The Rise of Felskein [Completed]

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Now in eBook format, available through Smashwords here.


Session 1, Part 1

Ming stumbled heavily into the side a small log building as she bent to pick up her dropped wineskin. She cursed her rusting, ill-fitting breastplate and her long, dirty silver hair that was always getting into her face and tangling up with the amulet that rested on her chest. A spill of Northmand Dark drenched her dusty legs and the red dirt and she swore again. She threw the now-empty wineskin aside in disgust, glaring through this dung-hill of a town at the sun setting over the lake.

A local walked quickly by as Ming stumbled away from the side of the building, shifting the greatsword on her back and glaring at him. "S'matter? Never seen a woman before?" she called after him, pushing her chest out and cursing again as the breastplate cut into her.

"Gotta be a drink here somewhere," she mumbled, swaggering out into what passed for the main street.

At the end of the "street", not far from the lake shore, sat the largest building in town, long and low with a narrow window that ran the length of the longest side to give view of the lake and mountains beyond. No glass in a place like this, just a hole with a couple planks hinged above it so they could be propped open in the evening. It seemed to be where most of the menfolk of the village were headed.

A drink and a man, sounds good to me, she thought with a snarling grin that sent a passing local scurrying out of her way. In no particular order.


Suniel Au wiggled his slender elvish fingers and the walnuts shot back down into the cup, eliciting a burst delighted laughter from the crowd of children packed about his table. One of the more adventurous boys leaned closer to the cup and Suniel murmured again, setting the cup a-trembling.

"Don't, you're scaring his nuts," a little girl with a ragged dolly said, tugging on the boy's sleeve. A couple fisherman nearby guffawed and one spat a mist of ale into the air before breaking into raucous laughter.

"It's just a couple walnuts, don't be sissy," the boy said, trying to shake her off without looking away from the cup.

Suniel hid his smile behind another gesture and the walnuts "peeked" out over the rim of the cup again. "Rawr!" the boy shouted, lunging forwards.

Suniel hooked his middle finger, sending the walnuts "leaping" out of the cup, a syllable and a shift of his arm sending them flitting amongst the children, who immediately dissolved into a mob - half of them shrieking and trying to get away, the rest diving in to grab for the walnuts that now weaved between their legs, the adults nearby lifting their mugs high and grinning or grumbling as tables and stools were jostled and bumped.

With a final gesture, Suniel released the cantrip, the walnuts skittering off under a table and the kids diving for them, giving Suniel the opportunity to slip away through the throng of the inn. He managed to meet Oakstout's eye before he reached the door, the gray-bearded dwarven tavernkeeper nodding to him and pointing his thumb at the loft. Suniel nodded and gave a small bow before passing through the threshold.


Harold Trisden dismounted to the clink of spurs and medals, walking the mare he'd been provided with towards the inn. It was good to get away, to feel stirrups on his feet after months shipboard and a week standing guard at one diplomatic function after another. He hated just blending in, being background. Judging by the size of this town, they probably barely had a militia and might never have seen a professional soldier, much less one of the Crystal Tower's elite Honor Guards.

He pulled his bow from his saddle and strung it, grabbing the his quiver as well before handing the reins over to a stable boy. His eyes scanned the area, seeking a suitable archery butt as he wandered from the stable towards the inn entrance. Maybe they even have a local hotshot who thinks he's good with a bow, he thought, a half-smile forming. Won't even know what's coming.

His reverie was broken rudely as he rounded the corner and slammed into the largest woman he'd ever seen, a rough figure of rusty armor and dusty silver hair. A politeness formed on his lips but became a started grunt as he felt her hand at his crotch.

"Step back woman!" he said, leaping away and straightening his uniform.

"Mmm, I like a man in uniform," she said, cocking her head at him, her breath telling of strong wine and her lurid look telling of something else.

"Excuse me," a soft voice said from the entrance they were blocking, a nondescript elf in a brown robe stepping out from the dusk-shadow of the doorway.

Harold nodded and stepped out of the way - and further from the rough warrior woman who still stood looking him over. A stern reprisal formed on his lips as he glared back at her, but whatever he was about to say was drowned out by an alarm bell from the village watchtower.


Sergeant Snareg motioned for the rest of the gang to stay low as they poled the raft closer towards the human village. "Steady boys," he said in raspy goblin. "Remember, smoking rubble's more important than bloody corpses. Take what you can get and run, we do damage and get out before a patrol shows up."

He clutched the iron ring on the thong about his neck for luck and glanced at the sliver of setting sun dipping below the lake. They'd set out too late and the raft was too big and slow, the mast and sail too small. He'd hoped to get here just as the sun was setting while the humans were at meal and drink, but by now they were probably done. If they were like hobgoblins, now they'd be restless and rowdy, maybe looking for a fight.

Thoslar had only given him seven grunters to burn a whole village and he'd be damned if he was going to screw it up, especially this soon after getting his iron. Maybe he should have waited until the middle of the night like Suvok did on his raid...

He snorted out a breath and hunched lower, shaking his worries away with a jerk of his head. They barely have a militia, won't be expecting a thing, he thought. Just get in, kill a few men with pitchforks and fishing nets, throw a couple torches around, maybe swipe some swag and a prisoner or two and be back at the raft camp in a couple days. He imagined the look on Suvok's face when he came back with a pretty human girl from this raid, not a handful of half-starved goblins like Suvok had gotten on his.

The clang of an alarm bell snapped him out of his reverie and he swore, seeing they were still thirty feet of hard wading from shore. "Pole hard boys!" he shouted, standing and pointing his sword. "No more surprise for us, pole!"

They all sprang to their feet, most straining at their poles, but Vundat dropped his and jumped off the raft as he saw humans fleeing in terror from their buildings.

"Order damnit, Vundat, get back on the raft and pole!" Suvok shouted, but by then the rest were all dropping their poles and grabbing swords, not even picking up their shields in their haste to get in on it.

Then Brunt slammed into him in a spray of blood, stumbling backwards with a feathered shaft sprouting from his chest. Snareg shoved him off and glared at the shore, seeing a figure in blue with a glint of something on his chest standing on the low roof of a long, low building, drawing another arrow. Snareg dropped his sword and grabbed his own bow, looking about in surprise as the rest on the raft suddenly went limp and crashed to the crude planking.

Magic! he thought, firing off an arrow towards the town, barely aiming before moving over to Scovos. He kicked the fallen hobgoblin hard enough to roll him off into the lake and his relief was visceral when Scovos came up snorting and splashing. "Just a minor spell, wake the others!" he shouted, drawing another arrow.

Vundat and a couple others were almost to the shore, pushing hard towards the low building and the lone figure in blue atop it who sent another arrow whistling past Snareg's ear. He fired back and cursed as his arrow flew wide. He glanced back to see Scovos rolling on the deck, clutching at the arrow piercing his neck.

Dropping low, Vundat shook the other two awake, drawing another arrow and glancing towards shore to see Vundat disappear into the building only to come flying back out to land in a bloody heap a second later. The other two on shore rushed towards the doorway and the figure with silver hair and a huge sword that suddenly filled it as the two with Snareg reached for their bows.

One took an arrow in his spine as he bent over, arching back hard as he stumbled into the water. Snareg and the other sent a reply flying towards the figure on the roof, but in the growing dark he couldn't tell if they hit.

Then there was a flash from out of the corner of Snareg's eye and he jerked his bow in that direction, firing off an arrow blindly as his companion slid down the mast, a clean hole bored into the center of his forehead. He felt panic rising as he reached for another arrow, looking down the shaft as he drew it back to see the silver-haired human slam its shoulder into Stub-toe and kick him in the chest before turning and running Torol through.

Snareg loosed an arrow and reached for another, cursing his shaking arm, glancing across the water in time to see the pronged hilt of the greatsword driven into Stub-toe's eye.

Then a razor-sharp sledge-hammer hit Snareg in the chest and he stumbled backwards, running his stubby fingers along the hard wooden shaft that protruded from his sternum in utter disbelief, dying to the sounds of Stub-toe screaming on the shore.
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 1, Part 2

Harold lowered his bow as the silver-haired monster of a woman's sword cut off the hobgoblin's screams. After a moment of that strange after-battle stillness, he placed the arrow he had drawn to his quiver and slung his bow across his back.

He bent down, wincing, and grabbed the arrow that pierced his thigh. Gritting his teeth, he jerked it out with a gasp and downed one of the last of his potions, wondering idly if he could find more in this backwater as checked the wound's progress. Once he was sure it was completely healed, he carefully made his way down one of the support beams under the thatch and lowered himself to the ground.

He walked about slowly, working the stiffness out of his leg. When he was satisfied, he walked around to the front of the inn. The woman was gone when he got there, the trio of hobgoblins she had slain sprawled in the dirt where they had died. The elf knelt over one of them, murmuring something. As Harold glanced out towards the raft, he thought he caught a glint of arcane markings covering the elf's skin, but when he glanced back, there was nothing.

Mages made him uneasy, no matter which side they seemed to be on.


Suniel stood with a sigh. Everywhere I go, such pointless waste of life, he thought. No matter how far I go, I cannot outrun it.

His eyes met those of the Crystal Towers archer and he started to nod, but the soldier looked quickly away and strode off towards the raft. Suniel watched him go impassively and turned towards the clank of armor and swing of lanterns that came from the direction of the town barracks. With one hand raised, he walked in their direction.

"Peace, Northmand soldiers," he said, "there are no more foes here."

A blond-haired young man in chain and the gray-and-white of Northmand jogged up, backed by a dozen or so men with spears. The young man raised his hand to Suniel and nodded.

"You three, police these bodies," he said, turning to the men with him. "The rest of you, go help that man pull in the raft."

As they set about his orders, he turned back to Suniel. "My name is Lieutenant Laris," he said, extending his hand. "Don't see many elves in these parts."

Suniel took his hand and shook it. "Suniel Au." He turned to watch the Lieutenant's men strip and pile the bodies. "You have problems with the hobgoblins often?"

Laris shook his head. "There's a history of it, but it's been pretty calm the last couple years. The mining operations out in the Ragged Hills have reported sightings lately, but this is the first attack I've heard of in some time."

Suniel pulled his robe tighter about him as a cool breeze blew in off the lake.

"Might we step inside?" he said, gesturing to the inn.

"Of course," Laris said, hesitating only for a moment as he watched his men finish pulling the raft a shore. "Things seem in hand here."


Ming let out a contented sigh, dropped the tankard, and was reaching for a second before the first had even hit the floor. She hooked a chair with her feet and slid it in front of her, leaning back into the stout oak table and propping her feet up before the fire.

Low voices drew her attention to the doorway and she glanced over to see a handsome young soldier and the plain-looking elf come in. Neither seemed to be any sort of threat. They stared over at her for a moment, then, after a brief discussion and another moment's hesitation made their way through the upturned mess of the common room to her.

"Have a seat handsome," she said. "Plenty of free drinks and food about. Their previous owners seem to have lost their appetites."

The young man flushed. How cute, she thought, I could show him things...

The elf sat near the fire and extended his hands towards it as the young man stood, blinking and staring at Ming. She un-propped her legs and patted her lap invitingly. He flushed again and quickly moved to sit near the elf, at the opposite end of the long bench from her. She laughed and took a deep drought of ale.

"So, I... uh... understand you are one of the ones responsible for defending Laketide?" the young man said, speaking to the elf with only the quickest of glances at Ming.

She shifted closer to him on the bench and shrugged. "That what this place is called?"

"I was only directly responsible for one," the elf said. "The Crystal Towers soldier dispatched four and this woman three, that I saw anyway."

"Ah. That's, um, impressive," he said, glancing over at her again.

"Ming," she said, glancing down and noticing the blood spattered on the dust and rust of her armor for the first time.

"Ah, Lieutenant Laris," he said, extending his hand.

She took in and squeezed just enough to make him wince. "Mmm, my pleasure."

His hand jerked away like a fox from a trap when she released it.

"So you and Suniel know each other then?" he said, turning back to the elf and shifting to the farthest end of the bench.

"Companions of the moment," Suniel said, turning and nodding to her. "Nice to meet you Ming."

She grunted back and glanced back towards the door and the squish of water-filled boots. The archer strode over, trailing water and casting only a brief, flat glance in her direction. Her original estimate of him when she'd run into him earlier wasn't off the mark. That man was no stranger to killing.


Harold's mood brightened considerably when he glanced away from the unpleasant woman and he saw another man in uniform. He looked the man over, scanning for signs of rank. "Lieutenant," he said, bringing his fist to his chest in a Northmand-style military salute.

The young officer saluted back and smiled. "Thank you... sir?"

"Guardsman. Honor Guard Trisden to be specific, you can call me Harold," he said.

"Ah, well Honor Guard, er, Harold, join Ming and Suniel and me by the fire." The young man motioned to where he had been sitting near the woman and hastily found himself a chair, eliciting a guffaw from the woman for some reason. Harold took the seat and leaned towards the fire.

"Well, uh, Northmand thanks you for your services. I must admit my men and I would have been hard pressed to deal with a hobgoblin raiding party of that size," Laris said.

"They were undisciplined," Harold said, waving his hand, "I saw eight shields on that raft and not one used."

"Well, regardless, we thank you and offer whatever spoils you wish to take from them. I also believe the bounty from the last conflict was never revoked - one gold sovereign per pair of ears I believe it was."

"I took what I wanted already," Harold said, touching the iron ring on its leather thong that now hung from his belt. "I found it on their leader. Do you know what it means?"

Laris shook his head.

"I've never seen anything like it," he said, standing. "Anyway, I should see to my men. Come by the barracks tomorrow and I can get you your reward."


Ming watched him leave and was suddenly drowsy from the ale, heat, travel, and battle. With a yawn she stood and walked out, stretching as she stared at the moon over the lake.

For a moment she saw a glint on the water, rubbed her eyes, and looked again. A second later it was gone and she shook her head.

I must be tired
, she thought. Or drunk. A silver turtle the size of a ship?


Suniel stood and nodded to Harold. "I'm sure Oakstout wouldn't mind if you took a room. You can reach them by the ladder in the stables. They're small, but warm and comfortable."

Harold nodded, staring into the fire and rubbing one of his medals, probably unconsciously. Suniel walked out, checked on his carriage, stopped in the stables to say good night to his horses, and climbed up to his room.
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 1 Crunch.

I'm thinking after each narrative of the action, I'll write in what I can remember of the mechanics of what happened. Mostly DMing-related stuff, just because I found those bits - and the reader comments - in Shamus Young's campaign so interesting. If you don't care about this part, feel free to skip it. Some of these earlier ones might be a bit fuzzier since they were almost a year ago, but I'll see what I can remember.

Since this was the first session, I'll talk a bit about my DMing style, the world, and character creation.

From the inadvertant tastes of RPG theory/philosophy I've gotten reading the 4E section, I'd be mostly what you'd call a simulationist DM. I create the world, figure out what's happening where, and then the PCs are set loose into it to do what they will.

The world as the PCs know it is a continent named Felskein settled above the Endless Sands. On all sides, the continent ends in thousands-of-feet tall cliffs that drop down into the Sands. As far as anyone knows, nothing can survive out in the sands and no one has ever heard of there being anything else out there - just sand stretching into infinity.

They also knew they were starting in Northmand, a city-state settled on the edge of Mirror Lake. Nearby are the Ragged Hills where the Hobgoblin Iron Tribes live and have had a long history of conflict with Northmand. About a century ago, the Iron Tribes laid a years-long siege to the fortress-city of Northmand, causing the military council to seize the government and declare martial law. When the war ended, the military council retained power and it became the governing system for Northmand.

The world - like most of my fantasy worlds - was a Points of Light setting before the term had entered the DnD vocabulary.

For character creation, I let the characters select the level they wished to start, between 1 and 5. The lower the level, the better dice-rolling method they got to use: from 5d6, drop two, roll two columns and pick the best at first level to 3d6, one column, at level 5. If they rolled poorly enough, they could use point buy, with points varying depending on level. Also, if their characters died, they used this same method for the rest of the game for making new characters.

I also suggested they create up to 5 "quirks" and 5 secrets. I defined quirks as anything distinguishing about a character that could probably be learned within a few minutes to a day or two of knowing them. Secrets didn't have to be massive, dire secrets, just anything that someone wouldn't learn until they knew the character fairly well, dug deep into their life, and that might not even be discovered even then. I awarded the PCs 1% of a level per quirk or secret they created as additional incentive.

I credit this creation method, the PHBIIs affiliations, and the tick system(see down below) with making this the most successful and long-running game I've had in almost a decade.

Harold Trisden's player decided to risk going with level 5 and rolled exceptionally well, better even than some of the others who all chose level 1-3. He whipped up a duty-obsessed, sometimes arrogant Duskblade/Ranger/Fighter archer from a distant democracy named the Crystal Towers. He was a member of the honor guard escorting the Crystal Towers diplomat to Northmand, seeking allies in their war with the Ashen Tower.

Suniel Au's player went with level 3, creating a soft-spoken, nondescript elven wizard with a mysterious past(I'll save his secrets for the narrative) who now works as a travelling magic-item creator/seller/supplier. He created his own affiliation known as the Black Carriage, with the intent of eventually making it a continent-wide affiliation of travelling wizards.

Ming's player went with a level 1 fighter, a rough-and-tumble, hulking woman with a family heirloom amulet, strange silver hair, and a troubled past.

A couple other players made characters, but weren't able to make the first session.

One of those created Ilsa Goldhammer, a 2nd level female dwarven dragonshaman/fighter, a servant of Wyrmsrule, a tiny city-state to the north of the Ragged Hills that serve an Ancient Gold Wyrm. They were also sent on a diplomatic mission to Northmand, seeking aid against Iron Tribe incursions and against the orcs of the Mist Tops on the other side of Mirror Lake from Northmand.

Ilsa's player's brother - who only played one session - created Kendrin Moonfire, a 3rd-level half-elf cleric and also a servant of Wyrmsrule.

The last mechanic I use is called ticks. I used for a bit years ago when I first heard about it from somewhere on the Internet, but then forgot about it until starting up this campaign. Ticks are rewards for showing up, good roleplaying, keeping the game running, etc.

General tick rules:
I give out 5 for someone showing up, a bonus 1 for being on time, and 5 for staying for the full session.
I give out one or two for staying in character(staying with alignment, affiliation goals/traits, exhibiting quirks, general good roleplaying) whenever it seems appropriate.
Occassionally, I also give them a few if there are long stretches without combat(selling/buying gear, calculating and splitting treasure, etc) that are requirements of 3.X but don't really progress the plot.

Ticks are spent any time between sessions or 5 ticks can be spent to "collect" and spend them during a session. Those 5 ticks also let them get any xp they have earned that session. (I've never had a player choose to do this). Once 100 ticks are accrued, they must all be spent immediately to prevent hoarding.

Ticks can be spent on:
1 tick - 1% of a level.
1 tick - 1 reroll of any d20, kept even if worse, or 1 per reroll of a stabalization dice.
10 ticks - 1 skillpoint (never had a player do this, even after I dropped it to 5 ticks per skillpoint)
50 ticks - 1 feat
50 ticks - 1 attribute point

The majority have been spent on xp(especially the craft-heavy wizard), with occasional drops here and there on feats and attributes. Ticks weren't spent very often on re-rolls early on(I don't think I added that option until a few sessions in anyway), but now in the 10-15 level range and tons of enemies with save-or-horrible effects, 5-10 on average have been spent amidst the group per session on re-rolls, with the number spend per session growing).

For the actual 1st session, we spent alot of it finishing up characters, me telling them a bit about what they knew about Northmand and the area, and so we got started kinda late. They roleplayed a bit and then were attacked by the hobgoblins. I rolled a d8 to figure out how many rounds it would be until the guards showed up to help... and got an 8.

It didn't end up mattering since they wiped them out in about 4-5 rounds. From the player crunch perspective, all I remember is Suniel spent most of the fight invisible, just watching, Harold used a bunch of Duskblade deflections to make most of the incomming arrows miss, and Ming's player was rolling awesome that night.

Edit: Suniel's player recently reminded me that his staple spell combo was invisiblilty/summon swarm. I wondered what he cast besides Kelgor's Firebolt and magic missile. Anyway, he reminded me of that too late for it to be in the narrative much, but that's what he did.
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 2, Part 1

Ming awoke with a killer hangover and the incomparable discomfort of falling asleep in someone else's armor. She stood up stiffly, cracking her neck and back before searching the straw for her sword. There was a moment of panic before she remembered leaning it against a wall somewhere.

Sure enough, it was sitting right next to the door, still coated with blood and grime from the day before. I should clean it, she thought, then caught a whiff of herself. Whew, and me.

Sword slung over her back, she made her way down to the shore.


Suniel climbed out of his carriage and squinted at the bright July sunlight. One hand shielding his eyes, he made his way to the inn.

He found Harold already inside, chatting with Lieutenant Laris.

"...apparently attacked the mine about the same time they hit us here," Laris said, nodding to Suniel as he entered.

Suniel nodded back and sat down at the table with the two soldiers, motioning to Oakstout and the stew pot bubbling in the fireplace as he did. Oakstout nodded back and disappeared into the back room.

"How many losses?" Harold said. "That sounds like a pretty major raid."

Laris nodded, his expression grim. "The count is unsure. The whole mining establishment out in the Hills is in an uproar. I just wish we had more men out here, especially scouts. The Iron Tribes have been so quiet for so long, we'd almost dismissed them as a threat."

Harold's eyes met Suniel's and Suniel saw some plan churning behind his eyes. When Harold suddenly smiled widely at him, he had a pretty good idea of what was coming next.

"Wizard, you seem to be a traveling man... or elf, rather. What would you say to doing some good for the Northmand cause?"

Suniel replied instead to Laris, his voice soft. "The attack was unprovoked?"

Laris nodded. "Our guards were there as a token force against thieves and brigands. Some of the miners even moved their families out there into the shanty-towns."

Laris stared down at the barely-touched oatmeal in his bowl. "The shanty-town at the mine they attacked caught fire, I've heard it was... well... the smell... all the people were asleep when the flames swept through. And everything was so close together, there wouldn't have been anywhere to go. Like a trap."

Suniel got the impression the young officer was trying not to cry so he politely stood, intercepted Oakstout on the way to the fireplace, and served himself some oatmeal from the pot the dwarven innkeeper was carrying to rewarm by the fire.

When he returned, Laris was eating, not crying, but Harold still had a calculating look.

"What's in it for you, archer?" a rough female voice said from the doorway.

Suniel glanced up from sprinkling cinnamon into his oatmeal as Ming walked in. Out of armor, still damp from bathing, she looked almost womanly, her silver hair especially striking when back-lit by the bright morning sunlight.

Harold assumed an offended look. "Why, our noble Northmand allies deserve our support."

Harold watched Ming closely as she casually tossed her armor and sword onto a table.

"Besides, they pay a gold per pair of ears. Laris already gave me the bounties. Here's your share from last night," Harold said, tossing a small pouch to Ming. She caught it with a deftness that belied her size and emptied it into her hand.

With an exaggerated shrug, she dropped the money into her own coin-pouch as she walked towards the fireplace. "Never liked hobgoblins much anyway."

Harold clapped his hands together and glanced back at Suniel. "Elf?"

Suniel thought for a long moment, then nodded.

Harold stood and walked briskly towards the door. "Excellent, let's leave immediately, no time to waste."

"Agreed, as long as right away starts in about an hour," Ming said, ladling out a heaping bowl of oatmeal. "Time spent at breakfast is never wasted."


The guide stopped and Harold reined in his mare, squinting in the heat of the noon-day sun. He wiped the sweat from his brow, his sleeve coming away the brown-red of the Ragged Hills. Behind him, the black carriage rattled to a halt and Ming jumped down.

"This is as far as the road goes west," the guide said, pulling off his leather cap and wiping his own brow. "From here you can go north or south along the road, or on west into the hills."

I can see that, Harold thought, staring at the T in the road that they had come to. And Laris said this was his best scout?

He glanced about at the dry, dusty hills, their crowns jagged outcroppings of rusty rock. Like the majority of the ones they had passed during the morning, most of the hills here were littered with the remains of year-, decade-, maybe century-old mining encampments that sat bleaching and baking away in the sun.

"We'll keep going west," Harold said, dismounting. "Take the carriage and my horse back to Laketide."

The guide stared down at him. "But, the road goes north and south!"

"I can see that," Harold said. "The hobgoblins aren't likely to be staying at the mining camps and towns, are they? I don't see any reason for us to go there either."

"Whatever," Ming said, rubbing the back of her neck as she strode past. "As long as I don't have to bounce my bones apart on that carriage anymore."

Suniel walked up and handed the reins of his carriage horses to the guide. "Take them back to the inn, leave the carriage where it was by the stables, and take care of the horses."

The guide nodded and set about securing the reins to Harold's horse to the back of the carriage.

"Oh, and one more thing," Suniel said as the man returned. "Make sure no one goes inside, or I'll hold you accountable. You don't want to be accountable."

Something in Suniel's demeanor changed and Harold took an involuntary step back. It was as if it there was a brief shadow over the sun and something even darker reflecting in Suniel's eyes. Then it passed and Suniel turned and walked past, humming softly.

Harold met the suddenly pale guide's eyes and shrugged. He watched the wizard from a few paces back as they trudged into the hills.

Just confirms it, he thought. Never trust a wizard.
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 2, Part 2

Ilsa motioned for Kendrin to drop and Kendrin crawled up beside her.

"What'd you see?" he whispered.

"Not sure, just movement, up there on that hill to the south" Their eyes met and an unspoken word passed between them. Hobgoblins.

Ilsa let out a long breath and strapped her tower shield on. "Ok, well, I sneak like fish walk, so we might as well just rush them. You ready?"

Kendrin nodded, pulled his shield from his back and his mace from his belt-loop.

"All set? Ok, let's go!"


"Movement, north," Harold hissed, nocking an arrow and dropping to one knee. Ming stood from examining the trapdoor they'd discovered, her sword scraping from her back. Suniel slid his hand into his sleeve, and the small component pouch he had sewn there.

Of all the things he expected to come over the hill, a dwarf and a half-elf were the least. By the way they slid to a stop, he had the idea that they were as surprised at the meeting as he was.

Ming lowered her sword, but Harold kept an arrow trained on the dwarf.

"Who are you, what are you doing here?" he said.

The dwarf's eyes dropped to the trapdoor and back to Harold. Her sword lowered.

"If you're here to kill hobgoblins, then we're on the same side. If you're just visiting friends, then we've got a problem," the dwarf said.

Ming shrugged and went back to uncovering the trapdoor. Harold hesitated a moment longer before lowering his bow as well. Suniel walked over to the newcomers and extended his hand. "Suniel. The big woman is Ming and the one with the bow is Harold."

The dwarven woman took his hand and gave it a firm shake. "Ilsa Goldhammer, and this is my companion Kendrin Moonfire."

Suniel nodded to them both and turned as Ming heaved the heavy trapdoor open. Immediately a voice called up from below in goblin. "Who goes there?"

They all stepped back from the trapdoor and readied their weapons again.

"Patrol returning," Harold said, in heavily accented goblin.

Suniel suppressed a wince and glanced in his direction. Harold grinned back and winked. The others looked at them with questioning expressions.

There was a long pause below before the voice called back up. "Jump down then."

There was a quick exchange of glances and Harold mimed a jumping motion and gestured to the hole. There was a long pause, then Ming mumbled something Suniel didn't quite catch and jumped down. Suniel immediately moved to the edge of the hole and glanced in to see a narrow shaft dropping twenty feet to a thick pile of furs. As he watched, Ming hit the furs, cursed loudly and vanished, the hidden trapdoor the furs were nailed to spinning to reveal hard wood.

Harold swore and jumped down, landing on the trapdoor but leaping off and out of sight before it had a chance to spin and dump him in the pit beneath it. Suniel heard the thrum of a bowstring and a roar of pain from below.

Suniel saw the trapdoor start to lift and made a motion to stop the dwarf, but was too late: Ilsa leapt in with a dwarven war cry.

Ming glanced up in surprise as she strained to pull herself out of the trap, then the dwarf slammed into her and they both disappeared - dwarven tower shield and all. The trapdoor spun again and when it stopped, Suniel heard the distinct sound of a latch clicking, leaving the fur side showing.

Kendrin jumped in without a moment's hesitation, bounced off the thick furs, and charged out of sight with a shout of, "Gilderalin!"

The sounds of combat below intensified. Suniel sighed, took a deep breath, and jumped.

Though he half-expected to fall through to whatever lay beneath the trap, the heavy furs absorbed his fall and he sprang immediately to his feet.

Ahead was a narrow tunnel only a few feet across with Harold in heated combat with a hobgoblin in the middle of it. Kendrin stood behind him, tense, mace hefted and ready to swing if the opportunity presented itself in the cramped space and Suniel saw a hobgoblin behind the one Harold was fighting standing in a similar stance.

Harold seemed to be holding his own, so Suniel bent and examined the trapdoor, finding the latch quickly and releasing it.

Have to give the hobgoblins some credit, he thought. Pretty clever.

A moment later, the trapdoor swung open, a meaty hand clutching at the edge. Suniel reached down and helped haul Ming and Ilsa out then turned to see Harold drive his sword up into the hobgoblin's gut. The last hobgoblin turned and fled down the dark tunnel.

"We have to catch it," Harold said, conjuring up glowing orbs of light with a gesture and running after it. Kendrin quickly followed. Suniel stepped aside to let Ilsa and a limping, bloodied Ming past.

Catching his look of surprise, Ming growled, "spikes in the pit" as she passed.

Suniel nodded sympathetically and followed.


Vuroosk grabbed his bow, slammed the door open, and rushed out of his quarters. One of the new ones Neergrog had sent him was running from the south sentry tunnel, splattered with blood and shouting something about an attack.

"To arms, we're under attack," Vuroosk bellowed, grabbing the sentry as he tried to run past and throwing him back the direction he was running from. About him, his troops rousted from their bunks and he heard shouts from the north tunnel. He readied his bow and aimed for the south tunnel.

He didn't have to wait long.

A huge shield slid out of the tunnel and he embedded an arrow deep into the wood as chaos broke out around him. From behind the shield arrows flew and downed two of his hobgoblins and a moment later a giant human female with a sword leapt out and cleaved Hunner almost in half. With a roar, a dozen hobgoblins converged on them from all directions and battle was joined.

Vuroosk shifted to catch a bead on the enemy archer through the fray, but the human was faster. An arrow slammed into Vuroosk's leg and another embedded in his shoulder, sending his own arrow flying wide. He gritted his teeth in pain and fired again, his arrows disappearing into the clash.

He ducked as another two arrows slammed into the door behind him and he fired back, his arm and leg pounding with pain from the arrows.

As he reached for another arrow, a third took him in the side. Another flew past as he staggered back into his room, fumbling for a potion from his belt-pouch.

He jerked the arrow from his side and drank a potion as the sounds of battle raged outside. He was reaching for another when the enemy archer suddenly appeared in the doorway. Vuroosk lurched for his bow as another arrow slammed into him. He staggered back and fired a final arrow in return before collapsing.


Hoortchuc motioned for the beast handler to set them loose and peeked into the barracks. The battle was pitched and seemed to be going badly. He gathered his courage and charged into the room, shouting a dark blessing on the faltering hobgoblins and almost slamming into a human with a longbow who had somehow slipped past the main line of battle.

The human turned on him with a grim look on his monstrous face and Hoortchuc sprinted quickly past into Vuroosk's chambers, arrows whizzing about him. Vuroosk sat slumped against the wall, blood seeping out of three or four arrow wounds. Hoortchuc hazarded a glance to the barracks and saw Trokken and Tusk pressing the archer hard. From the den, the beasts roared and Hoortchuc grinned.

With a heave, he pulled Vuroosk onto his back. He'd never realized how much the hulking sergeant weighed, but then he never thought he'd have to carry him on his back through a battlefield, especially one inside the outpost.

He made his way back out into the chaos in time to see the dwarf kill another and rush to the aid of the archer. His eyes locked with the bestial eyes of a brown-robed elf that stepped from the south passage and Hoortchuc murmured a prayer and pushed on.

He was almost to the den when pain flared in his legs and they went out from beneath him. Whimpering, he pulled himself around the corner and glanced at the smoking black holes in the backs of each of his legs.

Vuroosk forgotten, he chanted and pressed the dark symbol of his ring into each of the wounds, nearly screaming as it seared them shut. Then he noticed the beast master sprawled on the ground, an arrow shaft jutting from his back.

Hoortchuc ran to the body and ripped the keys from its belt.

I may die, he thought as he ran across the rank filth of the den to the cage, but the beasts will feast on elf-flesh first.

The beasts strained against the bars so hard that, for a moment, he thought he wasn't going to be able to turn the lock. Then there was a solid click and the cage flew open, the door swinging with such force that it knocked him backwards across the room. He landed heavily on his back, stunned.

When he was able to roll to his hands and knees he saw the beasts pinning the dwarf flat beneath its shield, its companions shouting in dismay and trying futilely to take the creatures down. He grinned again through his gasps.

Then there was movement out of the corner of his eye and the huge woman appeared like something from a nightmare, silver-haired, bleeding from half-a-dozen wounds and splattered with gore. Her eyes were the worst, bright and burning with rage. He raised his hand to protect himself just as the terrible blade of her sword came down.

There was an explosion of pain and then nothing.
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 2, Part 3

Ming wrenched her sword out of the back of the massive, shaggy ape-creature and winced. The thing had hit her hard enough to put dent in the breastplate probably crack a few ribs. It would have to wait.

"Half-elf, Harold, get over here," she shouted, sheathing her sword and gripping one of the huge, blood-matted ape's arms.

The others positioned themselves around the two giant bodies. "On three, heave. One, two, three!"

It took several tries, but eventually the two massive corpses were dragged away and the dwarf's huge, battered shield became visible. Kendrin pushed it aside to reveal the beaten form of the dwarf and knelt, murmuring something in what was probably elvish. At his touch, Ilsa took a shuddering breath and her eyes opened.

Satisfied, Ming turned away, surveying the carnage. About a dozen hobgoblins lay strewn about the room - some sort of barracks - and arrows stuck from the walls and the heavy door in a score of places. She wandered over to the door and peered in.

Harold stood ransacking a large wooden desk, skimming through bound journals and loose pages covered with goblin-scrawl. He glanced up for a moment, nodded to her, and went back to his search.

She had no interest in whatever a hobgoblin felt like writing about - not that she could read it anyway - and so she set to what really interested her.

The castoff sack she scavenged was nearly full of ears when the wizard, the hem of his robe aglow, showed up from down a narrow passage to the east with three small figures in tow. The first goblin looked big and oafish - for a goblin anyway. The second had a look of shifty cunning and the third clung to the wizard's robe, eyes huge. Ming sat on the chest of the hobgoblin she had just finished "trimming" and put one hand on her sword hilt.

Suniel raised his hand. "These goblins were slaves here. They say there are others, humans, that may be alive."

He turned to them, had a brief exchange in goblin, and turned back.

"This is Lunt," he said, gesturing to the oafish one. "Stabber" - the shifty one - "and No-tongue."

"Captives? Harold said, emerging from the room with a couple leather-bound books and a sheaf of papers under one arm. He pulled out a long knife from his belt and walked menacingly towards the goblins, rasping something out in their tongue. Lunt stared at him dully, cow-like, Stabber took a step back, and No-tongue hid behind Suniel's robes.

"They are under my protection, archer," Suniel said, raising his hand to halt Harold. "No need to threaten them."

"They'll stab you in your sleep if you trust 'em," Ilsa said, staggering over with one hand on her sword hilt and a grim look in her eye.

Suniel turned and looked at her. "That's my problem."

"If I see 'em anywhere near where I sleep, I'll split them in half," the dwarf said. "You'd better-"

"Enough of this! Tell them to take us to the captives," Harold said.

The dwarf grumbled and glared at Harold, but they all followed as the goblins led them down the east passage.


"Water," Harold demanded as they pulled the last captive from his prison-pit. The half-elf turned and jogged back into the main room where they'd dumped their supplies and Harold turned back to the five ragged-looking men.

They all squinted at the light and Harold cast a glance at Suniel. The wizard gestured and the light on his robe winked out, leaving them in total darkness. A second later, the light flared up anew, but on some object mostly shielded by the wizard's hand.

"Much obliged," one of the men said, a soldier by the look of his barely-recognizable Northmand tabard.

"How long have you been here?" Harold said.

"Don't know," the man said. "Every once in a while I'd hear them pull someone up out of one of the other pits, but I don't know what happened to them. I don't think they even meant to use us as slaves, didn't even feed us."

"There was an altar covered with blood at the far end of the barracks," Ilsa said. "I think I have a guess for where they took them."

Kendrin and Suniel said prayers and the captive's eyes fell.

"Don't worry about that," Harold said. "The hobgoblins that did it are all dead now."

The soldier nodded and his eyes brightened noticeably as Kendrin came back with two bulging waterskins and a few loaves of bread. Four of the captives ate and drank greedily and Suniel helped the fifth who was too injured to do so himself.

"Did you see how many there were?" Harold said as the soldier tore into a loaf.

The man shook his head, swallowed, and took another huge gulp of water.

"We were escorting a wagon-load of ore back from the mines when they hit us, probably a score of them. We weren't expecting a thing." He gestured at the other four men. "Those three are miners, the other I don't know. He wasn't with us."

Suniel looked up from where he was helping the other man sip from a waterskin. "He says he's a fisherman, was taken a few days ago."

Something clicked in Harold's mind, piecing together something the soldier had just said with one of the reports he had skimmed with the battle they had just fought. "Wait, a score? We killed maybe fifteen - at the most."

There was a long moment of silence as they exchanged glances. Then, somewhere back in the compound, they heard a shout.

Quickly and quietly, they gathered their weapons and made their way back through the compound.


"What took so long?" a voice called down from above in hobgoblin.

Suniel opened his mouth to say something, but Harold spoke first again. "Who goes there?"

There was a long pause from above and Suniel glanced at Harold. Harold reached down and clicked the latch on the fur-covered trap door and grinned back at Suniel.

"Who is that?" a different voice called down.

"I'm one of the new ones," Harold called back. "Come on down."

There was another pause, then, "I hate jumping down, raise the ladder."

As Harold and Suniel looked around, the others stared at them with questioning expressions. Suniel spotted it first and motioned for Ming to grab it. She stared at the ladder blankly for a moment, then reached into the nook where it was tucked away and pulled it out.

It took a moment for her to figure out how it extended - a feature that Suniel came closer to examine. Finally, she figured it out, clicked the latch again on the trapdoor, and set the ladder up on it.

"Thanks," a voice called down from above. There was another long pause.

"What's going on?" Ilsa hissed. "What are we waiting for?"

"They think we're hobgoblins," Harold said. "Wait until the first one comes down, then we'll get him."

"I'm not so sure that-" Suniel said, but before he could finish, the dwarf slung her tower shield onto her back and launched up the ladder.

"Wait!" Harold said, as he lunged to grab her and missed. "Damn!"

Ming grabbed onto the ladder and looked up, just as there was a thudding sound and a grunt from above and she leapt out of the way.

Ilsa's body hit the furs with a thud, three arrows sticking out of her armor and more from her shield.

As Kendrin knelt to minister to her, Ming vaulted up the ladder. Harold cursed again, then began climbing after her, bow in hand.

With a long sigh and a quick chant, Suniel obscured himself from sight and followed.

Above him Ming and Harold sprung clear of the shaft, arrows whizzing past them from all directions. Suniel followed a moment later.

By the time he was out, Ming was half-surrounded by four hobgoblins, though one already lay bloody in the dirt. Nearby, Harold snarled and broke off the arrow-shaft sticking from his side and loosed another arrow, sending a hobgoblin archer rolling down the hill. Half-a-dozen more loosed arrows at him from the surrounding rocks. Arrows thudded into the dirt all around.

Suniel ducked low to avoid stray arrows and ran to some nearby rocks. He turned back in time to see Kendrin leap out of the hole and run to the again-bloodied Ming's side. A moment later Ilsa followed, arrows still sticking from her shield and armor. Harold rolled aside as more arrows flew past, came up shooting, and dropped two more archers.

Ming roared and headbutted a big one with stubs for ears as his sword came down on her shoulder. The hobgoblin staggered back and took a mace in the knee from Kendrin.

Suniel picked a target, uttered a quick spell, and a fiery explosion slammed one of the archers back against the rusty rocks.

A few moments later it was over. A dozen hobgoblins lay sprawled in the red dirt, their blood mingling with the blood that ran from his companion's many wounds.

Harold removed an arrow with a wince and quickly downed a potion while Kendrin chanted a minor prayer of mending on Ming. Ming probed the wound on her shoulder, winced, whipped out a long dagger and set to hacking off ears with ferocity.

Suniel let out a long-held breath and whispered a prayer of forgiveness for the lives he had taken. As if this one matters compared to all the other corpses that litter my past, he thought. Gods, forgive me.


The human village was strange but comforting in its own way. Nothing like the massive cave-sprawl of Wyrmsrule with its shining golden light, but pleasant none-the-less. Ilsa winced and touched her collarbone gingerly. Kendrin swore he would do what he could tomorrow, for he had already used more magic today than he had since his trial and vows, but Ilsa had pestered him the whole journey anyway.

They stopped at what probably passed for a barracks here. Not even stone, she thought. Looks fairly sturdy, but still...

Suniel led the three goblins and the five survivors into the village, one leaning heavily on the others for support. An older, bald human with a spear met them all at the door to the barracks.

"Laris in?" Ming said, dropping a blood-soaked bag into the man's hands.

The man took it gingerly and handed it to the young blond-haired human who came out.

"Here ya go Laris," the older man said. "They brought a present for ya."

To his credit, Laris didn't flinch as he opened the bag and even had a half-smile on his face when he looked up. "I sure hope these came from hobgoblins. If not, we might have to talk."

"Should be obvious where they came from," Ming said. "They're not nearly as nice and clean as yours."

She reached out a hand towards his head and Laris stepped back quickly.

Harold stepped between them and extended the books and sheafs of papers from the outpost. "A gift from your friends in the Crystal Towers."

"And your friends who don't give a rat's ass about the Crystal Towers," Ming added, drawing a glare from Harold.

Laris set down the bag of ears and took the documents with a questioning look. He skimmed them for a moment, then looked up, his eyes hard. "This needs to go to the High Council."

"Why?" Ilsa said. "Harold hid them away and wouldn't say anything about them the whole way back."

Laris turned to her and raised the documents. "These say these raids are just the beginning. Where did you get these?"

"From the outpost we wiped out," Ming said offhandedly as she loosened the straps on her breastplate.

Laris stared at her for a moment, his gaze wandered over their wounds, then to the bag of ears. "I'll be sure to mention your heroics when I report to Captain Donnolan. You have the thanks of Northmand."

"It was nothing, the Crystal Towers-" Harold began, but Ming stepped forward and pinched Laris's cheek.

"Anything for you cutie," she said, slapping him on the butt as he stepped quickly away again. "Oh, could we get the bounty now?"

"Uh, I'll have the Sergeant get that to you as, uh, soon as possible," Laris said, quickly putting a desk between him and Ming.

The old soldier bent to collect the ears and sighed. Ilsa heard him mutter, "of course he will, the Sergeant has nothing better to do than count bloody hobgoblin ears."

"One of them was already missing his ears," Ilsa said as the Sergeant stood stood. He stopped and stared at her. "Ming took his tongue and a finger instead. Does that count?"

The Sergeant sighed and walked into the barracks.

"I really need a drink," Ming said, turning towards what appeared to be the largest building in town.

Ilsa grinned and jogged to Ming's side. "Could use a good dwarven dinner myself."

Ming glanced down at her. "Don't know if they have dwarvish food here. What do dwarves even do for food?"

Ilsa winked back. "Drink."
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 2 Crunch.

Ok, so this is the first time I've ever used a module in one of my DnD games. I had some broad ideas for my game, but when it actually came time to play, I didn't know what I was going to do.

Fortunately, I found this and thought, Aha! The Ragged Hills have a Hobgoblin kingdom anyway, perfect.

I also made a few decisions about this game and how I was going to run it differently from my usual brutal survivalist fare. I was going to actually let the PCs have some downtime. I was also going to let things start out small and expand in scope naturally rather than forcing things into epic-ness too quickly. The result has been extremely rewarding and in all the sessions I've only had 7 player deaths(I'll let you find out who in the narrative :]) - probably a near-record for me in the last 10 years of DMing both in the # of sessions in a campaign and in the small number of casualties.

As for actual crunch I don't remember much, except that Harold continued to rock(though he started a few levels higher than everyone else, won the reduced-stat gamble, and is my "top" powergamer, so I expected it). Ilsa went down twice, once to the dire-apes mauling her and once to a pile of readied arrows the moment she stuck her head out of the outpost enterance shaft. Harold's bluff checks were [sarcasm]amazing[/sarcasm], if I remember correctly.

This was Kendrin's first and last session, it being the player's first ever game with us. Not sure why he stopped playing. The rest of the game after this had 4 players present consistantly.

I also remember Vuroosk being dissapointing. 4th level with rapid shot and he got maybe 3-4 arrows off before Harold had done so much damage to him that he had to run. I never though that Harold would be willing to risk 3 AoOs - they all missed - to run past the melee and finish him off.

Hoortchuc didn't fare very well either, but I had less expectations for him.

Ilsa's dragon-shaman auras came in super handy too - every 3.5 group with the PHB II should have some player with 1 level of it just for the auto-stabalize any fallen buddies in 30' and the heal-up-to-half-between-battles-automatically features alone.

Anyway, I'll put up session 3 some time next week. We play session 25 on Sunday.
It'll be interesting to see where they go from here - here being where they'll be in 22 sessions from what I have written...
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 3, Part 1

-Note: Took a while to get this up, busy week. We played session 25 last weekend and I'm still not sure where the campaign is going to go. Had another character die, but to be honest, with what they decided to take on, I'm surprised any of them survived. Not only survived, but defeated it! But that's something for much later.

Hope someone's enjoying this. It's fun revisiting where it all started, back when things were so simple. Almost nostalgic.

Anyway, back to the story.-

Harold rolled his shoulder and massaged it briefly before placing ten arrows point-down in the dirt. The barrel wasn't a perfect archery butt, but it would do. One by one, slowly and carefully, he fired the ten arrows into the barrel, occasionally glancing about to see if anyone was watching. Unfortunately, the streets were largely bare, most of the people out fishing or farming or whatever they all did here. He retrieved his arrows with a sigh and headed back around the inn.

He heard Suniel's voice - speaking in goblin - before he saw him.

"...but if I let you go, I can't guarantee your safety. I won't pay you for your service, but you will have food and shelter and can make spending money however you are able - as long as it doesn't hurt others and is legal that is."

Harold turned the corner to see Suniel kneeling, talking to the three goblins in the shade of his carriage. The large one sat in the dirt chewing on his nails, the shifty one listened to Suniel with half-lidded eyes, while the simple one tried to stare at his tongue as he bit at it, jerking his head around as if to get a better view of it.

Suniel looked up and nodded and Harold knelt next to him for a moment.

"You mean to actually keep these creatures around?" he said softly in common, casting a sideways glance at the goblins. "Can't trust goblins, especially that shifty one."

"Stabber?" Suniel said, casting a brief look at him. "No, I think he's the smartest one. If I can keep him in line then Lunt and No-Tongue will stay in line too."

Suniel turned to the goblins again.

"Well?" he said in their tongue.

"We'd just get slaved again if we went back to through the Raggeds," Stabber said. "So I say, sounds good Boss."

Suniel nodded and glanced at Lunt. The goblin picked his nose and shrugged.

"He seems to be trying to prove to himself that he has a tongue," Harold murmured, watching No-Tongue's antics.

No-Tongue, now pulling his tongue out as far is it would go and staring cross-eyed at it, seemed to finally notice the conversation and Suniel and Harold staring at him.

"Master?" he said.

Stabber cast a sharp glance in his direction. "He talks? Huh. He's never talked before."

No-Tongue seemed excited by his new word.

"Master," he said happily. "Master, master, master, master, master, master, master..."

He repeated it over and over, skipping around Suniel and Harold. Harold rolled his eyes and extricated himself from the ridiculous situation, heading for the barracks.


Ming leaned against the wall and tore off another piece of jerky as Harold approached. The archer cast a glance at the barracks door, then at her.

"Laris headed off to Northmand first thing this morning," she said. "Sergeant said he was in quite a hurry. Whatever you found was pretty important I guess."

Harold straightened his back. "Important? Of course it was important. It mentioned patrol times, supply routes, the rough locations of half-a-dozen other nearby outposts-"

"Yeah, whatever," Ming said, waving her hand to cut him off. "So what now?"

Harold stared at her for a moment before answering. "What do you mean?"

She rolled her eyes. "What do we do now I mean. That bounty money was half-decent. I could handle a bit more of it."

"Well, I don't know what you're going to do, but I'm a member of the Honor Guard for Crystal Towers Diplomat to Northmand. I only had a few days furlough and I need to get back to report for duty," Harold said, turning away.

"Great," Ming said, following. "I'll come with."

Harold glanced over his shoulder at her and glowered. "Why?"

Ming glanced at the Ragged Hills, bathed in the light of the mid-morning sun. "I've run out of west and think we might have ruined my chances of the Hobgoblins welcoming me with open arms. Arms drawn maybe..."

Harold shook his head and raised his arms in the air as he walked away. "Whatever, come if you like."

Ming wondered if she was making the right decision, going back there. They won't be looking for me with this group anyway, she thought. Sometimes the best way to hide is in plain sight.


Ilsa mounted her pony and leaned down to adjust the stirrup. Kendrin made a few adjustments to his saddle and mounted as well.

In a few minutes, everyone was ready and they set out; Harold at the head on his black warhorse, the black carriage behind him with Suniel and Ming on the bench and the three goblins atop, Ilsa and Kendrin taking up the rear on rugged mountain ponies.

The peaceful Northmand countryside passed quickly - the late summer heat made almost pleasant by the frequent shade of over-arching trees. After an hour or so of quiet riding, Ilsa heard fragments of conversation from ahead, unintelligible over the rattle of the carriage. She nodded to Kendrin to keep the rear and kicked her pony forward.

"...well, I come from the South originally," Suniel said as she rode up. The elf and the warrior woman glanced down at Ilsa and nodded to her.

Ming leaned back on the bench. "Just 'South' is pretty vague, wizard."

Suniel gave a slight smile. "So is just 'East,' Ming."

"Fair enough," Ming said, digging into a pouch at her side and producing a strip of jerky.

"It's a big world out there," Suniel said, pulling on the reins to steer the carriage around a sizable pothole.

"So dwarf, where do you hail from again?" she said between chews, glancing down at Ilsa.

"Wyrmsrule," Ilsa said, eying Ming's pouch. Ming followed her gaze down, gave a short laugh, and tossed her a strip. Ilsa tore off a bite of jerky gratefully, regretting not eating a larger breakfast.

"So, what brings you down here?" Ming said. "Isn't Wyrmsrule up to the north, past the Ragged Hills?"

Ilsa nodded. "I'm here on a diplomatic mission as well."

Ming snorted and glanced at the fields of wheat that swayed in a gentle breeze as they passed. "Everyone wants a piece of Northmand. Doesn't seem so special to me. Boring."

"What you call 'boring' others call peace, prosperity, safety. Rare commodities in most of the rest of the world," Suniel said, smiling as he watched a small flock of brown birds chase each other through the fields.

Ilsa nodded solemnly in agreement.

Ming shrugged and stuffed the rest of the strip of jerky in her mouth and stretched out. "Well, whatever. Boring is boring. I'm going to take a nap."

"Thanks for the jerky," Ilsa said, reining in her horse.

"Master, Master!" the little goblin called down to her cheerfully as the carriage passed. He had put together a "fishing pole" - a length of rope attached to a long stick - and was casting it into the fields as they passed, legs dangling and swinging like dwarven child might off one of Wyrmsrule's many overlooks. The other one, Stabber she thought his name was, palmed something as she rode past, but she didn't get a good look at what it was.

After the carriage had passed, Ilsa smiled sadly and rode alongside Kendrin.

"What do you think?" the half-elf said. Ilsa leaned over and handed him the last of the strip of jerky.

"I hope fervently that they agree to hear us and just as fervently that our troubles don't spread here," Ilsa said.

Kendrin nodded and let out a long sigh. They rode in companionable silence for the rest of the trip.
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Session 3, Part 2

-Note: Sorry it's taking so long to update and that it's pretty short. These last few weeks have been crazy busy. After next weekend I should be able to post more regularly.-

Ilsa's first perception of Northmand was comforting, for Northmand was a city of walls. She recognized the dwarven stone masonry in Northmand's three rings - walls more than a hundred feet thick, with much of the city's houses, crafts-houses, inns, and shops build inside their wide breadths.

It appealed to dwarven sensibilities and human both. Dwarves preferred to surround themselves in stone and humans preferred to live beneath the sky. In Northmand they had both, with the added features of a fortress and with enough space between the fortress-city's three rings for small gardens, markets, corrals, and parks.

The gate guards were well-informed enough that Harold's blue-and-white Crystal Towers uniform alone was enough to get them through the three Walls and into the inner Keep. And apparently Laris's report was enough to get them an immediate audience.

They were led by a pair of Keep Guard to a spacious, well-furnished room just off the inner courtyard of the Keep. An officer sat, wearing his gray-and-white dress uniform casually, leaning back at his writing desk and tugging at his blond goatee as he read through the hobgoblin reports. Laris looked young and unpolished where he stood behind in his plain, dusty uniform.

The officer looked up, smiled broadly, and stood as they entered. "These must be the heroes of the outpost raid that I heard Laris talking to me about."

Harold stepped forward, his uniform immaculate due to his demand that they stop at a tailor and laundry on their way through town. "The Crystal Towers holds its allies' interests in high regard Captain..."

"Donnolan," the officer said. "You know our ranks?"

Harold nodded. "We hold their customs and regulations in high regard as well."

"Yes of course." Donnolan's gaze skimmed across Ming, Ilsa, Suniel, and Ilsa with barely a pause. "Well, Northmand thanks all of you for your efforts. The Iron Tribe attacks on our mining operations were unprovoked though unfortunately not unprecedented. I imagine we'll have more problems with this Chieftain Neergrog the reports were addressed to before too long."

"Wyrmsrule has had similar problems," Ilsa said.

Donnalan's gaze returned and appraised Ilsa again.

"We seem to have no shortage of ambassadors lately. Seems like everyone's having troubles lately. If it's not the Iron Tribes of the Ragged Hills, it's the White Clans of the Mist Tops," he paused for emphasis, staring at Ilsa for a moment longer before traveling to Harold, "it's the Ashen Tower."

Harold nodded. "The Ashen Tower won't rest at the Freeholds if the Crystal Towers fall, they'll be-"

Captain Donnolan raised his hands with another grin. "Save it for the Diplomats, Honor Guard Trisden, we're just simple soldiers here. Especially since most of the High Council and your Ambassador have decided to take a week long tour of the Northmand lands."

"A week?" Harold and Ilsa said simultaneously.

Donnolan handed Harold a scroll. Ilsa caught a glimpse of five slender towers imprinted in the wax of its seal before Harold sliced it open. "The Ambassador overheard my summary of Laris's report to the Council before he left. He left those with me."

Ming leaned over Harold's shoulder and Harold quickly jerked the scroll away. Ming snorted and dropped into an armchair.

"Further Crystal Towers relations with Northmand?" Harold said. "What type of order is that?"

"Well, you've done a pretty good job so far, in a few Northmand officers' opinions," Donnolan said, lounging back into his seat and turning to Ilsa. "I'm afraid you'll have to wait a week or so until they get back."

Ilsa sighed and Kendrin put his hand on her shoulder.

"I'll stay and wait here," Kendrin whispered, "I know how you feel about waiting..."

"Thanks," Ilsa said, already itching to be out amidst the heavy cut stone of Northmand's Walls.


Suniel smiled and handed a small charm to the young couple. At his feet No-Tongue sat, singing "master, maaaaster" to himself softly while he whittled at some wood.

"We're done for the night. Stabber, Lunt, lower the awning and pack up the stall," Suniel called.

Stabber grumbled but complied. Lunt was no where to be seen.

Suniel sighed and walked around to the back of the Carriage where he'd spent most of the day building "bed boxes" for them. At first he had thought the idea strange, but it seemed the best use of space. All worries about the goblins refusing to sleep in what were essentially wooden crates faded earlier in the day when he'd finished the first, come back with more materials to finish the second and found Lunt asleep in the first.

Harold rode up just as he and Stabber finished stowing the stall's components. "If you're interested, wizard, we're heading back to Laketide tomorrow. The reports indicated that the hobgoblins are going to be launching more raft raids and Laris also requested that we show them where the outpost is so they can keep an eye on it. Interested?"

Suniel thought it over for a moment, watching the city-folk stroll about the park near where he'd set up shop. So few places left with peace, he thought. And how much of that is because...

He met Harold's eyes and stared for a moment, realizing what he saw there. Here was a man who possessed a single-minded determination, a man with a cause that settled the world into reassuring shades of black and white. He'd die for what he believed in a heartbeat.

"I'll go," Suniel said.

Without another word, Harold nodded and rode away.


Ming's hangover wasn't helped by the over-bright noon sun or the jostling of the carriage as they rode back to Laketide. At least her guess had been right - no one had come looking for her. Just in case, a couple more days roaming in the Ragged Hills collecting hobgoblin-ear bounties wouldn't go amiss.

She started to think about the future and felt a stirring of fear. A second later her wineskin was in hand. Suniel glanced at her but didn't comment as she took a dozen gulps, spilling all over her armor as the carriage bounced along.

If they find me...
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