The First Land

Recap #1, June 23, 2016
Rama's Ramblings

Rama’s Ramblings
Bitterwater, The Urdash Republic
Early autumn

I’m the wizard now. It’s been two long months since Master Enloe was called to fight in the war and help drive back the Red Horde. He refused to take me with him, even though I’ve been his apprentice ever since I was five. I’m taller than him now, maybe not as strong as other half-orcs, but he’s getting old and isn’t so strong either.

“Bitterwater doesn’t have any other wizards,” he told me, “You’re needed here.” But all I’ve done for two months is clean the tower, practice, and study. Same as always, except my master isn’t around to teach me anything new. The war is far to the east, and all of the soldiers and sorcerers and clerics are all going to fight. There wasn’t anything exciting going on in Bitterwater. Until today.

I was sleeping in after studying late at night, and heard shouting outside. Some of the younger children were saying that some livestock got sick and died, then people started getting sick, too. By the time I learned about it everyone was sure that the well had been poisoned, the one in the center of town.

Mayor Mongmolt called a meeting in the Inn that evening. It was crowded by the time I arrived with familiar faces and visitors.

I found one of the few tables with open chairs and joined Popper, a little gnome cleric who lived in the woods west of town. His master went off to war, too, and if he felt as frustrated as me he hid it well. Maybe it’s different for clerics. His teacher may have left but Pan isn’t off at war, so Popper wasn’t really left behind. Pan isn’t the warring kind of god, what with the dancing and music.

Two strangers joined us. Maybe one of them poisoned the well. One was even smaller than Popper, a halfling with curly red hair all over his face and a short walking stick. He said he was a sailor, but I wasn’t so sure. The river had been dried out for longer than I’ve been apprenticed. He might be looking for work on an airship, but the cargo ships picking up fire-rocks from the Illfang mines don’t stop in town and the mail-ship only comes twice a year. The other stranger was an elf woman almost as tall as me. She had a very pretty red dress and looked like she had come a long way. Her eyes were red, too, which was a little sinister. She wore a silver broach of Helune, like the big one in the Church. She was very mysterious, but I didn’t think she was the poisoner. You can’t sneak around in bright colors like that.

There was a Chitrik at one of the tables. I had read about them, but hadn’t seen one in person. He wasn’t red or twenty feet tall like those in the Red Horde, and my master said some of them are traders, so I decided he was alright. Not everyone agreed, though, and no one sat with him.

I tried to learn what I could from the children, then shared what I learned with Popper. The strangers shared some of what they heard, too. A lot had happened in a few days: the Tafeld monastery in the west had a robbery and a farm in the north caught fire last night. The Veltan who ran it disappeared. I don’t know those tree-folk very well, though my master did. I hope they’re alright. Fire is really destructive to them.

Everyone was most worried about the well. The sick people hadn’t been cured yet, and only the monks at the monastery would be able to test the water to figure out what poison was used. That’s a day’s travel west through the forest. Also, a shipment of water had been sent up to the Illfang mine today before everyone realized the water was poisoned. Someone will have to travel up there to waylay them.

Jethram, the innkeeper’s son, told me that he saw someone in a cloak outside by the well last night. He said he told the mayor. That might not do a lot of good, though. The mayor says a lot, but not a whole lot gets done. Normally that’s okay, because Bitterwater runs itself for the most part, but this is important. Jethram said the person wasn’t short so the halfling, Rigel, hadn’t done it. And since the elf, Zara, would have been immediately recognized because of her clothing, it meant everyone at the table was okay. Obviously Popper wouldn’t have done it.

The mayor was still dithering about what to do and who to send where, so we started deciding ourselves. Popper wanted to take a sample of the well-water to the monastery, and even the two strangers wanted to help. Zara seemed interested in the monastery and Rigel just wanted a job.

As we were talking Stephanus, the blacksmith, collapsed. The monk from the monastery who told us about the theft ran to help him. I thought it was time I take a look at the well and see if there was any magic involved, but then there was a big commotion outside. We four ran out, along with the mayor’s assistant Florkmott, the monk, and Philip Fulsham, a veteran who had just got back from the war to visit his family.

One of the hill giants had come into town. It was too early in autumn for their usual trading visits. He had brought a stone with him to trade, but it was smaller than usual. Bringing it along might have been just habit, because he wasn’t looking to trade. He was all blue in the face and distressed, yelling “FIX!” at anyone he could see. Then he sat down and picked up Philip like he was a toy soldier – armor and everything.

He must have been poisoned, too. The monk who had helped the blacksmith said that he didn’t have enough supplies to make a difference, because of the giant’s enormous physiology. Zara said she could conjure water, so she and Rigel found a barrel and filled it with fresh, poison-free water. The giant finally put down Philip and drank it all, but he was still blue.

Then Zara said that the giant’s stomach was moving. I took a closer look and it was – his stomach was lumpy and moved like there was something alive inside. Popper started a ritual spell, but before he got past the first incantation, Rigel said he knew exactly what to do and started to roll up his sleeves. We were confused then horrified as he climbed up to the giant’s face and told him to open wide. Rigel stuck his entire arm down the giant’s throat.

I ran to the side as the giant puked out his lunch: six disembodied hands, each larger than both of mine together and rotten. Troll hands? And they were still alive, or at least animated. They scuttled across the ground like crabs and attacked us.

I conjured acid to eat at their skin and bones. Zara beat them down with her quarterstaff while Popper called on Pan’s magic to help him. The hands dodged the columns of white light and one leapt onto the monk’s neck. Rigel let out a furious bellow and started wrestling with one of the hands, dragged it to the ground and pinned it, then split it in half lengthwise with his axe.

The giant kept choking and coughing up more hands, until he groaned and gaped wide as something even larger started to crawl out. It was a zombie, hands, legs, and head all intact. Popper got his act together, or finally convinced Pan that this was actually serious, and blasted the zombie to bits with a pillar of light.

When all of the giant’s former meal had stopped moving, I took a closer look at one of the more intact hands. I racked my brain, but couldn’t identify what this was. It wasn’t any kind of magic I had learned about, though maybe my master would know. I stuck it in my backpack so I could study it later.

The giant seemed much happier now that his stomach was empty of undead. He traded the rock for two barrels of beer in the warehouse. Popper tried to ask him where he had found the hands, but none of us spoke giant and the giant only knew how to say “FIX!” Since we had already “FIX”ed, he didn’t have much to say anymore. He did say something like “Wruclug” a few times before carrying the barrels away. Maybe that was his name?

Others had come out of the tavern to help, but too late to help us. Rather than listening to us about the giant and the hands, they were distracted by the general store owner, Content Not Found: null, trying to convince everyone that the Chitrik had poisoned the well, even though he didn’t look like the enemy Chitrik. We defended him against her. The innkeeper, Ethram, said that this Chitrik had visited Bitterwater every ten years for nearly a century. I had no idea they lived that long. Popper said he thought he recognized him from before, so we decided he was alright.

The innkeeper’s wife, Anekina, insisted we stay the night, even me. She wanted us to rest before heading to the monastery the next morning. I was glad to spend a night away from the tower. I spent the evening writing a letter to my master about the giant and the zombie and the hands, but I knew it would be six months – three there and three back if nothing happened to the caravans – until he could tell me what it was. Maybe if I read through the books he kept in that locked chest I could figure it out on my own.

In the middle of the night we heard a scream and came running to find Anekina looking for Jethram, her son. He wasn’t in his room.

Popper spoke to the cat, and it actually talked back. After making a lot of unintelligible sounds and gestures to it, Popper told us that a woman had come and taken Jethram away, and the woman smelled like dried fish. It wasn’t a great help, but cats have simple minds. Popper and I both knew that there’s only two places to get dried fish here: the general store and the trading post.

We went to the general store first, but even when we knocked there was no answer. We found some tracks leading south, but it’s hard to tell because the store is a popular establishment. Popper sent out his finch to look, but it didn’t find anything. If Mindim wasn’t at home, where would she have gone? It was very suspicious.

We visited the mayor’s cottage and the trader’s hut. The mayor started a search party, and the trader said he had sold his fish to the general store, confirming my suspicions that we needed to talk to her about Jethram, and about the well, too. But it was late and we were exhausted after the fight, so we went back to sleep. If the search party hadn’t found Jethram by morning we’ll go looking for him. I wish my master were here to divine his location or contact him, but I can’t cast that kind of powerful magic. I just have to figure this out for myself.

View
Recap #2, July 7, 2016
Zara's Journal

A SEMBLANCE , ZOMBIES AND MINDIM, OH MY!

(Sigh) Why me! Why did they send me?!? I’m the youngest member of the Crimson Order. Fully trained – yes. Educated – yes. Dedicated to my order – absolutely.

But, I certainly didn’t expect a mission like this so soon.

I’m pretty sure that I was sent on this mission as partial punishment for not being like the other High Elves of the Order. I didn’t fit into the mold. Would it kill them to crack a smile or make a joke once in a while! They’re always so serious! Come on! Life is short (well, maybe not that short in comparison to other races). That doesn’t matter. You still have to live every day to its fullest, make an attempt to enjoy every day, try to experience new and fun things every day. The others, they don’t feel that way. Or, at least, they don’t act that way.

Sure, I have responsibilities as part of the Order. I proudly and gladly accept them. But, that doesn’t mean that those duties have to consume every aspect of what and who I am. The others, they seem perfectly content being serious all of the time, being quiet ALL OF THE TIME, eating the same boring stuff every day, and meditating and meditating and meditation …. how much meditation do you need! A couple of hours tops! I know that there are many things to ponder and, yes, there are many evils to be wary of and prevent. But, that’s life. There’s good and there’s evil. The hope and the effort are to maintain balance.

When we learned that the cleric of Bitterwater’s church went missing, the older members of the Order were immediately suspicious. He was old for a human. Could have very well died in transit to Ironhelm. But, given that he was the current chosen guardian, there was good reason to investigate.

Despite the Order’s motivation for sending me, I do love traveling. Love seeing new places. Meeting new people, especially humans. They have personality! Sometimes I wonder if I was human in another life. I certainly have a personality that meshes well with them. But, the pointy ears and my red eyes – they’re a dead giveaway that I’m not one of them. Oh well.

Arrived in Bitterwater yesterday. Seemed like a quiet town. Nothing looked suspicious on the surface. But, I told myself to keep my pointy ears alert. Sent here for a reason, after all!

Went into a tavern in town. Many enthusiastic conversations happening at the same time. One table was talking about poisoned well water. (I WAS thirsty until I heard that) Villagers suddenly falling ill. What? Something missing from the monastery? (RED FLAG!!!)

No?!? Better not be The Book! It’s bad enough that the cleric is missing. But The Book. That would be really bad. Really really bad!

No one knows about The Book (the true nature of the book) except the Crimson Order and the chosen ones to protect it. When The Book was created, it was purposely crafted to not stand out. To just look like a holy scripture of some sort. For over 600 years, the book had been under protection at various locales. A century in one location. A century in another. The Book moved to wherever the new guardian resided. My Order believed that it was not safe for The Book to stay in one place for too long.

For the last 20 years, it had resided in Tafeld Monastery, Sealed away in a vault in its basement. And, from what I was told, there are many other “holy relics” in that vault as decoys so that The Book wouldn’t stand out in the room.

Next thing I knew, all hell broke loose. A Giant with moving stuff in its stomach. A crazy halfing named Rigel stuck his stubby arm into the Giant’s mouth to induce vomiting. (Who does that!) The real kicker was the zombie-like hands AND the full sized zombie creature that popped out of the Giant’s mouth. (Yuck, lost my appetite)

I can’t help thinking, The Book. The Book could be responsible.

At one point, the zombie creatures became out of hand (hey, there’s a joke there somewhere but not the appropriate time). A gnome named Popper tried to assist. A tiny gnome! Anyone taller to assist? A young orc named Rama. Yikes.

Zombie-like creatures. Poisoned water. They must be connected. Don’t let it be The Book. Please, not The Book.

It’s morning now. Still thirsty. I’m REALLY hungry. What! No breakfast! What kind of Inn is this! (sigh)

I step outside and see Rama defending Riktri (the Chitrik trader that was in the tavern last night) from a bunch of children throwing stones at him. (where are the parents!)

Rama looks sad. She really wants to find her friend, Jethram. It was Jethram who first notified others of someone hovering over the now poisoned well.

At this point, I’m also curious of Jethram’s whereabouts. Perhaps he could lead me to the person who stole (and most likely utilized) The Book.

Rama and I decide to head to the General Store. A young Wood Elf named Rael joins us. (great, am I supposed to be the mature one in this group!)

Now in front of the General Store. Something feels wrong. I don’t need to use one of my spells to sense that! The door is cracked open. Don’t see any light inside. We enter cautiously.

First thing that we notice is a woman slumped in a chair. Looks dead, given her pale skin and all of the blood on the floor beneath her. She appears to have human bite wounds all over her exposed skin. (Lost my appetite again.)

Then we notice something awkwardly shuffling towards the back of the store. Very jerky, unnatural movements. It was Mindim, the General Store owner. Mindim is covered with oozy sores and has a blank stare on her face. A Semblance! Could this day get worse?

Rama and Rael attempt to approach her. But I stop them. I cast a spell to see if I can detect evil.

Yep. Evil. I also sense evil emanating from the small room in the northeast corner of the store.

Mindim’s actions seem mindless yet methodical. Restocking shelves. Putting items on her tray. Her voice has no emotion. She asks us if we want anything. We try to act normally and respond, “no, thank you,” as calmly as we can. Mindim’s attention is then drawn to the northwest corner of the room.

We see an opportunity at that point to investigate the evil small room.

We enter a room, where we find a large, dark pit ~ 20 feet deep, which ends in a room with limits we can’t see. In the pit are corpses of various decomposition and some scattered bones. Could these be the 13 corpses looted from the cemetery last night?

We lock the door to the small window-less room and with nowhere else to go, we decide to use my silk rope to climb down into the pit (Will the rope be able hold Rama! She’s a big girl!)

Rael climbs down the rope first.

In the pit, we notice 4 crystal-filled brazers, one of which is glowing red with smoke emanated from it. The pit looks like it was recently dug. The walls and floor smell of fresh dirt (and rotting flesh, obviously). There are runes sketched in a circle where the corpses lay.

No sign of Jethram.

Then we hear a dry shuffling sound. What is that sound? Rubbing wood? No…….

BONES!

The day is definitely getting worse!

A corpse starts to get up.

Rama, from above the pit, throws acid at the now standing skeleton. Then both Rama and I proceed to climb into the pit to aid Rael. We notice another skeleton moving.

Over the course of the next several minutes, one skeleton after another pop up. We attack to the best of our abilities. We’re not going to be able to fend them all off.

I decide to try a different tactic. Perhaps these glowing crystals have something to do with the skeletons animating. I throw the glowing crystals on the ground and smash them with the butt end of my sword. We don’t immediately notice any changes. However, the skeletons do seem to animate at a slower rate.

Time to get the hell out of this pit, kids!

Once we climb out of the pit and back to the small room, we pull my rope up behind us. Suddenly, we hear the door knob jiggle a bit. The three of us look at each other. We’re pretty sure it’s Mindim. She says, “You can’t stay there forever.” Rama replies, “I’m not feeling very well.” We give it a second and then hear footsteps walking away.

We open the door cautiously. As we exit the small room, we notice that Mindim is placing a crate at the door (great, our only exit route is now blocked!). She turns towards us, starts to approach us, and says, “I’m hungry.”

Still peckish after feeding on the woman in the chair, huh? (I didn’t actually verbalize that. Just in my head. Didn’t want to frighten the kids.)

We attack the hungry Mindim and our combined efforts manage to bring her down. As we exit, I notice a charm on the floor of the store. Rama said that the charm belonged to Jethram. He had been here! But, where is he now? We explore the second floor of the store. We find nothing of interest and decide to leave. But before exiting, we notice a skeleton trying to crawl out of the pit. Yikes! The door to that room opens inward and locks from the inside. How to keep the door closed? We use my rope to tie off the handle. Done.

Next, we decide that we must warn the villagers. In the tavern, the Innkeeper’s wife, Anekina, seems to have rallied villagers to action. They descend on the shop and clear it of undead.

I’m thirsty.

I’m hungry.

I’ve had to deal with giants, corpses and a Semblance. The mayor is useless, the deputy is “simple,” the well is poisoned, a boy has been kidnapped, a homestead to the north has been burned to the ground, their graveyard has been dug up.

This village is terrible.

I must find The Book.

View
Recap #3, July 14, 2016
Popper's letters to Master Cyril

Things around here were getting out of hand. Poisonings, fires, undead, rogue giants, animated hands. I decided to join this small group who were starting to try to figure out what was going on. First I needed to get back to the huts and close them up for a few days. While there, I left a note to my master, Cyril, letting him know what is happening and what I am up to. It’s not likely that he will ever read it, he’s gone to the wars. But, if I don’t return, he might.
I also thought that I might need some help, so I grabbed my most powerful magic item, a bag of badgers. I can summon up to 3 badgers and they will do their badgery best to help me out. Tippin, the Finch is not so fond of the badgers, but they are sorta smart and really strong for their size, and the magic bag is easy to carry. I took one last look at the place I’ve lived for a few decades and I did a little remembering of all the good times I’ve had here… I wonder if those times will return.
By the time I got back to town, more murder, more undead and a new monk,Rael, had been added to the mix. We decided to head for the monastery the next day, when Riktri the Chitrik trader who had followed the blacksmith’s apprentices to Tafeld monastery came back into town. He said he had come upon the scene of a struggle, the kids were attacked. As he examined the area, he said, he was attacked by vines.
As a group, we decided to get involved, right now and head out to the scene to see if the kids were around and what we could do to rescue them.
We walked a bit into the forest, and soon enough came upon the scenes from a struggle. Including the kids’ empty packs and some tracks leading off into the woods. We decided to follow the trail and Zara, the cleric of Helune, blessed me, quieting my footfalls and making me feel nearly invisible. As we proceeded, we were attacked by a giant tangle of vines with a skeleton embedded in it. We launched all our best attacks and soon enough both creatures, for indeed it was two creatures, were dead. The Monk and the Barbarian Rigel are incredibly good at killing stuff!
With the vine creature dead, we tracked it to a clearing. We saw a large Velt (living tree) in the clearing, but not a healthy, wise tree like I am used to. This one was blackened and sick looking, evil somehow. At its base were the bodies of the three apprentices (wrapped in ugly vines) and the innkeeper’s son, just laying there.
This part of the forest is sick, my God, Pan would not like it here. We decided to send for help from Bitterwater using a magical sending. Then we retreated to the road to leave a sign for whatever villagers come to our aid. In a moment of calm, I used my spyglass to take a closer look at the kids on the ground, they look sick and there is something sinister about those vines.
Zara and Rama, the half-orc wizard insist that we must act before the kids get any worse. We hatch a plan.
We decide to sneak up to the tree and start soaking it with oil. Then we’ll cut the kids free and make a run for it, hoping the tree stays asleep, awake it could kill any one of us with one blow. Things work out more or less as planned, we grab the kids and make a run for it. Unfortunately, the tree wakes up, luckily Zara is ready with her fire bolt spell to light the oil. The tree starts screaming in rage and actually tears itself free and starts to follow us, flames and all.
We Run.
As we clear the forest, we can see more of these nasty Velt coming out to follow us, we are doomed if they catch us, but they move slowly.
As we keep running with the 4 kids packed along (exhausting us from the carry) we meet a large group pf townspeople coming to our aid. They grab up the kids and we see the Velt turn back into the forest. Back in town, I heal one of the kids and we learn about them being kidnapped. The Dwarven Mayor calls us heroes and the townspeople set up a watch.
In the morning, all the kids are awake and on the road to recovery. We are told that a small (2 seater) Air guild flyer was seen heading north to the Illfang mine. We borrow ponies and set out for the mines to see what is happening up there. On the way, we encounter a burned out farm, which was run by a good Veltan, who has since burned his own farm and turned to destruction (Suspecting the well-water, I take a sample). Further on we encounter a Dwarven farmstead, all are alive and suspicious.
When we reach the mine, it is immediately apparent that we have wasted our time. The dwarves are taciturn and refuse to add anything to our understanding of what is going on. They refuse to discuss the flyer which has landed at the mine, and bid us good day. Grumpy dwarves. They do remind us that there are Giant wasps about.
On the way home to Bitterwater (to get a water sample and take it to the monastery for evaluation) we hear a buzzing. Indeed, the Giant wasps have found us. We put up a fight and I get stung.
When I wake up, we are back in town and preparing to head to the monastery in the morning, on horses and ponies with an eye toward ridding the place of whatever evil lurks.
Its time to find out what is going on!

View
Recap #4 July 31
Rama's Ramblings

Rama’s Ramblings
Bitterwater, The Urdash Republic
Early autumn

This time Popper and I were determined to make it to the Tafeld monastery. No getting sidetracked by mysterious airships, no turning back halfway to escort apprentices home. We had a sample of well water from Bitterwater and one from the Veltan farm. If anyone had a chance of figuring out how to cure the poison and save the villagers, it was the monks.

Jethram was sick now, too, and it sounded like the same sickness that shopkeeper Content Not Found: null had when we killed her. Since she had started eating people Jethram had to be locked up. I heard smashing and crashing from his room all night. Annekina stayed up all night worried about him, so there wasn’t any food in morning.

We got breakfast at the tavern instead. Riktri was there and he pulled us aside to tell us a story. I was in a rush to leave, but I could tell that this wasn’t a story for entertainment. This was one of those stories Master Enloe tells me that he wants me to remember. Stories about the nature of the universe.

Riktree said it was a story of his people. His people don’t write things down, but share memories. He told about the “Agent of Change.” His people don’t know much about what it is, but they know how it behaves and what kinds of effects it has. It possesses people and causes them to do things that lead to, well, change. Not good change – disaster, destruction, war. True chaos that undermines creation.

Once the Agent of Change relinquishes its possession, the person get sick and start to behave strangely. They usually die, but only after causing harm to those around them. Riktree thought the Agent of Change possessed shopkeeper Mindim and made her poison the well, and the sickness after is why she went mad. I agree. Nobody just wakes up one day and decides to start eating people. Not in Bitterwater. But it looks like Jethram has it, too.

Riktree thought the Agent of Change had been here …but poisoning a well, while really bad for Bitterwater, isn’t the grand machinations his people say the Agent of Change does. There’s going got to be more going on. And we don’t know what Jethram did when he was possessed.

We had a lot to think about. I couldn’t wait to tell Master Enloe a story that he doesn’t know.
Now we had another reason to go to the monastery. Jethram wouldn’t recover on his own, but there’s a chance that powerful healing magic could help.

Popper and I borrowed horses. We stayed very quiet on the road. We knew there were corrupted Veltan in the forest.

We were expecting giant fully grown Veltan, but were surprised along the last leg by some smaller plant monsters – two of them woven around skeletons like we had fought before.

he plant monsters chased us all the way to the river where the bridge to the monastery was raised. We yelled at the watchers on the walls to lower the gate. The guards shot them from the walls as the bridge slowly and creakily came down. Popper charmed one of the plants and it fought with the evil skeleton inside it, getting tangled up and falling over.

Inside the monastery there was a huge congregation of people from all over the Urdash Republic, maybe some from outside, too. There was another chitrik, and a kobold! Everything was in chaos, and before we could figure out what was going on, the abbot came out to meet us. He seemed hurried, and after we explained what was wrong in Bitterwater he told us three words that we needed to say to get the artifact that can neutralize the poison. One word to enter, one to leave, and one to activate it.

He shepherded us toward the chapel right as an ominous buzzing started and shouts came from the walls. More and more plant monsters were coming out to attack. Warped Veltan were with them, many more than we could fight, and giant bugs. The abbot insisted we get the artifact and get back to Bitterwater.

Popper and I fled into the chapel and spoke the word in front of the fallen knight. The lid of the crypt slid back and we descended some narrow stone stairs.

Beneath the chapel was a small stone room. It was chilly and dusty, and felt much older than the rest of the monastery. The friezes on the walls! They were so fascinating I almost forgot about the fighting and our quest. They showed all the races in the First Land arranged around the chamber, some familiar, some ancient, and there were some I had never seen or heard of before.

The buzzing was getting louder and louder. A warrior monk appeared on the stairs, pursued by an army of giant insects. The ants were larger than my hands, beetles the size of small hounds, and the mosquitoes sloshing and squishy and horrifying. He shouted at us to get the artifact and go before the monastery was overrun.

Popper spoke the second word. In the back of the chamber the round table made a grinding sound and a huge stone column started to rise, slowly revolving, from the floor. It rose. And rose. It looked completely solid, and moved so slow. There was no artifact, and we were trapped.

The bugs skittered into the room around the monk, and then slowed. I blasted some back with thunder, threw acid. Popper fought with axes and summoned a badger to help us, but a beetle snapped it in half with a single bite.

The monk held out a long time for us but got overwhelmed. The bugs crawled and flew past him, but the column just kept climbing. It was into the ceiling now, still slowly spinning upward. Finally, we saw stairs at the bottom, hidden inside. But we still didn’t have the artifact, and we didn’t know whether out meant going up or down.

Then I heard a sound that sent chills up my arms. It was like the laughter of a little girl, but sinister and cold. The_Child_of_Desolation.pngThe creature that descended into the crypt was no normal child. It looked like an animal skeleton clothed in a thin, battered robe, maybe a little larger than one of Popper’s badger friends. It clutched a ragged little doll in bony fingers, and its eyes glowed.

We had to leave now. I glanced back and saw an indentation in the column, up past Popper’s head now, but still within my reach. I jumped up and snatched the artifact out of it. It was a crystal, larger than my firerock focus but so light that I thought I was going to break it.

Up, we decided, right now, and bolted up the stairs. The bugs marched after us. We reached the top well ahead of them. I had to crouch down in the tiny staircase. We were still trapped, but could feel the column still slowly spinning. I hoped it would reach the surface soon.

We blasted the bugs to pieces and kicked the pieces down the stairs until a sliver of light appeared above us as the column finally reached the surface. Popper squeezed out first, then me. The column was partially embedded in the monastery’s outer wall and it dropped us just outside. We heard fighting continuing inside and on the other walls.

We wanted to return and help the monks, but we couldn’t let the artifact fall into the hands of our enemies. The abbot insisted we take it and go. So we left them. We ran into the woods and the falling night. It was too risky to attempt to travel at night, so we found a safe place in the brush and slept, cold and damp.

In the morning Popper climbed a tree to scout out the monastery. Things had calmed down on the outside, but we weren’t sure whether there was still fighting inside.

Now we didn’t even have horses. Along the long walk back to Bitterwater we stopped a few times to hide and let giant wasps pass overhead, trying not to fight more than we had to.

We were stopped when we arrived back at Bitterwater. At first I was indignant, but it was because the mayor’s assistant had finally started organizing people! There were barricades set up to protect the town manned by watchers and guards.

Popper and I cleansed the well by saying the third word and pouring water over the artifact. He taught the monk who had stayed in Bitterwater how to use it. We spread the news and got organized ourselves. Everyone got a bucket of pure water to carry – if you threw it on a warped Veltan it cured them of the poison. The veteran led a group back to the monastery and broke the siege. The little animal skeleton was long gone. Only Popper and I had seen it.

Everyone seemed to think that the worst had passed, but I remember what Riktree said about the agents of change. We still didn’t have the cure for Jethram. The Illfang mine had brokered a deal with the Air Guild because of all the recent attacks, and weren’t going to trade the firerock through Bitterwater anymore. That made the lady diplomat really angry, because firerocks were needed elsewhere to help with the war. And everyone had seemed to forget about Mindim raising zombies in the basement and the hill giant Wruclug’s discovery of undead hands…

I think this is only the beginning.

View
Recap #5 August 11
The words of Reshik Dal of The Far Hunt

The words of an itinerant Keshan as transcribed by the Chitrik of Hive Horus:

Spending the night in an inn started as a novel experience, but grew old after the first night. Even after months of travel, my discomfort with beds, the pervading cold, the unpleasant smells and the Urdashie insistence on cooking meat, it was all preferable to being stumbled on at night by those who might mistake a Keshan for a monster. I had been trained to accept these annoyances and slights with equanimity as a first in the Far Hunt and I was sure these alien lands would challenge me with greater insult before long. Bitterwater’s Dancing Hill Giant Inn had been welcoming enough, and when I found the need to spend the night, the innkeeper and his wife had been more than willing to trade lodgings for stories and a fireplay. I used the hearth to spin the old story of Kerrar who eats children and how he was poisoned after eating a spoiled child. The flames were soothing and I felt satisfied with my simple children’s night tale. The audience was appreciative or perhaps they believed I would eat them as Kerrar ate children who misbehaved. I would not eat them. I am of the left claw of Bast.

Evil had been visited upon this sleepy town and apparently half its population had descended on this inn to eat, drink and gossip. After my performance, I was mostly left to myself and, despite the crowd, I had a table of my own. Even with the noise of a bustling great room, I was able to learn much by listening to others. Apparently the road West to the monastery was a dangerous one. Blighted giant insects and awakened plants had attacked several parties who travelled through the woods, day or night. Veltan farmers, who had themselves been overtaken with the blight, had been cured and returned to their homesteads. One, with a farm to the North, stood at the bar, commiserating with his neighbors. The dwarven miners, mostly from the Illfang Mines farther North, were organizing into a militia and the Mayor, a dwarf named Mongmolt, was entertaining a stream of concerned citizens at his home. One mention, of the crazy boy locked in his room, made no sense. Being locked in a room would, of course, drive one insane.

An enormous young half orc female in robes, who I would soon learn was named Rama, sat at an adjacent table. She spoke with a gnome and a halfling about visiting Tafeld on the morrow. I embraced the moment to set aside the flavorless, dry flesh that was the Inn’s specialty, and address them.

“If you would accept my company, I would be glad of your fellowship on the road to Tafeld.”

They seemed less intimidated by my appearance than the local farmers and, after a round of introductions and ale, I had what appeared to be a capable escort on this last leg of my journey. Rama, the half orc, was a wizard, and not a novice. She was heading to Tafeld to return something to the monastery. From her description it was an artifact that had cured the poison that had infected the Veltan. The halfling, Filibert, was a grey haired rogue who professed a desire to help the less fortunate, and there seemed many less-fortunate about these days. Prilys was a gnome cleric, but she seemed unforthcoming about her reasons for heading into such danger.

We left at first light and traveled past farms to hills and then entered a thick forest. These woods were as alien to me as their beds were. My home forests of Rathkil were alive with life, death and the sound of legions of prey. Here I could hear nothing but our progress. The trail was well kept, but we passed no other travelers and I began to feel we were completely alone in this desert of a forest.

Then a distant buzzing that was quickly becoming less distant.

“Winged insects approach!”

We dispersed to either side of the trail, hiding ourselves as best we were able and a giant dragonfly flitted toward us. It zig-zagged past, stopping four times before each of our hiding places and then moving on. There was but a moment of relief before a squadron of giant wasps followed the dragonfly that, it seemed, had indicated our positions perfectly. I was impressed at my companion’s readiness for battle. The wizard and the cleric peppered the insects with various deadly energies and the halfling rogue joined me in rushing the creatures. We felled one of the beasts then Filibert was stung by another. The giant wasp’s venom dropped him immediately and I leapt upon the creature in a rage, slashing at its wings.

The next I remembered, the cleric Prilys was kneeling over me with her hand over a wound on my side. Apparently I had fared as well as the halting and been stung. He had also been roused from the poison’s dark sleep by healing magic. As we gathered ourselves, we heard the buzzing of the giant dragonfly as it headed some distance over the trees, back the way it had come. My shame at being so easily incapacitated, burned within me and I released my anger into a bolt of fire which consumed the fragile winged creature. It spun to the forest floor smoldering.

Leaving the remains of our opponents where they fell, we continued West toward the monastery. Perhaps two hours passed when we heard the approach of many feet. Again we scattered to the sides of the path as if we had practiced the strategy and stealthily advanced. A hill giant’s carcass lay blocking the path and a cluster of giant ants were removing pincer sized hunks of giant meat and heading away from us. Even as four ants left, four more arrived continuing their gruesome disassembly. I could see Rama and Prilys trying to pass the ants and Filibert and I quietly did the same from our side. Our attempt at stealth ended with the snap of a branch under my foot and the ants were upon us.

Holy flame, acid, a blade and my less holy flame, reduced the ants to so much detritus. Our respite was brief as four more of the creatures attacked. During this struggle, I was sure I heard little voices arguing and after we dispatched the new ants, we could see several tiny winged creatures clustered in a tree.

“They can do it!”

“No they can’t!”

They seemed to be debating our worth, when darts shot from nowhere. Rama was having none of this and a wave of thunder erupted from her hands smashing the tree in front of her. A single winged creature appeared and dropped to the forest floor quiet dead.

“They’ve killed Pip!” voices called

Sparkling dust sifted down upon us. I watched as all of my companions fell to the ground snoring. A deep tiredness overcame me that burned away in rage. I bellowed and spun looking for a target, any target to vent my displeasure. I heard whispers and another wave of tiredness hit and my rage disappeared, replaced with a deep restful sleep.

“I knew they were good!” said the forest child sitting on my chest. Pixies and sprites sat on the grass, in the trees and on my companions.

“Will you help us? The forest has become ill, the spiders have gone mad, they are fouling more and more of our home.”

The forest child spoke quickly, as if one of their number hadn’t just been killed. Perhaps more time had passed than I realized and they judged us and moved on. Faerie justice is not Keshan.

Rama addressed the sprite which sat upon her. “What is the source of the infection?”

“A pool is at the center!The waters feed the infection!The spiders guard the water!The water makes them mad!” chirped the sprite sitting on Rama without taking a breath.

“Can Tafeld’s Crystal help?” I asked Rama. She shot me a glance, but the tiger was out of the pit.

“The crystal!The crystal!I knew you could help!I Knew you could help!The crystal can cure the pool!The pool can cure the spiders!The spiders will stop being nasty!” I really was impressed with the sprite’s tiny lungs. Her chirps blended into a single long chirp of urgency.

Oddly rested from the fey sleep we were forced to take, we prepared to assist the forest children. Ready to march as the sprites directed us, the tiny creatures dusted us all once again with sparkling powder. This time, instead of falling asleep we all began to float.

I was very uneasy with losing my footing, but didn’t have long to worry about it. We all began to accelerate up and over the trees, speeding towards the sprite’s blighted pool.

While the others adjusted to this odd form of travel, I found myself flying legs up and head inches from the treetops whipping by. After awhile, I noticed that the trees had become choked with webbing. Not too long after, the forest children lowered us through a gap in the webbing to the wooded floor.

“That way to the pool!” The lead sprite pointed North. “Fix the pool!”

The forest children flitted in all directions and I quickly lost sight of them all.

“I don’t think they will be helping us.” Prilys mused.

We advanced in our usual formation, Prilys and Rama to the left and Filibert and me to the right. We moved slowly, trying as we were to avoid the webs and remain silent. Ahead we heard splashing water, a small cascade fed a pool, but between us and the pool was dense webbing connecting a dozen trees.

Despite our best efforts we must have alerted the pool’s guardians, for two giant spiders rushed from the treetops toward us. We held nothing back in this fight. I brought forth a barrier of protection and leapt at the spiders, clawing with all of my savage heritage.

Spells splashed and Filibert’s well placed blade and my claws slashed into spider after spider, each felled beast replaced immediately by a new nestmate. A green flame had begun to glow from my claws and my control was tested moment to moment. I hoped to bring no shame to Keshans by killing any of my newfound comrades.

Five of the multi-legged creatures had been stilled when Filibert was felled by the spider’s venom. The cleric was fully engaged and it seemed the best way to help my fallen comrade was to make sure no spider could take advantage of his vulnerability.

Three more dead spiders and there was a moment of respite. The spider’s venom was one Rama had not encountered and she brought forth The Crystal of Tafeld. Letting one of the dead spiders drool venom across the crystal, the sickly green venom turned clear and Rama administered it to Filibert. His eyes fluttered and he sat up.

The crystal had lived up to its reputation.

Rama next stirred the crystal through the waters of the blighted pool and the water also became clear. A lightness seemed to settle on the clearing. The pixies and sprites gathered the waters into acorn buckets and began to fly in all directions.

“Thank you!Thank you!Thank you!” The last sprite smiled and headed away carrying the pool’s healing waters to the remaining illness in the forest.

Exhausted, we gathered ourselves and began to head towards the monastery.

Tafeld monastery is bound to be boring after such an eventful journey.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.