After much personal trial and tribulation of remembering how to do website things, the game blog is back. And to whomstever downloaded my temp files that I stupidly put in a public directory, I mean, have fun reading about our adventures? I GUESS?
Everyone stays in Ralfustro’s mansion in Gridea for a couple of weeks, not really speaking to each other. Nim does some research in the Primspace library, Dovienya gets initiated into the Nightwatchers, and Trig invites a new bird friend from Ralf’s Aviary to join her on her adventures. Trig and Zazu seek out what entertainment they can in the big city.
Daisy, meanwhile, mostly mopes. There is some drama when Daisy throws a hairbrush at Ralfustro’s skull friend. It flees into Primspace and is not seen again. Your host Ralf is worried, and he conveys in the nicest possible terms that it might be best if the Unsworn gets out of the house for a bit; maybe Skull will come back once it feels, um, safe.
An opportunity arises: Trig’s old stomping grounds (and I have no doubt she stomped) was the forest known as the Harebuck, and according to her druid connections, it is currently infested with were-people! As Nim and Dovienya are now lycanthropically advantaged, the mission is a good fit for the Unsworn. So you pack your bags and join up with a caravan heading south until you get to the forest.
Deep within the woods and following the sounds of a wounded animal, you become surrounded by a mysterious green mist as were-creatures charge you with fangs and talons bared and the vegetation itself comes alive to attack.
Nim is able to touch a werewolf, and using her oracular power, transmorphs it back into human form – revealing it to be a nothing more than a humble-looking peasant. But before Nim can investigate further, Trig unleashes an indiscriminate and devastating fire-snake spell, killing all foes in the near vicinity. More arrive though, and they too are mowed down by might and magic until only one cowering werewolf remains. Nim is able to calm it into surrendering, then uses her wand of sleep on it until she finds a cure. Meanwhile, the green mist seems to have infected little Zazu, who becomes seemingly possessed, periodically transforming into a monstrous version of himself and trying to attack Trig.
After the fight, the Unsworn discover a wounded juvenile griffon and free it from its entanglements. It’s grateful for the rescue and begins to lead you into the forest, presumably back to its home – the colossal rabbit sculpture where its kind keep their nest. Avoiding the noxious mist is proving difficult.
The source of these mysteries remains unknown, but Dovienya is aware that what a nearby town may harbor could be of significance.
To Be Continued…
While on the last leg of the trek to the Brutal Mountains, the Unsworn visit another Bregan shrine. Here Dovienya finds a better map to locate Gwendols Gate. Nim is curious about the goddess’ blessing and asks Dovienya what’s involved. He plays a bit of a prank on her, telling her it’s traditional to kiss the roadstone (it’s not). When Nim gullibly follows through, she is suddenly yanked into the Ethereal Plane by her good friend Mouse.
How fortuitous! Turns out that Bregan shrines are actually Ethereal gates (who knew?) and Mouse had set up triggers to alert him if Nim ever accessed one. Praise be to the Goddess of Luck!
Mouse tells Nim that, as promised, he’s been looking into her “problem”. He gives her a belt formerly owned by a wizard named Palaemon who once had a similar sounding affliction and apparently used the belt to address said affliction. Unfortunately, the belt is broken and doesn’t do anything now, but maybe it can help Nim down the road with a cure. Nim recalls a recent dream of receiving a helpful gift – a vision of a snake curving around to eat its own tail. This belt must be the snake!
After thanking Mouse, Nim says farewell, and the Unsworn continue onward. They proceed without incident through the mountain checkpoint guarded by Baublebeard (don’t call them that) dwarves. Nim’s dream of a stranger’s gift also comes true: a dwarf from the checkpoint crowd steps out to trade her a bottle of Stone Salve for a flower she picked from the Qualican poison gardens. Her vision indicated the salve would aid her in some way, though how remains a mystery.
The party then ascends the Brutes. After much arduous climbing, they arrive at the shadow of Widow’s Finger, the peak that acts as a landmark for Gwendols Gate. Next to some ruins stands a statue of a Foo Lion – one of Jerum’s beloved beasts.
As Moxie Coppercore suggested way back in Wobbly Rock, the Unsworn takes their collected gilburwort, the poisonous flower received from the Naga of Qualic, and feeds it into the statue’s mouth. In reaction, the stone suddenly bursts open, revealing a living, breathing, and fiery Foo Lion (!)
The benevolent magical creature leaps up onto a nearby cliff and begins pawing into the earth to dig a smoldering hole. A stairwell becomes etched into the rock behind it to allow the Unsworn to make their way to the entryway it has fashioned.
The Unsworn then descend into the FIRE FORTRESS OF DOOM.
Inside is a vast space with elevated stone pathways and bottomless pits on all sides. Patches of the platforms are grates with flames leaping out. The air is blisteringly hot, requiring the Unsworn to summon all the stamina they can muster.
Fire Elementals of various sizes emerge to protect the fortress. It was, after all, built as a prison by the sibling gods of Earth and Fire, Ulikrus and Jerum – and they would prefer invading mortals to stay away.
Besides the Elementals, the Unsworn also contend with a big reptilian fire-belching beast.
After most of the defenses seem to be breached, a squat, brass-skinned humanoid with a mane of fire steps out from the flames to congratulate you.
You recognize it as an Azer, a sort of fire-dwarf. He begins dragging a massive chest much too big for him out of the flames, then begins pulling gold and various enticing magical items out from within: a fire-resisting Blazing Robe which can blast your enemies, a Mallet of Mending for fixing broken things, a set of Amazing Tools of Manufacture for crafting, a Hybridization Funnel for combining two potions, and the obligatory flaming sword. The Azer explains all of these treasures are theirs for the keeping, with Jerum’s hearty blessing and congratulations; it’s Her reward for beating the Fire Fortress.
But only if they leave now.
The Unsworn thank the Azer but politely decline.
Rejected, the Azer gathers up the prizes in a huff and shoves them back into the chest.
“You know, it’s not just Jerum you’re pissing off, right? It’s Ulikrus. That mean anything to you? Her brother? Big Mean Primordial God of Earth? God of the Dwarves? He’ll turn the dwarves against you. Good luck making friends with dwarves again. I mean, if you live. After he like, comes after you with earthquakes and swallows you whole. Make you all buried and the like… I hope you like dirt!!!”
The irritated, sputtering Azer pulls the chest back into the flames and disappears.
Then all hell breaks loose. Swarms upon swarms of inferno spiders (residents of the Plane of Fire) begin erupting out of the fires to overcome the Unsworn.
Trig, who by this time, had Wild Shaped into a huge hippopotamus, manages to keep them at bay by heroically lying down to block the pathway. To buy everyone else some time, his hippo girth withstands the swarms’ attacks – but not for long.
Dovienya quickly distributes Fly potions to everyone. The Unsworn soar over the remaining obstacles until they become face-to-face with two red, crystalline beings guarding the final door.
Trig transforms into a giant Dire Bat and follows after his friends as the inferno spiders continue their onslaught, chasing them from behind. Trig sends an ice storm hurling down, freezing the the first wave in place. Then the Unsworn handily defeat the two guardians and flee through the door into the next chamber.
Inside stands a solitary figure of immense bearing, like a Demi-God, powerful and imposing, wielding a massive hammer. It looks like the Unsworn is going to have to somehow take out this Big Boss in order to proceed to the final chamber.
Before combat can begin, Dovienya pauses to peer at the guardian’s face. He recognizes her from his historical studies. It’s none other than Gwendol – the First Fool!
But what is she doing here? Shouldn’t she be in Purgatory?
Dovienya and Nim talk to her, and using their impressive diplomacy skills, manage to befriend her, convincing her not to fight. Gwendol explains that she woke up here in the Fire Fortress after her time in Purgatory, She only knows that she must guard this chamber and she can never leave this place. It is her eternal punishment for being the First Fool. With dismay, she admits that her ex-lover, the goddess Jerum, will never forgive her.
The Unsworn proceed onward, leaving the melancholy demi-god alone with her torment.
In the next chamber they find the object of their quest: the fabled Tablets of Asmenkorod. Dovienya mixes up a potion so Tumn can read the words written in Ignan, what the Blink Dogs called the “tongue of flame”.
Tumn turns to each of you and expresses his gratitude for getting him here. He’s scared, but there’s no turning back. He reads the words written on the Tablet. After he’s finished, he appears confused. Nothing seems to have happened. He looks back at you for a split second about to say something more, but then suddenly he’s gone.
Only now in his place there’s a figure, same height, same build, standing there. It’s a hooded halfling in a magical cloak, wielding a serrated Derulade dagger. It’s not Tumn, but someone else. Whoever he is, he looks haunted, half-starved.
At the sight of you all and his new environment, he becomes scared and starts backing away.
“Who are you?,” Daisy yells at him. “Where’s Tumn?”
Seeing the Unsworn as threats, he teleports quickly away to the entrance, away from everyone. Then he summons a strange beast to help protect him. It’s an Esobok – a native of Purgatory.
Dovienya notices the halfling accidentally dropped something before teleporting away. It’s his satchel, and inside, Dov finds a tattered book. This is the handwritten journal of one Willis “Thicky” Thickbrush – adventurer, explorer, and self-proclaimed “Shepherd Prince”. You recognize the name as Moxie Coppercore’s friend whose map it was that had the location of Gwendols Gate. The journal chronicles Thicky’s efforts to pursue the same Shepherd Prince prophecy that Tumn sought to fulfill. His primary motivation appears to be to prove his worthiness to his mother with whom he had a contentious relationship. The journal describes his experience with the Blink Dogs where he was given the initial prophecy. Then details his efforts to find the fabled location of Gwendols Gate and then his trek across Qualic and into the Brutal Mountains to read the words of banishment on the Tablets of Asmenkorod – all exactly the same as what you have just undertaken. It’s clear that Thicky was enthusiastic and excited to pursue his destiny in Purgatory, but he apparently added no entries once he arrived. There’s no writing implement in the pack so maybe he lost the means to add to the journal.
Some things become clearer: No wonder the Blink Dogs called Tumn a “contender” for the Shepherd Prince and seemed like they were going through the motions of testing for the second time. In hindsight, it also explains how Gwendol exited Purgatory and was sent here. Only one living mortal can be in Purgatory at one time, you learn. Reading the Tablet’s words swaps you with whomever was there before. So when Thicky activated the Tablet initially, he switched out with Gwendol, and then when Tumn activated the spell a few years later, he switched out with Thicky.
Back in the Fire Fortress, Thicky is pursued, and, with the help of Gwendol, prevented from escaping. Thicky agrees to accompany everyone back to Gridea. Nim pulls out the teleportation candle and glow-hops the Unsworn and Thicky back to Ralfustro’s house.
Once there, Nim is saddened to see that Gwendol did not make the journey, though all had hoped it would work. Whatever power is keeping the First Fool in the Fire Fortress is too great for the Wick’s candle magic to overcome.
To Be Continued…
And so begineth… Tumn’s Quest!
You head south across the plains away from the Blink Dogs’ camp, towards the edge of the Harebuck forest. Dovienya knows of a venerational wayside shrine to his goddess Brega en route. A tucked away little structure off the main road houses a roadstone with Brega’s symbol carved on the flat top. In the back is a secret door to a carved-out chamber for Bregans to leave info and extra pairs of boots. The space acts a rest stop for devotees and in-the-know travelers.
Dovineya signs the guest book, leaves a pair of boots like a good Bregan, and finds a nice map of the eastern marshes to show everyone. He reads valuable news and gossip. He learns that the best way for the Unsworn to travel is to avoid the armies altogether and instead venture across the marshes further southward by crossing a large stretch of gnome-inhabited lands known as the Hudbud. He learns a famous gnome explorer named Moxie Coppercore is currently staying at the Everwell Inn in Wobbly Rock in the Hudbud. A world traveler, there’s a good chance she’ll be able to point out where Gwendols Gate is located on map within the Brutal Mountains.
Dovienya touches the shrine’s roadstone in communion with his deity and receives Brega’s luck blessing. He also experiences a vision where he converses with the goddess herself at the crossroads. Dovienya can tell that Brega is worried. There’s something coming, she warns him, but she can’t quite figure out what.
“I have worked at making peace with the Tharybians – well, Calydo and Kyon anyway – not Om-Striom, of course.” the goddess explains. “I want us on the same team so we can face this threat. There are those that plot against the gods. They did it before and they’re still doing it. I know you’ve read about my ‘adventures’ [DM Note: See: Xan-Hyrkanic Codex], restoring life to the world after Siglain’s Spell [aka the opprobrious axiom]. What I did was so secret, not even my priesthood knows about it. Maybe you, Dovienya, should be the one to write a book about what I did some day.”
At this, a shocked Dovienya can’t help but react visibly at the extraordinary honor.
The goddess continues. “One thing that has become clear to me is you need to safeguard the Spell and find a way to reverse it: grow back the tree, bring back Siglain. There’s something of Siglain’s that Caolaub still covets – the Om-Striomites have it. They think it’s Moonbane, the weapon he used to blind Calydo. If you can get that, it will help, I think.”
Brega says goodbye, Dovienya makes a mental note to look out for this Moonbane, then he awakes from his divine trance.
After the visit to the shrine, the Unsworn continue on their way down to the Hudbud. You pass through the humans’ town of Pew but decide not to linger. Their Temple to Om-Striom was burned down long ago by Trig, and the people don’t hide their disapproving looks at strangers, particularly diminutively-sized ones.
For a brief time, you join up with a mysterious lone traveler, Lander, an elf bard – who Dovienya deduces is secretly an incognito Orifluran, a wanted Sibrillian.
Eventually, you arrive at the gnomish town of Wobbly Rock, the one untrapped place in the Hudbud that Big Folk are allowed to visit. The Huddlestoop Buddingbed, or “Hudbud” for short, is also called the Traplands or the Gnomelands. The whole countryside of gnome residences stretching east towards the marshes is laden with cunning traps for miles and miles to keep invaders out.
Wobbly Rock is famous as a tourist attraction for two things:
1) The Legendary Apothecary – a curiosity shop and bookstore run by Zymbal the Razulantan gnome wizard. It’s here that Dovienya gets a ‘Book of Lodope’ for Tumn, Nim gets books on Gwendol and Jerum, and Trig gets a book on… well, I’d rather not say (*DM blushes*).
2) The Everwell Inn – a spacious, luxurious inn owned and operated by the elf/human Tranchant family of Berengerius and Nylaylee Tranchant and their eleven half-elf children.
Holding court in the common room of the Inn you find the celebrity Moxamazia Coppercore! She’s an intrepid aristocratic adventurer/inventor, and to no surprise, she’s surrounded by groupies, all eager to hear her hold court with stories of her adventures.
At her side is her butler, a taciturn dwarf monk named Astrid.
That night, there’s a crazy monster attack from hobgoblins, bugbears and goblins. The Unsworn leaps in to defend the Inn and ends up being a big help in the fight.
The result of your bravery is an invitation to join Moxie for a drink. Here’s what you learn from the conversation:
- A world traveler, Moxie’s main pursuit is to learn drow techno secrets.
- She’s the reason for the monster attack at the Inn, or so she believes. She took the Eminent Empress’ remains from an ancient Axlan tomb and the monsters have been chasing her all over for it. But she doesn’t have it any more; she gave it to close personal friend Primwizard Artivole. Mox explains there’s some kind of necromancer boss named “X”, who is trying to get the remains and sending his minions after her.
- You tell her you’re trying to get to Gwendols Gate and need the location, and she offers to help. After asking Astrid to dig up the map of an old adventurer friend -Wyllis “Thicky” Thickbrush, a halfling like Daisy & Tumn (“any relation?”), she copies the location onto your map.
- The mountains are in the jurisdiction of the Baublebeards – dwarves of the Yorantrum clan. You’ll need to talk your way past their checkpoint. Astrid provides pointers on how to do this.
- According to Mox’s friend Thicky, you’ll need this one swamp flower – Gilburwort – to gain access to Gwendols Gate’s interior. Maybe the Qualicans will give you some since they use it in their religious rituals.
- Mozie explains that Qualicans aren’t really lizardmen. They’re more like snakes. There are different castes. The top one is the most snake-like – the Qinnuqlar, that’s the royal family – there aren’t that many of them, like five in total or something. Then there’s the Qianlar, that’s the nobility. The lowest one is the Quirrinirri, those are the peons that fight in the wars, the working class – they’re the most humanoid and the ones you’ll see as you make your journey. The nobles all stick to the big cities.
- Moxie’s crossed over the swamps a few times. And she’s gone by traversing the Hudbud. By the way, Qualican culture is unused to compliments of any kind, and so when you do it, it’s magical. So flattery works wonders. She suggests you try to flatter them.
Daisy makes contact with the gnome Murnon Wilrickle, Brigadier-General of the Huddlestoop Militia (the Stoopids) and, despite his high rank, talks him into permitting the Unsworn to cross the Traplands.
And so begins an arduous slog across the marshes. There’s no sign of Gilburwort. Tumn is nervous about going to Purgatory but wants to learn more, so Dovienya reads and summarizes the Book of Lodope for him. Turns out that Tumn’s supernatural abilities revealed during the Blink Dogs’ tests point to him being a psychopomp – a guide of spirits to the afterlife. Tumn blanches at that. He doesn’t really know what to do with that information. What does it have to do with being the Shepherd Prince of prophecy?
Along the way, there are numerous groups of Qualican refugee families trying to flee the swamp. You soon discover why.
Investigating a burning village, you find it swarming with skeletal serpentfolk who are wantonly destroying everything around them. After fighting them back, you assist the sole survivor who tells you that the ancient Ra’uda have awakened from their tomb and are now laying waste to all of Qualic. The description of the tomb does sound similar to Bloodboat’s. Could this be the same infection from Duriguin, aka the Sower? And what does it mean that the tomb is emptied and its skeletons are now animated and possibly under someone’s control? Who is responsible?
The Unsworn decides to take a detour from Tumn’s Quest and seek out the Tomb of the Ra’uda to investigate.
You find the tomb is being used as a makeshift base of operations by Cognail’s chief necromancer, Xysticus! – along with his goblinoid tribe minions and human apprentice Dederick.
Xysticus is in Qualic to test out the Ra’uda skullstone he’s embedded in a magical diadem to control the skeletal army. Looks like it’s been working! Does this mean Cognail has plans to build a crown to contain all of the skullstones? That’s a whole lot of skeletal armies he can just make rise up and do stuff. And by ‘do stuff’, I mean take over the kingdom of Paradon by force!
You find evidence in Xysticus’ workshop that he was trying to find other infected kingdoms and their skullstones. You also learn from a bat-riding Lumpen-man message that the Sovereigns had invited him to join their ranks. The location of the residence of a top-ranking Sovereign, Absessa, is among the necromancer’s notes.
With Xysticus and his minions dead, you grab the skullstone, gather up as much loot as you can from the tomb, and make your exit – only to find yourself surrounded by dozens of official-looking Qualicans outside all aiming their javelins at you.
They accompany you to Sirsigi, the capital of Qualic – and usher you to the palace and throne room of the Qinnuqlar ruler, who Daisy recognizes as a member of the naga race.
The naga wishes to thank you for defeating the undead menace. For your service, you are each offered the chance to pick something from their prized Poison Gardens. Everyone procures Gilburwort, except for Nim, who picks a bright blue-violet flower she saw in a dream.
Nim convinces the naga to cease their war with Paradon for now. Yay, the Unsworn just had a major impact on geopolitical forces!
And then the Unsworn continue on their merry way to the foot of the Brutal Mountains. There’s another Bregan shrine they can visit, plus the checkpoint of the Baublebeard dwarves to cross before they can make their ascent and enter Gwendols Gate, where Tumn must face his final test -be willingly sent to Purgatory where his destiny awaits him.
To Be Continued…
Having saved Raismonts Academy in its hour of need, you make your exit via Primwizard portrait then navigate the missing wizard’s maze of inter-dimensional hallways until you find the right portal back to Ralfustro’s mansion in Gridea.
Your jovial host is even more giddy than usual. The Order of the Wick and the Flame, he informs you, has a special surprise for Daisy. He leads you to a well-furnished room where sitting on a bed is Tumn!
When last seen, Mouse had rescued Daisy’s brother and the mysterious Axlan known as the Rectoress from the City Unfair, and the two halflings were last seen escaping Farglad in a hurry. Now you see Tumn has been returned safely, but he’s a glum Tumn. He was traveling with the Rectoress on an important mission when they were ambushed by hyena-headed highwaymen (i.e. gnolls). Vyrin Lortis (Ruthorian’s daughter), sent by the Wick to track Tumn at the Unsworn’s behest, spotted the two in the tight spot. She pulled Daisy’s brother away and glow-hopped him back to Ralfustro’s. The Rectoress was left behind, however, and her fate remains unknown.
Tumn tells you he is eager to get back to his quest! He tells you his destiny as the Shepherd Prince must begin with a visit to the Blink Dogs who reside on the Plains of Nemir. Tumn asks you all to accompany him on the journey. Daisy remembers the final words that her Nana’s ghost spoke before she left this Plane for the nurturing arms of the Radiant Maiden in the Great Beyond: “Take care of each other.” Daisy, in her her usual gruff way, agrees to be Tumn’s quest-mate. The rest of the Unsworn are up for the adventure as well.
You purchase horses and ponies and set off for the Plains. On the way, there’s time to get to know your new party member Tumn better. He serenades you with songs on the braybury, his halfling flute, and it turns out he’s pretty good. Tumn tells you he believes the Blink Dogs will greet him as a friend, or maybe some kind of god. At any rate, he’s optimistic about the reception he’ll receive.
For homework, Tumn was instructed by the Rectoress to study a book of Axlan imperial history. Apparently, the Shepherd Prince prophecy implies he will bring back the Axlan Empire, specifically those loyal to the Eminent Empress Ghilanna Paggion, she of the final Paggion Empire. Tumn has barely cracked open the pages of the tome, finding talk of the various Paggions boring.
Never one to let a book go unread, Dovienya asks to borrow it, reads it over the course of a night or two, and learns that:
Eight centuries ago, the Empress died, became divine – her body laid reverently to rest in the new Necropolis where all her subjects chose to be interred as well. But strangely, anyone born after the date of her death refused to observe her divinity and continue the burial custom. This next generation revolted, civil war erupted, and the youth overthrew their traditionalist forebears. This caused the Great Axlan Empire to fall, and the clans to be disbanded. It was known as the “War of the Youth Against Their Elders” (probably sounded better in Axlan, you presume).
Dovienya infers that the Paggions were infected by the Sower / Duriguin, the monarchy parasite. A significant piece of information, to be sure, but what does it have to do with the Shepherd Prince?
After many days of riding and camping, you finally arrive at the Plains of Nemir. Trig takes to the sky in the form of an eagle, and with uncanny sight, manages to spot a small group of Blink Dogs twinkling in the distance. The Unsworn are able to track the band of magical canines and catch up to them. The six Blink Dogs, wary of humanoids, only speak Sylvan – but with Nim and Trig conveying Tumn’s assertion he’s the Shepherd Prince foretold in legend, they (somewhat ambivalently) agree to take you to the rest of their pack, where you meet their Alpha, a female named Eubha.
Eubha, exhibiting the clear demeanor of a strong leader, appraises Tumn for a moment. She seems unimpressed. “Is this a joke?” she asks. “We already named a Contender this Turning.”
Getting no response, she Blinks a few times slowly, then sighs. “Fine. We will have our Sage read the stars. He needs the practice.”
The Sage of the pack is then summoned, and it turns out to be a mere lad, a Blink Dog pup. It is explained that the previous Sage (also Eubha’s mate) died recently, and his young apprentice replaced him in the role – a male pup named Labhrann.
Labhrann calls for a meeting of the whole pack that night to gather around the party under the stars so he can read the constellations. As the sage-pup examines the firmament for omens and signs of import, a single star in the night sky suddenly seems to burn brightly. There’s quite a stir from the assembled crowd at this, causing a fervor of blinkings. The young Sage, awestruck, mumbles something. Nim translates: “The Beggar Bowman’s arrow is on fire.”
It’s explained that the star’s fiery brightness means the Unsworn’s fates are tied to the Shepherd Prince in some way. They may accompany Tumn the next day during the three trials that will determine whether the pack accepts him as a contender for Shepherd Prince.
After breakfast, a delegation of the pack, including Eubha and the sage-pup, take you to a span of immense mounds bulging out of the ground, an area of the Plains they call the Vagabonds. The Blink Dogs sit or lounge on the grass at the base of the mounds, casually watching Tumn in silence. They provide no instruction. Tumn is just expected to know what to do.
> Tumn passes the first test : he senses which mounds contain undead inside. He possesses the power of Spiritsense.
> Tumn passes the second test : he can wound incorporeal creatures using no weapons. He possesses the power of Spirit Touch.
> Tumn passes the third test : he plays a song on his flute that is so haunting, it grips the spirits of those that hear it. Even the giant zombies within the mounds, normally immune to mind-affecting effects, are fascinated by his song. He possesses the power of Haunting Melody Tumn’s Tumultuous Tweetle-Toot.
With all three tests passed, Tumn is recognized by the pack as a Prince Contender. To Daisy, he expresses embarrassment at his exposure as a magic user. The ability to fascinate others with his music is something he discovered about himself from an early age while tending his sheep, but he always kept it a secret. Resigned perhaps to a world gone mad, Daisy is less surprised and judgemental about these sorts of things than she might have been in days past.
Back with the pack, the Blink Dogs gather around the sage-pup to watch him recite these cryptic words of instruction, meant for the Prince Contender:
- On the tablets of Asmenkorod,
- Use the tongue of flames,
- To read the proud one’s words
- And spring her lover’s trap once more
- Banish yourself to the threshold maze
- The one living soul to walk among the dead
- Sing the last dirge to win the mapmaker’s favor
- And be crowned leader of the lost flocks
From the riddle, it’s made clear that Tumn must go to the Borderlands Beyond Death, to the place known as Purgatory, and to do so without dying first. The only way such a thing is possible is to read the words on the Tablets of Asmenkorod.
Once within Purgatory, Tumn will be tested further, but if he survives those trials, he will emerge as the Shepherd Prince of legend. The Blink Dogs say he will stand once more on this same hill and join them for the Droving.
They say the word “Droving” with much import, but explain no further. They also provide Tumn the “Crook” (also said with much import), a non-magical staff with a hook on the end, and point him in a single direction with a lifted paw.
“You must go…”
- “…to the site of the Sky Steed’s birth each day…”
- “…to where the Child of Morning first raises her head and throws off the blanket of night…”
- “…to the beginning of a smile that brings light to all…”
Dovienya interjects: “Um, you mean east?”
The Blink Dogs nod enthusiastically, relieved they are finally understood.
East, of course, means Qualic, Land of the Belligerent Lizardmen. Enemy territory. A war-zone.
Dovienya is able to further parse some of the Blink Dogs’ riddle. In the Brutal Mountains past Qualic, there is said to be the spot known as Gwendol’s Gate where the fool Gwendol was banished to Purgatory. She read the tablets that her lover the goddess Jerum put a trap on. If the tablets still exist, the riddle suggests, reading them will send a living person to Purgatory as well.
To accompany Tumn on his quest, the Unsworn agree to travel across Qualic and endure the Brutal Mountains, aka the Brutes. Based on his knowledge of local geography, Dovienya decides the best course of action is to head south a few days ride to one of Brega’s roadstones first. It’s always a good idea to commune with Brega before a big trip as she often bestows blessings to travelers. Plus, Bregans leave helpful information at their wayside shrines – rumors, maps, etc. – that could give the Unsworn a better idea of how to proceed.
That evening, the Blink Dog pack extends its hospitality to Tumn and the rest of the Unsworn with feasting and celebration. Nim makes a heartfelt connection to the sage-pup Labhrann, and the two engage in some illicit cuddling.
To Be Continued…
Ralfustro puts you up in his mansion in Gridea, and you each have a chance for some downtime.
Daisy decides to lose herself in commoner revelry, heading out into the big city to avoid her friends for a while. In Gridea, there’s always a street festival happening somewhere to eat, drink, and be merry at, jubilant sailors to arm wrestle and carouse with, and Paradon’s best music and dancing to enjoy. Daisy partakes in it all and also visits the city’s coliseums to watch magical projections of gladiators fighting monsters and completing quests in the city’s catacombs. She ends up winning a lot of gold from gambling on her favorite fighters.
Meanwhile, Trig tries to mingle in the city, but starts to hate the attention she gets being a colorful gnome. Drunk, arty people want to feel her hair and comment on her skin color, waxing poetic about how it really pops with the aesthetics in the room, which only makes her gag. In truth, she gets more out of visiting Ralfustro’s exotic bird collection, even if they’re a bit snooty. They tell her they come from the other side of the world – a jungle paradise – brought there by a mutual friend of Ralfustro’s, a human they call Artie. They miss Artie and think he might be dead. They want Trig to find out what happened to Artie, and if he’s alive, to get him back safe to them. To tide them over, they’d like Trig to introduce them to an elf – specifically, an elf with nice fingers. Trig fetches her new half-elf friend Nim, but she doesn’t quite fit the bill in the elven-finger department. Nim recognizes the birds as ones native to Razulanta. Trig and Nim both head back out into the city and recruit some elves to come visit the eccentric birds. A strange afternoon ensues with Trig translating bird chirps to inebriated elves who seem to find the whole thing hilariously entertaining. Nim, however, doesn’t enjoy the experience much.
Keeping to himself as always, Dovienya decides to do what he loves best: research! He wants to see what he can find out about whatever’s going on at Raismonts Academy of the Arcane. Because Dov was the one who suggested sending the Bloodboat Jewel to the academy in the first place, he couldn’t help feel responsible if something happened to it.
Midribin told you before you left that Professor Azitain over at Raismonts had been working with Ruthorian on understanding the properties of the Jewel. It was going well, progress was being made. But then Azitain suddenly stopped all communication. Since the last update, other sources the Wick has from within Raismonts have gone eerily silent as well. An associate of the Wick, local to the area, agreed to enter the grounds of the school to investigate a few days ago, heading in on foot. But there’s no word from her either – even though she had an immediate way of communicating her status back to the wizards. Teleportation on the grounds has also proven impossible.
The Wick have determined that a nasty and powerful spell has been cast on the academy. Midribin’s turned a couple of fellows into pigeons to scope out its size, and the effect seems to be covering the whole campus like a bubble. Dovienya assists with the spell research and helps the Wick find the center of the spell – the source of it, as well as a way to disarm the spell and make the Unsworn immune to it. Dovienya also goes out into the city to collect any relevant info. He discovers a little-known fact: there’s actually a portrait of Primwizard Artivole on the wall of a classroom. Based on what he’s learned, exiting the painting should put the Unsworn just north of the actual source of the magic.
Dovienya decides to get the band back together. He recruits his friends to join him on a mission to Raismonts. You all arrive at the academy only to discover a crazy scene inside…
An insane magical battle is well underway with the academy’s faculty and students contending what seem to be outlandish (and seemingly random) opponents. Everything is completely frozen in time. Even the magical energies cast from the defending wizards stay hovering motionless in the air on their way to their targets. You carefully wind your way through the crazy, time-stuck room and exit through the southern door.
Beyond, you discover a frozen Pedocles (aka Duck) in a room by himself blowing a clearly magical horn. Out from the horn emanates a bubble of time-stopping energy. This must be the source of the freezing spell! You dispel the magic, and everything suddenly starts up again. The huge battle in the north room commences as if nothing had happened to cause it to pause.
Duck lowers the horn, sees you all, and looks relieved. He quickly explains the situation.
You had given the Bloodboat Jewel to professor wizard Azitain so he’d study it at Raismonts. But you let the evil raven go free and he simply trailed Azitain back to the academy, then informed his employers, the Sibrillians, who covet the jewel for their own imperialist ends. Now the Sibrillians have invaded Raismonts!
One of the dragon’s high-ranking commanders kidnapped the school mascot, a magical pig named Rascal, and tried to hold him hostage, demanding the Jewel in exchange for the pig’s life. But no one could have predicted that Rascal would retaliate! So many students have practiced their spells on Rascal over the centuries. Who could have known he had been absorbing them all along? When his life became under threat, he turned on the panic mode and released all that pent-up magic to try to stop the invaders.
Unfortunately, it meant total pandemonium across the whole campus, and everyone – all of the professors, students, plus the school’s own built-in security defenses – were forced to fight off Rascal’s magic panic attack. And it was a losing battle! The Pig packed quite a punch. Realizing that imminent doom faced the school, Professor Azitain decided to concede and began heading to the Sibrillians to hand over the Jewel. Duck realized there was another option. Grabbing a magic horn from the school’s forbidden library, he activated it to freeze time on campus, hoping someone would investigate and come fix the situation. And it’s worked! You have arrived at the school mere seconds after he blew the horn. Duck bids you to save poor Rascal! Save the school! Oh, and you know, don’t let the Sibrillians get the Jewel, etc., etc.
Without further ado, you rush over to the tower where the Sibrillians are keeping Rascal hostage and begin ascending each level. Dovienya and Daisy clear a path, fighting off Sibrillians with Nim and Trig providing cover.
With Nim’s ‘Hold Person’ help, you even soundly take out some big tank-type guy who’s wielding a giant hammer shaped like a blue dragon head.
You reach the very top of the tower – open to the sky, where you discover to your shock that the Sibrillian commander is none other than GUNDRADA – daughter of Cognail, Supreme Maekrix* of Sibril (!!!)
(* Maekrix = leader in Draconic)
Remembering that intoning her family’s old saying in Axlan, “Sadis la’da dalleyus!“, will reawaken her katana’s ancient magic to grievously harm dragonkind, Daisy triggers the powers in her sword and makes a series of vicious swipes into the scaly flesh of Gundrada. Plus, a majorly elixir-buffed Dovienya gets a good solid hits in, too.
The wounded dragon is forced to get airborne, out of everyone’s reach. She flaps her wings and peers down at everyone, introducing herself in lofty terms, then curses the name of Derulade (Daisy’s old dragon-taming clan name). She vows to rip the Bloodboat Jewel from their electrified corpses. Then she unceremoniously blasts Azitain and Daisy with her devastating lightning breath.
Now it’s Trig and Nim’s turn to finish the job. This time in the skies. Nim summons her Spiritual Ally – her best friend – a long-dead elven oracle named Shasamura, who flies up to meet the dragon, wielding a starknife like Nim’s.
Trig meanwhile speaks to Rascal to convince the panicked pig to flee the scene. She then summons a griffin to fly up and engage the dragon while she Wild Shapes herself into a huge Razulantan flying reptile creature – the sight of which unfortunately frightens Rascal into further distress.
While Shasamura, the griffin, and Pterosaur-Trig dogfight Gundrada in the skies, Daisy vanquishes more of the magical mayhem that the frightened piggie manifests. Dovienya uses his diplomacy (and endless supply of mysterious pocket acorns) to make best friends with Rascal. The school mascot begins to calm down.
Nim finds Azitain on the tower and offers to help. The professor hands her the Bloodboat Jewel for safekeeping, then casts Fly on himself to go join the aerial melee. At this point, Gundrada had withdrawn but was temporarily preoccupied by a devastating weather spell that Trig had cast. A final offensive spell from the druid’s arsenal causes the dragon to drop like a stone to the ground, dead. Azitain didn’t even have a chance to join the fight.
With Trig’s translation help, Dovienya gets Rascal to understand the threat to his pigself is gone and to give up his (overly excessive) defense of the school grounds. Eventually the dust settles, the wounded are tended to, and the survivors begin to gather together in the Great Hall. Word gets out that saviors came in the nick of time to stop the invaders and placate the pig. In saving the school, you are honored by a grateful Raismonts Academy. The impressive headmistress Orella Sorelwin personally thanks you all.
Out of the throng of rejoicing students, a familiar face approaches. It’s Anafrid Pugis – Trimphid’s housekeeper. What seems like ages ago, she gave you the keys to his manse which kick-started your adventures. Although you didn’t know it at the time, she had betrayed her cruel master so she could head to Raismonts and study magic to become a wizard in her own right. Knowing that Trimphid would likely seek revenge, she asked you at the time to retrieve an old magic cowl for her that she knew would block any attempt on his part to detect her whereabouts. Now that Trimphid’s dead, she hands it to you as a gift in appreciation for saving her once more.
To Be Continued…
In the clearing in front of you is a massive tree fort built of a hodgepodge of branches and other vegetation. The Unsworn approaches Unstealthily, so the inhabitants of the fort can Unstrenuously hear you coming. A spherical spore blasts forth from the top of the structure as if launched from a cannon and hits the ground in front of you. You can’t help but inhale the cloud of powder that bursts into the air, but are able to shake off any psychotropic effects.
Well, not Trig. Her mind is the exception. Affected by the spore, she suddenly finds herself transported to another place. The forest is gone, and its place is nothing but featureless ocean. The tree fort in front of her has been swapped out with a majestic pirate ship – its flag shows a stylized rose. Trig is forced to swim for her life. Looking around, she can see her friends have been swapped out with various, unfriendly-looking sea creatures. She herself is now a crab. At the helm of the ship, a Pirate Queen directs her humanoid crew of pirates to attack, and they begin to do so.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, the rest of the Unsworn continue to see the gnarled tree fort – no ocean or pirates of any kind. A kind of witch woman barks attack orders…
… directing a troop of minuscule, snarling old men, wearing metal boots and blood-red pointed caps. These are Redcaps – wicked fey.
In response, you all lay siege to the tree fort / pirate ship and are eventually able to defeat the redcaps / pirates. Trig turns into an eagle and fire bombs the ship mercilessly with various druidic spells. This clues Nim and Dov in to her real identity. At the conclusion of the fight, a tiny silver frog emerges from Dovienya’s pocket and hops away. The Forest Witch / Pirate Queen is actually the Broken Thorn, suffering from the same spore fantasy, reliving her former glorious life on the seas. Nim dispels the cursed magic on both her and Trig. Now healed and restored to sanity, the pirate-turned-outlaw expresses her heartfelt thanks and leaves on foot for Odyphaidron. After this incident, another silver frog hops down from Dov’s pocket and follows after the recovering spore victim.
Within the ship fort, the remains of a human are found on a dining table, eaten by the evil crew who thought he was a fish. With the help of Dov, Trig is able to identify him as the missing druid he was sent to investigate. At the base of the ship a secret door is found, leading into the druid temple below.
The decor of this dungeon is covered in esoteric druidic lore, with each chamber in sequence corresponding to one of the four seasons. Trig is able to read the Ogham (druidic) script on the walls and follow the instructions to delve deeper. Much to the gnome’s annoyance, there are riddles that need solving to make progress, but her new friends valiantly endure them and provide the correct answers. Finally in the last chamber, Trig performs an elaborate ritual with a feather and the milpreve to create a bogun, a sort of plant / stone golem guardian. The large animated figure leads you to the mystic chamber of the Nemeton – the druidic seal blocking access to/from other planes.
You discover the seal is broken (!). And a strange purple root is growing out of it. In the shadows beyond, Trig spots movement and proceeds forward to investigate. She is promptly shot by a crossbow bolt, however, and crumples to the ground asleep. Enemies emerge from the darkness and begin to attack – dark elves! After you fight them off with the help of the bogun, a female drow (who looks like the leader), wielding a staff with tentacles at the top, steps out to give you the stink eye. She then takes flight back into the shadows.
Once combat is over, Nim uses her starknife to carve out a stake from the purple root. The unsavory thing she fashions is like a crude spear and pulses with dark magical energy. This is the “Splinter from the Tree of the Dead” which she was directed to get from one of her visions. The bogun, meanwhile, sets to work repairing the seal and prepares to guard the Nemeton in perpetuity. It gladly accepts a farewell gift of flowers to burn inside its head. One more silver frog hops out of Dov’s pocket, and there are now 7 silver coins from the celestial guardian remaining.
The Unsworn make their way back to the surface. Once topside, you notice the forest around the tree fort is no longer corrupted by the fey plane. Dov notices that three good deeds have been performed:
2) Showing mercy for the Broken Thorn
3) Sealing up the Nemeton to prevent further corruption
As you all walk, Nim looks between Dovienya, and Trig, wheels turning furiously. Right on cue, however, one of her bootlaces gets tangled up in a length of twine that seems to have thrown itself out of her pack of its own volition, quickly unraveling both into some nettles. A high-pitched elven swear word ensues. “Oh, uh, Dovienya… I think don’t know how to lace up these Paradonian boots properly, could you help me? Just for a second?” She tilts her head to one side in the universal symbol for sidebar conversation this way.
Dovienya, completely oblivious to Nim’s signals, walks over and starts examining her boots. “Yeah, it looks like you used some twine along with the laces? These boots don’t really work that way. Just the laces should be enough to keep them on.” Fortunately his close examination of the boots leaves him near enough for a quiet conversation.
“I’ve never seen a dragon in person before.” The word rushed out of Trig as her eyes sparkled eagerly. The corner of her mouth tugged up for the span of two heart beats before she took a deep breath and regained her composure. She went on in her more normal tone of voice. “Truth be told I was wondering where to head next. I don’t want to head back the way I came. I’m afraid I’d be expected to volunteer for something I have no intention of volunteering for. I see that leading to an awkward conversation at best. Babysitting a walking tree watching a hole in the ground is not how I intend to spend my time. Still too much to see.” Her eyes flickered to Daisy then to Dovienya and back to Daisy as if looking for a reaction. Seeing no reaction from Daisy to her statements and having never seen much of any reaction to anything she said from Dovienya her eyes locked on to Nim. “I think you all need to talk about this before we go any further together though. Informed consent and all. Just my being here may make your journey harder. Do you want to start us off,” she asked Nim, “or should I?”
Daisy broke out of her dragon-slaying reverie at this. “Oh, are you a criminal? We’re all criminals too, so it’s no big deal. I mean, Dov’s really a criminal. Me and Nim just got a caught in a misunderstanding. Those guards are so touchy. But anyway…” she shrugged.
Nim hides her face behind her voluminous sleeves for a moment, and a tin dining plate falls off its place hooked to her travel pack, rolling away. “Oh no, it’s rolling to th– nevermind. Well… Daisy. You see, the reason we needed to all stop and discuss Trig — who is very helpful, by the way, with vision… stuff… and obviously with those pirates! — because she’s a Wisdom, sworn to upholding Mother Nature’s balance.”
Daisy……..stares for a long, awkward moment. Her eyes dart from Nim to Trig to Nim to Trig again. One might almost see the gears turning in her head, and not producing anything particularly helpful or productive. Finally, she looks down at Ambrosius and grumps at him, “And YOU approved this?” Ambrosius just gives a doggy “whuff” of a shrug and a fractional wag of his tail. Daisy sighs and drops her head into her palm. “Of COURSE we have a druid now. It’s not like anyone NORMAL or SENSIBLE would go along with this….” she waves her arms vaguely in the air, “stuff. Alright, let’s go find the magic frog and see if he grants us a wish.”And with that, she nudges Ambrosius and sets off in the direction they’d been heading.
You think you’re getting near Odyphaidron’s stream when suddenly a figure steps out from behind a tree in front of you.
It’s the Broken Thorn! Since you last saw her, she’s had a couple of days to recover from her ordeal and looks much better. She’s all in ranger greens and browns – more like how you imagine a legendary Robin Hood-type would look like.
Since you’ve committed three good deeds in his forest, you get Oddy’s Boon. Present him with a single magical weapon and he will further enchant it to better serve the forces of goodness in the world. He will make it Glamered, as well as “Good” for the purpose of overcoming damage resistance – i.e., more effective against demons and devils. Dovienya presents his rapier to the magic frog, and Voila! It gets glamered good.
To Be Continued…
The Unsworn is embarking on a new adventure! They’re traveling away from the big city and into a far-off forest known as the Jolly Wood! There they hope to find the legendary Tree of the Dead, as seen in Nim’s vision (and possibly referred to in the Xan-Hyrkanic Codex). They hope to carve out a splinter from the Tree to impede the evil of the Sower.
Dovienya grew up with stories about the Jolly Wood – tall tales about the folk hero called the Broken Thorn. The story goes she was once a famous sailor in the Vaspen Sea, given the appellation “Thorn” because her ship was named the Rose. She led a famous mutiny of the Paradonian navy and acted as pirate admiral to a romanticized pirate fleet called the Mutineers.
The Thorn was soundly defeated, her fleet destroyed, and the remains of her own ship’s band of pirates fled into the Jolly Wood, where they became outlaws. There in the forest, she became known as the Broken Thorn, and continued to be a folk hero, robbing the rich to give to the poor with her merry Mutineers.
To get to the Jolly Wood, Midribin has offered to teleport you to the nearby Gridea, where she can put you in touch with a fellow Wizard of the Wick who will have the resources to help you on your journey. When you meet up with the spellthief, you barely recognize her without her normal street urchin-like appearance. Her clothes are all cleaned up, her skin perfumed, and her hair styled. Nim realizes it’s a result of the magic boots Dovienya gave her.
Midri leads you to the house of an art collector, and you all sneak in during the dead of night. You make your way to one large portrait on one of the walls. It depicts Primwizard Artivole, the missing founder and leader of the Mystic Order of the Wick and the Flame (MOWF, if you’re really into acronyms, but it’s usually called the Wick for short).
With actual flame from her fingertips, Midribin lights candles depicted in the painting in a certain order, which makes the Primwizard portrait seemingly come to life. He smiles and leans forward, offering a hand for anyone to get a leg up into the painting. One by one, you each take the wizard’s hand and enter into the demiplane the Wick has set up to teleport from portrait to portrait. With Midri in the lead, you wander around some corridors, passing different doors. The spellthief leads you to a particular door and says, “I think it’s this one.”
Before entering, Midribin pauses and turns to you all. “Ralfustro’s a good guy. “Ignore his, um, showiness and don’t let the skull throw you. And, um, don’t ask him about the skull – it’s a long story. He’s an emotional guy and he gets really emotional talking about it. Maybe wait ’til you get to know him better?”
She’s about to open the door and walk through when she decides to add: “Oh, and he’s not going to know we’re coming so let me handle, you know, getting past his defenses.”
Exiting the door has you leaving another Primwizard portrait facing another room. You see lines of shelves filled with books and magical doodads. A door on the other side immediately shuts closed and curtains fall from the ceilings obscuring all the shelves. The curtains start to ignite on fire and begin moving towards you, and a creepy voice starts hollering, “INTRUDER, YOU ARE ABOUT TO DIE!”
But Midri just says something under her breath and it all stops: the flames go out, the curtains rise back up, and the door on the other side opens again.
In bursts Ralfustro…
He’s a very jovial human, ostentatiously bejeweled, and seems excited to meet you all. He’s heard stories from his fellow Chandlers, Ruthorian, Pobody and Midribin, about you three. When introduced to Nim, he recalls she’s Razulantan and starts geeking out about his collection of Razulantan artifacts that he’s eager to show off.
Midri tries to speed things up: “Um, Ralf – they’re in hurry.”
Ralfustro sets about getting you on your way to the Jolly Wood. He can get you passage the next day from a brinywine merchant on its way to the gnomelands. That gives you a chance the next morning to see the sights of Gridea and purchase any last minute gear before your trip.
Ralfustro tells you he has set up a special room within his house for you. It’s bare with only a single, small candle placed on the floor. He gives a matching candle to Nim and tells you it’s called a “Light-the-Way-Home” candle. You learn that you can light it when you want to return to Gridea after your journey to the Jolly Wood is complete. He explains that anyone within the glow (10’ radius) will be teleported back to the room he’s set up. Ralfustro has suggested in the past that this form of travel be called “glow-hopping,” but his fellow Chandlers vetoed this, much to his disappointment. Perhaps you could revive the nickname?
Midribin says her goodbyes and thanks you once again. She reminds Daisy about Pobody’s tracking cricket.
Before she departs back to Farglad, Midri tells you she’s going to follow up with some of the intel you provided. She’ll visit the Ambassador’s house and see if she can find any clues to what Cognail might be up to.
The travel to the Jolly Wood is uneventful. Near the forest’s edge, the brinywine merchant tells you to follow the path to find the village of Poorwall. You decide to camp out that night and proceed into the woods the next morning. You have painful flashbacks to the last time you tried to enter a forest at night.
At about mid-morning you stumble into the quaint village of Poorwall – so named for the pitiful, broken wall that surrounds it. The Quilkin live here – a race of diminutive hedgehog people. They don’t speak Common or Sylvan, much to your frustration.
There’s a trading post at the center of the town that is the only building sized to handle big-folk. Inside you find another big-folk – well, a folk bigger than a quilkin. You meet Trig, a mysterious gnome woman, who shares your frustration at not being able to talk to the quilkin. She sparks up a conversation with Daisy’s sheepdog, Ambrosius, who tells her that Daisy and Nim are decent people. With the dog’s permission, Trig joins the party.
Dovienya, not one to let inscrutable hedgehog people get in his way, sits down and brews up an elixir of Comprehend Languages. To one of the quilkins, he mentions the name, “Odyphaidron”. The creature directs him to a kind of quilkin medicine woman’s hut. She smears paste on Dov’s face in exchange for his old rapier, then directs him to walk into the forest. Nim, Daisy, and the Ambrosius-approved Trig follow. Dovienya is once again experiencing flashbacks to his time as a “trickie”.
Not long into the trek, Dovienya attracts a tiny purple-skinned fey person riding a sparrow, who introduces himself as Spritswacket. Sprits is eccentrically dressed in a fancy way with a feather the length of him sticking out of his hat. Upon the mention of Odyphaidron, Sprits cheerfully explains the fey call him, “Loddy Oddy” or Dear Lord Odd. Spritswacket and Lossle (that’s the sparrow) agree to take you to where Loddy Oddy lives, and Sprits sings a funny little nursery rhyme about him.
Follow me lithely to Loddy Oddy
Pay him a tribute – not too gaudy
Nothin’ too shabby, nor too shoddy
Let’s go join his jolly party!
Speak no ill of him, don’t be naughty
Pray be humble, don’t be haughty
Or you’ll get spotty all o’er your body
Have to sit squatty on the ol’ potty
All your insides turnin’ rotty!
So hop-hop-ho and don’t be tardy
Clip-clap-clap and applaudy-plaudy
That’s the way to be a smarty-marty
Tip your cap to our Loddy Oddy!
You are led to a dried up riverbed with some boulders. Spritswacket giggles and yells one final, “Don’t be naughty!” and he and Lossle fly away.
Upon your approach, a boulder’s eyes open up revealing great big white glowing orbs – is it a giant frog? And as it rises, its skin changes into glowing silver white, revealing its true form – a celestial!
The massive frog-like being introduces himself as Odyphaidron. You speak with him and he agrees to show you to the nemeton. Something’s wrong though, you learn. Things aren’t as they should be.
“I am sleepy,” Odyphaidron admits in his deep booming voice. “Something is good to sleep. Is good at making me sleep?”
He looks over at Nim, Daisy, and Dovienya. “You are of the Good, yes? Mmmm. Here: Take these.”
Five small gray mushrooms grow out of the earth in front of you. They turn into silver coins.
“If you plan to do good work in my forest, which I think you do, Take, Take. Keep, keep. Honor me with a good deed and you win my favor. You’ll know when you win my favor. Three favors grants you a boon, as is the old custom, yes? Oh, you already know about that. Did you already spend the coins? The pirates are good at it. What?”
Later, the sleepy celestial appears forgetful and offers another five coins again, repeating a similar offer. Dovienya reaches down and grabs all ten coins and pockets them.
When finally nudged about the nemeton again, Odyphaidron causes several dozen gray mushrooms to grow all around you. They turn into tiny silver frogs hop along and start heading off into the forest. You follow, but as you venture towards what you assume to be the nemeton, something makes the frogs melt into silver blobs and slink back away like quicksilver on the ground. The air around you seems to wobble. The vegetation takes on a kind of saturated sheen. Trig thinks this is reminiscent of the First World, the origin plane of the fey, seeping through into this one. She shares this bad news with Ambrosius’ friends.
Nim pulls out the milpreve and peers through its hole. She can see a clear pathway through the fey-mutated forest, leading you onward. You begin following the path.
To Be Continued…
Dovienya reveals the secrets of the Xan-Hyrkanic Codex. He admits to Daisy and Nim that he paid a street urchin that morning to deliver a message to the paladin Sa‘ramae. Something along the lines of:
It was an honor meeting you this past Bright Night. My friends and I appreciate your assistance in our endeavor and we hope our actions have Justified your help as well. A mutual friend has asked me to deliver a package into your safekeeping. I may not be able to attend the theater again anytime soon, but perhaps you will meet me at [name of a tavern near the inn we are meeting Midribin at] at two hours after noon today.
Nim and Daisy agree it’s a good idea to hand the Codex over to Sa’ramae and the Paladins of the Pure. But you decide to rip the out the pages pertaining to the doomsday spell known as the opprobrious axiom first. You don’t see any reason why anyone should have access to a recipe that would mean destruction of all life within this plane. Then you use Nim’s starknife to shred the pages into tiny strips. You’re not sure what to do with the strips yet, so Dovienya stashes them in his stuff.
You leave the inn to meet up with Sa’ramae at the place Dovienya outlined in his message to her. Dov hands the Codex over, and she checks it over carefully, taking a deep breath when she’s done. “So this is it, huh? … Did you read it?” Dov admits he did.
Sa’ramae continues: “I was visited by the ghost of your Nightwatcher friend last night. He showed me where he’d stashed the evidence he’d collected about Balek’s murder, which proves your innocence. He asked me to submit it to the Courts even if you didn’t deliver the Codex to me. But here you are. You did as he had hoped, as I had hoped.”
The paladin pulls a rapier from her belt and places it on the table between herself and Dovienya. “Your friend wanted you to have this. It’s a Nightwatcher’s blade.”
Around the hilt of the magic rapier can be seen a depiction of the various phases of the moon, and on the pommel, there’s a small white orb representing the full moon.
“I think he might want you to use it to avenge his death. Any idea who murdered him? He wasn’t sure.”
Dovienya nods – indeed he does know. He accepts the ghost’s gift, says goodbye to Sa’ramae, and departs, hopeful that she will be true to her word and help clear him of his murder charge.
Back at their rooms at the inn, Nim is sitting with Daisy, working on identifying the properties of Daisy’s newly acquired thistle-marked dagger, when she suddenly hears
Mouse’s voice whisper in her ear.
”Oh Nim! There you are. I’ve been trying to find you. Is now an okay time to chat? Area seems clear on my end.”
Nim responds in the affirmative, then she feels small claws pressing into her shoulders and she’s suddenly transported to a gray world of fog, which she recognizes as the Ethereal Plane. She can see Mouse hovering in front of her. Meanwhile, to Daisy’s eyes, Nim just vanished into thin air. A thorough search begins on the material plane side, resulting in a sound trashing of the room.
To Nim, Mouse says, “I figured you and your friends might want to know that I got the two halflings out. I found them wandering around the City Unfair with the fan lady fighting off kenku left and right. Once I got them back in your home plane, they took off running. The boy one was arguing, but the fan lady insisted they leave the city altogether, just the two of them. Just thought you should know. That’s the last I saw of them. They didn’t even say thank you, but what are you going to do?”
Mouse thanks Nim once again for rescuing him from Trimphid and for helping him settle the score. Although he’s heading out into other planes, he offers to look for a cure to Nim’s haunting malady. The two new friends then say their farewells.
Nim returns to the room to find Dovienya and a distraught Daisy, and a room entirely in disarray.
In the evening, everyone meets up with Midribin at the appointed place to meet the fallen druid Fairweather.
Madam Dutafrayan seems keen on getting her stolen milpreve back. But she’s shocked to have someone bring up her true identity of Fairweather to her.
“What? … How?” she asks. Then she goes slack, expressionless, and seems indifferent to even getting the druid’s stone back. It seems she doesn’t want to have to deal with the guilt of what she’s done.
“Eehhh, I don’t care. That name ‘Fairweather’ means nothing to me now. I have a new life and I’m never going back. I wasn’t just going to sit there forever. So I left. Not my fault… I never really liked trees anyway”, she says unconvincingly, her face unable to mask the pain.
You ask Fairweather about the location of the Tree of the Dead. She sits back and speaks openly about it. She isn’t interested any more in keeping the secret.
“Sure, I’ll tell you. What does it matter now? You want to go there and see it? Build a carnival on top of it, I say. Sell tickets. Cut me in, will you? … It’s in Coile Ithle, the Jolly Wood, but … “, she chuckles a little to herself, “You won’t find it. It’s sealed in by the nemeton.”
Then Fairweather goes on to describe druidic lore – the kind you non-druids are forbidden to know about, using actual words in Ogham, the druids’ secret language.
You learn the following:
Hidden deep within the great forests, one of the main duties of the druids is to tend and guard the nemetons – the seals between our world and the other planes, keeping unwanted outsiders (fomoiri) out.
“The fomoiri are like weeds, right?” Fairwather explains. “And you know someone has to pull out the weeds so the right plants grow? To make sure they don’t get in to the soil. That’s what a druid does. The natural purity of this plane has been largely left unmolested because of the secret vigilance of the druids. Why do you think all this time there aren’t demons and fire elementals walking around? Well, this is not going to last. All the tuathal spit on druids.”
You’re all aware how much the druids have been cruelly persecuted on this side of the world by non-druids (tuathal), and as you learn from Fairweather that one result of their dwindling numbers is that the nemetons here have been compromised.
She explains how she abandoned her post and fled to the city, but held onto the milpreve though – the special druidic tool of the nemeton – the ortha or magic item that is tied to that gateway.
“You are planning to go to the nemeton? You need it. Keep it. I don’t care any more.” She hands the milpreve back to you.
You learn from her that – with the thinning of the druid guardians and the weakening of the seals, the celestial animals, the triorie (Tree-Ore-Eye), have taken up residence in the forests to keep evil at bay. You met one yourself in the Forest of Arsel – the golden fox.
You learn there is one in the Jolly Wood. His name is Odyphaidron. Fairweather suggests you seek him out and show him the milpreve. He will recognize it. The triorie can point you to the nemeton and the druidic temple of sorts that houses it. Deep below the nemeton is the Tree of the Dead.
She tells you the temple itself is meant for druids, and not tuathal like you. There is Ogham writing hidden in the walls to read and to instruct newcomers to the nemeton. She warns you that you will not know how to read it. Also, the front entrance only opens if a druid is in wild shape – a person turned into an animal, what she calls an athdholb. And she tells you that a nascmhíl – an animal companion, like Daisy’s dog, won’t cut it.
Plus, the milpreve is only one part of the key. You apparently use it to craft a bogun, whatever that is. And it’s the bogun that leads the way down.
“You are not druid,” Fairweather tells you, dismissively. “I don’t see how you will do this.”
After the meeting with Fairweather, you sit down with Midribin and tell her everything. About the City Unfair and the Codex. About the Sower and the Bloodboat Jewel, as well as what you know about Trimphid, the Sovereigns, and the Shepherd Prince. You also tell her what you learned from Mouse – that the body of the Wick’s founder – Primwizard Artivole himself – was sold at the Infernal Auction to someone named “Zefuloria”.
Dovienya gives Midri his new magic boots as a gift and asks for forgiveness for being so rude earlier.
Midri is touched, and waves off any offenses. She seems truly grateful that you are finally telling her all you know (particularly the bit about Primwizard Artivole’s location). She pledges the that the Order of the Wick and the Flame will do all they can to help them.
Midribin says she can get the party to Gridea through a portrait of Primwizard Artivole. From there, she should be able to arrange for you to travel to the Jolly Wood so you can find the Tree of the Dead.
To Be Continued…
The First Embrian Age began when the eight lawful deities of the Tharybic Pantheon led by the goddess Lodope traveled across the great cosmic void in their sentient vessel known as Diadron the Living Ark. Here are the eight Tharybians, a couple of which have been mentioned already in the narrative (you can read more about the gods here.)
- Lodope (LN) – goddess of death, mourning
- Calydo (LG) – goddess of light, goodness
- Kyon (LG) – god of healing, perseverance
- Om-Striom (LE) – god of defense, protection
- Styre (LE) – goddess of intrigue, espionage
- Ashen (LN) – god of ambition, chivalry
- Altrus (LN) – god of commerce, diplomacy
- Aedis (LN) – goddess of time, mathematics
When they came to this plane, the eight gods found nothing but unmitigated chaos, a wild and formless place desperately crying out for some order. The law-aligned Tharybians obliged. They anchored their vessel and disembarked in corporeal form. Calydo took pity on the mindless, bestial creatures she found cowering within this sad, shattered realm and suffused them with her holy light, transforming them into humans. The gods then bestowed upon humans many gifts – including, but not limited to, the secrets of commerce, justice, politics, defense, medicine, mathematics, personal conduct, and even ensured them the appropriate afterlife. To a chosen few, they taught their divine magics, thus creating the first clerics. In time, Embria swelled with thriving mortal civilizations, all under the guidance and command of the Tharybian gods, who walked among their subjects in the flesh.
Soon they weren’t alone. Other powerful deities came to Embria in physical form as well – gods who aligned themselves not with Law, but with Chaos. To the Tharybians, these newcomers were uncouth outsiders and barbarians, threatening to steal away the worship of their mortal followers. Many of the chaotic gods in turn found the Tharybians’ presence oppressive and too authoritarian. The god Evroul the Overthrower marshaled his own faction of fellow chaotic gods (the Sciorric Pantheon) to try and unseat the Tharybic. The two sides, Law and Chaos, fought bitterly on an epic scale for thousands of years, using mortal armies as pawns. This long-term conflict became known as the Divine War.
Here are the eight Sciorrians:
- Evroul (CN) – god of revolt, rebellion
- Gantra (CE) – goddess of vengeance, fury
- Zady (CN) – goddess of war, hunting
- Mygdon (CN) – goddess of dreams, memory
- Valcian (CG) – god of swordsmanship, dancing
- Cristagren (CG) – goddess of illusion, shape-shifting
- Caolaub (CE) – god of madness, murder
- Brega * (CG) – goddess of travel, luck
((* Although Brega is associated with the Sciorric Pantheon (she was a valued ally of Valcian and Cristagren in particular), she never participated directly in the Divine War. She was focused instead on empowering mortals to improve their own lives and to establish their rights and freedoms. She encouraged them to move towards pacifism and away from tribalism, intolerance, and the pursuit of material gain. She taught that luck was something that came from actions and attitude, and not from waiting for orders from a divine authority. Since she wasn’t involved in the War, she was tolerated by most of the Tharybians and left alone. One exception was the lawful-evil god Om-Striom. He hated Brega with such a passion, it is said he invented bureaucracy and xenophobia out of spite just to make travel harder for mortals.))
Millennia passed, mortal empires rose and fell, and innumerable battles of the Divine War were won and lost on both sides. The mad god Caolaub caused much strife and mischief. But over time, the gods moved their fight with each other out of Embria and into other planes, taking their corporeal forms with them. Their mortal followers were left behind to fend for themselves. Without the gods’ monitoring, many mortal wizards began experimenting with arcane power, pushing it to its limits. The rest of the First Age is marked by three different instances of spell-casters (at different times and in different parts of the world) performing previously forbidden arcane acts that necessitated the attention of the gods. Cautionary tales are still told about the Three Fools (or “Prideful Triad”) and how they showed hubris and were justly punished for it. The three fools were:
- Gwendol – crime: harnessed control of the elemental plane of fire; punishment: banished to Purgatory
- Palaemon – crime: set up a godless democratic nation with free mass-transit teleportation; punishment: crushed by a colossal animated statue of himself
- Mirrorrim – crime: recreated the whole of Embria in duplicate, a separate but identical plane she alone was in control of; punishment: she and her copy-world were turned to glass and shattered into billions of pieces, which rained on the world for three days
It was the Third Fool, Mirrorrim, that became the last straw for the gods. Historians agree the Rain of Sand (as the event of her punishment is called) ended the First Age.
The Second Age, called the Age of Realignment, is the current one. Provoked by the dangerous audacity of the Three Fools, the gods returned their gaze on Embria and began paying more attention to mortals’ actions, ensuring in particular that their magic powers were kept in check. It was early in the Second Age that the kingdom of Paradon was formed. Here, worship of the Tharybians had a resurgence, particularly for Calydo and Om-Striom. The Purity order of paladins and their inquisitors, the Nightwatchers, were founded to prevent the rise of Sciorric influence, which was blamed for the First Age’s vices. Chaotic god worship was pushed to the fringe, with followers labeled ‘waywards’ and their religious practices policed. Druids were lumped in with them and faced even further persecution. Only Bregans were tolerated in the human cities, albeit reluctantly. It’s commonly believed at the current time that the Divine War is winding down, with the Tharybians the clear victors. Its imminent conclusion will bring about the end of the Second Age, and herald the Third – a golden era that will bring order and unity to Embria.
So that’s what Dov knows before he reads the Xan–Hyrkanic Codex.
Dovienya says the XHC definitely appears to be an authentic account – not a hoax. It begins with a recounting of the events of the First Age. There’s the familiar story of the eight Tharybic gods arriving in Embria in their ark and how Calydo fashioned humans from the bestials she found there. One rather bizarre difference to the history, however, is the inclusion of a colossal tree of power named Zurbrugg that, according to the XHC, existed on Embria before the gods’ arrival. The XHC describes how the continent-sized tree acted like a beacon transmitting a welcoming signal into other planes, drawing the Tharybians there in the first place. It was in the shade of Zurbrugg that the Lawful Eight established their first divine base of operations. You also learn that it was Zurbrugg that pulled in the other gods, even the chaotic ones, to settle in Embria as well.
The XHC continues with the Divine War of law gods vs. chaos gods in much the same way as you had always understood it. You begin to wonder what makes this book so heretical. Then the narrative surprisingly shifts its focus to a mortal named Siglain, someone you’ve never heard of. According to the XHC, Siglain was a beloved human champion of Calydo, a paragon of virtue, justice, and goodness – a kind of super-paladin. A leader in the Divine War on the side of Law, he had delivered many victories for the Tharybians. But the Chaos factions were beginning to win, and a desperate Siglain needed a solution. The champion had always believed his destiny was to personally end the Divine War and bring peace to all Embrians, so when he learned of a spell called the opprobrious axiom which could reportedly do just that, Siglain went around Calydo’s back and cast it himself. But Siglain was betrayed, for the spell did more than just end the war. The opprobrious axiom killed all living things on Embria – even the gods’ corporeal avatars and their living ark. The souls of all those instantly-deceased mortals bottle-necked Purgatory, and it pushed all the gods’ divine essences out of the plane, making it difficult, if not impossible, for them to ever return in the flesh. It killed and inverted the great tree Zurbrugg, making it send its vast limbs downward into the earth like roots, with no sign of its existence on the surface. The catastrophic spell not only spared Siglain, it ascended him into godhood, though it made him evil and insane, inverting him into a murderous beast. He became Caolaub, a god of nothing and no one, ruling over a dead and empty world.
At this point in the XHC, the author reveals herself. She is Ozen Zinsa, a member of the Ozen, an oracular order that apparently existed back in this heretofore unknown pre-dawn age. The Ozen were able to foretell the great cataclysm caused by the opprobrious axiom and knew to escape into the stars before it could happen. Zinsa then digresses from chronicling the history, providing instead her theories as to who could have deliberately supplied the doomsday spell to Siglain to trick him. She describes mysterious inhuman “caretakers” that entered Embria clandestinely from another plane and then escaped before the spell was cast. The Ozen, the author regrets, were unable to prevent the total annihilation of all life on Embria besides themselves, but they do hope to thwart the future machinations of these so-called caretakers. Shockingly, Ozen Zinsu includes in the text her research into what casting the axiom spell involved. In other words, there are actual instructions in the XHC for how to cast a spell to destroy all life on Embria while simultaneously making one’s self a god. You know, if you were so inclined. You would have to be an extraordinarily powerful epic spell caster, but still.
So where do humans come from then? The XHC confirms that Calydo did suffuse a race of bestials with her holy light thereby creating what she called “humans”, but are they technically the same race as the ones on Embria now? One possibility is that Brega could have taken Calydo’s plans for humans from the archive in the Tharybians’ ark and rebooted them into being. If that’s the case, there’s no heresy. Or are humans like Dovienya descendants of other “humans” that came through Brega’s gates from other planes, and are therefore a separate race, not Calydo-created? It’s unclear from the XHC one way or the other, so it’s no wonder the paladins of the Purity don’t want anyone reading the text. Not-to-mention the fact that Caolaub is revealed to be Caldyo’s former mortal champion – basically, her son? And even if Caldyo legitimately made all humans, the whole “Oops, my dude killed everyone and a Sciorric goddess fixed it” situation that Ozen Zinsa describes in the XHC doesn’t really make the Tharybians looks good.
All history and religious texts Dov has ever read agree: there have only been two Embrian Ages. What the XHC reveals is that there were actually three. There was a secret age before what everyone thinks of as the first one. It ended in a great cataclysm that destroyed all life on Embria – a disaster perhaps put in motion by a sinister force that may still be active today. In the XHC, Caulaub’s surprise origin is shockingly detailed, and indeed, Calydo’s creation of the humans is put in doubt. Plus, Brega had a bigger role in Embrian history than you or any other Bregan ever imagined. She’s the reason there’s a diversity of beings in Embria and why wizards and sorcerers can access arcane power. She restored the whole world from the brink of death and extinction! The goddess Brega is an unsung hero. And so modest!