Game Recap: The City Unfair

The shrouded strangers attack!

And are quickly dispatched by the Unsworn – but not before one of them blinks away and makes its escape. Under their coverings, you discover your assailants are kenku, crow-people, like the one you rescued in the cultists’ hide-out.

You all step into the shimmering blue flame gate and enter a new world. It’s an echo of the material plane, turned blurry gray, covered in diaphanous mist and fog, and all the people are eerily absent.  Like a ghost, you can float and move through the walls with ease. You head outside the ambassador’s house where you see Farglad spread out before you – all in muted grays, but a new city has been stacked on top of the old one. A city built of junk – random objects piled in huge heaps, objects plucked from the material plane and dumped here into crude structures. It’s a city of stolen things. A city of secret thieves.

Welcome to the City Unfair.

As you float silently up the slopes of the City, you see more of the inhabitants, more kenku, but they pay you no mind and go about their business.

Passing an alleyway, you hear urgent whispers bidding you to enter. You follow the source and discover an old ally. You are reunited with “Mouse” – the dweomercat cub that you rescued from Trimphid’s manse back in Smidge. He remembers you and is pleased to find you in Illivion – the Ethereal Plane.

He assumes you’re all there in pursuit of Trimphid, like him. He’s been in the City Unfair for the last week or so, trying to figure out what his old tormentor is up to. Mouse wants vengeance against the Gridean wizard for imprisoning and torturing him. He can travel this plane unseen, so he’s been biding his time, spying on the kenku and the Infernal Auction, learning what he can.

Mouse tells you about the City Unfair. The kenku’s leader and creator, the “Lord of Liviland” is none other than Gleaming, one of the Seven Sovereign that Midribin told you died in a duel with Primwizard Artivole. Turns out he’s alive and well, and plotting in secret within the Ethereal Plane, under the very noses of the other Sovereigns. Travel to Illivion was thought to be impossible ever since access was blocked off in the city a thousand years ago as a protective measure. But Gleaming found a way. He brought his ravens and his crows here to set up a whole separate shadow city. Back when he was a Sovereign, he had started the Unkindness (evil order of ravens) to act as their messengers and spies, and now, seeing himself as a dark brooding version of Calydo – he has suffused the crows to make them into kenku. Gelaming’s a very powerful wizard. Mouse tells you he played around with evil magic so much, it has blocked all colors from showing on his person. It turned him permanently monochromatic!

His creations, the kenku, Mouse explains, are pretty serious kleptomaniacs by nature and can’t help but collect objects from the Fair City (what they call Farglad) when they can. It becomes a problem if they steal too much, or the wrong thing, as this draws unwanted attention, threatening to reveal Gleaming’s secret operations here. Mouse has learned that Gleaming has occasionally had to send in his chief lieutenant, a kenku named Phratagune “Corky” Corcuera,  into the material plane to clean up. Rumor has it there was some object in particular that caught the attention of a paladin who started snooping where he shouldn’t and was too close to exposing the City Unfair. So Gleaming had Corky kill the paladin.

Mouse tells you about the Secret Auction that Gleaming is currently hosting. Devils set it up, run it, keep the order, but their enemies, the demons and their minions, are also invited to come bid. It’s definitely a a volatile environment. Mouse confirms that Trimphid is there for the auction, but he’s not sure what he hopes to buy. Primwizard’s body was already sold to the highest bidder – someone named Zefuloria. Also, the starknife was sold, too.

Mouse agrees to take you to the Pinnacle, where Gleaming is holding the auction. He will do what he can to help you take down Trimphid. He must stay invisible, keep a low profile, but will try to help if he can. He tells you has the means to send you all back to the material plane if you need to eject in a hurry.

You arrive at the auction hall and are greeted by a terrifying site blocking access through the door. An impossibly corpulent being fused with a throne of iron skulls floats several feet off the ground, directing a cloud of weathered scrolls and blasphemous tomes that orbit its bulk.This is an Ayngavahul, a heretic devil, and he’s here to check your credentials.

The devil accepts your invitation and peruses it for the particulars.  “Funny,” it muses after glancing up at you. “You don’t look like Caolaubists.”  Then it waves you on through the massive double doors which swing open as you approach.

The auction hall itself is filled with all manner of bizarre creatures, a rogue’s gallery of extra-planar types, many monstrous in appearance. Some demons, some devils, as well as their more humanoid minions. There are agents here of both Law and Chaos, but they’re all 100% Evil. On each wall left and right are pedestals displaying the items up for auction.  Behind where the auctioneer will stand at the front, there is a raised stage area where you see a figure lounging on a throne. He looks almost like a jester in shades of white and gray.  This must be Gleaming, your host for the evening.  Surrounding him are numerous kenku guards and perching ravens, peering down at the proceedings next to their lord and master.

Dovienya makes a circuit around the hall, trying to blend in – hard to do since he’s just so normal-looking in this company. He checks out his fellow attendees and the items up for auction. He is approached by the other normal here – Ambassador Jocosa, who Dov recognizes from his portrait.  The two exchange pleasantries and Dov manages not to arouse too much suspicion.

Dov also spots a kenku near the front who appears to be of high rank.  This must be Corcuera, Gleaming’s chief lieutenant and right-hand bird.  He recognizes the thistle-marked dagger at Corky’s belt and the peculiar way the kenku speaks. This is the same villainous creature that set Dov on his path. What seems like an eternity ago, a less experienced Dov was approached by this Corky, shrouded head to toe so that his corvidity (crow-person-ness) was concealed. Corky tried to convince Dov to kidnap one of the Purity for him. Dov declined, but he was then considered an easy patsy to take the fall for the paladin’s murder. Dov escaped imprisonment thanks to Brega, and he followed the only clue he had – the thistle symbol on the villain’s dagger – all the way to Daisy’s destroyed village… and the rest is history. Now Dov stands in the same room as the chief architect of his recent misfortune. Plus, he sees one of the items on display for the auction is the key to clearing his name – the Xan-Hyrkanic Codex. If Dov can retrieve it and get it into the hands of the paladin Sa’ramae, she will see justice is done.

Meanwhile, Nim’s eyes are drawn to another attendee. A mysterious figure of indeterminate race or gender is cloaked in a dark robe with red mystic symbols and hooded with a tassel mask plunging its face into deep shadow. The figure is equipped with Ozen Lu’s starknife, which it apparently secured at a previous sale.

The Ambassador steps to the front and addresses the crowd. “Ladies and Gentleman, or Non-gentle – or whatever title best applies… We are about to begin today’s auction!”

He then provides a brief description of the items up for bid:

1) Foxhead Amulet – a talisman that regurgitates soul gems, a demonic delicacy
2) Niber (green) & Shupar (orange) – twin legendary long swords taken from the slain warrior Balister the Beaut
3) Green Maggs’ severed hand – a contribution by the Ravens of Arsel, who are nothing if not up for a quick buck or trinket, even if it was their former ally
4) The Divine Endling – a glowing golden scarab, last of the Nyzeriss, an Oosipalian goddess persecuted on the other side of the world
5) Milpreve – a druidic gate key
6) Xan-Hyrkanic Codex – a tool for Calydo’s enemies to discredit and diminish her power

“But first… I have an announcement to make!” the Ambassador continues. “We have a brand new addition to the auction block, just introduced for your consideration, and we will begin bidding for it immediately.   Ladies and Gentleman, Devils and Demons, I present to you… the Shepherd Prince!”

And suddenly standing at the front of the hall, teleported in, you see Daisy’ brother Tumn, looking somewhat dazed and bewildered, and next to him a smug-looking Trimphid Chrygora.

To Be Continued…

Game Recap: Haunted House

The next morning, Lady Averon barges in on your breakfast (again). At first she doesn’t say anything. Deep in thought, she’s got something in her hands that she’s toying with distractedly. Upon closer inspection you realize it’s a black eye patch – one with a little white moon painted on it. You recognize it as one worn by a Nightwatcher. Maybe one specific half-orc Nightwatcher?

“Interesting…”, she muses, peering down at the eye patch. “These are indeed magical, I always wondered. They let investigators see exactly what occurred in a studied area during the past day.”

She looks up at you. “Your Nightwatcher friend … the one who kept asking after you, hanging out like a gadfly in front of the Fang trying to stake you out? … I had him taken care of. He won’t be bothering you any more.” She pockets the eye patch. Dovienya looks after it covetously.

Averon then asks after your progress. You tell her you’re tracking down the supernatural thieves of the magical items, and you have a good lead. She seems satisfied, and after her departure, you set out into the city and sell some of the loot you nabbed from the cultists, making any other purchases you want as well.

You pay a visit to the Hog’s Chalice tavern. The proprietor takes pity on Nim’s sob story and introduces you to the mysterious Star People. The Luthans look like tall, stoic ape-men carved out of obsidian rock, all flat planes and angles. Their attire, too, is clearly not of this world. A group of six are sitting around a private courtyard, sipping drinks they don’t seem to be enjoying, and looking sad.

Once a Tongues spell is cast so they can communicate, they tell you the story of how they came to this world. They are holy pilgrims of a sort – sent here by their goddess – Calydo, they say, though she goes by another name to them. When the Luthans first arrived here in Paradon, they exited a cave and were soon attacked by human soldiers who mistakenly assumed they were underworld monsters. Their attackers bore a sigil with the letters, “UO” – an indication to you they were members of the Underworld Overseers, the Seven Sovereigns’ fraudulent mercenaries.

Three of the Luthans were killed in the fight with the Overseers before they were able to flee. One of them was their Ozen – a kind of Luthan oracle. Ozen Lu was not of their  Calydoan faith, but he accompanied them on the pilgrimage in order to seek out Nim, who had been appearing constantly in his visions. The other Luthans had teased him for seeming to be in love with her.  They are unsure what it was that Ozen Lu hoped to tell Nim, though they think it was to warn her about something. There was also something he was supposed to give her. Nim supposes this must be the starknife, which was an Ozen weapon – of no use to the other Luthans. If she ever gets it back from the thieves, she has their permission to keep it.

The grieving Luthans are very forlorn interstellar beings. They feel they have little useful info to impart and are aware they don’t make great company.  It is unclear to them why they’re here, and they’re unhappy at being celebrity oddballs in the city. They are awaiting a sign from the goddess to show them their purpose in this strange world. Daisy in particular feels sympathy for them, as, like them, members of her family were murdered by Underworld Overseers. She’s also now found herself in a world she doesn’t understand with no way to get back home. Plus, they worship the Radiant Maiden (hey, same religion!)  Daisy vows to do what she can for the lost Luthans.

After you say your farewells to the star-faring strangers, Dovienya goes off on his own to gather intel about “Jocosa House”. He quickly discovers that the ambassador to the neighboring dragon-ruled kingdom of Sibril is named Jocosa Traversi (!) Dov is then able to locate his house in the city, and reunites with Daisy and Nim to tell them his discoveries. Together, the Unsworn pay a visit to the Ambassador that evening.

At the house, you find Traversi is not at home. There’s some magic boots and a ring you don’t mind stealing. You see the Sibrillian symbol of the dragon usurper’s regime – a clenched fist holding lightning bolts above the Draconic phrase: Alok wa fin Mok’naar Suleyk, which Nim translates to “Ascend to the Highest Power”. There’s also a portrait of a pompous-looking Ambassador Traversi  – the sight of which makes Dovienya not feel too bad about stealing from him.

This portrait is dwarfed though by the magnificence of the one next to it. Its subject is King Cognail the Usurper himself in all his majesty – a powerful and regal-looking blue dragon. He’s posing imperiously with a large brood of smaller dragons. Although your GM cannot reproduce this painting as a visual aid, you will have to use your imagination. But trust me, when laying your eyes on this portrait of the Big Bad, it is hard not to be impressed by him and his family.

Wowza. I wouldn’t want to take him on!

(Note: Examples provided by players do not accurately reflect in any way the actual depiction of King Cognail nor his brood in the painting as seen in-game by the PCs.) 😛

You soon learn that the house isn’t exactly empty – It’s haunted! A particular room at the back seems to be seeping out an impenetrable spectral fog. And from within, various ghosts emerge. Three of them have words for the Unsworn….

The Ghost of Nightwatcher Ikomar says to Dovienya:

“I will clear your name; I will speak with Sa’ramae, show her evidence of your innocence… if you retrieve the Xan-Hyrkanic Codex from the auction beyond the gate.”

Dov agrees, and also tries (somewhat vainly) to apologize for any part he played in the Nightwatcher’s murder.

The Ghost of the Luthan oracle (Ozen Lu) says to Nim [in Luthan]:

“⟟ ☊⏃⋔⟒ ⏃⌰⌰ ⏁⊑⟟⌇ ⍙⏃⊬… ⟟ ⟊⎍⌇⏁ ⍙⏃⋏⏁⟒⎅ ⏁⍜ ⌇⟒⟒ ⊬⍜⎍⍀ ⎎⏃☊⟒ ⏚⟒⎎⍜⍀⟒ ⟟ ☌⍜”

Which, based on context clues, you think means: “I came all this way… I just wanted to see your face before I go.”

The Ghost of Nana smiles kindly at Daisy and says to her:

”I’ve been given a chance to see you, Thank the Maiden.  I want to tell you a few things I never had an opportunity to…”

  • Our village’s killer is still at large. Justice has not been done, Daisy. I don’t know where this arch-villain is, but the one named Brunus Tostyn walks free.
  • Remember the family’s saying: “Sadis la’da dalleyus“.  Yes, as an expression it means, “We return the favor”, but in Axlan the words literally translate to: “We bite back.” Say it with me, Daisy.  “Sadis la’da dalleyus”  (Daisy does so, and her katana starts to hum – SPECIAL FAMILY-MAGIC UNLOCKED!)
  • The blood of the Derulade runs through you, but you and your brother are the last of the Clan. We were once the greatest of the dardais (clans). We were the dragon tamers … Think about it: We once kept dragons as pets and servants! We brought the dragons to heel, and for that, we became most favored by the Eminent Empress. Then it all changed. Eight centuries ago, the Empress died, became divine – her body lain in the new Necropolis where all her subjects chose to be interred. But anyone born after the date of her death refused to follow the custom, refused to see her divinity. The next generation of Axlans revolted, civil war erupted, and the youth won – the Great Empire fell, the clans were disbanded. Our family, the Derulade, were singled out for extinction by the new republic that formed. Superstitions were spread by the remaining Imperial loyalists saying that the Empire would one day rise again because of one of us. Our family was hunted, we had to go into hiding. My parents gave me the katana and the seal. Those strange cultists that worship the Mother-Redeemer helped me get out of Axla. I always hoped to give you the katana bearing the seal of our clan. You must watch out! I see on the walls of this house a dragon revered as a king?  Maiden’s Knees! Who thought we would ever see such a thing? You must show this world what we once were! Remember, my child: We bite back!
  • Finally: don’t underestimate Tumn. The same blood runs through him, too. He surely has his own great destiny ahead. Take care of each other.

After the ghosts have said their peace, the spectral fog dissipates enough for you to gain access to the back room. Inside, you open a trapped door and discover an Ethereal Gate!

Dovienya jumps right in (hey, Brega does want her devotees to travel) and is instantly transported to an otherworldly place. It looks the same, only the world appears blurry and monochromatic. Also, he’s floating. He doesn’t have much time to take it all in before a mysterious shrouded creature steps through the wall beside him, readying an attack.

Meanwhile, back in the house,  more of the same shrouded figures appear out of thin air around Daisy and Nim, surrounding them menacingly.

Oh no – The Unsworn is in a tight spot!

To Be Continued…

Game Recap: Cultus Interruptus

Inside the chapel, you see the cultists are still distracted by their unholy chaos ritual for Bright Night (which, knowing them, they probably call “Dark Day” just to be contrary).

There’s some kind of indescribable idol thing on the altar that’s using Sa’ramae’s sword Justifier to harness and defile its Good/Law powers. Standing nearby, the hooded cult leader known as Moumalid is mumbling chants and leading his congregation in the ceremony. Around his wrists hang shackles with broken chains – a symbolic reference to the chaos god Caolaub’s amazing (and deeply unfortunate) escape from the Tharybic* Prison the Law Gods put him in.

(* “Tharybic” is just a fancy word here that means Law-aligned.)

The masked cultists are genuflecting, overcome by religious ecstasy, each seemingly summoning what looks like a weird, hovering blood-oozing knife with a sinuous blade (or maybe it’s a key?) directly above them.

[Image of ceremony redacted because it’s just so spooky and creepy.]

Dovienya unceremoniously (get it?) dashes in and grabs the sword, mentally shaking off whatever dark mystic retaliation the idol had intended for interrupting the ritual. He runs back out and returns the paladin’s sword to Sa’ramae. This wakes everybody up from their repugnant reverie and now the whole sect is set on separating you from your souls. With a newly pepped-up paladin by your side, everyone engages the cultists in combat in the chapel.

Nim casts a potent hypnotic pattern and Daisy charges at Moumalid on Ambrosius. The cult leader creates an illusory double to make it harder to hit him, and the cultists keep blasting everyone with nasty waves of negative energy. But eventually, you are able to take them all down – the cultists are killed, and Moumalid, seeing that Caolaub is not going to break him out of this predicament, gets down on his knees – not to pray to his dark god – but to surrender.

You knock him out and tie him up. Hearing his pleas for mercy, Dov thinks there’s something familiar to his voice and mannerisms. Unmasking him, you discover he’s none other than … Gotwinus, the famous playwright!?!

You surmise that the desk-bound demon being held captive in the cultists’ hide-out has actually been writing all of Gotwinus’ plays for him. The missing foxhead amulet had been coughing out soul gems for the demon to eat in exchange for the plays.

Anyway, you interrogate Gotwinus/Moumalid (Gotwalid? Moumwinus?) when he wakes up and learn what you can. Turns out he and his cult have been trying to get their chaotic hands on the Xan-Hyrkanic Codex (a heretical document which would discredit Caolaub’s nemesis, the goddess Calydo).

A while ago, Moumalid had received an invitation to attend a mysterious Infernal Auction somewhere in the city where the Codex would be sold. Then something terrible happened: he lost the invitation. In truth, the invitation was taken by none other than the (now-deceased) paladin Balek Broadwall, hot on the trail for the Codex himself, where it eventually found its way into your possession.  Moumalid claims he was unaware the paladin had it and denies any role his cult had in the paladin’s murder (though not without regret, as this would have been a real coup for the cult).

After losing his only opportunity to obtain the Codex, the cult leader tried to reach out to the Kenku who had provided the invitation in the first place to get another one, but the crow-headed creatures mocked him mercilessly to his face. Furious at their unwillingness to furnish him another invite, Moumalid struck back: he found a way to capture one of the Kenku and began torturing it, hoping it would reveal its secrets and provide an access back in to the auction. This plot failed, however: the crow wouldn’t croak, and now when you return to the captured Kenku in the cultists’ prison cell, you discover it’s flown the coop.

But you recall that before it left, it told you its big secret. It gave you the access to where the auction is being held.  It told you the way to the City Unfair… via “Jocosa House”.

You grab all the loot you can that the cultists hadn’t nailed down and head back to the Saphhire Fang. You also say sayonara to Sa’ramae, who drags away Moumalid/Gotwinus so he can face justice for his many heinous crimes.

To Be Continued…

Sa’ramae’s Recurring Nightmare

Game Recap: Into the Jaws of Chaos

The hide-out’s security system turns out to be an uncaged chaos beast, which you dispatch with aplomb (props to Nim for the magic circle, Dov for the deft rapiering, & Daisy for successfully fortituding herself back into a solid state after getting liqui-cursed).  Dovienya then lockpicks the front door, which lobs the ball up, so to speak, so Daisy can spike it. She charges in on dog-back to knock the fleeing sentry out cold.

You are then able to sneak around the place unnoticed while the cultists in their chapel distract themselves with their unholy, psychedelic ritual. Dov is a trap/treasure finding machine, and you soon avoid all da trickz/collect all da lootz.

The cultists wear stylin’ bright orange robes and evil magic masks.  You think about donning them as a disguise (hey, the cliche is a cliche for good reason), but for the time being, you choose not to get all death star stormtrooper down in there.

In one room off the dining area, you find a sullen demon (maybe a demon? you’re not 100%) sitting at a desk within a summoning circle, with stacks of parchment and writing implements in front of him.  He tells you he’s feeling a mite peckish.  Moumalid has been using an amulet to produce souls for the demon to eat in exchange for him writing something for him.  Apparently, the soul supply has run out recently, and the cult leader has resorted to feeding the demon small captured animals, which, according to the demon, is a lot like saying, “here have some salt.”  You don’t spend much time speaking with the demon, and honestly, no one can really blame you.

You also find some jail cells adjacent to the chapel where the chanting cultists are doin’ their thing.  Here you find two, still-living prisoners:

Dovienya recognizes a paladin of the Pure named Sa’ramae.  She’s in no shape to fight, but asks you to fetch her holy sword named Justifier from the chapel. It’s being used profanely in the cultists’ ritual and there’s some prohibitive anti-Law magic at work that makes it hard for her to retrieve it.  Once she gets her trusty “Justy” back, she invites you to join her in kicking some Caolaubist coat-tails.

In another cell is a strange crow-person, the likes of which you’ve never seen.  There’s little time to converse, but you manage to parse out the following from its mutterings:

  • His/her race is called the Kenku, and they come from the City Unfair in “Liviland” which Nim figures out is a nickname for Illivion – the Ethereal Plane.
  • The cultists have blinded it in both eyes which apparently makes it stuck in the “Flightless World” in “Fair City” – which you presume are its terms for the Material Plane and Farglad, respectively.
  • It is refusing to talk to its captors, who are trying to locate a missing invitation (maybe the auction invitation you possess?). The bird creature is delighted in how mad and frustrated he’s made the cult leader Moumalid, who it calls “Fair Man Moumy”.
  • The crow-person tells you that you can get to the City Unfair if you go to “Jocosa House”.

To Be Continued…

Game Recap: Cultist Culprits

You’re back to eating another lavish breakfast the next morning when a frustrated Lady Averon enters the room unannounced to inform everyone that there’s been another supernatural theft. Last night, a relic belonging to the so-called “Star People” was taken.

Visibly put-out, your host explains this new development could fuel civil unrest. The devout visitors are so beloved by the commoners, it’s likely their victimization will garner much sympathy and misplaced anger. The Sovereigns run a tight ship here in Farglad and don’t want anyone to lose faith in the city’s abilities to handle this kind of problem. The Paradonian constabulary, officially called the Royal Guard but known colloquially as “cuffs” for the distinctive purple ones they wear, are looking into it, but you are free to check out the crime scene yourself.

Panther head symbol of Paradon, displayed on the cuffs of the Royal Guard

Averon tells you the theft happened at the Odeum, Farglad’s famous playhouse. The Starfolk had apparently lent the missing item to popular playwright Gotwinus to help him write his next magnum opus about them. Averon wants results and is giving you only a few more days before her hospitality ends and she chucks you out of the Fang.  That would mean: No more pancake breakfasts.

Heading out into the city later that morning, you decide to first make contact with the Whistler. In an abandoned warehouse, Dov wakes up a sleeping young man named Villik who says his job is to be a courier for the Whistler, taking messages to and from the mysterious fact-finder. Dov hands the teenager a copy of the auction invitation, a sack of 100 gold, and requests that the Whistler whistle his way to decoding the weird diagrams. Villik thinks the job can be done in a day.

Next on your itinerary is the Odeum. Dov deftly sneaks past two cuffs that are standing guard outside, while Nim and Daisy chat them up as a distraction.

Inside the theater, Dov interviews the venerable wordsmith Gotwinus, and learns that he cares little for the missing Luthan starknife. Rather, his pressing concern is his missing fox head amulet, which was stolen at the same time by the same perpetrator. He says it helps him with his writing. The possible implication is that it boosts his Charisma and/or Intelligence. Gotwinus is willing to pay a handsome sum to adventurers (who he has a particular fondness for) if they return the amulet to him.

Dov examines the crime scene and finds a couple of clues that directly tie to the Chaos Cultists of Caolaub (!!!)

The game is afoot!

But then the game takes a misstep -actually a literal trip, when Dov blithely steps out of the theater in front of the two guards. They are immediately suspicious of a shady, previously unaccounted for person leaving the crime scene. They demand a search of Dov’s body in order to confirm he doesn’t have the missing items on him – a routine procedure, they explain. Dov declines the offer of a pat down, and successfully bluffs them into believing he’s a friend of Gotwinus’s, but then fails in his efforts to intimidate them into giving up their demands. They reach out to grab him, and Nim, in response, attempts a color spray spell on them, but the effect fails to stun them. Now the two cuffs know that Nim and Daisy are in cahoots with the shady cagey fellow. They pull out their weapons and blow whistles to alert other police. Daisy sideswipes their legs to trip them, and Dov takes off running. Nim and Daisy follow suit as the cuffs recover and begin to chase. Dov uses his local knowledge to lead everyone to a really good area to elude being apprehended. He blends into the crowd like a pro, and Nim and Daisy manage to stealthily act like they didn’t just attempt an attack on two cuffs and then fled the scene leading them on a merry chase.

Dov decides to spend of the rest of the day pursuing his lead about the Chaos Cults. He tells Nim and Daisy to wait for him at a tavern with a nice little outdoor patio. An hour goes by with no sign of their human friend, so the two decide to do their own sleuthing, asking around for more info about the so-called Star People (Luthans).

Dovienya loses track of time and lets four hours go by as he intently tracks the movements of the Cult in the city. The cultists leave religious nonsense text graffiti called Scrawlings in hidden spots to communicate with each other. Dov skillfully deduces the whereabouts of a suspected cultist named Milto who was recently released from prison.

Meanwhile, Daisy and Nim learn that the Luthans are staying at one of the Temples of Calydo on highslope, but sometimes spend R&R time at a nice tavern nearby called the Hog’s Chalice.

With the Unsworn finally reunited, everyone heads back to the Fang for a night’s rest.

The next morning, you return to the warehouse to see if the Whistler has decoded the auction invitation. As you walk the streets of Farglad, you note the citizens’ preparations for tonight’s big event. This night is the new moon, and that means it’s Bright Night, the monthly holy festival where all Calydo’s light-towers are lit up to the brightest, and people celebrate the goddess’s triumph over darkness.

In the warehouse, Villik is back on shift (he likes a good tipper) and he tells you that the pictographs refer to a series of dates corresponding to this very week (!) Also, it’s funny – a Gridean wizard was just asking the Whistler about a document like it recently. Dov suspects he knows just who this Gridean wizard might be.

Next you seek out Milto, the suspected cultist, and interrogate him.

Milto’s a broken man, in body and mind. He keeps repeating the same three lines of drivel, fairly typical Caolaubist blathering…

I turn my head and you may go where you want.
I turn it again, you will stay till you rot.
I have no face, but I live or die by my crooked teeth.

Nim heals Milto, which does seem to improve his overall demeanor. He looks into her eyes and asks pleadingly , “Who am I?” She can sense that there is a magical curse about him, and something needs to be done to lift it.

Daisy realizes what he’s been saying sounds like a riddle. After some thought, the solution comes to Nim in a flash. She looks back at Milto and tells him who he is: a key.

With that, the curse is lifted from his mind and he regains his sanity. The guy’s still a crazy murderous cultist, so I mean, “sanity” is relative. Milto, realizing that tonight is Bright Night, tells you he must go to the hide-out as the cultists have their own unholy version of a worship service that they do. He gets up and heads out, caring little whether you follow or not.

You realize that this may be an opportune time to pay a visit to the Chaos Cult of Caolaub as, according to Milto, they will be in various stages of trance and religious ecstasy tonight, so, in other words, maybe more distracted than usual?

You follow Milto deep into the city. He eventually takes you underground, into a kind of cave system. Eventually you arrive in a small tunnel that leads up to a heavily locked door. You think Milto has already gone up ahead and gone inside.

To Be Continued…

Game Recap: Post-Pancakes

Osbert, the majordomo at the Sapphire Fang, informs you all first thing upon waking that a Nightwatcher has been inquiring as to your whereabouts this morning. The staff feigned ignorance, of course, and it should come as no surprise that your host Lady Averon is displeased. You are advised to start being more discreet or perhaps you will need to seek other arrangements.

Tsk. Tsk. – Osbert

As the newly-dubbed “Unsworn” sit around the table sharing a delicious breakfast, Nim looks just a little bit less of a hollow-eyed wraith and more like a real person, bright-eyed and going about her movements with a spring in her step, following the sudden revelation the night before that she’s not crazy — or at least not crazy by herself, right? Eh heh. Her diary mentions identical visions as those of the Paladin, so if she’s mad then she’s mad with symptoms that now affect two. She seems to have glossed entirely over any invasions of privacy, as well, from having her personal journal peered into.

Halfway through a piece of toast, she says quietly, “I want to tell you about Duriguin now. Anathema to creation, sower of strife…” After a long and painfully awkward pause, she adds, “….um. That is, if you… want to hear it?”

Daisy, by providence, is narrowly saved by a mouthful of sausage and potato pancakes from saying something abrupt and undiplomatic along the lines of “Over breakfast??” or “Don’t we have enough bad guys to deal with without adding weird evil Gods to our problems?” By the time she chokes her food down via a heroic gulp, followed by some over-watered ale, she’s thought better of it and offers a mostly inviting grunt of inquiry.

Dovienya looks up from mixing elixirs.  “Of course.  I mean clearly I want to know what you know.  Otherwise I wouldn’t be reading your journal, would I?”  He returns to mixing his elixirs, totally oblivious to the fact that he just brought up an issue Nim conspicuously avoided.

Nim tilts her head to one side, smiling at Dov and at Daisy in turn. “Right, of course. And since we’re friends, perhaps you have some writings I could read, too.” Is she joking? Hard to tell if she’s joking. “But I only wanted to… right, yes, explain, explain about the Sower, it… he? Yes,” she fumbles. “Duriguin is what… I had many visions about him, or leading to him, I just didn’t understand at the time, I didn’t see. He takes different forms, he… is a black stag with four followers in white. I saw it in the forest, before Green Mags…” she shakes her head, remembering something deeply unpleasant. “He is also the Sower, hence the name Duriguin — and that tomb place, that… horrible thing filled with skeletons of the barbarian Queen? That’s one of his fields. It’s hard to explain when I’m… talking. Sorry.” She nearly lets her long hair dip into her pancakes. “Anyway. All of it is tied together through him, somehow, everything is connected… the reason I saw, and I just knew, that we ought not swear ourselves to anyone, not the Sovereigns or the King or whoever… that is how he does it. Somehow he takes them, and they do his evil for him.”

“We should be careful now. He may know… no, he does know, we’ve trampled on his fields,” she whispers, staring at her plate. After another long, strange pause, she adds softly, “…these are good pancakes.”

At Nim’s request for something to read Dovienya reaches into his bag for his book on The Principles of Mechanistic Flight, but as she speaks the book falls forgotten from his hand.  By the time she finishes his face has drained of color. “He’s called the Sower?”

Dovineya glances around to make sure no one is close enough to overhear, but even still he lowers his voice. “When we were in the tomb I… died.  I had a… vision, a dream?  The skeletons spoke to me.  They told me to swear my loyalty to the Sower.  And then something… touched my mind.  It tried to destroy everything that made me me, to turn me into something like the skeletons.  It was going to.  There was nothing I could do to stop it.  But you brought me back.  You saved me.”

Nim’s fork has only made half its journey to her mouth where it is now frozen as she stares at Dov openly. “You…. you heard it too? Oh no, oh I wish you had told me sooner. And not only for the part where I thought everyone else thought I was crazy, that too, but…” she chews on her bottom lip, looking worried. “He knows you’re there too, he saw you. The hunter… oh, I have to think, I have to…” she pauses mid tapping-herself-on-the-skull to tilt her head curiously, and this time her long hair does dip into her pancakes. “I saved you? I’m… not sure how, though, I didn’t see that. I see warnings and the stars are urging us forward to stop him, but I don’t see enough to understand it all.”

“Well I see and understand even less than you do,” says Dov.  “So I don’t think we’re going to be able to figure this out with just the two of us.  There are some people in the city who might know more about this than we do.  If we can get them to help us that is.  Okay, here’s the plan.  I’m going to go out today and try to find out some more information.  You two stay here, stay out of sight, and try to stay out of trouble.”

Nim’s fork slips from her hand and goes rolling off several feet towards the kitchens. “What? Are you sure you ought to go by yourself, that’s… it knows we’re here,” she whispers. “And we don’t know who is… helping it.” She frowns sadly down at her plate. “So if you must run off alone, maybe it is you who needs to avoid trouble most of all.”

“Me?  I’m always careful.  Ancient evils we can handle, it’s things like the two of you running into a guard barracks on some harebrained rescue scheme that has me worried.”  And with that Dovienya gets up from the table and heads up to his room.

An awkward pause follows Dov’s departure. Daisy, her food cooled and congealing on her plate, pushes back from the table and rises, blonde curls falling across her face and obscuring her eyes. She takes in a breath as if to say…something, but lets it out with a huff and walks from the room in the opposite direction. Ambrosius hesitates, eying the abandoned sausages from under a mop of white fur, before heaving a canine sigh and padding after his mistress.


Now, discretion is not Daisy’s middle name, and she makes a direct beeline for the Fang’s front door.  She simply forgot to take heed of Osbert’s directive. Walking through the crowded city, it’s not long before she starts to sense someone following her.

In between browsing weapon shops, Daisy happens to spot the culprit from afar pointing a beeping metal wand at her. Her pursuer looks like a diminutive street urchin, a ragamuffin – only not a child. The woman is of indeterminable race (half-goblin?) with crazy unkempt hair, luminous orange eyes, big pointed ears and slightly sharp teeth. She’s got enough pouches and vials and faded runes on her tattered clothing (i.e. icky magicky stuff) to make Daisy uncomfortable.

Seeing that she’s been discovered, the woman tucks the wand away and walks over to cheerily introduce herself. Her name is Midribin (or “Midriff” if you’re Daisy and don’t remember names well), and she offers to buy Daisy a drink at a nearby tavern where the two can talk more privately.  Midribin explains she’s a renowned “spellthief” (whatever that is) and a loyal member of the Mystic Order of the Wick and the Flame. You’ve already met some of her other buddies in the Wick: Ruthorian and Pobody.

Ruthorian and Pobody, members of the Wick

The Wick, Midri explains, are good-aligned magic-users hoping to stop evil-aligned magic-users. They’re Paradon’s magical watch-dogs, in other words. The Seven Sovereigns, being the most evil and magical of organizations in the kingdom are, ipso facto, exactly the sort of thing the dog-that-is-Wick is mostly watching. As the Unsworn have been vouched for by her buds, Midribin hopes to be your friend as well. She is filled with questions for Daisy – how did you all end up staying at the Sapphire Fang? And under the auspices of the Sovereigns? Are you in their good graces? Do you have any idea who your new benefactors are? Daisy gets dizzy.

Daisy learns from Midribin (though the names are hard to keep track of) that the founder and leader of the Wick, Primwizard Artivole, has been missing for a couple of years after he got in a crazy epic wizard duel with his evil arch-enemy Gleaming, a member of the Seven Sovereigns. The story goes both DIED by killing one another epically.  But Midribin says she knows a secret – that Artivole is in fact not dead (the Wick have their ways). However, there’s been no word from him since the duel. She can’t help but wonder if that means Gleaming is alive too, but, as near as she can tell, the other remaining six Sovereigns believe he’s dead along with everyone else. They’re recruiting a seventh member to replace him, something they wouldn’t do if they thought Gleaming was still around.

Totally not at all a representation of the epic wizard duel between Primwizard Artivole and Gleaming that ended up killing them both (maybe) and was like totally epic…  Not even close.

The spellthief is eager to hear any information the Unsworn can get about the Sovereigns and hopes you’ll assist the Wick in their efforts to stop their evil plans. She instructs Daisy on how to reach her at the inn called the Whispering Owl if they ever need her again.

Daisy heads back to the Fang after her meet-and-greet with Midribin and along the way  suddenly comes face-to-face with the eye-patched half-orc Nightwatcher who could be played by Idris Elba in my dream casting (I mean, the role’s his if he wants it).  The previous night he had recognized Dovienya but had told him to steer clear of his investigation. Now he has apparently changed his tune for some reason. He asks Daisy to send word to Dov that he now wants his help. “I need a certain item you picked up last night. Please share it with me so I can find the ones that did this.” Or words to that effect. I’m sure Idris would totally sell it.

Ruffled by all the random weirdo people stepping out to accost her as she’s just innocently trying to window shop for weapons, Daisy heads back to the Fang to report to her friends all that she’s learned, or at least half-remembered.  Hey, if some of the names are mixed up or she’s forgotten some of the details, maybe people in the streets should pick someone else to accost with elaborate info dumps! ;P


Meanwhile, a disguised Dovienya departs the Fang that morning and heads out to hit the Slopes. It feels good for him to be back in the city, investigating. This is totally his element. His jam. The first order of business is to see if the Vordritists can help.  They’re a group of scholars  and sages Dov knows about that are notoriously guarded and greedy. Only the city’s richest can usually afford their services as they hoard their knowledge like gold. Rumor has it they need all the money just to pay the Eye-in-the-Hole (city’s thieves’ guild) not to steal from them and to provide extra protection.

Dov asks around, hoping to find a weak point – perhaps the supernatural thieves (not the Eye-in-the-Hole, but some mysterious third party that is frustrating everyone, including the Sovereigns) have also stolen from the Vordritists? But there’s no indication it’s happened. Of course, the scholars may not want word to get around they can’t keep control of their secret lore, so haven’t told anyone about any thefts.

Finally, after four hours of digging, Dov discovers something of a lead:  a scribe in the service of the scholars calling himself the Whistler is willing to access the archive, do a little reference work on the side, for a mere 100 gp a question. Dov manages to track down how to communicate with this Whistler, and decides to bring this possible resource back to his friends.

With the rest of the time left for his disguise, Dov looks into Racwulf. This is the petty thief who after being recruited by the actual murderer(s) after Dov turned down the offer, was later found murdered himself. It seems clear from his investigation that the poor kid, who from all reports wasn’t half-bad a person, became an unfortunate victim of the whole affair.  The Eye-in-the-Hole claims no responsibility for his death. Presumably, it was the paladin’s murderers themselves closing up a loose end, and he was just a throw-away tool in whatever their plot was. A fate that Brega helped save Dovienya himself from.

As he moves about the city, Dov can’t help but hear a couple of other things of note:

1) The whole city is abuzz about “the Star People”. A group of six civilized obsidian ape-men – the likes of which have never been seen before – have recently arrived in Farglad. They call themselves Luthans and speak Common reasonably well. They say they immigrated from some other plane (“star”) and were led to Paradon by the goddess Calydo. They’re the newest city-wide sensation and people are eager for a chance to see them, but they aren’t making public appearances. The popular playwright Gotwinus is said to be busy at work planning his next play about them.

2) Good news regarding the war in Qaulic: Rumor has it there’s an additional enemy to the lizardmen, on that is attacking them from the other side and weakening their defenses. The long-awaited victory for Paradon over the lizardmen may be at hand.


Reunited back at the Fang, the Unsworn debrief over the day’s events.  Nim, who spent an uneventful day purchasing some normal Paradonian clothes, reveals a riddle from her vision that she thinks refers to Farglad:

find fairweather, friend of the foundling
stepped off the path, broke her circle surrounding
forsook the trees, blackened her hem green-and-white
hides now in the shade of the towers of light
her memory shames her, her knowledge forbidden
the tree of the dead – sacred, buried, and hidden
i bid you to go and carve out a splinter
then pierce through the heart of each seedling to hinder


The riddle urges Nim to find the “tree of the dead” and carve out a splinter from it to use on a “seedling” in order to hinder something.

From the riddle, you figure out  that a woman possibly named Fairweather has the forbidden knowledge of where the tree of the dead is.  The words “circle” and a “hem of green-and-white” immediately bring to mind druids. Given that she “stepped off the path”, “forsook the trees” and “blackened her hem”, she is likely not a druid any more.

A subsequent vision revealed to Nim that there literally exists a “Tree of the Dead” out there, and that it is how Duriguin entered the world.  The Tree is a massive thing, now dead, that grew upside-down, underground, with its roots near the surface and its top branches burrowing deep, deep within the earth. According to the vision, the surface roots are no longer protected by “guardians”, and their numbers have been “thinned by ignorance and hatred, oppressed by the very ones they seek to protect.”  Meanwhile, at the branches, mysterious wicked “caretakers” are said to be reviving the Tree via necromancy and making it grow fruit.  You have no idea who the caretakers are. Regarding the guardians, on the other hand, you may be able to wager a guess.

You also have no idea who Fairweather is, nor what “friend of the foundling” means.  However, the riddle states she is currently hiding in the “shade of the towers of light”, and upon arriving in Farglad, you have seen the city’s many light-towers, aka “towers of light”. Even the heraldry of Farglad depicts them. Could Fairweather be hiding in Farglad?  If you can find her, she can lead you to the Tree of the Dead, where you can carve out a splinter as the vision bids you to do.

Nim and Dov decide to go out that evening and chat with Midribin at the Whispering Owl. They share the riddle with her, and using her help, deduce that Fairweather may be involved with the  Eye-in-the-Hole in some capacity. Midribin offers to find the fallen druid hiding in the thieves’ guild’s midst.  She points out that Daisy’s mechanical cricket from Pobody’s shop is secretly a tracking device. It’s how the spellthief was able to track her in the city.  It might be useful if the Unsworn ever needs back up (Midri would know where she was), but might prove a dangerous thing to possess if it falls into the Sovereign’s hands.

Meanwhile, Dov is unwilling to risk going out into the city without a disguise so tries to collect information from the staff inside the Fang.  It’s not terribly fruitful: more fawning over the Star People.

When his friends return, he brings them up in conversation, plus the rumors of the war. He mentions the Star People are called Luthans, which rings a bell for Nim. She’s been having dreams at night in which she trains a friend of hers (another oracle that lived in ancient times – long story) in how to wield a starknife, a bizarre weapon not known in this world.  Nim knows it comes from a star called Lutha.  Despite really wanting a starknife of her own, she decides bugging the Star People about it had better wait until other more pressing matters are addressed.

Speaking of those other pressing matters, the Unsworn spend the rest of the evening discussing how they best want to proceed. Dov suggests they focus on the supernatural thieves. Figuring out who they are will not only help Dov clear his name (since they seem to be the same culprits who framed him for the paladin’s murder), but also make the Seven Sovereigns happy. And perhaps their grateful hosts will reveal more about their sinister sovereignanigans.

To Be Continued…

Game Recap: Ravens, Reunions, & Riddles

1. Mission Accomplished

The raven spy spitefully confesses he is an agent of the Unkindness, an organization of crooked corvids. You may recall it was the Unkindness that assisted the wizard Trimphid as he took Tumn to Tupelu in the Forest of Arsel. In exchange for entering undetected into the elven city, Trimphid freed Green Maggs, an ancient ally of the ravens, from her rock-prison. Unfortunately, the Unsworn showed up and unceremoniously defeated Green Maggs before she could regain her full strength. Whatever plans the ravens had with the forest-monster’s revival were thwarted.

Turns out the Unkindness are mercenary, willing to work for anyone as long as the pay is good. You learn that Sibril’s dragon usurper has become the flock’s newest patron, and that the Big Wyrm has deep (scaly) pockets. The raven admits the Unkindness were instrumental in the plot to steal the skullstone (hereafter called the Bloodstone Jewel) for the Dragon in exchange for heaps and heaps of shiny golden trinkets. But you have messed everything up  …again!  Ravens never forget a face, he tells you. So you can now count the Unkindness as your fine feathered foes. They are, you know, not known for their kindness, and they will have their raven revenge…  You best watch out!

Quoth the raven: “Na-na, na-na, boo-boo!”

Despite these threats, you decide to let both the raven and Naro go free. Naro’s visibly relieved as mercy for the raven’s life provides her family, currently held hostage back in Sibril, a better chance at surviving. You briefly consider wearing the Ring of Enslavement to force Azitain, now a freed and fleeing man, to return so you can acquire the Bloodboat Jewel he carries. Your moral judgement wins out, however, and you decide not to enslave his mind again. Instead you track him on foot hoping to catch up to him. Brega’s Blessings are with you, and Azitain hasn’t gotten too far. As Dov closes the gap with the professor, he deftly spots the raven sneakily keeping watch over his former victim and is able to successfully shoo him away.

You give back the ring to a grateful Azitain so that he doesn’t have to worry about someone re-enslaving him before the curse is lifted. He and Pedocles tell you they are heading back to Raismont’s Academy of the Arcane. You decide to let the professor keep the Bloodstone Jewel since he’s a powerful wizard with the resources to study and protect it. You let him know you are friends with Ruthorian and that he can send word to him if he discovers more about the Jewel.

You also go your separate ways from Naro and the Bregan cleric Gylaw, who depart together towards the city of Slikston, where they plan to tell Ereleuva’s noble family the sad news of their daughter’s demise and reveal the shocking role Sibril played in it.

You travel by yourselves back to Chelton.  Based on something Nim has been seeing in her visions, the party decides on a name for themselves going forward: The Unsworn.

Back at the rendezvous point in the frontier town, you meet up with Quandary, Furik’s black skeleton servant, and he teleports you back to the Mound. You report to the halfling transmuter most of the truth of your experience at the tomb, though you deceive her into thinking the raven and Azitain simply absconded with the Bloodstone Jewel and that there was nothing you could do. She is annoyed you let Naro go free, since the wizard student is obviously complicit in the plot and might have important information to share about the Unkindness and the Dragon. Still, you have met the obligations of the mission, so she sends you as promised to where you can find Daisy’s brother Tumn. Her magic mirror reveals the sight of an immense human metropolis built upon a hilltop. It’s none other than Farglad, capital of the kingdom of Paradon. In addition to getting an audience with Tumn, Furik also offers  the Seven Sovereigns’ aid in helping Dovienya prove his innocence in the murder charge that forced him to flee the city.

2. Under the Fang of Farglad

Teleported by the mirror, you find yourself in fine lodgings in a posh part of the capital in an establishment called the Sapphire Fang. You are shown to your opulent rooms by the major domo Osbert and settle in for the night. Osbert informs you that you’ll have visitors the following afternoon.


The next morning, Daisy and Nim take advantage of the free time to head to the markets and sell the party’s loot plus make additional purchases. Nim looks for a “starknife”, a weapons she has seen in her dreams, but she discovers it is unknown in this part of the world; no one’s even heard of one. Meanwhile, Dov stays sequestered in his rooms all morning since he is a wanted fugitive. Bored, he finds Nim’s journal and reads it, learning about many of her disturbing visions.

You all meet back at the Fang in the afternoon, and your first visitor is a human woman who introduces herself as Averon. She’s clearly an affluent wizard, a member of the city’s powerful elite.


Averon greets you all, welcoming Daisy especially, as she is the Shepherd Prince’s sister.  Although cordial, she expresses some annoyance with Furik for having made this bargain with you, blaming it on her colleague’s “old self coming through”, whatever that means.  Averon is resigned, however, to uphold their end of the deal and assist Dov with his investigation to clear his name .

She explains that the Sovereigns know Dov had nothing to do with the death of the paladin Balek Broadwall. She also makes it clear they are guiltless as well, arguing that there would be zero advantage in assassinating any of the Pure.  As near as any of you can tell, she’s speaking the truth.

The paladin’s murder is indeed a mystery, and Averon admits there are actually many other mysterious happenings in Farglad right now.  Some unknown agency is working against the Sovereigns’ interests. Perhaps the Unsworn, out of gratitude to their gracious hosts, could keep an eye out and report back on anything they discover?

The Mysterious Happenings:

  • Powerful magic items are getting stolen under everyone’s noses all across Farglad with no pattern to the victims. Averon herself had acquired a dagger marked with the Shepherd Prince’s sigil that she intended as a gift for him. It vanished from inside her house, its removal triggering none of her protective spells.
  • Multiple theories are getting bandied about as to the cause of the stolen goods, most wild and improbable; some fueled by sightings of shrouded strangers that seem to walk through walls. Curiously, there are more and more encounters with ghosts being reported, though none of the testimonies feature the ghosts trying to pinch people’s stuff.
  • Many not in the know assume the blame lies with the city’s thriving thieves’ guild, which calls itself the Eye-in-the-Hole, but Averon assures you they’re not responsible. The Sovereigns, she coolly explains, effectively control the Eye, and the thieves are livid to have the anonymous competition and the higher level of scrutiny from the authorities the thefts have produced.
  • According to Averon, the most likely suspect is the Chaos Cult of Caolaub (pronounced “cow-lob”).  They’ve long been boogeymen in the city, but word is they are making a return, actively recruiting with a powerful new leader at their head.

Averon says Dov should be able to move about the city and investigate as long as he doesn’t draw too much attention to himself.  The murdered paladin’s lover, a fellow paladin named Righteous Titus (nicknamed “Righty Tighty”) is still ruthlessly pursuing Dov, but Furik’s seen fit to send him on a wild goose chase on the far side of the kingdom. A disguise for Dov would not be a bad idea, however.

Averon explains the Sovereigns also own the Swains, the order of popular bards who sing exclusively about the Pure. They often employ special informants (called “muses”) recruited from the Eye-in-the-Hole to spy on the paladins and report back, ostensibly to provide inspiration for the Swain bards’ ballads, but mostly just to keep tabs on the Pure for the Sovereigns.

To help start your investigation, Averon has arranged a meeting for you to speak with the muse who was watching Balek before he was murdered. His name is Hettor Jeck, and he will speak with you at the public fountain at the Statue of Ursius the next day during the lunch hour.

Offhandedly, Averon also mentions that the Sibrillian ambassador is in city, and the Sovereigns are, of course, keeping a very close eye on him. Truth is he is a bit of a recluse and doesn’t leave his house much.

Averon then brings in the next visitor and takes her leave. It is none other than Daisy’s brother, Tumn!

Tumn, aka Trample Underfoot

The youthful halfling comes in bearing numerous flagons of beer, which he offers hoping you’ll join him in celebrating the reunion with his sister, whom he had presumed was dead. Though sad about his village’s destruction, he is happy to report on his new “Important Destiny”. Tumn has accepted his prophetic role as the Shepherd Prince and looks forward to his eventual showdown with the evil halfling-hating dragon and the opportunity to restore glory to his people’s homeland.  Feeling optimistic, he tells you he is soon to be trained in warrior-ing by an actual Axlan called “The Rectoress,” and that you should call him by the new alias he’s been provided: “Trample Underfoot”. Tumn’s not the smartest sheep in the flock, and general consensus among you is that he seems way in over his head, to put it mildly.

The reunion is not a resounding success.  Daisy, despondent, turns to drink.


That night, Nim dreams of a starknife turning into a star in the night sky, and the name “Lutha”. She gets the sense somehow that starknives originate from a star, and that the star is called Lutha. She has no idea what this means.

3. The Paladin’s Puzzle

With Daisy still nursing her pain with intoxicants, Nim and Dov go to meet with Hettor Jeck at the appointed time. Along the way, Nim notices the multiple “lighttowers” found throughout the city. Dov explains these are shrines to the Calydo (LG goddess of light, justice, and goodness, patron / creator of humans) and that they help keep the streets alight at night. The towers are also depicted on Farglad’s heraldry. This triggers for Nim a memory of a particular vision she’s had, but she keeps the connection to herself for now.

Hettor Jeck

At the fountain, the informant Hettor Jeck recalls the last few weeks of Balek Broadwall’s life. The paladin was panicked about something. Maybe something was stolen from him, something really important, as Balek tore his place apart looking for it.  He was acting crazy and paranoid. At one point, the paladin ventured out of the city on some brief holy quest, disappeared for a week or two –  none of the other Pure knew where –  then came back, less crazy, but grim and resolved. It was only a couple of days later that some petty thief named Racwulf led the paladin out of his quarters. Balek’s body wasthen found dead inside his room a few hours later – but how? Jeck never saw him go back in.  The muse was going to report Racwulf for doing deals outside the guild and investigate whether he was tied to the murder, but Rac turned up dead within a couple of days himself, so that ended any further digging.

Jeck can sneak you into the room Balek was staying in so you can look around, and you agree to meet him that night.

Later that evening, Nim knocks on Daisy’s door and confides in her that she has issues with her own brother. They bond over this shared connection, and Daisy agrees to sober up and accompany everyone to the paladin’s quarters.

Once there, Jeck picks the lock, leads you inside, then ducks away into the darkness of the city.  You search Balek’s room and discover various gold coins secreted throughout the space, all with different symbols carved into them (sun, moon, hand, eye, flower, etc.). Dov spots a coin-shaped slot hidden on the side of a chest as well as the words of a riddle carved nearby. It’s deduced that the answer to the riddle indicates which coin to enter into the slot.

What we see every day when She opens her eye,
the King only sees but rarely,
Calydo on High never sees one at all,
Though She treats us all justly and fairly

Dov solves the riddle – the answer is an “an equal” – and inserts the coin with an equal sign on it. A secret compartment in the chest opens up revealing a tattered notebook filled with the paladin’s scrawls.

Dov scoops it up right before you hear Hettor Jeck’s urgent voice from the exit whispering a warning that someone is approaching with purpose from outside.

Once out on the street, you can indeed perceive a person is getting nearer.  Daisy and Nim decide to walk nonchalantly back to the Fang, while Dov uses stealth to stop and watch.

From the shadows, Dov sees the pursuer is a half-orc. His eye-patch and general demeanor identify him as a member of the Nightwatchers, aka “The Order of the Wounded Eye”, a secretive investigative force of the Calydoan Temple that focuses on monitoring dangerous waywards (chaos worshippers), particularly Caolaubists. Still unseen, Dov decides to follow behind him stealthily.

Nightwatcher Ikomar

The pursuer catches up to Nim and Daisy, introduces himself as Nightwatcher Ikomar, and inquires as their business on the streets that night.  The two play dumb, pretending to be lost tourists on their way to the Sapphire Fang. The investigator doesn’t seem to be buying their stories and offers/demands to accompany them to the restaurant.

Dov jumps out of the darkness to intervene on his friends’ behalf, but within seconds, it’s clear Ikomar recognizes Dov as the convicted murderer of the paladin.  Luckily, he isn’t interested just now in adhering to the Law and getting him re-locked up.

“I know you didn’t do it,” the Nightwatcher says to Dov. “But I don’t care. I’m giving you a warning. My investigation is underway and I don’t want you mucking it up. Once things settle, I’ll make sure your name is cleared, but now is not the time. I don’t want to see you or your friends’ faces again.”

Dov quickly agrees to the terms and ushers his friends away.

Back at your rooms at the Fang, Dov pores over the contents of the paladin’s notebook.

He learns the following:

  • The paladin Balek originally had in his possession a secret heretical document – the Xanhyrkanic Codex – which casts doubt on Calydo’s Suffusion (the goddess’s act of uplifting humans from a bestial proto-race). He needed to safeguard the Codex as the document’s supposed revelations would weaken and damage the Temple, particularly in the hands of Calydo’s enemies. The notebook reveals Balek nearly went mad when the Xanhyrkanic Codex was stolen out from right under his nose.
  • The panicking apoplectic paladin became obsessed with trying to find out who the thieves were and get the Codex back. He began meticulously tracking the Chaos Cultists’ movements, as they were the obvious culprits. He mentioned their new leader’s name: “Moumalid”.
  • Tucked into the notebook are two items: 1) Evidence Balek paid for divination from an oracle (time frame corresponds to when Balek left for a couple weeks and returned with renewed focus); 2) An invitation on strange parchment to some kind of auction written in Infernal.
  • As the notes from his investigation go on, the paladin’s writing became less legible and more like nonsensical rantings.  He started referring to places called the “Fair City” and the “City Unfair”And he scrawled things like: “the birds walk in shadow…” and “the white jester dances but for which king?”

Recognizing the bird-shadow and white jester imagery from Nim’s visions, Dov relays his discoveries from the notebook to both her and Daisy, confessing that he read the oracle’s journal when she wasn’t there.  Nim forgives Dov for the transgression, and the Unsworn affirm their friendship, committing to unity as they forge ahead in Farglad in pursuit of justice for one of their own.

To Be Continued…

Game Recap: The Tomb of the Waiting Dead

The Kingdom of Paradon is in Peril!

You’ve uncovered a secret: a shadowy cabal of unsavory spell casters called the Seven Sovereigns are running a vast criminal empire across the kingdom.

But to your surprise, they aren’t your chief antagonists, at least not currently. It turns out there’s a bigger threat: the despotic dragon usurper of the neighboring island nation of Sibril is scheming to seize Paradon for himself.  The Seven Sovereigns are using their power and resources to stop his invasion, if only to protect their own interests, and they have enlisted you to help.

The Seven have learned what they can about their enemy. His true name is Cognail, and he has a weakness: halflings. Specifically, the descendants of a halfling clan (‘dardai’), of legendary dragon tamers from old Axla, the halfling homeland, where the dragon himself hails from. He both hates and fears those of this clan, for they ran him out of Axla, and it’s said that, even now, centuries later, he will reel at the presence of one from that lineage. He can smell the offending blood in their veins.

The halfling clan, called the Dardai Derulade, marked their anti-draconic weaponry and magic items with the heraldry of a thistle flower.  As a pre-emptive defense measure, the Seven began amassing as much of the thistle-marked paraphernalia as they could, but found that the clan’s magic was inaccessible, locked behind unknown Axlan command words. The Derulade, it turns out, were possessive of their powers.

In their research, the Seven also chanced upon a secret weapon that they could use to really hit Cognail where it hurts.  An ancient Axlan oracle once predicted the return of a heroic figure called the Shepherd Prince. The legend tells of a halfling of modest beginnings, one born “under the thistle”, who will one day rise up in a foreign land and defeat a terrible and mighty foe (generally interpreted to be a dragon), restoring glory to the homeland. The dragon Cognail is surely well aware of the prophecy and dreads its fruition.  So a plan was devised by the Seven to exploit his fear and weakness.  If the Shepherd Prince could be found, likely among the agrarian halfling immigrant population, then the Seven could help him fulfill the prophecy and exploit the dragon’s vulnerability.

Well, guess what? The Shepherd Prince has been found! His name is Tumn Thistlebottom (surname’s a dead give-away, honestly), and he has been “shepherded” to a secure location to prepare him for his eventual showdown with the dragon. Cognail’s not even going to see it coming.  Paradon now has a fighting chance!

Meanwhile, while the Seven Sovereigns prepare their champion, the scheming dragon is up to something himself.  Word has come to the Seven that he is interested in a recently unearthed barbarian queen’s tomb in the Plains of Nemir.  A Sibrillian spy sent by the dragon is planning to infiltrate a group of scholars from Raismonts wizard academy as they plumb the depths of the tomb for the first time.

You three were sent by Furik, one of the Seven, to join the scholars on the expedition, ostensibly as trap-removers and monster-purgers for hire. You were tasked with determining what the spy was doing there and what interest the tomb has for the dragon.

In exchange for performing this deed, Furik has promised to teleport you to Daisy’s brother Tumn. Plus, she’s gifted you a lot of expensive weapons you can sell, spell scripts for Dov, an Axlan full plate for Daisy, and your lives.

A sampling of some of the tomb’s monsters you purged

You delved into the tomb and succeeded in rooting out the spy. But the tomb took a victim, the student wizard Ereleuva, who delved herself too deep into its mysteries. The cleric guide Gylaw had been secretly sent by her family in Slikston (Paradonian city) to watch out for her, and he’ll now have to bear the burden of sharing news of his failure.

The ancient Nodkun barbarians practically worshiped their Queen Nomobobo Bloodboat, so much so that they ceased being nomads altogether just so they could tend to a vast necropolis where all her subjects could be buried with her.  Said subjects were buried in a highly unorthodox manner: propped upright against the walls, stripped to skeletons and equipped with their weapons and armor.  A hieroglyphic warning to would-be robbers was written on the entrance wall: “We will find you when we wake.”

At what seemed to be the final burial chamber of the queen, the dead did indeed wake up and attack you, but it turned out to be a false tomb. These undead guardians were merely meant to distract you from the real queen’s sarcophagus, found hidden behind a secret door. It was here that the dragon’s spy finally made his move.

Bloody skeleton (one of many), undead Ereleuva, and the False Queen

The leader of the expedition, the powerful wizard Azitain, suddenly cast a spell which caused everyone to freeze in place, unable to move or speak. He then strode over to the remains of the queen and unceremoniously pulled from her skull a black gem-like thing, then darted out of the room.  Dov was the first to break the spell’s control and he began to chase the wizard back through the tomb, towards the entrance.  He finally caught up and confronted him, but was mentally confounded by another of the wizard’s spells. It made him either mutter incoherently, attack the nearest ally – which turned out to be Gylaw coming up from behind to assist, or stab himself with his own rapier.

Dov’s quick pursuit failed to stop Azitain, but it did have one important side-effect: it provoked the real spy to take new protective measures. The two surviving wizard students, Naro and Pedocles, suddenly began to duel, causing a distraction for Nim and Daisy, now recovered from Azitain’s spell and trying to catch up to Dov. To avoid the fight, Naro’s familiar, her raven, flew off her shoulder.  Besides offensive spells, accusations were getting hurled between the two students, each trying to make it clear the other was a villain. One of them was clearly in league with the retreating Azitain and had to be stopped, but who was deceiving who?

Well, it turned out that Naro was a terrible liar.  She was unsuccessful at pinning Pedocles with peccancy.  Seeing through her bluff and not one to wait, Daisy bounded over on Ambrosius and promptly bullrushed her into prone submission, then she got her tied up. Meanwhile, Nim was able to convince the guiltless but panicky Pedocles to form a hasty alliance. Together, they raced to the front area of the tomb to find Azitain gone and poor Dov still blathering in gibberish – which, considering how laconic and on-point the investigator usually is, was amusing but also a little shocking.

The party returned to drag a restrained Naro outside, and with a Zone of Truth cast by Nim, everyone could hear her unrestrained story. She revealed that the raven who was always perched at her shoulder, whispering in her ears, was not in fact her familiar at all –  but a spy, working for the nation of Sibril.  Naro herself was not evil, she explained, but was being extorted into aiding the avian villain because her family was being held hostage.  The bird wore a powerful magic ring which he used to cruelly control Azitain with mental domination. One side-effect of the cursed thing is it made the wizard incapable of speech except for spells. So one of Naro’s duties for the spy was to pretend to send telepathic messages as Azitain to favored student Pedocles. This allowed the raven to manipulate the expedition so he could gain possession of the skullstone inside the queen’s head.

As you all listened to her confession, the raven, a master of stealth, was keeping watch over the proceedings in the shadows, seeing how much Naro would betray. Not even Dov’s keen eyes could perceive him at first, but right before the raven was set to fly off and join his mind-slave Azitain in their escape to Sibril, the investigator spotted him.  The bird was flushed out with a crossbow bolt, and a well-timed Ray of Enfeeblement spell courtesy of Pedocles dropped him unconscious to the ground.  The black-feathered blackguard was bound up, and his two rings were removed by Nim – the aforementioned Ring of Enslavement he had been using to control Azitain, and a Ring of Mind Shielding, which prevented anyone from trying to divine his evil alignment.

To Be Continued…

Game Recap: Dragons?… & Dungeons?

You enter the Mound from an entrance at its top, and find it to contain a hive of Formians – an invading race from another plane that resembles giant ant-centaurs.  The menial workers inside largely ignore you as you navigate the maze-like earthen interior, stumbling into their fungus farm, food storage rooms, and an armory (with many masterwork weapons which you nab as loot).

At one point, you are attacked by a larger, clearly more authoritative Formian who is mind-controlling a couple of vile stunted slave-creatures, as well as by several of the warriors of the species.

You fight off the defenders, advancing deeper into the center of the Mound. You find the queen dormant in a small locked room and decide against destroying her. You continue on, finding a secret door that leads to an area set apart from Formian dwellings. The rooms appear to be the workspace of a powerful humanoid wizard, one who dabbles in necromancy. The wizard is growing crystals that hatch black skeletons, and you meet one of them, alive (as such things go) and seemingly insane, leaning up against a wall of a dark tunnel. He rambles incoherently on a variety of topics – the predominant themes being tongues, pits, and/or lakes of fire. When he realizes Daisy is not his master, he flees and sets off an avalanche trap to keep you from pursuing. Continuing to explore, you discover a spacious wizard workshop, and pinch some magical goggles and a staff, plus numerous spells and alchemical formulas, which you stuff in your pockets. You find a smithy, where many magical blades are in various states of being fashioned. Daisy takes a full set of halfling plate mail on display that she realizes must be Axlan in origin. Strange doings occur within this area –  ghostly figures briefly appear on the ceiling, and a corpse used presumably for experimentation disappears entirely after exiting the room, its tracks leading you deeper in. There’s a room of cages with silent, listless human prisoners. They don’t seem interested in escaping, so you give up trying to rally them. You also find an empty meeting room, with banners emblazoned with the star symbol of the Seven Sovereigns:

Finally, at the heart of the Mound, you find a room decorated like a comfortable lounge.  Inside is a halfling woman reclining on a settee, sipping tea. Next to her in the center of the room is a circular pit in the floor with its walls lined with books. There are
two dog-sized centipedes, the halfling’s pets you presume; one appears to be delivering a book from the pit to her.  When she sees you, the woman smiles the barest of smiles and offers a greeting. She’s been expecting you…

“Well, thieves, here you are”, she says. “I hope it was a satisfying ‘adventure’ for you.”

She is well aware of your shenanigans within the Mound, listing them with some disdain, though she does not appear too outwardly upset, all-things-considered:    “At least your damage to the colony was minimal. Killed one of my taskmasters though, tsk tsk.  At least you didn’t mess with the queen or the nursery. Though for a second it seemed otherwise and I was going to have to put down my tea and actually stand up from my couch.”

A halfling necromancer?!  …Daisy’s mind reels.

Standing tall and shaking off any revulsion, you explain you are here for Trimphid and the halfling boy he stole. Justice, you argue, has yet to be served!

Instead of seeking retribution for breaking & entering / killing her minions / and stealing her stuff, the wizard is inclined to listen, impressed that you have infiltrated her hide-out and curious about your ties to Trimphid, and so you begin to converse, rather than fight – a fight you would likely quickly and soundly lose, it’s not hard to imagine.

The wizard’s name, you learn, is Imone Furik and she is one of the Seven Sovereigns. She is a powerful transmuter and not a specialist in necromancy, FYI, though she does dabble in it from time-to-time.

You learn the following points:

  • Trimphid and the boy are elsewhere. Tumn is safe though and was not taken against his will. In fact, he is grateful to Trimphid for rescuing him and revealing his true destiny.  Furik is not inclined yet to reveal the boy’s whereabouts just yet, but will do so if you are all willing to use your obvious talents in pursuit of a mutual cause.
  • She claims her organization is not responsible for what happened to Daisy’s village. Those were not their orders and she suspects it was carried out by agents of Sibril – the neighboring island nation to the north, recently usurped by a dragon.
  • She explains there is an Axlan prophecy of the Shepherd Prince. The usurper of Sibril, the dragon Cognail, seeks to expand his domain and secretly plots to conquer your nation of Paradon. The prophecy states that a halfling called the Shepherd Prince, a descendant of the Dardai Derulade (a halfling clan), may one day restore Axlan glory and defeat the dragon.  Agents of Sibril must have been ordered by the dragon to kill all of the halflings in Daisy’s village.
  • The symbol of the thistle is in fact that of the Axlan clan the Dardai Derulade. Cognail is deathly afraid of anyone of that blood as they are mortal enemies of dragonkind.  The Seven Sovereign have been trying to collect weapons with the Derulade mark as they are particularly potent against dragons, but they have yet to unlock the words of activation.
  • Tumn *is* the Shepherd Prince, Furik claims, and with the Seven Sovereigns help, they will prepare the prophesied hero to fulfill his destiny and save Paradon from the dragon’s invasion!

It’s a lot to take in. And Dov and Nim quickly realize elements of her story don’t exactly add up based on what you heard from Rucksack’s eyewitness accounts nor on what Trimphid wrote in his the note you intercepted.  You are understandably hesitant to trust a wizard who practices unethical magical practices, let alone one that leads a vast criminal organization.

Furik claims it was just supreme good fortune/fate that the idiotic Overseers bungled their dragon leader’s mission and spared the Shepherd Prince, but whether Brega had anything to do with it is a whole other matter, you think.

At any rate, Furik holds all the cards at the moment. She knows where Daisy’s brother is, and may have further info to help Dov (pseudonym: Doug) clear his name (though she appears not to recognize the investigator, and he didn’t drop any hints as to who he was).  She also seems earnest in her efforts to stop Cognail and a little desperate to enlist your help.

You agree to a deal, though it makes your blood feel sour in your veins: Help Furik and the Seven Sovereigns with a mission, and in exchange, she’ll teleport you to Tumn.

“We know that Cognail is interested in the tomb of an ancient human barbarian queen known as Nomobobo Bloodboat, but we don’t know why.  A group of scholars from Raismonts’ Academy of the Arcane have mounted an expedition to plumb the tomb’s depths, and we have reason to believe a Sibrillian spy has infiltrated the group. They have hired a man named Caspiran, a talented tomb-robber and dungeoneer, to help them avoid its many traps. They were due to meet him yesterday at the inn in the frontier town of Chelton on the edge of the Plains of Nemir, and begin the trek to the tomb. I intercepted Caspiran recently, suspecting him of being the spy, but after extensive interrogation, I’ve determined that he’s no Sibrillian agent – just an opportunistic crook . He had actually planned to betray the scholars, ambushing them with a few of his friends.  I see an opportunity here: The scholars have never seen Caspiran. Doug, you can pretend to be him, and can claim your friends here are part of your crew. You can infiltrate the group, travel with them, determine the identity of the spy and what Sibril’s interest is in the Bloodboat tomb, then report back to me”

Furik introduces you to the creepy black skeleton you met earlier. His name is Quandary. You stand in front of the mirror in her lounge, she utters some command words, and the mirror’s reflection shifts to show you a bird’s eye view of Chelton. When you’ve completed the task, Furik tells you, return to Chelton and seek Quandary out on the cemetery hill.  He’ll make the arrangements to teleport you back to the Mound.

Furik insists you relinquish the magic goggles and staff you stole.  But she says you can keep the formulas and weapons; though you are warned about the magical blades – these are her “little experiments” and may not have desired results.  The Axlan armor is her gift to Daisy, a token of her deepest sympathies for what happened to her village.

You walk through the mirror and find yourself alone under a wide open noon sky on the cemetery on the hill overlooking the little run-down frontier town. Still not feeling in any way good about how things went down in the Mound, you set forth with heavy hearts – and exhausted bodies (when exactly was the last time you rested anyway?).  The sole inn in Chelton is called the Laughing Pig, and inside you easily spot the group of scholars sitting nursing drinks, and waiting for Caspiran to show up.

You meet the scholars – all wizards from Raismonts, three graduate students and a mute professor. They’ve hired an amicable Bregan cleric to guide them across the Plains. You convince them to wait another day before embarking so you can have a chance to rest up.

As you make your way to the location of the tomb, Nim befriends Ereleuva, the chattiest of the wizard students, and from her you learn a bit about the Nodkun, the barbarian tribe that gave up their nomadic lifestyle to build a necropolis in honor of their queen Nomobobo. At one point in the journey, you spot a pack of Blink Dogs in the distance. This magical canine race likes to “blink” –  teleport in an out of this plane – once or twice a minute. Your guide, the cleric Gylaw, explains the dogs actually avoid the site of the Nodkun necropolis. He calls them a superstitious lot, pointing out that they see omens in the stars. This comment can’t help but make Nim bristle.

Dov furtively prepares and drinks two See Alignment elixirs and can determine no one in the party reads as “Lawful Evil” nor “Chaotic Evil”.

You arrive at the tomb entrance to find the scholars’ guards they’d left there mysteriously absent. Before you can investigate, you are ambushed by a bunch of Caspiran’s crew, who jump out of hiding from behind the rocky terrain. You take them out before they can reveal Dov is an imposter.

The cleric Gylaw heals any wounds you incurred and you spend an uneventful night camping outside the entrance, before waking up in the morning, preparing yourself to descend into the necropolis.

To Be Continued..

Game Recap: Caper at Court

As the gargoyle flies on down the street, Daisy turns to Dovienya, hands on hips. “Oh great! What exactly did you DO in there anyway?”

Dovienya had been digging through his pack pulling out alchemical supplies, but he stops for a moment to look at Daisy, a flash of anger in his eyes.  “What did I do?  I was talking to the Wardens.  After being invited into the barracks.  I was about five minutes away from getting them to help us track down Trimphid. What did you do?”  Without waiting for an answer Dovienya turns back to his reagents and begins crafting an elixir of some kind.

“What did….?!” Daisy sputters. “What I did was rush over here because you both went off without so much as a note or a by your leave, and everyone saying ‘boy it sure has been a long time since they left…’ And then that thing,” she jabs her finger at the gargoyle, “goes off on how an army of wardens all ran into the building after you, and…..and….” Here her voice goes croaky, and she cuts herself off.

“Fine,” she rasps under her breath. “Let’s just go….do what we’re here to do.” And with that, she rides off after the Scrafe, not looking back to see if anyone’s following.

Nim makes a pretty undignified noise like a squeak, and then sputters for a moment after Daisy. “And she’s gone…” she says to the empty space where Daisy had occupied until moments ago. She turns to Dovienya and regards him with a sad, defeated look.

“She was worried about us, I think is what she means. And since the Wardens were going to hand you over to the Pure… Not an unfounded worry, then, it seems to me.”

Faced with Nim’s defeated look Dovienya’s self-important confidence deflates slightly.  “You’re right.  She was trying to help us in the best way she knows how.  And who knows, it’s possible I wasn’t going to be able to talk our way out after all.”

The gargoyle swoops back down to Nim and Dov to say:

“Stop talking and MOVE THOSE LIMBS! The Court’s just over here!”

The two of you hasten to catch up to Daisy.

The gargoyle leads you to a white spire in the central of Tupelu. This is the entrance to Tyslas Thysaer, the Elven Court. It’s a giant tree without limbs or foliage, thinning in the middle and then widening again as it reaches a severed flat top, forming something of an hourglass shape. In its bark is carved relief scenes of elven history, and its base has been rendered into a grand staircase leading to a wide opening, with gray curtains concealing what’s behind like a theater stage.

Several solemn servants in Ruthorian house livery gesture you over on the street nearby, silently hand over the rest of your gear, three scrolls sealed with the Ruthorian house sigil (your passes), a hastily scrawled letter from Ruthorian, one of those Tupelan hens, and a special night-black bag tied with silver cord.

The letter reads:

Entering the Court now is the only way I can keep the wardens from you and protect myself. I need you to still perform tomorrow. Until then, you are on your own. Tyslas Thysaer is where the elves go to play as gods, and you will be mere mortals in this realm. Tread with care: I have little power to protect you. Speak only Elvish. Tell anyone who asks that you have been “honored with an invitation to glimpse Osina Sarrazin’s beauty” and let them direct you where to go. The hen is for her, appeal to her vanity. When the time comes tomorrow, servitors will bring you to the performance space I have set up. The wardens will likely try to ambush you afterwards. Wait for more instructions at the soirée – I hope to deliver then the means to our mutual friend. My staff here have your credentials, and in the bag the necessary tributes that you’ll need for entry. Do not look in the bag. Destroy this letter.

Scrafe saddles up to Nim and hands her two twisterstones in a confidential manner :

“You’re the only one with any sense in this heap.” [gestures to Daisy and Dov]  “Hold on to at least one in case you’re caught by the wardens. Tell ‘em you was the one who set the twisters loose in the barracks, yes? Keep my master out of it. The other one’s for you to use at your discretion and ‘scrimination.“

He winks, then flies away for good.

At the gate, a single hooded elf emerges out of the shimmery gray cloth – his cloak is formed out of and still connected to the curtain.  He takes your credentials and reads them, takes the bag, peers inside quickly then snaps the bag shut. He then looks up,  examining you each in turn. He asks about the hen and the dog. Ambrosius gets a special bond to Daisy.  “It is necessary. The animal will be linked to you in Tyslas Thysaer,” the gatekeeper explains.

The curtain is parted and you enter the Court.

You wander this strange place which seems to go on forever. Is it on another plane of existence? There are ballrooms filled with trees, some filled with a mix of marble and luscious forest vegetation. Sometimes the trees look like they’re made of glass;  sometimes the hallways have no walls and there’s only the sight of meadows and flower-filled glades on each side.

At one point, you encounter a group of wandering elf nobility, drinking and carousing.  When they see you, they are immediately fascinated, putting full attention on you for their next diversion. Nim they ignore entirely – a half-elf Khian-Tian commoner.  But Dov they try to buddy up with, telling him they like the cut of his jib, offering him a thousand gold for his clothes.  If not that, then 200 gp for his hat. Daisy and Ambrosius, they find hysterical.  The drunkest and most obnoxious of them gets on all fours and offers his back for her to ride.

Dov perceives the most sober of the lot and asks for directions to Osina Serrazin. The elf nobleman haughtily agrees to divulge but only if Dov relinquishes his hat, for it will amuse his friends to no end and give him bragging rights for 100 years, or so he claims.  Dov reluctantly hands over his hat, and the elf summons a Servitor, an animated crystalline statue, who leads the three of you away from the carousers to Osina Sarrazin’s glade.

After introductions are made to the eccentric vain aristocrat, and a certain Tupelan hen is bequeathed to sweeten the relationship, Osina invites you all (not that you have a lot of choice) to participate in her elaborate tableaus depicting mythological scenes for the entertainment of her banqueting guests.  Everyone’s to take part, that is, except Ambrosius, who is treated like a prince and given a place of honor in the audience.  Osina is particularly excited about Daisy, insisting that she dress as Edwar the Red Dwarf, a famous dwarf villain from folk tales, in each of the tableaus, even when he doesn’t fit the scene.  Eventually, you’re all able to get a break and rest up for the night in her stables (many of the tableaus feature horses.).

While settling down, Daisy discovers a clockwork cricket among her things – maybe fashioned by Pobody?  Did the thing hop on her when she was waiting around in his potion shop?  Nim says it’s magical. It apparently has silence-making powers.

Before you all go to sleep, Daisy tells you of Pobody’s discoveries about her sword.  “It kills dragons,” she says matter-of-factually.  But it requires a special command phrase to start being magical. And Daisy, failing to connect the dots, has no idea what those words should be.

The next morning, one of the crystalline Servitors arrives to accompany you all to Ruthorian’s performance space.  Upon arrival, you are handed a sack, containing:

  • Two costumes: a Green Maggs that looks like it fits Nim, and a Twig-Monster to fit Daisy;
  • A small shovel;
  • A statuette of a tusked creature (one of Ruthorian’s);
  • and a note from Ruthorian, which reads:

I regret that I cannot attend. Though we miss our dear friend, I suggest for good luck you tear his note in three and each take a part; keep the remnant close at hand. After your performance, look for my regards from Jewel Eye, a most ardent fan.


You still have the note from Trimphid, so your rip it in three and distribute it among each other. Then you prepare for your performance.  Nim, disgusted with the idea, is not interested in being Green Maggs, so Dov drinks an elixir that makes him magically resemble the hag, and puts on the costume instead. Daisy wants nothing to do with a Twig-Monster costume and leaves that in the sack.  Nim, meanwhile, acts the part of the Narrator.

The performance goes reasonably well. Nothing spectacular, but Daisy does an adequate job playing her heroic self.  Dov really hams it up as Green Maggs; truth-be-told: not to be his best work.  More a work of melodrama than a documentary. But the audience is forgiving and you receive appreciation and praise at the close.

During the post-performance reception, there is buzz that the wardens are waiting outside. An agent of theirs drills each of you about Dov – wondering where he is, but since he is disguised as Green Maggs, the fugitive manages to escape the attentions of the Law for the time being.

During the hobnobbing, an elven woman with a bejeweled eye-patch approaches and passes each of you the petal of a certain flower. “Eat, sleep, wake, dig,” she says cryptically.  Upon eating the petal, each of you has a fit, collapsing to the floor and making quite the scene. You black out and awaken much later in some kind of a recovery room – Ambrosius is there too (linked as he is to Daisy by the gatekeeper).

Once you’ve gathered your wits and your stuff, you remember Ruthorian’s shovel and Jewel Eye’s instructions and work together to distract the Servitors enough so you can dig a hole in the ground and jump in.  This, you discover, is a way to access the Court’s back stage area, the behind-the-scenes of Tyslas Thysaer, and “hack in” to the system (to use meta modern terminology). The Court is a magical entity of sorts that happens to log the entrances and exits of all its visitors, keeping this data stored somewhere in its programming, so by accessing its back stage, keeping Trimphid’s note remnant close and your desire to find him in your mind, you can trick the Court into taking you where Trimphid exited. Or, at least, this was Ruthorian’s hope.

The only problem is, none of you are full elves.  And Tyslas Thysaer is for elves.

So the Court has its way with you. Each of you has to deal with a fantasy dream sequence and use your willpower to overcome the magical realm’s hold on you…

After climbing down into the tunnel, Daisy suddenly  finds herself mounted on Ambrosius, her mind all a muddle as to what came before. She’s dressed in full plate – a full cavalier under the thistle banner, with a band of fellow halfling cavaliers around her. They are priming for battle. She has her sword and can feel its magic – and she is not afraid to wield it.

She realizes she is in Axla, the halfling homeland, and it’s just as she imagined from Nana’s stories.  A trumpet blares nearby. Below her, in the field at the base of a hill, she can see a horde of… orcs?  Another trumpet blasts, and all as one, the cavaliers charge. At this moment, Daisy fails to withstand the power of Tyslas Thysaer‘s security protocols. Her eyes gaze back up at the banner as her cavaliers race down the hill. Her thistle banner has changed!  Now it’s upside-down and looks like a dragon raining purple fire and terror on the earth below.

At the bottom, Daisy finds herself amid the carnage of her old village. It’s filled with fire-elemental halfling people parading out of a dragon’s mouth. Are they burning or celebrating?  This time she is able to will herself out of the situation. The scene changes and she finds that she is no longer riding on Ambrosius; all around her is darkness. Her trusted friend, however, is barking at her to follow a distance away. She goes to him and thus is led out of the Elven Court.

Meanwhile, Nim awakens in the Royal Palace of Khian-Ta. She’s dressed as the nobility of her people, and her mother is standing by her, gazing at her and looking proud. She places a shimmering rainbow shawl around her neck.

“Oh Nimaruna, I want to introduce you to everyone”, her mother says.  In the throng of Khian-Tian notables, Nim can see famous warriors and legendary hunter folk heroes in attendance. She feels like she belongs.

Everyone is expecting the arrival of the king, mingling, eating morsels brought on plates by servants. The food b looks delicious, something delicate, winged. Nim reaches to grab for one. Someone tells her what they are: pixies.

Nim, being half-elven, is better suited to withstand the Court’s mind-enchanting affects. She realizes she is in a dream and refuses to eat.  The King of Khian-Ta enters then, the whole crowd as one stops what they were doing, turns to face him, and begins to bow, genuflect.

Her mother, showing deference with the others, looks up at her. “Bow, child” she says sternly, and Nim knows doing so will please her mother.  But Nim is stronger. She doesn’t bow. The king’s face is not visible, but from his head Nim can see sprouting ink-black antlers. Her kin are all kneeling now, deeply prostrated before the king, deeper and deeper they fold into ground.  Nim stands alone, the one member of her people still upright, facing the antlered king in defiance.  At this, the world goes black and everyone around her bursts into stars.  After a moment of stillness, Nim traces the patterns of the fabric around her, until she finds there is a single star lit up more than the others. She floats towards it and thus is led out of the Elven Court.

Dov opens his eyes to his old prison cell in Farglad. Was his escape and adventures all a dream?  But something is odd about the walls:  they’re entirely made of books, stacks and stacks of them, all sizes and shapes. He pulls one out to read its pages, and the text is all about Dov, extolling his virtues and acumen. All the books are about Dov, he realizes. He desperately wants to read more, but his mind stays focused on the un-reality of this place, and he shakes off the urge.

Through a barred window in the cell, he can see it’s the capital city outside, but even the other buildings and roads are made of books – the whole city.  From outside, Dov begins to hear a song – it’s a ballad such as is sung about the Pure, only Dov is the subject.  Floating up to the window,  the severed heads of notable bards perform the ballad in harmony.  His cell door suddenly bursts open, and standing there is the goddess Brega herself.  “It’s time to go.”, she says.  “Come with me.” She reaches out her hand to Dov. He resists the impulse, grabs a nearby book, and hurls it at her.  Brega laughs, not unkindly, shrugs, and says, “Well, the door is open now, traveler”, and disappears.  Dov exits the prison, heads out on foot across the city of books about him, then beyond. As he journeys, the books become more and more blank. Using dream logic, Dov continues until he finds where the books are all about Trimphid, and here he finally exits the Elven Court.

Now fully out of Tyslas Thysaer, everyone wakes up to find themselves outside, on the floor of a jungle, under the stars. Ambrosius is there, too – tied to Daisy by the gatekeeper’s spell.  Near you is a cairn of stones marked with ancient Elvish. Dov examines the script and sees mention of the Elven Court. This must be a kind of obscure, forgotten gateway back into it.  The remnant of Trimphid’s note you kept is warm to your skin, and you surmise you must be at the exit point that Trimphid took, the Elven Court having dumped you here after entering its inner workings, its “back stage”. This jungle must be where he and Tumn entered, but the trail is too cold to track them. The most fresh footprints seem to be heading off in one direction, a crude path of sorts – so you take it.  It leads you to the silhouette of a giant hill against the night sky, rising ominously in the near distance.

Could this be… the Mound?

To Be Continued…