Rise of The Runelords: Varisia's Angels

Paladin's Path
Burnt Offerings

Journal-01-Silva.jpg Here on the road at my small campfire I begin this Journal.
I hope that my reflections can provide me with valuable lessons as I discover the world and perhaps myself. At the very least it should provide the Holy Citadel of Light some insight as to the circumstances of my death should I befall tragedy on the road.

These grim tidings aside, I set out out on my overland journey from Vigil, Lastwall in high spirits; memories of my fathers pride sustaining me through hard roads and ill weather. I won’t lie, there were days I wished I’d spent my douri on a horse, but I believe I’ve put my wealth to better use on a kit and arsenal that should serve whatever my predicament. I experienced few true hardships, even a few people along the way.

Silva

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Goblin Night
Festivities, Prophecies, Allies and Goblin Raiders.

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I arrive in cosmopolitan Sandpoint around midday to find families, visitors and vendors busy with the Swallowtail Festival. With accommodations closed until nightfall, I reluctantly join the throng when I am called over by an old Varisian fortune teller called Mishka.
From her Harrow Deck I draw the Trumpeter, Inquisitor and Peacock, all meaningless until she explains their significance to me and to my plight. I had not put much stock in visions and destiny until recently and this leaves me reeling a little. I press her for more but she refuses so I cross her palm with silver and leave her hungry, weary and (I’m ashamed to admit) a little perturbed.

Joining the crowd again I find myself deposited, like driftwood on the shore, at the foot of a mighty cathedral which appears to be the focus of these celebrations. The church though dedicated to Desna supports all denominations and stands on the site of a previous one destroyed a few years ago. The mayor and other nobles officiate atop a platform and tell a haughty story of its rebirth. As I prepare to move on, cries erupt on the outskirts of the assembled crowd… screams…. dogs barking and the unmistakable smell of smoke…

Surely not the cathedral again? The square clears, and I shake of my fatigue, stashing my pack and ready sword and shield. A few stragglers remain as the menace is revealed- Goblins! But I am not alone; a veiled woman with a wide brimmed hat, long cloak and (a little surprisingly) a great-sword and a lithe elfmaiden in robes with a longbow.

The veiled woman orders the townsfolk to shelter, as she and the elf form up against the greenskins who sing a terrible song as they pour into the square. The veiled woman, a divine agent of some sort, appears quiet effective with her sword while the elf woman proves to be a wizard.
I rush to intercept a second group, led by a whip-wielding War-chanter, pushing a burning cart and intent on razing the cathedral. Amidst a volley of arrows and spells I lay about my enemies, halt the process of the mobile pyre and slay it’s drivers, flipping the blazing wagon over to prevent reinforcements from finishing the job.

Despite my wounds we three sweep the streets, arriving in the Northern quarter. There, a great brute astride a Goblin dog leads another raiding party on the heals of some nobleman. I charge in and smite the monster, killing him outright and giving the fleeing man time to reach a nearby Inn and safety.

We fight on against the survivors, and though I take grievous wounds we vanquish our foes. The town guard mop up the last of the bandits and three people approach looking harried if relieved; the Mayor, Sheriff and the owner of the tavern opposite; The Rusty Dragon. All appreciative of our efforts, the Taverner, a Tian called Ameiko offers us free accommodations; which exhausted and sorely injured I (along with my companions) readily accept.

Silva

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The Boneyard Massacre
Shared Purpose, Tomb Raiders & Skeletal Sentinels.

We awake after Goblin Night (as the locals have already began calling it) to a certain celebrity. I have always been uncomfortable with praise and instead I keep to my meal, which is quite enjoyable if certainly different to what I’m use to.
I learn a little about the veiled woman Athene who is an Inquisitor of a holy martial order and the elfmaiden Mahdlaran who seems ever perplexed by humanity (a sentiment I share since I beginning my journey west).
It appears we are each hear on a personal mission of such, seeking a person or place, with the vaguest understanding of the reasons why. A little embarrasses to do so but concerned what trials this day might bring I ask Athene if she can help me with my wounds. It appears that she is indeed a healer and the rejuvenating effects of her prayers are similar to what I’m used to from my brother clerics back home.

Mopping up the scraps we are joined by Sheriff Hemlock who after thanking us, requests our further assistance. I am pleased to lend a hand if someone is taking this threat seriously and so to it appears are my new companions. We are escorted to The Boneyard, (a local cemetery) where it appears that grave robbers have been at work. Humanoid and goblin tracks lead into a small crypt for those who perished in the previous cathedral fire… An omen that does not bode well…

Normally I would enter boldly, weapons bared but I’m confused by this new hierarchy I belong too. I am use to a chain of command and it appears that I am now one of three equals.
We prepare to enter when the ever surprising Mahd reveals a large scorpion sending it in and scout the tomb. Is it an eleven pet or perhaps a familiar? The tiny creature scuttles in and Mahd is immediately alarmed!
Then I can feel it too, a certain evil presence… We wrench the door open to reveal two animated skeletal forms with sickly yellow claws and hollow eye sockets…
I have heard many stories of the undead but never faced them before.

The exchange is short for me, they prove surprisingly resilient and deft, our edged weapons fairing poorly against their unnatural forms. I awake again, to the divine ministrations of Athene. It appears that Hemlock dragged me from the fray while Athene and Mahd fought on and destroyed them.
We search the crypt for clues uncovering only a strange cloak capable of summoning skeletal minions; it’s dark powers thankfully drained. The most interesting fact is what’s missing- The remains of the Cathedral’s previous head priest.
This gets worse..

Silva

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Full Boar
Gifts, Hunts, Fatherly Advice & Bad House Guests.

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Clearing out the last shattered bones, Sheriff Hemlock returns to the garrison and we decide to follow the tracks. Leading over and beyond the outer wall we head out the Northern gate into the Tickwood. Happening across the staging for the raid we discover that more than a score must have survived and proceed with great caution…
The lush woods make tracking easy, even for us, trailing in and out the woodline and up the Lost Coast Road. We mark the site where our prey splits into smaller groups with a stone cairn, and follow the humanoid’s trail until, rather disappointingly it goes cold… Perhaps our villain is an accomplished scout? Returning to Sandpoint we report our findings to Hemlock who seems perplexed that more than one tribe of a usually quarrelsome race are involved.

Our mission complete we attend the reconsecration of the Cathedral. I make a prayer of thanks to Iomedae for the company that has literally kept me alive since my arrival and we approach Brother Zantos to offer our assistance. Athene proves rather… Inquisitorial but the good natured and obviously preoccupied cleric instead offers to lunch with us tomorrow and answer all her questions then. Back at The Rusty Dragon we are joined by the noble Aldern Foxglove, who offers to take us hunting boar tomorrow. Though I still find his manner a little… disconcerting, perhaps I have misjudged this fellow…

Sure enough, Foxglove’s entourage awaits us the following day. We are a little embarrassed by Foxglove’s assumption we had our own mounts and even more so when he offers to buy them for us! Whilst not uncommon, or dishonorable for questing knights to accept such gifts but I am unpracticed in how to deal with such generosity. But, it is a gesture of thanks and any discomfort is quelled by the beautiful chestnut gelding I discover and certainly less unsettling than the named collection of goblin ears nailed to the livery doors. I am hardly squeamish, but I’m not sure I approve of such trophies… even from filth like green skins…

My ears prick up as we head into the Tickwood when Athene mentions infamous Cheliax… But we quickly return to the matter at hand when we find a perfect clearing and Foxgloves drummers disappear into the undergrowth, driving game before them. Mad and Foxglove stay clear, while Athene and I set our spears. We wait patiently for a few hours before a great beast, red beady eyes and long curved tusks comes crashing through brush towards us.
I salute the wild boar and it charges. I set my spear but the wily creature steps aside and hits me full force. I reel backwards thrusting again as Athene closes in with her spear, but groggy I miss again and the creatures crashes into me…
I awake… again to find Athene standing over me, my wounds this time beyond her powers to heal, but the boar is skewered with Athene’s spear and stinking of acid.

We return, my ego bruised as much as body, with just time enough to clean myself up before meeting Father Zantos. We have a pleasant meal, Zantos healing my wounds and speaking at length about the ‘Recent Unpleasantness’; a series of murders by ‘The chopper’ who was eventually hunted down and killed by the now Sheriff hemlock; and the destruction of the Cathedral.
As Zantos leaves, Foxglove returns, just in time for Ameiko to wheel out the beast we slew today and Athene rightfully takes the heroes portion. Perhaps it is unseemly but I take some satisfaction in gorging on the monster that nearly killed me… Perhaps I am not unlike the stableman after all…

The night is full of further surprises when Ameiko’s father, whom we first mistake for some mad vagrant enters and berates her and then us… She gives as good as she gets and he leaves, disowning her, I suspect not for the first time; I am thankful my father is forged from purer metal.
Then a distraught young woman enters with her son seeking our help. Her husband is missing and the boy speaks of nightmares filled with Goblins. We attend what is a brief but sad business, arriving to discover that her son’s nightmares were indeed real a solitary Goblin left over from the raid having set up a nest in her son’s bedroom. It is not difficult to sense out the evil creature and we made short work of it… Though too late to save her husband. We cover up his gnawed remains and return with the grim news.
I must admit that it has been an eventful day if not all to the good.

Silva

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Don't Throw Stones
Deputies, Missing Persons & Hostile Takeovers.

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We’ve barely finished breakfast when Mayor Kendra Deveran and Sheriff Hemlock appear again to request our help. We are taken to the hurriedly fortified and reinforced Council Chambers where we join a well traveled elf woman named Shalelu Andosana; a local goblin hunter and scout. Sharing intelligence we learn that the goblins have also been raiding the many outlying villages and harassing travelers. She is obviously very capable and we would do well to gain from her insights.
Hemlock informs us he’ll be leading a recruiting drive to nearby settlements to bolster the guard and requests our assistance in helping police Sandpoint, or at least providing a public face of confidence to an unsettled populace.

A weary looking Shalelu returns to her rooms, also at the Rusty Dragon and we make plans to dine together. We then head out to slap backs, calm nerves and bolster morale.
I head to the southern most quarter. As the docklands of Sandpoint it proves not surprisingly colourful area, abound with rough sailors, rougher women, scrap scavenging animals, loud taverns and stony faced merchants. I am careful not to overstep my authority, instead employing my diplomatic skills to instil calm.

Returning to the Inn, Shalelu is already seated at our table with Ameiko and beckons us over. Boar still on the menu, we learn as much as we can about the various Goblin Tribes, seven in all and each with it’s own petty villains including cannibals, sorcerers and an infamous bugbear ranger.
One tribe, the Seven Teeth, piques our interest. Their leader has disappeared and they sound a likely source for these Goblin troubles, so we make plans to set out and scout their lair for answers.

The following morning however we are approached by one the Dragon’s servants; a distressed, elderly halfling called Banthana. She claims that Ameiko has not been seen since the night before so we rush to her rooms and desperately turn it over. There’s no evidence of anything untoward (perhaps that in itself is a clue) except for a crumpled note from Ameiko’s brother Tsuto. His message accuses their father of a role in Goblin Night and requests her attendance at the local Glassworks. Ameiko must have fallen afoul of her brother or possibly those he intends to oppose….

We gear up, collecting Shalelu on the way and march over to the harbour-side glass factory. On the way, Shae informs us that the Glassworks is owned by Ameiko’s family and her brother Tsuto is actually a half elf bastard of ill repute and local controversy. It is clear that Shae is suspicious of Tsuto… It appears we may be walking on broken glass…

We pad around to the service entrance where Athene reveals another of her many talents- lock picking! Not a skill I expected but much appreciated under the circumstances. Mhad concocts a surprisingly plausible story for our presence to bluff our foes (namely that we are chasing Goblins) and we make our way methodically through the rooms and corridors. It is dark and eerily abandoned, with only the ever present sound of the furnace getting louder as we push our way in. A few rooms show evidence of a fight but otherwise it is almost entirely without incident or clue… That is until we step into the main workshop.

Lit by the ominous fiery tones of the pumping furnace, the long manufacturing floor has been transfer into a Goblin ridden, charnel house. Workers lay strewn about, mutilated and partially consumed. Goblins toy with the bodies of their victims (one pouring molten glass on a pile of corpses). Enraged by the site, we burst in with spell, arrow and bolt!
Mhad and Shae move in cautiously choosing targets while the greenskins respond, hurling broken glass from atop the workbenches. Athene charges in but is quickly overwhelmed, green dirty hands grabbing her and amazingly, manhandling her overhead and dragging her to the great fire. Shae fires away desperately but in the poor light and smoke, misses her targets.

I make a silent prayer to serve both group and God and charge in.
Leaping atop the workbench I slay the first goblin with a single blow.
I see a look of fear on Athene’s face as she jostles for her life in the green throng.
Wielding my Earthbreaker in a wide swing, I smash through the first Goblin’s head with a wet crack, controlling the arc to crush a second’s rib cage.
I think finally I have redeemed myself.
Athene tears herself free from dead hands and the tables turn.

One remains but has the sense to run, much the pity. I cannot hope to follow at the pace that wretch takes off at, but Athene and Mhad take up pursuit….

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Sin's of the Brother
Mazes, Bastards, Evil Plans & Sinspawn Overkill

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We head down down the basement after the last Goblin. We wind our way through a warren of brick walls and rubble strewn, dead ends to a set of doors. Amazingly, the first door we open (a door we almost ignored completely) reveals a bound and unconscious Ameiko. Athene revives her but she is naturally distraught and sorely wounded. We coax what little information we can from her and learn that Tsuto is indeed responsible for this and Goblin Night!
Shae escorts her out, while we press on.

Behind the second last door we can hear two creatures breathing heavily. I look at Athene who simply nods at me, we brace my Earthbreaker together and ram the door open, foiling their ambush. Inside, the Goblin stands astride a bureau while the dastardly half-elf Tsuto lurks in the opposite corner. Athene doesn’t hesitate slashing the traitors belly open! Panic in his eyes (and despite his grievous injury) Tsuto tumbles past us all in a begrudgingly impressive display and flees through the final open door into the darkness.

Athene and I take chase while Mhad remains to deal with the unrepentant Greenskin.
The room leads into a natural cavern system and Athene quickly overtakes me almost like she can see in this gloom.
Stalactites tear at my scalp, I stumble up slippery ledges, leap over calatrops, narrowly avoid some sort of cave fungus (thanks to a shouted warning from Athene), and take a wrong turn before I finding myself snagged in a narrow fissure.
By the time I catch up, Athene is cursing from a natural balcony watching Ameiko’s bastard brother row out to sea and beyond our wrath.

Two natural corridors lead east and west but we decide to double back to the study first, to check on Mhad and turn the room over. Mahd is indeed fine, the Goblin dead after a heated exchange.

The room is mostly bear but for a journal and it is indeed Tsuto’s. Rather extensive with drawings of maps and what appears to be a Succubi muse, the entries recount not only Gobiln Night and their theft of Tobyn’s body, but further plans to stage the ‘real’ raid, a massive co-ordinated attack intent on destroying the town, in offering to the evil god Lamashtu, perhaps even with the assistance of outsiders!
It appears, that Tsuto’s demon lover is actually the Celestial born daughter of the Tobyn (enacting dark rites to change her form) and probably the woman Athene was sent here to investigate…
It also appears that he may be closely affiliated with the Thisletop Clan and that the Bugbear Bruthazmus isn’t in agreement with the plans; perhaps we can use that to our advantage?

We take a moment to rest and see what we can take from these experiences before returning to the junction of the cave.

One passage leads only to a deadend, but the other is very different… I am struck by the palpable evil as we cross the threshold and Mahd detects a series of strong wards holding the evil in place. If there’s a crucible here in Sandpoint, this is it…

We push on with a growing sense of foreboding, into a series of natural chambers to find we are not alone!
Before us stands a tall and dreadful undead creature, with long clawed limbs, back-bent legs and a wide flapping maw rimmed by vestigial groping claws- Sinspawn!
We all seem to sense the danger, Athene and I charge as Mahd casts a spell on me, doubling my size! Driven by the curious if exhilarating sensation; I decide to smite the creature with all the wrath of Iomade. Athene lands a near fatal blow just before I flatten the abomination with my gigantic Earthbreaker. The ease of by which our victory comes leaves us all feeling a little sheepish, I think after the frustration of the failed pursuit we may have each overreacted…

We follow a series of further passages and beckoning doors when we happen across something equally interesting…

Silva

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Date With A Devil
Sinspawn Gaolers, Bad Waters and Imps

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We arrive in a small chamber containing the statue of a woman wielding a Ranseur. The weapon appears which to be real! We examine the stone figure suspiciously until I finally decide to remove it. The weapon though mundane is finely crafted and free of the taint of this place.

We stumble through a sturdy door onto catwalk overlooking a gaol, debating whether or not to double back to two doorways behind us when we see them- Two more sinspawn; arguing and shoving each other in the dim torchlight. I draw out my bow while Mhad takes cover and Athene sneak around the catwalk, when one of the abominations hears her and comes charging up the gangplank towards us!

I stop the lumbering monster in its tracks with single blow that tears it’s arm off, leaving Mahd to finish if off.
Athene leaps down on the one which remains as I hurtle down the ramp into a flanking position. I smash it’s spine as Athene runs it through… I think we are learning to coordinate our attacks…

We poke through a score of long forgotten cells and the bones of unfortunate and equally forgotten captives. It appears that the same wards holding the tide of evil at bay are also preserving the bodies and wooden structures well beyond their years. We would do well to be cautious if these wards break- the entire place may fall in on our heads!

Leaving the exit at the far end of the catwalk we double back, deciding not to leave open pathways behind us. The passageway off from the statue room leads down and we instead choosing the other doorway at the end of a long hallway.

Behind it we find an ill temple foyer with heavy double doors and a font on a pedestal. Athene and I feel both drawn and repulsed by the font and its putrid green contents; Athenes twisted expression hinting at the evil within… As I lift my Earthbreaker aloft I see a vision; a brilliant light behind a Chelaxian warrior woman with shield and long sword. She nods her assent and I realise a holy aura emanates from my weapon not in a dream but actually lighting the room with manifest divinity!
I bring it down on the font saying a prayer to Iomadae and purge this defiled place, smashing it into rubble.

Emboldened, I swing open the double doors and stalk into a huge temple chamber. At its center is a pool and pillar of carved skulls at the rear, another, larger font… Truly I have been called to purge this entire sinful domain…

As Athene and Mahd draw up behind, a strange, tiny, winged reptilian humanoid in a ritual cloak appears atop the pillar- A Quasit!
Cursing and challenging us she disappears, only to reappear above the distant putrid well. Dragging a tiny dagger across her arm, her green-black blood trickles into the water below, bubbling and steaming when suddenly the slime covered form of a Sinspawn emerges! Truly this imp’s size bellies her power- and evil…

Athene and I charge and dispatch the summoned menace, leaping onto the platform after the Imp. She speaks a few words of dark magic and I am paralyzed!
She shifts again across the room, summoning more monstrous beings; a bulbous Demon and giant beetle which set upon Mahd. Athene plucks the bow from my inert form and starts firing at the little demon, but her infernal hide repels the brunt of the attacks.
I focus and shake off the spell, but realizing my impotency against the host I instead turn on her minions.

Pouncing behind the beetle it vaporises as I smash through its carapace. Trudging through the fountain I make short work of the bulbous fiend… Leaving only the Imp.

She grins wickedly as she casts another spell, ethereal skulls flood the room overwhelm my senses. Staving off the fear my companions are not so lucky and flee. It is just us now…

Hovering out of reach above me, my bow next to useless I grind my teeth with frustration… Then I remember the Ransuer… I rush her and swing, just as Athene and Mahd return, the imp shifts and casts again, this time directed at Mahd who drops like a stone- NO!

The creature appears out of thin air on her chest, tiny knife held aloft, surely it could not… The monster stabs deep and Mahd’s peaceful slumber ends, rich elvish blood mixing with the stale water leaking form the fountain.
We rush to her aid, staggering in the pool and swiping at this impossibly wily creature.

Frustrated beyond measure I hurl my maul aside and try to grab her. Her skin is oily and she struggles fiercely, turning invisible but I have her! I consider drowning her in the mucky pool but I know not if she breathes like a living creature… After Athene stabilizes Mahd, she binds the creature. The Quasit makes dark promises but I will not be swayed. She reads us well and instead offers us information…

I am tempted, this dungeon perplexes me, it holds many mysteries to which she may indeed have answers and many lives hinge on what we do here today… But I also remember a time with a similarly bound orc survivor of a raiding party. The greenskin also pleaded, and proffered intelligence. I would have set him free for Brother Captain Gaul who only shook his head. “we dare not set this monster free, and we cannot break our word even to the likes o f him and so we can offer him no deals… but above all he is evil, and to evil come lies more easliy than truth. The only thing we can offer him is a quick death”

I look at Athene who seems to have similar thoughts and say to her "She will only lie- kill it… " And so Athene feels for the creatures neck atop its invisible form and drags her great blade across it’s mouth, ending its struggles with a sickening gurgle.

As the bound and mutilated demonic form manifests in my hands, we attend to Mahd and assess our surroundings.

Silva

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Kiss of Death
One Head, Three Arms and Two Stairways to Hell

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Unraveling the gory Imp we retrieve her weapons and an unholy symbol.
Scouring the temple we find only empty storerooms and a series of indecipherable runes on the wall. After toppling the skull carved pillar, I record the angular symbols for Father Zantus to see.
This Quasit can only be the creature mentioned in Tsuto’s Journal, whose evil minions he hoped to unleash on Sandpoint. Glad we’ve at least foiled that plan, we head back to check the last two tunnels on the way back to the gaol.

The first leads to a grisly torture chamber that shocks even our Inquisitor, with three adjoining cells containing horrifically mutated human remains.

The second path brings us to a high ceilinged room with another small font. As I lean down to inspect the surprisingly untainted water within, something catches my eye in the shadows above…

With a terrible screech, what appears to be a demonic, dismembered, head on leathery wings flaps down from the shadows above. Mhad yells “*Vargouille*!” but doesn’t elaborate. Its evil purpose is clear however and we attack!
It howls again, this time leaving us reeling with supernatural power, Mhad now paralysed, Athene and I strike blow after blow but it swoops down to the immobilised elf, clamping a slavering maw over Mhad’s face.
Athene and I steal a horrified glance as I make a prayer to Iomadae and swing. Hoping I don’t hit Mhad my strike is true, tearing the monster from her face and its long prehensile tongue sliding from her throat.
As its pulverized form slides down the wall, Mhad, free from the spell, drops to the floor gagging “I never experienced anything like that at university”…
These elves are certainly strange if resilient creatures.

When she recovers we open another door to find a spiral staircase leading up, where a stonefall blocks further progress and daylight filters through the fissures… It would be possible with some effort to shift the rubble and we wonder where it leads. I imagine some isolated, forgotten temple… but we agree to return only after investigating the last remaining path.

We return to the gaol and the last unopened door, bursting into a strange vast chamber, the floor covered with wooden trap doors. Standing sentinel is a horrific, muscular, distorted goblinoid with a with an insane expression on its twisted face. In one hand it wields a viscous red longsword with a flame sculpted blade, a silver dagger in the other and a fine axe in a third arm protruding form it’s humped back!
Athene and I charge in to flank him, and he spews thick acidic blood at us! As we exchange blows I steal a glimpse at the lids on the floor, each covers a deep, dark cavity in which a shambling living corpse claws and moans- Zombies! We must step carefully…
I immediately start trying to maneuver this creature down one of these deadly holes when Mhad steps forward and a lets loose a colourful, potent rainbow of magic that engulfs our foe. As the light clears and my eyes adjust, the brute, who we now recognise as Koruvus, goblin hero of the Seventooth tribe, drops his weapons and slumps to the ground in a magical stupor. I pause to marvel for a moment at our elf friend before I smash the prone creatures skull open.

I recall that this villain left his tribe for a jealously guarded, coastal lair, but I don’t remember him being disfigured, or a possessing a third arm? Surely the work of this terrible den of sin. I am beginning to fear that we ourselves have been here too long.
If so, that’s the risk we must take to purge this evil and secure Sandpoint.

Kicking his mangled form into a pit with a grateful zombie, we check the other lids to find similar undead filled cells, all of which appear to have been here a very long time.
A single door branches off to a staircase and a very odd chamber.
The staircase leads down where again it is blocked. This time the debris is immovable but I’m sure I can make out the the howling of dogs beyond? A simple wolf den? Hellhounds? I don’t know?

The chamber proves even more mysterious. A perfect sphere lined with metal plates its contents; a scroll, a wand, a sinister looking tome and a rotting, maggot ridden crow, all hang suspended in mid air! I throw in a piece of chalk and it too floats to a stop. Perhaps this was the lair of our host, the Quasit? I can picture the little monster in here gnawing away on maggots while she flicks through the sodden pages of that book.
Mhad rather expertly fishes the contents out, the magical curiosities of particular interest to her. The tome appears to be a religious text, if unreadable by us.

Mhad looks a little bedraggled and we hope it had nothing to do with her encounter with the vargouille, but she assures us she’s okay. It appears there is only one mystery remaining in this lair; the first stairwell and where it might lead. Doubling back again we begin the excavation. With Mhad too weak to assist it takes hours to clear the obstruction and we shimmy up through the meager chute, up into the sunlight… Of Sandpoint! With a cold pit in my stomach we look around at a secluded back alley. We begin immediately to make plans, to warn the mayor, to cover this portal, when I see a wisp of fine blonde hair falling from across Mhad’s ashen faced. I reach across and easily lift a bushell of hair away… A single, horrified look passes between us and we run, immediately to find brother Zantos.

We arrive just in time to stave off the curse of the Vargouille. Any longer and our elvish friend would have undergone a grisly transformation, her head sprouting wings and separating from her body! Now completely (if temporarily) bald, it’s a haunting reminder to be more vigilant in such infernal lairs.
My hair has always been my one my vices and I can sympathise.
Zantus also tells us that these vargouille usually travel in packs and assimilate whole communities, Sandpoint itself is fortunate.

By now both Athene and I have become thoroughly paranoid but we scrutinse Zantus carefully and decide to share our discoveries with him. The tome is a Lamashtuan, as was much of what we saw below and at Zantus’ urging we take our information to Mayor Kendra Deverin. The Mayor not surprisingly is disturbed and lost for answers.

That is when we decide to take the fight to the enemy. All evidence points to the Thistletop tribe and despite the risk of leaving the town defenceless, we deem that merely waiting for a Goblin invasion is the greater risk. So, after consolidating our bounty we enlist the Goblin scout Shae and get an early night before heading off to take some goblin scalps!

Silva

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A Thorn in the Side
A Maze of Thorns, Goblin Dogs, Cougars and Druids.

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On the eve of our departure we visit a flamboyant dwarvern trader named Vol who becomes agitated when Athene, not too subtly, requests ‘thieves tools’. I assure him of our benevolent purposes and he reveals that he thought we might be members of a Varisian criminal family called the Sczarni. With promises of assistance should they indeed cause him concern, we pack our saddlebags and travel the Northern Road to the aptly named Nettlewood.

Well deserving its namesake the forest is thick with stinging nettles and Goblin Berry bushes, so much so that we’re eventually forced to tether our horses and continue by foot. That is until we reach a surely supernatural wall of thorns. A hundred feet high and many more deep, extending all the way to the coast. we are completely at a loss until Shae spots a hidden entrance. I wouldn’t thought to look! We would do well to broaden our imaginations when dealing with the unknown.

The ‘door’ opens into a series of tight, natural tunnels, rich with earthy smells and alive with eerie shadows. There is a multitude of paths and after skirting a huge, deep well connected to the swelling ocean below, we stumble into a den of Goblin Dogs!
Arrows fly and then they’re on us!
They have thin hides, but bite hard and we pay dearly for our victory.

We pass on into an adjoining hollow where a black predatory cat, bright orange stripes marking it a Firepelt Cougar, sits atop a mound of dirt. Perhaps it is lost here? I step forward hoping to calm it, but it turns and runs through the next opening. We follow cautiously into a large bone strewn lair, domed by thorns and lit by firelight. The cougar stands protectively in front of a cackling Goblin, wearing dark robes, wielding a twisted wand and a sword aflame. A Sorcerer!

We draw back bow strings as the Goblin speaks to a small bird roosting overhead, which launches in our direction.
Is it a messenger? Perhaps a familiar about to deliver a spell?
Whatever it’s purpose, we are all thinking the same thing and three well placed arrows fill the air with feathers and blood.
The Goblin howls.
Eyes rolling, mumbling through jagged teeth he sweeps his arms and the latticework of nettles erupt into life.
Instantly entangled the cougar pounces into the fray.
We fire bow and spell but the tangle and tearing make it next to impossible to focus.
For a moment I rip free. Athene is in dire peril but I may not get another chance to take out the wizard and I charge.
The Goblin shrieks as I land a blow and amazingly, steps sideways and disappears into the thick thatch like it was a curtain… Not a Wizard- Druid!

I look around.
Mahd hasn’t moved, her robes hopelessly tangled.
Shae is flying arrows at the Cougar which is locked in a desperate struggle with Athene…
We I force our way to her back but too late- The cougar clamps its jaws over neck and she goes down.
Shae leaps forward with an elvish war-cry, arrow in each hand and driving down hard, through pelt, bone and flesh, pinning the beast to the ground.
The cat dead, I reach down with a gentle hand and pray to Iomadae, hoping that I am in time to pay one of many life debts to Athene.

A she lurches back to consciousness, there is a terrible wailing from deep within the thorns as the Goblin Druid leaps out, slashing with wand and sword!
The Druid, enraged by his companions death is wild but is no match for us, even now with us wounded and incapacitated.
He decides to flee back to the entrance, unhindered by the carpet of thorns.
I can’t hope to catch him, armour and cloak snagging and pulling but Shae and a revitalised Athene take chase.

By the time I catch up, the greenskin’s half way across a rickety bridge that connects this lair to a small island and the safety of a fortified keep.
I can barely contain my frustration as Shae looses an arrow and misses.
One more chance before he escapes.
Shae takes aim.
Fires.
We all stare, holding our breaths.
The arrow arcs up and then down through the Druid’s uanrmoured body.
He stops, turns, a strange look on his face and falls over the side.

We wait tense moments in the rude cover, hoping we have gone unnoticed.
Even a few guards would overcome us us in our state, if the whole host pours out we will surely die here and Sandpoint will us.
Incredibly though, all has gone unnoticed.
We creep up and recover the Goblins body which by some fluke is entangled in the ropes and strip it of anything we think useful.

We decide to regroup in the mouth of nettles and set up camp.
Gathering up the bodies of Goblin dogs, Druid and Cougar (but not before I skin the beast) we dump them in the sea well- Which much to our shock appears to be the home of some terrible sea monster, rising out of the surf and accepting our bloody bounty…
I had entertained thoughts of using that vent to approach the Goblin lair and I’m suddenly glad we didn’t!

We make camp in the Cougar’s den, oil bowstrings, sharpen blades, patch wounds and reflect on our experiences thus far.

Silva

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In The Den
Goblin Refugees, Dog Packs and Pickles

Journal-10-GoblinDog.jpg

Reluctant to advance without securing the area behind, we sweep the last tunnels. After discovering a couple of exits that open onto coastal lookouts we stumble into a goblin nest. The little villains are quite bedraggled and we seek a parlay (thinking them prisoners and hoping to use them against the host) but I should know better…
Battle ensues.
Despite their numbers, the fight is short and we spare only one for questioning.

Athene applies her talents and reveals they are the only surviving Birdcrunchers left after the raid on Sandpoint. Seeking sanctuary with this clan, more than half their number have been fed to the beast in the well, so it would appear they’ve had little success.
I shudder a little at that, even for them.
Water is one of my few… failings, and that is to say nothing of water dwelling monsters.
With little more to tell we dispatch him mercifully and head back to the bridge.

We take our time scrutinising the bridge and island fort; a tall, mismatched stockade with driftwood double doors and two watchtowers. We see no sign of sentries but I do notice a rather cunning trap rigged to the bridge. Athene’s closer inspection reveals that any more than three of us would collapse it. With rope and piton she disables it and we proceed one at a time and with great caution.

Athene is over first and alone on deft feet, scouting the ledge at the mouth of the keep. She is trying to signal us when Mhad calls out to her, sending us all into cover.
I scold Mhad, who is oblivious to the threat and explain to her in a way her Elvish mind will understand about the precarious situation we face; though by the way Shae is rolling her eyes, it may have little to do with her ‘cultural misunderstanding’… Still, perhaps we should be more understanding, I doubt infiltration was a subject at this university she always speaks of…

Filtering across, we peek into the open gates to see a grisly trophy room, and instead decide on a less direct route, following a goat-track skirting the side of the fort. Athene scouting ahead signals contact. Apparently a cluster of Goblins and their dogs are playing some macabre game of target practice with a tethered seagull.
Before we can assemble, Mahd’s stumbling alerts them to our presence and she and Athene are forced to start the fight without us. Mahd summons a puddle of greasy liquid leaving Goblins and dogs scrambling and prone, buying Shae and I time to join the fray.

A messy, deadly melee ensues, as we focus on the Goblin Dogs, fearing their vicious, toxic bites. We finally whittle them down to two when I drop my guard, forgetting the cliff face I’m backed up against and get bullrushed over the edge.

As I topple over, I foolishly dwell on the time it will take to unbuckle my armour in the water and miss my holding. I scramble, I focus and manage to get a single gauntleted hand around a thankfully, well rooted tuft of seagrass. I have no choice but to hang precariously over the rocks and ocean sixty feet below until my companions finish them off and drag me back up…

With no back door, we kick the corpses over the edge and head back to the Trophy room entrance. We creep into the crudely constructed hall, filled with animal heads and a pair of Harpy wings pinned to the unfinished wall with daggers.

We take an adjoining staircase up through the western tower emerging out a trap door to find two greenskins asleep, hands still clutching grasping the pickles they have literally gorged themselves to sleep on. Athene creeps out while I wait ready to ponce, and quietly slits their throats. ’

We discover another room nailed shut, protecting something of value (or as Mhad expects, danger). Athene takes out her tools and removes them, opening the door to an acrid vinegary smell. It’s a larder, filled with barrels of more pickles, some cracked open… leaking onto the ground.

Valuable goods indeed…

Heading back down we follow the passageways into a large courtyard full of Goblin dogs, running loose and chewing at the remains of more hapless Birdcatchers. They swarm us, but we have learnt much about fighting these mutts and make short, silent work of them. Adjoining rooms contain saddlery and feed- a cage of rabbits of which we bag half a dozen in the hope they might be useful… If not against these Goblins, perhaps on a cooking fire.

We push onwards…

Silva

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