Creslonia

Enter the Wizard's Tower
"The thrill of adventure!"

Having finished the strange tale of the dream that they all shared the companions once again turn their attention back to the walls of the Tower of the Shattered Sphinx. After some careful thought Lars decides that the answer to the riddle carved into the stone wall is clearly:

“The thrill of adventure!” which he loudly calls out to the wall, eagerly awaiting a response of some kind…a response which never comes.

Feeling that she knows the correct answer Sasha proudly proclaims that the answer is:

“Nothing!” and smiles to herself as the stones slowly groan open.

The companions pass through the stone entryway and find themselves in a large circular room. The air feels cooler and drier here and Lars is absolutely certain that the room they now stand in is much larger than the outside of the tower had led them to believe. The floor is a checkerboard of black and white stone tiles and across the room, the companions can make out two elegantly crafted staircases. Crafted from polished dark wood and lined with blue carpets they rise to the left and right spiraling back along the round walls. The room is largely empty, except for a few pieces of furniture – some low wooden tables and a cushioned bench. There are no torches or other obvious light sources, but the room seems to be uniformly lit at a comfortable level. In the center of the room, the companions are alarmed to see a 9 foot tall humanoid wearing armor, a stony caricature of a stick-figure, a massive conglomeration of stone, wood, and metal.

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…As the group steps forward, the construct suddenly strides into the middle of the room. It is surprisingly quiet with it’s movements, only the clunk of it’s stone feet against the stone tiles, which shake the floor as it walks toward the companions.

“Please announce yourselves and your intentions in this place!”

Impressed with the construct’s ability to speak Lars quickly steps forward and begins introducing the companions before asking after Master Stahlbo.

“You are acquaintances of Master Stahlbo?” the tall figure questions. To which Lars answers that yes indeed we are acquaintances. Knowing that they are in fact here to aid or rescue the wizard Stahlbo, Ornith asks the construct when the last visitors were here at the tower. Sadly the construct has response for the out of the ordinary question.

“You may enter as guests. Please listen closely as I detail expected behavior. … Know that this tower is not designed with the safety or comfort of visitors in mind. Not even The Master knows every room and hallway. Master Stahlbo is not responsible for any loss of life of property resulting from your time spent here. Tampering with locked doors is strictly forbidden. Do not attempt to trespass beyond them. Theft, vandalism, arson, assault, and solicitation will not be tolerated. If you cannot or do not wish to comply with these regulations, please depart through the portal where you entered.” the companions stand speechless waiting to see if there are any other items to add to the list, but none arrive. Able to get no more answers to their litany of questions the companions decide that they have little other choice than to start exploring the tower. Having done its duty the construct turns and moves back to where it stood originally. As it turns Ornith notices a rather rare clump of lichen attached to its back…a rather odd and out of place find…

Gaining no further knowledge or advantage from further interrogation of the construct the companions decide to explore up the left staircase first. There is a large landing here with some comfortable looking chairs and many bookcases. The furniture is clean and polished, but the books are disheveled and some of them are scattered across the floor. Looking closer Tamull finds that the books of this shelf appear somewhat decayed and the wood of the shelf itself a bit rotten in parts with even some mold growing on the books. Curious Ornith finds that this mold is not a very common variety…yet another strange find in this tower, and takes a sample of the spores with her.

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Deciding to check out the hallway first the companions move off down it, jumping in surprise as the construct’s loud booming voice echoes down after them warning of what will happen if items are taken from the tower. Hearing the loud thudding of the construct’s stone feet Sasha quickly scampers back to the room of books, quietly and bashfully replacing the books that had accidentally fallen into her open backpack.

Traveling down the hallway the companions are slightly surprised when they are met suddenly with a beaded curtain. The beads appear to be carved wood and give way only slightly when pressed upon. Finding this some kind of odd wizardy joke Ragnarok presses mightily on them, hoping that he can perhaps hold them open for the rest of the companions to walk through. It is all to no avail though and the companions watch perplexed as the fighter’s massive biceps flex once more with veins standing out in ridges before giving up the fight. Remembering suddenly that one of his spells might be useful for just such an occasion, Lars recites the words for the spell “Open, Close” and watches in satisfaction as the beads part effortlessly allowing the companions to enter the room beyond. On the other side of the beads is a room with a cushioned bench and another curtain of beads, these ones apparently metal, at the far end. In the center of the floor is a piece of paper, the edge is ragged as if it was torn from a book:

“The increase in activity in the planar scrying columns continues. I’ve not see anything like it in decades. I’ll have to ask Daedelus what he makes of it, but that may have to wait. Since his invitation to the Council, he’s been difficult to reach. Still, it does please me that a pupil of mine has risen so high. I was worried for a time, he was always gallavanting around with those two idiot friends of his.
I had enough of the damn door and finally changed it. It was so troublesome tracking down the four parts of the square every time, that I got fed up and had two keys made for the door instead. It wasn’t easy. I’m still not sure what the door is made of. I owe Igoi for his assistance in the matter. His knowledge of metallurgy far surpasses my own. I should probably find a safe place for them, but I do not think it is a pressing concern., In the meantime, I’ve taken to hiding one in a bophor’s blessing and another on the shelves in a book about locksmithing. The latter amuses me.”

Finding this information both simultaneously intriguing as well as helpful the companions attempt to pass through the metal curtain of beads, this time however the beads don’t even appear to move in the slightest. Not sure if they perhaps missed some clue in regards to how to proceed the companions return to the previous room to explore the other doors.

One of the doors leads into yet another large room similarly decorated as the previous ones, only this time there is also a large object covered with a drape in one corner. Fearlessly pulling the cloth from the object Sasha is both startled and confused by what she finds, a massive brass hoop with some unreadable inscription on it. Lars of course can read the inscription immediately:

“No legs have I to dance, No lungs have I to breathe, No life have I to live or die And yet I do all three.”

Used to this game now both Ornith and Sasha call out “Fire!” and watch in amazement as a shimmering, color swirling, fire blazes up within the hoop. Brazenly sticking a hand into the flames Sasha is amazed to find herself unscathed…Ornith is amazed the rogue won’t be sporting a stump or hook. With nothing else seemingly happening in regards to the now lit hoop the companions move on to yet another door in hopes of some answers.

The last door on this level left to the companions is one which is locked and which Sasha cannot quite figure out how to unlock. It isn’t until a small object is noticed deep in a tiny hole that the group is able to unlock the door, utilizing Lars’ mage-hand item to free the locking mechanism. The companions find themselves in a room containing yet more furniture as well as what appears to be a mirror and a chest. Opening the chest Ragnarok is disappointed to find nothing within, turning however he catches a glimpse in the mirror and is stunned to see the reflection of the chest brimming with treasure…whirling back on the chest itself however reveals nothing but an empty chest. After some experimentation the companions can’t quite discover the trick to either the chest or the mirror and so move on once again.

Walking up the last staircase the companions come to a door with yet another inscription upon it, this one slightly more difficult than the previous ones with the answer eventually being figured out to open the door in darkness. The first door leads them into a large room with a stone tile floor and a blue rug, a very long table lined with chairs on either side, and with candelabras placed at regular intervals along the table. Ornith is both surprised and unsurprised to see two large clay pots at opposite ends of the room in which are potted Bophor’s Blessing, one plant living and one seemingly dead. Eager that there may be a key hidden in one of the pots Sasha and Ornith immediately search around in the dirt of the pots, but find nothing aside from the plants themselves.

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Finding nothing within this room the companions return to try another door, this one merely leading into what seems to be a kitchen area with nothing of use. Proceeding down the last large hall with a rug of the now familiar blue color running the length of it. The companions are a little disconcerted to see large windows with bright light shining through them lining the hall, yet the windows are clouded over and nothing can be seen out of them. The companions are stopped once more at the end of the hall by what appears to be large doors of some sort. Entering the room the companions notice that in the floor there seems to be a large metal disc as well as a large glass orb resting on a table. No sooner does the last member of the group enter however and a loudly audible click noise is heard, throwing Ornith, Ragnarok, and Sasha to the ground and pressing them there for a few brief moments. When the companions are able to stand once again and gather themselves together they notice that there is now a five foot in diameter circle in the ceiling mirroring the disc in the floor. Thinking that the disc is perhaps an elevator, Tamull quickly steps on to it in expectation of being lifted…nothing happens however. With some rope and a boost though, Sasha is able to climb up the shaft before throwing her rope down to the others.

The air is thick and humid and full of rolling fog banks which obscure the vision very easily. Unsure of what lies ahead the companions begin to move forward searching for anything. Before too long however, the companions are stopped in their tracks by the appearance of a cloaked female figure. Calling out to her the companions shrink back in surprise and fear as the baleful red gaze of the woman falls on them, the vipers writhing about her head and face clearly aggressive and bent on their destruction.

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After a brief yet dangerous battle (for one direct look from the woman can kill a man) the companions manage to slay the woman-like creature with Ragnarok landing the killing blow, severing the wriggling head from it’s body. Looking around and seeing only the pedestal in the immediate vicinity the companions move toward it…hoping against hope that this time they might find a valuable and viable clue…

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Back to the Past
1.21 Gigawatts!

While still continuing to mull over the tricky riddle carved into the tower wall Lars requests that his fellow companions relate the adventure which took place during his study time:

The day had dawned glorious and sun-filled, not a single wisp of a cloud to be seen within the blue sky shimmering above the city of Roshtar. Thinking to explore the city a little more as they await for Lars to complete his studying the companions begin to meander the streets, finding out soon that there is in fact a faire going on! The streets of Roshtar bustle with activity as the faire engulfs the main street through the city. The street itself is narrowed by the carts and booths lining its sides; artisans, entertainers, and merchants can be heard calling out to potential customers and trumpeting their wares. Fine pastries, meat pies, ales, and wines are being served up and down the street by the local bakery and tavern owners.

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Suddenly a shout from the middle of the busy faire spreads into an expanding ripple of cries and screams, accompanied by loud crashes that could only be carts and booths being overturned. These ripples of screams and cries immediately transform into a wave of people as bystanders begin to try to surge by in an attempt to escape whatever is wreaking havoc behind them. Wanting to reach the source of the destruction Tamull and Ragnarok quickly close up next to one another and begin forcing their way through the crowd, allowing a path to form behind them for Ornith, Sasha, and the newly acquired druid Nadraya to follow. With a final ferocious roar Ragnarok is able to intimidate the last few citizens out of the way, allowing for the companions to stumble out onto a scene more disturbing.

Several merchants lay on the cobblestone ground in various stages of injury while several more dire rats and some strange creature that can only be described as a “monkey-rat” wreak havoc around them all. Blood suddenly spatters the ground as the throat of one of the merchants is torn open, causing the companions to leap into action!

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The battle is short, but bloody, with Ragnarok pulverizing several of the creatures at once and spraying brain bits all over both himself and Tamull. Soon after the last rat body drops several city guards come sprinting down the street and immediately demand to know what exactly is going on. Nadraya calmly explains all that had transpired while the others ensure that the remaining merchants are alive. Seeming only mildly disturbed by the dead creatures littering the ground the captain of the guard orders his guardsmen to begin cleaning up; the faire must go on!

Ornith quickly begins motioning for the companions to join her at the mouth of one alley, silently pointing to a fast retreating shadowy figure. Not waiting to see what the decision is about pursuing the figure, Nadraya takes off after the figure, easily clearing barrels and crates in her way. Unfortunately the druid just can’t seem to gain ground on the figure and eventually stops as the figure slips around one final corner, disappearing from sight. Hearing her companions noisily coming up behind her the druid turns to rejoin them. Obviously curious about the shadowy figure and why there came to be dire-rats in broad daylight in the middle of the city the companions return to the faire in order to begin questioning people.

Sasha begins attempting to gather information immediately, but can find no real leads. One seemingly rather drunk guardsman went on at great length about the Count making an announcement in regards to what occurred and also mumbled something about a fellow guardsman disappearing a few days ago. It wasn’t until she entered a tavern and spoke to a rather flirtatious barmaid that she received some truly intriguing information. The barmaid spoke of a ghost called the “Ghost of West Hill,” which roamed the city streets making strange cackling noises. Thinking this something similar to what the companions seem to be rather good at checking into the group decides to set off for West Hill and this supposed “ghost.”

Walking down the street to West Hill the companions suddenly feel very disoriented, as though for an instant the very fabric of space seems to warp. Distances stretch to infinity or close to nothing, straight lines warp and weave, vertigo assaulting their senses. Then, before their very eyes the air in front of them seems to open up and a pool of thick blue slime oozes out onto the cobblestone street. As things seems to snap back into place a huge worm-like creature rises up from the gelatinous pool; its translucent, purplish skin revealing strands of pulsating organs beneath it, a ring of hooked tentacle-like limbs surrounds a gaping lamprey-like mouth.

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Wrinkling their noses in disgust the companions once again enter the fray of battle! With the creature’s attention mainly focused on Tamull and Ragnarok, Sasha is able to deliver a devastating sneak attack while Nadraya lets lose a flaming sphere of fire! Tamull moves forward to assault the creature with his mighty warhammer when suddenly the creature lunges forward and engulfs the paladin in its maw, beginning to consume the man! Taking careful aim Ornith fires an arrow into the creature’s body, causing the creature to collapse and Tamull’s body to come spilling out of the giant maw…covered in the creature’s body slime. As before the town guards come rushing to the scene after the danger has passed. One looks with dismay at the dead creature and asks aloud:
“I wonder why Elayne is not here. She’s always the first to appear when something of this sort happens.”

Curious as to who this Elayne person is and thinking that perhaps she may be able to provide them with more information the companions question the young guardsman as to where they might find this Elayne. The young man states that she is usually found in the Shrine to Culan and points off down the street. The companions leave the guards to clean up yet another mess and hastily head off in the direction pointed out to them. As they approach the shrine however, a strange heavy mist begins to form up and surround the shrine. Suddenly a woman’s voice cries out from behind the shrine, words can not be discerned, but the tone suggests urgency! Opening the shrine door the companions find it to be empty, but with the back door slightly ajar. Running through this back door the companions emerge out into the mist to find a woman lying on the ground and clattering sounds coming from the mist itself. Leaving Ornith and Nadraya to assess the woman’s the vitals and keep watch over her, Tamull, Ragnarok, and Sasha dash off after the retreating noises. Ornith and Nadraya soon discover that while the woman is alive, she appears to be under some sort of sleeping spell, one of which Nadraya is not skilled enough yet to lift.

Tamull, Ragnarok, and Sasha eventually run out into a clearing of the mist to find a circle of men wearing dark clothing with white ribbon tied around their waists, formed up in a circle surrounding a seemingly asleep woman.

“Stop right there!” Tamull calls out strongly. The acultists pay him no mind however and simply call out:

“She must be out of the way for the gate to open!” and “The Blessed will lead us in singing the praise of the Ones Beyond, even as our bodies are consumed and our minds lost to madness!”

Thinking that clearly these men are already lost to madness the three companions attack in hopes of rescuing the woman they have captured. The three companions make quick work of the men however, Sasha deftly slicing one’s jugular open and Ragnarok cleanly severing another’s arms from his body. Within moments the fight is over and the woman lying on the ground begins to groggily awaken. It is then that Ornith, Nadraya, and the woman they now know as Toria find the others. Seeing that her mentor, Elayne, is alright the two clerics soon begin to fill the companions in on what exactly happened.

Elayne explains that the men had approached the shrine, but had not answered her calling out to them so she had left and approached them. After that she remembers nothing, Toria however was able to fill in the rest. Hearing her mentor clatter to the ground Toria had rushed out of the shrine as well, but had stumbled to a confused halt as she recognized one of the men from the city’s well-known bookstore, Yar’s Books. After that moment she only remembers one of the men pointing at her and nothing more.

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Unsure as to what exactly go on the companions merely look at one another…perhaps this bookstore is now next on their list of investigations?

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Uncontrolled Beasts
A Journey Back in Time

Having arrived at the base of the tower the companions pause to catch their breath and mull over the riddle they have discovered, Tamull asks the others to tell him what they did in the town of Roshtar while he was away on other business. Ragnarok creases his forehead in concentration thinking back to the morning of five days earlier as everyone had sat around the table at the Five Foxes Inn in Roshtar, eating breakfast…

The innkeeper interrupts the companions’ meal to tell Tamull that a note has arrived for him. He reads it and announces that he must be away for a couple days in the service of the Temple of Ulsonur. He quickly finishes his meal, stands, announces he will return in two days, and departs.

The rest of the companions quietly finish breakfast, their attention soon turned to the windows facing out into the street where they begin to hear an unusual commotion coming from outside. It sounds as if a large, noisy crowd is coming down the street. The noise grows louder and yelling can be heard. A few of the words seem to be shouts about some sort of dispute about the leadership of the kingdom. The mob finally emerges into the view of the windows, they are carrying banners marked with black and white, many of them are wearing white ribbons tied around their heads and waists.
The innkeeper soberly looks out the window and mutters, “Here they come again. Yelling about some new king or something. You know, I don’t see whats so wrong with the one we got. King Crethilus is as good as they come.”
Almost seeming to just notice the companions still seated at the table the innkeeper turns his words to them, “They’ve been at it for months now. Seems like theres more and more of them every day. Shouting on the streetcorners and being a nuisance. If they’re not careful the city guard will will stop them by force, and I wouldn’t blame them if they did. Blasted noisy troublemakers.”

Not having much to say on the topic at hand the companions merely sit and watch as the procession continues down the street, sense of slight unease and gratitude that they do not call this city home rising within them. Suddenly the door bangs open and a woman enters the room hastily, shutting the door behind her, seemingly driven off the narrow street by the mob. She looks around cautiously, clearly out of place. She is of a similar height to Ornith and Sasha, but with striking black hair and a darker complexion. She catches sight of the companions at the table and watches them for a few moments before approaching.

INSERT NADRAYA PICTURE

Sasha warmly greets the newcomer, “Good morning, would you like to join us? I am Sasha.” the other woman still appears unsure of herself, but does manage to pull up a chair.
“I am Nadraya. Pardon for my interruption, but the four of you have a look about you that suggests you may be able to help me.” Ornith’s eyebrows raise at this since clearly this woman is no ordinary townswoman, she is dressed for travel and protection and has the faint scent of wilderness about her. “My master has sent me on a most cryptic mission of dealing with some evil taking root in the forest just east of Roshtar’s outskirts. I understand if you are too busy to help me, but I would appreciate any assistance.”

Shrugging at one another the companions decide that they have no reason not to help the young woman, Tamull will be gone for at least two days after all.

“Your master didn’t give you any other information aside from the fact that there is some evil in the forest?” Lars questions.

“Nothing of use, my master isn’t the most…coherent or helpful of individuals.” Nadraya’s face grows slightly red, as though she is attempting to hide her own frustration with the situation.

“Well, let’s start asking around town then!” Sasha beams with a smile as she heads out into the street. Within moments Sasha is able to gather enough information to point the companions in the direction of the home of a rather old and “batty” woman who is apparently always going on about evil spirits and creatures.

Passing through the city wall and leaving the main part of town the companions are pleased to have clean air about them as they make their way to the outskirts of the city. The house at the end of the lane is small, but pleasant looking. Small wooden sculptures of strange, charming creatures are scattered about in front. As they approach, two cats are wrestling on a wooden porch near the front door. Noticing the companions they immediately bolt away into some bushes.

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Walking up to the door, Lars knocks and immediately hears some shuffling footsteps from within. Standing within the doorway is a stooped older woman, her thinning white hair wafting in the breeze, a not so toothy grin scrawled across her face as she gazes up at Lars.

“Well, hello there fine Sir.” the old woman’s tone is clearly flirtatious, causing the other companions to smile behind Lars’ back. “How can I help you?”

“We were hoping you could give us some information as to some supposed evil present in the forest near here.” Lars keeps his tone friendly, but not so friendly as to make the woman a “special friend.”

“Oh yes, let me get you all some lemonade!” Before anyone can say anything else the old woman darts back into the house, returning shortly with several glasses of lemonade. "There’s always evil around, most people just refuse to see it. Some aren’t so evil though, take the ghost of Marella Crump. She was murdered in that forest to the east and then buried in the graveyard near here. Naturally she haunts both places.” She nods emphatically. “If you want to know who is trouble, its Mr. Borgle. I’m quite convinced he is an aranea in disguise.” the old woman’s voice quickly takes on a prattling tone.

“Thank you so much for the information!” Nadraya jumps in, interrupting the woman, “Could you point us in the direction of the graveyard?”

“Oh yes, why its right over there dearie.” the old woman points eastward to a small path leading to the fenced off area of the graveyard. “Come back any time you like.” the woman makes a special note of smiling at Lars once more as she speaks.

The companions walk until most of the village buildings are behind them and there is a forest in the distance. Approaching the graveyard it seems normal enough. It is surrounded by a low iron fence, the gate of which stands open. The fence is leaning in a few places and the grass beyond is overgrown. Inside they can see several scattered trees and a few mourners moving among the graves. A path leads from the gate up the center of the graveyard. It was apparently once cobblestone, but is largely dirt now, many of the stones having long since gone missing. This graveyard must have served the city for centuries as there are graves stretching far into the distance, most of them quite weathered and forgotten. Nearer the center of the graveyard is an old house, it appears to have been painted recently, but it can’t disguise the sagging wood that gives away its age.

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“Surely that must be where the groundskeeper is? He should be able to tell us where this grave of Marella Crump.” Ornith suggests as she makes her way up to the aged building and knocks at the door.

A young man answers. He is short and thin, but otherwise rather handsome. “Yes?”, he asks, surprised to see such a gathering of individuals at his doorstep.

“We were hoping you could point us in the direction of the grave of Marella Crump?”, Ornith politely asks.

“Marella Crump…hmm. I only just started here not that long ago and so I’m not all that familiar with the locals here.”, the man looks out over the graves, his eyebrows drawn down in thought.

“She would have died a couple hundred years ago we think.” Nadraya offers up hopefully.

“Oh! In that case it should be over there in that far corner.” the man points to a section of even more weathered and aged gravestones near the boundary with the forest. “Just please don’t desecrate anything, the Temple of Auvurn pays me a small stipend to maintain the grounds here. As you can see, I am outmatched by the ravages of time.”

“Of course, of course. We are merely surveying the area and gathering information.”, Lars reassures the man as the companions head off toward the older gravestones.

Reaching the gravestone of Marella Crump, Nadraya immediately notices that the ground around the grave has been disturbed. There are marks in the grass and dirt suggesting that something heavy was dragged across it. Getting out her goggles Sasha soon finds a seam in the back of the gravestone itself, prying at it with her dagger she can feel it give way, but isn’t quite stronger enough herself to move the stone. Having overcome his sudden change in morals Ragnarok decides that the seam means the grave has already been desecrated and so its okay for him to come over and shove the stone apart. With his moral compass whirling Ragnarok is able to push the two pieces of gravestone apart, revealing a hole leading into the ground complete with ladder. Seeing that he couldn’t possibly fit down the hole with his armor he quickly strips out of it and makes his way down the ladder, breaking a rung in the name of Tamull and immediately falling to the ground below with a loud thump. Throwing his armor down to him the others wait for Ornith to secure a rope before joining the fighter down below. Vilkas, Ornith’s snow leopard, and _____ Nadraya’s wolf companion remain above ground with Caravec to keep watch.

The floors and walls appear to be made of stone with dusty and cobweb covered candles set into wall holders. Before them are two doors, listening to one Sasha determines she can hear nothing, Nadraya however listens at the other door and can hear what seems to be fluttering cloth in a breeze. Deeming that the appropriate door to open Ragnarok flings it open, surprised to see that the noise is not at all cloth fluttering in the breeze, but instead are six large demonic heads kept aloft by leathery wings.

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Not wanting to take any chances Lars quickly steps to the front, unleashing a massive fireball into the small room. Everyone, even Lars himself, is stunned to see all six creatures burned to a crisp. Entering the room the companions see that there is a door at the far end. Listening at it, Ornith can hear nothing, moving forward to pick the lock though Sasha immediately pulls her hand back in a hiss of pain. Realizing that she very narrowly avoided being poisoned Sasha glares fiercely at the door as she wipes off the remaining poison with one of Ragnarok’s best shirts.

Entering the room is quite clear there was a fire of some sort here, scorch marks are present all along the floor and walls. With her inspection goggles on though Sasha is able to find a slight indentation in the floor, pressing on it a faint click is heard in the room and a part of the stone wall slides open revealing a secret room. Entering the room cautiously the companions are a bit surprised (or maybe not) to find the room occupied by old, long unused alchemy equipment as well as the tattered remnants of several spellbooks. Lars is able to pull two aged pages from one of the books that may be of some use with some study. Yet another door is present at the far end of the small room and the companions curiously enter it. This room is yet again filled with scorch marks, a burned and charred skeleton tossed to one side of the room. Searching around the bones Ragnarok is able to find a lump of gold…presumably the result of several gold coins melted suddenly. In addition to this Nadraya notices that there is a large circle with arcane markings etched into the floor…a summoner’s circle, according to Lars…

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Feeling rather ominous and wondering just what occurred down here in the first place the companions back track their way to the first room and open up the remaining door. Bones of every size and shape litter the floor in random piles. Bending down to examine them Nadraya identifies the bones as belong to various native animals: deer, rodents, cats, etc. Broken furniture is also every where in the room and after some searching Ragnarok finds a rather smooth and polished piece of wood, unsure of what it is exactly he hands it over to Lars who immediately detects magic from the school of illusion on the item. Waving the wand around him Lars (and everyone else) is taken aback as three copies of himself suddenly appear in the room, miming his every move. Unsure how to make them go away Lars continues to wave his wand around until there are no less than eight copies standing before him. Thinking that perhaps his leaving the room will dissipate them Ornith urges Lars to leave, laughter breaks out from the companions however at the sight of all nine Lars’ attempting to fit through the door at once. They pass through and overlap one another until the real Lars is indistinguishable. A few minutes later though the copies slowly begin to disappear. Apparently the spell is on a time limit.

Turning to the last remaining door to enter the companions slowly swing it open and enter a room filled with the rubble of broken furniture. Soon after entering the room however the companions hear a voice coming from somewhere in the darkness, a voice speaking a harsh and strange language. This is followed by everyone but Lars and Nadraya with a feeling of crushing despair. Then, seeming to emerge from thin air appears a most horrifying beast! Some kind of otherworldly wolf creature, its orange eyes afire with intelligence and hatred!

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The fight that ensues is long and hard, the creature seems to have amazing reflexes and easily dodges many attacks. Not only does it manage to repeatedly step aside from the flaming spheres of both Lars and Nadraya, but the creature has also managed to make Ragnarok think that it is a friend and should not be harmed. Just as the companions are feeling as though they are close to bringing it down however the creature disappears with an echoing howl. While the others stand rather dumbfounded Nadraya moves to where the beast had been standing and detects the residues of magic from the school of conjuration…

Quickly climbing back up to the graveyard itself Nadraya notices that the grass around the grave is flattened as though something and possibly run across it very recently. The animal are all very nervous. Nadraya soon realizes that there are tracks leading away from the grave and toward the surrounding forest. Following the tracks the companions soon see in the distance a large wolf-like shape crashing into the forest, large glowing eyes turning to stare at them balefully. Sprinting after it Ornith and Nadraya reach the edge of the forest in no time, but decide to wait for the other to catch up before entering the shadows of the trees. Cautiously the companions enter the forest together and find the beast curled up at the foot of a tree licking its wounds. Not willing to give the beast any kind of advantage, Sasha attempts to sneak up to the creature and attack it. Unfortunately, she is spotted and the companions immediately open fire, Lars’ magic missiles landing the killing blow as the creature slumps to the ground with a loud whimper.

Believing this to have been the evil her master had sent her after Nadraya quickly thanks the companions for their assistance knowing she couldn’t have accomplished this feat alone. Knowing that she may very well run into these friends again she gracefully slips away into the forest to report back to her master, her large dark wolf padding silently behind her.

Ragnarok cleanly severs the head from the beast, dropping it into a sack as the companions move off back to the city of Roshtar to await the return of Tamull.

A day later Tamull returns to the inn, soon after which the companions leave the city to begin the trek to locate the Tower of the Shattered Sphinx ( The Art of Diplomacy, or Lack Thereof).

As the companions approach the city’s gate they are stopped by a rather attractive female guard who seems to be extremely excited to see Ragnarok.

She motions Ragnarok over, “You’re one of those guys. The Saviors of Salt Marsh, aren’t you? Wow, this is great! Oh hey, come see the other guards so they believe me when I say I met you. The captain is from Saltmarsh, you know? He’s a huge fan of yours. Really wants to meet you. Come on.”
Pausing only briefly to think, Ragnarok shrugs to his companions and follows the young guard into the guardhouse. The woman insists that he needs to leave his weapons at the door, but Ragnarok refuses, instead leaving his shield at the door but not his axe. The female guard expresses concern over getting in trouble for his refusal to leave the axe, but Ragnarok ignores these, motioning for her to continue.

The guard leads him through some narrow stone rooms seemingly built into the city walls. She stops at a door and knocks on it. “Captain Den, its him. The ‘hero’ of Saltmarsh.”

The door opens and a tall, lean man with blonde hair steps out. “I’m Captain Corvus Den.” He nods to the guard, “Go and fetch Foren.”

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After a few moments the guard returns with another guard. This one Ragnarok recognizes from the council chambers of Count Tobin.

The captain speaks, “Is this the one? The one who pushed you in the presence of the count?”

The guard answers. “Yes, sir. That’s him.”

The captain turns back to Ragnarok, displeasure apparent on his face, “My men and I don’t make a lot of money. But one thing we do have is pride in our work. We don’t take well to folks embarrassing us. Especially not in front of the Count! You could have gotten one of my men flogged – or worse.”

Ragnarok puffs out his chest in answer to the statement, “Its not my fault your Count is no-good and respects no one.”

The captain nods his head slightly in agreement, “What you say is true. But my job isn’t to tell the count how to do his. My job is to keep order in this city.”

Before Ragnarok can argue further a door opens and several more guards enter. Captain Den says casually to Ragnarok, “Here’s whats going to happen. You’re going to receive a beating from my men and I. Then you’re going to limp away from this city and not come back for a long time.”

Ragnarok then gives a lengthy, pompous speech about the guards can try but he will beat every one of them.

Captain Den answers, “I’ve seen your type before. Tough guys like you forget one important thing. There’s always someone tougher.”

After which an intense fist-fight ensues, one where it becomes quite quickly clear that Ragnarok will not win. Several punches are thrown and within a few brief moments Ragnarok is lying in a heap on the ground.

Some time later, Ragnarok awakens to find himself lying in the dirt outside the city walls.

As he rejoins his companions, raised eyebrows and questions galore, all Ragnarok will say is:

“Captain Den shall pay heavily for this.”

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The Art of Diplomacy, or Lack Thereof
Don't Tell Tamull

Having returned to Saltmarsh to lick their wounds, recover, and report the companions find themselves with very nearly nothing as far as clues in regards to the odd behavior of the sea monster and who may have sent it after them. Allowing some extended down time for Lars to study and learn a couple of his newly acquired spells the companions soon begin to discuss just where exactly they should head out to. Knowing that the Count of Roshtar wishes to see them and hear their report on what occurred in Saltmarsh in person it is to the southwest that they decide to turn their horses. Gathering their travel packs together the companions trot out of the small town of Saltmarsh, their mounts well-fed and rested as well as themselves. The familiar clattering of Monieus’ wagon approaching behind them, the companions turn and watch in surprise as the wagon pulls up next to them, completely outfitted with sturdy and strong horses, the old nags nowhere to be seen.

“Good morning friends!” Monieus cheerfully waves from the wagon. “I was able to get those nice older horses to a great retirement pasture and purchase these fine strong beasts.” Monieus grinned widely, clearly proud of the purchase he had made.

“Where might you have gotten the money to make such a purchase sir?” Doubt was heavy in Tamull’s voice making it quite clear that he expected the means of purchase to be less than clean.

“I do not appreciate your insinuation, Paladin,” Monieus responds jovially. “I merely salvaged the goods the smugglers had stored in the caves.” And with a shrug Monieus urged the horses on with the companions following in the wagon’s wake. After a week of easy and light-hearted travel the companions soon find themselves outside the city gates of Roshtar.

Locating an inn and getting Monieus situated as well the companions immediately split up to complete a few personal errands. Lars begins to quietly gather information about the location of the Tower of the Shattered Sphinx, finding nothing of use at the local bar he soon heads across the city to the library. Through some quick and efficient searching Lars soon finds a piece of parchment with indistinct writings on the location of the tower. Questioning the librarian as to what exactly the paper says, he’s told to search out the Sage Kurtz who will surely be able to help him. Unfortunately the man won’t be back in the city for a couple days. During Lars’ search the other companions find themselves preparing to search out and speak to the Count, except Ragnarok of course who was still rolling about in the sheets with the local wenches.

With the return of Ragnarok and Lars the companions make their way through the busy streets of Roshtar, a large castle, clearly their target destination, looming at the far end of the city. With Tamull in the lead the castle’s guards find their questions answered and escort the companions to meet with the Chancellor first. The Chancellor seems friendly enough and soon has the companions in a waiting room complete with food and refreshment. The older man informs the companions that they are to attend the Count’s council meeting which will take place in a couple hours before leaving the companions to themselves. Milling about rather aimlessly the companions have no other choice but to wait, thankfully the Chancellor returns right on time, escorting them further into the castle and into a large chamber they can only assume is the council meeting chamber.

Entering the room the companions are greeted with the not so friendly stares of the council members, the much more finely dressed man seated in the middle clearly the Count Tobin of Roshtar. Keeping his hard grey eyes centered on the companions the Count asks for the companions what their business had been in Saltmarsh. For some reason Ragnarok takes control of the situation and immediately begins a rather bland and bare-bones account of what occurred, dancing around the truly important and stunning parts of the tale. With the Count clearly more and more unimpressed with the words coming from Ragnarok’s mouth, Tamull quickly takes over the tale in hopes of appeasing the Count and not only getting the important information about the smuggled weapons out, but also smoothing over the roughness of the conversation. It is too little, too late however. With Ragnarok’s paranoia getting the better of him the fighter immediately comes to the conclusion that the Count is not to be trusted and very likely is into some no good business. Sasha begins to feed off of Ragnarok’s emotions and soon the Count is motioning for the guards to escort the companions out of the chamber and castle before the hostility can rise further. The others are perfectly fine with the guards ushering them from the castle, but Ragnarok pushes his away, making yet more of a scene and further damaging the companions’ reputation with the Count. Finding themselves roughly escorted out into the street, the companions dust themselves off and make their way back to the inn, more than one of them fairly certain they missed out on a potentially very large reward for their work in Saltmarsh…

Arriving back at the inn, Lars quickly tells the others about his strange dream and the piece of parchment he had located in the library. Deciding that few things are more exciting and noble to do than a rescue mission the companions quickly agree to enter this Tower of the Shattered Sphinx. During the downtime of waiting for the Sage Kurtz to return to town, Ragnarok sends out yet another letter to the group of fighters he had found in Tir Asleen.

With the Sage Kurtz finally back in town two short days later, Lars quickly makes his way to the university where the Sage was said to be lecturing. Entering one of the large lecture halls Lars can’t help but smile as he catches the tale end of what is being said:

“And remember, X never, EVER, marks the spot.”

With the students filing out the door past him Lars fights his way to where Sage Kurtz is standing and packing up his supplies. Showing Sage Kurtz the piece of parchment Lars is delighted when the old man immediately and easily reads the inscriptions. The Tower of the Shattered Sphinx was created from the stones of the dismantled statue of a huge sphinx. It is located across the mountains to the southeast within what is now the kingdom of Boerah. Thanking him profusely for his assistance Lars donates a hefty sum of money to the school before returning to the inn and his companions. Telling them what he learned of the location of the Tower the companions decide to leave for it immediately.

Traveling hard and fast the companions soon arrive at the mountain pass to the kingdom of Boerah, within which the Tower of the Shattered Sphinx is located. After a somewhat awkward conversation with Ragnarok during which the guards became extremely suspicious and distrusting of the companions, Tamull took over talking and was able to satisfy the guards’ questions and gain the companions entrance into the kingdom. Taking the north fork in the road the companions soon find themselves feeling as though they must surely be in the right location for the tower and yet no sight can be seen of it…riding to the top of a nearby ridge however, Tamull quickly spots the tower in the distance and waves to the companions that they much now travel to the west.

Turning and progressing down the somewhat overgrown trail, the companions are forced to walk single file, the reaching branches of the dense forest and sharply thorned bushes slapping and scratching against arms and legs alike. The forest air becomes heavy with the smell of green and growing vegetation, the companions can almost feel the water in the air from the humidity.

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Suddenly the trees clear and the companions are rewarded with the sight of a tall stone tower. Feeling lucky that they had so easily arrived at the tower the companions boldly move forward, only to be stopped in their tracks by a towering wall of brambles, their large and numerous thorns spiking outward to stab any who venture too close. Had that wall of brambles been there a moment ago though?…No one is quite certain. Unsure of how to proceed the companions suddenly jump back as a mangy and thin rabbit bursts from the brambles, veering off to the left down a faint trail that surely had not been there a second ago. After both Ornith and Lars’ raven, Caravec search the beginning of the trail, it is clear that no other choice exists but to proceed down the newly discovered trail. Shrugging to one another the companions proceed down the trail, perhaps this will lead them to the tower.

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Moving down the trail single file with Ragnarok in front attempting to hack and slash his way through the encroaching undergrowth with his battle axe, the companions have to eventually stop for a moment as the fighter places his now sap encrusted axe back in its holder. Clearly a battle axe was not meant to clear vegetation.

Continuing down the path for several minutes the companions are soon faced with monstrously large trees growing incredibly close to one another. Tamull finds the trees slightly odd, but Sasha is awed by the presence of such trees and moves forward to touch and investigate them, gasping aloud and nearly throwing herself back from them however as the bark seems to come alive with the swarming bodies of ants! With the swarm quickly moving to cover both Sasha and Ragnarok the companions can do little else aside from attempting to destroy the swarming insects.

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Realizing that their weapons would have little effect on such a foe, Ornith quickly back up away from the swarm as Tamull first pulls Sasha from the swarm while Ragnarok fights free himself, giving Lars ample space to work with his spells! With his friends out of harm’s way Lars ominously waves his arms about, summoning forth a mighty swarm of rats! In delight the companions watch as the swarm of rats seem to be laying waste to the ants, soon however the air become heavy with the pain-filled squeaks of dying rats, the ants chewing at the dead bodies scattered about. Leaping forward with brightly lit torches the others quickly dispatch a few more ants while Lars readies one final spell to throw at the crawling insects. Yelling for his companions to move aside the wizard performs “Burning Hands”, crisping the remaining ants into piles of ash!

Shaken, but not deterred, the companions search around the now quiet trees until they find a path now taking them deeper into the forest. Not having walked too far Ragnarok suddenly stumbles into the blackened waters of a rancid smelling pond.

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Hastily pulling him out of the slimy waters the companions can only place hands and bits of cloth across their noses to somewhat dispel the rank odor of rotting muck and fallen trees. Bubbles issue up from various places within the murky water, unsure of what these bubbles may entail the companions quickly make their way around the pond and to the other side where they find the trail once again. Staring at the bubbles Tamull doesn’t notice the leafy vine snake out from a nearby tree and encircle his neck, quickly attempting to strangle him!

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Lars leaps to the aid of the paladin, immediately casting “Flaming Sphere” at the murderous vine while Ornith studies it intently, quickly figuring out that this is an assassin vine, a plant that is very well adapted to constricting its prey before dragging it down to its roots for fertilizer. Tamull is able to smash his vine to a pulp, but not before yet another vine snaps itself around Ornith’s neck! Ragnarok leaps forward with his axe however, managing to sever the vine cleanly. Rubbing their necks the companions quickly leave the stinking bog and deadly vines behind them.

Feeling somewhat dirty and violated the companions quickly reenter the forest, now thankful this time for the surrounding clean leaves and fresh air. The trail becomes winding now, but the larger trees give way to smaller, thinner birch trees, soon the companions are dumped out into an open field. The field is littered with the bleached bones of various animals and creatures. Ornith can identify some, but not all (deer legs, raccoon skull), but there are numerous bones and fragments that she has never before encountered. Cautiously moving across the field with the constant fear of something falling or diving at them from the sky the companions eventually make it back to the sheltering cover of trees. This time the trail they find seems to be leading them back toward the tower, perhaps they are finally making their way to their goal destination.

Soon after reentering the trees a large black and white spider descends from a tree right next to Sasha, causing the young rogue to jump and assume the worse. The spider however begins weaving a large web, seemingly uncaring that there is a group of armed adventurers right next to it. Shying away from the large spider Sasha urges them to continue down the trail, who knows what a spider may do after all.

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Walking on down the trail Ornith notices some odd looking boulders covered in moss. Unsure of what to expect Sasha is sent forward to inspect the boulders with her goggles. The rogue quickly jumps back from the boulders announcing that the ground near the boulders feels unstable, as though there may be some kind of pit beneath the surface. Directing everyone to move past the boulders carefully to one side the companions are not caught off guard as the boulders suddenly move aside, the earth erupting upward in an explosion of dirt and insects, a large mound of animated vegetation emerging, its tendrils flailing out attempting to attack the companions!

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Wasting no time the companions immediately launch into an attack, arrows and swords laying about the beast. Lars lets loose a massive fireball at the creature, bursting it and parts of the damp forest into flame! The animated vegetation crumples to the ground, but the companions watch in horror as vines snake out and begin pulling materials inward in an attempt to reconstruct itself. Before anyone can react another vine whips out from the mound of leaves and grasses latching onto Ragnarok. The fighter struggles, but can do little as he is dragged further into the maw of the beast. Sensing that time is of the essence and with Ornith only landing half her shots on the enemy and the other half dangerously skimming Lars’ beard, the wizard lets loose with “Magic Missile”! Panic rises in the group as the missiles hit the creature, but do not bring it down. Ragnarok lets out a final yell as he is completely swallowed by the creature! Unable to do anything else Lars summons a bolt of lightening, striking at the creature, but still not bringing it down! In desperation Ornith puts two final arrows into the plant creature, finally bringing it down in a crumpled heap! Thinking the creature defeated this time around Lars quickly drags Ragnarok’s body from the vegetation, calling out in dismay as he notices the leaves and mosses reassembling themselves once again. Ornith fires two more quick arrows, but it isn’t enough. Dropping Ragnarok, Lars whips out his quarterstaff, bludgeoning the creature in a splatter of wet leaves and moss. This time around there is no reforming!

Quickly moving past the boulders the companions are happy to finally see the trees truly opening up onto the weedy and slightly overgrown lawn at the foot of a tower. Cautiously leaving the trees the companions explore the lawn, eventually finding to their dismay that there appear to be no doors or windows.

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Searching the stone walls more closely however, Tamull finds an inscription in a seemingly foreign language. Pulling Lars over to read the inscription, he recites the words out loud the companions can only stand in puzzlement. The entrance to the tower must have something to do with this strange inscription, they just have to figure it out.

“What does man love more than life?
Hate more than death or mortal strife?
What do contented men desire?
The poor have, the rich require,
The miser spends, the spendthrift saves, 
And all men carry to their graves?”

View
No Simple Smuggler's Ring
"There be no quarter given here!"

Finding little else aside from the disgusting “poop buckets” in the sailors’ living area, the companions continue through into the main cargo hold. Here there is some light offered up by a couple lanterns and they are able to make out dozens upon dozens of casks along either side of the hull as well as many more bolts of silk. Pausing for a moment the companions are able to make out the excited voices of several men coming from the other side of one of the stacks of casks. Curious as to who this group of men are the companions silently move forward, hoping to retain the advantage of surprise.

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As they approach closer they are able to also make out the sound of water splashing and the growls of some sort of animal. Angered by the apparent torture of an animal Ornith and Sasha immediately raise their bows and fire, each wounding one with Ornith snuffing the life from one with a second well-aimed arrow. In an amazingly short amount of time all four men are slain and the only noise in the hold is the now weakened growling coming from the bilge.

Peering down into the mucky water Ornith is surprised to see a leopard of a sort she has never seen before. The leopard is covered in very dense grey spotted fur, and this particular specimen is extremely emaciated, bleeding heavily, and covered in large biting rats. With the leopard only four feet below them, both Ragnarok and Ornith jump down to save the animal. Ragnarok successfully keeping the rats at bay while Ornith hastily ties a rope around the poor creature. Tamull, Sasha, and Lars all haul the cat up while Ragnarok boosts Ornith out of the hole before following himself. Rushing over the creature’s side, Ornith is saddened to find that the body is already cooling and the heart still. Deeming the leopard dead she gingerly curls the body up and places it to one side.

The companions decide to spread out and search the rest of the cargo hold, and within a few moments a wooden cage is located with a small ball of whimpering grey spotted fur within it. After examining it a little closer Ornith determines that it is the same kind of leopard as the bigger one they had found, only perhaps younger and more scared than anything else. The small leopard refuses to allow Ornith to touch it, instead scurrying to the back of its cage if her hand gets too near. Deciding to try to make friends with it by offering it pieces of jerky Ornith stays behind as the rest of the group moves on to explore the nearby rooms.

Cautiously opening one of the two doors left to them, Tamull is pleasantly surprised to find a very much asleep man sprawled in a hammock, one arm dangling over the side ending in a curved hook. Swinging gently with the rocking of the ship is also a brightly colored parrot in a cage. Deciding to take his chances on waking the man up, Tamull creeps into the room with rope ready to tie up the smuggler. Suddenly the parrot stirs, squawking out noisily,
“Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!”
The man however does not stir in the slightest and Tamull quickly binds his hands before slapping the man across the face to wake him up.

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Finding few things of worth in the man’s cabin, coupled with his determination to not speak unless set free, the companions quickly move on to the final room left to them. A quick search finds only a small amount of gold (meanwhile Ornith opens the cage to the small leopard and watches as it nuzzles the dead body of the other leopard before curling up next to it. She decides to the leave the leopard for now and rejoin her friends).

Turning to leave this last room the companions are stopped dead in their tracks by the sudden muffled thumping coming from the back wall. Curiously Sasha carefully searches the wall for clues to anything, her goggles firmly in place. Finding a catch in the wall, causing a trap door to open, the companions are stunned to see none other than Turgut Pothorst!

“Of all the pox ridden, hardtack eatin’… Looks like thats two I be owing you!”

Taking that sentence as a sign that the old sailor is overjoyed to see them Sasha immediately sets to work picking the locks on his chain while Tamull returns to check on the tied up sailor.

“I confess I did be splicing the main brace. And these picaroons overhauled me and measured me for me chains. But dont hang the jib. I be a free man now, thanks to you.”

Assuming that the man had just explained how he came to be in some secret prison cell the companions all turn to head back up to the main deck when the entire ship suddenly lurches, the timbers groaning loudly in protest of the sudden upheaval.

“Get topside!” Turgut commands as he hurries forward, taking immediate control of the situation. “Show a leg! Smartly now!”

It isn’t until everyone reaches the upper deck and looks out upon the source of the turbulence that the real fear and near hopelessness sets in…

“…. Well blow me down”

Lashing out in the waves surrounding the ship are massive, barbed tentacles, rising from the sea and crashing directly into and onto the ship. Suddenly a massive tentacle smashes down onto the deck and sweeps across it, sending buckets and ropes sailing off into the darkness. The arm pulls back into the water. Moments later it is followed by another further down the deck and then another, both smashing into the deck, causing it to shudder and the ship to groan. Unsure of what to do the companions can only stand and watch the massive beast attack the ship; until Turgut Pothorst’s voice rings out over the sound of splashing water and protesting timber!

“Thar be no quarter given here. You lads, weigh anchor!” Turgut yells out, pointing to Tamull and Ragnarok. Whipping around to Ornith and Sasha he adds, “Lasses, up that rigging and hoist the mainsail.”

“Wizard, I be needing you to give that beastie your best shot. It be time we need!"

And with that Turgut Pothorst himself springs to the helm, wrestling with the creature, waves, and the very ship itself to get it underway and headed to the safety of shore.

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Hanging onto the rigging for dear life Ornith and Sasha just barely get the sails unfurled as tentacle after tentacle coming smashing onto the deck. Both immediately drop to the deck to help Lars distract the creature while Tamull and Ragnarok finish hoisting the anchor. Suddenly the ship lurches forward toward the shore, a surge of hope races through the companions as they realize they just might yet make it out alive! The journey to shore seems agonizingly long however as tentacle upon tentacle sweep across the deck, causing both injury and damage, and everyone watches in horror as a tentacle wraps itself around the captive sailor present on deck and drags him screaming into the roiling sea. A moment later Turgut yells down to hang onto something, everyone grabs a piece of railing or rigging save Ornith who hurls herself down the stairs and into the cargo hold to rescue the small leopard she had left down there.

Wading through two feet of water that is quickly rising Ornith finds the small leopard panicked and frightened. Grabbing it by the scruff Ornith is unsurprised when the young animal lashes out, raking its sharp claws down her arms. Happy that she found the leopard in one piece, the ranger turns to return up the stairs, cursing loudly when she hears the loud squawking of the parrot, still trapped in its cage. Unwilling to let an animal suffer when she could save it Ornith quickly swims across the cargo hold, grabbing onto the parrot’s cage just as a tentacle comes crashing through the side of the ship knocking her unconscious. Lucky for all three, Tamull had made his way to the room at the top of the stairs, flinging the door open just in time to see Ornith hit. Jumping back from the bedraggled ball of fur exploding up the stairs past him, Tamull quickly pulls Ornith from the water, tossing the caged bird up the stairs to Lars.

Chaos reigns on the deck however, and not just from the tentacled beast. Turgut had managed to crash the ship on shore, but the creature still attempts to drag the ship to a watery grave. Chasing the terrified leopard around the deck, Ragnarok manages to send himself sailing out over the railing of the ship, landing with a splash in the shallows near shore. Giving up on the cat, Tamull hauls Ornith overboard with himself, followed closely behind by Lars, the parrot, and Sasha. Just as the ship is about to be pulled back out to sea however, Turgut throws himself from the ravaged deck, the limp form of a small leopard cradled in one arm. With a thunderous crash and an ear piercing scream the companions watch as the smuggler’s ship is torn asunder, its cargo spilled out and floating on the water as the creature’s tentacles disappear into the depths once more.

Turning to the stunned companions, Turgut can only utter:

“Don’t be crackin the bumboo yet. That beastie in this close to shore is not natural. It be havin’ a powerful master driving it. You be makin’ dangerous enemies.”

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Quickly stabilizing Ornith and ensuring the small leopard is alive, only listless and in shock, the companions quickly gather themselves together and decide to head straight for town. Before leaving however, Ragnarok insists on taking a piece of the debris with them to show to the town’s council. Reaching the shallows he is surprised to see the bright glint of something metal within the wreckage of a cask that had contained alcohol. Moving the debris aside the fighter exclaims aloud at the sight of a dozen shortswords lying in the wreckage! Apparently the weapons being smuggled in were hidden in the alcohol casks the whole time! Picking up one of the swords Ragnarok returns to the group and they make their way to the town.

Not five minutes down the road however and the companions turn to see a small boat beached on the shore, the remnants of rope lying in the bottom…most definitely a clue that this is where their hostage sailor had come to shore. Following the obvious tracks from the boat to the road, the companions continue on, assuming that at some point they will run into the sailor, whether on the road or in town. A few feet further down the road yet another boat is spotted beached on shore, this one almost identical to the previous, only with two sets of footprints leading to the road…could this have been the elusive captain? Unable to answer the question, the companions can only continue on their way.

Reaching the edge of town the companions are suddenly assailed by the Pross Brothers. The brothers are obviously unsure of which emotion to feel the most, concern over the limp body of Ornith, or awe at the tale being told. After Ragnarok is rude to them for no reason, the two brothers waste no time rushing off, no doubt the companions will be the talk of the town before the sun even sets. Finally making it to the inn Ornith is immediately placed in her bed and allowed to rest while Tamull and Ragnarok leave to speak to the constable. Its no surprise that the Constable has to be dragged from his home to hear the news, and even further no surprise that he simply lets the two men know that a council will be convened in the morning. Returning to the inn Tamull and Ragnarok attempt to get as much rest as they can.

The next morning all save Lars and Ornith attend the council meeting. laying out to the councilmen the entire story of what occurred, whether the whole thing is believable or not the councilmen seem to take every word for the truth, even Ragnarok’s overdramatization. Deciding that it best to inform the Count Tobin of Roshtar who oversees the town the council votes for sending a letter, but also adds to the companions that it might be best if they went in person to explain the events that took place. Agreeing with this course of action the companions inform the council that they will take but a day to rest before setting out for Count Tobin and Roshtar.

Even the best laid plans are foiled though. As Lars lay in a light sleep a voice came to him in need of aid:

“Daedelus. Daedelus.” Shocked into half wakefulness Lars simply listens to the voice for a few more minutes, questions quickly forming in his mind. “Your battle mage name carries great honor. Did Brodan tell you of your namesake? He named you for Grand Mage Daedelus the Unmatched.”

“Who are you?” Lars whispers in his mind.

“I was Grand Mage Daedelus’ master. I am called Stahlbo, I knew your master, Brodan. I am held captive in the Tower of the Shattered Sphinx. You must come to my aid!"

Unwilling to leave a fellow wizard to the possible dire and torturous fate that could befall him if left unaided Lars promises that he and his companions will find this Tower of the Shattered Sphinx and rescue him. Thanking him the voice slowly fades away, leaving Lars to the bright new morning sun and a new adventure awaiting on the trail!

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View
Fishy Business
"Ai! What's Goin' On Down Ther!"

Having return to the small town of Saltmarsh after their most unsuccessful stake-out of the cavern below the “haunted house,” the companions are hurriedly hustled to an emergency council meeting summoned by the Constable. Forced to wait while the town officials gather themselves, they try to answer Monieus’ deep questions.

“What do you think the smugglers were doing down there?” Monieus asks in his usual rapid verbatim.

“Smuggling I suppose?” Tamull answers, beginning to question the man’s level of intelligence slightly.

“Yes, but smuggling what? Did you see anything?”

Ornith relays to Monieus that they primarily just saw casks and bolts of silk cloth. After finding out the bolts had no markings on them Monieus jumps up excitedly and lets them know that he will “take care of this!”

Within a few more moments the meeting is called to attendance with the members seemingly outraged and concerned that such smuggling has happened right under their very noses! Lars placates them a bit however by explaining that the smugglers had been able to keep their actions secret by playing upon the townfolk’s superstitions with the “haunted house.” Deducing that there must be a larger ship that makes the deliveries with a smaller boat running between ship and shore the council requests the aid of the companions in dealing with the law-breaking ruffians. The companions agree to this, but insist that lookouts be assigned to watch the waters at night. After some grumbling the Constable finally states that the Pross brothers can be of help. With the council members seeming to feel that all was well in hand the meeting is adjourned and everyone returns to their beds…whether they be their own or someone else’s…

The next dawned bright and sunny, with the Pross Brothers coming to see what it was that’s required of them. There is some brief confusion as they talk to Ornith, which is soon cleared up when she realizes there is no actual look-out post of any kind. With the brothers staring at her as though she is the daft one Ornith quickly loses her patience and becomes quick short with the brothers.

“Well, what do you want us to do then?” the brothers look at each other and shrug.

“When its night, when its dark in the sky,” Ornith’s voice is full of condescension “go out on the water in your boat with a torch and signal to us if you see a ship.”

“Alright ma’am, can do, but you don’t have to be such a harpy about it.” Ornith decides it is just simply not worth her time. Feeling as though they at least have some kind of look-out established she walks to the edge of town where she can peacefully sit and watch the ocean below.

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Meanwhile, Sasha descends to the docks where she questions the local fishermen, attempting to ascertain if there have been any sightings of an unknown ship or of strangers in town. Hoping that perhaps if coin is offered she’ll be more profitable with answers the young rogue is chagrined to receive only head shakes and shrugs in answer to her questions and the offer of payment quickly turned down. Disappointed in the lack of news and sightings she turns to the inn where she is able to add the feeling of disgust to the list as she discovers that while she was out questioning and Lars was researching spells with Tamull that Ragnarok is across the street tupping the widowed fishwife…and while the fatherless child is home on top of that!

Several days pass with no torch signal from the Pross Brothers. Then, on the 10th night, peering out over a vastly dark landscape, Ornith sees the blinking of a light in what is clearly a code signal of some kind. Watching it for a few moments longer she turns and runs back to the inn and her companions to tell them the news. After discussing it briefly the companions realize that the witnessed code matches up with some of the notations on one of the parchments they took from the cavern. Deciding to grab a signal lantern and see what they can turn up the companions return to the shoreline and blink out the next signal listed on the parchment. Receiving some kind of signaled response they quickly make their way down into the sea cavern below the “haunted house” to wait and see what comes their way.

The companions don’t have to wait long before they hear the creaking of wood and soft voices floating out over the water.

“Ey! Where’s te light at?!” one of the smugglers yells out over the water. None of the companions answer however, still hedging on the element of surprise.

The sound of the boat being hauled ashore is soon heard, as well as one of the smugglers ordering the others to start unloading the goods while he goes and sees what’s going on. Tamull bursts forth suddenly and demands that they surrender, the smugglers see only one man however and decide differently.

“Oye! An ambush! Get ’im!” the four smugglers immediately descend upon Tamull, easily in reach of Lars’ sleep spell as he craftily sends two to slumber quickly.

Tamull makes quick and easy work of one man, knocking him unconscious while Ornith wounds another with Ragnarok knocking him to the ground.

“Please don’t hurt me! I surrender!”

The companions quickly tie up all the captured men, with Ragnarok jumping at the chance to intimidate them into giving up valuable information. Everyone is subsequently quite impressed when Ragnarok successfully intimidates them, eventually turning the questioning into “good cop/bad cop” as they separate out the most intimidated of the prisoners. Tamull manages to strike a deal with the man in which they will help him when put before the Constable as long as he takes them to the ship and keeps his mouth shut. With the prisoner eventually agreeing to such a deal the companions quickly set off toward the ship.

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A few minutes ride later the companions find themselves alongside the ship with a rope ladder visible at the top of the railing. With little work the prisoner is convinced to call out to the sailors above to throw down the ladder. After much “Uhh”-ing and shabbily put together lies the ladder is thrown over with a loud splash in the water. Wanting to still retain the element of surprise Lars decides to cast the spell “Ghost Sound” and make it seem as though there is arguing coming from the bow of the ship. With the men on deck distracted Ornith and Sasha silently move up the ladder with the grand scheme of silencing the remaining man standing near the railing. With her rapier held aloft and a hand ready to cover the man’s mouth Sasha leaps toward him…only to trip over a coil of rope and send her rapier clattering on the deck. Surprised the man turns and is about to call out, except for the fact that two of Ornith’s arrows have silenced him forever. Quickly signaling for the others to join them the two women quickly hide behind the jolly boat lashed to the middle of the deck. Not wanting to tip off the other man soon to return and using the dark night to his advantage, Tamull stands at the railing in imitation of the previous sailor. Calling out to his companion sailor, but only receiving Tamull’s noncomittal grunts, the other sailor soon approaches to within a few feet of Tamull where both Tamull and Sasha take him down, but not before he utters a muffled yelp.

“Ey! What’s goin’ on down ther!” another sailor’s voice calls down from the crow’s nest above the companion’s heads. Thinking on her feet Ornith calls up to the man, attempting to lower her voice in imitation of a man’s.

“Ai! Nothin’s goin’ on down here!” Realizing that they should get the man to come down so they can silence him as well Ornith continues with her charade. “The Capt’n wansta see ya! Get down here!”

Hearing the man’s grumbling above them as he descends, Tamull and Ragnarok move the closed doors at either end of the main deck, and check the bow of the ship for any other sailors, seeing none Ornith takes a shot at the man descending from the crow’s nest, hitting him just hard enough to send him clinging from the rigging by his fingers and allowing him yell in surprise. An answering yell is heard from the helm, causing everyone but Ornith to charge up onto the stern of the ship. Tamull causes the man to collapse with one blow from his hammer while Ornith muddies up the capturing of the sailor stationed in the crow’s nest and instead sends him toppling to the deck below, wincing as the cracking sounds of bones breaking is heard.

Deciding to explore the ship methodically one door at a time Tamull begins with one of the doors near the stern of the ship, after ensuring there are no sailors or otherwise in the room he motions for Sasha to come in and search as he moves to another door. With Sasha hard at work unlocking several drawers and boxes Tamull stumbles across a cabin with three sleeping occupants in hammocks, their weapons resting below on the wooden floor. Sneaking in and removing all the weapons Tamull is just about to start attempting to tie up and gag the inhabitants when the sight of a large newt entering through a hole in the wall stops him.

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The amphibian quickly ambles up into one of the hammocks and begins making a most insistent clicking noise, soon rousing the inhabitant, a fishman of the likes the companions had previously encountered! It immediately launches itself at Tamull and begins attempting to bite and scratch the paladin, but to little avail. Ragnarok meanwhile pulverizes two of the other creatures while Tamull knocks unconscious the others, leaving Ornith to apologize to the newt for the murder of his friends. During the conversation with the newt however she is able to determine that there are no more fishmen aboard and convince the newt to hide itself away from any danger.

Meanwhile, having happily located 500g in the locked box Sasha then turns to pick the lock on the only locked door on the main deck, freezing however when she hears the soft sounds of conversation from within. Curious, Ornith stealthily listens at the door, a look of both confusion and concern coming across her face as she listened to what was being said behind the closed door:

“Yes m’lady, I am recovering from the trance.”
“What is the status of my cargo?”
“The captain received the signal and is offloading it now. He expects it will take two days.”
“Captain Sigurd continues to disappoint me. Tell him to make haste.”
“The captain insists on caution. He assures me it will be done in two days.”
“I have no patience for this. Tell that man to do what it takes to get my cargo delivered quickly. If he wont, I want you to handle it yourself.”
“Yes m’lady, but its the Captain’s ship and his crew is loyal – I dont know what I can do with only the three… “
“Hear me now. The master has returned and there is a new power rising in the Eight Kindgoms. If you do what is asked of you, you may find yourself on the right side of it.”
“Y-yes m’lady.”
“Do not fail me, Ketah. I am not one who forgives… Report to me as soon as my cargo has been delivered ashore.”

Alarmed at what this conversation could mean, not only for themselves, but for the nation in general, its decided that Sasha give up picking the lock and Tamull and Ragnarok perform the “double kick” move against the door, bursting the door inward in a crash of splinters.

A human figure seated at the desk jumps in startlement at the abrupt entrance of the companions, soon though it is apparent that this figure is no mere man. His body is covered in gleaming scales and what was originally thought to be arms are in fact tentacles! Raising his tentacles into the air above his head the room is suddenly filled with a darkness, visibility that much harder. Ragnarok charges forward in an attempt to engage the new opponent quickly. The companions are baffled to see Ragnarok suddenly change direction and run for the small porthole, claiming that a nice refreshing dip in the pond is what he requires. Trying to stop him, Ornith misses in the darkness and crashes into the wall and all watch in disbelief as Ragnarok dives into the porthole, wedging himself securely in the middle of the small circular opening. With Ragnarok out of the fighting the others attempt to focus all their energies at the creature, hoping to knock him unconscious and not kill him. With the darkness pressing down upon her Ornith takes aim at the creature, but her arrow flies wild, finding a secure target in that of Ragnarok’s nicely framed rear end. Seeing his friends struggling to bring the creature down Lars immediately casts “Burning Loins,” pleased to see some effect as the creature smolders slightly.

Fairly certain that the tentacles of the creature are nothing to worry about, Tamull is quickly proved wrong as a sudden tentacle whip leaves his arm burning from acid. Watching as Ragnarok finally wriggles himself out of the porthole and down into the ocean below the companions redouble their efforts, with Ornith accidentally killing the creature with a well-placed arrow. With the battle now over the companions search the room for anything of significance, disappointed but unsurprised when Ragnarok reports that the small boat and sailor they had come across with are missing. Finding little of interest in the room aside from a smooth, circular, white stone which Lars identifies as quartz, the companions leave the room with more questions than answers.

Perhaps the rest of the ship will hold more information.

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What Secrets Lie Beneath
Lecherous Backstabber!

With the now fully clothed Ned tagging along the companions decide to move back downstairs to the as of yet unexplored cellar. As Ragnarok turns to lead the group however, Ned casually grabs him by the arm and points to the gaping hole in the floor from Ragnarok and Ornith’s previous misadventure.

“I betcha can’t clear that hole!” the somewhat swarthy looking man leers at Ragnarok.

“I could make that jump, but why bother?” Ragnarok’s voice is lofty and superior, attempting to give off the attitude of not caring.

“Aye, yer chicken is all.” says Ned with a both sympathetic and taunting tone.

“If you have money to wager I’ll do it, otherwise it is just simply not worth my time.” Ragnarok refuses to be taunted into the foolhardy dare, his companions all rather surprised that he would turn down such a taunt.

“See ya’ll downstairs then!” and with that they all watch as Ned gracefully sails over the hole. Humphing to himself Ragnarok turns and walks down the far hallway, the others following close behind.

Reconvening below the companions cautiously open the cellar door. Tamull proceeds through the door first and upon entering the stairwell immediately feels a coldness welling up around him and voices urging them to leave or die. Ned quickly begins babbling that proceeding down into the cellar is clearly a bad idea, but when Ornith tells him to just return to town then he refuses, insisting upon reclaiming his still missing items. Sasha becomes almost uncontrollably terrified and it isn’t until some gentle coaxing from Tamull that she agrees to enter the cellar with everyone else.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs it is quite obvious that at one point the room was a wine cellar. Sasha quickly begins searching through some of the rubbish scattered around and shrieks in terror as a disgusting grub wriggles up from the refuse and attaches itself to her, attempting to burrow itself into her arm. With little else to offer in the way of help Ornith pulls out her knife and attempts to cut out the grub from Sasha’s flesh. Tamull belately remembers that fire actually works quite well against these vermin and uses his torch to scorch the burrowed grub and the others visible on the corpse.

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Having nervously just cut her friend’s arm open, Ornith is still a bit on edge with little patience for Ned’s continued urging that coming down here was a bad idea. Whirling on him she scathingly says:

“Stop your belly-aching! No one is forcing you to come down here with us!”

Turning his face away Ned mutters something about wanting his stuff back as he moves to the rear of the group.

Searching around the room some more Sasha stumbles across a small hidden door which is easily opened. Crawling through the door the companions soon find themselves in room which appears to be the living quarters for roughly ten or so people. Bedding is neatly organized against one wall while a large wooden table is set for eating. There are two other doors in the room, one of them ominously labeled “DANGER.” Looking around the room absently Ornith sneers as she sees Ned ogling her out of the corner of her eye, the sooner they ditch this guy the better!

Entering the more friendly looking door Lars manages to find a large book of erotic poetry with full color illustrations! If he pocketed the volume or not is still up for debate among the other companions. Among the more useful items in the room however is a book on the tides of the area as well one piece of parchment with writing of an unknown language on it as well as another piece of parchment with some kind of code on it. Pocketing the paper the companions decide to take their chances and enter the room labeled “DANGER.”

The strong stench of rotting meat and flesh fills the room causing everyone to involuntarily gag a little. Almost immediately two monstrous insect-like creatures rise up from the darkness, tentacles whipping out toward the companions, instantly paralyzing both Sasha and Ragnarok!

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Quick to respond to the action Lars quickly casts “Summon Swarm: Spider,” hoping that the spiders he summons manage to not attack his paralyzed companions as well. With eyes wide Sasha and Ragnarok watch as the massive swarm of spiders funnel past them, the arachnids hairy legs whisking past them. Tamull also joins in the combat, lunging forward and smashing his warhammer into the side of one of the creatures, dealing damage, but not enough to end the abomination. Ornith moves to pull her bowstring back, but sensing movement behind her turns to see Ned fall to the ground in front of her. Confused as to what in the world the man is doing on the ground Ornith turns her sights on the wounded creature, managing to put an arrow through its head just as the sharp sting of a blade enters her back. Attempting to stand up and make a swing at the backstabber, Ornith merely falls to the ground feeling nauseous and woozy.

“Nothing personal sweetheart.” Ned winks and smiles down at the ranger as he closes the door behind them, leaving the companions to their fate.

The remaining creature continues to whip its tentacles about, paralyzing both Tamull and Lars. As the creatures attempt to feast on the downed Lars, the others climb to their feet with Ragnarok laying the final killing blow upon the creature’s head. Ornith has still not awakened and they realize she is in bad shape. Tamull examines and manages to stabilize Ornith.

“I swear I’ll kill him when next we meet!” Ornith manages to croak out as she regains consciousness. Picking up the dagger, though, it is quite clear that it is not the one that Sasha lent the man…

Searching room Sasha craftily discovers an odd looking rock, pushing it reveals a room cluttered with broken glass and earthenware. With their eyes adjusting to the dim lighting the companions are surprised to see a robed man sitting with his back to them. Lars hoping for the best calls out to the figure, but receives no response. Cautiously approaching the man Lars nearly jumps back in alarm, the man is dead! Little more than a skeleton now, its clear the corpse has been here for some time. Seeing that man appeared to have been reading a book on the Philosopher’s Stone, Lars quickly removes the book and begins leafing through it. Sasha meanwhile finds a smaller book secreted away in a drawer as well as a small stone clutched in the dead man’s hand. Giving the smaller book to Lars the old wizard immediately announces that the book is a spellbook and will require further investigation. As the companions return to the main room once more Lars calmly reaches out and plucks the pointed hat from the dead man’s head, nodding happily to himself as he rests it upon his own head.

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Searching a bit more in the room Sasha quickly locates yet another secret door…this one however appears to have been used rather recently. Ornith’s eyes narrow in hatred as she thinks once more on the backstabber Ned. Moving down the narrow stairs the companions find themselves in a series of natural caverns containing little else but rock. With minimal further exploration however they stumble upon a passageway lit with torches, the floor of the cavern seeming to slope eventually downward toward the sea. Cautiously following the passageway the companions suddenly find themselves in yet another cavern, this one however also contains two swarthy looking humans and four smaller creatures that seem to be an appalling combination of man and fish. It seems as though the welcoming party was waiting for them.

“Now its time to heat things up!” Lars yells out into the stone cavern as flame erupts from his hands, the strange fish-men manage to leap aside, but the sphere continues to follow them. Ornith is suddenly attacked from behind by two more men as the fish-men attempt to capture Tamull and Ragnarok with some kind of claw on the end of a pole contraption.

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Splitting up their points of attack Sasha manages to sever the spine of one of the fish-men while Ornith takes down the two pole wielding fish-men, an arrow in each eye. Things turn messy for the instigators quickly enough though as Tamull smashes the skull of the supposed leader, Lars’ flaming sphere explodes into a fish-man, and Ragnarok becomes blood-sprayed as he severs another man’s arm. In his blood frenzy however Ragnarok swings about wildly and manages to only hit himself as Lars’ magic missiles go sailing past him exploding into the remaining man. Searching the dead bodies the companions are a little disappointed to only find a small amount gold, a bracelet, a key, and a set of dice which Ragnarok immediately confiscates for himself.

The party is tired and wounded and the agree to return to a safe part of the house upstairs and rest for two days.

Once rested, they decide to continue down through the passageways and explore, but find little else aside from some casks containing cloth and other goods. Eventually the passageway opens up to a shore with the sea waves gently lapping at it, the remains of a rope resting on the rocky floor. Failing to find any other hidden doorways or passageways the companions decide to sit and wait for the inevitable return of what they can only assume is a boat used to smuggle the found goods ashore. Within just a few minutes boredom dominates Ragnarok’s brain and he tells the others that he’ll return to the small town and check in on Monieus, Lars immediately jumps up and offers to accompany him.

Quickly reaching the town the two find Monieus happily seated in the local tavern enjoying a bowl of boiled eggs. Excitedly waving to both Ragnarok and Lars the small man immediately pulls several ledgers from his pockets and begins to happily, and rather speedily, elaborate on his trade findings and research of the area. It seems as though there is quite the potential for investing in the town’s glassblowers according to the merchant. Ragnarok decides to fill Monieus in on what all the companions stumbled across in the “haunted house.” Scandalized, Monieus promises to investigate among the local merchants while more treasure is hopefully found.

Returning to the underground caverns both Ragnarok and Lars are saddened to find that nothing has changed. As time slowly passes Lars read from his various books, discovering that the insect-like creatures with tentacles were actually a product of arcane experimentation!

Finally becoming bored with their seemingly failed stake-out the companions return to town. Ornith and Lars immediately search out the constable and inform him of the smuggled goods and shady activity going on right under his nose. Before leaving though Ornith quickly makes out a wanted sign with the likeness of Ned Shakeshaft plastered across it:

WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVEALIVE PREFERRED
REWARD GIVEN

Sooner or later she’d find that man…and then they’d see how much he enjoyed the sting of a blade!

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Creepy, Crawly Things...
A haunted house huh?

Standing in the warmth of the rising sun the companions are pleased to see the city of Tir Asleen spread out before them. Finally they have returned from the bowels of Stonetooth, wiser, richer, and in desperate need of bathing.

Passing through the large gates they decide to head straight to Monieus IV to turn in their “great” cache of Margan weapons and receive their payments. Reaching the Vine Street Counting House, they are quickly waved down the hallway to where Monieus’ cramped and small business room is. The small man immediately leaps to his feet, a smile on his face.

“You’ve returned! I didnt think you’d live. That is, uhh.. what I mean to say is, ah, I’m glad to see you. You found the great cache of Margan arms, I take it?”

The companions briefly cast sideways glances at one another before bringing out the mere two Margan items they had managed to find within Stonetooth. Monieus’ face loses its excitement as he lays eyes on the meager treasure.

“Oh. Oh dear.” He sits down hard in his chair. “Three will barely cover the cost of your fee. Let alone what I paid for that map to Stone Tooth. Oh dear.” He leans forward and rests his head in his hands. “The Monieus trading company will survive somehow. I wont let my great grandad down,”
Monieus reaches out and takes a piece of paper, dipping his pen somberly into an inkwell and then somberly scribbles something down. “Take this slip to the clerk at the front. He will get you your money from my account.”

Not knowing what else they could say to the disheartened man, if anything, the companions quietly take their promised payment and leave Monieus in peace.

Upon returning to the Four Goats Inn it is unanimously decided that a few days are needed in town to take care of some business. Quickly splitting up everyone leaves to deal with their own personal business.

Ornith, Tamull, and Lars all leave for the local taxidermy shop in order to get their dragon head, wings, and tail appropriately taken care while Ragnarok heads off in the opposite direction to find an armorsmith who may be able to craft a shield from the dragon hide he’d been carting around. Returning to the inn Ornith immediately begins to experiment with the mysterious bag containing a ball of seemly random animal fur. Reaching into the bag for the seemingly hundrendth time Ornith is surprised to find that the ball of fur is now that of a rat’s. Not knowing what else to do she decides to drop it on the ground, and almost like magic a rat forms from the once lifeless ball of fur!

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It seems as though the bag will conjure certain animals who are able to perform certain tasks!

Meanwhile, next door, Lars has finally summoned up the courage to wear the mummified hand and chain in order to determine what exactly it does. The wizard decides to try the simple spell “Frost Ray” and see if there are any differences in the spell now that he wears the hand. The spell goes off, creating a terrible racket, but nothing different happens aside from a goblet crashing to the ground. Reaching out to pick the goblet up Lars is surprised to see the goblet float in the air in accordance with the movement of his hand! Testing out this new found ability on a few other random items in his room Lars is tickled pink to discover that the mummified hand works as kind of a permanent “Mage Hand” spell!

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It is during this time that Tamull has decided to return to the paladin stronghold within the city to report on the evil that he and his companions had managed to clear from the ruins of Stonetooth. Entering the mainhall Tamull quickly makes his way to the now familiar door of High Defender Balthus’ chambers. High Defender Balthus is gruffly pleased to hear about the success the group managed and informs Tamull that while this may seem hasty, it has been decided that the young paladin is ready to proceed down one of the three branches of the Order. Both surprised and elated Tamull informs High Defender Balthus that it is his desire to proceed down the path of Ulsonur, if they will have him. High Defender Balthus tells Tamull that he will inform Lord Guardian Polt of his decision, the very same decision that the Lord Guardian made himself so many years ago.

Returning at dawn two days later, Tamull is both anxious and excited for the ceremony, something he feels he has been waiting his whole life to do. Entering the mainhall, Tamull is ushered down several corridors to a door that had once been forbidden to him. Opening the door he finds himself alone in the great chamber save for the large stone stand in the middle of the room. Shutting the door behind him a sudden stillness descends upon the young paladin, a stillness that quickly turns to a heaviness seeming to settle about his shoulders. Knowing that something is at work here, but not quite sure what, Tamull simply stands in silence, waiting. Long minutes pass by and eventually the door opens to admit several paladins, Lord Guardian Polt among them. Turning to face Tamull, Lord Guardian Polt begins the age old ceremony of raising a paladin up to serve one of the three branches of the Order.

“Paladin Tamull. I have been told that you have come before us today because you wish to join the Paladins of Ulsonur. Is this true?
Know you that though the Order of Three is divided, it is also whole and you must be true to all paladins, even those who serve another?
Will you protect the fortresses and cities of mankind against the forces of decay, despair, and destruction?
Will you fight against the forces of evil, though you may face terrors beyond comprehension?
Will you fight against the forces of evil, though it may starve and exhaust you?
Will you fight against the forces of evil, though it may strip you of all you hold dear?
Will you fight against the forces of evil, though it may cost your very life?”

With complete and utter devotion to his Order, Tamull somberly answers yes to all these questions, not only rising in the ranks of his fellows, but also taking on more responsibility for all he does and sets out to do.

“As a paladin of Ulsonur, you would join a long list of warriors, smiths, engineers, and architects, heroes all. From the legendary Ferrin Anvilheart, down through the generations, many great and noble deeds have been done by the Paladins of Ulsonur. Let us now hear the deeds of this young Paladin, so that we may judge his character.” continues Lord Guardian Polt as he then has another paladin present recite all the accomplishments that Tamull and his companions have thus far succeeded in. Each new item is met with the murmurs of approval from all those gathered.

“Having heard of these deeds, what say you, Paladins?”, Lord Guardian Polt calls out the question to those paladins present in the room and is answered with a chorus of approving voices. After a moment, Lord Guardian Polt raises his hand and silence fills the room.

“There is one required approval we have not yet heard.”

It is then that Lord Guardian Polt turns to the chest and lifts the lid, drawing out a large warhammer. He then turns and sets it on the floor resting on its head, with the handle sticking into the air. The room is very quiet. Tamull can feel the very stillness of the room pressing down upon him. Suddenly, the warhammer topples over with the handle facing Tamull, the weight upon his spirit vanishes and cheers erupt in the room. Lord Guardian Polt leans over to pick up the warhammer.

“Paladin Tamull, just as the Great Smith Ulsonur uses his hammer to create and destroy, so to will you use yours to build goodness and smite evil. Take this now and join our ranks.” He offers out the warhammer to Tamull.

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During the few days of Tamull’s absence and everyone else’s seemingly research packed days Ragnarok was randomly approached during one of his outings in the streets of Tir Asleen.

“Culan’s balls, you’re huge! How much can you lift? Nevermind that. Listen, I know a guy who is looking for some as is handy with a chopper. If you’re interested in a fair bit of coin, go down to the Green Apple public room. Then go straight across the street. That’s where the guy is. See, we’re trying to put together a group of sorts. Us as get by on strength of arms need to stick together.” the fast talking man laughs at his own joke and then turns and walks away, leaving Ragnarok just a little bewildered as to what exactly had just taken place. Shaking his head Ragnarok returns to the Four Goats Inn where he is pleasantly surprised to see that Tamull has returned from the paladin ceremony and a celebration of sorts is underway. Being recognized as the heroes who saved Alderton the spirit of the group surges ever higher as they toast a drink to the patrons in the commonroom, drinking well into the night.

The next day Ragnarok informs everyone of what transpired in the street with the random stranger. Curious as to what exactly may be going on across from the Green Apple its decided that Ragnarok should go look into it with everyone else accompanying him just in case.

It seems as though the Green Apple Pub is in a poorer part of the city, and the building across from the pub shows but a single unmarked green door, with no one answering Ragnarok’s loud knock. Deciding to enter anyway Ragnarok proceeds down a rather dusty and cobwebby hall to a room where he sees two men wearing old battered armor and circling each other, dueling with dull swords. Another man stands nearby watching. Noticing Ragnarok he steps over and introduces himself as “Dolza.” The man immediately begins to present himself a bit more boastfully as he presents his fighter’s group to Ragnarok in hopes of gaining Ragnarok as a member. After pushing away a few suspicious feelings Ragnarok admits to his interest in the group and soon finds himself accepting a job to investigate and deal with some supposed “haunted house” in the nearby town of Saltmarsh. With the prospects of furthering the reputation of this so far unnamed fighter’s guild, Ragnarok sets off to inform his companions of their new adventure.

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The group immediately gathers their needed belongings and set off on the dusty road once more. They aren’t more than a few minutes outside Tir Asleen however when a raucous clatter rises up behind up them. Turning they find themselves face to face with a rather run-down caravan being pulled by four sway-backed horses. The man holding onto the reins is none other than Monieus the IV!

“I’m pleased to have caught up to you! I’ve figured out a way to save my great granddad’s company! I sold of all my supply and bought this great wagon! You’re adventurers right? And adventurers find things they need to sell. Well, I know merchants all across the eight kingdoms. My great granddad was the ‘King of Traders.’ Its in my blood, after all! I can get you the best deals! You find it, I sell it, and we all get rich.” Monieus’ fast paced little speech has left the companions slightly stunned. Looking to one another and giving small shrugs Ornith turns to Monieus and informs him that they would gladly welcome him along, as long as he takes care of the horses and provides meals of course. With a slightly larger and louder companionship now they continue to the small town of Saltmarsh.

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High on a hill looking down to the ocean the adventurers first lay eyes upon the small town of Saltmarsh. The town is nothing out of the ordinary really, the most notable thing being the amazing ocean landscape. Moving into the town proper the companions leave Monieus to his own dealings, entrusting him to care for their faithful horses as they move about town attempting to gather information. After several hours of this and only gaining scant information about a crazy hermit alchemist and listening to the town’s constable scoff at such notions as the house being haunted, they decide to head to the edge of town and the house.

Reaching the house it is clear that at one point both the land and the house may have been quite picturesque, but after years of neglect its no wonder there are rumors of it being possessed by evil spirits.

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Making their way cautiously through the yard and closer to the house Sasha notices a small snake nestled in some of the stonework around a well. Being very interested in snakes the rogue immediately moves to touch the scaled beast before Ornith stays her hand insisting that she make sure the snake is of a friendly nature. Ornith identifies the snake as a Western Meadow Viper and urges caution as it is poisonous. Seeing the wisdom in this Sasha stands back as Ornith communicates with the snake, finding out that while the snake does not wish to be touched, or even really spoken to, it will not hinder them enter the house, just as long as they leave him alone. Disappointed some, Sasha forlornly looks back at the snake as they all turn to enter the house.

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It is very clear that the house is in extreme disrepair, there is mildew and mold in almost every room and most clothing articles lie in tatters. The oddest thing however is that in almost every room there are piles of broken furniture and other household items, almost suggesting that either someone or something has ransacked the abandoned house, or some other darker force is afoot.

Meticulously searching each and every room on all floors, including the attic, the adventurers find little else aside from some fungus which Ornith insists on taking a sample of with her, a large piece of quartz found in a fireplace, a few somewhat moldy books on magic, some strange fear inducing illusion, and some large and disturbing centipedes and spiders (something that probably should have been killed instead of let free). Oh, and of course a stranger found bound, gagged, and clothed only in his undergarments.

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Freeing the man they find out that his name is Ned, and after closely questioning him the companions decide he is of no harm to them at this point. Wanting to escort him quickly from the house and be done with him, they eventually cave to his insistence that he explore the house with them in search of his clothes and weapons. Now stuck with yet another odd character as a member of their party the adventurers gather their courage and strength as they make their way to the final unexplored portion of the house…the cellar!

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To Bring Down a Dragon!
Shoot Her!

Having retreated from the terrible beast the companions manage to limp back to one of the abandoned rooms and lock themselves in, craving some much needed rest and the need to develop a plan of attack. After two days of resting and healing both Sasha and Lars are able to fight off the disease they had contracted during a swim in Stonetooth’s fetid pools and the others are able to piece together the semblance of an attack. Ornith and Sasha also eagerly experiment with the last two unknown potions, happily discovering that one turns the imbiber invisible and the other allows for the person to climb the walls as though their hands and feet were sticky, both of which could be quite useful in the future.

Deciding that the best plan is to have Sasha sneak down the ladder, scout for the dragon, and then lure it into the room with the waterfall while the others come up from behind, the companions quickly move into action. Sasha successfully manages to silently move down the ladder, and seeing no dragon in sight, signals to the others to come down as well as she quietly makes her own way across the bridge. Ornith and Ragnarok manage to make it quietly down the ladder as well, but Tamull’s clumsiness and his clanking armor cause Lars to plummet to the ground, landing with a loud thud. Reaching the bottom everyone stands motionless, holding their breaths as they await the imminent burst of acid that never comes. Thinking themselves lucky they all attempt to cram into the small crevice nearby while Sasha begins to make noises in the waterfall cavern. After several minutes pass though and no sign of the dragon Sasha begins to wonder if perhaps the waterfall is drowning out her attempts at noise. Figuring that must be the case, Sasha moves closer to the bridge to throw rocks out onto it, hoping the dragon will at least hear that. No sooner does the second rock hit the bridge though than Ornith cries out in pain as acid burns into her leg, the dragon as seen both her and Ragnarok! Knowing they don’t stand much chance where they currently stand the two sprint their way into the waterfall cavern, listening to the dragon following close behind in the water.

“Where are your friendsss?” the dragon’s voice slithers into the cavern.

“They fled, afraid of your cunning. Only myself and fighter remained to take your treasure from you!” Ornith’s boastful lie echoed out to the dragon.

“My treasure is my own!” the dragon’s angry answer was nearly lost in her mad scramble up onto the rocky ledge as she charged straight for Ragnarok and Ornith.

Peering out from the crevice, Tamull and Lars are able to watch as the dragon charges into the cavern. Taking that as their signal they sprint across the bridge after the dragon, hoping to surround the beast in time.

Using Ragnarok as a shield, Ornith is able to avoid the main brunt of the dragon’s attack as the beast bites, claws, and wing buffets Ragnarok. Ragnarok immediately attempts to counterattack, but only ends up clipping Ornith with his battleaxe, leaving the dragon free to attack again unhindered. Sensing Sasha leaping from the shadows to attack the dragon turns and roars at the rogue as it attacks Ragnarok once again. Taking advantage of the dragon’s split focus, Tamull and Lars are able to land blows on the beast with Sasha sinking her rapier deep into the dragon’s flank, causing her to roar out in pain.

“Deceiver!” the dragon bellows in Ornith’s face before turning and attempting to escape back into the water, hitting Lars with her wing on the way by.

Ornith immediately peers into the water hoping that she’ll be able to track the dragon by blood loss, but the current is too swift and all traces have already been washed away. Not seeing many other options at this point Ragnarok decides to jump across the narrow stream onto the opposite ledge and see if there is anything of use. No sooner do the fighter’s feet touch the other side when he is assaulted with a blast of acid, the dragon had been hiding and waiting! Tamull begins to taunt the dragon as Ragnarok runs for cover and Tamull makes his way to the ledge as well.

“Tell me your name dragon, so that I may tell the children of town who the coward beneath the mountain is!” Tamull’s deep voice reverbrates off the cavern’s walls.

Refusing to answer, the dragon instead attacks Ornith with more acid as the ranger makes the leap across to the ledge, thankfully Lars and Sasha are able to follow unscathed.

“You dare to enter MY home and force me to introductions after drawing MY blood?” the dragon’s angry voice echoes as the companions take ranged shots at her visible head.

“You and your games…” the dragon’s raspy voice mutters out at the companions as she ducks back underwater.

“I will have the name of the enemy I enter into combat with, I am called Tamull.”

“And I am known only as Nightscale.” the voice whispers out into the cavern and then nothing more.

Unsure of where the dragon is anymore the companions decide to hopefully flush it out and so return to the broken bridge where all but Tamull manage to make it cleanly across. Dangling by the rope tied about his waist Tamull is immediately sprayed with acid from the dragon, a most easy target. Spotting the dragon’s head raised above the water’s surface, Ornith points it out to everyone else and arrows fly, causing the dragon to retreat once more. Making their way to the south most shore of the lake, Lars lights up one of Ornith’s arrows as she fires it across the lake. In the glowing light the companions are able to make out an island in the lake, as well as a distant shore on the other side. Seeing another shore area to their right Lars quickly tests the depth of the water and deeming it wade-able, both Tamull and Ragnarok make to cross to it. As soon as Tamull is waist-deep in the water however Ornith sees the dragon swimming straight for the paladin! Nightscale quickly latches onto Tamull, biting him repeatedly in the legs. Taking this as a prime opportunity for attack, Ragnarok surprises everyone and makes a heroic leap onto the dragon, bringing his battleaxe crashing down onto the beast! Rearing her head back in pain, Nightscale attempts to retreat back into the water, but not before the others let loose several arrows and Lars sends a ball of flame hurtling at her, dealing even more damage to the beast! Submerging herself the dragon rapidly swimming to northern end of the lake with Lars’ ball of flame in pursuit. Spotting the dragon hauling herself out onto the opposite shore Ornith pulls a single arrow against her cheek as Ragnarok and Tamull reach the island. Letting her arrow fly Ornith is pleased to watch it sink deeply into Nightscale’s unprotected eye and watches as the dragon gives one final shriek of pain before falling to the ground. Congratulating themselves on an enemy defeated the companions begin searching the island while Tamull swims across to make sure the dragon is in fact dead.

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Ragnarok is surprised when only one glittering gold coin is found upon the island, but follows the others over to the dragon where they split up the beast’s carcass amongst themselves. Sure that there has to be more than just a single coin laying about Ornith picks up the still glowing arrow and begins swimming around the lake, hoping to notice something. Making her way back toward the island the young ranger is rewarded with the sight of something glittering beneath the water’s surface. Calling out to the others everyone else joins her on the island where it is decided that Tamull and Ragnarok will dive down for the treasure. Returning shortly, the two bring with them not only four pouches containing items, but also the information that a vast pile of gold is also under the waves. Unable to fully decipher what the magical items found may actually be able to do, aside from the goggles that now allow Sasha to discover concealed objects, the group decides to split up temporarily. Ornith and Lars decide to return to check on the horses they left behind so long ago while Tamull, Ragnarok, and Sasha continue working on bringing up the gold pieces.

Making the journey back through all the previously explored caverns and the now stinking dead bodies of the barbarians slain, the two are relieved when they finally walk out into the sunlight and breath in the crisp mountain air. Making their way down to the horses, Ornith is upset to find only Lars’ and Sasha’s horses still tied, and those two looking haggard and thin, the grass at their hooves shorn so short that the dirt is showing through the short blades. Leaving Lars with the two horses, Ornith begins tracking the missing two, finding them not far off, but with Ragnarok’s mighty war-horse lacerated with fresh claw marks made from some large animal… Returning to Lars the two adventurers wait with the horses for their companions to join them.

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A day later Ornith and Lars happily watch their companions walking down from the entrance to Stonetooth, gold filled bags in hand. Seeing the state of his treasured war-horse Ragnarok gives Ornith a dirty look, sure that it was her “poor, suffering” bear which had done this handiwork. Packing up all their belongings the adventurers turn their feet once again to the road and begin to make their way back to Tir Asleen, but not before Tamull and Ragnarok race back into Stonetooth to free the mysterious woman they had met.

Entering the study they find the woman still there and overjoyed to see them. Ragnarok looks at Tamull and then utters the words:

“I release you.”

The woman smiles up at Ragnarok and reaches to touch his face before smirking and replying,

“Not everyone is who they appear to be.” and then disappears into the shadows, her eyes glowing briefly before they too vanish. Shivering slightly the two men hurriedly exit Stonetooth once again and make their way south along the road with the others.

The companions hadn’t been on the road long before they smell the scent of cooking meat, following the smell Ornith and Sasha creep up on an older man who they both recognize. The man is resting against a tree with his arm casually laying on a pile of furs. Standing and clearing her throat to give the man time to react Ornith is about to ask the man for his name when the pile of furs shifts…it is the very same wolf that the companions had freed!

“You invade home!” the man gruffly accuses of Ornith and Sasha as he rests his hand on the handle of the Margan axe he wields.

Unsure of what to do both Ornith and Sasha back away cautiously and inform the rest of the group of what they found. Desperately wanting to add the Margan axe to their collection Ragnarok returns and attempts to the barter with the man. Introducing himself as “Old Yarrick”, the barbarian merely laughs at Ragnarok’s attempts to bribe him with money. Eventually Ragnarok gives up and simply leaves the man some gold.

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Returning to the road before them it isn’t until three days later that the companions run into someone else. Hearing rustling in the bushes the companions are surprised when a large dire tiger outfitted with leather armor and a warrior sitting atop the great beast, burst from the surrounding foliage.

“I am Sergeant Foss. My men and I are out patrolling and would simply like to know where you come from and what you have seen in the past couple days.”

Knowing that they have encountered the small force of The Two Hundred Tigers which patrol Creslonia’s borders the companions are both awed and happy to see that they have almost returned to civilization. Informing the Sergeant that they are merely explorers returning from Stonetooth and have seen nothing of note in the past two days the Sergeant inclines his head to them in gratitude for their news.

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“Move out!” the Sergeant calls out to his men and soon the nearby bushes are alive with the rustling of moving bodies. The companions can only watch in awe as the magnificent beast moves off into the trees.

Spending one more day and night on the road the companions are grateful to see the city of Tir Asleen spread out before them, welcoming them to come and rest for awhile.

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A...Dragon?!
What Bumbling Around Underground Gets You...

After retiring to a secluded and “safe” room the adventurers took but a brief two days to restore their vigor and health, or so they thought. Upon awaking on the third day both Lars and Sasha find themselves feeling rather shaky and chilled and almost weak physically. Letting loose haggard coughs the two clamber to their feet and begin organizing their packs in an attempt to ignore their new found illnesses. Tamull however is able to effectively restore Ragnarok to his former self after his romp in the yellow mold. It is decided that they should return to the room with the booby-trapped statues and where they had heard the mysterious anvil and hammer ringing…from a forge that was suppose to have been abandoned for the past hundred years…

Entering the small circular room they notice that the door now before them has what appears to be a glowering face carved into it. Stepping forward, Sasha suddenly hears the sound of an alarm gong from ahead of her. Ragnarok pushes the heavy door open as the rest of the group follows uneasily behind him. Looking around them the companions find themselves in a mighty, ancient Margan hall lined with massive pillars carved into fantastic images, images of giants and dragons straining to support the immense vaulted ceiling high above them. Surprisingly there are several torches guttering in the wall sconces illuminating a mighty throne upon a dais at the far end of the hall. In the dim light the companions can make out smashed tiles from the walls, tiles that had once been beautifully carved, but are now lying sadly on the floor, replaced with graffiti scrawlings. To one side a small fire smolders with several sleeping pallets scattered around it. Moving toward the pallets the companions are suddenly stopped dead in their tracks as a harsh voice calls out from the shadows.

“Go back the way you came! This is the only warning you’ll get!”

“Who goes there?” Tamull’s voice rings out into the hall.

“Turn back the way you came!” The harsh voice continues with this one warning, not giving further information out.

Ornith motions for Sasha to try sneaking around the room to locate the hidden voice, but nothing is to be found and not even Ornith’s keen eyes can pick out anything unusual. Both Tamull and Lars are now attempting to converse with the mysterious voice, but to no avail. Thinking the voice is distracted Ornith moves toward the south door wanting to listen at it, Ragnarok however beats her to it, tromping over to the door and opening it just as Ornith is shot in the back with a crossbow bolt! Walking from the shadows are two humanoid figures, emaciated, grey-skinned, and bald in appearance.

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Ragnarok shows his true fighting skills by immediately laying about him with his mighty battle-axe! Preparing to join in with the attack on the visible two humanoids, Tamull suddenly hears someone moving behind him, jerking in sudden pain and surprise as a crossbow bolt hits him in the back! Unable to see exactly where their new attacker is shooting from Lars casts “flaming sphere” in the general direction the last crossbow bolt was shot from, grinning happily as a now on fire humanoid shape comes running from the shadows. Now able to see her target, Sasha takes aim and fires a crossbow bolt of her own at their still smoldering attacker. Ornith also takes this opportunity to add her own arrow to the attack, hitting the enemy squarely in the chest. Letting out a shriek the strange looking humanoid falls to the ground! An eerie silences falls over the hall now as Ornith searches the dead bodies for anything interesting and Lars searches the rest of the room looking for any of the treasure of the ancient Margan kingdom they had originally been sent to recover. Finding nothing however, the companions all move to the southern door as Lars slowly and carefully opens the door. Seeing nothing but pots and pans scattered around haphazardly Lars enters the room, only to have a large wooden table suddenly shudder and rush toward him! With the rest of the adventurers merely standing in awe at the unusual sight occurring before them, the table crashes into Lars sending him sprawling. Coming to their sense finally Ragnarok and Tamull manage to smash the table into splinters.

“Clearly some foul magic is at work here!” Tamull glares about the room as Ornith does a quick search for anything of value. Not finding anything they quickly exit the room to explore the other doorways, hopefully not all containing a crazed piece of furniture…

Entering the room directly opposite the one with the crazed table the companions find strange etchings that don’t quite match the elegant carvings left by the Margans. After some careful scrutiny Tamull decided that the etchings were not religious in nature, Lars however immediately recognizes them as “Underspeak”, a language that has not been seen in the eight kingdoms for many, many years. Looking about the actual room itself more closely it is obvious that the room was once a shrine of some sort, pews are smashed, carvings disfigured, and bones scattered all around. With little warning, but a sense of evil two incredibly tall skeletons rise up from the debris, weapons at the ready, and from the corner another creature rises…this one a leathery undead warrior with glowing green eyes filled with hate!

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Ragnarok and Tamull launch forward into the fray just as Ornith narrowly dodges the clawed hand of the leader. Tamull points his hammer up into the air and begins calling upon his divination powers in a spectacular show of turning the undead. Moments later with the undead warrior and massive skeletons looking at the companions rather bewildered at what exactly just took place, the fight resumes! Rolling his eyes at Tamull, Ragnarok leaps forward and pulverizes the skeleton before him sending shards of bone flying. Shaking off his embarrassment Tamull turns his hammer upon the remaining skeleton, sending its head rolling from it’s body. With the warrior the only one left standing and still focused primarily on Ornith, Lars decides to cast his “ray of frost” directly into the leathery figure. Seeing that Lars has temporarily distracted the creature Ornith fires an arrow at its face, stumbling at the last moment and sending the arrow whizzing by Lars’ face. Taking matters into his own hands Ragnarok turns and severs the creatures head from it’s body. Giving themselves a hearty pat on the back for destroying yet more unnatural creatures the companions do a thorough search of the room; Lars adds another scroll to his current stash and everyone else gets some more coinage. Becoming bored with the room now, Ragnarok beelines it for the second door to the north in the main throne room.

Walking through the doorway they enter a room that feels strangely cold, a pool of darkwater can be seen in the middle of the room. As the companions stand there they begin to hear a moaning sound that eventually takes on the form of word-like utterances. Slowly a spectral ghost form enters into their view, its translucent body waving in some unseen breeze. The incoherent babbling has an almost mesmerizing effect and both Tamull and Lars are quickly lost within its soundwaves, slack-jawed they can only stare at the ghostly figure while their friends frantically think of something to do.

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Reaching a hand out from under it’s cowl the ghost places it upon Tamull’s arm, sending a bone freezing chill through his body and shaking him from the mesmerized stupor. Not sure what else to do Ornith stabs at the ghost with her sword, watching in dismay as it simply passes through the figure. Seeing this, Ragnarok begins shaking Lars, yelling at him to wake up. Shaking his head groggily the old man immediately sends “magic missiles” shooting out at the ghost, sending it shrieking and flying through the far wall. Shaken, the companions quickly move through the room, exploring into a hallway containing multiple rooms of broken and smashed furniture and supplies. Looking through the debris that litters the floor everyone quickly jumps back as a group of six skeletons rise from the wreckage! Seeing his chance (again), Tamull quickly begins reciting his “turn undead” divine spell once more, this time he is much more successful, and sends all six skeletons scurrying for the corner! Knowing that her weapons are almost useless against skeletons, Ornith picks up several rocks and begins throwing them at the skeletons, doing damage to them ever so slowly. With both Lars and Ornith quickly becoming fed up with chucking rocks at the skeletons, the two are able to convince Ragnarok and Tamull to just start laying waste to the creatures. Ragnarok immediately destroys one, while Ornith continues to throw rocks, and Lars smashes one’s skull in with his quarterstaff. Eventually all skeletons are slain with Lars surprising everyone by being incredibly more efficient than Tamull.

Searching through more and more rooms the companions find little else aside from more debris and previously looted corpses. Beginning to wonder if they will ever find anything worthwhile they finally happen upon what looks to have once been a library. Sadly it reeks of moldy paper, meaning that few of the books are probably salvageable. Surprisingly there is a sad woman sitting in a chair, everyone is immediately put on guard as the woman leaps up from the chair and latches herself onto Ragnarok, sobbing and begging to be freed. Being suspicious Tamull begins concentrating on finding any auras of evil, soon detecting some in the room. Ornith scrutinizes the woman, trying to decide if she is lying or bluffing, after several minutes Ornith is very certain that the woman is in fact telling the truth. Lars finds it very hard to believe that the woman has been held captive by a wizard conducting life longevity spells and that she has not been harmed by any of the various creatures they have personally already run into. Sobbing and clinging tighter to Ragnarok, the woman once again begs to not be left alone and to please be freed. By now Tamull has pinpointed the aura of evil to be coming from the woman herself, but Ornith points out that the woman could just simply be cursed, a possibility the woman immediately states is true. Backing away from the woman at Tamull’s urging, Ragnarok searches around the room looking at the various books and finding them mostly to be concerning the histories of the Margan kingdom.

“Those are all so boring…please free me. You only need say the words ‘You are free!’” the woman is desperate, but Lars makes the executive decision to leave her some provisions and the promise of our return once we have dealt with the wizard. Finding nothing else of interest everyone returns to the throne room in order to explore the last southern doorway.

Walking through the doorway the companions find themselves within a foundry, cold, dry wind blows through the passageways, and three of the strange humanoids encountered earlier are at work on one of the forges.

“Ho there friends, might we engage in friendly conversations?” Ragnarok calls out to them in hopes of not immediately starting a fight. The humanoids approach with weapons drawn however and so Ragnarok quickly attempts to intimidate them, an attempt is all it is though. With all their attention focused on the three humanoids approaching them, the companions are startled when Lars lets out a yell and begins dancing around a bit. Somehow there are venemous centipedes swarming about his legs!

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Getting ahold of himself however Lars quickly yells out that they are but mere illusions, there is a spellcaster in their midst! One of the humanoids disappears almost immediately while Ragnarok dispatches of another and Ornith fires a volley at the assumed spellcaster standing further back. Tamull also moves for this attacker, but must dodge quickly to one side as a “flaming sphere” comes rolling down on him. Looking for more clues as to where the other attacker disappeared to Lars explores the chamber a little more, eventually discovering a cavern complete with rushing water descending down into darkness, and on a far away stone ledge a chain ladder also descending down into the darkness. Returning to the battle everyone is surprised when the spellcaster suddenly disappears into thin air. Tamull quickly casts a detect evil aura while Ornith tries to spot anything attempting to slip away. Sensing some invisible creature near where Tamull senses a faint aura of evil the companions are frustrated to hear footsteps thumping away into the distance as their attacker escapes! Stopping to search the anvil on their way back to the throne room and where they think their attackers ran off to, Ragnarok finds an unfinished sword blade and decides to take it with him, perhaps he can have it completed when they return to Tir Asleen.

Returning to the throne room, Ornith silently approaches the door behind the throne itself, patiently listening for noises on the other side. She is rewarded with the sounds of faint talking coming from the other side, she can’t quite make out the words though. With the companions gathered around her, Ornith silently pushes the door open, showing a small audience chamber, with three humanoid guards standing by a door bearing the same glowering face they had seen earlier. The three guards raise their weapons and the companions immediately enter into the fray with Lars firing a bolt directly into the shoulder of one! Thinking the fight well in hand, everyone is surprised when one of the humanoids cast “color spray”, temporarily blinding and stunning Ragnarok! Suddenly a woman enters the fray wielding a twin-bladed sword, the fighting is intense, but brief, and when the last guard is slain the woman turns and runs into the far room with the companions in hot pursuit. Upon entering the room however the woman is nowhere to be found! Searching around Tamull and Ragnarok only find the mildewed remnants of cloaks and nothing else…until Ornith locates the poorly hidden secret door.

Proceeding through the door the companions find themselves in an empty hallway opening out onto a ledge containing a chain ladder…the very same chain ladder that Lars had found earlier in the foundry cavern. Deciding it best to go down the ladder, the companions find themselves in a dark and rather wet cavern, complete with tracks from some kind of large reptilian creature leading into the water nearby. Further exploration shows them an iffy looking bridge, but when Lars crosses it just fine it is deemed safe…until Tamull collapses it. Luckily Ornith had tied a rope around Tamull and she and Ragnarok are able to safely pull him back up. Throwing the end of the rope across to Lars they are able to secure it tightly to a stalagmite and climb across to the other side. No sooner do Ragnarok’s feet touch the other side than the water beside the companions explodes in a shower of shimmering droplets, the black scaly head of dragon emerging from the water!

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Ornith wants desperately to talk to the beast, but the dragon only seems interested in spewing acid at the adventurers and threatens them with the promise of death!

“If you throw all your weapons and treasure into the water I will let you go, otherwise, I will eat you!” The dragon’s harsh voice ends in a laugh as she thinks about the tasty morsels they will make.

Tamull tries bravely to bribe the dragon, ensuring her that they wouldn’t be here if they had treasure with them and that the real treasure to be had is downstream. The dragon submerges and Tamull is convinced that he tricked the creature. Everyone keeps walking along the water’s edge thinking themselves safe when the dragon erupts from the waters once more, once again spewing acid everywhere. Unfortunately however, Lars receives the brunt of this attack and is immediately knocked unconscious by the assault. Quickly throwing the old wizard over a shoulder Tamull sprints for a tunnel opening up ahead with Ragnarok and Ornith close behind on his heels. As the companions huddle in the small cave they can hear the young dragon laughing and taunting them. With Ragnarok busy stabilizing Lars, Ornith and Tamull quickly come up with a plan to escape past the dragon. With bow and arrow at the ready Ornith sneaks out into the shadows surrounding the tunnel opening, signalling for the other to ready themselves. Her first two arrows sail into the water near the dragon, only slightly distracting it, her third arrow however manages to strike the beast directly in it’s scaled face, sending it into a rage and spewing acid at Ornith. Taking this opportunity as the only one they may have, Ragnarok and Tamull take off running back toward the collapsed bridge with Lars in tow. They are but halfway there when the dragon turns it’s attention from Ornith and swims after them. Ornith sprints after the dragon, hoping that she can somehow help, and is relieved to watch Tamull leap cleanly across the collapsed bridge. Just as he lands though, the dragon rushes up the shore at him, attempting to buffet Tamull with her wings, but unable to make more than a clumsy try in the enclosed space. Ornith reaches Ragnarok in time to hastily tie a rope around Lars, and watches in amazement as the fighter makes a leaping attack at the dragon as he jumps across the gap. The surprise attack drives the dragon back into the water and Ornith is able to throw the rope across to Tamull. Everyone winces slightly as Lars is ungracefully lurched and dragged across the many rocks, crashing into the far side of the gap as he’s pulled across. Ornith hastily clears the collapsed bridge and the adventurers make a final sprint for the chain ladder, frantically scrambling up it as the dragon laughs below them.

“I can smell your fear humans!”

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