The Jagged Edge (more Omerian Tales)

Riveck, the Cursed
**Much Ado About Something**

After the party’s rest, then begins what can only be described as, “dinner with strange people.” The party’s interactions, both that night and the next day, lead them to ultimately discover that their ghostly surroundings are the remnants of the dead Sarnack, all killed when the mountain spewed lava on them. The denizens of the area were all “called” to the valley within the volcano in a time of great need. No such summons came to any party member, though they were indeed summoned.

“Not to worry,” they are told. “Riveck will explain it all.”

Explain what, you might ask? The strange rumbling that greets loud noises (many of which are supplied by a suddenly less boyish Aladar (who, as it turns out is not a Sar Shune monk at all, but rather a member of the “Order of the Tempest”). The fire spewing from behind a locked door as Hoit tries to be Hoit (and loses his eyebrows). The alchemist seeking a cure, the healer who never leaves, the dwarf who is seeking the “perfect defense.” All seem cursed within this bowl of ambuguity.

But Riveck will explain it all…

And who is Riveck. The last of the Sarnack, and keeper of the Stone of Hearing. The party is ushered into his chamber, and locked inside. And damned if Riveck cannot (or will not) deliver the stone without a fight. As the party monologues to cover Hoit’s sneaky exit through another door, the creature — who hears their thoughts — braces for their onslaught. This time, the group wants to talk. But it seems not to be…

Meanwhile…

The party paladin rages in madness, the spirit of the area driving him to naked gibbering. While Hoit stares down through a trap door, and spots steam, and a pond of gold.

]

is either in a lot of trouble, or a lot of trouble.

The Sarnack has to be a bad ass, because he’s staring down Yoshi Helmbreaker, Phineas the Death Dealer, Aladar Nastyhands and Larana Superhealbot. Are we scared? Fck yeah we are (not?)
*There’s a passageway behind the Sarnack. Wonder what he’s got in his boudoir?
*Crazy Paladins are crazy.
*Did I mentjon Hoit’s in trouble? (probably/certainly?)[/i]

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Ramblings of an old man
Best quality

Old man Wu offers the party a copy of the Manual of the Planes they had recovered, that is not only made of the best quality materials, it is also waterproof and fireproof. Disappointed that they choose to keep the original, he gives them a brief overview of the layout of the planes and how the astral plane connects them.

He explains that there are two methods of traveling to the astral. The first is via the mind and opening one’s third eye. There are a few rare individuals who can do this as a natural ability (psionicists), while others such as monks spend long years of meditation in order to do this. All Volmgr can do this natively. Magic can also be used to open someone’s third eye to allow travel. In these forms of travel, the body remains in the physical world and the spirit travels through the astral with a silver cord connecting it back to its origin. When entering a new plane, a new body is created from the materials of the local plane. When traveling in this form, dying is like waking from a traumatic dream. Returning the spirit to the body. It is said that the Volmgr have swords that can cut the silver cord, their victims become lost forever, unable to find their body.

The second method is via a gate. This allows the physical transfer of materials between planes. When traveling through a gate, the body goes as well. Since the body goes too, death is quite real.

The Manual of the Planes doesn’t provide any information on where the Volmgr or the stone are located. However, the Percians must have used a gate in order to trade with the Volmgr. The party decides it may be most prudent to find the remains of the Percian empire and the gate rather than aimlessly wandering the astral plane. From the remnants of an old map that Wu had salvaged, Phinneas is able to narrow it down to four possible locations.

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Fast Forward
A Quick summary of events

The party recovers the manual of the planes, and in doing so makes the connection between the Ancient Percians and the plane-dwelling Volmgr. After an out of body experience in which they retrace the steps of the Uthron-Udaar (and discover the secret of the destruction of the green valley), they have a climactic confrontation with Teelex, brother of Damleck, whose soul became Planeswarden of the Peptorian Forest Node. The bereaved, quite mad (and half-possessed by evil elemental beings from the quasi-place of ash) Elf Boy attempted to draw his sister’s essence back to the Prime Material Plane using a Soul Catcher. The party stopped Teelex’s ritual, while defeating an Ashen Elemental and a huge Dust Dragon. Teelex was destroyed by the artifact he had stolen from Dregland, thus preserving Damleck’s soul-bind to the Warden Node. The green valley of Peptor then returned to the world of the living. This is not without its cost, however. Vorga and Udagold perish during the battle with the dragon (during which the phrase “GLUE BOMB!” becomes a rallying cry).

An interlude with Old Man Wu (replete with a primer on the Planes), revealed the party will sometime soon need to travel to the Astral Plane. From there, they must face the Astral roving Volmgr (mayhap). In the near term, the group ventures back to Castellan Keep, only to find martial law imposed by Pharisian Knights of the Silversword under the command of Lazlo Kreevacs. Priestess Alura is deposed due to her out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Richard Golden is found to be a swindler, and all contracts with him are now the property of Pharis. The players’ lucrative trade deal is less than lucrative now, with the government hand firmly in the kitty. A Paladin named Tristan James III is detailed out to the group (not entirely with the group’s consent, but with the Rogues temporarily turned good, not much is said against it).

The group reconstitutes. Yoshi received a message from his leaders — “the mission MUST succeed at all costs!” Hoit loses his whores. And everyone hears a voice in dreams directing them to the mountains to the little explored north. After several days of rest, recuperation, investigation into the location of the next journey (during which time Old Lady Booger style haggles the party into paying a huge amount for dusty tomes), the group sets off.

In due time (well, a couple weeks), the party comes upon the bowl-shaped valley, the walls made of dried lava floes. A castle facade carved into the mountain wall serves as a guard post through which the PCs MUST pass. An attempt at negotiation ends abruptly when Paladin James perceives an affront to Pelor. A battle ensues, with the party receiving as good as it gets. It is brought to an end when denizen of the interior beyond the facade, one Altair, welcomes the party through the mountain itself.

Once inside, the group wends its way along a clearly marked path (with instructions NOT to leave the trail). They are brought to a village within the valley, given food and shelter, and asked to wait. And they do…

NOTES:
Hoit appears to be his old self again. This bodes good/ill?
*There is a lot of scary shit out beyond the path.
*Straying from the path is DEATH (for the realz, man).
*Aladar can fly! (not really)
*There ARE such things as Signal Braziers of Welcoming.
*Phineas is going to find Richard Golden and gut that f
cker.
*Yoshi’s new epithet is “Helmbreaker.”
*Tristan finds out that stabbing people, then asking to talk is the wrong order for parley.

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The Manual of the Planes
The rise and fall of the Percian Empire

Intro
The manual of the planes is a piecing together of arcana, information about the planes and their inhabitants along with historical accounts. The last section of the manual is an accounting of the rise and fall of the Percian Empire.

The Volmgr
The Volmgr is a race of beings that inhabit the Astral planes. Their origin is mysterious, but their natural talents to traverse the planes is remarkable. Within the Astral plane, they make their homes upon the remains of dead gods floating through the plane. Lacking natural resources in the Astral plane, the Volmgr obtained these from other planes via foraging, trading, or raiding. The ancient races of earth warred for a time with the Volmgr raiders. Eventually they reached an accord where the five bound themselves through the stones of being.

Rise of the Percian Empire
The Volmgr established a number of trading outposts across the prime material plane. They traded for the much needed raw materials in exchange for exotic materials from the outer planes. At one such outpost, a group of merchants established the Percian Trading Company under the crown of Lord Tremal Percian. The lucrative trade with the Volmgr was envied by other kingdoms and a war soon ensued. It is said that Tremal crafted great weapons of war that allowed his smaller army to conquer the other kingdoms. Others say it was his wealth that bought the opposing kingdoms armies. After the short war, he named himself Emperor of the Percian Empire.

Enslavement
Not satisfied with what they had, the Percian aristocrats sent troops to enslave the peoples of foreign lands. They went so far as to enslave many of their own people. The empire grew vast and wealthy. Scholars worked with the Volmgr to compile knowledge about the planes. This work would eventually be known as the Manual of the Planes.

Collapse
One day, the Volmgr failed to show up. The goods were ready to be delivered, but the portal did not open. The initial shock was met with disbelief and the Empire kept rolling along, producing raw materials and goods to trade. Over the next few days as the Volmgr did not appear and inventory began to stockpile, some protests began to arise. The punishment was swift and fierce, often resulting in on the spot executions.
Soon, a rebellion ensued that led to the collapse of the Percian Empire and the execution of many elites.

Flight
A small group of Percian mages and scholars were able to escape, taking the Manual of the Planes with them along with a few items of power. This small group found refuge in the underdark with a secret sect of Dwarves that had nob fallen under teh repression of the Percians. They took up residence and traded supplies for knowledge to power their forge.

The final entry by Miriam, the last of the Percians
The Dwarves are making the same mistakes of the past. It has been set in motion and there is nothing to be done now. It was a mistake to make a pact with the Dwarves but we feared persecution and thought we were responsible and good stewards of power. Now I know that we were just as arrogant and blind as the Percian rulers whose deaths we felt were justified. I have been given the opportunity to redeem myself for the pain and suffering I have caused.

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Episode 8: "Elemental, Dear Hoit..."
**Bookish intentions**

The party’s adventure takes them into a great underground lake, where wonders, riches, creatures and death abound…or so they’ve heard. Of course, the main thing our adventurers seek is an item of great power — The Manual of the Planes!

Step #1: obtain a boat. This is accomplished via a combination of scouting and tactical planning. Tengu Yoshi locates a small band of Ogres camped out at an old Dregish outpost. The Ogres have — surprise! — a pair of boats! Rather than confront the Ogri-noth directly, the party decides on trickery. Yoshi provides a fierce distraction, while the other party members sneak their way into the water to release the two boats, keeping the first away from the Ogres, and the second for their own use. Other than a minor wound taken in the getaway, they escape scot-free, leaving the band of surly Ogrees behind. Before long, they are beyond the threshold of the great cavern leading into the deep and dark.

The first danger confronted by the party is a group of cave fishers nesting on a ledge high above them. The fishers attempt to snag a quick meal by attacking the smaller members of the party, mainly poor Hoit, who gets caught not once, but twice. Again, the party avoids a head on encounter, instead gathering in the would-be fisher meals and moving their skiff along as fast as possible. In no time at all, they have outdistanced the hungry, albeit cautious predators (of course, part of that caution may have had to do with Druid Udagold dropping lightning on them).

In short order, the pace of the river picks up, and suddenly the party find itself in a life and death struggle with the elements. As the stronger members of the party struggle to keep the boat on track, other party members concentrate on steerage and scouting. The river branches right and left, and, judging by the roar of the waterfalls, left is definitely NOT the way to go. Unfortunately, the pull of the rapids is just too strong, and the group pours over the falls, save for Yoshi, who struggles in vain to keep the boat AND all the party members from falling over.

Plunging into the depths below, the group swims and sputters its way to a nearby shore. Their boat splintered and shivered, and with half their supplies gone, the party finds itself in a great underground cavern. A great leviathan breaches the surface ominously. To their right, they see the lake extend beyond an low archway made of lava. Above and behind them, they see a set of steps winding its way to a platform on which 3 great statues sit. The more educated members of the party quickly discern that the statues are dwarven in nature. They have found ancient ruins of a long lost culture!

After some investigation into the dais around which the statues are arrayed, the party breaks a runic code to reveal a huge, mechanical staircase, which lowers itself into place from above. Of course, none of this happens with ease. A false start involving matching key runes brings forth a golem of iron, which the party’s combined efforts defeat with relative ease. Once up the staircase, the group finds itself within the halls of a lost Dwarven city, the presence of massive quantities of ash reveals to have been consumed by fire. A rift to the elemental plane of fire is found, its guardians avoided. In short order, the party finds a place to rest and recover, as well as clues revealing a strange liaison between the dwarves of the hall and a human Mage named Miriam. Within the encoded, found manual, the group discovers a teleportation ritual. The next day, thanks to Phineas’ decoding abilities, they find themselves safely transported beyond the lake of the leviathan.

A scuffle with scrag trolls occurs near the base of a long abandoned underground port. With hardly a scratch, the group heads up a set of stone stairs to yet another blasted chamber, featuring another rift between the planes. A pair of awful demons reveal themselves asking the group to serve or to fight them. But all is an illusion. The glowing rift, entered by Hoit, and the demons flanking it, are all part of an attempt to make good by long dead Mage Miriam, who procured the book from the dwarves in the hopes of using it for good.

In the end, Hoit and Phineas are “cleansed” by the fake demons, and the book is granted to to the party. The group reforms, skirts minor danger in a room with a large, hungry plant, and returns to surface via a very long passageway. A few days underground, and their journey is completed, a complete success.

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Episode 7: "Badlands"
**Keep pushin' til it's understood, and these Badlands start treating us good**

As the party prepares to depart to the badlands, they are joined by a strange “elf” from what the locals call “The Big Scary Forest,” a Delvian healer from a race of woodland beings, who ALSO appear to be suffering from their own plague. The Delvian joins the party in their quest, along with Tengu Yoshi. With the addition of Galamore’s servants, the number of Wagon Buddies, et al is 12.

The party spends several days of their 3-week journey headed to the Fortline. They arrive at “Point L,” (called “Pointell” by the locals), where they find a ragged group of soldiers, among them Halfhand One-Eye. Their reunion garners them information about the lands beyond, where it appears a dragon is on the loose, a devil that emerges from the dust itself to ravage patrols. The discover several ways to approach Ermsagh Canyon, where the Laprell dweel (somewhere). They also discover rumors concering:

*The Legendary village of Barovia, cursed to exist in another realm until said curse can be lifted, has appeared under moonlit nights, a strange, glowing forested region glittering like a mirage over the broken sands.

*The wasteland, a dead forest covered in gray mist. Those who enter do not return.

*The Red Tower: a strange wizard’s tower that appears out of nowhere, enticing visitors to retrieve its treasures within. The problem? No one knows where or when it will appear.

*Lost units from the Dregs and Pharisians have taken up residence in the Broken Lands, establishing their own fiefs. Among them is said to be a powerful warrior, Beelzebub, who is said to have uttered, “’Tis better to rule in hell than serve in heaven.”

All told, the party has 3 ways to get to the canyon, the worst of which seems to be the direct route—the main road to the canyon is the preferred hunting grounds of the Dust Dragon. They eventually decide to make their way through the dead valley.

After providing food and healing to the troops, the party makes its way out into the badlands. Hoit, Vorga and Yoshi provide much of the scouting, with some help from Aladar, backed by the mapping of cartographer Phineas. Hoit and Aladar briefly scout the dead valley, only to return to the party after an encounter with grey, enveloping mist, wolf howls in the distance, and the feeling they are being watched. Though a place of limited visbility, absolute bleakness and a haven for curses (the blight causes the Delvian healer to actually become overwhelmed and sick), the route proves fairly smooth.

Eventually, the party finds a break in the mist, and, inexplicably, a pile of treasure among the ruins of what used to be a city of stone. Hoit, of course, decides to investigate the cache, a pile of coins and items resting among what looks like Dragons Eggs!

Of course, they all know this is some sort of a trap. And when the Dust Dragon bursts out of the ground and attacks, their suspicions are confirmed. Yet, the group, sans Vorga and Phinease, who flee in fear in the Dragon’s presence, easily overcomes the creature, thanks mainly to its focus on the fearsome Tengu warrior, who uses his flight and great weaponry to deliver crushing blows to the creature. Though heavily wounded, the Tengu stands firm against the Dragon, driving it off with help from Udagold’s summoned storm firing its lethal lightning, scorching the devil. The dragon exercises retreat, leaving a nice horde behind. The eggs, of course, turn out to be facsimiles, “bait” to lure the adventurers. But if this is just “bait,” all this treasure, one wonders about the horde itself. On the positive side, the party uncovers 3 relics: a ring, a mail shirt and a hammer, all of either dwarf or elf make (and in the case of the ring—BOTH).

Lingering only briefly, the party wends its way out of the valley, and makes camp at the lip of Ermsagh Canyon. They then set about scouting the area. They discover a tribe of Ogre creatures living in a ramshackle port that once belonged to the Dregs. The village, situated on a great lake, into which a river flows, appears to be led by a great chief who has tamed a pair of huge tigers. They also locate an aerie overlooking the canyon that appears to be inhabited by humanoids who fly astride great, winged mounts. With no clue as to where the Laprell may be, the party decides to investigate both the village and the aerie.

The village experiment turns out to be a near debacle. Hoit makes his way into the village, aided by a distraction provided by Yoshi, who flies above the village, getting the Ogre’s attention. Unfortunately, Hoit’s sneaky-sneak places him in a poor position, as he races across the village square, unnoticed, right into the chamber of a pair of Ogres (whom the party later discovers are called “the Ogrinoth”), who catch sight of him. Intending to toss a net over them to cover his escape, Hoit instead reaches for…the Dwarf hammer, which he snatched up earlier, and which now seems to have imprinted on him the desire to use this weapon above all others. To close to use the hammer’s thunder-blasting ranged ability, Hoit beats feat OUT of the area, drawing the attention of the WHOLE village.

Thankfully, Hoit is able to avoid the javelin attacks of the few armed Ogres. Yoshi sweeps him up and carries him far away from the swarming creatures, leading them in a direction opposite from the party encampment. They eventually light on the cliffs above, while the Ogri-noth yammer, yell and stare, below.

Meanwhile, Phineas, Vorga, Udagold and their Delvian companion make their way to the Aerie. In short order, they are accosted by…dwarves! Using the power of the ring, which grants dwarven speech, the party negotiates with the short ones, who turn out to be descendents of an ancient race called the Udaar, a group of dwarves who once lived in the dead valley (not then dead) alongside the Uthron Elves. Now servants of the Laprell, the dwarves maintain a wary watch while one member of the Laprell, Aristotle, appears and approaches the party. The group is made welcome, and spends the afternoon feasting next to a fire in the Aerie.

The group discovers that the 3 remaining gems are located in 3 different places. One of the gems rests in the high mountains beyond the Aaracokra. A second, south, near the Great Scary Forest. And the third? Lost somewhere on the Planes. The former two can be discovered and retrieved. But reaching the planes? This requires great magic.

But of course, there is a way to reach the third. Aristotle tells them that the Laprell are relatively sure Manual of the Planes rests in The High Underdark, in chambers “Beyond the Palace of the Zoke.” These chambers are accessible by the river-feeing lake, below. The main problem? Many tribes of Ogrinoth live below. Plus, the party does not have a boat.

The group also discovers that the visions the Delvian has been having, visions which first begin as the party approached the dead valley, are actually visions of the long, dead past of the Uthron-Udaar, once warring tribes of Elves and Dwarves who lived in harmony in a great, green valley. Their long century of peace was eventually shattered when greed brought them into conflict with an entity called Damleck the Destroyer. The Laprell believe Damleck, defeated at the cost of the Uthron-Udaar empire, has returned, bringing with it the Dust Dragons.

Yes…dragonS, plural.

With their quest for the aaracockra before them, as well as the lure of the treasure of the Uthron-Udaar — rumored to be “the greatest treasure of all” — the party decides to mount an expedition into the High Underdark to find the manual of the planes. After that, they will set their sites on the dead valley again, in hopes of locating the Uthron-Udaary treasure. Then, the expeditions to find the gems will commence in earnest.

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Episode 6: Watch the Birdies
**Three is a magic number**

After a very short period of downtime recovering from their foray into the realms of “wha-?” the Wagon Buddies awake to find party Con Man Hoit Portique has stolen all their stuff and skipped town. This includes the unusual theft of Vorga’s soap (“He stole my SOAP?!”). A quick jaunt here, there and everywhere through town reveals the following:

*Hoit donated treasure to the temple (What…?)
*Hoit did not take more than his share of the booty from the booty-callers (prostitutes) he has been pimping (…WHAT?)
*Hoit bought a horse and did NOT haggle (“HAS THE WORLD GONE INSANE?”)

Quickly discerning something has gone wrong (and that all their shit is missing, including the eye), the group races out of town, hot on Hoit’s trail. Their journey leads them to a swampy area several days from town, in which they find a group of three Kenku (KENKU!) shuffling through the muck attempting to lcoate…something. Choosing conversation over confrontation, the group greets the Kenku, who obviously have something to do with Hoit’s disappearance, as evidenced by them finding the Gem of Seeing in the muck.

The conversation takes a bloody turn when a pair of titan monitor lizards leap from the water and attack the Kenku, swallowing two of the Kenku, including the one who found the gem just before the attack. Fighting not only the lizards, but the elements themselves (muck, mud, water), the group takes down the lizards, making a friend of the remaining Kenku, who calls himself “Three.” They recover “The Eye,” and interrogate the Kenku.

The Wagon Crew discovers that Hoit is being held nearby, gaurded by yet another bird creature, a Tengu, who has in its thrall a Giant. With no pesky lizards to disrupt the conversation, they talk their way into a meeting with Hoit’s captors, the Aaracockra, who have evidently taken Hoit’s mother prisoner, prompting the normally acquisitive half goblin to take desperate action. The deal was: “the Eye for your mother.” Hoit, who has always believed his mother beautiful and wonderful (though he’s never actually met her), took immediate action, but hedged his bets through the theft of the party items, knowing they would follow. Intending to infiltrate the Kenku himself and rescue his mom, he found himself pursued into the swamp. Knowing he would be captured, Hoit tossed the Eye into the swamp, knowing the Kenku would never kill him as long as the eye was missing, and Hoit knew where it was.

Through the diplomatic efforts of Phineas and Galamore, the party discovers that “Kenku” society is divided into a hierarchy of three — the Dirty Ones (Kenku), the Beautiful Ones (Tengu) and the Ancient Ones (the Aaracockra). Their numbers are rather small, and, evidently, dwindling. They arrange a meeting with the ancient ones, to discuss the kidnapping of Hoit’s mother, and the trade route they were sent to negotiate by Richard Golden.

They discover the capture of Hoit’s mother was all a ruse to get the Eye, one of 5 artifacts they need to power a great airship for a journey to the “Land of Beginnings,” a place somewhere above the clouds, only reachable with the ship. You see, the Ancient Ones are dying. All their efforts lead them to believe the cure rests in the Valley in the Clouds.

Sensing a “Golden” opportunity to fulfill the trade pact to their advantage, the party agrees to help the Ancient Ones in exchange for opening trade with the Keep. This entails them finding the “Five Gems of Sense,” one of which they have, “The Gem of Sight.” The Ancient Ones possess another, and 3 remain missing. The problem is, no one knows where they are.

In the end, the group is magically transported to a high mountain, and undergoes a rite of binding, which seems to enforce upon them completion of the quest. They also acquire a pair of companions: Three, who has adopted Aladar and Phineas as his “one” and “two” (the dirty ones take the idea of the sacred number of 3 literally); and a Tengu warrior named Yoshi. They leave the Ancient Ones to return to the Keep to plan their next move.

Investigation reveals that there is a group of cloistered mages called the Laprell who might possess knowledge of the gems. The Laprell are said to live in a great canyon called The Ermsagh, well out into the badlands, beyond the Fortline maintained by the Pharisian army. Further, the party also discovered that the Ancient Ones, along with the Aranea, are part of a Ring of Five overseers who evidently exert power and influence over the realm. The actual politics of The Five are not yet known, but it is clear the connection between the Aranea and the Aarocokra is not firm. And as for who the other 3 ancients are…that remains to be seen.

The party also discovers that, after the ancient rite, each of them possesses a jade-handled dagger that none of them can get rid of — if thrown, it returns to its scabbard. It isn’t really much of a weapon, more ornamental in nature. The actual purpose of each dagger is unknown.

They ALSO discover that none of those who have gone through the rite can be more than 2 miles from the rest of the group without incurring sickness. The Wagon Buddies, as it turns out, are now truly bound.

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Episode 5: My Buddy, Your Buddy...Whose buddy again?
**Their "brother's" keeper**

The group’s next adventure begins at the end of their previous one, where, having arrived at the inn for rest, relaxation and a good meal, they find an extra place is set for them at the table, and they are assured they are missing someone.

“There are always SIX,” Helga informs them.

After a bit of confusion, the party realizes they are missing someone. Now, who IS that someone? No one in the party knows! They don’t remember a 6th member! What they do remember, are strange dreams that seem to have some sort of connection to the mystery.

The search for the missing party member leads the group to retrace their steps, to include revisiting their recently completed battle across the lake. Visitations with members of the populace lead them to conclude that they evidently did have someone else in their party at one time, but that their own memories of the party member have been inexplicably wiped clean. They are also under the impression from their dealings with Cleric of Raciata, Alura, that their missing member was none too popular (at least with her).

They are eventually led to the nearby Elven village of Lunaar, the hometown of recently deceased Moondrop. The story deepens, and the following occurs:

*The party uncovers clues concerning an enigmatic Druid, Aislinge. The druid evidently has the answers they need. The problem? They cannot find her!

*Their missing party member seems to be a very, very, evil dude. They recover a journal filled with details of horrid exploits (a journal they dub “50 Shades of Brown”). They also discover, through use a mirror in Aladar’s room (a room he has evidently been sharing with the missing party member, now known as “the Pervert”), that there is a horrid, spider creature nesting within a great web on the ceiling of the room, hidden by illusion.

*They eventually decide to take advantage of Udagold’s druidic expertise to try to somehow locate Aislinge, using a strange book they find invisibly hidden in Aladar’s room. The book summons a beautiful white horse, which lopes off into the wilderness. Having planned ahead for this eventuality, the party has its own horses available, and follows the creature.

*A merry chase ensues through night and woods, culminating in a battle with dark wolves. The battle has a surreal aspect to it, with the damage incurred by the party members appearing to be psychic in nature. Their wounds do not bleed, though they DO hurt. The downside of the battle: the party loses their white horse guide (though they defeat the wolves).

*The group decides to follow the trail the horse has set them on. Luck appears to be with them, and they are led to a strange cave in the woods. But of COURSE, they must enter said cave, where they encounter strangeness indeed—every passage seems to wind back on itself. Faced with the possibility of being hopelessly lost within the strange labyrinth (the origin of which is debated as alternately being magical and/or illusory), the party takes the unusual action of basically attacking the passage itself. This proves the correct action, but…

*…the party ends up in a strange realm, where they can move in all dimensions, as if flying. There is a shining light they continue to see, then lose sight of. After some consternation, confusion and flight through the realm, they come into contact with a terrifying, lizard-like head, a great gem mounted between its eyes. A battle BEGINS!

*Their usual tactics seemingly useless to them, the group disperses, making themselves single targets. Eventually,Aladar is able to leap onto the head of the creature, where he tries in vain to free the gem from the creature’s skull. At one point, little Hoit makes what appears to be a useless attack, tossing a net on the creature, which hangs on its teeth, but does nothing to stop it. The net turns out to save party members Udagold and Aladar, who their grip on the creature, but keep away from the great maw by hanging onto the net.

*In the end, the great gemstone is removed, and the creature destroyed. The party awakes outside where the cave used to be, to find nothing but the smooth face of a wall. In the underbrush nearby, they discover Olaf’s lost brother, a babbling, incoherent mess. But the greatest discovery — the gem shrinks to fist-sized, its true nature revealed — a Gem of Seeing!

*The mystery eventually unwinds itself. The party member, Steve, an admittedly an evil s.o.b., is being brought to justice by the Aranea, an ancient spider-like race of overseers intent on righting this particular wrong. The spells intended to erase the horrid Steve’s acts had the opposite effect of erasing the party’s memories, but no one else’s. Enigmatic druid Aislinge aided the party by providing unseen guidance. The recovery of the eye causes the spells to work properly, and now no one EXCEPT the party remembers the crimes of their perverted former member (now being slowly drained dry by the aranea). They keep the eye, and history rolls out as if the man never existed. Unfortunately, some of his actions have consequences. Evidently, Steve had a tryst with Alura, and she is pregnant with his child—though she doesn’t know it yet!

And so, the Wagon Buddies find themselves wiser, and arcanely richer. Along the way, they have discovered the secret race, the Aranea, which proves to be a turning point in their journey.

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Episode 4: Spelunkers
*Moondrops and lizards**

The party resets itself for a jaunt into the wilds, adding: Udagold, a self-taught Druid; guile-free Monk Aladar Allensen, a monk on Rumspringa; the hippy-dippy mage, Moondrop, of the Elven village of Lunaar. Their target? Utar’s Mines, as revealed by a map they found on their previous jaunt into the wilderness. Leaving Hoit behind to tend to “business” (and somehow become a member of the city council), the group heads back out. The adventure proves both fruitful and tragic. The highlights:

*The outer chamber leading into the mines is infested with Kobolds. Moondrop’s sleep spell proves nuke-like, while the other party members wade in and basically slaughter the poor beasties. The way clear to the mine door, they head in.

*Utar’s Mines turn out to be mostly collapsed, but the party soon finds there is an interior struggle between opposing forces, two tribes of Troglydytes, one “blue” the other “red.”

*Aladar is captured by the Blue Trogs. The party negotiates with the Trogs to help defeat the Red Trogs.

*Party finds the Red Trogs, and makes the same deal with them.

*Party discovers that several of the great chambers still standing have pools with protective runes intended to keep out denizens of the underdark. The runes have malfunctioned, allowing the Trogs to enter to try to take over the mines.

*The group rescues a Dregland Orc, Halfhand One-Eye, the lone survivor of a Dregland expedition into the mines. He informs them of the fate of his party, which included a mage of some power.

*The party investigates the area where the Dregland party was (mostly) wiped out. They discover a “steam room,” which, unknown to them at the time, shrouds giant lizards basking in the heat, and recovering from their meal of dead Dregs. The lizards burst out of the steam, taking Moondrop by surprise. Though the lizards are defeated, the mage falls in the battle. The party recovers the Dregland treasures and items of power, then concocts a plan to take down the Red Trogs. They also plan to investigate (and loot) what appears to be the main chamber where perhaps Utar’s treasure remains.

*Long story short: in Utar’s chambers, the group avoids activating a great skeletal army, removes the shrouds, illusions and traps from the remaining treasure, and summons elemental aid in taking out the Red Trogs. They return to the Blue Trogs, successful, and recover their captured comrade.

In the end, the group has a nice treasure trove, and returns to Castellan Keep, sans Moondrop. Their long journey over, they look forward to rest and recuperation. Unfortunately, their chance at resting is brief, as a trip to the twilight realms awaits.

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Episode 3: Fun in the Woods
*3 Orcs get on a boat...*

Keet Peekle is disgraced for his inability to take care of the rat problem, and he loses his job. The local troops under Captain Harris take care of the infestation. Rumor has it they discovered a nest of blue goblins attempting an infiltration. No verification, however.

At this point, the party sets about using its resources to plan for the future. They purchase a pari of plots of land at a discount. Part of the deal requires them to take care of a minor problem involving the lumber company. Seems the 3 Orc Brothers working for Ned Lumberman refuse to return across the lake to harvest the trees. Something about “little demons” and “strange sounds.”

Never ones to pass up a good deal, the party takes the Orcs’ launch across the Great Lake and investigates. They find little sign of any threat, and decide to make camp until nightfall, since that is when the problems seem to have been noted. This leads them into conflict with a deranged Druid, who attacks them with help from possessed halfling minions.

The party overcomes the Druidic assault, to include a pair of thunderwave spells and a tremendous bolt of lightning called down on Vorga, who inexplicably shakes off the death blow. They eventually whittle down the druid, before their smallest member, Hoit, drives a crossbow bolt through his throat. Unfortunately (?), they lose a party member. The dark Enxian Cleric, Morgan falls to the Thunderwave.

In the aftermath, the group discovers that this particular druid had broken away from his sect, considering the great wood his own. He had been terrorizing the halflings of Owenburrough for some time, charming some of their number, and forcing them into serving him. The threat removed, the grateful halflings make the party honorary members of their village, and send them home after some time feting and feasting.

As a result, the party now owns two prime plots of land on the lakefront. Now, to gather some additional coin, and launch themselves into business. This leads them to mount an expedition to Utar’s Mines, a place about which they know very little, but are SURE is will grant them gain. They turn out to be correct in their assumptions, though in gaining wealth, they will also incur loss.

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