Heroes of Istal

Teambuilding

Well, we last left our story with Geziah being restored, right?
That’s what I saw, at least. Geziah was really sporting an excellent ‘Who am I? Where am I?’ when he woke up, neatly mirroring his movements to all the times he undoubtedly woke up drunk in some alley.
Yeah, I’m still bitter with the guy for running off after Dejour. How did you know?

Anyway, Jimmy and I briefly told him about the few things that had happened between his death and his resurrection and we set up a new plan to go. We decided that following the map we had bought from Little Jim would probably be our best course of action, so we went out to gather Jackie and get ready to move out, again.
Outside, after hailing a gondola, it didn’t take long for the blabbermouth at the rudder to start talking. Apparently, there had been a ruckus in the harbour as someone had managed to rob a merchant’s ship in clear daylight. Though he couldn’t tell us much details, I had this little gut feeling that just left me intrigued by the situation and wanting to learn more. I made a mental note to investigate if we got the time.

The gondola wasn’t a very quick – or reasonably priced – way of transport, but we eventually reached the street closest to the pub that we guessed our little Halfling would be in.
I shouldn’t have been surprised when I saw two guards standing there.
After asking what happened, the guards basically told us that ‘Jackie happened’. It took us a little bluffing to make sure the guards weren’t on to us being ‘with’ her, because apparently, she had done what she did best.
In the next pub we got Geziah something to eat – being dead apparently wreaks havoc on your appetite – and decided on an intermediate plan of action. This was, of course, find out what happened and if we could get our Halfling out of the trouble she had gotten herself into. So to the nearest guardhouse it was!

I honestly can’t remember what might have gone through my head while listening to the story the guard on duty told us. He almost seemed bored to tell, but he knew quite some details. Jackie had killed people. Four, to be exact, which included the barman of the bar she had been in. Wrong place, wrong time, unfortunately. While trying to flee from the guards coming after the commotion she killed one of those, as well, before getting caught.
At that point, I just tipped my hat and thanked the guard for his information. The man told us that the execution would be the next day, with the auctioning of the goods an hour later.

I wasn’t planning on still being in Milicio by the time that happened.

Jimmy seemed a little upset that Jackie was going to die without fulfilling her goal in life – or, so he thought, anyway – and dragged us outside and back to the bar, where we would need to make some kind of distraction. In the bar was beer for him, which was a good start, and there would be room to look at our map and make some decisions. At least, that’s what we thought.
We hadn’t taken into account that, with one of the bars down, all its usual patrons would go to the other ones, packing those to the brim.
Upon entering the packed bar, we were approached by a woman clearly wearing the robes of a wizard, who appeared to be ready to throw herself at us and join our group. Though we were distrustful at first – I was, anyway – she was quick to lead us to a table with two people she had recently met, starting an introductory round.
Apparently, the wizard woman was Lanaya, who was out to kill Raven’s Heralds, who had placed their unfortunate mark on her. Jimmy immediately started to like her more.
The second newcomer was Lin, another girl whose behaviour unfortunately reminded me of Jackie. She and her brother, Lucas, were out to travel and adventure – or that’s what they told us. I made a mental note to keep an eye on those two, if only to make sure we would still wake up every morning with our lives.
In the end we decided that, with the current size of our little group in mind, we could let them join us. Jackie was gone and you could count as much on Waldo as you could count on Skyph, so even if they would only join us temporarily, they were welcome and were let in on our plans before we hit the hay to leave early the next day.

The next day we decided to get the hell out of town, before Jackie would use her last words to tell on us. Well, Geziah got jumped by Touchy Feely, which held us up for about a minute, but after that we really did everything to get out of town.
Of course, it wasn’t made easy for us. We were stopped by guards at the town’s edge, for they were investigating the robbery of the ship and wanted to check up on our goods. Though it was a minor annoyance, I was sure we didn’t have stolen goods on us and allowed them to see what was in our bags and Bag of Holding.

When I was told that the ritual book Jimmy and Jackie had borrowed the day before was actually the stolen item, I silently vowed to never let Jimmy out of my sights again when someone of the thieving kind was close by.

That said, the book came in darned handy and we took some time to try and actually buy it, but we unfortunately had to hand it over in the end. As we drove on, my cursing got a lot of uncomfortable looks from more or less everyone.
During the time it took us to travel to Biontola and Joseph, and from there on to Sannich, we made sure to get to know each other a little better. Our little group had, after all, just doubled in size and the newcomers weren’t exactly well known to us. I took a bit of a shining to Lucas, who appeared to be the sensible half of the twins, but Lin became more and more of a Jackie as we learned more of her… Which wasn’t much to say in her favour.
Good old farmer Joseph was as hospitable as ever, always willing to chat a little and to part with a bit of apple pie, but Sannich got a little… Chaotic. I still remembered the last time we were there and was, quite frankly, very sure the local guards did so as well. I quite simply forbade the consumption of alcohol to Jimmy and Geziah, which got me a few strange looks from our new companions, and we went straight on, following the map to the mountains not too far from the city.

The mountain roads proved to be treacherous and dangerous to traverse. Geziah nearly lost his life again, almost plummeting to his death after he tripped up and fell. Only his Fey Step and a load of luck saved his sorry backside from being plastered to the stone at the bottom of a mountain pass, but thankfully, we all made it to a little valley where the woods were still growing and the map was clearly pointing to.
It took a little searching, but Jimmy eventually stumbled over six enormous rune stones and found us studying them already. It took us a little research and thinking work, but after a short while we remembered the ritual we had gotten with the map from Little Jim and decided to kick it into action. I got into the middle of the rune stones, where a little stone slab appeared to be made for a ritual, and got to work.

I immediately regretted doing so when the sky parted above my head and thunder started roaring around us.
After I got struck by lightning, it took me a while to realize I wasn’t dead yet. It was pitch dark in the room I had ended up in, and it took my comrades a while to join me through the portal that had appeared all around me after the completion of the ritual.
It didn’t take us long to remember the riddles on the map and, seeing how we couldn’t see anything, we decided to start trying them one by one. After clapping twice – which, mind, was the first thing we tried – the lights turned on and we had a bit of a feeling of accomplishment.

Naturally, that was far from the start of this little adventure.

The room we had found ourselves in was quite empty. The ceiling was filled with what looked like bronze globes, and there was a large bronze golem guarding an equally bronze door, but that was really it.
We cautiously went on, but it didn’t take me long to step on a pressure plate and get struck by lightning again, this time of the painful kind instead of the portal-creating kind. Naturally, that was the moment the golem started thinking we were hostile and attacked. Because that’s the kind of luck we have as a party!
It turned out that a couple of the ceiling orbs were configured to strike anyone standing directly below them, which became pretty clear when the golem started tossing people around with sometimes pinpoint precision to the tiles underneath the orbs. While getting smacked around, everything coming out of the ceiling was a terrible danger to us and made us constantly think twice about every step we made.
But it was also clear that the golem wasn’t made to withstand lightning strikes itself, either. As the battle raged on, Lucas was throwing more and more lightning at the golem, causing it to malfunction a little more with every hit. When we started pushing and luring it onto its own pressure plates as well, it didn’t take long before it overloaded and exploded, leaving nothing but bits and pieces behind.
The only golem that’s better then a golem in bits and pieces, is an inactive golem, if you ask me.

Before we tackled the bronze door, Lanaya stated that she thought she could have done better during the battle and asked us if we had some equipment she could borrow.
Why yes, we had a staff she could probably use. It still didn’t stop me from thinking twice before handing it over to her. Though we had spent quite some days together, now, I was still wary of her taking the staff and running… Thankfully for her, Jimmy and Geziah talked me into giving her the Staff of Random Events, as I have started calling it.
The door gave us quite some trouble, though. It was quite solid and resisted all our conventional attempts to open it quite well. It didn’t have a lock or handle and didn’t react to being pushed or slid sideways in any way. Our usual contingency plan of starting to hammer at it until it gave up seemed to be an option to fail, as well, and we would have honestly been stumped if Lucas hadn’t grown impatient.
He shouted at us to get out of the way, which we did quite readily as we imagined the lightning he had been throwing around, after which he blasted the door with his signature lightning. It slid open without any real problems after that, causing the man to grin with superiority and the rest of us to groan. Yeah, some problems just don’t allow too much thinking to get involved.

Walking on, we almost entered another room, this time with a kind of podium that we could thankfully identify from a range – it would do something with lightning, and we were sure we wouldn’t like it.
Remembering the golem’s room, we were rightfully wary of calmly entering this room. Geziah, who else, decided to scout ahead with a quick Fey Step towards the podium while the rest of us were preparing for disaster to strike as soon as he blinked back into existence.
We were right to prepare.
A skeleton, which had just been innocently lying there, got up from its incapacitated position and started shambling towards Geziah. At the same time, a wraith popped up beside me and Lin and started attacking us while a Rust Monster popped out of a crack in the wall as well.
I have to admit, when Lin and Lucas looked at each other and turned their tails without another word, I was about ready to follow them. A second Rust Monster joined the first, after all, and it was joined by a stone Gargoyle dropping from the roof as well.
The four people left looked at each other, swallowed, and made their preparations. Thankfully, I was prepared for Rust Monsters now, with my new Impostor’s Armour. One monster tried to charge me and get the armour in his paws, but I thankfully managed to keep it off for long enough to make the metal disappear from sight. The result: one very disappointed monster that was suddenly cut off from its buddy in a different room, with me standing between it and the others. Not my favourite kind of position to be in, but eh.
After Geziah caused the skeleton to fog up the better part of the room, the fool decided to attack the second Rust Monster with the very, very magical sword we had given him. The blade immediately started rusting, which caused both Rust Monsters to grow very enthusiastic and hungry. It was basically all I could do to keep the one I had been keeping back from trampling me in its joy to get to the weapon!
Eventually, through some clever use of the traps in the golem’s room, we managed to kill the Rust Monsters and the Gargoyle, which caused my beating hart to settle down a little. After I Lance of Faith’d the Wraith back into the realm of the dead, we were finally able to properly start cursing at the two adventurers we had taken along for the ride and, when danger reared its ugly head, had turned their tail and fled.

After properly cutting up the Rust Monsters for their load of Residuum, we made sure to take a rest and get back into shape. I was thankful for Geziah’s return, for he was way better at keeping watch then I am.
We got lucky, though. Orcus didn’t decide to attack our world that night. At least, we didn’t notice.

The next door that was in our way thankfully did have a lock, which Geziah promptly picked. After opening it, the first thing we saw was a giant bronze face, probably as high as Jackie would have been, with its open mouth aimed straight at the door. I knew for sure that I didn’t want to be the first to go in there, so Geziah went ahead again.
After he shouted that he found a treasure chest and some other things, Jimmy, Lanaya and I decided to take the risk and join him. We got past the face without trouble, but were still very careful with what we touched and didn’t.
All in all, the room contained a cabinet with ten coloured vials, a big bookcase, a table with four crowns, the treasure chest and the bronze face. We got to work with the things inside, first opening the chest to find 675 gold pieces, which was quite nice.
The four crowns, one red, one blue, one green and one yellow, appeared to be enchanted with some kind of magic. We figured these were the four crowns of one of the riddles on the treasure map and, quite frankly, the one riddle we had managed to solve while en route to this place. So we took the blue crown and then started checking the others for traps. After some trial and error, we realized that the wearer of any non-blue crown would be stunned for as long as he was wearing it.
We realized potential there and stuffed all four crowns in the Bag of Holding.
Next was the bookcase, which gave us a lot of trouble. It turned out that the ‘knock twice, knock trice’ riddle was for this one, for if you tried to grab the wrong book, flamethrowers would come out and shoot flames at you.
After getting the right series of books thanks to Lanaya, though, the trap pretty much disabled and we stuffed the whole library in the Bag of Holding. Though I admit that it’s getting pretty swamped in there, that’s one thing we’ll sell as soon as we’re back in Sannich.
Finally, we met our match with the coloured vials. Logically, it would be the band of broken light riddle, which seemed to have to do something with colours. We quickly deduced that it would have something to do with the rainbow, but what…

Yeah, we got kinda stuck on that…

In Loving Memory:

Jackie ‘The Feminine Touch’ Dandelion

1171 AV – 1192 AV

First

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Win some, Lose some

We rejoin our adventurers after they had been delayed by the cunning mastermind Spymaster Dejour. After a fight that never seemed to end, they finally managed to defeat his cronies, while Geziah left to chase Dejour.

As our heroes flee into the inn to rest, they hear suspicious sounds coming from the storeroom. The brave Nick Basel opened the door, and found the original innkeeper, bound up and gagged. He quickly freed the innkeeper, and brought him towards the sheriff. The sheriff was in hiding with several other villagers, as a flock of ravens that big was a terrible omen. They listened to the tale of the adventurers, and thanked them for their help.

The adventurers weren’t ready to leave just yet, though. Geziah had gone missing. Using the Amulet of Passage to teleport on top of the roof, Nick and Jimmy found the lifeless body. Jimmy rushed over, while Nick shed a single tear. Together, they brought down Geziah’s body to the ground level. Jackie was standing ready to laugh at Geziah’s death, which angered Nick. His morning star tried to knock sense in her, but only knocked her off her feet.

Having insured Geziah’s body with a Gentle Repose ritual, the group set out towards Milicio. There, they hoped to find a church of the Raven Queen and a place to raise Geziah from the dead. First though, a nasty surprise awaited them.

The two assassins that had fled before awaited them. They introduced themselves as Raven Heralds, and told them that since they swore their oaths to kill Nick and Jimmy, they could not let them go. The Raven Heralds proposed a duel, but the Untouchables decided they would not accept, and charged at the heralds. Having seen better odds, the heralds fled.

As the group set up camp, Nick watched over the group, but not even his vigilance could prevent the heralds from sneaking up on them. Using their Oath of the Duel they tried to level the playing field, but Jackie did her best not to play according to the rules. One Raven Herald warned her that she should stay out, but she selfishly cut him down. With his dying breath the herald cursed her, and a black mark in the shape of a raven appeared on the back of her hand.

The other herald used his daggers to cause grievous wounds to Nick, causing him to fall unconscious. Jimmy healed Nick back up in time for the herald to knock him unconscious again. Jimmy healed Nick back up in time for the herald to knock him unconscious again. It was around this time that Jimmy decided that enough was enough, and knocked the herald down.

Surviving this night, the Untouchables continued on their quest, although Jackie was worried about this curse. Neither Jimmy nor Nick could recognize it. They group arrived in Milicio, city of water and canals, and they made haste to the Shrine of the Raven Queen; dubbed the Watery Grave. There, they found that Jackie’s cursed was one which made every action potentially lethal for the carrier. Not only that, but killing those that carry the mark is seen as bringing good fortune.

The Untouchables also found out that, while they could raise Geziah, they possessed neither the ritual nor the necessary reagents. Leaving the body behind in the excellent care of the shrine, the group set out to find the needed materials.

First, though, they rested at the Ship’s Hull, a good inn located near the hard of Milicio. During the night, however, Jackie received a visitor, pressing a knife down upon her throat. A gnome she hadn’t seen before asked her what happened to Geziah. Jackie answered the truth, that he had died. The gnome seemed sad, but less out of mourning, and more because he lost a toy to play with. He told Jackie that there was no reason for him to follow the Untouchables anymore, and he said his farewells. Jackie waved the gnome goodbye, and continued sleeping.

After spending a long day searching for the right materials, the group finally managed to get everything. Since it was already late, though, they decided to wait. They were joined by an old friend of Jimmy, named Jim. Together, they were known as little Jimmy and big Jims. The old friend revealed that he was not part of Jimmy’s original crew anymore, as he received a more lucrative offer. He also offered something he found to the Untouchables; namely a treasure map, including a ritual scroll and three riddles in a foreign tongue none of them recognized.

They bought the map and the next morning, Jimmy and Jackie hatched a plan to translate the foreign texts. By sneaking aboard a ship and stealing a Comprehend Language ritual, Nick could use it to understand the texts. Jackie barely succeeded in this daring theft, but brought the book to an oblivious Nick. When he asked, they simply replied that they borrowed it, and Nick told them that he would personally ensure it would be brought back.

After casting the Ritual, Nick recognized the ritual as some sort of portal ritual, and read aloud the riddles. The riddles were as follows:

“The Five Digits of the Hand, Knock Twice; Knock Thrice”

“There are four brothers. Christian, Karl, Johan and Wilfred. each ruled over one land, Athal, Bargon, Calind and Deinos, and each wore a unique crown, Red, yellow, green and blue.

Johan owned Deinos, but did not wear a green crown. Wilfred was not the second-born brother. The first-born brother owned Athal but he wasn’t wearing a yellow crown. Christian was the fourth-born son. The third-born brother did not own Calind. Bargon’s owner, which wasn’t Wilfred, had red crown. Karl wore a blue crown and the third-born brother didn’t wear a green crown.

Which crown did the second-born brother wear?”

“Take the band of broken light;
Stretching up above;
The First is the Uppermost;
The Second is the Backdrop”

Each studied a riddle, but none had answers, though the translated riddles were written down.
Having spent enough time doing nothing, Nick left towards the Watery Grave with Jimmy. Jackie declined, as she thought the raising of the dead would be boring.

So Jackie went looking for trouble, and she found it. Looking for a bar fight in a seedy inn, she murdered three thugs. Unfortunatly, it was in this moment that the innkeeper recognised her true identity; that of Beckie Coriander, wanted murderer.
In the Watery Grave, Geziah’s body was put upon an altar, and the ritual began. Light shone down upon him, as his spirit started to fill his body.
The innkeeper ran out, warning the people, but Jackie silenced him from afar and retreated into the inn. However, besides a lockbox, she found nothing of value. She exited again, ready to make an escape, but two guards had already hurried towards her.
Meanwhile, Geziah’s animus regrew, forming a bridge between his body and spirit. His body was gently lifted into the air.
Jackie killed one of the guards, but back-up was already underway. She tried to flee, but they were not about to let her. A driven officer moved in to stop her in her tracks.

With a thump, Geziah’s body slumped onto the altar. The ritual was complete.
With a thump, Jackie’s body dropped onto the pavement. The arrest was complete.

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Insanity

I can’t honestly say I’m happy with the way things were going during this leg of our story, but my friend, if you want to hear it all, I will tell you all:

After losing Skyph and taking five in the village we had saved from their nearby Mage Tower before, I can’t honestly say that we were really looking forward to travelling on. Well, at least I know that I wasn’t.
Sannich was still far away, but the best we could do was travel on, going through the forest to save time and just… Make the horses set one foot in front of the other. I didn’t really see much of this journey, at least not until Geziah stopped the horses.

In front of us, in front of the horses, in a clearing, was a man standing. Well, barely a man, it was more of a… Walking tree. I had heard stories about them before, but never really saw them. They weren’t Ents, too small and agile. Rather, they were called Wilden, and this one looked like he meant business.
The unconscious thugs scattered around him probably had something to do with that.
What was more, his weapon was still slung casually over his back. He had single-handedly beaten five or six men senseless, using only his fists.
Yeah, everyone took an immediate shining to him.
After calming him down, telling him we weren’t thug reinforcements and making sure that he wasn’t going to punch us in the face, the Wilden introduced himself as Waldmunt Waldo, a wanderer without much of a goal in life. He looked like a decent enough chap, what with all the travelling he does, so I didn’t object too much when the group invited him to join us – we were a man down, after all.
So, with the Waldo taking up the spot left open by Skyph, we went out to new adventures. Or so I thought, until I remembered we were headed for Sannich.

Ah, Sannich, the city that was still thanking us for saving them from the Blazing Rider. Let me spoil this for you: by the time we left, all sympathy was gone.
It was getting late as we entered the city, so we decided to wait until the next day before we went to the Count to warn him about the Changeling situation we were dealing with. Naturally, we went to the inn that we had briefly called our falling-out base, The Five Boars. The barman quickly recognised us and, over the company of several beers, Geziah and Jimmy started retelling the many stories they could tell, both to Waldo and the barkeep. Jackie disappeared somewhere, I don’t really know where, but that wasn’t too interesting. Probably up to no good, again, that little one.
As time went by and my urges that we might want to hit the bed early were being ignored more and more, the three at the bar were getting more and more intoxicated, until they apparently came to the most recent point in their blabbing story: we were here to speak with Count Sannich, and Bahamut be damned if they weren’t going to do that Right Now.
So, while I was trying to talk reason into their hazy minds, the three meandered, stumbled and waved their way through the city, moving towards Count Sannich’s location with remarkable precision. As I feared, the local guards weren’t too happy with three drunks showing up in the middle of the night, slurring that they had to speak with the count.
When they obviously told them to get lost and sober, the three pulled their weapons, demanding to be let in.
Let it be known, that was the point that I stepped aside and let the good guards earn their pay. Long story short: Geziah, Jimmy and Waldo spent the night in prison, forever laying waste to the good name of the Untouchables.

So, the next morning came and I went to check up on them after having spent a refreshing night at The Five Boars. The guard required a little talking into it, but after I told him I’d keep their weapons with me, he decided to let us off easy and released the now hung-over trio. They never fail to be a thorn in my side, don’t they?
I told them to behave, told them off for misbehaving, went back to the Count’s mansion and realized my mistake when I realized I had taken them with me. Though there had been a change of guards by then, the stories had circulated and the names had been called. They saw us coming from miles away and wouldn’t let us in.
Well, wouldn’t let my three companions in. I once again succeeded in talking my way through, promising that I’d leave these three at the entrance and, once again, I realized my mistake too late.
I left them without adult supervision.
Inside, some receptionist woman told me that the count was very busy and it would be wise to return on a later date. I talked into her and she told me that, if I could take place in a waiting chamber, the Count might have some time for me in the next hour.
Thanks to the wonders of bureaucracy, that quickly stretched out to two hours.
And I was situated next to a window overlooking the courtyard where I had left my companions. As I feared, I could see exactly when they started to misbehave, running off within the first five minutes of me sitting there. And all I could do was sigh.
Looking outside every now and then, I couldn’t see very much of them. At one point I saw Geziah and Waldo running by with Geziah’s fishing rod and an angry man after them, but aside from that, I didn’t see much.
… Yeah, I wasn’t looking forward to hearing that story.

And the worst part was: the visit was completely useless. Count Sannich already knew about Verlicht’s son and the Changelings. He knew everything I could tell him, and probably more. All I could really do was tell him where we would probably be in the coming weeks in case he felt the need to call us – heading for Orture, in case you were wondering – and then I could start tracking down the Untouchables again.

Well, the damage was reasonably limited this time. Both Geziah and Jimmy had succeeded in staying out of prison, though Waldo was thrown back in for assaulting a fish salesman.
I’ll repeat that, in case you think you didn’t hear me correctly. He was thrown in prison for assaulting a fish salesman.
Though it was going straight against my teachings of freedom to travel, my first idea was to let the Wilden stay in there. Jimmy didn’t think as much, though, and actually chipped in to pay the guy’s bail – going straight out of his beer money, if you ask me – and get him back out again. With that all said and done, we could leave Sannich and – hopefully – never have to return.

We had some trouble choosing our route. Though going past the coast was clearly the fastest and easiest route, it was also bound to be, as Geziah put it so subtle, boring. We decided to head inland, where we could be met by adventures, sidetracks and Biontola with Joseph’s delicious apple pie. Yeah, we had our priorities back on track again, alright.
So, after a reasonably uneventful journey, we came back to the little backwater town where the Untouchables had seen their conception. Though Joseph didn’t have any apple pie ready for us – how could he, it wasn’t like we had called ahead, after all – the man was friendly enough to prepare one for us the next day. With that delicious thing to look forward to in mind, we headed for the inn for a drink and a good night’s rest again.
Well, that was what we were planning. I had granted Jimmy one beer, and he was the first to jump up and declare that the beer was poisoned. After another sip, I realized that the guy was right when the debilitating effects of the poison started to announce themselves to my limbs. Geziah didn’t seem to mind them, jumping towards the barman and starting to assault him. Waldo quickly joined him, but Jimmy and I, in our human squishiness, failed to join them as quickly.
Not that it would have mattered, as it turned out the only two other patrons apparently were in on the joke. They jumped up at the signal of the barman and all three turned from relatively normal, if backwater, people into Changelings.
I’m so sick of these guys.
Not that we had a lot of trouble dispatching them, though Jimmy fell unconscious and had to be revived with a bucket of beer afterwards. With that said and done, I headed outside to pay a visit to our old friend the sheriff.

I didn’t get far.
One step outside was all it took for me to realize something was wrong. Ravens were everywhere, making it impossible to take a reasonable step into the streets. It took me a moment, but I realized that there was a robed man, standing on a crate at the other side of the street. He looked like trouble.
Apparently, his name was Spymaster Dejour – very subtle name, that – and those Changelings we had just got rid of were his people. He wasn’t happy that we killed them, but he didn’t mind it too much, which showed exactly what kind of employer Dejour actually was. He clearly wasn’t going to let us go without a fight so, to the astonishment of everyone around me, I decided to not wait for him to attack.
My bright Lance of Faith cut its way through the ravens, drilling into the crate and sending the birds flying everywhere. By the time they settled down into two wildly flapping groups, Dejour was standing on the roof of the building, the crate was ruined and two guys had joined the fight.
Geziah quickly Fey Stepped up to Dejour, starting to spar with him, while leaving Jimmy, Waldo and me behind to deal with two flocks of ravens and two guys with the intention to kill.
… Let’s summarize this battle by saying that we got our asses kicked, alright?
Geziah failed to even hit the guy before he had to flee off of the roof. We got hit left, right and centre by all the foes we were left with and nothing really seemed to work. After a while we managed to get the assassins to flee, but the ravens were absolute bitches to take care of. By the time those were gone, the assassins returned and I was about ready to fall over and die right then and there.
Thankfully, Dejour appeared to take pity with us and let us live to wallow in our defeat, but with our lives, if we stopped our searching for the crystal and everything connected to the letter we had found so long ago in the thieves’ lair.
To be honest, I was divided on that. The man was a clear danger to everyone, but, well, I liked my life. Jimmy was clearly completely willing to abandon the quest, but Geziah decided to climb onto the roof again and headed after Dejour as he retreated.
I just went back into the inn to catch some shuteye, confident that the Eladrin would probably wake up in the morning, in some alley, after getting the daylights beaten out of him.

… Oh how wrong I was…

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Karma

Well, after that… Less than coherent tale of our good friend Jimmy… Let’s get back on track, shall we?

We were all happy to return to Altea after that disaster zone they call ‘Farla’. I’m glad we got out of there and hope that we won’t have to return there any time soon. Besides, we had also left Skyph there to fend with Greg for the car, and we were all pret-ty curious to see how they had been faring.
Well, long story short, they were both just fine. Greg hadn’t really noticed the pile of rocks that was our psionic comrade, and Skyph had apparently taken a pretty long nap. No harm done on either side, I’d say, so we went on to do some of our business.
So we started going around. We found a smithy named Smit, who could craft me a new set of finemail – FINALLY – and enchant several items we wanted. Our money pile was getting rather large and unwieldy, so we were happy to part with a bit of it to improve our chances of survival in the big, bad world.
However, we when the Untouchables want something, it seems like everything stops doing what it was doing to hinder us. Our wishes required more materials than we had, and Altea doesn’t exactly have a booming magic industry, so while we could acquire a handsome chunk of materials – making a shady shopkeeper called Matthew freaking rich in the process – we still didn’t have enough. Thankfully, the big pile of rocks we called Skyph was with us now, and he managed to send a message to Iago, the supplier of our shopkeep, to send more.
With everything said and done, having placed our orders, I requested Smit to allow me to copy his Transfer Enchantment ritual. The good man agreed, if I did it on my own costs, so I had to start writing. And let me tell you, it takes a lot of writing to copy a ritual of six pages…
So, my colleagues left me at Smit to see Baron Crimson and bring out rapport about the disasters in Farla. Because I wasn’t there, I had to take their word on what happened – mind, I was still copying the ritual while they were telling their story to me, so I was listening with barely half an ear anyway – but this is what they had told me:
The party told Crimson about Dundee’s unfortunate death, and that the men of Dejour were behind it. They said that Crimson didn’t immediately recognise Dejour’s name, not even finding him in ‘The Book’, as Jackie ominously called it.
After some thinking, though, Crimson told them he was sure he heard the name somewhere, though I couldn’t get out of them if he ever told them from where. The poor Baron wasn’t all too happy about the happenings in Farla, but he had a new task for us: to find out what had happened to the cart that was carrying the wind crystal to Sannich.
So I asked them how much they got for immediately telling him that.
They told me they hadn’t told him that, yet.
I stopped writing to listen them out a little more carefully.
Apparently, they wanted to keep Crimson in the dark a bit, take a bit of a break, then return to him and tell the story, claiming an easy 110 gold pieces.
I immediately realized that leaving me behind with Smit was probably a strategic move of them.
It was probably Jimmy’s, Jackie doesn’t have the mental capacity to come up with something like that.

But, with time to kill, we decided that just sitting around wasn’t going to help us. We figured we had left the Nimrod case alone for quite a while, so while I was still copying, Jackie went out to use some of her – ahem – feminine wiles to gather information on him. Again, I’m working from stories here when I tell you the following:
Apparently, some people had spotted a Gnome wearing black in the city. The party figured he could have only gone to one of the two inns in the city, so they split up to cover them both.
Unfortunately, neither inn held any kind of Gnome.
And yes, they went out of their way to disrupt my writing again to tell me this. And they still had the guts to complain that I took so long.

Two days later, on a market day – yes, I was done writing by then – we went out to see if there was anything interesting on sale on the market. We didn’t find much, though we found a compass that we figured was worth buying, when I realized I couldn’t find the bag of holding anymore.
I always have it in the same inner pocket of my cloak, to make sure I can always find it. It is always there, it contains most of our possessions, and it was gone.
What was there was a single, six-sided die.
I didn’t even want to throw it.
Jackie figured what was happening and started to randomly threaten people with her knife to tell them where Nimrod had gone.
While she was being dragged away by guards, the rest of us went into what we could only hope was the right direction. It didn’t take long for Skyph to stop us, though, apparently receiving a telepathic message to ‘meet me at the inn’.
Who ‘me’ was, or what inn exactly, I didn’t know, but we could only hope it was someone who knew more about Nimrod, so we went there with the speed of the wind.
Or, as fast as we could with Jackie still being tailed by suspicious guards.

At the inn we found two town guards, looking not all too serious, but they were still on guard. They stopped our worries and told us that there wasn’t anything wrong yet.
Inside, we quickly realized why the guards were stationed where they were. Both an Ogre and a Troll were sitting in the inn, one of them drinking one beer after the other while the other was just sitting at a table with a dazed look on his face. Two Shardminds, who were pretty easy to overlook with the other two inside, beckoned Skyph to join them.
I can hardly say that a conversation between Shardminds is interesting to follow. Because I, as a normal human being, can’t. They were completely silent, with their rocky faces showing no emotion whatsoever – as if they could – making it a pretty boring thing to happen.
While Jimmy was getting caught up drinking, Geziah was talking with the dazed creature and Jackie was getting into trouble again – I couldn’t see her, I just know she was – I could only look how the three piles of rocks were staring at each other.
Eventually, I received a telepathic message from Skyph. Apparently, the two Shardminds wanted him to join their group – the Shardslayers, or something, I’m not that familiar with Shardmind lore – or die. Rather permanent, if you ask me.
So, with the well-being of our friend in mind, we started tailing the Shardminds and their – apparently – lackey monsters. We didn’t even try to be silent about it, we just followed them a couple of paces behind to a nice house.
The Troll and Ogre stayed outside, effectively blocking us from going inside. I don’t know what happened inside, Skyph never told me, but while we were waiting, the Troll apparently thought Geziah was yummy and licked him.
Geziah, taking the only logical course of action when something like that happens, attacked the Troll with his axe.
… Yeah.
While Jackie and Geziah started fighting with the Troll and Ogre, I slapped Geziah one while Jimmy tried to get them to stop. They only stopped after the Troll had tried to use the Eladrin as a makeshift club against Jackie, apparently they were stopped by their masters.
It was really interesting to see what happened then. Jackie walked up to me and tried to kick me for not helping them with being complete and utter fools. She missed.
Then she tried to spit in my face, also missing.
By then, I was getting awfully tired of the little woman. I decided that a hard lesson might be best for her.
I swung with my Morning Star, whacking her straight under the chin with all my strength and sending her flying.
Jimmy asked me if that was necessary, understandably angry. I just told him that yes, by now, it was necessary. I was tired of the woman and, if she didn’t listen to reason, she’d start to listen to my mace.

With the Shardminds being done with, we realized Nimrod was probably long gone. In a last ditch effort we went to the closest guard post, where we told our story.
They sent us to another one.
And that one did so as well, having just sent out a Bag of Holding to the general vault.
After talking with the clerk there and giving a description of the contents of the bag, we got our possessions back. Of course, the bag was marked with three vertical stripes, forever defacing it, but thankfully purely cosmetically. All our possessions were still in it, as well, making it clear that Nimrod was toying with us, probably just sending the message that he was aware of us.
Highly annoying if you ask me.

After this, five days and nights passed. We spent the time testing out our Staff of Random Things, as Jimmy has come to call it, though not much more happened.
After these days, the items we had ordered with Smit were all finished and, as if he had been waiting for it, we received word from Baron Crimson that he wished to speak with us.
Let me tell you, the man wasn’t all too happy. He had sent word to Sannich to perform a little research of his own on the disappearance of his cart, and it turned out that the stories we had told there and to the good Baron didn’t quite match up.
Yeah, no kidding. We’ve basically been lying through our teeth to him. Well, I wasn’t there, but…
We decided then and there to spill the beans on everything – having a Baron in your good graces is always helpful – and told him about the Changelings, the son of Verlicht, who had attacked us all that time ago with his band of Changelings, and who turned out to be the leader of the Sannich Assassin Guild.
Baron Crimson told us that it was now understandable why we kept the story of the Changelings on the down-low, but also hinted that Count Sannich might want to know about them. With everything said and done, we had to make up a little to the Baron, so we went on our way to the town we had defended from the Blazing Rider previously.

On our way there, we ran across a cart that was rampaging across the road. We left the road to let it pass safely, but it went sideways before it could pass us, trapping the horse that didn’t manage to get away.
We realized that the cart was filled with broken spears and arrows, which couldn’t spell much good.
We released the horse as fast as possible, but it was impossible for us to get back on the cart and get away before a big group of Goblins reached us. They saw us, blinked twice, and decided that we made good meat, too.
While we prepared to meet them head-on, Skyph got attacked from the rear by Bugbears. As the two sides clashed with their pincer manoeuvre, I got trapped on the cart, smashing left and right with my Morning Star, while the rest was fighting everywhere. I could see Jackie jumping through showers of blood, spears flying everywhere and Skyph hitting me with his psychic attacks – no, I wasn’t very grateful for that.
I had been keeping good check on my comrades, but our time adventuring, slaying dragons and the likes, had been doing us well. I just noticed that Skyph required a lot of my aid, probably because he had been absent during most of our more epic battles. The two Bugbears wouldn’t leave him alone, but while the rest was thinning out the Goblin hordes, they kept hammering him.
Eventually, they got through both his defences and the ones I had thrown up around him. They struck him once, sending him straight to the ground, after which the other one jumped on top of him and smashed his head.

… Yeah.

I don’t know about my friends, but I started seeing red. Nobody kills an Untouchable and gets away with it.
While we were starting to redefine the word ‘slaughter’ to include us, it apparently got through to the tiny Goblin brains that we were just too much in our newfound battlerage. Once all of them had fled and we couldn’t find any surviving stragglers, we started our sorry task.

First, we carried the remains of our fallen comrade to the cart. Maybe we could find a priest with the necessary skill to resurrect him.
Then we looked through the carriage that had been the start of this all. Inside was a dead woman with an amulet and a load of gold. We claimed it all and buried the woman.
On the road to Sannich I studied the amulet. I sensed a mind in it, it seemed to be alive, and eventually, after digging through my memory and some books, I came to realize that this was the Amulet of Passage.
Yeah, an artefact. And it wasn’t all that happy at the moment.
I’ve heard a little about artefacts. How they can help you if you make them happy. I also heard of how they can hurt you if you don’t.
I wasn’t going to risk wearing one. Jimmy was willing to, accepting it.

On the road, we found another victim of the Goblins. After burying him as well, we stopped for the night in a familiar village. It was the same village that had asked for our help with a Wizard’s Tower, so we were more than welcome to spend another night in the barn of the good farmer, though the sleep was barely bittersweet and filled with dreams about our fallen companion.

In Loving Memory:

‘The Missing Touch’ Skyph

951 AV – 1192 AV

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Jimmy Tells a Story

‘Alright, Friend Elf with the bow and Friend Dwarf with the nasty looking shiv, let’s all settle down a bit now, shall we? I’ve been through too much nonsense lately to deal with all this robbery business. Yes, feel free to point that thing somewhere else already. Not as if it’d get through the armour anyway. Look, I’ll be frank – robbing an armed-to-the-teeth Paladin of the Raven Queen who under normal circumstances would have no qualms with putting you six feet under and letting you push up the daisies in the middle of a crowded tavern might not have been the brightest idea you’ve had all week, savvy? Right now, let’s put away those arrows already and let Sir Bootstraps buy the two of you a beer, and at the end of the night I’m sure we’ve forgotten all this theft and assault nonsense. That’s right, go ahead, put the shiv away. And the other one as well. I’m talking to the one in your boot, Friend Dwarf, that you’ve been eyeing rather frantically. Right. Oy! Tavernkeep! Yes, you, with the bald head and the flabby arms! Get over here and pour the three of us a drink already! No, no need to call for the guard, situation’s under control, good man. And make it a double for the three of us, I feel like telling you gents a bit of a story tonight. Note that I am not much of a bard, at all, so consider this a one-time favour for the lot of you. Now gather round, my fellow weary travelers and/or professional swords-for-hire, and let Uncle Jim here tell you the story of The Untouchables and the Shiny Dragon.’
‘Right, so good ol’ Jimmy here and his merry band of adventurers were doing some very old school dungeon crawling. The way it’s supposed to be, friend, there were shambling zombies and rather angry evil spiky dwarves and even a big nasty slimy thing, and a rust monster ate poor Basel’s armour right up, which then promptly went to respectively Chainmail heaven and Rust Monster heaven. We were supposed to find some pretty mirrors or something, I was to busy smashing things to really pay attention to that. But that’s not the important part of this story, no, of course, I hear you asking, but what about the loot! Was there loot? Was it, dare I say, mad loot? Yes, there was loot, and its sanity was dubious at best, but unfortunately there was a rather large and shiny dragon sitting right on top of it. And this was one of the nasty variety. Claws like mountains! Those vicious, pointy teeth! Wings the size of Farmer Joseph’s famous pie! We did some talking with it, and it wanted us to trade some very nice shinies for the mirrors, which I didn’t particularly like, so we spun up some nonsense story about how we’d totally do that then legged it the hell out of there.’
‘Back in town we were happily drinking the hard stuff in The Lazy Eye, just about the only place in Varla where you can get a bit of a drink. It’s not like Altea at all, where you stumble out of one pub right into the next. Well, I for one was happy to booze it up, and Geziah and even Nick Basel felt like they needed a drink. Now that I think of it that was a bit weird. I don’t think I’ve seen the Cleric drink this stuff before, who knows, maybe he’s warming up to us. Or just taking a moral nosedive in general. I kind of lost track of Jackie here for a moment – well, she’s small enough to fit under the tables, and she’s a sneaky one, so you’ll forgive me if I can’t exactly recall what she was doing during all this. Perhaps she was even drinking with us – the drink, it addles my mind. It was at this point in time that a mysterious stranger entered the bar. And mysterious he was indeed. As he approached us I casually laid my hand on my sacred facesmasher, wondering if we were going to have some trouble with this enigmatic fellow.’
‘His name was Luciano, and he had an offer we couldn’t refuse. Having been informed of the fact that we’d been asking after a certain Baron du Jour, he had sought us out in hopes of trading some information. He would give us all the information on this Baron, his employer, that he had, and in return we would give him the location of the Mirrors of Sehanine, a sacred artifact that he was intent on capturing for the Baron. Seeing a nice opportunity the Untouchables – yes, that’s us – went ahead and talked things over. Jackie kept insisting that she got to murder him, as she usually does, while the more sensible Geziah and Nick agreed to make the trade. You’ll understand if I’m not too keen on sharing the specifics of du Jour’s location with you folks, since we intend to seek him out, and the competition would be rather unwelcome. If I told you I’d have to kill you. In any case we travelled back towards the dungeon, this Temple of Sehanine, in a terrible state of disarray after an Underdark incursion. There we were introduced to Sorceror Sim, an elvish looking fellow who claimed to be from Albero, and a large, heavily armed and armoured Dragonborn named Rogar. I didn’t like the sight of this last fellow at all. I informed them of the presence of the dragon, which seemed to make them worry a bit, but seeing as to how they were clearly sturdy adventurers they weren’t planning on giving up so easily. We gave them the directions to the creature’s lair in exchange for the information and a promise of setting us up with a steady business connection, and off they went. Curious to how this all was going to play out we sneaked after them, Jackie going actually as far as to enter the creature’s lair and hide herself behind a rather large pile of gold, which she actually managed to leave alone. The three parlayed with the dragon as well, and it made quite clear that while it already had sort of a deal going on with some fellows named the Untouchables – that’s us, folks – it was willing to let these Mirrors go to the highest bidder. No big setback, since we were planning on getting these Mirrors for the trio anyway, and we were now in a position we could screw them over in ridiculous ways – either we outbid them and they don’t have the Mirrors, or they outbid us and pay a heck of a lot more than they’re probably comfortable with.’
‘Like all stories, there’s a point where the narrative takes a turn for the worse for the heroes, and I like to consider everything that happened after this as our particular turning point. On our way back Rogar nudged me, and more or less told me that he works directly for Du Jour, and would much prefer to screw his buddies out of their reward. Together with Dundee we could conspire against Sim and Luciano, and Du Jour would of course reward us greatly instead of them. Of course I wasn’t liking one bit of this, since Luciano had done nothing to wrong us, and this whole thing reeked of a set-up. I agreed to meet him with the Mirrors at Dundee’s place as soon as we acquired them for the meantime, and together the Untouchables came up with a cunning plan. Sneaky Jackie would keep an eye on Rogar, make sure he’s out of the way and all that. Meanwhile we’d inform Luciano about the proverbial snake in the grass. This all worked out pretty well, or so we thought, and we planned to continue as before – we’d outbid them just slightly, they’d pay us for any costs made to do this out of their cut of the reward, and they’d give formally introduce us and all to Du Jour. After the deal was made with the dragon we’d meet up with Luciano, let him witness his friend’s treachery and then probably chop him to bits together. Interestingly enough nobody had a clue where Sim was to be found, and we paid no heed to this, foolishly enough. But more about this Sim fellow will follow, more than we like.’
‘First part of the plan went more or less flawless, to the point of going better than expected. Next morning the dragon Ladarium proved to be greedier than I had predicted, and more or less insisted on honouring our first deal – trading an object of magical power for the Mirrors. As painful as it was, I yielded the blessed cloak of Sehanine to it, figuring a servant of the Raven Queen should place his trust in the hands of Fate rather than the magical trickery of this temple’s goddess, and the beast seemed very happy with it indeed, up to the point of promising me an unspecified favour in trade for it. This dragon, monstrous as it may be, looked true enough to its word, so such a favour could no doubt be a lot more valuable than such a mere object could be.’
‘On our way back we were ambushed by three orcs! One of them shouted something about how we murdered his brother before brandishing the biggest meat cleaver I have ever seen and charging Geziah. Of course such pitiful creatures stand no chance against the full might of the Untouchables, and we butchered his two compatriots and brought him to his knees. Before I could question him about his brother Jackie pounced and happily stabbed him in the face. Repeatedly. Did I mention not to mess with the halfling, my dear audience? Don’t mess with the halfling. Seriously. I am fairly sure she is batshit insane. No offense intended, Jackie. Of course this angered me in no small amount, but hey, you can’t really choose your friends in life. Actually you can, I just seem to have chosen very poorly. ’
‘On our return to Varla we went ahead and manoeuvered our way to the quaint residence of this Dundee fellow. He was expecting us, and apart from seeming even more cowed and ratty than usual we did not notice anything specifically strange about him. Rogar came in soon enough afterwards and congratulated us for choosing the right side. His face quickly fell when Luciano stepped into the room, challenging him to a duel to the death right then and there! I loved the idea of that – if Luciano was a righteous man, after all, the Raven Queen would shield him from harm. After all, it would not be his fate to fall that day. And if he wasn’t, we would clearly be in the wrong, and his death would be a lesson to us. The two of them went outside, and Rogar immediately bolted, surprisingly fast for a fellow wearing such heavy armour. He somehow blinded me and our stabby rogue to his presence and cut the corner, Luciano in pursuit of him. Meanwhile Geziah spotted Sim frantically loading the crates with the Mirrors on a cart, and a very dead Dundee. Afterwards we’d find out he’d been dead for quite a while, and Sim had somehow taken his place, which implies he would have screwed us over at some point or other as well. Of course Geziah gave chase, and somehow managed to keep up with Sim frantically spurring his horses to go faster already. He sprinted after Sim for about five miles – an incredible feat if I ever saw one, if you keep in mind what the man’s lugging about while doing this – right up to a guard post where the wagon was stopped. Now, I have to say that, having heard this particular story only afterwards, I more or less would’ve understood where the guard was coming from, seeing a panicked merchant race away while an eladrin with the largest axe you have ever seen in your life sprints after him, ranting about how he’s going to murderise him for stealing his mirrors or something before actually jumping on the cart. Both of them are arrested and taken away to separate rooms. When we finally arrive quite expectedly the ‘merchant’ has escaped and the guard is nowhere to be seen. Cart’s gone, too, of course. We have officially lost the Mirrors. Dundee’s dead. The guards are eyeing us in decidedly unfunny ways. Time to skip town, folks! We travelled back to Altea to meet up with our kind patron Baron Crimson, ran into this feller Greg who once tried to rob us with hilarious consequences, and found out he’s currently a stablehand, which is at least one story that took a turn for the better, and that is basically that, folks. Alright, my voice is cracking from all of these shenanigans, someone get me a beer already! None of that weak stuff, or at least triple it or something. A drink to the continued existence of the Untouchables!’

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Intermission - Defense of Illariamh

This is the story of four valiant fighters, who did everything in their power to defend the citizens of Illariamh from being slaughtered by the monsters that threatened them.

It was early in the day for the massive city, built by the hands of the Eladrin many years ago. Its stone and crystal buildings towering amongst the trees, the locals trusting on their connection with the Fey or their personal strength to reach the high doors and windows, or to move from one house to the other.
Pine trees dotted the central square where three of the family company named the Wanderers were gathered. Lysander, Dayereth, father and son, and their trusty pe- I mean, friend Lin were idling a little as they were approached by a messenger from the town’s leading family, carrying the message that they, as renown adventurers of the Fey, were being summoned to see the godfather.
The urgent message spurred the adventurers on to gather their last member, Maestro, or Dayereth’s son, from his study. Oh, the young wizard loved his study and certainly had a lot of potential, but he was rather scatterbrained when he was busy in his Wizard’s Tower. This was evident when he came bursting through his window, tumbling down but landing without a scratch.
Dayereth and Lysander exchanged smug glances, not even surprised by the behaviour anymore.
With the party of four together again, they could hurry towards the town’s eldest, who had grave news for them.

Fomorians, the aggressive and paranoid giants that lived in the Fey like so many other creatures, had always had a shaky alliance with the Eladrin. The Eladrin had always done as much as possible to keep their diplomatic ties open, but these diplomats had recently been murdered, quickly followed by the Fomorians mobilizing their forces no more than two days ago.
It didn’t take long for the Wanderers to remember what they had picked up during their adventures. The Fomorians were big, tough characters to do battle with, but they considered the Cyclopes their allies. Illariamh was going to be besieged by forces that could use the Eladrin’s bones for toothpicks if they wanted to.
With the grim picture clear to them, they tried to get a clear plan on the road. They knew that the townspeople wouldn’t evacuate unless they absolutely had to, not wishing to abandon the place they lived in for all those years of their lives. The Fomorians would be coming from the west-north-west, so the family wished for the Wanderers to lead the defence of the northern gate, where the attackers were expected to perform a pincer move. The forces were less concentrated on that side, so the leadership of the renowned adventurers would form a much-needed morale boost for the warriors there.
The Wanderers knew there wasn’t much time, the closest Fomorian settlement was about two days’ travel away, so the attack could start at any time. They went by the local vault, where they gathered several magical items that would certainly help them in the fight, and then made their way to the northern gate.
Lysander and Lin exchanged resigned glances, they could only hope their addition was enough.

Relieved to see they weren’t too late yet, the Wanderers went outside to prepare. The family hadn’t lied when they said that the northern defences were weakened greatly, with the main force clearly at the western gate. They were left with a small assault force, with two clear leader types that clearly expected them to take over the command.
The Wanderers didn’t waste too much time to be polite, but instead started throwing up the necessary countermeasures. A Wizard’s Curtain, laid down by Maestro, was going to try and draw the attention away from the gate and Lysander prepared a Magic Circle that was going to stop anything Fey to close up the holes left by the curtain. The few soldiers could only look in awe as the two arcanists were at work, with Dayereth and Lin just barely managing to keep their attention for long enough to put them in something resembling a formation.
Lin and Maestro exchanged angry glances, this battle wasn’t going to be easy.

Not long after the initial group of rituals was completed and the Wanderers were getting ready to put down their second wall of defences, the Eladrin scouts returned, running just barely ahead of a small wave of Cyclopes, that stopped just momentarily to see what was wrong with the gates.
It didn’t take their one eye a long time to see through the Curtain, quickly recognising Dayereth standing at the front as a tip of the defensive spear. They charged him, several bashing uselessly against his armour, while others used dark ocular powers to weaken him.
The Cyclopes’ charge formed the beginning of a long battle of attrition. Both sides fought carefully, but the Wanderers eventually started to whittle the Cyclopes down. When only one of them was left they valiantly offered it a chance to surrender, but it declined and tried to escape with its life.
Maestro and Dayereth exchanged knowing glances, if they let it escape it would just come back with a later wave.
The four adventurers threw everything they had after it, just barely managing to kill the fleeing Cyclops before it could successfully escape.

The Wanderers knew that they would only get a moment’s respite as the Fomorians would send a second wave at them. Now the scouts were out of the field, their only warning would be the moment the Fomorians were actually within visual range of the gate, and both the Magic Circle and the Wizard’s Curtain were starting to wear off.
In a moment of mild desperation, the gathered defenders started dragging the bodies of the Cyclopes around, hoping to create a gauntlet to slow down the next attackers as they threw themselves at them.
Barely five minutes after they had started to take a rest, just long enough for Dayereth to be hopeful there wouldn’t be any more attackers, the ground started to shake. Putting away their canteens and rations, the defenders got back into their defensive position behind the Cyclops bodies to face the oncoming threat.
When the threat came in sight, a positively huge Fomorian, one of the Eladrin captains recognised it. He told the group that this particular Fomorian was known as ‘The Battering Ram’.
Dayereth and Lin exchanged annoyed glances. That guy had to be stopped.

The surviving members of the battle for the northern gate often told about this second wave. The Battering Ram was accompanied by a small army, basically of brigade size, of Cyclopes. Even the Wanderers turned a little white when they saw the amount of attackers, but they quickly resolved their uncertainty by grabbing their equipment even tighter. The only precaution they took was sending one of the soldiers off, to see if the other gate could miss any reinforcements.
Most of the stories are about the amazing display of might Maestro showed, creating a wall of fire that blocked off their left flank and claimed the life of many a Cyclops as it tried to cross it. At their right flank, he threw down a massive labyrinth of spider webs that caught the Cyclopes trying to cross it in its sticky mess.
It didn’t take the Wanderers long to take out the hordes of Cyclopes, having had enough of practice in the previous battle. This didn’t mean that the Battering Ram was an easy task, though, who had quite some time to dish out the hurt to Lin before the rest of the adventurers managed to get to her.
But with all of the defenders that were still alive putting all their strength into the Fomorian, even the Battering Ram couldn’t keep standing for very long. As it collapsed, it just barely missed the poor Lin, who was badly hurt by the immense assaults. The Battering Ram had a fitting name.
As he helped her up, Lin and Lysander exchanged tired glances. They probably couldn’t take much more of a punishment like that.

Catching their breath for just a short time, most of the Wanderers were actually too exhausted to effectively eat. When the soldier the adventurers had sent back to try and get reinforcements, though, he only brought bad news. The northern gate was barely holding on as it was, totally unable to spare any soldiers.
Making peace with this fate, the brave adventurers could only wait for the next wave of attackers. They killed time by rearranging the fresh corpses to refine their gauntlet of bodies, but in the end, they knew it was only going to be harder.
Lysander and Maestro exchanged worried glances, it wouldn’t be much longer before the Fomorians would give up their foolish assaults, right?

When the third wave of attackers showed up, though, the blood of all the present defenders turned to ice on the spot. Four Cyclopes escorted a Fomorian, who was dragging a catapult along to the gate.
Before people could do as much as blink, Dayereth sprinted forwards, his goal clear. If that catapult was going to destroy the gate, the attackers could flow in basically unhindered through the opening.
Damned if he was going to let that happen.
Even the Cyclopes blinked momentarily when the Eladrin ran past them. They reacted quickly, trying to surround Dayereth, but the other Wanderers reacted just as quickly, sprinting after the armoured warrior and prying the Cyclopes from their comrade.
Dayereth’s Fey Stepping got him quickly out of his predicament, allowing him to run forward at the catapult just as it fired its first shot. The Fomorian beside it simply reloaded it while the Eladrin unleashed all the strength he could muster… At the catapult. The man saw it as his goal to put the damn thing out of commission before it could deal any more damage to the gate.
With the catapult and half of the Cyclopes down, the Fomorian and the other survivors started going on a frenzy of attacks. Lin quickly got too wounded to keep on fighting, retreating from the battle, but the others managed to safely take out the third wave of attackers after nearly breaking their weapons on them.
Maestro and Dayereth exchanged exhausted glances as they stood over the body of the Fomorian. These guys were tough.

Another minute or so went by, just enough for the Wanderers to start their now tired routine of using the new bodies to make their corpse gauntlet even more elaborate, before a new messenger came through the gate with devastating news.
The northern gate had fallen and the Fomorians were crashing through the city. What was left of the defenders of the gate was trying to form a desperate defence in the town square to let as much civilians escape with their lives.
The wanderers all exchanged one last glance before they charged back into the city, ready to take on everything the Fomorians and their Cyclops allies could throw at them.

In the chaos of this battle, the accounts turned out rather unclear. Many people ran by the battle in hysterics, trying to evade as much of the fighting as possible, but several of the details stand out by quantity.
Many stories tell about Lin and Dayereth battling the Kaernov twins one-on-one. Lin died in the arms of one of them, her sword embedded deep in his heart, and his brother cursed her name before dying at Dayereth’s hands.
Dayereth is accounted for saving the lives of countless civilians as he took on a Fomorian nicknamed ‘The Butcher’, with whole armies on his name, in a fruitless attempt to damage it. Though he died before any real harm could be done to the Butcher, his life had bought several people the valuable seconds they needed to escape with theirs.
It is said that, as his son succumbed to the Butcher, Lysander stepped forward to keep the Fomorian busy. Though he was far from a melee fighter, he managed to keep the Butcher busy for long enough to let the last civilians escape. While he got struck down, the last soldiers escaped through the portal, only two allegedly witnessing the horrible event.
The Eladrin Wizards quickly collapsed the portal to the city, preparing themselves to build up a new life in the Natural World. They would forever remember the Eladrin that had given their lives, with the names of the Wanderers on an honorary list as the mercenaries that died in the name of the city.

Not too much later, the two Fomorian families that had allied themselves to besiege the city started infighting over the spoils of their victory and actually destroyed themselves in the process.
Even later, when the stories were being recounted and written up, the scribes noticed a hole in their retellings. Nobody had seen Maestro, Dayereth’s son, fall in battle, but nobody had seen him leave through the portal, either.
The stories are inconclusive on Maestro’s fate. Some claim he died in the battle, or was simply unable to reach the portal before it was collapsed, while others theorize that he teleported himself out of danger once the situation was clearly hopeless, and that he’s still wandering the Fey in grief. Nobody knows for sure, though several urban myths started to spring to life around him.

And that is the story of the Defense of Illariamh.

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Intermission - Lenwit's Point

We all met in an inn…
The place was Lenwit’s Point, a small town that was pretty close to a Goblin War battlefield. I entered the inn at the same time as a human wizard and an elf, and we happened to reach the bar at the same time. It was all pretty much a coincidence, but we started making small talk over mugs of beer, and I could notice a second human look several times in my direction, apparently looking me over. The wizard introduced himself as Nathan, a travelling mage, and the Elf told us that his name was Sol’thar.
After a while of talking and a couple of beers, a group of dwarves entered the inn. They looked battle-worn, wounded and grumpy. I was pretty sure that they would head straight for the strong stuff, but when the barkeep offered them a stiff drink, they declined.
This seemed to get the attention of most of the inn, including my two tablefriends and the other human. Even the innkeeper told them it was ‘weird’, but the dwarves ignored him and approached the three of us when they saw our looks. The second human joined us as well, introducing himself as ‘Marc’ and claiming he was supposed to be with us.
A short conversation later, we knew the Dwarves were part of a group called the ‘Sober Order’… Don’t look at me like that, I couldn’t believe it, either. Apparently, they are responsible for transporting the Dwarves’ famous brew, having taken a vow of sobriety so they don’t drink all the beer before it arrives.
That didn’t stop the standard brigand fare from stealing their giant keg of beer, though. They claimed that something larger than me had taken the keg, and they were ready to offer us 25 gold if we could retrieve the beer. We tried to get them to go up, but the most we could get out of them was that we could take all the treasure we would find on the way. It seemed decent enough, if it just meant beating up some thieves…

The dwarves brought us to where they were attacked, on the road just out of Lenwit’s Point, where Sol’thar’s elven intuition helped us find a trail of footsteps to the west, which we promptly followed. The Dwarves joined us… Reluctantly… As carrying strength for when we found the keg. I kept noticing Marc looking sideways at me, over his shoulder, forwards, apparently measuring me up. Though kind of unnerving, I did my best to ignore him and concentrate on the footsteps.
It was a short trek, but we eventually met a human fortress, clearly built to withstand a siege, probably during the Goblin Wars. After some scouting we learned that, ironically enough, it was the very thing that was supposed to be kept out that had taken house in the abandoned fortress. Goblins were everywhere: patrols, sentries, sleeping, training, doing whatever Goblins do. There was a small forest of tents outside the castle, only allowing us to guess how many more would be inside the fortress.
While looking over a small hill at the tents, we were discussing strategies. This was clearly a little more than we had anticipated, but was far from impossible to deal with. Nathan was convinced that burning the tents down would take the Goblins out in a blazing inferno, which did seem likely, but way too risky – the chance of the fire not spreading was just slightly too great. We looked at the Dwarves, but they weren’t able to produce some kind of entrance, either.
In the end, we decided to wait for nightfall before sneaking inside. The Dwarves went out to warn the humans in the area about the Goblins, and we got ready to wait until darkness fell. Not that we got that far, but it was the idea that counted.

Mere moments into the wait, the Dwarves weren’t even out of our sight yet, they came running back, whispering about a patrol. We jumped into the bushes and looked at the patrol as it got awfully close to us.
Suddenly, Marc jumped out and charged the Goblins. Nathan, Sol’thar and I followed, as well, but we couldn’t prevent one of the Goblins from blowing a horn. While rushing into battle, I could hear several horns in the surrounding areas sounding in answer, and I knew this was going to get harder than I’d liked. The dwarves fled in the confusion of our battle, but it didn’t take long for Goblin reinforcements to arrive and surround us. I was ready to keep engaging the little buggers, but my allies threw down their weapons when prompted, so I allowed myself to be captured as well.

The Goblins escorted us to their leader, who seemed very happy to see us, sitting on a chair that was probably supposed to resemble some kind of throne. Marc apparently spoke Goblin, for he could talk to the leader and appeared to be haggling with him for a while before we got pushed and prodded towards a hole. I could see several snake-like forms in the shadows down there, so when we were pushed in, I did everything not to fall down. Goblin boots stomped on my fingers, though, causing me to drop after my new friends soon enough.
As it turned out, the snakes were long dead already, having starved quite some time ago. Up high, the Goblins were arguing about something, but we weren’t going to hang out and wait to find out about what. We found a crawling space that would take us out of the pit, giving the one-fingered salute to the Goblins up over the pit before disappearing from their sight.
The tunnel had been out of use for a very long time. It was filthy, dusty and had quite some small spiders running around, but it was enough to take a quick breather and recuperate a little before continuing.
At the other end of the tunnel, we met a kind of dungeon filled with rats. Not of the small, stompy kind, but of the big, deadly, disease-riddled kind. They attacked us in swarms, and we had to give quite a lot to fight them off. Enough, actually, to cause me to fall ill with disease. When I woke up the rats were gone and Sol’thar was talking with some prisoner guy in the back of the tunnel, and we decided to lick our wounds during the night, especially with my quickly rising temperature.

The night was heavy for me, but by the time dawn broke – at least, we think dawn broke, we didn’t actually have any sunlight in the dungeon – I was ready and fit to go, free of the disease.
We managed to convince the ‘prisoner’ to come with us. We weren’t really sure if the guy was a prisoner, he seemed to be perfectly fine in there, but he joined us anyway.
After a short tunnel we came out to a courtyard, where we could hear a Goblin and a Hobgoblin talking from one balcony to the other about some kind of treasure. At least, until I put my head around the corner and my horns telegraphed my arrival, causing them to separate… Rather casually. Nathan tried to pull them back by pulling them into some infighting, but the reaction was limited to an ‘I heard that!’, which was rather disappointing.
Deciding who to follow really took us a little too long, but we eventually decided to follow the Goblin. Climbing onto the balcony we were brought to a kind of throne room, where we met the Goblin Boss, on a proper throne this time. Sol’thar entered the room first, promptly getting sniped by a number of archers, hidden in alcoves. The Elf returned the favour, and we joined him in the offensive, eventually defeating the Goblins and looting their bodies. Nathan promptly received a new staff, but there weren’t any connecting hallways to this room, so we knew there was only one more way to go: after the Hobgoblin.

The door the Hobgoblin had gone through brought us to a hallway leading to a balcony. We could see the bastard standing on this balcony, looking over the Goblin forces, apparently speaking to them with his pet standing at attention next to him.
I made a bet with Sol’thar that there would be more enemies on the balcony and promptly tried to charge the Hobgoblin, but as I did I got attacked by two wolves, hidden besides the entrance to the balcony. They severely weakened me, and I got knocked out before my party could come to help me.

I went through a familiar feeling, something I had felt not too long before. A feeling like I was floating, like a set of cold fingers was clawing at my body, but failed to get a grip on it. I could feel myself moving through different consciousnesses, including Paladins, Clerics and other followers of the Raven Queen.
Yeah, I had died, I was pretty sure of it.
And, just like the last time, I eventually opened my eyes to a familiar set of golden eyes, telling me off in a familiar voice.
“Minron, you REALLY should be more careful…”
My benefactor told me what I already knew: I had died again. What I didn’t know, though, was that my ‘friends’ had looted my body like any monster that had crossed our path, leaving me with six gold pieces – apparently, Sol’thar had honoured our bet and doubled my gold – and the Scale Mail I was wearing. Marc had taken everything else.

You bet I hunted the guy down. It took me less than a week to find him in the same inn where we had met, getting drunk with my equipment thankfully still unsold. It didn’t take much convincing to get it back – the appearance of someone he believed to be dead helped – and he told me how the adventure had ended.

Apparently, after my death, the three people left finished off the boss and his creatures, causing the Goblins to break up camp and flee. After this they searched for the keg, which they found empty besides a drunken Ettin. After chasing the creature off and collecting the fee for the keg, the group partied a little before breaking apart.
Apparently, they had toasted in the name of ‘that Minotaur guy who died’, but they hadn’t remembered me that well. In the end, I bade Marc farewell, with my equipment, and started looking for new adventures again.

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Dragons fight with Words

Once again, as we Untouchables travel on, more epic stories are formed.
Last time, I stopped telling when zombies came spilling through an open door. They caused Jackie to flee and Geziah to step in, trying to stem the tide a little with his body. Jimmy valiantly joined him by his side, swinging wildly with his hammer and causing the zombies to take careful consideration about where they’re going.
… Oh, who am I kidding. They’re zombies, they didn’t consider if they wanted to attack the wild Paladin, they started throwing their intestines at him. A kidney, for example, flew out, barely missing me and Jackie while I was administering the necessary first aid on her bleeding body. She was complaining to me, while I was explaining to her that this was just the proof that I didn’t make empty threats.
When I looked up, I could see Jimmy, getting showered in the splashing leftovers of the zombie that he had just obliterated with his hammer. I’m pretty sure the stink wouldn’t really add anything, but I’m also pretty sure that such a thing simply can’t be healthy.
As if they were waiting for it, one of the zombies got its hold on Geziah and pulled him into the room. With an angry roar, Jackie jumped forwards and attacked the one keeping Jimmy busy, but it made quite the point of ignoring her and putting its claws on Jimmy. While Geziah’s cries for help came from deeper and deeper in the room, I maneuvered myself to get a good look at the zombie and shouted at the Eladrin to lower his head.
He turned around and ducked just in time for my Lance of Faith to zoom through the space his head had occupied mere moments before. The zombie, however, didn’t have that chance and had its head explode all around. Though hardly grateful for the ruined clothes, the Eladrin was free.
In the meanwhile, Jimmy was still struggling with his zombie, pushing and pulling while trying to get free, eventually actually petting the creature, rubbing rotten flesh off of its head.
While watching this happen, an arm suddenly flew out of the room, straight for me. It actually managed to strike me and claw its way up to my neck, attempting to choke me before I managed to pull it away. Geziah attacked the perpetrator, but he barely managed to hit it. If I wasn’t pretty sure about zombies being mostly unable to convey emotions, I’d say the creature threw him an annoyed look at most.
But, we were still fighting Undead, the creatures the Untouchables are most proficient against, and we managed to push them back. Jackie managed to take the zombie grabbing Jimmy out and we pushed into the room. In there we took out the last couple, but Jackie’s frantic voice signaled us that we weren’t out of the danger zone just yet: the Duergar were advancing now.
She let out another high-pitched scream when, apparently, the zombie she had just slain got back up again and lurched for her, but she darted away, into the room, closing the door behind her and locking it tightly.
We listened carefully for sounds of battle outside, however briefly, notifying Jackie that she would do better to not lean against the door, for it would open to the outside.
We could hear the zombie bouncing against the door a couple of times, eventually stopping. Then we heard some stumbling upstairs, and the horror as we realized what had happened was mirrored perfectly on our faces.
Suddenly, that last zombie came falling down through a hole in the ceiling. Jackie immediately jumped it, sinking her daggers into the flesh, but it didn’t take long for the creature to simply get back up again.
I informed the Halfling that it was probably a zombie of necrotic origin, instead of magical origin, and it would thusly require a good dose of radiant magic – or fire – to stay down. In an irritated huff, she told me to shove it with my superior tone and just ‘shove some radiant down its throat, then’. I happily obliged, ending the creature’s suffering with a single Lance.
Outside, the Duergar were knocking in the door. Jimmy called out with ‘who’s there!?’, but the evil Dwarves simply told us that it could be wise to get away from the door. Jackie went up some stairs, reporting that she could barely see what the Duergar were doing, and that it didn’t look all that good. We prepared for yet another battle.
I admit, I didn’t see all that much. I knew the plan was for Jackie and Geziah to jump on the Duergar when they blew the door, allowing us to put them into a pincer maneuver, but most of the battle was done before I could get a look in. I know Jimmy stormed the first Duergar to show its face, and it didn’t take long for him to make an amazed sound as Geziah teleported next to him and get him to bump chests with the Eladrin in a very manly way, shouting ‘BOOSH!’ while they were at it.
Then the guys in the open doorway started cheering, shouting that Jackie had apparently taken out the Duergar leader without too much trouble.
I decided it was time to head in, as well, before my friends would get into the trouble that was most certainly brewing, but by the time I was outside, the Duergar were already retreating while the party was trying to keep them from doing so.
I could only facepalm as I could practically feel my corruption spreading as I knew I had to do trouble to disapprove of this. Though it was cowardly, Jimmy made a good point when he told me that the Duergar would probably go on to enslave people again if we let them go.
Everything said and done, we had finally cleared the area of immediately hostile people and could pick the droppings of our victories. It wasn’t much interesting, mostly some gold and a potion, but there was also a set of leather armour that we quickly recognised as being enchanted with a Rat Form spell. Basically, the wearer could change into a rat every now and then.
Of course, this suit went to Jackie. Not only was it fitting, she was also the main wearer of leather, so she really was the only one with a vested interest in the stuff.
In the end, we decided to take a rest at the Duergar camp. Chances were that the messengers wouldn’t arrive for quite some time, so we took our time to get some shuteye before going on through the temple.
It still surprises me that we manage to sleep in areas like that. I guess it has to do with the fact that Geziah can stay awake all the time, it really helps with our feeling of security.

A solid eight hours later, we went back to the room where the zombies poured out of. We knew there was still a door we had left unopened, wary of the risk of more hostile creatures behind it while we were still battling our opponents at our side of the door.
But now we weren’t fighting, so we decided to head for that door. Still wary, though, we stacked up and prepared for everything while Jackie carefully checked for traps. She claimed it was probably clear, at which point she grabbed the handle.
Believe me, that girl can shriek when she’s in pain. Turns out the handle was roasting her hand when she put it on, so we started carrying water from the fountain in the temple square to the door, hoping to cool it down. Not too long after that, though, we did manage to open the door.
I honestly can’t believe I was surprised when the wave of heat rolled out of the chamber and caused us to momentarily flinch. The room carried multiple burning forges, causing the room to be misty with steam and warmth.
When a firebat flew down and attacked us, we recognised that we had stumbled into another battle. We immediately rushed in, with me even calling down our beacon of hope on the enemies and forcing our way through the closest fire scorpions.
It didn’t take long before we got showered with lava, fireballs and everything else five fire-based creatures could bring down on us. My clothes actually caught fire in the torrent, but Jimmy quickly managed to put me out.
Eventually, we started taking the monsters out. Not before they managed to corner me, though, so I ran for the exit like a wounded animal. I was hurt pretty badly by that time, so I was in my right… I like to believe. It didn’t stop me from passing out when I was outside, though…

I woke up when I realized Jackie was shaking me around roughly, screaming something at me in that high-pitched voice of hers. It took me a couple of seconds before I realized it was something along the tune of ‘I’m hurt, I’m hurt, heal me, heal me!’, so I pushed her off and let her wait some precious minutes as I tended to Jimmy and Geziah first.
When we were back up to speed again, we extinguished the furnaces and went on to the next hallway, where we were met with multiple doors and no real clues. It didn’t take us long to figure out that two of the doors were locked, with one free for us to open. That one brought us back to the fountain square, so we opened it and promptly let Jimmy rush the door opposite to it to ram it open.
That’s when we found out that that was the second unlocked door.
The Paladin rammed straight through the open doorway, cracking the door on his way through and revealing a room with preciously little inside. There wasn’t much more then a statue and a chest, so we set Jackie on opening the chest while we took cover in the other corner of the room.
Turns out there wasn’t too much of a threat, unless you count the gold and the ivory Pelor statue inside the chest, so we decide to try the two doors that we hadn’t tried yet.
The one right next to the statue room was locked as well. Jackie fumbled around with it for a little while before cursing, stating she had accidentally jammed the lock.
We were in shock. Jackie? Failing at LOCKPICKING?
The final door was mercifully unlocked. We were almost sure that there would be danger behind that door, so we stacked up to fight as soon as it opened.
Nobody had counted on Geziah bodily grabbing the little Halfling and hurling her through the opened door, explaining it was payback for her pushing him into the crossbow halway, back at Dirk’s.
Though I could hardly agree with his attitude, the open door revealed a number of Kruthiks and didn’t really give us a chance to argue before we were sucked into another fight.
Jackie’s nimble frame had already gotten up from her prone position, darting forward to a load of smaller Kruthiks and instantly killing them with a blinding assault of knife jabs and slashes. We couldn’t stay behind, rushing in and attacking the largest one as fast as we could, but we couldn’t stop it from raining us with acid while his somewhat smaller buddy assaulted us with poisonous fluids.
It took us a lot of hits, but Krutiks ain’t no Dragons, so we took them down without too much trouble. I actually landed the killing blow on the biggest one, causing the smaller one to flee through the floor like the digger it was.

After the battle, we decided it would be better to take a quick break, but Jackie disagreed. She initiated her Rat Form armour and disappeared into a crack.
We got our break, alright. It took her eight hours to return, just letting us wait there. Geziah actually said she was probably dead and we should leave without her, but I was pretty sure she had just gone lost and was slowly but surely working her way back.
When she did get back, tired, hungry and thirsty, she told us wild stories about a giant pile of gold and the dragon that was guarding it. Jimmy wanted the gold. Geziah wanted to battle the dragon… And Jackie just wanted her third confirmed dragon kill. I told them we would have to size him up first, maybe he wasn’t agressive if Rat Jackie had survived the meeting…

We didn’t even have to search for very long before meeting the dragon. It was pretty huge and looked like it could chomp us up if it really wanted to, but we could have put up a fair fight.
However, Jimmy apparently realized that we wouldn’t come out of the battle unscarred, if we would even win, and we tried to get some knowledge out of the dragon. We were officially still looking for the Mirrors of Sehanine, and the dragon probably knew more about them than we did.
It did know about them, and actually had them, but nothing we offered really impressed the dragon. Jackie’s bluffing with the Pelor statue utterly failed and the Random Staff – I came up with that name myself – didn’t really tickle his interest, either. In the end, Jackie made a fool of herself by starting some kind of juggling act in the background, mildly amusing the dragon and prompting it to give us some hints on where we could acquire materials of interest to it.
Of course, it told us that we would have to look for the inner sanctum, behind the locked doors we had so far failed to open.
Geziah decided to try and find a way around, climbing through the ceiling in the Krutik room and leaving us at the doors to wait for him opening them.
It didn’t take us very long to hear a scared shout coming through the hole. Jackie had fallen asleep by then and wouldn’t wake, so Jimmy and I climbed – no small feat – through the hole as well to find the Eladrin struggling with a Gelatinous Cube as it tried to make him in its next meal. Our help was more than enough to completely destroy the Cube, though, leaving us free to tackle any more hurdles.
Geziah went to scout ahead, into a new room, returning with a new cloak and the message that THAT hallway was a dead end, so we went the other way and ended up at another locked door.
It was rather unfortunate that this door didn’t have an actual lock. We tried a lot of things, combining several statues depicting gods to somehow engage the obviously magical lock, but in the end we had to read an inscription that revealed to us we had to show we were friendly before it would open.
Knowing that, it didn’t take us too long to prove our good intentions – we weren’t planning on killing anyone, were we? – and got through to a room with several magic items and dead Eladrin priests. Reading the diary that was lying with them, we found out that this temple had been besieged by Drow quite some time ago, causing them to starve to death in their otherwise perfectly safe sanctum. Not the way I would want to go.

We hit a problem here, though. We had found three magical items, which were probably what the dragon was hinting at when pointing us to trading material. However, we liked the magical properties of the items a little too much, and the Mirrors of Sehanine probably wouldn’t return us something of equal value.
That, and the items would probably be forever lost with the dragon, left in its hoard. That would be… Unfortunate.
We decided to head back to Dundee and spend a night to think about the decision. Dundee, however, told us that Dejour’s people had already arrived and went after us to the temple that morning. We hadn’t met them, so after reprimanding Dundee for not doing as we asked in a stern voice, we went to the Lazy Eye for beer and sleep.

First

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Wind and Steel

Well, considering the fact that our little Halfling rogue is unable to form a coherent story, I’ll take over for the time being. I swear, sometimes I’ve got the feeling I’m the only one with a functioning mind… Though people would swear otherwise by the end of this story…

After thawing Jimmy and travelling to Farla in relative safety, spending the night in The Lazy Eye, we needed a couple of minutes to pack up our bearings again. Jimmy went straight for the bar, where he got a couple of pints of beer to gulp down while we worked out for what we had passed the mountains, fighting those Yetis, skeletons, eagles and that dragon for, again.
It took us a little while, but eventually we remembered: the wizard mechanic designer guy, who had designed the blueprints for the flying machine. Dundee, his name was.
So we set out to find him. Turned out he wasn’t that hard to find, Farla wasn’t that big of a town and the crazy inventor type tends to be well known around town for a reason. Several people were fully capable of telling us where we should go, and then told us just as fast that it was probably better not to.
But we were adventurers, so we set on, down an alleyway and towards a door, which flew open just as Geziah tried to grab the handle. A man ran out, slammed the door close and put his weight against it.
“Ehm, hi!” he said quickly, looking us up and down and, apparently, quickly deciding that we were capable adventurers “Help?”
We looked at each other. I was already halfway saying ‘sure’, but Jimmy cut me off, asking ‘with what?’ instead. As it turned out, the inventor had tried to harness an air elemental, which hadn’t liked that very much and was now wrecking the laboratory behind the door. There were a lot of crashing sounds behind them, and the door rocked dangerously a couple of times during our hurried conversation, so it was pretty clear that the man wasn’t lying… And why would he?
When Jackie started talking about a reward, though, both Dundee and I had enough. The man told her that, if we didn’t help, there wouldn’t be anything to reward us with, and I told her that we needed this man’s help, so pissing him off wasn’t the best thing we could do.
We went inside to see what we could do about the problem, with the door conspicuously closing behind us. As I turned around to look, I saw no Dundee, but I could hear the faint sound of a lock clicking over the whooshing sound of wind raging through the confined space.
Yeah, great fun.
In the back of the room was a great big organ, spouting horrible music as we entered and sending waves of sound and wind in our direction. While I stayed in the back, my comrades quickly stormed forwards and assaulted the heavy musical instrument. Despite all my shouts of being careful, it didn’t take long for Geziah to teleport the organ on top of a pile of probably expensive and important materials, and the organ started stomping around not too long after that, leaving preciously little of the materials intact.
I could swear I could hear Dundee scream at us to be as careful as we could, but to no avail. After slaying the elemental – hey, we’re the Untouchables. Of course we won – the noise finally ended and Dundee dared to enter the workshop again, probably more to calculate the damage than to check up on us.
Now we could finally engage into conversation with the man, we found out that he had two clients who both had ordered some blueprints from him: Baron Crimson, who we already knew about, and…
He had some trouble remembering the other one, but after Jackie ‘helpfully’ handed him a note block (I’m pretty sure she was planning to steal it), he knew the other one was called Baron Dejour. Crimson already had his blueprints, but the man was rather worried that the blueprints for Dejour had been lost in the battle.
I shrugged, grabbed the Mysterious Staff from my back, and swung it. As if it was magic, the blueprints flew out of the head and straight into the hands of Dundee, who looked at me like he could cry of happiness.
We knew that this Baron Dejour was going to be pivotal to our own movements, but Dundee was annoyingly vague with when his men would come to pick up the blueprints. It was a ‘sometime this week’ deal, which didn’t really help us, so we inquired on how we could make sure that we would keep the interest of these people when they got to Farla.
Eventually, we managed to pry from the inventor’s knowledge that the blueprints would need some other rare artefacts, including a couple of Mirrors of Sehanine. And as luck would have it, there was an old temple of Sehanine close by, which had fallen into disrepair quite some time ago.
We agreed to go to this temple to recover some mirrors, and managed to persuade Dundee to try and stall the messengers if they arrived before we returned.

The temple wasn’t that far out of Farla, a couple of hours worth of travel, at most.
Of course, it was blocked by giant, stone doors. First, Jimmy tried pounding it in with brute force, which resulted in a broken shoulder for the man and me administering first aid on him to keep him combat capable.
Then, he wanted us to cut down a tree and make a battering ram out of it. Fine, it wasn’t like we were in a hurry, so we cut down a tree and prepared it to batter in a door.
… Took us three fricking hours…
Of course, that didn’t work either. We rammed the door a couple of times fruitlessly, until we decided – by vote of majority – to try and find a different way in.
After walking around, onto the natural hill the temple was built into, and probably less then five minutes, we met a metal grating that seemed unnatural enough to be part of the temple. We forced it open and dropped inside, which brought us into a hallway that went all the way to the other side of the unmovable door, and its opening mechanism.
Jimmy wanted to open the door using this mechanism, promptly breaking the ancient levers and probably preventing the doors from ever opening like they were meant to, again.
Not that it was going to stop the headstrong paladin.
He convinced Geziah to drop all his equipment and climb on his shoulders, after which Jackie could do the same and destroy one of the door’s hinges.
It is needless to say that, while they were doing this, I was sitting back and staying away from the dangerously swaying living tower. My concerns were confirmed when Jimmy tried to move, so Jackie could reach the other hinge, and promptly caused Geziah to lose his balance and crash down.
I couldn’t breathe I was laughing so hard.

After destroying the second hinge and unstacking, Jimmy started ramming against the door again. It wouldn’t budge immediately, but I could see it swinging dangerously as it was now only standing at the floor and was clearly quite top heavy. I took enough steps back to make sure the door wouldn’t fall on top of me, would it fall inwards, and nearly stumbled down a flight of stairs leading down. I was pretty sure that was were we were going to go next, after Jimmy’s arch enemy had been beaten down.
And indeed, when the door crashed to the ground, thankfully to the outside, we broke out a couple of sunrods and went down the dark staircase. Geziah took the front, confident that there would be no situation that we couldn’t handle, and I took the back, pessimistic that the guy could be wrong.
It didn’t take us very long to reach a small bottleneck, barely large enough for one person to fit through at a time. Geziah went up front, but stopped dead in his tracks, causing Jimmy to stumble against him.
The Eladrin looked around once, twice, and then turned around, shouting two words that will always haunt me.
‘Rust Monster!’
As if he had been waiting for it, Jimmy willed his armour away and put his hammer and shield over his back, instead grabbing one of his cheaper throwing hammers.
I could feel the blood pull away from my face. Taking off my armour would take longer then the battle, but I didn’t want to risk losing that armour, either, so I stayed back while we tried to make some kind of bottleneck strategy.
Not that anyone listens to me. After we got shot with a lot of sticky web from the Ettercaps accompanying the Rust Monster, they decided to charge into the room and start killing things instead of waiting for them to come to us.
I decided to head back and take it easy. I’m pretty sure my party would understand…
While I was lying down in an attempt to calm my worried heart down, listening to the fighting in the background for any kind of sign I was needed, I heard a noise that made my blood freeze in my veins.
As I looked up, I saw the Rust Monster, apparently having smelled my steel-covered body. It clicked with its jaws as I got up, trying to make ‘relax’ signs with my hands while reaching for my Holy Symbol. I could have chosen to make a run for it, but as my teachings go… Fortune favours the Bold. As much as that goes against what I’ve been doing all that fight…
I guess the outcome of my actions could only serve as punishment.
So, yeah, I got up and threw a Lance of Faith at it, hoping to take it out before it could make it to me.
Figures, it didn’t exactly go as planned. I could only watch as the party ran in, trying and failing to kill the monster before it attacked me, causing my valuable armour to rust. I was still helpless when the monster ate the armour off of me.
I really hope I heard it wrong, but I think I heard Jackie make an aroused sound when I was left in my underwear.
Boiling with uncharacteristic rage, I recovered from my stun only after the party had killed the monster. I yanked Jackie’s dagger out of her hand, puncturing the skin in the hope to find my armour still intact, or at least salvageable…
But it couldn’t be. All I found was a truckload of residuum, the magical part of the armour that couldn’t be devoured by the monster’s internal systems. What a damned waste…
I’m just lucky I was still lugging my old chain mail with me, so I could change into that.

With the residuum safely in my pockets and my old armour on, we walked on. I kicked the monster a couple of times, but eventually Jimmy brought me to realize that it wouldn’t get me the mail back. Nothing would.
Eventually, we reached the actual temple, which was already occupied by a couple of Duergar. The ash-skinned dwarves just looked at us, not actively engaging us, but they had the name to be treated with care. We talked with them, and it seemed they would let us do as we pleased, as long as they weren’t bothered by it.
We noticed that one of the doors was shut and trapped, so naturally, we removed the traps and asked the Duergar about it. They said it was trapped with a reason, which didn’t help us much.
When we announced we were going to open the door, the dwarves packed up their camp. Geziah opened the door, allowing a group of zombies to spill out.
Somewhere, I could hear the Duergar laughing.

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Mountains of Work

Without taking any long rests after the encounter with the Owlbear, we set out to Farla, knowing full well that we were having a tough trip in front of us. Anybody who could look at a map could figure out that there was a mountain chain right between Altea and Farla, and we’d have to go right through those mountains. Taking the cart would become hard, but not taking it would make everything even harder.
So we stocked up on horse food, humanoid food, and a lot of supplies, and embarked on our travel to Farla.
Our first hurdle came when we met a road sign with only two markers. One pointed to the mountain tunnel, which would lead us to a tunnel going underneath the mountains and saving us the cold and hardships of the mountain creatures, but it had an extra sign that said ‘Tunnel is blocked’. The other marker pointed towards the mountain road, which was clearly a lot more scenic, but also brought several risks with it as we would be travelling over high bridges, steep edges and would probably have to dodge some wildlife. It was our only choice, though, if it wasn’t for the extra sign saying ‘Mountain Pass is blocked’.
… Yeah, I couldn’t blame Jackie for cursing loudly at that.
We knew we had to go past those mountains one way or another, though, and going around them was absolutely no option, so we decided to take our chances and scout out the tunnel. I took out a Sunrod as we entered, and we indeed met a cave-in. We quickly decided that clearing that mess out would take longer then we’d like, but there was a natural cave that seemed promising…
But it was covered in spider webs. Jimmy threw one look inside, turned rather pale and told us that there was no way he’d go through that cave. He’d rather take his chances over the mountains.
… So we turned around, went out of the cave and took the road to the mountain pass, pointedly ignoring the ‘Mountain Pass is blocked’ sign.

We soon met snow and ice on our path, making the travel with the cart hard and slow, but we persevered.
… That is, until a chilling roar echoed through the mountains. That put us on edge, alright. While still travelling on, we kept our eyes open.
It was on a narrow path of snow, with icy ground to our left and right, that we spotted shades moving in the icy white around us. We immediately brought the cart to a halt and prepared ourselves to meet… Well, whatever it was, but we quickly found out when a Yeti came barrelling out of the white and rampaged right over Jackie and me. I got thrown backwards, just out of the reach of a giant boulder that came crashing down on the group.
Yeah, we were under attack, alright.
It didn’t take long for Jackie and Geziah to react. Jackie immediately started throwing her magical dagger at the closest Yeti, while Geziah shouted ‘Ooga-Booga!’ at another one, pointing at it.
… I am not making that up.
As the Yetis reacted understandably enraged, they threw both Jimmy and Geziah into the icy plains. Jimmy got back into the more manageable snow pretty quickly again, but I could smell the problems coming up and made use of my single moment of respite to send a quick prayer to Avandra, begging her for the powers she could spare.
As I felt the power course through my body, I knew my faith was not misplaced. I also knew that it would still be a tough battle, but it would be slightly alleviated by this.
As soon as my attention returned to the battle, I saw Geziah teleporting away, together with one of the Yetis, and reappearing a lot further from the battle. Before I could worry about the dangers this brought with it, though, I got knocked off of my feet again, back into the snow.
As if I’m a psychic, it didn’t take long for Geziah to get knocked down by the Yetis that surrounded him. Even though Jimmy went out to help him, I was getting cornered between the horses and a very aggressive Yeti, and was of absolutely no help, too far from the battle, until Jackie attacked my assailant from behind and killed it.
We tried to advance, but as one of the Yetis attacking Geziah and Jimmy fell, we got attacked by the fourth one. They were really doing everything in their power to stop us, and when the attacker charged me, I didn’t manage to get out of the way in time…

When I woke up, I was lying in the cart, heading back down the mountain. Jimmy filled me in quickly. After I went down, the third Yeti got too wounded for its tastes and fled, causing the one that knocked me out to realize that it was all alone, surrounded by angry adventurers. It quickly stuck its tail between its legs and ran.
We set up camp at the foot of the mountain, reasoning that we’d better lose a day instead of risking losing a party member.

So, the next day, we went up with fresh caution. Thankfully, there were no Yetis to greet us this time, letting us get through the pass in relative safety, if you don’t count the hundred-foot-pitfalls everywhere.
Our travel was still hard, though. It had started to snow, and we were already wading knee-deep through the snow, leading the horses by hand while Jackie was constantly shovelling snow out of the cart. It was getting harder and harder to see, and I actually had to pull Geziah away from a drop before he fell down it once.
As we struggled on, we eventually met a field of snow with ice pillars jetting up out of the whiteness. We moved on, or tried to, and noticed that there was also a set of half frozen skeletons, complete with weapons, waiting for us.
We couldn’t restrain Jackie as she jumped out of the cart and attacked the closest skeleton. As if it was waiting for it, a frozen Hawk fell out of the sky and attacked the Halfling, probably thinking she was a tasty snack. Its friend followed it, attacking Jimmy, who was attacking its mate already.
I noticed how the skeletons had started advancing on us, so I sent yet another Lance of Faith at one of them. I noticed the amount of force behind it too late, and saw how the skeleton shattered under the immense force of the attack. I tried to bring up my hands to protect myself, before they’d get stunned into position, but after a few seconds I found out I wasn’t actually stunned. I caught a lucky break, there.
In the meanwhile, both Jackie and I got attacked by the two Frosthawks, though. While Geziah was finishing off the last skeleton, the two hawks hit us and started hovering over our heads. I could only look up once before I heard Jimmy thundering through the snow, his hammer raised and storming at me. I could only make ‘stop!’ motions before he swung and actually smacked the hawk away. Geziah teleported up onto one of the ice pillars and managed to kill it, leaving only one left.
It made a valiant try to attack us, but we managed to surround it and heavily wound it. Heavily enough for it to start running, but I threw a spell after it that increased its fear by tenfold and made it run even faster.
It felt quite good to know I could actually make an enemy flee the battlefield like that.

But while we were fighting, the storm had only gotten worse. Now really having to fight for each and every step, we managed to find a cave that wasn’t snowed in completely yet, and managed to provide us with some protection from the cold. After some struggling, we got the unwilling horses and cart in, and were prepared to sit out the storm.
Until a blood-curling shriek came from outside. I could feel the blood draining from my face when I heard that, and suddenly felt very motivated to go in deeper, if just to have some preparation time for whatever was out there.
Inside, we soon noticed that the cave was a natural ice cave. While we carefully went in deeper, we could see how the floor was made of an opaque ice that didn’t look like it could support a lot of weight, but we didn’t have much time to think about it.
Imagine this: you’re cold, tired, hungry and annoyed. You’re feeling like you’re going to kick anything that could disturb you into the next world and you’re trying to find a safe place to find shelter.
And then a dragon flies in through the roof.
… Yeah, I was about ready to crap my pants, right there. I already wanted to signal the retreat, but the words of the dragon told us that it wasn’t about to let us go. We had found its resting place, so now we had to die.
Just. Our. Luck.
Jimmy stormed forwards, the ice cracking underneath his feet as he ran on, stopping at the edge of an almost visible aura that suddenly grew when the dragon started to move towards the heavy Paladin, giving him a smack and throwing him backwards, causing several shards of floor to break and reveal the freezing water beneath it.
We all entered the room, careful not to step on the same ice too many times, and started to attack the dragon. As if it wasn’t enough, one of the stalagmites covering the ceiling broke loose and spawned a couple of wings, joining the dragon against us.
Apparently, the dragon was of the icy kind, for the ice somehow didn’t crack underneath its mighty feet and actually restored when it walked over it. It attacked us with icy claws and mean breath, sweeping claws and a whipping tail. We fought valiantly, even though Jimmy spent most of the battle in a hole in the ice, unable to climb out if it would save his life.
Taken everything together, this battle was a long and hard one, but in the end, Jackie jumped up and impaled the dragon on her dagger, causing it to flail its head and make one last roar before falling over, dead.
Indeed, the little Halfling now had two dragons under her belt.
As if he was waiting for it, that was the moment Jimmy climbed out of his hole and the stalagmite realised that it was in no position to keep attacking us, fleeing and effectively leaving us alone, giving us a chance to catch our breath.
Geziah probably realized what we all did: dragons had hoards. We looked around, but couldn’t find much, until we realized what we were standing on: thin ice.
Immediately, the Eladrin started hacking and dove under, coming back up – cold, wet – with hands and pockets full of gold. Yet another dragon’s hoard was ours.

We travelled down the mountain again, feeling like icy Popsicles, with Jimmy’s beard quite looking like one. We were lucky that the snowing had stopped, probably linked to the dragon’s death.
When we were at the foot of the mountain, at the other side this time, we could already see Farla. We made for a grim procession as we entered the city and went for the nearest inn, called ‘The Lazy Eye’, and got ourselves a four-person room to spend the night.
Yes, we slept quite well that night.

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