Session Begins 8/26/11

 

The session begins at the late DuLak’s villa, with the party searching through his worldly possessions until the time of the funeral, attempting to decipher the cryptic message.

 

Before the funeral, the group heads into town, and Iason shops around the markets looking for a 2-handed club and Vandrose goes about acquiring the items necessary for his Christian rituals for the dead: wine, bread, salt, etc. While there, the smells of tarragon and oregano waft through the air as the lunchtime stews approach full boil for the masses of hungry patrons.

 

The group heads to Regent Square at early afternoon, around lunchtime. A moderate crowd has gathered to attend in honor of the fallen bard, and there is a musician dining nearby, tuning his instrument in preparation for the day, remembering his nightly songs and routine.

 

Vandrose notices a gentleman who was loitering around Quarry Street, neither interacting with patrons nor vendors, engaging no one in the crowd. He is in his late 20s with dark ponytailed hair, carrying a club, obviously a thug. He is dressed up enough to note that he is on someone’s payroll. He resembles many other locals, not in town for the funeral, he is obviously a local Caseadan.

Observing others in the area, there are head nods, small talk and conversation amongst many people, but this gentleman is largely just ignored by passersby. Ignored, but not avoided. He is obviously not in a social “mode” right now, and people ignore him, so many might know who he is.

 

Iason questions a local barman about him, who lowers his voice to speak about the man, obviously not wanting anyone to hear. “He is ‘working’ right now I think. Hired for something, I’ve seen him around before, working with one of the local families. When I asked if he was hungry or anything, he declined, and has been eating out of a pack most of the day.”

 

A steady line of ships made their way in through the horseshoe, and there is one in particular struggling against the current and the winds.

 

The owner of the Tutoria sits down with us and pulls up a chair. “It has been a long time, Iason. These are your friends?” Each man makes his introduction to the owner, who introduces himself as Corbin Bentiso. He goes on about the red sauce of his cook and how fine it is, and how he imports many of the spices needed for his trade. “The governor is good for business. He invites his friends and money flows.”

 

“Acada will be missed. He made us much money here. The replacement doesn’t know the breadth and depth of the local stories, but he will learn.”

 

 

The strange dark-haired man seems to be making his way through the street, continuing on a path, only once stopping for an ale.

 

A man comes from up the street headed towards the pier in fine clothing with armor, a sword at his hip, and a large plumed hat. He has a few vassals at his side, very gregarious, waving at people and casting a joke in their direction. As he comes through the ponytailed man melts back into the restaurant, folding a menu in front of him.

As the gregarious man resumes down the street, he doesn’t resume his old post, but actually orders food.

 

A similarly dressed man to the ponytailed one walks into the area and casts his gaze around the room. He spies the ponytailed man, and sitrs down next to him. Both are in their late 20s, fairly nicely dressed, with clubs, and no swords. Clearly they have no trade but rather they seem to be professional thugs. Not mercenaries per se, these men are more just dressed nicely, perhaps like personal guards.

 

Iason walks up and grabs a chair, turns it around and sits. One nudges the other and they stand up, making their way toward the street. They go out to the transition from walkway to cobblestone, and they exchange some words.

“I meant no offense,” Iason said.

“Piss off,” one replied.

One of them moves his hand to his hip for the club, “I advise you to move on.”

“This cloak and dagger business isn’t necessary.”

“Is this your establishment?”

“Come now, you are from here, you should know better. Someone should.”

The second man stays the elbow of the first, and they move off to the west, down Coral Street.

 

Corbin hands Iason a hard roll with butter. “Thank you. I don’t like the look of them, it could mean trouble.”

Iason continues socializing with the owner of the establishment, embellishing on the tastes and smells of the food, and in thanks Corbin brings us out a nice clay pot of roasted garlic. The four adventurers continue eating, drinking, and making merry.

 

Keppel remarked that the well to do might have recognized the two thugs and they obviously stayed out of his way, with nonchalance, seeing that they might not have had ‘jurisdiction’ in that area.

 

As the funeral draws nearer, the group (led by Keppel) decides to acquire more appropriate attire for the occasion, currently wearing mostly their adventuring and sailing clothing. Keppel drops the name of his mother to several clothiers and shops waiting to find someone inspired by her work. He sells his current clothing to the tailor, in exchange for the work that is on display. He buys nothing flamboyant, but more local. The rest of the group capitalizes on the opportunity to also acquire new clothing for the occasion, spending more or less as the situation might dictate.

 

The local vendors are selling black feathers in mourning, and for those without hats there are masks and bandanas with skeletal decorations, even outright skulls to accommodate the traditional black feather.

 

Iason and Vandrose go through the crowd dispensing coin to the paupers and beggars alongside the street. Along the way, Iason notices a young lad about his same age, who back at the orphanage would always sneak an extra helping here and there. Never of great moral fiber, the young lad named Giddeon seems beaten down over the years, with bruises and rope burns from hard labor and beatings.

 

After bribing one of the vagrants, Aebben questions him about the location of the man with the wide-brimmed hat, but the vagrant denies the mans presence at the festival.

 

Iason carries on with some young gypsie maidens, dancing and flirting in celebration. She continues on performing a dance called… something like the forbidden dance. It has gotten so popular that everyone knows of it. If you can do it, do it well, and people will appreciate it for the skill required.

The kids and street thugs do not even attempt to take the coin that is being tossed for the entertainers. There seems to be almost an unwritten code of conduct among them, for the people used to working around these people.

 

The town is filled with revelry and celebration, people unabashedly carrying on. There is dancing, women, grinding, and partying. With an atmosphere like Mardi Gras, there are festive skulls hanging about and people enjoying themselves.

 

Iason climbs up to a balcony with a woman, and he gives her a full mouth kiss, snataches up her wine to consume it, and leaps back into the crowd with a flourish.

 

All over, there are death skull rattles, and bone horns sounding off. The whole place is pandemonium, with all the noise and festivities. People that are up on the balconies facing the festivities are all the well to do aristocrats. They are not IN the revelry, they are ABOVE it. There are guards posted, each with polearms spaced equally but in enough number that they can quell anything that might become out of hand.

 

A large death mask enters the square, the size of a man. The noise level drops by half as the mask moves into the crowd. Behind the mask itself is a line of torch-bearers, at least a dozen. They make their way through the crowd towards the center of the square, where a large pole is raised.

 

The torchbearers that were following the mask form a circle around it illuminating it from the bottom. Off to the left of the giant death mask, a voice calls out.

 

“We gather in celebration of a life well lived, and we honor him for his achievements. It is his song that unites us tonight. I know that he would not want us to gather in tears but to celebrate. We decorate in colors and drink to celebrate his life.” A spontaneous song breaks out from the crowd, one of his most famous songs, and everyone sings, word for work. The gigantic chorus rings out, almost chilling in its unity.

 

The man on the balcony takes the center stage. He gestures at the giant death mask, and the torches all reach up and light the bottom of the mask, going up in flames so quickly that an ashen shroud rises up into the sky. The crowd goes crazy and there are drums in the background, and pandemonium erupts.

 

Women move through the crowd with carafes to refill the cups of passersby, a bit more expensive than might be expected, but it is in the moment, and patrons oblige.

 

Vandrose separates from the crowd to perform his religious rites, and Iason mingles with the women and drink in the crowd. Keppel shortly thereafter tries to make futile plans to return back to The Two Sheckles, to no avail. Aebben makes his way to a higher vantage point, finding a rain gutter atop one of the buildings. He manages a foothold, and gets a head above the crowd, scanning it briefly before returning to the earth.

 

Keppel scans the crowd for the less insane, finding people enjoying themselves, but not going berserk. Giving up most of his hope, he instead decides to join them, joining the dance, finding the women, and carries on in a manner that his father might be proud of.

 

For just a moment, everyone gets a glimpse of the pirate town that once was, before the civilization grew up around it. Everyone has a merry time, drinks, dances, and makes far too merry for their own good. Music streams from the upper balconies from paid musicians. Many songs are anthems to Acada’s music.

 

In the background there is a ringing, a chiming as though a bell is ringing. It grows in frequency to sound more like a ship’s warning bell ringing. It sounds frantic, perhaps some sort of alarm.

 

Keppel tries to compose himself, but finds himself only sick instead. As Aebben makes his way toward the harbor, he sees two ships fully alight with flame. There are antlike crewmembers trying to put out the fire. There is one ship not at anchor, which seems to be drifting around the harbor. Much of the guard is filing through the crowd toward the direction of the docks. They have some kind of pump system that they are attending to get the fire under control. There are ships closing off the exit, trying to get the wayward ship from drifting out to sea.

 

Keppel slumps against a building to begin his recovery, somewhat near the entrance. Iason dives into the crowd to pull out an intoxicated and celebratory Vandrose, taking him by the cloak and yanking him out into the open with the vomit-stained Keppel, who ambles toward him like a liquor-soaked zombie. Off in the distance, Aebben is spotted near the harbor, and the rest of the group pursues.

 

After seeing the harbor, with the two flaming ships, the group decides that it is clearly a distraction, a ruse for a more sinister act, and that they need a better vantage point. They begin to make their way to the bluffs, the highest streets in town.  There are no moving carriages, and the streets are too choked with people to make progress. The only real way in and out of the higher plateau is through the street North Gate.

They finally approach the upper echelon of Caseada, after 20 minutes, taking whatever shortcuts available. Skipping over switchbacks and climbing up dead ends, they finally make it to the higher level, and a guard stops them along the way at the guard station. He questions our motives and names, before being bribed off by Iason, as we make on our way. The guard chalks up four single hash marks on his blackboard.

 

There is a dark rainforest, with a road that runs horizontal to it. Every 15 paces there are warding poles stuck in the ground. Adjacent to that is Fargot plateau. No structures, no building, just crops as far as the eye can see. It would take another 10 minutes jog to get to the vantage point.

 

There are spectators and guards moving around the harbor. On the other end of town is a flock of people retreating back to their homes. Things are starting to quiet down, guards diligently move to the hotspots in groups of 4 and 8. The moonlight is just sufficient enough to give the evening a nice starry glow.

 

Giving up on the search, the group heads back into the town, considering infinite possibilities of murder, espionage, and theft, while sweepers and cleaners make their way through the streets, removing debris and refuse, and beggars have cleared out toward the eateries and inns.

 

 

After spending the night at Villa de Dulak, the night is disturbed by Surika pounding at the door. After answering the door with crossbow in hand, Vandrose lets her in, and the group is informed that there is a group of guards on the way there, after a divination pointing to this house. They all don their armor and weapons and make haste out of the villa.

 

They duck down an alleyway being pursued by guards, and make their way through and over a few switchbacks, up a level, and another level. She motions for them to continue. There are two of the peliguard focused on collecting fees.

 

Surika mentions that apparently an artifact went missing the night before from the governor’s house: The Tetra Cora.

 

Stealthing past the guards, Iason is spotted but not recognized, as the guard don’t seem to stop collecting their tarrifs, and the group walks on by to the next level. Coming up off the side street, we notice that traffic is in full swing here. A troop of four guards is making its way our direction. The group takes cover down an alleyway.

 

We make our way up to North Gate, and traffic is the same. We arrive at the two story stone building, and there is a queue of farmers trying to line up to leave, but no one is being admitted.

 

The chalkboard where we had been taken down has our four tickmarks removed, but there are 6 new marks up on the board adjacent to ours.

 

After ducking into an alley to confer, Surika agrees to provide a distraction. She goes up to the guard and begins emitting this aura of absolute lust, and both guards are immediately enamored. After laying her hands on them, they instantly fall to sleep. The group bolts out the gate, and begins heading into the rainforest toward what is nothing more than an animal trail. The guard alert whistle sounds, and we hustle through the brush, knowing that the guard will not follow without protection.

 

Surika presses as a quick pace, and we come to a point where the Fargot plateau is no longer visible. We nestle into an overgrowth in the rainforest, and she explains that the Tetra Cora was stolen from the governor. The guards came in asking for a divination from the oracle, about the whereabouts of the sons of Acada. They were not asking who stole the Tetra, they were specifically asking for the sons of Acada.

 

Considering the possibility that the Friar had the will until the reading, then the Barrister would have found out what the items were, and reported back to the governor, the idea is that the governor either had Acada killed, or only found out about the items coincidentally because of his death.

 

The oracle is loyal to the order, but not a witch, she works for Mandri Amoni, the queen mother of witches. They have no love for the governor.

 

Vandrose finds the tracks along the road, indicating 5 or 6 people having headed this way. Contracts are often granted from the governor for adventurers to go this way. But they would have to share a portion of their findings. Based on the path, not many have gone out and come back.

 

Questioning Surika, she says that the furies are the remains of an old society that no longer exists, the ghostly revenants of an old civilization.

 

There are volcanic formations that shape the path, forcing it to go around them. We travel onward, and come across a burnt oil rag, something that must’ve come from a used torch. It seems about 6 hours old at the time, and even though they have a wounded member, they are maintaining their double-time march.

 

About 3 hours out of town on the trail is the distance from when we entered the rainforest, and we find an encampment. No fire, and they had beat down many of the taller standing plants to form a ring. They are using one of those traveler’s wards, one of the rope-style wards instead of chain. The ward will last for as long as the rope lasts.

 

Each witch has its own contracted source of power, and they maintain strength through their continuity. They will rarely break away.

 

Off to the side of the trail, there is a loud buzzing sound, louder than the normal buzzing, and accompanied by a foul odor. The pattern of bloodshed suggests the attacks of humanoids using long-shafted arrows or cutting blades. A few feet off the path, there are a few corpses buried in the overgrowth. There are a number of bodies, dark green in color, with dog ears and mowhawks. Several of them have been penetrated with arrows, cuts, and burns.

Clearly a group of humanoids working in full concert killed these full blooded orcs. The fighters have been together for years, and no attempt was made to hide the scene. There is no indication that the orcs did any damage. The attack occurred about 3 hours ago. Spears, clubs, rudimentary swords are scattered about.

Much of our gain on them came from their 3 hour rest period.

 

The land starts to bend down as though into a basin or bowl. A ridge off to the left, and the sound of water is heard. No indication that the group went off into the water.

The area ahead brightens and two of t he larger trees collapsed in an X pattern ages ago, and this allowed full daylight to come through. This allows a better view of the inclined path to the left, and a gaze of the river to the right. The hill to the left looks as though the edge of the clearing terminates, dropping off into a valley, and the path forks, to the left and right.

 

Out of the brush, a group of full bloods emerges in full camouflage. 4 with melee weapons, and 3 with ranged. Surika flings a magic arrow into the back and strikes one of the archers, followed by a feeble miss by Vandrose with a repeating crossbow.

Aebben stands attentively in a ready stance, sword drawn, while Keppel dives for the dirt, sending his apparition around to the back, ready to tear out the throats of the archers. Finally, Iason takes out a silver disc and hurls it toward the attackers, missing, flinging the chakram into the brush.

 

Surika opens her mouth as if to scream, but no noise comes out. One of the orcs covers his ears as blood trickles out from the skull. Vandrose flings another useless bolt into the bushes, as Aebben charges into battle and cleaves a swath into one of the orcs, wounding it deeply. Keppel, in a valiant effort, runs up to another orc and wildly swings his club at the orcs head, who deftly dodges his unskilled attack, returning the attack in kind with a long, wicked looking curved blade wielded with two hands, Keppel watches his chest tear open with a vicious cut. Another orc charges Keppel and strikes him another wicked slice, downing the small summoner. Ghost immediately winks out of existence.

From the back an arrow makes its way through the thicket and burrows into Aebben’s shoulder.

Iason, seeing Keppel fall, charges up to the Orc and swings valiantly, the strike bouncing off the creature’s metal studded armor.

 

Nusurika runs over to the fallen summoner and lightly heals him back into consciousness, and Vandrose deftly sidesteps the group for a clearer shot, firing an arrow at one of the melee orcs and misses only barely. Aebben runs up behind the orc and slashes deeply into its side. Keppel takes the opportunity to crawl away and protect himself with Mage Armor.

 

Two orcs close in on Aebben and flank him, but their swings go wide and miss him completely. Another orc closes on Iason and slices into him.

Two of the orc archers let loose arrows into Aebben, that bury themselves into his side and left shoulder.

Retributively, Iason slices an orc at Aebben’s flank in half.

 

Surika utters a few words, and the orc at Aebben’s left who bled out his ears begins to have his skin boil, blister, and hiss, with many boils erupting with blood.

Seizing the opportunity, Aebben skewers the orc with his short spear.

Vandrose continues his trend of flinging bolts into the bushes, missing the archer in the back. Keppel slinks backward and summons a celestial dire rat to attack the orc in front of Iason, sinking its filthy teeth into the creature’s leg.

 

The orc turns its gaze downward and slashes at the newfound rat assailant, slicing it in twain. The orc at Aebben’s front swings and misses. The three archers hail arrows at Aebben, and litter his shield with wood, but no hits.

Iason steps up and snarls ferociously at the orc in front of him who laughs in return, only to be stabbed in the gut by the warrior’s curved elven blade, clingling only barely to life.

 

Nusurika’s eyes turn flaming red, glowing like the sun, and heat waves from her eyes char the orc standing to Aebben’s left, searing him, burning flesh into cinders. Using defensive tactics, Aebben strikes out at the orc from behind his shield, only to knock against the creature’s armor.

Loading a new bolt, Vandrose finally lets loose a bolt that drills into the the wounded archer in the back, viciously piercing through its calf.

 

The smoldering orc steps to the side and cleaves Iason’s side, and a crunch is heard when the sword hits armor and the force sends him staggering. From the back, the archers send their arrows to Aebben, one of them striking true, nicking his cheek, and another bounces off of his shield into the brush, while the third places a decisive blow into the grass.

Iason swings with his wicked blade at the smoldering orc, who deftly ducks under it, as Iason retreats, watching the creature’s face melt off into his hands at the incantations of the witch.

 

Aebben steps up to the only remaining orc warrior and swings from behind his shield wildly, missing by a large margin. Keppel springs up and swings with a club at the orc in an attempt to distract him, but to no avail, as the orc smashes his large blade into Aebben through the shield, and bones can be heard shattering as he crumples to the ground.

The archers let loose arrows from the back over their fallen and retreating brothers, burying one into Nusurika’s side. In a sudden spur of vengeance, Iason springs into action and cleaves the head from the wounded orc.

 

Stepping over to Aebben, Surika lays hands upon him and heals him barely into consciousness, with Vandrose following suit with his holy prayer. Aebben sputters and rolls into a crouch, as Keppel utters a few words of command, bringing down another creature from the heavens, only to be struck down with a hail of arrows, as the archers move around to flank the party. They drop their bows and draw weapons.

Iason, studying the situation, grasps one of his wounds and instantly they begin to close, the blood seeping back into the wound as the flesh rejoins to itself.

 

Nusurika casts her gaze upon the wounded archer, who wills away the wiccan magic.

Aebben circling around the back, drops his spear into the grass and hurls a javelin into the distracted orc, pinning it to the ground through its chest.

Vandrose moves up closer to the archer and fires, only to have the wire snap, slapping him across the hand, and he reflexively drops the weapon.

An orc charges Aebben, sword held high, and slashes with all his might, cutting a mighty swath into the wounded javelineer, overextending his attack, leaving his back wide open as he cuts Aebben to the ground. Seizing the opportunity, Iason charges in, but slips on a puddle of blood from his comrade and flies through the air landing hard on his back.

 

Nusurika steps into the opening and unleashes flames from her fingertips into the orc who is unwedging his blade from Aebben’s wounded body. Vandrose commands the orc to run while drawing his club and running into combat.

Iason curls his fist around his club, hefting it in his hands and lashing out while sprawled on the ground, crunching the legs of the orc in front of him, and blood sprays out of the kneecaps of the creature who crumples to the ground.

 

Dropping to her knees, Nusurika places her hands on Aebben’s wounds, stabilizing him from death. Vandrose, muttering a word of prayer speeds toward the only remaining orc, mace in hand, with the celestial rat close behind. The orc turns tail to flee, running at full speed, which pales in comparison to the speed of the blessed inquisitor of Cuthbert.

 

Retrieving his blade, Iason springs back up to his feet, scanning the battlefield.

Vandrose charges the creature, swinging his mace wildly at the creature’s back, who turns wielding his bow and feebly swings, the thin wood clanking off of the thick breastplate of the inquisitor.

 

Iason closes his eyes thoughtfully, and heals Aebben with a touch.

Doubling around, Vandrose beats the orc in the chest with his mace, knocking the wind out of the creature, who tries to make another stab with his bow that once again bounces off plate armor. From the bushes, the celestial rat leaps up and gnaws on the battling orc’s leg, blood spurting from its golden shining mouth, with Vandrose furiously clubbing the creature again and again with his mace, blood spraying from the wound.

 

Badly injured, the creature flees at full speed, with the rat on his heels.

Crossing the crest, Vandrose sees the orc flee over the hillside into a primitive orc village, yelling an alarm. Iason finally catches up to Vandrose who snatches him by the collar, and then turns tail to flee, yelling “Run!”

 

Just then, war drums begin to sound, and answering drums beat perhaps a mile away.

 

Returning to the group, Vandrose calls holy light fourth and heals Aebben back into able-bodied consciousness, calling for immediate retreat. Moments later, Iason comes running back to the group, who escapes to the river, hiding their tracks along the way.

 

Moving along the river for nearly an hour, a building is located, 4 stories high in the woods. Vandrose and the Eidolon Ghost investigating, they see an everburning torch mounted outside. After detecting all alignments, Vandrose senses a single creature aligned only with Chaos (Chaotic Neutral) inside, somewhere near the 2nd story. Sending Ghost back to report to the group.

 

The plant growth is not limited to the exterior, branches obscure much of the interior stonework. The stone floor that is visible is stone tiles, and has been swept clear of dirt and debris. The walls were ornately decorated, and brushing aside leaves and vines reveals that this is a temple of Nyx. She is the goddess of secrets, the cloak of night. Her domain is night, or the void. Her power is over keeping and sharing of secrets. All fear her feminine form because she is friend to the human women who use their wiles and sexuality to capture and enthrall.

 

The group decides to go check it out, and Vandrose explains that he is going to try to speak and negotiate.with the Chaotic creature inside. Knocking, the door unlocks of its own accord and opens, with the inquisitor stepping inside.

 

The pillars inside are shaped like statues of women. Beyond the statues is a pool of spring fed water, and the walls are adorned in bas relief that mimick the two statues shown here. At the edge of the pool are several baskets of fresh fruits and nuts.

“Deposit your weapons and come in peace. Make your offering to the goddess.”

Vandrose deposits a bottle of blessed wine on one of the baskets of fruit.

“The goddess is pleased. Take your peace.”

 

The others follow in later, and disarm.

 

“The goddess Nyx bids you welcome, what is your purpose here?”

“Peace.”

“You have shown good form in discarding your weapons, you may stay here for refuge.”

 

Nusurika is bandaging the group for long-term care, assisted by Vandrose, making sure to tend to wounds and apply ointments, and the group expends the lot of their healing before resting. The entire group will get double healing for the night.

 

End Session 8/26/11

Begin Session 9/9/11

 

The group begins in the temple of Nyx recovering from the days’ wounds.

 

On the second watch, Vandrose investigates the building, noticing that there is a hidden door behind one of the statues, on a stone rolling mechanism. Noisy, but effective. The only tracks are one person to and from the altar where the offerings are placed. All this information is passed onto each person subsequently watching.

 

During the night, Iason casts a watchful and caring eye over the group, evaluating their strengths, their weaknesses, and the very cores of their souls. Opening the front doors in the rainstorm, he meditates with the peacefulness of a dawn’s rain, and the mist that washes into the room.

 

Suddenly he feels and sees a kind of blackness take over the room. The magically lit torch in the back dims and he is surrounded in darkness, of a kind that he cannot sense, even with his preternaturally honed ability (?)

 

He hears and feels simultaneously, someone whispering who stands in front of him, the puff of their whisper upon his face. Iason, reacting wildly, he springs forward into a grapple with the unknown creature, missing entirely. The feminine voice says

“There are those outside who would kill you for your transgressions. Give me your secrets, and you shall be safe.” Feeling a hand take his hand, he has his hand drawn to her face. The proportions feel proportionally correct. “Do not resist,” she says.

“I would say the same to you. Do not resist, show me your face.”

 

A flicker from the back comes into being, and a female form comes into view as the blackness recedes. A light skinned woman of northern ancestry in robes comes into view, her features very comely. Languages Iason doesn’t understand blow by like the wind, small zephyrs blowing past her. As he reaches for her, the crimson cloak drops to her shoulders, and underneath she wears nothing. With brown hair and dark eyes, she is beautiful. He leans in, and passionately kisses her, immediately feeling magic. With the contact, he closes his eyes and lets go.

 

The last 48 hours go by in his mind, of his memories with us, and Acada. And something he doesn’t recognize: A Box. A multi-layered box. “Wake the others,” she says. “It is time to go.” Lingering only a minute, he eventually pulls away.

“I am Dharia,” she whispers. “Oracle of the silver river, servant of Nyx and seeker of the mysteries of the dark tapestry.”

 

As he wakes the others, more spirit voices linger in the vicinity. We awake to the sight of a cloaked female figure. “There are those outside who await you. I shall cover your escape.” Vandrose only quirks an eyebrow at seeing the wet lips of Iason, who smirks guiltily.

 

“You will fly from these premises with my blessings, departing immediately.” She begins spelling up the party, giving sanctuaries. “This shall keep the arrows at bay, she says.”

 

A strange shift of stone against stone is heard, and one of the statues cocks forward, its hand at her side. The door opens and unclasps, revealing a dozen shadowy figures, and she sheds her robes.

 

Vandrose lingers behind only a moment to place expiditous retreat on himself, instructing the group to head a certain direction into the fog. Only after being certain of their safety does he follow, revealing two paths ahead: a treacherous path of boulders, and a watery incline of fast river. After crossing the river over the boulders, they see a hidden shortcut and a muddy incline. With sharp elven senses, Aebben and Vandrose take the hidden shortcut, and the humans, take the muddy incline, but begin to struggle. Holding back, Iason attempts to help Nusurika through the mud. Forging forward, Vandrose and Aebben advance.

 

After clearing that area, Vandrose is caught in a vine choked trail, unable to move through it because of his heavy armor slowing him down. Iason, slowed down by Nusurika, spots a group of 5 orcs coming up close behind them, nearly within attacking distance. Aebben pulls out his sling and awaits the approach of the enemy. Iason continues to assist Nusurika, steadying them both. The orcs continue to scramble up behind without difficulty.

 

Muttering a chant, Nusurika bounds unnaturally over the obstacles ahead, leaping over the trees. Vandrose, seeing Aebben stumble, leaps in to help his friend, swapping his advantageous footing for Aebben’s treacherous position. Readying his mace, he prepares to slow down the onslaught of orcs. Iason sees the orcs’ advance and waits, watching as Vandrose deftly avoids them, catching up to the others at a pit trapped trail, and a flooded plain.

 

Aebben deftly crosses the pit trapped trail, scurrying amongst the sharpened bamboo, while Nusurika is lost amongst the sharpened growth. Showing along the way, Vandrose points out the trail, holding back until she can traverse the treacherous terrain. Aebben, sprinting ahead to a fallen log bridge, without thinking, leaps deftly over it, clinging to the nearby flora.

 

Iason dives next to a tree for partial cover, as 2 of the orcs engage him, and the other three pursue Vandrose and Nusurika. One of the orcs swings, and the shattering blow hits hard into Iason’s side, a sickening crunch audible. Vandrose, leading through the brush, attempts to guide Nusurika through the pit traps, with his mace at hand, ready for the onslaught. Despite his best efforts, she is lost in the treacherous terrain.

 

Iason screams, swinging his massive elven blade and cuts deep into one of the orcs, who only barely stands after the attack, their own sword swings coming far too short.

 

Vandrose stands guard at Nusurika’s back, and Iason swears an oath “By Cuthbert’s beard!” and swings to strike, cleaving an orc in twain, as his friend steps up and buries his sword in Iason’s gut.

 

The orcs converge, one missing Vandrose by a wide swing, and Nusurika gets struck by a large blade. Vandrose runs to the fallen body of his comrade, and Aebben steps into the gap in combat, thrusting his short spear into the body of one of the pursuing creatures, his body slumping lifelessly to the ground.

 

Nusurika mumbles a chant and her wounds knit close, the blood flow stopping from the grievous wound. The orc standing over Iason swings low and cuts Vandrose deeply with his barbaric curved blade.

 

Stepping back, Vandrose heals the fallen Iason back to life screaming “Get to the witch and heal her,” as he shakes life into the man. The orc towering over them both swings, and his blade bounces off of the shield of faith that shimmers in the air before him.

 

The orcs stab Aebben visciously, as Iason stands, recovering his blade. Vandrose, in a panic, runs to the fallen Nusurika, whose eyes open as she recovers from her wound, fighting to stay conscious. Aebben, with grim determination in his eyes, skewers another orc to the ground with his spear.

 

An orc swings at Aebben, the strike nicking only his armor, while Nusurika makes a prayer, and springs back to life, magic in her lungs as she speaks. Swearing another oath, Iason strikes out at one of the orcs, missing only by an inch. Aebben’s spear puts another orc on the brink, and Vandrose misses once again with his crossbow. An orc from the back attacks Iason, clumsily missing the spritely combatant.

 

Stepping forward, the wounded orc cleaves the wiccan woman, staggering her nearly to the point of unconsciousness. In revenge, she gestures in his direction, and his eyes go heavy. He drops instantly to the ground before Vandrose, beginning to snore. Smirking with satisfaction, Vandrose smashes the orc’s skull in with his mace.

 

Iason, eyeing the orc in front of him screams out in the name of vengeance, and sends the orc’s head off into the river. Aebben aids Nusurika through the pit traps, showing her every step to take, while he moves with alacrity through the terrain. Iason swiftly recovers his wounds, as the light of faith stops his bleeding. He scrambles down to the flooded trail, floundering to higher ground.

 

Sprinting ahead, Aebben once again blazes a trail through the terrain, finding the flooding falls in front of him. Finding space between themselves and the pursuing orcs, the group begins to find themselves gaining purchase on the difficult terrain, finding their way through flooding falls, narrow ravines, and paths strewn with boulders. Nusurika utters a few words and floats over the pit traps making her way to Iason, who stands fast awaiting for her. Aebben and Vandrose stand at the top of the ravine, with ranged weapons at the ready, seeing Nusurika come over the ravine in flight, with Iason close behind, spitting up blood.

 

Thinking quick, Vandrose looks around for any natural terrain that might slow the orcs down. Jury rigging a rope to a small mud-encrusted dam, he and Aebben set a trap for the pursuing orcs, hoping that they might not see the hidden rope that will pull free the makeshift dam and wash them down the ravine in their chase.

 

After a few minutes of orientation, Vandrose begins to find his way, and leads the party onward. Aebben takes up the rear, watching for ambush, with Keppel in front of him, Iason just behind Vandrose, and Nusurika in their midst.

 

Suddenly, a blood spot is discovered, only an hour old. Eagerly pursuing, the group follows the trail. Eventually they come upon the stone block remnants of an old civilization. Aebben scouts ahead amongst the manmade terrain, though Vandrose senses no life. Aebben, with his keen elven senses, searches for any sort of trap or snare. Cresting the top of the stairs, he sees where the forest begins to reclaim the stairs, seeing the remnants of the plaza. There is a football field sized flattened area in front of them. They see that the path continues across it, and down the other side.

 

Looking over the tracks, it seems that there are 6 of them, included the severely wounded one. One of the people that are being trailed is keen to wearing a heeled boot, prominently seen amongst seafarers, especially those of elevated rank. One wears what amounts to footsoldier’s boots, he is also the wounded one. The third seems more moccasin-like, lighter in stature than the others, but swifter of foot. He knows the woods well, and has taken them directions that would aid them, but not covering their tracks. The other three tracks seem to be oriented towards crewmen, whatever the sandal or the boot of the day. None of the shoes that they wear are of Caseadan make. However, there is a piece of damaged armor, either leather or studded leather, Familiar to Aebben. He realizes that one that they are after just so happens to be the woman that he encountered at the shop, Katra.

 

The path to the left from the stairs is the way they look, each path going to either side of the river.  The path steadily inclines, rising higher and higher, though the river remains at the same height. After a 20-minute ascent, we reach the summit. It looks like we begin our decline here on the other side with sure footing amidst moss and we still see the path of our quarry.

 

The descent continues, but the occasional blood trail assures us we are on the right path.  It looks like a common use animal trail. Aebben strikes out ahead, scanning amidst the trees, searching for an ambush. In the path in front of him, there is a man well over 6 and a half feet tall with tattoos on his arms and head, bare-chested, and standing in the path ahead with a scimitar, and a pouch full of rocks. “You will come no further….” He mutters.

 

The large man closes the gap between himself and Aebben. There is an open wound across his chest that looks infected. He swings the scimitar at Aebben, who is staggered by the scarred veteran. Retaliating the strike in kind, Aebben stabs the brute with his short spear.

 

Aebben screams for help, and the group begins to move. The brute steps forward and slips slightly with one of his swings of the blade, but regains his footing at the second swing. It goes wide and still misses the agile half-elf. Vandrose and Iason charge toward the enemy, taking a wide circle around him, as they begin to surround the wounded brute. Aebben takes the opportunity to swing at the enemy quickly but feebly before dodging backwards away from his reach.

 

Once again, Nusurika screams at her enemy, with no sound escaping her mouth, and the victim seems dizzy, or woozy at the sound in his mind.

 

Vandrose seizes the opportunity to shift behind the brute, refocusing his tactical strategy, evaluating the brute’s weaknesses. Iason, with a brute strike, steps forward and cleaves the brute, slicing a large chunk from his flesh. Aebben tumbles into the fray, and thrusts his spear up underneath him, embedding it into the man’s torso. Mortal fear crosses his face as he looks across the group who clearly has him at his end. Nusurika continues chanting, and his daze continues. Vandrose seizing the opportunity for interrogation, takes his mace to the back of the man’s head, dropping him unconscious.

 

As Aebben ties him down, they detect for magic, noticing that the shield on his back, his scimitar, his sling, and a ring on his finger are all magic. He has 5 silver on him, and rations as well as poultices full of blood.

 

Nusurika and Vandrose begin bandaging him, and he awakens to Aebben’s spear at his throat.

 

After the interrogation, they find out that the mercenary was hired by one Ponce De Marco. Nusurika says that she doesn’t know much about him, but that there’s been a bounty on his head for a while. He said that the man who hired Ponce was a Nessian back in Storn, and that he knew nothing about Acada. Katra, meanwhile, is or was De Marco’s girl. Depending on the day.

 

The group strips him down and leaves him unconscious, breaking immediately for some flat terrain to set up camp for the wards against the furies. After finding a suitable spot, they bandage up open wounds and begin to recover for the evening. “Beware the furies. If they try to cross the barrier, it will grant us vision of them. But do not attempt to cross, as it will break the barrier.”

 

Vandrose takes the first watch, Aebben the second, and Iason the third. Nusurika sleeps the night. The fog lifts, and there is no visual impediment apart from the darkness.

Haunting sounds occur throughout the night, rhythmic in nature.

 

During the second hour, there is a rattling noise, like a rock inside of a nut. Elbowing Iason, there is a loud whump sound, like a large slab being dropped into the grass. Suddenly, the acrid smell of a forge comes along after the noise, reminiscent of a weaponsmith, and seeming to be the result of the thump. The ticking noise continues.

 

Out in the half-light, in distances of 30-40 feet, there looks like various “lumpy” formations of creatures. Almost stone or clay with appendages set up at angles to give them ambulatory function. Fixed on them is a clay pot with two holes, and in those two holes is a fiery light. This seems to be the source of the smell. After watching them a moment, they melt into the background. There is no movement, they are simply invisible.

 

Casting detect magic reveals their location. One moves up to the edge of the barrier, and a heavy twig animates like an arm reaching for the runes. Vandrose lets his bolt fly free into the bushes, and Iason leaps into action, and his sword clanks like it hits pottery and stone. The clay pot cracks and the burning embers seep through the cracks, as the flames change to a spiral, with the whole thing dropping to the ground, quivering. The pot drops off to the side, and explodes.

 

Iason feels moisture land on his skin, and it burns as though from acid. The creature melts itself out of existence. The loud noise wakes the party, and they all cast a watchful eye into the darkness. The clicking noises that were once nearby, are now moving back into the distance, as though they are communicating away from the group. The noise disperses, and the group attempts to return to sleep.

 

Off in the distance, there is a man shaped figure with a cloak and a helm. Apart from no eyes in the eye sockets, he seems physically substantial, at over 6 feet tall, and it floats over the ground. Once again, the group is awoken at the action before them as the apparition draws near, at about a distance of 60 feet. Aebben takes the chance to fling a stone at the creature, as it seems to begin to fade. There is a loud thud as the stone strikes. The haziness spreads out from his cloak in a smoke-like fashion, and his features recede into the mist, becoming a part of it.

 

Rolling into a laying position in front of the group, Vandrose detects magic, and senses the creature occupying a man-shaped area inside, in the very middle of it. Loosing another useless bolt from his crossbow for good measure, he indicates to his party the position of the creature. The smoke billows forward, but the creature does not move.

 

Aebben steps forward to the edge of the runic barrier and takes a defensive posture. After Vandrose suggests a bit of knowledge he learned from Dulak, he fires, the bolt hitting the creature’s “armor,” and ricocheting off into a tree. The creature in the mist surges forward, his skeletal hand outstretched, and a bright blue light surges out from his hand, to blind and dazzle any onlookers. Quickly, they all roll to avoid the beam, and an electrical current slightly singes Aebben and Vandrose, with the rest of the bolt fizzling out as it tries to travel onward. Grabbing hold of his newfound sling, Aebben lobs a stone at it, which bounces off the creature.

 

The smoke billows back out from the creature, with no visible effect, but to negate all visibility around him. He begins moving upward, ascending through the top of the smoke, passing its ascent, as he makes like a shot toward the sky. Iason flings a chakram at it narrowly missing, followed by Aebben’s stone, and Vandrose’s bolt, only the last of which barely grazing the creature (to everyone’s surprise).

 

Nusurika chants and draws arcane shapes in the air, and the shapes draw their way toward the creature, attaching themselves to it. “It will keep him from his luck,” she utters. The smoke rises up and the creature pulls back into it, withdrawing nearly 30 feet backward into the night. Aebben fires another stone into the darkness, widely, with a bolt from Vandrose following suit. The creature moves way back, at least 120 feet out into the darkness and vanishing, followed by the sound of skittering. In 10 minute intervals they make noise and then silence themselves.

 

The witch attempts to return to sleep along with the rest of the group, and the next watch passes with no futher interruptions. About 10 minutes from the sunrise, the last noise skitters from the creatures, before they flit off into the remains of the night before the sun clears away the shadows. There are bent twigs and grasses from where the creatures rested for the night, and the smoke left a film of brimstone ash in its wake. “They are not ghosts, I think,” Vandrose says.

 

Getting back onto the trail, Vandrose picks up their tracks once more, perhaps an hour ahead of the group, and they continue on at double pace. It comes to an area in the trail where it looks like an animal trail that splits.

 

Down one way it looks like a drop off from a sinkhole leading 200 feet to the water. Down the other way looks like treacherous and difficult terrain. There appear to be long ago used pitons wedged into the cliff face. In a time of high tide, this would be a deadly affair, but water is low. Vandrose drops a Lighted coin into the water, noticing the distance of at least 200 feet.

 

Up above, there is obvious wear in the trees for where things have been hoisted and lowered, with pulleys and ropes, perhaps a way to lever up booty and other valuable things. The group begins tying up vines and ropes, making a rappel, and a way down.

 

Aebben begins his ungraceful decent first, and even despite his rocky start, he safely makes it to the bottom. Just above the water, there seems to be a cave opening and a tunnel, a small opening towards inland, and a large opening towards the water. Aebbin examines the small opening first, finding a secure area to secure the rope. He hops into the mouth opening.

 

He sees some remains of some wooden debris, cut planks and shards of wood that have been savaged by the tide. The group drops down some fresh branches for floating, and climbs down, with Nusurika bringing the rope with her, and feather falling to safety at the bottom. Grabbing a hold of the wood, the weak swimmers move along, and the strong swimmers help the rest. Finally, after about a 10 minute journey, there is light. Unadulterated and blinding light.

 

We find what appears to be a single-mast ship, probably 8 feet from the water line, and there is movement on deck. There is nothing of a beach anywhere around the area, and a few pylons have been wedged into the cliffs, and a “dock” has been fastened to them. The only thing below us is the darkness of the depths of the sea.

 

As the group begins to make headway toward the ship, it becomes obvious that there are 6 people aboard the ship as crew, and a plan begins to form.

 

End session 9/9/11