Know thy enemy

Kuthona 30
It’s been a busy week. We celebrated the Midwinter Festival in Isenfell for once. The Alchemist’s Guild had a fantastic display of fireworks and we must have had twenty giant bonfires burning all around the city. The weather was delightfully mild with light snow. Perlivash spent the whole evening dropping snowballs on random passerbys, but they didn’t seem to mind. Warm mead and roasts for everyone tend to put people in a good mood, despite the threat of war in the spring.

The day after that we hallowed the council chambers and put a dimensional anchor on them. If we have anyone else porting in they won’t be able to leave the same way. We also gave Lily a pretty big influx of cash to find out what she can about Pitax’s plans. Before she left, she mentioned we might want to check out a situation in Olegton. Earlier this year the mayor had left his wife of many years for a much younger woman. Normally not of interest, but she now seems to more or less be running things there.

While Khismia and Jiro headed out to talk to the residents of Olegton, the rest of us talked to the Mayor. He seemed happy and normal, just not really as interested in managing Olegton as one would expect. Jiro and Khismia reported back that while she’s been taking over, people don’t seem to mind as she is effective and attractive. We decided we should talk to his former wife who’s only comment was “Jenna is young, beautiful, and has my ex-husband wrapped around her finger.” It didn’t take much persuasion to get the Mayor to throw a state dinner in honor of our visit where we officially met his wife, who did indeed seem normal and beautiful, though definitely ambitious. However, Khismia detected a weak transmutation aura on her which caused us to question her more aggressively (without revealing the magic aura, of course). She’s quite evasive about her past, firm about tariffs and wants to move to the capital. She’s also very bitter about Brevoy as her response to a potential war was, “If they come across the border, kill them all!”

We didn’t really have anything but vague suspicions, so let it drop, intending to have Lily set people to watching her when we got home. However, that night as Jiro was settling in his room (we like to stay over a few days on state visits if we can, rather than seem rushed), he answered a light knock on the door to reveal Jenna, requesting a moment of his time. She said that it was obvious from our dinner conversation that we were not satisfied with the background story she’s told others and she’s willing to tell Jiro, but only if he doesn’t tell her husband. Jiro agreed and she removed a magIcal disguise, revealing a form disfigured, scarred and burned. Her real name was Lizbet and she’d been a whore in New Steven before she’d refused the request of a wizard client who then burned her with acid. Using her connections, she killed him and stole the ring that powers her disguise spell. She does love her husband, though she’s not really happy in Olegton as she views it as too provincial (thus the desire to move to the capital). Jiro was satisfied with her story, though not so much that we won’t have Lily keep an ear out for other developments. Bidding our hosts farewell, we headed out towards Pitax to do our own reconnaissance. After a week of boredom and wind walking, we located two armies, still in Pitax territory, though on our border; one army of around a thousand, one of five hundred. With that information, we headed back to pool our information with Lily.

Malthus annoyed

Kuthona 20
After briefing Garess on our plan to not see Malthus, we made ourselves scarce. When Malthus returned, he refused to believe we were out and teleported into our council chambers uninvited. Having expected such boorish behavior, we weren’t there, but Garess and a sizable contingent of guardsmen were on hand to try and arrest him for his trespass. Realizing he wasn’t getting anywhere and wanting to avoid arrest or a direct confrontation, he teleported away again.

Once he left, we decided we really needed the ambassador’s side of the story, and wishing to avoids crying and/or dominating mental spells, we ambushed him with an anti-magic field active, making sure we weren’t visible before he was in the field. Our cautions were warranted when the ambassador told us that his brooch allowed Malthus to scry him. With our reassurance that the item would be inert while I was nearby, he was much more forthcoming. He told us that Surtova won the civil war with quite a lot of help from the mages and can’t really deny them requests, no matter how odd they may be. He doesn’t know why the magic college is so interested in that area that they’re willing to affect alliances to acquire it. He advises us to expect retribution as soon as Malthus returns to Brevoy, but did say that he quite enjoyed the dismissive way we treated Malthus. He also said that while Malthus isn’t known for restraint, this seemed a bit extreme, and perhaps the individual we’ve been dealing with may actually not be who we think it is.

With that in mind, we quickly turned to attempting to locate Malthus. Finding him still in town, we ambushed him at his lodging, and while defending ourselves, discovered that he was actually a simulacrum, melting into snow upon his death. Can’t stop him from getting the word back to Surtova, so things may get interesting soon. Eran approved funding for Ilona to start mustering an army to deal with Pitax, who we believe will be the easier threat to neutralize.

Brevoy Threatens
Why is that fey crystal so important?

Kuthona 19
Our Brevoyan ambassador requested an audience this morning, which we granted. He entered with a companion whom he seemed uncomfortable with and introduced him as Malthus from the Brevoyan College of Wizardry in New Steven. Malthus took great pains to describe the tensions with Pitax and told us that Pitax had requested an alliance with Brevoy. Getting to the heart of the matter, he told us that Brevoy would normally be inclined to accept their offer, but could be offered certain ‘inducements’ to refuse – namely, the fey crystal grove. Summoning the ambassador like a lackey, Malthus informed us we could have until tomorrow to deliberate and then they left together.

We immediately summoned Lily and gave her the run down on what had transpired and she was able to tell us that her information about Malthus was that he sits on the leadership council of the college in what’s basically an enforcer role. Not wishing to be forced into an encounter on his terms, and having no desire to cede that landmark to their College of Wizards, we decided to refuse to see him tomorrow, perhaps being out on some ‘pressing business’ or some other polite diplomatic falsehood.

Fey Happenings
Another artifact to destroy?

Kuthona 9
Sorry about the dramatic ending to yesterday’s entry. Khismia tripped on a pack and nearly spilled our stew into the fire (as well as herself). Obviously we survived the violent reaction to Breela’s spell in the alchemy lab, though the opposing forces were not so lucky. After healing up the damage and making sure that the weapon research was definitely destroyed, we explored the rest of the above ground buildings and found nothing of interest. Returning to the gardener’s room, Jiro, who also dabbles in construction and engineering, started working on the clock to see if he could figure out how to disassemble it for transport. He did something that caused a bunch of water to spill out, which surprisingly solidified into a beautiful elven woman, presumably the ‘water nymph’ rumored to live below the abbey and the cause of the extraordinary potency of the wine once made here. I must say I hadn’t expected her to be living inside a water clock!

The neriad introduced herself as Evindra and thanked us profusely for the rescue. She’d been imprisoned by the (crazy) gardener years ago in an attempt to force her to marry him. We explained we’d fought off an angry ghost, most likely her captor. She told us that four weeks ago she’d heard some men talking to the gardener, but she refused to tell us what they were talking about, but at least we now know that he was still alive at that time. She also was devastated about a missing shawl of hers which we were unable to locate. I’m assuming it’s not just a fetching accessory to her wardrobe…

Not being able to get her to trust us so we could try and help her out, we convinced her to teleport with us to Melianse’s grove where they talked in private for awhile and eventually decided to trust us a little. She was the guardian of a sword named “Briar,” an important artifact of the First World. She vaguely mentioned that it is related in some way to Nyrissa, a powerful but twisted nymph. It’s a name we’ve encountered before and she was distressed that Nyrissa’s attention might be focused on this land. She gave us a description of “Briar” and told us not to touch it as using it would awaken it and draw Nyrissa’s attention and she could not be allowed to recover it. She entreated us to recover the sword and her shawl, taken away by Pitaxian agents, and promised that in return she would tell us all that she knew. She’ll stay with Melianse to be nearby in case we need to contact her.

The Winery
May have once been a nice place

Later on Kuthona 8
After using a Greater Teleport to get to the winery we found it in extreme disrepair. We did hear a dice game nearby, but Khismia, feeling alone without her eidolon friend, started summoning him immediately without checking out the surroundings first. Not surprisingly, they heard her and came to investigate. We were forced to be more aggressive when they obviously recognized Eran (as the king of Isenfell) and yelled to run and tell “Gaetane.” I pulled Khismia and Breela, the only 2 within easy reach, into a dimension door to the back of the room in an attempt to cut off the ones trying to notify others of our presence. Eran forbade them to move, which helped on some of them, but not enough to keep others from knocking out Breela. After a quick channel, I ran out of the building following Khismia who was following a bard who’d blinked through the wall. Khismia decided that a rampaging triceratops would be just the thing to remain unnoticed, though it did take care of the bard…

With Eran forbidding movement on the rest of the guys inside the building, Jiro and Ilona were easily able to clean them up. We put out the fires Breela had caused, got her healed up and headed to a cave which had a tunnel leading up into the abbey through their well. On the way we dealt with a rotting corpse and the tunnel’s “lights,” more will o’wisps. The ghost managed to nearly kill Khismia, but Eran got to her in time with some massive curative magic and we successfully dispersed the foul spirit. Once things had calmed down, Jiro noticed a secret door through one of the casks leading to what we think was the gardener’s room containing a gorgeous water clock. Deciding to return and check out the clock later, we scouted up the well to find the abbey and a graveyard. Another dimension door spell put us at the top of the well where we found some people quite surprised to see us appear. A grand fight ensued not only with the abbey defenders, archers and guys with enlarge person spells, but a couple of shambling mounds which seemed to take exception to our presence and ambled in from the graveyard to hug the eidolon.

Once we’d emerged victorious, we headed into the abbey proper to discover an extensive alchemical set-up. We heard a voice, presumably the man in charge of the operation here tell people, presumably behind the barricade, because we didn’t see anyone, to hold us off because the “horn is nearly ready.” Assuming that that would be bad for us, Jiro and Khismia immediately moved to hack down the barricade. Ilona jumped over the barricade, and from the sounds she made landing I presume it was less than graceful! I simply dimension doored with Eran and Breela. Breela immediately started casting a spell, and unfortunately, finished it just as the alchemist yelled “No spells!” and the room exploded!

Premptive Strike
Dealing with a problem before it becomes one

Kuthona 8
Lily brought to our attention a report from a ranger in the Pitax lands by the name of Ilamaner Melarson detailing a troubling development at an old abbey dedicated to Caiden Kailean. The abbey, Whiterose, has been abandoned this past decade or so after the abbot was murdered and the other brothers all poisoned by the gardener (or so rumor has it). They had been known for their wine, which while never fermented, was still unusually potent. The local explanation involves a water spirit named Evindra who dwells (or dwelt) below the abbey.

All that was just background though to the reason the ranger chose to contact us, and that was to inform us that there’s now been renewed activity at the abbey under the direction of Lord Irovetti of Pitax. His researchers there appear to be experimenting with a magical weapon created with the help of a master poisoner from Daggermark. The net effect is essentially a cloudkill spell that is useable by non-mages. The ranger noticed that they were testing it on local flora and fauna and wishes us to stop it. Not wanting our own troops to be facing such a devastating weapon, Eran agreed it was best we go at once, though hopefully get in and out without being recognized. I’ll write more later, I must go grab my gear.

A Glorious Arena for Gorum
Ah, to eat with utensils again

Kuthona 5
Today marked the day that our very fancy arena to Gorum opened its doors to gladiators and mercenaries of all lands who wished to compete to earn the favor of the god of battle. There has been an overwhelmingly positive response as vastly more combatants than we expected have flocked to Isenfell in the last few weeks in anticipation of its completion and grand opening. There were even rumors of activity in the box reserved for Gorum himself! We must have successfully restored favor with Gorum as earlier today the heat faded out of every metal implement in our kingdom, allowing normal routines to be reestablished.

While not as glorious as a new arena, Tatzlford was glad to welcome more housing and a new park which I’m sure will look more impressive in the spring. We’ve also added more walls around our growing capital, as well as a pier and theater.

On a more somber note, Lily reported rumors that forces from Brevoy are massing on our northern borders and informed us that she’ll be concentrating most of her resources to get information about their deployment and composition.

The Siege Beast
Flies pretty well for a flightless dragon

Neth 15
After a couple of days cooling our heels in the General’s war camp (and Eran and Evelyth being mysteriously missing together), we got word that his scouts had located our target and headed back to the bunker for our briefing. With advance notice we were able to go into battle with most of our buffs up and start attacking immediately after we teleported in. Wow, did that thing hit hard! Ilona challenged it, and I’d shielded her, so we were splitting the damage, but even so, it was challenging for Eran and I to keep up with the damage. Unfortunately for the beast, we had three heavy hitters to reciprocate and Khismia flew around the beast to distract it and provide flanking to the other two. It tried to fly away (wasn’t it supposed to be flightless?!?) but Khismia, Ilona and I all dimension doored to it and managed to prevent it getting away. We were able to head back to the General and report that his siege problem was solved, for now at least.

Having taken care of the immediate threats that his crusaders couldn’t handle, we were given leave to head back home to take care of whatever we needed to in our kingdom. Eran recently approved funding for several more festivals and there’s one coming up in three days. I think it would be nice if we actually celebrated with our people for once! Ilona and Perlivash were wholeheartedly behind this plan. Besides, we need to start building our grand arena so people can use eating utensils again…

Back to the World Wound
For Gorum!

Neth 13
We met back up with Evelyth near Nerosyan to continue with our interrupted plan to meet with General Tarolen. While traveling to the general’s camp we filled her in on our adventures yesterday and she told us that Raziel has been part of the incursion at the World Wound. We reported to General Tarolen after being subjected to a thorough magical scan (gem of true-seeing, zone of truth) to make sure we weren’t a team of demonic assassins, I guess. After verifying our identities, we were led to an underground bunker with a huge map and lots of activity. The general, a paladin of Iomedae, greeted Evelyth warmly and while a bit surprised by our presence and request to “help out,” he immediately gave us a task to help out a troop contingent which was in the process of getting cut off and surrounded. If we could go immediately they could give us a key that would allow us to port there directly (also giving us a strict injunction that if there were any possibility of us being captured or killed that we immediately destroy it). Taking Ilona’s sword and enchanting it with his magical sheath, he then told us to “Go quickly!” so we did.

We teleported next to a fortress with a bridge which we needed to hold against a force of vrocks and their minions while the troops attempted an orderly retreat back to the fortress. I immediately erected a blade barrier to hold our line at the bridge and we left Breela behind it do deal with any demons that got around or through it. Since the demonic forces lacked the attuning keys allowing them to teleport into the dimensionally locked grounds, it evened the fight a lot. Thes rest of us waded into the waves of demonic forces trying to take the bridge with Khismia immediately flying forward alone to engage a nalfeshnie that appeared. While we were dealing with the vrocks and nalfeshnie still a couple of glabrezu showed up with more fodder troops. I lost track of what everyone was doing because the glabrezu reversed gravity on Jiro and I had to teleport up to retrieve him (and I landed us next to a vrock that had gotten around my barrier, which Jiro immediately dispatched, to much cheering from the remaining defenders of the bridge). Then the glabrezu reversed gravity on us again, so I had to fly up and just cast fly on Jiro so it wasn’t a problem any longer. While doing that I had a brief surreal glimpse of Mari also flying into the air before she disappeared, presumably hosteled by Ilona. I completely lost track of Khismia, which I found out later from Eran was because she’d turned herself invisible early on. We also discovered later that the eidolon had apparently failed to resist a confusion spell and had turned on Khismia and attacked her. Fortunately, due to the eidolon’s summoned nature, as soon as he knocked Khismia out he was dismissed and Khismia was left to fall to the ground (as she had been flying on him), unconscious, invisible, and behind enemy lines. Eran only knew she was alive because he was still taking damage from her life link and his status spell gave him a vague directional indicator.

With Jiro freed from the tyranny of gravity, he proceeded to charge the glabrezu that had been harassing him, but it wasn’t done being a pain as it then put up a myriad of images that all appeared identical to itself. The other one, also seeing no more fun in reversing gravity with us all flying moved to the place Eran last saw Khismia and did the same. Eran tries to move close enough to channel and heal Khismia (assuming she hadn’t moved) but is surrounded by schir and has to retreat into the air. Ilona charges the second glabrezu and it suppresses the magic on Jiro’s sword. You should have seen how irritated he was getting by this time! Eventually Khismia must have gotten enough passive healing or our channels were hitting her somewhere because the next thing we knew a giant triceratops and Jiro were both charging the final glabrezu and it got caught between them where even its images couldn’t save it for long. With their commanders defeated, the demonic fodder fled and we were able to withdraw to the fortress safely.

After dedicating the glorious battle to Gorum, we headed back to General Tarolen to report the safe retrieval of his troops. He congratulated us on our stellar victory and asked if we were looking for more demons to kill. Since we had more time, we told him of our oath to Sir Garon, which I think impressed him, and also our plight with Gorum, which may or may not have amused him (I think they train paladins to always look stoic or something). In any case, he had another target in mind for us, but it’s one that may take his scouts a few days to find the exact location. We’re to rest up out in the camp somewhere (and I plan to memorize a safe area to teleport to since I can’t get here directly) while he sends his scouts out. The target he has in mind is a giant living siege weapon of some kind that’s been overwhelming their fortifications in the north. It’s a creature from the World Would, some kind of flightless dragon which Breela thinks sounds a bit like a cairn linorm. From that knowledge we plan to memorize a lot of delay poison spells while we wait to hear back from the scouts on its location.

We had barely begun settling in for the evening when we got word that a battle-priest of Gorum wished to see us. He informed us that Gorum was impressed with our mighty deeds and would choose to overlook our “previous transgressions” for a small boon. Gorum wished to spread his glory to our kingdom with a grand gladiatorial arena dedicated in his name. It would, of course, need to be grander than any other arena anywhere nearby, requiring more detailing, more beauty, more grandeur. Eran assured him that we would make it so as soon as we’d dealt with the General’s siege beast and arrived back home.

Taking the Fight to the Enemy
Into the Abyss

Neth 12
Our research indicated that if we’re indeed getting raiding parties all from the same place then there most likely exists some kind of planar focus allowing someone on the other side to “hold” the portal open to one location. Should the portal be held in this way, the traffic should be both ways and we can also go through to the plane to try and take the planar key from them so they can’t just raid at will.

While Breela and I had gone back to Isenfell to research the planar gate, Eran and the others stayed behind so that he could fill the cave with stone walls to buy us some time. While we were gone, they said they’d heard something trying to break through the stone several times. Once reunited, I cast a commune spell to try and discern the appearance and nature of the focus we’d be looking for once we took the fight to the other side of the gate. The information I gleaned was the key can destroy the portal and that it’s small and will radiate magic when searching for such things. Armed with that knowledge, we destroyed our stone barricade and waited for the portal to solidify again. Three days waiting have finally been rewarded by it opening earlier today and us heading through into a group of demons led by a nalfeshnie holding up what we presume to be the portal key (at least, it’s obviously fey in origin and I can’t think of what else it would be). Unfortunately, the nalfeshnies don’t get to be leaders by being stupid and it immediately teleported away when we came through the portal. We wiped out its little raiding party and headed to the nearest place we thought it likely to go, an ominous fortress nearby.

Not wanting to waste magical might when the fortress looked to be only half a mile away, we simply walked. Not like our arrival was going to surprise the occupants anyway if it was indeed the hiding place for the nalfeshnie…

The easiest way in looked to be flying up to one of the towers, though they obviously saw us coming and headed down and closed the trap doors. Nothing a little Jiro-key couldn’t handle though. There were runes on all of the flat surfaces of the keep, presumably the mark of the demon in charge. The only resistance we encountered on the way down were packs of goat-demons called schir. In the courtyard, Jiro noticed more of them and ran out to lure them all back to us (they’re clearly not the smartest thing around here). Khismia, Jiro and Ilona proceeded to show them why they should have just walked away. However, while they were busy doing that, the nalfeshnie ported into the tower we’d just came out of. I tried to hit him with a dimensional anchor spell, but got interrupted and some schir managed to move to block the door allowing it time to get away again.

We ducked down into a grate which led to a maze with things scratched into the walls like, “No way out,” “Don’t know how many days, getting hungry.” We came upon two very old corpses in a room with a final message, “Sick of wandering, we will go no further. Maybe we can wait this out.” And in the next room over, something reached out of the floor and grabbed Jiro’s ankle. I don’t know what he did to anger every spirit we encounter, but they sure seem to like him. The creature moaned that it was “So hungry!” and had a nasty con damage attack, but didn’t pose much threat other than that. We presumed they were the final remains of the dead in the previous room. At least they’re truly dead now rather than stuck in an undead state. With no good way to get through the maze I utilize a find the path spell to get us back out and we come upon some non-magical tokens marked with the same rune as the rest of the keep.

Betting that these hold the key to successfully traversing the maze, we do some experimenting and find that they lock the rooms of the maze into place so it stops leading us in circles. While doing this, Khismia reported receiving telepathic sendings, presumably from the nalfeshnie saying, “Your kind do not belong here, leave this place,” “Leave before you face Raziel, leaders of the armies of Baphomet. This is your final warning.” (Baphomet being the Demon Lord of Minotaurs for those who don’t have a friend embroiled in a demonic war…) We ignore it and work our way through the maze, finding a trophy room and at last being halted at a vault door.

At this point the voice shifts to Jiro’s head, asking to make a deal. He declines, “For the glory of Gorum!” and the voice sounds resigned as it tells him, “Fine, I’ll summon her. She will torture me, but she will destroy you.” We go back to trying to figure out how to open the vault door without touching it and Khismia summons a huge earth elemental to that end, but we’re interrupted by the sound of the nalfeshnie wailing and turn to find four glabrezu and a marilith have ported in. Deciding that it can’t hurt to be bold, Ilona demands that she stop raiding our lands. She looks surprised (more for the request or that we would dare demand, I can’t say), and says she has been doing no such thing; it was her minion (glaring at the nalfeshnie). She refuses to give us the planar key to seal the gate, but says she will leave us alone as she has more important matters to attend to. Ilona demands that the nalfeshnie pay for the lives its raiding party has taken and the glabrezu comply by holding him still while Jiro executes him. Not wanting to tangle with a marilith on her home turf, we decide that discretion is the better part of valor in this case and plane shift back home where we immediately teleported back to the gate site to again fill it with stone. Interestingly enough though, the gate itself was gone when we got there, so I guess Raziel closed it?


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