Dear Diary…battle plans

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”

Last evening we asked the village chief some more about the actual attack – and about the village of these gnoll-wannabes. He sketched out the rough geography in the dirt.

[sketch]

Sounds like there’s a fort, which is likely where they keep the prisoners…but to get to it, we have to come down the hill, cross a valley with “many, many, too many for us” flind, and also a small river that we’ll have to cross somehow (though he did say something about bridges).

We tossed ideas around a bit, and finally decided:

Mikael and Raven will sneak to the fort and open the gate. Mikael really, really wants to cause a storm and call lightening, so he can find a quiet place to do that while Raven slinks around and lets us in. We talked about the giant ebony flies, but those are kinda conspicuous…so they’ll probably use the potion of invisibility and a rope of climbing (turns out it was really handy we grabbed our stuff from Homlette).

Meanwhile, Heiron, Agnar, and I are supposed to carve a bloody path through the flind valley so we can charge up to the fort and rescue the prisoners when Raven lets us in. Agnar sounds excited.

Finally, Ezekiel and Lydia will find a good place to set up the instant-fortress as a safe retreat to bring the prisoners to, with the half-orc to guard the door and open it for people (he’s more intimidating in his new armor, but he’s still pretty easy to tip over).

Oh, yes. The men of the village said that, while they weren’t strong enough to attack the flinds directly, they could provide a ruckus and distraction farther up the river. That’ll cover for Raven and Mikael’s infiltration, and maybe even draw off some of their forces to make our frontal assault easier.

I have asked Ehlonna for guidance and strength. Some might think her power to be at a low ebb this time of year, with the trees all but naked and the grass brown beneath our feet…but I still feel her presence. I know that, if I needed it, the very thistles and weeds would rise to my aid.

Will spend some time today searching Tain’s journal. I don’t remember ever seeing a gnoll cast a spell, but I’m always learning new things. I do remember seeing something about gnoll poison, and I want to brush up on the specifics. Good thing we have plenty of Keoghtim’s ointment.


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Dear Diary…walking in others’ footsteps

Alert: may contain spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”

Well, it was not quite as “shortly” as some of us thought. Ezekiel had the half-orc train for a week with Heiron and some of the others, so he’ll be more useful and less likely to die once we go back to the Pomarjch. (Glad we didn’t leave our horses tied up.)

The extra time did give Raven a chance to spar with his disciples and give them handy life advice, and for Ezekiel to pay off some sheep farmers in case the old tab gets eaten up (Keom has been keeping a diary of when the dragons get hungry, and exactly how much they eat. If raising dragons were a science, he’d be well on his way to codifying it). Ronhass says they’ve had some trouble with adventurers coming through looking for the “black dragons” to kill, but Master Osler gave them tip-offs so they could move their campsite. (He really is the sweetest old man.)

Lydia also found two ebony flies in her clutter, and showed us that she figured out how they work. Apparently if you say the right word, they grow up into the size of a pony and move around. It’s kind of horrifying…but also pretty cool to have a flying thing you could ride! Mikael and Lydia are going to hang on to them, to give them more options.

Ezekiel raised the last of the burned-up slaves. He seemed very confused for a while, but when he finally figured out what was going on, he decided to stay in Homlette and start a new life. After all, we can get him back to the Highport area…but he’d still have to find his way home from there, without getting kidnapped or killed by anyone. The blacksmith in town has been looking for an extra pair of hands, since it’s prime repairing season, so he headed down there. Hope it turns out well.

Elmo and I squeezed in some woods time. There’s been some shuffling of the humanoid dens since the Temple isn’t inhabited anymore. With no Queen to serve – or draw power from – it sounds like no one has set up shop there again…but it’s his job to keep an eye open and keep track of goings-on. We did run across a bugbear scouting party, but he said they were too far from the town to worry him yet, and we could track them back to their nest when the time was right. It felt good to sneak up on bugbears for once, instead of the other way around. How do things so tall manage to be so quiet? Do their feet muffle the twigs underfoot? Do they have ESP for where loose leaves and branches are hanging around them? Is it their gait?

[sketch of bugbear foot]

Oh, one other thing. Raven had a look at the daggers from the orc cave, and the experts decided they’re all poisoned. So…after he burned them and soaked them in water, they could be a decorative curio for someone with a fireplace to hang things over. He pointed out that the metal is a bit weak for serious use.

We’re finally all packed up, and Ezekiel says we’re leaving in the morning. Lydia can get us back to the temple area, but after that, we’ll be hoofing it. Continue reading

Dear Diary…armed and ready

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”

Around the very next corner, we ran into more aspis…by “we” I mean Agnar, Heiron, and Bornthene to start with. Once again, the twisty, tiny passages left me guarding the back, hearing clangs and grunts and bangs from a combat I couldn’t even see.

Anyway, by the time I followed everyone through the narrow dirt tunnel, around the corner, and into the larger space, there were dead aspis and giant ants lying about, Agnar, Ezekiel and Heiron had already disappeared down another tunnel, and Mikael was singing to an ant as big as a wolf, which flapped its antennae hither and thither as though it wasn’t sure what was going on. Dree was singing, too, but not the same thing…it almost sounded like “Peyce of Oyr Fathyrs,” but I didn’t quite like to ask. It didn’t seem like the right time (and anyway, she might turn out to be a magic-shape-shifty lady in the end. You never know).

Lydia told me not to step on a silk trip-cord strung down near the floor, then kept watching Mikael sing his song and wave his one arm.

Bornthene and the half-orc weren’t there, either – and from the muffled clattering, I gathered the rest of the party was somewhere down the eastern tunnel. I didn’t like to leave Mikael unattended, but after all, Lydia is quite able to take care of herself and him…so after Dree went to see what was going on, I went, too.

The tunnels get quite narrow – and also split and merge a bit in a confusing manner – but the others weren’t too hard to find, what with the bright lights they carried, and the noise they were making. When I caught up with them, giant bugs were chewing on Ezekiel and Agnar, and Bornthene was emptying his quiver into a huge, bulbous, queen-looking aspis…imagine a termite the size of a cottage. Raven tumbled through my periphery vision, knocked over by an aspis.

I started filling the queen with arrows, until Bornthene got it in the eye and it had finally had enough, flopping to the ground with a great squelching and squealing. Moments later, a wall of fire leapt up through the middle of the remaining insects, cutting across the cavern. As insects squealed and popped, I saw Lydia across the way, nonchalantly blowing on her fingers. Continue reading

Dear Diary….piles of bodies

Alert: Contains spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”

Ezekiel told Raven and me to chase the mysterious man, taking Lydia to unlock the iron door for us. Mikael tagged along, too (I guess having only one arm hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm).

Good thing he came, because when Lydia got the door open, the plants on either side of the path were lashing back and forth, practically snarling. Raven tried calming them down with talk, but I guess they weren’t impressed — they kept telling him they were upset, but plants aren’t big on details. Mikael still had an anti-plant shell active, though, so we advanced along the path, sticking close to him…until we reached the door north, that leads to the hall and the superstitious-orcs room.

That door was currently all blocked by trees, which looked as though they’d thrown their limbs across it like arms (I didn’t know they could move like that!). Here and there, glowing blotches stuck to the tree, sparkling in the morning light…and when Mikael pointed out the pulpy stains of man, we pieced together what happened to our quarry. I…I guess he forgot about the angry plants…or didn’t have a way to ward them off. They claim to “serve” Beori, after all – and I doubt this guy was very tight with her.

I gathered up the biggest pieces I could reach without leaving Mikael’s side, and we headed back to show Ezekiel.

While we were gone, he gathered up all the papers he could find in the desk (mostly boring ledger stuff) and searched the crates around the office. He found rations, chains, traveling supplies, a little bag of jewelry, and way more money than we could easily carry (bag of holding, you are missed).

When we got back, he sent Heiron, me, and Agnar up the ladder to “just take a peek” at what was there (“don’t open any doors or anything!” – the horse left that barn, Ezie). There’s a twisty little dirt tunnel that narrows so far, even Agnar couldn’t squeeze through…so unless it was for halflings, or that guy could shape-shift, I don’t know what the point of it was. At the very least, I made the assumption we wouldn’t meet any of those giant ant-men things, so I persuaded Agnar we wouldn’t find a good fight up there, and we should go check on Mikael (his best-buddy-forever). Continue reading

Dear Diary….CHOICES and CONSEQUENCES

Well…we left the slaves barricaded in the storerooms, and the three merchants in cages, guarded by a fake wyvern. (Ezekiel insists it’s not “fake,” it’s “spiritual.”) So…they should be fine.

The door at the top of the stairs needed Heiron, Agnar, and Raven all working on it to get it open. Sure enough, on the other side stood an aspis guard – which Heiron and Agnar carved up with their swords.

Then the way branched once again. This all seems a bit incidental given later events, but I should record everything as fully as possible.

To the west, we found a small room with a row of levers along the wall, with a slit above each lever. Raven peeked through the slit and played with the levers, and through the doorway to the room beyond, we saw a huge piece of floor rise up into place. He hit the lever again, and it dropped – like a trapdoor.

The whole room beyond was a grid, with narrow beams running up-and-down and side-to-side. Apparently the beams support these huge trapdoor panels that serve as the floor – or would, if they were all levered into position.

Below each trapdoor is a cage…or in other words, the whole “room” below is divided with bars, and the ceiling of that room is hinged to flap down or lever up into place.

Personally, I don’t see the point of it at all. The slaves are already captured when they arrive here…there’s no need to trick them into a cage. There’s no real government out here to speak of…the orc clans aren’t going to “raid” the Slave Lords’ operation – unless they want a piece of the action! I suppose that is a mystery for another time.

Ezekiel told Heiron and me to head down the corridor to the east and see what was there. Yes – SPLITTING THE PARTY. As Master Otis says: if you don’t push yourself, you’ll never grow…but speaking of growing – Continue reading

Dear Diary….the main “warehouse” of “merchandise”

Alert: may contain spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”

This morning Mikael cast Detect Magic. The lady cleric’s mace is magical (Ezekiel snapped that up) and so is something inside the poor-box…but we’ve been a little busy, and haven’t bothered to look in there yet.

Ezekiel summoned this shimmery, translucent wyvern-shaped thing that he calls a specter, so we don’t have to worry about about some creature eating the dead slaves before we can raise them. Ez says it should scare off most things. Then we escorted the rest of the prisoners to the main gate and let them go their way into town.

We started our exploration of the stables by heading around the outside of the wall, so we came in through the door the horsemen would have used. There was nothing inside the stables except a dead man who must have taken care of the horses (based on his clothes). I’m not sure what killed him; something have chewed on him, but I couldn’t tell if the marks came before or after death. No horses – although Raven found plenty of fodder in the loft above.

Raven and Ezekiel went first, Raven checking for traps as he went. Behind the stable is a long, twisty hallway. One of the rooms opening off it contained what Mikael called a “giant sundew”…he says they’re a kind of plant that sticks up insects and eats them. Heiron and Ezekiel killed it before it could try to eat us, but Ez had to peel his mace and armor off of it afterwards.

The corridor circled up and around until it ended with a door on either hand. Bornthene said he heard someone moving behind the north door, so we tried it – only to find it barred from the other side.

Raven figured out how to unhook the bar by messing with the doorknob or something, and we threw the door open – to discover six shaking orcs, pressed against the far wall and holding unsteady halberds toward our vanguard. Continue reading

Dear Diary….we are sneaky for about 3 seconds

Alert: Contains spoilers for the adventure “The Scourge of the Slave Lords”

Well, the plan went about as well as could be expected…that is, the first part of it went off great.

Shortly after sunset, we gathered at the wall in the north-east corner of the complex, and waited while Raven quietly climbed up the wall. Once at the top, he stuffed cotton in his ears and threw down a rope to haul up the archers (and Mikael, who really wanted to be a bird, but Ezekiel told him to save his transformations just in case).

Heiron was still climbing the rope when a shrill, muffled sound came through our ear-plugs. When Mikael waved his hands, we could see four ugly winged shapes perched in various place in the small courtyard.

Bornthene and I drew our bows, and Mikael brought his cudgel down on one as it swooped close to claw at us. As soon as he had helped Heiron gain the top, Raven turned and punched a harpy right out of the air. Heiron seemed eager to join the battle — a bit too eager, since he fumbled his shot, and by the time he had himself together, the surviving harpies had fled into the darkness (we assume they were screaming, but we couldn’t hear much).

With that danger past, Raven started lowering us down into the garden courtyard, and pulling the rest of our party up. Last of all, he followed us down – leaving the rope hanging there in case we needed to beat a hasty retreat (since after all he’s the only one among us who’s any good at climbing walls). Continue reading

Dear Diary….laying siege

Alert: may contain spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”

[doodle of Ezekiel talking]

[doodle of Ezekiel looking annoyed]

[doodle of Ezekiel sitting and looking asleep]

Raven and Mikael finally back from recon. Mikael went as a bat, Raven as a monk with a pebble of silence (courtesy Ezekiel).

Mikael says there’s a garden on the east side where a harpy tried to sing at him, but his super bat-ears ignored her. The central building of the temple complex doesn’t seem to have any handy windows to sneak through, but we should be able to access it from the garden…which means we can by-pass the main courtyard area with two portcullises and a crowd of guards.

Apparently the courtyard with guards is the only place they had a torch this evening – but fortunately Luna was bright enough to let Raven climb the wall into a courtyard west of the main entrance. He says it smells rotten, and he’s pretty sure there’s a wight living there, but it seemed confused by his aura of silence, so he got away.

That courtyard also has a bunch of plants that said their job is to grab him, but Raven avoided them, too (because yeah he can talk to plants apparently…).

The last thing we’ll have to look out for is the southernmost courtyard. Mikael says there are a bunch of statues there – statues that look like people and creatures frozen in various poses. So we have one of those to deal with.

There are buildings along the west border of the complex, but they have gaping holes in the walls here and there, and our spies report they don’t seem to have floors inside to speak of. The whole place was burned and trashed some time back, and I guess the current residents have focused on rehabilitating the main building on the south-east side (there’s a new roof, but they didn’t build it as high up as the old external walls). So that’s probably where any prisoners (ahem) are going to be.

While we were waiting, Ezekiel did his whole “sink into a trance and try to contact higher powers” thing, and he says the info he got is: the Earth Dragon doesn’t really “do” temples, so this isn’t really a temple to him. He thinks it used to be Beori, but there’s been some…confusion lately. Most importantly, the temple is largely a cover for the business of the Slave Lords, which is enough motivation for us.

Lastly, Ezekiel says he “received information” that our enemies “filed a request” that their spells work on him, and “the request has been granted” for an unspecified length of time. Whatever that means. He says he won’t be able to talk in silence spells anymore…so there’s that.

Sunset comes early enough that we had time to find an inn and settle down before it got too late. Quite apart from the time of year, I think this is not the kind of town where we should sleep out of doors. Ezekiel talked a big game about camping in the alley, but he should know better after being kidnapped.

He’s going to buy Bornthene a bow and quiver tomorrow, and we enact our Grand Plan tomorrow night. Should be exciting, to say the least…


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Dear Diary….lying in wait for blood

Alert: may contain spoilers for the adventure, “Scourge of the Slave Lords”

Well, the morning was quite interesting, too.

I don’t remember who was on watch last, but when we all got up, Targl had untied himself. Must keep an eye on that one.

He seemed very nervous, but he hadn’t run off…and when Ezekiel went over to talk to him, he slunk away toward Mikael and asked him to get his “scary priest buddy” to cool it.

Mikael started asking questions, and Targil started unburdening his heart.

He and Agnar work for the Slave Lords, while Bornthene comes along as their cover because the Slave Lords have his family hostage (he says he used to live north of Fax, so the family might be anywhere by now).

The Broken Rudder, that Elred inn they encouraged us to go to, is run by Agnar’s brother Ragnar…T and A get tips and information from someone called the “Mad One,” to funnel troublemakers or people asking too many questions down to Elred, where Ragnar takes over.

T says he’s not sure if the Mad One really is mad, but that he’s very good at gathering information. Maybe he can scry things — T says the Slave Lords can scry, and use that to check in on their teams from time to time (hence Bo’s fear). Continue reading

Dear Diary….chaotic evening

While in Fax, we found a blacksmith that would file off our shackles, no questions asked. So…the first one we came to.

There’s still a little burn mark on the top of our wrists, but it doesn’t hurt by this time. Anyway, the shackle won’t impede our movement anymore…or attract spark-shower anymore. That helps Raven, at least.

****

Well, it’s been an…”eventful” night.

I’m not quite sure how it started. Raven and I were getting ready to stand watch, while everybody else was laying out their bedrolls (the three-some all together, as has been their preference).

Mikael was singing to his pet bat, and then Ezekiel decided to make a move. He asked Bornthene the halfling to come over and chat with him – but the other two were kinda nervous and angry about that. Ez asked about the turnip business, and B admitted out loud that was just a cover story – so they could travel around and ask questions about the Slave Lords, of course.

Well, something must have happened to make Ezekiel nervous. Next thing I knew, I couldn’t hear the fire crackling – and when I looked over, only Ezekiel could be heard speaking. He asked Agnar the dwarf to go talk with Mikael privately, and only got glares and inaudible curses. Then he asked Targil the human for help — only to have Targl bolt for the trees.

Then things got really chaotic. Bornthene bolted into the woods – followed or pursued by Buffy the bat. Raven was suddenly making air-punches at Agnar, who was swatting at insects. I saw that Ezekiel wouldn’t be able to question the three-some if they ran away, so I asked the plants to help us out…and what do you know, THEY DID. Chilly and browned as they were, the grass and weeds beneath our feet rose up and grabbed at the feet of our enemies (and also Raven, but he’s so fast he just danced around them). Targl was so caught, he stood frozen from head to foot, making it easy for Ezekiel to tie him up (after I told the weeds to let go of Ezekiel, that is).

Bornthene finally came back with Buffy, but didn’t look too happy. He begged us to tie him up because “they” (the Slave Lords) might be watching!

I gotta find out what he means when we have the chance…animal spies? Magic – like scrying? Do they have another team on this team??

Anyway, the three-some are tied up and tucked into their bedrolls, and everyone is pretending to try to sleep.

As for me, I could do with some bugbears or goblins right about now. I’m homesick.


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