Thursday, November 22, 2012

Shadowed Tower - 09 "A Pleasant Visit to Castle Talis"

That night, Ferg Wayfinder treats the group to a very nice dinner. Over the meal they tell Ferg the details of their adventures. Ferg tells them that he went to see the Captain of the guards, Captain Coll. Unfortunately, one of the merchants that Malis allegedly attacked, is near death from his injuries, and as such, Malis must remain in jail until the Laird's return.

The books are brought out and discussed, and Khabsha puts forth the idea that the alchemical mixture of Nightfire might be what was implanted inside Laird Jory Talis. When Ferg is told about the trouble with the Storm Crow, and the frame job for the sacking of Wheat Hill, he offers to switch rooms with the party, just in case word arrives from the south and the authorities try to arrest them. He also offers to go to the castle with them on the morrow, since he wants to offer money for Malis's freedom.

Of the supposed Tinkers, Ferg is still unsure whether to do business with them, especially after Graham informs him that the tinker leader was armed with a hidden short sword - something no real tinker would ever carry. They also discuss the dragon sightings, and whether the Dinari might be in league with such a beast. To this, Rowen adds her knowledge of the rumors of Dinari airships, and the possibility that a dragon sighting might instead be an airship sighting.

Despite it all, Ferg is still tempted by the prospect of a profit. He asks Taen if she would scout to the west for the tinker's camp, to see if she can verify their true purpose, in exchange for payment of course.

Taen flies west to scout, and after finding a few hunters, pete cutters and wood cutter's camps, she finds a small sheltered fire with three Tinkers gathered round, the same from the townsquare. There is no sign of tinker wagons, nor of other tinkers or any need for supplies. One plays a southern tin whistle while the others remain silent.

After a while. the leader looks over at the other two and one gets up to patrol the perimeter - also somewhat untinker-like. Of course he doesn't spot Taen, no one ever spots Taen. When he returns to the fire, they finish off their tea and settle into their sleeping sacks, apparently for the night. An hour or two pass and Taen, ever patient, waits to see what else might happen, rightly sensing that something isn't as it seems.

Sure enough, she spies armed soldiers creeping toward the camp. Watching but not getting involved, she watches the men attack, and the tinkers spring from their bedrolls, not nearly as sleepy as they appeared to be. Still, they are outnumbered by larger, armed men. Two of the Dinari escape with soldiers in pursuit, while the third is knocked unconscious by a sword hilt, bound hand and foot and stuffed in a sack.

As the soldiers prepare to leave, she recognizes them as Talis castle guards. A quick search for the other Dinari turns up nothing and she leaves for town.

In the morning, Ferg meets the group at his rooms, reporting that the night went uneventful. He supplies them with a hearty breakfast before joining them to pick up their armor and supplies from the town. Once that's complete, they make their way to Castle Talis.

Passing some more guards on the way to castle without incident, they state their business to the gateman, and are soon led into the keep, where they meet Captain Coll, a square cut fighting man with just the sort of no-nonsense attitude you would expect of castle captain of the guard.

The Captain informs Ferg that his orders haven't changed and no amount of money will get Malis out of jail before the Lord returns from Kaergot. To the party, he expresses his thanks in rescuing his lord and agrees to let them see Wicala Murin, the castle's healer, who has been taking care of Dags.

During this conversation, and perhaps from the very moment the group walked into the castle, Rowen's sword, Hawkwing began a very subtle, constant warning vibration, putting the group on guard against demonic influence, but not pointing out any particular culprit. Neither Khabsha or Cinder's detection spells show any signs of spirits or magic.

Captain Coll introduces Wicala Murin, a young, blonde healer of the Mistress, who leads them to her chambers on the second floor while telling them of Dags McRowd's worsening condition. Apparently he woke briefly after his return from the Shadow Tower, but quickly sank into a worse illness, that even began infecting the servants who were sent to take care of him. Every time the Wicala would heal him, he would get momentarily better, than worsen, to the point where she now fears to try any further healing.

After explaining the risks, she agrees to take Rowen and Khabsha into his tower chamber so they may attempt a more powerful anti-poison spell. Dags indeed looks much worse than last time they saw him. His skin is white, except for angry red blotches at his throat and ears, he is fevered with swollen glands, and unconscious.

Together the two healers work their spells. The magic functions, but Dags doesn't improve.
While they are working, Cinder finds traces of a powerful rune painted onto the archway in the hall. Investigating his books, he learns that it is a secondary warding rune, linked to a more powerful primary rune somewhere nearby. The warding appears to prevent scrying and detection spells within the castle.

When Rowen and Khabsha return with Wical Murin, they wait for the healer to leave before discussing what they found. Before she will let Rowen try a more powerful healing, she wishes to get Master Olifson's approval. Master Olifson is the Seneschal in charge of the castle while the Lord is away. When she leaves to get him, Cinder fills them in on what he found about the rune, explaining that this is probably the cause of Hawkwing's weak and inspecific warning.

Rowen and Khabsha go to meet Master Olifson, an older, well dressed man who decides that before they can attempt the healing, he must send word by Messenger bird to Lord Talis, asking his permission to try the dangerous healing on his friend.

Rowen and Khabsha are led back to the guest chambers and bade to wait, after Master Olifson insists that the group stay for dinner.

Very soon, Master Olifson returns to tell the party that someone has released all the pigeons from the aviary. While he is looking into the matter, he allows Rowen, Khabsha and Cinder to take a tour of the castle, led by his scribe, Kaylin. Graham seeks out some guards to talk with, but is distracted by a pretty servant named Rosy. Taen, who has been posing as a child, takes the opportunity to sneak about the castle.
While on the tour, Rowen, Khabsha and Cinder notice several more secondary runes, but see no master rune. Graham doesn't learn much new from Rosy, but does learn that it is only since the Lord left that the guards have been on an arrest binge. Taen finds the dungeons and finds that they are indeed quite full. She almost gives up on finding the Dinari, but gets lucky and spots some guards leaving a separate smaller dungeon in the outer wall.

Inside, she finds Captain Coll lightly torturing the Dinari, asking him who he really is and what his business in Neued is? The Dinari isn't talking. When the Captain is interrupted to deal with another visitor from town, Taen returns to tell the others what she found.

Master Olifson tells the group that he must carefully consider what to do concerning Dags, before leaving the group to prepare for dinner.

While the group is discussing things, Taen notices a strange delay in Graham's shadow. When she mentions it to Rowen, she quickly casts a light spell and everyone tenses as Graham's shadow separates and flees the room, sliding through the crack in the door.

With this clue in mind, Taen decides to quickly explore the royal quarters, hoping to find the master rune. On her way up the stairs she sees Wicala Murin leaving Dags room with a small box in her hand, and looking suspicious. Taen decides to "shadow" the healer, and watches her enter a small unassuming door in the hallway. Following her further, she sees Murin kneeling by a big black chest in a small storage room.

When Murin begins to leave, Taen quickly flees, and then sees Murin stop in the hallway. A shadow separates from the healer, much like from Graham and flits off down the hall, quickly disappearing. Murin seems to shake her head before walking off in the opposite direction. Storing this tidbit away, Taen returns to her earlier mission.

After picking some locks and sneaking past some guards and servants, Taen finds a secret compartment in Lord Talis' bedchamber, but inside are only precious jewels, which Taen refrains from taking.

On her way back to the guest quarters, Taen checks out the small storage room. She notices a light dusting of powder on the lock to the chest. Gloved, she picks the lock but hears a scritch scratching coming from within and decides not to open it. Searching the rest of the room, she finds a secret door but isn't tall enough to open it. She returns to the others with lots of information.

The scribe, Kaylin, comes to announce that dinner is served in the great hall....

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Shadowed Tower - 08 "Intrigue in Neued"

Tying a rope around Khabsha's waist, she swims down through the tunnel, which descends a short way before coming back up into a half submerged cavern roughly twenty paces across and thirty long. One fitfully sputtering oil lamp gives light and she can see across the chamber two stone columns with bodies tied to them. One body appears to have a large boulder lying across it's lower half, as if the ceiling collapsed. The uneven floor lies about four feet below the sea water, and Khabsha carefully approaches, aware that just because the chamber appears empty of enemies, looks can sometimes be deceiving.

Sure enough, she realizes the truth at the same time that the boulder moves, revealing itself to be a rock shelled crab the size of a small pony. With lightning quickness she brings her shield up just in time to avoid it's massive claw. from across the chamber she sees another crab approaching and quickly retreats toward the entrance, but not quite quick enough.

The first crab reaches out with it's serrated claw and grabs hold of her lower leg, eliciting a cry of pain. She holds her shield up to defend herself from the second crab while slamming her warhammer down on the first, but it's rocky shell deflects the blow. With sharp, urgent tugs she lets the others know that she would most emphatically like to be hauled back to safety.... NOW!

Feeling the tugs, and knowing what they mean, everyone on the other end of the rope pulls. Together with Khabsha's efforts they manage to drag her back to the chamber entrance, with the stubborn crab still holding on to it's equally stubborn meal. Another tug and she is wrenched below the surface and through the tunnel, slamming hard against the underwater cave walls as the crab finally relinquishes it's prize. Gasping for breath, bruised from her rope trip, and nursing her throbbing leg, Khabsha is pulled to safety.

While Graham guards the tunnel, the Oroka shamaness tells the others of the crabs, the bodies and the chamber. She notes that the bodies appeared to be just that, dead bodies, though she couldn't be sure. As Rowen sets to healing her leg, they discuss the science of the tides, and how it probably meant that there was another exit to the chamber. After the healing, they decide it's worth dealing with the crabs and moving forward.

Once more, they take a breath and swim through the tunnel, this time Graham taking the lead. One by one they pop back up in the chamber. The crabs have returned to their meal at the columns. Khabsha, taking advantage of the chance, casts a spell to befriend the creatures. Though she feels a resistant magic already binding them, she's able to break through it and establish her own magic. Eerily, the giant crabs leave off their dinner and scuttle toward Khabsha, apparently ready to protect her now, as opposed to eat her.

Carefully skirting the giant crustaceans, the others check the bodies and the chamber. The bodies turn out to be beyond saving. Pierced through with spears to the chest, the Storm Crow and Ian are somehow glued to the stone. Rowen is able to find a narrow passage beneath the water, that by the push and pull of the current, appears to lead to open water somewhere beyond.

Flanked by her crabs, Khabsha takes a bit of the tongues from both bodies in preparation for her Death Whispers spell. First she asks questions of the Storm Crow, who tells her that he was hired by a masked and cloaked noble in the town of Neued (btw, this is pronounced New-eth). He also tells them that the Nas Kudra mage hid their gear in a secret tunnel a few feet away.

Ian tells Khabsha how they were captured, explaining that their boat crashed on the rock, injuring both men. Soon after, the sea goblin's arrived and their Nas Kudra mage grew incensed, sure that they had stolen his precious Head of Shulheen. In a last, faint whisper, Ian asks Khabsha to save his family before the lips fall silent for good.

With a short search, they find the slab of heavy stone covering the hiding hole. Taen swims down and returns with a large, seal hide sack. Inside the sack they find the Storm Crow's gear, including his leather armor, a finely crafted shortsword, a pouch with much coin and a smaller pouch with a small handful of shiny gems. They also find a strange silver chain of very fine quality and tipped with small clasp-like hooks. Last but not least are a pair of witchwood daggers with arcane runes engraved into them. These Taen takes most eagerly, glad to finally have found the stolen items she sought.

Unable to do anything with the bodies, they then leave the crabs to their meal and swim out through the exit tunnel, emerging in the deep open waters of the sea. After carefully making their way back to shore, they hike back to Kaerig and his boat.

Here they make a decision to go back with Kaerig to see to the welfare of Ian's family, and possibly face the Nas Kudra mage before he can do any more harm. Kaerig warns them that the weather could grow worse and delay their travels to Neued even further, but the group decides to travel south anyway.

Upon reaching Ian's home, the party waits by the boat as Kaerig breaks the news of Ian's death to his wife and daughter. To pass the time, they lay out several snares and traps along the beach, hoping to give any sea goblin raiders a surprise should they follow through on their threats.

When Kaerig returns with Ian's family and sacks full of their belongings, Khabsha offers the woman a sack full of the Stormcrow's coins, offering her the party's condolences and regret that they were unable to save Ian.

Together in the now crowded curragh, they make their way south to Kearig's home. After getting the family settled, and helping the fishermen prepare a defensible camp further back from the shoreline, they offer Kaerig Cinder's armor and the Stormcrow's shortsword, along with several of the sea goblin's spears.
The next morning, they set sail for Neued, unable to put off their mission any longer. Taen, after hearing the story of the Shade demons and the party's quest to stop whatever demonic plot is in the works, decides to accompany them, both in repayment for their help, and because she REALLY hates demons.

The weather holds, and Kaerig delivers them all to Neued that evening. He recommends the Cat's Cauldron, an inn known to him for its fairness and hospitality. He once again thanks them for their help in preparing his home then sets off to sail back toward that home, using what's left of the daylight to get start on the return trip as quickly as possible.

Hiding their Syvani features with hoods and headwraps as best as they can, and disguising Taen as a cloaked child, they make their way into town, unsure of what welcome they may find. At the Cat's Cauldron, Graham pays for rooms. Over dinner in the tavern, they learn that word of the massacre at Wheat Hill has not reached Neued yet, and no one appears to be looking for them. For the moment content, they retire to their rooms for their first night of actual "bed" rest in weeks, even availing themselves of a tub and brush, to wash away what stink of battle, travel and crab the sea could not.

In the morning they split up to accomplish many different tasks. Rowen takes clothing and armor to be mended, finding a Fimar craftsman who, though he apparently shares the Fomish dislike of Syvani, offers to fix the gear for a large sum of coin. Graham and Cinder seek out an apothecary, hoping to purchase some alchemical supplies, picking up what rumor and tales they can on the way. Khabsha and Taen walk the town, gathering what information they can about Laird Jory, the bard Dags and anything else of interest.
Khabsha and Taen find the following:

- Laird Jory and Dags MacRowd returned more than a week ago from the south, after an extended absence. Dags was sick with some strange illness, and the Laird himself was unwell, but Jory has since recovered, and left five days ago to attend the Princess's ball in the capitol... in two days.

- Dags is still in Castle Talis, laid low by whatever illness he is fighting and tended to by the castle healers.
Khabsha, Taen, Graham and Cinder all hear the following information from different sources:
- Woodcutters returned yesterday from the forest to the west, spouting tales of seeing a dragon. No one really believes it, but the sensational nature of the story means its being told alot.

Rowen, Graham and Cinder all notice frequent groups of guards patrolling the town. From the talk of the townsfolk the law is being unusually strict of late, throwing lawbreakers in the stocks or keepin them in the town jail for even small infractions.

Rowen meets up with  Graham and Cinder near the town square. Shortly thereafter, she hears a familiar voice coming from the seat of a nearby wagon. It's Ferg Wayfinder, the Fimar trader. He's in an argument with the leader of three Dinari tinkers, who, by what she can overhear, are looking to rent his mules.
When the Dinari depart, promising to come back in the morning to get his answer, Rowen steps up and makes her presence known. Ferg is delighted to see her. In their ensuing conversation he informs her of the following:

- Upon leaving the Shadow Tower with his caravan guard Malis, they bypassed Wheat Hill and came straight to Neued. He is just about ready to take a full wagon north to Kaergot, but Malice was arrested last night for some unknown reason. He suspects it might have to do with Malice's mixed Syvani blood.

- The Dinari tinkers want to pay Ferg a great deal of money for the rental of all of his mules and ponies. They insist that the exact nature of their need can't be discussed, but promise him the animals will be returned in one day. Ferg is weighing his suspicion and fear that the tinkers will steal his animals and prevent him from making his northward trip over the prospect of quick and easy profit.

Regardless, he wants to treat the party to dinner in hopes of starting to repay them for his rescue from his possessed caravan guard, Geordie. Rowen gladly accepts and the three adventurers walk back toward the Cat' Cauldron. Graham mentions to the others that he spied what looked to be a secreted sword strapped to the Dinari tinker leader's back, and that none of the Dinari seemed very "tinker-like," being far to serious for the usually fun loving gypsies.

Back at the Cauldron, everyone discusses the days events and what they might mean. Dag's continued illness worries them, and the fact that Laird Jory is to attend the princess's ball in two days worries them even more. Any horse or ship travel to Kaergot will take nearly a week, meaning they may very well be too late regardless of what they discover between now and then.

Who the masked noble is that the Stormcrow whispered about is also on their mind. They feel that he would have mentioned the noble's size, if it were Jory Talis. Graham only knows a little of the nobles in town. He believes there are three or four noble families that live in estates around Neued and owe fealty to the Laird.
Some in the group feel the the Dinari might have some connection as well, though no one know how.

It is agreed that they must try to see Dags first, both to cure him if he is indeed still damaged from the shadow poison, or to talk with him if something else is the case.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Shadowed Tower - 07 "The Lair of the Sea Goblins"

As the group speeds away under full sail, they begin to discuss what happened at the rock, and the poor fate of the fisherman, Ian. But not long after, Rowen spies a black cormorant with a strange plume approaching. With bows ready they watch the bird circle the boat before landing at the prow and changing into an airy shape of a Nas-kudra wizard. the illusory image goes on to spout what seems to be a pre-recorded message from said wizard:

"Defilers of the temple of Shulheen. Murderers of the Kudra No Shulheenan and blasphemous thieves. Your actions are unforgivable, yet I offer you one chance to check the tide and right the wrong you have done. Return the blessed Head of Shulheen and I will spare the lives of your two tribesmen. Do it not, and I will feed them their own entrails before giving their bodies to the red sharks. The boatman is known to us, and I swear by Shulheen's bloody tit that his brood will share his fate! ALONG WITH YOU, YOUR KINFOLK AND ALL WHO CALL YOU FRIEND!! Turn around and return the head or suffer the wrath of Shulheen and her servants..."

What could the message mean? Obviously the group doesn't have the "blessed head of Shulheen," whatever that is, but for some reason the sea goblins believe they do. The message also seemed to imply that both the Stormcrow and Ian are held captive, and if they don't have the stolen item, then where could it be?

Cinder comes to at this point as well, having finally shaken the last effects of the Stormcrow's poison.

After a short deliberation, in which the advantages of getting to Newydd ahead of the Stormcrow are weighed against condemning Ian to a cruel fate, the group decides to send Taen back to the sea goblin's rock to scout the lay of the land. Beaching the curragh, they build a small fire and set to drying out clothing while Taen heads down the coastline.

As it turns out, Taen's idea of reconnaissance has more to do with a one-faelinarie assault force than a scouting mission. After killing several goblins with well aimed arrows and searching a bit of the small tunnels inside the rock, she beats a hasty retreat, having stirred the hornet's nest but not found Ian or her assassin stepbrother.

Two candles later, after returning to the rock with the others, leaving only Kaerig behind with the boat, the group sees that the sea goblins are truly watchful now, with many lookouts upon the rock. Sneaking close through the heavy surf while in spider form, Cinder launches a truly impressive fireball that pretty much envelopes the entire rock and decimates several goblins.

Cinder then casts a levitation spell, ingeniously using Taen for the lateral push necessary to bring Graham, Khabsha and himself to the rock without the need of swimming in really heavy armor. Rowen takes the wet approach and almost gets attacked by the 12 foot red shark patrolling the waters around the rock. Thankfully, Cinder is able to Arcane tendril the finned menace before it reaches her.
Once everyone is on the rock, which has been melted to a smooth texture by arcane fire, they work their way quickly around to the submerged entrance. Asking who's to go first, Rowen volunteers Khabsha by giving her a push (Comedic moment on the character with a missing player). Graham and the others quickly follow, and after dealing with a couple more goblin guards underwater they are ready to enter the lair.

Our next comedic moment comes when they are deciding who will pop their head up into the lair first. Khabsha admonishes Rowen with a raised hand and warning shake of the head, conveying that she will not be pushed to the front again. Rowen looks over her shoulder through the water and sees the red shark approaching before shrugging and hurrying into the tunnel. Khabsha looks over her shoulder before quickly following.

Inside the lair they make short work of the goblins on the landing before moving off down the cramped tunnel, Graham in the lead. At the first junction, they spy a strange, spiked growth on the cave wall just before it expands and detonates, sending spiny missiles in all directions. Graham takes the brunt of them, and they burn with terrible pain where they pierce his skin, one coming so close to his eye that he thanks the Gods (and survival points) it didn't blind him. Those behind him are mostly shielded from the blast, but still manage to take a spine or two from the trap.
Following Taen's directions, they head left, up the tunnel passage toward the shrine she saw earlier. A second Exploding Urchin trap is disarmed with a well placed arrow and they emerge in the shrine room, where there are no enemies to be found.

With no other apparent options, they turn back down and ready themselves to enter the submerged passage to the right of the entrance hall, aware that the sea goblins and their mage have had time to prepare who knows what, but determined to see the mission through….

Monday, October 8, 2012

Shadowed Tower - 06 "Take Ship to the North!"

Cinder scouts the sentry perch in arachnid form and finds a dead brigand sentry along with a nasty dagger trap, which slashes one of his main spider forelegs. Making his way back to the others, he begins to succumb to the poison from the trap, only barely making it back to the others in time for them to heal the wound and neutralize the poison. Unfortunately, the mage is left in a reduced state of mental awareness from the neuro-venom, a condition that Rowen and Khabsha think will take some time to wear off. Cinder is able to follow commands and mount and ride his horse, but can't do much beyond that for the time being. (This is what comes of player absence)

The group places Cinder in a protected spot in the marching order and proceeds with caution. A little further on, Khabsha spots a second sentry that quickly vanishes. With little choice beyond turning back, they make their way forward, coming at last to a protected cave Graham says the brigands use for sheltering their horses. With little other choice, they decide to unpack and leave the horses, moving onto the brigand camp by foot.

While this is going on, the newest character, Taen, a Faelinarie rogue, enters the scene. Taen has been on a quest to find the Storm Crow, and has been tracking his movements and activities. She is hot on his trail and scouting the bandit camp from the air, when she spots the approach of Rowen and the others. She also sees the brigand scout report to his fellows, watching the bandit crew prepare an ambush.

Graham goes ahead of the party to scout and parley, hoping to meet his fellow outlaws and prevent an unwanted and violent greeting, but borrowing Khabsha's shield just in case this scouting mission goes anything like his last one outside of Wheat Hill. The confrontation is a tense one, but Graham is able to talk with the brigand's leader. The party enters the camp to find eight brigands led by Leather John. The dead scout in the sentry nest was one of Leather John's youngest men. Another of his men, Sam Creed, was killed right in camp, no more than a half candle past.

The Swans fill Leather John in on what has transpired at Wheat Hill, and the machinations of the Storm Crow. John informs them that the Storm Crow came into camp yesterday and hired twenty men for a raid. Taen sneaks close enough to hear the news, as well as swipe several spitted chunks of rabbit meat from the fires. With the prospect of an angry posse of Clan soldiers on the way, Leather John and his men decide to hire a boat south. When they learn that Sam Creed's younger brother is a fisherman who lives on the shoreline not far from their current location, it seems obvious that the Storm Crow was also hunting for a boat.

The two groups join forces and head to the coast. Taen flies on ahead to try and find the Storm Crow.

When Taen reaches the fisherman's hut on the promontory, she finds that the Storm Crow has already commandeered the boat and taken the fisherman hostage. The man's wife and child tell her the tale after getting over the wonder of the faelinarie's presence. Taen promises to return the fisherman safely before leaving.

She's just about to head out to sea when she spots the group of adventurers and outlaws approaching the promontory. Deciding she needs to catch the group up on the important bits, she zips down among them, reporting her findings to Rowen, (who tells Taen of the boat they saw out at sea), causing one hell of a panic among the Neran outlaws, and then quickly zipping out to sea, in pursuit of the Storm Crow.

Her attempt to catch the boat proves difficult. The winds off the coast whip her about incessantly and she quickly tires. She loses her sense of direction and gets blown off course and overland. Unable to catch the boat, she opts to return to the group, hoping to join up with them long enough to catch her quarry.

Meanwhile, the Swans opt to cut across the promontory and try a group of fishermen huts further south, reaching their goal around midnight. They decide to wait until morning before approaching, bedding down on the dunes.

Taen finds them a while after, approaching Rowen and telling her tale, offering to accompany the party since they are traveling in the same direction. As it turns out, the Storm Crow is Taen's foster brother, who has turned against her Syvani father's teachings. He recently stole a pair of magical daggers from her father. Taen is seeking him out to take back the daggers and stop Finn Colum - his actual name - if she can.

They hire a boat and and fisherman named Kerig to sail it, and set out on a trip that should be a day. Northward in their trip, they spy a wrecked curragh on a rocky spire. Kerig confirms that the boat is Ian's, the fisherman taken hostage. It is wrecked within a bit of inhospitable shoreline known to be the haunt of a water dwelling clan of Knockfar kudra.

Kerig brings their boat as close as he dares and works at keeping it there while Taen flies to the spire to investigate. She spots a shape in the wrecked boat for a quick moment but sees no sign of the Storm Crow or Ian. On top of the sixty foot spire she sees a bit of ripped sail with a stash of supplies. Investigating it, she is attacked by several Kudra wielding javelins.

She easily avoids their attacks and sends a return arrow between the eyes of one unfortunate Kudra before buzzing back to the others. As she reports her findings, several loud thumps sound from beneath the boat. Tearing back the canvas padding, they find that several barbed spear points have pierced the hull, negating Kerig's attempts to hoist sail and flee. Realizing quickly that they must cut the ropes anchoring them, Khabsha and Graham jump overboard, into the choppy, frigid waters, where they encounter several angry kudra warriors armed with thin spears.

The fighting is fierce, and both Graham and Khabsha take minor injuries, several times nearly getting skewered, but they manage to cut ropes and kill kudra. With the help of Rowan and the others above they get all but the last rope free, and the boat strains at its single tether. Not wanting to leave their submerged comrades behind, Rowen tosses a bit of spear tip with a light spell as a signal. Graham sees it drift down and notes with some surprise, a bloated shape floating thirty feet below them that seems to be tied with ropes. From beneath this contraption come several more Kudra.

As Khabsha and Graham surface, they grab hold of the boat just as Rowen dislodges the last of the anchors and the craft surges forward. With strenuous effort they are hoisted in and to safety as the boat speeds away.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Shadowed Tower - 05 "Trouble in Wheat Hill"

Having survived the brigands ambush, and the Stormcrow's assassination attempt, the group waits for Rowen, who scouts the area in wolf form. Though she finds the Stormcrow's "nest", there doesn't appear to be a trail leading from it. The possibility that their assassin might also be a shapechanger crosses everyone's minds, but Rowen finds no sign of that either. With nothing further to go on, they mount up and ride to the nearby tower, just to check things out. They find signs that the brigands used the area to prepare, but nothing post ambush. Having already wasted enough of their day, they decide it is best to make hast to Wheat Hill.

Making all haste, but sparing the horses any permanent damage, they make their way north up the trade road. Though everyone stays vigilant, they are still taken by surprise when a bolt drops Jimmy as they ride through a dense section of forest. As Khabsha and Cinder see to their fallen escort, Rowen and Graham seek the assassin in the trees. Jimmy's wound proves fatal and at first Rowen-wolf finds no scent of the Stormcrow. As they are about to give up, Rowen catches the faint scent of an unknown horse. Gathering their things, and stashing Jimmy's body, they move off in pursuit.

The assassin's trail shows a hasty progress through the wildlands between the road and the coast. As darkness draws near, they come upon a slain horse, obviously ridden to collapse. With something less than shock, Rowen finds no scent or track leading from the scene. To the east lies harsh terrain and the rocky coast. Graham knows it to be a favorite locale for outlaws on the run. to the Northwest lies Wheat Hill and the trade road. Deciding that following an assassin who apparently has Deception magics would prove extremely difficult, they head back toward the road, making camp in a cave Graham knows of.

Thankfully, no one wakes up dead in the morning. Rising early, they make their way along woodsmen's paths back to the trade road. As they near Wheat Hill, they see a farmer's cottage and a family working in the garden. When the family spies them, they all hurry indoors, shuttering windows. Rowen gets a sinking feeling.

Next they see a pall of smoke hanging in the skies above Wheat Hill. Deciding it might be good to learn more before heading forward, they send Graham ahead. Asking some peasants, he finds that Wheat Hill has been recently attacked by a band of Syvani and their brigand allies.

While the rest of the party waits in the forest, the one most suitable to blending, scouts out the village road. When Graham comes upon a group of soldiers guarding the road he plays it cool, even going so far as to ask what the commotion is about. When the soldiers eye is weaponry and ask his name, he gives it. Upon hearing his name, they demand that he get off his horse and submit to being arrested. When the two closest soldiers attempt to arrest him, he pulls his halberd and proceeds to beat all four in some seriously adept combat, even going so far as to use the blunt end to try and spare their lives. Riding back to the others, he passes on the bad news.

Soon the horns sound from the roadway, and the team must make a quick decision which way to flee. They decide to cut back across the road and head toward the coast, where they might be able to hire a boat that can take them North straight to Neued. Graham works at covering their trail and they give the soldiers the slip, at least for the moment. Heading back to the coast.

As night falls we find the group weary, on the edge of the rocky coastlands. Graham has noted a likely brigands lookout post ahead. As a precaution, they are preparing to send Spider-Cinder up the cliffs to check out the spot before proceeding.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Shadowed Tower - 04 "Whitewood"

The party came out of Cairn Nan Arq and the Shadowed Tower, deciding what they were going to do next. Preparing to leave for the northern village, Rowen spots fresh tracks near the pond and heading toward the now fordable river to the south. Recognizing the tracks as the recently deceased Tom's, with one booted foot and one bare foot, they quickly discover his dug up grave. Deciding he is still in league with the demon, they feel obligated to run him down and make sure he stays dead.

They head south across the river, Rowen's sword Hawkwing picking up the vague demonic presence of Dead Tom, who's tracks eventually lead into a scrub choked ravine to the east of the road.

Rowen takes her wolf form and leads Graham into the ravine, while Cinder, Khabsha and Jorel follow alongside, waiting for sign that they have found Tom. A little ways in they do find Tom, hidden in a dark space. Rowen is about the get the jump on him when Cinder shouts from above, "Have you found anything yet?" Thus alerted, Tom takes off running.

Even on his best day Tom would have been no match for a wolf, and Rowen quickly trips him up. unfortunately , before she can do more than harass him, he convulses and does some transforming of his own, becoming a monstrous creature, half spider, half man. Rowen-wolf and spiderbeast engage. Chitonous legs are snapped and the creature that was once Tom nearly bites Rowen when the fates intervene and she miraculously evades the attack, reversing the situation and snapping Tom's neck with her powerful jaws. In his spasms of death, he rattles off, "You are too late! Chaos cannot be stopped the world will burn!"

When the others join them in the ravine's base, they search the body before, wanting no repeat of events, Cinder burns it to ash. In Tom's crude pack they find two books. One is a Dinari tome and the other a Kuranani book. The Kuranani book is a evil looking thing, covering anatomy and dark surgical practices. The Dinari book, when examined with a spell of Understanding, turns out to be alchemical work on a special substance called Nightfire, which is apparently highly explosive when exposed to even the smallest light source.

In the area where Tom was hiding before the chase, they find a hastily inscribed circle in the dirt and a lingering feel of magic in the area, as if Tom were casting some kind of spell just before he was found.

The group decides to send Joril North to report to Wheat Hill and Lord Talis' men what has transpired at the tower, while they continue travelling south a ways, to see where Tom might have been heading.
Before long they reach a village called Whitewood. While no one seems to know of Tom or his business, the Headman is rather rude, and obviously looks down on Syvani. Still, they are grudgingly given food and a bed for the night. Somewhere between house arrest and guest status, they are nonetheless able to study the books further.

Cinder finds a crease in the Kuranani book, where something had obviously recently been studied. A surgical procedure in where a foreign object can be placed into a living subject's abdomen. Dots are connected and they all remember the "wounds" on Jory Talis's stomach that had been magically healed even before their arrival. In the morning they decide to go North again, to warn Jory. Headman Gowen "offers' to send four guards with the party, nominally to ensure their safety but more obviously to act as guards on the group.

Important Names
Whitewood Village: Along the trade road in Ffom. South of Shadow Tower.
Gowan: Racist Headman of Whitewood.
Mary: Gowan's timid wife.
Jimmy: Village Guard. Nicest of the lot.
Ann: Fisherman's wife. Provided characters with clothing and info.
Kadig and Ewin: Village warriors.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Shadowed Tower - 02-03 "A Dark Portal"

Having travelled hard to catch up to his friends, Cinder finds them gathered around the campfire waiting for nightfall. After introductions are made, and he is filled in on the current situation, Cinder joins the group. (The MAGE has joined the party!)

After some investigation of the pond, they notice the reflection of the tower shows a much more complete version of the scattered ruins, and a light shining from the shadow towers window. After some consideration, the groups walks into the pond and comes out undrenched on the darkened shore of the pond. The land is slightly different on this side of the portal, a darker and more sinister version of the plane they obviously left behind. Though they can't be sure, they believe they have stepped through to Cair Nan Arq.... the Twilight Lands. (cue Rod Serling)

Rowen keeps Hawkwing to hand as they advance up the hill toward the tower. The blade remains still. The main entrance is crumbled and broken, but by hunching and a bit of maneuvering, they enter and make their way down a dark and debris strewn hall, Rowen and Cinder's magic light their way. They find themselves in a circular chamber. A large part of the ceiling has collapsed, revealing a shadowed floor above and one likely hallway leads off. Within the debris, they also finds several clues. Dried blood on the stone, and a small bit of torn tartan, which Dags reveals to be Jory Talis's colors. At least partial evidence that the missing laird came this way. They decide to check out the hallway first.

Rowen's keen eyes reveal a pit trap concealed with a bit of camoflauged cloth. An inspection of the pit reveals broken blades at the bottom, and evidence of a collapsed tower basement. While Cinder is reconning the pit, he spies something shiny in the crawl space of the basement. Though its a tight fit, his levitation spell bolsters his adventurous pirit and he glide/crawls further in. Halfway to his goal, he realizes with a sinking heart that the space seems to be lined with some kind of sticky, webbing. Just as he decides to retreat, dark, man sized forms reach out and grab at him. Nimbly dodging their attacks, he hurries for safety, only just realizing that they aren't actually spiders, but some form of dark humanoids. The team pulls him to safety and the creatures don't follow.

Making their way past the pit they next find a relatively undamaged set of stairs leading down. At the base of the stairs is a door that seems to be blocked. After some investigation, they find that a body is blocking the door. It is a human warrior wearing the plaid of a Talis guard. The space beyond appears to be a dungeon, with many small cells. In the farthest cell they find Jory Talis himself, wasted, disturbingly filthy, but alive. As they discuss the likelihood that this IS indeed the Fommish lord and not some demonic doppleganger, Dags drops unconscious, apparently succumbing to a poison that was coated on the handle of Jory's cell. Now burdened with two who can't walk, they fashion slings and decide to carry the wounded back out of Cair Nan Arq.

When they reach the pond, they are disheartened to see that it is a still and solid surface - impassable. Hawkwing gives warning as shadow spawn advance down the hill. While this at first seems bad, it turns out to be an excellent opportunity for Cinder to try out his new fire spell. Several blasts later, dozens of spawn are destroyed and the moon reappears in the sky, opening the portal and letting the group out.


Once out of the portal, they make a trip to the closest village to the North,. Burrin offers to take Jory and Dags to the King while the others return to the tower. interestingly when they inquire about Ferg Wayfinder they learn that he and his wagon never came through the village. Back at the tower, the group finds that Tom's grave has been exhumed and the body is gone.

When the moon rises, they once again enter. No Spawn bar their way as they return to the tower. In the central chamber, Cinder summons his earth elemental and they learn of another stairwell down. They instead climb up. After Rowen is bit by a shadow spider while searching the room, they continue upward In the attic of the tower they are attacked by several more shadow spawn and a much larger, Shadow Troll that seems at least partially immune to magic.

Partial isn't enough however, and they eventually destroy it, find a chest of treasure stowed in the rafters and depart the tower once more. Though they defeated the creature, all seem to think that something about the encounter didn't seem final enough. When we end the session, they are gathered around the fire, once more out of the Shadow Realm.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Shadowed Tower - 01 "A Rest for the Night"

The adventure continues with the Order of the Swan...

PC: Rowen - Syvani Wical of the Huntress. Female Archer and divine caster.
PC: Cinder - Kirith Syvani Mage. Master of Fire and arcane power. (Absent this session)
PC: Khabsha - Oroka shamaness of Mogda - Deathwalker. Gallows humor with bones in her hair and bone armor.
PC: Baern – Durin Warrior. Yer typical bearded jewel freak with a penchant for chopping things with his axe.
PC: Graham – Neran warrior. Freebooter in search of employment.

It turns out, being stranded in the depths of Mar nan Os isn’t so bad with a wical of Cynwen in the party. After a funeral for Weylin, Though it takes a little time, Rowen is able to contact a friendly spirit and lead Cinder and Khabsha to a safe gateway back to the prime plane of Alkevaaron. Unfortunately, the gateway puts them in Ffom, on the far northern coast of Aeranos, in the fringes of the Winter wood. A long travel from the Forever plains.

Since they are all interested to learn the outcome of the battle between the Badgers and the Bloodwolves, and to learn the fate of Fathak – who must have been left in the cavern, and Beta – who led the tribeless in battle, they decide to travel back to the tribelands of the Oroka.

Taking advantage of the proximity to a Mage Guild's tower, where he has some business to conduct, Cinder offers to catch up to them later. After equipping themselves with horses and travel supplies, Rowen and Khabsha make their way along the old trade route between Neb and Neued, where they plan on skirting the Winter Wood. It is here that we pick up the tale, with the tall Syvani druidess and her fair Oroka Shamaness companion just arriving at a ruined tower just off the road, where an old stone wall and a travelers fire offers respite from the cold north winds.

The Old Tower is actually an aging Neran structure built inside the fallen ruins of an even older Giant’s tower. The whole thing somewhat resembles giant, gnarled and ancient teeth reaching from the hilltop and devouring the stone ruins within. A glassy pond lies at the base of the hill and a huge Warden Oak spreads its branches nearby. Permanent shadows underneath, and thick gnarly roots create small caves at the base of the tree. A stream trickles under the oak and makes it way into the pond.

Rowen and Khabsha are welcomed at the fire and introduced to the other travelers. They include:
-          A Fimar craftsman by the name of Ferg Wayfinder, traveling with his trade-wagon and his two guards, Geordie Finn and Malis Ap Dearg, a Neran and Kirith-Syvani warrior.
-          A quiet, local farmer named Tom McAislin, tall and thin with a long, thin beard.
-          A dour Durin warrior named Baern, who offers little other than ad admission that he’s “travelling south”
-          A roguish looking mercenary named Graham, who immediately gains Rowens attention by the fine and well cared for Syvani blade he carries.
-          And last, an unobtrusive begger in threadbare cloak and rags, with a nasty cough, who stays well back from the fire.

Ferg and Geordie are the most outgoing of the group, inviting the two priestesses to share their fire and tell a bit about themselves. Malis, the beggar and the farmer are all less forthcoming, though none are rude. Geordie explains that the river has made the nearby ford impassable, and thus everyone is waiting it out here until the river subsides. Rowen regales the group with a well told tale of their recent adventures. Ferg tells of his less exciting adventures in trading with the hardened villagers of Ffom, Tom explains that he’s traveling to visit a sick mother in Kaergot and Baern and GRAHAM are two lone travelers temporarily “path-bound” as traveling companions while their journeys match.

After a shared meal, and a bit of dicing between Baern, Malis, Graham, Geordie, Khabsha and Ferg, in which Graham walks away the winner, the beggar offers to play a tune on his tin whistle in return for the meal, though he still shies away from conversation. He’s very good. Even though no threat presents itself, the adventurers blood in all their veins requires that a watch be set, though Rowen and Khabsha are willing to share it with the others. For his part, Ferg says goodnight and sleeps in his wagon, while his guards take turns keeping their own watch near the wagon.

In the early morning hours, Khabsha hears a strange ringing coming from their gear. A quick search reveals the source to be the magic blade, Hawkwing, that has set a small iron pot to humming with its vibration. Waking Rowen, they quickly discuss this newfound power of the blade, and note that the Silver Swans explained the blade had powers against demons. Thus alerted, they make a scan of the camp and find both the beggar and the farmer gone.

A few moments later they hear a strangled cry from the pond at the base of the hill. Rushing there with weapons drawn, they find the beggar pulling the farmer from the pond. Once he’s safe, he explains he awoke to find “something” dragging him into the depths of the small pond. The beggar explains that he was getting a drink from the stream when he heard the farmer and was first on the scene. He saw no attacker, but pulled the farmer from the water.

Rowen explains the swords powers to Ferg and the others and they build the fire high, keeping careful watch until morning, but no other danger presents itself.

In the morning, Baern, Rowen, Graham and Khabsha search the area for clues. Guessing that something might live in the bowels of the tree, Khabsha searches there. Rowen investigates the pond while Baern looks through the ruins. Graham examines the tracks around the attack site. Several of the party notice Geordie arguing with Ferg, but don’t know what it’s about.

Khabsha’s thorough search only gets her muddy, and even a detection spell around the tree and pond reveal no spirit activity. Baern’s search reveals a large, grass covered mound behind the tower, that to his trained Durin eye, appears to hide an old, namer-made structure of some sort, but he finds nothing further. Rowen keeps Hawkwing to hand, but feels no further emanations from the blade, and finds no clues. Graham  discovers that Tom the Farmer appears to have walked down the hill to the pond, while the beggar’s story seems to have been the truth. These investigations all take a great deal of the day.

Ferg sends Malis to the river to check the ford, and Graham, when finished with his tracking, accompanies him. While they are away, and while the group is busy investigating, a shout is heard from the tower, When everyone comes running, they find Ferg bleeding from a stab wound with the beggar and the farmer kneeling at his side. They explain that Geordie stabbed the Fimar and ran off over the hill. Though Ferg is weak, he adds that Geordie was angry and raving at losing at dice, though why he was mad at him, Ferg couldn’t say. He was trying to calm the lad down when Geordie stabbed him and ran off. Nearly done in by the deep wound, Ferg than passes out.

While Baern and the beggar chase after Geordie, Rowen and Khabsha set to healing Ferg while Tom keeps watch. Rowen’s magic does the trick, and what was probably a fatal wound for Ferg, becomes an old scar. Baern expects that Geordie is long gone by now, which leaves him surprised to find the young man not far off, sitting in the grass, crying and confused. Geordie pleads some kind of temporary insanity to Baern and the beggar. The beggar takes Geordies dagger, handling the blade with a  familiarity that leaves Baern wondering at the beggars true talents, before they lead Geordie back to the tower, where he is relieved to find Ferg still alive.

Malis and Graham return from the river ford, having found it still too high and fast for a crossing, to discover all that has transpired in their absence. Malis is understandably angry at Geordie, who is miserable and ashamed. Rowen and Khabsha reiterate to the group that demonic influence may be at work. After discussing everyone’s motives for being at the camp. They decide Tom’s story is the weakest, since everyone else is traveling south, and thus must wait for the ford to lower, while Tom is supposedly traveling north, and thus has no reason to hang around.

When they confront the farmer, he grows nervous, but answers that he doesn’t often venture from his farm, and was just enjoying the trip. This is obviously not likely, since Tom has barely interacted with the others. When he decides he’s had enough, and starts to gather his supplies to leave, Rowen pulls out the truth spell and hits him with “What is your true purpose here?” Tom blurts out, “To sew the seeds of chaos for the master” before he can stop himself. Realizing the gig is up, he takes off running, with Baern and Graham in hot pursuit.

Tom makes it to the edge of the pond before he’s slammed to the ground by the two warriors, snapping his leg in the process. Thus immobilized, they proceed to start questioning him, but he refuses to answer, claiming that the Syvani witch forced him to say these things. No one buys it. They search Tom’s bag and find a satchel of old gems and jewels.

It’s at this point that Khabsha notices Geordie is no longer by the fire pit. A quick search finds him inching toward Ferg, with his hands hidden behind his back. With little time, she shouts a warning, but no one is close enough to stop Geordie as he pulls a dagger and lunges for Ferg. Khabshas arrow finds Geordie’s back and kills him before he can murder his employer. In the confusion that ensues, Tom tries to throw himself into the pond, but is stopped by his leg and his captors.

Once dragged back to the tower, Tom is tied up and questioned further. When Rowen attempts another truth spell, Tom begins to shake violently and turn purple. Shadows bleed from his eyes and ears and wrap about his throat. When Hawkwing is pressed to his throat, the shaking grows worse, but the shadows disperse. Tom is left alive, but incoherent and catatonic, possibly permanently.

Several discussions are had at this point. One revolves around why Tom was heading toward the pond? Another revolves around what was controlling Tom and Geordie. A third is centered around the possibility of packing up and leaving before anyone else ends up dead or worse. Ferg is all for heading out. Strangely, the beggar sides with Rowen, Baern and Khabsha in wanting to stick around and solve the mystery. They decide to let Ferg and Malis go. Ferg offers his thanks and reminds them that he owes them a debt before departing, taking Geordies body with them.

Once the craftsman and his guard have left, the beggar is questioned, and comes clean. He reveals himself to be Dags McRowd, the Ffomish King’s Bard,  sent to investigate the disappearance of the King’s cousin, Jory Talis from this area a few weeks ago. He offers to search the pond, and after being secured with rope he dives in and makes a thorough search, but only gets really muddy.

It is decided that Tom isn’t likely to recover, and might be a threat. Tom is put down, and then questioned by Khabsha with her Death Whispers spell, specifically about where his “master” is and how to get there? The first answer is “through the gateway, in the shadows”. The second is “when the light of the moon reflects from the pond.”

Thus informed, the party knows where to go and how to get there. It is only left to wait for nightfall, which is close. Dags retrieves his armor and gear and the group gathers about the pond….