The Twin Kingdoms


As I mentioned in my previous entry, our trip upriver awaits agreement from the North Kingdom, so we have had a couple of weeks to spend in the capital.

Vall has been exploring the town, no doubt doing something legitimate and businessmanlike.

Faye has spent her time talking to the elders here, learning their wisdom. I am surprised by how much she has matured in such a short time; she has learned the value of quiet contemplation and the pleasures of the mind.

(Joking. No, she headed straight for the taverns and got into a drinking contest with the sailors there. I think she won, if the hangover was anything to go by.)

Chrysta has spent much time in the temple, trying to fathom Zakaroth’s remarks about her being “not a proper dwarf”. She hasn’t spoken of what she learned, but she seems quite distracted and concerned. Maybe she’ll talk about it later.

Zakaroth has been… recruiting for Asmodeus? Apparently that’s legal.

As for me, I’ve been reading Grandmother’s books.

Her grimoire contained a wide assortment of interesting and useful spells – most pleasing! – but none of them are above the level of power that I already command. It is disheartening to think that this could be as far as I ever go.

From her journals, it’s clear that she felt the same way about it. At the start she was very enthusiastic about adventuring, after almost getting married instead, and happy to be out and about with her brother and friends. But later on, when she hit the same block that I now face, she became grumpy, frustrated, and at last outright hateful of the gods responsible. No wonder she chose to move far away from reminders of the adventuring life.

Great-uncle Andine let us know that there was a banquet coming up to celebrate the autumn equinox, and most of us took the opportunity to invest in some new clothes. I have acquired an exceedingly pretty silk dress, and I am exceedingly glad to have learned both cleaning and mending spells.

After a few days I needed a break from reading, and we headed down to investigate the local Adventurers’ Guild. We had heard (correctly) that people there were shaking down visitors for money before they could touch the orb, which we took amiss. Apparently by law the place belongs to adventurers (i.e. us), although held in trust by the Crown.

We shook down the shake-downers and did our best to return the money they’d taken from other visitors. Faye made some sort of speech which made me nostalgic for my recent spell of seasickness, and she and Zakaroth started showboating for the spectators.

Then an interesting turn of events: some people who had previously touched the orb without any joy did so again, and found that it now glowed. Possibly proximity to us has awoken a spark in them?

And a very curious thing: the orb does not respond to Zakaroth’s touch. Hmmm.

(One wonders: is he, in fact, from the distant past as he says? Or could he be from somewhere else, subject to different rules, perhaps brought here without knowing that he’s no longer in the world he came from?)

By the end of the day we had identified nine newly-fledged adventurers. Mar (young man, fighter); Timbry (male, wizard – perhaps at some stage I can teach him something?); Ann (human, monk); Debil (halfling, some sort of sorcerer?); and Syldic (half-elf, legitimate… businesswoman). I didn’t catch the names of the other four: a paladin of Abadar, a cleric of Cayden Cailean, a dwarvish bard, and a lady half-orc barbarian.

It would have been interesting to bring them along with us on our expedition; I’m sure they would have learned much, but it might have been a fatal lesson given that they haven’t yet had training. For the same reason, we are not taking my charges Gerard and Alessandra. The Crown will arrange for training for all these.

The equinox festival was quite impressive. The dinner was exceedingly fancy: sweet melons carved into the shape of swans! Swans carved into the shape of melons! Or something like that. We were seated apart from our companions, in order to meet other people.

Many of them are adventurers from the previous wave, now greying; a few of the non-humans come from earlier times. Some have old spellbooks that they can no longer use.

Note to self: if our excursion DOES find a way to lift the spellcasting block, I daresay many of these people will be EXTREMELY interested in that. We may need to be careful how we handle that.

During the evening, Val said something that caused Chrysta great offence. I don’t know what it was about, but it may have had something to do with the business that’s been bothering her?

Happy to say, His Northern Majesty agreed to a joint expedition upriver. (Does the North have adventurers too? Will they be coming with us?)

We organised supplies, including cold-weather clothes and so forth. Gerard, Alessandra, and Ann tried to stow away under our tarpaulin; I had to tell them off, of course, but I was proud that they’d made the effort. Soon enough, children…

Shiny points: 14 carried over, +1 for summary, +1 for bad jokes = 16.

“Maybe he’s born with it… maybe it’s Valvoline.”

Well, that's interesting...

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We spent the night at the Fox and Flower, apparently the best inn in Pont’s Cove, and then next morning boarded the ship to sail north to the capital.

Although I had had no trouble on the way down the river, the ocean waves were rougher and I was horribly seasick for most of the four-day trip. Faye occasionally popped downstairs to pester me, whereas Chrysta (after recovering from her own seasickness) offered me some sort of tea, which helped my mood if not my stomach.

Faye suggested tying me up and dangling me from the mast or something or the sort. I told her NO. I will remember her behaviour next time she wants something.

Have made up my mind to look into the possibility of acquiring a dragon, for riding purposes. Surely that would be less nauseous?

I eventually found my sea-legs (more to the point, my sea-stomach) on the fourth day, just as we came in sight of the capital. Val and Faye got very excited about some sighting of “dragons” but it turned out to be just statues on the harbour wall.

The capital is really big! Great big docks, big ships, rich districts, slums, all sorts of nifty stuff. Some time later, I’d love to explore it further, but given the delays in our trip we agreed to go straight to the palace rather than keep the King waiting any further. Captain Bastian arranged an escort for us, leading us through a district of fancy shops. There is even a university here!

After speaking to one of the palace functionaries, we were shown into a big throne room. It was very cosmopolitan; I noticed elves, dwarves, halflings, gnomes, and even a half-orc.

King Melinar was easy to spot: a youngish man on a very ornate throne on a large dais. Next to him stood an odd-looking man—a half-elf, I think, but with grayish-brown skin. He looked young but it’s hard to tell with that kind, and as it turned out, much more so in this particular case. He was very finely dressed and I think Faye was getting a little jealous. Or possibly amorous. Hard to tell.

We were introduced to the King, and he introduced us to the man next to him: Zakaroth, who comes from the Forest of the Elves far to the south. Then the six of us went to a side room to talk in comfort. The King seems quite pleasant, and dressed with tasteful restraint. I noticed some interesting rings on his fingers but forebore from scanning them for magic; it would have been gauche, and I felt safe assuming that if anybody has magic rings, the King would. (Confirmed later: they allow him to use magical scrolls of all kinds, although the scrolls themselves are in limited supply.)

There was an older gentleman present, wearing robes and religious symbols, and I correctly guessed him to be Duke Andine. I introduced myself and was startled when he told me I was the spitting image of my grandmother. It turns out the man is her brother, my great-uncle! (I must confess to getting a little weepy at this point, although I think I hid it well.) It seems he and she were both adventurers, in the wave of fifty years ago. After the magic died down, she went up to Callech to settle, while Duke Andine remained in court. He directed me to what seems to be her own record of her adventures, which I will read as soon as I’m done writing this journal.

(And so many other books here! I must see what else I can learn.)

We spoke of our travels, and Andine mentioned the limiting issue that Chrysta and I have encountered; it seems he and Grandmother also met the same difficulty.

The good news is, the records explain how to surpass this problem. The bad news is, the method doesn’t seem to work. They say that before the war, to develop further, wizards and suchlike had only to present themselves before their god. But since the war, the gods seem to be preoccupied, and it does nothing.

Zakaroth asked “Have you visited the City of the Divine?” and at this point, a very interesting conversation was had, during which it became apparent that his understanding of the land’s geography was very different from everybody else’s. After some confusion, we came to understand that he has been asleep for a very long time—since before the war!—and was referring to the old capital, before the kingdoms were divided. It seems that may be the place we ought to go.

(Zakaroth tells us he fell asleep after being touched by his god, and woke in a frozen ruin. During this conversation we also discovered that the “PD” date stands for “post Dawn of the World”.)

Another extremely curious discrepancy: Zakaroth only remembers there being twenty gods, with no recollection of Sivanah. (And as I recall, Vallaise had temples to all the others but not Sivanah. HMMMM.) But Andine understands her to be one of the original gods of creation.

Zakaroth told us about a place called Mastere, in the shadow of the Divine City, which Andine understood to be a blessing of the gods rather than a real place.

So it sounds as if we may need to go up the Majestic River to investigate the Divine City. Chrysta tells us that it’s rumoured to be infested by…things (I am not sure if that’s the same ellipsis as in “legitimate…businessmen”?) and the laws of reality are mutable there, so the dwarves avoid it.

Another interesting discrepancy: in Zakaroth’s memory, the city has a mountain that rises cleanly to a peak. But according to others, the peak has blown off.

Andine has agreed to sponsor a trip up the Majestic River to investigate the City, although the King will need to discuss this with his northern cousin since that river marks the border between their realms.

In the meantime, we’re staying at the Cat and Fiddle, an exceptionally large inn built in the same mortarless interlocking style we’ve seen elsewhere. Andine warned us “if you want to avoid crowds, avoid the Adventurers’ Guild” so of course Faye went there.

And now to renew my acquaintance with Grandmother.
Shiny points: 13 carried over, +1 earned for summary = 14.

Of Wizards and Lizard Gizzards

The weather remains sticky and warm. Chrysta has been unwell – perhaps the weather, perhaps the food, perhaps seasickness – and spent most of the time in her cabin.

Alessandra navigated us downriver; I’m not sure how she was able to find the way, but evidently she did. Her brother Gerard was bored, and for better or worse Faye was appointed to entertain him by telling him stories and teaching weapon-play.

At night we pulled up by the shore and took shifts on watch. On the first night, Vall noticed something during his shift and went ashore to scout: five humanoids with pointy sticks. He crept back and woke us (sensible fellow) before going back for a closer look. They appeared somewhat reptilian, with scaly skin, although much larger than the kobolds we’d met previously.

Vall tried talking with them in Draconic, but sadly they didn’t reply in kind. Instead one threw a spear at him, so we fought back. Vall and Faye killed three between them and I knocked the last two out cold with a colour spray.

Faye killed one of the unconscious lizard-men; this was unnecessary and (as it turned out) regrettable, but to be fair to her she had been hit a couple of times with their javelins. We took the other prisoner, and when he woke up we conversed with him.

He told us they were starving as a result of the floods, and looking for food. We felt rather bad about killing them, even if they did attack us first, so we did what we could to help. They’re obligate carnivores, so plant-based food isn’t useful to them, but we were able to buy three barrels of salted fish from the boat’s cargo and give it to them. Apparently they’re also willing to eat their fallen comrades.

Around this time we felt the same flow of power that we’ve had a few times before, but this time it felt wrong for me and Chrysta, with a sour note to the magic. I presume this is the limit we had been hearing about. VERY annoying, and I do hope we can do something about this.

We continued downriver. I think Gerard was developing some sort of crush on Faye. As his legal guardian, I suppose I could have forbidden it, but I think that would have been counterproductive. Besides, Faye’s better company when somebody’s paying attention to her. I will keep an eye on them in case of any greater folly, but otherwise I’ll just leave well alone.

She was teaching him how to use a falchion. I suppose it’s a useful skill, if you don’t have proper magic.

…what am I saying? I don’t have proper magic. Argh. Definitely need to deal with this!

The next night we were visited by another group of lizard men, this time larger in number. Vall spoke to them and convinced them not to attack. We would have liked to organise some sort of food shipment but couldn’t figure out a way to make it work, given that it’s likely to be some weeks before the traders are ready to head back upstream.

In the end we gave up; we hadn’t solved their problem but at least we’d avoided bloodshed. Continuing downstream we found the swamp thinning, and could see the lights of Pont’s Cove up ahead.

Pont’s Cove is situated on a knob of rock that rises out of the water. Its walls are old and high, made with a clever mortarless locking construction; it’s a shame Chrysta was too ill to admire it. Because the space available is limited (about half the size of Rendel) people build high, with some buildings as high as five floors!

Anchored by the cove we saw a small fishing boat, and a larger seagoing vessel flying the King’s flag. Aha!

Vall went off to investigate options for feeding the lizard men, and the rest of us checked out the inn. We recognised our welcoming committee from the royal livery, and although the place was short of rooms, they found some for us when we made it clear that we were on the King’s business. The leader of their party is a Captain Bastian, a well-muscled fellow of perhaps thirty years. I presume Faye will make a pass at him at some point.

The rooms were very comfortable and clean; the building is made of old rocks (are there any new rocks?) and I think Chrysta appreciated that, although she was still rather unwell. After an uneventful night Bastian arrived with a ceremonial guard to take us (and Gerard, and Alessandra) aboard the ship to the capital.

Well, this has been an adventure! I wonder what the King has to say to us… and what they may know about my grandmother?

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

Muddy Waters

We continued downstream from Frentel, via Wirrin and Lindor to Rendel. Almost at Pont’s Cove now. (note: not “Ponce Cove”, mea culpa.) Along the way we picked up Marshall, another businessman, and parted with Roald.

There was a storm brewing, and by the time we reached Rendel it was getting quite ominous. Rendel is a town of two parts: the old centre is built on solid rock, but much of it is on soft ground. Every so often the river changes its course and those buildings need to be relocated, so they’re built to be dismantled and moved.

I must write to Father about that – the implications for property law must be fascinating!

The storm came on, bringing days of heavy rain and—surprise!—a shift in the river’s course. Our pilots were unwilling to chance the waters so we were stranded in Rendel for a couple of weeks.

We decided to stay in the Adventurers’ Guild… well, why not? They have a laundry service, who had some success in de-inking my things.

They have an orb, of course, and Faye poked it out of curiosity. It glowed much brighter than the one at home did. Evidently our powers have increased.

(blah blah blah only few weeks ago feels like lifetime blah blah)

Of course the local youths were eager to test themselves on the orb. One of them has the spark! She is fourteen years old, Alisandre by name. She has a pet? weasel; she may be some sort of druid.

The Guild has a decent library, and I took advantage of our extended stay to do some research. What I discovered was fascinating but deeply disquieting.

Among other things, they have a register of adventurers, recording both those who visited Rendel and those who started out here. The records go back a long way (guild hall first founded around AT 173, it being now AT 1003 – or 4571 PD, in the older reckoning. BTW, what does PD stand for?)

Going by the records, these heroic awakenings are becoming gradually less frequent: fifty years from ours to the previous one, fifty years to the one before that, then forty-five, forty, thirty-five…

Along with this, magic is becoming steadily more limited. Some of the earlier heroes are recorded as using magic clearly of the seventh order, but as time passes these spells are no longer observed in use. Over time the limit has become so low that even bards began to notice it.

Related, we have a better understanding of the “exploding caster” phenomenon. It is a rare but not unique phenomenon, and not restricted to wizards; I also found instances involving clerics and sorcerers. My best guess, consistent with available records, is that it happens when a caster has already mastered the highest-level magic currently available… and then the limit drops, so that their magic no longer fits within the limits of the world. The recent case, who I read about in Frentel, had complained of headaches for several weeks and was returning home when she finally exploded.

At present the limit prevents spells above the second order – i.e. my current stage of mastery, and Chrysta’s. If historical rates may be extrapolated, the next drop is due in about a hundred years. Perhaps not a pressing issue for me, but from what I know of dwarven lifespans, it’s quite possible that Chrysta will still be alive when that happens.

But, perhaps, not for very long afterwards.

I quite like Chrysta, and I do not want her to explode, even if I’m no longer around. Let us see what we can do about this issue, hmm?

(Also, while I am delighted by the magicks that I have already learned, I refuse to stop here. I would sooner risk exploding myself.)

We visited the temple of Nethys and spoke to their high priest, who confirmed much of my interpretation. He mentioned that magical items already created can surpass these limits, but cannot be recharged. They don’t know what the cause is, or how to deal with it, and their prayers to Nethys go unanswered, as if the god himself was distracted.

(Faye suggests that perhaps the god of magic is dying. If that’s the case, perhaps the universe will need a new one? I’m not sure what a god’s duties are but I might polish my curriculum vitae just in case.)

The stones in towns used to be teleportation ports; quite likely the decline in magic also explains why they no longer work. I expect that must have been quite a shock when it happened.

We may be able to find more information in the capital, perhaps from the court wizard or Lord Andine (some sort of priest?)

Meanwhile, Rendel’s nether parts were sodden, the locals were scurrying to move their houses, and Chrysta was writing to her relatives to bring in some engineers to arrange a better, more permanent solution to the town’s hydrographical issues. I must confess I was a little preoccupied with my own studies and didn’t catch the details (perhaps Chrysta will record the proceedings?) but it seemed to involve a lot of gruff dwarves shouting and exploding things. It kept them happy, anyway, and the new dock looked very nice. Maybe it won’t fall into the river next time it rains?

The rain stopped after a week, leaving the town smelling rather like…

…actually, I’m not sure I have a word for it. Perhaps it’s better undescribed.

The water was still high, and the town’s pilots were unwilling to go further downstream until things had settled and they had time to test the waters. But Alisandre told us she could steer us through safely, and we’re going to take her at her word. We could hardly get much damper than we already are.

She has an older brother, Gerard, just under age. Both their parents have died, but they have two very decrepit grandparents. In the end, the easiest way to handle things was for me to take on legal guardianship of all four of them before giving the grandparents into the care of the local temple of Sarenrae. (I was quite embarrassed by how little it cost to ensure that they are well cared for. This adventuring lark pays well.)

So, uh, I suppose that means I now have two children, one year and two years younger than myself. This will be… interesting.

Next stop (hopefully): Pont’s Cove. And the sea! I am curious as to whether the water tastes of salt yet, but not quite curious enough to discover what else it tastes of.

Shiny points: 12 carried over, 1 earned for summary, 1 spent on reroll = 12.

Also, The Wizard Has Exploded

We continued down the river from Blackwater to Tor. Brand and Russell were still with us. We had also acquired an older gentleman (Roald, retired jeweller, heading down to Lindor for retirement having sold his old home); two middle-aged women (Sasha and Lily, midwives); a middle-aged businessman (Mandrake, escorting a shipment down to Frantel); and a new crew member, a young fellow who seemed less than keen on the life of adventure.

(The ports ahead of us: Tor, Frantal, Wirrin, Lindor, Rendel, and Ponce Cove.)

I think it was Val who first noticed a smell of smoke, and soon we saw a plume of black smoke rising ahead. To our dismay, the town of Tor had burnt in some sudden conflagration!

Seeing our boat, many of the surviving townsfolk thronged to the shore. Our crew wisely anchored some distance off lest we be swamped by desperate refugees, and Chrysta shouted at the townsfolk until they chose a spokesman to fill us in.

Apparently something had gone boom the previous morning, and flames had rushed through town; the fire had been so swift that when we disembarked to investigate the town, we found one blackened body still standing up. At the origin of the blaze we found a large crater that smelled odd, like oil…

Vall and Faye headed in cautiously, confirming that the smell was getting stronger. We were unsure of our safety near the middle of the crater so I fastened one end of a rope around my waist and cast a levitation spell, and Vall held the other end of the rope to steer me towards the epicentre. Here there was a hole in the ground; I dangled some rope down and confirmed that there was oil in the hole.

We returned to the townsfolk, who told us that the site was one of the older buildings at the edge of town, formerly a barn but recently converted to a blacksmith’s. Well, I guess a deposit of oil under a blacksmith’s fire would account for the explosion.

(I must admit, I was half expecting some more unusual explanation, perhaps a dragon? But I don’t suppose it makes much difference to the townsfolk, poor people.)

We discussed some short-term plans and established immediate needs: shipments of hay, boarding the homeless folk in nearby farms, and so forth. Chrysta set the locals working on such things, and we headed back to the boat. Poor Sasha was from Tor, and had lost her whole family; she didn’t want to stay on.

We headed on to Frentel, with Chrysta holding a memorial service on the boat.

Frentel is an old town – the gates have stood for more than a millennium – and larger than Blackwater. We spoke to the guard captain Adronis and made our way to the council, in a palatial old building. Chrysta told them about events in Tor while Vall visited the Guild of Legitimate… Businessmen, and I investigated local history.

As in Blackwater there was an old stone in the centre of town, although with different runes on it; again, as in Blackwater, it had a faint aura of inactive magic.

I found some information about places that used to be schools of magic, but it shed no light on the phantom school we recently discovered. I also found a book that listed locations of these rune-stones, along with their runes (which I have copied). Every town we’ve visited has a stone, as do many others, although they’re not always obvious. The one for Callech is in the tavern basement.

I learned that the time between waves of adventurers is getting longer. I also read about a woman who lived about a hundred years ago, an adventurer-wizard like me, who died suddenly – for no apparent reason, she EXPLODED. Curiously, although she’d been adventuring for many years, her magic seems to have barely exceeded what I’m already capable of – reminds me of the warning earlier from “Mother”.

I wonder what this limit is? And how to break it? Preferably without exploding, that would be good.

Shiny points: 14 carried over, 3 spent on rerolls, 1 earned for summary = 12.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.


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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