Occavul

Entry 7 - Victory (for now)

The morning air felt colder—likely remnants of that vivid “dream.” Yet, with nothing else to do, we continued on down the coast. The following day was uneventful outside of stumbling across an abandoned hut which Percival proceeded to loot and burn down. I may have my fears, but he sometimes appears to be operating one nut shy of an acorn. In any case, that evening found us under a giant tree…

The chill down my spine I suddenly felt on my watch was familiar and had nothing to do with the temperature. But before I could process the feeling, a dart zipped out of the woods, sticking painfully into my shoulder. At least my vocal chords were unfrozen, “Wake up you fools!”

The others awoke, blinked their eyes of sleep and squinted as my light spell illuminated several shapes moving amongst the trees about 20 strides away. Mites! But not the blue-skinned ones we had recently faced, but equally grotesque yellow-skinned horrors. As we counter attacked, one of them started jerking until it exploded in a yellow mist of puss. That seemed to deflate the rest and we made short work of them. Outside of washing the puss off, the chill was gone and the rest of the night went by peacefully.

It was midday when we found our destination: a large castle on a small island connected to land by a three pace wide and one hundred pace long stone bridge. Following their usual methodology, Pervical and Sorob decided the “welcome” sign (“Grand Circle – Members only, absolutely no admittance, enter at own risk”) would look better in the sea. While the eight and a half foot tall earth golem guarding the other end of the bridge seemed nonplussed by the petty vandalism, it did take offense at any attempt to cross the bridge and seemed otherwise undeterred by Oedinn’s attempt to grease it into the water. Discretion being the better part of valor, our hearty group fled down the beach away from the golem only to discover, at least without further provocation, it would not set foot on the land. Clearly we needed to sleep on our next options.

We returned to the bridge as the morning broke, only to find it unguarded and the gates opened. My trepidation at our apparent good fortune is overridden as my companions stroll into the castle courtyard as if they own the place. Percival strolled to the nearest door and confidently knocked. However, I was troubled by a vague feeling of familiarity about the castle and realization dawned on me the instant before Percival kicked the opening door, knocking down a little, black-eyed girl. Her sobs were covered up by a booming voice from the castle walls, “Stop that right now!”

I turned bright, angry eyes upwards; eyes that became slightly dulled by fear as I took in the many black-eyed children and yellow mites surrounding Clown-Face.

A crashing noise sounds from another door to the courtyard. While I was distracted, the black-eyed girl in the doorway attempted to grab Percival, but not before taking a quarrel from Percival’s crossbow between the eyes. Our brief victory was quickly forgotten as a grossly oversized mite riding a praying mantis burst through the door. With a leap, the mantis landed on top of Sorob, grabbed him and was about to do its best impression of post-mating behavior when Timeria plowed into its side and ripped apart the mantis’s neck. My arrow caught the mite in the side as it leapt from its dismembered mount, but rather than sinking it, the arrowhead simply broke from the shaft. Crap, what kind of freak of nature were we fighting?

As Sorob regained his feet and engaged that mightiest of mites, my next arrow took the laughing jester in the side. With a laugh (“Really, you fool!”) the jester jumped into the arena. And then things got strange.

The jester whacked Oedinn with his scepter, but rather than appearing hurt, Oedinn simply broke down into chuckles. Dodging jets of fire from Percival’s hands, the jester thumped Percival across the brow; an injury that put both Percival and Oedinn into hysterics. With our wizards otherwise distracted, Sorob takes the Mitiest down while Timeria turns her fangs on the jester. Whatever enchantment that was put upon the wizards broke, as Percival became noticeably uglier. The jester soon learned that one makes a dwarf laugh against the dwarf’s wishes at one’s own peril; Oedinn smote the jester into a pile of nothing and took the jester scepter for his own!

But before we could savor our victory, the walls of the castle melted and we found ourselves back on the beach; Oedinn with scepter in hand. We looked around at each other; our tired expressions said it all: the complete destruction of our fool of a nemesis would be too much to hope for…

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We Found Him!
String 'em up!

After a journey to Kamush that almost ended in death for Sorob and Percival (thanks to Shanaynay’s cowardice and unwillingness to commit Timeria to battle, even when she was healthier than the hero’s), the party set out across the desert to the capital on Mage McSteely’s trail. After an uneventful trip, Percival used his magical powers to pinpoint the location of the mystical golden tome, and presumably the nefarious thief as well. The party will rest up and wait for the trailing members to catch up before mounting a heroic effort to recapture their property and to bring Mage McDouchy to justice!

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Entry 6 - The most disturbing of dreams...

While the people of Ellim’s Reach did not have much information to provide, the bartender at the White Blossom and a city guard were able to tell us that the road to the Grand Circle was full of “big bad beasties” – likely by design.

Foolishly undeterred, we gathered rations and set off along the coast. After the first day of uneventful travel and my lucky location of a protective cave for the night, we were feeling pretty good. That was a feeling fated not to last.

I “awoke” to find Timeria, Sorob and I standing in the middle of a desert looking at a drawbridge over a moat surrounding a castle. No lights or people could be seen in the castle. However, my spells detected no magic.

A disembodied “Yes?” answered Sorob’s booming “Hello!” No other statement was forthcoming as I felt a chill rush through my body. With no other option behind us, we tentatively headed under the walls to find a black eyed girl waiting for us with the eery greeting “Welcome, would you like to come in?”

I asked “What are you, who are you, and where are we?” And she responded “You ask a lot of questions. I am hungry.” before withdrawing through the only door off the courtyard.

Nothing of this felt right. Nothing. Yet Sorob was undeterred, and willingly entered the keep to find a big room with a long table brimming with food and a crackling hearth. The eerie music coming from within was the last straw – I was not going to set foot in that room.

My heart near stopped as the little girl said from beside me, “Why don’t you come in?” I instinctively drew my scimitar but did not attack. I did not sheath it during my subsequent questioning.

The girl is Vanessa who lives here with her “dad.” If she and her siblings (hell, siblings??) throw a party, her “dad” comes home. She did not know how she got here and she seemed surprised that anyone would want to leave. Every once in awhile new people come and join the party. Timeria let out a low growl and I turned to see these “new people” – all black-eyed children – standing behind me. They ask together “is it dinner time?”

That was it for me. I rushed to the gate, only to find the portcullis closed. At my demands that the children open the gate, they responded “we cannot open it.” Rather than help, Sorob ignored me and started dancing inside. So much for backup…

Sorob was snapped out of his revelry though when “dad” showed up moments later. The party seemed a lot less funny to him when the creepy jester put his hand on Sorob’s shoulder and said “Welcome to the party.”

Finally Sorob acts on my suggestion to leave, but finds his way to the door blocked by the 20 black-eyed children. With no other options, Sorob attacked the jester as children started to grab at him. Sorob slashed the jester’s shoulder but began laughing hysterically after the jester countered with his scepter.

Using my newly acquired ring, I hit the jester with a magical force, slamming him away from Sorob. Sorob dashed for the door, slashing grabbing “children” on his way. Their black blood pooled on the floor as Sorob and the jester fought once again. We continued our assault on the jester as Sorob backed through the door, only to have the jester say “Y’all no fun anymore” and close it on us.

Sorob opened the door to see the Captain standing there asking “What the hell is going on?” We quickly closed the door and opened it again. This time it is Percival, “What the hell are you doing? Wake up!”

I blinked my eyes only to see that we were back under the rock… daylight just starting to break over the water.

What the hell?

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Entry 5 - Zombies, Mites, and Intrigue

The trip back to Gofeld was quick despite being loaded down with Beat’s loot. On a related note, I must admit, my new cloak does look quite fetching on me. After a quick stop at the market, we went searching for Manly Steve. The Dirty Skirts proprietor, Kristy, said he had left town, but told us how to get to the Grand Circle. After a quick celebratory drink (I, perhaps uncharacteristically, bought a round for the tavern), we went searching for a boat to take us down the King’s Stream.

That was until a girl came running from a home shouting “Grandma started killing mom!” I had to resist the urge to rip the amulet from Sorob’s neck… but we stopped to question the girl. Apparently her Grandma had been very sick until just then when she grabbed the girl’s mother and bit her in the face. Onlookers started running to get the guards but Diago wished to play the hero and dashed inside.

I kept walking towards the harbor. It has been well over a couple months since our last run-in with the city guards, but I did not think it good odds that a female elven druid and her wolf would not be remembered. After negotiating for passage on a transport vessel called “Titanic” I waited for my companions’ return.

It was not long until Diago and Sorob sauntered up, newly splattered with blood. It turned out that “Grandma” had indeed become a flesh-eating zombie and “Mom,” along with one of the two city guards who went in, was no more. I made one last attempt to convince Sorob to remove the amulet, but he seemed aghast at the very idea… I fear whatever the amulet is it may be gaining a hold on our fearsome warrior. At the very least we all seemed to be in agreement that our quick exit from the city was the most advisable course of action, even if being stuck on a ship with 100 other passengers plus crew could lead to similar complications. We boarded the Titanic with a prognostic feeling of foreboding.

Knowing it was a several day journey to Ellim’s Reach, I managed to convince the crew to let me sleep in the dingy on the deck rather than one of the dark and cramped, albeit private, cabins. It was a wonder that I heard Sorob shouting from his cabin that very night. I rushed to his aid to see Sorob tying up two devilish little creatures; I immediately recognized them as mites, having seen the creatures emerge from some of the deeper caves in the forest. Sorob had awoken in the middle of the night to find them sneaking up on him despite his cabin door being locked. While he was able to subdue them despite being stabbed, none of our troop were able to understand the creatures. We were left clueless as to how or why they attacked our companion.

Those were questions destined to be left unanswered. The creatures disappeared from the locked cell the captain threw them into and no trace of them was found on the boat. Being proficient in the art of conjuration, I became convinced the mites must have been summoned by one of the boat’s passengers. Sorob thought it was Percival who fervently denied it. However a thorough sweep of the boat led to identifying only three passengers that possessed magical items: a young man named Jake with a “lucky pouch”, a large man with dark skin called Reginold who possessed a ring giving him remarkable reflexes, and a attractive lady who refused to give us a name. After the Captain, Sorob and I questioned the trio, the only thing I was certain of was that the Lady was not a magic user; an opinion not shared by Sorob.

Without answers, we decided to take turns keeping watch at night until we made port. Thankfully the rest of the voyage was uneventful and we made Ellim’s Reach safe and sound.

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Entry 4 - Beats Horrible Challenge

The city awoke the next day, surprisingly calm. Apparently Sorob’s stint in the graveyard failed to awaken any of the city’s dead. Perhaps it only works on the recently deceased? While I am still convinced the amulet is the source of our troubles, Sorob is as unwilling as ever to part with the thing. Knowing the source of our troubles has not been solved, what do we do?

Well, Percival decided to get a drink at the whorehouse. I could not say I was surprised, but, for once, his love of diseased women (men?) and ale brought us good luck. No sooner had he ordered a pint but the doors burst open and a man swaggered into the tavern shouting, “Drinks are on me!” It turns out this “Manly Steve” had just returned from trouncing bugbears and raiding their treasure stash. Percival, diplomatic as always, although I suspect hurt from Manly Steve rejecting his advances, decided to make it rain on Steve… multiple times.

After Percival was shown the door, we found out that Steve was part of the “Grand Circle” – an elite club of adventurers with their headquarters on the Eastern Ocean. Only the greatest adventurers get invited to join; Steve boasted he took down a black dragon single handedly. Needless to say, we were intrigued.

Sensing our interest, I believe the man likes attention, Steve gave us a box with the words “sing to me” carved in it as well as a depiction of a bar scene. Apparently Steve was unable to open the thing, and was more than willing to pass the frustration onto some other group. For the next several hours, we tried singing individually, getting the bar to sing, going to the Golden Wares for information, and finally returning to the bar.

I think the drink had gotten to Steve, because when Percival walked back into the Dirty Skirts, rather than toss him out, Steve asked Percival to identify a dagger with Goblinoid written on it. When Steve found out it was non-magical, he gave it to Percival. Hoping this may be some clue, we went to the local scroll shop, the Magic Squirrel. The shopkeep knew Goblin, but Percival, rather than showing the dagger to him, purchased a scroll, took the time to learn a new spell, just to read “Beats Magical Dagger.” Maybe Goblin’s have a funny sense of humor? I suspect they are just dumb.

Well, apparently this triggered an idea in Percival and Diago’s heads. After several failed attempts, Diago succeeded at singing a strange sounding song to the box. It opened to reveal a… blank piece of parchment. We took it outside to ponder it in the bright light. Nothing came to us, but, amazingly, after about an hour a map was revealed directing us to the mountain ranges to the west of Gofeld! There was also writing on the map, reading:

One Sword
Two Blessings
Three Winds
Four Seas
Fallen From The Sky
Water For The Shrine
Treasure For Man
Break The Mountain

Finally, something to once again take us away from this city!

I led the group for two days through the pouring rain to a large stepped pyramid in the middle of the woods in the shadow of the mountains. We entered through the door at the base to find ourselves in darkness. After lighting up the interior, we saw a maze of stepped platforms leading to a door on a far wall – nothing was below the platforms but darkness. Diago fearlessly lept to the first platform… and fell into the darkness after missing the second. Amazingly unharmed and un-phased, he ran from behind us to try again. And again. And again. And… again. Hours passed as I tired to convince Diago if we only wait one day, I could prepare a spell to make his life easier.

Fatigue must have gotten the best of him. The next morning, I cast my spell and Diago quickly made it to the far side, creating a path for all of us to follow. We suspected we may have completed “Fallen from the Sky.”

The next room contained a pedestal that opened a door when Sorob placed one of Diago’s swords on it. “Own Sword” down.

The statue of a man in a tunic and pants delayed us for awhile as we made various offerings to it. It was not until we inadvertently cast two spells on the statute that the way opened. While we thought it was Water for the Shrine or Treasure for the Man, it turned out to be “Two Blessings.”

Our next challenge we solved quickly, as three of us blew on the pile of sand in the middle of the floor. “Three winds.”

The next room showed how quickly my comrades are willing to devolve into barbarians. After messing with the bowl of water on the pedestal in the middle of the room, the four men decided to pee in it. What is with them and urine? Well, this counted as “Four Seas.”

We moved through the door to find a room with a pile of coins; a pile quickly snatched up by Percival and Oedinn. After putting the gold back, we tried adding to it to no avail. Eventually Percival decided to throw a coin into the air where, upon hitting the ceiling, it turned into water. We did this with the rest of the gold and a door opened. “Water for the Shrine.”

The door opened into a room with nothing but a big wall. Sorob showed that muscle has its use, chipping a large enough hole in the wall after hours of chopping. “Break the Mountain” we did.

The last room contained a plaque that read “The End.” What the hell? We just spent days making our way through this blasted pyramid to find nothing? Well, as we sat and pondered what our next move would be, the wall disappeared to reveal tables overflowing with treasure. The last lesson, like one of the first, must have been “Patience.”

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Entry 3 - New Company

We ran.

There was nothing else to do; by running we quickly outdistanced the creatures. Only it was not long until we came upon a second battle with more of the creatures; a battle that was quickly brought to an end by a large man and an equally imposing half-elf. The more dashing figure with a rapier introduced himself as Diago Woffoen, while the giant wielding a falchion grunted “Sorob” in response to inquiries about his name. There is safety in numbers, so we accompanied them and their cart full of cloth back to Nabon. In Nabon we convinced the pair to accompany us back to Selca to find Rick, rid the town of zombies, and get our reward. Diago seems good company, but Sorob seems strangely familiar…

Well, we learned from our past mistakes; it was best to finish the zombies off at range. Our larger group easily made it through town, where I finished off three of the creatures with my bow. With our quarrels and arrows, Percival and I made short work of the few zombies inside the courtyard. Inside, there were more zombies, including our recent companion, Boros. Boros bludgeoned Sorob unconscious before the rest of our party managed to take the creatures down.

For reasons known only to him, Percival decided to take Boros’s head as well as his possessions. We found no other zombies in the keep, but we did uncover the body of Rick Tulong; killed by a trap in the basement. In addition to massive quantities of treasure, including an old crown, and a magic amulet, mace and book, we took Rick’s head hoping that Talow would still reward us. I also gained a new longbow!

With two rotting heads, we returned to Nabon. Which leaves me to ask, what am I doing? I did not expect to become a delivery person carrying human (and no-longer-human) body parts halfway across the world. What is this teaching me? Hopefully I will figure that out. I need experience to gain wisdom, but is this the type of experience I should be having? Oh well…

Our allotted week to find Rick had long since passed by, but we chose to book passage across the Shaltpheesh Sea again. I traded my shortbow to Captain Charlie for passage and we set off.

I hate the sea.

Our third day out we spotted another ship fast approaching us from behind. We learned its attention when an archer onboard dropped one of our sailors into the sea. I returned fire, but did not drop their archer until after our ship was rammed from behind. Diago made a fantastic leap onboard the enemy vessel while Percival dropped three into a deep sleep. The enemy captain was quickly taken down, but his large, bald companion and the rest of the crew took more work. We lost several sailors to the fight.

As I was looting the fallen archer for additional arrows, I heard screams coming from the once-slumbering pirates. It seems Percival is back to his old interrogation tricks – except this time all he managed to do was kill each remaining pirate in a horrible way.

I did not have long to ponder this when Charlie started yelling that our ship was sinking. We sprung into action in an attempt to save it… well all except Diago who had run off looking for treasure on the pirate ship. Sorob and I managed to push the two boats apart as the crew bailed and attempted to patch the hole. I was ready to abandon ship and sail on the pirate vessel, when the crew managed to patch the hole.

Charlie apparently thought the spoils of our fight were his – but to avoid conflict Percival gave the Captain the pirate ship in exchange for any treasure aboard it. We disappeared into the hold to discover what our share turned out to be.

However, sounds of fighting brought us back to the deck. The formerly dead pirates and sailors had risen and were attacking Charlie and the remaining sailors. I thought we left the undead back in Selca? What was bringing them back? I needed to know.

Those questions would have to be answered later, as we once again cut our way threw the zombies. We ended the fight with even fewer crew than we started with, and we quickly chucked the bodies into the sea.

In a bout of foolishness, Pervical informed Captain Charlie we had come from Selca. Upon learning this piece of information, Charlie refused to take us any further. Pervical redeemed himself by knocking Charlie out with a burst of color, as we intimidated the rest of the crew into backing down. I helped, oh yes: I was not going to be left at sea. Luckily we only needed words to convince the rest of the crew to take us back to Ashmal in exchange for the pirate ship.

I needed to know why those bodies came back from the dead; the thought of it happening at any time greatly troubled me. In Ashmal I convinced the others to visit a priest and see if any of our prizes were cursed. Having been given the crown, I paid for its inspection. Percival called me foolish, saying it had no magic properties. However, I am not familiar with wizard magic and needed certainty. The others refused to pay to have their items similarly checked and left. We stayed overnight as a storm rolled in.

The next morning we set out for Gofeld, passing a prince on the road. Rather than head back to Mallard, Percival and Sorob went to the Golden Wares merchant. After haggling, we settled on a price of 2,600 gold for the ring; I went along with it in exchange for a promise by Pervical to get the other items identified by a priest.

A priest at the Temple of Skadi showed a great interest in the Amulet, stating it is a relic of his religion and of great value. He refused to share much of the information about it, but informed us it is a tool used to bring ruin to those who cause ruin. It was used to destroy the invaders of Selca, and was a great victory for the priest of Macab.

Sorob, however, refused to part with it for the 3,000 gold offer. Instead he heads to other temples to find more information – information no one else is able to give us. Despite Pervical and my heated attempts to get him to sell the amulet, Sorob held onto it. I fear this will be the death of us – or at least of Sorob.

Before heading to a new inn in Gofeld, we dropped Rick’s head off at Talow’s place. He gave us nothing and Pervical promised we will never do business with him again.

I am nervous about what the morning will bring; I can only hope no new undead. A city the size of Gofeld could be overrun in hours…

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It's A Miracle!

Sorob lived!

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Entry 2 - Unnatural Places

Apparently Boros, Percival and I had a similar idea; after a night of dodging through shadows and hiding from guards, we managed to meet back up in the common room of Charlie’s Tavern and Inn. While we waited for night to fall again, Percival regaled us with the tale of escaping his guard, also leading him to the western shore of the river. While less forthcoming about his motives to commit arson, we learned the night blaze was the result of the Nautical Shop where the street urchin had hid going up in flame. That man seems to thrive on chaos.

We set out as the sun set, hoping to make it across the river and out the western wall. That hope was short lived as we were forced to detour down an alley to get away from some guards on the bridge. It seems that luck was on our side, as behind the locked door at the end of the alley were some “friends” of Rick Tulong. Apparently the guy got around and had amassed a substantial gambling debt to a certain man named “Talow.” Turns out Talow was also looking for Rick, and he offered us 20% of the 500 gold debt if we brought Rick back within the week. More on that later, but that turned out to be a tall order.

Boros managed to find a use for some of his ill-begotten gains by buying a “drink” at the Dirty Skirts; a drink that came with information that Rick had set sail to Ashall on a ship called the “Swift River.” While debating whether we should pursue Rick by ship or shoe, Boros once again showed his knack for the spectacular when he tried to pickpocket a group of guards. Luckily they passed him off as a drunkard and let him go. In the end, shoe won out, as we made plans for what could have been a dangerous encounter at the city gates the following morning.

Turns out the guards could care less; we walked out of town through the East Gate without a problem. Hopefully, should we ever return, the misdeeds attributed to our little band will have been forgotten, along with our faces.

At least we were out of that cesspool of a city and back on the open road… or at least we would have if the road were not on the other side of the river. I could not leave Timeria behind, so the East Gate was our only option! Well, we had neither wagons nor horses, so what did it matter if we must do a little trailblazing?

Well, it apparently mattered. The east side of the river was patrolled by a band of brigands. It was not too long into the day when we were offered “help” by the merry band of seven from onboard their riverboat. When it comes down to fight or flight, this was a time for flight. I summoned a wall of fog to block our retreat while my brave cohorts took off (Percival at an astonishing speed). Luckily the archers’ arrows did not find our backs as we made a beeline for the forest. The lesson was learned, however, and we stayed closer to the tree line as we continued upriver and camped for the night.

It was not long into the next day when we encountered the boat from the day before pulled up to shore, seemingly abandoned. Considering the kind greeting from the day before, we felt no shame in deciding to part the brigands from their mode of transportation. Our attempt to sneak aboard the boat proved unsuccessful, as we found ourselves surrounded – three archers came running towards us from the tree line. These brigands were soon to learn you do not surround a wolf.

Boros, Percival, Timeria and I leapt aboard the boat. I called the vines and thistles of the field to entangle the archers running toward us while the three remaining bandits and the captain burst out from the cabin. Timeria bore the captain to the ground, while the archers realized their daggers were no use against our armed band. Boros finished off the prone captain, while Percival dropped two more into a deep slumber. The only other remaining bandit on the boat fell to the cuts dealt him by Boros and me.

During the commotion on the boat, one of the shore-bound bandits managed to get behind Percival, but his failed attack was quickly met with reprisal while one of my arrows found the heart of his comrade. The remaining bandit took off running, but Timeria was faster. There was no saving him by the time I caught up.

When I got back to the boat, I found one of the bandits tied up. After relieving the fallen of their possessions (the dead have no use of objects made for the living), noticing a wagon driven by a dwarf quickly pass by on the other side of the river, and setting the boat free (we are not sailors) we set about questioning the remaining man. He identified himself as Sumi and said he was only following the captain’s plan. The man was a half-wit and posed no threat alone, so I suggested we set him free.

Percival and Boros had a different plan. As I attempted to stop Percival from murdering the captive, Boros slit Sumi’s throat. I do not grieve for him, but the action was unnecessary. Best not to dwell on it.

It took another day or so but we made it to Ashmall and headed to the nearest shop to lighten our load. 200 GP richer, we bumped into the wagon-dwarf, name of Oedinn. It seems our dear employer Mallard had been making deals with other adventurers, as this fellow was also after Rick and his stolen “magic ring.” Well, that is news we pondered as we all made our way to the docks.

It turns out the Swift River docked two days ago, but Rick caught a second boat headed across lake Shaltpheesh to Nabon. It was at this point we realized there was no way we were going to get back in a week. But, that is ok. I do not want to return to that city anyway. Swift River was to depart herself for Nabon the following day, so we booked our passage. Oedinn happily parted with his donkey and wagon for passage plus a tidy 5 gp profit.

All that stood between us and our continued search for Rick was one uneventful evening. Well, it was uneventful for most of us. Boros decided he needed to acquire some herbs to craft poisons out of and headed into the night. He was not forthcoming on the details, but he found us on the ship the next morning missing all his gold and both his rapiers. Thanks to his newfound moneylender, Percival, Boros was able to re-equip himself for the rough two-day voyage that was ahead of us.

I prefer solid ground.

Still, we made it into Nabon, where Boros intimidated the captain of the Double Decker to tell us Rick headed to the Soiled Skirts – who knew there could be an even more disgusting whorehouse than the Dirty Skirts. The bartender said Rick left town and headed west, in the general direction of the ruins of Selca, so to the west we went.

We came upon the town at dusk and saw alone figure running toward a silhouetted keep. We approached slowly, but not very stealthily, as we made our way through the exterior walls and across the courtyard to the main keep.

The primal scream of pain and horror should have been our first alert to be careful. Lighting the way with magic pebbles, we drew inside the keep. The first few rooms were filled with cobwebs and in clear disrepair. We came to a decision point – either head down into the basement, or up the stairs and through the double doors at the top. The door downstairs bothered me, so I stayed in the rear. Despite, or maybe because of, the shuffling noise coming from inside, Boros kicked the door down as we are confronted with the dead eyes and rotting flesh of 15 “people.”

In a matter of moments, Boros fumbled his sword, losing it to the throng as Oedinn is bludgeoned unconscious. As I prayed to the Goddesses to stabilize Oedinn, Boros suffered the same fate. I stabilize Boros as I back away to the entrance of the keep calculating the odds of surviving these creatures who took out half our party. Percival cursed my name as he uncharacteristically attempted to drag Boros and Oedinn away from the creatures. Against my better judgment and throwing caution to the wind, I raced back calling my one healing spell for the day and grabbed at the nearest body. A creature cracks me across the back for my efforts.

Oeddin, brought back to consciousness, raced out of the keep and into the night, stopping at the gate. Feeling my injury and knowing we stand no chance against these odds, I shouted for Percival to drop Boros and run as Timeria and I ran to the door. Percival refused to drop his charge, dragging him through the gate just seconds ahead of the throng. Oeddin slammed the gate shut, but with no means of locking it, it was only time before the first hand clawed its way out the front.

I helped Percival drag Boros for a time, but as the creatures broke free and Oeddin ran screaming into the night, I knew what I had known before: we can stay in front of these creatures for a time, but we will tire and we will fall. I dropped Boros and raced away with Timeria.

Percival kept dragging Boros for a little while longer, but was, in the end, forced to drop him and preserve his remaining strength for his own escape…

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Entry 1 - a strange land with stranger company

What was Tervan thinking, sending me into this reeking cesspool of a city? Survival in the woods is easy — fresh food and water is always plentiful and close, even in lean years. Animals can be calmed, trespassers can be avoided. In Gofeld, ale is more plentiful than water, and putrid water more plentiful than not. Smells and noises overpower Timeria’s and my senses alike — horse dung, body odor, and night soil; the clamber of hooves, shouts of merchants, crying of babies. Streets follow no particular pattern, and not even moss dares grow to aid in direction. The city feels closed in… dark… it is not a feeling I like reliving. Order, chaos, good, evil — the city has all in plenty, yet everything still feels off. There is no balance here, no clues to guide how I must act. Basic necessities like shelter and food cost money, and I have little of that with what Tervan left me. Was this his plan; make me a pauper fighting to survive?

Whatever Tervan’s plan, I doubt even he predicted the company I have fallen into. With little money, I was forced to hire part of a common room at a local inn occupied by an olive skinned human, Percival, and a roguish looking man, Boros. I slept with one eye open and my scimitar close at hand.

Thankfully the nights passed uneventfully. So did my days. The sheer boredom must have driven me to accept the pair’s invitation to share a drink with them in the bar the third night.

Boros seemed a bit of a blowhard – he talked big but rarely had to back his mouth with his fists. He also had a raven-like desire for gold and plunder. And a penchant for drink. The combination must be what drove him to challenge the largest man in the bar with the biggest sword to a drinking game. The wager: the man’s greatsword for… wait, ME?? (Boros is going to have a talk with Timeria and me when the time comes.) Before I could object the drinks were slammed and, soon enough, the big man was down for the count. Boros took the man’s greatsword and gold, and then left to pawn the blade before the man woke up.

Being an unwilling part of the wager and believing this man would be rightfully pissed upon gaining consciousness, I felt it was best to take my leave as well. Percival and I followed Boros to a local blacksmith’s shop where, after a fair bit of unhelpful haggling, Boros sold the sword to Jerrie the blacksmith for an extra gold and a lead on work. Apparently a local merchant, Mallard Vernum, was looking for a bit of hired help. This was more eventful than any of my other days, so there seemed little harm in tagging along; if only I had known.

Apparently, Mallard Vernum fell victim to a burglary, losing a prized ring that had been in his family for generations to a local street-rat named the Longman (or so we thought). Mallard was offering 2000 gold as a reward for finding this ring. Having less than 2 gold, and seeing how exorbitant the fees were in this city, I, with Percival and Boros, accepted the job. I would not have thought I would be doing mercenary work. That sounds wrong. So let us just call this an adventure and us adventurers.

I guess we were all fairly new to this “adventuring” since we left Mallard without a description of either the ring or the Longman, just his most recently known location – the Dirty Skirts down near the docks.

The name fit the establishment. Still, the people inside were as helpful as we could hope for, stating our suspected “Longman” was last seen trying to peddle something down the street at the Golden Wares. Leaving the Dirty Skirts, we noticed a seedy looking man dart away from us and into a nearby alley. Convinced we just found our “Longman” we set off in pursuit while I whistled for Timeria to join me – it has been too long since we ran – the hunt was on!

That is until the man darted through a door and locked it. Damn it. The forest does not have doors. Having failed at his attempts to pick the lock, Boros used his brute strength to break open the door. Boros’s intrusion was met with a dagger hurled at his head by the sneaky man. The man’s aim was poor, but he was probably less than concerned with his three brutish looking friends barreling towards Boros. Proving his worth in battle, Boros fell the first with a flurry of his swords, only to have his head rattled by the club of the second. The club did what the drink could not, and after a pitiful attempt at retribution, Boros fell to the street unconscious.

With what took big balls, the remaining two charged towards the bristling wolf and the now spell-protected mage. It took a matter of moments for Timeria to kill the first while Percival fell the second. Perhaps a little less full of himself, the Longman disappeared inside – but one does not simply flee from a huntress. Timeria took off after the Longman while I but briefly stopped to heal Boros’s wounds before giving chase, running by a surprised shopkeeper on my way out the front door.

Perhaps it was the thrill of the chase, the feeling I was back in my woods hunting prey alongside Timeria, but I gave little thought to the appearance of an elf and a large wolf chasing after a man in the middle of the city. That was the first of several mistakes I would make today. It was not long until Timeria caught the Longman and pinned him to the ground while Boros and I caught up. Percival was mysteriously absent…

In our initial attempts to interrogate the Longman on the street (second mistake), we learned nothing of use. By this time Percival had caught up and suggested we return to the shop… that he was now in possession of a key for. Odd. The reasons became apparent upon our return, where the unconscious shop-keep lay strewn upon the floor.

It was in this instance I started learning the true nature of my companions. Boros dragged the brutes in from the alley, only to slit their throats. Survival of the fittest is a fact of nature, had these men died during our fight, it would have been the simple way of things, but, at this point, there was no need to end the lives of these fellows. Feeling a need to reevaluate the day, and knowing how little we actually knew about the Longman, I decided to return to Mallard to ask some additional questions. On this walk, it dawned on me on how conspicuous I must now seem with Timeria at my side, so I took the opportunity to lead Timeria out the city gates, instructing her to wait near the sunlit hilltop for my return.

Boros and Percival surprisingly make it back to Mallard’s before me. I did not get much out of them, but it sounds as if they were paid a visit by the guards, and the Longman may have suffered the same fate as his brutish fellows. They said no additional information was gleaned from the Longman during his interrogation… and I felt I should leave it at that.

We finally asked Mallard what the Longman looked like – it turns out his name was Rick Tulong. Ok, that was our first mistake. Rick Tulong was “not dissimilar” from the now deceased Longman – young, dirty, black hair. But what does that mean?

We decided to retire to a nearby tavern to plan our next moves. The brutes and the Longman were never searched – meaning the ring could be on them and now be under guard, or they could be completely unrelated to Rick Tulong. After Boros donned a disguise beard (an elf of many talents, although beards are not common amongst elves) and Percival and I put our hoods up, we headed to the Golden Wares. The white haired peddler provided little information of worth, and it was at this time we realized we did not even know what the ring looked like (mistake number… does it even matter anymore, mistakes were made).

It was evening by the time I, once again, headed back to Mallard. Turns out the ring was a man’s gold ring with scroll work and a big, round purplish gem in the middle. It was kept in a safe box behind his counter until it was burgalled the other night. I returned to the Dirty Skirts under the night sky where I met up with Percival and Boros… just in time for two guards to walk through the door. My heart was racing… I was not going to be captured again. I tried to play it cool and inquired at the bar about possible work at the Dirty Skirts, hoping to get a tour and find the back door, when a guard approached me and the second approached Percival.

They had our descriptions from eye-witnesses from the street chase this morning. We were to be escorted out the front to somewhere for questioning – I knew I had to comply, but was working out how to get away. Percival, the first out the door, beat me to the punch and slammed the door into my face (the bastard) in an attempt to run away. His guard was faster, however, and grabbed his cloak. I took the opportunity to run back into the Dirty Skirts to look for the back door. Boros attempted to trip the guard giving chase (he may be a brute, but he is loyal), but failed. My hurried cries to a drunk in the back to tackle my pursuer must have similarly failed as the guard was fast out the door and into the alley.

These damn streets – my hurried attempts to escape the guard led me back out in front of the Dirty Skirts, where Percival was struggling under the weight of the first guard. Thinking, “may the bastard suffocate under his weight” I took off down the street and along the docks, looking for an escape. I was outpacing the guard in his heavy metal armor, but he had a trick up his sleeve – literally a clay pot that smashed to produce a high whistle. This was presumably to call in help. Knowing I had scant time, I raced to a nearby skiff, leapt aboard, slashed the rope and began to pole myself out into the river, thankful for salvation. However, this was a clearly guard from one of the four Hells; he flung himself off the end of the dock towards my boat, missing it by only feet. I thought that was the end – surely he would drown in his armor. The hand that grasped the edge of the boat told me otherwise.

One thought came to my mind as the guards fingers parted from his hand and he slipped back into the icy river: I have felt like prey only once before in my life, I did not like the feeling, and I was not going to be put into another dark cell…

But that is the way of the world – the hunter does not always win. Neither order nor chaos is to dominate in either the natural or “civilized” world. Our existence needs good and evil; life and death. But it was not my death this night. Perhaps this was the start of Tervan’s lesson…

I do not know how or if I will meet up with Percival and Boros again, nevertheless I have the feeling I may need to. What has happened to them after we parted is a mystery. But, at the moment, I have a dark riverbank looming in front of me, a city to escape, and, strangely enough, the orange and red blaze of a fire springing to life at my back…

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#1!

Percival #1, Boros smells!

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