Crystal Cantrips

The Dungeon That Won't Allow Dragons In

Our adventurers took the portal to Ulvenwald and traveled the rest of the way to Papa Hee-No and Anaphiel on foot. At the border of the village was Papa Hee-No and Anaphiel who were awaiting the party. Papa told the party that they needed to take the angel now as, “This place is not safe no more. No place is safe no more.” So, the party took Anaphiel to the Holy Ziggurat. Next, the party traveled to the volcanic Ziggurat to find MacGuiller and ask him some questions/update him on recent events. While there the party warned Port Alexandria of the incoming bug-pocalypse. Which was not a moment too soon because while they did so they saw Swarm, Lucian, Therin, and Priest headed straight for the Port (with Lucian, Therin, and Priest riding the wave of insects that is Swarm). The party fled from Swarm, taking along MacGuiller (MacGuiller grabbing as many of the crystal bugs as he could), running to the Ziggurat to escape.

Barely making it in time, the party made it back to the north pole in one piece. After leaving MacGuiller to guard the angel, Khemed received a message from Sennefer requesting that they come to the capital of Old R’Kassi immediately. Shira, now being able to use teleportation circles, would be able to teleport the party into the saferoom where Sennefer and his people are hiding out. Senefer provides Khemed with the key to the saferoom portal. Now all the party needs is the ruby dust to cast the spell.

Using the teleporter to travel to the desert Ziggurat, the party began their journey across the desert to the nearest town where they hope they can obtain the required ruby dust. The party is constantly harassed by Swarm, who threw every conceivable monster he could at the party. Tired, worn, exhausted, the party is saved by an Ancient Bronze Dragon. Upon speaking to this dragon, Khemed deduces the dragon’s identity is that of Maruxandusk who was integral in the formation of the kingdom of Old R’Kassi. When Maruxandusk is told that the party is going to meet with the current Pharoah of Old R’Kassi, he asks, “If the pharaoh is a (long string of insults, including prideful, coward, insane).” Khemed vehemently vouches for Sennefer, manages to convince IPD to aid the party and judge Sennefer with his own eyes to verify the veracity of these very bold claims. IPD flies the party to town, and there Shira successfully casts the teleportation circle.

The party finds themselves in a dark stone room. Behind a large metal door they hear sudden movement and eventually hear someone calling out who they are through a slot. After Khemed identifies himself, the metal door is revealed to open up by crank. Once the party is in they meet with Sennefer who updates the party on the kindom’s attempts to defend themselves as well as discover a solution on how to best undo Swarm’s magic. Across the safehouse are numerous priests and researchers experimenting with (dead) Swarm bugs. Numerous theories are tossed around on how to stop them but one theory stands out. If they had access to the Ankh of Phobos then they might be able to use that to weaken Swarm. Unfortunately, the location of the MacGuffin has been lost to time.

Luckily, however, the party has an Ancient Dragon who’s been around for ages. Maruxandusk says with certainty that the object they are looking for is at the Tomb of Xav. Sennefer and his people are uncertain of Maruxandusk’s (who has transformed himself into a human) info, but after the insistence of the party, agree to let the party go to the tomb in search of the object.

However, it was late, and the party needed to rest. Khemed caught up with his Brother Djau and the rest of his friends from the church. Jane pointedly asks Sennefer if she can use the bodies of his forefathers as zombies (for a reason Jane cannot fathom, he said no). Fenrir used the libraries to research the source of Lucians magic and discovered that Lucian was a binder of spirits, forging contracts with powerful entities in order to obtain their power. Shira and Keladry got a good night’s sleep.

Upon morning, the party got ready to leave. Until realizing that Jane wasn’t there. Just as they were about to look for her, she arrived, complaining that there were guards at the door to the catacombs. Successfully stealthing their way out into the desert, Maruxandusk returned to his dragon form and took the party to the Tomb.

Maruxandusk could not join the party into the tomb but promised to wait for them outside. There was an ancient magic that would cause the entire tomb to collapse should Maruxandusk enter the tomb himself. So, the party went up to the tomb. While the party bantered as they do, it was mentioned that someone should knock on the door. Fenrir obliged. The door was actually a mimic which grappled Fenrir. After some struggle, the party managed to defeat the mimic and move into the actual Tomb, checking for traps along the way (note: there is a metal gate that looks as though it could fall, blocking off the path through the door as well as pressure plates in the entrance hallway).

The party came upon a large square open room with a door on each side. Upon trying to open one of the doors, all of them shut and they could hear a poisonous gas being leaked out from the ceiling. With some quick thinking, Shira, created a Wall of Force which prevented the gas from spreading down to the rest of the room. This gave the party the time they needed to try opening all of the doors at once which caused them all to open easily. Deciding to go through the northern door, the party continued on.

Eventually the party found a room with two statues in it. Upon investigation, however, the statues revealed themselves to be two large talking serpents who demanded that the party leave immediately. This proved impossible to do, however, as the door had shut behind the party. Faced with no other option, the party battled the serpents. Managing to outnumber the serpents with the use of Keladry’s new summoning magic, the party was able to do what they did best: kill it with fire. After the battle, the party determined that the serpents were Naga that would eventually return to this world. Also, the two were brothers who kept a score of which one of them died first.

Now, the party moves further into the Tomb…

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Interlude: The History of Old R'Kassi

The First Age – The Age of Heroes

A fact of history that the rest of the world often forgets is that the first humans came from the deserts of what is now known as Old R’Kassi. Desert tribes, either farming the banks of the Great River or roaming as nomadic herdsmen, first spread across the continent some 8,000 years ago. Over time, these tribes coalesced into city states, and then minor kingdoms. This period of history is preserved mainly through the epics telling of the heroes of this age, their quests, their battles, their wars. Monsters were fought and villains brought low. Those heroes favored by the gods carved out tiny empires, and ruled until the favored of another god overthrew them, in a constant struggle between justice and tyranny.

The Rise of Kas

Into this age of near constant war was born a man of the lower class known only as Kas. He enlisted as a soldier in the army of the local warlord, and soon rose to the command of a full battalion. History is unclear on whether it was a battle, roving monster, or force of nature, but whatever the reason, Kas was left wandering the wastes with only a tenth of his men still breathing. Knowing that they wouldn’t make it back to civilization on their remaining supplies, Kas ordered his men to make camp, and walked into the desert to pray.

He prayed for a full day and a full night, beseeching any god or goddess he had ever heard of to answer his call. And finally, as dawn broke on his vigil, Ra, god of Light, answered his call. He commanded Kas to rouse his men, and to travel in the direction of the rising sun until they found footprints, and to follow the footprints until sunset. Ra said that in return for following him, Kas would unite all the desert kingdoms under his rule.

Inspired by Kas’ newfound zeal, his remaining men followed him east. They forged ahead through the extreme desert heat, until all but Kas himself began to doubt. But then, they found footprints, just as Kas knew they would, and soon after, they rounded a dune and came in sight of an oasis.

Kas and his men rushed towards the water, when suddenly, from the sands behind the oasis rose the great head of a brass dragon. The men fell to their knees, in terror and awe, but Kas approached the mighty beast. Kas spoke at length of the will of Ra, and of a great and righteous war to end the endless bloodshed. As his men watched, the dragon bowed its head, and Kas climbed upon it. And as the sun set, the dragon let out a mighty roar and breathed an enormous column of fire into the sky.

The Second Age – The Golden Age

Upon the back of the brass dragon, Kas conquered the warring kingdoms one by one, and declared himself the first Pharaoh of R’Kassi, the Empire of Kas. He built his capital on the banks of the Great River, and erected many temples and monuments to honor his God. Soon the religions of the warring states were folded into the state religion, with Ra as king of the pantheon.

Kas was a wise and just ruler, and his dynasty ruled for a thousand years. The power of the pharaohs of R’Kassi was said to be unquestionable, for they could call fire from the heavens, and flew on dragon wings.

The Splintering

Great as the Empire of Kas was, nothing is immune to the passage of time. Rivers change course, trade routes become impassable due to storms, and eventually, the Empire started to crumble. Unrest rose among the nobility as their affluence fell, but things came to a head with the reign of the Mad Pharaoh Xav. He managed to single handedly alienate every member of the aristocracy and the clergy, and what’s worse, never produced an heir with any of his three wives.

Finally, when his entire court rebelled against his latest unjust execution, he woke the Ancient Brass Dragon, who had been sleeping for longer and longer years at a time (as is typical of the elders of dragon kind). He screamed at the dragon that they were all traitors, all of them. “Burn them, burn them all!”

In full view of the court and clergy, the dragon lifted itself to its full height and glared at what the Line of Kas had become. Then, the dragon opened their maw and spat a white hot line of fire down on the impudent kingling on his throne, reducing him, the throne, and and all the royal regalia to molten, golden slag in moments. Then, the great dragon launched itself skyward and flew off into the desert, never to be seen again.

R’Kassi almost immediately dissolved into chaos. The nobles set upon each other like dogs, trying to tear off the biggest chunk of land from the dead husk of the empire. The capital, from which the Pharaohs of R’Kassi had ruled for so long, was torn apart by numerous battles and finally abandoned, to be lost under the sands of time.

The Third Age

After a long period of relative anarchy, the fractious city-states were eventually united into three kingdoms. Via a combination of economic sanctions, political marriages, and assassination, King Durka united the three into a single nation. He named it Old R’Kassi, in order to establish continuity to the empire of old. He also traced his lineage to a bastard son of the Mad Pharaoh’s father, and declared himself Pharaoh. Two hundred years later, and Old R’Kassi is once again a large and prosperous nation.

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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

The Commoner’s Hymn to Ra

Our god is up above the sky,
He sends the sunlight down.
We bask in adoration
Below his golden crown.

REFRAIN:
Praise the sun god!
Praise to Ra, the lord of lords!
He sends us the sunlight!

The gaze of Ra is terrible:
His glance melts flesh off bone.
So forget the sins of other folk
And look unto your own!

REFRAIN

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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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