The Twin Kingdoms

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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Chrysta's Fifth Letter to Mother Augite
What's Mine is Mined.

Dear Mother Augite,

Before I begin this recount, I must confess that I fear I have let slip some of the mysteries of our people to those not of our race. I would take refuge in an excuse but that does not, as they say, hold water – if I was unable to control myself under the influence of alcohol, then I should not have partaken. My only hope is that in my inebriated state, I took as literal what Nura was describing in a metaphorical state.

I should also point out that in some of these tales, I speak of things you know well about, such as my visit to the Archives to investigate the dagger. I do this so that the records will make sense to any others who read them – not all of them would know of your part unless I wrote it out, and you are far too valuable a colleague and mentor to be omitted.

medium.jpgWhen we returned to Callech, strangely enhanced in our abilities, we all decided to go and make use of our new talents. Nura and Faye worked together on the scribing of scrolls, Vall set up a workshop and began shaping such a bow! Oh Mother Augite – I do not usually have an appreciation of these Elvish weapons, but surely his true talents lie in this direction. Even I am able to appreciate the fine lines, the clear engineering of the curves and the power that it will bring to his shots. It will take him some weeks to complete it, but any true work of art deserves the time and the effort put into it.

I myself came to you in our Abbey records to find out more about this dagger, and I do not blame you at all for not wanting to take it. Vall offered, but I did not feel comfortable about that – such a work of evil should be closely guarded by someone who has the blessing of Pharasma to protect them.

All this time, Faye was brushing up on her bardic skills, and spent most of her time in either the tavern or chatting with visitors to town. Poor thing – I think she wants to get out into the world to perform for a wider audience. We suggested she could go and sing to the Water Elemental, who would appreciate her songs. We also asked her to ask the Elemental about the dagger, but she left the creature on friendly terms and does not want to jeopardise this relationship with what could well be the dagger that killed its entire family.

KandarianDagger.pngBy the end of the week, and with your help, I had determined a few things about the dagger. It was dedicated to Norgorber, and would aid one of the followers of that foul deity by being extra-sharp. Alas, most of the information I found was hearsay only – that it could be used in unclean rituals, and that it cannot easily be destroyed. So I paid for our Blacksmith, Tibbett, to make a lead casing for it, and cached it deep in my pack. Even this worthy was not willing to touch the dagger, but placed the casing on a bench so that I could place the dagger inside, then closed the top of it. Hopefully this will block any attempts to sense the dagger, either by the evil it radiates or any other tainted emanation.

Just as we had succeeded in confining the dagger, I received word of a commotion back up at the mine – while the miners were looking for new veins, they had found some old tunnels, not made by Dwarves. This was excellent news as it could lead to new discoveries, but there was an issue. A horde of Kobolds were blocking the caves and causing issues. Those in charge of the mine, like so many of our people, would not ask for help. But if we were in the area, and offered to help… Faye commented that her falchion is sharp and looking for action, and that Dwarves are good at weapon-smithing.

The mine itself is an hour’s walk from the town, to the southeast some five miles at the edge of the mountains. It is a shining example of co-operation between our people and the short-lived race of humans. I remember well when you blessed the work, many years ago, as they dug the first entrance. Much of the town’s prosperity comes from the profits of the mine that are directed to works of charity and the community. It is, however, as most mines are, noisy, dirt and smoky.

And as we gathered our equipment and headed to the entrance of the Mine, I picked up some interesting news from my Dwarvish friends. There was a possibility – just a possibility – that they might have discovered another of our lost ones. Just the chance of this made my heart leap with joy. Pharasma leads us into this world, then she leads us out of it, and it is always a blessing to have a new soul brought back to the light.

Elder_Calcite.jpgElder Calcite, the Chief of the mine, was happy to show us around. Or perhaps “happy” was not the correct word to use – he is rather dour, even for a dwarf. He explained to us that the top level of the mine is already played out, and he took us to the lifts down to various levels. There are two lifts, a large lift for freight and a smaller one for people. As could be expected the workers have priority, and we needed to wait a while as a shift changed in front of us. I should have asked him what the mechanics of the lifts are – I have not yet deciphered how they work. Perhaps a cadre of trained donkeys on a treadmill? The majority of the mine area shows the true expertise of Dwarven engineering, with smooth floors, a well-braced roof, and excellent quality props that spoke of a firm belief in safety.

As we walked down, though, some of us noticed that Elder Calcite did not want us to look in a particular direction, and he deflected any questions from the group about these. I had a feeling he would have been happy to discuss them with me, but did not want the others poking their noses in. The side tunnels were dark, unlit and definitely not up to the quality of the dwarvish tunnels. They had not been finished nicely, their floors were rough, and rubble was strewn around. There was also a slightly oddish scent coming out – not goblin, but something else not natural. Vall seemed somewhat interested in the side tunnels, and I worried that he might accidentally antagonise the Elder.

I thought it was time, and offered the services of the party with any problems the mine might be having, but the Elder stated quite categorically that there are no problems. I could tell I had angered him, and am grateful to Faye who interrupted to ask about the need for excellent weapon-smithing. The Elder seemed very happy with abrupt change in subject, and took us to a smelting area, where he introduced Brother Haematite. Here, Faye described what she needs in a better weapon, and paid a deposit on the final result, which would take about a week. Then Elder Calcite started moving us back to the entrance, albeit past the unsavoury tunnels, and I noticed he was very deliberately not looking towards them. In fact, he was purposefully staying well ahead, and letting us straggle behind. And I suddenly realised I was the only one of the group still following – the rest had already doubled back into the odd tunnels.

Elder Calcite, I have a stone in my shoe. You go on ahead and I’ll meet you at the office.” I hurried back to meet up with the others.

We started up the darker tunnel. It was only after some of the others tripped over that I remembered that not all are blessed by Pharasma with Darkvision, and I lit my lantern and passed it to Nura. We soon came upon a crossroads, and heard some noise coming from the right. Moving as silently as we could, we progressed along until the sounds became clearer – possibly fighting, possibly arguments. The tunnel curved away to the left, and there was light coming from up ahead, and voices, some of which spoke Dwarvish, and some a garbled glottal speech that the others told me later was Draconic.

Vall sneaked around the corner to see, and found himself behind a group of kobolds. Past them, at a meeting of the tunnels, a group of dwarves stood behind a barricade. Vall came back and tried to give phonetic rendition of what he heard the kobolds say.

Tunnel_Battle.pngWhich failed terribly, so Faye cast “Message” on Vall, who crept back and started relaying the words back. From the sounds, it comprised phrases like “Trespassers!” and “Die, fuckers, die!” I can only assume my brethren were pushed beyond their limits to be so aggressive in their language,

We dropped back where the sound of our voices would not spread, and discussed the possibilities. Should we go around and talk to the dwarves? Walk into the kobolds and ask them to stop? Cast lights on Nura and have her walk in and say “CEASE THIS USELESS CONFLICT?”

Faye: I felt it in my bones – from the day I was BORN!

Nura: That’s gout.

We decided to try and stop the fighting by having Nura and Faye go in and order them to stop. Or ask them nicely.

Nura would speak Dwarvish, Faye Draconic. I shall indicate who is talking by Dw for the Dwarves, NDw for Nura speaking Dwarvish, Ko for Kobold (Draconic) etc.

“What is all this about then?”

Dw: “They’re trying to kill us?”

Ko: “This is our space. They’re trying to kick us out.”

NKo: “Lived here long time?”

Ko: "Generations and generations. Way to surface, but this our space.

NDw: “Any of you speak Draconic?”

Dw: “We’re dwarves! NO! We speak the language of the gods.” They had a point.

NDw "So the problem is the kobolds say you attacked them, you think they attacked you.

Dw: “We were doing work, they attacked us.”

Ko "We were travelling from one to the other, they attacked us.

After long discussion, we determined that the Dwarves think Kobolds are animals, not sentient creatures. I could understand this a little, but found it confusing that the obvious evidence in front of them showed that these Kobolds had a great deal of intelligence and purpose.

Eventually Nura got the Dwarves to understand that talking to the Kobolds would be in their interests, especially as there are hordes of Kobolds, and that the Kobolds might be willing to allow mining in exchange for shinies.

The Kobolds themselves were mostly basic fighters in leather armour, but there were two in robes, and two in shinier armour. Nura tried negotiating with them.

“Both sides are fierce – isn’t this big enough to share?”

Ko: “Dwarves are being obstinate. Our space.”

NDw: “Did you know the kobolds were here?”

Dw: “They’re animals.”

NDw: “But they’re using tools.”

Dw: “Animals can use tools.”

NKo: “Do you understand the ways of magic?”

Ko: “The gods show us!”

NKo: “Can you show something non-threatening?”

In answer to this request, one of the robed Kobolds cast a light spell.

Alas, this did not change the outcome.

NDw: “Do you see that? Is that something animals would do?”

Dw: “We have IMPORTANT DWARF BUSINESS to do”.

And then I realised why they were being so cagey. Up the tunnel they had discovered one of the Lost, and were trying to extract the poor soul without damage. I thought of my dear brother Graben – Mother, do you remember they never could tell if his state was because of a problem during extraction, or he had been like that when he was Lost. I went to talk to my Dwarven brethren, who told me they needed a week to Extract our Lost One. I then asked Nura to enquire whether the Kobolds could wait a week.

Ko “Our places – we need to travel through.”

So I renegotiated with the Dwarvish miners – could the Kobolds traverse the tunnels, but the Dwarves put a screen up to stop anything untoward getting seen? This, they were prepared to allow, but with the most holy of vows from the Kobolds not to look.

Meanwhile, Nura and the Kobolds were discussing magic, as the Kobolds considered their clreic and wizard to be gifts from the gods. She looked forward to being able to exchange spells with them, as the acquisition of arcane spells requires much research, but if you can obtain one from a fellow spellcaster, the effort is much less. We also offered to teacher them Dwarvish, so that they could negotiate with the Dwarves without the need for interpreters. They could see the value in this.

The Kobolds, emboldened by these advances, explained that this trip of theirs is needed twice per day. Faye asked to be allowed to know what the religious thing is, and they agreed to explain it to us. It seems that they worship Zon Kuthon, an evil god with a preference for darkness and loss.

Yay – Reptilian Goths.

We assisted the dwarves with setting up a temporary wall, then travelled with Kobolds, who restrained themselves from trying to peer around the canvas edges. They took us down, around corners, deep into the tunnels, and I noticed that the usually cool and dry atmosphere had become warm and moist. A little further on, and we saw it. They have an egg nursery, next to a vent of some sort that exuded hot muggy steam. The eggs, which they needed to rotate twice per day, were surprisingly large. Almost half the size of the Kobolds. Then I realised – they were baby Kobold Eggs, and we had been allowed the great privilege of seeing their equivalent of the great work upstairs.

Egg_fire.jpgI conveyed to the cleric that just as this is a holy place, and they would not allow all the dwarves to see this, so what is happening upstairs is as holy and must be left undisturbed. I believe they caught my meaning, as their eyes widened and they swore that they would never violate the sanctity of the workings. Pharasma truly gives her blessing to all!

The next week was one of communication and learning, teaching and blessings. Nura traded spells with a Kobold, Faye chatted with the kobolds and learnt their songs. I held conversation sessions, where I taught them Dwarvish and they undoubtedly taught me how to swear and call myself an idiot in Draconic. I also cast a daily blessing of Pharasma on the work upstairs – I was almost beside myself with the joy of a new soul in the community!

Nura, in her discussions, discovered that the Kobolds’ power used to be more powerful, and has now lessened over the generations. They were their strongest just before the Tearing, just as we Dwarves were.

Vall spent his time snooping around trying to learn as much as he could about the way of the Lost, and was always asking questions about the holy work upstairs. Nura was casting “detect Magic” on the barrier, and worked out that what was going on behind the barrier was of a ritual manner. We all noticed that the Kobolds cleric was always with the eggs, and the caster came there morning and night. Nura also noticed that the kobolds are wearing more magic than we’ve seen before in one place.

And then … oh the shame. On the last night – Vall and I got drunk and talked.

“When a mummy dwarf and a daddy dwarf love each other very much…”

“Yes! Yes! They get married, and then, if Pharasma blesses them, they may become parents.”

“But how does that happen?”

“Getting married?”
Miners01rev4.jpg
“No, becoming parents.”

“Um – it’s difficult to explain…"

“Let me suggest something. So first of all the mine train goes in to the tunnel…”

“That’s it! And then the train comes out of the tunnel with the new one!”

.

The next day I felt as if the world would end. I have been told this is a state called hungover. I do not think I ever want to hang whatever over ever again.

On the last morning, the Kobolds came through. We had become friends, and several had learned both Dwarvish and the Common tongue. I am afraid my brethren were not as open-minded. It will take a long time before they lose their suspicion of all around them. Even so, I should not despair – three or four learned the basics of Draconic. There is still hope.

The Kobolds came in, checked their eggs, then went back.

And my fellow Dwarves prepared to transport the Lost One out of the tunnel. I made sure the rest of my party went out before the Lost One was taken from its resting place to the temple, although I gathered later that Vall had hidden behind, using his skills at concealment. And my mind was otherwise occupied with the great task – I was allowed to help with the last loosening from the matrix, and to lead the way to the Mine’s Temple of Pharasma. All went well, and one more soul has rejoined us in our journey in the light! Mother Augite, this is the third time I have been a part of the Rejoining of the Lost, and the first time I have been allowed to lead the cart. If I gain nothing else from these adventures, this will remain always as a bright and shining memory.

Faye went to pick up her beautiful Falchion, which is now personalised to her specifics. There will be no stopping her now!

And, thanks to the excellent negotiations, the lower corridor now marked as “Not Ours” by Dwarves.

We walked from the mine into the sunshine, and as we did, we felt again the increase in our powers, the bringing of new knowledge, and the blessings of Pharasma.

Your loving acolyte

Chrysta Bal-Trydimite, of Clan Felsic

1200 XP

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To Ko-Boldly Go

We returned to Callech and spent a week at leisure there. I spent much of that time in my study, writing out scrolls; the ingredients are not cheap, but they may be useful as a contingency measure. I also enacted another precaution, which I will not discuss here.

Vall has taken up a hobby, bow-crafting; his ambitions for a bow are loftier than Callech can provide, but it turns out that making a bow is quite a slow task. We may do better to buy one.

Chrysta researched the dagger we had found with the goblins, and confirmed it as being dedicated to Norgorber. From what little I know of Norgorber, this is not a good thing. It was not clear how this could be safely destroyed, so as a temporary safeguard we hired a smith to seal it in a lead casing; at least that should impede any accidental stabbings, and from my reading I understand that may also make it harder for others to find it.

Meanwhile, Faye amused herself doing whatever it is that Faye does singing for the entertainment and more importantly, the attention of the townsfolk. I must say, her singing has improved with practice, and although I haven’t admitted it to her, I find it quite enjoyable these days.

At the close of the week, Chrysta came to us with news from the mines. Apparently they had opened up some new tunnels and were having trouble with kobolds – like goblins, a race I had only ever heard of in books up to now.

We agreed to go investigate. The mine was bustling, and a long-bearded elder agreed to give us a tour. Their mines are well constructed – were it not for the lack of sun, one could live there comfortably enough, for the stone has been painstakingly smoothed.

However, as we proceeded, we noticed some side passages that were less in keeping with the general standard: dark, and not as well finished, with an unpleasant and unfamiliar smell. We asked the elder if we could investigate, and he rebuffed us.

But on the return journey, after Faye had commissioned a big sword from one of the weaponsmiths, he made a point of walking ahead of us, as if he wanted us to sneak off behind him and explore the side corridors. (Or at least, it was convenient for us to take that interpretation.)

We did so, proceeding down a very dark passage (fortunately for me, Chrysta had brought a lamp, but next time I shall be sure to have my own). Eventually we came to a junction, and heard sounds of fighting from the right-hand fork, with shouting in Dwarvish and also in what Faye and I identified as Draconic. Vall snuck ahead to investigate – apparently the kobolds were yelling something about “trespassers”.

Faye and I stepped in and attempted to make peace. I will say, my interest in Draconic came primarily from its significance in the old histories; I was not expecting to find a pragmatic use for it so soon!

After much discussion and translation and arguing, we established that the kobolds needed passage for an important ritual, but the dwarves needed privacy for a ritual of their own.

(It wasn’t exactly clear what, but apparently something to do with their birthing customs? We had a very odd conversation with Chrysta afterwards, and although part of that may have been due to the amount she’d imbibed, I came away with the strong impression that dwarvish reproduction is very different to the normal human kind. Perhaps they just dig their newborns out of the rock? In any case, they wanted privacy.)

We negotiated an agreement, whereby the dwarves would put up a screen and the kobolds would be allowed passage. The kobolds invited us to accompany them, and with some nervousness but a great deal of curiosity we did so.

They lay eggs! It makes sense, of course, but still astounding. They kept the eggs, perhaps two dozen, in a warm chamber, and came down twice a day to turn them.

We were very interested to discover that two of them have magical gifts: one a priest, the other an arcane mage a little like myself, who agreed to teach me some of its magic in return for my teaching it Dwarvish.

I was particularly interested to hear that they have had their magical powers for generations without pause; although they weakened when the land broke, they did not lapse as our did! I wonder what this means? I also noticed that several of them carried items that had the glow of magic on them: a sword, a dagger, a breastplate, and shoes. From conversation with the kobolds, it seems these may be heirlooms.

CHRYSTA: “You think we’re rockfuckers, don’t you?”

I was rather alarmed to learn that the object of their worship is Zon-Kuthon. Zon-Kuthon is, from all accounts, not a particularly pleasant god. But gods have many aspects; perhaps a creature might worship Z-K in his portfolios of darkness and loss, without subscribing to all the others? Certainly they were polite enough to us.

At the end of our time with the kobolds, we felt power flood through us once more… and my repertoire of magic has expanded!

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Chrysta's Fourth Letter to Mother Augite
Wiping the Floor with More Goblins

Dear Mother Augite,

It seems that Pharasma has allowed us to live through the conflict, for which I have offered many prayers of thanks. I have no doubt that my fellow followers of our great Lady have also been praying for my survival, led by yourself: you all have my total gratitude.

So we were ready to go…

This will be very much the battle tale, as that’s what we faced from the moment we started.

Fight_cavern.png

We could hear the mob on the other side of the door, and Myrie could see that we were facing quite a lot of them. And especially the one that charged at her. Luckily Vall was well-placed to hit the blighter on the back as he passed, and swiped well enough to pink him. This, alas, wasn’t enough to take the bugger down, and Myrie copped a hit, which scratched her nastily.

Vall then hit again from behind, using those special abilities that a thief enjoys. The hobgoblin was looking rather ill after that!

Myrie fell back a little and shot at the hobgoblin, with a yell of “Kill the bastard” – and then a “Dammit!” as the blighter stayed on his feet. Another goblin ran in and went for Faye, with its hands waving ineffectually in front of her, while a third went for Vall and performed the same hand-waving – perhaps it’s their version of a fear spell and we are able to resist the ill effects? If so, I claim the protection of Pharasma and her fear-dispelling blessing.

More and more started barging towards us, including their foul beast; but the doorway, whilst being wide enough for a couple, could not all fit through at once.

ThenFaye slashed at the previously-hit Hobgoblin, and succeeded so well that the blade went right through him and into another creature, killing it as well. The floor started running red with goblin blood as she then stepped out of the way, and another goblin tried their terribly useless spell.

Nura sent forth her colour-spray, which blasted over a pile of the combatants, and sent them into paroxyms of confusion and chaos. It was as if the light of the rainbow smote them gloriously, showing them a wonder their minds could not comprehend. I attempted to hit one with my sling, but failed, so drew my dagger and headed into the melee. Considering most of the creatures were prone and bleeding, I was set for a hit. And I shall truly claim that my main purpose was to return them to the warm arms of Pharasma, whence we all came.

Vall set about reducing one of the goblins into his constituent muscle groups, or as Faye called it, “No Longer In Attendons”. Myrie whacked at one nearby, drawing more blood. One near the back tried to return the favour, but missed her, and many of the others were writhing on the floor, waving their hands in front of their eyes in confusion. Another tried for Nura, who got a certain look of “I will remember this” on her face as it hit her. I would not like to be that goblin. Another of the Hobgoblins continued with the Hand-Flailing of Doom in front of Vall, who laughed in his face.

Faye wiggled her biceps, and started slicing at one of the downed goblins, and it seems that the flailing that the others were using was their version of an attack – one tried to hit her and their puny sword merely bounced off her armour. While he was distracted, though, Nura sent her colour spray through again and dazed most of the rest of them, which gave me the chance to step through the bodies and send one of the unconscious ones to Pharasma.

“All the goblin bodies!
All the goblin bodies.
All the goblin bodies.
All the goblin bodies.
Put your … oh. "

The ground was littered with the dead and unconscious, with only four of the smaller sized ones still upstanding on the other side of the doorway. Myrie also helped with disposing of the recumbent creatures, using her bow to great effect.

Vall whacked at the goblin trying to hide behind a wall, hitting him hard. Despite the rainbow effect earlier, we determined that the goblin was using complete cover… Faye stepped into the breech once more, swinging her falchion with verve and skill, slicing one seriously and just missing another. This of course enraged the surviving goblins, who actually landed a hit on Faye and managed to draw blood. Do they not understand the danger of enraging her?

Nura used another of her spells to daze one of the standing goblins, and the remaining alert goblin saw the error of its ways and ran as fast as its ugly little legs could take it. Faye herself was starting to look a little peaked. Thus I chose to hit the hobgoblin who was already looking damaged, and took him down. With a cry of “DIE, GOBLIN!”, Myrie fired at the one running away, and hit him enough to send him staggering. There were moans of confusion from the prone goblins, soon replaced by the squelch of their heads leaving their bodies as Faye practised her reaping and mowing skills on them. This gave Vall the chance he’d held off for, and he stepped into the breech and squished one as well.

Nura then brandished her staff, which elicited a laugh from some of the others.

“Hey, I’ve used my staff to hit things before!”

“Yeah – Faye’s ankles!”

And Nura hit one, with a lovely squelch. I moved up to get to those who would need their way to Pharasma eased, as Myrie, grasping her bow, scarpered up the stairs to take the escaping goblin out as it emerged from the hole. Faye, in her anger, crunched a goblin to jelly and danced on its body, then slowed suddenly and lowered her glaive with exhaustion. With a look of sheer frustration, Vall almost cried as he had to let the escaping goblin get away, but at least he was able to channel this frustration into his rapier thrust. “Schlurp” Good thing I’m not cleaning that floor. With that, Nura stepped to the side to check the room for any hidden threats, and I used my Warhammer to ensure the remaining downed goblin could no longer shoot straight

And upstairs, Myrie spotted the goblin in the water and sent an arrow straight into him.

They were down.

All of them.

Unmoving, unliving.

Dead.

The blessing of Pharasma is on us.

And we felt it.

Our share of the spoils included shields, longswords, shortbows, shortswords and a great deal of gems and gold, enough that we could each have 1000 gp worth. And one dagger is magic, but It seems slimy and not right. The quality is much better work than goblin. Nura checked it over first, declared it to be a good quality, but that she needed to concentrate on it more to properly identify it.

Two minutes later she had it – it was of such evil that I can barely stand to be near it. No wonder it seemed slimy – it belongs either to the cults of Norgorber or worse still, Urgathoa. Either way, it is an abomination and must be destroyed.

Myrie and Vall had some guarded conversations that made them uncomfortable, that mentioned the Forest once or twice, but I have no idea what it was about. We continued down the track to Tremayne, but alas, there was nothing there of value to me that I could purchase with my newfound wealth.

We returned to Callech, exhausted but well-laden with our pile of plunder. Alas, Myrie was then summoned to the Adventurer’s Hall, and we understand she departed immediately for the lands to the south and other duties. I, for one, shall miss her.

Faye: “We mustn’t scare the people more than they already are, by what we’re bringing into it.”

Chrysta: “But in reality, we’re not. The Orb siginfies that something has come into the world. It is affecting the world, and it is affecting us, but we are not affecting the world.”

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"A Goblin's Head Is Easily Shed"

A GOBLIN’S HEAD IS EASILY SHED
Music and Lyrics by Faye Tannerson. Any parties who feel that the following lyrics do not accurately represent past events should bear in mind Faye’s recently acquired Bard power; “Summon Artistic License”

A goblin bares his ugly steel
To meet his match is no ordeal
For when the bout is head to head
A goblin’s head is easily shed

A troupe of bawdy heroes, from southern Callech came,
They seek to see the world in time, and give themselves a name
By night they thought to rest inside an old abandoned keep
Yet unaware of fearsome folk, a-lurking in the deep

By moonlight did the beasts arrive, they came without a sound
Until the watch was woken by the odour of their hounds
So did our troupe, with goblin kind at last come face to face
But goblin hearts, and soon their heads, had clearly been misplaced

When goblin bares his ugly steel
To meet his match is no ordeal
For when the bout is head to head
A goblin’s head is easily shed

The triumph of our heroes, was heard in goblin’s den
The toughest of their kind awoke to squeals of rage and then
They swore our troupe would meet our end to goblin steel tonight
And sent their horde upon our kind, in all their ugly might

The troupe believed their end was nigh, the goblin horde was vast
Yet magic from our heroes’ hands had thinned their numbers fast
Our fearless troupe cut through the mass, through every foe dispatched
And not a goblin lived that day, no more their heads attached!

When goblin bares his ugly steel
To meet his match is no ordeal
For when the bout is head-to-head
A goblin’s head is easily shed!

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Goblins and More Goblins
Giving Them A Spray

So there we were: the five of us in one room of the goblin lair, and a horde of assorted goblins in the next. Well, perhaps not a full-sized horde, I’m uncertain of the exact criteria, but certainly an uncomfortably large number. We had already slain several, but more than a dozen remained.

Vall hid behind the wall that separated the two; as one charged in to strike at Myrie, he skewered it with its rapier. Myrie shot into the hordes, and Faye laid about her with her sword, then stepped aside nicely in time for me to catch the massed goblins with a burst of colour that knocked three of them and a rat-dog unconscious, never to wake again. Had we been in open terrain I daresay their numbers would have become more of a threat, but as it was, we used the choke point to good effect. The bodies of dead and unconscious goblins piled up in the doorway, hindering those behind; a few shot at us, but to little effect, and Myrie’s return fire was far more effective.

At my request Faye distracted one of them, a big ugly fellow, long enough for me to step in and catch him and his friends with another burst. Chrysta moved in to bolster us, ready to heal if anybody was seriously hurt (fortunately, no such need) and making sure the ones I’d downed stayed down. Soon there were only a few stragglers left. Faye and Vall stepped in, and even I poked one with my stick before Faye sliced him in two. One attempted to flee out the back but Myrie caught him in the leg, hobbling him, and then finished the job as he swam away.

When the dust settled, all the goblins lay dead. Our own injuries were slight, and mine nonexistent; one of their arrows whizzed past my head, but my deflective magic turned it aside.

All of us felt a rush of power; when I set myself to my books later that night, I discovered that two enchantments that had previously resisted my understanding now seemed straightforward and obvious, and even my study of Abyssal – not the easiest of languages – became a single matter. The others likewise appear more capable.

I feel I acquitted myself well that day; although I barely laid a hand on the goblins myself, I left them easy targets for my allies. And I must say, my allies also worked to my benefit, clearing a path for me and protecting me while I was occupied in casting.

The goblins had quite a haul with them, coins and gems as well as their crude weapons. I wonder if they have scavenged this from the ruins, or some other place? Most curious of all, a sinister dagger that carried an aura of magic and of evil with it. Chrysta and I believe it to have some association with one of the evil gods, but we are uncertain as to which. I feel more investigation is required; perhaps somebody at the Adventurers’ Guild will recognise it?

My own share of the haul is quite generous – but truth be told, there is little enough to spend it on here. No matter; somehow I feel we will be seeing rather more of the world before the next year is done.

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Chrysta's Third Letter to Mother Augite
Sing me the song of your people!

Dear Mother Augite,

I start this letter, not at all sure that I will be able to deliver it to you. As we are about to face a dire situation, I have left it addressed and deep in my pocket, in the hope that, should we be slaughtered, when my remains are found the finder kindly ensures its final delivery. I sincerely hope, though, to be able to write the remainder later tonight.

Also, please pass my thanks to Sister Ochre for the lovely picture she drew of the place where we battled the goblins. Her skills with paint and brush far exceed anyone else that I know, and despite her never seeing this place, she has drawn it perfectly!

We rested in Callech, and Faye and Nura wanted to return to where the WaterElemental had arisen from the water, to converse with it and find out what tribute it desires to allow the boats to continue plying their trade up and down the river. Faye was apprehensive about her skill in Aquan, but Nura assured her that she (Nura) has studied the form and structure of languages, and between them they ought to be able to communicate with this strange being. We wish they had more time to compare their notes and for Faye to teach Nura the language, but this task must needs be completed before the next barge heads down river.

Faye also had the excellent idea of talking with the older elves, who have been through this time of magic in its earlier incarnation, to find out anything they can. And indeed, Mother Augite, any information you can glean from me on this would be greatly appreciated, for surely many of our own long-lived race would remember not just the last time the Orb lit up, but several of the times before that. Please send me those details as soon as you can, that I might pass this knowledge around our group.

There was quite a discussion before we left, because it seems that the elves would have preferred to remain at Callech. However, Nura and Faye reported that some of the humans around Callech are becoming uneasy at what our group seems to have induced. Such tiny minds on the short-lived races! They cannot see that whatever the power is that has reactivated the Orb has also brought these creatures, and we are but a byproduct of the power, not the cause of it. We managed to persuade Vall and Myrie to accompany us, for their own safety as much as to ensure our group had the maximum possible power.

So we have two horses and a barbarian…

… walk into a bar.

I’m not reading that fic.

We pooled our funds, and all contributed to hire a horse that Galath might come with us to the elemental, and then return in time for his next portal. Nura rode with me on Quicksilver, the others working out their own mounts. There was some disagreement between Vall and Myrie, culminating in the admission from Myrie that she does not trust Vall because Vall is an elf. We pointed out that Myrie is an elf, but the logic seemed to escape her. Then the discussion flowed to how to repair our reputation in the town, which some seemed to think required the elves to settle down and populate it with half-elves. I cannot see this resolving itself easily.

Much banter and bickering followed as we rode down the river, but we were easily able to find the rock we had marked earlier and the point in the river where the Elemental lived. Indeed, it would be easier if I transcribe what I could gather of the conversation between Faye and the Elemental:

Faye: “Nobody touch the water”.

(There was something stirring in the water.)

Faye: “Hello! We have returned!”

Elemental rises,

WE: Greetings!

Faye: Many boats will travel this way. We recognise you as the traditional owner of this patch of water. What would you take as tribute?

Vall (aside): Body language? How do you read a body of water?

WE: “I want the kingdom of XXXX restored
I want the item of XXXX returned
I want the power of XXX given back to its rightful place.”

(We could not understand the words. Perhaps one day we should come back and find out what they were)

Nura suggested “Can you draw pictures?”

Chrysta: Perhaps shape the water?

Faye: Interpretive water dance?

(someone) River dance?

WE: You will know then when you come across them.

F: Where can we find them?

WE: This world is not what it was. I cannot tell you.

N: Mutters about war

N: Suggests that as this going to take a while, may the boats have safe passage?

WE: If you give tribute

F: What tribute would please you

WE: Something of value to us or them?

F: Copper coins

WE: Your demenour suggests these are not that valuable to you

F: Not to me, but to the peple of the village.

WE: In the old times I had tribute of gems and precious metals.

F: But these people don’t have access to gems. WE are poor. Copper, and a little silver.

There followed an argument about who should be talking to the Water Elemental.

Val: Elf-feminite (whatever that means. These elves are a strange lot)

F: What is valuable to me is stories and songs. Let me sing you a song of my people.

N: Your dignity isn’t valuable?

F: Starts singing

And she gave a performance of deep and sincere emotions, that stirred the hearts of all there, including (apparently) the Water Elemental.

Chr: How do you tell if a Water Elemental is crying?

WE: I will let them pass if they sing to me. I have no knowledge of this new world. That would be worth something to me.

Let this be a lesson to our people – that sometimes words are more valuable than gold and gems. Perhaps we could start a singing school at the new Temple?

We rode hard, and returned by sunset, in time for Galath to join his boat for the run down to Tremayne. The Temple does well, by the way, and will be ready in time for the Autumn Harvest festival. It will though be according to the pleasure of Pharasma whether I am to be a part of that.

The next day, we returned to the ruins where the goblins had given us so much trouble, only slightly misdirected by Faye. I hope she will improve at pathfinding in the future, for another time, the delay may be of greater importance.

Campsite.jpgIn the daylight, we realised that the entire edifice is a great deal more engineered than we first thought. The place where the campsite is situated is built atop of a great stone platform that has altered the course of the river, so sturdy and huge is its construction. There were signs that the buildings behind the campsite might extend even further than we first thought.

The place where we had searched before is a cellar built under the stone platform, with two entrances; the larger one back from the river, and the small muddy hole we had discovered while on the barge.

Then Vall and Myrie picked up a smell.

Fresh goblins.

As Myrie has a special hatred of goblins, we mused that perhaps goblins would be blamed for every ill that befell her people.

“Roof fell in – Goblins!”

“Autism – Goblins”

“Firefly got cancelled – GOBLINS!”

Myrie complained about the rest of us trampling all over the area as she searched for any signs of recent habitation, and then deduced that the myriad of footprints were not (as she had first thought) from our own clumsy feet, but from an entire troop.

Val: A stink of goblins?

Faye: A Miasma of goblins?

Goblin_Troop.pngWe decided to use the entrance with steps, not the hole in the riverbank.

Faye: Val? You know traps – you go first.

And Val found a trap straight away – if he hadn’t checked first, I would have been the only one who wasn’t tall enough to be hit by the swinging rocks. Val tries to disable it from a crouching position, and keeps making comments on the quality of the trap and the intelligence and ingenuity of the makers.

I was having trouble seeing past everyone – perhaps being the short one in the middle of the group was a bad idea. While concentrating on the floor, though, I did spot that it was sloping slightly.

Suddenly I realised that the others were all brandishing their weapons, and Nura hurled a quarter staff. Badly. She hit Faye on the ankle, hard, and Pharasma knows what else suffered that blow. Faye just managed to stop from tumbling down the stairs and knocking us all before her.

Then an arrow struck the wall just above my head.

Another goblin swung and missed, and Myrie and Vall ran forward to get around him, with the goblin swinging wildly at them. With that, Val hit hard with his rapier, and brought the Goblin close to death:

M: “Could I do a Coup de Gras?”

C: “Just hit him through the liver, and do a Coup de Fois Gras?”

V: “Hit him in the backside and do a Coup de Ass.”

One more shot at Faye, and this one hit. And another larger one ran up to Faye and stabbed her hard. This one was nastier, and uglier. Another ran to Myrie and went for her with a knife, but missed. I thought I had better start doing something.

Nura tried once more with her magic staff, and the heavy “thunk” matched the big guy dropping. Then another ran up to me, swinging his shortsword in my face and slashing a nasty cut in my side. Val ran up behind, and stabbed, with such precise accuracy and attitude that it was a wonder that his rapier did not explode with delight. Myrie now had a rather upset hobgoblin in her face, so she returned the favour with her longsword and rendered the threat impotent. So I swung at the little goblin in front of me, but didn’t manage much.

Faye jumped off the stairs, stumbling somewhat as she landed, and fell onto the dead hobgoblin. Then she ran off into the tunnel, as Nura beside me dazed the guy in front of me. Val ran off after Faye, then a second later both of them came back, Val dragging Faye by the shoulder with one hand over Faye’s mouth.

“There’s a lot of trouble in that room”

Myrie readied her bow and shot into the room with the ferocity of an elf with a deadly hatred of the race.

Realising the danger, and the opprtunity of the dazed goblin, I moved well away from him and cast a Bless on the lot. And Faye took advantage of the dazed condition of the goblin as well, and sliced and diced him, after which I took my knife and returned the foul creature to the arms of Pharasma.

And then we considered our situation.

“I’ve got 39 arrows and they all have the names of Goblins and their dogs on them.”

“How do you know their names?”

“Book of Baby Goblin Names 2016”

Mother, we are at the moment sharpening our blades, counting our arrows, and preparing to go into the room where there are many, many goblins. I trust to Pharasma, who alone knows whether I shall prove myself for her glory, or go to meet her. If I am able, I shall finish this tale.

If I am not, please comfort my parents and tell them I died well in the service of our people.

Until then, farewell.

Chrysta Bal-Trydimite, of Clan Felsic

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River Song

We decided to go back and continue negotiations with the water golem I mentioned previously, although we were concerned that the language barrier might be a problem. I have read of magic that allowed understanding of any language, but I had neither the time nor the resources to research such a spell, so we were forced to rely on Faye’s surprisingly-good grasp of Aquan.

There was some discussion as to whether we should all go together, or only those of us with something to contribute to negotiations. Chrysta suggested that if it was true that our presence attracts trouble, more of us might mean more trouble – but does that mean we should split up and deal with two smaller troubles, or stay together for increased might against one big one? It rather depends on whether the relationship between heroes and trouble is additive, or some form of exponential, or perhaps a square-root type relationship. We should investigate this at some stage.

For the time being we all went together, taking Galeth with us. Chrysta and Myrie spent some of their legitimately-gotten gains on horses, and I shared Chrysta’s steed; I’m yet to get the hang of such things, but I didn’t fall off.

It took us about half a day to reach the elemental. Faye spoke with it and relayed its words to the rest of us – I never knew “glub” could contain so much nuance. Sadly its speech was heavily dependent on proper nouns unfamiliar to us, and it lacked modern reference to explain them. It wanted the Kingdom of Something restored, the Power of Something-Else (Or Maybe The Same Thing?) returned, and the Some Other Thing Again (Maybe?) recovered.

However, it understood that this task might prove difficult. In the meantime, it wanted tribute in return for safe passage. Fortunately Faye had the good sense not to translate my suggestion for a “tribute of gold”; she tried to palm it off with copper coins but it was smart enough to recognise their low value.

In the end Faye offered it a song, and to our great relief it agreed to accept songs for tribute. An excellent outcome all round. Afterwards we discussed the potential of songs about glub.

After escorting Galeth back to town, we headed back downriver to investigate the ruins we’d seen previously. Heading down into a basement, we smelled the distinctive odour of goblins, and Vall found and disabled a wicked trap before it could harm us.

As we descended the stairs we were not entirely surprised to find half a dozen goblins waiting for us, two rather larger than the others. In my excitement I mishandled my staff and hit Faye in the ankles; one of the big ones charged in and hit her, but Faye hit him with her falchion – actually, let’s say “smote”, it was hard enough to count as smiting – and then I caught him a hard blow that left him dazed until Chrysta was ready to finish him off.

Meanwhile Vall and Myrie were laying waste to the rest of them, working well as a team. One fled into the next room, and Vall and Faye gave chase then pulled back after sighting quite a few more goblins and a couple of the rat-dogs.

How did we make it out? DID we make it out? Am I writing this from beyond the grave? I shall leave that story for next time.

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The Price of Being Chosen

Back in Callech again, but for some of us, everything has changed – and not for the better.

In the end, it turned out that the barge thieves were goblins – stinking, creeping goblins. It took us virtually no time to deal with them, and the strange dog-like creature they brought with them. Nura and Chrysta didn’t even need to engage them – between my arrows, Vall’s knives and Faye’s sword, we were more than a match for them. There was an unfortunate moment when one of the bargemen was startled by Vall rushing past him in full battle mode (despite Faye’s attempts to wake everyone quietly). The poor man fell straight into the fire, and it was only due to Faye’s quick thinking that he was not more terribly injured. As it was, Chrysta’s healing powers were needed for both him and Vall, who had suffered a wound at the hands of the goblins.

After that, the journey back to the village was uneventful. For some of us, though, it grew considerably uncomfortable as the bargemen began to regard us with some level of fear. Oh, they were grateful enough that we had dealt with the threat to their livelihood (and for Faye’s impromptu fire safety lecture), but now we were not simply a source of pride for them. It’s one thing to be able to say your village was chosen as a place where magic awakened and adventurers were chosen. It’s quite another to see that in action as these chosen ones display legendary abilities and throw themselves into battle without a second’s thought.

I suspect this will fall hardest on Faye. Vall may face difficulties with his family and acquaintances, but he is an Elf, and will undoubtedly have held part of himself in reserve. Nura, likewise, is far too self-contained to really feel the burden of ostracism that may spread from the bargemen to the good citizens of Callech. Faye, though, takes real pride in both her adventurer status and her place in the life of the village. How will she reconcile these with the distance that will inevitably grow between us and those whose only experience of the magic is to witness it – or worse, be hurt or killed?

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