intercept any melee threat that might be coming, wondering what the heck is going on. As he reaches the others a bolt of lightening leaps from Mel's fingertips, impacting at the edge of the clearing, enveloping four charging Orcs.

Figorna drops her bow and draws her longsword, managing to get it ready in time to parry an attack by the lead Orc.

Vanal takes on the next one, hits it with his flail and dodges the Orc's counterattack. Another Orc tries to slip past him to get to Ryll and is surprised when Vanal' manages to attack him too, realizing too late that the dwarf really hated to pass up any opportunity to attack his people’s ancient enemies. It staggers and almost falls, and looks up to see the last thing it will ever see: Ryll calmly shooting it in the face.

Too his chagrin Vanal can’t fully avoid the last charging Orc, and takes a nasty cut from it’s falchion. He takes two more cuts before he is able to retaliate, his flail bouncing between one Orc’s right arm and the other’s left leg. Both fall and Vanal steps forward to flank Figorna's opponent, who looks a good bit tougher than the Orcs he faced.

Meanwhile Ryll takes a step to get a better shot, but the Orc shaman has fled back into the woods, along with an Orc with a bow who had fired a few times and managed to hit nothing. She races down the path after them, worried about the presence of Orcs so close to Longmont.

The halflings of Longnont are blessed with a well protected location in a large valley almost completely surrounded by impassable mountains. The only navigable way into their lands passes through territory occupied by a formidable ally, the human kingdom of Avenal. There should be no way that a group of Orcs could get here, so their presence here is alarming.

Figorna and Vanal try to get the last Orc to surrender but it refuses, and continues to fight defensively against both of them. Vanal respects its dedication. Occupying two of them to give its comrades time to escape is far more honorable behavior than he is used to from his people's eternal enemy.

Mel leaves them there and follows Ryll, worried that she will run into something that she can’t handle alone. He hears a shout up ahead and finds her lying on the path unconscious. He cautiously moves forward, searching for whatever had took her out. As he got to her he crouches down, chanting a simple healing song and is relieved when she groans and sits up.

A few seconds later Vanal and Figorna catches up with them. Figorna calls to Rutger and the hawk circles above them while they take heal some of the considerable damage they have all taken. Mel is still winded and hungover is really wishing he had stayed back at the village. “Hangover cure...yeah right….idiot” he mumbles, looking at Vanal.

Rutger suddenly flies overhead and screeches. Figorna nodes. "Rutger sees them, over that way" She takes the lead with her sword out and quickly finds their trail.

The chase takes about half an hour, but they finally run them down far from the trail leading back to the halfling village in an area Ryll is not familiar with.

Figorna catches a glimpse of the two Orcs stumbling ahead and puts on a burst of speed. Abruptly she stops and dives behind a tree for cover as they turn to face her. To her surprise the two Orcs are not alone. Three more Orcs nearby raise their bows and start firing.

Vanal is right behind her and takes an arrow in in his shoulder. He trips, falls on his face and rolls behind a tree with a move so graceful he hopes that anyone looking thinks it was intentional. He takes a moment to pull out a healing potion and chug it before getting to his feet.

Mel has enough time to move to cover, and starts to make his way a bit farther from the rest of the group, not wanting to get into fireball formation again.

Ryll is a bit farther back, unable to keep up, and is swearing, not for the first time, about the injustice of short halfling legs. She sees Mel break left so she turns right and creeps forward, looking for a shot.

Figorna and the Orcs are exchanging missile fire. With no good means to help, Vanal contemplates his stance that missile weapons are for wusses. He pulls out his final healing potion and prepares to charge, figuring its hard to fire arrows with an angry dwarf in your face,

Mel keeps moving, and finds a good spot with decent cover and a nice view. He chants softly and lightening leaps out, enveloping the Shaman and two other Orcs. He hears someone else chanting nearby and sees Figorna get enveloped with sticking webbing.

Feeling late to the party Ryll kneels down and starts firing, dropping the shaman with two quick arrows to the chest.

As Figorna struggles in the webbing Vanal charges, screaming obscenities in Orcish on his way in. Somehow the Orcs miss him entirely and then he is among them, which is not where you want him to be if you are an Orc with a bow.

Mel shifts to take on this new threat and catches a brief glimpse of a green cloaked figure with an extremely skinny pale face with violet eyes. As he begins to chant the enemy caster disappears, along with everything else. He manages not to panic when he looses his sight, but knows he is in trouble.

Vanal and Ryll finish off the remaining Orcs and rush to find whoever webbed Figorna. She manages to escape the webs ensnaring her and moves to see if Mel needs help. She finds him leaning up against a tree, listening intently. He gestures towards where he thinks the mage might be and she heads out that way.

Ryll thinks she hears something and turns towards it, just in time to hear the word 'Arataetnael' nearby. She feels the spell take effect and struggles without success to fight it, but manages to fire her bow. She hears someone curse in an unknown language as she collapses to the ground, unable to move as per blood boils and she looses consciousness.

This cat and mouse game between the party and the spellcaster continues. Their enemy is now invisible, and they feel like he or she is just playing with them. Vanal fights off the effects of two spells, but manages to make his way to Ryll, find a potion in her pack and heal her to the point that she is awake, then has to intercept Figorna and prevent her from attacking Mel while under the control of yet another enemy spell.

Finally though, Ryll notices a tree branch move and shoots, hitting the mage. She keeps firing and while most of the bolts miss, it allows Vanal and Figorna to move in. The mage has nowhere to run and collapses, becoming visible when he dies. Before Vanal can roll him over to see who had caused all of this the body disintegrated completely, leaving the clothing behind.

Doc Donuts

Session 2: The search for the missing Orc, a discovery and travel to the Big City.

It is good that there is no one left to fight, it wouldn’t take much to finish them off. Mel is blind, and they are all wounded, with Ryll barely conscious.

Vanal and Figorna make sure that all of the Orcs are dead, and examine the bodies. The Orcs all have heavily scarred backs and look like they had not eaten well recently. They all wear iron bands around their left ankles, and from the scarred skin around the band it was obvious they had been wearing them for a long time. They all had good masterwork weapons and are wearing well made armor, but none of them had any other possessions.

The last creature they fought is a bigger mystery. There is no body in the clothing, which is sized for someone with a much slighter frame than the large Orcs. The clothing is much better quality than what the Orcs were wearing, and there is also a ring, belt and a small bundle of sticks with runes carved on them that all radiate magic. Examining the clothing further they find a strange gold coin sewn into the cloak the spellcaster was wearing. They take it all of it for later examination.

Mel describes what little he saw of it, namely a narrow pale face and violet oddly shaped eyes. None of them have any idea what it might have been as it was definitely not human, too tall for a halfling and not the right build for either an Orc or dwarf.

[OOC: Only PC races in the world are Orcs, humans, halflings and dwarves]

Ryll feels well enough to walk, so they decide to head back to the trail. Figorna takes the lead while Vanal lead Mel, who is still blind.

When they reach the path it is late afternoon. Vanal decides to hike back to the clearing to check out the remaining dead Orcs. He returns in about half an hour with troubling news. He found only three bodies, and there should have been four. The last Orc they fought in the clearing, the one that delayed them from chasing the Shaman and other Orc was not there and he couldn't find any trace of him.

The group debates whether or not it was better to stay and search for him, or head back to the village in case there were more in the area. In the end they decide to head back down the mountain and reach the village about half an hour after dark.

After warning a few of the locals they go back to Ryll's house and collapse. In the morning Mel removes his blindness and they heal themselves of most of the damage they had taken. They try to identify the items and determine they have a Belt of Physical Perfection and a Ring of Feather Falling. The rest are still a mystery.

With the village on a higher state of alert they go back up to investigate further. They find all of the bodies are where they left them, but one of the bows and all of the arrows are missing. They search the area all day looking for the missing Orc but never do find him.

They do find something though when they stop to rest for a bit. They are almost 400’ directly above the clearing they had picnicked on yesterday when Vanal notices something in the rocks right above him that looks a bit off.

Ryll climbs up to where Vanal points, secures a rope and drops it down so Vanal can follow. He looks around for a long time, and is about to give up when his hand passes through the side of the mountain. Not expecting that he stumbles and almost falls down the steep slope but manages to catch himself.

Mel and Figorna climb up to help. A little more examination reveals a large doorway of worked stone about 12’ high and 8’ wide. Even though they know it is an illusion they still can’t see through it, only their sense of touch allows them to determine what is really there. Mel tries without success to dispel it.

The four of them keep searching, and Ryll eventually finds a depression in the stone while standing on Figorna's shoulders. She feels around and pricks her finger on a needle trap, but whatever was on it is apparently no longer active. She manages to find a release mechanism and the door opens...Outwards, knocking all four of them off of the ledge. They tumble down the slope but are not seriously hurt.

They make their way back up, and Vanal goes inside. Once he is through the opening the visual illusion disappears for him, though it is still present for the others.

He is standing in a small room facing a second stone door. The walls are made of stone block and covered with runes in a language he doesn't recognize. He notices that the runes look a bit different every time he looks at the door.

Mel can barely look at the door when he detect the presence of magic, the aura is that strong. He concentrates and eventually gets the impression of very strong abjuration, illusion and transmutation magic, plus something else he cannot identify. The magic on the door keeps shifting in time with the runes changing. He keeps concentrating but can’t hold the shape of each rune in his mind, they didn't sit still long enough for that.

He tries dispelling the magic on the door, also without success. Figorna is a bit frustrated by the group's inability to open the door and before the others can stop her she touches the door, figuring she can disarm the trap by triggering it. The door's magic flares, flinging her across the room, barely alive but unconscious.

Ryll heals her and lectures her briefly about not touching magically glowing doors,. They keep searching, but eventually decide there is no other way in and leave.

Once all of them are out of the room they hear the door gently shut, and there is no sign that there was any opening at all. Mel tries detecting magic again and gets nothing, but the illusion is still present. Vanal climbs back up and can feel the door with his hands.

They return to Longmont and plan their next move. Ryll and Figorna decide to stay in the village as Ryll is a bit worried that more Orcs would show up.

Vanal and Mel travel to Avenal. On the way they stop at Mel's farm and spent a day with his family. Mel explains to his wife Pella that he has to leave again and tells her about the Orcs. Vanal enjoys playing with Mel's two granddaughters and comments on how nice it is that the two toddlers didn’t inherit Mel's unfortunate looks. Mel’s wife agrees with him without reservation.

The next day they leave, and three days later are in Avenal. Mel goes to talk to his mentor Funewhite, a noted magical scholar who has mostly retired from public life and lives in a tower on the outskirts of the city. Vanal doesn't go with him, deciding that he needs to go shopping for missile weaponry.

Funewhite greets him warmly and they sit down and talk while his great-granddaughter make tea. Though frail, his mind is still clear and he seems excited to have a visitor.

Mel relays what had happened with the Orcs, and describes the battle. He doesn't mention the door and room they found at all, for some reason it doesn’t occur to him. Funewhite looks at the magical sticks and the coin and his eyes light up.

He explains that the sticks are a bit unusual, and act like either scrolls or potions depending how they were made. The construction technique are not used much locally, but are quite common in lands far to the East and are activated by breaking the stick. He is able to identify these as scrolls of water breathing, remove poison and two scrolls of invisibility.

The coin is even more interesting to him. It is quite smooth and while roughly circular in shape, closer examination showed that it was actually a heptadecagon, with seventeen equal length sides.

Funewhite tells him that it it not intended as money, but is probably a holy symbol. He can't remember the god's name, but suggests that Mel look in his library for more information. Mel can see his mentor is getting tired and takes him up on his suggestion to explore the library while Funewhite naps.

It takes a few hours to find, Funewhite’s library is mostly devoted to books on the arcane magical arts, but eventually he finds a book on religious myths that describes it.

Mel finds the book interesting. He personally has little use for the gods, even though he has some minor abilities in that area himself, somehow granted to him without him having to do the normal activities like prayer or devotion to some silly ideal or otherworldly being.

In his mind, he is a god, just not a very powerful one...yet. He decides that it is a shame that his Art consumes all his time. At some point it might be worth spending a little time learning more about religion.

But the book surprises him. He knew about the Twelve, as the major deities worshiped locally are called. He also knew that there are numerous other minor demi-gods that have a few worshipers here and there. But he never realized that Gods could be killed. The coin that he had looked like it belonged to a cleric of a dead god.

One section of the book describes a pantheon of gods that he had never heard of. Supposedly a few millennia ago they were the patrons of each of some of the major races, and according to legend, had created those races. These gods were competitive, and each one tried to advance the cause of their patron race, usually at the expense of everyone else.

According to the book this was a time of great turmoil. These were not remote deities, they were directly involved with their people and their servants walked the lands. Doershae, Creator of the Orcs exhorted his people to war with the other races. He was the most powerful god, and because of this the Orcs flourished.

The other gods tried to counter him. Helgei, Mother of the Dwarves and Pechinae, Elf-Father both fought hard, but they could not counter him. Only one of these gods held her people out of the conflict. Liotei spent her efforts protected the halfling tribes and tried to broker peace between the others, with almost no success.

This all went on for centuries. The humans, not having a patron deity, were too busy fighting among themselves to concern them with this type of religious wars, but a few ended up fighting in the conflict. Eventually though, the Orcs gradually began to win. The dwarves shifted to a defensive war, hunkering down in their mountain fortresses of stone. The elves tried to do something similar, retreating into the forests. They were less successful than the dwarves, and eventually they were overwhelmed. Pechinae was killed, and the elven race effectively ceased to exist.

Shortly after this, the remaining two other gods Helgei and Liotei, combined forces with other unknown entities and managed to banish Doershae, at the cost of severing their own connections to the world. Bereft of their power, their clerics turned to other deities, and within a few thousand years the old gods were forgotten.

Mel is not sure what to make of this. He has heard of elves, but they were stories to scare children, not real creatures. He spends a few more hours looking for other books, but finds nothing else. He says goodbye to Funewhite’s caretaker and leaves to meet Vanal for dinner.

Doc Donuts

Session 2, part 2:

Vanal is sitting in an outdoor cafe having a nice red lager while he waits for Mel to show up. While he would never admit it, he prefers the local beers to the much hoppier dwarven beer that he grew up on. When he sees Mel approaching he chugs his lager down and asks the waiter bring him a dwarven IPA.

To Vanal’s surprise Mel continues on past the open air cafe. His friend watches him go by with some amusement. Mel might be a mighty wizard, but it just goes to show he must not have the sense the gods gave even the lowliest dwarf. He thinks of calling out but decides to see how long it takes him to realize he screwed up.

That changes when he sees the two men following his friend. He gets up, tells the waiter he'd be right back and steps out to follow. Mel steps into the alley down the street and the two men pick up their pace and follow him in. Both were young, late teens maybe. As they reached the alley they reach into their cloaks as if to pull out weapons.

Vanal reaches the alley and finds that his intervention wasn't needed. Both men were facing Mel, who stood there with lightning crackling from his fingertips as he faces them.

The two teens go from confident to concerned, and when they see Vanal behind them that concern turns into fear.

They refuse to talk, and before Mel and Vanal can try to intimidate them into talking they a bottle drops from the roof above them. It shatters, causing billowing smoke to arise. The two teens were apparently expecting this and they immediately flee. Vanal tries to grab one of them but is too slow to react and fails. They gave chase, but can’t catch them, and the streets are two crowded for Mel to lightening bolt them without considerable collateral damage.

They decide the thieves aren't worth the bother and go back to the cafe. Mel explains what he had learned. Vanal has heard of Helgei, she is a popular character in dwarven children's stories. She is portrayed as a grandmotherly type who takes care of good children and protects them from monsters, usually by outsmarting them.

Their next step is to talk to a few local priests to see if they know anything about these gods. They ask for information, but don’t not say anything about a holy symbol they found and keep it really general. Most clerics respond to their request as if the two were crazy, claiming that they are wrong, those gods never existed.

Only one priest they spoke to knows anything about it. Hardwicke is an elderly priest of Upandal the Builder, and is somewhat of a scholar. She did some research about the subject 15 years earlier, wasn’t able to find much, but was happy to share what she had learned.

Knowledge of the old gods was not widespread. Once they were gone people stopped talking about them in a surprisingly short period of time. Hardwicke was of the opinion that the churches of the gods that replaced them suppressed any discussion. She isn’t even sure how long ago the gods left, but thinks she had narrowed it down to a time period between 2200-2900 years ago.

After promising to return and tell her anything they learned, they leave to make the journey back to Longmont. Along the way they met up with a middle aged man, a dog and a mule traveling in the same direction. The man is very short and somewhat round, balding, but with a thick bushy black beard that comes down almost to his waist. He is dressed in a roughly made traveling outfit made of some very fine material. The cloth looks very expensive but whoever had sewn it had done a spectacularly awful job of it, with unequal length sleeves and crooked hems. He is loaded down with a backpack almost as large as he is, the top of it sticking out above the top of his head by at least a foot. The mule is much less lightly loaded and carries two much smaller packs on its back.

When they catch up to him he is complaining to the mule about the dog, who had just chased a squirrel into the woods and was apparently uninterested in coming back any time soon. The mule seems to be paying attention to what he was saying.

When the man notices them he introduces himself as Marques les Toutes. He was traveling to Longmont for a wedding. He is disappointed to learn that he is a few weeks late for the event, but is determined to continue and pay his respects to the family. It turns out he knows the family of the groom and is an old traveling companion of Firgorna’s father.

They decide to travel together. Marq, as they call him, is cheerful and eager to talk to someone besides the dog and the mule, and does not seem bothered that he is the one doing almost all the talking. He has a very large vocabulary but tends to put together words in combinations that would never occur to anyone else, and after a while Mel and Vanal give up trying to figure out what he was saying and just nod agreeably at what appear to be the appropriate spots in the conversation.

They stop in the mid afternoon at a river crossing. The river is fast moving and about 40 yards wide, too deep to wade through and too treacherous to swim. A ferry is docked on the other side of the river. The ferryman sees him and he and his crew start their way back over. They all board the ferry and start on the return trip.

Marq seems fascinated by the large rope that is stretched across the river above the ferry. He wants to get a closer look but the ferryman does not like the look of him and asks him to keep away from it. The crew starts pulling the raft across and the three men enjoy a very pleasant trip until they get about half way across.

At that point the water rises up suddenly into a vaguely humanoid shaped column of water 20’ tall. It approaches quickly and flows over the side of the raft, through Mel and down the other side, knocking him into the water before anyone can act.

Marq doesn’t pause to think, and immediately leaps in after him, startling the crew, which are too busy panicking to ask why he would do something that seems so suicidal.

Vanal is about to try to attack the elemental with a flail when he sees another elemental out of the corner of his eye. Shifting gracefully on the deck of the severely rocking raft, he attacks it, and does some damage as it tries to knock him into the water too. Fortunately for him it does not succeed.

Under water Mel realized he is in trouble. Caught off guard by the attack he inhaled a good bit of water as he went under. He struggles to concentrate to cast a spell but fails.

Marq reaches out and curses the elemental. At his touch it shudders and Mel feels it let go of him. He manages to cast a spell and shoots out of the water, coughing heavily.

Meanwhile, Vanal is cutting through the other elemental like a large flail through sentient water. It gives up trying to knock him off the raft and instead begins to destroy the raft instead.

Marq’s mule seems to think it is time to abandon the raft. His dog has a different opinion and grabs the mule’s lead and tugs at it, keeping the mule facing the center of the raft.

Meanwhile, the crew is still panicking. A third elemental appears and is approaching quickly. It grabs Mel and drags him back under, just as Marq’s head appears above water, his beard shaking itself like a dog to shed water, independent of the movement of his head. He glares at the elemental attacking the raft, laughs this hideous laugh then ducks back into the water to help Mel.

Mel is starting to get pissed. He at least has time to hold his breath on the way under, but he is grappled again and can’t cast.

Fortunately Marq is there to curse this one too and the elemental stops squeezing him, but doesn’t let him go. Mel manages to cast a spell and blinks out of the elemental’s grasp and shoots up into the air again.

Meanwhile Vanal continues to maul the elemental, which is shaking the raft to pieces. The mule is still trying to leap off the raft, but can’t because the dog keeps pulling him back. The dog clearly seems to be the only one enjoying himself.

It’s Mel’s turn to attack an elemental. It sinks back partially in the water and appears to be laughing at something Mel said. Vanal keeps attacking it, while Mel looked around for any other attackers and the crew continues to cower in the corner.

Marq pulls himself onto the raft and helps the dog calm down the mule.

Vanal finishes the last elemental off and starts bailing as the raft is barely afloat. They manage to make it to shore and help the crew pull the raft out of the water.

Doc Donuts

Session 3, Part 1:

Mel thanks Marq for the rescue, and they compare notes on spells for a bit until they both give up, each thinking the other is crazy for how they approach the Art.

Vanal offers the ferryman a large tip to help him rebuild the raft. The man takes it and nods his head in thanks, too shaken to say anything.

They look around for any signs of what had sent the elementals after them, but cannot find anything. They are concerned. Neither Mel or Marq specialize in summoning, but they know that creatures of that potency are a good bit beyond them. An opponent that can summon three of that power, and have them stay long enough to attack them like that is a major threat.

They talk quietly among themselves whether or not this was a random attack or whether they were targeted specifically. Vanal brought up the two men who had followed Mel, and noted that the elementals attacked him first.

Mel replies “They obviously went after the greatest threat first” then laughs, knowing he would likely be dead if Marq hadn’t rescued him. He is too happy to be alive to dwell on the fact that Marq’s magic proved most valuable in this conflict, something that would normally have bothered him greatly.

Marq disagrees, convinced his mule might have been the real target, but says nothing, not wanting to disagree with his new friends.

They continue on to Longmont without incident and meet up with Figorna and Ryll. Figorna tries very hard to look pleased to see Marq, but it is obvious to almost all of them that seeing him makes her very unhappy.

For his part, Marq can’t stop smiling. It is great to see Figorna again, and he knows she thinks of him as a favored Uncle. He is happy receiving such a warm and loving welcome from her.

One of Ryll’s many nephews helps Marq get the mule settled in the barn while the four friends catch up with each other.

It turns out that Ryll and Figorna had run into trouble while they were gone. A Frost Drake was seen flying to the west, and the two had hunted it down and killed it so that it would not threaten the village.

They talk briefly about Marq. Firgorna’s opinion is that he is an effective mage, and means well, but is more than a little crazy. She tells them he has difficulty in social situations and recommends they get him to leave as soon as possible;

Mel and Vanal agree on the crazy diagnosis, but are not as keen on dumping him. He was very effective in the battle with the elementals, and they think having another mage would be helpful if they were targeted again.

A few moments later Marq returns and proudly presents some fine cloth he had made himself for the bride and groom, who were still off honeymooning in Avenal. He apologizes for not making it into clothing himself, but says he ran out of time. Ryll accepts the cloth for the bride and groom and, while glancing at the unbelievably crudely tailored clothing made of the same fine cloth he is wearing, says that she would be happy to tailor the clothing herself.

They spend the evening discussing old times, old gods, the life of bees and other insects (Marq), raising spiders for fun and profit (Marq again), and how beards are underrated for their storage capabilities (Marq again...).

Ryll is very excited to learn from Mel that her people once had their own deity. She remembers an old temple about 15 miles away in the remains of a village that was abandoned a century earlier after an earthquake dried up the local spring. She had visited there as a kid and remembered her grandmother telling her to stay away from it, the god there was gone. She told them she found the place interesting because the temple was the only part of the town the forest didn’t reclaim, even though it had been decades since the place was abandoned. Her grandmother had lived there as a child, and told stories about how the place was haunted, and that no one would go on the old temple property at night out of fear. The story in the village at the time was that no would could remember a time that the temple had ever been used.

Marq claims he is part dwarf, and that when he was growing up his grandmother had a small shrine to the goddess Helgei in her home. None of the rest of them know what to make of this. With his short stature and broad shoulders he looks like he might have some dwarven heritage, but none of them had ever heard of human/dwarven crossbreeds, and Vanal in particular was outraged. With all else that Marq has said that day none of the rest took him too seriously though, particularly after he told Ryll he had halfling ancestry too.

They call it a night, and in the morning decide to check out the temple. The trip to the abandoned village will take a day and a half. The road to the village is no longer maintained, so Marq decides to leave his mule and dog behind. The first day is uneventful, and the next day they see the outlines of what was left of the village.

The buildings are mostly gone, overtaken by trees and undergrowth, with little more than foundations remaining. Two hundred halflings once lived here, but once the spring dried up they eventually left, with the last resident leaving almost 100 years ago.

Ryll leads them through the town towards the old temple. They pass a larger stone building that is still partially standing and don't notice the figure crouched on the roof until they are almost on top of it. With a hideous screech it takes to the air and spits a line of acid from one of its three heads.

"Chimera" Vanal shouts as he rolls to try to evade the acid. He is only partially successful. Figorna and Marq are badly burned. Everyone scatters and takes cover.

Another burst of acid flies out from beside the building and catches Marq directly in the face. "My beard" he croaks in dismay as he falls to the ground.

Vanal again partially dodges this second attack and moves in to attack it, glad to have an opponent on the ground where he can get to it.

The first chimera flies over another building and spits again, this time at Ryll. She manages to dodge most of it and calmly shoots it three times with her crossbow. Figorna hits it twice too, and Mel, not wanting to feel left out bathes it in lightening.

It screeches in pain, lands and turns toward Ryll. She gets gored by one head, bitten by two more and is clawed twice. In return it eats another lightning bolt and two more arrows. Ryll takes a step back and fires again, and appears disappointed and more than a little concerned that it is still standing.

Meanwhile Vanal is getting battered too, and takes his gore, bite and claw attacks like a man. He responds by hitting two heads with his flail. Unfortunately all it seems to do is make his opponent even more angry. Hoping that he will get some help soon he stoically continues to fight.

Both chimeras attack again with their acid attacks. Both Ryll and Vanal avoid the worst of the attacks, but in Ryll's case that means she just is just unconscious, not dead. Covered in chimera acid and his own blood Vanal grits his teeth and attacks again, wondering what the rest of the group is doing and why they aren't helping him.

Ryll's opponent can't follow up on its attack though, it falls to the ground surrounded by a halo of lightning. Figorna rushes over and stabilizes her while Mel runs to heal Marq, hoping that Vanal can hold out one more round. Neither one is able to revive their companion with a single spell, but its enough to keep them from dying.

Figorna drops her bow and pulls her sword as she rounds the corner and sees Vanal barely standing but still attacking. She slips along side him and he gratefully takes a step back, forcing the Chimera to decide who to attack.

Mel takes that decision out of its hands, casting a spell that causes the Chimera to begin shuddering. None of them but Mel realizes this must be how Chimeras laugh, but they waste no time killing it, which takes a while. Behind it they see three much smaller halfling sized Chimeras, which explains why they fought a straight up fight, even the most evil chthonic monster will fight to protect its young. Not wanting anyone to have to face those babies as adults they kill them too.

Doc Donuts

​Session 3, Part 2:

Ten minutes later everyone is up and at least mostly healed. Marq is distraught at the state of his beard, convinced it has been ruined by acid. The others assure him that it is the same disheveled mess that it was when they met him.

They search the area to make sure no more are nearby and find the chimera's lair. They find 3 large gems and a few old coins.

They decide to continue on, and reach the temple in a few minutes. It is on top of a small hill, and as Ryll told them earlier, although there is almost nothing left of the temple itself, it is not overgrown like the rest of the village.

The temple foundation still stands, as does one wall. A halfling size doorway is in that wall, and there is a decorative arch over it. There are depressions in the arch where something was carved out, presumably the symbol of the god this temple was once devoted too.

They explore the temple thoroughly. They find nothing inside, but all feel sad for a reason they cannot explain. While exploring the exterior foundation Vanal sees a depression in the ground and starts digging. He quickly determines that there is a stairwell underneath. It takes them about an hour to dig down far enough to see what looks like a doorway that has been bricked shut.

After checking it for magic Vanal breaks through the wall. They can see what looks like the original temple basement inside.

Ryll takes the lead, and tosses in a copper piece that she causes to glow. Seeing nothing threatening she creeps in. The ceiling is somewhat low, but tall enough that she and Vanal can stand without crouching. They search the basement and find nothing but some rotted crates. Everything is coated with a thick layer of dust. Its obvious that nothing has been in here for a very long time.

Eventually they find a trap door. Opening it up they see a circular stairwell going down. The stairwell will be a very tight fit, but they all could fit. They toss the glowing copper down, and seeing nothing, take the stairwell down.

About 40’ down they reach the bottom. The ceiling is only about 5’ high, making many of them very uncomfortable. Mel concentrates for a few moments to switch spells, and then alters his shape to temporarily take the form of a halfling.

Figorna decides to go back up to the basement and guard the exit while the others explore, she is not comfortable in spaces that small. Marq gallantly offers to go back and stay with her, but she assures him icily that she will be fine. Marq does not take the hint and continues to repeat his offer, totally oblivious to both her embarrassment over her claustrophobia and her distaste for him personally. Ryll intervenes and says that they need him below and he reluctantly agrees to stay with the rest of the party.

Down in the sub-basement they see they are in a hallway with thee doors. The doors are all closed, and all have Liote’s symbol carved on them. The doors are well made, but other than the symbol, they are otherwise unadorned, apparently Liote is not a God too concerned with ostentation. There is a thin layer of dust on everything.

Only one of the doors radiate magic. They check the other two first and find a small shrine in one and two sarcophagi in the other. Liote’s symbol is on both tombs and on the shrine. The sense of sadness they felt earlier is stronger down here.

Nothing radiates magic in the shrine and after searching for anything else in that room without success they check out the tombs. Both tombs are halfling size, and unadorned other than Liote’s symbol.

They argue about whether or not to open the tombs. Ryll is adamantly opposed, Vanal and Mel are unsure, and Marq extremely sure they should open them. Once Vanal hears Marq’s opinion he changes his mind and votes with Ryll so they check out the third door instead.

As Ryll approaches it the magic on the door flares, and it opens on its own. This freaks everyone else out, but there is nothing inside other than a small shelf containing books. There is a silver holy symbol for Liote hanging from a hook on a gold chain. Nothing shows as magic, so Ryll goes in, picks up the books and the symbol and brings them out.

None of them recognize the language in the books, and after Mel’s comprehend language spell fails Ryll packs it all up and they go back to the tomb room. They stop at the door when they see that the lid of one of the sarcophagi is now partially open, and the feeling of sadness is even stronger.

Ryll cautiously approaches the tomb and sees that that it is empty, except for a magical short bow and a quiver of arrows. Detecting no traps she picks them both up, and is surprised to see she is holding a crossbow and a quiver of bolts. As soon as she picks them up the feeling of sadness that they all felt fades.

They argue again about the second sarcophagi, but in the end they decide to leave it alone. Ryll goes into the room with the shrine by herself for about 10 minutes while the others search the rest of the floor again to make sure they didn’t miss anything. Eventually Ryll comes back out, and they all head back up to find Figorna crouched down, looking up the stairway outside.

She tells the others she heard someone outside. Mel makes Ryll invisible, and she creeps up the stairs, but sees no one there. The rest of them look around and fine nothing, and decide to camp nearby as it is getting to be late afternoon.

Later as they were eating dinner, Vanal tries to cast a healing spell on himself as he is still somewhat wounded from the fight with the Chimeras. He knows he has exhausted his healing magic for the day, but tries anyway, because somehow he thinks he might be able to do more. To his surprise it works.

He mentions it to the others, and they soon determine they all are still able to heal themselves more than they could before. None of them have ever questioned these abilities before, or really talked to anyone else about them, but its disconcerting to them that all five party members have these minor abilities, and suddenly all of these abilities have grown more powerful.

Not all of them view these gifts the same way. Ryll feels honored, thinking they have been chosen by a halfling goddess. Vanal and Figorna view this as just another weapon in their arsenal. Marq is excited, and can’t stop talking about how they should all study this unique phenomenon to develop it further.

Mel is the only one concerned. He distrusts Gods and suspects they are unlikely to give Power without expecting service and worship in return, and the latter is something he is unwilling to provide.

OOC: When the game began none of the PCs had any healing capability. Rather than add a Cleric or Oracle NPC I decided to make each character touched by the gods instead, and ran a partial gestalt game. The players started with a single level of Oracle in parallel with their first character levels. This gave everyone a little healing capability, and also allowed the use of clerical wands without a UMD check.

Once I decided to do this, I had to come up with a reason why they would get these gifts, and that ended up driving part of the direction of the game. In this gaming session their Oracle level increased.
Over time it will increase further, but will always remain several levels lower than their main classes.

Marq is a new PC that started two sessions after my wife started the game. His player also went to college with my dad and the players of Ryll and Vanal. He lives about 100 miles away, but after hearing that most of his old group was playing again, he decided he was willing to drive that far to game again after an approximate 30 year absence.

Doc Donuts

Session 4 Part 1:

That night Vanal dreamed. He was exhausted, and knew he had been defending this corridor alone for hours. He couldn’t see his opponents, but knew they would eventually overwhelm him, even though he had killed several already. He continued to fight, giving ground when he had to. He eventually backed up into the light of a doorway and realized his opponents were his own people, who looked at him with hate in their eyes.

That night Ryll dreamed. She was creeping through a huge forest by herself. Something was chasing her and she was determined it would not find her. She looked up at the gray featureless ceiling far above her head and wondered how this forest grew without sunlight.

That night Figorna dreamed. She was paralyzed with fear but had no idea what she was frightened of. She sensed an enormous shape approaching and her fear suddenly left her as the Mithril Dragon swooped down and lifted her up with its claws.

That night Mel dreamed. He was not on this earth. The gravity was wrong, the air smelled differently and when he looked out the window the trees all looked strange. He knew he had been there a very long time. He looked around he saw he was in a large library with thousands of books. He had read almost all of them, and if he didn't escape soon he knew he would go insane.

That night Marq dreamed. He watched his reflection in the mirror, and saw tears streaming down his face. He was shaving his beard off, trying to cut it off but keep it in once piece. His beard seemed to be fighting him, trying to prevent his hands from reaching his face, but in the end he was clean shaven. To his horror, he did not recognize the face underneath.

They all woke up the next morning shaken. It was a quiet trip that first day on the way back to Longmont, with very little discussion, and no mention of any dreams. Even Marq was silent. By the second day they had recovered, and were in much better moods, and were discussing their next steps. Fortunately they were experienced adventurers who payed attention to their surroundings, so the ambush did not take them all completely by surprise.

One minute they were hiking, the next they were under attack. One minute Figorna was laughing at something Ryll said, the next she had a large Earth Elemental rise up in front of her out of the ground. At the same time three other elementals appeared out of the ground, one in front of each of the party except Vanal, although Ryll’s was still 20’ away.

Only Mel reacted quickly enough to do something before they attacked, and cast a spell hasting all of them, including himself. He leapt backwards and ate the retaliatory attack from the elemental. He didn’t have time to see where he was leaping to though, and tripped over a rock and fell to the ground hard.

Ryll stepped backwards and brought her new crossbow up as the elemental approached. She managed to back away from it while hitting it once with an arrow, which unfortunately seemed to do very little damage.

The rest of the party had their own problems. Figorna, Vanal and Marq all got battered by elementals. Marq tried to cast a spell but could not concentrate well enough. Vanal and Figorna managed to counterattack but it looked like they took more damage than they dished out.

Mel levitated up in the air, determined not to get grappled like he did by the water elemental. His opponent looked up but could not reach him. Unfortunately Mel didn’t see the air elemental above the trees until it dropped down and enveloped him, buffeting him with high winds.

Ryll fired four times, each one carving off little bits of dirt. She is wearing it down, but it looks like it could take a good bit more damage.

Vanal and Figorna continue to exchange blows with their attackers. Figorna’s hawk flies in to try to distract her attacker without success, and barely avoids the air elemental engaging Mel.

Marq takes his beating well, and tries to cast again, this time succeeding, but is disappointed that the elemental shrugs it off.

Mel has better luck. He doesn’t even try to escape the elemental directly, but successfully casts a spell that causes the air elemental to leave him alone. It hovers there giggling as Mel flies higher. His earth elemental opponent is still looking up at him in frustration.

Ryll has to back up again. As she does she sees another figure watching from about 20 yards away. She turns and fires once at it, hitting the young human woman in the chest, disrupting whatever spell she was casting at the time. The woman is well camouflaged in clothing that blends in with the brush around her, but Ryll got lucky and found her.

Vanal and Figorna both continue to fight, and it looks like they will outlast the elementals attacking them, but it will likely be close.

Marq is not so lucky. He glares at the elemental facing him, it falters, but still pounds on him and he falls.

Mel tries to make Marq’s elemental laugh, but apparently it doesn’t find him funny, but it is distracted enough to notice Vanal nearby and moves to attack him instead of finishing off the unconscious Marq.

In the end though, it gets wrapped up quickly. The woman facing Ryll flees as Vanal and Figorna finish off their elementals. While Ryll has been hasted, the woman flees faster, carried off by yet another air elemental, and Ryll can’t keep up.

By the time they finish the remaining elementals off the woman is long gone. They heal Marq, and continue on, battered, sore, tired, and wondering who the heck that woman was, and why she keeps siccing elementals on them.

That night Ryll can’t sleep. She thinks long and hard about what she wants out of life, and how she can help her people. Its not easy being small and weak. If there is a deity out there that was for her people, maybe she should try to embrace her. Though Mel’s book said Liote was dead, something was in that temple, and something had empowered all of them. She looks at the holy symbol for a long time, and eventually put the chain over her neck and tucks the symbol down under her armor.