"Second Son of a Second Son" - An Aquerra Story Hour (*finally* Updated 04/19)

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #30 – “The Vineyard Vales” (part 2 of 3)

After another ten minutes of waiting, as the final darkness of evening fell on them, Bleys decided to have a ride around the compound buildings, and asked Timotheus to accompany him.

“I have to request that you here until the foreman returns,” Domas said as he stepped before Bleys’s horse, hands in the air.

“Request noted,” Bleys replied, and he yanked the reins to have his light warhorse turn sharply and trot quickly around the man. Timotheus followed.

“Are you trying to tell a watch-mage what to do?” Telémahkos sneered at the worker, having his horse take a few steps towards the man.

“Looks like it doesn’t matter either way,” the man replied. He turned and gave a sharp whistle towards the longhouse.

“I think we should move up,” Markos leaned over to his cousin.

“Bleys and Timotheus are already doing enough to provoke them,” Laarus replied.

Bleys and Tim reached the longhouse unmolested. On the way, Bleys cast radiant spark and he sent it out ahead of them. Long faces looked out at them from the windows along one side of it, and from some kind of small log barracks on its right. They also noted a henhouse and a shelter for hogs. The longhouse was very long, and the other end was nearly identical to the end they faced while waiting for the foreman. Bleys sent the radiant spark far to the left and right as they went around, getting as good a lay of the land as he could. They saw a fine brick house off to the left of the long house. No lights burned inside, and just past it, back towards the front of the longhouse was some kind of kennel.

Meanwhile, Gerloch returned to the others, claiming that he could not find the papers in the mess of the office in the longhouse.

“Then we are going to have to investigate the longhouse,” Markos said.

“On what pretext?” Gerloch asked.

“What do you mean ‘pretext?’” Markos asked. “You don’t have your papers, that’s our pretext…”

“We will continue to look while you make your camp,” Gerloch responded. “You can see them in the morning…”

“We are here with the leave of the Viceroy, investigating all manner of problems,” Telémahkos said politely. “I must insist that we go look for them now…”

“Fine. Let’s get it over with…” Gerloch sighed, turning back to the longhouse as the others followed. Telémahkos tried to whisper what had happened to Bleys, but either the spell had expired, or the watch-mage was out of range. Bleys and Timotheus were coming around the other side when they reached the front of the longhouse, and Gerloch quickly explained the situation to them. Timotheus and Bleys dismounted. The watch-mage had his radiant spark following at just above his shoulder, but this area was well lit with lanterns hanging from rafters, though crazy shadows danced everywhere. Workers came over to take the reins of their horses.

“Well… Let’s go in…” Gerloch began to lead the way, but Bleys put his hand up refusing to follow.

This end of the longhouse had a set of double doors like hinged panels that folded open to reveal that the entrance way was a small stable that could hold two or three horses.

“Wait,” said Bleys. “I want to know what you know of the unusual occurrences here in the Vales…”

“What unusual occurrences?” asked Gerloch.

“You don’t call a locust the size of a horse unusual?” Bleys asked, allowing himself a sneer.

“Have they gotten that big? I haven’t seen…” Gerloch replied casually. There was a tone of contempt in his voice. “But as I said before, these lands have not attracted the pests…”

There was a long tense moment.

“I don’t like these men’s attitudes,” Victoria grumbled to Timotheus, who had moved his horse across the path to the other side of the longhouse doors along side her and Ironsides.1

“Are we going in or what?” Telémahkos finally asked, beginning to dismount.

“I do not trust this man,” Bleys said to his companions. Gerloch frowned. “And I have no wish to walk into an ambush. There is no way I am going inside.”

Suddenly, as Telémahkos was off the horse he felt pain in his neck and saw stars, and he leaned over in pain and stepped to the side. The man who had been holding his horse suddenly had his cudgel in his hand and had struck him heavily.2 As if by instinct, Telémahkos drew his rapier and blocked the follow up blow as he spun to his fighting stance, calling Tymon to his side.

There was a cacophony of whistles as Gerloch’s men signaled each other, drawing their cudgels. Laarus of Ra dismounted and drew his flail. “Back away from Telémahkos!” he commanded.

“Gods, cousin! More swinging, less talking!” Markos complained.

Victoria put her long spear to Gerloch’s neck from eight feet away, as Timotheus drew his sabre. He marched steadily past Gerloch towards the longhouse entrance.

“Now!” Gerloch cried leaping back to avoid the militant’s spear thrust, and three archers popped up from behind the half wall that ran along the back of the stall in the long house entrance. They all fired arrows at Timotheus, but he raised his bulette shield in time to deflect them all. “Bleys! Telémahkos! Flank them by the side door…”

Morpheus sumnus” Markos chanted from atop his horse spilling sand from his left hand, and two of the archers tumbled to sleep, disappearing behind the partition. “Now everyone, tell me when you’re ready!”

Bleys readied his long bow, preparing for anyone emerging from the sidedoor just a few feet beyond the entranced stable on the longhouse’s left side.

“You had your chance,” Victoria thrust at Gerloch, but the foreman withdrew, hustling toward the left side of the longhouse. He gave a long low whistle by putting his fingers to his mouth. He leapt to avoid an arrow from Bleys, but it bit into his boot painfully. “Ready!” cried the militant, closing her eyes, and the watch-mage echoed her, closing his as well. “Ready!” cried Telémahkos, stepping away from the men attacking him, as he flicked his rapier wildly. He closed his eyes.

“Ready!” cried Timotheus, moving into the doorway, penning in one of the men to a corner of the stable. He did not close his eyes.

Behind the partition, the remaining archer slapped one of her companions awake.

Pyroclastus lux!" Markos cast, and the torch he held burst into a bright blinding light and then died. No one was blinded. “Kick horse! Kick!” he commanded his warhorse, as it reared and kicked at one of the men trying to pen in Telémahkos, as Tymon moved to block them. The man crouched out of the way, but as he stood back up he cried out as the horse’s teeth clomped painfully on his forehead.3 Markos laughed with delight when he saw it.


Telémahkos leapt deftly onto his horse and yanked the reins, flicking his rapier to block a cudgel. He drove his horse forward with his knees, spotting Gerloch running around the left side o f the longhouse, cutting the man across the back of his neck and shoulders as he rode past.

“We can’t let him get away!” Telémahkos cried.

Sagitta aquom!” Two bolts of blue liquid force slammed into Gerloch’s back. The skinny mage tried to leap into the saddle as deftly as Telémahkos had, but failed, clabbering on awkwardly, urging his horse to attack. It kicked out at a nearby foe, but missed. “Who knew a dumb beast could bring so much joy?” Markos was suddenly seeing the benefits of a warhorse. Bleys fired another arrow at the foreman before wheeling his horse away from the melee to shoot with more ease.

“May Ra’s will hold this deceiver!” Larrus prayed to his god, and Gelock was held. Sensing his opponent’s weakness, Telémahkos reared his horse and thrust his rapier deep down between the man’s neck and shoulder. There was a stream of blood as veins and sinews tore. Still rigid, Gerloch wobbled for a moment and then fell over dead, his blood pooling in the dry crabgrass.4

Figures emerged from the kennel, bounding low out of the darkness. Telémahkos turned his horse to make a wide turn back around to the front of the longhouse.

At the longhouse entrance, Timotheus was making short work of the archers. He ran past the man he had penned in and slammed a shoulder into one of the archers driving her back, making her trip over the other archer who was just standing up from having been awakened. The standing archer pulled his short sword free, but this left an opening for Tim to drive the tip of his sabre into the man’s side. The man with the cudgel Timotheus had passed stepped in to try to surround and overwhelm him, but Tim just lowered his shoulder again and rushed his archer foes to make room between him and the one trying to pen him in behind the partition. The broad-shouldered warrior pinned them to the wall and put his heavy boot on the neck of the archer that still slept. “Drop your weapons already!” Tim’s growl had a note of pleading in it. These men and women were not that well trained. He understood that he could wipe the floor with them in no time.

Outside, Laarus and Tymon beat a man into the grass where he began to bleed out.

The only sound the dogs made as they came from the kennel was their mastiff paws in the grass and panting. Even when their faces contracted in menacing barks, no sound emerged. When Markos noticed he instinctively groaned, imagining that the were surrounded in an aura of silence the Red Lantern assassins had been, but when two of the dogs leapt up to snap at his leg and at his horse’s flank and he could hear the snap of the jaws, he knew this to not be the case.5 Markos’s horse reared and screamed as the dog’s bit down hard on it. Markos was able to pull his leg up at the last moment. Two of the dogs went for Timotheus’s unattended riding horse, Sandy.

Victoria continued to fight two of the bandit field hands at the entrance to the longhouse, cursing when a slipped grip on her spear diminished her ability to attack.6

Bleys came galloping back into the melee on his horse, having his steed kick at one of the dogs on Sandy, while he fired an arrow at one of the mastiffs biting at Markos. It gave a silent yelp as the arrow clipped it, and it then scurried under the horses legs, biting at it some more. The horse wheeled and kicked, and the dog’s skull crunched. Two more magic missiles from Markos slammed into the back of the other dog still badgering his horse.

A twang of arrows forced Victoria to look over to her right, as three more archers came around that side of the longhouse and fired point blank. She was able to duck one, but one got painfully lodged between two scales on the right side of her upper back. The last archer accidentally let his arrow go while raising it and it pierced his calf and foot painfully. The man cried out a stream of profanity.6

“Archers on our right flank!” The militant warned.

“Tymon! Aid Victoria! And then check and see if my fool cousin has gotten himself killed!” Telémahkos commanded his manservant as he rode off again, this time way past the right side of the longhouse, behind the archers. He sheathed his rapier and readied his lance, as he wheeled his horse around. He could see Tymon running to obey, as Laarus hustled over to slam the remaining dog on Markos with his flail. The dog fell over and slid along the grass, shaking its head from the blow.

Timotheus winced as he took a cudgel blow to the head, but he could feel the power of Victoria’s regenerate light wounds spells closing up his cuts and scrapes as he fought on. “Don’t worry about me! I have these four under control!” He spun and thrust his sabre, feeling a splatter of warm blood as the man that penned him in from behind, collapsed, close to death. Tim spun back around and flicked his sabre and the male archer’s ear went flying off, just as the sabre bit deep into the man’s shoulder and he collapsed as well.7 “Scratch that! I mean, two!” He called again, playfully, taking a moment to wink at the female archer. Her homely face grew pale with fear. “You can still surrender,” he said toe her.

“Okay! I surrender!” She dropped her bow and put her hands in the air.

The new archers spun around to fire at Telémahkos, as that meant not having to worry about shooting their allies, but the clumsy one continued to be… As he spun he lost his foot and slipped in the grass. Telémahkos grit his teeth as an arrow bounced off his chain shirt as he charged at them with raised lance. They scattered as he rode through them, escaping the staccato hooves of death.

Some arcane words and Markos’ right hand was crackling with blue lightning. He urged his horse past the bandit fighting Victoria, but the man ducked out of the way of the wizard’s deadly touch. “You’d better flee!” Markos menaced him, leaving him open to Tymon, who cut the man down from behind.

“I got him, master!” Tymon raised his long sword into the air happily. Markos rode past and reached out for one of the scattering archers as he loosed an arrow that buried itself momentarily in the flank of Telémahkos’s horse. There was a sickening sizzle as the shocking grasp spell went off. The archer convulsed and collapsed. “Drop your bow now!” The wizard told the one archer that remained on his feet, the smell of cooked flesh wafting off his hand.

“Hey you guys!” Timotheus bellowed, casually pointing his sabre at the archer woman, his foot still on the neck of the sleeper. “I got prisoners over here! You need any help over there or not?” He pulled the weapons away from his vanquished foes, and noticed the widening pool of blood around one of the downed archer. “You might wanna help him.” He said to the woman, gesturing with his chin,

Back outside, Laarus grunted as one of the dogs grabbed him about the calf and pulled him off his feet. “We have everything under control out here!” Victoria answered Timotheus, hustling over to come to Laarus’s aid, by skewering the dog menacing him.

Meanwhile, Bleys had his sabre in hand and he and horse fought off the dogs that had been attacking Sandy. The watch-mage looked up to see another archer creeping along the side of the longhouse from the direction on the kennel, and the man let an arrow fly when he saw he had been noticed. Bleys the Aubergine lifted a hand and the arrow stopped inches from his body, hovering there for a moment and allowing him to pluck it out of the air.8

“ENOUGH SURRENDER!” Bleys announced, slipping the arrow into his own quiver as he rode up to the archer and pointed his sabre in the man’s face.

“Fine! I surrender!” The man said, but rather than drop his weapon, he withdrew behind some small barren apple trees that dotted the land between the longhouse and the kennel.

“STOP! DO NOT FLEE!” Bleys urged his horse to go after him.

Tymon ran into the longhouse and took over watching the prisoners for Timotheus, who patted him on the shoulder. “Good job, Tymon.” And then he looked back to the archer, “Don’t move… He’ll kill you…” Emerging he only saw the remaining dog to his left, and he went in that direction. The female archer had made no effort to save her dying companion.

…to be continued…

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes:

1 ‘Ironsides’ is the name of Victoria’s warhorse. It has gray splotches of gray on its coat and a hardy constitution. It should also be noted that Victoria’s player was not present for this session, so if it seems like she did not say much so far, there is a reason for it.

2 The bandit in question had the quickdraw feat and sneak attacked for an extra 1d6 of damage.

3 This was the adventure when the players began to take advantage of their horses training at fighting after Bleys’ player read the rules for how it works and explained to everyone. We will see more of this as the campaign continues.

4 Telémahkos performed a coup de grace.

5 Like pit bulls in crack houses, these dogs had had their vocal chords removed to allow them to run down intruders without their instinctive barking being heard.

6 Victoria suffered a fumble: Lose Grip on Weapon. Make Dexterity check vs. DC 15 or suffer –4 to attack until move-equivalent action is used to fix grip.

7 Timtheus used his recently gained Cleave feat and then scored a critical hit: Apply Crit Multiplier to Damage Roll – Reflex Save (DC 10 + ½ damage) or Ear Removed, Stunned for one round.

8 Bleys cast Halt Missiles
 

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BlackCat

Explorer
Mastiffs with their vocal cords cut?!? WTF? How the hell do you know about people in crack-houses doing that to their pit bulls?

OMG, what an awful thing to do to a poor puppy!
 

handforged

First Post
I knew those guys were up to no good. Hopefully enough of them will still be alive to get some answers out of. Not killing Gerloch, may have been a good idea, seeing as how he was held.

Can't wait.

~hf
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #30 – “The Vineyard Vales” (part 3 of 3)

Meanwhile, at the other side of the longhouse, Telémahkos had dismounted and was fighting the remaining archer, who having drawn a long sword, displayed more battle prowess than his companions.

“I’ll kill you, you noble snot!” the man said, his sword ringing against Telie’s.

“Calling him a snot is my job, cur!” Markos yelled, riding up to the swordsman and urging his horse to kick at him. The man easily avoided the huge beast, and slid over to his left. He turned to flee, and Telémahkos got in a good blow to the man’s backside. He yelped and kept going, but Markos moved his horse to cut him off and threw a dagger that slammed pommel first into the side of the man’s head.

The man took off towards the longhouse, in the direction of one of its side doors. Markos grabbed his crossbow off the side of his horse and fired, clipping the man in the calf. He urged his horse in that direction.

“You’re not getting away scum!” Telémahkos cursed, coming around one of the shacks to approach the fleeing man from the other side of Markos. He felt the satisfying puncture of his rapier through the man’s studded leather armor, and smiled. The man opened the door, managing to use it to block the kick of Markos’ horse as he ducked the follow-up blow from Telémahkos.

Markos leapt off his horse and followed the man into a room full of tools, boots and leather aprons, shooting him in the back. The bandit groaned and reached for the knob to another door leading further into the longhouse, but Telémahkos rushed in as well and drove the point of his blade into the man’s lower back as he tried to flee into a narrow hallway beyond. Markos hesitated for a moment, but then got down on his knees and began to bind the man’s wounds before he died.

Suddenly Timotheus was there, having heard the yelling after Victoria had defeated the remaining dog, and before he could really join that fight. He ran as fast as he could to support his cousin.

On the other side of the longhouse, Bleys was still urging his horse after the fleeing archer amid the barren apple trees. The bandit was able to deftly run around and past the trees to keep Bleys and his mount at bay. He risked a shot with an arrow, but his own strategy was working against him.

“You should have surrendered,” Bleys said calmly, predicting which way the man would flee and succeeding at cutting him off. The watch-mage’s saber cut the foe deep in the shoulder, knocking him down with the pain.

“I surrender!” the bowman said again, as he crawled away from the horse, pushing his bow away. Bleys was barely able to keep his horse trying to trample the man, and managed to get it to land on the bow, crushing it. The man put his head in the grass and his hands behind his head while he remained on his knees.1

“Tymon! Get over here! Fetch my horse!” Telémahkos ordered his manservant, as the young noble’s horse was wandering away.

“I can’t!” Tymon yelled back, still covering the living archer at the entrance.

In the resulting chaos of the scattered battle, the Signers soon realized that the clumsy archer crawled away in the confusion. A trail of blood led around the area of the shacks and pens, and into the entrance on the far side of the longhouse, which was similar to the end where most of the fight had taken place. They gathered their prisoners, and bound the wounds of those were unconscious but alive. Laarus of Ra called to his god and doled out some curing spells to his companions. Timotheus, however, was unhurt, as the regenerate light wounds spell had closed whatever little damage he had taken, though with all the blood covering him, he did not look so great.

Timotheus, Telémahkos, Laarus and Victoria went around and entered the longhouse from the other end to seek out the escaped bandit.

They entered carefully, finding another smaller stable entrance on the other side and then a series of cramped rooms, bunkrooms, a dining hall with a huge hearth, dry storage and the like. There was no sign of anyone, despite their turning over furniture and looking behind crates and curtains. Finally, amid a series of small bedrooms and offices, they came across a locked door.

After Laarus tried to knock it down with his shoulder, Telémahkos shooed him aside and got down on his knees to work on the lock, checking for traps in the process. However, despite getting the fairly cheap lock opened, the door was still barred from the inside. It took several hard kicks from Timotheus’s muscular legs to finally smash it open. Beyond was a small bedroom that was (compared to the rest of the longhouse) finally appointed. There was a ledger noting what appeared to be actual work in the fields and vineyards and amounts of harvested grapes and other goods that were sold over the years. There was also a crate holding a portion of a bushel of a frosty blue-green leafed herb. Sparkleweed. In another small wooden box were several ounces of the yellow powder they recognized as shannis.

Under a throw rug in the floor they found a trapdoor, and quickly pushed the desk over atop it, to keep whomever escaped through there from coming back out.

Meanwhile, Markos and Bleys interrogated the woman prisoner at the entrance stable at the end of the longhouse where the melee had taken place. “Why are you here?”

“We’re watching this land for the bosses,” she replied.

“Who are the bosses?”

”Well, MacHaven…”

“Where is MacHaven now?” Bleys asked.

“He escaped through the trapdoor to the catacombs soon after Gerloch brought the news that you had arrived and would not be convinced to leave,” she explained.

“Which trapdoor?” Markos asked.

“The one in the bedroom we broke open,” Telémahkos answered for her, as he and the others returned.

After some more questioning, the woman revealed that the catacombs below were used for cold storage and hiding booty, but that also led out to the deep mire of the Glitcheegummee Swamp. Somewhere beyond it was a shrine to the Mantis God. MacHaven was working with Beast God cultists and some lizardfolk said to worship Apep.

“Are these cultists who MacHaven works for?” Markos asked. The woman shook her head.

“Then who are his bosses?” Bleys asked.

“The Vanderborens,” she replied.

“Which ones?”

“The brother and sister…” She said. “I never spoke to them directly, or anything…”

They did their best to see if she might contradict the story Gerloch had told, but except for the part about being MacHaven’s men, it seems the story the foreman had told had been woven mostly from truth.

After moving into the dining room with the hearth, the party made to set up camp and sleep off their wounds, reasoning that the darkness outside was too deep for anyone to be safe standing guard in, and that by locking down the stone building, they would quickly be alerted by the noise of anyone trying to break in. It also allowed them to keep their horses inside over night.

“Tavius! Get over here!” Bleys called for their guide to join them from out in the gloom where he had hidden as soon as the fight began.

“My name’s not Tavius, it’s William!” the lanky man said with a nervous grin, when he saw the prisoners.

“Your name is Tavius,” Telémahkos said to him with a flicker of cruel satisfaction. Tavius scowled at the blond man.

Bleys quizzed the guide about the Glitcheegummee Swamp to see how well he knew it.

“I know it some, but the old mushroom man is the one you want to talk to. . .” Tavius replied. “I should be able to bring you to him.

“You mean the old hermit that sings to mushrooms?” Bleys asked.2

“That’s him…” Tavius nodded. “Crazy, but mostly harmless, and he knows that swamp better than anyone… If anyone knows about a hidden shrine to an insect god in the deep mires, it’d be him…”

As this conversation went on, Telémahkos convinced Timotheus to join him in checking the caretaker’s house on the other side of the longhouse beyond the kennels. And Markos, quietly asked the female archer about the value of the sparkleweed they had found in the bedroom.

The caretaker’s home was filled with quality furniture and except for its size seemed more like an owner’s home than a caretaker’s. Telémahkos tore the place apart searching for clues while Timotheus stood guard. Frustrated at being able to find nothing that gave a clue about Vanthus or Lavinia’s alleged visit, he finally thought to check the ashes in the fireplace. There is found the scrap of a letter.

He brought the scrap back to the others and gave it to Markos to read. There was not much left to interpret. It referred to contacting the Apep-worshipping lizardfolk of the Goldstraw tribe and was signed by someone called ‘Martika of the Lizardfolk.’

“Bet you a silver she’s not a lizardfolk,” Timotheus said.

“Make it ten,” Markos snapped back.

“Done!” Timotheus grinned.

The interrogation of the captured woman continued again after a fresh bout of speculation.

“What did you do for MacHaven’s Brood?” Bleys asked.

“I’m a sniper…” She replied. “When caravans were attacked or there were other kinds of ambushes, the prey would be driven below a position where I and the other archers were ready.”

“And these ambushes are how MacHaven’s Brood make their living?”

“That, and sparkleweed… and they had a shannis trade out of Kraken’s Cove, but I heard some noble adventurers killed everyone there,” she explained. “MacHaven was mad!”

“You did?” Bleys raised an eyebrow. “Noble adventurers…?”

The woman’s eyes widened with a dawning realization. The watch-mage continued to interrogate her, trying to find out the number of bandits in MacHaven’s Brood and where MacHaven’s hideout might be. He did not believe her when she said that the Vanderboren Stead was the hideout and smacked her a few times when he found her answers or comprehension to be purposefully obtuse.

“We need to get rid of these prisoners if we are going to be searching the swamp,” Markos said, walking over to Bleys. Seeing the woman’s eyes grow wide again, he turned to her. “And I don’t mean kill you all…” He gave an unpleasant grin.

“That has yet to be decided,” Bleys said, grimly.

After Laarus dispensed some more healing to the wounded, the Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland decided to check out the catacombs to make sure there was no immediate danger down that might break its way out overnight. Also, the woman’s reports of the storing of goods down there, made them think that someone might come back for them, so better as much of it as possible be moved up stairs and confiscated.

The trapdoor had a metal ladder that led to cold natural caverns that spilled away to darkness. The place was damp and smelled of dog feces and lime. The main chamber that the ladder led down to held a wooden pallet upon which were several crates of stolen good like dishware, bolts of cloth, and furs. Several large slabs of salted meat hung from the ceiling and there were a half dozen barrels of cheap wine and another half dozen of water. There was also a much larger bushel of sparkleweed wrapped in a tarp, and a large box of refined shannis.

After moving as much as they could back up into the longhouse and placing the heavy desk over the trapdoor again, the young nobles fell to discussing what to with the prisoners, with the choices coming down to bringing them all the way back to Gullmoor, or bringing them to the Tarchon Steads. Tavius was in the middle of explaining that it might be best to leave their horses behind because there are areas so deep they will have to swim. “Either that or procure a boat,” he said, when Laarus suddenly sat bolt upright and went pale. He shivered and spat up a stream of clear bile that made the others turn away in disgust.

“Brother Laarus! Was it another vision?” Victoria asked, moving over to hold him up as Telémahkos handed him a towel.

“I can create a boat using magic…” Markos said to Tavius, ignoring the fuss being made over his cousin. Bleys as well did not react, merely turning away when the young priest spat up.

“You can make a boat? Really?” Tavius was skeptical.

Discussion turned to the sparkleweed and the shannis. Laarus felt that it should be brought to the viceroy as evidence.

“You have seen it and your word is bond as a priest of Ra, that should be enough,” Bleys said. “I say we destroy it.”

“Don’t destroy it! That’s good stuff! Plus, everyone knows the viceroy smokes a bit of the weed every now and then… Who doesn’t?” Tavius said.

“The shannis at least…” Bleys said.

“That’s soldier’s boon! You know how much you can make off of that?” Tavius said.

“That stuff messes you up,” Tim replied.

“I thought you said you were a veteran?” Tavius complained.

“That’s why I know,” Timotheus smiled.

After deciding that they’d bring the prisoners, contraband and their horses to the Tarchon Estates, Telémahkos urged caution regarding mentioned Lavinia and her brother. “We don’t want to her looking suspicious…”

“She is suspicious,” said Markos.

“I agree with my cousin,” Laarus said. “I find it hard to believe that Lavinia could have been here and not known what was going on. She is involved somehow… Perhaps through coercion, but that remains to be seen.”

“Was there something in your vision that has to do with this?” Telémahkos asked. Bleys frowned.

“Perhaps…” Laarus was cautious.

“Just tell us what you saw in the damn vision,” Markos said.

“’This is what I would like you to deliver,’ I heard a voice say. It was familiar and then it became clear. It was Lavinia’s. But despite being dressed much as we saw her back in Quillton3, instead of her fine visage, she had the head of a tigress…”

“Are you saying she is some kind of were-cat?” Timotheus asked with a puzzled expression.

Laarus ignored him and continued. “In her hands she held a wooden box about six inches to a side, and as the sides of the box began to burn away some kind of orange sphere was revealed …”

“A sphere? Like a pearl?” Telémahkos asked.

“Very much like a pearl, despite its color, of course…”

“Who was she talking to?” Telémahkos wanted to know.

“I only saw her… Perhaps I was the one being addressed…” Laarus replied.

End of Session #30

-------------------------------------------------------
Notes:

1 A handle animal check is required both to get an animal to do its trick and to get it to cease doing so if the object of it is still present, in the case of attacking someone, for example.

2 Tavius made an off-hand remark regarding the hermit that sings to mushrooms in Session #3. See also InterSession #4.2

3 See Session #8 and several of the InterSessions following.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #31 – “The Darkness of the Deep Mire” (part 1 of 2) 1

Osilem, the 24th of Syet – 566 H.E. (637 M.Y.)

The nippy autumn morning found Markos Ackers going between different companions to talk about his horse. Having procured a wagon in which to move the prisoners and wounded to the Tarchon Steads, the Signers combed the estate for all weapons and other contraband to bring along as well at Bleys’s request. Markos was amazed that his newly purchased warhorse was so well trained and was worried that using it in combat might be cruel. It had been injured in the previous day’s combat against MacHaven’s men.

Bleys was blunt and continued working as he replied. “A horse is a tool like any other, and a warhorse is named such because it is a tool for war. It is a sturdy animal. It shall take time to heal, but it shall. And if it should take such a wound that it would not recover, then it will be put out of its misery and replaced, such is the way with horses…”

Unsatisfied, Markos approached his cousin, but Laarus was also short with him, refusing to call on Ra to heal the horse. “It will heal on its own,” the young priest said.

Finally Markos went to Victoria Ostrander. “My cousin doesn’t think my horse is worthy of his god’s attentions.”

“Did it do anything unworthy?” Victoria asked with a rare smile.

“No, just the opposite. It fought… uh, bravely, I guess you’d say, even when beset by dogs. I feel bad that it was wounded for our purposes…” Markos explained. “I am used to being at sea, and not having to deal with animals as mounts…”

“And you’ve grown attached to it…” Victoria was still smiling.

“No! I just feel for its pain as a living creature is all,” Markos protested. “And I am fascinated with how well it has been trained… It even listens to me who has little experience with such beasts. I was hoping you’d have more empathy and compassion than Bleys or Laarus.”

“The horse has served you well and thus has served us all well,” Victoria said, and she walked over to the stable and called to her god, closing the horse’s wounds.

“Hey, boss!” Timotheus called to Bleys about an hour later when two oxen were hitched to the wagon, and the prisoners were being moved into it. “We bringing this stuff, too?” He pointed at some farm tools.

“He is NOT the boss!” Markos barked.

“Actually, did we not vote Bleys the party leader some time ago?” Victoria said. Tim nodded his agreement. 2

“I don’t remember ever agreeing to that!” Markos pouted. The argument continued when Telémahkos came over and mocked the small mage for his tantrum, but Bleys never commented.

“If he doesn’t like you calling the watch-mage ‘Boss’, call him ‘chief’ instead,” Tavius grinned to Timotheus.

---------------------------------------------

It took about an hour longer to reach the Tarchon Steads with the loaded wagon that it had for them to reach the Vanderboren property from there the night before.

“Hail! Did you find what you were looking for?” Baxter Morningfire called when he greeted them on the road into the Tarchon property. He wore a floppy wide-brimmed leather hat and dull brown overalls.

“We found MacHaven’s Brood!” Timotheus called back with a grin as he gestured into the wagon.

“Really?” The steward said, running over with a couple of his workers to look in the wagon.

“Some of them, anyway,” Victoria said.

“The master of the steads has arrived before dawn,” Baxter said smiling. “Let us take your horses and lock up these prisoners and I will have someone feed you while Sir Valerius is informed. I am sure he will want to discuss this with you…”

“And us with him…” Bleys replied.

Sir Valerius Euthymius Tarchon greeted them warmly. He was a tall handsome man with long brown hair, and a well-kempt beard and no mustache (in the Swann style). He came to them as they ate at some benches in a hall not unlike that they had slept in the night before in the Vanderboren Stead longhouse. Tavius of Bog End excused himself.

“So these are the infamous Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland,” he said with a half-smile, clapping his large calloused hands.

“We call ourselves the Scions of Thricia,” Telémahkos said. Timotheus coughed his disagreement, but Bleys went into an explanation of what had happened at the Vanderboren Stead before the usual bickering could erupt before their noble host. Timotheus quickly got into the spirit of it, interjecting descriptions of the battle when appropriate. Telémahkos went on to explain about the connection between the bandits, the lizardfolk and whoever was sending the plagues of locusts.

Valerius nodded his understanding. “My son told me of your group soon after he and Sir Quintus returned from New Harbinger after you aided him during that… misunderstanding with the Gold Straw Lizardfolk,” he said. “I must admit I was surprised when I heard they had become hostile, as I was led to believe that you…” He looked to Bleys. “…were brokering some kind of alliance with them and young Lord Swann… I have just recently returned from seeking out my son in the bog, hoping beyond hope that he might still be among the living… But nothing turned up…”

“How goes the fight against the lizardfolk?” Bleys asked.

“Strangely…” Valerius said. “They fight, but they are not aggressive, and often flee… Sir Septimias Benedict Swann insists that they are to be chased down and destroyed…”

“Sir… There is a tragedy going on in that bog…” Markos said.

“And we also fear there may be a tragedy here in Moraes Heng,” Telémahkos interjected. “We fear that people may come to think Lavinia Vanderboren is somehow involved with MacHaven…”

“I doubt it…” Valerius dismissed the notion. “I know the girl and her parents… She is likely being taken advantage of now that her parents are gone…”

Sir Valerius Euthymius Tarchon agreed to bring the prisoners to Gullmoor, and to have their horses transported there as well. He also said that after talking to the Viceroy he planned to return to the Crossroads Bog and continue to seek out his son, but that he would also try speaking to Thricius of Anhur in hopes of rethinking the assault on the lizardfolk.

“Leaving now?” Valerius said when the discussion and meal were over.

“I see no reason to delay,” Timotheus replied.

“I concur,” said Bleys.

“May Isis guide you,” Sir Valerius said.

Stashing some of their heavier gear with their horses, they repacked the packhorse’s saddle and Tavius’s pony and brought those with them. Their lanky guide began to bring them northeast to the pass that would bring them down to the shadow of Moraes Heng and then around to the deep mire of the Glitcheegumme Swamp.

Tavius led them on a damp trail that was flanked on one side by thick foliage drooping in the cold and showing signs of having been damaged by frost, and on the other side the muddy red cliff wall of the plateau they had come down from. As they marched the topic of the group’s name came up again. Timotheus hated the name ‘Scions of Thricia,’

“Well, ‘Sons of Thricia’ excludes Victoria,” Telémahkos said.

“I don’t care,” said Victoria.

“I abhor ‘Sons’” said Bleys.

“Then let’s go back to ‘Signers’ until we come up with something better,” Timotheus suggested.

“I hate ‘Signers’ most of all,” Markos complained, and the bickering took off again.

Annoyed with their argumentativeness, Tavius eventually turned to them with a serious face and said, “There can be dangers in this swamp. We all need to be quiet now…” The young nobles acquiesced.

By noontime, the weather was much warmer, and the water swirled in warm eddies and currents around and beside them. In some places, the ambient light was dusky because of the overhang of trees.
Finally they came to deep shining green patch of water beyond which were a bunch of islands of myriad sizes, each cloistered with thick brush and drooping willows.

“It is always warm in this part of the swamp all winter long,” Tavius explained. “And in the summer it is unbearable…”

“What causes this warmth?” asked Markos. The guide just shrugged his shoulders.

They were forced to wade across the murky water, Tavius in the lead drawing the pony, which basically swam most of the way, and Bleys behind drawing the packhorse, which also struggled and kicked at the deepest parts. The water never reached past chest height for the tallest of the Signers, but Markos, Laarus and Victoria had to hold their heads up in several places to keep their mouths away from the pungent water. The area they approached was darker, and they could head the croaks of frogs and toads and the chittering of many insects. It was a long way to wade and all told they were in that deep water for nearly three-quarters of an hour. Halfway along, Timotheus noticed some movement in the water far off to their left, something sliding off one of the islands and plopping into the water. He warned the others who did their best to quicken their pace; causing Markos to lose his balance and splash face first into the water. Telémahkos and Tavius laughed. When Tavius finally led them up to drier land (for there was no truly dry land around here at all), they stopped to check themselves and the animals for leeches.

From there the guide brought them over several small islands broken up by babbling brooks and streams, most only a few feet apart, but occasionally they had to wade thigh deep in the green muck again. It was nearly two hours later when they heard the horrid singing echoing over the trees.

”That’s the old man…” Tavius said.

“That’s some set of pipes on that hermit!” Timotheus smiled.

“That’s Markos’ future we’re listening to,” Telémahkos jabbed. Markos scowled.

Leaving the mounts behind they quietly moved ahead to look at the clearing beyond. There was a small shack built with what was obviously local wood and patchwork roof of thatch and sticks. It had a small raised porch and a worn wooden door, painted a faded red. About sixty feet in front of it was a rickety dock that stretched out into deep murky water, and tied to it was a large rowboat. Between the house and the dock was a metal tub with handles next to a stump, and inside the tub was a skinny old man with a big jutting jaw covered in white fuzz except for a blue-black mole under his lip. He was scrubbing his back vigorously in time to his song as suds splashed over the side. The muddy patch of grass the tub was in was dotted with large mushrooms nearly eighteen inches high, about six in all.

Oh! I love your fishy beets! And your great big woman teats! When I get out my fishing keets I get hooked on your fishy beets! His common was accented strangely, like a foreigner of some kind, and his singing warbled and broke like the dying call of the emus of the UKSF.

After a brief disagreement about who should approach him first, “Not Tim,” Telémahkos had said, emphatically, upsetting his cousin, Telémahkos and Laarus stepped out of the brush and called, “Hello!”

“What?!” The old man sat up in his tub. “Finally found me ‘eh?” He jumped out of the basin, suds flying off his pruned naked body, and he made for the shack. As he reached the door he turned around and shook a fist. “Go back to Haffar’s Port, ya bastids!” The door slammed shut and as they approached they could hear a heavy bar slide into place behind it. A narrow window high up on the front wall few open and the old man pointed a heavy crossbow through the vent. “I knew you’d find me eventually, but I ain’t going without a fight!”

“Sir, I am not sure who you think we are, but we certainly did not come here to harm you,” Telémahkos tried to explain.

“That’s just what assassins would say!” the man spat back.

“I should have gone, I’m a people person…” Timotheus complained.

“Naw, that’s just old man Katan, crazy,” Tavius grinned. But Timotheus stood, brushed himself off and walked boldly towards the shack. As old man Katan noticed him he trained the crossbow on him, as Telémahkos continued to explain how they were looking for the old shrine of Apshai in the swamp, and Laarus questioned the man as to who it is from Haffar’s Port that he was so afraid of.

“Tell the big man to get back!” Katan growled. “If he tries to bust down the door he’s getting a bolt in the eye!”

“We mean no harm,” Timotheus said with his hands in the air, as Telémahkos scowled at him for coming forward. “I liked that song you were singing about the fishy bits…”

“So you were spying on me, too? Eh? But still couldn’t the drop on old Katan… It’s been 30 years and I still got it!” The old man laughed. “Just how many of you Red Lantern assassins are there?”

Laarus looked to Telémahkos, who snarled when he saw Timotheus look at him, too.

“We are not members of the Red Lantern Gang,” Laarus said. “But there are eight of us in total.”

“Look!” Markos said to Bleys, Victoria, Tymon and Tavius, while Telémahkos, Timotheus and Laarus turned because they thought they heard something squeak behind them.

The mushrooms were moving.3

“Ya dang varmints!” Katan bellowed, noticing the strange creatures moving around the tub. They had nubby feet that detached from the ground, narrow, nearly useless arms and big-eyed faces beneath their mushroom-cap heads. They were white and gray, with little patches if red-brown and blue on their caps. They cooed to each other cutely in high-pitched voices.

“Bleys! Markos! Mushroom people!” Telémahkos called to his companions who were still hiding. Seeing as there was no reason to continue to do so, the two wizards came forward with Victoria behind them.

“Gods dang ‘em! They’re stealing my clothes again!” Katan complained.

“Shall we help you get them back?” Timotheus asked with a wide grin.

“How do I know you’re not assassins?” Katan asked back.

“Because if we were we would have assassinated you by now,” Bleys said. “I am Bleys the Aubergine, watch-mage of the Academy, not a cutthroat assassin…”

“Yes, we would not have called out to you,” Telémahkos said. “We would have merely snuck up and killed you in the tub or waited until you went to sleep…”

“Maybe you were just trying to make sure you had the right man…” Katan reasoned.

“When have you ever known the Red Lanterns to be concerned about who they kill?” Telémahkos asked.

”Good point, sonny!” Katan said. “I’ll come out, but if you try anything funny, I swear to Horus, I will take at least one of you with me!”

“Understood.”

“Dangnabit! They did take my clothes!” Katan swore, and he threw open the door and went running out to the tub. The little mushroom creatures let out a string of giggles as they hopped down towards the dock clutching Katan’s pants and shirt.

“Hey, Laarus! You might want to go arrest them, they’re thieves” Telémahkos said to the priest, mocking.

“What are they?” Markos asked, as the creatures tossed the clothes into the muddy water on the bank, forcing Katan to climb down and retrieve them, grumbling about how he’d have to wash them again.

“Hells if I know!” Katan said. “They showed up not too long ago, and always bothering me with their singing and tricks… I hate ‘em!”

“Are they edible?” Victoria asked. “I wonder what they’d taste like?”

“You don’t eat creature like that!” Timotheus protested, but then he stopped short and rubbed his chin. “Though perhaps sautéed in butter? No, no, no! Forget I said that! You can’t eat creatures like this, they are obviously intelligent…”

“Well, compared to you…” Markos winked.

”Shut up, little man! I’m smart enough!” Timotheus growled, but Markos had already moved on, slowly approaching one of the mushroom creatures with a copper coin, trying to catch the light with it, before placing it on the ground in front of it.

“Meep!” The creature turned and hopped away.

“Hmm, you know what? I think they think I’m stupid…” Markos said.

“Do you think they really so smart to figure that out so quickly?” Telémahkos asked with a laugh.

“So what you people disturbing my solitude for?” Katan asked. “I don’t get many… scratch that… any visitors out here…”

Once again Telémahkos explained how they were looking for the old hidden shrine of Apshai deeper in the swamp. “Do you know it?”

“I might…” Katan replied. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I gots to get dressed…” He walked into his shack.

As Telémahkos, Bleys, and Laarus stood by one side of the shack, the priest wondering aloud what it was Katan was hiding. There were hundreds of chicken scratch marks on the side of the shack counting off days and days of Katan’s life here in this isolated place. Meanwhile, Victoria, Timotheus and Markos were over by the dock, continuing to watch the mushroom creatures with great interest. They meeped and peeped and danced and rolled, looking at the party like shy children or enthusiastic dogs. One even let Victoria pick it up and look right into its face. It cooed pleasantly.

As she put it back down, the militant cocked her head. “Do you hear that?” But before anyone else could pinpoint it the little mushroom creatures began to sing. It was a lilting impression of old man Katan’s own singing, but with a bizarre inhuman weaving harmony that was actually not unpleasant despite its strangeness.

“Shut up out there, ya lousy varmints!” Katan yelled from inside the shack.

“They’re trying to drown out the noise,” Victoria said.

“What noise?” asked Timotheus.

“What was that buzzing?” Telémahkos was asking simultaneously, noticing that Bleys too was looking around for its source.

In less than a moment it became clear. Telémahkos flinched as he saw something black come swooping in towards his face, buzzing loudly. He swatted at it ineffectually, but the thing’s proboscis bit down deep into his neck. It was huge mosquito, nearly a foot in length and it was sucking blood out of Telémahkos at an astonishing rate, latched onto him He tried to pull it off, but its grip was too tight, so he scrambled to draw a dagger.

Meanwhile, as Bleys began the incantation of a spell, another came swooping in to bite on to Laarus’s back, while a second went for Telémahkos, but missed as he dodged wildly.4

“Tim! Over there!” Victoria said, drawing her own dagger and charging in that direction when she saw the commotion. Another mosquito darted out of the brush and grabbed hold of her arm and began to draw blood from her as well. Yet another was buzzing around her.

Telémahkos moaned as he swerved wildly and stabbed at the creature, but his desire to not stab himself made him simultaneously over cautious, and the thing kept drinking.

…to be continued…

--------------------------------------------------------------
Notes:

1 This session was played on Saturday, May 24, 2008 in Maplewood, New Jersey.

2 This vote occurred back in Session #15. Amazingly, Markos voted for Bleys to take on leadership.

3 This scenario was taken from the adventure Old Man Katan and the Mushroom Band by Ted James Thomas Zuvich from Dungeon Magazine, Issue #41, May 1993.

4 Telémahkos used his dodge feat against that one and it missed by one.
 
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handforged

First Post
Bill Gates let loose a jar of mosquitos at a conference to raise awareness of malaria in thrid world countries.

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppDWD3VwxVg]YouTube - Video Bill Gates/mosquitoes @ TED (unedited point segment) ~ 2-4-09[/ame]

~hf
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #31 – “The Darkness of the Deep Mire” (part 2 of 2)

Augio Allio!" Bleys completed his incantation and Timotheus grew to over twelve feet in height. The enlarged warrior, reached over and easily grabbed the mosquito and yanked it off Telémahkos, crushing it to death in his huge hands.

Meanwhile, one of the mosquitoes, still buzzing around, spotted Markos and grappled on to the mage’s chest to feast. All the while, the mushroom men continued to sing, hopping towards Katan’s shack, to gather chorus-like before the door. Laarus struggled to yank the insect grasping onto him.

“Hold still!” Bleys said to Telémahkos, and rolling a dart in his hand along with an adder’s stomach and some powdered rhubarb, he spoke an arcane word and an arrow of acid went flying from him. Unfortunately, however, the mosquito proved too small a target to get easily hit and Telémahkos screamed as the acid splattered on his clothing and skin. In desperation, he was finally able to stab the mosquito satisfactorily with his dagger, and as it detached to fly off bloated and happy, Timotheus stomped over and crushed it with a firm hand clap. But drained nearly dry and with the acid still burning him, Telémahkos collapsed.

Markos cut at the mosquito on him as he leapt into the bathwater of Katan’s tub, causing it to detach, while Victoria called on Anhur to create water causing a momentary downpour on a mosquito still diving at her. It buzzed and fluttered with wet wings on the ground trying to straighten up and fly, but Timotheus stomped on it, killing it. Seeing that the one that had been on Markos was still buzzing around the tub, Victoria stabbed it and it collapsed to the ground, pouring out Ackers blood along with its own ichor.

Veneficus aquom! Markos cast as he stood in the tub, and two arrow of blue watery light slammed unerringly into the one on Laarus’ neck, killing it. The priest did not hesitate; he stepped over to Telémahkos and called on Ra to close his wounds to keep him from dying. However, the blood sucked away from him would take some time to recover from.

Timotheus helped Telémahkos to his feet. “You’re pretty pale, cuz…”

“What in tarnation was that?” Katan said, finally coming out of his house in a half-corroded chain shirt with a club, and an ill-fitting helmet on.

“Giant skeeters,” Timotheus said.

“Gods! I ain’t never seen skeeters that big! They could kill a man…”

“They almost did,” Telémahkos croaked.1

Tymon and Tavius were called out from their hiding spot and they dealt with tying up the packhorse and pony to a post on the side of the house, and Tymon fell to dealing with the group’s gear as he was prone to do.

Timotheus convinced Katan to allow Telémahkos to rest in his shack with Tymon looking over him, while Markos and Bleys speculated on why the mushrooms had started singing when the creatures attacked.

“Perhaps they called them?” Laarus said.

“No, I heard the buzzing before they started singing,” Victoria said.

“So you have never seen insects like that before?” Bleys asked. Katan shook his head. The watch-mage continued. “Giant locusts… Giant mosquitoes… There must be some connection, and I would not be surprised if these mushroom creatures are somehow connected as well. You say they only recently arrived?”

“Well…” Katan took a seat on the stump by the tub. “I used to see one or two at a time deeper in mire when I do my gathering… Never were too bothersome. They’d sing a little, I’d sing a little… But a few weeks ago they kind of followed me home and then the next thing I knew there were six or eight of them varmints following me around, staying out front of my house and making a gods-damned racket half the time…”

“Fascinating…” Bleys was deep in thought.

“The only thing that seems to shut them up is when I light me a cigar…” Katan continued. “I guess they don’t like ‘em…”

“Or they do!” Markos snapped his fingers. “The smoke from your cigars probably keeps the mosquitoes at bay, that’s why you’ve never seen one before. When the mushrooms hear them they start singing, you light a cigar and you’re saved! The mushrooms have been protecting you and trying to warn you!”

“Exactly what I was thinking,” Bleys said.

“These things?” Katan held up a loosely rolled greenish-brown cigar. “I make them from some leaves that grow out in the mire…”

Markos offered to buy some, but Katan was hesitant, saying they took a long time to dry out and make.

Over the next couple of hours the young nobles took the time to rest. Markos badgered Victoria and Laarus into healing Telémahkos, and they all munched on rations and on Katan’s roasted whole onions smeared in some kind of cranberry paste, and small fried fish.

When convinced that the party could make a second rowboat by means of magic, Katan finally agreed to act as their guide to the old Apshai shrine. He also had the makings to roll a few more of his swampleaf cigars, and he agreed to make those as well.

“How do you know where this shrine is?” Bleys asked the old man.

“Live in swamp long enough with no people around and ya get bored,” Katan explained. “I used to wander into every nook and cranny of the place I could find just ‘cause there was nothing else to do…”

Later in the evening, Timotheus and Markos spent a long time discussing principles of the Pillars of Thricia,2 but finally everyone went to sleep (the mushroom creatures planting themselves in the ground and going into some dormant mode wherein they were indistinguishable from just very large mushrooms), ready to head out the next day.


Osilem, the 24th of Syet – 566 H.E. (637 M.Y.)

Morning found the Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland taking their time to get ready to go. After Victoria and Laarus prayed for their spells, the militant used lesser restoration on Telémahkos to handle his loss of blood, but two casting was not enough to get him back to full health.

The on-going morning conversation concerned what to do with Tavius and the mounts, and coming to the doorway of the shack, leaning weakly in the frame, Telémahkos announced that he wanted to send Tymon back to civilization with the guide to keep him safe. As usual, Tavius drove a hard bargain about his pay and what he would charge for coming back for them in four days time. After raising his price when Markos insulted him, Tavius finally agreed to Bleys’s offer. As for Tymon, it was left for him to decide what he wanted to do, and he agreed to stick with the party.

As Tymon took over making breakfast that day, and Victoria and Timotheus took some time to spar, Markos and Katan sat at the edge of the dock talking quietly.

“How long have you been hiding out from the Red Lanterns?” Markos asked the old man.

“A long time… nigh 30 years or so…” Katan answered sadly. Two of the mushroom creatures were running back and forth up and down the dock trying to get their attention and giving their little squeaky laugh. Markos smiled at them, Katan scowled.

“That’s is a long time… Ever consider they may not be after you anymore?” Markos asked.

“Red Lanterns never forget them that crossed them, or else they wouldn’t be the Red Lantern Gang…” Katan answered. “Anyway, I’ve gotten used to being out here on my own…”

“But still, there must be some way to buy off the contract on your head,” Markos said. “Or perhaps there are only a few people left who remember whatever it was you did and they can be bribed or… uh…you know… taken care of…

“Taken care of!? That’s what got me in trouble in the first place, taking care of someone I shouldn’t have…” Katan said, angrily, but then his anger was immediately deflated. “But still… It was an accident…”

“It strikes me as unfortunate that you would have to remain here hidden when there is so much of the world to enjoy for something that may not even be a concern to anyone anymore…” Markos said. “I am unconvinced of your belief that it would not be forgotten after all this time… There is a lot you can contribute… For example, I am sure the University of Thricia would be willing to pay for a report and specimen of these mushroom creatures…”

“You sure do talk funny…” Katan replied with a smile. He was missing several teeth and his remaining ones were crooked and yellow. “Can’t you talk like a regular person?”

“No…”

There was a long awkward silence. Markos turned to one of the mushroom creatures as it got close and whistled at it. It turned it face towards him and meeped in confusion.

“I guess they only copy you…” Markos said to Katan.

“Whaddya mean, copy me?” Katan’s brow furrowed.

“When the mushroom creatures sing, they seem to be mimicking you,” Markos explained.

“WHAT!” The dock creaked as Katan rose to his feet suddenly. “Them varmints can’t sing at all! You’re saying they sing like me? I sing better than them little moldy things!” He marched off in annoyance.

Markos stayed behind finding that if he sung to the little mushroom man, it would sing back in the best imitation it could muster. He was having fun, his legs dangling off the side of the dock, smiling when the creature got the melody right, or even improved on it, and muttering to himself that perhaps he should present a paper at the university on these creatures.

“I think he’s finally found a friend,” Timotheus commented to Bleys as they watched the salty mage playing on the dock in the dappled morning light.

Suddenly there was a disturbance in the water under the dock, and Markos instinctively pulled his legs up, just as a great dull green monster came splashing up out of the water, its huge maw slamming shut to try to grab him. It was a gigantic crocodile, over twenty feet long, with a head that could easily fit a man of Markos’s slender stature. Markos screamed like a girl as he scrambled to his feet to avoid the great beast as it climbed up onto the dock, causing it to groan in protest as its outer supports gave way. The mushroom creature peeped in fear as it slid down the askew dock into the crocodile’s mouth. One bite and it was motionless, but spores of some kind went flying out of its little broken body, and the crocodile gave a strange sneeze. Suddenly, it was moving with strange lumbering movement, slowed by whatever was in the spores, though it did not stop trying to get at Markos.

“Tymon!” Telémahkos called from the porch of the shack, seeing the monster attack. “Get your crossbow, and bring bolts and my weapon belt!”

Timotheus went running out to the dock, trying to provide the crocodile a different target as Markos continued to scramble. “Get up here!” He swung his sabre down on the croc’s face, but its hide was much too thick to be easily cut.

“May Ra’s light sear this abomination from the water!” Laarus prayed to his god for the holy light of Ra’s Glory, but the beam of golden holy light that came from the sky scorched the dock, missing the creature completely.

“Gods! I ain’t never seen one of those around here!” Katan said, from his position frozen in shock and fear at the base of the dock. Bleys leapt into the rowboat beside the dock, to try to get a vantage to attack the crocodile, but he caught his foot on the gunwale and fell face first into the boat. Victoria was moving to a similar position, and the rocking of the boat caused her to fall atop the watch-mage.

Atop the broken dock, Markos screamed as the crocodile grabbed hold of his legs and then did a quick chomp to try to draw him in more deeply. There was blood everywhere, and Markos tried to focus through the pain to cast a spell, but the effort drove him to unconsciousness.3

“Tymon! Try and get one of Victoria’s spears and a torch on the shore,” Telémahkos continued to give his manservant orders, and Tymon struggled to obey. Meanwhile, Telémahkos saw an opening and let an arrow fly from his short bow, and it nicked the crocodile’s wide back.

“Pay attention to me, ya scaly bastard!” Timotheus roared, but even his mightiest blows were bouncing off the thing’s thick ridges. Laarus of Ra came running out onto the dock, flail drawn and closed with the beast as it drew back. Annoyed with the priest swinging the weapon in its face, it opened its mouth and Markos’s limp form plopped into the water. It snapped at Laarus, but the priest leapt back. However, he lost his footing and as he struggled to remain upright the croc snapped again, and this time Laarus felt the thing’s teeth tear into the flesh of his leg. Luckily, however, he was able to pull it free before he was grabbed as his cousin had been. In the rowboat, Bleys and Victoria stood. The militant hopped up onto the dock, and then into the water beside the crocodile, while Bleys, leaving his sword in the bottom of the boat, cast a spell. “Sagitta corosiva!” But his acid arrow sailed over the thing to hiss harmlessly into the water.

As Laarus and Tim hacked and swung at the thing ineffectually, Bleys spoke another arcane word and jumped off the boat, leaving it to rock wildly, and flew through the air, spinning to land by Victoria and the limp form of Markos, whom the militant was healing. However, she had to hop awkwardly away to avoid the crocodile’s huge thrashing tail. 4

“Gods! Oh Gods!” Markos croaked painfully as he waded as fast as his injured body allowed him through the deep water and to the far side of the dock away from the melee. Katan came running back out of his shack with his crossbow in time to see Laarus yanked off his feet by another bite of the crocodile. The young priest grew even paler than normal and the crocodile gulped at him, drawing him deep to drive long sharp teeth into Laarus’s waist and chest. The disciple of Ra’s head hung loosely from his shoulders.

“Get the hell out of there!” Timotheus yelled to Bleys and Victoria, who were still in the water as the immense monstrous reptile withdrew once again moving at normal speed, Laarus’ body disappearing further into its maw as is disappeared into the water. The burly warrior gave chase and hacked some more to no avail. Bleys obeyed leaping once again with the aid of magic, to land on the far side of the dock on dry land, turning in time to see both the animal and their companion disappear just as an acid arrow from Markos hissed against its snout.

“Noooo, Laarus!” Victoria cried, casting bull’s strength on herself before climbing into the rowboat. “Someone get this boat moving… We need to save Laarus!”

Everyone scrambled to get in the rowboat. Timotheus dropped his sword and shield and grabbed an oar and Markos hopped in. Bleys spotted the crocodile surface briefly some forty feet away and cast magic missile, sending two arrows of light to slam into its back as it submerged again, leaving bloody bubbles to burst on the surface of the murky water.

“Oh, that awful!” Katan said sadly, seeing the desperation on the faces of the young nobles. “They’re never gonna find his body… He’s gone…”

Bleys leapt again, but this time he overshot the boat and landed awkwardly in the water. Telémahkos hurried forward, leaving Tymon standing confusedly with a torch in one hand, a crossbow in the other, and a spear leaning on his shoulder. The blond Briareus ran among the scattered arrows he had fired at the thing on the dock and fired another blindly, trying to gauge by the trail of blood on the water’s surface.

Victoria cast enlarge person on herself as Timotheus rowed the boat out to follow the trail, and was forced to roll off the boat before her increased size and weight caused it to submerge. She risked leaving herself vulnerable to feel around the mucky depths with her spear, but there was nothing. In the end, all the found was Laarus’s right hand with a bit of his forearm still attached as his signet ring on one finger.

Laarus Raymer, priest of Ra, was dead.

The Scions of Thricia returned to shore in silence, and no one said anything for a long time.

“I would like to at least find his holy symbol…” Markos finally said, and the others agreed. As he, and Tim and Victoria worked to dredge the area of the bog to find it, Telémahkos took care of giving Tavius instructions of what to do with the packhorse and when to come back.

“And if I find out that you have been selling information about us or that anything on our packhorse is missing, I will kill you, but first I will make you watch as I kill your family…” Telémahkos said to the guide with all the quiet grimness he could muster.

Tavius smirked. “You can trust me…” he replied, dismissing the threat.

“What do we do now?” Timotheus asked Bleys as he returned from the search, all they found was the priest’s crunched up shield and the necklace he had been given by the Ray-Ree. 5

“We continue on as we planned…” Bleys replied. “The fraternity of warriors is never stronger than when they have suffered a loss…”

“Yeah, I know…” Timotheus said sadly. “I’ve been there before… More than I care to recall…”

“I thought as much…”

“We need to be more cautious when we get to this temple or shrine or whatever it is…” Timotheus added.

“I am not one to be reckless, but at the same time over-caution has its own dangers,” the watch-mage said wisely.

It was decided that the young nobles would spend the day resting once again and that at dawn they would have a short informal service for their fallen companion.

“So let’s all try to think of nice things to say about Laarus,” Timotheus said to the others.

End of Session #31

-------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes:

1 Telémahkos suffed 7 points of Constitution damage from the mosquitoes.

2 The Pillars of Thricia is the book found among Oroleniel the Salmon’s things that proposes a form of democratic government to replace Thricia’s magocracy.

3 Markos was staggered (i.e. at 0 hit points).

4 This was an attack of opportunity from the large creature.

5 This is the jackal-head necklace given to each of the party members in Session #20.
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
InterSession #31.1 – "The Raymer Blood" (part 1 of 1) 1

The sun felt so close; it cast a shadow that covered the colorless landscape Markos found himself in. He stood at the prow of a barge, pushed and dragged by dozens of goblins, all in various states of death. At the front an ogre pulled a chain attached to the prow, one of its legs wobbly where a huge gash cut down to the bone. The wound was crusted over, and the bone looked like it should tear loose with each step. The wood of the hull protested as it was dragged across the gray earth, driving up a cloud of fine noxious dust that burned Markos’s lungs and obscured his vision. Was that a set of black gates in a tall stone wall off in the distance? All he could tell was that this was a land of gray and black craggy hills, dotted with white wavering trees. There was something unnerving about them.

Markos turned and saw the only other person on the barge was at the till at the stern. But no, wait… he was suddenly at the stern, too. The scene the ship departed from seemed identical to the one it approached.

“What are those trees?” Markos asked the figure. It was Laarus. The young priest of Ra was dressed in white, a gold ankh about his neck, and ashes smeared over his eyes.

“They are not trees,” his voice seemed distant, like it emerged from deep down in his body. His lips did not move. “They are the spirits of the dead, rooted to their spot, waiting…”

“Waiting for what?” Markos felt distant from his own voice, as if whatever sense of himself he had were somehow lodged more deeply into his body than his vocal cords were. Everything seemed to be framed in darkness, as if observed from within a cave or tunnel.

“To be claimed, to not be claimed… One day you shall wait as they do…” Laarus intoned.

“Even dead, you’re an asshôle…”

“Listen to me Markos… There was more to that vision…2 More that I had not seen in life, but I have seen it now and I want to show it to you… You have your mother’s blood… There is much you could see and learn and if you let go your arcane obsession…”

“Are you going to show me or lecture me?”

“Give me your hand…” Laarus reached out and took his hand, and then his very essence billowed out into a translucent spirit and was sucked into Markos’s body, and suddenly he was in a dark place… A den lit by a hearth…Rain battered the shutters:

This is what I would like you to deliver.” The voice was Lavinia’s, but as his vision rose up from her tall elegant boots to her lavender velvet dress, instead of the soft skin of her décolletage, there was the head of a tigress. Her hand rested atop a wooden box about six inches to a side. The side of the box began to burn away revealing some kind of orange sphere beneath.

“You are not, Lavinia,” Markos heard himself say, except it is not his voice that issued from his body.

“No, I am not…”

“Stanislaw Torn,” He said and turned to see himself in the mirror above the mantleplace. He was wearing mauve watch-mage robes, but had the head of a bat, the body of a woman.

“Yes,” Lavinia said. “And trade it for the sword of Sylaire and beware the Whistling Gold…”



All went black and Markos awakened…


End of InterSession #31.1

--------------------------------------------------
Notes:

1 This was actually given to Markos’s player as a handout immediately before Session #32 began.

2 Laarus is referring to a vision he had in Session #30.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #32 – “Assault on the Old Apshai Temple” 1

Balem, the 26th of Syet - 566 H.E. (637 M.Y.)

The Scions of Thricia were up early the next day - up before Ra’s barge pulled the sun out from deep in the underworld where it spent its nights. The day before, Tavius left with the packhorse and pony, agreeing to come back for the party in four days time and then four days after that if they did not come in one day of his waiting. He was paid a generous sum of silver and promised more on their next meeting, whether they ended up needing him or not.

Markos cast preserve food on what remained of Laarus’s corpse, his right hand and forearm, in order to return it to the Raymer Family Vaults, where the dead were entombed.

They ate sparsely and divided some of Laarus’s remaining things. Victoria was given a potion of aid the priest had in his pack. Bleys, the potion of cure light wounds.

As the sun finally came up, Victoria called the others to join her down near the dock, where they stood in a circle around what remained of their fallen companion.

“Brother Laarus,” she said. “I didn’t know you long, but saw in you a shining example of a priest of Ra. You were honest and held others to high standards. You were unbending in your faith and in your service to the King of the Gods. I am saddened by this loss, but for myself, not for you, as I know you are in His service, watching over us from Ra’s Glory as we seek justice in your name.”

The others were silent for a long while, but then Telémahkos spoke up. “Laarus was a good man who did honor to his House. We may have disagreed often, but he saved my life more than once. I shall miss his presence and will do what I can to honor his memory in my thoughts and deeds…”

“Yeah, he was unyielding in his beliefs,” Timotheus said with a much more casual tone than the others. “Sure… He’s with Ra now. But he was our shield-brother and our sword-brother, and for that we will finish in his name what we started with him.”
Bleys spoke next: “"The Glory of Ra shines ever more bright this day as He rides Matet with one of his most pious, Laarus of House Raymer. May Osiris judge him fairly. Our companion gave his life to the Charter of Schiereiland: a duty to his King, a service to the Margrave, and a most noble deed for his country. No greater sacrifice could be asked, no greater sacrifice could be made. As we go forth from this place, let us each bear the illumination of Laarus in our breast, such that we may hold to his example and deliver his light to the darkness in the old Apshai temple."
Only the croaks of frogs and the chatter of insects broke the silence before Markos finally spoke. In his shack, Katan banged against something and quickly shushed himself.

“I will be truthful,” Markos finally said, wearing his common smirk. “As that was Laarus’ best quality. He had good intentions… Unlike some… And he had flaws like all do. I may not have loved my cousin, but I respected him and had what I’d call… a growing affection for him. I will remember him. May Ra and all the gods look favorably upon him in the next stage of this existence…”

The Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland were about to end their memoriam for the fallen comrade when Markos raised his hands, gesturing for them to wait.

“Last night…” He hesitated. “Laarus’s gift of prophecy passed on to me, I had a vision last night…”2

“Or, now that he’s gone you can no longer fight the madness within you…” Telémahkos baited.

“Or, I am being manipulated somehow,” Markos speculated, smirking.

Victoria glared at them. “Enough with this banter, and you had better not making mock of this occasion. I hope you are not joking about this vision…” She clenched a fist.

“What would you do if I were?” Markos took over the baiting from Telémahkos, who stopped laughing when he saw Victoria’s face.

There was a long dreadful silence and then Markos spoke again. “But yes… I did really have a vision. In it I was accompanying Laarus to the land of the dead and he allowed me to see the rest of the vision he had the other day.3 Remember? The one where there was a tiger-headed woman with Lavina’s voice giving him a box with an orange pearl in it? Well, I saw more and heard more… Turns out the tiger-headed woman with Lavinia’s voice wasn’t Lavinia at all, but Stanislaw Torn! And he/she asked me to trade the pearl I was being given for the Sword of Sylaire… Some of you may remember the name ‘Sylaire’ from the notes we found in Dalvan’s tomb… Anyway, next thing I knew I turned and looked in the mirror, and I wasn’t me either. I was someone wearing mauve watch-mage’s robes, except I had the head of a bat…”

“Perhaps it was something you ate,” offered Bleys.

“No! It wasn’t something I ate, you condescending prick,” Markos spat. “It was an actual vision. I felt it. I saw it. I know it… Laarus communicated with me…”

Bleys nodded.

“Do you think that was your friend, Maeve the Mauve… Whatever her name is?” Markos asked the watch-mage.

“It seems likely…” Bleys replied. “She knows Lavinia…”

“Does this vision change anything we plan to do now?” Timotheus asked, impatient.

“No,” said Bleys and he and Markos moved off to confer on what spells to prepare for the day. As they talked, Markos tried to offer a deal to trade some spells, but Bleys refused to make a decision on the matter yet. Meanwhile, Telémahkos pulled Timotheus aside and expressed his wish to return to Lilly City to find a sword-master when this was all over.

“I am all for it, cousin and I will go with you,” Timotheus said. “But you know the others will be against taking the time to do so…”

A little more than an hour later they headed off. Markos, Victoria, Telémahkos and Katan led the way in the old man’s boat, while Timotheus, Bleys and Tymon rode in the one Markos conjured. A mushroom creature had been shooed onto each boat in hopes of using them to warn of the approach of any more of the deadly mosquitoes.4

“Why aren’t you riding in your own boat?” Victoria asked.

“It could disappear!” Markos answered.5

As they made their way through the deep stretches of the swamp, cleaving through the murky green, Katan let out a painful croak of a song, interrupting it only to tell Markos and Victoria, who were rowing, which way to turn. Timotheus rowed the rear rowboat on his own. The heat grew as they pierced the center of the swamp. It was unseasonable at times with lots of tiny biting insects, but mostly the morning was calm and almost beautiful, drifting through curtains of thin green flowering vines that drooped into the water. Katan had warned the young nobles that there would be a point near the middle of their trip where they would have to carry the boats across an island or two to save time. The old man pointed towards a large green island. The water around it was a churning brown from multiple streams that emptied from this island and other nearby islands. Bleys looked back and noticed a log floating some yards behind the boats. The thing was he had noticed it before and while it had seemed closer, they should long left it behind. He carefully reached over for his longbow and strung it.

Timotheus frowned. “Just keep rowing,” Bleys said to him. “I thought I saw that giant crocodile.” But Bleys lost sight of it as the boats were brought aground on the steep muddy bank of the islands. The boats were heavy and awkward to move, as they struggled to get them up on their sides to drag up, Telémahkos heard deep croaking coming from the other side of the thin frond-like trees that obscured most of the island. The croaking sounded familiar, frog-like, but too much like a voice. He drew his rapier, as Tymon and Markos began to look around, having heard it as well.

“What’s with the sword?” Tim asked his cousin, oblivious due to most of the work to move the boats falling on him.

“Bullywugs…” Telémahkos replied.

“They could just be large frogs… like the mosquitoes or the crocodile…” Victoria suggested.

“Either way they are dangerous,” Telie responded. There was a brief discussion about what to do and Telémahkos felt it was better to seek them out and fight them now, rather than to risk being attacked while carrying the boats across the island. Victoria agreed, so as the boats were pulled further up the shore to make sure they did not float back out into the bog, Telémahkos crept ahead to scout.

In order to get a good view he climbed a low hanging tree that emerged askew from a sandy bank. Up ahead, a stream cut through a larger sandy bank gurgling as it slowed and widened to a rock filled pool before narrowing again and disappearing into the bog. Vine-covered trees dotted the area. Below he saw a group of frog-men with drab-olive skin mottled with brown. They wore no armor, but carried wooden shields decorated with woven fronds, and crude spears with notched wooden heads. He saw at least four, but guess that more were about. They were beating the brush as if looking for something. Telémahkos carefully climbed back down the tree and hurried back as quietly as he could to report what he had seen.

In the meantime, the others had brought the boats up onto the embankment, and had them on their sides.

“If they are looking for something or someone, perhaps we should take advantage of the element of surprise and attack them now,” Victoria suggested.

But it was too late… “Get the boats prow to prow!” Timotheus said as he saw the green frog-men hopping out of the trees in their direction, croaking angrily. He turned to see them hopping towards him, not noticing Telémahkos hiding behind a tree between the frogs and his cousin. Bleys the Aubergine put his foot down on the edge of one of the boats to keep it in place, allowing Timotheus to draw his saber and turn fully to face the coming foes. Tymon held the other boat up, doing his best to turn it as Tim had directed, while Victoria prepared her spear, stepping around the boats on the left. The mushroom people squealed and dove into some nearby brush.

Telémahkos stepped out from behind his tree as the bullywugs hopped past and thrust his rapier through the back of one’s neck, sending it to the swampy ground in a shower of green greasy blood. 6 The other bullywugs did not slow their approach towards Tim. The first two found their spears caught on the big warrior’s bulette shield, but the third, thinking it had gotten past Tim’s defense was shocked to see his spear crack in half against the brawny man’s breastplate.7 Telémahkos moved around the other side of the three to flank the attackers with his cousin.

As the other set of wugs came around the far left side of the boat to attack Victoria and Bleys, one strayed near the bank and was suddenly gone, as the giant crocodile snapped out from within the brown murky water to trap the frog-man in its maw with one bite. After taking a missing shot an an approaching bullywug, Bleys let the boat fall and made to hop across it, but his foot got caught in one of the seats and he fell over in the middle of it.8

As Markos cast magic missile weakening one of the bullywugs Timotheus and Telémahkos had penned in, Victoria called to her god. “Anhur! Laarus’ killer has shown its maw, give us the strength to win our revenge,” she prayed, casting bull’s strength on herself.

As fear filled the bullywugs they began to grow sloppy, and one in trying to stab at Timotheus found its thrust guided by his saber into the side of its ally.8 Timotheus took advantage of the confusion, and sliced one open. He then follow through to cut its neighbor in half.9 An arrow flew out of seemingly nowhere, striking the leg of one of the frog-men from behind the melee. Telémahkos flicked his thin blade drawing green blood from one of the creatures as he dared a look back to see if he could spot its source, but he couldn’t.

Quies! Markos cast, running fine sand between his fingers and sending a bullywug to sleep in front of the giant crocodile, dooming it to be munched on as well. Bleys stood, one foot on the boat’s gunwale and let an arrow fly right into the crocodile’s back, but its armor-like plates resisted the projectile, just as it resisted the thrust of Victoria’s spear and a bolt from Tymon’s heavy crossbow. The manservant had left old man Katan to hold up the boat, while he reloaded the thing on Telémahkos’s command. The sound of a flute came from among the trees where the mysterious arrow had come from, and as one of two remaining bullywugs turned to hop away from the chaos, it was caught by Telémahkos’s rapier in the eye instead. It collapsed, bleeding out.

The flute song had a strange disruptive rhythm that broke up its melody in an uncomfortable way, and it was echoed by the mushroom creatures, who poked their heads up to see where it was coming from. The crocodile surged, snapping at Victoria, but somehow its movements seemed to be mimicking the strange music, causing it to fall short of its prey. 9Rectus telum! Markos chanted and an arrow of pure acid flew from his hands to splatter on the crocodile’s neck and face. Even its roar seemed to echo the strange magical song effecting is movements. Bleys dropped his bow and drew his sword, cutting down at the thing as it passed him, aiming for the sizzling spot, his stony face demonstrating a certain satisfaction when his blade drew the reptile’s blood.

Veneficus absentium aquom! Markos cast again, and two magic missiles slammed into the great beast’s back.

“Somebody enlarge me!” Timotheus called, but it seemed he did not really need the extra girth and strength, for he cut a huge gash in the monster as it reared up, and for a moment it struggled on its side, revealing its more tender underbelly for Victoria’s spear to penetrate.

Telémahkos fought the remaining bullywugs, turning to keep sight of the crocodile in the corner of his left eye, and finally saw the source of the arrow and the music. It was a skinny mud-covered man playing a small flute. The man stepped out from behind a tree to get a better view of the melee. The crocodile flipped back right side up and spun with a speed that belied its size, bludgeoning Timtheus painfully with its tail in the process and knocking the brawny warrior down. Victoria and Bleys flanked the thing, but most of their blows had trouble penetrating its scales.

Markos pulled a dagger and shoved it in the lower back of the remaining bullywugs It croaked in surprise and as it collapsed the mage looked up to Telémahkos who had been fighting it. “Now go get that thing!” He gestured to the croc with his chin.

But before Telémahkos could make his way to draw the melee, Tymon let go with another heavy crossbow bolt that found the bleeding burned creature’s eye, puncturing through to its brain, finally killing it. The young nobles could not suppress a cheer.

“Hail and well met!” The stranger with the flute called, making his way towards them. He had dirty blond curls plastered to his head by mud, and wore studded leather under a green tunic. Despite the dirt, he had an obvious rugged handsomeness set off by angelic shining brown eyes.

Timotheus greeted the newcomer enthusiastically, always willing to make a friend, while the others greeted, keeping a posture of wariness.

“I am Savion Gold of Collines d’Or,” the man said, holding out his hands as he approached.

“We are the Scions of…” Telémahkos began. “Yeah, yeah…” Timotheus interrupted his cousin. “The Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland…”

“We heard your music,” Victoria said, introducing herself. “At one point it seemed to ensorcell the crocodile… Thank you…”

After each of the nobles introduced themselves in turn, gesturing to Katan and Tymon, Savion explained that he was on trail of some gnolls who had kidnapped a child.

“I was on my way to Moraes Heng to see if I could find some aid,” he said. “My quarry seem to have crossed a deep bog by some kind of craft…”

“We should help him!” Timotheus turned to the others.

“If a child is in danger we should help him,” Markos agreed, but his scowl at Tim displayed an annoyance with Tim’s readiness to offer their aid to someone they did not know.

“He could be a MacHaven plant,” Bleys said.

“My thoughts exactly,” said Markos.

“Who?” Savion asked.

“No way!” Timotheus. “That would mean that MacHaven would have to know we were going to here at this time on this day and then have him wait around for us? For what…?”

Savion Gold looked back and forth among the young nobles, with an amused expression, wondering at how they spoke of him as if he weren’t’ there. He looked down at the hopping mushrooms and squinted, as if not quite believing what he saw, but he said nothing about them.

“Well, I’ll tell ya one thing, they ain’t no gnolls in these parts,” Katan spoke up. “He could be a Red Lantern assassin!”

Bleys the Aubergine cocked an eyebrow and looked to the stranger. “Tell us about these gnolls,” Markos asked, growing more suspicious.

“He is right. There are no gnolls in this bog. My companions and I tracked them all the way from Collines d’Or. They had taken a large number of human children from some villages there and we organized a posse to get them back. A few days ago we finally caught up with them nearly all of them and rescuing… most… of the children. Three escaped carrying a boy named ‘William,’ we call him ‘Wee Willie’. His brother was among those in the posse and he fell in the battle. The others decided to take the other children back to safety, but I chose to go on and try to save Willie…”

“Where is Collines d’Or?” Telémahkos asked.

“The southwestern shores of the Captured Sea…”

“That is a long way to bring children,” Telémahkos replied. “To what end?”

“We do not know for sure, but we figured they were slavers,” Savion replied, going on to ask what the Signers were doing in the Glitcheegumme.

“Could there be a connection between these insect cultists and the gnolls?” Markos speculated aloud. “Gnolls have animal heads, right?”

“Hyena,” said Timotheus. “Whatever those are.” Savion nodded.

“Is a connection really likely?” Victoria asked.

“Evil lizardfolk, insect worshipers, giant crocodiles, and now hyena heads?” Markos continued. “All of them are beasts, and so are frog-men…”

It was agreed to let Savion come with them as long as they were headed in the same direction and there was reason to think the gnolls may be connected to the cultists they were seeking out, and thus MacHaven.

“This beast slew one of our companions,” Victoria said a little later, looking down at the crocodile as Markos cut its belly open hoping to retrieve more of Laarus to bury or bring with him to the family vaults.10

“It seems you have avenged his death,” Savion replied,

“No, this is just a dumb beast,” Victoria said, anger brimming in her voice. “Vengeance shall come to those who’s evil plans caused us to come to this bog in the first place…”

…to be continued…

------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes:

1 This session was played on Saturday, June 7th in Maplewood, NJ.

2 See InterSession #31.1

3 See Session #30.

4 See Session #31

5 There was a doubt that the boat would last long enough since Katan was so vague about how long it took to reach the island where they would have to carry the boats across a narrow island.

6 Telémahkos scored a deadly hit with a sneak attack on an attack of opportunity on the unaware bullywug.

7 The bullywug made a critical fumble: Hard Awkward Blow, Roll weapon’s damage, double and add Strength bonus. Compare this to weapon’s hardness and hps to see if it breaks.

8 Bleys failed a balance check.

9 Timotheus used his cleave feat here.

10 Remember, all that was left of Laarus was his right forearm and hand.
 

handforged

First Post
A BARD! Whoa, that is certainly going to change things up a bit from stern old Laarus. We'll see what happens I guess. Markos inheriting the visions will also be a neat twist.

~hf
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #32 – “Assault on the Old Apshai Temple” (part 2 of 2)

Later as Timotheus started work on skinning the crocodile (quickly realizing it would take much longer than they had), Markos prepared a spell in place of one he had readied that morning.1 They finished carrying the boats across the mucky ground and then continued deeper into the bog on the other side. Timotheus, Bleys and Victoria rode in the magical boat, while Telémahkos, Markos, Tymon, Savion and Katan rode in the larger boat, along with a great deal of gear and Tim and Victoria’s armor.

The foliage grew even thicker and their progress slowed as they often raised the oars to push aside brush as they went by. About two hours after getting past the island where they fought the bullywugs the mushroom creatures began to sing, and Katan began to holler his hatred of their song. “Ya nasty varmints! You’ll call the creatures of the swamp down on us!”

“You are making more noise then they are,” Victoria said.

“Light the cigars! Light the cigars!” Markos called and Katan obeyed. In the rear boat, Bleys did the same. They all heard the buzzing of the giant mosquitoes momentarily, but it passed without their coming into view.2

When the danger was past, Markos had fun getting the mushrooms to harmonize with him on bawdy sailor’s song, annoying everyone, but Katan most especially.

As they passed one last long stretch of deep still green bog water, Markos called out to those in the rear boat, “The spell may be ending soon, so that boat might be disappearing!”

“How will we know?” Timotheus called back.

“When you fall into the water,” Markos replied. And a few moments later, about 100 yards short of the mossy shore of an island thick, the conjured boat disappeared, sending Bleys, Timotheus and Victoria into the water.

“You fool,” Telémahkos cursed Markos.

“Race you!” Timotheus said to Bleys, and the two of them made a beeline for the shore, Bleys’s finer swimming stroke edging out the strength pulling Timotheus in great ragged yanks across the water.

Timotheus pulled himself out of the water laughing and then reached down to help Victoria out as well and later grabbed the prow of Katan’s and helped pull it ashore.

This was a lush island, green and covered in tall broad blades of wavy grass that leaned over each other in humps and waves. It rose up in rounded hills that built upon each other, leaving a winding path of grass-choked valleys that had clearly been hacked through with machetes. Katan explained that the last time he had passed through this area there had been no path and the way up to the overgrown shrine was a difficult passage. Savion asked that the others stood where they were while he went to the edge of the hacked path and checked for tracks.

In the meantime, the others discussed what to have Katan do. Bleys felt he should come back in two days and told the man as much, and the others quickly agreed. Since the matter was decided, he moved up to observe Savion looking for tracks, asking a few key questions about how such things were done.

“It may be there is another way out of here, so if we are not here waiting in two days forget it,” Bleys said, handing the man some coins. “But we shall find a way to send you due payment.”

The Scions of Thricia, with their new companion and manservant in tow, began to make their way up the path. Savion said he had found several sets of tracks overlapping each other, including those of lizardfolk and some he was sure were made by the gnolls he had been tracking. Timotheus led the way, followed by Bleys and Tymon. Then came Savion, Telémahkos, and Markos. Victoria took up the rear of the line. The grass was slick and often their booted feet sunk down into the soft loam below as it was impossible to know exactly where they were stepping. The grass was tall and thick, like tight blooming ferns creating a thick green wall to either side of them, and forcing them to go directly along the path.

“Look! Canoes!” Victoria called to the others. Everyone else had walked past them without noticing, but there were three large canoes tucked into a ditch at the roots of some of the grass on the right side. The canoes were painted green and brown and blended easily with the background. “Markos, make sure to mark this place in your memory so that we might find them again on the way back,” the militant said.

The tanned mage walked back and looked to where she pointed and then made an exaggerated expression as if he were straining, putting his right hand to his temple. “It is memorized,” he said to Victoria with a smirk, and rolling his eyes he turned as everyone else continued to walk.

“What do lizardfolk need with canoes?” Timotheus asked.

“The gnolls might have used them,” Savion suggested.

“And MacHaven’s Brood,” added Bleys.

They had marched perhaps thirty minutes when Timotheus stopped short. “Gnolls!”

There were three tall humanoids wrapped in studded leather armor and holding long recurved bows. They had red-furred hyena faces with long toothy snouts and large eyes. Savion rushed forward and winced as an arrow cut him deeply across the forearm as he reflexively raised his arm to deflect it, dropping to one side to pull and arrow from his quiver.

“I’ll keep them tied up!” Timotheus called, rushing forward, ignoring the arrows narrowly missing him as he advanced, hacking at one of the hyena-headed men. It leapt back, deftly fitting another arrow to its bow as it did, giving a sharp barking call to its two companions.

Bleys moved up and then squeezed into the thick press of the tall broad grass letting an arrow loose that caught one of the gnolls in the calf, before springing out, advancing and firing again, this time the gnoll barked in deeper pain. Meanwhile, the three of them kept deftly avoiding Timotheus, managing to withdraw just enough to fire arrows that only shattered uselessly against the bulette shield. Telémahkos ran up and supported his cousin, screaming for Victoria to aid him, but the militant was not as fleet of foot in her scale armor, and had been trailing the line. Markos kept hidden, slowly advancing by hiding behind different lumps of the fern-like grass.

One of Savion’s arrows found the lead gnoll’s chest and it collapsed, dying. And Victoria reached the melee in time to pen in another that bounced between heavy blows from her spear, Telémahkos’s rapier and Timotheus’s saber. It fell over dead.

The remaining gnoll withdrew down the path dropping its bow and drawing a battle-axe off its back. The party could see now that around the bend here, the path split into two directions, though the way to the right was much narrower. The gnoll stuck to the left. Timotheus rushed it, shield up and the resounding blow echoed across the grass as Tim’s jaw chattered as he fell backward painfully. The gnoll barked its laugh-like bark delightedly, but its victory was short lived. Markos let a bolt from his gnomish repeating crossbow fly, staggering the thing, and then Bleys moved up and fired an arrow from his longbow. The hyena-headed man-beast fell back, dead.

Tymon and Telémahkos helped Timotheus to his feet. The gnolls were searched and their weapons distributed, though the axes were thrown into a nearby ditch. They found many silver and copper coins in a sack along with what looked like two large insect cocoons. They were a dirty whitish-gray and slightly curved, ridged on one side with a seam. Markos sliced the thing open and inside was some kind of large locust pupae. It was unmoving, dead by the time he got the thing open, ichor spilling all over his hands. They also found leather leashes of the kinds used on human slaves. Savion recognized them as the type used by the previously defeated gnolls slavers.

“They must have dropped the boy off at the shrine,” he said.

As Victoria called on Anhur to heal Timotheus, Savion scouted the two paths (Bleys once again, looking on) and announced that the gnolls had come from the broader path.

They marched on pressing the pace as fast as they dared.

“You said you are from Collines d’Or?” Markos asked Savion as they marched. “That is in the northwestern shore of the Captured Sea?”

“Yes,” Savion replied, shortly. He continued to march at the increased pace, and Markos momentarily fell behind.

”So, your surname is ‘Gold’… As in House Gold, former bannermen of House Amber?” Markos asked. He had recently learned much of the area from his research at the Library of Thoth in Lilly City.3

“Yes, I am descended from the nobles of House Gold,” Savion replied. “But now is not the time to discuss lineage…”

Markos nodded, “I just wanted to say I have some interest in House Amber and thought perhaps you knew more about them…”

Savion nodded. “I know some…”

The trail they were on began to get windier making it way up a steeped hill covered in the wall-like grass. They caught a glimpse of a large opening above them and some areas that looked like they were smaller clearings flanking it to the lower left and right. The foliage here was more like an unkempt hedge, tall and creating narrow passages that wound up the hill.

A lizardman’s voice was heard to call in common, “Intruders!”

Ahead the path forked out, and the lizardfolk appeared on their right and then dove back the way it came around the corner. Telémahkos hurried after, followed by Timotheus. “We need to hurry to save the kid,” Telémahkos called out. “We must not be too late!:

Bleys quickly cast message on Telémahkos before the swordsman disappeared with his cousin around the bend. But Telémahkos stopped short as the lizardfolk hurried past a shambling humanoid figure with pasty yellow skin and dead eyes. It was some kind of zombie, but was wrapped in a green thorny vine that emerged from its neck and head.

“Ra’s Balls! Timotheus! Kill that thing!” Telémahkos swore. “I’m checking for the kid.” He leapt and avoided a spear the lizardman spun and chuck at him, hurrying past the zombie-creature. The thing reached out with its calcified hands and slapped at Telémahkos with dead heavy limbs. The blond Briareus grunted and fell into a tumble to get past. Timotheus charged in as Bleys began to cast another spell, stepping forward to keep them in sight.

Timotheus buried his saber into the creature’s shoulder and yellow-green ichor poured from the wound instead of blood, and it would not fall.4

Augeo Alio! Bleys completed the long spell and Timotheus grew in size to reach over twelve feet in height. The narrow confines of the path were now blocked by his immensity, making it difficult to get past him on the main path, or even in the direction Telémahkos had gone. Savion, whistling a jaunty tune, managed to squeeze past just as Timotheus was still growing, while Victoria cursed and bullied her way through the tall grass and broad-leaved bushes. She cut through the intersection and by-passed Timotheus, arriving back at the main path where it curved to the right, joining Savion. Markos dove between Tim’s legs and followed the newcomer and the militant, quickly passing the latter.

Tymon pushed his body against the hedge and reached for the zombie with his longsword, chopping through its head. The thing collapsed and fell apart, letting out brown dust. Timotheus squeezed down the side path and found Telémahkos at the edge of a pit in one of the side clearings they had noticed before. The lizardfolk was on the other side, drawing a thatched cover off from over the hole.

“Watch out! It is probably like the thing that killed Victoria’s horse that time!” Telémahkos warned his cousin.6 Timotheus could easily reach the lizardfolk with his increased armreach and drew green-black blood from it, but the lizardfolk was able to pull the cover clear.

“Get out of here!” Telémahkos called to Tim, jumping forward to stab the lizardfolk with his rapier.

Out on the main path, Savion was startled by a second zombie creature stumbling at him from a path on the left. The whistling man hurried further down the path away from the thing. Another lizardman spun around the corner, spearing at Markos, who cried out in alarm. Victoria called to Anhur and lay a cure light wounds spell on the mage as she drew her morningstar with her other hand. She swung the heavy spiked and moved in. Bleys let an arrow loose at the lizardfolk, but the projectile stopped by the hedge, hanging limply between blades of thick grass. The zombie turned to the next nearest target and slammed Victoria under the chin, pushing its way into close quarters with her.

Savion’s whistling changed into several sharp blasts and a flare of red light burst into being near the lizardman’s head, but seemed to have no affect on it. Victoria tried to drive the zombie back with pure strength, pushing her morningstar into its belly to pry it back away from her. Tymon moved up and chopped at the thing from behind. It spun around and slammed the manservant heavily on the side of the head.

Bleys hung back looking for an opening with his bow, stopping only to cast expeditious retreat on himself.

Meanwhile Telémahkos was able to thrust his rapier through the neck of his own lizardman foe and hurry to dive between the legs of his fleeing cousin, before any of the feared yellow pollen emerged. Seeing the battle out in the intersection Telémahkos squeezed past Bleys and then fell into a roll, gaining momentum to leap over the melee, twisting his body to avoid the spear thrust of the lizardfolk attacking Savion. Timotheus stepped over Bleys and then charged in trying to use his increased size to barrel through the fight and emerge at the other side, but the vine-covered zombie got tripped up in his legs and he did not get by.

A third lizardman emerged from around the corner from where more of the tall frond-like grass formed a ring around the huge clearing atop the flattened hill. It flung a javelin and Telémahkos gasped as he felt the pain of it glance off his ribs through his chain shirt. Savion moved to join Telémahkos, but stopped short as he felt the sting of many needles against his arm and face. He looked up to see another strange humanoid creature atop a tall narrow moss-covered standing stone that was one of matched pair, twelve feet high that flanked the entrance to the clearing – the old shrine of the dark insect god. It has fibrous skin of a dun-brown and pale green that covered knots of muscled vine. And over all its body it was covered in countless tiny needles. In its hands it held a short bow and wore a quiver on its back, but the needles had emerged from its very body. Another of these bizarre needlemen stood on the twin stone at the other side of the entrance. Just within these stone columns were deep shafts of clear water about five feet wide and ten feet long.

Markos chanted an arcane word and the lizardman in the intersection fell to sleep, and Victoria squeezed against the hedge to flank the zombie.

“Telémahkos! What is happening up there?” Bleys whispered, using his spell to talk to Telémahkos, still trapped behind the fight by the zombie and Timotheus’ immensity. The third lizardman came charging up just as Timotheus chopped down the zombie, but it managed to stop just short of being caught by the saber’s wide swing.

If Telémahkos heard Bleys call to him, he did not reply. Instead he reached into his toga and drew out the potion of invisibility that Markos had given to him after the first assassination attempt back in Sluetelot.5 He choked it down and promptly disappeared.

Savion fired some arrows at the needleman on the left, but the arrows seemed to do little or no harm to the thing. Unfortunately for the newcomer, the same could not be said for these creatures’ arrows on him. They both fired and he felt one clip his shoulder and the other bounced off a stud on his armor. He could feel the welt swell and tighten beneath his clothing. Behind him, Victoria slammed the remaining lizardman in the shoulder with her morningstar, knocking it down. Tymon stepped over and thrust his sword in its chest drawing blood.

“Finally!” Timotheus swore, pushing past everyone, his broadened shoulders brushing against the hedge on either side as he made it to the opening to the circular shrine area. He winced as he felt the bite of needles flying at him from the plant-men flanking him. “Telémahkos! Where did you go?”

“Tim! Telémahkos is invisible!” Bleys whispered with his spell. The blond Briareus had informed the watch-mage of his state by means of the message spell, as he hurried towards the center of the shrine area. The area was about 80 feet across and at its center was a painted circle of stones with a stylized red mantis in the center. There were five tall spires of stone ending in rounded points and covered in damp green moss that flanked each side of the central circle, eight of them were about six feet in diameter and nine feet high, but the center one on each side was nearly ten feet in diameter and twelve feet tall. The wall of tall frond-grass (fifteen feet tall) emerged from a trench dug around the entire circumference of the place and brimming with green water.

Two figures in long brown robes were walking at a steady pace around the circle on the ground, while a third stood over a small boy tied up lying on his side and crying. The third figure was a homely woman with two long dirty nappy brown fraying braids emerging from her shaved scalp. She was covered in countless tiny tattoos of insects, including on her face and head. She wore studded leather and held a spear in one hand, on her back was a quiver of javelins. She turned to look at Timotheus with her cold gray eyes.

“Get away from the child!” Timotheus demanded. “And perhaps I won’t kick your asses quite as hard!”

Telémahkos was not far from the tattooed woman, on his hands and knees on the edge of the circle, invisible and taking in the layout of the place. He gulped softly as he noticed two black ants, larger than mastiffs making their way from the rear of the clearing. “I’m up at the cicrle,” Telémahkos whispered to Bleys via the spell that connected them. “I am going to save the child…”

Savion shouted as he was struck by another arrow, so moving forward Bleys spoke some arcane words to protect the newcomer from the onslaught of missiles.7 Nearly simultaneously, Victoria called on Anhur to shield Savion with her faith, as the tracker was bleeding profusely.

“Chansomps say,” the woman with the spear called, obviously referring to herself. “Apshai! Dark lord of the hive and the colony! Use your power over plants to grasp these intruders!” And suddenly the grass and bushes began to grow and coil in a large area at the entrance to the clearing and even right up to the edge of the inner circle. Tymon and Markos were held immobile, while the others were able to avoid the quivering plantlife for now. The sleeping lizardman was also caught by the grasping foliage. “Master! What should I do?” Tymon cried out, squirming to free himself.

But Telémahkos was too busy, he straddled the boy and flared his cloak, hoping to shield him with his invisibility (but failing), quickly cutting the first bond about the boy’s wrists. “We are noble heroes here to rescue you,” he whispered to the would-be sacrifice. He noticed that the boy was bound to a stake in the ground that was tied about his waist and had two sets of bonds on his ankles and knees.

One of the circling druids stopped to direct one of the giant ants towards Timotheus, who made a large crack in its shell with his saber as it approached, barely sidestepping to avoid an arrow from the needleman on the right. Victoria hopped from one side to the other avoiding the flailing plants and handing a potion of aid to Savion as she passed him to reach the clearing entrance. Bleys followed with his increased speed, passing her and managing to escape the area of entanglement altogether. He moved to the left side of the clearing, noting one of the two ants charging to clamp down on Victoria’s calf with its pincer, even as she winced from needles flying at her from the flanking plantmen. Savion drank the potion and then fired an arrow at the needleman on the left. The arrow made contact and drew the smallest bit of sap-like blood from the plantman.

“You will not stop the coming of the avatar!” Chansomps cried, beginning to huff and puff as her chest expanded and her eyes grew wild and bloodshot. She charged at Bleys who was well within the clearing now, but the watch-mage easily avoided her, running with the speed granted by his spell past the circle, to the deeper into the clearing. Telémahkos cut the second set of bonds on the boy. There was a cry as one of the two druids cut across the circle to strike Timotheus with a club she drew from under her voluminous cloak. Tim’s enlarged blade drew blood as the insect-priestess tried to duck out of its way and slammed her cudgel into Tim’s knee, but she got the worst of the exchange. The other druid thinking he could use the distraction, found himself cut deeply across the face, and as he fell the last thing he felt was the point of Timotheus’ sword slicing open his gut to spill his entrails on the grass.

Chansomps turned from chasing Bleys and went after Timotheus instead. The enlarged brawny warrior cut through the foe swinging at him and brought his blade up in time to send the berserking druid’s spear off line and clip her with the tip of his sword on the chin, drawing a lot of blood.

Bleys hustled around the left side of the clearing and let loose and arrow, hitting the needleman on the left dead in the center of its back. It made no sound.

Victoria roared as she felt the grass about her ankles finally grab a tight hold of her, arresting her movement, but was able to bring down her morningstar heavily one last time, crushing the ant biting at her. Roaring her ambition to slay all her foes to her god, she entered her holy rage.

Tymon finally able to pull himself free dragged himself over to Bleys. “If you can make me big, Master Bleys, I will attack those thorny things on the rocks!”

As Savion continued to send arrows at the needlemen, Timotheus fell into the harsh rhythm of melee against the raging druid-warrior, Chansomps, and Telémahkos cut the last bond on the captured boy…

End of Session #32

--------------------------------------------------------
Notes:

1 Arcane casters can prepare spells in place of already prepared spells if they take 15 minutes per spell level. However, just the act of beginning to prepare a new spell removes the old one.

2 Remember, the cigar smoke acts as a deterrent to the giant mosquitoes. (See Session #30)

3 Markos had his cousin Laarus get the information with the help of Telémahkos’s brother, Nikephorus. (See Session #27)

4 This was a yellow musk zombie.

5 See Session #27.

6 See Session #4

7 Protection from Arrows
 



el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Actually, no, I'm not home. . . not really. Well, in my new home in Binghamton, NY, where I've recently started a PhD program in English Studies.

I am sorry that I never posted a note here to give the status of the story hour, but between being really busy with life, being at waning point in my interest in D&D/RPGs (happens every few years) and starting at a new school in an intensive course of study, I have not had time to work on the story hour (though there is one more installment written up to be posted).

We ended the campaign this past August with kind of an open-ended final session of the young nobles going off on a great adventure - perhaps we will take it up again some day.

Thanks all for reading, and perhaps I will get around to post the last installment over winter break and maybe even try to write up those last ones.

Peace.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Just a bump 12 years later to say, I am planning on doing a compiled and cleaned up PDF version of this (unfortunately) incomplete story hour and will be looking for the lost session #33 that I claimed to have written up.
 

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