AD&D - New World

Bertram's Notes on Sri Raji

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Vistani- gypsy nomads, strange dialect of common. It appears they share many traditions with humans of the Westlands. Song, dance, and divination using tarokka cards are key elements of culture. They live in communal tents. These tents are constructed of heavy hide of some as yet unknown creature, and not fabrics that you would see in human encampments in the Middlemarsh. Food is seasoned with complex blend of wild varieties of thyme, mint, something like cardomom, and ginger. I would not have expected all of these to have grown natively on the island, nor would I have expected to find human nomads here. They drink a dark green liquor that has a nose of dill, and packs a punch of pickle brine and hemp, which masks the astringency in a somewhat unpleasant way—but drinking it seems to be a right of passage of sorts among guests. Their presence confirms what I read in the library at the Great University. At some point, some 3,000 years ago, Sri Raji participated in trade with the outside world.

Mists of Sri Raji-at some point before the Great Disaster, the island became enshrouded by mists which made navigation to and from the island impossible. Any outsiders that somehow found themselves in Sri Raji were taken before the Maharaja and never seen again. My initial intuition was that the mists were magical in nature, but that does not appear to be the case. This actually makes sense. Early gnomes sought to use natural features of the land to camouflage their dwellings, and while they were proficient in illusion magics to obscure their location—it was only used as a last resort; as permanent illusions emitted a great deal of magical energy which served as a beacon for their enemies.

Maharaja Arijani- Early texts describe him as the son of a living Avatar of the god Ravanna, and a priestess of Kali. He was hidden by his mother amongst the peasant caste, and eventually led a rebellion that swept the island. According to legend, he trapped his father on this plane and was granted a wish to spare his life. In that moment he wished for command over the island allied himself with the Dark Sisterhood (a group of assassins serving the goddess Kali), went back on his word and killed his father, cursing the island and its ruler to millennia of isolation. According to our source in Pakat (a band of halfling lycanthropes that call themselves Ajiht), the Maharaja is now a living avatar of the goddess Kali. He is never seen in public, but rumors persist that he is quite handsome. Representations of his countenance are seen in artwork, reliefs, tapestry, and currency throughout the city, but in every instance his face is obscured by a shroud…much like the Mists that encircle the island.

Halflings- They are several feet tall, taller than the average gnome, and are generally of medium build. Perhaps they were distant cousins of a shared terrestrial common ancestor?
It is my belief that they are a race entirely unique to the island of Sri Raji. The architecture in the city of Tvashtri is most similar to drawings I have seen of Amaran cities. The technique and skill required to build and maintain these structures is beyond anything I have seen in the Westlands. Their cuisine is nuanced and refined, and represents influences from all over the Urth, which belies a civilization that once had mastery of the sea and took part in trade.

Naga- Intelligent race of serpent people. I have only heard of them in myths and did not believe they existed until today. They spoke the common tongue, and had their own clothes, jewelry, and adornments, as well as a variety of magical scrolls and potions. I can only imagine how they came to be here…perhaps a labyrinth far beneath the island?

Bahru- Abandoned city on the outskirts of the temple of Arijani. Too dangerous to approach at this time, artwork depicting man transforming into tiger on temple reliefs within Bahru.

Lycanthropy- A unique form of lycanthropy exists here, in which those afflicted take the form of the tiger. This transformation is depicted in artwork in several parts of the island.
The Ajiht we believe are the source of this infection. Upon our arrival, we were beset by one, which managed to infect a member of our party. It is said the only cure is death by silver weapon, or destroying the source of the strain.

Ravannah’s Bane- A tiger statuette given to us by the Ajiht, it is actually some form of metal alloy that was recast from an arrowhead. It is said that it has the power to kill the Maharaja, who is by all accounts, a living god.

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i1: Lurkers in the Library
meanwhile, back in the Westlands...

Back in the Westlands, the goblins have taken over the Twelve Barrows. The city is a ruined husk, smoking and burning, and the human survivors are being taken prisoner, outright enslaved, or killed.

At the same time, fractures are appearing in the occupying goblin forces. With the great human threat of the Twelve Barrows eliminated, the goblin armies — not a unified force, but rather multiple forces with allegiances to their local lords — are starting to infight. Rumors abound that the goblins will withdraw soon and the Twelve Barrows — what remains — will be razed to the ground.

As the goblins prepare to pull out entirely, a small squad — Captain Chaz’s Blockheads — is tasked with exploring a library, finding whatever artifacts are left and worth attention. The previous squad sent there was nearly wiped out by a mysterious force, with its lone survivor saying only, the tentacles — the tentacles!, before falling catatonic.

Captain Chaz Cameron, second-born noble of a Cano City family, is in command of the Blockheads: Abe, a sharp-minded rogue; Baldash, Abe’s little brother and a nimble scoundrel in his own right; Corrine, a proud fighter and a woman disguised as a man; Dildo, straightforward warrior born of farming stock; and Zed, charming, handsome, tough, and stupid.

En route to the library, the Blockheads witnessed another goblin captain dragging a human woman by the hair. Just another atrocity of war to some, but Captain Chaz could take no more — he risked his rank and reputation and stopped the captain, incapacitating him and turning him over to his superior officer. The woman, a flower-seller named Branna, had lost her husband and children in the invasion of the city. Chaz took her for his own captive, seeking information on the library, but Branna knew little and did not wish to work with her captors.

Still, Chaz brought her along. The library itself — once a building of knowledge and beauty — was now a ruined shell. Its windows broken and many of its books already stolen and burned, Chaz sent Branna in ahead of the Blockheads. Branna’s first encounter was the corpse of Portia, the librarian, killed days ago by goblin soldiers. Branna told Chaz that the librarian’s body should be burned, in accordance with the Barrow folks’ traditions, and Chaz ordered Zed to see this through.

Heading into the library’s basement, Abe discovered a tunnel leading into a hidden labyrinth. Chaz agains sent Branna first to investigate, forgetting that humans could not see in the dark as goblins can.

The Blockheads discover a lost labyrinth below the library, with twisting tunnels and mysterious tracks indicating the presence of some kind of worm. They hear swordplay in the distance, but as they prepare to venture forward Branna makes a break for the stairs. Captain Chaz stops her, indicating that her presence will be required should any human tomes be found. Branna goes for Chaz’s sword, but fumbles onto it — impaling herself and dying. Chaz instructs Baldash to make a note for Zed to burn this body as well, when he returns.

Exploring the labyrinth further, the Blockheads encounter a terrible carrion crawler, a nine-foot insectoid with a taste for flesh. Though they best this first crawler, they encounter another pair deeper in the labyrinth. Brave Corrine is killed by the crawler even as a band of humans appears — Knights of the Twelve Barrows hiding out in the library’s catacombs.

The knights join in battling the crawlers, but despite Chaz’s demand that they surrender, they attack the goblin invaders. Chaz himself is cut down immediately, and though the Blockheads take down some of the knights in return, it is the Barrowmen who are triumphant. Abe is killed, then Dildo, and finally young Baldash. Only Zed survives, separated from his fellows by Chaz’s command to see to the remains of a human librarian.

The Knights of the Barrow are not seen again. Zed, his squad destroyed, signs up with another goblin troop. Though he will serve a new master in the goblin armies, he will always be a Blockhead at heart.

Because Blockheads Never Forget.

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32.1: The Shepherd
jongle & khalid are faced with a choice...

On the road to the Accursed City, Jongle has a terrible dream … he stands before the old Vistani woman, only her eyes have been clawed out. There are bloody streaks running down her face.

“You! You have stolen my vision! You, who now carries my sight, you are bound to this place! If you leave — though you may live — your heart will surely shatter! This I can still see!”

Jongle awakes with a start, covered in a cold sweat, as Minja, still asleep, curls tightly to his side.

Jongle rifles through his pockets and pulls out the deck of cards. He hadn’t even given them a second thought. It was something he just took. What a fool he was!

Two cards fall to the ground face up. The Thief. The Charlatan. He quickly gathers them and stumbles out into the surrounding jungle. At the edge of a little cliff, he tosses the cards ineffectually out in front of him, and they scatter in the night air.

Looking down he can only see the bloody, eyeless hag cursing him. A horrible pit in his stomach tells him precisely what the tragedy will be. How foolish he was to think he could actually be happy. Or normal. And not doomed to a succession of calamities and failures. Was his laughter not a mask, a pitiful coping mechanism, a fraud? A desperate attempt to keep the unconquerable fear and sadness at bay.

Jongle wipes vomit from his lips and slowly walks back to the camp like a prisoner shuffling to his execution.

Khalid sits down in the Naga hut and rests for moment. I wonder if we could have avoided killing the thing. Sent it home somehow, to that terrible maze instead. I would like to be done with killing.

He pulls the first key from its pouch and holds it for a moment, closing its eyes and concentrating. What can you tell me, old friend?

The key is cool in Khalid’s hands. It grows warmer as he meditates on it. Not hot — but pleasantly, familiarly warm.

A voice comes to Khalid, as if from particularly far away.

This is a place of Law. Like the other. More tenuous, but — safe.

Stay here. Heal yourself. Grow stronger.

Khalid thinks on this, and then puts the wand back in its pouch. Next he picks up the dice. He holds them in his hand. And what are you?

He rolls them.

Khalid has rolled the Dice of Certain Wagering. Their result will always be whatever the roller desires.

Khalid pockets the dice. There is something comforting to him about their non-randomness. An order that soothe him. He gets up from his meditations and walks out into the jungle.

Emerging form the hut, he sees Jongle standing apart from the group, looking shaken. The goblin seems to be staring back the way the group had come and the normally jaunty set of his shoulders was replaced with a soft slump.

Khalid walks next to him, and, without speaking, releases a small puff of spores, connecting his mind to Jongle’s.

What is the trouble, my friend? You seem not to be yourself.

Suddenly, the image of the eyeless hag is replaced by a beardy mushroom man. Coughing, Jongle shrinks back and swats away the spores. He tries to resist the mental probe, but Khalid presses, and asks the question again.

Of the Revengers, Jongle had always found most in common with Khalid. They seemed to share a warped sense of humor at one point, and Jongle respected his courage from the moment they met in Scalf’s horrible tower. And despite the fact that Khalid was becoming less and less like himself as time went on, and much less…relateable, Jongle still felt a certain ease with the dwarfshroom.

_It—it’s bad. Real bad. I screwed up bad, Khalid. I stole those old hag’s cards. I thought she was, like, a ghost or somethin’ and wouldn’t miss ’em! _

But now she’s talkin’ to me in my dreams! Sayin’ I’m cursed if I ever leave the island, and some horrible tragedy is gonna befall me. She said my heart will shatter! You know what means, Khalid, don’t ya?

Jongle’s mouth is silently agape, his hands pressing hard on Khalid’s shoulders.

I…I can’t go through with this. You can’t tell no one, but I gotta scram. Me and Minja. We’re gonna stay on the island. We’re gonna run away, and… I can’t go through with this, Khalid!

That is indeed a fearsome thing… Khalid responds. …The cards? Do you still have them?

The cards? No…No, I threw ‘em away in the jungle last night! I don’t want ‘em! It ain’t like I even care about those cards! I just took ‘em! Stupid! I’m so stupid! I’m a genius…but I’m really stupid!

I have an idea, thinks Khalid, but you must trust me.

Khalid kneels at the edge of the jungle and whispers in to the dirt, summoning something up and out of the loam.

Khalid bends low and whispers to the creature, describing the cards and their location. “Bring them to me,” he commands. “As many as you can find.”

What are you doin’, Khalid? Don’t get the cards back! Are you crazy! You wanna be cursed too?!

From the earth, mud, and rock of the jungle a humanoid form rises. It is faceless but for two shiny pricks that appear to serve as eyes. It regards Khalid for a brief moment, then turns to its appointed task.

The creature melts into the earth and seems to slide itself down the steep ravine where Jongle tossed the cards. The elemental melds, folds, and slides barely under the earth — the near-featureless face never disappearing — as the tiny rectangles of the tarokka deck are slowly gathered.

The elemental moves slowly, but after several minutes a pile of cards — dirty, some creased — has appeared at the base of the ravine. The elemental turns to look back up toward Khalid and Jongle, and then — with the sound of a collapsing structure — the elemental collapses, Khalid’s conjuring expired.

Several more cards erupt from the former elemental, floating down to join the pile of several dozen cards — apparently, all 54 accounted for.

The cards have all landed face-down, save for one: The Shepherd.

“This card calls forth the devotion and dedication of friends and allies. It marks those who are loyal companions and devoted followers. Such people watch over those around them, just as a shepherd watches over the flock.

“On the other side of the coin, this card is a dark and dangerous force of evil. It marks the falling of a trusted friend, either accidentally or purposefully. It suggest that too much trust or responsibility has been placed upon someone unworthy to bear such a burden.”

I think, perhaps, we are being sent a message, Jongle, thinks Khalid. Though if it is my God or yours or the jungle itself that sends it, I do not know.

Trade me. The cards for the these dice. They will land as you wish them to land—a measure of control over your destiny in exchange for for this terrible certainty

I will take on the curse along with the cards. I will kill this Maharaja, if we can find an opportunity. And I will stay here. A shepherd to these people.

Only, promise me. When you leave this place, you will find these terrible keys and keep them safe.

Jongle is shocked by what has transpired, and he stands there looking for a moment at Khalid’s outstretched hand holding the pair of dice.

With a solemn brow, he gathers the cards and walks back to Khalid.

I don’t understand the will o’ gods or ghosts or demons from hell. But all I know is…you’re a better mushroom than me, Khalid. You—you’re a goddamn saint! I promise!

Jongle clasps his hand with Khalid’s giving him the cards, and then bawls in the dwarf’s arms for a good long while.

There is no change in the jungle winds as Jongle takes the dice and hands over the cards.

There is no ominous wind or flash of lightning.

The cards are perfectly normal cards in Khalid’s fungal hands.

Jongle never again dreams of the old gypsy woman.

Jongle knows, if Khalid kills the Maharajah and takes his place, and if Jongle then leaves Sri Raji, that he may never again see his friend.

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32: The Terrible Truth About Sri Raji
our heroes recast a mighty weapon

Arriving in Tvashtri, the Revengers split up. Jongle, Bertram, Khalid, and Minja head to the Great University to seek information on their mission while Ervendio and Bea take an unconscious Proteus — overwhelmed by the strange new power lurking within — to an inn.

The University Revengers, trading a scroll of detect magic for entrance to the University, are witness to the daily choosing of an unfortunate soul who will be sent to the Maharajah Arijani as a blood sacrifice. They are paired with Paqi, an eager university student, who gathers books for them on the maharajah and lycanthropy. They discover the most common recommended cure for lycanthropy is death by silver weapon or magic, and that the Maharajah is revered as a kind of beautiful & terrible folk hero. Paqi does not return from the last mysterious tower in which he endeavors to bring back books for the Revengers.

The Inn Revengers spend the evening recuperating. Bea dabbles with a moody teenager to make Jongle jealous, but Jongle never sees them. Proteus lounges with his head in Ervendio’s lap all evening. In the morning, Jongle brings them to the University, where the others spent the night among the stacks of books.

The united Revengers meet with replacement assistant Billie, who searches for more books on Sri Raji’s history and introduces them to Sidrathi, the scholar they were sent to meet. He confirms that the tiger statue is Ravanna’s Bane and is capable of destroying Arijani. Sidrathi believes that if the Maharajah is destroyed, the mists will part and Sri Raji can rejoin the larger world. He warns them of the Dark Sisterhood, priestesses of Kali, and points the Revengers toward a blacksmith who can reforge this mighty weapon, and tells them the nomadic Vistani can be found outside of the city, and may be able to answer other questions they have. Bertram asked for Sidrathi’s silver dagger in lieu of information on a cure for lycanthropy; the scholar agreed, and gave it. Khalid left a card with Sidrathi, telling him of the need in Grudgewood for experienced teachers.

The Revengers drop the tiger statue off with Kopi, the halfling blacksmith who previously reforged the bolt into the form of a statue to keep it safe. Then they venture outside of the city to find the Vistani camp, where Bertram gets drunk, Jongle & Minja celebrate their wedding, and the group sits down with an old Vistani, crone, who reads their fortune with a deck of tarokka cards.

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Asked about the Maharajah, she draws The Illusionist as the focus card. The card opposing the focus is The Elementalist, representing the natural forces of the cosmos and the natural triumph of nature of the work of mortals. The card supporting the focus is The Temptress, a creature of beauty and seductive words.

The focus’s past is represented by The Philanthropist, The Avenger, The Priest, and The Soldier — the Revengers are told that Arijani was born a mortal son of the avatar of Ravanna, but he betrayed and murdered his father. He was punished with imprisonment on this island, but by becoming a living avatar of Kali, Arijani gained power over the land itself, and allied himself with the Dark Sisterhood a militant group of assassins who exert the dark goddess’s will on the land.

The focus’s near future was represented by The Miser and The Anarchist, representing an implacable and jealous creature, and the forces of constant, chaotic change.

Finally, the focus’s resolution was represented by The Dictator — a man imprisoned by swords and heavy chains — and according to the old Vistani, whoever destroyed the Maharajah would be forced to take his place here on the island.

The old woman disappeared into the night after the reading of the cards. As the Revengers returned to the Vistani celebration, Jongle stole the old gypsy woman’s tarokka deck.

In the morning, the Vistani camp was gone — the Revengers found themselves camped around a dying fire. Khalid found that all of his silver had been taken, replaced by a simple pair of dice.

After retrieving the recast Ravanna’s Bane from Kopi, the Revengers travel north to Bahru, the Accursed City, home of Maharajah Arijani. They encounter a wicked naga who attempts to charm Proteus, but they easily overcome the deadly beast. They hypnotize it and trick it into a dream-state, in which it reveals the location of a hidden door to Arijani’s temple — around a narrow ledge and to the back. Proteus kills the naga as Khalid investigates its barrow, discover a cache of potions and scrolls.

Before the party stands the empty and abandoned city of Bahru, and the temple of Arijani…

XP
Group Awards
Secret Knowledge Revealed, 600
Read the Tarokka, 3000
Spirit Naga, 5000
Group Totals 8600, Individual Awards 1434

Individual Total
Bea 2184 (Ingenue for a Moody Teen 750, Group 1434)
Bertram 2184 (Researcher 750, Group 1434)
Ervendio 2184 (Caretaker 750, 1434)
Jongle 2184 (Take A Card 750, Group 1434)
Khalid 2184 (Fortune Received 750, Group 1434)
Proteus 2184 (WereSnugglebunny 750, Group 1434)

LOOT
silver dagger
Revanna’s Bane, recast as a silver crossbow bolt
tarokka deck, stolen from a gypsy seer
a pair of dice, in exchange for Khalid’s silver
a crossbow

Naga treasure: 2 potions , 1 gem, scroll of geas, scroll of non-detection, scroll of protection from cold, scroll of protection from undead

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31: Strangers in a Strange Land
our heroes embark to meet the maharajah

The monk takes the Revengers through the narrow streets of the city. Bertram peruses the local food stalls, but his gold won’t spend here. Khalid trades some of his beard-mushrooms for a roasted duck.

The monk delivers the party to Minja, an orphaned goblin who was raised here by halfling foster-grandparents. Jongle is smitten, but Minja — unaccustomed to such romantic attention — spurns him. Minja tells the Revengers they are in Sri Raji, a mist-enshrouded island ruled by Maharajah Arijani. Outsiders are generally shunned, and the only way off the island is speak with the Maharaja himself. Minja has led other outsiders to Arijani’s temple in the past, and she assumes they make it home — for they are never seen again.

Over night, Khalid plants himself in the nearby refuse pile — soaking in the sickly sweet nutrients after several days at sea. Jongle and Minja trade notes, and Minja delcares her love for him — but also asks Jongle not speak to her again. Proteus sleeps fitfully, and in the morning remembers little of his dreams — there are flashes of running, the scent of blood in the air, and sweat.

In the morning, Bertram trades his gold in for coins stamped with Arijani’s shrouded face. He purchases strange new spices and cooking supplies, and becomes apprentice at a prawn cart.

Minja takes Ervendio and Jongle shopping. Jongle shoplifts a flowered bracelet and presents it to Minja, telling her the three flowers represent, “you, me, and our future.” Minja accepts what she believes to be Jongle’s marriage proposal, and they consummate their union that night. Minja agrees to leave Pakat and travel with Jongle and Mildred’s Revengers to the Great University in Tvashti, where scholars there may know more about their tiger figurine.

As the group convinces Bertram to leave behind his new life as a prawn cook, they are approached by a sinewy young halfling with bright orange hair. He leads the Revengers to a meeting with Ajiht, who claims to be the leader of a pack of weretigers. He tells the Revengers that Maharajah Arijani is actually the living avatar of Kali, a goddess of creation and destruction, and that he keeps the inhabitants of Sri Raji trapped here. He asks the group to take the tiger figurine to a scholar named Sidrathi at the Great University, who can recast the figurine into a crossbow bolt that can destroy Arijani.

He also reveals that Proteus, raked & bitten by the weretiger in the jungle the day before, has been infected with lycanthropy. He offers to teach Proteus the ways of the beast, if he is ever interested in learning them.

The group agrees to Arijani’s request, privately intending to keep their options open. In attempting to cast detect evil on Ajiht, Bea’s magic surges wildly — turning all of her gold into goldfish. They are, presumably, left to die on the floor of Ajiht’s warehouse headquarters.

The group sets out the next morning. In the strange and fertile jungle they are attacked by a _quickwood__, a carnivorous tree. They burn the thing with acid and fire, reducing it to a bubbly stump despite Khalid’s attempts to revive it.

After a day and a half in the jungle, the party leaves the trees and again find themselves on a hill overlooking a city. Larger than Pakat, this is Tvashti. Central to the city, they can see a large green space dotted with high-domed buildings — the Great University, home to the scholars and sages of this strange land.

XP
Group Awards
Minja Has Joined the Party, 1200
Quickwood, 3500
group total: 4700. individual totals: 784

Individual Totals
Bea 1534 (Goldfish Pockets 750, Group 784)
Bertram 1534 (Money Exchanger 750, Group 784)
Ervendio 1534 (Chaperone 750, Group 784)
Jongle 1734 (Married Man 750, Wedding Gift 200, Group 784)
Khalid 1534 (Refuse Recharge 750, Group 784)
Proteus 1534 (Eye of the Tiger 750, Group 784)

LOOT
spell scroll (wizard spell of players choice, level 1-4)
philter of stammering & stuttering
wind fan

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30: On Foggy Shores
our heroes are cast adrift

Faced with Jad‘s flaming scimitar, Ervendio surrenders and turns over The Second Key. Ervendio submits to a geas promising not to take the key from Jad, by treachery or violence. Jad saves Jongle’s life, ties up the rest of the Revengers, and pacifies Sǐwáng the Wyvern, luring it back to the hold.

Into the evening, the Revengers are left tied up on the deck of Jasmine’s Grace. Khalid attempts to spore and communicate telepathicaly with the wyvern, but he accidentally spores onto Ervendio instead.

Sometime after nightfall, Jad and his ghoul-crew readies to load the Revengers onto a small rowboat. He assures them land has been sighted to the south. But first, Khalid snaps his medallion in two — sending him to Mycelia, the land of his fungal god Psilofyr, and the hiding place of the First Key. Suspicious but bemused, Jad set the rest of the Revengers adrift at sea with a chest of their weapons and a knife to cut their bonds. Left behind on Jasmine’s Grace was Proteus’s full-plate armor, Bertram’s meticulously gathered food supplies, and the Second Key.

Khalid found himself instantly transported to Mycelia in the Outer Planes. He was more fungal than ever before — his limbs and his head were heavy with mushrooms, including a large red cap that had now sprouted on his head — and the body of a dead spyder-fiend floated past him in the murky, primordial swampwater. Psilofyr admonished him for continuing to lead a violent life, though Khalid contended he was trying to do better. Khalid asked for, and received, the First Key, though Psilofyr cautioned that it was a tool of chaos and could be kept safe in Mycelia. Khalid then asked to be returned to his friends.

Adrift in the open ocean, the Revenges saw no sign of the land promised by Jad. Late in the first day on the water, their boat bumped into a bulbous mushroom floating in the sea — it was Khalid!

The Revengers continued to drift & row. Bea spied a curious sahaugin nearby. She sang a song to herself as the mer-creatures gathered to attack. The Revengers handily fend them off, and the creatures retreat back into the sea. This isn’t food! one of them warns the others.

After more than two days at sea, sleeping fitfully if at all, the Revengers’ tiny craft is enveloped in a thick fog. Through the mist they finally spy land — there is a great mountain up ahead and the tide is pulling them toward it. When their boat brushes sand, Ervendio and Proteus drag the ship to a narrow beach. A wall of dense, wet jungle stands before the party — and they venture within.

While Jongle and Kermit fly over the treetops, the rest of the group goes on a boar hunt. Though they find no evidence of boar, they do come upon a great thrashing in the trees — and suddenly, a woman runs out from the foilage. She is dark-skinned and short of stature, but her build is slight. She is some kind of … skinny dwarf. She nearly runs headlong into Khalid, but before they can even speak a vicious tiger chases her down, attacking her and killing her. She drops a mysterious wrapped package onto the jungle floor.

The rest of the party catches up to Khalid and the now-deceased tall gnome. The tiger attacks them, biting Proteus and shrugging off many of the attacks by the Revengers. When the tiger is finally killed, it immediately changes form — into another short but slight humanoid, akin to some kind of human goblin.

(( During the battle, Bea’s magic surges wildly — bestowing upon her a strange new ability. Her dominant hand will always remain completely dry, even immersed in water. ))

Jongle catches up to the party, informing them that the jungle ends a few miles distant — and that a small settlement of some kind is nearby. Khalid picks up the strange woman’s fallen package — wrapped in cloth, it is a foot-long ceramic tiger.

They travel to the edge of the jungle and emerge onto a low-lying wet field. Several humanoids of the same race as the woman from the jungle are in the field, harvest some kind of green crop from the wet fields. They regard the strangers with no expression, and no one speaks to them as they approach.

The citizens inside the small city react much the same. The Revengers are not stopped from entering the city, and though the natives take some note of their arrival, they seem to regard the newcomers passively and with little interest.

Strange smells — exotic but delicious — waft from the windows of humble huts. The huts are made of bamboo, thatch, or tan stone. There are pack animals in the streets, carrying buckets of whatever the … halflings were harvesting out in the muddy wet paddies. They larger than dogs, but built like cattle. They have twisty, twirling horns on their heads. They smell like wet fur.

The group finds a temple and Ervendio’s interest in ancient languages comes in handy. Though they cannot speak directly, one of the monks is able to communicate well enough that he knows of another phalang — another foreigner — and he offers to take the Revengers to this person right away….

XP
Group Awards
A Peaceful Exit, 1000
Sahaugin, 405
Weretiger, 975
Group Total 2380. Individual Awards, 397.

Individual Totals

Bea 1147 (Fish Heads 750, Group 397)
Bertram 1147 (Choose to Disbelieve 750, Group 397)
Ervendio 1147 (Great Negotiator 750, Group 397)
Jongle 1147 (Eagle Eye 750, Group 397)
Khalid 1147 (Mushroom Cap 750, Group 397)
Proteus 1147 (Eye of the Tiger 750, Group 397)

LOOT
ceramic tiger figurine

lost: Proteus’s armor, Bertram’s cooking supplies, the Second Key.

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29: Doom on the Southern Sea
our heroes trust the wrong dwarf

In Grudgewood, Khalid invests in the construction of the Canicus Dias Institute for the Mind and Body. Named for the Revengers’ fallen friend, the school will provide instruction for the children of Grudgewood in reading, writing, and arithmetic in the mornings, and physical education, swordplay, ethics and politics, magic, natural history, and philosophy in the afternoons. Evening classes will be offered to adults who seek to continue their education in workshops offered by local professionals and professors.

Words comes from Cano City that Pope Pior XII has died of old age. A new pope will be chosen by the goblin cardinals.

Ervendio continues his work helping Hennelly establish the Church of St. Martiff, and Bea begins offering small business loans to ambitious new arrivals in Grudgewood. Bea struggles with the reality of killing so many foes with fire and violence.

Khalid communes with The Second Key, who indicates that the third is to the south-southeast. Believing this means his homeland of Amara, the Revengers plan to travel to Hooptown and book travel across the Southern Sea.

Khalid (under Ervendio’s watchful eye) meets with Jad, the mysterious dwarf with a connection Red Al. Worried that Jad is an agent of Khalid’s former brotherhood of assassins, Jad professes to be a tradesman who knows Albert from their days in Ocean’s Deep. He, too, is en route back to Hooptown, and then across the Sea to Amara. Khalid and the Revengers agree to travel with him.

Over eight days of peaceful travel to Hooptown, the Revengers trade stories & games together. Jongle & Khalid lightly discuss Jongle’s brief dalliance with Bea in the Prinzfeld. Khalid & Proteus play I Spy….

In Hooptown, the Revengers board Jad’s ship, Jasmine’s Grace. It is a small, thirty-foot-long ship meant for coastal travel. Jad’s crew are silent, black-clad dwarves who serve obediently, with no words and no humor. The Revengers learn the basics of seamanship under Jad’s tutelage. The below-decks area remains off limits as Jad, the crew, and Revengers work, live, and sleep under the stars.

Until Khalid steals belowdecks and discovers a great beast being kept prisoner. A scaly thing, Khalid communicates with it telepathically. It communicates in broken, halting dwarven, and wants to be left alone. Bertram, making friends with Bert the Rat, a wizard among his kind, learns that the rats of the ship call it the great black hole, and that it has a pink thing, which is death. Further investigation from the rat-kind reveals there are also white parts, pointy and killing.

More than a week into their peaceful sea journey, Jad calls the Revengers to share a meal with him. He discusses the salt bond, a social contract by which hosts + guests pledge fealty and protection to one another; he asks them of the foes they have faced, if any have been worthy of their respect. The Revengers struggle to think of any. They think back to Stiv Urd, briefly Khalid’s squire, killed by an axe to the face; to Smiley, the mule forgotten and abandoned outside of the Haunted Halls; to the many enemies they found wanting.

Jad says it is good to have comrades. To have brothers. He asks how it felt to kill one of his brothers — one of the The Knights of Mypp — to cut him down in the midst of his mission. He draws his flaming scimitar and looses the creature below deck, none other than the wyvern Sǐwáng, the mount of General Xiang, the Illrigger. Jad, the Myrikhan, attacks with the wyvern at his command, his crew of ghouls, and his desire for revenge.

Khalid, Bea, Bertram, and Proteus are paralyzed by the ghouls. Jongle is poisoned by the wyvern and on the verge of death. Only Ervendio remains.

XP
Group Awards
Sailing to a New World, 3000
Total Party Paralyzation, 0
Individual Totals: 500

Individual Awards
Bea 1250 (A Business Bea 750, Group 500)
Bertram 1250 (Rat Whisperer 750, Group 500)
Ervendio 1250 (Last Elf Standing 750, Group 500)
Jongle 1250 (Identifier 750, Group 500)
Khalid 1250 (Salty Fungus 750, Group 500)
Proteus 1250 (Caught Unawares 750, Group 500)

LOOT
(identified)
Cloak of Fear
- one use lasts 8 hours, or until the wearer is subject to a bravery spell.
- wearer has a +1 to rolls vs. bravery.
- surrounds the wearer with a 3’ radius aura of fear.
- all creatures who enter this radius must save vs. spell or be subjected to fear.

The Freezing Key
- this is a normal key that radiates extreme cold.
- it inflicts 1d8 chill damage per round that it is held/touched, with no save.
- the door(s) this key unlocks are unknown.

Wand of Fear (Judge’s chest)
- 44 charges
- as per the spell Fear

Elven Chain Mail, +5

Longsword, +2 (Volo’s room)

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Bertram's Letter to Facistasia Claudia Wonderfrock IX

Your Majesty,

Greetings from your loyal subject Bertram Figg, son of Joseph and Llewellyn; former apprentice to Claudius Bigglesby. My letter comes to you at a pivotal point in the history of the Middlemarsh. As a result of powerful wish magic, the city of Grudgewood has been transformed into a safe-haven for humans and “human-friendly” beings. The wording of this wish came from a former apprentice of mine, a human, Beatrice Purplebottom. I cautioned her against this, but to no avail. Accomplished engineer Phillaeus Phillbert has been transported here as a result of the wish, and is overseeing the city’s construction, but more tradesmen and craftsmen will be needed to undertake the massive project.
I take it as my duty to inform you of what is transpiring here, because for our people to survive, gnomes must have a stake in this new city-state. Phillaeus Phillbert and I are the only representatives here of our race, and are well regarded amongst the populace. However there are other, more nefarious individuals whom are giving us gnomes a bad reputation.
J. Claxton, former mayor, sold out Prinzfeld to a new incarnation of the Pomarj Army in the weeks prior to the battle of Grudgewood, and a gnome girl, disguised as an old man calling himself Volo, was working directly with cultists of Nemo in Cano City to obtain the remains of the Risen King after the fall of Barrows. As I am writing you, the Knights of Mypp and cultists of Nemo are conspiring to collect the keys to the staff of the Wolf of Arcworth. Myself, and my band of adventurers known as the Mildred’s Revengers have secured two of the keys. Details of my adventures can be verified in my entries into the Hall of Records in Rumperdink Ghetto.

Grudgewood is now strategically poised to withstand assault from the Westlands. The men of the Twelve Barrows are led by Aloysius Bouchard, who at this moment is ready to take the city by force unless he is proclaimed Lord Commander of this newly realized city-state, which has sprung from the ground seemingly overnight. Fertile soil and extreme growth of foliage has transformed the surrounding landscape. This city could likely sustain a large populace despite the arid, dry clime. Mildred’s Revengers are preparing to make a plea to the Knights of the Twelve Barrows to establish an inclusive government, and it is very likely Phillaeus Philbert will hold a significant office in the new government. I put myself at your service, your Majesty, and remain ever devoted to the cause as I await further instruction.

Profoundest Sincerities,

Bertram Figg

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28: The Social Contract
our heroes negotiate peace.

The Revengers divvy up magic items and trade equipment.

Bertram & Bea, after days spent in the dark dungeons, relax at the bar — Bertram realizing, finally, that Bea the Wild Mage is the very same Purplebottom girl he reared and changed and taught the basics of magic. Despite his initial impulse to banish her to safety, Bertram and Bea come to a new understanding of one another — as individuals, as wizards.

Khalid meets Jad, an old associate of Red Al’s, who has come to Grudgewood to deliver supplies. Too late to assist in the Battle for Grudgewood, Jad nonetheless remains in town during the siege.

But the Knights negotiate a possible peace treaty, finding common ground with Aloysius and Drea. The Barrow Knights agree that democracy will rule the day, so long as Red Al is not guaranteed a position of power.

Red Al is not won over, uncertain that a vote is what is required to bring Grudgewood stability. But a separation of police & the military, along with the prospect of Mammarie as Mayor, wins him over. Mammarie also agrees, with the stipulation that once elected she will be Mayor for life. Bunk is nominated for Sheriff and, aside from Red Al needing a new bartender, all of the Grudgewood factions are satisfied. All parties are pleased, and the gates are opened once again.

Mildred’s Revengers are faced with the uncertainty of the future. With peace in Grudgewood, the quest for the Keys are the most pressing issue. But how to proceed, and who to trust?

XP
Group Awards
Wrote a Constitution: 6000
Individual Totals: 1000

Individual Awards
Bea 1750 (A Kind Revelation 750, Group 1000)
Bertram 1750 (Paternal Pride 750, Group 1000)
Ervendio 1750 (New Bonewandwielder 750, Group 1000)
Jongle 1750 (Identifier 750, Group 1000)
Khalid 1750 (Lawbringer 750, Group 1000)
Proteus 1750 (Watchman 750, Group 1000)

LOOT
none

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Interlude: A Return to Grudgewood
our heroes have a moment to reflect

Mildred’s Revengers, now also known as the Knights of Grudgewood, have returned from a near-death mission in Cano City. As the alliance of humans threatens to break, as the keys are being assembled, as the forces of law and chaos wage unending war, they find themselves back in their makeshift home. With time to recover from their wounds — and unable to sleep due to the potions of vitality still coursing through their bodies — they are able to reflect on what has come to pass and what is still to come…

Bea
Bea wants only to adventure – have fun, experience danger, build relationships in the party and become more powerful as she experiments with magic.

Bea is disappointed to find that there is conflict back in Grudgewood – she had hoped that the efforts of the party and her carefully-worded wish would create a place of peace there where people could go on living and growing stronger in all areas of human and human-friendly endeavor. It’s maybe the first crack in her inherently naive outlook, that things will ‘work out in the end,’ that grandiose and selfless efforts necessarily bear beautiful fruit. It hasn’t overwhelmed her youthful sense of invincibility, adventure and wanderlust, however. Even horrors are still thought of subconsciously as part of a big interesting celestial clockwork of interrelated destinies.

While Bea cherishes the growing relationships with the party, and thinks of them as the family who understands her, she’s gregarious by nature and is beginning to look outward. She wants to meet new and interesting people, to collect friends and acquaintances across the world – she’s much more likely to feel that a new place has enriched her life if it contains a person worth thinking about later.

Bea doesn’t quite realize the extent to which the other party members are looking out for her – while she’s recognized and appreciated it from time to time, she tends to think of herself as generally pretty bad ass. Taking most of the credit for her successes – from surviving near misses to dramatic takedowns – she’s possibly a bit more arrogant and cavalier than she should be. She feels like is on a path that will find her extremely powerful one day, which scares her to the extent that it would mean she would lose herself, change into another person than she is now. It also gives her a sort of superiority complex, which she recognizes but hopes is tempered by what she sees as her commitment to selflessness and humanity.

Bertram
Bertram wants to resolve the conflict in Grudgewood, he hopes in can become that shining light on the hill for all that it was supposed to be, and feels partly responsible for the mess that has occurred.

The loss of Shadow Ryder was very painful for Bertram, and sometimes he wakes himself believing he left the gate open for Scraps to escape. All of Prinzfeld is upset with him about it. He doesn’t know if it is the universe trying to tell him something, or perhaps he really shouldn’t try to care for animals with his current lifestyle, but he longs for companionship in whatever form it may take. Of all things to be worried about, a little doggie! He had watched Canicus get eaten whole by a wyvern, zombies, demons, fields of corpses…

Walking through the cloud in the Halls of Torment made Bertram reflect on his life up to that moment. He was surrounded by friends, yet somehow still alone. He loved that little wizard girl, he didn’t know why. Whatever had happened to Khalid, he was still a low-down and dirty thief, and Jongle: a constant thorn in his side, a foil, a fop. Ervendio: a pompous elf, who treated Bertram as a child. Proteus: he wondered to what ends the human’s thirst for violence would take him. Did all men carry this capacity? Bertram reviled it in himself, yet Proteus seemed to ride it effortlessly.

The world is at war, but protecting innocents— that’s what should matter! Can that be done until all our enemies have been defeated and the keys collected? How many must die for that to happen? Will Grudgewood be enough, one last breakwater against the storm?

Bertram felt something change inside him in the dungeons under Cano City. Those moments when he saw his friends dying around him, covered in blood, he at times felt himself willing to kill anything and everything. He was filled with bloodlust. It was a terrible feeling, one brought out of instinct and desperation no doubt. Gnomes are known to fight viciously when backed into a corner. Bertram hated himself for it, and wondered if anyone had seen the madness in his eyes, he hoped they had not. He didn’t want to be remembered like that. Not like Volo,

He wondered if that’s what that girl wanted. To be feared? Well, then she had succeeded! Bertram has never been more terrified in his life. Such power for such a young girl! How much of it was real? He couldn’t be sure. It was a mad, terrible place. He hoped a meteor struck those Halls from existence forever. Maybe if he gets a crack at a wish he will make it so.

But wasn’t that the problem here? Law and Chaos want all or nothing it seems, it was silly really. These keys— they toys of wizards, demons, gods and politicians, fighting amongst themselves like petulant children. What they needed was a little diplomacy. There were only a few people alive that could get that deal done, and he knew one of them…

Ervendio
Ervendio wants to search for the keys in hopes that they will also lead to other magical artifacts that can be used for the Elven war against the mind flayers. He actually enjoys the Revengers and is pleased his search for magical items can coincide with their involvement with finding the keys.

Things are going quite well with Ervendio right now. He’s allied with strong friends that are on a magical quest too. He can help them succeed while succeeding at his own goal. He’s concerned for Bea, she’s young and fragile and war isn’t the place for a young girl. She needs Bertram’s tutelage again and the rest of the groups protection.

Jongle
Jongle wants to rid the world of the Pope, Nemo, and Goblin society as it is right now, and he supposes gathering the keys is the best way to actually do that.

You’d have to be a fool to believe things are going well! It’s lucky that Jongle never gets depressed for long, after seeing the heinous things they’ve encountered, and the state of Skullcap and Cano City. He thinks Proteus and Khalid are doing just fine, but he’s always slightly worried for Bea, and he often wonders what is motivating Bertram with all his grumblings and protestations.

Khalid
Khalid wants to gather the keys and lock away the Wolf forever.

Khalid is so changed, and he sees the party now as his people. He thinks Psilofyr must have taken him for a purpose, and he sees the keys as that purpose, and the party as his fellows in that purpose (also, this purpose is a close fit to what he was raised to do, and so it makes sense to him). He respects Jongle, is slightly frightened of but also grateful to Proteus, looks up to Ervendio (who is better at being a cleric than he is), feels protective of Bea, (although he is sometimes frustrated by her chaotic ways, being so much more lawful), and thinks of Bertram as a friend, and as the most honest of the group.

He thinks the world is in too much flux, and that it needs stability and room to grow. He thinks people are fundamentally good, but that power and need create evil in the world, and that the law should balance those things. Violence is a last resort to him, but he finds himself needing last resort quite often.

He is also worried that the past will catch up with him. He keeps telling himself that he died and is free of his old vows, but he worries that his former masters will disagree. He pretends to want to go home, but he is terrified of going back to Amara.

Proteus
Proteus wants peace; he’s tired of war and fighting and is torn apart by the actions of his once brother and friend Aloysius.

Proteus feels that the party has come together in a grand fashion; people’s thoughts and hearts beat more as one rather than disparate with an unfocused goal. While he has only known them for a short while, each has had an impact. Khalid’s desire to find another way to overcome obstacles – one that doesn’t generally involve combat – is a welcome counterpoint to Proteus’ own thoughts (though he feels that Khalid somehow has a knack for finding random encounters with monsters). Ervendio is a stalwart ally and his healing arts have kept Proteus in the fight more times than he can count already. Bea has matured and grown as a person, shedding her former timid nature in favor of a more bold and engaging one that is still tempered by her feminine sensibilities. Bertram’s innocence and overwhelming desire to do the right then remind Proteus of a time in his life where things were uncomplicated and joyful, and perhaps instills a small glimmer of hope that there is a chance to return to such a life. Lastly, Jongle the Lothario, whose ability to turn a phrase just as soon as put a dart (or three) in your eye has earned Proteus’ respect; he still cannot believe one who seems so flippant has the heart of a fighter and the mind of a spy.

The only thing Proteus is worried about at this time is the way Aloysius is flying against all that the Barrows and the Risen King stood for. It’s a foolish battle and one that he would rather not fight, but the idea of these people who worked so hard to create their frontier kingdom of Grudgewood just unceremoniously turning it over to him is unconscionable, as are the rest of his demands. This is no longer the Knight Commander he once knew; gone is the altruism and justice that he stood for, likely fallen along with the walls of the Barrows.

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