Kingmaker

Our quest begins!
A bit of a bandit problem

Pharast 1
In case anyone else reads this at some point, I’ll start by introducing myself. I’m Riani Orlovsky, lately of Skywatch in Brevoy. I’m one of a set of Aasimar triplets born to human parents. I have a brother named Eran who’s rather famous (infamous?!?) for getting around a lot in our misspent youth, and an identical twin Ilona. As aasimar, we’re quite long-lived by human standards and our parents died last year while we’re considered quite young yet. The Orlovsky cousins currently in power politely yet firmly requested that we seek glory and honor (read: not mess up the succession) for the Orlovsky name “somewhere else.”

Hearing that the Sword Lords of Restov were looking for adventurous lads and lasses to clear out some seedy bandits in the Stolen Lands, it looked like a good time to make ourselves scarce at home. While I finished up my cleric studies, Eran and Ilona asked around for locals who would be interested in joining us. By the time we were ready to go, we numbered 6; Eran, who’s an Oracle, Ilona, who’s been training as a Cavalier, Khismia, a quirky human summoner and sometimes training partner of Ilona’s, an elf ranger named Jiro Ocha, and his half-elf sorceress companion Breela Forgedawn (not a name you’d expect on a half-elf, I’ll have to ask her about it someday).

We traveled to Oleg’s Trading Post on the South Rostland Road and were met by Svetlana, Oleg’s wife. She’d been expecting (hoping!) some assistance from Restov to take care of a banditry problem, and we figured we may as well start clearing them out at Oleg’s. Seems a group of bandits has been stopping by each month to take anything not nailed down and Oleg and Svetlana are sick of it. The trading post is in severe disrepair, but we thought we’d be able to handle a half-dozen bandits even without the broken catapults and sturdy walls. Jiro managed to fix the gate enough to shut and our simple plan involved hiding in various outbuildings and ambushing them when they came in to load the wagon with Oleg’s trade goods.

Unfortunately, they left one of their number outside to watch the horses, but the rest came in. After they refused Ilona’s demand that they surrender, we dispatched their leader and two of his henchmen. The other 2 surrendered, but the one with the horses escaped. Ilona tried to chase him, but didn’t wish to hurt her horse and was forced to break off. The captured bandits were happy to tell us the location of their camp in exchange for amnesty (the penalty for banditry in this region is death) and we remitted them to Oleg’s custody in exchange for their vow to serve as manual laborers for him until such a time as he decided that they’d repaid their debt to society.

Over the next few days (we didn’t want to leave right away lest the bandits retaliate immediately) we helped Oleg repair the fort as best we could and exchanged news from the city for any information they had about the surrounding area. Turns out it’s pretty wild, mostly hunters and trappers and very few settled areas. The closest “neighbor” that Oleg and Svetlana have is a “crazy alchemist Bokken” who’s SE of the trading post. Oleg says he’s a great hand at making potions, just don’t expect a good conversation from him. Svetlana also asked us to pick up some Moon Radishes if we happened to find some on our way to or from the bandit camp as she has a stew she makes from them that she’d like to serve in celebration of help arriving. Oleg also told us that the bandit leader, an unpleasant woman named Kressle, took Svetlana’s wedding ring the first time she demanded tribute and he’d like us to get it back.

After resting a few days and helping repair the fort some more, we talked of heading to the bandit camp ourselves to put down the threat for good. During this time, a nobleman, Kesten Garess, appeared with a couple of retainers and said he’d been sent by the Sword Lords in response to Oleg’s request for help. I don’t know why they’d be sending a nobleman here, and he didn’t exactly look pleased to be here, but he seems competent enough, and was able to repair one of the broken catapults. He asked us to keep an eye out for a man named Falgrim Sneeg who’d robbed Garris’ group while working as a mercenary and fled to the Green Belt to become a bandit. Garris would like him captured alive if possible to face justice in Restov. With the trading post secure we finally felt confident leaving Oleg and Svetlana behind to try and clear out the bandit camp. We’ll leave in the morning.

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A short interlude
You meet all kinds of people out here

Pharast 6
In the morning, before we could head out, a cleric of Erastil, Jhod Kavken, arrived. He stated he’s felt a calling from his deity to come to the Green Belt, but is evasive when pressed for details, or even when asked about his past. After talking with him a bit, I remembered I’d heard his name before. He was nearly excommunicated for inciting a lynch mob to kill an alleged werewolf, but instead has been “exiled to the frontier.” I’ll keep that to myself until such a time as the information might be handy. Over dinner and drinks and Eran’s ready charm he finally revealed he’d been having a dream night after night of a glade with a crumbling statue of Erastil and a dangerous bear guarding it. He feels that he’s been led to find this glade and restore it. He gave us as much description as he could from his dream and asked us to let him know if we find it as he’s positive it is nearby.

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Moon radishes and a strange encounter
Finally getting into the wilds

Pharast 7
We finally left the fort in Garess’ hands and headed toward the area Svetlana had last harvested moon radishes. We found the radish patch, but heard strange moaning inside (the briars were pretty thick around it). Apparently it’s a favorite place of some kobolds, and our sorceress says they mentioned something about “sootscale” before they became hostile and started throwing rocks at Ilona while she tried to reason with them. They’re oddly protective of radishes! Khismia and Ilona waded into the thicket to deal with the “threat” but Eran and I couldn’t stop laughing at how comical they looked long enough to help. Not that they needed it! We collected our now unguarded radishes and made camp nearby.

While Ilona and I were keeping watch that night a strange man appeared at our camp and asked if he could share our fire. He introduced himself as Seamus, a hunter of sorts. He carried no weapons, wore no armor and didn’t seem to have any spell casters paraphernalia on him, and yet he assured us that he was able to take care of himself and had just stopped by to satisfy his curiosity about who we were. We told him we were intending to remove the bandit camp the next day. He inquired as to whether we’d encountered a foul-tempered hunter/trapper who he described as “being out in the wilds too long” and no longer caring where he lays his traps. He warned us that this “Breeg” leaves his traps in the northwestern Narlmarches and to be careful of them. Oddly enough, when he walked away from our fire he simply melted back into the darkness like he’d never even been there. Quite an odd character. The rest of the night was uneventful.

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Time to Get Our Hands Dirty
Sometimes You Get the Bear(trap), Sometimes the Bear(trap) gets You

Pharast 9
The weather turned terrible, windy and rainy, but since getting rid of the bandit camp meant we could head back to Oleg’s to celebrate, we pressed ahead. The bandits weren’t exactly expecting us to want to fight in the rain, and they were all huddled in blankets and tents when we got to their camp (as would be any sensible people!), but they looked lively enough when they noticed us. Our grand entrance involved Jiro finding a trap – with his foot! That kind of summarized how this fight would go… Elan offered the bandits a chance to surrender and when Kressle joined them Ilona offered the same, but neither got a favorable answer, so we were forced to eliminate nearly all of them. After many, many bear traps and much channeling of positive energy, we had killed all but one of Kressle’s henchmen (as the smart one ran away) and taken her prisoner. We located alot of trade goods that matched the description of the stuff stolen from Oleg’s as well as a few other things which we’ll take back with us and see if anyone’s been missing them. We stripped the bandits of their useful gear and loaded it all in a wagon they had in the camp.

We decided that the now-empty camp (and trust me, no one was more careful to clear the bear traps from the rest of the camp than Jiro) would be a fine place to spend the night and settled down for supper. Once again, our mysterious friend(?) Seamus showed up, this time dragging the bandit who’d run. Hurray, someone to interrogate about other bandit activity in the area! Seamus also suggested we look in the south for more bandits and when asked, hadn’t heard of a glade matching the description given to us by Jhod.

Once woken up, the bandit, Joren by name, was quite cooperative. Perhaps he’s heard of the death penalty for banditry too! When searching the camp and the bandits we hadn’t located Svetlana’s wedding ring, but it turns out that some mites (tiny blue ugly goblin things) had raided the bandit camp a few nights earlier and taken some bags of loot. Joren knows they lair in a giant sycamore tree close by to the southeast. He also told us the bandit camp Seamus referred to is in fact the Fortress of the Stag Lord, the leader for all the bandit activity in this area. Joren hasn’t been there lately, but seemed terrified of this mysterious leader of the bandits, who apparently gets his name from the stag-faced helmet he wears at all times. He says the man is huge and brutal, an excellent archer and insanely strong, once “crushing a man’s skull one-handed.” There are also some underbosses in the Stag Lord’s command structure; Auchs, described as dumb but very, very big; Dovan, a “crafty little bastard;” Markard, a soldier; and Akiros, an ex-paladin. Joren also said there’s “some old guy” locked up in the dungeon at the fortress who the Stag Lord visits daily. At this point Joren offered up the pass code to enter the fortress in exchange for his freedom, but that would be unlawful, so instead we offered him the same deal the bandit’s at Oleg’s got – manual labor or death. Joren wasn’t happy about remaining in the area for the Stag Lord to find out about him giving up his secrets, but when offered in such stark terms he eventually chose to head back to Oleg’s and give honest living a try. As a sign of good faith, he also told us the pass code; when challenged, we should reply, “And so the stink marks the jackal in a den of wolves.”

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Wrapping Up Loose Ends
Perhaps Oleg wants his stuff back?

Pharast 10
As much as we wanted to set out for the mite lair immediately, it seemed impractical to do so hauling a wagon full of Oleg’s trade goods and two prisoners, one of which was completely uncooperative. So instead, we made tracks for Oleg’s and arrived mid-day. We discovered that a courier had stopped by from Restov with some wanted posters as well as the bounties posted by locals. Svetlana gave us some money in appreciation for the radishes we brought back and Oleg offered to send to Restov for the bounty on bandits next time he sent for supplies, so that’s a nice boost to our finances. The bounty from Restov is to eliminate the Sootscale kobold threat, through eliminating the kobolds or forging a treaty with them. The crazy kobolds in the radish patch must have been a part of that tribe. One of the area hunters put a bounty out for a boar named Tuskgutter, who removed his leg last year. Oleg would like us to kill a Tatzlwyrm and return with his head to be stuffed and mounted at the trading post as he thinks it would make an interesting conversation piece. Oleg also said that Bokken (crazy alchemist) had “something” he wanted done, but we’d have to speak with him directly to discover what exactly he wants.

Garess asked us if we’d found his mercenary at the bandit camp, and was delighted we’d brought back a live bandit to question. After speaking with Joren, he ascertained that his quarry was holed up with the Stag Lord in the fortress. The rise of organized bandit activity in the area concerned him greatly and he sent a messenger to the Sword Lords requesting more men to quell the activity, or at least defend the outpost.

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Yep, Bokken's Crazy
Back out into the wilds

Pharast 11
Kressle remained unrepentant of her banditry, so we hung her for her crimes. After that nasty bit of work was done we headed out to find out what the neighboring alchemist would like done. Though it took us a few hours to find him, we finally stumbled on his little hovel and discovered that Oleg hadn’t exaggerated. His attention span has to be measured in seconds, but in a moment of lucidity he asked us to find some Fangberries (because they’ll make his potions taste sweet!), and Khismia and Jiro were able to buy a couple potions from him. We’ll see how effective they are later, I guess. Amongst his rambling he mentioned how much better he would be at making potions if his “bastard brother” hadn’t cut off the pinky on his left hand. We asked, regrettably, and now know that he looks just like Bokken, lives in a hollow tree in the southern Green Belt and is just as crazy as Bokken (though maybe to a crazy person, a normal person is crazy?). He was able to suggest a location to look for Fangberries, which looks like it’s pretty close to the Stag Lord’s fortress. We’ll head south in any case to clean out the mite lair and get Svetlana’s ring back.

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Time Passes
There's sometimes a whole lot of nothing in the wilderness

Pharast 14
After a couple of days exploring, the only thing of interest we found was an enormous tree which had been struck by lightning awhile ago and now resembles a giant claw reaching out of the ground. It was eerie. However, at the base of it, we discovered a recently dug-up area and when we investigated, turned up a heavy leather cloak wrapped around a dagger, a wand, a ring (unfortunately, not Svetlana’s), and a spell book. The spell book was rain damaged, but may still be of interest to someone.

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Mite Lair, Ho!
Flailing Wildly

Pharast 16
By mid-day we’d reached the mite’s lair in the sycamore tree. Mites are pretty small it seems as we could only walk single file into the entrance and tunnels and had to hunch over the whole time lest most of us be scraping our heads on the ceiling. Sadly, we aren’t very good at being quiet, even when not squirming into tunnels that are too small for us and the mites obviously heard us coming pretty quickly. Turns out mites like to fight along giant centipedes (shudder!) and centipedes have venom that makes you clumsy. I’m pretty sure clerics with more training can fix that, but it’s beyond my skill at this time, so we just had to live with it and fight on. After many mites from within the cavern and even some flanking us from behind, we finally cleared out the first “room” and were able to move deeper into the cavern system.

Fortunately, though not for her companion, Khismia had the foresight to send her summoned eidolon in before us, which meant that the mites waiting in ambush in that room all hit the eidolon with their attacks instead of us. Khismia says she can call it back tomorrow and didn’t seem too worried about it, so we just followed it right into the room of mites. Seems we found their leader, or at least a bigger mite riding a giant tick, ewww. Turns out giant ticks are a lot tougher than mites. It kept grabbing Khismia and sucking on her, then swapping to Ilona and sucking on her as directed by its rider. Turns out giant ticks like to suck vitality, who knew? Jiro had been hit by some kind of spell in the first room that shook him up pretty bad as he couldn’t bring himself to hit the mites. Breela waded into the melee and grew claws!

Eventually we wore down the tick and dispatched it as well as its rider, though it was a close thing. Eran and I were nearly depleted from keeping Khismia and Ilona alive through all the tick’s attacks. Having finally cleared the room, we ransacked it for Svetlana’s ring, but couldn’t find it. We searched the bodies and everything. All we found was a piece of paper with some unknown writing on it and a strange statue of some kind of devil or demon which wasn’t familiar from any of our religious or planar studies. We brought it along in case it turned out to be important.

We looked for a way to get across the small chasm separating the room we were in from the next one we could see. There were many, many strong-looking vines with hand- and foot-holds, presumably added by the mites, so we figured that would be our way across. As Jiro headed over to the chasm and looked in, however, he was attacked by a huge centipede! With us running low on healing energy this wasn’t a good time for a new foe to appear. Eran and I had to use Sanctuary and our last healing spells to keep Jiro alive to kill it with the help of a stream of summoned eagles from Khismia. The smart critter stayed out over the chasm so we could barely hit it! Once it was dead, Jiro headed across the vine hand-holds, discovering that the mites had rigged some of them to fall, but his natural agility saved him from the 30-foot drop into the chasm. The rest of us followed behind only using the ones he’d demonstrated were safe.

Once we got into the last room, we found several kobolds tied up. A couple were dead, but one was alive and after being untied and given water exclaimed, “Many thanks, Bigguns, Mikmek serve you forever!” It’s a good thing that Ilona and Breela can speak draconic. Turns out that the mites had stolen a statue from the Sootscale kobolds and they had raided the mite lair (and apparently not done so well) to get it back. They needed the statue because their tribe was supposedly cursed and only following the demands of the statue, as translated by a strange purple-skinned (and newly arrived) kobold shaman, could keep them from dying. This sounded alot like a scam to us, especially as we’d checked the statue for magical auras and found none. Mikmek assured us that it was true, and that the shaman, Tartuk now more or less led the Sootscale kobold tribe due to his power and the statue. He also said the chief wasn’t happy with the shaman’s new power (really?) and when pressed admitted, "Mikmek not like shaman, but keeps tribe safe from curse. He was really, uncomfortable speaking out against him though, even to us. With the return of the statue and perhaps assisting the chief against his little shaman problem, we’re pretty confident we can try and broker a peace treaty with the Sootscale. We’ll have Mikmek lead us to their caverns and try and talk with the chief alone.

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Sootscale Kobold Caverns
It's good to be the king, err chief

We rested a couple days to work the centipede venom out of our systems, and then headed to the kobold caverns. Our simple plan (as Mikmek is a pretty simple kobold) was to have Mikmek talk to the guards at the front to find out if the chief is inside or out hunting. Luck was with us as the guard was a friend of Mikmek’s and able to tell us that the chief was out hunting and/or fishing, so we waited on his probable return path. After several hours of waiting, we intercepted his hunting party on their return trip and, with Mikmek’s help, explained that we’d removed the mites and recovered the statue. It definitely sounds like a peace treaty could be possible as he’s mainly interested in remaining in his caverns, which are an old silver mine (hmm, trade opportunities?) and had only been raiding because the shaman demanded it. We offered our assistance in resolving his power struggle with the shaman (“Mikmek talk too much”) and he asked us for the statue. Ilona asked for Svetlana’s ring in return, which he agreed to (the kobolds had been raiding the mites at the shaman’s behest for awhile now, and that’s apparently one of the items they’d taken). Once in possession of the statue, the chief set it on the ground and smashed it! After not being smited for his temerity, he asked us to accompany him to depose the shaman.

After stalking into the caverns and calling for all the kobolds to gather around him (and definitely no purple-skinned shaman in the group), he explained how they’d been deceived and called on all of them to take up arms against the shaman. At this time, the kobolds were down to only two dozen or so, though the chief said before the shaman and his “yellow curse” (scales turn yellow, kobold sickens and dies), they had at least twice as many. We all stomped back to the chief’s former apartments, now belonging to the shaman, but found no one there but a couple kobold slaves to the shaman who didn’t know where he’d disappeared to. After quite awhile searching, we finally found a secret door leading outside, and a note, presumably left by the shaman for us to find saying how he’d been having so much fun here and that he’d be back. Jiro tracked him to the river and then lost the trail. The chief feels he owes us a debt for helping remove Tartuk, though he still wishes him dead. We assured him that we’d take care of that if given the opportunity and then took our leave to return to Oleg’s.

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A Serendipitous Discovery
There's gold in them thar hills!

Pharast 20
While riding back to Oleg’s through another area of unexplored wilderness we noticed a hill with a large crack in it. When we squeezed through to investigate, we found that the far wall sparkled, and on closer inspection, it turned out to be a vein of gold in the rock. I think we’ve found a possible site for a gold mine! We’ll have to get an expert down here to check it out. Since our kobold adventures stretched our rations thin, Jiro managed to hunt down some wild game and make us a delicious stew.

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