Blades of Light

Tal's Journal, Entry 44
Well, he did sort of take command, didn't he?

There were only four people that we could see, that looked like they were waiting for us, one of which had an enormous raven perched on his shoulder.

Well, I’m willing to be civil until they try to murder us.

The fortifications looked relatively new, so that says something. Not sure what it says.

The apparent leader was a half-orc who introduced himself as Calad… and promptly asked if Ceor had come to assume command.

He said an oracle of Mavros had shown up, to say that the champion of Mavros would arrive to take command of the armies. The description was admittedly vague… but she was definitely allied with Cindersong. They didn’t know about the diabolism, or so they say.

But Calad pointed out that they couldn’t exactly send everyone home, and he’s right, in this part of the world. But maybe we can send them home for the harvest, and we could use some support next season when Friula and Savoyne are going to get nasty.

Of course, Ceor was looking to me for advice, as he does, and one of the others pointed out that the Champion of Mavros would not bow to anyone… well, prophecies are seldom what one expects. Ceor pointed out that we were friends, and he looked to me for advice.

It was decided that Ceor would do a ride-through of the camps, displaying the sword he recovered from the Throne of Mavros. One of the women wandered up and gave me a jewel with some sort of evocation effect, but wouldn’t tell me what it was. I’ll have to do some more investigating later. At the same time, the huge raven flapped over to Reeshka (perching on Keshemet’s head to do it) and gave her another gem.

Interesting.

Over the next two days, we managed to visit all of the encampments and convince them to disband for the moment, and start things up next season. I suspect that most of them will end up joining free companies to fight on behalf of Feymott. And about a tenth of them ended up swearing fealty to Reeshka.

Which takes care of the army itself, but now that leaves the more… mm, overenthusiastic imbeciles, such as the ones who are presumably besieging Friula.

If they’re as poorly equipped as the ones that tried to attack Feymott they’ll get planted in short order. I’m just worried about Friula’s response.

The four people we met in the fortifications, and about a hundred other people ended up travelling back to Feymott to petition for citizenship. I can live with this.

I did have a moment to examine the gem the woman gave me, which seemed to be some sort of strong elemental earth aspect, associated with acid. If I held it too long, it actually started to sting, though the girl seemed to handle it with no problem.

When we got back, we called a meeting with the town council to explain what was going on. We do have some advantages here, in that we have a larger population and an entire legion’s worth of free companies willing to fight under our banner. On the other hand, we also have outlying fanatical companies that might not have gotten the memo about the army disbanding- at least one of which is probably besieging Friula before we want them to- as well as the fact that Cindersong is definitely back, and allied with the so-called ‘Oracle of Mavros’.

This’ll be… interesting. I have the feeling we’re getting involved in a multi-faced chess game, and I’m not entirely sure who the opponents are.

And I also suspect that there are prophecies that are coming true. Just not in the way that would be popularly expected. It’s said that when the Champion of Mavros appears, he’ll unite the cities… and we’re making a good start at it. And Ceor did end up taking command of the Army of Mavros.

I’m not sure if this is comforting or not.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 43
Frothing Lunatics Who Are, Surprisingly, Not Us

We started heading out of town to deal with the newest batch of annoyances. About six hours out of town, we got jumped by a handful of idiots who looked somewhat unhinged. Largely inneffective, of course. The first volley of arrows just fell around us harmlessly, though since I don’t recognize them, fuck them.

I set half of them on fire.

That didn’t seem to dissuade them, and they kept shooting. One of them clipped Rupert, and I sort of want to see what Miaako is going to do in retaliation. Ceor bellowed at one loud enough to turn him into a quivering pile of fail, and he broke and ran.

Ceor was inclined to apologize. Some day I’ll explain to him that cockwaffles who want to kill us do not get apologies.

Reeshka moved to try her favorite trick of convincing two of the dumbshits to turn on each other, and I fed one of the others a lightning bolt. Miaako shanked the same man. I’m not really sure what Keshemet was doing.

Another warrior… to use the term loosely… took a shot at me, and fuck that shit. I have plenty of these lightning bolt wands.

One of the original group jumped up on a rock and took a swing at Miaako, and failed miserably. It’s like watching a bunch of drunks flail with sticks.

Another person has been making some excellent life choices, and took another shot at me. Ceor did not take kindly to this, and charged one of them.

Dumbass goes splat.

Anusk took a chunk out of the second one, but apparently there were more on the hill.

That just means they make me use up more spells. They had their fucking chance.

More were showing up, so I planted a fireball in the middle of them, but they seemed to have some sort of resistance going. Not sure what, they certainly don’t look like they would carry around resistance items. They also seem to be healing in ways that are not entirely encouraging.

Fortunately, Anusk was irritated, and practically trampled one of the fools, and Ceor skewered him. I caught an arrow that managed to get through my shield. This is getting somewhat out of hand.

I fed another couple another lightning bolt, and that seemed like they took the full hit. Which implies they were ready for us. Interesting.

Miaako seemed to be doing quite a bit of good on his own. Of course, that was about the time that one of the ones that Anusk had stomped got up.

Miaako, however, had put at least one down in such a way that he’d never get up again, and squawked something about black smoke coming out of their mouths as they died. I’ve heard about people making deals with devils, but never anything on this scale. It looks like all of them have done it…

I’d like to take one alive for informational purposes, but I’m not going to try too hard.

This pisses me the fuck off.

Keshemet shouted something about more of them coming… how fortunate that I had a spell for just such an occasion.

I didn’t even give them time to scream. I know a more powerful version of Fireball, that will melt stone… and burn straight through fire resistance.

I took down five at once. I don’t think that’s a personal record, but it made me feel better.

Miaako then finished dealing with the group he was handling; there was quite a lot of murder. I approve.

Of course, more of them were showing up. I don’t have enough fireballs for all of them.

Fuck it.

We’ve all got to die sometime, and we may just pull this off.

There was a straggler I shot with a lightning bolt. He didn’t drop, but I’ll see to that.

Of course, there’s even more of these assholes. Our only saving grace is that they have appalling aim.

Ball lightning is also a useful spell at times.

Ceor had largely cleared out the group on the hill, and came charging in. I think these idiots might have had a chance, if they’d attacked all at once. But coming in twos and threes was a poor life choice.

They do seem to have a hold person effect, but they’re just as bad at using that as attacking.

Miaako is good at positioning them for Ceor… though he’s absolutely getting covered in gore. He’s going to need a bath.

It’s really very amusing when they try to stab Miaako… they miss horribly and he takes the opportunity to show them how it’s done.

I am probably going to use up these wands of lightning bolt, but I am okay with this.

Miaako’s made it something of a game now; he runs up to them, daring them to hit him, and keeps going. Generally, they try to tag him as he passes… and find their throats cut.

One got the bright idea to run up to attack me, and I would have done something unpleasant to him for it… but Ceor got to him first and exploded him.

Now I’m covered in gore.

The tide is definitely turning; the only advantage they had were numbers, and that advantage is sharply decreasing. There’s a lot of ozone in the air from all the lightning.

As was inevitable, the fight didn’t go much longer. What idiots weren’t killed by my lightning or Miaako’s wild stabbing frenzy were mutilated by Rupert or turned into kebabs by Ceor.

It was a mess, really.

We got one prisoner out of the ordeal, who’d managed to laugh himself unconscious due to Keshemet’s efforts. We decided to turn around and go back home. The prisoner woke up about an hour later, but there was nothing there. We could see wisps of black smoke coming out of his mouth and ears. There must’ve been some sort of curse involved; they were never intended to be taken alive. But we did find a brand on his left shoulder, a flaming skull. Bloodstone has a bone motif on his emblem, and he has minions. At a guess, based on the abilities and the callous disregard for minions, Cindersong.

Not surprised.

We decided to take the poor asshole back to Feymott and turn him over to the church, though I think it would have been kinder to put him out of his misery.

Though of course, he brought it on himself.

The people at the Church knew a little bit more about it than we did, and said it was some sort of suicide curse. I suspect that they’re not true followers of Mavros, but someone (Cindersong, likely) riled them up and convinced them to follow a particular version of “Mavros”, which is likely really an infernal patron.

I think I’m really very mad about this.

We went back out the next day; about ten hours of riding later, we started seeing actual encampments. We weren’t attacked. There were some who looked… combative, but they got a second look at us and stood down.

They have brains after all.

About two hours later, we came upon an actual fortified camp, with some people standing in the courtyard. They didn’t appear to be hostile, at first glance.

We’ll see.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 42
This just gets better and better.

We all slept very well, but when we went to check the horses in the morning, the mule seemed to be slightly transluscent, though still solid. It didn’t seem particularly bothered, and the horses were fine, so we just left it to its own devices. It’s the mule, after all.

Since we are in The Market, we decided to unload some of the supplies we won’t use. Miaako still had the diamonds he’d pried out of the statue under Friula. Upon closer examination, they proved some sort of planar energy in the middle. We elected to hang onto them. Miaako then went to go sell things. He ended up getting rid of quite a lot of it, and we got 6930 gold each out of it. The whole process took about half a day, though the sky hadn’t changed at all.

The city itself seemed to have been built up level by level, and we were standing on top of gods know how many thousands of years of building we were standing on. I had been going around with Miaako, to help decide what to sell and what should be kept for later, and I noticed that as the day wore on, there were more infernals around. Maybe one in ten had been infernals this morning, but now it was more like one in eight. They weren’t… doing anything, but they were just… around. There was an imp that seemed to be paying attention to Miaako… but that could just be paranoia.

Nevertheless, I think we should get out of here as soon as possible.

I can’t cast the planeshift spell yet, so I’ll have to buy a scroll… or several. There was a genie willing to sell some scrolls of the spell… he offered to sell me ten for about 25000 gold, but I haven’t got that much on hand. I settled for two, even though I’m sure he’s gouging me on it. He also threw in a pair of tuning forks, one attuned to the Material Plane and one attuned to the Market. I’ll use one scroll to get us out of here, and keep the other for when I’m strong enough to cast it myself. As we were haggling, there was a half-fiend gremlin that was staring at Miaako with particular intensity… then something resembling an angel bodily picked it up and snarled at it. The gremlin ended up in the fountain, which was apparently holy water because it ended up running away screaming.

I think it’s time to go now.

Since we’re here, we decided to get some gear, particularly some ioun stones. Useful little trinkets, and I can’t make them yet.

After some more haggling, which resulted in Miaako trading two of his looser feathers for a discount. After we left, there was a tall, classically attractive woman talking to the merchant we’d just left, and she didn’t seem particularly interested in any of the normal wares.

And shortly after that, we found Reeshka licking a wall because she’d found an alley made entirely of gemstones.

Welcome to my life.

When we reconvened back at the inn, Ceor had somehow acquired a scroll of some sort with the seal of Mavros… apparently from a grizzled, one eyed old man who suggested he wasn’t “his” messenger, and that Miaako needed to send his ravens back.

Fabulous.

Ceor’s scroll turned out to be parchment, which looked to be written in ink that, for lack of a better term, liquid steel. It was a charter of command; he was given command of an army. He made a noise not unlike Miaako hearing about the ravens. He got as far as the phrase ‘faithful of Mavros’ and recapped the thing.

When I got back to my room, the symbol of Hecate was lightning-scorched into my pillow with no collateral damage, and severed threads all over the floor. They were shiny and silver, like spun moonlight…

So I’m liking this place less the longer we’re here.

It seemed sensible to aim for Feymott with the planeshift spell. The universe seemed to bend around us. We ended up on the hill overlooking the ruined fort that we first encountered on the campaign trail. It was flying the flag of Feymott, which was slightly odd since none of us had given the order to claim it, but I’ll take it.

Hopefully this isn’t too bad a sign.

The fort seemed to be abandoned, save the banner of Feymott. It’s as good a place as any to stay the night… though it was noon here. Someone had at least fixed the fountain.

However, when Ceor opened one of the doors, the interior of the room was coated with gore. That’s nice. There were also huge scaly, clawed footprints in the courtyard, that came from the north and went west towards Friula.

So that’s something.

Miaako had found a coin somewhere, I think in his pockets, with a smiling face on both sides, and some sort of chain border. The eyes were faintly serpentine and it smelled faintly of brimstone. If he’d been a priest, I’d have called it a holy symbol.

The room splattered with gore proved to have had some remnants of bodies in it, looking as if they’d been run through a tornado full of knives. Another room looked as if a bomb or several fireballs had gone off inside. Another was also scorched, as if someone had stood at the window and sprayed fire in. The tiles on the either sides of the door were half-melted.

It’s been a while since we were here, but I’m reasonably sure we didn’t cause this damage… and we certainly didn’t raise the Feymott flag.

Staying here doesn’t seem like a good idea any more.

Ceor wanted to take the Feymott flag and banners with us, which was fine with the rest of us. While poking around, Keshemet found a couple of copper rings with the symbol of Mavros. I found a few more rings and an amulet also marked with the symbol of Mavros in the fireblasted rooms.

It took us a week to get back to Feymott.

When we got back, the city was flying a slightly different flag, and the guards had heavier weapons and armor. We did recognize them as some of the men Ceor had trained…

They let us in without challenge, though everyone was far too happy to see us, which makes me wonder what’s been going on.

One of the men informed Ceor that they’d been besieged by the ‘holy force of Feymott’. Apparently a bunch of lunatics claiming they had some sort of divine mandate had tried taking over… with disastrous results. They’d appropriated the old flag of Feymott, and the town had responded by creating a new flag to distance themselves from the imbeciles. Most of them were dead now.

It was suggested we go meet with the other leaders. More people were way too happy to see us, including my apprentices, my sister, Ceor’s girlfriend and two honor guards of kobolds for Reeshka and Miaako. It took some doing to scrape the unnecessary people off.

The rest of the town leaders were huddling around a map. Apparently, part of the problem was that these idiots was being steered by someone, using the prophesied Hero of Mavros as a mascot.

Great.

We’re going to have to get involved in this, one way or another. Ceor wants nothing to do with it, of course, but I have the feeling he’s not going to get a choice. Sure, I can see the Hero of Mavros taking an interest in the matter, but not the way they want him to…

Apparently, while the attacks have been badly organized and the soldiers badly trained, there’ve been a lot of magic users making noise as well, which is… odd. It makes me wonder if we’re dealing with a single force of fanatics, or if someone is using the fanatics to disguise their own actions. They haven’t been seen for a few days, but that might just mean they’re plotting something. We’ll need to do something about this.

Additionally, there are unruly groups everywhere… purporting to be from Feymott. While I would like to burn Savoyne and parts of Friula to the ground, I want it to be on my terms.

So we’ve gotten back from the unplanned jaunt to the Outer Planes, only to find more excitement waiting for us.

Lovely.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 41
Freaked Out and Stranded

We made our way to the basement. It was a floor filled with glass-like statues. There were shadowy humanoid shapes in the statues, three per statue. Each had a brass plaque bolted to it. They were in a language I didn’t understand, but Miaako did. They were lists of names. Reeshka said that the statues appeared to have been made of quartz, though she’d never seen chunks of quartz so large before.

Between the various floors, we’ve seen enough of these statues to cover the entire population of the town outside. I suspect this is how the town’s population was saved or made timeless. There was a large Wall of Force blocking one exit from the room, that was just transparent enough to vaguely make out a chamber on the other side. We’ll check that out in a bit, but for right now, we’re going to press our luck elsewhere.

There was another door on the other side, surrounded by runes of positive energy, which is… odd. Miaako got the door open, revealing a workshop with sets of rails running along the ceiling. One had fallen, but the others held incompleted figures. As Miaako went in, there was a glowing guardian orb that attached to his back, and the temperature started dropping.

Miaako reacted predictably.

By the time we’d got him to stand still long enough and Ceor had a chance to ask that it let him go, he’d gotten a little bit of frostburn.

That was about the time that something… affected us. It felt like something was being leeched away, sort of like the opposite of what Reeshka does.

I have a feeling the room is flooded with negative energy, which would explain the positive runes around the door. Reeshka seemed to think it was a timed effect, that didn’t happen all that often. Miaako investigated a smashed statue, revealing a nearly perfectly preserved foot protruding. Comforting.

There was another wall of force at one end, which we decided to try. It wasn’t that strong, and allowed us through without incident. We discovered another workshop full of gears, this time of quartz, and some tiny ones made of diamond and ruby. Which Miaako immediately scrounged.

There was a large pillar with glowing purple rooms at the head of the workshop, that seemed to be producing that negative energy. I think it had about an hour before the next pulse. There was more writing in the language on the plaques, which Miaako was able to translate.

It detailed a way to combine necromantic and illusion magic to preserve corporeal bodies of the villagers outside indefinitely while providing quasi-real illusionary forms to the souls of those within. They drew on some mysterious extrapalanar shadow substance to give them solidity.

The whole village outside is a shadow. I wonder if the people know that they’re dead.

We continued around, finding another wall of force, which parted to let us through. Another orb attached to Reeshka, but let go when Ceor asked it to. We stepped through, to see another corridor blocked by a completely transparent Wall of Force. This lead to the room we had originally seen, though I couldn’t see anything in there worth guarding. Both Reeshka and myself were sure there was some sort of key.

Since Ceor’s sword had been the pass that got us this far, I suggest he tap the wall with it, but that only produced a loud, unpleasant atonal buzz.

But my staff was humming, so I tried that.

it worked, splitting neatly down the middle and sinking into the floor.

Interesting.

As soon as we got in there, we saw there was something in the corner. A dragon, perfectly still.

Naturally.

At least it didn’t appear to even be breathing.

Reeshka had to go poke it, of course. It was like stone, she said. She was positively convinced it was a real dragon, but it didn’t seem to be made of a material that was quite real. Definitely extraplanar, and the green color was paint. I managed to flake some of the paint off, revealing a chalky substance underneath. It was the same as one of the substances in the potion, some sort of bizarre extraplanar material. I’ve never even heard of a place this substance might be from. I think this was the focus they were using to draw shadow-stuff.

Meanwhile, Miaako was investigating the other corner of the room. The floor seemed to be glistening, covered or made of some sort of ectoplasm substance. Miaako had thrown a gold piece to test it, and was edging forward to get it. It looked a little like it was flowing or oozing from the corner, or alternatively that someone threw an area of effect in that area. It probably wasn’t harmful, but I can’t say for sure.

As I had a burned out wand, I elected to poke it with a stick. The wand got stuck, and no matter how I and Miaako pulled, we couldn’t get it loose. Ceor was able to yank it back. The wand had a slight residue of the stuff on it… and I smelled burning wood. Ceor dropped the wand. It dropped point first to the ground, where it stuck… and the tip collapsed, releasing more of the goo. It almost seemed to connect with something I’ve heard, about a space between the planes. Supposedly, some people have been there and escaped, and they’ve told about pockets of goo that render anything caught in it down to the same substance as the rest of the plane… and there’s also some sort of chalky substance that can be found there as well. I’ve also heard it theorized that this in-between space is where things like bags of devouring go. The coin that Miaako tossed seemed to be unaffected, though I don’t know if it doesn’t affect any inorganic material or just gold. There may be entire fortunes trapped there.

It would be an extremely bad idea to tell Miaako about that. For myriad reasons.

I noticed there was a little divot on either side of the door, and once everyone was back on this side, pressed the cold end of my staff into it. The wall sprang back up, except this time it was made of ice.

Good enough.

We left, and Miaako closed the door again… and about a minute later, the positive energy runes flared. So obviously the runes are there to keep the negative energy at bay. Which is slightly odd.

There was one more door, which Miaako didn’t think was trapped. There was a hidden lock that he found… behind a carving of a tengu. There were what looked like chunks of gears, but were probably arcane conduits. They were ringed with carved runes. Miaako translated some. These were to be used to close the conduit to Mara, once the great ritual was completed. Mara was the plane beyond the Great Beyond.

They seemed to be missing a few key activation runes, though I can’t tell if they were never finished or if those glyphs were removed. Miaako thought it was a combination of both, some hadn’t been finished, but a few had been very delicately chiseled away. It looked almost like an accident, but Miaako said he saw tool marks. Which makes sense, since the Necromancer King betrayed them. There’s no reason they can’t be completed with the proper runes… if we knew them.

Reeshka said that some of the other gears were made of basalt… that tasted like from under the Cantonhalls. Probably provided by the Necromancer King.

Miaako spotted something in the corner and edged around one of the witchfires to recover a small book. It looked like an old dialect of gnomish, too old for me to translate. We might use the comprehend languages spell to read it… but not here, not right now. Miaako somehow managed to relock the door, no telling how.

We returned to the ground floor, where things mostly looked the same… except one orb was missing. And when we went to recheck the shrine room, another winked out as Reeshka passed it.

Reeshka examined the statue in there, and thought it was like the statue from the crypt infested by the Order of the Pure, though it didn’t seem to be doing anything.

If we close the conduit to Mara, the Tower will fall all the way to one plane or another, as it’s currently stuck halfway between the two, though there’s no telling which way it’ll fall… and the Great Old Ones will still be on Midgard. So I don’t want to close that just yet.

It’s very odd that we never came across a library, considering this was the Tower of the Archmages.

The journal we found proved to be something written by the gnomish wizard tasked with creating the arcane conduits. I can probably use this to recreate them… at some point in time. But there was nothing else of interest.

And with that, we elected to leave the Tower. Fortunately, we didn’t have to go back through that hellish arcane lock.

Since there didn’t seem to be anything else worth investigating here, it was time to leave this plane. We had to lead the horses into the channels between the islands. We decided to leave at the same spot we came in, in the hopes of ending up back where we started.

I should really know better at this point.

We ended up on a street, with shops on either side. There was a huge waterfall pouring from the sky. There were creatures all around us… not only the familiar creatures of Midgard, but angels and other things.

This is a plane known as The Market, the center of commerce across the cosmos. If it exists, you can buy it here. I thought it was an exaggeration until we landed here. The river falling from the sky is the Everriver, which flows through the cosmos. Half of it is the River Oceanus and half of it is the River Styx…

Convenient, but I really don’t want to be here right now.

Reeshka smelled firedrake steak, so we followed her nose to a small inn with a stable attached, built under a much larger structure that looked like a temple but purported to be a bank.

Can’t say I’m surprised.

Stabling for the horses was a gold each, and rooms were also a gold each. It’ll do for now.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 40
Lich. Wonderful.

The black stone door didn’t appear to be trapped, or even locked… though it seemed extremely cold. There was some sort of black substance all over the walls, apparently some sort of decayed organic residue.

Miaako also thought that the throne of bones was the result of at least fifty years of work… and comprised of humanoid bones. Mostly elves or humans, though apparently some of it was tengu and some sort of small species like gnomes or kobolds.

Ceor also pointed out that the black goo on the walls seemed to be glowing. Reeshka responded by trying to set it on fire. There was a horrid smell, but it didn’t catch fire.

Miaako nudged the door open with a sword, revealing a reddish dome with people who seemed to be stuck in time, with something standing in the middle. It was the size and shape to be a dwarf, except it was made of darkness. There was what appeared to be some sort of imp hovering over it. The dome was some sort of of barrier. The people standing in the circle were frozen, but the two figures in the middle were moving, though they seemed oblivious to the fact that the door had opened. The people were dressed in heavy robes; presumably wizards. I’m not sure if they’re maintaining the barrier or got caught in it; their poses seem to indicate a lot of ‘ow fuck it hurts’.

Ceor noticed that the inside of the door appeared to have some sort of acid scarring; it looked like the same sort that was on the floor below. I was inclined to leave things be; I am not inclined to deal reasonably with anyone who consorts with imps, and Reeshka isn’t inclined to deal reasonably with dwarves.

That was about the time that the imp looked up, dead at Miaako, then vanished.

I’m sure this is the Necromancer King of the Canton Halls.

And of course, Reeshka decided to get its attention. It shot force bolts at her and demanded that she stop bothering him. I don’t see why would shouldn’t. I don’t fancy our chances right now.

We elected to withdraw, though.

That’s about the time I noticed Miaako staring at something in the corner.

It was invisible, of course, and I decided I’d had enough. See Invisibility is an easy enough matter.

It was the imp, whispering about some sort debt. I am getting very tired of this. He made the comment of Miaako having some sort of debt a thousand years old to Mammon… one of the more prominent devil lords.

I hate infernals.

And I am very, very tired of this.

I fed it a scorching ray and everything went straight to shit.

Infernals are immune to fire, I forgot about that. And attacking the imp brought forth the necromancer, demanding to know what we were doing with his familiar… which seems to indicate that he can leave at any time. Terrific.

Miaako seemed to snap and turned into a whirl of blades, hitting the imp, even though it seemed like he shouldn’t have. Maybe my fire spells are useless… but I do have all those nice wands of lightning bolt. Ceor got involved as well, doing horrible things to it.

The necromancer blasted Reeshka with fire, and stomped up to Ceor. This is going swimmingly.

The imp screamed something about dragging Miaako’s soul to Mammon who would reward it, finally… and I really don’t enjoy the fact that I understood that. It being in infernal. Miaako responded in kind, though his response consisted mostly of incoherent swearing. I didn’t know he spoke infernal.

Ceor managed to slice off the thing’s wings, and dropped it.

The necromancer stepped forward, and Ceor slashed at him. There wasn’t any blood, just black dust. He responded with firebolts… but Reeshka had dropped a fire resist spell on herself, Ceor, and Miaako. And Miaako took the time to make sure the imp was ALL the way dead.

The necromancer is a lich, because of course he is. What else would he be?

But that does give him a rather nasty vulnerability to positive energy.

Unfortunately, being a wizard, he has more than just fireball, and has picked up my trick of changing energy types. Ice ball hurts like a bitch.

But I’d just learned ball lightning, and wasn’t that entertaining. Ceor finished the job, cleaving into him and turning him into dust. But, of course, he’s a lich, and he’s got a phylactery somewhere. We can’t truly destroy him until we destroy that.

Now that we had the time to examine the barrier, the arcanists seem to have been built into it, like a summoning circle that had gone horribly wrong. Each of the seven arcanists had a symbol for one of the school of magic… except for necromancy. They were all looking inward.

I think these are the archmages that were trying to banish the Great Old Ones. The Necromancer King betrayed them… wouldn’t be surprised if he’d done it mid-ritual.

Miaako pecked one, and he popped like a soap bubble. And so did the others. The barrier sputtered out, leaving no arcane aura at all.

There was an inlay on the floor, that looked like gold but was some sort of magically conductive metal. Like someone had bound pure chaos into stable form…

With Miaako’s advice and Ceor’s sword, we were able to pry the slabs up. They were nearly paper thin and practically weightless. Interesting. We took them.

We elected to stay here and get some rest; we’d burned nearly all our spells for the day. We dreamed. We were on an island in the middle of a trackless black ocean, with a moonless, starless black sky and heavy fogs. A single impossibly tall spire rose in the middle, crowned by a forest and a smaller, table-like lesser mountain. We could hear the sounds of children in distress, faintly on the wind… and when I woke, I kept thinking about that spotless, made crib in Cindersong’s hovel.

It was vastly unsettling.

We seemed to have reached the top of the tower, and were pretty sure that the phylactery wasn’t on this floor, so we went back down to the gear room. Nothing there, so back down to the workshops. The guardian statues were still staring at Ceor, and one of the golems shifted slightly as Miaako went past it.

This is great fun.

Ceor’s sword is rattling and buzzing whenever one of the statues is paying attention to him… or is it the other way round?

It’s the sword. They’re paying attention to the sword. I asked Ceor to draw it… and they all snapped to attention. He asked them to let us pass, and they did. The room at the end was another workshop, probably a summoning room, and where the guardians were made. It’s not in here… but at least now the guardians will let us pass. We got into the necromancy room to examine it. I think this was where they made undead… though there was a necromantic item within the chair itself. I was able to find a seam in the stone, and Miaako was able to find the catch. There was a little black box inside, with a STRONG necromantic aura. If this isn’t the phylactery… it’s at least a good candidate.

I could have spent all of my spells for the day to destroy the hell out of it… but it seemed a better use of our time to give it to the guardians and tell them to destroy it.

They were making good progress when we went down to the next floor.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 39
Well This Is Unsettling.

There were a pair of elaborate, intricately carved doors in front of us. Locked, of course.

It was absolutely covered with Explosive Runes, but I managed to unlock it without exploding anything. The doors came open with a crackle of energy and white light. Once I’d disabled the runes, the doors opened easily enough, revealing an entrance hall that must’ve been well decorated once, but everything was smashed and destroyed. There was another set of doors, flanked by glowing orbs.

Miaako noticed that some of the chunks of masonry had frozen a few inches above the ground. Either they were magical or frozen in time. None above our heads, but Miaako spotted some cracks and flaws in the roof. He didn’t think it was about to come crashing down, at least.

The orbs appeared to be some sort of guardian, though they didn’t seem to be doing anything at the moment. I think they were some sort of combat guardians. Ceor went to try the doors, and managed to get to them, but at soon as he pushed them, he and Reeshka were hit with a wave of force.

I think it’s just safe to assume that all doors have Explosive Runes on them. I managed to disable this set as well. These doors were locked as well, which is more Miaako’s specialty than mine. Even if it was an arcane sort of lock.

There was a room with a vaguely transluscent crystal floor, with people and creatures inside that were standing perfectly still. Even the flames on the torches on the walls were perfectly still. Frozen in time, then.

It was really incredibly quiet. Creepy as fuck.

Whatever it was, it took them by surprise, based on the way they were standing. There was a dais at the end that was glowing. There were dogs stationed here and there, and when I got close to one, it smelled faintly of brimstone.

Great.

We elected to investigate everything before poking anything. Miaako tried to open a door, only to nearly get his hand crushed. The doors seem extremely resistant to change. To be expected.

Ceor was able to force it open, but it took an effort. It opened to what was probably the banquet hall, with about fourteen people around the table, and large stone statues at the back. The table was a solid piece of obsidian, according to Reeshka.

There were a pair at one end of the table that had apparently been discussing books, which appeared to be in the Infernal language.

I don’t like where this is going.

Since we were here anyway, I examined the orbs that were flanking every door. They appear to be constructed the same way as a homonculus or golem, save that a tremendous amount of arcane energy was bound to a small piece of glass, that left it bound in a physical shape.

Having checked that room, we moved to the next. We were checking for traps… and Ceor stared directly at a lightning rune. It fried me, Miaako, Ceor, and Reeshka. It also hit the two hounds behind us, to absolutely no effect. Once we’d healed from that, I was able to trace the correct pattern to disable the rune. Before we could check for locks, Ceor charged it… hard enough that he physically shattered the arcane lock. Fortunately without killing himself.

This proved to be a room with a low dais and a statue of Hecate, made of some stone that Reeshka couldn’t identify. There were two people here, one holding a dagger covered in frozen flames, and the other holding a bowl of incense. They appeared to be in the middle of some sort of ritual.

As he investigated, Miaako managed to shift a loose rock. It’s worth noting that we hadn’t been able to move any of the other rocks, and the doors resisted, so that was unusual. Reeshka pulled the stone loose, and found a black book, that felt unusually cold to the touch. It was bound in scaly leather. It didn’t want to be opened; it was very thoroughly warded, but surprisingly not frozen in time. I wasn’t able to open it; I’ll try again later.

Ceor said he heard something like a chime, but the rest of us didn’t. I believe him, but I don’t know what it means.

The next door had a room with glowing patterns on the floor, with a raised dais in the middle, with a chair on it. I think it’s a meditation chamber. There was no one in here, though there was a hound in here. The funny thing is, the runes were necromantic in nature… and didn’t seem to be frozen. They seemed to cause a weak negative energy field. Not so good for a living creature… but nicely relaxing for undead.

How comforting.

The next door was warded, but not trapped. Miaako managed to unlock it, and the orbs next to it winked out. Ceor came to help us with the door, and they winked back. They stayed put when he left, so I don’t know what caused this. A few moments later, Reeshka seemed distracted by something, and commented that she really needed a fire drake steak. She said she just got hungry.

The door swung open as soon as Ceor put a hand on it. Funny how each door that he tries opens with no problems. It seemed to be some sort of laboratory. There were some wizards doing some sort of experiments, and I could tell it was something to do with divination, but the process was so primitive I couldn’t make head or tail of it.

There were some metallic orbs hanging in the air. Miaako brushed a copper one, and barely dodged a surge of electrical energy. He ignored it and tried to pry what looked like a flask made of solid diamond off a table, but it might as well have been put down with sovereign glue.

The copper spheres seem to collect electrical energy, while the others were a bronze-iron alloy that seemed to collect raw magical potential.

The last door seemed to be completely inert, though understandably Miaako’s paranoia is on a high level, and he wanted to make doubly sure. But there were no traps. And when Ceor opened the door, it seemed to be a completely empty room, with some pillars that stretched floor to ceiling. They didn’t seem to be for any purpose.

That left only the glowing mark on the dais in the central hall to inspect. I had to climb up on it to examine it. It made my teeth hurt; there’s a lot of latent energy here. I think this is a teleportation circle that links to the other levels of the tower.

I was able to figure out how to trigger it, and we went up.

We came out in a room of hollow statues and vaguely humanoid chunks of rock. No floating rocks, at least. The first door seemed to be untrapped, but was a solid chunk of stone wedged in the frame. It took Ceor and Miaako to shift it. That door revealed an angled chamber with runes on the floor, and a stone table with a suit of armor on it. I think it’s a workshop for creating golems. The statue tracked Ceor, so it wasn’t frozen in time, but it didn’t seem to be hostile.

That was about the time I heard a chime like a silver bell.

That’s comforting.

There were some papers on the table, nearly under the statue’s feet. I was looking to see if I could get them, when there was a bang in the central hall and Miaako started crying. I expect he tripped another rune. He opened the door… to find an army of skeletons that turned to face him. The room was FILLED with skeletons, save for just in front of the door, where a pair of guardian statues stood in front of the door with a pair of halberds crossed.

Miaako very slowly closed the door.

Reeshka set a trap in front of the door, rigged with alchemist’s fire, mostly just to make herself feel better.

We moved on. The next door seemed sort of broken and partially ajar already. It fell open as soon as Ceor touched it. The room seemed to be mostly caved in and collapsed. Ceor bumped into one of the hollow metal statues and nearly knocked it over.

The next door wasn’t warded, but was shut and locked, and had a carved symbol for enchantment on it. Miaako opened the locks; they were entirely mechanical locks. Ceor opened the door, and his sword started buzzing. The door seemed to be radiating an enchantment aura; I expect this was once a workshop for working on enchantments.

The next door was actively warded, with a prominent symbol for necromancy, and quite a lot of condensation. I think I managed to deactivate the whole door, not just the wards. There were more glowing runes on the floor, with an elaborate carved wooden chair in the middle. It wasn’t a meditation chair. It was a strong necromantic effect, though I couldn’t tell if it was coming from the chair or was simply around the chair.

There were more guardians inside, though they seemed to have their attention focused solely on Ceor. I took a step inside. They didn’t look at me, though one blocked my path. Interesting.

The next door had something weird about it, but I couldn’t quite figure it out. As I was examining it, Miaako seemed alarmed by one of the statues and hid behind me.

The more I see of this place the less I like it, and I didn’t like it in the first place.

Miaako managed to accidentally trigger something, though we both managed to dodge it. Mostly. And I got it disabled. It opened to a large room with a large, comfy looking chair we could see, and four guardians.

That was when Miaako pointed out that the corridor seemed to becoming steadily more animate.

We should probably hurry.

The next door had an evocation symbol on it, and that one was easy to disable. Another workshop. There were more guardians, and what appears to be spell books and a wand. I’m going to chance taking them, though if the guardians start getting restive, I’ll just have to do without.

Fortunately, they didn’t stop me.

The last workshop was the ruins of a transmutation lab, but it had been wrecked by whatever caved in the other workshop. There had been another pair of double doors at the room at the end of the corridor, but we elected to keep going up and maybe come back on the way down.

We materialized in a room covered with glowing red runes that appeared to cover the entire spectrum of the schools of magic, that appeared to be reinforcing the structure of the room. It was a focus of incredible magical power. There were also three skeletons collapsed around the rooms. This looked like a defensive room; the tables looked like they were designed to be used as barricades.

I tried to disable the door, only to trigger a tremendous burst of energy. Miaako managed to flail out of the way, but the rest of us weren’t so lucky.

Fortunately, Reeshka was able to heal the damage… even if Keshemet did nearly get killed.

Miaako had far better luck.

This turned out to be a seige workshop. There were more scattered and crushed skeletons; it looked like something heavy had fallen on them. These doors had been made of steel; there was another set of some sort of black metal that was absolutely featureless, polished to a mirror shine. Miaako pushed them open with no trouble, and it revealed a narrow corridor. More skeletons, of course.

That was when Miaako squawked. Apparently, all of the gears were made of mithril. There’s enough of the stuff we could outfit an entire army with armor… and weapons.

We’d never get it all out of here, though.

We were discussing that when I felt a cold chill run down my back. I don’t know why, it didn’t seem tied to anything we did.

Perhaps we should get a move on.

Miaako went to check the corridor; the door at the end was made of some crystalline substance, that was smooth as glass. He couldn’t figure out how to open it, but when I put my hand in the center, it was so cold it hurt, and started grinding up to the ceiling.

The room was filled with a green nebulous mist that seemed to be concealing something, and some sort of gold pattern inlaid in the floor. I reached out to see if I could disable it, and was drawn in.

Ceor must’ve followed me, because we found ourselves standing in a featureless mist. Reeshka and Keshemet appeared a few moments later, both out cold. They literally dropped in. I’m pretty sure we’re in another pocket universe.

Greeeaaat.

It took an effort, but I was able to dispel the effect. We popped back into the Tower, covered with a greenish condensation and standing in the middle of the gold star. As far as I can tell, it’s raw magical aether.

Also, Miaako was panicking.

Largely because something was trying to push into the door, and the steel was bowing under the pressure. Miaako had apparently been stacking gears in front of it, but it wasn’t going to do much good. Black smoke started seeping through.

Something intelligent was directing it.

But it withdrew. It left the steel doors- foot thick steel doors- bowed inward, and we’d heard rock splintering. It didn’t have to withdraw.

I heard something rustling, and there was a page of a journal in one of my spell pouches.

it wasn’t there before.

It was written by one of the Archmages who’d tried to dismiss the Great Old Ones. They mentioned the realm of Mara, and the Fulcrum… which I take to mean the demiplane of the Fulcrum of Fate. Mara is a realm of necromantic magic, which might explain the necromantic activites conducted here. It also mentioned the necromancer-king from the halls of Canton… which I suspect to be either related to Bloodstone or Bloodstone himself.

It also mentioned the Ascendant Souls, which I have a nasty feeling about.

We were able to get the doors open again; the hinges had been forced through solid rock by about an inch. The other side appeared to have been horribly acid-scarred, and there was a dried, but nasty looking black mess on the floor.

I don’t know if we tripped a tower defense, or if there’s someone else here.

Either way, we elected to keep going up. We popped into a room that smelled of bone dust, death and decay, and the floors were covered with some sort of tarry black substance, and a chair made of intricately assembled bones.

How nice.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 38
This is possibly one of the dumbest fucking things we've done.

Once we left the temple, we continued on. We had to skirt past two of the Great Old Ones on the way. One was a mass of eyeballs and tendrils floating high off the ground, and one was a large crystal that was perceptibly expanding, despite being frozen in time. Ceor thought it was very shiny and we had to force him away from it.

Once we were past them, we spotted some goblin-sized creatures stalking us. However, before anything could happen, a massive whirlwind sprung up between us and them, and sucked them all up. It was easily a mile across, and one of the bodies was ejected ahead of us. It seemed to have been lacerated by thousands of shards of bone.

Nice.

It took us about a week to find a worn path. As we came up to a low hill, we spotted a pair of minotaurs on horseback, accompanied by some humans with bows. At the moment, they weren’t actively threatening us. They might be sentries. One of the minotaurs rode up to ask why we were there. I told him it was curiosity, that we were seeking the lost tower in this general area. Which is true, as far as it goes.

He said that they usually don’t see any people until just after the equinoxes… the caravans that trade with their town. I didn’t know there was a town out here. He had a peculiar accent that it took me a moment to place; it was an archaic form of Trade Tongue, about four hundred years out of date. He indicated that the tower wasn’t there any more, since the disaster, but as long as we weren’t planning to start trouble we could resupply at the town. He introduced himself and his companions as knights of Caelmaran. That was the name of the region here before the Mage Kingdoms. Something was a little off, and I’m not sure what.

He agreed to lead us into town and introduce us. The sands of the wastes ended about a half mile from the walls, and it looked fairly prosperous, actually. Farms, fountains, irrigation. Surprisingly prosperous, for being in the middle of the Goblin Wastes. Reeshka said that all the religious iconography was referencing a sun god named Khors, that is largely falling out of fashion. They all spoke that outdated dialect of Trade Tongue.

It seemed like it should be almost sunset, but time moves oddly in the Goblin Wastes. At least the prices here in town were modest… a single silver got as much food as we could eat. The town fountain was interesting, a modified Decanter of Endless Water. Clever idea, might have to adapt it for Feymott.

We noticed that while the town could support about a thousand people, there were only about a quarter of that that we saw, though they didn’t seem bothered by the relative emptiness. There were no children, either. No one that appeared younger than their midtwenties.

Which was good because children are loud, but also disconcerting.

Reeshka and Miaako noticed that the population was pretty much all humans, with a smattering of minotaurs. Literally no other races.

The tower would have been to the North side. We decided to go take a look. There was an area that seemed… twisted. It hurt my eyes to look at it, and there was a large mud flat in that direction. Miaako pointed out there was an area where the ground seemed to be moving slightly, in a way that couldn’t be accounted for by the heat haze. That’s interesting.

We elected to get some sleep, even though the sun hadn’t moved. The town itself seemed to act as though it was evening, and it felt like evening. The rooms were cheap as well, two copper for a room.

At breakfast, Ceor asked about the lack of children. Our host expressed surprise, saying that children were a huge security risk. It wouldn’t do to have someone tempted to consort with dark powers to save their families. He couldn’t tell me when the ‘disaster’ had overtaken the Tower… but it was within his memory. Which honestly didn’t surprise me that much. He said that the Tower sort of wrenched itself out of existence, and mentioned something about a “Hundred Eyed One” moving into the Waste between the town and the tower. Sounded like some sort of abberation.

He also said that the archmages had cast some protective enchantments on the town itself that reinforced the walls and protected the city, as well as arrested aging for the inhabitants.

And everything suddenly makes sense.

After discussing it, we decided to make for the Tower.

Because going with the bizarre and risky seems to work for us.

We started heading out. It was hard to miss the spot where space was rippling. Miaako also spotted a place where the ground seemed to be moving. We cut around it, and heard something muttering and cackling to itself. Something lumped itself out of the ground. It was a ball of flesh and eyes and mouths. It didn’t attack right away, just… watched us. Miaako took off, riding for the tower, and I can’t say I blame him.

I think it started off as a gibbering mouther.

It was about nine times the size of one.

Miaako had the right idea, I think. I followed suit.

Ceor, of course, did the expected but unwanted thing and charged it. He did quite a lot of damage. I’m not sure we want to kill this thing, if it’s keeping everyone from the tower, but… well, I plan to keep running.

It started babbling much louder… fortunately, we were out of range. That can be ugly, if you get confused by it. It sprayed something horrible on Ceor and Keshemet, blinding them. Hopefully temporarily. Miaako and I made for the distortion. It was incredibly unpleasant. Being near that made it hard to think… and made me not a little nauseous.

Keshemet popped a glitterdust near the thing… and it apparently distracted it momentarily. Although that brought it within range of Keshemet and Reeshka to confuse them. The mule did know what was in its best interests, fortunately, and followed us.

Miaako managed to hit the distortion, and I was right behind him. I hope Ceor follows…

The thing stopped at the edge of distortion… and started shrieking. The effect made my head spin. I managed to grab Miaako, and Ceor and the kobolds were right behind me.

It was the most disconcerting thing. Time and space twisted and warped, and it felt like we were there forever. Finally, things stabilized, and we were on the crumbling shore of an island. What we originally took to be water seemed more like mist or clouds, though it flowed like water. There were several islands, though there were people on some of them. The closest seemed a combination of alarmed and curious.

We were in a pocket or demi-plane that had been formed by the Tower wrenching itself out of existence. The Twisted Tower itself was inland. The substance between the islands was something we should stay out of, unless we want to exit the plane. One of the women called out to Ceor that we were by the tower, and said that they had come when the town came. We were surrounded by ruins that looked like they had been crumbling for centuries.

Miaako indicated he could hear something moving, and went to go check it out. I followed.

Hydra.

Of course.

Miaako managed to withdraw in a way that suggested he wasn’t running, no sir, he just felt like going away. So at least it didn’t charge…

I fed it a couple of particularly vicious Scorching Rays.

It responded by jumping on me. It kind of fucking hurt.

Miaako ran the opposite way, which was probably the smartest thing. I disengaged and did the same. The kobolds acted like it was a puppy at first, but seemed to lose interest once it became clear that it was trying to eat us. Reeshka ran at it, punched it with a fist full of Aboleth’s Lung, and run back.

it’s not the dumbest thing I’ve seen one of us do, I suppose.

It roared in Ceor’s face, and he roared right back and stabbed it with a lance. Keshemet popped another glitterdust in its face, and I set it on fire again.

It took a large chunk out of Ceor in response. I let it have another Scorching Ray, and it launched a massive fireball at us, hitting me, Ceor, and the kobolds. But that was the last thing it did; Ceor put it down, then started hacking off heads. I was cauterizing neck stumps.

That’s when Miaako showed back up; I have no idea what he was doing on the other side. Lightning started crackling across the hydra’s body… that wasn’t normal. I suggested running for cover, and we just barely got out of range as it exploded in a tremendous surge of lightning.

Once we were sure that things had stopped exploding, we explored a little. We found a horde of largely useless looking things in the hydra’s lair, and a crevice into the Twisted Tower. We could even get our horses in.

It led to a cavern of black rock with what looked like barely contained seams of molten rock. It looked highly unpleasant. Ceor advanced in, but paused, disoriented. I followed him, and it seemed like there were three overlapping tunnels. There were three possibilities that sort of lay on top of each other, slightly different.

It was the most mythic version of Arcane Lock I’ve ever seen.

Between Reeshka and myself, we were able to figure out how to transition between possibilities. For some reason, Keshemet seemed to have an instinctive understanding of the process, somehow, but we were able to step back to lead the others across. The mule was already on the other side, of course.

There were blackened and charred skeletons embedded in the walls, and Miaako noticed the glow at the open gate at the end was getting brighter. We transitioned back to the first possibility… and about two seconds after, the second possibility filled with orange-white flame. The flamespout lasted about thirty seconds.

Once back on the first possibility, Ceor found a large black bug on his head, and when he flicked it off, it burst into flames. We were timing the flamespout, and another beetle landed on Miaako, with similar results.

We were able to figure out that we had to transition to the second, run up the passage, transition back to the first, and then move to the third. I’m not sure why, but I’m not questioning it.

It’s incredibly complicated and I hate whoever designed it.

I barely managed to do it before the flames erupted again, and still got burned. We ended up in what I expect was a fourth possibility identical to the first, which was the only way to get to the third. I transitioned from there, though Reeshka didn’t. I appeared in front of what looked like some sort of large fire-earth elemental. It seemed to be studying me. While I was trying to figure out what to do about that, I heard a clicking sound behind me.

Giant centipede.

Fuck that.

I transitioned back through to the first, since I’ll have to show everyone the way across. We decided to leave the horses and Rupert outside of the crevice, then we went back through.

I got roasted three times during this nonsense.

By the time we got everyone healed and transitioned to the third possibility, the centipede had kindly decided to fuck off, small favors.

I addressed the gatekeeper, because I can always hope that we can resolve this peacefully. Turns out it spoke Enochian. It told me that I was the first person in four hundred years to ask passage, and said only archmages were permitted to pass. When I countered that there hadn’t been an archmage in four hundred years, it told me I’d have to prove my worth.

So I set a nest of centipedes on fire with an incredibly overpowered fireball.

That seemed to do the trick, because it recognized me as the first archmage of Midgard, and allowed us to pass.

We ended up in front of an absolutely massive set of doors engraved with mystic runes.

So this should be good.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 37
The Haunted Temple was the best part.

We started following the map I received. We’d been traveling for some time; wisely we decided to bypass Savoyne. Not much happened until we reached a bridge over a dessicated riverbed… then there was a giant and two fucking bears on the other side.

I was wondering when something would go hideously wrong.

Ceor charged, of course.

Tactics, what tactics?

Miaako seemed dismayed, I think he wanted to negotiate. Too late now. Ceor tried to stick one with a lance, hostilities have commenced. So, fireball it is. Ceor took advantage of them being suddenly set on fire, and killed the giant.

Which just left the bears.

They were gigantic, which means they’re really hard to miss. As an aside, charred bear fur smells hideous. That allowed Ceor to drop one bear fairly easily. Unfortunately, that allowed the other to come up and bite him. He stabbed it in the head and Anusk bit it in the throat. Judging by the reaction, it tasted as bad as it smelled.

Miaako searched the giant. He didn’t find much of interest; just hide armor and a greatclub far too large for any of us, a fortune teller’s deck, and what appeared to be a nametag with the name Griswell Rothand. Probably he got the name from a horribly deformed hand. Looked like a case of gangrene that he had once but managed to keep the hand through. It was decided that Ceor would shove the corpses off the ledge. When he grabbed the giant, he grabbed the deformed arm and sank in about an inch into gunk.

Lovely.

Miaako was looking around and found a tripwire strung between two trees. It was rigged to catapult several flasks of alchemists fire at whatever tripped it. The other side was rigged to fling half a dozen flasks of acid.

That would have been particularly nasty.

This was a hill giant. They’re not known for carrying more than shitty clubs and shittier armor, and maybe a few barrels of cheap booze. This is extremely unusual.

It was unusual enough that there was a bridge here at the edge of the Goblin Wastes, but guarded by a surprisingly well stocked hill giant? Miaako scouted a bit more and found his campsite: ill-cured smoked meat, a few barrels of grog, rope and what appeared to be torches. All giant size, of course.

As Miaako was coming back, he noticed that the bridge seemed to be more modern than one would expect. It incorporated modern building techniques and appeared to be less than fifty years old. The maps all say there shouldn’t even be a way across here, and I know I’m reading this map correctly. I suspect the giant was left here as a guard, because this is the only way across the canyon for miles, but it was sized for normal people. Which means there’s bound to be something up ahead they don’t want anyone to see.

And I want to know what that is.

Six hours later put us well within the Goblin Wastes. I hate coming here, it’s creepy as fuck. It was mostly sand out this way, though there was something like moss growing across the sand and keeping it from blowing around too much. Neither Reeshka nor I had any idea what it was.

We were getting close to an abandoned farm when we noticed some disturbed ground along what remained of the road. Miaako went to check it out, since he’s easily the best at this sort of thing. He spotted something under about a foot of dirt, about ten feet of across. He called out to tell us about it… and a fucking landshark jumped out of the ground and chomped him. It looked like a fairly young one.

Ceor charged up and shoved its lance through a soft spot, and I followed up with a scorching ray. Fortunately, that’s all it took.

I’m just worried about there being more.

Which, of course, was a perfectly logical fear.

One exploded out of the abandoned farmhouse, and another out of the ground nearby. Miaako has learned to do something akin to teleporting, which is really a good thing in this case. Ceor then followed up by applying his lance to the one that tried to eat Miaako. I was just able to plant a fireball between the two landsharks to get both of them, and Miaako killed the one nearest him.

Of course, that still left one, that decided the kobolds were the easiest prey. It slashed the hell out of Reeshka, who retaliated by poking it with an Inflict Serious Wounds wand. Ceor then made a ride by attack that hit in just the right spot to fuck it up.

That was about the time ANOTHER FUCKING ONE popped out of the ground to savage me.

God I hate these things.

I backed off because that seemed the sensible fucking course of action.

Miaako was worried about his horse, but Ceor did what he does best.

And how fortunate I have all those wands of lightning bolt that we took off the Order of the Pure.

With all of them down, we got a chance to catch our breath. By the time we finished the last one off, the first one was crumbling into dust. This isn’t normal, but I think it’s more to do with the place they died than something to do with them.

The Goblin Wastes are weird.

There’s supposed to be some sort of structure up ahead, we can probably reach it by the end of the day. So we kept going.

We reached it just about nightfall. It turned out to be a rather large stone building, maybe a temple at one point. Reeshka thought it was dedicated to the goad Charun. The doors were shut, but Miaako slipped through to check for trouble. Reeshka followed. There were skeletons.

Because of course there were.

Fortunately, either we didn’t make enough noise to disturb them or they weren’t hostile. There was some sort of spirit tied to the temple, that Reeshka started talking to. He indicated that there would be no hostility directed to us if we weren’t hostile to them.

I can live with that.

Since he seemed talkative, there was no harm in listening to him. He dates from before this became the Goblin Wastes; apparently, when this area slipped sort of out of phase, he and some of the temple followers were trapped here, spiritually. He said his name was Father Crow. Fitting, really. He spends his time caring for and protecting the temple, and trying to find a way to pass on.

There’s got to be a way; it would either take some extreme effort of magic to briefly return normality, or transition the entire temple to another plane. Father Crow also indicated that sometimes, entire planes could die because people don’t believe in the concept any more. It leaves a sort of pearl like object that usually is found in the outer planes, but sometimes appears in Midgard. If we were to bring it here, it might allow them to pass on.

There were the remnants of a pearl-like substance of in that potion I’ve been researching.

And Father Crow said these pearls should be functionally indestructible.

There was an archmage that passed through here about a century before, that was looking for the remnants of a plane devoted to a color called jayle.

Father Crow also indicated that there was a caravan that passed here twice a year. I showed him the map I recieved, and he said that was where the Twisted Tower was. A tower in the old Mage Kingdoms that was home to the greatest archmages in the final days, fallen and twisted out of reality by traitors who didn’t want the Great Old Ones banished.

That was about the time that Miaako drew the ghost’s attention. Apparently he had the mark of three different gods upon him. Miaako, naturally, freaked right the hell out. Father Crow said that two were understandable, since his people had made a compact with them… but the third wasn’t the wisest to get involved with. Miaako was disinclined to elaborate.

I decided to ask if he knew anything about why the temples of Mavros would make me uncomfortable; he doesn’t know, except for a comment about gods have their own mood swings and he doesn’t always get along with his wife Hecate. He didn’t know much about the Order of the Pure or Bloodstone either, though he did make a comment that we reminded him of the last nobles of Taltreni. I wasn’t surprised to hear that I reminded him of the last lord of Taltreni, or that Ceor also reminded him, but Miaako and Reeshka were a little surprising.

We can’t make any promises, of course. But if we can find a way, we ought to come back and help them pass on. It’s not their fault that they were caught by the surge of magic that made the Wastes what they are.

Father Crow did indicate that the archmages of the Twisted Tower might have had some idea of how to get rid of the Great Old Ones… and the last lord of Taltreni was said to have created a spell that could banish one with a touch. Though of course it would have been complete madness to have attempted it when they were at full power and mobility.

I have a feeling this trip to the Twisted Tower might be more than a simple fact finding mission. I’m going to have to do a lot of research, and I don’t think I’m going to like it.

The skeletons then started enacting what Reeshka said was a fairly standard end-of-day ritual, with censers of sweet smoke. It was… soothing, actually. I suppose they had nothing else to do.

Consider how jacked up my life is that the abandoned, haunted temple of the god of death, staffed by his undead servants is the most relaxing place I’ve been in a long time.

I was able to sleep fairly well. So was everyone else, except Miaako. And in the morning he found a dead snake draped across his horse, nearly bitten in half by a large beak, far bigger than Rupert. His horse seemed unperturbed, and the snake was actually stuffed half in one of his saddlebags on top of his rations. It was a good ten feet long, about as thick around as Ceor’s wrist.

He was highly unsettled.

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Tal's Journal, Entry 36
That Asshole gets what's coming to him...

We picked a door at random.

Turns out it had THAT FUCKING THING AND THAT ASSHOLE behind it. And a bunch of servants I am strangely disinclined to murder. Which, of course, was probably the point.

Goddammit.

He should have stayed dead.

He seemed more inclined to gloat than attack… Obviously, he’d been the one who set fire to the warehouse and tried to kill us, which wasn’t a surprise really. I half expected he’d be the mysterious new member of the Bibliotory. But if he wasn’t going to take advantage of it, I certainly would. I like area of effect spells, but that’s not my only ability. I hit him with a ray attack, even if the second sort of set the floor on fire.

Reeshka was able to intimidate his guards, or most of them, so that ought to help. And Ceor managed to carve a chunk out of THAT FUCKING THING. That Asshole then moved out of my line of sight because he’s not entirely stupid. Then THAT FUCKING THING tried to eat Reeshka, with some success. Ceor was able to put it down for the time being. Which is something.

Keshemet sprayed glitterdust around the corner to hopefully affect That Asshole. Unfortunately, that was about the time the guards got their shit together and they worked together really well…

He was expecting us, that much was clear. Normally, I’d just set fire to him and everyone around him… but he’s probably expecting it. So I cast Enlarge Person on Ceor. Let’s get creative…

The guards proved somewhat easier to deal with than That Asshole, who’d picked up a wand of Cure Serious Wounds. This will end badly.

I’m known for fire… it’s what I do. I stand at a distance and set things on fire. So I did the last thing anyone would expect me to do.

I turned myself into a water elemental and got in his face.

Reeshka had managed to get Hold Person on him, and Miaako stabbed him quite a lot. Reeshka then slapped him with a Hydrophobia. I did manage to punch him in the face, which was rather cathartic, really.

Then Ceor managed to deal with one of the remaining guards, and reached over my head to stab Allain, which finally dropped the Asshole.

I want him to stay dead this time. And he deserved a few more shots in the face.

Miaako disengaged to run to the back of the burning room… I’m not sure if he was getting the servants out or going for the Asshole’s desk. Either way, I don’t care.

Reeshka tried to put the fire out, and almost cooked Miaako with the steam. Miaako tried to haul the desk out of the fire… which was hilarious. So he chose the more expedient option of pulling things out and flinging them haphazardly. There were two books, one apparently bound in human or elven skin, which is nice, and a bag of silver coins that Miaako ran off with.

We elected to take Allain’s body with us; there are ways to raise the dead and I want him to stay dead this time. We had to go back down the way we came in, and dropped Allain down first.

For once, he was where he belongs.

As we were getting out, Miaako heard glass breaking and a phoomp sound… which I suspect was a bottle of alchemist’s fire breaking. That’s a house that won’t survive.

We made our way back through the sewers, to the room where the dragon statue had been. The room was a solid chunk of ice.

Thanks Miaako.

We’ll have to chew our way through it, I think… Miaako picked up burning hands somewhere, so that’ll help. Miaako and Ceor said that the statue in the middle was glowing… I couldn’t see it, but I’m operating on a different light spectrum. Given the choice between cutting our way through, finding another way out, and examining the statue, it seemed the best option to just melt through the ice to get out.

We did finally manage it, though, and found the horses and the mule exactly where we left them. After that, it seemed like a good plan to head back home. We managed to avoid any patrols asking awkward questions. Which would have ended badly for all concerned.

When we got back, there was a stack of mail for us. Two letters addressed to the rulers of Feymott, a letter addressed to me in a hand and with a seal I don’t recognize. That turned out to be what appeared to be a map to some point in the Goblin Wastes, with no letter of explanation. Reeshka and Miaako got elegantly carved ivory scrollcases, and Ceor had an entire stack of fanmail.

Reeshka’s scroll proved to be exactly two words… “I live”. Written in reddish brown.

Of course.

Reeshka then elected to post all the guards all the time. I can’t help but agree.

Miaako didn’t tell me what his scroll said, but it bothered him.

All that remained was to deal with That Asshole’s body in such a way that he can’t come back… at least without costing significant resources. Ceor ended up speaking with the local Temple of Mavros. They consecrated the hell out of it, and took it to the deepest catacombs where they sealed it in the funeral linens, shoved it in a ten foot deep pit, and then put a massive slab of rock on top and mortared it down. The stone was so heavy it took ten priests and Ceor to move it, and when they were done Miaako would have had trouble spotting it if he didn’t know where to look.

I’m not fool enough to think that it would stop them from bringing him back if they really wanted to… but it’ll make things incredibly difficult for them. I can live with that.

Miaako brought me the books we’d recovered; one was a normal ledger bound in black cow leather, which looked like Allain was involved in some shady dealings, which I’m sure surprises everyone. Miaako helped me decipher some of the more intricate mercantile information; some money was being siphoned off with no particular explanation, and twice a year, a caravan was dispatched to the Goblin Wastes, like clockwork on the equinoxes even though it never turned a profit. There was no real information pointing to where it was going, though we were fairly sure that it wasn’t the Seat of Mavros. The other book refused to open, sealed with some strong abjuration effect probably keyed to some phrase or item.

One of the envelopes that Ceor got was entirely unmarked. There was a thin piece of metal inside on a cord; being Ceor, he just put the darn thing on. It had the same portcullis symbol on it that he’s used before to open doors… It radiated divine magic, and a subtle aura of conjuration magic. It didn’t match the aura of any divine item I’ve ever encountered before.

He also babbled at length about his other fanmail. Despite my threatening him.

The items we took off Allain included a 3] Corrosive Burst Keen spear that we’ll either sell, put in the armory, or donate to the Temple of Mavros because none of us fucking want it, a [1] Fire Resistance, Glamoured mithril chainmail that we may end up giving to Miaako, an Amulet of Natural Armor 2] that we’ll also let Miaako have, a Cloak of Etherealness that we’ll keep handy, two Cure Serious Wounds potions (and one from the one guard that decided to accompany us back to Friula rather than commit suicide), a Ring of Protection [2] that I kept, and a Wand of Cure Serious Wounds with 12 charges left that Reeshka gets. He really was expecting us, but it didn’t matter in the end.

On an unrelated note, when I returned to my house, my room had been filled with roses. Even the wall was covered. I think they used alchemical glue…

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Tal's Journal, Entry 35
An All Around Shitty Day

We tethered the horses and found our way into the sewers-leading-to-catacombs. It was just as unpleasant as the last time. We’d walked for some time when we came across some barred doors in the passage. For once we’d elected to use caution. Miaako went first, since he was the best qualified to do so.

Turned out that was for the best since he almost got clawed by something unpleasant. A wight, I think. He flailed backwards in a way that tried to be graceful, but at least he managed to avoid getting clawed. Then another barred door opened and another wight showed up.

Great.

Another squawk and flail indicated a new player, a wraith this time.

This just keeps getting better and better.

Another wight. Don’t know why I’m surprised. This will end badly. I think we walked into a nest of the damn things…

Miaako was freaking out, there is no other term for it, but he was at least accomplishing things. Ceor managed to finish off two of the wights, though we still had a lot more. The wraith that tried to hit Miaako came through the wall and tried to hit Ceor, failing fortunately. Another wraith showed up in the chamber next to myself, Keshemet, and Reeshka. Fortunately, undead do not like fire, though I wasn’t quite able to put it down.

I do think Keshemet was taking a bit too much joy in making Miaako uncomfortable, even if it did help. Reeshka did quite a bit more; undead really don’t like positive energy.

Miaako got slashed by one of the wights, though it looked like he’d just taken the wound, not any of the nastier things wights can do.

One of them was throwing rusty metal at us to no effect. I don’t even.

Miaako actually nearly got one wight to hit another, but it lead to ineffectual flailing. That was the point when one of the wraiths hit me. It was seriously one of the most awful experiences of my life. Cold and nasty and hungry. And not just a little painful.

I promptly set it on fire again. That took care of it. Then I decided to lean on the wall and catch my breath.

At least the others were doing somewhat better. Reeshka found a novel use for one of her cure moderate wounds wands.

It is rather entertaining to see Miaako dodging in such a way that they end up hitting each other more than him. And it is rather nice when they drop down to managable numbers. The remaining few didn’t last much longer, once Miaako and Ceor started seriously stabbing things.

I hate the undead.

They didn’t have much worth taking, though closer inspection showed the rusty chunks of metal used to be knives. Didn’t do them much good.

We proceeded on, eventually coming across another light. Reeshka said the surrounding stonework was imported limestone, if that made a difference. Miaako could hear something else moving around up ahead, and no one was really surprised when we came across four or five skeletal figures dripping green slime. Fortunately, they seemed to be trapped behind barred gates they couldn’t move. We started through, and started running as soon as we heard metal shrieking. The skeletons were trying to force their way through and we decided we wanted no part of that.

We ran for a good ways, before we came to a more cylindrical structure… with a large air elemental hanging about in it. It was staring at us, though fortunately more curious than hostile. After a quick tongues spell courtesy of Keshemet, I decided to address it. The short of it was that someone, probably the designers of the city, bound it down here. At a guess, to keep the possible explosive gases from building up in the sewers.

I decided it couldn’t hurt to let it out. It could only help us if Friula has problems with explosive sewers, and it might be able to help us in our quest to assassinate a member of the Bibliotory. Win win, either way. I dispelled the barrier, and let the elemental out. We’d get to the surface eventually, and that’s what I told him.

About an hour later, we came upon a larger room, that seemed to be a statue surrounded by columns. The air was noticeably cooler; I think it was another part of the ventilation system. Miaako got close enough to poke it, and realized that the eyes of the statue were diamonds.

It was interesting to see how conflicted he was. He started prying the diamonds out, which I’m sure will have some sort of side effect. He wrenched one out, and cracked the statue in the process. If it seemed like a planar effect, I’d stop him, but I think it’s just an arcane effect. Naturally, as soon as he did, he got hit with a painfully cold blast of air. Then we decided to leave. As we did, we could hear the sound of ice forming… I think Miaako removed important regulating components of it. This should be good.

It took us three more hours to get up to the actual sewers, about the place where we thought the manor would be, if our maps were accurate. We could see two places where light was filtering through, one bigger than the other. Miaako climbed up to the bigger one to see if he could tell where we were. He heard a guard, and came back down. We elected to try the other.

It ended up in a privy, of course.

We managed to get up before the air elemental did the same… spraying unpleasantness EVERYWHERE.

I’m going to have to burn these clothes later.

Of course, we couldn’t do this quietly, and we attracted the attention of the guards. Then things just got ridiculous. It really did.

Mind you, we had just erupted from a privy, and were standing there, covered in shit, and about to go on a rampage.

This isn’t even weird anymore.

Miaako and I ran up the stairs, on the assumption that the others would be right behind us.

This was not the case. So I came back down to find that more guards had emerged and decided to do something about it.

This didn’t really make things any less ridiculous. Keshmet’s learned Hideous Laughter, apparently. We dealt with them, and then got up the stairs… to find more guards. Naturally. Quite a few of them, actually. We’d tried to not kill the ones on the floor below, I guess because I felt like indulging Ceor, but I think our patience has run out at this point.

There is a term called ‘curb stomping’ that seems appropriate.

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