Kathy - Vochma
Micah - Cardhu
Mark - Corlis
Ben - Drew
Liz - Quera
Joe - Phaedrus (sitting in for Mike, who elected not to join us).
As we sat in our camp in the middle of Dunston, surrounded by the tribe of baboon people, we were quite surprised when a stranger walked into our campsite. Seeing the baboon people, including the old leader, were very respectful towards the stranger, we elected to greet him and offer him a place by the fire. He introduced himself as Tarkis. As we spoke, he mentioned that he had been drawn here by some power being released, so we told him of our purpose in this dismal place.
It was good that we elected to speak with Tarkis, as he proved to be a fount of information. He identified many of the symbols and writings upon the remains of the portrait. It apparently includes writings of the Eastern Isles, of the Kingdom of Lei-Po, and the symbols of Earth, Undead, Darkness, Old Ones, and the Void.
Tarkis also told us of the upcoming conjunction of the stars Acos and Thunston, which will occur when the Storm gods grow strong and Movement and Earth are conjoined. We interpret this to be sometime in Storm season, possibly Clayday of Movement week.
Finally, the seer gave us 5 tubs of oily ointment, which proved to be a powerful healing substance. Alas, he elected not to spend the night with us despite our invitiation, and vanished into the woods.
The next day, we began our journey back to town, saying good-bye to our baboon friends. Apparently they had fulfilled whatever need drove them to accompany us to the swamps. On the way back, we set a fairly slow pace, and took note of the landmarks and surroundings as we passed, in hopes of providing useful information to the royal cartographer who was probably quite upset with us by now. We passed a large lizard, which Drew identified as a Sandling Worm, who's venom is apparently valuable, but also quite dangerous. We chose to let it pass. We also noted the location of a herd of pegasi, circling a nearby hill, in case the hunter back at the Inn of Seven Stars was still there when we returned.
The rest of the day passed uneventfully, and we made camp for the night south of Veldman's Needles. Near dawn, we were awakened by the sounds of battle near the camp. It appears that Phaedrus had been surprised by a hideous giant (Quera later theorized the creature's strange appearance might have been the result of an encounter with a wand similar to Drew's), and was in a pitched battle for his very life! We quickly roused ourselves and went to his aid, only to find him laying on the ground, either dead or unconscious. That was the least of our concerns though, as the foul creature immediately attacked the rest of us, knocking seriously wounding Cardhu, Quera, and myself. After we inflictied several mighty wounds upon the creature, it broke off the attack and fled. We quickly regrouped, used some of Tarkis' healing gift, and set of in pursuit, hot to revenge the apparent slaying of Phaedrus. After a brief pursuit, we caught the beast, and managed to slay it without taking further injury to ourselves. We quickly searched the beast and its nearby lair, uncovering quite a horde of wheels and a number of strange crystalline rocks.
As we were performing the search, a group of armored kobolds passed by, and when they saw the giant corpse, broke towards it as if to loot the body. Much to our surprise, a pair of large humanoid creatures, seven feet tall, with heavy, tusked, features, herded them back into ranks and on to whatever destination awaited them. We completed our search, and returned to camp. Imagine our surprise to find Phaedrus alive and well! Apparently he had been knocked out by the creature, and was sorely wounded, but still alive. We spent the rest of the pre-dawn, healing and resting after our ordeal.
Early on this Freezeday, we set forth once again, moving at our rather sedate pace. After a half day's travel, we came across a most surprising sight! As we topped a small rise, we noted a group of 8 wagons ahead on the trail. What was most disturbing was the bodies laying around the wagons. We noted a few scavenger creatures approaching, and advanced to drive them off and investigate this event. Imagine our surprise when we found two of the baboon people nearby, driving off the scavengers.
When we got close to the wagons, several things became apparent. Firstly, Phaedrus noted that this was the very caravan he traveled to Kernan with. Secondly, that everyone was indeed, dead. Thirdly, that the heavily bound wagons we noted in Kernan had all been broken in to (and by all signs, had contained gold bars!). And finally, that neither of the Brothers of Balance who had traveled with the caravan were present.
The two baboon people seemed most interested in having us follow them, so we did, thinking that perhaps they would lead us to the Brothers and we could effect a rescue. After a brief walk through the rough and hilly terrain, we were completely surprised when a huge avalanche tore down a hillside, burying our guides!
Things began to happen very quickly then. Immediately after the avalanche struck, a mysterious stranger stepped forth and attacked. Also, the avalanche disappeared, revealing our two baboon "friends" transformed into strange, armed creatures. Drew, Phaedrus, and Vochma turned to deal with the creatures, while the rest of us turned our attention to the third attacker. The mage (for such he proved to be) immediately cast a spell, which caused his form to multiply before our very eyes! Phaedrus and I began to attack while Quera and Cardhu attempted to flank the stranger. Our efforts were in vain however, for the mage cast a stunning spell, striking down Quera and myself, followed by a second which struck down Phaedrus, and Vochma who had just put down their creature opponents. He then pulled forth a magical rope, which sprang forth and bound up everyone but Cardhu. Cardhu then attacked, and was promptly blinded by a powerful spell. Seeing we were all apparently incapacitated, the stranger turned his attention to healing his comrades, ignoring Cardhu for the moment. Cardhu took advantage of the situation, and tried to cut me free to no avail. Seeing the two creatures were up and around and headed for Cardhu, I suggested that now might be a good time to escape into the Shadow realm he had mentioned to me a short time ago. He hesitated, but then grasped my arm and muttered a phrase of power. Strangely enough, all of us save Drew were carried along by the magic (perhaps the rope acted as a conduit). Once on in the Shadow realm (a very creepy place I might add), Cardhu tried to use the words of activation he heard the mage mutter over the rope when it attacked us. In short order we were free and more than ready to return and effect the rescue of Drew.
Upon our return, we discovered that Drew, the mage and his creatures were gone. We followed the trail and discovered their lair a short way down the trail. Noting the three hostiles were inside sitting about a fire, and Drew was tied near the back of the cave, Vochma elected to cast a spell of webs into the cave, entrapping all. Unfortunately the webs caught fire and the mage (who must have been carrying some flammable item) literally exploded, killing him and his two shapeshifting companions. Once the flames died, we were able to rescue Drew and recover a number of coins of various denominations.
We quickly discovered Drew had a magical collar on, which seemed to drain all his magical energies. Deciding their was nothing further to uncover here, our next course of action was to complete our investigation of the caravan.
Imagine our surprise when we returned to the caravan and discovered the two Brothers of Balance, unloading the remaining gold into the hands of a number of foul goblins. The Brothers vanished by some magical means when they noticed us, and the goblins made off with their loot. Since we were sorely wounded, we elected not to follow. We completed our investigation of the caravan, recovering the diary of the caravan master, and the remaining gold bars. We then continued our trek back to town, anxious to report these events to Lord Quival.
We spent most of this day in travel, returning to Kernan. Nothing of import happened along the way.
When we returned to town in late afternoon, our first priority was to get Cardhu cured of his blindness, which (Walwyn?) accomplished with ease, dispelling the magic that obscured his sight. We then spent some time researching a means of removing the collar on Drew's neck (which we had found out was a slave collar, which drains magical and physical energy from the wearer). Unfortunately, daylight ran out on us, so we elected to retire and take the matter up the next day.
The next day, Mova the healer found us in Wanda's and told us we needed to come to the healer's house right away. Sensing that this would be a good idea, we followed him, and were introduced to Elias, the wild healer we had pledged to aid to pay for our healing earlier. He explained the task before us, which consisted of slaying three trolls in Gebnick Glade, which had been terrorizing the elven population, and had even taken several elves hostage. We agreed to leave on this mission within three days, and Elias assured us that he would arrange for a guide into the depths of Gebnick Glade. We then took our leave to continue our search for a means of removing the foul collar from Drew, and to report recent activities to the Duke.
Consultations with Rayward revealed no real information about the collar, though he did mention that Golga might be able to assist us. A brief visit to its domain assured us that even if it could help us, we weren't sure we would like the assistance granted. We elected to consult with Heranavi, keeper of the Inn of Seven Stars, who proved herself to be a powerful mage in the battle with the voidling.
Heranavi told us the item was a slave collar, used by the Morakanth, a slaver race, to keep their prisoners under control. She knew of no way to remove it, other than breaking the thing. However if we attempted to break it and failed, the collar would shrink to the size of a ring, and decapitate the wearer. Seeing no other choice, Drew elected to have me try and break the collar (being the strongest in the group). So, reinforced by powerful spells cast by Heranavi, I tried with all my strength to break the thing and FAILED. In short order, Drew lay dead before us! Greatly saddened by the loss of our companion, we began to leave to make arrangements for his body, when Heranavi told us to wait as she cast another spell. After a brief pause, there came a knocking at the door, and in strode a gnoll! We immediately drew weapons, but Heranavi told us there was no need, that this was Drew, resurrected in different form. After taking some time to adjust to this situation, we left the Inn, thanking Heranavi for all her assistance.
While Drew, Quera, and Vochma went to visit their father and acquaint him with Drew's new form, Phaedrus, Cardhu and I paid a visit to the Duke to inform him of our success in destroying the portrait, and of the events involving the caravan and the Brothers of Balance. Imagine our surprise when we found the two Brothers already in audience with the Duke, along with Baron Stewart, the right hand man of King Haldric. Apparently they had concocted a story about us saving the caravan from a group of attackers and were here to inform the Duke of our heroism and ask if they could take us into service! We elected to play along with their charade for the time, and were relieved when the Duke also seemed to realize that something was amiss. He dismissed the trio, after refusing their request, and then, along with the Knight Marshall, heard our report of gold to the goblins, the caravan destroyed, and the Brothers apparently consorting with unknown allies in the wilds. We also showed the gold bars and diary we recovered from the caravan to the Duke, who took the diary, but told us to keep the gold (we later offered it to the healers in gratitude for their assistance in the past, and as partial compensation for the loss of Freda).
After a brief discussion, the Duke tasked us with discovering exactly what was happening in the Needles. Specifically to find out, what the kobolds and goblins were up to, who was providing them with arms and armor, what was being done with the gold, and what the Brothers' role in all this was. We agreed to make it our top priority after discharging our duty to Elias. The Duke then told us there were two more insect infestations nearby, and that he would like us to take another look out at the summoner's hut to see if we could uncover a cause. We agreed to take care of this immediately.
After a brief stop at Wanda's to regroup (during which we saw the hunchbacked man pay off Halor for some service in the very same type of gold bars we had recovered from the caravan), we returned to the healer's hut, and taking a clue from the vision granted Quera and Cardhu at the baboon spirit ceremony, I stepped within the second circle in the hut and cut the fire circle with Ichon. This resulted in the destruction of both circles, revealing two more beneath them! It also seemed to summon some evil presence, which we could not at first, discern. We manage to easily destroy one of these new circles, then Phaedrus manages to destroy the other, also recovering the pouch of coins and gems stuck there earlier when the owl dropped them from the ceiling. We believe that this should put an end to the insect's that have been plaguing the local farmers.
Unfortunately, the evil presence we felt now makes itself known, and a goat legged being of obvious evil intent appears. Thinking quickly, Cardhu binds it with the magical rope we recovered from the illusionist. The foul thing immediately began bargaining for its life, offering us position with its "master". We chose not to listen, and attacked it, ready to put an end to its foul existence. It vanished in a cloud of foul air.
Seeing that we had accomplished all we could today, we returned to town, and informed the Duke we had destroyed the last of the circles. We also told Elias we would be able to leave the next day for Gebnick Glade.
We set out for Gebnick Glade.
The party has (not including items distributed):
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