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SoupNazi

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Strap Yourselves In Serpent in the Staglands
After-Action Report for our first session - Sancho's journal:

Just after Winter Solstice, year XXXX

Another mystery solved. Stjordvik was tough, but in the end, I managed to figure out that Harald Jarvansson was not actually a legitimate Jarvansson. The mother did indeed cheat on the town's keep's lord, the claim was illegitimate, and I succeeded in getting a confession out while witnesses listened in from behind a closed door. Whew. Another month without pay, and I'd starve in this inhospitable environment.

Problem was, the town's populace thought it was all a witchhunt anyway, and I could feel how unwelcome I was. I decided to jump a caravan helmed by two scions who were supposedly looking for treasure. I don't actually know what they mean, but they could have used a man - even a halfling - of my expertise. And I could have used a way out. Though I didn't expect the Giantdowns to be such a challenge...

A day and a half into our trip on the caravan, we were ambushed. Even with the caravan guards, so (ehm) generously paid for with the combined funds of our two scions, we didn't stand a chance. Before I could manage to hide under the cart, a wooden club hit the side of my head, I think... at least that's what the headache suggested. I woke up in the dark.

A cell, big enough to hold all of us. I felt around for wounds first, found out I was uninjured, other than a splitting headache. The leather armor I was allowed to keep, but I could feel I had no other equipment other than that. Looking around, thanks to my improved vision, I could see that was the case for our entire party. The caravan guards were wounded - or already dead... but the adventurers seemed to be more or less fine. Looking around, I could see we were kept in an old structure. Not a primitive cave with wooden jail bars, but not a modern keep, either.

There were other prisoners in the cell across ours. Locals. Barely spoke common, but they exchanged words with our resident backstabber, prick, and a general asshole - Asmund, also a local that we picked up along the way. I had a bad feeling about him from the start. Like I'm sure he's wanted across the continent. But what else can you do but work together in a situation like that? We tried to break down the cell door together. We failed.

Another small group of Rjurik locals got in and freed us, along with their own comrades in the other cell. Them and Asmund exchanged words in their language... nothing nefarious, judging by their body language and tone, but I disliked it nonetheless. Fortunately, our equipment was left out in a chest in what was our apparent prison, and after getting out, we quickly geared up.

...

Didn't take long for me to figure out this place was a fricking maze. I started drawing a map. I'm including a rough copy of it here in my journal, in all its finished glory - but beloved reader, keep in mind we had no idea of the layout of this Gods-forsaken place at the start:

upload_2020-12-26_22-36-5.png


Hidden doors. Magical, one-way doors. Acid traps. Water fountains in the depth of a dungeon. Magical fire braziers that had no smoke coming off of them. Illusions. Minotaurs. Ogres. Giant rats. Giant dead rats!!! The place was absolutely insane, and certainly not something I signed up for. But we managed. It had been clearly overtaken by orcs, and we got lucky to take a few out, then capture one. He pointed out where we should look for the exit. Named the leader. All in all, did all we asked him to. It wasn't a surprise to me when Asmund, the bandit of the group (I thought), lodged a dagger inside the orc's jaw once he outlived his usefulness, despite the fact that our priest, or cleric or whatever this holy man's job is, promising that we keep him alive.

Ah well. At least we knew where to go now. But the group wanted to explore first, so we set out.

We saw some weird stuff. Avoided a certain death a few times, I'm sure. People are saying we should come back for some of this stuff... I'm not sure. But the scions we have with us... I don't know. There's a ... an aura about them. Some magic that keeps me drawn. Keeps me engaged. Plus, there's this mage guy - greater tricks than anyone I've ever seen so far. A scion on one hand, a wizard on the other - or perhaps all together. The orc warriors we scraped with... he just puts them to sleep. Unsurprisingly, Asmund was the first one to cut some sleeping throats... they both give me the chills.

From what I can tell, we avoided some... certain death scenarios. Be it through luck, or being prepared. Eventually, escape was within the grasp of our hands. There was an Ogre... ah, nobody's gonna believe that I talked him down. I didn't. Just kept the ugly bastard occupied while we made it out. After killing orcs, meeting magical visions of half-bulls, and dissolving giant, undead, creepy rats in acid... getting out in the nick of time and then sneaking out of the orc camp was the easiest thing we've done all day. We lost men... probably good men, I didn't really know them. Before we were abducted. And then one of the caravan guards during our escape. But we carved our way out, with the Rurjik, with most of our party... we ran like hell. Camped in the mountains and made our way to the nearest town. The scions shared talk about asking the local lord for help with our missing treasure map... I don't know what any of this means, really. But I guess I'll stick this one out.

It's been an incredibly adventure already. And it seems to me that it has only just started...
 
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For those still interested in the Play by Post, it's coming along. I just wanted to kickstart the synchronous campaign first. Sorry for the lack of news!
 
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SoupNazi

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Strap Yourselves In Serpent in the Staglands
Sancho's journal, 2nd entry:

I can only feel a little bit of a headache, like a few tiny little goblins swinging pickaxes at my brain, as the sun only barely even pokes its head above the horizon, and only just gives enough light to know tree from a person. It's the first morning of 1525, and we're about to set out on our trip back to the dungeon we nearly met our ends in. During the past week, while carousing about the town, learning about the Rjurik and - unsuccessfully, as every one of these Northern women seem to be racist to halflings - trying to find some romance in this winter wasteland, I thought about packing up my gold and copper earnings and leaving these crazy scions to their fate. I assumed Asmund, the capable but grumpy bandit (my assumption), would be nowhere to be found in a few days anyway, and I saw little reason to stick around myself. I gave it time until we met the Jarl, Bjorni, who rules over the town and a few surrounding burroughs and farms. I let the scions talk. Mostly. They didn't mention any of the obviously magical and suspicious shit that was going on in the dungeon, so I left it unmentioned myself, but the Jarl mentioned he needs the orcs taken care of because his own troops are busy with fighting off incursions from the even more northern Northmen to his lands. While I couldn't negotiate more pay for us, something about what he said, his approach, and what I learned from the locals convinced me - he was honestly and openly giving up his last gold, and the promise of some potentially magical trinkets, to do this job for him. Plus, it was the best clue for us to find the scion's lost treasure map, which we found was gone after our capture, so I was convinced to stay around for the time being. Trying to keep my usual optimistic outlook on this whole job...

Back to the passover celebrations. We drunk, we were merry, Asmund sneered at all of it from a dark corner of the inn, but surprisingly none of us overindulged and we all woke up bright and early to set out at the first sign of light. The horses we bought were no thoroughbreds, and my pony felt like he had a little bit of a limp, but there was nothing better available and the steppe is just easier to traverse on horseback. We've let Asmund - a local - mostly take lead, while the wizard Siavash used his pet falcon.. hawk? Not sure - but he has a pet bird that scouts the area for us and speaks to Siavash in his bird language. Too much to think about. We found a seemingly abandoned camp in the steppe - after investigating, Siavash said that some powerful magicka was abound, and it all seemed like all the occupants of this camp were simply plucked off the ground and disappeared. My instincts tell me that the thick fog coming off from the mountains has something to do with it. The land is full of mysteries and personally, I think the Jarl is preoccupied with the war to his north, while there's some much more sinister shit happening to the east. My suspicion was increased with an orcish village pillaged by some military outfit we weren't informed of. Surely these were not the Jarl's men doing it, as the captain of his guard would have informed us, so... Bjorni has an unknown, well trained band of soldiers moving through his lands without his knowledge. There was not a single dead human among the bodies, just orcs, suggesting a well trained regimen. With the sign of the serpent on one of the mountains, a previously unknown dungeon springing from the ground below, and powerful magicka abound, I am sure Duluk the supposed orc leader is nothing but a figurehead of this plot. (( Until the DM changes all of this to make sure my character's predictions aren't correct ))

When Asmund came up with his hare-brained plan to reach a chest we found in the pillaged village, I had the thought to not divulge my discovery of a hidden door to the treasure, as the idea of our selfish rogue impaled on a set of wooden stakes on the bottom of a trap pit (or better, dangling at the end of a rope he himself suggested we tie him to, at our mercy) wasn't necessarily unpleasant, I thought that may have been a bit too evil and we found an easy path to the chest. Seeing as it was late in the afternoon already, and both me and our cleric, Thomas, remembered the orcs are usually more active during the night, we decided to establish a camp. We had a decent night's sleep, though I did note during my turn at the night watch that the strange fog which encroached this entire valley all the way to the abandoned village behaved weirdly, entering the orcish huts in a rather unnatural way. Unsurprisingly, none of the hired Rjurik horsemen we paid to accompany us noticed this.

The next morning, we set out to approach the dungeon. Beforehand, we were warned by one of Bjorni's scouts that the camp around it had been reinforced. Likely suggesting reinforcements as well.. the entrance to the encampment now differed from our description, and had a gate. When we left it, there was only one watchtower, now there were two. We confirmed these when getting in sight range, and came up with a plan rather quickly:

Asmund and I would use our light steps to approach the camp from a side, stealthily cross over the ramparts and "take care" of the lookouts. Meanwhile, the rest of our party would start a bonfire a mile or so away, hopefully attracting a part of the forces away, avoid them, and then rejoin us in the camp, which would then be easier to take over and defend against any potentially comeback. After Asmund and I got rid of the (honest, hardworking) orcs in the camp, we saw from the watchtowers that the plan had apparently changed: the rest of our group, along with the mercenaries we hired, charged against a group of three orcs and ogres that the camp sent out to investigate the bonfire. To my joy and excitement, they managed to beat them without any losses - I was personally glad I wasn't a part of the skirmish, but it was a sight to behold. As usual, Odilo, despite his usual Princess-like behavior, landed some well-aimed arrows, while the wizard set the blinded ogre on fire. I didn't see much, but it seemed the cleric, Thomas, managed to rather bravely brace himself against some of the ogre's club swings with his shield, as well. Perhaps there is something to his constant deity-peddling.

Eventually, we reunited and gave instructions to the Rjurik mercenaries. They were to guard the ramparts, and warn us of any incoming danger as we set out back into the dungeon, using the map I've drawn the last time. In addition, we marked our path with chalk, and Asmund took lead this time with his lantern. Immediately upon descending to the lower level, we found some things have changed: an earthquake, or some sort a landslide - something we had been warned of by the locals - seemed to have collapsed some ceilings, and changed the general layout. Nonetheless, we navigated our way to our first goal: the giant ruby stone protected by a smokeless fire in a brazier, which we quickly liberated using some ingenuity from Odilo, who had a reinforced chain manufactured in the town. (I am going to leave out the giant centipedes because I'd rather forget that whole encounter.) Once that was done, the map of this level was basically finished... I could not see another way but down. Down the spiral steps we discovered before, but decided not to descend. Once again, to my surprise, Asmund took charge going down and we all followed. Hundreds of feet below, we found a chamber... a cave... a giant space, that we couldn't see the bottom of. I lit up a torch and tossed it down, only to see it disappear when it seemed to hit the ground. Water, I assumed. Given my ability to see better in the dark, I volunteered (ha, ha) to go ahead.

A few dozen steps down, I had a ... a vision, an imaginary thought of being eaten. It was only the second scariest thing I've encountered all day, or maybe even all life, but I went back up to report to my colleagues. After rejuvenating my courage via some of Asmund's magical (( they were not actually magical, but Sancho felt better with a full belly -- OOC note )) mushrooms, I went back down, this time accompanied by the cleric, Thomas. We both suffered a similar assault on our senses - this time, giving us the image of many riches, gold and treasures, down below... I momentarily got attracted, went down a few steps, when I saw it - an elephant sized toad with tentacles and a huge, gaping, sharp-toothed mouth, like the one I saw in my previous vision. We rushed back up and reported to the rest of the party.. a smart decision was taken to abandon the venue for the time being. It was smart because I wouldn't join that endeavor, and I had a feeling that at the very least, Asmund would have gotten out at that point, too - if not more of us.

I'm writing these notes back on the surface level, the entrance to this dungeon, just before we descend to a different level - below the one we have explored before, but clearly above the one with the monstrous toad. There are markings of the orcs all along these walls - perhaps this is where we finally find the orc chieftain, Duluk. Surprised they aren't alerted to our presence yet.. in fact, before we descend, I have to check with our guards outside. But that's for my next entry - if I live to write it...
 

SoupNazi

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Strap Yourselves In Serpent in the Staglands
Sancho's journal, a (belated) entry 3:

We did it. We found the orc leader, Duluk, and also, what seems to have been his... accountant? Secretary? But I'm getting ahead of myself. The second underground floor was indeed far more lived-in by the orcs than our first and second visits - and unsurprisingly, a lot more disgusting, if less scary. At least in part. Upon descending, we soon found out that the orcs were using this dungeon for a fairly innocuous purpose - there was something like a dining room or a kitchen, two... toilet rooms. A sleeping room. We managed to take one of our enemies alive and questioned him, finding out that half of the place had been left unused - because it was "owned by the dead". Siavash mentioned the word several times - necromancy, he said. Powerful magic of that "school", as he put it, had been behind a lot of the weird stuff we encountered so far, and it continues to drive me to thoughts of something far more sinister behind these orcs, but more on that later.

I can't describe all the individual steps we took in navigating the orcish hideout, not necessarily because I don't want to remember, but because some of the things we did were not suited for reading by someone of a weak stomach. Using the orc's own piss urine was one thing, but me and Asmund have, in an attempt to keep ourselves and our friends safe, done some things I couldn't see myself doing normally. Funny, but not unexpected - it seemed second nature to him. Much like to me, it seem second nature to fit in, and do things I wouldn't consider on my own when I am around this group. I never thought I'd be an adventurer, exploring dark dungeons and taking up jobs to kill an orc leader and bring their head to someone else. I also didn't expect to come up with tactical plans of approach, and direct my fellow adventurers to surround our enemies and take them from two sides, like we did in the "accountant's" room. We converged on eight orcs arguing in their equipment room, and as we took them down one by one, I saw the priest, Thomas, nearly get cut down right next to me. I feared the worst, but instead of panicking, I mustered all courage and optimism I had, and with help of the Lady Luck, managed to strike down who we later found out was Drighka - the camps's quartermaster, accountant, maybe Duluk's right-hand man, who knows. Thomas managed to mend himself with his God's help and we could feel we were close.

We found yet another trap room - boy, this place is a nightmare - but also found out what triggered it. Unfortunately, the triggers were also rigged, and when testing them, Asmund was nearly killed, too. I think he exhausted the last of his luck with the fact that the spear coming out of the floor only took a toe, and not his whole foot or worse, impaled him whole like a pig for a roast. Either way, we reached the room in which Duluk, the man who likely spearheaded or ordered our capture, and who had been terrorizing the region, lived in. He detected us almost immediately and used the environment to his advantage. The orc was inhumanly fast, shooting arrows through the doors faster than I could understand, keeping us pinned down two doors away. There wasn't much we could do as both Odilo and Asmund's arrows were only hitting the orc's makeshift cover - a table he turned over - and Siavash clearly had a bad day, as during the entirety of that day's adventure, none of his fiery magic bolts were able to find their target. I felt compelled to once again do something about it, and used my agility and speed to rush the room, leap over Duluk's table and engage him in melee. He dropped his sword and fought me with a huge axe, but fortunately I was too small for him, which allowed my mates to cross the halls and fight alongside me.

After a heated battle, most of which I spent dodging and weaving away from Duluk's strikes, preventing him from really striking at him, I think it was either Odilo or Asmund who struck gold with an arrow - and Duluk fell to our feet, dead. We searched the room, found some additional treasure, but mostly focused on taking Duluk's head, as we promised to Jarl Bjorni, and got the hell out of there. Other than hearing some pursuers - whom we dodged - we also found something new. A mozaic had been uncovered in one of the rooms we passed through before, showing a ritual of blood sacrifice, with a mage's staff crystal shining with red light from the wall. Besides that, we previously found out from Drigkha's scrolls and letters that there was another leader, giving orders even to Duluk - a powerful shaman, called something like "Murzol Togatgh". It was hard to read - these orcs are barely literate.

We made it out of that terrible place and set out to return to Stormgald to report our success. On the way, we dodged an encounter with another of those monstrous giant centipedes, further assuring me that these entire lands were cursed or otherwise afflicted.

After we've rested a night, we informed the Jarl of our success - but his elation was short-lived. Our news of more powerful orcs, or perhaps even other beings, being the puppeteers behind Duluk troubled him, and I could feel he was holding something back. Anyway, he suggested we visit one of the nearby cities to figure the mystery out, and offered aid in conquering the dungeon fully. He wrote us a letter of recommendation and we all went back to the village to rest and go about our business before resuming our adventures...

...

Before we decided on our next course of action, the priest Thomas informed us of a vision he had - that he was atop a mountain in the region, required by his God. He asked us if we would kindly accompany him, and, to my surprise, everyone agreed. Me, I've seen what his God can do - and while I'm not every superstitious, I assumed helping Thomas out with it could grant him some favor if he convinced non-believers to help, and perhaps also me, even if I helped a herald of a god I did not believe in. Either way, Thomas also asked me to help him with fencing, and either he was a horrible student, or I a horrible teacher - I felt somewhat I had to help him in other ways, and so also agreed to accompany him.

On the way to the mountain peak to the east of Stormgald, we encountered a creature I have never seen before. Apparently a chimera, it was an otherwordly beast, with three heads - that of a dragon, a lion, and a goat. Giant wings and a spiked tail, fighting a group of what seemed to be other adventurers in a field. My suggestion was going to be that we take a wide berth to the skirmish and pray later that night for the men we saw, but before I could voice my opinion, both Odilo and Thomas were already charging downhill, intent on attacking the beast!. Me and Siavash stayed a bit back, but were not going to abandon them. With our bows, Siavash' magic, and the other group of men, we managed to slay the incredible beast. A sight to behold, with me and the young Odilo hitting our bows true, while Thomas and Siavash used their arcana on it. It was hard to tell, but I think ultimately it was Thomas' crossbow landing the death blow on the chimera. I was elated, and relieved, but it only lasted so long. When we encountered the other group, something felt off. They were as if from another world, not fully in control of their bodies. Have you ever seen a puppet show in Brecht? Sometimes, a lesser skilled puppet master fails to keep their middle finger, which props up the head of the puppet, higher than the rest of his or her fingers. The puppet then appears hunchbacked, or sad, with their head bowed. That was the feeling I got from these men, and even when they briefly spoke, even when they seemed mostly reasonable, I felt something was off. Either way, clearly, they wanted nothing to do with us, and felt no need to thank us - even if we did just save their hides.

I thought of the group and what we just achieved and I was sure we needed to take evidence that we had slain this great beast, so I negotiated with the strange men - asking to be allowed to take a trophy without starting a fight. There was a strange and difficult negotiation, and in the end, even if I tried to deceive them by claiming there are the jarl's men just behind us who would take the trophy forcefully, we had to pay. I was unwilling to, but the priest seems always intent on ending conflict with other men - if they were men - peacefully, and paid them the full price. Or was it Odilo? Either way, we concurred that we would take the dragon head, while the strangers took the lion's head from the corpse. Many of their man died in the field, but they took all their bodies with them. In secret, I confided with Siavash that maybe he should see if he can feel the strange magic from these men - he didn't want to do it in plain sight, however. We allowed them to leave and then a decision was made - wé saw the chimera bite off and swallow one of the strangers' heads... surely, it would still be in its stomach, largely unaffected by the digestive tract? So as my friends hacked off its head to take as a trophy, I cut open the belly of the beast and delved in to reveal the contents of its stomach. Bile, bones, pieces of undigested meat, and of course, a damaged and chewed up head of one of the warriors that left us. Holding my breath, I held it up for Siavash to analyze, and here I have to say I was not surprised - he did detect a faint hint of this "necromancy" he mentioned several times before. I have a feeling the plot is much thicker than what we have seen so far...

Anyway, we continued. Soon, we were near the foot of the mountain, and spotted a small settlement just under it. When we reached it, we were elated to see a familiar face - Viji, one of the men we found ourselves trapped with in the dungeon - the men who rescued us, and then we rescued them - was present. Turns out this was his nomadic tribe, and he was surprised, but happy to see us. We shared with him our intent to scale the mountain, and he revealed there was a man-made path up there. I asked and paid his men to to as much as they can to preserve the dragon head we collected before we began our ascent. When we reached the mountain's peak, I was... underwhelmed. Thomas spoke of his vision as a great revelation, but nothing really happened. Disappointed, I decided to inscribe a note for the later generations - a simple "SANCHO WAS HERE" into the stone floor. The mountaintop was flat, almost as if someone simply cut the sharp peak of a mountain with a sharp dagger and left it that way - but Thomas offered no revelation, just shared that he must build an altar, or a chapel, or something alongside those lines to his God, on top of here. I saw that as foolish, but offered to pray with him anyway, even if I was not going to support the endeavor of bringing building materials up the steep and dangerous stairway that led us up here.

Once we got down from the mountain, the night was falling - unrelated to Siavash nearly falling down from the mountain before, it was actually getting dark - and we spent the evening with Viji's nomads. I could finally start to understand the Rjurik men and women, and we generally had a good time around their campfire before we retreated to a hut built on top of some fallen ruins which they graciously offered to us to stay the night. I had a good time with Viji, and felt I had truly made a friend for life that night. Perhaps it was only because I could understand just about half of what he said, but he seemed like a very good man. In the morning, once the dragon head was given back to me, cleaned of excess meat, blood-let, and preserved as well as the men could, I gave Duluk's axe which we took from the dungeon to Viji, informing him of our success with the orc camp. He seemed appreciative, and so I feel like I can hope to see him again. Viji's wife even came out as we were already mounted and ready to leave, giving us a strange, greenish potion that she seemed convinced had healing properties. It smells and looks terrible, but perhaps we can find a use for it. It did not seem nearly as magical as the health potion we used to mend Asmund's initial wounds back in the dungeon, but anyway, it was a gesture of good faith.

We resumed on our intended trip north, to what we now knew was the Faerseton Fort, next to the lake on which the capital city of the region sat. We reached it at nightfall, and spent the night in The Triumphant Hound inn, and it felt like a celebration. Thomas had purchased an entire roast of a boar, while Odilo offered to pay for everyone's drinks. We ate, drank, caroused, partied, and I ended up bedding a fellow halfling, a wizard adventuress called Poters. Avert your eyes, children, as the next paragraph is not meant for those who are virgins still, and perhaps even those who are sexually experienced could feel jealous of my stamina and skill:

-- the next paragraph reads like an erotica, with Sancho looking like a total stud. just FYI, dear reader, I rolled a natural 1 to determine the actual performance, so it was probably extremely terrible for Poters --

We all went our separate ways the next morning to explore the settlement around Faerseton Fort. We resupplied, talked to some locals, and ended up meeting the local Jarl's second hand. I convinced him to give us an audience, and he mentioned a problematic lumber mill west of the Fort which he asked us to investigate, if possible. After discussing with the rest of the group, we agreed, as west was anyway where Siavash's treasure map was suggesting we go - it seemed like a useful detour in order to have favor with yet another lord of the land. We spent the rest of the day in the village, I think Siavash and Odilo were doing something with magic while Thomas was doing priesty things... he may have been negotiating supplies and materials, as well as workforce, to build his chapel atop a mountain. I remember he came to us elated at first, that he will be able to do it right away. That was before he realized Ukhel, the local woodworker, was asking for five thousand god pieces, not five hundred... but anyway, he set himself up and now seems to have a clear goal to continue adventuring with us until he either meets an untimely demise, or acquires enough gold to build his dream or vision or whatever it was into a reality. Siavash and Odilo had some deals with the beautiful Poters (I hope she hasn't mentioned anything about our night together), and then the next morning, we set out to the lumbermill that the Jarl's right hand man pointed out as problematic. The plan was clear - we approach through the forest, as stealthily as possible, to observe the lumber camp from a distance to see if anything suspicious is going on.

On the way, we had a minor detour - an old, collapsed watchtower which turned out to be full of sleeping orcs. After murdering them all in their sleep bravely defeating them, we decided to investigate a chest inside of the tower. Cautiously, we left just the mage inside to open it from a distance using his uncanny abilities - only for the chest to release a cloud of the same purplish, pixie dust that covered the sleeping orcs, and it put Siavash to immediate sleep as well. Fortunately, we anticipated this, so he had a rope tied around his waist with which we managed to pull him back out. The priest the stupidly went in before the pixie dust settled I will not mention Thomas' next actions, but with the help of Viji's wife's concoction, we managed to all stay awake and loot the chest for a minor treasure before we secured it on our trusty mule for... further use. We continued our journey, and settled two miles or so away from the lumber mill, just as the night fell, intent on spending the night with an exchanging guard that should keep us aware of the comings and goings on the pier that had been built on the lake just next to the lumber mill. If the Jarl's right hand man is correct in his suspicions, perhaps we will be able to solve the mystery of the underperforming mill in just one night. I had been writing for a while now, with nothing but the moon as my light, and I better catch some sleep before it is my turn to stand guard and monitor the lake. Until next time...
 
Joined
Sep 23, 2009
Messages
930
For those of you waiting for the play by post, it might still happen. For now I'm concentrating on the synchronous game.
 
Joined
Sep 23, 2009
Messages
930
For those of you waiting for the play by post, it might still happen. For now I'm concentrating on the synchronous game.
If it's on, I would like to join pbp as well.
Yeah sorry I'll probably have to cancel this. Don't have enough time and we are playing enough with the real one. Maybe after the current campaign. Sorry for those that took interest in it!
 

SoupNazi

rial billionaire
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Strap Yourselves In Serpent in the Staglands
Sancho returns to journaling due to major events:


The lumber mill business turned out almost exactly as I'd expected; shady business was indeed ongoing, and it was at the behest of this "Bandit Queen" we've been hearing more and more about as we get more involved with he Rjurik people. I've been practicing the language, and inbetween our crazy adventures, figured we'd run into her or her cohorts one way or another. During night watch just a mile or two away from the mill, we saw a ship come in and dock at the lumberyard, but decided to investigate first in a friendly manner. We came in under the guise of a party of mercenaries accompanying the priest, Thomas, in his quest to buy lumber in order to build the monastery I've mentioned before. We've met the foreman, visited the camp and saw the soldiers - or outlaws - camping around in the mill, probably from the ship that came during the night. He was clearly nervous, and afraid of something being discovered, but we could not discern exactly what. But it was clear that corruption was afoot, and so when we left sight of the camp after promising to come back with a downpayment, we discussed a plan of attack.

Turns out, we were overheard by a ranger, a member of the Emerald Rolls named Ronmar. He warned us to be more careful, but also divulged that the corruption had something to do with the bandit queen, as on board of the ship that was docked in, there was a female necromancer who, according to this Ronmar, corrupted a nearby tree grove and otherwise used her dark arts to damage the nature of the lands. He'd tasked us to help him kill her - and since that coincided with our intention, we agreed. After a quick discussion, a plan was concocted: we'll make a raft to sail to the camp on the lake, under the cover of the night, try to capture the ship first, and hopefully avoid a big fight with everyone in the lumberyard. Our mercenaries would cover the northern exit, while we used bear traps we found in the forests nearby to block the southern exit from the mill. At night, we set forth, with the ranger using some kind of a powerful spell to make us all hidden in a thick veil of mist while on the water.

We succeeded in getting to the ship without alarming anyone, and sent Asmund to climb up and lower a rope to us. He alone dispatched two guards, with us following up right after. Having removed the planks that allowed access from the pier to the ship, we'd gone in, captured and interrogated some shipmates before finally reaching the captain's quarters. At first, me and Asmund tried to deceive the captain into waking out himself, trying to avoid a straight up fight, by pretending to be his shipmates. Neither one of us managed to trick him though, and we ended up having to break down the door, alerting everyone on the boat. The heroic priest, Thomas, set out to fend off the reinforcements from the underbelly of the ship alone, while the rest of us assaulted the captain. He had a cohort - a female sorceress that, clearly, was the necromancer Ronmar told us about. After a long fight in which Asmund got pretty severely hurt, we emerged victorious when our wizard Siavash finally remembered he can put people to sleep with nigh a click of his fingers, which Odilo saw as an opportune moment to slay the ship's captain himself. I think he way annoyed at him because the captain had managed to hurt him in the melee; I think it was the young man's first time getting hurt!

We captured the necromancer, and prodded her for details about the bandit queen, and her necromancy, as well as her men in the camp, who fortunately were still not aware of our presence. We found out she Bandit Queen herself was in fact, a powerful necromancer, and that she'd been allied to the orcs, or even controlled them somehow. One of them was even her personal bodyguard. Siavash ended up promising the witch we'd keep her alive in exchange for this information, and so we negotiated with the ranger who was set to kill her; he'd agreed to let her live if we took a vow to remove the corruption of the nearby tree grove - in fact, an ancient druid graveyard - that she caused. He then left, saying he has no quarrel with the underlings.

We'd decided to try and avoid fighting the 20 or so remaining soldiers, presented them with the dead body of their captain, and negotiated. I was successful in persuading most them to instead crew the ship for us, as we'd be taking ownership for us, for a decent pay. I have to say I was happy to end the whole quest (mostly) without bloodshed... it could have been far worse than a few mates killed by Thomas, and a dead captain. We released those who didn't want to join us, and had our mercenary cavalry escort the witch to the border of the Rjurik lands, after which they'd be dismissed for the time being. But they were good men, and we let them know that if we ever pass by Stormgald again, we'll be happy for them to join us.

The next day, we took the ship to return to Fort Fareseton, to report our success to the Jarl. He was not present, so we spent a few days of rest, during which the priest of Eric who had a chapel in the fort sold us a scroll that should help us consecrate the corrupted area that was affected by the necromantic curse. We also hired a ship navigator, and I had the dragon head we took of the chimera installed at the ship's mast, wanting to call it "Dragonwing". Little did I know Odilo paid the artisan to name it after his clan name - "Grevesmühl". Well, I've put ball bearings under his mattress on the ship to further his torture, as he gets sea sick even when taking a bath... Anyway, afterwards, we met with the Jarl and discussed matters of the Bandit Queen, the lumberyard business, and overall politics - we learned of Jarl Veleif Asmundsson (no relation to our Asmund, apparently), the lord of Reykjanes to the west of the lake, who was the only Jarl in open war with the Queen. Also, we were asked to try and track down the orc known as Borlag Fartsniffer Faceripper, who coursed the north-eastern plains, and was so far avoiding the wrath of Jarl Hordsson of Fort Fareseton, who was otherwise known as the orc slayer. But that was a job for another day, as we were eager to fulfill our vow to restore the desecrated druid graveyard. We sailed west again, dropping off one of the Jarl's men at the lumberyard, then set out to find the "great oak tree" afflicted by the witch's curses. Siavash used his pet hawk to scout the area, which greatly helped us in navigating the swampy, dark forests and we managed to reach the hill quite soon.

The hill was magical in nature, and lined with what seemed to be crude gravestones. On top of it, we saw what was truly the largest oaktree I had ever seen, but we were careful in our approach, and first scouted around. Asmund, creeping around the western area, dug up a grave for reasons unknown; he still hasn't explained beyond mumbling something about his ancestors speaking to him in his usual cryptic, grumpy way. I was worried - having seen fist hand the effects of vile magic since I joined up this strange band of adventurers - but it seems my worry was misplaced. We then climbed uphill, and witnessed the seemingly dead, yet undead, tree. Thomas prepared to recite the incantations from the scroll and consecrate the area, when to the surprise to absolutely no one, after a while, the tree began to move and attacked us. It was a tough fight - the undead tree seemed to get hurt much by our ordinary weapons, and it was only Siavash's magic and Thomas' ethereal, blessed flying weapon that really hurt it. At least until it uprooted itself in an attempt to reach the two men blessed with magical abilities, and I tried rolling under it, spotting a weak spot on the underside of the tree. In the end, having been battered, but mostly dodging the creaking, old tree's branch attacks, we managed to weaken it enough so that Thomas' ghost weapon cleaved it in half, ending its undead existence. It sort of crumbled and fell apart - just like an old dead tree would. He then finished the ritual and the area was, as it seemed, consecrated.

After collecting our thoughts, we made our way back to the ship and set out on the adventure we'd came to these lands in the first place: to follow the map that Siavash had, one that supposedly would lead to great treasure. We had, in the past, identified that it is just south of the great lake, in a mountain range that stood our from the plains of the area. Our new ship could sail the major rivers of the region as well, so it became a convenient vehicle to get us close. On the way however, we saw a group of centaurs seemingly harassing a woman on one bank of the river - at first, we tried to fend them off peacefully, or I did, but upon failure, I could not witness a seemingly innocent woman get harmed, or even killed, and fired off a shot at one of them. The centaurs were not deterred, however, and we had to engage the hybrids. It was one of the toughest fights we've encountered so far - partially due to Asmund going off frolicking in the nearby forest - Thomas nearly got killed when engaging them in melee, and one of our crewmen were nearly killed, if it weren't for Odilo's mindfulness in treating him entirely. But in the end, we managed to fend them off and turn them running, rescuing the damsel in distress.

Well, said damsel turned out to be a nymph, and as our party nearly got blinded by her unreal beauty, I was the only one capable of speaking to her directly. She was strange, but thanked us for the assistance, and offered that we should visit their underwater city in the lake (!), giving me a some kind of a leaf that apparently would make us able to breathe underwater when I thought of her to activate it. Asmund made a weird request for a lock of her hair (he has strange fetishes), and she granted that request as well. As quickly as we got into that whole mess, she disappeared into he water, swimming away so fast that even the fastest trout I've seen on my previous travels could catch up to her. We licked our wounds and set out further upriver to get to our destination - the mountain range that supposedly held this great treasure that got us into this whole mess.

TBC
 

SoupNazi

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Strap Yourselves In Serpent in the Staglands
plz don't
Some things need to be recorded for posterity sorry

Sancho's latest journal entry. Trigger warning, tragedy and drama ITT:

Thanks to our hired navigator, along with Asmund's sense for orientation, we soon arrived at a part of the river that seemed close to the mountain range that was described in our map. Knowing that this would probably not be a simple in and out, we paid our crew for a few days in advance, asking them to stick by the boat and wait a few days for us, guarding it and making camp. The party spent the night preparing and bandaging our wounds, but Thomas was still fairly badly wounded from the previous engagements. Nonetheless, he had trusted his God and insisted he continues, always eager to accompany us and give his blessings and prayers when he can. Once more, we asked Siavash's familiar to scout the area and look for what was inscribed into the map - a waterfall, a tall stone tower or a circle of seemingly runic stones, reminiscent of the circle we'd seen at the consecrated druid graveyard. The bird returned within the hour in the morning, advising us of a seemingly abandoned village. Siavash really should name the hawk, it's been extremely useful on our adventures.

We didn't waste any more time and set out. Crossing the first few miles separating us between the river and the mountains was largely uneventful, and despite the difficult terrain, we made good headway, and we reached a river flowing from the north by the time the sun was highest. We recognized the river from our map, and headed upstream along a road that was just to it, until it wound west over a bridge crossing the river, confirming we were on the right track. A quick examination of the area and another flyover from the hawk confirmed it: there were a series of smaller waterfalls and a difficult climb to what must have been the source of the river, a decorated stone entrance to a seemingly abandoned village on top of a plateau, and an old tower keeping watch over the entire area. I suggested immediately that we attempt to bypass the town by climbing straight for the waterfall, following the river, but we decided at first to at least scout the village out.

Asmund and I went a bit ahead of the group as usual, but my clumsiness nearly landed us in trouble as I stumbled upon these two huge, hairy creatures, reminding me of the monkeys I'd seen back south, propped up as entertainment for the rich and noblefolk. Except these were bigger, darker, and way, way scarier - and not in a cage. I backed out of there and warned my friends, which is when we decided to indeed take the climbing challenge instead, assuming there would be a lot more of these ape creatures around, likely waiting to ambush us. We backtracked and sent out Asmund first to set up some hookpoints and tie ropes to help the less agile party members up. He'd injured himself slightly in the process, but nothing too serious and we all made our way up top, to another plateau. Another one of those apes was curiously observing us there, but with some trickery and one of my rations, we managed to distract it enough to sneak past it. Why'd we all, without actually talking about it, decided that these animals were either too dangerous, or too precious to fight, I don't know - we seemed to have fought more difficult opponents in the past, killed people in their sleep, and I stopped counting orc bodies we left behind a long time ago.

Either way, we made our way to the big waterfall, a source of the water seemed to be at the mountaintop, probably as snow was melting. Upon examination, I found that there was a cave just behind the waterfall, and that indeed there was a pathway leading here from the tower and village - seeing as the tower was marked with a skull on our map, we all figured it was good thinking to bypass it, and were happy to have mad that decision. Little did I know, we'd soon regret ever stepping foot into this place...

We entered the cavern, with me in the lead, while the rest followed (some careful not to get wet under the waterfall). Very shortly, we came upon a room that we soon noticed negated any magic from being performed, as Siavash warned us. There were frescos - depictions of various characters, in different colours on the wall. A centaur on top of a green dragon, blue-single-eyed skeletons with weapons, a purple tree with flowers, a little girl and a doll both dressed in orange, and a beautiful, ornate chest drawn in brown. In the middle of the room, there was a statue of a creature unknown to me, but certainly very foreboding - and a boiling magical cauldron that had eyes in it. In the back, a magically sealed trap door that seemed to be guarding our coveted treasure. I will never forget the look of that statue, and will draw it here, as a warning for anyone who should encounter even just a statue or an image of one such like this - I never wish to see or encounter the thing that was depicted here in person.
beholder_sketch_by_thegoldenkitsune_d2q5f0h-fullview.jpg

(( Credit to "thegoldenkitsune" on deviantart ))


The statues was obviously missing eyes in its tentacles, and so it was clear to us what needed to be done - we'd have to fish the eyes out of the cauldron, and place them in the tentacles. The theory was that it'd open the magical trap door, and so after much deliberation, we connected the frescos with the task at hand - the colours in the images were connected to the differently colored eyes in the cauldron, clearly, and I thought that the number of times the colour was depicted in the imagery was the number of eyes we had to use. Asmund briefly mentioned that perhaps it is instead connected to the number of eyes in the images, but his idea was shut down and he was not eager to argue for it further... unfortunately, though I cannot blame the man for what happened later. Perhaps I was overeager, maybe we got unlucky - but we quickly found that our thinking was incorrect. The party set out around the room, as the assumption was that perhaps if we place the eyes incorrectly, the statue would come to life and attack us. We were ready for that, as I reached out to place the first eye into its destined slot.

As I did, the statue almost as if spat it out - I was incorrect - and then, the unthinkable happened. The statue did not become a creature, the room did not fill with poisonous gas, or cover us with a sleeping powder. Without any of us able to stop it, a single eye levitated out of the cauldron, and before I could react, a green ray shot out across the room, straight at the young scion, Odilo, our friend and self-appointed leader, captain of the Grevesmühl, and... he just.. disappeared. The boy was turned straight to ash right in front of our eyes, there was nothing but a small pile of it left back where he stood just a second ago. His clothes, his weapons, his gold and trinkets, all as if it never existed. The room fell silent for several minutes as the green eye that shot its ray disappeared, and we fell in shock. There was no reaction - it all happened so fast, Odilo could not lift his shield, Thomas could not jump in the way, I was not able to try and stab the eye as it attacked us... Odilo was just gone.

It is difficult for me to describe these events, as I blame myself. Asmund also did blame me, and wanted to abandon the venue, briefly attacking me. But the hair at the back of my hair stood up, and I felt like we have to finish this - Odilo would want us to - we had to find the treasure, make his death at least count for something, and not just run for the hills. After an argument, I sent everyone out of the room and persisted, eager to make it all mean something. I tossed it around in my head over and over, going over what we did wrong, with the help of my comrades, outside the room, except for Asmund who walked out entirely. I tested a new theory and placed another eye, this time correctly - the green, which was the colour the cauldron showed us by itself when it disintegrated Odilo. I then made the next attempt, still based on our previous theory, but that turned out to be wrong - this time with only me in the room. I was ready for it and managed to get out of the way at the last second. Fortunately, the magical curse did not continue its assault on me. Another try followed, as we were crossing out the possible theories on how to solve the puzzle from our list - and another wrong one. This time, I was caught by the ray of light, and I was certain I was dead, but instead, it only did something else - I feeled like I lost control over my own body, and could not move faster than a snail, even my voice was distorted. Fortunately, the effect wore away over time and now, finally, we came to the final conclusion - and realized too late that Asmund's initial theory was correct. But too late, a fact Odilo's ashes were a grim reminder of. We'd collected them before continuing as solving the puzzle correctly, finally, opened the runic trap door.

It was not the treasure room we were hoping for.

Instead, about a 60 feet drop into the darkness, which upon climbing down on our ropes, we found lead us to another dungeon. It was darker than the ones we were imprisoned in at the start of our adventure, and seemed more ancient. Layers of wall imagery covered more layers, which Thomas noted depicted many peoples of the various cultures of Cerilia. Upon examining a door in front of us, we heard chittering and, indeed, there were critters, similar to those we defeated plenty of in the past - but this time, horse sized. We lamented on what to do for what felt like hours in the dark dungeon - we were a man down, with a very wounded Thomas, but we were oh so desperate to have a finality to our quest there be something else than Odilo's death. Some of us eager to take the anger of his passing out on some monsters, some of us simply eager to reach the supposed treasure (was there even one?) and get the hell out of the place, never to return. Regardless, we ended up agreeing to take the fight, but to be smart about it - use the door to our advantage to only fight one of the critters at a time.

We positioned ourselves ready to strike at them with our arrows as Thomas volunteer to open and then hold the door shut once one of them passed in. We had wounded one of them quite severely it seemed, and so it didn't make it to the door - instead, a still healthy one, having been snacking on some corpse in the dungeon, had snuck in and Thomas only just managed to shut the door on the rest. We thought he could dispatch it quickly, especially with Siavash now able to use his powers, but it seemed the nightmare of a day was not over yet. The creature was almost absurdly strong, with tentacles extending out of its body grappling at Thomas, while resisting quite heavily our attempts at damaging it. We managed to slay it eventually but unfortunately, in the chaos of battle and despite our best efforts, the priest Thomas was injured severely, and in no shape to fight any further, that much was certain. Perhaps his adventuring days, overall, were in fact over. Rather severely crippled, we felt it best we immediately hightail it out of this forsaken place, hopeful to avoid any more of those apes on our way out.

At the dawn of the day, we managed to make it back to our ship, and shared the grave news of our captain's departure with the crew. Some of there were distraught, especially at the fact that Odilo had been throwing them gold liberally for any reason, but none more than Haftor, the young local skald that was rescued by Odilo during the fight with the centaurs. Asmund asked us to bury Odilo in local tradition, as the crew build a funeral raft and we fired burning arrows into it as it was sent downstream, setting it alight into the night. It was quite beautiful, and a worthy farewell to our friend. The decision was made to return to Fort Fareseton for now, recover, recuperate, and perhaps help Thomas go back to building his monastery, as on the trip, he spoke more and more about having to finish that, and perhaps his divnity would then grant him the strength needed to return to adventuring...

odilo.png

thomas.png
 

SoupNazi

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I would like to note I was peer pressured into this.

The days following Odilo's funeral are a blur. The trip back to Fareseton was eerily quiet; nothing but the whistle of wind in our sails and a grim rumble of the Grevesmühl's mast forcing its way through the lake. All of us disembarked the ship in silence, and almost immediately went our different ways. Assmund disappeared into the shadows almost immediately; aloof and distant more than usual, he seemed to feel the most guilty about the young prince's death than the rest of us, perhaps more expressive of his grief than I was. Haftor, the skáld who asked to join us, did what you expect - caroused the village surrounding Fareseton and spoke of our latest misadventure and lied about being a part of it. Siavash buried himself in his books, seemingly unaffected by the outside world, as if he perceived it differently; whether that's because of his magical affinity or something else, I couldn't tell you. Thomas, true to himself, remained honorable in his injury, an while he bid us farewell for the time being, promised that if he heals, he will be happy to join us on future adventures, then retired to his quest of building what we've affectionately begun to call the "Thomastery" just west of Stormgald.

Me, I did what I do best: drowned my guilt in ale, spent an ungodly amount of gold on inviting the Triumphant Hound's patrons for drinks, in Odilo's honor - being as irresponsible with my shinies as he would be. The first few days of mourning are then a blur, other than a night spent with Poters and her comforts. Two things happened that night: she mentioned that the Bandit Queen has sent a band of elite Ogres to hunt down the "miscreants" who stole one of her ships. I didn't have to guess who those supposed miscreants would be, and neither would anyone else, as I had shared some of that information myself, and I am sure Haftor spared no details, being her former employee.

The second was quite a bit more ... esotheric. During that night, I was visited by the spirit of Odilo, who came to haunt my attempt at seeking comfort in a woman's arms (and lap, and between her legs). After his lamentations, he also gave some decent tips... but I digress. Whatever it meant, I feel more attuned now with the realm of the dead than before, as if with the Shadow World, Odilo also appeared as a trickster but afterwards, I felt empowered and proficient in athletics...

The next several days, I spent more creatively, having drunk my weight and then some in ale, as it was suggested by Haftor that as a band of adventurers, we should have a coat of arms to signify our strength, and act as a symbol of what we stand for. After several iterations, and a visit to the tailor, we all agreed on this:

NK6hmea.png

The Chimera head as our greatest conquest, our ship as the greatest subterfuge, and Asmund's spear of his ancestors; signifying our bravery, our cunning, and our tie to the local lands, despite mostly being foreigners. On red for the blood we spilled, and gold for the royalty we had and have in our Scions.

Before we set out on our next adventure, we met a dwarf who was all to eager to join us on our orc-slaying adventures (we have, indeed, built up a reputation...) - introducing himself only as Karo, he seemed a capable warrior and his orc bloodlust seemed genuine, so we had agreed that he accompanies us (except for Asmund, who was then still sulking away somewhere in a dark corner). Few days later, we finally came to an agreement on what to do next: we were not to return to the Death Mountain, instead, we'd hunt down the elusive Borlag the Face-Ripper ((sometimes lovingly referred to as "Boycunt Fag-Stripper")) in the north-eastern marches of the lands.

But first, there was a treasure map just east of Stormgald that we wanted to follow. As it was on the way anyway, we had sailed on the Greversmühl again, as the rivers coming into the central lake seemed to have been coming from that direction anyway. On the way, Asmund noticed a cloud of dust in the distance heading Northwest - a humanoid caravan or a raiding party perhaps, that we made note of as a potential escort of the orc, Borlag. But we beat on, boat against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past, as we finally reached the other side of the mountain where this adventure truly got serious, where the dungeon we were held in was. After an encounter with the mysterious fog, same as before, and a night spent in worry, we found what seemed to be the mountain marked on our map, and set out on top.

It was there that, for the first time, Haftor proved he is useful for more than just idle chat in a tavern; while we set out to prepare an ambush for an orc patrol we stumbled upon and failed terribly, he was the one to sweet talk our way out of it, and what's more, get them to share new information we could use in hunting for Borlag. Almost single-handedly, he turned them away, suggesting that they go rejoin their boss and leave us in peace to hunt the supposed assassins of Duluk, the other orc chieftain. They never realized it was us we claimed to be hunting, but I had my own suspicion in that they'd figure it out eventually...

With the orc patrol out of the way, we soldiered on, and found an ancient oak tree on a plateau of the mountain, with the supposed treasure trapped under its roots, which entwined it tightly enough that we could find no way to free it. The dwarf enthusiastically begun to hack at the chest itself, but fortunately he was careful not to hit the tree roots themselves; an attention to detail quickly proven important as the tree itself spoke to us.

Turned out it was probably the oldest tree of the region and was very lonely, and after a curious conversation, it shared its loneliness; thanked us for freeing the unwieldy treasure chest from under its roots; and we promised we'd look for the possibility of planting some companions for him on the plateau, at a later date. We then bid our farewell and started our hunt for Borlag proper.

TBC
 

SoupNazi

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Strap Yourselves In Serpent in the Staglands
Alright, since our next game is close (finally!), I think it's a good time for a refresher of the last events. This is the 2nd half of the session that I didn't finish last time, which ends... well, you'll see. I'll try to do the last (so far) session before the next one this Saturday.

The chase was on. We knew we saw that massive caravan of what must've been orcs heading north from our current position, so we had an idea of where to start. First, we recovered our ship the Gremesmühl, which the crew smartly hid when they saw the orc patrol we redirected approaching. We'd set out downriver back to the lake (1.) then up a northeastern river (2.), until we ran into a bridge at a point where one of the main roads intersected with the river. Instructing the crew to set up camp (3.) and wait for us, Asmund and I took the lead in looking for tracks in the wild steppe, hoping that such a massive number of horses and carts would easily be found in the otherwise undisturbed nature. But for many hours, we had no luck, only running into an old burial mound (note in the margins - the dwarf wanted to loot it, greedy bastard) and otherwise, nothing of note until finally seeing the tracks. Now it became a game of catching up. We lost the track several times, found them again, and spent what felt like months on the road, until we finally ran into more recent tracks - seemed like a raid against on the guards just north of Fareseton - and we could smell orc blood in the air (4.).

A crude copy of the map with some notes is inlaid between the pages of Sancho's journal:
upload_2021-5-10_17-37-32.png

We followed the road north now, and at the crossroads, were lucky to immediately spot the trail continue off the road, with the sand and dust leaking into the grassy area giving us an obvious direction. It was twilight already when we reached the nearby mountain, with our initial intention to use it as a vantage point to look around in case we'd spot the orc raiders. Instead, we found old ruins of what probably used to be a keep and in it, our orc raiders, camping. We'd kept the horses nearby and went out to observe and, hopefully, devise a plan of attack. There were too many for a heads-on approach, that much was clear, and we took quite a lot of time deliberating, some of us thought maybe we should call for backup, others that we should indeed straight up assault them, using the element of surprise. But it was obvious that, during the night, any sentries would have spotted us long before we'd spot them - the moon was cowering somewhere behind clouds, and the lack of torches didn't mean there were no guards - orcs didn't need them. Eventually, we came up with the plan:

- Sancho will sneak into the camp alone, as he's the only one not needing a torch. To scout, and potentially take an opportunity stab or two.
- The rest of the party uses Asmund's bear traps, and the chest of sleep we recovered weeks ago, as an ambush point
- In case it turns into a melee, Sancho runs back to the ambush point, leading the justifiably bloodlusted orcs in that direction...

I will not put down on paper what I thought of this plan, but we could not come up with anything better. And so I set out, under the cover of night, while the rest of the party set up their ambush. There were indeed guards, and the orcs cleverly paired them up, so there was no opportunity for me to lower their numbers while keeping them off alert. Managing to sneak past them was no big task, and so I reached the camp proper - probably the keep's former courtyard. There were a few orcs huddled over a campfire, too occupied with whatever stories of raping and pillaging they had to share (I doubt it was honest orc worker's honest complaints about their honest line of job), and a few of them sleeping under a crumbling wooden roof. Part of my job here as to reduce their numbers and so I unsheathed my dagger as quietly as possible and slit the first one's throat, covering its mouth so that any shrieks or gurgles would be muffled. The first one went over without so much as a sigh as life escaped from the orc, but there were twelve, maybe thirteen. I was incredibly lucky on the third, as the cut was imprecise and the orc rumbled a little, attracting the attention of the orcs awake at the campfire. Before I even thought about pissing my pants, I was eating dirt off the ground, hoping to remain hidden behind the much larger orc. And indeed, my presence remained undetected... for now.

I managed to slay maybe seven of the orc raiders despite that hiccup, before finally the eighth cut throat made too much noise again, and I was discovered. Immediately, I tried ducking into an alcove nearby - but it only turned out to be where what was very clearly the leader was sleeping! Without any time to think, thinking this surely must be our bounty, Borlag the Faceripper, I withdrew my rapier and went at him, but it was way too late, he was already awake and gripping his weapon after the camp turned into full alert with their yelling and shouting. There was only one option now - stick to the plan an hightail it out of there. I could not rely, or even expect, my comrades to come in charging after me. I sprinted, dodged and weaved between the orcs who were, much in my favor, more or less still running around in chaos, trying to understand what's happening. Finding the front entrance to the courtyard was a breeze and soon, I was jumping above the bear trap to the backup of my colleagues. Cleverly, they prepared a remote activation for the chest of sleep, and were ready to pull on a rope that would open it, hopefully triggering it (we hadn't checked - on second thought, we probably should've experimented with it) as we stood our ground.

The orcs fell for it. One of Asmund's bear traps bit an orc's lower leg clean off, taking him out of the fight permanently. Other two raiders were trapped, and then a whole bunch of them were caught by the magical chest, felling them to the ground in a large cuddle of snoring orcs. Borlag too came rushing out, and combat ensued. Fortunately, thanks to the lowered numbers and our clever traps, the fight wasn't as difficult as others, though I am loathe to say it was easy, lest whoever is pulling the strings of our life stories might get wise to the fact. We managed to take down Borlag, which prompted the rest of the orcs to try and rescue him while fleeing, but that idea was quickly shut down by Siavash' magic scorching them to ashes. The rest did, indeed, flee and we allowed it. There was limited bounty, sans a specific item - one of the magical horns that we were told create the strange mist we'd encountered before, and the way Borlag had been escaping Jarl of Fareseton's hunting parties or many months! This truly must have been Borlag, then, but we opted to confirm first. One of the sleeping orcs were tied up an we tried interrogating it, but its cooperation was... lackluster. The orc did say however, that this was not in fact Borlag. But there wasn't time to waste - the orcs we let escape could potentially come back with reinforcements, so we'd decided to get back to the ship.

Marching through the rest of the night on no rest took its toll, and we arrived near the Grevesmühl nearly exhausted - and that's when we saw them. Just at the base of the bridge, and looking as if they're waiting for something - waiting for us - sat three gigantic ogres in full armor, on top of mounted and armored war rhinos. Clearly, these were the elite band of ogre riders the bandit queen set out against us, as I found from Poters a few nights before. This felt like one of the situations that we are not getting out of...

(Inaccurate reference material, our ogres don't wear samurai gear)
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SoupNazi

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Strap Yourselves In Serpent in the Staglands
Alright, latest session. I lost my notes somewhere (I handwrite a lot of the stuff most of the time, and only back stuff up digitally when it's relevant for everyone to keep track of) so there might be discrepancies. In-character wise, the journal is at all times written during downtime, so the only way the "cliffhanger" from the previous session is handled in Sancho's journal is that maybe he stops writing mid-page and resumes on the next one for pure dramatic effect; he's not writing it as things happen, but from memory as well.

...unless we had a magical Horn of Mist that has allowed much more numerous foes to escape entire hunting parties! I _think_ this was Haftor's idea, and he ended up blowing the horn himself, but whoever remembered it in the middle of the shock that was seeing those monsters just ahead of us deserves a medal. A small one. Symbolic. Not worth much other than our thanks. Either way, it worked as I imagined it: A seemingly impenetrable fog evaporated from the ground around us, but we could see through it. And odd feeling, when the magic of an artifact imbued so strongly as this horn, makes you understand that while _you_ can see through it just fine, others cannot, and even makes you not doubt it at all. The fog spanned an entire field and then some, not just concealing our precise location, but even our movement, and general direction. The ogres immediately seemed confused, and while they were now on alert, looking out for an attack and trying to track us. But we were not detected in the first place, so the advantage was on our side.

Under the cover of this magical fog, we quite easily made our way to the Gremesmühl, and promptly informed our crewmen that it was indeed us, under the cover of a commandeered horn of mist. As soon as we were all aboard and the horses made their way to the hold, the sailors raised the sails and we were about to depart.

Then, a terrible shadow was cast upon us on the deck, despite the fog still enveloping us. Just as the sails were picking up speeds. We all looked up at whatever was blocking the few sunrays penetrating the fog to see nought else but one of the ogres, on their rhino, jumping down from the bridge straight onto our ship. With a loud thud and a subtle crack of some of the boards, the armored rhino and its rider landed like a demon delivered onto us by a god, or a devil. We were lucky the ship was built so strongly, prepared to withstand many tonnes of load and built in a way that considered possible accident when loading heavy cargo; and so was the ogre, as on a weaker ship, I am sure he would have plummeted straight through and into he river. The sails picked up wind then, and we started moving so it became clear he would be here without the backup of his two comrades, but a thought ran through my head immediately: perhaps that would be enough...

Our brave crewmembers ran out front, itching for a fight; after all, we'd kept these cutthroat bandits on a short leash and away from adventure. Each one of the rest of us positioned ourselves smartly, with Karo the Dwarf and Haftor the Bard taking point. The battle raged on as the ogre and rhino separated, becoming comrades in war, instead of a rider and its mount. Asmund charged in with his spear, but bounced off the ogre's armor pointlessly; the dwarf missed and missed, then relegated to instead empower us to deliver extra attacks; my magically infused crossbow struck truly, but weakly, and our pirates were getting squashed under the mighty club of the ogre, with forearms the thickness of an old oak. Then the skald sang a brief poem, and the tides had changed; Asmund's next charge drove the spear deep into the ogre's side, my bolts struck in the gaps of its armor, Karo's axe split it open through sheer brute force, while Siavash's witchery managed to scorch both the ogre and his rhino companion. Soon enough, thanks to the surprisingly brave performance of our hired bandits, both corpses were thrown overboard as we sailed downriver back to the lake.

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We stopped by in Fareseton for some short rest and resupply; as well as to check if the head of the orc leader we defeated was indeed Borlag the Faceripper's. Turned out the captive orc spoke the truth, and it wasn't; Faceripper himself, while technically unidentified, was a lot more imposing, and evidence spoke against it. Still, we were rewarded for our work, and encouraged to continue. Haftor and I took it upon ourselves to water the seeds of hate against the orcs and the bandit queen, with my gospel providing information about their connection and the fact the orcs served the queen, while others took to honing their craft or shopping. But soon enough, it was back to the road river again, this time far further up north, finding the first place we could to conceal the boat as much as possible in these plains. It was a few miles from the ruined keep, further north and slightly east, if my cartography skills don't fail me, and we instructed the crew to be prepared to return immediately to Fareseton if they see anything approaching that does not signal that it is us. Setting up a camp overnight, one of the nightwatch saw something curious - a long row of torches (I informed the party that while torches are not necessary for us halflings or them orcs, they definitely made travel more comfortable) in the distance heading south. Siavash sent his familiar to explore, and identified the caravan as possibly ocish of nature - perhaps this was the opportunity we needed. With Asmund and I taking the helm again, tracking them as covertly as possible, we took a long trek through the steppes, until we reached the plains just east of the ancient, and well-spoken, oak tree from a few days ago... which is when the orcs disappeared into the mountain range further east.

A bit of an argument followed, but what prevailed was that we cautiously follow, and try to discover as much as we can. I personally felt we were so close to finally chasing down the Faceripper that we couldn't just stop there. Leaving the mounts behind, we cautiously entered the valley and follow the tracks until they split; into a less used trail, and one used much more. I don't remember now which we followed, but we ended in a cave tunnel... formed artificially, clearly, as a way to quickly traverse the mountain range. Sneaking forward, we found it was blocked off by an orcish palisade, but my keen senses allowed me to feel a draft coming from elsewhere; there was a secret, recently caved-in, passage! We unblocked it hastily, and ventured forth into a system of natural caves. In one of the paths the system offered, we saw elaborate statues of old warriors, captured mid-fight or surprise, as if giving us an image of a battle long past, a glimpse into other brave ones running through this dungeon, perhaps. Then the realization dawned on us: these were not statues, these were petrified actual living beings! Having lead the party so far, I retreated us back to the cavern's entrance and tossed some of my ball bearings into the opening. This lured a vile, lizard-like being with spikes on its hide to come out, sniffing the balls of steel curiously. I hid behind one of the petrified departed, as my friends prepared for combat.

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"Avoid its gaze!! It will petrify you on the spot," are all the words I remember from Haftor in the ensuing melee. Not a meduza, this must have been a basilisk, and we tried to fight it on its terms; avoiding its gaze, covering our eyes as best as we could. Our attempts were fruitless perhaps because we had to fight the magic of its gaze whenever we wanted to take a shot, or simply because of our avoidance to look at it. That was when Haftor, who found he was strangely impervious to the stone look, concocted a plan; he opted to put himself at risk and distract the dangerous creature, keeping its sight on him, thus allowing us to take free shots. It then didn't take too long for our combined attacks to deprive the basilisk of its life. After searching the petrified corpses, we found an elven ring strong in magic; Siavash identified that it was extremely potent in enhancing one's abilities. I think we all, or most of us at least, agreed that Haftor takes it for his efforts to save us by distracting the dangerous creature and shielding us from its petrifying gaze with his own body.

Venturing forth, we found another chamber; this time with a altar in the centre, donned with a seemingly demonic statue that was decorated with gems and seemingly made out of gold. Immediately, we smelled a trap, and concentrated on devising a way to nab the treasure while putting us out of potential harm's way. The first attempt was Siavash's ethereal disembodied magical hand, which only resulted in the chamber shutting its door on us, and our remaining scion feeling that there as poison in the room now. We waited for it to dissipate, then opened the door again. When we tried the same, this time with a physical rope, the door shut again when the statue was yoinked off its altar, but this time, the room was not filled with poison. We once again waited for the door to unlock, then entered to pick up our hard-earned loot.

It was immediately after I picked it up that I felt something was off. Then, an ethereal being, as if made of mist, a ghost or some such apparition, escaped it and immediately tried to take our minds. A difficult fight ensued, as the ghost kept trying to take control or embody one of us, evaded our attacks, or seemed to completely ignore some of them. At some point, I switched to my magical dagger and had at it, stabbing it over and over again even after the ghost of the statue dissipated into thin air. But the fight was over, and another route was explored; one that led us back outside, beyond the orcish barrier in the cave tunnel, revealing the guarded area - one that had crude, but massive fortification, bigger than we've seen before, but one that we could identify immediately. It was the orc camp, quite clearly. This is where they met, from where they dispatched their raiding parties, convened, made strategies, and probably where the messages of their overlord, the bandit queen, were delivered. Likely impenetrable to the efforts of a four-man party, so I made a sketch of the layout and visible defences from what I could see, as the agreement was to come back with an army of allies in order to wipe the orc threat from these lands once and for all. Once that was done, we quickly evacuated the premises before we'd be detected, collected our mounts, and rushed back to our ship.

No joke, I kid you not, dear reader, when we were approaching the location we left the Grevesmühl at, you could not possibly guess what we saw - five ogre warriors on five heavily armored war rhinos waiting for us at the location. I'm not sure if the magical orc horn can get us out of this one...
 

SoupNazi

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Strap Yourselves In Serpent in the Staglands
The spoilers below cover the two following sessions directly after the one above. A bit of meta information: the first fight I'll describe took us around 3 hours to resolve, including planning. Plus a certain party member who already lost one character in the past was, I think, intent on getting one of us killed too :lol: so that made things run longer than normally.

We took cover behind a rock formation just out of sight of the give ogres and squinted our eyes in the direction of the Grevesmühl. I couldn't believe it at first, but it really was the case: not one, not three, but five of the same elite ogres were waiting for. Two were unmounted and had our crew covered, fully in control of the ship. Their rhinos were tied down next to the ramp. One thing was clear: sneaking on the ship and making a quick escape was not going to be possible this time.

Huddling together behind cover, we came up with a plan: one of us would take the orcish signal horns we liberated from a camp many months ago, ride out on his horse and distract the ogres, hopefully getting some of them to follow him. The rest of us would then liberate the ship from however many ogres remained on guard, if any. There was a long discussion on who would go - Haftor volunteered immediately, Siavash suggested he could go and use one of his magic spells to stay safe, but we dismissed that, needing him in the fight. Asmund could have gone as well, his knowledge of the terrain was superior, and he is one of our best riders. In the end, we settled on the skáld, and went to work.

To our joy, the plan worked very well - three of the mounted ogres immediately rode out after Haftor, who meanwhile had put some distance between him and us, forming a triangle on the battlefield that would lead the ogres away. As soon as they were out of sight, the rest of us rode in a charge assault, hoping to instill at least some sense of fear and danger onto our enemies. The dust rising from our steeds' hooves made us look a larger force than we were as me and Asmund took charge, leaping off of our horses straight into melee with the ogres and their rhinos.

I don't know if they feared us, but if they did, it did not make the fight any easier. Fortunately, our crew improvised weapons from the boat and joined in on the fray, perhaps impressed that we came to rescue them instead of abandoning the former bandits to their fate. They spent the melee keeping the rhinos busy as they tried to rampage through the crowd, banging a few up quite severely, but mostly keeping without serious injury and, most importantly, our crewmen got out of it alive.

The ogres were formidable opponents - with gigantic morningstars taller than I am, I could not find a space in their heavy armor to pierce through with the rapier for a long time, until I nearly threw it away in frustration and instead withdrew, aiding my friends and allies with the magical crossbow I had commissioned. Asmund and Karo the dwarf were fighting with courage and bloodlust, especially coming from Asmund, whose spear seemed especially thirsty to taste the giants' blood. With the price of sweat and blood paid, the rhinos fell and so did one of the ogres, prompting the other to try and escape. Me and Asmund went after him and finished the warrior off, finally able to take a breather.

The question was of our skáld Haftor, who had spent the time on the run from the three other elites. As he tells the story, he kept toying with the trio, letting them catch up to yell some vicious mockery at their leader, taunting them and keeping them interested, before he had a feeling that we could be finished with the fight, and had the bright idea to lead the remains of the squad back to us, so that we could defeat them as well.

To our great fortune (and his, as I'd definitely find him in the afterlife and torment him if we died), he also used the magic of his words to convince one of the ogres that he should retreat and call for backup, confusing the simple creature and clouding his mind. We did not know that was the case when Haftor came riding over the horizon, two remaining ogre riders behind him. Assuming he's been unable to shake him and requires help, we rode out to meet and aid him, despite our aching muscles and fatigue, reengaging in another deadly fight.

The ogres hesitated at first, seeing as we had taken out two of their comrades, but eventually decided to go forward and charge us after some more hurtful words from Haftor provoked them to do so. We fought again, but this time, not only were we tired, but one of the ogres was stronger and better trained than those we met before - their leader. We've all traded blows and took hits for each other, until the battlefield was wet with blood and sweat and spit, and on both sides, the willingness to continue to murder each other was waning. Eventually, we took the opportunity to retreat, knowing that perhaps we could have defeated them, but likely with a serious risk of one or more of us falling as well. The ogre leader called for a retreat himself, but from a distance left us with a message "Vrozog is watching you." The ogre chieftain's voice definitely sent chills running up my spine as we hastily set sail back to Fareseton to lick our wounds.

After recovering, we started working on our plan to gather allies for an assault on the orcish fort in the mountains. First meeting with the jarl of Fareseton, Svafar Hordsson, who was hesitant but after some persuasion gave us his word that should we gather enough of an army and get the other jarls to also participate, he'd lend his men and arms to our cause. Next, it was time for us to collect on the debt of the nymph we rescued weeks ago. For that, we set out to the middle of the lake and when there, used the trinket I received from the nymph and jumped into the water, much to Karo's chagrin (who refused to take his armor off and immediately started sinking).

The nymph's flower created some sort of a magical barrier around our heads, allowing us to breathe under water, which was useful when a small glowing fish approached us, and made it clear it'd be our guide. It led us deeper and deeper down, until light from the surface disappeared, and the red glow of the guiding fish was our only signal, until we came upon the underwater city... an amazing sight to behold, even at a distance, we saw a great light coming from a humongous cavern, and incredible structures that looked inhabited in the distance. At the threshold that we surmised was the border of the awesome place. From it, our nymph friend swam up to us, with two mermen guards on each flank - she was clearly more important than we knew. I politely approached, as I remained able to perceive her beauty without having to avert my eyes as the rest of our group, and explained our mission. We'd come to collect on the favor, and wanted the underwater kingdom's alliance and support in our fight, whatever they could provide.

Fortunately, she was immediately supportive, knowing that the bandit queen's goals, whatever they were, could potentially endanger them, even under tons and tons an tons of lakewater. But she was not the one who'd decide - instead, it was her father, the king of the underwater realm and as I found out later, a legendary hero of the Rjurik lands, Ben-Hadar. He too, agreed to lend a hand, but of course, could not offer an army. Instead we received an artifact that would aid us - a water decanter with two spouts - Ben-Hadar explained that if the water inside is poured out through one, it would summon an ally, through the other, it could be poured at walls, which would then be destroyed. We were however sworn to return it once the deed was done.

Asmund also received some sort of a magical trinket, a pearl that was for his personal use should he get in trouble, as Ben-Hadar recognized the spear Asmund wields, and probably Asmund's recent focus and motivation to protect nature also had something to do with. All being said and done, we thanked the legend and I made it clear to the nymph that her debt was paid in full as we departed, led out by our friendly glowing fish back to the surface.

We had decided to spend some more time in Fareseton to rest as well as prepare for the tasks that were ahead of us. A night in the Triumphant Hound inn resulted in an agreement on the next part of the plan: we'd go back to Stormgald to meet with the local jarl Bjorni, first one we met at the beginning of our adventures together, as well as our friend Viji, chieftain of the nomads, and drop by to meet Thomas as well, who was recovering and working on building his monastery, as tasked by his god.

Some of the time between adventures we devoted to honing our skills, I asked Karo's help to help me better use a scimitar. Having been frustrated with the inability to accurately strike one of the ogres in the previous fight, I put extra effort into it and managed to finally understand the weight distribution and how to properly use its curve in combat. Asmund meanwhile aloofedly trained mostly on his own to try and learn to use the spear alongside his shortsword. It was starting to be clear that we were entering a much bigger world, and a game that was beyond what we imagined back when our only common goal was to escape orc captivity or finding a treasure from Siavash's map.

I also confirmed my suspicions regarding the bandit queen's plans - after a night spent with Poters, she opened up to me and shared that the reason she came into the lands in the first place was to indeed look for a powerful magical artifact herself, and that she knew the bandit queen was looking for it as well. I tried to pry more details out, but she was not sharing any more for now.

Prudently, we ended up buying horses for half of our crew, along with some extra weapons, having seen that their lack of equipment nearly got them killed in the fight against the ogres. Prepared, we set out on the road to Stormgald, which was largely uneventful until we ran into another group of adventurers, which informed us of a recent undead problem east of Stormgald. Exactly where the dungeon full of necromantic energy was located...

Either way, we entered Stormgald, set a meeting with Bjorni for the next morning, then took a short trip west to the mountain on which Thomas was building his monastery, under which Viji's tribe was wintering. We exchanged recent stories and Asmund challenged Viji to a friendly spar, which he decisively won. As we were sharing stories over a camp fire, drinking tea and mead, I repeated yet again the story of the orc fort and our intentions. Viji was hesitant at first, saying his people are nomads, not warriors, and the fight was not theirs. I explained that for as long as the orcs raid and pillage the lands, also his nomads would be in danger, but he was unconvinced until I mentioned that we had already secured the help of Ben-Hadar. Hearing the name, he agreed to give his tribe's support, as long as we would promise that they are spared the brunt of the fighting, to which I said yes; almost every night since we discovered it, I spent time staring on the map I had drawn of it to try and come up with a plan. And I think I have the perfect role for the nomads...

Later that evening, Thomas also appeared in the camp and we shared our stories with him as well, while he told us that the monastery construction is going well, the nomads have decided to aid him, and so the only bad news was that his health was still not getting better; but he still believed that his god would return him to fighting shape, perhaps once the monastery was completed.

We spent the night in camp, before heading back to Stormgald for our meeting with Bjorni in the morning. Seeing the effect Ben-Hadar's name had on Viji, I led with that and the jarl was definitely impressed, but of course: he had other problems. The undead had been coming west in waves, and already killed some of his men. He could not commit his fighting force to anything now, as the undead would easily overwhelm the village otherwise. Seeing as our plan was to return to the dungeon anyway, in pursuit of defeating the elephant-sized tentacle monster we previously found in the depths of it, we offered to rid him of his headache, in exchange for his word that he'd aid us when the time came. The word was given, I convinced him to lend us a few of his men as well, and we set out.

Once we arrived at the camp that was previously surrounding the dungeon entrance, we saw that the Stormgaldians were trying to reclaim it, and that's probably when many of them were slaughtered by the living dead; then, as the jarl's men told us, some of them rose back to non-life as well. It must have been terrible, fighting their own comrades. We burned all the corpses we found and then set our men and the jarl's men to guard outside, while the rest of our party ventured forth to familiar territory. Using our old maps turned out fine this time, and we quickly found ourselves on the spiral staircase leading into a deep and humongous cavern full of stalagmites. Here we first encountered the monstrosity, weeks ago. Now, I also felt something else - there was a gate to the Shadow World nearby, a place where the barrier between Cerillia and the origin world of us halflings was thin. Corrupt and devoid of halfling life, I was in no rush to visit it again, but the thin veil between the two worlds did mean I felt more powerful, as if I could myself tap into some ancient powers that reside there. I explained the story to my colleagues and insisted we must be careful here.

We secured the staircase and lit a candle at the bottom of it, in case we'd get lost and need to retreat, then set out to look for the strangely absent creature. Something was definitely amiss, as we could hear its voice in our heads again, but it was nowhere to be seen. That's when Siavash turned our attention behind us - thought he heard something - and the creature was discovered in an attempt to sneak up on us. Our weapons already drawn, we engaged immediately, with Haftor rushing forward, me and Asmund preparing to attack from a distance, and Siavash staying behind us, ready to use his magic from a safe distance.

The next moments were almost a blur. Even with both me and Asmund hitting it with bolts and arrows respectively, the creature shook the damage off and suddenly gripped Haftor with both tentacles, lifting him in the air above its gaping, sharply teethed mouth. The monstrosity was trying to bite him in half! Haftor was fighting against it, valiantly blocking its teeth with his shield, but I knew he couldn't last long. I rushed after them and just before reaching, I jumped up to take a hold of Asmund's arm - and as I did, I felt the magical energy of the Shadow World surround us, somehow understood what was going on, as if it was second nature to me, and managed to make both me and Haftor disappear, then reappear at a safe distance back at the staircase. Leaving Haftor there, I saw Karo and Asmund now taking the creature on in melee, and rushed in to help as well.

Before I could reach them, it was Asmund who was yoinked off the ground in a grapple with one of the creature's tentacles, and even damaging the creature did not release its hold. Karo had to essentially yank Asmund back down, while we all focused on taking down the creature as quickly possible - it was more dangerous than expected, as Haftor was already seriously banged up, and now Asmund was taking a beating himself. Eventually, we slayed the beast, with Asmund ending the fight with both his spear and shortsword driven deep into its body as it finally fell.

After taking a quick breather, we set out in different direction of the monster's lair to see if there are more things to find. We all did indeed find some treasures, mostly left over from other adventurers of the past, who have fallen victim to the defeated creature. I discovered a chest which, among other creature, happened to contain what turned out to be a seemingly magical scimitar, possibly of Elven origin - all I know is that its magic was either too powerful, or too foreign for even Siavash to read and understand. One way or the oher, I took it - its beautiful green and ornate make spoke to me, and I was sure I'd find out what it all means eventually - and confident that if it was cursed, then at least that's something Siavash could feel, or my innate sense to detect evil would warn me.

We took what treasures we could carry and brought it back up to camp, settling for an overnight rest and agreeing with the men that we'd share the rest that we had to leave behind with them, if they helped carry it. They agreed and so we did that the next morning, before setting out to the dungeon's other area and floor, which was earlier repurposed by the orcs as living quarters. I remembered the weird room full of stone coffins, or sarcophagi, in which Siavash previously felt necromantic magic - I was sure exploring there would eventually lead us to the source of the undead scourge so that we could end it as we promised.

When we came to the room we knew contained the sarcophagi, I peered inside carefully and found that there was, indeed, about a dozen walking skeletons donned in tattered chainmail and wielding weapons. And that's when for the first time, there seemed to have been miscommunication, and perhaps too much confidence on my part that nearly cost my life that afternoon. I snuck inside the room, using my light feet to immediately shatter the nearest skeleton, then hid behind one of the pillars that dotted the room. Meanwhile, Asmund and Haftor waited at the door, deciding to use it as a chokepoint against the superior numbers. As we'd discovered, there was also a stronger looking undead, some kind of a ghoul, muscular and terrifying, and I was planning to surprise it from behind while my friend fought the skeletons. However, the ghoul rushed forward and engaged first, leaving me to just try and take out the skeletons in the back.

But when I hastily engaged, my mistake was immediately obvious - all the other skeletons turned on me, while the ghoul kept the rest of the party busy. I was immediately surrounded, and spent what felt like an eternity dodging blows, strikes and attempted stabs, occasionally taking an opportunity to take one or two enemies down myself wielding the scimitar in one, and my magical dagger in the other hand, but my energy was quickly running out. All I remember was one of the skeleton's spears sliding across and through my leather armor, drawing blood on my shoulder, and then a thud from behind which had me fall to the ground. Before my vision faded to black, I could see the ghoul coming, so at least I fell unconscious knowing that surely, my friends would soon turn to helping me...

And I did. Once the ghoul was dispatched, the party made short work of the remaining skeletons and helped me back on my feet. I was battered and shaken, but alive. Haftor used his soothing magical words to help me regain some of my energy, and I drank a potion that should speed up the healing of my wounds, but still was in no shape to fight. We decided to call it a night and headed back to the surface camp to rest and discuss on how to approach the next time...
 

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