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Origins: Krovosos

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It’s not Khara Thel but it is my writing.

A Roadside Picnic and STALKER game inspired novel about two veteran Stalkers returning to the Zone. It follows Luka and Sasha on their trials as they try to rejoin the “Sons of Liberty” and make it big. Planned release will sell for PayPal and Bitcoin.

OriginsKrovosos_cover_draft_01

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Kiltayre: Session 21

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“In business we have a saying. Deal with a problem before it grows too large and becomes beyond your ability to fix,” Aenir said.

The group had be back-and-forth over options and tactics.

“Well, the Beaming Censer is on the way to the North Gate,” said Kalista. “We can see Lady Sipran on the way.”

“And keep our pledge to Lord Tovran,” Don’ added.

“I really must ask you to reconsider. It is quite dangerous in Stonecrest,” Brannighan’s careful voice warned.

“Thank you but we must perform this task,” Kalista responded.

“Then, seeing as you have refused my aid and counsel seven times, I am realised from by bonds to protect you. I wish you luck in finding who, or what, you pursue.” With that he left and went about his business.

They too left the library and entered the streets. It was not as cold as they expected but the sky was  strange bruised peach colour. Dark clouds, grey-purple, striped the sky. The streets were busy with foot traffic and people pulling rickshaws carrying richly robed figures.

“I expected wizards flying about the city and displays of powerful magic,” Kalista muttered.

“That would be wasteful,” Felghanis answered.

It was a dozen yards or more before they identified what was disturbing.

The Beaming Censer was close and they entered quickly. It was richly appointed with polished wood panelling and carpets from wall to wall. They felt out of place and even Aenir seemed unsure of himself. A concierge approached them with a warm smile.

“Are you seeking rooms?”

“We seek a guest here, or at least we think she’s here, Lady Sipran of Vrim.”

“Ah, yes. Please won’t you wait in the lounge whilst I pass on the message. Who shall I say seeks her audience?”

“Lord Mikhail Tovran sends us.”

The concierge bowed his head politely and departed.

Hanging on the walls of the lounge were numerous paintings. Most depicted the city under wheeling clouds that spiralled over the tall tower dominating Stonecrest’s skyline.

“What is that, you suppose?”

“A storm?”

“Who is it that seeks Lady Murelle Sipran?”

The woman’s voice was strong, commanding even, and when they turned to face her she wore a veil covering her face from below the eyes all the way down. Behind her stood a shield guardian.

“Lord Tovran sent us to find Lady Murelle,” said Don’.

They exchanged words and Varnia was bristling; even defensive. She took a fighting stance.

“Who are these people, Varnia?” An older woman’s voice approached.

“They claim that Mikhail sent them, Mother.”

“Why did he send you?” The lady asked as she entered the lounge. She seemed very old and moved slowly as if in some pain yet bore it with dignity. Varnia hovered at her left seeking to attend to her. The shield guardian was at the doorway.

“To find out why you fled the keep.”

“To save my family line,” Lady Murelle said simply. “We are the last four of the Sipran blood. The last women of the line and against the fiend that attacked our home we had no chance of victory.”

“But your a powerful spellcaster?” Don’ protetsted.

“Who told you that?” Lady Murelle was wry. “Once, I was a competent sorceress. Age has taken that away leaving me with only a few talents and my visions.”

“You did not see it coming?” Felghanis was incredulous.

“No. My visions have never been so accurate and simple. I had a recurring dream in these last months. The winter…” she waved it away.

“We seek to stop that winter from returning.”

They explained the books of Fimbulwinter and Lady Murelle did not know them. Even after Felghanis stated that Lord Kentos had left one with the family generations ago she had no idea.

“It makes sad sense, though. I saw a hand of stone and bears, a pair of them, chasing three trees that even though didn’t move were elusive. I saw winter setting in all the year round and far away an empty throne. The empty throne of Davinus.”

“Davinus? That was Kentos’ liege,” Kalista said

“Davinus, was the great-thane of Kiltayre, the first king, and ascended to become the true god of the Church and all Kiltayre.”

Felghanis, Donhallan, Kalista, Aenir, and Kellor were all stunned.

“What? Davinus is the god of the Church?”

“Yes. It was Davinus who ascended to the throne of Kiltayre and founded the Church. It is why in Vrim we do not follow the teachings of the Saint. But I must leave you now. I am so tired and so struck with grief. I take my leave.”

Varnia escorted her mother from the room and the shield guardian followed them with heavy footsteps.

“Someone is trying to become a god,” Felghanis conjectured.

“In business we have a saying. Deal with a problem before it grows too large and becomes beyond your ability to fix,” Aenir said.

Kellor nodded, “We need to stop Jonas and take back the book.”

The party flew into a torrent of speculation. Kellor and Aenir stood to one side and spoke quietly. It seemed to motivate the others and they collected their gear to head out into the streets again.

North of the Beaming Censer was the markets. A large square filled with stalls, stands, tents and carts selling goods ranging from mundane food to exotic focii, and services from basic healing to forging of magical staves.

“Maybe we can find a way to heal my arm?” Aenir said. Together with Kellor the split off to search the sellers for a cure.

“There’s the Amorrensis Trade Guild chapter house,” Donhallan pointed to a three storey narrow-house near the north gate.

Felghanis, Kalista and Don’ pushed open the doors and came into a small room with a counter. Two men were standing to one side waiting. Each was kitted out with packs and ropes as if going on an expedition. They gestured to go to the counter and made room. A man in lead-grey robes looked up as the door closed and Kalista saw the Captain from the stone ship.

“Ah, this a surprise.” The Captain said. “Have you brought me Fenris?”

Kalista’s heart skipped a beat; he remembered them.

“No. We have not but we did see him.”

Felghanis chipped in, “He’s compelled by some force, probably the lords of Elemental Water. I don’t think he’s in control of himself.”

“That may be the case and could explain a few things,” said the Captain, musing on the idea.

“How did you come to be here?” Kalista almost blurted out.

“Well, it was a bit of bad luck and good luck. After the ship was destroyed I was going to be banished from the guild. Luckily I had, well stole, the crystal you were carrying and that enabled me to purchase my station but with a transfer to this chapter house. I will miss the sea but at least I am still with the Amorrensis. I really should give you my name. Villeroy Morgane, Captain.”

“Morgane; isn’t that Fenris’ name, too?” Kalista asked.

“Yes, he is my cousin. Thankfully he takes no issue with me personally. He is a dangerous man, and luckily I can keep tabs on him through his sword. Which I knew I’d probably not be able to prevent him recovering. Maybe I should have had twice as many guards.” He sighed, “It is done now. He has it back that horrid blade of man bane. But enough of me, how can I help you? Maps, guides, travel, other services?”

“We plan to go through the Rift Weave, can you help with that?”

“There is a storm coming so at the least tie yourselves together. The guards told me that some people left recently through the gates.”

“That’s who we pursue.”

“People from the Church?” Villeroy asked. “Well they left nearly two and a half hours ago. You’ll have a hard time catching them, if indeed you even can. I could help you for a price.”

“Well, we know of a place you can get more of those crystals, possibly.”

“That seems a fair trade to me,” Captain Villeroy was excited. “There’s even a way I could perhaps help you close that gap in time. You see after some research over the last weeks I have found that with enough spell energy and will one can travel a short way through time’s passing by riding certain currents in the Rift Weave.”

Felghanis was drawing a map on a scrap of parchment. He finished it and handed it to Villeroy.

“Ah, I know this place. It makes sense that a mine may be there.”

They talked a little more and it was decided. Villeroy would help them cross back to when the Scours left in exchange for that map of the Deep Earth Crystal mine at the Hand of Gulresh.

“My arm!” The door flew open and Aenir burst in with Kellor beaming a huge smile behind him.

“It’s healed.” He flexed his hand a few times. “I think it’s even stronger than it used to be. Kellor, let’s test it.”

They gripped hands and tried to crush each others palm.

“Aye, I think it is stronger,” Kellor nodded.

With a renewed Aenir they left Stonecrest to be met with a roaring wind. The Rift Weave was ahead of them. A swirling mirage-like scene of wavering landscapes covered in snow and backed by tall mountains. The storm was closer and the Rift Weave seemed almost alive. Parts of it seemed to reach and grasp. They tied themselves together and approached.

“You may see some things in the Rift Weave that appear as visions. Pay them no mind. It’s some time of time leak. In the storms they are more active and will be quite visible. Head forwards,” Captain Villeroy said loudly to be heard.

They walked forward, a bit stumbling because of the rope at first, and entered the Rift Weave. Creatures or spirits started swirling around them pulling at their clothes and brushing their cheeks.

“Pay them no mind, they’ll leave soon …”

But Felghanis bristled at the attention. He surged with negative energy and the things harrying the others surged away to congregate on Fel’.

“Don’t do that. They feed on that energy. You’ll have them all trying to drain you,” Villeroy warned.

Felghanis ceased instantly and then there was a pull on the rope. The landscape swirled and darkened. He saw a flare of purple lightning and a tear of blackness. Beyond his Uncle seemed to be sitting at his desk.

“Uncle?”

The dread necromancer unlocked and opened a drawer, retrieved a large crystal ball and began peering into it.

“Uncle?” Felghanis asked again.

“Felghanis? What… what are you doing?”

“What is your plan, Uncle? What are you doing?”

“I…” Fel’s uncle seemed to be struggling against some force. “I won’t tell…”

Faint traces of purple electricity ran from the orb up Uncle’s arms.

“Tell me!” Felghanis pushed.

Like he was straining against it physically, a compulsion of the mind, Fel’s uncle suddenly seemed to wilt. “I… I will seize the bell and with it raise an army. Then, then, I will take the throne for myself!”

With a mewling scream Uncle fell forward.

Kalista was in silence. The Rift Weave seemed to have gone quiet. A curved wall seemed to loom into view. There was the sound of battle and fallen bloodied men lay about. It was the Iron Tower’s library where the Scours were killed by the steel dog. Jonas and another man fought the construct and suddenly Fenris seized the other man driving a dagger between his ribs from behind.

Jonas pushed them both away and felled the steel dog with a might blow from his war axe. Fenris scrambled to his feet and Jonas seemed to simply no longer be there. The Scour had seized the book of Fimbulwinter and moved through a door. He pushed it closed as Fenris rushed him with a wicked looking arming sword. Try as he might Fenris couldn’t get through the door.

It was suddenly dark. Kalista could see a figure kneeling in prayer before an old altar. Suddenly a second figure was standing there. The scene lightened and Kalista recognised the chapel at Vrim. Jonas stood and turned to Mellevictus and they seemed to be talking but she could not hear any of their words.

They were standing before Goran. This time she could hear.

“You will go to the inn and ransack the necromancer’s room. Then place his rapier under the girl’s bed.”

Kalista could see Felghanis’ old rapier in Goran’s hand as the Scour went out into the snow.

A swirl of deep purple like the worst type of contusion. Jonas and all the Scours save Goran were standing at the narrow path to the Sipran Keep. He drew out the Iron Flask.

Mellevictus protested, “You can’t do this.”

Jonas said some arcane phrases and threw the flask down. The demon appeared in a haze of rust streaked smoke and surged up the path with its terrible blade held high.

Twisting, a wrenching sensation, in her perception and Kalista saw Goran in a cell. Jonas approached and seized the door. The Scour, the werebear mentor of Thiridea, ripped the door from its hinges, iron bending like clay. Jonas seized the cowering Goran by the collar and threw him through the portal to the waiting demon. It cut Goran down in two swings and that was just enough time for Jonas to step through and cast the Dismissal which sent it back to the Pale of War.

“They’re evil. So evil and cruel. The Church is lost,” Kalista thought.

Like a ship heaving beneath them they suddenly found themselves in a cold biting wind. Ahead of them the Scours were gathered around Jonas.

“Quick, hand me the book,” Jonas says to Mellevictus.

Thiridea reacts first. “Enemies!”

Before anyone can respond she hurt Felghanis, some telekinetic effect launched him with enough force to nearly knock over the dwarves crushing him in the rope, and advanced with her poleaxe.

Felghanis cried out, “I claim sanctuary in the Saint’s name.”

“Necromancers have no protection from the Church,” Thiridea yelled back.

“Wait!” Jonas commanded. “I would hear what he as to say.”

“My uncle plans to steal the throne using the Bell of Thullemon.”

“You know where the bell is?”

“I think so. In the Iron Tower, the crystal in its base.”

Jonas nods and then, annoyed, pulls Thiridea back. “Get back here.”

Felghanis pushed, “My Uncle wishes to overthrow Davinus.”

“Has he retrieved the bell already?”

“No I don’t…” That was as far as Felghanis got with his response.

Jonas cast a spell. Fire and divine force smashed down on the party. Felghanis, Kalista and Aenir fell to the ground. Then Thiridea leapt to the attack. With Willem’s long spear and Frellan’s Spiritual Weapon to support her she finished them quickly.

“Finish them…” Jonas commanded but he was struck by a powerful blow of ice.

A figure had risen out of the ice to attack. Thiridea lead the charge.

Guards, the lizardmen, came out of the Rift Weave.

“Ah, there. The fire of gods led us here. See… it is as the old one said.”

They gathered up the party and bound their wounds.

“We take them to Villeroy. He might help.”

“And he close,” added another.

In the trade guild Kalista was woken first.

“This is a surprise. I didn’t expect to see you again. Have you found Fenris?”

“No… didn’t we already have this conversation?” Kalista strained against her disorientation.

“I haven’t seen you since you left me at Plateau Point…” Captain Villeroy trailed off. “The guards said they found you outside the Rift Weave. Had you just left Stonecrest, by any chance?”

Kalista nodded sadly. They had come back before they left and this Captain Villeroy had indeed never met them since Plateau Point.

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Kiltayre: Session 20 review, part 1

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Smoke the colour of lampblack billowed and disappeared leaving the huge form of an Ogre’s corpse, but it stood, and began brandishing a great club of knotted wood. This it swung at the sword demon but the fiend was too fast for Felghanis’ summoned help.

Suddenly the demon seemed to swell with prowess and it swung that terrible smokey-steel blade into the side of Kalista’s head. She fell and before her body hit the ground the fiend had back-stroked Felghanis. Kellor was raising his axe against what was a feint and with a snapping hiss Aenir’s arm was severed to fall across Kalista’s legs with Aenir collapsing in a heap. Kellor bellowed and the blade of the demon slid under Kellor’s guard, puncturing the gorget, sending the doughty dwarf back against the wall.

Don’ fought desperately to try and drag them away. The ogre zombie swung at the demon and connected well enough that it caused some cracking of ribs. It wasn’t enough. With a well-timed slash Donhallan fell face-down clutching the back of his head.

While the leaping-fire, the energy of life from the Fey, repaired Don’s tissues, the sword demon duelled the ogre zombie. It was brute power versus infernal competence and the zombie lost in short order. Somewhere deeper within the fiend heard a door slam and it lumbered forwards cursing in its horrid language; unused to the sensation of fatigue.

Don’ flickered his eyes open and struggled to his feet. He was so tired. Fionnghal was lost. The poor hound’s ribs were split open and the shepherd boy turned away. Aenir’s arm was still pumping blood and he quickly used the Hyloka to stop the flow. Everyone else looked likee they could be saved and Don’ did so with the remaining oils in Kalista’s possession.

“This keep was almost our death,” Kalista said after she regained her senses. “We are leaving.”

They gathered their wits and what mettle they had left.

“What has the Saint-damned church done?” Felghanis exclaimed.

Entering the great hall and the carnage laid about they were all numb with shock. Somehow they struggled down the stairs and then heard a voice.

“Jonas said it might be waiting for us.”

“It is I, Kalista. Who goes there?”

A helmeted head peeked in the doorway. They heard a voice, male, say, “It’s those villagers from the Crypt.”

“Come back. Leave the keep.” Another gruff voice ordered.

The rattle of armor quickly vanished and the group from Felk Bay struggled into the courtyard.

“I want to check these stables,” Felghanis said limping to the closed doors.

Inside was the wagon in what Goran was transported to the Sipran Keep and a few twitchy horses that flared their nostrils at necromancer.

The snowstorm had not let up. Thunder still shook them and it was dark as night. Descending the path from the Keep they saw five figures arrayed in church colors. Each held a weapon at the ready.

“What has happened to you?” A broad gruff man called out. It could only be Jonas since he wore the crest of Ursa Bellor.

“A demon attacked the keep. We tried to fight it off but failed.” It was Kalista who answered.

Jonas said resolutely, “Then we must pursue it. Move aside.”

They complied and the Scours hustled past. Thiridea glowered at them all. In her hands she held her poleaxe. Somehow recovered, or purchased, from Cyne.

“Glad to see the back of them.”

At the Whalers’ they were almost leapt upon with concerned people. Their story made faces blanch but Daldra Urdron was inciting a group to get up to the keep and burn it to the ground.

Felghanis countered well, “Lord Tovran would not be happy about that.”

“Let’s ask him,” Daldra said and led three others to find out.

Exhausted, shocked, and fighting tears from coming so close to death they each retreated. Don’ slept, Kalista rested and meditated, Felghanis kept his counsel to one side. They took meals and slept early then rising late assembled in the common room.

Over breakfast they said little.

“I have something to tell you…”

The door flung open and everyone looked. A young guard in the Tovran colours approached their table, eyes focusing on Felghanis.

“Ghanis? Lord Tovran seeks your presence and that of your companions at the Sipran keep. He wants your counsel on a matter.”

Interrupted they left for the keep with Kalista setting aside her words for a more appropriate time.

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Kiltayre: Session 11 review

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Felghanis healed well and in combination with the rest of Kallista’s reserves he was fully recovered in the morning. The phylactery had worked and it renewed hope in the Felk Bay people. Still, the Iron Tower beckoned and the dwarves did not want to leave without fully exploring the structure. They assembled and once again pressed into the rust-streaked tower.

Back in the room with the tall amethyst crystal, the site of Felghanis’ fall to the lightning bolt, Kallista attempted to disable the trap. She tried to Dispel Magic, but on both counts she failed to break the inherent resistance of the node. Unwilling to risk the lightning bolt they went back up.

The double trap doors revealed a large cellar come stoe-room. It was mostly full of junk but a small fireplace held scraps of bloodied bandages. Searching around the fireplace it became apparent to Don’ that one person had camped there, judging by the disturbance in the dust. The rest of the cellar held junk: scraps of timber, iron, masonry and chain. Most of it was unusable save for the larger pieces of iron and the chains.

Being more thorough than last time they carefully searched each level. There were a few odds and ends in the detritus that could be sold for a handful of coppers or maybe a silver or two but no-one wanted to bother with that kind of thing. All that remained was everything above them at that point.

Aenir belly crawled up to the door way and peaked in at the things. They were still there and behind them he saw the racks of weapons, bundles of arrows, and an armor stand far to the right. Suddenly the things were moving towards him he almost leapt back from the doorway.

“It saw me,” he said as he rushed back.

They made a quick plan and Felghanis tried to take control with Command Undead. Unfortunately the thing was too strong. Aenir threw his flask and oily slick gel covered the area the things were standing in. One fell over with a thud that was far too light to be a stone sarcophagus. The other seemed to retain its balance easily. A crocodile appeared, care of Kallista’s Summon Nature’s Ally II and began to attack the clawed sarcophagus things. They fought back and soon the crocodile was barely alive, pierced with the lashing claws. Kellor dashed past, focusing on defense, and from range managed to hit one with a flask of alchemist’s fire. It burned but did little to break the undead’s body. Fel was unsure what to do next. His Command spell was failing over and over and there was little else he could affect undead with in his arsenal. To melee them would be suicide for the young necromancer. Another summoned creature appeared to fight alongside the crocodile. This time a wolf. They fought but the creatures were too strong. Kallista sealed the doorway to clawed sarcophagi with a Shape Stone spell, enough stone to fill the doorway almost a foot thick, and that allowed them to get past.

Up through the tower they went. The next level was a series of small lodging rooms. One of which was recently used as a camp for 5 people, according to Don’. They found no sign of injury in the remnants and pushed on. Above was once luxurious lodgings with painted wood panelling and servants quarters. It was faded now and the furniture had mostly frayed and warped to be almost useless. It was different to the levels below. The walls were interspersed with tall narrow windows that were glassed in. There was little of note here, though, so they went up to the next level.

At first glance it was once a large library, the shelves now empty and damaged, but the three bodies, tabards bearing the mark of the Church of St. Fergus covered fin mail, in pools of congealed blood showed a battle had ended here. They carefully entered with Kellor at the head holding his large shield at the ready. No foes were nearby. Relaxing a little they spread out and Kallista found a fourth body. It lay before a broken steel dog, like the one that was still trapped in the clay far below.

“Unlike the others his neck was broken from behind, most likely, and this dagger wound shows he was stabbed for good measure,” she said to the others.

“A competent ambusher,” Aenir grumbled, now wary.

On the walls, around the whole storey, was a frieze depicting many scenes of a man carrying a long spear and five shoulder men bearing large kite shields.

“This tells a tale,” Felghanis said looking at it like it was a puzzle to be solved.

Around the other side of the central column a magic circle was marked on the floor and in it a bookstand of stone, no longer held a book.

“It holds no magic other than abjuration,” Fel’ relayed.

An arch led to another stair, this time ending at a cold-iron door. Much like the one far below; now concealed under the stables. However, this was not locked and it opened on to the battlements at the top of the tower. Wind buffeted them and the dark grey sky seemed to reflect the distant sounds of crashing waves some 150 feet below. Each of the gaps in the battlements was very tall, at least 12 feet, and rather wide even for the largest of men. Glancing back at the door they realized it was set in a very large dais, stairs to either side leading up. On the dais stood two large statues, some eight feet tall, made of steel and wood that seemed posed as if guarding an empty bell mount.

“Shield guardians,” Felghanis whispered. “Very dangerous constructs.”

“Are they active?” Kallista asked, suddenly wary.

“Almost certainly,” Fel’ answered in hushed voice.

They adhered to the better part of valor and returned to the library where Felghanis and Kallista attempted to decipher the frieze. It took them at least an hour and it was mostly Fel’ who figured it out.

“Ah, this is the tale of Kentos, the giant-slayer,” Fel started. “He fought the Hrimpursar to retrieve three books of Fimbulwinter. Each book was one third of the ritual that the frost titans had used to make Kiltayre to their liking. Kentos retrieved the last in a battle with a Hrimpursar elder, but fell in battle. His five shouldermen raised a barrow on the site and interred him within. The other book was kept here. This was the tower of Davinus and Kentos was his vassal. It doesn’t say where the third book is.”

The party looked on quietly. So much had fallen in to place.

Kallista faced the dwarves, “Aenir, Kellor. You have been honorable allies and we’ve not told you something important.”

They were quite, listening patiently.

“Before we were gaoled by the church we were on a quest to find what was making the winter’s longer, and stop it.”

The dwarves broke into wide smiles.

“I’ve not been on a quest for sixty years! It will be great to be alongside you.” Kellor said.

“Aye, it’ll be like fighting the goblins all those year ago. When Dwarf Town was at its lowest and the greenskins attacked. They were some battles.” Aenir reflected on glory days.

“We’d be honored to join you in this quest. The winters have indeed been getting longer and harsher.”

Kallista shook hands with them, in the dwarven way, and they both beamed at the gesture.

Good will was all around when Don’ brought them back to reality. “We should search these bodies and find more food while the sun’s up. There’s bound to be more fish out there.”

The bodies were well equipped. Fine chainmail, masterwork weapons, and an enchanted footman’s mace.

Kellor examined it and his eyes widened, “This is metalline. It can mimic the properties of silver, adamantine, and cold-iron. A very useful weapon. With this we could defeat those things in the armory.”

“If we can isolate one of those things we can take out the other one.”

“When I open the doorway again I can make a small wall for cover.”

“If I can just bend their will then one of them can be forced to fight on our side,” Felghanis’ frustration at his previous attempts leaked through.

“It’s worth trying,” Kallista said.

The discussion went back and forth and finally their plan was agreed.

Everyone readied themselves at the sealed doorway and waited for Kallista’s cue. She worked the clay and her magic and the doorway surged into the room making a low wall.

Don charged in and landed a heavy blow on the first clawed sarcophagus. The mace was fully effective. Kellor followed suit and his axe bit into the thing.

Felghanis reached out for the thing’s will and sought to seize it. With a cry of victory he had it solidly bound to his commands.

The battle raged. Aenir’s tanglefoot bag failed to glue the other clawed sarcophagus to the spot but it slowed the thing down greatly. The sarcophagus was some kind of image projected over the thing, concealing its true visage.

Kallista summoned a dire wolf and it proved very effective, tripping the uncontrolled undead allowing everyone a solid blow whilst it was down. And then it was destroyed.

“We can’t have this thing following us around, Fel,” Don said gesturing at the controlled clawed sarcophagus. “Make it stand over there. We’ll destroy it.”

Fel grumbled, “It aids our party. Look how strong it is.”

“It’s abomination!” Don’ yelled. “Just do it, now.”

Fel complied, however much he cursed to himself.

They arranged themselves and simultaneously attacked the thing knowing it would immediately defend itself. Kallista’s summoned dire wolf seemed to be its main target and it turned on the summoned creature almost felling it right there. Kallista healed the dire wolf. Aenir struck the thing and tumbled out of reach. Kellor’s axe bit deeply and Don’ seemed to lose his mettle, missing entirely.

The dire wolf, suddenly ducked in a snapped the undead’s leg off, dragging it to the ground in a rattle of bones. Within a few heartbeats the sarcophagus image decayed away leaving a horrid form of a boneclaw.

“What a strange thing to do,” Felghanis said. “Cloak them in that illusion. For what?”

None had an answer for him.

Aenir had drifted over to explore the rest of the armory. A case had held a dagger but it was recently removed. The dust on the glass only disturbed a few days past.

Felghanis came back to the present and helped pick out the items that were enchanted. There were a few. A chain shirt, breastplate, light shield, longsword and shortbow.

The longsword’s scabbard bore decorative motifs of thunder and some runes were etched on the hilt. The shortbow was runed, too, with marks of lightning.

“Seems this is worth a lot more than that old door,” Felghanis said with a cynical smile.

They set about gathering food with what was left of the sunlight. Fishing was slim but they caught enough for a few more days. That night they lodged in the same room as the Scours from the Church of St. Fergus had some days before. They closed the stout door and saw a circle of protection had been etched. Its magic had been gone for days but it helped reassure them that this was the best place to stay.

“Five fingers of stone,” Kallista said.

“That was the Hand of Gulresh,” Fel answered. “We found that.”

“What about five swords of bone?” Kallista asked.

“Wait…” Fel went into his memory. “I saw something about that upstairs.”

They gathered and went up with torches. Fel pawed over the frieze until he found the panel.

“Here. The five shouldermen of Kentos were rewarded with swords crafted by their lord. That’s Kentos. They were made of the thighbones of Hrimpursar and enchanted in hardness, rewarded to his shouldermen for their loyalty and fearlessness in battle.”

 

With the small coal fire burning a warm red-orange Don’s thoughts drifted to Fionnghal.

“Two-legs shared food. Travel with two-legs. See tower. You at tower?”

“Yes and we’ll be here for you tomorrow, boy. Take care.”

Don’ fell asleep thinking of finally being united again with his faithful companion.

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Kiltayre Session 10: review

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Retreating, nursing wounds, to the stables the party rested and girded their courage for another entry into the tower. They were lying about, waiting for the sun to rise enough to give light.

Alassiel was restless, most unusual, and gabbling softly to herself. She escalated in energy when she saw the party watching her with caution at this uncharacteristic behaviour.

“This, all of this,” she gestured. “It doesn’t matter any more, because I don’t need matter. I am beyond it.”

In her mind she had linked psionic ways of escalating her power. Based on all the fear and repressed emotional energy of a short lifetime wary of other’s distrust and fear of her powers. She’d pieced channels for that energy to massively amplify her powers and with those channels she had found how to transcend matter.

“All of this, all the fear and distrust I leave behind.”

Stepping forward Alassiel began to glow and in a simple soundless step faded away in a brief silver suffusion – the psi-crystal popping after her in a trail of light silver motes.

Kallista spoke first, “Did you see that? Please tell me everyone saw that.”

Aenir and Kellor could say little. They were too surprised. Don had little to add.

It was Felghanis who managed to say much at all. “Wish I could leave this place so easily.”

They talked for an hour about what it was and what it might mean but the puzzlement left them somewhat dumbfounded. Since there was nothing they could do about it they turned to the Iron Tower.

“At least we could get some loot for being out here in this wilderness,” Aenir said.

“We should go back in, I agree, and head down. Making sure we have a clear line of escape,” Don put forward.

Don had his own concerns. Fionnghal was still missing since they had been gaoled. He reached out to the Fey-touched hound, their mystic-link allowing communication at any distance, and felt Fionnghal’s responses. “Hungry. Cold. There’s a two-legs. Keep seeing him. Catches me at night. Smells like has food. Want food. Try get food from two-legs.” Don was worried but Fionnghal had to eat. He did his best to dismiss the concern. There was nothing he could do to change the situations.

The group entered the tower and headed down the central stairs. They found a cold damp cellar with that was constructed off of a natural cavern that led to the sea. A rough hewn quay was fashioned with stone mooring posts. Under the clear cold waters the rotting ribs of old longboats sat starkly against the mud.

What stood out most, was a bare iron door.

“That’s cold iron,” Kellor stated.

“We could feed our whole town with what coin that door’s worth,” Don exclaimed.

He started to try and pry it apart at the hinges. It was going to be very hard work that would take a long time.

“I have a spell that could help. I can shape the stone, perhaps loosen the door.”

“If you can loosen it here, here and here, we can pull the whole door free with its hinges,” Kellor explained, gesturing.

Kallista began her casting and poured some of her extra mana into the spell. As she worked the reagent of clay there was a sudden push back. The aura of the door turned her spell aside without any effects at all.

“What happened? Why’d nothing happen?”

“Cold iron. It turns a lot of magic. Why it’s so valuable.”

“I can make one more attempt today,” Kallista said and prepared again. This time she worked at making the spell more penetrative and its energies proved unresistable.

Don’ and the dwarves seized the door and dragged it free of its mounting, hinges and all, to lean it against the rough stone.

“We need a piton or something. If this thing falls it’ll take off someone’s foot,” Kellor said with raised urgent tones.

The door was secured and the party began exploring the passage beyond; Don’ in the lead.

Small niches dotted the base of the wall, where it met the floor, and in each was a small rune.

Felghanis studied them, “Some kind of divination… and more. A conjuration effect.”

“So a watching spell and a summon spell,” Kallista guessed.

With his shovel Don’ covered them all with detritus from the cellar part of this area. “Shouldn’t be able to see anything now,” he said proudly.

They progressed to a small round room dimly lit with faint violet light that issued from a passage to their right. As they faced the light source a gasp escaped Fel and Kallista. A column of what looked like amethyst rose up, at the end of the passage some thirty feet along, at least seven feet. It was clearly some kind of immense deep earth crystal. Even almost empty it held more mana than they could likely utilize in a day.

“Quiet! I heard something,” Kallista broke the staring pause.

Like a fork dragged on stone the sound came again and they rushed to meet it, weapons ready.

A dog-shape, but of sooty coloured steel, sprinted around the corner and attacked Don. Its momentum was great and it mis-timed the strike. Combat ensued and Aenir lobbed a flask at it only to overpower his throw and have the small glass vessel plop harmlessly into the water of the quay.

Kallista tried to summon a dire wolf to attack but she couldn’t see the dog-thing to place her spell. It appeared in the small round room, snarling, and growling to join the fray.

Felghanis could barely keep his eyes off the amethyst column and kept glancing back at the curved passage where the sounds of combat issued forth.

Don’ pushed to force the dog-thing back but it was too strong. Kellor tried the same thing and forced it back so that it was on the quay. In a few more heartbeats Kellor had taken a vicious claw to his leg but the doughty dwarf bull rushed it back into the water where the dog-thing sunk immediately to the bottom. It seemed unperturbed at its submergence and began trying to scale the slimy wall of the quay.

Aenir called out, “Can you get my flask?” Pointing down into the water at his little bottle.

Kallista was able to use a mage hand spell to lift it out and get it back to Aenir.

“Oh my god!” Fel exclaimed from far down the passage to the crystal. Then there was a thunderclap as lightning erupted.

At Kallista’s behest Aenir rushed to retrieve Fel and bring him back for aid.

“He’s down and not breathing. Looks like he’s been boiled and roasted at the same time.” The horror at Fel’s injuries was apparent in Aenir’s voice. “I’m not getting him! The trap might still be active.”

Each time it surfaced the forced it back into the water with spears or shield. Kallista summoned a large shark but it failed to damage the steel dog. The construct began defending itself with frightful results for the shark – that now seemed soft and vulnerable. Before long the shark was slain with its belly laid open. It vanished back to where it came from.

Don’ retrieved a small anvil from the cellar and returned hefting its weight. The group worked together so Don’ could make the shot and as the steel dog broke the surface of the water again he slammed the anvil down. The steel dog was forced off its climb and sunk immediately, but it rolled out from under the anvil as it fell down in the water. Again it started climbing.

“This thing is going to keep coming!” Kellor cried.

It suddenly dawned on Kallista that roughly half the quay wall was natural stone. She could effect it with a stone-to-clay spell.

The steel dog broke the surface again before Kallista was ready to cast and again Don’ and Kellor forced it off the quay’s wall. It sunk, hit the bottom, and then Kallista’s spell took effect. Great clumps of clay sloughed out into the water burying the steel dog under hundreds and hundreds of pounds of thick clay.

“That ought to hold it for months,” Don’ said.

The quay groaned and cracked.

“This isn’t stable,” Kellor yelled. “We have to get off this dock.”

“We can’t leave Felghanis!” Kallista protested.

“We’ll get him,” Don reassured.

Kallista ran to safe ground and Aenir braved the passage as Kellor ran to his aid.

The trap was active and it loosed a horrifying bolt of electricity that some how Aenir anticipated. He flattened against the wall and the arc grounded harmlessly into the stone.

When Fel was laid at Kallista’s feet the dwarves and Don’ looked on. She began to stitch him closed but it was plain that was not enough.

“Here, girl. This will help,” Kellor said, handing over a flask of gold oil.

The oil was a curing preparation and Kallista carefully applied it to the worst of Fel’s wounds. A bright sudden flare at Fel’s neck drew everyone’s attention to the phylactery there. It turned grey before their eyes then fell to black ash. A shallow breath raised Felghanis’ ribs.

“He lives,” Kallista was so relieved small tears welled up.

Once again they retreated to the stables but it was only Kallista and Felghanis who stayed. Don’, Aenir and Kellor retrieved the heavy cold iron door.

“Now what do we do with it?” Aenir asked, puffing.

They discussed it at length but it seemed the most practical thing was to hide it and collect it later with a chartered vessel once the spring thaw was done.

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Four against One equals a fair fight

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It suddenly dawned on slow-old me that the meta-game premise for d20 in general is that four CRx vs. 1 CRx is a fair fight (for the four). Why? They will almost certainly win, barring terrible luck synchronising with the one’s bad luck, and lose very little resources. As soon as  you look at it the other way, say the PCs are the monsters and the NPCs the heroes, it becomes quite bizarre and truly gamist.

 

The assumption that many d20 players make is that all their encounters will be within the CR guidelines as presented in the DMG. This automatically prevents sandbox play if the GM adheres to that formula. If party of 4 level 1 characters goes deliberately hunting the great-dragon-sitting-on-treasure-mountain then the CR of the dragon has to be CR5 or less. What that does to the internal-causality of the world is nothing less than defenestrating.

 

Sure it’s preference and all that but basic logic shows it to be nothing more than an insurance policy against player death. If that’s the meta-game you want when you play why bother with rules of conflict at all, since ultimately the player has to win?

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Kiltayre Campaign: Session 9

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Travelling with the dwarves was easy. They were both friendly and straight-forward dwarves of principles. It was those principles that made them stand against taxation by the Church, and that led to their arrest. Kellor and Aenir ran a small crafting concern, Kellor making items and Aenir mostly selling them. Both were well able to assist the group’s survival requirements.

Food was thinning after some foul weather. The party made some good time whilst on the flat ring-like ledge which seemed to circumscribe Plateau Point. When they came down of the raised land they were faced with thick old fir forest and a pebble beach that stretched to the horizon.

In the afternoon, many days after leaving the stone ship wreckage & Captain Morgaine’s camp, Dom and Kalista spotted an ogre with its back to them, sitting against a thick fir tree.

The party went silent and Aenir whispered, “I can sneak up and check if it’s alive.”

Dom replied, his Fey sight granting him a brief few seconds of incredible detail, “No need. It’s dead. There is no clouding of breath and I can see ice over its skin.”

The party closed and saw the ogre had bled out on the spot. Some fresh snow not enough to cover the deep red stains. Yet it was the missing leg that disturbed the most. Some creature had removed it, likely for food, and then departed.

It was the next day, when they were faced with a broad river that had not iced over, that they heard a creature.

“Some kind of ape predator. I’ve not thought they could be in this part of the world. They’re meant to only be on foreign shores.” Dom was concerned. He knew they were powerful and fast.

The concern was justified even though they did not see the predator. Traipsing a few miles inland they found the river iced up enough to cross safely.

On the pebble beach they saw signs of a one-man camp. Was it Fenris?

They couldn’t be sure.

“I think it’s 50/50 that it was Fenris,” Kallista pronounced.

That night a pair of emaciated ogres attacked them as they prepared their campsite. The hairy giants were little match for the combined might of the party. Aenir’s speed and dwarven combat training turned out to be the hammer against the anvil of Felghanis’ blindness curses. His powers had grown. The ogres had little salvageable gear but the large snares drew Dom’s appreciation.

It was a few more days later that they found sign of a large camp. Maybe 6 people arrayed around a fire.

“Has Fenris found allies?” Dom thought aloud.

“There’s not enough evidence,” Felghanis put forward.

It was towards the end of that day the Iron Tower came into few. A rust streaked needle in the distance, sprouting from the top of a high butte of rock that protruded into the waters.

The shore turned rocky and they travelled in heath and frozen marsh. Then they heard seals on the rocks below. With the aid of a summoned shark they managed to secure a young seal. 35lbs of meat ought to last a few weeks.

Felghanis said, “I can help preserve it. At least for four days before I need to cast again.”

As the closed with the Iron Tower its shape became more apparent. There was a large gallery around the base, above the entrance stair, that likely was for defensive counter-attack. Full of murder holes and the like. Before the tower’s base a stable had been erected.

The climb to the tower was up a series of carved steps. They were far apart to ease the ascent for horses and once at the top the party investigated the stables. Its roof was covered in iron tiles and it was well weathered but serviceable. Inside they found the remains of a camp and a few travelling packs. Rifling those quickly they found the Canon of St. Fergus, oil, and coal. They hadn’t been there long because the damp had not seeped into the material.

“They may be inside and needing aid,” Kallista was concerned. Even if they were part of the Church that wrongly charged them, they still deserved aid.

“Why help people who will make our lives harder?” Felghanis muttered. Clearly he had no inclination to aid anyone from the Church of St. Fergus ever again.

“It is the right thing to do,” Kallista protested. “And they will likely know nothing of us and Dwarf Town.”

Dom was in agreement and Alassiel piped up.

“If we’re going in the tower my psi-crystal will scout ahead. Like at the Hand of Gulresh.”

It was agreed and the crystal scuttled into the tower at a rapid pace.

Inside there was a kind of staging room. Or a holding area. Easily defended with further access to the tower on the opposite side of the entrance. Some debris and potshards indicated nothing but age and abandonment. Stairs led up and to the level with the gallery and its further defences. A combination of reception areas and the archers’ galleries filled out that level.

It was on the next level the psi-crystal found some movement. Two large figures approached it, as if sensing its life-force, and Alassiel pulled it quickly back. Unwilling to risk it against the unknown entities.

“Well, let’s go in, then.”
It was as the crystal had reported. When the reached the landing above the gallery they saw what the psi-crystal had retreated from. Two walking sarcophagi. It was so unnatural. What was worse, bony arms with large sabre claws lashed out and struck Dom with two severe blows. Wounding him badly. The dwarves rushed to drag Dom to safety.

Felghanis could sense they were some kind of undead. He surged up the stairs and sought to command them in the fashion he was taught by his Uncle. They were too strong and too resistant to the energies involved. As if in reaction to his following spell the things lashed Felghanis and he fainted from the shock.

“Retreat, retreat!” they yelled.

“I have to get Fel,” Dom called. He channelled his Fey energy and greatly enhanced his speed. Running past the open arch that the things were attacking through he managed to evade their cleaving claws and retrieve Fel. Back on his feet, Fel recovered his breath.

“What are those things?”

“We’ll regroup in the stables and think of our next move,” Dom answered.

There was no further discussion.

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Kiltayre Session 8: review

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The game session went well. Full-house of players at the table and air-con to stave off the heat of a 37C degree day (99F for our imperial friends).

 

Play started out with the players incarcerated. Alassiel retrieved her psi-crystal. It’s fine size allowing it to make an unseen path to its mistress. She spent her time in the cell deciphering the memorized script of Felghanis’ Uncle’s journal.

 

Kallista, poor Kallista, was suffering the most. She cried and screamed for a priest. The gaoler asked it if was for a confession of her crimes. Kallista agreed to confess to trespass on the church’s road. The meeting didn’t come for hours.

 

Felghanis went for the top. “I need to speak to the Prelate.”

Eventually, some 6 hours later, the Prelate met with Felghanis.

 

Both meetings were between somewhat desperate prisoners and skilled diplomats. Each time the priest or the Prelate was well-used to dealing with such a situation. The prisoners were sent back. In Kallista’s case with a bucketful of guilt.

 

They persisted for a time until the lack of water began to take its toll. When they finally were given water Kallista attempted to create more but without her focuses and spellbook she failed the spell; drenching herself and her bedclothes. She passed out after less than an hour from the cold.

 

It was at this time, nearly 48 hours after being incarcerated, that they were moved by cart to a huge stone ship that sat berthed on the river of Dwarf Town. It had no sails and the populace seemed unwilling to come any closer than the shore to see it, or they ignored it. In the hold was like being in a cave. Time passed. They were fed, watered, and witnessed a fight over food. Callan, a murderer, pulled the eye from the prisoner who stole his bread, adding another soul to his victims.

 

Fenris was another prisoner, a self-confessed traitor, and three brothers; Tomasso, Dean and the eldest, as well as two dwarves, were there for tax-evasion. In chains they travelled in the belly of this stone ship. Alassiel shared that it was known generally as demon stone ships, and the church really ought not to be trucking with the likes who might have one.

 

After a lost amount of time, Kallista awoke to see Fenris apparently meditating. She heard the mutterings and recognised some words of summoning. It appeared he was calling in a pact, that had elements of summoning in its request. Alassiel awoke and drew the same conclusion. It was Felghanis who attempted to intervene (with his Charnel Touch channelled through his foot). Yet bad luck prevented Fel from managing to reach Fenris. Kallista was first to notice that the traitor had slipped his manacles.

 

Things began moving very quickly. Something smashed the ship and it wailed. Fenris started bending the bars, just enough to get his head out, and Fel called for the guards before he could escape. Like a wolf he lunged out and punched Fel nearly knocking the young necromancer unconscious. Dom quickly placated Fenris with promises to keep Fel quiet.

“Good. I don’t want you to drown,” Fenris’ reply was frightening.

“What’s happening?”

“I’m going to get the key,” Fenris answered. With a few more efforts he bent the bars and squeezed himself through, popping a shoulder, and replacing it once out.

 

More massive blows to the ship set it to screaming. Suddenly Fenris was back, with a sword and armoured, to see Dom and the dwarves were brute-forcing the manacles open. He threw in the key and then left. The part set about freeing everyone. Callan was last. Felghanis helped him loosed but the guards had beaten him so soundly he couldn’t walk properly.

“I’m not leaving without him,” Fel said resolutely.

Kallista nodded and joined the dark young man in aiding this murderer to get free of the hold.

The ship listed dramatically and then righted. They rushed up to the decks only to be blocked by thre guards with spears. They were shaken and desperately trying to carry out their orders.

“Get back below!” one bellowed.

“We’ll drown and you will, too.” Dom tried to reason with them.

“For no reason at all,” added one of the dwarves.

“Get back,” the guard was seeing the sense but fell back on his obedience to orders.

“Come on man, let us live, and you can, too. We can help each other get of this ship.”

Suddenly the prow pitched up and the ship ground over rocks to a halt. A flash of lightning from stern-ward lit up the night. Ahead was a looming cliff and above it a stretch of scrub. Motes of ice were driven in the strong wind and it was very dark.

The guards agreed and they used the mooring lines to make an escape.

 

At the rear of the deck a mage flung a lightning bolt. He was aided by a cluster of a dozen soldiers and they seemed to have driven off something huge. Into the dark water a massive neck and shoulder were swallowed by the midnight waves. Fenris was nowhere to be seen.

 

The ship went pale and the guards with their mage as leader arrived. Channelling raw mana, and then his own blood, the captain held the ship together enough for everyone to escape. including 6 guards who had salvaged three chests all marked with the sigil of the Church of St. Fergus. Once they were all off the mage leapt into a feather fall, and the ship collapsed in a fractured cacophony of stone shattering.

 

Assembled at the top the shock of the wrecking was passing. The captain ordered the soldiers to secure the prisoners. In what seemed like a whole minute, Kalista and Dom exchanged glances and then fled into the snow.
”Don’t pursue the,” the Captain said. “They will be back.”

He was right.

In return for the agreement to try to return Fenris to Captain Morgane the prisoners were given back their belongings (minus the deep earth crystal the party had acquired in the Soucairn of Thulemon) and set free. Seeing Felghanis’ with his map the Captain pointed out their current location.

“Plateau point.”

“What do you thin Fenris’ agenda will be?” Dom asked.

“He was robbing old tombs before he was arrested. I’d say he’ll be aiming to do that again.” The Captain’s eyes fell on the mark for the Iron Tower inked on Fel’s map.

 

The three brothers and Callan opted to head west and attempt to find Fenris that way. The dwarves joined the party and headed east.

 

The Iron Tower?

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Kiltayre Campaign: GM Ideas for Session 8

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Session 8 is looming close and with the party in gaol they may be hitting a motivational crisis. As players, and as the characters, dealing with imprisonment is difficult. The emotions rise and people become desperate to get out. Bribery, violence, promises, imploring for empathy, all the tools of someone who thinks they may be hurt and does not have the ability to adequately defend themselves. It really is a horrible place to be and, in essence, is a kind of emotional abuse. Thankfully it’s only a game and all of this is a kind of “program” being run in the sub-routines of the players brains.

This is the kind of magic of RPG’s. We can use our experiences and knowledge to place ourselves in the situation of the characters. A kind of mental simulation of the experience. How intense this can become depends on the investment and capacity for imagination of the player. Frankly, if it’s enjoyable for everyone at the table it’s working as it should.

What’s in store for them?

Quite a bit is lined up. What I think they’ll do is plea their case as if it’s a court. The unfortunate part of this is it is a religious court and all the mockeries of justice that go with that will be in play. What I expect will happen shall be quite a surprise for them. Especially when I drop the news that a war has started whilst they were traipsing about the wilderness for 50 days.

We’ll see what happens because they certainly will have the opportunity to hang themselves by saying too much. But that’s okay. We’re playing with Fate Points (save your ass points) and it will mean some strange occurrence will save them all.

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Kiltayre Campaign: Session 6

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Again Chris has written a journal entry of the session. It is here.

http://www.buygameshobbies.com/stories/journals/journal-entrysession-6-05-02-2012-kalista/

This is the best one yet, I think, because it lets us in the character’s thoughts & feelings.

 

Overview

The characters finally made it to the five fingers of stone. Also known as the Hand of Gulresh. It was where the “nastier” Goblins lives. Those the captured Goblin in the Soucairn of Thulemon had said his gang fled. On the shoulder of the “thumb” was a stockaded settlement, or fort, with tall watchtower of wood.

It seemed to be manned by Scours of the Church of St. Fergus. Somehow one of the guards saw the party and a group of 8 were sent to investigate. The party hid from the Scours and were successful in evading them by hiding their tracks and just plain waiting them out.

Later they tried to circumvent the fort and enter the mountain. They found the mountain was a jail, and the keepers were the Scours. Using the Goblins’ females as collateral there was some bargain with the Goblins and they didn’t like it any more. Mobbing the watchtower the party heard thunderclaps break-up the riot.

Reconnaissance by the psi-crystal of Alassiel found that shipments are being sent and the latest wagon went out just that morning. They fort also requested reinforcements. The party chased the wagon and caught it, feigning to be travellers, they joined the wagon group. 3 soldiers and a priest.

Felghanis handed over his Uncle’s journal to the priest in the hope of being aided, or at least giving the damning evidence to people who have the power to take action – much to Dom’s horror (unfortunately Dom’s player was absent and we missed out on the potential for some great RP).

Pestritto, the priest, invited Felghanis on the wagon for some more assistance in learning the Uncle’s strange ever-shifting cipher (shifts from entry to entry). Fel saw a large trunk, metal-strapped, and bearing the sigil of the church. On the last watch, Fel’s watch, Pestritto confronted Fel about what they really were doing out here in the depth of winter. Next session we find out what Fel’s answers will lead to.

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