Grey Reach

Session Nine

Darvin appeared near us with a crack of lightning, looking disoriented. We gave him an update on the state of affairs. I wrote a letter, extolling Dimweir’s virtues and assistance and mourning his death. I then sent it off to the heads of the Shield.

After dealing with some further town business, we set off to tend to the nymph situation. Upon arriving at the idyllic glade, one of the nymphs approached us, her expression wary and concerned. When I explained who we were and why we had come, a few more heads appeared at the edge of the spring, and giggles drifted through the air.

Darvin stared, his mouth slack, while I spoke to the nymph. She said that there were creatures attacking the spring which was a problem since they were bound to protect it for the next thousand years. The creatures stayed at the edges of the spring, and when the nymphs headed to handle them . The creature looked like a fat baby with fly wings. I frowned, trying to ascertain what the creatures were while Darvin continued drooling.

Asakku and I postulated while Darvin wondered aloud about whether or not they would kiss each other. The nymphs told us that the creature came from the north and asked us to slay the thing.

It didn’t take us long to find the creature, and I addressed it in both common and Celestial. It answered me in garbled Celestial, saying it was here on orders, but would not tell me whom it was serving or why. My Celestial is a little rusty, and I think I insulted its mother…

Darvin, through me, tried to convince it we were conducting a fae and magical being census that happened twice every millennia. After a few stumbles through translation, it revealed its master’s name: Akeedar.

The name rung bells, and I recognized it as a mythic, historical figure. There were several instances of heroes dealing with a devil named Akeedar. They would make a deal that seemed rather good to them at the time, but fell folly to nitpicky details that cost them their soul.

Following that revelation, we decided we knew enough and engaged the creature in battle. Asakku blasted the beast with his flame, and the beast let loose a wet, guttural laugh. Well, that was less helpful than we could have hoped.

Darvin, conversely, flung a magic missile at it, and the beast shrieked as the two projectiles slammed into it. In pain and fear, the monster lifted its hand, howling in pain and fear as it tore a hole in reality. Darvin must have damaged it, for it lost the spell quickly. While the other two held back, I charged forward, letting loose a roar.

Unfortunately, Asakku killed it before I reached it. Why does this keep happening? Ugh. Either way, the beast was dead. It vanished, and we backed away, returning toward the nymph’s glade. During the walk, the stench of rot and death filled our noses, and we discovered patches of mushrooms that covered our way back. Darvin identified them as magical, though he couldn’t tell much more than that they were fae in origin.

Asakku looked for a way through them to no avail. Looking around, we realized the mushrooms were everywhere around us. We somehow wandered into the center of the glade without stepping on them, but I wasn’t entirely sure it would be a good idea for us to move on.

One way or another, there was no avoiding stepping on them somehow. Asakku picked up a stick and tossed it at the furthest patch he could reach to see if there was any reaction. When the mushroom broke, we heard some manner of angry screech. A distressingly humanoid face and arms grew from a maggot-like creature the size of a man clinging to the edifice of the tree. The horrifying beast bared its teeth in our direction.

Asakku turned and slashed at the beast, and Darvin retreated behind me and launched magic at the shrieking maggoty monstrosity. His jaw tightened, but the creature continued shrieking despite its terrible wounds. Moving in beside Asakku, I slashed at the beast’s face, trying to remove its head. The blow didn’t land as deep a wound as I would have expected for a maggot, but it winced and shook a little.

“Kill this thing, Asakku!” Darvin bellowed, looking a little paler than usual, though just as resolute as ever. Asakku rammed his spear into the beast. Darvin moved around us, snarling as he hurled magic through the air. It missed the maggot thing, by a few inches. A limb cracked off the tree, and leaves fell around us, shivering through the air from the shock.

Still howling, the beast shimmied up the tree, the shriek changing pitch into an almost intolerable scream. I grit my teeth as the sound made my teeth ache in my head. Behind me, Darvin let out a panicked, high scream and ran helter-skelter away in a panicked scrabble.

I dropped my sword at my feet, unslinging my crossbow from behind me, aiming it up. Distracted by Darvin’s screaming, I missed my shot and grit my teeth as I reloaded the bow. “Get him! We don’t know what’s out there!” I bellowed at Asakku. He gave me a brief nod before taking off after Darvin.

The beast launched through the air, twisting over my head and landing on the ground behind me. It howled and slashed at me with its little claws. Its little claws sunk into me, drawing blood and leaving streaks of pollen on my armor. I recoiled, firing my crossbow at it. The bolt missed, sinking into the ground beside it.

The maggot’s shrill screaming hit me like a freight train. Fear raced through me, making my heart pump faster than I could remember, and every shadow in the forest felt like it grew teeth. Sliding my foot under the falchion, I dropped the crossbow at my feet and kicked my falchion into the air, catching it in one hand. Stepping forward, I let out a yell that was half fear, half fury and rammed the blade down into the beast. White ichor oozed from the wound, sliding down its thick, leathery skin. I knew I would have nightmares about this for weeks.

The maggot slithered back from me, leaving behind a glistening trail of ichor. It rushed up the tree, moving with inhuman speed. Globs of white liquid clung to the branches and bark. Stepping back, I dropped my falchion and crouched, picking up my crossbow. My hands trembled as I fought to reload the crossbow.

A spell shrieked up into the canopy from a figure that looked like Darvin, slamming into the maggot beast. My stomach clenched. Last I had seen, Darvin and Asakku had fled into the trees, and for all I knew the figure that showed itself was… No. If the figure came closer, I’d address it, but for now that monster in the tree was the closest.

A creature that looked like Asakku came charging up toward me. I moved back and away from it, firing. The bolt grazed him, cutting a narrow track across his arm. The thing wearing Darvin’s face, launched magic after the maggot. I clenched my teeth, turning my crossbow at Darvin.

I reloaded, and sent a bolt into Darvin. The bolt caught him in the leg, sending blood spraying everywhere. The cloud over me lifted, and I blinked. My chest tightened as I realized that I had shot the real Darvin and the real Asakku.

“Now that you’ve shot me, you bitch, do you have Lay On Hands?” Darvin choked, out, glaring at me from the base of a nearby tree.

“Oh hell, Darvin,” I said, my throat tightened as I took stock of what was happening. The maggot creature had reached the canopy. I could almost not see it any longer, though through the foliage I couldn’t tell much more. Asakku had scrambled up the tree and wore a look of fury and determination.

Lowering the crossbow, I rushed forward to Darvin and pressed a hand to his back. I prayed, apologizing to Bahamut for losing my sight and my way. Power coursed through me, rushing to my fingertips, and the wound in his leg sealed, leaving behind a faint, pink scar.

Above us, Asakku and the beast chased each other through the trees. Asakku sent a gout of flame up the trunk after the beast while Darvin and I watched. I reloaded my crossbow, deflecting Darvin’s teenage advances. That boy would stick his bits into anything.

Above us, the nasty little thing howled. I walked over to the tree and gave an effort, but… it went about as well as I expected. I scraped a lot of the bark off, though. So there was that. Darvin rolled his eyes at me, and I shrugged. I couldn’t do much of anything else. What did he expect? Unable to do much, I collected my falchion and returned, watching the combat taking place above us. Finally Asakku slew the beast, ramming his spear through its head.
It took me a second to realize the spear with the maggot was coming straight down at us. I dropped to one knee, grabbed Darvin and held him close to me, thrusting my shield up above us to protect us from the falling shish kebab.

The spear slammed into the ground beside me, the maggot’s head… or maybe its tail, slamming into the edge of my shield. The creature split apart in a rain of innards spraying across the shield, spattering my armor, and coating the ground.

As soon as Asakku descended the tree, we made our careful way through the mushrooms. Asakku stopped and pointed back toward the mushrooms. “Those are people. These… These shapes. They’re people. That one’s a deer.”

I swallowed hard, trying to ignore the putrid stench in the air. “Hey… Look.” He pointed to a hollow in a tree. Not sure I wanted to know, I walked over to the tree and peered inside. The hollow was deceptively large, and the closer I got, the more I saw scattered personal items scattered about. There were some dice, a wig, some other… personal matters. Within the tree, we discovered the beast’s personal cache. A number of scrolls, potions, and so on were within the hollow. Asakku and Darvin both looked around, considering the scattered effects.

While the two men looked around, I walked around the mounds, pausing to pray. On instinct, I cleared the dirt away from one of the mounds, seeing what lay beneath. As I cleared the leaf litter and mold away from what I presumed to be the face, I heard a sharp gasp and struggled not to recoil in horror. Dimweir’s face flashed across my memory. I couldn’t save him; perhaps I could save these people. Assuming they were alive at all and not some terrible monstrosity.

I looked around, seeing perhaps a hundred people. My heart in my throat, Asakku, Darvin, and I freed a hundred and five people, many deer, and other animals. It took us the better part of daylight freeing these people. Gathering them all together, I tried to soothe their fears.

The three of us herded the emaciated, horrified people back to Whitehorn. We called Gruis, Atron, and Hardur to tend to these newcomers. Gruis immediately started arranging housing; Atron and Hardur offered to help teach them to homestead as needed.
After a rest, we returned to the nymphs in the morning. The change was immediate when we approached. They lounged about with pixies feeding them fruits and looking at ease. The one we recognized from the last visit approached us, followed by the unicorn in his human form.

“You have gone above and beyond in this matter. The fear eater was not an easy foe to slay. With that in mind, perhaps you can defend more lands than you had before. I offer you the lands around this glen, though in turn you must protect these nymphs and this glen. Should they be assaulted or injured, you should fear what might happen. Not by me, but by them. They are, after all, permitted to defend themselves.”

After a brief few moments of discussion, we agreed to do our best to protect the nymphs and allow them to protect themselves. The unicorn recommended we collect the mushrooms since they could have great value with the fae, should we trade with them. The unicorn said that there may be more work we could do if we desired more land for our kingdom, though obviously it was not the time.

The nymphs spoke to us about the mushrooms and the Fear Eater. The Fear Eaters were malicious fae, using terror to fertilize the mushrooms they grew. The spores caused fear, which again fertilized the mushrooms. Fear Eaters were marginalized to the edges of society.

The nymphs retrieved a chest from their spring and said we were welcome to any of the things within the chest. We then spent the night at the spring. Darvin indulged, if the noises from the other side of the glen were any indication. I relented and accepted a massage and good company, though I didn’t engage with them sexually. Much to their disappointment.
In the morning, relaxed, refreshed, and in good spirits, we returned to Whitehorn.

Session Eight

The lightning came, and Darvin, Erevel, and Triss vanished, leaving Asakku, Dimweir, and I standing in the dark. We stared at each other for a moment before trying to decide what, exactly we were to do. Should we press on, or should we turn back? After a brief discussion, we decided to press on. In some ways, I reasoned, it might be better what with Erevel having been mind-warped by that beast.

The low, mossy ceiling dripped with stalactites. We gave Dimweir a torch, replacing the one Darvin took with him into wherever. He thanked us and followed us around the bend and down the hallway. We entered into what looked like a strange amphitheater or a church. Benches lined the stepped walls and a throne sat on a raised platform before them. The moment we entered, we heard footsteps climbing up the stairs behind the strange throne and settled there.

The man on the throne was stocky and wore a set of judge’s robes I could barely make out in the dim light. “Please, remove those terrible, clanking boots before you enter my chambers.”

I obliged him and removed my boots before entering the room and addressing him. During our exchange, I learned he was imposing law on the town and believed himself responsible for removing crime from the city entirely. I, perhaps mistakenly, told him that the townsfolk were no more lawful than anywhere else, but that they had simply abolished law altogether.

I offered to go and establish law there in the town, since… I didn’t know what else to do. I don’t think we could do much to stop him by ourselves. Leaving, we paused at the mouth of the cave to discuss what had happened when a chill mist passed us and wound into the forest. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end, and I grit my teeth as the sensation of evil filled my stomach.

I followed the mist, moving as quickly as I could. Asakku fell behind. Dimweir took point since he was able to see where the mist was going, and I followed him. The mist slid into what appeared to be a crypt, and we slid to a stop before it, catching our breath. Asakku investigated the crypt and informed Dimweir and I that someone had been maintaining the crypt. The lock was new, though it had a little rust on it, and the shrubbery was well tended. The word “Belmont” was carved over the top of the crypt, though none of us knew who that was.

I surmised that the mist that slid past us could well have been the vampire. Looking around, I realized we were no longer in the forest. I jotted down its location, and the cave’s. We returned to town and asked the folk there about the Belmonts. Our first stop was the tavern, where the tavernkeep told us the Belmonts had died off a year or so ago. He had been murdered in the middle of the night, and the killer was never found.

The father of the family died a year before the last heir. The family lived in Belmont manor, though someone was now trying to set it up as an orphanage or something. We thanked the tavernkeep and headed to find and talk to the undertaker, hoping he would have more information. And perhaps the key for the crypt.

I asked him about it, and after some discussing, we decided to pay for a year’s upkeep of the crypt in exchange for the key to the crypt. We decided to wait until noon before unlocking the crypt’s gate and examining the crypt. We found two tombs inside a small, stone room, and a spiral staircase heading down into the darkness.

Accidentally breaking the cover of one of the crypts, we checked both crypts. Dimweir, much to his annoyance, noted that both of them were dead for over 200 years. Oops. Well. That was a thing. Hopefully they’d forgive us.

We lit a torch and descended the staircase, discovering a hall full of tombs. I checked the dates of the members in the tombs as we sidled along. At the end we found the most recent member of the family. I focused my instincts, trying to determine if the creature we sought was here. I felt a faint sense of lingering evil on the tomb of the father and a significant stain on the tomb of the son.

After a fair amount of metaphorical tapdancing, we opened the sarcophagi. The stronger presence became obvious as the vampire who ensorcelled Erevel. Dimweir and I opened the second sarcophagus. Asakku yelped when something struck him from behind.

The vampire had latched into Dimweir’s neck, and Dimweir swung his morning star at Asakku’s head, his eyes wild and furious. Asakku forced the vampire away. We exchanged blows in the narrow space with Dimweir hellbent on killing Asakku. I dropped my falchion in the melee and drew my silvered longsword, discovering that it worked better. Perhaps my fumble was a blessing in disguise.

Dimweir collapsed after the vampire latched onto his neck, draining blood from him. At least we didn’t need to worry about him attacking us, but I worried for his safety. Asakku stabbed the vampire in the head, and it vanished into a mist that dispersed above our heads. I scowled and swung my blade at it, certain the mist was the vampire’s presence. The damn thing just wouldn’t die!

We heard a sound behind us, and Asakku threw himself away from a very pale, weak Dimweir reaching for him. My heart wrenched a little. The poor boy. He had no business out here in this mess, yet… here he was. Asakku and I stabbed at the mist. I prayed to Bahamut, and infused my sword with my will, hoping against hope to stop this thing. A moment later, the vampire collapsed to the ground on his face.

Dimweir attacked me and stumbled by, falling on his face with a low groan of frustration and exhaustion. Asakku staked the vampire, and I went to restrain Dimweir but fell to the ground after slipping in something I don’t want to think about too much. Dimweir crawled after me, trying to grab me, and I warded him off.

Asakku grabbed Dimweir, and I slid the stone lid off the sarcophagus to find it was empty. The effigy cracked into pieces as it hit the ground, and I winced. I felt bad for destroying a family crypt, but sometimes the greater good requires sacrifices. Behind me, Dimweir fought Asakku, though he didn’t have the strength or skill to free himself. I sighed, thinking we should get the boy to a cleric since there was nothing either of us could do to help him except, maybe, wait.

The two of them flailed about on the ground, and I watched for a moment before examining the area around us, hoping we could find something of us, but… nothing presented itself. I called back to Asakku that there was nothing we could do from there and recommended we drag Dimweir into the light. Maybe the sun would help him. Where the hell was Triss when you needed her?

We dragged him up into the sun, and he shrieked and began smoking. My gut tightened. Either we hadn’t killed the vampire downstairs, or… I didn’t know what. Hell. Dimweir was one of them now, and we had to find a way to return him.

Dimweir became a mist, and freed himself from Asakku. Asakku and I headed down into the crypt and dragged the vampire’s corpse into the sunlight, though when we reached the top of the stairs, there was nothing but ash where Dimweir had been. My heart tightened. If what I think happened…

Asakku and I stepped out of the crypt and into the sunlight, leaving the shadows behind us. We spoke for a time and decided to write to the Hero’s Guild up north about the vampire situation since I was uncertain we could face this ourselves. We regretfully informed the innkeeper that we could not, in our current state, offer them further aid. Despite being afraid and unhappy, he accepted the news and said he would write the Hero’s Guild, using their ties there, to seek aid. Asakku and I offered our status as leaders of the newly-minted country of Whitehorn.

With that, we traveled home to Whitehorn. During the three-day travel, neither of us talked much. Our hearts were heavy in our chests, and our sorrows weighed on us like lead. What could we say? We had not only failed the town but also Dimweir. Hell, he’d been my charge, and I’d failed him. I knew I had to write a letter to my order, explaining what happened, but what could I say?

Whitehorn didn’t lift my spirits. Tenements filled with ragged, drugged, hollow-eyed people huddled around muddied, foul streets. A tavern, a smithy, and a graveyard. All I could do was keep my focus on what we needed to do rather than the misery around me. Perhaps there was some way we could create change while we are here.

To that end, we met with Ahlset to discuss the development of the city, including the building of a temple, an orphanage, schools, and so on. These would help lift the spirits of our people and provide them with future possibilities. Brightening the future for these people would help stave off the drug problem occurring and improve the lives of our people.

He also mentioned drafting a charter for our kingdom that listed out the roles and powers of each member of the council. Asakku and I agreed to allow him to draft the agreement in order to ensure our council has the ability to sustain itself.

We then heard petitions from people seeking positions on our council and attended state business. A large noble family, the Mortare family, seeks to move their seat of power here if we build them a manor. Which we cannot afford to do just yet, but we expressed interest in finding way to make it work.

((—OOC—Atron as Warden (compassionate but believes in law; wants to see separate laws for adults and children; desires action and wants to make a difference. Tharles and Druis recommended to city guard, Hardur suggested to care for wayward children and teach them if he desires.

General Liandre —Diplomat from City of 1000 nights.

((Gruis chosen as Councilor))

Session Seven

Darvin dreamed that night. A familiar voice called to him and told him he (or we) were needed in Pinefall. We weren’t sure whether it was the singular or collective “you”. From what we knew, collectively, Pinefall is a small village in the middle of nowhere, not far from home.

Knowing we needed to get home swiftly, we elected to head back to Whitehorn via the fastest trade routes we could manage with Dimweir in tow. We parted ways with them at Southreach before heading to Oakhill. Once there, we took care of some kingdom business and set a few holidays. Ahlset had some business for us that we attended to, though the longer I do this, the less certain I am that I can stomach it much longer. The differences in moral focus are… The only word I can think of is insurmountable. We will see what happens.

Leaving behind Oakhill, we headed to Pinefall. Ahlset had informed us there was some kind of undead problem in the town. Dimweir joined us, since I wasn’t going to leave him behind. Ahlset terrified him and with good reason.

We arrived in Pinefall after sundown. Fog filled the streets and forest. What, in most towns, should have been the town commons was a paved expanse with a large column in the center. Seeking the tavern, we entered, finding it what we might expect. It was rife with memorabilia and hunting trophies from a man named Ted.

The bartender spoke to Asakku in hushed tones. “He made it?”


“I would have thought he would have come back with you…”

“We were not present when your man arrived, but…”

“Pity. Theodore’s father was a bit of a legend around here. Expected more from him. Glad we didn’t let him take his father’s axe…”

Asakku raised a brow.

“Nonetheless… every few days a beast comes into the town and seeks out those who commit crimes—petty or significant—and takes them away. They sometimes return pale with sunken eyes and a distant manner, much like the beast himself. There have been twenty-five or so who’ve gone over the years. Always at night.”

“How long has this been going on?”

He looked around, considering what was happening. “Well… fifteen years. It was almost convenient back then, but it’s become something of a problem recently. Even those who commit the most minor offenses vanish.”

“Ted died some time ago, didn’t he?”

“He did.”

“And when did this begin?” Asakku asked.

“Perhaps a year. Though he died far to the south of here. He was uesting for… something. I don’t remember what. He was always doing that.”

Darvin grinned at Erevel. “So… Perhaps you should commit a crime.”

She glared at him. “You want me to be bait? Won’t that cause you trouble?” She looked at me, as though hoping it would.

“It might. I suppose it depends on what you do.” I shrugged. “Though please don’t kill anyone.”

“Kill anyone? Why would I—“

Asakku scowled at us, silencing the discussion. “…And they always are taken to the East?”

“Well, yes. Into the forest—we don’t go there. It is forbidden, after all.”

There were no rooms at the inn, though the group found lodging with some locals. I camped outside since I wasn’t willing to stay and leave my armor untended. It was nothing personal.

In the morning, I was going to make tea, but someone told me I was not permitted to have a fire in town limits, apparently. Well—so be it. Asakku brought me an omelet from inside. I thanked him for it. At least I got breakfast, anyway. I ate and broke down the tent and took care of my armor and so on.

Based on what we heard, I deduced that it was possible we were dealing with vampires, but I was certain they were undead. Often, vampires would recruit or create a guardian for their lair to protect them during the day.

Given what we know of the forest, we sent Darvin in to speak with the unicorn. He was gone for eight hours, so far as we could tell. Erevel flirted with the lumberjacks and lumberjills for awhile before becoming what I assume was bored and heading back to town. I spent most of the afternoon stopping Dimweir from pestering the lumberjacks. Asakku slunk up and down the edge of the woods, examining tracks and… whatever it was he was doing. Nothing I could understand.

Darvin eventually returned, telling us he had mixed news. He could tell us where the creatures were, but not what they were. However, our unicorn friend set us on another quest following this one. Something about nymphs and drow and kidnapping. I stopped paying attention at nymphs. Lovely creatures, those.

We spent another night in town before heading toward the forest. We entered the forest, following the map Darvin provided. Eventually, we found a man seated at the mouth of a cave. He looked to be human so far as we could tell, though he was wearing full plate, and it was hard to tell. A glaive lay on the ground near him along with a javelin and a net.

I studied him and determined that he was not evil. With that knowledge, Triss approached to talk to him, hoping we could talk him away from the cave. He told her he was hired to protect the cave with a nonchalant manner. Erevel fired an arrow, slamming the stone beside his head. Darvin stepped forward and hissed something about being from the blood of dragons or… something. I wasn’t much paying attention.

He threw his hands up. “No, no. This job isn’t worth it. I thought you were good people, but I guess not. Hell.”

To be honest, I was surprised at Triss’s willingness to not slay him where he stood. However, we slid into the darkness in rank and file with me at the front. We slid along through the cavern, though as we passed through the first room, Erevel said there was someone in the room with us, though she seemed disinclined to attack him.

I turned to face him, and saw a man in wearing black with his hands laid on Erevel’s shoulders, a smirk on his face. Triss stepped aside and rammed her sword into him. “Kill the mage!” the vampire roared and then attempted to exert its control over me, though its attempt slid off me like water. I attacked the creature, my sword cutting into its shoulder. Stumbling, it lifted a hand to Asakku. “Your fist would better serve me than these fools, don’t you think?”

Asakku shook his head like he was coming out of a dream, a deep scowl on his face.
Behind me, Darvin retreated to avoid Erevel.

Dimweir let loose a warbling cry and charged forward. “I think this will work!” He threw a vial of some kind of brilliant, glowing, red substance at the vampire. The vampire burst into flames with a roar, and flames spilled over onto Dimweir and Asakku, though neither seemed seriously injured. Asakku thrust his speartip into the vampire twice in quick succession.

Erevel let out a shriek and charged after Darvin. As she lunged toward him, I swung at her with my shield. Unfortunately, she was far too fast for me. Growling a curse, I returned my attention to the vampire, nearly cleaving his leg from his body with a ferocious blow.

The vampire launched at Dimweir with a gurgling hiss and landed on him. Behind me, I heard the sounds of battle as Erevel and Darvin stood off against one another in the shadows. Dimweir—still on fire—yelped and struggled against the vampire’s grip.
Asakku stepped forward and rammed his spear into the vampire. It staggered before vanishing into a fine mist.

Triss called out, “Erevel, you okay over there?”

“Yep!” Her voice came out chipper and pleased. “Just about to kill Darvin!”
“Son of a—“ Triss groaned.

She rushed over toward Erevel, preparing some form of spell. I charged after her, though by the time we arrived, Erevel had lifted her hands. “Kidding! Kidding. No. Just… We’re good. I don’t want to kill him. We’re fine.”

I walked over, studying her. I didn’t trust that the hold had completed. Something in my gut warned me that the influence was not yet gone. “Darvin—step behind me, please.”
Erevel scowled at me. “What, you don’t trust me now?”

I sighed. “It’s not personal, Erevel. But my gut tells me you are still a threat.”

Her eyes sparked with indignation. “This is a great way to repay me for the companionship and friendship we’ve shared until now. I thought we were here to kill vampires. Why don’t we focus on that.”

“Sounds like Erevel to me,” Darvin said with a laugh.

Session Six

When Dimweir woke, I chastised him for running ahead. Asakku told us that most of the sewers lead to massive chasms beneath the city, so the sewage flows directly into these chasms, or so Asakku told us. Knowing that the Drow, in number, are very dangerous. Retreating up to the crossroads, we paused to decide what direction to go. We elected to investigate a way that sounded like a waterfall flowing. The other direction had voices echoing down the corridor.

We came upon a locked, barred room filled with bedrolls. My heart beat faster. Perhaps the kidnapped women were kept down here? Erevel crept forward to examine the lock before she abruptly stumbled backwards a pace when a man in black-studded leather and wearing a black rat mask slapped her across the face from the other side of the door. Asakku snarled, charging up to the door and ramming his spear through the space between the bars and into the offending man. The man crumpled to the ground with a strangled, gurgling sound.

Blinking and shaking her head, Erevel again bent to the task of picking the lock. It opened with a click, and we entered the room. The others checked to see if he had anything of use. They collected a few odds and ends here and there. Triss saw to Erevel’s facial wound, and I approached the door, kicking it open with an armored boot.

The room had a desk, several chests, a desk, and a few other odds and ends. I’d heard whispers from beyond. I knew I did. But… There was no one there. Darvin opened his senses to detect magic around us, and saw nothing other than the corpse’s lingering aura of power. In the chests, Erevel discovered stacks of neatly folded black robes. I took the opportunity to count the number of bedrolls, but it didn’t match the number of women missing.

Darvin, Erevel, and Triss donned the black robes. Asakku eschewed the decision to change his clothes, though he was hardly dressed like a paladin or holy avenger. My thorn-covered armor doesn’t much look like a paladin (which is something I’ve been meaning to rectify), but either way, we are somewhat disguised.

We walked along the path awhile longer and discovered a whirlpool of sewage. Backtracking, we took the other path. We discovered a cage with a humanoid figure in it along with several torches. There was a five-foot tall wall blocking the way with several men standing around it. Asakku slunk forward, pressing himself against the wall at their feet.

Darvin spoke up, warning them that there were people in the sewers. I reinforced the lie telling them that someone was down here killing members of the order. One of the men charged off, and the other lingered. Darvin told him we needed to move the women, and he released the monstrosity and fled. Asakku tried to climb the wall to pursue the man, but the undead beast turned to attack him. Asakku narrowly avoided him.

We slew the monster, and I knelt, boosting everyone up onto the wall one after another. From above, I could hear the sounds of battle, but I waited until I was certain all my allies were safely above. I then scaled the wall, grunting as my heavy armor pulled down on me. Erevel “helped” by grabbing my helmet and yanking. I think she meant well, but I’m not sure it did much.

By the time I reached the top of the wall, the brief scuffle had ended. Walking further into the room, we saw a door, behind which we heard muffled sobbing. I glanced at everyone, and they all nodded in the faint light. Taking a breath, I pushed the door open, hoping we found the women.

The door swung inward, revealing the missing women all chained to the walls and a horrible-looking man wearing rags and looking like a corpse. He asked what order we hail from, and we spoke to him, attempting to ascertain what had happened. The “King of the Sewer” informed us the women were there for breeding purposes. I looked around, and saw that many of them were in various stages of pregnancy. My jaw clenched so tightly, I could swear my teeth nearly crushed.

“And what is that creature in the corner?” I gestured toward a crouched man in the corner. The thing looked like an unholy cross between a man and a rodent. It bore a long, naked tail and yellowed teeth. Fur burst out of its flesh in uneven patches, and it watched us with dark, beady eyes.

“A pet. Nothing more.”

“A pet.”


No part of me believed him. Not that there would have been cause to. The rage I’d been trying to quell filled me, and I stepped forward, glaring at him, my words biting. “You are done here.”

He quailed, pressing back into the throne. “We will be gone by dawn. If you’ll just let us—”
“Not good enough,” Darvin hissed, moving around me, lifting his hands. A hellstorm of fire engulfed the throne, scorching the Rat King’s oily rags and sending the stench of burning hair and meat into the room.

The Rat King shrieked and howled, his body shifting and popping as he shifted into a horrible rat-like creature. I grit my teeth, leaving him to the others as I charged after the so-called pet in the corner, drawing my silvered sword.

The monster fled before me. I growled in annoyance. Why does everything have to run? Don’t they know this armor is heav— Actually, they probably do know this armor is heavy. That’s why they do it. Just as I came up to the creature, it latched its teeth into Dimweir’s face. He began screaming and thrust his sword into the thing’s gut several times.

Erevel saved him, firing an arrow through the Rat King’s eye and out the back of his head. I caught the corpse, prying its jaws open to free Dimweir’s face from its grip. I then pressed a hand to his face, calling on the power of my faith. The wounds closed under my fingers, and he staggered back, panting.

Examining the women’s bondage, we found no keys to open their shackles—clearly they were never going to be freed. If the Rat King were not already dead, I would have killed him a second time. And perhaps a third. I lacked words for the rage that boiled up in my chest.
Erevel, true to her nature, approached the chest the moment combat ended, exploring it. She fiddled with the lock for a moment before acid poured over her, and she screeched in pain. Triss did what she could to soothe the wounds, but they remained red and angry on her skin. Gritting her teeth and fighting the pain, Erevel deployed her unique skillset to help free women as well as she could. It didn’t take long for the poison to overwhelm her.

“I’m sorry,” she gasped, her pale skin showing a fine sheen of sweat in the torchlight. “I need to get to a healer. Now. I’m not sure if—”

“Go,” Darvin said, and the rest of us echoed his sentiment. She’d done everything she could and risked her life to do so. None of us faulted her need to seek help.

Darvin, Triss, Dimweir, Asakku and I broke the chains of the remaining women. They babbled thanks, some of them collapsing into tears as soon as their bonds were released.

As soon as we freed all of them, the five of us surrounded them, our eyes on the darkness as we encouraged them onward to the surface.

It wasn’t a quick procession, but we made it. At the mouth of the entry into the sewers, we found Erevel sitting against a building, her face drawn and breath coming in weak, ragged gasps. Dimweir and I hefted her up between us, carrying her as we made our way to the Citadel. Dawn had broken, and our prtrollss drew many eyes as the six of us, all weary, covered in filth, and armed to the teeth, walked in a semicircle around the nude women we guarded.

Despite success in saving them, I feared they may not be saved since they could well be infected. Even if they were not infected, the babes they carried may well kill them to deliver. All I could do was pray to Bahamut to preserve them.

When we arrived at the Citadel, I sent for someone to help the women and Erevel and sunk down to sit against the wall while we waited for someone to come down to talk to us. It didn’t take long for a cleric of our order to see to Erevel. He smiled and lay a hand on her chest. Her breathing eased, and her color returned, leaving her looking weak and tired, but alive. We thanked him profusely, but he just laughed. “No one has died. It is a good day.”
We all looked at each other. Dimweir scoffed. “It’s dawn.”

“I know. Glorious, isn’t it?” The cleric laughed and shook his head, heading off into the city with a wave of his hand.

We all chuckled. Triss took Erevel back to the inn to bathe and have a well-deserved rest. None of us objected, though Triss looked like she would have accepted any excuse to escape before someone came to discuss the situation.

An hour later, a tall, broad man in highly-polished armor strode over to us, calling out to others to come and tend the women. He sounded furious that they’d been left for so long in the chill morning air. I didn’t recognize him, but the air of authority and the way everyone leapt to do his bidding suggested he was of some high standing.

When he reached us, the man identified himself as the head of our order. I provided my report regarding what we discovered in the sewers. Darvin looked over at me with a considering expression before stepping forward. “My Lord Commander, I wanted to express my concern that the situation in the sewers was… exacerbated by the neglect of one Commander Baen.”

I felt my mouth go dry, and I studied the cobblestones while the two conversed. “I see,” the Lord Commander said, his eyes hardening. “I shall take that under advisement.”
I took a deep breath and straightened. “I also wished to address something, sir.”
He turned his eyes to me, a brow raised.

“Initiate Dimweir performed admirably and showed the bravery and compassion that our order represents. He should know he did very well.”

The commander’s eyes softened a little, and a smile played at the edges of his mouth. “I see. Do you believe he is ready to be a full paladin of the order?”

I shook my head. “Not yet. I believe he needs more field experience than he currently has, though when he possesses it, I foresee that he will be an asset to our cause.”

“Ah. I see. Tell me, whose squire is he?”

“Sir Baen’s,” I said, trying to keep the hate out of my voice.

“Hm. Well, I see a solution to the problem. Sir Baen neglected his duties and has not been training our young friend. You have a new kingdom which is uncharted wilds. I shall send him with you. He shall not be your squire, you understand, but you shall take command of his training.”

I bowed my head. Oh, that boy would be so furious. At least he would be receiving proper training now. Darvin and the Lord Commander spoke for a short time longer, discussing affairs of state before he departed, leaving us in the courtyard.

As soon as the meeting concluded, we stumbled back to the inn to bathe and sleep. To be honest, I was glad I wear plate armor—at least it cleans easily.

Session Five

When we arrived in Dawnside, Asakku and I heard three cracks of lightning, and Darvin, Erevel and Triss appeared beside us. We reconnected and discussed what had been done in the time apart. They sent a large number of people to White Horn in an exchange with a carpenter’s guild in South Port. There was a similar agreement with a mason’s guild. Unbeknownst to me, they also made an attempt at dealing with a thieves’ guild to assist in a heist that they were unable to complete since they were spirited away to those strange holding cells.

Asakku left word with his people that he had completed his assigned task, and we all—noting the chill in the air—chose to purchase warmer clothing. We also purchased a horse and covered wagon along with a tent large enough for us to comfortably sleep in.
Leaving Dawnside, we headed north to Drangorn to reach my order as well as the crown to try and enlist their aid in guarding our kingdom and, perhaps, ridding us of the lich.

Entertaining though he may be. I spoke up about heading to see my order. I requested to speak to Knight Commander Zybel Shaniqua, and the young acolyte who greeted us took us up to see her. She was very much unimpressed with our methods, but understood—somewhat—the needs of the situation and took our situation to a Lord Commander, though we needed to wait until later in the week.

Upon her recommendation, I sought out Knight Commander Gareth who oversees the city of Drangorn to see if he needed assistance. It turned out Gareth was no longer in command, but had died a year ago in a fight with a wyvern. He left the command to Knight Commander Raleigh Baen. Son. Of. A. Bitch. My heart heavy, I asked the Acolyte to announce us to the Knight Commander Baen. He arrogantly sent us on an errand to find commoner women who had vanished since it was beneath he and his detachment. They were busy handling a gargoyle incursion into a wealthier part of the city. Darvin, I am told, gave him a tongue lashing. When we met out in the courtyard, I reluctantly told the others why I loathe him so. I have not spoken so angrily of anyone at any time in their presence and felt I owed them an explanation. Collectively, they reacted with horror and fury, though I spared them the details of the encounter. I did tell them that I’d beaten him bloody, however.

Baen’s squire, a fresh-faced acolyte named Dimweir, sought us out in the courtyard and told us Ser Samael Carden was assigned to check it out and that he would be back around dinnertime since apparently Baen preferred to dine with his men. I scoffed at the thought that he had men who obeyed him, but… such is the world we live in.

We booked space at a local tavern, The Flesh Bear. From there, I let the others know I had some personal business, and I visited my father for several hours, telling him of our adventures, though I was careful to censor some of what happened from him. He would not appreciate hearing about our covenant with the Lich. Asakku joined me, and we shared stories of previous fights, hunts, and tales of my childhood. I introduced Asakku as a man who saved my life.

I asked my father if he had heard anything about the women disappearing, seeing as he lives in the slums by choice. He didn’t know more than the order had. After much embarrassment where Father tried to convince me to marry Asakku and bring him grandchildren. He made dinner, which was fantastic as it ever is. We then met Ser Samael in the courtyard of the Citadel.

Samael told us that on Lenster street there is a manhole that leads into the sewers that he identified as the location of the worst of the kidnappings. He intended on taking a group of men down there, but he was reassigned by Baen when he mentioned needing more men to complete the task. Sounds like Baen—the coward. He also assigned the young squire, Dimweir, to join us. Much to Dimweir’s misery.

We suited up appropriately and headed down into the stinking morass.

Erevel vomited when we reached the base of the ladder. We crept along through the sewers until we encountered four dark-skinned elves carrying a chest and engaged them in battle. I gave Dimweir tips during the combat and spoke to him of knowing how to engage. He seemed to listen, though the fool ran out into the darkness and an arrow laid him low. I almost regret bringing him since I am going to need to guard him more than I am focus on our mission. As soon as I could reach him, I knelt at his side and called on the power gifted me by Bahamut to heal him. An arrow slammed into my armor, and the point dug into my back. It was more of a glorified scratch than anything, but I felt the burning of poison. It didn’t do me any true damage, but it stung nonetheless.

After healing Dimweir, I turned and fired on the dark elf who had hit the boy and myself with arrows. Between Triss and myself, we ended him, though he sliced the ropes on a bridge across the flowing river of sludge nearby. We squinted into the darkness, seeing the edifice of what looked to be an ancient elven city. With the bridge out, we couldn’t reach the city, but we all agreed that it was a strong possibility that the missing girls had been abducted and carried across the bridge into whatever that stronghold was.

Unable to leave Dimweir, we stayed with him for about two hours until foul poison worked its way through him and he woke.

Session Four

After spending several days in a strange stone chamber that I don’t know how I ended up in—beyond glass I saw Ahlset wandering around beyond. I called and called but heard no one. I don’t know what happened or why, but after a time I can’t measure, Asakku and I appeared in a strange city in a great crack of lightning. I thought it was Burrowton, though Asakku assured me it was Southport.

After several minutes, my hearing returned, and I began to take in my surroundings. We stared at each other in confusion. The only conclusion I could come to was that our friends had switched places with us, given the charred spaces on the ground around us and our method of travel.

We agreed to take a ship up the Stone River to Pebble Island—halfway between us and my destination of Drangorn, the Capitol City of the kingdom. All we could do was hope the others would find us as we nearly found them. I can say that Ahlset has some answers to provide the next I see him.

Given that I was carrying all our treasures with us, we at least were not lacking on funding. After liquidating our goods and collecting our gold, Asakku and I sought passage up the Stone River. When we approached the first man, he greeted us with distrust until I realized it was my armor that offended. I hadn’t realized the effect it might have; I should have. I offered to trade our skills to their defense in exchange for passage up the river.

A child approached me, begging for coins. When I provided a gold, a second child attempted to steal coin purse much to my irritation. Asakku caught him and sent him on his way. I set aside some coin in a separate pouch to give hungry children without endangering our party’s gold.

For the next few days, I spent time in the slums, tending to the sick and wounded while we waited for our transport up the river. Asakku wandered the city, seeing what there was to see.

We left on time, heading north up the river without much ado. At the crossing to Pebble Island, however, we ran into trouble. A scaled, crocodile-like creature lunged out of the water and grabbed the orc bowman who hired us to do the job. Without thinking much about the consequences, I dove into the water after him. Without my heavy armor, I can swim quite well, to be honest. I can hold my breath for a very long time.

I saw the death of the orc, and the monster turned his beady eyes to me. I swam for the surface as swiftly as I was able. As I broke the surface, I saw Asakku and the captain in the ship. At least there weren’t more of them. Asakku hauled me onto the ship, and the beast lunged at my legs and clamped his jaws into my shins.

I escaped his hold, and he climbed onto the boat and charged the captain, hurling him into the water. Asakku and I pursued. The captain died a terrible death, and the beast vanished into the murky darkness. With heavy hearts, Asakku and I continued on to Pebble Island, where Asakku’s order had sent him.

A small village met us on the shores of the island, and we docked. Ferries filled the docks around us, and Asakku and I took a moment to see if we could find the name of the captain and any next of kin. We discovered a shipment of silvered weapons and an order to seek for lycanthrope activity in the area between Landfall and Pebble Island. Ferries have been attacked with disturbing frequency of late.

Asakku studied the order and turned to me, telling me of a lycanthrope problem in Grey Reach. There are occasionally severe outbreaks here and there—at least five times in the last thousand years—and one of the significant difficulties is when bitten people contract the disease. It spreads like wildfire in hell, though it can be cured if treated properly within three days. Born lycanthropes can control their urges, but those bitten do not have control over their actions on the full moon. A few times through history, an order of knights or rangers appeared to handle the lycanthropy problem. This may be one of those times.

Perhaps that crocodile creature was one of them. I couldn’t tell for sure, but it did concern me since the creature bit me. My stomach sunk a little when Asakku told me of them.
In light of my concern, Asakku and I spent the day searching the woods for wolfsbane to stop the transformation and give me the opportunity avoid becoming one of them. About an hour after consuming the tea he made, I was violently ill. I could only hope it worked. I have no wish to repeat that experience… though I am more fearful of turning into a beast.

Asakku sought the mayor of the town. We discovered he was out for a swim. Asakku and I shared a look, considering that the folk here may be lycanthropes as well. Particularly given the letter and Asakku’s missive. I tried warning the guards about the crocodile man, but they refused to listen. They claimed the bites on my legs were from sharks and that I was somehow imagining what I saw. Insanity if I’ve ever seen it. Either they are so dim that they do not see the reality of the situation.

The mayor said something was stealing children and objects from the town. They got most of their trade from fishing and the inns, but they tried to keep taxes fairly low. He told us few people venture far into the island; most of it was uninhabited. He told us of some elven ruins further in, claiming the island was once the center of the elven kingdom before the war.

We purchased some rations and prepared for our journey into the interior of the island. During that time, I asked about some myths and legends. Folks claimed old ghosts haunted the swamps and caves—they also claimed the ghosts were of old witches slain over the years. Asakku found out there was a cave about a mile off that seemed the source of some local legends. He told me Grey Reach had issues with extremists deciding to go on witch hunts which then spread to all arcane arts. At least three times in the last nine-hundred years, folks were murdered. Pebble Island had, in the past, been a refuge for arcane practitioners due to its remote and unpopulated nature.

From there we hiked through the wilderness toward the cave Asakku heard about. When we arrived at the cave, we saw a great deal of dry blood near the entrance and heading into the cave along with piles of small, humanoid bones. Drawing my silvered sword, I guarded Asakku while he investigated the bones and blood to learn as much as he could about the nature of the deaths. It looked to me far too much like the bones of children for comfort, and my heart tightened in my chest.

Asakku told me the blood could have been there awhile—at least three weeks—though there was fresh blood mixed in. A medium-sized creature had been gnawing on the bones with sharp, carnivore teeth. The jaws weren’t huge.

From within the cave we heard the sounds of sobbing. I lit a torch and headed to the mouth of the cave, and within we saw a woman trussed up and begging for help. The hair on the back of my neck stood up in response to the situation, and I let out a slow breath and asked her what happened. She said she was gathering herbs in the forest and was attacked and dragged into the cave. We freed her and told her to go to town as swiftly as she could, and she fled.

Asakku and I moved deeper into the cave and discovered a large amount of money, some semiprecious stones, masterwork weapons, potions, a bookcase, candles, some other odds and ends… a gods-be-damned catapult…

I gathered up the money and gems, and Asakku and I began to track the creature that inhabited the cave. We followed the freshest sets of tracks, and the freshest sets were two barefoot tracks: one going in, and a second set (the girl’s) leaving. We elected to track the girl’s footprints nearby to town until they stopped at a tree. From there, we saw clawmarks ascending into the tree.

Asakku climbed the tree, and I readied my bow with silver-tipped arrows. Asakku said there were scratch marks in the trees toward town. I took off toward town, moving as quickly as possible. Asakku caught up to me, and we agreed to split up. I took off to try and gather everyone into a single building to defend them from whatever this girl was. Assuming they’d listen.

They listened, thank goodness, and gathered into one of the inns. I distributed the silvered swords and arrows and gathered the women and elderly into the most protected parts of the inn. I posted the guards at every door I could and had armed men on each floor.
Once everyone was bedded down, I began to patrol around the tavern, keeping my eyes peeled for anything out of place. Asakku called an alarm from the roof, and I charged inside with my weapons drawn. I arrived just in time to see a monstrosity burst out of the fireplace and rip one of the villagers to shreds.

The same uneasy feeling I felt in the cave rippled over my skin a second time as I faced down the monstrosity. Fury rose in me as I thought of all the children who had died and been eaten. She sunk her teeth into my shoulder, and I could feel the burn of her teeth through my armor. I roared in pain, and Asakku slunk up behind her and into position to strike.

We did some damage before she vanished up the chimney. Asakku retreated to the roof, and I headed outside when he called that she was heading down the building. I met her outside and fired an arrow at her just in time for her to vanish up the side of the building. I returned inside and headed to the second floor as swiftly as I could move.

Asakku launched off the roof and dropped down a story to grab onto the hag as she scrambled to try and hold onto the building. The two of them fell toward the cobbles. Asakku twisted and put her beneath him, and he landed on her on the ground with a horrific noise of crushed bones and organs.

Over the next few days, Asakku and I explored the island and tended to the burial of the children who were slain. The innekeeper told us we could stay there whenever we needed without payment, and we thanked him for his kindness. Heading north with the barge, we took to the river to deliver the goods to BlackWater as had been ordered to the captain. It felt right to complete his journey for him. It wasn’t much good, but it was what we had.
It took us about four days to reach Blackwater, and from there we delivered the cargo and received five-hundred gold. From there, we followed caravans up toward Drangorn. We stopped briefly in Dawnside for Asakku to visit a friend.

Session Three
In which we met Ahlset.

In a desperate ploy to survive this, Trissa rushed to the safe and opened it, pulling out one of those awful fetus things. We cleared out of the blood, hoping the creature would attack the knight. Since they hunted blood, we hoped the monstrosity would be attracted to the knight’s horrifying flow thereof. Covered in thick, viscous red, we stumbled away from the creature.

At that moment, a massive hooded man walked into the cavern. Darvin greeted him, and the stranger dropped his hood to reveal a shaved head and a large, brown mustache.

“Where is Asakku?”

Darvin glanced to the side. “We are working for the Grey Reach library association doing research. Asakku is helping us.” He gestured toward our monk friend. “Care to lend a hand?”

The robed man smiled and cracked his knuckles. “Good.”

Before we had time to process that, the blood knight stepped forward to Asakku and slid an amulet out of an opening in his wrist. Lifting it aloft, he laughed as bright light poured over everybody. I felt strangely good, and the rest of us perked up a little. Thankfully. On the other hand, the knight we faced now looked stronger than we had yet seen. I took a deep breath and grit my teeth as I circled around the spreading pool of crimson.

Triss headed over to Erevel and passed off the fetus, and the two shared a brief nod of understanding. The idea of using it disgusted me, but at the same time I didn’t see an alternative. Besides, the monstrosity deserved such an end if anything did.

The large man stripped out of his cloak to reveal a heavily oiled, muscular body, silken shorts, and a large, platinum belt buckle. Distracted by the… strangeness of the man’s actions and attire, I stared at him. I’d never seen someone strip off clothing to enter into combat with an armed and armored assailant, but then again I’d never seen half of what I witnessed that day. “Which one is Asakku?” he asked, glancing at Darvin.

Darvin held up a hand. “Sir, I shall regale you with tales of our research soon enough. However, I have other matters to attend to.” He then turned and shot a magic missile at the blood knight before continuing the conversation.

The oiled man didn’t reply and strode forward. He approached the blood knight and wrapped around him, dragging the monster to the ground. How the stranger did that without hurting himself while almost nude (quite awkward, really) with the knight wearing spiked armor… I don’t think I’ll ever know.

Our strange friend grappled the knight to the floor where we pummeled the hell out of it. Asakku decapitated the creature with a kick at the end of the conflict, and the monstrosity stopped moving.

I stopped to catch my breath, and Darvin again claimed we were doing research for the Grey Reach public library. The man identified himself as Heric and retrieved a letter from his pack, bringing it to Asakku. Erevel groped Heric’s backside, earning an unimpressed look. Between Erevel, Trissa, and Darvin’s gawking at him I felt sorry for the poor man.

Heric called us all to him, and he lifted a hand, creating a large bubble of water which burst and washed us clean. Though nothing can probably clean the image of how Erevel stared at him when his white shorts clung to him after the water rendered them translucent. I rolled my eyes.

When he tried to leave, he found the way was blocked. With a heavy, irritated sigh he sat down and told us to look for an exit and let him know when we found one. He also gave Darvin a potion of some kind and a small flask of oil.

After examining the monstrosity, I took its armor and weapon. With some cleaning and refitting it would suit me, I thought, and I claimed it after asking the others. We then cleaned out one of the barracks rooms and collectively piled into it and rested in shifts.

((OOC: We leveled up here.))

After resting, we investigated the final room, which sealed itself off like the rooms previous, trapping us inside. A large throne dominated the far side of the room, upon which sat a withered corpse in red robes. Around the throne was no small wealth scattered around its base. I studied the room while the others were distracted by the sparking lights—the corpse moved, its head turning a little to watch us.

Erevel spoke to the creature in Elven, and it broke free of the throne, standing. My hair all stood on end as I realized the corpse wasn’t a corpse but a living creature. It asked why we were there, and Erevel informed it of what our intentions were. After clearing his throat, however, the man switched to speaking Common. He identified himself as “Ahlset”, one of the major leaders in the war against the elves in the war over 900 years ago. Not being a historian, the name meant little to me, though Asakku’s jaw dropped. He offered us a reward for freeing him, gesturing to the treasure at his feet.

While the others talked over what to do, I walked over to the energy surrounding the door and reached out my hand to touch it, and the energy dissipated, though the sparkling motes of it in the room behind me intensified into a blinding rush before slamming into each of us. I don’t remember anything else until waking up with pain in our left arms.

Darvin and Asakku looked down at their arms and discovered a tattoo-like marking burned into their flesh. I can only guess that the rest of us have similar markings. Darvin identified it as magic of some terrible power that we couldn’t deduce the nature of. Ahlset, confused, relieved about being released from his prison, asked us what had happened, and Darvin reassured him that his mercenaries had, ah… found other employment. Despite the skill with which Darvin lied, Ahlset raised brows at him, his expression dubious.

Stepping out of the throne room, we discussed what we are going to do with this lich we discovered. Eventually, we settled on leaving after politely relaying to him that we were leaving. He said he was at our services until we die—that concerns me given the level of evil I sensed in him. However, there was no alternative. What could we do against a lich?

We agreed upon telling the lich we didn’t need gifts for saving him, though that plan fell through after we re-entered the throne room and Erevel—whom had agreed with me—immediately accepted some trinket or another when Ahlset offered. I rolled my eyes as the rest of the group followed suit. When it came to him offering me some token of
appreciation I asked only for ink to allow me to continue my practice of cartography. It would also enable me to write many letters. Perhaps someday I would write a book or keep a journal, though at the moment I had no way of doing such a feat.

Ahlset then asked us for the favor of finding him a workforce to help him reclaim and clean out his home. The force would be paid and kept well, but he wasn’t about to stoop to manual labor. I wasn’t surprised by that, though I remained concerned that he might not keep his workers alive. Ahlset did, however, make a valid point that corpses and dead things lacked finesse in doing things like carpentry.

Leaving the caverns, we discovered a long-abandoned camp on the way back to Oakhill. Darvin sensed no magic inside, so we decided to take a look. The skeleton we discovered there looked like an officer from our military from quite some time ago. Claw-marks across the armor and gnawing on the bones showed death by some form of beast. We investigated the camp and found several skeletons with similar injuries. There was one fresh body—perhaps a few days old—wearing rich clothing, clutching a lute, and carrying a satchel. Asakku informed us that there was a wolf in the area the same time the corpse was created, and someone on horseback came through here.

I found a blood-spattered and damaged map in the satchel. On the back of the map were letters written by some Cap. Theron Oxheart in 805. He spoke of finding some source of a curse. The camp was destroyed by night by a man with silver hair and some wolves. At the bottom was a note from some foppish bard who fancied himself an adventurer. The bard, Hank Henry was given the quest to slay a necromancer—likely the same one we were sent to destroy. It happened this year—something that concerns me.

Darvin, interested in Heric (and disappointed at his disappearance) asked Asakku what his letter was regarding. Asakku considered before answering.

“I will travel with you to the capital city to report to the king and the head of the Shield of Bahamut. However, following that I must depart. I have received a message from the head of my order that an ill wind blows from the shores of Pebble Island.”

I nodded. “Assuming that I do not receive orders to the contrary, I can accompany you once we have finished this. Rooting out evil and protecting the kingdom is my duty as well.”
“Care for some company?” Erevel smiled a little, tilting her head.

Darvin nodded. “Indeed. We should stay together—these strange markings on our arms should be investigated, and I feel we ought remain as a party at least until such a time as that mystery has been unraveled.”

Asakku smiled. “I welcome the company and the aid, friends.”

From there, we continued on to Oakhill to resupply for the long journey home.

Arriving in Oakhill, we discovered a cemetery that was not there when we came through on our journey in. When we investigated the nature of the deaths, we discovered wolves had killed several people in town. After speaking with the foreman and the hunter, he told us the creatures had walked into the center of town and killed folk.

Erevel told us that the law forbidding people in the forest was there for a reason. The earl may have special dispensation, but… One way or another, we resolved to help the folk here set up defenses. After doing a fair amount of work, we headed into the woods to find out what’s happening. Erevel and Asakku split off and stalked the wolves, seeing a pack of sixteen of them surrounding a white horse.

I spent that time working on the defenses. When they returned, they informed us of the situation. I was too tired to take watch, so I bathed and collapsed into bed.

I had only slept for a few hours before Erevel woke me, telling me the wolves were there. With my plate mail being resized by the smith, I donned my chainmail and joined them at the gates. We saw the wolves, but nothing of note occurred other than their presence near the town.

After sleeping the rest of the night, I woke with the sun and continued working on the wall and finished it just prior to noon. We spoke about the situation and decided to try approaching the wolves and their master. Perhaps they would listen to diplomacy. Perhaps not. But either way we would learn of our enemy’s skill and intent.

We headed out into the woods and Erevel called out in Elvish. The wolves surrounded us, and then out of the woods a unicorn emerged, turning into a man wearing white robes. He addressed us in a language we didn’t know. He addressed us then in Common, and then Elven at Erevel’s suggestion. The man identified himself as king of the forest, and said that those trespassing in the forest would die. We warned him of the Lich’s release, and he offered us our lives in exchange. However, he expressed the imperative that everyone else in the logging camp had broken the law and would be slain for it.

I attempted to ask for time to allow the men to leave, but he refused. The only trade he would accept would be an agent in Grey Reach—at which point I put my fingers in my ears and tried to hear nothing of what was said. I cannot hear of such a thing, but there is nothing I can hear about that. It turns my stomach to have such discussion go on around me.

Mouths moved in quick response around me, and everyone entered into rather intense discussions that I heard nothing of. I could, however, read hunger in Darvin’s face and disturbance and concern in Asakku’s.

Eventually, Asakku jabbed me in the ribs, and I lowered my hands. I learned the King of the Forest had offered us a kingdom to act as a buffer between the forest and Grey Reach. We accepted. Darvin seemed hungry for the chance to rule, though Erevel, Triss, Asakku, and I had little interest in a kingdom. I accepted the offer only as a way to get the people living therein out safely. However, the more I think about it the more my head hurts.

What in the name of Bahamut have we done. Us. We. We are kings and queens. I’m not sure I can wrap my head around this notion. Never in my wildest dreams or nightmares could I have ever imagined such a thing would happen. Much less under such peculiar circumstances.

Once we reached the town, Darvin told the foreman what had happened and, rather than negotiate, he left without a word. We then assembled the townsfolk and spoke to them about the situation. The smithy and tavern own opted to stay along with one tavern guard. Our kingdom is not off to an auspicious start: hostile territory, an angry earl as an enemy, and our entire population consisting of a smith, a tavernkeep who peddles drugs, a single tavern guard, five bumbling adventurers, and a nine-hundred-year-old lich.

Oh. Yes. This is going to go brilliantly.

Session Two

When the door crumbled, Erevel and Trissa were hit in the head with rocks. They fell unconscious and crumpled. Rather than waiting for them to regain consciousness, we pressed onward into the uncertain darkness after setting their unconscious bodies to the side somewhere safe.

Our mage tossed a sun rod into the room, revealing what had once been a mess hall filled with destroyed and rotted furniture. There are seven doors in the room—six lined the east and north walls, and one filled a space on the west side near a rusted safe. As we considered our approach, Erevel and Trissa woke from their stupor, and Trissa searched for traps, finding nothing. She approached the safe, and I shadowed her to ensure her safety as best as possible. At least this time Darvin didn’t charge in headlong—perhaps that conversation we had did some good.

Darvin lifted his hands and cast a spell to examine potential magic in the safe, but before he finished, one of the doors collapsed inward, and several skeletons lumbered into the room, their fleshless bones casting eerie shadows in the light of the sun rod on the floor between us. The skeletons wore broken chain shirts and bore chipped, rusted scimitars. In the center one bore more weaponry and was visibly the leader.

Oh good.

Erevel dove behind the safe, and Asakku moved to my side. We exchanged a nod as we prepared for battle. From the doorway, Darvin cast some manner of ice spell at the skeletons. While it hit, nothing happened beyond the skeleton’s ribcage icing over. It didn’t appear to do much of anything. We then had less than a breath to think as the creatures charged us, and combat began in earnest.

Darvin went down swiftly, but I didn’t have an opportunity to reach him as two of the monstrosities turned their attention to me. Trissa cast a spell that destroyed all of the skeletons but the well-armed one. Darvin woke following the spell’s effects, and stirred, rising.

I rushed up and attempted to cleave the skeleton’s head from its shoulders. The skeleton shifted to the side just before I hit it, and before I could recover to attack it again, Erevel shot an arrow past me and into its kneecap. It didn’t do a whole lot to the skeleton, but I appreciated her efforts.

As we fought, a blue field, like a membrane, appeared over the doorway to the outside, closing us in with what I presume to be no escape. Triss remained outside.
From behind me, Erevel charged in, wielding a… a ball peen hammer and shrieking like a stuck pig. She accomplished precisely nothing, though I couldn’t help but admire her commitment. Asakku attacked the creature again, resulting in cracks and the shriek of metal against metal. Furious, the skeleton turned on Darvin and slashed open his chest. Triss dropped the hammer and dove at the creature, though I tried to bash it with my shield a second time, and its breastplate stopped the blow. Triss cried out in pain as she slammed into the skeleton and stumbled back when it sliced her back open with its sword, landing hard on her ass.

Asakku punched the creature in the jaw, knocking its head back and sending it to the ground where it lay, unmoving. As soon as we were certain it was dead, I let out a long, slow breath and considered its weaponry, picking up the sword, shield, and breastplate. The sword, which was of fine make, was ornate but moved well in my hand, so I swapped my scimitar for it for the time being and slung it across my back.

I kept watch while Erevel, Darvin, and Asakku messed about with the safe. I heard them talking behind me and glanced over my shoulder and saw one of the most horrid sights I’ve ever witnessed. In two jars hung two fetuses, kicking, squirming and huddling away from the light. They were submerged in some form of embalming fluid. I nearly lost my stomach, and I shuddered. Erevel announced that they were called “Pickled Punks”. They were harmless in the jar, but if released they would attack anything nearby in a quest for blood. They are often held by necromancers and used as surrogate children. Erevel took one and wrapped it in all her bedding. I chastised her, horrified, but she assured me she would keep it safe and expressed interest in selling it.

At about that time, I walked away, unable to bear looking at the creatures any further and deciding to investigate the rest of the room. Darvin, Asakku, and I investigated the direction the skeletons had come from, leaving Erevel to deal with those monstrosities. It looked like a barracks after a battle just fought. Fresh bodies and flesh on the floor surprised me. The flesh was most certainly human; the blood had dried, but there was no putrification. The piles looked as though all the meat had fallen off the bodies of the seven skeletons we fought.

Despite my growing horror, I searched through the room for anything of use. We discovered some semiprecious stones that Darvin appraised, a potion (which Darvin identified as a Potion of Reduce Person), a potion of Mage Armor, spices, marbles, a little gold, some dried mushrooms, a clay tankard with two copper, an iron bar, a small glass rod, a small wooden chest, a wood axe, a holy symbol of Tiamat, 23 gold pieces, 14 silver, 9 copper, and a second small chest full of straw which cushioned four Potions of Cure Minor Wounds.

As we examined the loot, we heard the Pickled Punk crying out for help. Erevel, a look of horror on her face, rushed back to the safe and set the creature back in the safe. As she returned the monster to the safe, we heard the sound of a crumbling door. Knowing the nature of that noise, we turned and rushed back into the room to face the threat.

Darvin stuck his head out the door and nearly had it sliced off, though Trissa used her spell again to destroy most of the skeletons, leaving the largest of them standing. Asakku and Darvin destroyed the creature in short order. Erevel gave me her short bow and ammunition as well as ten silvered arrows. “You’ll pay for those later.”

I raised an eyebrow at her. “Very well.”

“No, she has saved your sorry ass several times since we arrived here,” Asakku said with a scowl.

“Indeed,” Darvin said. “That doesn’t sit well with me, either.”

I lifted my hands and shook my head. “We don’t have time to discuss this now. We can handle it when we make it out of here alive.”

Triss, who looked weary, asked if we could rest so that she could restore her mana. Asakku and I took watches outside the door and watched over the others while they rested. Following their rest, they woke refreshed and ready to fight further.

When they stepped out past the threshold of the room, another door crumbled away, confirming my suspicions that the thresholds are the trigger. We took collective deep breaths and prepared to face yet more enemies. With three more doors after this one, I worried about our odds, though so far we had survived their efforts to end us.

This fight went far worse than the last ones. Perhaps we were far less apt during this fight and suffered significant injury and losses. After much discussion and debate, we decided to launch an attack against one more door. Before crossing the threshold, Erevel examined the two rooms and evaluated which was the most likely to have healing items, though it was impossible to tell from the doorway.

Erevel reported a good deal of money, masterwork studded leather armor, a bolt of canvas, a fishing net, clay pitchers, a hand saw, thirteen racks of firewood, a sack of wheat, a sewing needle, a glass rod, a waterskin, and twelve small, wooden chests and one medium one. All twelve of the small wooden chests were empty. We found four more healing potions inside.

We engaged the next group. Asakku stepped over the threshold and, rolling my eyes, I joined him. We fought the skeleton, and took it down. Inside the room Asakku and I found coins, a masterwork light steel shield, a scroll of charm animal, a backpack, a box of twenty arrowheads, a box of twenty candles, a lamp, a large iron box, a loaf of bread, a sickle, a sledge, and a medium-sized wooden chest.

Unbeknownst to me, Erevel charged into one of the other rooms to loot it without and found some items I didn’t know about. I heard her call out from the other room. We slept for the night, and then, in the morning we all rushed out of the rooms and into formation. One of the rooms opened to what we had come to expect, but in the other was a set of black armor, blood pouring out of the cracks in its helm.

We may be boned.

The fighting was fierce and bloody. The knight spewed blood everywhere until the air was thick with the stench of it. I don’t know if I will be able to bathe enough to clean the blood off my skin. Asakku, Trissa, and myself engaged the blood knight while Darvin and Erevel took out the rest of the skeletons. As we fought, Erevel came up with a horrible, terrible idea. One that just might work.

Session One

Year: 905 WE

After receiving a letter from Earl Dregard, our small, rather peculiar, group made its way to the Thorpe of Oakhill. They contacted us regarding concerns of a necromancer residing in a nearby cave. When we arrived in town, the locals pointed us toward the cave, and we set off through the trees. The closer we got to the cave the townsfolk had warned us of the better we heard this strange buzzing sound reverberating from within. Darvin, Erevel and I thought it might have just been a particularly large wasp’s nest, but Trissa and Asakku pointed out a collection of massive, fly-like insects hovering over a corpse lying at the mouth of the cave.

We conferred for a short time about strategy before launching our attack. The insects fell quickly but not before Darvin was stung. When I first inspected the wound I saw nothing of note, but after seeing the state of the corpse—it looked like something had burst out of its chest—I became concerned. Erevel, too, examined Darvin’s side, and the three of us agreed it would be better safe than sorry in case one of the monsters had laid an egg in him or some such horrid fate. Erevel and I took Darvin back into the tree cover, and Asakku and I cut carefully into Darvin’s side near the wound.

You cannot imagine the relief and horror I felt when I saw the egg nestled up against his ribs. It was only about the size of a field mouse, but if the corpse lying by the cave mouth was any indication, it could have been so much worse than a wound to his side. Asakku and I bandaged Darvin’s side, and Erevel offered him a healing potion. I have no idea where she found such a thing, or when, but it certainly came in handy.

Following our impromptu surgery, Trissa stripped the body of its chain mail, deciding to use that instead of her scale, and I dragged the body off to the side while she changed. After saying a short prayer to Bahamut for the dead man’s soul, we headed inside. Erevel paused by the entrance and put down a neat stack of copper coins; I’m not sure what her purpose was in that. Perhaps it was tribute to the dead?

The moment we stepped into the dim murk of the cave, the overwhelming stench of rot filled our nostrils. Asakku and Erevel—who had taken point—told us they believed the stench came from further in. They scouted deeper into the cave’s darkness, and Triss, Darvin, and I discussed the revolting and concerning possibility that the insects may have been killing people and dragging them into the cave in order to feed, incubate young or—worse—supply the necromancer with fresh bodies.

When Asakku and Erevel returned, they told us the next room of the cave played host to three, chattering skulls that hovered, spinning slowly in the air. Concerned they could be some form of foul alarm system, we paused to discuss our strategy. We struggled with several possibilities, the uncertainty of not knowing the nature of the strange skulls causing worry, until Darvin broke off from the group and charged into the room ahead of the rest of us.

Weighed down by my chain mail, I barely reached the room when Asakku, Triss, and Darvin finished off the skulls. I scolded Darvin for his recklessness. Unlike me, he wears no armor and looks like a stiff wind would blow him off his feet. While I applaud his bravery, there are better things to do with one’s life than waste it in foolish haste. After the conflict, Erevel turned to me and handed me three gold coins. I stared at her in confusion, but she only smiled and said, “I don’t want your money.” I asked her why she took it, and she shrugged, telling me, “There are reasons.” She is such a strange woman. While I appreciate her returning my gold to me, I don’t know why she would have taken it in the first place if she didn’t desire it. If she needed gold all she had to do was ask me, and I would happily have given her what I could offer.

Darvin paused in the center of the room, muttering to an incantation of some kind. Moments later he reeled, his face pale with horror as he told us that something great and terrible lay further in. He recommended withdrawing and leaving this place, but I couldn’t do that. I told them they could leave if they wished, but if this really were a necromancer causing havoc to the town I couldn’t stand by and allow it to happen. As we spoke, all of us but Darvin—who had focused on his spellcasting—spotted Erevel reaching into Asakku’s pocket. While she is usually light-fingered (a trait I both admire and disdain), she must have miscalculated. Perhaps she forgot how well most of us can see in the dark. Asakku and Erevel agreed with me, and we reluctantly pressed on after I slapped Erevel upside the head for her troubles. “For Bahamut’s sake, woman, we’re in danger here. It’s no time for games!”

Less concerned about stealth now, after the conflict with the skulls, I took point and led us into a room with a massive, ancient door. I guessed it to be of elfish make. Unfortunately, none of us saw a way to open"the darn thing. Erevel and I examined the door, touching it only with my chain mail gauntlet, for well over an hour but came no closer to a solution until, in weariness, she leaned on the door with her bare hand.

Red runes spidered out from the place Erevel touched it, and we watched in awe and horror as they spilled into a massive text with a red line splitting it down the center. Surprisingly, Erevel couldn’t read it. I thought all elves could read their language, but… I cannot judge. There must be a reason for it. Asakku studied the runes, informing us they were a long-extinct dialect of Elvish. He could not read them, though he picked out the words “great” and “king” from various points of the text.

After more discussion about how we were to handle the door, I decided to attempt to open them. Pressing my gauntleted hands to the stone, I pushed inward and nearly fell forward when the door dissolved into dust, vanishing into the yawning darkness further on. My guts turned cold as I second-guessed the wisdom of opening a door sealed by such powerful magic, but the thought that a necromancer might be further in, preparing to wreak havoc on innocent people, strengthened my resolve. I glanced back at the others, my concern and unease mirrored on their faces, before facing the shadows.


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