Crystal Cantrips

Interlude with the Bard

Do You Want to Build a PC?

[knocks on your door]
Yes I wanna build a PC
A sexy angel-faced dance baaaaaard
I have no idea where to start
I really hate this part
It shouldn’t be this haaaaaaaard
But that’s what I have you for!
You’re the best DM
I’d be kinda lost otherwiiiiiiiiiise
Do you wanna build a PC?
I should really name my PC……
Anyway, hi!

My Slots

[SHIRA]

Only nineteen, but my mind is older
These Victorian trees get colder, I shoulder
Ev’ry burden, ev’ry disadvantage
I have learned to manage, I don’t have an axe to brandish
I walk these paths dance-ish
The plan is, to prove I’m ‘venturesome, not tame
(But damn it’s gettin dark so let me light up this game
I am an

[EVERONE]
A-D V-E N-T U
R-E R and I’m gonna do

[SHIRA]
The things that nobody thought I could
And we’re up against evil so I’m fighting for good
I know I should, So I’m fighting through these woods
Meanwhile, homeless guy’s fuckin’ up my neighborhood
He ain’t never gonna let these civilians be
So we are gonna mount a rescue in this century
Enter me!

[EVERYONE]
(She says in parenthesis)

[SHIRA]
Don’t be shocked when I make this guy turn and flee
I will do what it takes just to keep us free
Eventually you’ll see my ascendancy!

And I am not throwing away my slots
I am not throwing away my slots
Hey yo, we’re young, scrappy casters
Some clerics and some bastards
And I’m not throwing away my slots

[EVERYONE]

And I am not throwing away my slots
I am not throwing away my slots
Hey yo, we’re young, scrappy casters
Some clerics and some bastards
And I’m not throwing away my slots

Jingle Bells – Arctic Remix

Dashing through the snow
In a two-bear open sleigh
Over the ice we go
Napping all the way
Bells on skull bears ring
Don’t ask them why they’re white
We haven’t seen the sun in days
It’s arctic winter night!

Oh!
Jingle bells, Khemed smells
Fenrir laid an egg
Jane’s from hell, Odin saved Kel
And Shira does ballet
Hey!
Jingle bells, Khemed smells
Fenrir laid an egg
Jane’s from hell, Odin saved Kel
And Shira does ballet

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Our Heroes’ New Year’s Resolution Is To Save The World

The party arrives at the artic port on New Year’s Eve. Port may actually be a misnomer as there is nothing there except for a dingy pier and a torn up ship. The party deduces that the ship is the one that the Man in Bug’s other lieutenant took. Exploring the ship yields nothing but a fight with some dire polar bears. Knowing that the party has a long journey ahead of them, they plan. From flying bats to marching, the party threw as many ideas as they could about the fastest method to get to the north. After all, the world may not have three weeks to wait for them to get to the north pole and back. Eventually, they elect to have Lorica fashion a sled for them to use, and have Jane raise the polar bears to pull the sled.
Hoping that this new year’s day won’t be their last, the party sets out after as soon as they are all prepared. Constantly facing hazards and dealing with blizzards and sudden earthquakes threatening to swallow them whole, the party pushes onward. Khemed darkly points out that the land they are traveling has been forsaken by the gods, and he may not have been wrong. The sun does not shine down upon the artic and it is impossible to tell night from day any longer. Fenrir is sent out briefly to search the group of travelers that have fallen in the snow. The Man in Bugs’ lieutenant is among them, having gone down fighting what Fenrir could only assume to be a yeti. In her bag Fenrir finds a mirror. Certain of the mirror’s importance, Fenrir takes it with him and rushes back to the party. The yeti’s howls are getting louder.
It takes only one attack for the yeti’s to realize their prey is not to be trifled with. The party deftly counters all of the yeti’s and if there were any left, they learned their lesson.
After at least two weeks, the party finds what they are looking for. The mysterious structure holds many secrets. It is only with the help of Ra that the party is able to find the key that makes it all make sense, the frame for the mirror.
At least, it would normally make everything clear, but our heroes had just spent two weeks crammed together in a sled listening to Shira sing about their adventure and Khemed making a howling noise. They were tired. It’s only fair that they spent a long period of time trying to pick the door to heaven, and almost considered trying to open the door to hell. These things happen when trying to save the world.
The epiphany struck when they noticed that the mirror also revealed several doors, which they then discovered acted as portals into the different ziggurats across the world. With this knowledge, the party decided to use the mirror to go to the ziggurats they hadn’t been to yet. But first, they needed to have ask Anaphiel a few questions.

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Never. Fight. A. Blue. Dragon. Over. Water.

Our heroes were at their wits end. The world was ending. Khemed warned Sennefer, Fenrir wrote to MacGuiler, the party tried to warn as many people as they could about the swarm of bugs that was coming for them all. Recent events were starting to catch up with the party, the stress, exhaustion, and constant danger plagued them all. Keladry, always wrestling with self-doubt over her abilities to serve Odin, was plagued with anxiety. Khemed worried for his country. Fenrir and Jane fought; all of the tense moments between them had reached a boiling point. The kiss of death, her reckless actions, and Jane’s decision to kill the dying man in Nivaos. The couple were just in the middle of their argument when John called everybody above deck.

Off into the distance was a figure. Fenrir was the first to recognize what it was, or rather, who it was. A blue dragon larger than any the party had ever seen, even larger than the shadow dragon had been, flew towards the party. On the head of the dragon was the Man in Bug’s symbol. He was now the dragon.

There was nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. The party was stuck in the middle of the ocean with a dragon that breathes electricity hunting them down. Knowing this our heroes prepared themselves to fight for their lives.

And fight they did. The dragon soared over them, tearing the ship apart chunk by chunk. One direct hit from the dragon could bring any of them down to their knees, but somehow they managed to keep fighting. The Man in Bugs roared as the fight went on, demanding to know what the heroes had done with his angel. Knowing flight was his biggest advantage, the Man in Bugs avoided landing on the ship as much as he could, but on one of his attempts to fly away was thwarted by Keladry. She knew that the dragon needed to be brought down. With a final cry to Odin, Keladry leapt off of the ship and onto the dragon, plunging her hammer straight down onto the dragon’s head. This devastating blow came at a high cost. Too high. The dragon roared and ended Keladry’s life. She fell into the ocean with a smile on her face, knowing she had served Odin and ensured her friends’ victory. Which survivor’s counterattack dealt the killing blow, this author does not know, as every one of them responded with such force all at once it was unclear which one hit first. Fenrir, terrified that he had once again watched one of his family die, dove into the ocean as an octopus to save Keladry.

He failed.

Jane, Shira, and Khemed helped Fenrir carry Keladry’s body back onto the ship. Before they even had time to grieve, Keladry’s body disappeared. That was not the only mystery to be solved though, as the survivors found themselves on a mysterious island. Telling John to watch the ship, they moved on to explore the island as best they could. It was there that they found a grove, and in that grove, Keladry. She was wearing a white gown smiling from ear to ear. She told everyone that Odin had spoken to her, and that she was one of his Valkyries. She was not yet done with this world as their quest would impact not just their plane, but could impact the universe.

Overjoyed, the party explored the island with a sense of wonder. Not even Kel knew where exactly they were. Eventually they happened upon a demon. The demon told the party that he escaped from hell long ago and has been meditating on the island for as long as he could remember. The party learns that the ziggurats were built back during his early years, and that countries all over the world built them, being guided by an unknown force. The demon confirms the party’s belief, the best place for them to find answers is in the artic. Not only that, they need to go to the very top of the world. To the very top of the world. In order for them to do so, the demon teaches Lorica (Fenrir’s plant armor) how to turn into and control herself as a boat. And so the party went north to find answers.

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It’s Only a Little Bug Going Around

Khemed is contacted by Sennefer, who asks him to come back to Old R’Kassi to investigate Nivaos which had suddenly gone quiet. While traveling there they are set upon by Katherine Vera who demands that the party give her the angel. Vera threatens to slit Jane’s throat. Fenrir responds by breaking hers.

The party arrives in Nivaos on December 7th, only to find that the entire town was completely empty. There were no signs of an attack, no natural disaster. It was as though everyone simply vanished. As the party explored the town it appeared as though the townsfolk simply got up and left the city.

This actually turned out to be the case. The party stumbled upon a dying man who could barely see, who told the party that a horrible plague had come to the town. The townspeople were desperate to be cured from their disease. Naturally, the Man in Rags had come through Nivaos but that was not all he had done. Along with every one of his lieutenants, Lucian, Priest, and Therin, he was able to convince the entire town to go to the ziggurat. It was unclear why the Man in Rags really wanted the entire population of Nivaos, but the party knew it wasn’t good. Before setting off, the dying man begged the party to end his suffering. No one knew what the right thing to do was, but Jane understood the man’s desire. With no time to debate on the decision, our heroes followed the trail the people of Nivaos left behind.

When they arrived at the cliff above the ziggurat, the party saw the entire city of Nivaos below them being led by Priest in prayer. It was readily apparent to the party that the prayer was meaningless and only a means of keeping the people busy. Through a variety of scrying and stealth, the party managed to steal a large amount of black onyx from inside the ziggurat, but not without alerting the White Ravens stationed there to the party’s presence.

After hiding the black onyx a ways away the party encountered Lucian and his men. During the battle, Jane discovered that she could perform a literal kiss of death, which she performed right in front of Fenrir, much to his shock. As they fought the party was able to drive Lucian back and defeat his men, but sadly there were plenty of White Ravens to replace them. Knowing what was about to come, Lucian had his men fall back to regroup.

Khemed, using more scrying, was able to see what was going on in the central chamber of the ziggurat. The Man in Rags was in the middle of performing a ritual. Therin was assisting him and had several of the crystal bugs stored. Only this time the bugs had black onyx jammed where the crystal would normally have been. Suddenly it appears as though the bugs have killed the Man in Rags, devouring him whole. The bugs then move onto the several captives in the chamber, infecting them until they stopped moving. Then, a glowing symbol appeared on each of their heads. Every one of them began to move as one, with the same voice. His voice. The Man in Rags was now the Man of Bugs, an endless swarm capable of taking over the bodies of creatures.

Khemed can barely describe the rest of what is happening but he doesn’t have to anymore, the bugs are swarming out of the ziggurat now and attacking the people of Nivaos. What has occurred is not just out of the party’s league, the Man in Bugs is not just a threat to a city or country, but the entire world.

Faced with this monstrous force. Our heroes do the one thing they could do. The one thing anyone could have done.

Run.

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No Mercy for Doctors or Dragons

With the knowledge that the party was out of their league, they all agreed it was time to learn as much as they could about their foes. With Papa HeeNo’s hint, our heroes set out for Mercyglade.

Mercyglade was a few days inland from the nearest port in Grand Victoria. Unfortunately, John informed Fenrir that the crew had had enough. They did not sign on for all of the danger that the party brought along. Disappointed but not entirely surprised, Fenrir told John to pay everyone then set out to finding a crew more willing to work for them.

The road to Mercyglade was long and windy, and so the party elected to take the shorter path cutting through the mountains. On the way they encountered several giants who the party decided to surprise with the magic dice they had taken off of the medusa, as a possible weapon and as a way to better understand how the dice worked.

This decision turned out to be a good call because the dice summoned a shadow dragon. The dragon, along with the party’s most powerful spells, decimated the giants before they even knew where the party was hiding. Fortunately, it also ended the giants before the dragon discovered the party, soaring off into the distance once the giants were defeated. With a sense of relief that they did not have to fight the dragon, the party went the rest of the way to Mercyglade.

Mercyglade was exactly as Jane had described: a foreboding asylum. Fenrir was sent off to explore the asylum as an animal and report back. After some searching, it was evident that the mental hospital had suffered some sort of tragedy. The place was abandoned with ghosts flying around. After reporting his discovery to the party, everyone decided to slowly explore once morning came.

In a shocking turn of events the party found the ghosts to be fairly agreeable. The head of the asylum, unaware that he had died, was determined to help his ghost patients as best as he could. The doctor informed the party that Priest had been at the asylum, and after exploring a bit more the party was able to infer that Priest had performed a dark ritual at Mercyglade, and that the torching men they’ve been fighting were the former patients.

Jane and Fenrir were also interested in the horrible treatment Jane suffered at the hands of the doctors at Mercyglade. The head doctor explained that traditional techniques completely failed to help her, and that they tried a variety of more extreme methods out of desperation to help her get better. Jane, however, found this to be an inadequate justification and held no sympathy for any of the people at Mercyglade.

When exploring the top of the tower Jane was held in, the rest of the party discovered that Jane had made a deal with Demogorgon, and were outraged that they had kept this from the rest of the party. It was only the appearance of a ghost wrapped in chains that halted the argument.

The ghosts at the hospital needed to move on to their proper plane of existence. Shira, with the power of her music and dance, helped the ghosts move on and find piece. She captivated the audience with her talents until one by one they ascended. By the end of her performance, only the head of the asylum remained. He told the party that he was still trying to help his patients, and the party knew that stopping Priest would be the only way to help him finally rest. After promising they would go take care of Priest, they stopped by the one building that they had not yet been.

This building was the one which had dangers, skeletons popped up and the party got ready to fight. Perhaps out of frustration that her time at Mercyglade was much more peaceful than she had wanted it to have been, Jane went a little overboard with her fire. The building was quickly set on fire and the party had to leave the building before they got the chance to fully explore. With a slightly beleaguered party, save for a beaming Jane, the party set out to return to their ship.

The first night on their way back to the ship, the party was set upon by the dragon they had summoned from the dice. The dragon targeted Shira only, and carried her off into the distance before the party had any chance to react. Keladry and Fenrir led the chase as they followed the dragon. Unfortunately, it was night and they lost sight of the dragon very quickly. Fenrir did what he does best and turned into a dire wolf, hoping he could follow Shira’s scent.

While they chased after the dragon, Shira realized exactly who had captured her. The dragon, after throwing her into a cave, explained to her that he was the dragon her parents had fought back during their adventuring days. The dragon told Shira that he would leave her parents alone only if she would stay in the cave as a prisoner for as long as he was trapped. Shira naturally responded with words this author does not feel are appropriate to repeat.

Eventually, the party found where the dragon was hiding and, after springing Shira from her cave prison, they slew the dragon. Shira was able to finish what her parents started as she dealt the final blow against the dragon, which let out a final roar of hatred for Shira and her family before going down.

On their way back they received a letter from John saying that he couldn’t hire a new crew because the party had wanted pictures of themselves plastered all over the town. Priest’s men were hunting them. With this knowledge, the party was able to sneak into town and sail away, using some skeletons Jane raised as a crew.

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What Happens When You Don’t Bring Bug Spray on Adventures

With Papa HeeNo’s boons in hand, the party goes up the other fork in the river, to where the Man in Rags has gone. While going up the river the party sees the Man in Rags’ ship, which is plagued by the crystal bugs. Naturally, the party found it prudent to try and get rid of the bugs, but after fighting off the few swarms that had noticed the party, realized it would be much safer to just leave the bugs. The party follows the narrow path, and after three days find themselves face to face with another ziggurat. Dumbfounded that there is an almost identical looking ziggurat on nearly the other side of the world, the party enters. Unlike the one in Old R’Kassi, this ziggurat had no one inside. Or at least that’s what the party believed until they heard the whispers.

The party followed the whispers to the same location as before, taking care not to be noticed by the Man in Rags. As they peered inside they saw an endless swarm of bugs, crawling all over the room. The walls, the floor, the ceiling, they covered nearly the entire room. In the center of the room they saw the Man in Rags whispering to himself once again.

While the party discussed what the best method of approach was, Fenrir, for reasons unknown, walked right inside the room and called out to their foe. The Man in Rags did not respond to Fenrir’s good natured questions and only spoke to himself before sprouting wings just like the ones the bugs had and flew up and out of the ziggurat’s opening, leaving the party to fend off the massive swarm of bugs.

Quickly realizing they were outmatched, the party made steps to flee, using magic to create a barrier blocking the doorway so the bugs couldn’t follow. Once they were outside, the party took a moment to catch their breath before seeing the bugs swarm out from the top of the ziggurat and the entrance.

Needless to say, the party didn’t stop running this time until they made it back to their ship.

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Electric Boogaloo

The party makes good time sailing to Ulvenwald. When they finally arrive to the dingy port they are stopped by the port master, an older man wearing a mix of normal and native attire. When he approached them informs them of a plague that has struck the town and that the source of the plague is further up the river, down the fork from Jane’s dream. Ignoring the port master’s warning, the party decides to go further up the river.

As the river gets shallower the party notices a boat docked on the side, with a trail leading deeper into the woods. The party follows the trail and finds the village where the plague started. They villagers were all watching the heroes, confused and curious… the healthier looking ones anyway. Most of them seemed so ill they were delirious, with the ones who still had to together trying to tend to the worst off. With a party of two clerics, the party naturally was inclined to help cure the villagers but even after using their spells it seemed to do little good to cure them. Immediately after trying to cure some of the villagers, from what seemed out of thin air, a voice said, “You dasn’t try and help… won’t do no good, and they dasn’t need any right now.”

He was seven and a half feet tall if he was an inch, and slender as a scarecrow. He didn’t look like your archetypical ‘witchdoctor’, by which I mean there was no headdress or bone piercings or facial paint. He wears only a simple pair of pants, from which dangle a wide variety of small bags and pouches, and carries a staff of dark wood that’s even taller than he is. There was no doubt about who he was, he had a foreboding presence that demanded attention.

“I know what causin dis here sickness. A Man causin dis here sickness, and when he leaves he takes that sickness with him. And he leavin real soon. Come, Papa HeeNo needs your help."

Slightly stunned, extremely curious, the party follows Papa HeeNo, who leads you to a dark and twisted tree growing half on the land and half out into the swampy water, when Hee-no reaches into its bundle of roots, and seemingly falls through them and into nothing. After a moment, Hee-no reaches his hand out and beckons for the party to follow. The passage leads into a dank and dark little room. There’s a bundle of rags in the corner that looks like a bed, a tiny table on the floor, and the walls are absolutely strewn with bones, shelves containing jars of eyes, live mice, and god knows what else. Hand-carved trinkets and voodoo dolls abound. Water is dripping from everywhere, and one would get the distinct impression that we are definitely under the water line of the swamp. Occasionally there will be a shimmer of something perfectly polished and cleaned, intricate gold objects and glass lenses and such, standing out against the otherwise filthy and horrifying surroundings.

The party sees Papa HeeNo sitting crosslegged at his tiny table (which is covered in runes and symbols and laid out in an obvious pattern). He’s shaking bones in his fists and throwing them across the table, scanning his eyes over to take them all in before scooping them up and shaking them again. He keeps doing this over and over while he talks, Rattle, Rattle, Clatter, Pause, Scrape, Rattle, Rattle, Clatter, in a perfect and unbreakable rhythm.

He starts talking. “You knowin dis Man I spoke of. You searchin for him, wantin to stop him. He bad man, doin bad things. I can help you against dis man. He almost finishin what he doin here, and when he leaves, the sickness leaves with him. But dis man, he comin back someday soon. And when he comin back, he bringin somethin worse. Aint no one gonna live no more when he comin back. I can ward dis place against Him for a while. Keep the sickness out. For a time. But I needin ya help to do dis. If’n ya help Papa HeeNo, Papa HeeNo helpin ya. The Spirits showin me a Boon for each of ya. Ya help me, and I give dis Boon to ya.”

Papa HeeNo just keeps shaking his bones and throwing them at the table. “A snake woman lives in the jungle.” He points off in one direction during the pause before scooping his bones back up. “She’s a bad snake woman, and she be mad at us. We be feedin her for years, meat. We’n too sick to feedin her anytime soon. She gettin hungry. She comin for us soon. She be sendin’ her dahrk creatures to hunt us. You bring me dis woman’s head, and I givin ya da Boon.” he laughs, an unnerving monotonous laugh. “But ya be watchin out for her pets now, ya hear?”

After some deliberation, the party agrees to help Papa HeeNo and sets out to fight the snake woman. The party suspects that the snake woman Papa HeeNo described is a medusa, and decide to take extra care when they encounter her.

A few miles from the village, there’s a stone path leading to a crumbling stone temple. Rough gravel in odd shapes (apparently from the collapsing stone) litters the area, and the whole building is covered in moss and vines. The whole area seems to be completely devoid of natural life. The silence of the temple looms over the party. There are stray bones and skulls in every direction scattered all over the temple.

Peering through the entrance, the party catches the occasional glimpse of a cloaked and hooded female form walking around. The party hears very faint, angry murmuring, but they cannot tell exactly where the woman is as she wanders the temple. As soon as they cross the threshold into the temple itself the woman rounds a corner and disappears. The party moves through the temple, encountering only rooms full of rubble and piles of bones. The party often hears the woman’s angry murmuring echoing through the halls, giving them a subtle clue about her current location.

Eventually, the party enters what appears to be a courtyard. The floor is littered with large piles of rubble, as if a large number of statues had been smashed. Large portions of the floor are therefore difficult terrain. From the balcony above, the party hears a voice that sounded like wet ash being run through a grinder, “Trespassers. What are you doing in my home.”

The battle is short but intense, Jane even became petrified, but the medusa did fall. Unfortunately, she fell a little too hard, causing a pair of magical dice to fall out of her hair. Once the dice land they summon a monstrosity, an undead sharkenbear. Fortunately, the party defeats the sharkenbear, stores the dice safely back in the container, then returns to Papa HeeNo.

When they arrive it is clear he has been busy, the entire hut appears to be rearranged. He fondles the medusa’s head through the fabric, nodding to himself when he feels the snakes. He says that he’s very glad she’s dead, and that he’s gonna cut the snakes off and put them around the village to ward off outsiders… that it’ll keep them all safer, longer. Then he informs the party that "The spirits got one more boon for ya now. A boon of knowledge.” He points at Jane and says “Dis boon for ya, most of all”.

He pulls a cage down from over his shoulder, full of the tiny little white mice. He opens the door and says “Allright now I need ten of ya babies to help Papa HeeNo now” and ten of them scurry out. They’re still moving like mice, randomly, darting around, but they all moved out as a group all the same. He shut the door to the cage, still teeming with the other rodents, and left it there on the table. Then he scoops up a cup and pushes one of the mice into it. The other nine just run around the patterns on the outside of the table, never crossing into where the runes and symbols and letters are. He gestures to Jane and leans across the table, until they’re almost nose to nose, before saying one word, "Prees-Tah.”

Seeing the surprise on Jane’s face, he goes on, “Ah, ya be knowin him den. Da spirits don’t lie do dey? Dis Prees-Tah, he a bad man. He doin bad tings, da spirits don’t like him none at all.” Papa HeeNo cups his hand over the cup and starts rattling it around ruthlessly, probably bludgeoning the hell out of the poor mouse inside, before uncupping his hand and pouring the mouse out into the middle of the table. The mouse runs in a dizzy circle, before finally coming to rest, at which point Papa HeeNo SLAMS a thin iron spike down through the base of the mouses neck and into one of the symbols.

He scoops another mouse into the cup and repeats the process. “Da spirits… dey gonna tell us where ya be findin more about dis Prees-Tah. Dey gonna show where ya goin to learn ta stop stop him.” He pours out another mouse, waits for it to stop and SLAMS another spike down into the table. He does it with all ten of them, before looking down at the pattern the mice formed, and mouthing wordlessly. “Papa HeeNo dont know what dis here means. But da Spirits say YOU do” pointing at Jane directly.

Papa Heeno just says one simple sentence. “Mercyglade.”

Jane nods in recognition.

Papa HeeNo nods and goes on “Ya be goin back to Mercyglade. Ya be findin more about dis Prees-Tah. Ya be learning how ta stop him.” Jane is still very quiet. Then he pulled out the spikes, scooped the dead mice into another box, poured some white liquid into it, closed it, and shook it all around while chanting. When he opened the box to pour the contents back into the cage with the mice, the ten ‘helpers’ he’d spiked all looked completely normal, hale, and healthy.

Then HeeNo reaches into the box next to his table and starts pulling out odd little trinkets:

- For Fenrir, Papa Hee-no plunges his hand into a pot of soil, and pulls out a seed several inches long, which fits comfortably in the palm. “Give her water, and treat her well, and she be protectin’ ya.”
- For Shira, he pulls out a pair of moccasins decorated with feathers. “For de girl who dances on de wind, these be guiding ya steps”
- For Jane, a pair of black leather wrist braces, laced, and covered in red runes. There are holes for more lacework to be done, and one thin silver chain laced on lower left brace. He also gives you a matching set of short black leather straps, and an additional chain. The way the extra straps sat, it looked like a loopy X made to go over a sphere.
- For Khemed: “That staff be a great source o’ powa to ya. Hand it ova’, and Papa Hee-no be makin it betta. Don’ worry, de spirits not be doin anything ya god be disapprovin’ of.” He does some voodoo to infuse some of the medusa’s snake heads into his Staff of Ra.
- For Keladry: Does some voodoo to her shield, causing it to become animated.

Finally, he plucks a feather from the angel and fashions it into a talisman, before handing it to Fenrir. “Prees-Tah and his masta be searchin for dis here angel woman, they not be stopping till they find her. She stay here, when I ward this place, it be safe. When de bad men be far-seein to find her, they be finding dis token instead. Take it far away from here, keep it hidden, and don’ let them know it ain’t she.

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An Angel’s Saviors
Despite the party doing its best to save the angel, they are fighting a losing battle. Fenrir was already on his last wildshape, Jane was in critical condition with Khemed very close to becoming the same, and despite hitting them with everything the party had they were barely slowing down Priest and his men. Or rather, every time they knocked Priest’s men down they only had a brief respite until their defeated foes rose from the ashes of their remains.

Things were starting to look grim when the blink of an eye Shira was at the church. Shira, blinking rapidly for a moment, realizes she has appeared and jumps into the fray. She sends Jeremiah off to revitalize Jane and begins throwing daggers and dissonant whispers left and right. The rest of the party, boosted at the sudden return of their friend, continue the battle with newfound energy.

However, our heroes were not the only ones with sudden reinforcement. A thick, black carriage appears led by four horses and five more of Priest’s men. They pull the carriage around to the side of the church and throw open the back doors. It is readily apparent that they intend to throw the angel into the carriage. Priest, having been thoroughly damaged by the party, seizes the opportunity to run out of the church and hop on the carriage, ordering his men to help assist. Before following his orders, one of his men on the carriage throws Priest a potion, which Priest promptly chugs.

At this point, the party was once again in a difficult position. Jane, Shira, and Khemed were already outside of the church fighting the men. Keladry had just run out of the church behind Priest and was holding off several of Priest’s men from getting to the rest of the party. Fenrir was stuck, the exit out of the church was too small for him to fit through as a wolf and even if he squeezed through there were too many people right in front of the exit. He could turn back to normal and rejoin the fight using only his spells or run out of the front entrance as a wolf, possibly wasting precious time.

While this was all going through his head the angel was thrown into the back of the carriage and locked inside. Out of sheer desperation, Fenrir returned to normal, ran outside, and hit the carriage point blank with a tidal wave, knocking the carriage over and down into a ditch.

This provided our heroes the opportunity to show just how far they’ve come as a team. Keladry continued to steadily cut down the torching foes, Shira sent one of them running off into the distance with dissonant whispers, Jane ran down to the carriage and began cutting the binds off of the angel. Khemed, using the radiance of dawn, disintegrated every single one of Priest’s men instantly, followed by Fenrir using tidal wave to wash away the torching men’s ashes.

Priest, realizing that the battle was decided, fled the scene. Fenrir attempted to follow him but was called off by the rest of the party, who pointed out that they, Fenrir included, were exhausted by the battle and could not fight off the entire town. With the rescued angel in tow, the party fled into the woods.

Once they were settled in a safe clearing, the angel spoke with the party. The angel identifies herself as Anaphiel, who is the caretaker of their world. Anaphiel explains that Priest wanted her for something evil, and that she was going to be brought to Priest’s master, the Man in Rags. Disturbed by this news, the party then talks with Shira, who explains her absence.

It turns out that Shira had been in the ethereal plane, having accidentally put on a necklace that randomly causes her to switch between the material and ethereal planes. Shira had been following the party around the entire time, but was unable to hear or speak to them. The necklace was clearly cursed so the wearer could not remove it, but the angel was kind enough to help Shira remove the necklace.

Later that night, Jane has a dream:

You are standing on the deck of the Raven’s Wing. The skies are clear and the ship sails calmly with a pleasant tailwind. You look forward, and you see a great rainforest. Ulvenwald, but not, on inspection, the port you so recently left. In place of the ominous black cliffs, there is a river delta, and a pier waving the flag of Grand Victoria.
The ship is now sailing up a river. The trees hum with life as you pass beneath their branches. The river comes to a fork, and the ship deliberately turns and takes the right fork.
You walk along a forest path. You come to a point where the trail is flanked by two large trees, each bearing a large voodoo mask. For a moment, you feel their empty eyes staring straight through you, judging you. But then the feeling is gone. You step past the masks, and the tension leaves your shoulders as you are filled with a sense of peace and safety.

After explaining the dream to the party, they all agree to head back to Ulvenwald to the port matching the description of Jane’s dream.

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A Terrible Ritual

After eight long days, our heroes arrive in Tanalin, a relatively small port town. The port has several other fishing boats that we see, but the Raven’s Howl (our ship) is the only one that is sea worthy. The landscape around the town is dominated by forests and hills, with a few snow-capped mountains visible in the far distance.

Tanalin is freckled by a number of watchtowers surrounding the edges of the town. However, there is a distinct lack of substantial defenses; it becomes readily apparent to the group that the town does not expect any real threat as they are comforted by the protection being a part of the Grand Victorian Empire.

As we enter the lively town, Khemed suggests that we warn the town and spread word about the massacre at Blackrock. A sound idea, because the travel papers that the team has state that they are destined for Blackrock, and they need an explanation as to why they are here. Fenrir is able to convince the portmaster that Blackrock was indeed destroyed, while avoiding the details of the White Ravens or exactly how much they knew about the destruction.

With their docking all sorted out, the adventurers set out to explore Tanalin’s numerous points of interest. As everyone splits up to do a variety of tasks, it is clear that Tanalin is a small but dense town with plenty of useful places to a group such as themselves. A single, comfortable inn stands in the town center, and a number of interesting shops that we all split off into. Fenrir and Khemed both go into the Jewelry, albeit for different reasons: Fenrir goes there to sell off some of the black onyx that they had (Jane was upset he took any at all) as he had depleted his funds in order to pay his crew, while Khemed went there to buy some material components for his spells. Keladry also goes to different shops to buy spell components, while Jane took a stroll past the town church and cemetery to see how if she would be able to start reanimating the cemetery’s corpses. (INSERT SHIRA ACTIVITY HERE). Eventually, everyone heads to the inn to reserve their rooms.

While at the inn, Fenrir slips downstairs to the inn’s bar, where he chats with old contact, who just so happens to be the barkeeper. Initially, the barkeep didn’t have any news worth bringing up, but a description of the two remaining lackey’s of the BBEG (AKA Creepy Homeless Whispering Guy) led Fenrir to discover that the man in a suit we saw in the Ziggurat had indeed arrived in Tanalin a few weeks prior. The barkeep was reluctant to say more about the man, save that he had a creepy smile and gave him the creeps. Fenrir tried to get more out of the barkeep, but was interrupted by a belligerent drunk, who loudly proclaimed, “We don’t come here to ask questions. We don’t come here to think. We come here to STOP thinkin’. So shut your mouth or I’ll make sure it’s the last time you ever open it!"

Shockingly, Fenrir was able to not get into a bar fight with the drunk, but merely bickered with him back and forth for a few moments before the drunk went back to his drink, but not before the barkeep went into the bar’s backroom. Irritated that he was unable to find out more, Fenrir reluctantly went back upstairs to inform the rest of the party what he discovered.

With this news in mind, Khemed declares that he is going to go to the local church to find out anything he can about this creepy man in a suit. Fenrir offers to join him, while Jane and Keladry decide to stay at the bar for unofficial Awkward Bonding Drinking Time™. On their way out of the bar, Fenrir and Khemed are approached by a barmaid who asks if Fenrir was the person who had questions about the creepy man in a suit. The barmaid asks if they can talk somewhere privately, to which Fenrir agrees. As Khemed continues on his way to the church, Fenrir and the barmaid go into a back alley to discuss the man.

The barmaid informs Fenrir that this man in a suit is named Priest, a man with a chilling smile: his smiles seemed too big, his stares lasted too long; his speech was close, but off in enough tiny ways that the whole picture became wrong. Along with this, Priest dressed over the top even by the standards of Grand Victorian nobility. As a whole, he gave almost everyone in Tanalin chills. Despite this, Priest seemed to be accepted by the blue-bloods and the clergy outright, so people were afraid to say anything. With a final word of warning to avoid the man as best they can, the barmaid tells Fenrir that Priest went inland along with several of the local church members, his own team of men, and some paid workers with dig equipment. He hadn’t really advertised what he was leaving for, at least not to commoners, and she thought she rather preferred it that way.

Troubled by the news, Fenrir rushes off to warn Khemed of the potential danger he might be placing himself under by speaking with the church about Priest. Arriving just as Khemed approached the doors, Fenrir informed him of what was going on. Khemed, ignoring Fenrir’s desire to leave the church immediately, decided to simply change his line of questioning. By doing what Khemed does best, being loud and religious, to masterfully charm the church’s kindly old abbot. The abbot informs Khemed and Fenrir that Priest was making preparations for a ritual, and that when they’re done the entire world will benefit from the wisdom they gain. Not only that, but Khemed was able to make dinner plans with the old abbot, with the entire party invited.

During dinner, Khemed tries to learn more about the ritual Priest is preparing, but the abbot does not provide any new illuminating information. Fortunately for Fenrir and Jane, the abbot failed to notice that the two of them were having a telepathic bickering about whether or not Jane should go to the graveyard to raise any undead that night. Keladry, however, manages to simply enjoy the dinner without being too concerned over any of these things.

Deeply worried over what sort of ritual Priest is really planning, the party decides to leave first thing in the morning. For INSERT REASON HERE, Shira decides to stay in Tanalin and not travel with the rest of the party. Fenrir instructs his first mate John to buy any goods that can be sold in port later, and to make sure none of the crew are massacred while the team is gone.

Traveling by foot along the main road, it is around 2.5 days to the small town of Driftdale. After half a day of walking, the straight road through farmland gives way to a winding road through temperate forest. The road narrows as the team gets deeper into the forest, but they are able to stop for a lunch where absolutely nothing of note happens. As the party moves further into the woods, the party rounds a bend in the road to see a fallen tree, halting their progress. Almost immediately, crossbow bolts begin flying towards the party. It becomes clear that two bandits are ambushing the party, and using similar hit and run tactics that were used by Katherine Vera on Ulvenwald. Learnig from their past mistakes, the party stays together close enough to move as a unit and fight the bandits, eventually catching them at a small clearing a little ways away from the path.

However, the bandits were clearly planning on bringing the fight to this clearing, as a twisted oak tree stands in the other end of the far clearing. The tree has a magical affect to charm whoever is near it, but only Khemed becomes charmed by the tree, as it seems to have awoken something in Khemed as well- there aren’t many trees as pretty as that in Old R’Kassi. Fenrir and Keladry are able to defeat the one of the bandits, with Wolf Fenrir pinning the bandit down as he surrenders. It is at this moment when the tree begins to wrap its branches around Khemed’s neck, strangling him. The tree then does the same thing to Jane. Fenrir being Fenrir, he telepathically communicates to Kel to keep an eye on the bandit while he moves to help Jane and then Khemed. It quickly becomes clear that this tree is a larger threat, Kel demands that the bandit tell her what’s going on, to which the bandit replies, “Hehehehe… No one escapes the Hanging Tree!!!” Keladry summons a spectral blade to start helping Khemed with his overbearing tree friend, and helps Jane escape from the hanging tree.

The battle becomes grueling quickly, Khemed manages to come to his senses and uses a flaming sphere to deal damage to the tree consistently, Jane puts oil on the tree to let it burn more easily before collapsing, and Fenrir runs out of wild shapes as shifting allows him to escape from the tree’s branches. It is when the tree begins to uproot itself and pursue the party that Keladry rightly urges the party to begin to retreat back to the road to escape from the hanging tree. Keladry and Khemed carry Jane through the thick forest while Fenrir keeps the tree busy, ready to escape. In a desperate attempt to take care of the tree, Fenrir summons a tidal wave, which generates enough force to shatter the tree into a million pieces. Relieved to have some time to think, they all decide to continue down the road in the event that the bandits return (it seems they ran once the party became occupied with the hanging tree).

The rest of the journey is fairly uneventful; there is a really large boulder that looks sort of like a face that Jane insists on climbing. Each night the party hears dire wolves howling in the distance, which is comforting to no one but Fenrir. The second night is interrupted by a nightmare of Jane’s, it is unclear what the dream could mean.

Around noon on the third day, you exit the forest and catch a view of the town. Driftdale is a run-down sort of town, more of a waypoint between Tanalin and the capital cities further inland. Since it’s in a bit of a valley, the party has a pretty good visual layout of things. Namely, they can see right away that there is some kind of recent dig site off to the east border of the town. The dig site is directly near an old and obviously abandoned church (roof caving in, dingy and dirty, but the stained glass windows were still intact, probably out of respect from the locals), and the digging itself seemed to form a giant star pattern around the building.

Khemed uses magic to magically spy on the dig site, which reveals that Priest will be finished preparing the ritual at dawn in two days’ time. The party decides to use the fact that most of them can disguise themselves to their advantage, and have Keladry, Jane, and Fenrir (disguised as a dog, as his normal form is much more rememorable) go into town to learn what they can.

No one really knows much. The clergy was preparing for some kind of ritual that they promised would be of immense benefit to everyone involved. We did pick up that it was Priest who’d come into town with the documents elaborating on the location of the stones they were unearthing, and the details of the ritual. Jane and Kel make plans to meet with the town mayor, who is completely on board with Priest’s plan, and finds it odd that Jane and Keladry are being so inquisitive about the ritual.

Deflated by this dead end, the team decides to change tactics. Fenrir goes off to get Khemed, and the team decides that since Priest is trying to keep a good public profile, they can simply walk up and ask around at the dig site. The party approaches the church, with dog!Fenrir sniffing around and seeing if there is anything interesting about the area. Everyone else walk right up to Priest.

When Priest turns to address everyone, the party realizes that he does indeed have a mile-long stare and an uncomfortable rictus grin. He seems as if he’s trying to be cordial, but trying way too hard. He addresses us in the same way, overly polite and paced slightly off from normal speech patterns, “Hello there folk, is there anything I can help you with to-" His last word cuts off, and his rictus grin drops into a flat tight lipped line. “Oh. You. How odd.”
Khemed tries to get more information out of Priest, but Priest is very firm in saying, “Get out NOW,” in a way that is still creepily polite. Reluctantly, the party leaves and returns to the inn. That night, Fenrir cats his way into the church in the center of the dig site and manages to steal some papers that reveal that the ritual is a summoning ritual, but it is unclear what exactly is being summoned. Additionally, there are what looks to be very, very old headstones being unearthed. The writing on them is not in any modern language, and they have random runes and symbols carved throughout them in bas-relief. Fenrir manages to memorize one of the runes, but no one in the party knows what the rune may mean once he returns to tell the party what he’s discovered. Not finished yet though, Fenrir goes back to the dig site to cast Erupting Earth to damage the dig site and interfere with the ritual, this calls on the attention of Priest’s men, but Fenrir is able to sneak away before they can identify him.

The next morning the party is awoken to the sound of guards knocking on their door. The guards threaten the party, saying it is easy to determine that they are the ones who messed with the dig site last night, and not to do it again or else (they have no definitive proof so they do not actually arrest the party). Everyone spends the day trying to come up with a plan to stop the ritual, but no idea seems to end well. Jane and Khemed both propose waiting for the summoning to occur and then intervene. The rest of the party agrees, Fenrir sneaks to the top of the church, waiting around to be prepared for the ritual to commence, while the rest of the party prepares a safe distance away to jump in once the summoning occurs.

And so began the waiting game. The first night, nothing happens. The next night, the ritual begins. Just before dawn, they begin lighting candles, heating oils, mixing arcane ingredients, laying powders, chanting… Everyone present except for Priest and the local pastor had on blank masks with crosses painted on the front. And just before light begins to break, the area inside the church brightens as if it was the middle of day, sunlight streaming OUT through the stained glass windows and casting colored patterns across the unearthed grounds. The light flashes brilliantly, and the shadows from the windows burn themselves into the ground surrounding the building, completing the pattern they had drawn across the floor on the inside. And suddenly, where there had been nothing, on a stone pedestal in the middle of the church, stood…

An angel.

There she stands, with all the overwhelming perfection of a divine entity. Clothed in garments of solid light, eyes pools of glistening silver, hair just strands of solid white gold, wings tucked serenely against her back. She turns her head calmly to the left and right, surveying the area while everyone inside, Priest included, stands in shocked awe of her divinity. She kneels, and beckons for the local pastor that had been working with Priest to come to her. She cradles his jaw line from above him, on her pedestal, and begins to weep. Her words were a whisper, but they rung throughout everyone present with perfect clarity and an unbearable sadness.

“Thou hast made a grievous mistake child.” She kisses the clergyman on the forehead in an act of forgiveness, takes his wrists and places his hands over his own ears, and SHRIEKS. The entire building, Priest included, falls to their knees clutching their ears. The stained glass explodes outwards in delicate shards. Priest gestures at the angel, and several pained looking men begin to attack her with some kind of black leather loops, trying to bind and silence her.

That is when the party springs into action. Fenrir jumps off of the rafters on top of Priest, turning into a giant octopus and trying to grapple Priest. Everyone starts fighting the Priest’s men, who fall easily. They also get up just as easily. After turning into ashes, the enemies rise back up and resume trying to bind the angel.
Priest turns out to have all sorts of magical items, a staff that is imbued with cold, and a sphere that can absorb the spells that Jane cast at Priest. The party does their best to prevent the angel from being carried off by Priest’s men, the angel’s eyes are sorrowful, as if they have already lost this battle.
And so the battle rages on…

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Leaving Ulvenwald

Storm the Lighthouse

September 16th, morning

-wake up and debate where to go
-Decide to go to the lighthouse
-Get to the base of lighthouse and start getting attacked by what-her-evil-face
-everyone bolts to the lighthouse while Fenrir (in maybe wolf form?) stays behind as a rear guard to make sure everyone makes it back safely.
-Leena gets shot down! Nooooo
-Jane gets a few shots in before they get to the lighthouse
-They search the lighthouse and find…? nothing really?
-Jane turns Fenrir invisible and send him to hunt down whats-her-evil-face while she pops a head out and blasts into the trees.
-Fen catches up to her and starts trying to find her in the trees but she keeps slipping away.
-They eventually all meet up in the woods and make their way towards the town.

Underneath the Town

September 16th, noon

-They find a door or window or something and go into the town.
-There is a huge pile of bodies in the middle, otherwise nothing noticeable.
-Keladry and Khemed guard the bottom of a watch tower while the rest climb up to get a better lay of the land.
-They start to hear sounds coming from the center of town
-They send ropes over the edge to climb down and call the others up
-Jane goes down last because she reaalllyyy wants to know whats gonna come out of the pit
-They escape around the size of the wall, out of sight from whoever was attacking them
-They manage to find a boat to escape in while exchanging blasts with whats-her-evil-face

Row row row your boat, away from Ulvenwald

September 16th, afternoon

-They make it back to their ship and decide to head to Grand Victoria

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