Rise of The Runelords: Varisia's Angels

Leviathan
Deluge, The Black Maga and Foolish Men.

Leaving Myriana, we turn on Yap with a barrage of questions. Though the Pixie doesn’t have all the answers, we learn that the monster Kreeg and his Ogre army indeed passed through here, using that petrified Dryad as bait to draw out Myriana, torturing and killing her as an entrée to the carnage at Fort Rannik.
Yap doesn’t recognise any of Captain Baden’s possessions, but he does identify the staff section as being made from cold iron; a metal that the fae fear apparently.
I don’t like it much myself to be honest.

Unfortunately Yap knows little of the territories beyond this corrupted swampland so it looks like we’ll be traveling blind to the Hook Mountain.

We return to camp and spend the next day resting. I’m anxious that our delay will spell peril for Turtleback Ferry but we’d be foolish to advance into such unknown danger fatigued as we are.

The downpour endures and by the time we mount up to leave, the river has swelled alarmingly. When we reach the Ford we need to race across before it, and any chance of passing across is completely inundated.

Then Athene notices something odd… the river, it’s running backwards! Surely, even with this rain it cannot be natural? What devilry is at work here?

We arrive on at the namesake of our destination on the opposite ban; a giant upturned turtle shell, bobbing violently in the surge. The Ferryman looks doubtfully at our horses and we’re forced to leave them with his son who leads them to higher ground. I trust Shadowmist but there’s no time to argue with the man.

Wrapping on my magical (Aquatic) cummerbund, we climb into the bobbing bowl. Heaving on soaked, thick ropes alongside the Ferryman and bailing out the rain, we cross the treacherous river without incident, arriving at settlement in near total deluge.

The shoreline has engulfed half the town, entire homes submerged, animals and people, running with arms full of sodden possessions… .

But where to start!?

As if in answer a chorus of shrill cries cuts through the chaos. A huddle of children, stranded in a ferry shell is drifting out with the current.

As Athene and I trudge towards them through the waist deep water, a giant river snake rises out of the depths and strikes into the bowl like it’s bobbing for apples.
The children shriek and scramble away, nearly capsizing their vessel.
The snake reels back, a small boy dangling from it’s clamped jaw.
Mahd is too far away behind a wall of blinding rain.
No time for arrows, nor to swim.
We have precious few options before this creature will disappear with its prey.

Then Thera, Athene’s owl swoops.
I hadn’t noticed before, but she has grown! Not enough to lift the giant reptile but enough to make it release the child and pursue her! Which us time to close the distance.

Wynter and I try to shift the shell but it’s snagged, so instead I join Athene going after the snake.

Thera’s in trouble as the serpent coils around her, dragging her down. This time though, we are close enough to help.
Gripping the wet hilt I take a single mighty swing that takes the snake’s head off.
Thera flies free with a loud screech and we push the shell of still screaming children to saftey.

Neither rain nor river level eases nor the plight of the townsfolk.

Athene shouts and runs through the tide towards the church, now a makeshift hospital crowded with the injured.
We join her without knowing the threat, until she points at a massive dark tree, uprooted and tumbling in the tide of other flotsam towards the church.

It will surely destroy all in it’s path, brick and flesh but again we are helpless to stop it!

All that can be done is to scream at the occupants to flee and try and evacuate those we can.
We arrive just ahead of it and climb atop the church roof, frustratingly with nothing, mundane or magical to stop it.

I have a fleeting, futile thought to wade in and brace myself against it but then disappears beneath the surface… That was no log…

Bursting out of the raging river, as tall as the church spire, is a dark, slick skinned leviathan ancient and terrifying. A ring of enormous, writhing tentacles whip out around it. A long, twisting serpentine neck with a great fang lined maw is fishing about for a target.

It howls at the world, an alien noise that turns the blood cold- The Black Maga!

It is a creature of pure malevolence, emanating evil and it is we who stand in the way. It’s great, teeth lined mouth sweeps across our front line and spews fourth a noxious black cloud that rolls over us.

Mahd’s magical minions burst fourth from the water around it and we all weigh in… That is except for Athene and Wynter who both seem to be struggling from the Maga’s breath.
Arrogantly it remains stationary it’s thick hide near impenetrable.
Tentacles wrap and crush. With Wynter barking insensibly and Athene looking around confused it is some time before we finally start to deal out some damage on this beast, but it’s more than a match for us.

I’m forced forced to channel Iomadae’s healing energy as Thera is smashed against the church wall, tumbling into the water unconscious.

Then I’m grabbed!
I’m looking around for it’s open mouth, sure again to be swallowed but I instead I’m tossed away, long and hard.

By the time I rise, lungs full of water, ribs aching, the mighty monster of the Skull River lurches away, angry waves rolling in its wake.

We have routed it, if not destroyed it.
But… Perhaps we should be thankful to have done so against such a creature.

The rain, the surging river seem to suddenly quieten with the disappearance of The Black Maga. The river’s direction corrects itself and those stranded on top of their shacks are able to leap down and run to dry ground. We wade into the church come infirmary where the Mayor still stands a little dumbstruck at the appearance of the monster.

He explains rather disturbingly that this ancient evil is singular minion of Lamashtu (surely no coincidence) and legend to reside in distant Storval Deep. Is it a long way from home, or is this the misinformation of rumour.

The Mayor seems convinced that the dam at Storval has began to fail. If that beast is here now, perhaps it already has!
He pleads for us to attend but I’m not sure what we three can do, unless Athene’s engineering knowledge might come in use ?

We agree to pass by there on the way to Hook Mountain but first, we share our fears of the cult at work amongst his flock.

I think the Mayor is traumatised. He dismisses our cautions with an almost negligent dismissal of the threat at hand.

We have done all we can then and with so many issues requiring our help, we leave the fool to his work…
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Ghosts
Rebuilding, Farewells, New Dangers and New Horrors.

With Fort Rannik back in our hands, we mount a picket line of ogre heads to ward off any thoughts of a counter attack, Kreeg, the Magi and Hook-jaw a fly blown a centre piece at the Northern gate.

Then begins the grisly task of clearing the keep, room by room.
The carnage is appalling, more blood than it seems possible to spill, human bodies turned to grotesque purposes and wanton destruction at every turn.
We disassemble and remove the worst of the vandalism, Ogre bodies piled on the still burning barracks, human lined up for proper burial later.
It must be extraordinarily difficult for Jak and Kale but they seem determined to purge this horror and rebuild, brick, body and mind. I for one would prefer to forget much of what we saw…

Amidst the horror though, in two rooms at least, there are answers, and perhaps more questions…

Like so many others, Commander Lamatar Bayden’s quarters, were turned over and defaced, but the clumsy ogres missed a hidden cache beneath a now shattered wine store.
Inside is a pair of supple, magical boots, a collection of surprisingly poetic love letters to a woman named Myrianna and a lock of silvan hair in a golden locket.
Myrianna is apparently a Wood Nymph from the nearby Whitewillow marshlands. According to Athene, these powerful fae are inherently good creatures who play muse to mortal subjects, often leaving such tokens as this lock of hair…
Whilst this apparent ‘love affair’ is news to the Rangers, It certainly sheds new light on what Jak describes as the Commander’s regular ‘communion walks’ and instils a genuine hope that Bayden might even be sheltered there, safe and alive!
It can be no coincidence that the attack occurred during one such outing by the commander, intelligence no doubt shared by Caven or other traitors in the keep.
We take the letters and locket, intent on passing through this Whitewillow to see if Bayden is indeed there and if not pass on these letters to her. Jak insists we also take the boots which apparently allow free passage through such mires as the Whitewillow.

This talk of fae makes me uncomfortable, my father often teased me that he found me in a faerie circle whenever I asked about my mother and such nonsense always bothered me…

We finish our sweep in Lucrecia’s lair, and make a more disconcerting if significant discovery.
In a chest we find a list of over two hundred names titled the ‘Favourite customers of Paradise’ with an ominous footnote saying ‘Those who have agreed, to grant their greed, to the masters need’.
Caven’s name is there, circled, so I hand it to Jak in the hope of identifying any other traitors.
His face goes a little pale.
No Ranger’s names, but every other one belongs to a resident of Turtleback Ferry- Nearly half the town, Including the man with the Sihedron tattoo on his leg!
We have the idea to look over Caven’s body in the tunnel outside and indeed find that same tattoo on his wrist.

Are they ALL cultists or just those with tattoos?
Perhaps these people are being groomed?
Perhaps these are the most vulnerable?
Whatever the case, we must get word back to Turtleback Ferry and warn Mayor Maelin Shreed (whose name does not appear in the list) that wolves may be loose amongst his flock.

Also in the chest we find a note accompanying two gifts for the Lamia from someone signed ‘M’ (I wish these villains had the courage to sign their full name). One is an elvish spellbook and the other a section of spiked steel rod, with a faint magical aura.

I have a horrible thought that ‘M’ might be this Myrianna, but say nothing, not wanting to dash any hopes that Bayden might still be alive.

We decide to make haste back to Turtleback (I wonder if that’s where Lucrecia teleported too?) and reluctantly choose to leave our new friends to rebuild alone.
A stoic Jak, Shae and a demonstrative Kale see us off at the gate.
We promise to send assistance and supplies as soon as we can but whether we’ll return ourselves is not so certain .
Looking around at the bodies and the still smouldering ruins, it seems a massive task, but it’s a task in the right hands.

We ride back to Turtleback in a sudden unnatural rain, deciding to strike camp, just short of the settlement. We are truly spent after the battle and if we must fight two hundred brainwashed cultists, I’d prefer to be well rested.

Unfortunately though, it seems the night holds no such respite…
We wake to a strange, oncoming, drifting light and a high pitched chittering. Preparing for a fight we are surprised to see a tiny, iridescent figure with gossamer wings and fine elvish features- A Pixie!

The befuddled and bemoaning creature is in quite a state. Introducing himself as Yap he claims that his mistress Myrianna is suffering some terrible illness and knowing us to be allies of the Commander insists on our help… How he knows our connection to the Commander though I do not know?
I suppose our meeting with this fae queen has been brought forward…

We follow him through the forest, over rivers and into the mire of the *Shimmerglenns*… when the rain suddenly stops.
The way is thick with mud and groping tree roots.
The land laced with powerful magics but magics that are changing.
What once must have been a place of wonder is now corrupt, twisted, decaying.

Ghostly lights flicker in the boughs.
Shadows creep at the corner of the eye.
Strange voices whisper from the dark.

A hooded figure slides form the shadows before us.
Mahd jolts, visibly shaken, the rest of us little better, and then it’s gone, only silhouettes of gnarled trees where it stood. We reach out with our senses and find nothing , no evil, nor magic. It’s like it was never there…

We march on knee deep into a wide pool of water, except for Athene in the Commander’s boots who’s skims the surface like solid ground.
Half way across, a haunting chorus of voices swirls around us, that becomes a circle of long dead, spectral fae. They flitter around the perimeter and then they’re on us in a sudden rush like a spine chilling wave. Athene screams but again, quickly as they appear, they are gone again…

A little further on and there’s a wrecked ship. Beached on a muddy bank, many miles from the coast the ship is little more than a husk, but how did it get here? A mystery for later we move on again to arrive at a truly terrible site…

A Dryad in its humanoid form, petrified and submerged in the ruin of a huge tree, limbs smashed and scattered all around. Her face is distorted, with fear or perhaps pain and it appears that she is the source of the voices…
“She should not have fallen in love…” she says from silent eyes… and surely it is Myrianna of whom she speaks.
Athene and Wynter check for tracks and discover that this is actually the work of Ogres. Perhaps they caught this creature as it shifted form one form to another? I no little of such woodland spirits…

But it all, just raises more questions.

We ask our guide about each new horror but he can only mumble about his mistress and the fall these lands. I wonder if he too is affected it in a way we cannot understand.
It doesn’t bode well for Myrianna, perhaps she too is a victim of this ogre incursion, but she is the villain, the ‘M’ from the letter.

Yap slows to a halt as we enter an ominous circle of willows…
A terrible, spectral form arises from the earth with a scream.
The ghost of a once otherworldly beauty drifts before us.
Rendered limbs floating dismembered alongside the gaunt frame of a once faeland princess. It is Myrianna…

Eye’s dark in undeath, hair like oil, whipping and snapping with each cry she floats before us, screaming accusations.
Blaming us for the fall of Fort Rannik and the death of her lover, Commander Lamatar Bayden (at least we now know his fate), she demands in her broken voice that we go to Hook Mountain and recover his body, where by her magics she can resurrect him.

Athene and I both eye the creature with some suspicion.
If the Myrianna that was stood before us I would not hesitate, but what of this creature?
What are her real plans for Baden’s body?
Is this creature in league with the cult?

We ask a few questions, trying to sense her motives but they only seem to infuriate her.
There is something about her, something that I do not wish to anger her so I back down.
I cannot help but stand in awe of her power, she might be evil but there is something else I detect in her, the anger of the righteous, of the good.
But it is an anger on the edge, one that might teeter over into the dark.
Perhaps by helping her we can return Bayden, her and this place back to the way they were?

I am satisfied for now, for even if we would fight this creature, in our current state, in her territory, we would most likely be throwing away our lives in an uncertain fight.
Besides, we would seek out the commanders body regardless of her ill mannered request and if should suspect her of anything untoward on our return, we can fight her then.

I back out, behind Mahd who gas already cleared the circle.

But Athene remains behind…
She obviously doesn’t share my instincts and demands more answers…
Myrianna swells again, a primal force, and screams a bone-chilling tirade at Athene that leaves her dumbstruck…

I rush back in averting my eyes as Myrianna looms closer and literally drag the inquisitor’s paralyzed form from the grove and the spectre dissipates…

I hesitate for a moment between an arch of two twisted willows, and take a few steps back in, placing the chest with it’s letters and locket on the ground and quickly withdraw.

Now to get some answers form that Pixie!

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Taking it Back
No End to the Ogre Menace!

We stand in the foyer, a killing field of Ogres outside, twitching, seeping, the burning barracks still crackling and smoking beyond.

And then we move again.
Athene and Wynter lead the the Rangers outside to locate Lucrecia’s serpentine tracks and sure enough they find them… leading back into the keep above!

We double back and charge upstairs… Headlong into an ambush!

Athene sneaks a look around the corner, reeling back with a yelp, struck by a volley of wicked glowing barbs.
No time to hesitate though.
We leap into the corridor where a trio of evil awaits.

An ogre bigger than any before, jaw replaced with a hook lined metal hinge; a repulsive Ogre Magi and behind them the Lamia grinning, both her and the Magi reflected half a dozen times with magic.

Athene, Wynter and I charge them.
Mahd steps out with the rearguard who kneel and ready bows.
A short, violent exchange.
Steel rings on steel, on flesh.
Illusory forms steal potential deathblows.
A destructive arc of electricity from the Magi gives us pause.

Despite our deeds earlier, despite our experience and the small army behind, I truly wonder for the first time if we have not met our match.

And that’s when the door behind, where our companions hold the line, smashes open with a terrible, inhuman roar.

I steal a glimpse behind to see a gigantic monster, fourteen foot tall, all muscle, with e a two handed ogre hook, dwarfing even Hookjaw; who looks up at his new ally and bellows KREEEEG!’

Mhad doesn’t have time to think as the creature, berserk with rage nearly slices her in half.
I want to go to them but I cannot leave Athene, and can only hope to their superior numbers.
Archers turn on the monster as Kale steps up to defend Mhad… and goes down with a single blow.

I scream at Wynter to aid them. She seems reluctant to leave me at first but the winter wolf obeys.

I can see Athene shares my concerns, a rare flicker of fear in the eyes above the veil.

No, we must not falter.
We WILL prevail.
We will flight on, one blow at a time.

Mahd barely able to stand can’t have much in reserve.
Scanning our desperate situation she seems to be wrestling with what to do and falls back, desperately looking through her spellbook as Jak and Shae keep the pressure on.

And then I see for a brief moment, an opportunity.
If we fall back now, we might be able to rally and I call for us to ‘Retreat!’.

But whether she didn’t hear, or she can see some hope that I cannot, Mahd summons a dire weasel which hurls itself with Jak’s cougar at this Kreeg.
I don’t like to run anyway…

The giant Ogre seems to look around incredulous at the ring of animal attackers that surround him, almost amused… and that was his mistake.

As he wheels on the weasel, Wynter leaps forward and rips his hamstring open.
The giant goes down in a heap and is rolling on the ground, set upon on all sides by fang and fur and I can’t help but stifle a mad laugh.

Athene too must have been distracted as Hook jaw steps in under her guard and nearly rips her side open.
Shae and Athene’s owl put themselves between her and the attacker.

The distraction is well timed.
I turn and smite him and the metal mouthed viallain goes down.

I can taste the turn now.
But it’s far from over yet.
Athene pulls back as Jak fires rapidly at the cluster of mirrored sorcerers.
Another bolt of lightening in reply.
Lucrecia slithers forward, a wall of knives and nearly eviscerates me.
The Magi throws another bolt as I look over at Athene, she and I both literally one unlucky blow from death.

I pray to Iomadae to give me the strength to continue and healing light washes over me.

Kreeg stands up amidst the circle of beats and my heart drops.
Lucrecia seeing this too, seems to think her victory is at hand and mocks us.

But we will not concede now.
Nor will Wynter.
White fur bright red to hind quarters, she leaps like a salmon, smashing against Kreeg’s chest and tears his throat out.

We all turn and face Lucrecia…
There is the briefest moment of silence and the battle turns.

Athene and I rush her, both slicing through her scaly hide.
She’s on on death’s door now and she knows it…

Speaking words of magic, infuriatingly, she opens a rift in mid air and steps through to another location, disappearing from sight.

I can’t help myself and curse to the gods aloud… but we are not finished yet.

Electricity still crackles over the Ogre Magi’s hands, her short matted hair standing on end. She is backed into a corner but quarter is not and option for her or us.

Drawing on incredible arcane reserves she continues to blast away but it is only a matter of time. Arrow, blade and tooth, press her into the back of the corridor and it is there that we take Fort Rannik back.

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Hold the Line
Sorcerer, Lamia, Ogres and Ogres and Ogres.

Lucrecia’s insidious, seductive tones wash over us. The enchantment is strong but not as strong as Iomadae’s blessing which protects us.

Kaven drives the blade in my back but the plates hold.

Jak and his glassy eyed fellows still have their weapons sheathed and I reluctantly leave them to deal with the traitor.

I push past into the room, Wynter close behind, where Mahd’s Archon servant is already in the fight. Athene remains behind holding Kaven at bay. It appears our new friends were affected by the snake woman’s charms, I only hope they don’t turn on Athene!

As we surround her she transforms, Xaneshia’s sister in body as well as name. The serpentine form of a Lamia rears up and draws a pair of wicked daggers.

With a blur of blades she nearly slays the Archon outright but we return with a volley of deadly blows and it seems for a moment that this fight will be a short one. And then she disappears…

We hold ready to defend ourselves but a door behind Wynter opens- the cowardly sorceress flees!

Mahd grants us all speed and we pursue her upstairs into a long, wide, door lined corridor, streaked with blood and smelling of death. I stop and reach out, hoping to sense her evil but as I do, still invisible, she slams open a door, calling in a deep guttural language.

Our companions all, I’m thankful, come in behind me and assemble at that open door. It’s a long barracks hall, broken furniture strewn about, stinking of sweat and blood and Ogre!

Four of the massive brutes await with long clubs and hungry expressions on their gnarled faces.
Wynter and I charge in to meet them as Jak knocks an arrow.
My foe clearly doesn’t expect his diminutive target to stop short and lunge in under his long reach with my great sword and I slice his belly open in a single stroke.
As he goes down, Wynter tears the throat out of a second.
The next two step up as Jak’s arrows strike true.

Then, throughout the fort, we hear the stomping and bellowing of a host of Ogres streaming in from all sides.

I can’t see Athene or Shae but Mahd is pouring arcane energy into the passageway ahead where I can hear Kale in a fight of his life.
Jak turns his attention that way too, his cougar even rushing into the fray.

Trusting them to hold the line I turn back to my opponents as they come in hard.
My foe misses with his a still bloody hook but Wynter is struck.

Our reply is swift but deadly and the barracks are clear.

We step back into the main corridor where a desperate struggle ensues.

Behind us, Shae is firing arrows into a room where Athene sounds locked in battle.
Ahead, Kale, sorely wounded, stands shoulder to shoulder with the Archon and Cougar against the largest Ogre I’ve ever seen!

Beyond them, another two brutes are struggling against Mhad’s black tentacle spell while she tries to avoids the deadly reach of the one fighting her minion.

Then light spills into the fort.
Beyond the grappling Ogres out of site, Lucrecia has opened the massive double doors to the Fort, screaming in that guttural tongue again…

Her intention is clear though, she’s calling for reinforcements…

Athene, victorious, comes limping up with Shae but she’s doesn’t look good.
Kale too has fallen back, bleeding badly but the beast they’re fighting is done.

We should win this fight, but if the army outside pours in now the battle will be lost.

I have to slow them down.

I run for the foyer, leaping over the arrow filled body of the first ogre, and under the swing of the second (still held fast) Wynter in my wake.

No sign of the Lamia but the gates swing wide.

Outside in the open courtyard at least a dozen ogres crowd around the burning Barracks. .
At Lucrecias cries though, the least dimwitted among them turn to me.

I doubt the gate will hold for long, but perhaps I can buy enough time for us to rally.

I say a silent prayer as Shae puts a final arrow in the struggling ogre behind me and I rush forward at the same time as half a dozen lumbering ogres, unslinging their weapons.

I leap for the doors.
Only a few feet now.
Wynter steadies herself with a huff.

But I manage to pull the doors shut and slam the bar down just as a tide of heavy bodies smash against it.
The planks buckle, nails pop, we won’t have much time…

I step forward, Wynter and the Archon closing the gap either side.

Mahd and the archers (including Kale) line up against the wall notching arrows.
Athene is a bloody mess, desperately milking meagre healing from the wand.

The doors crash again.
Hinges crack, beams splinter.

Then it comes down.

As a wall of sinewy muscle, broken teeth and rusted weapons reels back from the ruined gates, we step up, a column of steel and fang.

Wave crashes into shore.
I’ve never been so exhilarated, nor so scared.
But Wynter pushes close and a small army stands behind me!

We hack and bite and smash as another clutch of black tentacles erupts to engulf the pressing throng, splitting them in half.
Arrows fly, punching through grey flesh wherever a gap opens.
A ball of flame erupts and rolls through the struggling, pressing ogres.

The first line goes down!
Iomadae be praised we might just do it!

We step forward to meet the second wave.
The expertly placed tentacles force them to fight us single file on the flanks.
The eager Archon edges out and I’m forced to follow and close the gap.
We need to be careful now!

The second line goes down.

Wynter continues to maul and snap, fur red from muzzle to midsection.
The ground is slippery with blood and giant muscular limbs tangle the ground like tree roots.
Arrows continue to fly as the fiery sphere crashes into the third line.

Then, there’s only one, a sickening brute, unmoved by the carnage around him.
Tasting victory, from the fort we charge.
A volley of arrows shower the witless creature as Athene, perhaps hoping to redeem herself pushes through the throng and with a single mighty blow, fells the monster like a tree.

Sweating, bleeding, heaving, only devastation surrounds us.
We fall back through the ropey, bloody carpet of grotesque over-sized corpses, back into the foyer and form up again.
A moment passes and no more appear.
I drop to my knees and give thanks to Iomadae, waves of divine healing light passing over all assembled.

A few moments more. Still no more.
We are all ready to finish this and run out into the light to find the Sorceress!

Silva

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The Best Made Plans
Father's, Plans, Fire, Water, Electricty & Backstabbers.

Mammy Graul and her Ogrekin ‘boys’ lay dead.

There’s something odd about that Tendriculous. More than it’s inherent oddity that is, a kind of vaguely humanoid form at its roots… I don’t know much about these things but it doesn’t seem right. Whatever it’s origin, I shudder, when I think how close I came to being consumed by it,

And, I assumed that monstrous plant was the treasure Mammy mentioned but not so. Searching the basement we discover a chest full of all valuables and a stash of Ranger’s belongings. We bundle up both and investigate the last rooms upstairs.

We pass through what can only be described as a series of grisly ‘workshops’, dedicated to bone furniture, traps and taxidermy. We also discover another chest nailed to the floor. This one however is trapped with a war razor (another link to the Skinsaw Cult no doubt) and by the number of sheared fingers amongst the coin, evidently employed as a cruel game of sorts.

A weight lifts as we emerge outside and Shae appears to greet us.
All is well with the Rangers and we reunite them with their possessions.
I hand a burning torch to Jakardos to light the farm buildings aflame and lead a prayer for the souls lost within. I cannot truly sanctify this place but hopefully Iomadae will hear me words and guide them home.

We prepare to move out but Jak is strangely melancholy and refuses to budge.
I ask Shae how to handle the situation, who seems to suggest a firm hand.
I approach him and he sits, lamenting his losses. I remind him that he is possibly the highest ranking Ranger left alive and that with our help he may have a chance to redeem himself in both body and in mind. Though I can’t appease his ill mood completely, he rallies enough to follow us away from the Graul farm.

Collecting our mounts we find a safe clearing to set up camp. We heal our wounds, share the first good meal this crew has seen in a long time and pray.

We discuss the fall of the fort and the ease by which it was taken.
I boldly suggest that there may have been a traitor at work, but Jak seems quite adamant that such disloyalty would be impossible.
His perplexity it seems, is the unusual discipline and organisation of the Ogre forces that occupy Fort Rannik. I share with them our similar experiences with Goblins and the undead and a little more about us and our reasons for being here.

After supper we address the issue of infiltrating the fort and Jak draws a map which illustrates the difficulty of our mission.

Built against a sheer cliff it is surrounded by a moat, a 15’ stone walls with a pair of gatehouses.

They suggest one of two ways in.
The first is a Slues gate in the south wall that should get us in, but requires a long run across open ground once inside.
The second is a series of tunnels behind the waterfall which they claim were not uncovered by the invaders. Though populated by a family of shocker Lizards Kaven explains that they are generally docile if left alone.
Unfortunately both options require us to approach across the open field surrounding the fort against enemy forces who can see as well in day as night.

We decide to leave tactics for the morrow after we scout out the fort and gather more up to date intelligence. Before sunrise we ride in, sharing mounts, all quiet with our own thoughts. Jak is nearly catatonic, except for the regular bended elbow of a leather flask of spirits.

I sidle alongside unnoticed, snatch the container and take a swig (making my eyes water a little). Jak breaks from his lethargy as I hand it back and mumbles that he doesn’t wish to run away again.
At first I think he means their routing at the fort but then I remember something Shae said, and mention as much to him. With a little more prompting he reveals his relationship with Shae and it’s not what I expected…

Many years ago, as an adventurer not unlike us, he found himself defending an elvish village from a Dragon and it’s Ettercap servants. Though they repelled the monsters he was the only survivor of his group and grievously injured. An elf-maid found him, and nursed him back to health.
The two fell in love and Jak became the would be step father of her daughter and our companion- Shae.

When the Dragon returned, Shae’s mother was killed and Jak, distraught, abandoned his adopted daughter to her kin. It certainly explains Shae’s angry comments and I can’t say I blame her.

But we need him now, and not like this.

I’m not sure what one so young as me can offer such a man of the world, but I appeal to his responsibilities, to his surviving men and the future of his order. I remind that repentance lies in taking back the fort and I offer the observation that whatever has passed between him and his daughter, that Shae has not abandoned HIM and that he may indeed have a chance to prove himself and gain her forgiveness.

My words seem to have an effect and though his shoulders still bear the weight of these past few weeks, he sits a little taller in the saddle, eyes clearer, more alert.

We arrive in a glade within walking distance of the fort and make camp. Athene, Jak & Kaven creep up to scout out the situation and return an hour later with a full report.

The Fort still bears the signs of the Ogre assault; fallen fortifications, sunken ramparts and decomposing bodies of Ogre and Ranger alike.
The Southern Gate is sturdy and well manned. The Eastern is a shambles but a poor tactical entry point.
Ogres man the walls and grounds but their patrols are lazy and irregular.

Athene made one significant observation though, that puts all the pieces together.
A ramshackle wooden garrison, newly built but so poorly constructed that the Rangers abandoned it, is currently full of Ogres. More significantly, it’s made of wood and within striking distance of the forest edge… A well placed flaming arrow or Mahd’s magic might provide the perfect distraction for our small force to approach the waterfall undetected!

After some deliberation (and some understandable reluctance from our Ranger companions) we decide that Mahd will fly in invisible and set fire to the structure directly. It’s a bold plan but Mahd doesn’t seem concerned; I only hope there’s no complications, it’s very lonely on the other side of the wall… and I’d hate to see that new layer of hair singed off.

Mahd sneaks up into the tree-line while we take up positions near the Waterfall. It’s a tense wait, blind to the action, but sure enough, five minutes later there’s the rumblings of a commotion inside and total bedlam by the time Mahd lands in front of us!

As the sentries pull back towards a growing column of black smoke, to actually savour the chaos, we skirt the cliff face to the waterfall undetected.
The pool at the base is a grisly scene that I fear will undo Jak and the others. The mutilated corpses of men and women litter the banks and float in the water, blood staining the sand at the lapping edge.
We pass behind the rushing wall of water into a secret door cut into the bedrock. On the other side it is dark and cool, the sound of falling water muffled by the cave wall. We make our way forward, a veritable army.

We pass through a weapon’s cache to resupply but magical arrows are not the only shocking discovery when we disturb a pair of those Shocker Lizards. Electricity arcs between the large reptiles dealing out a nasty shock but thankfully they flee without further incident.

We march through a couple more passages, arriving at a long corridor covered with more of the critters, glowing blue in the dark. We step over their sparking tails trying not to slip on the guana soiled stones… But they too are not interested in us and we pass though unmolested.

We find ourselves at the entrance to the Fort basement, our mission thus far a success and open the door…

A one time storage area it is now opulently dressed with fine rugs, plush cushions and exotic trinkets. At the centre of the room, unsurprised by our entry is a slender, pale skinned woman with red hair and an expensive jade dress.

She addresses us each in turn by name, introducing herself as Lucrecia the same ‘sister’ of evil mentioned in the correspondence of Xaneshia.
She has indeed been following our exploits and like all her ilk before offers us a place of honour in her evil crusade… and as all before her she learns that we are above such temptation!
She seems to want to banter but our only answer is to draw our weapons., at which point
That’s when she congratulates someone behind me and I feel Kaven’s steel in my back!

Silva

View
Mammy
Family of Freaks, Charnel House, Swallowed Whole.

Shae stays at the barn to guard the Rangers while we approach the homestead. The windows are boarded up, the walls carved with scenes of violence and torture. The veranda is decorated with humanoid remains, including a chair of bones.

We step blindly onto the porch and pay for our folly.
Two spring loaded saw blades burst from the floorboards and slice through the party. The cunning and cruelty of ogres is legendary, and we’d do well do be more careful…

Proceeding more cautiously we find that the front door is indeed trapped and we creep around to the side entrance, which opens to the first of many horrors we will witness…

A fly blown, roach infested kitchen, awash with gore and rats gnawing on a platter of hacked off digits and a basket of dismembered limbs. Despite our experiences thus far, it’s all we can do to stomach such a sight…

Then a dining room of skull topped chairs, a mutilated, red haired, human head atop a table cloth of human leather.

The monstrosity of this place is almost as artistic as it is holistic, but even amidst the horrors, there’s one strong source of evil and we push on… to find Mammy Graul in her bedchamber.

Draped in a filthy red curtain and clutching a desiccated human hand, we find her appalling, corpulent form reposed (seemingly unable to move) in the corner on a her sodden bed. The walls are stacked with buckets of fly ridden filth. An easel is propped up at her bedside, paints crushed from organs and limbs, brushes made from bone and human hair. Against the opposite wall stand three open coffins, each with the long dead remains of deformed Ogrekin, mouths sewn shut with greasy, hair and each bearing evidence of their fate, arrow shafts, trampled limbs and a split skull.

She chastises her ‘children’ for allowing us to get this far and launches her dismembered hand across the room at Athene, challenging us to leave.
She howls to her boys for help and three rotting forms lurch forward from their coffins and attack!

The room weighs heavy with arcane energy as Athene summons her Archon ally and threads us all with speed. Mammy counters with a spell, that duplicates her repulsive figure five times over.

Along with the Archon, Athene and I cut our way through the frail zombies to surround her illusory forms. When the Archon fells her second to last mirror, she calls out for her children to ‘protect the treasure’ and disappears from sight.

We must track her down before Mahd’s magic dissipates and make haste through the charnel house.

The foyer, lined with grisly trophies is empty, except for a vile couch of humanoid flesh and animal bones.

A filthy straw laden bedroom, stinking of excrement and scattered with more hanging fetishes.

Then the nursery. A mockery of the mundane with skull stacked bookshelves and murals of monsters and savagery. In the centre of the room, playing with crude wooden toys and animal carcass dolls are two Ogrekin whelps. One bloated and hairless, the other in a dripping nappy, strangely untouched by deformity (if not by abuse). They both stand and fight but it’s a short one.

The last door on the ground floor is a reunion…
With an unintelligible bellow (I’m sure I hear something about ‘dawgs’) the hook handed handed oaf that started all this is waiting and charges us with a heavy spear.
He runs the Archon through which disappears in flash of holy light.
We force our way in and surround him.
He swinging hard but he’s outclassed. Not only is his spear magical but a he wears a belt of strength, not unlike the one Athene purchased…
Who eyes it with a very, tight-lipped expression as I buckle it on.

Stairs lead up and down but Mammy’s potent aura is below.

Creeping down we are greeted but a truly unique sight.
Whether natural of man made, the huge, humid basement is lined with a thick and pungent carpet of mould, moss and swampgrass.
At the back of the room lurks Mammy, another huge Ogrekin and a pair of gnashing Donkey Rats.
And merging from the centre of the room stands, an enormous, twisted stump of vegetation, covered with fungal caps, broad leaves and tendril like vines.

We shuffle to a stunned stop for a moment, as our enemies wait for our move.

Tendriculos whispers Athene… and charges in!

She doesn’t get two steps before a huge vine whips out and wraps around her, holding tight.
A purple, teeth lined maw peels opens at the top, emitting a musty, acidic smell.
The vine tugs at Athene as if trying to drag her forward but she resists.
Thera flaps about her in a panic as the rat creatures wheel around on her too.

Wynter and I charge in.
Athene wrenches free as Mammy’s necromantic hand launches into the air and lands its spectral touch.
Wynter rips at the roots while I drag the lapping flame of my blade across its trunk, drawing a writhing shudder.

Then, one of the thick knotted vines, like braided rope, wraps around me in a vice like grip.
Armour plate crumple, muscles burn.
The Ogrekin is closing in on me now and Wynter squeezes past to intercept it.

The next few moments are a blur.

I’m lifted off the ground like a sack of grain, stomach turning.
It holds me aloft and in one swift motion, drops me into it’s flapping maw.
I see stars, then darkness. Like being wrapped in a blanket underwater.
A thick ooze wells up from somewhere and I feel my limbs going numb…
No, I must fight it.

This… Is not… How it ends!

Amazingly I still have a hand on my sword but I can’t wield it.
I hear only my own desperate breathing.
My gaoler writhes and twists, as I wriggle for air pockets.
Hand still on the hilt of my sword I reach down to dagger at my belt.

The trunk jerks violently, perhaps my comrades outside?

A gap, not much, but enough to get my dagger free.
A soft, thinner wall where I can see the light outside.
With all my new found strength I plunge the blade in and punch through!

I can hear shouts outside now, Wynter’s yelping, Athenes cries too.

It’s hurt.

I brace myself and drive the blade upwards, tearing a long wide whole in the belly of the beast.
It convulses, vines whipping and crumples down around me like a curtain.

With all my might, I force my way through the gap , emerging like a new born.
Dripping in pungent sap I stand amidst the wreck of vegetation and look across into the scowling face of Mammy Graul hovering off the ground and hurl my dagger.

The scowl turns to shock when the blade plunges into her ready bosom.

I tear myself from this corrupted womb, swinging my sword around.

Beating at flames around her and wrestling with writhing tentacles below, I see that Mahd has not been idle… and cover the distance to Mammy Graul.

And there, her expression turns to fear as I smite her!

Her disemboweled corpse drops with a gory crash as a disturbing hybrid of seemingly intelligent flames and grease black tentacles consume her.

I turn around to see the shouting has stopped, that we are alone and victorious.

Silva

View
Eight Legged Freak
The Graul Family Farm and Interesting livestock.

Tracking the fleeing Ogrekin and followed by the liberated cougar, we filter onto a game trail which winds its way through thick vegetation to a farm at the centre of a massive clearing. It’s barn and homestead are not Giant’s work, but with large corn husk dolls (stuffed with hay and human hair) hanging from the low tree branches, neither does it appear to be the plot of any local farmer.

Sensing evil I approach the Barn and listen carefully… Shuffling…. Murmurs… Panting…

Then a terrible bellow from behind me!
I turn to see a huge Ogrekin bursting from the line of corn.
I stagger as he rips through my armour with his heavy Ogrehook.
As the others rush to my aid, the beast, referring to himself as Crowfood, cannot hope to withstand us all and goes down with a magical arrow in his eye and a single uncharacteristic whimpering of ‘Mummy!’.

After applying our new healers wand, we form up at the barn doors and pull them open.
Inside amidst the massive space and ageing hay, a host of hounds comes charging fourth with three Ogrekin driving them; an albino, one lumpy with with tumours and last with a vestigial arm. Each monstrously different yet brothers all the same…

Athene and I square off against a wall of fangs while Mahd summons a minion amidst their ranks and despite the fearsome site before us, our honed tactics make short work of them.

Stepping through the litter of corpses we try the massive doors at the rear of the barn but they’re jammed shut. We climb the rickety stairs either side, to two high doorways.

They open to an incredible sight… The catwalks line a massive chamber some 50’ square, with long, rope-like silken strands, stretching from wall to wall in a tremendous funnel of web.
In one of two cells against the elevated back wall we can see the shackled, emaciated forms of three men, so weak they do no stir at our entrance.
And the centre piece, a gigantic, monstrous spider with strange almost ogre-like features made all the more horrendous by its size- Ogre Spider.

It sits in it’s lair, perfectly still, a terrifying sight…
Surely we cannot defeat such a creature…
If we move carefully, perhaps we can get the prisoners out before it stirs…
No, too late, Athene leaps into the pit to fight the eight legged monster…

Mhad sends her weasel scuttling over the edge as she summons a huge, strange, dog-like like humanoid with a greatsword- an Archon!

There’s no choice now but to fight, I only hope we’re up to the task.
Wynter and I leap down too, a long drop but we both come up fighting.

We dance around its long, hairy, stamping legs, tendrils of web and the remains of its victims and Athene is bitten but shakes off the venom.
The Archon deals a mighty blow at the critical moment severing two of its legs. As the arachnid wobbles, I roll beneath it’s bobbing thorax and drive my flame licked blade deep through its chitinous hide.
Sprayed with icor, I slide out again.
It convulses once and topples dead into its web.

We quickly run back up to the feeding cages and drag out the poor souls within. All are in a sorry state but are able to stand and speak.
They are indeed members of the Order, Jakardros, Kale and Kaven. The cougar skampers past us to Jakardos, indeed his animal companion! To our surprise however, that is not the only reunion…
Shae pushes her way through and stalks up to Jakardros (is this why she insisted on coming?). There’s a moment of tension as they confront each other but I cannot read the situation; are they lovers or enemies? Or both?
Whatever their differences they decide sensibly to bury their animosity until the current situation has been dealt with.

Jakardros relates their sorry tale. A scouting party, they returned after an extended mission to Fort Rannik only to find it under siege by Ogres! Despite regrouping and staging a counter attack, they were outnumbered and outclassed and were among the few to escape. Their predicament went from bad to worse when they and their routed fellows were captured by this, the ‘Graul’ family.

Interned in the spiders nest for many days, their numbers have dwindled one by one as their comrades have been taken away to Gods’ know what fate.

Too injured to continue I heal them and arm them with what weapons I can spare.
Bolting the barn doors behind, we go back out into the field and approach the farmhouse and whatever horrors lay within.

We can only hope that some survivors remain, if not… They will be avenged!

View
The Turtle and the Mayors
Rewards, Revelations and Relocations

At the foot of the tower a growing crowd awaits; shock and fascination marking their faces.

A squad of guardsman pushes through the throng and approaches us warily. Our honest if careful explanation leaves them perplexed and I suspect that without the presence of the crumpled Lamia, they would no doubt march us straight to the dungeons. But there IS a bloody, gigantic snake demon and they treat our tale with credibility, deciding to escort us to a higher authority.

Arriving at an impressive garrison we meet the equally impressive Lord Justice Bale. He sits us down and patiently listens to our story of deputisation in Sandpoint; the investigation of the Skinsaw Murders that brought us here; our unmasking of Ironbriar and the battle with Xanesha. We also present what evidence we’ve been able to procure; the documents from the mill, the indecipherable cleric’s journal and the note to Xanesha from one of her co-conspirators mentioning a couple of nearby locations and more immediately, singling out Magnimar’s Mayor as a target for sacrifice!

It’s not surprising that Bale waits for the translation of the Journal before passing his final judgement on us… and not only does he believe us but he shares what he can piece together from what he aleady knows.

He and Ironbriar are (or were) two of Magnimar’s thirteen, highest officials; Ironbriar having served ‘loyally’ and capably for over two hundred years.
The diary recounts a long history of Ironbriar’s transgressions, his establishment and leadership of the coven in Magnimar as well as his allegiance and desire it appears, for Xanesha… An unholy alliance if ever there was.
Most importantly, it confirms our story and suspicions.
The note too mentions two locations as cult targets that Bale is able to shed some light on, Turtleback Ferry and Fort Rannik one built to support the other, reports from there seem to support such claims.

Bale escorts us immediately to the the Lord Mayor Grobaras who receives us surprisingly warmly and who lavishes us with coin, obviously pleased that we have thwarted the conspiracy. While Bale’s men reconcile our notes we are further honoured with rooms and run of the city while we recuperate and resupply.

The Lord Justice asks as to remain for a few days while they crosscheck our intelligence with theirs and offer us rooms to recuperate. We spend the next few days bashing the dents out, resting and resupplying. Our purses have become surprisingly fat as a result of the last week and we make good use of the many mercantile marvels here in Magnimar.

A day or two later and as we’ve come to expect, Bale approaches us with a mission. The reports out of Turtleback and it’s accompanying Fort apparently have some credence. It appears that Magnimr has received an official request for assistance, claiming that the Fort’s guardians, The Order of Black Arrow have apparently disappeared, leaving a town on the border of Giant country and Corsovan interests vulnerable to attack.

We of course agree and taking papers of authentication and head out that day, a week of riding ahead of us. Our path takes us through Sandpoint where we stay the night and report in to Sheriff Hemlock. All is quiet it seems and we speak to Brother Zantuss about the consecration of Fox Glove Manor. Overnight in the Red Dragon Inn we are greeted by Shae!
We discuss recent events with her and she offers her expertise to guide us north.

The week long ride is uneventful, skirting the mountains through the gnome populated woods. Disappointingly we see none; I was curious what such a community might look like?

Turtle ferry is a small fishing village on the river’s edge, the wooden shacks are sturdy if rustic and boats dock the shore line. The villagers seem curious at these heavily armed visitors but friendly enough. Making our way to the home of Mayor and Arastal priest Maryland Shreed, Athene spots something odd, a Sahedron tattoo on one of the locals and sends her owl to follow while we continue on.

The mayor seems relieved to see us and shares everything he knows of the situation, which unfortunately is little more than we already know; except that the rangers from the garrison share good relations with the town, and include convict conscription. The town suffered badly from giant and ogre raids butthe presence of the rangers had essentially put a stop to it.

Though the raids haven’t resumed, there’s been no sign of patrols for weeks. The town formed a scouting party but they too have not returned from the Fort. Others too have gone missing form the surrounds, none of this boding well for fort Rannik.

I show him my Sahedron medallion, hoping he might know something of the tattoo but he does not. Shae is anxious to move on but this line of inquiry must be followed…

We find Thera perched on a modest fisherman’s shack and knock on the door. A young, weather worn man answers, and after a few pleasantries we ask him if HE recognises the medallion… he does not…

Despite describing the tattoo he adamantly denies it and that’s when I lose my temper. If he’s not a servant of evil, he’s a liar and I aim to find out why. Grabbing him by the arm I drag him into the street and across muddy laneways back to Shreed.

A growing crowd trails us, more amused than mob. Perhaps humilation will loosen his tongue?

Back in the temple, come council chamber, Shreed unsurprisingly is a little confused to see us back so soon. We tell him the whole story this time of the Sihedron, about its corruption and the fact that this man bears such a symbol and denies it!

He continues to deny the accusation, even when we reveal the symbol on his flesh but Shreed’s persistent, patient manner drags the truth from him and we learn evermore about the situation at hand.

This fisherman was apparently a frequent visitor of a local pleasure barge called Paradise. His tattoo was a kind membership to that den of vice and his reluctance to share that information with us at his home, was for fear of alerting his wife to his vices.

The Barge itself is a tale in itself, having quietly sunk a few weeks ago with all hands lost, which included a dozen locals, which must have been a great loss for such a small community.
It’s owner, a mysterious and infamous woman called Lurecia has not been seen since (assumed drowned) and the investigating official from nearby town Isurian declared it an accident…
Most locals however believe it was a local lake monster called the Black Magga!

This fisherman could not recall anything untoward occurring aboard the barge, nor any costumes or symbols of the Skinsaw Cult. But the appearance of this rune and a score dead cannot be a coincidence. Perhaps this warrants further investigation? Perhaps this Lurecia is a member of the Skinsaw Cult… Twenty men drowned would surely suffice a worthy sacrifice?

Regardless, Shreed and we believe the Fisherman’s story and let him go, leaving us only to mount up and ride out for Fort Rannik and hopefully answers.

A short ride into the forest and a shrill cry draws Athene and my wolf Wynter to investigate. Barks, screams and howls have us dismounting and running into the treeline. We arrive to find a trapped* firepelt cougar* and Athene and Wynter fending of a pack of hounds. As we join the fray (at a much improved pace thanks to my new magical boots) I wonder at the Cougar.
There’s something about it, something knowing… A Rangers companion perhaps?

There’s no time to ponder further as a hulking malformed brute comes crashing into view- Ogrekin! Warding us away from his ‘Kitty’ prey with witless threats and a massive finger like hook, the monster clearly doesn’t see us as a threat. His attitude changes after we make short work we make of his pack, and he flees into the forest leaving a sack behind.

A sack made from the cloak of Black Arrows

After him!

View
Queen of Snakes
Raven Guides, Stitched Flesh and Serpentine Villains

The cultists dead we begin scouring the Sawmill for clues, which they appear to be maintaining as a legitimate business.

In the study I gather the grisly remains decorating the wall for proper internment.
We also find a collection of maps, charts and religious pamphlets belonging to the elf who we identify as Justice Ironbriar. A man of some importance apparently, and an indication of how high this conspiracy might go. We were wise to keep our business confidential. We also find his journal is written in some sort of multi-lingual code, but Mahd seems confident that with time she could crack the cypher.

The only other discovery is in the basement. We find possessions belonging to the victims and the curious evidence of some massive, crude creature sleeping in one of the hay stores…

We stay overnight in the mill, rising early the next day to release and hopefully follow the ravens back to their master, maybe even Xanesha. As one of the black birds tales flight, Athene orders her owl to follow. but there’s no need. From the Rookery window we clearly track its flight, East across the city and into a tower beneath the ruins of the great bridge.

We collect our possessions and make our way there…

In a rundown neighborhood stands a square tower, hundreds of feet tall, topped with a winged statue overlooking us like a a bird of prey. Inside, the ground level is mostly rubble with a spiral staircase trailing upwards.
I reach out with my divine senses and find a strong source of evil at the back of the room- possibly the whatever was bedding at the Mill. Using the Hat of Disguise Athene takes Ironbriar’s form hoping to outwit the creature and we call it out.

But it won’t be fooled.
A hulking brute, stitched together with humanoid body parts comes lumbering out with an ungodly bellow.
We rush in…
The creature wades about with a vicious looking scythe and nearly fells Athene, but we throw everything we have at the monster and the golem is no more.

We push on up the rickety stairs…
Sixty feet up.
A creaking noise from above.

Nearly too late we look up to see one the tower’s enormous brass bells falling towards us.
There’s nowhere to hide.
I press hard against the brick wall and pray.
The tumbling behemoth smashes through the walkway.
Wynter and I somehow avoid the carnage but Athene goes down in a cloud of debris and a deafening chime.
Mahd stands untouched but on the other side of a gaping chasm.

Down below, amazingly, Athene drags her self out of the rubble alive and makes her way back up.
Mahd leaps blindly across and thankfully makes it…
A shaken Athene throws a rope across, jumps… and misses!
We take the strain and we haul her up, owl flapping about her head in agitation.

Warily watching the remaining bells above we continue on another hundred feet to the first floor proper where three more Facless Stalkers wait, swords drawn, guarding another flight of stairs.
We meet each other in a short but exchange that ends quickly in our favour.
Only one floor remains and we fortify ourselves with magic and prayer.

We ascend into a huge, book lined sitting room, lavishly decorated with rugs and cushions. I cast my senses about but feel nothing.
Then we hear her voice.
A hissing seductive tone that attempts to draw us into a parlay.

Invisible again…
I immediately start slashing about the room and turn to see not one, but four terrible creatures! Each a woman’s armoured torso atop the coiling tail of an enormous snake. Wielding long, darkwood spears and serpentine masks the four Lamias are truly a horror to behold!

They drive their spears through me in perfect unison. The blow leaves me reeling but reveals the spell for what it is.
Not four, but one creature mirrored before me- but how to find the right one!?

I turn to smite her but she strikes again, nearly impaling me.
There is a magical wave of despair that reverberates through the spear and throughout the room.
We shrug off the effects but I’m nearly dead and retreat feeling deathly ill.
Just in time, my comrades form a tight circle around the monster with two of Mhad’s summoned creatures, including a Rhinoceros!

I heal myself, moments from death as the others whittle away at Xanesha’s magical doppelgangers…

Then it’s just her…

She deals terrible blows around her, while we struggle to mark her scaly hide.
Drowsy words of magic and Mhad’s Rhino goes down with a floor shaking crash..
Athene’s owl flies to the beast, as I rally and rejoin the fray…
The owl swoops the slumbering beast with a screech and it wakes with a below!

Behind the slits in the snakelike mask I see fear in Xanesha’s eyes for the first time…

Then we strike true with a succession of blows!

Xanesha shrieks and slithers with ungodly speed over the wall, through an opening in the roof and down the side.

We cannot loose her now!

Mhad sprints downstairs while Athene runs out onto the balcony. I run to the edge.

She’s there… Gripping to the curved stone wall like a lizard, snaking from outcrop to alcove.

I draw my bow.
Athene scerams a holy tirade and her scales explode with divine flame.

Then the sorceress vanishes.

I’m cursing now…
But no… I concentrate.

Falling rubble, a slipping brick…

Concentrate.

The first arrow goes wide…
A hazy blur where Athene’s fire still burns her invisible skin…
I knock second arrow…

And release.

A wet snapping noise as the shaft disappears and reappears, embedded in her chest. Body limp, long tail still reaching lazily out for the wall, she topples down, a silent scream on her face.

And lands in a bloody, coiled heap…

Mahd bursts out below ready to cast a spell but stops with a start before the dead serpentine form before her.
Athene smiles as her owl lands on a nearby ledge.
Wynter pads up and pushes close, trying to see over the edge.

Xanesha is dead. It is over…

View
Run Of The Mill
Leads, Lumber and a Cult of Lies

Two leads… The cage maker and the Sawmill.

With Pugs Contraptions nearby in the Summit we head there first. The store is a place of mechanical marvels and its Gnome proprietor is both amiable and talkative. I make sure to lavish his wares (including an impressive clock) with deserving praise before questioning him. He’s refreshingly forthcoming and remembers Aldern, showing us other examples of the bird cages he bought.
It is clear that Pug is not involved so we move on.

We question guards and merchants about the Seven’s Sawmill but to no avail. We sit near a fountain and give it some thought. Given that timber is generally transported via waterways, we determine that the mill, if it is here, will no doubt be at the river mouth.

We walk south through the docklands and across a bridge onto an islet where river meets the sea and find what we’re looking for, The Seven’s Sawmill. Standing innocuous amongst the other industry here, we approach and walk in through the main door.

Inside it appears to be a exactly what it claims, a working sawmill with raw lumber and the deafening noise of machinery. Athene dons the Hat of Disguise taking Iesha’s form and we head upstairs.
The next level is all doors, behind which the distinct aura of evil beings can be felt. We make the bold decision to ignore them and head straight upstairs where the master no doubt waits…
After two flights of stairs and more evil auras we arrive in a large open workshop. Two carpenters down tools and approach us, not exactly hostile but keen to have us leave.
‘Lady Iesha’ is a stubborn woman though and one of the labourers fetches his ’supervisor’…

A dark eyed elf in heavy robes and chainmail wanders out. Obviously no ‘foreman’ he looks us over a with disdainful glare

“Iesha Foxglove? Strange that you should be here when you’ve been dead three months!”

We draw our weapons.
He whistles and the two workmen step up, pull on stitch-faced masks and attack!

I order Wynter to to hold the stairwell.
The elf channels dark energy and we reel in soul blackening pain… He’s Cleric and a powerful one.
Athene and I fight the Skinsaw Cultists who wield war razors and their own unholy powers.
Mahd summons a wolverine which drives the elf back as my opponent goes down and I charge him.
Mahd casts a spell down the stairwell where Wynter is fighting off a host of cultists.
Another wave of dark energy from the Elf and I smite him with the power of Iomadae!

He flees backs into a small study and scrambles up a ladder.
I pause for the briefest of moments, seeing the the skinned faces that decorate the walls.
I pursue him with a renewed vigor but he’s too quick and slams a trapdoor shut.
I smash the trapdoor and I pop up into a _rookery_… Two strangely silent ravens my only company. Is he gone or invisible?
I begin stabbing and slashing at the empty room as Athene climbs up behind me.

The elf priest panics and pushes between us, his indeed invisible form hitting the floor below with a crash.
We leap down too and after his only escape route, the stairs…

Pushing past Mhad he attacks Wynter who yelps in pain.
I can feel her lifeblood ebbing… But his actions break the charm and he reappears.
I step up with Athene and the three of us rain a fury of blows upon him.
He pleads with his minions for help…
They push hard but Wynter holds the line… Though for how long?
One of the cultists curses me and I stand frozen, blocking the stairway.
But it doesn’t matter… Wynter drags the Elf to the ground with a savage bits as Athene finds gap and drives down with a blow the final blow.

But his servants though are not done yet…
They come on, Wynter retreats and I rally as Athene and I fight our way down ahead of a column of Mahd’s summoned monsters.

The stairs are choked with bodies and slick with blood by the time we’re done but eventually we prevail.

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