The Twin Kingdoms

The Castle of Nope

I left off my last entry at the point where we had just finished clobbering the weirdwolves (save for a few that fled). The sailors were exhausted from their work portaging the boat, so they decided to rest until evening, and we took the opportunity to follow up on the wolves.

Following their tracks for a couple of miles, we came to something quite unexpected: a castle in a clearing. From its walls hung a flag, a book with a flame burning above it. As I recall, the insignia of a SCHOOL OF MAGIC!

This was, to say the least, an enticing proposition. But we were suspicious; the flag looked quite new, and it would be unusual in more ways than one to learn that a school of magic was operating here.

At the drawbridge stood two guards, apparently human. We tried to converse with them, but they seemed to be speaking gibberish. I scanned for magic and was nearly blinded by the aura I detected from the castle; it was very powerful, but it felt somehow wrong, in ways I can’t quite articulate.

Chrysta told us that the two guards were emanating evil. Faye hurled a stone at the castle wall, and we were not very surprised when it went straight through: some sort of illusion?

Val looked at the guards, and for a moment he saw them as undead before their human semblance returned. We conferred, and then Faye and Chrysta went for the guards. Chrysta channelled holy energy, and the guards and most of the castle simply disappeared, leaving only a crater glowing with some sort of magical residue.

Worst of all, no books.

We considered heading down to the crater and unanimously agreed that this seemed like a terrible idea, so we went back to the boat. The boatmen were unable to tell us anything about this castle.

(I had thought at first it might be illusion magic. But the fact that Chrysta’s power dispelled it makes me wonder – can buildings leave ghosts?)

Once the crew had rested we continued downstream, through thickening forest, and eventually arrived at Qurell’drel – an elvish tree-based city. Quite the sight!

We talked to the town guards about our observations (not even the elves knew anything about the castle – if it really was there, it must have been ancient!) We couldn’t stay long because our crew were eager to head on and make up lost time, but we did have time for some shopping.

Faye went in search of a falchion to replace Dawnrender. This to me seems like an excellent argument in favour of not naming one’s weapons too early in one’s career – it must become extremely difficult always thinking of new names that don’t conflict with anybody else’s.

I had hoped the elves might have something relevant to my interests, perhaps some spells I might transcribe, but they told me they had very few scrolls, saved for emergencies. Another disappointment, but I managed to work it to my advantage: I was at least able to sell them some spares from my own stock, which I was later able to replace for significantly less than the elves paid for them.

After three uneventful days of downstream travel, we arrived in Blackwater. Situated on the edge of a lake, it’s quite a cosmopolitan town: bigger than Vallaise, and it even has halflings and gnomes! (Either that, or the child labour laws here are exceedingly lax.)

Val has family here, and went off to catch up with them; Chrysta found us an inn (The Heffalump and Stone). Meanwhile I took the time to replace my scrolls, and chatted with a friendly lady from the Blackwater Historical Society. Their history goes back at least three thousand years.

In the centre of town, within the town square (actually more of a circle) there is a large stone that holds some residual magic; nothing currently active, but it may have been important once, and perhaps could be again. I sniffed a little magic among the townsfolk, nothing major – miscellaneous small heirlooms, one assumes – with more among the elves of the southern end of town.

Shiny points: 13 carried over, +1 for summary = 14.

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Hungry Like The Magic-Warped Wolf

Nura’s summary 7/11/2016

Having finished our business, we said our farewells to Vallaise and began the journey downriver to Qurelld’rel.

We had company on the boat. As well as the boatmen there was an attractive young lady (eventually introduced as Milene) and her chaperone Louise, and there were a couple of businessmen: Brand from Frentel and Russell from Ponce Cove.

I did not like Brand and Russell; they seemed a little too fond of their drink, unfond of work when the boatmen needed a hand, and none of us liked the way they cast eyes at Milene and Faye. They told us they were travelling to set up some trade routes.

Louise and Milene kept largely to themselves, and I had no interest in talking to Brand and Russell, so I occupied myself looking to the sea, reflections in the waves sparking my memory, thinking of childhood friends. I pondered what would happen if I cast Levitate from a moving boat: would I move with the current? Or would the boat leave me behind?

Faye drank with Russell and Brand, discovering the joys of red wine, and Chrysta volunteered as designated cockblocker so I didn’t have to. Faye can do what she pleases when sober, but I think of her as something of a younger sister (mentally not chronologically) and I’ll not have anybody take advantage of her when she’s in no state to make up her own mind.

She was hung over the next morning. Will she learn from this? I suppose it’s possible.

Continuing downstream, we saw rapids up ahead. By the reactions of the boatmen, this wasn’t intended; evidently there’d been a rockslide obstructing the river, making it dangerous to pass. We landed the boat at the bank and decided to port it past the rapids; our group offered to help with the work but Brand and Russell seemed more interested in staying behind, possibly with nefarious intentions on Milene.

(And yet, if I were to animate their skeletons I would be the wrongdoer. Hmm, that makes me wonder – what would happen if one tried to animate a skeleton that was still inside its original owner?)

As we worked we heard a nasty howling sound… sort of doggish, sort of not. Val scouted ahead and told us there were several eyes in the undergrowth watching us. He and Faye shot at them and pelted them with stones, Faye connected (yelp!) and they broke from cover and went for us.

There were five of them, some sort of odd misshapen wolves. Perverted by exposure to magic? I mean obviously the wrong kind of magic, not the kind I use. Val and Faye clobbered them pretty effectively, but the howling continued, louder and closer, and then six more appeared. I hit one with a stick when it started chewing on Faye, and then dropped grease on the ground behind us when more tried to charge in. Val killed the leader, a couple fled, and Chrysta summoned a giant spider. I got close enough to distract one while Val stabbed it in vital organs I didn’t know existed, and that was pretty much that.

(Note to self: investigate summoning magic, it looks jolly useful.)

Shiny points: 12 carried over, +1 earned = 13.

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Going Up A Level To Go Down A Level

We continued our exploration of the under-temple, wandering through catacombs amply stocked with bones.

(Pondering: back in the old days, when necromancers walked the lands, what was the economy of corpses? Were there enough to go round, or did they have to compete for places like this?)

Here and there we found a few sarcophagi, presumably belonging to the better-off among the deceased (if that isn’t an oxymoron), with inscriptions in ye olde Formalle Common.

Several of the skeletons had valuable-looking jewellery, gems and brooches and the like, some with similar workmanship to the amulet of Asmodeus but with a wide selection of gods represented. Quite ecumenical.

By mutual agreement we did not loot the bodies, on the principle that if nobody had already done so in the last few centuries there was probably a good reason for that. We did ask Billy if his mob had been curious about the place; he said no, and in hindsight, that seemed suspicious to him.

We had established that there was a concealed area in the middle, but we needed to find a way in. Going back up a level, we applied our scrutiny to a statue of Rovagug, and Billy found a catch for a secret door that took two to work. When we activated it we heard a clunk from downstairs, and on investigating we found that the secret doors we’d previously identified were now opened.

Inside was a room laid out as if for a ritual, with a magical circle under a statue and symbols of Pharasma around the walls, which were inscribed with a powerful spell. The room emanated magic strongly; Faye walked in first and was almost overwhelmed by it, and Vall was stunned until I pulled him out and walked in myself.

I had thought I’d be better able to withstand the effect, having more familiarity with magic, but my knowledge may have increased my sensitivity; I was quite dazed until Vall and Chrysta pulled me back out and were impolite enough to tie me up.

“That was a hell of a thing.”

Looking at the circle I concluded that it was not one of summoning or protection, as I had first thought, but preservation, with the inscription on the wall reading “WE PROTECT” repeated over and over, with a strong hint of necromancy. Undead guardians?

I extricated myself from the ropes and re-entered the room; this time, although distracted, I was able to keep it under control and examine the circle further. It was open, not sealed. On closer examination of the wall inscription I found it was holding things in the room and protecting the room itself from detection, and that the spell itself was… creating undead from the essence of Pharasma?

“We’re happy goth Pharasma-ites!”

Chrysta was, to put it mildly, not at peace with this disclosure, which seems to run rather contrary to her views on the undead.

(Note to self: make sure C is elsewhere when I transcribe that scroll of animation; I don’t think she entirely appreciates the value of knowledge, and might mistakenly assume that I aim to summon an army of the dead or some such.)

(Not that an army of the dead wouldn’t have its advantages, I suppose. If nothing else, it may be an interesting intellectual exercise to consider…)

[following two paragraphs in an undecipherable shorthand of Nura’s own invention.]

Eventually Chrysta decided to write to Mother Augite for guidance, which should at least postpone the problem until return post. We closed off the temple and headed back to town, with Billy agreeing to keep quiet about our discoveries. I think the town has lost enough foolish young men already without some sort of inevitable “horrible death while trying to rob the catacombs” incident.

On our return, Vall talked to “Mother”. As we’d surmised, she was from the previous wave of adventurers, and she cautioned us: “Christa and Nura will have a problem. They will reach a point where they cannot go any further.”

Hmm. I suppose we’ll just have to see what THAT’S about, and see what we can do about it.

All in all, between the reward from Mother and other takings, we mustered about fifteen thousand gold’s worth! That’s some serious money, my share should keep me in quills for a while when we divide it.

Shiny points: 12 carried over, -1 spent, +1 earned for summary, total 12.

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Okay Billy, Be A Hero Then, See If We Care

We headed down through the secret door. Mindful that we’d encountered hints of illusion magic, we collected some poles first and used them to test the floor as we went. (Vall already had some sort of fancy folding pole, and seemed to be a little offended by the implication that his pole was inadequate, but we felt there was no harm in having a backup pole.)

Downstairs we found a room full of valuable-looking embalming gear and many dead bodies set into the walls in little niches, row upon row. Vall wanted to set them on fire just in case, and I was inclined to agree, but we decided to leave that for the time being.

Examining a bench against one wall, we found some interesting hidden mechanisms that allowed a section of the bench to detach, giving access to the wall behind. It appeared there might be a secret door in the wall, but nothing openable from our side (well, not without a bit of deconstructive masonry).

The decor in this area still has the iconography of Rovagug, but not his style; there were suggestions of Pharasma and other gods. Odd.

We found the source of the draft that had greeted us on our entrance. It seems the big columns are vents. I wonder how they are secured at the top? One wouldn’t want birds or rats getting in that way.

Following a glimmer of magic (abjuration and divination), we found an impressive-looking sarcophagus. It bore a heraldic shield, dusty with time, but I cleaned it off to reveal the device: argent, a bend azure (was it sinister? I forget), a black swan natant. We recognised it as the Mon’Vallaise device, that of the extinct lineage for whom Vallaise is named.

Billy was showing a distinct interest in the sarcophagus, and we’d all figured out that his motives for accompanying us were more than just infatuation with Faye, so we asked him his real business and he came clean with us.

He told us that his mother should have been duchess; there was some old business where the last Duke Mon’Vallaise’s marriage certificate wasn’t properly filled out, so that his child (one of Billy’s ancestors) was deemed illegitimate; before it could be rectified the Duke died in an accident, leading to the extinction of the title.

Billy was after a sword, believed to be inside the sarcophagus, and we agreed to let him have it. We let Billy open the lid, because he was (apparently) the rightful heir; besides, I’ve read enough stories to know that it’s best to let somebody else open such things, just in case.

Inside was a well-preserved body, with a very shiny magic sword. Billy said “Thank you, grandfather!” and took the sword, belt, and scabbard, and I felt the same magic tingling that I had done when my own destiny was recognised. (Need a name for this phenomenon. Perhaps “the quickening”? It has a nice ring to it.)

We do still have another secret door to check out – more in my next installment.

Shiny points: 11 carried over +1 = 12

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Blot Me, Asmodeus

Blot Me, Asmodeus

indecipherable inky smudge glass tiles on ceiling, with some light coming smudge upstairs and yes, it was there, we just smudge told Faye no, those are worth money.

smudge smear blade hit Faye and there was much recrimination. blot more scrolls, radiating magic! Decided to come back later when I am better prepared to preserve smear

streak in one of the bedframes. It was a small brooch with a symbol of Asmodeus, and an enchantment that made the wearer radiate evil. The craftsmanship alone is superb; it is carved out of a single piece of black rock, and must be worth ten to fifteen thousand gold just for the work.

In a desk nearby we found an inkwell radiating conjuration magic. The quill nearby had decayed away, and must have been there hundreds of years, yet the ink was still liquid. I think this may be a never-ending inkwell! Considering how much ink I go through, this is very useful.

Unfortunately the cork was rotted through, so I had to carve a replacement, but I flatter myself that I have done an adequate very large blot locked drawer within the desk we found some old letters, written to one “Francis” from his mother, brother, and sister, asking what he intends to do when the temple is closed down.

smear not quite as effective as I had thought blot Vall asked smear in my backpack blot right through my unmentionables! smudge magic smudge most of the worst of it but this will take ages to clean. Dammit.

Vall very kindly made a replacement cork, which worked rather better than mine.

We returned to the Doors Of Stench and I opened them from a distance, using a telekinetic spell. Crysta called up an air elemental to hurtle through and stir up the air, and it must have worked, because the next thing I can remember is waking up outside.

We camped, and I adjusted my repertoire to include some mending and cleaning spells. We could have ventured back inside, but it was getting dark, and there was general agreement that venturing into an evil temple at night was unnecessary, so we took the extra rest. Billy cooked bacon and eggs for breakfast – excellent work.

Then we returned to the library. I repaired and souvenired the magical scrolls: protection from good, ditto law, Explosive Runes, four Cause Fear. I also identified the ring we found earlier: a ring of illusion that will make the wearer look like an acolyte of Rovagug.

Thought: the ring and the brooch both feature illusion magic, suited to the impersonation of members of evil faiths. Was somebody attempting to start trouble between the two? Could this be related to the temple of illusion that was missing from the map? Was somebody perhaps trying to change the worship of Rovagug? The layout of this place, very orderly and symmetric, hardly seems appropriate to Rovagug.

Hmm.

small inky fingerprint

Heading down, we found the opened rooms still stinky but bearable; the stench might be explained by shackled skeletons on the wall with residues of flesh on the floor, and torture implements nearby.

These rooms did not go quite as far back as the others, and we surmised a possible secret door behind them.

Before checking that, we returned to the library and looked through the records, but didn’t have time for a thorough investigation. Going back to the skeleton room, Val found the expected doors, leading to a stairway going down. A draft coming up suggests that the space beyond is large, and perhaps connected to the outside.

To be smudge

Shiny points: 9 carried forward, +1 for summary, +1 for a bad Mage Hand joke = 11.

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Finding Door E

After a good night’s rest we headed back to the old temple. Billy, still in a state of inFaytuation, tagged along and gave us a pouch of gems, apparently from his grandmother (or possibly “grandmother”). This heroing business pays better than transcribing Father’s judgements.

Having encouraged Billy not to get himself killed, we reopened the altar-door, and let it air out a little as we poked around the upper floor. There were several excessively large columns, each about five feet across and decorated with carvings. On tapping they felt hollow, but we could find no obvious way to open them, so we descended.

The next floor was also quite large, with several doors. Chrysta set about making a map; I expect dwarves are used to navigating underground. We found several doors, and Chrysta opened one, but immediately fell unconscious.

Fortunately I realised what might have happened, and told the others not to approach. Instead Vall lassoed Chrysta by the foot and dragged her back. The entrance stank as if something had died in there and putrefied enthusiastically; I detected faint traces of necromancy, and Chrysta detected evil. We decided to let this one air out and investigate elsewhere.

Faye, being the tanner’s child, was chosen to open the next door. Inside we found skeletons nailed to the wall and some sort of unpleasant goop on the floor. Shortly afterwards Vall noticed a nasty-looking blade trap, apparently still armed despite the passage of time; he disarmed it and salvaged the blade, made of extremely high-quality metal.

Past that we encountered a more pleasant smell: parchment. A room with many shelves, and one of those gigantic pillars continuing downward. On the shelves were several scrolls, extremely fragile with age. I found one group radiating magic; the first crumbled when I touched it, but I employed a mending spell to preserve the others. They appear to relate to the reanimation of the dead; the incantation involves a great deal of cackling but I’m pretty sure that’s optional. I collected them for safe-keeping; I’ll see about transcribing one later.

(Note to self: Chrysta may be uncomfortable with the subject matter, it would probably be kinder not to give her too much detail about them.)

The rest of the scrolls were more mundane: a membership list, various temple records, the most recent dated about 650 years ago. I wonder if any of them are the people we found nailed to the wall?

Moving on, we came to another room with the decayed remains of mattresses on the floor. Knowing the propensity of teenagers and cultists to hide things in their mattresses, of course we searched them. We found some old gold coins that might be worth more than their weight in gold to a collector, Vall came across a nice dagger, and of particular interest, a ring that radiated illusion magic; I will have to see about identifying that one.

Unallocated loot:

500pp + gems + misc loot from temple, illusion ring, rare coins.

Shiny points: 7 from last session, 0 spent, +1 for summary and 1 for an awful pun = 9.

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Temple of Rov

Chrysta has been studying with her co-religionists, and I have been reading Bigby’s Big Book of Beliefs, so we were both able to identify the old building as a temple of Rovagug (BBBoB p. 388: portfolio wrath, disaster, destruction, kittens – suspect possible transcription error).

Chrysta told us that her mystic senses had detected emanations of evil from the dead axe-wielding maniac (whose name we later learned was ‘Raine’) and from the temple. This was not entirely surprising, but it never hurts to confirm such things; more importantly, she didn’t detect any other evil among the remaining bandits and their prisoners.

From talking to them we learned that Raine had become more driven a few months back, which explained why the lads had escalated from petty brigandry to murder. Consistent with my speculation that he had developed some version of the spark?

The prisoners turned out to be carters who had been ambushed by Raine’s gang, with one killed.

I’m not convinced that the responsibility was Raine’s alone; one could argue whether the others should have done more to stop him when his bloodthirstiness became apparent. But one of the things I’ve learned from watching my father at work is that sometimes it’s unwise to pursue justice too rigorously.

So we encouraged the lads in agreeing that the violence had been solely Raine’s doing (they were quite happy to go along with this) and urged them to head back to town and make their apologies.

Billy lingered with us, and from watching the way he looked at Faye it wasn’t hard to see why. I’m reminded of my cousin Thomin, who used to take his pig fishing as a decoy for the mosquitos; travelling with Faye has similar benefits in terms of holding the lads’ attention.

We decided to inspect the temple in case of menaces and/or loot. There was an old altar with some very old stains and a few recent ones; other than that, there was nothing more terrifying than the detritus of a dozen lads who hadn’t learned how to wash their clothes or change their bedding.

But I had my suspicions – I remembered the diagram on BBBoB page 263 – and set to looking for a passage under the altar. By poking at old carvings, Faye and Vall managed to activate a secret catch that opened up a hole behind the altar, down which Billy almost tumbled. Picked it!

The space smelled distinctly stale, and we were in need of rest, so we closed the door and headed back to town with Billy and the late Raine. The guards seemed amused and pleased by the resolution we’d brought to the situation, and gave us a bag containing a delightfully large number of platinum coins.

Vall headed off with Billy to the “tea room” which is apparently the preferred watering spot of the local “legitimate businessmen”. Meanwhile, Chrysta and I went back to the archives and did some research.

We learned that the Mon’Vallaise family had been here before the cataclysm, and had effectively founded the town. Believing that all the gods should have a presence (oh yes of COURSE we should make sure that Snarklegrub Lord of Dysentery has representation, who could be against that idea?) they built temples to each of them, with the non-housetrained faiths located some way out of town.

The Mon’Vallaise family were lieges of the Mon’Vallas family, who had the region from the King. Several hundred years ago the last of the Mon’Vallaise family died without an heir, and the Mon’Vallas lost their lands as they reverted to the king. (Or perhaps I have my Vallaises and Vallases mixed up there, I didn’t quite catch it.)

Since then the town has shrunk, and what was outskirts is now farmland or forest.

We found an old map that showed the city in its greater days. Among other things, the map included twenty temples to the gods… but that of Sivanah, goddess of illusions, was missing. Seems fitting. Knowing how these things go, it’ll probably turn out to be a gigantic tower in the middle of town that we’ve been walking right past without seeing it.

After that we returned to the tavern, where Faye was dancing on tables and making a spectacle of herself. Well, it keeps her happy, I suppose.

Vall had been talking to Billy’s grandmother (I wasn’t sure if “grandmother” or " ‘grandmother’ " but I think actually grandmother). She is an attractive woman – I suspect Billy may find himself vying with his grandmother for Faye’s attention – and appears much, much too young to be his grandmother. She also has a ring on her finger bearing a truly complex enchantment: a mix of divination, enchantment, evocation, illusion, and transmutation. One suspects the two facts are related.

(100 gp + 500 pp not yet allocated among party members?)

Shiny points: 6 from last session, 0 spent, +1 = 7.

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Saving Private Billy

We had some time to spend in Vallaise, so I decided to explore the town and learn about its history. It is very old; it used to be part of the land trade routes as well, but now it only serves the river traffic. On the outskirts are dairy farms, and it trades their produce.

Faye and Vall were making their own enquiries, and learned that the town’s brigand problem has become worse of late; previously they only suffered occasional minor pests, but these are more serious, and have taken to murder. The legitimate business folk of the town have offered a reward for anybody who can put an end to the problem, and some of the… some of Vall’s contacts have offered more on top of that. They asked us to bring back Billy, a young man who ran off to join the brigands.

(Consideration: the spark of heroism inspires the desire to wander. What if this is a variant of the same effect? Could banditry be a milder form of the heroic impulse?)

I pressed the guard captain mon’Valla for details on the scoundrels’ disposition. He told us their numbers were estimated at about a dozen, not particularly well equipped or trained; the guards might be able to handle them themselves, but that would leave the town undefended and risk unacceptable losses.

(I suppose this means that either he was confident we could handle them, or that we would be acceptable losses. I shall choose to believe the former.)

We also asked who might be fencing for the bandits, and he told us their fence had recently been murdered for reasons unknown.

Having done our research, we set forth, taking a farmers’ road that had once been the old trade route to the south. It led near a forest that had once been used for cottaging. I mean coppicing. Possibly both, you never know.

Past the last farms we reached the edge of the forest and found signs of a scuffle, with blood shed on the ground and signs that somebody had been dragged into the forest.

We followed the trail until, up ahead, we heard raised voices. Vall scouted ahead and reported back: a group of about fifteen people arguing (“you shouldn’t have killed him!” “Why not?”) with two prisoners on the ground, tied up. Billy was among their number, looking unenthused about the proceedings.

We set up for an ambush. I cloaked Vall in invisibility and he crept in to warn Billy to hide, and as Billy drifted away, Faye used her magic to start whispering paranoid suggestions to the bandits, who were already close to blows. While doing his work, Vall noticed an old building behind the bandits and felt a sense of wrongness; I have a nasty suspicion our path will take us there soon.

With the tension building, I sparked things off by shooting my crossbow at the most unpleasant and aggressive fellow among them. I clipped his thigh, and he turned and struck out at the man behind him.

At that, things descended into violence. Several of the others attacked the boss, but he dispatched two of them in short order. He seemed quite unnaturally angry, and yet I detected no magic coming from him. (Hero? Is it still a hero if they’re nasty, or is that an anti-hero? Or is that a subjective value judgement?)

Most of the others seemed antagonistic to him, so we decided to join the fray and take him down. He was laying about with an axe and doing serious damage, but I caught him with a ray that sapped his strength; Face menaced him, leaving him visibly shaken, and then the two of them brought him down. Two of his sidekicks were shooting at Vall and Faye but my friends made short shrift of them; Chrysta was running in to heal Faye, who had been hurt in the fracas, but by the time she got there it was all over. The remaining bandits surrendered, some of them assisting us in rounding up the rest.

To be continued…

Shiny points: 5 from last section, 0 spent, +1 = 6.

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Sail Away

So we set off to visit the King. That’s no small journey, about a thousand miles to the coast, but at least we can hope for a warm welcome at the end.

There was a big crowd ready to see us off, and I felt quite sad. Who knows when we will return to Callech? And even if we return to find the town just as we remember it, something tells me we ourselves will be very different.

(Give or take Faye.)

Mayor Greaves made a lovely speech and gave us each a key to the town, and then we headed downstream with Galeth and his crew. We passed the water elemental (with obligatory singing) and passed through several towns: Tremayne, Qurelid’rel, Prudence.

After Prudence, the river banks steepened, and there it was that we were ambushed. The first we knew of it was when one of the boatmen, in the middle of flirting with Faye (yes, I know) toppled over with an arrow in his chest.

Since Faye had defrayed the costs of my learning the kobolds’ strength spell I thought it only fair to give her value for money, and so I cast it on her. She attempted a heroic leap to the riverbank to pursue our attackers; unfortunately her ambition rather exceeded her ability and she fell in the water, but eventually she managed to paddle ashore.

Meanwhile Fall was using his sling against the bandits, with some success, but at the cost of drawing their attention. He was shot repeatedly, until I cast a protection spell on him. I’d tested it on a dead pig before but this was the first time I’d had occasion to use it on a live person, so I was delighted to see it stopping an arrow dead in mid-air.

The bandits had set up a net across the canyon to catch our boat, but that proved no obstacle; I burned through it with a fan of fire, and the boat sailed through the resulting hole.

Faye had finally made it ashore and charged one of the scoundrels, with dramatic and messy consequences for him. She had almost closed on a second when Vall took him out with a well-aimed sling stone. Meanwhile, having depleted my stock of spells, I scored a direct hit on one with my crossbow; he reeled and Vall caught him in the temple, dropping him like a rock.

And that was the last of it; if there were any others, they made themselves scarce. Chrysta had been healing Vall during the fight, and did likewise for Faye’s erstwhile companion, who is now looking very well for a fellow who recently had an arrow sticking out of him. The boatmen were quite annoyed by the attack; it seems this is quite unusual in these parts, and had we not been with them things might have gone very badly.

We retrieved the bodies of the three fallen brigands (is there a distinction between bandits and brigands? I ought to check that some time). They had little of value on them, but when we arrived in Vallaise we were able to turn them over for a decent bounty. One of them was recognised as a local petty criminal, but the other two were unknown to the local watch.

Vallaise is about twice as big as Callech, and has some new and memorable smells (cattle yard, tanning yard). Faye took the opportunity to pick up a chain shirt, and I was able to intercept a shipment with some tools I had ordered for Callech. We made ourselves comfortable in the local inn and Faye got into a bar brawl, so I suppose she can mark that one off her bucket list.

Tomorrow we head for Blackwater and Tor.

Shiny points: 4 carried over, none spent this session, +1 for this update = 5.

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Reading and Learning

I spent some time conversing with the kobolds and exchanging magical knowledge; I was gratified to discover that much of my knowledge was new to them, and (the point of the exercise) much was new to me.

Naturally there was a quid pro quo. I have mixed feelings about that; their ways are very different from ours and for all our efforts in diplomacy I do not know for sure whether that might lead to strife down the road. I can only hope that this exchange will show them there’s more to be gained from collaboration with other races than from conflict. Certainly things have improved, if they were willing and able to send a message to us via the dwarves – but I’m getting ahead of myself.

In any case, the trade was somewhat lopsided; I exchanged several lesser magics, but most of the greater ones I bought from them with coin and material goods. I persuaded Faye to cover the cost of one spell; I must make sure she gets her money’s worth, to encourage her to do so again. This work is expensive; I have spent a great deal of my savings on paper and mixing ink, to say nothing of what I paid the kobolds. And my fingers are black with ink, and my nose from when I fell asleep in my books.

Vall, dissatisfied by the options available locally, has been making himself a bow. Chrysta has been meditating in her temple, and Faye has been marking time at the temple of Cayden Cailean – which is to say, the Drunken Hero tavern. Fair enough.

We have agreed to destroy the dagger of Norgorber. Manfred, who doubles as priest and bar-owner at the Drunken Hero, advised looking for a powerful temple of good, something beyond what can be found here in Callech.

As we were considering this, Galeth brought us a box bearing the seal of King Mon’Dravid. Inside were five scrolls, one for each of us (including Myrie – I have no idea how we’re going to get hers to her).

Mine was addressed to “Nura Mon’Daan”. This, I suppose, answers one question and raises several more. Fascinating. And not a name I recognise.

We each received the same message, inviting us to visit him at the capital. We agreed to do so – it also seems a good opportunity to deal with the business of the dagger.

Shortly before we were due to depart we received notice from the dwarves that the kobolds had asked to speak to us. It seems they had a problem: the passageway they were using had sealed over and two earth elementals were patrolling it.

Chrysta spoke to them in Terran, while I listened. The discussion was curious; when she introduced herself as a dwarf they told her “You are rock, not dwarf”, and said that dwarves should be fleshy – I have no idea what that is about. But she was able to arrange passage for the kobolds, on similar terms to Faye’s deal with the water elemental: a story for travel.

They also told her that “the earth has changed”. But when she asked if they were around when the land shook, they were very upset.

I wonder what marvels await us? Forces of fire and air, perhaps?

Shiny points: 3 carried over from last time, 0 spent, 1 earned from this summary = 4

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